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Posts in ‘Nature & Wildlife’

Whooping It Up At Rancho Texas In Lanzarote

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Lanzarote is one of the largest Canary Islands and closest to the Spanish mainland.  Without meaning to give a geography lesson, it is interesting to note that it was created by volcanic activity way back when.  The results are huge tracts of solidified lava fields, rugged, craggy mountains, fantastically shaped rock formations and the El Jable sand dune desert.

In fact the ancient name of the island was Titerro(y) gatra meaning “red mountains.”  All these physical features are very reminiscent of the rocky badlands and deserts of the American southwest.  So to have a theme park called Rancho Texas on an island in the Atlantic Ocean just off Europe doesn’t seem so incongruous.

What is not widely known is that folk from Lanzarote had immigrated to the US many, many years ago and settled in the ‘southwest’ of that nation giving it a Spanish flavour.  So that is another connection!

In addition to nature’s handiwork the Rancho Texas has created a setting, including Cowboys, Cowgirls and Indians redolent of the old west adding some modern touches.  It has plenty for small and older children and adults to do.  You can spend the whole day enjoying its pleasures and in the evening some energetic entertainment.

Rancho Texas has compact, beautiful and carefully maintained promenades, flower-filled gardens, terraces, mini waterfalls and outdoor spaces.  The animal and bird areas are kept meticulously clean and as natural as possible.

Rancho TexasThe park houses snakes, boa constrictors, pythons, sea lions along with rabbits, donkeys, goats, small pigs and hens.  There are free-flying eagles, vultures, falcons and a giant condor hovering around, sometimes just over your head.  The bird section has smart and cheeky parrots and cockatoos that perform and show off their skills with panache. They guarantee everyone a good hearty laugh.

The California sea lions are not far behind when it comes to displaying intelligence, talent, fun, frolic and entertainment.  They are noisy, playful and relish the attention and contact with people.  Visitors can swim and interact with them too.  Then there are the big guys!  Rancho Texas Park’s animal section features rare white tigers, pumas, buffaloes and Nile crocodiles.

There are pretty little ponies for children to ride on. The Rancho Texas has a water feature section called ‘El Corral del Agua.’ It has a splash pool with play area for children, this has buffaloes standing in the water, a play house, slides, a canoeing facility and water jets everywhere.  There is also a swimming pool that provides relief from the Lanzarote heat.

The park also has an Indian Village, which is a trifle kitschy but forgivable.  In keeping with the western theme Mister Dakota is a lasso and whip wielding cowboy who puts on a daily and regular display.

Food at the Park is basically burgers, pizzas, chips and salads.  Servings are large but very reasonably priced.

To keep the grownups involved and interested there is evening entertainment.  In case you may have missed the point of the park’s theme, it is billed as Country & Western Night.

The ambience involves Cowboys and Indians on horseback and saloon girls.  The entertainment is made up of comedy sketches, dance demonstrations, and Mister Dakota’s whip and lasso show.  The interactive parts involving the guests are a western style all-you-can-eat BBQ buffet, free flowing beer, sangrias and soft drinks.  There is a live band playing popular old and new country tunes.  You can get up and join in the line dancing.

Rancho Texas Park is genuinely one for the whole family where both the kids and parents can come away very happy.

The Park is open daily 9.30 am to 5.30 pm.

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Tuscany – A Many Faceted Jewel

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What do you say about the Tuscany region of Italy that has not already been said, written, painted, photographed or filmed?  As a visitor it is impossible to decide what to see and what to skip – and you don’t want to miss any of it.  There is so much embedded in the place that you could spend an entire summer exploring just one facet of this fascinating part of Italy.  It is not an area that you can cross off your bucket list with a casual ‘been there, done that.’

Tuscany is located in the west-central region of Italy with a coast on the Tyrrhenian Sea.  It is crisscrossed by several mountain chains including the Apennines.  The mountains and hills make up more than 65% of the region and that distinguishes and defines Tuscany.  Its achingly beautiful multi-hued rolling hills capture your heart like no other.  It also partly explains why it is the most visited part of Italy.

Even the diversity of the climate seems made for your pleasure.  The coastal region is fair and mild; blessed with wonderful beaches and magical coastlines.  Away from the coast, among the mountains, it can get very cold in winter.  This fluctuation in temperatures and weather cycles combined with its soil and agricultural output once made Tuscany the main food source for Ancient Rome.  Today it is also probably the vineyard of the country.

Tuscany has many famous and notable towns but the large and important cities have grown and developed on the banks of the River Arno.  Their names – Florence (aka Firenze), Empoli, Pisa, Siena, Livorno, Viareggio – roll off the tongue like poetry (even if your Italian isn’t good) and conjure up images of splendour.

The region had a civilization and culture long before that of Rome.  Known as the Etruscans (from where the name Tuscany is probably derived) they developed an enduring cultural (and language) identity that survives till this day.  This long, rich and vibrant history has turned the whole region into a veritable museum and storehouse of extraordinary art – whether it is architecture, painting or sculpture – all masterpieces.

So numerous, wondrous and well-preserved are the historical, artistic and cultural legacies that UNESCO has designated seven whole areas as World Heritate Sites! They are the Historic Centre of Florence; the Historical Centre of Siena; the Cathedral of Pisa and the Piazza dei miracoli (square of miracles); the Historical centre of San Gimignano (a hilltop village with 14 fantastic towers); the Historical centre of Pienza; the Val d'Orcia and the Medici Villas and Gardens.
 
One could go on and on about Tuscany’s churches, palaces, villages and piazzas.  The region has an incredible number of amazing towns like Pisa and its leaning Tower and Cathedral Square and the renowned Uffizi Gallery and Museum but the two shining jewels in this glittering land are Florence and Siena.  

Florence is the birthplace of Renaissance and two incredible men – Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci.  These three factors alone would have made many other renowned cities culturally rich.  However, Florence is also the beneficiary of the wealth, power and extraordinary legacy of the Medici family.  Without them Florence would not be what it is. Their efforts and patronage either directly or indirectly spawned the Florentine School of art with such alumni as Fra Angelico, Botticelli and a host of others.

TuscanySiena is another great treasure chest.  Its rich artistic tradition generated the Sienese School.  It’s well-preserved art and architecture date from the medieval period.  An outstanding example of the city’s artistic richness is its huge and beautiful shell-shaped Piazza del Campo, the Cathedral and the Palazzo Pubblico.

Tuscany however, is not all art and architecture.  The other face to the region is its natural side.  Travel across the rolling hills with their quilt patchwork of olive groves and vineyards; the changing colours of the fields and forests; the fairy tale houses of the small towns and villages and past the picturesque gardens of the villas and you will feel that you are imbibing the Tuscan essence through every sense.

Tuscany has over 120 protected nature reserves and parks.  They are home to some of Europe’s oldest forests.  One of the most beautiful is Pinocchio’s Park.  Carlo Collodi, the creator of The Adventures of Pinocchio, took his pen name from his mother’s village – Collodi.  The Park has lovely winding pathways that are populated with statues of characters from the story.

There are other things you can do and experience in Tuscany.  You can indulge in gastronomic tours and sample (or gorge on) the fabulous food.  Each district seems to cook things their own way, producing their own distinct flavours.  Then you could get well and truly happy by signing up for a wine tasting tour.  This is after all, Chianti country.  The region boasts over 30 wines!  Don’t get me started on this aspect of Tuscany.  I could spend a whole summer just doing wine tours!

No matter what you do, where you go or what you see, one thread binds all of Tuscany – stunning beauty!

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Kanchanaburi – Beyond The Bridge On The River Kwai

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Kanchanaburi is the provincial capital and location of the infamous Bridge on the River Kwai.  Many feel that the town would not be what it is were it not for the bridge and the tragic history behind its construction.

Sitting close to the Myanmar (Burmese) border Kanchanaburi was initially established as a defensive outpost by Thai King Rama I in the mid 1800s.  It is located on a mountain range, which makes it much cooler than many other Thai regions.  This adds to its attraction for European tourists.  

The main attractions at Kanchanaburi itself are the Bridge over the River Kwai (pronounced as in air); the Thailand-Burma Railway Museum; the JEATH (acronym for Japanese, English, Australian, American, Thai and Holland – the nationalities of those involved in the building) Museum and the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery.  The dreaded Hellfire Pass is some distance away though.  All these are related to or inspired by the history of the Death Railway.

There is an annual River Kwai Bridge Festival to mark the Allied bombing on November 28, 1944. A spectacular light and sound show is the highlight of the festival with some fireworks thrown in.

Kanchanaburi is situated at the confluence of the Khwae Noi and Khwae Yai rivers that flow into the River Mae Klong.  Most of the town sits on the northern banks and is rather easy to navigate, though a little too large to comfortably walk around.  The town runs north-south with the main Saeng Chuto Road running its length, connecting the Bridge on the River Kwai, the bus station and the railway station.

Close to the river is a thriving and rather hedonistic community that has become an increasingly attractive destination for the backpacking species.

Kanchanaburi, today however, is much more than a World War II pilgrimage and a remembrance place.  For a start, the region has an abundance of natural wonders all soul satisfying, visually stunning and a paradise for nature lovers.  There are mountains, rivers, caves, waterfalls, streams, lush jungles and temples, which make it one of the most beautiful provinces in Thailand.  All the attractions are in fairly close proximity and a day excursion of the town.  Every one of them is worth a visit and exploration.

There are several notable and beautiful temples such as the Don Chedi (an archaeological site), Giant Tree temple, Kuan Yum, Wat Ban Tham, Wat Tham Sua, Wat Tham Mungkornthong and Wat Tham Khao Noi.  The Wat Tham Khaopoon is a cave complex, 5 km outside the town (past Chongkai War Cemetery), with Buddha images.  

One of the most popular and interesting temples is Wat Pa Luang Ta Bua or Tiger Temple, which is the biggest tourist attraction of the region.  Here you can see tigers lounging around a canyon, surrounded by minders.  There are also water buffaloes and deer roaming around the place.

KanchanaburiThere is no dearth of dazzling and incredibly beautiful waterfalls around Kanchanaburi.  There are the spectacular seven-tiered Erawan Falls.  All the tiers are great for swimming and extremely beautiful.  You need to watch out for the monkeys scavenging for food that oft times make off with tourists’ possessions.  Erawan can become very crowded with package and group tourists.

The Sai Yok National Park includes the Sai Yok Noi Falls, the Phra That Falls and Hin Dat Hot Springs.  There are also numerous limestone caves and hot springs as well.  It is relatively quiet as not many tourists come here.

Another great attraction of Kanchanaburi is the elephant camps, the largest of which is Taweechai Elephant Camp.  It houses about 30 elephants and you can ride, bathe and take training courses with them.  Another camp is the Elephant's World, a charity based elephant camp, situated 32Km from Kanchanaburi town.   The camp cares for abused and retired elephants and offers visitors the chance to help the staff in caring for the giant creatures with one day visits and overnight stays.

Transportation to and from local attractions is fitful, often slow and erratic.  Within Kanchanaburi, songthaews (orange pickups) act as local shuttle services and connect the train and bus stations with the bridge. Motorbike taxis and tuk-tuks are also available.

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Montserrat – A Rocky Ensemble

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Montserrat monastery

There are many reasons to visit Montserrat. It could be religious, musical, architectural, historical, ‘must see; must do,’ discovery, hiking, rock climbing, or just good old fashioned sightseeing. Whatever your compulsion you will be gratified and probably get more than you expected.

Montserrat in Catalan literally means "saw (serrated as the teeth of a handsaw) mountain."  They are the handy work of nature’s sculptural efforts over millions of years. The multiple peaks rearing up to its highest 1,236 metres (4,055 feet) at Sant Jeroni are simply spectacular.

This rocky ensemble is just 50 kilometres (31 miles) northwest of Barcelona. The trip takes about an hour by train or ninety minutes by road. The route takes you through some truly beautiful Catalan landscape and along the Llobregat River.

Once you get to Montserrat itself there are a number of ways you can get up to the various delights that the place has to offer. You could drive up; take the cable car or the rack railway.

The Aeri de Montserrat cable car is a dizzying 5 minute ride. Since these are always full you could wind up squashed in the middle and miss out on the stunning views as the car crawls up to the halfway stage. The Montserrat Rack Railway is a 15 minute joyride taking you back to child-like thrills. Or you could take the road – bus or car.
 
The first phase of your rise up to the Montserrat experience ends at the roughly halfway mark. This is where the 1,000 something year old Montserrat Monastery (Benedictine Abbey) and the Montserrat Basilica home of “La Morenta,” the black-faced Madonna have been built.

Viewing the Madonna can be a bit of a chore. It has been placed in a tiny alcove reached by a narrow corridor and up a staircase on the right side of the Monastery. You may have to inch your way forwards for more than an hour. More than two million people visit the shrine every year and you only get a few seconds in front of it before you are forced to move by the visitors behind. If you can get there by 9am then there are not many people around.

The Basilica is where the Montserrat Boy’s Choir (l’Escolania) sing every day at 1pm.  Their musical performance is enough to fill your soul to overflowing. Across the Basilica and underground is an extraordinary museum with a superb collection of paintings by the likes of El Greco, Caravaggio, Sisley, Picasso and Dalí. It also houses valuable artefacts and items from ancient Egypt.

From the plaza in front of the Monastery you can go to the top of the mountain via the Funicular de Sant Joan. This is a veritable archaeologist’s delight. The mountain face is pockmarked with the caves of hermit monks who once populated the place. There are also several chapels, stairs and pathways.

The Funicular de Santa Cova is another rack railway that takes you down to the cave, which is the original location of “La Morenta. This grotto is where visitations by the Virgin Mary were first reported back in 880 AD.

If hiking is your thing, then the slopes of the Montserrat hills will be a joy for you. There are six recognised hikes with the longest one to Sant Jeroni. The walk starting from either the mountain base of the top of the Sant Joan Funicular will reveal breathtaking views of the surrounding plains and the Pyrenees.

There are interesting features for nature lovers because of the geology and plants along the way. All of the trails offer amazing views and the locals boast that on a really clear day you can see Mallorca.

Just so you are prepared keep in mind that the funicular railways don’t run in March and carrying a coat is advisable. Montserrat often has strong and chilly winds.

For me the trip to Montserrat was the highlight of my visit.

 

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Algarve Safari Tour

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Algarve Safari Tour

Taking a jeep or 4×4 buggy safari through the Algarve feels like you are bumping along some remote dusty North African desert region. That sensation is in the name too. Algarve is a translation from the Arabic meaning “the West.” The Algarve is at the southern tip of Portugal and you could be forgiven for thinking that you were not in Europe.

That exotic feeling is further accentuated by a sense of adventure as you jolt and jounce in your jeep across pebbly streams, through sandy, dusty and scrub dotted tracks. It doesn’t matter from where you start your Algarve Safari you have about 2,090 square miles of potential fun and excitement. It is also the best way to see this region and get you away from the beaches and the crowds.

There is one thing you learn very quickly as your open vehicle roars through the fabulous scenery – you shouldn’t have worn white! The dust thrown up your jeep and the others in the convoy will soon change it.

Going on an Algarve safari is an opportunity to see spectacular parts of the country you would not otherwise have seen or imagined. Adventure and thrills aside the safari will take you into the interior with its winding un-metalled roads; tiny white-washed villages that pop up out of nowhere; past orange and lemon orchards interspersed with stands of eucalyptus.

Another one of the attractive aspects of getting on an Algarve tour is the chance to have lunch in a traditional village or a local restaurant – a meal that includes the famous chicken piri-piri. If you are up to it you could try out a glass of medronho – the potent local “firewater.” You will see how the rural people of Portugal get along and glimpse their way of life.

There are several versions of an Algarve safari. Some will combine a boat trip along with the jeep ride. Others include a day surfing and swimming in the itinerary. There is a half day tour that starts in the evening. This one is best enjoyed if there it is a moonlit night.

There are plenty of photo opportunities along the way as the jeep drivers make regular stops when you can sip some refreshment and (possibly) give one’s bottom a break from all the bouncing. It is also a great time to bond with your fellow safari travellers.

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Top 5 Things To-Do in Finland

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     Hiding in the Northern part of Europe is the beautiful, Nordic country of Finland. Bordered by Sweden to the west, Norway to the North and Russia to the east, Finland has always lied beneath the shadows of its neighboring European countries. Known for it’s snowy climate, excellent education and peaceful economy, Finland is an ideal destination for relaxation and perfection. The following list is a countdown to the Top 5 things to do in Finland!

5. Husky Dog-Sled Safari
     If Cool Runnings is your favorite movie, then the Husky Dog-Sled Safari is for you! The tour begins with a heart warming meeting with you’re friendly husky team. Once acclimated with your crew, begin your journey through the majestic forests and magnificent mountains of Rovaniemi, Finland.

4. Find the North Pole
     Get as close to Santa as possible with a Reindeer Farm Visit and Sleigh Ride in Lapland. Santa might be hard to find at this time of the year, but his trust reindeer are there to lead the way. With a complimentary hot juice or coffee, this sleigh ride is a perfect activity for family and friends.

3. Rauna Wildlife Park
     If reindeer are not exotic enough for you, make sure you check out the Rauna Wildlife Park. Located in Rovaniemi, and is the northernmost zoo in the world, the park is filled with exotic and unique animals that you will not be able to find in the London Zoo!

2. Helsinki
     Opposite of Rovaniemi is the southern city of Helsinki. Filled with breathtaking artwork and the largest maritime fortress in the world, this city is filled with adventure and magic. The Helsinki card grants you access to all major sights and over 50 museums. This card is the best way to immerse yourself in the Finnish culture. 

1. Hunt for the Northern Lights
     You do not want to miss out on the chance to see the greatest light show on earth! Allow the moon to light up your path to the most radiant sky illumination in the world! The Northern Lights is a Finland staple and should not be missed! 

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White Salmon River, Washington

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White Salmon River

The very name conjures up shimmering, silvery bodies of fish flashing through the water on their way upstream to spawn. Green trees throng its sides and shrubs lean over the banks of the river as it picturesquely twists and turns it way down canyons. And that is exactly what you get with White Salmon River.

The river has a length of only 44 miles (71 kilometres) and runs on the southern border of the Pacific North-western US state of Washington. It has its source in the glaciers of Mount Adams and runs partly through the Adams Wilderness region.

White Salmon is a tributary of the Columbia River, emptying into it near the community of Underwood. In 1986, the strip between Gilmer Creek and Buck Creek was designated “Wild and Scenic” and in 2005, the upper stretch near Gifford Pinchot National Forest was designated the same.

The river is stunning and truly beautiful. Its white-tipped waters churned by rapids and fed by numerous springs and glacier melting has made it a favourite destination for white water rafters and kayakers. There are excellent boating opportunities in calmer waters of its lower reaches. The Native Americans, particularly those of the Yakama Nation, have lived off the bounty of the river for centuries.

Yet the reason for the river’s name was lost for 100 years. That was because of the Condit Dam. The 125 foot high dam was completed in 1913 and proved impassable to the salmon and steelhead fish. They were restricted to spawning in only three miles of the river.  The dam also affected the river’s natural cycle as mineral rich sediment was blocked from moving downstream.

Fortunately the dam has outlived its usefulness and in October 2011 was breached. In November 2012, the final concrete section of Condit Dam was removed and the river now runs free. In the short span of a year there is nothing to show that the dam ever existed.

What is even more amazing (and exciting) is that in the same time the salmon have returned and are spawning abundantly.

As a recreation and adventure holiday site, White Salmon River is easily accessible. It is only about 90 minutes from the Portland/Vancouver area. The river has plenty of Class III and IV rapids as it surges through thickly forested gorges.

Now that the dam has gone and the fish are back, you can add fishing to the attraction of the river. As if that were not enough, the White Salmon River area is forested, enjoys great weather and the water itself is clear. So hiking or rafting trips of one or two days is a great way to spend the holiday.
 

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Tour of Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre

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Two Young Orangutans

From Kota Kinabalu

Getting There

The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre is located in the Malaysian Sabah District of North Borneo. There are several ways you could get to the Centre. Public transport buses operate from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan, a journey of about 5 hours. Sandakan is the closest town to the Centre’s reception office and is about 23 kms. away.  You could also take a tour bus from Kota Kinabalu.

Once you arrive at Sandakan you could hire a taxi to the Centre. There is a taxi stand outside the Centre too. Minivans also operate with one leaving every hour. If you take the Kota Kinabalu/Sandakan bus you could hop off at Jalan Sepilok, which is a junction just two and a half kilometres from the Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre. From Sandakan the public transport bus bearing ‘Sepilok Batu 14’ sign will take you directly to the Centre. They start operating from 6 in the morning.

About Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre
First started by an Englishwoman, this first of its kind, rehabilitation centre opened in 1964.  It is located in a corner of the fabulously green and relatively virgin Sepilok Forest Reserve.  Occupying about 43 square kilometres it is the largest orang utan sanctuary in the world.

The objective of the Centre is to repatriate orphaned, injured, rescued, displaced (by logging or development projects) or previously captive orang utans into their natural habitat. They are taught the necessary skills needed to survive in the jungle via a mentoring system. This involves pairing the new/young arrivals with another older veteran of the system.  

The creatures are not kept in captivity in the Centre, rather they set free and encouraged to forage and fend for themselves. Though the Centre has feeding sessions every day at 10am and 3pm, the diet is kept deliberately monotonous. It is supposed to act only as a supplement, for these gentle red-haired apes, and promote their search for a more varied and self-acquired meal. This helps them to get used to living in the wild.

Physical (or any other) interaction between visitors and staff of the Centre is not encouraged or permitted. That is because the Centre does not want any attachments to develop, diseases transmitted. Also the orang utans are sometimes unpredictable.  Weighing in at an average 135/140 kgs., they are very strong and dangerous to tangle with.

Visitors to the centre can observe the orang utans at feeding times.  There is no guarantee that you will get to see many orang utans. Non-appearance of these attractive and appealing animals is a testament to the success of the rehabilitation process. When the trees are bearing fruit the chances are that they will not show up. Having said that, the Sepilok Centre, is a very popular tourist attraction because of the very regular sightings that occur.

There are plenty of other wild creatures to see. The Centre also cares and treats sun bears, gibbons and Sumatran rhinos. Noisy Macaques are aplenty including flying squirrels.

Visiting Hours:
Entrance Gate: 8am till 5pm – Daily
Ticket Counter: 9am to 11m & 2pm till 3:30pm

Orang Utan Feeding Times:  10am and 3pm. You should try and get to the feeding area about 15 to 20 minutes before.

Admission Fee:
Adults – RM30
Children below 18 years – RM15

Camera Fee: RM10
 

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Hiking in Vancouver

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Hiking in Lynn Valley

Vancouver has some of the best places to go hiking in Canada. This is mainly due to the availability of trails for all skill levels and interests – from seaside hiking to mountain hiking to urban wilderness hiking. Let's have a look at some of the interesting hiking places:

Stanley Park Seawall: The most famous place in Vancouver, Stanley Park is famous for its recreational facilities and its natural attributes. It attracts 8 million visitors a year – including locals and tourists. The Seawall stretches 8.8km and loops around Stanley Park, running along the park's northern, western and southern coastlines. The Seawall is fully-paved and is an ideal pathway for hikers of all skill levels. Its route is undoubtedly beautiful with views of the city, northern mountains, and Lion's Gate Bridge.

Lynn Canyon Park: The park has lots of free activities for all ages, including the suspension bridge, waterfalls, mini hikes, and a swimming hole – all connected by hiking trails. Its most famous feature is of course, the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge. The Suspension Bridge stretches 50 feet above the churning waters. The park also boasts of the popular Twin Falls, where a wooden bridge stretches over the river in view of the two gorgeous waterfalls. Another popular feature of the park, the 30 Foot Pool swimming holes is an ideal spot to keep cool in the summer months.

Burnaby Lake: A home to a large variety of wildlife – at least 70 species of birds making it their home – the lake occupies 3.11 square kilometres of land. The lake also has a 10km hiking path that loops around the entire park area.

Deer Lake: Located in the east of Vancouver is Deer Lake that offers nice scenery, a viewing tower, a beach area and pier. It is popular with locals walking dogs as well as for an afternoon stroll through the park. In the summer you can rent a boat, launch your own canoe or sailboat/rowboat on Deer Lake or enjoy sunbathing on the beach. There are also hundreds of rhododendrons blooming every spring.

Baden Powell Trail: Named after Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of the world Scouting Movement, the trail is about 48 kilometres long and has lots of switches. It extends from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver to Deep Cove in North Vancouver. The hike takes you through an amazing range of vegetation – Oaks, Jeffery pines, Sugar Pines, Incense Cedar, White Fir and Limber Pines etc.

Iona Beach Regional Park: Located north of Vancouver International Airport, the park is made up of a long, narrow jetty of sand and grass along the mouth of the Fraser River. You will have a fairly unobstructed view of the Georgia Straight. Sea birds are visible throughout the area as well.

So there, you have our best hiking places in Vancouver. What about yours? Do share us your favourite hiking places.

Happy Hiking!

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The Giverny Gardens

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It is said that many of Monet’s works were created twice – the first time at his garden and the second on canvas. And the gardens are really an artistic creation with profusion of flowering plants and trees randomly placed. Yet the beauty lies in its seeming randomness. Monet disliked regimented gardens and scattered flowering plants and trees randomly allowing them to grow without restraint. Monet’s garden is divided into two sections:

The Clos Normand
This section has a central alley of iron archways with climbing plants including roses, coloured shrubs and nasturtiums that cover the ground under the arches. There are also two yew trees. There are numerous flower beds of hollyhocks, daisies, poppies and other more exotic flowering plants.

The Water Garden
This distinct portion was inspired by Monet’s fascination with prints of Japanese gardens.  Ten years after he moved in, Monet started the Water Garden. Through this section of the garden runs a stream with the famous blue Japanese bridge and other smaller ones over hung with wisterias, weeping willows, a bamboo grove, nympheas and azaleas.

Monet painted The Water Lilies, a series of twelve canvases and based several others on the blue Japanese bridge. Monet’s house with its famous pink crushed brick deserves an honourable mention. The restored house is a faithful recreation.  None of Monet’s original paintings are in the house.

The house and gardens are open daily: From April 1st to November 1st, 2012
From 9.30 AM to 6.00 PM
Fees: Adults €9.50.  Children over 7 and students: €6.50

Tips:  Go early as crowds wanting to get in can be large. Take the guided tour and you will get the best out of your visit. 

About Giverny
The little village of Giverny is about 80 kms to the West of Paris and in the valley of the Seine. It falls in the Haute-Normandie region of France. The village has remained a small one though it gets a massive influx of tourists every day.

Besides the attraction of the Monet’s house and gardens, the village also boasts a Mechanical Museum dedicated to restoring old engines and machinery. Then there is the Museum of Impressionism Giverny dedicated to the history of impressionism. The village and surrounding countryside are lovely and begging to be explored.

About Claude Monet and his Giverny Connection
Claude Oscar Monet was born in Paris on 14th November, 1840. He travelled widely and painted many locations. He first saw Giverny from a train window. He moved to Giverny and rented a house in 1883, later buying it and an adjoining piece of land in 1890. He was totally captivated by the place. He would live there, creating some of his greatest works, many featuring his gardens.

Monet died on 5th December, 1926 and is buried in Giverny’s cemetery.

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