Tag: Canada

My Airbnb Bucket List: North America Edition

My Airbnb Bucket List: North America Edition

On The Big Bang Theory, Dr. Sheldon Cooper once said, “If there were a list of things that make me more comfortable, lists would be on the top of that list.” I identified with this statement so much! I love to make lists almost as much as I enjoy crossing things off of them. And to those who know me, it should come as no surprise that I have an Airbnb Bucket List — places that I want to someday stay. I thought I would share part of it with you, and maybe you’ll be inspired to start your own Airbnb list.

There are seven properties from North America on my Airbnb Bucket List. Most of these I just happened to find as I was looking for potential vacation destinations, and thought they were so ideal I saved them even though I ended up going someplace different.

Underground Hygge – Orondo, Washington, USA

My Airbnb Bucket List

Hygge is a Danish word that means cozy, charming, or special. This Airbnb property in Orondo, Washington surely is all of those things! If you have ever wondered what it must be like to live in a Hobbit hole, this is your chance to find out. Located on a mountainside in the Columbia River Gorge, the view from the round front door is amazing:

My Airbnb Bucket List - view from the Hobbit Hold in Orondo WA

But I need more than just a charming exterior in a getaway. (Especially when it costs $400/night!) I want to have an experience. And with the charming, earthy furnishings and decor of this hobbit hole, I’m sure I would do just that. Nearly everything in this Airbnb property is made of wood, for a super-rustic and natural feeling — even the bathroom!

Bathroom at the hobbit hole that's on my Airbnb Bucket List

Average price: $400/night.

Little Luxe Retreat – Oceanside Oregon, USA

I have this insane need to see water. I don’t need to get in it (truth be told, I never did learn how to swim) but I just take comfort in knowing that it’s nearby. There’s something about seeing the movement of the water and hearing the sounds of the waves and seagulls that puts my soul at peace. And while this renovated 1947 cabin doesn’t have a huge wow factor from the street, that all changes when you go inside and step out onto the balcony.

Spectacular views from this little cabin on my Airbnb Bucket List

Like mountains? It’s a beautiful view. Like beaches? It’s a beautiful view. And just off of the wraparound deck is a gated patio with a private hot tub:

Hot tub with a view of the ocean at the Oregon cabin on my Airbnb wish list.

The description of the property says that the bed is positioned perfectly so you can wake up to ocean views that can be seen through the doorway. Can you imagine any lovelier way to start the day? I can’t.

Average price: $137/night.

Secluded In-Town Treehouse – Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Airbnb Bucket List - Secluded Treehouse in Atlanta Georgia

I’m not the only one who has this property on their Airbnb Bucket List – it’s Airbnb’s #1 most wish-listed property in the world! If you ever wanted to have a sleepover in a treehouse when you were a kid, this place could be your dream come true.

It consists of three separate rooms connected by rope bridges among lush green trees… hard to believe they’re in Atlanta! One room is a deck with a hammock, one is a sitting room, and the third is a bedroom. You may want to check the forecast or average temps before booking, though, as the rooms are semi-open to the elements and do not have air conditioning or heat. A private bathroom is available but it is in a separate building (the hosts’ home nearby).

Average price: $389/night.

Stunning Bark Point Home on Superior’s South Shore – Herbster, Wisconsin, USA

This uniquely designed home is the perfect getaway to enjoy nature. It’s located right on Lake Superior and boasts amenities like a patio with built in fire pit.

Airbnb Bucket List - this Lake Superior home in Wisconsin is one of my must stays.

What’s more, it boasts 300 feet of private shoreline, and stunning views of the lake all year round:

Airbnb Bucket list - view from bark point retreat

There are a few caveats for anyone booking this property, however. First, it books four to six months in advance, so you have to plan ahead a bit if you want to stay here. Second, the floor plan is very open, and bedrooms do not have the traditional four walls and a door. But if you’re into sunsets on the lake, don’t let that deter you.

Average price: $199/night.

Alfie the A-Frame, Sechelt, British Columbia, Canada

You gotta love a house that is named Alfie, right? And it’s just as cute as you might imagine it to be.

Airbnb bucket list a-frame in british columbia canada

I will confess, I have had a fascination with A-frame houses ever since I was a kid playing with my Fisher Price Little People A-frame playset. So I’m a bit biased. But this one almost looks boat shaped, and I think that makes me love it even more. It’s just so stinkin’ cute!

But even better, look at this view from Alfie’s upstairs bedroom:

And if that isn’t enough, step out onto the adjoining balcony for an even better view:

I don’t think I would ever want to leave!

Average price: $109/night.

The Lighthouse Ocotal, Del Coco Beach, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Airbnb Bucket List - a Costa Rican lighthouse

The Lighthouse itself has one bedroom and a small living area and bathroom. The main house next door has two additional master bedrooms a smaller bedroom, a kitchen, and a living room.  But the best part of this property is its stunning patio with infinity pool and views of the Pacific Ocean.

Airbnb Bucket List - Costa Rica lighthouse with infinity pool and views of the Pacific Ocean.

Yep, I can’t help but picture myself in some long, flowy robe standing there with a glass of wine, gazing wistfully out at the sea…

Average price: $320/night.

Waves and sand sunset paradise – Aguada, Puerto Rico

This property’s owner says it best: “JUST IMAGINE: Sitting on the balcony enjoying a cup of coffee while you see the sunset reflected on the ocean, getting up and sleeping with the beautiful sound of the waves. This beautiful beach front apartment is a truly dream come true. It’s literally steps from the beach with private stairs to give you access.”

My Airbnb Bucket List - gaze out at the water from the balcony of this property in Puerto Rico.

Those steps on the right hand side of the picture take you right down to the beach. And once you’ve finished your beach time, come back to relax on a lovely open air daybed swing.

I don’t often spend vacation time relaxing. Usually because I want to see all the sights and do all the things, but here? Here I would be all about relaxing and doing not much of anything at all.

Average price: just $75/night!

Setting Up Your Own Airbnb Bucket List

You can create your own wish list in Airbnb. When you find a property you like, click on the red heart to save it. When prompted for a name, you can call it Bucket List or whatever you want. (Mine is called “I Want to Stay Here”.)

I’m always looking for more places to add to my Airbnb Bucket List. Have you ever had an Airbnb property catch your eye and make you dream of staying there? Let me know about it in the comments!

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Travel with Oscar 2017: The Filming Locations of the Best Picture Nominees

Travel with Oscar 2017: The Filming Locations of the Best Picture Nominees

This year, nine motion pictures are under consideration for the Best Picture Academy Award. And while everyone is guessing who might win, I thought it might be more fun for a travel geek like me to explore the places featured in those films.

Arrival

Arrival stars Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner. It is the story of a linguistics professor who must interpret the language of the alien visitors when twelve mysterious spacecraft suddenly appear around the world.

The events of the movie supposedly take place in Montana. However, the film was shot entirely in the Canadian province of Quebec. In particular, most of the Montana scenery was actually Bas-Saint-Laurent.

arrival-bas-saint-laurent best picture filming locations
Those egg-like UFOs were hovering over Quebec, not Montana.

The Bas-Saint-Laurent region is actually closer to New York than Montana. From the banks of the St. Lawrence River to the Highlands, the region features a diverse blend of maritime, lakeside, farming and forest landscapes. Visitors flock to the region for its villages, islands, lighthouses, national parks and marine mammals, as well as the many things to do there. It is also a popular destination for snowmobiling in the winter months.

Fences

Next is Fences, starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. It is the story of a working class African-American father raising his family in the 1950s, while coming to terms with the events of his life.

Fences was filmed primarily in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1957 an African-American photojournalist named Charles “Teenie” Harris had taken many photos of the area. These photos inspired actor/director Denzel Washington, who tried to capture the same feeling in the film.

fences pittsburgh best picture filming locations
Denzel Washington and Viola Davis in Fences.

A small brick house at 809 Anaheim Street in the Hill District served as the setting for many of the film’s scenes.

Hacksaw Ridge

Starring Andrew Garfield and directed by Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge tells the true story of WWII American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss, who served during the Battle of Okinawa. As a conscientious objector for religious reasons, Doss refused to kill. He became the first man in American history to receive the Medal of Honor without firing a shot.

Hacksaw Ridge utilized multiple locations in Australia for its scenes. One of those locations was Richmond, a semi-rural town in New South Wales. The town is about an hour outside of Sydney, and it has a population of less than 6000 people. I’m sure that having Mel Gibson and his film crew there caused quite a commotion!

hacksaw-ridge-in-richmond-nsw best picture filming locations
Period signage and vehicles transformed Richmond, New South Wales into small town America in the 1940s.

Many historic buildings line the streets of Richmond, so the town served as the perfect setting for some of the non-war scenes in Hacksaw Ridge. A two-hour walking tour of the town will highlight thirty points of interest.

Hell or High Water

Hell or High Water, starring Chris Pine and Jeff Bridges, is the story of a divorced father and his ex-con older brother.The men resort to a desperate scheme in order to save their family’s ranch in West Texas. But guess what? Texas was actually New Mexico.

Much of the film’s shooting took place in Clovis, New Mexico. A burger joint and two banks located on North Main Street in Clovis featured in key scenes. Elsewhere in the film, you will see the Blue Ribbon Bar & Grill, where rangers waited for the robbers to slip up. The restaurant is in Estancia and it is now closed.  Finally, the Caprock Escarpment also features pominently in the film.

caprock_escarpment-hell or high water best picture filming locations
The Caprock Escarpment, the geographical transition point between the level high plains and the rolling terrain

To get the same sweeping view of it that was in the movie, drive along New Mexico’s Route 156.

Hidden Figures

In Hidden Figures, starring Taraji P Henson and Octavia Spencer, we learn the true story of a team of African-American women mathematicians who served a vital role in NASA during the early years of the US space program. The story takes place in Virginia, but the film locations were in Georgia.

Monroe Georgia courthouse hidden figures best picture filming locations
The courthouse in Monroe, Georgia

Specifically, the town of Monroe, Georgia served as the town where the main characters lived and worked.  Director Ted Melfi said that, “Monroe offered us a great backdrop for the film: from the historic courthouse, to the quaint streets lining downtown, to an old schoolhouse we converted…Monroe was perfect in every way.”

La La Land

The favorite to win the Best Picture Award, La La Land, starred Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. It’s the story of a jazz pianist who falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles, but it’s a musical, not a romantic comedy.

Most of the locations for this film were in Los Angeles or other locations in California. The Lighthouse Café, a nightclub located at 30 Pier Avenue in Hermosa Beach, was one of the film’s settings.

la la land lighthouse cafe best picture filming locations
Ryan Gosling & Emma Stone outside The Lighthouse Cafe in Hermosa Beach, CA

The Lighthouse Cafe has been active as a jazz showcase since 1949 and, under the name “The Lighthouse”, was one of the central West Coast jazz clubs from the 1950s through the late 1970s. It continues to feature live music today.

Lion

Starring Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman, Lion tells the true story of a five-year-old Indian boy who gets lost on the streets of Calcutta, thousands of kilometers from home. He survives many challenges before being adopted by a couple in Australia.  Then, 25 years later, he sets out to find his lost family.

The film utilized many locations in both India and Australia.  In one early scene, the boy plays cricket on the beach with his adoptive parents. That scene was filmed in Marion Bay, Tasmania:

Lion best picture filming locations marion bay tasmania
Cricket on the shore of Marion Bay, Tasmania, in Lion

It’s hard to see in the photo above, but this uncrowded bay, with Cape Hauy as its backdrop, is stunning. It becomes much more crowded on New Year’s Eve, however, as it is the site of the Falls Music and Arts Festival. Locals say that the surf is great, as are the nearby vineyards, and the turquoise waters and pristine white sands.

Manchester by the Sea

Manchester by the Sea stars Casey Affleck as an uncle who must take care of his teenage nephew after the boy’s father dies. The primary setting of both the story and the film is Manchester-by-the-Sea, in Massachusetts.

Manchester-by-the-Sea is a typical small New England town, with rugged shorelines and scenic beaches. Off in the distance, in Massachusetts Bay, is Bakers Island. This island, and the Bakers Island Light Station upon it, are the island and lighthouse seen from Joe’s boat in the movie.

manchester-by-the-sea-bakers-island best picture filming locations
Bakers Island & the Bakers Island Light Station in Massachusetts Bay

You can take a boat tours to the island to explore.  Special events planned for the future include an overnight visit to the lighthouse. (I think this is the prettiest of the best picture filming locations!)

Moonlight

The final contender for Best Picture is Moonlight, starring Mahershala Ali. It is a story of self-discovery, chronicling the life of a young black man from childhood to adulthood as he struggles to find his place in the world while growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami.

And, just like the story, the movie was actually filmed in and around Miami. The characters Black and Kevin spend one scene in a typical American diner.

moonlight_jimmys_eastside_diner best picture filming locations

That’s Jimmy’s Eastside Diner, located at 7201 Biscayne Blvd. in Miami, Florida. Jimmy’s serves amazingly huge omelets, banana pancakes, and burgers and fries. Definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area (and hungry!).

So, that’s our list of the Best Picture filming locations. Have you been to any of them?

 

2017: The Year to See Canada

2017: The Year to See Canada

What a Deal!

Hard to believe, but our friends to the north have announced that admission to all of their national parks, national historic sites, and national marine conservation areas will be free for the entire year in 2017.  It’s part of a celebration because of the 150th anniversary of the Canadian Confederation.

Here are just a few of the places it will be free to visit, culled from my Bucket List for Canada:

First, the Grotto at Bruce Peninsula National Park in Ontario:

bruce_peninsula_national_parks_canada grotto ontario

Or how about checking out the turquoise waters of Lake Morraine in Banff National Park, Alberta:

banff-lake-morraine national parks canada alberta

Established in 1885, Banff National Park was the very first national park in Canada.

Another park offering wonderful views of the water is Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia:

Cape Breton Highlands National parks canada nova scotia

Forillon National Park was established in 1970 and it was the first national park in the province of Quebec. It also offers great views of the water.

forillon_national_parks_canada quebec

On the west coast, there is Kootenay National Park, in British Columbia.

kootenay_national_parks canada british columbia

If you dare to venture way up north to Nunavut, you can visit the Ukkusiksalik National Park, which is rather unique. Most noteworthy are a reversing waterfall and 500 archaeological sites.  It is also home to such species as polar bears, grizzly bears, Arctic wolf, caribou, seals and peregrine falcons.

ukkusiksalik_national_parks_canada nunavut

If you’re interested in seeing the polar bears at Churchill, Manitoba, you can drive just a little ways south and visit Wapusk National Park.  Cape Churchill, widely regarded as the best location for viewing and photographing polar bears, is in the park.  Alternatively, perhaps you’ll see an arctic fox.

wapusk-national-parks canada manitoba

While you’re checking out these amazing parks, be sure to look for the red chairs.  Parks Canada strategically placed pairs of red Adirondack chairs throughout Canada’s beautiful parks, highlighting some of the most stunning views in the country.

So what are you waiting for?  Start planning your Canadian adventure today!  (I know I am!)  You can get more information and apply for your free pass here.

And to help you plan for your trip, check out these guides:

Ten Libraries That Should Be on Every Bibliophile’s Bucket List

Ten Libraries That Should Be on Every Bibliophile’s Bucket List

I love books.  I mean, I pink-puffy-heart love books.  Always have.  I could easily spend hours in a library or book store, even without taking any books home.  Just looking at them, holding them, and thumbing through them is, in my mind, an excellent way to pass the time.

So I was thinking about some of the nicer book stores and libraries I’ve visited, and I thought it would be a great thing to create a travel bucket list for bibliophiles like me.  So here are what I think are ten of the loveliest libraries you could ever hope to step foot in.

1. The Strahov Monastery Library

The Strahov Library in Prague, Czech Republic contains over 200,000 volumes, including over 3,000 manuscripts and 1,500 first prints stored in a special depository. Admission will cost you a little over $4.

strahov-monastery-library-czech-republic

2. The Kelmentinum

Also in Prague, the Klementinum’s Baroque Library Hall is the stunning home of the Czech National Library, housing 20,000 books from the early 17th century onwards. The hall is decorated with magnificent ceiling frescoes, and remains unaltered since the 18th century.  Admission is less than $10 and includes a guided tour of the entire complex, not just the library.

klementinum-czech-national-library

3.  The George Peabody Library

Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland houses the George Peabody Library. It is stunning.  The library’s 300,000 volume collection is particularly strong in religion, British art, architecture, topography and history; American history, biography, and literature; Romance languages and literature; history of science; and geography, exploration and travel.  Admission is free, but if you want to have your wedding there (be still my heart – wouldn’t that be amazing?!?!) you will have to rent the facility.

rsz_george_peabody_library_baltimore_md

4.  The Austrian National Library

Located in Vienna, the Austrian National Library is another beauty. It is the largest library in Austria, with 7.4 million items in its various collections. The library is located in the Hofburg Palace in Vienna. Admission is free.

austrian-national-library-vienna

5.  The Morrin Cultural Center

Located in Quebec, Canada, the Morrin Cultural Center is designed to educate the public about the historic contribution and present-day culture of local English-speakers. The library provides access to English-language books in a largely French-speaking city. Admission is free.

morrin-cultural-center-library-in-quebec

6.  Trinity College Library

The library at the very top of my bucket list is the one at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. The ancient Book of Kells is located at this library.  But perhaps even more famous is its Long Room:

trinity-college-library-dublin-ireland

7.  Stuttgart City Library

I am very partial, as you can see, to libraries with multiple levels of shelving, dark-ish interiors, and  art.  It almost feels like a home, inviting you to come inside, relax, and get lost in the pages of a volume.  However, the much more modern Stuttgart City Library also appeals to me for the exact opposite reason… here the books are definitely the stars of the show, and little can distract you from them.  Admission is free.

Stuttgart City Library Germany.jpg

8.  Royal Portuguese Library

Okay, back to dark and cozy.  The Royal Portuguese Library in Rio de Janeiro Brazil is just that.  It is the largest library in Latin America and the 7th largest in the world.  Its collections include about 9 million items. Admission is free.

rsz_royal_portuguese_reading_room_brazil

9.  The Mortlock Wing State Library

Located in South Australia, the Mortlock Wing State Library is housed in a stunning Victorian era building built in the French Renaissance style.  It has two galleries and a glass domed roof.  Admission is free.

rsz_mortlock_wing_state_library_australia

10.  The King’s Library

Finally, the King’s Library (part of the British Library, and also called the King George III Collection) in London is not to be missed.  When King George III came to the throne in the mid-eighteenth century, England did not have a proper library.  He set about the business of acquiring book collections and setting up a royal library.  Today, many of the books from his collection are on view to visitors behind UV-filter glass.  Admission is free.

king-george-iii-library-london

So, there you have it.  Ten amazing, beautiful libraries that you can visit in your travels around the world.  Have you been to any of them?  Let me know in the comments if you have, or if you think I overlooked an amazing library that should have made the list.

 

Bucket List: Seeing Polar Bears in Churchill Manitoba

Bucket List: Seeing Polar Bears in Churchill Manitoba

Polar Bears in Churchill Manitoba

I have loved polar bears since I took an elementary school field trip to the National Zoo. I thought they were just fascinating and utterly adorable.  Some years later, when they closed the polar bear exhibit, the zoo became significantly less enjoyable for me.

Oddly enough, a visit to the Baltimore Zoo re-kindled my love for polar bears and put this particular trip on my Bucket List.  The polar bear exhibit there showcased the town of Churchill in Manitoba, Canada (population 800).  Churchill sees an influx of polar bears (and tourists) every year between late October and early November. Churchill enjoys a reputation as the Polar Bear Capital of the World, among other things.

Polar Bears churchill manitoba canada
Photo via Flickr by Emma Bishop

The polar bears in Churchill Manitoba gather at nearby Cape Churchill waiting for ice to form on Hudson Bay. Once the ice is stable, they head out to spend the winter hunting seals. That’s when tourists are able to go out in a special vehicle called a tundra buggy. Polar bears can get close to the buggies (and, therefore, the tourists!) without jeopardizing anyone’s safety. They’re strong animals, but they aren’t strong enough to knock one of these over!

polar bear churchill manitoba tundra buggy
Photo of a tundra buggy via Flickr by Emma Bishop

As you can imagine, living in close proximity to such fearsome hunters means that certain precautions must be taken for safety.  For instance, on Halloween, children cannot wear all-white costumes (such as a ghost), and residents patrol every street. Many residents leave their cars unlocked in case someone needs emergency shelter from a polar bear.

Local authorities even have a “polar bear jail” to hold bears who persistently loiter in or close to town. Authorities release the detainees back into the wild when the bay freezes over.

polar bears in churchill manitoba
Photo of the Polar Bear Jail via Flickr by Emma Bishop.

A lot of the places in Churchill offering polar bear expeditions do a full package with lodging and everything else.  They run in the $5000 range, which I think is a bit steep.  And my Grand Canyon experience has made me leery of spending multiple days in locations that are not highly populated.

Thankfully, you can do a tundra buggy day trip in the fall polar bear season for less than $500 per person. That seems a tad more manageable.

Have you ever been on one of these polar bear sightings? I’d love to hear about it!

 

polar bears in churchill manitoba
There are few places outside of a zoo where you can get an up close look at polar bears. Churchill Manitoba is one of those places.

 

World’s Largest Baseball (Canada)

World’s Largest Baseball (Canada)

That’s right, the world’s largest baseball – symbol of the all-American sport – is located in Canada. It’s 2000 times the size of a standard baseball, and it’s actually made of steel. Hubs and our daughter had a great time taking goofy photos with it.

Worlds Largest Baseball

The world’s largest baseball is located in Sinclair Yards baseball field, NE of Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, on Black Road north of Second Line.

Agawa Canyon Train Ride

Agawa Canyon Train Ride

The Agawa Canyon is a shallow canyon located in Northeastern Ontario, Canada, and is only accessible by rail or hiking trail. The Algoma Railway has a special tour train that allows you to ride the rails from Sault Ste Marie, Ontario to the Agawa Canyon Wilderness Park and back.

train 1

park sign

Before I continue, allow me to say that I don’t particularly like to travel by train. I find it slow and cumbersome and not very exciting. However, since my Hubs is a fan of alternative means of transportation, I booked this trip for his enjoyment. I did enjoy looking out the window on the way to the park, however, as it allowed me to see a lot of beautiful scenery like this lake.

lake 4

And the Montreal River (after the clouds went away):

montreal river 3

The entire trip lasts about ten hours, but only an hour and a half  was set aside for us to enjoy the park. The park has a variety of trails that lead to the most scenic spots, including four waterfalls and the breathtaking lookout. The day that we visited, the waterfalls were more like a trickle due to weather conditions and our timing. However, the Agawa River was very pretty:

agawa river 3

I’m sure that in the autumn when the leaves have started to turn colors, it would be absolutely stunning.

The Agawa Canyon Tour Train operates daily from late June to mid-October.  It departs from and returns to 129 Bay Street, Sault Ste Marie, Ontario. Telephone 800-242-9287. Reservations are strongly recommended.