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.

 

New Year’s weekend in NYC… and we got engaged!

This year, I got to check something off my bucket list!

My boyfriend and I spent New Year’s in New York City and even got a hotel in the heart of the city this time (we usually get a cheap stay in New Jersey)! We got an awesome price with Frenzy Tours, a tour company based in Montreal that provided us with round-trip transport between Montreal and Manhattan, NYC and nights in the Marriott East Side Hotel. Once we got there, we were free to do whatever we wanted.

I cannot blog about our weekend getaway without giving a quick shout out to these places for their awesome food (#foodie)! A weekend in NYC would not be the same without its amazing food.

Shake Shack will always have a special place in my heart. And Eataly is a new discovery of mine which I am now obsessed with… Mmmm just thinking of it, I’m developing a huge craving for this white truffle butter seasoned pasta served with mushroom and fresh parmesan. Sushi of Gari is a small Michelin-starred restaurant where I tasted uni (sea urchin) for the first time.

I have been to NYC many many times… but I had always skipped visiting the famous Grand Central Terminal. A casual weekend in the city was the perfect opportunity to check it out. The bustling train terminal was very movie-like and full of life. The architecture was intriguing and grand.

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Grand Central.

I’ve been numerous times to the Rockerfeller Center when visiting NYC. However, I’ve never visited the city during winter and have never had the chance to see their famous and gigantic Christmas Tree. Honestly, the tree wasn’t as rich and full as I thought it would be. Nonetheless, the Christmas decorations, the music, the crowd and the overall festive atmosphere won me over.

During the evening of December 31st, my boyfriend and I had planned to go out for dinner and watch the countdown on a television in a bar or anywhere we could find a spot to sit at. We didn’t even plan on watching the ball drop in person because of all the people telling us it would be impossible to get in because of the extreme security and overwhelming crowds. But while on our way to finding a restaurant for dinner, as we were commenting on how the line ups were atrocious to get in to the area from which people would watch the event, we got lucky. We ended up being able to get into the area without even having to wait in line as they had just opened a new entrance as we were walking past that street.

So, seeing we had this opportunity, we decided to watch the ball drop countdown after all. However, we had 6 hours of waiting while standing in a crowd, cold and hungry ahead of us. We kept warm by jumping up and down and we found ways to sit on the ground which was already full of trash. And, lucky as we were, Domino’s staff were selling pizzas outdoors and we got a whole pizza just for the two of us. When the moment finally came, everyone chanted the countdown together and we saw the ball drop (even though it was 2 millimeters of diameter from where we were standing). The ball drop went so quickly and with all that excitement and counting down looking at the screen, we didn’t even notice the little ball dropping! All in all, the experience was not a comfortable one but it was an epic and exciting one.

I don’t think I’ll spend another New Year’s in Times Square watching the ball drop again, but I do think it is an experience to live once in your life and I’m happy I did and got to share it with my boyfriend. Growing up, I’ve celebrated the New Year with my family watching the NYC countdown every year. Having been able to live it was surreal.

Finally, here are a few photos of what happened right after the New Year countdown back at the hotel… we got engaged! NYC will always have a special place in our hearts now.

 

 

My personal top useful travel apps

City maps 2 go:

Download offline maps of whole countries, areas or cities. This app doesn’t act as a GPS and doesn’t give directions, but is great for just finding your way as if you were using a paper map with the convenience of having it in your phone.

Google Maps:

Download the offline map of the areas you are going to visit/stay at in advance when you have wi-fi. You’ll be able to use the app for directions and even as a GPS without needing data/wi-fi. You can also save some places such as your hotel or attractions to find them easily and quickly.

Tripadvisor:

In my opinion, this is the best app for getting reviews before deciding to book a hotel/hostel/guesthouse room, a tour, an activity or even to decide where to go shopping or eat. Give back to other travelers by writing your own impressions and reviews afterwards!

Yelp:

Don’t know where to go for dinner? Yelp has tons of suggestions with opening hours, menus, reviews and ratings and it can also show you which ones are the closest to your location for easy access.

Instagram:

Look up a certain location or tag of an attraction you would like to visit to see how it looks like from an average person or a photograph’s point of view. Also, why not take a mental note of photo ideas.

EX currency:

Keep this app accessible when traveling to check the exchange currency in a quick and simple way. Make sure to update the rates when you have wi-fi. Also, use this app to convert a certain foreign currency amount to your currency without having to use your calculator.

A weekend getaway in Saranac Lake/Lake Placid

 

For the weekend of October 16-18 2015, Nick (my boyfriend) and I decided we would organize an impromptu getaway. We had trouble deciding on our destination, but ended up booking a room at Gauthier’s Saranac Lake Inn, in Saranac Lake, New York. None of us had visited this town before. It was the perfect place for a calm couple’s getaway in a natural setting to take our mind off of school , and we weren’t up for city-sightseeing. And a bonus: lodging was excessively cheaper than in alternative destinations such as Boston or NYC!

 

So, we drove about 2 hours and a half in total, passing through the border to get into the U.S. and stopping in Plattsburgh for a little shopping session. We then arrived at Gauthier’s Saranac Lake Inn, where we were greeted and shown to our room. The inn is right on the edge of Saranac Lake and at the time of our arrival, the sunlight was illuminating the lake and surrounding autumn colored mountains in such a beautiful way.

Gauthier's Saranac Lake Inn, Saranac Lake
Gauthier’s Saranac Lake Inn, Saranac Lake
Saranac Lake
Saranac Lake
Saranac Lake
Saranac Lake

On the evening of our arrival, we took it easy and didn’t do much other than eat dinner at a cute place called Eat N Meet Grill in Saranac Lake. The food was great. I got the lamb souvlaki and the lamb was incredibly tender.

Eat n Meet Grill, Saranac Lake
Eat n Meet Grill, Saranac Lake

The aim of our roadtrip was to enjoy the remaining fall colors on the mountains, the towns of Saranac Lake and Lake Placid and some quality time together. However, this weekend was particularly cold and the weather forecast even predicted we’d be having the first snow of the season. So, on the second day, we slept in until lunch time and grabbed lunch at Blue Moon Cafe, another lovely casual restaurant in Saranac Lake, on the main street. The hazelnut coffee was excellent and the salmon gravlax bagel was just the light but filling meal I wanted.

Blue Moon Cafe, Saranac Lake
Blue Moon Cafe, Saranac Lake

We then drove about 30 minutes out of town to Mount Jo. It is a small mountain in the Adirondack Park, which only took us 2 hours roundtrip with quite a long break at the summit. Although the mountain is small, the view at the top is gorgeous and makes it a quick but very rewarding hike.

Mount Jo, Adirondack
Mount Jo, Adirondack

To get there, follow signs to the Adirondack Loje and you’ll end up at the parking, where they charge 5$ per car after 1PM or 10$ per car before 1PM. The beginning of the trail was just next to the parking. At the start of the hike, it was hailing like crazy. Then, it snowed intermittently during the rest of the hike to the summit. It wasn’t the easiest of weathers to hike in as it was cold and wet, but we were dressed properly and ended up appreciating the weather. In fact, the hike was beautiful, as the yellow, orange and red colors of the leaves on the ground and on the tree were covered by a thin coat of snow. It was a very unique landscape.

Mount Jo, Adirondack
Mount Jo, Adirondack
Mount Jo, Adirondack
Mount Jo, Adirondack
Mount Jo, Adirondack
Mount Jo, Adirondack
Mount Jo, Adirondack
Mount Jo, Adirondack

When we arrived at the summit, we were disappointed because there was absolutely no view to take in, since we were probably in the middle of a very dense cloud and couldn’t see anything around Mount Jo. But, we were patient and waited until, luckily, the sky cleared out slowly and the magnificent view was revealed to us. Not only could we observe the fall colored mountains covered in just little bit of snow, but we could also see the lake at the bottom of the mountain, Heart Lake. I highly recommend this hike, since it gives such a nice view for such a short hike!

Mount Jo, Adirondack
Mount Jo, Adirondack
Mount Jo, Adirondack
Mount Jo, Adirondack

After we came back down from the mountain, we explored the surroundings and ended up on the edge of Heart Lake, where, once again, the view was very nice.

Heart Lake, Mount Jo, Adirondack
Heart Lake, Mount Jo, Adirondack

After the hike, we spent the whole evening in the town of Lake Placid, on the main street. It is an adorable town. The main street is right on the edge of Mirror Lake and it is full of small and cute shops and restaurants. We also saw some olympic buildings from the winter Olympic games which were held there a while back. We walked down the whole street and visited some of the shops. We chose to eat dinner at a restaurant called Smoked Signals, which we saw had great ratings on Tripadvisor. The maple syrup ribs were great and the portions were huge!

Smoked Signals, Lake Placid
Smoked Signals, Lake Placid

On our third and final day, we checked out from the Inn and took in the view behind it for one last time. Since it was too cold at this time of the year, we would really like to come back during the summer to use the bikes and canoes they had for us to use for free but didn’t get a chance to use!

Saranac Lake
Saranac Lake

Then, we headed back to Lake Placid, where we ate breakfast/brunch at the Breakfast Club… It was delicious.

Breakfast Club, Lake Placid
Breakfast Club, Lake Placid

We had planned on driving up Whiteface Mountain on the Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway on our way back to Montreal. It is at about 50 minutes Northeast from Saranac Lake or 30 minutes from Lake Placid. I hear the view from up there is amazing and that the drive is beautiful. However, there is an expensive toll to get through, so we made sure there would be a view worth going for… and there wasn’t. You can do so by checking out the live camera feed which refreshes the picture every few minutes. Since there was no view to be seen, we decided to skip this activity and to head back to Montreal directly and come back for it eventually. Now, we don’t have a choice to plan to go back one day! 😉

Gorgeous sunsets and Sunrises in Cape Hatteras, North Carolina

Earlier this summer, I had the chance to spend a week in Cape Hatteras. This cape is located on the coast of North Carolina and it offers a multitude of places from where you can catch a beautiful sunset or sunrise on a nice weather day. In fact, if you refer to a map of Cape Hatteras, you’ll realize that you can go from the west side of the cape to the east side in no time, as the cape is formed by a very thin stretch of land.

Cape Point is near the town of Buxton. At the tip of the beach, you can witness something quite out of ordinary: Two currents coming together. The beach is very beautiful and it isn’t too crowded. There are many people fishing on the side of the bay and they are a joy to watch. They very often catch some fish, little sharks and stingrays (don’t worry, they always let the sharks and stingrays go and they have a limit of fish they’re allowed to bring home). The walk to the point is a long 30-minute stroll in the sand which can be discouraging… But it is absolutely worth it, especially to watch the sunrise or the sunset, as both should be visible from this site.

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Sunset at Cape Point, Cape Hatteras, May 2015.
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Sunset at Cape Point, Cape Hatteras, May 2015.
Sunset at Cape Point, Cape Hatteras, May 2015.
Sunset at Cape Point, Cape Hatteras, May 2015.

Avon Fishing Pier is also a very photogenic site in Cape Hatteras, especially during sunrise. This is the last pier remaining in operation in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. On the morning we visited the pier to see the sunset, we were the only ones there and the tranquility of the place just added to its charm. The sunrise makes a beautiful background for the crooked pier.

Cape Hatteras, May 2015.
Sunrise at Avon Fishing Pier, Cape Hatteras, May 2015.
Cape Hatteras, May 2015.
Sunrise at Avon Fishing Pier, Cape Hatteras, May 2015.

On our last day in Cape Hatteras, my friends and I wanted to watch the sunset one last time. We went to the Lighthouse, but we quickly realized we wouldn’t be able to see much of the sunset from there. So, we drove on route 12 and decided to stop at a little spot on the side of the road from where we could catch the sunset.

Sunset at Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. May 2015.
Sunset at Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. May 2015.
Cape Hatteras, May 2015.
Sunset from Road 12, Cape Hatteras, May 2015.