Canada is underrated, under-explored, and generally on the lower end of the bar for travel enthusiasts. While Instagram influencers are hiking through Alps and eating their way through fine Spanish jamon, the Canadian Rockies are left unmentioned in the background. Turns out, it’s a good thing! Unmentioned also translates to untainted: the world’s second largest country opens to landscapes that are free from crowds, grime, and headaches that tourist season inflicts on most well known sites. Instead, here you’ll find fresh beauty of nature that can encapsulate your attention for hours. Colors of landscape that make you forget to blink while simultaneously opening your senses so that you can feel you.

Canada is huge! During our trip, we were only able to explore the highlights of British Columbia and Alberta region. To explore it all, you’d probably need about twenty five years. Travel was quite easy due to the highways and major roads, but the distances between sites were long. Still, our 9-day route was an incredible journey which gave us the opportunity to see both the highlights of each region as well as dive in to some hidden gems along the way!

Travel British Columbia Blog in 9 days

Day 1 – Vancouver Airport Drive towards Jasper National Park
From the airport, this is long drive. A good tip is to split the drive into two parts and aim to the finish line before afternoon of the second day. This will ensure you ample sunlight so you can take in the gorgeous sights along the way.

Day 2 and 3 – Jasper National Park
The car cramping will leave you more than ready to get out of the car and explore Jasper on foot. Stretch those muscles! Jasper is the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies so you will have plenty to see between high mountains, valleys, glaciers, waterfalls, forests, alpine meadows, and of course rivers. There are a number of hiking trails, but if we were to choose the ones that would lead to the ‘must see’ bits of the park, we’d say go and see:

  1. Athabasca Falls
  2. Tangle Creek
  3. Sunwapta Falls

Jasper National Park Travel Photos and Ideas - Must SeeJasper National Park Travel Photos and Ideas - Must SeeJasper National Park Travel Photos and Ideas - Must SeeJasper National Park Travel Photos and Ideas - Must SeeJasper National Park Travel Photos and Ideas - Must SeeJasper National Park Travel Photos and Ideas - Must SeeJasper National Park Travel Photos and Ideas - Must See

Day 4, 5 and 6 – Banff National Park
This was the most anticipated part of our trip. Like all things novel, we were excited and had a rough idea in our mind of what this would shape out to be. Let me tell you – it all went out the gondola window the minute we stepped foot in that car. It was exhiliratingly scary! One second your legs are turning to jelly, the next second your breath catches in your mouth just by looking at the sheer beauty of what’s outside. The mountains are beautiful. It sounds flat, but truly you can’t describe the feeling of what you see once you get to the top. All sorts of holy and spiritual thoughts fly in and out of you, and you’re closer to damning humanity for destroying what was once beauty everywhere on this planet. You feel clean and again, you.

But before you really head off the deep end, you can take the ride back down (a lot less scary coming down) and have more time to explore the town of Banff itself. The town is quaint, with old time charm. It’s little wonder – the city works hard to retain that wonder by limiting development and allowing only residents of Banff to own businesses and shops in Banff. Curtailing corporations and outside companies has allowed to vest into themselves and what they’ve always been. Win-win!

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For three days we explored the magical blue glacier-fed lakes with pictures to prove it below! and of course the town of Banff and village of the famous Lake Louise. During our stay, we did a couple of short hikes, including our favorite Lake Agnes Tea House. But skipped the tea! The lines were long and we decided to spend our time gazing at the gray mountains, greenish hued waters and occasion fishes in the water instead of waiting for a cup of tea.

Banff National Park Travel Blog and Must See IdeasBanff National Park Travel Blog and Must See IdeasBanff National Park Travel Blog and Must See IdeasBanff National Park Travel Blog and Must See IdeasBanff National Park Travel Blog and Must See IdeasBanff National Park Travel Blog and Must See IdeasBanff National Park Travel Blog and Must See IdeasBanff National Park Travel Blog and Must See Ideas

Also, not to be missed the most picturesque Moraine Lake! See Below. Lake Moraine and Lake Louise are two hot spots…Lake Louise often the preferred. If you are pressed for time and have to choose between the two, go to Lake Moraine instead. You will not be disappointed! Both during the day and dusk, the lake is stunning.

Banff National Park Travel Blog and Must See Ideas in Moraine LakeBanff National Park Travel Blog and Must See Ideas in Moraine LakeBanff National Park Travel Blog and Must See Ideas in Moraine LakeBanff National Park Travel Blog and Must See Ideas in Moraine LakeBanff National Park Travel Blog and Must See Ideas in Moraine LakeBanff National Park Travel Blog and Must See Ideas in Moraine LakeBanff National Park Travel Blog and Must See Ideas in Moraine Lake

While driving from one place to the next we always felt like stopping on the side of the road and just run through the open space or dip our feet in the turquoise river, or just smell the flowers. And yes we did – many times!

Banff National Park Travel Blog and Must See Ideas for FamilyBanff National Park Travel Blog and Must See Ideas for FamilyBanff National Park Travel Blog and Must See Ideas for Family

Last but not least, we must mention the Natural Hot Springs that are the absolute must before or after a long day. There are many to choose from, we decided to try Lussier Hot Springs that are located about 2.5 hours from Banff.

Banff National Park Travel Blog and Must See Ideas for Family

Day 7 – Emerald Lake + Travel
On the way back to Vancouver, you’ll come across Emerald Lake. It’s a short drive from Banff National Park so a short stopover is perfect excuse to get out and stretch. Rest your eyes and your toes one more time before the long drive. At Emerald Lake there is a cool little restaurant called Cilantro that had the most heavenly smells wafting out of it. Get early and enjoy a meal between the lake and the mountains.

We decided to drive through Route 1 and Route 97 with a stop at Kelowna town that takes you through wine part of the country with scenic drives before you reach Vancouver.

Emerald Lake Beautiful Lake Photo

Day 8 and 9 – Explore Vancouver + Travel Back
On the last two days, we dived in to see what Vancouver was all about. It’s reminiscent of a major city (like Boston) set between the most picturesque backdrop. Beach and mountains, yes please! We visited Stanley Park, chilled at the beach, grabbed a quick bite around the corner. And had Tim Hortons for the first time.

On the second day, we had the whole day to spend so we decided to engage in something that would keep us in one place and give enough things of interest to keep our five year old going. The  Capilano Suspension Bridge Park filled those requirements perfectly. We got the nature bit from it while it fulfilled that adventure quest for our daughter. A park filled with treetop adventure sights that is connected by bridges over a deep canyon. Definitely worth the visit!

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Hands down, this was one of the most amazing and picturesque vacations! We chose to go during the summer weeks, and have no regrets. Cool nights and warm days were on the forecast for that time. Plus, you can still see snow covered mountains, and travel on the road is very safe. The summer is prime tourist season and there are a ton of restaurants, hotels and shops that are open for business. That being said, Banff is very busy and most hotels will book up months in advance. So if you’re particular about where you stay, book early! Once you start, you’ll never regret for a second your decision to go here!

Go explore and have fun!

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Dominican Republic Travel Blog and Fashion | Saona Island

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If you are thinking about a trip to the Dominican Republic, I thought I would share with you this:

1. It’s safe! Despite what other people might tell you. You don’t have to be afraid that you will only get stuck in a hotel or resort. Just make sure you are using a reliable tour company to explore areas nearby. And don’t be obnoxiously flashy and try to attract too much attention as in any other popular travel destination if you want to keep trouble at bay.

2. Go Explore! The Dominican Republic it’s so much more than just big resorts at Punta Cana.

3. Combine relaxation with adventure! At least two places I would recommend to visit: 1. Saona Island 2. Los Haitises National Park. Both places are breathtaking and leave you feeling like you’ve seen something entirely new and exhilarating.

4. Check out all activities that your hotel or resort has to offer as you might find activities you have never experienced before. A first for us was a Foam Pool Party, and it was one of the most hilarious parts of the trip I can remember. Adventure and exploring is all fun, but sometimes it’s the oddball activities that bring a smile to your face even after.

5. Try to relax and realize that you are on vacation! Yes, there will be little hiccups or things that you didn’t expect to happen, but just remember… its better than being at work or dealing with winter weather. Enjoy yourself and realize that you are luckier than any of the locals who are working at your resort or many of your friends that you left behind.

We chose the Dominican Republic after seeing the endless, gorgeous picturesque palm trees lined along the beaches that lean towards the shallow waters of the ocean. We found both these and the wild ones that pop up in the midst of the country side far away from the waters. You can literally feel like you walking in the jungle with nothing but the tall palm trees and knowing that you can hit the sand and ocean pretty much within minutes! Just watch for those coconuts – Alka was almost hit with one!

Happy Travels!

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Dominican Republic Travel Blog and Fashion

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Never before have I felt like I’m in a constant hope for spring weather to finally come! That draw of shedding layers of clothing after winter drag combined with endless sunshine and cool breezes makes me acutely pine for spring. And yet, this year we’re nearing the end of April and there is barely any sign of it. We still have the heat full on along with the fireplace occasionally! We think Mother Nature decided to snooze this year into summer.

Thank goodness for Instagram – always delving enticing locations to visit from fellow bloggers. While some are not within reach at the time (Helloooo Santorini?!?) but we luckily chanced across an image from the famous Botanic Garden in Brooklyn, New York. Talk about luck! The park is located in a busy, busy! part of Brooklyn so bank on a 2+ hour drive if you’re venturing from Connecticut alone. A tricky parking situation (the adjacent lot fills up quickly) and a small admission fee later you will find yourself in a transformed world. Any cravings you have for spring blooms combined with proper spring will yield you right into stuff your dreams are made of. Or cravings.

On our visit it was just a bit cool, but nothing to overshadow the glorious colors of the blooms surrounding us at every corner. Many beautiful trees were in full bloom, the spring flowers were notable throughout the park. Tulips are my wife’s favorite flowers and she couldn’t get enough of it. Even our little star had a blast being able to run amock the blooms without a care in the world. Couldn’t have been a better place for families, lovers, or sole flora fanatics!

What do you do to speed up your spring cravings?

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Just as Paris speaks of croissants and fashion, Provence spoke of endless fields of lavender to me. Any time you can have the opportunity to see these mesmerizing fields of purple within the short window looming around end of July and beginning of August, you might think you’ve struck some gold. It’s a tight frame when they are in full bloom and you have to get there in time before the harvesting happens and before they get sent off to little shops and boutiques eventually to find sachets of the dried stuff sold in shops or soap. We made plans to go around that time, we flew to Poland first to see our family and immediately a week later we took a flight to Nice, France.

Spending only a day in Nice we drove to Valensole city to see the lavenders. Our goal was to see them at sunrise. In our minds, we imagined the sun lazily coming up over the rolling hills of Valensole and breaking that gorgeous light over the fields. So passionate were we to make this a reality that we were up and out at 3am. Some major highway work forced us to take little detours and we were forced to take some scenic side roads. Still, we didn’t sweat it knowing we had ample time.

Eventually, we reached the town of Valensole with a bit to spare before sunrise would ‘officially’ happen. The only problem was that we couldn’t find any lavenders! The fields were bare and it appeared that they had already been harvested. As devastating of a blow this was to us, we still kept at it driving up and down the hills and any random road with the slightest hope we’d find these fields. I was getting a little stressed, and starting to wonder how did I miss the season completely. After a couple of hours, we spoke to some locals and they did inform us that most of the lavenders had been cut early this year due to a dry season. As you can only imagine, we were very disappointed. So, we did what any disappointed traveler is to do. Go find food! Luckily, there wasn’t a shortage of French bakeries at Valensole town and we came across the best croissants of any of our travels yet! They were so good I had to go back and get some more!

At this point, you must wonder, where did all those lavender photos come from!? WELL… On the way back to Nice as we were eating our croissants and drinking coffee, all of the sudden we just smelled the lavender flowers. It was a smell wave of sorts and it just hit us full face. We thought to ourselves, where is the smell coming from? A few seconds later, right in front of our car we see the fields. Lavender fields everywhere!

All was not lost – we were so excited! We jumped right into them. The smell, the buzzing bees, and our happiness of finding them were truly an amazing experience. When we finally started taking photos it was more around noon and the lighting was harsh as it can be. Yet, far away from sunrise or sunset glow we were one happy croissant-lavender-sun drenched couple. What a story we walked away with!

On a side note, some photos are from Notre-Dame de Sénanque Abbey which we had visited the day before. The beauty of the architecture and of the valley where the Abbey lies is stunning and worth the visit!

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So many glorious destinations on this planet! So many mini ‘heavens on earth’ localities. The French Riviera is one that aptly fits this thread as the most dreamy Mediterranean bit perched on the coast of Southeastern France. Vast enough that you can explore for days on end taking in the famous cities of Saint-Tropez, Cannes, and Nice. And if you are able to muster the energy after all of that, take a drive and step into the micro state of Monaco.

No matter how tired we may be on our first day of arrival, we’re bound to snap a ton of photos. Maybe it’s because we’re ready to get up and out or maybe it’s the draw of a foreign land, language and culture that just pumps the adrenaline in our system ten times stronger. It’s a bizarre sort of energy! Our first day began at the Rothschild Villa and it’s mind-blowing gardens. It’s not your typical mansion perched on top of a hill overlooking the ocean. It’s a culmination of perfectly manicured gardens, architectural details that enrapt and hold your eye, and breezes from the coastline that bring you back to that perfect day you once had at the spa. Once we exhausted all photo taking efforts, we decided to have a late lunch and tea in the Rothschild’s dining room overlooking the bay. The wine, the experience, the view!

For the next couple of days, we explored all the things that the French Rivera is known for: the sun-drenched beaches, the sweetshops, and the honey-colored stone streets. We ate lots of ice cream, drank some fancy coffee and shared some ah-amazing sunsets lounging before dinner at the outdoor restaurants. For most travelers it’s easy to get lost in every corner of a street that’s more beautiful than the previous one, but for us the magnet here was to get lost in a city with more magnificent cafes at every turn we took.

The last and unexpected stop was Monaco. Partly because we missed a turn to head back while driving and partly because the lure of a new place we on the spot decided that “…well, if fate wants us to see Monaco, why not?!” I recall growing up my Dad always mentioning how Fancy Monaco is. At that moment, the two dots connected somewhere in my mind and I figured…what could be more perfect for my blog?

His comment was spot on – Monaco is very fancy. It’s luxury overload with the overflowing high street fashion boutiques, ridiculously expensive cars parked casually on the street, casinos, snazzy restaurants and of course the beautiful coastline speckled evenly with imposing yachts. An afternoon was all we had, but if we could go back – we very well would. Who knows what turn of magic would come out of our hands at one of the casinos?!

Here’s to another heaven on earth! Cheers!

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