Category Archives: 2014

Wrapping up my travels of 2014

As I plan for my next adventure, it is probably good to reflect on my 2014 trips. It was the first time in a long while that I traveled with anyone and this time both of my trips were with someone.

The first was a cruise around the British Isles with my mother — and her first time to Europe. I  wanted everything to be perfect and I  think we both will agree that it was an amazing trip. While we saw some incredible  sights, the best part was traveling with her.

Flowers for mother's day for my mom
Flowers for mother’s day for my mom
My mom at the lifeboat drill with her lifejacket
My mom at the lifeboat drill with her life jacket
Baby ducks we chased near Buckingham Palace
Baby ducks we chased near Buckingham Palace

The next trip was completely  planned  for me by my friend  Marshall. I pretty much left it all to him and it was amazing. I love Canada more and more and the Maritimes are beautiful beyond belief. I still haven’t seen any whales, but I saw a sunset on the beach with a fox, a circle of seals and even got photo-bombed by a seal! The food, music and people were wonderful. Now, I  really need to see more of this great country.

Marshall in Halifax wearing a lobster hat
Marshall in Halifax wearing a lobster hat
Red fox at sunset in PEI
Red fox at sunset in PEI
Seal photo-bombing my sea shot!
Seal photo-bombing my sea shot!
Eagle at Bras d'Or
Eagle at Bras d’Or
Cabot Trail
Cabot Trail

I also took part in the A to Z blog challenge. So,  while I am planning for my next great adventure, I’m also mapping out my stories that will start up for the month of April. Of course it will be about travel, but the overall theme will have to wait a few more weeks. Why?  Well, I’m  deep into finalizing my plans to go to Cuba!

Of course, unlike most of my friends who head to an all-inclusive beach resort, I have to be different. My first couple of days, I will be on my own in Havana. Then, I’m going on the Cuba Cruise which sails around the island with stops at Holguin, Santiago de Cuba, Montego Bay (Jamaica), Cienfeugos, Punto Francis on the Isle of Youth, the back to Havana. Since I have a lot of freedom to see different things, it means that I’m doing a lot of planning.

So, look for more posts on my planning  and experiences in Cuba and in April get ready for this year’s A to Z  challenge.

A to Z Challenge: X, Y, Z

A to Z Challenge: X, Y, Z

XX = ?

I tried to come up with an appropriate X word, and nothing seemed right. I feel I failed, even though I made it this far in my challenge. The only idea that really got my attention was more along the lines of “X marks the spot” and “Xrossing the sea” – but I already did a post on crossing the Atlantic and the Equator in a ship.

So much for X.

YY = “Your own”, as in travelling on your own or “solo traveler”

While I usually say I started as a solo travel in 2009 with my first solo cruise, I really started out as a solo traveler in my early teens when my parents would put me on a train in Galveston and I would be met by my grandparents in Keokuk, Iowa. Not sure why we did not worry about me travelling like this for so long, but I did and I had some wonderful adventures on the train – usually with the conductors showing me around the train. I also did a few business trips and usually added a few days before or after to explore – on my own.  This got me to Paris, London and Munich.

While I do not think cruise ship lines should charge extra for solo travelers, if the list of ports is interesting, I will find a way. Cruising allows me to “test the waters” of different places and I learn which ones make me feel comfortable and which ones I’d like to see again. Since my first cruise, I’ve made other trips based on places I want to experience in more detail – Barcelona, Madrid, Buenos Aires, and Amsterdam to name a few.

Now, I have trouble even considering travelling with a companion. Doing it “on my own” gives me the flexibility I like. I can get up early and go to museums before they get busy – then take a nap in the afternoon before heading out to a local venue for a nice evening. I have taken one trip with a friend – and this year I have a plan to take 2 trips that are not solo (one with my mom and one with another friend).

We shall see how I do going it NOT on my own, but with someone else. I am, starting to plan for adventures in 2015 – and yes, these will be on your own!

ZZ = Zed, aka the end of the line

At least for this challenge, this is the end of the line for these posts. My next set of day-by-day travel blogs starts in less than 10 days!!!!! And yes, I am very excited to share this adventure with my mom, who has never traveled outside of North America.

T
he plan is we will meet at Heathrow Airport as long as our flights on pretty much on time. From the airport, we head to Southampton to board the Ruby Princess. The rest of the itinerary looks like this:

  • St. Peters Port, Guernsey
  • Cork, Ireland
  • Belfast, Northern Ireland
  • Dublin, Ireland
  • Glasgow, Scotland
  • Inverness, Scotland,
  • Orkney Islands
  • Edinburgh, Scotland
  • Le Harve, France
  • Southampton to London

So, don’t just dream it, travel!

Me with an espresso
Me with an espresso

A to Z Challenge: W = Weddings

W = Weddings, or more appropriately the weddings I’ve “crashed” while travelling

Wsince I usually find myself visiting churches and other picturesque places, t would make sense that I might encounter a wedding … or two. Here are some of the weddings I’ve seen in my travels.

Probably the most unique was when I went to the Montserrat Basilica, which is outside of Barcelona. I got there a little before it opened and noticed that, among the tourists, there was a group of people who were very well dressed for a Saturday morning. Imagine my surprise when they opened the doors and the tourists lines up on the right-side aisle to see the Black Madonna and the rest went to sit in the church proper top attend a wedding!

Montserrat, Catalonia
Montserrat, Catalonia: A beautiful spot for a wedding
Montserrat, Catalonia
Montserrat, Catalonia: Breathtaking views!
Basilica of Montserrat, Catalonia
Basilica of Montserrat, Catalonia
The wedding at Montserrat
The wedding at Montserrat
The wedding at Montserrat
The wedding at Montserrat
The line to see the Black Madonna at Montserrat
The line to see the Black Madonna at Montserrat
The Black Madonna at Montserrat
The Black Madonna at Montserrat

My other wedding pictures are from walking around a city and finding myself in the middle of the celebration.

Wedding in Amsterdam
Wedding in Amsterdam
Wedding in Amsterdam
Wedding in Amsterdam
Wedding in Amsterdam: The man in the blue sweater is in every photo!
Wedding in Amsterdam: The man in the blue sweater is in every photo!
Wedding in Amsterdam: The man in the blue sweater is in every photo!
Wedding in Amsterdam: The man in the blue sweater is in every photo!
Wedding in Amsterdam: The man in the blue sweater is in every photo!
Wedding in Amsterdam: The man in the blue sweater is in every photo!
And the party continues
And the party continues
Another beautiful church for a wedding in Helsinki
Another beautiful church for a wedding in Helsinki
Another beautiful church for a wedding in Helsinki
Wedding in Helsinki

One thing they all had in common, the bride wore white.

A to Z Challenge: V = Venice & cruising along the Grand Canal

V = Venice & cruising along the Grand Canal

VOf course V had to be for Venice and taking a cruise along the Grand Canal in one of the vaporettos. These are like buses, but they run along the canals. There are even regular bus stops with covered docks. And, like other city transit systems, they can get packed. But, if you can, try to sit in the front for a chance at getting interesting pictures as you sail along the canal.  Here are a few of my favs.

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

Here is is a post about Sailing into Venice

A to Z Challenge: U = Ushuaia

U = Ushuaia, Argentina

UI could write about how beautiful Ushuaia, Argentina is. Or, I could write about the wildlife or the beauty of Tierra del Fuego. But I already wrote about my experiences here.  So I am going to just share the pictures again and remember the time I was at the end of the world. I hope you enjoy my memories of Ushuaia as much as I enjoyed making them.

Ushuaia sign

Ushuaia
Final destination: downtown Ushuaia!
Islands of Birds
Islands of Birds
Sea Lions
Sea Lions
Sea Elephant
Sea Elephant
Sea Wolf Island
Sea Wolf Island
Sea birds taking off
Sea birds taking off
Lighthouse at the end of the world
Lighthouse at the end of the world
Tierra del Fuego
Coastline of Tierra del Fuego National Park
Tierra del Fuego National Park
I call this one Freedom — the clouds reminded me of a woman flying and made me feel very free!
Tierra del Fuego National Park
The shoreline of the Tierra del Fuego Park
Tierra del Fuego National Park
Lake in Tierra del Fuego National Park
Fin del Mondo
The post office at the end of the world where you can get a postmark from “Fin del Mundo”

 

A to Z Challenge: T = Tunisia

T = Tunisia

TBefore going to Tunisia, the only thing I’d ever really heard about Tunisia is that it is the site of Carthage, a place the Romans destroyed. So, I was excited to learn more and see not only one of the best collections of mosaics in the Bardo Museum, but other sites around Tunis.

I also heard that this is one of the best places to find jasmine-scented oil – my favourite scent!

 

I embarked on an excursion that would take me to Carthage, The Bardo Museum, the souk in Tunis, and Sidi Bou Said, famous for its white buildings and blue roofs. It was a long day, but I was not sure when I would be back here.

Of course, all that is left of Carthage are ruins, but I enjoyed seeing it – and it has great views of the sea.

 

Carthage
Carthage
Carthage
Carthage
Carthage
Carthage
Roman aquaducts
Roman aquaducts
Carthage
View of Atlas Mountains

The souk is a crazy labyrinth of streets and alleyways. I was glad I was with a guide, because it would be easy to get lost. Of course, we visited a rug merchant and a perfumery where I got my jasmine oil.

Door in Tunis
Door in Tunis
Covered souk at closing time
Covered souk at closing time
Rooftop view of mosque in Tunis
Rooftop view of mosque in Tunis
Me on a rooftop overlooking the souk in Tunis
Me on a rooftop overlooking the souk in Tunis

 

The Bardo Museum is fabulous and well worth a visit. I loved the mosaics and the architecture of the building. There were also some very large statues of Greek and/or Roman Gods.

Mosaic in Bardo Museum
Mosaic in Bardo Museum
Mosaic in Bardo Museum
Mosaic in Bardo Museum
Mosaic in Bardo Museum
Mosaic in Bardo Museum
Mosaic in Bardo Museum
Mosaic in Bardo Museum
Head of Zeus statue in the Bardo Museum
Head of Zeus statue in the Bardo Museum

Our last top was at  Sidi Bou Said. The town is very beautiful with the white and blue motif. We stopped at a jewelry shop where I found a really nice lapis necklace. Bartering is not my strongest skill, however I ended up with two necklaces, a dolphin statue and a hand of Fatima charm. The owners of the shop pointed me to a little tea house across the road that had a private garden and a view of the town.

 Sidi Bou Said
Sidi Bou Said
 Sidi Bou Said
Sidi Bou Said
 Sidi Bou Said
Sidi Bou Said
Sunset
Sunset

 

A to Z Challenge: S = Spain

S = Spain

SSpain has to be one of my favourite places in the world to visit.  I see, to love everything about it – the food, the music, the architecture, the people.  There is just so much to do and see and so much diversity. So much, in fact, that I am already planning for my next visit; which, unfortunately will not be until 2015. But I leave a piece of me heart there each time I go.  Here are some of my highlights of four places: Malaga, Madrid, Toledo and, of course, Barcelona.

 

In Malaga, I spent a lot of time wandering through the fortress that overlooks the city and port, visiting the cathedral and wandering through the park that runs along the port.

 

Malaga

 

Malaga

Malaga

Malaga

Malaga

Malaga

Malaga

Malaga

Malaga

Malaga

Malaga

Malaga

Madrid is filled with people and music. I there were two impromptu drumming performances that I stumbled upon while wandering through the city. I was also there the night FC Barcelona was playing for the Euro Cup final – and I got the watch the game with a group of people sitting in the kitchen of a restaurant (before I headed back to Barcelona to celebrate the win in the streets!). I also spent a lovely Sunday in Retiro Park and meet more musicians. I do love Latin music!

Madrid

Dancing to drumming in Madrid
Dancing to drumming in Madrid
Dancing to drumming in Madrid
Drummers in Madrid
Row boats in Retiro Park, Madrid
Row boats in Retiro Park, Madrid
Mariachi Band in Retiro Park, Madrid
Mariachi Band in Retiro Park, Madrid

 

Puppeteer in Retiro Park, Madrid
Puppeteer in Retiro Park, Madrid
Arabic drummers in Madrid
Arabic drummers in Madrid

 

Toledo is another walled city with a magnificent cathedral, marzipan and winding streets.

Toledo

Toledo

And then, of course, there is walking down Las Ramblas in in Barcelona.

Catalan musicians
Catalan musicians

Las Ramblas

Las Ramblas

Las Ramblas

Las Ramblas

Las Ramblas

Las Ramblas

Las Ramblas

Man with pet rabbit on Las Ramblas
Man with pet rabbit on Las Ramblas

For me, Spain is filled with life – and life cannot get better than this!

Here are more links about my adventures in Spain: