Tag Archives: North America

A Spring Afternoon in White Rock, British Columbia, Canada

White Rock Pier near the US/Canada border in British Columbia via ZaagiTravel.com

Soooooooo this post is a bit late, yeah?

I took a major hiatus from blogging this summer. Since starting my job at the online newspaper in April, I’ve had an incredibly hectic schedule, working 50+ hours a week and commuting 15+ more hours.

And now that I spend 9 hour shifts writing articles on a computer, sitting down to type up more text for a blog hasn’t been at the top of my to do list.

BUT… I’ve realized that I really miss it.

So I’m recommitting myself to getting back onboard!

Here goes it………..

Me and my cousin Sidney in White Rock, British Columbia, Canada via ZaagiTravel.com

In April I visited my cousins in Vancouver, British Columbia.

We went for an afternoon to this little town called White Rock, named after a giant white boulder on the beach.

The beach in White Rock, British Columbia, Canada via ZaagiTravel.com

The town borders Semiahmoo Bay, which is really fun to say. Try it….. See?

Semiahmoo in Salish (the local native tribe) means “half moon”, used to describe the shape of the bay.

Another fun word? Glaciation.

That’s what caused the big white boulder (a glacial erratic in scientific terms) to migrate to it’s current home.

It weighs 486 tons and is quite impressive to look at, to be honest!

The beach in White Rock, British Columbia, Canada via ZaagiTravel.com

We had a blast meandering around the calm coast, jumping in puddles of water with our wellies (or gumboots as my Kiwi would say)… 

My little cousin Sidney loved digging around in the wet sand — it’s amazing how the simplest things can often entertain children the most!

My cousin Sidney playing on the beach in White Rock, British Columbia, Canada via ZaagiTravel.com

Driftwood and stones on the beach in White Rock, British Columbia, Canada via ZaagiTravel.com

My cousin Sidney playing on the beach in White Rock, British Columbia, Canada via ZaagiTravel.com

Then, we had a blast going on a ‘pretty pebble hunt’, looking for the most interesting and unique rocks we could find.

Ever since I was little, my dad and I would go on scavenger hunts at the beach in Newport or Huntington down where I’m from in Orange County. On each beach trip he would find his favorite little stone and hold on to it, keeping it in his pocket for months or sometimes years at a time.

The stone he currently carries he picked up on one of our walks a few years ago. Its designs remind us of the beautiful ancient cave paintings in Lascaux, France. I love that he carries it with him at all times.

Driftwood and stones on the beach in White Rock, British Columbia, Canada via ZaagiTravel.com

The beach in White Rock, British Columbia, Canada via ZaagiTravel.comDriftwood and stones on the beach in White Rock, British Columbia, Canada via ZaagiTravel.comRocks and stones on the beach in White Rock, British Columbia, Canada via ZaagiTravel.com

After looking around at the various colors and shapes that riddled the foggy beach, we eventually made our way over to THE namesake rock.

After admiring the massive feature, standing in it’s solitary glory, we walked back towards the long wooden pier.

At the end of the pier is where my cousin Johnny proposed to my now(favorite)cousin Erica.

You could take a tip out of Johnny’s book of romance and dance on the pier in the moonlight… just putting it out there.

The pier at the beach in White Rock, British Columbia, Canada via ZaagiTravel.com

A duck on the beach in White Rock, British Columbia, Canada via ZaagiTravel.comA duck on the beach in White Rock, British Columbia, Canada via ZaagiTravel.com

While we didn’t stop for any food in White Rock, I spotted numerous fish n chips restaurants and gelato cafes that looked to die for!

If you’re in the area, I highly recommend a stop at this quaint little beach.

Just a hop, skip and a jump over the American-Canadian border and you’re there!

See below, the trees on the opposite side of the bay? That’s Amurica! Told you it was close.

A view of the United States from the Canadian beach of White Rock, British Columbia, Canada via ZaagiTravel.com

Seattle Aquarium with Kids

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “The ocean covers 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and contains 97 percent of the planet’s water, yet more than 95 percent of the underwater world remains unexplored”.

Why not explore what you CAN of this important part of our planet!

Seattle Aquarium Art, Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com

In April I visited the Seattle Aquarium with my cousins and their two kids, ages 5 and 1 1/2.

We had a blast checking out the variety of sea animals – from octopus to sea stars to harbor seals to sea otters.

While this blog post will touch on “family travel” don’t think it is just for the kiddos!

At 23 I absolutely loved visiting Seattle’s aquarium!

Seattle Great Wheel Ferris Wheel at Pier 57 on Elliott Bay in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com

Located on Pier 59 on the gorgeous Waterfront, the Seattle Aquarium sits in all it’s glory.

Guests can check out the aquatic wildlife 7 days a week from 9:30am to 6:00pm (last entry at 5:00pm).

4-hour metered parking is available outside along Alaskan Way. There are also two parking garages located across the street.

Seattle Aquarium Tide Pools in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com

The aquarium’s mission statement, “Inspiring conservation of our marine environment”, is taken very seriously.

They live up to it by offering a wide variety of educational (but still interesting!) resources about the various species residing within their establishment.

Interesting fact: There is a parasite found in cat feces that can be deathly for sea otters if they come in contact with it. So the aquarium recommends throwing away all cat waste and litter as opposed to flushing it.

Octopus at Seattle Aquarium in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com Octopus Tentacle at Seattle Aquarium in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.comExhibits at the aquarium include:

Ocean oddities (unusual creatures of the ocean)

Window on Washington waters (in the entry way of the aquarium)

Birds and shores Coastal animals of the Pacific Northwest

Life on the edge (tide pools — great for all ages)

Searching for Sixgills (sharks!)

Marine mammals (seals and otters)

Underwater dome (wild animals that can be seen through a giant 360 degree glass room)

And more!!

Striped Fish at Seattle Aquarium in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com Colorful Polkadot Fish at Seattle Aquarium in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com Colorful Polkadot Fish at Seattle Aquarium in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com

Another memorable section of the aquarium was the area highlighting one of the region’s most prized animals — salmon!

The aquarium showcases each major stage of the salmon’s life (including a ladder for jumping grown salmon which is used seasonally).

Baby Salmon Fish at Seattle Aquarium in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com Young Salmon Fish at Seattle Aquarium in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.comThe kids really enjoyed the underwater dome, which showcases actual wild sea animals from the Puget Sound.

A diver could be seen from the other side of the window as he waved to the kids that watched him handle an eel.

Seconds later a massive (what I believe to be) halibut swam by shocking (with delight) the little faces that practically had their noses pressed against the glass.

Large flounder fish at Seattle Aquarium in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.comI personally feel that taking kids to an aquarium offers the opportunity to teach about a variety of important subjects – general science, the environment, marine biology, conservation, etc.

Kids have a natural interest and curiosity about the underwater world.

What better way to discover new things than observing and interacting face-to-face with the subjects themselves!

Seals at Seattle Aquarium in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com If you can’t make it to the aquarium right away you can check out these lives cams!

Harbor Seal Cam

Otter Cam

Octopus Cam

View from the Seattle Aquarium in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com View from the Seattle Aquarium in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.comYou can also check out the Google+ hangouts hosted by the Seattle Aquarium.

Students from all over the world can even go on “virtual field trips” to the aquarium!

Those videos can also be seen on their YouTube channel.

Watching the seals at the Seattle Aquarium in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com

While the cost of entry to the aquarium may seem a little high, just remember that you are contributing to the protection of the sea life and improved sustainability efforts made by the aquarium itself!

Entry prices as of June 1, 2014 are…

Adults (ages 13 & over) – $21.95

Youth (ages 4 – 12) – $14.95

Child (ages 3 & under) – FREE

Seniors (65+) – $2 off adult price

Active military and dependents (ID req’d) – $2.95 off

View from the Seattle Aquarium in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com IMG_7334 Traveling with kids -- the Seattle Aquarium in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.comThe setting to the aquarium is just beautiful and so classically PNW!

With gorgeous views of the Sound and a thorough look into the creatures that inhabit it, I find it to be a can’t miss in Seattle, Washington!

Space Needle in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com

5 Highlights of Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington

Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com

Seattle. Land of rain, coffee, grunge, Fortune 500 companies like Microsoft, Costco and Amazon…

Also the closest major American city to my god son’s family.

A Very Brief History Lesson on Pike Place

Located on First Ave and Pike St, Pike Place Market is one of the oldest operating public farmers markets in the entire USA. The market, which opened in August 1907, was built on a steep hill overlooking Elliott Bay with the goal of offering regular consumers the chance to “meet the producer”.

With 10 million visitors a year it is one of the most visited attractions in the Pacific Northwest. It is filled with farmers and craftspeople looking to offer their produce and products to both locals and visitors.

TIP!: The best places to park are Western Ave., 1st Ave., and 2nd Ave.

Main entrance sign at Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com

These are my highlights from our morning at Pike Place Market. Feel free to add YOUR highlights in the comments below! I’d love to hear them!

1. THE ORIGINAL STARBUCKSOutside the Original Starbucks in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com You can’t start your day at Pike Place Market without first stopping at the original Starbucks.

Being a 23-year-old American female I am basically a religious follower of the coffee brand.

Okay… maybe that’s taking it a little far. But barely.

Outside the Original Starbucks in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com

Starbucks is one of the largest business chains in the world – with nearly 21,000 stores across 64 different countries!

And it all started in Seattle in 1971. The actual very first location, which only sold coffee beans and not fresh brewed drinks, was closed down and then moved to this location in the mid-70s.

Even if you don’t like coffee, this is still a cool place to visit from a entrepreneurial/business frame of mind.

Outside the Original Starbucks in Seattle, Washington, United States with my cousin Johnny via ZaagiTravel.com

When I landed in Seattle my cousins and I headed from the airport straight to the mecca of caffeine addicts.

Can you tell I was excited?

I was surprised to learn that the original store has been kept in it’s most simple state – only serving certain drinks. And that’s all.

It’s kind of refreshing to enter a vintage version of the mega-coffee-maker. I’m all about bringing things back to basics.
Inside the Original Starbucks in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com Fun STARBUCKS facts and a tip:

—  The brand was first going to be called Pequod, after a whaling ship from the book Moby Dick. Instead, it was named after the chief mate on the Pequod, Starbuck.

—  The first Starbucks location outside of the U.S. opened in Tokyo, Japan in 1996.

— If you normally order a latte… stop. Order a cafe misto. It’s very similar to a latte but less expensive (and tastier in my opinion). You can have it plain or add pumps of your favorite flavoring.

View from Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com

2. The Fish Market

The fish guys are world famous for their fish-throwing ways.

It apparently all started when the workers grew tired of walking back and forth to retrieve a fish a customer ordered. They decided to keep a worker in the back with all the fish who would toss the order up to the front, saving time and energy.

Seafood for sale at Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.comFunny sign at Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com

I particularly liked this sign – “We sell only wild salmon caught by wild fisherman”.

The other fish and produce market’s around Pike Place are impressive also!

Fresh fish being sold in Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com Fish being sold in Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com Inside of Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.comInside of Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com Inside of Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com Main entrance sign at Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com3. Flowers at the market

Thousands of flowers line the hallways of the upper street level. Flowers of every color and shape. The tulips here are some of the most beautiful I’ve seen!

And when do you NOT need flowers in your life?

Flowers are always a good idea.

Flowers being sold in Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.comFlowers being sold in Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com

4. The Market Theater Gum Wall in Post Alley

The infamous gum wall is located in Post Alley, just around the corner from Pike Place Market.

The tradition began back in 1993 when patrons would place coins in blobs of gum and stick them against the alley wall. It caught on, and by 1999 the wall was deemed an official tourist attraction.
The Gum Wall outside Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com My cousins and I couldn’t pass up the chance to make our mark on one of the “germiest” attractions in the world.

We each popped a piece of gum and started chewing away while we scoped out where we wanted to place our sticky artwork.The Gum Wall outside Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com The Gum Wall outside Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com This is me placing my piece of gum on the wall as my little cousin Sidney looks on.

How “Seattle” is this picture? Starbucks in hand, scarf around my neck, placing my gum on the gum wall….The Gum Wall outside Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com That’s my piece in the very center above. That long stretched-out sort-of white piece. Ain’t she a beaut?IMG_7183Outside Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com

5. Food Highlights

A: The ConfectionalPeanut Butter Chocolate Mini Cheesecake from the Confectional outside Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.comMini peanut butter cheesecake and cheesecake-on-a-stick from The Confectional. No description necessary.
Mini Cheesecake on a Stick from the Confectional outside Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com

B: Beecher’s Handmade Cheese

Beecher's Handmade Cheese Curds being made at Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, USA via ZaagiTravel.com I HIGHLY recommend the mac n cheese from Beecher’s! It’s just phenomenal. Big penne-style pasta and creamy flavorful cheese sauce. It’s addicting. I warned you.
Menu at Beecher's Handmade Cheese outside Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com

Macaroni and Cheese & cheese curds from Beecher's Handmade Cheese outside Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com

Cheese curds from Beecher's Handmade Cheese outside Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com

C: La Buona Tavola

Leek & Potato Soup with drops of Truffle Oil from La Buona Tavola at Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, USA via ZaaiTravel.com

Leek and potato soup (with a few drops of truffle oil)

So while I didn’t order an entire bowl of this awesomeness, I should have…

The sample I was given was TO DIE FOR – clearly, I downed it all before I could even get a photo. If/when I go back to Seattle I’m coming back here and getting a big steaming bowl of it!

Leek & Potato Soup with drops of Truffle Oil from La Buona Tavola at Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, USA via ZaaiTravel.com

So… those are my Pike Place Market (+ surrounding area) highlights.

What are yours?! Comment below and tell me!

A Perfect Day in VanCity! Poutine + the Beach at Spanish Banks + Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Poutine at La Belle Patate in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada via ZaagiTravel.com

We started our day how every day should begin… with poutine.

It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a crazed-obsessed fan of poutine. It all started back in 2001 when I visited Canada for the first time.

My best friend Amanda (who, if you’re reading this, I miss the absolute crap out of you) lived in Toronto for a couple years. We spent a day at Wonderland, an amusement park, and she and her family introduced me to the beauty of life that is poutine.

It is one of my guilty pleasures. I will always love it.

Poutine Menu at La Belle Patate in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada via ZaagiTravel.comFor my American and other poutine-deprived readers… poutine, in it’s purest form, is french fries topped with gravy and cheese curds (or as my boyfriend likes to call them, squeaky cheese). The word poutine itself means “mess”, kind of. But it tastes like heaven, I promise.

The dish originated during the mid-20th century in the French region of Canada, otherwise known as Quebec.

If you haven’t tried it you can pick up a bag in the frozen section of Trader Joe’s. It’s obviously not as good as the real deal but it’s a good replacement option.

Anywaaaay… back to my poutine-adventure in Vancouver.

My cousins and I arrived on Davie St, which is also the location of Canada’s largest gay community, and we quickly spied La Belle Patate.

Davie Street sign in the West End of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada via ZaagiTravel.com

La Belle Patate, one of the most popular spots in BC to grab a hot container of la poutine, is also known for their Montreal-style smoked meat.

They carry a variety of poutine dishes including traditional — my favorite, smoked meat, chicken, galvaude (chicken and peas), BBQ, BBQ chicken, BBQ smoked meat, BBQ galvaude, Italienne (with meat sauce), Hot Dog, Steak Hachee, Hamburger Steak, Bacon, Vegetarian, Mish-Mash, All Dressed, Extreme, Steak & Pepperoni, Supreme, Mexicana, Meat Lover, Deluxe Smoked Meat, Breakfast, Choux Chous (fries, coleslaw, and sauce), Donair (tomato, onion, sweet sauce, donair meat).

There is literally something for everyone!

Their sizes come in small, medium, and large. Or, you can order “all you can eat” for $19.50 Canadian dollars. I ordered a small — pictured below — and loved every. single. bite.

Traditional Poutine (French fries, gravy, & cheese curds) at La Belle Patate in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada via ZaagiTravel.com

Traditional Poutine (French fries, gravy, & cheese curds) at La Belle Patate in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada via ZaagiTravel.com

Empty box of Traditional Poutine (French fries, gravy, & cheese curds) at La Belle Patate in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada via ZaagiTravel.comClearly.

Well, with poutine in our bellies we made our way down to the Spanish Banks Beach, located along Northwest Marine Dr.Apartment building with a tree on the roof in Spanish Banks beach, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada via ZaagiTravel.comMy cousin Erica pointed out this apartment building with a tall tree located at the very top.

I’ve tried to figure out what exactly the story is behind this tree, but have not succeeded. Yet. If you know, please comment below!

I took some sweet photos of my cousin Johnny holding his son (and my godson), Wyatt.Beach at Spanish Banks in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada via ZaagiTravel.comIt was fun to walk along the beach in the sun with family. I could see this being a very cool place to hang out during summer when the weather is a little warmer.

Beach at Spanish Banks in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada via ZaagiTravel.com

We kept walking south until we found ourselves at the heart of English Bay.

Inukshuk - ancient symbol of the Inuit culture - Beach at Spanish Banks in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada via ZaagiTravel.comWe came across this striking monument — known as Inukshuk — which is an ancient symbol of the Inuit culture. Traditionally used as a navigational aid, it represents welcoming, hospitality, and friendship. You may recognize it as the symbol of the 2010 Olympic Winter games.

This particular landmark has stood at this site since 1987.

Sailboat and kayaks at the beach at Spanish Banks in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada via ZaagiTravel.com

After lounging and relaxing for a bit we made our way to one of my favorite places in all of Vancouver, Stanley Park!

As we exited the car, after parking near the Brockton Point lighthouse, this beautiful water plane flew overhead. The dark clouds and snow-capped mountains in the distance made for a gorgeous backdrop as the plane flew west.A water plane over the beach at Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada via ZaagiTravel.comA water plane over the beach at Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada via ZaagiTravel.comWe continued on, walking down the lighthouse stairs to the seawall.
View of the bridge from North Vancouver from Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada via ZaagiTravel.com

The air, crisp and clean, felt fresh in my Los Angeles lungs. The dark green tones of the trees and blues of the water and sky made for a relaxing atmosphere. It’s hard not to love Stanley Park. Whether you come to exercise, play on the beach, ride a bike through the scenic trails (you can easily rent a bike and it looks like a lot of fun), or simply get away from the urban environment of downtown, it is a definite highlight of Vancouver.View of the beach and sea wall at Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada via ZaagiTravel.comA short walk from the lighthouse is an awesome life-size bronze statue of a woman in a wetsuit, flippers and all. It’s appropriately named… Girl in a Wetsuit.

The piece is inspired by the famous Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Sculptor Elek Imredy revealed the statue in June 1972.
Girl in a Wetsuit by Elek Imredy, modeled after the Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen, at Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada via ZaagiTravel.comNext on the sights-of-Stanley-Park trail was the First Nations totem poles.

Located in Brockton Point, the traditional lands of the Coast Salish people, the totem poles are the most popular tourist attraction in all of British Columbia.

The collection, which began in Lumberman’s Arch nearly 100 years ago, is made up of 9 totem poles. They vary in style and material, each as beautiful as the next.First Nations totem poles at Brockton Point at Lumberman's Arch in Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada via ZaagiTravel.comBeing part native, I have a fondness for native art and culture.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the term “totem” actually originates from an ojibwe word “odoodem”, meaning “his kinship group”. While the Ojibwe people did not create totem poles, the Anishinaabe language did contribute to their name!

First Nationals totem poles at Brockton Point at Lumberman's Arch in Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada via ZaagiTravel.com

My favorite is the one on the far left in the picture above. I love the turquoise and red accents over the black and white.

TIP: The Brockton Point totem poles also have public restrooms and a souvenir & snack shop.

Checking out the totem poles was a great way to wrap up our Vancouver adventure.

I truly love visiting my cousins in Vancouver. I miss them and the city so much already.

Each time I visit I discover something new to love about the Canadian Pacific Northwest. Next time, we plan to explore Victoria and the rest of Vancouver Island.

What are you favorite things to do and see in Vancouver?

What about Vancouver Island? What do you recommend I see and do there on my next visit?

German Christmas Market in Vancouver, Canada

German Vancouver Christmas Market via ZaagiTravel.com

As I opened the car door and jumped out into the crisp November air I shivered and slid my knit toque* onto my head, pulling it down far enough to cover the tops of my ears.

The cold still shocked me every time I stepped outside. The late autumn weather in downtown Vancouver was colder than the coldest night all year in Southern California.

Across the street, on the corner, I could see white Christmas lights and a line of people in coats, boots, toques and gloves.

German Vancouver Christmas Market via ZaagiTravel.com

Once we had my god son all snug in his stroller we began following the smell of roasting bratwurst that filled the air. I began realizing just how starving I actually was.

Sidney, Erica’s four-year-old daughter, stood at my side and held her arms up towards me with her infamous (as well as irresistible) sassy smile on her face. I reached down and lifted her up onto my hip before walking across the street and getting into the long but quickly moving line.

German Vancouver Christmas Market via ZaagiTravel.com

Approximately ten minutes later we walked through the entrance. The adults of our group made their way to the booth where we could show ID in exchange for a bracelet that allowed us to consume alcohol. You know you don’t want to miss out on some mulled wine!

Before we could satisfy our grumbling stomachs we needed to satisfy the youngest awake member of the family – little Wyatt was in and out of a deep sleep despite the high energy environment around us.

So Erica and Sidney had a photo op with the Gingerbread Man & Woman. Pretty nice of them to take a moment out of their busy schedule — you know with all that running as fast as they can. Ha! This is where you laugh… Okay, moving on.

Gingerbread Man at the German Vancouver Christmas Market via ZaagiTravel.com

Then I took Sidney on the Carousel a few times. Four-year-olds. They dig that stuff. And maybe 22-year-olds do too.

Carousel Ride at the German Vancouver Christmas Market via ZaagiTravel.com

That evening we ingested vast amounts of traditional German food — including the longest bratwurst you’ve ever laid eyes on (just see below) generously topped with sauerkraut; Schnitzel, which was breaded and fried to perfection; freshly roasted chestnuts; and the delicious (but strong!) Gluhwein, steaming hot red wine spiced with cinnamon, sugar, vanilla, and citrus that warms you from the inside out.

Bratwurst at the German Vancouver Christmas Market via ZaagiTravel.com

After over-indulging our appetites we walked around and checked out the different Christmas gifts and decorations being sold by vendors at nearly fifty wooden booths — things like nutcrackers, German beer steins, tree ornaments, and a whole lot more! A talented live band played festive Christmas music on a stage in the center of the event.

Live band at the German Vancouver Christmas Market via ZaagiTravel.com

I stopped to take some photos of my brother and his fiancee — wouldn’t this have been a sweet picture if he weren’t chowing down on those spiral-cut-potatoes-on-a-stick? I don’t know their actual name but they were delicious so I don’t blame him.

Romantic View of the Christmas Tree at the German Christmas Market in Vancouver, Canada via ZaagiTravel.com

Then the rest of us gathered for a group photo.

Christmas Tree at the German Christmas Market in Vancouver, Canada via ZaagiTravel.com

It really was an incredible way to spend the holidays with family. It’s barely September and I’m already looking forward to this year’s German Christmas Market experience!

Nutcracker at the German Christmas Market in Vancouver, Canada via ZaagiTravel.com

The Vancouver Christmas Market is located at 650 Hamilton Street on the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza. It takes place from November 22 – December 24.

Adult tickets (13 years and older) cost $6 on weekends and during the evening on weeknights; $3 during the day during the week; $3 for kids 7-12 no matter the day or time. Kids 6 and under enter for free.

TIPS:

1. Admission is CASH only!

2. Print off the VIP Fast Pass from their website, it saves you time in line.

3. Once you pay to enter the Christmas Market you automatically get in free on return visits! Just hang onto your ticket.

4. During lunch you can BOGO! Buy One, Get One ticket FREE! Just print the lunch pass on their website.

5. When you buy a mug of Gluhwein or Feuerzangenbowle you automatically put down a $2 deposit for the mug. If you’d like to keep your mug like I did, go for it! If you’d like that $2 back you can exchange your mug for a toonie (a.k.a. $2 Canadian dollars).

* For all you non-Canadians out there, a TOQUE is a round-shaped hat normally worn during cold weather, and otherwise known as a beanie.

 

Swells & Surfboards: The 2013 US Open of Surfing

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Huntington Beach is where I learned to surf. It’s where I realized I was in love for the first time. It’s where I met Arnold Schwarzenegger – for the second time. No, I was not in love with Arnold. Actually this guy’s last name was even harder to pronounce, so I won’t put you through that…

Huntington Beach holds a special place in my heart. I’m excited to share the first of many posts about it with you.

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Shameless selfie time! Okay, moving on…

So a few weeks ago we pulled into the garage of my aunt and uncle’s house located less than three blocks from the Huntington Beach pier. My mom, my dad and I had brought along our dogs Kona and Beau for a stay in one of the greatest surfing destinations in the world (Huntington Beach isn’t called Surf City USA for no reason)!

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We spent the evening resting up in preparation for the monstrous surfing documenting we would be doing early the next morning.

You better wake up early if you want to eat breakfast at the Sugar Shack before it begins to get crowded.

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This place is famous. So famous in fact that our adorable server, Summer, is often recognized in other parts of the country when she’s working as a flight attendant – her other job.
SummerSugarShack

The Sugar Shack is a 3rd generation family owned business. It’s a Southern California style “mom and pop” hole-in-the-wall breakfast joint. The inside is covered with decade’s worth of photos of legendary surfers, many of them studded with autographs. A waiting list for the outside tables hangs out front under the forest green awning.

TIP: If there’s an available table inside, feel free to grab it! And you better do it quick!

ANOTHER TIP: My favorite things on the menu… If you want to feel like a true local you gotta try the Main Street Burrito which is stuffed with avocado, mushrooms, onions, sprouts and cheese. If you’re aiming for a quick bite you can’t beat the Wake Up & Shine – 2 poached eggs on toast. If you’re aiming to eat healthy I recommend Michele’s Special – grilled chicken breast, three egg whites, bell peppers and tomatoes. And if healthy eating isn’t a priority add a hot cinnamon roll to your order. You won’t regret it!

And pancakes are always a good idea!
And pancakes are always a good idea!

Main Street and the surrounding area have an impressive selection of delicious things to be consumed – everything from açai bowls to poke bowls to the best burger in Southern California. I’ll cover my favorites in detail in a post focusing on Huntington Beach as a vacation destination sometime in the next few weeks.

Okay… onto the surfing!

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The misty morning began with the horn that announces the beginning of the heat, signaling the surfers to paddle into the line up and start scoping out the incoming swells.

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As we made our way further down the pier the cool, salty ocean air filled our lungs. The breeze out on the pier was just heavy enough to need a sweater and even though it was only 8am and completely overcast I was glad to have sunglasses.

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My dad and I arrived early enough to grab a key spot huddled up next to the professional photographers. Our pictures aren’t in the same league as theirs but they treated us as one of their own – all of us reminiscing about past U.S. Open of Surfing experiences and our predictions for this years events.

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The first surfer that caught our attention was Conner Coffin, last year’s (and spoiler alert this year’s also!) Junior Pro champion from Santa Barbara, California. It turns out Conner has a blog, which you can check out here.

My family followed Conner’s progress throughout the U.S. Open and we were ecstatic to watch him take home the Junior Pro title for a second year in a row the following weekend.

Here are some shots of random surfers we observed from the pier over the next few days.

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Have you visited Huntington Beach? If so, what are your own personal highlights?

Have you ever tried surfing? Would you?