[Guest post] Crown Mountain – the taste of conquering a crown

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Since I’ve arrived in Vancouver, I’ve been hiking a couple of mountains, lakes and parks. What started as a touristy activity, fortunately became part of my new life-style, a real passion. I’ve found in nature the peace I had been looking for and in addition, the certainty that I’m always going to live a unique adventure as the challenges are always going to appear in different ways on the trails. Therefore, I’ve started searching for more challenging trails, instead of easy and mainstream ones. That’s when I discovered Crown Mountain, the hardest challenge for me so far.

What makes this trail so difficult is you have to hike down a very steep trail into Crown Pass before hiking up the steep side of Crown Mountain, then return the same route. The elevation change is therefore misleading compared to other hikes as you have to essentially hike the elevation change twice. (Vancouver Trails)

After two unsuccessfully attempts to reach the top of Crown Mountain, a friend and I decided we should try it once again. In both, we’ve supposed to be stronger than the nature trying to face a bad weather condition. But our third attempt should be a success, thus we thought about our mistakes in order to prepare ourselves better and waited for the day with the best weather conditions. There wouldn’t be anything able to discourage us to reach the Crown’s top. We had made up our minds and were focused on reaching that.

Cloudy and rainy weather have pushed us off the mountain in our very first attempt.

In order to save energy for the Crown trail, we ascended the Grouse Grind in 1h27m. An average of 20 minutes above the time we had done the last times. Then we stopped at the Grouse restaurant for a quick coffee and later on headed to the Crown trail. At the Grouse top, the staff were already making arrangements for the ski season, throwing snow with some machines and covering all the ground. The landscape and the environment were completely different from some weeks ago.

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Two photos at the same place in a four-week span.

The trail was also looking quite different from our last attempts. There were ice and snow on some places, which turned the path slippery and a little bit dangerous. Some parts of the trail looked like an ice skating rink, we didn’t have another choice but slide over the ice from one point to the other. And when we were neither sliding nor walking, we had to climb. We often stopped for a couple of minutes staring at the frozen rocks and the water draining beneath the ice, trying to figure out a way to go forward on the blocked path on the trail. The risk of falling and rolling down the slope was imminent. The adrenaline is always inherent in the mountain.

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Ice skating was sometimes the only option to go forward on the trail.

Despite all the obstacles and risks presented on our way, we headed up on a good pace. That was when we got at the point we had stopped in our very first hike. From there on, everything would be new. We double-checked our map and saw that we were close to the summit. The anxiety increased after each footstep. The feeling of being so close of a tough conquer was relieving.

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Stalactites that looked like ice spears.

The last footsteps till the summit seemed the longest. The mountain somehow seemed to push me up, giving me strength when I had none left. And the summit’s sight preview was stunning. Every breath filled up my lungs with a cold and light air. The feeling of happiness was unique, generated by an incredible sight of the snowy mountain-tops and endless valleys full of trees.

Shortly afterwards, we spotted a crow on the summit. Our goal was to get to the spot where it was sitting, but it seemed to reign there, showing to be the mountain’s owner when it looked at us. As if it was saying to us that it gets there way faster and with a lot less effort than us, whenever it wanted. However, the king of the mountain was generous and flew subtly over a stone beside and conceived us some room, so we could feel like kings for a while as well.

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The last footsteps till the summit. The king was already there.

Sitting on a stone at 1,504 meters high left me speechless. Any neglect or loss of balance could cost my life. There wasn’t anything below to hold me if I slipped down. A 360-degree spin gave me a real notion of how high we were. It was possible to see Squamish and Whistler mountain ranges northwards, the Coquitlam region mountain range and Chilliwack eastwards, the Vancouver Island westwards and even a couple of mountains from the USA border southwards. I didn’t know where to look at. At this point it became clear to me why the crow felt like the king sitting on that stone, privileged to be able to have that sight whenever it wanted.

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The numerous valleys and the snowy mountains from the Squamish and Whistler area.

I started counting with my friend the quantity of valleys that we could see eastwards and we count 8. Between one valley and another, there were mountains full of pine trees still green and some of them even with snow at the top. That sequence, whimsically sculpted by the nature, gave me the impression that the mountains were like the waves of the sea and were in constant movement taking us far away. However the most impressive was in fact the uninterrupted silence, that gave me a felling of being in another dimension. The silence would only be broken every now and then by the cry of a crow or the wind bypassing the mountain. It was a mysterious silence, that didn’t bother us at all. It seemed to have so much going on down there in the forest, but at the same time we seemed to be far from any living being. A rare silence full of peace, impossible to be felt in the city.

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The Goat Mountain featured and all the grandeur of Mount Baker in the background, with its 3,286 m altitude and the 116km away in a straight line, already in American territory.

The English Bay ships looked like toys, as if somebody had put them with the fingers and left them there stopped for hours. The city buildings, trees and parks seemed a scene of the game The Sims, and for sure, as if I was there playing it. I saw the city but the city didn’t see me. I didn’t hear the city and nobody heard me as well. I was close to everything and far away at the same time. I was on the mountain, but the world continued to happen.

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The mirror, the model and the ship toys.

At a mountain-top, the sun is the only thing that makes us realize that time hasn’t stopped. And the autumn Sun always far on the horizon illuminated English Bay and the sea, reflecting the sun’s light like a mirror. The valleys located behind the high mountains shouldn’t had received a single sun light for days, and sure enough, will stay like this for the next few months. Its warmth, which almost didn’t reach us, wasn’t enough to keep us warm. Luckily there was no wind and we were well bundled up this time. Moreover, the temperature at the top of the Crown should be nearing 0° C. As the sun was going down, we remembered then that it was time to go, after all it was an autumn day and there was just over 8 hours of daylight. We couldn’t ignore the time, otherwise the descent in the dark could be even harder.

The way back wasn’t worse because we rested and relaxed our legs at the top of the mountain. We came back slowly, but in a constant pace, with that wonderful sensation of a conquered goal. Even though, between one climb and another on the trail, I would feel the thigh muscle pulling off and begging to me to stop. Of course that I would ignore it and kept on walking. However, some stops were inevitable so we could appreciate the beauty of the sunset, shyly shinning between the pines, with the city lighting up and preparing itself for the night. And before returning to the city, we still stopped for a while at the beginning of the trail to appreciate the last rays of sun on the horizon and the uncountable stars starting to show up in the clear sky.

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The city lighting up with the arrival of dusk.

The bigger the challenge, the bigger the will to conquer it. It might be a mountain-top or all the challenges that show up in life, we should never give up our dreams and goals, it doesn’t matter how many times we’ll have to attempt or how hard they’ll be, if we believe we can do it, so we really can. The Crown Mountain was one of the biggest psychological tests I’ve ever had in my life. However, it made me discover that I’m stronger that I thought I was. And such as in life, the mountain had set up rules and had determined tough obstacles to reach it. As if it was a queen and had given us a message: “I’ll make you think about quitting from start to finish, but if you persist you won’t regret conquering my crown.”. Do I still need to say whether it was worth it or not?

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All the time the Sun is always down for some and rising for others. Challenges that come to an end, new challenges that arise.

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[Guest post] The day I was close to the sky twice

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In my last post I wrote (and showed) a little bit about Vancouver city, its surroundings, its gorgeous nature and some amazing trails around here. Today I’m going to tell you guys about the trail that has marked my life and made me definitely feel that I’m in Canada.

It was a sunny summer Sunday and I had scheduled with my friend to get on the very first bus of the line 160 right after 9am. We wanted to arrive early in Buntzen Lake Park to hike and enjoy the day. We got off in Port Moody to take another bus (C26) and some minutes later we arrived in the park. At 10:30am we were ready to start the trail.

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Warnings before the start of the trail let people aware of the existence of bears in the area and also warn people to be careful.

The beginning of the trail is really easy and well signalized, but soon the one-thousand meters climbing starts and my sedentary legs began to hurt. It’s a peaceful trail, we met only a couple of few people on our way, perhaps because there’s not much information about it on Internet, which gave us a even higher sensation of freedom, because when we were not talking it was possible to hear the sound of the birds and squirrels running through the bushes. Every person who likes nature, would appreciate this moment.

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Twin trees grew over the rocks and built a cave.

After some hours going up we had already a preview of the sight from the mountain. We had stopped for a while and kept hiking. The heat and the sweat were increasing and our bottles of water getting empty. We were hoping to fill our bottles with water from some river during the trail, but almost all of them were dry or with no apparent drinkable conditions. The first challenge had been set for us. Even though, the trail and the park in general have a different energy, many mushrooms and blueberries everywhere made the trail become lively. All types and sizes of pines made us stop often to take some pictures and appreciate them.

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I was willing to eating those huge mushrooms on the trail. (Maybe hallucinogens?)

It was about 1:30pm and we had already been hiking for a long time neither meeting nor hearing anybody. The silence was almost absolute. The sensation that we were far away from everything, from everybody and nobody knew where we were, it was like an immersion in the middle of nowhere. But all of a sudden the silence was broken. We heard a strong noise coming from somewhere in the middle of the bushes. At that time we stopped hiking and were speechless, we knew that the strong noise wasn’t being made neither by a squirrel nor by a bird. My heart started pulsing strong. In a fraction of a second I thought about getting my camera off my backpack and start recording, but not all the moments in life wait to be recorded. After some seconds there he was: a huge black bear some 10 meters ahead of us. My friend who was in front of me just opened his arms. I was in doubt between screaming, speak something or simply wait for my death. The bear starred at us and went back to the bushes. As if we had disturbed him coming up on his way. We got close to the sky, but it wasn’t our turn to get there yet.

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Just around 10 meters in front of us there was the bear. It was like to have lived a dream.

According to the story, the meeting with the bear seems to have lasted long, but actually it was just a few seconds that seemed to be forever. I felt a threat completely different of everything I’ve ever felt before, different from a robbery, or the adrenaline of skydiving, or being over 160 km/h in a highway, etc. It was like it activated on me a primitive natural instinct, as if I had come back to become part of the nature, such as the primates who lived over 200,000 years ago. My legs were shaking non stop. After that, we would stop to pay attention at any noise we heard throughout the trail, despite knowing that the probability of meeting another bear (or even the same) was very low, after all, bears don’t use to live in groups, they are roomy and live in a many-kilometer range between each other.

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One of the reddish lakes we found on the top of Eagle Mountain. Their colours are impressive, but all of them were lifeless.

With our legs still trembling for a long time, we followed our way. We saw some blurred-water lakes with no life on the top of the mountain and finally arrived on the top of some rocks, a little over 1,000 meter high, where I could have one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen. It was possible to see from there the Buntzen Lake, Diez Vistas, North Vancouver, city of Vancouver and surroundings. The name of the mountain suddenly made sense by itself when we saw some eagles flying over our heads. After a while, some clouds showed up and started drizzling, but I knew that drizzle was falling just over us and wasn’t strong enough to reach the ground, as if it were some signal from the sky or some message for us. I felt from those rocks a closeness from the sky and a very good energy.

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Our sight from the top of the Eagle Mountain.

We were willing to spend the rest of the day and camp overnight there, but we weren’t ready for that. So, I hiked my way back with some certainties in my head. To come back to that place better prepared in all meanings, but also sure that after that I knew Canada indeed and had lived a unique experience. If each trail has been a different adventure and in this one I felt so close to the sky twice, what can I wait for the next ones? Actually, I’d rather not have expectations, nature always take care of us and surprises us. It is perfect.

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A message from the sky: live longer, it isn’t your turn.

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[Guest post] Vancouver: where the nature gives its special touch

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Many people say that Vancouver is the city which least looks like a Canadian city, however they are the same people who say that Vancouver is the most beautiful city in the country. It is the least Canadian city perhaps due to the large quantity of immigrants who have been living here, especially Asians. Most beautiful probably because its surrounding mountains, parks, beaches, wooded and cleaned streets.

So that in 2011, over 8 million tourists visited Metro Vancouver, and over half of the tourists were Canadians. Over one-third of the travellers have come to Vancouver and its national and provincial parks to practise outdoors activities, such as camping, fishery, kayak, etc.

Most of the tourists have come to Vancouver during Summer and it makes sense, the city is really beautiful in summertime. Days last longer with the sun setting over 9pm. Flowers decorate streets. Music festivals have happened weekly. Many free attractions. Many people occupying parks and beaches. Vancouver is a city where the diversity is common and everybody may express themselves whatever they want, everybody here is welcome.

Vista do centro da cidade a partir do Waterfront Park em North Vancouver.

Downtown seen from Waterfront Park in North Vancouver.

But what most delighted me until now was indeed the nature. Many parks and trails are accessible by Public Transportation from Down-town and most of them are free entrance, which makes sunny weekends much cheaper to enjoy.

Man fishing in a clear river in Capilano River State Park. Accessible by bus from Downtown.

Man fishing in a clear river in Capilano River State Park. Accessible by bus from Downtown.

In the trails we can often meet whole families (including pets) hiking or camping. And even when they meet unknown people while hiking, Canadians are used to greeting whoever comes their way, therefore don’t be scared if you listen to “Hello, how are you doing?” or a simple “Hi!” with a smile from an unknown person. This is the polite Canadian way to be and live.

Upper Joffre Lake, o maior e mais bonito dos lagos em Joffre Lakes Provincial Park, um parque próximo de Pemberton, a pouco mais de 2 horas de carro de Vancouver.

Upper Joffre Lake, the largest and most beautiful lake in Joffre Lakes Provincial Park, a park near Pemberton, about 2 hours by car from Vancouver.

Spending hours hiking a trail is much more than a basic hobby to me, there’s always a new challenge. It’s about testing the body and mind limits. From the body, when the legs can’t stand it anymore. When the blisters on the foot beg you to stop. When the mouth dries and the bottle of water is over. From the mind, to control all the difficulties struggled and body limitations.

Depois de mais de uma hora subindo 1000 metros, a vista é recompensadora no Garibaldi Provincial Park.

After over one hour hiking up 1000 meters, the sight is rewarding at Garibaldi Provincial Park.

According to the legend there’s always a pot of gold in the end of the rainbow. Here in Vancouver in the end of a trail there’s always a beautiful lake with hundreds shapes of green and blue or a stunning sight of a valley, a city, of the mountains. And in the end, all the pains is forgotten and all the effort is rewarded.

Garibaldi Lake e suas dezenas de tons de verde e azul.

Garibaldi Lake and its dozens shapes of green and blue.

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Les calanques de Marseilles, Cassis and La Ciotat: one of France’s natural wonders

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In the last days of May we went on a road trip down to the south of France. It was the beginning of summer and we wanted to enjoy it.

Marseilles

The beautiful old port of Marseilles.

The beautiful old port of Marseilles.

The second biggest city in France and the capital of Pétanque and Pastis, Marseilles is a beautiful city located a bit more than 300 km south of Lyon. It was historically the most important trade center in the region and functioned as the main trade port of the French Empire. Nowadays it seems to have a bad reputation (that’s what I heard from French people) regarding safety. We spent the day going around there and frankly I saw nothing bad. I guess like in all cities, you just have to be street aware and no need to paranoia. We visited the old port, the MuCEM (an impressive Museum that’s worth checking. Free entrance.), Marseilles’ Cathedral and went up to the beautiful Basilica Notre-Dame of the Garde.

Les calanques

The first open view of calanque de sugiton and its short beach.

The first open view of calanque de sugiton and its short beach.

After a good night sleep we went exploring the beautiful calanques along Marseilles’s coast. Starting in Marseilles its range extends 20 km in length going through Cassis until La Ciotat.

Map of the Calanques between Marseilles and La Ciotat.

Map of the Calanques between Marseilles and La Ciotat.

We started with the calanque de Sugiton that can be reached from Luminy University Campus. It’s a fairly easy hike and it won’t take you more than 1 hour to reach the small beach between the mountains. Parts of the way is paved so you’ll find lots of families hiking with their kids.

Going back to the trail you will find another path heading to the calanque de Morgiou. Hiking along the path you’ll find signs for a belvedere in the top of the mountain. We stopped there to take a look and it’s impressive.

After this belvedere you can go back on the trail and go all the way down to find a little beach. It’s a long walk and as we were a bit tired and still had to go all the way back to where our car was parked (near the University), we decided to skip that. However I think it’s totally worth it if you got time.

We took the road again heading to the calanque de Sormiou. You will reach a parking lot where you can start your hike. It’s a long paved way down to a beach and we decided to stop in a place where we had an amazing view and enjoyed the sunset, rather than go all the way down.

A beautiful view of the calanque de Sormiou.

A beautiful view of the calanque de Sormiou.

La ciotat, Cassis and Route des Crêtes

We had the small village of Ceyreste as our base, as we were staying at the Camping de Ceyreste. Village is pretty small and we were very glad that the only restaurant opened by the time we went back to spend the night was a pizzeria (yes, I love pizza :P).

Some mushroom, ham and cheese. It was delicious!

Some mushroom, ham and cheese. It was delicious!

Next day we took to visit the small cities of La Ciotat and Cassis. They’re both nice cities by the sea. Where we chilled out and relaxed after a busy day going all over the calanques. The best thing about those cities is the road between them. The route des crêtes has some scenic views and passes through the beautiful Parc Naturel Régional des Ballons des Vosges.

Once in Cassis, we skipped the touristy restaurants in front of the old port and walked around some narrow streets away from the port to find the Le Bonapart restaurant, where we had some fresh fish. Delicious meal and least expensive than the touristy restaurants. 

Once in the south of France do as the southern people and have some pastis (an anise-flavored liqueur and apéritif from France, typically containing 40–45% ABV (alcohol by volume)).

Once in the south of France do as the southern people and have some pastis (an anise-flavored liqueur and apéritif from France, typically containing 40–45% ABV (alcohol by volume)).

After lunch we enjoyed the afternoon by The beach of the Cassis’ bay

That’s it. Time to take the road again and go back home.

On our way back to Lyon.

On our way back to Lyon.

Hope it was useful in case you’re planning on spending some time on the south of France.

Click in this picture for more pictures of this area :D

Click in this picture for more pictures of this area 😀

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Preparing our trip to the Amazon rainforest and a bit of Manaus

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Last March, Jessica and I, flew to Manaus and made it our base to explore the Amazon rainforest. It wasn’t an easy decision though, as the forest is huge and can be explored for several different starting points.
Just so you know, its territory is part of nine countries. The majority of the forest is contained within Brazil, with 60% of the rainforest, followed by Peru with 13%, Colombia with 10%, and with minor amounts in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. Thus not very easy to decide where to start, however as our base would be definitely in Brazil, our options were basically Manaus, Santarém, Belém or Porto Velho.

A couple of years ago I heard about this amazing boat trip from Porto Velho to Manaus. It’s basically the only options locals have when they need to make this trip, as roads are shitty and flights expensive. It would be amazing, however the trip can take up to 5 days, and you can’t know for sure when the boats are leaving, so you might have to stick around in Porto Velho longer than you expected waiting for a boat to leave. The thing is that Jessica only had 3 weeks in Brazil, and we wanted to see a bit of everywhere. We decided to spend 7 days in Amazon, so the idea to take the boat was left behind, as we wanted to do several activities. I’ll definitely be back to Amazon to make this trip, probably stopping in Manaus, taking another boat heading to Santarém, and then another one to Belém. This must be an amazing trip, being in touch with locals for a long time, getting to know more about them and I look forward to having time to do it.

Having dinner with our "host family"

I also want to go back to Amazon to spend more time with its people. Such amazing and humble people. This picture was taken during dinner with a family who hosted us for one night. We learnt how they cultivate cassava and other things about their life.

But let’s get back to our trip. Knowing that we didn’t have too much time to spend there, the best idea was to find a travel agency that offers tours around the Amazon rainforest. We got excited with the idea of visiting Manaus, a “big” city in the middle of the rainforest, so we decided to take Manaus as our base.
We heard about many things you could do by yourself to explore the area, but again, as we didn’t have too much time, we decided to look for a travel agency that would show us around. If you find yourself looking for a travel agencies offering tours based in Manaus, you’ll find out that most of them offer similar packages. The activities are basically the same, but what can change your experience might be how far and in which direction you’re heading from Manaus.

Spotting caimans at night is one of the highlights of the tour.

Spotting caimans at night is one of the highlights of the tour.

We had been talking with different a travel agencies and in the end we chose Iguana Tour, by that time they had a pretty good deal with GOL Backpackers and we got two nights for free because we booked the “survival packaged“.

They would take us up to their lodge in the Juma reserve, by the Juma river. Here’s what I mentioned that can make your experience different. Firstly, the Juma reserve is located south of Manaus, some 70km away in a straight line. When exploring Amazon south of Manaus, you’ll have a better experience exploring the aquatic life, specially if going during the rainy season. As this regions is mostly flooded by the rivers around, it’s difficult to spot Jaguars for instance. So if that’s the kind of experience you want to have, you should go up north, and you’ll have more chance to spot such type of animal life.

Distance between Manaus and Juma Lake

Distance between Manaus and Juma Lake

Secondly, Juma isn’t that far away from Manaus. Ok, it’s difficult to get there. You’ll have to take two different boats, drive more than 40 minutes in some shitty roads, but once you arrive there, you will be able to see the lights from Manaus at night. It’s still a very peaceful place, no cellphone sign or internet connection, however there are already too much noise, light and people for the animals and isn’t that easy to spot them anymore. We were able to see caimans, grey and pink dolphins, monkeys, several different types of birds and a sloth. Even though for us it was a lot (although only caimans and dolphins were close from us) our guide told us that it wasn’t even close to as much as we could have seen in more isolated places, or even there, but some decades ago.

Selfie with our guide and part of the group with whom we explored Amazon.

The guide and I were the only Brazilians among a group with an Australian, Portuguese, French and Germans.

Finally, you should also bare in mind that these companies that won’t take you too far from Manaus, and are least expensive than others, will have more people going. Even though we were the only ones that had booked the “survival package”, we did most of the activities with other people who had bought different packages that include one or more of the activities that were included in our package. We enjoyed having different people around and had fun with them. But some activities requires you to be quiet, so you have more chances to find animals, and you can imagine that the bigger the group, the louder it is. So we felt that sometimes we could have used more silence to spot more animals.

The only activity we did alone. We took our time paddling through small rivers and lakes and only by being very quiet, we were able to spot monkeys, beautiful birds, grey and pink dauphins.

The only activity we did alone. We took our time paddling through small rivers and lakes and only by being very quiet, we were able to spot monkeys, beautiful birds, grey and pink dolphins.

So if you’re using Manaus as your base and ask as many questions as you can to the company you’re planning on booking your tour, so you don’t get higher expectations and later get frustrated with what they will really show you.

We had an amazing time, were very impressed by everything we say and I wouldn’t change a bit if I had to do it again.

Here you have the list of activities of the “survival package” that I’ll be writing about in the following posts:
Take a boat crossing the meeting of the waters (junction of the Negro river and Solimões river), paddling, watching dolphins/birds/monkeys/tarantulas (very hard to find), fishing piranhas, spotting caimans, jungle trekking, visit a local family to learn about their life and how they cultivate cassava, sleeping (in hammocks) in the local family house, overnight (sleeping in hammocks too) in the forest and trekking in the forest to learn about the rubber process and see how they did to extract rubber years ago. We also had spear fishing in our package, but due to weather conditions we couldn’t do it.

Manaus

We spent two days there and honestly, there isn’t much to do and see. Our hostel was located right beside the main square, where you will find the amazing Amazon Theatre. It’s an impressive building that shows how rich the city was back in the time when people made fortunes with the rubber boom.

Beautiful Amazon Theatre

Beautiful Amazon Theatre

This square is really nice at night, where people gather around to have a drink or eat. There were even a Cinema Festival when we were there, with some movies being shown in big screens outdoors.

Manaus' main square by night.

Manaus’ main square by night.

We also heard about a market near the port, which seemed to be nice, but we couldn’t visited as it was raining a lot during the free time we had.

Palace of Justice in the back of the Amazon Theatre

Palace of Justice behind the Amazon Theatre

Eating

We found two good places to eat around there. First of them is Skina dos sucos, where we had amazing juices from fruits that even I, being a Brazilian, had never heard of. Some of them were really good, and some were a bit strange, but I guess it depends on one’s taste. Jessica liked some that I didn’t and vice-versa. You should definitely stop by and try some. They also have good Açai, some sandwiches and pastries.

The other place I found in a website I love and you should really use them if you’re looking for good places to eat in Brazil. The restaurant is called Peixaria Gabinete Jokka Loureiro. We had an amazing fish there, with a great view of the Negro River. The meal was so good and we were so hungry that we forgot to take pictures. But you can see pictures on the link I shared. We had exactly the same thing that they did.

Well, I hope I could help a bit in case your planning your trip to the Amazon rainforest or Manaus.

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Pérouges : one of the most beautiful villages of France

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You might have read our first post where we wrote that what excited us most about travelling is meeting people. However, there are other things that we’re passionate about when it comes about travelling, and one of these things is nature. We love being outdoors and last weekend we had the chance to visit the medieval village of Pérouges, one of the most beautiful villages of France.

Medieval building connect to the church in Perouges' main entrance.

Medieval building connect to the church in Perouges’ main entrance.

Pérouges is located only 30 km northeast of Lyon, where we’re currently living, so we decided to have a look.

Old bulding in Pérouges

The village is small and very charming, and if you are around Lyon, you should definitely consider spending some time there.

Church in Pérouges

Yes, this place is awesome with all these beautiful old buildings, but our objective was to explore a hiking trail around it. There are 4 trails, starting on a 2.3 km long, taking approximately 40 minutes, and the longest one with 9.3 km, taking about 2h30m to finish it.

The trails around Pérouges

We decided to take the longest one, as we arrived early in the morning and had a lot of time to spend there. Needless to say that the trail is amazing and we loved it.
It was pretty easy and I guess even people who aren’t used to hike can do it. It’s more like a long walk rather than hiking. We loved the landscapes and get closer to nature.

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In the end of the trail we went back to the main square to grab some food and try the local beer, which was great.

Local beer made out of corn

Some saucisson and ham.

So whether you take the shortest or the longest one, you should definitely spend some time exploring this trails when in Pérouges.

Corn is Pérouges' main production

You can find more pictures of Pérouges and other regions of France in our Facebook and Pinterest albums.

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Why I Bliive and so should you

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A couple of days ago I came across this very interesting platform called “Bliive” and found it an amazing idea.

My experiences on Bliive.com

My experiences on Bliive.com

There you can basically add experiences you can offer to others and set how many hours you’re available for that experience.
Every hour counts as one “Time money” whatever this task is. So if you ask me for one hour of  Travel Advices, I will receive one “Time money” that I’ll be able to use to ask for any other experiences people are offering out there.

Isn’t it great?

Feel free to ask me for advices there and help spreading the idea (:

You can read more about it here: http://riotimesonline.com/brazil-news/rio-business/bliive-winning-brazilian-startup-daily/#

Travelling to non touristy places: Bradford

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There’s something special about going to places where tourists usually don’t go and I discovered that while travelling to the snowy Bradford in mid-February. Before getting there, most of people I had met would tell me: “Why are you going there? There’s nothing to see, nothing to do.”. Well, they were wrong.

Snowy Bradford

Snowy Bradford

But I’ll be honest, there was something I wanted to see in Bradford. I am a football fan (not fanatic, at least not anymore) and I really wanted to visit the local team’s stadium. By that time, it’d be a fantastic opportunity as the usually terrible team (they are playing in the 4th division in England) were in an important final cup, had beaten first league teams on their way to the final. Ok, enough with the football fan bla bla bla, let’s get to the points.

Visiting Bradford

So I got there, I visited the store (couldn’t by a jersey due the “final cup” situation, the stock was gone) and then I tried to visit the stadium. I got to the reception and I was told that the “guide” wasn’t there, someone in his family was sick. But if I wanted, I could get inside by myself and see whatever I wanted to see. It was ok for me, not having to pay to get inside and no crowds annoying my experience. If someone had told me two years ago that one day I’d be there, I’d say they were crazy. But there I was, completely amazed.

Bradford Stadium

Bradford Stadium

When I was leaving, the guy asked me if I liked what I’d seen. Of course I had and we started to talk. He asked me where I was from and a really surprised “what are you doing here?” when I answered: Brazil. It was funny talking to the father of the president of the team. Very nice guy, he gave me one of the player’s internal magazine and showed me the original letter that Dalai Lama had sent them. He would ask all the staff who were passing through “You can’t imagine where this guy came from. So guess?”. Most would say Australian. Anyway, I spent almost an hour talking to him, and I think I could write a post just about it (remind me to do it one day).

Dalai Lama's letter

Dalai Lama’s letter

Meeting people

So now what? I had nothing to see. And that’s when things get more interesting. You’ve got no pressure when visiting a place like that. You don’t have to rush trying to think about the places you can’t miss, the places you’ve got to take a picture so to show to your friends and family, no need to buy little souvenirs (I never do it anyway). So I just wandered around, taking a few shots, enjoying the cool breeze, and slowly making my way to my couchsurfing host’s house. Getting a bit lost in a city like that is fun and I’d seen a couple of interesting things, and one was a book shop inside of a old church. Really nice.

Old church that became a book shop

Old church that became a book shop

But the coolest thing that happened in Bradford, was having met Nina, my couchsurfing host. When getting to her house I wasn’t enjoying the cool breeze anymore and just wanted to get into a warm place. Plus, I was looking forward to finally meet Nina after talking by messages. She seemed to be really nice. And she was. She welcomed me with a delicious cup of tea and introduced me to her flatmate. Then she told me that the central heating had just broken and that the landlord would send someone to get it fixed, but till then, we’d have to do it with a small electric heating. It was more than enough and the living room as so cosy and warm that I could have stayed there the whole day.

Park close to Nina's house

Park close to Nina’s house

Nina and her flatmate are probably the kindest people I’ve ever meet. Really. Was so nice to talk to them, and so easy (I’m not a native English speaker as you’ve probably realised so far, and it’s much easier to understand British than Irish speaking), specially her flatmate who would speak so slowly and gently.

Later on, Nina invited me to go to a “neighbourhood//friend’s party” which they organize every Monday. That one would be at the house next door, so we wouldn’t have to commute in the cold to get somewhere. I promptly accepted. There were about 20 people in the house, I guess, and I don’t think I’ve ever been to a place with so many kind people together. I was a strange there and everybody treated me so well. Got talking with a German guy who was studying in Bradford, with some of Nina’s friends and then with Lavinia. She heard me talking about hitchhiking and told me that she’d done it already. Very interesting girl, told me that she lived in France and I was amazed by what she’d done there. We kept talking and I couldn’t believe when she told me she once went to Tibet. By that time I had , and still have, this fixed idea about going to Tibet. If I had to do a “To-do list” this would be the first thing. I wish I had spent more time seating there on the floor talking to her.

Oh, and it was one of Nina’s friends birthday, so after a delicious vegetarian dinner, we sang Happy Birthday to him, plus, a really funny dance that they do when is someone’s birthday. (I can’t remember the “lyrics” but I’m messaging her and will ask about it haha).

It was so nice and when I finally went back home, the central heating was fixed and I slept like a baby in one of the best “couches” ever. The couchsurfing experience was amazing and the couch was really comfortable (maybe better than my bed.).

Yeah, things happen for a reason, I don’t think I was lucky to have chosen Nina (and Nina chosen me) among other people to stay with. And then not only Nina but also her friends. I’m so glad I went to Bradford and remember clearly not wanting to leave and wishing I could be in situation like that one more often.

What about you? Have you ever been in a situation like this, being a strange in a small/non touristy place?

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[Guest post] Book a ticket and go!

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Hi everybody, Hector gave me the chance (and honour) to express myself so these lines are for you if you are a strong 21st century woman looking for adventure. Of course, understanding and not judgemental men are also allowed to read and comment this post.

We (women) are often finding excuses to postpone what we really want to do in our life. Never the right moment, nor the right place. Not enough money (but enough to buy the latest pair of shoes), nor the right person to travel with. And if we are single, travelling alone is scary. You know what? Just STOP thinking and remember what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Why should you book a ticket?

  • You’re gonna discover unexpected landscapes. Trust me, the world is full of surprises. You’ll see and remember every detail, every colour and smells of incredible places. You’ll have the opportunity to see “in real” what is being seen only as images on TV programs or postcards. During my trips, I was standing there gaping in front of animals in their natural environment (seals in Ireland, condors in Patagonia, marmots in the Alps, llamas in Peru).

Lhama in Peru

Lhama in Peru

Machu Picchu in Peru

Machu Picchu in Peru

I’m not a “city” girl but how could I not be astonished by the monuments in Rome or Paris? And sometimes, yes sometimes, you like places but you don’t really know why. The light? The weather? The guy playing great music at the corner of a small street? Who knows?

  • You’ll live 1000 things per day, feel free and your emotions will be multiply by ten. When I was living abroad, I could cry and five minutes later laugh and realize how ridiculous I was. I was just living the present time, feeling every minute of happiness and joy.

  • To challenge yourself. Cause yes, being a woman in this crazy world is not always easy. I’ve realized this only when I came back home. And now, I just want to travel again and again. Every time that I come back I have this satisfaction and desire to discover a new destination. You should trust your instinct and satisfy your curiosity, it’s never too late. Breaking my habits and losing my bearings were the best things I’ve ever done. The thing that I am more proud? Swimming with rays and sharks, an experience that I will always remember.

Swimming with sharks in French Polynesia

Swimming with sharks in French Polynesia

  • You’ll see another reality and find other manners to think and live. People that I’ve met had different cultures than mine, so it helped a lot to stand back and have new perspectives. In my country, for example, people are (in general) stressed and complaining a lot so it’s good to see how the others are living. In some parts of the world, people are warmer, more welcoming and smiling, organized, sincere and honest.

  • Eat and try incredible specialities. This is one of the best reasons to travel. Belgian and Swiss chocolates, Chilean ceviche and empanadas, Irish breakfast, pizzas and lasagnas in Italy, Brazilian cachaça, German beers, Spanish paella, Portuguese cod and potato, Peruvian hot peppers (that make me cry), I love them all ! I have to admit…I am definitively a foodie.

Peruvian pepper

Peruvian hot peppers

  • Professionally speaking it’s a plus. I was scared that being abroad for a long time could create a gap in my CV and close some doors for my future jobs. But actually, it was the contrary. I’ve opened my mind and learnt new languages and now, I can easily justify it during my jobs interviews.

  • You’ll feel as a stranger. I know what you are thinking; being a stranger is not good. But look at the positive part. In my own country, people aren’t concerned about me, or should I say not surprised when I meet them for the first time. Am I an uninteresting girl? I hope not… it’s just that we are one among the others. Abroad, people are more curious about where you’re from, what you like, why you’re there.

Last but not least: you’ll meet people from everywhere. You will make friends, have fun. You’ll debate a dish recipe for so long that you could have time to try all the ways of cooking it. You will discuss words pronunciations and never agree with the correct one. But you’ll see, you will be amazed by how we can be so different in the same time and how we can share so much in common in the other time and maybe….yes maybe…you’ll live the unexpected meeting (THE ONE) You may say I’m a dreamer? …yes…but I’m not the only one.

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How I ate my first Paella, in Spain

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Okay, I’m gonna tell you the story of how I ate my first paella. Wait, this isn’t a “How I met your mother” story, I won’t keep you guys here for 9 seasons to know how it happened, but I gotta tell you a short story first.

Why paella?

I’m a foodie. I love eating. I love trying different types of food, especially when I’m travelling. Thus, my search for a delicious paella started when I flew to Madrid with my friend Marco. First thing I tell Marco: I wanted to try paella for the first time and it has to be in Spain.

Seafood paella

Seafood paella

Marco has a very selective taste and there are not many things that he’s up to when it comes to food. So I knew that it’d be a challenge. Secondly, we didn’t know where we could eat it. If we were going to try it, it had to be a good one. Last but not least, we didn’t have a lot of money. Big challenge!

When we were walking around Madrid we had the chance to see a lot of mouth-watering paellas, but once we were going to meet a Spanish friend of Marco, we decided it would be smart to wait and ask him for a good spot to try it. When we met Jose Maria we got a bit disappointed.  He told us that it would be difficult to find a really good and traditional paella in the places that we were going to. Plenty of restaurants cook frozen paellas, and we wanted to try a typical, homemade or freshly prepared one. Keeping it in mind, we didn’t try it in Madrid, nor in Bilbao, Santander and San Sebastian.

Marco and I had different destinations after San Sebastian and I flew to Barcelona alone. I was determined to find a place to eat paella. Unfortunately, I spent four days in Barcelona, surrounded by Turkish and Italian, and didn’t have the chance to talk to a nice Spanish to ask for a good place to try it. I was leaving Barcelona a bit upset, as I would spend only one more day and a half in Spain and didn’t know if I would have time to eat paella anymore.

Zaragoza: last destination in Spain, last chance to try a paella

So I arrived in a boiling Zaragoza, where I’d be couchsurfing for the first time alone, and it was about lunch time. So I was a bit hungry when I took the bus to my host’s house. As I arrived at her place, she introduced me to her friend and told me that another friend would come by as well. And as soon as we were introduced, she says something I will always remember: “Hector, I don’t know if you like it, but I’ve cooked a paella for us. It’s boiling outside so I’d like to stay here, eat a paella and drink wine. If you don’t mind …”

She had cooked a paella!!! A paella!! Can you believe it??? I had been searching for a paella for almost two weeks through a few cities in Spain, I dreamt about eating paella and in the last city, my host offered me a homemade one. It was just amazing. No need to tell that it was delicious and I was very happy and thankful for what she had done.

Her friends were great too and we ended up in a party in the roof of a building, with a lotta people there. But the party and how I tried Spanish Tapas for the first time could be described in post.

With my host and her friend in Zaragoza (Spain).

With my host and her friend in Zaragoza (Spain).

This experience made me start thinking about how certain things happens for a reason. It’s hard to believe in luck, but once you put your though and your energy into something, destiny leads you to your goals and put people on your way to help you out. It was the first of a series of things that happened while I was travelling and surprised me in an amazing way.

Do you have any interesting stories about when you ate something abroad?

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