Monday, August 31, 2009

Camping in our own Backyard

While some of you have been reading about my European travels,
I was actually camping in my own back yard.

Now it's time to take you back Home Again.
Within one hours drive east, you will approach the most
beautiful provincial park in BC, called Manning Park.

Manning Park is a winter wonderland,
and becomes a beautiful, fishing,
hiking and walking mecca in the summer time.
Over the past 30 years our children have taken their first baby steps,
first ski lessons, and first camping lessons in this 70 hectare park.

Can you imagine drinking coffee in the early morning,
with beautiful clear, sunny, blue skies?

My oldest grandchild has been counting sleeps for this camping trip.
Helping Opa hitch up the truck and trailer is his job.

How about canoeing?
With trout jumping all around you?

Going for walks and studying about beaver dams?


Yes, there was a fire ban.
How can one camp without a fire?
That man of mine will not be defeated.
The pick-up was packed to it's gills.
I was wondering, "Why does he need to bring so much stuff?"

Now, I finally understand.
He made sure that if we could not have a fire,
we would still survive with a large propane heater,
almost as big as a chicken brooder.
He continues to throw me off by his resourcefulness.

Let me tell you,
No one was cold,
we roasted our marshmallows,
we warmed up our buns,
You name it!
We had comfort and warmth.

After a few days,
little brother was wondering what he was missing....
So he joined his family and visited a few days.
And then more family joined...

A stroll through the meadows?

You can see now, why we keep coming back to the same spot.
Memories have been etched in their hearts forever.

Stay tuned for more action in my own back yard.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Nice ~ The French Riviera

This was one of those mornings where I got up and looked out to port and decided that I would just enjoy the view from our ship and take a short excursion walk through the port.Yes we could of taken a train only three miles from Villefranche to Nice, the capital of the French Riviera.
Or we could of taken a train in the other direction to Cannes or Monte Carlo.

Check out the blue waters. It was breath taking. What a view with sailboats. I think I could of just sailed out on the waters all day.

Well I may have disappointed some of you, but we decided to just enjoy a NICE day.
First we had breakfast on the deck. The skies were clear and we felt the Mediterranean breezes.
Villefranche is your gateway to the one-of a kind French Riviera.

It didn't take long and we walked off the boat at our pace, without a tour guide. I must admit it was rather refreshing. When travelling in tour group, I often get this herd mentality and this was more than delightful to look at each other and make our own path.

Taking a stroll down the French Riviera also referred to as the Cote d'Azure (Blue Coast)
offers gorgous beaches and remarkable weather.

I venture out to make sure my feet enjoy the cool waters. As you can see, there is only one fully dressed person. Here is where you can see the bronze and the beautiful soak in the golden sun.

All I could think and say was, "This water is not as warm and inviting." I've been on many beaches in the world, but none compares to the warm waters of the Hawaiian Islands.
Now you know why I frequent the Island of Oahu. It's ocean breezes are always warm and the water is guaranteed to be refreshingly warm.

As I turned to come back up the sand, I noticed the gorgeous vine of purple flowers trailing over the cement walkways.

I love the way it cascades down the rock work. Don't ask me the name...I was known for saying, "I don't have a clue."

Villefrache offers long sandy beaches but you never know what you might run across. Just keep your eyes focused on the water. Yes, all the hype of topless beaches is prominent in the French Riviera.

We enjoyed strolling along the towns' sea-front promenade with all it's yachts and sail boats.

We definitely felt like we were visiting amongst the beachfront jet set city. These yachts are owned by many millionaires. The wealth is unbelievable.

Now it was lunchtime. A stroll through the bustling little alley with it's outside cafes.' It has it's own unique charm. Instead of being entertained by world class cuisine, guess what we ordered?

Pizza! Do you know the origin of Pizza?
Naples is the home town of Pizza, in the 16th Century and it was first made on flat bread. It was known to be the dish of the poor people. I've always been a lover of Pizza and this was one of our favorites for this day.

The hill-sides surrounding the Riviera contain many small, fortified towns which still retain much of their medieval character. In one hand we see the medieval culture and and on the other hand you bring together the mingling of the jet set. It's a strange feeling.

It's an exhilarating walk along the narrow cobblestone streets, made of tile and red brick. Everything appeared squeaky clean.

I wanted to explore every little nook and cranny.

This little narrow alley gives us a picture of the true Mediterranean life.
A glimpse of the ocean in the distance, cruise lines, flags flying in the wind, palm breezes blowing, laundry drying in the wind, and someone taking a dog for a walk. A sign of true tranquility.

And this ends another day. Villefranche is a charming little town nestled against the hillside over looking the bay between Nice and Monte Carlo. An unforgettable experience.
Yes, the pace was much slower and offered us a restful atmosphere.

YIKES! We're almost at the end of our tour. It's time to slow things down...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Livorno ~ Tuscany

Good Morning,
We have just arrived into the Port of Livorno. This morning the sun did not greet me.
However we just had t o make the best out of the weather. It poured all day.

We trying to believe the show, "Under the Tuscany Sun." But no such luck today.
As you can see, it not only rained, it poured.

We were on a 2-hour drive, through medieval hill-towns and beautiful surrounding valleys.
The Tuscany region is made of hills, fertile valleys and sandy beaches.

We finally arrived at the small walled medieval hill town village of San Gimignano, in the province of Siena, Tuscany, north central Italy. It is mainly famous for it's medieval architecture especially it's towers.

I have added this picture from the Internet, as we had poor visibility that day. As you can see it was a beautiful spot to explore.

I loved this little town. The people of Tuscany are noted for their charm, generosity and taste for good living. They take great pride in their art and architectural treasures.

Ah ha, now you know why I liked this place. We had about 1 hour to shop. I thing that's the longest shopping time we had while on tour. So of course I took the opportunity to purchase some of the Italian leathers. You need to check out Italian leather. It's the best.

It was lunch time and through these cobbly roads we meandered. Once I had to hold my breath as the bus driver took a sharp corner and then had to back up and we faced a very steep incline in front of us. He was trying to change gears and I was next to him, sitting in the front seat, I saw too much.....But that too passed. Trust???

The bus driver Turned around and asked, "Does anyone know the direction?" He was trying to ease his conscious after the harrowing experience.

This photo brightened my day after that close call.

And more charm.

Finally we found our way down to an old farm home, where they served us Tuscany's legendary cuisine, adding complimentary wine from their own Winery.
Wine is so inexpensive and served with every meal. Maybe we have something to learn.

Gourmets and wine buffs descend on Tuscany to enjoy the wonderful Italian cuisine and wine.
These experiences are so tasteful and delectable.

After lunch on tour to Volterra, we passed Andrea Bocelli's home town. Each year he comes back to his home town to give a concert. It was scheduled for July. Would that not of been a highlight to see him in concert in his home town of Lajatico?
Andrea Bocelli was born on September 22, 1958, in Italy. He has become a renowned singer, writer as well as a successful music producer. Bocelli has made his mark both as a talented and successful operatic tenor but also as a crossover classical singer.
What has made Bocelli's life and career all the more amazing is the fact that he is blind. He has congenital glaucoma -- but, those who know him best, maintain that he has never let his blindness hold him back in his life.

In Volterra we visited a local alabaster workshop and was given a demonstration by a local artisan.

Alabaster is hydrated calcium sulphate. It is a snow white stone, superior and refined as clear as the spirit of the earth. It can be found deep within the hills of the surrounding countryside of Volterra.

When we reached the village of Voterra, we visitied anothe Piazza die Prioiri, one of the most beautiful squares in Itlay.

We were prohibited from entering the square as they were having a hugh rally their for government officials.

Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta.

Babtistery, also looking up at the bell tower.

We then proceeded to see the ruins of the Roman Theater, (dating back to the 1st century BC)
brought to life again only at the beginning of this century.

The trip home was another 1.5 hours and one could not think about sleeping. Again, we were most amazed with the topography a combination of fertile valleys and sloping green hills in which Cypress trees thrive.

So that brings us to a close of another day in the famous regions of Tuscany. You've seen many soft rounded hills and the medieval architecture of the villages.

What you did miss was the silver green of the olive trees mingling with the dark of the cypress trees. But if you look closely you may see some shape of trees in the downpour.

I would go back to the Tuscany region in a moment's time. I loved it and would love to see more of its' agriculture.