A week in Avoriaz

With so many places to discover, it’s always tempting to go somewhere new and spend a vacation exploring unknown locations. This winter, though, we both felt the need to relax and take a break, so we returned to Avoriaz, the same place we went to last winter.

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Last year we were here during the first week of January and had no snow. This year, we went during the last week of March and it couldn’t be more different. There was about a meter and a half of snow on the ground when we got here, which meant that what used to be the ground floor was now below street level and stairs needed to be carved out of snow and ice to get to hotel and restaurant entrances. That alone created a completely different town from the one we were in last year.

Getting there/getting around

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Avoriaz is a town that’s high up in the French Alps. The best way to get there is to fly to Geneva and take an airport transfer to Avoriaz. Or, you can rent a car, but we really wouldn’t recommend that. Once you get to Avoriaz, a car is pretty much useless. Cars aren’t allowed into town, so your transfer will drop you off at a central parking location and it’s up to you to make your way from there. You can either rent a small sled for your luggage or hire a horse-drawn sleigh (which is also the primary mode of transfer in town).

During your stay, you can easily ski through the whole town, hire a sleigh or just walk. There’s plenty of places to go and explore on foot, so you definitely won’t be missing your car.

What to eat

While there, we recommend taking advantage of the variety of cheese dishes available. Most food is fairly simple, but delicious. You can’t leave without trying tartiflette –  potatoes with bacon and Reblochon cheese. Also, give galettes a try – thin buckwheat crepes with all sorts of toppings from Nutella to various cheeses and hams.

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Of course, you can’t miss out on the variety of baguettes, pastries and wines. There are plenty of restaurants, cafes and stores to choose from.

What to do

During the winter, most people come here to ski or snowboard. Avoriaz is high in the mountains, so it’s pretty much guaranteed to have snow all season long. But even if you don’t ski, there are plenty of things to do.

There are plenty of hiking trails to take even in winter. Our biggest hike was walking down the mountain (and then back up). There are trails specifically dedicated to hikers, so you don’t have to worry about getting hit by a skier. We ended up making it halfway to Morzine, when the threat of an impending storm made us turn around and go back up (the second half of the hike was a lot less fun than the first).

Speaking of Morzine, the picturesque town at the foot of the mountain deserves a day trip. You can take the Prodains Express cable car down the mountain and a free ski bus will take you into town. You can spend a few hours exploring, shopping and discovering more local restaurants and bars.

In addition to that, Avoriaz offers a lot of bars, restaurants, a bowling alley, a movie theater and activities. You can go sledding, snowshoeing, night sledding,  mountain biking (yes, even in winter) or visit Aquariaz, the local park.

Overall, we had a great and relaxing week and we hope to get to come back again and do more. Avoriaz is always full of things to do, but you can also have some quiet time to relax, if that’s what you’re after.


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Tokyo adventures: Disneyland

Tokyo adventures: Disneyland

While we were in Tokyo, we couldn’t resist spending a day at Tokyo Disneyland. We just can’t resist a good theme park. Our bodies had given up on any sense of time, so waking up early to make our way through Tokyo rush hour traffic (wouldn’t recommend it to my worst enemy) and make it to Disney for opening time.

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Getting there:
The trip there is easy – we took the Keiyo line from Tokyo station to the Maihama stop. You can see the part from the train and it’s a quick 10 minute walk from the station. We didn’t have our tickets ahead of time, so we first had to go through security and then to buy our tickets. Since we were there early, all of these procedures were pretty quick. When we left, we took the same route back. We already had the Tokyo subway system semi figured out, so it was pretty straightforward and we managed even without wifi.

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The Park:
We were there in early October, so the park was beautifully decorated in Halloween style. I definitely recommend paying it a visit this time of year. Also, considering the time of year, it was hot all day, so by the end of the day I sported a not so cute sunburn. So even if you think you won’t need it, bring sunscreen.
First things first, Pav downloaded an unofficial app, estimating the wait times at different attractions. Since they don’t have wifi in the park, we brought the pocket wifi from our Airbnb. In combination with the park map, we were set.

            1st tip: If you have pocket wifi, bring it with you.

 

The Attractions:IMG_7757
There are quite a few attractions in Tokyo Disneyland that are everywhere – Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion, Peter Pan’s Flight and Alice’s Tea Party. Most of these are similar to other Disney parks that we’ve visited.

The Haunted Mansion was transformed into a Nightmare Before Christmas theme and it was completely different from the usual way the ride looks. Again, totally worth visiting at this time of year.

Pirates of the Caribbean was themed around Dead Men Tell No Tales and was one of the less popular rides at the park. That just meant that we went on it whenever we needed a relief from the heat outside and to take a break.

Unfortunately (lucky for Pav, who doesn’t like the ride too much), It’s a Small World was closed for repairs, so we weren’t able to go on it. We also visited a lot of other Disney staples: Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Star Tours.

 

Pooh’s Hunny Hunt:
This ride is unique to Tokyo Disney. We were a little on the fence as to whether we should go on it or not (let’s face it, it doesn’t sound too great), but the fact that it had a 2+ hour wait almost the entire day convinced us that it might be worth it. Eventually, during the main parade of the evening, the wait was under an hour, so we slipped away from the crowd to go check it out.
The ride itself is definitely worth the wait. Its premise is that Pooh ate too much honey and suffers a psychedelic dream. It functions completely differently from all other rides at the park, so it’s an absolutely different experience.

            2nd tip: Even if it might be against your better judgment, go on Pooh’s Honey Hunt.

Final Thoughts:
We were happy that we spent a day at the Tokyo Disney and it was a great experience. The one problem we ran into was the language barrier – the story based rides were all in Japanese, so it was a problem. But again, if you know Disney, you’ll be fine. Other than that, the usual Disney tips apply: comfortable shoes, plan your day and take advantage of Fast Passes.

If you’re a fan of Disney Parks, you shouldn’t miss this one.

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6 Reasons Why you should Road Trip

6 Reasons Why you should Road Trip

Everything right now is about doing things faster, sometimes this includes travel. Everybody tries to find the fastest ways to get to a place and that can mean that you miss out on great experiences! Here is why you should talk the extra hours and drive to your destinations if it is at all possible:

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  1. Things to see and things to do! When you fly, you only see your destination. If you drive to your destination, you can stop in different places and see so many other sights. If you drive through the US, you can see multiple landmarks, instead of just the one you are heading towards. If you drive through different countries you can experiences many different cultures!IMG_5147 2
  2. Food! You have so many more opportunities to try different foods. If you drive through multiple countries on your road trip, you can try food that is native to this country. I found some of the best places when I just did a quick google search of what’s near me. Not to mention all the junk food you can enjoy, because everyone needs fun snacks! 
  3. Spending time with your friends. When you spend hours in the car you get much closer with your friends. You tend to look at your phone less and actually talk to each other. Not to mention all the adorable photos you can take together! Hopefully you won’t get into any fights, otherwise the journey will be really long.
  4. Music. When is the last time you truly listened to music without scrolling through your phone or reading the newest headlines? There is nothing like blasting music with your windows down while driving down an endless road. You can belt out the lyrics and no one will care what you sound like! So make sure to create a fire playlist before setting out on the journey!
  5. Bring more things with you! Whether this is a short trip or a long one, everyone hates weight limits when flying, when you drive there is no weight limit, just a space limit. If you are a good packer this means you can bring LOTS of stuff!
  6. Learn about more cultures. This is even true if you are road tripping through the same country. Each state in the USA has its own culture, you will definitely meet completely different people in California than in a cafe in Boston. If you are driving through different countries, then there is absolutely no doubt that you will come across many diverse cultures.IMG_3637.JPG

Hope this helps you slow down a little and enjoy your trip! There are many benefits to taking your time and driving around while you head to your destination.

 


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Brunch and dinner: California’s best

Grand Canyon: the place that makes you feel tiny

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

This weekend we decided to go to Arizona to see Grand Canyon! We were so excited to see it, since it was one of our top priorities on our bucket lists. We drove 9 hours from Los Angeles and it was definitely worth it!

We rented out camping equipment from lowergear.com, packed up the car and headed out on Friday afternoon. The drive was really long, but when it got dark, the stars illuminated the sky. It was gorgeous, especially before the moon, which was really low and huge, rose. The first night we planned on staying in a hotel, since we were going to get to Arizona pretty late. Highland Country Inn was a good choice, since it was cheap and all we really needed was beds for a couple of hours.  

In the morning we checked out and when for brunch. We picked The Toasted Owl Cafe, and it was amazing! I found out that Arizona has an incredible amount of gluten-free choices. We had to wait for food for some time, because the kitchen is tiny, but it was so worth it! So definitely check out this quirky little place in Flagstaff! We finally hit the road towards the Grand Canyon, which ended up being an 1.5 hour trip. When we got there we checked into our campsite and successfully built our tent.

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We finally hit the path towards the rim. The view was stunning! No pictures and not descriptions will ever measure up to what you feel like when you see it! Nothing makes you feel quite as small as standing on the edge and looking out over the canyon that goes on seemingly forever!

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We walked the western part of the rim trail that afternoon, making it all the way to the Hermit Point. We stopped about every five seconds to take many, many pictures (total adding up to about 500). We turned around at Hermit point and found the perfect spot to stop and watch the sunset over the canyon. We sat there for almost an hour and a half. A quick tip for the hike: bring snacks! Either in the form of granola bars or nuts or anything! Its nice to sit down and refuel before continuing the hike!  

After the sun set it got pretty chilly so we went to Yavapai lodge for dinner, yet again I was surprised at all the gluten-free choices. It was so nice to sit in the warmth and eat hot food. Definitely recommend sitting down in a restaurant for dinner before heading to the tent.

We headed back to the camp and set up a campfire, roasting s’mores until almost 11pm. Another tip: layer up for the night! The temperature dipped down to about 1 degree celsius (33.8 degrees fahrenheit).

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We got up at 5am to see the sunrise. For this we went to Mather Point and found a spot to sit down for about 45 minutes. We decided to go ahead and walk the east part of the rim trail and complete the whole rim trail. It was definitely a good choice to do so right away, because this way we finished the hike and packed up our tent by 8:30am. Also, we got super lucky and even saw a herd of elk on the path, since it was so empty and quiet in the morning. At this point we decided to walk west along the trail and hit the gift shop by El Tovar. This concluded our trip beautifully and we got to say goodbye to the canyon.

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We hit the road and decided to drive through Las Vegas, so we headed north-west. We even drove by and saw the Hoover Dam, but we decided not to stop and walk around, since we still had a long drive ahead of us. We only drove through Vegas, since we didn’t have too much time. It is definitely an interesting city with such an eclectic collection of buildings built in different styles.

We drove back to Los Angeles, finally getting back around 10pm. The experience of going to the Grand Canyon is something indescribable! Definitely go and see it on your own!

 


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Disneyland!

Disneyland!

Disneyland is a must when you go to Los Angeles! These past to weekends we went twice and it was so worth it! The first day we spent the whole day in Disneyland and the second weekend we park hopped. So my big tip of the day is: buy a park hopper! It is definitely worth it, both parks are great and offer a lot to do! I haven’t been to a Disney park since 2006, when I went to Disneyland Paris, so I was so excited to go in LA!

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Disneyland

Disneyland is magical, like you would expect. The castle is small though, much smaller than I expected, but it was still really pretty. So when we entered we stopped and took pictures with Walt Disney and the castle. Then we headed to Tomorrowland. TIP #2: get Fast Passes every time you can! It will save you lots of time throughout the day and help you plan out where you will be throughout your time at Disney. Some of the big rides I suggest you get Fast Passes for are: Hyperspace Mountain, Star Wars Tours, Splash Mountain and Indiana Jones. These rides usually get packed and have around an hour long way at the very least.

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We got the fast passes for Hyperspace Mountain first, because it’s one of the more popular rides and the wait would be insane later in the day. Hyperspace Mountain is now Star Wars themed, making the ride even more fun. As you fly through space, the enemy starts shooting at you! Which made us extremely excited throughout the ride.

We headed to Star Wars Tours in the morning, because the wait wasn’t long at the time and we knew it would get long. This was such an awesome ride! If you love Star Wars as much as we do, this will be so much fun for you, since you sit in a ship simulator and fly with C3P0! They have different simulations, so chances are if you go again, the ride will be different.

Astro Blasters was next, with quite a short wait, which was perfect! We hopped on and competed for who got more points. We ended up riding Astro Blasters two more times, so we could all compete with each other.

We headed to Adventureland, where Dole Whip makes for a great mid morning snack. We walked through Tarzan’s tree house, which is so adorable and we wanted to move in. Next up was Pirates of the Caribbean! My personal favorite! It’s such a fun ride, but warning there are some bigger splashes so if you sit on the edge, you might get a little wet. The scenes you go through look very very real and Jack Sparrow really does look like Johnny Depp, it was almost scary.

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Speaking of scary, we went to the Haunted Mansion next, again one of my favorites. I loved the movie when I was little and so it was always a ride I would go back to again and again last time I was in Disney. The mansion looks gorgeous from the outside, something that is different from the Paris Disneyland. One of the things that make this ride so great, are the details. Notice the gravestones as you are waiting in line and look at all the paintings inside. It’s truly amazing.

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For lunch we just grabbed quick service to save time, so we could fit in more rides! We got very lucky because Big Thunder Mountain was closed during lunch and we managed to catch it right as they opened, with just a 20 minute wait. Big Thunder Mountain is fun rollercoaster through the old west and mines.

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Fantasyland is an adorable area through the castle. A lot of the little kid rides are there, some of which are a must. Peter Pan is one of my favorite rides, because it is so magical. You have to catch this at a good time, because a lot of the times we walked by it was a 120 minute wait. We managed to catch it with a 30 minute day on our second weekend, making it a must. On the second weekend we ended up eating dinner in Fantasyland at the Red Rose Tavern that has all sorts of foods, anything from flatbreads to burgers. Most importantly you can get Grey Stuff (it’s delicious :P)! The atmosphere is great in the tavern so I definitely recommend if you like Beauty and the Beast!
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Splash Mountain is a great ride! Prepare to get really wet, especially if you are sitting in the first three seats. It was  my first time on Splash Mountain and though I was a little nervous about the 50 foot drop, I was super excited! Definitely a must and definitely get a fast pass if you can! Also I suggest you get there earlier in the day, so that you have time to dry off before the sun goes down. We decided to dry off on another ride.

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Indiana Jones was next on our fast pass list. None of us knew what this ride was going to be. As we got into the car, we were excited to see what will happen. The ride was inside, recreating some of the most popular scenes from the movies in a thrilling way. It was very reminiscent of The Mummy ride in Universal, with it’s ups and downs and quick stops.

On the first day we went for dinner  to River Belle Terrace. Such an adorable place with really good food! I definitely recommend if you get the chance. We ended that day with an hour long way for Hyperspace Mountain, Astro Blasters and a run across the park at 11:30 for Big Thunder Mountain. We closed the park, which is the best way to do Disney! Come back to read about California Adventure!


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