Where Have I Been?

Galway Bay, Ireland

Galway Bay, Republic of Ireland

It occurs to me that, while I have posted twice before about travel wish lists (here and here , both fairly similar posts, I’m afraid),  I haven’t really made a post listing all the various places I have visited. I’ve probably posted photos from every country I’ve touched down on, or a good many of them at least but a full list, for my own records as much as anything (and probably more detail than you’re interested in), includes:

Countries:

  • Canada (where I live): I have visited the provinces of British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, where I live. We’re going to BC again this fall, my husband’s first trip there, and hope to see a bit more of Vancouver Island and maybe outside of the Vancouver area if we have time.  My husband hasn’t been to Ottawa so we really should go there so he can see the capital of his adopted country.
  • United States. We’ve both visited (me alone and us together) the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, New Jersey (that one’s just mine), Massachussetts. New Hampshire and Vermont were drive-thrus and New Jersey was for a training course so I didn’t see much of it aside from the hotel and training facility, and a little of the countryside on a bus between Parsippany, Newark to Manhattan.
  • United Kingdom including Wales and Scotland but not yet Northern Ireland. Obviously, I’ve spent a lot of time visiting England to see my fella before we were married but I’d already had a handful of visits there before I even met him, including a couple of bus tours.
  • Ireland (a bus tour, Dublin as part of the tour and also just to see friends, twice to see friends in Cobh including a wedding)
  • France (Paris, twice for me, once for him, and I was also in Nice with day trips both east a little ways and west into Monaco which were part of a high school trip)
  • The Netherlands (We took in Amsterdam and the open air museum in Arnhem)
  • Belgium (Brussels, Bruges)
  • Denmark (Copenhagen)
  • Italy (I’ve been on a bus tour around the country including San Marino, a short visit to Rome as part of my high school trip to Rome, Paris and the south of France and we visited Rome a few years ago)
  • Vatican City (Part of the high school tour,  bus tour of Italy and the two of us together)
  • San Marino (a tiny principality in Italy, we stayed here overnight on the bus tour)
  • Monaco (as a day trip from Nice on the high school tour)
  • Iceland (that was just in the airport, changing flights en route to London)
St Peters and Via Concilliazone

St. Peter’s, Vatican City

In the grand scheme of things, my list of countries I’ve visited isn’t that long compared to how many there are but I have made a lot of repeat visits to the United Kingdom.

 

I won’t go into the wish lists again, you can read through those links above if you have a burning desire to know. I won’t be insulted if you don’t!

I’ll never be able to afford to travel as much as I want but I enjoy what I can do and try to go some different places even if I’ve been to a location before, maybe just a museum new to me or a different day trip outside of a city.  I’ve been to London over a dozen times and *still* haven’t seen quite a lot of the areas such as Notting Hill and much of the East End which has a few really interesting museums and loads of markets.

I’m determined to lengthen that “been there” list a little more before I shuffle off my mortal coil.

Oh: Edited to add: I meant to add this link. I’ve got my own website where I have travelogues written for most of the trips I’ve taken, long and short journeys, here at The Voice of Reason.

Wi-Fi in the Sky

I notice more and more airlines are allowing wi-fi service on board the flight. That’s pretty cool. You won’t be able to access it until the plane rises over about 10,000 feet or close to that, so you can’t go online on the way up or down but hey, on a long flight it’s especially handy.

I remember the old days when you couldn’t use anything electronic. Then you could, but only after the seat belt sign went off but you still had to have things like phones in “airplane” mode, that is, so it isn’t getting a signal. I don’t know if that’s still the case with these wi-fi enabled planes. If you are allowed to get a wi-fi signal, wouldn’t you be able to use your phone? (if you could get a phone signal, that is) Actually, I hope you still can’t use the phone. Haven’t you noticed that when people are on mobile phones, they speak a lot louder? Dozens of people in an enclosed space shouting on their phone would be utter cacaphony.

Anyway. Wi-fi. Don’t everyone jump up and down and cheer just yet. It’s available but it’s not free. Of course it’s not. I discovered this week that Air Canada Rouge (the no-frills category) is installing Wi-Fi on some of their jets starting this summer.You actually buy a pass from Gogo. A one hour pass is $7 which is next to useless, really. If you’re on a short flight, you’re barely up in the air and down again. The 24 hour pass is $19 which isn’t too bad but if there are two or more of you in your group and you all want to use it at the same time, that’s one per person. Add to the fact that, if you aren’t flying in Premium, you’ll have to buy any food you want (Canada, U.S. flights). Pricey.

Still, it’s available and it will be appealling, especially for long flights. Rouge does have an onboard entertainment system that they stream over smart devices via the Air Canada app. You can rent an iPad for $10 if you don’t have something that will pick up the streaming service. Premium passengers get the iPads for free. We don’t have a tablet but we have our phones. I don’t think there’s a laptop-compatible app (unless you have a Chromebook or possibly a Mac Air).

I don’t know how good their streaming service is, probably fairly decent, so there should be enough there to keep you occupied without a connection to the internet. Once the novelty of checking in to Facebook at 40,000 feet wears off, and email isn’t all that popular anymore, anyway, you’ll probably go back to streaming the movies anyway. I would imagine someone flying for business will take advantage and they can right off the expense.

Air Canada’s 777-300, Not as big as the double decker planes but pretty frigging big all the same

Air Canada has had wi-fi on their regular service flights already, with a different plan again for flight duration. They have a short, one hour pass and the next one they offer is for the duration of a one way flight. It doesn’t say if it includes connections. It’s $21, a bit more than Rouge’s 24 hour pass. Both Rouge and Air Canada offer a monthly pass for those of you up in the air often.

Air Canada’s nearest competitor, Westjet, also has a streaming service and on board wi-fi. They stream through the Westjet app, naturally, and their wi-fi prices seem cheaper than Air Canada’s. No surprise there, actually. Their passes are 30 minutes, 3 hours and flight duration for the longer journey. I think that’s quite sensible, actually though if you have a lot of transfers to get where you’re going, the price of Air Canada’s 24 hour service is better.

Again, I’m sure business travelers would find the wi-fi service handy but for me, I think I’d be just as happy with the in flight streaming service. The regular Air Canada flights mostly have the touch screens on the seat backs for the streaming service and I think they have or are upgrading that.

I’m not pushing people to pay for wi-fi passes, I’m only putting it out there that it’s available and what it’s going to cost you. I’m pretty sure most other major airlines have or will soon have similar services. It’s a bit of a cash cow. The no-frills airlines already make you pay for pretty much everything.

I was particularly interested to research this topic because our flight to Hawaii from Vancouver will be on Rouge and it’s a 5+ hour flight. I think I’ll more than likely stick to the streaming service. It’s a far cry from the days when there was one movie playing (maybe two if it was a really long flight) on overhead screens that you couldn’t always see depending on where you were sitting.

 

Wendy Perrin, Travel Guru

Wendy Perrin in Egypt copyright http://www.mccooltravel.com

I first became aware of Wendy Perrin though the Conde Nast Traveler magazine. Most of the magazines I read are travel-related and CNT had some very good regular contributors. Wendy Perry wrote a fantastic column focused on practical matters to do with all aspects of travel called the Perrin Report. She’s also been an Ombudsman for the magazine where she investigated complaints and tried to get the best resolutions. She’s branched out and now has WendyPerrin.com and she is also a travel advocate for Tripadvisor, that giant in the travel industry.

Wendy has given me a lot of inspiration and ideas over the years, adding to my wish list of destinations many times. Her website is one of the first places I go to see what she’s written about a destination I’m planning to visit. She posts articles about practicalities, good deals, connects people to top notch travel agents and specialists, (the “WOW” list) who will charge for their services but you’ll get an unforgetable dream trip.

There is a whole section on tips and advice, you can email Wendy directly if you have specific questions, a newsletter to get the heads up on deals and pointers and lots and lots of destination information. It’s true, though, the deals and prices may only apply if you are from the U. S. because it’s an American-based site/business but the advice and the information is all free and definitely worth losing yourself on the website.

Wendy’s been in the travel industry the better part of 30 years. There are loads of websites in the world that can provide information, links to sponsors, etc. Of course there are. Wendy Perrin is one of the travel gurus that I find comes across very sincere and that means, for me, she’s trustworthy. I don’t really have the budget for the WOW list but her advice is truthful and doesn’t gloss over the critical side of things.

The articles she publishes on WendyPerrin.com will most definitely inspire you. They certainly did inspire me not two weeks ago. I followed a link posted on Twitter about Newfoundland on the east of Canada via one of Perrin’s travel experts and it pointed me to the small town of Twilingate, in the middle of “Iceberg Alley”. Icebergs! Something I’ve always wanted to see and now we’re planning to take a trip to Newfoundland in the near future to see them. Coincidentally, one of my friends in the UK has just returned from a trip to Newfoundland that pretty much mirrored the one I thought about taking, similar locations and everything.

There’s a very good travel profile about her here on McCool Travel (from where I nicked the photo above)

I’m going to dig in there and see what I can find to add to the list for our upcoming trip to British Columbia and Oahu. I may be some time.

Wendy on Twitter and here on Facebook

 

2017 Travel: Cape Breton

Baddeck lighthouse on the Bras D’or lake, Cape Breton

I’ve been blogging about our big trip to British Columbia and Hawaii in November, but there’s another shorter trip that we’ve been looking forward to, as well. We have a house guest visiting form the U.K. in mid September and we’re planning another “Three Amigos” tour, this time to Cape Breton Island (The last Three Amigos tour was to Northumberland in the UK, read about that here)  Cape Breton, an island off the east end of Nova Scotia, has often been voted one of the best islands to visit, not just in Nova Scotia but in the world. The magazine Travel + Leisure had it ranked number one  and number 3 in two different years in the past few and it’s also been mentioned by other travel magazines.

It’s not your usual beach and resort type island. There are beaches, yes but the real beauty is in the scenery and the history. Hiking, fishing, golfing for those that want active things to do. The mountains of Cape Breton and the winding Cabot Trail around the tip of the island, with lots of little coastal towns and villages along the way will take you a full day of driving with stops for the local craft shops and tea rooms and cafes. Fortress Louisbourg brings you 300+ years of history. The small city of Sydney has arts and culture and a nice waterfront area. Discover Alexander Graham Bell in Baddeck where he had a summer home. You can go whale watching and spot the seals and birds and other nature from the boats. There’s even a whiskey distillery in Glenora near the Margaree Valley.

Louisbourg gates

Gates at Louisbourg

We won’t get to do all of that, but we do hope to go whale watching somewhere off the Cabot Trail and we will definitely go to Louisbourg. (My photos here) It’s an easy day trip from Sydney where we’ll land after a day or two driving around the Cabot Trail exploring. I also fancy seeing the Highland Village Museum  and we’ll likely stop in at the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site. It’s really very interesting. . We have a couple of motels and a hotel already booked. All we need is a picnic lunch, some flasks for coffee and tea and a full tank of gas to get us on the road! The great thing is that this year, to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday, all of the national parks and historic sites are free to enter!

Nova Scotia’s Bluenose II

We have a few more of those on our list besides the ones in Cape Breton. We are thinking of other day trips to go on to take our friend around more of this beautiful province. A big bonus, the schooner Bluenose II has been refurbished and will be taking public sailing out of Lunenburg, another World Heritage Site, while our friend is here so we’re going to make plans to drive down the south shore and do that. I’ve never been out on the water in the Bluenose. It just never worked out, timing wise.  Lunenburg is a beautiful town as is nearby Blue Rocks,  Mahone Bay and Chester, also very nice places to stop.

There are museums and the Citadel fortress here in Halifax that he’ll enjoy. Maybe we’ll get into the Annapolis Valley. He might like the Grand Pre National Historic Site commemorating the French Acadian settlers who were the first non-Indigenous settlers in Nova Scotia (which was called Acadie back in the 17th century, thus…Acadians).

September is usually a month of pretty good weather so we’re hoping for as much sun as we can get.

Blue Rocks, Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia

Travel Theme: Flavour

One of the great things about travel is trying out local food, local beer and wine, going to restaurants, scouring the markets, sampling street food. I’ll never forget the ambrosia on my tongue from the creamy liqueur I found on the Isle of Iona in Scotland, called Columba Cream. Heaven! Chocolate from Belgium melts in the mouth. I tried Guinness in a hotel after-hours residents’ bar in Dublin, the city where it’s made, and I became a believer.  Scottish haggis, anyone? Pancakes in Amsterdam make a filling meal.

I haven’t been anywhere really exotic (yet) but I have perused some interesting spice markets in the Chinatown neighbourhoods of Vancouver and Toronto. There’s usually food kiosks from a lot of different countries at Farmers’ and Christmas markets anywhere you go. That gives you a little taste of travel without leaving home.

Here’s a few photos of tastes and flavours from places I’ve been:

Testing the grape

Domaine de Grand Pre winery, Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia

Bruges chocolate shop

Chocolate in Bruges

Camden Lock food vendor

Camden Lock, London

Fudge!

Fudge in the Manchester Christmas Markets

 

More flavours from Where’s My Backpack

Don’t Blame Canada

Halifax skyline

There was a song released some years ago based on the South Park tv show, called Blame Canada. Fun little send up of us Canadians but on the eve of the country of Canada’s 150th birthday, I’d like to state that I’m really proud of being a Canadian. I feel very lucky to live here in one of the best countries in the world. Without getting political, can I just say that my country, the second largest in the world (physically) contains extraordinary scenery and the loveliest people from the west coast to the east coast and all points from the southern borders to the chilly Arctic ocean in the north.

Blue Rocks, Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia

Travel to Canada, you guys. There’s something here for everyone, no matter what your interests are. Just remember, we don’t have snow in the summer, we do say “Eh?”, Timmys (aka Tim Hortons) is a popular coffee chain where you can always get a drink, a light meal and where there’s usually always a toilet if you get caught by chance! We apologize a lot, we talk about the weather because it changes frequently. In one day. Or an hour. We don’t know your cousin who lives in Vancouver or Toronto. You can’t do a day trip from Halifax to Montreal unless you fly.(it takes you the best part of a day to drive there!) In fact, it takes 5 or 6 days to drive from one side of the country to the other. There are whales. There are icebergs off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. There is theatre. There are wineries. Golf? We have golf. Lots of it. Recreated historic fortresses and Open Air historic villages.

If you visit, and I strongly urge you to, take one area, one province or one small region and explore it. There’s too much of Canada to do in one trip. Because I’m not objective, I think you should start on the east with the Atlantic provinces of Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.

Happy Birthday, Canada!

Nova Scotia Tourism
New Brunswick Tourism
Prince Edward Island Tourism
Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism

Here is an album of a small sample of some of the photos I’ve taken in this part of the country over the years.

Dalhousie University campus, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Come for the fresh seafood chowder!

Find rustic corners to explore

Nova Scotia’s Bluenose II

Rural Prince Edward Island

Yes, it does snow in the winter sometimes!

A Photo a Week Challenge – Boats and Ships

Nancy Merrill Photography’s weekly challenge is all about craft that floats in water, boats, ships, tankers,etc.

Tower Bridge and HMS Belfast

Tower Bridge and HMS Belfast, London

Sagres (Brazil)

Tall Ship, Sagres from Brazil. Halifax harbour

 

Maid of the Mist

Maid of the Mist, Niagara Falls

Science Museum model ships

Boston Science museum, model ships

Venice, detail on a gondola

Gondola details, Venice

DP Challenge – Focus

WordPress’s photo challenge this week is Focus.

Temporary exhibition hall

Exhibition hall in Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen

Daisy view

Indian Harbour, Nova Scotia

 

Notre Dame Blues

Basilica Notre Dame, Montreal

November rain

Somewhere in Salford. November rain.

Who's out there?

Who’s out there!?

Stalking

Is there anything more focussed than a cat stalking it’s victim?

 

Destination: Aveido, Portugal

Aveiro canal and the boats

This morning I stumbled on a travel blog called “Cabinet of Chic Curiosities” by “MessyNessy” about a Portuguese city called Aveiro and I was entranced. The article was written by someone who visited there on their trip to Portugal in 2015. The post is titled “The Candy Colored Venice of Portugal” and is so-called because of the brightly coloured buildings and absolutely wonderfully striped beach houses in the nearby area of Costa Nova. Portugal is a place I’ve long had on my list of countries to visit. I don’t know if I’ll ever get there but you never know!

Aveiro Cathedral

The north of Portugal, around Porto and the Duoro Valley is supposed to be really beautiful. Most people visit Lisbon and the beaches on the south coast but I think perhaps the north might even be nicer. Aveiro is about an hour south of Porto and that’s an easy day trip by train or even bus if you haven’t rented a car. While the tourist information all calls Aveiro the “Venice” of Portugal, it isn’t really. There is a small canal system, with little humped bridges over them, and the boats look a little similar to the vaporetto though are painted in a distinctly Portuguese fashion. The architecture is gorgeous and for us cathedral lovers, they have one of those, too. A few museums, some shops and markets and beaches nearby. It’s got a university and fully one quarter of the population is students.

Striped Beach Houses at Costa Nova, Aveiro in Portugal

Ah yes, the beaches. This is the thing that really caught my eye. The Costa Nova beaches are a little outside of Aveiro and you can get there via public transportation. There’s a lighthouse and long, white, sandy beaches. And along the water front are these small beach houses all painted in bright stripes! I really want to gush and say “how cute is that!?” I’ll settle for saying how different and how very attractive it is. Those bright colours really do suit a sunny beach, don’t you think?

Aveiro canal. You can rent that yellow house through bookings.com. It’s called Caso do Mercado

Aveiro will have some good restaurants, too, where fresh seafood will be featured. For souvenirs, there is the ubiquitous Portuguese ceramics. Also, nearby this area, are salt flats and you can get salt from there. That’ll be a bit different than the usual tea towel or postcard! There’s also a local baked sweet specialty called ovos moles. They look like little oblong pastries, with a crunchy shell, looking almost egg-like in some photos and in others, they are shaped like fish and inside is a golden orangy yellow filling made from sweetened egg yolks. Here’s a recipe.

Check out MessyNessy’s blog about Aveiro. It sounds wonderful! At the bottom, there are links to the rest of their Portugal journey, equally interesting with beautiful photos.

Very good guide here
A WikiTravel about Aveiro
A travel guide from PortoPortugal.com

A Photo A Week – Moving Waters

From Nancy Merrill Photography, a photo challenge about moving water. Rather than go for the usual waterfall type thing, I give you…

Roiling water

Roiling water in the Niagara River below the falls.

Rainy evening in Manchester

Raining evening in Manchester UK

 

Coins in the fountain

Coins in a fountain

Montmorency rainbow

Heavy mist and a rainbow over the Montmorency Falls, Quebec