Last week we decided to take a little day trip with our favourite German workawayers – Panini and Chippy (aka Annika and Lea). The plan was initially to go to Calgary so that I could pop into the Apple store and get my Macbook battery replaced. As it turns out, Apple doesn’t service this model anymore, so bye bye 3 hour drive to Apple and hello local computer techs who are happy to help!
Our new choice of destination was Banff as we’ve all wanted to go there since we arrived in Canada. The day started bright and early at 7:30 AM and we made a first stop at Lake Louise which is on the way. The lake is still frozen but it’s a beautiful place nonetheless.
We probably spent around an hour at the lake before continuing our journey. The first thing you see when you come off the exit to Banff is a massive sign and tourists taking pictures with it. Were we going to do things differently? Nope! Cue the tourist pics!
The Banff National Park is known for its amazing nature so we had already decided to dedicate the day to hiking. We chose a pretty easy hike that goes all the way up to the summit of Tunnel Mountain. It’s a relatively small mountain but with an amazing view! We did have a little trouble finding the start of the trail and ended up starting our hike a little higher up. I was absolutely fine with missing 500 metres of incline as I hadn’t been feeling well the day before. And it also meant we already had a pretty nice view from the get-go. The hike from start to finish takes a couple of hours and I’ll let the pictures do the talking!
While at the summit, we were greeted by this cute little chipmunk! It also earned Lea, who is a tiny person, the nickname ‘Chippy’.
After our hike we checked out downtown Banff and we all agreed that it’s a strange place! While beautiful, Banff is very touristy, and Moa described it very well; “Banff is designed to be what tourists think Canada should look like”. Spot on! My impression of the city centre was that it felt like a Canada theme park. We looked through the local thrift store, and a few souvenir shops, before sitting down to eat some hard earned pizza. After dinner we made our way towards the Bow Falls trail. Trying to find our way there by car had us moving towards a location that on the map was called ‘Surprise Corner’. We though this must be something fantastic. Guess what? The surprise was that it’s just a corner! The road takes a turn! Whaaat! Anyways. We were now on the wrong side of the river so we ended up parking in a residential area and walked across a pedestrian bridge to the trail. It was a nice little walk to the falls and below them is a golf course where we met a herd of elk. Cue pics!
We spent over an hour down by the falls before finally heading back to the car. We got to drive back with the sun setting over the mountains in front of us which is always breathtaking. I highly recommend it! We didn’t arrive back in Golden until around 10:30 but it was a day well spent! I think we’re all looking to go back and see other parts of the Banff National Park as the lakes melt and nature really wakes up.
I know what you’re thinking right now. ANOTHER blog post? You probably figured you’d have to wait at least a few weeks for the next one! Even though I did tell you there’d be one this week. I mean, sure, I did say it would be Moa posting… She still might. People have walked the moon!
I had a great little travel experience yesterday which I want to share with you. Moa may be off in Skaha but I might have exaggerated a little when I said I was left to my own devices. There ARE other people on the ranch. The other week, two German girls by the name of Annika and Lea arrived. As there is now a car on the property (OUR car! SMELLY but OURS!) we decided we should go on a little field trip (not to be confused with a Field trip). Our destination would be Wapta Falls in Yoho National Park. The snow has really been melting away here in Blaeberry so we figured it would be a nice little hike. Once you leave the highway there is a 2 km drive to the trail and then a 2.4 km hike to the falls.
We set off at around 12:30 once our chores were done at the ranch. The drive to the trailhead is not too long – only about 40 minutes. As we drove into the national park we were informed by signs that visitors now require a park pass which needs to be purchased on the park border. We completely missed the exit and had to find a place to turn around to go back and get a pass. Aren’t we the most upstanding citizens? Anyway, once we got back to the little hut were park passes are distributed, it turned out it was closed and no pass was required. A few minutes later we arrived at the road to Wapta Falls. Which was also closed. Yep, the dirt road going down to the trail was still covered in snow and our hike was now twice as long. Did we let that get us down? Not right away!
The walk to the trailhead was pretty boring so it was nice when we finally got there. The trail started going steadily upwards around halfway in. With fallen trees all over the place we had to practise some parkour to get by. (We were very graceful and I think Michael Scott would have been proud.) As the trail wasn’t really open for the season yet, I’m sure it’ll be cleaned up and made more accessible eventually.
We were very excited when we heard the roar of the falls which meant we were nearing the end of our 4.4 km hike (which I seriously believe was longer). The first stop is a viewing area high above the falls and the view is absolutely breathtaking. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get a picture that fully conveys this. If you ever go there (or if you’ve already been), you’ll know what I mean! We stopped there to drink some water and enjoy the scenery before following the trail downwards.
It was kind of tricky this time of year as the trail is covered in snow, ice and mud. Snow was definitely the preferable foundation. I would say that probably 70% of the trail down was ice which meant that we spent a lot of time sliding, grabbing trees and trying to find alternative routes in the snow just next to the trail. Every now and then we’d get to some bare ground where non-slippery moss was available. I frickin’ loved that moss… Before you get all the way down beneath the falls, there is another viewing area. It looked like people had been taking shortcuts and made their way down via the very steep bank underneath it. We chose the slightly safer ice trail.
Getting down took a LOT of effort but we made it! And it was worth it. It was such a cool experience to stand in front of the falls and feel that gentle spray of water. We were also lucky enough to have sunshine most of the time which meant we even got to see a rainbow! A picture says more than a thousand words so let’s have some photos, shall we?
I don’t know how long we spent down there but as we started hiking back, my shoes were absolutely soaked! They’re not really hiking shoes… The hardest part was definitely the last 2 km back to the car as at that point we were all very hungry and extremely tired of walking on icy snow. But we made it back and pulled into Golden for an A&W meal just before 18:00.
I’d love to go back to Wapta Falls again when it’s warmer and dryer. Someone told me it’s even possible to go swimming underneath them, which would be amazing! So don’t be surprised if you get another blog post about this place before the year is over.
Okay guys, here’s the deal… Moa was supposed to post a little something about her ski trip to Lake Louise but then she bailed to go on a climbing trip for 6 days! How rude. So here I am, left to my own devices in a camper van on the ranch. The light in the tunnel is that we got a car yesterday (thanks to our friend Matt, who couldn’t wait to get rid of it). We’re now officially able to explore the area and visit town without having to bug people (Matt) for rides!
It was also my birthday yesterday and the others surprised me with breakfast in bed and a little song to start the day. Moa and I spent the rest of the day getting the car into a somewhat better shape and in the evening we had drinks and good food around a campfire. Not too shabby!
Anyway, I figured I’d take this opportunity to share some of my favourite photos that I’ve taken around these parts. My love of photography is really coming back!
Let’s start with some buffalo:
And now, maybe some winter action…
Let’s move on to spring, shall we?
I really shouldn’t forget the very photogenic Pippi:
And I’m gonna round this off with another buffalo. This guy is called Jack and we kind of love him! He is the only one that will let you pet him for a little bit. Buffalo cuddles, anyone? (EDIT: The photo below was entered in National Geographic’s Travel Photographer of the Year contest. Click on the image to go over there and give it a like!)
Watch out for an update from Moa at some point next week!
Let’s catch up! Our final stop between the U.S. and the Rocky Mountains Buffalo Ranch was Calgary, where we spent 3 days before heading into the Rockies. Our Airbnb hosts were kind enough to offer an airport pick-up service which saved us some time and money. Throughout this trip we have mostly stayed at Airbnb locations over hotels and it’s such a great way of travelling. For example, our stays in New York City and Toronto were both in great neighbourhoods (Greenpoint/Brooklyn and Roncesvalles) where we felt like locals rather than tourists.
Upon arriving at our accommodation in Calgary we knew that we’d once again made the right choice! Our place for the next 3 days was located in a beautiful neighbourhood, just above Bow River and a 10 minute walk from picturesque Kensington with lots of small stores, pubs and restaurants. We were also only a 25-30 minute walk from downtown Calgary. The city had, much like our previous stop Chicago, just received a dump of powdery snow which just added to the beauty. I could keep going about how pretty it was. Honestly, every street in the surrounding areas could easily have been plucked right out of a Christmas movie – complete with light decorations! Did I mention we saw polar hares running around in the street every night?! You could barely see them at first as they just look like piles of snow until they start moving. At which point you’ll probably see 5 or 6 of them! Probably having a very important polar hare meeting about things and stuff.
Our first mission after leaving our bags at the Airbnb was dinner. We ended up at Menyatai Japanese Noodles which was the first restaurant we saw and the food was delicious! After this we took a stroll around the neighbourhood and made mental notes of places to go back to over the next couple of days. We discovered that they had a CAT CAFÉ (!!!!) and had to immediately message our friend Sofie as we’ve been wanting to go to one for ages. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to visit this time around, but I have a feeling we’ll be back in Calgary before the year is over.
On the second day we decided to checkout downtown. It was pretty cold outside so most people were making their way around the central areas by using the pedestrian skywalk system +15. We wanted some fresh air and sun though so we spent the morning outside. On our way back towards Kensington we decided to walk across the Peace Bridge. Just before reaching the bridge, we happened upon a travelling outdoor photo exhibition called The Fence. It was apparently the first time it was being shown outside of the U.S. and it was very cool. All photos, with accompanying stories, were attached to a fence that went around a construction site by the river. Read more about it HERE.
We had a late poutine lunch back in Kensington before checking out the stores in the area. I ended up getting myself a nice big scarf (desperately needed in the cold temperature) and we both scored ourselves a bargain at a local bookstore. As we hadn’t seen much of the Winter Olympics we decided to leave our purchases in the Airbnb and then make our way back to find somewhere with drinks and sports. The place we chose to hang out for the evening was Hayden Block. It’s a great place with a good atmosphere, lovely staff and HUGE tv screens which makes for good Olympics watching! We had a couple of drinks each and shared a plate of hushpuppies while being entertained by the Men’s Half-Pipe Snowboarding.
Our final day began with a walk to the Prince’s Island Park which is located in the Bow River. We learned that the island, along with the rest of Calgary, was heavily flooded a few years ago. The island is still being restored. It was a nice little walk where we met many squirrels. I don’t really know what more to ask for in a walk, other than seeing cute animals? We came from the west end of the island and headed East to the man-made wetlands. It is inhabited by a range of different bird species and a few beavers. Unfortunately we did not see any beavers, but we did see signs that they were present in the area which was cool!
Ice rink between Prince’s Island Park and downtown Calgary
As it was the 13th of February, aka Galentine’s Day, we thought we deserved a waffle treat after all the walking. Leslie Knope would definitely agree with us on this. The perfect place for a waffle brunch was of course Buttermilk Fine Waffles on 17th Avenue. I’m gonna let this picture do the talking:
Moa had a haircut booked in the afternoon which meant we had some further time to kill. Calgary is located in Alberta, which we’ve been told is country music land in Canada, and it has a few country/western stores (Calgary Stampede anyone?). We checked out a couple of them and Moa got herself another postcard for her travel collection. We went our separate ways when it was time for the big haircut. I found myself killing time in the nearby CORE shopping centre with a late A&W lunch. I told myself I wouldn’t do any shopping. It didn’t work. In fairness, I absolutely did need to get the cleaning and waterproofing kit for my leather boots. They are naturally waterproof, but in the extremely slushy streets they had sadly started leaking and had salt stains all over. So I started in ALDO where I got these much needed supplies… and H&M was basically next door with a sale… 17 CAD for two knitted sweaters was too good to pass up!
Around 3 hours later, Moa was finally done with her marathon haircut. It was at a hair academy so I’ll forgive it… even though it made me spend money.
We ended the day at Hayden Block once more to watch the Olympics. The Women’s Ice Hockey tournament was on with Sweden facing Switzerland. The staff made sure to have at least one screen show the game for us which was super nice of them. We had a few drinks each and I ate a great bacon mac & cheese. Sweden lost against Switzerland, and all over the world, people were confused as to how one country could play a game against themselves in the Olympics and lose.
I must add a final note about our fantastic Airbnb. Our host Christine was incredibly nice and the house was all you could ask for. They even stocked the kitchen with a “mini supermarket” where you could take any items you needed (such as noodles, coffee, energy bars) and pay by putting change in a jar. Great if you don’t have the time or energy to go to the supermarket! They had not been doing the Airbnb thing for long so we made sure to leave a glowing review. If we are back in the area, we will for sure stay with them again!
On the 14th of February we got on a Greyhound bus and headed to Golden where we’ve now been for just over a month. We’ll be here for most of April as well, so expect some more posts about this wonderful place in the Rockies!
Having some good music to listen to is a pretty vital part of life in general, but it is particularly important while travelling. We thought we’d share some of the songs we’ve enjoyed listening to so far during our time in the Rocky Mountains! All compiled into a handy little Spotify playlist. Click on the image below to listen!
Please feel free to let us know what your favourite songs are and if you have any recommendations for us!
FULL LIST OF SONGS:
Emily Faye – Open Road
Jake Morrell – Englishman
Fifth Floor – These Days
Thomas Rhett & Rhett Akins – Drink A Little Beer
Lady Gaga – Yoü And I
Dustin Lynch – Love Me Or Leave Me Alone (feat. Karen Fairchild)
Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness – Walking On A Dream
Alright, time to get you guys up to speed – We’re back in Canada (and have been since the middle of February, oops)!
I’d like to say we have a good reason for not updating this blog very well the last few weeks but truth is, life kinda just got in the way. And we’re great at procrastination. Jokes aside though, it’s been really nice to just kind of be and live in the moment and settle in. This blog post will be kind of a quick summary and catch-up of the last few weeks, with a bunch of pictures going with it!
On February 11th we left the US and Chicago and flew to Calgary, Canada. We stayed there for three days before boarding a Greyhound bus west and set off into The Rockies. Since February 14th we have been staying at the Rocky Mountains Buffalo Ranch located in the middle of Columbia Valley about 20 minutes outside the small town of Golden. If we thought we were remote when we stayed in Kenmore outside of Ottawa, then this is a whole new level. It’s basically mountains, forest, and us. And it’s wonderful.
At the ranch we are helping Leo, our host, with running his Airbnb business and daily chores in exchange for food and accommodation. We clean the house and the cabin that’s being rented out, chop wood, drive the snow mobile to and from the mailbox and shovel tons of snow. It’s awesome.
The buffalos are all taken care of by Leo and is not something we help out with, mainly because we would most likely get charged by them if we entered their pastures. So no thanks. They are super cute though and are beautiful creatures. At the moment there are 18 animals here and the herd is lead by the alpha male Chester Jr – a massive bull who’s apparently only going to get bigger!
A few weeks ago we attached my GoPro camera to the snowmobile and Leo tried to get the buffalos to chase him so we could get some good footage. However, one thing we’ve learnt here is that the buffalos won’t do anything you want them to do so they mostly just calmly walked around and were not up for running at all. I still managed to get some cool shots, which you can see below!
The only downside to being here is that we don’t have a car so leaving the ranch can’t really be done spontaneously to go to town. My mom asked me when we were talking on Skype if we couldn’t just “take the bus”. Nope, there are no buses here! If we want to get to town we either arrange to get a ride from a neighbour or friend or we hitchhike in. Luckily for us, we’ve already gotten to know some amazing people around here. Everyone is so friendly!
So how does life look for us nowadays? Well, it’s pretty quiet and relaxed. Since it’s the low season here on the ranch (in the summer Leo rents out some cabins that are not suitable for winter as well as running a daily buffalo tour) we have a lot of free time to spend as we want. Any chores we might have for the day are usually dealt with in the morning or noon and late afternoon and evenings are almost always free. Since Leo is also a musician we’ve ended up having several jam sessions in his cabin! We’ve also been to a local jam night a few times in town at a great place called The Wolf’s Den and are hoping to get to play there again in the near future.
To my personal joy there’s a climbing gym in town which I’ve signed up for, so a few times a week I go climbing which is so much fun. I always feel better when I can climb regularly and I’m really hoping that when the snow melts away I’ll get the chance to go on a few climbing adventures outdoors.
What’s next? Well, the long-term plan is that we will be staying here at the ranch until the end of April. After that we don’t know yet, we’ll decide that when we get there. In regards for a plan for the next few days – I’M GOING SKIING! TODAY! Since I love skiing and have always loved skiing, it would have felt like a crime to go to Canada and not ski. This is however not something I share with Matilda, so I’ve booked a ski trip for myself starting today. I’m going to Lake Louise! I’ll be staying there until Friday for three full days of skiing and I couldn’t be more excited.
So in terms of the blog, here’s what we’re gonna do. There’s gonna be a post about the time we spent in Calgary which I will try to get up in the next few days. When I get back from my skiing trip I am also making it my mission to make a vlog where we can show you the ranch and what we do with our time at the moment! It’s so hard to try to sum it all up in words sometimes and it’s a great way for us to show you the incredible scenery around here. There’s also going to be a post coming up soon about a spontaneous roadtrip we took this weekend to Yoho National Park and Emerald Lake with our friend Matt, a post about when we went dogsledding (which is also thanks to Matt) as well as a post where I tell you all about my ski adventures.
So while I’m writing this blog post I am actually sitting in Cleveland, Ohio. What better way to spend a morning than reminiscing back to what we did in New York? (This is also an excuse because we’re trying to catch up with our blog posts…)
In our last blog post (which you can findHERE)Matilda covered the first half of our wonderful New York week, so if you haven’t yet; check it out! Before I dive into the second part I just want to add to her post that the climbing place which I went to on the Monday morning is called Brooklyn Boulders and is AMAZING. So if you’re a climber, I highly recommend that you check it out if you’re ever nearby!
Anyways, Tuesday! We were approaching the end of our New York stay and by this point we had already crossed of quite a few things from our bucket lists. While we had already spent a significant amount of time hanging around the NBC building at 30 Rockefeller Plaza when lining up for Saturday Night Live we didn’t get the chance to check out their gift shop properly (I love me a good gift shop), so that became our first destination of the day. A lot of both mine and Matilda’s favourite TV-shows aired on NBC (Parks & Recreation anyone?) so they were bound to have some pretty cool stuff!
As soon as we walked through the doors we were approached by a staff member. “Hi, do you have anything planned for this afternoon?” We didn’t. “Do you want free tickets to the monologue rehearsal of Late Night with Seth Myers?” Uhm, yes? You had us at free!
We were handed a ticket each and were told to come back at 3.30pm and suddenly we had a plan for the day. Since we didn’t want to go too far from the Rockefeller Center we decided to check out a building called the Citigroup Tower which I knew was nearby. This building is quite famous as it’s a skyscraper built on stilts and it has an interesting background story; basically the design ended up being flawed and there was a big risk of the tower collapsing! Who could have known that a 59 story building on stilts wasn’t a good idea? You can read more about ithereif you’re interested, it’s a pretty cool story!
The above picture isn’t mine as I sadly couldn’t get any good pictures of the building, but regardless it was impressive to see in person. Whilst on this little mission we found out that our Australian friend Harley, who we volunteered together with at the farm in Canada, had just arrived in New York. He also had time to kill so we decided to meet up and spent the next hour wandering around Midtown Manhattan together.
Fast-forward to 4pm and suddenly Matilda and I found ourselves back inside the NBC building for the Seth Myers monologue rehearsal. If you’re unsure what a monologue rehearsal is (which I was – we had no idea what we had signed up for) it’s where they try out the jokes written for the upcoming show with an audience for the first time and decide which ones are funny and which are not. This was a really cool experience as it was quite relaxed – Seth Myers was dressed in a hoodie and was stood chatting with the audience for a bit before they started and then they did a few takes on the monologue. It was basically a free comedy show which lasted for just under an hour – Thanks NBC!
Below is the bit we got to see;
At 5pm we found ourselves back outside the studios. We felt that we might as well keep this NBC-related day going, so we decided to sign up for last minute standby tickets for The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon that same evening and were once again told to return a few hours later to see if we could get in.
We decided to head over to the Marriott Marquis which is in the centre of Times Square as they have a spinning 360 restaurant and bar called The View, located at the top of the building. Yeah that’s right, the whole restaurant spins and gives you an amazing view over all of Manhattan – I can highly recommend to go here if you’re travelling on a budget! It’s completely free to go up as long as you order something from the bar, so instead of spending $30 on a ticket to the Empire State Building or Top of TheRock, this is a great and cheap alternative for a skyscraper view of the city.
Around 7pm we had made our way back to Rockefeller Plaza (again) but sadly our luck had now run out – as we were last in line we didn’t manage to get inside to watch the show. We didn’t really mind though, as we had already gotten to see Saturday Night Live a few nights before and this also meant we could go for NEW YORK PIZZA!
Our Airbnb hosts had recommended Joe’s Pizza for this activity and luckily there was one located 10 minutes away from us. As a pizza lover and advocator for Swedish pizza being the best kind of pizza (if you’re a Swede you know what I’m talking about) I was doubting this hype about New York pizza. However, this doubt was quickly knocked sideways because damn – That was some delicious pizza. I just mentioned the word pizza 7 times in for sentences by the way, go me.
After pizza we found a desert place called Junior’s Restaurant & Cheesecake which served… you guessed it, cheesecake. If you’re going to be unhealthy you might as well go all the way right? This place was also AMAZING and the cheesecake pieces are massive, definitely worth the money. Go here, you won’t be disappointed. Eat all the food. With our bellies full and an awesome day behind us we took the subway back to Brooklyn.
Wednesday morning came around and Harley met up with us in Brooklyn to spend the day exploring together. We didn’t really have a plan on where to go but the weather was beautiful so we just started walking. Somehow we ended up in Queens and Long Island City which offered some great views over the Manhattan skyline along the way. We decided to cross Queensborough Bridge which was not as pretty as we had hoped andended up just being a very cold half hour walk next to a highway. Oh well, not everything can be picturesque and perfect, so I’ll forgive New York for that. Or just blame Queens.
After some coffee at Starbucks (there are a million Starbucks in New York by the way) the three of us headed to Central Park. Matilda and I had already been there on our first day but as we were about to find out, we had barely seen the start of it. We spent a good few hours exploring it further, walking around the lakes and making friends with the squirrels and birds. In the middle of Central Park we found Belvedere Castle which you can go up in and it offers an incredible view over the whole park.
When the sun started to go down and we all realised how cold it actually was becoming we headed to 30 Rockefeller Plaza (AGAIN) to grab some food at one of the restaurants there followed by a drink at an Irish bar nearby. It was now 7pm and time to say goodbye to Harley before we headed back to Brooklyn for our last New York activity – Another comedy show!
One of the things both myself and Matilda had wanted to do in New York was to s hopefully catch a show by one of our favorite comedians as they quite often do last minute shows here and there. Luckily enough, we found out that comedian and SNL cast member Chris Redd was doing a standup show at a venue literally 3 minutes from where we were staying, so of course we had to check it out.
The show was called Comedians You Should Know and was located in the back of a bowling alley/bar called The Gutter in quite a small room. As we got into the venue quite early and were seated at the very front of the stage – the last place you want to be at standup comedy if you want to avoid getting pulled into the jokes… I’m happy to say that I managed to get through the evening without this happening to me, but Matilda was not so lucky. She had Chris Redd do a handful of jokes on her expense which was something I thoroughly enjoyed watching. I’m such a good friend. The night eventually came to an end and the show was AWESOME – all the comedians on stage killed it. I’m pretty sure I had a full core workout just by laughing so much.
We headed back to our Airbnb to pack our bags and prepare for the next day, all of which seemed bittersweet. By this time I had completely fallen in love with New York and knew that I would be returning to this amazing city.
So that’s all of our New York adventures! Like you’ve probably understood by this point I am in complete awe of “The Big Apple” and I know that I still haven’t seen more than just the surface of it. I’d love to come back again and explore it even further, but all in good time right?
So thanks for everything New York – we will be back!