Barcelona 2020

After a glorious few days in Portugal we made our way to Barcelona as the 2nd destination for our February 2020 birthday trip (before the world closed down). This is the second part of our birthday trip beginning with Lisbon + Sintra. We arrived later in the evening and checked into our amazingly central and affordable hotel, Hotel Ciutat de Barcelona, in the El Born district just next to the Gothic neighborhood. It was both John and I’s first time in Barcelona or Spain for that matter (neither of us ever studied Spanish and never studied abroad so we were pretty excited). I wanted to be in an area with tons of restaurants, bars, and shops in walking distance but I also wanted to be close to the Gothic area as it’s one of the oldest parts and most historic. El Born seemed really fun and our hotel was in the perfect location! We spent our first night walking around El Born, grabbing dinner and drinks and resting up for our big first full day of exploration.

The next day we walked over to La Sagrada Familia, stopping along the Arc de Triomf for some photos and grabbing croissants and coffee. Of course due to popularity we got our tickets in advance, but on a weekday in February it was not busy at all. We spent a good hour and a half walking around, exploring every nook and cranny and listening to the guided tour. It’s incredible the amount of work and planning for this cathedral and Gaudi’s vision! It’s absolutely beautiful inside – the beams and posts are similar to trees and looking up is like looking up in a forest. The lighting is gorgeous and it feels peaceful.

Afterwards we walked by Casa Mila and throughout the Eixample neighborhood. I almost thought about staying there as it’s more of a neighborhood and less touristy than Gothic/El Born areas, but since it was our first time we were happy with our hotel location and choose to explore other areas when we could.

Gaudi’s influence is apparent throughout Barcelona. It’s such a distinct vibe unique to the city and we were all about it. Just walking through different neighborhoods and checking out the eccentric architecture was a fun activity in itself!

After walking around for a good few miles we had a delicious lunch in the Gothic district with the most amazing croquettes. I became seriously addicted to croquettes on this trip and even now dream of biting into their golden brown cheesy deliciousness. We decided to explore the Barcelona History Museum for free and learn more about how Barcelona came to be a powerhouse in the Iberian peninsula. There are ancient ruins underneath the city that you get to walk through too!

We then grabbed some empanadas and went to Terrace La Isabella for a rooftop happy hour and saw beautiful views of the city. Absolutely stunning with our divine weather! Also there aren’t many skyscrapers in Barcelona, the views are mostly hills and cathedrals. However the 1992 Olympics brought some modern architecture into play.

But really, Barcelona is SO much fun! I was really impressed with the history, the AMAZING food, endless options, fun walks, good wine – the list goes on and on. I would gladly go back and spend more time there – the energy is great. Kinda reminded me of parts of Paris and also parts of NYC.

We ended the night with an AWESOME night out at the most adorable alley spot in El Born for happy hour followed by a delicious Spanish meal for John’s bday! Iberian ham is the way to go, especially paired with fresh sangria. I can’t remember the name of this spot we went to but it was both our favorite place during our trip.

Our next day we spent at the morning at Las Ramblas markets and then rode public transit up to Park Guell just north of downtown. It’s a big hill to climb up to get to the top but it was a super interesting view and experience. There’s also tons of performing artists sprinkled throughout the climb, so beware if you feel yourself getting lost – you can hear faint singing to guide you back to your path 🙂

Park Guell was Gaudi’s vision for a utopian neighborhood in the early 1900’s and it looks sorta like a surrealist wonder. You have to go as early as you can because it will be crowded and hard to get photos without too many people in the background, but definitely check it out! We didn’t get tickets in advance but we were able to purchase them on our phones in line for a quicker entrance.

In the evening we went on a walking ghost tour and it was one of our favorite things we did together! We ate in the Gothic area and met our guide outside the steps of the Cathedral de Barcelona for an adventurous evening.

Our tour guide was originally from Mexico City but also sort of grew up in the suburbs of Houston – and we bonded over Texas. She was so incredibly rad and was an awesome story teller – there are so many messed up stories she shared from Barcelona’s history. Like how the Opera house had burned down multiple times or the Vampire of Barcelona who kidnapped and murdered children. We really enjoyed walking around, exploring, and hearing more about the dark tales of the city. We ended the night with drinks and bites in a cute bar by the water. She offered us goat brain! (it’s a delicacy)

Our last day we were supposed to go on a fun excursion riding bikes along the water to the wine country, complete with tastings and lunch – however our trip was unfortunately cancelled last minute. We didn’t let this stop us, so instead John and I picked a winery that looked good, was open and didn’t need reservations, and booked a car to get us there. It ended up being the most fun day in Alella!

We opted for Alta Alella Vineyard because it had the best reviews and also didn’t require reservations. I’m not kidding the cab dropped us off at the end of a dirt road in front of their gate, driving off with dust in our faces. There was an intercom that I pushed to speak to someone and John legit turned to me and said “what if they are closed or won’t let us in and we are stuck here” and voila – they opened the gate and we walked about half a mile in to the tasting room where we enjoyed amazing Cava. It was such a funny moment. He was briefly scared I got us into a tough situation.

Originally we weren’t going to do a full vineyard tour, as there was already another group with a reservation with a private Catalonian tour. However they invited us to join, and they spoke both Catalonian and English so it ended up being the perfect experience!

When you are determined, anything is possible. I’m so glad we persevered and went despite our plans changing. I would recommend this experience to anyone who spends a few days in the area.

Alella

We enjoyed a 15-20 minute walk from the vineyard back to town for a bomb dot com lunch at Cal Barquer. Check out this amazing Iberian pork tonkatsu! It melted in my mouth.

After our fun filled afternoon in Alella, our last full day in Barcelona was coming to an end. We made one last stop at the Picasso Museum just a few short blocks away from our hotel, followed by our last meal.

Of course there was tons of things we didn’t get around to experiencing, like a Flamenco show. But I wouldn’t have changed anything about our amazing trip. We ate delicious food, explored art and historical museums, saw beautiful sights crafted by Gaudi, walked a ghost tour, bought some fun souvenirs, and enjoyed the culture.

Barcelona was a VIBE and we were there for it. I would love to go back to Spain and southern France on another trip because it’s just so gorgeous, a nice change of slower pace, and delicious food and wine for days. Here are some tips if you find yourself in Barcelona:

  1. Endless food options! You can eat anything you want – we even had fantastic Thai. The food IMO was better here than in Portugal but I enjoyed cuisines from both countries.
  2. Make sure you try Iberian ham, multiple times, in different forms! Also – the croquettes!!! I will not say it enough how good they are.
  3. There is a lot of stuff to do in terms of nightlife, it’s sort of like NYC meets Paris – but chill. If you like those cities you’ll enjoy Barcelona.
  4. They have a rich history and don’t really discuss WW2 or the 1930’s. In fact they refer to that time as the Struggles and it’s kinda kept quiet.
  5. There is an ongoing independence crisis that seems to be growing through the last few decades. Catalonian people are very proud of their heritage and speak a different language (like the folks on our vineyard tour).
  6. Get tickets for Sagrada Familia in advance and opt for the guided tour.
  7. Spend time exploring Gaudi architecture and Park Guell!
  8. The markets at Las Ramblas has tons of food options and tastings from all corners of culture – visit at least once.
  9. Have few day drinks and then opt for a siesta.
  10. The best shopping is in El Born.
  11. We walked a ton and only rode public transit for our visit to Park Guell, so I can’t speak to the metro system but if you stay in El Born/Gothic area close to Las Ramblas you probably will walk to most things.
  12. Visit wine country if you have the time.
El Born, the cutest neighborhood and our favorite!

Thanks Barcelona! Until next time.

Portugal: Lisbon + Sintra 2020

We were so incredibly lucky that we were able to sneak in our international birthday trip RIGHT before the world shut down from COVID. By mid-late January there was tension around the new virus and travel. We believed that we would be safe in Europe in early February, and amazingly we were. This is the first of a two part post from our incredible travel adventures to Portugal and Spain in February 2020.

We planned this trip through TripMasters, which is what my sister Bryana and I used when we visited Ireland in 2015. It’s a budget planner so you build a trip around the countries you want to visit, add in flights, car rentals if you want, hotels, and you get the biggest bang for your buck. The only catch is that you’re pretty much locked in after you plan, so there isn’t much room to make changes. I would suggest leaving plenty of room between flights if you are on a layover because we almost missed our flight to Lisbon out of NYC due to bad weather! However we made it on time (by the skin of our teeth) and things went smoothly from there.

Day 1

We decided to get the Lisbon transit pass during our stay which included unlimited public transit, a free roundtrip train ride to Sinta, and discounts for museums. It was well worth it, I highly suggest! We easily and quickly rode from the airport to our destination hotel at the Esquina Urban Lodge in city center. This eco-hotel was absolutely adorable, modern, and in the perfect location! The staff shared great travel tips and told us where to find the city elevators, which I never would have figured out on my own (they are built into cliffs and will easily take you up 8 floors). Everyone said, “Lisbon is so hilly, blah blah blah” – but coming from San Francisco I thought I was good with the hills. “There is no way it’s hillier than SF, we are prepared” I thought. I was so wrong! Lisbon makes SF look flat! We used the city elevators a few times, mostly when we visited the Castelo de S. Jorge.

After checking in, we opted for lunch at a cute sidewalk cafe, visited the Azulejo Museum (wow these tiles were gorgeous), and then found the famous Ginjinha bar and loved the cherry shot. They were so delicious! We probably visited 3 times over our stay and I bought a bottle to take home.

After taking a quick nap for our jet lag, we got dolled up and went out for a Fado show at A Tasca do Chico because we saw that Anthony Bordain visited and he enjoyed it, so we felt like it would be a good spot (is that lame to admit?). It’s always busy there but it’s worth the wait. Order tapas and wine and listen to the powerful melancholy melodies of the Fado singers. It was a totally unique experience!

We got some drinks and explored the nightlife in the Biarra Alto neighborhood afterwards; I have the funniest video of John and I taking fire shots (literally the waiters lit them on fire). It was cozy exploring the bars and sidewalk cafes in the alleys. I am happy we experienced the area, but I’m also glad we stayed about a 15 minute walk away in an area that’s a little less busy at night.

Day 2

After a wonderful night of rest, we visited the Sao Jorge Castle in the morning, explored the Alfama district with lunch by the water, rode transit to the National Coach Museum, the Jeronimos Monestary, and then rode bikes by the Belem Tower. It was a jam packed day and so much fun! I think we got in 11 miles walking alone. Are you tired just reading about all the crazy things we did in one day? (I’m tired just typing this!)

It was so incredible how efficient the public transit system was. I think out of every place we’ve ever traveled, it’s up there next to NYC and London. You can always get anywhere you want to go without waiting too long, there are multiple routes, and it’s just so cute. The Alfama district is right next to the castle so we grouped those outings together and rode across town to Belem where the rest of our museum sights were set.

It’s so crazy to think that these magical carriages carried royalty over terrain centuries ago and here they are on display in their golden greatness. Can you imagine traveling like this?! They are so ornate; it’s something you don’t get the chance to see often, if ever, so definitely check this out.

The Monestary is absolutely gorgeous and really close to the coach museum. Pay attention to the details! The architecture is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. So amazing! By this time our feet hurt so we rented some bikes to ride by the water. The bridge even looked almost identical to the Golden Gate!

This was my favorite memory with John in Lisbon. It was just such a happy day, we had seen so much cool stuff, and we were so playful riding around in the sun. The only thing that would have made it better was if we were able to ride a sunset sailboat cruise, but alas they were all sold out. If that is something that interests you I’m sure it would be such an amazing experience on a day with great weather. But still this day was top 5 of all time days. ❤

Belem Tower

We wound down by visiting the Time Out market for some delicious seafood pasta and wandered around the famous Pink Street for some shopping and drinks. It was a fun-filled day with many memories!

Day 3

We used our roundtrip train ticket for Sintra, which is something friends of ours suggested and I’m so glad we did it! It’s about a 45 minute train ride each way and you must go early in the morning because it will get crowded. Everything I read said that you wouldn’t be able to do everything you wanted, so just pick 2 castles and make them your priority.

We grabbed some of these lovely Portuguese egg pastries (Pastéis de Nata) for breakfast and made our way via train. Ok these things were delicious and we had them every day!

Once we made it to Sintra, we bought the bus pass for the castle route that included Pena Palace. This is the most famous castle and it’s best to go as early as possible, it’s also pretty far (about another 25 minute drive) on very windy roads. Our bus driver was damn amazing taking our ginormous vehicle up huge hills on twisty roads. Thank god I didn’t get sick!

It was just so dreamy; almost like we were in a fairy tale. You could see awesome views of the Castle of the Moors from the top!

There are dozens of castles in Sintra, you could easily spend several days exploring them all. And you feel like you can do so many in a day, but really you can comfortably visit 2, maybe 3 if you aren’t relying on the train. Because everything is so spread out, you must factor in the time it takes to get from the train station to each castle and then the time spent at the castle grounds. After we had a drink at the bar on the castle roof it was already lunch time so we hopped on the bus towards downtown and picked a fabulous spot that I can’t remember the name of, the experience only lives in my memory. But the dish was delish! And so was the view 🙂

After an amazing meal we visited Quinta da Regaleira which was in walking distance from downtown. It was the perfect plan to start with Pena Palace because it was so far away and busy, once we were downtown we could take our time. I chose this castle because it looks absolutely ethereal, like Great Expectations or some amazing dream.

I loved this castle so much! It was the most picturesque. Talk about a dream come true! If you have an extra day in Lisbon it’s worth visiting Sintra! Also this is weird to say, but I love moss a lot and the greenery of this castle made my heart sing.

We finished up and headed back to Lisbon for our final night in the city. We were pooped! Lots of sight seeing was done in three days, but I always like to jam pack my visits with everything I can do because who knows when you will ever be back again! Our last meal was spent over by the Pink Street we visited earlier because we liked those dive bars the best. I think there was even one named “Bar Texas” – LOL.

Portugal was a blast! Here are some things to keep in mind should you find yourself there:

  1. It is very hilly! Make sure you know where the elevators are and bring comfortable shoes.
  2. Group things you want to see by neighborhoods. Pick the top 3-5 neighborhoods you want to explore and then create a list of things you want to see in each area.
  3. Get the metro pass if you are there for 2-3+ days. It’s worth it!
  4. See as many museums as you can because there are so many interesting and unique things to Portugal that I’ve never come across before.
  5. Fado show is a must.
  6. The food is great! Make sure to really explore the vast culture of the food. It did hurt my stomach a bit (but I have a sensitive tummy) so I would look up the best places and see what’s available (and also bring Pepto should you need it).
  7. There are loads of guys that try to sell you drugs in city center – be aware!
  8. You won’t be able to do everything you want – aim for your top picks.
  9. I wish we did a sailboat cruise! If you want to do that you have to buy tickets in advance. Everything else you can just do whenever you want (which is so nice you can go at your own pace).
  10. It’s a lot like San Francisco.

Thanks Portugal!

Iceland 2019

I’ve always wanted to go to Iceland and in 2019 for our February birthday week, we made it happen (alongside a stop in Edinburgh, Scotland which will be a 2nd post). Here’s a trip down memory lane for our amazing winter experience close to the arctic!

One thing about traveling in Iceland that I didn’t expect was how much you had to plan everything you wanted to do weeks and months prior. Every excursion, car or bus transfer, even seeing the Blue Lagoon was timed via a ticket by the hour that sold out in advance, so we had to carefully plan each and every days worth of activities, which I normally don’t like to do. (Hello spontaneity!)

We had a non-stop flight from SFO directly to Reykjavik, which arrived early in the morning, and the first thing we did was head straight to the Blue Lagoon. Because of the proximity to the airport, it’s easiest to experience this national treasure either after arriving or before departing. Our arrival was so early and we couldn’t check into our Airbnb for hours, so we opted to do this first and really soak up (no pun intended) the Icelandic experience. We booked this service to take us to the Blue Lagoon from the airport, which also included a drop-off in the city after we were done.

The Blue Lagoon is incredibly accommodating for tourists. There is an area where you can store your luggage (since most folks come before/after the airport) and easily explore the hot springs. These phone case lanyards were very handy keeping our phones dry so that we could still take photos without worry. Our tickets came with a mask and a cocktail (but you could purchase more if you wanted) and the masks are AMAZING! My skin felt so nice I opted for another treatment. I researched beforehand and found that many people experienced very dry and brittle hair for days after getting it wet in the lagoon, so I pulled it up in a bun the entire time which I highly suggest (especially if your hair is colored).

After about 3-4 hours at the Blue Lagoon, we transferred to Reykjavik and enjoyed a very local lunch (including a smoked meat + fish flatbread) before checking into our Airbnb for a tiny nap. It’s hard to acclimate to the time change so we eased our way in by napping, exploring the city a bit and having a beer, followed by getting groceries to cook for a cozy night in and early bedtime. It snowed pretty heavily at this point and carrying our bags across the town square was quite comical.

Tip: eating out in Iceland can be pretty pricey due to the fact that it IS a remote island close to the arctic <lol> – I highly suggest renting an Airbnb purely for the ability to cook some of your meals. The grocery store isn’t actually that expensive, so getting things for breakfast and a dinner was what worked for us. Plus, Airbnbs are actually a lot cheaper than hotels in certain neighborhoods so this makes it a double win. (Here is where we stayed and loved it! This part of downtown was the perfect spot, it was a few blocks away from the bus stops, the church, and included walking distance to good bars and restaurants.)

This is the Hallgrimskirkja, the most famous church in all of Iceland and also the tallest building in the city (and one of the tallest in the country). We paid $6 to take the elevator to the top to take in panoramic views and snap these pics. I highly suggest doing this if you can!

Check out those icicles!

Reykjavik is so quaint and beautiful. I adored the colorful homes and buildings and how they popped against the white snow canvas.

One of the most fun things we were able to experience was the Lava Tunnel, about 41 KM southeast of Reykjavik. Once again, tickets included roundtrip bus fair from downtown and was easily my favorite part of the trip. We saw the most wonderful sunrise with amazing pastel colors, it felt like a dream. Because we were so far north and in early February we had limited daylight. Sunrise actually happened at 10am and sunset around 3:30. For this very reason, and because of the unpredictable weather patterns (not to mention neither John or I are experienced winter drivers) we didn’t rent a car. Most all excursions include transportation from Reykjavik, so we were perfectly happy with this decision. Though we do want to go back in the summer time where we there will be more daylight so that we can rent a car and explore the rest of the countryside.

Upon arrival they gave us crampons for extra grip into the tunnel. We heard excellent folklore tales about the underground trolls and also the history of geology in the region. It was fascinating!

The next day for John’s 30th birthday we had PLANNED a full day at the Golden Circle, complete with 3 waterfall stops and ending with a soak in the Secret Lagoon. However, life had other things in store for us. The weather in Iceland is very unpredictable, especially in the winter, and we faced winds upward of 125 MPH. All excursions were cancelled and all roads outside of town were closed. We even tried looking into renting a car so we could go on our own but, NOPE. There was nothing we could do, and we couldn’t push this to the next day because we were flying to Scotland. I was understandably heartbroken. I think I cried for about 20 minutes and then pulled it together because, hey, we were still in Iceland and there were tons of other amazing things to explore inside town! (Again, why I hate having to plan an itinerary for this very reason! But it is the way it is in Iceland.)

It was John’s birthday afterall and the coldest and windiest day of our whole trip! So how did we start our day? By visiting the Big Lebowski Bar for some White Russians! Yes. There are about a dozen Lebowski bars in the world and one was just down the street. What a great way to turn around the energy!

We then went to the Perlan, Iceland’s natural science and geology museum, and got to explore an ice cave! There are so many geological wonders in Iceland, being able to take in the history was pretty awesome (I took a ton of geology in college and am a bit of a rock nerd). Plus the cafe inside has EPIC views!

It was FREEZING! Have you ever tried walking around in 125 MPH winds?! We found a brewery and restaurant by the water that sounded good for lunch and took the (yes, FREE) bus across town. The local fish fare is delish and you can’t go wrong with any local beers.

While we had lunch we looked up what was around us and saw that the Aurora Reyjkavik (the Northern Lights museum) was within walking distance. We weren’t lucky enough to actually see the real lights during our stay (again, hard to plan seeing the Northern Lights as there are many variables involved), so exploring the history and science behind them was the next best thing!

This is a big surprise, but for dinner we had the best thai food at Krua Thai (honestly the best food we had the whole trip – I know it’s weird because “good Thai food in Iceland?” – YES!!), visited Mikkeller & Friends Brewery, and then ended the night with a famous hotdog from Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur. It ended up being the most fun day! Sometimes where life takes you is better than what you plan for ❤ .

This was the end of the first part of our 2019 European journey. The next morning we had delish pastries from Braud, a bakery down the street from us, and flew to Edinburgh for the second portion of our trip. Here are a few takeaways from our time in Iceland:

  1. In order to ensure that you experience most things, you MUST plan in advance.
  2. The caveat is, the weather might turn on you and your plans may change – if you are able to leave a bit of wiggle room in-case this happens, the better.
  3. Also, because of this, try pushing most of your “plans” into the first part of your trip so that if anything happens you can use your extra “non-plan” days as backup.
  4. Most excursions include roundtrip transit, so you don’t NEED a car if you stay in Reykjavik.
  5. Winter weather is unpredictable and you *probably* won’t see the Northern Lights.
  6. It’s a very small country, population wise, and most people tend to stick to themselves. Folks are nice if you ask questions or need directions, but don’t expect to strike it up with strangers in a bar.
  7. Go knowing that you likely won’t be able to do sand see everything you want, but it’s such an incredible place that anything you end up doing will be amazing!
  8. Iceland is AWESOME and I can’t wait to go back!! You will want to go back.

Stay tuned for part two of our 2019 adventure into Edinburgh!

British Columbia Hiking Adventures – September 2018

I would never call myself an “outdoorsy person” until a few years ago. And even then, it’s not natural for me, but more like I’ve grown into not being “an indoors-only person.” Sort of like an indoor-outdoor cat. While living in California and being with John for many years, I became more comfortable with hiking, camping, and wilderness adventures that would have definitely intimated me 15 years ago. But adventure has always called me, especially when it’s outside of my comfort zone! So when my sister Krista asked us if we wanted to join her on an REI guided hiking trip in British Columbia, we didn’t hesitate.

It was 3 days of hiking ranging anywhere from 7 to 10 miles per day, upward of 3,000 elevation gain in a single hike. Labeled as moderate it was no joke, and to train John and I did more advantageous hikes (2-3 a month, from 5-8 miles each) for 10-12 weeks prior to leaving. This meant I had to acclimate quickly, get boots that were easy to break in (hello Danner boots which I LOVE), and build my endurance. While I have always been a workout fiend completing multiple half marathons and ongoing weekly circuit training sessions, serious hiking is a totally different skill set, and despite that I was in shape – I felt very unprepared for what I was about to get into! I will post the hikes we did for training with a whole separate piece on my favorite hikes in California, but just know many miles went into preparing for this experience throughout summer of 2018.

The REI portion of the trip was 4 days / 3 nights at the Whistler Lodge with about 12 other guests plus 2 guides. It was nice being able to hike throughout the day and stay in a comfortable room and hot tub after (as opposed to backpacking) but I’m pretty sure anything you do in this area would be considered amazing due to the sheer beauty of everything. John and I met my sister in Vancouver and rode up to Whistler together, and we sandwiched some Vancouver fun on both ends of the hiking portion (which I’ll cover in a different post).

We hiked in our group of other like-minded individuals from all over, though John and I tended to stick with Krista the majority of the time in the back, as it was challenging for all of us at different times. Plus I enjoy taking my time and hiking slower than others (maybe because I’m short with short legs? I don’t feel the need to rush and walk fast and lead the way, I’d rather be the tail end so that when or if danger appears I am likely more safe 😉 ha!).

Day One was spent hiking all of the Joffre Lakes trail, from the first to the second lake, and the hardest portion of getting to the third lake with the glacier at the very top. This was one of the most BEAUTIFUL places I’ve ever seen in my life. It is the picturesque vision you imagine being enthralled in when you think of hiking in Canada.

On our way up we made a stop at the second lake and John had an incredible nature experience – check out this bird that landed on his hand as if he was a character in a Disney movie!

Going up was steep but I did it without using any poles. Once we were up at the top lake we were able to view the glacier and enjoy a nice picnic. However it started to rain and coming down was super challenging without poles so one of the guides lent me theirs and I was able to make it down the large slippery boulders. This was the scariest moment for me as I felt very anxious being the last one in the group, moving slowly to ensure that I didn’t fall in the pouring rain – but in the end I made it out only 15 minutes behind everyone else and was able to take my time, so I call that a win.

Day Two we made our way up Skywalk Trail on Rainbow Mountain in a beautiful old growth forest. It felt as if we were hiking in Lord of the Rings or some fantasy flick and was one of the coolest settings I’ve ever been in!

I used the poles for the entire journey on this day because this hike was super steep (upwards of 3,100 elevation gain), and because we were slow pokes we broke the bigger group of 12 into two, with the fast walkers leading and our group casually took our time. This was nice to not feel rushed and enjoy the amazing scenery, but also because this was a very long hike and if you had any goal to make it to the top you had to book it (even that group didn’t get all the way up after hiking 9 hours).

Krista also experienced a freak accident! Somehow a yellow jacket nest ended up on the ground and after many people walked over it, they buzzed out piping mad and stung her 4 times on her legs! It was so crazy and she ended up getting steroid shots from her legs ballooning up. We laughed about it later but in the moment was so bizarre.

This was John’s favorite hike and a special moment for us to share together!

After hiking we went out to dinner with our group and got to know everyone a little bit more; there as a newlywed couple from Ohio, an older couple from Houston, someone who came alone from Maryland who also went on an REI adventure in Iceland, a newly divorced older woman from South Carolina – so many unique folks!

We had one more excursion on Whistler + Blackcomb Mountain (where the 2010 Winter Olympics were held) to close out our REI adventure.

The weather turned extremely cold unexpectedly and the area had the first snowfall of the season over Labor Day Weekend! This changed our plans because none of us were prepared for hiking in the snow, and we had to do a less intense trail on the middle of the mountain (as opposed to the top). While riding the ski lift up to the top before we changed direction, I completely freaked out and felt so ill-prepared for the snow, (all while Krista laughed at me 😉 ) so I felt great about changing plans. Though John did try to go as far as he could into the unknown abyss…

It was nice closing out the intense few days of hiking with something a bit easier and relaxing, as that is my kind of hiking! But I know we definitely want to go back and explore. I think British Columbia Canada is one of (if not THEE) most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.

The next area in Canada we want to hike is in Banff National Park, and hopefully after the nightmare of Covid we can make that happen! I had an incredible time with REI on this guided trip and would totally book something similar again. Having a guide allowed us to experience places we never would have found on our own and we felt safe and relaxed not having to worry about how we would get from point A to point B. And we loved our group too!

I’m also glad I got to experience something life-changing with not only my amazing partner John, but with my sister Krista as well. We loved our trip and frequently bring up those memories. ❤

Krista didn’t miss traveling together in that crazy white van though…that will not be missed LOL.

Feel free to ask me any questions about this REI trip or specific trails mentioned!