Anyone want to go skiing?

[flagallery gid=9 name=”Gallery”]Here we are at Whistler.  Who would have thought we would be walking in snow on June 7th?  We took the Whistler Gondola while watching hundreds of crazy downhill bikers on their dirt track courses & jumps.  We stopped at the Round House, played in the snow and had a light lunch.  Temp 6C and saw a few snow flurries.  Then we took the amazing new Peak2Peak which crossed from Whistler to Blackcomb Mountain.  This is a 4.4 km journey between peaks and is the longest unsupported span in the world of 3 km.  It is the highest lift of its kind above the valley floor.  Coming back we took a cable car with a glass floor which was an experience.  What a view!  The trees looked like grass.  There is an unusual amount of snow left and it might be more than another 2 weeks before they open the peak chairlift.  We went up to 6,000 feet elevation.   The town is a very touristy area but nice to walk around and there are lots of walkways and pedestrian areas.  I highly recommend a visit if you are out west!

Why Visit Venice?

Of all the cities that I’ve ever been in I must say that Venice is my favourite.  It is like no other city that exists and to me it feels like being on a movie set.  Last time we were there we rode a waterbus (vaporetti) around the whole 1- hour route three times.  It gave us a great opportunity to observe people as they got on & off the bus and as we motored around the loop I sat in amazement looking at the buildings as we passed by.

Venice dates back to 421 and is constructed on woodpiles.  As wood does not decay under water these woodpiles have become like stone and most are still intact after centuries.  The foundations rest on the piles and the buildings above these footings.  Flooding occurs frequently from the Adriatic tides usually in the winter time.  Many of the buildings have lost the use of their ground floors due to water damage and you can see where the water has risen above the doorsteps.   We were there in the fall once and had to leave St. Mark’s Square early due to the water which was rising up over the steps of the Cathedral.  Dreadful to witness this.

Only about 60,000 people live in the historic city of Venice but 270,000 reside in the City of Venice.   When we were there we met an American who had moved to Venice 7 years earlier and she loved it.  Guess she must be fluent in Italian.

The most well-known area of Venice is Piazza San Marco or St. Mark’s Square.  Here there are many pigeons and they encourage the tourists to feed them!  There are many little restaurants in the square and most offer entertainment.  It is quite an experience to sit in St. Mark’s Square sipping a Bellini (sparking wine & peach puree) listening to some romantic music.

Another great thing to do in Venice is to climb to the top of the Campanile, the bell tower of St Mark’s Basilica located in the square (piazza).  What a view from up there!  Venice is sometimes called the City of Bridges as there are over 400 bridges.  These join up the 177 canals.  You can walk for miles within the city on the narrow streets and passages, however, no cars can manage it. The most famous is the Rialto Bridge over the Grand Canal.  There are several shops on the bridge for buying gold and other jewelery.   The Rialto Bridge is in one of my pictures.

There is a train station on the edge of town called the St. Lucia Station.  Good place to stay near as you can eat at a reasonable price in the station and still walk to St. Mark’s Square without spending an arm & a leg for the hotel.  The train station is near a vaporetti stop.  The waterbuses or vaporetti is the recommended way to get from one place to another if it’s a bit too far to walk.  There are also water taxis available. These are fast but quite expensive.

Venice is also referred to as the City of Masks.  The Carnival of Venice takes place every year two weeks before Ash Wednesday and ends on Shrove Tuesday.  The next time will be March 9, 2011.  Many shops in the area sell masks in beautiful colours and designs.

For the shoppers it’s a must to buy a piece of Murano Glass.  Al & I brought back two wine goblets and they are a delight to drink from as the glass is so smooth.  I also chose some glass earrings made by a Murano glass specialist.  If you visit the Belagio Casino in Las Vegas you will see the most exquisite ceiling display of glass flowers!  These are all hand-blown! Truly a work of art!  I love glass art as every piece is unique.

For the romantic, a ride in a gondola is in order.  You may even be serenaded.  The gondola is the most well recognized mode of transportation in Venice and some even have seats of velvet. When you do get to visit Venice I hope you experience the “wow” that I did.  I love it!!

I didn’t mention the pizza – guess you have to go taste that for yourself!  Enjoy!

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Why visit Rome?

[flagallery gid=6 name=”Rome”]You may ask, “Why visit Rome”? I will write a bit about what I gained from my visits to Rome and how it could benefit you too.  Growing up in Canada I had no idea of what “old” meant. Discovering Europe was truly an awesome experience. The age of buildings and streets is what really hit me when I first visited and keeps me in amazement every time I return. Rome is one of my favourite cities and is a mix of modern with ancient. According to legend Rome was founded by Romulus, first of the seven kings in 753 BC. I like to imagine what it would have been like to live in Ancient Roman times. Perhaps I would have attended games held at the Coliseum although the thought of that gives me the creeps as there were thousands of slaves and animals killed there. They were kept in a maze under the floor and brought out to fight and entertain the public. Where you sat would depend on your ranking in the society. Today, part of the floor has been recreated to give an idea of what it looked like at that time. Some of the original steps can be seen rising up the sides of the stadium.

The Roman Forum can be viewed and visited in the same area as the Coliseum. Many of the original pillars of marble still stand today. The most famous of these is the three columns of the Temple of Castor and Pollux built in 499 BC. It is more than a walk down memory lane to actually wander through this area. You come to appreciate the life we lead here in Canada and in these modern times. Rome offers so many sites for tourists to see during their stay. I recommend staying at least 3 days to cover most of the popular spots. A favourite of mine is the Trevi Fountain. This is Rome’s grandest fountain where you can see Neptune flanked by two Tritons. It is relatively new, being built in 1762, in comparison with most of Rome’s attractions. While you are there, toss a coin over your shoulder to ensure that you return. We stayed 3 nights in a hotel around the corner from the Trevi Fountain and from this location could walk everywhere.

There is no need to rent a car in Rome if you have comfortable walking shoes. Also close by was the Pantheon. This is truly a work of art with the walls supporting the dome being 19 ft. thick. It is an eye-opener as you walk through the narrow streets of the city, turn a corner and find the Pantheon in front of you. This is the resting place of the artist, Raphael and also several of the Italian kings. There are numerous museums and galleries for those who are history buffs. You might prefer to study up on the historic buildings, streets or piazzas. As for me I don’t like to study history but I prefer to experience it and be filled with amazement. Before we left the city I coaxed my husband into one of the very modern, classy stores we passed. I discovered that Swarovski made a crystal heart. I now refer to this as my “Roman” heart. All this and I haven’t yet mentioned the Vatican.

On my first visit of 3 days I did not visit the Sistine Chapel but only St. Peter’s Basilica. This spring we returned by train and viewed the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. It is a site not to be missed no matter what faith you practice. The ceiling was restored in the 1980’s showing a lot of vibrant colours. It will instill in you an appreciation of art if you don’t have one already. You could never see and do everything in a short time so what I suggest is to reveille in what you can see and enjoy! It is just as amazing and enjoyable no matter how many times you return and in fact we returned for our third visit in September, 2008.  On this past trip we took 14 others with us and followed our visit with a  Mediterranean cruise which stopped at some Greek Isles, Athens, Naples, Turkey and also Alexandria, Egypt.  That is another whole story which will follow soon.

Good Day Mates!

[flagallery gid=3 name=”Gallery”]Australia is like no other place and to experience it fully I recommend visiting “The Red Centre”.  This is where you can see Uluru (Ayers Rock) and The Olgas (Kata Tjuta).  These are unusual rock formations in the middle of an otherwise desolate land of red rock.  The highlight of the trip was our “Sound of Silence” dinner served in an outdoor “restaurant” between these rocks.   There was a speaker there who pointed out the stars in the sky and when he pointed his light into the sky he could explain different stars to us.  After the dinner we could look through some telescopes that they had pointed at the moon, Mars & Orion.  It was truly fascinating!  To miss this would be like missing the true feel of Australia.    Australia is the size of the United States so you can’t possibly see it all in one visit.  We are looking forward to returning.

Welcome to the Land of the Midnight Sun

[flagallery gid=2 name=”Gallery”] If you would love to see glaciers, mountains & wildlife then Alaska is the place to go.  I have cruised the inside passage 3 times visiting quaint places such as Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka & Skagway.  I am planning another group cruise next June, 2011 that will sail from Vancouver to Whittier with an optional tour into the interior to see Denali Park, a highlight of Alaska.   In this blog I hope to cover a bit of what you can see in each place so keep an eye open for new stuff.  If there is somewhere you would like to know more about let me know and if I’ve been there I’ll write something about it.   Don’t forget to layer your clothing while visiting Alaska so you can stay comfortable.  It is rainforest area so weather can be very unpredictable and variable.   It is a wonderful experience to discover this scenic land.    Enjoy!