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An Afternoon on the Glasgow Mural Trail

Kyla and I love each other, but we also love our freedom when we travel! We were both pretty independent travellers when we met, and we try to work in solo travel time, even when we travel together. Depending on where we are, that might mean a few hours to a couple of days.

In Scotland, it worked nicely into our plans for her to rent a car and take a dream road trip up to Skye, while I got a much-needed dose of city exploration time in Glasgow and Edinburgh. I only had a few hours in Glasgow, but I was so impressed with the city! Some quick Googling showed me that there was an epic mural trail there, so that’s how I spent my afternoon. It was a great way to see different parts of the city, and I stumbled on TWO festivals along the way (involving drinking and live music, carnival rides, and a family ceilidh)!

The main website about the murals is City Centre Mural Trail. It has a thorough map of the trail, and you can click on each number to get a picture and more information about it.

The only issue I had was accessing the map without data on my phone. I couldn’t find a good app to download when I had access to wi-fi, so I just decided ahead of time on a general idea of what I wanted to see most, since I didn’t have time to do the whole thing while still giving myself the flexibility to wander down random streets and into markets and cafes and ceilidhs! I mapped it out on Google Maps beforehand, so that I could cross-reference it with the mural map (#nerdy), but I still had to find wi-fi a couple times. Usually, this was my own fault for reading the map wrong or just not looking UP at the right wall! But if you’re flexible and happy to get a little lost, you’ll have no problem! If you’d prefer to know exactly where you are to make sure you don’t miss any murals, I’d recommend downloading an offline map app, like Maps.me.

Self-guided tours not your thing? Glasgow offers guided street art tours for 10 pounds! https://www.walkingtoursin.com/street-art-tour

Here are the pieces I saw:

Staying in Edinburgh? No doubt Glasgow deserves more time, but if you have limited days, it’s an easy day or half day trip. It’s an hourish-long train ride from Edinburgh, or about an hour and a half by bus, with multiple trips on each per hour.

Happy (mural) trails! Have you been? Let me know your favourite piece of art!

How to See Puffins in Iceland: Vik and the South Coast

Looking for more Iceland info? I’ve got you! Check out my 5 day Reykjavik and South Coast itinerary or tips for a queer vacation in Iceland.

One of the main things we wanted to do in Iceland was see puffins, and we managed to find them two nights in a row! They are the cutest bird I’ve ever seen! I freaked out when I spotted them flying around awkwardly, but the look on Kyla’s face when she first saw them made my trip: PURE JOY!

Here are some tips for seeing puffins in South Iceland, so that you can feel pure joy too! The two locations I talk about are near the small town of Vik (about 2.5 hours from Reykjavik).

When? In general, May to late August is when puffins arrive back on land from their ocean adventures. Dyrhólaey is CLOSED during nesting season, which includes parts of May and June (I imagine that this sensitive time isn’t the best to seek them out elsewhere, either, but you can probably still see them on cliffs near Reynisfjara). July or early August would be the best time to spot them, and they can most reliably be seen between 7-10 a.m. and 6-10 p.m. If it’s rainy, you’re in luck: there’s a possibility of seeing them during the day! We saw lots on rainy evenings! If it’s sunny, they may not be back until after 9 p.m. Here’s some info from a Vík tourist map:

Where? Reynisfjara: You should visit this beach whether or not you’re looking for puffins! It has black sand, lava stack formations, and mystical basalt columns. Right as you pass the first set of basalt columns (from the parking lot), face the cliffs, and you should see puffins! From a distance, my first clue was a flying football-shaped thing!

Where? Dyrholaey: This promontory offers great views of Reynisfjara and Vík to the east, and black sand beach for days to the west. We drove all the way up to the top. It says 4 wheel drive only; it was fine for our little rental, but it’s quite a steep gravel road. You can also park below and walk up. Up top, there’s a lighthouse, and the cliffs nearby were where we spotted the puffins! If you look down (again, look for the awkward flying footballs and head towards them), you should see some, not too far from the path!

How? Don’t forget your binoculars and camera with zoom! Be respectful of the birds’ habitats and be safe: don’t go beyond any ropes or signage. Happy birdwatching!

5 Day Stopover in Iceland: A Summer Itinerary for Reykjavik and the South Coast

Looking for LGBTQ+ travel tips? Check out my post about queer travel in Iceland.

Is there a perfect amount of time to spend in Iceland? I doubt it! If you’re taking a trip just to Iceland, you’ll probably want to spend over a week driving around the whole Ring Road, or plan for a few days of hiking in Landmannalaugar. If you just want a tiny taste of the country on your way to or from Europe, a couple of days should suffice. In the winter, the limited hours of daylight may dictate how much time you need.

Five days in Iceland was perfect for us – it was a stop on the way to some other destinations, but also a dream trip on it’s own. It’s just enough time to leave you wanting more! I’ve made up a 5 day itinerary, including information about popular sites, getting around, food, and – most importantly – how and where to spot PUFFINS!*

Keep an eye out for a separate post with a packing list and detailed cost breakdown. Check out our 5 day itinerary below:

Continue reading “5 Day Stopover in Iceland: A Summer Itinerary for Reykjavik and the South Coast”

Queer Iceland: Tips for LGBTQ+ Travellers

Looking for more info about Iceland? Check out my 5 day Iceland itinerary for detailed information about Reykjavik and the South Coast.

This past summer, my girlfriend and I spent 5 days in the magical land of fire and ice! As far as we could tell, Iceland is a great place to be gay. We felt totally comfortable being couple-y there. That said, it’s always good to know what to expect as a queer traveller before arriving in a new country. Savvy lesbian travellers Lez See The World wrote a comprehensive post which details local laws and the social climate for lesbian travellers to Iceland; it’s definitely worth a read before you go!

Whether or not you visit a bar or attend an event aimed specifically at LGBTQ+ folks, you should generally have a safe and comfortable experience as a queer traveller in Iceland. This of course is from my perspective as a cis-gender woman and, as Kyla describes us, we could pass as “frumpy straight girls or femmey lesbians”.

Here are some businesses and events to keep on your gaydar for Reykjavik/Iceland:

  • Pink Iceland: Ok so I’m kind of obsessed with Pink Iceland! I’ve followed them for years now on Instagram; they plan the most beautiful (straight and not-straight) weddings, host some amazing tours, and are very involved in the Reykjavik queer community. It didn’t work into our schedule for us to do a tour with them, but we still stopped by their office, checked out their little store, met their cute doggo member, and chatted with the very friendly employees who told us about some events and invited us to join them for drinks later (sadly, too jetlagged)! It felt so welcoming; they are clearly an amazing company, and I encourage you to do a tour with them if you can! They also have some tips for LGBT travellers on their website.
  • Pride: You know you’re in a fabulous place when they have TWO Pride festivals! Pink Iceland hosts Winter Pride – Rainbow Reykjavik – in February. Last year they hosted Detox of Drag Race fame, and you can even find a mural in her honour in town! Reykjavik Pride is in August, and this year’s events included a community event painting a rainbow on the street, a queer literature walk and Stonewall museum exhibit, a drag competition, parties, of course a parade, and much more!
  • Kiki Queer Bar: the only gay bar/club in Reykjavik, free entry, Happy Hour till late, chill areas with tables and booths, semi-regular events, the outside is PAINTED RAINBOW, what more can you ask for?! Bravo bar, next door to Kiki, seems to be an unofficial queer hangout spot – it has a cozy and inviting atmosphere and an uber long happy hour (11 a.m. – 10 p.m.), which includes flights of craft beer!
  • Sometimes you can catch drag and burlesque shows in town; Gaukurinn bar seems to be the main event host, and Drag-Sugur would be a good page to watch for events.
  • Iceland has recently passed a progressive new law regarding the rights of trans, non-binary, and intersex folks. There’s a Facebook group called Trans Island; although the associated website and events are mostly in Icelandic, they might be worth connecting with if you’re looking for resources specifically relevant to trans folks. Andrymi appears to host an English-speaking support group “for trans and questioning people” on the 3rd Thursday of every month. A lot of their events sound very queer or queer-friendly!

Of course, this isn’t a comprehensive list! Do you have anything to add? Let me know in the comments. Lez hope you have a gay old time in Iceland!

2 Nights in Tofino

Last time I visited Tofino, it was a rainy November long weekend. Kyla and I were celebrating an anniversary, and the theme of the trip was to relaaaax and enjoy lots of hygge time without too many plans. That was a fabulous way to spend a weekend there, and you can read more about it here: Hygge Holiday: Tofino Hot Springs and Other Relaxing Things

This month, I had a chance to go back with my parents, and this time it was hot and sunny! Like uncharacteristically HOT; 20+ degrees Celsius made for a totally different Tofino experience!

We were able to fit a lot into just two nights, without it feeling rushed*. Of course, the more time you have, the better. If you plan to surf, you’ll probably want to spend more time there, and if you want to visit the hot springs, you may also want to have at least one more night. If your plan is to do a bit of hiking and beachcombing, soak in some sunsets (or get a little soaked, if it’s rainy season), and eat some tasty food in a place where the views are never less than stunning, it’s the perfect amount of time.

Here are some ideas for three days and two nights in and around this little surf town on the west coast of Vancouver Island:

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What Moving Means: ‘Pro Tips’ from a Seasoned Mover

This post is mostly about the logistics of moving, but click here to read my thoughts about making social connections in new cities – especially as an introvert!

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In September, Kyla and I bought our first home, and on Halloween, we moved in. This was far from my craziest farthest move, but it was definitely the most significant! It got me reflecting on my past relocations, and I figured that I’ve moved over a dozen times in the last decade or so. Across Canadian cities, over the Pacific and back THREE times, between states in Australia, to a new neighbourhood in Seoul, a couple of temporary, “extended visits” to my parents’ house in Ottawa, across Canada to Victoria, WHEW!

I actually love moving. I love that it’s dynamic and makes me feel like I’m evolving; I love getting to know new cities and neighbourhoods; I kinda weirdly love getting rid of stuff and re-organizing. But. It’s. Effing. Stressful. And expensive! All at once it can be a logistical nightmare and nostalgic and sentimental and heartbreaking. While I’m confident that this most recent move will be my last for a while, I wanted to share some tips that have been helpful for me in the past. If you have a move coming up, I hope that you can combine some of these ideas with your own strategies (P.S. what are they?!?!) to preserve the fun bits while fending off the stress!

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Oregon Road Trip : A Weekend in Portland

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Or: The Story of How I Overcame My Anxiety/Mild Phobia of Highway Driving with DIY Exposure Therapy (i.e. just driving, no escape) by Splitting an 11 Day Road Trip with My Ever-Patient Girlfriend! JK, I’ll save that riveting story for another time! But suffice it to say, when we planned this trip, I wasn’t ONLY thinking about all the food we were going to eat in Portland and the dramatic coastal landscapes we were going to see, I was also thinking about passing trucks at high speeds on the I-5 while remembering to focus on the MILES, not kilometres, on my speedometer, and lots of other things to do with driving. Obviously, I didn’t die, and I didn’t FEEL like I was going to die for at least MOST of the trip. Plus, it was so nice to have the flexibility to choose where we wanted to go and how long we wanted to stop. In conclusion: successful DIY project, and also: successful road trip.

K so back to Oregon: Here’s a guide to an excellent (IMHO perfect) Oregon road trip, based on a compressed version of our trip (we started in Vancouver*, spent an extra night in Portland, and had to stay the night in Port Angeles on the way home to catch the ferry to Victoria). Next up is the coast!

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Continue reading “Oregon Road Trip : A Weekend in Portland”

Guest Post: The Trouble with Travelling as a Lesbian Couple

Jenna Wimshurst is a comedy and travel writer who also happens to be a lesbian. Humorous travel writing and being a lesbian happen to be two of my favourite things, so when she wanted to write a guest post for my blog, I was ecstatic! She even spells ‘travelling’ the right way the same way we do in Canada! Clearly, Jenna is fabulous. Once you’ve enjoyed her insightful and hilarious essay about what it’s like to travel as a lesbian couple, head over to her blog to read more things that will have you guffawing in seconds!

The Trouble with Travelling as a Lesbian Couple

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The couple in room 12 are lesbians

In April 2016, the UK Foreign Office updated its travel advice warning gay and transgender travellers visiting the American states of North Carolina and Mississippi to be careful. It really got me thinking that a) America can be a dangerous place for LGBTQ community, and b) thank God there’s a government body here to tell me to tone down my gayness when on my holibobs otherwise I would’ve been throwing my lesbian self about all over the joint.

Other lesbians and gays will be familiar with those nervous few moments you get when you first approach the hotel reception with your partner and check into your double room that only has one bed.

A few things go through my mind when I first give my booking details to the receptionist:

– Are they going to say anything about us being massive lesbians?

– Will they say that we can’t stay at their hotel because of our sexuality?

– Will they press the homosexual button where rainbow flags drop down, Wham bursts out of the radio and suddenly two sparkling pink cocktails appear in our hands. Sounds fabulous.

But even if they don’t say anything, I know that they’re going to be telling their colleagues that there’s two lesbians staying in room 12 straight after they’ve served us. Ok, I don’t KNOW this, but I HIGHLY suspect it.

Continue reading “Guest Post: The Trouble with Travelling as a Lesbian Couple”

2 Days in Havana

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We only had a day and a half in Havana, so we squished a lot in! I found that it was completely possible to have a great time on a short trip to Havana, without it seeming stressful!

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Photos of me taken by Kyla.

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Happy New Year!

What an incredible year! It started with fireworks over the harbour in Victoria, and I’ll be ringing in 2018 in the Vinales valley, in Cuba! I have some great posts in the works for the new year, plus you can expect some Cuba-heavy content once we get back!

2017 was full of close-to-home adventures, and some big celebrations:

Continue reading “Happy New Year!”

Hygge Holiday: Tofino Hot Springs and Other Relaxing Things

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For a warmer weather itinerary, check out this post: 2 Nights in Tofino.

Kyla and I spent the November long weekend in Tofino, a surf town on western Vancouver Island. I’d only heard amazing things about Tofino since moving out here, and it lived up to the hype!

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Lots of people who visit the town choose to enjoy it the active way… surfing, hiking, that kind of thing. While it’s a fantastic place to do both of those things, and while I’ll definitely do more activities next time I go, we went the more… lazy relaxed route this time! Not only did we need a break, but we were both sick, so you could say that taking it easy was what the doctor ordered. And I mean… it’s not really that hard to chill out in a surf town! Here are 5 relaxing ways to explore Tofino:

Continue reading “Hygge Holiday: Tofino Hot Springs and Other Relaxing Things”

Juan de Fuca Trail Day 4: Payzant Creek to Botanical Beach Trailhead

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Day 4: Payzant Creek (km 40) to Botanical Beach Trailhead (km 47)

Read about our hikes from China Beach to Bear Beach, Bear Beach to Chin Beach, and Chin Beach to Payzant Creek.

Our last day on the trail was a short one: we only had 7kms to go! We woke up to misty treetops, and quickly packed up all of our gear, not minding that it was wet and muddy. Off we went!

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Continue reading “Juan de Fuca Trail Day 4: Payzant Creek to Botanical Beach Trailhead”

Juan de Fuca Trail Day 2: Bear Beach to Chin Beach

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Day 2: Bear Beach (km 9) to Chin Beach (km 21)

Read about Day 1 here.

The 12 kilometres between Bear and Chin beaches are some of the hardest on the Juan de Fuca trail; almost the entire section is a series of steep ups and downs! We started out early, after filling our bellies with oatmeal and chocolate.

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Continue reading “Juan de Fuca Trail Day 2: Bear Beach to Chin Beach”

Five Things to Do on Hornby Island

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Last month I got invited to join Kyla and her family for a long weekend of camping on Hornby Island (I’ll ‘b’ careful not to misspell it). We spent five days there, so I was prepared for lots of lazing around, which – don’t get me wrong! – is a fantastic way to spend a vacation. What I didn’t realize was that there’s tons to do and see there! So while the island’s laid-back vibe meant plenty of recharge time, it was balanced out with lots of time exploring cute spots in town, gorgeous beaches and coastal bluffs, and checking out the bottom of many glasses of mead! Here are 5 suggestions for things to see and do while on Hornby Island:

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