Archive for March, 2013

[© R.Schamle, created with Firefox 19] Images of Vancouver Island and Victoria, the Capital of British Columbia, where I moved to in Fall of 2002. And never went back to Alberta, where I had lived and worked for 27 years. As the capital of British Columbia, it is also home to the Mansion and attached Gardens of the Lieutenant Governor of BC. Victoria is Named after Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and, at the time, British North America, Victoria is one of the oldest cities in the Pacific Northwest, with British settlement beginning in 1843. The city has retained a large number of its historic buildings, in particular its two most famous landmarks, the British Columbia Parliament Buildings (finished in 1897 and home of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia) and the Empress hotel (opened in 1908). The city’s Chinatown is the second oldest in North America after San Francisco’s. The region’s Coast Salish First Nations peoples established communities in the area long before non-native settlement, possibly several thousand years earlier, which had large populations at the time of European exploration. Victoria, like many Vancouver Island communities, continues to have a sizable First Nations presence, composed of peoples from all over Vancouver Island and beyond. [Wikipedia].

Victoria is also known as the ‘city of gardens’. In fact when I arrived in 2002, roses were still blooming in December. There are a number of spectacular gardens and parks. I put together a series of video slide shows of the Island, Victoria, Vancouver, and the town of Sidney at the northern tip of the Saanich peninsula where ferries take off for the mainland (about 5km north of Sidney). Lots of wildlife, best known for the resident pod of killer whales (orcas), large number of bald eagles & many more species. Vancouver Island is the largest Pacific Island east of New Zealand, near to 500km long at its longest point and 80km wide. Surrounded by over hundred islands and islets – the Gulf Islands. Across from Vancouver Island (by ferry) is Vancouver, Canada’s third largest city. Vancouver Island is basically a volcanic rock island. It is also situated along the Cascadia subduction zone, an earth quake zone from north of Vancouver Island to southern California. Canada’s most volatile fault line lies here deep under the ocean. More than 1000 seizeable earth quakes are recorded per year, due to active faults or breaks in the earth crust. The west coast of Canada is one of the few areas in the world where all three of of the most common plate movements take place, resulting in significant earthquake activity. My images embedded into my post also show some of the large ferries. I would say BC Ferries is the largest ferry operation on this planet with a fleet of around over 40 vessels. And these monsters operate exclusively between Vancouver Island and the West Coast main land []. Video’s :– (1) Victoria with Inner Harbour, Governor’s Mansion & Gardens. (2) Beacon Hill Park. (3) Sidney & Salt Spring Island.



[This post created in Firefox v.19]

MARRAKESH ou Marrakech, la VILLE ROUGE et LA VILLE des ROSES. THE PINK CITY by the Atlas Mountains, Maghreb. Predominant flower is the rose. All buildings painted pink. A world class city of over a million inhabitants, dating from the year 1062, it is bustling with life day and night. Colors, flowers, roses, people and traffic – cars, donkey carts, everything. It is mind boggling how much life is here. A treasure trove of culture with its old mosques, gardens, parks and palaces. It also has the largest open market square in the Maghreb, the Djemaa-el-Fna. [Jamaa el Fna (Arabic: ساحة جامع الفناء jâmiʻ al-fanâʼ]. And its large number of Riads – court yard mansions in its bustling Medina – walled old city with Souks and market squares. The Riads, some dating back to the 11th century, were originally family homes, now converted to guesthouses, cafes or private spas.

In March 2012 I spent one month in Marrakesh, in the 4-star hotel Dellarosa, R Moulay el Hassan. Booked through a travel agency in Europe, with return flight, and two daily meals.

Why Marrakesh ? Moi, j’aime le Maghreb et la culture Arabe. Having spent already five weeks in Tunesia in 1973, and in 2012 a return visit for one entire month in a Hammamet resort by the Golfe/Gulf of d’Hammamet, Tunisia. (s.a. LA TUNISIE – my other post).

Unfortunately, seven days into my Morocco visit I had a bad accident, I stumbled in the street and fell hard onto the beautiful pink stone sidewalk, thereby among others twisting my foot and fracture my left foot. My plans had been, to take the train for a day trip to Casablanca, and also Fez. During that first week I only made it by bus to Essaouria, the Atlantic Coast. Images below  together with the delicious Tajine I had there. Myself I cook a Maroccan tajine in my own tajine earthenware in Canada. [A tajine or tagine(Arabic: طاجين tajin from the Persian: تابه‎ tabe[1]) is a historically Berber[2] dish from North Africa that is named after the special earthenware pot in which it is cooked] – see collage below:

Trip to Essaouria, Atlantic; les tajines

Polyclinique du Sud, Centre de Radiologie du Sud, Rue Ibn Aicha, Gueliz, was my best choice for professional medical treatment. After my X-rays, I was treated by an Orthopaedic Surgeon, who taped up my foot. Nothing else could be done at this point. With taxi trips back and forth, I also got a set of crutches, and I had wheel chair service. How lucky I was, not to have broken my hip. At home in British Columbia, I would not see an Orthopaedic Surgeon, only the Emergency room in the local hospital. Well, there was my one month, spending three weeks inside the Hotel. I managed to take a taxi cab twice at least for a visit to the famous Jardin Majorelle (Yves Saint Laurent’s creation), and the Palais Bahia. [videos inserted]. And shorten my journeys, to quickly fly back to Canada for treatment of a big blood clot in my leg, result of that fracture.

There are fantastic train connections to all the larger cities, for example Casablanca only costs €20 return from Marrakesh.

Marrakech 002

The Kaltenberger Ritterturnier is the largest and longest lasting in the world. Held annually in July at Castle Kaltenberg, Geltendorf, Bavaria.It also hosts a medieval fair.

It is a glorious time to spend among knights, musicians, artists and acrobats, watching archery tournaments and mingling with all sorts of folks in their medieval garments. Admiring the wonderful big horses of the knights. Not to forget the tasty down to earth food and world-famous Kaltenberg beer, brewed right here in the Castle.

The castle was built in 1292 and is currently under the proprietorship of Prince Luitpold of Bavaria, the great-grandson of the last king of Bavaria, Ludwig III. [Wikipedia]. Schloss Kaltenberg changed hands many times from 1292 until 1955 when it was returned to the House of Wittelsbach. Since 1870 part of the König Ludwig Schlossbrauerei is housed in the Schloss Kaltenberg. Over 100,000 hectoliters of beer are produced there. Prince Luitpold of Bavaria and his family currently reside in the castle. The castle also offers a ballroom for events as well as two restaurants. . [WIKIPEDIA]

In 2007 I spent several months in Munich and took the train from there to Geltendorf and up to the Castle grounds, to attend that year’s Jousting Tournament. Despite a cool day and rain starting at the begin of the Knights’ Tournament, this had been a totally enjoyable and exciting experience. For me as a horse person especially, as I have had my own horses shown, raised & trained so many years in Alberta, Canada. The entire medieval atmosphere surrounding the grounds was uplifting.

[NOTE. Images = My digital Sony camera during that time almost gave up its life. Replaced it after. Also, it was dark and raining.]     [post created with Firefox v.19]


Food for Thought: In the 19th and into the 20th century, a woman traveling alone would be considered having questionable morals. Today – the opposite, a woman traveling with men may be looked upon as having questionable morals. I STRONGLY BELIEVE IN TRAVEL & LEARN.

ADDENDUM March 27/13, Taxi services.  On occasion when it’s necessary I use a cab. For example, when arriving late in an unknown place, unknown country. Even once arriving Flughafen Tegel Airport Berlin, to negotiate the trip to my rental building. One amusing story about this cab driving: Arriving in Mexico last year for an extended visit at Aeropuerto Pto. Vallarta late in the evening. In Mexico it is dark at seven each night, and dark meaning within couple of minutes. I arrived late and usually one has to cross the highway overpass to the other side of the Airport exit to catch a cab. But cabs stood ready right by the exit. They also have fixed rates. To Sayulita (m/l one hour north) it’s 50 US$. The cab drivers work with an organization at the airport whom they must also pay, and usually cannot take less than this rate. But I like to haggle, and offered 40 dollars. To a young Mexican driver. Off we went. I was apprehensive, being alone, sitting in the back seat. The trip takes you to pretty isolated little villages and largely through jungle both sides of the road. Plus despite my maps that I had prepared beforehand, I could not see a thing in the dark. Shortly before the turnoff to Sayulita the driver stopped at a shopping centre (OXO – the largest grocery chain and open all night) said he needed some money from the ATM machine to buy some gas. If I want to do some grocery shopping there? NO. I stuck to my rear seat, and would have never got out of this car. That’s how paranoid I was. He found this amusing. Well, we made it to Sayulita, trying to find this rental Casa compound uphill. The gate was locked and there was a security lock which needed a code. By that time it was after 9 pm. Luckily, the young man could phone on his cell phone the owners from the papers I had on me – who just happened to have visited their property from California – and they gave me the entry code. This young Mexican cab driver was so nice and helpful, he helped to carry my two small suitcases up the steep hill to my casita (apartment). So, I gave him some more money. This whole thing again proves, that often when we are worried travelling alone, there is no need for it. In fact, the opposite. More people are helpful than people want to hurt you.

For the first morning following arrival after a long flight, I always carry with me instant coffee, tea, dry food to at least have a breakfast. When arriving in a certain country, be it in North America, Central America, or anywhere in Europe, the next day after arrival I find the local grocery stores and within a short time the best deals to buy food. Prices vary considerably from grocer to grocer, depending where. Even in Saint Petersburg, Russia, – in that case I took a group travel, with a guide, because the city is a treasure trove full of culture and palaces and buildings. A guide is a must. We stayed in the largest hotel, the Moskwa – it is huge. Next door was a big underground grocery store, where you could buy groceries and water for your evening suppers. Cheap. And St. Petersburg is one of the more expensive cities. Food is usually safe, water watch out. Some larger world-class cities have clean water (eg. Marrakech, Maroc), some do not. Europe’s water is always safe to drink, Mexico not. Just be careful.

Luggage. I usually only take two small carry-on suit cases, one as cabin baggage, one for checkout. Easier to handle when moving, no need for renting cars or cabs.

What I pack: most importantly electronic equipment, cables, power adapters, camera stuff with charger, phone, my net book, memory sticks for data backups, and important vitamins and prescription medication (which in most countries are not so easy to find or if, then expensive). The most necessary are pain killers, celebrex, and for skin problem, if any, and whatever anybody needs for their own medical reasons (not forget the intestinal). What else I found is expensive to buy are herbs and spices – since I do my own cooking. The minimum I take with me is a small black pepper mill, and mixed herbs for Italian cooking. Clothes – not many. Only one pair extra shoes, because they are expensive to buy. Clothing in any country anywhere in the world is easy enough to buy second hand, if needed. Since I arrive from a colder country (Canada) it is always easier for me to wear layers of clothes when leaving, carry them through the airport controls, and same when arriving back. Leaves me with a few light clothes and the most necessities. My Tilly vest has so many pockets, I always wear as one of the layers when leaving and returning, holds my passport, important documents, money belt, glasses, shades, small tooth cleaning kit, bandages, pen, a few maps. And of course, couple of canvas bags for groceries’ shopping. I usually wash laundry daily where I rent on vacation. Two things I learned: (a) each time I travel, I carry less; (b) I can pack in 15 minutes for a 3 months trip.

I try to avoid renting a taxi. Because as a woman alone, it is not safe in some locales. One looses control. And misses a lot of wonderful sights when stuffed inside a taxi cab. [note my story Sayulita taxi above]

Public transportation: I always before leaving my home research very thoroughly the public transportation system of the country to which I travel. Starting with a map of the airport (arrival), where to go to find the nearest bus station after arrival. Funny example: Spain, Alicante. I had all the information necessary to get out and get onto the bus. Upon arrival, hundreds of European travelers hanging out in the arrivals hall, trying to rent a car (expensive). The local bus was only €3 to get to Alicante, to my hotel. And fast, in couple of minutes I was out and on the bus.

Being alone, I also avoid to go out after dark. In all those years I had never experienced an attack in a city, no matter where. The odd time one looses something (theft), but I found it was always my fault.

Usually I choose a town or city as a base, from where to make trips. Mostly using the local bus system, or of course the trains (especially in Europe). Or a boat. Whatever. Mostly I walk.

Most importantly: I mix with the locals, using their language. With 4 to 5 languages, I never had a problem to get along. This cannot be emphasized enough.

Example: Saint Martin, Caribbean Islands, French. I walked, got stuck somewhere, needed a ride, found a nice local lady who drove me, I only had so many Fr. Francs in my pocket, which she accepted. When arriving back at the resort, the American tourists complained about the extreme cab prices.

I avoid too touristy spots. And if possible of course large gatherings of people. There were times I found myself in dangerous situations – as far as terrorist activity.

Destinations: Of course everybody has their own preferences. But I have chosen, not to visit countries which have a poor human rights record. Moreover, countries who mistreat their women, or do not show them the respect they deserve. Mainly countries where rape is not a crime, but has become a pastime. Likewise, I avoid travel to countries which mistreat wildlife and trade in wildlife parts on markets.

HAPPY TRAVELING !  [post created with Firefox v.19]