Saturday, Sunday and Monday, 23,24 and 25 September 2017 – Leaving Florida and Flying Home – Days 28-30

Saturday, 23 September 2017 – Leaving Florida and Flying home (Days 28-30)

I couldn’t sleep so I had my last dip in the pool.  Did go back to bed until 800 – had breakfast and took some photos of this “Home Beautiful.  Al and Anne had a tremendous builder and what really impressed me were two paintings set in the recess of the wall – one was the Great Wall of China and the other of one of the canals in Venice.  Brought back memories as I have climbed some of the wall in China and it was in Venice that the three of us were on the same tour. Actually, there was James, their 17 year old grandson as well. He is a lovely lad. I had a short chat with him while at his grandparent’s home. We laughed thinking of the night of a Cabaret in Paris.  I felt unwell so I let James have my ticket. We think he had his eyes opened a bit wider as I believe there was quite a lot of nudity

The rest of the interior has been very tastefully furnished at the hand of very talented Anne. She is a perfectionist!   After finishing my packing, we left the house at 9.30am for the Saratosa International Airport.

Al with me out front

Anne and I out front


I was leaving this part of Florida and have seen so many different varieties of foliage during my travels especially the palm family – there are at least 2,500 species. I will just mention a few  – Of course there is the Coconut Palm which is a universal system of the tropics.  – the Senegal Date, Christmas, Florida Thatch, Pygmy Date (commonly planted as a dooryard specimen) and the Royal (popular on boulevards and around large houses). So many of the Paurotis Palms that are down in Everglades area were damaged. But it is the Bismarck Palm that is beautiful and desirable.


Some of the many palms I saw in Florida

We arrived at the Sarasota International Airport and said by last goodbye to Al and Anne.  I was so very fortunate that Al, a returned Vietnam Veteran, was able to drive without too much difficulty but walking and standing causes him problems. I really appreciated that you “suffered” at times, Al when you took me to the attractions during my stay. I want to say a huge thankyou for your wonderful hospitality and welcoming me into your home. I had a very memorable week.

I booked my luggage through to Sydney and at 11.30am boarded my American Eagle Flight AA5139 to Charlotte, USA.  It was a nice smooth flight and on arrival, Kristi, my mobility assistance person met me and stayed with me all the time until it was time to boarded American Eagle Flight AA5139.  She was very helpful as I wanted a couple of postcards.

Boarding time for my next flight – American Airlines AA678 – Charlotte to Los Angeles – was at 3.45pm. It is about a 5h 40m flight.  I had about 5 hours to wait until my next flight but this gave me time to have something to eat and check on the gates.  I was very fortunate as I managed to get seating in the eating area and because I was by myself, a family asked whether they could sit with me. Of course I had no objections and when it was time for me to go to the boarding lounge, the gentleman escorted me there and carried my cabin baggage. When we got to the lounge on my ticket it had changed so we had to walk further along. People have been so kind along the way.  Boarding time was at 10.30pm for my American Airlines Flight AA73 – Los Angeles to Sydney and this is the “killer” leg of the journey – 13½ hours in the air.   When I boarded, I had a window seat and there was a spare seat next to me. A young girl, Saira said I could spread myself out. Settled down and 1-2 hours into the flight we were served a meal.  After that, I thought I would try and get some sleep and I did until we had been flying 7-8 hours we were served with an icecream.  Had some more cat nap until we hit some turbulence which lasted for awhile.  Then it was breakfast at the 12-13 hour. Because of the International Dateline sometime during our flight, it was now Monday, 25th. Lost a day coming home, but had an extra day going over.

Monday, 25 September 2017 – Flying from Los Angeles to Sydney

We landed in Sydney at 7.30am.  Was a nice feeling to get off the plane and stretch.  I then had to collect my case and go through Customs and get my flight to Canberra.  Once more my flights had been changed. Instead of being on the 11.00am flight, I was told that all flights had been cancelled in and out of the airport due to the Controllers’ computing system crashing and that it went out at 5.00am.  Do not know the real reason, as we landed at 7.30am.!! I then needed to book my luggage once more through but would you believe, it sat on the belt as Virgin’s computers went down.  Thankfully, I did not have to wait long before I could then get the transit bus over to the Domestic Terminal.  What a shock when I arrived. I have never seen the terminal so crowded. There were people stretched the full length of the terminal. This was because of the “crash” and to make it worse – it was the start of some school holidays and the weekend of a grand final in the football.  Because I was given a boarding pass for Virgin Airline Flight VA648, I was able to proceed straight through Security and board the 1.35pm flight to Canberra.  I was given mobility assistance from the tarmac through to the baggage carousel and where my son, Robert was to meet me. It was so good to see him and that I had arrived home safely.  The Virgin staff said we could take the wheelchair right to the car which we did. Having this assistance throughout the trip was very comforting and made my travelling so much easier and less painful by having to stand for long periods or walking long distances in the terminals.

Got into my little home at 4.00pm. As soon as I arrived home, my visitors – the kangaroos – were in my yard and hopping up onto the deck. If I leave the door open, one mother and her joey hop in – have on a couple of occasions but I quickly get them out. They give me a lot of pleasure watching their antics.


It has been a wonderful 4 weeks.  Saw such diverse country from flat terrain to the skyscraper mountains of the Canadian Rockies. Cool weather in Alaska to hot and humid weather in Florida. The weather on Vancouver Island was very pleasant. Certainly saw different foliage in the  areas I travelled and various wildlife – cranes, bald eagles, whales, dolphins and alligators. All the off shore excursions I went on were well worth it  and most of all met some lovely new friends and caught up with Al and Anne.

Cannot say what was the highlight as there were many and they were all different.  So finally finished this blog and has been rather long winded because of my right hand being very uncooperative. Also sorry about the out of focus when I send to Facebook – seems it is a compatible issue going from what I type to the “view post” part.








Friday, 22 September 2017 – Drive to Gasparilla Island, Boca Grand and Palm Island – Day 27

Friday, 22 September 2017 – Drive to Gasparilla Island, Boca Grand and Palm Island (Day 27)

After breakfast Anne and I had a long swim and chatted of course.  Al is a late riser (late to bed) so the mornings are usually just Anne and I.  About 3.30pm we headed south through Port Charlotte and then to Gasparilla Island, southwest Florida  where we saw workmen clearing up more of Hurricane Irma’s damage.  On to Boca Grande, a small residential community on Gasparilla Island.  We drove along the magnificent Banyan Street lined with the banyan trees – these trees are huge.We then drove through the Gasparilla Island State Park where we saw the historic Lighthouse and then the current lighthouse.  Seemed a bit disappointing as it did not look like a “proper” lighthouse.

Banyan Drive – Huge

Workmen clearing up from the hurricane damage

Anne and I under a huge banyan tree


Down on the Gulf of Mexico

It was then through Placida – and yes more Hurricane damage on the Boa Grande Causeway.  We then drove down to the Gulf of Mexico Beach – of course I had to put my feet in again.

We passed through Englewood to get on a water taxi to Palm Island about 9 miles south off the coast from Cape Haze. are very few cars on Palm Island and very few roads.  There is no bridge to the island and is only accessible by ferry or water taxi.  The main reason for this water taxi ride was for me to see dolphins!  They obliged and it was fun watching them do their antics at the rear of the boat.  Hard to get the photos though. No matter how many times you see dolphins frolicking you still get excited! Beautiful creatures.

One of the few dolphins showing off

We stopped at the access point to Leverocks Restaurant where once more we had a lovely meal.    We then caught our water taxi back to the car  – said goodbye to Dave and Dale  and made our way back home.  Was a beautiful sunset. As we were near Port Charlotte we saw a wild pig wandering along.  You never know what wildlife you see on your travels.  Another lovely travelling day.

Enjoying our water taxi ride

Thursday, 21 September 2017 – Drive to Venice. Florida – Day 26

Thursday, 21 September 2017 – Drive to Venice, Florida – (Day 26)

Today we left for a drive to Venice, Florida north west of North Port where Anne and Al live.  We picked up Mary a friend of Anne.  Along the way, we saw more hurricane damage.  Our first stop was at a condominium that Anne and Al have and Anne wanted to check it out as tenants were arriving early next month.  The condo property was lucky as Hurricane Irma missed it.  After being inside the condo, we made our way down to the beach.  Started walking without anything on my feet, but it was like walking on fire – so very very hot – so Anne got my flip flops.  We had a quick paddle in the Gulf of Mexico  before we walked along the causeway.

Anne and I paddling

The Soda Fountain restaurant, a favourite of Anne and Mary was our next stop where we ordered a pizza and soda and then it was home.  Adjoining the restaurant is the Smallest Pizza Hut.  Was an early night tonight!

Mary and Anne with me



Wednesday, 20 September 2017 – Visit to Babcock Ranch and Japanese Restaurant – Day 25

Wednesday, 20 September 2017 – Visit to Babcock Ranch and Japanese Restaurant – (Day 25)

Up and had breakfast of chirozo and toast – new on the menu!!!!  We’ve had eggs, bacon, hash browns, banana and walnut pancakes, french toast !!!!! At 12.00 we headed off to visit Babcock Ranch, 90,000 acres. Was a bit of a drive as we couldn’t find the entrance – with some instructions we double backed some way and entered the Ranch but to our disappointment it was closed – Hurricane Irma caused trouble here.  Just as we were about to leave, a chap (John) came out.  He was the chef at the Gator Shack restaurant at the ranch but apologised that he couldn’t even give us anything to eat as there was no power.  Anne explained why we had visited the Ranch – “My friend is from Australia and we were going to show her alligators”.

John told us to wait as he would go and get a buggy and give us a private tour to where the creatures would be.  We climbed in and off we went through quite thick vegetation and water marshes.  We rode as far as Telegraph Cypress Swamp and in front of us was an alligator!!  It swiftly swam into the swamp and then there about 8 others there.  At last I had got to see alligators.

Alligator there but hard to snap

Alligator watching

Another alligator at the bottom of the right hand side of photo!


After watching them swim about for awhile we then moved onto part of the 14,000 acres of the working cattle area in the pine flatlands.  There was quite a mixture of cattle including Andalusia,  Black Angus and the “Fire Crackers” which are descendants of the cattle brought by the early Spanish settlers.

After our fabulous ride in the buggy and especially seeing the alligators, John brought us back to the restaurant and gave us a drink and chatted.  He showed us his extra skills of riding on his unicycle.  As we headed to our vehicle we saw Lulu, a very unusual three horned cow.

It was then time to say goodbye to John and thank him for giving us a very interesting afternoon.

Our next stop was at the Kumo Japanese restaurant.  We were seated in an unusual seating arrangement but you soon learnt the reason for this.  A chef came out with his array of the choices we had made from the menu and then proceeded to cook them in front of us.  He was quite amusing and his food was delicious.  We then left for home and later in the evening went for another swim and once again, late to bed after an great day – thanks Al and Anne again.

Enjoying our Japanese meal

Monday and Tuesday, 18 and 19 September 2017 – Everglades and North Port – Days 23 and 24

Monday, 18 September 2017 – Everglades  (Day 23)

Was a bit weary this morning as only had 3 hours sleep.  At about 10.00am we set off for the Everglades, south west of Florida.  Had to make a slight detour as the road was closed due to Hurricane Irma destruction.  We saw lots of damage on the way.  When we got into Lee County the damage was quite extensive.  Fort Meyers was one of the areas that was affected badly.

Thomas Edison and Henry Ford frequented this area. Much of the business in the Everglades was out of action and were cleaning up the devastation – hence the tour boats were not operating.   You just felt so sorry for the people suffering such loss.

We left that area a bit disappointed. The next attraction to be sought out was the smallest post office in the USA.  As there was so much damage, you didn’t know what to expect but we were pleasantly surprised that the post office had not been affected.    Once more as we travelled along, destruction – lots of swamps and huge trees uprooted.

                 Outside the smallest post office in USA

                                  Plaque about Ochopee Post office

Travelling north, our fingers were crossed that the Cheesecake Factory in Naples had not been affected as Naples was one of the towns that was extremely affected by Hurricane Irma. Luck was on our side. It was open.  The Cheesecake Factory’s interior was magnificent. Anne and Al said it reminded them of when they were in Egypt.  We were seated and there was so much to choose from the menu. I chose lemon shrimp and noodles followed by a dessert of mudcake.  Just delicious.

Fingers crossed again as we were heading for the Shell Factory and Nature Park, north of Fort Meyers – another area badly affected. .

The Shell Factory  has been operating for 79 years.  In 1997, this landmark was suffering significant deterioration. Fortunately, Thomas Cronin, a developer, entrepeneur and philanthropist cast his vision, creativity and financial support toward the failing attraction. Tom and wife Pam oversee the day to day operations of this 18 acre iconic attraction and recently celebrated their 20th anniversary recreating the Shell Factory and now has a Nature Park and Fun Park.  A huge area.

The Shell Factory was closing so we then travelled back home arriving about 6.45pm.  Was a lovely day’s outing and Anne and Al were pleased that the three attractions were able to be visited – disappointed that I didn’t get to go on the Everglades boat tour.  We didn’t feel like eating after our lovely meal at the Cheese Factory.  I had a lovely dip once more in the pool.  Anne and I then tried to set up a texting system between us but after an hour of trying we gave up.  Anne went to bed and Al and I sat up talking until about 1.15am.  Al is a late to bed person. I had a nice chat to Rob who rang me that evening.

Thanks Anne and Al for a wonderful day’s outing.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017 – Around North Port  (Day 24)

Today was at home until about 2.30pm when Al’s vehicle had to be picked up after being in for a service.  Anne had a medical appointment and I went and had my hair cut and then into the huge Walmart store to get a couple of things and was to meet Anne at 4.30pm.  As we met each other Anne asked me had I been waiting long as I was outside with a shopping trolley (cart).  Anne gave me a strange look when I said “trolley”.  Evidently if I had left my trolley for a moment in an aisle and ducked into another aisle and then approached an employee of Walmart saying “I cannot find my trolley” I may have been taken away for an assessment of some kind – maybe I could have been accused of being on drugs?. We laughed about the difference of some words.  After dinner, Anne and I spent quite some time chatting while in the pool.

Lounging about in the beautiful pool

                                         Anne having a dip


Sunday, 17 September 2017 – Attendance at Mass – Day 22

Sunday, 17 September 2017 – Attendance at Mass (Day 22)
 Up and had nice breakfast and Anne and I left to go to Anne’s church at St Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church. 

                                       Maximilian Kolbe Church

It is named after Maximilian Maria Kolbe (now Saint Kolbe) who was born on 8 January 1894 in Zdunska Wola, Poland. He was a Polish Franciscan Friar who was sent to Auschwitz concentration camp, located in German-occupied Poland for hiding Jews during the Second World War. When the Nazi guards selected 10 people to be starved to death in punishment, Kolbe volunteered to die in place of a stranger in the Auschwitz death camp. Kolbe died on 14 August 1941 in Auschwitz. On 10 October 1982 Kolbe was canonised by Pope John Paul II and declared him “The Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century”.  The interior of the church has some high windows and that is how some of the area at Auschwitz were during Kolbe’s interment.  From January 2013, Rev. Father Teófilo Useche was appointed to St. Maximilian Kolbe Venice parish.  The Mass was very interactive with the congregation and there was a lovely choir.  Before the conclusion of Mass, Anne was one of the people who had a recent birthday and was called up for  recognition.

                 Anne on left for birthday wishes

Beautiful stained window of Kolbe and Virgin Mary as seen from interior of church


  Before Anne and I left, I was shown some of the memorabilia of the church and there were copies of St. Kolbe’s name on the list of Auschwitz people there.

  Father Teó is a very “people person” and it was nice to meet him after Mass. He has spent some time in Australia’s Perth.

Father Teó and I

                                 Lovely church garden in background

We then went home and had a restful day until it was time to go to bed.  Ended up being a very, very late night for me as I managed to do unpacking and tried to cull down some of my photos.




Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 14-16 September 2017 – Qualicum Beach/Qualicum/Vancouver/Sarasota, Florida – Days 19-21

Thursday, 14 September 2017 – Down to Qualicum Beach  (Day 19)

Another quiet morning. About 2.00pm we drove down to Qualicum Beach for me to have a dip in the Pacific Ocean.  I needed my flip flops (jangles/thongs) on as the beach had lots of stones.  It was quite cool but then got quite surprised as the tide was very deceptive – rough.  It didn’t take long before I was knocked down and off went my flip flops and I had to hang onto my swimmers.  Well, that was my “putting my feet in the Pacific” episode.  A local lady who was very brave, swam out to where my flip flops were and kindly returned them to me.

My dip in the chilly Pacific Ocean

After I dried off, we then went onto the Arrowhead Golf and Country Club for another nice meal. 

As well as liking his fishing, Bob also plays golf.  He knows several around the area and because they were trying to find me deer, that is why we have called into a couple as there are usually deer on the course.After our meal, Bob obtained a golf buggy and away we went around the beautiful grounds of the Golf Course.

A stop off in the grounds of the Golf Course


Two deer were there and I was quite excited that at least there were some deer in the country.  Was a lovely drive around the well manicured course with Mt Arrowsmith in the distance.Then it was back home again – yes, another nice outing. Bob had to attend a Shriners meeting.  I had not heard of Shriners – Shriners International is a fraternity based on fun, fellowship and the Masonic principles of brotherly love, relief and truth with nearly 200 temples in several countries and thousands of clubs around the world. The fraternity is open to men of integrity from all walks of life.  Shriners International also supports Shriners Hospitals for Children. It is similar to what Lions/Rotary/Starlight Foundation do here in Australia?.  Each time we have been out, the vehicle is parked outside.  I learnt that the garage is full of quite a lot of provisions for Shriners  and with Bob’s kind heart, it seems that his place is a “stow it” place for friends’ equipment and his “on the spot” store. It was a joke – e.g. In conversation, I said –  “I have to get myself another watch as the face is hard to read”.  Next thing, Bob goes out and when he comes back, there he has two lovely big faced watches”.  I love them Bob and thank you for the other little gifts you gave me from the “shop”. Cheryl and I chatted for some time before it was time for bed.

The home of Cheryl and Bob

Friday, 15 September 2017 – Qualicum to Vancouver (Day 20) 

Up and after breakfast did my last minute packing as I was leaving this very hospitable establishment.  At 11.00am we drove through Parksville, Nanoose Bay, Lantzville and the outskirts of Nanaimo and at 12.00 we arrived at the Ferry Terminal of Duke Point. This is the terminal I should have arrived at when I first arrived and not at Swarz Bay (Victoria).  I purchased my ferry ticket for the 12.45pm  ferry departure and sadly said my last goodbye to Cheryl and Bob.  What a wonderful caring couple!!  I cannot thank them enough for the hospitality they offered me at such short notice.  They apologised that due to Cheryl being unwell, they had not taken me out more.  I really appreciated the places they did take me so I was really spoilt.  We certainly checked out several of Cheryl’s and Bob’s favourite eating places.  Once again a huge thankyou to my good Samaritans and I am sure we will not lose touch.

Boarded the “Queen Alberni” built in 1976. Was quite a large vessel that took cars/trucks/caravans as well as walk-on passengers.  The crossing took about 2 hours and was a pleasant cruise into Tsawwassen, ferry causeway at Delta (Vancouver).  As we were approaching the terminal, Mt Barker on the USA side in Washington could be seen.  I then caught a taxi to my accommodation at Cozy South in Burnaby.  Took about an hour to go the 37 kms but we were in peak hour traffic.  The owner, Nola greeted me and took my luggage into my nice room.  She kindly made me a bowl of noodles and then I went to bed at 6.00pm as I had a very early start next day.


Last drive on Vancouver Island_

Leaving Vancouver Island

Saturday, 16 September 2017 – Flight to Sarasota, Florida (Day 21)

A very early wake up at 2.50am and Nola’s husband drove me to the Vancouver International Airport.  I went to see what gate I needed to go to and I saw that the flight had been delayed until 9.10am.  Imagine my face.  Headed straight to the Delta Airline checkin and I was informed that I had been transferred to Alaska Airlines Flight AS964 for the hour flight to Seattle Tacoma.  I had Seat 6D and to reach my bag under the seat in front of me, I had to actually get out of my seat to reach it – First Class!  It was a lovely sunrise. After a short while in the air we flew over the Rockies.  Was interesting to see how the landscape changed from mountains, rivers and flat country. Had to get three trains to the terminal for my next flight on Delta Air Flight DL2864 that left at 7.45 – was about 5 hours to Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson.  Then an hour later was on Delta Air Flight DL1297 for Sarasota/Bradenton.



I arrived at Sarasota at 5.50pm and Anne was at the carousel to meet me.  Al was parked close by so in went my luggage and we travelled several kilometres to a very well patronised restaurant for dinner.  It was Anne’s birthday.  We then went to North Port – half way between Sarasota and Fort Myers – to Al’s and Anne’s home.  It was lovely seeing Al and Anne after two years.  We did some chatting and then I had a choice of two lovely bedrooms – I went in the “Snowman” one – all tastefully decorated out in a snow theme.  I did a very small amount of unpacking as I was very tired – realised I had been 21 hours without sleep.


Wednesday, 13 September 2017 – Visit to Port Alberni – Day 18

Wednesday, 13 September 2017 – Visit to Port Alberni (Day 18)

After our breakfast we set off for Port Albernia.  We had a short stop at the Riverside Resort as I needed a couple of things. We continued on until it was morning tea time at one of the many Tim Horton cafes throughout Canada.  It was a lovely drive through pine forests in the Regional District of Nanaimo until we were then in the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District.

We arrived at the lovely city of Port Alberni with a population of almost 18,000.   Port Alberni is a deep port city which lies within the Alberni Valley at the head of the Alberni Inlet, Vancouver Island’s longest inlet.  The city sits beneath Mount Arrowsmith and is nestled amongst the vast temperate coastal rainforests and the numerous lakes and waterways that flow into the Alberni Inlet and Pacific ocean.  The beautiful mountains provide great hiking, walking and mountain bike trails.   The city is also known for its fishing especially the different species of salmon and is often referred to as the “Salmon Capital of the World”.Port Alberni has two quays – Harbour and Victoria Quays.  We spent quite some time at Harbour Quay taking in the lovely scenery.

Nice photo of Rob and Cheryl

We wandered along through to the little arcade of shops along the marina – on the way there was a piano asking to be played – I hit a few notes !!!!

As we were walking through, some men told us that we should go down to Victoria Quay as we may see some black bears on the other side of the quay looking for fish. Of course we didn’t see any.  It was now time for some of our own food so had a nice meal at the Boston Pizza Restaurant and then it was time for us to leave for home.

                                       Enjoying a meal at Boston Pizza Place

After our nice meal, we started our journey home.  We started to climb about 8 kms to what is known to the locals as “The Hump” – the highest point on the highway – Port Alberni Summit – elevation is about 425 metres.  It crosses from the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District and then into the Regional District of Nanaimo.  We wound our way through the MacMillan Provincial Park which includes a well-known area of Cathedral Grove –  a rare and endangered remnant of an ancient Douglas fir ecosystem on Vancouver Island.  The biggest trees in the Grove are about 800 years old and measure 75 m (250 ft) in height and 9 m (29 ft) in circumference.  We skirted Cameron Lake for a few kilometres and passed near Little Qualicum Falls in the Little Qualicum National Park and then we were soon back to Qualicum.

Bob, who loves his fishing, thought salmon that he had caught, was on the menu for tonight’s meal.  He likes to catch and cook it but surprisingly he doesn’t eat it. Cheryl and I enjoyed the meal as was light as we had a big meal for lunch.

Was a lovely day’s outing.  I had a nice call from son Robert so was good to hear his voice.  Another promise of an early night but somehow it didn’t happen.






Tuesday, 12 September 2017 – Visit to Coombs – Day 17

Tuesday, 12 September 2017 – Coombs (Day 17)

This morning we were lazy and after lunch we set off for Little Qualicum Falls in the Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park – central Vancouver Island.  It was originally established as a park in 1940 to protect the old growth Douglas-fir forest.  It was quite a steep descent but Bob made sure I wouldn’t fall down.  Was worth the walk.

We then drove to the old the market village of Coombs about 10kms from Parksville. The original market was created by Kristian Graaten. Kris and his wife, Solveig, emigrated with their children to Vancouver Island from Norway in the 1950s. Kris, who grew up in the small community of Lillehammer, was inspired to include a sod roof in his design of the market.  With the help of sons, Svein and Andy, and son-in-law, Larry, Kris unwittingly began to build what would become perhaps the most famous sod-roof building in the world.  

Legend has it that, after a few glasses of wine, Larry suggested that they ‘borrow’ some goats to ‘mow’ the grass and perhaps provide some entertainment for passing cars. Needless to say, the goats became permanent tenants of the Coombs market that weekend and have been there for more than 30 years. Each spring, a trip of goats makes their home on the roof, entertaining both locals and visitors from all over the world. There were lots of people looking up at the goats.

Had a leisurely wander through the various stalls and then saw the Goats on the roof.  I saw plenty of these sod roofs when I was in Norway. Fascinating.

Sign is for the tree not me ha ha


Goats on top of the building

One of the “lawnmowers”  –

After we  left Coombs we made a quick detour into Pheasant Glen Golf Course to see whether there were any deer around for me to see.  Alas, none.We continued on “home” as a friend of Cheryl and Bob, Janice was coming to see whether she could help me with my rebooking of my airline tickets.  After dinner, spent quite a lot of time on the internet and did my rebookings – was very convenient that Bob had a super telephone plan as I was on to the airline for quite some time. Thanks for that Bob.  Each night we say we are going to bed early but somehow it is quite late. I have been listening about the approaching hurricanes to Florida – José and Maria until the wee hours.






Saturday – Monday, 9-11 September 2017 – Vancouver to Vancouver Island – Days 14-16

Saturday – Monday,  9 – 11 September 2017 –  Vancouver to Vancouver Island (Days 14-16) 

I woke up this morning with a start as thought it was 11.00am – Was actually 7.00am.  I tried to condense my luggage down as seemed to be getting heavier – 23.9kgs.  I booked out of the hotel and while waiting for the shuttle bus chatted to a Gail.  I left the shuttle at the SkyTram stop and then had a short walk in misty rain to catch the 620 bus to the Ferry to Vancouver Island.  While waiting for the bus, met a Marion, who lives on Vancouver Island, and was very helpful as I did not have the change for the bus fare so she kindly paid for me. Was quite a long drive to the ferry. Got my ticket and put my luggage on the carousel and Marion and I caught the 1.00pm Ferry.  We had lunch and then as we were nearing the Ferry terminal we rang Bob to let him know where we were.  Got a shock as I was on the wrong ferry.  We arrived at about 2.40pm.  I said goodbye to Marion and waited for Bob to drive almost 200 miles to come and collect me. I filled in my time talking to Jessica (worked at the terminal) and she took me out to take a photo and then I watched the hundreds of people coming and going on the ferries.

At ferry terminal

Bob arrived at about 4.45pm and we headed off.  The drive was through some beautiful forests of fir trees, huge chestnut trees and lakes – was quite foggy in places.  We stopped at Whipple Tree Junction near the village of Duncan for a coffee.  Passed through the village of Ladysmith where Pamela Anderson grew up.  Through Nanaimo, known as the “Harbour City” – is the second largest city on Vancouver Island and the third oldest city in British Columbia – Parksville and a drive to Qualicum Beach.  This area is known as Oceanside.  Prince Charles and Diana spent part of their honeymoon in this area.  We then called into the Memorial Golf Course restaurant to collect our fish and chips for dinner.  Qualicum is where Cheryl and Bob live.  Was nice to see Cheryl again.  The night was one of chatting until quite late.

The next couple of days was spent at home as Cheryl was still not well – bad bronchitis.  Talking, chatting, sorting out things on our Ipads, eating and drinking and listening to updates on Hurricane Irma.

Bob enjoys cooking so he was chief cook for our breakfasts – pancakes, waffles and muffins. On Monday he spent quite some time preparing a nice beef stew – very tasty. My nightcap each night was a Kahlua.  Was nice to have a couple of lazy restful days.

We are all concentrating  !!!!!

Looks like Bob is worn out from his stew making – thought he may have been getting a cold!!!!



Friday, 8 September 2017 – End of Cruise/Vancouver Tour – Day 13

Friday and , 8 September 2017 – End of Cruise/Vancouver Tour (Day 13)

We arrived in Vancouver at 7.00am – drizzling rain.  After breakfast, it was time to leave our cruise ship and board the coach with our guide Rica and Anthony our driver for a short tour around the city.

We went through Gastown, the original settlement that became the core of the creation of Vancouver in the 1870’s.  A tourist attraction is Gastown’s most famous landmark is the steam-powered clock on the corner of Cambie and Water Street. It was built in 1977 by horologist Raymond Saunders and metalwork specialist Doug Smith.  Incorporating a steam engine and electric motors, the clock displays the time on four faces. The steam also powers the clock’s sound production, with whistles being used instead of bells to produce the Westminster “chime” and to signal the time every quarter of an hour. The clock produces a puff of steam from its top on the hour. As we were on the coach, we did not hear the sounds but saw a puff of steam as we passed by.

 We then made our way via Chinatown to Stanley Park , Vancouver’s first and largest urban park.  The 400-hectare natural West Coast rainforest with scenic views of water, mountains, sky, cultural and historical landmarks and majestic trees along the Park’s Seawall.  It also includes Canada’s largest aquarium. As we drove around the Park, we saw the statue of the “Girl in a Wetsuit”. This statue was a gift to the Vancouver Park Board from sculptor Elek Imredy.  Unveiled June 10, 1972, she represents Vancouver’s dependence on the sea.  We had a short stop at the Totem Poles at Brockton Point in the Park.
Girl in Wetsuit Statue in Stanley Park, Vancouver, B.C., Canada

Girl in Wetsuit Statue in Stanley Park, Vancouver,

These towering monuments are brought to life through First Nations artistry and are one of the most recognisable cultural symbols of Western Canada.  One of the Totem Poles was raised in 2009 and created to Rose Cole Yelton, her family and all those who lived in Stanley Park.  This pole is erected in front of the house site where the Cole family lived until 1935.  Until the time of her passing in 2002, Rose was the last surviving resident of the Brockton Community.

In front of the Rose Cole Yelton totem pole

It was time for our great tour with Tripadeal to end with most of the group transferring to the Vancouver International Airport.

I want to thank Gayle/Dianne, Kay/Phil, Gail/ Russell, Sal/Russell, Carolyn/ Rob, Andy/ Vincent, Marilyn/Paul, Kay/Jeff, Dianne/Ken, Rhonda, Joe, and Danielle, Lynda/Stephen, Maureen/Steve, Sandy and Peter for making this tour as enjoyable as it was for me. I really appreciated your assistance you all offered me when needed.  We certainly had lots of laughs.  Hope you all stay well and healthy and that we stay in touch now and again down the track.

I stayed at the airport until 6.00pm with Sandy, Peter, Maureen and Steve as their flights were not going until late that night. I then caught a cab to my accommodation at the Accent Inn. I had dinner next door at the Ihop restaurant and then came back to my room and contacted Bob about taking him up on his and Cheryl’s kind offer for me to stay with them on Vancouver Island for the week.  Guess they didn’t think we would see each other so soon!!  Had an early night.  Was very quiet being by myself after having companions for the last fortnight.



Thursday, 7 September 2017 – Inside Passage Cruising, Alaska- Day 12

Thursday 7 September 2017 – Inside Passage Cruising, Alaska (Day 12)

Got up later today and it was quite cold and misty – not much to see as we sailed so spent most of the day was spent chatting, snacking and coffees.  The food was amazing – some very creative and the chefs obviously enjoyed showing off their talents.  There were so many different eating places one could go to – would be hard to please if one couldn’t find something to their liking.

Was thinking I had to think of a plan B as heard that hurricanes were moving into Florida and I was planning to fly down there on Saturday.  While talking to a regular “chatting person”, Bob, he said if I needed I could stay with he and wife Cheryl on Vancouver Island.

Cheryl and Bob

Didn’t get to see a lot of Cheryl as she was quite ill and spent a lot of time in their cabin.  What a shame. Did the majority of my packing and in the afternoon had my last dip in the hot tub before it was time to change to go down for the group’s “happy hour”. I got such a surprise as when I arrived, several of the group had their cabin robes (ball gowns) on and they insisted I go back and don mine. Of course, I made my grand entrance!   We had a lot of fun and I thought this was a lovely thing to do with me as I was in my robe a lot of the time while on the cruise.  There was lots of joking, drinking, hugging and laughing before it was time we all changed for our last dinner on the ship.



                                                            Gayle loved her scarves


Some fun on the steps – 2 Russells, 2 Di’s, Gayle Sal and Gail – No, I didn’t fall down!

Listened to Ged Parker, a guitarist for a little while before I went into the Metropolitan Restaurant for dinner and sat with Gayle, Dianne, Andy and his brother Vincent.  After dinner heard the Forster Duo perform before it was back into my cabin and finished packing then bed reasonably early.

Ged Parker – guitarist

Andy and me at dinner

Last dinner on ship with Di, Andy, Vincent and Gayle





Wednesday, 6 September 2017 – Ketchikan, Alaska – Day 11

Wednesday, 6 September 2017 – Ketchikan, Alaska (Day 11)

Was a beautiful sunrise as we cruised to Ketchikan – squeezed between mountains and sea, it is hard to imagine how the town got the Tlingit Indian name – Ketchikan – “Thundering Wings of an Eagle”.  If one climbs the 3,000 foot Deer Mountain that overlooks the town – from that vantage point Ketchikan sprawls out in the perfect shape of an eagle in flight!   Like most communities in southeastern Alaska, Ketchikan is surrounded by a vast wilderness and impassable mountains.  Without road or rail connections to the rest of North America, everything must come by air or sea.  Ketchikan is a small, picturesque, rustic and busy town on the shores of the Tongass Narrows.  It also has the distinction of having the world’s largest collection of totem poles.  Unfortunately, I did not have time to see the collection.

We docked in Ketchikan on the western side of Revillagigedo Island at about 1.30pm.  I went down to see Ashley (who gave an interesting presentation on jewellery yesterday) as the jewellery set I had purchased in Juneau had a fault.  Hoped she would be able to sort something out for me.  I then went up the town for a short time until it was time to come back to the pier by 2.15pm to board a bus and go to George Inlet Lodge for our crab feast.  Eat all you can!


We came into the George Inlet Lodge and our hostess demonstrated how to shell a crab.  I was spoilt as no way would I have been able to manage because of my fractured wrist so I was brought two bowls of all ready shelled crab. It was delicious.  We had a nice entree, the crab and then concluded with cheesecake and coffee.  It was then time to board our floatplane.

Group enjoying our “eat all you can” Crab feast

Boarding the Taquan Air 10 seater plane  – oops sorry forgot the pilots name !


One of the many lakes/fjords

What a wonderful flight seeing so many lakes/fjiords, waterfalls and snow still on some of the rugged mountains.  Headed back to Ketchikan and was quite exciting landing on the water.  A bus took us back to the main street of Ketchikan and I did some last minute shopping before it was time to wander back onto the ship by 7.30pm. On my way back, passed Dave Rubin’s bronze monument “The Rock” that was unveiled at Berth 1 on Sunday, July 4th, 2010. It features 7 life-size figures from Ketchikan’s past: Chief Johnson, a logger, a fisherman, a miner, bush pilot, a Native woman drumming, and an elegant lady in her 1890s finery.

The Rock monument in Ketchikan

Had good news from Ashley as she was able to get me a replacement jewellery set. Didn’t feel like much for dinner tonight after the crab feast so just had some nibbles.  We sailed out of Ketchikan at 8.30pm.  This was another very enjoyable day.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017 – Juneau, Alaska – Day 10

Tuesday, 5 September 2017 – Juneau, Alaska (Day 10)

We cruised during the night and sailed into the Gastineau Channel. At  7.15am we arrived in Juneau, the capital of Alaska  founded during a gold rush in 1880.  It is the home of the Tlingit tribe. Juneau is deep within the northern reaches of the Inside Passage and is accessible only by air or sea.  Juneau is nestled at the foot of Mt. Juneau in the Alaska Panhandle – it faces the water from the mainland side of Gastineau Channel.  The current population of Juneau is approximately 32,000 and their economy is based on government, tourism, mining and fishing.




After breakfast and after our ship had been cleared by local authorities, Lynda and I spent some time visiting some jewellery stores and collected some freebies offered by some of the merchants.  This was a way of seeing whether we would purchase their wares.  Was fun trying on some of the very expensive and beautiful necklaces.

Expensive necklace on Lynda

We didn’t have a lot of time as we booked our excursion with the huskies.

After a short bus ride to the rainforest, we met Robert Redington, our musher and his team of 16 sled huskies and 6 of us climbed into a custom designed wheeled summertime sled and set off through the lush rainforest at an almighty pace.

Lynda and I enjoying our sled ride

The dogs negotiated the left and right handed corners with such speed Lynda and I thought the sled may have overturned.  We had a couple of stops along the way to give the dogs a breather and to pat them. We then went onto our next stop at a suspension bridge over Fish Creek.

Lynda and I on suspension creek

We then heard some information by Gareth about the Alaskan equipment, dog care, training and efforts required by this sport and special mention was given to Robert’s grandfather, Joe Redington (born 1 February 1917)  is best known as the “Father of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race” for his work promoting the race. It is a gruelling long distance sled dog race run annually  on the first Saturday of March each year from the Anchorage area to Nome.  2017 saw the 45th event and about 70 participants take place. The race has drawn attention to the role dogs played in Alaska’s history and around the world.  Joe has competed in 17 Iditarods from 1974 to 1997, but never placed higher than fifth. Was amazed to hear that he finished 5th place at the age of 72.  He was the honorary musher in the 1997 race, as he was 80 years old when he completed the race. Joe also organised and ran 5 Iditarod Challenges, a guided trip to Nome for paying clients, 1993-1997.  Joe died on 24 June 1999 from cancer and was buried in his favourite dog sled in Wasilla, Alaska.  What an incredible man!!!! Robert has signed up for the 2018 Iditarod race and we wished him well.

Plaque of Joe Redington

Our exciting and exhilarating sled ride ended at a refreshment stop and to see and cuddle some 6 week old little puppies.  So cute but they wouldn’t let us take any with us. We were then driven back to main town Juneau.  Lynda and I had some lunch while we waited for Lynda’s Steve to arrive and then I said goodbye and went at 2.15pm and joined a group for my next excursion.

We boarded a bus and had a short drive down town of Juneau before we headed over to Douglas Island and had a photo stop at Homestead Park looking over towards where our ship was berthed.  Laurie was our guide.

At Homestead Park Lookout

It was then onto the Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tramway (cable car) for a very smooth 1800 foot ascent and see wonderful views of Juneau, Douglas Island, Gastineau Channel and the Chilkat Mountains.

After some of the group did a short trek, we went into a lovely little Tea House where we sampled three varieties of tea and tasted the accompanying home made jellies on crackers.  Before we left, Laurie mentioned that a 13yr old Benny Benson (October 12, 1913 – July 2, 1972) won a contest in 1927 when he  designed the flag of Alaska.  Alaska became the 49th state of USA in 1959.  Laurie then very proudly sang a song about Alaska’s flag before we then said goodbye to her as that was the end of the tour.  As there was quite a long queue for the tram, I did not linger up on the mountain but made my way down and spent some time in some of the stores in the town before it was time to join the ship.

After doing some last minute souvenir shopping, I was quite exhausted when I got into my cabin.  I took something to eat back to my room tonight.  We slipped out of Juneau at about 8.00pm.  This was a fabulous day – doing the sled ride with the huskies was thoroughly enjoyable and something I probably will never be able to do again.


Monday, 4 September 2017 – Hubbard Glacier Cruising – Day 9

Monday, 4 September 2017 – Hubbard Glacier Cruising (Day 9) 

Today we are at sea – more relaxing.  After breakfast was in my “ball gown” ready for another session up on 10th deck – chatting, in the hot tub.

About 8.15am we will be entering Yakutat Bay and arrive to the most permissible point possible off the Hubbard Glacier.  This glacier is the largest tidewater glacier on the North American continent. It is located in the U.S. state of Alaska and also in Canada’s Yukon Territory. Standing at 11,000 feet above sea level, the glacier stretches 76 miles from its source in the Yukon to the sea at Yakutat Bay and Disenchantment Bay. It is the longest tidewater glacier in Alaska, with an open calving face over 6 miles wide.  Calving is when chunks of ice break off at the terminus, or end, of a glacier. Ice breaks because the forward motion of a glacier makes the terminus unstable. We call these resulting chunks of ice “icebergs.” The ship did a complete circle so as all passengers could see both sides.  Certainly a spectacular sight being as close as we were to the Glacier.

Hubbard Glacier

At 12.oo I went to a Diamond and Gemstone Seminar and met Ashley who was the presenter.  She was very knowledgeable.  More relaxation until 5.00pm and went to hear naturalist, Milos Radakovich discuss the powers that shaped Alaska, volcanos, glaciers and the building of continents and oceans.  This was a well presented seminar and fascinating to see how the continents split apart.

I didn’t get to see the dinner group tonight so there was only me at the table.  I ordered 4 delicious entrees (chilled shrimp cocktail, baked french onion soup, grilled asparagus salad and duck terrine) and a tiramasu.  This sounded a lot, but was just the right amount as I found that the main meals were too much if I wanted a dessert and of course I did.

All alone at dinner

Enjoyed a cocktail while I listened to the end of the Forster Duo once more and then to bed.




Sunday, 3 September 2017 – Icy Strait Point, Alaska – USA – Day 8

Sunday, 3 September 2017 – Icy Strait Point, Alaska  – USA  (Day 8)

Woke up to a nicer day than yesterday as far as the weather was concerned.  I was dressed in my swimmers and the ship’s robe (“my ball gown”) and this became a joke among my fellow passengers.  Had breakfast with Kay, Phil, Gail, Russell, Sal and Russell and then I was into the hot tub.  I spent as much time as I could up on the 10th deck so won’t mention every time I go in.  Was a good meeting place  – many hours were spent with Joe, Rhonda, Danielle, Maureen, Steve 1, Lynda and Steve 2 – chatting and drinking – just relaxing.  Looking out for whales that we saw hurling themselves out of the water.  Usually saw Caroline and Rob up there as well lying comfortably on the lounges and reading as they did not go into the pool/spa.  Was good of them to look after my gear while I went into the tub.  Our first stop off from the ship was at Icy Strait Point, located near the village of Hoonah.  We docked at about 3.00pm. The off shore excursion I chose was “Wildlife in Spasski River Valley/Bear Search”.  This was a guided nature walk with Robert that trekked through rugged bush country of the Spasski River Valley.

We boarded a bus and drove along the street to where we commenced our trek. The vegetation was very spectacular and saw some interesting plant life  that Robert pointed out to us and explained what some of them were used for.  We came to the viewing spot where two other park rangers joined us.  We spent quite some time seeing whether we could see any bears. Those that had binoculars shared them with us and Yes, there were a couple of brown bears – too far away to take a decent photo.  Some bald eagles were flying overhead. After about 2½ hours of pleasant easy walking we were back on the bus to go to the village of Hoonah. It has the largest native Tlingit Indian settlement in Alaska with a population of approximately 760 residents. Saw some of the cruise group at another excursion so we had a very quick wave as the bus drove past.

A quick wave to Gayle and Russell from bus

Spasski River, Icy Strait Point

I went into the historic Hoonah Cannery building that had the history of the salmon industry that I found extremely interesting . To help one remember some of the main species of the salmon is to use one’s hand:  Pinkie ringer = Pink; Ring finger = Silver; Middle finger = King; Pointer finger = Sockeye; Thumb = Chum!!

Then it was a short wander back to the ship for dinner. There was only Kay and Phil at our table tonight. Listened to a very pleasant duo – the Forster Duo – and then it was into my cabin after talking to a Perth couple, Chris and Fred for quite some time – they were independent travellers.  We were scheduled to sail at 10.00pm.

Bed after an interesting day.





Friday and Saturday, 1-2 September, 2017 – Days 6 and 7 – Abbotsford to Vancouver/Alaska Cruise

Friday, 1 September 2017 – Abbotsford to Vancouver/Alaska Cruise  (Day 6)

Up and had breakfast and onto the coach and left Abbotsford for a relatively short drive to Vancouver.  We drove through downtown Vancouver. One landmark pointed out was four statues outside the BC Stadium of Terry Fox  (July 28, 1958 – June 28, 1981) who was a Canadian athlete.  His right leg was amputated in 1977 after he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma.   In 1980 with one leg having been amputated, he attempted to run east to west across Canada to raise money and awareness for cancer research. Sadly he died before he was able to complete the run.   Was quite exciting when we passed near the Harbour and saw our cruise ship.

We arrived at the Port and was able to go on board the Celebrity Millenium.  After doing all the formalities for Security, went and had lunch with Gail and Russell (fellow companions).  It was then into my room (2072).

Plan of Celebrity Millineum

Coal Harbour Vancouver


At 4.30pm  along with the majority of passengers, I went up on deck as we slowly sailed out of Coal Harbour, Vancouver.  It is a beautiful harbour with the North Shore Mountains in the background.  We headed out towards the Lions Gate Bridge – reminded me of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Franscisco but in green.

After doing some unpacking and familiarising myself with some of the ship, went and had a dip in the hot tub.

At 8.30pm, I went into the Metropolitan Restaurant (5th floor) to my designated table – seated with three pleasant Chinese girls.  (Smoked salmon and Creme Brulee.)  After dinner had a short visit to the casino and then into my cabin to sort out some shore excursions.  Ended up being totally confused and it was 4.00am.

Saturday, 2 September 2017 – Cruising –  (Day 6)

Looked out my porthole but it was very foggy and nothing to see.  Went down to Level 3 and booked some off-shore excursions and then had breakfast with Raylene, Brian, Sal and Russell.  Chatted with Rhonda, Joe and Daniella who I first met in Calgary but are on the other bus of TripaDeal – into bingo, hot tub and then dinner at 8.30pm with Kay, Phil, Sal, Russell, Gail and Margarita. (Escargot, lamb and Creme Brulee).   Today was a day of relaxing.

Dinner with Sal, Russell, Phil, Kay, Gail and Margarite in Metropolitan Restaurant, Level 5




















Thursday, 31 August 2017 – Day 5 – Golden – Abbotsford

Thursday, 31 August 2017 – Golden – Abbotsford (Day 5)

Another early start with breakfast and onto the coach at 8.50 on our way to Abbotsford. We now entered the Glacier National Park. In 1883, a Mr Van Horne, the general manager of the Canadian Pacific Railway suggested to the federal government that national parks should be created along the rail line. The park was established in 1886.

Once again, beautiful forests of pines covering the slopes of the mountains and passed Three Valley Lake . We thought we were going to be detained as there had been a nasty accident on the highway but by the time we arrived there was only the remains of a burnt out semitrailer.  It was quite hazy from the recent fires that have been burning throughout Canada. Our first stop was at Rogers Pass Visitors Centre, a small museum. There were some of the “local inhabitants” information – caribou, mountain goat, grizzly bear, wolverine. Along with each story, there was a stuffed owner.

Rogers Pass history commenced in 1871.  When British Columbia joined Confederation in 1871, it was on the condition that Prime Minister John A. Macdonald would build a railway to link the province to the rest of the country. In 1881 construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway proceeds westward across the Prairies and eastward from the Pacific Coast. Major Rogers is sent to find a route across the seemingly impenetrable Rocky Mountains. He approached from the west, but because of the lateness of the season he turns back. The following year he confirms the existence of the pass when he reaches the summit from the east side – hence the name Rogers Pass.  So much construction was being done in the mountains until 7th November, 1885 the east and west construction crews met at Craigellachie.  We will hear more about the Railway when we visit Craigellachie (pronounced Kray-gell-a-Key) later.

For some distance we drove under Snow sheds and we learnt these were constructed to take the force of avalanches crashing down in the area. The area receives up to 15m of snow each winter.  Sadly, there were enormous avalanches along the way with loss of lives, and when on 4th March 1910 about 60 lives were lost there was public outcry over the dangers of railway operations in Rogers Pass.

In 1913 construction began on an 8kms tunnel through Mt Macdonald and in 1916 the Connaught Tunnel opened.  It seems that tunnels were being constructed to make rail travel much more safer.

We continued our travelling onto the town of Revelstoke for a refreshment stop. Throughout Canada there are many Tim Horton cafes and when we got back on the coach, Ron handed out Timbits – tasty mini donuts.  Thanks Ron. On we went until Craigellachie. It was at Craigellachie that on 7th November 1885  the last spike was placed into position to signify the conclusion of the Canadian Pacific Railway from coast to coast. This was mainly due to Major Albert Bowman Rogers and William Cornelius Van Horne.  Aside from overseeing the largest construction project ever attempted in Canada, Van Horne also chose the site and name for Vancouver, inaugurated a steamship line to the Orient and supervised the building of the Chateau Frontenac. Van Horne was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1894. He died in Montreal in 1915 at the age of 72.  For this wonderful day to take place, a great deal of credit should go to many Chinese workers who lived in substandard facilities and worked the dangerous jobs at which many lost their lives.

I hope whoever reads this, you can get some idea of the workings of the railway as there are so many facts that I cannot possibly mention them all – I hope I have covered the pertinent facts. My mind just boggles at the enormity of the railway system that is enjoyed by Canadians as well as many people from all over the world.

We continue on through the Shuswap region travelling near the huge Shuswap Lake.  We pass through Sicamous with its lovely sandy beaches and is known as the Houseboat Capital of Canada. Then through Salmon Arm which is the largest urban centre in the Shuswap between the peaceful shores of Shuswap Lake and mountains and hills.

The Thompson River, home to several varieties of Pacific salmon and trout, is the largest tributary of the Fraser River, flowing through the south-central portion of British Columbia. The Thompson River has two main branches, the South Thompson River –  which we follow for quite some time and the North Thompson River. The huge Shuswap is the source of the South Thompson River, the only outlet of the Shuswap Lake system, and it eventually flows into the Pacific Ocean near Vancouver.

We leave the Rockies and see the Columbia Mountains. Our route seems to be flatter with fields of corn and various farmlands. Around this area is the largest grower of ginseng. We pass through the village of Chase. Here the South Thompson River originates.

We did not go into the city of Kamloops but saw it from the highway. Kamloops,  meaning “Meeting of the Waters”, is the largest community in the Thompson-Nicola Valley region where the North and South Thompson rivers meet near Kamloops Lake.   A very short stop was at Merritt with the Coastal Mountains in the distance.  We heard that Merritt is known as the “Country Music Capital of Canada” for its wealth of country music attractions, activities, and events. Merritt’s economy is dominated by the primary industries of forestry, tourism, and cattle ranches.

Our next short stop was at the pretty village of Hope with many wood carvings around.  I wandered down to Memorial Park where there several wood carvings. Hope is home to a notable widely known carver named Pete Ryan who has carved a number of the chainsaw wood carvings exhibited in downtown Hope. Chainsaw wood carving competitions and exhibitions are held.  Gayle, Dianne, Andy and Vincent (on my tour) were also having a wander before it was time to board the coach.


Gayle and I in Hope at one of the many carvings

Chilliwak was another town passed through before we finally reached our destination for the night in Abbotsford at about 6.30pm. After seeing my room (562) I met with Marilyn, Paul, Phil and Kay (fellow passengers) in the adjoining very popular “Rickys” restaurant for a very enjoyable meal and company.  When I put the TV on, there was a report that there had been a murder evidently not far from our hotel.  Evidently only happened about ½ hour before our arrival. We did hear and see a couple of police cars pass by!  

Another very long, but very interesting and informative day. Travelled through very diverse countryside once more and sad that we have left the mesmerising Rockies behind. Truly magnificent formations.












Wednesday, 30 August 201 – Banff/Lakes Louise/Moraine/Columbia Icefield/Golden – Day 4

Wednesday, 30 August 2017 – Day 4 – Banff/Lakes Louise/Moraine/ Columbia Icefield/ Golden

After breakfast, it was an early departure from our Banff Inn at 7.15am as we had a lot to fit in today. We spent longer in Banff yesterday as we were hoping a couple of our tour group who missed their flight from Los Angeles would have arrived but they were still delayed so we saw more of the sights around Banff.  It was quite misty and cool but when we arrived at our first stop nearly an hour later at Lake Louise  – Jewel of the Canadian Rockies” – it was quite nice and sunny.  What a sight !!!  Beautiful calm turquoise waters with its backdrop of the Victoria Glacier.

Lake Louise with reflections in the calm water

I was with Russell and Sal from our group and we had time to wander leisurely beside the lake up to the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise  through the grand entrance of the hotel with its beautiful chandelier and the stunning staircase leading up to the guestrooms of the hotel.  It is noted that the stunning chateau and the Lake have become one of the most photographed landscapes in Canada.  You can see why.

The three of us took in the scenery on our way to the coach.  I put in my order for the jazzy vehicle, but I am still waiting for its delivery!!!!

We then headed towards Lake Moraine, a glacially fed lake in the Valley of Ten Peaks. Another spectacular sight. There was a huge rock pile and some of the group climbed up to a better viewing platform but some of us declined and were just happy to stay below and take in the scenery all around.

Lake Moraine and the Rock Pile

After our stop at Lake Moraine we left the Trans-Canada Highway and joined Highway 93, the Icefields Parkway (232 kms/144 miles) and we were told that this is one of the world’s most scenic stretch of road and it is easy to see why – so many skyscaper high rugged mountains, many lakes and streams and lush ancient pine forests. We passed Glacier and Crowfoot mountains just to name a couple and then we had another stop at Bow Lake, one of the smaller lakes in Banff National Park. It is the source of the Bow River that we travelled along in many places – sometimes right next to it or else seeing it down in the valley as we made our ascents.

Bow Glacier and Snowbird Glacier were passed and Ron, our guide played the song – “”Snowbird. Each day we also heard the song – “Rocks and Trees, Trees and Rocks”. Very appropriate as that is certainly what we are seeing heaps of, but it makes the journey interesting.  Our time was delayed for some time as the road was blocked because a stray mountain goat had got itself onto the road. We felt quite sorry for it as by this time it was becoming quite distressed as people kept on approaching it to take photos – it finally managed to free itself and headed into the countryside. We wound our way, ascending, descending with magnificent scenery of mountain lakes, rivers, glaciers and valleys along the way, over Parker Ridge until we came to the Columbia Icefield Visitor Centre in the Improvement District No. 12.

We boarded an “Ice Explorer” massive vehicle (snow coach) ($1M each and a tyre cost $4,000) specially designed for travelling over the steep grades, snow and ice part way up the glacier and Zak, our driver took us onto the Athabasca Glacier.

Along the slow haul up to the glacier, he gave us information about glaciers, icefields and their impact on the environment.  Athabasca Glacier  is one of the six principal “toes” of the Columbia Icefield. The glacier currently recedes at a rate of about 5 metres (16 ft) per year and has receded more than 1.5 km (0.93 mi) and lost over half of its volume in the past 125 years. Easily accessible, it is the most visited glacier in North America.  We made our way to the edge of the glacier  – what an experience – but one had to be very cautious as the surface was very very slippery.

On the Athabasca Glacier

On Athabasca Glacier

The pristine water was safe enough for us to fill our water bottles – marvellous in such diverse conditions.

We then boarded the massive vehicle and down for lunch in the very appropriately named Altitude Restaurant.  It was then onto our ordinary coach and we made our way down – saw a few mountain goats – past Peyto and Bow Lakes once more joining the Trans-Canada Highway.

The beautiful Banff National Park was left and we were now in the Yoho National Park. Once more we were travelling along lakes, rivers, glaciers and pine forests.  Our next short stop was at Kicking Horse Pass – one of the two viewpoints where one can safely watch trains and learn more about the very complicated system of the Spiral Tunnels. From this viewpoint 7.4 km east of the village of Field on the Trans-Canada Highway, you can see the Lower Spiral Tunnel in Mt. Ogden. There are some very interesting facts about the Spiral Tunnels here at Kicking Horse Pass National Historic Site and you can see how this project was so challenging.  How the Spiral Tunnels work:  As trains snake their way up to the Kicking Horse Pass and the continental divide, they circle deep into the mountains on both sides of this valley. The two giant underground loops they follow are the Spiral Tunnels. Because each tunnel makes a complete spiralling turn, trains actually cross over themselves.  From this viewpoint, IF you saw an engine emerge from the upper portal while 15m below it, the last cars are still entering the lower portal!  Hard to imagine, but the trains are extremely long and can be up to a mile long. On average, 25 to 30 trains pass through the Spiral Tunnels daily, though not on a regular schedule.  A wonderful engineering project as the benefits of the Spiral Tunnels Line were many including: Improved safety for downhill trains, Runaway spur lines no longer required, Rear pusher locomotives no longer required, Scheduling delays reduced and Operating costs reduced. We were told we would hear more about the Canadian Railway System down the track  – pardon the pun! (tomorrow).

We finally arrived at the Golden Travelodge (Room 201) our accommodation for the night.  I read the diagram for our rooms and thought my room was furthest from the office and stairs BUT I got a surprise as it was near the office and Andrew kindly took my luggage up and it seems I had the “executive suite” as I had a huge king sized bed and a double spa bath.  I chatted to three chaps who worked for the Canadian Railways and were interesting with information.  After a snack, I had a wonderful soak in the spa and another one at 11.30 – Couldn’t waste the opportunity.

Feeling nice and relaxed after our very long day, got into my huge bed and thought what a wonderful, wonderful day we had. The trip onto the Glacier was very special as not experienced anything like that before and the scenery just breathtaking. Was hard to know where to look. We certainly did and saw heaps.





Tuesday, 29 August 2017 – Calgary to Banff – Day 3

Tuesday, 29 August 2017 – Calgary to Banff  – (Day 3)

Had an early rise at 5.00 am and into early breakfast and then it was onto our coach at 8.30am. Ron was our tour guide and Dennis our driver. We passed through downtown Calgary, Province of Alberta and our first stop was at the Stampede Park. This is where the Calgary Stampede which is billed as “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth” is held each year.  Celebrating Calgary’s western heritage and values, the Stampede is embraced by the local community and attracts over one million visitors per year. It is renowned as one of the world’s largest outdoor rodeos, which includes events such as bareback-riding, steer wrestling, chuckwagon racing, stage shows, parades, concerts, agricultural competitions and First Nations exhibitions. (First Nations are the predominant Aboriginal peoples of Canada south of the Arctic).

We left Stampede Park and travelled 15 ks via the Trans Canada Highway to Canada Olympic Park (COP) where the 1988 Winter Olympics were held.  The Park is one of five venues that continues to serve all levels of athletes from recreational to Olympian standards. Canada’s bobsled, luge and skeleton teams and the ski jump team train at the Park and it is the place where many Calgarians learn to ski and snowboard.

After leaving the COP we travelled passed the village of Canmore, through some very flat and dry countryside until we came to the Bow Valley Provincial Park. The landscape changed dramatically and was the start of our tour through the Canadian Rockies. It was then onto the Banff National Park – a UNESCO World Heritage Site  – pine forests and high mountains.  As 2017 is the 150th anniversary of Confederation the entry fees have been waived to the 17 National Parks for the whole year.

At about 12.15pm we arrived in the very picturesque alpine village of Banff with lovely hanging baskets adorning the streets. It was very warm – I had too many layers on !!!  As you looked at both ends of the main street, you could see the peaks of  Mt. Rundle and Mt. Cascade.  We had free time to wander around the village with its many restaurants,, boutiques,many souvenir shops mixed with chateau style hotels and have lunch before it was onto the coach at 2.00pm.

We passed the magnificent iconic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel known as the “Castle in the Rockies” – has been providing legendary hospitality and unsurpassed dining experiences to guests for more than 125 years.  It was then on to short stops at the Bow Falls

Bow Falls

 and then The Hoodoos. These are curiously shaped formations by centuries of erosion. From this viewpoint, you overlooked the lovely scenery of the Bow River Valley. It was then a short drive out to Lake Minnewanka before arriving at our accommodation in the Banff Inn. 

At Bow Falls

After settling into my room, (214) I had a nice meal in the Inn’s restaurant, short chat with Faye at the desk, who came from Liverpool,  and then a reasonably early night after a wonderful first day in the breathtaking Canadian Rockies.










Monday – Thursday, 1-4 August 2016 – Days 47 – 50 – Travelling Home from Porto/Lisbon via Heathrow, Singapore, Sydney to Canberra

Monday – Thursday, 1-4 August, 2016 – Days 47 – 50 – Travelling Home from Porto/Lisbon via Heathrow, Singapore, Sydney to Canberra 

Monday, 1 August 2016 – Day 47 – Porto to Lisbon and London

After breakfast, I caught a taxi from the Lusitana Hotel to the Porto Airport for my flight on TP1927 leaving at 9.30 arriving in Lisbon at 10.30.  I just stayed at the airport until it was time for me to get my flight from Lisbon to Luton, United Kingdom that departed at 3.50. It was a smooth flight and arrived at Luton Airport at about 6.30.

While I was waiting to collect my luggage, was talking to a woman who lived in London and said it was better to catch a train into St. Pancreas Station and she would help me with my luggage and transport arrangements. It was raining while we waited for a train but managed to get on before getting too wet. While we were on the train, the woman whose name escapes me, decided to have a drink that she had got duty free. Was a bit embarrassing, as her language was not the best. We eventually got to St Pancreas Station after about an hour and a half on the train. St Pancreas Station was quite deserted but there was a coffee shop open so went there for a coffee. By this time, the woman is getting quite loud and when I came back from the cloak room, she had been escorted away by some policemen. I believe the coffee shop people must have called the police as they were ready to close. Well, I had no idea how far my hotel was and it was getting quite late and no one else around the area so I found my way out and eventually got a taxi to my hotel.

It was very late when I finally arrived at the London Heathrow Airport Ibis as was quite a distance. Very exhausting day. Fell into bed.

Tuesday – Thursday, 2 – 4 August, 2016 – Days 48 – 50 -London, Singapore, Singapore, Sydney to Canberra 

On Tuesday, 2 August 2016  (Day 48) I booked out of the Ibis at 7.00 and caught the shuttle car to the nearby Heathrow Airport and went to book my case in only to be told my flight was not this morning but tonight. Imagine how I felt. Decided to go back to the hotel and they kindly let me back into my room until 2.00.  I was glad of some sleep as was very tired. After booking out once more, I went back to the Airport but it was a long wait until I was able to book in. Spent the time at the airport doing a lot of “people watching”, talking to different passengers, eating and some coffee.

The T5 Gallery is a unique cultural space within the Heathrow airport. The gallery is one of the few permanent commercial fine art galleries in the world to be situated in an airport and is in an ideal position to reach and introduce art to a wide international audience.  I spent quite a lot of time in the gallery admiring the magnificent sculptures. One of the artist who had her work on display was Marie Boyle who comes from Dublin, Ireland but has spent the last 24 years working in England.


It was finally time for me to go through Security and board my BA15 flight that took off at 9.45pm. This is the dreaded long haul – 13 hours 5 minutes!  After having the meal, I settled down and was able to get some sleep.  We arrived in Singapore – now 3 August due to the different time zone – at about 5.40pm.  There was only a short layover in Singapore.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016 – Day 49 – In flight to Sydney 

Back on BA15 that left Singapore at 7.20pm – Another 7 hr 45 minutes in the air. Was a smooth flight and arrived in Sydney about 5.05am.

Thursday, 4 August 2016 – Day 50 – Sydney to Canberra – Home

I had to collect my luggage and go through Customs before boarding the shuttle bus from International to Domestic terminal. I boarded QF1526 at 9.50a.m for Canberra but we were delayed. Finally took off at 10.45 and arrived in Canberra at 11.30am. Rob was there to collect me. Was terrific to see him. We collected my luggage and drove me home.

Lucky enough to have had another wonderful trip abroad. I was very fortunate with the weather and only had a little bit of rain while in England – typical I guess.

Is hard to say what one highlight of my trip is as saw so many wonderful sights in the countries I visited – England, Wales, Malta, Sicily (Italy) and Portugal.

While in England and Wales, caught up from past year’s meetings overseas, with dear Lucy, David, Louise, and Vanessa and also met her hubby, Neil and two of the sons, Tom and Will – Cynthia, and this time met her husband Mark and two children, Grace and Ally. Received great hospitality from Warren, Emily and Anthony while I stayed with them. Met up with Carson in Cardiff and had a long but enjoyable day.  Also had a nice day with Niamh and met her now fiancee Alan.  While in Malta, met David and Maddie from England.  It was great catching up with Terrie and Mark   – met them in 2013 at the Taj Mahal in India – while in Cascais, Portugal.  Thankyou to all who showed me such nice hospitality. It has been great keeping in touch with you since we first met and to new friends. Stay in touch in the future.

The four countries I visited were very diverse – England and Wales so very green, Malta very hot and dry and Portugal very mountainous and weather very warm.

I thoroughly enjoyed the tours I took and the several boat rides and visiting the wineries were excellent. I visited and saw lots of beautiful churches and castles – the architecture in all the countries are just magnificent and when you think how long ago some of these buildings were built is just amazing. Although I only had a very long day’s trip from Malta to Sicily it was worth it – visiting Taormina and Mt Etna was certainly high on the list and being able to visit Fatima was so different – a very calming atmosphere.

I give thanks to the many tour guides for their safe driving.  A huge thanks to the several pilots who flew me to and from the different destinations and anyone else who drove me places.

Now this trip has ended – once more a wonderful time and feel very fortunate that I was able to do it.  So now it is back to reality and hopefully do some more travelling in the future.













Sunday, 31 July 2016 – Day 46 – Tour to Braga and Guimaraes, North of Porto

Sunday, 31 July 2016 – Day 46 – Tour to Braga and Guimaraes –  North of Porto

After breakfast, I was picked up by Daniel, who was to be our guide for today. There were three others on this tour, Mark from Philippines and two French ladies (sorry didn’t catch their names as English was limited). We set off for Braga – one of the oldest Portuguese cities and one of the oldest Christian cities in the world.  This does mean that the majority of the attractions are of a religious nature. Braga is a city filled with many ornate churches and beautiful baroque architecture. Of course we did not visit or see many of them but we did visit/saw the major sights.

Braga, the capital of the Minho region, is considered the third most important Portuguese city. Internationally famous as a popular tourist destination, Braga attracts visitors for its monuments.  Probably the main religious centre in the country, Braga is known for its baroque churches, magnificent 18th century houses, elaborate gardens, cuisine and the animated social and cultural life and squares. Braga is an ancient city that has been the religious centre of Portugal since 1070 when founded  in the Roman era as “Bracara Augusta” as the name indicates, founded by Augustus.

Braga was Portugal’s first city; when Portugal was founded there was only one city on the whole of its territory and that was Braga. The remains of ancient settlements in Braga are thousands of years old and are proven to date back to the Bronze Age. At the end of the 20th Century, Braga undertook great development and became the third city of the country, a status that it still holds today. 

There is so much history around this area and I will not even endeavour to try and condense it down for fear of putting the wrong information here – I am afraid I am not a historian.

As I mentioned in my previous writings, I found it difficult to try and listen to the interesting facts given by our guides – very knowledgeable folk – take in the beautiful scenery and take photos.

 Our first stop in Braga was Nossa Senhora do Sameiro Imaculada Conceigas (Sanctuary of Our Lady of Sameiro). Construction was commenced on 14 July 1863 on the domed church. There is a picture of Our Lady of Sameiro in the main altar of the Sanctuary. The sculpture was carved in Rome and was blessed by Pope Pius IX. It holds a beautiful and valuable crown weighing 2.5 kilograms of solid bright gold.  .

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Sanctuary of Our Lady of Sameiro

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Our next stop was Bom Jesus do Monte, The church is 7km from the centre of Braga.  Bom Jesus do Monte is a Portuguese sanctuary in Tenões, outside the city of Braga, in northern Portugal. Its name means Good Jesus of the Mount.

We saw the Bom Jesus hydraulic funicular – the oldest one in the world moving by water counterbalancing  built in 1882. The funicular track  is 274 metres (899 ft) long and descends 116 metres (381 ft). down the long zigzag pattern stairway so as to enjoy both ways to get to the top.

Bom Jesú S Do Monte: #17045

The Sanctuary started being built in 1722 – the site offers tranquility, beautiful architecture and panoramic views out across the city of Braga and to the beaches of  Viana do Castelo and Esposende.


View to city of Braga

View to city of Braga

We had time to take in the beautiful view before going down the 600 odd steps – vertical drop of 116 metres and divided into three sections.


A leisurely walk down the 600 steps

At the bottom of the steps is the statue of Longuinhos

Statue of Longuinhos - man on horse

Statue of Longuinhos – man on horse

The most impressive church is the Sé Cathedral of Braga, which has several styles, from Roman to Baroque. The Se, the oldest cathedral in Portugal.

Image result for se cathedral bragaSe Cathedral of Braga

It was the Bishop D Pedro (1070-1093) who initiated the construction of the current building of the Braga Cathedral. It features two towers on the facade. The iron gate dates back to the 15th Century.  When we entered the Cathedral, there was a baptism taking place. We heard about the list of Archbishops buried in the Cathedral and the last Archbishop to be buried here was Eurico Dias Nogueira, who was born on 6 March 1923 and died on 19 May 2014 at the age of 91 years.

Before moving on, Daniel told us the story of the Rooster of Portugal as Barcelos is about 16kms west of where we were in Braga. 

The Barcelos Rooster is considered to be the unofficial symbol of Portugal. You can find this emblem in many forms in every local shop and especially gift shops. This national symbol is mostly found in its typical ceramic form as well as embroidered on towels and aprons. Other souvenirs include key-chains, paperweights and other popular tourism gifts. The Barcelos Rooster is always vividly coloured, and is said to be the embodiment of the famous Portuguese love of life.

The legend takes place in 15th century Barcelos. Its citizens had become upset by an unsolved crime that was so terrible that it had the citizens in an alarming state. An impoverished pilgrim had been passing through Barcelos, which was a neighbouring city to his in order to fulfill a promise he made during a Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Despite his explanation for being in Barcelos, he was still arrested and condemned to hang. He refused to go quietly and asked to be taken in front of the judge who sentenced him to death. The authorities granted his wish, and brought him to the magistrate’s house while he was having a banquet with friends. He affirmed his innocence, and swore the proof of his innocence by pointing to a cooked rooster and said that the rooster would crow at the hour of his hanging as proof. The statement caused a large amount of laughter and mockery. The judge ignored the statement of innocence, but still set aside the rooster and refusing to eat it. When the time for judgement came, the pilgrim went to the gallows to accept his punishment. As he was being hanged, the roasted rooster appeared and stood up on the table in front of the crowd and crowed just as the pilgrim predicted. The judged realised the mistake he had made and rushed to save the pilgrim. The cord was not correctly tightened and was able to easily be saved from his death sentence. Later, the pilgrim would return to Barcelos. He sculpted a cross in honour of the Virgin Mary and St. James, who he felt was responsible for saving him with the miracle of the rooster. Today, this cross is referred to as the Cross of the Lord of the Rooster. This statue is still in existence in the Archeological Museum of Barcelos.

Whichever telling of the legend that you hear, the Barcelos Rooster is a common sight while visiting Portugal, with numerous souvenir choices emblazoned with its symbol.

Barcelos Rooster- Galo de Barcelos

After being at the Se Cathedral our next stop was for lunch and then it was into the van for a 20 minute drive to the historic city of Guimaraes,  which is regarded as the birth place of Portugal.



 Along the way, there were lots of vineyards,  and corn, pines, eucalyptus and oleanders.
The Guimarães city centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001: and, as one would expect, there are plenty of historic sites and tales. Beyond the monuments and museums, Guimarães has a contemporary edge and a thriving modern culture and economy that are partially explained by its generally youthful population. Home to Minho University, about half of its over 52,000 residents are under 30, making Guimarães one of the youngest cities in Europe. Its designation in 2012 was a European Capital of Culture.
Our first stop was at the Castelo de Guimarães at the top of the city. Towering over the city centre, the 10th-century castle was an excellent position to protect the area from the attacks of the Moors, Normans, and Vikings. The first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques (1111-1135), was born in the castle. Afonso fought many battles. He conquered the ruling Moors in 1139 effectively gaining independence for the region and leading to the creation of a Portuguese national identity. Following the momentous victory, Afonso was declared king by his troops.

Coming to the statue honoring King Afonso Henriques, it was pointed out that the top of the sword is missing and it is said that a drunken student broke off a piece of the sword one night and brandishing it overhead ran naked through Guimarães proclaiming, “I am the King!”

Statue of King Afonso Henriques and the Castelo de Guimarães on a walking tour of Guimarães.

Statue of King Afonso Henriques and the Castelo de Guimarães

 After leaving the Castelo de Guimaraes we came to the 15th-century Paco do Duques, formerly the residence of dukes.  With advancing years and abandonment, this house was rebuilt between 1937 and 1959, becoming a museum and now houses collections of 17th and 18th century tapestries, porcelain and other period treasures. The top floor is maintained as a residence for the president of Portugal when he visits Guimarães.   This manor house has been classified as a National Monument.

Image result for paco dos duques guimaraes Palace of Dukes

We then had a short stop at  the 12th Century Igreja de S. Miguel do Castelo, a Romanesque church where according to tradition King Afonso Henriques was baptised. It has served as a royal chapel and parochial church.  This church is classified as a National Monument.

Igreja de S. Miguel do Castelo

After a short drive, we had a wonderful, relaxing walk along the alleyways and through archways around the historic centre and along the way we passed many architectural testimonies with great value. One minute we were walking along the narrow alleyways and then with great surprise, opened out onto  Praça de S. Tiago (St. James Square).

Rua de Santa MariaOne of the first open streets of the city of Guimarães,


Image result for lar de santa estefania guimaraes   Larde Santa Estifania in Guimaraes , a religious institution that works as a childrens home.

One of the richest monasteries of Guimarães, the Convent of Santa Clara was built in the sixteenth century by Canon Master Collegiate School of Our Lady of Oliveira, Baltasar de Andrade. Currently houses the City Hall of Guimarães.

Convent of Santa Clara

Convent of Santa Clara

We continued on through another lovely archway to Largo da Oliveira (Olive Square). The square was a hive of activity with a roaring trade done by the local cafes. Nearby was the Nossa Senhora Da Oliveria Church.  This building declared a National Monument is represented by the union of styles, from the Gothic reconstruction, Manueline features classical chapel, plasterwork of the largest and side chapels in the neoclassical style.

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Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira

Nossa Senhora Da Oliveira Church

 I enjoyed a welcome cool drink at a well patronised cafe as it had become quite warm before it was time for Daniel to pick us up and then it was back to Porto.



On the Oliveira Square, Portugal

We had a good run back to Porto arriving about 6.10pm.  Said goodbye to Mark and the French ladies and arrived back at my hotel about 6.30 after a very interesting day – full of so much historical information, saw many beautiful buildings and countryside. I walked down to a nearby cafe for something to eat and drink. Nearby, was a soup kitchen with a long line of recipients. Pigeons were pecking at the remnants of bread – I was watching them when one of the people asked me whether I wanted something to eat. I diplomatically declined and headed back to my hotel and had a relatively early night.


Saturday, 30 July 2016 – Day 45 – Day Tour in Douro Valley, Portugal

Saturday, 30 July 2016 – Day 45 – Day Tour in Douro Valley, Portugal 

At 8.30 a.m. was picked up by our guide, Joao (John) and joined 5 others for our tour to the Douro Valley. Our first stop was at the pretty town of Amarante. We had some free time for a short wander up the street and over the Sao Goncalo Bridge spanning the Rio Tamega for a brief visit to the iconic Sao Goncalo Church. The Igreja e Convento is nearby.

porto-213We continued on through Santa Marta Penagua, well known for its slate products and Sabrosa. Ferdinand Magellan was born in Sabrosa in 1480 and was a Portuguese explorer who led the first expedition to circumnavigate the globe. He died in 1521 in the Philippines and is buried there.

The countryside is just breathtaking with the vineyards going up the hillsides as far as the eye can see.  We were travelling along little laneways with walls along the way. We were making our way to the winery Quinta da Portal. Quinta do Portal is a unique, family, fine winemaking company based in the Douro Valley, in Northern Portugal. Their vines have been grown in this harsh and beautiful land for many hundreds of years.  We were given a tour of the winery, including seeing hundreds of wine barrels. There are three types of wine – table, port and muscatele. Explanations were given on the history of cork and its uses – mainly because of the constant temperature.

Natural cork closures appeared about 250 years ago, displacing the oiled rags and wooden plugs that had previously been used to seal bottles. It created the possibility of aging wine. It’s produced from the bark of the tree, and harvested every seven years throughout the life of a cork oak tree.  Portugal produces  65% of all the cork in the world – Spain and Italy also produce cork. The number written on a peeled cork oak refers to the year it was stripped, e.g. “9” refers to “2009”. The best quality cork comes from the south of Portugal (Algarve and south Alentejo). Cork has many uses apart from sealing wine bottles – great insulator, furniture, jewellery and many other products.

After hearing all about the different aspects of the winery, we then had the opportunity of sampling some of the excellent wine/port.


Nice drop of Port

Nice drop of Port

After leaving Quinta da Portal winery, we headed to a beautiful lookout – S. Christo Vao_Do_Douro. One can never tire of the scenery.


Now we were slowly descending to the township of Pinhao where we had lunch outside of a lovely restaurant and the meal, once more was quite delicious. After lunch we had a short walk to join a boat for another relaxing time soaking in the magnificent scenery.

 porto-254The boat ride was about an hour and we saw all the vineyards going up the hills and other wineries along the way and imposing village manor houses.

After the boat ride, it was into the van once more and headed to another winery – more interesting talks about the winery and its workings and then some more sampling. The winery we visited was Quinta do Portal a unique, family run establishment. Their vines have been grown in this harsh and beautiful land for many hundreds of years. When in the museum part of the winery, there was a model of a rabelo.  For many years, Porto wines were transported from the area of the vineyards in these boats. With time they became bigger but with the arrival of trains and lorries, the rabelos lost the privilege of being the only adequate means of transport for the barrels, but today, they can be seen along the river being operated as tourist attractions.

One of the rabelos (boat)

One of the rabelos (boat)

Quinta do Bomfim is located in the heart of the Upper Douro Valley and is owned by the Symington family who have worked here for five generations. We were taken into the areas where there are hundreds of barrels and also saw some of the primitive equipments used in earlier days. It was also stressed that working in the vineyards in those days was very harsh.  After seeing and hearing about the winery, we went upstairs to the winetasting area. Another nice drop and the views from here were magnificent once more.

porto-310It was time once more to board our faithful van and headed to Provesende – a picturesque vineyard village located in the municipality of Sabrosa. Situated on a small plateau overlooking the Douro River. We had our last photo stop here.

It was now back to Porto passing through Amarante once more and along the stone walled roads again. We went through the newly opened tunnel (3 months ago) and took 5 years to build. It was goodbye to the other passengers and then John dropped me off at my hotel at 6.45 p.m.  We travelled in one big circle. I walked down the street for a coffee and then it was back to my hotel.

This was a wonderful day and I would recommend this tour to anyone wanting a great day out in the country and  to visit a couple of wineries and enjoy some great Portuguese food. John was a super guide.

I am sure I have repeated myself over, but I found it hard to try and take in all the information and make very crude notes, take photos and listen to the conversations. One drawback of travelling solo.

Friday, 29 July 2016 – Day 44 – Porto to Regua, Portugal

Friday, 29 July 2016 – Day 44 – Porto to Regua, Portugal 

Up early and got taxi to the Railway station for 7.45 to meet guide for the train/boat tour. She did not make herself very well known. I assumed she was the guide as she had a clipboard with her so approached her. Told me to come back at 8.00 and then a group of us was ushered onto a train and it left at 8.25. Was a pleasant enough journey as far as scenery was concerned. When we got off the train, it was quite a rush to get onto the boat. I wanted a postcard so one of the ladies off the boat was very obliging.

29july-3I must say I did not really enjoy this trip as much as others – the boat was too big and very noisy.  When it was time for our lunch, I thought I had to share with the people at my table – no, it was all for me. Was quite put off it as the overall smell of food in general was quite overpowering and the quantity was too absurd for one person.

On our way back to Porto, we had a stop in a lock which is a device used for raising and lowering boats, ships and other watercraft between stretches of water of different levels on river and canal waterways. The distinguishing feature of a lock is a fixed chamber in which the water level can be varied. The Carrapatelo Dam is the highest lifting lock on the Douro. It lifts the vessels a full 35m. It took 7 years to build and is almost 100m in length.  This was quite fascinating to see how it worked. Took quite awhile before we were finally on our way again.

I was pleased to get off the boat as by now it had warmed up considerably. Went straight back to my hotel in a taxi and had a very early night.

Thursday, 28 July 2016 – Day 43 – OPorto, Portugal

Thursday, 28 July 2016 – Day 43 – OPorto, Portugal 

Porto or OPorto is one of the oldest cities in Europe and is the second largest city in Portugal. Porto possesses the special charm that characterises cities whose history spans thousands of years. Porto began its journey through history in the 7th Century to its present days.   Although it has a long history, this city is very modern and highly developed. It is full of quaint streets, historic palaces, ancient cathedrals and architecturally stunning buildings.  Its historic centre, classed as a world heritage site in 1996 by UNESCO is where the colourful gabled dwellings are perched up the hills in the neighbourhoods of Ribeira, Barredo and Miragaia. Ribeira is the oldest and best known neighbourhood in the city with its daring colours, bustling taverns and many fine restaurants and several beautiful piazzas. Most of all Porto is known for its wine and wine properties extend as far as the eye can see along the Douro.

After breakfast, I walked down to the Palacio de Cristalio and the lovely gardens.    The Crystal Palace (Pavilhão Rosa Mota) is a project of the architect José Carlos Loureiro. The original Palace was demolished in 1952 to give place to a Sports Pavilion, which would receive several sporting events. In a tribute to the athlete Rosa Mota, the Crystal Palace (called so due to the glass used on its surface) was renamed in 1991 and was named after the marathon runner.
The Palace has a total area of 12,000m², with capacity for 4600 bench seats. The Palace is surrounded by beautiful gardens and flowers where you can admire nature as well as enjoy the views over the Douro.


Crystal Palace and gardens

I then made my way down to the River Douro and walked along the promenade into the Old Town heading to a travel office to make some bookings for tours. Along the way, I came to the Praca do Infante Dom Henrique. In the centre of the square is the huge sculpture The Estatua do Infante D. Henrique, also known as the statue of Prince Henry the Navigator, was first installed in Porto in 1894 to honour the memory of the famous Portuguese navigator.


Behind the monument is the old Ferreira Borges Market built in 1885. It is now a cultural centre. Also on the square is the Stock Exchange (Palacio da Bolsa) and the Church of Sao Francisco and the Church of Sao Nicolau. I made a booking for the drive/walking City Tour which started at 2.15pm.  I wandered up and down little alleyways and had lunch before joining the tour.

 It was hard for me to know exactly where we were on the tour and I realised I had seen some of the buildings when I was by myself so I have combined the buildings around the city.
Our tour started with a visit to the Porto Cathedral. The Cathedral is a fortress like building whose origin dates back to the 12th Century. The major alterations carried out over the course of time transformed the original Romanesque church into a building more in harmony with the baroque taste. The main altarpiece has Solomonic columns and has so much detail. Very ornate.
Outside the Porto Cathedral

Outside the Porto Cathedral

We passed by the Equestrian statue of Vimra Peres, who conquered the city from the Moors in 868 and was made first Count of Portucale that same year.


Praca da Liberade Square is a crossroads where the old and the new city merge. It is presided over by the equestrian statue of King Pedro IV, 10 metres high.

Avenida dos Aliados starts at the north of the square.  The central promenade was reconstructed in 2006 by famous architect Alvaro Siza Vieira.  Avenida dos Aliados is also known as “the heart of Porto”, –  a wide boulevard lined with a number of impressive buildings, most of which are banks or hotels. The avenue is closed at the upper end by the Town Hall built between 1920 and 1957. The main feature is the 70 metre high bell tower made of marble and granite.

Avendas dos Aliados

We headed into Rua de Santa Catarina.  This street is lined by shops and businesses and here we have a quick look in the Cafe Majestic, the oldest and most popular cafe in Porto. Walking through its glass door is like travelling through a time tunnel.  Evidently nothing seems to have changed since its distant inauguration right at the end of the 19th Century.

Adjoining Praca da Liberade is the famous San Bento Station and the Church of Os Congregados which dates to the early 18th Century and its front, like so many churches, is decorated with the blue and white glazed tiles.


Church of Os Congregados

The San Bento Station began in 1900 and the main attraction is the marvellous tile decorations in the main hall. Attributed to Jorge Colaco in 1916, the scenes represent different episodes in the history of Porto and Portugal.


Railway Station in Porto

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Main hall in San Bento Train Station

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At the opposite end of the Rua de Santa Catarina is Praca da Batalha square and offers several points of interest, both from the architectural and historical points of view. Adjoining the square is the Church of Santo Ildefonso. The tile work on the exterior is by Jorge Colaco, the same artist who created those at the Sao Bento Station. 28-july-29

Now back to Praca da Liberdade to see the Church and Tower of Os Clerigos in nearby Rua dos Clerigos. This architectural complex by Nicolau Nasoni is one of the prime examples of baroque art in Porto. It was built between 1732 and 1763. His remains at in the Church of Os Clerigos.

The church stands near Praca de Gomes Teixeira, with the Fountain of the Lions which dates back to 1886.

porto-092There are so many fabulous UNESCO azulejo (tiled) churches/cathedrals in Porto, but the one on the corner of the square is the Church of O Carmo, built in the second half of the 18th century.  has a magnificent side panel completely covered in glazed tiles installed in 1912. Just beautiful. .

Our next visit was to the Liberia Lello e Irmao bookshop. This establishment has hardly changed since it first opened its doors in 1906. There is a lovely carved wooden staircase. The store served as an inspiration for the first Harry Potter film. While we visited, it was quite crowded as another book to do with Harry Potter had been released.

That was the end of our City Tour and we boarded our transport to visit one of the many wineries in Porto, the Graham’s Winery.  For almost two hundred years W & J Graham’s has been an independent family business renowned for producing the finest Port wines. We were given quite a comprehensive commentary on the growing and making of their wines. We went into the Museum that showed us the story of the families and saw where the Queen and the President of United States had praised the winery and then went into the wine tasting area to sample a couple of their wines.


Sampling a couple of the wines in Grahams Winery


View from Grahams Winery

View from Grahams Winery

After being at the Winery we made our way back into Porto and that was the end of the great busy tour.

At 6.30 pm. went on a nice relaxing boat trip.

After boat ride

After boat ride


This would be the most photographed bridge in Porto – you see it so often on your travelling around. The Ponte Dom Luís, also known as the Luis I Bridge, is a metal structure located in the historic city of Porto, Portugal. Built in honour of King Luis I, a 19th century Portuguese king who was known for his vernacular poetry and his love of the sea, the structure was opened during his reign. The bridge’s arches reaches 172 meters into the sky above the Douro River, while it extends between the cities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. The incredible edifice is completely made from wrought iron. The bridge was built during the 19th century as a result of a competition among renowned architects in the region. The result and winner was a design provided by architect and civil engineer, Téophile Seyrig. Sevrig was a protégé of Gustav Eiffel. He was trained at the famous Central School of Arts and Manufacturing in France, which is still in existence and operation today. Structurally, the erection is a two hinged bridge with a double deck meant to serve a variety of traffic types. Completed in 1886, it measures 385 meters in length and weighs over 3,000 tons. It was constructed to hold a variety of traffic including foot, automobile, trolley and railroad tram traffic.

I returned to my accommodation in readiness for a pickup for dinner at the Fado Restaurant. On our way, we stopped for a nighttime view over Porto.  Portugal is a land famous for fado – songs that express so much feeling. It is mainly heard a lot in Lisbon and Coimbra but I did not get the chance to go to a dinner while in Lisbon.

Restaurante Tipico o Fado is a family run business and served a very enjoyable meal while listening to the Fado music. One of the vocalists was Antonio Laranjeira and had a photo taken with him afterwards along with the members of the band. Very friendly.



Photo with Antonio

Arrived back at my accommodation at midnight – feeling quite weary as has been a very packed full day but did and saw some of the the most popular attractions in Porto. Porto is just so fascinating.