Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Road Trip

One of the things my boyfriend and I really like to do in our spare time is take road trips. So far we have driven from Quebec City/Montreal and Ottawa, Salem and Boston (with various Maine sites in between), from Playa del Carmen to Merida in Mexico, and countless places close to home (Cape Breton, Digby, etc). We have covered a lot of miles in a year and a half! And next weekend, we are taking off for New Hampshire for a few days to check out Mount Washington and Conway, with a stopover in Portland on the way home.

We both love to explore and visit places we have never been before, so road trips are the perfect hobby for us. Besides, as I am always fond of saying (sagely), if you can spend 15 hours in a car with someone and not murder each other, I think you are pretty much ready for anything as a couple! Seriously - driving long hours makes you sore, groggy, dehydrated and irritable - even if the other person is your most favourite in the world, there is still bound to be some friction at some point.

But that's what is so exciting about taking to the open road - the thrill of not knowing what is to come and of leaving problems behind you, and the excitement of having a partner along for the ride? There is nothing better. *Besides, travelling by car may take longer but it can also save you hundreds of dollars, which is always awesome when you are a couple on a budget*

Whenever we embark on a new driving adventure, I am always sure to bring a few essentials with me to make the ride more comfortable and to help pass the time more quickly. Perhaps you will find this list useful for YOUR next long-distance drive!

Here are my Top 5 Road Trip Essentials:


1. GPS:
This may seem like a redundant recommendation, but I think a lot of people don't really realize how useful a GPS can be until you have one. Ok, so the boy's is often tempermental (it has, more than once, sent us to a place that doesn't actually exist) but it has also been a life-saver. When we were driving through the (crazy) streets and freeways of Montreal, Mr. Garmin showed us an aerial of all the lines and indicated which one we had to be in in order to exit at the proper location (how else would we have known that, being somewhere we had never visited before?! And not having to cut across 4 lanes of traffic is ALWAYS a nice thing).

You can also look up the nearest amenities, such as restaurants, gas stations and banks - places that are always needed during a road trip, but are not always easy to find in a place you are not familiar with. At the very least, I would recommend having a smartphone with the 'net so you can Google things (often just as handy as an actual GPS)...and maps as a back-up just in case (technology is great when it works!). Plus, you can program funny voices - how could you NOT have a great time listening to Yoda telling you to "In 4 kms, right turn you must make"?!

2. Snacks:
Ok, so I understand that there are tons of truck stops and gas station stores along highways and on main town streets that you can pop into and grab a snack when you need it. I also understand how tempting it is to just eat junk all the livelong day while on a road trip (goes along with that feeling of freedom and desire to cast off everyday "rules"). But lets be honest - most of the accessible food one can find while travelling is quite unhealthy. I'm certainly not saying that one should not treat oneself to an occasional chocolate bar or bag of chips along the way* (hey, you ARE on a vacation, after all) but it's really not a good idea to eat those things all day, every day. Not only is it unhealthy but it can also get very expensive (food stuffs in gas station stores are often horribly overpriced).

Pop a cooler in your backseat with some snacks that have at least SOME nutritional value, but are also easy to transport and keep - granola bars, apples, carrot sticks, crackers or rice cakes, and low-fat cookies or biscuits are good options. These are things you can easily grab and eat without making a mess or having to dig out utensils or dishes, and it also means you don't have to stop every time your tummy rumbles. OH and a giant bottle of water is something I never forget to pack.

*I also firmly believe that, when travelling, one should partake in local cuisine (if such a thing exists where you are), but these tips are specifically related to staying fueled while on-the-go, particularly if you are driving through rural areas where there are not many food choices available.

3. iPod
My boyfriend has an older car, which means NO CD PLAYER (I know). But he bought this neat device to hook up my iPod to the car radio - it is basically a cassette tape that you insert into the tape dock, with a cord that plugs into your iPod. VOILA! Thousands of songs to play right through the car speakers. For me, music on a road trip is absolutely essential - not only does it go along with the whole adventure/vacation vibe (when you hear this song, doesn't it just make you want to GET on the road and go?!), but it does wonders to stave off boredom and grumpiness. There's no way you will be able to come up with 15 hours of conversation starters, so having music to break up the din will help keep peace behind the wheel.

Plus, you can try to make each other laugh by singing and hamming in extremely ridiculous ways. Or, hey, wanna ignore each other? Put your earphones in and listen to music on your own! No MP3 player? Make a bunch of mixed CD's!

Is it just me, or does this NOT look comfortable at all? Source

4. Blanket and pillow
Ok, cars are great and all, but they can also be one of the most uncomfortable places, am I right? Non-ergonomically correct seats and hard plastic corners do not make for a comfy bed. Having a pillow can help prevent a permanent 'crick' in your neck and the blanket can add one more layer of comfort, or just keep you warm if the car heater isn't doing the trick or the A/C is giving you a chill. Besides, you never know when you may end up having to sleep in your car (although not recommended or, I'm sure, preferred by most).

5.  Kleenex, napkins and/or handwipes
I don't know about you, but I'm a messy eater. It is inevitable that almost every time I eat I will drop food either on myself, or around me wherever I happen to be sitting. So you can imagine the havoc I can wreak when eating in a small cramped space like the inside of a car. Spills and crumbs can easily happen if you eat in a moving vehicle so it's a good idea to have a handy wipe in the glove compartment. Kleenex and napkins are good for things like drinks, but handwipes really are the best all-around. They just clean up so much more thoroughly, and bonus if you can get ones with antibacterial properties (sinks with water and soap are not always readily available on a road trip). Also a great to way to get that stickiness off your hands after eating something messy - or even to wipe the sweat from your brow and cool off on a hot day! Or, you know, to wipe...other things (hey, sometimes toilets are not readily available either!).

Hope you enjoyed my tips - now get out there and go for a drive! You never know, you may discover something amazing.

Do you enjoy road trips? What things do you always take with you? Where is your next road trip?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Cookie Monster

Ok, so who does NOT love Sesame Street?! Anyone? Nope, didn't think so.

Yes, I am an adult and I don't even have kids, but it doesn't mean I can't love kids shows. I love that a show that I watched as a kid is still going strong and providing great entertainment for kids even today. And they have definitely done a good job of 'keeping up with the times' by featuring fun vids with popular celebrities interacting with muppets, and getting involved with social media.

The only thing that annoys me about this video is the song gets stuck in my head like CRAZY every time I watch it - it's just do damn catchy! Don't say I didn't warn you:

Two highlights for me are the cookie-shaped crescent moon and the guy rocking out on the toy xylophone - so fun! Cookie's googly eyes crack me up. Besides - check that message out - sharing is good, boys and girls (although don't expect me to share my cookie with you...sorry, I have to draw the good samaritan line somewhere and I really like cookies. Like. ALOT.).

Oh, and on another (completely unrelated note) I am getting a haircut today and I can't wait!! Why is this exciting, you ask? Well, I have not had it cut since DECEMBER. Yes, that's right, the last time a stylist came anywhere near my hair was over 7 months ago. Needless to say, it needs to be cleaned up - I actually love the length so I won't be chopping it all off ala-Anne Hathaway or anything but just injecting some shape and movement into it, that's all.

Speaking of getting a haircut and being excited about it - here is another Cookie Monster moment that I am loving right now (particularly today). Remember this one?

I may or may not have been singing 'Me going to get my fur cut. Me going to look so nice' in my head over and over the past couple of days in anticipation of my salon visit.

Oh Cookie, I'm awfully fond of you (and your namesake).*
What do you have going on today that's exciting?
Who is your favourite SS monster?

*cookies, not monsters

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sailor's Life

I have a fun evening to look forward to tomorrow - a cruise on the Tall Ship Silva! This is something I've always wanted to try out so I can't wait to get out on that water.

You would think growing up on the ocean and being able to take boats everywhere one could possibly want at almost any time, one would get sick and tired of hearing about boats and water. But not me! I love the water and I love riding on it. Whether it's a grand tall ship with sails billowing, or a slow, leisurely coast on the Halifax/Dartmouth ferry, I love 'em all.
I've been on a fair number of boat rides in my time, but in honour of my upcoming sea excursion, I thought it would be fun to list a few of my favourites to date:

1. Prince Edward Island Ferry
We have been visiting "Anne's Island" almost every summer for almost every year of my life. And before this big beauty was built, the only way to reach the island was by taking the ferry. I remember (not so fondly) sitting in our car, for what seemed like hours, waiting to board and thinking what a wonder it was riding on a ferry that holds cars (we would drive our car onto a boat! on the water!). I'd be lying if I said that I miss the waiting and the length of the trip, but I do miss the peaceful nostalgia; the sense of setting off on an adventure to a far-off place. One of these days, maybe I'll take the long way to PEI again and relive the olden days pre-Confederation Bridge.

2. Brig Unicorn, St. Lucia

Photo by Me
I am lucky enough to have a mother who has a lifelong friend that lives on a tropical island. No seriously - her friend lives on the beautiful West Indies isle of St. Lucia and we paid her a visit for a week back in 2007. Visiting an island with such a major history of pirates, it would seem practically sacriligeous not to take a trip on a tall ship - hence our day-long excursion on the Brig Unicorn. You could almost smell the sweat and rum, and hear the 'argh's' of the seamen as we bounced along the crystal blue waves, view of the Pitons in the background. Alas, I did not come across any chests full of gold dubloons while snorkeling (and trust me, in that water? You'd see it a mile away), but I still had a lovely time.
Nautical stripes - natch *photo by me
3. Canal boat, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Photo by me
Staying in England on a study-abroad trip back in (again) 2007, I had the perfect base from which to travel to several European cities, quickly and cheaply. One such visit we made was to Amsterdam, and you simply cannot visit Amsterdam without a) taking a photo like the one above and b) taking a ride on a canal boat. The canals are basically the heart of the city here and provide not only beautiful scenery, but a convenient travel route. I could definitely see myself living in a houseboat not unlike the one in the foreground of the above photo - whenever you get bored of the view, untie yourself and find another spot! How perfect is that?

View of Amsterdam's famous row houses from our boat

4. Mar II, Halifax Harbour

Check out that sky *photo by me
As a promotion through Teambuy and this blog, I had the opportunity to go whale watching in my home harbour last summer. I have to be honest - the actual whale watching left much to be desired, with only a few, very far-off fins and some hungry seagulls to be seen, however this boat trip stands out in my memory because it was one of the most beautiful sunny days I have ever seen. The sunshine warmed our faces and made the waves sparkle so much that it (almost) made up for not seeing any fish. I was also struck by how different - in a good way - my home city looks from the harbour! Seeing the sites and buildings from a whole new perspective was really fascinating. And hey, checking out the oceanfront mansions wasn't boring either!
photo by me
Speaking of boat rides, I just started reading a great book about a pretty epic one. It's called Rowed Trip: From Scotland to Syria by Oar, by Colin and Julie Angus and if you like travel, sailing, boating, kayaking, water, and/or biking - you should read it! Perhaps inspiration for my NEXT boat trip? Only time will tell...(bc Lord knows it won't be anything like this).

Do you like boats? Have you ever taken a memorable boat trip? Any trips on your 'boat trip bucket list'?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Hidden Gems: Halifax Urban Greenway

Check out my past Hidden Gems posts here and here.  
*All photos in this post by me*

Since the weather has become sunnier and warmer, I have been making an effort to get outside on my lunch break to go for a walk, or even just sit and read a book. The shot of fresh air and sunshine is a great midday pick-me-up (essential for good mental health, imho)!

However, working in the middle of a busy section of the city, on a busy University campus can make it tough to find a quiet, peaceful and green area to take my break in. The good news is I recently discovered such a spot just around the corner from the building I work in.

The Halifax Urban Greenway is a roadside, multi-use trail bordered completely on one side by big, beautiful green trees. It closely follows the Canadian National Railway line that circumvents the city, serving as a reminder of past industry. (Note: I didn't take any photos of the actual walkway because they were doing construction on the road at the time and I didn't want ugly, dirty trucks and orange neon vests ruining the beautiful scenery of the photos! But you can view photos of the walkway in various seasons and stages here).

There is only a one-km section currently completed, but this is only Phase 1. The long-term vision is for the greenway to extend from the Fairview cemetery in the West End all the way to Point Pleasant Park in the far south end. I couldn't find any information regarding when the next Phase is expected to begin construction, but I am looking forward to it.

I hope they add more spots, such as the one featured in my photos (on the corner of South Street and Beaufort Avenue), for people to sit and read or have a snack along the way - it's a great place for people to go for a peaceful and scenic break.

The trees provide a wonderfully shady canopy

The idea behind the Greenway appears to be to provide a green space and a place for citizens to get outside and get some exercise in the centre of the city. It is also a way to naturally and scenically connect various major destinations, such as Universities, main driving routes, parks and water access points. The Halifax Urban Greenway Association (HUGA) was set up to work with HRM to plan and develop this slice of nature. You can 'like' the HUG (aww) on Facebook here.

One of my fav Halifax features - the big, beautiful trees
  Work in the area? Come down and check out this Hidden Gem on YOUR lunch break sometime.

Where do YOU take your lunch breaks? Any hidden gems you would like to share?