Monday, December 28, 2015

Random Stories from our Australia and NZ Adventures

Alice Springs and the road to Ayers Rock is probably the best place to figure out how to drive a campervan on the left side of the road. You really can't get into too much trouble, given the very limited traffic. I think Michel has finally done enough driving on the left after multiple visits to South Africa and Namibia, plus another to Scotland, that this time it seemed entirely normal to us.  The Mantra to repeat when first in a left hand drive country is "Driver to the Centre, Driver to the Centre"  Someone told us that in Namibia, and in the split second of confusion, particularly when making a turn, that mantra has been a lifesaver.  

We had the campervan for a week in Alice Springs which was an excellent way to figure things out,  in advance of our 3 week campervan tour of the South Island in New Zealand.  You take up 2 parking spaces, you don't want to go into anywhere you can't get out of, and Shopping Centre parking structures are out of the question, so you really have to give parking some thought. On the plus side, we had everything with us, all the time. We had food in the fridge and we could stop and have lunch in wonderfully scenic locations. We figured out all the grey water, fresh water issues and dumping issues so that when we hit New Zealand, we were pros. It also took time to adjust to living in a narrow space, if you want to pass the person cooking, both have to suck it in and scoot by sideways! You have to secure everything, we had suitcases that wanted to slide down the aisle and drawers we hadn't closed properly that would pop open when driving.  Overall it was an excellent experience.

Uluru (Ayers Rock) at Sunset

Sunday, April 21, 2013

October in Tuscany: Departure in 7 Days

Trattoria al Ponte, Santa Croce, Venice
Seven days doesn't give much planning time, but it is amazing what you can accomplish under pressure. Italy was our destination of choice, but with some background issues, we couldn't plan ahead. The stars finally aligned, Michel and I bought our tickets and left a week later. Venice is not an easy place to get a reasonably priced hotel booking, and with 7 days to go, I wasn't having any luck but then I remembered a website that specialized in renting apartments, and found one in Venice that was suitable. I sent an email, and luckily got an immediate response from Riccardo. The apartment I had inquired about wasn't available, but he had another; would I be interested? The location looked promising, and the pictures looked acceptable so I replied yes. I found Venetians to be very friendly and extremely helpful. Although usually Riccardo wanted all the funds in advance, time was short so he had no problem telling me they would get it from me on arrival. I had heard how difficult it was to find the location of any property in Venice due to their street numbering system, but Riccardo anticipated my need. Arrigo would meet us in front of the church at 1 pm. He sent me a Google Earth map picture to show the meeting place, and went the extra step to send me a picture of Arrigo.

When we arrived at the church in Venice, we were an hour early, so we "people watched", a fascinating activity in a city that doesn't allow cars. The ingenuity of the Venetian people is beyond belief. We watched construction materials rolling by, pushed and pulled by 4 workers, business people rushing past, and tourists struggling with suitcases. Arrigo found us promptly at 1 pm and he turned out to be a gem. At the apartment, he went into great detail about the neighborhood. He drew a map on the back of an envelope for us, telling us that we have to try this trattoria, and this bistro has a wonderful atmosphere. Not content to leave it at that, he told us about the local drinks;“Order a Campari Spritzer, that's what we drink in Venice”. He told us where we could get groceries, questioned us about what our interests were, and wrote down a list of places we should visit. Every one of Arrigo's recommendations were top notch, although I think it's impossible to have a bad meal or a bad bottle of wine anywhere in Venice. Arrigo made us feel very comfortable, and this was our experience with all the Venetians we interacted with.  The apartment we rented was well equipped and comfortable and amazingly has been housing people for 800 years! The original wooden crossbeams in the ceiling spurred my imagination of who had passed through here before me. That was just an added bonus!

I've found that in many cities overwhelmed with so many tourists and cruise ships, the locals don't give a tourist the time of day. The Venetian people made us feel that we were locals, giving top quality service, friendly smiles, and made this a trip to remember. Seven days to plan wasn't a problem when Venice is the destination with the help local Venetians.....shirley
Apartment rentals: for apartments around the world

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Monday, October 29, 2012

Why Do I Travel?

Moving Day, 3 elevator
I travel because I love to learn, about different cultures, languages, ways of life and of course, let's not forget food and wine!  Michel and I just returned from a fabulous trip to Venice and the Tuscany area and I'd love to share with you what we learned.  Venice, of course, is an island joined by a causeway to the mainland. We rented an apartment in Santa Croce which allowed us to get a great feel for the neighbourhood, plus you can really save on food costs by having some of your meals in the apartment. You don't get that feeling of being part of the area, when you stay in a hotel. There are no vehicles allowed past the parking garage, and sitting back here in Canada, you hear that, but you really don't get the implications of it.  Being part of the neighbourhood, I learned that you walk...everywhere....., that if it's really far you can take a boat, but that only gets you down the canal in the middle or around the outside....and then you walk. It's well signposted with 3 main signs, Rialto, Piazza San Marco, Santa Lucia (train station), so you know if you are more or less going in the right direction. They have daily garbage pickup, just hang the bag outside your door and the next day they collect the garbage from every house in Venice and wheel their containers over to....yup...the boat.  If you are constructing something, everything has to come in by boat, if you are having stock for your store delivered....boat, if you are moving out of your apartment....boat, we even saw a DHL Courier...boat.  The deli wrapped our loose olives in waxed paper, if everything has to be delivered by boat then plastic containers become a problem.  You can buy wine from the wine store by the litre out of big wicker wrapped glass demijohns.  They use empty waterbottles from the restaurants to hold the wine, recycling at it's most useful.  On the plus side, the transportation system is very efficient, with an all day pass you can hop off and hop on, or go out to the outlying islands.  
It was truly an amazing place to visit, one that we will certainly return to.  Ciao.


Saturday, October 02, 2010

Finally I have a Website Up and Running!


While I was uploading I came across this picture above from my trip in 2007 to Utah. This picture is not spectacular, however, you wouldn't know it, but it was taken in the dark. The sun had fully set about a half hour earlier and to the human eye there was no colour, just dark shapes. I set up my tripod and camera and set a long exposure because I knew.......although the human eye can't see colour below a certain light level....the camera can, its amazing! This was the result.  Try it sometime, you too will be amazed.  You should have a tripod, but you could also try resting the camera on something solid like the roof of the car, or a fence post or you will have blur in your photo...shirley

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Kolmanskop #9

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