Sunday Special – Iceland


One of the hottest countries to visit these days is actually rather cool. Iceland is possibly one of the most popular European destinations right about now. It certainly is on my list. After seeing The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, starring Ben Stiller I was awed by the scenery the film showcased about this small northern European island nation. Then seeing photos several friends had posted on social media it has quickly moved up my bucket list.

The landscape has been described as rough, rugged and barren yet holds a beauty all its own. Mountainous volcanoes, sheets of glacial ice, lava fields and geothermal waters can all be found here. And it is said the warmest of all are Iceland’s people, which I suspect is true. Along with nature one can expect great food, amazing music (Of Monsters and Men hail from Iceland!), art,  and literature. When I go here I hope to see much of the country, perhaps even by car so that I can wander about at my leisure.  Here are some ideas.

  • Route 1 – Ring Road – The main highway that links the country together spans 1,330km / 830 miles. A road trip of epic scenery. Do prepare for any road trips and plan accordingly.
  • Northern Lights – Iceland’s location on the planet makes it a fitting place to see the night skies dance with colour. September to April are the best times for viewing.
  • Geothermal Waters – Naturally heated spring waters are plentiful. Many places have created pools and spas where you can enjoy the hot waters in the crisp air. The Blue Lagoon; Myvatn Natural Baths; and Laugarvatn Fontana are a few.
  • Festivals – Every season brings festivals and events to celebrate music, art, sport, and food.
  • Creatures Big and Small – Iceland may be a small country yet there is bountiful wildlife. Arctic Foxes, Icelandic Horses (don’t call them ponies!), varied and beautiful bird populations, and of course whales swimming in the North Atlantic waters.
  • Natural Beauty – a land of volcanoes, glaciers, waterfalls, caves, natural springs and geysers, and a rugged coastline I suspect this is how this island country wows most everyone.
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Iceland’s southern Ring Road – Photo via rheins, Southern Ring Road of Iceland – 2013.08 – panoramio (4)CC BY 3.0

 

Islenskir_hestar Icelandic horse

Icelandic Horses – Photo is Public Domain

 

 

 

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Sunday Special – Brisbane, Australia


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Brisbane at night – Photo via Wikimedia Commons – Photo taken and owned  By wirepic (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Brisbane is the capital city of the Australian state of Queensland and the third largest city by population in the country. A contemporary city that lies along the Brisbane River in southeast Queensland, it is a vibrant urban locale with plenty of activities to take part in. What can you expect in this sunny urban destination? It appears to me that there is so much to partake in that you’d have to schedule a rest day! 

Fancy a climb? How about heading up Story Bridge? Take a 2-hour climb to the top of this landmark bridge to take in amazing views of the city. After climbing and seeing the river you can go and play on it. Activities such as kayaking or standup paddle boarding are popular. You can also cross the river in a City Cat Ferry.  Should you need a break from the hot sun then head to one of the numerous museums found around town. Notable ones include Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) and Queensland Art Gallery (QAG) which happen to be located beside each other.  Another option is the Museum of Brisbane that showcases the history of Brisbane and a variety of exhibits. Meandering through South Bank will show you parks, restaurants, cafes, beaches, the Wheel of Brisbane, family-oriented fun, and cultural sights.  A day away from the city can be accomplished with a visit to Moreton Island, a large sand island that is accessible via ferry.  Rent a 4WD vehicle to traverse the sands across the island or sand toboggan down some dunes. You can take a dip in the Champagne Pools’ crystal clear waters or snorkel with marine life and see shipwrecks. Explore and see aboriginal cultural sites and World War I and II relics. Hiking, surfing,  beaches, and flora and fauna are part of the experience as well. 

I don’t doubt that Brisbane is a fun city with much to see and do. The above is only a short list of what I have found. I imagine that Brisbane is a great place to visit.

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South Bank and Brisbane Wheel – Photo via Wikimedia Commons – Taken and owned By Brisbane City Council (28 – South Bank Parklands) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Story Bridge Panorama

Story Bridge, Brisbane – Photo via Wikimedia Commons – Taken and owned By Cyron Ray Macey from Brisbane (-27.470963,153.026505), Australia (Story Bridge Panorama) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Special – Montreal


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View of Montreal from Parc Mont Royal – Photo credit: Taken and owned By John Lian (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Today we will check out the city which I think is the coolest in all of Canada and that is Montreal.  This fun city is the largest city in the province of Quebec and the second largest in Canada after Toronto. Not only that, this city is the second largest predominantly French-speaking city on the planet, just after Paris. Additionally it was recently ranked as the world’s best city to study abroad by Quacquarelli Symonds. Finally, Montreal is celebrating its 375th birthday this year. Which if you don’t know, makes it older than Canada (which turns 150 on July 1).  Montreal wa founded on what was Hochelagaa St Lawrence Iroquois village in the 15th century, though First Nations peoples inhabited the area for centuries longer. It was part of New France until the mid-18th century.  Today Montreal is a vibrant and social landscape that has a bit of a European feel to it. It has been far too many years since I visited though I do recall enjoying the vibe of the city a great deal. Perhaps another visit is due.

  • Visit historic Old Montreal and take in various sites such as Bonsecours Market, the Old Port of Montreal, and the picturesque Notre-Dame Basilica. Or perhaps you’d like to wander its cobblestones streets via food tour?
  • Take in a pretty city view from Parc du Mont Royal (Mount Royal Park) or visit the Jardin Botanique de Montreal (Montreal Botanical Gardens) in Parc Maisonneuve?
  • Foodies rejoice – Montreal has some great restaurants and dining of all ranges, though do try the Montreal-style smoked meat, the bagels and of course poutine!
  • Sports fans take in all manner of games to watch:
    • Montreal Candiens NHL hockey
    • Montreal Allouettes CFL football
    • Montreal Impact MLS soccer
    • Auto racing
    • Boxing
    • Women’s hockey
    • Tennis
  • Music and comedy festivals abound

I don’t think my list has done this city justice though I hope it inspires you check out Montreal at any time of year. 

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Vieux-Port Montreal (Montreal Old Port) – Photo credit: By Joanne Lévesque (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Montreal-style bagels – Photo credit: By Garyperlman at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Montreal-style smoked meat – Photo credit: By chensiyuan (chensiyuan) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Scotland Highlights – Part II 


After my near miss I settled nicely on my train to Edinburgh Waverley where I then connected to a train for Birnam and Dunkeld in the Perthshire region. I came here to listen to some traditional music at a pub known as The Taybank. They hold trad music sessions every Thursday.  Plus I wanted to see a small Scottish town and this one fit the bill nicely. I lucked out too as during my full day there it was sunny and a bright 21C. Now my face is red – who knew I’d get so much sun in Scotland?! I had booked my stay at Jessie Mac’s Luxury Hostel. The price was good and the location superb. Only 5 minutes from the train station and a pretty 10 minute walk from Dunkeld. I was met by Dot just outside the hostel as I was arriving late. Located in a beautiful old building it was more like a lovely B & B than a hostel. My 4 bed female dorm was clean & cosy. It also had an ensuite which is always a nice touch. Complimentary tea & coffee in-room, clean linens and towel, large lockers, extra blankets, plugs and lights for each bunk – it really had everything. Oh and free WiFi, a large full service self-catering kitchen and a nice lounge area. It was also quite secure. I had pre-purchased a hot breakfast at time of booking (online). I had a choice of full Scottish Breakfast or Vegetarian Breakfast plus all that came with the Continental Breakfast. It was a bit expensive in my opinion but the food was good. The next day I opted for the Continental Breakfast. 

The ensuite

My dorm room

view from dorm room window

My full Scottish Breakfast


Dunkeld and Birnam are both cute little towns. It was perfect for me to start here and adjust to jet lag. I was happy to discover the Beatrix Potter Gardens across the street from my hostel. I learned a bit about her family’s summer visits to the area. There was also statues of Mr Fox, Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, Benjamin Bunny and of course, Peter Rabbit. 

A short jaunt away, over the bridge is Dunkeld. A cute town that has a number of walking, hiking and cycling trails. There is also a place for off-road rentals. Fly fishing on the River Tay is popular and there are many places to rent equipment. The Aboretum in Dunkeld is perfect for a lovely walk. The area has been referred to as a “Tree Zoo”. Native and transplanted trees can be found here.  I love trees so it was a perfect walk for me after perusing the grounds around the old church. And yes, I did hug a few trees. The town itself has some historical aspects. One in particular has a tie to Canada. The second Prime Minister of Canada, Alexander Mackenzie lived in Dunkeld. I learned that on a small placard stating what many of the buildings in town were. 

That evening, after a two hour nap (ugh, jet lag) I headed to the Taybank Pub. Not a big place but certainly great for music. I grabbed a pint and chatted with an older woman who filled me in on these “trad music” sessions. Most of the musicians this evening were in town for a fiddle workshop. Part of the program is performing at the Taybank. There was a good number of musicians, over a dozen.  They did take up most of this small pub but it was certainly worth hearing them. One of the musicians was a woman I met earlierthat day at my hostel. She had come all the way from Washington, DC in the US for this workshop. 

The next morning, after a bit of difficulty trying to get train info for Inverness I lucked out. A woman I briefly spoke to at the pub was staying in my hostel. Ends up she was driving up to John O’Groats to catch a ferry to Orkney. She offered me a lift and I paid her for the gas. I made a new friend and has a nice drive up through the start of the Scottish Highlands. I love travel!! 

View of Dunkeld from the bridge

Dunkeld Cathedral

Flowers along the River Tay

Arboreteum Walk

Arboretum Walks


All photos taken and owned by Eeva Valiharju / Wanders The World