All Clichés Explored

One week in Australia and I feel like I’ve dipped my toes into the Aussie lifestyle quite a bit.

Australian Wildlife

Everyone knows that Australia has the most deadly wildlife on this planet. In the waters you have sharks, jellyfish and crocodiles while on land you have to be careful of snakes and spiders. The latter one welcomed me when I just arrived at my friend’s place two hours after my arrival in Australia. The redback spider, tiny but pretty poisonous, was sitting in the mailbox waiting for some good news. We took a look at her before losing her at our doorstep. One of these days she’ll be saying g’day again.

on Monday I saw a couple jellyfishes in Freo (Fremantle – South Perth) who seem to leave a nasty sting behind.

But don’t let these two small encounters withhold you from visiting Australia. There are no reported deaths from the redback spider since the creation of the anti venom somewhere in the 50’s.

To the Left

Getting in the car on the wrong side, looking in the wrong direction when crossing the street, passing people on the wrong side and quite often almost bumping into them. As I was not clumsy enough yet…

The Accent 

Absolutely a fan of the accent. It’s so chill. The coolest couple of words I’ve encountered is that guys DO say ‘mate’ most of the time and Mc Donald’s is called ‘Macca’s’ over here, even in the commercials.

The Barbie

Another great word is the ‘Barbie’ (without the shrimp though since they are called prawns here anyway). Barbie on the beach? No problem. Over here they have barbecues installed at the beach ready to use. Don’t worry about carrying the whole BBQ set to the beach, the Aussies have it all figured out how to have a perfect Sunday lunch at the beach. Last Sunday my roommate and a couple of his friends invited me for a barbie at Scarborough Beach.

Wear Sunscreen 

Yesterday I went downtown Perth to look for a job. I find it always a good idea to create a visual map of the area before you start applying for jobs. This way you know where everything is located. The neighbourhoods, the bus station, what is around.

What was supposed to be a short walk through the main streets of Downtown Perth ended up in crossing the entire city…twice. It was a beautiful sunny day with a perfect temperature of 24°C. Perth does have the winning numbers when it comes to the place with the most hours of sunshine in the entire country.

I definitely didn’t hold a lottery ticket for that since I got quite sunburned yesterday.

So always wear a good amount of sunscreen.

Let if fly 

The most unexpected part of this is the amount of flies that stick around and the incredible weird and loud sound the crows make. The sound of the crows woke me up on my first morning here and I had no idea what animal it could be. Now I know better. They also seem to attack you and steal your food from time to time.

The Journey Down Under

Howdy friends !

If you are reading this it means I finally made it to Australia !

I started this blog in the airport of Singapore where I was waiting for my connecting flight to Perth.

During my flight from Frankfurt to Singapore I have been treated with a 13 hours cheesy foot smell from my lovely neighbour, lady ’36J’ and have exhausted myself with a movie marathon until my eyes felt like they caught fire. Sleep was hard to find.

Then I still had a five hour flight ahead of me before I arrived at my final destination. The flight from Singapore to Perth was pretty fast as I almost slept through the entire second half of the flight.

Getting into Australia was super quick, even with getting my visa activated. They just link your passport to your visa application on their system and give you a passport stamp and you are all good to go !

In Perth, my friend Tim picked me up from the airport and the new adventure could really start.

I will explore Perth for the entire month of November where I will be staying with Tim.

When we arrived at my new home I got a great introduction to the wildlife of Australia as there was a female redback spider sitting in the mailbox. Better be careful where you put your hands here.

After dinner I was totally done and had to give in to my little sleep deprivation.

This morning around 5 AM I woke up from noises outside. It’s a great thing to hear all animals sounds you’ve never heard before. Some of them I have no idea what they could be. The most mysterious one is a ‘Gollum’ sounding cat that is annoyed. Also the birds sing their songs differently here.

This weekend there is a wine tour planned for Tim’s friend birthday and a party afterwards. I feel my first Australian Hangover coming my way.

Cheers !

Fifty Days of Summer Part 2: Garibaldi Lake / Black Tusk

Nothing ever becomes real ’til it is experienced.

After the wedding bells stopped chiming and my stomach was filled with delicious food over several cozy dinners it was time to leave the city and explore the beautiful lands of Mother Nature.

A good buddy of mine asked me if I was interested in hiking the Black Tusk, a trail that starts little bit south of Whistler and leads to a fantastic view over the area (if the weather permits it).

We drove along the scenic Highway 99 from North Vancouver through Squamish and a good hour later we arrived at the parking lot where our hike could start. We arrived around noon and the parking lot was quite full already.

We started our hike with our camping gear. We planned to stay overnight at the campground at Garibaldi Lake. The first two hours of the hike is pretty much a bunch of switchbacks in the woods. Once we got to the fork in the road we decided to set up our tent at Garibaldi Lake first and followed the signs for the Garibaldi Campground. We passed two more lakes on our right side before arriving at the gorgeous Garibaldi Lake. We installed our tent and had a late lunch.

We left our big bags behind and took a smaller backpack with us to start our climb to the Black Tusk. This trail leads you through the beautiful Taylor Meadows before you start ascending to the intimidating Black Tusk. During this climb you are treated with fantastic views over Garibaldi Lake. Once you face the “end of the trail’ sign you can still continue your hike up to the Black Tusk itself. From here on the climb is even a little steeper and it takes you some time to get to the chute of the Black Tusk but the view from up there is phenomenal. If you are a real daredevil you can consider to climb all the way to the top but I would not recommend it. Other hikers who did risk the climb up to the top told us it was pretty frightening.

We started our descend to Garibaldi Lake. Once we reached our tents we were treated with a smashing sunset that made the lake look like a magical wonderland. After that the temperature started dropping fast and the tiredness kicked in. We decided to call it an early night.

The next day we packed up our tents and explored a little more around Garibaldi Lake before starting our descend to the parking lot.

On our way home we made a stopped at the Sea to Sky Gondola and had a great lunch in Squamish to fill our empty stomachs and celebrate the beauty of British Columbia !

Fifty Days of Summer Part 1 : Wedding in Vancouver

Ever since I left for the Great North American Adventure last July I haven’t been able or trying to give you an update on my travels due to computer problems and time limitations. I have made tons of scribbles though that will never make it to this blog but some others will do.

And I will post those in the next few weeks.

Let’s rewind to the end of July when I shut the door behind me at 5 AM direction Paris Charles de Gaulle where I would take a flight to Vancouver.

All went pretty smooth. One travel tip ! If you fly Westjet and arrive with the train make sure to calculate enough time to walk all the way from the train station to the gate of your plane. At some point it felt like I would end up in the Paris Orly airport.

Westjet brought me all the way to Vancouver in one go.

The Wedding Days

The first few days were all about the wedding of two of my friends who live in Vancouver. He, a military guy from Vancouver. She, a young woman with a degree in psychology from Belgium. They met in a local bar in my hometown, Ieper and where both instantly smitten about each other.

They met up soon after and their love for each other has been growing ever since. Not much later she decided to leave her life behind in Belgium and follow her heart in Vancouver. The rest is history and on July 25th they sealed their lovely deal.

True story.

The wedding held place in a military base in downtown Vancouver, a great location for an unforgetable wedding.

Unchained

A couple of weeks ago I was on my way home. I was heading to my front door and grabbed my keys out of my pocket.

A keychain was holding together a bunch of keys that belonged to different places.

Each of them was a part of my life. Three keys belonged to my apartment where I lived the last four months.

One to my car my sister is driving now.

One to my old workplace and a key to both my parents their place.

As I walked out the door this morning not a single key belonged to me anymore and I was heading to the airport with an empty pocket ready to be filled with Polaroid pictures, festival stubs and a travel passport.

I am doing it again.

50 days of travel curiosity across North America.

These are my 50 Days of Summer

Colorado Craziness : Winter has arrived

Life is full of endless possibilities. Explore your world. 

Once we arrived at Aspen we noticed how slippery the roads were and were glad we could park it in the underground parking garage near the information center. We got our information and strolled through the town of Aspen.

We had lunch at 520 Grill, a below street level restaurant with tasty burgers !

After we filled our bellies my friend Sarah decided to give it a try on the slopes of Aspen Mountain, one of the most intense ski hills of the USA. Myself, who had bare to none experience decided to sit this one through. I did buy a Gondola Pass for the day, giving me access to the cool gondola that starts downtown Aspen and goes up Aspen Mountain to the Sundeck and its panoramic view. Definitely worth its money during winter.

After I’ve sent Sarah off to a good ride down the hill I enjoyed myself in the cafetaria of the Sundeck where I was treated with awesome views over the Rockies. The ride with the gondola itself is already a treat.

After we had our fun in Aspen it was time to drive to our next hotel that was located in Silverthorne, another gateway along the I-15 to go to Breckenridge, another great ski destination in the USA which is slightly cheaper than Aspen.

On our last day full day in Colorado we left Silverthorne in the early morning to have some time in Breckenridge. Another cool spot for your typical fun in the snow. We tried out the gondola as well (which was free today) and headed to the base of the slopes. As much as we wanted to explore the ski hills, there wasn’t enough time to test the snow unfortunately.

We had lunch in Breckenridge before driving all the way to Denver where we would spend the rest of the afternoon.

Denver was a slight disappointment. Except for some governmental buildings and some nice parks I wasn’t overly impressed of the city. Maybe my expectations I’ve collected over the years were too high and I was just still overwhelmed with excitement of my trip through the Rockies.

After exploring Denver for a bit and even driving down to Colorado Springs we spent our last night in a hotel near the airport (also cheaper) before catching an early morning flight the next day. Luckily both our flights left on time this time.

Colorado Craziness : REDRUM

After a false start in Denver we were finally catching up to our actual road trip itinerary.

We left Boulder with a very good feeling although our stay there was cut short with a couple hours.

We drove up the mountains to Estes Park where we planned a visit to the famous Stanley Hotel (hotel from The Shining). We arrived there in the early afternoon with high hopes. Although the hotel is impressive and the setting is very nice, it’s also a little bit smaller than expected and close to the ‘city center’ of Estes Park.

It’s not this ‘in the middle of nowhere’ massive hotel than has been portrayed in the movie but still a cool place to visit when visiting Colorado. You can see the lobby, the bar, the staircase,… and they have special tours as well.

Worth a detour ? I would say yes !

After Estes Park we had a long drive through the Rockies to Glenwood Springs, the gateway to the ski region of Aspen. Hotels are WAY cheaper there than in Aspen itself. You can get from Glenwood Springs to Aspen with several bus services. An option worth exploring.

During our long drive through the snowy Rockies we passed through Nederland and along a very cozy bar/restaurant worth visiting called ‘The Millsite Inn‘. This bar is located along the beautiful Peak to Peak Highway, a beautiful scenic drive through the Rockies. We had a stop there and tried their delicious pizza dough. Definitely your best place to go in the area.

After a couple hours of driving and go pro videos we arrived in Glenwood Springs. We hurried ourselves to get dinner just in time downtown before resting our heads for the night.

The next day we had a nice drive from Glenwood Springs to Aspen.

Colorado Craziness : The False Start

Earlier this year I decided to go on a road trip with Sarah, my good friend from Ontario.

We had a blast in Moraine Lake last summer so we decided to continue our fun times for a bit.

This time we decided to explore the American Rockies instead of her Canadian Sister.

Since Sarah was living back east in Ontario and I was still working in Vancouver we decided to meet each other in the middle (more or less) in Denver.

We looked up flights that were both (fairly) cheap for us and with the approximate same arrival time so we could start our journey at the same time.

Well of course that didn’t worked out.

Instead of arriving around 11 PM with a 15 minute time difference I stranded in Denver at 3 AM while Sarah was having a couple drinks downtown Charlotte, NC.

How ?

Sudden weather changes.

It started off without any complications.

But soon enough that one flight from Seattle to Denver on the timetable started to get more and more delayed because of a snowstorm over Colorado. In the meantime Sarah was already on her way from Toronto to Charlotte, NC where she had her connection to Denver. But the plane in Toronto left with a delay because of another snowstorm in Ontario and she missed her connection and was scheduled for the next flight the next morning. But Sarah didn’t let it get to her heart and made friends right away and made the best of her night in Charlotte and went for a couple drinks.

Meanwhile my flight finally departed around midnight and I arrived in Denver in the middle of the night where I had to wait for Sarah for another six hours. I had some midnight food and found some sleep next to the bagage carrousel.

After spending more than 12 hours in airports before the trip even had to start Sarah and I were reunited.

We forgot about the bad start (that wasn’t that bad at all) and picked up the rental car. Because the weather forecast was not predicting this kind of weather we had booked a compact car for our trip but once we got outside the airport it was clear we would not get anywhere with this type of car in this kind of weather. We needed an upgrade but the only type available was an SUV. And that came at a high cost. It was all or nothing so we decided to get the upgrade after all.

Then we could finally start our journey and we set course to Boulder through the winter wonderland. Roads were still pretty slippery so we had to drive slower than we anticipated which resulted in a huge delay of our trip.

We arrived in Boulder by noon and had a great lunch at West Flanders Brewing Co. Boulder is a perfect place to stop for lunch or dinner and a small walk through Pearl Street on your way to the Rockies.

Our climb into the Rockies could finally start.

The Gems of Grand Teton National Park

It is not the position you stand but the direction in which you look that counts

One of the parks I’ve visited in the United States is Grand Teton National Park.

It left a big impression on me.

Sometimes this park gets less attention because of its famous neighbour, Yellowstone but it definitely deserves a couple days from your precious time.

Here are my (current) top 5 highlights of this park.

5. Jenny Lake Scenic Drive

This one way drive gives you a great view over Jenny Lake on your right. Put on a good tune and let your eyes take it all in. Not you, driver, you keep your eyes on the road and you can enjoy the music and the road ahead.

4. Blacktail Pond Overlook 

Visit this place at the end of the day to get more chances to see the beavers. You can also bring a visit to this place to make some stunning reflection pictures of the Teton mountains during the day.

3. Snake River Overlook 

Another overlook, another great view of the mountains and the snake river. My friend once gave me a motivational poster of this shot. That poster hanged up in my room for years so I HAD to make a stop at this beautiful place.

So worth it.

2. Phelps Lake 

Not the most famous lake of all but it’s a great spot where you can jump of a huge rock. Just make sure you push yourself off the rock when you jump off. As my friend already jumped threes times I felt the pressure rising. My heart was starting to beat even faster when a joyful family joined us to have a picnic on the rock and started cheering for me.

I felt like there wasn’t a way back.

I had to jump off or I would regret this all my life. So I went a couple steps back, breathed in and out a couple times and started running. Instead of pushing myself of the rock I stepped off the rock and made my descent and finished gracefully with a nasty face plant in the incredibly refreshing water.

Classic.

Still glad I did it.

1. Surprise Lake and Amphitheatre Lake

Two lakes fairly close to each other high up in the mountains. This is a day trip hike that starts off with a bunch of switchbacks but once you conquered those you will soon be rewarded with great views over the park and Jackson Hole.

We did this hike begin of October and lucked out with the weather because we traveled during the few last warm and sunny days of the season.

During the hike you will be stunned with great views over the park and beautiful lakes.

Make sure you bring enough water on this hike as it took us nearly 7 hours to complete the hike from beginning to end.

Discovering Wyoming : All over the Place

And then there was this time I made a road trip through Alberta, Montana and Wyoming with Gordon.

After driving through Alberta and Montana we finally made it to Wyoming after passing the Roosevelt Arch. This arch marks the North Entrance of the park and is named after President Roosevelt after he placed one of the corner stones of this arch over a century ago.

We lucked out with the fantastic weather as it is October and the area is at the verge of winter. If we would have arrived 10 days later a lot of the roads would have been closed off already. So make sure you always check the road conditions on the website of the National Park you will visit.

Also, if you visit a couple National Parks on your road trip through the USA and you arrive at your first park, make sure to consider buying an annual pass if you are planning on visiting more than 4 National Parks. It will be cheaper in the long run.

The first big stop we made in the park was Mammoth Hot Springs followed by the Midway Geyser Basin and Old Faithful. Three very impressive stops where every photographer among us can take a million pictures.

Unfortunately the sun was already setting once we made it to the Old Faithful. We were able to still witness an eruption before it went completely dark. Don’t forget to bring a visit to the Old Faithful Inn when you are there.

We exited the park and drive all the way down to Jackson Hole where we had accommodations booked for the next two nights so we could explore Grand Teton National Park and Jackson for a bit.

We stayed at Miller Park Lodge and had a very enjoyable stay. Nice rooms, free parking and located in the center of the touristy town of Jackson Hole. We arrived very late but had no problem checking in.

The next day we got ourselves a good breakfast burrito before we hit the road again. Today would be the highlight of our trip as we were about to go hiking in Grand Teton National Park.

Once we entered the park we made a quick stop at the visitor center for some recommendations about the park. The ranger was awesome and gave us some fun places to do and see. I will share my top 5 of things to see and do in the park in my next post.

At night we grabbed a bite at McPhail’s Burgers where they use fresh ground beef to make their delicious burgers.

Afterwards we visited the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar near the Jackson Town Square. If you want the Western Cowboy Bar you’ve seen in the movies, than this one is your go to place. It even has saddle bar stools inside and the place to have a good time in Jackson.