Category Archives: Holiday

Highlights from our California Coast adventure

We drove 7,165 km (4,452 miles) through eight states and two provinces, stayed in nine places and four states, and were gone for 28 days.

Our jaunt down the California Coast was our best holiday yet.  I spent over three weeks by the beach with my husband and dog- who can complain about that?

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We decided to power through Washington and Oregon since we’ve been a couple times and get to California. We hopped on the Redwood Highway in Grant’s Pass, Oregon, which is where our holiday truly began!

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Here’s a list of all the places we visited with asterisks by where we stayed overnight:

  • Tacoma, Washington (travel night)
  • Crescent City
  • Eureka*
  • Avenue of Giants
  • San Francisco*
  • Santa Cruz
  • Carmel*
  • Monterrey
  • Santa Monica
  • Hollywood and LA
  • Newport Beach*
  • Huntington Beach
  • Laguna Beach*
  • Del Mar*
  • La Jolla
  • San Diego
  • Las Vegas*
  • Great Falls, Montana (travel night)

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Nothing I write (nor the photos we took) will do the trip justice, so I thought I’d highlight some special places.

San Francisco
It was fun to drive the iconic Golden Gate to kick off a fun couple days in San Francisco.

We scored an awesome dog-friendly hotel a block from Pier 39. We walked countless miles over our two days and stuck to the tourist spots: Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Embarcadero, Ferry Building, Chinatown, the crookedest street, Union Square, and Golden Gate Park.

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And what’s a trip to SF without Ghiradelli’s? I ate a delicious sundae and have been craving their marshmallow topping ever since!

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Carmel by the Sea
We heard that Carmel was one of the most dog-friendly places in North America (thanks, Mary!), and it certainly lived up to its reputation.

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Carmel is an upscale village with European architecture, art galleries aplenty, and a beautiful beach.

Everyone we met in Carmel, from store workers to people who wanted to meet Harold, was incredibly friendly. We loved to walk on the beach and take in the town.

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Laguna Beach
We ended up spending 13 nights in Laguna Beach, seven our first stop and six on our second. It was our favourite stop.

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We fell in love with the area. It had a small town feel, the beach was dog-friendly, the ocean was perfect to SUP, and there was amazing Mexican food! We both had fantastic runs here on the road, Crystal Cove State Beach, and the trails. (see my previous post about keeping fit on our holiday including a race in Del Mar.)

Del Mar
Del Mar is in San Diego County. We weren’t sure where to stay in the SD area, but Nicole gave us some great tips! We chose Del Mar because dogs are allowed on their beach any time of day, it has a nice laid-back vibe, and there was perfect surf. Kelly surfed there every day we were in town!

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I also had a chance to meet Nicole! It was my first blogger meet up and I loved talking to her in real life.

Huntington Beach
We didn’t stay in Huntington but did spend two days there. It was a fun place and we had a blast cruising on the beach sidewalk.

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Kelly also surfed; after all it is called Surf City USA for a reason!

Cruising California’s iconic highway
It was the first holiday since we backpacked in 2004 that we didn’t have a real itinerary or plans other than a date we wanted to be home. We booked hotels the day of or the night before and decided on our next destination a couple days before we moved along.

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Santa Monica

While driving the 101, we’d pull over if we saw anything that caught our eye.

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Mavericks on an extremely calm day!

I absolutely loved a driving holiday and would highly recommend the California Coast to anyone! It was nice to go in the off-season. It enabled us to book accommodations late notice, and we still had fantastic weather. (It only rained half a day throughout our entire trip and was hot in Southern California!)

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A driving holiday also allowed us to take Harold, our dog. We love camping with him in summer, and have had him with us on various trips to British Columbia and a couple times in Oregon. It was wonderful to include him on our winter holiday this year.

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My favourite thing about travelling with Harold is spending so much time outside. With him we generally get take out (Mexican!) and eat on the beach. We would time it right and caught dozens of gorgeous Pacific sunsets.

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I must admit, we’ve talked about doing California again for next year’s winter getaway!

What’s your favourite road trip? Do you like to have a holiday planned out or play it by ear?

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Keeping fit on our California adventure

Well, after 28 days of fun in the California sun it’s back to reality.

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I’ve struggled to write about our trip because it was so fabulous it honestly left me speechless. In the meantime I thought I’d write a separate post about what I did to stay fit. It’s a long one since I did more than just run!

Running
It’s ironic I posted about working out together while we were away as we only ran together once our entire trip! With Harold along for the month, it was best to let him rest while we took turns running.

It was beyond marvelous to run in shorts in February! The other wonderful thing? Running by the ocean.

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Laguna Beach

I ran the Embarcadero in San Francisco, the beach and ritzy neighbourhoods in Carmel, river trails in Newport, and ocean bluffs and a race in Del Mar.

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Carmel River State Beach

We spent the majority of our time in Laguna Beach. All my runs there were incredible: I saw dolphins playing in the surf, ran into Dana Point, ran along the beaches of Crystal Cove and saw a baby sea lion, worked my lungs running uphill for four miles to the top of the hills (and trashed my quads on the way down), and ran trails at sunrise with Kelly and Harold.

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Crystal Cove State Park

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Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park

I embraced every single run and am forever envious of those who get to live and run along the California Coast all the time!

California 10/20
The UT California 10/20 was an out and back 10 mile race starting and finishing in Del Mar and running through Solana Beach and Encinitas. (I found out about the race the day before it after running a speedy seven miles!)

It was chilly the morning of the race and Kelly and Harold walked me to the start about 45 minutes away from our hotel.

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Not really feeling up to ‘race’, my only plan was to take it easy at the start and pick it up throughout. I did a great job of that with my first mile being the slowest and my last being the fastest. I ended up finishing in 1:11:53, which I was more than happy with for a surprise race on vacation!

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It was a great run with tons of bands along the course (that’s what the 20 in the name stands for) and ocean views. It was the first year and over 3,000 people finished!

Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP)
I tried SUPing for the first time in 2008 and fell in love with it. Kelly bought me my very own inflatable SUP (NRS Earl 4) for my birthday this year, and I couldn’t wait to take it out on the ocean in California!!

I was a bit apprehensive, as it’s been a couple years since I last paddled. And I’m timid of surf SUPing; I just like to get out there and paddle.

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It turns out that Laguna Beach is the perfect destination to SUP! The water is generally calm, the ocean life is amazing, and I felt comfortable paddling far out by myself (sorry mom and dad!).

I paddled almost every day we were there (I think I went 11 out of 13 days), went out a couple times most days, and experienced amazing things.

One day when we got down to the beach there was a guy paddling close to shore with a few dolphins alongside him. I was too nervous to go, so Kelly gladly hopped on the board. There were dolphins going under his board and surfacing right beside him. It was pretty magical to watch.

Screen shot from Kelly’s GoPro video

Once he came to shore I was brave enough to go.

The most amazing experience
The dolphins were mostly gone, so I went far out just to SUP. As I was about to turn back towards shore, I saw a huge pod of them swimming and jumping coming towards me. I was about 35 feet away from a massive dolphin highway. There was somewhere between 50 – 100 dolphins from what I could see. I was close enough to hear them breathing. A couple veered off course and came towards me, so I splashed my paddle a bit.

It absolutely took my breath away and I just stood there in shaky awe for at least five minutes watching their natural beauty. It was the most magnificent thing I’ve seen in nature and one of my most peaceful and special moments.

I paddled back to shore, turning constantly to take it all in. I was so happy Kelly saw what happened so I could discuss it with somebody!! (I was also a little disappointed I didn’t have a camera with me!)

On another day there were dolphins swimming under my board and around me. (I had to kneel down a couple times, as my legs got shaky!)

I felt so fortunate to SUP in the ocean again and experience the majestic dolphins. I can’t wait to get back on my SUP this summer in our lakes!

Strength
We each took a yoga mat and one set of weights with us. I strength trained in our hotel room most of the days Kelly ran. It felt good to keep up some strength and core work!

Laughter yoga
This was something I just had to experience! There’s a group in Laguna Beach that meets 365 days a year. I went on a chilly morning and met with four others including the director of the Laughter Yoga Institute, Jeffrey Briar.

It was the most bizarre class I’ve ever attended, but it certainly accomplished what it prescribes: I was joyful for the rest of the day! There is something to be said about starting your day laughing by the ocean with a group of warm, friendly people.

Staying in shape
Despite dessert twice a day most days I feel pretty good. My fitness is definitely much higher than when I came home from China last year, and I don’t have an Ironman to worry about in four months!

What’s your favourite way to stay active on holidays, or do you take it as a time to rejuvenate?

California dreamin’

We’ve had some crazy cold weather this winter and our snow pile is taller than me. Despite a warm forecast this week, we still have plenty of winter left!

Thankfully I have sunshine to daydream about— California sunshine to be exact.

In February we’re going to pack up our van and head south. Kelly, Harold, and I are road tripping down the Oregon and California Coast for our holiday this winter.

We’ve scoured California road trip books and websites. We’ve narrowed down some must-see stops. And we’re keeping our fingers crossed for the notorious California sunshine we hear about all winter long!

We don’t have anything set in stone and plan to just go with it, stopping where we like and exploring all that region has to offer.

We’ll have Harold with us so won’t be able to do everything. We plan to spend the majority of our time in Southern California and hope to take in a lot of outdoor activity! We may head towards the Grand Canyon and spend some time in Arizona, time permitting.

Here’s where you come in. Are you lucky enough to live there? Have you been to California and fallen in love with a specific area? Do you have the perfect running route? Do you have a dog and know of dog-friendly hikes and beaches?

Leave me a detailed comment about where we should go, what we should do, places we should eat, hikes we should take, websites we should visit, etc, etc. 

One of my girlfriends honeymooned along the coast, so I have some great recommendations but am always looking for more!

Winter wonderland – cold in Canmore

We spent this past weekend in Canmore, the picturesque mountain town just outside of Banff National Park.

The reason for the trip? Kelly was taking an ice climbing course and I tagged along. He had two full days of learning how to ice climb properly, so  I had two full days to enjoy the mountains.

Thankfully we’re used to harsh weather so have the proper gear to withstand the cold. The temperature ranged from -35C (-31F) on Saturday and warmed up to -23C (-10F) on Sunday, with a cold wind chill making it feel much worse!

I went on glorious runs both Saturday and Sunday mornings. My mom asked how running in that cold can be fun, but I swear it was magnificent.

Once I got out of town and on the river path, there wasn’t a soul around. The trees were covered in hoarfrost, steam was rising from the river, and the mountains towered around me. My hand braved the elements to snap a quick photo.

Taken with a phone and totally unedited

Taken with a phone and totally unedited

On Sunday, I didn’t take a camera and just embraced the beauty of the run. Despite numb toes, the two runs were a reminder of why I love running so much and the simplicity of it.

After my runs, I went back to the hotel to thaw out before heading out for excursion number two: cross country skiing at the Canmore Nordic Centre.

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It was the venue for all cross-country and biathlon events at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics and continues to host world-class events. They have miles of groomed cross-country ski trails and in summer they open for mountain biking and hiking.

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The cross-country skiing did not disappoint. I fall more in love with it each time I go. (Even when it’s so cold I turn into a snowman!)

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On Sunday I left my camera again to just enjoy the ski and breathtaking views.

We ate dinners and walked around both Canmore and Banff. The only thing better than mountain towns are mountain towns decorated for Christmas! It was such a fun weekend getaway, and Kelly was thrilled to take the course and learn how to safely ice climb.

Do you run outside when the temperature dips? Tell me about your last run that reminded you why you love it so much.

Winter weekend in Jasper

Kelly and I had last weekend’s getaway on our calendars for quite a while, and it did not disappoint.

Although Jasper is lacking snow, the beauty of the town made up for it! I can’t decide if my favourite part of the weekend was the peaceful cross-country ski, winter hike, day of downhill skiing, Moonlight Madness shopping, or delicious food and après ski drinks and laughs.

I’ll let the pictures do the talking…

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Our XC ski on the Jacques Lake Trail was indescribable: no tracks, not a soul around, surrounded by giants (both trees and mountains). The silence was almost deafening.

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Our hike felt more like spring with the rushing river!

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Marmot Basin ski resort is celebrating its 50th season. I didn’t get out downhill skiing last year, and I forgot how much I love it.

Do you ski? What’s your favourite mountain to ski?

A happy Thanksgiving (tomorrow) to all my American friends and readers! I hope you spend time with family or good friends and eat a lot of tasty food!

What are you thankful for?

Wet, wonderful weekend in Vancouver

We spent a long weekend in Vancouver to visit Kelly’s sister and brother-in-law and to celebrate our five year anniversary! (Thank you for all your kind wishes!)

We had a blast with Alicia and Jeff. Despite the rain (thank goodness for Gore-tex!) we spent the majority of our time walking outside.

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Here are some highlights:

The seawall

Kelly and I ran the seawall around Stanley Park both Friday and Saturday mornings. Running in the rain is one of my favourite things to do and I love the ocean, so both runs were magical!

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Food

We ate…and ate and ate! Alicia and Jeff took us to fantastic restaurants all three days but The Eatery sushi restaurant topped my list. Not only did they have an enormous menu including an entire page of vegetarian sushi options but the restaurant was also really funky with paper mache figures hanging from the ceiling.

Aquarium

We visited the Vancouver Aquarium on Saturday. I turn into a little kid at aquariums, zoos, etc., and this trip was no different. I loved watching the belugas and sea otters play.

Even though it was really raining on Saturday and some exhibits are outside, there were still many families there. I love seeing that since the Aquarium is non-profit and dedicated to the conservation of aquatic life with a large focus on marine mammal rescue.

Walk, walk, walk

Downtown is very walkable. We visited all the main areas including Robson Street, Yaletown, Gastown, Granville Island, and Stanley Park.

Gastown

I think Granville Island and their awesome market is my favourite neighbourhood.

It was so fabulous to go on a quick weekend getaway and spend lots of time with Alicia and Jeff. Hopefully we’ll make it out there more often!

What did you do this weekend?

Are you a fair weather traveller or do you explore regardless?