Featured

Jasper Alberta

As we head east from our home on Vancouver island, our destination is Jasper Alberta. The weather is making the shift from summer to fall. We have prepared ourselves and the RV for hot, cold and everything in between.

Coquihalla Campground

The drive today included the coquihalla highway pass. The immensity of this summer’s B.C. wildfires was quite something. It’s no wonder that the passes were closed as the fires came right down to the highways in places.


We are camped tonight at a lovely campground called The Dutch Lake Resort and RV Park, it’s on Dutch Lake just outside of Clear Water and has a restaurant called The Painted Turtle that would rival any fine dining at home. The meals were fabulous, served on an outside heated patio overlooking the lake. We watched loons and I hope to hear their iconic calls tonight.

Spectacular view and reflection at one of the rest stops
Dutch Lake Resort

Our first night in Jasper proved interesting. At the registration centre they warned that the elk bulls are starting to come into rut and so to be careful if a doe shows up. That’s what happened we had a doe across from our campsite and then an hour later a huge 7 point buck came right through our campsite while we we sitting at the picnic table. H was so quiet for such an enormous animal, he ignored us thank goodness, bugled once as he left. An amazing encounter in the Jasper National Park. We head to Milo for 3 days of spaniel trials , then will return to Jasper for a few more days.


We returned to Jasper after a great weekend of spaniel trialling but that’s another story. Peter, having lived and worked in Jasper was a great guide. We went to Buffalo Prairie, a hidden jem of a place and let the dogs run.

Buffalo Prairie

We explored Pyramid Island on Pyramid Lake, a popular spot for weddings.

Bridge over to the island
Pyramid Lake

We went to Maligne Canyon and tea house and Medicine Lake.

Maligne Canyon

One evening we were treated to a first nations fireside chat hosted by Peter’s friend Matricia Bauer at Tekkara Resort. It was a beautiful night with a crackling fire, Matricia, her lovely daughter Mac and a few others drummed and sang. Matricia is a knowledge keeper for her people, she spoke briefly about the emotions and desire to “do something” about the recent residential school discoveries. Her advice from her own elder is: its too soon to do, just sit with your feelings and emotions, the time “to do” will come but first we must feel. This really resonated with me and released a pressure that I have been feeling.

Women drummers


Our final day we had tea at the Jasper Park Lodge and then some shopping in Jasper, the Bears Paw bakery did not disappoint!

Jasper Park Lodge
Bears Paw Bakery
Featured

Port McNeil, Vancouver Island

While I have lived on Vancouver Island for most of my life, (other than that 1st 18 years of nomadic life in a military family, touching down in most provinces.) I have never spent time on the north end of the Island, other than driving up for a couple of whale watching day trips at Robson Bight’s Telegraph Cove over the years.

Tomorrow, we are heading with our RV for three days to Port Mcneil.

We will be staying at the first nations campground of Cluxewe Resort where the Cluxewe River meets the Broughton Straight. We plan to bird and wildlife watch, try our hand at fly fishing, hike and explore the area.

In the land of the Kwakiutl people. “Cluxewe” has two different, but related, meanings: “place of the changing river mouth” and “place of refuge.” 

This morning we awoke to heavy fog, we can hear the geese and also a foghorn from the lighthouse across the water. The lighthouse is the Pulteney Point Lighthouse, built in 1943 on Malcom Island. It marks the separation of Broughton and Queen Charlotte Straights. Kwakiutl legend tells that their ancestors watched the island rise up out of the water and that someday it would return to its watery grave. For this reason, while the Kwakiutl used the cedar from the island for masks and totem poles they never inhabited it. The Finns had no such qualms and settled the village of Sointula on the island. Hopefully when the fog lifts we will get a good look at it. In the meantime we experience the mist and fog of the North island rainforest.

Estuary on a foggy morning
Lichen

Calli waiting for the day to begin

This afternoon the fog lifted and the blue sky appeared for a brief time. Note to self, always bring a camera when walking, we missed capturing a juvenile eagle perched on driftwood on the beach with its wings spread out to dry after fishing in the ocean. Peter went back with said camera but the young eagle was now in a tree, he got a photo but not what we would have had. Lots of walking and exploring of the grounds.

So far no promised sunshine today, but the grey sky is perfect for photos, such a beautiful place for a morning beach walk.

This afternoon we drove about a half hour towards Port Alice to the Marble River provincial park. The theme was definitely trees of the rainforest. Some parts of the park were blocked off because of a wind storm that swept through in November 2020. So many fallen trees, some roots and all and others snapped off halfway up the trunk. I can imagine the noise of these mighty trees cracking and thundering down to the ground!

We will be heading home today, a few days of being immersed in the waters and forests of the North Island has been a great reset. We would like to explore further, a trip to Alert Bay and Sointula for the future.

Southern B.C. & Alberta

Our trip was originally to go as far as Manitoba. The world events of this spring of 2022, has brought fuel prices that just keep on rising. We decided to concentrate our travel to southern B.C. and southern Alberta. To get the biggest bang for our buck as the saying goes, we have combined dog tests and trials, exploring parks and heritage sites and a family visit.

Our first destination was Aldergrove to attend the Golden Retriever Club of B.C.’s hunt tests. Our young dog Cypher did us proud with 2 senior hunt passes. The RV park in Aldergrove was an interesting sign of the times. Many of the sites were permanent, the RV’s were setup to stay long term, with gardens and storage sheds. Folks are living 100% in their RV’s some having a 2nd RV home in the U.S. for the winters.

Eagle Wind RV park

MANNING PARK AND KETTLE CREEK
Our next stop was a quick look at Manning Park Resort, lunch, a few fun photos and we were off to Kettle Creek RV, for a one night stay. This was a clean and well kept park.


FORT STEELE

Fort Steele RV Resort was just okay, located beside a gas station so lots of traffic noise. The usual dogs must be on leash rule, but the manager’s young german shepherd dog loose and annoying. The visit to the Fort Steele heritage site was worth it though. Interesting that even now the pandemic is affecting business, they had a serious staff shortage, they usually have 85 staff on and only had 35 working, lots of doubling up on duties happening.


At the entrance to Fort Steele out popped a badger, he/she was surprised to see us, as were we!


We found a bit of rough land beside a creek to give the dogs a free run each day and were treated to views of an active osprey nest!


Fort Steele has maintained and show cases the transportation of the times, horse and train. The horses were beautiful black drafts, some bred there, all named with thier pedigrees and photos posted in the barn.

The train was an original steam engine train of that time era, and was being run on test runs while we watched. It was great to hear the chugg, chugg as she gained steam power, the engineers were having a good time getting her up to speed!


FRANK SLIDE

We were back on the road heading to our next stop for spaniel trials and tests, Picture Butte, Alberta. We stopped at the Frank Slide, a must see to appreciate the scale of this slide that wiped out a portion of the town and 90 lives in a matter of seconds. Even today the mountain is under constant monitoring for any changes in stability. The first nations of this area had always called it the trembling mountain.


PICTURE BUTTE

Peter and I had stayed at Countryside RV Resort 3 years ago on our first foray to Picture Butte, we liked it then and nothing had changed. We were 25 minutes from the spaniel event so a perfect spot. The Tests and Trials were so fun and for me a hands on educational workshop. Calli and I came away with two CKC Spaniel Senior Hunt Test ribbons. It was wonderful to reconnect with the spaniel community.



DRUMHELLER

Drumheller was our next call. The RV park was adequate, we experienced how fast the Alberta weather can change from hot sun to thunderstorms daily!

The Royal Tyrrell Museum did not disappoint. What a rich and vast display of dinosaur bones and fossils found in this area of the Alberta Badlands. The museum is amazing in how it interprets and presents the history. There is an active lab of paleontologists unearthing fossils and bones from rock on site that you can watch, a visit is highly recommended.

The next day we hiked up into the hills with the dogs, now having a better understanding of the layers of sediment that the area is made up of. We kept to the paths as there are rattle snakes about.

next up – WATERTON LAKES NATIONAL PARK

Shack Island

Shack Island- today we were lucky to be invited to a cabin on Shack Island located off Nanaimo. These cabins have been enjoyed by generations of the families of Nanaimo fishermen dating back to the early 1900’s. I had no idea that this piece of island history existed, it was a lovely day spent in the midst of stunning scenery.

The history below comes from the city of Nanaimo parks information.

The current cabins on the island find their roots in the 1930s, arising as people struggled with the Great Depression. But Shack Island’s full history dates back a little earlier than that. In 1907, the Pacific Whaling Company set up a factory in Pipers Lagoon (known then as Page Lagoon). Humpback whales frequented the coast at the time, following the herring runs through the Salish Sea. In one year, the factory caught close to a hundred whales, and it’s believed to be responsible for their near complete population wipe-out in the area. Pipers Lagoon had a short history as a whaling station, and the factory was soon dismantled and sent north to Rose Harbour, located on Kunghit Island, Haida Gwaii. But Shack Island was not yet done as a key location for those making their living from the sea. 

As the Great Depression took hold of Canada in the  ’30s, the small collection of islands became a key fishing spot for those willing to take their catch back into town to sell. With property taxes becoming harder and harder to pay as the economy struggled to rebuild, those fishers that frequented the area began building shelters and lean-tos on the small spit of land. A seasonal rotation formed, with life on the sea somewhat perilous in wintertime. The higher tides, thick algae, and harsh winds would force residents back into Nanaimo to wait out the colder months. Come spring, repairs would be made, supplies would be ferried out for the new season, and the island would once again come to life.

Life on and near the sea is always tuned to the tides. But residents of Shack Island are especially knowledgeable of the change, as the rising of the tide cuts the island off from the rest of Nanaimo for part of the day. In the island’s early years, supply runs timed up with the lowering of tide. Bundles of goods, small children, and even beloved pets would be carried over the oyster-laden ground as the waters receded. As kids got older, and explored farther and farther from home, the tides became the curfew point. Be home before late tide came in or be stranded on the lagoon’s beach, trying to calculate whether you could swim back home and dry off before your mother noticed your late arrival.

The cabins are kept quite original with only minor improvements and repairs to structure as needed. There is a no fresh water on the island so composting toilets and ocean swims in lieu of a shower are in order. If a cabin burns down or is destroyed by weather it cannot be rebuilt, nor can they be sold, they must stay with the descendants of the original fishermen. A modern day squatters rights situation. These cabins are a sampling of time honoured ways, each generation of children exploring the same tidal pools and rocky bluffs that thier ancestorsexplored in earlier days.

The cabin with the Welsh flag is where we were.
Looking back to Nanaimo

Ucluelet

When I look at this photo, the first thought that always comes to my mind is not my cousins or hiking or a crashed plane.  No, the first thought is of wet, cold, black, sucking mud. 

On a cousin’s weekend in April of 2015, we had a beach side condo in Ucluelet, Sherrie who was working in Uke that year had won a weekend at the condo through a local contest.  The second-floor deck had patio chairs, a soft sided hot tub and overlooked the ocean inlet.  We explored the town, not fully open for tourists yet, some restaurants and galleries still closed, but enough happening to be an interesting walk.  We walked the long sandy beaches, watched the spring surfers.  We did all the usual hikes, up to the light house, over to Black Rock Resort, the marina.  One narrow trail up a mountain side found us on a platform that stretched out from the cliff overlooking Chesterman beach, the platform had an old couch on it, we did not sit, just imagine what might have been living in it.

Sherrie was absorbed in her newfound love of photography and mentioned how she wanted to get some shots of the downed WWII bomber that was in the woods, she knew where the trail entrance was but hadn’t wanted to go in alone. Tammy and I were up for adventures, so we all decided to hike into the site that afternoon.  During the war, the Royal Canadian Air Force Canso 11007 was a long-range patrol bomber that was flown out of Ucluelet and Tofino, patrolling up and down the Coast looking for submarines and enemy ships.  It remains where it crashed in 1945, in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

I read recently that there are now boardwalks installed all the way to the plane site, but this was not the case when we went.  We parked the car at the Radar Hill parking lot. After a walk up the highway counting the telephone poles to number 15, we found the path leading in.  The first part of the hike was decent, taking us to the old cement bunker that had been used to house radar and radios during the war.  Now it is a canvass for graffiti, inside and out, dark, dank, and dripping.  After exploring the bunker, we continued downhill, through to the trail that would guide us to the plane crash site.  There were a few markers, even a rope for part of the way but also lots of game trails, it would be so easy to get on the wrong path.   The trail quickly dissolved into a mud bog layered with rotting roots and tree branches.  We met a few young surfer types coming out on our way in, they would grin at us and say, “keep going you are almost there!”  They were probably amused at seeing three 50 something women venturing in, knowing what we were in for.  For the first part of this bog walk, we carefully picked our way finding a dry spot, hopping onto a rock, then stepping to the next slippery log or dry spot.  We all had socks and running shoes on, boots would have been the better choice.  The time and effort to find dryer spots to walk on became more and more impossible till there came a point when I thought, “roll up your pant legs and just walk Kim, walk right through what ever is there” and so it became the mud walk.  Mud up to our shins and knees, sucking our feet down, pulling each foot up and out with each step, a slog through the mud for 2 km’s one way!  When we came across what appeared to be a perfectly round pond in the middle of the bog, we knew were getting close, this was the site of one of the bombs that had been unloaded before the plane crashed. 

By this time there was only us, sucking mud, and dripping trees on the trail.  Finally, we caught the first sight of our destination. The plane hung precariously in the trees, nose down, tail up, surprisingly in tack after 70 years of hanging there.  I remember the quiet of the space, and an unexpected feeling of reverence.  There were signs not to climb on or in the plane, we read the plaque that told the story of the crash, 12 on board, no lives lost.  I was struck by the thought that during the war, the damage to countries throughout Europe was so catastrophic. Being a continent away, our own countryside, our buildings and monuments remained unscathed.  And yet here in the middle of the rainforest on the west coast of Vancouver Island, Canada, was a small sampling piece of the destruction from the war. 

Sherrie who had packed her precious camera through the treacherous trail, got it out and started snapping. She set it carefully on a log with the timer set, racing back to get our photo together.

Now, for the hike back to the highway, the incentive no longer was about adventure and discovery, now it was getting out of these muddy socks, washing feet, and sinking into the hot tub with a glass of wine!

Tuscany, Italy

Northern Tuscany walking tour Day 1

tdt_map_copy

Tomorrow we will make our way to join our walking group at the Pisa Airport.  The Exodus folks will pick us all up there and take us to Braccicorti where our home base will be located.

22733
The farm house where we will be staying.

After meeting up with the rest of the group and our guide Sarah at the Pisa Airport, we drove about an hour and a half up into the hills to the farm.  What a beautiful, pastoral place, the sun was shining and the birds are singing.  There are only 7 in our group, 4 from Great Briton 1 Australian and us two Canadians.  We have had the afternoon to settle in, and wander about, our room is lovely with old stone walls.

 

 

I went for a walk while Peter rested – he is on the mend thank goodness.  I found a lovely wooded walk that took me to the golf course that is on the property. It’s the last thing I was expecting to see here, but there ya go.

We will meet up for a hike briefing at 7 pm then dinner.  The farm is gorgeous, authentic but with all the amenities.  Our guide Sarah looks like a marathon runner, sure hope that doesn’t mean we are in trouble!

Day 2 Hiking in Tuscany

Today’s walk was through the Orecchiella National Park to Pania di Corfino – a circle route.  A 20 min drive took us to our beginning. After 2 hours of climbing, I realized this is not a walk, this is a hike and what was I thinking!  No doubt this was a little more than I had anticipated coupled with having Peter’s cold moved on to me.  We had quite a day, sunshine, wind, hail storm with thunder, snow and rain. . we had it all.  At mid day there was a little lunch place that was open so that we could get warm before the trek back down the mountain. The path down was an old mule path and quite treacherous with loose rock and constant decline.  But… we did it!  Our guide Sara was great, kept to a good pace and little stops along the way.

img_3289-1
Our guide Sara and her dog Elvis. It’s anyone’s guess what he is made up of and he is very sweet. Behind her is John who is an inspiration to us – 79 years old.

There is one English gentleman in our group that is amazing, he’s got 15 years on us and was the most fit of all, often singing away to the group, I couldn’t even talk!  We have a GP and Veterinarian and a psychiatrist in our group so injuries would be covered.  I was the slowest in the group going up hill but no one seems to care thank goodness. Peter took the photos today.  All I could do was put one foot in front of the other. The trek was 13 km’s, with an ascent of 603m and descent the same. Total altitude was 1603m.  The trek took us 6 hours.

 

We’ll find out tonight what the hike will be for tomorrow.  I expect we will sleep very well tonight!

Day 3 Hiking in Tuscany

img_3285

Today’s hike was as expected, a tough one.  Not only was the hike challenging but I managed to tweek my knee coming down the mountain yesterday and this cold I have continues.  But off we went. This hike was up to a mountain peak loosely translating to “Dead Man Sleeping”  It was a climb up that included what our guide called, a “scramble” which I now understand to mean hands and knees mountain climb.  While it was a tough ascent, the view really was worth it and I felt like I had truly accomplish something.  16,850 steps according to my Fitbit. Peter was in his element.

Unfortunately the hike back down was extremely rough and did my knee no favors. We all went out to an amazing restaurant in the village below the farm, we practiced our Italian, ordering from the menu.  It was of course authentic and delicious.

Day 4 Hiking in Tuscany

Today’s hike was with one of the family of  Braccicorti, Pierluigi.  He took us on a farm and village walk and really helped to tie together how this part of the world lives and works.

img_3311
Our guide talks with his hands, so Italian.

This walk was our longest for the trip.  19.6 kms and 24,050 steps according to Fitbit.  The good news was that it was on good footing and my knee was able to manage without too much trouble.  One thing that I have discovered is the benefit of walking poles, they are my new best friend!

img_3323
Me and my new stick friends after 19.6 km’s.

The walk had been described as undulating, which means some up, some flat, some downhill so not too bad at all.  One of the most important agricultural products in this area of Italy are Chestnuts.  There are Chestnut woods everywhere.  The chestnuts are harvested in October and kept in stone buildings through out the area. The building is heated with a fire fueled by chestnut tree wood and kept going for 40 days.  After that the chestnuts are shelled and used fresh, or ground for flour to make breads and cakes.  They also keep bees in the chestnut woods and make very different flavored honey.  During the WWII it was chestnuts that kept many people alive when the armies came through taking all the food.  The elders call the chestnut the bread of life nut.

Day 5 Hiking in Tuscany

Today was our free day and a good thing it was as this cold got the better of me, other than a little afternoon walk it was a super quiet day.

Day 6 Hiking Tuscany

Back to hiking today but sadly not for me, I just don’t have enough breath yet so have sent Peter out with instructions to take lots of photo’s.  If one must be grounded, this is a pretty nice place to be grounded to. I spent the day reading, a bit of writing, a walk up to the golf course and enjoying the sun pool side.  Not so shabby.

Peter had a great day hiking with the group.

IMG_1328

Today there were some sheer cliffs and they even found some snow.

Day 7 Hiking in Tuscany

Today I chose to do a flatter walk around the reservoir while the rest climbed the mountain. My chest cold is still dragging on unfortunately. The walk was a little bizarre, you paid at the turnstile to do the walk, I was the only customer. Apparently the new mayor of this village wants to build tourism so he has added this walk with attractions. On the first section there were farm animals behind fences

The next section on the village side of the reservoir had an odd collection of marble statues, animals and mythical creatures they were signs but all Italian so no help.

Once I crossed the suspension bridge to the other side of the reservoir I came across more marble and some flags. Even more bizarre the statues were of Russia’s Putin and the US’s Trump.

I carried on around the reservoir crossed another bridge to return to the village side.

Once the group returned from their mountain hike I found out from our guide that the mayor wanted statues of good things on the village side of the walk and statues of bad things on the other side. Many of the village people did not want this but he is Mayor and can do whatever he wants. What a curious site.

ITALY – Florence

Day 1 – Planes, trains and automobiles!

Once we were off the ship we flew to Rome then flew on to Florence (Fiorenza).  All the transfers of us and luggage went amazingly well, Europe knows how to move people.

 

 

Our little apartment is 1 km away from the city center and is very spacious. The hotels in the city center are about $300 to $400 euro per night, our apartment is just over $100 euro.  With a 20 minute walk we are in the city center so a good deal. We picked up food to make our own dinner tonight and breakfast. There are laundry facilities just down the hall so we can catch up on 10 days of laundry. On the cruise there was laundry service $1 euro per item!  Here we can do a whole load for 4 euro.

 

 

We will do lots of walking on this part of our trip.  The first day we just walked to the center to get our bearings, it was raining but still crowded with people. I would not like to be doing this in the height of the season.  My first impression was of the grandeur that the church and elite surrounded themselves with.  Many of the people would have been dirt poor but still gave their money to support these places.  It’s also a strange feeling to be quite out numbered by other races and languages, Italy does not make the same effort to translate signs to English as Greece does.  Despite all of this, the buildings are truly awe inspiring.  Hoping for a drier day tomorrow.

 

 

Florence  Uffizi Gallery Day 2

This morning we were  out by 7:30 to get in line for the Uffizi Gallery as the gallery no longer accepts reservations after the beginning of April.  We waited about 1 hour  in line so not too bad.  The day is dry about 22 degrees, cloudy and humid.

img_3076
Our view as we walked to the Gallery

A true treasure trove of sculptors and paintings by the masters.  Van Gogh, Cezanne, Michelangelo and more. The paintings were dominated by scenes of Madonna and Child.

 

The sculptures of the elite rulers of the time, as well as mythology stories.

 

I was enthralled by the ceilings in the rooms, sometimes more that the art being presented in the room.  I spent a lot of time staring at ceilings.

 

 

 

More of the paintings, not Madonna and child but telling the story of the times.

 

 

My favorite of all today was this master piece by Michelangelo. Mary, Joseph and Jesus. I was surprised by how old Joseph is depicted in most of the paintings.

img_3111

Home now for a rest, somehow Peter finds our way through all the maze of streets thankfully.  We will venture out to an Italian pizzeria tonight for dinner, yumm.

Florence Day 3  Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens

The weather has been steadily improving and today, no need of a jacket. Sunshine and warm.  Our walk to the Pitti Palace was so pleasant, mornings are the best here as Italians are late risers so the streets are much quieter.

 

Compared to yesterdays gallery the Pitti Palace was a treat as there were not the crowds. We spent 5 hours in the palace and gardens, the line ups were growing when we left at 2:00.

Again the ceilings were works of art all on their own.

 

Napoleon’s private bathroom, not too privileged!

img_3161

 

The lady in the Salon and the same lady hunting.

 

Some of the incredible art.

 

There were art students working through out the gallery this morning, interesting to see their sketches of the masters.

 

A taste of the opulence of the palace salons.

 

img_3194

We were fortunate to be here for this special exhibit. All the art work we have been seeing has been done by men. This exhibit was about the women artists, their work has a completely different flavor.

img_3197

My favorite, the people could have jumped right off the canvass.

Today I was missing our dogs so ended up taking photo’s of art work with dogs.

img_3215

Another lovely piece that caught my eye.

The Boboli Gardens are part of the Pitti Palace grounds, because if you live in a palace, the children must play somewhere. 🙂

 

I can only imagine what this rose garden will look like in another month, I was in need of some organic beauty and was not disappointed. The birds were singing, it was wonderful.

I imagined that the royal children would have loved to climb this tree.

img_3239

In keeping with my missing our dogs today, here are some photo’s of dogs we came across today on our way home.  Almost all of the dogs walk on harnesses or nothing at all.  They all seem to have city manners.  The only dogs that showed interest in other people were… you guessed it, the goldens. 🙂

Day 4 Florence

Well I had wondered if we would escape the dreaded recycled air on airplanes and unfortunately we did not.  Peter has come down with a nasty virus of some sort and so today is a stay put day.  Hopefully with lots of rest and vitamin C he will be on the mend as tomorrow we head to Northern Tuscany for the week of hiking.  Fingers crossed….

GREECE AEGEAN SEA CRUISE

While most of our time on this cruise has been spent exploring the islands, the ship does offer all the amenities.  Last night we had a brandy and listened to some classical music to end the evening.

 

 

Day 5 Crete (Heraklion)

Crete is the largest island that we will be visiting, and is the largest of the Greek islands. The ship was able to be dock side with the assistance of a pilot boat and a tug boat.

 

img_2972

A model of the Knossos palace 

We were up and onto a tour first thing in the morning.  Our tour was of Knossos Palace and the Archaeological Museum.  The Knossos Palace has mostly been reconstructed based on what archaeologists in the 1930’s thought the buildings would look like.  Our guide said that there was much discussion about whether to leave what was intact or to add the reconstruction.  It is an enormous palace and to have guessed what went where seems a bit presumptuous.  Wouldn’t it be interesting for someone to come back through time and say that it is all wrong!  I’ll guess we will never know.

 

The museum holds many of the actual artifacts.  With being on a tour it was a bit of a whirl wind and really deserved a much longer look.  It was interesting that the Minoan peoples art was very fine and detailed.  When the Mycenaean’s conquered them the art work went backwards, much more primitive.  The first set of photos are Minoan, the next are from the later Mycenaean period.

 

 

We found another beautiful church in the public square.

Again on this island I was a mark for street hustlers. I’ve gotten good at using my elbows and saying NO. But this time was harder. As we left the church shown above, a little boy of about 5 years walked beside me “hungry, money please mama”. It broke my heart not to acknowledge him but I knew that if I had stopped the adults would swarm. It was a Saturday and this child should have been playing T-Ball not begging. I blew up the photo of the church and found his family looking for marks. The little boy is the one in the red striped shirt.

We did some walking along the harbour before going back on board. The fishing boats are very colourful, a few we wondered about their sea worthiness

Day 6 Kusadasi, Turkey

Our last place to visit was not an island. Turkey is 95% in Asia and 5% in Europe. Of all our stops this one had me a little worried as Turkey is bordered by Syria, Iran and Iraq. When we came through the port authority building there were guards with machine guns. Boarded on our tour bus were two armed guards, in 2016 there was a coup attempt in Turkey and the cruise ships are only now returning. I took a deep breath and away we went to the city ruins of famous Ephesus. Our tour guide was Turkish and spent time talking about the politics between Greece and Turkey. I have found Greek and Turkish men to have a powerful presence and sense a potential for violence simmering just under the surface. This sense was particularly strong in Turkey.

Seeing Ephesus was worth my nervousness. The history is the oldest here, it is named the birth place of civilization.

The symbol of medicine originated here, this the oldest one we will ever see.

The game backgammon was invented during this time, here is a backgammon a game board on stone. Turks and Greeks say they are the best players.

The city library behind us. Only 8% of the people would have been able to read, so this huge building for a privileged few.

Toilets were a public activity. The water from the baths ran under the seats. The privileged got the seats at the top and the poor got the last of seats at the bottom as the water would be very stinky by the time it reached the bottom. The seats are made of marble, the most important people had slaves that would sit on the seat first to warm the marble for them.

This is where the term “bench warmers” came from 🙂

More of Ephesus

Peter and I walked on the same path as Cleopatra and Marc Antony are know to have strolled.

 

Our tour ended with a Turkish carpet making demonstration.  The demonstration was fascinating, it was on how the silk is spun from the cocoons and then woven for a carpet on looms.  This was a cooperative where people apprentice and then get their own loom which they will have at their home and do the work there.

After the demonstration, the real show began, we were all served wine or raki (Turkish equivalent of Ouzo).  Carpet after carpet were rolled out by the sales men, it was hard sell time then.  The smallest of the carpets that you would hang on a wall were $4,000 euro.  The most expensive large floor carpet was $30,000 euro.  I could not imagine a carpet like that on the floor with our dogs!  There were some  purchases made by our fellow travelers.

This being our last day on the ship it was time to repack our bags, regroup and be ready for the next adventure.  On to Italy.

Greece Aegean Sea Cruise

img_2654
Our cruise ship, the Celestyal Crystal

The Crystal is small as cruise ships go. I think we have about 600 passengers and 400 crew.  We have a suite and we both are enjoying the smaller size of this ship.  There is lots to offer, restaurants, theater, casino, spa, pool. The welcome fruit tray and champagne on ice was a nice touch!

img_2657

I was quite surprised by how serious the safety drill was taken, this was not just a wander down to your muster station but a full drill, with sirens, everyone in their life jackets with the Captain and first mate coming to all the muster stations to inspect.

img_2671

 

Day 1  Mykonos Island

img_2689We booked a tour of Mykonos Island.  This is the first Cruise and tours of the season so there were a few logistics to sort out but we just went with the flow.  I was glad for a hoodie and wind breaker as it was bloody cold with a strong wind.  The tour was a great way to see a lot of the Island.  It is small, taking the bus only 20 minutes to  cross from one side to the other.

Most of the Mykonos people have given up their traditional lively hoods such as farming and have turned to tourism.  But we did get to see a cheese making operation that has been making cheese for generations.  No chemicals or preservative here, we were able to try the 100% pure yogurt and one of the soft cheeses.  Their milk comes from cows, goats and sheep depending on the type of cheese they are making.  The yellow roadside flowers you see here grow like our daisy’s and dandelions all over Mykonos.

 

Here are a few shots of the countryside as we drove across the Island. There are no fences, the fields are divided by low rock walls.

We visited the Monastary of  Panagia Tourliani  established in 1542,(originally know as the presentation of the Virgin Mary).  This is a Greek Orthodox Church attached to the monastary.

You know where the people spent their money just look inside this church.  The back iconostasis (alter screen) is made of wood, covered in gold leaf built in Florence in 1775 and moved to Mykonos.

I especially was drawn to the simpler lower wall panels that are very old wood painted with designs.

img_2697-1img_2698-1img_2696-1

 

Our next stop was to see the famous windmills of Mykonos, they were used to grind flour for bread.  Today they are not used but maintained as monuments.  It was very windy, they definitely chose thier location well for windmills!

 

Mykonos is most know for it’s beaches and night life, we stopped at one of the beaches and while it was beautiful, we have our Vancouver Island beaches like Long Beach so weren’t as wowed as many of our tour group. The kids had a great time with the waves.  As far as night life goes, that’s way past my bedtime.

A treat for west coast gardener’s eyes was the bougainvillea blooming on many entrance ways.  Average winter temperatures for these islands is between 8 and 12 degrees so they get an early start.

 

The streets are winding and very narrow, this we learned was for protection. Invaders and pirates would get lost in the maze of streets allowing the people to escape.  The buildings are rounded because of the high winds that blow through, rounding the corners stops the whistling of the wind.

 

Day 2 Milos

The cruise ship does not dock in Milos, rather it anchors off shore and people are ferried to the dock by “tender” which is the name for the ships life boats.  I always wondered what it would be like to be in a life boat and this was a much safer way to try it out than in a real emergency.

 

Peter and I loved Milos, it has only recently started to become a tourist island and is far more natural and culturally intact.  Our tour was focused on how the geology of the island has impacted it’s history.  Our guide was a young man of Milos who clearly loved his island and was passionate about the tour’s topic.  He really was excellent. One of the hi lights of this tour was a walk to an inlet of pure white stone sculpted by volcanic eruptions called Sarakinio.  It looks like a moonscape against the turquoise Aegean Sea.

img_2820

One of the sea caves that pirates would use to hide in.

Another place that we went was the ancient ruins of Melos and its Roman amphitheater with seats cut into the rock slope. At one time it could accommodate 10,000 people.  This location is also the place that the Venus de Milo (now residing in the Louvre in Paris) was discovered in 1820.  The country side was stunning, we have been told that we are very fortunate to see so many flowers as this is most unusual and is due to the record rainfall they have had this spring.

The village of Plaka is 250 meters above the sea with original architecture and incredible views of the sea.

Milos is a place that I could see us coming back to for a longer holiday.  Hopefully it can maintain its essence despite the approach of heavy tourism, time will tell.  Our guide told us that while the children of Milos must leave  the island for high school and higher education, they always return.  There is work and they love their island and way of life.  There are no movie theaters, or shopping malls.  In the winter the people enjoy live plays, concerts and community time in the squares.  There is some hunting and sport fishing.  If they want a change they have a weekend in Athens or do some travelling.  Such a different life from ours. The olive trees on the islands always stay within the family. When a son is born his father plants a small grove of olive trees and they remain his for life.  So a family plot of land will have olive trees that belong to the son, the father, the grandfather and on and on.

A small grove of olive trees
I came across these stone fresco’s in the courtyards. They are so pretty that I didn’t want to walk on them but I suppose millions of people have. Some are very old and some newer.Some final shots of charming Milos.
Days 3 & 4 Santorini

Getting off the ship to go to Santorini is again with a small boat.  In Santorini the boat union has the job so no life boats this time.  Santorini is of course very beautiful and iconic.  It is also very commercialized for tourism.  Prices are hugely inflated and there are lots of “rubber tomahawk” shops as Peter calls them.  We did find some interesting little local shops and enjoyed seeing where the rich and famous stay on holidays.

 

The island gets no rain from June to September in yet. the island produces large amounts of grapes for their wine production.  We saw plots of grapes everywhere.  The secret we discovered is how they grow the grapes.  In the fall at pruning time the vines are woven into what looks like a basket low to the ground.  In the spring/summer the leaves grow up and over the woven basket forming an umbrella for the grapes.  This protects them from the sun, heat and dust.  They are totally dependent on humidity and dew for water and this system gives the plants the most use of the moisture available.

Our second day at Santorini was very windy, crew that had been working here for over ten years had not seen it like this.  Our trip to the island on the small boat was an adventure on it’s own!  The boat rocked a rolled all the way to dock side, crew were very careful to help everyone on and off as you had to time it just right – boat to ramp mid wave.

Yesterday we had begun the day delivered to the new harbor that has a road wide enough for the tour buses, then took the tram down to the old harbor to go back to the ship.

Today we would start at the old harbor and could take the tram up, ride a donkey up the steps or walk.  We had decided to walk the 587 steps up to the village.  My family that like to do the stairs at home for exercise you will be impressed with us!  We took the stairs down at the end of the day too.

Santorini was fun and interesting and a Check off on the old bucket list but we are finding some of the other islands more to our liking.  So glad to have been here.)

GREECE Athens

osprey bag

greece
Exploring Athens, Mykonos, Santorini, Crete, Milos and Kadasis (Turkey)

We are heading out in the morning for the first leg of our journey.  Going to Greece has been a dream for more years than I care to admit.  I have no connection to this country but it has drawn me to it for some reason.  Perhaps that reason will become clear in the coming days.

We will fly out of our home town Airport of Comox at 6 am,  Vancouver to Toronto to Athens.  When we arrive in Athens it will be the middle of the night for us and 9 in the morning Athen’s time.  Our plan is to get checked into our hotel, settle and freshen up.  Then head out for as much of the day as we can manage before sleeping, with the hope of resetting our internal clock.  I am one who can’t sleep on a plane but needs sleep, so will be a challenging day.

After a very long travel day we did finally arrive in Athens and we were grateful for have arranging ahead to have a taxi pick up at the airport.  I have a lot to say about flying and how the airlines squash as many humans as possible into a plane, but that will wait.  I’ll focus on the trip..

Day 1 in Athens.

Our driver was the epitome of what people coming off a long travel would appreciate.  He had bottles of cold water waiting for us, chatted in clear english about the area as we passed through.  The drive was about 40 minutes to our hotel. The streets of downtown Athens are a site to behold, so narrow and crammed with cars, buses, motorcycles, and scooters.  They all manage to drive together.  The cars are allowed in the faster outside lane on alternating days dependent on if their licence plate ends in a odd or even number, and only full licenced vehicles are even allowed to drive on these streets.  There was alot of honking but no crashes and I realized that the honking was not in anger like at home but is a form of communication.  I have no desire to drive on these streets myself, we’ll leave the driving to the professionals.  Fortunately we can walk to anywhere we want to go.

Our hotel is part of the original central core of Athens, the buildings are from the 1800’s. We have yet to try this elevator but will do it before we leave.

 

From our balcony from any direction we have very old buildings, some are under renovation and some look to be left to crumble.

We got out and explored in the afternoon, I expected the greek ruins to be a destination to get to but as we walked to an area of restaurants they are just there.  They are a part of the city which makes sense but surprized me just the same.

This was our view sitting at the outside restaurant that we chose in the afternoon.  Tzatziki with bread drizzeled with olive oil, yum.

 

In the evening we headed out to find some dinner and got drenched in a heavy down pour accompanied by a lightening storm.  This is uncommon for April in Greece, they have had alot of rain and blame it on global warming.  We ducked into a greek traverna and enjoyed a shared platter of kebobs and house red wine, I am in love with greek wine!  Under $5 for a 1/2 litre of wine and so delicious. My mother would approve of the little glasses that don’t tip over.

My first impression of the greek way of life is the different pace.

img_2458

The restaurants do nothing in a hurry and you are made welcome to stay as long as you like.  In the afternoon at the first restaurant, we indicated that we were ready for our bill, we waited, and waited. The owner who finally came to take our money arrived with a drink of Krasomelo (wine with honey and amerreto) and a dessert square for us “on the house”. My first lesson in just slowing  down and enjoy. The greek men appear to be the face of the restaurants but I expect there is a greek woman in the kitchen making the magic happen.

 

Day 2 in Athens

This morning we went to the National Archaeological Museum, a 20 minute walk from our hotel.  We spent 5 hours here.  The displays are so well done, many rooms that move you through the ages, all the displays have write ups in greek and english.  I was drawn to the sculptures, reliefs and pottery.  Peter loved it all especially the artifacts of tools and weapons.

img_2492

The court yard of the museum has this beautiful garden with very old olive tree, it was a pleasant spot for a cappuccino break midway through our tour

There is a dark under current of unrest in Athens, when we arrived at the museum in the morning we saw a bus load of riot police setting up on the street in front of the museum.  The police were in full riot gear including those riot shields you see on TV.  We carried on into the museum. When we came out in the afternoon they were there still. As we passed by on the side walk we saw police setting up to block the side street by the museum, there was a group coming towards them.  I don’t know what the outcome was as Peter hustled us out of there, no photo’s to share as I didn’t want to lose my phone to the police.

The other thing that shows the unrest of the people is the unfortunate graffiti and tagging that is on almost every building in the Athens city centre. I read that this has been going on since the eighties, much of the graffiti is political some not. The only buildings that appear to escape the spray can are the churches.

There is a visible homeless population which I did not photograph out of respect for human dignity. I also experienced the street hustlers which there are a lot of. My first experience went like this. I had been warned before we came here that if someone in the street gives you an item – if you take it, it is yours and you must pay. As we walked in a busy restaurant area a woman came towards me and wanted to hand me a rose, Peter saying quietly to me, don’t take it. I said no but she pressed it into my hand, if I hadn’t held it, it would have fallen to the ground and being a good Canadian I didn’t want her rose to be ruined so grabbed it to hand back to her, she wouldn’t take it and shoved a rose behind my ear as well. By this time there was a swarm of people moving in on me, Peter gave the woman a handful of change and got me the heck out of there. I was totally out of my element but learned a streetwise lesson, and two lovely roses!

 

Day 3 in Athens

We had saved our tour of the Acropolis till today in hopes of better weather. We were not disappointed as we had a warm, sunny day. The walk up to the ruins took us through beautiful ancient streets. The orange trees give off a heavenly scent in the morning.

The Acropolis, it was a hike up the hill but so worth it!

The Roman amphitheater, music concerts are still held here.

The Dionysus amphitheater
  1. The Acropolis was awe inspiring, photos only give you so much. The immense size and artistry will not be forgotten.

The Acropolis is being restored piece by piece. Each piece of marble is identified with coded number. They use computer hologram programs to find out what pieces go together, a giant LEGO puzzle.

As we made our way back down the hill there were vendors and music starting up in the wide marble walkways, we enjoyed as  we made our way to the brand new Acropolis Museum.  The new buildings in this area of Athens including the Museum built right over the village ruins.  The museum is in the process of restoring part of these ruins and have put in glass sidewalks that go right over the restoration areas so that you can see the work being done, very cool.

On the way home the pretty narrow streets had filled with tourists and vendors and yes.. more street hustlers.  We had learned that most of them are Romanian and Sumalian refugees, desperate to get money.  I must have “Mark” written all over me as this time I have at least 5 different people coming at me at different points in our walk.  But, I was ready this time, no eye contact and walked right through them, which goes against my nature but in Athens you have to be tough!

I have to share photos of one of the many bakery’s that we came across.  With Easter coming up, they had the most amazing chocolate Easter eggs for sale. We rewarded ourselves for our walking day with a treat.

This is our last day in Athens, tomorrow we embark on our cruise of the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea.