Disney’s Cultural Representative Program: Flights, Housing and Insurance

Disney Program Housing

When applying for housing, there are four complexes to choose from:

  • Chatham Square
  • Vista Way
  • Patterson Court
  • The commons

Housing was a big decision for me. I mean, all of Disney’s housing properties looks really nice and have lots of amenities. But I wanted to make sure I wasn’t put in bunk beds. The only up-side to having bunk beds is that rent is slightly cheaper.

Prior to making my final decision I googled other blogs on information about what the differences were between the complexes.

The things that stood out for me were:

Vista Way is the oldest, while Patterson Court is the newest and has slightly bigger rooms.

Vista Way is the only complex without Bunk Beds.

Chatham, Patterson and the Commons are all next to each other, while Vista Way is further out.

The commons has dryers in the apartments, instead of having coin operated machines.

The commons is the closest the outlets (a girl’s gotta shop!)

There are far more pros and cons per complex, ultimately I’d be happy in any. Even bunk beds! I’m moving to Florida after all to work for Disney. But, I did have my preference.

I was very tempted by Vista Way, it has so many amenities compared to the other three, a guarantee of no bunk beds and super close to shops and restaurants. Not to mention that it has the best bus service.

I’d made my decision. It was to be the commons!

Based on the fact it’s close to the outlets, a publix, has a onsite convenience store and your own washer and dryer. The last time I used a coin operated washer and dryer it was $5 per load. I see it as a saving!

The weekly rent will differ per unit, number of people and complex type. The prices quoted below are accurate as of June 2017:

Chatham Square:

1 Bedroom 2 Person – $126.00

1 Bedroom 3 Person – $111.00

2 Bedroom 6 Person – $99.00

3 Bedroom 6 Person – $113.00

4 Bedroom 8 Person – $112.00

 

Patterson Court:

1 Bedroom 2 Person – $126.00

1 Bedroom 3 Person – $111.00

2 Bedroom 5 Person – $106.00

3 Bedroom 6 Person – $113.00

 

The Commons:

1 Bedroom 2 Person – $130.00

1 Bedroom 3 Person – $115.00

2 Bedroom 4 Person – $128.00

2 Bedroom 5 Person – $108.00

3 Bedroom 6 Person – $116.00

4 Bedroom 8 Person – $115.00

 

Vista Way:

2 Bedroom 4 Person – $116.00

3 Bedroom 6 Person – $107.00

Booking your flight

After having accepted your offer from Disney, you can then start booking travel. Some people booked their flights immediately. I booked mine 2 months prior to arrival. I was worried my visa would be denied (for some strange reason). In fact, my parents had booked their flights and hotel to visit me long before I’d even booked my flight. Eager Beavers.

If you are travelling from the UK you’ll be going back in time (hopefully not in a Delorean). So you have an advantage in that you’ll gain back some time. You can of course book your flight for the same day you check in. But I’d advise against this as with flight times and the immigration lines that we all love there’s a very slim chance you will out of the airport in time to get to check in.

Check in times are typically between 12:00pm – 3:00pm.

Why flying from Vancouver is a pain

Not only is it expensive to fly in, out and anywhere near Vancouver but there are very few direct flights that don’t connect on the east coast. I had a little look at flight prices months in advance and they seemed reasonable, I kept an eye on them and at one point they were around £100 one way. But of course I decided not to book. Once I’d decided to book, flight prices were now £300 and up. Wonderful!

£300 isn’t a bad price at all, especially when you can expect to pay £450 and up from the UK. But I knew I could get it cheaper. None of the flights I looked at got me there on time, unless I paid £500+

My specifics were

  • Can’t be any longer than 15 hours.
  • If it’s not a direct flight it can only have one layover
  • If the layover is in Canada, then it has to be 2 hours or less
  • If the layover is in the U.S it has to be approx a 3 hour layover
  • Must arrive on the 9th and before 10pm

So, not that fussy then? I wanted a flight on the 9th so I could spend as much time as I could with Matt. But eventually I settled on the 8th. I’m flying the red-eye from Vancouver-Toronto-Orlando. I board my flight in Vancouver at 22:30pm and leave Toronto at 8:00am. Praying there is a Tim Horton’s in my terminal.

My flight was booked! yay!

Insurance

When you get your offer email, yummy jobs will email you with information regarding what to do next. Under the insurance section they recommend two companies to use. One is STA Travel and one is Seven Corners. I used Seven Corners before when I did my J1 summer in the states so I decided to use them again.

You have two options on insurance. You can either buy your insurance for the entire year you are in Disney or, you can opt to only buy 4 months insurance and then move onto Disney’s insurance. I decided to go with the second option. Not only does it save me money right now, but it’s around $10 a week and comes out of your pay check. I’ve also heard from previous participants that you can see an onsite doctor once you have insurance with Disney.

Disney Cultural Representative Program: Applying for your Q1 Visa

Applying for your Q1 Visa for Disney’s Cultural Representative Program

After getting that wonderful email and having paid your housing fees, the next step is applying for your Q1 visa. You’ll get an email from Disney themselves with your I-797. You will need this for your visa interview and to fill out your DS-160 so make sure you save and print as soon as you can. The I-797 is your petition for your visa from the Walt Disney company. At first this confused me as I didn’t realise this was a group petition. So it will have your name listed as well as others doing the program with you and others from different pavilions. Also, don’t panic (like I did!) if the embassy listed isn’t the one you stated on the DOC website. Mine said Berlin, this makes no different. You can apply for your visa at any U.S Embassy or Consulate outside of the U.S.

All the blog posts I have seen for UK participants have had their visa appointments at the Embassy in London. The same information and rules apply in a different country. I searched and searched the internet months prior to my visa interview, for information on applying for a U.S visa outside of your home country. And I found very little. So, for anyone who may be living abroad or doing a working holiday, it can be done!

Yes, I know I need to delete some emails…

Filling in your DS-160

I was worried my visa wouldn’t get accepted because I’d seen online that “it’s easier/quicker to get accepted in your home country”. Maybe they’d want to see my previous J1 visa in my old passport that’s back home in London. Or they’d ask for my social security number/card which is also “in a safe place”. Luckily for me, I brought my old iPhone5 to Canada with me, and I knew I had photos of both, my old visa and social security number from when I last worked in the states. This helped immensely when filling out my DS-160 (visa application). It means that I won’t have to waste time getting a brand new social security number and can just get a replacement. Hoo-ray!

One thing to remember when filling out your DS-160 is that it doesn’t save itself. So if it times out and you log back in without saving you will have to fill everything in again. I usually fill one page out then save each time.

In order to fill out the DS-160 you will need:

Your Passport

Previous U.S visas

Social Security Number

The dates of your 5 last visits to the United States

Your parents details (DOB etc)

The name of the person sponsoring you (listed on the I-797)

The address you’ll be living at (Vista Way is the default address)

The address of the location you’ll be working along with the phone number

And finally how much you’ll be earning per month

Once you have completed your DS-160 you will get a confirmation page with your photo and a barcode on it. Print this right away. I’d recommend printing everything twice and keeping them in separate places in case you happen to lose one. (surprisingly this happens to me a lot)

Booking your appointment

Once you have completed your DS-160 you can then book your visa appointment. I did mine on a different site to what most people applying from the UK do, because I’m currently living in a different country. Once you have filled in your details, the website will give you the nearest Embassy dates. I had a few pop up from Montreal and Ottawa but I needed Vancouver, so selected the next available date for that Consulate. The timing of this happened to be the same day that I was staying in Vancouver for a few days, so I was really happy I didn’t have to do more than one trip there.

You now pay for your visa online, which years ago when I got my J1, was all done at the Embassy on the day. The visa itself was $190.00 USD and the delivery fee to my house was $20.00 USD. The fee will always be in U.S dollars no matter where you are applying from. I’d highly recommend paying for the courier, getting to Vancouver alone is $35 here at the cheapest for a return. So worth it in the long run.

The Visa Appointment

I booked my visa appointment for 8:00am the other option is 8:30am. I left my air b’n’b with Matt at around 7:am and we walked to the Consulate. Upon arrival there was a fairly big line outside . I got in line and handed over my documents, they put a sticker on my passport then I joined the second line. There are no phones allowed in the Vancouver U.S  consulate, but you can now take them into the London U.S embassy. They do however, have lockers here, which I would recommend using. I came with minimal things. My documents and phone. This was later going to prove a bad decision. I handed my phone to my boyfriend and he went to get coffee to wait for me.

The line itself is quite slow, they only let 5 people at a time in. Once inside you line up for security. Here I had a good conversation with one of the security officers about what I was going to be doing in the states. I got to the first window relatively quickly, and thought I’d be out sooner than I thought. Here’s where not bringing a purse became a bad idea. The lady at the first desk was super nice but informed me that my photo wasn’t going to work. And that I could just use the photo booth in the room and come right back to her.

I had no money. I asked if it would be possible to go get some money from my boyfriend and then come back into the building. She said yes and that I could skip the line outside and just go through to security. So I left the building, and went to the Starbucks that I thought Matt would be in. I couldn’t find him anywhere and I had no phone to call him. I asked several coffee shops if I could use their phone to which they all replied no it’s not for customers (You’d be fucked then if reporting a crime! Not impressed)

At a nearby hotel, a lovely lady in reception let me use the phone. I tried to call my phone as I don’t even know Matt’s number but it just kept telling me it was long distance. I was about ready to cry at this point. It was pissing rain outside so I started making my way back to the air b’n’b when I spotted Matt outside the consulate.

Explained to him that I needed money for a photo and he gave me $20. Yay! So, once again I go through security. I put my $20 note into the machine only to be told it only accepts $10 notes.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

I asked several people after me if they’d had any change for a $20. None of them did. So back out I go, about to get into the Elevator when I decide to ask a family next to me if they have two $10 they give me two $5 and a $10. I thank them over and over and tell them they’re life savers!

Panic Over!

As security was literally next to the elevator, the security officers let me bypass it to return to the first room. I go back to the first window. Finally! The lady hands back my documents and then I go to the next window. This was just for hand prints. A fairly quick process. We then have to wait a few minutes, as the interview room is currently full. While waiting I get chatting to a few people. Everyone was so curious as to why I was applying for a visa if I’m from the UK. I explained to them the reason I was there and the room filled with “ooooohhhh”s.

I finally get called to go to the interview room, another long line and more waiting. Oce at the window the woman interviewing me looks at my DS-160 and has no idea what a Q1 visa is and has never had to process one before. She giggles to herself while processing my information and asks me about where I’ve lived before Canada, what I’ll be doing in Orlando and what my job will be. She tells me Q1’s are like unicorns and checks with her manager that she has processed everything correctly. Then she says “Your visa has been approved” and hands me a piece of paper to track its shipping.

Wooooo!!! Approved!

I left the building a whole TWO hours later! Poor Matt had been hanging around all day for me, while it poured rain. But it was done. We didn’t need to do anything else now. And I was happy that I was actually, for real, going to Walt Disney World!

If you are applying for your visa, please please do NOT go cheap on the photo and take your own. Just pay the $10! It is so worth it in the long run.

Disney Cultural Representative Program: Final Interviews

Disney’s Cultural Representative Program: Final Interviews (UK)

Following on from my last post, this one will detail the final interviews. held at Disney HQ. I can’t give accurate numbers but I can give you a good guestimate of how many people from Pre-Screens got given final interviews. I would say around 70 people get through to finals. This can obviously change, it can be more or less. And at this stage, you can safely say that you have a very good chance of getting the job. But, there is still a small chance you may get a no. Very few people from what I’ve seen get no’s but still be prepared to give it your all in these interviews.

Receiving That email

29th September, emails started coming in. Facebook notifications galore. People posting that they’d gotten through to final interviews. I was at work this day, so I wasn’t able to read through the posts or check my emails until my break time. I got an email. However it wasn’t the one I was hoping for.

But, it wasn’t the email I didn’t want either!

 

I had gotten put on a waiting list, something that if I recall correctly was a relatively new thing that started a couple of rounds ago. I was happy, it wasn’t a no! Two other people posted that they had gotten the same, I’m not sure if others were on there too so no idea if this was a big waiting list.

I had to wait a long time. Yep… A whole day. Longest wait of my life!

Then, it happened

I GOT IT!!! I could not believe it! I was going to the Walt Disney European head office in London to attend an interview to work at Walt Disney World!! Now I knew this wasn’t the final decision but this was the furthest I’ve ever gotten, and was an achievement in itself!

Erm.. didn’t I book my flight to Canada for the 1st November? Oops!

The next few weeks were spent calling lastminute.com to change the date of my flight. This took about a week after they kept saying they’d call me back but didn’t. Eventually it was done, and I was flying out on Sunday the 6th now instead of the 1st. I had to cancel the bus I’d booked and lost money on, booked the greyhound instead and booked my hostel. All in all I was out around £110 but it was more than worth it and my flight was super cheap.

After getting the email inviting you to face-to-face interviews, you will then receive an invitation from Disney themselves to fill in an online application/CV. You will also need to have your documents upload to the DOC. This would include personal information, passport information and social security number or previous visa if applicable. If you don’t have this information to hand do not worry as you won’t need it until you are actually offered the job.

The week before

I had a busy couple of months ahead of me. I had a trip booked to Budapest, two jobs, a savings goal, one job interview and a move to Canada.All I had to do now, was pick out an outfit for my interview and prepare for the day. I ended up going with a pale pink dress from H&M and back tights and shoes. Black is always a good colour, but I wanted to add some colour to my outfit too.

The Monday before my interview was halloween, I was working my last shift at the pub I worked for. Dressed as a skeleton. It felt so weird, closing down the bar for the last time. I’d only been here since June but I’d already made so many memories here. On the Thursday I’d end up doing the same again. Leaving my job at the airport. I was quite emotional, having to leave behind two jobs I loved. Friends and family, and I hadn’t even gotten to my interview yet.

I decided to book a hotel as lots of others were doing the same and I felt it would be a nice build up to the day. On the Thursday after work, I packed my bag and made my way to London via a stop at Westfield. I needed some retail therapy to calm my nerves (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it)

The Presentation

Booking a hotel turned out to be a great idea as I got a better nights sleep and met with another girl who was staying at the same place. Everybody was meeting at Starbucks just before interviews. It was probably the tiniest Starbucks in Hammersmith filled with around 20 Disney geeks (The best kind of Starbucks). It was so nice to see some familiar faces from my interview group and to also meet some new ones.

We all started to head over to Disney HQ at around 8:30 if I remember correctly. The presentation before-hand was due to start at 9:00am? We checked in at reception, got given our guest passes for the day and got the obligatory photo with Sparkly Mickey. Eventually we were led upstairs to the auditorium where they played the same presentation as the one you get shown at Pre-Screens. It’s a great video and I never tire of seeing it. I watched it before pre-screens and have seen it a few times after f2f. If you’d like to watch said video you can do so right here:

The presentation consisted of a couple of Managers at Disney who talked about the company, a little bit about their jobs and what the program entails.

The first lot of interviews will then take place and everybody else will need to leave the building and come back at their scheduled time. I spend the few hours with other applicants in a pub a short walk away from HQ. This really helped to ease my nerves, we just chatted about everything.

Face-to-Face Interviews

About an hour before my interview slot, we decided to head back and wait with the other applicants. Disney were slightly behind so we did end up waiting a bit longer. We got to chill on the couches just outside the interview room with the people who were before/after us. They interview in twos, but it’s still one on one, and in the same room.

I was the last in my group to be called. Here we go, time to shine!

The interview was short, like 10 minutes short. Maybe it was longer, I’m not sure. I had so much more I wanted to say, and was prepared for more questions. But it was over in a flash. I had finished my interview earlier than the other person, which made me somewhat anxious that I hadn’t said enough.

My interviewer was awesome and made me feel really comfortable. I actually can’t remember what he asked me now. The last question that he asked me was “tell me something about you” and I’m not even sure what my answer was. I think I mentioned my love of travel, my aspirations and that I was moving to Canada in two days time. Whatever I said it must have worked! He also asked me if I have any questions for him. I had a few about my visa, when we’d hear back and some other things. I’d say it’s good to have a few questions prepared that you’d like to ask as it shows an interest and can also lead onto further conversation.

And just like that, I was back in the waiting room. Anna and Luke from yummy jobs asked me how it went and I thought it went okay, but as it was so quick I really didn’t know how to feel. I said my goodbyes and a few of us went for drinks after.

I really enjoyed the whole day and it made me realise how much I want this and how close I was to getting it. I felt at home just being with others who I could talk Disney with! And the possibility of getting to work with them was exciting.

And once more, we had to wait again.

Wait list

A whole nine days after interviewing, I got an email. I didn’t expect them to be sending out job offer emails just yet. It stated that they’d put me on the wait list. I was pretty happy about that! I know some people wait for months and months before they get any kind of offer. But as long as it wasn’t a no I was happy. I did state in my interview that as I’m moving to Canada and would like some extra time there, my availability was from August, so this is probably the reason I was put on wait list. Lots of other people had open availability which meant they could take any date.

I think it was about a week later that other people started getting dates. I was so happy to see so many people getting job dates.

If you get put on the waiting list Disney will email you once a month to ask if you still want to be on the list. All you have to do is click the link to confirm. I did this once in December and then once in January…

January 27th came around and then it happened. I got the job! 

I couldn’t believe it, I’d dreamt about Disney that night. And something prompted me to wake up and check my emails. I couldn’t have been happier. I was also amazed I only waited two months for a date. Some people can wait up to 8 months, just to get a date. I was feeling pretty lucky at this point!

Next up: flights, housing , Insurance and visas!

Disney Cultural Representative Program: Applying & Pre Screens

Applying for the Disney Cultural Representative Program (CRP) for the UK Pavilion

What is the Disney Cultural Representative Program? (CRP)

The Cultural Representative Program is a one year program offered by Disney to certain nationalities. Disney employs people from all over the world to come and work at the World Showcase in it’s Epcot theme Park. The World Showcase is a section that is made up of eleven pavilions themed to different countries. They are:

Mexico

Norway

China

Germany

Italy

United States

Japan

Morocco

France

United Kingdom

Canada

There are other countries that Disney offers programs to in addition to this, to see if you qualify for one of their programs, you can visit there site here.

If you’re from the UK and want to apply for the Cultural Representative Program at Walt Disney World, you first have to submit your application.

In order to do this and check out further information about the program you can visit the yummy jobs website. This is the agency that deals with all the Disney international programs for applicants within the UK and some of Canada

http://www.yummyjobs.com

Application Stage

I applied for the Cultural Representative program last year in August, the 24th to be exact! This was my fourth time applying. I’d made it through to the Pre-Screen stage the previous year and this was my fourth attempt at applying.

I wasn’t planning on applying this round, as I’d applied 3 times already and wondered if it was worth it. I’m sure many others have this feeling when applying again. I’ve heard of some applying 7/8 times before they got accepted onto the program. Which, just goes to show that it can happen at any time! Part of me applied this time on a wim, I’d already gotten through to Pre-Screens before, so why couldn’t I do it again? I refused to accept no as the answer, this was my dream job and I wasn’t going to give up!

Putting together my CV

Before applications opened, I was in the process of looking for a new job, and as I’d love to work in the travel and hospitality business I started to look for local jobs that A) help me do this in the future and B) be good experience for the CRP. At this point I knew I’d be going to Canada in November, so if I’d gotten a no I still had something else planned and it just meant I’d apply next round and enjoy Canada for longer.

Not long after applications opened, I got offered my job at Whistler Blackcomb. Being North America’s biggest ski resort, I thought this would be a great addition to my application. I ended up getting a job at my local airport in Duty Free, which I loved and I learned a lot from it and it gave me that international experience for my CV. At weekends, I’d work my other job at a local pub, this gave me experience in food & beverage. So I really tried to gear my CV towards something they were looking for.

I started putting together my CV and cover letter. I’ve made lots of cover letter drafts for this program. And this one was by far the best. In the past I’ve overthought the whole thing, and rewritten my cover letter 20 times and it stressed me out. I tried to Disney-fy it but I think I went overboard at one stage. This time I still “disneyfied” my CV but I made it very subtle, as to keep it professional at the same time.

Writing My Cover Letter

I wrote my cover letter in two or three drafts. I wrote what I felt they needed to know about me and how my experience would be beneficial to Disney, specifically the UK pavilion. I also mentioned a bit about what I’d get out of the program, but I made this part a little more specific. In terms of work experience, I mentioned my current jobs and previous jobs and how they related back to the international nature of the program. Things I could bring from my current and previous jobs to represent the UK, for example, serving British branded beers and British baked goods. (I used to work for a large UK chain of bakeries) I also mentioned what my next “adventure” would be, AKA moving to and working in Canada.

After deciding that my CV and cover letter mentioned everything I wanted it to, I uploaded my documents and submitted them. For the next few days I didn’t really think about the application. I had a feeling of hope but was also prepared for the rejection. Anyone who has applied more than once will know the feeling I’m talking about! But slowly, the feeling of excitement crept back. What if I did make it through to Pre-Screens? I mean I have done it before, and if I’ve done it before surely I could do it again? And I did!

Pre Screens! AKA Best feeling ever

On the 6th of September, the email came through. One of the best emails of my life! I hadn’t bothered checking my emails because I just didn’t think I’d get it. So a day later when I finally did, I jumped out of my chair. Eyes widened. It was the best feeling in the world. Last time around I didn’t tell anyone I’d applied or what the interview was for until a week before Pre-Screens, thinking that doing so would jinx it! Well, it didn’t make any difference in the end, so this time around I just mentioned that I’d applied to my family and when I got offered Pre-Screens I told them right away!

As I’d done pre-screens the year before, I knew how the day would roughly go. Last year I definitely overthought the whole thing and as a result I was far too nervous. I’ve had a lot of interviews and they don’t make me nervous, but this was DISNEY! A dream job! How could I not be nervous!? I was still nervous this time around, but much less so. Having experienced this part of the application once already it helped calm my nerves and therefore enjoy the day much more.

I’d booked a hotel for the night before, as last time I traveled down on the day and as a result was tired the whole time. It was much nicer to get a good nights sleeps and meet some other applicants prior to the interview. The hotel that I stayed at was called the Bell Hotel, which isn’t the greatest place I’ve ever stayed but for one night it was adequate and was also the cheapest. If you are thinking of traveling down on the day I’d highly recommend looking into staying the night as it really helped to calm my nerves as I knew the office was only a short walk away.

The day was very similar to last time but as usual they change little things each time. This year there were three dates instead of two, and less groups. I’m not sure how many people they interviewed or if there were less people at this stage than last year, but at a guess I’d say there were 150 applicants. This time around we were interviewed as a group and then individually. Usually at the this stage, it is only a group interview. I think this way is a much nicer way because sometimes in a group you don’t always get that time to ask questions, say what you need to. And if there’s something specific you’d like to say and forget you do get that second chance.

The Interview

The day started with the same videos they showed us last time, and even though I’ve watched these several times on youtube too, I never get tired of seeing them. Anna and Luke were awesome, they really lifted the mood throughout the whole thing. We were all given a name tag sticker, which had our group name on and the time in which we’d be interviewing and also our individual interview times.

Prior to the interview, they ask you to bring with you something that represents your hometown. I really overthought this last year. So this year I decided to go simple and just print out photos of things that I could talk about. A lot of people take this approach. It doesn’t have to be the world’s most interesting object as long as you can talk about a place and be passionate about it. Teach people something that they didn’t know before.

My interview time (if I remember correctly) was about 11:30. I was team Bruce! It was really nice to hang out and get to know people in my group.

The group interview was really chilled, and as a group I think we really clicked and bounced off each other which was a nice feeling. Some ice breakers were to chat to the person sitting next to you and find out 3 things about them. They were: Your name and where you’re from, your favourite Disney memory, and an interesting fact about you. They also gave us a few fun activities to do as a team. We had to create a British themed party event. We came up with a game called “Bru Pong” in which you take the game of beer pong and replace it with mini scotch eggs and Irn Bru. Sounds pretty disgusting eh? And lastly another activity involving a bamboo stick. I’ll leave you curious with that one.

Then, more waiting. Our group left the office and joined the other groups over at Starbucks and filled the time by playing heads up – Disney version.

I ended up being able to get an earlier interview which was nice as I had work early the next day. In the one on one interview they ask you the general questions like availability and why you want to do the program, your experience etc. They end it with asking what Disney character you are most like. This isn’t a guaranteed question, I’ve prepared for this in the past and it never came up until now. So have your answer ready just in case!

After my interview I said my goodbyes to everyone and wished them luck, gave them some info on the questions I got asked and went on my merry way. I didn’t feel overly confident at this point. I thought my individual interview let me down but I’d done all that I could do.

Then, the waiting began. Again.

 

10 must-see places along California’s Pacific coast highway

10 must see places along California’s Pacific Coast Highway

The Golden State, known for it’s sandy beaches in the south and its sequoia’s in the north. California has a vast variety of sights along its golden coast. Here are my top 10 places to see along California’s pacific coast highway/Highway 1.

1) San Francisco

Spend a few days in this hilly city with it’s famous Golden Gate Bridge, take a cable car ride and see the resident sea lions at Pier 39

2) Monterey Bay Aquarium

This iconic Aquarium located on the site of an old sardine cannery on Cannery Row,  houses more than 600 species. Some of the more popular exhibits include, Sea Otter feeding, several Jellyfish species and Seahorses.

3) Bixby Bridge

Located on the coast of Big Sur, Bixby Bridge is one of the most photographed bridges in California. Spend a few moments enjoying this magnificent view.

4) Pfeiffer Beach

This hidden gem is located within Julia Pfeiffer Burns State park. Somewhat difficult to find without a map or GPS as there are no road signs. There is a car park however camper vans are not permitted. The road down is a little long, I ended up walking it but the end result was so worth it. Don’t forget to look down and check out the purple sand!

5) McWay Falls

One of my biggest bucket list ticks, McWay Falls is just south of Pfeiffer beach and every bit as beautiful. This beach is home to rare fauna and flora and therefore no foot route is available, hence preserving it’s natural beauty.

 

6) San Simeon – Hearst Castle/Elephant Seal Lookout

San Simeon itself is very flat with very little around, but it does have it’s own charm. Tucked away in the mountains is Hearst Castle, built by William Randolph Hearst and now a National Historic Landmark. Hearst would entertain the rich and famous here including Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo and Winston Churchill. Keep an eye out for the zebras!

Just North of the Hearst Ranch is Elephant Seal lookout. If you’ve ever wanted to witness wild Elephant seals this would be the place to do it. The entirety of this beach is occupied by the seals and if you listen closely you can even spot who’s having the fight!

 

7) Pismo Beach – Butterfly Grove

“clam capital of the world” Pismo Beach is home to some stunning beaches and wildlife. If visiting from October through to February check out the Monarch butterfly grove, which is home to Monarch butterflies seeking shelter from the northern winters.

 

8) Malibu – Malibu Pier/Paradise Cove

One of the most famous sections of the Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu is home to not only some of the biggest celebrities but the most famous beaches too. Two of my favourite spots in Malibu are the pier, where you can get amazing views of the coastline. The other, Paradise Cove Beach. Paradise Cove Cafe is a little spot north of the pier, and a great place to grab breakfast or lunch while relaxing in the California sunshine.

9) Santa Monica

Santa Monica has a lot to offer, whether it be shopping, beaches or restaurants. Check out the famous Santa Monica pier and take a ride on the big wheel or stand where the Route 66 officially ends. The pier offers several dining options with a view, for more dining choices check out the 3rd Street Promenade.

10) San Diego

With so much to explore in San Diego you’ll need to spend your time wisely. I was here for 3 days and only scratched the surface of what this beautiful city offers. In my three days here I experienced some things that even money can’t buy. My favourite? Watching the most incredible sunset I think I’ve ever witnessed!

This amazing sunset made for a great backdrop for the tall ships along San Diego’s harbour. These tall ships and the soviet submarine make up the Maritime Museum of San Diego, the biggest collection of historic sea vessels within the United States.

Chilling in a Soviet Submarine

Further up along the Harbour is the Iconic “Unconditional Surrender” statue, based on the famous photo taken of a sailor and nurse after the surrender of Japan during the Pacific War.

What are your favourite places to visit along the California coast?

Hopping across the border: Two days in Seattle

I finally made it to Seattle!

After putting it on my 2017 goals, I managed to make a quick trip across the border to the rainy state of Washington. I made it to Seattle!

I spent my two days off road tripping down to Washington State with four friends. With only two days to play with we made a simple itinerary, ticking off Seattle’s most popular tourist spots. We hired a car and left early morning, the drive down was actually quite relaxing, with some awesome views along the way.

There is only one place in Whistler to hire a car from – Avis at the Cascade Lodge. We arrived before they opened and were the first to get our car. Yay!

Before leaving to get the car, I nearly forgot my passport – oops! I did however, forget my IEC visa, which was fine but you really should staple or always keep it in your passport (which I have since done) because you will need it to re-enter the country.

Once we were on the road we stopped in Squamish for a coffee at Tim’s, I also got a donut and bagel. Me eating became the theme of this trip.

It didn’t take us long to reach the border, the longest part of our journey was trying to get through Vancouver. Once we reached the border, we were asked for passports and then had to park up and go get our visas from inside the building. This took a while, but it was a relatively smooth process and costed $4 each.

Border crossing selfie

We were then back on the road. Washington is beautiful, lots of mountains and trees on the way over. I could tell we were getting close when the first radio station we put on had Nirvana playing. One of my favourite songs too. The drive in total took us 6 hours and we arrived just after 3pm.

Checked into the Travelodge by the Space Needle on 6th Avenue. This was a very basic hotel but fine for one night and a very comfy bed!

Once at the hotel we dropped off our bags and went exploring! Downtown is approximately 15 minutes walk from where we stayed. And it was a nice walk too. Lots off cool little coffee shops and cafes along the way.

Naturally our first stop was the Public Market at Pike Place. I was pretty stoked to see this. It quickly became my favourite part of Seattle. Why? Because there was food vendor after food vendor!

Pike Place Market

This little piggy went to Pike Place market

The Original

I got in some touristy snaps of the world’s first Starbucks, as an avid Starbucks lover and basic white girl this was pretty cool to see.

Then it hit me. The smell of cinnamon and everything yummy. I stood there sniffing and asking where it was coming from. This was the start of my downfall. I spotted it, a piroshsky shop. The only time I have ever heard of a piroshsky shop was in Orange is the new black when Red mentions she owns one. I was amazed, everything looked SO good! I ended up choosing a cinnamon twist and a raspberry and white chocolate piroshsky.

What is a Piroshsky you ask? It’s a Russian pastry/bun that’s filled with either sweet of savoury fillings. I was in here for a while. Everything looked SO good. The place I went to was called “Piroshsky Piroshsky” and since googling, I’ve found they’re very famous, and now deliver. Oh, to live in Seattle!

Piroshky Piroshky. Cinnamon goodness

Along this little stretch of shops we popped our heads in and out trying free samples. Cheese, olive oil, jams, truffle oils, pesto, greek yoghurt. This place has everything.

After my piroshsky binge, I then purchased a raspberry and white chocolate individual cheese cake. This was just amazing. I did save this for my pre-bedtime snack though, just as a disclaimer!

Mmmm cheesecake!

We finished up at the market and headed to the gum wall to make our mark. I have no idea who came up with this idea, and it’s a little bit gross but I kinda love it.

Here’s a snippet from Wikipedia to give you an idea of it’s origins “The wall is by the box office for the Market Theater, and the tradition began around 1993 when patrons of Unexpected Productions’ Seattle Theatresports stuck gum to the wall and placed coins in the gum blobs. Theater workers scraped the gum away twice, but eventually gave up after market officials deemed the gum wall a tourist attraction around 1999. Some people created small works of art out of gum.”

Making my mark in Seattle

It was around 5:30/6pm now so we decided to go get some drinks as most places had happy hour until 7pm. We discussed going to the Hard Rock Cafe when a local woman overheard and suggested we go to a locals place by the post alley called The Alibi Room. We tried, it was packed, and a 30 minute wait. So back to HRC we went. Keen to get a drink, but alas, it wasn’t to be. In Washington state it’s the law that you have to have a passport as I.D. We did end up going back to the Alibi Room, this time with passports in tow. I ordered their Irish coffee. But it was probably one of the worst things I’ve tasted. I’ll stick to beer next time.

Dinner tonight was at the crab pot along the waterfront. This was an incredible experience. Especially if you like seafood like me. They place a long piece of paper along your table, then throw down a mix of crab legs, mussels, clams, shrimp, corn & potatoes. You’re given a wooden block, a fork and wooden hammer. Then your free to bash away. This was such a fun experience. I loved wearing the bib, it was great. The food itself was really fresh and the crab just tasted so good.

Before

And after!

We ended the nights with drinks and a slow walk back to the hotel via a hotdog van.

Seattle at night

Day Two

Day 2 consisted of making our way straight to the Space Needle. About a 5 minute walk from our hotel, we managed to get an entry time of 10:30 – 11am. The views from u here were really nice, despite the wind and rain. You get a 360 view of the whole city, right out into the pacific.

Space Needle admission prices are $22 for general adult admission.

Right next to the Space Needle is the museum of pop culture, which actually looked really cool. We only browsed the outside and lobby. This museum isn’t free and we didn’t have time to do this but if I were to return to Seattle, this is something I’d love to see for sure.

Next up, was the monorail. I was having a bit of a Disney moment at this point. The Space Needle and monorail just reminded me of Disneyland so much! As well as Epcot, a lot of Disney attractions were designed in the 60s during the space age. the monorail was around $2 for one way and was pretty cool ride. We were like big kids sitting at the front so we could “drive”

Monoraaaaaiiiil…

We departed the monorail and my first stop had to be H&M. For an emergency pair of jeans. The night before, my jeans had ripped open and every time I sat down it kept getting bigger and bigger. I had to walk around the whole day with my jeans ripped on the butt cheek, luckily I was wearing a relatively long coat!

Too much good stuff

On the way to H&M we passed a square with several food trucks and having seen what everyone else was eating we just had to try something. Two of the girls got fish and chips – and this looked like GOOD fish and chips. I opted for the middle eastern food truck and went with a chicken gyro. And it was good. SO good. The food trucks were very popular with the locals too. I’m assuming this happens every Friday, but I’ve not been able to find any information online. So if you’re in Seattle on a Friday, check out this place.

Once in H&M I found my emergency pair of jeans, popped into some other stores. Forever 21, hell yes! Refused to buy anything because my Canadian dollars wouldn’t stretch (Just like my jeans) and we made our way back down to Pike Place market.

Pike Place at night

Here’s where I bought… More food! I couldn’t leave Seattle without trying the Baklava. It was my treat for on the way home. Well, one of them anyway. My roomate bought some fancy olive oil that she’ll probably never use. We stopped and got some last minute souvenirs – starbucks city mugs anyone? Then started the 5/6 hour journey back home to Whistler. On the way to the Canadian/US boarder we stopped at an outlet mall. It was glorious. I wish there was something similar near Vancouver. I only bought a few things, that will save me money in the long term (isn;t that what every girl says?) On the way back it rained. And rained. But it was kind of nice. We arrived back in Whistler at a very early 11pm.

I really enjoyed my short time in Seattle, and would love to explore Washington state a bit more in the future. Thats state number 7 ticked off the bucket list!

I have news! And a new job!

I have news!

So January isn’t even over yet and 2017 has already topped 2016!

I have some awesome news to share, I got a new job! Well, two new jobs actually…

And I’m moving to Florida!!

Last week I received an email that I skimmed through from all the excitement, telling me I have been given a place on Disney’s Cultural Representative Program. Before reading the whole email, I was opening and reading the offer letter, and I skimmed over this and clicked yes. YES. YES. And again YES.

My start date is July 10th, which is a bit later than I’d requested but this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’ve been working my ass off to get there. My plan is to stay in Canada up until I leave to go to Florida and hopefully, get my visa at the U.S consulate in Vancouver.

As for the second job, I just got hired by the Four Seasons Whistler, one of the best hotels here. It’s only a part time job doing their turn down service that I can do evenings after my job at Whistler Blackcomb. I’m pretty stoked about it though, it’s more per hour and I’m going to need all the money I can get.

Travel Plans

As for my trip to New York, I’ve had to cancel this which sucks. My Disney start date overlaps with my dates for New York. But also when I apply for my visa, I’ll have to surrender my passport, and there’s no guaranteed time that it’ll be back by, so I don’t want to risk it.

Instead, I have decided that I’m going to tour some of Canada instead. I may as well make the most of my time here while I can. My plans are to visit Banff/Lake Louise/Jasper and then onto Toronto, Niagara Falls, Montreal and Quebec. I’m hoping to do this within about 2 to 3 weeks. I was considering a tour through Trek America, and I may still do this as I think it’s a great way to meet new people. I have a friend who has expressed interest in coming with me, so we shall see.

My plans for Seattle are also on hold right now, as soon as we decided we’d go to Seattle about 4 people quit where I work, so now we’re understaffed and are unlikely to all get the day off anytime soon.