Travel Tuesday: Bora Bora

Today’s Travel Tuesday post is another one about somewhere I want to go. I have not had the luxury of visiting Bora Bora yet, but you can bet your ass I will get there one day. No matter the cost (there’s still a black market for organs right?). Have you ever seen a more magical, beautiful or romantic looking place? Sigh. I could look at photos of this island all day. Has anyone been? Is it as gorgeous as the photos look?

Bora Bora is a French Polynesian island in the Pacific Ocean. It is located about 230 kilometers northwest of Papeete and is surrounded by a lagoon and a barrier reef. In the center of the island are the remnants of an extinct volcano rising to two peaks, Mount Pahia and Mount Otemanu.

Pora Pora – the ancient name, meaning “first born,” came from legends describing this as the first island to rise when Taaroa, the supreme god, fished it out of the waters after the mythical creation of Havai’i, now known as Raiatea. Although the first letter “B” does not exist in the Tahitian language, when Captain Cook first heard the name he mistook the softened sound of the Tahitian “P” for “B” and called the island Bola Bola.

Perfect white-sand beaches give way to emerald waters where colored fish animate the coral gardens as they greet the giant manta rays. This could be easily be described as the center of the romantic universe, where luxury resorts and spas dot the island with overwater bungalows, thatched roof villas and fabled ambience.

Bora Bora offers:

  • Enchantment from the neon-lit turquoise lagoon waters with unending days of exploration through snorkeling and diving. Many species of sharks and rays inhabit the surrounding body of water.
  • Excitement above the lagoon by outrigger canoe, Boston Whaler, wave runner, jet ski, and dramatic sunset cruises aboard a catamaran sailboat.
  • Exploration of the panoramic overlooks found by hike or 4×4 accompanied by entertaining local guides.
  • Discovery of the world-renowned shopping for local and international original art, Tahitian pearls, perfumes and oils, and precious wood handcrafts.

 

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Travel Tuesday: Capri, Italy

Ahhh, Capri. Let me tell you…this place is magical, magical but expensive. I visited Capri for two days and one night on my Europe trip in 2010 (that was all I could afford, like I said the place is pricey). Capri is an island in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the Sorrentine Peninsula, on the south side of the Gulf of Naples in the Campania region of Italy. The main town on the island shares the name. It has been a resort since the time of the Roman Republic. There are only two towns – Capri, just above Marina Grande, and Anacapri, the higher town. Both Anacapri and Capri have a range of hotels. Anacapri (where we stayed) appears to have more budget accommodations and is more peaceful at night while Capri is the main center and has more nightlife. Beaches are scattered around the island. Lemon trees, flowers, and birds are abundant.

What to See in Capri:

Faraglioni, rock formations, are one of the island’s natural wonders. The faraglioni make up the classic view one associates with Capri. On the shore, the Faraglioni beach is one of the island’s most beautiful beaches. There are several other unusual rock formations in the sea around the island, including a natural arch.

Anacapri, the highest town on the island, has splendid views of the harbor below. Near the central square there’s a chair lift to Mount Solaro and a street lined with shops, several of which offer limoncello tasting. Olive trees, grapevines, and flowers give it a Mediterranean charm. Take the chairlift ride called the Seggiovia by locals, it goes from Anacapri up to Monte Solaro. On a clear day the views over the bay of Naples from the summit are indescribable and there are some really pretty gardens and orchards underfoot on the way up the mountain (passing over private homes). The ride takes 15 minutes each way and is a remarkably peaceful break from the tourist crowds elsewhere in Capri.

Villa San Michele, in Anacapri, was built around the turn of the 20th century by the Swedish physician, Axel Munthe, on the ruins of the Roman Emperor Tiberius’s villa. Its gardens have panoramic views of Capri town and its marina, the Sorrentine Peninsula and Mount Vesuvius. The villa and its grounds sit on a ledge at the top of the Phoenician Steps, between Anacapri and Capri, at 327 meters above sea level. San Michele’s gardens are adorned with numerous relics and works of art dating from ancient Egypt and other periods of antiquity. They now form part of the Grandi Giardini Italiani. The story of the villa is recorded by Dr. Munthe in his book entitled The Story of San Michele, published in 1929. There have been numerous reprints since.

Capri is the main town of the island. Piazza Umberto I, often called La Piazzetta, is the central square that houses cafes and the cathedral of Santo Stefano. The piazza is filled with people both day and night. There’s an archaeological museum in the town.

Grotta Azzurra, also known as the Blue Grotto is known throughout the world for its size, the intense blue tones of its interior and the magical silvery light which emanates from the objects immersed in its waters. In order to enter the Grotta Azzurra visitors climb aboard small rowing boats, with a capacity for two, maximum three, passengers and, lying on the bottom of the boat, enter the low and narrow mouth of the cave. The light is filtered by the water which absorbs the red tones, leaving only the blue ones to pass into the cave. A second phenomenon creates the silver appearance of the objects immersed in the water. It is believed that, in the Roman period, under the rule of Tiberius, the interior of the Grotta Azzurra was used as a marine nymphaeum. There have been those who imagined the cave as the habitat of Nereidi or of Sirens or believed it to be the realm of devils who bewitched all who dared to enter.

 

Travel Tuesday: Sedlec Ossuary, Czech Republic

On my Europe trip in 2006 my friend and I spent a few days in Prague. At our hostel we heard about a road trip that you could take, which took you out to some smaller town in the Czech countryside. One of the benefits of having no real schedule was that we were able to hop right in the van and just take off. It was great to get out of the city and explore a part of the country that I probably never would have. Today, I’m going to tell you about one of the strangest (and creepiest) places I’ve ever been…the Sedlec Ossuary in Kutná Hora.

One of a dozen or so UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Czech Republic and one of the most popular day trips from Prague, Kutná Hora was once a booming silver-mining center. For a time in the late Middle Ages the town rivaled Prague for splendor and influence in Bohemia. Those days are long over, and today much of the town earns its money from tourism.

The Sedlec Ossuary is a small Roman Catholic chapel, located beneath the Cemetery Church of All Saints in Sedlec, a suburb of Kutná Hora in the Czech Republic. The ossuary contains approximately 40,000-70,000 human skeletons which have been artistically arranged to form decorations and furnishings for the chapel. Here is the story about how a church of bones came to be:

Henry, the abbot of the Cistercian monastery in Sedlec, was sent to the Israel (Holy Land) by King Otakar II of Bohemia in 1278. When he returned, he brought with him a small amount of earth he had removed from Golgotha and sprinkled it over the abbey cemetery. The word of this pious act soon spread and the cemetery in Sedlec became a desirable burial site throughout Central Europe. During the Black Death in the mid 14th century, and after the Hussite Wars in the early 15th century, many thousands were buried there and the cemetery had to be greatly enlarged.

Around 1400 a Gothic church was built in the center of the cemetery with a vaulted upper level and a lower chapel to be used as an ossuary for the mass graves unearthed during construction, or simply slated for demolition to make room for new burials. After 1511 the task of exhuming skeletons and stacking their bones in the chapel was, according to legend, given to a half-blind monk of the order.

Between 1703 and 1710 a new entrance was constructed to support the front wall, which was leaning outward, and the upper chapel was rebuilt. This work, in the Czech Baroque style, was designed by Jan Santini Aichel.

In 1870, František Rint, a woodcarver, was employed by the Schwarzenberg family to put the bone heaps into order. The macabre result of his effort speaks for itself. Four enormous bell-shaped mounds occupy the corners of the chapel. An enormous chandelier of bones, which contains at least one of every bone in the human body, hangs from the center of the nave with garlands of skulls draping the vault. Other works include piers and monstrances flanking the altar, a large Schwarzenberg coat-of-arms, and the signature of Rint, also executed in bone, on the wall near the entrance.

This was a completely unique experience to me…I mean a church of bones?!? Really!! One of my best recommendations to a fellow traveler would be to make sure that you don’t let the opportunity to experience new things and places you’ve never even heard of pass you by. An itinerary can be a great thing, but don’t be fixated on it because you never know where a random road trip could take you!  

 

Travel Tuesday: The Colloseum, Rome

Good morning! For my Travel Tuesday post today I will be showing you photos of the Colosseum. Like Paris, Rome has too much to offer to try and condense into one post, so I’ll be splitting it up. I’ve been to Rome three times now (2004, 2006 and 2010) and I’ve loved it every time. I find the Colosseum fascinating. Its construction started in 72 AD and was completed in 80 AD. Just consider the history for a moment. The fact that this piece of history is still standing is just incredible.

Originally known as the Flavian Amphitheater, the Colloseum was the largest building of the era. In its glory days,  the Colosseum was able to seat 50,000 spectators for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology. The building ceased to be used for entertainment in the early medieval era. It was later reused for such purposes as housing, workshops, quarters for a religious order, a fortress, a quarry, and a Christian shrine. Although today it stays partially ruined because of damage caused by devastating earthquakes and stone-robbers, the Colosseum is an iconic symbol of Imperial Rome. It is one of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions and still has close connections with the Roman Catholic Church, as each Good Friday the Pope leads a torchlit “Way of the Cross” procession that starts in the area around the Colosseum.

 This monument is really a site to be seen. I love history and having the opportunity to visit a place with so much was an exciting experience.

 

Friday Roundup

I love short weeks, they just fly by. Today is rainy and dreary in Edmonton so here’s a roundup of my favourite Pins to brighten up your day!

Favourite dress

Cutest pup

Fun party food (tortellini skewers with pesto dipping sauce)

Best summer date night (backyard movie theatre)

Blissful vacation spot

Travel Tuesday: Bali, Indonesia

Today’s Travel Tuesday post is about an island I want to visit, but have not yet….Bali.

Bali, the famed Island of the Gods, is an Indonesian island located in the westernmost end of the Lesser Sunda Islands, lying between Java to the west and Lombok to the east. With its varied landscape of hills and mountains, rugged coastlines and sandy beaches, lush rice terraces and barren volcanic hillsides all providing a picturesque backdrop to its colourful, deeply spiritual and unique culture, Bali stakes a serious claim to be paradise on earth.

Bali is small in size; you can drive around the entire coast in one day. It has world-class surfing and diving, a large number of cultural, historical and archaeological attractions, and an enormous range of accommodations. Words don’t do Bali justice however, you have to see pictures to feel its magic. I can’t wait to visit this island one day; it is most definitely on my hit list!

Travel Tuesday: Banff, Alberta

Better late than never, as promised, here is a Travel Tuesday post on my trip to Banff, Alberta. I love Banff. Growing up in Alberta I spent many summer and winter vacations in the mountains—Banff, Jasper, the Kootenays. The Rocky Mountains are beautiful. Massive, snowy and exhilarating. The town of Banff, is a quaint, picture perfect little resort town nestled in this mass expanse of seemingly never ending mountains. Some of the notable mountain peaks surrounding Banff are Mount Rundle, Sulphur Mountain, Mount Norquay, and Cascade Mountain.

Banff is one of Canada’s most popular tourist destinations, known for its mountainous surroundings and hot springs. It is a destination for outdoor sports and features extensive hiking, biking, scrambling and skiing areas such as Sunshine Village, Ski Norquay and Lake Louise Mountain Resort, all within the national park.

Did you know, Banff was founded in 1883, by three Canadian Pacific railway workers, who discovered the natural hot springs now known as the Cave and Basin. This natural attraction soon resulted in the Federal Government setting aside this and surrounding land as a Federal Reserve named the Rocky Mountain Parks. The town on Banff was soon to follow, named after Banffshire in Scotland, the birthplace of two Canadian Pacific Railway Directors. Quickly recognizing the tourism potential of Banff, Canadian Pacific built the Banff Springs Hotel. While the hotel was originally planned to service guests as a stopover while traveling across the country, it soon became a destination on its own and still is today.

There are plenty of great places to stay and eat while in Banff and at multiple different price points. We stayed at the Banff Caribou Lodge and Spa. It was my first time staying here, but I was quite satisfied. The rooms were all recently redone, the hotel had a pool and spa area, onsite restaurant (The Keg) and a mini fridge in the room to keep our beer and wine cold for an après ski drink! It’s also about 5 mins away from the main strip (Banff Ave), which I prefer because it keeps the noise levels down. All in all, I would definitely stay here again.

The food highlights for me were The Maple Leaf Grill & Lounge and Wild Bill’s Legendary Saloon, both on Banff Ave. We ate at the Maple Leaf on the Saturday night of our trip. It was St. Patrick’s Day and I had been hoping to go to the Irish Pub but it was just packed and we were both really hungry, after a full day on the hill. The Maple Leaf has a great atmosphere. It’s got stereotypical Canadian decor (think stuffed beavers and geese and wood) but the overall vibe is cozy and romantic. We sat in big cushiony chairs tucked in the corner of the room, with a wool Hudson’s Bay Company blanket covering the bottom half of the window for both privacy and warmth. To eat we had the Pan Fried Gnocchi and AAA Beef Tenderloin (both very good), followed by the Chocolate Soufflé for dessert (fantastic).

We ate at Wild Bill’s for our first lunch in town, after our drive in from Edmonton. I believe this place is a bar at night and a restaurant during the day. It has a very good central location, located on the second floor of the building so you have a nice view from the window as well. The service left something to be desired, however, the food was awesome. We had the Bison Burger and the Ranch-Style Turkey, which is a sandwich with turkey, lots of gravy and a little bit of sour cream….it was so, so good. You definitely get your bang-for-your-buck pub food here.

The main reason we went to Banff was to go snowboarding. We chose to go to Lake Louise to board because you can buy lift tickets from Costco and they are much cheaper. The hill is great. It has 4200 skiable acres, making it one of the largest ski areas in North America. There are tons of lifts and over 139 marked runs, plus the back bowls. So, as long as you avoid the main area, off of the first lift, you can generally board without people getting in your way. We couldn’t have asked for better weather when we went. It was probably about zero degrees and it snowed all day long. The only time I was ever cold was on the chair lift. The hill had tons of powder. At one point, at the top of the mountain it was a total white out. You couldn’t tell what was sky and what was mountain. It was actually a little freaky since I couldn’t tell where the run was, I was terrified of going off of a cliff! A great day though. I hadn’t been snowboarding in two years, just been too busy, I’m very glad I made it out this year though. This was a great weekend.

Friday Roundup

Happy Friday guys. I’m on my way to Banff, Alberta bright and early today. I can’t wait to get in a full weekend of mountain fun. I’ll try to get my photos up quick and dedicate my Travel Tuesday post to a recap of my mini-trip! Hope you all have exciting plans too, in the meantime here is the latest and greatest from Pinterest:

Pretty and calming bedroom:

A forever true quote by Oscar Wilde:

Awesome summer outfit:

Best brunch idea (a mimosa bar!!):

Favourite photo:

Travel Tuesday: Strasbourg, France

On my Europe trip in 2010, we ended up going to Strasbourg on a bit of a whim. We were on a road trip from Cannes to Paris, with no real road map in mind and kind of just ended up there. I am so happy we did, I only wish that we had had more time to visit, as the city was so beautiful and unique.

Strasbourg is the capital city of the Alsace region in eastern France, located very close to the German border. A lot happens in this city. It is the official seat of the European Parliament, and the seat of several European institutions, such as the Council of Europe (with its European Court of Human Rights, its European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines and its European Audiovisual Observatory) and the Eurocorps, as well as the European Ombudsman of the European Union. Busy place hey!

Strasbourg, to me, seems to be an amalgamation of so many things. Old and new. Work and play. History and progress. French and German. You see this represented in the language, the food, the drinks, the architecture and the colours. It’s just such a unique city.

Strasbourg’s historic city centre, the Grande Île (Grand Island), was classified a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1988, the first time such an honour was placed on an entire city centre. It is fused into the Franco-German culture and although violently disputed throughout history, has been a bridge of unity between France and Germany for centuries, especially through the University of Strasbourg, currently the largest in France, and the coexistence of Catholic and Protestant culture.

Strasbourg is situated on the Île River, where it flows into the Rhine on the border with Germany. A boat trip is, in my opinion, the best way to get to see Strasbourg because of the perfect view it gives you of Strasbourg`s main attractions: European Parliament, the German Quarter, the Middle Age Petite France, among many others. One thing I found really cool on the boat ride was that you have to pass through the locks I had never experienced this before. The boat goes through a canal which is a very tight fit and the lock gates raise it more than one meter to the upper level. It takes 5 minutes for enough water to be release to raise the boat. It’s interesting to watch the water level rise under the boat by seeing how different markings on the concrete wall beside the boat disappear under the water.

On the boat tour, seeing the architecture of the buildings and listening to the guide tell you about the history, you realize just how old this city is. Coming from a country that’s fairly young like Canada, it is incredible to think that you are in a place that is hundreds of thousands of years old. Maybe I’m just a nerd like that, but I find history so fascinating. The first traces of human occupation in Strasbourg go back 600,000 years.  Neolithic, bronze age and iron age artifacts have been uncovered by archeological excavations. It was permanently settled by proto-Celts around 1300 BC. That’s really old you guys!

The city is primarily known for its sandstone Gothic Cathedral with its famous astronomical clock, and for its medieval cityscape of Rhineland black and white timber-framed buildings, particularly in the Petite-France district or Gerberviertel (“tanners’ district”) alongside the Île and in the streets and squares surrounding the cathedral, where the renowned Maison Kammerzell stands out.

The Cathédrale Notre-Dame is a Roman Catholic cathedral. It is incredible to stare up at all the carvings and stonework, and to realize that people actually created that by hand. It is so detailed and intricate. A true piece of art. Although considerable parts of it are still in Romanesque architecture, it is widely considered to be among the finest examples of high, or late, Gothic architecture. Erwin von Steinbach is credited for major contributions from 1277 to his death in 1318.

At 466 feet, it was the world’s tallest building from 1647 to 1874, when it was surpassed by St. Nikolai’s Church, Hamburg. Today it is the sixth-tallest church in the world.

Victor Hugo had described the Cathédrale as a “gigantic and delicate marvel,” Goethe described it as a “sublimely towering, wide-spreading tree of God.” And widespread it is! It is visible far across the plains of Alsace and can be seen from as far off as the Vosges Mountains or the Black Forest on the other side of the Rhine.

The Strasbourg astronomical clock is located in the Cathédrale. I found it so odd to see science and religion together like this. Like I said, Strasbourg is nothing if not unique. The clocks main features, besides the automata, are a perpetual calendar (including a computus), an orrery (planetary dial), a display of the real position of the Sun and the Moon, and solar and lunar eclipses. The main attraction is the procession of the 18 inch high figures of Christ and the Apostles which occurs every day at half past midday while the life-size cock crows thrice.

Like I mentioned earlier, this city has so much to offer visitors, you should all go and experience it yourselves. I’m fairly certain that I will be back again one day…at least I hope so!