My Vancouver staycation with JW Marriott

I was torn on what to do for my 30th birthday. From travel to Ontario for Christmas to heading to Whistler for New Years, I was exhausted. So there was nothing better I could think of doing than having a little staycation. 

The one thing I love about moving to Vancouver is the fact that I now live in a place where people vacation. From the ocean to the mountain it is absolutely stunning and so I just wanted to spend some time appreciating the city that I love. 

I also love gabling ( well I love the $5 limit tables). So I decided to put two and two together and decided to throw an Oceans 30 soiree. 

About Parq Vancouver 

All of my closest friends got dressed to the nines and headed down to Parq Vancouver.

Parq Vancouver is a new international entertainment destination located right in the heart of downtown Vancouver. It features two luxury hotels and a casino that will give Vegas a run for its money. 

I love that the tables are lively, the 24 diner serves delicious food, and the band plays some of the best live music I have ever heard. They will have you dancing and singing all night long. 

My experience 

What I was most impressed though was how amazing the JW Marriott treated us and also how amazing their hotel is. 

I was able to stay in one of their ocean view suites for my birthday (the perfect staycation if you ask me). 

When I came up to the room it was absolutely stunning. From the giant bed overlooking the ocean, a bathtub I could literally sleep in, a soft cozy couch to relax on, and the world’s biggest television. 

The icing on the cake though had to be well, the cake. The hotel staff surprised me with the most delicious birthday cake and offered me a complimentary breakfast in their executive lounge as a surprise present. I couldn’t believe how kind their staff was. 

I may have lost all of my money on craps, but I had so much fun dancing the night away and going to bed in the most comfortable bed. I also loved waking up the next morning to the most beautiful sunrise over the ocean. 

I will be back 

I have to say, having a relaxing and fun staycation in the beautiful city of Vancouver with the amazing team at the JW Marriott was the best way to celebrate turning 30. 

If you would like to find out more about Parq Vancouver click the link to head to their website. 

xo 

Mia 

Top 10 things to do in Cape Town according to the locals

I remember being a little girl and traveling with my mom and dad across the world to Cape Town, South Africa. My mom, dad, and brother were all born there and as a child I would go back often. Some of my most amazing memories came from trips there with my family. Fast forward eighteen years and I was going back to Cape Town for the first time as an adult. I knew this trip would create a whole different set of memories and I was excited to be able to explore a different side of this amazing city.

There is so much to see and do in Cape Town that the city can be a little overwhelming, and with all of the press that South Africa has been getting lately, it can also be a little scary. It is important to stick to the safe spots but you also want to get a taste of what this amazing place has to offer and so I was happy to find out I still had plenty of cousins in the city that helped guide me around.

Here are the top 10  things to do in Cape Town according to the locals

1. Head to the top of Table Mountain

While this might be on every tourist website, it was also the first activity recommended by the locals. Once you see the views from the cable car and from the top you will understand why. The views of the ocean from the top are incredible and you can even see Robben Island. While our visit the skies were mostly clear, it was also very neat to see the clouds rolling in. You truly feel like you are on top of the world.

2.  Hike Lions Head

 

The scenery in Cape Town is incredible and one of best ways to see it is on a hike up Lion’s Head (Table Mountains little brother). It is a difficult hike but seeing the views of the ocean and of Table Mountain along the way are definitely worth it.

3. Take a stroll to the V&A Waterfront

The Waterfront is one of the few places we found were you can eat ocean side and also offers some great local shops. It is a great spot for fresh seafood and all of your souvenirs.

4. Visit the beautiful Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden

My cousin is a local tour guide and she said this was her absolute must for guests. The garden is home to a large collection of African plants and offer some beautiful trails and sculptures.

5. Take a drive along Chapman’s Peak

 

This was by far my favourite part of the entire trip. The views along the coast were truly breathtaking. From the deep blue and turquoise green waters to the deep red rock formations it was an incredibly special place. I honestly believe this is the most beautiful place in the world.

6. Take a day trip for some delicious wine

We spent a day driving along the coast up to Stellenbosch. The farms there are spectacular and the wine is so full of taste. Wine in Cape Town dates back to 1659 and Stellenbosch is the second largest producer in the town. We dined on delicious food and went through some delicious flights. This is an absolute must when visiting.

7. Take a photoshoot in Muizenberg

Muizenberg is by far one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Cape Town and one of the things that makes it so unique is the beautiful rainbow houses along the shore. Take some pictures in front of the homes and dip your toes in the water. Just be careful, the sharks hang out on this side.

8. Indulge in a South African Braai

If you don’t know what Braai is, well it is a traditional South African BBQ as we North America’s call it. I was lucky enough to be invited over to my cousin’s house to enjoy this delicious home cooked meal, but if you are visiting Cape Town and don’t have family you should probably still spoil your taste buds. Take a trip to the Backyard Grill and Lounge. Located in the artsy Woodstock is this distinctly South African eatery complete with live entertainment.

9. Take in the art in Woodstock

Speaking of the artsy area of Woodstock, a real treat is walking around and taking in the local graffiti that covers the street. The artists have truly prettified the sides of the buildings and it is amazing how you can find the most beautiful artwork in the most unexpected places.

10. Swim with the penguins at Boulders Beach

Ok, this may be a locals favourite, but if you are in Cape Town this is a must. As a child I remember visiting this beach every trip and getting up close and personal to the penguins. It is really special to see the babies and families in their natural habitat.

Tips for making the most of your trip in Cape Town 

Cape town will always have a special place in my heart and I hope to be able to experience the beauty of it again some day but again it is very important to be safe in this city.

  • The best way to get around is via uber or renting a car. Try to avoid cabs because the locals say they can sometimes rig the prices
  • You can either use the Rand currency but most places do accept debit and visa
  • Know the areas that you are visiting and don’t walk around at night alone
  • Some of Cape Towns top restaurants book up months in advance so make your reservations ahead of time
  • Be prepared for the weather. Bring layers, you can experience all four seasons in one day.

I hope that you all get to visit this magical city soon.

Happy travels my friends,

xo

Mia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My top spots in Vancouver, so far

 

Like most Vancouverites that I have met during my 9 month stint here so far, I am not a true local. No I am an Ontario implant. We seem to be famous out here on the West Coast for trading in our cold winters and snow boots for mountains, ocean, and well rain boots.

Since moving here, I have been on the road a lot, but the time that I am here I have been spending it exploring the beautiful landscapes, hikes, activities, and nightlife in my  new home. 

Since I know a lot of us are all in the same boat, I wanted to share some of my favourite moments and places here in Vancouver so far.

1) Hiking 

and the mountain from my balcony. There is something so special about going out and taking in the fresh air. Beautiful views combined with a bit of a workout, what could be better? There are so many incredible hikes that offer something for everyone. I wanted to share a few of my favourite with you so far

  • Joffre Lakes: This hike is a bit outside of Vancouver, located in Pemberton but definitely worth the drive. I have never seen such incredible colours. The three lakes all a different shade of deep blue and turquoise, the trees painted red and orange, and waterfalls around every turn. It was the most magical place I have seen to date. But be warned, this hike is pretty difficult, and will take you about four hours.
  • Quarry Rock: For a much easier hike and one closer to the city head up to Quarry Rock and take in the views from the Deep Cove Lookout. From the dense forest to the beautiful water views, this hike is definitely a must.
  • Dog Mountain: Just 25 minutes from downtown and only about an hour hike, but definitely some of the most spectacular views. You can really  see the whole city, and it sure makes you feel like you are on top of the world. Plus there are plenty of small lakes and streams along the way to stop at. Find the trail head for this hike just past the Bear’s Paw lodge
  • The Grouse Grind: Ok, yes probably one of the busier, crowded hikes in Vancouver, but I feel this is a must for anyone to really call themselves a true local. Commonly referred to as Mother Nature’s Stairmaster, this one is definitely a grind. 2.9KM to the top and will see plenty of incredible trees, trails, and viewpoints. From the top you will see some of the best views of Vancouver.

2) Relax on the Beach 

It is crazy to think we live in a place where others vacation. Just five minutes from my house is the beach perfect for an after work stroll or a weekend of reading. There are some amazing beaches in Vancouver and here are some of the must visits.

  • Kits Beach: This is the place to be in Vancouver. It is definitely one of the busier beaches, but it is a great spot to interact and get some games going. Grab a group for spike ball or beach volleyball. Go for a dip to cool off. It is also a great spot to grab some nearby food and hang out with friends for a picnic. I also love eating at the Boathouse, it has great views of the beach and is the perfect spot to watch the sunset.
  • Spanish Banks: Just a little ways down from Kits Beach is Spanish Banks. It is a quieter spot if you are looking for a more tranquil beach experience or just to escape the busy city feel
  • Third Beach: Located in Stanley Park (what better backdrop for a beach) Third Beach is a great place to go swimming in the park. There is plenty of soft sand to set up shop and the shallow warm water makes for a great place to go for a dip.
  • English Bay: Right down the road from my house, this is my favourite beach because of the proximity. It is so easy to go explore after work. Again, there are lots of places to grab some food and head out for an evening picnic. A great spot to relax and unwind.

3) Sip some craft brews 

One thing I learnt when I moved to Vancouver, was that it has an incredible crafter beer scene. There are so many unique and quirky microbreweries to explore. I highly recommend taking a stroll on a Saturday afternoon in East Van and checking out some of the breweries in the area.

  • Brassneck Brewery: This was the first brewery that I visited and it did not disappoint. With over 50 unique beers to choose from and a very at home feel it is a great place to gather the group. I loved the reclaimed wood furniture and the chalkboard menu.
  • Main Street Brewery: Located in a beautiful heritage building it is a bright and fun place to grab a drink. High ceilings and high stools almost give it a cafeteria vibe. I love that there is a slew of seasonal brews to choose from.
  • Faculty Brewing: I love that the speakeasy vibe here. You feel like you are entering a dark, hole in the wall. A quieter spot to enjoy a delicious Oaked Stout.

4) Explore the food of Commercial Drive 

I have really enjoyed exploring the food scene here in Vancouver since the move and have particularly fallen in love with Commercial Drive. It is a funky part of town that stays away from chain restaurants.

  • Cafe Deux Soleils: I was told that this was a staple of the Drive and had to come and give it a try. Not only do they have everything from delicious breakfast to dinner choices, they also have live entertainment. Enjoy everything from poetry readings to standup comedy. This spot really has it all. 
  • Bandidas Taqueria: This vegetarian Mexican restaurant is the perfect comfort food spot. They make their tortillas in house, have a load of local beers, and even offer a full day breakfast menu.
  • Havana: I love this spot because of the year round patio and delicious sangria. I also love that the menu is always slightly different so you never get bored. The perfect place for friends to get together for Sunday Brunch. 
  • Addis Cafe: One of my favourite restaurants in the entire city is located on the Drive. I have a love for Ethiopian food and Addis is next to none. This is a cosy and casual spot with authentic Ethiopian food. You can bring your own wine, or try their traditional coffee. 
  • Kishimoto: In my opinion, this is the best sushi spot in Vancouver ( I know that is a tall order) but the line outside would also agree with me. From the food presentation to the actual taste, they have really perfected the art. They don’t cut any corners from fresh wild salmon to their edible flower garnishes.

5) Get a sweat in

Sure, when the weather is nice I have really enjoyed working out outside, but let’s be honest it rains a lot here in the winter. I still love to keep up with my fitness even when the weather outside is frightful and have found some amazing local gyms that make working out fun.

  • The Practice Studio: I started working out at the Practice Studio about four months ago and absolutely love it. From the awesome instructors to the unique classes it has really made fitness fun. They also offer a Whole Life Practice so that you can focus on improving all areas of your life form coaching to nutrition.
  • Spin Society: This was the fist class I went to in Vancouver and fell in love instantly. I have always been a big fan of spin classes because of the high intensity and low impact. I loved this class because it literally felt like a workout dance party that targets your entire body.
  • Pure Barre Vancouver: Let me start off by saying this class really scared me because I am so uncoordinated, but you really get such a good workout. I love that it targets muscles I didn’t even know I had through very precise movements.

6) Camping 

While I haven’t had too much free time to explore the beautiful camping spots, it is something I am really looking forward to getting out and doing more of this summer season. I love how naturally beautiful Vancouver is, and how each camping experiences offers an opportunity to see a different side of that beauty.

So far I have just been able to experience camping at Half Nelson. The views from this spot were incredible and there were plenty of mountain bike trails in the area.

I cannot wait to get to know more of this amazing city as I spend more time exploring. I have truly fallen in love with this city in the short time span, and can see why so many people make the move.

I would love any suggestions on your favourite spots to visit so please share some in the comment section below.

Happy exploring my friends,

xo,

Mia

48 Hours in Phoenix, Arizona: Vlog part 1

“great things never come from comfort zones”

April has been one of the busiest months of my life with work. Three home games for the Saskatchewan Rush, meant plenty of travel back and forth to Saskatoon. During our one bye week, all I wanted to do was sleep in my own bed until noon each day, but what would be the fun in that.

Instead an opportunity came up to hit the road yet again, but this time to Phoenix,  Arizona. What I knew about Phoenix was that it is desert terrain, it is hot, and it has great golf courses.

What I didn’t know about Phoenix was it has such a unique nightlife. It has an incredible craft brewery scene, a beautiful botanical garden, and is one of the best places in the world to fly a hot air balloon.

Guess what? On this trip I discovered it all. I will be sharing this trip with you through blogs and videos. My first vlog from the trip discovers the wellness resort, Civana Carefree that I had a chance to stay at, the beautiful hikes in the area, and a local brewery tour with Arizona Brewery Tours . 

Also don’t forget to subscribe to my youtube page so you don’t miss any of my future vlogs and travel tips!

xo

Mia

Why Saskatoon is a Must Visit

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What comes to mind when you think of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan? Probably not a must see destination. Well guess what, the Paris of the Prairies really is a must see. In fact,when the New York Times released their list of the top 52 places to visit in 2018, Saskatoon came it at number 18. Even more surprising, it was the only Canadian city to make the final cut.

When I first took the job as the Saskatchewan Rush’s TV and in game host and reporter, I didn’t really know what to expect. The first thing that came to mind when I thought of Saskatoon was I better bring my warmest winter jacket. Yet after a few trips, I soon found out why it is so easy to fall in love with Saskatoon.

What makes this place special?

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This city offers so much to see and do. Located right on the Saskatchewan River there are beautiful hiking trails to explore. There is an extensive art and culture scene, which has grown even more with a brand new modern and contemporary art museum, Remai Modern. The local cuisine scene offers a variety of must visit restaurants. Oh and there is a professional lacrosse team called the Saskatchewan Rush which sells out every game. 15,185 members or Rush nation come to cheer on their first place team every home game. Today, I get to take you behind the scenes as I head to Saskatoon for this week’s Rush game.

Day 1: 

When I arrive in Saskatoon, I head straight to our downtown Radisson Hotel. I love staying here because it overlooks the river. In the summer this is a spot for boat rides and kayaking. In the winter it is covered in a layer of snow and offers picturesque walks and outdoor skating.

I don’t have time to explore because I need to get ready for our first shoot of the day at Wanuskewin Heritage Park. Saskatoon has a rich Indigenous culture, which we had the chance to learn more about at the park. In fact, there have been archaeological finds that pre-date the pyramids of Egypt.

Today, the players and myself are treated to an amazing history lesson. After our lesson our skills are put to the test in a game of double ball. Similar to lacrosse where they use a stick and get this, two bison testicles attached by a string. After we head out back to see the beautiful plains. There are even teepees for summer camping. Today it is a little too cold for that. Before we leave, we are treated to a performance from a traditional dancer.

Once the shoot is done we head  to dinner. Saskatoon has so many quaint local restaurants that it is hard to pick just one. Tonight we decide to stop into The Rook and Raven. A cross between a pub and fine dining, the menu has endless options. What I love about this spot is its laid back feel but uncommon decor. Oh and while you are here you need to get Saskatoon’ed. Confused? I was too at first. Basically a shot with part Great Western Brewery’s Original 16 beer and part Lucky Bastard Distillery’s Liqueur. Once you complete the shot, you get a card showing your status as an honorary local.

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Day 2: 

I wake up with butterflies in my stomach because it is game day, but I can’t get too excited just yet. There is still plenty of work to do.

I start the morning with a delicious breakfast at Poached, which doubles as a cocktail bar at night. Sitting at my high top, I once again see why this town gets compared to Paris. While here you have to try the PB&J hot chocolate with a shot of expresso is a must.

Walking back to the hotel, I am so giddy over all the Rush jerseys I see out and about. This city really does love their team.

Next stop, axe throwing at Timberjaxe. The owners say the goal of Timberjaxe was to bring some good old fashion fun to Saskatoon, and they have done just that. The rustic design makes it one of the best looking axe throwing centres I have seen. While we tried to keep it all fun and games, with professional athletes in the house there is bound to be some competition with bragging rights on the line.

Now it is time to head to Sasktel Centre and start getting ready for game time. The Minnesota Vikings cheerleaders are in town for tonight’s event so it is sure going to be a show. For me, the greatest moment of the entire weekend is when the lights go down and I know it is time for the pre game show to start. I walk out on to the field with my co-host and look out onto 15,180 screaming fans. Well, that and when we score a goal and everyone in the arena takes part in our goal tradition of pounding your chest.

I know lacrosse isn’t the most mainstream sport, but all it takes is seeing the excitement, intensity, and none stop action in one game to get you hooked for life. The Rush do such a good job on putting on a show. From pyro acts, to a DJ spinning the tunes the fun never stops.  It also doesn’t hurt that our team is currently first overall in the league.

After the game the adrenaline is pumping, but I have to try and get some sleep because I fly out early the next morning. The weekend always goes by so fast and I am never ready to leave. There is so much I still want to explore here. Then I get my schedule for the next game and see that I get to go to the art gallery, and I start counting down the days until I am back. This Prairie city has stolen my heart.

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