Throwback Thursday- Queenstown, New Zealand

I love the idea of Throwback Thursday, except I never remember to do them on Instagram! So I thought if I have a weekly Throwback on my blog, I will HAVE to remember ( and if I don’t there is always Flashback Friday :P).

My first Throwback Thursday is dedicated to my favourite place (so far) in my country, New Zealand. I still have a few more places I really want to see in New Zealand (the Marlborough Sounds, the Coromandel, and Bay of Plenty are still on my hit list!). Queenstown though is by far the most stunning place I have seen yet, and Wanaka is beautiful to. I would love to get down there in the winter! Hopefully I will be a pro snowboarder by the time I come home from Whistler and can get down and try out the mountains down there 🙂

Summer is just so amazing down there though, although it does it get busy it isn’t as full on as the middle of winter. The best time to go would be around February-March, when the weather is still nice but the New Zealand school holidays are over. These photos were taken when I was there in February 2011 with my mum, and the weather was perfect! It is also the best time to do all the extreme tourist activities Queenstown is renowned for – Bungee Jumping, White Water Rafting, Jetboating, Skydiving… unfortunately I haven’t yet done any of these, although I have taken a trip on the TSS Earnslaw ( a 1912 Edwardian vintage twin screw steamer, aka a cool boat that takes you on a cruise to look at the pretty scenery!) and also gone up the gondola to look out over the views of the lakes and mountains. Much tamer options! Next time I go back to Queenstown I have a lot to fit in!

Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown, New Zealand

Holding Out For Winter

Seeing Whistler and Blackcomb mountain getting a little and little whiter each day is getting me so amped for winter to kick in!

Whistler Blackcomb have created a video series called the Wonder Reels, a promo series they started last season. I just watched the second episode of this years series and it is so amazing I thought I would share it. These next 6 months are going to be perfect!

Living the Whistler Life

I arrived in Whistler last week, have almost finished my training as a Reservations Host, and am slowly being able to find my way around this confusing village!

If anyone is planning on moving up for a season, here are a few helpful hints I have found out over the last week (sure there will be more to come!)

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1/ If you are going to be living in Staff Housing, BRING A DOONA/DUVET/WHATEVER ELSE YOU CALL IT. I had heard this previously but kind of brushed it off. HOUSE give you a linen pack which has a base sheet, 1 normal sheet, a mink-like blanket and a flat pillow. I have been pretty cold the last few nights and finally managed to get down to the Re-Use it Centre down in Function Junction (a thrift store 2 bus rides away) and got myself another pillow and duvet that I will be washing a couple of times before I use it 🙂

 

2/ If you are wanting a shared room in Staff Housing, you may as well go for Brio accommodation. It is a little more expensive but the apartments are so much bigger than Glacier and there are only 4 to an apartment. If I wasn’t working at the Reservations Centre (2min walk from Glacier) I would have gone to Brio. Glacier has a reputation for being loud and a party place, but since I started work early before the mountains open I can’t really judge that yet…. so making sure I appreciate the peace and quiet now!

 

3/ Don’t go out drinking on the weekends. Bars hike up their prices for all the tourists and the mountains are so busy. If you get to pick your days off, pick something mid-week. If you’re a Club Shred member (you really should be coz they have awesome deals for just $2 a paycheck) Thursday nights at Merlins you get 2 free drinks between 5-7 and 40% off food!! Also Thursday night is the night where the main club Garfinkles goes off.

 

4/ Once you have your staff pass, ask the bars/pubs you go to for a “locals” sticker. Stick them on your pass and rake in the savings! Longhorns for example will give you 25% off if you have the sticker.

 

5/ PLEASE come and make the most of this place. If you don’t drink, that’s cool. If you’re not into the nightlife scene, that’s fine. If you can’t ski or snowboard (like I can’t yet!) that is also fine! You get free or discounted lessons! But if your going to come to Whistler and not do any of these things you are kind of coming to the wrong place. The pay here isn’t anywhere near as good as back home in NZ/OZ/UK or wherever. The whole village in Winter is centred around the Skiing/Snowboarding, Apres, the Nightlife and the adventures. If you aren’t into any one of these things, you are probably going to get so bored.

 

I hope this has been somewhat helpful if you are planning on coming over to Whistler for a winter. This is going to be the best winter of my life no doubt!

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Vancouvering About

Vancouver. What an amazingly beautiful city.

I never expected to fall in love quite as much as I have with Vancouver. When I first arrived in Canada I spent a few days in Vancouver and it just rained constantly so I wasn’t a huge fan. Then coming back to gorgeous weather after I spent a week in Victoria, I quickly changed my mind.

I think Autumn (or Fall as I should be calling it now!) is the best time to visit, apart from the rain. But looking past that, this city has so many trees and parks that in the Autumn it is so pretty with these streets lined with orange trees, and the waterfront with so many coloured trees and lush green parks along the way.

Vancouver is one of the easiest cities I have ever had to master. Like NYC or Melbourne, the city is a grid layout and really easy to find your way around! There is good public transport, but I found pretty much everything was in walking distance while staying in the city.

I stayed at Samesun Backpackers, which is where the Working Holiday Club set you up with a free night when you do their Powder Package. It was a really cool lively backpackers, and I would really recommend staying here. They have an awesome activities program where each day of the week you can sign up for their outing of the day, whether it be a Fright Night tour leading up to Halloween or an afternoon trip across to Granville Island to check out the markets.

Granville Island is a short walk away from Downtown, it took me around 25-30 minutes to walk here. You can also catch a water taxi from several points around the harbour. Granville Island is home to Granville Island Public market, which is an amazing food market (with a few arts&crafts and other stuff mixed in there). I found this really similar to the Queen Victoria markets in Melbourne, really large and colourful and will make you really hungry!

The Seawall is a walk around Vancouver’s waterfront, that stretches out to 22km long. I did this across 2 days (because I am definitely not fit enough to do it in one!). A large part of it takes you around Stanley Park, so its great to see both attractions in one day. There are also plenty of bike hire shops around and cycle path as well so if you don’t have 2-3 hours to walk around the Stanley Park part then you can bike which takes around 1.5hrs.

If you’re after an adventurous holiday take a day trip up Grouse Mountain for the snow in the winter, or check out the grizzly bears and wolves in the Wildlife Refuge centre up the top of the mountain. During the summer there is ziplining, paragliding, hiking and some amazing views over Vancouver.

There are so many family friendly options as well in Vancouver. Stanley Park itself not only has huge children’s playgrounds and a miniature train, it is also home to the Vancouver Museum. Scienceworld is great if you want something educational and fun, or if you after a more adventurous outing there is the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park which takes you through the rainforest on a 70m high and 137m long suspension bridge!

I will leave you with some photos that will make you want to book your flight tonight!

Ciao for now 🙂

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Venturing to Victoria

Even after being a travel agent for a couple of years there are still a ton of cities I’ve never even heard of. Victoria was one of them. I first heard of Victoria when I was reading an article on Cory Monteith (R.I.P, *tear*) and it mentioned his hometown Victoria in Canada. I did a quick google image search to see where exactly it was (and if it looked like somewhere I wanted to visit one day coz I’m a travel nerd like that). I was immediately drawn to all the beautiful buildings and the pristine gardens. So when I got to planning what date to arrive in Vancouver, I made sure to leave enough time to go see this city.

To be honest, I probably left a bit TOO much time. I loved Victoria, don’t get me wrong, but I would have seen what I really wanted to see in 3-4 days (opposed to 6). At least it gave me some time to catch up on reading and get my blog up and running!

DSCN8877I got to Victoria by Pacific Coach Services. They leave from the main bus depot in Vancouver (the same as the Greyhound depot). You are driven by coach down to Tsawwassen where the ferry terminal is, which is about a 45 minute drive away from Downtown Vancouver. They take you onboard the B.C Ferry, then after a 1.5 hour ferry sailing you hop back on the bus and drive from Swartz Bay to Victoria (once again about 45mins). It cost me around CAD55.00 each way. You can do this trip cheaper using public transport, but if you have luggage this is a bit of a nightmare and worth paying a little extra!

I stayed at Ocean Island Inn, which is a great hostel located about a 5 minute walk to the city center. Dorms were equipped with their own small kitchenette, and almost every dorm had their own nice private bathroom. Definitely recommend this place!

I could write a full blow-by-blow description of my time in Victoria, but that may get a bit boring (especially seeing as I spent a lot of it being sick!) so I will note a few cool things I would recommend doing/seeing!

  • Visit the British Columbia Legislature Building (aka the Parliament Buildings)- Take a guided tour (Monday to Friday) or grab a self guided tour book and explore the history of the government of British Columbia. It is as equally stunning inside! It is also free to enter 🙂  Fun fact – the architect who designed this building in the late 1890s spent WAY over budget, so he didn’t even get invited to the grand opening ceremony once it was completed! He also designed the Empress hotel (pictured below).
  • Jump on a water taxi across to Fisherman’s Wharf, which is a great wee spot where you can grab some Fish n Chips or an ice cream and stroll along the wharf and check out all the funky floating houses people live in, or keep an eye out for the seals that often grace the waters! Perfect for a sunny day. Water Taxi costs approx $8 return and leaves from the harbour outside The Empress Hotel.
  • The Royal B.C Museum is a must-do while your there, even if you’re not a big museum person. It’s incredible. Words can’t really give it justice. You can learn about both the natural and the cultural history of British Columbia and how it got where it is today. Think big, interactive, and a lot of fun.
  • On a nice day, Beacon Hill Park is definitely worth a visit. The gardens are beautiful, peacocks and squirrels everywhere and there is a small beach as well! Perfect place to take a picnic , play some tennis or take the kids along to the petting zoo.
  • John’s Place – absolutely amazing. I heard about this cafe before I got to Victoria, as it was listed on a few sites as a really popular brunch spot on weekends. It was just down the road from my hostel, so every morning I walked past it and it was always busy. I ate there on my last day in Victoria. That waffle with real maple syrup, banana and whipped cream was the best waffle I have had in my life. SO good. The menu was extensive as well – mostly breakfast/brunch food. A little pricey (my waffle and orange juice came to $15) but so worth it.
Parliament Buildings

Parliament Buildings

Beacon Hill Park

Beacon Hill Park

A Floating House at Fishermans Wharf

A Floating House at Fishermans Wharf

Parliament Buildings at night- stunning!

Parliament Buildings at night- stunning!

The Empress Hotel

The Empress Hotel

Breakfast at John's Place! Yummm!

Breakfast at John’s Place! Yummm!

How I got to Canada

Last year, I went on a 3 week trip around Europe. Like how all good holidays end, I was left itching for my next adventure and slightly dreading coming back to reality. While I was away, I kept throwing around all these ideas about what I could do once I got back. The thought of Canada kept popping back into my mind, as I have had a couple of friends who had done seasons there and loved it. Even though I’ve never skiied in my life (attempted snowboarding for an hour or so) and I hate the cold, so who knows why I have this weird attraction to it!

My problem was that I was in Europe in August, and it was too late (plus I had no money left) to do the Winter season that year. I really didn’t want to wait another whole year to do it! So I kept thinking of other things I could do, but I really had my heart set on Canada.

Then in the end of November, after 2 months of being back into the daily grind, I won a trip through my work to Hawaii. I decided since I now had Hawaii to look forward to, then I could do Canada for the 2013/14 ski season and the waiting game wouldn’t of been so painful!

In January I contacted The Working Holiday Club to express my interest for the next season. They were the company we sold through Student Flights, however I did look into another company as well (so it’s not me being biased when I say they were the best!). Jake from TWHC gave me a call to have a chat about everything, and told him I was interested in Whistler Blackcomb as that seems to be the biggest resort. That way, if I completely suck at snowboarding or break a bone attempting to there will still be heaps happening in the village! He gave me a run through of what the Powder Package product the sell is all about, and answered all my questions.images TWHC

I paid my deposit and had a Skype interview with Julia, who is based over in Canada. It was pretty much just an interview to make sure I would be suited for a role there, and to figure out what role would suit me best. She also gave me helpful tips for my next interview with the resort!

I was pretty on to it with my visa- even if I wasn’t offered a job at Whistler I had decided I was going to Canada anyway. So I applied around March, and all got accepted within about a month. Pretty straight forward with us Kiwis (although we only get a 1 year visa where as Ozzies get 2 years 😦 )

In July I flew up to Auckland for my interview with the recruiter from Whistler Blackcomb. I was pretty nervous going in to it as I hadn’t had an interview in years, but the lady who interviewed me was really easy going and although she asked me a few of the standard questions mostly it was just a chat to get to know me and to talk about Whistler.

I got the email about 2-3 weeks later, with the brilliant heading line of “It is our pleasure to offer you a position with Whistler Blackcomb for the upcoming 2013-2014 Winter Season!” I got the role I had applied for- reservations host. I thought my travel agent skills would best transfer over to that 🙂

Next came flight booking time! I had booked Air New Zealand, who fly direct from Auckland to Vancouver and my flight was on sale so only cost about NZD950 or so for a one way ticket. I booked so I had a little while to explore before I started my job.

IMG_1569Which brings me to where I am today! I left New Zealand on September 29th , and into Vancouver also on the 29th. There was a VERY long wait to get my work visa issued- I was in line waiting for almost 2hrs. Then spent 3 nights in Vancouver to recover from jet lag and wander around the city, then caught the bus/ferry/bus to Victoria which is where I am now! I am here for 6 nights to get a good feel for the place and not have to rush. Then I am back to Vancouver for a week to play tourist/ get SIN number bank details etc sorted and to jump on my bus for Whistler!

A little more about me….

IMG_3419So it is about time I put pen to paper (or fingers to keypad?) and start sharing my adventures, thoughts and inspirations with the world! (Or just with my mother and whoever else I force into reading my blog…)

I’m Emily, in my early 20’s who comes from a small town called Upper Hutt in New Zealand. Although if you meet me I will tell you I am from Wellington, which is where I worked while living in New Zealand and is about a 40 minute drive away (it avoids the “Um… where, sorry?” questions, and from anyone that knows Upper Hutt, the “Ew you’re from the Hutt?” statements). Upper Hutt isn’t a BAD town… just really small, a pain to get to, and a gang or two in the area. However it is also home to some stunning scenery, and it’s a really great place to raise a family… as long as you get out by the time you finish high school and go see the some more of the world.

I have been a travel agent for the past couple of years, and have just moved to CANADA a few days ago to take on a season at Whistler Blackcomb! After being an agent at Student Flights, I got a bit too jealous of sending other people my age off on their big O.E’s and being stuck behind my desk working long hours. Don’t get me wrong- working for Flight Centre and Student Flights was absolutlely amazing. I got to travel to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Europe and Hawaii all on great agent rates 😛 It also taught me about all the places I haven’t yet travelled to, and it got to the point where I just needed to stop putting my own O.E off and book my one way flight to Canada!

For now, all I have signed up for is one season at Whistler, and then the next 6 months Canada is my oyster. Thinking of doing Banff for the Summer season, although I have refused to let myself plan that far ahead and just live in the moment!

Just a few fun facts to finish this “About Me” post off 😀

– My first international trip was to Fiji with my church on a missions trip, performing at local schools. Probably the most lifechanging trip a 16 year old girl could have!

– I am really, ridiculously in love with fries and aoili. I need help.

– I continuously attempt to teach myself French. It has been my New Years resoultion for years and I just cannot stick with it! Plus I am too poor to pay for the really expensive French tutors in Wellington.

– I used to be a dancer and a cheerleader for years on end. Not that you would know if you saw me out dancing in a club. You would think I’m a little white girl tryna get all Beyonce… and looking more like a Flight of the Conchords character they forgot to cast.

– Speaking of which, Flight of the Conchords are probably the best thing to happen to New Zealand. I like my comedy nice and dry, true New Zealand humour… so if you don’t laugh at my jokes that’s what I am going to blame it on.

Look forward to keeping you updated with my happenings!

Ciao for now,

Emily