Old Hippies Hit the Road

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Off to EuropeSearching and researching a title for a travel blog is tough work.  My original idea was “Old Hippies Hit the Road”, my daughter christened us old hippies, but it doesn’t really fit. Then came “Bluenoser Travel” until I looked up the definition of Bluenoser (which is defined as a puritanical person-I always thought it meant from Nova Scotia!).  Other titles I tried included:  Frugal Traveller (taken), Inspired Wanderer (taken), Exhilarated Excursions (not really descriptive of my travel style).  After several days, I opted for The Inspired Packer.  Whether you are travelling for a few days in your own province or thousands of miles away, packing signals the start of your journey.

This site is about travel.  Something I am passionate about.

If you are under 30 and your travel style involves hiking for days in the wilderness and pitching a tent where-ever you fetch up, this site probably isn’t for you.  I’m not into that much adventure.

If you are over 30 and your travel style involves staying at 5 star hotels, using taxis and local guides, this site may not hold many answers for you.  5 star hotels can be nice, but I usually don’t have that much money to spend.

But, if your are moderately active, seek low-cost travel experiences and are not afraid to climb aboard local transport and discover a place on your own, you may find answers here.

Picture:  Here we are at the Halifax airport ready to hit the road for 6 weeks.

Bacharach, Germany: Day 6 and 7

I find that often the hardest places to get to, offer the most rewards.  Bacharach certainly proved this to be true.  After catching a train from Amsterdam to Köln we hopped on a smaller regional train to take us to Bacharach.  It took us about 6 hours to reach a place that looked so close on the map.

Bacharach is a beautiful old town nestled between the Rhine River and the hills.  It is located in the Middle Rhine area which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

View from Burg Stahleck.

I had booked us into a room at the youth hostel which was located in a castle called Burg Stahleck.  We paid 110 euro for two nights and this included a breakfast.

The castle hosts groups of children and youth and offers them an opportunity to explore the area and a medieval castle.   The excitement and enthusiasm of the children was a bonus.  I thought about how excited I would have been, at that age, if I was able to spend a few days with a bunch of my friends at a castle.   (I was pretty excited at the age I am now!)  Our room was not fancy and the washroom was up the stairs and across the hall, but it had a great view and was quiet and peaceful.  The hostel sold nice wine which was served in a clay vessel that you paid for and kept.  I thought it was a nice souvenir.

Getting to the castle was part of the fun.  From the train we walked down the main street and turned up the hill at the side of St Peter Kirche.   The path to the castle zig zags up the mountain and offers beautiful views of the surroundings.

The path was probably as old as the castle and I imagined people walking up this path centuries before.  Right past the church, on the trail to the castle, are the haunting remains of Wernerkapelle, the Gothic remains left as a tribute to the awful excesses against the Jews.

This area is known for its many castles.  We took a short river cruise, for approximately 25 euro. We saw a lot of castles on the hills on either side of the river, beautiful vineyards and lovely old German towns.

The cruises can be as long or short as you like depending upon how much money you want to spend.  You can hop off the boat and explore a town then catch another boatgoing back.

Two days was not enough time to spend in this area and I was sad to be leaving it so soon.  I would return to this area again and try to give myself enough time to check out some of the many hiking trails in the area.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Near and Far

For this weeks challenge I have 3 pictures with different approaches to Near and Far.

Alberta, foothills of the Rockies

Leaving Paros, Greece

Bacunayagua bridge spanning the Yumuri River, Matanzas Province Cuba

More Posts:

http://mothergrogan.wordpress.com/2012/09/07/weekly-photo-challenge-near-and-far

http://thethirdeyeworld.com/2012/09/07/near-and-far/

http://francineinretirement.wordpress.com/2012/09/07/weekly-photo-challenge-near-and-far/

http://salmonfishingqueen.wordpress.com/2012/09/07/weekly-photo-challenge-near-and-far/

Amsterdam, Day 3 to 5

Amsterdam, Netherlands

We walked to the Brugge train station and boarded a train bound for Brussels then Amsterdam.

When I was gathering information on transportation and accommodations for the trip I was having a hard time finding a place in Amsterdam that fit within our budget (around $100.00 per night).  I ended up visiting a site called Better Bidding and bidding on a hotel in Amsterdam.  I wanted to be close to the train station so focused my bidding on that area.  We were able to get the Movenpick, which was a short walk from the train station, for $72.00 American per night.  It was a beautiful modern room with a great view, close to everything.  We found it cheaper to order breakfast from room service than to go to the buffet-and it was much more relaxing.

We purchased canal bus passes for 22 euro each and travelled around the city via the canals.

It was a great way to see the city.  We also visited the Van Gogh museum for 14 euro each.  A lot of our time was spent just walking around the downtown area.

In de Waag cafe looks like a fairy castle at night.  At one time Rembrandt had a workshop here.

I had never seen such large bicycle parking lots. This one, outside the Amsterdam train station is a few stories tall.  In Belgium and the Netherlands there were bicycle parking lots at the train stations.  What a sensible idea to cut down on the pollution and congestion caused by cars in downtown centres.

A visit to Amsterdam would not be complete without a stroll through the red light district.

Or checking out the coffee shops.  The ‘menu’ was interesting.  Laws prohibiting Amsterdam coffeehouses from selling marijuana to foreigners go into effect on January 1, 2013.  I wonder if this will have an effect on tourism.

Brugge, Sept 15 and 16, 2010

Brugge was the first stop in a 6 week tour of Europe.  We arrived by train after a flight from Halifax to Heathrow airport.  We took the underground from Heathrow to Kings Cross-St Pancras.   Then we travelled from St Pancras Station to France where we caught another train to Belguim and a small regional train to Brugge.  I had allowed for several hours to reach St Pancras thinking that customs and the travel from the airport would take a lot of time.  This extra time allowance was not necessary, but we weren’t able to change our tickets for earlier ones.

Our accommodations were already confirmed at Hotel t’Keizershof for 44 euro per night including breakfast.  It was a short hop from the train station…if you departed by the correct door. We soon figured out our mistake and make our way to the hotel.

Hotel t’Keizershof was very clean, in an older building.  Our room faced the street.  I was excited to hear people going past from the train station with their wheeled suitcases; it seemed to match the feeling of being on the road.  It was to become a soundtrack for the next 6 weeks and remained consistent in every country.  There was a sink in the room, but we had to go down the hall to use the bathroom or shower.  A sign in the room told you not to wash clothes in the sink, which was a disappointment to me as I had hoped to do this every night.  The breakfast was served in a bright room overlooking the street.  Our fellow travellers were from all over the world.

We were an easy walk to the historic centre of Brugge.    Brugge comes from the Old Norse, “Bryggja” which means landing stage.  In medieval times Brugge became a centre of commerce.  Its beautiful canals and prosperous merchants earned it the name Venice of the North.  Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000, the city’s well preserved medieval buildings, canals, cobbled streets and market squares draw tourists from all over the world.

Brugge Town Hall

Quiet and peaceful Beguinage.  This monastery housed nuns from the Beguine movement for many centuries.

Along one of the canals in Brugge.

Bell tower Brugge

I have never seen a violin quite like this one before.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Urban

I have to confess, I haven’t lived in an urban area in over 25 years.  The following pictures are from Athens.  I loved this city.

The mix of old and new was amazing.

View of the city from the theatre at the Acropolis in Athens

We stayed in the Monastiraki area and it was great.  On first glance there was a lot of empty store fronts.  But, there were bars with wonderful musicians playing traditional music with the patrons singing and dancing along, the Athens flea market and the food market nearby.

The Athens market

Graffiti:  This is an urban sight.  Some is very good art and contributes to the urban landscape.  Other graffiti is not a welcome sight.

 

Pogey at the Lower Deck Halifax

On Saturday we went to a Patio Party at the historical properties on the Halifax waterfront.  It is a great summer venue a few steps away from the Halifax harbour.  The warm evening encouraged walking so the waterfront was a busy spot.  Tourists visiting the city and those who call the Halifax  home were out enjoying the evening and the show.

Historic Properties Halifax

The Lower Deck, a well known Halifax pub and music venue in Privateer’s Warehouse had bands playing inside and outside.

Pogey was playing outside between two beautiful stone buildings. The word ‘Pogey’ is defined as financial or other relief given to the unemployed by the government.  Pogey has been touring since 2001 providing ‘relief’ to audiences with their enthusiastic Nova Scotia Celtic rock sounds, their exuberant instrumentals and their tight harmonies. The band, Ray Mattie guitar and lead vocals, Warren Robert guitar and vocals, Jonny Grant bass guitar and vocals, guest fiddler Anthony Rissesco and drummer Mike Carroll had the crowd dancing, singing and totally engrossed in their highly interactive show.

Band members have played at every major Irish festival in North America and are off again to the Kansas City Irish Festival next week.

Pogey Lower Deck Halifax

For more information on the band and their touring schedule visit their website at http://www.pogey.ca.

Privateer’s Warehouse photo from the Historic Properties website.

Barlovento, Varadero, April 2012

My sister and I went for two weeks to Cuba this year.  We stayed at the Barlovento, a small resort on 1st Ave about 1 klm from city centre, near the entrance to Varadero Peninsula.

Barlovento was fine.  The rooms were clean, the beach beautiful and the evening entertainment was great.  The dance troupe was thrilling to watch.  It was a pretty chill place.  Our Cuban friends were able to join us under the shade of huge trees and we spent many days together enjoying the beach chatting with other beach goers and marveling at the lengths little boys will go to, trying to catch a lizard.

  One red flag day.  Waves were huge.

On the downside the resort ran out of wine occasionally, egad!  (we brought our own into the buffet with no problem).  The food wasn’t the best.  I found it worthwhile to wait in the line-up for eggs in the morning and pasta in the evening.  These were good but after two weeks nothing to look forward to.  We ate out at many of the restaurants around the resort.    Some of the restaurants we ate at included:  KiKi’s and La Sangria for pizza, LaiLai’s for Chinese food, La Casita (which is a treat to eat at and check out all the beautiful antiques including some of interest to Canadians) and Coral Restaurant on the beach by Aquazul.

La Casita, Varedaro  CubaPicture of Trudeau in La Casita, Varadero

La Casita had Pierrre Elliot Trudeau Liberal posters and a picture of Trudeau on the walls.

During one of our weeks there is was a school holiday.  It was a highlight of the trip to see all the young people enjoying themselves on the beach.  There was a kite surfing business set up on the beach just down from Barlovento and lots of young people were gathered there.

Many also spent time fishing in the canal across from the resort and jumping off the bridge which signals the entrance to Varadero.   They had lots of encouragement from their friends in the water and watching from the side of the road.  There were barracuda swimming in the water they were jumping into.

           

We took our cameras out to get some photos and met all sorts of friendly people, swimming, fishing or just out for a stroll.

Varadero has changed a lot in the past few years.  This year foreigners are able to stay in Casa Particulars in Varadero.  Casa Particulars are Cuba’s version of a Bed and Breakfast, and in past years they were not available for visitors to Varadero.  This is great news for people who want to visit the beautiful beaches but prefer not to stay at an all inclusive resort.

Casa Particular Cuba  These Casa Particulars are located on the street beside the Barlovento Hotel in Varadero.  

Particular cars are now licensed to take tourists.  This gives tourists an opportunity to hire an independent driver who has lovingly restored one of the beautiful old cars that Cuba is so famous for.

  This is Gonzalo Rojas’ particular car.  We hired him to take us to Matanzas and Boca to visit friends.  We walked across the bridge to an area where lots of particular cars were parked and discussed the price before we got into the car.

Small markets are popping up all over the place as well.  Free enterprise is becoming more and more a part of life in Varadero.  This is the biggest change and one that I am happy to see as it benefits the people of Cuba.