Cats and Pretty Lights (Weekend Recap)

This weekend started with the boyfriend arriving early evening on Friday and us crashing by 10pm. Rock and Roll you said? My excuse is that I have a cold and I’m not feeling all that well but really, it’s not uncommon. Work weeks are intense!

Saturday we were up early ish and I had a peanut butter and banana bagel for breakfast. No pictures, you know what it looks like! Then once we were dressed we headed out to explore my neighborhood a little bit and ended up at Cafe Chat L’heureux.

It’s such a cool concept – you can drink your coffee and have a bite to eat (all vegan) surrounded by cats. For a person like me who tends to overstress at everything and anything a little bit of cat therapy was just what I needed.

They have 8 resident cats all adopted from shelters in the Great Montreal area and then they have 4 kittens / younger cats who are there for a little bit of socialisation before going to their adoptive family. How fun is that?  The employees were also very knowledgeable about their proteges and willing to respond to all our questions.

We arrived quite early to secure a spot and spent about 3 hours there. It was hard leaving! You just want to stay and pet the cats all day and i’m not exaggerating when I say the boy had to physically drag me out when he’d had enough of my “just five minutes more!”.

After that it was time for our next adventure: The Lantern Festival of Montreal’s Botanical Garden.

For those of you who have no idea what it is, during Autumn Shanghai and Montreal collaborate to set up lights in the Botanical garden for the public’s delight. Every year has a different theme and this time, for the 25th edition it was “Between and Sky and Water and Dragons”. During the season it’s one of Montreal’s most popular and most photographed tourist attractions and boy, is that statement on point!

Luckily we had bought our tickets online beforehand and this was probably the best decision we had made all day. We arrived around 6pm right around the time when the night started to fall and the line was already intense. We skipped to the front and entered without any difficulty but when we were walking out about two hours later, we couldn’t even see the end of the queue – and that was only to buy tickets not to get to the garden itself.

Anyway, the first part is the Chinese Garden and the most impressive one, displayed around the dragon and its nine offsprings.

The second one is First Nations Garden with the Illumination of the Sacred Tree, a giant poplar representing the Circle of Life which, I think, is a symbol of the journey through the seasons and nature’s constant changes

And finally, you finish with the Japanese Garden which is supposed to be peaceful and calming but isn’t really when children are screaming and jumping around.

All in all we thought that the higher entrance fee (15$ for Quebec Residents and 12$ for students) was worth it considering the displays and the access to the Insectarium as well but it’s definitely a one time thing.

We got home around 9pm, and inspired by our day we ate dinner in front of Mulan because who doesn’t love a good old Disney? i certainly do!

 

My Love For Traveling

I’m an eternal traveller and a hopeless wanderer at heart. People say I get it from my mom but I think it goes deeper than that. I love discovering new cities, new worlds and new cultures but most of all I love the freedom associated with it all.

It starts with hoping on the plane, boat or train and feeling it take off, leaving all your feelings of fear and self-doubt on the ground below replacing them all with a sense of excitement, adventure and a belief that anything is possible. It is exhilarating and like nothing else.

Here a couple of reasons I love traveling so much:

Leaving your fear behind

At the Brisbane Zoo

When you travel you leave the person you are behind and replace them with another version of yourself that you don’t necessarily show to your friends and family. That doesn’t mean that you become someone else entirely but it does mean that you are more carefree and relaxed and most of the time it allows you to do new things and meet people you never would have met in your normal life. Mari if you are reading I’m thinking about you!

3 day trek without a proper bathroom? Count me in. Scuba Diving? Of course. Getting lost in a country you don’t speak the language? Who cares, I’ll find my way. I don’t really think about what could go wrong when I’m not at home and this is strangely true when I travel alone. I know there will always be a solution to my problem and this is a million years from how I react when I am in my city (think about a little ball of stress who is scared at every possible noise and out of the norm situation).

Going out of your comfort zone

Uluru

I went traveling for 2 months in Australia in 2015 and even though I was a seasoned traveller by then I was scared shit. Because of my stupid pride I didn’t tell anyone at the time but when I thought about spending 24 hours alone on a plane that would take me halfway across the world to a place I had never been before nor knew anyone it made me not want to go even though it was dream.

My ego got me to the airport and I’m glad it did as minus some trips to the doctor and other unplanned hiccups it was one of the best experience of my life. Was it easy? Definitely not and a few times I felt alone and isolate in my hostel room but the feeling passes. That trip taught me so much about myself and what I wanted in life that I am so very glad I made it happen.

Running away

The Great Barrier Reef

A lot of travellers who are out on the road most of the time will say that they’re not running away from something and I probably would too. But now that I am a grown-up (!) I’ve realized that of course I am. I mean, every single time I have booked a trip alone it was because I either was depressed, angry at something or someone, annoyed, crying or god knows what else but it wasn’t usually after a happy emotion. My best trips were organised during a low point in my life to make me feel better and to stop thinking about whatever it was that was getting me down.

I mean, I did my student exchange in a country I was pretty sure nobody would visit just after my mom passed away because I wanted to be left alone and be disconnected from reality for a while. And you know what, to this day I still feel like it was the best decision to make at the time. It allowed me to be somebody else for a bit and not think about what was waiting for me back home.

Traveling is like pausing your life for a while and living somebody else’s for the time you need.

Coming Home

Kangaroo

To complete number 3, after running away comes coming home. However it’s not the same as before you left. See, traveling gives you the time and space to think about your life and your problems without having to face them but life at home doesn’t stop. It goes on without you and when you do eventually decide to go back not only have you changed but the people around you have changed too.

Allow yourself the time you need to breathe without being pressured to deal with everything and be assured that you’ll have a different outlook when you get back. You’ll probably even be happy to see your people and get back to your life. Maybe you’ll even have missed them a little bit.

As the saying goes, the grass is greener and all that but traveling makes you realize that it may be true to a certain point but it doesn’t last forever and you will realize that your grass is perfectly fine, it just needs a little tender loving care every now and then.

And remember, not all who wander are lost.

Running my First Half Marathon

I ran my first half-marathon on Sunday after a stupid bet I made with someone (because that’s always how it is right?)…and after my initial fear of having to run it alone it felt amazing almost the whole time.

I say almost because it wouldn’t be a race without hitting the dreaded wall at some point now would it?

The start of the race – Source

Let me recap:

After a 6am wake-up call I got ready and headed to the start of the race. I’ve raced before for a 5km but the atmosphere was nothing like it – this time there was anticipation, excitement and given it was meant to be 30°C of humidity I was also surprised to see so much solidarity between runners. The more experienced athletes were not hesitating to give advice to newbies like me about how to hydrate properly and stay safe.

I was in the before last corral so I started about 30 minutes after the faster ones. Every corral had its own countdown though and I thought that was nice. 10,9….3,2,1 go time!

The race starts on Pont Jacques Cartier and quickly descends to Ile Sainte Helene a nice, shaded and flat area where you go through the Theme Parc “La Ronde” for kms 1-5. After that it’s on to Ile Notre Dame for the Formula 1 race course and kms 6-11. The first part of the race is remotely flat and easy and I didn’t struggle too much although it being my first half I was taking my time. My splits were 38 minutes for the 5km and 1:16 for the 10km, quite a bit slower than my normal speed. Again I was being safe.

Source

The second part of course was harder – at km 11 you start making your way toward Downtown Montreal and cross over the Saint Laurent River on Pont de la Concorde. The bridge is long and there’s nothing to see through kms 12-14. I started struggling a bit there as my knees were hurting a little and the initial euphoria was fading but I kept on going; telling myself that the hardest was over (next time I’ll know that the worst was yet to come!).

Kms 15-17 saw us go through Old Montreal via Rue de la Commune where we got a good look at the Piers and were cheered on by multiple locals and tourists. It was well needed since there was literally no shade there and it was getting hot! Then we went toward the gay village via Sainte-Catherine street for kms 17-19. At that point so many people were walking but I powered through – I had been drinking electrolytes at each station and coincidence or not my energy had peaked kms 15-19.

Obviously this was soon after we started

The 19th km ended with a big hill and thank god for the crowd gathered around each side to cheer everyone on because by then I had had enough! I guess it’s a strategic point to watch and cheer the runners on because it’s where it’s most needed since everyone is just done by that point.

I managed the hill and I’m not quite sure why but when I looked at the map before the race I had assumed that the finish line was just after. Well it wasn’t and I still had 1.5 km to go but because I didn’t know I started walking, my legs refusing to run anymore. When i realized I hadn’t arrived yet that’s when I hit the wall hard and I think it took me another 15 minutes to walk / run the last 700 m. My body, my head and everything else were just done.

I continued one step at a time and finally crossed the finish line in just over 2h45 which given my poor training and the heat I will gladly take.

The obligatory medal photo

Over all I had a great time and the race itself went much better than I was anticipating! My second 10km was faster than the first and I caught up with a lot of runners at that point. Lets just not mention the last 1km and forget it ever existed.

Would I do it again? Yes! But if I could avoid a heatwave in the process i’d be happy.

Questions:

  • Have you ever run a half-marathon and how did it go?
  • Have you ever run during a heatwave?

 

Island Hoping in Hawaii

Alternative Title: no we are not on our honeymoon

The closest point to space on earth

This summer the boy and I spent two full weeks in Hawaïï and because I have gotten a few requests for our itinerary, I decided to do a full recap. I mean, who doesn’t want to see photos of sunsets and beaches when Autumn is so close you are starting to question your reasons for getting out of bed in the morning? I thought so.

Firstly, I won’t lie – yes it is expensive. The tickets were not though and that’s the catch because we’re (or at least I am!) the type of people to just book and think about the rest later! Well we did that for the flights and then in our hurry somehow ended up with two different accommodations for the first night and none for the last. Apparently good communication is a skill every successful grow-up possesses. Clearly by now you know that I don’t fall into that category.

Back to our itinerary: we chose to visit Big Island and Kauai as our main destinations and spent an additional two nights in Oahu before our flight back to Canada.

Big Island : 

Lava Flow at Kalapana

We spent a full 7 days there and it was only just enough. It’s a very active island and we absolutely loved it! It’s where the main volcanos are located and it’s a hiker’s paradise.

We stayed in Hamakua Guest House and I can’t recommend it enough – It had everything we needed from a cosy room to flashlights and despite being off the beaten track, it was easily accessible. You also are in the middle of a rainforest making it very peaceful.

  • 1st day: Botanical Garden and Akaka Falls
  • 2nd and 3rd days: Volcano National Park
  • 4th day: Sunset and Stargazing on Mauna Kea – You can’t access the summit with your rental car so we used Arnotts Lodge Tours. Our guide Lauren was fun and extremely knowledgeable. We weren’t disappointed and it was worth the investment.
  • 5th day: Waipeo Valley: we went down… and then up again. With an average road grade of 25% with peaks at 40% it was no joke because I mean, what’s better than feeling like you want to die on vacation right?
  • 6th day: Kalapana: watching lava flow straight into the ocean is a one time thing you don’t want to miss. We walked the 4 miles there and back.
  • 7th day: Exploring a Hawaiian village and flight out to Kauai

Kauai / Garden Island / The island that will make you sneeze and itchy like never before : 

The picture perfect Kalalau Lookout

Keep in mind that this island is 90% humidity so if like me you are prone to allergic reactions to mosquito bites on top of seasonal allergies, you might want to be prepared. Otherwise you may end up starting a hike only to find yourself 10 seconds later screaming for cover with an army of mosquitos following you while a certain someone else continues on peacefully unaware.

  • 1st day: Rest!
  • 2nd day: Waimea Canyon National State Park
  • 3rd day: Beaches, Kalalau Lookout, Kileaua
  • 4th day: Flight to Honolulu

Oahu

Sunset over Waikiki

We spent our last two nights in Honolulu before flying back out to Toronto via Vancouver. Our first day we spent at Waikiki and explored the “Hawaiian Champs Elysées” and our second we hiked Diamond Head. If you do that, remember to take cash with you or you will have to go back to get some when you have finally stopped arguing over whose fault it is. Again, not like we’re talking about us or anything…

All in all a great holiday that i would recommend to anyone whatever you like doing on vacation. And why the title? Well apparently it is a place a lot of couples honeymoon in and we were constantly asked whether this was the reason for our trip – it was not but we got a lot of eye rolls when our answer was “it’s a ‘just-because’ trip”.

On Adulting

Hi everyone,

I’m starting this blog mostly because I realized that I am completely and utterly useless at adulting. As in, at 27 years old I have absolutely no idea of how it works and what you’re supposed to do to get it right and even though I try my attempts are usually pretty pathetic. Still thinking I’m exaggerating? You’re talking to the girl who argued for a full minute she could take care of herself while proving herself wrong by walking into a hole literally 2 seconds later.

So if you feel like your life is messy, that you don’t know what the hell you’re doing half of the time and that you can’t even keep a cactus alive then this place is for you. And if you do have it all together and are successful at being a grown-up, well hopefully you’ll at least get a good laugh out of my adventures and come here to remind yourself that you are doing absolutely fine.