Monday, December 27, 2010

Nafplion to Sparta, Greece

Our car was small...very small. We were 5 adults. Somehow we shoe-horned all of us plus our gear into the car and started on our way across the Peloponnese, to our next rental in Stoupa, which is south of Kalamata.

The instructions to our next rental said that while it is 20km further to go via Sparta, there are fewer curves in the road. So the route via Sparta sounded like the best one. It was also important for us to take a route that avoided steep hills (the car was gutless), so we first went north from Nafplio and Argos, to the freeway. Despite the fact that we had already make 2 trips through Argos, we managed to get lost. We still puzzle over where we went wrong.

The trip on the freeway was interesting because of the trucker's strike. Sooooo many big trucks parked on the side of the road. Greece has many problems!

Once we left the freeway we noticed runners that were obviously struggling to complete some sort of race. When we stopped in Sparta we learned that it was a 2-day ultra marathon, called the Spartathlon. They were running (many were seen to be walking) 245.3km (150 miles) from Athens to Sparta, which is the route a messenger took to request help to defend Athens from invaders, in 490 BC.

The race has control points, each of which has its own time limitations and should a runner arrive later than the official closing time he or she will be eliminated from the race. For instance, the first leg, from Athens to Corinth, is 81 km and has a time limit of 9.5 hrs.

Here are the prerequisites necessary to compete:
  • The athlete has finished a race of at least 100 km in not more than 10:30 hours, OR
  • The athlete has compete in the SPARTATHLON race and has reached checkpoint NESTANI ( 172 km ) in less than 24:30 hours, OR
  • The athlete has reached the finishing point when competing at SPARTATHLON OR
  • The athlete has competed in an event of more than 200 kilometers and has finished the race regardless of the time.
I must admit that some looked like they had not met the prerequisites, as some were truly struggling. However I can certainly understand!! They are expected to finish the race in under 36 hrs!!!

The fastest runner finished in 23 hr. One hundred and twenty-eight finished. They had to run through the night.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Nafplion Greece

In mid September we were off to Greece to meet up with our kids for another family reunion. First stop was Nafplion, on the Peloponnese Peninsula, about a 2 hr drive to the south west of Athens.

Its a beautiful town, with a population of about 13,000. It was once the capital of Greece. Tour ships stop there. We were in a rental across the bay and chose not to go into town until the huge ship departed (there was also a smaller one at the same time). I can't imagine how bizarrely crowded it must be in that town when the cruise ships are docked! If you enlarge the picture and look under the stop sign and then under the umbrella, you can see the largest ship.

Our rental was in Kiveri and was a beautiful place! Here is the rental info, if you are interested.

The Mediterranean was right outside the window, and down 4 stories.

There are a number of fortresses in the area. The most famous are the island Bourtzi.... 

...and the Palamidi, a Venetia fortress built in 1714, which you can climb to up the 999 steps from town. Great exercise! It definitely has a commanding view of the surroundings.
It would have been easy to spot invading ships from up here. 

 Some parts are in good shape.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Summer Holiday in BC - Part Three

July 2010 - Little Fort, BC to 100 Mile House

After a wonderful breakfast and excellent conversation with our host at the Rose Garden Bed & Breakfast in Clearwater, we headed south to the road that would take us west to 100 Mile House.

One stop I was intent on making was to take a look at the ferry at Little Fort. CBC Radio gives road reports for our province and the Little Fort ferry is mentioned sometimes. For some reason I was intrigued and expected that we would be crossing on it. However the ferry  transports people and vehicles to the east side of the North Thompson River, and we were heading west. That little ferry serves just a very few people on the west side of the river, along with any vehicles that take the alternate route to and from Clearwater.

See the man with the dark t-shirt? He operates the ferry, and since this is a pretty low-key job, he chatted with us for awhile. He even gave us a tip about the gallery of photographer Chris Harris, just north of 100 Mile House. We did visit and were impressed! He has pictures in the Magma gallery on his website that I find are hard to believe were taken in BC! If I could snag a picture I would show it here, so you could see what I mean, but it seems that I can't.

We proceeded west from Little Fort, over the hump to the Cariboo region. We were thinking that it would be nice to find a place for coffee. Since there was very few signs of habitation, once we did find a sign that said, in huge letters, Cappucino, we steered right in.

A strange sign that said "Gated ...?" (we can't remember) then greeted us. Since we were truly in the middle of nowhere we couldn't understand why any kind of fence and gate would be needed. Maybe for bears, moose, etc?

So we went into the log building's restaurant and placed our order with an Italian man. It was for a cappucino, a double latte and a piece of home-made lemon cake (no prices were posted). We ate outside on the deck, overlooking the lake.

Had a nice chat with the him about how to make coffee (cappucino with Espresso, latte with a French press), the coffee was good, the atmosphere very pleasant, but things changed when we went to pay. The bill was $25!!!!! 

When we reached 100 Mile House, we happened to see some fun Dutch people who had also stopped for coffee here. I asked them if they were shocked at the cost of their coffee and indeed they were, as they each had two cups and their bill was $60!!

I can only assume it was because of the remoteness. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Summer Holiday in My Own Backyard - Part Two

July 2010 - Salmon Arm to Clearwater

Proceeding west from the Adams Lake, I was surprised to encounter a sign that said "Pick your own cherries." Having been raised in a orchard, I am particularly fond of directly supporting the farmer, as well as being able to pick tree-ripened fruit. But what really amazed me is that the area could grow cherries! It seemed like it would be too cold there in the winter. True enough the trees were on the small side, but the cherries still tasted great.

After we arrived at the door we found a sign that said they weren't home right now, but that we could go to the orchard and pick our own, weigh them, and just leave the money. I LOVE it when people do business this way. It helps me to maintain some optimism about society, in light of all the awful stuff we hear on the news. I guess the secret is to live remotely. Wait...that is exactly what we do. And I LOVE it. Too bad I didn't get to meet those orchardists. We have a lot in common.

On to the small town of Clearwater, where we found the lovely Rose Garden Bed & Breakfast for the night. It was another one of those small-town situations where we told them we were heading to the waterfalls, and that we would be back fairly late. They said to just go and all the other stuff could be taken care of later. Our room would be waiting for us whenever we returned, and it was.

Clearwater is at the junction of the Yellowhead Highway (between Kamloops, BC and Jasper, Alberta), and the road to Wells Gray Provincial Park, which is famous for its collection of waterfalls, including Spahats Falls:

We gasped when we suddenly came upon this scene, as it was a very steep-sided narrow canyon (400' deep).

I am always amazed to see how tiny a stream it is that makes such a dramatic waterfall.

Next stop was Dawson Falls, with a much shorter drop, but has a significantly larger volume of water:

The tallest in the park, and fourth tallest waterfall in Canada, is Helmcken Falls, with a height of 141 mtrs (462').

From our vantage point on this side, it felt less dramatic than I expected. I think were were just too far away.

There is also a viewpoint on the other side, which is a longer hike, but it was getting too late to go there.

On the way back to Clearwater I was determined to check out Moul Falls. We had seen a sign, but the info on it was scarce, probably because it wasn't within the Park boundaries. It involved quite a hike in, and signage was not very good. My husband went up ahead and returned with the news that there didn't seem to be anything ahead. As doubtful as it seemed, could the tiny waterfall we had already passed been the Moul Falls? We decided to assume so and returned to the car.

A few miles closer to town we stopped for dinner at a sign indicating a buffalo barbecue. Down a lengthy dirt road we drove, past the buffalo, to the lovely Trophy Mountain Buffalo Ranch Grill, which is 20km (12 mi) north of Clearwater, in a location you would never expect to find a restaurant, let alone such a nice one.

While viewing the menu I noticed that there was a picture of a beautiful waterfall on the cover. I asked if it was the Moul Falls and sure enough, it was. My husband may never hear the end of this!

The outdoor restaurant was full and we may have been the only Canadians eating there. Next to our table were some lovely Dutch people. Their 13 yr son made the comment that they were seeing a LOT of trees. I guess to someone from the Netherlands, that would be a very significant feature of our landscape, as we have so many trees they become quite boring and we don't even think about them.

On the menu for 2011?:

Monday, November 8, 2010

Summer Holiday in My Own Backyard - BC

July 2010 - Grand Forks to Salmon Arm

I love waterfalls, and could easily make a holiday of visiting as many as I can. So on our way to a wedding in 100 Mile House, we took a detour to Wells Gray Park, which is famous for having many waterfalls.

But first, we found one in Fintry Provincial Park, while travelling up the west side of the Okanagan Lake, north of Kelowna. I was born and raised not too far from this waterfall, yet did not know of its existence!

Short Creek Waterfall

It had great steps going all the way to the top. Great exercise!

That's the Okanagan Lake in the background

We were intentionally taking roads that were not the typical routes to get to Clearwater, which is the closest town to Wells Gray Park. So we found a gravel road that took us from Chase, alongside the Adams Lake, and then over to Barriere, which is north of Kamloops and south of Clearwater. 

View of Adams Lake

In the distance in the picture above is where the famous Adams River leaves the lake. This is where sockeye salmon come to spawn in October. I am writing this as the event is just finishing. This year was the largest run in 97 years. Millions of salmon returned to lay their eggs (the turn red before they do this), after which, they die. I did not take this video, but it is so nice that I thought I would add it here:

You can leave the maker of the video comments on this page at YouTube.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What Did I Learn on My Trip? Or Travel is an Education!

In the hostel in Ljubljana I had 3 roommates from Belgium the first night and then 3 different Belgians the second night. From them I learned that the various ethnic groups in their country don't like each other and it is predicted that Brussels will become a city state and that the country will split into 2 (or was it 3) separate countries.

Also, the groups do not speak the same language. Does this sound familiar to my fellow Canadians?

It turned out that the two groups in my hostel were from opposing ethnic groups, but I witnessed that they met and there appeared to be no hostilities.

I had no idea this was going on in Belgium. The country rarely makes the news.

Next was my meeting of two Swiss cyclists. One from the German-speaking part of the country and the other from the French-speaking part. Guess which language they communicated in? ENGLISH! Otherwise they couldn't understand each other.

In Zadar, Croatia, I had dinner with a young man from Japan. He spoke no English and I spoke no Japanese. Thank heavens for digital cameras! We showed each other our pictures. We had been at the same place earlier in the day (Lake Plitvice). What I found so fascinating was that we took pictures of such different scenes. He took many pictures of the lakes whereas I found the lakes so insignificant that I didn't take any pics. They were small and surrounding the lakes were low hills. To someone from the land of lakes and mountains (Canada) they were very ho-hum. However I did take a gazillion pics of waterfalls, but it seems that they did not interest him. You would think we had been in different places, but I remember him getting on the bus when I did.

Lastly I learned that one does not need to use full pressure when running the shower. Partial pressure is more than adequate! We North Americans are so incredibly wasteful, though Europeans have far surpassed us when it comes to over-packaging their produce in grocery stores.

Ah yes, and I met some Americans who liked Sarah Palin, or at least thought she got a bad deal from the media during the Presidential race.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Saturday Market in Apt France - Part 3

Pentanque accessories

The booth with the best colour!

These boys hammed it up while my son took a pic of them, and then
did the same while I took one. I heard other tourists talking about
them hoping to find them and so they could take a pic.

My son noted that everyone came to the market with bags.

 What would a French market be without baguettes!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Saturday Market in Apt France - Part 2

Lots of olives

There were free samples to be had here, cept I don't like olives

Biggest loaves of bread that I have ever seen! I seem to
remember them being about 30" long!

French fast food. I hope they never change to
the garbage that North America puts out.

There was a huge variety of cured meats at this booth.

I couldn't figure out how to capture this booth in way that show how much was available, yet showed how interesting the food looked.

 Of course there was olive oil

Should one get hungry, there was a restaurant to dine at.
Love the use of a bike to hang the sign on.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Saturday Market in Apt France - Part 1

I am about to leave on another trip, so I guess I should finish posting the pics from the last one, which happened a year ago!

The market in Apt, which is in the south of France, due north of Aix-en-Provence and east of Avignon, is famous in France. I can see why. It was full of vendors selling a fascinating array of goods. Locals say that in the summer it is very crowded. We were there in early October, and it was perfect.

There's a couple of baguettes in that bag. You see people carrying them all the time.

Free samples

The sign says it all

Monster rounds of Gruyere and Edam cheese. Too bad I didn't
have something there for scale.

This pleasant man was highly entertaining. Characters like this are
an important part of a market!

It was mushroom season when we were in Provence. We bought
some and cooked them up. Though no truffles for us!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Windows of Ménerbes, in Provence, France

Back to adding pictures of my trip to Provence last October. I had been thinking that I might buy a poster of the windows and doors of Provence, but I discovered so many beautiful examples in Ménerbes, along with good conditions for taking pictures, that I simply took my own. I wonder if I will ever get around to printing them up!

I wonder if this was intentional. Of what possible use could that arch be?

I wonder if the inhabitants of the homes find their windows to be as charming as we do.