Sunday Special – Troödos Region, Cyprus


 

I like islands. In fact, my “happy place” is an island (that would be Ireland). I’d like to visit many an island in this world simply because it is an island. One of those is the Mediterranean isle of Cyprus. Today we will take a look at its  Troödos Mountain Region which has some interesting things to offer.  

This mountainous area of Cyprus is located almost smack in the middle of the island with the mountains covering most of the western portion. The tallest peak is known as Mount Olympus (not to be confused with the one in Greece) or Chionistra,  locally.  It is home to several ski slopes and resorts that operate January through to April. During the summer months take advantage of the numerous hiking trails and nature walks. Keep an eye out for some of the waterfalls such as Millomeris Falls and Caledonia Falls.  Although there are resorts and hotels in the villages in this area you can get closer to nature by camping in the designated areas in Troödos National Forest Park.  The plant life in the area is impressive, including a number of endemic Cypriot varieties.  Let’s not forget about the animals as well. Several protected species of birds may be spotted so bring your camera. 

For history enthusiasts and the reason I chose to research the Troödos region today is for the UNESCO World Heritage Troödos Region Painted Churches. I am fascinated by religious buildings despite not being religious myself. Perhaps due to the combination of art and architecture, two things that I appreciate. And that budding photographer in me likes to photograph them.  Ten Byzantine monasteries and churches make up this world heritage site. The artwork within the buildings are specific to Cyprus and unique to this particular region of the island. 

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Kykkos Monastery (a painted church), Cyprus – Photo credit: Gerhard HauboldKykkos 01 CCC BY-SA 3.0

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Troödos  Mountains, Cyprus – Photo credit: Tech broTroodos MountainsCC BY-SA 3.0

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Millomeris Waterfall, Troödos Mountains in Cyprus – Photo credit: DickelbersMillomeri waterval in troodosgebergteCC BY-SA 3.0

 

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Sunday Special – Siem Reap, Cambodia


If there was ever a town built around one tourist attraction it would be…Orlando, Florida. Because Disney World is huge. Things are built around it and cater to it. That is what I hear. And with that, what I say next may be considered sacrilege by many. Here goes:  I have no desire to visit Disney World. None whatsoever! There I said it (whew! that wasn’t so painful).  BUT…what does this have to do with today’s Sunday Special? Well Siem Reap in Cambodia is similar to Orlando in that it has one main draw – the grand Angkor Wat (Angkor Archaeological Site) And that IS a place I want to visit. Stretching out 400 square km / 155 sq miles it encompasses temples, old remains, and forested areas. I understand it takes several days to meander through it. I’m getting excited just knowing I’ll see it in the future! But I know nothing else of what there is to see and do in Siem Reap. Kinda like Orlando.

So let’s find out what else this northwestern Cambodian city has to offer.

  • Food: One of my favourite topics. Food tours and bountiful restaurants are plentiful. There are even some places where the adventurous foodies can taste  bugs, such as deep fried tarantulas.
  • Get Around: Rent a bicycle, moped, or e-bike (electric scooter) to see the area at your own pace. Alternately,  you can also rent tuk-tuks to get you from one place to another.
  • Markets: Siem Reap has a healthy selection of markets to peruse. Some of the popular ones are the Old Market, Angkor Night Market, and Central Market. If you would like to learn about buying ethical handicrafts, check out Angkor Handicraft Association.
  • Floating Villages: There are a few floating villages in the area that you can visit. Do your research as some are more authentic than others from what I have read online.
  • Angkor National Museum: Visit this museum to learn not only about the temples in the area but the history of the Khmer Empire and the relics and artifacts of Angkor.
  • Pub Street: A good place for restaurants and eateries during the day and the go-to place for pubs, street entertainment and bars at night. In fact after 5:00pm it is closed off to motorized vehicles. 
  • Cooking Classes: You’ve tried some of the food, why not learn how to recreate it at home. There are several cooking classes you can join up for in the area
  • Other Temples: Although Angkor Wat is the largest temple in Siem Reap it is by not means the only. There are plenty of others to see. Mainly Buddhist temples but there are a few Hindu ones as well.

Well, I am fairly certain I will enjoy Siem Reap once I make my way there in the future. I hope you do to should you decide to visit.

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Puok Market in Siem Reap, Cambodia – Photo credit: FREDPuok.MarketCC BY-SA 3.0

 

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Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia – Photo credit: Ziegler175ICAngkorWatH01CC BY-SA 3.0

Sunday Special – Réunion Island


A small island that is blessed with natural beauty is tucked away in the Indian Ocean in the shadows of Madagascar and Mauritius. This isle, known as Réunion Island, is located approximately 700 km / 434 miles east and 200 km / 124 miles southwest of Madagascar and Mauritius, respectively. As a French overseas island it is part of the European Union (E.U.) though it remains outside of the Schengen zone thus retaining its own immigration code.

Regarded mainly for its abundance of hiking trails for all levels (over 900 km / 559 miles) its mountainous and volcanic terrain draws outdoor lovers into its fold. With trails for all experience levels one can take in lush rain forests, peer into the crater of an still active volcano (Piton de la Fournaise), gaze at fields of cane sugar, and even learn about the flora, fauna and geology of the area with a discovery trail. In fact, the island has such incredible topography that 40% of it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Though there is more to Réunion than the volcanoes, cirques and calderas.  Stunning beaches, natural marine reserves, flowing rivers and more. Even though it is a French territory there is a mixture of cultures that add a vibrant element to the islands culture. Peoples from Madagascar, Africa, Europe, and Asia all flavour the culture, music, and the food. This place strikes me as a wonderful place to explore and unwind at the same time. 

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Langevin Falls (also known as Grand Galet Falls) in Reunion National Park – Photo credit: No machine-readable author provided. JoKerozen assumed (based on copyright claims)., Cascade LangevinCC BY-SA 2.5

 

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Crater of Piton de la Fournaise, Reunion Island – Photo credit: User: Bbb at wikivoyage shared, ReU PtFournaise KraterDolomieuCC BY-SA 3.0

Sunday Special – Quebec City, Canada


I could not let “Q” go by without showcasing Quebec, “la belle province”. On my list of places to see in my own country is the province’s capital of the same name: Quebec City/Ville de Québec (or simply Quebec) and it’s annual winter festival of Carnaval de Quebec. I want to meet Bonhomme, the mascot of Carnaval.

Quebec City, from what I have heard, is a wonderful gem. Overlooking the St. Lawrence Seaway the city was settled by Europeans (France) in 1608 with First Nations people living in the areas for centuries before. One of the oldest cities in North America, Quebec also also retains its ramparts around the Old City (Vieux-Quebec) to this day. In 1985 the “Historic District of Old Quebec” was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

An annual and much loved event of Quebec City is its annual winter Carnaval, which runs from end of January to mid-February each year. Growing up I became familiar with images of Bonhomme and his bright red toque. Many events and activities are yours to enjoy during this 100+ year old celebration. Some things to look forward to include:

  • The International Ice Sculpture Competition – amazing creations by artists around the globe
  • The Snow Sculpture Competition – its not just ice that gets turned into art
  • Various Night Parades throughout the weeks – with Bonhomme often leading the way
  • The much loved Canoe Race on the icy waters of the St Lawrence where 60 teams in several categories compete
  • Visit Bonhomme’s Ice Palace and the art it houses
  • How cold can ya handle it? Find out by partaking in the Snow Bath with nothing on but your swimsuit
  • Carnaval related shopping, dining, concerts and more
  • Check the website on January 12, 2018 when the official program will be posted
  • Don’t forget to use #CarnavalQC when posting on social media
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Bonhomme!! – Photo credit – Laserpdb, Carnaval Québec 2011, CC BY-SA 3.0

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Ice sculptures at Carnival – Photo credit: Matias Garabedian from Montreal, Canada, Le 60e Carnaval de Québec (12665475763), CC BY-SA 2.0

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Ice canoeing competition at Carnaval de Quebec – Photo credit:  Cephas, Ice canoeing Quebec 2016 2, CC BY-SA 4.0