Why New Orleans should be your next girls trip

I was pretty fortunate that I had the opportunity to go to university in Louisiana. I fell in love with the culture of the State, everything from the delicious spicy cajun food to the magical sounds of the jazz instruments in a second line. It truly stole my heart and so when I was thinking about places to go for my bachelorette party, I knew I wanted to share my love of New Orleans with my best girlfriends. The trip exceeded my expectations and was more special than any visit before because I had the chance to do it with my closest friends. Thinking about planning a trip to New Orleans with your gal pals or partner? Well  here are some of the must do’s around town.

Where to stay

It will be hard to find an airbnb in New Orleans because the city has strict bans on short term rentals. Having said that there are some amazing boutique hotels no matter what your price range near the French Quarter, Frenchman St. and  Bourbon St.

Hotel Peter and Paul ($): This hotel really captures the feel and atmosphere of the city. It was once a 19th century catholic church and now the deco is bright and welcoming. There are also plenty of local antiques from some of the oldest estates in town, which adds a special touch.  Don’t miss out on the adorable  downstairs bar, the perfect spot to grab a drink before hitting the nearby Frenchman St.

Ace Hotel New Orleans ($$): What I love about Ace Hotels is that each one of the hotels is unique to the town they are in, and this is no different for New Orleans. This is definitely a great spot for a group trip because of the stunning rooftop pool and live music at their 3 Keys venue on weekends.

Soniat House ($$): This is not your typical hotel, in fact from the outside it is hard to tell it is even a hotel but I love this spot because it really depicts what New Orleans is. From the adorable green shutters that scream French Quarter to the wood canopy beds, this place will make you feel like you stepped back in time in the best way possible.

What to do

 

Ok, when you think of New Orleans, you probably think of Mardi Gras. Yes Mardi Gras is energetic, extravagant, and down right fun. From the decorative floats, to the colourful beads ( and no you do not have to work for them) it transforms but can also be a little hectic especially for a large group. Don’t fret though, if you cannot make it out for Fat Tuesday, there is still so much to see and do any other time of the year.

Enjoy the music on every corner

Love jazz music? This is the spot for you! Not a jazz fan? You will be after a trip to New Orleans. The music is so reach and beautiful you won’t go a minute without tapping your feet and grooving to the sounds. There are so many different places and ways to enjoy the sounds of New Orleans and these are some of my favourites

Music Box Village: This is straight out of a movie, a wooden fortress located in the heart of Bywater. Here you will find small “houses” built from wood and plastic and each house has its own musical style by using different instruments. Walk around with your girls and make sure to dance and make plenty of noise when the bands come by.

Preservation Hall: It is right there in its name, preservation. This historic jazz spot’s goal is to preserve the music and traditions of New Orleans. You won’t find any booze and you can’t make a reservation but it is well worth it because you and your friends will dance the night away.

Pat O’Brien’s Duelling Piano Bar: This has been my favourite spot since I used to go to university so I was pretty excited to say the least to take the girls there. Long harvest tables with two pianos at the front of the bar. You can write on napkins songs that you want the pianists to play, and trust me, they can bring any of your favourite tunes to life. Also make sure to order a hurricane while you are there, Pat O’s is famous for them.

Take a walk down Frenchmen Street: Ok, it is a girls trip so I am sure you are going to want to hit the town. Well make your way down Frenchman St. and just listen to the live music coming from each and every bar. We walked into three different ones and kept dancing the night away.

Eat some traditional Cajun food

I put on probably 10 pounds in my first yer of university because of the delicious poboys, fried crawfish, and gumbo. You won’t find any chains here and trust me you don’t want to. Eating the local food will be a highlight of your trip with the girls.

Cafe Du Monde: No trip to New Orleans is complete without a stop to Cafe Du Monde. Located right in the heart of the French Quarter. Grab a famous beignet (yes you will get powdered sugar on yourself and it will be well worth it) and eat it while taking a stroll around St. Louis Cathedral.

Killer PoBoys: poyboys are the ultimate sandwich stuffed with meat or seafood ( I personally love the shrimp one) and while you can pretty much get delicious poboys all around New Orleans, you cannot top this spot. Killer PoBoys takes the poboy but adds high quality ingredients like caramelized onions and creole mustard.

Cafe Amelie: This could of been my favourite meal of the trip. I loved the outdoor garden patio and fountain. It was romantic but also the perfect spot for a girls night out. I loved the signature cocktails and the fresh seafood.

Dooky Chase’s Restaurant: If you want to experience New Orleans cuisine you need to make a stop here. It really celebrates the creole traditional food with everything from red beans and rice and you need to try the famous fried chicken.

Take in the sights 

While eating and dancing will probably take up most of your time there is still so much else to see and do in New Orleans with your girlfriends. Here are a few more of my favourite activities

Walk down Bourbon with a grenade in hand: Hand Grenades are famous in New Orleans. It is basically a rum slushy and it is delicious. You need to try one if you go to New Orleans, and the best thing is you can take it to go and explore Bourbon St.

Take in the art and architecture of the French Quarter: The French Quarter is such a quaint area of town and perfect for a relaxing day of sightseeing. St. Louis Cathedral is a must see but then make your way down some of the side streets and pop into some shops. There you will find some gorgeous art from the locals. A great place to pick up some souvenirs.

Talk to the spirits: New Orleans is said to be one of the most haunted cities in the world, making it the perfect place for a group ghost tour, if you are into that kind of stuff (which I sure am). There are some cemetery tours available  like the French Quarter Phantoms and you can also learn more about the voodoo traditions of Louisiana with a stop at Marie Laveau’s House Of Voodoo (think American Horror Story).

Shop until you drop at the night market: Palace Market Frenchman is one of the coolest spots in all of New Orleans. It is a night market that has a rotating display of 80 different local artists. You never know what hidden gems you will find.

Those are some of my top picks and spots for a fun girls trip to New Orleans. I would love to hear if you have some other favourites because I know I will be back to this magical city soon.

Happy travelling my friends,

xo

Mia

 

 

What it is like to see a grizzly up close and personal with Adventure Quest

One of the things I love most about BC is the natural beauty and endless wildlife. From the mountains to the ocean you can find whales, seals, elk, black bears, and grizzlies to name a few. While we have some neighbourhood black bears, I have always been a little afraid of grizzlies and never really wanted to get close to them.

That was until my dad (who happens to be a National Geographic photographer) told me about the Grizzly Bear Adventure with Adventure Quest Canada and Homalco Adventure and Wildlife Tours. He described it as a bucket list experience and so I definitely wanted to find out more.

I found out that not only do you get up close and (safely) personal with the bears, you also get to learn about these amazing animals in their natural habitat and learn about the first nation reserve that they live on, and to say the least it is a bucket list experience that I want to share more with you.

 

Getting here

The tour starts in Campbell River on Vancouver Island. I am not going to lie, it is a bit of a treck to get here from Vancouver. You can either fly or take a BC ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo and then drive about two hours. I decided to do the later because I always have a great experience with the ferry. It is a  comfortable journey and I can take my car with me so I don’t have to worry about transportation on the other side. Another bonus is they have great food on board, and you never know what you might see. I have spotted whales several times from the ferry deck.

Where to stay

Campbell River is a small town and I absolutely love exploring some of the local spots when visiting a quaint area. I decided to stay at one of the local spots, Painters Lodge. The beautiful lodge is located right on the ocean and I was lucky enough to have a room overlooking the water. The room had a large balcony so I could sit outside with my morning coffee and keep my eye peeled for orcas in the distance (staff told me it is pretty magical when they swim by). I also loved the downstairs restaurant. The food and drinks were delicious, the staff was so friendly, and there were beautiful ocean views. I loved the lodge because it had a very comfortable vibe.

The tour 

The tour started at Discovery Harbour Marina in Campbell River. The tour starts with a two hour boat ride from the Island to the mainland, Bute Inlet. Along the way we saw two humpbacks eating and another three sleeping. It was pretty neat since I have never seen whales sleeping before. We also spotted some stellar sea lions and seals out for a morning swimming.

 

Once we arrived at Bute Inlet and Hamalco First Nations land we met with our guides Tony and Koji from the Homalco First Nations. They greeted us with a traditional welcome and went over some safety tips. Then we were off on our adventure.

There were several different viewing towers that wrapped around two different rivers. The reason this is such a popular spot for the grizzlies is because of the annual salmon run and a lot of the bears are trying to eat as much salmon as possible before they go into hibernation in November.

It didn’t take long for us to spot our first bear. At the first tower we stopped at we came across a big male relaxing in the distance. I was already in awe of these amazing animals.

After driving around for a little longer we came across another fully grown female sleeping by a tree. She was honestly no more than 20 meters from us. She sniffed around (smell is their best sense) and once she realized we were no threat, she continued with her nap. It was amazing to see that the bears weren’t the killers a lot of people make them out to be, and while they are more aggressive than black bears, they will only really attack if they feel threatened.

At the next viewing tower we didn’t come across any bears but we did get to see the bears favourite lunch meal, salmon. Just below our viewing deck were about 10 giant salmon swimming upstream getting ready to spawn. I have honestly never seen such large fish in my life.

Our last stop of the day was the most spectacular. We weren’t in a tower but out in the open and the only thing separating us from the grizzlies was the river. First we saw a female bear eating a salmon. Moments later, she went back into the water and we had a chance to watch her fish for a salmon and take it back to the shore for lunch. You could hear the crunch sounds of the bear chowing down on the fish. It was incredible.

Moments later we noticed another bear heading over, closely followed by an adorable nine month old cub. I couldn’t believe how adorable the fluffy baby was and it was amazing to see how protective the mother was of her cub. She crossed the river to check us out and got really close before going back to her cub and trying to find food for the both of them. I still cannot believe the beauty of the bears and seeing them in their natural habitat was so special.

After two hours with the bears, it was time to head back to the boat and make our way back to Campbell River. Along the way we were lucky enough to be treated to a show from a lone male orca. He breached twice and was doing some flips along the water. I have never seen an orca act like that before.

Alas it was time for the tour to come to an end but I still cannot get over how lucky we were. From spotting humpbacks, to orcas, and then having a chance to get so close to he bears and learning more about them and their habitat was a really amazing and unforgettable experience. You can find out more about the tour and experience here.

I also wanted to share some more pictures with you. All of them were shot on my new Nikon Z.

Happy exploring my friends,

xo

Mia

 

 

Visiting the Wickaninnish Inn, Tofino

There is no question about it, Tofino is one of my favourite places in the world. From the delicious cuisine to the endless beachfronts this place is magical and when you just need to escape reality and rejuvenate it is the perfect escape.

I have shared a few blogs now with things to see and do in Tofino and honestly it is a place that I can never get sick of. I have been lucky enough to stay at some beautiful spots in Tofino, all of them offering ocean views and sandy beaches just steps from your room but something was just so special about a recent trip when we had a chance to stay at the Wickaninnish Inn.

Pearched between the ancient old growth rainforests and  the endless sea the Wicks ambiance represents the nature that it surrounds and encourages a spirit of adventure.

Location, location, location

The Wickaninnish Inn is located in the heart of Tofino on Vancouver Island. From Vancouver you can either take a seaplane or you can take a ferry to Nanaimo. From there it is about a three hour drive, but it will have spectacular views and plenty of photo opps. The Inn is 4.8km  before the town of Tofino. Once you pass Chesterman Beach Road on your left, take your next left turn at the Wickaninnish Inn sign onto Lynn Road.

About the Inn

Charles McDiarmid has a long history in Tofino. His dad was the town doctor back in the 1950’s before there was much development in the town. The family wanted to share the beauty of the island with others and that is how the idea of the Inn came to mind. As a kid, Charles would watch the storms roll in and wanted to share the beauty with other people and so the construction begun.

One of the things I love most about The Wickaninnish was that they wanted to keep as much of the natural beauty as possible. The goal was to make sure that no trees were taking down unnecessarily.

The Inn offers so much beauty, from the Pointe restaurant that extends over the ocean so you are eating on top of the water to the spa that opens up to the beach. There is so much beauty here to uncover.

 

Our room

My jaw actually hit the ground when we opened our door. It was two storeys and while the amenities were modern and comfortable, the decoration and ambiance matched the natural beauty. Our living room, bed, and big bath tub all looked out onto the clear blue water. Speaking of the tub, the bathrobes and local candles created a spa atmosphere right in our room. I loved how spacious it was so we could relax with a glass of wine or morning coffee while listening to the waves crash just outside.

Eating at the Inn BIY

While I love exploring the delicious local cuisine around Tofino, the truth is you don’t have to go very far to get a delicious meal. The restaurants at the Inn offer meals from seasonal harvests and local ingredients.

Whether you are staying at the Inn or not, brunch at the Pointe is a must. You get a 240 degree view of the Pacific Ocean. You can watch surfers catching waves and sea birds taking flight. Also the food is delicious. A lot of the food is contemporary dishes with seasonal fare. You absolutely need to try one of the eggs benny. My personal favourite is the smoked salmon and cream cheese one.

Also if you are there for dinner, try and make a trip down to their brand new wine cellar. It is a spectacle in itself.

Experiences at the Inn

There is truly something for everyone right at your doorstep. Whether you want adventure, culture, or nature you don’t have to go far to find it. Some of my highlights staying at the Wick included;

  • Storm watching: This is what Charles loved to do as a child, and his passion for watching the storms roll in is evident at the inn. Whether you want to lounge with a coffee in the library or head out to safe areas on the beach, this is the perfect place to watch the giant waves on a stormy day.
  • Hit the waves: The Inn is located right on Chesterman Beach, which offers some of the best surfing in the world and the hotel will help set up the adventure for you.
  • Explore the art: The Inn really celebrates the First Nations culture and on the property you can find a ton of handiwork from local artists. One of the aspects of the Inn I truly loved was that there is a carving shed right on the property and the artists will let you watch them work.
  •  Relax in style: Make sure to book a facial or massage at the beautiful Ancient Cedar Spa. The spa really focuses on both mind and body wellness and how can you not feel relaxed when indulging in a yoga class with the ocean as your view.

The Wickaninnish Inn is truly a beautiful hotel located in a beautiful place. It embraces and celebrates the natural allure of Tofino You can real experience the best of this amazing town from the Inn.

Happy traveling my friends,

xo

Mia

 

 

 

5 Reasons you should get a wedding planner

It was just five weeks until our wedding when everything came crashing down quite literally. My wedding planner texted me the news that the Sea to Sky Gondola’s cable had been cut and now the wedding that had been planning for almost a full year wasn’t going to happen. I was gutted, devastated, and heartbroken. I threw myself a pity party and cried throughout the weekend but then realized I had an amazing fiance, friend group, family, and wedding planner and we would be able to pull together a fairytale in the five weeks we had.

While friends and family were amazing support and helped me from going crazy, it was our amazing wedding planner Caroline Hyatt that made all the difference because she actually knew vendors, helped set up meetings, and got really creative with ideas since this is her job after all. Even before this disaster struck, I felt our planner was the best money we spent during this wedding process and I wanted to share why it is important to consider a wedding planner for your big day.

 

1. They are there for you for disasters

I honestly don’t know what I would of done without Caroline during this whole situation. While I cried for three days straight, she managed to reschedule five weddings in three days. She helped all of us stay calm, asked what was the most important factors for a new venue and got to work. She wanted to make sure we didn’t sacrifice our dream wedding because of the situation. I told her a background of mountains was very important to me and within hours she had four venues in the mountains ready for me to visit.

2. Their job is to take the stress off of you

Even before the most stressful wedding planning moment, there were little situations here and there that were stressing me out. Everything from the hotel not making the right bookings to trying to accommodate all of our food allergies, she was on top of it and made sure that we didn’t have to handle these situations and could instead just focus on the happiest time of our lives.

3. She knows how to get deals or good prices

Trust me, when you book a wedding planner, it usually isn’t her first rodeo (unless you are her very first wedding). Also a lot of them specialize in a certain area (ours Squamish) so they have developed relationships. She would know where you could find the best deals on the exact decorations, rentals, desserts, you name it that you dreamed of having on your big day. I feel like at the end of the day we almost saved money (and definitely time) by taking out the research part.

4. They help keep your budget and your to do list in check

Wedding planning is stressful. Then try plan a wedding, work your full time job, and move into a house (ya that wasn’t the smartest thing we have ever done). Sometimes you can get lost in all the craziness and then all of a sudden you have forgot to pay your officiant or book the makeup artists you wanted, or you accidentally went way over budget on your flowers. Every month Caroline sends us our check ins to make sure that we are ahead of the game and don’t miss a beat.

5. They bring your vision to life

You have enough things to worry about like how to keep uncle Joe and cousin Joanna on opposite ends of the table or letting your friend know they cannot bring a plus one they have only been dating a week. Making sure that everything is delivered on time and set up in the right spot. She will make sure your day goes off without a hitch no matter what you have had to go through to get down the aisle.

Happy wedding planning my friends,

xo

Mia

20 Photos that will make you want to visit the Yukon

The main reason I wanted to visit the Yukon was for a chance to see the Northern Lights. I have always dreamed of seeing this natural wonder. I truly cried when I saw the lights dancing in front of me. The pictures don’t do it justice but it was beyond magical.

My first glimpse of Kluane National Park came at my dad’s house. He is a professional photographer and has the most magnificent photo above his fireplace. Every time I see it I say I want to go there. Well I went there on an small 4 seater airplane. Seeing Mt. Logan and eight other tallest mountains in Canada from the sky was incredible.

 

What you might not know is the Yukon is home to 14 different First Nations groups. I was lucky enough to visit two of them. When I went to visit the Champagne and Aishihik First Nation I had the chance to meet with one of their former chiefs, James Allen, who taught us all about living off of the land in the dead of winter. We did everything from ice fishing to setting trap lines.

One of my favourite parts of the Yukon was heading up to the small town of Carcoss and learning about the First Nations culture. We had the chance to try an authentic meal and learn from Keith Wolfe Smarch, the towns carver. His designs were beautiful and really added colour and beauty to the town.

 

The main reason that I was in the Yukon was for the Yukon Quest. It is a dog mushing race from Whitehorse to Fairbanks, Alaska. It is considered to be the toughest race of its kind. Mushing is a big part of the history in the Yukon and I had the chase to give it a try and meet some amazing dogs.

Sure, Whitehorse was freezing. In fact, one day it got to around -4o, but there was something beautiful about experiencing this magical place in the winter, even when everything freezes in minutes.

The Yukon was one of the most magical places I have ever been. I had a chance to cross off so many bucket list experiences. From seeing the Northern Lights to flying over Kluane to witnessing the Yukon Quest and to making life long friends.

I cannot wait to return to the Yukon because it truly stole my heart, and I promise it will steal yours too.

Happy traveling my friends,

xo,

Mia