Thursday, February 19, 2015

Christmas 2014

After being away on our honeymoon for Christmas last year we were looking forward to being able to celebrate the season here in Edmonton with Chrissy's family and in Saskatoon with mine.

Chrissy loves having a Christmas tree up and if I would let her she would keep it up for 11 months straight only taking it down so she could re-decorate it

All through our year long honeymoon adventures Chrissy and I sought out Christmas ornaments to decorate our tree with (note - the bows in the picture above were pew decorations at our church ceremony). When we laid out our decorations it truly dawned on us that we had a good year of travel.

Chrissy was tasked with stringing the ornaments while I made sure the hockey game in the background got watched.

All through December, Chrissy and I tried to get out and about to see the many displays set up through the city.

Probably the most impressive display was this crazy home in the Northeast of Edmonton. My camera couldn't get the full display in one shot so I stitched a few pics together.

Christmas Eve for us was celebrated with Chrissy's family at her Auntie Joyce's house in Saint Albert and like any Ukrainian event the perogies were out in full affect.

After way too much food and too many presents we settled in to get up early for Christmas morning breakfast at Chrissy's parents place. After stuffing our faces we headed out directly to Saskatoon and arrived at my brother Lawrences place just in time for supper. It was us at our most gluttonous.

Saskatoon was remarkably cold and dry so to get our exercise, and celebrate my brother Randy's birthday, we headed out bowling with the family.

My niece Amelia destroyed us all. Our only solace was found in enjoying copious amounts of mom's cooking in the good company of my family. I know...pretty rough life.

Our visit with mom got extended as she accompanied us back to Edmonton to see Monica's new house and to hang with the grandkids. It was great having her in town as it seemed to really extend the Christmas season.

Overall it was a pretty great first Christmas at home as husband and wife.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Cross Country Skiing in Jasper

Suffering a Croatian vacation hangover Chrissy and I hunkered down inside the house early this winter season. It was good to get grounded again but eventually we started going a little crazy. Looking for a relatively inexpensive weekend getaway we decided on Jasper National Park for some cross country skiing.

Leaving straight from work on Friday we arrived at the Lobstick Inn and settled in for an early morning on the trails. 

After a big breakfast we grabbed our rented gear from Skis Please (fantastic service), jumped in my 'all terrain car' and headed out to the Athabasca Falls Loop.

The area received about a foot of snow earlier in the week providing a good base on the groomed trails. The Classic cuts pathways were not well defined yet but I think we ended up benefiting from some earlier hardcore skiiers who had recently come before us.

With the snow hanging off the pines we couldn't have asked for a better setting.

Our first time out in 2 years we didn't push ourselves to hard and only went about 7 total kilometers. This left us plenty of time to goof around in the lovely weather.

Calling it a day we hit up some giant nachos at De'd Dog and finished the night with a nightcap and game of crib back at the hotel...we are a wild party! 

The next day we got a quick ski in close to town at Whistler's Campground a simple 4.5km loop. While maybe not as picturesque as Athabasca Falls it did have some cool segments like the narrow trail between the campsites.

Feeling more refreshed then tired we decided to treat ourselves to a needed beverage at the Jasper Park Lodge on the way out of town. Chrissy had a hot chocolate and I got a very cool honey lager beer. The honey is actually harvested from the bee hives on the roof of the hotel, shipped to the Big Rock brewery and then specialy brewed only for the Hotel. Besides being an awesome novelty it was a great tasting beer.

Jasper Park Lodge was undergoing renovations but was still decked out in full Christmas decorations. We couldn't help but marvel at their giant gingerbread house with some very impressive stats.

Sad that our weekend was over we were comforted by the fact that Jasper wasn't too far away and we would be back again someday soon.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Holiday in Split, Croatia

After spending a few nights in Dubrovnik we were ready to continue on our Croatian journey to Split. When I was originally scoping out travel options I had envisioned us traveling North by boat with stops in Korcula and Hvar but alas traveling in the shoulder season limited our options. After talking to tour operators before (thanks Naomi) and in Croatia we improvised and bought a coach/bus ticket to Split.

I have to admit, at first I was a little disappointed to not be traveling by boat...

The road from Dubrovnik to Split follows a scenic coastline north and even enters into Bosnia Herzegovina for a few kilometers.

Smoke break for the driver in Neum, Bosnia Herzegovina
As we got closer to Split we moved inland for awhile and ended up passing through Opuzen and along the Neretva river with it's extremely dense (and cool!) tangerine orchards.

Picture courtesy: www,

Overall the ride was about 3.5 hours between each cities centre. We thoroughly enjoyed our smooth modern ride in among the beautiful landscapes. My disappointment at not traveling by sea fell quickly by the wayside.

Refreshed from our ride we ventured out to explore our new holiday destination.

Diocletian's Palace

The history of settlement at Split goes back to the 4th century BC as a Greek colony but it wasn't until ~305 AD that the city gained significant prominence when the Roman Emperor Diocletion decided to create his retirement home (Palace) in this strategic location.
"The ruins of Diocletian's Palace, built between the late 3rd and the early 4th centuries AD, can be found throughout the city. The Roman Emperor Diocletian spent his declining years in an enormous palace that he had built near his birthplace, Aspalthos, in Dalmatia. The palace represents the most valuable example of Roman architecture on the eastern coast of the Adriatic. Its form and the arrangement of the buildings within the palace represent a transitional style of imperial villa, Hellenistic town and Roman camp."

The palace really defines the core of the old city and has seemingly shaped its evolution whether it be the physical form of the harbor along its old walls, it's labyrinth streets and buildings formed around/within during the medieval period or the re-use of the materials from the original mausoleum in the cathedral that stands today. This UNESCO protected site is a tour of active history.

Similar to Dubrovnik the old town sections of the city really need to be witnessed at different hours of the day to truly appreciate them. It's remarkable how the reflection off of the stone and the effects of shadows highlight architectural and design elements with the ever changing lighting.

The bell tower of Saint Domnius Cathedral in front of Peristil Square was our visual landmark for navigation (and later for finding our accommodations) so it seemed like a no brainer that Chrissy and I would climb up its 200+ narrow and occasionally rickety steps.

The view, and a little bit of sweat, was worth it. 

With our feet back on solid ground we ended up exploring more of the old city.

Art exhibit within the ruins


Split is blessed with a few markets within it's old town area highlighted by the Pazar Market and it's Fish Market. 

The Pazar Market (aka - Green Market) is located just steps away from Diocletian's Palace and has anything and everything your heart could desire. Chrissy and I spent plenty of time walking through the colorful stalls eventually buying ridiculously cheap hazelnuts and pomegranates.

This dude was just straight up selling garlic chains that he wore around his neck. For this reason alone I figured he must be a slavic sex symbol celebrity so I asked for a picture with him.

The Fish Market was a bit too 'real' (smelly) for Chrissy to take so I ended up walking through it alone. My woman is a fool I tell you! The place was awesome and totally made me hungry for a seafood feast.

Grisogono Palace Luxury Apartment

For our 2nd night in Split and last night in Croatia I arranged for us to stay at what looked like a beautiful apartment located in central Split. I found the place through Expedia and thought it looked like a good deal based on the pictures. It turned out that we were in for quite a surprise!

The apartment was probably the best location in Split and maybe the nicest apartment/hotel I have ever or will ever stay at. To really top of the coolness factor it is UNESCO protected property.

Beautifully restored ceiling mosaic

As I mentioned - the location was amazing. We looked directly out onto the Peristil Square and we spent nearly all of our time in the apartments window looking out at the tourists passing by through the day and enjoying the sounds of live music from the restaurant below at night.

View from the window

I cannot recommend highly enough the apartment. I would go back to Split solely to stay here again.

Other Highlights

Riva Promenade 
Multiple gelato stops
Stuffed frog dioramas at Froggyland


  • Split has a fantastic vibe and pace. I have been to many cities and have often though they would be only good to visit. I get the feeling I could live in Split.
  • So much great seafood. I love octopus salad and had a couple fantastic servings in Split. Other food highlights included: ridiculous amounts of seafood at a great price at Buffet Fife, waterfront dining and planning our future together at F de Mar
  • We chose to take a taxi to the airport as opposed to the much cheaper shuttle bus. Our taxi driver was every bit of crazy that I love. He went way over the speed limit all the time and was either singing along to pop songs or venomously swearing at neigboring cars.