Ian’s Top 5 Souvenirs – #1

Congratulations! We made it to number one (finally).  I’ve was swamped with essays and finishing up my college career, graduating, having my family in town, and starting a new job as a supervisor for a Canada/US cross-border survey.  Anyway on to what we care about…

#1 – Flags


Canada and Italy on my room’s walls

Flags have much more meaning than most people think.  Each flag represents a nation and culture, and has special meaning to that population.  Thus, if you collect a flag from each country or region you go you are in a way taking part of the culture home with you.


France and New Zealand. I won the globe in a flag naming contest.

No two national flags are the same and you can collect standard sizes so they can all be uniform.  I opt for a 3’x5′ or 1m x 1.5m flag and try to find it in the home country, but as flags are actually WAY more difficult to find than you would expect I usually end up getting them back home.  I also let size vary, getting larger flags for countries that have more meaning to me.


Flags by my “corner of fun”. Netherlands, United Nations, Scotland, and Peru

They can be hung around your house as decorations showing off your travels, are light and easy to travel with, and are relitively inexpensive (depending on the material you get).  Most people don’t recognise many flags immediately so you can tell visitors where they are from and some storys that come to mind when you remember your adventures there.


Flag of New Zealand

One problem I have encountered is that once people know you collect flags they then get you a flag form their travels.  I now have a Cuban and Peruvian flag from friends, but have not actually ben to those countries.  I still hang them up, but have been putting these flags at a lower level to show the difference.


Flags linning the walls of my room.

So there you have it.  My completed top 5 souvenir list.  Thanks for tagging along with me, hopefully these inspired some new souvenir items for you to collect on your own expeditions.  Happy travelling and collecting.

#5 – Christmas Ornaments
#4 – Books
#3 – Shirts with Maps/Sports Jerseys
#2 – Coins/Money
#1 – Flags

Photos taken 20 June, 2013 with my brand new Nikon D7100.

Scarves Up for Seattle Sounders FC

In the midst of my last week of college at Western Washington University (which includes a unreal amount of essay writing that is slowly being completed) I travelled down to Seattle to watch my Seattle Sounders play the Vancouver Whitecaps (my second team).


Tifo in the Emerald City Supporters section: “We sing for you! Fight for us!”

This Cascadia Cup rivalry match is one of the best and longest rivalry’s in North America soccer and was a chance I could not pass up as these are my two favourite North American cities and soccer clubs (and sing both the Canadian and American anthems with the crowd).  There were a lot of close chances for both teams, a number of excellent saves and blocks, and 5 goals scored… so I’d say the game was pretty darn entertaining.


Near goal coming off a Sounder’s corner kick in the second half.

As with all Sounders matches the atmosphere today was great, and 53,678 other people joined me in cheering the Sounders to a 3-2 victory. Since the MLS incarnation of the Sounders started play in 2009 they have regularly lead the league in attendance, averaging 20,000 more fans than the next closest team in the league (LA), and it sounds like it when you are there.


The almost full Centrylink Field in Seattle, WA

After losing an early lead before halftime, the Sounders came out blazing in the second 45 minutes, scoring 2 goals to take all 3 points at home.  The full recap can be found on the MLS website, if you have the time to watch the highlights do so.


The winning goal finally came from Lamar Neagle in the 81st minute.

All in all it was a great day with friends and a welcome break from essays and finals.  If you are ever in Seattle in need of something to do on a game day, Sounder’s games are a cheap way to experience Seattle culture and I highly recommend attending one, even if you aren’t a soccer fan… you might just be converted.

Photos taken with my Nikon D50 on 9 June, 2013.

San Fran Adventures – A guest post by Heather Rees

My number one souvenir is right around the corner, but in the meantime my friend Heather took a trip to the City by the Bay over spring break so I’ll turn it over to her.


Hello! Let me introduce myself real quick. My name is Heather and I came to know Ian in the blogging class we took that inspired him to create this amazing blog. I blog over at Chickaddie’s Nest.  Ian has graciously invited me to write a guest post on his blog about my spring break trip to California.


San Francisco’s best known landmark

It was a long trip (over 2,000 miles driven!!) so I won’t bore you will all the details but, I would like to share with you a really neat way to see San Francisco.   In an attempt to save money, my roommates and I decided to camp outside of San Fran instead of staying in a hotel and by doing so, inadvertently found a great way to avoid horrific traffic, bridge tolls and parking fees.


The campground that we stayed at was Anthony Chabot Regional Park.  It was a great deal at $22/night (compared to the extravagant $44/night at southern Californian campgrounds!) which included free hot showers.  We did not spend a whole lot of time in the campground itself but it was surprisingly peaceful for being so close to the city. The sites are on a wooded hillside with access to hiking trails and a lake.  It was nice to come home to quiet nature after a day in the bustle of the city, even though we were still close enough to see the lights.



We woke up to wild turkeys in our campsite!

Which brings me to what I consider the best part of the campground, its location.  Anthony Cabot is south of the city near Castro Valley, which is a stop on the metro system called the BART.  About a 20 minute drive from our campsite was the BART station with parking.  We reserved a parking spot in advance online (still amazed that you can do that), although it turned out to be unnecessary because there was a lot of space.   Hop on the next BART and 40 minutes later you are right in the middle of downtown San Francisco!  Get off at the Powell Street station and you will be at the cable car turn-around and tourist information center (brochures galore!).


Bart Station

After a full day downtown (I recommend visiting the Wells Fargo, Cable Car and Hyde Pier museums which are all free, and the night tour of Alcatraz is totally worth it) just hop back on BART, avoiding the stress of traffic.  We spent most of our stay visiting the city but, if we had more time, I am sure that we could have explored the park more and taken advantage of its natural features.  We did not have much trouble getting a camping spot in late March but you might have to book earlier for the summer months.


View from Alcatraz

Thanks for reading and happy travels!



Photo credit goes to Emily


So there you have it.  Sounds like a great trip eh?  Being from Reno (only three and a half hours away) I’ve done my fair share of San Francisco activities, but I’d never thought to camp that close to the city.  Heather is about to leave for Spain for a few weeks so we may be hearing more from her in the near future.  Once again her website is Chickaddie’s Nest, go check it out!

Ian’s Top 5 Souvenirs – #2

#2 Coins/Money

I love coins; counting them, stacking them, collecting them, spending them… really anything with them.  This runs in my family, as my dad collected coins before I was born.  He had a significant coin collection and when he felt I was old enough he passed it on to me to continue the tradition.  His collection consisted mostly of US coins, with a few international ones, and I have increased the number of US coins, mainly with the US State Quarters and National Parks Quarters.


US Commemorative State Quarter Program, I think the fact that the US has issued a quarter for every state and will issue one for an important location in each state is great.

I also started adding international coins and paper money from each country I visit.  Coins and bills are perfect souvenirs because they are cheap, easy to find as they are used everyday, easy to transport, and say the county’s name with a national or regional symbols on them.  Throughout my travels I have learned that the US Dollar is one of the least exciting currencies out there, even countries like Guatemala have very colourful money that is easier for everyone to use and is harder to counterfeit.


The beautiful Canadian $10 and $5 bills and New Zealand $20, $10, and $5 bills

I started collecting some Canadian coins while on vacations to Canada when I was younger, but my collection of international coins really grew while I was living in Orléans, France in 2008.  While there I got a Euro coin book and collected most of the Euro coins and bills available at the time.  We travelled all over Europe, but because most of Western Europe uses the Euro (the UK and Switzerland being the exceptions) I only ended up with three different currencies.  Still not to shabby.


Canadian, UK, Samoa, Mexico, and New Zealand coins

My travel to New Zealand saw me bring a large bag of coins and bill totaling at least 50NZ$, and over the summer of 2012 I brought coins and bills back from Guatemala, Belize, and Mexico (not shown because they are in a large box in Reno).


Euros and Czech Koruna

Members of my family and friends have also brought back Argentine Pesos, Czech Koruna, Cuban Pesos, Chilean Pesos, Turkish Lira, UAE Dirham, and many others.  Unfortunately, most of these coins are still in Nevada while I am away at college in Washington State, but I have amassed a fair amount up here too.

Souvenir #1

Photos taken 22 May, 2013 with my Nikon D50.

Mont Saint-Michel: The Real Minas Tirith

Mont St. Michel

Mont Saint-Michel is a 92 meter tall island fortress city constructed about a kilometre off the Normandy coastline.  The tidal flat it lies in has some of the fastest rising tides in the world, similar to the Bay of Fundy in Eastern Canada and is one of the main attraction of the city.


Looking toward the mainland as the beach is swallowed by the tides

It was started in the 8th Century and took its current form in the 18th Century.  At its height over 1100 people lived in the town, but it is much more of a tourist destination today and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.


Looking into the shadow of the fortress city

As we were driving to the area I could see a huge castle perched on a rock out on the water.  This was early January 2008, so only a few years after the release of the The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.  The first thing I thought of when I saw Mont Saint-Michel was the fortress city of Minas Tirith in that film.  As it turns out Perter Jackson did in fact use the city as a base for his version of the White City, and it clearly shows.


Looking at the city’s church from the small town

I found one of the most striking features of the city to be the town surrounding the fort/church.  There is very limited room, so buildings are all crammed together and even the main path though the town is little more than an ally.


Mont Saint-Michel with a section of the old causeway and parked cars visible

A simple causeway was also built out to the city in 1879 to allow for easier transport, and was eventually paved to allow parking and tour busses to drive out to the walls.  This was in place when I visited, and I could clearly see the sand building up on its sides, harming the natural state of the island.  Since I visited, the causeway has been removed to allow the tides to surround the island again.

Photos taken on January 26 2008 with my (old) Cannon Powershot A560.

Ian’s Top 5 Souvenirs – #3

#3 Shirts… with maps!

I have always loved maps.  And, like most people need closes to wear.  So I decided I had the great idea to combine the two, only getting shirts with a map of the location on it, instead of the typical funny (but actually kind of lame) saying or picture.


Shirts with maps from Stuart Island (in the San Juan Islands) and Belize.

This started a few years ago (June of 2011) when my dad, sister, and I were on a 5 day sailing trip around the San Juan Islands, just to the west of Bellingham, WA.  On Stuart Island there is a school that has boxes with shirts decorated by the children on the island, and a few of the styles had maps on them.  They expected you to take a shirt and mail in money if you so pleased, and I ended up picking out the one that is on the left in the photo above.  The other shirt (above and below) is from Belize from Summer 2012.  We went diving a few times and I loved it, so my requirements for a shirt were: 1. It needs a map, and 2. It needs to have something to do with diving or another Belize related activity.  If I didn’t find something that met those requirements I was not going to get a shirt.


Shirt with dives sites in Belize on it.

 We went to a bunch of shops that had shirts and none had anything that fit my requirements so I had all but given up.  The last store we went into the day before leaving for Mexico had a few options that would have sufficed (dealing more with diving than maps), but then I stumbled upon this gem!  It was perfect!  On the back are all of the dive sites in coastal Belize, include the two we dove at, and it has the international diving symbol, a compas rose, and “Belize” on the front.  Not flashy, but informative, just the way I like it.

Now not everywhere I go has shirts with maps on them, so I do make exceptions to this rule, specifically for sports teams that I follow (or follow after visiting) or major international sporting events held in that location.


Bellingham United, Wellington Phoenix, and Everton jerseys with a Seattle Sounders scarf

After living in Europe I became much more interested in soccer (real football) and ended up with favourite teams in many leagues worldwide.  Now I am in the process of collecting jerseys from those teams, which include Wellington Phoenix (in Wellington, New Zealand where I studied abroad), Everton (a few of their players are American including Tim Howard, the US goalkeeper), FC Kaiserslautern (a few friends of mine are from there and I now follow their team more than they do), Seattle Sounders (the hometown MLS team), and Bellingham United (the local Bellingham, WA team).


2011 Rugby World Cup jersey, 2010 Vancouver Olympics jacket, and 2012 London Olympics bag (I can’t find my shirt currently)

Lastly, I have collected clothing from both the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics and the London 2012 Summer Olympics as I was in each city a few days after the conclusion of their Olympic Games.  I was also in New Zealand for the 2011 Rugby World Cup and attended the US-Australia game (where the US lost horrifically) so I have more than a few shirts and jackets from that event along with the an All Blacks shirt (New Zealand’s Rugby Team).


All Blacks shirt my dad got me from New Zealand

As you can see each shirt that I select has a lot of meaning to me, representing the country I was in, as well as some other story or memory from that location.

Souvenir #2

Photos taken with my Nikon D50 of my various souvenir shirts.

Ian’s Top 5 Souvenirs – #4

#4 Books

While I was studying abroad in Wellington, New Zealand in 2011 I decided to purchase some books representative of the culture.  I had volunteered as a note taker with Vitoria University of Wellington in a class called “Antarctica: Unfreezing the Continent” and at the end of the semester the university gave me two $20 gift vouchers to the University bookstore.  I wanted to get some books by New Zealand authors that I might not have had the opportunity to read in the US, and the book store staff had some great suggestions, including Maurice Gee, one of New Zealand’s most beloved novelists.

The first book in the O Trilogy by Maurice Gee

Ever heard of him?  I hadn’t either but I took their word for it and chose his novel “The Halfmen of O” as my first book choice as every Kiwi I talked to had fond memories of reading it or having it read to them in grade school and it is Scifi/Fantasy and was likened to “The Lord of the Rings” by more than a few people.  (It’s a great book, I will do a book review of it at some point but until then check out what I said about it on Books and Other Places I’ve Been.)


A collection of New Zealand Sci Fi poetry

For my other book I ended up picking a Science Fiction poetry anthology by New Zealand scf fi poets, titled “Voyagers“.  Normally I’m not a huge fan of poetry, but I thought I’d give this collection a try nonetheless.  Some of the poems in this little book are amazing and it’s a real shame the poets aren’t better known.

This was the first time I consciously bought books with the intent to use them as souvenirs from my time in another country; however, looking back on my travels it would seem I’ve done this unconsciously before.

The French version of Twilight (It’s better in French, but that might be because I didn’t understand it all)

While living in France I bought Voltaire’s “Candide” in English (although it was for class I really liked it) and the French version of “Twilight”, called “Fascination” (I know, I know, it sounds really lame and isn’t a great book, but the story keeps you wanting to find out what happens next and it’s an easy read, so I figured it’d be a good book to practice my French with).

The British version of the first Harry Potter novel

In England I purchased a few of the British Harry Potter versions (with the different covers), such as “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” for myself, and “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” for a friend.  I have also collected various in flight magazines from my travels, such as Kia Ora below.


Air New Zealand’s inflight magizine right before the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Books allow you to get a sense of how a nation’s writers (and by extension the population) think, both about their nation and the world around them, and can show you how the same thing can be said differently in different languages.  This is one reason why I have decided to get novels from different countries I visit, even it I don’t speak the language well enough to read them.

Souvenir #3

Photos of my books are taken with my Nikon D50, other book covers are from the internet.

Ian’s Top 5 Souvenirs – #5

Snowy Pines

#5 Christmas Ornaments

My mum got me hooked on this one.  She had the great idea to collect a little something that represented each country we visited in Europe while we lived there.  That way every year there would be a new set of ornaments to talk about with the family at Christmas while we decorate the tree (or watch while others decorate the tree).

I loved this idea, not only does the ornament represent the nation its from, but it gives the family something to talk about and reminisce on, but it also creates a very unique and multicultural Christmas Tree that doesn’t have boxed ornaments on it.


Winter trees in the backyard of my old house in Reno

Some of the ornaments we have on our tree are…

Wooden Shoe key chain – Holland

Scottish flag pillow key chain – Scotland

Wooden Kiwi Bird with Rugby Ball key chain – New Zealand

Eiffel Tower key chain – France

Double Decker Bus key chain – England

You may notice a trend of key chains here.  They are much cheaper and sturdier than traditional ornaments, and they already have a ring attached that can either be put directly on the tree branch or have a string tied to for greater hanging ease.  Some of our other ornaments are actual Christmas ornaments so we do have a nice mix, but I can’t remember what they are currently.  I’ll have to get back to you on that next Christmas.

Souvenir #4

Photos taken in Reno, NV on 24 March 2011 with my Nikon D50.

Ian’s Top 5 Souvenirs

Souvenirs.  Everyone collects them from their travels, but everyone’s souvenirs are different.  Many people collect knick-knacks, some people I know decide to collect shot glasses from their travels, others collect playing cards with pictures on them.  I don’t do any of this, so I’ve decided to do a series of posts looking at my favourite reminders I keep from my travels.


Shot glasses my housemates have collected

Still others just collect random things that they say they will give to their friends but never do (believe me I’ve been there).  On a trip to Paris I bought a bunch of 1(Euro) mini Eiffel Tower key chains and never got around to distributing them.  In New Zealand I collected 10 small shells and never gave them away.  From Hawaii I bought a few shell/bead necklaces and they are still in my closet somewhere…  you get the gist.


Shells I ment to give to friends but now sit on a bed of sagebrush

Based on my own previous souvenir purchasing habits seen above, I began to wonder how much effort (including resources) are wasted every year producing stuff (crap really) for tourists that won’t ever be used or looked at again.  Furthermore, those useless purchases that actually make it to my friends seem to just remind them that they were stuck at home while I was out having fun in the world.


Various souvenirs from a shop in Whistler, BC

Thus, I have decided to collect a different group of souvenirs that I feel has more meaning to both the country and me, and won’t just waste away somewhere or be thrown out in a few years because all it really is is a useless piece of plastic.  Then anytime someone comes over to my place they might ask me “Where is this from?” or “What is the story behind this?”, and will hopefully be more interested in the whole process and not just feel left out.


My New Zealand photobook sitting on a coffee table at home.

Now before we get to the list itself there is one honorable mention; pictures.  Pictures.  I take pictures everywhere I go, they help me remember all the fascinating and beautiful places I’ve been, and I can show them to my friends and family when I get back, giving them a window into my life and travels (much as I want this blog will do).  They are also free (or uber cheep), can be taken anywhere, and are very personal because everyone has different eye.  For all these reasons I’m leaving them off my list.

Here we go!

Souvenir #5
Souvenir #4
Souvenir #3
Souvenir #2
Souvenir #1

Baker Hot Springs

Baker Hot Springs Reflections

In the shadow of the east side of Mt Baker sits one of Washington’s hidden jewels, Baker Hot Springs.  This popular destination for locals was one of the better known hot springs in Western Washington in the 1980s but has slowly been taken out of guidebooks due to vandalism and overuse.


Undisturbed waters with algal growth at the heat sources

Now it is less known, and mostly only by locals, so if you don’t know about it from someone it can be hard to find info on.  Seattle Pi has one of the better descriptions I have found on the springs, including driving directions.  The best time to go (and only time that I have actually been) is in late winter/early spring.  I hear in the middle of summer it can be packed (you even have to pay for parking).  On the other hand, you can drive almost the entire way to the spring, so it is a much easier summer trip.


Stream coming out of the natural hot spring

In winter you get to walk (or snowshoe) for a few miles to the hot spring, enjoying stunning views of the North Cascades.  When you arrive there likely won’t be many other people there and the water will feel even better after the hike.


Mount Baker looming above the road to the Hot Springs

Irena and I ended up camping at the spring and hiking out in the morning to avoid having to drive home late at night, which is what happened the first time I went to the springs about a year ago.  When we got there no one else was around, but we were soon joined by a group of 5 people who we talked to for a few hours before they left.


Fire and light at Baker Hot Springs

If the weather cooperates the skies above are pitch black and the stars and moon shine bright overhead.  I even saw a large meteor despite it not being the right time of year!


The Big Dipper framed by trees

I highly recommend taking a trip to Baker Hot Springs, one of my favourite locations for a day trip (or night trip) near Bellingham.

If you have been there before what was your experience?


Taken with my Nikon D50 on March 23-24, 2013.

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