Travel Theme: Bridges

Even monkeys need a little help to get across the road.  A group of school children raised money to make rope bridges for the monkeys so that they could get safely across the roads in the Manuel Antonio beach area and the town of Quespos in Costa Rica.    monkey on rope bridge saving the rainforestThe rope bridges sharply contrast to the bridges that span the Tiber River in Rome.

Pont Sant"Angelo across the Tiber RiverIncredibly, this bridge, built in 134 AD and has stood the ravages of war, floods, and time.  It’s a beautiful bridge with a gruesome history.  For centuries, the bridge was used to expose the bodies of those people who were executed.  Currently, the bridge is only used for pedestrian traffic. It sits directly across from the Castel Sant’Angelo, a fortress historically used by the Popes and their families.

Ponte vittorio Emanuele II, RomeThe Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II, built in the early 1900’s sits just down the river from the Ponte Sant’Angelo.

Thanks to Ailsa at Where’s my backpack? for this theme.



Hot, hot, hot…


Even thought it’s winter here in Canada, these days I don’t have far to go to feel hot and steamy. Thanks to the joy of hot flashes, I get heat surges at least once an hour and each time I try to imagine myself in one of these lovely destinations as I whip off layers of clothing.

Italian chili pepper in the Rialto market, VeniceExploring the vegetable stalls and the piled high chilli peppers in the Rialto Market on the Grand Canal, Venice.

DSC02270_0510A warm, breezy night watching the sunset from the deck of the Barba Roja Restaurant, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica.

IMG_0565 Hiking almost unbearably hot desert trails, Red Rock Canyon, Nevada. (For more on this story visit here).

Rainforest, Queensland, AustraliaThe hot, steamy rainforest trails of Kuranda State Forest, Queensland, Australia.

Thank you to Ailsa at Where’s my backpack for this week’s travel theme and reminding me that heat is good.


As I was reflecting on my trip to Italy a year ago, I thought of this photo for this week’s WP weekly photo challenge.  I took thi photo in the Cortile della Pigna, the courtyard of the Vatican Museums.  Vatican Museum garden sculptureThe Vatican Museums are vast and overwhelming, especially for artistically ignorant folks like us so we hired a guide.  Our guide, Andrea from New Rome Free Tour was knowledgeable, enthusiastic and entertaining (using children’s picture books to explain the history and architecture).  We originally booked a three hour tour but Andrea generously spent five hours with us – well worth the 130 euros.

A shady bench in the courtyard provided MOO a perfect spot for a quick nap before entering the Sistine Chapel.   You can see MOO and I and Andrea reflected in the bronze sculpture by Arnaldo Pomodoro.

It you are planning to visit the museums book your tickets on-line directly with the Vatican Museums to avoid the long queues and check out the free daily tour by New Rome Free Tours meets everyday at 5:30 at the Spanish Steps. It’s a wonderful way to get your bearings in this historic centre of this incredible city.


You know you’re in foreign country when…

When I travel, I want to feel like I’m in a new place and sometimes the best indicators of a new place are the signs.  Sara Rosso of WP highlighted this in her weekly photo challenge post.  I love taking photos of the signs I come across. They remind me of the places I’ve visited or the things that I’ve seen.  I’m not even sure what some of these signs mean but I do know they mean I’m no longer in Canada (or at least my neck of the woods).

Travel Theme – Spooky


Catherine of Siena relics

You never really know what you might find when you wander into churches in Italy. We found ourselves exploring the Basilica of San Domenico in Siena one lovely evening. This is a large gothic church and fairly spartan inside.  We were drawn to the more ornate Chapel of St. Catherine of Siena along the right wall of the nave, and as we approached we found ourselves staring at the preserved head of the saint herself.  We experienced mixed emotions, fascination, horror, disbelief and finally awe and reverence as we gazed on the face of a woman who died more than 600 years ago.

St. Catherine of Siena died in 1380 in Rome and her body is buried in the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome. According to some legends, the people of Siena wanted Catherine’s body  returned to her city but knew they would not be able to smuggle her whole body so they took her head only.  When the Roman guards stopped them the smugglers prayed to St. Catherine for help. When they looked in the bag where Catherine’s head was placed the Roman guards only saw rose petals. Thus, the smugglers were able to successfully return Catherine’s head to her home.  St. Catherine’s thumb is also preserved in a reliquary next to her head.

The whole idea of preserving relics is both fascinating and a little creepy (no disrespect intended here).  I wonder how this practice would be interpreted if it were to occur today?

Thanks to Ailsa at Where’s my Backpack for this week’s theme.



Weekly Photo Challenge – Solitary

Cayo Santa Maria, CubaI always enjoy the sense of solitude I experience when I’m near the ocean. Perhaps it’s the vastness of the sky and water and the apparently uninhabited coastline which all contribute to the perfect conditions for quiet contemplation.

This photo was taken in Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba. The beaches on this tiny island are some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen.  The sand is white and the water is turquoise blue. Even during overcast and stormy days, the beach is spectacular.

For more posts on this theme, visit the Daily Post at WordPress – Weekly Photo Challenge.

Weekly Photo Challenge – Near and Far

Lake Louise, Banff National ParkLake Louise, Canadian RockiesI think the beauty of Lake Louise is truly spectacular and left me awe-struck. I took these photos in late August, on a grey, misty, rainy morning during a trip to Banff National Park, Alberta Canada.    Lake Louise is a glacial mountain lake in the park.  According to the guide books, the turquoise colour of the lake comes from the rock flour that is eroded from the mountains by the glaciers and carried into the lake.  The rock flour is so fine that it is suspended in the water, creating the blue-green colour of the water. The colour becomes more turquoise depending on the light and weather.

I thought these photos captured this week’s photo challenge theme near and far.  If you look closely at the first photo, you can almost make out a canoe in the distance.

A cabin in the woods – the embarrassing truth.

Morning mist on the riverFive days in a fairly isolated cabin in the woods, on the Magnetawan River is exactly what you might expect. A peaceful retreat that gave me the opportunity to sleep, re-energize and reconnect with myself and My One and Only (MOO).  I also learned some embarrassing truths about myself and MOO that I sort of knew but became glaringly apparent during this get away.Magnetawan River

  1.  We love being near water – but not so much in the water.  It was lovely sitting on the edge of the river, enjoying the sunshine reflected on the water, the gentle movement of the dock when the wind picked up, the early morning mist and the afternoon sun.  Deep cold water with things (pike, bass, turtles etc.) moving in the water however freaks us out so we did not swim in the river because neither one of us wanted one of the water creatures to nibble our toes or get caught in our hair.  Oh, and neither one of us really likes cold water.  We did take a ride in the paddle boat, once we figured out how to steer it, but paddling against the gentle strong current was more energy than we wanted to exert and so we returned to our chairs on the dock after a quick paddle to the island and back. We did see one of the water creatures (aka a large turtle) swimming beneath the boat.  I think it was a snapping turtle and I was sure that it would somehow jump out of the water and go for my jugular.  MOO tried to briefly follow her but after losing sight of it, we turned around and headed for shore.Sitting on the dock
  2. We are the manicured outdoor nature lovers and not the wilderness type nature lovers because the woods are a little bit  very scary. We spent a lot of time looking over our shoulders especially when we were sitting on the dock with our back to the trees. MOO was sure that a black bear was in the vicinity itching to come for a visit. I was secretly hoping we might see one but no such luck.  We did see a Blue Heron standing on the shore watching us for a while but he eventually lost interest at our lack of activity and he flew to the opposite shore.  Little dogs especially are not safe in the woods.  We saw an Osprey circling overhead near the cabin when Abbey was trying to do her business.  Even though Osprey primarily hunt fish, MOO was sure that this particular one was a carnivore and thought a little Shih Tzu might make a nice dinner.  We subsequently scouted the skies for bird of prey each time Abbey had to visit the loo.
  3.  I read way too many mystery novels because my first thought driving down the one lane, gravel road to the cabin was that this would be a perfect spot to kill someone and dispose of the body.  During the five days we were at the cabin, we didn’t see another soul except for the occasional canoeist on the river, one motor boat and a couple of Sea Doos from across the river.  Who would know? I definitely need to stop with the mysteries.
  4. Flashing red lights on dimmer switches do not signify that an electrical fire is imminent.  At about 4 a.m., on her way to the washroom, MOO noticed that the light switch was intermittently flashing red.  After feeling the switch box for heat, smelling the area and inspecting the switch plate, she was relatively sure that a fire was not slowing brewing but she searched the cabin for a fire extinguisher anyways. When she couldn’t find one, she placed a set of clothes for each of us, keys, wallets and phones near the door for a quick get away and then spent the next couple of hours watching the flashing light.  I was more worried about the storm raging outside that was going to wash away the road to the cabin.

I think we might return to the cabin in the woods but next year MOO will have her pepper spray in case of bear sightings and Abbey will have an orange vest for her trips to the loo and I won’t pack my bathing suit because I will not be swimming.  I may still bring a couple of mystery novels with me though because they would make good projectiles in case of an attack from a snapping turtle.

Magnetawan River, Ontario

Venice – La Serenissima

Grand Canal, VeniceI didn’t love Venice the first time I visited, 20 years ago.  Don’t get me wrong – I thought the city was spectacular and beautiful in so many ways and I was grateful that I was able to see the city at the time, but I didn’t love it.  It was another city to mark off my list during a backpacking trip through Europe. So when we put Venice on our itinerary during our recent trip to Italy, it was mostly because MOO wanted to visit this world heritage site rather than any personal desire on my part to see Venice again.

So I couldn’t have been more surprised when I realized that I had fallen in love with Venice this second time around. It  wasn’t your typical love at first sight.  I wasn’t struck with a cupid’s arrow or lightening bolt.   Rather, it was a slow-growing sense of peace and tranquility that accumulated throughout the day, coupled with a sense of awe at this incredible city standing in the water for centuries that touched my soul and filled my heart.

We arrived by train, early in the morning from Treviso (just outside of Venice).  It was a spectacular, sunny day and as we exited the Stazione Venezia-Santa Lucia, we were met with the sight of the Grand Canal. Despite the early morning, the city was bustling with throngs of tourists milling about on the piazza, collecting their bags, consulting maps and taking pictures.  Tourists and Venetians lined up for the vaporetti, the local water buses.  We bought our day passes for the vaporetto and as it started to move along the route, I felt an overwhelming feeling of wonder and reverence.  Who built these palazzo’s gracing the canals?. What secrets did the waters and the walls hold?  Who had lived in these magnificent homes and who lived in them now?  I wanted to drink it all in, to capture the feeling of the place, the energy, the mystery. It was a place that I remembered from my last visit and yet I had no memory of this city I had once visited.  This time, I wanted to experience the city, to be in the city and even though we only had the one day, I wanted to somehow be a part of the rhythm and truth of this incredible city.

Palazzo, Grand Canal, Venice

In the end, we chose to wander through the city, mostly by foot and the occasional ride on a vaporetto.  We didn’t visit the many museums in the gorgeous Palazzos.  We didn’t enter many churches and didn’t make it in time to enter the Basilica di San Marco before it closed.  We didn’t enjoy a gondola ride.  And yet it somehow didn’t matter.   It was the experience of being in this city that mattered most to me.

We browsed the fruit and vegetable and fish stalls of the Rialto markets with the local Venetians and walked on the famous Rialto Bridge.  We visited local bake shops and enjoyed specialty shops that sold art and fashions and trinkets and maps.  We had lunch in a quiet piazza and supper in an Osteria (a restaurant serving simple traditional Venetian food) with locals.   We wondered about the woman sitting in a window reading a book. We discovered a floating fruit and vegetable stand housed on a boat.  We watched as a bride and groom in traditional carnival masks greeted their guests outside the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace).   We navigated the throngs in Piazza San Marco to find MOO’s cousins who she was meeting for the first time.  We explored the shops that featured famous Murano glass sculptures.  But mostly we wandered along and explored the streets and bridges that were not featured in the guide books; the quiet, peaceful canals off the main waterways.  MOO learned something of her heritage from Resa and I took photos of twisting streets and canals, occasionally surprised by a gondola gliding silently around a corner carrying a couple holding hands, smiling happily.   A wizened, white-haired woman watching the pedestrians below her window smiled at me and held her hands in a gesture of triumph as I walked by and took her photo.  As the sun began to fade and we made our way back to the train station, I realized that this beautiful, mysterious, serene city had captured my heart and I was in love.

Rialto Bridge, Venice

GondolasBasillica San Marco, VeniceVenetian Bride and GroomFloating Market, VeniceVeniceVenice canalVenice CanalVeniceVenetian woman