Tuesday, 21 October 2014

An Italian Adventure for a Special Birthday

My Aunty Ann had a very special birthday this year. She had originally planned to travel to Italy for her 50th birthday, but stupid cancer put a spanner in than plan. While I'm in no way glad she had to deal with that, I was glad we were in a position to join her when she decided to do the trip for a second time.
Sestri Levante
O'Hara was offered the opportunity to do his Project Management Professional course, so unfortunately had to make some changes to his itinerary last minute. This meant I was travelling by myself to meet my mum and Aunty in Sestri Levante, Italy. This trip was a family catch up by epic proportions. My mum and Aunty were obviously both there. My brother Callum came across, who I hadn't seen since leaving Australia the first time. My cousin Peta came for a few days, who we hadn't seen since visiting her in Europe in 2008. Clauds, who is a friend from college also was  there, so this was a fantastic week that I got to spend with family and friends.
Friends and family enjoying some beautiful days
Sestri Levante is a little village half way between Genoa and La Spezia on the Mediterranean Sea. This town is a tourist hot spot for Italians, and is slowly becoming more popular with the internationals. The day I arrived, it was the end of a long weekend and the place was buzzing. I failed a little at life when I first arrived, as I didn't have a working sim card and everything in Sestri closes between 12 and 3. I had to do some loitering outside a newsagent until they reopened so I could get a sim and text my mother. Obviously I have become completely useless without a phone, as I had no concept of pre-planning when and where to meet her. Once I was settled, I got down to important activities. Ordering cocktails and eating the free appetizers. This was easily the theme of my Italian adventure. Eating and drinking.
Our favourite things
We spent some days wandering the streets of Sestri, checking the shops, finding the best spritz cocktails, and generally relaxing. We spent a morning in La Spezia, being toured around a local farmers market. An afternoon getting soaking wet in the Cinque Terre. An evening learning how to prepare delicious Italian food. We travelled to Santa Margherita Ligure, for more shopping and eating and then travelling to Portofino for the afternoon to see how the other half (0.1%) live and more of the above. Drink. Eat. Repeat.
Cinque Terra
Farmers Markets at La Spezia
Portofino and Santa Margherita Ligure 
The fabulous trip was finished with a birthday lunch for Aunty Ann where we were able to celebrate with some lovely people in a beautiful part of the world. It would be impossible to plan a more perfect trip. Then I left my Fitbit on a table at a coffee shop on the last morning. Life fails for arrival and departure!
The wonderful company we had after Aunty Ann's Birthday lunch
I miss you all already.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

A True Northern Adventure. Whitehorse, Yukon.

So, I've been incredibly slack in the blog updates. I'm going to play the "busy" card which I HATE with a passion... but a lot has been going on since Easter. Trip to Europe, holiday in Portland, new puppy, new fun stuff going on at work, and I've been growing a fetus. Yep. Come February 2014, O'Hara and I will be joining the world of parenting. Terrifying! Anyway, let me take you back to April 2014. A whole 6 months ago.

Anyone who has spent any time with us over the past two years have almost certainly heard us *me*, utter the phrase "I have got to see the Northern Lights while I'm here!". One afternoon I was casually complaining to my boss, that it was so expensive to travel north. He looked at me like I was a bit of a moron, and said "Not really. Air North flies out of Kelowna and it's pretty cheap". 5 minutes later, he'd sent me a link to the winter packages and a plan was born. A week later while chatting to our Aussie travelling contingent (Wilson's and Greg and Lil), dates were set and a week after that the flights were booked.
Hello Yukon!
It turns out there is plenty to do in the Yukon, and we didn't really get close to the other things we considered. Depending on the time of year, your activities can vary. I read reviews that Spring was a shitty time to visit the Yukon as winter activities are done and summer activities haven't started. I'm calling bullshit, though there is a chance we got super lucky. The weather was incredible, we saw the Northern Lights, the snow was gone from the road, it was light until 10:30 at night, and my body was loving the extra sun.
Checking out the sunset over Whitehorse
O'Hara and I arrived on Thursday night before Good Friday, and spent the next day wandering the streets of Whitehorse and visiting the museum. We found a fantastic breakfast place, the Burnt Toast Cafe, so good in fact that we ate there 3 days in a row.  We visited the Whitehorse museum which had a bunch of information on how the town started up, and all the wildlife that exists in the area. As a gold town, there was a lot of interesting information for two gold miners.
MOUNTAIN GOAT! It's a real animal!!
We drove out on our second night in an attempt to view the Aurora Borealis. We'd been told to drive towards the hot springs, as you need to be away from city lights in order to have good viewing. While driving out there we spotted it in the sky. We were pumped. With added determination we drove on and found a park a few minutes outside the Takhini Hot Springs. We set up shop, made a hot milo, and waited. Nothing. All reports were saying the aurora should be raging, but we couldn't see a whole lot. After about 20 min of shivering and trying to spot what we thought was the aurora we packed up and drove towards home. Not 5min down the road, we saw it... apparently we'd been parked just out of view.
My camera isn't designed for this... but awesome none the less
The next day we went to the Yukon Wildlife Preserve to check off a few animals of our bucket list. Unfortunately the moose was MILES aways, so really could be anything. We did see a mountain goat though, which was pretty damn exciting. After viewing some nifty creatures, we went out to the Takhini Hot Springs. They have an amazing crepe restaurant which was ridiculously good after a morning of walking around the wildlife preserve. The hot springs were HOT. It was really relaxing, but I can imagine it would be an incredible experience to be there at night, in the snow, drinking beers. It would also be awesome to sit back and watch the aurora overhead.
Hot spring times
That night we had grand scheme plans to view an aurora "storm" that was coming through. We found a beautiful lake that was still frozen and we set up shop complete with fire, beer and sausages for dinner. As it was spring we had to wait until about 11pm before it was dark, which meant plenty of time for fun photos. Lil was in charge of this because a) she's the best photographer, and b) I forgot to charge my camera battery. Genius. I think we were at Lake Laberge, but I can't guarantee that. Unfortunately the storm didn't come through until about 5am, way after we had gone to bed and the sun had started to come up. Now I'm an expert and aurora watching though, I'll try it out in Kamloops if a big storm comes through again.
Lil Difilippo took these stunners!
From what we managed to see of the Yukon in the 3 days we were there, it's a pretty special place. I hope we get up there again!
Our Yukon crew. Aussies taking over Canada!