A beginning-of-Fall trek up Mount Cheam in beautiful British Columbia, Canada.
One of the most spectacular views in the Fraser Valley, Mount Cheam offers a 360-degree panoramic view from Chilliwack and the communities along the Fraser River, Jones Lake, the surrounding peaks, and Mount Baker to the south.
This is an intermediate hike. It takes between 4.5 and 8 hours to complete, depending on weather & the hiker’s fitness level.
The Forest Service Road is also a very rugged roadway requiring 4 wheel drive vehicles.
Here are a couple of really great places to eat while you’re on the Island:
Hornby Island Bakery & Pizzeria – super good pizza & baked goods. The owner Jon was super friendly, opening just for us, and chatted with us about his love for his craft. Fresh, thin crust and the toppings were A1.
Isla de Lerena Vineyard – amazing charcuterie, huge platter, and then delicious chicken florentine, trout meunière & slow braised boneless short ribs with a red and white wine. It was great to speak with the chef who clearly enjoys his work.
Now here’s a little throwback & some amazing historical pieces – from the typewriter used by Ernest Hemingway to write A Moveable Feast, to one used by the Beatles to knock out their famous tunes, to Tennessee Williams’ typewriter used to create Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Ray Bradbury’s where he wrote The Martian Chronicles… this display really captured our attention while on standby at the San Francisco Airport back in 2018.
I fell in love with these heavy little beasts back when I was a kid, my grandfather used one for work. I loved the smell, the typetty typetty & how great it was when you didn’t make a mistake & didn’t have to use the corrector tape. Hours of fun!
I loved lining up the carbon paper to make a second copy & coming up with all kinds of stories. I later got to try my Nana’s electric typewriter but somehow the gentler touch it took just wasn’t as satisfying as pounding it out on the older versions.
SFO Museum was established by the Airport Commission in 1980 for the purposes of humanizing the Airport environment, providing visibility for the unique cultural life of San Francisco, and providing educational services for the traveling public. The Museum was granted initial accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums in 1999, reaccredited in 2005, and has the distinction of being the only accredited museum in an airport. Today, SFO Museum features approximately twenty galleries throughout the Airport terminals displaying a rotating schedule of art, history, science, and cultural exhibitions, as well as the San Francisco Airport Commission Aviation Library and Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum, a permanent collection dedicated to the history of commercial aviation. To browse current and past exhibitions, research their collection, or for more information, please visit www.flysfo.com/museum.
I never became a famous author but I have been published, so there’s that.
1. What is your name, where were you born & where do you live now?
Guest – Kelsey Forsyth:
My name is Kelsey Forsyth. I was born in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada and I currently live in London, United Kingdom.
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2. What sort of traveller are you? Full time / part time / business / backpacker etc?
I would like to think of myself as some sort of backpacker. Impulsive, yet methodical. Someone who goes and explores places because of my curiosity from seeing it in text books in school or seeing pictures and thinking, I would love to see that in real life.
The last few trips I’ve taken, I have only taken a ruck sack because I don’t want to have to pay any airline additional fees, but my first trip overseas alone, I did take a full backpackers style backpack which I do love, I just don’t love the cost of paying for it. I try to travel as often as I can and as long as I can. When I lived in Canada I had a contract job which allowed me to have large chunks of time off during the Spring, so I usually made the most of that. I moved to the UK officially on April 14th, 2020, but there were no flights out of Canada during that time due to Covid, so I left the country on March 21st which ended up being the last flight to the UK because the flights before and after mine were all cancelled. Impulsive, to say the least.
My Return Ticket:
3. How do you fund your travelling?
I have always worked. I’m pretty decent at saving money and I would work several jobs at a time, often far away from home allowing me to squirrel money away for adventures.
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4. How long have you been interested in travelling & give us a quick, bullet point list of some of the places you’ve been.
I think I have always been interested in travelling. I just enjoy experiencing, exploring and seeing things instead of having things explained to me. I like the opportunity to walk around a place, eat the food and try out activities in different areas with different cultures. It’s amazing what this world is made of and it would be an absolute shame to not have the opportunity or to create the opportunity for myself to see it all first hand. I have driven across Canada twice with the exception of New Foundland and Labrador or any of the territories (although I was 20 minutes away from the Yukon Territory once). I have been to every corner of British Columbia, Seattle Washington, New York & Portland, Oregon. I have been to:
• Houston, Texas
• Cayman Islands
• The Netherlands
• New Zealand
and most recently,
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5. Where is the best place you have ever been and why?
The best place I have ever been is a very subjective question. I think the best beach I have ever been to has been in the Cayman Islands. The water was stunning and the people were so nice. But I could never live there.
I loved London from the moment I first arrived and knew it could be a place I could easily move to. I had left London for less than a week and booked a trip to return again to continue to explore the area I had read so much about from history books in High School.
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6. Where is the worst place you have been and why?
The worst place I have probably been was New York. I was there on a class trip when I was in grade 11 and I enjoyed it to see the things that I got to see, but I really didn’t like the food. American food is just not good. It is so far from real and just made me sick the whole time.
Also, the people were horrible. I watched one of our special education teachers get knocked over and her glasses flew off and stepped on trying to cross the street because people give no care about anyone other than themselves.
It’s an overwhelming and tragic feeling in the United States of that kind of mentality and one that is truly unique to America.
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7. Do you have a Bucket List? Give us the top 5 on that list.
I sort of do and I sort of don’t have a bucket list. The world is evolving and so am I in that time. Some places I used to have absolutely no interest in, I now would love to go see and explore them as I grow and learn more about my comfort zones and stepping outside them.
Currently, the next few places I would love to visit and explore would be
Again, that is a short list and there are many beautiful countries missing from that list that I would love to visit.
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8. What 3 things (apart from the essentials – food/water etc) do you always travel with?
Recently, I have only been traveling with essentials because it saves a lot on cost, but I do sneak in some items that are for vanity. I always take my mascara, a book and my own bar of soap.
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9. What was NOT a good travel experience & why?
I really enjoy traveling by myself. I didn’t realize that until I had done it on my own and then met up with a best friend after. I had already become accustomed to enjoying walking and checking out different places and seeing things one way, while my friend enjoyed the glamorous side of traveling, which I also did, don’t get me wrong, but I enjoyed other aspects as well and it, at times, was met with resistance or hesitation so it made me feel like we both weren’t able to enjoy our experiences because we were both looking out for that the other would enjoy more than we were enjoying the experiences for ourselves.
It’s important to find the right person to do this with, and we had lived together and worked together so I didn’t expect our wires to cross the way they did, so it was a bit of a shock and made for a bit of an awkward travel experience.
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10. Where was your most recent trip? Tell us a little about it. Also please share some photos!
My most recent travel experience was to Portugal. I happened to have a four day weekend allowing me to jump on a plane and travel 2.5 hours south to Lisbon. It was such a great experience and I am so glad I had the opportunity to go.
Everything was hard for a lot of people because of Covid and the continuous lockdown that the UK had seen since Christmas 2020. It was a long winter and opening back up again in the summer was slow and delayed.
Countries were being added to an amber list which meant you could travel with particular cautions and luckily being double vaccinated allowed me the luxury to start living life as close to normal as we can get, post pandemic.
We arrived in Portugal and went through security. We needed to prove our vaccine status and prove a recent Covid Test which was negative. It didn’t take too long to get through and we went to check into our Airbnb.
It was a great location, about a 20 minute walk into the old town, which was stunning and beautiful. We took a ride on the tram to go up one of the massive hills and then walked it the rest of the time.
We found an amazing restaurant with fresh seafood and pitchers of Sangria for 10 Euros! We visited it twice in our 4 day stay and did walking tours and climbed mountains to see castles in Sintra.
We relaxed on the beach after that in Cascais. It was such a nice experience to travel the world again and continue to be able to appreciate the things we could lose when things like Global Warming and Pandemics take over. The world is much smaller than we all think.
My Return Ticket:
Thanks so much, Kelsey, for giving us a glimpse into your adventures & we’ve noted a few of the same Bucket List destinations on your mind are also on our own – maybe we’ll see you somewhere around the world! Safe travels!
Even in rainy weather, this is quite a beautiful hike. It is quite steep & takes a lot of energy so be sure to take water & a snack. It’s called Teapot Hill for a reason… how many spouted vessels will you find?
Sometimes you just need to go for a drive… get out, let the wind blow through your hair.
Sunday, Mother’s Day as it happens, we just got in the vehicle, grabbed a Starbucks & went. We didn’t have to go far from where we live to find some beautiful scenery & nature, even some wildlife… eagles.
And sometimes, pictures speak louder than words… in this case… it’s true… see for yourself!
It’s a very uncertain time right now… we’re all supposed to be in self isolation due to this horrific COVID19 virus. Usually, I work at my day job 6 days a week. I have my co workers counting on me for a place to work as well. Unfortunately, most of our communities’ small & non essential businesses have been been shut down to try to control this thing. It’s the same all over the world.
We’re all afraid of what this will mean to us & our families. We’re being promised monetary aid so we’re really counting on that. Obviously, we won’t be living the same life or travelling for a long time so I was feeling overwhelmed by it all when I happened upon something so beautiful…
I was scrolling along on Facebook, trying to be sure we were keeping as many of our clients informed of the situation at our work as possible, when I discovered this incredible artist. His name is Dermot Brennan. I thought, hey, here’s a way to not only enjoy another country without travelling but maybe it will help him too. I’ll let you just enjoy each piece for what they are. Peaceful. Delicate. Poetic. Here is a little bit about him as an artist:
I’m a professional watercolour artist living & working in Dublin. I’ve painted from childhood & have painted all over the world; my work is exhibited weekly in Dublin’s Merrion Square open air art gallery .
I have had several successful one-man shows & continue to work & exhibit throughout the country .
My work is appearing in the Dublin Art Book in May – a book of paintings depicting Dublin in all its beauty.
I sell all my work online through my FB page – anyone interested just needs to message me about individual pieces for price. (See link below)
I’m now also working in oils. My work is also in the Kildare Gallery Carton House & is also on display in the painters’ gallery which is the gallery run by the magazine of the same name .
I live in beautiful British Columbia. That’s literally our tagline… no, for real, it’s on our licence plates.
I choose to live here because we have four definite seasons: a lovely, brisk, sunny – (sometimes rainy) Spring, a warm, green, (sometimes rainy) Summer, a brisk, casual, (sometimes rainy) Fall, and a bracing, chilly, (sometimes rainy) Winter.
I do not choose to live where there are below zero temperatures, howling winds for days, blizzards that end in the snow compacting on to thick, slippery ice covered roadways & therefore, having to forgo work. But this is what we have so far, in the first month of 2020.
I shouldn’t complain. It’s not like Alberta or other places where you have to plug in your vehicle so it doesn’t seize up. It’s not like I couldn’t decide to just go to the town where I grew up & where my work is & stay there for the rest of the week’s weather warning. So I do.
Across the street from my work is a Coast Hotel www.coasthotels.com/hotels/bc/chilliwack/coast-chilliwack-hotel/ So in-between the snow flurries, my husband & his 4×4, take me across the frozen tundra that was Highway 1 just two days ago… I’ve booked in for a few days because I have a business to run. I’ve call forwarded the phone to my mobile but there’s so many other things to do. I can easily go back & forth from here. In my snow boots. And mitts.
As I enter the lobby, the warmth rushes out at me through the automatic sliding doors, and I already feel better. It’s a very pretty, spacious lobby.
I check in, the girl at the desk is friendly & efficient. I found a discounted rate online when I booked because I have an Aeroplan card, so that’s impressive. Apparently there is a rewards club where you can also earn a discounted room rate.
I head up to my room, loaded down with my laptop for work, eReader & clothes for a few days. The door opens on the first try, thank you, my hands are very full. Nice room, two beds, and a view of the pretty, semi-frozen duck pond & local library www.fvrl.bc.ca/locations/chilliwack.php There is also a Save on Foods grocery store directly across the street, along with STARBUCKS!! www.starbucks.com Chopped Leaf www.choppedleaf.ca Subway www.subway.com, some other food stores, a clothing store called The Top Shop, a dollar store, liquor store, dentist etc. There are city buses running around this neck of the… uh woods… so it’s not hard to get around. Anyway, back to the hotel.
Loving the nice touch of the paper cranes on the neatly made beds with their crisp linens. I check… yes, extremely clean beds & in the closet ~ extra blanket & pillows. Check.
There’s a good desk & chair where I’ll likely do more writing & work over the next few days.
Decent sized television. Nice spot to sit & read with good lighting.
Very nice, clean bathroom with a BIDET. Wow now this is living.
There are plenty of towels. I’m really liking their implementation of large size shampoo, conditioner, body wash & body lotion instead of all the tiny, less earth friendly ones. There’s never enough shampoo or conditioner in those anyway. I’ve chosen their ‘Go Green’ option, which means they don’t clean your room every day. I have enough towels & I’m not an untidy person so really don’t need to have daily maid service. There’s a good size mini fridge for my lactose free milk. And what do I see here?? The complimentary coffee. Starbucks. Yesssssss. There are plenty of drawers & adequate clothes hanging space plus an iron & board.
I decide to unpack (I use packing cubes so everything goes into the drawers in those), stow my suitcase, charge my mobile, computer, iWatch & eReader (plenty of outlets, yessss) & order the steak bite appetizer I know they serve downstairs in Prestons restaurant. prestonsrestaurant.ca/chilliwack Then I see they also have clam chowder… I’m in. Prestons looks out over the duck pond & I can see the indoor pool from there too. Next door is Prestons lounge, which is also good & a little more casual. Sometimes they have live entertainment, which has been great each time I’ve stumbled upon them after a meeting or function here.
Sometimes when you’re early for an appointment in #Vancouver you have to check out a #local #cafe #SRSLY the best #moist #light #airy #NotTooSweet #CinnamonBun I’ve eaten in a long time … #ApplePieCinnamonBun #vegan #GlutenFree The #traditional #macchiato was #smooth #rich #satisfying & just the thing on a rainy day. I had some work to catch up on with my laptop so settled in.
And sometimes you learn the best things along the way… As I was enjoying my smooth, rich #espresso I was looking around, surreptitiously taking #photos (people are more relaxed & natural if you just quietly catch them doing what they love) I could see this was not just a cute place that looked clean & inviting… it’s a #restaurant #business with a great #message & #philosophy ~
They’re committed to their #coffeefarmers & their families in #FincaElCarrizal #Guatemala. Many coffee #plantations are located in rural areas where #travel to school becomes a barrier to education. So in 2008, they did something about that. They are now able to provide #school for children from kindergarten to grade 7 right on the #farm where their parents work!
After I’d gotten home & had time to check them out more I realized there are tons of locations of these kind-hearted coffee shops – 27 to be exact & I’d had no idea. They also have lots of loyal coffee subscribers who get their beans by #delivery. I suggest looking them up at http://www.batwcoffee.com for more of their story. A portion of every purchase goes toward the #education of a child in #Guatemala #ethical @beanambleside
Wow. I mean just W.O.W… so we had been in San Diego & Los Angeles for about 6 days & were heading home. We were to leave from LAX. A pretty big, busy place, right? First of all, the bus driver nearly drove past our terminal. She caught herself just in time & off we leapt with our luggage. We got inside departures, the check in went well & the polite staff member said to us “Just head back to your left to Gate G. Have a safe flight” He even pointed in that direction. We about face-d, walked back toward where he gestured to & came upon… a wall. We looked around. Nowhere to go but outdoors. Literally everything else was blocked off. I discovered a small sign that kinnnnnnnd of points in the direction of where we had just been dropped off… do we actually go outside? Sure enough, as we ventured out, we saw a sidewalk & more construction barricades so we cautiously walked that way… behind us were other travellers doing the same thing. There really was only two choices: we go back to where we checked in and say “Ummm where do we go again?” or we continue on. We continued on. Sure enough, a ways down the sidewalk, we spotted some more somewhat useful signage that pointed to the gates.
That’s when we could not believe our eyes. Now, don’t get us wrong, we understand that as more people travel & airports etc are being used way more often by tons more people – improvements must be made, renovations have to be done & there will be a little confusion. We’ve been in airports during renos before. (London, Heathrow… the long, painful night of the ongoing clanging security alarms & jack hammers…) There really is no good time to do construction in such a busy place. The thing is: signage would clear up the majority of issues. As would strategically placed staff. We found ourselves being herded like confused cattle into what can only be described as a holding pen. There were about 80 chairs & eleventy-billion people. Ok so not quite that many, but you get the point. We decided to eat something, since we had arrived three hours ahead of our flight (as you’re supposed to do) & you’re never sure if there’s food served on board or not. We hauled ourselves into the Starbucks lineup. That was about 45 minutes. Now they were hustling & getting orders in but with only two machines – you can only make what you can make… Having ranted about that I will also say that I was thrilled to see more healthy food options & also some for dairy free, gluten free, vegan diners. There was a Shake Shack nearby as well, but not as healthy and just as packed full. We managed to score two seats as someone left to line up to board their flight. I needed to wash my hands & go to the loo so spent an hour in that lineup too. We thought we’d wander about & see some shops. There were kiosks. With bug spray, ear plugs, Tylenol & water. That’s. It. No windows or stores to peruse. Not even one. I swear I saw a fist fight brewing over an outlet with a USB port since quite a few that were in the seats weren’t working.
It would have been good to have some signs or staff to let you know, once you’re through security – There. Is. NOTHING. Nothing to see. Nothing to do. Nowhere to sit. Travellers can then make the choice to spend maybe just one more hour wandering & looking around prior to checking in. Upon reflection, there seemed to be a shortage of staff in general… garbage containers were overflowing everywhere, there was no one to ask for directions or advice. There was one very determined woman who worked in the loo, making sure everything was clean & kept in order, so kudos to her.
We’ve learned that you have to expect just about anything when travelling. You have to roll with it. (Speaking of roll with it: For the love of God, get a good suitcase with decent spinner wheels… just spend the money, get the warranty & for a few years – travel much easier.) Always, always have something to read with you. Also, enjoying who you are travelling with is a major plus 😉
We only arrived at @Maya.losangeles #hotel about 2 pm or so & we’ve been treated so well already! Our #room is spacious, clean & bright with an amazing #view of the #harbour – we even have a little #patio with chairs & a table. We were taken on a mini #tour by a staff member who happened to see us wandering along, he set us up with #margaritas at the #bar & then we spent a few happy hours at the #pool. There was LIVE #Caribbean – type #music & the perfect weather – #sunshine! We #swam for a bit then #CaughtSomeRays Once the sun started to go down we went back to our room to change for #dinner & heard a #KnockAtTheDoor … it was #champagne #compliments of the #hotel for our #anniversary! What a way to #TreatGuests – #5StarTreatment Now we can’t wait to see #WhatsForDinner in the #WaterfrontRestaurant
The drive to #Bath, #Somerset in #England is normally quite pleasant, with the gorgeous rolling fields, somewhat crumbling old stone fences & the narrow, winding roads. I love to watch for sheep & to see how green the fields are. But there’s one spot I’ve been made aware of that I’d rather not travel under cover of darkness… #SallyintheWood – that cuts through Brown’s Folly. This is where most locals agree that the woodland is #haunted by the #ghost of a young #murdered girl.
Many have blamed multiple fatal, otherwise unexplained, car crashes on the spooky sightings of a young girl running into the road & childlike screams from the darkness have been heard. Some say the birds don’t sing along this spooky stretch of roadway…
There are a couple of different versions of the tale (another involving a woman who lived in a hut in the woods that local children insisted was a witch) but the most discussed in neighbourhood pubs amongst the locals has been that Sally was a young gypsy girl held prisoner in a tower without food & water and left to die.
Travelling down that particular stretch of countryside (in full daylight I might add, thankyouverymuch) I noted a huge, steep drop off on one side of the road… this holiday we noted many permanent cement barricades (or bollards) being put in, which I applaud, since the combination of a narrow, winding road and a sharp plunge has certainly meant disaster in the past.
Apparently, a number of ghost hunting websites have tried to discover more but most are too afraid to venture down into the area since it’s the blackest black at night… so it seems though young Sally may be long dead, her chilling tale remains… watch this video below…
Sometimes the best ideas come from the mouths of babes… our young grandson, Jack, is often quite wise beyond his years… an old soul in a 6 year old’s body. An innocent #dinner-out- together suggestion has become, in MY opinion anyway, a new favourite #dining #destination… The Globe Inn in Bath.
There were five adults & 2 children in all and each of us was quite satisfied with our evening and our meals.
Belly up to the bar, mate!
There was definitely lots to choose from – a full choice #menu or a #prixfixe menu that looked quite good too. We started with lager or cider, both deemed #delicious, then ordered things like #fishandchips #gammonsteak #lobsterfishcakes #burgerandfries and even #sausages Each one tasty & filling… so much so that #pudding was only ordered by the children There was #orangejelly & #fudgebrownie with #vanillaicecream
The #children’smenu was quite good for choices & provided some puzzles & jokes while we waited.
The meal didn’t take long to arrive & we had a lovely time in the cozy, #familyfriendly #pub style atmosphere.
The staff were polite, also efficient & the #restaurant was very clean, warm & comfortable since it was a freezing -2 outside.
A definite place to return to in the warmer weather as there is also an #outdoorpatio that looked nice.
When my husband, my travel partner, said this year when we go to see our family in England for New Year’s we will also be making a 3 day stop in Berlin… I thought, Berlin? Where on earth did that come from? We hadn’t talked about going there before but we do try to add on a little side trip somewhere along the way as it’s often much cheaper to do so once we’re already in England (rather than flying direct from Canada). He’s much more adventurous than I & sometimes I wonder if he feels he’s dragging me along in his fast paced wake… but he’s always well prepared & really, a joy to be with so hey… let’s do this!
We flew in to London, Heathrow & raced to find what gate we needed to be at after leaving our large luggage at the airport.
**PRO TIP HERE: Since we’re often bringing gifts for family & clothing for approximately a 10 day trip overall, we have learned it’s much easier to pay to have our large luggage stored at the airport & take only a carry on with the personal items we need for the 2 – 3 day trip… it’s not a lot of money to do this but it makes such a difference to be able to just hop on your connecting flight with a little carry on and take off. We only really need a few changes of clothes, our laptops, phones & ID so why drag everything else?
We boarded our flight & arrived in Berlin where it was fairly cold & as it was evening, we couldn’t see a lot but managed to find our way to the taxi stand so we could get to our hotel. We know that we’re pretty much at the mercy of any cabbie in the country we’ve chosen to visit but you always hope that they’re not going to take advantage of you… well he did and we ended up taking a fairly convoluted route to get to our hotel & charging way too much to do so. (We discovered this the next day when we rented a car & found the airport within minutes of our hotel… sigh) Regardless, we arrived at the Titanic Chaussee Berlin & immediately we’re impressed with how it looked.
It’s very classy & modern but has touches of history in the art that is everywhere, including Brandenburg Gate shown on the desk top in our room. The Charlotte Lounge is the first thing you see as you enter from the street, it’s across from the front desk & is pretty cool.
We dropped our bags in the room & then went down for a drink & a little something to eat at the Lounge. It was a nice place to sit & chat, the food was good once I finally got it. It did take awhile as somehow between writing down the meatballs with mashed potatoe I ordered (I even pointed it out to the waiter on the menu in case he couldn’t understand me), he’d forgotten it.
We decided to make it a fairly early evening, there’s at least an 8 hour time difference between home & Germany. The lobby was still decorated for the holidays, but even without that you can see it’s very lovely. There is a restaurant on the main floor & apparently another on the first floor for breakfast only.
Of course we did nose around to see the pool and spa area but were extremely disappointed in the fact that despite being hotel guests (& this is not a cheap hotel) that it would be a further 20 Euros per person per day to use the pool! That was not made clear on the hotel website or we may have decided not to stay here. We do enjoy a good swim, especially after a long flight spent sitting. Needless to say, we did not swim.
Our room was really nice, clean & a good size. The bathroom did not have a bathtub but did have a large shower. The beds were comfortable & when we asked for extra pillows they were brought right away. There is a safe & mini fridge but you’d need to ask for an iron & ironing board.
In the morning we headed out quite early as we had pre-booked a Cold War Walking Tour. We were to meet in town at a McDonald’s, so in true Franklin Fashion, we arrived about an hour and a half early 😉 We can’t stand being late or rushed & since we had to navigate the underground in a completely different language, we thought we’d just get ourselves there & then have a wander about until the tour meetup. We actually found our way fairly quickly, really only stopping to ask a couple of questions… of course we did discover that many locals over the age of 55 refused to speak English to us, despite our efforts to speak German, so we found it best to ask younger people. They often spoke excellent English & smilingly corrected our attempts at their language. We saw an outdoor Christmas Market that was still running (but not open until late afternoon) & found an amazing old church, Gedenkhalle, but could see it had been damaged in the war. Massive beautiful round windows, that probably had held stained glass at one time, stood empty with dark, scorch marks all around them. It was still very beautiful, a work of art.
Of course we had to have a #Starbucks because well, we just did. It was cold & damp & hit the spot. You always know what you’re getting with Starbucks.
We met up with our guide & fellow tourists for our walking tour & set out after getting underground day passes (don’t forget to validate them!). It was pretty cold & damp but really only added to the feel of the whole history of the tour.
Sometimes, I suppose, as much as I like to think we’re open minded… I guess we can be quick to judge. We quietly said to each other how it was very drab & dull in Berlin… the weather certainly didn’t help much but it was just so… dismal. After having been on the Cold War tour with our excellent guide Rachel, we realized just exactly why it appears so sullen here… Berlin had just been through an awful war, its people poor & their homes & communities ravaged… only to have the Berlin Wall erected in less than four hours one evening, while most people slept. They woke to discover they had been divided in half, East & West, leaving many families torn apart, some could no longer get to their jobs & some, who had been at work that evening, would not be able to get back home. Berliners, who had already suffered so much, now had lost family members, jobs & their pensions etc overnight… due to the Wall. Our initial impression of a bleak Berlin was suddenly shown to be hasty & short sighted. As we shivered in the cold, we could sense the hopelessness, as Rachel described the years of struggle & sadness and we could only imagine the despair these people must have lived with. So many attempts to escape were made & thwarted. So many lives ruined. I felt guilty to know I could easily walk in to a cafe or restaurant to escape the cold & I could afford to buy something warm to fill my tummy when they must have wondered where their next meal would even come from… a very sobering day, for certain.
The Reichstag witnessed a turbulent history of Berlin and is one of the city’s most significant historical buildings. You can feel the it as you walk to the front of this magnificent structure. The Reichstag is an internationally recognized symbol of democracy and the current home of the German parliament. The dome: it’s not often that you can enjoy such an amazing panorama while, just beneath your feet, the political decisions of tomorrow are being made inside of this architectural wonder.
If there is one thing you must do when in #LasVegas it’s go on a trip with these guys! We chose to go on a half day trip because despite being busy as HECK all week long with our day jobs, they’re really ‘at our desk, to our car, to our client’s desk, to our car, to back to the office’ jobs which is not a lot of physical exercise overall. We have taken a #canoe trip before & that was a lot of fun so we signed up for this one.
Our #tourguide was Dani Larget and she was awesome! From the first minute we met her she was energetic, informative & full of life. It was only my husband & I plus Dani so we got all her attention & could ask ask much as we wanted about the local #history & where we were going. Don’t let her slight build fool you, this girl can load up a van full of supplies, emergency gear & 2 #kayaks in the blink of an eye! We took off through the Lake Mead National Recreation Area where we learned a ton of the history of the area including Boulder City. This community was built in 1931 to house the workers building the Hoover Dam. It’s still a quaint town that looks a bit old fashioned & would be fun to check out if you have time, but since the Colorado River awaited us, we sped on through.
We arrived at Willow Beach where we would launch our kayaks & where the view was stunning! It couldn’t have been a more perfect day, for the sun was up, there was a really nice breeze & the water wasn’t too fast. Dani took us through a few safety rules & we loaded lunches, water, first aid gear & ourselves onto the kayaks and set off. #BlackCanyon is really beautiful – very craggy, very sheer & you can see where the water has left its imprint over the years – showing how the water level has dropped quite drastically.
There is a fascinating little “tram” that the gauger would take to pull himself across the river when he would go to work monitoring the levels of the #ColoradoRiver to aid the building of the #HooverDam. There is a small building perched precariously on the side of the canyon where he would go to do this & an even more precarious catwalk he took along the canyon wall. We hiked to the spot where his home once stood along the river, you can still see the foundation, and imagine him sitting at the end of a long day enjoying his peaceful, beautiful view.
There is a really cool little cave called #EmeraldCove that you can go into. You back up into the cave so that you’re looking out and the water there is green yet crystal clear. There was a little beach spot where we stopped for lunch (which was SO GOOD) & were joined by a drake & mallard duck. It was so beautiful there & even though the water is quite cold, it felt good to dip our feet & hands in after the heat of the sun. We refilled our water bottles, doubled up on the sunscreen & started off again back to Willow Beach.
We did see some other #animals, such as turkey vultures, a few cute, spike haired ducks, a mama Bighorn sheep & her little one wayyyyy up in the canyon but luckily NOT the swimming rattlesnake nor the scorpions that Dani mentioned to us are native to the area. On our way back to the office to leave our gear, before returning to our hotel, we make a quick stop at #HemenwayPark where there are a herd of Bighorn sheep were in the field of a recreation park… yes, right next to the picnic tables & slide! It was pretty neat to see them so up close & fairly tame but we still gave them plenty of space as there were at least three males & we didn’t want them to feel threatened at all.
All in all, we couldn’t have asked for a better trip. When we travel, we always want to learn the #history of the area, we want to see the #landscape, the architecture… we definitely learned a lot about the many trips & #trails we could take if we wanted to go back and learning more of the history of the builders of the Hoover Dam was neat since we were fascinated by our tour at the Dam a few years ago.
I would give this tour 5 tickets out of five for sure. Dani, of Desert Adventures was knowledgeable, safety conscious & fun. The trip was well worth the money & we would go again. See, it must have been good because we bought T shirts & have already talked about what type of kayak we now need to get for ourselves!
Out of the blue, Mr. My Return Ticket (my husband) decided we should go to see #DavidCopperfield on a recent anniversary trip we took to #LasVegas. I thought hey, why not? Famous guy, been doing it for years, probably a good night out. We weren’t allowed cameras for obvious reasons, so you’ll have to take our word for it.. this show was bananas!
Out he came, still a nice looking guy, appearing as if by … wait… alright fine, as if by #magic! Inside a giant box that WAS empty… it was! I saw it was empty & I was looking underneath & everything! Yet, there he appeared, David on an awesome Harley Davidson motorcycle! Nice start! He then is casually doing slow, easy little slight of hand tricks… cracking some jokes, talking with the audience… then SHAZAM!! There’s a spaceship in the room?! He does a full bit with a little robotic alien (long story – go see the show) where he lets the audience in on some emotion regarding his own parents, who have since passed away.
Another cool section of the show was when he talked about his favourite toy as a boy… a skeleton of a T Rex named Frank, who’s been missing for many years. The end trick is so unreal as a MASSIVE T Rex appears in front of our eyes! It’s so hard to figure out because it’s just so huge you can’t figure out how it is suddenly there while we watched so carefully??
There is a lot of audience participation which makes you realize that the results are very unpredictable, David even relied on tossing frisbees out into the crowd to choose people (or their answers) for him to have predicted before the show even started. He had emailed one of his #predictions out to everyone before the show ended (of course we didn’t know this since our phones were put into wooden privacy boxes) so this was even harder to explain – – how could he possibly have known what random results he would get beforehand? Mind. Blown.
Worth every penny, lots of fun & definitely makes you question what you think you know about magic & #illusions… he doesn’t take himself too seriously, despite having been famous for so so long & having travelled the world. A really great evening at the #MGMGrand For more info or to see a show schedule David Copperfield
You know, I have always liked #CelineDion & thought her vocal rage is quite unreal but after seeing her concert in #LasVegas this week… I have a whole new appreciation for her. She was lovely & engaging from the moment she stepped out on the stage but once she started to sing… that was it… we were enraptured! You realize with every song she sings, that her #talent is ridiculous, she makes it look absolutely effortless, but also that each song must be hard for her to get through now that the love of her life (& her manager throughout her career) is now gone… Celine’s husband Renee passed away in 2016, which she does make mention of, but you feel it in her emotional performance anyway.
One thing I did not realize, is that Celine is quite funny! She made a lot of jokes while speaking to us, the audience & when chatting with her band & back up singers. She came out once wearing the #LasVegasKnights hockey team jersey! Despite her & I both being #Canadian girls, we obviously still have a healthy respect for the brand new team that has risen to the top of the NHL to be in the Stanley Cup Finals.
One thing we loved was that she happily allowed photos (no flash). She sang some of her original songs, even a little piano bar number… and who knew Celine could scat?! But scat she did & it was fantastic. She sang a duet with her back up singer of ‘Beauty & the Beast’ – excellent pairing of voices there! She was gracious to her band & they were spotlighted as well with some instrumentals. I did get emotional for her when it came to ‘All By Myself’ because again, you could only imagine the heartache she & her children feel since Renee has been gone. I think most of us are suckers for a true love story, non?
Of course, the highlight of it all was the encore… nothing other than spectacular… the #Titanic theme – My Heart Will Go On… not a dry eye in the place! Celine was featured inside of an actual cascading, spinning waterfall right onstage! She was amazing, a true show woman & I would absolutely go to see her again. Despite having has some recent health issues… her performance… flawless.
So we’re trying to decide where to go next… we’ve bounced a few ideas around… Tried to figure out timing… checked on pricing… I think it’s time we get serious & getting serious requires a serious beverage & a great little place to enjoy it.
Not far from where we live is a really quaint little place called Cafe Amarti www.cafeamarti.com It’s got a casual, comfortable atmosphere, they’ve got fresh healthy food, fresh maybe-not-so-healthy-but-oh-so-delish-desserts, they serve all kinds of loose teas, some wine & beer & best of all… 49th Parallel Coffee that is from Vancouver. It’s a great place to go with a friend or two, I’ve met clients there & a lot of students go there to study. There’s a dance studio & a martial arts business next door so I’ll bet it’s where the Mommies love to go wait while their kids plié or break boards. There is even a long community table to sit at if you have a crowd. The staff are quick to serve & friendly and made delicious sandwiches for us. It was the perfect place to start planning our next travel adventure. What’s cool is the owners are a brother & sister who love to travel & have used their experiences visiting different cafes & wine bars around the world to develop their own unique menu & feel. They have excellent hours: 8 am – 10 pm, so can accommodate the breakfast bunch or the after dinner crowd.
There we were just going along on our Saturday, cleaning house, doing errands, doing some work… I said to my husband for the second time that day “Something smells funny downstairs…” We happen to live where a forest is our backyard so everyyyy once in awhile a mouse gets in and well, you get the idea. Down we go to check it out… I’m wearing shoes & head in to the living room, my husband, wearing socks wanders in & gasps “Hey!! It’s sopping wet down here!” And lo & behold his socks are soaked! He opens the door to the furnace & hot water tank room only to get blasted in the face with a spray of water! Because the carpet is so lovely & luxurious it was hard to see at first that there was actually an inch of water down there! We quickly called our insurance & restoration company but there was no way we could stay in the house for the next couple of nights with 8 gigantic fans, dehumidifiers running & the water turned off – no plumber till Monday.
We need to stay for 2 nights so got a suite as we both have to set up our computers and get some work done. The room is a good size with 2 decent sized little fridges, a desk, great big king bed, flat screen tv, a couch & 2 wing chairs sitting in front of a fireplace. There’s even a jacuzzi tub – it’s huge! This hotel has a pool, exercise room & conference centre. We’ve attended many events with excellent meals in the conference centre but had never stayed overnight.
There is a White Spot restaurant attached, the breakfast we ordered in was really good & arrived in only about 15 minutes. I decided to order their special Nat Bailey Coffee since it was Sunday morning 😉 it was a delicious Baileys & Amaretto coffee. My husband enjoyed his BC Sunny Start & I couldn’t finish my yummy Breakfast Quesadilla – it was so big! Something we’ve discovered staying in hotels & ordering room service – read the fine print! We often have just paid a tip to whomever brought the meal but have come to realize there is already a $5 or so delivery fee PLUS a percentage on top of that! It’s right there in black & white…
It’s great to have a room with a microwave & coffee maker etc in case of a longer stay. The only negative thing we noticed was that there were the tiniest shampoo & conditioner EVER. There are two of us and there’s no way there is enough there for us both. Having said that, I’m sure we can call down for more.
There is quite a lot to do nearby for those who are travellers from elsewhere, including coffee shops, spas, yoga studios, a grocery store, Sushi restaurant, liquor store, fast foods restaurants & a place to go drive mini racecars, play on 3 different mini golf courses, play tons of video games, use the batting cages & even a soccer scoring net to work on your shots.
The hotel is conveniently located right off Highway 1 but luckily, we couldn’t hear any road noise from our room. So far a decent stay less than five minutes from home. I like that they had a QR Code in the Guest Services book that shows you all that is local and once you’ve scanned it you can take all the info with you. A nice touch. There are also menus for local, pizza and Chinese restaurants etc.
I arrived in #Dublin, the capital & largest city of #Ireland with a population of more than 1M, with only 36 hours to explore. I wasn’t sure what to expect… despite what many people say the service by Ryanair was excellent, departing & arriving as scheduled. Landing at Dublin Airport, I proceed to get a taxi to downtown Dublin. The taxi driver was extremely chatty & told me that he had a connection with Canada & in fact his sister lives in #Chilliwack (British Columbia, Canada) – my wife’s hometown! He advised me of the things to do while in Dublin, how to use public transport, I thought this very helpful. When I arrived at the Ashling Hotel the driver asked me for 50 Euros in cash. I asked to pay by Visa, he declined saying that no taxis will take Visas in Ireland… I thought it was odd, but had cash so paid the driver what he asked. **As a side note: on the return trip from the Ashling Hotel to the airport, I also had a very friendly, former civil servant taxi driver & when we arrived at the airport he asked for 25 Euros… he said paying by Visa was no problem… I explained the issue with the first taxi driver when I had arrived to which he shook his head disdainfully.
The Ashling Hotel was a grand old #hotel, it was clean, had that antique feel & the service was excellent. I was informed about a tourist spot named Temple Bar, where all the #restaurants, #pubs & #entertainment can be found. Since the following day would be a packed day including a trip to #Belfast, I thought I would venture out, that very day to Temple Bar. The concierge told me to catch the public tram just yards away from the hotel, that would take me to downtown Dublin. I paid 3.7 Euros for a return ticket, hopped aboard a packed tram to downtown & jumped off the tram at the third stop. I walked across the Liffey River for the first time & entered Temple Bar. It reminded me of a hustling, bustling downtown Amsterdam, with live music in the cobblestone streets – every bar & pub overflowing with very happy people. Enjoying a quick meal, I returned to the hotel to get organized for the Belfast trip in the morning.
A Day Tour of Belfast
Getting up at 6 am, I headed to the rendezvous point at the Gresham Hotel (23 O’Connell Street) for the 7 am pick up. I was about to embark on a day tour of Belfast including a visit to Giants Causeway, and The Game of Thrones filming locations with the Wild Rover Tours Company. Once aboard the 60 seat luxury coach, I had the pleasure of sitting next to a retired private school teacher. As we were to travel a number of hours, we got to share a bit of each other’s lives, it was fascinating to hear of he and his wife’s travel exploits around the world, and about their home city of Perth, Australia. As we departed Dublin, the guide explained about the Millennium Monument, The Spire of Dublin located across the River Liffey. Dubliners were disappointed as the big celebration planned for the Millennium that was to include the monument did not happen as the monument wasn’t finished until 3 years later. It has been given many names (some I cannot repeat!) but one popular name that is frequently used is the ‘Stiletto in the Ghetto’. We travelled for about 2.5 hours, heading to Belfast. We were given the option of either taking a Black Cab Taxi Political Tour or visiting the iconic Titanic Museum. I opted for the Black Cab Taxi Tour. We were dropped at a nearby shopping mall, grabbed a tea & a sandwich, then in groups of 5, were piled in to a series of Black Cabs. My fellow travellers included a couple from Germany & students from Toronto, Canada. The taxi driver was full of vim & vigor & couldn’t wait to tell us about the history of Belfast, and in particular, the division of Catholic & Protestant communities that still exists today.
Our first stop, was called Battle of the Falls, where the famous murals of history are all displayed on the Catholic side of the Peace Wall. We got out of the cab in the pouring rain, were given umbrellas & marched along the Road of Murals with our tour guide in tow. Passionately, he explained about the brutal violence over 30 years that took place in the streets of Belfast, with thousands of people losing their lives. This included his own personal trauma during the troubles. We spent about 80% of our time on the Catholic side & the remaining on the Protestant side. When we stopped at the gates that divided the two communities it struck home to me, that the violence and the troubles were still very real.
Dubbed ‘The Troubles’ – Northern Ireland 1968-1998
The memory of a 30 year stretch of violence in Belfast is still very apparent. The Catholic/Nationalist population together with the IRA (Irish Republican Army) was in a brutal conflict with Protestant led RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary), UDR (Ulster Defense Regiment) and the British Army. The aim by the IRA was to achieve a United Ireland by removing British rule. Violence in the streets was common between Unionist/Loyalist Protestant population and minority Catholic/Nationalists, including; rioting, house burnings, shootings & bombings.
Our taxi driver, Martin May, with Black Cab Tours, said “There were troubles on both sides. I will never forget the death squads (RUC/UDR) as they were known, who came & simply hunted Catholics to kill. On the other side, I recall the IRA getting information that leaders within the Protestant groups were enjoying a meal at a local fish & chip shop. They planted a bomb & blew it & everyone in it up. No one survived. They later found out the leaders had already left & innocent people were killed. The conflict in Belfast/Northern Ireland was officially ended with the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. 3,500 people lost their lives & 50,000 were injured over the thirty year conflict.When you enter Belfast, in particular along the Peace Wall, it is evident that there are many reminders of the conflict however even today the main gates between the two religious groups are locked every night at 6:30pm & all day Sundays.
Back on the coach, we then departed Belfast for Carrick-A-Rede and Larrybane, about a 40 minute drive away. When we arrived at this location, we were told it had become extremely famous throughout the world as it was a major film location for The Game of Thrones (since I was not a current fan of the show, it was difficult to follow all of the characters that were discussed & what they had done here). It also struck me when I saw a National Trust logo, that we were in Northern Ireland under British control. Before we disembarked the coach, we were reminded that currency would now be in pounds at the gift shop, not in Euros. The tour guide explained that the walk along the cliff path would be about 2 kms & that we had an hour in total before the coach would depart. Out in the rain, I headed to the famous rope bridge which was featured in The Game of Thrones. About a hundred people ventured along the cliff path with me, but only 8 people at a time were allowed on the rope bridge. The bridge named Carrick-A-Rede, allowed you to cross over to Carrick Island. The bridge was approximately 100 feet in the air, and in the name (Scottish Gaelic) means The Rock in the Road. It has been used for over 350 years by fisherman gaining access to migrating salmon. It was awful weather, pouring with rain & very windy, so I stopped at the gift shop for another quick hot tea & warm up before boarding the coach. The tour guide, who was extremely entertaining, explained to us that on a good day you could see Scotland as it was only 13 miles away from Carrick-A-Rede.
Basalt Columns – photo Wikipedia
We then headed off to Giants Causeway, which was about a 40 minute journey. The guide explained that you could walk to the Causeway (about 2 kms), you could ride in a shuttle for 1 pound or you can visit the pub, sit by the fire & enjoy a beer (or two!) before venturing out to the Causeway. Almost everyone headed to the pub! After my own liquid refreshment, I headed out once again into the rain & wind, to the shuttle pick-up point. Disappointingly, the only ‘ride’ that stood in front of me was a golf cart full of garbage. It looked like another 2 km walk down the cliff path would be inevitable. The Giants Causeway is a World Heritage Site with an area of 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. The Causeway is located in Country Antrim, on the North Coast of Northern Ireland, 5 kms from a town called Bushmills. In 2005, the Giants Causeway was named as the 4th Greatest Natural Wonder in the United Kingdom. All owned & managed by the National Trust, it remains as one of the most popular tourist attractions in Northern Ireland. Once again, sopping wet, I headed back to the coach, for a three hour return trip to Dublin, in Southern Ireland. Interestingly, there is no border between Northern & Southern Ireland, making it quite difficult to distinguish between the two, however, as noted, the currency did change. On the return trip, just outside of Belfast, we passed through the small village of Ballymena, famous for being the hometown of actor, Liam Neeson.