Montréal, Canada | Travel Diary

Hello all!!!

At the end of February, I was lucky enough to attend the Golden Key International Honours Society Leadership Summit in Montréal, the largest city in the Canadian province of Québec. While the summit itself went from the 23rd to the 25th, I arrived on the 21st and stayed until the 26th so I would have time to adventure around the city.

This trip was extra special in that it was the first time I had travelled completely by myself and arrived in a place where I didn’t know anyone. I arrived in Montréal late on the 21st, got checked into the Marriott Château Champlain where the conference was to be held, and then headed to the hotel restaurant for some dinner. I decided on poutine, a classic French-Canadian dish of french fries, cheese curds, and gravy.

I don’t know whether it was the time difference, exhaustion from travelling, or mental fatigue from recent life stress, but I slept for most of the 22nd before venturing outside with a peppermint mocha from Starbucks in hand to wander the city.

What I wasn’t smart enough to clue into was that -4 degrees is really cold, especially for a West Coaster like me who is always cold. After wandering for about two hours without a hat or a scarf, I returned to the hotel and indulged in some ravioli and wine to warm me up.

Friday morning I set my alarm, got up early, and embarked on a mission to find the Notre-Dame Basilica in the heart of Vieux-Montréal. It was absolutely gorgeous inside and I arrived just in time for the hourly English tour of the Gothic Revival structure.

By the time I got back to the hotel, I had just enough time to freshen up before heading down to the lobby to check in for the summit.

At check-in, we received swag bags and then were randomly grouped with student representatives from other universities to embark on a city-wide scavenger hunt. I ended up in a group with two people from Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta, and they were both so nice. That night was a scheduled networking night so all the people registered for the summit went out to Thursday’s Pub for drinks and appetizers.

Now, this is where things got interesting. One of the two people from Mount Royal University with whom I did the scavenger hunt was a boy, and not just any boy, but a really nice one. He walked back to the hotel with me so I wouldn’t be walking alone in the dark in a strange city, and we ended up talking basically all night about anything and everything.

Saturday was filled with interesting keynote speakers and workshops delivered by professionals from a wide variety of backgrounds. That night, everyone went out for dinner at Weinstein & Gavino’s, where I had one of the best chicken dishes I have ever eaten.

Sunday morning I headed out to wander Vieux-Montréal and the Old Port, but about 8 minutes in, freezing rain started pelting down. Most people probably would have turned back, but not me; I just kept walking, letting the rain hit me in the face, determined to see Vieux-Montréal and the Old Port. There definitely wasn’t much to see in the pouring rain, but the city was still beautiful to be in. When I arrived back at the hotel, I got changed, hung my drenched clothes to dry, and met up with Scavenger Hunt Boy to visit the Musée Des Beaux-Arts. The museum has these really neat red heart statues out front, which were one of the scavenger hunt items that our group didn’t find but I wanted to see. Plus I wanted to spend as much time with him as I could.

For dinner, he and I found an Italian restaurant called Monza, which offers family-size portions at the individual portion prices on Sundays, so we feasted on a massive bowl of mushroom pasta.

After dinner, we found the hotel pool and went for a nice swim to work off some of the pasta. And then at around midnight I got hungry again so we heated up the leftover pasta and realized too late that we didn’t have any forks so we ate it with coffee stir sticks from the coffee set-up in my hotel room.

Monday was bittersweet as I packed up all my things. I was looking forward to being back at home, but it meant I had to leave Scavenger Hunt Boy behind. It may sound silly that in three days I grew so attached to someone, but I did. He and I have talked every day since we met, and I am planning to head out to Calgary to visit him soon.

I know this travel diary is extremely late, but I still wanted to share this trip on my blog and to showcase some of the amazing sights in Montreal, as well as share how I met the most incredible person.

The only upsetting part of the trip was that it didn’t snow once!!! I was all excited to play in the snow and all I got was freezing rain. Not only that, but apparently it snowed back home the day I flew out. Clearly me and the snow just weren’t meant to be.

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San Francisco, California | Travel Diary

Hello lovely readers!!!

If you follow me on Instagram, you probably noticed a lot of San Francisco pictures, since I was there a few weeks back. I started up at work again so my days have been pretty packed, but I had an incredible time and I wanted to share some of the highlights of my trip here on the blog. 

My mother and I landed in San Francisco in the late afternoon, so we spent the evening exploring the hotel and I got some amazing pictures of the lobby. We were also upgraded to a suite, compliments of the hotel, so we had way more space to move in and there was a makeup table. I cannot express how excited I was that I could do my makeup at an actual vanity. 

San Francisco 2017 Fairmont Hotel Plaque
San Francisco 2017 Fairmont Hotel Lobby 1
San Francisco 2017 Fairmont Hotel Lobby 2
San Francisco 2017 Fairmont Hotel Rivoli Suite 1
San Francisco 2017 Fairmont Hotel Rivoli Suite 2
San Francisco 2017 Fairmont Hotel Rivoli Suite 3
Sunday was almost entirely dominated by a baseball game at AT&T Park between the San Francisco Giants and the San Diego Padres (Obviously I am a Giants fan). The game went a whopping 12 INNINGS and in the blistering hot sun I was so grateful the elderly woman a few seats over shared her sunscreen with me. Otherwise I would have been a radish for the rest of the trip. The Giants lost 5:2, but it was still an incredible game. As an added bonus, the first 20000 fans into the park received a plush window cling of Hunter Pence, the San Francisco Giants’ right fielder. For dinner, we headed to the hotel’s famed Tonga Lounge and Hurricane Bar, which actually has a floating barge in the centre of it upon which live music is played. There are even sheets of rain” coming down around the barge sporadically. 

San Francisco 2017 AT&T Park
San Francisco 2017 AT&T Park Pence Plush
San Francisco 2017 Fairmont Hotel Tonga Lounge
Monday was the über busy sightseeing day of the trip. We started out by getting a little lost in Chinatown thanks to me turning the wrong way down Mason Street when we left the hotel. Luckily we corrected our path soon enough and still got to see some of the neat features of Chinatown. We then hopped on a cable car to Union Square, home to a massive Macy’s store. After exploring the square, we boarded another cable car and got off at Lombard Street, the crookedest street in the world with 8 hairpin turns!!! From there, we walked to Fisherman’s Wharf and wandered through all the shops and eateries. Despite all the fresh seafood we could have had for lunch, I convinced my mother to try an American institution with me: In-N-Out Burger. The burgers are actually so good!!! After refuelling, we headed over to Pier 39, and finished off the day with ice cream in the famous Ghirardelli Square. By the time we got back to the hotel, we were exhausted so we didn’t go into Grace Cathedral, but it was so beautiful that I had to snap a photo of it. 

San Francisco 2017 Powell and Hyde Cable Car
San Francisco 2017 Fisherman's Wharf
San Francisco 2017 In-N-Out Burger
San Francisco 2017 Pier 39
San Francisco 2017 Ghirardelli Square
San Francisco 2017 Ghirardelli Square Ice Cream
San Francisco 2017 Ghirardelli Square Landscape
San Francisco 2017 Grace Cathedral
On Tuesday, my mother and I went over to Alcatraz Island, which served as a Federal prison from 1934 to 1969. This prison was home to some of the most infamous criminals like Al Capone, Alvin “Creepy” Kari’s, Robert Franklin “Birdman” Stroud, and George “Machine Gun” Kelly. Interestingly, because the prison staff lived and worked on the island, many children called Alcatraz Island home and seldom ever knew prisoners were nearby. While several escape attempts were made, it is believed that no prisoner successfully escaped. 

San Francisco 2017 Alcatraz Island
San Francisco 2017 Alcatraz Island B Block
San Francisco 2017 Alcatraz Island D Block
San Francisco 2017 Alcatraz Island Standard Cell
San Francisco 2017 Alcatraz Island Seagull

San Francisco 2017 Alcatraz Island William Baker Book Signing
Wednesday and Thursday were dominated by shopping around Union Square and Westfield Centre, and I scored some incredible deals on dresses and shoes (even with the terrible exchange rate of the Canadian dollar). We also had some delicious Ghirardelli chocolate sundaes for lunch (healthy, I know). 

San Francisco 2017 Union Square Macy's Store
San Francisco 2017 Westfield Center
San Francisco 2017 Westfield Center Ghirardelli Sundaes

I was sad to say goodbye to San Francisco and it’s beautiful weather on Friday morning, but I was looking forward to sleeping in my own bed again and, of course, seeing my fur baby. 

I know this travel diary is extremely late, but I still wanted to share this trip on my blog and to showcase some of the incredible sights in San Franscico.

Have you ever been to San Francisco??? What were your favourite things to see and do???

Banff, Alberta | Travel Diary

The end of April is such a strange time for me. Those of you attending university or college will understand this, as the end of April is characterized by the end of the spring term, where classes are finished and final exams are done. For those of you in other levels of schooling, this is comparable to the end of June. After being online so much for university, and being cooped up in my room studying for finals, I wanted to take a break from it all, and Banff was the perfect place to do this.

One of the many highlights of my trip was staying at the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel. Resembling a castle, this hotel is nestled in the Rocky Mountains, and is absolutely beautiful. I was lucky enough to be there when they were offering a historical hotel tour, so I got to learn about the history of the hotel, and some of the ghost stories surrounding it. 

Another highlight was that the hotel had a bowling alley across the street; a bloomin’ bowling alley!!! Of course, my mother and I had to give 5-pin bowling a try, and we actually made the bowling high score board for lane 3 (our travel aliases are Rachael and Charlotte; never know what hoodlums are lurking about, ready to steal your identity). 

Yet another highlight was Afternoon Tea in the Rundle Lounge of the hotel. My mother and I both love tea, and afternoon tea is such a lovely thing to do, especially in a castle-like building overlooking Rundle and Cascade Mountains. There were 12 specialty teas to select from, and I went with the Banff Springs blend that was exclusive to the hotel. The tea was then served in three courses: a seasonal fruit cup, a tea tray of sandwiches and scones, and a tea tray of various desserts. I have done afternoon tea at several different places, and it still amazes me how tea, finger sandwiches, and bite-sized desserts can fill you up; needless to say, I didn’t eat dinner that night. 

Another highlight of the trip I wanted to mention was stumbling upon the store Gingko and Ink while wandering the Town of Banff. It is this super cute little store that sells paper, notebooks, quills and ink, handmade wrapping paper, handmade envelopes, greeting cards, and so much more. It even had typewriters scattered throughout it, but none were for sale, or else I would have scooped up at least two. The store also offers classes in some really neat DIY projects like journal making and paper making. I could have gone crazy in this store and bought everything in sight, but luckily the limitations of my suitcase size prevented this. 

I saved the biggest and best highlight for last: I got to see my aunt and uncle on the last two days of my trip!!! They live in Calgary, a city in the neighbouring province of Alberta, so I don’t get to see them very often, but they drove up to Banff to stay at the hotel with us for the last overnight. We took a historic tour of the hotel, played a game of pool (I lost pitifully), played a game of glow-in-the-dark 5-pin bowling (I just squeaked into 3rd place, edging out my mother by one point, while my aunt schooled us all with her over 100 score), had some canapés for dinner, went on a walk of the hotel grounds and into the town of Banff, and finally, met up in a lounge for some drinks. The lounge we went to had the neatest chairs I think I have ever seen. They kind of reminded me of hot air balloons, and I could hear my voice echo every time I leaned my head back into the chair and spoke. There were only two of these chairs stationed at each table, so we pulled four together around one table so we could all sit in one. Pulled together, the edges were almost touching. When the server came by, he asked us if we wanted a sheet to put over the top of them so we could make a fort, which sent us into a fit of laughter. In total, we had 7 drinks, but when the bill came it was $98 . . . we were so shocked that all we could do was laugh hysterically; turns out each drink was around $12.

I had such a wonderful trip, and I am feeling so much more relaxed and refreshed, which is good because yesterday was my first day back at my summer job. After spending the last 4 months online and connected every single day, it was nice to disconnect from everything (save for a few Instagram photos of the hotel). I have so many post ideas for this blog, so I will be working on those for the next little while, along with finally getting to read for pleasure again (The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand is up first).  

Picture 19