Apparently, spring has been early, and I’ve been enjoying every minute of it, even when the temperature went up to 30C for a couple of days. It’s more seasonal now, but those warm days ensured that blooms are everywhere, that the hills are verdant, and that lushness prevails. The wine is growing! 🙂
A trip to Vancouver Island wouldn’t be complete without a couple of shots of its iconic coastline. These enormous logs (above) washed up during the terrific surfs that can occur during winter storms. The logs themselves probably escaped from logging pens or “booms.”
The weather was a comfortable 10C with rain showers and a few sunny periods. The rain was a strong reminder of the fact that Vancouver Island is home to ancient “old growth” rain forest. First Nations peoples and many others have worked hard to save these forests from logging companies. Typically, the forests grow right up to the edge of the ocean.
This stump has likely been there for a long time; people have carved their names and initials into its deteriorating surface. I can’t help but wonder if this stump is what was left after the tree was cut down for lumber.
The tree itself must have been very old and very magnificient before it died and its remains were washed into the sea. I couldn’t count the rings because of the surf and also because of how worn it is, but I could see many of them, perhaps a hundred. It’s still magnificient, still standing up to the elements that will eventually take it completely.
We stayed at the Post Hotel at Lake Louise, which is my favourite hotel in the world and features the most wonderful menu and wine list. (Sorry, I wasn’t able to upload a photo of the Post Hotel – arrrgg – the following picture shows Lake Louise and the Chateau Lake Louise Hotel where we had dinner.)
A great day was had at the nearby Emerald Lake, including lunch at the Emerald Lake Lodge followed by some walking around the lake. Two of our sons thought that it would be a good idea to jump into it – pretty cold, even in August!
Emerald Lake really is a very distinctive green; this is caused by minerals in the water from glacial run-off. All of the lakes in this region are impressive and varying shades of green and greenish-blue.
We had a fabulous dinner at the Chateau Lake Louise Hotel; M used to work there many years ago. He had fun taking a nostalgic walk around, remembering all the stuff he used to get up to and telling his sons about his life there on the hotel staff.
After our sons returned to their various parts of Canada – Ontario, British Columbia and Saskatchewan – (when the wait staff asked us where we were from, we were happy to say, “all over Canada!”) M and I spent some time on our own, as all newly married couples should do :).
I have done a lot of travelling. A lot. It is probably my absolutely most favourite thing. I love observing the culture, trying the food, learning about the history, exclaiming over the scenery.
There are things that I have learned, however, and one of them is that I should be a little cautious about the more famous tourist hotspots.
So, here are some of my best travel destinations to either avoid or be more pragmatic about, given whatever your interests, time and/or financial constraints might be.
Stonehenge. I was a child the first time that I went there. That was a hundred years ago when you could walk among the stones. Alas, this is no longer possible, the result of vandalism and stupidity. Because one can now only view them from quite a distance, I would recommend spending your time (and your money) in Salisbury instead. Beautiful cathedral, interesting city.
Eiffel Tower. The first time I viewed Paris from the Eiffel Tower I was 12 years old and I could actually view Paris! Now it’s bound up with so many protective layers that you can’t really see much of anything. Unless you’re an architect, going to the Musee d’Orsay to oooh and ahhh over some of the world’s most impressive art works might be a much better choice. A lot smaller than the Louvre – you can enjoy the art without being totally overwhelmed by the size of the place.
Leaning Tower of Pisa. It’s out of the way and it takes about five minutes to see. A much better spot is Verona, a very charming, laid back city with an old Roman amphitheater that’s still in use – see an opera there. Juliet’s (of Romeo and Julietfame) house is also supposedly preserved; it’s unlikely to be hers but it’s a great old house and fun to visit. Check out her statue!
Venice in July and August. Venice has really suffered of late, especially with the concerns about its elevation. There have been attempts to limit the number of tour ships coming through because those large groups of people are doing a lot of damage but aren’t spending much money to help with the upkeep. If you go, it’s much better to visit in May, June or September. I have been there in all three months. The weather is great but not too hot and it’s also not so crowded. Try visiting some of the lesser known, smaller islands rather than focusing on Venice proper – you will find some of the very best local food and you will be able to take your time and explore.
Westminster Abbey. Seriously impressive, of course, and everyone should go there once. But right next door is St. Margaret’s Church, almost as old as the Abbey, and beautiful, historical, and very overlooked. Its smaller scale makes the history of the site much more accessible.
Florence. Don’t get me wrong. I love Florence, but the locals are weary of tourists and this attitude will colour a visit there. If you go, expect it and accept it. I recommend staying outside of Florence, in Siena (a completely gorgeous ancient city about 30 minutes outside of Florence), perhaps, and taking day trips into the city to visit the museums and the Duomo. This is Tuscany and the food, wine and scenery are fabulous almost anywhere you go, and staying outside of Florence will give you more exposure to the Tuscan people and culture.
Santa Fe. I love Santa Fe. But if you have limited time to visit the area, I would suggest spending it in Taos, which is about an hour and a half, very scenic drive into the mountains away. Artistic, beautiful, historical and slightly eccentric, Taos should not be missed.
Quebec City. Again, very beautiful and historical, but Montreal has everything that Quebec City has with the addition of being more cosmopolitan. The restaurants are fabulous and I love the Old City and markets!
Banff National Park. This is Canada’s oldest national park and also one of the oldest in the world. I love this park, especially the Lake Louise area. However, if you’re looking for something a little less crowded or touristy and that will really give you a taste of the vastness and beauty of Canada’s mountains, try Jasper National Park. It’s more off the beaten path and much less well known.