A birthday weekend in Harrison Hot Springs

This past weekend I celebrated my 24th birthday by living my dream of pretending to be one half of a well-off elderly couple AKA spending the weekend at Harrison Hot Springs!

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I’ve been lucky that I’ve gotten to spend a lot of my birthdays in some really cool places. I’ve never been the person who wants a huge dinner or night out a club for my birthday. I always prefer to get away somewhere and just spend the day with a couple of special people.  And then stretch out the celebrations by going for lots of birthday brunch dates 🙂 My favourite blogger has a goal to spend each birthday of her 20s in a new country. And while I haven’t quite hit that milestone, I still love the idea of celebrating in special places.

Where I have celebrated so far:
1) I turned 15 at a beach resort in the Philippines with my Aunt Hayley and her family.
2) I turned 18 during my internship in Sosua, Dominican Republic. It was our day off so we spent the day horseback riding and picnicking.
3) Technically I turned 19 and 20 in Toronto but 19 was after spending a month in Peru and 20 was only a week or so after getting back from my first ever Europe trip!
4) I turned 21 in Mbabane, Swaziland and then took off to Cape Town for some more celebrating.
5) I turned 22 in Tokyo, Japan amidst lots of humidity and a delicious sushi dinner.

But back to turning 24!

Colin and I drove out to Harrison Hot Springs on Saturday morning. Our original plan was to be in Calgary this past weekend for the Stampede and to visit with Colin’s family.  Unfortunately, that trip didn’t happen but fortunately it’s because Colin started a new job! Even though our Calgary road trip got postponed, I still wanted it to feel like a bit of a road trip so I got Colin to fill up his phone with a new road trip playlist featuring a lot of 90s/00s hits.

We arrived in Harrison around 1pm and had just enough time to check in, grab lunch and walk along the beach. I was amazed at how tiny and cute the town was! After check-in, Colin suggested a place for a quick lunch. I asked if we should drive and he laughed because it was literally across the street.  Everything in Harrison seems to be right across the street.

The beach! Unfortunately, we didn't get a ton of sun.

The beach! Unfortunately, we didn’t get a ton of sun.

At 2:30pm we had our spa appointment at the Harrison Hot Springs Resort and Spa – a birthday gift from my mom. I love spas. Everything is so indulgent and you get to strut around in a flurry of aromatherapy oils and terrycloth robes.  Colin had never been but trust me, he’s now a convert.  We started with a mineral spring soak with lavender mud and then a couples’ massage. We were both in heaven – thanks, mom!

Post-spa bliss

Post-spa bliss

As guests of the spa, we were also able to use the resort’s hot springs pool. What a nice end to our spa appointment – soaking in a warm pool outdoors and sipping on frozen drinks!

Pretending like we're in the Caribbean or something

Pretending like we’re in the Caribbean or something. PS: this is the lap pool; the other pools were much prettier!

After our pool time we returned to our hotel (a whole 3 min walk from the resort) to get showered and ready for dinner. We had reservations at The Copper Room which is, according to online reviews, the nicest restaurant in Harrison.  Most of the reviews raved about the food and made note of the live band and elderly clientele. I couldn’t wait 🙂

And, it totally lived up to the reviews! Colin and I got the chef’s prix fixe menu that included an antipasto plate, raspberry sorbet, entree plate of meats and sides, and a trio of desserts. It was all really tasty (except the mushrooms and artichokes on the antipasto plate, but mainly because we are picky when it comes to vegetables).  We were stuffed but even the next day kept talking about the tender beef and delicious chocolate hazelnut square.

Enjoying our dessert

Enjoying our dessert

But the best part was the dancing. Colin and I didn’t dance but I loved listening to the live band (picture 4 guys in their 50s/60s) who played songs by request so couples (also in their 50s/60s) could get up and dance.  There were lots of birthday and wedding anniversaries being celebrated that night and it was so cute to watch couples celebrating their 30th or 50th wedding anniversary slow dance to their wedding song. And these couples were killing it! It’s obvious they have been taking lessons and practicing just to show off their stuff at The Copper Room.

They requested "Moon Rive" - Awwww!

They requested “Moon River” – Awwww!

After dinner we walked along the beach and around a little lake.  Back in our hotel room, I was content to spend my last hours of 23 watching House Hunters on HGTV.

The next morning I woke up to lots of texts, calls and birthday cards.  I thanked all my well wishers while Colin slept in.  When he finally got up, we walked over to a cute mom and pop restaurant for a nice big breakfast.  After our meal, we walked out to see the actual hot springs sight.  It wasn’t actually much to see but the smell was pretty memorable (and not in a good way). Finally, we said our goodbyes to Harrison and started our journey home with a short detour at Bridal Falls.

Bye Harrison!

Bye Harrison!

Bridal Veil Falls is a cute little mini-hike (don’t worry, I still complained the whole walk up as if it were a real hike) to see these gorgeous waterfalls that are meant to look like a bride’s veil. It was a nice stop and only 20 mins outside of Harrison. From there we got back into the car and I introduced Colin to the musical “In The Heights” as we drove back to his house in Surrey.

Bridal Veil Falls!

Bridal Veil Falls!

Back at Colin’s, his mom had planned a really nice birthday dinner for me.  Unfortunately, she had pinched a nerve in her shoulder and was bed-ridden.  We had a delicious BBQ chicken satay with corn and potatoes.  For dessert, she had made a jello cake for me – I had never had one before but it was so tasty! We walked it into her room so they could sing happy birthday to me all together.  It was a really sweet end to a wonderful birthday weekend! And to make matters even sweeter, my friend Andrea sent over a delicious box of chocolate covered fruit.

Jello Cake with exactly 24 candles!

Jello Cake with exactly 24 candles!

Chocolate goodness from Andy!

Chocolate goodness from Andy!

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Here’s to another year older and (hopefully?) wiser!

Belgium in Bad Weather

…and in photos! Pictures from my rainy 4-day whirlwind tour through the land of waffles, beer, chocolate & gorgeous buildings!

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Carlie blissfully enjoying our first Belgian frites!

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First spot of Grand Place in Brussels!

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Carlie getting her 15mins of fame: getting interviewed about Italy while in Belgium!

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On to our next Belgian activity: waffles!

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Belgian chocolates! In the shape of the famous Mannekin Pis and in assorted flavours!

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The famed Mannekin Pis… #letdown

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The way cooler Mannekin Pis, in my opinion

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Belgium Day 2 began by taking the train to Mons to see a familiar face! Hi Fidel!

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The gorgeous little town of Mons

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#trainlife
I spent a fair amount of time waiting for & riding trains around this little country

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Public piano in the Brussels Midi train station – genius!

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The Belfort in Bruges

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Cute houses in the medieval city of Bruges

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Watching the magic happen at Choco-story, a chocolate museum that ended with free samples 🙂

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Bruges by night

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Pearls of wisdom from the streets of Brugge

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Fancy dinner: croquettes & champagne!

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Wandering the graffiti streets of Gent

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The view of Gent from the Gravensteen Castle

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Gravensteen Castle!

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The view from my hostel room in Ghent. Best location ever!

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Arriving at the gorgeous Antwerpen Central Station!

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Tigers lounging at the Antwerp Zoo. Zoos are a bit of a moral debate for me but Antwerp’s is one of the oldest in the world, the sun was shining & the cute animals were calling!

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The giraffes I didn’t get to see in southern Africa last summer!

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And my favourite: the gorillas! This guy sat right next to the glass looking very pensive.

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More kick-ass graffiti!

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First sighting of Antwerpen’s gorgeous cathedral.

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Antwerp from the port

4 days took me through Brussels, Mons, Bruges, Gent and Antwerp! The weekend was pretty grey and rainy, but that’s springtime travel for you! I loved walking the crooked cobblestone streets and appreciating all of the castles, churches and cathedrals that tower over these picturesque cities. I also didn’t mind indulging in a few waffles and chocolate samples along the way! If I were to return to Belgium, I think I would spend more time in the little towns or the more medieval ones (like Brugge) and visit the independent shops that line the stone streets.

*Note: the French/Dutch multilingualism of Belgium results in interchangeable names for the cities above (i.e. Brussels/Bruxelles, Gent/Ghent, Bruges/Brugge and Antwerp/Antwerpen)

Coming up next: a weekend in London for We Day & sightseeing with Andrea!