The Beauty of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

March 4th, 2014 Comments off
Rio de Janeiro, Feb 18 2014, Source: me

Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Feb 18 2014, Source: me

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Rio. I did not encounter any animated Blue Macaws, nor Demi Moore on the beach, but I did fall for it’s contrasting beauty and this short trip came at the perfect time for me. I want to go back someday for longer.

Rio is many things to different people. It represents the beach life of world-famous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches. It represents the stunning beauty of its natural hills and mountains, like Sugarloaf Mountain. It represents the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue, the largest art deco statue in the world. And also the poorest favelas (city slums) nestled next to rich and tourist areas. All of that, along with having some of the highest crime rates in the world, makes Rio an interesting place.

There may be such a thing as spending too much time in Rio. I found that being there for 4 days was good but another 1 or 2 would have been better. But even in a short time I was there, I felt like I saw everything. It’s not like Paris or New York or Barcelona or any of the great world cities with endless things to do. Rio has a lot of beach. And the beach can get a bit monotonous after a week.

If you were to go at the same time as the annual carnival festival, which is going on now actually, you might find the night street parties can help make the days go faster. But even then, a week seems about right. You also don’t want to stay out at night, which limits the things you can do as well.

I guess with Rio, it’s a nice place to visit but would you want to live there?

 

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Categories: Destinations

Tomorrow, Rio de Janeiro

February 16th, 2014 Comments off

I have to get to sleep because my flight tomorrow departs at 3:30am. But a quick post to say that tomorrow I will be landing in Rio de Janeiro. And hopefully be setting my feet on the famous Copacabana and Ipanema Beaches for the first time. Excited and a bit scared (being honest). Rio has a bit of a dangerous reputation too.

I’ll post all about it when I get a chance.

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Categories: Destinations

Photo of the Week: Grand Bazaar of Istanbul, Turkey

January 6th, 2014 Comments off
Istanbul Grand Bazaar

Source: me

The Grand Bazaar of Istanbul, taken by me during March 2012.

 

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Categories: Photos

The Amazingly Beautiful Sofia, Bulgaria

January 2nd, 2014 Comments off
Source: Me, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia

Source: Me, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia

Bulgaria was surprising to me.

I didn’t know what to expect. I was excited to go there on a business trip but I knew so little about the country, spoke none of the language, and couldn’t really guess what was to come. But as the plane descended to land, and I could look out to the ground below, I knew it would be something.

And I’m so glad I went.

The city is beautiful. We stayed in a gorgeous hotel (Radisson Blu) across from the National Assembly government building right in the center of town. Within walking distance were some modern restaurants, historical churches, and ancient ruins.

The people were friendly. The taxis were generally great – cheap, with English-speaking drivers more often than not, and honest.

Being outside the EU, in a former Soviet republic, the exchange rate worked in our favor and our Canadian dollars made everything feel quite inexpensive. And quite honestly, at times I felt I standing in the middle of a small Russian city. With grand statues of military leaders past, big Cyrillic writing on buildings, and the bitter cold of March covering everything in snow, I could be forgiven for thinking that I hope.

I’m also lucky to have met some friendly business associates who took me to lunch, took me to dinner, and made me feel welcome. But the thing is, even without my friends, I am sure I would have enjoyed Bulgaria. We found some lovely restaurants on our own. We could walk around the city late into the night without getting lost or feeling in any danger. Simply by asking the front desk to tell us where the mall was, we were able to hop into a taxi and go there in a matter of 15 minutes – and no taxi ride ever cost me more than $2-$3.

The city has both modern touches and historical – and seems to strike a really good balance between the two. We were able to find an ancient church from 400 A.D. – 1600 years old – and go inside! We also got to walk among the ruins of part of that church and be in close contact with history – walking the same path that many did more than a thousand years ago. And then later that night, found a lovely modern Italian restaurant and have a wonderful meal just blocks away.

We were there in March, and the Bulgarians have a lovely custom of Baba Marta – which means Grandmother March. Many trees were tied with red and white strings, people gave each other red-and-white string bracelets to wear, and even little things to were on their jackets. It’s a lovely custom.

I wish to return to Bulgaria some day. I am not sure I will ever get to go there on a business trip again – and thus enjoy the luxury of an expensive hotel and paid airfare and expenses. But if you’re looking for a city that has a lot for tourists to do and see – but is not overrun with tourists – put Sofia on your list.

 

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Categories: Destinations

Unbelievable Places That Really Exist

December 23rd, 2013 Comments off
The Wave, Arizona. Source: Mother Nature Network

The Wave, Arizona. Source: Mother Nature Network

Sometimes, when I’m flying, I look down upon the planet Earth and I see something odd. Areas of the planet where it’s hard to imagine people live, with endless rough patches of rock without evidence of human roads or paths. Vast areas of orange or red , with no obvious clue as to why or how. Mother Nature Network has an interesting post on some of the more interesting and fantastic places on Earth that you would not believe are real.

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

From Mother Nature Network.

 

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Categories: Destinations

The 10 Best Treks in the World

December 21st, 2013 Comments off
Source: Jean-Baptiste Bellet at flickr

Source: Jean-Baptiste Bellet at flickr

An interesting Lonely Planet article on hikes:

#1 GR20, France. This demanding 15- day (168km, 104mi) slog through Corsica is legendary for the diversity of landscapes it traverses. There are forests, granite moonscapes, windswept craters, glacial lakes, torrents, peat bogs, maquis, snow-capped peaks, plains and névés (stretches of ice formed from snow). But it doesn’t come easy: the path is rocky and sometimes steep, and includes rickety bridges and slippery rock faces – all part of the fun. Created in 1972, the GR20 links Calenzana, in the Balagne, with Conca, north of Porto Vecchio.

From The Lonely Planet, The 10 Best Treks in the World. Be sure to check out the rest of that list for more.

I’ve never taken a hiking vacation, personally. But there’s a famous (religious) trek called the Way of St James that I’ve wanted to do for some time and I’m committing to doing some day. That seems like a near-impossible feat, and do completing that would be a huge accomplishment. I’ll never climb Mt Everest, but I can walk 600 km.

 

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Categories: Destinations

It’s Called Istanbul, Not Constantinople

October 27th, 2013 Comments off
The Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar

In 2012, I had the opportunity to go to Bulgaria for work. It was a one week trip, so I took my girlfriend with me. And since we were travelling that far (4,700 miles or 7,700 kms), we decided we’d extend the trip to a nearby destination as a mini-vacation. We chose Istanbul.

I must admit I was not sure whether I would like Istanbul. But looking at the cities around Sofia, it seemed like the most interesting one that was only a short flight away. So on the Friday at the end of my work week in Sofia, we hopped a plane and went to Istanbul.

We chose a hotel in the city center, close to the Blue Mosque (more formally called Sultan Ahmed Mosque). My general rule of thumb when choosing a hotel is to try to stay close to the largest tourist attraction in a place, and that technique has served me fairly well in trips in the past. So the area just below the Blue Mosque was perfect. From our hotel, we could walk down the main shopping street, visit 3 or 4 of the largest tourist attractions on foot, and allowed us a more intimate view of the city.

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Categories: Destinations
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