Tag: california

Travel Swellness: Catching the winter wave in Lake Tahoe

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Fresh from surfing, biking (both cruiser bike on the beach boardwalk and fat biking in Big Bear) and touring around, the next stop on my catch the winter wave adventure was in Lake Tahoe! And this season, many mountains are open until July 4th; I read there was a snow storm in Tahoe North three days ago!

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It’s a short flight (an hour?) from LAX to Reno/Lake Tahoe and our trip started in South Lake Tahoe. Our group stayed in a few different hotels here; I was at Basecamp Hotel, which I loved. The rooms have a cute hipster-chic aesthetic, and I just knew (and was correct) that the complimentary breakfast would include a DIY waffle station.

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Plus there’s a large hot tub and beside it is a campfire. And campfire means s’mores! I pretty much felt like I was living my best life as a friend made me a s’more and passed it to me to eat as I lounged in the hot tub after a long day of skiing. Next time, I’d love to stay in their Great Indoors room, that has a tent, fun!

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(Photo credit: Max Whittaker/Visit California)

It’s basically a 5-10 minute walk across the street to get to Heavenly. I’m a big fan of the Epix Mix app, so was thrilled we were skiing at Heavenly since I’d get to log more vertical feet on my app (yes, I’m a nerd like that). My legs felt a little shaky (and I’d just had two somewhat frustrating ski trips in January to Park City and Panorama — I actually felt like I got worse at skiing those two trips) but after a run or two to loosen up, I really enjoyed the skiing at Heavenly. It never got old to look out into the distance and seeing the silvery glint of Lake Tahoe in the distance; the view taking my breath away every time.

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Another favourite thing at Heavenly? I got to meet one of the avalanche dogs, Pete! Our guide for the morning tried to have us meet the dogs in the a.m. but the team was in a meeting at the time, but I made a note of which run and building the dogs are at, and made a point to pop in on my own in the afternoon (i.e. I made everyone I was skiing with wait for 10 minutes as I met this sweetheart).

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(Photo credit: Max Whittaker/Visit California)

Our second day of skiing was at Sierra at Tahoe. I’d say the runs here felt similar to Heavenly, but because I was feeling more confident with my skiing, I’d say I truly enjoyed the skiing here. Where it’s just challenging enough that it’s still exciting but also with sections on the runs where you just feel like you can take it easy and enjoying that lightness of coasting down the slopes. Plus, I tacked a black diamond run here — I’d done black diamond before a handful of times, but I was pretty proud this time as the super advanced skiers in our group told me that it was not good conditions and that it was quite a difficult run, and I managed to do it without wiping out nor feeling like I couldn’t handle it. I just took my time and stayed calm and collected, while the more advanced skiers I was with patiently and kindly would wait for me to catch up.

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(Photo credit: Max Whittaker/Visit California)

Another thing that worked in my favour for both days at Heavenly and Sierra? I think the skis I had worked really well for me. I’m not knowledgeable enough about skiing, but a few of the much more advance skiers commented that they seemed just right for me. I know that I felt at ease in them, and what can I say, I liked the red colour of them.

As for my favourite meal in South Lake Tahoe was at the BBQ restaurant at Hotel Becket. The meats are smoked on site, and there’s a wide range of appetizers and sides, and both a solid craft brewery and cocktail menu. We had a really large table, so I feel like we ordered practically every dish on the menu, so I got a well-rounded taste test of what the kitchen puts out.

After those two days, we moved onto North Lake Tahoe. It was an early start to the day for the drive but despite very much wanting to snooze on the ride, I’m glad I managed to stay awake as the view of the lake as you drive north is stunning. And this actually is my main regret of this trip: that I didn’t have a chance to actually spend time at the lake itself, so I had to  make do with gawking over the view on the drive north. Given our busy itinerary there was no time to go to explore the lake (I debated getting up super early for a run, but the timing would’ve been tight based on sunrise, so it wasn’t really an option).

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In North Lake Tahoe, we spent two days at Squaw Valley but the first day was focused on watching the FIS World Cup Ladies Slalom. I don’t know much about the sport, but it was exciting to watch these women race in real life. No photos or video were permitted of the race itself, but I got a few of some of the athletes watching the competition after they’d completed their turn.

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I was raring to go hit those slopes at Squaw, having had time to take in this enormous mountain. I found this to be the most beautiful of the mountains we went to, even though I had thought nothing would top the view of Lake Tahoe from Heavenly. The sheer size of the mountain, the mix of rock faces that would peek through the snow, the huge gnarled tree stump on one run, so many picturesque spots.

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We were also blessed with such beautiful weather, blue skies and about 20 degrees Celsius. And even though the most knowledgeable skier I know told me that legit skiers don’t strip down to a T-shirt (or girls who just wear a bikini top) when it gets warm enough to ski, I won’t lie that I was mighty tempted to (and still might one day). It might not gain me props with legit skiers, but I kind of love the idea of the exhilarating feeling of skiing on snow but in contrast with it being so sunny and warm you can do it in a sports bra or bikini top. Skiing minus cold temperatures is pretty dreamy, and it almost makes me reluctant to go back to skiing in actual cold weather (although I love it too much to not!).

In the afternoon, we were paired up with a guide who brought us to some incredible runs. There was one black diamond run that wasn’t busy and hit just the right note of being almost too difficult enough in areas but mixed in with enough sections that felt breezy and carefree. Which was just about the perfect way to end an unforgettable trip that has made California a solid favourite in my books.

It’s going to be hard to return to skiing in frigid weather after skiing in these incredible conditions–I feel so very fortunate to have had the opportunity to ski in Tahoe. Have you skied here? I’d love to hear about your Tahoe favourites!

And by the way, if you’re keen on reading the pieces I wrote about this trip, I wrote about Tahoe for VITA Daily, and about both SoCal and Tahoe for Travel & Style.

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Leave a Comment June 15, 2017

Travel Swellness: Day tripping to Big Bear, California

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So back to catching the winter wave in California! After a few busy days in Santa Monica, Marina Del Rey and LA, we got up very early to drive to Big Bear. From what I’ve gathered, Big Bear is where a lot of Angelenos go to ski locally (it’s about a three-hour drive, well, at least that’s how long it took us).

I will say that I can’t give you a really well-rounded view of what it’s like there as we had little time to explore. The town looks super cute, and we spent most of our time first at Magic Mountain tubing on a small hill. Not a big hill by any means, so it’s a great activity for little kids.

Done with the tubing, we went onto the alpine slide, which will definitely give you more of an adrenaline rush. I did plan to go all out each time but there are certain turns you definitely feel like you might swoop up and off the track, so I didn’t quite go pedal to the medal each time. But here I am beating Nick in our unofficial race!

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From there, we moved onto fat tire snow biking with Bear Valley Bikes. And while I think I can mostly be pretty brave with the adventures on my travels, mountain biking of any sort really terrifies me. I rode the bike fine through the streets to get to the park, but once we reached the hills and trees, that was way too advanced for me and I gave up the bike and just hiked instead along with some of the others in my group. I just envision myself really hurting myself, and falling headfirst off my bike into a tree. It is a shame as there seemed to be some nice terrain and great views to be had at this park!

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Outdoor fun done, we went for lunch at Big Bear Lake Brewing Company. It’s a comfortable pub atmosphere, and they’re known for the avocado bomb appetizer, which includes tempura avocado and other elements, but I was more impressed with the variety of burgers everyone got (which the server happily changed toppings if you weren’t so crazy about something on one of the specialty burgers). I went with fish & chips, which was good (fries could’ve been more crisp on outside and soft on the inside — that’s my preference) and extremely substantial.

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(I’ll admit that I didn’t have a beer here, I usually try to for story research, but it’d just been a long day — I’ll be the first to admit I was exhausted and pretty cranky because of that — I simply wasn’t in the mood for one. But I can say that everyone who did have a house brew seemed quite impressed.)

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After lunch, we made the long drive back to LA straight to LAX to catch out flight to Tahoe. But not before making a pit stop to take some photos of beautiful Big Bear Lake. I wish we had had more time to poke around here! Oh well, I guess this just means I have to head back soon on my own. I think it’s a bit long of a drive for a one day outing; I’d reco it as at least an overnighter (to me three hours drive each way is significant, but I know others would think that’s just fine!).

Next stop: Lake Tahoe! Stay tuned for the third installment of catching the winter wave in Cali!

Photo credit (tubing, alpine slide, fat biking, beer): Max Whittaker/Visit California

Leave a Comment June 1, 2017

Travel Swellness: 5 ways to catch the winter wave in SoCal

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Surfing and skiing are the two most equally exhilarating and zen sports I’ve ever done. So when I was invited on a trip to California to “catch the winter wave” and do both, I was more excited than when I’m front row for the Backstreet Boys. OK, wait, I get pretty excited for my ’90s boy bands…but I was pretty darn stoked about this trip! Maybe one degree less excited than when they’re belting out “I want it that way…” and I make meaningful eye contact with Nick (because that actually happened!). Happy sigh…

But wait, we’re talking about Cali, here, not boy bands! Here’s the cool thing about Cali and going there in the winter: if you travel to California anywhere from about November up until June or so, you can score yourself both surf and snow. I had no idea! I’d only learned in the last year or so about Lake  Tahoe, which is where you can ski, and was quickly infatuated with going there because everything I’d seen and heard about it sounded incredible. Being out in nature, and especially mountains really is the most calming thing for me (even more so than being by the ocean).

Let me start with the first half of our trip, though: the sun and sand part. We flew to LAX  stayed in Century City, and while we didn’t spend much time at the Intercontinental Los Angeles Century City other than our first dinner and sleeping at the hotel, I did have time to walk down the street to the under-renovation Westfield Century City, where I checked out Free People and grabbed a bite. (I’ll post soon about the top spots we ate at on this trip.)

So what to do if you’re catching the winter wave in SoCal?

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Hike in Temescal Canyon Park

While I have done a few hikes with Bikes and Hikes LA in the past year or so, I had never hiked the Pacific Palisades with them, and I would say I prefer it over the one that takes you to the Griffith Observatory; it is possible I feel that way because I’ve been to the Observatory many times, but on this hike you feel more as tho then you’ve escaped the city. The hike we did in Temescal Canyon Park was extremely easy and we had perfect weather: sunny but just warm enough so that once you started walking, you could strip down to a light t-shirt.

Walk in Venice Beach and Abbot Kinney

If you’re not so into nature, you might be more interested in the walking tour of Venice with Bikes and Hikes LA, but you can of course also just stroll on your own if you’re not into a formal tour.

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We had some time constraints but we checked out Muscle Beach, the Frank Gehry-designed Norton House on the boardwalk, skate park, saw lots of street art and got a peek at the Venice Canals. I’d been to the area before but it’s always find to check out this iconic neighbourhood. We didn’t have time this day to explore Abbot Kinney, but it’s got the most adorable shops, and it’s just nice to stroll, grab a bite and people watch and shop. One of my fave places to go in LA.

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Cruise Marina del Rey
Our winter wave tour also got us into the water where we donned sailor captains hats and cruised Marina del Rey with Hornblower Cruises.
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Cruising with Hornblower is a nice and serene way to catch the sunset. Well, I suppose less solemn if you’re hitting up the bar, haha, but we were all pretty well behaved when it came to drinking on the boat. I hadn’t dressed properly for the very windy day so I enjoyed the cruise mostly from inside. Definitely pack a few layering pieces if you’re catching the winter wave in SoCal! That day was exceptionally windy — all of the locals were talking about how crazy the weather was.
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If you’re lucky you’ll spot some sea lions; we saw a few summing themselves on the boats docked next to ours.
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Bike in Santa Monica
Even though it’s a simple thing to do, I think biking in Santa Monica is just a really freeing and happy way to spend a couple of hours. It doesn’t have the adrenaline rush of surfing, but it was a favourite of all of ours. The sun overhead and blue skies peppered with the towering palm trees. We had bikes from Perry’s (they have several locations along the beach), and while I know I tend to think food from places along a boardwalk might be tourist trap-like and have terrible food, having had two lunches there, I can vouch for their food being solid, and not what you might find in a Toronto waterfront place (it’s not a generic hot dog, or heavy pizza). Think tacos and fresh bowls.
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Oh, while biking in Santa Monica and Venice, we stumbled onto LA Bubble Ball and we all basically screeched to a halt and had an impromptu bubble ball session! It’s the first time I’ve done it and I was surprised how out of breath I got running around in that thing. It can be a bit claustrophobic, and when I fell down in it, I had the hardest time getting up (partly because I was laughing so hard). I definitely need more bubble ball in my life!
Surf in Santa Monica
I’ll be the first person to admit that I hate cold water. While I’m not someone who is always cold, I am definitely someone who need water to be warm, as in very warm. What many people call “refreshing” I would call freezing. So I was more than a bit nervous about surfing in Santa Monica in March. And as soon as my toes touched the water and I walked into the ocean and I lost feeling in my toes (which never came back the entire surf lesson) all I could think was how I wasn’t sure I could go through with this.
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I’d say the wetsuit kept me warm (and it mostly did) but my hands and feet were cold the entire time. So much so that after each attempt to catch a wave, I contemplated calling it a day and just watching from the beach.
It was a pretty frustrating surf day for me. I never got up on the board (at most, I got halfway once or twice), and the waves were quite strong so I was exhausted because each time I went to head back into the water to my Learn to Surf LA surf instructor, I’d take a step or two and a wave would spit me back practically onto the beach. I was cold and tired, and yet I didn’t quit the surf lesson. Because when you’re in a place as beautiful as Santa Monica and you have one of the few opportunities you get to surf, you do it. And even just getting half-up on the board was promising enough for me to keep trying.
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With my sand and surf checked off of this epic catch-the-winter-wave trip to California, it was time to pack up in SoCal and head north. Next stop: a day trip to Big Bear!
Oh, I also wrote about catching the winter wave for Travel & Style. You can check out my article here!
Now are you looking to book a trip to California or another destination? Here’s how you can save some money:

Inspired to go travel soon, whether it’s to visit California (if you do, consider booking the Loews Santa Monica, which is beautiful and has a fantastic terrace for enjoying the sunset) or anywhere in the world? Well, here’s a little gift for you: book through www.booking.com using this exclusive link (it’s my exclusive refer-a-friend link), and you’ll get a $40 discount from your reservation. That money you save could go towards a great meal, or tickets to a show, or whatever you choose to do on your adventures!

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And as always. I’d love to hear about your travels! I’m always looking for wanderlust inspiration!

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 (Photo credit for Hornblower Cruise and latter two surf photos: Max Whittaker/Visit California)

 

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2 Comments May 31, 2017

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