Category Archives: World Travel

Malta.. and the Maltese Islands!

Malta 440-revised for FB-reduced

I just returned from my latest adventure to… Malta and the Maltese Islands. Malta (Gozo, and Comino) is a Southern European island country comprising an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea between Sicily and the North African coast. It is a nation known for historic sites related to a succession of rulers including the Romans, Moors, Knights of St. John, French and British. It has numerous fortresses, megalithic temples and the Δ¦al Saflieni Hypogeum, a subterranean complex of halls and burial chambers dating to 3600 B.C.E.

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If you are interested in a ‘big’ European atmosphere, history and culture… but a small town feel, I highly recommend Malta. The country has almost no crime, and is considered the safest country in Europe. Its gorgeous, and relaxing.. filled with friendly people, amazing architecture, yummy food.. and lots of desserts. With it being so close to Italy, the food is heavily influenced by Italian cuisine. Its safe to say I ate a lot of gelato, and did my own personal taste test of as many cannolis as I could across the islands. Hey, a girl’s gotta do, what a girl’s gotta do!Β πŸ˜‰ But at least my excuse was that I was getting a great workout while there walking up and down intensely steep sloped streets of all the cities. This is definitely a country I would return to b/c you feel so at home there.

As there was no direct flight from Houston to Malta, we flew through Istanbul, Turkey. Even had a couple days renewing my love for that amazing city. I can’t believe its already been 2 years since I traveled across Turkey for several weeks. So much has changed, and yet so much has stayed the same. Another great place, I will never grow tired of!

Peru… Finally! ;)

After almost a decade of making plans, only to have them put on hold, delayed, temporarily postponed, pushed back, and ultimately cancelled.. I FINALLY made it to (the ever elusive) Peru!

We had an action-packed 10 days (in what really should have been 14+ days).. traveling across this amazing country.. From Lima to Arequipa, through the Colca Canyons… visiting many little towns along the way.. up at the crack of dawn to watch condors soar.. and to see all the ancient Collagua Terraces, as well as Llamas, Alpacas, and Vicunas. Then on to Puno and Lake Titicaca to visit the Islas Uros (floating islands). Then on to Cusco.. along the way visiting ancient Inca ruins like Ollantaytambo, Sacsayhuaman, Moray, and many others to finally see the “big one” Machu Picchu. We even visited the ancient salt fields in Maras which is still actively used today.. and we made our way to Paracas and flew over the ancient Nazca lines.. Amazing!

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To top it off.. I, of course, had to do the big hike up Wayna Picchu.. all the way to the top to get the ‘best’ view of Machu Picchu..
Photo on the left.. me at the gates of Machu Picchu.. In the background (see red arrow), that is the mountain – Wayna Picchu – I climbed all the way to the top! Photo on the the right.. me at the top. (Please ignore the bad photos taken with my husband’s cell phone.. hahaha).

More photos to come.. πŸ™‚

Mini Trip to Alberta: Calgary – Banff – Lake Louise

With Brent being away for work for a couple weeks.. and with a surprise Air Canada seat sale, this past weekend I took a little trip to Alberta to visit him. I flew into Calgary on Thursday, spent Friday sightseeing in the city, then we drove up to Banff that (mid-late) afternoon. I have never been there before, and definitely have never seen the Canadian Rockies up close, but wow.. so incredibly beautiful! Had an amazing time in Banff on Friday night and Saturday, then we continued on to Lake Louise Saturday afternoon. Sunday morning we headed out of Banff National Park and into Jasper National Park where we went up to the Columbia Icefields, where I walked around on a glacier.

The town of Banff.
The town of Banff.
Some friends in a soccer field by the Fairmont..
Some friends in a soccer field by the Fairmont..
On top of a mountain in Banff.. amongst the Canadian Rockies.. Beautiful!
On top of a mountain in Banff.. amongst the Canadian Rockies.. Beautiful!
Canadian Rockies - Banff.
Canadian Rockies – Banff.
Lake Louise..
Lake Louise..
Jasper National Park - our ride to the Columbia Icefields.
Jasper National Park – our ride to the Columbia Icefields.
On a glacier - Columbia Icefields.
On a glacier – Columbia Icefields.
We even spotted a polar bear on the glacier! ;)
We even spotted a polar bear on the glacier! πŸ˜‰
The Skywalk.
The Skywalk.
Brent on the Skywalk! :)
Brent on the Skywalk! πŸ™‚
Some other friends we passed along the way in Banff National Park, as we headed back to Calgary!
Some other friends we passed along the way in Banff National Park, as we headed back to Calgary!

China Trip! :)

On May 26th, I arrived home in the evening after an amazing couple weeks traveling in China. What an amazing whirlwind trip.. Our trip began in Beijing – where I climbed the Great Wall, visited the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace, and Tiananmen Square… To Xian where I came face to face with the Terracota Warriors protecting the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China… Then on to Chengdu – where I visited the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding and went through the Keeper Experience Program. Next we headed to Chongqing by train where we boarded our river cruise down the Yangtze River for several relaxing days.. stopping at ports along the way to visit temples and pagodas.. We then flew to Shanghai – where dignitaries of state from countries across Asia were having a huge conference. We had the Vice President of Vietnam (who is a woman by the way), and a rep from Palestine and Jordan also staying at our hotel. Can you say crazy security?! But what an amazing city! So modern and sleek.. I would totally live there… From there, we flew to Hong Kong, where we spent our last few days in China.. and again another amazing city..

My favourite day was probably when I met this 9 month old panda baby girl. She was so cute, she liked having her belly and head rubbed, and you could even squeeze her legs. Just don’t touch her ears. As you can see by the photo she her favourite snack is bamboo. πŸ™‚

Best Day Ever!! Me and my panda. :)
Best Day Ever!! Me and my panda. πŸ™‚

Yup.. that’s me.. on the Great Wall of China, just outside Beijing.. And yes, I did climb that section in the background that goes straight up a mountain.. all the way to the top!

Great Wall of China!
Great Wall of China!

Beijing.. was, like all the major cities in China.. Huge! Thirty-two million people. Our first day it rained, but it didn’t matter.. I was in China! πŸ˜€

Beijing - Forbidden City
Beijing – Forbidden City
Beijing - Forbidden City
Beijing – Forbidden City
Beijing - Forbidden City. So many amazing carved stone decors. In this case, steps! :)
Beijing – Forbidden City. So many amazing carved stone decors. In this case, steps! πŸ™‚
Beijing - Summer Palace
Beijing – Summer Palace
Beijing - Summer Palace.
Beijing – Summer Palace.

Xian… a much larger than I expected. My husband said that it wasn’t that large when he was there 10 years ago.. but boy, have things changed. The city had thirty million people now. We visited a number of thing: the Terracotta Warriors of course.. but also we wandered around the city visiting the massive City Walls, and the Drum Tower, the Bell Tower, the Great Mosque, and Dayan Ta – The Great Goose Pagoda.

Xian - City walls.
Xian – City walls.
Xian - Drum Tower.
Xian – Drum Tower.
Xian - Terracotta Warriors. Amazing!!! :)
Xian – Terracotta Warriors.
Amazing!!! πŸ™‚

From Xian we made our way to Chengdu to see Pandas. Yay!! πŸ˜€ You probably can’t tell much of a difference between the pandas in the next two photos, but there is. The first is a baby panda up in a tree. That little guy kept wiggling around trying desperately to get into a comfortable position. Haha. He probably weighs about 50 lbs. The second photo is a full size adult panda relaxing as he eats bamboo for breakfast. He weighs about 400 lbs. πŸ˜‰

Baby Panda in a tree.. So cute!
Baby Panda in a tree.. So cute!
Adult Panda having some bamboo for breakfast.
Adult Panda having some bamboo for breakfast.

From Chengdu we took a high speed train to Chongqing. We clocked about 195 km/h. In Chongqing, we were picked up at the train station by a driver and guide and brought to our river cruise ship where we would spend the next four nights and three days relaxing as we travelled down the Yangtze River. It was definitely a nice little break in the middle of our trip. We traveled through the Three Gorges, and the Locks, and had stops at different ports along the way to visit temples and pagodas.

A shot of an identical high speed train from our train travelling at 195 km/h. ;)
A shot of an identical high speed train from our train travelling at 195 km/h. πŸ˜‰
Our Yantze River Cruise Ship.
Our Yantze River Cruise Ship.
On a hazy morning, we passed this coal yard.
On a hazy morning, we passed this coal yard.
Empress Gorge
Empress Gorge
Pagoda!
Pagoda!

When our river cruise down the Yangtze was over, we headed to the airport where we boarded a plane to Shanghai. Shanghai ended up being my absolute favourite city. It was glamorous, and ultra modern with amazing architecture on the Pudong side. It’s a city you just want to walk everywhere! The Bund, which is along the water – the Huangpu River – is lined with luxury hotels and wide walkways. The city came alive at the water’s edge. Yet, there is still history here. I had even had tea in a tea house from 1784, and visited the Yu Gardens and Bazaar.

Tea house from 1784.
Tea house from 1784.
My chamomile tea. The flower bloomed in the bottom of my tea pot. :)
My chamomile tea. The flower bloomed in the bottom of my tea pot. πŸ™‚

The end of our trip was near.. We landed in Hong Kong! The smallest city.. only 17.5 million people, but the most densely populated. It was also so much humid than all the other cities. But it was amazing!

When we first arrived in Hong Kong..  Standing on the Kowloon side, with Hong Kong behind me.
When we first arrived in Hong Kong.. Standing on the Kowloon side, with Hong Kong behind me.
From the Peak! With Hong Kong and Kowloon behind me.. Fabulous!! :)
From the Peak! With Hong Kong and Kowloon behind me.. Fabulous!! πŸ™‚
The hustle and bustle of the city.
The hustle and bustle of the city.
Incense burning in a temple.
Incense burning in a temple.
Bird Market.
Bird Market.
Gold Fish Market.
Gold Fish Market.

Adventures in Turkey!

Beautiful mosques in every city.
Beautiful mosques in every city.

This past September and October we spent three weeks travelling around Turkey. It was an amazing trip!

This trip definitely took a bit longer to recover from than I thought it would! Hahaha… It might have something to do with all the walking and climbing, and maybe even with that crazy flight home… But I saw so many amazing and unexpected things, I highly recommend everyone to visit this incredible country…

Covering my head as I visit a mosque. :)
Covering my head as I visit a mosque. πŸ™‚

From beautiful mosques like the Hagia Sophia with its Christian mosaics, to the incredible blue tiles covering every inch of the Blue Mosque; to Greek and Roman ruins along the Aegean and Mediterranean (too many to count); to hot springs and healing mud baths; to Pamukkale and it’s dramatic travertines of hard, brilliantly white calcium that form pools; to lots of yummy food and desserts..

That's me checking out Istanbul!
That’s me checking out Istanbul!

Just make sure you bring running shoes! There is a lot of uphill climbing everywhere… but it’s a great workout! πŸ˜‰

Homes built into caves.
Homes and churches built into caves.
Inside a cave church.. beautiful paintings.
Inside a cave church.. beautiful paintings.
Dinner at a rooftop restaurant along the warm Mediterranean.
Dinner at a rooftop restaurant along the warm Mediterranean.
Preserved ancient mosaics from centuries ago.
Preserved ancient mosaics from centuries ago.
Being a tourist in an incredible city like Istanbul is easy to do. ;)
Being a tourist in an incredible city like Istanbul is easy to do. πŸ˜‰ That’s the Blue Mosque behind me.
Shopping in the markets in Turkey ...
Shopping in the markets in Turkey …
Spice Market!
Spice Market!
A map of Turkey.
A map of Turkey.
Just some of the places we got to see...
Just some of the places we got to see…

Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam…. :)

I just returned from my fabulous three week vacation to Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam…. πŸ™‚ Oh, and a little stopover for a day in Tokyo, Japan.Β The tripΒ was fantastic! But boy-o-boy was it hot and sweaty! hahaha

Feeding a baby elephant bananas at the Elephant Conservation Centre. πŸ™‚
Petting baby elephants at the Elephant Conservation Centre in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Temple in Bangkok, Thailand.
Royal Palace. Thailand.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia.
Temple in Cambodia. Do you recognize it? They shot Lara Croft: Tomb Raider here. πŸ˜€
Halong Bay, Vietnam.

I’m Back!!! :)

I’m back!!! πŸ˜€ …. Back from Puerto Rico, and my cruise to St. Croix, Antigua, St. Lucia, and St. Kitts! πŸ™‚

It was fabulous.. and oh so toasty warm and sunny. Not like this chilly weather I have returned too. 😦 I want to go back and pronto! Its very difficult to go from beautiful sunny and warm weather, with temperatures in the 27-29C range, to coming home to -11C (with a windchill of -20C), and snow! Yes, that’s what I said.. snow!

Now from what I understand it has been snowing for days around Toronto, but it never really hit Toronto directly. In fact, there was barely a light dusting when I arrived late last night. And what there was, was not even on the roads, but only on the grassy areas. But this morning, things changed. And as the day went on, it got worse. By noon it was snowing light fluffy snow that wasn’t melting as soon as it hit the ground.

Sigh.

Oh well.. I’ll have to post some holiday pictures soon so that I can bask in the memories of the warm sunny weather via my photographs instead of actually being there and experiencing it first hand. Until my next vacation….. πŸ˜‰

On our hotel balcony in Puerto Rico. πŸ™‚
Our cruise ship docked in St. Croix.
At an old fort. And yes, it's a little windy! πŸ˜‰
On the cruise ship, on our stateroom balcony, as we were entering into a new dock first thing in the morning.