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

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Sunday Special – Okavango Delta, Botswana


The 1000th UNESCO World Heritage site is Botswana’s expansive Okavango Delta. This delta, deep in the heart of the Kalahari Basin, is fed by the Okavango River which has transported sand through its waters from Angola for centuries. The uniqueness of the Okavango Delta is that one would not expect it to exist in such a parched land, yet its waters collect with flooding from the river in January and February and rains in April and May.  Hot temperatures result in evaporation of 36% of the water. All this produces varying levels of water through an area of 250 x 150 square km / 155 x 93 miles and an elaborate and extensive eco-system. Wildlife abounds here with mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and plants species each into dozens and hundreds. It is a world in and of itself, often dry and often wet. It has been declared one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa.  

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Group of Lechwe, Okavango Delta – Photo credit:  Original uploader was PanBK at en.wikipedia, Group-of-Lechwe-at-dawn, CC BY-SA 3.0

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Zebra’s of the Okavango Delta – Photo credit: diego_cue, Zebras in the Okavango Delta – Botswana – panoramio, CC BY-SA 3.0

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Water lilies growing in Botswana’s Okavango Delta – Photo credit: diego_cue, Water lilies in the Okavango Delta – Botswana – panoramio, CC BY-SA 3.0

 

 

Sunday Special – Joya de Cerén Archaeological Park, El Salvador


The Central American country of El Salvador is home to a significant archaeological site that some call ‘the Pompeii of the Americas’. Joya de Cerén was a pre-Hispanic farming village of approximately 200 people that had been buried under volcanic ash since the 600s C.E. It was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993 though it was discovered in 1976 during a government agricultural project, quite by accident. When the volcano named Loma Caldera erupted around 590 CE the villagers of this Mayan village escaped (no bodies have been located there) yet the town was left as is under blankets of ash. Homes and the wares inside were intact as well as various vegetation of the time.  It is believed that an earthquake prior to the eruption was what prompted the small amount of villagers to flee and therefore avoiding the flow of lava and blackened smoke pouring out of Loma Caldera.  Because of the ash covering the village it was preserved remarkably well allowing archaeologists to learn and understand about Mesoamerican life during that era. 

Located 36 km / 22 miles outside of the capital city  of  San Salvador, Joya de Cerén offers visitors a glimpse of how the life of these humble farmers was before nature drove them from their homes. Tours of the site and the 10 exposed buildings are available. Well preserved housewares such as furniture, clay pots, kitchen items, and food storage are showcased in the park’s modest museum.  This area would certainly be of interest to history buffs  along with El Salvador’s other archaeological sites. It would be like stepping back in time.  Imagine that.

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Preserved structure at Joya de Cerén Archaeological Park – Photo credit: Mariordo (Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz), ES Estructura 1 Area 1 Joya Ceren 05 2012 1513, CC BY-SA 3.0

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Housewares at Joya de Cerén Museum, El Salvador – Photo credit: Mariordo (Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz), ES Joya Ceren Museum 05 2012 1519, CC BY-SA 3.0

 

 

Sunday Special – Sintra, Portugal


Sometimes heading out of major city centres for a day trip is what you need. Located 28 km / 17 miles outside of Portugal’s capital of Lisbon is the picturesque coastal town of Sintra. One may see why this locale is a popular destination for those looking to escape the big city for a day, though a longer sojourn to truly experience all this UNESCO World Heritage sight has is suggested. Meander through the narrow streets; explore the historical castles and palaces or take in the views as Sintra is situated atop the mountains that shares its name. When I finally make my way to Portugal I will certainly seek out Sintra. The town sounds simply charming and inviting.

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Pena Palace, Sintra – Photo via Wikimedia Commons – Public Domain

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View of Sintra, Portugal from the Castle of the Moors – Photo via Wikimedia Commons – Taken and owned by By Chris Yunker from St. Louis, United States (Castle of the Moors  Uploaded by tm) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons