Canada Highlights – part 1

I spent a month in Canada in the summer of 2015, but I never shared any photos – this blog post has been a draft for over a year, so I thought I should publish it as “part 1” whether or not I will ever get around to part 2 😉


WHISTLER


 

The reason I went to Canada was a conference in Whistler. Colin, a friend from my time in Norwich who now lives in Victoria, was also going to the conference. We met up a couple of days early and went on a beautiful hike to Rainbow Lake. It was warm and sunny, but the lake was still frozen. It was a really nice day and a great way to catch up after so many years!

 

Rainbow Lake near Whistler With Colin who I hadn't seen for many years

VANCOUVER


After the conference, I spent an evening walking around Stanley Park on the Seawall. I fell in love with Vancouver – what a fantastic city. It was great to see so many people walking, cycling, jogging, inline skating or just enjoying the beaches.

Downtown Vancouver seen from the Seawall Canada Geese
The beautiful Seawall, with one part for walkers and joggers and one for cyclists and skaters Foxglove and the Lions Gate Bridge
A cyclist near Siwash Rock Fantastic beaches
Lots of people enjoying the sunset The Seawall at sunset

SOPHIA


 

Sophia is the name of the Volkswagen campervan I rented for the remaining three weeks. She was OLD and had lots of problems (doors that couldn’t lock, parts broken, she needed the garage at some point too), she was a PAIN to drive (no power steering, gears that got stuck), but somehow everyone fell a little in love with her. I think it was the feeling of freedom and adventure, the waves and smiles from other VW drivers and the convenience of always having your “home” with you.

With Patrick - and Sophia :) Campfire in Yoho National Park Meeting fellow VW travellers - this couple had taken their van from Switzerland to New York and were travelling for a whole year

During the three weeks with Sophia, people came and went (friends from the US and from Norway) – this was the most complicated trip I ever organised, where I needed a google document to keep track of everybody’s arrival times and places. We were never more than 4 at any one time, but I often slept in my tent next to the car as the “double” beds in the van are not very spacious.

EMERALD BASIN HIKE WITH NICOLE AND PATRICK


After driving for two days to get from Vancouver to the Rockies, we were really looking forward to go hiking. Our first hike started at beautiful Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park, and climbed up to Emerald Basin (a natural amphitheatre). We added the remaining part of the Emerald Lake Loop Trail to the end of the hike, which made it about 11.5 km in total. A beautiful hike!

Canoers on Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park Starting our hike along Emerald Lake
The destination of our hike: Emerald Basin, above Emerald Lake Patrick & Nicole at Emerald Basin
Cooling down in the stream On our way back
A Yellow Lady's Slipper, an orchid Emerald Lake in the evening
It was such a nice evening we added the rest of the Emerald Lake Loop to our hike It was a quiet and calm evening
Nice reflections The river feeding into Emerald Lake
Walking the loop around the lake Such a nice evening!
Emerald Lake reflections

PARADISE VALLEY OVERNIGHT HIKE WITH NICOLE AND PATRICK


We really wanted to do some overnight hiking in the Rockies, but we were having problems finding good hikes as it was still early in the season and many of the higher trails were still snow-covered. We realised later that a lot of the people working in the visitor centres for the national parks are overly careful and tell you there’s still a lot of snow on the trails to discourage people from visiting too early – once they even told us it would be dangerous to walk on one of the park roads due to avalanche danger – in the end this road opened two days later and there was NO snow in sight.

Anyway, we finally got lucky with a cheerful lady at the Banff National Park Visitor Centre – who did sell us backcountry permits to stay at Paradise Valley campground. It was a 10 km hike, passing beautiful Lake Annette, and with beautiful views of Mount Temple with its impressive glacier. Paradise Valley is often closed later in the season because of high bear activity, but we didn’t meet any bears.

During certain times of year you are obliged to travel in groups of 4 or more - now it was only 'advised' Starting our overnight hike
Catching glimpes of the impressive mountain and glacier Reaching the river
Mount Temple in all its glory! River panorama
On the bridge Following the river upstream

Time for a break at Lake Annette! Most hikers returned at Lake Annette, but there was a group of 4 young guys who were also camping at Paradise Valley Campground, who we kept passing on the way.

A break at Lake Annette Panorama of Lake Annette and Mount Temple
Looking towards Sentinel Pass, but from this angle it's hard to see the sentinels Getting ready for dinner at the campground - pestered by mosquitos

The hike had been beautiful, but as Patrick put it, the lady should have explained the hike as follows: “It’s a really beautiful hike, but it ends up in a huge swamp where you have to spend the night”. This was kind of true 😉 it also meant there were a LOT of mosquitos around which was quite annoying. This was my first night backcountry camping in bear country, and I had been very nervous about it. As long as you take precautions it’s fine though, and they have bear-proof lockers to store your food (and toiletry products) during the night. Of course, you do worry about every funny noise in the night (most funny noises came from all the rock slides coming from the mountains in the distance) but I slept surprisingly well!

Before hiking back the way we came, we stopped at the Giant Steps waterfalls. A very pretty place, and we wondered why they couldn’t have put the campground there?!

Our tents in the morning On the boardwalk towards the Giant Steps
At the edge of the Giant Steps Patrick & Nicole at the Giant Steps
Impressive views... On our way back to the trail
From this side we could clearly see the sentinals - impressive! One last look back
Fascinating trees A very camouflaged toad - photo by Nicole, I would never get this close to a toad ;)

We had to drive to Calgary after the hike to pick up a friend, but we enjoyed a nice lunch at Lake Louise before the long drive…

Lunch break at Lake Louise

BANFF


We spent a day in Banff before Nicole and Patrick were flying back to Seattle from Calgary. We explored Lake Minnewanka on a very windy afternoon…

At Lake Minnewanka Windy Lake Minnewanka

I also went for a short walk along the Bow River, and stopped to watch the hoodoos from a parking lot.

Panorama of Mount Rundle and the Bow River View of the hoodoos and the Bow River

We passed through Banff several times later in the trip. It’s quite a nice place, good for stocking up on whatever you need (food, outdoor equipment), but the area is really touristy and I think we all preferred the quieter places which were just as pretty (Yoho National Park for example).

KOOTENAY NATIONAL PARK


To escape hectic Banff, we went on a side trip to the much quieter Kootenay National Park. It was the first cloudy day in over a week, and the heatwave was also coming to an end. I went on a hike exploring Marble Canyon, and then continued through a large area of burnt forest. This was quite spooky, as the dead trees were swaying and creaking in the wind, and one even fell quite close to me!

Marble Canyon Butterflies at Marble Canyon
A flower in the burnt forest The spooky path between Marble Canyon and the Paint Pots
This sign wasn't so funny anymore after a tree fell very closeby! Bridge over the Vermillion River

At the end of the trail through the forest I met the trail to the Ochre Beds and Paint Pots, a really impressive phenomenon! Aboriginal people gathered the ochre for ceremonies and for trading, and it was also mined for a while (to be used as a paint pigment). I really loved the vivid orange and the unusual colours!

The Ochre Beds Path through the Ochre Beds
One of the Paint Pots - impressive! Another Paint Pot

We spent a couple of days at the very quiet Redstreak Campground, high in the hills above the village of Radium Hot Springs, with a great view of the Columbia Valley. It was fun to watch the showers come in on a rainy day… We also tried the actual Hot Springs which was really nice!

Watching an impressive rain shower approach Spectacular sunset!
This made me giggle: three little bears went camping? Last panorama from Radium Hot Springs

LITTLE YOHO VALLEY TO EMERALD LAKE HIKE


After visiting Kootenay National Park we went back to our favourite Yoho National Park again :). One day I hiked from Yoho Valley over the Yoho Pass all the way to Emerald Lake.

The hike started with nice views of Takkakaw Falls, then went through the forest until I reached Yoho Lake. So pretty!

Takkakaw Falls in Little Yoho Valley Amazingly green Yoho Lake

There is a campground near the lake, a very pretty place. This was the only time I met people on my hike until I reached Emerald Lake.

Panorama of Yoho Lake and Wapta Mountain Flowers found along the hike

It was still early in the season, and around Yoho Pass there was some snow. Nothing problematic though, and the rest of the hike down to Emerald Lake was really pretty!

Hiking down from Yoho Pass, with Emerald Lake in the background Fantastic views of Emerald Lake

I was hoping the cafe at Emerald Lake Lodge would still be open, but I was just too late! Oh well, I had a nice break at the canoe dock, and a little chipmunk (eating dandelion seeds!) kept me company 🙂

Canoes at Emerald Lake A chipmunk eating dandelions seeds right next to me!

I was picked up from the parking lot at Emerald Lake, and on the way back to the campground we stopped at the Natural Bridge over the Kicking Horse River – impressive!

Natural Bridge over the Kicking Horse River

I had signed up for a Burgess Shale fossil hike the next day (you can only visit on a guided hike), which I was very excited about – unfortunately our VW camper Sophia broke down and we had to get to Banff to fix it. I hope I can visit this area another time, and go looking for the fossils!


De Rotte

One day in December I rented a bike in Rotterdam and followed the river Rotte (which Rotterdam is named after) almost all the way to its source. It’s a beautiful trip, especially on this frosty sunny day! A very Dutch landscape, with a lot of windmills…

Bike path along de Rotte

Panorama of the bike path along de Rotte

There are houses along some parts of the river. Must be a nice place to live!

Boats on de Rotte

Houses along de Rotte - must be a nice place to live!

Panorama of the pretty views along the road

I rented my bike from the train station. The train company has a very good deal on rental bikes, and I only paid 3,20 euro for 24 hours. So convenient!

The bike I rented for only about 3 euros!

Beautiful house on the river…

Nice house along de Rotte

At some point you reach the recreation area Rottemeren. A really nice area where no cars are allowed, and there are many jetties in the lake. Some were very fotogenic, I took a lot of photos of this nicely shaped jetty…

Jetty panorama

It was such a beautiful frosty day!

I took a lot of photos of this photogenic jetty

Another windmill along the way…

Another windmill along the way

Which also had a jetty next to it…

Windmill and jetty - there were a lot of similar jetties

Here I crossed a bridge over the river and returned along the path on the other side. Nice view from the bridge!

View from the bridge over de Rotte

Further along I saw this pretty bridge…

Pretty bridge over de Rotte

I cycled back along the Kralingse Plas, a really nice lake with amazing views of Rotterdam. Here they also built some jetties, and I love the Rotterdam skyline view on the other side.

The jetty at the Kralingse Plas - I love the view towards Rotterdam from here

A jogger on the jetty

After this, I cycled back to the central station to return my bike. The station is a really cool modern building…

Panorama of the very cool train station in Rotterdam

I had cycled 38 km – beautiful ride! Here is a map of the trip…

Map of my bike trip

Birthday Bike Ride

My birthday was the day after we came back from Florida. Michiel had to work, and I was lazy most of the day. The weather was beautiful though – cold but sunny – so in the end I decided to go for a little bike ride around sunset. I don’t have my own bike in Rotterdam, but it’s very easy and cheap to rent one at the train station. This photo is from the short walk to the train station…

On the way to Rotterdam central station to pick up a rental bike

It took me a while to get out of Rotterdam, I lost my way a bit and ended up in some quite industrial areas. I was almost afraid I’d miss the sunset, but finally it started to get pretty when I reached the small village of Zweth.

Beautiful building housing a restaurant in Zweth

From here, I followed a very narrow walking/cycling path that follows the Berkelse Zweth (a small river). The path is so narrow you have to pay attention, as you could easily end up in the water! I loved the colours and the calm scenes along the river…

Along the narrow path

Behind me the sunset had become very beautiful and very red…

Beautiful sunset!

Passing a house while continuing on the narrow path…

Continuing on the very narrow path

One last look at the sunset from the bridge over the river…

One last look at the pretty sunset

After that I cycled back to Rotterdam quite quickly, as it was getting dark and much colder. I was glad I convinced myself to go for a bike ride and that I got to enjoy this sunset!

Florida

We spent two weeks in Florida in mid December. We started our road trip in Miami Beach on a sunny day…


Miami Beach


 

Miami Beach City Hall

We spent the first day walking along the beach, where I had fun taking photos of as many colourful art deco lifeguard huts as I could – they are so pretty!

The amazing art deco lifeguard huts at Miami Beach

A bird posed for me on the most American one…

Stars & Stripes & Bird

Of course we also admired the art deco buildings along Ocean Drive…

Art Deco hotels along Ocean Drive in Miami Beach

Enjoying a stroll along Ocean Drive

We walked on the beach until sunset. I found a group of Black Skimmers (Amerikaanse Schaarbek) on the beach that let me come very close – such funny creatures!

Black Skimmers (Amerikaanse Schaarbek) on Miami Beach - funny creatures! They let me come very close

At sunset we could see anticrepuscular rays over the sea – like rays of sunshine but on the opposite side of the sunset.

Anticrepuscular rays (opposite the sunset) on Miami Beach

In the evening we went for sushi at a fantastic little place called Sushi Song – highly recommended!

Fantastic sushi at Miami Beach

11th Street Diner is where we had breakfast both days. Great place and even better food!

The Diner in Miami Beach where we had two amazing breakfasts


The Florida Keys and Key West


 
We spent a day in Fort Lauderdale where we had dinner with friends I had met during my trip to Brazil. It was a windy and rainy day so I didn’t take a lot of photos. The next day we drove to Key West, which took about 5 hours. This drive gets more and more fun the closer you get to Key West, as the road basically becomes a bridge.

Driving along the Florida Keys - amazing road

Part of the times the old railroad bridge is visible

We stopped for lunch in Islamorada and explored around there…

A little break along the road to Key West

A white heron

We arrived in Key West in the afternoon, and immediately set out for a walk through the town. I loved the houses and the atmosphere of Key West!

Fantastic houses in Key West

Impressive big trees in some of the gardens…

I love those trees!

Duval Street, the main street in Key West.

Duval Street, the main street in Key West

Everyone gathers on Mallory Square for sunset and street performers. A bit tacky, we preferred to enjoy the sunset from a terrace a bit further from the crowds.

Everyone comes to Mallory Square for sunset...

No complaints about the sunset though, very pretty…

Pretty sunset

Cheers!

Everyone seemed to recommend us to visit Blue Heaven which indeed is a really nice restaurant. We enjoyed a very tasty meal, with live music just in front of us! They had a dessert called Banana Heaven which was just that – amazing!!

Enjoying an amazing dinner at Blue Heaven - with live music!

The next day we drove back along the Florida Keys, stopping a few places to explore. Our first stop was National Key Deer Refuge. We went for a short walk here.

Going for a walk in National Key Deer Refuge

And we spotted one of the tiny & cute Key Deer!

Where we actually met one of the tiny Key Deer

We also stopped in Long Key State Park and walked the Golden Orb Trail, which went over this pretty mangrove boardwalk…

On the mangrove boardwalk in Long Key State Park

We explored Duck Key and took photos of the many tacky mailboxes found on the Florida Keys… hehe!

The tacky mailboxes of Duck Key

We stayed in Key Largo that night, ready to explore the Everglades National Park the next day.


Everglades National Park


 
Our first stop in the Everglades was at Shark Valley. We rented bicycles here and cycled the 24 km tram road loop. This road is only used by cyclists, walkers and the occasional tourist tram.

Cycling at Shark Vally in Everglades National Park

The road is only used by bikes and the occasional tourist tram

The wildlife along the trail is so impressive! Right from the start you find alligators lying right next to the road. Sometimes you almost cycle over their tail, but they hardly even look at you. Besides alligators, there are SO many birds – most of them very big. I loved it!

The wildlife along the way was amazing - and you would almost cycle over the tails of alligators!!

Halfway through you read the Shark Valley Observation Tower, a very cool building!

The Shark Valley Observation Tower

With nice views back at the road.

The view back at the road from the Shark Valley Observation Tower

Unfortunately it was a very rainy day. It was warm, so you would dry up quickly after a shower, but we still got really soaked by a heavy shower at the end of our trip, with not enough cycling left to dry up before getting to the car…

Impressive shower - which unfortunately managed to catch up with us later!

Later in the afternoon we went for a kayak trip with Everglades Area Tours. We started out on a relatively wide and open area…

Kayak tour near Everglades National Park

But soon we were inside the Mangrove Tunnel. Very impressive! You could hardly use your paddles though, we found it easier to move forward by pulling ourselves forwards on the roots above us!

In the amazing mangrove tunnel

Looking at a rare orchid in the mangrove tunnel

We stayed in Everglades City that night, a fascinating but sleepy small town which feels a bit “end of the road”.

City Hall at Everglades City, most sleepy town ever ;)

The real end of the road is in Chocoloskee, a little further down the road. We had a great Cuban breakfast here, and explored the really quiet town… we only saw this crazy pelican!

Pelican showing off


Naples


 
We drove on to Naples that same day, and explored the city beach. Very pretty!

Naples City Beach

Cute sandpipers on Naples City Beach

Mansions on Naples City Beach - must be such a nice place to live!

We spent some time on the pier, eating ice cream and spotting a dolphin.

Panorama view from the pier at Naples

At night we had a relaxed evening on our hotel balcony, with this fantastic sunset view…

Sunset view from our hotel balcony at Naples


Lovers Key State Park


 
The next day we visited Lovers Key State Park, inspired by some photos in a magazine in our hotel room. We went for a very pretty walk in the park…

Cute creature in Lovers Key State Park

Pretty views from our walk in Lovers Key State Park

And afterwards we visited the really beautiful beach. We found lots of seashells here, and I spotted dolphins nearby while swimming. So much fun!

The beach at Lovers Key State Park

Such a pretty beach... I went swimming and saw dolphins nearby!

The Beach at Lovers Key State Park


Lee County Manatee Park


 
On our way to our hotel in Sarasota we stopped at Lee County Manatee Park. It’s a tiny park where you pay $2 to park your car, and then you can walk to a canal where warm water from a power plants attracts the manatees. It didn’t take long before we saw one! At first we only saw their back in the water, but later they came closer and we could see them very well. There seemed to be a mum with a baby, and their pet fish!

Manatees! And a fish

Spanish Moss on a tree at sunset


St Petersburg


 
From Sarasota we continued to St Petersburg over this impressive bridge…

The impressive bridge to St Petersburg

We spent most of our day in the amazing DalĂ­ museum. It was a lot of fun learning about interpreting his paintings with the free audio guide. We were also lucky that there was a Frida Kahlo exhibition that had just opened – I love her work and it was a really good exhibition. Besides all this, the building itself is fantastic!

The DalĂ­ museum

Very pretty building - the DalĂ­ museum in St Petersburg

I loved the architecture of the DalĂ­ museum in St Petersburg

We stayed in a B&B in the city centre and had a stroll through town in the evening. We went to a brewery pub, ate sushi and admired all the crazy Christmas decorations (including an ice rink!) in tropical Florida.

Sunset view in relaxed St Pete

Christmas decorations and even some sort of ice rink in St Pete


New Smyrna Beach


 
We spent two nights in a nice hotel in New Smyrna Beach (back on the east coast of Florida). A fun beach town with lots of nice little shops and restaurant. And great beaches. On our first night here, we went for a walk during a sunset which just turned prettier and prettier…

Sunset on the beach at New Smyrna Beach

Michiel on New Smyrna Beach

You’re actually allowed to drive your car on the beach (for $10, between sunrise and sunset) – the sand is hard enough for that. A bit crazy, but must be fun!

You can actually drive your car on the beach here!

Perhaps more fun with a bike…

Or your bike...

I couldn’t stop taking photos as the colours were so pretty.

Birds at sunset on New Smyrna Beach

Selfie on the beach…

Selfie on New Smyrna Beach - part of our suntan thanks to the iPhone HDR function ;)


Canaveral National Seashore


 
While staying in New Smyrna Beach we also visited Canaveral National Seashore. We first went for a walk through the forest, really nice – except for the mosquitos we met at the end of the trail!

Going for a walk in Canaveral National Seashore

We saw two armadillo’s while in the park, so cool!

We saw an armadillo in Canaveral National Seashore!

Canaveral National Seashore has the longest stretch of undeveloped beach in Florida, nearly 40 km long and very pretty!

Beach views in Canaveral National Seashore

Panorama of Canaveral National Seashore - the longest stretch of undeveloped coastline in Florida, 40 km long

We stayed in the park until sunset, taking lots of photos…

Photographer at work ;)

Of another pretty sunset!

Beautiful sunset colours


Kennedy Space Center


 
On our last day in Florida we visited Kennedy Space Center – a dream come true for this nerd girl who once upon a time wanted to become an astronaut…

Kennedy Space Center

The highlight of our visit was the Atlanta exhibition which shows the actual Atlanta Space Shuttle. So impressive!

A dream come true for this nerd, especially the Atlantis exhibition

The Space Shuttle Atlantis

The next day we flew back from Orlando. We really enjoyed our trip to Florida, and wished we could have stayed longer!