Let’s Pack – Toiletries

With just 5 weeks (eeeek) to our departure for Scotland and the 100km Arran Coastal Way and some Edinburgh and Glasgow sight seeing, these next posts few posts will focus on what is currently top of mind for our merry travelling band – what to pack!

While I would never claim to be a packing expert, I do have some handy tips and tricks that work well for me and just might be something that could work for you. How do I know some bits about this? Well, I have read dozens and dozens of books, follow way too many travel blogs, comb through loads of trail guides, and have had to pack for quite a few long, walking holidays myself. Also, I have some packing lessons I learnt the hard way that I would gladly share with you all to save you stress they caused me – like realizing I packed everything but a comb or brush and had no place to buy one for 4 days. Scarecrow!

This week lets focus on packing toiletries – yes, toiletries. You are probably wondering how could there possibly be enough info in my brain to dump on you about toiletries to fill a blog post and keep you entertained. Ha! There is more in my brain on this topic (and all things packing and prep) than you can imagine or that I ever thought was up in there. You will see. Here we go …

Toiletries – My Tips and Tricks: 

  • You will use less than you think of most stuff and more of some stuff than you ever thought. How confusing is that! Basically, don’t stress about amounts – figure it out by doing a trial! Schedule a two week duration (or the length of the trip you are going on) before you go and use the products you intend to take for that same time frame. Pay special attention to what you use everyday, how much you use, and also what you don’t use. Pack the items and the amount accordingly.
  • Don’t pack the ‘that would be cool’ stuff. Like you have his awesome charcoal mask you use once in a very blue moon but think hmm maybe I would have time to do it while relaxing or journaling on the trip. Nope! You won’t. Don’t pack it. If you didn’t use it during your home trial (see above) – it doesn’t get a place in your pack!
  • If you have a roomie or travel buddy, think about sharing. For example, one of you bring the conditioner and another the shampoo.
  • If you are bringing a blow-dryer, straightener, or other electronic hair appliance they will need a converter which can be purchased before you go – you will need one that not only converts the style of plug but also the voltage or watts. Cautionary tale, I have NEVER had success with a converter and I think my current international ‘blow up a blow-dryer’ count is at about 5 and the last even burnt my hand. Boo! Instead of buying a converter, I suggest you buy a small blow-dyer or whatever once you arrive at your destination (researching where there is a store that sells them and how to get there from your arrival spot before you depart of course – so it’s a quick stop and not a waste of a tourist day).
  • Prescription medications must be in their original prescribed container and should be in your carry-on that you take on the plane. This is important for customs but also for your health! Should your checked luggage be lost or delayed, you can buy new underpants and deodorant but replacing that prescription blood pressure medication is a bit tougher, expensive and can mess with your trip plans.
  • Over the counter medications that you might want to bring should be in their original blister packs but to save space I tend to take the blister packs out of the box and rip off just the name and dosage instructions from the original pack. I then toss an elastic around the blister packs and the package bits I ripped off so they are together and you know how much to take should you need to. If space is really tight, remember you can buy this kind of stuff in most countries so you don’t need to pack too much. Just pack enough to to cover you for a few days for immediate relief until you can buy more locally. I suggest a few of the following: Gravol, Immodium, Pepto Bismal, Daytime Cold & Sinus, Nighttime Cold & Sinus, Tylenol and/or Advil plus any other specifics you tend to suffer from, i.e. maybe cold sore medication or something like that.
  • Always pack an extra lip chap or 5! I swear there is a lip chap conspiracy in this world where they magically walk away, lose themselves, disappear, invisibility cloak themselves, something. I don’t lose things but I cannot keep a handle on a lip chap so something is going on with those wee tubes! I will be bringing 4 on this trip (one in my day pack, one in my carry on, and 2 spare in my toiletries kit).
  • Everyone is pretty and somehow most especially when they are happy, and I find I am pretty darn cute (tee hee) when travelling cause I am so much in my happy place! So don’t worry about bringing stuff to glam yourself up with – happiness will do that for you! Think simple day to day toiletries stuff not night out on the town, look at me like I am in Las Vegas stuff.
  • If you use bar soap, think about cutting it in half for the trip. I have a rule – 1/2 bar of Ivory lasts me 30 days so long as I dry it after each shower. I take with me a 1/2 bar Ivory and a 1/2 bar Rocky Mountain Soap Company Shave Bar on each trip of 30 days or less. I dry them off after the shower so they do not dissolve more than necessary and they are stored in a wee baby zip lock together – they get along and appreciate the company I think.

Toiletries – My Packing List: 

Here is what I will be taking and/or recommend folks consider taking, in travel size containers that will be the perfect amount plus a wee squeeze extra for your trip.

  • Face Cream and Face Sunscreen (daily, combo if you have it)*
  • Face wash, wipes or soap (some use their body for face, or have a combo)
  • Shampoo and conditioner (or combo if that works for you lid)
  • Daily hair products (I use an oil in my hair every few days to keep it silky and have a wee baby travel bottle I use to take just enough for the trip)
  • Make-up (powder, mascara, eye liner, lip gloss, lash curler, and a bit of cheek colour which can also be used eye shadow if you  wanna kick it up a notch)*
  • Make-up remover (if needed, aka for my waterproof mascara)
  • Deodorant or antiperspirant*
  • Body cream
  • Body soap (1/2 bar)
  • Shave soap (1/2 bar)
  • Razor
  • Tweezer
  • Comb and/or brush (aka anti-scarecrow device)
  • Daily medications and vitamins*
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss*
  • Q-tips
  • Some hair taming things (bobby pins, elastics, scrunchy)
  • Hairspray
  • Dry Shampoo
  • Tiny bathroom spray so your roomie doesn’t have to smell you post bathroom ick
  • Perfume**

*I take these items on the plane with me so after 15 hours of travel with 10+ of those on a plane, I can do a little pre-landing freshen up and hit a new country with confidence!

** A trick I use for perfume to avoid bringing a glass perfume bottle with me … dampen a few paper towels, spray liberally with your perfume and store these damp, smelly towels in a air tight Ziplock bag. When you need to smell nice (before landing on your transatlantic flight, out to the pub for eats after a day of hiking), simply dab the perfume soaked damp paper towel where you would usually spritz and return to / resell the Ziplock. Magnifique!

Toiletries – How to Pack Them Advice:  

  • Perfume – see above **
  • Every day and just in case – have two lightweight, mesh cases for your toiletries. One that stores all your everyday stuff from face cream to mascara to shampoo. The other for the just in case like those sinus or allergy meds that you hope you never need. You keep this second one buried in your bag and the other on top for easy access! This way you are not shuffling past some of these just in case items to get to your daily sunscreen – saving loads of time and frustration in your daily routine.
  • Hands and surface free – keeping on that same theme of having one bag for all that you use everyday, also think about putting an S hook or carabiner on the bag for off the counter storage. This is especially important when staying in hostels or B&Bs with share bathrooms where counter space is at minimum or at best soggy from the last patron and no one wants to put a soggy toiletries bag back in their pack.
  • Ziplock it – store your shampoo, conditioner and other gooey toiletries in a big ziplock bag when you check it in. A poor firing lid, the pressure on the plane and baggage handling can cause gooey implosions from those items. While easy enough to clean up, you do need to be careful about wasting the volume of product that was meant to last the duration of your trip. If the mess happens in a ziplock you can still use what made the mess!

Well that’s the toiletries run down – told you I had a lot to say about dental floss and shampoo!

Brande

Advertisements

Goat Creek to Goat Fell

Yahoo lassies!

On Monday the crew of us heading to Scotland to complete the Arran Coast Way in July had our one and only chance to train all together and it was awesome!

Shar selected the Goat Creek Trail for us seeing it would mimic much of our path in Scotland. I sure hope so too because the trail was great and I could do that for a week for sure!

The trail starts at the Goat Creek trail head just outside of Canmore and ends 19km later at the Banff Springs outside of Banff (the trail tail / trail butt as Rosa and Shar joked).

The path was undulating for the most part, up away from Goat Creek and then back down again as we left Canmore further behind and gained on approaching Banff. Just a few slogs up overall really – what a treat!!

At the head of the trail there was a big ole sign warning of wolves and grizzly bears in the area. Always a nice ‘welcome to the trail you hikers who may also double dinner’. Ha! Usually I see these signs when I am alone hiking and they freak me out – which 4 of us hiking though it was way less intimidating. Ok maybe not way less but at least a bit less.

Best way to curb the ‘gonna get eaten’ fear is to launch into full ‘don’t eat me’ mode. This includes being generally loud on the trail – holding conversations, hollering out a word or two every 50 feet or when approaching a bend in the path or a creek, and staying together if you have a hiking tribe.

Really you are just hoping to scare any wildlife away before there is any chance of you startling them into eating you. We also did a quick run down of what to do if we do see a bear, cougar or wolf so we were all on the same page. We did this loudly of course as part of our ‘be heard and be seen’ wildlife strategy. (I like to call things strategies so they sound all planned and awesome – even though this this was more of a ‘holy crap, what if’ scenario discussion.)

We had a lot of fun with the calling out a word every 50 feet or so strategy; turning it into a game of sorts. This keeps the bears away, is fun, and seems to eat up the miles quickly! We did the classic name that country sound off starting with A thru to Z, then a round for celebrities and one for names of songs. This last one may have include some short bursts of singing which may have been the best thing for keeping those pack hunting wolves at bay. At least when I was belting out the ole Toy Soldier by Martika! Remember that one?

During our walk we focused on a two things – the beauty of the trail and our gear. Lots of gear talk. Mostly gear talk. We were out there on Monday to test gear. Everything from socks to hats, and from undies to backpacks to see what will make the cut for Scotland.

I discovered my penchant for being cheap has resulted in wearing decade old SmartWools that don’t keep their shape any longer resulting in under the heel blister potential, and that my new hiking capris from Eddie Bauer are great but they are not the replacement for my long standing favourite Nike capris that need to make one final trip me thinks. I also confirmed that after logging probably 1000s of kilometers in my Asolo Backpacking boots across the globe I may need to splurge for some new insoles. I better get on that quick so I can train the next 6 weeks in them before we depart.

Rosa tried the switch from boots to shoes technique to see how that worked for her dogs – a strategy I deploy on 20km+ days with great success especially when it includes compression socks! Cheryl discovered that the pants she thought would be perfect were not and will not be making the cut for the trip’s packing list. Shar confirmed her hiking shorts are perfect for the trip and that the wax from Baby Bel Cheese can be used to prevent sunburns on your the nose if there is ever a shortage of sunscreen.

Overall the trail of 19km took us just over 4 hours at a very easy pace with lots of wee stops to check and test that gear and some snacks mid way too. The weather was overcast with some small breaks of sun – perfect for hiking! Not too hot or cold. Oh and

A little extra time was added to the trip for an extra special reason! We had to make one special pit stop for Rosa to see if Jamie Fraser of Outlander was perhaps at this standing stone – nope, she did not hear bees. Doh! We will try every standing stone in Scotland for you Rosa until we find him.

Oh and we had to stop for Shar and Cheryl to knock off a few yoga moves for those tight ham-dogs and hip-flexors too.

We rolled into Banff arriving at the trail butt by the Banff Springs Hotel of amazingness. But us classy gals didn’t stop there for a cool, fancy drink. No way! We made our way down to Buffalo Bills for a cold pint and some meat!

Then we headed up Banff Main Street to catch the Roam bus for $6bucks back to Canmore where our vehicles were waiting! Lots of peeps bike the trail we walked so there were even some bins strapped to the front or the back of the bus to bead back to Canmore.

Am awesome trial and trail day for all of us! We all loved the trail and each of us figured out something a little more than we knew before about our gear for Scotland.

Eeeek the trip is coming fast!

Brande

8 Weeks to Isle of Arran – Feet

Well with 8 weeks to go till departure I have a big decision to make – boots or no boots?

Seems crazy to even consider hiking 100+km in soggy Scotland without my beloved, make me happy, bring me joy as soon as I slip into them boots. But I have a love / hate relationship with my Asolo boots and that makes this a big decision.

img_0814

Weight: My boots are a mid-backpacking boot  – which means they are heavier than a hiking boot or shoe but lighter than a heavy backpacking boot. Together they weigh just under 3lbs and while that may seem like not much right now when you add that to the bottom of your feet for 25,000 steps or more every day it definitely adds to the workout. Not to mention my pack weight when they are not on my feet. I have strong enough legs, knees and ankles that I could most likely go with a light hiker or even a cross trainer like my also very loved purple running shoes from Nike. hmmm

img_1545.jpg

Waterproof: My boots are totally waterproof – lovely, amazing Gortex that has kept up its waterproof-ness now for over a decade. I can tell you that dry feet are happy feet. While some hikers may be all like “I don’t mind if my feet get wet”  – I am not one of those. I know from experience that wet feet become swollen, the skin becomes weak and soft and that means blisters, blisters, blisters. Also, I wear SmartWool socks and wet and wool means stretching, which means bunching, which means (yup you guess it) blisters, blisters, blisters. If there is one thing Scotland is famous for (maybe almost as famous as Ireland for) its rain. Hey they named that misty, hang in the air rain Scotch Mist for a reason! So if the weather is perfect every day of hiking, I wont need my boots but .. well it is Scotland.

img_1348

Underfoot: I love the weightlessness of my running shoes for sure but a rocky or shale path is havoc on feet in running shoes. The bits of sand and grit gets kicked up and settles into your socks and shoes – making blisters, unless you annoyingly stop every 100 yards to clear em out. The rocks under the soft tread of sneakers feels like a few bumps at the start of a 25km day but those same rocks starts to feel like broken glass and upturned nails as the dogs bark louder and louder by the end of the day. My boots have a Vibram sole – hard equals heavy, but hard also means you do not feel rock edges or the bumps and clumps underfoot. In fact, the bottom of my boots are so good that I can balance on a pointed rock as if its flat (assuming I am doing spirit fingers for balance and posing for a photo of course).  Now I could find the perfect balance and get me some trail runners which feature a much harder sole than regular cross trainers, and I could where gaiters to keep the dust and rocks out of my shoes and socks. But hmm 9 weeks out I do not want to be breaking in anything new and gaiters assuming good weather make the feet sweat and we are back to the wet feet issue above.

IMG_1979

Change of pace: now I have to say one of my favourite things to do is to switch it up. If the path is rocky or scrambling is involved; my boots are fabulous for grip, kicking in a toe hold, keeping the grit out, and generally keeping the feet happy. But when the path is maybe on a flat surface or through the wee Scottish villages; then my sneakers are light and bouncy and I feel like I can really kick the pace up a notch with 1.5lbs less on each foot holding me to the earth. I also love switching to my sneakers from my boots when the sun starts shining, as a kind of celebration of Vitamin D. Not to mention throwing on my sneakers and compression socks (of a lovely lime green variety cause I am sure the bright the colour the better the compression) for an awesome pick me up – both in blood flow and in hiking attire appeal.

Hmmmm decisions, decisions -well, no not really. I have decided – I am taking both.

This will surprise very few people I suspect; its kinda my thing to have both. I just cant imagine how lonely my Asolo’s would feel being left out of the fun and I love a good mid-day change up! I also like that when I have my boots or my sneakers secure to Missy Morado (my Osprey backpack’s name) she sits upright and proud in her purple goodness.  Really its Missy confirming my choice to bring both really! Yup.

Brande

Guest Post – The ‘Be You’ Training Plan

Well Hello!

My name is Shar and I am Brande’s sister – here as a guest on the blog today! I am VERY honoured to be adding to the amazing posts that B (what we call her in our family) does throughout her adventures and her process of preparation!

We are gearing up to do a long distance walk in Scotland, the Arran Coastal Way. This will be long distance walking adventure number 2 for me! The Great Glen Way in 2013 with B was one of the most memorable adventures of my life time and I am sure this one will be that much better!

The reason I wanted to hop on the blog today was to address those whom are intimidated by the word “preparation”!

I respect so much the thought, care and dedication B puts into every day leading up to an adventure. But for me, I have a short attention span for most things! So the idea of getting through a long training routine in anticipation of wanting to just get going is SUPER unnerving for a person like me!

Best advice I can give is … do things that are gonna get you out there doing things! Don’t try to be or do something your NOT! Don’t over schedule and over complicate! You do you, and don’t apologize for it!

B made up this awesome training program (20 Week Training Plan) and sent it out to us for help and guidance on where to start and I took that program and twisted it a bit so it fit my family’ incredibly crazy schedule and my need for short and sweet commitments!

For me, I love love love Jillian Micheals‘ workouts – she is the bomb when it comes to short but effective work outs! The longest I have done is 28mins or less!! No going to the gym or finding time to hit an hour class; it’s my house and on my time! I don’t have to think, she tells me what to do and I am working every muscle I need to support the multiple kilometers we are going to cover on our next adventure! Start with the Beginner Shred if you want to give it a try – quick and effective! Oh and Yoga meltdown is an awesome one as well! Rock star!

guestshar_training_feet_may2018.jpg

Alternating that with a 5km Running App- which gets me outdoors with out having to rearrange schedules and move mountains to get there! Just throw on the runners and go! Combine it all with a 15-20 min recovery yoga when and if I can fit it in!

Throwing in some fun 30 day squat or plank challenges here and there makes it a workable routine that fits within an already crazy schedule and it all does not have to be done at once! Trust me I know how important fitting it all into a crazy schedule is!

guestshar_training_plan_may2018

To keep me going – I keep an pretty elementary schedule of what I need to do each day and cross off with a happy face when I complete it! Writing it down helps cement the commitment and crossing it off cements the accomplishment!

Does it make a difference? Why can’t you just stick to walking for your training?

Well what I noticed after just a wee few weeks is the recovery. Yesterday, after a 17km moderate hike with one of my besties – my recovery was nothing.

guestshar_training_hike_may2018.JPGI felt the workout which we all want but I did not FEEL the workout! If you know what I mean. My endurance was awesome, the steep climbs and equally as important the steep descents weren’t painful!

This is what makes hiking for an average everyday Joe (or Shar) like me that much more amazing!This helps keep me motivated, it is such a great feeling when I do get the chance to get out and enjoy the mountains with out my body bitching me out when I’m done!

So start simple! I started the first week with just the Beginner Shred workout and added in the run on alternating days a couple weeks later – so it’s not overwhelming and I wasn’t struggling to keep up with life!

Take that step… even if you don’t have a long distance walk ahead! Feels great and keeps us young!

Happy Trails!
Shar

9 Weeks to Isle of Arran – Trails

boots_may202018_goldenear_lowerfalls

With 9 weeks to go, its time to get out of my own neighbourhood (as amazing as it is with all the awesome local trails and hills) and hit trails that we will more like the Arran Coastal Way in Scotland.

So the next 2 months will be spent in search of Arran like hiking trails and paths to train me up! This will be a combo of boardwalk, beach, hiking trails, hiking paths, some pavement, and a small-ish mountain or two. I am also aim to walk in every manner of weather to give my gear every possible Scottish-like experience and determine exactly what pieces are worthy of this great adventure.

I kicked off this training focus yesterday at Golden Ears Provincial Park in the Maple Ridge area of Greater Vancouver, British Columbia! Wow this Park has a trail for everyone and every level of fitness. So beautiful and only about an hour from my place with a really beautiful drive once you are in the Park.

pathme_may202018_goldenear_lowerfalls

I was hiking alone yesterday. As there is largely no cell service in the Park, I was aiming for some well used trails to be safe. I hoped to get something of the undulating and shale based sort to get me warmed up. I also wanted to take advantage of the overcast day and chance of rain. The Lower Falls Trail which is just a short 5.5km that leads to a pretty amazing waterfall was a good fit!

falls2_may202018_goldenear_lowerfalls

river_may202018_goldenear_lowerfalls

 

river2_may202018_goldenear_lowerfalls

I am glad I went early in the day as there was way too many people out and about by the time I made my way back to the parking lot – including that one person in a crowd of 50 who insists on playing their music on speaker while walking in nature. Wonder if they now that nature has its own music? You know birds, waterfalls, rushing rivers, growling bears and roaring cougars and such. Much more pleasant to the hiking ears than a Brittney Spears playlist (insert angry face here) me thinks.

But for every one out there that makes you (ok me) a little crazy, there is another that makes me out and out smile. Looks like I did not have to be afraid of creepy people or animals yesterday – but rather these very ferocious wood monsters at every turn. I love when people have a bit of fun when they see something more than a log or cloud or rock.

animals_may202018_goldenear_lowerfalls

It also brings me joy to see any tree that reminds me of the cartoon movie Fern Gully!

tree_may202018_goldenear_lowerfalls

I would have liked something a little longer and harder yesterday. I have my eyes set on completing the Golden Ears Canyon Loop in the coming weeks, when my hiking buddy Matty is available. I could see the orange tree markers for the Loop leading up and over the ridge and I was sorely tempted to give it a go but safety first, darn it. So I turned around like a safety bear and made my way back at long-leg speed to up the work out.

Golden Ears Provincial Park I will be seeing you again soon!

Brande

 

10 Weeks to Isle of Arran

IMG_6489

We are officially 10 weeks from departure for our long distance hike around the Isle of Arran, Scotland and up and over Goat Fell Mountain as our finale! Not sure if goats have actually fallen off this mountain or if humans nicknamed Goat fell off the mountain to prompt such a name – either way I plan on staying firmly planted to the pointy rock myself.

With just 10 weeks till departure (eeeek) and a distance of just over 120kms to cover by foot once we get there, physical training needs to hit full swing this week so we are feeling spry and fit every day when we approach the 20km mark and our end of day pints!

Here is what my training plan looks like for Week 10:

  • Hike: 4 x 6km+ hikes (1 of these should be all hills, up and dreaded down)
  • Pack: 10lb pack this week, work to find that strap sweet spot (any rubbing?)
  • Gear – Lower: use the sock combo I will use on the actual hike (any issues?)
  • Gear – Upper: use your poles on 1 hike this week if you plan on taking em
  • Strength – Lower: 2 x 55 squats, 2x 25 lunges each leg, 2 x 40 calf raises, 2 x 20 fire hydrants
  • Strength – Upper: 2 x 15 cat/cows, 10 x Double D’s, 2 x 60sec elbow plank
  • Finishing Touch: Yoga (at least once this week, any kind will do)

I am one of those peeps who loves a goal. Some may call me competitive, some call me driven, and some may call my an over-planner / control freak. Well, whatever name you wanna throw out there, it does not matter to me. What matters to me is that I like to feel good doing whatever it is I am up to – I like a bounce in my step when I hike!

I know travelling half a day on a plane to enter a time zone that is half a day ahead of what I have at home can make it so you look and feel like Gollum after only 5km of a 120km hike. So I prep hard to avoid that from happening. I want to throw my head back and laugh joyously and courageously at a 30km day of hiking, to have a smile on my face and spirit fingers in the air at every km that we achieve!

Having a robust training plan that works for ME is key. I love checking off the weeks and training sets to departure. It feels like every one I complete gets me that many sleeps closure to departure. Its like going to sleep early on Christmas Eve so Santa will come faster! That’s a real thing -its science really!

For this trip, I created and shared with my fellow Isle of Arran hikers (Shar, Rosa and Cheryl) my 20 Week Training Plan. I created it for me but with all of us in mind, and each of these gals are making it work for them as it works for them. Its not a prescription or a directive, its an idea of how to get those boots on and those thighs ready to work-it once we touch down in one of the most amazing small countries in the world!

I am also happy to share this 20 Week Training Plan with you!

Please know that I am not a health professional, exercise professional or any other designation that would suggest I am an expert in training plans. I am but a gal who loves to walk long distances and has done enough over the years to know what MY body needs to feel good at the end of a long hike day that will be met with a long hike the next day. You are welcome to use and adapt my 20 Week Training Plan as it works for you and your body and your goal. Just as my fellow Isle of Arran hikers are doing.

When we arrive on July 24th, It will be nearly 5 years to the day since my boots last hit the Glasgow Airport tarmac (when me and my sis Shar did the Great Glen Way!). Wow is this Scottish lass ever itching for her Alba fix!

Brande

 

Announcing a New Adventure

I am super excited to announce my next adventure …

islearran

I will be heading back to do some more hiking (hill walking as they  like to call it) in Scotland this summer. A celebration of a milestone birthday. I cheered my 30th in Scotland so what a great way to bring in my 40th. Hmm maybe this trend will continue for my 50th in another decade!

The hike I will be celebrating with is the Arran Coastal Path, about a 108+km path that goes all the way around the Isle of Arran off the west coast of Scotland. An area I have never explored and an island that boasts it is a mini-Scotland.

I will be joined in my merriment with a trio of three amazing women…

My sister Shar, who I have done many hikes with including the Great Glen Way in Scotland back in 2013. Which we both loved and have been trying to get back on the long distance path together since! Shar brings the planning, go-get-em-ra-ra cheerleading, and excited clapping to our band.

My sister-in-scrapbooking Cheryl, who I have not hiked with before but have had the awesome pleasure of spending loads of deep thinking and laugh till you cry time with so it should be awesome. Cheryl brings the deep conversations, conventional and unconventional wisdom and get-it-done-in-colour to the troupe.

My sister-in-as-good-as-law Rosa, who I have not hiked with per se but we have put on a tonne of miles together walking and stair climbing during far off family vacations. Rosa brings the perseverance, logic, competition and hilariously heckling sense of humour to the team.

We are just 19weeks out and already having a wonderful time just in the planning. Over the coming weeks I will share our training plans, details of our itinerary and all the other preparation bits and bobs. Then of course a day by day, play by play here on the blog while we are on our adventure.

Brande

Lots of Love for Lisboa

We wrapped up our month long France, Spain and a Portugal whirlwind Camino pilgrimage in Lisboa (Lisbon) Portugal. An amazing city that sadly we only had about 36 hours to enjoy and it deserves much more time than that.

We arrived on Thursday night around 6pm at the Oriente Train Station after an afternoon of train travel from Lagos. We easily found our way from the trains to the metro to get to Interdente Metro station where our new home, a great Air BnB, was located – right on the edge of the historic city center! The metro and train systems and stations are intertwined in Lisbon and so easy to navigate.

Our place was again another fabulous booking (thank you Lana!) – pic above is our evening and night view from our kitchen window! Our host Miguel was so helpful with all our Lisbon questions. Who needs Tourist Info when you have a Miguel!?

We didn’t have much time in Lisboa, just one evening and a full day, so once we checked in and got sorted we hit the town to do some evening exploring and to find a great place for dinner. We found a wonderful district just before the historic city center and the most fabulous cafe called O’ Corvo!

Wow! They made us sparking green wine sangria that had all kinds of fruit and coffee beans and mint. Mmmm to go with our yummy homemade salads. So great – the food, the staff and the atmosphere was perfect. The place was decorated with a collection of furniture and pics from antique shops and second hand stores. Icing on the cake was the Tina Turner Greatest Hits they were playing. That’s totally my jam … we don’t need another hero (insert singing and dancing here).

The next morning, we were up at our the door by 9am to maximize our short time in Lisboa.

We started the day with a walk down to the historic city centre, snapping pics as we went. With such beautiful streets and history it’s hard to make any progress as you walk – we are so busy looking and gawking and snapping pics.

Some highlights from our morning / pre-breakfast walk about town …

Some highlights from our visit to the Cathedral, a few other churches and the Alfama District (artsy and Fado music district) after our outdoor cafe breakfast …


While having lunch (which was meant to be just a cold drink but the food smelled and looked so good we did lunch too), we decided to fit Sintra in. Sintra is a fairytale little town outside Lisboa with amazing, colourful castles. A place that Lana was keen to see and disappointed that our time in Lisboa was shirt and we couldn’t make it work. Well? Why can’t we?!

We wrapped up lunch, popped over to the Tourist Info who gave us the details on how to make it happen, and then headed straight for Rossi train station for the 50min train to Sintra. A round trip train is only 4,90 Euros each and the train comes every 20mins. We would be there for 330pm, leaving us loads of time to see the highlights! Yahoo!

Most people take a full day in Sinatra but we only had a half day and we were determined to make the most of it! Once in Sintra, we saved our walking time for around the sights and instead used a Tuk Tuk (thanks Pedro) to get a tour of the highlights of Sintra and to take us up to the mountain top castle. Here are the highlights of Sintra – its gorgeous!



We had an awesome time in Sintra and made it back to Lisboa for about 7pm. We did a little souvenir shopping and some more sight seeing, then looked for a place to eat. Our last supper of our whole trip – no pressure!

Well we found an awesome new tapas restaurant in our neighborhood, Endente. The owner was featuring traditional tapas from all Portugal, local wine, cheeses and even served the food on Portuguese made ceramics. The place just opened this summer and he was so great to us! We loved it.

Portugal you have a very special in our hearts – we both cannot wait to be back. What a country and what an awesome finish to just an amazing trip we both feel so grateful for having the opportunity to take.

We are now boarding our flight back to Canada – smiling as we reminisce about the trip. A bit sad it’s over but very much looking forward to seeing our families!

Thanks for following our adventure!
Brande

Lovely Lagos

I know I already gave you a ‘city you must visit’ for your bucket list .. well now I must also give you a ‘beach to visit’ for the list too. Lagos, Portugal. In a word – stunning! Oh and it’s pronounced LagoSH as we quickly learned!

We arrived by train from Porto on Monday, early evening. At first I was underwhelmed as the train station is just your regular, ole station with nothing to make it a warm Lagos welcome. And when you walk out of the stations, it’s into a parking lot and you can’t even see the ocean I was so looking forward to being at. However just yards out of the train parking lot and around a stone wall, it was a very different story!

We were greeted by a beach side resort town that many Europeans consider their holiday destination – like us Canadians consider Mexico and Cuba. The streets were all cobble stone walks and the marina was full of boats and the water crystal clear and full of fish and the beaches and the cafes and the pubs and the shops and overall a beachside city of wow! Yup wow! The air was warm and smelt of salt and we had arrived at our Camino reward!

It was around 6pm when we arrived and we were due to meet our Air BnB host straight away. So we made our way right to the flat we rented. We did not have to go far. It was just a half block off of the main cafe and market street and we ogled the fun as we walked.

Our host met us and gave us a very thorough introduction to our little one bedroom and a futon home for the next 3 nights. Very thorough and we were dying for it to end so we could just relax. She was sweet for sure but when you have been traveling all day, you just wanna throw your feet up and enjoy your new home already! I have never had an Air BnB host take 40mins to welcome us – just another charm of Lagos.


After our host departed, we checked the place out for real and got settled. Checked in with family on our safe arrival on social media and then headed out to explore this cool new town we would call home for 3 sleeps!

The place was full of great cafes and pubs, and we ended up at Giovanni’s a pizza place for dinner. Sitting at a wee table right on the main pedestrian thoroughfare – people watching, sipping Somersby and eating gooey cheese pizza. We wrapped up by grabbing groceries for breakfast and headed back to our flat.

Lagos – Day 1, Hiking and Beach Day

After my morning run (my fav way to see a new city), for our first day in Lagos we enjoyed a home cooked breakfast and then decided to hike (yes more walking yahoo). There is a sort of path around the perimeter of the entire Lagos coastline covering about 10km. Hiking this gave us a chance to check out all of the 6+ beaches Lagos has to offer and experience the famous grottos at birds eye level.

We were not disappointed! We had great fun hiking about, checking each beach for what it offered, grabbing a cool Somersby at the lighthouse cafe and making time for some photo fun as well. Looks like many a tourist does this little hike about, we were never alone but also didn’t feel overwhelmed by people.

At one point we decided to poke a little fun at those peeps who do their yoga poses for photos in famous places. In good fun of course. We are total geeks who can’t do yoga to save our lives …. we ended up with a chuckling audience at our timer on the camera antics.

Hike and laugh till we cry photo session complete, we selected the Costa da Mos Beach as our beach for the day. We rented a 2 chair beach umbrella for 13 Euros (a bit steep in price but for this gal the only way I could spend a day in the hot 24C sun!)

We went in the water despite Lana’s crippling fear of sharks (there are rumors of hammer heads in these waters). Laughing at ourselves as the bottom has large stones and rocks which are rolled by the waves and actually kind of beat you up as you get in. So you have to just suck up the cold of the water and get in quick. Everyone getting in looked hilarious trying to avoid the rock beating. Us included!

We wrapped up our evening back in town enjoying, believe it or not, Chinese food! Yum!

Lagos – Day 2, Boating and Beach Day

Another beautiful day in Lagos (around 24C expected again), we started our morning with a grotto and cave tour by boat! Wow and wow and wow.

It was 15 Euro per person and worth every penny. The tour was just under an hour and the guide took us into each cave – his driving skills were pretty fantastic as some looked only big enough for the kayaks around us and yet he went right in. He also slowed and told us the names of the rocks and caves as we went and had a great sense of humor. It was just Lana and I in the boat for the tour.

I will let the pictures speak for the amazing beauty of these grottos and caves themselves … selected just a few of the 50+ pics I took!

After our grotto by boat morning, we headed over to the only beach we had not explored yet. The one you can actually see right from the tourist area – the beach is 5km long so hard to miss. Before heading over though we made sure we had the three things that make a beach day a success – over and above a beach and summer weather of course … beer, roast chicken and a good book ha ha!

We spent the day on our rented beach chairs for just 12 Euros this time, me under the umbrella and Lana as usual soaking up maximum rays. My time out from under the umbrella was spent combing the beach for shells! (Yup hubby I am coming home with a freezer ziplock bag full of shells.)

We also went in the water on this beach and it was quite different than our rock beat down from the day prior – this was all sand and shells and fish and was wonderful to walk out on.

By about 5pm we figured we should probably shower up, get prepped for our departure the next day and find some eats. The night prior we had walked by an awesome, tiny pub called Ol Bastard Fish and Chips and we were keen to make it our supper destination.

Ol Bastard was amazing. So small and so busy the atmosphere just brought you right in – they had all kinds of fish and chips and fish tacos and loads of fries, as well as a great assortment of wine and craft beer. We loved it, sat right at the bar and had an awesome time! Were even given a complimentary order of fish cakes to make the new chef feel good about his special and some Kraken rum to try. Check out this spread of food yumminess mmmmmm

Our final full day in Lagos wrapped up, we headed back to the flat to chill and get our last great sleep in our awesome BnB before heading to Lisbon (pronounced Leesh-boa), our last destination before heading home to Canada.

Lagos – Day 3 (1/2 Day) Laundry and Marina Lunch

Our final day in Lagos was just a short one – we had a train at 2pm so had ourselves a lazy morning and yummy breakfast at home, then did our laundry (oh the every 3 or 4 day plight of a backpacking pilgrim) before our train.

Oh and just a heads up, you are not allowed to put your dogs in the washing machine in Lagos. So if your pup needs a wash? this is not the place to make this happen.

We ended our time in Lagos with a final toast and snacks at the Marina right beside the train station at the Lighthouse Cafe.

We loved Lagos- add it to your list! While it felt very much like a British tourist beach town, it was really fun and had awesome positive energy and beaches worth spending a week at!

We will check in again post Lisboa.

Brande

Perfect Porto

Porto! If there is a city you need to add to your ‘list to visit’ one day – make it Porto, Portugal! What a place. Wow and wow.

IMG_3186.JPG

The amazing, historic buildings and neighborhood districts are all within a 2-3km radius of the old city center. In fact, they bragged about this architectural richness quite a bit at the Tourist Information Office. The concentration of so much in a small area makes for a great day or two of wandering down windy side streets to and from the next church or market or statue. No matter which route you meander there is a number of unique and wonderful cafes to stop at for refreshments or a bite to eat and many boast traditional Portuguese fare.

We had an day/evening (when we arrived as Pilgrims on Friday) plus 2 full days (Saturday and Sunday) in Porto and we are so glad we did. It was enough time to explore all we wanted and still have some time for relaxing at our rented flat or people watching in a plaza or cafe. If you go, three days would be perfect and two would be manageable to get in the major sights!

Day 1 Porto – Friday, Beach and Tram Day

We arrived in Porto by our own two feet, having walked from the town of Vile do Conde about 30kms away. The route we were on had us waking the entire waterfront promenade which was fabulous. You could easily spend a day doing just beach type stuff in Porto (surf, sand castles, rent bikes, walk the promenade, visit waterfront cafes, etc).

IMG_2993

However after too many kilometers on our feet already, when we saw the old school trolley tram roll up we couldn’t resist a ride. We jumped on at the old Fort (on the beach front walk) and took it all the way to the bottom of the hill in old city center for just 3 Euros. About a 20min ride. The tram has been maintained just as it was when it was brand spanking new and we really loved it. This would be a great way to round out a beach day or to make your way to city centre.

IMG_3012

IMG_3010

From there, we made our way to our rented flat in the middle of the old city center – thank you Air BnB and Lana for this awesome booking! We were right in the thick of it!

981A6001-7D4B-479C-B32E-EE624FAC9BF1.jpg

Our Porto flat was a great home base for exploring the city for the weekend. Everything was honestly within blocks! While you could go out for a nice dinner and drinks on your day of arrival … instead we did laundry and made soup and toasted sandwiches at ‘home’. After weeks of eating out on the pilgrim’s route, it was so nice to have a home and cook and enjoy our space.

Day 2 Porto – Saturday, Historic City Centre

The next day we made a ‘see the old sights high in city’ day and had planned to spend the evening on the town (aka sitting in a pub laughing at our own hilariousness and ignoring everyone around us).

We began our day in our favorite way – slowly. I got up and went for a morning run in and around the city center which has a lot of hills by the way, yikes. Then we both took our time getting ready, enjoying an un-rushed coffee, and Lana made us fried eggs and bacon breakfast. It’s been a while since we could sleep till we wanted and just enjoy a peaceful morning, so we fully enjoyed and appreciated what would be our new routine as tourists.

Around noon we made our way out into the old city center and walked about either following the map or in any direction that made us happy. We saw the cathedral, the churches, the markets, statues, the court house, and more and more. Here are just a few of the highlights from my morning run and our afternoon adventure.

IMG_3051IMG_3047IMG_3050IMG_3060IMG_3067.JPG

 

IMG_3063IMG_3064IMG_3087IMG_3116

Porto is a very, very, very busy place – noisy and full of people going in all directions and loads of traffic. You could liken the craziness to New York City less the car horns and with buildings a heck of a lot older. Crazy, busy and so much to look at. Funny how being around so many people was actually a bit exhausting. We have shared a path with just a few other pilgrims at any one time for weeks and now all of a sudden my personal space is no longer my own and everyone is rushing and snapping pics and just really unmindful of others. This was something I didn’t expect to have to get used to again after the peace of pilgrimage.

By about 3pm we were ready to slow it down and enjoy a nice lunch in a cafe that we felt would bring us joy. We found one! La Catina in the city center was amazing. All wood and stone and old vintage decor with amazing food and very talented serving staff. We were served banana infused butter (wow!), olives, lupinin beans, and fresh bread to start. We each tried a local white wine and I had the Franchesina Sandwich and Lana had the Poached Pear salad and fries. Everything was perfect.


IMG_3105.JPG

When we left the cafe we did a little more exploring but thought we could go home for a couple hours to relax before heading out for dinner when the kitchens in the cafes and restaurants open again at around 9pm.

Squirrel … as we passed a cafe on our very own street we saw they were featuring a Port Sangria. When in Porto! We stopped in for one of these beauties and wow delicious!

IMG_3119.JPG

We tried to take a selfie with our first Port experience but got the giggles instead of being serious … so a giggling photo shoot had to happen of course. Oh and it’s not the Port that made us giggle (as you can see we hadn’t even had more than a sip) it was our own silliness and an overtired combination! Geeks!

Our big plan to spend an evening out at cafe or pub was thwarted by naps and Netflix. We had not watched TV since leaving Canada in August, so when we figured out our flat had Netflix we were quite excited to watch a movie and be lazy. Creature comforts! Lana had the studio ‘bedroom’ which had a whole wall that literally opened into the living room and I had the living room futon – we could both get back in our beds and watch the movie. Why wouldn’t ya!

Well after a lazy evening like that going out for dinner and drinks at 9pm felt like a lot of work, so we didn’t. We put on another movie and had an awesome lazy night! It was so nice to just watch tv and chill.

Day 3 Porto – Sunday, Historic Waterfront

Our final full day in Porto started much earlier but still on tourist time. After our lazy evening we were rested and ready to see the rest the city had to offer, today was a ‘head down to the historic water front’ day. We had split the city by bottom of the hill (water) and top of the hill (city center) for each day or you would risk exhausting yourself on the steep but awesome side streets all day. We have been walking for a while now and have his to save foot energy down to a science!

IMG_3164.JPG

We first went on a 5 Bridges Tour – basically a river tour which allows you to see the city from the water and hear the history of some of the oldest water front buildings (aka church built in the 1300s – wow!) and the bridges. We loved it and perhaps got a little too into the boat thing with with our pirate impersonations.

For 15 Euros it may sound a little pricey but you get a sailing of 50mins, all the history, great photo opportunities of the river district, and it was beautiful sunshine – why wouldn’t yah!?

IMG_3162IMG_3192IMG_3197IMG_3215IMG_3216

After our pirate excursion of sorts, we headed across the water to the Port district where all the Port companies and tastings are concentrated. We were looking for lunch and to try some white, tawny, red and vintage Port.

Confession … lunch was side tracked by a pastry vendor at the street market along the river front. Who could blame us! The Bolas de Berlin donut (sugar donut filled traditionally with egg yolk rich custard) is something you have to experience to know Portugal! So amazing. No wonder they are all so sweet around here – with treats like this about I would be sweet too. My Bolas was traditional yellow custard and Lana got one with a thick clotted cream inside. Mmmm

IMG_3223.JPG

Ok back to business. The Portuguese take their Port very seriously – so no more pirates, sugar donuts and other Tom Foolery!

We popped into a couple of the Port companies along the water and ended up staying at one called Quintas do Noval. We go by the feel of a place when making cafe, restaurant, pub and I guess Port tasting location decisions – and this one felt good. We picked right.

IMG_3231.JPG

We each ordered a glass of Port and shared so we could taste a few different ones without drinking too much. I started light by ordering the Fine White which was not light at all – think Jack Daniels marrying ice dessert wine. Yuck! Lana tried to start with an easy red called Light Ruby but was talked into a 2011 Limited Bottle Vintage Unfiltered – it was tasty but quite heavy. We each ordered one more taster. I got the 10 Year Old Tawny and Lana ordered the Noval Black (which is the only red Port served cold). One look on my face after a taste of the Tawny and Lana switched with me. What a friend!

IMG_3228.JPG

Port tasting complete and still only a donut since breakfast, we went in search of some lunch. As usual, we ended up getting distracted again climbing a crazy steep hill down a wee baby side street to take pictures from the high pedestrian and tram bridge. The pics were worth the climb and time.

IMG_3257.JPG

Ok for real, we need some lunch it was coming on 3pm or so and the weather was starting to get dark and stormy.

We found just the most wonderful place in our very own neighborhood. A traditional Portuguese restaurant called Concept 31. The staff and owner were just so sweet and the decor was very inviting. I had the Steak Mirendisa style (garlic sauce and served medium rare) and Lana had the Pork with Port sauce. Both were absolutely amazing and served with potatoes and greens.

While there, we were introduced to green wine by our waiter and loved it – so fresh and easy to drink. We were also treated (aka given no choice by the very sweet owner lady) to another Port tasting after dinner, both a red and a white from Calem one of the more well known Port companies here in Porto. They were delicious!

5D22BFED-BECB-4AB3-B0FA-076C534450BA.jpg

By the time we left at about 5pm, the kitchen had closed and we were the last customers in the place. It turned out to be a real treat as we had a chance to talk to the waiter a bit about Portugal, the current election and how the food changes from region to region. We also avoided the worst of the rain that had started to come down while we had our lunch.

Finally we put on our waterproof jackets and made for the market (for supper stuff, breaky and lunch on the train food) and then home. We had to pack up and get ready for our next adventure in Lagos on the south coast of Portugal and secretly wanted to chill a little more to Netflix. For those who are social creatures, opposite to Lana and I, we could hear from our flat that the night life of Porto is on fire!

Yesterday we left behind Porto with a huge thanks for just an awesome weekend of relaxation, good laughs and amazing sights. Now we are saying hello to Lagos, a beach side city we are so excited to use as home base as we explore the coastline and beaches!

We will check in after Lagos!
Brande