Searching for locations: Vancouver, Canada – 2

This morning we wake up to rain.  Or so we thought.  Taking a closer look out the window of our room on the 16th floor, we notice the rain is speckled with snowflakes.  As the morning progressed the snow got harder until there were flurries.

 Later we discover this is called wet snow by the local Vancouverians, and whilst they winge a lot over the endless rain, to them rain is infinitely better than snow.

To us, by the afternoon, it was almost blizzard conditions, with lots of snow.  Then the only thing is that it does not accumulate on most of the ground so there are no drifts to play in.

Because the weather is so dismal we decided not to go into Vancouver to do some sightseeing because the clouds were down to the ground and then the snow set in.

Another interesting fact is that construction workers do not go off the job if it’s raining, or worse when it is snowing.  Our room overlooks a new apartment complex under construction and the workers battled on through what seemed like appalling conditions.

At four in the afternoon, the Maple Leafs are playing the Ohio Blue Jackets, in Ohio.  It is a game we expect they will win.  Sparks is the goalkeeper, not Anderson, they’re playing back to back games and Anderson’s starting tomorrow.

They win, four goals to two.  

Just before darkness falls, about four thirty, the snow stops and there is a little rain, which melts the snow.

Time to go up to the executive lounge to get some snacks and coffee, then sleep because the next day we’re taking on the Trans Canada highway from Vancouver to Kamloops.

The forecast is for snow, more snow, and just for a change, more snow.

Searching for locations: Queenstown, New Zealand, from the top of a mountain

You take the gondola up to the Skyline and get some of the most amazing views.

Below is a photo of The Remarkables, one of several ski resorts near Queenstown.

You can see the winding road going up the mountainside.  We have made this trip several times and it is particularly frightening in winter when chains are required.

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In the other direction, heading towards Kingston, the views of the mountains and the lake are equally as magnificent.

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Or manage to capture a photo of the Earnslaw making its way across the lake towards Walter Peak Farm.  It seems almost like a miniature toy.

Searching for locations: Innsbruck, Austria

On this occasion, we drove from Florence to Innsbruck, a journey of about 500 kilometers and via the E45, a trip that would take us about five and a half hours.

We drove conservatively, stopped once for lunch and took about seven hours, arriving in Innsbruck late in the afternoon

The main reason for this stay was to go to Swarovski in Wattens for the second time, to see if anything had changed, and to buy some pieces.  We were still members of the club, and looking forward to a visit to the exclusive lounge and some Austrian champagne.

Sadly, there were no new surprises waiting, and we came away a little disappointed.

We were staying at the Innsbruck Hilton, where we stayed the last time, and it only a short walk to the old town.

From the highest level of the hotel, it is possible to get a look at the mountains that surround the city.  This view is in the direction we had driven earlier, from Florence.

The change in the weather was noticeable the moment we entered the mountain ranges.

This view looks towards the old town and overlooks a public square.

This view shows some signs of the cold, but in summer, I doubted we were going to see any snow.

We have been here in winter, and it is quite cold, and there is a lot of snow.  The ski resorts are not very far away, and the airport is on the way to Salzburg.

There is a host of restaurants in the old town, and we tried a few during our stay.  The food, beer, and service were excellent.

On a previous visit, we did get Swiss Army Knives, literally, from a small store called Victorinox.

And, yes, we did see the golden roof.

Searching for locations: No two sunrises are the same – 2

Oreti Village, Pukawa Bay, North Island, New Zeland

On the southern tip of Lake Taupo

Our first morning there, a Saturday.  Winter.  Cold.  And a beautiful sunrise.

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This was taken from the balcony, overlooking the lake.

The sun is just creeping up over the horizon

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It gradually gets lighter, and then the sun breaks free of the low cloud

It lights up the balcony

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And the trees just beyond, a cascade of colorful ferns.

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It looks like it’s going to be a fine day, our first for this trip, and we will be heading to the mountains to see snow, for the first time for two of our granddaughters.

Searching for locations: No two sunrises are the same – 1

Oreti Village, Pukawa Bay, North Island, New Zeland

On the southern tip of Lake Taupo

Three days after we arrive.  Cold.  Red Sky.

A warning that the weather is going to change.  Will it be rain or snow?

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It is as cold and peaceful as the first, but the sun is not yet shining.  All we have is this ethereal pinkish tinge to the sky

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Before the first clouds appear.  The surface of the lake is like a mirror, reflecting the sky, and clouds.

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How soon will it be before the boats begin to appear?

Searching for locations: Driving in ice and snow, Canada

This morning started with a visit to the car rental place in Vancouver.  It reinforced the notion that you can be given the address and still not find the place.  It happened in Washington where it was hiding in the back of the main railway station, and it happened again in Vancouver when it was hidden inside a hotel.

We simply walked straight past it.  Pity there wasn’t a sign to let people know.

However…

We went in expecting a Grand Jeep Cherokee and walked out with a Ford Flex, suitable for three people and four large suitcases.  It actually seats 7, but forget the baggage, you’d be lucky to get two large suitcases in that configuration.

It is more than adequate for our requirements.

Things to note, it was delivered with just over a quarter of a tank of gas, and it had only done about 11,000 km, so it’s relatively new.  It’s reasonably spacious, and when the extra seats are folded down, there is plenty of baggage space.

So far, so good.

We finally leave the hotel at about half-past ten, and it is raining.  It is a simple task to get on Highway 1, the TransCanada Highway, initially, and then onto Highway 5, the Coquihalla Highway for the trip to Kamloops.

It rains all the way to the top of the mountain, progress hampered from time to time by water sprays from both vehicles and trucks.  The rain is relentless.  At the top of the mountain, the rain turns into snow and the road surface to slush.  It’s 0 degrees, but being the afternoon, I was not expecting it to turn to ice very quickly.

On the other side of the mountain, closer to Kamloops, there was sleet, then rain, then nothing, the last 100kms or so, in reasonably dry conditions.

Outside Kamloops, and in the town itself, there was evidence of snow recently cleared, and slushy roads.  Cars in various places were covered in snow, indicating the most recent falls had been the night before.

We’re staying at the Park Hotel, a heritage building, apparently built in the later 1920s.  In the style of the time, it is a little like a rabbit warren with passages turning off in a number of directions, and showing it is spread across a number of different buildings.

It has the original Otis elevator that can take a maximum of four passengers, and a sign on the wall that says “no horseplay inside the elevator” which is a rather interesting expression that only someone of my vintage would understand.  And, for those without a sense of humor, you definitely couldn’t fit a horse in it to play with.

The thing is, how do you find a balance between keeping the old world charm with modern-day expectations.  You can’t.  Some hotels try valiantly to get that balance.  Here, it is simply old world charm, which I guess we should be grateful for because sooner rather than later it’s going to disappear forever.

In my writer’s mind, given the importance of the railways, this was probably a thriving place for travelers, and once upon a time, there were a lot more hotels like this one.

Searching for locations: Lake Louise, Canada

A sleigh ride wasn’t the first activity that came to mind, but that first day we saw the sleighs lining up and thought it might be a bit of a lark.

It was New Year’s Eve and we booked a 2pm sleigh ride.  I figured any later we’d probably freeze to death.  The ride was for about 45 minutes, out around the edge of the lake and back.

Rides were on the hour and sometimes run at night.

We arrived at the departure point about 15 minutes before the ride and watched those who had been on the ride before come back looking somewhat frozen.  The only covering you had provided was a red blanket.

Wisely we put on many layers of clothing, hats, and gloves.

We managed to get a seat for ourselves where the maximum per seat was three.  The blanket wasn’t the thickest.

It was cold, and according to my phone, about minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit.  You could feel it, and it was lucky we were not moving fast.

 At the halfway point, we went out onto the lake to turn around.  It gave us a chance to take a photo of the sleigh, and the horses pulling it.  I felt sorry for the horses out in the cold.

As we turned around, we got to see a frozen waterfall.

Searching for Locations: Waitomo caves house, North Island, New Zealand

A relatively unassuming lane leads to what could be described as a grand hotel, called Waitomo Caves Hotel.

The original hotel was built in 1908, and it was later extended in 1928 it was extended.  Part of it is ‘Victorian’, based on an eastern Europe mountain chalet, and part of it is ‘Art Deco’, the concrete wing, and a feature, if it could be called that, is none of the four corners are the same.

Views from the balcony show part of the surrounding gardens

and the town of Waitomo in the distance.

In gloomy weather, it does look rather spooky, and I suspect there may be a ghost or two lurking somewhere in the buildings.

So, here’s what could happen…

You wake up to a perfect summer’s day.  There’s not a cloud in the sky, the water is a virtual millpond, and the motor takes you slowly along.

You’re not far offshore, and there’s a gentle tide going out, so you turn off the engine consider putting down the anchor, but there doesn’t;t seem any need, break out the deck chairs, and you’ve decided to take an afternoon snooze.

Now read on…

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When you wake up the shoreline is no longer in sight.

The water is a little more choppy, but nothing to be concerned about.

Towards shore the sky is clear and the sun is just about gone.

You look in the other direction, out to sea, and…

It’s black and forbidding, bolts of lightning on display like a fireworks show, the sort of display best seen from shore, not at sea.

The first gentle nudge of a breeze rocks the boat slightly.

A few minutes later, a rush of air hits you like a ton of bricks, almost touching the boat over to the point of no return.

You try to start the motor, but, given the situation, fate is always on the other side.

It won’t start.

You race to put up a sail, but it has to be tightly reefed in, and as it goes up it flaps violently in the ever-increasing wind gusts.

The weather changed in ten minutes. eleven if you were to not split hairs.

What happens next?

Searching for Locations: The Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

Sorry, reminiscing again…

It was a cold but far from a miserable day.  We were taking our grandchildren on a tour of the most interesting sites in Paris, the first of which was the Eifel Tower.

We took the overground train, which had double-decker carriages, a first for the girls, to get to the tower.

We took the underground, or Metro, back, and they were fascinated with the fact the train carriages ran on road tires.

Because it was so cold, and windy, the tower was only open to the second level. It was a disappointment to us, but the girls were content to stay on the second level.

There they had the French version of chips.

It was a dull day, but the views were magnificent.

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A view of the Seine

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Sacre Coeur church at Montmartre in the distance.

Another view along the river Seine

Overlooking the tightly packed apartment buildings

Looking along the opposite end of the river Seine