Posts Tagged With: photography

Aruban Sunsets

One of the ways we save money when we travel is to book a private rental vs. a hotel. The rental properties are usually much cheaper than hotel stays and they are usually equipped with a full kitchen, which saves us even more money by not eating out every meal of the day.  Rental properties are also great options for families in need of more than one bedroom. We have had great success renting properties from vrbo.com (Vacation Rentals By Owner) and we have saved a lot of money in the process. Our temporary home in Aruba was on the northwest coast of the island, right across the street from Boca Catalina. This small beach cove is said to be the best spot for snorkeling on the island. Additionally, this property was just a short 5 minute walk to my precious, Arashi Beach, mentioned in yesterday’s post. Aruba’s hotels are all crammed on one small strip of the island and we were able to avoid the crowds by renting a property that was located away from the high rises. This also meant there were fewer people I had to share Arashi Beach with!  

View from our apartment

In addition to being right across the street from the best snorkeling spot on the island and near the best beach on the island, we were also in a great location to enjoy the beautiful Aruban sunsets. 

  

    
  

 

 

 

 

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Aruba is My Paradise

In August, we took a family vacation to Aruba and it was paradise! Well…it was paradise for me. Rob, on the other hand, wasn’t Aruba’s biggest fan. He didn’t quite understand why I was so ready to put a Monopoly-money down payment on a vacation home there. I can understand his point of view though. The island terrain is not very appealing. Aruba is essentially a dessert, covered in cacti and dirt. But who cares? The weather is basically perfect there all year long and I would spend all my time on it’s pristine beaches with the clearest water I have ever seen!   
 You see, I have a very intense fear of sharks and I almost never go in the water. I have to be able to see my feet in any body of water or else there is no way I am stepping in. And even then, I am usually filled with anxiety. Constantly looking around, waiting to see that iconic dorsal fin appear, heading in my direction. Jumping out of my bathing suit every time a piece of seaweed brushes past my leg. Ridiculous, right? I know it’s ridiculous, but it’s probably not going to change. I have gone to so many beach locales, but I could never truly enjoy the ocean because I would be overcome by my fear and anxiety. Until Aruba!

  

   
 

We spent most of our beach time at Arashi Beach. The water was crystal clear and I could see everything around me in the water, in all directions. The ocean floor was soft white sand without a single piece of seaweed in site. It was glorious! I could actually play with Ella in the water without worrying what might be lurking nearby. I could actually lounge on a raft, enjoy a beer, and even close my eyes and still not feel an ounce of anxiety! Well, that is until the kids playing in the water start yelling SHARK, SHARK!!! I almost spill my beer as I heave myself off my raft to make my escape to shore, only to realize the kids are playing a game with one another. Seriously though….that shit should be illegal. You should not be allowed to yell shark in open waters! Doesn’t that fall into the yelling FIRE in a movie theater category? No? Well, it should.

 

   

  

Categories: Aruba, Destinations | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

Sunshine Meadows, Minus the Sunshine

   
Our last hike in Banff National Park was not quite what we had expected. Sunshine Meadows was rated the #1 hike in ALL of Canada by Lonely Planet. Canada is a huge country, so if this was supposed to be the best hike in the entire country (not just Banff National Park), well then my expectations were pretty high. To begin the hike, we arrived at the Sunshine ski area and parked our car. From here you have two options. You can either, a) hike more than 3 miles uphill just to get to the beginning of the trail, or b) take a shuttle to the trail center. Option A would add about 90 minutes (one way) to our hike. Option B cost 27 CAD per person. We chose option B, but I think 27 CAD for a 3 mile drive is highway (a.k.a. trail) robbery.

Once the shuttle bus dropped us off at the trail center, we started our hike uphill via the Rock Isle Trail. About 1 kilometer into the hike we reached the Continental Divide. At this point we had officially left Alberta and crossed into British Columbia territory.

  
 

Another ½ kilometer and we had reached Rock Isle Lake.

  
Our initial plan was to continue on this trail which would have led us to Larix Lake and Grizzly Lake. However, we were ill prepared for the Canadian “summer” weather of Sunshine Meadows. Even though it was mid-July, we encountered both sleet and snow and none of us were dressed appropriately for inclement weather. Luckily, our hiking pack for Ella has a built in weather shield, so we were able to keep her pretty well protected from the elements. But, it was still much colder than we had anticipated, so we had to end our hike early and head back to the trail center to catch the next shuttle down the mountain.

   

During the summer, Sunshine Meadows is said to be carpeted with alpine wildflowers. While we did see some alpine wildflowers, “carpeted” is an exaggeration to say the least. It was more like a few patches of small throw rugs!

 There were some wildflowers that looked like they were waiting to bloom, but I think it was just too cold so we didn’t get to see their true potential.  I am disappointed that I didn’t get to see the masses of beautiful flowers that might have been on a warmer day.

  

   

 

Categories: Canada, Destinations | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Twenty Dollar View

When visiting lakes in Banff National Park, people typically think about Lake Louise. It’s almost as if Moraine Lake is the younger, overlooked sister to the prom queen, Lake Louise. Before arriving in Banff, I had never even heard of Moraine Lake, but I am so glad that I didn’t leave without seeing it! It is absolutely magnificent! The brilliant, blue color of the lake is caused by the refraction of light off glacial rock flour deposited into the lake. The view of the mountains beyond the lake is the Valley of the Ten Peaks. It is also known as the “Twenty Dollar View” because it used to be pictured on the reverse side of a Canadian twenty dollar bill.  
There are several hiking trails around the lake, but the most popular one is the Rockpile Trail. The trail itself is short and you will only gain elevation of about 80 feet as you work your way to the top of the giant rock pile (as the trail is so appropriately named) overlooking the lake. The view from the top of the rock pile (pictured above) is one of the most photographed sites in all of Canada.

   
 After the Rockpile Trail, we walked along the Shoreline Trail. This leisurely trail is on flat ground and is a great way to see more of the lake as well as the Ten Peaks. 

    
You can also rent canoes at Moraine Lake and the rates are slightly cheaper than at Lake Louise. Not only will you save some cash, but you will likely avoid the crowds as well. The picture below shows the rock pile that we hiked to the top of.

  

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Tea Time at Lake Agnes

Lake Louise is well-known for two alpine tea houses; the Lake Agnes Tea House and the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House. The hike to the Lake Agnes Tea House is one of the most famous trails in Banff National Park. The 4.5 mile hike (roundtrip) begins at Lake Louise and winds uphill until you arrive at a beautiful log cabin hidden in the forest alongside Lake Agnes. The cabin was originally built in 1901 as a refuge for hikers. In 1905, they began serving tea and they have continued to serve visitors from around the world for more than 100 years! This family-run tea house is situated at an altitude of just over 7,000 feet.  

  

  

The trail was very easy to navigate, however the hike was moderately challenging due to the 1,300 foot elevation gain. But, it was well worth the effort because the views along the way were magnificent! Part of the trail overlooks Lake Louise, which of course, is just as stunning from above. 

  

  

The trail also passes Mirror Lake. This trio of lakes (Louise, Mirror & Agnes) is often referred to as the “Lakes in the Clouds.”

  

  

While hiking between each of the Lakes in the Clouds, you will also have fantastic views of the Canadian Rockies.

  

  

As you are nearing the tea house, you will see the waterfall that cascades from Lake Agnes. Once you reach this waterfall, you are nearly there! Just a few more steps to climb.

  

  

By the time we reached the tea house, I was ready to indulge in a tasty treat. They offer a menu of fresh, homemade goods, all made on-site. Rob enjoyed a hearty bowl of soup coupled with their homemade oatmeal brown bread. I opted for the sweeter side and chose the apple crumble (a local favorite – rightfully so). And while at a tea house, of course we had to get some tea! They offer more than 100 varieties of loose leaf teas, which makes it difficult to choose. Being in Canada, we figured you can’t go wrong with anything maple, so we shared a small pot of the Maple Black Tea and it was delicious! Note to visitors: The Lake Agnes Tea House only accepts cash (Canadian & American). It would be an awful shame to hike all that way only to realize at the top that you only have plastic!

  

   
 

While there, enjoy the view down below of Lake Louise and the Fairmont Chateau.

  

  

If you are feeling really adventurous, try the “Tea House Challenge” and visit both tea houses in one day. The Highline Trail connects both tea houses to form a 9 mile loop. Or if hiking just isn’t your thing, but you really want to see an alpine tea house, then you can make the trek on horseback. Note to visitors: There are horses on the trail, so watch your step!

  

  

 

 

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Majestic Lake Louise

While in Banff National Park, a visit to Lake Louise cannot be missed. This majestic lake was named after Queen Victoria’s fourth daughter, and the mesmerizing turquoise water is the crowning jewel of the park. The scenic background of Lake Louise is comprised of the snow-capped mountains of Mount Temple, Mount Whyte and Mount Niblock of the Canadian Rockies.   

 

There are wonderful hiking trails around the lake, or you can pay to rent a canoe and coast across the turquoise water. The canoe rentals weren’t cheap, but definitely worth it! A half hour rental cost 55 CAD and a full hour was just 10 CAD more. 

   

  

Clearly the full hour is the better deal, but we didn’t think Ella would sit still for that long so we opted for the 30 minute ride. I got to relax in the canoe, while Rob did all the hard work rowing. 

  But, I did have the very important job of making sure Ella didn’t throw herself overboard!  

  

Ella did start getting antsy towards the end of our term, so opting for the shorter rental was definitely the right call. And I’m fairly certain that Rob was ready to stop rowing by that point anyway. As we arrived back at the dock, there was a photographer standing by to capture a group shot. Normally I don’t get suckered into buying these over-priced photos, but this time the magic of the lake made me do it. So we shelled out an additional 20 CAD so that we could keep the only available picture containing all 3 of us on this canoe.  

  

Categories: Canada, Destinations | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

Confused Capital?

Ankara is the capital of Turkey and it is the country’s second largest city. But where exactly is Ankara? Europe or Asia?

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Ankara is in Asia. But apparently nobody told that to the committee for the European Museum of the Year Award! Because somehow they selected the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations (in Ankara) as their award winner in 1997. There is probably an awesome museum in Prague [insert any other European city here] that had this prestigious (?) award slip through its hands and had to settle for runner up. Well done committee, well done!

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In addition to visiting the museum above, we also visited Anıtkabir. Anıtkabir is the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, as well as a museum dedicated to his achievements. Atatürk was the founder of the Republic of Turkey and he is considered a national hero. The museum was actually quite impressive, especially compared to the “award-winning” museum above. The museum was protected by members of the Turkish Honor Guard representing different branches of their military.

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And if anyone gets out of line, these guys mean business. Check out how they put Rob in a time out!

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Just kidding. Rob was on his best behavior.

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Unfortunately, our time in Ankara was very short and we didn’t really get an opportunity to explore the city. Most of our day was tied up visiting these two museums that were part of our guided tour. Given the opportunity, we would have preferred to roam around Ankara at our leisure and really get a feel for the city, but sadly we were at the will of our tour guide. However, we did get to experience a 5M Migros! What is a Migros, you ask? Migros is a grocery store and they classify the size of the store by the number of M’s in the name. They are all over Turkey and we saw Migros, MMigros, and even MMMigros. But it wasn’t until we got to Ankara that we saw our first MMMMMigros! We checked it out and it was basically a Turkish version of Super WalMart.

Categories: Destinations, Turkey | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Turkey Doesn’t Lead Animals Astray

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One of the things I loved most about Turkey, was how they treated the animals there. I am an animal lover at heart and not afraid to admit that I like animals more than I like most people (except you…you know who you are!) So I was truly touched when I saw how kind the Turks were to the abundant stray population. I’ve been to some countries where the people can be downright cruel to stray animals, thinking of them merely as pests that should be exterminated. But that was definitely not the case in Turkey!

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Turkey does not have animal shelters like we have in the United States. So in order to help control the stray population, they have a “neuter and release” program. Stray dogs are picked up, given immunizations and then spayed or neutered. Before being released, the dog’s ear is tagged to show the dog has been properly evaluated, treated, and neutered. It seems to be a very effective program because the stray dogs I saw were the happiest strays I have ever seen! They all seemed very well-fed and generally in good health. Most of them were just trying to find their place in the shade and none of them seemed skittish or fearful of people.

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There were also stray cats everywhere around the country. I’m not sure if they have the same “neuter and release” program for cats, but I didn’t see any cats with their ears tagged. However, they were just as happy and go-lucky as the dogs were. Both dogs and cats could be found hanging around shops and even restaurants. But rather than shop owners shooing them away, they all graciously put out food and fresh water. It was incredibly heart-warming to witness such genuine concern for all of these homeless animals.

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Remember: As Bob Barker always said, “Help control the pet population. Have your pets spayed or neutered.”

Categories: Destinations, Turkey | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Turkish Sunsets

Sunset in Istanbul

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Sunset in Çanakkale

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Sunset in Izmir

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Sunset in Antalya

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Something Beautiful Remains by Martha Vashti Pearson

The tide recedes, but leaves behind
Bright seashells on the sand.
The sun goes down but gentle warmth
Still lingers on the land.
The music stops and yet it lingers on
In sweet refrain.
For every joy that passes
Something beautiful remains

*** This post is dedicated to my grandmother, Carmela, for all of the joy and beauty she has brought into this world. Even though the sun has set, it is not gone. ***
10/16/1923 ~ 10/31/2013

Categories: Destinations, Turkey | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Medusa Mystery

Since today is Halloween I thought it would be appropriate to post about one of the spookier sites in Turkey. Okay, maybe “spooky” is a bit of an oversell, but it’s the best that I can do.

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The Basilica Cistern is the largest of hundreds of ancient cisterns in Istanbul, with the capacity to store 100,000 tons of water. This cathedral-size cistern was built in the 6th century and is over 100,000 square feet. Visitors can descend underground and explore this amazing ancient architectural achievement.

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The ceiling is supported by 336 marble columns, most of which are of the Corinthian style. Most of these columns appear to have been recycled from the ruins of older buildings.

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However, there are a couple columns that are quite unique. The column in the picture below is engraved with tear-like shapes. The tears are believed to represent the hundreds of slaves that died during the cistern’s construction. Records show there were about 7,000 slaves involved in the construction.

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In one corner of the cistern there are two columns with bases depicting the head of Medusa. One of the heads is upside-down and the other is oriented sideways. The origin of the two heads is unknown and it is a complete mystery why they are oriented in such a peculiar manner. Very Barely spooky.

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Happy Halloween!

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