A Travellerspoint blog

Israel and Jordan

Tel Aviv, Jerusalem , Petra and Wadi Rum

sunny 29 °C

'. Day. 39"

A cab to the airport was such a great idea. With four of us it wasn't that much more expensive and so much less stressful. We flew on Ezejet from Paris to Tel Aviv for $224 which was a great price on this low cost airline, so wasn't sure what to expect. Check in and boarding were a breeze and the in flight staff were wonderful.
The selection of food to buy on board was better and less expensive than any other airline I have seen. We left on time and arrived 4 1/2 hours later, 1/2 hour ahead of schedule.

We and a beautiful view of the Austrian alps.


An hour from landing we had an announcement that no one would be able to use the bathrooms after the next few minutes as we will be in Israel airspace. A security measure. Hmmm.

We have not had anyone look at our passports on any of our other landings, but Israel was different. Passport check took a long time to get through, but when I finally did reach the front the woman asked where I was going and how long I was staying, handed me back my passport, smiled and said " welcome to Israel"

We grabbed a cab to our apartment in Tel Aviv. It is quite a distance from the airport and now dark. We are staying in a very small apartment building that is closed and locked up, but the owner has sent me the code to get in.

Well it sure looks different from the pictures on the Internet. Doug and I took the apartment on the first ( second) floor and Lana and Cheryle the floor above. There are four apartments on each floor. Ours is nicer than theirs. Our has been repainted and updated somewhat. We are not happy, but we have paid in full and the owner won't be here till tomorrow.

We headed out to walk the streets around us and found an " Irish Pub" that served food. A woman whom we assumed worked there came up and helped us with the menu, recommended dishes and was raving about the food. We sat outside and enjoyed our food and her and the owner sat at the next table and we had a great time chatting to them. Billy and Abi were so much fun, we really enjoyed ourselves. She is just a regular there and good friends with Abi.


Day 40

Moti the owner came and apologized that the unit on the top floor will not be renovated till next month. He is so sweet that we really can't get upset. And this is the least expensive place in the area. We are a block from the beach so the location is excellent.
This is our view across the street however. Old meets new.


At 10AM the four of us made our way down the beach walk towards Jaffa, the old town. Moti warned us to stay off the bike walks as most are electric bikes and they go fast.

It is very hot. Not that I am complaining but it is around 28c. A lot of people are in the water already cooling off or suntanning in the lounge chairs.
We notice a lot of interesting modern buildings in Tel Aviv.


There is a walking tour of old Jaffa at 11AM from the meeting place of the tower. Twenty or more people of various ages and nationalities the next two hours enjoying the tour with our guide who was originally from London. She explained the history of Israel and Tel Aviv/Jaffa with so much humour and had a picture book for those of us who are visual learners. It was very interesting and I learned a lot about the history. She was trying to be unbiased, but she is Jewish so we had to keep that in mind.



Children go to segregated schools here, Jewish, Arab, Christians, they all have their own schools and don't interact at all. That could certainly contribute to the problems.

Jaffa is the old city and she explained a lot about the various buildings and history of the area. Jaffa is/ was predominately Arab, so the Jews built TelAviv beside it. It is know as the White City, and is a very vibrant prosperous ( expensive) city that is a party favourite. It is very accepting of everyone, so there are a lot of gay men and women who come here to vacation and enjoy the beautiful beaches, great restaurants and nightlife.

It has been described as " if New York and Miami Beach had a love child it would be Tel Aviv"


After the tour we stopped in at a restaurant for lunch. I had a falafel and the others had a shawarma. We are learning a couple new words a day, and said thank you in Hebrew, but did not get an acknowledgment. We started to talk to the man at the next table and he said " they are Arab". Of course, we are in Jaffa. He tells us how to say thank you in Arabic (shukran phonetically), calls the staff over, we say thank you and they all smile ( maybe they laugh a little) .

This is going to be hard figuring out who is Jewish and who is Arab. Sometimes it is obvious because of their dress, but not always. We don't want to offend.
I notice if I do say thank you (toada is phonetically how you say in Hebrew), they smile, warm up and ask where we are from. They seem to really appreciate taking the time and effort to try to speak the language.



A number of people have also thanked us for coming to Israel, in light of the current situation, violence, going on. Many other tourists have cancelled. Time will tell if we made the right decision.

After lunch Doug went for a hair and beard cut. He certainly got his money's worth, it is very short. The barber and he had a great deal in common and really enjoyed talking to each other for the hour that it took.


Day 41

Beach time today. Doug and I made our way to the wide expanse of beige coloured sand beach to spend a great part of the day. The sand is like powder, fairly clean except for a few cigarette buts, and scattered with people of all shapes sizes and ages.
A reminder of Waikiki however not as busy. Many lounge chairs and umbrellas can be hired, which we did for 30 sheckles for the entire day. This works out to less than $10 and well worth it.



The water was wonderful, a little cool when you first went in, but lovely and flat calm. Paddle boarders kayakers and sailboats were also enjoying the water. We swam five different times during the day. .

The beach is on the major flight path to the airport and we see many commercial jets and smaller ones flying very low over us constantly in the morning. A few fighter jets as well as some helicopters overhead once in a while.
A walk around to buy groceries and then a fantastic lunch before heading back to our place to prepare for our departure to Jerusalem tomorrow.





Day 42

A large van was ordered to pick us up at 11:30am and he was there a half hour early which was nice. It is the Shabbat today so no busses or trains are running. Every Friday at sunset until sunset on Saturday the devout Jews do not perform any type of work, so you need to plan accordingly. There are still stores and places open in TelAviv because there are a lot of Arabs here. A taxi would be more convenient than a bus anyhow and with the four of us not too bad. 450 shekels which is around $130. It is more than usual because it is the Shabbat and we asked for a large van. The journey was not overly exciting and took around 45 minutes.

We arrived in the Jewish area of Jerusalem and found the apartment building that was rented on VRBO. We have to go down one flight of stairs on the outside of the building and the one more inside. It's not the ritz that is for sure but the inside is fine. The landlady left the front door unlocked with keys on the table. A moment of panic as the second bed in one of the bedrooms is a child bed. We figured out after a while however that we could make it a regular twin bed and disaster averted as there is nothing else to rent in this price range. For the two bedroom apartment we are paying $125US a night, and for Israel that is a great price. We have a great view over Jerusalem and sitting here I feel like I am looking over Vancouver or any other large city.

We had a relaxing day just staying here, as there was no transport that we coul take from here today that we knew of and didn't mind a down day anyhow,
We brought groceries from Tel Aviv as stores are closed here today so managed to have a big salad for dinner followed by a carrot cheese dessert that Lana and Cheryle picked up in a market.

The landlady, Hanna, came at 8:30pm and does not speak any English, only French. Originally from Paris she speaks rapid fire French, I picked up a bit of it and Doug did quite well but we still needed google translate and eventually she called her daughter in law who spoke English, to make sure all was in order.
We set the clocks back an hour tonight so we get an extra hour sleep which is always a good thing.

Day 43
At 10 we caught a cab into old Jerusalem to meet up with a walking tour at 11. There were about 15 of us on the tour and it was fairy fast paced, we rushed through some areas to be sure to get to,the Temple Mount on time. Our tour guide, Naoimi, was Jewish and had a great sense of humour and so much information to share with us. She was very diplomatic and tried not to be one sided in her views. This is such a complicated place.
My personal opinion is that it is not a battle of Palestine against Israel, but more about control of who can worship where and who can't, so a religious fight. Power over religious sites. It seems so contradictory to what religion is supposed to be about.


We started at King David's tower and saw the place where the last supper was and also where Jesus was put in jail the night before the Crucifixion.

It is quite crowded in there, a lot of Chinese tour groups as well as Christian pilgrimages and also Jewish groups.


There are lots of Israeli soldiers everywhere, all with machine guns. When a child turns 18 they must join the military, two years for girls, three for boys, minimum. So you see lots of hormonal teenagers with machine guns. They are in groups of 4 or 5 on every corner.

Israel hasn'It had rain for six months. Until today. It was torrential at times and the streets started flooding.

We had to rush to get to the Temple Mount because it was only open to non Muslims for one hour a day. This is a site that is great controversy in Jerusalem, it was once Jewish and now Muslim and the second most important Islamic site. There is a long history about this site and now the Jews are not allowed to come and pray here.
When we arrived we had to go through a screening. You could not bring in any Christian or Jewish items, like a bible or cross for example. You had to be covered to mid calf, men too, and have your arms covered. This site has been many things in the past, originally one of King Herods palaces, abandoned for a while, other things in between and now a mosque.

Naoimi was great, giving us the history, not saying anything negative about anyone just giving the facts. A Muslim woman was listening nearby. She started yelling at Naoimi, " this is a mosque, you should not even be here! "
Naoimi was very calm and said, " I am saying everything you want me to say, why don't you listen"
The woman kept yelling and then eventually walked away.a short while later we heard a bunch of people yelling " Allah is great, Allah is great....."
I asked what was that and told some Jewish men, that she knew, were walking by, not praying just walking, but they constantly get yelled at all the time. The hate must be exhausting. So sad.

The site was interesting, we could not go inside and soon we were told we had to leave, our time was up.
Well that was interesting, and a bit uncomfortable. It was like a heavy black cloud was put around me. But I quickly shook it off.


A lunch stop at an Arab resteraunt and Naiomi is very well received and gets along well with everyone ther. It seems it is only a few really who have so much hate for the other. Most seem to get along, to me anyhow.
Assorted sides of hummus tahini salads and falafel were served which was quite good. Naoimi sat with our small group and we talked about many things.

Lunch was neat the via Delarosa, the path that Jesus took when he carried the cross to his crucifixion. There are 14 stations in all. It would have looked similar to,what we saw today, shops on either side of the walkway to the hill.


Our last stop was the church of the Holy Sepulchre which has an Ethiopian church, Greek Orthodox and Catholic Church inside. It is built on the place where Jesus' was. Crucified and also where his tomb is. It was quite crowded inside. We saw the slab where his body was wrapped before being placed in the tomb.


The tour was over and so we walked back to the Jaffa Gate with Naoimi and then tried to catch a cab back. The first two looked at the address and said no, not sure why, and then the third said his meter was broken and said he would charge 150 sheckles, three times more than we paid to get here. We got out of the cab and decided to take the train ( above ground subway) back.

I was so bagged it was all I could do to drag myself up the hill, but finally got there. Buying a subway ticket was very confusing for us, mostly in Hebrew, but a lovely young man helped us and we got on the train.
Can't seem to get used to having guys with machine guns beside me on the train. But nice to feel protected.

Tonight we went for dinner with some people that Doug met in Norway ( that seems like so long ago). A wonderful open conversation about life in Israel, and Jerusalem in particular. We really enjoyed our evening with them.

Day 44. Bethlehem

I found a guide that was recommended and he picked us up in his van at 9 AM. Sam was a very gentile and lovely man with so much information. He grew up in Bethlehem but now lives in Jerusalem and is a Christian.
Our first stop was King Herads Palace built in 25BC. He had 9 wife's and over 90 children. He reminded me of Donald Trump. He was very egotistical and everything he built, and there was a lot, was over the top.
He had many palaces, but this was where he was buried. When he died he left strick orders as to how his funeral should be. He even had a few Jews killed so that more people would be crying at his funeral.
He decided when he died to take it with him and was buried with a lot of his jewels.

There were a lot of workman around doing more restoration. Only a handful of other tourists which was great. It amazed us that Sam would pick up pieces of pottery from thousands of years ago and said we could take it with us. There was so much and no rules not to take anything like most sites do.

Sam wanted to visit his mom in Bethlehem so he set us up with another guide to take us the the church of the nativity. We arrived a bit late so rushed inside and then to the lower floor to see where Jesus was born. It closed at noon for a few hours.

The guard said, " no you are too late" in Arabic to our new guide. I looked around the corner and took a peak inside, looked at the guard, our guide was asking again nicely and the guard said, " ok, just for a minute"
We had a short time but saw where Jesus was born and also the manger spot. We then went upstairs again and watched a church procession that led people downstairs to see what we just saw, but instead of 40 people cramming into the room there were only the 5 of us when we were there

The church below, church of the nativity, used to have huge doors but they kept having to make them smaller and smaller because people would ride their camels and horses inside.



It is mandatory in Bethlehem to visit a store before leaving and our new guide just happened to own one " prince of peace". It was a Christian store with lots of unique things in it. We each bought some jewelry, the Jerusalem cross, Cheryl a necklace and Lana and I had them a make us earrings. I am not religious but liked this unusual design and it will remind me of our trip here.

In the street are many vendors selling pomegranate juice and falafels etc. we watched one fellow making them with a special falafel scoop and the owner gave Lana and I each one to try, no charge and came with a huge smile. So gracious.


We found a bank that dispensed Jordanian Dinar for tomorrow and then made our way to lunch ant a resteraunt that Sam had preordered a typical meal at. It used to be a very popular and busy resteraunt but now not many go there because the Israeli soldiers are often on the roof with machine guns.
Across the street is Rachel's Tomb, the wife of Jacob and considered sacred to Jews Christians and Muslims. Now there is a huge wall around it and the Muslims are not allowed to visit, only Jews and Christians. It says you can visit but only in a bullet proof bus. Our guide did not even suggest going.
Yet here we are having lunch across the street. It was delicious, lots of small dishes to start followed by a main course.

We heard some bangs going on, it didn't sound like it was very far away. Sam said that school was out and the kids go and throw rocks at the Israeli soldiers. The soldiers then throw tear gas canisters at them. We heard a number of them in the hour we were there.
It was quiet now, so safe to go according to Sam. We found evidence of burning garbage and lots of rocks in the street . We were coughing and felt a bit of burning in our eyes just driving through the area. All the kids had gone home now though.
What a way to live.


Our last stop was another church. I was ready to collapse at this point it was such a long day. We didn't stay long and then started our drive home.


Day 45. Jordan

Our taxi picks us up on time at 639am to take us downtown to meet up with our tour to Jordan. There are only 9 of us on this three day adventure and our tour mates include Helen and Graham from the UK who are about our age. Graham has been here a few times before taking church groups but this is the first time for the rest of us .
Will is around mid 40 something, travelling alone from Orlando Florida and friends Dianne and Roxanne who are mid 50 ish from New York City.

An 18 passenger van takes us west to the border with Jordan that we will cross at. We pass by many groves of dates and lots of green houses. This is the Jordan valley and a very fertile area where a lot of the produce for the country is grown. Cucumbers, tomatoes, corn squash and eggplant are seen in huge plots. Bougainville and orange trees are seen as well.

There used to be a lot of banana trees but the soldiers cut them down years ago so that they could scout out the horizon better. They decided on dates instead of bananas when they replanted.
That reminds me that I need to buy some dates. Yum.

Homes made from tin and cloth are seen now, and rolling hills of sand and rock. Goats, camels, lots of different palm trees line the highway.
The Jordan river is very low here because they dammed it up near Galilee but it meant that the river has less water in it now.

Electric fences line the road the closer we get to Jordan. There are also land mines in the ground to keep people from Jordan and afar from coming into Israel illegally. Israeli soldiers patrol the roads looking for footprints in the sand between the fence and road. If they see footprints then the helicopters and more soldiers come out to find them.

There is not a similar thing from Israel to Jordan because more want to come to Israel to see family who are originally from there.
Our driver lives in Palestine and every morning it takes him two hours to get through the check point to come to work every morning. He always gets hassled every day and he is just trying to come to work.

Closer to boarder we notice more grasses that are a beautiful golden colour. We are now driving on road that twists and turns through the small mountains.

Our first checkpoint in Israel is reached and we must each pay $30USD and then get back on the bus. We show our passports twice here.

We had two more checkpoints to show our passports in Israel.

Jordan passport and security is reached and we leave our Israeli bus and walk through security. . Ramdom searching is done and as usual Doug is singled out again and they take over half hour more with him. He packed binoculars and they wanted to be sure they were not night vision ones.

One more passport check In Jordan and we are here!
A Jordanian bus is boarded, the same size, and Said is our driver.
Our guide is Ayman. Pronounced Iman and he is a lovely young man of 28 from Amman. He always has a huge and sincere smile on his face. His mom is Christian and dad is Muslim, so on Fridays he would go to the mosque with his dad and church with his mom on Sunday. Now he says he is spiritual not any one religion. His mom is a chef for king Husain.

As we leaved the border and travel though town I notice a lot of garbage ,that evil plastic lines the sides of the roads.
Population explosion in the past few years with all the refugees and people coming from neighbouring countries Jordan has one of the biggest refugee camps, located in the north, with over 80,000 people from Syria. They have been there so many years it is like its own city now with streets and people getting married and having babies and setting up shops. Most of them have a pretty good life there according to him.

Hilly terrain with olive trees are seen now and people come and sit to relax under the trees and have picnics. It is illegal to cut down a tree in Jordan, all the wood needs to be imported. Only 8./. green space in Jordan and they want to change that.

Jordan has a lot of excavations going on as there have been continuous inhabitants here since the Stone Age.
A number is tents are seen both for people and animals. A tribe called Bedouins live in goat hair brown tents, while the gypsies live in less expensive coloured tents

Some facts: Bedouins are not poor, many are wealthy. Some have nice houses but still have tents in their yards because that is their culture.
2500 year old olive trees are growing near Jerash, our first stop. They produce the best olive oil.
School is free and mandatory. University, if you want to continue your education, is not expensive

More than 40./ of population works for government which is why Jordan is safe. Everyone who works for the government gets free healthcare and good benefits so there are not much opposition the the government because it is most people's livelihood and they are treated well. Most people in Jordan are Muslim, with a few Christians.

Tree of Jordan is oak tree
Winter time in Jordan can see as much as 120 cm of snow to over a meter at times. Climate change is seeing hotter summers and colder winters for them.

We arrived at the ancient ruins of Jerash. This is the best preserved Roman site in the world but it is not a UNESCO site because in order to be designated UNESO there can be no inhabitants. As a lot of Jerash is still buried and there are many homes built overtop the government decided it will not make these people move, so it is governed by the government.



Greeks started building it and the Romans finished it from 63 BC to 320 AD, then in the 3Rd century it became Byzantine with the Christians. In the 7 th century came the Muslims. It was used to control the trade route for the Romans.

It is so well preserved because it was buried for years under seven meters of dirt from a massive earthquake in the 8 th century. There is still only 30 percent that is visible.
It has only been uncovered since the early 20th century, so still very new.
It was one of the best we have ever seen, it was amazing and hardly any people there for such a fantastic site.

We are very hungry and treated to a fantastic meal in a very nice restaurant before we
drive through the capital of Amman and then a stop at the Citadel which offered amazing views over the city. The population has just exploded in recent years, this is the older part of,the city but still only 90 years old. It is the most dense city we have ever seen, remaining us a bit of La Paz in Bolivia

As we drive through Amman we come to the newer area, very upscale, high end stores, and the Embassy's from around the world and their compounds.

It was now a four hour drive to our camp. I decided to take the back bench seat that was vacant so I could lay down to sleep. Jordan has speed bumps every mile, so our driver goes at 90K the slams on the brakes to go over the speed bumps. This was constant the entire way. I ended up been thrown onto the floor of the bus more than once during the trip and never got any sleep, but i did get some rest.

We are staying in a Bedouin camp, small tent buildings with a communal dining room and separate men's and woman's toilets and showers.

Went to bed right away. Inside the tent is two single beds and a small side table. There is a zippered window about 10x10 big. I like a lot more fresh air and it smells bad in here. There has been a lot of rain and everything is still damp and hasn't had a chance to dry out.
The bedding was dry though.
I am so tired however I slept like a baby.


Day 46 , Petra

From the entrance gate we walked for a while past some carvings and extraordinary rock formations. The colours are more evident as it has rained recently. The park is only 10 minutes from our camp and it is 9am, so not too many tourists yet. Ayman says that tourism has been down so much in the past few months because people are afraid to come here now, just because it is the Middle East. Twenty two hotels in Petra had to close down recently, so over 1,000 people have lost their jobs. This is the most tourists he has seen in a long time so he is very happy.

The weather is perfect. Rain was in the forecast but now changed to just sun and cloud. Two weeks ago it was 49C here, and two days ago so much rain it was flooding. We are so luck, today will only be low 20s.


A walk for about a mile through the gorge shows us irrigation ditches and tunnels that were Mae by both the Nabatean and and then later the Romans. The colts of the rock formations are beautiful shades of pinks and corals and ivory.

Ayman told us to turn and look at the mountain behind us to see something. We are saying
" what, where are we looking? I don't see it"
Then he says : " just kidding guys, turn around"
There before though the gorge is the treasury. What a sight!


These buildings were carved into the sandstone by the Nabateans. They are not homes but tombs. They would spend their entire live carving their own tombs. The home they lived in were all destroyed.

We spent a bit of time there but we were coming back this way so pressed on. Ayman pointed out many more tombs and carvings along the way.
This is now a UNESCO heritage site, but you have to kick everyone out from their homes to have a site be declared s Unesco site, there were still a number of Bedouins living here at the time. The agreement was that they be built houses nearby, and given jobs. Each family received a donkey and gets a portion of the entrance fee, which by the way is a hefty 70 dinar per person which adds up to over $100 ( still cheaper than most concert prices).

The Bedouin work in the site offering camel, mule, donkey, horse and horse cart rides for tourists.
All the men look like Johnny Depp from pirates of the Caribbean. The Bedouins keep to their own tribe so they all look alike. There are not many women working here, as true Bedouins do not want the women to work outside the home, but the ones who are here have their children helping them at small stalls selling jewelry and other items



A stop at one stall was to show how they use kohl on their eyes, and when a volunteer was asked for I was more than happy to oblige.
Johnny Depp sat me the the chair and applied a natural kohl from Jordan to the inside of my eyes. This has a dual purpose, to enhance and make your eyes more beautiful, but also cleans any dirt and dust from the eyes. Being in the desert it is a great way to keep your eyes clear. Lana went next and we both bought a bottle to take home. We will see how it works. It is supposed to last a couple of days between applications.


At the top of a number of stairs we found another interesting tomb, but also this desert policeman who graciously allowed me to take his picture and one with me as well. We have found everyone so friendly and just lovely people.


Hiking up and down hills and stairs to visit other sites until we come to our lunch stop in a Bedouin restaurant. Another meal of hummus, tomatoes, cucumbers and pita and then this part of the guided tour is over. Ayman is hiking up to the monastery, a ruin at the top of 800 stairs and whom ever wants to join him is welcome. The group splits in half, Cheryl went with them but went up on a donkey. Coming down is better on foot as it is quite steep and scary on the donkey.

The rest of us, Lana, Doug, Roxanne and Dianne made our way slowly back the two something kilometres to the treasury. Roxanne said she always wanted to ride a camel so we convinced her that she had to do it.

A few minutes later a fellow asked Lana and I and we decided to take the camel to the treasury. These were tall lean camels and the saddle, made from blankets, had a horn built on the back and the front. I had a heck of a time swinging my leg over that back horn. Riding a camel is fun for about 10 minutes really. There are no stirrups so it's always a challenge what to do with your legs.



The great thing about this tour was that unlike others where you were only here for 4 hours, we had the entire day. We just sat and looked at the treasury, people watched and took pictures for the next couple of hours.

I was trying to get a video of me dancing in front of the ruins but it was difficult with people walking in front of Lana all the time who was filming. Another young Bedouin man, Soloman, came and directed traffic, telling people to please move so Lana could film. Then he took us around the corner to a great place to take some pictures and film me dancing. Another young Bedouin man joined me for the last part of the dance. They were a lot of fun. I bought a bracelet from him although he never pressured me at all. We chatted for a bit. His wife is going to university to be an engineer and they live in the town nearby.

He went on his way and we went back to our bench to marvel at the site some more. Soloman came back and put a small silver bracelet on my arm and said " this is a gift for you" he said that I reminded him of his mother and we seemed to have a connection. It was so sweet.


The rest of the gang showed up from their hike and we started back through the gorge to the parking lot. I was pretty bagged at this point so when a man came and asked if I want to ride a horse back I said yes. It was a slow ride, he led the horse like a pony ride, but a nice one. A few of the young men were ridding gorgeous high spirited Arabian horses, but they were for their own use . Doug walked back with Ayman.


This evening we sat around the campfire talking and the after dinner had a long conversation about politics and religion in the Middle East.

It seems apparent to me that everyone I talk to, Arab Christians , Arab Muslims, Jews, Israeli Christians, they all want the same thing. Just to get along and stop fighting.
Graham is a minister from the Church of England and Ayman is Christian and Muslim raised so it was a very interesting and completely non confrontational discussion that went on for a couple of hours.

Day 47, Wadi Rum

Another early start has us on the road at 730am for our two hour ride to the desert. Two small pickup trucks are waiting for us and we climb onto benches in the back and head to the open sand. This is a national park and there are many Bedouin camps inside. Groups and independent travellers come to tour like us in trucks for the day, on foot, horseback and camel. Some spend a few days in the dessert either in small tents or Bedouin camps.

Unlike other deserts there are more than just sand dunes, but many mountains with years of erosion have formed interesting shapes


The Nabateans have also lived here in the past and we see some carvings in the rocks. This was the trade route for caravans from Saudi Arabia many years ago.
We are very close to Saudi Arabia.

At one sand dune Ayman invited us to run up in bare feet to the top. I made it about half way, it very hard work, two steps up, three back. Going down was fun.

Our driver Said joined us today and ran to the top effortlessly. He is retiring in two years so I put him a bit older than me. Ayman said he never comes on the wadi rum tours, usually just waits in the bus, but he really likes our group a lot and wanted to join us. He has so much fun today and we all really like him a lot too.


'Little bridge' was our next stop and it was a challenging climb to the top of the rocks. You then went across a narrow rock forming the bridge to the other side, but half way I got a terrible attack of vertigo and could not go further. I crawled on hands and knees back to the other side.

The view was magnificent and everyone danced with me on the rock for my next video of 'dancing around the world' . We decide to call our group 'YALLA' which means let's go in Arabic, something the Ayman said to us all the time

Lawrence of Arabia was filmed here and he actually lived here so we saw the remains of his home. There was a small shop there and we were offered tea which was delicious. Sage, cinnamon and cardamom, and we bought two bags to bring home. Hopefully we get them across the border. We also bought some musk bars which are like a perfume as well as two scarves. I think they were happy as most of us bought something


Lunch was at another Bedouin camp of hummus, pita, yogurt, tomato and cucumbers with a plate of rice and chicken as well.

Jordan is the fourth largest exporter of phosphate in the world. They also rely on exports of fruits and vegetables with tourism being the fourth largest income for the country, at least it was in the past.

On the way back to Israel, to a different border crossing, we pass many weddings. Friday and Saturday are non work days so Thursday is a popular wedding day. The groom will drive to pick up the bride, with his entire tribe, and they will form a convoy to the wedding with car lights flashing. There is a camera man in front, standing up in the sun roof, filming the procession behind him. When we passed them we all danced in the bus and the camera man was pleasantly surprised to film us.

The next procession we passed had a bunch of people in school busses who were dancing and we danced in our bus too and they all thought that was great. Dancing creates such happiness and a world wide bond that everyone can relate too.

A few years ago IKEA came to Jordan, which was quite something for them. Ayman says that there are often family outings there to look around at all the western furniture , have an ice cream and then leave.

We descended to the Dead Sea, which is 400 feet below sea level. Ayman suggested that if anyone has empty water bottles to watch them as we descend and we see them gradually deflate and collapse.

Ayman takes us the the Jordanian border, he does or paperwork for us. He first brings a police officer on board the bus
We said our goodbyes to Ayman and then Said drove us to the Israel boarder, where we then said goodbye to him.
We danced as he drove away and he was dancing too. Such a sweet man

Five passport checkpoints to get into Israel and then we board another bus who takes us to Jerusalem, a 45 minute drive.
A cab 'home' to our Jerusalem apartment .

Day 48. Jerusalem

Slow relaxing morning today which was much needed. It is Friday, the Shabbat, so we decide to go to the market before it closed at 3pm. We walked up the street about 10 minutes to the light rail and got off right at the market. Half was outdoor stalls on a pedestrian street but there were all these small alleys with stores and stalls that seemed to go on for ever.

Shabbat starts at either 3 or 5 on Friday, I have heard both, so the transit stops at 3 with the last train going back at 2:25pm. It is getting more and more crowded, Orthodox Jews stocking up on groceries for the Shabbat as they can't shop until after 6pm on Saturday now.


The one picture is of a sesame seed grinder that makes tahini.

A few groceries were bought and we wait for the train. It is not coming and a young man come over and says the train will not be running west, we need to walk to the bus station about a mile from here. Loaded down with heavy bags of groceries that really wasn't too appealing.

We read later that a few stops east of where we were a tourist was stabbed on the train by a Palestinian youth who was then shot and killed. A little too close for comfort. The tourist is okay, these kids usually don't ever actually kill anyone, I don't think they really even know what they are doing. They , in my opinion, are suicide stabbers, as they know they will be shot. It is heartbreaking.

We grabbed a cab and headed back home for the night

Day 49. Dead Sea
Sam was hired again to drive us south to Masada and the Dead Sea for the day. Masada was an hour and a half drive and it was so crowded. Being Shabbat I guess everyone decide to come here because a lot of places on Jerusalem would be closed.

We watched a short 15 minute video,which explained the history of this very important sight for the Jews








King Herod. Once again built this palace on top of a flat mountain to use as a place to escape to in case of trouble. He had two of his wife's here and they each had their own palace. Herod never actually ever came here.
It was later taken over by the Zealots, Jewish fighters. The Romans came and spent three months trying to conquer them and take over the palace. The zealots put up a good fight but they were very outnumbered and knew that the next day the Romans would be inside.

A decision was made that rather than become slaves to the Romans they had a mass suicide. The Romans arrived the next day to find that all the booty had been burned and all the potential slaves dead. The Romans were very pissed.

We took at cable car to,the top, there is a hiking trail but we took the easy route. It was very hot up there, we looked around a while and Sam explained a lot of the history to us.

We had packed our own lunch and went to the cafeteria to eat it before setting off to the Dead Sea. We saw some Ibek on the way.


Sam took us to a ' Spa' to go into the sea rather than the public beach. It is so strange to float in the Dead Sea. It is so incredibly salty that is is impossible not to float. I had a hard time to put my feet back on the ground. I would finally stand up and then felt like one of those bobbers, my feet would come up again and I am back floating again. So weird. The water is quite warm but the bottom is squishy with mud. We have water shoes on because the mineral content is so high it can cut your feet.

The mud is apparently very beneficial, claims to fix all problems so we covered ourselves with this. Sam took my camera and we danced for my movie covered in the mud. There were a group of Americans who were cheering and clapping as we danced. It was fun.
Getting the mud off is a a challenge, it is quite sticky.

We got back at 5 , I had a short rest and Sam arranged a cab to pick us up at 6 to go the old Jerusalem to tower of David to see a light show.
It was quite well done, lights and a story projected on the castle walls with music . It told the story of Jerusalem's history over the years
We caught the train back.

Day 50

Laundry and Internet this morning. At 1:30P the train took us back to Old Jerusalem where we went to the top of the Tower of David to get the view and some pictures of the old city. Another warm pleasant day.


I went off on my own for a few hours and walked through the alleys lined with shops to find the Western Wall.




A security check before going in and a woman came and told me that I needed to cover my front as my shirt had a v neck.

Men prayed on one side and women on the other. I took some pictures and then ran into Lana Cheryle and Doug so hung out with them again, I had had enough alone time by then.






There are a lot more police out today. I saw these ' kids' walking through the market with tshirts , shorts and machine guns



We talked to one group who were in there late 20s I suspect. Lana wanted to take his picture and he let us both take it. We joked around with him for a bit, then saw him again later with s few more police. Some young girls were giving them lollipops. We had to take another picture.


Doug had heard of this great restaurant, ' the Eucalyptus' . It was a little pricy but very good food and nice to go out for dinner. Israel is very expensive, right up there with Norway.

On the walk back to the train we cut through this very modern upscale mall with all the stores we recognize. I went into a pharmacy to pick up a couple of things and find that the are ' life' brands and the bag looks like shoppers drug mart logo in Hebrew.





Day. 51. Our last day in Israel.

Doug, Lana and I caught a cab to the Israel Museum. Cheryle stayed back to catch up on things. Doug went off on his own and Lana and I checked out the huge model of old Jerusalem when the Temple Mount was still King Herod's palace.
We watched a film which told the story of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and then another film with a reenactment of the people who wrote them. A lot of the scrolls are here in the museum.

We spent quite a bit of time looking at the scrolls and reading all the information about them. We still are not completely clear on it all, but fascinating just the same.
Before we knew it we had to meet up with Doug and decided to stay and have a wonderful Israeli lunch at the museum. This is a beautiful modern building and we only saw a small portion of it.

Packing and cleaning and then early to bed, 9PM, to wake for our 3:30AM taxi to the airport.

My impressions of Israel, and these are only my opinions and observations are :

It is a very complex situation here in Israel. Unfortunately for us the conflicts started again just before we arrived as it had been quiet for a while.

The people here would quite often come up and talk to us if we were on the train or in a restaurant or somewhere. They were always very friendly, appreciative that we still came under the circumstances and were interested in talking with us. Quite a few very very knowledgable about Canada which surprised us.

In my humble opinion a lot of the problems come from the disagreement about real estate. Who can live where and who controls which religious site. The Christian Muslim and Jewish religions all have so many similarities, but enough differences to cause a lot of fighting and problems. Mostly between the Jews and Muslims.

I am hopeful that the next generation may find a way to work things out. They need leaders who are willing to have peace too however.

I am glad I came, I learned so much about the history here and different religions. It was amazing to walk in the footsteps of those who lived here thousand of years ago. I am not a religious person but do believe that Jesus and all the disciples did live here and it was fascinating to see these places.

This was a huge education for me, but I am still no where close to understanding the Palestine/ Israel conflict at all but a little wiser than I was before.


I did enjoy it but once was enough for me.

So now it is off to Barcelona for two nights then our 16 day cruise though the Caribbean and then Florida. I will have internet once in a while on the ship so would love to hear from you.

Posted by debbep 04:29 Archived in Israel Comments (0)


Perigord, Loire Valley, Normandy, Paris.

sunny 18 °C

Day. 24 continued.

Airports seem to bring out the worst in people. Courtesy and kindness are left outside the building. Everyone is in a hurry to get through security. No one smiles or engages in any kind of acknowledgment of each other.
Then it is a mad rush to get onto the plane with three oversized carry ons that are then forced into the overhead compartments, only to then sit and wait for the plane to leave.

Upon landing as soon as the plane hits the Tarmac people stand up and jam the aisles with all their carry on to stand and wait a half hour for the doors to open and then push and shove to get to baggage claim to wait another half hour for the rest of their luggage to arrive.

Otherwise nice people turn into nasty, take no prisoners, travellers. Ironically probably more than half these people are going on vacation or visiting loved ones and should be happy.

Sadly I can be part of the above at times as well, so need to be conscious of that.

Toulouse is another big airport but we managed to collect our luggage and pick up our rental car with out any problems.

A little tiny Peugeot will be our transportation in France. Everyone thinks they are Mario Andretti here, and drive like maniacs. The speed limit on the freeway is 130 but most are going faster than that.
I was able to buy a good map of France in the airport so combined with the GPS we should be ok.
Once we got out of the city we programmed the GPS to take some of the smaller roads. Our flight was delayed in Paris so it is already 5PM and a two hour drive to our destination, but it appeared the alternate route only added a half hour.

I re read the email from the manager of the apartment we are renting in Sarlat and see that they close at 6:30PM, no way we will make that. I tried calling and skyping but nothing seemed to work, and finally at 6pm he called me. An arrangement was made to leave a key and he emailed directions how to get into the apartment.

We went through the town of Cahors which was beautiful but a number of roads were under construction. Our GPS kept us going in circles for a half hour until finally we just decided to wing it until she caught up.

We call our GPS she as we have a female voice programmed. Sometimes we imagine a tiny woman inside the GPS typing away on the computer 'map questing' everything. Sometimes she sounds a bit angry when we go off track. " turn around when possible".
After three of four times we expect her to yell :
"what's the a matter with you? turn the f*#% around"!!!!

It was getting late now, so we stopped at a grocery store to pick up something for dinner and breakfast tomorrow as we figured everything would be closed when we got to Sarlat.

On the road again we drive down tiny twisting secondary roads through the county. Around every corner we exclaim OMG OMG. The scenery is amazing. Tiny little towns that are so picturesque.

It's getting dark now though, and these roads don't have lights and include a lot of corners. The speed limit is 90 on these roads, we find 50 fast with all the corners, but locals don't.

We finally got back on a two lane road and arrived in Sarlat at 8PM. We are staying in an apartment inside a walled medieval city so need to park outside the walls, which we do. I have a map that he emailed me, but we are so tired and find it very confusing.

A local man and his wife helped us, we were wandering around in the dark in these narrow alleys with three story stone buildings around us. Street names are on the walls of the buildings, but turns out our street did not have a name plate where we were which is why it took so long, and it was so dam dark.

We finally found it and went into the entrance and up the circular staircase. The building is from around the 17th century. I am told we are on the second floor, but in Europe I forgot that really means the third floor. There is only one apartment per floor, no numbers, and so I kept trying my key in the one on second floor until a man came out and pointed to the floor above.

Oops. Guess that has happened before.

We are so happy to be here, we are so happy to be anywhere we are so bagged. A lovely little one bedroom apartment with kitchen. Slept like a baby.

The view from our apartment:


Day 25

Looked out our windows and we're thrilled with where we were. Things look so different in the daylight. I see little street sweepers that look like they are made just for these narrow streets, followed by a street cleaner. These tiny cobblestone roads are spotless. It looks like a lot of the buildings are made of limestone and the roofs are some sort of clay or slate.

We had a very leisurely morning, laundry and unpacking and having long cups of coffee, and then went out to walk around and explore. Every corner was a photo op and so amazing. Sarlat is so fantastic, we just love it here.

We came upon the tail end of a morning market and bought some olives and four different kinds of tapenade which are so good. We just wandered the streets taking pictures and drinking in this beautiful little medieval city. We are going to look at hiring a guide for a couple of hours to give us a walking tour and history.



A trip to our travel agent to pay the balance, it ends up costing just under $100 CAD per night which is great. We don't have wifi in our apartment but we can use it at the tourist info or the travel agency. We arranged yesterday to call Taylor on Skype today at 4PM (7AM his time).
We were outside in an alley talking on headphones into my iPad and got strange looks from folks as they passed by. I always feel like a weirdo talking into an IPad, but so good to connect with him.


We could smell a coffee roaster nearby so went in and bought some coffee and then to a bakery for bread and a grocery store for eggs and produce. I love picking up groceries at tiny little shops that specialize in one or two things.
Doug is doing really well with speaking French, and I am fumbling along, speaking Spanish French and English all at once. Most people are very kind however.

Dinner was in a lovely little restaurant and Doug had the special, foie gras ( goose liver pate which is made in this region) duck confit and a bunch of other things, a three course meal. I had a small green salad with goat cheese and walnuts for almost the same price.
Doesn't seem fair somehow.

Day 26, October 8.

Twenty minutes driving from Sarlat we find the hilltop town of Domme, another medieval town. In the area of Dordogne, above the Dordogne river this walled city is from the 13 th century, from the times of the Templars.

We parked the car at the top and wandered around for a few hours. It is the last day for the open market in the town square, tourist season is over and not many of us there today. The weather is very warm and the sun feels great. We bought some beautiful strawberries in the market and Doug found some spiced sausage and I came upon a some fresh goat cheese which complimented our bread and tapenade that we brought with us. We found a picnic table in a park and enjoyed our feast in the warm sun overlooking the valley and river below.




Ten minutes away is the town of Roque Gageac, another town from the time of the Templars. The dwellings look as though they were all once in the cliffs, but now, since the 17 th century, the charming homes and businesses are on the hillside and between the edge of the river and the cliffs behind. It is known as one of the most beautiful towns in France and I have to agree.


The scenery in this area just gets better all the time.


Day 27

Driving 20 minutes north west this morning we arrived at the small town of Tursac, where we find some UNESCO heritage sites to explore. Here we find cave dwellings that have had inhabitants 20,000 years ago. Over the years they built into the caves according to the time period, seeking refuge from invaders. It is quite fascinating.


I am managing to get my work outs in


There are a number of these in the area, and one has original paintings by some of the first cave dwellers. Unfortunately however that one is closed to the public and a replica is open next to it, which we chose not to visit.
We had been to similar caves in both India and Turkey, but these dated back further than them.
There are a number of buildings built into the rocks on the hillside.


We drove down some small roads exploring the area which we both enjoy doing. I would love to spend a month here and just paint and read, which was actually the original plan but as usual it got out of hand and we added more destinations. Next time.

I am thrilled with where we are staying, but would not choose a walled city for an extended period. It can be quite dark in the apartment with the narrow roads and high walls around you. I would want a garden to sit in for my morning coffee or to do some art. And I would want to be able to ride a bike. I will look into that.

Day 28, Saturday.

Market day in Sarlat meant there were more tourists than usual in the streets. Vendors set up stalls for blocks selling everything from foi gras to tea towels to produce. Doug and I wandered for a couple hours and picked up some groceries from different stalls and then headed back for lunch and a rest.

The young man at the information centre suggested that we rent a smart phone with headsets to have a private audio tour of Sarlat, instead of a live guide. I wish I would have insisted on a real person, as it was quite frustrating for us this way. There was only one smart phone with both headsets plugged into it which meant we had to go at the same pace, something that we are not good at doing.

We did learn a lot about the colourful history of the area however and ended up in nooks and crannies that we probably wouldn't have seen otherwise.

A coffee in the town square to people watch for an hour seemed like the right thing to do, being our last night here. The weather again is just the right temperature.

Back to our room we made some dinner and packed up for our drive north tomorrow to the Loire Valley.


Day 29.

The drive started out on the smaller secondary roads through some small towns and beautiful scenery. At 1:00 we decided to go into the next town and what a stroke of luck that it happend to be Betrome. A lovely little town on the water which is known as the Venice of the Perigord ( this region of France). We wandered around for about an hour to stretch our legs and explore. There is a huge abbey that rings the bells at 1:30pm and they ring and ring for around half an hour. It sounds beautiful.


A small cafe with a tiny courtyard provided a wonderful lunch and coffee to help us get back onto the road for the next part of our journey.
We decided to take a larger road to make better time and ended up arriving in Amboise at exactly 6PM, the agreed upon time.

Mirellle was waiting for us at or home for the next four nights, a cave apartment built into the rocks. It is very charming, she has a great sense of style, and right in the centre of everything we want to do.

Day 30
A bike ride in the Loire valley was something that was on my list so,we walked to a small bike shop down the road and were outfitted with two 18 speed bikes with baskets. Helmets are optional in France so Doug got one and I didn't. I should have I realized.
The owner did not speak English so we tried to understand his instructions to the bike trail, but spent the next hour asking people and going in circles.
A fellow from the other bike shop came and gave us instructions that we could finally make sense of.
A short ride through the suburbs of Amboise and then we are one bike trail for most of the journey. There are a number of trails here going from town to town and different chateaus. A lot of people do bike tours over a week or more from place to place and you can arrange to have your luggage sent ahead for you.

There are a number of hills at the beginning and the end but we managed them okay and for,the most part no traffic. Vineyards, forests, sunflower fields and small towns are on the route. The weather ranges from warm to cool but overall very pleasant for riding.

We were heading for Chateau chambreaux and ended up going on the road for the last hour to the chateau, which you couldn't see unless you paid to get in. We were tired, hungry and a bit grumpy at this point. We stopped and grabbed a sandwich and headed back. Doug looked at the map and figured we could go,down this riverside path to see the chateau on the other side, so we did. It was a very rough path but voila. There it was in all its splendour. I was so happy.

We marvelled at the site for a bit and then headed back. I thought he said it was around 20K but that was each way. We were so tired, but had to keep going.
About 10K away from Ambrosie, not sure what happens, but my spoke broke, chain came off and it all just broke. I could not move my bike. A lovely young local couple walking their dog and one year old son called the bike shop for us and he came and picked us up. I felt bad for breaking his bike, and he felt bad that his bike broke on me.
So bagged we slept very well tonight.

Day 31

Our little 'gite' or apartment, is half way between the two main attractions in Amboise, the Chateau Amboise and the Chateau Clos Luce. Today was spent visiting both of these, the first being Clos Luce, the home of Leonardo Da Vinci. King Francis the first invited Leonardo to live here when he was (Leonardo) 64 and he lived here until he died at age 67. The king was a patron of of the arts and there was a tunnel from the chateau to where Leonardo lived so that Francis could come and visit him and have discussions.
It was nice to see an artist who did not die in poverty and was recognized for his genius, as so many of the great artists of the past died penniless.
This was his bedroom


The chateau had many models, small and life size, of the inventions and artwork of DaVinci. The gardens and grounds were beautiful as well
We had lunch at the chateau, trying a French dish of buckwheat crepes, or pancakes. They were quite good.

A rest at home then off to visit the Chateau Amboise. We rented the headsets and learned more about the history and monarchy of France.


Day 32

We had planned to go biking again today but there was a cold front and the route we wanted to do was in the forest, so we decided against it.

A drive to the town of Blois, about half an hour away and a bit of a walk around for a while, we took in the Church of Saint Nicholas.


On to Chateau Chambord where I said I didn't need to go inside another chateau, but I lied and we did go inside. There was a double staircase which was quite impressive, the pictures don't capture it unfortunately. One goes up and one goes down on the other side. It was designed my DaVinci as well. There were so many spires on this chateau. We enjoyed the drive there and back through the countryside.


Day 33

Our time in our little cave room in Amboise comes to and end and we spent the first half of our drive north on the main highways. Everyone drives so fast, 130K. They do observe the , only go into the left lane to pass, rule however. I was nervous being around all these trucks going so fast, and then seeing that some of the drivers are texting while doing 130KPH !
We are in our little Peugeot the size of a shopping cart.

I was happy to be on the secondary roads for the second half. We pulled into a picnic area for our premade sandwiches. France has picnic tables and little park like areas quite often on the roadsides.


A turnoff to buy bread and we found ourselves in a beautiful medieval town on the hill. They had a very usual church and the buildings were lovely. This is the town of Domfront and another lucky unplanned find for us.
It is very cold today and a bit windy. I dug out my winter clothes again.


When you buy food it is rarely labelled organic or non GMO. It is just assumed that you know it is pretty much all organic non GMO. The food prices, even with our dollar being so low, are quite good. We prefer cooking ourselves to going to restaurants much as we both find French food quite rich.
I am back on dairy again while travelling, having an egg in the morning and eating yogurt and some cheese. The milk products here are amazing, goat and cows cheese fantastic, fresh and tasty. Some of the cheese is so raw it tastes like a cow smells, if that makes any sense. And the yogurt......think Greek yogurt only better.

The smaller roads are so lovely with the rolling hills, fields of patchwork colours of the freshly plowed brown earth of the fields, bright yellow crops of mustard, corn waiting to be harvested, and various shades of green winter plantings.

Our stop for the next couple of nights is Port en Bessin, on the northwest coast of France. We are on Omaha Beach and very close to Juno Beach. This is Dougs part of the trip as his father and uncle were in WW2
For something different we booked into a camping resort where they rent out mobile homes. It is a lovely resort, very well maintained and quite big. There only seem to be a couple of people here however, being off season. The restaurant was quite good and we enjoyed our meal before heading to bed.

Day. 34

Well I guess this was not the place I thought it was going to be. In Norway we stayed in " camping places" and could rent towels and sheets upon arrival. I put in a request with the booking here but it ended up that we only got sheets. Turns out they don't have towels or dish cloths or dish soap . You are expected to bring everything. They gave us a paper towel type bath mat and we will adapt and use one of those each for towels.
It all adds to the adventure.

As I mentioned, this was Doug's part of the Journey in France and last night he looked at the map and realized that we were no where near Vimy Ridge. Well I have a lot to say about that but will keep my mouth shut for now.
Last minute scrambling to change things, Doug said he would pay the difference in costs but it turned out that it saved us money in the end. Hmmmm. That's a good thing. Right?

Most of the day was spent at the Juno Beach Memorial Centre, located a half hour from where we are staying. We are on Omaha Beach, but of course wanted to see the Canadian site.
It was one of the best memorial sites relating to Canada's involvement in the Second World War that we have seen. A lot of emphasis was also on the effect the war had on the people living here in Normandy as well. It was not a big museum but packed full of first class information and exhibits. There were two short movies as well which were very moving.


We walked the beach and today was a cold windy blustery day which made the experience even more real. All of those boys as young as 17 and 18 landing on this beach, most of whom were killed right away.

A very touching and thought provoking day
There were a number of young university students working there, from all over Canada. They sign up for a 7 month posting and say that it is a fabulous experience and opportunity for them.

On the way back we stopped at the Tapestry museum in Bayeux. I did not know what to expect but was quite amazed by this exhibit. It is a hand embroidered tapestry, about two feet high and 270 feet long. It was made to tell the story of the battle of Hastings, or war of 1066, and as most were illiterate at the time they told it in pictures. Admission included a headset which explained each set of pictures which were numbered. Bayeux looks like an interesting town, but we must move on tomorrow.


Day 35

A day driving north to Vimy today. We stayed on the main roads to make better time, but France has a lot of toll booths on the main roads. We paid around $50 in tolls today. If you just want to get from point a to point b it is a lot faster, but will cost you. I agree with this system however, a user pay instead of just on taxes. We prefer the back roads but time was an issue today.
We arrived just before the guided tour at 3PM which was great timing. A lovely young university student from Alberta gave Doug a copy of his grandfathers enlistment papers from the first world war.
She then took us on a tour in the tunnels, 9 meters under the ground. There were around 20 of us on the English tour, Canadians and English tourists. It was so interesting. I learned so much about the First World War.


The Canadian trenches are only 50 meters from the German ones. The German look outs are far more protected the Canadian ones. Unlike what they portray in the movies the trenches are not straight but curved, which was better for their security


The land around is all hilly with big craters that were from all the shell blasting . There are still unexploded mines and tunnels that may be dangerous so the grassy area is all roped off from people. Only sheep graze there now.


We then drove to the the Vimy memorial which is very impressive. It is huge and the sculptures are amazing. All the names of the Canadian soldiers who died or went missing at Vimy are etched in the stone work


Day 36

Travel day again today. We left at 830Am and made our way to the airport in Paris to drop off our rental car, which went with out a hitch. We then took the train downtown and then to our rented apartment. We have a two bedroom apartment in the Bastille area that we found on Airbnb and it is great.
Lana and Cheryl's arrived from Iceland a few hours later, we spent time catching up and then went out for dinner at a pub close by and bought groceries for tomorrow's breakfast.

Day 37

Paris. The hop on hop off bus was a great way to spend the morning. We went on the top deck, managed to snag the front seats and do the entire route without getting off, just getting a great overview of the city.




At 1:30PM we went to the Louve with our pre bought tickets. This was the only time we could get as everything else was already sold out.
After a quick bite to eat we started to explore, but ended up going on our own as we travel at different speeds.
I was in heaven at the Dutch masters painting exhibits. Some the paintings are so huge.
I made my way over to the Mona Lisa, and it was a so crazy crowded. People were pushing and shoving it was insane. I thought watching the people almost more interesting than the Mona Lisa.




We had agreed to meet at 5:30PM in the cafe, but I was done by 4:15PM, and Lana was there too. We were both overwhelmed by the crowds and ready to head out.
We took a a cab home and had planned to go out tonight but ended up just eating dinner at home.

There is a big police presence here, but there always has been if I remember correctly. Young men and women in full padded gear, a few guns and holding machine guns patrol the streets. They are friendly, I have said Bonjour and. asked directions etc and always met with a pleasant response.

Day 38.

Advance tickets were bought for the d'orsay museum to avoid the lines, but we still had to wait 45 minutes in line anyhow. A very busy museum once again but some amazing paintings and scuptures. The lighting was much better than the Louve and some of the pictures just popped off the canvas. It always amazes me to go to some of these museums and see original Cezanne, Degas, Monets just to name a few.


The top floor had displays of modern furniture which was interesting.
We only allowed ourselves 2 hours here as we had other things to do, and then hopped back on the hop on hop off for another go around.

Trocodero was our first stop to have a photo op in front of the Eiffel Tower. It was a zoo again, I can't imagine what it must be like in the summer.
There are many young black men from Senegal selling trinkets of the Eiffel Tower and such at all the tourist spots. It was the same in Venice where they sold knock off purses. I feel so sad for these guys, I have read that they are brought over with a promise of a better life, only to be practically a slave to sell these items to pay off thier debt. Like what happens to young girls but for other purposes.


I bought a selfie stick from one just so I could talk to him and help him out. He has been in Paris for eight years. Doug asked how he liked it and he looked sad and said " it's hard here"
We got back on the bus and got off at Notre Dame just to take a look and snap a few pictures. We were all pretty much done by now so grabbed a cab home.


Dinner, packing, finishing this blog and then ready to fly to Israel, Tel Aviv, tomorrow.

My impressions of France. Loved it!!! I can see why people spend time here and buy second homes. Not Paris so much for me, I prefer the small villages. The southern part was my favourite area. I can see myself coming back to spend more time if the universe allows. We shall see. But for now, another adventure awaits!!

Posted by debbep 12:24 Archived in France Comments (1)


Back to my roots

sunny 16 °C

Day 18. Continued

Stockholm. We took the airport bus to the bus station. The 40ish male driver was listening to the radio quite loudly and singing, just as loud, to songs like Eleanor Rigby and Satisfaction. It was quite entertaining and nice to see someone enjoy his job so much.

A cab ride from the bus station to our hotel, and again the cab driver was very happy friendly and helpful.

I booked Hotel Esplanade on Expedia and got a terrific deal so wasn't sure how it would out. We are thrilled with the choice. It is located across the street from the water and it is an old building that has been recently renovated to its original charm. The two women on staff greeted us with open arms and because we prepaid it was the fastest checkin ever. Our room has rounded walls, high ceilings and crown mouldings. Beautiful.

We had a sleep for a couple hours and then went out to explore. The buildings are gorgeous, I love the architecture. Close to our hotel we explored an area like Robson St. Gucci, Prada and all the high end expensive stores. For dinner we popped into a little Mexican restaurant and it was very good.

Everyone once again is so dam good looking! Tall blond and thin. Well dressed too, great clothes and quite often white running shoes for walking around outside.

Bike lanes are wide and prevalent. Lots of people riding bikes, all well dressed and most talking on phones through their earbuds. People walking the street all seem to be talking on the phone into earbuds as well.


The weather is a lot warmer, I actually didn't need much more than a light sweater.
Displays in store windows are fabulous, so artistic. The designs are wonderful and quite unique, very clean lines.

This is our hotel:


DAY 19


A fabulous breakfast included with our room was enjoyed before heading out to walk to the Royal Opera House. I had read about a good overview tour that was at 10AM and we finally found it just in time. There was another couple about our age from Germany looking for the same tour so we worked together.
A one and a half our bus tour with earbud comments on a double decker bus. This was different from the hop on hop off, ( which had bad reviews here). I snagged the front seats on the top level for the best view and picture taking. It was an interesting tour and gave us a good idea of where things were. This was followed by a one hour boat trip with commentary, to see Stockholm from the water side.

One of the places we went through was Gamla Stan, an old medieval area of Stockholm, one of the best preserved in Europe. This is where Stockholm was founded in 1252. We decided to head back there after the tour.


The streets are narrow cobblestones, most are pedestrian only, and lined with many shops and restaurants. A lot of other tourists and locals are here, it is very popular and busy.
I looked at some clothes and was surprised how reasonably priced they are. Everyone is so well dressed because they can afford these amazing fashions. We find that Stockholm is not that expensive, certainly less than Norway and Iceland.


The architecture is fantastic. I just love these old buildings. We went in for lunch at one of them for a great Indian meal.

On the walk back we passed the royal palace, city hall and many other grand buildings.
Stockholm is made up of a bunch of little islands that are connected by many bridges. It is one of the most beautiful cities I have been in, right up there with Prague.


We walked and walked for hours. For dinner we just picked up a couple of things at a grocery market and brought them back to the room to eat.

Such a long busy day meant we had an early night.

Day 20

Our day started off once again with an amazing breakfast. The staff, and everyone we meet in Stockholm, are so happy and friendly.

The day was a little windy but sunny and around 15 degrees, just needed a light sweater. We walked over a bridge not far from our hotel and visited the Vassa museum, the number one museum in Stockholm. We weren't really sure how a museum that is just all about a ship that sank could be so incredible but decided to check it out.
The story goes that Sweden really didn't have much experience in ship building, so brought in two guys from Holland to build it.. It was a 64 gun warship and looked magnificent, but it ended up that it sank on its maiden voyage right in the harbour and 50 people died.

It was salvaged on 1961 and is the most in tack ship of its kind. The museum was not just about the ship, but the politics and life of the times in Sweden and Europe.


The last picture is a copy of a painting of the original ship
Further down the road was an outdoor open museum, the first of its kind in Europe, Scansa. Buildings were moved from various parts of Sweden to show how life was in earlier times. They also have a zoo and petting zoo area but we did notgo to that part. It was quite interesting.


Back to the room for a while then off again for dinner, Thai food, and walking over a bridge to another island to visit the modern art museum. We were bagged at the end so took a cab back to the hotel and called it a night


Day 21

After breakfast we gathered our bags and took a cab to the train station where we collected our rent a car. What kind of car company doesn't have a map? Seriously? We have our GPS but we also like to have an overview. I went around the train station to all the shops and around the area. No maps.
We set off using the GPS and did fine anyhow. We were getting a bit hungry so took a detour and ended up in the town of Orebo. It is a university town of around 140,000 and such a pleasant surprise. A beautiful little town that seemed to have more bicycles than cars and they seemed to have the right of way. Very few cars on the street in the downtown area, mostly people walking and on bikes. We parked the car and walked around for a bit and the first resteraunt we checked out has a great salad bar that we enjoyed.



Our destination tonight is Filipstad, another 45 minutes away and we checked into our hotel in this small town. We are the only guests here and have a large room on the second floor. We drove off to Nordmark, the next town, before it got dark to quickly check it out.
The reason we are here is because I have been doing some ancestry research and found that my dads grandmother was born and worked here before emigrating to Canada in 1896 . I am hoping to find graves, or better yet, living relatives or more information.

A trip to the grocery store on the way back to have a light dinner in the room.

We like to travel around a lot, as you notice, and the way I find I can manage that, checking in and out of hotels every night, is to have two bags. If we have a car I leave my big bag in the car overnight, and just put a couple days worth of clothes and essentials into my day pack and bring that in with me. It seems to work well for me.

Day 22.

Our hotel manager came and talked to us at breakfast, he is from Oslo, and been here around seven years. He finds the town very small and quite economically depressed, so the locals don't go out to restersunts for dinner much. The town is shrinking, people need to move to the city for work, and one of three family's need help from the community to raise their children. It is that way in a lot of the smaller communities in Sweden, and a lot of other countries as well really.
This used to be a huge mining area, hundreds of years ago. Nordmark, where my family is from, had a population of over 2,000 back in the 1800 s and now around 200 people.

There are two manufacturing plants nearby, one is Wasa, the crisp bread cracker, which has just been bought by an Italian company but still in production here. The other is shipbuilding, which was also sold, this one to Norway.

We passed a few Volvo plants, and we see many Volvos on the road.
Sweden is so beautiful, the fall colours are coming in, lots of farmland, lakes and meadows. It is quite flat, with rolling hills ( quite different from Norway), I can see why a lot of Swedes would feel comfortable moving to the prariesin Canada.
The weather here in winter gets down to minus 20 or so, but a dry cold with blue skies. No northern lights here however, maybe further north.

A few hours were spent walking around Filipstad, a beautiful little town on a river with parks and walking trails alongside. Sunday morning and the streets are almost deserted. I wonder if my great grandmother, who worked here as a maid, was employed at any of these large homes along the road.


Doug went into one of the only open resteraunts in town to get a kebab and was having difficulty ordering, as they did not speak English. A fellow came over to help and they soon started talking, he said he was in Victoria a few years ago visiting his cousin and he was from Nordmark. Doug came out to get me and we sat and talked to he, Ronald and his wife Alice for well over an hour.
I showed him my notes of dates and anmes of ancestors and he made a few phone calls for me. Dead end, but he will continue to look for me. We may even be related as one of his ancestors had the same last name as one of mine, Sjogren.
As soon as I saw him he reminded both of us of my Dad, Doug thought more so my uncle. He had this wonderful twinkle in his eyes when he told a joke, which my Dad did as well.

We said we had to head off to Nordmark, and he said to follow him, he would show us some things. He spent most of the afternoon with us and told us a lot of history and showed us buildings and sites from back in the 1700s. We never would have found these on our own.

Our first stop was a couple of old mine sites, in fantastic shape, obviously the towns people spend a lot of time and money keeping them in good repair.

Iron ore was mined in this area and employed a lot of people. Ronald told us to pick up this medium size rock and we found that it was much heavier than it looked, it was iron.

There were two young men at the mine site, packing up their car with backpacks with oxygen and water so as they could hike the mine shafts.

There was a little jail here too, which Ronald said his relatives and many others spent a night or two in for being drunk in years gone by.


A huge water wheel was the next stop, which would pump water out of the mine shafts, as they would constantly fill with water otherwise.


Nordmark's church and cemetery was our last stop. This is a Christian church now, as there are not many churchgoers they need to appeal to many. It is not open every Sunday, and it didn't look like there was a service today. Ronald and I walked the graveyard looking for the names of my fathers grandparents, but a lot of the older headstones were so worn you could not make out the names. There is also a chance that they were even buried in the backyard, as commonly done in the 1800s . There is a master list of the graves that a woman in Stockholm has and Ronald will try to get that for me.


We say our goodbyes, I am so very grateful for his information and company today, and hope to stay in touch.

Doug and I head east towards my Great Grandfathers area, which we will explore tomorrow. The landscape is breathtaking, reminding us of northern Ontario or Quebec in the Fall. So many lakes reflecting the yellows reds and orange trees. Most of the homes in this area are painted the gorgeous brick red colour.

We arrived at our hotel for the night, again the only guests, and we fall in love with this beautiful old home that has been converted into a hotel.
The second picture is of a Swedish fireplace, very efficient for heating the homes. A couple of hours of burning wood and then it would continue to hear for hours after. We saw similar ones in Russia, but I think that the Swedes invented it .


Day 23

Our last day in Sweden. I could easily spend another week or two here, certainly a few more days in Stockholm.
During breakfast we talked to the manager and told him how much we loved his place. He has only been here for a couple of years but it is very busy most of the time. There are a lot of weddings in the Summer, and I can see why. The dining room and lounge are so charming and there is a path down to the lake with an arbour for vows. I could easily spend a while here, it is so peaceful with natural beauty. In the summer the lake is popular for swimming and boating.
We spent some time here this morning walking around and then headed out in the car again going east.


On the drive we came across this old iron ore plant. This original smelting location dates back to the 16th century, but these buildings are from the 1920s and production stopped here in the 1960's.


My great grandfather lived in the town of Stora Tuna for a number of years, and this is where his first two wife's ( sisters I think) died and may be in the Stora Tuna church cemetery. We were surprised to see how big it was. It looks like a lot of money in this church and everything was manicured perfectly by the caretakers. We saw a half a dozen workers just while we were there.

The grave yard is massive. The church dates back to the early 1700's and so do the graves. Finding one would take weeks, but there is a master map. Unfortunately the secretary was not in, and great grandpa ( Olof's) first two wife's are not my direct relatives anyhow, so it was okay. Again, most of the really old markers are almost impossible to read anyhow.


I much preferred the smaller one yesterday, it also had a much nicer feel to it. Ronald has emailed me a few times and still trying to find information for me. He may know which house they lived in...what a sweet man. I may have to come back when I am more prepared with family history data.

The afternoon was spent making our way back to Stockholm, stopping in a couple of little towns here and there to walk about a bit.
We are now in an area of many large farms again.

Our luggage was dropped off at the airport hotel and then we dropped off our rental car and took the airport shuttle back to the hotel for the night.
One of the smallest rooms I have ever seen, but the price and location was right for one night.

I am sad to leave Sweden, I really felt a strong connection here, but believe that I could be back one day.

Day. 24

The alarm went off at 4AM and shortly after we stumbled bleary eyed to the lobby for breakfast. The shuttle whisked us off to the airport at 5AM and we found the self check in for SAS. Bag drop involves putting your bag on the conveyor and scanning the airport bag tag, that you put on, and off they go. No agents are involved anymore.

We were at our gate at 530AM for our 715AM flight. Doug was not amused that I got us up so early, but you never know.

Self serve hotels and airlines. No wonder our young people are finding it hard to get work with all the jobs being taken over by automation. But with airfares being rock bottom and oil prices high, something has to give. It was the same in Paris at Air France.

I allowed us a 3 hour connection in Paris and it was barely enough time. What a huge airport!

Now onto our next adventure. France.

Posted by debbep 03:40 Archived in Sweden Comments (0)


Indescribable Iceland.

rain 6 °C

Day 9
A travel day today. After our amazing full buffet breakfast at our hotel in Bergen we returned the car to the airport and then caught our Icelandic flight to Reykjavik. We are now two hours behind Norway, so arrived at a decent hour. After getting our luggage we see two doors. ' goods to declare' and ' nothing to declare'. We chose the latter and just ended up in the main airport area. No passport or customs check at all.

The rain was pelting down and the cold wind punishing us as we drag all our luggage across the parking lot and down a road to find our car rental company. That's what happens wen you go for the cheap company, they don't have a pickup service.

We were given a Nissan micro that has seen better days, over 100,000K already, but it works for us. After spending a great deal of time getting directions to our hotel, one of the fellows handed me a GPS, " here, it's free ".
We must have sounded pretty pathetic, but grateful for it for sure. (Our GPS does not include Iceland)
It was programmed in spanish and I could not figure out how to change the language. Good thing I know a bit of Spanish, I got us to the apartment without too many u turns.

Reykjavik is so much bigger than we imagined, over 100,000 people but confusing ( to us) street names and lots of one ways. The GPS was very valuable for the city.

We have rented a one bedroom apartment with full kitchen and a block off the main tourist area. We are happy with it and after settling in for a few minutes we head to the local grocery store two blocks away just before closing. The prices in this particular store are quite reasonable but reading the labels is a bit of a challenge. We asked various other Icelandic shoppers for help, which they all gladly did.

The rain has eased off so we walk for a few blocks to check things out. Even this late in the season there are a lot of tourists. We hear quite a bit of English spoken, Americans and UK. All are bundled up in parkas and hiking boots etc. It is a bit cold, but not as bad as I imagined and there is not a lot of the wind at the moment that Iceland is famous for. I think however, the downtown area is quite sheltered.

We had an early night and dinner in our apartment.

Day 10

An explore Reykjavik day. The shops have amazing knit and gift wear. There are a lot of original designs as many designers live in the city. I tried on a few Icelandic wool sweaters, but found them very itchy. At $300 or so a sweater I don't want to have it sit in my closet because it it too scratchy to wear.

Lunch was at a raw vegan resteraunt. Some of the menus in other resteraunts have smoked Puffin or whale and reindeer on them. Iceland is so far ahead of other countries in many ways, but still hunt the the endangered fin whale for meat. Green peace is trying to convince them otherwise. We saw one of their ships in the harbour
Well we will not be dining on any of those delicacies

We walked and walked for hours. It was a cloudy and at times a bit of drizzle, but overall not bad day. We stopped at an information area to get a map and recommendations of what to do. He pointed out a museum of Vikings, which we walked forever to get there. It was a good overview of the history of Iceland, but left us underwhelmed. Turns out it was the wrong museum. Dam

Walking along the waterfront to see the Harpa concert hall. It is very impressive architecture and a controversy locally because it cost so much to build.


Dragging ourself back to the apartment after so much walking, we have a rest and then head out again at 9:30PM ( my bedtime!) to catch a tour to see the northern lights.

Two large busses head north to an area without lights and settle into a parking lot that was provided by Ben Stiller when he made his movie " the secret life of Walter Mitty". It was after watching this movie a couple of years ago that was one of the reasons for us to decide to come to Iceland.

Damn it was cold. I look like the Michalin man, I have five layers on. The stars and moon are beautiful in an almost cloudless sky.
A hundred people and trying to find a spot to set up tripods or get their "spot" for the best shots. It is so dark. Even with the moon. I use my little flashlight for a minute or so, but we are told not to use any light at all. Climbing over lava rock covered in this slippery moss like covering in pitch black with camera gear is challenging. Apparently there are 2,000 different kinds of moss in Iceland.

After an hour and a half they reveal themselves and dance in the sky for a few minutes, disappear, and then return again in half an hour.
By this point I can't find my flashlight and my tripod has come away from my camera. I did my best but my photos have a lot of ' noise' not having the tripod, but it was exciting all the same. They were not as impressive as the ones I saw when I lived in Fort Mcmurray, but tonight I saw the northern lights in Iceland.


We never got home until close to 2AM, way past our bed time. We slept well.

Day 11

Back in the car today for a tour of the Golden Circle Route. I figured out how to change the language on the GPS to English which made it much easier. The route takes us North of the city and we took in three of the favourite stops, and a few of our own as well.

I am so frustrated with the fact that you can't pull over to take pictures very easily. There are pull outs and view points now and then, but so many amazing sights that you can't stop and take pictures of. The roads are narrow and there is not a shoulder, only a one foot drop onto loose lava rock.

Our stops today included this church at the side of the road that we thought was very unique


Iceland has a number of active volcanoes. A great deal of Iceland is heated by geothermal plants situated around the island. This provides heat for homes, hot water and hydro. They heat the roads in the winter as well which is brilliant. There are many hot pools around and you can see steam vents coming out of mountains and hills everywhere. We stopped at this plant just outside of Reyjkavik.
Some vents on a hillside

The national park, Thingvellir. ( sometimes spelled with a P )


Even the bathroom had a great view.

Geiser, similar to Yellowstone.


Gullfoss waterfall.


The scenery keeps changing all the time. Today there was barely a cloud in the sky and it was almost warm out.

What a fantastic day.

Day 12

We checked out of our apartment and drove East. On the way we took secondary roads past many huge farms and saw lots of sheep and the gorgeous Icelandic horses. Sorry for all the horse pictures but I can't help myself.
These guys came running up to me from the back of the field when I approached the fence. They were so curious about me and we had a great long conversation. The highlight of my day. Icelandic horses are smaller than others and the only horse you will see here, as they don't want or allow cross breeding. Some have eyes are dark with a blue horseshoe at the bottom.


Kerio crater was our first planned stop. This crater was formed about 6,000 years ago. We walked around the rim of the crater which took just over half an hour. Iceland is similar in some ways to Hawaii, being that they were formed by volcanoes and relatively young in age. The major difference of course is the weather which is the reason the vegetation is so different.


Our last planned stop of the day was Seljalandsfoss. A waterfall that you can walk behind. Another stunningly beautiful setting. We should have done the walk first however. Duh... Walking behind a waterfall you just may get wet! Most of the other folks were wearing full rain or snow gear. I am in my three layers of fleece. My raincoat was left the car.


The noise from the waterfall overhead when you were behind it was thunderous. My photos are a bit hazy however, it was hard to keep water off the lens.


Cold and wet we walked a ways down to another waterfall that was in a cave which was very cool.
The tour busses arrived just as we were finished which was great timing.



Our hotel tonight is on a gravel road up the hill overlooking the black sand beach in Dyrholaey. There are a number of small adventure groups staying here. It is just perfect and we are here for two nights. Dinner in our room of the rest of our grocery store purchases.

Day 13
I woke to hear the Icelandic wind and rain howling outside. I opened the curtains and it did look cold and miserable.

I went back to bed.

At 8AM we went to the main area for our wonderful included breakfast. The weather is getting worse. Visibility is about NIL.
10AM we decided to go it and brave the weather. We are west coasters after all. We had hoped to go horseback riding, but that won't be today.

We headed further East towards the glaciers and past what was probably incredible scenery. Maybe tomorrow.
At one point I decided to take a picture anyhow so doug stopped the car but I could not open my door. The wind was well over 50km an hour and blowing towards my side. I opened the window and my SLR camera just went " nope. Not going to take a take a picture in this".
It would do nothing. I took out my underwater camera and took two pictures, then rolled up the window. My hair and face was soaked. And I haven't even gone outside.
We are getting the real Iceland experience today.
We kept driving and saying " I think it is brightening up" it reminded me of camping in Tofino in the rain and being optimistic. It just kept getting worse.

One of the stops I wanted to do was a farm from the 1700 s, with small homes made into the hills and covered in turf. There is also a little church there. I found this on tripadvisor and they said even though the gate is locked and it says private property, you can park the car and go in. I double checked with our hotel manager and he said we can go ahead. The name is Nuppsstadur farm and church.
We parked the car and braved the gale force wind and rain up the road. I tried to put a poncho on, but it just flew around I thought I might get airborne. I felt kind of strange going in a place that said private but glad we continued on.

We had the place to ourselves and when we arrived the rain stopped for a bit.


The church and a key in the door, with instructions, so we went in and saw a very tiny plain wooden church. We had a glimpse into what it must have been like to live as a farmer in Iceland with the cold wind raging. I can imagine when it is snowing and the dead of winter what it must be like.

The waterfalls are going sideways because the wind is so strong, we have never seen anything like that before.


Back in the car, drenched and cold, we continue on for another hour to see the glaciers and icebergs at Jokulsarlon.
The landscape changes every half hour or so. Sometimes it is glowing green with the spongy moss on the lava rock. Then it looks like you are on the face of the moon. Black volcanic lava rock of various sizes for as far as the eye can see,
Then a few bright yellow tufts of grass will appear.


We pass a couple of the glaciers and then a half hour away from our destination the weather is getting worse and visibility is diminishing. We decide to turn around as we won't see anything anyhow. We make the drive back to the hotel and put dry clothes on before enjoying dinner in our hotel.


Day 14

What a difference a day makes. I woke to a beautiful almost cloudless morning so we rushed to have breakfast and check out. We are very close to Dryrholaey, a popular attraction. The weather changed every ten minutes from sun to rain, but our time on the beach we lucked out to beautiful sunny skies and not much wind.
It was so beautiful, the waves were wild and crashing on the long black sand beach. This is a nesting place for the Puffins, but we did not spot any today. We spent quite a bit of time here, having great conversations with other travellers from New Zealand, Turkey and Argentina.


We drove to the other end of the beach, ( 40 minutes drive) and had a nice lunch in the resteraunt and then walked that beach as well. This one had sea stacks and very interesting rock formations and a cave.



As soon as we left it started to rain again, on and off all afternoon as we drove back to Reykjavik. The landscape changes constantly and at timesyou would think you were on the prairies, with miles and miles of farmland.

We have never seen so many horses and sheep as in Iceland.


We arrived back into our same apartment in Reykjavic, dropped off our things and then walked around town for a bit. Laundry and working on this blog tonight and then heading east tomorrow.

Day 15
Not a great start to our day. I had some oats soaking overnight and went to heat them up in the morning by putting boiling water into a larger bowl and then the smaller bowl inside. The outside bowl exploded into a million tiny pieces all over the kitchen. I am so lucky it didn't hit my face or eyes. It was unreal. The nex t couple of hours we were picking up all the tiny pieces.

I went down to the laundry room to get the vacuum cleaner I saw there. I plugged it in and the circuit blew, all the kitchen and bathroom lights were now out. I went out to find the 24 hour store to buy some paper towels . The cleaning lady finally came to the building at 930AM. I went down to explain, she didn't speak any English. I used charades to explain, she gave me a hug and said..." It's okay"

I used my iPad and translated the details into Icelandic and went down to make sure she understood. She did not speak Icelandic. Polish.
I redid the iPad and she said...yes yes... It is fine
We packed up and went to a coffee shop for breakfast.

Our drive West took us, once again, though some different sceanery. It was, unfortunately, a rainy miserable cold day again.

We picked up a hitch hiker who was a young man from the Czech republic. He was working in Iceland as a chef and was telling us that he and a friend went to Nepal after the earthquake to help rebuild schools and then had a fundraiser on Prague selling their photos to raise money for Nepal. He was heading for a vacation to Canada in a couple days so asked us a few questions. He told us that there really isn't any crime in Iceland, but that could change because more and more people are moving here from other countries. Iceland is expensive but they pay workers a good wage. Tipping is not done here.


We arrived in Grudafjour, and find that again I have booked us into a youth hostel. It is quite nice however, overlooking the harbour and a well laid out communal kitchen to use. We need to leave our shoes downstairs in the entry as it is Icelandic custom not to wear shoes in the house,

After making some lunch we went for a drive to a nearby Stykksholmer and looked around. It is another small fishing village and I am sure it is quite beautiful on a clear day.


Next to our hostel is a little resteraunt that is in a restored home overlooking the water and quite lovely. We popped in before we went for our drive to check out the menu and I said , sorry but I am a vegetarian and there is nothing on the menu. He said the chef would make me something, so we said great, see you at 7:30P

Doug ordered the blue cod and he said it was wonderful. The presentation of both dishes was very beautiful. I was given quite an assortment of different vegetable dishes and it was delicious. One of the best meals we have had for quite a while, and quite reasonable too. For Iceland.

Day 15

I was woken by the full moon shining into the room at 4 AM. The wind was howling but it seemed to clear off the clouds so that was great. We quickly had breakfast and packed up to explore the area. By the time we got outside the dark clouds had rolled in and the wind and cold rain was back. It was that way all day....just wait for 15 minutes.

We were on the west fjord side of Iceland and decided to do a circle route of the area. This is our last day in Iceland and we are so glad that the weather is cooperating. ( nice most of the time). Our first stop is to climb up a hill to get a picture of these two waterfalls with the mountain in the background. They are called Kirkjufell.
No rain, but dam it is cold and windy! I have on my Moreno wool long sleeve shirt, a fleece vest, a Moreno wool sweater, my windbreaker rain coat and another fleece over top. I also have ear muffs, gloves and a scarf. I am still cold. But not freezing.

The hike is worth it, a great view and we were the only ones there. We saw lots pull into the parking lot, but not venture further.


A dirt road across the peninsula has some more interesting scenery and we reach the other side to look for Lysuholl ranch for our 11AM horseback trail ride. There must be 50 or more horses in the nearby corral but ours were in the stable ready to go. I picked out mine on the Internet when I made the booking , she has a long Icelandic name, but I call her Maystar for short. She is so beautiful, a Carmel colour with long blonde hair. Icelandic horses are so gentle and easy going.
Doug agreed to come with me which was great. There were two German girls, 20 something's, working there for six months and seemed more interested in chatting to each other than taking care of the riders.
We waited about a half hour for four others to arrive, two couples from New York around our age and ability which was nice.

Off we go, across the fields towards the beach. Rain, sun, strong winds and freezing hail. At one point the horses stopped and said...nope. Just gonna wait right here.
But weather usually doesn't last long and the worst was the hail and that was only around 10 minutes at most.

It was a great ride, about an hour and a half, and on the way back I asked if I could trot or canter, which I did and that was wonderful.


Back in the car to continue our circuit. There were a number of viewpoints on the route that we stopped at, did some hiking and walking about at places. One was a great set of trails near a black church.. It was a perfect way to spend out last day here.


Instead of spending the night back in Reykjavik, I changed to a hotel near the airport to make it easier for our early morning departure. It is a self serve hotel. You pay in advance, $99 CAD which is a great price for here. They send you a code to get into the door, an envelope is inside with your name on it and keys, and that's it. Nice big clean room. Perfect

Day 16

4AM was early to wake up, but we left shortly after and dropped off the car and then checked in for our flight to Stockholm. The airport was insanely busy at 5AM, but we managed to find our way around and I am now writing this on our 2 1/2 hour flight to Sweden.

Iceland was so diverse, unique and just plain awesome. We are so glad we went.

Posted by debbep 11:12 Archived in Iceland Comments (1)


Norway!!! You take my breath away.

rain 8 °C


September 13, 2015
Day 1
Our flight from Vancouver to London was the best we have ever had. We used all of of "points" and flew business class on British airways. The design was a little odd, two seats facing each other and when the bed was made up the person on the inside was almost trapped inside. But laying down flat and actually sleeping on a flight was indescribable. I don't think I could do another overnight flight in economy again, but certainly not prepared to pay the cost of upgrading with cash either.


We connected to Bergen and then took the airport shuttle downtown andmade our way on foot to find our hotel, the Basic Bergen. It was very basic, looked like it was aimed to young people, but the price and location were good and the room was clean and beds firm. It was now 10PM so we went straight to sleep and happy to wake at 6 AM




Day 2.
We walked a lot of the downtown area today and along the picturesque waterfront where wooden buildings are 200 years old. I knew it would be expensive in Norway but still had a bit of sticker shock today. A small coffee was $7 and 1/2 of a wrap was $8. You need to pay $2 every time you want to use the public bathroom, so I won't be drinking too much coffee anyhow. ( the bathroom cost ended up just being in Bergen).
We went to a grocery store to pick up a few items for lunch and that will make a big difference.
I had an early afternoon back in the room and then the rain started to come down quite heavily so Doug was not too much after me.


Observations: everyone is incredibly good looking. We have found that almost everyone speaks English and is very friendly and helpful. There are a lot of young people here. Young fathers pushing baby carriages on their own. Most people are wearing shades of black and greys with an occasional orange jacket once in a while. All are very well dressed, even those who are casual have the high end activewear on. The city is very clean and modern with a mix of cobblestone streets and old wooden buildings too. The homes are mostly painted bright cranberry, golden yellow or white. Occasionally you will see a blue or black house. Most designs are the same, two or three story wood siding homes, many with tile roofs.

Day 3
We took the bus back out to the airport to pick up our rental car and the lovely helpful young man had us on our way in a little Toyota Yaris in no time.
We bought a 'Tom Tom' GPS at home that included Europe maps and it worked like a charm ( once I got used to it).
As we left the city we pass by many pastoral scenes and the fjords along the way. The day turned out to be beautiful and mostly sunny which was a bonus. As we got further north we could see the trees were starting to turn the fall colours. Most of the trees are deciduous, not many coniferous around other than the occasional pine.

After a trip to the grocery store we found a spot near the water to have our picnic lunch which was just perfect.


Many of the roads are connected by ferries to get across the fjords, and today we took our first one. It is a bit smaller than the Denman island ferry, and makes the 15 minute trip back and forth constantly into the night. The cost for us and the car was around $20 one way. We are in the area of Sognefjorden.

There are so many tunnels through the mountains and we did one that was the longest in the world, 25 kilometres. I slept through most of it thankfully as I don't particularly like tunnels.

We arrived in the small picturesque town of Hafslo and found our little cabin overlooking the water and town below. It is so beautiful here I really had no idea what to expect and we are pleasantly surprised.


Day 4.

Our day started with a drive to Solvern, a beautiful little town on the water. The road was so narrow the car barely fit between the houses. Another ferry took us across to Ornes. There is only one other car with two young people and two others on bicycle. It is off season now, and it is also raining again which perhaps deterred some from making the trip. This small village has a Unesco heritage church perched high on the hill. This church has been rebuilt four times since 1129, a hundred years between each rebuilding. This is the oldest of the stave churches in Norway. The woodwork is incredible, and most of the inside of the church still dates back to the 1100s. Scaffolding covers the exterior of the church, which was a shame for us as we could not get a clear sense of its beauty, but good that they have the money to keep it restored.

As we left I saw a herd of reindeer in the nearby farm being herded away somewhere. We also found a shelf with fresh raspberries for sale so we bought two containers. Yum.


Instead of taking the ferry back we took the coastal secondary road on this side of the fjord. Even with our small car it felt at times the road was narrower than we were. Thankfully there was not much traffic and the scenery on this route was amazing. The rain seemed to make everything even more brilliant green and yellow. The water is a beautiful blue green and at times reflected the landscape like a mirror.

There a roadside stands here and there and we found one where we bought rhubarb strawberry jam and bag of salad greens.
I love some of the older wooden buildings and the way they were constructed. We left the pastoral water side road and, unbeknownst to us, headed up into the mountains. This road made the road to Tofino look like a straight a way. Hairpin corners on narrow roads heading up the mountains with the fjords and valleys below. Thankfully, once again, it is not too busy so we really enjoyed the drive.

The landscape changed dramatically to low brush and rock and eventually snow and glaciers. There were no trees, just low lying shrubs and ground cover is bright shades of gold yellows and reds. This area is popular for cross country skiing a bit later in the season. We were thrilled to have taken this road instead of the main one.


We make our way back down to where the scenery is once again the beautiful colours of fall and farmland on the sloping hills. There are huge mountains everywhere and more waterfalls than I have ever seen. Huge ones, some miles high and others also very wide.

Another stop in the town of Lom to do more grocery shopping and on to find our cabin in the town of Skjak. It is great to have full kitchens instead of eating in restaurants all the time.


Day 5

Another rainy day unfortunately. Some parts of the day had just a bit of drizzle which wasn't too bad. We took the old road to Stryn, another narrow winding mountain route past some incredible colours. The glacial lakes are ice blue and the trees and ground cover are brilliant shades of golds and reds again, but much further along in the bright fall colours. Mountain peaks and glaciers are surrounding us. Thankfully once again there are not too many cars on this road, as one has to find a wide spot and either back up or wait for the other to pass.


An hour into the trip and the fog settled around us, we could barely see a foot in front of the car. It was quite eerie. Years ago you would be advised never to travel this route alone, only in groups as there were 'vagrants' in the mountains who would ambush you as you travelled through. I could see cars parked on the side of the road once in a while but no one in them. They had been murdered and then eaten I am sure of it. Every horror movie I could think of was entering my mind.

I am sure that the scenery was spectacular, we could hear and sort or see magnificent waterfalls and rivers, but we could not see any of it unfortunately.

After our white knuckle drive down the mountain we got back onto a larger road and into the town of Stryn where we went to our first Norwegian restaurant for lunch. It really wasn't picnic weather. This beautiful small town was gearing up for a huge Octoberfest celebration on the weekend and most workers were dressed in German lederhosen and dress. We spoke to a few of the local people and got some information about sights to see in the area. Everyone is so friendly and they all seem so happy and relaxed all the time.

Fifteen minutes down the road we came to another small town Loen, and headed to the fjord there to do a bit of walking and sightseeing. Even with the rain and clouds you can see how beautiful it is here. Many of the out buildings and the older camping cabins all have the grass/sod roofs which are so picturesque.


Another hair raising drive though the thick fog on hairpin corner mountain roads to find our home for the night in Geiranger. We have a gorgeous little cabin with a breathtaking view of the fjord and mountains. I could stay here for a few days, but we are off again tomorrow. There is so much to see!

We are so impressed how neat and tidy and orderly everything is. The rest stops, parks and towns are all so well maintained. The homes cars and people are all immaculate. Alot of oil money here, but the country spreads the wealth around so that everyone benefits.
Even now with prices being down the government had the good sense to put a lot away when times were good, so that everyone is still doing well.

Day 6

A wonderful lazy morning with checkout not being until noon. We just relaxed and enjoyed our view for the morning .
A trip into the small town of Gieranger where we decided to grab an Americano and waffle. It was actually a pancake and Doug has his with fresh cream and strawberry jam and I had mine with a brown sweet Norwegian cheese. Across the alley was a chocolatier whom our hotel receptionist said we had to buy a brownie from. I always do as I am told, so we bought a small one and asked him to cut it in half to take with us. We had it later on the ferry and it was hands down the best brownie I have ever had.
He was very informative and told us of some areas we should visit and then said we should start soon as the cruise ship has just come in. We looked out and saw that a huge ship was tendering the passengers into this tiny town so off we went.

Climbing once again up the many narrow switchbacks to the panoramic viewpoint at the top we were not disappointed. We hiked to the higher viewpoint and a man came over and asked if we were norwiegen when he found we were Canadian he told us a lot about the area and that a movie was just released called "the wave" and it was filmed here. It is about a huge tsunami that comes down the channel and devistates the town. We told him about our tsunami in Port Alberni in 1964 and he said they know it will happen here, hopefully not today.

He and his brother and sister and family were off to a cousins 50th birthday party nearby. His brother had been in Kelowna a couple years ago and drove to Vancouver from there he was so surprised how straight and wide the roads were in BC. I can see that after diving here, as a matter of fact he was surprised we were comfortable driving here at all. The maximum speed is 80, everyone seems to be good respectful drivers and very patient. I have not seen any indication at any road rage.
He gave us a typical birthday cake piece that was thin layers of cake with cinnamon butter filing. It was good but I am now on a sugar high.

Off to Aselund stopping at various points along the way and another ferry enroute.


When we checked into our hotel I discover I have booked a room in a youth hostel. That is why it was inexpensive. Well they didn't seem to mind and we didn't either, we had a private room. After a rest we walked into town for a delicious Indian meal at a Resteraunt in the centre. On the way we passed a movie theatre with a big line up, " the wave" was playing. I would have gone but it would have all been in norwiegen without subtitles. We will rent it on Netflix at home.
The movie theatre and the movie poster:


Day 7

Breakfast was included with our room and was wonderful . Doug even had salmon and caviar. After checking out and putting our luggage in the car we walked the town for a few hours. Today we actually saw blue sky and I took my fleece jacket off. Bonus. Doug had walked a lot of the waterfront yesterday while I was resting, so he went into the modern art museum while I wandered around and took pictures. It is Sunday today and looks like a ghost town most stores are closed today.


We met up at the museum which was very small, but had a 'time machine' exibit. It transported us back to 1904 when the town of Allesand was completely burned to the ground. 10,000 people were homeless overnight. The country of Norway as well as Sweden and Germany helped out with aid and fundraising to help rebuild, and fortunately there was a huge work shortage for all building tradespeople so they came in droves to rebuild the city. A lot of family's got much nicer homes in the end. It was decided that city centres would no longer have wooden houses and instead they were all made of brick. A few well known architects helped with the rebuilding and so it became known as the prettiest town in Norway, with art nouveau buildings.

A stop for a light lunch and we were on our way in the early afternoon driving south now, heading back towards Bergen. The route took us on three ferries and past many small towns and villages. A lot of farms are at the base of the mountain and have steep slopes that are dotted with sheep and cows.
Tonight we sleep in the town of Forde.

Day 8

Breakfast was included in the room again. Doug had salmon and pickled herring for breakfast. Norwegian breakfasts are quite large, especially is you eat meat and seafood.

Our last day in Norway involved a lot of driving. We needed to get to Bergen but wanted to detour to a few places on the way. Only one ferry involved however.

After picking up a few things at a grocery store we lucked out and found this beautiful rest stop by the ocean. Norway has a lot of picnic areas along the roads, but this one was exactly what we were looking for today.


Two churches were located in the town of Vik, almost across the road from each other. One, a Stave church, similar to the one under construction we saw a few days ago. Tourist season is pretty much done as of mid September, so this was closed and we could not see the inside. We didn't really mind as the last one we could see inside and the outside was under construction, so this balanced it out. It looks like it is covered in creosote, to preserve it I suppose.
This church would date back to around the 10 th century. It reminded me of something from China, but also I could see a resemblance to a ship.




The next church was a Hove, or brick church for the 12 th century. There are not too many like this one in Norway. Both were very interesting and we were glad we made the detour.



The sun was shining and it was quite warm, around 14 degrees. We could see all the mountain tops today and the scenery, once again, was spectacular.

Now in Bergen we will return our rental car and fly to Iceland tomorrow. Norway was so much more than we imagined and we are so glad we came.

Now to Reykjavik


Posted by debbep 12:32 Archived in Norway Comments (2)

European Vacation 2015

Norway, Iceland, Sweden, France, Israel, Jordan, and then from Barcelona a cruise to Florida through the Caribbean

We are off again on another adventure. September 13th, tomorrow, we fly to Bergen Norway and will rent a car to see some of the fjords. I will post with pictures around once a week if you would like to follow along.

Posted by debbep 20:50 Archived in Norway Comments (2)

Cruise to Easter Island and Tahiti

Here is a short summary of our trip to Easter Island in January.
Ocean Princess Cruise Itinerary

Jan 02, 2015. Embark in Fort Lauderdale

Jan 03 At Sea
Jan 04 At Sea
Jan 05 At Sea

Jan 06 Panama Canal -Scenic Cruising 5:00AM 4:30PM

Jan 07 At Sea
Jan 08 At Sea

Jan 09 Guayaquil 9:00AM 7:00PM

Jan 10 At Sea
Jan 11 At Sea

Jan 12 Lima (Callao) 7:00AM 6:00PM
Jan 13 Pisco 7:00AM 4:00PM

Jan 14 At Sea
Jan 15 At Sea
Jan 16 At Sea
Jan 17 At Sea

Jan 18 Easter Island Tender Required 12:00PM 9:00PM

Jan 19 At Sea
Jan 20 At Sea
Jan 21 At Sea
Jan 22 At Sea
Jan 23 At Sea
Jan 24 At Sea

Jan 25 Bora Bora Tender Required 7:00AM 6:00PM
Jan 26 Moorea Tender Required 8:00AM 5:00PM
Jan 26 Tahiti (Papeete)

We spent a couple of nights in FortLauderdale before our 25 night cruise. I was a little apprehensive because it was a very small ship, just over 600 people, but in the end I preferred it to the larger ships. We made some great friends on the journey and really enjoyed this cruise. We did not have a lot of stops, and the highlights for me were the Panama Canal transit, Easter Island (the reason for the cruise) and the South Pacific. We spent 5 nights in Moorea at the end and then flew to Maui for another five nights before coming home.

Our trip to Easter Island, although the highlight of the trip, almost didn't happen. Day one of the cruise the captain informed us that we have around a 20% chance of being able to tender, because the ocean is so rough and there are so many rocks.
Here is my message from my Facebook post:

Today was the best day!!! We were so blessed to arrive at Easter Island (Rapa Nui). Only one of four ships that attempt are usually able to anchor close enough to tender passengers ashore, due to high waves, but although touch and go, we eventually got ashore, yesterday we would not have been able to go. For the past two weeks all 600 passengers have been very anxious after the captain informed us that there was a good chance it may not happen. As we got closer we were all so excited, as for most this was the main reason for the cruise. It was very slow going, and when our group finally got on the tender we all cheered and clapped.
Easter island was certainly a highlight of the travels in my life and one that I never really thought I would see. But I did, and it was all I had hoped it would be and so much more. The landscape was beautiful, much like Hawaii in many areas with gorgeous flowers and plants.
The main reason that I love to travel is to learn about the country and its history and this was certainly no exception. A truly fascinating experience and one we will never forget.

On Bora Bora we did a helmet dive and island tour as a shore excursion. I am glad that we choose Moorea to stay on as we liked it the best of the three places we stopped.

Maui was a great way to end our trip. The Humpback whales were in huge numbers, calving and teaching the young how to jump and feed. It was an awesome sight. We did go snorkelling out to Molokini crater, but it was very disappointing . I has changed a lot since we were here last.





Posted by debbep 10:45 Archived in Chile Tagged island tahiti easter bora Comments (0)

Dancing around the world

Who knew I was such a good dancer???

Your text to link here...

Here is a video I did for your amusement. I had a lot of fun making them.

Posted by debbep 16:35 Comments (0)

Cuenca and Quito

overcast 17 °C

Day 85 - 91


We spent seven nights here in a two bedroom house that we rented on flip key from John and Barbie from the USA. It was a great week, our last week of the trip. We only went out to eat in restaurants for lunch and really enjoyed cooking our own breakfast and dinner as well as having the space to spread out.

The weather is Cuenca is always spring, although this time of year we did experience some rain as well. They always have flowers and veggies and fruit growing.

We didn't do too much as this was a week to relax and wind down from some hectic weeks prior.

There are many expats living here, and almost the first question you get is, "are you looking to move here?"

I can see why it is attractive however. Costs are low, weather is pleasant and health care is good and very affordable.

We spent quite a bit of time just hanging out with our hosts and another couple Joanne and Kevin from White Rock. Both couples are just four of many who have decided to live here full time. Most, like them, rent rather than buy. They were around our age and had many funny and interesting stories to share.

We did visit the Main museum and found it one of the best we have been in as well as a smaller one, which had handicrafts from all over South America.

A tourist bus tour one day and walked around the main square a few times and found a hammock to bring home.

I spent a day at a spa getting myself cleaned up to come home. What would have cost over $200 at home was only $60 here.

A visit to two 'Panama Hat' factories where we bought a few hats for ourselves and the kids. It is so interesting how they make them. They take palm leaves and cook them and weave them and shape them into hats. All Panama hats are from Ecuador but when they were building the Panama canal they were all outfitted with these hats, so they got to be known as 'Panama Hats'. The fellow we bought ours from has sent hats to Madonna, Prince Charles, Denzel Washington and Johnny Depp. And now the Pattersons.

We also walked along the river a few times which was very pleasant. We really liked Cuenca and can see why so many move here, although it would not be what we would choose for ourselves.

Day 92 and 93


Our flight from Cuenca to Quito had us arrive at 2pm and this was the first time we saw the mountains and the sun. Quito is a beautiful city and we finally got to see it without the rain and clouds.

We visited another amazing small museum, Mindalae with displays from the Oriente region of Ecuador, the Huorani tribes. We recognized so many of the items in the museum from our trip to the jungle.

A visit to the San Francisco monastery and church and another amazing museum, Casa de Abalado which housed pottery and artifacts that were beautifully displayed. I think that Ecuador has some of the best displayed museums of any we have seen in the world.

On our way home from dinner, close to our hotel, we see many police dressed in fancy uniforms and musical instruments ready to perform. There is a road blocked off and many other police with machine guns lined up.

We asked someone what was going on and was told that the president of Ecuador, Correa, is in the building. We walked down the street, past the building and all the police and even walked between the two SUVs, one for the President and the other his security. Doug had a back pack on and no one said anything to us. Can you imagine if that was Mulroney or Obama? We would not have gotten anywhere near the place.

All too soon it seems it is time to head home. We are on the plane now, Quito to Miami, then to LAX and finally arrive Vancouver at midnight where we have to overnight and take the sea plane the next day.

We were so blessed to have all of these amazing adventures over the past year. We loved every country that we visited, but I think that if I had to choose a favourite in South America it would be Ecuador with Bolivia coming in second. But they were all fantastic and each one had its own charm.

Thanks for following along with us. We are both looking forward to being home for a while and enjoying our beautiful island this summer.

Posted by debbep 20:24 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Galapagos Islands

sunny 35 °C

Day 77

3:45AM just seemed too early to to go to the airport but off we went. We had to first line up to purchase a $10 Galapagos ticket and then have our luggage scanned and tagged. They want to be sure that no outside fruit or vegetables get to the islands .

There are a few school groups heading to the Galapagos, one we met from Calgary on Spring Break. Lucky kids. Our flight left on time and we found out that there is an hour time change on the islands. We are now only one hour difference from home. All visitors must pay $100 US cash park fee upon arrival to visit the Galapagos.

A five minute cab ride, (in a Toyota pick up) and we are at our hotel at 930AM. Thankfully our room was ready for us and the owner asked if we would like a city tour. Sure, why not. His brother and wife picked us up in their pick up truck and in ten minutes we had seen where most of the major sites within walking distance were. It was a great way to get our bearings.

The Main Street is the tourist area and on the waterfront with many shops and restaurants. Sea-lions are everywhere. They are smaller than our sea lions, almost seal looking, but there are hundreds of them in various shades of black, brown and blonde. They are laying not only on the beach but on the boardwalk as well, quite used to humans and very tame. We also see large iguanas walking down the Main Street. Welcome to the Galapagos.

We are now on the island of St. Cristobal which is one of many in this chain but there are only a couple inhabited by people. We will spend two nights here before meeting up with a five day cruise that we booked.

After walking around the town and having lunch we went back to the room for a rest. It is so hot here. Incredibly humid and hot which I was not expecting.

The evening however is very pleasant and we walked around the edge of the ocean and then had dinner. The sun sets at 6:30P here as we are on the equator.

Day 78.

The man from the hotel drove us to a beach called The Loberia at 830AM. We walked down a path and then along the shoreline looking at various birds, iguanas and crabs on the beach. There was a small bay that we were told to snorkel in and it was lovely. Huge turtles in groups, some the size of me, just lazing on the bottom of the ocean and coming up for a gulp of air every now and then. I had to move out of their way they were so close. We saw a number of tropical fish as well and it was a great morning and only a couple of other snorkelers in the water with us and the turtles.

Victor picked us up from the beach at 11:30AM as arranged and after we changed our clothes we walked to town to get some lunch and then out to the Interpretative centre. It was a lot longer than we thought it would be, and only felt so tiring because it was so incredibly hot. We quickly went through the centre reading the various boards and then started on the board walk towards the hills to see some birds. The problem is that there is not any shade. All the plants are very low bushes so we are in the blazing sun all the time. We came to a crossroads. To the right was the 200 stairs up to the lookout to see the birds. To the left was the beach.
We chose the beach.
The first beach had large waves and quite an undertow, and a few surfers. Tempting as it was we continued on to Playa Man which was a lot more swimmer friendly. Sea lions are suntanning next to the sunbathers on the beach.

Cooled off from our swim we flagged a cab, but because we were wet he made us sit in the back of the truck which was fine with us.

The town of Puerto Moreno is really charming, laid back, lots of tourists but I can see spending a lot of time here. There are many beaches and attractions (animals) that you can see just on this island.

Day 79

Luckily our hotel let us hang out for the morning until it was time to meet our group at 1PM. We were driven to the airport and met up with Harry, our guide from the ship. We were waiting for three more to arrive from Quito by plane.
I found out that there are already 7 passengers who have done the northern 5 day trip, and now will stay on board to do the southern five days with us. Harry is German so I ask, are the other passengers English speaking? No, they are all German. This was my fear and one of the first questions that I asked the travel agent before booking. I was assured they were all English speaking.

The first passenger arrives, Christine, late 20s from Switzerland. She speaks German.
The next two arrive, Anthony and his new wife D, mid 20s from Australia. Yeah! Someone to talk to. The other two are a young couple from Japan who speak some English.

We are taken to the boat by zodiac and amazed at the elegance of our home for the next four nights. The Treasure of Galapagos is a first class yacht and very luxurious. I booked this a few weeks ago, there was one room left so I got it for around half price. Our cabin is bigger than some of the hotel rooms we have had and we not only have our own bathroom but a balcony too. It is way more than we every expected or thought we could afford and feeling quite decadent.


The German thing didn't turn out too badly. Most of them were nice and spoke some english. One single woman kept hanging with us when she could. They are in their late 60s, mid 70s I think. Christine ended up being a great person to hang out with, we have so many of the same interests and she spoke mostly English. We seemed to form an Alliance right away, the Germans and all the new ones, whom Harry spoke English to. Our table their table, Our zodiac, their zodiac.

After being served lunch in the gorgeous dining room Harry gave us an overview about the ship and the itinerary for the next few days.

The Galapagos Islands are a series of islands in the National Park and protected. You can only visit most of them with a certified guide. There is an airport on San Cristobal and also on Baltra, off Santa Cruz. One of the other islands has a couple of hundred people on it as well. A lot of people just visit the islands by land, taking a boat from one to the other doing day trips. We decided to do the five day cruise because they travel at night while you are sleeping.

Our first outing was at 3PM and we took the zodiacs back into town and then a 45 minute bus ride to the other side of the island where they breed the giant tortoises.

We did see a number of them on the walk and also the area where the smaller newborns, (these are two years old) are kept until big enough to be put in the acreage that is the breeding centre. It was all quite interesting.

We, the English, got to know each other after dinner and then off to our rooms at 9 PM for the night. This is not a party ship that is for sure.

The captain started the engines at 2:30AM to move to the next island. We were really rocking and rolling all the way, I had to take a few ginger pills and a sleeping pill to get though the night.


Day 80

We wake to see a gorgeous white sand beach with aqua blue water, we are at Espana Island and it looks like a postcard for the Caribbean. After breakfast at 7:30A we pick out some snorkel gear and head to the island by zodiac. This is a wet landing, where we jump into the water and make our way to the beach.

We walked the beach for an hour first with Harry telling us about the many colourful iguanas, birds and crabs that we are seeing. Sea lions are all along the beach and none of the animals are the least bit concerned about us.
There are many baby sea lions that are still suckling. I watched as a young one went from female to female smelling for his mom, to have the adults bark and growl at him to 'get lost', They are so amusing. Related to the California sea lion but much smaller.

The snorkelling was disappointing as the visibility was not great.
It appears that none of the Germans swim or snorkel. We seven 'English' take every opportunity to be in the water as long as possible.

Our afternoon outing was a dry landing to the other side of the island for a walk on lava stones to the bluffs. We saw many more sea lions and iguanas, blue footed boobies and Nasca boobies as well as other birds.


Day 81

We moved during the night again but it was much calmer this time. At 8:30 AM we did a wet landing onto Florencia Island. A very short walk on the sand and we are at Post Office Bay. There are two barrels here and in years long ago the ships would pass through and leave mail for back home. They would then go through all the letters in the barrel to see if there were any for where they were going. The letters were delivered by anyone who was passing through your area.

So we did the same. We left a postcard, (no stamp needed) and will see when and who will deliver it to us. We took one for Abbotsford and will deliver it when we go to Mission next month.


We walked the beach for a while and then snorkelled again. Once again we were disappointed. We have all done some amazing snorkelling in different parts of the world so the bar is set high. Two other ships came in and so there were many people in the water and again the visibility was not great.

After lunch and a rest the seven of us went back into the zodiacs for a deep water snorkel. Now that's what I am talking about! This time the snorkelling was amazing. So many colourful fish, thousands of them and the sea lions were swimming all around us and playing with us. I had one come right up to my mask to check me out. We saw a large ray and the others saw two white tip sharks, but I missed them.

Doug had a blue footed booby dive into the water in front of him and go down about 12 feet and catch a fish. He said it was amazing. We snorkelled for over an hour until it was time to go back. Finally some great snorkelling, but it was worth the wait.

Once when I raised my head to see where our zodiac was I see that a sea lion has jumped into the boat with our driver. It is very common but so comical.

Shortly after we showered and changed we were back in the boats and this time all of us went to another part of the island for a walk across to the other side. We saw birds, more lava lizards, pink flamingos in the distance and different vegetation.

When we reached the beach on the other side we find a large sea turtle coming out of the water. He turned and went back in when he saw us coming, but we had a great chance to watch him coming in and then swimming off again.

As we walked down the beach we saw more turtles in the water and then we were lucky enough to see some spotted rays close to the shore as well as the sting rays.

We walked across the island again and back to the ship as the sun was going down and painting the sky a brilliant orange and red.


Day 82

A terrible night of rolling as we travelled to the island of Santa Fe in the night. We were all bleary eyed at breakfast this morning.
We left by zodiac and had a wet landing on the island at 8:30AM. It is already scorching hot out, we are all sweating profusely. Only three of the seven Germans came with us on the walk around the island.

We see many cactus trees in bloom as well as huge Galapagos land iguanas. They are endemic to this island. Being vegetarians and green plant eaters it is slim pickins here now as all the bushes are just coming into leaf. We did see one eating a prickly pear that had fallen from the tree.

Back on the beach to return to the ship the sea lions are spread across the sand between us and the water. We almost have to step over them to pass. So much for the two meter distance rule. Lots of babies again, and they are so funny to watch. One was very curious about D's hat.

I was the last to get into the boat, stepping over the little seals to get there. The waves are active and a little voice told me to place my camera into the zodiac before climbing in. I am glad I listened because I ended up going over backwards knapsack first into the water. Not my finest moment but so happy my camera was okay.

Ten minutes after arriving at the ship the six of us, (The English) put on our suits and set off again in the zodiacs for another snorkel from the zodiac. It was another great day seeing spotted rays, huge tropical fish and again swimming with the playful sea lions.

After a couple of hours we headed back to the boat and set off for our final destination of Santa Cruz island.

Upon arrival everyone went ashore except Doug and I, we had the ship to ourselves. We are spending two more days here so decided to just relax on board and read and listen to music which was great.


Day 83

We had to get up at 6AM and leave our luggage outside the room before breakfast. We said our goodbyes to the staff and headed into puerto ayora to our waiting bus at 7:30AM and drive across the island. The vegetation is much more lush here, bouganvillia, hibiscus and lots of other tropical flowers and palms line the road. They must get a lot more rain here, it looks more like Hawaii.

A large acerage is at the top of the island and is a private reserve for giant land tortoise. We walk around the property for a while and see many huge tortoise in the grass and also the many ponds. It is very lovely and a great way to see the tourtise.


The rest of the group got back on the bus to head to the airport to other parts of Ecuador. We said our goodbyes and then waited for an arranged cab to pick us up. Christina was staying a couple of days as well so the thre of us headed back into town,

Our hotel is a lovley oasis with a swimming pool which looks so inviting. It is only 9 am but already sweltering.

We were able to get into our room early and after a siesta we headed to town to explore. It is. Such bigger than San Cristobal and very touristy, with tons of tourists from all over, but I like it. The buildings are all very well made and have some great designs. The tourist strip runs along the water and there is a nice breeze.

We met Christina for dinner and her and I arranged another snorkle trip for the morning.


Day 84

Christina and I joined 12 others in a very small boat for what we thought was a snorkle tour for three hours. We stoped to look at sea lions first, then there was a walk to look at iguanas on the shore. I did'the go and instead asked if I could snorkle while we waited, which he said yes.
There were not many fish but I did swim with a huge turtle for a while.

Back in the boat to pick up the others and then to a snorkle spot that was quite good. I swam with white tipped and black tipped sharks for a while, tried to follow them but they are fast. They were around four or five feet long. More sea lions and lots of colorful fish,

We got called back to the boat and then stopped to do,this long walk that I was not prepared for. We were supposed to bring good shoes, which I did not know, so after climbing over loose lava rock, in my bathingsuit and sandles, for fifteen minutes I decided to turn back. I waited at the dock for about an hour and a half but got to see lots of rays and sharks in the water .

We headed back to town, I had a siesta and then walked for a few hours. Doug and I went into a number of fantastic art shops and just enjoyed the town. We had a great dinner and now it is time to pack again for our flight tomorrow.

We really enjoyed the Galapagos. It was different from what I expected, in that I had no idea we would be snorkelling for one thing. It was great to see iguanas and birds that are found no where else in the world and protected here. Most of the beaches were gorgeous and the water beautiful shades of blues and greens. To be able to walk amongst these animals and have them not take any notice of you, and feel perfectly safe was amazing.

The landscape is very harsh for the most part, and a lot hotter and humid than I thought possible. It is cooler in the summer months apparently.

There were a lot of other boats ranging from budget to luxury. Apparently this is a place where you really get what you pay for, so not advisable to go budget. If you have a flexible schedule like we did you can get the first class boat for the budget price anyhow.

There were a number of young families, and a lot of people in their mid 20s. The eldest were in their 70s, but not many of them. Everyone for the most part seemed quite fit, as you need to be to do this tour.

I am really glad that we decided to come here, it was a great experience. We are now off to Cuenca for a week.

Posted by debbep 20:55 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

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