Tag name:holiday

Calgary (Mar 2017)

Calgary City ViewAs I reported in my last post, I visited Lake Louise last week. As to get there I flew into Calgary, I decided that on the way back I would spend two nights in Calgary so that I had a day to explore this city rather than just use it as an airport.

As I discovered on my explorations, Calgary is a young City, in fact I think it's probably the youngest City I have visited. It was founded in 1875 (and so is actually younger than quite a few building in Romsey!) and, in appearance, can best be described as the closest match to a Sim City game that I've seen. There's plenty of construction and redevelopment going on (as you can see from the view from the hotel room to the right).

That said, there's easily enough to see for a day's visit - personally I visited the zoo and their science museum and took a walk out to the location of the original Fort Calgary (interestingly for a historic location of less than 150 years old, there are fewer remains than those of Southampton's city walls!).

I also took the opportunity to do some book buying, though you could argue that was just an excuse to get out of the cold - I would argue that my picture to the right actually makes it look warmer than it actually was! (minus 10 or colder!)

The major museum is the Glenbow Museum - this is actually one of the best museums that I've ever visited, three floors with a eclectic mix of history (from both the settler and native viewpoints, plus a good perspective of more recent history too), arts and geology. As if to make up for the age of the city, the geology exhibition includes the world's oldest rock.

oldest rock

Lake Louise (Feb 2017)

Lake Louise

Last week I visited Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada to join Alasdair to celebrate his wedding to Erin. Getting there was actually pretty straight forward: a flight from Heathrow direct to Calgary, an overnight stay at one of the airport hotels and then a coach from the airport to the Chateau Lake Louise 1.

Frozen waterfall

After settling in (and bumping into Alasdair on the way) I did a piece of exploration. It is somewhat surreal to take a walk across the lake to the far end (as opposed to walking around the lake. The image to the left is a frozen waterfall at the far end of the lake.

Having a room overlooking the Lake makes for a spectacular view, the image above is from my hotel bedroom soon after sunrise on the Wednesday morning. After getting some breakfast, I togged myself up to some more exploring - the outside temperature at about 9am was minus fifteen or so, so pretty damn cold! As Lake Louise hadn't had much new snow for a few days, the ski and, in particular, the snow shoe routes were pretty compacted and so I was able to explore one of the routes up into the surrounding hills. The afternoon was the actual wedding (followed by its reception). Alasdair made a striking and handsome appearance in his clan's kilt (matched, of course, by the rest of his family!) while Erin made, of course, a stunning bride!

Thursday was another clear day, so I took the opportunity to explore in the other direction, following a snow show route across to the village of Lake Louise, about 4 kilometres away (Canada following the metric system much more than the UK does).

Footnotes

  1. Actually a large hotel complex built on the edge of the lake, but one that has been built reasonably sympathetically with its surroundings.

Iceland (Sept 2015)

30th September 2015 / No Comments on Iceland (Sept 2015)

Earlier this month I took a holiday to Iceland. Here's my attempt at summarising it!

I flew out on a Saturday afternoon, arriving in Keflavik (the international airport in the late afternoon. Once at my hotel in Reykjavik. I set out to explore the local area around the hotel (ignoring the local city airport that's actually adjacent to the hotel 🙂 Nearby is Perlan, a glass dome built on top of six hot water tanks that store hot water (heated from geothermal plants 20 miles or so further inland) for the city. I managed to take a panorama of Reykjavik from there (the artefacts in the foreground are caused by the fact that the panorama is taken from the edge of the roof around the dome rather than from a single point.

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SeljalandsfossSkógafossThe next day I started the coach tour ("Volcanoes and Glaciers") I had booked on. (I'll note in passing that, to my surprise, food prices in Iceland are comparable to those in the UK (i.e., not, as I had expected, Norwegian levels of price). That's mainly to the dive in the value of the Icelandic Krona since the financial crisis of 2008). The coach tour basically covers the highlights of the south coast. Let's start the scenery with Waterfalls! To the left is Seljalandsfoss, while to the right is Skógafoss - Can you guess that "foss" is Icelandic for waterfall?

At þorvaldseyi Farm, the family have constructed a visitor's centre where they show a film documenting the effects both locally and globally of the 2010 eruption of the Eyjarfjallajökull volcano - well worth a stop. Next was lunch at the Skógar Museum, a lovely collection of buildings, relics and artefacts. Finally a trip to the beach at Reynnishverfi where I took the following panorama.

Beach at Reynishverfi

Overnight was a gorgeous clear night, and despite the street lights next to the hotel, we did get a excellent display of Aurora Borealis and by moving away from the lights, I also got my ever really clear view of the Milky Way in the northern hemisphere (even on the Isle of Mull, I never really got a good view) and with three meteors too!

Jökulsárlón Glacier LagoonSkaftafellsjökullThe next day we continued Eastwards to the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon - a lake formed from the melting edge of a Glacier with a Iceberg carving from that edge. Sadly my picture here does not do this justice. There a boat tour out into the lagoon which was very good (My focus was on enjoying the ride rather than pictures - my excuse for a lot of these)

The rest of the day was spent visiting more glaciers and included a walk out to the edge of two of them.

On the Wednesday we travelled back west to the Vestmann Islands, and in particular the main island of Heimaey. The island was very badly affected by an eruption in 1973 of the Eldfell Volcano. Surtsey is one of the other islands, access to which is, quite rightly, restricted to scientists studying the progress of the island's colonisation by wildlife of all sorts.

20150916_155125_stitchIt's very strange to walk up a hill (Eldfell is only 200 metres high) that's not only younger than you are, but is actually still warm from the heat retained under the surface (it wasn't hot - but was definitely warm). There's an excellent exhibition of a house dug out from other the ash fall from Eldfell.

The final day of the tour included the sights of the golden circle - the "standard" tourist trail for Iceland - not that the sights are a bad thing, but there's a lot to fit in!

GullfossThe gullfoss waterfall is a mighty set of falls set in a ravine - the whole area is spectacular and well worth the visit! As a side note, the guide books correctly warn you to take care - the Icelanders assume you have common sense!

 

 

While the eponymous Geysir (from which the english word Geyser is derived) is no longer very active (natural geological changes together with human abuse has basically converted it in a (very) hot pool, the nearby Strokkur Geyser is pretty reliable spouting about once every five to ten minutes. It is very impressive, even if human intervention was involved.

The edge of the american tectonic plateThe final visit was to þingvellir National Park which is a rift valley between the American and European tectonic plates and by a lucky choice by the Icelandic forebears, the original site of the alþing, the national parliament of Iceland arguably the oldest democratic body (it can trace its roots to AD 930). The photo shows the edge of the American tectonic plate from inside the rift valley.

I did mange a short tour of Reykjavik in the evening, but should have booked an extra day to allow me to do a proper exploration of this city (the centre is, unsurprisingly relatively small, but having just a hour or so was not enough time!)

Before the flight home the next day, my trip including a visit to the Blue Lagoon, an upmarket spa built around the waste water from a nearby geothermal plant - An impressive example of reuse and exploitation of natural resources (both natural and tourist 🙂

All in all an excellent visit and one I'd be happy to repeat!

Whitehaven (Aug 2015)

Aerial picture of Whitehaven

(Aerial picture by Simon Ledingham, visitcumbria.com)

I recently visited Whitehaven to meet up with Sue & Matthew as they sail their boat up to Scotland. As is usual for their travels, this wasn't the original plan (which was to meet up in Liverpool). I travelled by train, with my original plan being scuppered from the start as the train from Romsey to Southampton was delayed by just enough to allow me to miss the Southampton to Birmingham International train. Fortunately this only caused a hour or so's delay to my journey (which got distinctly less busy the further North I went).

I stayed for three nights to allow us two days of sightseeing. Tuesday was spent travelling on the Ravenglass and Eskdale narrow gauge railway and exploring around Dalegarth, which included mistaking a river edge for the path we were aiming for - my excuse is that we weren't the first to make that mistake as evidenced by the boot tracks!

Wednesday we explored around Whitehaven including the Rum Story, which was surprising large and a good museum (lots of information boards and explanations of the exhibits, my personal preferred information source since it allows me to go at my own pace and speed). We also visited Haig pit, an old coal mine (the last one to be closed locally). This was also very interesting, though has only the surface building open.

My return trip was uneventful, which shows it is possible to travel the length of England without trouble (even if the odds are lower than 100%!)

Holiday ('97)

4th January 1999 / No Comments on Holiday ('97)

The trip started in Perth (Australia) after a long flight from Heathrow.
This actually helped me to avoid too much Jet Lag as I was able to stay
awake until dinner time before going to bed on the first day. To past the
time before then I did some exploring of the city and, much to my disgust,
located the IBM building (it's way too close to the Western Australian
parliment buildings). The next two days were spent in more properly
exploring Perth. This city I rate as the best city I've visited, with a
very pleasant environment, friendly people and while having skyscrapers
manages to make them scenic. During the evenings I headed out to King's
Park (which overlooks the city) to watch the moonrise and the appearance of
the Southern Cross and Alpha and Beta Centauri.

I then took the Indian Pacific train from Perth (leaving lunchtime on the
Friday) to Syndey (arriving lunchtime on the Monday). This was an
impressive way to get a feeling (and I have to say only a feeling) for the
true size of Australia. It's still a little hard to realise that when the
train stops at a place called Cook to refuel (Cook *only* reason for
existence is as a refuelling and passing place for the trains!) there's no
other habitation for tens of miles and no other town for hundreds. I saw a
glimpse of Adelaide and did manage to see some Kangaroos from the train
later in the journey (and I had to have the Kangaroo meat in one of the
meals on the train, I travelled first class for this trip of course!)

Syndey proved to be a bigger and busier city than Perth, and much windier
too! The Opera House is amazingly photogenic and Syndey's harbour is
superb. I wish I'd had more time to explore Syndey and time to explore the
surrounding country (a common complaint for almost all of my holiday :-).

Then onto Auckland to join the coach tour of New Zealand. In retrospect,
this was the right choice since there's alot to see in NZ and I wouldn't
have seen as much on my own. However next time I now know where to
concentrate on, so that I don't feel like I haven't had enough time to
explore a given area.

The first day the coach headed north and I heard probably more than I want
to know about NZ's Kauri Tree (an oak-like conifer tree which grows
(slowly) to very large sizes and makes excellent wood (which is why there
ain't much of it left). The second day we headed to the top of New Zealand
and saw the meeting of the Tasman Sea and the pacific (seeing waves
arriving at right angles to each other as they pass over some shallows is a
bit weird. In the afternoon we visited the Wagener's Museum, a place which
if you are ever in the area I strongly recommended visiting. The Wageners
were a wealthy family that in the lath nineteenth and early twentieth
centuries collected 'junk', e.g. old telephone exchanges, typewriters,
penny arcade machines, chamberpots......

The next day back to Auckland, where I can easily believe the estimate that
one in four of the million+ inhabitants own a boat(yacht) of some sort.
Its oneupmanship is shown by having a sky tower six metres taller than
syndey's.... It is also built on over sixty extinct volcano cones..... On
the next day we headed south to Rotorua, which is the centre of Maori
people and the main geothermal area. Walking through a town where the
drains are steaming from geothermal heat and in places the steam comes up
through the paving stones is interesting, as is walking on a nature trail
where warning signs advise you to stay on the trail as the solid ground you
can see near a boiling pool is only a few centimetres thick and liable to
break and drop into literally boiling water.

Then onto Lake Taupo (formed when a large (i.e. several miles wide) dome of
rock exploded). From here I took a scenic flight to see two of NZ's three
active volcanoes, and I did catch steam from Mt. Ruapehu on film. We
travelled onto Wellington for a night (unfortunately Wednesday and the
observatory on the hills above the hotel only opens on Tuesdays and
Saturdays).

The South Island starts with the inter-lander ferry between the north and the
south islands. The seagulls optiministically assumed the ferry was a large
fishing boat and/or had sussed that the tourists are easy marks, and flew
very close to the ferry (I managed to get a good picture of one). Once on the
south island, we continued onto Nelson, a small town on the coast. Here we
stayed at one hotel on the tour that had real character. I had an excellent walk
from the hotel to the 'centre of New Zealand', an unimpressive monument on
top of a hill.

The next day was onto greymouth, which has to be said to said is a pretty
boring, although my view may have been coloured by the cold I had gained and
the steady change in the weather from sunny to rain. (It should be noted that
this change is normal due to the way the air flows up from antartica across the
southern ocean, warming up and gathering moisture and then hitting the south
island).

The following day, however, was, for me the highlight of the holiday. The
destination for the evening stop was the Franz Josef Glacier and for the
braver and more 'robust' members of the tour, we could arrange to get a
guide and actually an hour or two on the glacier itself. The Franz Josef
Glacier is very impressive (despite some drizzle), as it flows at up to four
meters per day (and in recent years has been growing). It's even more impressive
as our guide took the seven of us right up to the front of the glacier and
then led us up the front of the glacier and onto the body of the glacier.
The feeling of achievement was amazing and as I say, this was the unexpected
highlight of the holiday.

The next day onwards to Queenstown. The climate difference between the west
coast and the inland side on the other side of the southern alps is dramatic.
If you ever need a demonstration of 'rain shadows', this was the place for
it.

We had two nights at Queenstown. Normally this is the place for those action
activities (e.g. bungee jumping, jetboat rides in the lake and rivers etc).
I, however, didn't want to do much as it was the first anniversary of the
death of my sister.

The next day on the coach we travelled to Milford Sound. This is an area of
outstanding scenery, best seen just after a lot of rain. The 'a lot of rain'
was no problem. However the 'just after' was a problem. Some of the coach
party was disappointed, but given it rains here 350 days of the day I saw
no reason to be upset and we did see the spectacular waterfalls (just no
way to photograph them...)

Thence onwards to Dunedin. There was the chance to visit the Otago Peninsula
which has albatross and a sanctuary for yellow-eyed penguins. My mother tells
me that from an early age I was fascinated by penguins at zoos, so she was
unsurprised to learn that this was an opportunity I wasn't going to miss.
Despite the gloom I got a couple of excellent pictures and throughly
enjoyed the visit.

From Dunedin, the next stage was Mt. Cook. Here I took another scenic flight
and watched Mt. Cook change colour as the sun sets out of view. In the late
evening I did some more Star-gazing. Here, despite the fact that Mt. Cook
village is smaller (I estimate smaller than S-i-t-V) and the nearest
other settlement is 50 or so miles away, your night vision is
still easily ruined by headlights from cars on the roads!

Christchurch was the next stop. Christchurch is a very pretty city, which was
only marred by the sighting of an IBM Building. (The damn things kept
leaping out at me when I least expected them!). I was also surprised by the
eruption of a nasty looking red rash on my chest, arms and legs. Fortunately
it turned out that this was (most likely) an allegeric reaction to
some cold sweets I had. Oh well, it added to the excitement of the trip!

Back to Wellington, this time on a Saturday, so in the evening I spent a
pleasant time up at the observatory above the city.

The tail end of the tour was the route back to Auckland. This travelled through
Napier (a good town if you enjoy 'Art Deco' Architecture, but unfortunately
it makes little impression on me (either good or bad)). We also visited
a different part of the Lake Taupo Thermal area and a Kiwifruit Orchard.

The final part of my holiday was San Francisco. The overnight flight across
the date-line was relaxing, mainly because of the anti-histamines I been
prescribed in NZ (and, as in the UK, the pharmicist recommended just buying
the drugs as it was cheaper that way than paying the prescription charge....)
making me drowsy and having a three seat row to myself

I was feeling nervous about the states, as it is not known for being a friendly
place, but in fact San Francisco is quite a safe city (at least in daylight :-).
I explored most of the local musuems in SF and travelled several times on
the cable cars, whilst attempting not to spend too much in the bookstores etc.
I'm not too sure what to say about SF, other than to say I enjoyed my visit
there.

In retrospect, it turns out this was a 'look and see' type of holiday, which
is unsurprising given my nature. I highly enjoyed the whole trip and intend to
visit NZ again in five or so years time.