100th Post: Ten Places that have “Stuck with Me”


Skyline Ridge Loop at Sea to Sky Gondola, Squamish, British Columbia

I was going to continue with my Laos series when I noticed that this is my 100th post. To celebrate, I decided to do a post about places that have stuck in my mind and in my heart. It was a tough exercise limiting this to only ten (there are many runners up). I took a broad approach to the word “place” and the list includes countries, regions, and provinces. A few of the places are from visits that happened long before I’d ever heard the word “blog” or even used a computer, and I’m happy to be sharing these “old” favourites. Thank you for reading, for your likes and comments, and motivating me to keep at it. Continue reading

Categories: British Columbia, Egypt, Indonesia, Mexico, Namibia, Places, Spain | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 42 Comments

Beyond the Mezquita: Discovering Córdoba, Spain


Inside the Mezquita—C.Helbig

I confess, before visiting southern Spain I would not have been able to place Córdoba on a map. I had no idea about the city’s historical significance and had never heard of the Mezquita—a magnificent mosque with a huge cathedral plonked in the middle of it. Originally, Córdoba had not been on our loosely cobbled-together 4-week itinerary. But that all changed as our trip was nearing its end and my Lonely Planet Spain kept luring me with images of the Mezquita. How could we pass up a side trip to Córdoba when we were so close (only a 45-minute train ride from Sevilla). I’m so glad we heeded the call of the Mezquita and discovered Córdoba. Continue reading

Categories: Places, Spain | Tags: , , , | 10 Comments

The Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba, Spain—A Church Inside a Mosque?


Distinctive Mezquita arches combine with Baroque adornments—C.Helbig

A Roman temple that became a church that transformed into a mosque and then reverted back to a church, the Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba (Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba) is as bizarre as it is magnificent. I’ve seen many beautiful churches and a handful of gorgeous mosques, but until visiting Córdoba had never seen a church—a massive cathedral— inside an enormous mosque. The styles are completely incongruous, but somehow the crazy sequence of construction, renovation, and recycling by Ancient Romans, Visgoths, Muslim Emirs and Roman Catholic Monarchs has created one of the most fascinating and awe-inspiring places of worship in the world. Continue reading

Categories: Places, Spain | Tags: , , , | 17 Comments

Cycling Southern Spain’s Award Winning Via Verde de la Sierra


Biking alone the Via Verde de la Sierra—C.Helbig

November, 2015. What do you do with 6000 km of unused railway lines? At the beginning of the 20th century, Spain had ambitious plans to connect its rural communities via rail. With the economic crisis brought on by WWI and then the Spanish Civil War, these plans fell apart. Many of the railway lines, in various states of completion, were never used. They lay neglected until the early ’90s when Spain introduced the Via Verde Program—transforming unused railway lines into biking/walking greenways. There are now over 2000 km of Via Verdes across rural Spain, with over 100 different routes. We had the pleasure of cycling the 36.5 km Via Verde de la Sierra, which links the villages of Olvera and Puerto Serrano in southern Spain’s Andalucia region. It is the crowning jewel of the Via Verdes and has won numerous awards for best greenway in Europe.

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Categories: Activities, Biking, Places, Spain | Tags: , , , , , | 12 Comments

Mountain Path Hiking between Grazalema and Benaocaz, Spain


Hiking between the villages of Grazalema and Benaocaz in southern Spain—C.Helbig

November, 2015. I love to hike. And, I especially enjoy being able to do it right from my doorstep. We found the perfect “no-car-needed-hiking” in Grazalema, a picturesque white-washed village in southern Spain. The tiny town is located in the heart of the Parque Natural Sierra de Grazalema, a 534 sq km area of rugged peaks and bucolic valleys crisscrossed with hiking trails. On the recommendation of our wonderful guest house owners at La Mejorana, we did a stunning 12 km hike from Grazalema to Benaocaz, an even tinier village (with no shortage of places to savour a cold cerveza before catching the bus back to Grazalema). Continue reading

Categories: Activities, Hiking, Places, Spain | Tags: , , , | 11 Comments

Spain’s Southern Costa de la Luz: Dreaming of Sunshine and Beaches



Gorgeous beach just south of Zahara de los Atunes, Costa de la Luz—C.Helbig

It’s a gloomy day in Vancouver and I’m craving the sun-drenched beaches of Spain’s Costa de la Luz. This gorgeous stretch of Atlantic coast runs from Tarifa, Spain’s southern tip, up to the border with Portugal. Its wide sandy beaches are dreamy. Many of them are splendidly deserted. Others are known for their spectacular windsurfing and have a young, fun vibe. These beaches see far fewer tourists than the Costa del Sol, and they are every bit as nice…nicer…shhh. We were there in November, a particularly quiet month—perfect for long beach walks and still plenty of sunshine.

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Categories: Places, Spain | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

My Favourite Spanish Pueblo Blanco…hmm?


One of many beauty spots in Spain’s Pueblos Blancos (Grazelema)—C.Helbig

November, 2015. The pueblos blancos (white towns) that dot southern Spain’s Andalucia region are consistently postcard perfect. Many are sprawled on the side of a hill, or perched on top of a steep-sided cliff. They are usually dominated by a giant church or fortress or both. Their whitewashed buildings are brilliant against the deep blue Spanish sky and vivid pinks of flowering bougainvilleas. Their Moorish past lends an exotic charm.

We stayed in four white towns as we slowly made our way from Granada to Cadiz. They are all magnificent and share many similarities, but we discovered that each has its own vibe and special features.  Continue reading

Categories: Spain | Tags: , , , , , | 13 Comments

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