Fellow Travellers

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Last post for 2010

Last post!  What?  We will not be doing any trips until Christmas of 2010 when we to Eygpt to explore the wonders of Cairo and the ValLey of the Kings.  Check back in January for an account of this fantastic country.

In between now and then, I am off an adventure to attend the Cordon Blue Basic Cuisine program on Saturday November 15. The course is a mere 5 weeks of sauteing, chopping and braising my way through the basics of French cooking.  I am really excited about this opportunity.

You also might have noticed my recent posts have a little too much focus on what I ate versus what I saw. 
Hmm....I realize that perhaps it is time to separate my detailed foodie revelations from our travel experience so I have started a second blog to chronicle my Cordon Bleu adventure and our food travels.  I hope you'll drop by! 


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Stockholm Oct 23 and 24 2010

We were greeted by a skiff of snow and some very brisk fall air on our arrival in Stockholm.  Not surprising as the city lies on the same latitude with Moscow and is some 59° 17' N a little north of Moscow (our home town in Canada, Calgary is 51° 6' N for your reference). 

Stockholm straddles 14 islands, the center island being Gamla Stan where the old town is situated.  The Islands are interconnected by bridges, an underground, trams or ferries.  Surrounding the Gamla Stan are the islands/districts of
  • Sodermalm & Langholmen
  • Kungsholmen
  • Norrmalm & Vasastaden
  • Ostermalm
  • Skeppsholmen & Djurgarden

We arrived in the early evening Friday after a quick 1.5 hr flight from Amsterdam which left us plenty of time to check into our hotel, the Rival, and make our way to Tranan for dinner.  As always, I'd done some research on the where to eat as I was keen to try traditional Swedish cuisine.  Blogs are a great source for local information, I found Tranan via Anne's Food Blog .   

Monday, September 6, 2010

Golf Golf and Whiskey - Scotland 2010

“The Open” and Scotland July 17 to 25, 2010

St. Andrews

It was a dream vacation for my dear G! Two days at The Open, 4 days of golf, okay make it 5 and a tour on the Whiskey Trail – whoa! Many thanks to Lisa, Bryn, Chris and Lori for organizing the entire trip! All I did was show up :)

Our journey began in the hamlet of St. Andrews, home of the famous “Old Course” and the host of the 2010 Open. The weather mostly cooperated for us as we watched our golf idols battle for the top prize. As you know, a relatively unknown golfer, Louis Oosthuizen from South Africa, won The Open this year. It was noted that each time the gang has ventured to the event it’s been one by an obscure player. Unusual!

We caught the action from the turn on the 7 through 11 holes on Saturday then on Sunday cheered the players from the dreadful 17th hole. Had a great time watching as player after player bogey the hole – only one birdie last day!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bordeaux - June 18, 19 and 20 2010

I am so enthralled with France and we were lucky to find ourselves in Bordeaux for a long weekend in June.  G had to visit the Parentis office for some meetings so I tagged along (because I was afraid if I let him go on his own he would have drank Bordeaux dry and left nothing for me!).

While he worked on Friday, I drove our cute little BMW mini up to Archacon in the northern part of the province of Bordeaux.  The town is quite touristic but as the season had not started yet and the weather was on the coolish side there were few people around.  Archacon has a lovely "plage" (beach) fronted by a boardwalk lined with restaurants.   The beach was quite charming and I had no trouble picturing myself perched on a sun chair enjoying the sea air.  Behind the plage there are streets lined with shops and many more restaurants to choose from.  I managed to find some beautiful French linen tea towels and some regional specialty foods to take bake to Amsterdam.

The most fantastic site in the north of Bordeaux is the Dune de Pyla which is the largest sand dune in all of Europe.  The easiest way to the top of the dune is via a set of about a 100 stairs.  Once you climb to the top

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Istanbul May 14 2010

What better place to have a birthday than Istanbul! Don’t you dare begin guessing while reading this how old I am – that would be rude! :)   Leslie and Kathy decided to do a Bosporus cruise with an early departure while Cliff and I decided on a visit to the Topkapi Palace. The palace was home to the Ottoman sultans for many centuries and is full of the treasures from the Empire. The palace is composed of many buildings in a compound rather than one large mansion. The buildings have different purposes from living, armour storage to the reception of dignitaries.

The living quarters for the Sultan is the Haram which was a surprise to me. Haram means “forbidden” in Arabic; in Turkish it refers to the private residence of the head of the house hold , his wives, odalisques (concubines) and children. The Sultan would generally have more than one wife and keep a number (maybe hundreds) of concubines. A concubine could rise up in status to favourite or even wife if she produced an heir, particularly a male, of the Sultan.

Istanbul May 13 2010

Istanbul is a dramatic city where history is found and made on every street corner. The Turks are wonderful people and go above and beyond to welcome you to their country. The central tourist area, Sultanahmet, is easy to cover on foot making it possible to see many of the major attractions in a couple of days. We had a general idea of the major sites and set out the morning of day one from our hotel to see The Blue Mosque and Aya Sofya. We seemed to have an early start on the tourists as there were few line ups which suits me fine “thankyouverymuch”!

The Blue Mosque, which began construction in 1609, is still in use today as a place of worship therefore, as a woman, one must cover up to be allowed to visit. There are scarves and sarongs at the entrance for those who are dressed “inappropriately”, that being us, we three girls covered up. We slipped off our shoes and padded onto the very soft carpet to view the inside of the mosque. The ceiling has been recently restored and is glorious. Predominantly blue, but also gold and yellow, iznik tile mosaics adorn the ceiling giving the building its auspicious name.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Priorat – Cataluña Spain March 31 to April 2 2010

This is a long overdue post but in all good conscience I must share our tour of Priorat with you before I move on to our more recent journeys.  Forgive me?

I had spent a great deal of time trying to find information on the internet regarding the wine region of Priorat.  I suspect the trouble lay in the fact that I don’t speak Cataluñ or Spanish which made it was tough sleuthing.  This wine region south of Barcelona sits in the shadow of the well known region of Pendes where the majority of Spain’s Cava sparkling wine is produced.  The region was brought back to life in the 1980’s by five young Spaniards who believed the terrior could produce wines to rival the great Rioja and Ribera del Duero reds. 

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Barcelona March 27 to 30 2010

Our first trip of 2010 was to the enchanting north of Spain where we were able to indulge in all our favorite past times, gourmet eating, wine tasting and golfing. The first stop on our trip was the modernista city of Barcelona. We stayed in the funky and functional Casa Camper hotel in el Raval just a few blocks off of la Rambla which is the main pedestrian stroll in the city.

La Rambla is lined with interesting vendors selling everything from food and flowers to canaries. The stroll is also host to a multitude of street buskers all vying for a place amongst the vendor stalls and hoping to attract tourists, their camera and more importantly their euros! It makes for a colorful afternoon to simply stroll along pop into food markets and eye up all the intriguing characters.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Maastricht - Carnival 2010

The city of Maastricht is quite different than other Dutch cities and we found the architecture is more French inspired. The city really gets into the spirit of Carnival with festivities kicking off Sunday at noon with a grand ceremony in the square. The Prince of Carnival arrives and raises a large Dutch marionette lady as a symbolic gesture accompanied by much pomp and circumstance with the city major and policticans.

After the official kick off, there is much drinking of beer and a major 3 hour parade through the main streets. Groups respresenting different interests, marching bands and individuals parade in costume drinking and cavorting along the way. It is quite entertaining although since our toes were freezing we had to escape before the end into a little heated area of an outdoor patio to warm up.

Wij dranken bierjes (We drank small beers) and visited many rowdy crowded establishments. We finally gave into the cold at about 6 and went back to the hotel. We decided to go for dinner and managed to find an open restaurant (many are closed). We ended our night with a bottle of wine (cause we just couldn't drink anymore beer) then made our way back to our hotel to fall in bed. Very fun! Next year we hope to convince a group to go and also that the weather is much better!

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Massai & Ngorongoro Crater Lodge

Dec 23, 2009

On route to the Ngorongoro Crater, we made a stop to visit the Massai people.  The Massai are a nomadic tribe known for their bright red, blue and purple tartan wraps.  They live as an extended family in smaller communities between 50 and 100 people in huts built from cow dung and earth.  They are a meat eating people who raise cattle as their source of food although their culinary choice of milk mixed with blood didn’t entice us.

The men are known to be fearsome warriors and a young man’s right of passage from boy to manhood use to involve killing a lion although now the Tanazian government discourages them.   The women raise the children and run the house.  The tribes are only recently beginning to be educated which will hopefully help to improve their standard of living.

The village we visited has been set up for tourists and the families rotate in an out of the village taking turns earning fees for entrance.  We were treated to a traditional dance performed with “some” enthusiasm and then we entered the village.  The women had made masses of beaded jewelry that were on display in the center of the huts. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lake Ndutu Tanzania 2009

Dec 20 –Olakira – Massai for “star”

Our “four” hour drive to the Olakira Tented Camp at Lake Ndutu was truly eight on mainly gravel roads leaving me car sick and exhausted.  My only highlight was the purchase of a tinga tinga painting of 3 cheetahs (which I ended up leaving at our hotel in Ngorongoro Crater so when you visit ask me why it’s on our wall!).  A wise word to those of you considering a similar trip, take the 45 min flight which is a much better use of time.  Olakira is a temporary camp and follows the migration of the animals to ensure the guests will be close to the action on game drives. 

On our arrival we were met by the manager, Pascal, and welcomed by the friendly staff with cold clothes and a delicious fruit drink.  We were whisked to the lounge tent to chat and check in.  The camp had only complete set up two nights before so and were encouraged to alert them to any problems we experienced.   Snake in your room, no problem, elephant wandering near your front door, just give us a call on the walkie talkie!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Lake Manyara Tanzania 2009

Dec 19  – Lake Manyara

We transferred from Arusha a smaller city at the foot of Kilimanjaro to Lake Manyara at the outset of our safari with our capable and amiable driver guide John. This National Park is the most lush and mountainous of the 3 we visited in Tanzania.  It was established specifically to protect elephant herds but it also has a great wealth of diverse wildlife, thought not in the numbers we would encounter in the days coming.

Enroute to the lodge were our first sightings of the exotic animals through the trees that shrouded the road.  Our 4 wheel drive vehicle had a pop top roof allowing us to stand, while John was driving, to spot animals. G was an excellent spotter and brought many creatures to my attention.  Gazelle, impalas, dik dik, warthogs, baboons, giraffe, elephant and African buffalo. We were “gobsmacked” (thanks to Yvonne Segal I have the exact right word to describe this event) upon seeing a female lion lounging in a tree right above us!  All of this before lunch!