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Welcome!

Hello to anyone who might have stumbled upon this website; Welcome to my blog.

My name is Corine. I was born and raised in Montreal (Canada).

During my free time, I enjoy traveling, food and photography among other things. I decided to give blogging a try and to share my different life experiences with you. You will mostly find posts about travelling, but also different lifestyle themes.

Enjoy !

Central Park, NYC, USA - 2015, July 16
Central Park, NYC, USA – 2015, July 16

A short and icy hike in Banff: Johnston Canyon

When I first learned one of my best friends was getting married in Banff, I was beyond excited. I had always wanted to visit Banff National Park, but had never gotten around to it because of how the flight to Calgary from Montreal is so costly and long. It was the perfect push!

But when I realized the wedding would be in mid- October, I was bummed. “Why couldn’t it be in July or August, when the weather is nice, the sun is out and it’s warm?”

Little did I know, the snow peaked mountains, snow covered rocks and frozen lakes made the landscapes a thousand times more beautiful.

Johnston Canyon is the perfect example of how the snow and icy rivers embellished the views in Banff. However, be careful as it gets very icy during the cold months. We did not have snow spiked hiking boots, so had to take our time going slow and steady but it was easily done while holding onto the railings.

The hike to the lower falls is a 1.2 km walk with slight incline. In order to view the falls, you’ll need to crouch down and pass through a hole in the rocks to access the small closed off area. On the way there, the beautiful scenery, the rocky cliffs and the turquoise river water and snowy pine trees make great opportunities for photography.

We unfortunately didn’t have the time to get to the upper falls. All in all, the 30-40-minute hike was short and sweet but offered an amazing opportunity to experience a unique part of Banff’s treasures, as it was the only canyon we visited during our stay.

24 hour layover in Amsterdam

24 hour layover in Amsterdam

Going to Nairobi from Montreal, Canada, I had no choice but to have a layover in Europe. So I decided, why not spend a day in a city I’ve never been to?

Here is a short wrap up of everything I managed to do during my 24 hour layover!

I landed at AMS airport in the outskirts of Amsterdam around 7:30 AM. I hopped onto the hotel shuttle bus directly at the airport exit, to Hotel Ibis Schiphol Amsterdam Airport, where I left my luggage for the day. Since it was too early to check in, I freshened up in the lobby’s washroom and took an Uber to the city center for a day of solo-adventure.

I definitely enjoyed starting my visit this early because I could witness the stores and markets opening, the locals commuting to work or grabbing their morning coffee, and the quiet winding streets and canals.

I got my Uber to drop me off in Jordaan, where I discovered indie boutiques bordering narrow canals and streets. It was basically the postcard image of what Amsterdam is known for.

I spent the morning wandering the streets of Jordaan, passed by Anne Frank’s museum house, peaked into the windows of the canal houseboats, did some window shopping at the vintage and designer boutiques of De Negen Straatjes district and slowly made my way to Amsterdam Centraal, the city’s largest depot, known for its Gothic-Renaissance architecture.
At 11 AM, I hopped onto a 1-hour Amsterdam Canal Cruise (20 Euros). For about an hour, I relaxed as I was driven by boat through the maze that form the city’s canals, and as I listened to an audioguide. It was the perfect way to see most of the city in a short time. 

After the cruise, I wandered around the city, stopping by Begijnhof, a quiet neighborhood of historic private dwellings that used to serve as a beguinage (where only religious women lived). I also walked through the Red Light district although it was still during the day. During daytime, the area is calm and just like any other district other then the older prostitutes waiting in the windows… I then continued my visit to Bloemennmarkt, a floating tulip flower market that ended up being a little underwhelming in my opinion.

Around 2pm, I grabbed lunch before heading to the Museum Square. I treated myself to a seafood platter and a nice glass of white wine at the Seafood Bar Spui Restaurant while I decompressed. This is what I call treating yourself!

When my belly was full and my body was rested, I continued walking to the Museum Square area, where I did some people watching.

Around 4:30PM, for 18 euros, I visited the Van Gogh Museum where I got to admire the Almond Blossoms, the Bedroom in Arles, the Sunflowers, many self-portraits and much more. Van Gogh has always been one of my favorite artists ever since I took oil painting classes, which is why I chose to visit the Van Gogh Museum rather than going to see the work of Banksy or Rembrandt.

As the museum closed its doors, I headed out and realized I was done for the day. For dinner, I simply decided to get another meal at another location of the Seafood Bar Spui Restaurant before going to rest in my hotel room next to the airport to be in shape for the day after.

All in all, I am happy I was able to do everything I wanted to do in Amsterdam in just a day. It is a beautiful city with lots of history, culture, good food and beauty. I would gladly spend some more time there if I have the chance.

 

 

The heart of Osaka, Dotonbori

The heart of Osaka, Dotonbori

Osaka’s most popular tourist area, Dotonbori refers to the canal as well as to the shopping streets. Restaurants and bars are marked with an infinite number of colourful neon signs and lights.

Osaka’s food scene is known for its fried specialties. It is where we indulged in some takoyaki (fried little octopus balls) from a street food stall and an okonomiyaki (a fried japanese savory pancake) at a teppanyaki-style restaurant where the cook made everything in front of us.

In my opinion, the best time to visit this landmark is in the evening at dinner time. It’s when it’s busier, when you get to sample the street food stalls and when the extravagant signage and neon lights are at their best.

 

 

 

Discovering the Fushimi Inari trail

Discovering the Fushimi Inari trail

When people ask me about my favorite part of my trip to Japan, I always answer, without hesitation, that I preferred Kyoto to Osaka and Tokyo by far. Then, they always ask, “why?” Kyoto was the highlight of the trip, simply because it was more rich, cultural and colourful. Tokyo was too urban and busy for my taste, and Osaka was too grey.

Fushimi Inari-taisha was my favorite shrine out of the numerous ones we passed by during our trip. It is dedicated to the god Inari and is located at the base of the mountain Inari. The first emblematic orange torii gate is just in front of the train station. Right past it, a few orange temples welcome visitors. Then, from the base of the mountain, there is a 4 kilometer hike up the mountain. Taking 2 hours to climb up the mountain, we walked past many smaller shrines. Fox statues dotted the shrines and the trail with the fox being seen as a messenger spirit in inari shrines. It is said the Fushimi Inari shrine has as many as 32 000 sub-shrines. The vegetation is diverse and even includes a small bamboo forest.

We watched the locals pray at a the shrines in order to pray the right way! First, you put a coin donation in the little metal box at the foot of the shrine if there is one. Then, you ring the bell before putting your hands together to pray, clap your hands three times, and bow. I also made sure to have a scarf to cover my shoulders in the places of worship in respect to the culture and the locals, but I saw many tourists who didn’t care much about it…

The entrance to the site is free and you don’t need to be in great shape to complete the whole hike. People of all ages, tourists and Japanese alike, and of different activity levels hike this trail up to the main shrine on the top of the mountain.

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A few hours in Harajuku, Tokyo

A few hours in Harajuku, Tokyo

Harajuku is a colourful neighborhood in Tokyo. Takeshita street is the main known street of this area. It is a pedestrian street where local teenagers and tourists go out for cafes, restaurants, treats (huge cotton candy sticks, animal shaped ice cream, crepes, …) and fashion boutiques.  Fashion trends here are typically extravagant and colourful.

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Did you know Tokyo, and more particularly Harajuku, is also known for its numerous unique cafes? These cafes are mostly for tourists, but their extravagance and uniqueness are worth the visit. You’ve probably heard of the Shiba cafes, robot cafes, bunny cafes, owl cafes, cat cafes and… hedgehog cafes! We spent half an hour at Harry Hedgehog Cafe and Petshop. We paid 3500 yen for the 2 of us for half an hour to spend with the hedgehogs and got some worms to feed our little hedgehog. We were seated with our own hedgehog in its glassed cage with gloves to delicately handle the little animals, a small cup of dried worms and tweezers to serve them. The price included one drink each, which we got from a self-serve machine.

This definitely is a facultative stop on a trip to Japan, and it is not as cultural or educational as other activities… but it was a fun and unique experience!

Meiji Jingu, Tokyo

Meiji Jingu, Tokyo

Located in Shibuya, Tokyo, the Meiji Shrine is dedicated to the spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken. From its location in Shibuya, I never would have imagined such a serene pathway in the forest leading to the beautiful shrine.

Torii gates are located at each of the entrances to the area and locals bow when passing through and entering or exiting. Prayers are left by visitors on small wooden pieces. Sake barrels are displayed as offerings. Traditional water wash basins are located around the central sanctuary, where locals wash their hands and mouth to purify themselves before entering and going to prey at the shrine.

 

 

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Old vs. New Tsukiji Fish Market

Old vs. New Tsukiji Fish Market

Being the foodies we are, the Tsukiji Market in Tokyo was a must for us. Tsukiji Fish Market was the largest wholesale fish market in the World.

Dating from 1935, the city decided it was time for the Market to change locations in order to have better facilities, hygiene, space and organization. The transition was made in the beginning of the month of October, 2018.

Since our stay in Tokyo was planned for September 30 to October 3rd, and October 10th to 14th, we ended up getting the chance to visit the old market, or what was left of it, on our second morning, and then the new one on our last day.

When visiting the market, in order to experiment it at its busiest and fullest, the earlier you go, the better it is.

On October 2nd, we paid a visit to Tsukiji Fish Market. It was old, busy, crammed and dirty, but it had its charm and history. When we were there, unfortunately, the market itself was already closed for the move, but we were able to access the little stores and restaurants in the inner market. The restaurant we chose to try was Shou. Typically, all the restaurants were full and had a lineup, some worse than others, and were small, with clients sitting at a bar facing the sushi chefs and cooks while they prepared their meals. Never have we ever tasted sushi, fish or any kind of seafood as fresh as what we were served at Shou. It was also the first time we ever tasted certain kinds of seafood with the elements being much more diversified as what we knew back in Canada.

On the morning of October 12th, we returned to Tsukiji Fish Market, not knowing what would still be accessible. Turns out, the entire inner market were in the process of moving and were inaccessible. Disappointed, we strolled around the area and ended up visiting the outer market. We didn’t think there would be much to see there, but it turned out to be just as charming and just as much of a foodie’s dream. We stumbled upon a sushi restaurant where locals were waiting in front of the door for it to open and decided to eat breakfast there. Walking down the small alleys of the outer market, we discovered different seafood merchants.

October 13th was the first day that the new Fish Market was open to the public. It was now the Toyosu Market. Its modernity and high-tech ambiance was surprising, but I guess it is exactly what Japanese people are known for, and what I can imagine to be most efficient for the purpose of wholesaling products. All in all, I understand why the change was necessary, however, I find it is such a loss for the city of Tokyo to not have the historical landmark of Tsukiji Market anymore.

 

Taking a stroll in Tokyo’s Imperial Palace Gardens

Taking a stroll in Tokyo’s Imperial Palace Gardens

On our first day in Tokyo, Japan, Nick and I decided to do the touristy thing and visit the Imperial Palace. Little did we know, the palace itself is not open to the public, only the gardens could be visited. This disappointed us since we expected to be able to admire Japanese architecture. However, the gardens were gorgeous and their immensity was overwhelming. Edo Castle was the residence of the Tokugawa shogun and of Emperor Meiji, a very important Emperor in the history of Japan.

Admission is free.

 

 

 

 

Getting married and marrying our Vietnamese and Laotian traditions: Part 2

Getting married and marrying our Vietnamese and Laotian traditions: Part 2

Photographer: Steven de Sarno, from Flux Studio

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After completing the Vietnamese portion of our marriage ceremonies, Nick and I went to change and put on the traditional Laotian sinh while the guests took a break.

Before starting, Nick was offered a shot of hard liquor and came into the house with his sunshade, a bouquet and lit candles once again.

The ceremony started when I, the bride, was waiting sitting on the ground next to the offerings and Nick, the groom, came to join me. We were sitting across the master of ceremony, who lit the candles on the offerings and chanted a buddhist prayer while the guests who wanted to participated and us listened with our hands together in prayer. We were then asked to feed each other a piece of hard boiled egg, which should bring us fertility in the future. We then washed it down when we were asked to each drink a shot of hard liquor. The next step was to receive wishes from the master of ceremony as well as from any guest who wanted to participate, while they attached a ribbon of cotton around our wrists to seal the wish in. We ended the ceremony with offerings from the couple to our parents and older guests to ask for their forgiveness for any wrong we might have done in the past and for asking for their blessing.

What I noticed was that both Vietnamese and Laotian marriage traditions were based on the same values of family and respect. These are the values we were both raised with and represented us perfectly. I loved that planning these traditional ceremonies allowed us to learn more on our own cultures and to teach others about it. I also very much enjoyed wearing the traditional clothes, which were stunning, made me feel like a princess and never have a chance to wear!

 

Getting married and marrying our Vietnamese and Laotian traditions: Part 1

Getting married and marrying our Vietnamese and Laotian traditions: Part 1

While we were both born in Montreal, Canada, Nick is half Vietnamese and half Laotian and I am Vietnamese. It only seemed natural to us to honour both of our cultures in our marriage ceremonies. So, we did our best to combine traditional marriage practices from Vietnam and from Laos. Both had to be done before noon for good fortune. We started with the Vietnamese ceremony, then continued with the Laotian ceremony, before inviting all our guests to a buffet lunch in my parents’ backyard. The day was memorable and we were blessed with gorgeous weather. Everything was done at my parents’ house in order to simplify the process. However, traditionally, in Vietnamese customs, parts of the ceremony normally take place at the bride’s house and then the groom’s family take her back to their home and invite the guests to continue the ceremony at their house.

Photographer: Steven de Sarno, from Flux Studio

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Nick’s family arrived together to my parents’ house, with five male family members carrying the Vietnamese offering platters, covered by a red and gold cloth. Nick was wearing a blue and gold traditional Vietnamese ao dai. To add a touch of Laotian tradition, he was holding a bouquet with a candle in it to symbolize finding his way, and was covered with a red and gold sunshade to protect him from bad spirits. Notice the repetition of red and gold? For Vietnamese people, these colours symbolize luck and prosperity.

While I was hiding upstairs, my family welcomed Nick’s family. Five girls from my family received the offering platters from the five boys from Nick’s side. The platters were then placed on the altar. My mother brought me downstairs and our parents took the reigns. Each set of parents did a short speech. They welcomed our family members and wished us all the best. Nick and I prayed to our ancestors with incense sticks and asked them for permission to welcome a new member into our families. We then continued with the tea offering to the elders, during which we offered them tea and they offered us wishes. Finally, my new mother-in-law gifted me with some gold jewelry as a welcome gift into their family. We then finished the Vietnamese customs with a presentation of our families to each other.

My favorite part of the Vietnamese marriage tradition is the part where both of our families are presented and get to meet. I feel like it is much more the blending of our two families than it is focused on the bride and groom like in Occidental customs.

Tam Bao Son Vietnamese Buddhist Monastery in Canton d’Harrington, Quebec

Tam Bao Son Vietnamese Buddhist Monastery in Canton d’Harrington, Quebec

Tam Bao Son is a Vietnamese buddhist monastery located in Canton d’Harrington, in Quebec, a little more than an hour and a half drive from Montreal.

It is a peaceful monastery with temples, statues and pathways all around its grounds. It is particularly gorgeous in autumn when the leaves change colors. The orange, red and yellow leaves match the typical yellow and red colors of buddhist monks clothing and temples. The walk up to the Buddha of compassion’s giant statue at the top of one of the mountains takes you through various representations of different Buddha’s.

Tam Bao Son Monastery makes for a nice spiritual one-day getaway that makes visitors feel like they’re transported to a whole other place.

VLOG Days 3-4 in Japan for our Honeymoon!

In my Japan Vlog series, here is my 2nd vlog, in Tokyo for our honeymoon.

 

Day 3 started at the old location of the Tsukiji Fish Market, where we got out best sushi to date at Shou. We then went to the Imperial Palace Gardens in Tokyo. In the evening, we had dinner at Ichiran for some ramen served in individual cabins, a unique Japanese experience.

On Day 4, we spent time people watching at Shibuya Crossing in daylight before heading to Sushi No Midori for another sushi fix. Next stop was the Meiji Shrine and the spiritual gardens surrounding it. We then walked around in Harajuku on Takeshita Street and visited a hedgehog cafe to end the day.

One day at DisneySea Tokyo

On our first day in Japan, thanks to our jetlag, we woke up at the break of dawn and realized the weather for the day would be amazing; hot, sunny (and windy).

It was the perfect opportunity to make our way to Disney Sea. The theme park is located just outside Tokyo and is accessible by subway/train.

As soon as we got on the monorail from the subway train station to Disney Sea, the magic began. The futuristic monorail, the organized entrance to the park and the magnificent views all made the experience an unforgettable one. The rides were fun and were always preceded by an amazing set up which put the rides into context.

The theme park had many different areas depicting different parts of the world. I recognized some of them where I’ve been to right away, such as the Venice canals and the Florence Ponte Vecchio.

There was an area called the American Waterfront where there were some American restaurants which didn’t really interest us because we’re normally so close and so used to going to the US. The Arabian Coast was gorgeous and transported us across the world again. The Mermaid Lagoon was very pretty with all its colors, but it was indoors. The Lost River Delta was so realistic that it made us feel like we were in South America. Finally, there was a rollercoaster that went inside and over a fake volcano that looked super realistic and impressive in the Mysterious Island area.

After an amazing day at the park with the best weather we could’ve wished for, we ended the day with dinner at Tsukiji Tamasushi, a restaurant located next to the subway station but still within the Disney Resort. My Chirashi bowl was of an unprecedented freshness and was perfect for our first ‘sushi’ meal of the trip! By that time, we were burnt out by our busy day and our jetlag so we just headed back to Shibuya Tobu Hotel.

VLOG Days 1-2 in Japan for our Honeymoon!

From September 29 to October 14, Nick and I had the chance to fly to Japan to enjoy some quality time together for the occasion of our honeymoon. Here is the first of a few vlogs, which depicts our first 2 days at our first stop, Tokyo.

We flew from Montreal to Tokyo on a comfortable and direct ~13 hour flight with Air Canada. We took the train into the city, and checked in to our hotel, the Shibuya Tobu Hotel. The next day was devoted to Disney Sea.

Bucketlist activity: Doing yoga in Ubud, Bali

Bucketlist activity: Doing yoga in Ubud, Bali

Doing yoga in Bali has been on my bucketlist for a while. Little did I know that meant practicing yoga while overlooking the lush green rice paddies of Bali. Ubud is a spiritual and cultural part of Bali where yoga and meditation are very popular among tourists and expats.

We booked ahead of time and paid (a very reasonable price) just before class. It all went very smoothly. Walking through the rice fields to get to the yoga studio, the unique experience had already started. The paddies and the tropical vegetation combined with the serene and silent atmosphere of the area were memorable. The studio was clean and well cared for. Our class was given on the roofed outdoor terrace on the second floor. The teacher was a Canadian expat who had been living in Bali for a few years while teaching yoga. The staff were all very nice and made the experience an even better one.

I loved the experience of doing yoga with nothing but fresh air, the sun and the sound of birds and water running through the rice fields.

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Surrounding rice fields, on the way to Ubud Yoga House
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Ubud Yoga House
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Ubud Yoga House
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Ubud Rice fields view from Ubud Yoga House
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Our yoga class group!

Wynwood Walls, Miami, Florida

Wynwood Walls, Miami, Florida

Wynwood is a warehouse district in California which developed into a trendy neighborhood full of art and culture. Art galleries, museums and outdoor art are abundant in this area.

Art murals can be found throughout Wynwood but Wynwood Walls is the place to visit to see the outdoor art mural exhibit. Taking pictures there is a must… and makes for great social media posts! The colors are vibrant, the styles are unique and the people are friendly. A visit of Wynwood walls is a nice summer afternoon outing.

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Wynwood Walls
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Wynwood Walls
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Wynwood Walls
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Wynwood Walls

End your visit with a meal at Wynwood Diner just across the street of Wynwood Walls. It is a colorful eatery with a gorgeous interior and good Miami food.


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Wynwood Diner

Hong Kong streets

Hong Kong streets

Hong Kong is known for many different things but the first thing that comes to my mind when thinking of it is the way you feel when you are there. Walking down the main roads, you realize right away how densely populated it is.

Hong Kong is a former British colony in southeastern China. The people are of many different ethnicities. Chinese (cantonese) and English are the official languages and most signs are in both languages which makes it easier for us visitors.

Modern skyscrapers are abundant in downtown Hong Kong, which is a financial hub. The panoramic city views can notably be admired from The Peak, at Victoria Peak, and from the other side of the water from the Avenue of Stars in Tsim Sha Tsui.

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The Peak
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Botanical Garden
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Tsim Sha Tsui

On one side, the downtown Hong Kong skyline is full of futuristic skyscrapers. On the other side, the Mong Kok area has a charm of its own. The streets are bustling with people day and night and the illuminated signs light up the streets at night. That part of town isn’t as tidy as downtown but it is charming in its unique way.

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Lincoln Road, Miami

Lincoln Road, Miami

When visiting Miami Beach, Lincoln Road cannot be missed. It is a pedestrian street bustling with energy day and night, filled with restaurants and stores. The outdoor terraces are perfect for a drink, a meal or a hookah lounging session on a nice day. Gorgeous trees and water fountains can be found every few meters with great photo ops!

The Highest Bar in the World, Hong Kong

The Highest Bar in the World, Hong Kong

On our last day in Hong Kong,  Nick and I decided to treat ourselves with a drink at Ozone Bar, the highest bar in the World.

Ozone Bar is a rooftop bar located at the top of the International Commerce Center in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong. They serve Asian tapas and inventive cocktails, along with an amazing view of the city.

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Ozone Bar View, HK
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Ozone Bar, HK
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Ozone Bar, HK

Unfortunately, on the day we paid a visit to the bar-lounge, it was rainy and cloudy. Therefore, we had to be seated indoors, which disappointed us. However, the interior design was unique, artsy and luxurious and we were still able to hang out on the terrace to admire the view. We still had a wonderful time and enjoyed a great view amid the clouds. The drinks are pricey, but you’re really there for the view! Totally worth it.

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Ozone Bar, HK

Yosemite National Park, Northern California

Yosemite National Park, Northern California

Yosemite National Park is a location you will not regret taking the time to go see for yourself. The park is so vast it includes a variety of different landscape and sights. Although the park is very popular, tranquility can be found easily.

It is a great place to do camping (there are many camping sites in the valley), stargazing (watch a meteor shower from the Glacier Point!), hiking, picnicking, animal watching, photography and surely, simply sightseeing and enjoying nature at its best.

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Stargazing from Glacier Point.
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Taking time to enjoy the majestic view.
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Taking in the view down in the meadows.

It is well known for its numerous and beautiful waterfalls and rivers. Hiking trails can be found following the watercourse.

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Vernal Falls, Yosemite (during drought).
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Top of Nevada Falls.

The majestic giant sequoia trees are found throughout the park.

The granite mountains and granite cliffs surrounding the Yosemite valley can be observed from almost any viewpoint. In between the mountains are deep valleys in which you’ll find villages, wildlife, meadows and forests.

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Sunset on the mountains.
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Bird watching and the Half Dome.
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Valley and granite mountains.
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Valley.