Heading to the Emerald Isle (and England)

As a graduation gift to myself (who else is going to buy me cool travel presents) I decided that I should finally visit the Emerald Isle (Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland) as everyone else in my family as done so at least once… yay heritage!
For most of the Ireland Portion I’ll be on a Shamrocker Tour, afterwards I’m heading to Southern England to visit with my brother and some free-styling adventure travel.

A hint of what’s to come!

Given my down-sizing a few years ago in order to move to Toronto for school and a 1 bedroom apartment I had to divest of a few larger pieces of equipment and especially a large assortment of travel bags… So I did a bit of Pre-Trip Shopping 🙂

I also rarely (if ever) drink, for me its more a taste of the culture when I travel, although yes… for some reason I can’t seem to avoid checking out every brewery/winery/distillery I come across. Guinness is apparently the drink of Ireland so I managed to grab a can and give it a go… I’m told it tastes better in Ireland… one can only hope!

Guinness in a can – pre-trip dive into Irish Culture
Evening Flight out of Kingston Airport
Seat in the last row of the airplane #winning!
There are like 8 people on this plane…
Toronto… I was literally down there 3 days ago… (Irony)
Bombardier Dash 8-100 Airplane
Tiny Bombardier Dash 8-100 Airplane landed in Toronto

So of course this tiny little airplane was not going to fly me all the way to Ireland, but in Pearson International Airport fashion… its time for a walk-about in haste to board the next (and much larger) plane!

Long story short… I made it to Ireland, now to find some Guinness.

Spoiler: Guinness is not hard to find in Ireland

The Grand Canyon beckons

Three Ottawa, Ontario area kayakers won the lottery for a time slot on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. Small problem. Their kayaks were in Vancouver, BC, 2200 kms away from the launch point. They needed someone to transport the kayaks to Las Vegas, Nevada. I volunteered for the task and so, here I was at 5:30 AM waking up to get to the airport for an early morning flight to Vancouver. This time around, I was flying Air Canada, but plenty were also there at that time of the morning to board the Westjet flight boarding at an adjacent gate.

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I was flying with point redemption so, as is normal, the only spots that tend to be available are the flights that leave early in the morning or arrive very late at night (or have multiple stops along the way). Since flying from Ottawa to Vancouver takes about 6 hours non-stop, it was the non-stop flight that I wanted to be on. Not interested in extending that part of the trip by stopping for a chat or plane change in Toronto, Hamilton, Winnipeg or Calgary which made up all of the other options and would have added another hour or two to the travel time.

Before we could take-off, our pilot had to taxi the jet to the deicing area so that a solution  could be sprayed onto the wings.  While waiting for the deicing process to be completed, the couple sitting next to me began a discussion of the costs of the deicing process both in terms of the cost of time as well as the cost of the deicing fluids and the manpower and machinery needed to apply the stuff and clean up the excess fluids. That led to discussion of how coatings based on nanotechnology might some day eliminate the need for deicing altogether.

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I was looking forward to visiting with my brother in Vancouver before loading the kayaks and heading south to Las Vegas. The slight difference in temperature between Ottawa and Vancouver was an added bonus of flying to Vancouver. When we were boarding the plane in Ottawa, the outside temperature was hovering around -25C while the forecast temperature in Vancouver was +8C and sunny.

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The flight with Air Canada went well with just a touch of turbulence as we approached the foothills of the Rockies near Lethbridge, Alberta. I was lucky to have a young couple sitting beside me on the plane who were involved in the mining industry in Peru. Although they had lived in places that I might only wish to visit some day (Chile and Peru), their Canadian roots in Squamish and Whitehorse (two places that I have visited) were locations of which we could share some knowledge and stories. Who knows, in this small world, my middle son’s career in Geophysics might some day lead him across their path on some flight in the future. Having interesting flying partners can certainly make the flight seem shorter.

As we flew along the 49th parallel, I could look south to see all sorts of mountains and patterns whenever the cloud cover thinned to allow a glimpse or two at was below.  Soon we were back on the ground at Vancouver International Airport .

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After my brother met me at the airport, we did a quick tour of Vancouver’s Gastown (cobblestone as demarcation from nearby Chinatown) The steam clock was an interesting piece of engineering.
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As we walked from place to place a number of different signs caught my attention as did Vancouver’s Flat Iron building which is a backdrop in many of the large number of films produced in Vancouver.
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Plenty of food establishments in the Gastown are but we finally decided on one with an interesting wall 🙂
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After my brother headed back to work, I wandered around Vancouver’s Gastown and Chinatown area. Overhead the skies were clear blue and the sun shone brightly. Rather an uncommon sight in Vancouver in the winter.

Varadero, Cuba – Heading home

Varadero, Cuba – Heading home

Our pick-up for the flight home was scheduled for pretty early in the morning so we were up before sunrise. We were supposed to have a wake-up call, breakfast delivered to our room and porter service to get our bags from our room to the pick-up point. Somehow we ended up with none of the above services so somewhere along the way the time or the room number got mixed up. Perhaps someone else got a knock on their door at 6AM and had an unexpected breakfast in bed or …??? Anyway, we were up in time and waiting when the bus arrived to take us to the airport. Continue reading

Varadero, Cuba – Morning has come.

Varadero, Cuba – Day 2 and morning has come.

After a good night’s sleep, we got up and headed over to the reception area of the Marina Palace complex to meet with Air Canada’s representative for the orientation session.  Weather was nice and warm so I also took the time to get a few photos along the way. Continue reading

Heading for Cuba – Spring break – March 10 -17, 2012

Heading for Cuba – Spring break – March 10 -17, 2012

It was Spring break time and my wife was certainly looking forward to some R&R. Continue reading

Lowe’s Toronto Christmas Market 2011

Toronto Christmas Lights 2011 – Lowe’s Toronto Christmas Market

In my previous post, I finished the post with a shot of the view looking east from my 33rd floor room at the Westin Harbour Castle hotel.
The hotel is a partner in the staging of the Lowe’s Toronto Christmas Market and a shuttle to and from the market is provided from the hotel.  After thinking about my choices for  a few minutes, I decided to to take my car rather than the shuttle so that I would have more time, and more flexibility in getting to other locations after my visit to the Lowe’s Toronto Christmas Market. (Location)

Continue reading

Onward to Italy

The above image was taken by Graeme in St. Mark’s Square in Venice a couple of years ago. I was looking forward to seeing what the spot would look like when I got to Venice.

Onward to Italy
Well we managed to get what we wanted into one bag each plus, of course, a bag for the camera equipment that I was taking with me. For this trip this consists of my d300 with the primary lens being my 12 – 24. For the macro, if I get opportunity to try a bit of macro, I brought along my old MF 55mm f3.5 macro. It is small and light and for macro that I will likely be doing MF will be fine. As a short tele, I brought along my MF 105mm F2.5 mainly because it is both light and fast and also small enough to be relatively inconspicuous for a lens of that magnification. The big decision that I had to make was whether I would bring along a lens with a longer reach. Finally decided on my old 75 – 300mm. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to use it!

Knowing how early to get to the airport is part luck, part Science and part skill and experience. Our first route was blocked by a construction project, but Graeme was able to take an alternate route to get us to the airport with plenty of time to spare. An orange Jazz aircraft was waiting to take us to Montreal. Other lime-green Jazz aircraft were there, too, but ours was the orange one.

Time required to fly to Montreal is 30 minutes plus another two hours to get to the airport, check-in, get through security, wait to board the plane. Driving time to Montreal is about 2 1/2 hours :-).

It was the first time that I have been seated at a window right beside the wheels on one of these small planes. It was interesting to watch the hydraulic in action at the moment of touch down.

Our next aircraft was a Swiss Air Airbus A-330-300 which seats 236. We were in seats in row 34 which put us far enough behind the wing to have an unobstructed view of the clouds and land below. We were cruising at an altitude of 37,000 feet.

Since I was on the south side of the plane with a clear view of the ground, it was easy to identify were we. Were as we passed over New Brunswick, then over the quilted landscape of PEI, then over the rugged highlands of Cape Breton before crossing over Newfoundland as the colours of a nice sunset lit up the few clouds below the wingtip.

Distance 6004 km from Montreal to Zurich.


Travel, Strikes and Postal Service

One of my photos has been chosen to be exhibited as part of a new Natural History exhibit at a museum in Venice, Italy. My wife has always wanted to take a trip to Italy. That seemed like two good reasons to book a trip to Italy.

The museum sent me a card so that I would have access to the museum and it arrived by mail before talks of rotating postal strikes began to surface here in Canada.

We booked our flights by phone by speaking to a real human (how archaic), got our confirmations electronically by e-mail without a hitch.

Now comes the tricky part!

Our tour package information is supposedly “in the mail” and Canada’s postal folks have decided to try to disrupt everything with a series of rotating strikes. How timely. Great for the economy, eh!

Now to make things worse, Air Canada’s folks have decided that it might be a nice time for them to be on strike! Might be a bit tricky for us given that part of our flight involves a short hop to Montreal on one of those Air Canada branded birds.

We’ll work something out, I’m certain, but it does make travel a bit tough to plan for too far ahead!