Canada, China Town, and Castles

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Canada, China Town, and Castles

The third stop on our Alaskan cruise was not in Alaska at all, but rather in Canada! While visiting our neighbors to the north, we had an awesome time touring Victoria, British Columbia by bus as well as stopping by some story worthy attractions, which include a castle and the oldest china town in Canada. Victoria is a great city to visit if you are just starting to dip your toes into the international traveling pool. It's not too foreign, but sill had some subtle yet noticeable differences from what you may be used to at home in the US.

China Town

As the oldest China Town in Canada and the second oldest one in North America (behind San Francisco). This two block by one block section of the city is doing an excellent job of preserving the culture and history of the Chinese-Canadians that made their way to Victoria during the gold rush. With its many souvenir shops and coffee/tea spots, locals as well as tourists can catch a glimpse and have a taste of some amazing souvenirs as well as teas and coffee. While I was there, I was able to get some mango boba tea, which was fantastic! 

Shiki Sushi

Sushi is one of my all time favorite foods and this local spot did not disappoint. The interior of the restaurant is super modern and inviting. Although minimalistic in design it was a very welcoming environment with a staff that was both friendly and helpful.

Side note: if you are someone you are traveling with has a gluten allergy there are many options on the menu to choose from. I was traveling with a vegetarian who is gluten intolerant, and she was able to find a few things to choose from and enjoy! 

Craigdarroch Castle

This Castle, which is tucked away in what seems like the suburban side of Victoria, is charming and full of character. While walking through the various rooms of the house, you are taken on a journey back in time. You are told of the days from the six different eras of the building including but not limited to the times where it was a military hospital and a college. 

This castle was by far the best part of the day for me, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who finds themselves looking for something unique to do while in Victoria!

*** All photos in this blog post were taken by David Beardsley. follow him on Instagram or take a look at his other photos on his photography website

*** Take a look at the blog posts from Skagway and Juneau to get a full glimpse of our time on our Alaskan Cruise! 

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A Day In Skagway

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A Day In Skagway

With a population of around only 900 in the winter months, this time-warped city is a stop for over 900,000 people during the cruising season. The town is unique in the fact that eighty percent of the buildings are original to the gold rush. This made for an amazing feeling of going back in time while walking the streets of this adorable city. 

While here, we had the pleasure of spending the first couple of hours with Madame Moan-A-Lot. She was our Skagway brothel tour guide, where she shared the history of the women who lived in this city. As it turns out, prostitution was largely a way of life for the women of Skagway. Many of the women relied on this as their sole income since they were not prepared to ascend the mountain to get to the gold. A lot of people got all the way to Skagway with the false belief that anyone could make it to the gold, only to find out that the trek there was full of bears, swollen rivers, and rigorous mountain climbing. 

On the tour, we walked up and down the streets of Skagway hearing stories of the infamous women who lived here. Despite the seriousness of the dangers of their lifestyle, our tour guide kept it light and airy with filling the conversation with witty puns and sexual humor. (If this is not something you feel comfortable with then I do not recommend this tour for you. A significant portion of the tour is filled with sexual innuendos and jokes which may not be suited for everyone.)

If you are looking for a fun way to learn a lot of history about this beautiful town, then I highly recommend this tour! It was a non-traditional way to hear the stories of the brave women of the Klondike while also acquiring a different perspective on their profession of their choice. Most of these women were working this job as a last resort, not a first choice.

Our last stop of the day was the Skagway Brewing Company. Although I can not personally vouch for the beers, they seemed to be well liked by those in the group who ordered them.  David and my brother tried samples of all of their local brews which were cool! I am jealous I could not give them a try! 

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First Stop: Juneau, AK

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First Stop: Juneau, AK

Juneau
The Alaskan state capital, which is only accessible by boat or plane, is one of the bigger cities in the state with a population of about 31,200. Located in the panhandle of Alaska, this mini metropolis was our first stop on our Alaskan cruising adventure! 

When you get off the ship, you have the option to take a shuttle into the town itself, or you can do the twenty-minute walk from the docks. We opted for the shuttle ride so we could take a gander at the main strip of shops and restaurants before our scheduled dog mushing excursion.

You can easily walk Franklin and Main Streets in about two hours (where most of the stores are located)  if you are taking the time to walk in and out of the various shops. There are quite a few souvenir stores as well as a few bars that are worth peeking at while you are here. A crowd favorite for my family was Shirt Off My Back, which I know is not a local store; however, we do not have one anywhere near us back home, so it was quite the treat!  

Alaska X Dog Musher Camp
The Alaska X company has locations in Juneau, Skagway, and Haines Alaska. They offer horseback riding, dog mushing, zip lining, and glacier tours to tourists from all over the world all year round. We had the pleasure of spending the afternoon at their dog mushing camp. This cute homestead was tucked away in the woods about thirty minutes outside of Juneau. The drive there was beautiful! There were plenty of photo-worthy views from the bus windows and on the way back to downtown Juneau we even pulled over to get a view of one of the glaciers.

There was no snow on the ground while we were there, so we got to experience summer mushing training. They train the dogs on what almost looks like a modified go-kart instead of a sled for them to pull through winding trails. The “sled” has ten Alaskan Huskies pulling up to 6 people at a time on the course, while the trainer is giving commands and controlling the brake from the back just like what would happen on a regular snow sled. 

After the mushing demonstration, we went to a covered area to hear another one of the dog trainers tell us all about the different races they can participate in as well as the various tools and equipment they take with them on these treks. 

I think that Juneau was the perfect first stop on our adventure. We were able to get a taste of Alaska with the comfort of being in a city to help us transition to our next stop in Skagway (which is the topic of my next blog post so stay tuned!) I would recommend a day trip to this city if you are not cruising through Alaska. It is worth your time. 

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Impromptu Chicago Snaps

A few weeks ago David and I decided to jump in the car and head to Chicago on a whim to get some photos of the city. If you have never taken a spur of the moment trip with your friend or loved one, I highly recommend it! We spent the day walking all over the city snapping photos and spending the weekend together! 

Yes, as you can probably guess, this pregnant girl had a fit or two because of hunger and tired feet from walking all day. David was quite the trooper and kept me under control for the most part ;). Luckily I survived and we ended up at the movies at the end of the day to wind the day down with some well deserved popcorn and soda.

So take a gander at some of David's snaps and be inspired to take a drive somewhere unfamiliar this weekend! 

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***All photos in this blog were taken by my fellow blogger and baby daddy David Beardsley. If you like what you see here and want to see more work by him, be sure to check him out on Instagram at @yourwisefriend ***

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CANINES AND CARS OF FOREST PARK

This Easter I was able to introduce David to the annual car show they have in Forest Park every year! The show is a Saint Louis tradition that has been drawing large crowds for years. We had a blast checking out all of the vintage cars as well as making some four- legged friends while we were there.

Which car/puppy was your favorite?! I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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4 MUST HAVE TRAVEL APPS

It's no secret that we all have become slaves to our cell phones. But, could your smartphone obsession come in handy on your next vacation? With apps as popular as ever, it should come as no surprise that there is a never ending list of travel-friendly applications just waiting to be downloaded.  Since starting this travel blog at the beginning of the year, my phone has transformed into a handheld travel agent of sorts, and I love it!

Photo Credit: David Beardsley

Photo Credit: David Beardsley

 As I was scrambling to plan our last minute trip to Indianapolis this weekend, It dawned on me that sharing some of my iPhone apps could also help all of my readers! The following list is just some of the many that I have on my phone. If you have any questions or reviews about any of the apps below or any other ones not mentioned here, feel free to leave me a comment!

Currency - Simple Converter

Photo credit: www.blessthisstuff.com

Photo credit: www.blessthisstuff.com

Website

This app allows you to be able to quickly convert various currencies on your smartphone or tablet. Costing just $0.99, I see this as a staple in any globetrotters arsenal of traveling apps. With over 150 different currency options, you will never find yourself not knowing exactly what you are spending when traveling abroad.

Airbnb

Photo Credit: www.thenextweb.com

Photo Credit: www.thenextweb.com

Website

If staying in a traditional hotel is not your preferred sleeping accomidation, you, my friend, are not alone. I have been using Airbnb for my last few weekend trips, and I am in love! The application is super easy to use and has high reviews from all kinds of people all over the world. You simply put in general information about your location, number of people, duration of stay, and requested accommodations and Airbnb generates a list of homes and apartment which meet all of your requirements. You can communicate with the property owner through the app about parking and method of entry into the house. Lock boxes are popular among hosts which make coming and going super convenient for everyone. 

Hopper

Photo Credit: www.thetechnews.com

Photo Credit: www.thetechnews.com

Website

This life changing application not only lets you book flights all over the world, but it also tells you when the best times are to purchase your tickets. When selecting your destination, Hopper pulls up a calendar view labeled green, yellow, and red indicating best travel dates and ticket prices. You have the option to select flights for Hopper to watch for price fluctuations. I have only used this app once. However, I love the flight watching feature so I can have peace of minding knowing I am getting the best deals on my travel dates.  

Roadtrippers

Photo Credit: http://www.staringatmaps.com

Photo Credit: http://www.staringatmaps.com

Website

This app is essentially a pocket map. I just enter in my starting location, and my final destination and the app can recommend the food, scenic photo stops, and attractions along our route. I also like how it will tell you how much money you will be spending on gas to get from point A to point B. That way I can better budget my expenses. If you are a fan of road trips, then this app would do a lot of the work for you when it comes to finding things to do in cities on the way to your destination.

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24 HOURS IN NASHVILLE

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24 HOURS IN NASHVILLE

Last weekend, The Life Notes teamed up with Gabe Easter Photography to take on capturing Nashville Tennessee through a camera lens. Our day was packed with wine tasting, chasing down celebrity homes, walking a pedestrian bridge, spending quality time with my sister Laura and making new friends. So, without further-a-do, here is a breakdown of how we spent a quick twenty-four hours in Nashville, Tennessee. 

crema

This "hipster paradise" was right up my alley! Crema is amazing because they source their coffee from farmers they know and trust. Everything is brewed in house and is fresh. If you appreciate a good cup of joe I would stop by this eclectic corner of Nashville. It will not disappoint. 

Marathon Village

Our first stop was Marathon Village. Gabe told us the story about how it used to be a car manufacturing plant and has since then been transformed into a home for local shops and restaurants. One of which is a lovely wine tasting spot called Grinder’s Switch. Here, you can try real southern homegrown and manufactured wine. Most of which are named after trains that used to come through the area as well as an elderberry wine that donates money from each bottle sold to a local hospital. When asked how that came about the sommelier informed me that Elderberries are known for their healing quality. I urge wine lovers to stop by and sip on some palette pleasing vino! I recommend any of the sweet red wines. I was surprised how much I enjoyed them seeing as I am usually a white wine kind of gal!

Taylor Swift Plantation Wild Goose Chase 

With a few hours to kill before we needed to be somewhere to take sunset photos, We decided to drive right outside of Nashville to see how the moguls of Music Town live. This, of course, was a perfect opportunity for my unhealthy obsession with Taylor Swift to come out, and we had the bright idea to head about 30 minutes out of the way to try and find the plantation that Taylor owns.

Although we didn't find the exact plantation, we did see same fabulous mansions and loved driving through the upscale neighborhoods. If you are an architecture nerd like me, then you will love all of the different styles of homes in this area!

John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge


 This bridge that spans over the Cumberland River is the most beautiful spot to take skyline photos of the city! The day we were there the US women’s soccer team was in town, so there were a lot of fans decked out in red white and blue which added a patriotic vibe one probably doesn't usually get the walking across this bridge. There were also a few senior photos sessions happening while we were there. This spot is a must see no matter how short your stay is in Nashville. The sunset behind the buildings was absolutely beautiful!

What are your favorite Nashville hang outs? Have you been to any of the places we visited while we were there? We would love to hear about them in the comments!

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5 SPOTS FOR CAFFINE ADDICTS IN NYC

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5 SPOTS FOR CAFFINE ADDICTS IN NYC

I am no stranger when it comes to hanging out in coffee shops. During high school and college, I acquired quite the dependency for the coffee bean. This addiction followed me to cosmetology school but then came to a dramatic halt when the salon I worked at didn't have a coffee shop within walking distance.  I then switched over to hot tea, and I must say that I cant decide which I like more.

My sure-to-be unhealthy addiction to caffeine has inspired this newest blog post. I have spent countless hours in various coffee shops studying, hanging out with friends, meeting Tinder matches, and eventually, I will be blogging from them while we are on the road.  So I've compiled a short and sweet list of recommendations for my fellow coffee junkies in New York.


Ost Cafe

ost coffee cup.jpg

Coffee, espresso, fine wine and good times is what you will find when entering the Ost Cafe.  The focus of this cafe is to bring a genuine bohemian feel to their customers, and I think they have knocked it out of the park! If you find yourself needing an afternoon pick me up, this would be the perfect place to get the caffeine fix. 

Locations
441 E 12th Street, New York, NY 10009
Mon-Thurs 7:30am - 10:00pm
Fri 7:30am - 11:00pm
Sat 8:30am - 11:00pm
Sun 8:30 - 10:00pm

511 Grand Street, New York, NY 10002
Mon- Fri 7:30am - 7:00pm
Sat - Sun 8:30am - 7:00pm 

Harb’s

This adorable coffee and cake joint offers seven varieties of coffee and twelve different hot tea options for you to choose from. Originally from Japan, this business states that they are dedicated to providing fresh and high-quality products to their customers. With one location in Chelsea and another in Upper East Side odds are there is one near you so stop on in and give it a taste! 

Locations
Chelsea
198 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011
(9th Ave. & 22nd St.)
Mon-Sun 11:00 am – 10:00 pm

Upper East Side
1374 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10075
(3rd Ave. & E 78th St.)
Sun-Thu 11:00am – 9:00pm
Fri-Sat 11:00am – 10:00pm

Stumptown Coffee

stumptown coffeee.jpg

Stumptown opened its first location in New York in 2009, and they haven't looked back since. I am aware you can buy this coffee income grocery stores and that there are other locations all over the country. I do however feel that there is no better way to sip Stumptown coffee, than at one of their gorgeous cafes. If I were ever to open a coffee shop, it would look a lot like these shops. They are beyond adorable and the coffee, of course, is fantastic! 

Locations
30 W 8th Street, New York, NY 10011
Mon - Sun 7:00am - 8:00pm

18 W 29th Street, New York, NY 10001
Mon - Fri 6:00am - 8:00pm
Sat - Sun 7:00AM - 8:00pm 

Cha-An

If you are looking for an authentic Japanese tea room experience, then this is the spot for you! The head baker has a background in Japanese pastries as well as quite the resume’, which includes baking at the White House for a brief period. With dozens of tea options, you are bound to find something for everybody while you are here. 

Location
230 East 9th Street (2nd floor) New York, NY 10003
Mon - Thurs 2:00pm - 11:00pm
Fri - Sat 12:00pm - 12:00am
Sun 12:00pm - 10:00pm

Sweatshop

sweatshop.jpg

This studio / espresso bar is not one to miss while you are visiting the Big Apple. This little shop prides itself on being a minimalist coffee shop with snack size servings and quality brew for their customers. Even if you aren't looking for a way to kill the coffee bean cravings, It is still a great place to take a few mins and see what everyone is working on. They specialize in small scale start-ups, digital design, and brand strategy. 

Location
232 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Mon - Fri 7:00am -6:00pm
Sat - Sun 8:00am - 6:00pm

Do you have a favorite coffee shop that didn't make the list? Leave the name and some information about it so I can be sure to check it out!

**all photos in this blog posts were from the companies mentioned above not taken by David Beardsley. If you would like to see some of Davids work feel free to check it out here

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24 HOURS IN KANSAS CITY

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24 HOURS IN KANSAS CITY

Kansas City is just a hop, skip, and a jump from Saint Louis, which made it a perfect candidate for one of our many long weekend trips we are planning on taking this year. Before last weekend I had only ever gone to a Royals vs. Cardinals baseball game in Kansas City and David had never been there before. This proved to be both humorous and frustrating when it came to driving in the city. I am notorious for not only being a horrible driver but also not the most technical savvy chick on the planet. Therefore, putting me in charge of the GPS in downtown Kansas City was a slight oversight in the plans which made for some funny stories.

So what did we do during our day in Kansas City you ask?  We got some spectacular skyline photos and stuffed our faces with some of the best food we have ever tasted! Both of the places mentioned below are spots that I would recommend to anyone asking me what they should do if they ever visited this awesome city.   

LIBERTY MEMORIAL
If you are looking for a free place to get amazing landscape shots of the city, then this is the perfect place! David and I spent a long time trying to get on rooftops of various buildings and parking garages in an attempt to get the perfect shot. A weekend security guard even harassed us at the parking garage where we parked at one point. Just when we were about to give up and head back to the house, David found this spot on google. 

In true Elle and David fashion, we made more work for ourselves by parking at the bottom of a super steep hill. This can be avoided we found out when we got to the top of the hill and the giant staircase, and we saw a parking lot with cars in it. 

After giggling over the fact that we could have avoided all of the climbing we just did, we made it up a smaller staircase which is where the overlook is that David took the photos. The view is breathtaking. You can see the whole city on one side and on the other you have an awesome view of the sunset. I would recommend this spot to snap some shots as well as visit the war museum here it was closed on the day that we were there, so we did not get the chance to take a look inside. 

JACK STACK BARBEQUE
After driving to two other BBQ joints (both were closed) we found ourselves at Jack Stack’s to get our Kansas City BBQ fix, and it did not disappoint! 

Our waiter John was extremely personable and professional recommending food for us to try and talk to us a little bit out Saint Louis BBQ.  He also told us to check out Country Club Plaza and Crown Plaza. 

The food was incredible. David and I both ordered baby back ribs and between the two of us we had four different sides, including the best coleslaw I have ever tasted! I highly recommend this restaurant to anyone who is looking for some kick ass BBQ. We will for sure be back.

**We spent a majority of the day exploring The Work House Castle. You can read all about our journey and see all of Davids shots by clicking here

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Exploring Work House Castle

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Exploring Work House Castle

At first glance, the skeletal remains of the Kansas City Work House Castle seem almost haunted. The graffiti ridden walls of what was once a working prison for petty offenders tells the ghostwritten stories of Kansas Cities rebellious youth.  Sure, it's a popular place for photographers to get some awesome shots, but there is a mystery about this place. An unspoken creed is obeyed by those who enter onto this property. It is understood that this is a place of art and self-expression. A place for people to come and be themselves. The remains of weekend campfires and jam sessions linger behind as reminders of the celebrations of love and friendship that filter through this amazing little gem!

To be honest, it's probably what a snapshot of my heart looks like these days. Remains of walls that I have built up, only to be shattered and painted more beautiful as I grow and experience this amazing life.  The walls are filled with quotes from the hands of anonymous poets and murals of phantom artists. Although the elaborate graffiti is bold and beautiful, there is no outdoing anyone or shameless self-promotion. It is simply a place to explore the ruins and the minds of those who came before you. 

 It is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. To me, it is the perfect visual of this life journey we all are on. We are born pure and new and beautiful; we go through trials and tribulations only to get beat down, and we leave pieces of ourselves with other people along the way and vice versa.Then, eventually we heal, we rebuild and decorate our life with adventures and the people who love us. We celebrate ourselves and how far we have come. We aren't afraid to show our battle scars, and we wear our war paint proudly as we journey on. 

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