alta lake + 23

Alike most, I am well and truly into the swing of self isolation and buying everything that pops up on my Instagram ads; obviously because I need it and I can’t possibly live without. The only time that I am not at home is when I go to the grocery store for an “adventure”. To be honest, I don’t not like it. After getting over the fact that I had to spend my twenty third birthday in isolation, I’ve developed a nice little routine and I’ve had time to do things that I enjoy.

I get up at about 7.30am and have a fuelling snack whilst logging some feelings, goals for the day and gratitude. With this perspective, I then do my workout. I’ve been using the ‘Keep it Cleaner’ app as a motivational tool to get up and get moving, and follow this with a weights program. Jordan already had a lot of equipment from when he was younger that we were able to dust off and start flingin’ around. Karen, my mother in law, has also been consistently coming down to the deck to join in the workouts with me. Karen’s involvement and interest has kept me driven and accountable.

Breakfast is next on the list and is arguably my favourite time of the day. I’m talking fried eggs, wholemeal bread, cheese and sautéed onion, spinach, mushrooms and broccoli with moroccan seasoning, and some smokey bbq sauce on the side. Some home made kombucha and most likely a coffee, accompanied by a comfy couch and some comedy or motivational tv show on Netflix. A complete recipe for the best breakfast and what I’d be requesting as my last meal on death row.

That’s my morning. It’s usually followed by some tidying, reading, stretching, cooking/baking, going for a walk, listening to a podcast, editing photos, playing music, watching some tv and, of course, scrolling through Instagram; because that weird shaving butter, discounted leggings and fruit enzyme face mask ain’t gon’ buy themselves.

For the moment, I’m feeling content, whole and aware of my thoughts and feelings. I’m wanting to double down on my night routine, to aim for better quality sleep and encourage more productiveness the following day. I’m making sure the weekend is the weekend by relaxing to the max on ‘doona days’ with a couple drinks and indulgent foods. It’s been nice looking forward to something other than a trip to the grocery store.

On another note, I’ve been looking at some photos taken in the last week we were in Whistler and realised that I hadn’t yet posted them. We had just been laid off and, day by day, the village became a ghost town. Everyone that worked for the mountain was hanging out by the grocery/liquor store or down at Alta lake, so we headed down with a couple of subs and ciders to check out the frozen lake and enjoy the sunshine.

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somewhere over the rainbow

Most days went along the lines of ‘Eat, Sleep, Gym, Repeat’ up until we started work. In between, we chatted within our new estate and became friends with Rachel and Emma. Steering away from going crazy (and only just avoiding it), we ventured out to Rainbow Falls, positioned on the opposite side of Alta Lake; a somewhat short distance. We took a taxi from Whistler Village to the base of the trail (we probably could have walked but.. the more you know, right?) So, fresh and ready we spend fifteen minutes looking for a trail leading in the direction of Rainbow Falls. Clueless, we begin to walk into the forest.

We eventually figured out where we were going, only to have been confused as to whether we passed Rainbow Falls or not (we did). A lovely, serene walk all the same and a perfect time to take in the cool, fresh air and appreciate mother nature.

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lost lake

We arrived in Whistler a day before my first day of work. Unfortunately, things didn’t go quite to plan. I worked approximately ten hours over the span of a month before I even had part time work. Jordan didn’t start work till later in the season either. This made it tricky. Moving to a new country is a big change, let alone a very popular ski resort. It felt like we were bleeding money, with the expensive groceries and rent. We tried to settle in, but without working and earning money, we were going stir crazy.  With the lack of snow, the mountains were far from being opened. We tried our best to stay positive and busy, structuring our days well, eating well and staying active. We purchased a six month membership at The Core gym, conveniently located in the centre of the village, of which we religiously attended daily. Thank goodness for the house we were assigned, as many of the units in other housing complexes didn’t even have a stove. Blessed with a full kitchen, dining and lounge area, we made the most of these spaces. As a way of looking forward to something and goal setting, we made plans each week to go on a hike or do something inexpensive, as there wasn’t anything coming in. In those weeks, one of the hikes we did was to Lost Lake.

Lost Lake is quite close to Whistler Village and doesn’t require a car or bus ride. We took the path leading through Upper Village, in means of checking out more of the area, and got onto the Valley Trail there. A beautiful and breezy walk, with clear paths the entire way. Once at Lost Lake, there are tables and a bbq and areas to lay down a picnic rug. We walked all the way around the lake, as the sun went down, then took a trail right into the village (well the car park just outside the village, but you get the idea).

We met a lovely person on the lake that was particularly interested in our stories and how we came to Canada. She insisted on taking our photos with my camera. She told us about some of the good value places to eat and visit and a bit about the mountain and other hikes we could do. So happy and friendly.

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straight out of a tony hawk video game

If you know, you know.

The Whistler Train Wreck has been a popular attraction for many years, drawing in travellers of all ages. I’d seen a couple of photos from when Jordan last visited this abandoned train site and I had always wanted to explore it myself. Astoundingly, five years later, I am lucky enough to be lacing up my boots and slinging a camera over my shoulder, ready to wander the British Columbian forests with my partner in crime.

South of Function Junction, near Cheakamus River, lies the abandoned boxcars. The train turned a rail, back in the 1950’s, after speeding through an area that was under repair. The wreck happened in a rock cut, where the boxcars, loaded with lumber, became jammed and blocked the track. The Valleau family, now considered pioneer loggers in the Whistler area, used their logging machinery to pry some of the boxcars free. They were moved down into the forest, where they have become a free-for-all canvas for the creative minds of Whistler.

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italy / day eighteen / cinque terre

It’s been a dream of mine to hike Cinque Terre and see the incredible towns that make up this iconic landscape and we are finally here! As we were only staying in Cinque Terre for two full days, the plan was to take the train to Riommagiore, which is the most southern of the towns, and walk to the central town, going through Manarola and ending up in Corniglia. The next day would consist of catching the train back to Corniglia and continuing the same track through Vernazza and finishing our hike in Monterosso al Mare.

Up early and down to the esplanade for an outdoor workout involving some, perhaps, odd uses of playground equipment and park benches. It also seemed like a good idea to stop in at the shops, so we swing pass the local corner store and grab some breakfast and snacks for the road. Breakfast consisted of preserved peaches, muesli and yoghurt.

We take the rather expensive train to Riommagiore and call in at the information desk. She gives us a map and explains the many different trails. We tried our best to follow her instructions but actually ended up really lost. After an hour or so of walking back and forth trying to find the beginning of the trail, a passerby local notices our confusion and shows us the way. He points us in the direction of the path, which disappears over a very, very steep mountain. Hesitant, we climb a couple fences and tip toe through some gardens before our ascent.

A couple minutes into our climb and we realise that this track is absolutely insane. The stairs are so steep and seem never ending. The madly overgrown path leads us traipsing through vineyards and veggie patches. It was slightly disturbing not having passed a single soul.

Eventually, we did reach the top and yes, it was a true path. A sign at the top of the cliff informed us that in the 1920’s, this thoroughfare had been the only connection between the two coastal towns.. eep!

The view was amazing and I must say, I felt extremely proud!

Jordan and I continue along the trail as it dives into a steep descent. At the bottom of the trail we come across some makeshift gates and a large sign reading ‘KEEP OUT’ (then I remembered the person at the information desk had said that one of the main tracks was closed for maintenance.. oops!)

We stopped briefly in Manarola, refuelling with a slice of pizza, rice thins smothered in raspberry jam, and a crap load of water. We easily spot the next section of the trail and move with uncertainty, as to what may be in store.

The path seems all well and good until… MORE STAIRS!

The course took us through Volastra, as the shorter path that followed the coast was also closed. Once at the top, we suck on an ice block and cool down in the shade. The next section was mostly flat giving us nice views of the ocean. The mountain, on either side of the track, was covered in vineyards, and not a style I was familiar with. Instead of running in long rows, they were more of a canopy style that sat approximately a metre or so off the ground. Meaning that the fruit needed to be handpicked from underneath the trestle, as the fruit hung down; very old school!

Once we reached the outskirts of Corniglia (thank goodness), my legs started to get super heavy and the train station seemed aeons away. I flopped myself down another million flights of stairs to the platform and we board a train, taking it two stops on to Monterosso al Mare. Exhausted, we trudge down the esplanade towards our lodge for a nice long shower.

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We dine close by at a local restaurant, ‘La Traverna‘, and try not to order everything on the menu. We got a pizza to share, some red wine and lasagne. In all honesty, it was one of the best lasagnes that I’ve ever had. The chefs used herb infused pasta sheets and the sauce rich and full of flavour and I don’t know why it was soo good, but it just was!

italy / day nineteen / cinque terre

We skip the workout this morning, but still hit the shops for snacks to enjoy on part two of our hike. Nice and early, we board the train back to Corniglia to pick up where we had left off. With yesterdays knowledge, we bring our earphones this time and I simply wear shorts and a crop top from the get go – after sweating like crazy in the sun.

The path between Corniglia and Vernazza was extremely busy, some tourists were even wearing thongs! We also had to buy a €7.50/e ticket to walk the next two towns on the SVA trail. This track was a lot more shadier, but boy, was it still hot! We chucked in our earphones for the most part and there were many flat sections in between the stairs, making it a very enjoyable hike.

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Vernazza was one of my favourite towns. The main street was lined with street food vendors and rustic styled shops. Colourful buildings shadowed the street filled hustle and bustle of locals and travellers. Many boats fill the docks, surrounded by even more people and eateries. We munched on some really tasty pizza squares on the jetty, taking in the Italian spring air.

The path quiets down a bit, making the wacky trail a little easier to combat, and it takes us about three hours to complete the last section. The views were absolutely  breathtaking, especially as we descended into Monterosso al Mare. We reward ourselves with some gelato and a dunk in the icy cold ocean. My legs soon went numb and the ‘ice bath’ was very enjoyable. Although cold, the water felt different to home, almost soft.

The food was just too good at ‘La Taverna‘, so we went back for another serving of their amazing lasagne.

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italy / day seventeen / cinque terre

Jordan and I get up early and sneak in a workout before breakfast, then pick up some freshly washed clothes from the dry cleaners and some food for the train ride to Cinque Terre. We finished packing up our things and said ‘arrevedici’ to Roma. The train took approximately four hours to Pisa, from there we changed trains towards La Spezia, then onto the private line, Cinque Terre Express. I love travelling by train and seeing the countryside.

There are five main towns that make up Cinque Terre: Riommagiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare. We got off at Monterosso al Mare station and stepped into another world; a magical esplanade overlooking a sea of multicoloured beach umbrellas and crystal-like water. After filling our lungs with the new vacation air, we headed in the direction of our hotel, where we soon dumped our luggage and took a stroll to stretch our legs. We spied a cool, rustic pizza place on our saunter and grabbed a couple pizzas for dinner. We set up camp on the beach and enjoyed some cheesy slices of heaven as the sun went down.

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italy / day thirteen / roma

Woke up and got straight into a HIIT workout on the small balcony of our hotel room, involving body weight exercises like squats and push ups. Managed to actually get up a good sweat, though super missing going to the gym.

Scheduled in today was a trip to the Borghese Gallery, as Pop had already organised us tickets 6 weeks prior. Pop knew the tickets sell out very quickly and have to be booked in advance, as it is unlikely you will have the opportunity to purchase them at the door. Thankfully he snapped some up for us to visit the gallery at 1pm. We took a train to Spagna where we took the Park exit and made our way to the gallery to check in, as you need to be there one hour prior. This gave us some time to wander around the lively parklands in the middle of the city. Everything was so green and the air was so fresh. There was lots of tourists, buskers, painters, dogs, runners and so many children. Lots of people had hired these 2/4 seater bicycle carts and were riding them on the wide paths around the park, under the trees.

Borghese Gallery was amazing. The once Villa, now a widely renowned tourist attraction, home to the Borghese collection of paintings, sculptures and antiquities. You’re given a two hour time frame to gaze in awe at the ceilings and explore the many rooms in this mansion. Although you are shuffling along with the crowd, it is a small price to pay for the beauty that beholds this place. Many of my favourite paintings/sculptures are housed in this very spot.

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We walked back in the direction of the train station via the city, stumbling upon the Spanish Steps. We spent the rest of the day wandering the city, down to Vatican City, Castello D’angelo, along the river to Tiber Island, where we got a sweet treat of Tiramisu gelato. We kept walking until we wound up at Circo Massimo train station and headed on home. We had dinner at a restaurant around the corner from our hotel.

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italy / day ten / otranto / gallipoli

Started the day off with a great spread in the old tannery, then made our plan of attack for the day. We only had one day but we wanted to fit in the equivalent of two day trips. The lady at the reception wished us well, even though I’m sure she didn’t believe in us. Via train, we travelled to Otranto, a village on the coast. A short walk from the station through the suburbs and the path spits you out right in front of the most magical, crystal clear turquoise waters; extremely inviting for an afternoon dip.

 

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We walked along the esplanade admiring the boats and watching the little fishies swim around the rocks. We temporarily lost Pop for a bit and went on a search. Lots of little shops lined the narrow streets, selling touristy gizmos and local knick knacks. We eventually found Pop after scouting out the colourful streets.

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We take a brisk walk back to the station to catch the next train back to Maglie, to then go to Gallipoli, in the opposite direction. This worked well for the most part, until a heard of teenage kids suddenly appear on the platform and pile into the same little carriage of a train, heading to the same destination as us. Luckily they all got off about half way through and we could stretch our legs a little more.

 

At the final stop, the driver pointed us in the direction of the older town, down to the port. Although the salty wind whistled up the main road and it was much chillier, we couldn’t go past this ginormous gelateria. As we approached, the old town could be seen clearly as the mainland was separated by a bridge and a castle stood tall and proud, just to the left. The receptionist had given us some free tickets to actually go inside, which ended up being really cool.

 

 

Passing through the cobbled streets, we tried some pistachio liqueur and a traditional biscuit, taralli. I found this beautiful olive oil bottle that I bought to use in our new house. A leisurely walk to the point at the edge of the town, we grabbed some dinner and sat outside overlooking the ocean as the sun went down. Pasta and fish was on the menu.

 

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On the way back to the station, I had neglected to realise that the trip back to Maglie was actually only half way by train and the other half by bus; which we spent another thirty minutes waiting for. Whilst we waited for the bus, very late at night in the middle of nowhere with very little people around, we got chatting to a friendly, frizzy haired guy holding a guitar and his friend. Turns out he was a pretty serious 16 year old musician, with big dreams. I participated in the music jargon and whipped out a jazz tune. It was really fun.

 

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italy / day nine / maglie

Jord and I fit in another workout at the awesome hotel gym, then fill up at breakfast before some more train travel. Maglie was the destination, but we stopped off in Lecce on the way wanting to explore the town. Our bags went into a storage locker not too far from the train station and we walked into town. The town was full of gorgeous old sandstone coloured buildings and plenty of people. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to explore inside any of the buildings because most things were closed from 12.30pm til 4pm, which is exactly the time that we were there – of course! So we had a look around but decided to continue on to Maglie. We got some Gelato first though!

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Once in Maglie, we talked to some locals at the station and they directed us to our hotel, Corte dei Francesi. Once a tannery back in the day, now transformed into a very comfortable series of room and communal dining area, elegantly decorated in a  bohemian chic style. We dropped our bags off and went for a stroll around the town.

I noticed there wasn’t many kids, the place was quite lively and there was an abundance of shops, everything from food and wine, to high end shopping. I was intrigued in a little bottle shop where an array of oak barrels full of wine, lined the entirety of one wall. The man working there ran us through a wine tasting, talking to us about the local varietals. From memory, we tasted Negroamaro, Malvasia and Verdeca.

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After some thoughtful consideration, we went back to the hotel after having no luck finding somewhere to eat. The kind receptionist gave us some recommendations and made a booking for us. We were the only ones in the restaurant for most of the dinner as they had accepted us earlier than their opening time; as everyone eats dinner so late! I tried a dessert called Spumoni, it was delish!

 

italy / day eight / matera

After all the pasta and breads, olive oil and wine, I was so excited to get to the well equiped hotel gym downstairs, that I barely slept! Jordan and I headed down to basement and I had a really good arms session. We had a quick shower and then enjoyed a westernised style breakfast buffet, whilst going over plans for the day. Today we were going to Matera, in the small region of Basilicata, approximately an hour, by train, out of Bari. The ancient neighbourhood, namely Sassi, are a series of caverns carved out of limestone, nestled in a small canyon.

On arrival, we picked up a map of the Sassi and a punnet of strawberries for our journey. We soon made sense of the layout, breaking it up into a distinct New Town, Old Town, and in my opinion, Very Old Town. The train station is higher up and you could basically follow any of the streets down towards the main square. From there, it’s more of a wander and get lost kind of situation. I loved this, as the small number of tourists that were there just dispersed and you were solely there to immerse yourself in the seemingly small, but literally huge Sassi.

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Mid afternoon refuel of pizza bread and fruit smoothie, and we were back exploring the Sassi. Closer to the ravine, deeper into the town, there were many empty grottoes ready for me to explore; semi fenced off but not really.

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After farewelling the enchanting Matera, we ate at one of the only eateries we could find in Bari, Tankard Gastropub. We put some washing on at the laundromat across the road, whilst eating some delicious ribs and salad. The person manning the venue was lovely and so helpful with the menu, even though he couldn’t speak a drop of english. It was one of the tastiest meals we had.

To this day, Matera is one of the most incredible, absolutely magical places I’ve ever been and is seriously underrated. If you’re going to Italy and not sure whether to go, as it is a bit out of the way, I’m telling you now, it is 110% worth it.