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travel: los angeles recap

i guess one would say that we survived LA.
although the jury is still out on my liver making it out alive.

but here’s your brief photojournal.  and sorry, but if you’re following me on instagram, you’ve already seen all these.

if you squint and look reeeeeal close you’ll see the hollywood sign in the centre of this first picture.  and that is the most we saw of it, lol.  (from the plane)

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we made it to our lovely hotel in hollywood without much incident… it was a great location and super cute.  i definitely recommend the grafton.
friendly staff, nice rooms and we adored the pool.

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our first whole day there we kicked it to universal studios to ride some rides and have the fun!

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the last time i was there was many moons ago… probably like 15 years ago, so basically besides the bones, the whole place was different.

we had a rad time and were very happy we went first thing in the morning when it opened.  we rode the simpsons ride, transformers, the mummy and jurassic park before there were any lines at all.

the simpsons ride was SO COOL.  definitely my favourite thing there.

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after a hot sweaty day in the california sunshine, we had another very important stop to make…

hot dogs!  (obviously)

only a block away from our hotel was Carney’s, which is hailed as the best hot dog in LA.  and it did not disappoint.
we went with the classic carney’s dog which had chili, cheese, mustard, onions and tomato on it.  we added the insanely hot peppers on top and i had mine without onions.
it was a frigging delight.  hands down the best dog i’ve had to date.
and can’t you tell how excited the husband is?  he looks like a boy on christmas, lol.

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one of the things that always makes me excited is checking out venues in other cities.  we didn’t make it into a show, but wow was it ever neat to see so many legendary places in person.

the whiskey, the viper room, the troubadour, the roxy… it felt like every block we turned had another amazing spot for me to gawk at.
next time, i most definitely have to see a show.

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as i mentioned, the whole point of the trip was to see our dear friends get hitched and the wedding and all the partying that accompanied it was top notch.

the wedding itself, absolute perfection and getting to know so many super cool people was just a blast.  those LA people have the most hilarious stories.

on our last day we had the pleasure of enjoying a gorgeous pool in bel air and it was a wonderful end to a great trip.

and we agreed that we need to visit LA more often.

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travel: los angeles

tomorrow the husband and i are off to los angeles for the weekend to see our friends get married.
we’re pretty excited about the wedding, obviously, but also for the chance to explore LA a bit.  neither of us have every really been there.  while we’ve both visited the city briefly as children and the surrounding area of anaheim, we have not spent a lot of time in la/hollywood proper and are looking forward to getting to experience the city.

we’re staying on sunset in hollywood at a hotel suggested by the happy couple…

which has an adorable pool that i plan on floating my hangovers away in…

because you probably know by now that i’m a water girl and love my pools/lakes/oceans.  it’s necessary for wherever i stay.

the only real thing we have planned is that on saturday we’re going to hit universal studios hollywood.  i REALLY want to ride some rides and i haven’t been to universal hollywood since i was about 16 years old, so it has changed a lot.
and while i’m super bummed that the back to the future ride no longer exists, i’m pretty stoked to take a whirl on the simpsons ride.

are we absolutely insane for visiting a theme park on the last saturday on a long weekend of the summer?  probably.
but the wedding is sunday and monday is for hangovers and a bel air pool party apparently… and tuesday we go home, so this is the only chance.

either way, we figure we’ll go first thing when they open, ride some rides, see some cool stuff and head home when we get tired of crowds, likely around 3pm or so… and then probably spend the afternoon poolside, go for dinner and head to bed early, since this wedding may be the biggest liver challenge i’ve faced to date.

so if anyone has any la suggestions, please tweet them to me or comment here… we’ve done zero planning for this trip and are kind of flying by the seat of our pants, so guidance is always welcome.

have a great long weekend friends!  see you in september!

food & travel: austin, texas

well… it feels like its been forever since cass & i booked our trip to austin… but finally the countdown is at under 2 months and we’re starting to get VERY excited.

my right hand (wo)man found an amazing blog called Fed Man Walking that we’ve spent a few hours drooling over and dreaming up all the delights that we’re going to try while we’re there…

we’ve mapped out most of the places that we’re planning on visiting and made some guestimates as to what we can walk to and what will be bus or taxi…

and we’ve got a loose itinerary.

we arrive on wednesday and will have had a looooong day of travel with an early morning start, so we’ll probably just check in, chill out, go for a swim and wander the immediate area around the hotel.

thursday we’ll be bright eyed and bushy tailed and plan on a morning run/walk and some solid city exploring, some pool swimming, relaxing ect
then we’re very stoked to be seeing The Book of Mormon that night!

friday is when we really get going… we’ll be up early for our pre-ACL food tour with Austin Eats Food Tours.

Get your ACL festival morning started right!  Experience Franklin BBQ (no line), Torchy’s breakfast tacos, Blue Ox BBQ, Sugar Circus Bakery and Hops and Grain Brew prior to arriving to the festival!
What’s included:  breakfast taco, brisket, sausage, turkey, pork tenderloin, pulled pork, 3 local craft beers, dessert & drop off at the festival!

and then the main event… off to ACL festival!  we have poured over the schedule, highlighted our picks and have formulated a plan of attack.
on friday we’ll end the night with depeche mode.  after the festival… who know where austin will take us…

saturday will hopefully treat us with a bit of a sleep in…  maybe a morning swim… and then off to ACL fest for silversun pickups at 4pm! ❤  ❤ ❤
after the daytime shows are over at ACL fest, we’re heading down to Emo’s to check out the late night show with franz ferdinand and smith westerns which should keep us in just the right amount of trouble all night 😉

sunday is our gospel brunch date at stubb’s bbq!
then we’re off to the last day of ACL fest with the closing performance from lionel richie.  yup.  after the festival, who know?  we may have to crash from exhaustion or we might have it in us to rock austin for one last night…

monday we head home at 3pm, so we’ll still have the morning to have one last exploration and shopping endevour before we start the journey home.

ya, i’d better book that tuesday off work for sleep and recovery.  just typing all that exhausted me, lol.

46 days to go…

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travel & music: austin city limits festival 2013

well… it’s time to let you in on my next fabulous adventure… (okay, i’m technically going to LA next, but that will be a wedding and maybe a little sightseeing for a very fast 4 nights)
my bestie, ms price and i are heading off on a fabulous adventure to austin, texas for the austin city limits music festival!

are we stoked?  YA, WE ARE!
we’re actually bordering on downright giddy about it.

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so, not only is the festival lineup absolutely ridiculously awesome in general, but it basically reads like a who’s who of natalie’s favourite bands; silversun pickups, QOTSA, depeche mode, arctic monkeys, franz ferdinand, muse, the cure, the national… yup.  i’m in fangirl heaven.

see… every time one of these big festivals gets announced i think, gee, that sounds okay, but it’s usually like a handful of bands that really interest me (and i’ve usually seen them all play before, under better circumstances) and a bunch of hipster bands that like 5 people know… and when i really start to think about the logistics of it all (camping, a bazillion dirty hipsters pissing me off, travel costs ect) it starts to be less and less appealing and i just pass on it.  hence why i’ve never actually made it to a sasquatch or coachella or bonaroo despite knowing loads of people that go religiously every year…

but this one?  i get to stay in a hotel. (a NICE hotel, with a rooftop pool, i might add) and the lineup isn’t just a few bands i like, it’s a bunch of bands i LOVE. and, it probably goes without saying that silversun pickups performing will make me spend all of my money to be there to see it.  (obsessed, i am.)

when i add in the fact that cass was down for a bff girl’s getaway, all the stars aligned.  plus austin!  how cool is that?!  i’ve only ever been to dallas, and austin has definitely been on my list of places to visit for a while now.  i mean, its a food truck & bbq mecca.  obviously i must go there and eat all of the things.

luckily for us, the fabulous lana gay has already charted this territory for us and come through like a champion with a 4 page list of all the things to do and see in austin.

first official thing on the schedule?

gospel brunch at the world famous stubb’s bbq.  lana tells me that it books up early… like, months in advance… so, like the good little planner i am, i’ve booked us in for the 11am gospel brunch with the full view of the band.  …another one that i can cross off the life to-do list.

besides that, we’re looking at a city food tour and a few other activities, but much is pending the schedule of the bands.  with SO MANY bands that we want to see, making sure we hit all their sets is top priority.
which is why we made the wise decision to fly in a little early to get a full day to just do austin.  and also to enjoy our swank suite at the omni that is 1086 square feet and has a rooftop pool. (!)

fun times ahead!

fabulous las vegas: including bon apetit vegas uncorkd 2013

you might not know if from my lack of posts, but the 2013 vegas crew did indeed survive our adventure.
i also answered the question – is 6 nights in vegas too long? with a resounding NO.  i was not ready to come home and could have lounged poolside for another week easily.

and once again, i headed to vegas with a to-do/to-see list that was a mile long and really only got through a handful of things.
but i did have an excellent time.

when we checked in at the cosmopolitan, the lovely lady at the desk asked if it was our first time.  we told her it was my 7th trip to vegas, but our first time staying at the cosmopolitan.  she leaned over the desk and whispered “you’ll never stay anywhere else again”.
and by george,i think she was right.

the cosmopolitan was top notch from start to finish.  excellent service, beautiful rooms with incredible pools and terrific restaurants.  i have zero complaints about our stay there. and yes, i’ll be back.

our room was over 1000 square feet with 2 bathrooms and a giant patio overlooking the bellagio fountains.  i pretty much never wanted to move out.  it was gorgeous.

(here’s our patio view)

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and a shot of the living room when we were about to check out… le sigh…

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anyways, like most things in life, pictures don’t do it justice, but lets suffice to say it was pretty kickass.

but, more than anything, in las vegas, we come to eat and drink.
and the bon apetit vegas uncorkd was a strong lure for us…
we decided to do two events, the grand tasting and the bellagio block party.  both were very cool and very different.  the grand tasting was a totally mind blowing experience.  celebrity chefs everywhere, throngs of people loaded up with pork belly and short rib and fine liquor flowing very freely.

here’s my partners in crime and i on the red carpet on arrival.

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it’s kind of hard to see and describe, but all the food is poolside in an outer ring and then the liquor was on the inner ring, hugging the pool.  lovely setting.

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this was the most i saw of gordon ramsay all night… he wasn’t exactly hanging out making conversation…

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no big deal… just bobby flay serving food for mesa grill…

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i don’t even know which restaurant this cookie came from, but it had a syringe of chocolate ganache with it and it was a delight.

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i resisted the urge to take pictures of my food and just experience the event instead.  by now, i know that no photo can replicate being there and tasting it, so i’ll just tell you that we enjoyed to the max and kept the camera in my purse pretty much the whole night.  this was an event, not a photo op. and i stand by that decision.

the next night was the bellagio block party… and it was fun!  much more relaxed than the grand tasting and much smaller, in both size and guests.  the food portions were also bigger, as instead of 200 restaurants, you only had about 30 to try from, so you got a bit more of an appetizer vs an amuse bouche.

here’s my crew (minus my husband who left to get a beer) at the block party.

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and then under the bellagio hidden driveway sign…

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yup.  fun times!

anyways… fill in the blanks with food, sun, pool, drinks and laughing… and that was vegas!  definitely always more fun with wicked people.

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travel: australian adventure

well… I came, I saw and I conquered. for the most part.

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I survived my whirlwind trip to the land down under with relatively few mishaps.
well, except the part where my flight home was cancelled and rebooked for the next day… and the flight it was supposed to connect with in LAX was on a separate ticket and so I had to rebook that… and it’s spring break, so flights are pretty full.
let’s just say, I am SO HAPPY that I had travel insurance.

so for those counting, yes, I am 2 for 2 for Fam trips where I miss my flight home. because I’m amazing like that.

anyways, back to the goods. this was by far the most hectic trip I’ve ever done in my life.
up by 7am every day… jam packed days with pretty much no free time and then fitting in some evening drinking. at every turn I was reminded that this was work, not a vacation. it broke my heart to see so many beautiful beaches and not get to swim in any of them. until our cancelled flight, I had only made it into the water once and that was wearing a jellyfish suit at the Great Barrier Reef.

that being said, what made up for the lack of beach, was that I got to do the most amazing activities that absolutely blew my mind.

in cairns we did the skyrail and the gold class train back to the city.

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then we went up to port douglas to the great barrier reef where besides the amazing boat ride to and from the reef (with beers – hooray!) I flew in a helicopter (my first time) over the reef and marveled at the beauty…

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and then did an hour long guided snorkel of the outer reef with a marine biologist. it was truly one of the greatest days ever. seeing the reef has been a dream of mine since I was a kid. to do it in this way was beyond my wildest dreams.

then we headed off to sydney where we did a city tour and enjoyed a couple beers overlooking bondi beach.

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we ended up going out that night and on a recommendation, found the coolest little bar called shady pints that was like, top secret. it involved going down an alley and asking a guy sitting on a milk crate for entrance through an unmarked door. when they closed, the bartender suggested we head to frankie’s and end the night there. it was a fun time.

the next day we started the day with a harbor cruise, followed by the sydney bridge climb and then headed back to a private yacht for a champagne tour.

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the bridge climb was surreal. I almost had a freak out and bailed, but my group rallied around me and calmed me down and kept me safe. I’m so glad I did it. at $300 a pop, it’s not something everyone does in sydney, but wow, was it ever an amazing experience and a ridiculously amazing view.

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sydney is a gorgeous city and especially for a vancouver girl, I really felt the love for a waterfront urban centre.

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melbourne was the next stop and I loved what I saw of the city. we spent the first day driving up the great ocean road to the twelve apostles and seeing the most incredible coastlines.

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that night we checked out a mexican place called mamacita that our flight attendant had suggested and it was killer. the bartender there directed us to a cocktail lounge called lilly black that also involved venturing down an alley and searching for an unmarked door. they had over 200 bitters and made me (2) exceptional old fashioneds. (although at $19 a pop, they’d better be).

the next day we did a hidden secrets walking tour that took us to the funkiest places. the street art and little cafes and shops in melbourne made me was to stay forever and explore.
it’s a very european feeling city with these little alleys chocked full of cool shops. at times it reminded me of weaving through the streets of venice, there’s so much going on there.

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our (official) last stop was adelaide and kicked things off in style with a wine tour of the barossa valley. I’ve done a lot of wine tours, but at penfolds we did something very unique that I’d never heard of before. it was “make your own blend” where we got to play taste tester slash mad scientist and put together a bottle to your tastes. it was so neat and so fun. we laughed the whole way through and had an absolute blast. highly recommended.

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the we headed to an amazing little vineyard called langmeil that has vines that are as old as 170 years and they really specialized in the art of growing and making wine, it is not at all for mass production and it was incredible. I bought the most expensive bottle I’ve ever purchased at $100 AUD and plan on cellaring it for at least 5 years. it is very small production because its made purely with the 170 year old vine grapes and they don’t yield many grapes. it was honestly one of the best, if not the best wine I’ve ever had.
we made a lunch stop and then headed to jacob’s creek to cap off the day. we had a good laugh using the breathalyzer to check where we were at.

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our last (official) day was spent at kangaroo island. again, incredible scenery and coastlines and so many animals! we saw kangaroos, wallabies, koala bears, tons of seals and more!

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then we packed up and headed home… sort of. we made it to sydney for our connection and found out there was a mechanical issue with the plane and they had to scrap the flight. and I definitely want to give huge kudos for qantas for handling the situation so well. it was pretty much seamless and entirely professional the whole way through.
so we were shuttled to a hotel and given a bonus day in sydney!

I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I had been absolutely dying to get into the ocean and swim. so it was suits on and we taxi’d to bondi beach and finally I got to have my swim. we had some beach beers and then an amazing thai meal and that was it. up early and to the airport and we were on our way to LAX finally.

travel insurance took care of the cost of rebooking my flight from LAX to YVR and I also had some spending money for taxis, beer and food. and thankfully we know travel agents and they took care of all the nitty gritty for us, so we could concentrate on the beach.

and so, after 11 nights out of the country, I’m back.
I was very impressed with australia and to be honest, I didn’t expect to love the cities or to have such a good time, but I was more than happy to prove myself wrong. I’m not sure ill make it back, but I’m sure glad I saw it… and who knows… stranger things have happened…

travel & food: Vegas Uncork’d

this year’s trip to fabulous las vegas coincides with bon apetit’s vegas uncork’d festival.
and by coincides, I mean we totally planned it that way.

moonbeam, my husband and I have for years discussed hitting this event.
lets face it, it’s a massive food & drink event with celebrity chefs and its in a totally rad place that is super fun to visit. sooooo… it was fated to happen sooner or later.
and this is our year baby.
kinda.

we started with huge plans of hitting multiple events… but then reality bitch slapped us.
these events are not cheap. like, not even remotely close to cheap.
in order to do a couple events a day, we’d be into this for a couple grand each. and it’s just not happening this year.
so we made some tough decisions and committed to two events.

we’ll be at the grand tasting on the friday night at ceasars palace and then the following night at the bellagio for the block party. both sound super fun and will be stuffed full of food & drinks.
and we’re pretty excited about it all.

as usual, this trip to vegas is including a number of our nearest and dearest for super fun party times.
now, this sort of thing isn’t up everyone’s alley, but a couple pals have decided they’re into the block party (because who doesn’t like hanging out at the bellagio and stuffing your face while getting boozy?) and I’m excited to put on some fancy duds and get all prettied up for this.
none of us are “clubbing” people and so we pretty much never end up doing a “fancy” vegas night when we’re there… I might even wear heels.*
(*i am totally not wearing heels. terrible idea)

overall, we’re treating this like a test year to check out the events and see how we feel about how they’re run and if we feel its worth the money and then maybe next year we’ll go a little bigger for the uncork’d.

at the very worst, they’re 2.5 hours each of our vegas time and we can rendezvous with the others after since going out at 10pm in vegas is like going out at 7pm at home, lol.
so there’s not much to lose when you look at it that way. (except the thousand dollars on my visa – yikes)

anyways, we’re all very excited and I’m just calling it now that if I find out mike symon is anywhere near me, I might go full fangirl. just sayin’.

naturally I’ll do my best to blog and instagram and tweet as much as I can and fill all you in on all the details and happenings!

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