Tag: Bucket List

#GOALS: 7 Tips to Help You Create the Ultimate Travel Bucket List

#GOALS: 7 Tips to Help You Create the Ultimate Travel Bucket List

The Bucket List.

The phrase “bucket list” – meaning a list of items you wish to complete before you kick the bucket (die) – was made widely popular in a 2007 film starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. In the past decade, the phrase has become such a part of our culture that most people have a bucket list of some sort, even if it only exists in their head.

Most of us make a mental note or say, “I’d like to do that someday,” without giving much thought to creating an actual list. That approach, unfortunately, leaves us with a bucket list that may be incomplete or worse, rather generic. So here are some tips to make your ultimate travel bucket list not just tangible, but achievable.

1. Write it Down…

Bucket List Tips: Write it down.

Study after study has found that written goals are achieved more often than those that are not written down. And what is a bucket list, if it isn’t a list of your goals? Make sure you are keeping a record of your ultimate travel bucket list destinations. Documenting your desired destinations and experiences will ensure that you don’t lose track of any goals over the years.

2. …Or Type It Up

No one said your bucket list has to be on paper. Your bucket list can exist as a note in your phone, a Word document on your computer, or a series of well curated Pinterest boards. Use the system that works best for you.

3. Don’t Limit Yourself

It’s important to remember that a bucket list is a list of possibilities. If you think you would kinda-maybe-sorta enjoy jumping out of a plane and parachuting to the ground, go ahead and put it on your list. Even if you’re unsure whether you will ever be physically fit enough and/or brave enough to actually do it. Even if you won’t be able to afford it until you’re considerably older. Whatever your “even if” scenario may be, add it to the list anyway!

Some of my most rewarding experiences have been when I did something that I was afraid to do or lacked confidence in my ability to accomplish. Sometimes, as Susan Jeffers wrote in her 1987 best-seller, you have to feel the fear and do it anyway.

4. Be Specific & Creative

Ultimate Travel Bucket List Tips - be specific
Image via Flickr by Damian Gadal

I’d like to go to Ireland some day, and visiting that country has been an interest of mine for as long as I can remember. But a homemade CD of Christmas music that a friend’s husband made many years ago had a song on it that took my interest in Ireland up a notch or two.  The song “Christmas in Killarney” uses such vivid imagery to describe the town during the holidays! It sounded like a beautiful place, so I knew I had to see it… at Christmas, of course. My bucket list doesn’t just include “Ireland.” It says “Christmas in Killarney, Ireland.”

Another example is Italy. To say that I want to visit Italy is a gross understatement, and I would be doing myself a disservice if I included it on my ultimate travel bucket list that way. What I really want to do is:

  • Visit Venice
  • See the Colosseum in Rome
  • Admire the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo’s Pietà in Vatican City
  • Eat authentic pizza in Naples
  • Stay in a trullo
  • Tour the Uffizi Gallery in Florence
  • Visit Deruta and buy as much majolica as I can (a) afford and (b) legally take home
  • Go to the island of Monte Isola
  • See the ruins of Pompeii

I could go on and on. My point is: why reduce all of those wonderful experiences into a single line on your bucket list? For a truly ultimate travel bucket list, they should be individually named. Include as many details as you can.

Vividly describing your goals in written form is strongly associated with goal success, and people who very vividly describe or picture their goals are more likely to successfully accomplish their goals than people who don’t.

5. Make it a Work in Progress

Do not under any circumstances put your bucket list in an envelope, stick it in a drawer, and forget about it. Your bucket list should be continuously evolving. Add new places as you think of them (or discover them), and cross off the ones you have visited. You can change your mind about going someplace, too.

Remember: it’s on paper, not carved in stone. So make your ultimate travel bucket list an ever-evolving work that accurately reflects your desires.

6. No Pressure!

How to Create the Ultimate Travel Bucket List: Do not set deadlines for your travel goals.

This one is difficult, especially for the more driven, Type-A personality people.  Avoid attaching deadlines to the items on your bucket list. While it’s okay to assign general priority levels to your travel goals, items on your ultimate travel bucket list should not have specific deadlines. Why? Because life is nothing if not chaotic. You never know when your travel plans may be derailed by illness, injury, or financial adversity. Prioritize which goals are the most important to you and work to achieve them first.

7. The Most Important Tip of All

Once you’ve created your ultimate travel bucket list, there’s one thing left to do: set about making those dreams a reality!  Devise a strategy for achieving those travel goals, one at a time. Save your pennies, plot your course, and go out into the world with the satisfaction of knowing you are doing something of the utmost importance to the only one who really matters: yourself.

 

 

How to Create the Ultimate Travel Bucket List
Tips for Seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland

Tips for Seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland

Aurora Borealis – An Elusive Beauty.

When we went to Iceland last month, I had only one goal: seeing the northern lights. It was my bucket list item, practically my whole reason for taking the trip! A friend of mine had been to Iceland twice and did not get to see them either time. That made me nervous. So I read up on how to see the Northern Lights in Iceland and decided to stack the odds in my favor. Here’s how I did it:

1. Go in the winter.

In the winter months, the northern half of the Earth is tilted slightly away from the sun, which is why you have shorter periods of daylight. In order to maximize your chance of seeing the northern lights in Iceland, you should plan your trip between October and March.

2. Go when there is a new moon.

Moonlight can be very bright, and the brighter the sky, the harder it will be to see the northern lights. Therefore, pick a travel date around the new moon, which is when the moon is not at all visible. Just Google “moon phases” and find a calendar that shows when the new moon will be.

3. Check the forecast. Then check again. And again.

Once you arrive in Iceland, keep an eye on the Aurora forecasts at the Icelandic Meteorology Office web site. You’ll be looking at two things.  First, the amount of cloud cover that will be over the part of Iceland you’re in – skies need to be somewhat clear in order to see the aurora. Second, the amount of solar activity, which is rated on a scale of 0 to 9.

If you hit anything above a 4 and you follow the other tips here, you’re golden. When we went it was a 2-3 and we still saw them, although they were faint:

how to see the northern lights in Iceland.
My picture of the northern lights. I didn’t quite get the camera settings correct, but it’s still proof that I saw them, so I’m happy.

You will want to check the forecast repeatedly throughout the day, as weather conditions in Iceland are apt to change drastically from hour to hour.

4.  Get your camera settings right before you head out.

Don’t even bother trying to photograph the northern lights with your smart phone. You will definitely need a camera, and you will definitely need to adjust the settings to get a good shot.  Read up on how to set your camera before you go, and set your camera accordingly. You do not want to be standing in the middle of a field at night, in the winter, fiddling with your camera. It’s just not a good use of your time.

5. Find a dark place.

Try to get as far away as you can from city lights, also called “light pollution.”  Many people say that Thingvellir National Park is a good place to look for the lights. We were in Eastern Iceland when our opportunity arose, so we went to the local airport in Egilsstadir. The airport was closed and the parking lot was empty, so it was pretty dark.

6. Remember, you’re looking for the northern lights.

There is no point facing south when you’re looking for the northern lights. Directionally challenged? No problem!  Most smart phones have a compass app that will let you figure out which way is north.

 

7. Be patient.

The Northern lights may not be immediately visible, and your eyes may need a few moments to adjust to the darkness. They may not be as vividly colored as you see in photographs, and therefore not as noticeable.  But take heart, if there is no cloud cover and solar activity is present, you will see them.

xoxoxo

Header and Pinterest images created with photo via Flickr by Giuseppe Milo.

Ten Libraries That Should Be on Every Bibliophile’s Bucket List

Ten Libraries That Should Be on Every Bibliophile’s Bucket List

I love books.  I mean, I pink-puffy-heart love books.  Always have.  I could easily spend hours in a library or book store, even without taking any books home.  Just looking at them, holding them, and thumbing through them is, in my mind, an excellent way to pass the time.

So I was thinking about some of the nicer book stores and libraries I’ve visited, and I thought it would be a great thing to create a travel bucket list for bibliophiles like me.  So here are what I think are ten of the loveliest libraries you could ever hope to step foot in.

1. The Strahov Monastery Library

The Strahov Library in Prague, Czech Republic contains over 200,000 volumes, including over 3,000 manuscripts and 1,500 first prints stored in a special depository. Admission will cost you a little over $4.

strahov-monastery-library-czech-republic

2. The Kelmentinum

Also in Prague, the Klementinum’s Baroque Library Hall is the stunning home of the Czech National Library, housing 20,000 books from the early 17th century onwards. The hall is decorated with magnificent ceiling frescoes, and remains unaltered since the 18th century.  Admission is less than $10 and includes a guided tour of the entire complex, not just the library.

klementinum-czech-national-library

3.  The George Peabody Library

Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland houses the George Peabody Library. It is stunning.  The library’s 300,000 volume collection is particularly strong in religion, British art, architecture, topography and history; American history, biography, and literature; Romance languages and literature; history of science; and geography, exploration and travel.  Admission is free, but if you want to have your wedding there (be still my heart – wouldn’t that be amazing?!?!) you will have to rent the facility.

rsz_george_peabody_library_baltimore_md

4.  The Austrian National Library

Located in Vienna, the Austrian National Library is another beauty. It is the largest library in Austria, with 7.4 million items in its various collections. The library is located in the Hofburg Palace in Vienna. Admission is free.

austrian-national-library-vienna

5.  The Morrin Cultural Center

Located in Quebec, Canada, the Morrin Cultural Center is designed to educate the public about the historic contribution and present-day culture of local English-speakers. The library provides access to English-language books in a largely French-speaking city. Admission is free.

morrin-cultural-center-library-in-quebec

6.  Trinity College Library

The library at the very top of my bucket list is the one at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. The ancient Book of Kells is located at this library.  But perhaps even more famous is its Long Room:

trinity-college-library-dublin-ireland

7.  Stuttgart City Library

I am very partial, as you can see, to libraries with multiple levels of shelving, dark-ish interiors, and  art.  It almost feels like a home, inviting you to come inside, relax, and get lost in the pages of a volume.  However, the much more modern Stuttgart City Library also appeals to me for the exact opposite reason… here the books are definitely the stars of the show, and little can distract you from them.  Admission is free.

Stuttgart City Library Germany.jpg

8.  Royal Portuguese Library

Okay, back to dark and cozy.  The Royal Portuguese Library in Rio de Janeiro Brazil is just that.  It is the largest library in Latin America and the 7th largest in the world.  Its collections include about 9 million items. Admission is free.

rsz_royal_portuguese_reading_room_brazil

9.  The Mortlock Wing State Library

Located in South Australia, the Mortlock Wing State Library is housed in a stunning Victorian era building built in the French Renaissance style.  It has two galleries and a glass domed roof.  Admission is free.

rsz_mortlock_wing_state_library_australia

10.  The King’s Library

Finally, the King’s Library (part of the British Library, and also called the King George III Collection) in London is not to be missed.  When King George III came to the throne in the mid-eighteenth century, England did not have a proper library.  He set about the business of acquiring book collections and setting up a royal library.  Today, many of the books from his collection are on view to visitors behind UV-filter glass.  Admission is free.

king-george-iii-library-london

So, there you have it.  Ten amazing, beautiful libraries that you can visit in your travels around the world.  Have you been to any of them?  Let me know in the comments if you have, or if you think I overlooked an amazing library that should have made the list.

 

Bucket List: Canary Islands

Bucket List: Canary Islands

Imagine a place with an average temperature of about 72 degrees, with no extreme cold or heat.  Nearly every day there is sunny – 27 days each month of nothing but sunshine!  The terrain is so varied that it includes volcanoes, ancient forests, dramatic cliffs, and waterfalls. The skies are so brightly lit with stars that they are considered the clearest and brightest in Europe.

Do you want to go yet?  I know I do.  The place described above is the Canary Islands, and I am ready to go!  This archipelago of islands is an autonomous community of Spain. Even though I will refer to it as being Spanish, you should be aware that it is actually located off the western coast of Africa.

canary islands.png

The islands are:

El Hierro

The westernmost island and also the smallest. It is about 104 square miles and has only 10, 000 inhabitants.  It is a marine reserve with 46 dive sites, so if SCUBA is your thing, this is the place to be.

El Hierro Diving.jpg

Fuerteventura

This is the island for beach lovers.  White sand, turquoise waters, and (of course) plenty of sunshine make this the island to be on for swimmers, surfers, and sun-bathers.

Fuerteventura Beaches.jpg

Corralejo is one of the most stunning of the beaches on the island, and also one of the most touristy.  A more secluded beach experience will be found on the sand of Cofete.  Gentle waves are the norm on Playa Esmeralda. La Escalera beach, formally called  El Aljibe de la Cueva, is a hidden beach just south of El Cotillo, a fishing village that has become more resort-heavy over time.

Gran Canaria

This large island has a population of close to 850,000 inhabitants. One of the most unique places on this island is the Maspalomas Dunes (which would look like the Sahara Desert if it weren’t for the water in the distance).

Canary Islands Maspalomas Dunes.jpg

Pico de las Nieves (the highest peak on the island), and if you make the trek to the top, you will be rewarded with some stunning views:

Pico de las Nieves.jpg

Pico de las Nieves means ‘peak of the snows’ in Spanish.  Several covered pits for holding snow were built directly into the mountainsides here. The first of the pits was constructed in 1694 by order of the Church. Laborers collected snow and placed it into the pits, packed in rectangular boxes of wood or cork separated by layers of straw. The snow was used for alleviating disease, to lower the temperature in the epidemics of yellow fever and cholera, as well as anti-inflammatory and analgesic. It was also used to cool water or other beverages that were offered to the authorities or upper class individuals.

La Gomera

This island is home to 22,000 people and also Garajonay National Park, a lush, subtropical forest. This is a place where the clouds hang low over the ground, providing an atmosphere of constant humidity, which encourages growth of this lush and leafy forest.

La Gomera - Garajonay

Lanzarote

This is the easternmost island in the archipelago. One of the main attractions on this island is Mirador del Rio, which is a scenic overlook which allows visitors to gaze out upon the turquoise waters and other islands in the distance.

Canary Islands Mirador del Rio Lanzarote

Also on this island is the Timanfaya National Park, where the main attraction is the volcano. The surface temperature in the core ranges from 100 to 600 °C at the depth of 43 feet.  Park employees impress tourists by pouring water into the ground, resulting in a near-immediate geyser of steam.  LagOmar, a museum/bar/restaurant described as New Mexico-meets-Morocco is another popular attraction on Lanzarote.  Great fun for art and architecture enthusiasts.

Canary Islands LagoMar.jpg

La Palma

The island of La Palma is a fantastic place for star gazing and astronomy.  The clear and protected night skies of La Palma are among the world’s best for looking at the stars. Take advantage with a guided night tour or a star gazing session at a viewpoint. To get as close as you can to the cosmos, head to the Roque de los Muchachos observatories at nearly 8000 feet above sea level.

La Palma Stargazing

Tenerife

This island has an area of 785 square miles and a population of over 900,000.  On this island is the Teide volcano, which at nearly 12,200 feet is the highest mountain, not just in the Canary Islands, but in all of Spain. The volcano and its surroundings make up Teide National Park, which is the most visited national park in Europe.

The park is home to 14 species of plants found nowhere else, including this striking plant:

tenerife summit rose bush

Geologically, it is also pretty unique.  Visitors can see eighty percent of the different types of volcanic formations here.  (My favorite is the pahoehoe, which looks like it’s still molten and flowing even when it isn’t.)

Tenerife Pahoehoe

And while on Tenerife, be sure to visit the amazing Auditorio, which I think is every bit as stunning as the Sydney Opera House, inside and out.

Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Iles Canaries, Espagne

Tenerife Auditorio Interior

Think mummies are just Egyptian?  Think again.  At the Museo de la Naturaleza y el Hombre (which translated means Museum of Nature and Man), you will see mummies and so much more.  This museum will give you a great picture of what the islands were like before Spanish colonization took place.  Another museum, Casa de los Balcones (House of the Balconies), will give you some insight into the local craftsmanship in embroidery.

Tenerife is probably more well known as a destination than some of the other islands.  As a result, it is also more built up with tourist hotels and restaurants.  If you’re looking for more of a wine & dine, nightlife kind of getaway, this would be the place to stay.

The next time you’re planning a dream vacation, why not consider the Canary Islands as your destination.  With such a variety of things to see and do, and near-perfect weather, it’s an ideal location!

 

Bucket List: Skellig Michael, Ireland

Bucket List: Skellig Michael, Ireland

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

Every now and then, I will see a picture of a place and wonder how it’s possible that I haven’t seen it before.  I had one of those moments at the end of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, when Rey climbed up that mountain to give Luke his lightsaber.  It was such a cool looking place – why had I never seen it before?

rsz_skellig_michael_2.jpg

Thanks to the internet, it didn’t take long to discover that the location for that scene was Skellig Michael, an island off the coast of Ireland. A Christian monastery was founded there some time between the 6th and 8th century. People lived on the island until the late 12th/early 13th century. The remains of the monastery, and most of the island, are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A small, secluded community in the sea

The monastic site at Skellig Michael contains six beehive cells, two oratories and a number of stone crosses and slabs. It also contains a later medieval church and a hermitage. Historians have estimated that no more than twelve monks and an abbot lived there at any one time.  Those monks would have to descend nearly 700 steps to go fishing for their food each morning.  The remainder of their day would be spent in prayer, tending their gardens, and/or studying.

rsz_skellig_michael_3

The stone, beehive-shaped huts were constructed in such a way that rain would never enter them.  They are circular on the outside, but rectangular on the inside.

Finally, I will leave you with these words from author George Bernard Shaw, who visited Skellig Michael in 1910:

The most fantastic and impossible rock in the world: Skellig Michael…where in south west gales the spray knocks stones out of the lighthouse keeper’s house…the Skelligs are pinnacled, crocketed, spired, arched, caverned, minaretted; and these gothic extravagances are not curiosities of the islands: they are the islands: there is nothing else. The rest of the cathedral may be under the sea for all I know…An incredible, impossible, mad place…I tell you the thing does not belong to any world that you and I have lived and worked in: it is part of our dream world.

The site will no doubt be featured as a Star Wars: The Last Jedi filming location when the movie premieres in December 2017. I, for one, can’t wait to see more of it!

Before you go:

A limited number of tour operators run trips to Skellig Michael during the summer season (May to October, inclusive), weather permitting. For safety reasons, because the steps up to the monastery are rocky, steep, and old, climbs are not permitted during very wet or windy weather.  Reservations are recommended and should be made far in advance of any planned trip to the island.

 

Top Ten Places to See in Wales

Top Ten Places to See in Wales

Why Wales?

I have wanted to go to Wales ever since I saw Hugh Grant’s movie The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill but Came Down a Mountain. In fact, the trip that I’ll be taking next month originally started out as an England & Wales combined trip. Unfortunately, time constraints prevented us from doing both, and Hubs was pretty adamant that he wanted to see Hadrian’s Wall.  So Wales is pretty high on the list of future vacations.

I did a lot of research about Wales back when I thought we would be able to do both. Here are the top ten things I can’t wait to see when I go to Wales.

1. Hay-on-Wye.  This tiny village (population 1600) is known as a book town. In fact, it’s the world’s largest second hand & antiquarian book center. You’ll find book stores on every corner and you’ll even see unmanned shelves of books with an honor system for customers. The largest of the “honesty shops” is a row of shelves lining the castle wall.  Castle + books = I could spend days there!

wales top ten hay on why castle bookshop

2. The Straining Tower at Lake Vyrnwy.  It looks much more romantic than it actually is. Its purpose is to filter or strain out material in the water with a fine metal mesh, before the water flows along the aqueduct to Liverpool. The tower rises 104 feet above water, and is topped with a pointed copper-clad roof with a light green patina.

wales top ten straining tower lake vyrnwy

3.  Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch.  The town with the longest name in Britain – 58 letters! (Oddly enough, it is not the longest name in the world, though; that honor belongs to a place in New Zealand.) The name, translated from Welsh, means “Saint Mary’s Church in a hollow of white hazel near the swirling whirlpool of the church of Saint Tysilio with a red cave.” I just want to go get our picture taken under the name sign and buy a souvenir tee shirt.

wales top ten longest town name

4. Castell Coch.  This Gothic Revival Castle was built in the late 19th century as a country residence.  It is often referred to as a fairy tale castle because of its round towers.  And while the exterior of the castle appears medieval, the interior is high Victorian.

wales top ten castell coch

5. The Doctor Who Experience.  You get to see what it’s like to be inside the TARDIS, for goodness’ sake.  What else could you want?

UPDATE:  The Doctor Who Experience is no longer open. 🙁

wales top ten Doctor Who Experience

6. Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  You can ride a boat or walk across the aqueduct, which is the highest and longest in Great Britain.  It is 126 feet high and 336 yards long.  From what I’ve read, the views from there are outstanding.

wales top ten Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

7.  Tintern Abbey.  Thanks to Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century, Abbey ruins are all over the British Isles.  I’ve seen photos of many different abbey ruins, and I think Tintern has one of the loveliest sites.

wales top ten Tintern Abbey

8. Pembrokeshire.  This area of Wales reminds me so much of Cornwall (my happy place). There are many beautiful beaches and small harbor towns.

wales top ten Pembrokeshire

9. Skomer Island.  It is the world’s largest puffin colony.  And, as if that weren’t enough, there are also stone circles and the remains of prehistoric houses.

wales top ten skomer puffin

10. Gladstone’s Library.  It’s a residential library, possibly the only one in the world. Bibliophiles like me can look at books all day, go to sleep when we can’t hold our eyes open any longer, then wake up and look at books again.  Yay!  As an added plus, the room rates are some of the cheapest I’ve seen in the UK.

wales top ten Gladstone's Libary

So, there you have it: my next European adventure, already planned.  I can’t wait to see these Wales top ten places in person!

 

Socotra Yemen: An Island Like No Other

Socotra Yemen: An Island Like No Other

Socotra, an island of 50,000 people measuring 82 x 31 miles, is in the Arabian Sea and is part of the country of Yemen.

Socotra Yemen in History

In 52 AD, a shipwreck brought Thomas the Apostle to Socotra. He constructed a church out of his ship’s wreckage and baptized many Socotrans. The population of the island remained Christian until the 1500s.

The Travels of Marco Polo, written in the 13th century, mentions Socotra, stating that “the inhabitants are baptized Christians and have an ‘archbishop'” who, it is further explained, “has nothing to do with the Pope in Rome, but is subject to an archbishop who lives at Baghdad.”

According to The Arabian Nights, Sinbad the Sailor visited the island on his fifth voyage. Unfortunately for him, a pair of huge birds of prey dropped boulders on his ship and destroyed it.

Plants

The island is one of the most isolated land forms on earth that did not result from volcanic eruptions. As a result, roughly one-third of the plant life on Socatra is unique to the island. That’s nearly 700 species of plants that are unique to Socotra. One of them is the Dragon’s Blood Tree:

Socotra Dragonblood Tree

Shaped like an umbrella, this tree has red sap called dragon’s blood because of its appearance.  The sap aided in dying fabrics, and today is used as paint and varnish.  The people who live on the island also use the tree sap for medicinal purposes such as general wound healing, as a coagulant, cure for diarrhea, for dysentery diseases, and for lowering fevers.

Another unique plant on Socotra is the cucumber tree:

socotra cucumber tree.jpg

In times of severe drought, islanders cut down these trees, pulp them and feed them to their livestock. Unfortunately, that means that there are some areas of the island almost completely devoid of the trees.

Animals

Socotra is just as unique in terms of its wildlife.  The island is home to at least seven unique bird species. In addition, nearly 90% of Socotran reptiles are only found there.  Because of these characteristics in its flora and fauna, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) named the island a world natural heritage site in July 2008.

Landscapes

The physical characteristics of the island are just as interesting as its plants and wildlife. There are several caves, with enormous stalagmites and stalactites.  This is Halah Cave:

halah Cave

The bright light near the center of the photo is from a man holding a flashlight.  That should give you an idea of how big the cave is.

And the beaches are just beautiful:

Socotra Coastline.jpg

So, if you’re looking for a getaway that’s a little unique and mostly unheard of, consider going to Socatra.  You will see things most people don’t even know about!

For more information about Socatra and how to travel there, visit the Socotra Information web site.

Bucket List: Seeing Polar Bears in Churchill Manitoba

Bucket List: Seeing Polar Bears in Churchill Manitoba

Polar Bears in Churchill Manitoba

I have loved polar bears since I took an elementary school field trip to the National Zoo. I thought they were just fascinating and utterly adorable.  Some years later, when they closed the polar bear exhibit, the zoo became significantly less enjoyable for me.

Oddly enough, a visit to the Baltimore Zoo re-kindled my love for polar bears and put this particular trip on my Bucket List.  The polar bear exhibit there showcased the town of Churchill in Manitoba, Canada (population 800).  Churchill sees an influx of polar bears (and tourists) every year between late October and early November. Churchill enjoys a reputation as the Polar Bear Capital of the World, among other things.

Polar Bears churchill manitoba canada
Photo via Flickr by Emma Bishop

The polar bears in Churchill Manitoba gather at nearby Cape Churchill waiting for ice to form on Hudson Bay. Once the ice is stable, they head out to spend the winter hunting seals. That’s when tourists are able to go out in a special vehicle called a tundra buggy. Polar bears can get close to the buggies (and, therefore, the tourists!) without jeopardizing anyone’s safety. They’re strong animals, but they aren’t strong enough to knock one of these over!

polar bear churchill manitoba tundra buggy
Photo of a tundra buggy via Flickr by Emma Bishop

As you can imagine, living in close proximity to such fearsome hunters means that certain precautions must be taken for safety.  For instance, on Halloween, children cannot wear all-white costumes (such as a ghost), and residents patrol every street. Many residents leave their cars unlocked in case someone needs emergency shelter from a polar bear.

Local authorities even have a “polar bear jail” to hold bears who persistently loiter in or close to town. Authorities release the detainees back into the wild when the bay freezes over.

polar bears in churchill manitoba
Photo of the Polar Bear Jail via Flickr by Emma Bishop.

A lot of the places in Churchill offering polar bear expeditions do a full package with lodging and everything else.  They run in the $5000 range, which I think is a bit steep.  And my Grand Canyon experience has made me leery of spending multiple days in locations that are not highly populated.

Thankfully, you can do a tundra buggy day trip in the fall polar bear season for less than $500 per person. That seems a tad more manageable.

Have you ever been on one of these polar bear sightings? I’d love to hear about it!

 

polar bears in churchill manitoba
There are few places outside of a zoo where you can get an up close look at polar bears. Churchill Manitoba is one of those places.

 

Bucket List: La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires

Bucket List: La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires

I’ve mentioned before my love of old cemeteries. There is one that is pretty high up on my bucket list: La Recoleta in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Established in 1822, it was the city’s first public cemetery.

Photo via Flickr by papajuan74

La Recoleta cemetery is set in 14 acres, with 4691 vaults, all above ground. Ninety-four of those vaults have been declared National Historical Monuments by the Argentine government and are protected by the state. The entire cemetery is laid out in sections like city blocks, with wide tree-lined walkways branching into sidewalks filled with mausoleums.

La Recoleta was named as one of the ten most beautiful cemeteries in the world by CNN, and it’s easy to see why:

Photo via Flickr by Michael K Donnelly
Photo via Flickr by Liam Quinn

The cemetery is the final resting place of many notable people, including Eva Perón (aka Evita), presidents of Argentina, Nobel Prize winners, the founder of the Argentine Navy, and an illegitimate granddaughter of Napoleon.

Photo via Flickr by David Berkowitz

As you can imagine, there are interesting stories that go along with some of the memorials there. Take, for instance, Rufina Cambacérès, who suddenly collapsed one evening in 1902 and was pronounced dead at the tender age of 19.

Photo via Flickr by Christian Haugen

The story goes that a few days after Rufina’s funeral, a cemetery worker found that the coffin had moved within the crypt and the lid was broken in places. Fearing grave robbery, he opened it to find something even worse— scratch marks covering the inside of the coffin, and Rufina dead, hands and face bruised from having tried to break her way out of the coffin.

And, if you’re into ghost stories, there is the story of David Alleno, a grave digger who worked at the cemetery for some thirty years. He saved his wages for years in order to buy his very own plot in the burial ground. According to the legend, after commissioning an Italian architect to sculpt a statue of him, he put the finishing touches on the precious spot then went home and killed himself. There are rumors that he haunts the cemetery at night, and that visitors can still hear the noise of his keys as he walks the narrow streets before dawn.

rsz_la_recoleta_alleno

These are just two of the stories centered in La Recoleta Cemetery. I’m sure there are nearly as many stories as there are tombs. I hope one day I can go discover more of them myself!

La Recoleta Cemetery is located at Junín 1760, 1113 CABA, Argentina. Telephone +54 11 4803-1594.  The cemetery is open daily from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm. English tours are available at 11:00 am on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

 

Bucket List: The Marble Caves of Chile

Bucket List: The Marble Caves of Chile

In the Patagonia region of South America, there is a sizable lake stretching across the Argentina-Chile border.  In Chile, that lake is called General Carrera Lake.  In Argentina, it is called Lake Buenos Aires.

The lake, formed by melting glaciers, is incredibly blue.  Combine that with the stunning marble cliffs and caves, and it’s a must see.

Apparently, marble is slightly soluble in water.  Over thousands of years, the lake water seeped into small cracks in the marble cliffs, the cracks grew larger and larger until a system of caves was formed.

marble Caves 3.jpg

There are also two marble islands in the lake.  One is called Marble Cathedral, and the other (smaller) one is Marble Chapel.

marble chapel

Beautiful, isn’t it?  This is one of the places that I hope to someday see in person.

If you plan a trip to see the Marble Caves of Chile, here’s what you need to know:

  • Boats can be rented in the nearby town Puerto Tranquilo so you can get an up-close view of the caves.
  • The water level is lower in early spring (early autumn if you’re in the northern hemisphere), and the caves have a more natural hue (brown/gray).
  • In summer (winter for northern hemisphere folks), the water level is higher and the caves are more reflective, giving the marble an eerie blue appearance.
  • Don’t delay.  The area is in danger because a company by the name of Hydroaisen is seeking to build a dam on the Baker River (water from General Carrera Lake flows to the ocean via the Baker River).  The transfer of the energy to the cities would require a construction of new high-tension power lines and one such line is planned next to Marble Caves.

Marble Caves.png