The Okanagan, July 2010

Trip Cost $700, 5 days

The Okanagan is the Florida of Canada. Lot’s of fruit orchards, wine, rich people and retirees. While I’m mainly into partying, exotic locations, amazing churches and ancient ruins, it wouldn’t seem like the place for me, but if you go with the right people, it can be amazing!

My husband’s best friend had recently moved to a town called Vernon. Not the greatest place to visit. To put it gently, I never knew the smell of crack until I visited. Friends of mine searched for some famous British Columbia *cough* tobacco, and actually had a difficult time finding anything that soft. Instead, various shady characters offered pretty much everything you would see on a season of intervention. We wanted to go out to a bar, but quickly learned the only thing open past 10 were the two strip clubs in town. I’m an open minded woman who has seen her fair share of peelers in the past, but this was like nothing I’d ever seen before. A cover, and a bad one, for a brothel. The dee-jay had scars from what looked like a knife fight, and the girls “danced” in a dark corner of the club and were taken out by different men for….private dances. A shady experience, but a necessary one for a travel agent. When anyone asks me where they should visit in B.C. I know exactly where to send them.

Kelowna. A tourist-y city, and the main city of the Okanagan Valley. Lot’s of amazing ochre’s, wineries, great hotels, unique restaurants, shopping, and a lovely beach around the Okanagan Lake.

Of course, my friends and I got drunk at other strip clubs. What can you do?

All in all, anywhere in the Okanaga Valley is great place for any short vacation. If I weren’t hell bent on retiring to Costa Rica, this would be my second choice.

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Costa Rica, January 2010

Trip Cost $1500, 8 days

When I was about 13 years old, I met a girl who had just moved to Canada from Costa Rica. She would tell me all about it and even teach me bad words in Spanish. I was always fascinated by the idea of a tiny county holding so much beauty. Rain forests, amazing animals, active volcano’s and black sand beaches. 10 years later, I finally went.

 

I stayed in a resort with a black sand beach with green parrots and fed adorable monkeys every day. The down side is about 5am every morning, the howler monkey’s get really loud. So bring ear plugs or don’t stay in the jungle. While our room was clean, there are a lot of insects and reptiles around. It took me some time to get used to the creepy crawly wildlife, but after a couple of days, I realized it was no big deal. I’m from Alberta, we don’t really have bugs, so I might be extra sensitive.

 

While black sand beaches are so, so beautiful. You can’t really lay, or walk anywhere the sun is shinning. It burns like white sand never could. Luckily, the country is home to some of the most beautiful white sand beaches as well. Black sand makes for great souvenirs for those who’ve never seen it.

 

One of the best days of my life was in Costa Rica. One morning, my (now) husband and I, went to a volcanic spa. We started by going up the volcano on horse back. The spa was completely outdoors and natural. You start by going into this steam cave created by the natural hot springs. The steam opens up your pours so you can reap the benefits of the next step. Covering yourself head to toe in mud that contains volcanic ash. Women all over the world pay unbelievable prices to get a small jar of this exact volcanic mud, so get your fill while you’re there and cover everything. Just hang out in the sun until the mud dries and then soak it off in the hot springs. It is so relaxing. This is what all spa’s should be like. Experiencing the beauty and benefits of nature, without aestheticians accusing you of washing your face wrong while they slather you with chemicals that have little (if anything) to do with beauty.

 

The great thing about staying in Costa Rica is that no matter where you stay, you can always spend a day in Nicaragua. I did. It was a stark contrast between the neighbouring countries. Nicaragua has a completely different political climate leading to completely different problems. In Costa Rica, school, all the way into post secondary is mandatory and free. In Nicaragua, only elementary is considered compulsory, even that, not all children attend. Nicaragua has a military, while Costa Rica abolished there military. These differences are apparent when comparing a major Costa Rican city to a Nicaraguan city. The Nicaragua portion of my trip was the part where I actually noticed I was in a different country and behaved as such. In Costa Rica, I might as well have been in an unusually beautiful part of Canada.

 

I did have the pleasure of checking out some active volcanos. Ryan and I even went right to the edge of an active one. It was very smokey, and felt posionous. Like chemicals were coating your teeth. Even with that unpleasantness, I wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything (including another day at the spa).

 

I loved Costa Rica, I would recommend it for anyone. Especially those of you who can’t seem to shake the Mexico habit.

Egypt, March 2009

Trip cost $5000(ish), 9 days

March 2009 my sister and I went on the trip of a life time, Egypt on Contiki. I can’t say enough about how great contiki is. If you’re in the age bracket (18 – 35), and have the money, you should seriously consider a Contiki trip.

 

We started, where anyone would start, in Cairo. There are 3 main things you need to see in Cairo; the pyramids (the sphinx included), the Cairo museum, and the market.

 

The pyramids are like nothing else on earth. No matter how much time you spend looking at them in pictures or on tv, the size of them will surprise you. They’re also not guarded the way you might think they are. Feel free to climb up them. I did. The other thing that surprised me is how close to the city they really are, you can easily walk to either KFC or Pizza hut, they’re both unusually close to the site. You can get inside the pyramids, but if you’re claustrophobic, I wouldn’t recommend it. As with any of the Egyptian tombs I have the honour of exploring first hand, it is very hot and small inside. I would recommend taking a camel ride around the pyramids, it is very worth it.

 

If you’ve been to the British Museum in London, the Cairo Museum is pretty similar. I was lucky enough to be there when the King Tut exhibit was there. Amazing. The one thing I regret most about my trip to Egypt was that I didn’t pay the extra to see the unwrapped mummies.

 

About 8 days before my sister and I arrived in Cairo, someone had blown up a large portion of the Cario market with the intention of killing tourists. If a 22 year old and her 20 year old sister can manage, I’m sure you can too. It is a gigantic bazaar where you can find….anything….just anything you want. Spices, street food, butcher shops, clothing, pets, there was even an entire store that sold only whips. While you should expect the typical tourist clothing, if you look in the right stores, their’s actually some really nice stuff.

 

If you can, buy Egyptian oils and Egyptian cotton sheets while in Cario. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to find quality products in the bazaar. That is one of the reasons I recommend Contiki so highly. They take you directly to high quality suppliers. I still have my oils and use them as perfume on special occasions.

 

After Cairo we took an overnight train to Aswan. The facilities were disgusting and you have to sleep with your valuables near by, plus it’s a very loud and shaky way to sleep.

 

Aswan is like a completely different Egypt than Cairo. It’s absolutely beautiful. We went to check out another market, but were interrupted by a sand storm which is more painful than I expected. Bring sunglasses.

 

Next we flew to Abu Simbel, I wish I could properly explain the awe I was in upon seeing this temple, but this blog would be the longest blog on the internet (that’s right, the whole internet) if I could do these wonder’s justice. It’s expensive, but again, completely worth it.

 

We then went back to Cario via cruise ship. This is the way to see Egypt! Private rooms, clean bathrooms, and you can sit on top deck and drink while you watch this amazing country go by and think about your amazing trip. It was truly amazing.