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Punta Cana

Posted by HughesTravel on April 3, 2015 at 4:15 PM Comments comments (0)

We went to the Bahai Principe all-inclusive resort in March of 2015 for my niece's wedding.  We had a good time laying in the sun, both at the beach and around the pool.  However, I must admit that all-inclusives are not really "our thing".  When one stays at an all-inclusive, it is like bringing a piece of Canada (or the USA) with you.  We prefer experiencing the culture, the food and the sights.

Hawaii

Posted by HughesTravel on April 3, 2015 at 1:35 PM Comments comments (0)

We have been to Hawaii three times and plan to return.  It is one of our favourite places for a personal holiday.  Our first trip was with a group.  We stayed at a hotel on Maui for three days (on our own) and then took a 7-day 4-island cruise with Norwegian Cruise lines (with our group).  On our second visit we stayed in a condo on Maui for 15 days.  On our third visit, we stayed in the Maui condo for 5 days and then in a condo on Kawai for 10 days. 


Wieliczka Salt Mine - Amazing, Historic and Artistic

Posted by HughesTravel on June 24, 2014 at 7:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Who knew that a salt mine built in the 13th century could still be in operation (albeit limited) today? And who knew that a salt mine could be so beautiful and so historic? Wow!

To access the mine, you must begin by descending 378 steps. We knew that. You get to go back to the top by elevator. We knew that too, What we did not know is how many steps one had to descend to get to the bottom of the public part of the mine (about 135 meters or about 440 feet). The answer, according to our guide, is 815 and the tour runs about 4 kilometers (2.5 miles). That said, it is not a difficult walk. However, you do have to have a certain level of ability to walk. The mine is not handicapped accessible.

There are amazing works of art throughout the mine but especially in the Chapel of St. Kinga, near the end of the tour. Be aware that while you may take as many photos as you wish, free of charge, on most of the tour, there is a charge of 10 PLN to take photos in the chapel (worth the cost, though). There are gnomes and elves, popes and kings, copies of great works of art and even chandeliers - all made of salt.

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Posted by HughesTravel on June 24, 2014 at 7:30 PM Comments comments (0)

The Victoria Falls National Park is all about the Falls and they are truly magnificent. I have wanted to visit Victoria Falls for a long time and I expected it to be wonderful. While these two things are often a sure setup for disappointment, this was not the case. The Falls still exceeded my expectations. We visited on a beautiful, sunny day in mid-February. The Falls were still close to peak flow, so the sound, the view and the mist were all magnificent. Our guide, who had visited many times, of course, said that the rainbows were the nicest she had ever seen. Wow!

Do wear a poncho or expect to get wet. Personally, I opted for wet, just making sure that my camera was well-protected. It was part of the experience. I live about 3 hours from Niagara Falls on the Canadian side (& used to live closer) and have been there many times. Victoria Falls simply blew Niagara away. It wasn't even close. Sorry Niagara. The other nice thing about Victoria Falls is that it is all natural - no touristy things and no hydro-electric plant to drain water flow.

We did have some concerns about visiting Zimbabwe but we found that the Victoria Falls area, at least, was very safe and inviting to tourists.

Auschwitz and Birkenau

Posted by HughesTravel on June 24, 2014 at 7:20 PM Comments comments (0)

When we knew we were visiting Krakow, we also knew that we had to visit Auschwitz and Birkenau, not that we really wanted to, of course. We re-watched Schindler's List and googled the camps. We read the guide-books and even read Michener's "Poland". We thought that we were ready; we weren't! It's the sheer scale that gets to you. The camps are so big.

We were on a tour with Krakow Tours, not that this makes a whole lot of difference. They take you to the camps and turn you over to a very knowledgeable local guide. The full horror is there to see, from bins of suitcases, to eyeglasses to human hair. It is not difficult to imagine the horrors and if you do have any difficulties with that the guide fills you in. Minimal food; no heat; crowding; disease; rats; insects; mud; vicious guards; hard work under terrible conditions; whatever.

Visiting these camps is a truly moving experience. We knew that 1,100,000 people were killed here and that 9,000 people at a time could be killed in the 3 gas chambers but somehow it is different to see it - different to be there.

This is definitely a must-see for anyone visiting Krakow. In fact, I'd say it is a must-see for anyone visiting Poland. It will help you understand Poland and it will change you forever - for the good, I believe.

It is big and there are lots of stairs. Bring comfortable walking shoes, water and sunscreen and/or a hat (if conditions warrant). Expect to walk several miles/kilometers.

Lithuania and Poland

Posted by HughesTravel on June 21, 2014 at 11:00 PM Comments comments (0)

We visited Lithuania and Poland in May of this year and had many wonderful experiences.

A very good friend offered to show us around Lithuania as he was finishing his 57th trip there.  Who could say no to that?  We toured Lithuania for 10 days, met many wonderful people and thoroughly enjoyed a very personal visit to that great nation.

Since we had to stop in Poland anyway (to change planes), we decided to stay for a week and see a bit of the country.  This was deninitely not long enough.  With the help of Grzegorz Bartecki of excitingpoland.com, we planned a very nice visit to Warsaw, Krakow and Zakopane. Breautiful and historic!

Look for photos from both countries and more comments at this location.

Favourite Trips of the Past

Posted by HughesTravel on April 24, 2014 at 8:15 PM Comments comments (0)

 

People often ask Lynda and I what was the best trip we have ever had. My typical answer is, "The next one." That is because places are so different. I loved the area around the Grand Canyon, New Orleans, Switzerland and Iceland. They are all great but how does one compare going to the top of the Keine Matterhorn in Switzerland to going to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and cruising on the Colorado River. They are both great experiences but very different. It gets even harder when one has to compare the great natural experience of the Keine Matterhorn to the wonderful, very human experience of New Orleans,

That said, I really do have favourite trips. Lynda and I both agree on these - at least the top three. We haven't tried beyond that. Number one was our trip to Africa. The great scenery and wonderful people that are found in South Africa, the sheer magnificence and power of Victoria Falls and the wonderful experiences with animals on safari in Kenya were all highlights. Wow! Number two is our trip on a luxury freighter from Tahiti, through the Tuamotu Archipelago to the Marquesas Islands and back. The unspoiled beauty, the remoteness of the area and the friendliness of the people all contributed to the charm. This is the only place that one can go swimming, with his wallet left on the beach and be assured that it will remain untouched. Third was our trip to Australia and New Zealand. Here we had the vast diversity of Australia, the beauty of New Zealand and the interesting animals. I felt the spirituality of Uluru (Ayers Rock) and experienced the joy of a jet boat ride on the Dart River (Lord of the Rings tour) at 80 kilometers per hour in 2 feet of water. Four (for me) was either India or the eco tour of Costa Rica or Hawaii – OK it starts to get hard now. I think that it’s my “next trip”.

Interestingly, most of my favourite individual experiences have to do with animals. Some of these are: being licked by a full-grown cheetah in Zimbabwe, walking with 18-month old lions - also in Zimbabwe, holding a koala in Australia and the numerous close encounters with animals in the wild (cheetahs, lions, elephants, giraffe, white and black rhinos, hippos, etc. – all in Africa, plus a tiger in India). Other great experiences include flying in a 1939 Waco biplane over Ottawa, climbing to the top of a mountain pass at Moraine Lake in Alberta, going to the top of the Keine Matterhorn, standing next to 2,700 degree molten lava on a lava walk in Hawaii and flying over most of the length of Grand Canyon at 400 feet in a small (6 passenger) plane.

Food can be interesting too. I’ve eaten a lot of raw fish, oysters and scallops, raw reindeer. I’ve eaten whale, puffin, antelope, ostrich, reindeer, elk, bison, water buffalo, etc. I’ve also had octopus cooked in its own ink, boar’s testicles, live ants, several kinds of cooked insects and deep fried worms. Oh yes, there were a few things that I ate with no idea what they were.

I love Canada and have had great experiences both here and in the USA. However, I love the culture and history of Europe, the animals of Africa and the beauty of the South Pacific. I just love to travel.