In 2005 we decided on a trip to Canada, starting with a flight to Toronto, a train to Vancouver and a ferry over to the Island where we hired a car to get around to some amazing places. So join me on my Canadian trip of a lifetime.
Air: The following images are taken on coming in to land at Toronto as we circled right over the city. Sometimes even having a seat with a wing view can be interesting too.
Sunlight on Wing
Toronto’s CN Tower from the air
Tommy Thompson Park
Train: After a few days exploring Toronto and a quick trip down to Niagara Falls we joined the Canadian train departing from Union Station in the country’s largest city to cross through some of Canada’s most sparsely populated regions. On the first day the panorama changes from the glass skyscrapers of Toronto to the pine trees of Sioux Lookout. Day two took us to Edmonton, crossing Winnipeg River, the Prairies and the lakes of Whiteshell Provincial Park. On the third day the train steadily climbs through the foothills of the Rockies, crossing several rivers and glacial lakes of the most stunning colours. After Jasper the train winds its way through the Yellowhead Pass, the crest of which marks the border of Alberta and British Columbia. The Canadian is in sight of Mount Robson for 16 km before turning sharply south and descending. In the early hours of the morning the mountains suddenly fall away and the Canadian follows the flat green fields along the Fraser River. It arrives at the Pacific Railway Station in Vancouver after a long and astonishing journey.
A Sunset on the move
Grain silos in the Prairies
Boat: On reaching Vancouver the next step of our journey was to travel on the wonderful BC Ferries up and along the Sunshine Coast then over to Vancouver Island. I’m not a very good sailor, but would go on these ferries any time, and if you are lucky, as we were, you might catch a glimpse of a pod or two of Orcas.
Crossing to the Island
Just in Case…
Of course there are many other types of boats on Vancouver Island, so here are a few of the smaller ones.
Comox Harbour at sunset
Ferry Boat Victoria
Houseboat – Fisherman’s Wharf
Road: Of course the journey would not be complete without the use of our lovely Lincoln hire car. She enabled us to get off the highways and to more remote places that were not easily accessible by public transport. On and off ferries to explore the smaller islands of Hornby and Denman, over a logging route to visit Telegraph Cove, along the Pacific Rim coastline to Port Renfrew, Ucluelet and Tofino, and north to Alert Bay. But my first journeys in the car were in the environs of Vancouver – to the fabulous UBC Anthropology Museum, Van Dusen Gardens and over the Lions Gate Bridge to Grouse Mountain.
Lions Gate Bridge
Arriving at the B&B
And of course there are many other methods of transport available in Canada. I hope you have enjoyed the ride 🙂
In the spring of 2017 we had a week’s holiday in the neighbouring county of Devon. South Devon to be precise because it was one area that we hadn’t explored much in many decades. Although we had a wonderful week we never had time to go into Dartmoor National Park so we were determined to go back. A lot has happened since then, but finally last week we did manage a short break.
We based ourselves in Tavistock on the western edge of the park and for once we booked into a hotel with bed, breakfast and dinner included so we didn’t have to think about anything other than where we were going to go each day. I prefer holiday cottages but they are never a proper holiday for me.
The weather was a bit iffy – sunshine and showers forecast throughout the 4 days, but we didn’t do too badly. On the rainiest day we went into Exeter to tick off yet another cathedral from our list. And of course there had to be one garden visit.
I planned a circular drive around Dartmoor with several stops to have a walk, enjoy the views and on the OH’s birthday we had a perfect day for it with blue skies, sunshine and wonderful fluffy white clouds. Our first stop was just inside the park, a bare 4 miles from Tavistock, at Pork Hill car park where you have amazing views over Tavistock and towards Plymouth to the south. Loads of parking and a good place for several walks / hiking trails / tors.
And an ice-cream van. Though too early in the day for us.
Onwards to our next stop at Postbridge where you will find a large car park and toilets. There is a small museum and and exhibition about the local area which helps to explain the development of the moors and a shop selling books, maps, information leaflets to help you explore the area, including the Walks around Postbridge leaflet as well as local crafts and gifts. The staff are very welcoming and friendly too.
Close by you will find one of the best examples of an iconic clapper bridge. It is believed to date back to medieval times and would probably have replaced stepping stones to help packhorses cross the river. The bridge has two central piers spanned by three large granite slabs, or clappers.
The word clapper is thought to derive from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘cleaca’, meaning stepping stones, or ‘bridging the stepping stones’.
It’s a very popular place for families who love to paddle in the river with fishing nets for pond dipping (not sure what they can find) and also picnic in the meadow close by.
One of the nicest things about driving through the park is the sense of space. Despite it being the school half term holidays the park wasn’t very busy and most of the many car parks (usually free) were relatively empty which meant we could stop when and where we liked.
Of course stopping to look at the ubiquitous Dartmoor ponies was a must. The speed limit with the park is 40mph – but you always have to keep your eyes open for sheep, ponies and even cattle crossing or walking in the road. Slow travel at its best.
I was thinking about what makes Dartmoor different to other similar places I have visited, such as Exmoor, North Yorkshire, the Brecon Beacons. It seems a lot bleaker and desolate with so much space and very few signs of human habitation and perhaps a sense of history from Early Neolithic to the much more recent tin mining. The big skies and on this day, the clouds, are pretty amazing too though I wouldn’t want to be up here in the mist and rain.
Wending our way around the park via Moretonhampstead and Bovey Tracey our next port of call was the famous Haytor which lies between Bovey Tracey and Widdecombe in the Moor.
Haytor is perhaps the most easily accessible tor and has spectacular views across Dartmoor and the South Devon coast. I think we chose the steepest path up to the rocks though, but we made it!
The rocky granite outcrops (tors) that dominate the landscape were formed over 280 million years ago. People have been here for over 4,000 years, you will see the remains of prehistoric round houses, field boundaries and burial cairns.
It was the busiest place we came across during the day with a lot of people rock climbing and bouldering. There is a Visitor Centre here too where you can buy a ‘Walks around Haytor’ leaflet or the ‘Haytor’ booklet.
We didn’t stop in Widdecombe in the Moor which is famous for two things; The Church of St Pancras, colloquially known as the Cathedral of the Moors in recognition of its 120-ft tower, stands over the village green — helping to make Widecombe one of the most beloved villages on Dartmoor
and the folk song “Widecombe Fair” which immortalises the tale of Tom Pearce and the death of his horse at the famous annual fair which is held on the second Tuesday in September. It is a classic agricultural fair with horse jumping, rural crafts, a dog show and much more.
“Tom Pearce, Tom Pearce, lend me your grey mare.
All along, down along, out along lea.
For I want for to go to Widecombe Fair,
With Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney,
Peter Davy, Dan’l Whiddon, Harry Hawke,
Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all,
Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all.”
The roads here are quite narrow so there is much stopping and reversing and squeezing into passing places so not for the faint-hearted driver. I had planned my route to avoid the narrowest of roads, but some are unavoidable. All I can advise is to take your time and don’t panic!
Our final stop was at Dartmeet where two rivers – the East Dart and the West Dart converge. After a short stroll along the banks of the river looking for damselflies, dragonflies and Kingfishers we called it a day once the route became too rocky for comfort.
All in all a great day out, though to really make the most of Dartmoor you probably need to explore on foot and spread out the walks over several days.
On a visit to California, a few years ago, we had to travel to San Diego from San Francisco and decided that it might be fun to drive down the coast using the PCH rather than fly between the two cities. So from that decision a little road trip was born.
This is the first section between San Francisco and the lovely town of Carmel-by-the-Sea.
Distance: 133 miles via Halfmoon Bay, Santa Cruz Time: 3 hours without stopping
The PCH (Pacific Highway) is one of those iconic drives that should be done in a pink Cadillac convertible with the top down making the most of the azure blue skies and brilliant Californian sunshine with plenty of Beach Boys and Mamas and Papas CDs on board. In reality this was February and an open top car was not an option. We ended up with a Chevvy, but a poor imitation of the Chrysler PT Cruiser with black tinted windows; the skies were gun-metal grey. Not the ideal start, but hey it felt good to be on the road.
We began our journey in San Francisco and immediately headed southwest on to the Cabrillo Highway at Pacifica to follow it south to Monterey and Carmel – our first stop. This is not a long section, but it can take a long time, as there are plenty of scenic viewpoints to stop off at on your way down the coast and in the summer there are several roadside food stalls to entice you.
The section between Pacifica and Half Moon Bay in San Mateo County is prone to periodic landslides and road closures and one stretch is known as the Devil’s Slide*. This particular stretch of road reminded me of Chapman’s Peak Drive in the Cape Peninsula, South Africa, as it hugs a similar steep promontory with equally stunning vistas. We stopped at Half Moon Bay to admire the surfers and the beautiful beach until the rain sent us scudding back to the car.
*(This stretch of the Cabrillo Highway has since been replaced by a road tunnel).
Don’t forget to stop at the family run Duartes Tavern in Pescadero which is a little further south and only 2 miles off the state road; it is still run by the 4th generation of Duartes and home to the worlds most divine Olallieberry Pie, world-famous Cream of Artichoke Soup, and Crab Cioppino. We, on the other hand have had a full breakfast there and no complaints. In this small town you can also find interesting craft shops, artichoke bread and a goat dairy. If you have the time a stroll along the Pescadero State Beach back at the junction with Highway One may bring you into contact with harbour seals among the sand dunes. Continue reading Flashback Friday #21
This post stems from a visit to London in late April 2014 – hard to believe this was seven years ago! Seven years! And yet I remember it as though it was last week.
Just Back From… London
It’s a funny old world. I lived a little more than an hour away from London for 7 years, but in all that time I’d never spent a day there other than for attending meetings for work. So a train in, a tube to the location and back again, sometimes with a glance at some interesting architecture, thinking I really should bring a camera with me next time. Never spent any time in recent years exploring the city. I didn’t like London you see. I found it dirty, noisy and too busy so all I wanted to do was get in and get out as quickly as possible.
I have ‘done’ the tourist things years ago – Buck Palace, the Mall, Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, Camden Lock, Greenwich Market, but never been interested in what else it has to offer, until now, when I decided that I should at least visit the splendid museums that lie within the centre and are free. I like free. And Kew Royal Botanical Gardens. I like gardens.
So last week I accompanied the OH who was going there for business purposes and found myself in a reasonable hotel a spit away from Earl’s Court. With three days at my disposal. And a tube strike for two of those days. I dislike the tube at the best of times but at least it gets you to where you need to go, usually. Now buses, not only are they complicated, but also they are slow. On account of all that traffic you see.
On my first day I spent an hour and a half going round in circles as I attempted to get across to Chancery Lane tube station to go on a London walk. Eventually it dawned on me that there was no way I was getting anywhere close to the centre as Circle, Central and Piccadilly lines were not running. Had I realised that at the start of the journey I could have made my way differently, but by the time I’d sussed out an alternative route it was too late. Frustrated now, by all the hopping on and off tubes going nowhere, I opted for some fresh air in Kew Gardens, but even that was a challenge as it involved a tube to Turnham Green, a walk to a bus stop, a bus to Kew Gardens Station and a walk to the gardens. Phew! I was quite exhausted before I even got there! Continue reading Flashback Friday #19
When I met my OH in 2002 we each had a different favourite city in the world, which the other had not visited, so we made a promise to see each place together. In 2005 I went to Vancouver, his choice, and a very good one too, this is the story of my choice – Cape Town, South Africa at Easter in 2008.
I lived in Cape Town, on and off, between 1973 and 1984 and fell in love with this beautiful city. I was eager to return with my (new) husband to show him my favourite parts. It had been over eight years since my last visit to the Mother City and a lot longer since I had travelled along the Garden Route, so I was keen to explore old and new places and show him what I thought made this the best city in the world. On arrival at the politically neutral named Cape Town International airport we picked up the VW Polo hire car and drove to our first destination in Constantia. We were staying in a lovely, welcoming bed and breakfast close to the beautiful Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens.
The only slightly off-putting aspect was the electric fencing surrounding the property and the guard at the entrance of the electronic gates. Oh, how things have changed, and not necessarily better for anyone. I was concerned that this might put my husband off. He already had some misgivings about visiting the country because of its notorious crime rate. Seeing the neighbourhood covered in ‘Armed Response’ signs wasn’t going to appease him.
The weather on the other hand was perfect with azure blue skies, a soft, gentle breeze and it was pleasantly warm. Having unpacked in our large bright bedroom, overlooking gardens to the front and rear, we strolled up to Kirstenbosch to stretch our legs after the long flight from London, via Windhoek and get some well-needed sunshine.
This botanic garden is so tranquil and the backdrop of Table Mountain is so dramatic I could have stayed here for the entire trip photographing the many spectacular proteas and sunbirds. It became a regular evening walk during our stay.
Later we drove over Constania Nek and down to Hout Bay and along the coast road to Llandudno hoping to see a decent sunset, but cloud on the horizon put paid to that idea. As we drove back to the B&B we called in for a meal of Kingklip, a firm white, buttery, local fish and chips at the Constantia Nek Hotel and Pub. Continue reading Flashback Friday #15