When I did my yoga teacher training in 2013, one of my goals was to ‘figure out’ how to meditate. I had been practicing yoga for many years, but there was a piece of my practice missing. And I was so desperate to calm my mind the **** down and find some stillness for myself after a couple years of health issues and and overall stress.
Instagram is probably one of my top five favourite things about the 21st century, so far. One of the reasons is that I have met so many lovely people via the app in the last couple of years; one of those being Shamiza Ali, girl boss and designer of a local apparel brand, Edna SMaK. Yep, Edna SMaK. Just the name made me want to further explore, and she designs lofely clothes that work for every body. She is a super sweet girl with a motivating entrepreneurial spirit, and I am so excited to share a little collaboration we worked on together for a pair of leggings. But first, a little bit about her!
Hygge is about getting cozy and creating a warm atmosphere to enjoy the good things in life with good people. That includes getting outside to enjoy nature, whether on your own, or with those good people. Something I don’t do as much of as I would like!
With the goal of unplugging and getting our hygge on, the Brit and I went on a Sunshine Coast road trip this past Canadian Thanksgiving long weekend. While it was odd not having a turkey dinner, we had the best time exploring the area and being with each other. I was doing an Instagram takeover for Townsite Brewing, so unplugging was a bit of a challenge, but the otherhalf of the goal was very successful! We had a cozy place to stay, good food, and got out into the trees.
We spent most of the weekend on the North Coast in Powell River – a town I don’t think I’d been to since I was a kid. If ever. And you know what? It’s a really fantastic place. Research combined with some fruitful suggestions from locals (both in person and via Instagram – thank you!!) gave us an amazing and budget-friendly road trip away from the city.
Getting There – Two options:
Surf & Turf – It takes two BC Ferry crossings and some scenic driving to get to Powell River from Horseshoe Bay (Vancouver), or one crossing and some driving from Comox (Vancouver Island’s east coast). It’s a pretty journey, regardless of weather, and schedules can be found here. For the first ferry crossing from Vancouver and to come back to the mainland it is HIGHLY recommended that you make a car reservation at least a couple weeks in advance for both ways. We ended up having to get up fantastically early to catch the first ferry of the day as we couldn’t make a reservation one week out.
#GetThrifty – BC Ferries occasionally offers discounts at certain times of year and times of day, so be sure to check that out to save some pennies!
Wings – Flying is a pretty swish way to get there, but swish is expensive. Particularly since you’d need to rent a car to get yourself anywhere on the Coast when you landed.
Where to Stay:
Airbnb– This is my favourite source for accommodation, and the one I find the most economical and convenient. There’s always the most unique kinds of places, and you an make your own food. We stayed in the cutest cottage that reminded me of the Weasley House in Harry Potter. It was right on Marine Avenue (the main drag), right across from some great restaurants I’ll talk about in a second, and a short walk to the beach and a great trail. There are many Airbnb’s listed for the area so you can choose one that suits your taste!
Willingdon Beach Campsite(4845 Marine Ave., Powell River) – If camping strikes your fancy, this is a year-round campsite that has great reviews and is right by the beach and all the amenities of town. If you’re keen on keeping up with your gym time, there’s also an outdoor gym type area.
The Old Courthouse Inn (6243 Walnut St., Powell River) – This hotel is in the historical Townsite area of Powell River, and is apparently quite nice (and perhaps a bit haunted!) We didn’t have a chance to check it out, but one of my colleagues gave it a big thumbs up and it has great reviews on TripAdvisor. It’s a two-second walk to the brewery and the nearby restaurants and 5-10 minute drive into town. The price point is also very good.
There are other bed and breakfasts and hotels in the area and you can check out their reviews and prices here at TripAdvisor.
There are some restaurant gems in this town! I always love being pleasantly surprised by the food scene in any place, and Powell River did not disappoint! Cheap and cheerful, quality food options.
This was a recommendation from so many people on Instagram. If you’d told me I would find authentic Mexican and Latin food in Powell River, I wouldn’t have believed you. But Costa del Sol made a flavourful impression on me. We had a late lunch there after we checked in to our little Airbnb cottage as it was just down the block. The tacos and their respective fillings were fresh and on point! Make sure you have a Premium Traditional Margarita, as it is quite good. (Allergy Alert: This drink contains egg whites for some froth, so if you’re allergic to eggs, be sure to ask them to modify the drink for you.)
Also a nice surprise and down the block from our Airbnb was Little Hut Curry. Michelle at Townsite recommended this cute little Indian restaurant to us and I’m so glad she did! With 4:30-8:30pm hours and fabulous butter chicken, the menu is very concise and all the meals come with naan, rice and veg, a salad, and The Brit’s favourite: papadoms. They have a five-star rating on TripAdvisor, which I look forward to contributing to again, when we go back to have a sit-down meal.
#GetThrifty – You can get two takeout meals for $30, all in. *mic drop*
The Tree Frog was right across from our Airbnb, so we couldn’t not go. I am all about brunch, and they have a good one with perfectly poached eggs on their hash. They also make their own tangy ketchup. I was in heaven. It was the perfect way to fuel up for our wander along the Willingdon Beach Trail. They also have cheap but quality mimosas. Vitamin C and bubbly – all you need, right?
Of all the places that were recommended to me, this diner had the most recommendations. And there’s no wonder why because it’s awesome. Huge portions of freshly made comfort food, good price point, and though everyone needs to experience a greasy spoon diner, this is a high-ceilinged airy space with books everywhere and bright walls. This is where you want to fuel up either before or after a hike at Valentine Mountain (see below).
Valentine Mountain – This hike was recommended to me on Instagram in tandem with the many recommendations for Magpie’s Diner. (Where you should go either before or after this lovely hike!) The trail itself is easy, but then you’ll hit the stairs. Stairs and I have a love-hate relationship, no matter how much hiking I do. But I do them. And it’s always worth it for the view. Like this one:
Willingdon Beach Trail – Willingdon Beach Trail is located, obviously, at Willingdon Beach, which runs parallel to Marine Avenue and the beach itself. It’s an easy trail that starts at the campsite and finishes in the historic Townsite area (about an hour’s walk). It used to be a logging railway from when Powell River used to be a booming industry town, and its history is represented by all the old machines peppered along the trail. These machines are also home to brave little squirrels who like to come out and say hello and sniff your shoes.
Make sure you jump off the path when you get to Second Beach. It’s a lovely spot for photos and you can add to the Jenga like structures of the stone cairns
The trail is very informative and interactive and has a beautiful variety of trees. Once you get out of the trees you’ll see ‘The Hulks’ – the concrete ships. (They are a bit eery looking, but you know you’re almost at the historic Townsite area when you get to them.)
Townsite Heritage District – Whether you’re staying at The Old Courthouse Inn, driving in from town, or coming through from the Willingdon Beach Trail, you should explore the Townsite area. It is the only National Historic Site in Western Canada and there is quite an impressive history attached to it.I wish we had stayed an extra day so we could do a proper walking tour and check out some restaurants.
On the list for next time: Visiting the Powell River Museum and seeing a movie at the 100+ year old Patricia Theatre(where John Barrymore once visited! Also, it’s the oldest operating theatre in Canada!)
QUENCH YOUR THIRST
Townsite Brewing (5824 Ash Ave., Powell River) – Located in the Townsite Heritage District and housed in the old Townsite Building (a beautiful brick structure that used to be, among other things, the post office in the town’s historic heyday), Townsite Brewing is a must visit. There is a free tour on Saturdays at 3pm, and the tasting room is perfect for a #pintandaflight (obviously) and a locally baked soft pretzel.
My favourite of the craft beer selections on tap was the Perfect Storm Stout (both the original and barrel aged!), and the Brit’s was the Tinhat IPA. It’s a fantastic community gathering spot, and you will feel like a local the second you walk in. Especially when you order dinner for pick-up or delivery from one of the nearby restaurants. (We ordered from Mckinney’s – thumbs up!) Check out my guest post on Townsite’s blog about the tasting room being the perfect place to get your hygge on!
Side Note: Townsite Brewing is also a member of ÉCONOMUSÉE, which promotes BC artisans in rural communities by showcasing their workshops virtually and through English and French educational tools and signage at the physical workshops. It’s a neat initiative.
GO THE EXTRA MILE
About a 30-minute drive north of Powell River proper is a little seaside village called Lund, named by its founders after a town in Sweden. If it wasn’t Mile Zero of Highway 101 (and the gateway to Desolation Sound and everything northward), you would blink and miss it and its 300 full-time residents. But you shouldn’t miss it. It’s adorable and from what we saw, a great place to hike, boat, kayak, and just plain relax. The hotel and restaurant have been around since the 1880’s, and there is a great bakery called Nancy’s that has excellent cookies.
On the list for next time: My old boss lives in Lund now, and he owns a piece of land that he has developed into a mini resort called Finn Bay Farm. We took a quick spin through through the property and it looks like the perfect getaway with its yurts and cabins.
The Sunshine Coast is a prime example of why my province is called Beautiful or Supernatural British Columbia. No filters needed!
Hello and happy autumn! Along with Mother Nature’s changing colour palette, the weather in Vancouver has become a bit cooler and the rain we are known for has been making a few appearances. So it’s a good thing the Brit and I got one last summer hike in this past Saturday; this time at Dog Mountain at Mount Seymour Provincial Park. The weather was beautiful and as much as I am not a morning person (especially not on the weekends), the scenery was absolutely worth getting up early for. If it’s a clear day, make sure you stop to take a photo of Mount Baker!
Here’s the thing about hiking in the summer: the earlier you get your step on, the less crowded it is, and the temperature in the morning is much more pleasant (if a bit brisk!) for a hike. You also get to spend the rest of your day on the amazing endorphin high of your accomplishment. We weren’t the earliest on the trail by any means, but there were maybe 10-12 people at the top when we got there at 10:30. And when we got to the bottom, we still had the entire day ahead of us, including the all-important refuel brunch. We went to Tour de Feast, this cute little French Bistro on Mountain Highway. Highly recommend!
Dog Mountain is a pretty hike that is generally done June through October. At one hour each way, it’s a great option if you don’t have all day. It’s rated easy by VancouverTrails.com, but don’t go in thinking you’re going to sprint up. They rightly highlight it as on the more challenging end of the easy scale due to the trail path being heavily peppered with tree roots that can present a tripping or slipping hazard. So watch your step!
You will trek by First Lake at about the halfway point and it’s absolutely worth stopping to take a couple photos.
And then you’ll get to the top and see this:
I’m a bit biased, but I’m pretty sure I live in the most beautiful place in the world. I mean really.
You’ll also see many furry friends on the trail; most of the dog variety as, very appropriately, dogs are welcome (on-leash). There were also some adorable little squirrels along the trail and at the top, but as the Brit was reminded by his photos (below), they are FAST! They also make this surprisingly loud and high-pitched rebel yell sound. (Think “Aye, aye, aye, aye, aye!) It’s quite funny.
Dog Mountain trail is located in Mount Seymour Provincial Park in North Vancouver. The entrance to the park is located on Mount Seymour Road just north of Mount Seymour Parkway in North Vancouver. As with all hikes, wear appropriate clothes and footwear, make sure you bring water and snacks, and if it’s sunny, wear a hat and sunscreen!
Did you get your last hike of the summer in the books? Where did you go?
(A big shout out to my guy, the Brit, for taking some pictures of me for this post and for lending me his Mount Baker and squirrel photos. Mwah! Check out his Flickr account; he takes a pretty picture, does my guy.)
In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.
Three years ago this month, I was on an epic road trip through Scotland and Northern England with my lovely Edinburgh friends, Lesley and Stephen. They literally took me everywhere and were the best tour guides. One of my favourite spots that we drove through at least twice, was Glencoe.
More recently, I stopped at Glencoe on my Highland Explorer tour, and again with the girls en route back to Glasgow to catch our flight to London. We were ending our Highlands road trip – taken in a Lexus Hybrid SUV, no less (thank you car rental company for the upgrade!) – and wanted to get a few uninterrupted photos of the beautiful Three Sisters hills while we could. (Click here to get directions to the Three Sisters car park.)
It had blessedly stopped raining for a bit so we could enjoy the very early morning peace and quiet of an empty parking lot and no noisy tourists. When I was there with the tour, there were so many people… Though I did get this nice photo:
You may have seen Glencoe’s dramatic scenery featured in many movies and television series, including the Harry Potter movies, Skyfall, and this little show you may have heard of: Outlander. The glen is free to visit and is wonderfully maintained by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS). There is a great visitor centre (located just off the A82, 17 miles south of Fort William) that I visited in 2014, but it wasn’t open for the day yet when the girls and I were driving through. There is an admission fee and they offer guided walks and tours. If you want to explore unencumbered, there are some nice, easy hikes in the glen.
No matter how many times I go through the Highlands, I will never tire of the scenery. It’s such a majestic place and I feel humbled, happy, and at peace when I’m there. Everywhere you look is a shining example of the area’s beauty, though it does have a tragic historical event attached to it: the Massacre of Glencoe. The story made me tear up a bit when I heard it on my bus tour so I will just leave you to look it up.
In a way, the history helps romanticize the area, but I think the landscape does a good job of that on its own. You can’t tell me the below doesn’t make you wish you were in your own version of Outlander; even if just for a few moments of daydreaming. 😉
Glencoe was one of three NTS sites I had the chance to visit while on this recent trip. I look forward to sharing the others with you in upcoming posts as they absolutely merit their own spotlight!
Time for a stretch!
Being on a road trip obviously entails a lot of sitting in the car. Lexus or not, it’s hard on the body. Particularly the hip-flexors, which tend to get quite tight from constant sitting. Which in turn can make the quads feel tight. This also happens with lots of walking. Go figure.
A really great yoga posture for tight quads is Dancer Pose or the more traditional names: Natarajasana or Lord (or Lady!) of the Dance pose. It’s a favourite of mine, not just because it’s a fabulous stretch during road trip pit stops (or post-plane ride). It’s also a balance posture; good for the mind and body, and for keeping your ego in check. It’s also a lovely chest opener and back bend – also nice after having not so great posture while sitting in a car.
Dancer is a lovely, dramatic posture, but we are only going to visit the first two bus stops of the pose.
WHAT YOU NEED:
A strap of some kind – a belt or scarf will do in a pinch! (optional)
Your car, to help with balance (optional)
Bust Stop #1:
Stand on an ideally flat, even surface in Mountain Pose (Tadasana), equal weight in both feet.
If you are using a car for balance, place your right hand on the side of the car.
Transfer your weight to your right foot, keeping the leg straight and strong by lifting the kneecap.
a) Reach behind you with your left hand to grab the outside of the left foot and bring it up to your bum OR
b) Make a long loop with your belt or scarf and reach around to catch your ankle in the loop and bring the foot up to the bum.
To protect the lower back from compression, gently pull (not tuck) the tailbone towards the ground and pull the belly button in and up.
This is might be where you ‘get off the bus’ – it’s a good place to be when the quads are super tight.
Bus Stop #2:
Begin to lift the left foot up and against the left hand (or your belt), opening the angle of your bent knee as your thigh (possibly) becomes parallel to the ground. This will automatically tilt you forward into a bit of a back bend and open up the chest.
If you don’t care if anyone is looking at you, or are taking a blog or Instagram photo, lift that right arm up with the palm facing up. This will give a nice stretch on the right side.
Smile – you’re stretching your quads!
Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Dancer is a fun posture that can be a bit wobbly. So if you fall out of it (as I did in one of the below photos), laugh it off and get back into it. And love the happy endorphins your laughter gave you.
We were out and about last weekend and it occurred to me that it’s almost at the end of August. How did that sneak up so quickly?? Despite summer whooshing by, I can safely say that I’ve been properly enjoying my weekends playing tourist in my town. Having an ex-pat significant other makes for much discovery and re-discovery of my beautiful city of Vancouver.
Travel is hard on your body. Considering what you are doing (seeing amazing things) I know this sounds a little boo-hoo-ish, but the struggle is real. No one’s body feels good after sitting on a plane, train, or in an automobile for a long period of time.
You know what I mean. Stiff neck from sleeping at a weird angle. Sore back and shoulders from sitting in the awkward seats. Tight legs and hips from the same. Hands and feet feeling heavy. The interesting thing is that you can feel much of the same after playing tourist and being on your feet all day.
So what can we do about it? When we were on our girls’ trip, any time one of my friends said their legs hurt, I would say four words: legs up the wall. Usually, while I was about to do the exact same. It feels amazing when you’ve been out and about all day, or even just after a day at work.
Legs Up the Wall
Traditionally called Viparita Karani, Legs Up the Wall is one of my all-time favourite yoga poses. It’s great restorative posture that opens the chest and stretches the back of the neck and backs of the legs. It also helps release tension in the lower back and increases circulation by flowing blood from your feet back to your heart. Your heart won’t have to pump as hard and it’s an excellent way to relax weary legs after a day of exploring and the copious amount of stairways that seem to always be part of my travels.
What You Need:
Wall and floor space (No adequate wall/floor space combo in your digs? Use your bed.)
Yoga mat or towel (optional, but nice when on the floor)
Cushion or pillow for lower back support (optional)
Rolled up towel for neck support (optional)
Place your mat or towel with the short edge right against the wall. If using a cushion, place it at the wall.
Lie down on your side, with your head away from the wall and knees. Sit on your mat/cushion with your left or right side flush with the wall and use your opposite hand to support you as you lie down on your side.
Roll on to your back and extend your legs your legs up the wall. (There’s no way to be graceful about this. Don’t worry about it.)
Bend your knees as much as needed to support the lower back. You may need to scooch your hips away from the wall a bit.
Arms can be by your side with palms facing up, or hands resting on your belly. Whatever is comfortable.
If your neck needs some support, roll up a towel and place it so your neck can rest comfortably in alignment.
If the feet get tingly, bend the knees a bit more.
To feel the same circulatory benefits in your arms while in this pose, loosely extend the arms up and reach for the ceiling.
To come out of the pose, gently bring the knees into the chest and roll to your left side.
5-10 minutes in this pose does wonders for my legs and my mind. I hope it can be helpful for you, too!
Looking for a travel yoga mat? Here are some great options that I use and have been recommended to me:
B MAT Traveller (2mm) – ($56 CAD) This is my current travel mat and I love it. It folds up nicely in my suitcase and it irons itself out within half an hour of my taking it out after a flight. It also feels quite cushy despite being only 2mm thick. It has more than paid for itself in the last two years
Halfmoon Yoga Travel Mat ($38 CAD) – I’ve heard so many good things about this one, and it’s a great price point. Also, it’s a Vancouver based company! 🙌🏻
Manduka® eKO® SuperLite Travel Yoga Mat – ($42 USD) My Kundalini teacher uses this as her travel mat, and she travels A LOT. Available online in the USA here and in Canada here.