I'm going to be very honest here: I made a lot of mistakes on my trip to Acadia National Park. Unfortunately for me, all of those mistakes were due to me not having a lot of time to research and going in unprepared, it had very little to do with the destination. Lucky for you, I listed all the things I wish I had known, so you don't have to do the same mistakes I did.
you can and will drive into the park without seeing the visitor center
There are multiple entrances into Acadia National Park and none of them drive by the Visitor Center. It is very out of the way, and you have to actually aim for it, otherwise, you might go through your whole visit without seeing it. Usually, when visiting national park, visitor centers are my first stop. I love them! There is always a fun museum sort of gallery with information about the area and the animals that live there, or the history of the park. You can find all sorts of information and you can talk to a park ranger and find out the best way to make the most of your visit according to your interests. Since the visitor center is nowhere near any of the attractions, it made no sense to do a detour for it and the only reason we even went was because I was done looking for parking spaces. If only we had gone there at the beginning of our stay!
parking spaces are limited in the park
Wether you are getting ready for a hike or looking forward to a lazy day at the beach, finding a parking spot might be a bit of a hassle. We spent the first few days of our visit really struggling to find parking spots before giving up and heading toward the visitor center and discovering there are actually buses that you can take for free that will take you to any spot you want around the park! We visited during the first weekend of summer and, I guess the signs weren't up yet, but we had no idea there was a shuttle service at the park. It wasn't on any of the park documentation we were given at the campground. If we had known, we wouldn't have bothered trying to find parking and would just have taken the bus everywhere!
hiking maps are for sale or available online
This one really bothered me, not because it was a huge problem, but for the principle of it. So basically, you could get a map of the park for free, but that map shows mostly the attractions, main roads and some trails, but it doesn't say the distance or altitude or the difficulty level... If you want the actual "hiking map", it is available for purchase for 5$. Don't get me wrong, 5$ is nothing, but it felt cheap. Also, not knowing the distances or difficulty level can be an actual problem. People can get stuck on trails that are way too advanced for them because they had no idea it was technical in the first place. So, since the hiking map is available on the Acadia website, I recommend printing it out before heading there. That way you can make better decision on what trail to hike depending on your fitness level or you can prepare snacks, water and the right footwear according to the difficulty of the trail you want to hike.
short hike doesn't mean easy hike
We found out the hard way (because we did not buy the hiking map and had no wifi) that the shorter the hike, the steepest it will be. From what we saw, most hikes head up and down mountains, so a shorter hike means it is not zigzaging up the mountain, but heading straight up. Just thought you should know ;)
you absolutely need a reservation to go to cadillac mountain
If you have seen pictures or articles about Acadia National Park before, they were probably about Cadillac mountain. It is the highest peak in the park and has a 360 degree view which makes it a great sunrise and sunset spot. It apparently also makes it a very popular spot at every hour of the day and night. We made our way there very early in the morning to find out you absolutely need a reservation and it was booked out for the whole week... We had no idea we needed a reservation, let alone a reservation far in advance. Luckily, there are other mountains, and the sunrises and sunsets are beautiful from any view point, but if going to the top is on your list of must-dos, make sure to reserve in advance.
it can be very crowded even in shoulder season
We visited during St-Jean Baptiste which is a holiday in the province of Quebec, but isn't in the United States, so it wasn't a long weekend. It's also at the very beginning of summer, as school had just ended that week so I expected the park to be busy, but never even thought it could be crowded already. There were people everywhere. At the beach, at trail ends, in every street in Bar Harbor, on the rocks at random lookouts, everywhere! Even hiking in the rain we met some people! I don't think it would have bothered me so much if I had known, but I was expecting a quiet, tranquil weekend in nature and got... a theme park. Not what I had in mind!
In the end, I did end up liking the destination. The park has beautiful scenery and the hikes were fun, but I feel like my own ignorance prevented me from fully appreciating the experience. I really hope I get the chance to go back one day and do it right! Luckily, it is only a short drive from my home in Quebec City.
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There are destinations where you eat to sustain yourself and fuel your activities and there are destinations where eating is one of the main activities. Italy was like that to me, I would go back any day just for a meal. And although food was not my main reason to visit Greece, it was an important component of discovering the culture and we had such a great time trying out different dishes. Here are some of my favorites!
I don't thing you can visit Greece without trying, at least once, a greek salad. The vegetables are so fresh and it's always perfectly seasoned and, in the middle of a hot summer day, it is exactly what you need. We ended up eating greek salads multiple times during our 2-week trip as it was a cheap lunch option (between 7 and 14 euros) and the heat made us perpetually dehydrated, so eating veggies felt amazing.
Talking about cheap lunch options, here is another one! Spanakopitas are puff pastries with spinach and feta cheese. You can find them in most bakeries, but also in snack bars or food trucks. The pastry is usually really flakey and they are served warm. They are around 4 euros so they make a good snack if you're not hungry enough for a big lunch or you are planning on an early dinner. There are also other types of pies like cheese pies or meat pies, but I think the spinach pies are the most popular.
Since we are in the cheap lunch options, let's keep it going! Gyros are available pretty much everywhere and are a nice full meal option for 4 euros. They are made of pita bread with meat (usually pork or chicken), tomatoes, seasoned fries, red onions and tzatziki sauce. They are really filling and I was barely able to eat the whole thing, but they are delicious! The best part is they are always made fresh in front of you.
italian style pizza
I missed italian style pizza so much and Greece is close enough so I had no choice, but try a few of the pizzas (I didn't eat both of them by myself, I had help). We did see a lot of italian restaurants during our trip and pizzas were on the menu at all of them, so it counts as a must try in Greece. It wasn't exactly like in Italy where the toppings are basically all sauce and there is barely any cheese, but the crusts where really similar and there were lots of options. Let's just say no piece was thrown away. The mediterranean pizza was my favorite, with olives, feta and red onion.
I know gelato, like pizza, is more italian than it is greek, but it was so hot out and the gelato was so good, we had to have some at least once a day. In this heat, I preferred more fruity flavors like lemoncello and berries, but my friend tried sweeter flavors like nutella and cookies and cream or stracciatella and apparently they were really good too. The portions were also pretty generous as these are the "small" portions.
You can't go to Greece and not try seafood at least once. Many restaurants offer assorted seafood plates or shareable seafood platters where you can try different options without comiting to a full plate of octopus. I love seafood so it was also a great way to get to try it all, and the octopus was actually really good. We also tried shrimp saganaki at another restaurant which was also delicious. They served the shrimp with some kind of tomato paste with feta cheese and herbs, yum!
The wine made in the greek islands is known for being very sweet and full bodied due to the low rainfall, and production is usually very small which means your best chance to taste it is while visiting Greece. We had the chance to visit a winery during our stay in Santorini and it was so worth it. We toured the grounds and factory and learned about the particular difficulties of growing grapes on wind swept islands and then got to taste four wines with their food pairing which was so good. We also tasted the local wines at many restaurants we visited which was often cheap and tasty.
sandwich with olive paste
One of the things that I bought as a souvenir is olive paste. I love olives and we tried a mediterranean sandwich one day for lunch which had the olive paste in it and it just made the whole meal even better. Seriously, just try it! It adds a little bit of spice and brings all the flavors together.
The fish dishes were often way more expensive than everything else on the menu so we didn't have a lot, but I had to try sea bass at least once since it is a signature dish at so many tavernas. On our last day in Greece, it was now on never, so I ordered it and, let's just say, it was a whole event! They served the fish whole, and then the server started opening it and taking out the bones in front of us. He then masterfully poured out some lemon and garlic sauce and presented me the plate looking absolutely incredible. We also got to talk to the server and ask about living in Greece and his life while he was preparing the fish which was fun. It was really good! The fish was perfectly cooked and the sauce made it even better!
You can bet I jumped on Pinterest to find some of those recipes as soon as I got home! As for your next trip, if I had any tip, it would be to look at multiple menus before deciding on a restaurant. Even it the same town, the prices can vary a lot and the offers can vary too, so it's a good idea to compare the menus before making a choice. We never had any trouble finding a table at any restaurant even in the middle of high season so that shouldn't be a problem. I also recommend, for at least one meal, ordering a bunch of appetizers and sharing them. We did that a few times and it allowed us to try multiple greek specialties without over eating or spending a lot of money.
Is there anything in this list you can't wait to try on your trip to Greece?
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Reykjavik might be small for a capital city, but it doesn't mean it's not worth exploring. It has art and culture, good restaurants, pretty views and some sights that you absolutely need to see before leaving Iceland. Although I wouldn't spend more than a day or two and would keep most of my time to discover the beauty of the rest of the country, I really enjoyed our time in Reykjavik walking around the rainbow street and trying to pronounce the name of every sight we were seeing.
what to see
One of the most popular things to see in Reykjavik is the Hallgrimskirkja church. The view from the bell tower is incredible and its organ is the largest musical instrument in all of Iceland.
You should also check out the Sun Voyager statue and it's view over the mountains.
Personally, my favorite thing to see in Reykjavik was the Harpa concert hall. The building is an immense work of art that has received multiple awards for its architecture. I absolutely loved to see the sunlight hit the colored window panes and mirrors on the walls.
how to get there
I'm guessing, since you are reading an article about Iceland on a travel blog, that you are not from Iceland. Therefore, I'm going to assume that you will either be arriving to the island by ferry and then drive along highway 1 to Reykjavik or, in most cases, arriving by plane. Most people visiting Iceland will be flying into the international airport in Keflavik, which is about a 30-minute drive out of Reykjavik. There are buses from the airport to Reykjavik, but if you are planning to visit more of Iceland, your best bet will be to rent a car or camper van in Keflavik and drive into the city. It is a very easy drive as you just follow the main road all the way to the city.
what to eat
There are plenty of restaurants of all nationalities and all types in Iceland so you are sure to find something that is to your liking. If you are brave, you can also try fermented shark, but for a nice meal, you'll want to visit the area between the Sun Voyager statue and Hallgrimskirkja which is booming with multiple terrasse restaurants and bars. The food is pretty expensive in Iceland, but nothing outrageous, especially considering tip is included in the price.
I found that food options in Iceland were very similar to what you would find in Canadian restaurants: lots of different kinds of burgers, fish and chips, meat and fries, etc. The lamb was maybe more popular. Honestly, everything that we ate was good, but nothing was particularly worth mentioning. You don't visit Iceland for its restaurants, in my opinion.
Making your own food is a very good option in Iceland that we took advantage of as often as possible as it reduces costs. I found that food prices were similar as what you would find in Canada, but the grocery stores are very small and there are definitely less options. You won't find 2000 brands of cereals like you would in the USA, there are maybe 3 or 4 types, for example. Our main difficulty when grocery shopping was the language. Everything is written in Icelandic so finding the right kind of milk was a struggle, but we made it work. The language is similar to English enough that you can find similarities enough to understand, you just hope they're not faux-amis.
Tip : if you plan on getting groceries, think about bringing at least one reusable grocery bag in your luggage. You have to pay for grocery bags in Iceland (as you should) and they aren't very sturdy.
where to stay
Reykjavik is probably the only place in Iceland where there are multiple types of accommodation options. You will find hotels of more than 10 levels, small bed and breakfasts, hostels, luxurious boutique hotels, and of course plenty of airbnbs, but just like everywhere else, accommodation is ridiculously expensive! Since we had a car, we opted for a small room in an airbnb on the Seltjarnes peninsula, about 10 minutes from the main touristic area. We were close to the grocery stores and had a view on the lighthouse and the glacier on Sneafellsnes peninsula. The area was pretty quiet, in a small neighborhood, and I totally recommend it. Either way, you will have no trouble finding a place that corresponds to your needs in Reykjavik.
I hope you enjoy your stay in Reykjavik and that it is the start of an amazing trip around Iceland!
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It is no secret that Canada has beautiful winters and that the province of Quebec receives a lot of snow in the winter, but there are places in Quebec that receive just a little bit of extra powder and the Parc National des Monts-Valin is one of those places. Actually, the Ghosts Valley or, Vallée des fantômes, is the place where it snows the most in the whole province, receiving an average or 3 meters of snow each year. This amount of snow offers peak conditions for winter activities such as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing and some of the most beautiful views.
how to get to the ghosts valley
To get to the Ghosts Valley, you need to catch a ride on one of these bad boys pictured below. These mini buses equipped with snowmobile tracks are the only way to make it up the mountains in the winter. If you are lucky, you can make a reservation to stay overnight at one of the cabins available here, but if you aren't able to make a reservation for a cabin, you can still make a reservation for the shuttle. Try to book in advance because there are limited places and they often sell out months in advance.
my experience snowshoeing in the ghosts valley
I'm not going to lie, on the day that we visited, it was freezing cold. I mean -20 degrees, windy, my breath froze on my hair cold. But in the valley, where you are hidden from the wind, it really wasn't so bad and, to be honest, I was so amazed by the view and the amount of snow on the trees that it took me a while to even feel the cold.
The trail, from where the bus drops you off, is 2 km to a small cabin where you can go to warm up or eat a snack, and an additional 1 km to the summit. So basically, 6 km total. The trail is always uphill all the way to the summit, but most of the way it's not a very steep hill. It will be a challenge, but is attainable to anyone moderately active in my opinion. Most of the people that were there on this week day were retired and over 60 years old and, though they looked in fairly good shape, I don't think they trained for this hike.
Honestly, I have hiked way longer trails and some that were way steeper, but it was still a challenge for me. I am not used to wearing snowshoes and they are pretty heavy. The cold also made it harder to breath and made me tire more quickly than usual. Still, I have no regrets visiting and absolutely enjoyed the whole day. It just made me appreciate the cabins and fireplaces a little bit more!
The pictures really don't do it justice! The whole hike was beautiful!
where to stay
If you can, try and rent a cabin directly at the park. If you can stay for 2 nights, that means you get a full day of playing in the heavy snow and the opportunity to see the sunrise or sunset.
If you can't manage a reservation directly at the park, make sure to make a reservation for accommodation close by as you have to arrive pretty early for the shuttle. Personally, we stayed in St-David-de-Falardeau in a dome that you can check out here and it was the perfect distance. We were a 15-minute drive away. There are also plenty of hotels in Chicoutimi, which would be a 30-minute drive form the park, but you'll find a wider range of options and more affordable prices there.
what to bring
Warm clothes! I can't say this enough! Of course, you should check the weather and plan accordingly, but plan to bring extra layers and extra clothing so you can change when you get to the cabin and don't have to wait for the shuttle in humid clothes.
I also recommend bringing a lunch. We had to be at the park for 8 AM for our 8:30 shuttle and it was picking us back up at 2:30 PM so I was glad we had packed a sandwich and plenty of snacks. Also think about bringing water in a thermos or very well insulated bottles so your water doesn't freeze mid-hike.
You need to bring your own snowshoes or cross-country skis or rent them at the park entrance. If you don't own any, make sure to plan ahead.
If you are like me and enjoy taking pictures of your adventures, this is going to be a challenge for you. I had brought two batteries for my camera and both died before we even reached the summit because of the cold. I had to wear them in my mittens so they would warm up and work again for about five minutes. Same with our cellphones, they both kept dying from the cold. Make sure you keep your electronics in your coat and close to you so they last long enough for you to get good pictures of the hike.
why you need to visit
I think the pictures pretty much speak for themselves. Wether you are from the area or visiting Quebec on a short trip, this will impress you. It is one of those pretty short and attainable hikes that have a very good effort vs views ratio. Even though it might be a challenge, you will still love every minute and appreciate every single turn around the bend.
In my opinion, it is a bucketlist hike that everyone will love and should do at least once in their life!
This trail is all of the reasons that I love hiking so much all wrapped into one. It has a little bit of challenge, a lot of views, a similar minded group of people and limited access so it's never crowded, a nice place to have lunch and warm up in case of inclement weather and the pleasure of being outside in nature. What more could you ask for?
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Sleeping in a dome had been a dream of mine for years, but they are pretty difficult to reserve and ridiculously expensive! But since one of my friends was coming for a visit and this whole staycation in the Quebec area wasn't costing us a dime in accommodation, we decided to splurge for one night of comfort and relaxation glamping in a dome tiny house. Here is what I thought about the whole experience staying at Les diamants de l'Éternel in St-David-de-Falardeau, Canada.
To be completely honest with you, I think this bubble of a tiny house had more amenities than my whole apartment. There was a full kitchen with an oven, cooking plate, kettle, Nespresso coffee machine, wine and champagne glasses and even a fondue pot! There were two queen-size beds, one on the ground floor and one on the mezzanine upstairs, a TV with Netflix, two been bags and a beautiful bathroom with heated floors and a rain shower. I would comfortably live there full time if I could.
As you can probably imagine, I had an amazing experience! My friend, Erin, and I arrived at about 3 PM at the Eternel Spa in St-David-de-Falardeau and, although we couldn't get bring the car up the hill to the closest parking lot because of the snow, there was a second, easier to access parking lot and we were able to bring our excessive luggage to the dome on foot without an issue. They also have little toboggans you can use if you don't have enough hands for your bags.
The entrance was autonomous as I had been sent all of the instructions and the code to open the key box before hand. For a full tour, check out my Instagram Stories.
We spent only one night in the dome, but it was so peaceful and relaxing. We took our time to read, have a long fondue dinner, watch a movie while eating chocolate covered strawberries and just enjoy our time together.
The next day, we were close to the Parc national des Monts-Valin where we had to arrive at 8 AM for our shuttle up to Vallée des fantômes so the location was also perfect for us.
was it worth it?
The price definitely made me consider other options before finally making the reservation, but looking back, I don't regret it at all. The fact that it was an experience in itself instead of just a regular hotel like we would have had to reserve anyway made it worth it in my opinion. We also saved money on food since we had a full kitchen and didn't have to go to restaurants for dinner and breakfast and we were able to make our lunch for the day comfortably instead of on a small desk with no utensils. It might not be an option for everyone, but if you can budget it I absolutely recommend splurging to spend at least one night.
I don't know if I will ever get the chance to sleep in a dome again. I hope so since it was such an amazing experience, but I don't usually spend so much on one night if there are other options. I do hope you all get the chance to try it at least once as it is something everyone should have the chance to experience.
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The check-in process was very simple and the employees at the campground were very nice. We then asked what there was to do in the area and the man told us of a free hike that starts on the campground and is about 3 hours long. Apparently there is a nice lookout about mid-way and the trail leads to a beach where you can see whales. It seemed perfect!
So we had a good night in our small cabin with the rain lulling us to sleep and woke up the next morning ready for this 3-hour hike. We put on our training shoes, grabbed a bottle of water and got on our way.
The trail was pretty muddy because of the rain, but the weather that day was nice and it wasn't a very difficult trail until we got to the lookout. To get there, we had to hike a pretty much vertical trail to the side of the main trail. It was muddy and slippery and the whole time I was climbing I was just wondering how I was going to get down later. Fortunately, it wasn't a long way to the lookout where we had an amazing point of view on the Strait of Georgia and the British Colombia mainland. It was so beautiful! By that point, we had been hiking for about an hour so we decided to keep going to the beach.
Getting down from the lookout was thankfully uneventful. We took our time and it was easier than expected. But from the lookout, the trail to the beach just got more difficult. The trail wasn't as clearly marked and we had to keep looking out for blue dots on the trees to make sure we were still on the trail. It just kept going up and down and up again, over fallen tree branches and between boulders, holding on to ropes and crossing tiny rickety bridges. Every time we saw the ocean through the trees we thought we were almost there only for the trail to turn back inland and keep going.
After two hours of hiking, we thought we had to be close. After all, the hike was supposed to take 3 hours to the beach and back! The three of us were almost out of water, we were getting tired, it was harder and harder to spot the blue dots and we had to push away branches to clear the way. Let's just say the further we got the more it became clear that most people just turned around before reaching the beach.
Finally, after over two and a half hours of hiking, we reached the beach to find the rocks covered in slippery alguae and crowded with tiny crabs. After falling down, hurting myself and coming face to face with a crab, I didn't really feel like sticking around, whales or no whales. So after all of this effort, we just walked back to camp defeated.
We made it back after a little bit over five hours of hiking, completely dehydrated, so hungry that we didn't even feel the hunger anymore, and ready for a shower and some sleep. Back then, I was in pretty good shape and used to walking a lot during my travels, but I hadn't done much hiking, I didn't own a pair of hiking boots and I wasn't used to bringing snacks and extra water, just in case. This hike definitely changed my perspective, and now, I make sure I know all of the information on the trail (the length, the difficulty level, the incline, etc) before I start. I also make sure I bring a change of clothes, a first-aid kit and enough sustenance to survive about twice the distance I am about to take on. I would never leave for an unknown trail with just a bottle of water and my car keys like I did that time and, every time my friends and I put on our backpacks, we joke about how we'll never get caught without equipment like we did in Telegraph Cove.
That day, after having a later lunch than planned and finally sitting down, we figured the guy probably said it was a three hour-hike to the beach and we misunderstood, or it was a three hour-hike to the lookout and back. Who knows what he meant, but he definitely did not mean that it would be a three hour-hike to the beach and back that's for sure!
For more information on the places we visited on Vancouver Island, click here.
In the summer of 2022, my friend Amy and I were on our trip to Delaware and decided to cut the road and stop for one day in Philly on the way. Neither of us had ever been to Philadelphia, but we had seen Rocky and National Treasure and thought, why not!
where to park
Since we were on a road trip, we had a car with us. And since we were on a tight budget, our Airbnb was definitely not in the city center, so there was no way to park there and visit the city on foot, and taking the bus from our airbnb would have taken way too much time out of our already short visit in Philadelphia. So we found out that you can park at the Independence Visitor Center and get a PHLASH Pass for 14$ per person and the parking is free. The PLASH Pass allows you to ride the hop-on hop-off bus along all of the main attractions and allowed us to see everything we wanted to see in a day.
Independence Hall is a must-see when visiting Philadelphia! It is a huge part of American history and the visit is pretty short and interesting and free. Most of the year, you need a reservation to visit Independence Hall that can be made on the web site. Unfortunately, since our trip was pretty last minute, we didn't have a reservation, but visits were open on a first come first serve basis from 3 pm to 4 pm, so we were lucky and were able to go inside and do the tour. We were there during 4th of July weekend so it was fun to see the decorations and feel like we were a part of the celebration. Being Canadian, celebrating the 4th of July is just as exotic to me as celebrating the Holi festival in India!
Try to pack small when visiting Independence Hall as you need to go through a metal detector on the way in and have your bags checked.
the liberty bell
If you have seen and loved National Treasure you are probably just as excited as I was to visit the Liberty Bell. Otherwise, you are probably wondering what is so special about an old and broken bell. Either way, the visit is free of charge and the small museum where the bell is kept also has interesting facts about civil rights in the United States and was an interesting visit. You also need to go through a metal detector and have your bags checked before going in, but you don't need a reservation or anything.
the rocky steps
If you didn't take a picture of you running up the Rocky Steps, did you even go to Philadelphia? Enough said.
Reading terminal market
I don't know what is so fascinating with markets around the world, but I feel like they are always a condensed lesson about the culture of a place. What people eat, how they interact with each other, what transactions are like, what smells, colors, tastes represent the city you are visiting? It's always an interesting visit and the Reading Terminal Market was no exception. We bought lunch in the crowded and crooked alleys of the market and were happy to exit soon after as it was a bit overwhelming after two years of social distancing.
We were so lucky that during our visit there was a beautiful lantern festival. Of course, it was pure coincidence and we hadn't planned our trip around this event, but I was truly grateful that we had taken the time to research what was happening in the city during our stay so we didn't miss such a beautiful event. Most cities have events like this one going on every weekend or even every day during the summer so it is absolutely worth the two-minute research to look up if there is a special event during your trip.
where to eat
We found that the restaurants in the Old City had a lot of variety and we had a fun time walking around, comparing menus and were pleasantly surprised by the prices in this touristic area where the prices would usually be completely over the top. We ended up having lunch at Reading Terminal Market and just grabbing a snack and drink in a restaurant on Chestnut Street. For dinner, we couldn't leave Philadelphia without trying a famous Philly cheese steak!
I quite liked Philadelphia to be honest. It was a good mix of modern and historic attractions, easy to navigate and I found the city to be truly beautiful. It also wasn't extremely busy or expensive to visit which was great after spending a day in New York City.
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In 2018, my friend, Gabrielle, and I spent 2 weeks exploring Morocco from the medinas of Fes and Marrakesh to the dunes of the Sahara and the winding streets of Chefchaouen. We had planned this trip by ourselves, and except for the hike in the Atlas Mountains and our stay in the desert, we didn't hire a guide or a driver so we went from city to city on our own using public transportation like the bus, big taxis and the train. The night train from Marrakesh to Tanger was the easiest and cheapest way to explore the north of the country and I don't regret choosing this option.
I don't know if it has changed, but at the time, we couldn't make reservations for the night train and could only purchase tickets the day of. So, early in the morning, Gabrielle and I walked to the train station and bought our tickets. We opted for a sleeper car instead of seats, as the price wasn't much different and we would be departing Marrakesh at 10 PM and arriving in Tanger at 6 AM and we had planned to visit so we were hoping for a good night's rest.
That evening, we took a small taxi to the train station and had diner there before boarding the train and finding our cabin. I don't know if the employees had chosen to put us all in the same room so we would be more comfortable or if it was just a coincidence, but we ended up sharing our cabin with two other girls that were about our age and traveling by themselves. The cabins in the sleeper cars have two bunk beds, one on each side, and a window. There are sheets that are folded on the bed when you arrive, but no pillows.
We ended up talking with the other girls until pretty late in the evening considering we started talking at 10 PM when the train left. We then put on our pajamas and went to bed and I fell asleep really quickly as we had had a big day and the mattress was surprisingly comfortable. The next morning, about 10 minutes before we arrived at the train station, one of the employees came to knock on the door and wake us up so we had just enough time to get ready before it was time to disembark the train
It was my first time taking the train ever and it didn't disappoint. The ride was comfortable, it cost us one less night of accommodation since we were sleeping on the train and we were lucky, but we had a great time with our bunkmates. We just spent hours exchanging stories of our travels and where we were from and what had brought us to Morocco. It was a simple way to travel and a lot of fun!
For more information on our trip to Morocco, click here.
I personally don't enjoy traveling on my own. I know, according to the unwritten laws of travelers, that would make me a fake traveler in the mind of some. Well, I prefer traveling with friends or family, having someone to rely on if something happens and having someone to share laughs with on long train rides or to ask what they're having while looking at a restaurant menu. Memories are always better when shared in my opinion. But, I don't always have someone to travel with and I know that if I keep waiting for someone to accompany me on my travels then I will be stuck at home forever. Italy was my first solo trip and has not been the last, but it was a destination that I found pretty easy to visit by myself. It was safe and there were plenty of other solo travelers and groups I could join.
stay in hostels
Hostels are one of the best places for solo travelers because they are filled with other solo travelers looking for company, but people will also leave you alone if you would rather stay by yourself. They have activities and tours, often for free, that you can join up and where you can meet other travelers. The kitchen is always a good place to exchange stories and learn what other travelers have been up to so you can get some inspiration on what to do next or join people who are heading the same direction as you for the next few days.
go on organised activities like a cooking class or a tour
Italy has a lot of activities on offer. From Vespa tours to guided tours of its best museums or classes on how to make pizza or pasta, there are definitely activities for everyone and I guarantee there will be other solo travelers on these tours. I personally went on a guided tour to Sienna and San Gimignano where I met two other women that I had so much fun spending the day with. Same with the pizza and gelato making class that ended up leading to a full evening of sharing stories with a group of other travelers. You can read all about the class here. The activities were definitely a lot of fun, but sharing them with like-minded people was even better.
bring a book/journal/newspaper to the restaurant
I don't know why that is, but Italians find it weird that a woman would be by herself at the restaurant and, it's not malicious, but they are not quiet about it. At the beginning of my trip, almost everytime I would go to the restaurant I would get asked if my boyfriend had just dumped me, or if my boyfriend would be joining me later and if we had a fight. When I answered that I was visiting Italy by myself they would act really confused and often answer that a pretty thing like me should have a boyfriend... They probably meant well and just thought that I was Eat, Pray, Loving my way through Italy and depressed, but I was fine and just trying to enjoy my pizza, thank you very much! So I started bringing a book to the restaurant and it really helped. Not only was it less lonely than eating by myself, but the Italians seemed satisfied that I was doing fine on my own if I had a book with me. So trust me, if you are trying to eat in peace by yourself, bring a novel, bring a journal, bring a newspaper, but bring something to read.
find friends on solo-traveler facebook groups
I had no idea these existed, but a guy in my dorm told me there were Facebook groups where you could meet up with other solo travelers who were looking for company while visiting new cities and they work great. I was able to meet up with another girl who invited me on a free guided tour of Rome and we ended up spending the rest of the day together exploring the city. I do recommend being safe about it and planning activities in a group setting or meeting up in a public place, but it can be a great way to meet new people.
I wish you so much fun on your solo adventures in Italy! May you find great friends and eat lots of delicious food!
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Angel's Landing is one of the most popular hikes in the United States and is located in Zion National Park. You might have already seen photos and videos of people holding on the chains to hike the narrow trail to its summit. When my friend and I visited Zion on our road trip through the American Southwest, we were a little intimidated by this trail that. is rated very difficult. We are both healthy and pretty active, but we are not the type of people who train everyday at the gym or who run marathons. This trip was also pretty last minute, so we didn't have time to train for it. Let's just say we decided we were going to try it, but made the deal that at any point if one of us decided we were done, we were going to turn around and go back down and there would be no shame in it.
We planned our hike to give ourselves the best chance and started early in the morning so we would be in the shade for as long as possible and the heat would be less of a challenge. When we visited in September 2019, it was about 33 degrees Celsius in the afternoon.
This hike can be split in three sections. The first part is made of switch backs all the way up the vertical face of the mountain to the area where two mountains split that you can see on the picture above. Then you arrive to the section called Walter's wiggles, another section of switchbacks that are tighter and steeper that you can see on the picture below. And finally, the summit, where you have to hold on to chains and walk by the cliff on both sides.
Personally, I think the first part of switchbacks was the worst. It seemed infinite and we were in the sun for the most part so it was very hot. Usually when you hike a mountain, you will be going up and then the trail will go down a little bit and then up again and keep switching all the way up the mountain. Angel's Landing isn't like that. It's just up all the way to the summit and although the switchbacks aren't very steep, they give you no respite. You can stop at any point for a break and there is plenty of space for people to pass you if needed in that part, but it is rough on cardio and on your legs.
Once you are done with all the switchbacks and reach the summit section, it is more technical, but it gets easier in my opinion. Your mind is fully on planning where your next step should be instead of how out of breath you are. It also gets so beautiful that you are just blown away by it and grateful that you get the chance to see this view.
In this part, there is no rush. You take your time and if people want to pass you or if you want to pass other people, it can wait for a larger part of the trail where it is safe. Honestly, most people were very nice while we were there. Super respectful of others' limits and helping each other. Of course there were also people without water and hiking in flip flops, but what can you do...
When you reach the summit, you get a 360 degree-view on the whole valley and it blows your mind. It's been years and this is still my favorite hike ever, not only because I am proud that I reached the summit, but because the view was incredible. You feel like a bird flying through the valley and the feeling is indescribable.
We took our time on the summit, had a quick lunch and then slowly made our way back down. The switchbacks are still killer on the way down, but at least you are not as out of breath.
All in all, it took us approximately 3 hours for the hiking part and we took a small break before the summit and stopped for a long while on the summit. I would say from the time we stepped off the bus to the time we stepped back on, about 4 hours.
I seriously recommend doing this hike if you are able. It was easier than I thought it would be, but still a big challenge for me. I think if you are used to hiking mountains you can do it, but the heat and the switchbacks will be rough. The chains part was also more technical than I was used to, but it's not slippery so it wasn't that hard.
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