Author Archives: carolinehelbig

Cycling France's Brittany and Normandy coasts: Top 10 highlights

Along the V4 cycling route in Brittany, France

Last September, Mike and I cycled in coastal Brittany and Normandy. Our 732 km (455 mile) independent journey took us to charming French towns, pink-granite seascapes, iconic monuments and World War II battlegrounds. We feasted on huîtres (oysters) and moules-frites (mussels and fries) washed down with wine and cider. Except for a few killer hills, and one day of route-finding mayhem, it was a marvellous 3 1/2 weeks of slow travel. In future posts, I’ll provide details on logistics, but for now let me entice you with my top 10 highlights.

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Categories: Biking, France | Tags: , , , , | 26 Comments

Jaffna, Sri Lanka: The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

Hindu temple in Jaffna

Perched on the northern tip of Sri Lanka, Jaffna is different from the rest of the country. While other parts of the island nation are easy for travellers to define—beach spots, hill country, cultural hubs—Jaffna’s identity is more complex, more elusive. Most of its guidebook-identified “highlights” are good but not wow. There are better beaches, landscapes, cultural attractions elsewhere. Why is it then, that this flat, sun-baked region left such an impression on me?

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Categories: Sri Lanka | Tags: , , | 42 Comments

Sri Lanka’s magnificent cave temples: Dambulla and Mulkirigala

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Reclining Buddha at Mulkirigala Cave Temple

The cavern is enormous. It’s filled with statues of Buddha, kings and deities. The walls and ceilings are covered with murals. Of all the amazing cultural sites in Sri Lanka, my favourites are the cave temples. We visited two: the large, busy Dambulla Cave Temple in the country’s Cultural Triangle and the smaller, lightly-visited Mulkirigala Cave Temple in the south. They’re historically significant for their role as places of Buddhist practice and ritual for over 2000 years, and they remain important holy sites. I’m overwhelmed by the visual feast that’s housed in these natural rock overhangs carved into the cliffs. Continue reading

Categories: Sri Lanka, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 37 Comments

Sigiriya: Sri Lanka’s mysterious rock

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Sigiriya Rock in Sri Lanka

How could an ancient civilization have flourished on the summit of this monolith? How were building supplies, food and people transported up its near vertical walls? Why was this spot chosen? These questions go through my mind as I climb the vertigo-inducing staircase bolted to Sri Lanka’s famous rock—Sigiriya (Lion Rock). Much of Sigiriya remains a mystery, but the enormous rock rising above the jungle is one of Sri Lanka’s most fascinating and dramatic sites. Continue reading

Categories: Sri Lanka | Tags: , , , | 27 Comments

12 travel tips for Sri Lanka that you may not find in guide books

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The life saving king coconut

No matter how many guide books you read, there are always some recommendations or travel tips that you miss (or get missed). That’s generally not a bad thing, except when you’ve fried off the soles of your feet at a Sri Lankan temple. Why didn’t anyone warn me to bring socks! In this post, I’ll take you through some of the quirky, funny, painful, intriguing things we discovered about travel in Sri Lanka, and offer up tips that you may not find in a guide book. Continue reading

Categories: Sri Lanka | Tags: , , | 31 Comments

Wandering through Sri Lanka’s tea plantations: an unexpected highlight

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Dambateene Tea Plantation, Sri Lanka

It’s late in the afternoon and the last tea pluckers are heading home. We wander down the narrow, hard-packed paths that crisscross the enormous plantation. Our long shadows blanket the glossy green bushes that uniformly stand waist-high and cling elegantly to the curves of the surrounding hills. It’s tranquil, and beautiful, and awe-inspiring. These are my favourite memories from Sri Lanka. Come take a walk with me: first, from Lipton’s Seat through the Dambatenne Tea Plantation near Haputale, then at Oliphant Estate, high above Nuwara Eliya. Continue reading

Categories: Sri Lanka | Tags: , , , , | 36 Comments

5 Great Things to do in and around Ella, Sri Lanka

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Little Adam’s Peak, Ella

It was tough to tear ourselves away from the beaches of Tangalla, but promises of sweeping mountain views, tea plantations, and hiking got us excited about Ella. The town makes a great base for exploring Sri Lanka’s hill country, and sits in the middle of some really WOW scenery. While Ella’s busy main drag is a bit off-putting, the town has lots of good places to sleep, eat, drink, and get a massage after a long day of hiking.  Here’s a summary of our favourite activities around Ella. Continue reading

Categories: Sri Lanka | Tags: , , , , , | 36 Comments

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