Releasing Sea Turtles in Costa Rica

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Piro Beach was empty, but not silent.

The darkness swallowed body and mind, until Manuel instructed us to turn on our headlamps. Our heaving breath was drowned out by the strong surf, roaring and crashing against the shore. The sand, in contrast, was soft and silky, sifting through my toes easily.

Minutes before my feet were encased in rubber boots that scraped and pinched my big toes, but now free, I wiggled them, digging in the sand further. We all had to wear these boots, because when something is worth the journey, you walk miles to get there.

We weaved through mucky paths and thick bush, crossed a river that weighed down my boots because water seeped in with alarming speed, only to navigate a muddy embankment, my boots squeaking from water and friction. Looming trees and engorged vines enveloped us, along with the dark.

By |December 8th, 2014 |Categories: Adventure, Costa Rica |12 Comments

The Reality of Volunteering at a Yoga Resort

blueosa-18

Travel can be perception.

We have an expectation how a place will feel, what will happen once we get there.

I’ve been quiet about my time at Blue Osa — only because I needed time to distill my experience.

People make assumptions about me, that my life is all fantasy  — full of fun, fun, fun!

I also harbour fantasies (other than the normal variety) and I had quite a few about volunteering at a yoga resort.

Before I discuss realities, let me cover a few points first.

One, the grounds of Blue Osa are truly magical, initially relaxing me. Because I was wound too tight from my lousy experiences in Europe; the setting was literally paradise.

Two, I do yoga everyday minus travel days, so the opportunity to delve deeper into yogic philosophy was the perfect union (me + a yoga resort).

Third, it was fascinating to use my writing skills in a volunteer-in-trade role, essentially writing for my bed and dinner.

Murano and Burano: Twin Islands in Italy

Murano and Burano are really two bookends to a trip to northeastern Italy – especially when in Venice. It’s little more than a vaporetto trip to these islands, both heavily rooted with their own legends and traditions.

Murano holds all the certificates on glass making, but not just any kind. Many of the creations produced in glass workshops are exploded rainbows of color, shape and aesthetic. Several prominent glass sculptures are scattered around the island, which are large and ambitious, but what also draws visitors are those delicate glass beads used in a woman’s bracelet, a more subtle show of glass art. While water life is part of Murano’s fabric, it’s really the glass that dazzles.

Burano is all about it’s nautical roots, evidenced by “Essi” or “Bussola Buranello”, the S-shaped cookies found in nearly all the bakeries. Tourists assume the S-shape cookie is a Venetian sweet treat, but it’s shape actually means the compass of Burano. So for residents, there’s a double layer of meaning to a mere cookie. Like Murano, boats move slowly and methodically in the canal that splits the island in the middle, but what Burano is mainly heralded for are rows and rows of brightly painted homes and storefronts that pop with an exuberance, a playfulness that belies cynicism. Indeed, while walking around Burano, one doesn’t even want to walk at all, but skip to a swelling song sprinkled with sunshine and wide smiles. If you are into lace and not leather, Burano is also known for lace textiles, with several shops carrying anything devoted to lace, not just doilies.

By |November 10th, 2014 |Categories: Burano, Italy, Murano |14 Comments
Tags: , ,

Via Rail Best Photos: The Food

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Even though my Via Rail journey was a while ago, I remember the food fondly. It’s second to the scenery.

Surprising, I know, to think that food on a train makes a difference in some way, but believe me when you are stuck on a moving vehicle for four days, delicious food is one of the things you concentrate on, besides your sleep patterns and what’s being served at the bar.

Reset your thinking, because train food isn’t just Oreos and Pringles chips, but so much more. No matter if you are first or second class, the dining car was available to both.

Thus I’ve amassed my favorite meals onboard The Canadian. Don’t get too hungry as you read along!

By |October 13th, 2014 |Categories: Canada, Culture |4 Comments

A Quick Jaunt to Ghent

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Everybody raves about the food scene in Brussels and writes rapturous reviews about the Art Nouveau buildings, focusing on the movement’s founder Victor Horta, but what about Ghent?

Only a 35 minute ride on the fast trains from Brussels (2 to 3 hours on the local slower trains and If you drive, it takes close to an hour), Ghent is the largest Flemish city in Belgium with a surprising younger population flocking there, hipsters maybe disillusioned with the urban decay of Antwerp and Brussels.

It’s place that hugs a cosmopolitan feel with it’s historical past. During the Middle Ages, it was once the most powerful and richest cities in Europe.

A few friends urged me to visit Bruges, a stunning example of a well preserved medieval provincial town but word on the street is Ghent offers the same in a less contrived atmosphere.

I sadly only spent an afternoon there peeping around the castle, but enough to ask again, what about Ghent?

By |September 29th, 2014 |Categories: Belgium, Culture, Ghent |25 Comments

Venice Stops Your Heart

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I once read a TripAdvisor review about Venice. It read, “There’s nothing to do in Venice, except walk around.”

This tourist was missing the point entirely. That is Venice, utterly and to it’s core. A breathing, organic, museum city.

It’s the kind of place that shouldn’t have even existed when you break down how difficult it is to build on a lagoon and interconnect 118 small islands. Like Amsterdam, many buildings were erected on wooden pylons which has its own challenges with rising water and rotting wood.

“Venice is sinking” has been a term tossed around readily by the media, due to the constant shift of the sediments that many buildings sit on and that water I mentioned sadly keeps rising.

So to urgently tell you to see Venice before it floats off to the Po River is not far from the mark.

I compel you to stop fighting what some tourists call boredom or tourist traps and simply accept Venice for what it is. A fascinating, otherworldly experience.

I kept imagining ancient times of men flourished in dress and flamboyancy, women asserting their sexuality and freedom in subtle and coquettish ways — my head swimming with bawdy festivals and lavishly adorned Venetian masks.

By |September 22nd, 2014 |Categories: Culture, Italy, Venice |26 Comments
Tags: , ,