A two week itinerary in Portugal with a toddler

When my husband and I were trying to figure out our next big family vacation we wanted to try somewhere new. We also recently have fallen in love with surfing (not that either of us are any good at it) and so we wanted to go somewhere unique where we could hit the waves – and we all know the biggest waves in the world are in Portugal so that’s where we decided to go.

No, we weren’t planning to surf the 100 foot wave, but rather take in the beauty of the Algarve, drink wine in the Duoro Valley, and take in the culture of Lisbon. But there is one thing we had to keep in mind while planning, how will we also entertain our one and a half year old?

The more research we did, we realized Portugal is actually an incredible place to take a toddler. They let you skip the line at most museums and castles, they have a lot of toddler friendly beaches and parks, and lots of delicious food.

I wanted to share our two week itinerary with you – and honestly we fell so in love with this place, it is one of the few I hope I will get to travel back to someday.

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Why you need to visit the Comox Valley

Whenever I think of making a trip to Vancouver Island, Victoria and Tofino are the first places that come to mind, but recently I discovered a lesser visited gem; Comox Valley. The region is made up of Courtenay, Comox, and Cumberland, as well as some smaller communities like Fanny and Union Bay.The region really has it all, mountains, ocean, and beautiful old growth forest to explore, and the great thing is you really can explore the whole Valley, because it’s not too far of a drive to get from one spot to another. I wanted to share with you my perfect weekend in Comox Valley.

Getting to Comox Valley

There are a few different ways to get to Comox Valley. The easiest from Vancouver is probably a ferry ride. You can take the ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay in Nanaimo – from there it is about an hour and a half drive. You could also opt to fly into the Comox Valley Airport from Vancouver.

Day 1: Cumberland

 

Locals that I spoke to told me they pride themselves on being a “forest in a village”.

The entire community revolves around the beautiful old growth forest in their backyard – so much so that they actually have been fundraising for years to buy parts of the forest back from a logging company – and then giving it back to the community. The Cumberland Community forest is filled with tons of trails, some specifically for mountain biking, others for trail runs and walks and so  I started my day in Cumberland on a beautiful trail run.

After working up a sweat, and an apatite, it was time for lunch. A few locals recommended Biblio Taco and I am thankful they did. This could be home to the best burrito I have ever had – and their portions are huge and they had some really unique combinations – but they worked really well together.

What is the best thing to do on a very full stomach? Go on a hike. If you have followed my blog for a while, you probably know my passion for hiking – it is the first thing I google when I visit a new place. One of the hikes in the area that was highly recommended was the Perseverance Creek Potholes. The smoothness of the pools, which has been carved by erosion was incredible to see and the deep colours of the water was so inviting. A great place to cool off after a hot day.

After a day of hiking and running it was definitely time for a treat. My first stop was Love’s Ice Cream. The homemade ice cream uses real fruit and there were endless flavour options. I also loved their commitment to using biodegradable and reusable products. After ice cream it was time for a treat of a different kind and Cumberland Brewing. Their goal has always been to share a beer with company in an inviting environment, even though I entered alone I felt like I was in a room full of buddies – people that cared about their community and local businesses – and the drinks were refreshingly delicious.

 

Day 2: Comox

I absolutely fell in love with this quaint waterfront town. Everywhere you went you have a view of the ocean.

I started the day with a walk along Goose Spit. The Spit is a very unique landscape, offering sandy beaches and gorgeous views of Hornby and several other islands. After taking in the views I wandered along the quaint harbour front (enjoying a coffee from Komox Grind). Along the way there are some more stunning views, this time of Comox Glacier and Beaufort Mountain Range. I then made my way over to Filberg Park where there are gorgeous flowers, a petting zoo, and even a little tea house.

After exploring the area by land it was time to get out on the water and explore by sea. I had heard of this incredible beach the locals like to call ‘Little Mexico‘. I rented a SUP from Coast Surf Shop and they actually took me out on a tour to the beach. Along the way we were followed by a curious seal before making our way to a truly gorgeous white sand beach to watch the sunset.

Once back on dry land it was time for some food. I was told by the locals Church St. Taphouse was the place to be on a Saturday night. They had great food, delicious beers on tap, and some great live music.

 

Day 3 Courtenay

I started the day with a run along along the spit and past the airport. It was a really beautiful place to stretch the legs and taking in that morning ocean breeze. A morning run sure worked up my appetite and so I went for breakfast at the Hog and the Hen. Don’t let the location fool you – the food here is AMAZING. I love their smoked salmon benny.

My next stop took me to 5th street where there are some of the most adorable shops I have ever seen. Classic book shops, home decor, fun gift shops, and some cute clothing boutiques. After shopping I wanted to get back out to explore the beauty of this area. I made my way a little outside of Courtenay to explore Browns River Falls. It is a beautiful wide waterfall where at the bottom there are some more popular swim holes.

After all that walking, it was the perfect time to relax and the best place to do that is at Kingfisher Hydropath. Take a dip in the heated outdoor pool and then relax in the steam cave. I am a big fan of any hydropath therapy – basically walking from through a circuit of hot and cold pools that helps blood circulation. And the icing on the cake, there is an indoor waterfall grotto.

I finished off my time here with the best greek food I have ever tasted, and that is saying a lot since I have been to Greece. Yimas Taverna is an absolute must visit.

Bonus: Fanny Bay

I didn’t have a full day to explore Fanny Bay, but I did get a chance to visit for lunch and some Oyster shucking. I first stopped at Fanny Bay Inn, located right on the water this has been the go to place for 80 years and it is the kind of pub where everyone knows your name – and the food was delicious. I ended my trip with a visit to the famous Mac’s Oyster LTD to get some lessons from the pros on how to shuck oysters.

It was an amazing trip to the Comox Valley, and I can see why more and more people are making the trip (and even move out here as it is one of the fastest growing populations in BC) but I promise you it is still a bit of a hidden gem, without the crowded tourist beaches and long waits for dining – you are going to want to make a trip here ASAP.

xo

Mia

 

 

 

 

 

Tips for hiking in a foreign country

 

Hiking is my love language. I fell in love with it as soon as I moved out to BC. There is something about being out in nature, just you and the wilderness and taking in the natural beauty around you. I have experienced some pretty magical hikes in my own backyard, but every time I travel, I try to find a local hike.

Hiking in a foreign country can be a scary thought. I sometimes still don’t feel fully comfortable because there are so many factors you have to consider when you are outside of your own comfort zone. Safety, ability, transportation, just to name a few. But through my experiences I have gained a few tips that have made me feel more confident. And trust me it has been worth it. From conquering Lions Head in South Africa to experiencing the most magical sunrise on Mt. Batur in Bali – hiking in foreign countries have left some incredible memories.

I wanted to share some of the tips and tricks I have found have been helpful when it comes to hiking in a foreign country.

1. Do your research

Just like any local hike, it is important to be prepared. Do as much research ahead of time to make sure you understand the safety aspects. Are you an experienced enough hiker? How long is it expected to take you? How do you get there? Who are you going with? ( there are very few hikes I will do solo even locally in my own backyard). In order to be as confident as possible, it is important to have as much information ahead of time.

2. Look for local and reliable guides

Sometimes I just feel more comfortable going out with a local or on a guided tour. They can get you from point A to point B safely and know the area. Recently when I was in Sayulita I joined an Airbnb experience with a local guide to hike Monkey Mountain. Our guide was so knowledgable that not only did I enjoy a wonderful hike, but I also learned so much about the local area and culture. Also since I was planning to hike for sunset, I just felt more comfortable with someone who was familiar with the route for coming down in the dark.

3. Don’t go off the main path

I learned this lesson the hard way in South Africa – everyone kept talking about this cool cave off of Lion’s Head. We went looking for the path and ran into a Park Ranger and were fined for our off roading. We later learned that the reason they are so strict is because the area is prone to slides and they are also trying to restore the flora in the area. I know how upset I get at home when people are going off the main path because of how precious the wildlife is and so it is important to be respectful in other countries too.

4. Pack proper gear

Just like you would for a hike at home it is important you have the right gear. While I am guilty of not always packing the top 10 items – whenever I am in a foreign country I try and make sure I pack for worst case scenario.

5. Get travel insurance

You always hope you don’t have to use it but there is always a risk in the outdoors and if you are stuck with medical bills in a foreign country, well that could be a pretty pricey bill.

6. Check warnings and risks ahead of time

I have learned over the years that there are different seasons and concerns. For example maybe a hike in Hawaii during the rain season isn’t your best bet as it can impact safety of the route. Or maybe you are going to an area where zika is prevalent – pack a ton of repellant.

These are my top six tips for hiking in a different country – but I really cannot stress enough number 1. Over preparation is key for a safe and incredible experience.

Happy hiking my friends,

xo

Mia

7 Tips to make travel more enjoyable

Most of what I write about on this blog has to do with travel. I have always LOVED traveling. In fact I took my first across the world flight (from Canada to South Africa) when I was just 1 (my parents are brave). Traveling is a great way to see the world and learn about different cultures. However, it can also be stressful if you are not prepared. Over my many years of traveling I have picked up a few tips and tricks that can make your experience more enjoyable. 

Do Your Research

Before you travel, it is important to do your research. I know that this can be a daunting task at the time – but it will make the actual travel part so much more enjoyable. What I mean by research is take the time to learn about the culture and customs of your destination. It is also a good idea to research the best time to visit, as well as any potential dangers. By doing your research, you will be able to avoid potential problems and have a more enjoyable trip.

 

Get Travel Insurance

Things happen that are out of our control – especially as the world starts to open up again so another important tip is to get travel insurance. This will protect you in case of any problems while you are away from home. It is a good idea to buy travel insurance that covers medical expenses, lost luggage, and cancellations. By getting travel insurance, you will be able to relax and enjoy your trip, knowing that you are covered in case of any problems.

 

Be Prepared for Jet Lag

One way to make your travels more enjoyable is by being prepared for jet lag. Jet lag can cause fatigue, headaches, and difficulty sleeping. To avoid jet lag, it is important to adjust your sleep schedule before your trip. You should also avoid alcohol and caffeine during your flight. By being prepared for jet lag, you can avoid some of the more unpleasant aspects of travel.

 

Pack Light

During my days as  a professional athlete I lived out of a suitcase and learned a very specific talent of packing light, this has come in very handy traveling today.  This will make it easier to move around and avoid lost luggage. It is also a good idea to pack versatile clothing that can be worn in different weather conditions. By packing light, you will be able to have a more enjoyable trip.

 

Stay Healthy

While it is easy to just sit by the swim up bar your entire trip, I have found it so important to try and stay healthy and in a bit of a routine while traveling.  This means eating healthy food, exercising, and getting enough rest. It is also a good idea to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. By staying healthy, you will be able to enjoy your trip more and not feel so rough when you get home. 

 

Take Care of Your Feet

I will never forget a day in Rome where I spent 10 yours on my feet exploring all the sites. Your feet can take a lot of abuse when you are traveling. To avoid problems, it is important to pack comfortable shoes and socks. If you know that you will have intensive travel where you will walk a lot, consider buying custom foot orthotics to help support your feet. You should also take care of your feet by washing them regularly and keeping them dry. By taking care of your feet, you will be able to avoid problems and have more enjoyable travels.

 

Be Mindful of Your Belongings

When you are traveling, it is important to be mindful of your belongings. This means keeping your passport and money in a safe place. It is also a good idea to make copies of important documents. By being mindful of your belongings, you will be able to avoid problems and have a more enjoyable trip.

These are just a few tips that can help make your travels more enjoyable. By following these tips, you can have a better experience when traveling.

Unique Vacation Activities (For people who have done it all)

I know, I know, with travel restrictions easing up many of us are itching to book a vacation. Getting away for a bit should be fun, but sometimes it can feel like you have already done it all before. Another beach getaway? Another ski slope? Sometimes it can get redundant and some experiences, like sitting on a beach, aren’t really unique to a specific place. 

So for those that are itching for something new, well I am sharing some unique vacation activities for people who have done it all.

 

1.Go On A Food Crawl

I love food, in fact sometimes I pick vacation spots based on cuisine. If you’re heading to a destination known for the quality of its food, you might want to indulge in a food crawl. Here you make your way from eatery to eatery throughout the day (or week), sampling different foods. 

Going on a food crawl can be a lot of fun. But you’ll want to keep the portions small. Focus on eating appetizers, not entrées. Otherwise, you’ll wind up feeling bloated and uncomfortable. 

 

2.Take A Class

If you’re in a new place, it’s a perfect opportunity to take a class in something you don’t have access to at home. For instance, perhaps a local instructor offers dance classes in a style unique to the country you are visiting. I know I loved taking thai cooking classes in Thailand. 

Taking a class helps you to use your vacation time wisely. It gives you a chance to learn something and improve your skills which, ultimately, could make your life better. 

 

3. Try Wine Tasting

 

If you’ve never tried wine tasting before, you’re in for a treat. When you arrive at your destination, search for “wineries near me.” Usually, at least half a dozen will pop up. Then investigate whether any of them offer tasting sessions. More often than not, they do. 

Wine tasting gives you a chance to learn more about wine flavours. By going to one, you’ll get coaching on improving your palate so that you can enjoy the drink more in the future. 

 

4. Dine With Local People

Dining with local people might sound like a bit of a strange idea, but it can also be a lot of fun. They tend to know the food landscape better than you so they are in a great position to point you in the direction of the best dishes. What’s more, they also provide interesting conversation, introducing you to their ideas, culture and sometimes other people in their life. 

5. Take A Segway Tour

Segways are strange-looking forms of propulsion. But they can be a great way to cover a large area without expending much energy. This makes them ideal for exploring the wilderness or making your way around a big city. 

Segway tours come in multiple forms. They’re usually suitable for people of all ages, though some providers will not allow young children to use them. 

6. Hire A Canal Boat

Hiring a canal boat is a lot of fun and introduces you to new landscapes. It is a wonderful way to explore a region and find out more about it. 

Canal boats are also handy because you can sleep in them. So you can moor them at the side of the river, explore a local area, and then return to them at night.