Category Archives: Travel

Road Tips for Racing on Unfamiliar Ground

Race

One of my races in Montreal, Qc – Defi Boreal Saint-Anne-de-Bellevue 5k

 

Hitting the road in unfamiliar territory is both daunting and exciting. On one hand it’s an excuse to visit a place you’ve never been before. On the other hand you can face a new climate or different elevation that takes some getting used to, especially when you’re there for a race.

I’m a novice runner, so let’s be clear that there are so many people who have more experience under their belts than me, but I want to provide general observations and lessons I learned in my races. What affects me might affect you, too. That said, these tips might not apply to everyone. Some people are awesome and can run under any condition and, if that’s the case, kudos (and curses) to you.

Choose a Destination

Pick a place, then look for a race. Or vice versa. My first destination race was a 5k in Montreal, which is roughly a six-hour drive from Toronto (longer depending on the weekend, what’s happening, and good ol’ traffic). Pick a place you’d like to visit for the weekend and see if there are any races that pique your interest. Likewise, if you hear about a fun race, plan a trip around the race….

For more, visit BreakingModern here.

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Fun indoor adventures when the rain washes you out

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Part of Sea Life’s walk-through tunnel.

There’s nothing worse when visiting a different country to discover the all-loving Mother Nature has decided to slot rain into your schedule. Activities, hikes, and all manners of outdoor trips have to be rescheduled and you find you suddenly have a whole day available for your leisure. As such, here are some fun, though not necessarily free, activities you can do by yourself or with friends and family. I’m one of those people who don’t find it weird to eat lunch or see a movie by myself, so let’s have at it!

Note: I haven’t quite managed to figure out how to transfer my photos from my camera to my tablet quite yet without going through various stages of transferring more than once (especially since I left my card reader back home), so pictures to come!

Sea Life Sydney Aquarium:
Located near Darling Harbor, the Sea Life Sydney Aquarium offers a variety of sea creatures that will appeal to young and old. Broken down into themed sections, from streams and billabongs to rocky shores, to the shark walk and valley, the multiple displays offer educational and interesting facts through signage and interactive screens.

One of my favourite portions of the aquarium was walking through the shark tunnel, which is essential a huge glass tunnel that allows you to see the underbelly of sharks and other aquatic life. The glass floor was also fun, if not slighty disturbing when young children decide to jump all at once in the same spot. Shark feed, here we come!

For those less keen on crowds, I’d advise against going to the aquarium on the weekends as there are many families and tourists equalling interested in keeping dry. There were some points where I felt rushed and was merely following the tides of the crowds rather than appreciating the smaller aquatic displays. It would have been nice to read the corresponding information and take in the underwater wonders that was offered.

Australian Museum:
There is currently a Tyrannosaurs exhibit (inner kid: wohoo!) occurring at the Australian Museum, which I found as amazing as any five-year-old kid. The exhibit is filled with Tyrannosaurs species that take a look at all related types, from big to small, including Tyrannosaurus Rex himself. Along with interactive and digital displays, one of the more interesting displays was a test to see how strong your hand grip is in comparison to that of T-Rex. The only downside was that it had to cycle through a long loop where it compared your strength to other creatures in the world as well, which caused quite a long line-up as we couldn’t skip the information. For the curious, the average human grip is 85 kg, where as a T-Rex was around 3,000 kg. There are, of course, other dinosaurs available to be viewed.

There are various sections as with any museum dedicated to birds and insects, rocks and minerals, as well as mammals and critters; those displays in itself are quite a sight to see (though I can sincerely do without the spiders and creepy crawlies). Parents with little children can also enjoy the Kid Zone, which has educational toys and games to keep them entertained.

Paddy’s Market:
Found in the heart of Chinatown, Paddy’s Market is a great place to find cheap souvenirs for friends and family. Though there is a lot of repetition of similar products and stalls, keep your eyes open for the best deals and interesting finds. The market place also sells fresh produce and delicious Chinese snacks at a decent price. Another place to visit (if you’re a morning person) is the Sydney Flower Market for super cheap deals for fresh flowers to keep your room smelling sweet. There is a wonderful selection of cut and potted flowers for any occasion.

 

For art lovers, there are quite a few free art exhibits located around Sydney, including the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Arthouse Hotel. I have yet had a chance to go to either, but there is still rain in the forecast for me so it may just happen. Another place of interest on my list is the Sydney Observatory, which offers a spectacular view of our solar system’s planets (pending time of year and date) and neighbouring stars. Keep in mind, a clear night is ideal for a visit to observatory. There is also the PowerHouse Museum for those keen on the sciences and things that move. 

As mentioned before, the Sydney Opera House is also excellent for a night a frivolity and laughs.

I’m still on the hunt for other places to visit on a rainy day, but that’s my list for now.

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Hiking in Brisbane: Up, up, up to Mount Coot-tha

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An open view of Brisbane atop of Mount Coot-tha’s lookout.

A trip to any city almost demands a visit to the highest point to see a birds-eye panorama of the city. Brisbane is no different.

Difficulty: Medium
Time: 1 to 2 hours
Distance: 4 kilometres, return
Conditions: Some shade

A visit to Brisbane’s Mount Coot-tha Lookout offers a view of the city’s sprawling downtown core, greenery and winding rivers. On a clear day, you can see Moreton Bay and Stradbroke Islands from the lookout.

I always find it interesting to see how a city develops and expands outwards, from the pocketed areas of parks and protected natural woodlands, to the suburban development as families continue to grow. It’s a reminder of how small you actually are in the grand scheme of life and in the world.

To reach the Mount Coot-tha Lookout, visitors can either drive, bus, bike or hike up to the top.

For hikers, the trail begins at the J.C. Slaughter Falls car park and picnic area which connects to the Summit Track. The track itself is moderately graded and suitable for many levels of fitness. It takes around an hour and a half going up, and 30 minutes back down again, making it roughly 4 km there and back. What makes the hike difficult is usually the blazing sun during the summer season.

Though dogs are allowed on the track, they must be on a leash. Horses and bikes are also permitted on designated tracks that are clearly labelled. Toilets can be found near the picnic area and at the top of the lookout, and there are water fountains interspersed along the tracks.

Lookout aside, you have the option to make it a day trip by swinging by the Brisbane Botanical Garden and adjacent Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium located near by.

The Brisbane Botanical Garden, not to be mistaken for the city’s downtown garden, is a host to many subtropical flora found in Australia. Separated into different areas, from the fossil and primitive plants to exotic rainforest, the pathways connect each section across 52 hectares. Other areas include the bamboo walk, open eucalypt forest and bunya forest.

There are optional free mini guided and bus tours, gardening workshops, children’s story time, and more.

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Urgh, spiders. One of nature’s beautiful yet creepy creatures.

Be warned, for all the lovely plants and flowers that can be found at the botanical garden, there are as many (not-so-)lovely spiders weaving their webs across paths. It’s not surprisingly to walk through a few webs, especially in the early morning after a night of furious activity. As someone who is cautious of spiders (due to multiple run-ins and close calls with venomous spiders in the last few years – brown recluses, black widows, and white-tailed spiders to name a few – urgh), the size some of the spiders can become is quite alarming. I admit even dandy long-legs, though harmless, unnerve me now.

That said, the botanical gardens is a beautiful area to relax, have lunch or even take a nap on its many sprawling lawns. Wear comfortable shoes because even though it is a garden, there is quite a fair distance to cover.

Connected to the Brisbane Botanical Gardens is the planetarium. Though small, it offers educational panels, models and informative programs for children and adults. The planetarium winds in a circle with smaller rooms leading to other sections, including the Cosmic Skydome, Display Zone, Mini Theatre, Observatory, and the Galaxy Gift shop (with fun toys!).

There are many presentations hosted throughout the week, some free and some at a cost. There are also package deals if you plan on having a longer visit and want to view more than one presentation. Some regular shows are: Cosmic Collisions, Dynamic Earth, the Secret of the Cardboard Rocket (for children) and Tycho to the Moon (another children’s show). Depending on the time of year and what’s happening in the galaxy, shows can be changed or added.

 

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Hiking in Sydney: Scenic World Blue Mountains

 

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The Three Sisters at Blue Mountain in New South Wales, Australia.

The trails range from easy to hard, but the views are spectacular at Blue Mountain’s Scenic World.

Difficulty: Range from easy to hard
Time: The shortest trail is around an hour, the longest six. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can take all day covering all the trails
Length: 10 minutes to a full day
Conditions: Some paved/wooden paths, others using nature’s rocks

Sydney’s Blue Mountains Scenic World is a tad out of a way but it’s definitely worth the trip up north in New South Wales. There’s a trail for every level from easy to hard, but make sure you keep a map with you or know where you’re going, or you may end up taking a harder trail then expected. The Furber Steps, for example, is much easier going down than it is going up – much, much easier. As friendly as the trails are, some sections of the walkway aren’t wheelchair accessible and it’s recommended to speak to staff before hitting the trails.

There are various starting points that all interconnect with one another, but once you are at the bottom you can either hike your way back up or go take either the railway, skyway, or cableway back up to the top…

For more, visit BreakingMordern here.

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Hiking in Sydney: Manly to Spit Bridge

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One of many lizards along the Spit to Manly Trail.

It’s a mix between bush and trail that connects well-used beaches, but it’s the view and proximity to nature that I particularly enjoyed during the hike from Manly to Spit Bridge.

Difficulty: Medium
Time: 2 to 4 hours
Distance: 10 kilometres, one way
Conditions: Some shade

After a few stormy nights, a nice walk is always welcome. The Spit Bridge to Manly walk is one of many trails enjoyed by local residents and tourists alike for its views and access to local beaches. The trail is open both ways (obviously) but most people begin at Spit Bridge and head towards Manly as there is more to do once you arrive at Manly, as opposed to Spit where there are many wharfs and boats. There is, however, a chance to hire (rent) a kayak/canoe for a period of time.

From Spit, the trail begins at the northern end of Spit Bridge and heads east to Fisher Bay and around Clontarf Reserve…

For more, visit BreakingModern here.

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Hiking in Sydney: Bondi to Coogee, along the east coast shoreline

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Bondi Icebergs at Sydney’s Bondi Beach. An open concept pool connected to the ocean.

The best way to enjoy a part of Sydney’s gorgeous coastline is to walk along the coast – one such trail begins at Bondi Beach with its well-known white sands and clear water. Though it is known to be a tourist trap for many, if you’re looking for a nice easy walk for a lazy day, this is for you.

Difficulty: Easy
Time: 2 to 3 hours, pending walking speed
Distance: 8 kilometres one way
Conditions: Exposed

Most begin this trip at the southern tip of Bondi Beach near the Baths and Bondi Icebergs, a concept in which a swimming pool in essence borders with the ocean and allows swimmers to enjoy nature’s waters without the elements and undercurrents of Mother Nature. It’s also something I’m in awe of, along with the deliciousness of Tim Tams, of which I’ve eaten far, far, far too many.

The easy trail winds its way from Bondi towards past Mackenies Bay towards Bronte. During portions of the year, there are usually art displays that line the pathway…

For more, visit BreakingModern here.

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A long tale at the Sydney Opera House

Considered one of the most majestic buildings in the world, the Sydney Opera House is a well-known for its storied plays, wonderous musical acts, and theatre performances.

I recently had the opportunity to watch a John Bell production of Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale” and I leapt at the chance. Not only because it was at the Opera House, but because it’s, well, a play written by >the< William Shakespeare. Yes, I’m a fan.

“The Winter’s Tale” is not as well known as Shakespeare’s other plays, such as “Hamlet” or “Othello,” but it’s a good one nonetheless. It begins with King Leontes of Sicily of mild temper suddenly overcome with mad dreams of his pregnant wife Hermione being unfaithful to him with his boyhood friend, Polixenes, the King of Bohemia. Leonetes then orders his loyal servant Camillo to poison his friend, but Camillo warns Polixenes and escapes with him to Bohemia. Hermione is then sentenced to life in prison, eventually giving birth to a daughter later known as Perdita. Feel free to Google a lengthier summary.

When an original play is roughly an hour and a half, and the retelling of such a tale is stretched closer to three, it’s either going to be fantastic or a flop.

The first half prior to intermission was brilliant: the cast was phenomenal and the roles believable, while the set was simple and charming. I had forgotten how strong the women in this play were until I watched it again, from Hermione to Paulina to young Perdita. Shakespeare is a feminist after my own heart, especially considering the day and age of when this was written. Each role either followed faithfully to the lines written by Shakespeare or given a different perspective: Myles Pollard’s role as Leontes, for example, seemed more crazy than I recalled but still passionately believable.

Unfortunately, I found the second half of “The Winter’s Tale” to be disjointed and at times unnecessary. There were musical bits for instance, and though I love musicals, were a tad much: the music itself was too loud and overpowered the actors, and for the most part seemed to come out of no where, or maybe I’m remembering the play wrong. Either way, hilarious as the first few songs were, it became redundant for me and too long. Almost like revisiting the ending of the final instalment of the Lord of the Rings movie. Almost. The parts that followed the original play were still brilliant, and the smaller additions of using lighting and shadows to show a change between acts were a nice touch.

Overall, the Bell Shakespeare production was good. It was part moving, part funny, and all parts Shakespeare. Needless to say, it was an experience I shall never forget and something I can stratch off my bucket list.

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