Chicama – for a surfing holiday

If you’re heading to Chicama, the reason is for the surf. It has a famous point break and surfers flock from everywhere in search of the perfect wave. The town is an old remote fishing town with very little to do.

Walking around, you will see pueblo’s and brightly painted properties which is interesting artistically. There’s a few hostels and restaurants and a park but it feels like a pretty empty place.

 

The surfing 

 As you know Chicama is a long long sand bottom left point break, it is suitable for all levels. The sweep along the point is quite strong, you will want to have your paddle fitness at a decent level. This being said, it is not really a wave of consequence, except for the odd rock and the pier at the end, which you will be unlikely to get to. The vibe in the water is fun and relaxed, as there are plenty of waves for everyone, when there is swell, this break is a literal wave machine.

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There are a number of fun sections along the way, best not to fight the current and pick off waves down the point. The point itself has a super strong current that sorts the crowd out. 

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Next section is named las tittas which is distinctly recognised by a couple of fallen boulders, then there is the reef, with a steeper face for vertical turns and some barrel sections. Further toward the pier is another hollow fast section with some sharp rock, which we were told is a good wave on its day.

Chicama Boutique Hotel 

This area has a number of small hostels and the town has very little to do. So if you have a non surfing partner or simply want a bit of luxury during your non surfing hours, then this is the place for you. The hotel is a beautiful little beach apartment style rooms with a main dining area and central spaces like a gym, spa, sauna, jacuzzi and games room. The rooms have a huge bed, a balcony to watch the surf (be sure to select an ocean view), a big bathroom with fresh towels. They provide 2 water bottles each day and really good organic beauty products. The room was super comfortable.

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Surfboard room

The Board room is set up well to store a number of surfboards including short boards, long boards and stand up paddle boards. There are also padded saw horses in case you need to repair you surfboard. With Chicama being a cool water wave, a wetsuit is important and they have a drier on spin cycle to help your wetty dry quicker. 

 

Gear hire

From the resort you can hire wetsuits for USD$15 a day. You can also hire boards and the boards on stock are shaped by a local shaper and will suit the waves, they have some chunkier shortboards and longboards on offer.  They are perfect for the wave as it does not pack that much punch. The cost to hire a board is USD$30, which is a little pricey, but the boards are in great condition. 

There are plenty of places around town to hire boards, they are cheaper between S30 – S45. It tends to be a bit of a lucky dip and the boards are little banged up. We mainly hired our boards from The Surf House Hostal, the ladies running the joint were cool and they had an ok selection of boards.

Boat and boat crew 

There is always a solid current running at this surf break. The boat assist is a great option to help you maximise your wave count, especially when the waves are bigger. The crew running the boats are Del Mar and Steve who are champion guys. They will put you in the spot to catch plenty of waves and may even take you out to the cape. A chunky deep water wave, you’ll need some length on your board if it’s bigger.

Restaurant / Bar 

Breakfast is included in your stay, and it’s a great spread. Many types of bread, Jamon, queso, fruits, cereals and yoghurts. There’s also fresh juices. You are able to order one selection off the made to order menu – French toast, crepes or eggs. We had scrambled eggs daily and they were awesome. 

For lunch and dinner you can order off their ala carte menu. We found the prices to be rather expensive, but since there’s not a lot in town (expect the traditional almuzera lunches), you tend to just do it. The food is good; a great variety of salads, ceviche, fish and beef dishes as well as pastas and kids meals are available too. I think some smaller type snack food would be a good addition to crave the hunger bursts, like single empanadas or wraps or even sushi would be awesome. 

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We liked how they took care to make the dining room look fancier at dinner time. 

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The bar sells cocktails, juices and coffees. Cocktails are relatively pricy so be sure to buy them when it’s happy hour (6-10pm). The coffee is just a pod machine so unless you like that, just go for the free coffee.

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We appreciated that they had a hot water, tea and coffee station available for free all day, with regular supplies of biscuits to keep us full between meals. 

Water 

 Water isn’t drinkable so the hotel provides two small bottles each day in your room. You can also purchase a thermos bottle for $15 USD and have it refilled by their filter in an unlimited capacity.

It’s clear that they are keen about being environmental and sustainable, not only with this but with water usage, signage about not washing towels all the time and encouraging locals to collect rubbish in exchange for a coffee. 

Gym 

They have a basic gym downstairs with a set of weights, a few old step riders, 2 old bikes, press up and a boxing bag. They look like the got a set of cables as a recent acquisition which was great. There’s also some mats to use. It’s sufficient to get a routine in, but I would thoroughly recommend a new bike and a pair of boxing gloves to use on the boxing bag and maybe a good skipping rope. 

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Saunas/Jacuzzi

There’s a hot and wet sauna which has some nice aromatherapy scents in there, as well as an indoor and outdoor jacuzzi. These were great and the staff would turn up the temperature if you wanted it. 

Pool

There’s a large outdoor pool overlooking the ocean. It was a bit cold for us to make use of but it’s surrounded by deck chairs and in summer would be great. 

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Entertainment 

Upstairs there’s a pool table (with extraordinarily small ball pockets), table tennis, chess, fuse ball, a frog game ? 

Rooms don’t have tvs so there’s also a tv room with digital / cable tv. Plenty of magazines around the place too.

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In the bar they have a tv playing surf movies daily.

Music is a constant repeat of jazz at breakfast and Jack Johnson / Donovan Frankenteiter for the rest of the time. It makes for good ambience despite its repetition. 

You can also arrange massages in house – some of the best we’ve had on our trip.

Staff 

Manager Ralph does an excellent job, he showed us the full tour when we arrived. He speaks English which made our stay easier. He seemed to always be around when you needed him and he is a good addition to the staffing. 

Restaurant staff are excellent. They don’t speak English, but they understand our basic Spanish and are very efficient. Joi in the bar always remembered your name and regular order. They clear plates away quickly and always do a great job.  

The staff constantly seem to be working and the maintenance men are always busy, turning lights off if not in use, gardening, painting and cleaning so it constantly feels like they care about the place and want it to look it’s best.

Jorge, the security man, is a breath of fresh air. His outgoing personality made for a fun stay, every time we went out to surf. 

We loved our stay at Chicama and would recommend it to anyone who loves a good surf. 

 http://www.chicamaboutiquehotel.com/

 

Where to go in the Sacred Valley: Ollantaytambo, Peru

We were told this town in the sacred valley was interesting and worth a stop on the way back from Machu Picchu, so we opted to get the Peru Rail train there and stay a night.

When we hopped off the train from Machu Picchu, we were expecting to find a small
Archaeological town, which it is, but it is also a thriving little tourist village with cafes, bars and markets.

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The following day we secured a taxi back to Cusco, but you could book the train again the following day if you prefer. It’s much of a muchness in price. Since we had some other sites to visit on the return trip, this suited us.

Where to visit

El Albergue

Upon hopping off the train, we were met with a fabulous looking coffee shop, restaurant and hotel. A few questions later, and we found the had a farm and distillery too. The lovely Stephen showed us around. He was extremely enthusiastic about the brand and highly knowledgeable about everything on site.

Hotel

El Albergue has a hotel and although we didn’t stay here as it was out of our price range, we had a tour through and it’s a good high end option.

This is a property right at the train station with beautiful rustic styling, large rooms and it is built around a garden. With an attached vegetable farm and distillery (where they produce Cana Alta on site), it’s really a lovely place to stay.

Part of this complex is also a cafe: Cafe Mayu and a restaurant: El Albergue farm. You can also have a wonderful Pachamanca lunch for US$40 (we explain this in further detail later). This accomodation is considered to be expensive for the town, between $150-$200.

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They also support a school called Kuska on site to promote education amongst local children.

Mayu Torrefaccion and Cafe Mayu

The site has a workshop for roasters and we had the opportunity to see their roaster, beans and learn about their selection and roasting process. These beans are used at the Cafe and you can order your preferred coffee; an espresso, latte or Americano. The cafe also sells beers, wines, snacks and especially a delicious choc chip cookie!

Distillery Andina

The property also has a distillery on farm, producing Cana Alta. We had a tour to the distillery and learnt about their artisanal distilling methods and also tried a number of different Cana Alta Canazo flavours.

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Chuncho

This is not on site at El Albergue, but a sister store. It is located more in the main town of Olltaytambo, which is less than a km from the train station.

We were recommended to visit here for dinner since we were staying in the town, and we were encouraged with free drinks! Newly opened, their rustic styled restaurant is on the upstairs of the property overlooking the main square in Ollantaytambo. The atmosphere and ambience here is cool and casual and the staff made it a great experience. It is a bar and restaurant selling food based on native ingredients sourced from their farm and flavours from the area. The food offered changes based on the season. Drinks are inspired by the Cana Alta flavours.

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Food is designed to be shared, and using your hands to eat. We were recommended to share a banquet since it was generous portions. This was great advice since there was so much food!

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The banquet involved a number of tasty dishes to share, the food having a rustic style and plenty of flavour. The appetiser was some maize, salt and herbed sauces followed by an entree with potato crisps, cream cheese, potatoes and a tasty vegetable salad. Then came a mixture of nicely seasoned roasted meats including lamb and the local delicacy: cuy(guinea pig). With this was a few salads and quinoa pancakes. The banquet completed with a trio of Andean desserts such as a beetroot chocolate truffle, quinoa rice pudding and poached tomato. You will be so full by this point, you will need to channel your dessert stomach for this.

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The bartender/cocktail designer made some brilliant cocktails based around the Cana Alta including the “Quillabandida”: Cana Alta, pineapple syrup, passion fruit, Tahiti lime, garden mint and also their creative version of an old fashioned “Mosoq”: Cana Alta, house bitters, wild mushroom butters, brown sugar, aperitif and wild mushrooms.

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We were surprised to find a restaurant of this calibre in a small archaeological town and it made the visit even better.

Pachamanca lunch

The highlight of our El Albergue visit was the day on the farm where we experienced the traditional Pacahamanca lunch. It was $40 per person and and you learn about everything from farm to table.

The Patchamanca involved heating rocks using wood, once the rocks hit the right temperature, the marinated meats; lamb, chicken and pork are placed on top and with a hiss, the meat sizzles on contact with the rocks, then some potatoes, sweet potatoes and beans are added. This is then covered with a wet cloth and dirt to retain the heat, sealing the food with in a primitive oven. 15 minutes later the food is ready and the layers are removed to reveal a simple exquisite meal.

The meat served on a long table set nicely, in a serene setting, on the farm where many of the ingredients were source and with tranquil surrounds of the Andean snow covered mountains.

The meal delivered to the table in rustic earthenware, perfectly suited to the meal being served. The meal is served with a mixed salad of ingredients sourced literally meters away, simply not possible for it to be any fresher. Another tasty side of quinoa cheese and vegetables cooked in a sealed cast iron crockpot also provided a great dish. Then there were the inviting chunks of super tender meat served on the bone, very succulent with the skin charred and crisp. This cooking method instils a magnificent flavour to the meat. To wash this down, a jug of their refreshing house made beetroot cordial. It is also possible to order beer wine and spirits to accompany the meal.

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Where else to stay

Valle Inca

We chose this cheaper hostel style accomodation for our one night stay. Right in town, just off the main square. Check in was easy and a lovely staff work they. They were super eager to assist with anything. Room is a decent size, large bed with warm blankets, TV, charging ports and a cupboard. Hot shower and soap provided. We didn’t need it, but the room doesn’t have a heater. You need to climb stairs and they have a terrace where you can buy breakfast. It’s pretty quiet, though if street side, you hear the running water of the aqueducts. For $25 it’s a bargain.

Where to visit?

Archaeological site

You can enter this site at 130 peso as part of your 4 pass ticket if you purchased it with other sites in the sacred valley. However, it’s otherwise 70 peso entry. Your other option is to visit the free site, overlooking the city. It doesn’t give you as many ruins, but certainly a good option if you’re not spending as much time or money.

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Cerveceria Del Valle Segrado (Sacred Valley Brewery)

About 5 minutes out of Ollantaytambo, you can visit this brewery for a taste of some of their local brews. We tried a sampler of 5, but you can also try them all if you like. It was reasonably price and they also sell food. Unfortunately they were out of the pale ale when we visited.

We highly recommend a stopover to Ollantaytambo.

Aguas Calientes & Machu Picchu

If you’re keen to see Machu Picchu, and you’re a seasoned camper and trekker, then maybe the Inca Trail is for you. If that’s the case, find a travel company and book significantly ahead of time.

The other way to see Machu Picchu is to get a train from Cusco, from Poroy station in particular. If you want to see Machu Picchu early, then it is recommended to travel by train the day before and stay in the town of Aguas Calientes overnight.

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There’s two companies to travel by rail to Aguas Calientes with; Peru Rail and Inca Rail. For no reason other than ease of access when purchasing online, we selected Peru rail.

Peru rail

We purchased our tickets fairly easily online to travel to Aguas Calientes. We chose the Vista Dome. The pictures show it as a glass carriage where you can view the sites on the way. Although not quite like the pictures, you do get a lovely view of the countryside. We picked the more expensive tickets which have a comfortable seat (many facing other passengers), a provided snack (sandwich or brownie), tea or coffee and entertainment. The train has clean bathrooms too.

On the way we could purchase Pisco Sours and on the return journey, there was a fashion parade of clothing made from llamas Wool, as well as traditional dancing. The train also provided commentary on the sites as we passed them.

Staff were absolutely delightful and excellent at their job. When we wanted to get an earlier train, they were able to accomodate. Wi fi was available at the station.

Where to stay

Aguas Calientes is a town entirely to accomodate visitors to Machu Picchu. For this reason, there are hundreds of places to stay. We’d recommend as close to the bus stop as you can, so that you can be there early in the morning for your trip up to Machu Picchu. But that said, everything is pretty close anyway. There’s some upper class accomodation, including some right at the entrance to Machu Picchu, but we personally don’t think it’s necessary when your there for one night, and not going to hang in your resort.

Andino Hotel

Not far from the train station, Andino is in a quiet street. Our room was of decent size with a double bed and a single bed, as well as a table and chairs. The room has spare pillows and blankets, as well as charging ports and a safety deposit box. A bathroom with fluffy towels and shampoo/conditioner provided. The man on the front desk spoke little English but was super eager to try and help. He provided excellent service. Wi Fi In the rooms is poor, but good in the lobby. They were happy to store our bags whilst we went to Machu Picchu. They provide a breakfast and whilst I don’t recall paying for it in my room fee, they provided us with a huge takeaway breakfast/lunch box with bread rolls, fruit, juice, chocolate and it was excellent especially when you are on your way to the bus stop at 4am.

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Where to eat

There’s plenty of places to eat, from cheap bakeries to restaurants. They pretty much all serve the same thing, at inflated prices. So inflated, a water will set you back 8 Soles (approx 4 dollars).

If you’re heading out early for Machu Picchu, get your hotel or one of the cafes to make a take away box (fruit, cake, bread roll, drink, choc etc) to have on your way up. Given that Machu Picchu allows entrance til noon for the early group, you can easily be back to town for lunch.

La Boulangerie de Paris

We were impressed they opened at 4 am with baked goods and coffee. I got a Leek and ham quiche which was delicious. They also do breakfast/lunch boxes to go.

What to do? 

I’m not sure that this should really be a question. You are here to visit one of the new wonders of the world – Machu Picchu. It is amazing! An archaeological site and history of the Incas to behold!

The town also has some hot springs and a few walks to do, but you’re mainly here for the site.

How to get from Agua Calientes to Machu Picchu?

Bus is the easiest method and how we got up to Machu Picchu. Purchase a bus ticket from the Ticket office. Make sure you have your passport with you as ID, We’d hate to think what would happen if you didn’t. Be sure to have it on you to enter Machu Picchu too.

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The alternate is what looked like a gruelling hike up to Machu Picchu, sure to take a few hours and a lot of energy.

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is an incredible archaeological site, the remains of the the lost city of the Incas. It was discovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham, an explorer from North America. It is now one of the busiest sites for tourists to visit across South America. There’s two sessions daily to visit Machu Picchu, from 6am – 12 noon and then 12 noon onwards.

We were climbing Wayna Picchu with a 7am start time so we booked the early session. The first bus leaves Aguas Calientes at 5:30 am and we were told to arrive early. We arrived at 4:30am and there were already approx 200 people in front of us. We secured one of the first buses (about 6 or so arrived) and took the 30 minute windy bus route upto Machu Picchu. This meant some sunrise photos. Once you get to the entrance it’s all a bit of a shamozzle and people in a disorderly line to get in. Don’t fret, it moves quickly. Make sure you have your tickets and passport to enter.

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Once you enter, you will see two routes 1 and 2. Basically everyone goes up route 1 for the Classic Machu Picchu postcard shot. But if you’re doing Wayna Picchu, you’ll get much better photos there and we recommend taking route 2 which is practically empty at 6 am in the morning. This makes for uninterrupted viewing and photos.

The site is certainly an impressive architectural and archaeological feat.

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The Inca civilisation occupied this site at the height of their empire and it became an economic, religious, military, political, social and cultural hub. It was strategically built to watch over any potential invaders and many aspects of the site are evidence of this.

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Today, you can still see a huge amount of archaeological remains including high defensive walls, houses, granaries, an aqueduct, temples and steeped levels for cultivation of their crops. Many aspects also show their astronomical knowledge.

  • Watchmans House
  • Terraces / agricultural crops
  • Funerary rock
  • Main building and entry door
  • Quarry
  • Sacred square: here is the temple of three windows (creatively named), the main temple and the priests chamber
  • Chamber of ornaments
  • Intihuatana
  • Main square
  • Sacred stone
  • House of the virgins of the sun
  • Industrial zone
  • Temple of the condor
  • Sacred ceremonial spring
  • Temple of the sun tower
  • Princess House
  • Streets of the sanctuary
  • Royal Mausoleum
  • Royal palace

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Huayna / Wayna Picchu trek 

Towering above Machu Picchu, the peak of Huayna Picchu is 2,693 metres (8,835 ft) and you can climb it. Don’t be intimidated though, it’s not as hard as it looks.

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Having read the reviews and spoken to fellow travelers, we were not so confident that it was a good idea to climb Huanya Picchu. With the nickname of ‘stairway to death’ we were apprehensive, despite no one ever succumbing to accidents there. However, we were keen to complete the challenge and get some amazing photographs. If you plan to to do this, you must book ahead as there are only two time slots per day, 7am and 10am with 200 people permitted for climbing each session. Be sure to remember your ticket and passport to climb.

For the bus ride up Machu Picchu we gained our first view of the peak was a very intimidating and daunting sight, especially for people who haven’t really done much mountain hiking. However before arriving in Peru, we had already dealt with altitude in Mexico City and Quito in Ecuador.

They recommend it as a 2 hour round trip. It took us about 45 min to reach the top of Waynapicchu, with it’s steep slopes providing a great vantage point to view the ruins of the great Inca City. This mountain is a sacred site used by the high priest and local virgins for the Incas to conduct daily rituals. Due to this, there are plenty of archaeological remains along the walk and at the top of the peak.

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The climb itself is pretty steep and it gets narrow in some parts, but some steel cables and ropes provide support.

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There are also plenty of great vantage points along the way to take in the spectacular views whist having a rest. It is very scenic, there is not only Machu Picchu to view, but other mountains and rivers way down in the valley below. There are also many pretty flowers such as orchids along the track to admire.

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How hard was the climb? It is pretty steep so you do need to be relatively fit, coming down is also hard on your knees and quads. There is a little up section at the end which is the hardest part especially after tracking down the mountain. Was it dangerous? Not really, maybe if it had been raining, if you have a heart condition or are susceptible to altitude. Take water with you and a small back pack. You can’t snack up there and there are no bathrooms. Hiking poles aren’t necessary or practical here.

We totally recommend doing this hike, you will not regret it.

This site is testament to their architectural skills and strength of the empire.The fact that it still remains today is evidence of this, and of the subsequent archaeological excavations and conservation work conducted.

Where to go in Banos, Ecuador

Banos is a town about 3.5 hours from Quito, Ecuador. Go to Quitumbe station and find one of the sellers offering trips to Banos. There are plenty and it’s $3 each for a one way trip. The buses have reclining seats, toilets and are quite comfortable. Put your suitcase underneath and hold your valuables for the trip. We heard you can get robbed if you don’t take good care of your belongings, particularly on the overnight buses.

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Once you arrive at Banos, you’re at an elevation of 1860m and you’ll find yourself in a town surrounded by mountains, unspoilt Andean forest, fog, cobblestone streets and plenty of hostels. We booked before we came but you can easily find accommodation here. We paid $20 a night for a private room with a bathroom, tv, breakfast and wifi.

There’s so many places to eat that are cheap and you can easily get lunch from $1.50 for a burger or $3 for set Ecuadorian lunch. There’s also upscale restaurants that might set you back $15 pp at the most.

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You’ll see heaps of stalls selling melcocha (taffy) in the form of chewy and hard lollies.

There’s plenty of tour companies offering trips to the waterfalls, big swing, rafting, mountain biking, canopy zip lining and more. Find yourself a good deal. We did the waterfall bus tour for $5pp.

We loved this town and thoroughly recommend it for a visit.

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Where to stay 

Balcon De Cielo

I found this hotel on booking.com and selected it for its spot near the San Fransisco bridge with a nice outlook. It also had good reviews. At $75 for three nights, it was a bargain. The private room was spacious with a double bed as well as two bunks, a bathroom, television and towels provided. The bathroom doesn’t have toiletries so be sure to bring your own. They say they have wi Fi but it doesn’t work in the rooms, only downstairs. Despite the fact there isn’t a heater or aircon, the room stayed warm. It was quiet and very clean.

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The cost included breakfast, including a super fresh bread roll, cold meat and cheese, a small plate of scrambled egg, a pineapple juice and coffee. Our last day also has a bowl of fruit.

They have a cheap laundry service too.

They don’t speak much English at all but we worked it out through phone translators and the staff are very friendly and accommodating.

Where to eat

The food in Banos is top notch. We had both basic local options, the set lunch and also had a superb meal at a more pricy option too.

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The Mercado (central marketplace) has numerous stalls offering local foods like the Hornado – suckling pork with llapingacho (potatoes) fritters, salad, chorizo or your choice of meat. This was very delicous and good value for the price. We also tried cuy, the grilled guinea pig – for a hot tip, ask for the rear legs, as they have more meat. The taste was on a mix of chicken and rabbit, not overly gamey.

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A set lunch, or almuerzo will only set you back about 3 dollars with a drink, sopa (soup), carne/pollo/pork with rice and salad. We enjoyed these lunches as we were on a budget and it allowed us to spend more at dinner time.

We also became a big fan of their Maracuya (passion fruit) jugo (juice) and also it’s addition to cocktails.

Amarelo Restaurant 

We enjoyed our visits to Amarelo Restaurant which is claimed to be a Mediterranean fusion restaurant, with Argentinean and Ecuadorian influence. This restaurant is in the centre of town. Think grilled prawns, octopus, carpachiou, risotto, paella, salad and soups, salmon and steaks.

We ordered the house salad with lettuce, spinach, shrimp, matchstick potatoes, roasted red peppers, orange vinaigrette and topped with a red beet crisp.

We also ordered the tenderloin medallion on volcanic stone served with Andean potatoes, vegetables, and a tossed salad. This is an awesome steak, very tender and highly recommended that you try this if in Banos. The accompanying chimichurri and bearnaise were both very tasty, as were the little potatoes. The portion is large and it is a great value meal for $11.

Drink wise, they have microbrewed beers, wines and I enjoyed a vodka with Maracuya (passion fruit).

We enjoyed it so much we returned for the medallion as well as a superb beef carpaccio and maracuya cheesecake.

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Stray Dog

We went here for a drink, owned by some guys from Chicago, it’s a brew pup with a few good beers on tap. They do sell food and spirits as well.

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Honey, coffee and tea.

This became our regular for a good coffee each morning. They also sell patisserie goods, sandwiches. We also found it to have good wi Fi.

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Plantas y Blanco

We spotted this restaurant walking by. It appealed to us with its Japanese like set up. With a fire place and low couches to sit on the floor, it was very inviting. However, it was not Japanese, rather upscale Ecuadorian fare. The food was less than $10 USD for some amazing trout that was nicely prepared with crisp skin and the flesh perfectly cooked served on top of cucumber, tomatoes and seasoned nicely with dill. The chicken with vegetables was also tasty. This restaurant also had a selection of beer and Chilean wine.

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Where to visit 

Thermal baths 

Sadly the Las Modernas pools with water slides were closed, but we visited the Las Piscinas de La Virgen which stays open til 9:30. It’s a $3 entry. There’s a cold, warm and hot bath that is 42 degrees. It’s great for a visit to soak those muscles and you can mingle with the friendly locals. Be sure to take a towel and swimming cap or you’ll need to rent them. Whilst they look old and not too hygienic, we found the experience good. There’s administration areas with “lockers” or someone to look after your bags, as well as change rooms.

You can head out of town in a cab to Piscina El Salado for some other well recommended hot springs.

This said, there seems to be all kinds of hot springs around, public and also private within the hotels.

Luna RunTun

At an elevation of 2200 m, it is one of the fancier hotels you will see around Banos and well worth a visit. For a fee, you can use the facilities in cluding the hot springs which consist of 4 pools and jacuzzi, all supplied with volcanic thermal water. We were not staying at the hotel, but for a $20 fee it was well worthwhile. This included hot spring access, rental of a towel, swimming cap which was mandatory and also provided us with a bathrobe. You can order from the pool bar and have drinks, as well as food brought to you in the hot springs. This place has an amazing view of the city both by day and night. We recommend visiting late afternoon as you can take advantage of the daytime and nighttime views. It is such a nice quiet place to enjoy a the hot springs, though it is not nearly as warm as the springs in town.

La Casa Del Arbol, tree swing at the end of the world

There’s plenty of swing style adrenaline activities in Banos, but La Casa Del Arbol is the original. Set from a treehouse are two swings (made from steel now) and you can sit on the swing and get pushed out into the clear air or clouds depending on the day’s weather. If it’s clear, you should see he Tungurahua volcano. It’s quite a fun activity for adults! For kids, there’s some smaller swings and a mini zip line. Entry is $1 and then tip the guy pushing the swing an amount of your choice. Organise a ride, a taxi or a bus up there. You can also have a bite to eat and a beer or two, the empanadas are delicious and cheap too, they will set you back 50c.

Pailón Del Diablo

This is worth a visit for the amazing waterfalls there. Take the 5 dollar Chivas, which is much like a party bus, as they pump the tunes. Sit in the back and you can have a bit of fun mixing it up on the stripper pole, which is not so easy on a moving bus.

The Chivas will take you to a few waterfalls, to see or partake in the adrenaline activities like; Bola Extrema (swinging ball), canopy triple (zip line) and the cable car at Tarabita Agoyan.

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Whilst it isn’t too comfortable as it is pretty rough and squashed and open to the weather, it is a cheap and fun way to see the sites.

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Overview

We were in the town for three nights which was probably the perfect amount of time. We would definitely recommend you pay Banos a visit.

 

 

Where to go in Vancouver: Part 2

Grouse Mountain

Pay your admission to Grouse mountain for $56 for adults or a whole family for $150 and you get a skyride round trip and peak chair ride. In the park there’s also plenty of activities like a skyride (aerial tram), a bird demonstration, a lumberjack show, a chairlift, zip line, shopping, dining and more. You can also go on guided walks or hear ranger talks.
If you want to do a Zipline, mountain biking, heli tours, it is an extra cost.

The skyride up and down was a 6 minute cable car with amazing views of Vancouver and fits about 90 people.

The lumberjack show was great, a little comedic but was worth a watch to see the entertainment and skills. We also enjoyed the bird show with the host showing a few different birds, teaching us about them and seeing their skills demonstrated.

It is also home to two grizzly bears called Grinder and Coola and we enjoyed watching them in the water playing with food and eating.

We did the ridge walk (about 1.5 hour walk up), quite challenging to get to the top in the heat, but once up there it had a 360 degree panoramic views. If you’re up for more of a challenge, you can do the grouse grind, a solid walk from the car park to the mountain (instead of the skyride).

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Granville Island

It has heaps of boutiques and galleries selling souvenirs, art, native art, clothing, jewellery. There’s also plenty of food in the public market from bakeries to fish and chips and sushi. We grabbed lemon donut and tasted a couple of other things. There’s also restaurants and a brewery. We tried out a beer flight and a cider at the brewery. You can pick the beers you want in the flight. They even had a beer called the. baconator with smoked malt. It’s a super busy place but just line up a short time and you’ll get in. Staff are friendly and efficient.There’s plenty there for kids too, so the whole family can certainly go. You can drive over the bridge there, catch a bus from Olympic station or catch a cute little tugboat ferry for $4.50 one way or $7.50 return.

Granville Island boat rentals

This was one of the best activities we undertook whist in Vancouver. Rent your own private speed boat to explore the coastline of Vancouver. You don’t need a license, not have driven a boat before. That tag line sucked us in quick. They show you how to use the boat and give the driver a temporary license. You can explore east or west (to the waterfalls – a 4 hour trip) and we picked the west (a 3 hour trip), passing Stanley Park, the lighthouse, Bowen island, fishing and watching the seals. This is a super good activity for a small group. We hired the 17ft-90hp which carries max 5 people and has a stereo. $50 per hour (for 4 hours or more). It’s an extra $10 on weekends. It ends up being quite expensive. We stopped at Bowen Island to explore and even went to a bistro and had a meal. This was superb! What an awesome activity. We loved it.

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Rustique Bistro

This was a great find on Bowen Island – the food was amazing!

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We tried Brussel sprouts, a poke bowl, Cobb salad and a halibut fish as as well as truffle Parmesan fries. The staff were lovely and food came out super fast. They also sell alcohol and coffees. Worth a visit if you’re on this island.

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Gastown

Vancouver grew from this historic location, Vancouver’s oldest town. There is a steam whistle clock and a commercial district with boutiques, restaurants, bars and a interesting array of things to look at. More the boutique style of shop, plenty of homewares stores and expensive art. An easy walk from pretty much anywhere in downtown Vancouver. It’s not exciting but if you’re keen to look around and grab a bite to eat, pop on down.

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Here you’ll find Nemesis Coffee which is probably the best coffee you’ll find in Vancouver. All your regular types, cold brew, filtered and more. They also have a delicious range of pastries and food you can order as well. Another good specialty coffee shop was revolver, where you can do a coffee tasting flight consisting of esspresso and milk based coffee.

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Revolver

Yaletown

Streets of warehouse style buildings full of restaurants, bars and large patios. There’s also boutique stores and salons and worth a look around. Free wi Fi all around the streets too.

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Tap and barrel Brewery

A huge brewery in North Vancouver selling a huge range of beers from across Canada. We tried out a flight and a cider at the brewery. You can pick the beers you want in the flight. We tried the bridge blood orange, beere pale ale (our favourite), brew hall and twin sails IPA’s, and a fat tug. It’s a good way to sample a few beers. We also tried a cocktail and a gin. The food here is also good, we had a few things including the poke bowl and tuna tataki.

Bridal Veil falls

If you’re heading on a drive to Harrison, Bridal Falls is somewhere worth stopping on the way. A beautiful waterfall to admire.A little bit of a trek up so take your hiking boots.

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Harrison

1.5 – 2 hours from North Vancouver pending traffic. It’s a resort destination with hot springs, trail walks, boating and fishing activities. The watersports include an inflatable water park, sea doo rentals, bumper boats, banana tube rides and kayaking. Can be accessed through a day pass 11am-6pm and it has a big water park with inflatable slides etc. We paid our entry, which is $33 each and you get tugged out to the park. It’s good fun, hard work climbing all the equipment.

The hot springs can be visited via the public pool or hot springs resort.

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Squamish

Take a drive about 1 hour towards whistler and pass through this cute little town surrounded by the chief mountains. You can climb three different peaks here, of three different challenging levels. The second peak is for the regular hiker and don’t attempt 1 unless you’re a seasoned climber.

We ate at Zephyr health food cafe and it’s frequented by a hippie crowd. A good range of brekkie and lunch food like salads and soups. hI got a quinoa salad with with chicken and a satay dressing as well as a orange juice. They also sell vegetarian and vegan food. It was a super long wait (long line) but the food was good.

We also got a big burger at Copper Coil called the Chief – with AAA beef, pulled pork smoked in house, smoked gouda, aioli. It was a pretty good burger – massive and super filling. As a side, we got the poutine: skin on fries, traditional gravy, cheese curd. This place has other stuff like crab cakes, chicken wings and popcorn shrimp.

Alice Lake

A large lake where you can swim, hire paddle boards and kayaks. There was plenty of people here for the holidays. There’s also room to camp and bring your RV.

Cat Lake

Not far from Alice Lake but the entrance is less obvious. A lake shaped like a cat but quite large and lots of people swimming. There’s also a rope swing for the lake. You can also camp here (no fires) and there’s lots of signs about bears and protecting your belongings from bears.

Shannon falls

A spot to stop on or from Squamish. There isn’t much parking but if you manage a spot, the parks and bathrooms are nice and it is only a short walk to the falls on a gravel track. A pretty place to visit.

 

Where to go in Vancouver: part 1

Vancouver, Canada is a stunning city, surrounded by  a multitude of mountains and also the Pacific Ocean. The climate is temperate, this making it very easy to be active in summer and spring (and snow activities in winter) but do remember that Vancouver is considered a rainforest, so precipitation should be expected, We were there in late July and luck enough to avoid any rain. The city is very multicultural and thus reflected in cuisines on offer.

As we were in Vancouver for over a week and there’s plenty to do, blog is split in two for readability.

Where to stay

We were lucky enough to have accomodation with our cousin in North Vancouver. We loved this area for its scenery. We would otherwise recommend staying in the city, there’s plenry of hotels, you could also hire a camper van and travel around and we would recommend a night or two at whistler to make the most of the sights to see there.

Where to go

Stanley Park

You simply cannot visit Vancouver without visiting Stanley Park. This large Park with enormous trees of some age and surrounded by the ocean is simply beautiful and is home to a multitude of things to see and do.

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Cycle

We visited in summer and so decided to hire a Shaw mobi bike which comes with a helmet. Rental is $9 for the first 30 minutes and $5 for every 30 minutes after. We cycled the Seawall of the park, which ends up being about 6 k and 13 for us since we kept riding to the other end the city. These are good bikes because you can return them to other docks in other locations rather than to store like those so that hire them there. It is an easy flat ride that will gave you take in ocean views as you ride under the Lions Gate bridge past the pool, beaches, lawn bowls, volleyball court as well as the pitch and putt makes for a scenic cycle.

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Golf

On our last day we decided to have a round of pitch and putt. The holes are all less than 100 meters, so you don’t have to be a big hitter. A round of 18 holes including, clubs, balls and tees set us back $26 each. This activity is fun for everyone, it will have you enjoy the park in a different way and is a great way to be outdoors and active.

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Walk

There are many different walking tracks within Stanley park. Walk the perimeter with ocean views or walk through the centre and be mystified by giant trees, there are also many pretty gardens throughout, duck ponds and first nation artworks including totems.

Prospect Point viewpoint

Great view of the harbour and north Vancouver, it’s right in the middle at the tip of the park so hard to get to unless you’re on the hop on/hop off bus or drive. Or if you’re biking or walking around. We walked about 30 Mins to get out.

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Prospect Point cafe

Prospect point will provide you with some lovely views. The cafe is set right at the tip of Prospect Point and takes advantage of these views. It has a cafe at the front and a bar and grill inside. We sat out on the deck with a beautiful view of the harbour. The staff were lovely and helpful. The food being prepared was a little slow but we didn’t care too much since it was a lovely view. We got a cold seafood platter to share, and it was beautifully presented with cleaned crab claws, marinated tuna ceviche (or sashimi really), poached prawns, clams and mussels and smoked salmon. For $49 this is extremely good value. You can also get salads, burgers and more. They also have half sized meals for those of you not so hungry. They sell beers, soft drinks and coffees so it’s suitable for any crowd.

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Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

Located in North Vancouver BC, about 3 in from downtown. You can easily get a bus or a free shuttle from Canada Place. the Capilano Suspension Bridge is part of a bigger park with the famous 450 foot bridge, a cliff walk, rainforest canopy, sweeping views, lookouts, water falls and more. It’s quite pricy but probably because it’s a tourist haunt. But if you want to see it, you’ll pay. Whilst you’re there there’s interesting displays of the history, native history and totem poles, guided tours, and also a coffee shop, restaurant and grill. The set up has been done really well and it’s a lovely spot.

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Whistler Blackcomb

If you are after mountains and suspension bridges, Whistler is a nice 2hr drive or Bus ride away. The bus is $35 return from Downtown Vancouver to Whistler with Epic bus tours and lift passes are $60. Definitely better value than the Grouse Capilano combo. The glass floor gondola from peak to peak was very cool as was the suspension bridge “on top of the world” and will give you a slight adrenaline hit. If you are afraid of heights, you will need to conquer your fears. The views are spectacular and well worth seeing.

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We wish we knew more about Whistler in the summer as it is sublime. We would have stayed a few nights as you can get good deals in summer. There’s plenty to do and see and next time we’ll do the bobsled!

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Keep out for part 2 coming soon….

Where to go in Saskatchewan

Accomodation 

We were here to visit relatives so had somewhere to stay, but in Regina there’s plenty of chain hotels where you can stay. 

Regina town  

It’s not a huge city but you can head into town to explore. Find the “I love Regina” sign for some photos and stroll through the park or around the lake.

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You can find some farmers markets on a Sunday in town and a shopping Mall. We also found a good coffee shop called 33 1/3 coffee roasters.

33 1/3 coffee roasters

 It is a shared space for a coffee shop and a brewery called Malty National, love the name. It’s 90’s cool, be sure to bring about some nostalgia for Gen X and plenty of fun for all. There is outdoor/patio seating and plenty of room inside.

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With free arcade games including street fighter, there are also some old school board games like operation and hungry hungry hippos which makes it fun for everyone.

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33 1/3 have good specialy coffee, including filtered and milk based coffee.

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A great spot to get your caffeine fix. Malty National brewery have their brewing equipment on site, fully visible so you can also geek out on that if you are a beer nerd. A beer tasting flight will set you back a measly $5 and is good value to sample some interesting beer.

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 Regina Beach 

It’s not a proper beach as such, but it is a beach beside a lake. It’s a resort town where you will find plenty of people swimming, out on their boats, paddle boarding, jet skiing and more. 

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There’s places to rent equipment and also a local bar, club and a few little stores including an ice cream shop and a Mexican restaurant.

Moose Jaw 

A surprisingly unexpected place to have a good day out. It is your classic historic town which is still living those historic days out.

Moose Jaw tunnels  

This is a tourist attraction where guests buy a $15 ticket and get taken on a 50 minute tour through the recreated tunnels of Moose Jaw to teach us about the 1920’s – 1930’s days of Al Capone and the underground bootlegging era during prohibition days. It’s quite theatrical with the guides as ‘actors’ and is an interesting place to visit and learn something at the same time. 

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Mac the Moose 

 Located at the visitor centre, you must visit the giant moose (32 ft tall) for a photo!

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Temple Gardens 

In central Moose Jaw, the Temple Gardens Hotel and Spa is a huge hotel where you can stay. It has conference rooms, a spa and also the famous geothermal mineral water pool (largest in Canada). We didn’t stay at the hotel, but paid a $17 entry to use. The spa is about 32 degrees and is good for relaxation and to help soothe aching muscles and sore joints. We enjoyed our visit here and you can stay as long as you like. 

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Casino Moose Jaw

Located opposite the temple gardens hotel and spa, you can visit the casino to use the slot machines, play the table or poker. There’s dining and entertainment there too. 

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Jade Garden restaurant

A Chinese restaurant located on the Main Street in Moose Jaw. It is super cheap – $15.95 for a buffet. The buffet has mostly noodles and fried food, as well as desserts. You can also get banquets and we got one for $99.95 for 8 people which is a bargain. They were super helpful in accomodating gluten free needs. They have beers and cocktails too, although the cocktails aren’t on point. 

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Yvette Moore Gallery 

We really liked visiting the Yvette Moore Gallery as it has beautiful art, ceramics and jewellery on display. A lovely place to look around. They also have a cafe inside with friendly staff and comforting food. It is super healthy, homely and fresh. We had the salad – with candied pecans, carrot, apple, feta and Canadian maple dressing and also added chicken. It came with a bowl of soup – a beautiful beef and barley soup, as well an awesome cheddar herb biscuit. There’s a range of sweets too like bread and butter pudding or Saskatoon pie to finish off your meal. We also enjoyed a latte and a Saskatoon Berry Iced tea for our drinks. You can tell they take care in making their food. We loved our lunch here. Be sure to book if you’re going to visit.

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Shopping 

There are some cool Thrift shops where you can grab a bargain. Rings and Things specialises in jewellery but also has some other interesting knickknacks and home decor items. There are a few sports stores with some well priced merchandise.

Regina is a small place and everything we went to is within a one hour drive. If you’re here to visit relatives, like us, then this will keep you amused for your stay. 

 

Where to go in Toronto in only 3 days

We chose to go to Toronto, primarly becuase it is the gateway to Niagara falls. It’s also a bustling city and a very interesting place. A very wide mix of people, personalities and quite a few odd characters. This makes for an eclectic city.

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Kensington market 

More of a street full of interesting stores than a market as such. Packed with people having a good time, you will find a few streets of small foodie joints from Empanadas to sushi to gelato, you will definatly find something to satisfy that hunger. There’s also a brewery and a number of bars throughout the streets. Mixed with this are vintage stores selling old ripped jeans, leather jackets and tees as well as Nepali gear and a few tattoo parlours.

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We bought a few things like an old school Hawaiian shirt as well as some food. We had the most amazing ceviche to eat, as well as a Mexican bowl and an empanada. Superb! We recommend a visit here because it’s quite an interesting look around.

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Graffiti Alley

A great place nearby Kensington Markets and just off Queen St West. Perfect for tourists, artists and instagrammers alike. You’ll find an alley a couple of side streets pimped with array of incredibly artistic graffiti. It’s colourful and outright cool. Get those cameras ready.

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Baseball – Blue Jays 

We were keen for a game and seeing as though they play for about three days straight, it was easy to get to a game. Downtown, at Rogers stadium, the stadium is covered so it even runs in the rain. There’s also a hotel overlooking the field, so if you’ve got the money, that’s an incredible thing to do.

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We recommend getting tickets via stub hub if you’re buying last minute like us. They have a range of options and prices and you can snag yourself a good deal. We got club tickets that have a private entrance, private toilets, buffet accessibility, and seat drink service. We got these at only $50 a ticket. The tickets were in Club 224B and had an incredible view of the diamond. Right behind catchers plate, we had a great spot – shame the team weren’t so good on the night.

Once there, we realised there was a buffet where you can dine and watch the game. We bought this for $50 each including tips and taxes. The food was awesome: roast brisket, turkey, lamb, Mac and cheese, roast veggies, soup, antipasto and a dessert bar. We think it was worth the price tag. Table service of drinks too.

Where to eat and drink

We mostly ate cheaply here, like at the markets a a few little cafes. We tried Easy Rider on Queen street West, for Mexican inspired breakfasts and also a Vegan cafe called Fresh.

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Versus Coffee 

Great cafe downtown. It is reasonably sized with outdoor seating. Open late (til 6) and weekdays later. They do some interesting Coffees like the campfire (maple syrup and marshmallows), beetroot and turmeric lattes as well as beautiful coloured latte art. Loved it!

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Take a trip to Niagara 

Worth a 2 hour bus ride. You’ll need to stay overnight though.

– see our blog on this here

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Where else?

Now we planned to go to all of these places listed below, but unfortunately our American Airlines flight got cancelled and we had to head to the airport a lot earlier than expected to reschedule. Here’s a list of what we researched up on and were going to go to:

The Distillery district – for food, drinks and boutique stores.

St Lawrence market – a food market and stalls for shopping.

Bata Shoe Museum – an interesting display of all things shoes from Manolo Blanik to Nike and more

Hockey Hall of Fame – all things NHL

Steam Whistle Brewery – for a brewery tour and a few drinks

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If you visit Toronto, we hope you have a great time.

Where to go in Niagara in less than 48 hours (from the Canadian side)

Your best bet is to head from Toronto to Niagara. Go online and buy a bus ticket to Niagara Falls. A regular bus (which takes about 4 hours and only $16) or a Greyhound (approx 2 hours and $40 round trip) and make your way there. The bus seats are comfortable, having charging devices and supposedly wifi (though it didn’t really work). Bus drivers are friendly and departed on time.

The town 

It is like a mini Las Vegas with its hotels, strip mall, entertainment quarter and larger than life concept.

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On Clifton St you’ll find a barrel of activities. Whilst we didn’t engage in any of the activities there, if you’re in Niagara with your family, there is mini golf, go karting, Ripley’s believe it our not, wax celebrities, mini golf, haunted houses, bowling and more.

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Food wise, don’t expect anything too special, Niagara is primarily chain restaurants or cafes. Most of the food is fast food, like Ihop, Wendy’s, Applebee’s, Outback Steakhouse, ice cream shops, fudge shops and more.

Where to stay

It is a big tourist town, so naturally there’s plenty of hotels from holiday inns to the Hilton. We chose to stay at an air bnb – the host John runs a bnb called Archie’s bunker. It is a short walking distance to the falls and is a great location. John and wife Trish are so hospitable and were super good communicating with us prior to coming. When we arrived, the Australian flag was flying high. Our room was the Oh Canada room and it was dressed with all Canada themed decorations. Kitted our with towels, cups, gowns, slippers, a kettle and more, all you need for your stay. We liked the special touches of a chocolate by the bed, 2 souvenir pins and a bunch of brochures to read on the area. He also prepares breakfast and it was an amazing spread of granola, yoghurt, fruit, pastries, juice, coffee and he made us eggs Benedict! We loved this. What a marvellous place to stay. Only $100 a night, it is a bargain.

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At Niagara Falls 

Walk along Niagara Parkway and you see two parts of the falls. The horsehoe falls is the most spectacular.

In the evening the falls are illuminated and the colours change. It is super impressive. Fireworks also take place from 10pm, be sure to get in early for a prime spot.

Mist Rider Zip line 

The zip line is super fun to do. This is $60-$70 depending on whether you go at day or night. We did the night version at 9pm where you get a light up wrist band and zip line when all the falls are lit up with coloured lights. It’s a bit of an adrenaline rush and we enjoyed it! They have fireworks at 10pm so you can also see those!

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Journey Behind the falls 

For an experience in the tunnels below and behind the horseshoe waterfalls themselves. Pay your $25 entrance fees and head down in an elevator (about 35 metres below). You’ll be up and close to the falls in the two viewing platforms and behind falls when traversing the tunnels behind. You will get wet – but they will give you a recyclable poncho.

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Hornblower Niagara Cruise 

We booked one of these cruises to get close to the falls. It is $25 plus tax for the trip including the poncho. Line up and you’ll find yourself herded down to the deck to board. They pack it to the brim. The boat round trip takes about 30 Mins and you get close to the horseshoe falls. It’s worth it for the view. You will get wet. Very wet. Be sure to wear that poncho.

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Skylon tower 

Perfect for an awesome view of the city and above the falls. Pay your $15 entrance fee and get the lift to the top. Once you’re there, walk around and get your view of the entire city. Take your photos and that’s about it. They do have a revolving restaurant and buffet if that takes your fancy.

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Where to eat

The food in Niagara isn’t great. It’s mostly a mix of chain restaurants focusing on big and greasy: think burgers, wings, ribs and more. If that’s your thing, you’ll be sorted. We found it hard to find somewhere to eat. We ended up at a Turkish restaurant for a salad and meat skewers to share just to stay healthy.

Apparently the buffets in the casinos are good value and you can also eat in the revolving restaurant in the tower.

Queen Victoria Place Restaurant 

A large restaurant with a great view of the falls. In the evening there’s also music playing on a stage nearby. The restaurant serves western food, relatively healthy with entrees, mains and desserts. They’re quite pricy but the food looked really good, like antipasto, salmon and risotto to name a few. We had drinks here only – a beer paddle and a local wine paddle to sample a few of the variations. We enjoyed sampling these. Service was a bit varied. When we ordered, the drinks came out fast, but it was hard to get the waiters attention. Despite this, I’d recommend visiting here because a drink with this view is worth it.

Hope you have fun if you visit Niagara! We did!

Where to go for 48 hours in NYC

Having been to NYC before, we have done all the tourist stuff like Central Park, Statue of Liberty, Empire State, 9/11 Museum, shopping, Times Square and more. This blog will not be about those. These are all amazing things to do but you need at least a week to do all of that. Here’s where to visit if you are revisiting or just have a small amount of time like us.

Accomodation 

We stayed in SoHo in an AirBnB because hotels are super expensive. We like Soho for the cool boutique shops, restaurants and cafes and you can easily get a subway uptown or walk, like we did.

Food

Milk

Well known to instagrammers and foodies alike, this small milk bar is famous for its cereal milk and birthday cake ice cream, cookies and crack pie, it is certainly worth a try. Get over to their Brooklyn store, they are offering these flavours in shakes with booze added and they are pretty cheap too. We tried the cereal White Russian with vodka and Kahlua, it’s definitely worth requesting sprinkles on top.

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Dominique Ansel

A patisserie like no other. It is famous for cronuts and beautiful patisserie goods. Get in early because they do sell out of the cronuts. You’ll also wait in a line of about 20 Mins or so for everything else.

We tried then frozen s’mores – quite possibly best dessert ever. Frozen cake and chocolate on a stick covered in Marshmallow and torched in front of you. It was delicious! I also had a cookie milk shot which is essentially a soft cookie cup with a chocolate lining on the inside then milk is added. An awesome dessert too. So many good things here, you’ll find it difficult to pick just one.

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Supermoon Bakehouse 

Over near the Williamsburg bridge they do pimped croissants, famous for their creamy fillings and artistic toppings

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Dr Smood 

A super healthy cafe with protein snacks, juices, salads and other breakfast and lunch meals. There’s also a number of products to go. I tried the hot oatmeal – topped with nuts and dried fruits and also poached pears. I really enjoyed this. It’s also great to see this place recycles.

The Bombay Bread Bar

This is a modern Indian restaurant with a cool fit out. The Bombay Bread Bar delivers their own interpretations of traditional cusine and some great cocktails. Service here was excellent.

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The cocktails here were stiff. We tried the ‘Bollywood Swingin’ made with Beefeater gin, bay leaf, lime and passionfruit. Quite nice, bitter taste with a hit of fruity notes. We also shared the Duplex Complex.

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The bacon and cheese naan was out of control amazing. We can’t even explain it. You must order this. Like a thin naan filled with cheese and bacon.

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Kurt was keen for the monkfish as we don’t get this in oz, but he was sadly told they didn’t have it when he ordered. The fish curry was instead striped bass, the fish was nicely cooked but the curry had no bang or oomph to it, flavours seemed a little underdeveloped.

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The Dutch

A cool Bistro with a great drinks list, the sevice at this establishment was on point, allowing a sample of the whisky before purchasing a dram. We ordered a summer crusher cocktail and were sipping away, only to be informed the wrong cocktail was delivered. This turned out to be a blessing as this mystery cocktail we enjoyed more than the actual summer crusher, that was also provided to make up for the error. Having eaten prior to visiting, we ordered a beef tartare to share, a very good version of this dish and we were also impressed with the house made bread, the jalepeno corn bread was the bomb!

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Katz Deli

What can we say, this place is a favourite of many for a reason. Grab a ticket and mosey up to the counter, request a sample of the different sandwich meat on offer.

It is almost impossible to go past their pastrami. We ordered the Pastrami Reuben, possibly the best sandwich ever and would usually serve two.

This sandwich was so good, Kurt got very protective of it and almost ordered a second. There is alot of foreplay involved in getting the meat so tender and moist. It is pickled in brine for 3 weeks, smoked for 3 days, boiled for 3 hours, then steamed at the counter and seved in a generous portion.

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To do 

Musical lotteries 

Although we didn’t win one this time, sign up for all the lotteries for the musicals. If you win, you buy a ticket at roughly $40 instead of the face value price of the ticket. This is an incredibly good deal. Some shows do this online, others you need to be at the box office 2.5 hours before to put your name in the barrel. Make sure you have your ID.

Sports 

Not really the right season for much sport, but if you go to NYC, be sure to get to a NYC Knick’s basketball game, Rangers hockey game or the Yankees or Mets baseball game. You can also get to Chelsea Pier to participate in some sport, by hitting golf balls toward the Hudson River, stepping into the batting cage for some baseball action, there is an indoor track and a number of courts including basketball and beach volleyball.

Brooklyn

Walk the bridge to Brooklyn via Brooklyn Bridge or Williamsburg bridge for a look around an eclectic area of boutique stores and cafes.

That’s all we could fit in 48 hours – but keep in mind this is a lot. We did walk for about 20kms each day!