Merry Christmas from Belgium


MERRY CHRISTMAS / HYVAA JOULUA !!

I just wanted to take a moment to wish all of you Happy Holidays and all the best during this holiday season. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa or good will towards others it is my wish that you are healthy, safe, happy and grateful for what is in your life. Although I have not been travelling long I have experienced the kindness of people, had honest talks with my sister, seen new sights, shared laughs and appreciated sleep like never before. I have felt uncertain in more ways that I thought possible  and then had it turn around to be doubt-free that I am on the path that I should be on. My desire is the same for all of you. I am currently in Brussels, Belgium in the cutest apartment I have seen in a long time – we found it through AirBnB. My sister and I are going to relax over the next couple days. I hope to get caught up on my posts here  on Wanders the World and uploading a few photos.

In the meantime here are a few from Chester, Paris and Bruges:

An ornament that I should own!

An ornament that I should own!

Christmas markets in Chester, UK

Christmas markets in Chester, UK

Detail of Santas on a Christmas Market stall in Paris

Detail of Santas on a Christmas Market stall in Paris

The best I could do - The Champs-Elysees lit up in Christmas lights.
The best I could do – The Champs-Elysees lit up in Christmas lights.
The Markt in Bruges that had a Christmas Market, pretty lights and ice skating.

The Markt in Bruges that had a Christmas Market, pretty lights and ice skating.

All photos taken and owned by Eeva Valiharju (author of Wanders the World)

BRIGHT LIGHTS


Welcome

A couple of weeks ago I was given two free passes to the Canyon Lights at North Vancouver’s Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. Naturally, my BFF Trina was on top of the list to ask and she was all for it. We headed out on an early Sunday eve, catching the free shuttle that they offer year round. We boarded the shuttle bus (a very comfortable motor coach) at its initial stop at Canada Place. It then wound its way around to various hotels in the city centre before heading through Stanley Park, onto the The Lion’s Gate Bridge and finally into North Vancouver. Our driver not only ensured that we arrived safely to the park but also informed of us some interesting tidbits about The Lion’s Gate Bridge (it was originally built by the Guinness company) and how the suspension bridge came to be. 

Lights and Totems

Thirty minutes later we were entering the park. The air was crisp and clean with scent of pine. A brisk night, I was happy I decided to wear my long johns and chose my thick scarf. We were met by a symphony of lights twinkling and illuminating the space before us. Children raced from display to display of bright LED lights in white, red, blue and green. Park visitors snapped photos of one another in a classic red sleigh just as we did. Along the paths we saw First Nations totems, more lights and eventually the suspension bridge itself. Towering beside it was the enormous 154 ft Christmas tree that was hard to miss.  In front of the large gift shop a trio played holiday songs that filled the evening air. It was all so glittery. We stepped onto the bridge with a bit of trepidation as it was a bit slick from the ice, soon, however we were walking (or bouncing) along with ease, noticing how black the canyon below us was. With the tree and bridge lights illuminating our way, we crossed the bridge and explored the next phase of the park. The boardwalk around the small frozen pond had globes of light dangling from
branches above and Christmas trees and reindeer made of wire and light surrounded us. We saw a 1300 year old tree and gave it a hearty hug.


After touring the pond we started the Tree Top Canopy. Made up of miniature suspension bridges with lookouts between trees, we admired the white lights that shone like stars. I attempted to take photos with my sad, barely working point-and-shoot camera with only minor success. I knew my flash was not very strong and the lights were only specks in the dark sky but I attempted it anyway. We wound our way above the ground, through the trees and finally back to the boardwalks. Another pass across the bridge and to the Cliffwalk. This is where my nerves set in. It did not bother me one iota to cross the wood and rope suspension bridge that spanned a deep canyon while it bounced with every step. Perhaps because the dark below it appeared endless. Yet, one foot on this concrete and securely built walk with chest-high railings and my stomach began to churn. I did not understand why my fear of heights set in then. Was it because the coloured lights at the base highlighted not only the Cliffwalk, the rain forest vegetation but also the rocky and treacherous terrain and swiftly flowing river? Possibly that, although protected, I viewed it as a ledge? Or some other ridiculous reason? Whatever it was I was glad to have my feet on terra firma once that aspect was done. Incredible as it was to see it was uneasy. To calm my butterfly stomach (none of this even fazed Trina) we headed to concession stand. We ended our bright lights tour with tasty hot chocolate and Bailey’s. Yum!


**All photos in this post were taken by and owned by me.

‘Tis The Season of Giving


For those who celebrate it (as I do) the Christmas season fast approaches. Often touted as a ‘season of giving’ it seems that the modern holiday season is more apt to be the ‘season of buying’. Enticing commercials give proclamations of need for this product or that. Stores boldly announce that they carry items for everyone on your list. The list they announce includes everyone you may possibly encounter in your daily life. It truly is the ‘season of buying’ even with the intention of giving. I find this time of year a bit overwhelming in that aspect. I prefer to make memories, share laughs, break bread and partake in merriment with my friends and loved ones. 


Now I am not posting this to pass judgement or tell you how you should spend your money or what to buy. I am just sharing a bit of how I have seen the season in recent years. I enjoy aspects of the holidays yet part of me is concerned of the effects of such mass consumerism. That is why I delight in the initiatives and ideas that I have heard of over the years. Giving in a different way. Two examples come to mind. One I have been aware of for several years as it is a campaign put on by Metro Vancouver. The other I learned of the other day as it making its debut in Canada on Tuesday December 3: Giving Tuesday.

For the past several years, Metro Vancouver’s Holiday Campaign promotes alternatives to buying products as gifts. With the burden of mounting garbage and environmental damage that occurs during Christmas, their clever campaign sets awareness to creating memories and being a “green angel”. Using light humour they cast ideas of all sorts. Here is just one example:


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I learned of Giving Tuesday in one the daily papers in Vancouver. It announced its arrival in Canada this very year. What began in the USA in 2012 as counter-measure to the consumer buying frenzies of Black Friday and Cyber Mondays is now making its way to countries worldwide. As part of the UN Foundation, Giving Tuesday has now added Australia, Canada, Latin America, Mexico and Singapore to its roster. This global movement is an incredible opportunity for people to give back to charities of all sorts: local, national and international. A time for us to learn of these varied and needed charities and if able, to give to them. There are many ways to help: money, time, spreading the word and so much more.  Below I have listed the links to the country-specific websites. Please take a look, learn and if able, give in whatever way you can. I know I will. If you would like to promote Giving Tuesday please use the hashtags #GivingTuesday and #UNselfie. Post pictures of yourself and why you want to give. Post it on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook along with the hashtags. It is good to give back. Giving Tuesday USAAustraliaCanadaLatin AmericaMexicoSingapore