Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Travel News: A Winter's Day Trip to Niagara Falls

January 15, 2018: On this cold winter's day my son, Michael and I spent my birthday at Niagara Falls. We drove to the Fallsview Casino Hotel for some comfortable underground parking. We walked around the complex to determine the best way to view the Falls.We spent about an hour walking to and fro the road to the Falls where we stopped to take pictures. We noticed that the Falls were only partially frozen and yet created dramatic views.

The pictures tell many beautiful stories that you can create as you view each picture.

View of the American Niagara Falls from the Canadian side

Back to viewing the Canadian Niagara Falls

We returned to the hotel for a delicious lunch and to warm-up before we ventured out again to be in awe of these partially frozen magnificent Niagara Falls

Statute of Nikola Tesla--a famed Electrical/Mechanical Engineer, Inventor and Futurist.
 This statute is situated in front of the stunning backdrop of snow-draped trees
across the road from the Canadian Niagara Falls.

It was late afternoon when we returned to the hotel to warm up and relax with a slice of chocolate birthday cake and a cup of tea. But before we left I tried my hand at the slot machine in the Casino and betted a small amount that I was willing to lose.  Instead I gained a healthy but much appreciated sum of winnings. Michael declared it was my birthday luck. He drove me home amidst snow flakes and traffic congestion in some parts.  It was an extraordinary and memorable day of a milestone birthday. 

Friday, January 5, 2018

Travel News: Day 1 - Tournament of Roses Tour in California

In the past whenever I watched this Parade on TV I said to myself that one day I will go there.  My sons made it happen for me in 2018.  I am deeply grateful for their generous Christmas gift to me; it is a beautiful launch to my solo journey of my life.

A bit of the history of the Tournament of Roses. It was founded in 1890 by members of the Valley Hunt Club led by Charles Frederick Holder who sponsored the first Tournament of Roses in Pasadena, California. They wanted to showcase the warm winter weather as well as the abundance of flowers and plants of California to their east coast friends. All participants in the Parade had to decorate their carriages with a variety of flowers and plants. 2018 celebrates its 129th year; this year's theme is Making A Difference. In 1902 the college football teams became part of the Rose Bowl Game making it their 104th year of affiliation with the Tournament of Roses Parade. (Source: 2018 Official Souvenir Program)

On our first day, December 30, 2017 we spent the morning at one of the many warehouses to observe the preparation of some of the floats for the Parade.  It was a fascinating walk through as we watched volunteers, identified as Petal Pushers work on the floats--inserting flowers, leaves and various plants onto the floats. See images below:
Petal Pushers at work

Roses waiting to be inserted onto the floats

Petal Pushers busy at work

A close-up of the natural flora and fauna
This tour created a curious sense of anticipation of what would be revealed on the day of the Parade on January 1, 2018.

In the afternoon of December 30, 2017 we had a guided tour of the Queen Mary ship, now converted to a hotel. It was one of the Cunard Line passenger ships that sailed from Great Britain to New York in the late 1920s.  It still boasts its original design and architecture inside the ship with minor modifications for today's needs and maintenance.

In front of the Queen Mary ship

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Travel News: Day 2 - Tour of Downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood: Tournament of Roses Tour, California

On Day 2, December 31, 2017 we went on a tour of downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood. While in downtown Los Angeles, we stopped to visit the original part of Los Angeles which now has a typical Mexican style market. The images below depict two sites located in front of the market.


As we drove towards Hollywood, we spotted the Los Angeles City Hall--the pyramid shaped building in the mage below:
Los Angeles City Hall
Onwards to Hollywood. We stop at the famed Dolby Theatre where the Oscars event is held and strolled around the complex to catch a glimpse of the Hollywood sign.
From the Dolby Theatre complex the Hollywood sign is visible in the distance

While walking around the complex I snapped a picture of this saying carved along the pathway along with other sayings from different artists. 

Our tour takes us to part of the pathway that has the different stars of fame. Below is the one for the Beatles' stars.

The site for the Beatles' stars of fame.
We stopped for lunch at the Farmers' Market and then we strolled along the street browsing through all the stores and shops along the way.  Back on the bus we headed onto the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum.  We saw the tar bubbling in the lake while the Museum with all its animal fossils were displayed in the Museum.

Tar Pitts Museum
We drive back to the hotel for an early New Year's Eve celebration in anticipation of being at the Tournament of Roses Parade on January 1, 20`8.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Travel News: Day 3 - Tournament of Roses Parade, Pasadena, California

The flyover - U. S. Air Force B - 2 Spirit

The parade began with a flyover - U.S. Air Force B - 2 Spirit.

There were marching bands, some performed with amazing talent for the onlookers. But for me, it was all about the floats and below are a sample of my favourites,

The many images below are worth thousands of words. Absorb and Enjoy!

In the afternoon, we viewed the floats up front and close; here are a sample of the images:

Every float is created from natural flowers and plants, i.e. a variety of flora and fauna.

It was a wondrous and memorable start to 2018 as I continue to keep in touch with new friends.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Vamizi: Cradle of Coral

Vamizi is a spectacular island off the coast of Mozambique, and home to some of the world’s oldest and most pristine coral reefs. Dive into this virtual wonderland of marine biodiversity as experts work to defend this thriving ecosystem from corporate interests. Source: TVO

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Travel News: Tour of South - South West Ireland

The next part of my time in Ireland begins on September 10, 2017 when I hop onto a bus to tour the South - South West of Ireland. We are a small group on a small bus. Our driver/tour guide, Patrick Foley, takes us from Dublin heading West through farmland and peat bogs of counties Kildare and Offally. In our introductions, Patrick is curious about the origins of our surnames; each one of us tell our stories. We stop to take a peek at the bogland as Patrick explains how these peat bogs are harvested, dried and used as fuel for heating the homes; today there are yet a few who have not converted to electricity.

Site of Clonmacnoise
Bridge over Shannon River
Lynch Castle--today it houses the AIB Bank, Galway

We arrive in Kilbeggan to take in the Lockeas Distillery, the oldest legal whiskey distillery in the world. We sample the varieties. I stop at the House of Names only to discover that my maiden name Joanes originates in Spain or more correctly Iberian; I buy the scroll with a crest. We continue our drive further west. We stop to explore the ancient site of Clonmacnoise.

As we head West for Galway we make a traditional pub lunch stop in Shannonbridge overlooking the Shannon River. As we continue on the bus, we arrive on the outskirts of Galway.

As Patrick takes us around showing the sights of Galway and meanders along the Promenade facing the Wild Atlantic Ocean, he tells us the story about the prominent Mayor Lynch of Galway who was also the Magistrate at the time.

He tried his son for murdering a Spaniard who apparently was dating a lady that his son had eyes for; his son was sentenced to execution. The townspeople came out in support of his son and tried to prevent the execution.  

Hence the term "Lynch mob." Since none of the executioners would carry out the order, Mayor Lynch himself executed his son and thus the term "lynching" came about. This is one version of the events as told by our guide Patrick and can be considered to be one of the many interpretations of what really happened way back in the late 15th century. Thus we were treated to many a story or legend  during our trip. Patrick is a captivating  story teller.

The next day we depart Galway for the Burren, a beautiful land of limestone pavements, barren hillsides, rare flora and early settlements. We spend some time viewing the Cliffs of Moher.

Cliffs of Moher

It was a very, very windy day but as our guide would indicate at least there is no fog and you can actually see the Cliffs. It was a wondrous sight.

Corcomroe Abbey, County Clare
We visit Corcomroe Abbey that was founded by the Cistercian monks in the late 12th century. Then we view the Portal Tomb. There is ancient history in Ireland.
Portal Tomb, County Clare

Later that afternoon we take the ferry to travel into County Kerry to Killarney. We spot a beautiful rainbow gracing its presence for us all to absorb and enjoy.

We explore Dingle Peninsula where there are many ancient forts and early religious monuments. To stretch we take the time to walk along the sands of Inch Strand in Kerry. It is very good to feel the strong wind and inhale the sea air. Here comes another sight, Prehistoric Dunbeg Fort, a promontory fort built in the Iron Age.
Dunbeg Fort, Dingle Pninsula

We spend time in Dingle Town which is a fishing town with the homes brightly painted in a variety of colours that enable the fishermen to recognize their arrival home while at sea.

On the night of Tuesday, September 12th we are treated to a spectacular show The Celtic Steps. A variety of Irish Celtic dance steps performed by the youth who are known Irish Dance champions in Kerry. Also we witnessed Irish drumming and the captivating story of this particular show.  It is meant to maintain Irish culture and hand down to future generations the Irish culture of dance and music. It was a memorable show.

The next morning we are on the road again, driving around the Ring of Kerry that is a classic route consisting of views of Ireland's highest mountain. Beautiful views of Lakes of Killarney.
Views from Killarney National Park

We visit Derrynane House which was the home of Irish politician and liberator of Ireland, Daniel O'Connell. Today it is part of a 320 acre Irish National Park.

We walk along the pathway spotting a variety of fairy houses until we get to walk along the beach.

The view on the right is taken at Derrynane Beach.

Also in County Kerry we visit a sheep farm where the owner demonstrates how he and his dogs round up the sheep.  We make a quick stop to view Torc Falls.
Torc Falls, County Kerry

Blaarney Castle, County Cork
On our last day of this tour we drive through Cork for a stop at Blarney Castle and no I didn't kiss the Blarney Stone. By myself  I couldn't climb the steep 100 narrow and ancient stone steps with no hand rail. A few of us opted out of this sojourn up. 

I discovered this is one of those "tourist trap" things. Apparently when you kiss the blarney stone you will be blessed with the "gift of the gab." Instead, I stroll through the beautiful gardens on the grounds of Blarney Castle. Near the Castle, the strollers are graced by the music from the bagpipes. 

Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary
We are now heading back towards Dublin. We stop at the Rock of Cashel, Monastery built on top of the Rock. The Rock of Cashel, also known as the King's and St. Patrick's Rock. 

Kilkenny Castle
Kilkenny is our time for another break. We visit Kilkenny Castle that looks onto River Nore, walk along the main street and quickly walk through The Medieval Mile Museum that represents an immense treasure trove of artefacts dating back more than 800 years of history.

We end our tour in Dublin in the early hours of the evening. it was a packed tour of the three of the four provinces of Ireland that deserves another more concentrated tour of each of these provinces. We toured Leinster, Munster, and Connacht that didn't include the province of Ulster.

The black-marked part of the map illustrates my tour from the Irish Sea to the Wild Atlantic Ocean and back to Dublin.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Travel News: Dublin, Ireland

I fulfilled the plan that Tim and I were to visit Ireland in September of 2017. It happened when my sister invited me to spend time in Ireland for a break from the emotional upheaval of grieving the passing of my Tim. I arrive in Dublin on September 5, 2017.

Beaumont House, Dublin
Today, Beaumont House, built in the 1900s, belongs to the Sisters of Mercy and as a guest of my sister I spend the first five days of my time in Ireland. This property originally belonged to Arthur Guinness and his wife Olivia. They had a country residence built on another part of this property in 1764 which later became a convalescent home run by the Sisters of Mercy; it is now taken over by the Irish Government and stands vacant. 

Dublin is a vibrant, bustling city and similar to other major cities in the world it has a significant number of diverse people from different parts of the world. The streets are adorned with architectural buildings dating back to the 8th century. 
Statute of Daniel O'Connell
As I stroll along these streets, taking photographs and observing the crowds, I note that the Dubliners are known for ignoring the stop cross walk signs; simply when the opportunity arises they cross the street even though the little red man is glaring at them.  Eventually, I learn to go with the crowds in a mindful but anxious manner.  But I notice that the drivers accommodate the pedestrians. How charming! The Statue of Daniel O'Connell is prominent on O'Connell Street. He is known as the liberator of Ireland.

Trinity College, Dublin

Trinity College is abound with history that has unique but drab-looking buildings. The Book of Kells and the Long Room Library are housed in one of these buildings. The Book of Kells contains lavishly decorated script by the monks, in Latin, of the four gospels. It began on the Island of Iona near Scotland and later to avoid persecution they moved to Ireland to complete the scripts. 

The Long Room Library, Trinity College, Dublin
I spent a significant amount of time walking around The Long Room Library taking pictures of the busts of my favourite philosophers; John Locke--political philosopher and Socrates--Greek Philosopher.

Bust of Socrates
Bust of Locke

On a Saturday, Sr. Liz shows us the sights of the outskirts of Dublin. We stop for a long walk on the walkway in Clontarf, then proceed to view the Irish Sea from the Summit at Howth. We continue to Malahide for lunch and then onto to Dun Laoghaire for a quick memory visit to Carysfort Park where Sr. Tryphonia, my sister, resided when she was in novitiate with the Sisters of Mercy. I used to visit her while I was in London some fifty years ago. Carysfort Park
Sr. Tryphonia and I at the summit in Howth
is now a Business School and no longer belongs to the Sisters of Mercy.

We drive back to Beaumont via the Dublin city streets passing the High Tech area where companies like Google have their offices. We cross over the Samuel Beckett Bridge that is shaped like a harp. Very fine piece of architecture.

Samuel Beckett Bridge, Dublin
The next five days I take a small bus tour of South - South West Ireland.