Hiking Camelback Mountain

Good Morning!

Today I’m sharing another part of my quick trip to Scottsdale: hiking Camelback Mountain.  Now, one would typically imagine the desert to be pretty flat, and that is true. If you happen to be in one of the rare taller buildings in the Scottsdale area, you can see pretty far in most directions.  However, there are many small clusters of mountains in the area (many within the city limits) and a lot of hiking trails.  So, we made sure to pack some workout gear so we could partake in some hiking.  We choose the Cholla Trail on Camelback Mountain in the heart of Scottsdale.

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This a view of the start of the hike looking to the top.

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It was a warm, sunny day that so we knew we would to take LOTS of water with us and extra sunscreen.  As we were rounding up our things to pack up, it occurred to us….neither of us had a backpack to put the stuff in.  So, we hiked 2700 ft to the summit with….regular shoulder bags.

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Having no idea the real level of hiking required, we blindly thought that despite looking like weirdos, carrying these bags would be no big deal.  Hmm, what naive hikers were were. There were some spots where we were scaling up the side of the rock so having a shoulder bag flailing around messing with your balance was NOT ideal.  Doable, but no ideal.  However, despite this small hindrance we enjoyed the workout and lovely desert views.

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And we made it all the way.  This a view looking down from the top.  So many tiny houses with itsy bitsy pools….

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And the panoramic views were just stunning.

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It was a tougher hike than we expected but we were very happy we did it.

at the top

The only negative thing about my hike?  Let me paint a picture for you….the temperature is about 30 degrees Celsius, you have been drinking a lot of water to stay hydrated, and Cholla Trail has no Porta-potties.  Not only THAT, but there is nowhere to pop-a-squat even if you were desperate (and I was desperate).  On a wooded hiking trail you can jump into the bushes, on this desert mountain trail there was nowhere to go where I wouldn’t have been fully visible to all the other hikers.  Soooo, needless to say it was a highly uncomfortable descent down Camelback for this girl.  Good thing is was so beautiful.

Have a great day!

XO,

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The Saguaro, Scottsdale

Good Morning,

I’ve been a bit absent lately while I took a mini vacation to Arizona, but I’m happy to be back this week. It was brief but the sunshine was just lovely. You hear talk about SAD (Seasonal Affectation Disorder) and I’m betting that after this winter there are lots more cases of it being reported.  How powerful the sun is in affecting mood, no? After just a few days of bright, sunny weather I feel so much more energized and excited.  I will be blogging more about my trip over the next week but today I’m focusing on the hotel where we stayed in Scottsdale: the Saguaro (pronounced “sah-wah-ro”).

Named after the famous cactus with the same name, the Saguaro was a great choice for our stay.  A boutique hotel in the heart of Scottsdale’s Old Town, it is a beautifully designed space (the work of architects Peter Stamberg and Paul Aferiatwith) that uses fun bright colours, beautiful landscaping and unique art to create a modern southwest feel.

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Fun, huh? Our room was super cool but also very comfortable and the pool area was awesome with big lounging beds for basking in the sun.  We partook in a massage at the spa which was on special when we arrived at $60 for 60 mins!  Total deal.  The hotel restaurant Distrito is head up by Iron Chef Jose Garces.  We didn’t have dinner there but we did partake in the awesome poolside menu which included delicious fish tacos and we also had nachos with their homemade guacamole during happy hour in the restaurant, which were amazing. We had great service and I would recommend it to anyone staying in Scottsdale*.

Have a great day!

XO,

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*I was not paid by the Saguaro for this review or recommendation, I just enjoyed the aesthetic and experience I had there and wanted to share it with you.

Desert Dreaming

Good Morning!

In about a week I am hopping on a plane to warm the Arizona desert, and I am so excited about it.  This long Toronto winter has taken the wind out of my sails a little so I’m hoping to soak up some vitamin D and reboot.  I’ll be in Phoenix for a day and then my friend and I are heading to Scottsdale for 3 days to enjoy some sun, spa and good eats.  As much as I am an east coast, salty sea air, waves crashing on the beach kinda girl at heart, I have to admit that the desert climate is pretty ideal most of the year.  Hot but not humid in the day and slightly cooler at night. Can’t wait.

And on the topic of desert travel, today I’m sharing a gorgeous hotel which is much, much, further away than Arizona.  It’s the Desert Palm Hotel in Dubai.

Not too shabby, huh?  Did I mention there is a polo field on-site as well?  Yep.  And seriously, that bathroom alone would make me want to stay there.  Beautiful.  This is slightly higher end than the hotel we are staying in Scottsdale.  But I’m still excited.

If anyone has any Phoenix or Scottsdale recommendations, please let me know!

XO,

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Summer Vacation Recap

Good Morning!

Long time no talk!  Where have I been? Well, it’s been a whirlwind 2 weeks!  It started with a week in Toronto with my Mom and niece Katrina.  It was Katrina’s first trip to Toronto and she got to see lots of fun stuff; the Science Centre, the Zoo, Casa Loma, the CN Tower, to name a few.  I was working during the week but got to go to the Science Centre and the zoo on the weekend.  Both were very fun, even for an adult! I got lots of great photos at the zoo…here are some snippets of that day….

Katrina - Toronto Zoo copy Then we started the long trek back to New Brunswick for my annual cottage vacation.  My cottage at Oak Point is definitely one of my favourite places on earth. Located on the Miramichi Bay, on the east coast where the Miramichi River meets the north end of the Northumberland Straight, it’s pretty easy to love this little piece of paradise….

cottage views 1 cottage views 2 seaside flowers wild roses Late afternoon shadow What did I do while I was there?  I slept, ate, read, went for many swims in the bay, picked wildflowers and wild strawberries, napped, and assembled a 1000 piece puzzle in less than 24 hours.  It was 35+ degrees in the shade for 4 of the days I was there (which is abnormal for July in New Brunswick), so I literally lived in my bathing suit for most of the week. I caught up with cottage friends and met my friend’s 6 week old baby boy.  Ah-dorable.  A super relaxing week.

Now I’m back; refreshed and ready for some good blogging.

Have a lovely day!

XO,

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Vegas 2013 Part 2

Good Morning and Happy Friday!

So here we go on Part 2 of my posts on Vegas.  As the first installment really focused on the Bellagio Block Party event, this one will be about the rest of the trip.

I’m not really sure what I expected of Las Vegas when I went.  I had heard good things…that it was fun, had great weather, and good shopping.  I was not prepared for this strange little bubble of absolute excess that I encountered on the strip. Everything is bigger, shinier, more colourful and more over-the-top than what it normally is (or should be).  We stayed at the Mirage.  Our room was nice,the pool was great, and we had a good view of strip.

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Some examples of the extreme decor in Vegas…these are the ceilings in a couple of the casinos we walked through.

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One of the girls we went with had some co-workers who were in Las Vegas at the same time so we had planned to meet up with them to go to a club called XS to see “Avichii”.  Who is Avichii?  Well, I’m in my mid-thirties and don’t go to clubs so I had no clue…but apparently he is a DJ.  A very popular one. He is worth 7 million dollars.  He is 23.

Aaaand, I felt old.

But we got in for free, the club was partially situated around a outdoor pool area which was lovely.  And as far as DJ’s of dance music go, he was pretty good. You can see in the picture on the bottom left that we actually were right in the thick of the cheering/raving crowd for awhile…but then someone stepped on my toe and I got the f&$* out of the there.

DJ copy The Bellagio fountain show was one thing I was not expecting to be as impressed with as I was.  It’s only a few minutes long, but it was a very cool thing to behold so I’m glad we caught it.

bellagio fountain copy The weather was awesome while we were there, mid to high thirties, so we did a lot of lounging by the pool.

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 And though we didn’t do that much gambling we did spend a little time in the casino.

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We also had a couple of nice dinners at Jaleo and Sage.  Both delicious. And we also went to another club, Hakasan, on our last night…but the pictures from that night will never grace the pages of this blog.  Enough said.

All in all a great trip.  Would I go back?  Maybe. But I think I’ve had my fill of Vegas for awhile.

XO,

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Vegas Part 1 – Vegas Uncork’d Bellagio Block Party

Good Morning!

I hope all of you had a great long weekend! This morning I’m finally getting to the first installment of my Vegas extravaganza. I’m starting with the main reason we chose to go the weekend that we did, which was Bon Appetit Magazine’s Vegas Uncork’d. 

 Vegas Uncork’d is a 3-day culinary star-studded event featuring  award winning chefs like Michael Mina, Gordon Ramsay, and Julian Serrano, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Todd English and many more. The events included some private dinner parties at $300-$500 per plate….um, not in our budget….but there were also a few more reasonably priced food parties, one of which was the one we attended, the “Bellagio Block Party: Cured, Briased, Smoked, Grilled and Toasted.”

bbp-vegas 1 copy The party took place in a large parking lots behind the Bellagio hotel and was comprised of about 15 food and drink stations which you could pick up bite-sized morsels of food from the chefs of some of the best restaurants in Las Vegas.  Here are some shots of the scene….

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The best part for me, of course, was the food…

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The morsels were super delicious. Our particular favourite was a naan wrap with grilled goat. The sauce they used was amazing and it melted in your mouth. Yummmmmmy. I wish I could remember which station/chef it was from!

bbp-the food copy There was also a grill challenge between chef Todd English and chef Akira Back and two students from Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School that took place at the party. The winning student won a $20,0000 scholarship and the runner-up a $5,000 scholarship.  It was hard to see to get any decent photos but you can see a video of it here.

So, was it fun?  Did I mention that Patron Tequila was one of the main sponsors? No?  Hmmm, well a boatload of amazing food and excellent tequila…I’ll let you guess if we had a good time or not…

fun times Patron also had HD photobooth there to take fun photos of guests at the event.  See how much we like each other in this one??

…then my friend Rena tried to steal my margarita….

 A great event!  More Vegas pics to come later this week.

Have a great start to your (short) week!

XO,

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Swiss Miss Final Installment: The Food

Good Morning!

It’s the first day of March.  January and February have flown by and I didn’t really get a chance to reset on January 1st the way I had hoped.  So, since my birthday is in a couple of days, I’m going to make that day my new year’s day. Over the next week I’m going to review my past year and start really planning what I would like to accomplish/experience before I hit 35.

But in the meantime, today I have the last installment of my Swiss Adventures, and I’m talking about food. You’ll have to excuse the picture quality because most were taken on phones, but you’ll get the gist. The first night my friend A took me to a great restaurant overlooking the water and we had the Zurich-style veal.  It was awesome.  It’s basically schnitzel and mushrooms in this amazing creamy sauce.  I don’t have a picture of the dish, but here is the resto (excuse the bad photo of me….)…

zurich beef Delicious apple strudel with vanilla cream sauce. I’ll admit it, I had this little lovely more than once while I was there.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The Swiss version of street meat.  A bratwurst from a roadside vendor.  I love a good sausage (…..that’s what she said). brats

It’s no surprise that in the land of chocolate I would have the best chocolate milkshake I’ve have tasted.  Ever.  Not too thick, and so rich and delicious with Swiss chocolatey goodness.

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Speaking of chocolate and candy, here is a display of just that. This is at a lovely cafe in Zurich that I visited twice while I was there.  And I totally brought some of theses goodies home with me. candy But the most fun food experience I had was the night that A & A made me a traditional Swiss raclette dinner.  If you have never had raclette, see the series of photos below.

RACLETTE copy Ummmm, melted cheese and bacon over carbs.  How can you go wrong? A great meal and very a fun night. Again, a million thanks to A & A for their hospitality. It totally made my trip!

I’ll be back on Monday with some pictures from my Masquerade party.  I’ve been working on my mask….here is a little sneak peek of what you might see :)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Have a great weekend!

XO,

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Swiss Miss Part 4: The Alps

Good Morning!

Installment four of my Swiss adventure is my time spent skiing in the Alps.  I first traveled to Davos to ski at the Davos Klosters ski resort.  Davos is really cute ski resort town, which recently played host to the World Economic Forum annual meeting.  Thankfully, that ended the week before I arrived or it would have been really busy!

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The resort had, count ‘em, six mountains to ski on! I only skied one of them (Jakobshorn) but the conditions were excellent.  I went on a Monday so there were no line ups and I could easily ski wherever I wanted.  Going on a Monday did mean that the apres-ski was a little more subdued that what you would expect, but it was worth it to get so many runs in. However, I’m not used to skiing in so much powder or skiing crazy long runs, so needless to say my legs were burning by the end of the day.

The second day I met up with my friend Jill at Flumserberg.  Also a great mountain with a breathtaking 15 minute gondola ride up to the base of the mountain.  We did take some shots of us on the mountain with Jill’s camera, buuuut sadly Jill forgot her camera in Zurich so it will be a little while before I can share those!

Flumserberg Trail Map via

 I would say that the skiing conditions were much better at Davos, but comparing these two mountains is like comparing a BMW to a Lexus, both are awesome, but just have different features.

The shots in this post can’t even begin to show the beauty of the Alps in real life.  Many of my photos are through train windows and most were taken with my crappy blackberry camera since I didn’t want to take my big camera on the mountains with me.  But hopefully these give a little peek into the beauty of it all.

skiing Now that is a winter wonderland!  I think my favourite shot of the Alps is this next one. Although you can tell I shot it through a window, it really is a quintessential Swiss Alps photo.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA You really have to see it person to appreciate it, but hopefully you get a little taste of the sheer beauty of this area.

XO,

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Swiss Miss Volume 3: Milan

 Good Morning!

Happy Family Day to all of you who have today as a holiday in Canada and Happy President’s Day to our friends to the south.

Today’s installment of my trip is my day trip to Milan.  I am aware that Milan is in Italy, not Switzerland but, when you live in Zürich you can take a quick day trip to Milan, which is exactly what we did. I know, how luxurious.  My friend A and I took the train down, and it is a gorgeous ride.  My friend had warned me that the landscape would change significantly as we traveled south, and she wasn’t kidding.

We started with this view out our window….

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Then this….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA And then by the time we got to Lugano, where we had to change trains, this is what we saw….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Yep, those are palm trees.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Then we arrived in Milan and ventured our way to the main square.  We checked out the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which is the oldest shopping mall in Italy. Wouldn’t it be great if all our malls looked like this?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA And of course the Milan Duomo.  One of the most beautiful and ornate of all the ones I’ve seen.  (Years ago, I traveled for a month in Italy, so I’ve seen a few).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA But the thing that makes this building so beautiful and grand to me is the marble in pinks, whites and greys.  Just so stunning.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Our trip was planned really to do a little shopping, since the prices are so horrendous in Zürich.  Although I didn’t buy much I did get to visit a Zara Home!  I know, BIG highlight.  I didn’t go crazy but I did pick up these pretty knobs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Not 100% sure where I’ll use them yet, but we shall see.

So, that is it for my day in Milan.  Only 2 more trip posts left, and I will try to space them out in case you are getting sick of them!

Have a great day!

 XO,

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Swiss Miss Volume 2: Basel

 Good Morning!

The next stop on my Swiss adventure was a day trip to Basel.  My friend had suggested it because it is known to have a great art scene.  The day was rainy and damp.  And I went on a Monday so perhaps not the best time to check out the “scene”.  I stopped at tourist information place and grabbed some pamphlets and started to wander.  On a side note, by this point my crazy awesome and very pricey Frye boots are starting to kill my feet (very early on in the day).  (They were supposed to stretch out.  So far so such luck.  Errr.)  I stop in at the couple of small galleries and museums.  I took some pictures between the raindrops…

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An interesting window display.

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A set of funky fountains.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA And this massive guy, looming over what I think is a library.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I’m just about to declare that Basel has been a bit of a bust when I notice the the pamphlet for this place…

If you are rusty on your Swiss German, it is the Basel Paper Mill – The Swiss Museum of Paper, Writing and Printing.

This was by far the highlight of Basel. It was super informative, it was hands-on and in a really cool old historic building.

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Here is the first ever paper machine.

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One of the many old printing presses that were housed in the museum.

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And then there was this guy, just hangin’ out with molten metal, throwing it in to the old fashioned typeset molds and making some letters.

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When I was there he was working on some A’s.

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But I’m sure he would get o other letters so he could do things like this.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA They even had some history on toilet paper.  Little tidbit for you….apparently the Swiss and the Germans are “folders” and use less TP, but because of that their toilet paper is thinker and rougher.  The rest of the world tend to be “ballers” requiring more TP, but it then can be thinner and softer.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA But by far the BEST part was learning about the paper making process.  Did you know that paper in Switzerland was originally made from rags that were left to decompose? Maybe because I’m from Canada the land of trees o’plenty, but I just always assumed paper had always come from trees/plants of some sort.  Not the case.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The process was basically this:  you take the rags, let them decompose till they are more malable, you grind them up ad  water till you have a paste type material, then add more water, put it in a vat with the rag particulate floating in it, put your screen into the mixture, pull it up, dump out excess water, use a vice to squeeze out more water and then hang the sheets to dry!

And guess what?  I got to make my own paper!  Yes sir, I made two whole sheets of paper the old fashioned way.  How fun it that?  Check out my beauties…

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Have you ever seen more lovely paper?  I didn’t think so.

Anyhoo, I know I’m going on about it but it really was a highlight of Basel.  If you are ever there I highly recommend you stop in.

XOXO,

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