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.

 

 

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.

Things to do in Cape Hatteras

A great way to spend some time away with friends or family is to rent a cottage in Cape Hatteras. My friends and I rented one in Avon and we loved it. The cottage had 2 stories and a half. It was located at 2 minutes from the beach (by walk) and at 2 minutes in the other direction from a few stores (supermarket, dollar store, nut store and restaurants). It was equipped with many bedrooms, a spa, a game room (with a pool table!), a huge balcony and it had a good layout for the kitchen, dining room and family room area.

Avon, Cape Hatteras. May 2015.
Avon, Cape Hatteras. May 2015.

Avon is a quiet and very relaxing town. Spend your days chilling in the cottage, relaxing on the beach, surfing or swimming, doing extreme watersports, fishing, collecting seashells, visiting the lighthouse and the beaches, longboarding on the nice and quiet little streets, or chasing sunsets and sunrises.

Avon, Cape Hatteras. May 2015.
Avon, Cape Hatteras. May 2015.
Cape Point, Cape Hatteras. May 2015.
Cape Point, Cape Hatteras. May 2015.
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. May 2015.
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. May 2015.
Cape Hatteras. May 2015.
Cape Hatteras. May 2015.
Cape Point, Cape Hatteras. May 2015.
Cape Point, Cape Hatteras. May 2015.

The drive from Sacramento to Yosemite National Park

Whomever decides to travel in order to visit Yosemite National Park, one of the grandest national parks in North America, will often be based in San Francisco or Sacramento.

Sacramento, capital of the state of California, is the closest city to Yosemite Valley. Located in the High Sierra in Northern California, Yosemite National Park is well known and highly visited. Not only are the City of Trees and Yosemite National Park beautiful locations to visit, the drive is also not to miss. Try your best not spend the whole ride sleeping in the backseat of the car!

About 2 hours and 45 minutes depending on where you are heading in the very vast park, the drive includes inevitably a portion on the highway, but then transforms into a long nice road while the mountainous landscape unfolds ahead. The yellow hills extend far away and the drive is a breeze.

On the way to Yosemite. 2015.
On the way to Yosemite. The road in the valley.
On the way to Yosemite. 2015.
On the way to Yosemite. Endless yellow hills.

At one point, all you can see on each side of the road are hundreds and hundreds of trees in plantations. I found the vibrant green pistachio trees particularly alluring with the trees all aligned in the horizon and the contrast between them and the red and brown soil.

Pistachio trees on the way to Yosemite. 2015.
Pistachio tree plantations on the side of the road.

Once you get closer to Yosemite National Park, you pass through mountains and villages and follow along rivers. The mountains are peculiar, with their vegetation growing sparsely on the yellow grass.

On the way to Yosemite. 2015.
On the way to Yosemite. Between the mountains.

The Arch Rock Entrance is reached by taking route 140. Cars pass right through it, underneath the small tunnel formed by some carefully placed rocks. It is also the main entrance to the park from the East.

Arch Portal Entrance to Yosemite National Park. 2015.
Arch Entrance to Yosemite National Park. 

Once you are in the park though, be careful because the drive can be a strenuous one on bad weather conditions especially. The amazing view you get from the road can also be distracting and the other accustomed drivers tend to drive faster. Also, driving on the endless winding roads right on the edge of multiple cliffs can be difficult for some drivers. Don’t let this discourage you from visiting though, it is well worth it! Just drive carefully, respect the speed limits (they’re there for a reason… for your safety!) and plan on going when the weather is nice.