West Coast road trip: California (Part 2)

Previous two days of our road trip thru Washington and Oregon.

DAY 3 – Redwood State Park and Dillon Beach, CA

After two hours and a half from Medford, OR, we arrived in California and a little bit after we found the mastodontic Redwood trees. It is seriously impressive and I don’t think pictures can really describe how amazing this environment is.

IMG_4862IMG_4874IMG_4996

Before starting Highway 101, we stopped on the beach to admire the ocean at Crescent City.

IMG_4893IMG_4902

6 hours later we arrived in Dillon Beach, CA. It’s not a commonplace, it’s a really tiny village close to San Francisco, but my host dad told me it was awesome and we should have stopped there on our way. It was an amazing advice because in Dillon Beach I found my retirement home. A perfect place, definitely cold, but worth every mile.

IMG_4929IMG_4986

We slept for the night at a Vagabond Inn in Rohnert Park, CA, before heading to San Francisco the day after.

DAY 4 – San Francisco, CA

In Mill Valley, a half an hour from San Francisco lives one of my best friends: Melissa. We met in Madison, WI, last March and since then we have created an amazing relationship that lasted all those months apart. After picking her up at her house, we headed to Kirby Beach to see the Golden Gate and try to find one of the famous swings. The hike is pretty easy but the weather was terrible, a lot of fog, and the swing wasn’t there anymore. So we just enjoyed what we could see and took some pictures.

IMG_5086.jpgIMG_5011.jpg

Since we didn’t want to give up on the swing we went to Sausalito where the Hippie Tree and its swing are.

IMG_5024IMG_5029

Our next stop for lunch was In’n’Out, a fast food famous in California. I loved it. After that, we headed to the city crossing the bridge with Melissa’s Fast Track. You have always to pay a fee on the Golden Gate bridge entering the city. It’s free going out. We parked the car (40$ per two days) close to our hostel and then we headed to the Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square (where we had to say goodbye to Melissa), Lombard Street, the Coit Tower and then back to Pier 39 for dinner.

IMG_5037IMG_5046IMG_5048IMG_5064IMG_5069IMG_5070

IMG_5087.jpg

Alcatraz

Our hostel, all the way to Union Square, wasn’t the best one. I should have read the reviews because it was the dirtiest possible, with a mouse welcoming us on the stairs and in a really loud position. We spent just one night there, luckily.

DAY 5 – San Francisco, CA

The second day in SanFran and we headed to the south part. First, we took a walk to Dolores Park before heading to Twin Peaks. A really heavy hike since San Francisco it is all up and downs.

IMG_5107

View from Dolores Park

IMG_5188

View from Twin Peaks

We headed back to the hostel passing thru the Castro, the LGBT district, and relaxing for an hour at the Painted Ladies.

IMG_5131IMG_5132

IMG_5134.jpg

After grabbing our stuff and the car, we decided that we needed to see one last thing before saying goodbye to San Francisco: Land’s End.

 

 

 

DAY 6 – Yosemite National Park and Death Valley

After picking up Giusy from the airport at 1 am, we left San Francisco in the dark and we arrived at dawn at the Yosemite National Park. Unfortunately, we didn’t enjoy it that much because we were super tired but we took a little hike and we took pictures from the car while we were driving to the Death Valley.

IMG_5210IMG_5213IMG_5221IMG_5223IMG_5232IMG_5238IMG_5246IMG_5278

4 hours and a half later we arrived in the Death Valley. It was my second time there and I enjoyed it way more this time than the last time. It was actually closer to what I was expecting. 107 degrees F (41 degrees C) in the lowest point. We took a picture and then we went back straight into the car because it was way too hot.

IMG_5256IMG_5268IMG_5273

Our last destination for the day was Bakersfield, CA, where we needed to stop just to sleep.

Day 7 – Los Angeles, CA

Finally, on the 7th day, we arrived at our last destination, the one that every one of us was waiting but that left us with a little bit of disappointment: Los Angeles. I think movies and tv shows set everyone’s expectation pretty high so when we saw the Hollywood Walk of Fame we definitely left negatively surprised. It was just this street, full of weird shops, homeless people, smelling like pee with a lot of names written in stars on the ground. Definitely not fancy like you could imagine from Hollywood.

IMG_5292IMG_5293

Our next stop was definitely more exciting: Santa Monica beach for a surf lesson. It was 80$ per person and they give you all the gears, a 15 minutes lesson on the beach and then we stayed in the water around one hour and a half. It was magic, being able to stand on the board was awesome. It was always something that I wanted to do but I never had the chance to do. The guys of Go Surf LA were awesome.

IMG_5298IMG_5308IMG_5310IMG_5317IMG_5337

Unfortunately, after our amazing experience, I felt really sick and we needed to head to the hotel because I felt like I was about to throw up ( a thing that I did in the car later, bad story). We stayed in a hotel close to LAX. We shared a 6 bedroom with my lovely Franzi that we met there during her travel month and her buddy traveler, Linda. The night ended with me taking Giusy to the Urgent Care because she dislocated her pinkie toe while surfing and a pizza shared together.

DAY 8 – San Diego, CA and Los Angeles, CA.

For our last full day, we wanted to go till the end of the west coast so we drove two hours to San Diego. The weather was unfortunately unpleasant and the traffic drove us nuts way before midday. After a quick stop in San Diego, we headed to Long Beach where we stopped for lunch and a quick refresh in the ocean.

IMG_5344IMG_5345IMG_5349

After a quick stop at the hotel, we headed to Venice Beach to accomplish our mission: do a tattoo in LA. We decided to head to the Ink Monkey Tattoo, open until 9 pm. They did two out of three tattoos and we had to go back the next day for the third but we arrived there pretty late, so it was a miracle they did ours. The people there were really nice and if you ever go to Venice Beach and you want to do a tattoo please go there, you won’t regret it. Dinner time came quickly so we ate something at a restaurant in Venice and then we headed back to the hotel.

IMG_5358IMG_5370

DAY 9 – Los Angeles, CA and back to Madison, WI.

Our last day we headed first thing first to the Hollywood Sign that we didn’t see it from that close and that disappointed us a little bit.

IMG_5379.jpg

Passing thru Beverly Hills, we headed back to Venice Beach to see it with the sun and then take Stefania back to the tattoo studio before heading to the airport.

IMG_5383IMG_5386

This road trip has been amazing and hard at the same time. I will keep all those amazing memories in my heart forever. I’ve seen so much and I had the chance to do it surrounded by people that I love. We started the journey in three (Stefania, my brother and I) and we ended it up in three (Giusy, my brother and I), I met Melissa in San Francisco, Franzi in Los Angeles and for me, a person that values friendship so much, it meant a lot to me. I got a little bit disappointed by the end of how California is. I think I set my expectations too high because of movies, I should have known that is not everything like they show it on tv. But above that, I want to thank everyone shared those 9 days with me, all of them or just one because it’s because of them that I had the opportunity of enjoying this road trip so much.

NAMASTE.

Advertisements

West Coast road trip: Washington and Oregon (Part 1)

This summer I did the most famous American road trip: the west coast. I drove from Seattle, WA, to Los Angeles, CA with my brother and Stefania, a rented car without an insurance for 9 days and it was awesome. I came home with a lot of memories, a new tattoo and some reality checks that made me understand why I will never live willingly in California. In this blog, there will be just the first part of the itinerary, the one thru Washington and Oregon.

DAY 1 – Seattle, WA

After a morning flight from Chicago O’Hare to Las Vegas, and another one from the Sin City we arrived in Seattle around 3 pm. We took a taxi from the airport to the downtown Budget Rental facility. After a problem with the rental, we finally got our car: a grey Mazda. Our first stop was Kerry Park, where we could enjoy the Seattle skyline in the front and Mount Rainier in the background.

IMG_4675.jpg

Our second stop suggested from the rental guy was Discovery Park. We walked around the various paths, we got lost but at the end, we found the lighthouse that we were desperately searching. Discovery Park is such a nice place where to enjoy nature to its fullest.

IMG_4690IMG_4701IMG_4726

After a nice hike, we decided to head back to downtown Seattle. From 8 pm the street parking in Seattle is free. So we waited patiently our time, parked the car and we walked to the Public Market and the Space Needle. We decided not to go up the Space Needle because it was about 30$.

IMG_4727IMG_4737

After that, since it was already dark and we started to be tired, we headed to our first hotel in Lacey, WA. It was a Super 8 motel, just one hour away from Seattle. Since we already had problems with the car, we thought it was enough for the day. Nope, when we arrived the receptionist told us that there was no room booked with my name even if I had a confirmation with Booking.com. They “kindly” let us sleep there paying 18$ more of what we should have paid.

DAY 2 – Portland, OR and Crater Lake State Park.

The second day started with a nice breakfast at Super 8 motel. After that, we started our 2-hour drive to Portland, OR. I couldn’t take pictures of the landscape around the highway because I was driving but I felt like we were in Twilight. Tall pines, low clouds, and rain followed us till Portland. Our first stop for the day. I didn’t like what I saw of the city that much but we stopped at the huge Powell’s Book library and we spent at least one hour there.

After the library, we walked around Pearl District and Chinatown. Around noon, we decided to head to our second stop for the day: Crater Lake National Park. The park was 4 hours and a half from Portland. The drive was pretty nice, we left the highway pretty soon and the rest of the trip was on wavy roads surrounded by lakes and tall pines. We paid 15$ per car for a 7 days pass. The weather wasn’t the best but it gave the landscape a really particular atmosphere.

IMG_4781IMG_4813IMG_4819

I’ve never seen such a beautiful place, so particular. After spending at least two hours there, we decided to head to our stop for the night, other 2 hours of driving thru woods and nothing more. We arrived in Medford by evening, in time to watch the episode of Game of Thrones live on HBO.

I loved Washington, but mostly Oregon, where we definitely spent more time. The drive was really relaxing, the temperature was cold but we enjoyed it. I really hope I could go back to Oregon to visit the coastline that we had to sacrifice because of Crater Lake, definitely worth a visit.

PS: if you’ll ever go to Oregon don’t do gas by yourself. There’s a law that fines you with 500$ if you do gas by yourself, we learned the hard way, no fine but we were pretty close.

NAMASTE.

A summer weekend in the Big Apple

If you are thinking of going to New York in the middle of July: go at your own risk. I went to the Big Apple with my brother from the 20th to the 23rd of July. On his first intercontinental trip, my mother decided that was better if my brother took a direct flight from Milan to New York. So, I decided to take two birds with one stone and visit New York for real. On my first days in the States, I was in New York but I visited just a couple of places. This time we had two full days, not a lot but better than the first couple of hours.

The 20th my brother arrived at 8 pm and went out thru security and immigration one hour later. It was 10/11 pm when we arrived at our hotel: The Jane. If you’ll go to New York and you are not one of those picky people, this is an amazing place. It’s in the Meatpacking District, close by to everything you need. We walked everywhere without taking the subway once. Just the bus to and from the airport. It has the architecture and the design of the inside of a ship. The room that we had, with a bunk bed, was really tiny but it had two TVs and a really loud AC. It was enough for our short stay.

DAY 1 – UPTOWN

We started our day pretty early, around 8 am we were out of bed and ready to visit around. The weather was sunny and really hot and humid. Just a step and you were begging for a piece of shade. After a Starbucks coffee, our first stop was the High Line, a  1.45-mile-long (2.33 km) elevated linear park built on an old railway track.

IMG_4040IMG_4041

The second stop was the Madison Square Garden, just from the outside.

IMG_4049.jpg

Walking on our way to the Grand Central Terminal, we saw the Empire State Building and the New York Public Library. We entered into the library since it’s free and a fresh place. I loved the architecture, the peace inside and the Children’s room in which there were the stuffed animals that inspired Winnie the Pooh’ stories.

IMG_4054

Empire State Building

IMG_4062

New York Public Library

IMG_4071

Winnie The Pooh and friends

IMG_4079

Grand Central Terminal

After the Grand Central Terminal, we headed back to Bryant Park, just right next to the New York Public Library. We sat, booked online our tickets for the Rockefeller Center and we relaxed before heading to the St. Patrick’s Cathedral before lunch.

IMG_4082

IMG_4087

Bryant Park

IMG_4092.jpg

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

After lunch, we headed to Central Park passing in front of the Radio City Hall. We wandered around Central Park. We found the Balto statue, the pond and then we relaxed under a tree before heading to the MOMA.

IMG_4099IMG_4109IMG_4117IMG_4119IMG_4128

The MOMA was our next stop. From 4 pm to 8 pm on Fridays, the museum has free entrance. Since we were lucky enough to be there on a Friday we decided to avoid to pay 25$ and head there a little bit before 4 pm. That was a good call since the line was really short when we arrived, while when we left it was long and still.

 

 

At 8 pm we went on the top of the Rockefeller Center and this time I had the opportunity to see the view with sunlight still out. The first time I was there it was January and it was all dark except the ten thousand lights in the New York skyline.

 

On our way to the hotel, we decided to stop at Times Square. I know, my opinion may be unpopular and irrelevant to most, but I hate this place. I think it’s the worst place that I’ve ever seen in my life besides Los Angeles and all the commercials around the city.

IMG_4226.jpg

DAY 2 – DOWNTOWN

The second day we decided that was all about downtown, except for the Flatiron Building, our first stop, that we skipped the first day because we didn’t have enough time.

IMG_4245.jpg

The second stop was Union Square. It was a dream of mine to see this place. I’ve seen it in so many movies and I dreamt to spend some time there all my life.

IMG_4313.jpg

On the way to Ground Zero, we passed thru the Greenwich Village and TriBeCa. It wasn’t my first time at the 9/11 Memorial but like the first time, I got caught by emotions. It’s such a heartbreaking place and I become furious when people don’t respect it.

IMG_4263IMG_4261

On the way to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, we passed thru Wall Street and then we took the ferry, for free, from Whitehall Terminal, where we could see the Statue of Liberty.

IMG_4283.jpg

On our way to the hotel, our last stops were Chinatown and Little Italy. Obviously, I wasn’t expecting anything exciting. Chinatown in New York looks exactly like the Chinatown in Toronto or Chicago. But I still wanted to give it a look.

 

IMG_4297

Chinatown

IMG_4301

After this last stop, we crashed on our beds, tired and ready to let our feet rest after two days in which we walked 60k steps total. I don’t really like cities, I’d rather see something more natural, most of all in that heat, but New York, of all the American cities that I’ve seen, is on the top of the list. I would never live there. It stinks and it’s full of people every single time of the day. But it’s a nice place to visit, just for two days.

Shoutout to my brother Lorenzo, who was one of the best buddy travelers that I’ve ever had.

NAMASTE.

 

A crazy road trip to Yellowstone.

Road trips are always a great idea, this last one was probably my best one so far: Yellowstone National Park. I didn’t think I was going to do it for real until it happened. I live in Madison, WI, and to Wyoming, where the park is, it’s a 16 hours drive minimum, without stopping once. A little crazy, I know, but I have to say proudly that we made it.

We left June 30th, a Friday night around 6 pm to our first stop: Minneapolis, MN. We drove 4 hours and 12 minutes. Just those hours made me realize I had found the right people to travel with. We started singing, laughing, making fun of each other in a good way and take pictures of an amazing sunset.

IMG_2954

IMG_2970

The next day, July 1st, we started our 12 hours drive till Billings, Montana, the closest and most of all cheapest place before entering Yellowstone Park. The drive was long, at one point it felt like endless. Being four made the drive shifts pretty easy. We didn’t plan any kind of stop on the way but when we saw from the highway the Painted Canyon of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park we could not pull over into the overlook.

IMG_2986

IMG_3031

Around 8 pm we arrived in Billings, Montana, at a Motel 6. We relaxed our tired bones in the pool and then we fell asleep after a nice shower.

On July 2nd, we left Billings to the North Eastern Entrance of the Yellowstone Park. When we saw the Rocky Mountains we all got super excited because we all come from mountains places while Wisconsin, on the other hand, has nothing but flat lands.

IMG_3113

On the way to the entrance, we stopped a couple of times. First, at an overlook point where we admired the mountains all around us. The second stop was at a beautiful waterfall. The landscape was amazing, I felt like in a western movie.

IMG_3130IMG_3182

Finally, around noon, we arrived at the entrance. Obviously, we had to take a picture with the sign just to prove ourselves that we really made it!

IMG_3225.jpg

The entrance fee is 30$ per car for 7 days. After we paid we drove thru the park and we started to see the first Bisons and deer. Our first stop was at the Mammoth Hot Springs.

IMG_3261IMG_3409

After walking around the springs, we stopped to hit the restrooms and look around in the souvenir shop. Our second stop, for the day, was the Canyon of the Yellowstone with the Lower Waterfall.

IMG_3336IMG_3337

IMG_3327.jpg

Since it was already 5 pm, we decided to drive to Cameron, Montana, where we booked our room for the night. From the West Entrance of the park, it was only one hour drive and we passed thru Idaho too. Every mile closer to Cameron we started to become a little worried. There was nothing around. No towns, no houses, just beautiful hills and some ranches with horses and cows. We discovered that the Blue Moon Saloon, where our cabin was, was basically the main attraction of Cameron. The people there were really nice, we had dinner at the saloon and then, after watching the sunset we decided to head to bed.

IMG_3373

Island Park, Idaho

IMG_3388IMG_3399

IMG_3404

On July 3rd, the third and second to last day, we drove back to Yellowstone. We stopped a couple of times on the way to the Grand Prismatic just to take pictures and enjoy the nature.

IMG_3425IMG_3441

At the Grand Prismatic, there was a lot of people but the place was extraterrestrial. The bacterias inside the water create those amazing colors and when the sun started to reflect on the water everything was so bright and beautiful that we stopped taking pictures and we just admired.

IMG_3532IMG_3544IMG_3576

Our second stop for the day was the Old Faithful. Let’s say it, I’m not patient, at all. Waiting for a geyser to erupt was the longest and most stressful thing that I’ve ever done. We were under the 1 pm sun, it was hot and people kept lying to us about the time. As soon as we arrived an old man told us that the geyser was going to erupt in 15 minutes. We sat in a good position on one of the benches along the border. About 10 minutes later another man behind us said it was going to erupt at 1:20 pm. Our patience slowly went out of control when it was 1: 30 pm and the Old Faithful was becoming the Old Unfaithful to us. Around 1:35 pm it started to bubble a little bit but never as much as it should. Just ten minutes later, finally, the geyser erupted and we enjoyed the three minutes show.

IMG_3615.jpg

After the Old Faithful erupted we decided to continue our road trip to the Yellowstone Lake. Going away from the Old Faithful parking lot was a nightmare because everybody left at the same time. Plus, the Old Faithful Lodge got evacuated in that moment because of a “fire”. It took us 20 minutes to free ourselves from the traffic and hit the road till the lake.

IMG_3651

We stopped at a gift store and then we hit the road thru the mountains. After the mountains there were just endless roads so we decided to stop, trying not to be hit by cars, to take those pictures that you always see but you never had the chance to take. It was one of the funniest things that I’ve ever done and it was totally worth it.

IMG_3678IMG_3718IMG_3759IMG_3792IMG_3802

After all the excitement for the amazing pictures, we decided to stop in Greybull, WY, to do gas. Why do I remember so well a place in which we should have stopped just to do gas? Well, the thing is from that moment things got a little bit complicated. The car started to do weird noises as soon as we slowed down. Having a person that knows about cars in a road trip is always helpful and Franzi, our technician, understood that something was going on with the brakes. It was the evening of the 3rd of July, we all knew that we weren’t in a good situation. Nobody is open in a little town in the middle of nowhere right on the 4th of July. Luckily, we found help in Brenda, a receptionist in a hotel in Greybull, that with Jonh, her boyfriend, told us that going to Gillette with those breaks wasn’t a good idea. We would have hit the mountains again and braking, even if it is just the rear brakes, can be dangerous. We decided to take their advice: drive back to Billings, Montana, on the highway and try to find somebody open that night or the day after. Slowly and carefully we drove two hours till Billings. On the drive we called as many car repair shops possible, we were hopeless at one point till we found a place that was going to open the day after at 9 am and it had all the pieces we needed. We were so relieved that we start joking again.

The day after we brought the car to the car repair. The couple was lovely and helped us as much as they could. The car wasn’t in good conditions but, they told us, it would have made its way back to Wisconsin. At 12 pm we left Billings, ready to hit the road for the last time till Madison, WI. We needed to do one last stop. On the way to Madison, passing thru South Dakota, we decided to visit Mount Rushmore. Truth to be told: it was a little bit of a delusion. In movies, it looks so huge and majestic. In real life, well, it’s ok.

IMG_3882IMG_3891

We left Mount Rushmore around 7 pm. We arrived in Madison, WI, at 8 a.m. the next day. In the meanwhile? A lot of driving, a couple of stops to do gas and stretch ourselves, a beautiful sunset, an amazing sunrise, deep conversations in the middle of the night just to keep us awake. We arrived home tired, we barely kept ourselves awake the last hour. It was a tough drive but we arrived home in time to work right away. Yeah, we needed to be home by the 5th morning because we all had to work, that’s why the crazy drive-thru Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin to arrive home in time.

This road trip has been amazing. I’m so thankful to Giusy, Franzi, and Andrea that decided to hit the road with me on this crazy road trip. I’m thankful for all the miles we drove, all the songs we sang, all the jokes we made, all the smile we shared and all the amazing sceneries that we saw. I’m so happy I’ve seen such a good part of the United States on the Independence Day weekend. We never had a fight, even when things went wrong we supported each other and we kept smiling because we were so lucky to see all that beauty that the rear brakes broke weren’t the worst thing that could have happened to us. We bonded and we created amazing memories that I’m never going to forget. This road trip taught us a lot about ourselves, America and how cars work. Just in 4 days, we drove thru Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho and South Dakota. I added to my list 5 States and I can’t wait to add even more on my next road trip on the West Coast in August. For now, thank you again to my fellow companions for the amazing and unforgettable experience and thank you America, once again, to be my second home.

IMG_3464.jpg

NAMASTE.

Why I love the summer in Madison

No matter who you are going to talk with, if you come to Madison, Wisconsin, during the winter people are going to tell you to stay strong because “the summer here is worth every single snowflake.” I grew up in Italy, I know what summer means, how amazing it can be, so I was a little bit skeptical at the beginning. I must say that they were right: Madison in the summer is amazing. Everything brightens up, people are always outside doing every kind of activity and the city is full of events. You can’t get bored here if you like being outdoors and enjoy the warmth of the sun. After a winter like the ones in Wisconsin, believe me, you are going to love every single ray of sun.

THE TERRACE AT MEMORIAL UNION

If you come to Madison in the summer this is the place to go. No matter what, hands down, this is home for thousands of people during the days and nights from May to September. Colorful chairs and tables are set in front of Lake Mendota that always gifts with amazing sunsets. I traveled a lot, I saw amazing places but the sunsets that Madison has, I’ve seen nowhere. I love to spend time here with friends, just chit chatting in front of a pitcher of beer to share. The Union is part of the UW Campus and has been recently renewed. It has a lot of varieties of food provided. You definitely should try the Orange Custard Chocolate Chip ice cream. It’s a must to do at the Terrace. During the evenings, something is always going on: movie night, open mic or live bands playing.

IMG_0631

Sunset from the Terrace.

IMG_1640

STATE STREET

State Street is a “pedestrian mall” that links the Capitol Square to the University of Wisconsin Campus. It’s a good place where to find amazing and unique pieces in the interesting stores all along the street. If you like arts and crafts you have for sure stop in one of the many independent shops. Here you can find the Overture Center for the Arts, the Orpheum Theater, The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. There’s plenty of coffee shops, restaurants, and bars. During the night State Street becomes Madison’s main attraction. People love to pub crawl from the top to the bottom of State Street. Everything closes at 2:30 am. For a foreigner like me, still pretty early.

I had the best and the worst times of my life on this street with people from all over the world. State Street is not only a summer place, it’s all year-around but with the warm weather is definitely easier to walk around without risking to freeze. Go to Tiki Bar if you want cheap alcohol, at the Piano Bar if you want good music, Whiskey Jacks if you want to dance and Mondays if you want totally get wasted.

IMG_0210

State Street.

PADDLEBOARDING OR KAYAKING ON THE LAKES

Before coming here I had never kayak or paddle board. After one year and a half, I can easily say I can’t imagine my life without those two activities. Madison has three major lakes: Lake Mendota, Lake Monona, and Lake Wingra. On all the three lakes there’s plenty of places where to rent boats, paddleboard or kayak. I personally have a membership at Wingra Boats, on Lake Wingra, a wake-free lake surrounded by the UW Arboretum. I love this place. Paddleboarding or kayaking in it truly relaxes me. I think Lake Wingra’ seaweed situation is slightly better than in the other two lakes. During weekdays there’s a boat that cleans the lake from the majority of seaweeds.

IMG_0396

Lake Wingra

PARKS

Madison is full of parks and beaches where to relax, do some yoga and take a walk in nature:

  • James Madison Park is a waterfront park located on Lake Mendota;
  • Tenney Park is a waterfront park located on Lake Mendota;
  • Olin Park is a waterfront park located on Lake Monona that has an amazing view of the Madison skyline;
  • The University of Wisconsin–Madison Arboretum is a teaching and research facility of the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the site of historic research in ecological restoration. 1,260 acres (5 km2) in Madison, Wisconsin. Beautiful place where to walk in nature;
  • Picnic Point is a nearly mile-long peninsula along Lake Mendota’s south shore.
IMG_1400

View from Olin Park.

IMG_1104.jpg

View from Picnic Point

FARMER’S MARKET

Madison and its suburbs are full of farmer’s markets during the spring and summer time. The most known is the one held on every Saturday morning on the Capitol Square. The Market encircles the Square. farmers market

DEVIL’S LAKE – BARABOO

If you want to drive 45 minutes up north you should totally visit Devil’s Lake. It’s a great place where to hike, swim, relax at the beach, have a picnic, paddleboard or kayak. It’s a State Park so the entrance with the car costs 8$ if you have a Wisconsin License Plate. There’s a concession over there where to buy souvenirs and food. The internet signal is weak but surrounded by so much beauty it’s definitely not something you are going to complain about. The water is clear, no seaweeds.

IMG_1652.jpg

At the end, I think it’s pretty clear, I love Madison in the summer. There are so many things to do, places where to go and hike, swim, paddleboard, kayak or simply relax. It’s a perfect place to discover your inner outdoorsy personality. I have to thank Madison because it’s here that I figured out I didn’t want to be a lazy person anymore and I dragged myself outdoor discovering how amazing it is just to be in the sun and do things surrounded by nature.

 

NAMASTE.

 

Niagara Falls

The main reason why I went to Toronto was to kill two birds with one stone: visit Canada and see the Niagara Falls. If Toronto didn’t steal my heart like I wrote in my last post, the Niagara Falls did. I was a little afraid that because I pictured them with such optimistic thoughts they were going to disappoint me. Fortunately, it didn’t happen.

We took a Greyhound bus from Toronto at 9 am. One hour and a half later we were at the bus station in downtown Niagara Falls. We walked 40 minutes and then we arrived at the eccentric part of the town, the part that reminded me of Las Vegas with casinos and a lot of tourists attractions.

But as soon as we saw the falls we forgot everything. We just focused on the falls and it was all worthy.

IMG_2514IMG_2519

We wanted to get closer so we decided to take the Hornblower Niagara Cruise. It was 25$ CAD and, in my modest opinion, it was worth every single penny. We had fun, we took really good pictures, we definitely got wet and we saw those amazing natural wonders so close that it was outstanding. I vividly suggest to do it to anyone eager to go to the Niagara Falls, no matter which side, American or Canadian, because it gives you the experience of a lifetime.

IMG_2572IMG_2577IMG_2586IMG_2592IMG_2628IMG_2634

After having lunch at the Great Canadian Burger, we decided that it was time to head back to Toronto. We saw what we wanted and we didn’t care about all the tourists’ attractions nearby the falls. Our feet were done walking, so we decided to take the bus but, apparently, you can’t buy a single ticket. The bus system works with a 7$ daily ticket. So, trying not to think how destroyed our feet were, we decided to walk back. We took the Greyhound bus to Toronto around 3 PM. In about 5 hours we saw what we wanted to see in Niagara Falls.

We definitely loved it, we liked it more than Toronto itself because it didn’t disappoint our ideas and, with a really good weather, we had the opportunity to experience it at its fullest.

NAMASTE.

Why Toronto didn’t steal my heart

I have to admit it, Toronto didn’t steal my heart.

We arrived at the Billy Bishop Airport at 11:40 am and after passing thru the immigration process we saw the pretty famous Toronto skyline.  There was the CN Tower and then a huge amount of skyscrapers. I know, it’s a city, skyscrapers are common, the problem was that I didn’t see a kind of harmony between the old and the new. It felt like they just kept building skyscrapers without thinking of the surroundings.

After dropping off our heavy bags at the Airbnb, which was in a really central position, we decided to eat something and then head to the Distillery District. We had lunch at the Loose Moose. We didn’t actually find reviews online, we just followed our hunger and we stopped at the first pub that we felt was good. The food was great, it was Saturday and on the screens, there were soccer and baseball games since the Toronto Blue Jays were playing at the Rodgers Centre, a couple of blocks down the street.

After lunch, we walked to the Distillery District, a 35-minute walk from downtown Toronto. The weather was good, a little bit cloudy but with the right temperature. In our three days stay in Toronto we didn’t catch a bus (expect to go to the Niagara Falls), that’s why, today, four days after we came back in Madison, my feet are still recovering from all the blisters that my shoes created on them.

The Distillery District was a really good surprise. A hidden gem. It was made by all those two-story high brick buildings, full of art galleries, artisan shops and charming restaurants with really expensive prices.

If that’s one thing you should know about travelling as an au pair is that you don’t always have enough time, since weekend gateways are more common, so you have to optimise the time at its best and skip the relaxing part. Fortunately, in Toronto, Giusy and I decided to take it easy because we had plenty of time. We stopped at El Catrin Distilleria and we had a very expensive but delicious Margarita.

Our second stop was the CN Tower. A 35-minute walk again and we were back in downtown Toronto. Luckily, the sky cleared it up and we had the opportunity to watch an amazing sunset from the top. The cost for the CN Tower is 36$ CAD, with this ticket you are able to see the first two observation levels which for me were totally worthy. What, at the end, it was not worthy was the 12$ CAD Skypod ticket: you can’t see anything clearly. It’s better just stick to the 36$ CAD general admission tickets.

IMG_2409IMG_2454

The second day we spend it at the Niagara Falls and since I loved it I’m going to write another post just about them. But at 5:30 pm we were back in Toronto so we decided to take a 20-minute walk to the Kensington Market passing thru Chinatown. Unfortunately, we arrived at the Kensington Market a little bit late since it was about to close at 7 pm. We had the chance to attend a street concert by a Brazilian band and then walk thru the alleys in which the stands were already gone. Tired, we got back to the Airbnb, took a shower and head out for dinner in a close Irish Pub Fionn MacCool’s. Our feet couldn’t stand another 20-minute walk.

The third day, our last day, we checked out of the Airbnb around 11 am. After that we decided to have a brunch at Chez Cora, just around the corner, that served us a huge amount of food that fed us for the entire day.

Our first stop was Nathan Philips Square, another 20-minute walk.

IMG_2688.jpg

On the way back to the airport we stopped at Graffiti Alley.

As I said at the beginning, Toronto didn’t steal my heart but it has really nice corners that were worthy to visit. Toronto is a normal metropolis, with a lot of skyscrapers, the CN Tower to characterise the scenery and hidden gems. It was my first city in Canada and made me realise how a huge melting pot this country is.

We walked about 25 miles in three days. We never took a bus to move around Toronto. Our feet collected about 7 blisters: 6 on my feet, 1 on Giusy’s. We spend three days in another country and I’m glad I did it because now I have another stamp on my passport and a huge bag of memories that I’m never going to forget.

NAMASTE.