It is finally spring time! ... And there is nothing more beautiful than staying local. Living in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, Canada, we never fall short of finding new adventures. Whether it is the Cherry Blossom Festival in Vancouver or trying out the several Food Truck Festivals available throughout spring and summer... it is just a short drive away from our home. On Saturday, we decided to check out the Abbotsford Tulip Festival that is located just off the Trans-Canada Highway and Whatcom Road exit. Of course we made a stopover for our first ice cream cone of the season, just south of the border at a local American business called Edaleen Dairy before heading to the festival.
PS- If you have not had the opportunity to try a twist cone from Edaleen Dairy...you are seriously missing out!
One of my favourite things about visiting this tulip festival is that it is family owned. The Warmerdam family immigrated to Canada in the late 1940’s from the Netherlands and purchased land in Abbotsford to spread the Dutch culture of Tulips in the early 1970’s. The family’s grandchildren have taken over the business that draws in thousands of people every year. For a small fee of $5CAN per person it makes for a perfect day. With 10 acres of colourful beauty, the Abbotsford Tulip Festival provides a day to run through the wild flowers. For any photographer fanatic, this event provides the perfect backdrop. Poor Thomas had to endure in some serious patience as I continued to make him pose with tulips... I have to admit he was a good sport.
While enjoying the shades of tulips, visitors can purchase tulip bulbs for their own garden or make that perfect bouquet at the ‘U-Pick’ tulip area. Additionally, there are lawn games, duck races and food trucks (weekends only) on the grounds.
As we watched the sun begin to set over the rainbow field, I took one last opportunity to run through the field before we headed back to the car. On the way back home, we remembered that the Bates Motel film location (awesome television series!) was just a short drive away. It was the first time that I was really excited and memorized by something ‘Hollywood’. When we got to the set location it was interesting to see the real motel with the creepy Victorian style house in the background; built just for the series. Once our hunger took over our bodies, we continued our journey to get some dinner. Sushi was the final decision. By the time we order our food and the variety of sushi rolls were served, we were starving!!! We ate so quickly that we forced our bodies into serious food comas but it was worth it!
We ended our night by curling up on the couch but we enjoyed our Saturday with no regrets. Even though the Tulip festival ends on May 1st, 2016, it marked our first local adventure of the year. We were so excited to experience this festival; capturing a fresh start to spring! The local festivals are now available to check out and if you are in search of that perfect weekend adventure, be sure to follow along <3
"Let Us Dance in the Sun
- Susan Polis Schutz -
After my nerve racking arrival to Isla de Ometepe (check out part one), I was finally feeling much better and was ready to relax. Throughout our days, Thomas and I enjoyed bike riding around the island and indulged in relaxation from the local hot springs heated from the volcanoes. In the evenings we ate magnificent meals at our hostel including a mac n’ cheese and stir fry that filled my stomach with pure satisfaction. The restaurant within the hostel was so good, we didn’t even venture out to other places because we wanted to try every item on the menu! During the nights we rounded up as many other backpackers from our hostel to join in on the 2 for 1 mojitos being served at the bar just up the street. The owner of this bar was so surprised when twelve backpackers in search of a good night had arrived for the $2CAN special! The result of having a large group was the bar running out of clean glasses for us to use but in good backpacker nature we just explained to the owner that we would reuse our glasses throughout the night.
Two days later, Thomas and I decided to head back over to the mainland; making the trek to the south of Nicaragua. I was relieved when we woke up in the morning to see that the weather was cooperating with us. My only desire was that we would not have a repeat of the ferry incident. While purchasing our tickets, I mentally prepared myself for the ride back, praying that I would not get sea sick. After all, I had stayed away from anything hamburgesa…
When the return ferry had arrived I was pleased to see that it was much bigger, holding more passengers and appeared to be much more secure than our last ride. The ferry boasted two decks providing passengers with the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors during the ride. Because the weather so beautiful, I took to the upper deck to get some photographs of the island. Thomas stayed on the main deck at the front of the ferry and continued enjoying a conversation with two other Canadians who were joining us on the venture to San Juan Del Sur. As I enjoyed capturing everlasting memories of Isla de Ometepe in the distance, the journey was thus far a success.
While the crew packed up the last of the belongings and strapped everything together with an old rope, the engines started and our trip back to the mainland began. My natural anxiety about our bags being secured properly was in full effect due to the fact that everything was practically sitting at the back of the boat…on an open deck. One sway….one quick movement and those belongings would be lake-bound. As I continued to enjoy the scenery, my focus suddenly turned to the crew chatting about an odd sound. As I listened intensely to their conversation, I began to head towards the narrow stairs to Thomas….
…And as quickly as I grabbed the post to the stairs a sudden jerk forced my body forward and I grasped onto anything to stop myself. The ferry came to a sudden stop.
A turbulence sound from the engine suddenly shocked everyone on board. The crew began to scurry around the ferry trying to resolve the problem. In between individuals trying to move around, I was unable to move myself back to the stairway. Instead I continued to hold onto the inner post of the covered area of the ferry. Thomas yelled out to me ensuring that I was ok. I yelled back in English with a nervous ‘yeah’ but while the crew moved around bumping and pushing past me I noticed that the ferry began to slowly turn against the current of the waves. With the boat at a complete stop, it began to rock back and forth… stronger and stronger. The familiar feeling of two days prior began to hit my body once again. I began to feel that sensation of uneasiness in my stomach.
Back and Forth…
Back and Forth…
Back and Forth…
Back and Forth…. the passengers became quieter…
The next 40 minutes everyone held onto the poles on the upper deck; the ferry rocking closer to the water each time. I began to think about the possibility of us capsizing!!! Without being able to move closer to Thomas, I vividly remember other passengers looking very scared. An older gentleman who was holding onto an outer post asked me in Spanish if I knew how to swim, my response was a simple “Si y Ustedes?” …and with a worried expression on his face he replied with a simple “no”.
On the main deck, the boat was rocking so much that water was flooding through the bottom of the railings, entering the cabin of the ferry. While Thomas and the other Canadians held on, Thomas watched a man seated just inside the doorway appearing SO green… that he looked like he was going to puke all over the place.
On the upper deck, I continued to make a plan in my mind ensuring I was close to an ‘exiting’ area for when the ferry made that final tilt over. Surprisingly the belongings at the back of the boat continued to stay in place. I was relieved that our bags were in the center underneath other bags because with each wave brought more water up on deck soaking most items. However, at this point, our backpacks were the least of my concerns. While we continued to feel the rocking motion of the boat, I realized that my camera was still around my neck. Keeping one hand on a post, I managed to get my camera bag open with one hand and began to put my camera away safely. With all the craziness from the crew trying to resolve the problem, one individual pushed passed me… and in slow motion I saw my camera get knocked out of my hand. My heart dropped. With open arms… everyone around me attempted to grab the camera and luckily someone gripped in time.
Back and Forth…
Back and Forth…
Back and Forth…rumble...rumble…
When the sound of the engine began…everyone waited intensely. “Todo es Bueno…es Bueno!” - "All is good...all is good!" the crew began to yell out and everyone on board sighed with relief. The mood of the ferry changed from worried expressions and silence to instant smiles and laughter. Once the ferry arrived at port and I was finally able to be reunited with Thomas on the main deck we looked at each other speechless and relieved. Holding hands and taking a step onto the mainland of Nicaragua… our Nica ferry escapades were finally over.
Well, it had finally happened…I had opted to eat a hamburguesa at a local corner restaurant in Granada and my body rejected it as quickly as I had consumed it. It was indeed my first experience of traveler’s food poisoning and the bathroom at our hostel became my best friend for the night. Unfortunately, in the morning we had already planned to make our trek to Isla de Ometepe; an island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua created by two active volcanoes. The only way to get to the island was to take a public ferry which would take approximately 1 hour long. I dreaded the thought of being stranded on a boat while my bodily functions did not comply with my brain. When we took a taxi ride down to the port of Rivas, we realized that the windy weather was becoming a concern. Grains of sand hit our faces as we purchased our tickets and waited for the ferry to arrive. Thomas decided to purchase a coffee and pastry while we stood with our backs to the gust of the wind. Thomas concluded that his pastry (pasteles de pollo) was much crunchier than usual due to the sand.
As my body continued to grasp the idea that we would be on a boat with this windy weather, Thomas continued to cheer me on as we waited. It was about the same time we were approached by two women backpackers; a Spaniard and a fellow Canadian. The two travelers appeared to be a bit worried about the conditions of the water. For myself, I kept thinking about the unimaginable….that rumble…that rage in my stomach. As we continued to laugh about the journey we were about to embark on, we saw the ferry pull up to the man made port. It was then I became concerned about the stability of the ferry.
The ferry was old. That wooden vintage look….similar to the one that belonged in a movie destined to be shipwrecked. The wooden vessel rocked back and forth as we climbed aboard. We headed straight to the cabin for shelter as the sand continued to strike us in the face.
Once we were on the boat, the instant rocking caused my stomach to take a turn for the worst! We hadn’t even departed yet and I felt that I was going to experience a serious case of traveler’s diarrhea. Thomas quickly took my bag off my back and told me to sit down in one of the middle seats away from the windows so the rocking wouldn’t be so severe. I felt myself beginning to sweat. As I tried to pretend that I was feeling ok… I felt my body go into cold sweats needing to relieve itself from the torture of that hamburguesa. In front of me was the washroom and it was the first time in my life that I would refuse to use a public restroom as it looked as though it had never been cleaned.
Thomas settled into a seat near a window. With the winds gusting, he attempted to close the wooden window but it was stuck. The other travelers we had met, were sitting across from us and began to look as green as I felt. While we heard the boat engine start, the first wave hit the side of the boat to the point where water reached the open window and SPLASH! Thomas was soaked. His body cold, he moved closer to me laughing as though he should have known better. I, on the other hand, naturally began complaining… stating I was going to throw up…or worse!
Another backpacker who was sitting across from us offered me a Dorito chip. My response was a simple plea for the empty bag as I updated him on my status. Kindly, the backpacker leaned back into his seat smiling and began to eat his delicious treat faster. Praying in desperation to survive, I closed my eyes and eventually fell asleep. By the time we arrived on Isla de Ometepe, I had just woken up. Thomas grabbed our belongings, both of us thankful to have reached our destination safely. I knew my day was about to get better.
The next task at hand for Thomas and I was to find a home for the next couple of days. We had decided to find a hostel once we arrived on the island. The two girls told us about the hostel they booked and suggested that we should come check it out. Without any regrets we decided to book at the same hostel called Hospedaje Central. The hostel embodied that simple relaxed Nica vibe and for a reasonable cost. Our private room was basic, containing two beds with a simple in-suite bathroom. I decided to ‘freshen up’ once we settled in, taking my time for a relaxing shower. Afterwards I tried to eat some traditional gallo-pinto as my body attempted to cooperate with me. As the afternoon arrived at our doorstep, I went outside and enjoyed the view of one of the volcanoes relieved that my horrible Nica ferry adventure was at last... over.
…Or at least I thought. (Stay tuned.)
Wandering Central America, we arrived in Panama searching for a place of relaxation. After all, backpacking is tiring. We had finally arrived on a beautiful Caribbean island off the coast of Panama called Isla Bastimentos. It is located in the Bocas region on the east coast of Panama. This exotic island was home to a small population of people who lived a simple lifestyle. One thing that sparked my interest was that the locals on the island spoke Creole, an interesting dialect between English, Spanish and the Caribbean native language. Majority of the houses and shops lied along the small island coastline with old wooden docks that led out to waiting water taxis to get to and from the mainland. Although most locals appeared to live in poverty they were generous to share their paradise surroundings, known as home, with us.
While soaking in the relaxing vibe of the island, we settled into our new home for the next four days. The guest house that we were staying at was called Tom’s Guesthouse. It was located right on the coastline and was built over the water. The owners of the guesthouse were an older couple originally from Germany. They had moved to Panama to spend their days basking in the Caribbean sun. The guest house was perfect, containing the normal essentials but I would suggest that the best part were the hammocks overlooking the clear blue water. After settling in, we spent the first day in the hammocks, drinking beer and interacted with other guests. It was only a matter of time that I had fallen asleep from the rocking of the hammock caused by the light coastal breeze.
(My evil boyfriend capturing my nap)
The next day we decided to move our bodies further than our hammocks and wander the island for small hidden gems. We set forth to hike to the top point of the island. We packed our beach towel and sunscreen with the mindset of reaching the other side of the island as the locals told us of the amazing beaches. Walking along the pathways we noticed old abandoned homes in the mist of the shrubs, that at one point in history, shared beautiful stories and viewpoints. As we continued our journey we began to see hand painted signs in English stating “Up in the Hill”....
With our curiosity, we followed the signs.
As we followed the old painted markers...it led us to a wooden building with a patio fit for any backpacker daydreamer. It was home to a small local and organic café known as the ‘Up in the Hill’ Cafe. At the highest point of Isla Bastimentos was this quaint business with the best view in all of the Bocas del Toro Region.
Of course, we stayed for a cup of coffee and a chocolate brownie. Unfortunately the brownie contained coconut, which I am allergic to, so you can only imagine how upset Thomas was that he had to eat the brownie all by himself. Once we finished our afternoon snack, we started our trek down the windy trail leading to the beach. After approx. 45 minutes walking downhill, we had arrived again to another hidden gem called Wizard Beach. With no one in sight, we were alone. The crystal clear, light blue, water was ours. And as we marked our spot for the rest of the day with our towels, the perfect little grains of sand buried our feet, exfoliating each individual toe.
We had arrived.
While we were lucky to have the beach to ourselves for hours, we were not surprised when other people (both locals and tourists) came to explore this magical beach. Our day became disrupted when a Russian couple arrived completely 'smashed'. As the middle aged man stumbled his way over to us, we knew our day was going to get a lot more eventful. Of course, his intentions were innocent, as he slurred his sentences talking about very “meaningful” and “deep” things about life. His wife continued to try to redirect him from us but I have to admit he was very entertaining. As the day moved forward, we observed this middle aged Russian running up and down the beach like an episode of Baywatch… wearing a light green ‘banana-hammock’ swimsuit and a typical hairy chest….we couldn’t help but laugh for hours.
As soon as the sun began to set, Thomas and I realized we allowed time to pass without planning how we were going to get back. We had only seen one water taxi arrive at the beach to drop of a group that was located at the opposite end of the beach. Fortunately, that water taxi came back to pick up the group. Thomas and I quickly grabbed our belongings and ran for the boat. The once soft, beautiful sand that snuggled between our toes, now limited our ability to run. It felt like we were escaping from quick sand, making it appear as though the beach continued to stretch out for miles with no end in sight....I was worried we were not going to make it.
However, we did luck out and reach the boat. The taxi driver was kind enough not to charge us an arm and a leg for the ride back ($2US) giving us the fair price. Once we were on the boat, I had a strong gut feeling... a moment of concern that… there were too many people on this boat! The water line began to get closer and closer to the edge of the boat…and I began to worry about the possibility that this boat may sink!!! As I looked at the taxi driver for reassurance he just smiled without a worry. Finally, the last person got on and the taxi driver began the engine and started to reverse for sea. We were only a couple of meters away from the beach and out of nowhere the Russian couple grabbed the boat, trying their best to climb in for a ride!!! The driver yelled out in the creole language to what I believe was “You IDIOTS!”...
…the waterline crept up higher, only 6 inches to disaster. One small wave… we would sink.
As the boat slowly made its way to each destination, ours thankfully being the first, we got out and waved goodbye to the boozed, sun-burnt, dazed individuals. As I turned to walk away, I noticed the Russian man passed out in the back seat. While the boat pulled away, I couldn't help but chuckle to myself and think it was the perfect ending to our relaxing day in paradise.
Have you ever planned a trip with a good friend?
How about a group of friends?
What about a hangry friend?
Yep. That’s right. I am able to check off all these questions but I have to admit it is the hangry friend detail that is most important when you plan to travel. For those of you who do not know what the term “Hangry” means, let me break it down for you...it is when an individual’s hunger has taken over their entire body that they are unable to think or realize the negative mood alter (anger) that has taken over them.
This is my friend.
Arriving in Europe, excited to seek out new adventures with one of my best friends, I realized very quickly that I had a case of the hangry friend. It would usually happen around the eleven o’clock mark, when the sun was about to hit the mid-day heat wave. You know…the moment when you had waited in line for an hour… about to see a famous museum or painting… a once in a lifetime opportunity!!! Now unfortunately, for my poor girlfriend it was not her fault that she had a case of the hangry's. In my heart I knew that it happens to the best of us. In fact, we believe it is a condition that is only fixable by chocolate; in our case, M&M’s.
I became very prepared while travelling through Europe ensuring that I had an emergency supply of snacks in my bag as a precaution if that line at the museum was taking too long. And in return I knew that my girlfriend would continue to be the beautiful soul that I know she is 99.9% of the time. There was one day, however, that we forgot our emergency supply and as my girlfriend began to transition into her hangry alterego, she quickly turned to our group claiming that she was missing a Snickers chocolate bar from her purse. As she asked me in desperation thinking that I had eaten it, I claimed that I did not even know she had purchased the item. She then quickly turned to our Aussie friend, stating that it must have been her who was indeed the culprit who had eaten her delicious treat. As our friend clarified that she was not the thief, my hangry friend became delusional with hunger. Over the course of three days, I knew that my girlfriend of eight years secretly thought to herself that I was the thief that would not fess up to stealing her yummy snack. The laughter continued in our small group of friends and as we joked about the mystery of the Snickers bar, she interrogated me like we were on an episode of CSI.
As our bus arrived in Amsterdam and we settled into our hostel room, my girlfriend continued to state that she had factual evidence that I was the culprit!!! As I continued to settle in, I asked her if she just imagined the delightful treat in her mind and in fact, had not purchased the chocolate bar. When our Aussie friend agreed with me, my girlfriend just shrugged her shoulders in defense and her body language sent the statement that she knew what the truth was. That night we went out on the town and after a night of drinking, we all woke up in our rooms… hungover. The whole group rolled out of bed regretting that last beer of the night with a sad moan. Ugh.
As we slowly managed to grasp the energy to get ready for breakfast, my girlfriend was the last one to get up. And as she rolled out of her sleeping bag all three of us noticed something inside her bag; a Snickers chocolate bar. Sure enough, my girlfriend had been sleeping night after night on a nice warm squished chocolate bar. The moment of shock caused us all to drop to the floor in laughter and as I still managed to blurt out the old saying of “I told you so!”… it was then she turned to me, staring into my soul with her large baby blue eyes, that she claimed that I must of planted it there!!!
My girlfriend was so relieved that she could at last enjoy her chocolate bar. And as she opened the wrapper to the squished bar and took a bite out it, she smiled. This was the end to the case of my hangry friend, the hanger that lasted three days but felt like a lifetime.
(The missing evidence)
HANGRY FRIEND SURVIVAL KIT:
To ensure that you or a loved one does not experience a case of the hangry friend while abroad, ensure to pack the following items:
Good luck and may the odds be in your favor.