A LOOK BACK AT MADAGASCAR – PART 1: PARIS


Mass at Notre Dame de Paris © Emily Koopman

Madagascar is one of those places you only read about. In fact, when I told people I was going there, the most common response was, “Oh, like the Disney movie?” It’s not a Disney movie, but yeah. In North America, nobody really knows much about it, which I think is one of the reasons I was so drawn to it. With everyone I knew going to Europe or Asia, I almost felt as if I had been to many of those places already, and honestly knew I could likely never afford to go to a place like Madagascar on my own dime.

When I graduated from film school, my grandma told me she wanted to take me on a vacation. She said I could pick anywhere in the world. Now as you’re probably aware, my bucket list is not a short one. There’s Jordan, Romania, Latvia, Botswana, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Nicaragua… I could go on for hours about all of the different places I hope to experience in my lifetime. Madagascar is somewhere that took me by surprise. I grew up obsessed with the PBS show, “Zoboomafoo”, and I was determined to visit Animal Junction one day in hopes of hanging out with the rambunctious namesake. Of course, back then, even with big dreams, I never thought I’d actually travel to the exact opposite side of the globe and see hundreds of Zoboomafoos jumping from tree to tree in the humid rainforests of Madagascar.

After finally deciding where I wanted to go and discussing it further with my grandmother, we booked the trip around January 2017, and were scheduled to depart in mid-May of that year. I hiked and worked hard to ensure maximum endurance on excursions because I didn’t plan on missing a second.

On May 16th, after a sleepless 9-hour plane ride from Vancouver, we arrived in Paris to a somewhat rude awakening. I contacted our shuttle at the (rude) information centre at Charles de Gaulle, where we proceeded to wait… and wait… and wait. What was supposed to be a 40 minute hang fire due to traffic (hey, it’s Paris), turned into nearly 2 hours. I went back to the (now a different worker, quite polite) info centre and called the shuttle company again. They apologized profusely and said they were having computer troubles. We were assured our ride would be there to pick us up within 10 minutes. We had run into a couple from Nebraska who had also been waiting a long time, so I asked for them too.

When we finally arrived at our hotel, we were greeted by an incredibly friendly and helpful young man (who after the response to my TripAdvisor review, I now know was actually the manager).

We got settled in our room, though neither of us had slept in over 24 hours, we eventually made our way to the Eiffel Tower (which we could see from our room) and hopped on the Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus to take us to the boarding area for our Seine River cruise. That day was also the day I faced the strange and bewildering truth that the Eiffel Tower is NOT silver, but rather a rusty bronze. Witchcraft.

Anyway, on our bus ride to the cruise, I sat up top and enjoyed many of the iconic Paris sights, including the Louvre, the Palais-Royal, the Opera, and Hôtel des Invalides, among others. We disembarked at Notre Dame and boarded the cruise (which departed just across the river). By the end of it all, we were exhausted and somehow easily convinced to jump in the back of a bicycle cart being peddled by a Romanian fellow (unfortunately not the Sweet Romanian Prince I’m looking for, though friendly, he was no Sebastian Stan) who took us to the intersection nearest our hotel. We walked down the street a little ways and found a small hole-in-the-wall bar/restaurant called Les Prolongations, where I had a very messy and very rare burger with an egg on it. That’s a thing apparently. It was better than expected (albeit I had asked for the patty well done). After that, we headed back to our tragically AC-less hotel room, where we both slept sans couvertures and the window wide open. Thankfully, though exhausted, neither of us were jetlagged thanks to a magic pill from the naturopath.

Luckily, we had some time before our flight the next day. We decided to get back on the bus and do some more exploring (not before the world’s most expensive breakfast at the hotel).

First, we explored Notre Dame, which has free entry, but I thought (at the small museum inside, which cost 5 euros) I would be able to go upstairs and see the gargoyles close up. It turned out just to be a bunch of religious artifacts, which didn’t mean much to me. Pays to ask, I guess.

After that, we got on the Orange Line which took us to les Catacombes. I went into a flower shop and asked the girl working there which direction the entrance was in; she pointed to a massive lion statue and said, “derrière le chaton”, which translates to “behind the kitten”. Nice.

We did les Catacombes in such a rush that it didn’t 100% sink in that I was surrounded by millions of decomposed bodies underneath a bustling city. The lady working there wanted exact change which was very annoying and she was pretty rude about it.

We were too sweaty and tired to walk to the bus stop, ride for an hour, and then walk back to the hotel, so we took a cab.

I showered for the second time and we headed to the Orly Airport to catch our flight to la Réunion.

By Emily, on October 5th, 2017, under Travel // Comments Off on A LOOK BACK AT MADAGASCAR – PART 1: PARIS


MY TRAVEL BUCKET LIST: The Top 5

When I started writing down my bucket list, I realized that it primarily consisted of places I wanted to experience. That’s right, experience. There are so many things I want to do, and almost no country that I don’t want to visit. Here is a list of things I’m insistent that I must do before my day comes.

Jordan, The Middle East: Over the past, maybe 4 or 5 years, I’ve become increasingly interested in everything about The Middle East; but the country that has excited me most is Jordan. I’m the first person to admit that Indiana Jones is one of my favourite franchises, so it shouldn’t be at all surprising that I dream of following in Dr. Jones’ footsteps. The ancient city of Petra is considered one of the “New7Wonders of the World” (def: a campaign started in 2000 to choose Wonders of the World from a selection of 200 existing monuments), and, in my opinion, it’s one of the most fascinating. To visit would be an absolute dream, but there’s something else that might top even that: a hot air balloon ride to watch the sun rise over Wadi Rum. Wadi Rum is another UNESCO World Heritage Site in Jordan that made my bucket list. That said, as far as this list goes, a hot air balloon ride and a stay at a Bedouin Camp are just the tip of the iceberg.

Romania, Europe: Traveling to what is sometimes called, “The Land Beyond the Forest”, isn’t something on everyone’s bucket list, in fact, the question I get most when I tell people that it’s high on mine is generally, “Why?” I guess the simplest answer is that I love the horror genre, and Romania is home to the historic region of Transylvania, whose villages with fortified churches are 1 out of 7 of the country’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Spending Hallowe’en traveling through the small medieval towns and exploring Bran Castle (rumored to be the inspiration for Dracula’s place of residence) is definitely something I must to do. In fact, my friend Kenzie and I are hoping to make the trip in October 2018.

Botswana, Africa: I’ve thought long and hard about the place I most want to travel in Africa (quite honestly, I’d love to visit them all), and though throughout this series you’ll find plenty more of them, Botswana has taken its place in my Top 5. You’ll mostly find that it’s due to the abundance of wildlife, and the 3 different types of safaris you can enjoy in the area. I recently read an article on Lonely Planet which I believe says it best as, “the enchanting Okavango Delta, the rich habitats of the Chobe River valley and the blistering sands of the Kalahari Desert”, each one unique with its game. I’d love to stay at an eco/wildlife lodge at some point.

The Amazon, South America: As previously mentioned, one of my favourite things to do is see the diversity of wildlife the world has to offer, and an Amazon cruise is an incredible way to make the most of it. I don’t have a preference which section of the river I visit, but I have read that in Peru I could check off seeing both sloths AND manatees in close proximity. Thankfully, I think you can find those funny looking pink dolphins everywhere. Ideally, I’d love to travel the entire length, but I doubt I’ll ever make enough bank for that. I also thought it would be fun to volunteer in the jungle; helping with reforestation and animal inventories, but then I remembered that spiders the size of small puppies live there, and decided I would feel much safer sleeping on the boat and only making daily excursions into the rainforest. Spider-sized puppies? Adorable. Where can I get one? Puppy-sized spiders? Fine as long as I don’t have to look at them or be within eyeshot to see it eat a gecko. The idea of camping out in the jungle is exciting to me, but I’m not sure I would get any sleep. Percy Fawcett I will never be. Last but not least, I think it would be enlightening to visit local indigenous families, as well as experience shamanism firsthand.

Latvia, Europe: Again, not a place on everyone’s gap year travel agenda. The interest stems from an essay I wrote in 6th grade. We had to choose a place and write about what the holidays were like in said country. I’ve always liked to do things differently, so while my classmates chose places like France, Italy, or Spain, I decided on Latvia. Essentially, I think it was because I looked a map of Europe and it was the only country I’d never heard of that I could actually pronounce properly. Who knows! Either way, ever since researching and writing that essay (in French), I’ve always wanted to spend Christmas there. They have a massive evergreen decorated in Riga’s town square, which is (allegedly) where the world’s first Christmas tree originated. The food doesn’t appeal to me too much (neither does that in Romania), but I know they make gingerbread and I could live off of that for a couple of weeks!

So there ya have it. It took me a while to decide how to categorize this series, but I think I’ve finally got a handle on it. Expect a post like this every week for the next month or so. (If I have time! I’ve been working on a ton of different projects, plus I currently have my summer day job.)

By Emily, on September 1st, 2017, under Personal, Travel // Comments Off on MY TRAVEL BUCKET LIST: The Top 5


TRAVEL: Madagascar Packing List, Expenses + MORE!

Hello my loves!

As many of you know, I’m heading to Madagascar next month and I’ve admittedly already started packing! I wanted to share a little bit about my trip plans with you. By trial and error, I’ll let you know how things go. I plan to make a post with advice when I get home to (hopefully!) make your trip a tad easier. I’ll also update if I should have/should not have packed a certain item, etc.

May – early November is Madagascar’s dry season which means temperatures will be considerably lower (thank goodness). So I’ve packed accordingly.

PACKING LIST

♢ 4 (100% cotton) t-shirts
♢ 1 long sleeved shirt
♢ 1 pair of flowy elastic cuffed pants
♢ 1 pair of exercise leggings
♢ 1 pair of shorts
♢ 1 long skirt
♢ Bathing suit
♢ Mac in a Sac rain jacket
♢ Sun hat
♢ Hiking shoes
♢ Waterproof shoes
♢ Single pair of earrings

*Will be wearing sweatpants and sweater on all flights because they are the bulkiest items and I am not at all a glamorous flyer.

Read More »

By Emily, on April 28th, 2017, under Travel // Comments Off on TRAVEL: Madagascar Packing List, Expenses + MORE!


FLASHBACK FRIDAY: J.M. Barrie’s Birthplace, Scotland, 2001


My friend Eilidh and some orphan waif in the room where ‘Peter Pan’ author J.M. Barrie was born

Shortly after I turned 6, some family friends of ours took my mom and I with them to Scotland. This was my first major trip out of North America. We hit all the hot spots, stayed overnight in haunted castles (Eilidh and I were the original Sam and Dean, y’know), and even made a pit stop outside Aleister Crowley’s former Loch Ness home. One of my favourite memories (from what I can remember of it anyway) was spending some time at J.M. Barrie’s birthplace in Kirriemuir. Barrie is the author of Peter Pan, one of my favourite books, and all-time favourite Disney film. I made my mom dig out her journal (my writing wasn’t exactly legible back then), about the day we spent there. I’m probably going to do these “Flashback Fridays” every so often. Since I’m currently reminiscing of last year’s month long trip to Los Angeles and Disneyland, I figured why not start it off with this pre-Disney experience.

Sunday, April 29th 2001

Once everyone was up, we got into Kathleen’s car and drove exactly one hour to Glamis Castle. It was great – tour only through the public portion of the castle, and then a wander through the shops and gardens – in between drenching showers… Had an expensive soup and sandwich in the old kitchen and after about 3½ hours we left Kirriemuir. Spent about half an hour going through J.M. Barrie’s birthplace, a tiny weaver’s cottage that he was brought up in with 8 brothers and sisters. The washhouse in the back was his model for the “Wendy House”; his dog “Porthos” was “Nana” and his brother that died at 13 was “the boy who never grew up”.

We took the scenic route back to Cults – through heather covered hills, over rushing burns (and the River Esk), and around shadowy glens. Got back about 5:30pm and I gave Emily a bowl of cereal and some fruit and put her to put. Good thing – rest of us didn’t eat until after 8:00.

By Emily, on March 17th, 2017, under Flashback Friday, Personal, Travel // Comments Off on FLASHBACK FRIDAY: J.M. Barrie’s Birthplace, Scotland, 2001


California Dreamin’ and stuff


Promotional still from my new NBC show “Friends”, 2013

It’s been a long time coming, but I’m finally heading to California for a month to look at different opportunities there… and have a little bit of fun. I’ll be in the Los Angeles and Anaheim area from March 9th – 30th, and I’m pretty damn excited about it. There is literally no happier place than Disneyland, and gosh darn it, I will spending 12 days there. Then I’m off to Hollywood for the rest of the trip. My friend Blake may be joining me on this adventure, which will make it 110x better.

In other news, I had the pleasure of meeting one of my favourite singers, Mr. Scott Helman a couple of nights ago. He was just as charming as I gathered he was from our interview last December. He’s not only a genuinely nice dude, but he’s a tried-and-true talent. I really hope I get to work with him someday.

ALSO: I am officially verified on Facebook which is incredibly cool. Now I just have to do something worthwhile of being verified. I guess they liked my website. My page has approximately 0 likes, so you can go like it if you want! I’ll like you a lot if you do it. Here’s the link.

Anyway, hope all is well with everyone, and I probably have some new interviews coming up — so stay tuned!

xoxo

By Emily, on November 9th, 2015, under Blog, Personal, Scott Helman, Travel // Comments Off on California Dreamin’ and stuff