Places

What’s it like diving with sharks? Fulidhoo Island, Maldives

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Grey reef shark. Courtesy: Natasha Leisi

In my last post, I introduced Fulidhoo Island in the Indian Ocean nation of the Maldives. One of my readers, Len (lenjourneys.com), asked me what it feels like to be in the water with sharks. I love this simple, direct question. Thinking about it though, the answer is rather complex. In this post, I’ll share my feelings about diving with sharks (coming from someone who doesn’t do this often) and introduce you to the underwater world around Fulidhoo Island.   Continue reading

Categories: Maldives, Scuba Diving/Snorkelling | Tags: , , , , | 22 Comments

Affordable Maldives? Discovering Fulidhoo Island

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Fulidhoo Island, Maldives

“Wow, the Maldives!” exclaim our friends when we tell them we’ve booked a trip to the Indian Ocean paradise. It’s a polite disguise for, “Jeez how can you afford that?” People’s image of this tropical nation of coral islands is remarkably consistent: turquoise lagoons, dazzling beaches, luxurious water villas, amazing marine life, and dollar signs…lots of them. They’re correct. But, there’s a largely unknown and non-promoted option that provides an affordable (relatively speaking) and arguably richer alternative to the high-priced resort islands. It’s called local island tourism. Mike and I just returned from a week on Fulidoo Island. We’re tanned and relaxed and have money left in our pockets for our next trip. Continue reading

Categories: Maldives | Tags: , , | 24 Comments

Cycling the Alsace Wine Route: From One Beau Village to the Next

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Bergheim, Alsace: 4-flower rated village

So many lovely towns along France’s scenic Alsace Wine Route…which ones are the fairest of them all? That’s what I was musing over on our last night in Strasbourg as we plotted our next six days of exploring Alsace à vélo (Alsace by bike). Looking back at it now, I laugh about my obsession with reading reviews and checking the “flower ratings” of countless villages. No way was I going to miss a town with the coveted 4-flower rating or one on Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (the most beautiful villages of France) list. It turns out that regardless of rating (or no rating at all), every village, town and city we visited was over-the-top charming. Continue reading

Categories: Biking, France | Tags: , , , , , , , | 32 Comments

Happy Valentine’s Day from Strasbourg: My French Love

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Cycling into beautiful Strasbourg, France

Strasbourg, the largest city in eastern France’s Alsace region, was another “rest” stop on our three-week cycling trip in Germany and France. I fell in love fast and hard. The dedicated bike lane with excellent signage that brought us to the busy city center was like the ultimate welcome mat. Over the next few days we gaped in awe at the behemoth that is Strasbourg Cathedral,  marvelled at the flower-lined canals and charming half-timbered dwellings and lingered in romantic cafes. We were enchanted by a place that’s been tossed around like a ping pong ball between Germany and France, yet has an undeniably strong identity and proud people. Continue reading

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

How I Mastered the Art of Bathing Nude in Public: Baden-Baden, Germany

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Central pool at Friedrichsbad, Baden- Baden: http://www.carasana.de

I’d been steamed, cleaned, brushed and creamed. My nakedness no longer fazed me as an attendant led me to a door for Step 16. He stopped, solemnly turned to me and put his index finger to his lips. What happened on the other side was the apex of an extraordinary experience.

This article was published in Canada’s The Globe and Mail newspaper. You can continue reading there, or keep going here. I have included photos in the blog post (not mine except for exterior photo) to help convey the grandeur of the place.  Continue reading

Categories: Germany | Tags: , , , | 47 Comments

When Things Don’t Go Smoothly on a DIY Cycling Trip: Wissembourg to Strasbourg

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Wissembourg in Alsace, France

For those following our do-it-yourself (DIY) cycling trip in Germany/France you’ll know that things have gone very smoothly. We managed to find fantastic last minute accommodations and arrive in towns just in time for local wine festivals; we never got lost and didn’t have even the slightest too-much-travel-time-together-blowup. Well, that all changed just as we entered France (not the country’s fault). The roughly 100 km stretch between the lovely cites of Wissembourg and Strasbourg had us struggling to find the cycle path and a place to sleep. There were tears and angry outbursts—not our finest hours. In the end, all turned out OK. It taught us some lessons and reinforced that the kindness of strangers is alive and well. Continue reading

Categories: Activities, Biking, Germany | Tags: , , , , | 31 Comments

Cycling the Deutsche Weinstraße: Pig’s Stomach, Donald Trump and Wine

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World’s largest wine barrel: Bad Dürkheim, Deutsche Weinstraße

“You have no reservations!” exclaims the friendly women at the Neustadt an der Weinstraße tourist information centre. “You realize that Germany’s largest wine festivals are taking place along the Deutsche Weinstraße (German Wine Road) right now. There’s a giant parade here in Neustadt on the weekend for the crowning of Germany’s Wine Queen.” She sees the overwhelmed looks on our faces, arms us with information and brochures and gently recommends that we head to the town square where we can figure out what to do over a nice kaffee und kuchen. Continue reading

Categories: Biking, Germany | Tags: , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

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