Author Archives: carolinehelbig

White black bear encounter in the Canadian Rockies

White-phase black bear in Kananaskis, Alberta

Something large, white and moving catches my eye high up on a rocky ridge on a hiking trail near Canmore, Alberta. My first thought is that it’s a mountain goat, but it’s not the right shape and doesn’t have a goat-like gait. We’re about 100 m (330 ft) away but our telephoto lens confirms that it’s a bear—a creamy white one. It turns out to be a rare, white-phase black bear. We’ve just witnessed something that is only spotted about once a year in the Alberta Rockies. I’m over the moon.

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Categories: Alberta, British Columbia, Hiking | Tags: , , , , , | 25 Comments

Beauty amid the smoke and soot in Rouen, France

Black smoke from chemical explosion in Rouen

Some of you may remember a major European news story from September 26, 2019. An explosion at a chemical plant in Rouen, France spewed massive quantities of smoke and soot over the capital city of Normandy and beyond. We just happened to be there at the time. Our short visit to Rouen— the last stop on our Brittany and Normandy cycle trip—was made even shorter by this catastrophe. This post is a collection of photos taken over a couple of hours before we came to our senses and hightailed it to the train bound for Paris.

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Categories: Biking, France | Tags: , , , , , | 40 Comments

Honfleur and Étretat: Gems between a nasty cycle

The cliffs of Étretat

The towns of Honfleur and Étretat are highlights on our cycling trip along France’s Normandy coast. Honfleur is charming old port town and Étretat is small resort town bounded by dramatic white cliffs. They’re only about 50 km (31 mi) apart, but our bike ride between the two was a stressful mess of crappy signage, big trucks, an enormous bridge and poor planning. I guess that only one “off” day in nearly three weeks of cycling is pretty good, and we can say that we conquered one of the world’s largest cable-stayed bridges on bike.

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Categories: Biking, France | Tags: , , , , | 38 Comments

Travels along the beaches on this 76th anniversary of D-Day

Memorial above Gold Beach in Arromanches, Normandy

Our visit to Normandy’s D-Day Beaches was emotional, fascinating, overwhelming and a little complicated on bicycle. At times, I was stressed—by the magnitude of what happened there, by the size of the area, by how much there was to see, by how much I didn’t know. At other times, I was delighted by the peaceful coastline, pretty towns and fun festivals that we happened upon. Today, June 6, is the 76th anniversary of the Allied Invasion of Normandy, the largest seaborne invasion in history. Let me take you to the famous beaches of then and now.

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Categories: Biking, France | Tags: , , , , | 41 Comments

A fresh look at my “same old” parks in West Vancouver

Social distancing sign at Capilano River Regional Park

I wasn’t going to write about parks in my West Vancouver neighbourhood as it seemed so “same old,” but two things changed my mind. One was a chat I had with a woman originally from Spain who is a participant in my Zoom English Conversation Club. She was gushing about our local parks. Her enthusiasm was infectious and it reminded me that these parks may be “same old” to me, but they’re also incredibly beautiful. The other was the creative social distancing signage at a favourite park. The bald eagle image showing the 2 metre/6 feet wingspan made me smile.

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Categories: Activities, British Columbia, Hiking | Tags: , , , , | 51 Comments

The grand cycling approach to Normandy’s Mont-Saint-Michel

Cycling approach to Mont-Saint-Michel

I can barely contain my excitement as Mont-Saint-Michel gets closer with every pedal rotation. Much has been written about France’s iconic abbey, but this post is as much about the approach as it is about the final destination. Those who follow my blog will know that Mont-Saint-Michel is one of the star attractions along the V4 cycling route and it marks the end of our time in Brittany and the start of our onward journey in Normandy.

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Categories: Biking, France | Tags: , , , | 34 Comments

20 views from our bikes on Brittany’s V4 cycling route

The V4 near Pointe de Primel

The V4 cycling route that we rode from Morlaix to Mont-Saint-Michel, in northern France, has its share of A-list attractions, but we quickly found out that the “stuff” in-between is pretty special too: charming towns, impressive cathedrals, historical sites, locals-only beaches… This post pays homage to the journey— roadside views and unexpected treasures depicted in 20 photos taken directly on Brittany’s V4 cycle route.

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Categories: Biking, France | Tags: , , , | 36 Comments

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