Archive for April, 2014

Travel – value for money

Before planning a voyage, what is most important ? not only deciding on the destination, but planning the entire package and logistics. The question mostly asked by most is: “do I get value for my money ?” Because, let’s face it, most of us are restricted by a budget.
In my many years of traveling, I mostly traveled alone, except for that particular year 2012, when I decided to purchase a complete trip package directly from the (overseas) agent.
Examples of value for money:
One entire month in a resort by the Gulf of Hammamet, Tunisia, all inclusive, a bright big room with terrace on the second floor facing the ocean, two large swimming pools, daily and nightly entertainment, all day food and drink (bottled water, wine, champaigne) – all included. Also included return flight from and to Frankfurt/DEU and a full-coverage travel insurance with emergency health. All of this for 1.046EUR ($1,500). I only had to add return flight from/to Canada
There is a deal.
Another deal: Cruise from Vancouver to San Francisco, cabin with balcony (double occupancy), return flight for two San Francisco to Victoria, pickup at home, and nice hotel room on the Wharf, San Francisco. Per person CAD$900. We only needed to buy the food for the three days in San Francisco.
Another one: Eight days St. Petersburg, return flight Berlin, Hotel Moscwa, food, dinners, lunches, daily guided tours, admission to Eremitage [ and many palaces. Around 1.000EUR. (Russian Visa around 50).
I do not understand why travel medical and emergency insurance costs three or four times as much when bought in North America instead of in the destination country.     



Continuation of Part One {Alberta-Montreal}. Québec, still the largest province within Canada, and also the name of its Capital, La Ville de Québec/Quebec City. Situated high up on Cap Diamant, and looking down on the mighty St. Laurent River. Quebec, the cradle of French civilization in North America, distinct from the rest of Canada’s subdivision areas in terms of language and culture – French.
Why I love its capital city La Ville de Québec is, because of its special charm and uniqueness. Founded over 400 years ago in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain [ ], the city today has still retained its many stone walls and structures. Built high up (I believe 200 steps to climb up to La Haute Ville – the upper city), winters can tend to present a challenge. Therefore, houses have largely steeply slanted metal roofs, so that the ice and snow can slide off easily. When visiting the city in 2002 (previous visits during 1986), I slept overnight in my mini van somewhere at a quiet outside area. No problem.
When I visited again in 2008 for the 400 year celebrations of that city, I also took the time to check out some real estate. Amazingly, some of the old stone churches (Quebec is largely catholic) had been converted to condominiums. I walked up one such with an agent. It is narrow and with a steep staircase to the upper floor bedroom. A challenge as well !
My visit in August 2008 was one month long. I had then rented a suite with kitchen in one of the University of Quebec dorm buildings, E.Fleurie Uni. Quebec. Wonderful experience, all new modern furniture and kitchen, very nice admin staff on site. I paid $200 a week. Nearby the main Library (La Bibliotheque de Quebec rue Saint-Joseph Est, La Roche. Quebec has one of the largest networks of higher education institutes and universities in Canada. Also nearby a Dollar store. Very handy. Daily trips to Upper City (Haute Ville), climbing either steep streets or stairs built into the rock structures, returning to Lower City (Basse Ville). The city’s historical old walled-in section is in contrast to the other large modern buildings that make up this historical Capital. La Ville de Quebec has also one of the most beautiful and unique train stations.
In 2008 during the 400-celebrations of the city, daily activities (extending throughout the entire year 2008) fantastic sights , celebrations and presentations with folks from all over the world performing and visiting. Special events included the Grand Military Tattoo with many visiting international bands, and for the first time out of their country The Russian Army Choir and Parade Band. Because of their beautiful music everybody followed the Russians (like “Der Rattenfänger von Hameln”) back to their buses.
Couple of slide shows from this extended visit to Quebec in 2008 – incl. side trips to the Chutes de Montmorency (water falls) and north to Tadoussac, whale watching. [ ]

Bicycling – little tips

BYCICLING or Cycling – one of the most rewarding activities and exercises. Once the bitter cold slowly gives way to (rather late spring), we see more bicycles on the road. Not like in some European countries, though, which have more bicycles on the road than automobiles. Here, just a few. But we are blessed with a rather long out-of-city (Victoria, Vancouver Island) trail system, shared by bicycles and walkers. Because there are not so many bicycles sharing the rather busy vehicles road system, nor are there sufficient inner-city dedicated bicycle lanes, cycling becomes more dangerous. Road safety tips:
Always wear brightly coloured clothing – preferably bright red or yellow. Bicycle helmets are mandatory (unlike in Europe). Regularly look over your shoulder, even if you have a little rear-view mirror somewhere. Know your right ‘to share the road’ – meaning if you are on a bicycle on a major city road with three vehicle lanes, stay in the outer right lane, but not too far over; a car will always take your rightful space and push you even more over to the right. When turning right or left, use the proper hand signals.
One trick I learned that can save a life. When coming up to an intersection with traffic lights: If the light ahead is still green and, while you approach, the pedestrian light is already flashing red, I slow down already for the yellow. Meaning, never cross that intersection on yellow. In other words, not only do I look at the large overhead light, but also at the pedestrian light.
As far as theft goes; the rule is: whatever is easiest to steal, will be stolen first. Easy items are = the bicycle seat, the front wheel, anything detachable. I invented the use of two bike locks, one to lock the seat together with the rear wheel (more difficult to take in any case) and hang up my helmet with that lock. The second lock chain goes thru the front wheel, the frame and one stable object concreted in (or whatever is there to park you bike).
I also always take with me: a small bike pump and a set of Allan keys (for repairs), or even better, yet, a spare tire tube, and small change for the bus (in case my bicycle becomes incapacitated). Our regular buses all have a front rack system to mount two bikes. Which is wonderful, with those distances here. I put my bike up on the bus rack, take the bus, go somewhere, and cycle back. Going out of town into the more secluded areas (where we do have the occasional cougar), it is also wise – while cycling on the trail system – to look up once a while, not only ahead (in case a big cat looks down on you from the rocks). Not kidding, really !
In May we have the “Bike to Work Week”. I’ll be sitting that out, of course. Might be too dangerous. I cycle alone, it’s safer.  HAPPY CYCLING !