Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Playing tourist in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Last month I took a fantastic trip to Halifax, Nova Scotia. It was a work trip but Michele (my work colleague) and I managed to cram in a good chunk of sight-seeing too!

We stayed right downtown Halifax at the Four Points - it was 1 block from the water and I had a teeny glimpse of the harbour from my top floor room. We arrived late on Monday after a long day of travelling but we headed straight out and enjoyed a nice stroll along the board walk and into a couple of different pubs for drinks before settling down at Salty's for a classic Atlantic lobster dinner over-looking the harbour. (well Michele did - I don't even like lobster - I know - wrong province right?!)

Tuesday was a glorious day weather-wise. We worked in the morning but wrapped up our work day early enough to head out for the some sight-seeing. We hopped in the rental car and took the long scenic route south out of the city following as much coastline as we could get. We made a brief stop at the York Deboubt Historic Site - built in 1793 on a bluff overlooking the harbour entrance it was a windy stop, and not fully open for the season so we didn't stay long.

The road took us through a number of other small communities - Ketch Harbour and Prospect all the while clinging on to the gorgeous rugged and rocky coastline. These little villages were smaller than I imagined and less touristy and developed - I was expecting gift shops, B&B's and cafes galore but for the most part they were quiet and unassuming places that looked like they were just going about their regular business and hadn't catered to the tourists at all. We made it to the infamous Peggy's Cove and lighthouse. It's a sight featured on many a calendar here in Canada!! It was later in the afternoon so the little fishing cove was deserted and the few art galleries and shops here were closed for the day but it gave the place a rather peaceful feel for us strolling  around. The lighthouse itself sat on the edge of the rocks right on the edge of Canada, waves crashing around it - we hopped the tide pools and rocks to reach it and admire the view of that big bad Atlantic ocean.

Wednesday morning I got up before work to head out on my sight-seeing run. I've started to really look forward to going for a run when I'm travelling - getting in my workout AND seeing the sights of the town! Bam! Killing it with the time management there! I used MapMyRun to scout out a route along the waterfront boardwalk (past some funky installation art - are those lamp-posts drunk?!), through the commercial docks to end up in Point Pleasant Park. Oh man, what an awesome park - it reminded me a lot of Stanley Park in Vancouver - lovely wide gravel pathways around it's circumference and cris-crossing through the park with a myriad more smaller trails through the forest. I headed out of the park, through the Spring Garden neighbourhood and to the Citadel - a short, sharp hill climb got me to the top where I could run the perimeter and enjoy some wicked views of the city. From there I headed back along the waterfront to the hotel and had clocked 10km for my troubles - such a great start to my day!

Thursday Michele and I had put in a vacation day so we headed back down the coast for Lunenburg. The weather was lousy - crazy torrents of rain which made for a sad, wet drive. We stopped briefly in Mahone Bay but really just cruised through town a couple of times admiring the views from the comfort and dryness of the rental car! Finally when we reached Lunenburg the rain had mostly let up so we could spend a couple of hours strolling around the town without looking like drowned rats!

We explored the very interesting little Knaut-Rhuland House Museum - where we had a personal tour guide who explained how the town was settled by the British - there were great incentives to encourage people to settle here - including a plot of land and some animals - each person arriving would draw a card to set what lot they were being 'given'! These days the town is a UNESCO World heritage site and is full of delightful old, cheerfully painted buildings and is a perfect place to just stroll around (even in the rain!)

I got in a final run on Friday morning before our flight out. This time I headed out of the city, over the main MacDonald bridge and across into Dartmouth. I ran along the water separating the cities of Halifax and Dartmouth. Much of the route seemed pretty industrial and at time perhaps a little sketchy and I was seriously questioning my sense of direction a few times, but Google maps is my friend and together we made it (as per my plan) to the Woodside Ferry terminal - part of the city's transport network it was a $2.25 fare on the water taxi back to the wharf in Halifax and 2 blocks from my hotel. Quite the adventure and some great views of Halifax from the bridge as I crossed the harbour.

I was quite taken with Halifax! I'm kicking myself for not sneaking Chris into my suitcase for this trip - he would have loved it! The city seems very funky and forward - the calibre of restaurants and eateries is a notch above Kelowna. We dined at some real gems - including a Vegan restaurant (which had a big picture of a vizsla on the wall so they got my vote even before the food turned up!!), an awesome place called 2 Doors Down who source mostly local produce, and an incredible fish n' chip place buried in the middle of a residential area but agreed upon by all we asked to be the best place going for classic fish and chips and the beer...oh the beer!! I only seem to drink beer when I'm travelling and then I turn into some craft brew drinking beer monster - and I really I love every minute of it - Propeller, Garrison, and not forgetting the most famous of them all - Alexander Keith's brewery (where we did indulge in a brewery tour - complete with costumed guides, a little singing and dancing and of course a couple of pints to sample!!)

Halifax, I think you're awesome!! (and you even have a shop especially for me!!)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Our AirBnB 'Hosting' experience

I first heard about Airbnb several months ago - from people who had travelled and used the service as a way to find accommodation. I was intrigued but I had no cause to book any accommodation at the time. 
(if you want to sign up and book through Airbnb check out my code to save you $27 at the bottom of the post)

According to their website;

Founded in August of 2008 and based in San Francisco, California, Airbnb is a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world — online or from a mobile phone.

Whether an apartment for a night, a castle for a week, or a villa for a month, Airbnb connects people to unique travel experiences, at any price point, in more than 34,000 cities and 190 countries. And with world-class customer service and a growing community of users, Airbnb is the easiest way for people to monetize their extra space and showcase it to an audience of millions.

Then Chris and I got to thinking. We have a beautiful house which is generously sized for 2 people and a basement with 2 spare bedrooms that are rarely ever used. It seemed the perfect idea to sign up to Host on Airbnb.

A couple more months went by and procrastination was our houseguest so nothing happened. Then in June we eventually jiggled some furniture around to make the main room a little more attractive (read: photo-genic!) and functional for guests and then pulled out the wide angle lens for the camera and snapped some photos. I spent a couple of hours creating our profile online and writing a full and detailed description of the space we had available to rent. Details about the room, the space and amenities guests have access to, the neighbourhood & surrounding area, public transit options, house rules, and the level of interaction hosts have with guests.

Within 2 hours of listing our space we had our first booking! Then the next day another one for that very evening! It was an exciting start!

It's been an awesome way to maximise space in our home that was sadly under-utilized and meet new people. Meli has been in her element as chief guest-greeter and is making BFF's every time someone new shows up! We've had guests from Alberta, Hungary, France and of course BC. Airbnb seems like a no-brainer option compared to staying in a grotty motel - it's more personal and usually a lot nicer accommodations plus typically cheaper. For us it's great to be able to offer travellers that option and we make some cash to boot!

Guests make a booking through the Airbnb system either on the website or the Airbnb phone app. The booking comes through to us as hosts to accept or decline....although there is a calendar visible which we keep up-to-date as best we can it still gives us an opportunity to make the final decision. Once accepted the guest then pays Airbnb straight away (with a small admin fee added). As hosts we get the confirmation of booking and then sit tight waiting for the guest to arrive. We receive payment (minus a small admin fee) 24 hours after the guest checks-in and we have chosen to receive our payouts via Paypal which are pretty much instantaneous. After a stay is completed there is a review process for both guest and host - so right now we're working at building a good review base.

I now want to be on the 'other end of things' so to speak - I'm excited to stay in some of these beautiful listings - I'll have to plan a trip just so I can book through Airbnb!! Just browse the website listings - there are so many funky places to stay - in retro trailers, castlesigloos, a shipping container, a teepee, a lighthouse or a treehouse. Our listing is a bit 'plain-jane' compared to those but we've had great feedback from our guests and we don't want all out funky all the time, right?!?! It's just a nice comfortable guest suite....

If you'd like to try Airbnb for yourself then I can save you $27 off your first stay....use this referral link to sign up...if you're on a phone and it prompts you for a code then use hmills3
(I also get referral credit if you sign up and make a stay or sign up to host!)... Happy Travels!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Our 2-year Vizsla-versary!

July 4th marks the day when Miss Meli came to live with us. For us this date seems way more significant that her actual birthday and since she's a dog I'm hedging my bets that she probably won't care all that much either way!!

The last 2 years have flown by!

She's a well behaved girl - provided there aren't too many distractions!! Which means she's angelic in the house - using a bell to let us know she needs to pee, knowing her boundaries around the house (she's only allowed on certain furniture - and over the course of time that list is rapidly shrinking - we're such suckers!!), and waiting patiently for the command before she'll eat. Out of the house she's a bit more of a runaway! She still thinks everyone wants to be her best friend so she'll dash up to anyone nearby! She loves hanging out with other dogs, but does seem to tire of them quickly - after the obligatory butt-sniffing she does tend to come back to us (unless it's Brix the Weimaraner from down the road!).

These days she runs with me on most of my training runs - usually 2-3 times a week - our long runs are up to around 10-12 miles with a couple of shorter ones mid-week. The distance and time out running is great for her but she seems to come home ready for more. Unless she's had some serious off-leash play and running at her own pace (I'm just too slow!) she is difficult to tire! We're so lucky that we have access to around 20km of trails right from our front door so we trail run some of the shorter distances so we both get a great workout! And then she's a happy, happy pup! More recently Chris has also started taking her out mountain biking on the trails and she's loving that!

She is OBSESSED with her ball-on-a-rope. It's ideal for us since we can really throw it some distance (even me who can't throw to save my life!) The best game ever?! - Us standing on the front lawn and throwing it up the bank opposite into the shrubs and waste-ground. She'll dash up the bank, leaping like a deer at the crest, and then moments later come bounding back down the hill with it, do a lap around the lawn and come back for more, more, more!! It's a great way to get the wriggles out (I nearly said 'to tire her out', but really, that never happens!)

We did take her on an excellent camping adventure last fall - 2 nights in Glacier National Park, with a couple of days of serious mountain hiking. And actually that was the closest we may ever have come to the elusive 'tired vizsla'....6 hours hiking 16km up a mountain and back does that to a pup....She couldn't even keep her eyes open for the campfire...

Despite the lack of hair and undercoat our girl loves winter. Yep!! Crazy! Snow must be her favoutire thing and she was a great companion to our frequent snow-shoe trips this past winter. We got her geared up in a cozy fleece lined waterproof jacket and she'll go on forever! She also loves the lakes (even in the winter - sliding across a frozen lake was funny for all of us!!) - now summer is here she'll be back out on the SUP with Chris - she's rather protective of Chris and doesn't like to watch him disappear off too far from shore so will generally jump on in and make a swim for him! The 2 of them even went SUP in February when the lake was still partially frozen!

However, this girl does NOT like her photo being taken. It's usually the Miss-grumpy-pants face as soon as she sees us getting out the camera or our phones...
Possibly my favourite photo of the year - Daddy's Little Girl....!

We love you Miss Meli-mou!! xxx
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