Canada – Ucluelet, Vancouver Island – July 2018

Ucluelet lies on the west coast Pacific Rim of Vancouver Island which itself lies off the coast of Vancouver, just about as far west as you can get into the Pacific. The island is largely covered in temperate rainforest and with very towns of any size, it means there is a lot of wilderness country.

Industries on the island are logging, fishing, tourism and in the capital Victoria, a growing technology industry. Ucluelet is a commercial fishery with a population of less than 2,000, is a commercial fishery but is it’s a small quiet town where tourism is low key compared to it’s nearest neighbouring town Tofino, half an hour north which is very much geared up for tourism and is apparently much more touristic. The place is popular with fisherman, walkers, surfers and storm watchers and it has plenty of interesting history for the reader who cares to search for it.

We stayed in a beautiful apartment on Ucluelet’s small boat harbour only yards from the waterfront.

Our apartment was in this harbourside block. Timber built like most buildings in Canada outside the big cities – but sprinkler protected (a nod to my pre-travelling life!)



This was probably our best rental property in over 3 years of travel


And rooms with views



These otter photos were taken from our balcony



as was this picture of 3 bald eagles circling above…..





Here are some pictures of the town itself. There are several tired looking motels with a few better quality hotels on the edge of town. Otherwise the town comprises a collection of timber  buildings, mostly very ordinary. There’s a handful of eateries, the best one prohibitively expensive and a couple of food wagons, one selling fish and other chips and other delights, the second one majoring in oysters! Jiggers Fish and Chips van is actually the number one eatery on Tripadvisor – very good fresh fish and fries. There’s also a couple of Liquor Stores, a few tourist tat shops and a Fish Guiding company or two. A fairly large Coop Store satisfies most day to day shopping needs. All in all, plenty to satisfy our needs for our 5 nights here. Oh, and there’s a small church for those that need it!




Did I mention that one of the great things here in Canada is the availability of excellent craft beer – its everywhere !


The Wild Pacific Trail

This trail is a must-do when in this area. It’s 8km in total but can be done by way of several shorter walks. There are numerous look-outs, each one with a bench so you can sit and enjoy the views. Absolutely stunning scenery.

This really is a wild coast famous for spectacular salmon and halibut fishing. It’s also famous for its violent storms and many come on holiday to Ucluelet for storm watching!









This area is part of the Graveyard of the Pacific, a stretch of the coastal region in the Pacific Northwest, from the Oregon Coast northward to Vancouver Island. The unpredictable weather conditions and coast characteristics have caused more than 2,000 shipwrecks in this area and there are still ship wrecks at the bottom of the sea in this area. The lighthouse below (or it’s storm wrecked predecessors) was built by popular demand.





Archipelago Wildlife Cruise


This was a great day out with a Canadian Skipper and his South African wife on their beautifully fitted out luxury boat. We chose this tour above others because of its great reviews and reputation as one of  the best tours in Canada let alone Vancouver Island. About 20 of us enjoyed the day which took us into the Broken Islands Group and Barkley Sound to see bags of wildlife (although sadly no whales), with a lovely gourmet lunch served with a glass of wine. Very nice indeed and highly recommended.




We saw this deer grazing in the harbour within minutes of setting off on our cruise.


And this bald eagle was sat on a buoy at the harbour entrance eating scraps taken from fish trimmings discarded by a nearby fish processing plant. During the day we saw dozens of bald eagles and several nests.





A pair of juvenile bald eagles spotted high in a tree top.



We watched this sea otter for 10 minutes or so.  He was lying on his back and occasionally diving for sea urchins which he chomped on whilst we watched. You can just see the spines of a sea urchin in his paws.





This is where we parked up for lunch – a nice spot!


Once anchored up at lunch time the Captain put out a couple of humming bird feeders. Seems the birds don’t always turn up but we must have seen over a dozen.



Seals and Sea Lions

I confess that theses creatures weren’t top of our must sees. After all, harbour seals are commonly seen in many places around the UK let alone overseas. However, to see these animals in big numbers  on tiny islands way out in the Pacific Ocean is something special. And its not just the sights, the noise made by a big group of sea lions constantly fighting and bickering with each other is impressive.






There are a number of companies who specialise in whale watching tours operating out of Ucluelet but the numbers of whales visiting the area have reduced considerably over the past several years for reasons unknown. These various operators share information and whale sightings in real time and around lunch time we did get a message of a spotting. Unfortunately the whale was out of our range and in fact none of the operators got to see that whale.

Bears and wolves are commonly seen on Vancouver Island and bears are virtually always seen on this tour. Bears are even seen in the town on occasion but this  turned out to be a bad bear day and we spent quite some time searching out bears along the shore. Finally, a young adult black bear was spotted. Unfortunately it wasn’t the biggest bear and we couldn’t get very near to the shore due to rocks but we did manage to get one photograph! Our final spot of the day !


This really was a memorable day and one of the highlights of our Canada trip to date.We were blessed with good weather which was more than lucky as we booked this trip several months previously. Especially lucky as the following day there was serious rain which likely resulted in the cancellation of the cruise that day.

After 5 nights in Ucluelet, we left on July 6th for Victoria, south Vancouver Island.










Canada – Vancouver – June 2018





Totem poles greet you at Arrivals in Vancouver Airport


We arrived in Vancouver from Turkey on 24 June 2018. It was a long trip and arriving at our hotel around 11pm, we were more than ready for bed – almost! We popped out for a craft beer night cap and felt much better for it. A good start! The following morning we were up bright and early feeling fresh and full of beans – but our energy soon waned and it took a few days to get over our long journey .

We didn’t have the best of weather for our week in Vancouver but we didn’t have that much rain. The week was mainly cloudy with a few half days of lovely sunshine – it was never cold.

Here are a few pictures of downtown and around. The main shopping streets are smart and  filled with the top brands and lots of nice bars and restaurants and the waterfront area in particular is very attractive. But, like every major city,  you don’t need to wander far from the smart areas before you find yourself in some pretty sketchy areas. There are many homeless people here and you see them sleeping on the streets everywhere. And inevitably there is a drink/drugs problem and on several occasions we saw guys totally comatose lying in the middle of the pavement in a busy shopping street with shoppers and workers just walking around them! Pretty grim!

Cannabis is legal here by the way. It’s legal and supposedly regulated and there are many shops around town selling the stuff. The smell of weed is everywhere in the city – I must confess I rather like the smell as it brings back memories  but Ann certainly doesn’t! Its hard to think this freedom of use doesn’t  lead to some of the abuse problems.






This is apparently the only permanent rainbow crossing in the world – slap bang in the middle of Davey Village where we were staying. This was a great place to stay – very handy for what we considered the 2 main attractions of Vancouver, Granville Island and Stanley Park and easy to get to Downtown and the main shopping areas. But there’s definitely an edge to the area with some “interesting” characters. It all adds to the attraction for me.




Vancouver is a super expensive place to live and to take a holiday. As you would expect there are many high end retailers such as this around but interestingly, as we saw recently in Florence and Venice recently, the customers frequenting and buying are very largely Asian tourists, mainly Chinese.

Stanley Park

This is North America’s third-largest park and draws eight million visitors per year, many of whom cycle, skate or walk past you on the Seawall, a scenic, 5.5-mile path running around the park which is surrounded on three sides by water. It’s fabulous that this is right next to the city centre, a brilliant resource for the populace which has many attractions including an Aquarium, walking trails, a mini train, places to eat, totem poles and places galore to enjoy a picnic. 
We had expected to spend a day or more in the Park but sadly the weather put paid to this and in the end we only managed a quick circuit of the circumference of the  park one morning before an afternoon in the pub watching World Cup footy on the TV! Belgium 1 England 0  ….

The white “sails” seen in the distance are those at the Canada Place complex around 5km away.



These seaplanes are landing and taking off constantly


A dragons head “totem” – we have yet to discover its significance. The bridge in the background is at Stanley Park’s northernmost point, Prospect Point. This is Lions Gate Bridge which joins Vancouver with North Vancouver and is the main route over to Whistler and other points north



No it isn’t a mermaid. It’s a statue of a girl in a wetsuit – an iconic Vancouver statue. The scene behind is the city of North Vancouver across Vancouver Harbour



Glanville Island

The island is situated south of Vancouver city and separated from it by a body of water known as False Creek. It is reached from the city centre by public ferries but in truth this is is actually a peninsular rather than an island and can be accessed by car on the side furthermost from the city. With the waterfront lined with condos, restaurants and more, this is a fab and vibrant area to visit. We loved it!

The island  was once an industrial area but was left to become derelict for many years until the art community started to renovate and move into some of the buildings. The regeneration continued and it’s now one of the top attractions of Vancouver with a famous ‘must visit’ daily fresh market with lots of special products – pies, confectionery etc and plenty of cafes and restaurants selling food of all kinds with several having tables overlooking the waterfront.

Quite apart from food, there is a brewery here, one of many micro breweries in town. But Glanville Island isn’t all about food and drink. There are galleries galore here in and around the market and at least two theatres, one of which we visited to see an excellent Irish musical, Once! One of the best shows Ive ever seen!

Granville Island is reached from the Downtown area by one of these little ferries that go back and forth all day


























We enjoyed our first Canadian fish and chips at Tony’s Fish and Oyster Cafe – excellent it was too!



False Creek and Glanville Island at night



Gastown Area

This is an area full of history worth looking at if you are planning a visit.

Gastown is the original settlement of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Today, it’s a national historic site, at the northeast end of Downtown Vancouver, adjacent to the Downtown Eastside. Gastown is a mix of “hip” contemporary fashion and interior furnishing boutiques, tourist-oriented businesses, restaurants and nightclubs. Poverty is evident alongside upscale housing.

The area became known as Gastown because the first saloon here was started by Jack Deighton, known as “Gassy Jack” because he loved to talk — apparently for hours. There’s a statue to him shown below.



Underneath Vancouver there runs a series of steam pipes connected to a generating plant that provides heat to most of  downtown Vancouver and provides the steam for the whistles of the Gastown steam clock shown below. This clock isn’t as old as it looks – it was built in 1977 and whistles on the hour to tell the time.






Canada Place

This is a landmark and iconic venue on Vancouver waterfront. Major events take place here although unfortunately there were none during our visit. Cruise ships arrive and leave from here and there are many such cruises with most seemingly headed for Alaska. This area is always busy and a great place to people watch and happily we had decent weather on the day we visited.







North Vancouver and Lynn Canyon

We were really looking forward to a trip across the river to North Vancouver. In the event, we woke up to rain on the day of our visit and almost canned the idea of a visit but decided to go as we could least have a look at the public market and maybe have lunch at Lonsdale Quay Public Market.









The market was OK but not nearly so large and impressive as Glanville Market. Having walked around we decided to go back to Vancouver but as we neared the ferry we noticed a bus heading for Lynn Canyon and despite the drizzle we decided to jump on board to have a quick look.

Thankfully the rain stopped by the time we got to Lynne Canyon and we managed a quick look at the Park Information Lodge and a short walk across the suspension bridge and along one of the trails for half an hour or so. This is a beautiful area and we were a bit gutted we couldn’t do one of the day long trails in the area. Hey ho, it was back to the transit centre for the return ferry – but not before a quick pint of excellent IPA in the Green Leaf Brewing Co. Back in Vancouver, lunch was our first Indian meal for some time in the excellent Salam Bombay restaurant on the second floor of a non descriptive office block – a great place for people watching especially as were directly opposite the Tiffany Store which provided us with an amusing game of will she/won’t she buy something. We could actually see the customers entering the store and then making their purchases inside – many did within the space of an hour and a half or so – and we were not surprised to see that the buyers were mainly Chinese.









Yours truly facing a potentially vertiginous situation crossing the suspension bridge 50 metres above a raging river and even managing a smile – sort of !



The end of a fabulous week came all too soon. A week just wasn’t enough for us although it might well be too much for others. We shall just have to return one day.

Next stop Ucluelet on the West coast of Vancouver Island!






Turkey – Cappadocia – October 2017

Turkey is the “world’s largest museum” and even in Kalkan, our Turkish home town in an out of the way corner of Antalya, we have several ancient sites within an hours drive and many more within a few hours. Patara, only half an hour away, is perhaps the most interesting for us as it was the ancient capital city of Lycia and is still being excavated so that we get to  see more every time we visit.

We had wanted to visit Cappadocia for years and finally on Monday 16th October 2017 we left Kalkan for a 5 night trip along with 15 others and a driver, Murat, owner of Volume Travel, a local travel company.

The trip was organised by our friends Malcolm and Marion aka M&M, long term residents of Kalkan and serial trip organisers over many years.They had run this particular trip with Murat several times over the years but for one reason or another we had never been able to join it; either it didn’t fit with our holiday dates when we were working or, since we retired, we were travelling elsewhere. This time, with lots of advance warning from M&M, we were able to plan our travel itinerary to be in Turkey at the right time.

One of the most visited areas of Turkey, Cappadocia is a sprawling area in the Goreme National Park area of Central Anatolia. The main attractions of the area are its amazing natural landscapes and its ruins created by many different civilisations dating back to pre-history.

M&M and Murat had put together a super itinerary involving tours of the main sites of interest, some excellent valley walks, a visit to a local pottery and a Turkish night with belly dancer and whirling dervish dancers. However, the main event was a hot air balloon trip over Cappadocia which is the way to see Cappadocia. Unfortunately I suffer from vertigo and am seriously troubled by heights – in truth I struggle to look straight down to the ground from the second floor of our apartment! I had no intention of taking a ride in a balloon but happy for Ann to do it – she couldn’t wait!

Our base in Cappadocia was the Suhan Hotel in the city of Avanos but as Avanos is an eleven hour drive from Kalkan, around 750 kilometres, the itinerary included a stop off to visit  the Mevlana Museum at Konya and an overnight stay at  Aksaray.

Mevlana Museum


Mevlana Museum at Konya



For Muslims and non-Muslims alike, the main reason to come to Konya is to visit the Mevlana museum, the former lodge of the Sufi sect, a branch of Islam whose followers performed the ritual spinning dance and were dubbed Whirling Dervishes. This is one of the biggest  pilgrimage centres in Turkey and most of the visitors by far are Turks. The site contains the tomb of the founder of the order along with  lots of ancient artefacts going back to the 13th century but for us it was only mildly interesting and rather underwhelming albeit provided a useful break in our long journey and happily on the day we visited we did not need to pay an entrance fee!

Our overnight stay at the Grand Saatcioglu Hotel in the centre of Aksaray was pleasant with a convivial dinner which for some of us went on longer than perhaps it should have with a tad too much raki consumed.


Views from the Grand Saatcioglu Hotel in the centre of Aksaray



Selime Monastery

After our night in Avanos we stopped off at Selime Monastery for our first close-up experience of the amazing landscape and rock-cut structures found in Cappadocia.

The landscapes found here in Cappadocia were formed by deposits of volcanic ash, lava and basalt created  from multiple eruptions of three big volcanoes in the area millions of years ago. Subsequent floodwaters and erosion by wind and rain formed valleys, caves and  weird rock formations  of cones, pillars, mushrooms and “fairy chimneys” that can be seen today. The rock below the top layer of basalt is extremely soft, so much so that you can easily scratch it away even with a finger nail and so its easy to see how rain and winds have carved out these caves and shapes.

The soft rock created by the ash, called tuff – is tens of meters thick and since the area was first inhabited, by Hittites between 1800 – 1200 BC, rock dwellings, storerooms and churches have been carved out in the hillside by successive civilisations.

Selime Monastery is a huge structure carved into a hillside with several churches including one so big it’s referred to as a cathedral. In addition to churches the site included dwellings, kitchens, storehouses and stables.

Over time, this was home to Hittites, Assyrians, Persians, Romans and Byzantines.
The churches are interesting with still some evidence of  religious and decorative frescoes but sadly most are covered in centuries of soot from fires and kitchens or  have been scratched off and vandalised over the ages.

The square holes carved above the doorways towards the top of the cave are roosting places for pigeons.These are extremely common and can be seen throughout the region. Pigeeons were encouraged here for their guano used as a growing medium to supplement the lack of soil found in the area


It’s believed this site took over 200 years to complete and dates back to the 8th or 9th century.
It continued to be occupied for many many centuries and was expanded to accommodate more people as required. Around 5,000 people were thought to be housed here at one point but after the 11th century it became a caravanserai, a stopping place on the silk road where traders and their animals could stop over night on their journey. It was abandoned in the 16th century although small areas continued to be used by locals  for storage and some still are used to this day.

Kaymakli Underground City

This is one of over 30 underground cities dating back to the Hittite and Phrygians Periods around B.C 3000.

The underground tunnels carved in the soft rock were dug in this city to eight levels although only 3 or 4 are now accessible due to collapse. They provided refuge for the population to hide from invaders or from groups passing through to wage war elsewhere or simply travelling along the silk trail which went through the area. The cities contained living quarters, storehouses, stables and churches with entrancies/escape routes which could be sealed off  if enemies attempted to enter. In some cases there are tunnels as long as 5 kilometres  from one city to the next providing escape routes from invaders.

During the Byzantine era and the Arab-Byzantine wars (780-1180), Christians used the underground city to protect them from Muslim Arab persecution. After the region fell to the Ottomans the cities were used as refuges from the Turkish Muslim rulers, and as late as the 20th century the inhabitants, called Cappadocian Greeks, were still using the underground cities to escape periodic waves of Ottoman persecution.

We were given a very interesting tour by a local guide. Here are a few photos.



For our second, third and fourth nights we were based  in Avanos at the Suhane Hotel, a large modern purpose built hotel which looks amazing from the outside with super nice outside areas and impressive reception and bar areas. Unfortunately the rooms are tired and in need of upgrading and  fall  well short of the  supposed 5 Star status although more than adequate for us for only 3 nights. On the plus side, the food was fine and the staff are nice and the bar was amply stocked with beer and wine although a bar person did need to pop out to a supermarket nearby to buy tonic water! The hotel was fine for us but I couldn’t recommend it.

On our first night at Suhane, Tuesday the 17th, an early night was necessary due to the fact that we would be awake at 4.30 in the morning to get ready to leave the hotel at 5.30 for the balloon trip. I had changed my mind regarding the balloon trip and decided to go for it. Actually I had changed my mind en route from Kalkan and in the end all but one of our party took the flight. It was an amazing experience.

All was fine and we were picked up promptly in the morning and transported a short distance to a restaurant near the balloon take off fields. We were given a simple Turkish breakfast and then bussed over to the take off area for a safety drill, pre-flight photos and a sales pitch for the in-flight video that would be taken.

Happily and surprisingly I had no pre-flight fears or even nerves and enjoyed every minute of the hour long flight which started  just as day was breaking around 7am. There were many many balloons taking flight one after the other but we were one of the first to go. We started with a fairly low  flightpath over a couple of  nearby valleys actually descending into the valleys and within touching distance of valley walls and towering pillars – quite amazing and surprisingly good fun with the pilot showing a high level of skill in manoeuvring the balloon. We then rose to heights of 1,000 feet and above to give us  great panoramic views over the area and the other balloons flying below us.


We were 12 persons in the basket all from the same group and enjoyed good craic with the pilot who spoke good english. Everyone was impressed (and relieved no doubt) with his handling of the balloon which he manoevered by ropes and pullies and increasing and decreasing the gas supply to the burner. An hour passed by quickly before we started our descent into a field with the pilot landing on a basket sized platform ready to be transported away – an incredibly accurate landing followed by the presentation of flight certificates and a glass of bubbly to all the passengers. A memorable trip indeed

The rest of the morning was spent sight seeing with an early finish following our early start in the morning. Later that evening we attended an excellent Turkish Night which included a nice dinner with inclusive and unlimited drinks with the usual traditional music and dancing including the obligatory belly dancer! Normally I avoid such evenings like the plague but this turned out to be a great fun night – and more than a tad boozy……

Our time in Cappadocia was otherwise spent completing a couple of excellent walks along the  Ilhere Valley which included lunch at a riverside restaurant and also Rose Valley. We also visited a number of other locations, including Goreme Open Air Museum a huge area with a mega collection of churches (although in all honesty we were already churched out by now  and Uchisar Castle which gave us a bit of a work out climbing to the top to be rewarded with some long distance views over the region.

Here are more than a few more photos of Cappadocia

Ilhara Valley




This is Goreme Open Air Museum. A large site with a collection of cave churches carved into the
rock from around 900 AD. As elsewhere many of the frescos are badly damage but some remain well preserved but unfortunately by now we were rather churched out and bothered to look at only a few of them




Uchisar Castle

Uchisar Castle – quite a climb but worth it for terrific views




Rose Valley

This is a tiny winery we came across early into our walk in Rose Valley



Sultanhani Caravanserai

We set off on our return journey early on Friday 20th October driving firstly to the town of Sultanhani on the road to Konya to see a large 13th century caravanserai which was the biggest in Turkey built on the trade route leading to Persia.

From Sultanhani we travelled west through some fantastic scenery with a lunch stop at a service station high in the Tauros Mountains which are an “extension” of the Himalayan mountain chain that stretches across all of Asia. In Turkey the Taurus mountains stretch along the southern coast dividing the Mediterranean coastal region from Anatolia. After lunch it was a two hour downhill drive south to the coastal resort of Side where we broke the journey with a pleasant evening, dinner and an overnight stay.

The following morning we continued on our journey back to Kalkan calling at Phaselis,  an interesting Roman port city  built on three bays with the ruins of the city including an aqueduct, theatre and baths remaining. We had only an hour or so for this visit but we will  return visit to investigate some more.



With a brief stop for a lunch of baked trout , we were back in Kalkan late afternoon  in good time to see City beat Burnley 3-0 at the Etihad. All in all a great trip and highly recommended if you can make it – Im sure M&M will be running this one again!

And finally, a BIG THANK YOU to M & M for arranging this trip which was one of the most enjoyable and interesting we have ever been on. We can’t wait to do another!

A big THANK YOU to Malc & Marion for a brilliant trip!


PS This post was put together in December 2017 following our trip in October. My memory isn’t what it was and we visited so many places and took so many photos that there might well be some in accuracies as for some reason my camera GPS wasn’t always working!



Logrono – Spain – August 2017


Logrono is the capital of Spain’s Rioja Region and another stop on the pilgrimage  route to Santiago de Compostela although its well off the standard tourist trail.

Very few people seem to have heard of the place and we only knew of it because it featured in a TV programme with Alex Polizzi  in a series in which she was visiting off the beaten track Spain which we had seen a few months earlier .In fact our two days here should have been spent in Bilbao but we swerved Bilbao because Logrono sounded more fun!

The city is only small and  isn’t overly endowed with attractions but it does have a nice city centre and a lively historic quarter . It’s Spain’s biggest and best wine destination with lots of wineries round about and some in the city itself – we made it to only one of them – and so the main reason to visit is to try some fabulous food and drink including some excellent wines from small producers which you will never get to see on the shelves of Tesco.

In addition to wine, Logrono  is renowned for its food and especially its pintxos (Basque tapas) bars many of which serve  Riojan tapas which you will not find anywhere else .Many of the bars here – there are over 50 of them  – specialise in one specific ingredient – for example one bar served only dishes made with crab ,another specialised in mushrooms whilst another sells only dishes made of pigs ear!

Logrono , with two days of eating and drinking , turned out to be great training for our final destination , San Sebastian.

Here’s a few photos – we only took a few preoccupied as we were with the bars and eateries!

One of many Bodegas in town

Santander – Spain – August 2017

We arrived at Santander by train from Gijon on 4th August 2017 and spent 5 nights at Jose’s apartment.

Santander was simply another stopping point en route to San Sebastian. I don’t think we knew anything at all about the place before we planned the itinerary except , of course, we knew it was a ferry port and so  we were expecting it to be rather rough and ready as many port cities are. We really didn’t expect much at all but we were very pleasantly surprised.

This is a medium/large city of around 190,000 population and it’s the capital of the Spanish region Cantabria. Apparently it was always a favourite holiday resort for Spanish tourists and it still is – much more so than for foreign tourists. It has grand architecture , a lovely waterfront with interesting buildings ,the typical historic quarter , nice beaches and ,since this is Spain, some nice churches.A highlight was  the Magdalena Peninsula home to  the Palace of Magdalena  lovely gardens and a small zoo – a great place to walk to and enjoy some sun bathing and a picnic.

Here are some pictures




Renzo Piano – a former ferry terminal car park on the waterfront was redeveloped as part of a re-generation of the waterfront. It opened as Centro Bolin , an art gallery on stilts ,in 2017.


Another view of the art gallery which is actually two buildings joined by a wallkway


An 1896 crane escaped the regeneration and was preserved as a monument to the history of the docks


and these sculptures are Monumento a Los Raqueros. A piece of artwork dedicated to the children of the area who in times gone by had to work on the docks to scrape a living.



Next stop Logrono in Rioja!