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Montana, USA

 

I'm so glad we got a chance to check out this gem!

 

Devon and his family have been vacationing in Montana for years. They love skiing Whitefish in the winter, and his parents love to golf in the summer. We joined them for a weekend in early September, and got to experience all the hype.

 

On the Saturday, we drove into Glacier National Park, and enjoyed the scenic "Going-To-The-Sun Road". The narrow winding paved road which is only open a few months a year, twists and turns higher and higher up into the mountains, to an elevation of just over 2000 meters.

 

 

Initially, we had planned to take the shuttle, but it was going to be quite the wait, so we ventured in our own car. It looked like it would have been fun to drive up with the roof down in one of these vintage red cars though!

 

 

We must have been there at the peak tourist season, because it was PACKED! If any of you readers plan on going, either plan to be there early (before 8 AM), or try to visit outside of tourist season. At the top, when we eventually found parking, we were ready to get out and stretch our legs! We had heard great things about the Highline Trail so we set off to see the views, when we were abruptly stopped at the trailhead by some rangers. Apparently there was a black bear on the trail and the park rangers were trying to direct the bear off the main path. Someone had just seen the bear go by the Visitors Centre a few minutes before, which was surprising, given the number of tourist around. We waited patiently with 20 other hikers for about 15 minutes until we decided to try another trail and come back. We walked across the way and hiked to "Hidden Lake" instead, which was a scenic out and back hike down to a beautiful lake. Devon played around with the features on his new Google phone, taking 360 degree photos.

 

 

The town of Whitefish Montana is a quaint and cozy mountain town, and there are a bunch of gift shops and cute stores to browse around. We didn't get a chance to check out the brewery, but it looked fun and had good advertising.

 

 

If we had more time, we would have loved to explore the other hikes in Glacier National Park. As with most touristy spots, there are one or two hikes or viewpoints that get all the attention and are super busy, but there are so many others that are worth checking out that are slightly off the beaten path.

 

Some tips for other travellers:

 

1. You have to buy a 1 week pass to the park as there is no day pass (and it's about $40 USD!!), so plan accordingly!

2. As mentioned above, definitely plan on getting there early, or visiting outside peak tourist season.

3. If you're lucky (or unlucky), you may run into a bear!

4. There is a free hop on/hop off shuttle, but it's a good idea to check the times first as they run infrequently on certain days.

5. Apparently the huckleberry pie is delicious!

 

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Well, it's been an interesting transition being back in Calgary. In a way, I feel like we have gone through the 7 stages of grief, and I'm not quite sure I am at the "acceptance" stage yet. Every day when you are travelling is an exciting adventure, even if you aren't really doing anything. Being back in Calgary and back to a more regular routine has made us realize how important it is to be present in the moment, and make the most of each day. Otherwise, you'll look back and think "What have I done with my time??"!

 

May Long weekend in Calgary is notoriously unpredictable with regards to the weather. This year was no different. We set out in search of the sunshine and warmth, and although we did not take the most efficient route, we made it!

 

We set out initially to do some camping along the Forestry Trunk Service Road out near Waiparous. The temperature reading on the FJ didn't budge past 4 degrees...so we kept driving, and driving, and driving. Eventually we ended up at a beautiful campsite off the highway, and had this incredible view all to ourselves!

 

 

It was a pretty cold night to say the least, and so the next morning after eating a hot breakfast and enjoying the sunrise, we ventured onwards..to Jasper!

 

 

The Canadian Rockies were putting on their best show this weekend. We transformed into full tourist mode, and couldn't help stopping multiple times along the way to take photos.

 

 

After a beautiful drive, we made it to Jasper! The last time we had been in Jasper together was in November a few years ago. It is one of those special places that just feels magical. The "Tofino of Alberta", if you will. We had breakfast in town, grabbed sandwiches from THE BEST SPOT IN TOWN, then took a little drive around and marvelled at the emerald green lakes and natural beauty.

 

Patricia Street Deli is a hidden gem that makes THE BEST sandwiches. It is worth the 5 hour drive just to get your hands on one of these bad boys. Do yourself a favour and get THE BIRD with cranberry chipotle curry sauce. You're welcome.

 

 

We spent the afternoon wandering along the "Valley of the Five Lakes", which is a super easy trail with BIG rewards!

 

 

There is so much to see and do in Jasper, I wish we could have stayed for a week or two!! Hiking, biking, canoeing, kayaking...the list of activities is endless. But alas, the long weekend had come to an end.

 

On our way back to Calgary, we pulled off the road for a quick BBQ, and stumbled upon another incredible view.

 

 

We ended up driving WAY further than we had planned or expected, but we found the sunshine and 19 degree weather, and the fresh mountain air and spectacular views were absolutely worth it. 10/10 would do again.

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Updated: Jun 6

Amsterdam, Netherlands

 

So Europe was not in our initial plan (or budget)...but when we were looking at options and it was literally going to SAVE US money to fly via London back to Calgary, how could we say no?! And once we were in London, it was only 60 pounds to go round trip to Amsterdam...so it just seemed like a no brainer!

 

Devon arranged a beautiful hotel for us to stay in while in Amsterdam as a belated birthday present. We felt like we were living on top of the world. Our room was so nice it was hard to leave - good thing the canals and the sights of Amsterdam were just footsteps from the door of our hotel! We loved walking around and taking in all the architecture and culture. One of our favourite areas, called "Jordaan", had some really great lunch spots.

 

I had been to Amsterdam once before, about 10 years ago, on a Contiki tour. It was even better than I remembered! We both could really imagine a daily life in Amsterdam; the city felt so livable. Biking everywhere just makes so much sense!

 

Unfortunately we were not able to go inside and see Anne Frank's house - they have changed the admission process and now 80% of the tickets are sold up to 2 months before the date, and 20% of tickets are released the day of. After a few days of being number 500+ in line on their website, we resorted to taking the virtual tour, and doing some research and our own reading online. It is unbelievable to imagine what life was like back then. Another reminder of how lucky we are today.

 

We had met some friends from a city called Utrecht, while we were travelling through Argentina. They gave us a ton of tips for things to see and do! We were saddened and shocked to hear the news of a terrorist attack literally 24 hours before we planned to see Utrecht. Of course we had some reservations about our itinerary, but we carried on, and were glad we did. Surprisingly, one of the highlights was going to the train museum. Now Devon loves a good airplane or train museum, but it’s just not my jam. Despite my reluctance to go, we ended up having a great time! And how could we not, there was a one-man play, a 4D ride, a rollercoaster, and a ton of interactive displays.

 

 

We planned to meet up with some Calgary friends during our time in Amsterdam, which was such a treat. We stayed at an Airbnb in a trendy area called “De Pijp”. We rented bikes and explored the outskirts of the city, and even found a beach!! Too bad the weather wasn't nicer...looked like it would have been a beautiful view!

 

 

After spending 6 months in Central and South America, we felt invigorated and inspired by such a change in scenery. There is something so magical about Europe, and the Netherlands in particular. It was great to see it outside of peak tourist season, as well. We felt like we really got a flavour of what daily life is like for people who live in Amsterdam.

 

After our time in Amsterdam we hopped a quick flight back over to London, our final destination before flying back home to Canada.