For the first time, I ventured to a place not called Europe and instead made my way to the Mayan Riviera in Mexico. This was my first tropical vacation and I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the Mayan ruins in Tulum with a group of great friends. In fact, my only requirement for this tropical vacation was a chance at exploring the Mayan ruins in Tulum or Chichen Itza. Tequila and tropical drinks flowed liberally and we survived the heat by lounging by the pool and beach, taking a trip to Tulum, and of course, enjoying a Cerveza or five. It was a glorious vacation and one that I will make again in the future.
Exploring the Mayan ruins in Tulum
Tulum entrance – Mayan Ruins
Tulum was built in the late thirteenth century on the Caribbean coast as a seaport. Tulum actually means “wall” which is accurate as it is a walled city. It stands 12 metres (40 ft) up the cliffs with a majestic castle looking down on the beach. The city may have been called Zama, City of Dawn, and was an important trade route as well as a place of worship. It is estimated that as many as 1500 inhabitants occupied these lands.
The Maya civilization consisted of small states ruled by a king; similar to the Greek city-states. Their civilization still exists as the Maya can still be found in the area to this day. The peak of their civilization came between the 3rd and 10th centuries, where numerous cities flourished. But drought, deforestation, war, and the arrival of the Spanish all may have contributed to their decline.
Cenote – Mayan Ruins at Tulum
We booked a day trip from our resort to visit Tulum and ended up with the most delightful guide, Mio. He was quite knowledgable and entertaining. It was a bit of a hike from the parking lot but once you saw the ruins, it was a worth the walk. The ruins are in pretty good shape and you get such lovely views of the beach and Caribbean Sea from up on those cliffs.
Temple of the Descending God at Tulum
There were so many highlights at Tulum but one of my favourites is the Castle below. It is just simply spectacular. The Maya were known for their pyramid building and cenotes (caves).
Pyramid El Castillo at Tulum
Tips for Tulum
I recommend a guided tour – there are many options and you cannot go wrong with a knowledgeable guide who will get you to Tulum and fill you with its history and background
It was damn hot – bring water. Bring an umbrella and dress cool. Yes do not forget a hat and sunscreen
Go early in the day if possible
There is a fair bit of walking so bring good shoes – I had some nice walking sandals. Perfect!
Bring your bathing suit to go swimming if you have time. We did not but next time!
Have you been to Mexico? What was your favourite tropical spot? What trips are you planning next? Next up is a trip to Europe this fall: Budapest, Hungary; Bratislava, Slovakia; Vienna and Salzburg, Austria; and Munich, Germany.
Another Olympics and another Canadian hockey gold. Aside from a silver at their debut in 1998 games in Nagano, Canada has won all other hockey gold in women’s hockey at the Olympics. They are an impressive team lead by hockey goddess, Hayley Wickenhauser, who has played in each Olympics since its debut. I planned my Olympic adventure for many years and made sure I got my hockey gold ticket. These are the best pictures as I usually take as I was very into the game and quickly snapped a few.
Sochi 2014 Olympic Hockey Women: Canada vs USA
Once again, the two best teams in the world, Canada and the United States, were expected to plow through the Sochi 2014 Olympic Hockey tournament with ease and make it to the gold medal game. Aside from one upset by the Swedes in 2006, the gold medal game has been contested by Canada and the United States. While the Swedes and Finns are improving, it is still a two nation sport.
In Sochi, the Americans lost to the Canadians in the round robin but it was a close game which set the stage for an exciting and magical gold medal game. I had travelled a very long way to watch this game and was expecting a thrilling game. In fact, 2014 had a more exciting and dramatic finish to the game than Canada’s victory in 2010. It even rivaled Crosby’s overtime goal on home ice at the Vancouver 2010 game (yes I was there)!
Sochi 2014 Olympic Hockey Women: Victory for Canada
It was another tight and interesting game. First period was tight with lots of penalties but no scoring. Americans scored in the second and early in the third. As the clock ticked down, it was looking more and more likely the Americans would win their first gold medal since 1998. However, Canada did not give up. With under four minutes to go, Canada finally scored and the crowd had something to cheer for finally. The Russian fans were cheering along with us Canadians. I think the Canadian fans outnumbered the Americans 2-1 already so with the Russians, the arena was overwhelming rocking in favour of Canada.
Down one goal and with less than two minutes to go, Canada pulled the goalie to get an extra attacker on the ice. The goal was empty and the Americans ALMOST scored. It hit the post. Wow!! And then not long after, Canada tied it up and we were going to overtime.
Sochi 2014 Olympic Hockey Women: Victory for Canada again
Canada took a penalty in overtime but it was negated quickly when the American took one themselves. Teams played 3 on 3 for a short spell until the Americans hauled down Wickenhauser who was on a breakaway. It probably should have been a penalty shot but no worries, Canada took the powerplay and didn’t look back. Marie-Philip Poulin scored the golden goal (and the tying goal) and the arena went nuts.
Sochi 2014 Olympic Hockey Women: The Queen of hockey, Hayley Wickenhauser
I am four for four for hockey gold medal games: two in Vancouver and two in Sochi. The two best, men in 2010 and women in 2014, ended up in overtime victories (thank you Poulin and Crosby). I must be Canada’s lucky charm. See you Pyeongchang in 2018.
Sochi 2014 Olympic Hockey Women Team Canada Picture
A trip to Germany is not complete without visiting a castle or two. Germany was my first solo adventure and I had the best time. From enjoying my time at Oktoberfest to taking a trip to Eagle’s Nest, it was a blast. My favourite is still probably Neuschwanstein Castle.
The most majestic of all the castles is Neuschwanstein Castle located near the village of Hohenschwangau and the town of Füssen in Bavaria, Germany. With over a million visitors a year, Neuschwanstein Castle is one of the most popular castles in Germany and all of Europe.
Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany
The man behind the castle is almost as infamous: King Ludwig II of Bavaria. You may recognize him by a more well-known moniker: the Mad King Ludwig or the Fairytale King.
King Ludwig commissioned the castle in the mid-19th century as an homage to the great German composer Richard Wagner. Many of the rooms are inspired by Wagner’s operas as well as medieval Germany. Sadly, Wagner never visited the castle as he died before its completion. Walt Disney fashioned his castle in Sleeping Beauty after Neuschwanstein Castle.
Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany
Building commenced in 1868 following the death of Ludwig’s grandfather (Ludwig I) which freed up money that was previously spent on the abdicated King’s estate. The great castle was never completely finished due to Ludwig’s perfectionism (it is missing the all important throne in the throne room) but Ludwig did move into Neuschwanstein Castle in 1884 but only spent 172 days total in it. Ludwig died in 1886 under very mysterious circumstances; he died together with the psychiatrist who had certified him insane, after being deposed only days earlier.
Neuschwanstein is located in such a fairytale location: situated in the Alps in Bavaria, on top of a hill overlooking a beautiful village and valley. On the day that I visited Neuschwanstein Castle, it was rainy, cloudy and misty. Unfortunately, I was not able to see the iconic views of Neuschwanstein Castle on the Marienbrücke (Marie’s bridge which was named after his mother, Marie Friederike of Prussia).
Neuschwanstein Castle by Valerio Bruscianelli via Creative Commons
Neuschwanstein Castle was open to the public a mere six weeks after Ludwig’s death, filling the coffers of his successors.
Tips for Visiting Neuschwanstein Castle
You may only enter the interior of the castle via a guided tour. I recommend to buy your tickets online to save time; the queue can get quite long. A reservation fee is required on top of the 12 euros to visit or more if you include the other castles and museum (1.8 euros which is reasonable to me) and you must purchase tickets online 2 days before your visit. Tickets can be collected from the Ticket-Center in Hohenschwangau (separate window for reservations) on the day of your visit (bring your written confirmation)
Guided tours are in English and German. If you do not speak these languages, you may purchase an audio guide in Japanese, French, Spanish, Italian, Czech, Slovenian, Russian, Polish, Chinese (Mandarin), Portuguese, Hungarian, Greek, Dutch, Korean, Thai and Arabic
Note for the hiking trail: it may occasionally be inaccessible due to rock-slides – this will not affect visiting the castle nor guided tours
No photography is allowed inside the castle and the tour lasts about 30 minutes
Transportation to Neuschwanstein Castle is simple: train, bus or car
It is a steep walk from the ticket centre – it takes at least half an hour. You may shorten that by hopping on the horse-drawn carriage where you only need to walk about 10 minutes. Price is 6 euros up and 3 euros down the hill
There is also a shuttle bus but as with the horse carriage, it does not take you all the way to the top but stops a bit short. The bus takes you to the lookout point Marienbrücke so you have a short walk downhill to the castle. Departure point: Schlosshotel Lisl, Neuschwansteinstraße and the price is 1.8 euros up and 1 euro down (return 2.6 euros)
Opening hours: 28 March to 15 October: 9 am-6 pm and 16 October to 27 March: 10 am-4 pm
View of Hohenschwangau Castle from Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany
So have you been to Neuschwanstein Castle? Or how about some of the other castles such as Linderhof or Hohenschwangau? Bavaria has the best castles in Germany!
I started this blog about a year ago and I was lucky enough to have help from my cousin in the setup. In particular, she was able to help with the self-hosting aspect of the blog. Over the course of the year, I simply posted articles on my travels and did not worry about much else. Lately, I have wondered more and more about making this blog a bit more successful. I recently finished a travel blogging course with Amanda from A Dangerous Business. Her Travel Blogging Course has given me some great tips and ideas on topics ranging from self-hosting to branding to media kits.
This is a 12 week course – Amanda emails you weekly lessons. There is also a private Facebook group so you may interact with current and former course participants. The weekly lessons also include optional assignments plus two skype one-on-one calls with Amanda during the course.
Some of the topics include: helping you set-up your blog and self-hosting it; don’t let your blog die; branding; crash course in social media; self-promotion; SEO and what you need to know; your blog as a business; and creating a media kit and a solid pitch.
So head over to A Dangerous Business and sign up Amanda’s Travel Blogging Course. The next session starts September 10th and costs $249.
Who is the Course for?
You do not need to be a newbie blogger. I already had a self-hosted website, I was already on social media, and I had been posting for eight months so some of the early lessons were too basic for me but there was always a tip or two that I did not know and could use for my blog. The information in the later weeks is outstanding particularly media kits and breaking into the travel blogging community. I will start implementing some of the new ideas this fall and putting together my first media kit so you should be seeing changes in the next month.
Was it Worth it?
I was hesitant to pay $250 for a travel blogging course but I decided to go for it and it was worth it. As I mentioned above, the early sessions are basic for those who already have set up your blog and done some posting already. But there is always something in each lesson you can use to improve your blog: maybe it’s a plugin or a tip on how often you should post on social media. And the later sessions are essential to improving your blog if you wish to get into media kits and pitching companies.
If you want to focus more on branding or consider yourself more of an intermediate or experienced blogger, Amanda also has a second course, Working with Brands. I have not taken this course yet but I am planning to in the future (the next session is in October and costs $100). This course will focus more on making pitches to companies: what to include in the pitch and how your media kit should look.
*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own.
Lake Louise is a lovely lake and small village in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada. It is surrounded by the Rocky Mountains and the massive resort called Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. You will need to spend an arm plus part of a leg to stay there. A visit to Lake Louise Canada is worth a few days. There are numerous lakes to visit as well as hiking and icefields to see.
All my photos posted today are completely original, without any filters or adjustments, and from my simple point-and-shoot camera. I had issues with my fancy new camera so had to rely on my point and shoot and it did a decent job. Lake Louise Canada and its surrounding lakes are truly this beautiful: they need no editing.
What Lakes to See:
Lake Louise obviously tops the list; it was named after Queen Victoria’s daughter. You can rent a canoe as well as hike around the lake. The emerald/blue colour is a result of the rock flour, which is fine powdery rock that has been crushed and ground by the glacier, carried into the lake by the melting of the Victoria Glacier
Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada
Lake Moraine is a short drive from Lake Louise and a must-see. One can hike around the shoreline to the other end for great views of the lake and mountains (Valley of the Ten Peaks) or climb the rock pile for a startling view of the lake’s vibrant blue colour. You may also rent a boat here; it is open from June to early October
Lake Moraine Alberta Canada
Peyto Lake is probably my favourite of all these lakes – the colours were so bright and vibrant! Peyto is another glacier-fed lake so you once again get those great colours. It is a short drive from Lake Louise (around 35 minutes) on the Icefields Parkway. You have two options: park at bottom and walk up or park at the top (bus parking lot) and there it is. I parked at the bottom and hiked up. It does have a bit of a steep incline so if you have mobility issues, park at the top. You may also hike another 3 km to the Bow Summit Lookout from the Lake Peyto viewing platform. This is a nice stop either on your to or from the Columbia Icefield (more on that in an upcoming post)
Lake Peyto Alberta
Bow Lake is not far from Lake Peyto. The turquoise blue water is the source of the Bow River and you can also view the Bow Glacier in the background
Bow Lake Alberta
Herbert Lake is a few miles from Lake Louise village. I recommend stopping here first thing in the morning to get that reflection on the water: I just love reflections off the water
Herbert Lake Alberta
Where to Stay:
If you wish to splurge, the Fairmont Chateau overlooking Lake Louise is the place to stay. Remember, it’s a big hit to your pocketbook ($350++). Otherwise, there are a few other accommodations that are more affordable but they are a few miles from the Lake if you don’t mind. There are a couple hostels as well and there is always the option of staying overnight in Banff, which is about 45 minutes from Lake Louise. This all depends on your price range and whether you don’t mind staying a bit further away
Other smaller hotels or resorts can be had for $150-300 – all depends how far in advance. Do not wait to the last-minute (I might have done that – ch-ching)
What You Need to Know:
Lake Louise Canada is a short drive from Calgary: around 2 hours
You are entering Banff National Park and are therefore required to pay an entrance fee. Daily fee ranges from $9.80 for adult to $4.90 for youth. You may also purchase an annual pass if you plan to enter the park numerous times in the season. For more info on park fees, visit Parks Canada
Wear layers – the temperature can get quite cool even during the summer months
If you’re driving, the parking lots get VERY full mid-day so if you can, go early. That is especially true for Lakes Louise and Moraine
Just a few tips for visiting the Lake Louise area: these are my top lakes to visit. Especially if you love the mountain backdrop (reminds me of my visit to Eagle’s Nest, Germany), Lake Louise Canada is for you. There are many other things to do such as visiting canyons, taking a gondola ride, etc but you cannot miss out on these lakes. Next up: visiting the Columbia Icefield. Stay tuned.
So have you visited Lake Louise? What are your favourite lakes??
During my two-week tour of Ireland several years ago, there were two highlights: the delightful basalt columns of the Giant’s Causeway and the Cliffs of Moher. Both sights are impressive and are a great geological marvel. The Cliffs were formed in the Upper Carboniferous Period, around 319 million years ago and consist of shale and sandstone.
Cliffs of Moher, Ireland – view from the northern platform
The Cliffs of Moher Ireland (County Clare) are located on the western Irish coastline where it meets the Atlantic Ocean. They stand 214 meters (702 feet) at their highest point and stretch for 8 kilometers (5 miles). There are two platforms you can take a view of the Cliffs – north and south platforms. I ventured up the North side where the O’Brien Tower is located. Depending on how much time you have, you can go up both sides. You’ll need at least two hours to climb both sides (probably more). It is a bit of a climb. If you have more time, you can walk 5 km to Doolin or hike the coastal trail which coverages 20 km.
Cliffs of Moher in Ireland – view north from the north platform
O’Brien’s Tower is located on the North platform. It was built in the 1830s by Cornelius O’Brien, a descendant of the Kings of Thomond. It is a wonderful observation point. A million tourists visit the Cliffs of Moher Ireland each year.
O’Brien’s Tower at Cliffs of Moher, Ireland
Price is 6 euros for adults; children under 16 are free; Seniors are 4 euros
Additional 2 euros (1 for children) to access the rooftop area in O’Brien’s Tower
It is open year-round but hours will change during season – always open at 9 am and closes at 5 pm in winter and between 6:00-7:30 in the spring and 9:00 pm in July/August. For more info, visit the official website
You can stay after the visitor centre closes onsite in case you wish to get a sunset photo (no limit to parking)
Bring a sweater because it gets quite windy up on the platforms even during the summer months
If you wish to photograph Puffins, they are around from late March to mid July and the best play to view them is from the south platform
Have you been to the Cliffs? What are your thoughts?
When Vancouver was awarded the 2010 winter Olympics, the most important event to snag tickets to was the men’s hockey gold medal game. Everyone in Canada wanted that ticket: hockey gold was the only thing that mattered. Canada had recently won its first men’s Olympic gold in 2002 in fifty years but to win on home soil would be a great accomplishment. During planning my Vancouver Olympic adventure, the hockey gold medal game was on my mind. I set up three accounts for me, mom and dad. I submitted my main request on my account and the two gold medal games for the men and women on my parent’s account. I was hoping to hit one.
Olympic Flame, Vancouver 2010
Getting Tickets for Hockey Gold
Ticket demand was so high for the Vancouver Olympics, a lottery was held for 120 of 170 events.
There was 140,000 requests alone for the men’s hockey gold medal game out of a possible of 4000 tickets in an arena that had about 13,000 tickets available. The rest went to the media or sponsors.
During the initial ticket request, you submitted your request plus an alternate for that day/time. I submitted about $7500 in my original ticket request. I ended up with only 10% of my original request. I did not know how many other opportunities there would be to buy tickets. For my most recent trip to the Sochi Olympics, I posted my tips for planning an Olympic spectator trip and how to get tickets.
During my original request, I was lucky enough that my mom won the lottery and received a ticket for the men’s hockey gold medal game.
Vancouver 2010 Olympics – Gold for Men’s Hockey
During the next year, I was able to get tickets to the women’s hockey gold medal game to go with the men’s game. Leading up the Olympics, I was unsure if I would sell the ticket or gamble and hope Canada would make the final. I could probably have sold it for $5000 or more but I decided to hang in and wait. I could always sell during the games if Canada faltered.
Canada had a slow start at the Olympics, worrying the whole country. The media were particularly wrapped up in the “Canada has never won a gold medal on home soil” narrative while the rest of the country was not; we wanted medals but didn’t care that gold had never happened in 1988 Calgary nor 1976 Montreal. We knew it would happen. In the end, Canada would finish first on the medal count: gold medal count is the one that matters according to the IOC and most countries (except the US of course); Canada broke the record of total gold medals with 14 (Russia failed to break that number in Sochi).
I arrived in Vancouver during the second week. After attending a few events, I had grabbed a last-minute ticket to the men’s quarterfinal hockey game. Canada had a rough round-robin and had to beat a qualifier to make that game but I was pretty sure they’d take out the pesky Germans, which they did. They would face the Russians in the quarters, a match that should have been the final. The Russians are our hockey nemesis; sorry America, you are not. I wanted to beat Russia for gold!
Going for Hockey Gold: Canada vs Russia in Vancouver 2010
Canada came out like a team on a mission against the Russians. It was complete domination; surprising considering the Russian lineup but Canada had just as much firepower and came out on top 7-3.
Canada played Slovakia in the semi-final. I did not get a ticket to that game (I had one for the other semi-final but sold it). I figured Canada would domination Slovakia easily and I’d be waiting for them in the gold medal game. Yeah that game was too close for comfort and Canada squeaked out a 3-2 victory. I made it back to my hotel to watch the end of the game as I was watching Canada choke in the women’s curling gold medal game.
My patience had FINALLY paid off: I would be attending the gold medal hockey game as Canada went for gold against the USA. USA had ridden their hot goalie Ryan Miller into the gold medal game, shocking pretty much everyone who didn’t think they stood a chance. Hot goaltending can shake up predictions!
Canada vs USA – Hockey Gold
I had the men’s hockey gold ticket for over a year. I resisted the urge to sell. I had planned to attend the game all along; I knew Canada had to make it. It was the only option. Of course, I would have sold the ticket in a heartbeat if Canada had succumb earlier but my persistence paid off. I had the hottest ticket in the land and soon, I would watch one of the most exciting hockey gold medal games , ever! It would be one of the most important hockey victories in Canadian history: I still place it behind Paul Henderson’s sweet goal against the Soviets in 1972 Summit Series but winning hockey gold on home soil is a pretty damn close second. I wasn’t even alive during the Summit Series and I still place that as number one!
I was in the lower bowl, behind the American net and near the suites. Mmm hey is that Vince Vaughn? Get your tissues ready Vince, you will need them soon!! I was sitting beside an American couple who were great. We had a great time watching the game together. They owned some football team (NFL) and I can’t remember which one. But great people though….
Vince Vaughn in Vancouver watching hockey gold.
It was a tight game: Canada scored first and then second. It was a nice 2-0 lead midway through the second. But the US got on the board before the second period was over. The third period was nerve-wracking and of course, the Americans tied up the game with seconds to go. Overtime was needed and hopefully it would result in a victory. NO ONE wanted this to go to a shootout; North America hates international hockey rules like this. Let them play it out.
Canada has bad memories of shootouts: see 1994 gold medal game and 1998 semi-final. International hockey allows for a shootout after so many minutes of overtime. In North America, there is no way we’d allow a Stanley Cup final (or any game in the playoffs) determined by a shootout. Hopefully it would not come to that in Vancouver.
Canadian men celebrate Olympic hockey Gold, Vancouver 2010
Of course it did not. From the drop of the puck in overtime, Canada turned it up and dominated. I had NO DOUBT they would score, and score they did seven minutes into overtime. Jarome Iginla passed to the best hockey player in the world, SIDNEY CROSBY and he put it home.
I cannot describe the utter joy of that moment: Canada winning on home soil. Hockey gold and I had held onto that ticket for over a year. I had planned this trip for seven years with this moment in mind the whole time and Canada was victorious!!
Crosby receiving hockey gold in Vancouver 2010
Over two-thirds of the country was watching and I was there in person. The country completely freaked out and I love it. There was a time that Canada was not an Olympic favourite in any sport: we didn’t hit double digits in the 1980s nor win very many gold medals. Each Olympics saw an improvement in medal totals: 0 gold in Calgary; 2 in Albertville; 6 in Nagano; 7 in Turin; 14 in Vancouver. Total medals keep rising each year: from 5 in Calgary to 26 in Vancouver.
I think we like hockey: check out Canada’s reactions to hockey gold!!
Hockey is our favourite sport and winning on home soil meant the world to every single Canadian. Of course, winning on Russian soil was pretty great as well. Too bad the Russians didn’t show up in Sochi.
Men’s Hockey Gold at Vancouver 2010 Olympics ... 2 years ago
Looking back: 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games ... 2 years ago
I am a history-obsessed Canadian in search of crazy adventures and Olympic memories. I wish to connect with people from around the world as we share our love of travelling, history, culture, museums, and the occasional cemetery. From travelling solo to with friends, from London to Rome to Moscow, I have embraced life and enjoyed every moment.