Sunday Special – Aegadian Islands, Sicily (Italy)


I am intrigued by many islands in this world. Islands can be a fascinating microcosm of life and that often draws my attention. There a thousands of islands in the world of every size and shape. The largest being Greenland and the smallest….well, there seems to be a few claims so I’ll just leave it at that. Today we’ll look at a group of small islands off the coast of a larger island. The Aegadian (or Egadian) Islands lie in the Tyrrhenian Sea off Sicily’s northwest shores. The three main islands of Favignana, Levanzo, Marettimo and the the two small islands of Formica and Maraone total 37 sq km / 14 sq miles in size. Although not as well known as other Italian islands they do have a historic significance. Age-old cave paintings dating back to the neolithic and paleolithic periods can be found in Levanzo’s Grotta del Genovese. These islands also saw the end of the First Punic War after Romans defeated the Carthaginian fleet in 241 BCE in their very presence. Today the islands mainly attract Sicilians and some tourists looking for beaches, birding, scuba diving and snorkelling, hiking, and fishing. Easily accessible by ferry from Sicily’s city of Trapani or Marsala (Favignana only) you can day-trip or spend a few nights. One can even island hop via the ferry services. An interesting island adventure awaits.

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Levanzo coastline – Aegadian Islands, Sicily (Italy) – Photo credit: Robert Vassallo, Levanzo island – panoramioCC BY-SA 3.0

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Church interior on Favignana Island, Aegadian Islands – Photo credit: Tommie Hansen, Church at Favignana Island, Sicily (Italy) – panoramioCC BY 3.0

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The waters around Favignana, Aegadian Islands, Sicily – Photo credit: René Bongard, Crystal clear water at Favignana – panoramioCC BY-SA 3.0

 

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Sunday Special – Milford Sound, New Zealand


Various countries and destinations can conjure up a variety of images when we hear their name. They can range from cities filled with towering skyscrapers and urban romance, to meccas of mouth-watering foods options, to history and art full of awe and beauty. Others impress their natural beauty into our minds. New Zealand is one of those countries for me. The home of “Middle Earth”, rugged coastlines, cool glaciers, and beautiful mountains come to mind when I think of this island nation. I have not been yet but I certainly will make it there. 

Milford Sound is one of this country’s iconic natural beauties. Located on the southwest side of the South Island this fjord runs 16km / 9.94 miles from the Tasman Sea inland to the head of the fjord. Sheer rock faces and majestic mountains flank the fjord’s side and I imagine it forces you to look and ponder the wonder of nature.  Found within Fiordland National Park, Milford Sound is quite accessible. In fact it is very popular and often teeming with tourists. The area is also known to be one of the wettest places on the planet so do expect rain rather frequently. Due to its popularity there are many ways you can experience the awe. Take it in from the air with flights soaring above or from the water on frequent boat cruises. If you want to be a bit closer to nature then kayak along the waters or walk along the Milford Track, a 53 km / 33 mile long trail. Any way you see it, it seems to me that Milford Sound will amaze you with its beauty.

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Milford Sound, New Zealand – Photo credit: MarosteguiMilford Sound (New Zealand) – 3CC BY-SA 3.0

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Bowen Falls in Milford Sound, New Zealand – Photo credit: Bernard Spragg. NZ from Christchurch, New Zealand, Bowen Falls Milford Sound NZ. (10657996025)CC0 1.0

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Hanging around in Milford Sound – Photo credit: Steve Collis from Melbourne, Australia, Milford Sound (5863219806)CC BY 2.0

Sunday Special – The Great Trail, Canada


HAPPY CANADA DAY! Today, July 1st, is Canada’s birthday. This nation is relatively young and though we do have some interesting historical sites much of the allure of this country comes from it’s vast and varied natural beauty. Canada has rugged coastlines, serene beaches, vibrant cities, quaint towns, majestic mountains, and incredible wildlife. Really it’s to be expected of the second largest country by landmass.  We are 9,985 square km / 3,855 square miles big! That is a lot of country. Many of us Canadians measure distance by hours (driving, flying, etc) due to its sheer enormity. 

So how can one see this very large place? Well there are a number of ways though today we will look at it from the ground up – The Great Trail. Formerly known as the Trans Canada Trail its construction began in 1992. Twenty-five years later the trail now traverses 24,000 km / 14, 900 mi of the country. The world’s largest recreational trails runs from Newfoundland through to BC, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.  Connecting the country it flows through wilderness areas including some waterways, and both rural and urban communities. Spend a day, a weekend or more on the trails. You can explore the wilds of BC or see the urban landscape of Southern Ontario. Perhaps you want to experience the rustic and coastal beauty of the Atlantic Coast. All this won’t be hard to find as 80% of Canadians live within 30 minutes of the trail which makes it accessible. Plan it all at the website above or download The Great Trail app for both iOS and Android. And if you’re are really energetic you can walk the whole darn thing just as  Dana Meise, the first person to complete it did. Or  like Sarah Jackson who was the first woman to complete the trail. Now that is a long walk.

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Cape Spear, Newfoundland. The most eastern point in North America and where The Great Trail begins (mile zero) – Photo credit: Michel Rathwell from Cornwall, Canada, Cape Spear Newfoundland (41321652542)CC BY 2.0

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The restored Kinsol Trestle on BC’s Vancouver Island, part of The Great Trail – Photo credit: VrsmithKinsol-Trestle-From-Riverside-RoadCC BY-SA 3.0

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The Great Trail (formerly Trans Canada Trail) in Manitoba – Photo is Public Domain

Sunday Special – Åland Islands, Finland


Want to practice you Swedish while in Finland? Then head to the autonomous Finnish archipelago of Åland, just off it’s southwestern coast, in the Baltic Sea. This region of Finland is completely neutral, demilitarized, and is strictly Swedish speaking and has been since 1921. It is comprised of 6,700 named islands and 20,000 that they haven’t named (that would be a big project). I’ve heard you can even rent an island if you so wish.

The capital of Mariehamn is a wonderful starting point and is best explored by foot. It seems a quaint city with plenty to explore and cafes to rest your wandering feet.  Island-hopping is a popular way to see a number of these islands. Take a ferry and go off to see the Franciscan monastery on Kökar or explore the historical paintings on the church in Kumlinge.  Looking to stay active? Then cycling, hiking, fishing, and spending time on the water in a canoe or kayak are available. And don’t forget to try some of the local craft beer produced by Stallhagen with many varieties. They have even recreated the world’s oldest known beer when a crate of the beer was salvaged from a shipwreck at least 170 years old. Now that is a brewery that I can admire.

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Stallhagen’s historic beer – looks tasty! – Photo credit: Jonnie NordStallhagen Historic BeerCC BY-SA 4.0

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View of ship in Mariehamn, capital city of the Aland Islands, Finland – Photo credit: DigrAX Mariehamn viewCC BY-SA 4.0

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Kokar Island, one of the numerous Aland Islands in Finland – Photo credit: MuymuymyuKokarCC BY-SA 3.0