Beautiful Banff and its Stunning Views

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For many more years than I can remember I have dreamed about visiting Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper, which was my main reason for my trip to the Rockies. I was surely not disappointed; with Banff being by far my favourite.

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Nestled high in Alberta in the Canadian Rockies, the town of Banff is located within the Banff National Park. Banff is a spirited place, alive with adventure and wonder. In all directions I was surrounded by strikingly beautiful and rugged mountains. The streets of downtown are lined with top-class restaurants, bars, and shops, as well as a vibrant range of art galleries and museums.

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We only had a night and day in Banff but I was able to see lots as it is only a small town.  We arrived late in the afternoon, checked in to our hotel and then headed directly up to the gondola. We took the four person enclosed car up  to the top of Sulphur Mountain in less than 10 minutes. Named for the thermal springs that emanate from its base, this peak is a perfect viewing point

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The views from the top are incredible. I could see the town of Banff, the Banff Springs chateau/hotel, part of Lake Minnewanka, the Bow river and a lot more. Even though you have to choose a time for the downward journey, no one monitors how much time you spend on top and can take any gondola down that is after the time on your ticket.

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Once at the top, there are a series of wooden ‘decks’ that you can walk on and climb . There were musicians, fire pits and sitting areas. We stopped for a cocktail while taking in the breathtaking views.

It was then time to take the gondola car back down to the bottom.

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I was up very early the next morning and explored this delightful town before most folks were up.  I loved Banff’s cosmopolitan edge knowing that at any part of the town I was only minutes away from the national park and its wildlife.   A resort town with boutique shops, nightclubs, museums and fancy restaurants.  But Banff is no ordinary town, it is the service town for the park that surrounds it.  Banff is one of Canada’s most popular tourist destinations attracting thousands of tourists every year.

 

 

 

5 Splendid Lakes in the Rockies

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Unbelievably vibrant colours, utterly stunning surroundings, and with just a little taste of the beauty and immensity that Mother Nature has blessed the Canadian Rockies with, these lakes are the 5 lakes that I visited.

Moraine Lake is a glacier-fed lake nestled within the Banff National Park. The turquoise water is surrounded by rugged mountains and rock piles, and is about 14 km southeast of Lake Louise.

Located in Yoho National Park, this lake is the largest of the 61 lakes and ponds in the park. Though it is (technically) located in British Columbia, it’s just a 20-minute drive from Lake Louise. Emerald Lake and the surrounding areas are home to a number of bird species including eagles, loons, osprey, and more.


Peyto Lake took my breath away. It was about a 2 minute walk down from the car park to the view point overlooking this lake which has been referred to as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. With its intoxicatingly blue hues and immensely beautiful viewpoint you can see why it has this reputation

Bow Lake is approximately 30 minutes north of Lake Louise, it is one of the largest lakes in Banff National Park. The entrance to this lake and the parking area are quite rustic plus there were far fewer tourists here giving a magical serene feel. It is a great place for a picnic or a short stroll.

My main reason for visiting the Rockies was to see Banff and also Lake Louise which can be described no other way than iconic. The lake is so wondrous it’s hard to believe it’s real.

From the bright colour pallet to the sprawling, mountainous surroundings, there’s no wondering why it was jam-packed with tourists even on this rainy day.

Travelling to the Rockies

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It was an early start leaving from Canada Place at the waterfront in Vancouver for our trip to the Rockies. Although it was raining we were all excited for our adventure.

Our first stop for coffee and wash rooms was the delightful little town of Hope. We quickly noticed the many chainsaw carvings proudly displayed around the town centre and learned that Hope has been appropriately tagged as the Chainsaw Carving Capital. The carvings often feature local wildlife such as eagles, mountain sheep, bears and cougars to name a few.

We drove for another few hours through magnificent countryside. Although it was very overcast and wet, everywhere was beautiful so I was very happy sitting back in my comfortable seat taking many photos.

We stopped for lunch at the very pretty lake town of Kelowna. Kelowna is a city in the south of Canada’s British Columbia province. It is in the Okanagan Valley, on the eastern shore of Okanagan Lake, surrounded by provincial parks, pine forest, vineyards, orchards and mountains. Its downtown area incorporates waterfront City Park and a lakeside cultural district.

After leaving Kelowna we travelled to Revelstoke.

Travelling through the Rockies felt like a dream as the beauty was endless

Old, Real, Beautiful, Matsumoto Castle

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Matsumoto Castle, which is also known as “Crow Castle” due to its black exterior, is one of Japan’s premier historic castles. Unlike other castles, which are built on a mountain or hillside slopes; this flatland castle was built on a plain.

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Matsumoto Castle is blessed to be not only one of Japan’s twelve castles to have survived since the feudal era, but one of the largest and most distinctive-looking. Its six-storeyed keep is now a museum showcasing its military history, in particular weapons and Armour from centuries ago.

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It was a pleasure to walk around the surrounding grounds and the beautifully maintained gardens. While we were there Samurai warriors walked around and we had fun posing for photos with them.

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This castle has it all. From our arrival we were taken back in time to the ancient times. The interior is fantastic too see. Matsumoto Castle is the real thing. It is built of wood — you can see and feel the solid old timbers, smooth and shiny from over 400 years of use. Built for war — more precisely, for defense of a feudal lords headquarters — this building was never for anyone’s luxurious living. This may explain why the decoration is sparse compared to other Japanese castles. It may not be obvious from the outside, but every level of the castle is designed for archers to shoot from. Our tour of the inside of the castle revealed placements for cannons facing every direction.

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The grounds are free to visit, but to enter the castle there is a cost. We needed to take off our shoes to enter the castle and we were given plastic bags to put our shoes into which left some of us without 2 free hands to aid in the climbing. Some of the stairs inside are narrow and steep.

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From the highest floor, the views are wide and sweeping of the city and surrounding mountains. The stairs to the fifth floor are exceptionally steep. This is normal for Japanese castles, but even the regular stairs will be a problem for those with mobility needs. We were warned of the steep climb and of course descent but we still were not prepared enough. In our socked feet some of the floors were very slippery.

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No one lived here, but probably many samurai died here.

We really enjoyed our few hours here at Matsumoto Castle – I am so happy that we visited it.

Matsumoto Town

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This charming and historic city which is cradled by the Japan Alps is Matsumoto. To me this is one of Japan’s finest cosmopolitan cities that still has a rural feel. It has so much to see with its stunning castle, captivating districts and enchanting vistas and could keep me occupied for hours or in fact days.

 

Matsumoto town is the gateway to the Japan alps for skiing and hot springs in the winter and walking in the mountains in the summer. For us, it was a morning at one of Japan’s best preserved famous castles, lunch in the centre of town and the afternoon exploring its surrounding streets.

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After our exciting morning at the Matsumoto Castle, we visited Nawate Street, in Matsumoto town, a small pedestrian zone with lots of small shops and restaurants along the river and then Nakamachi Street which is famous for its old houses with a beautiful white tone.

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20181014_164239As we were wandering around this charming town we met up with many locals out walking their dogs. We soon learned that this activity is a big part of their everyday pastime. They are happy to stop for photo opportunities; in fact they encourage it which is very fine with me being a big dog lover.

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We thoroughly enjoyed our few hours in this lovely town with its beautiful gardens and water features, exceptional architecture and general overall feel of calmness. This location offers a magnificent scenic view of the Northern Japan Alps and a unique cultural experience.

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Vibrant Setting on the Brisbane River.

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After arriving and exploring Southbank Parklands we then took the city catamaran across the Brisbane River to Eagle Street Pier/Riverside which is only a few minutes ride.

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Eagle Street Pier is an iconic waterfront precinct with world-class dining venues and unrivaled views of the Brisbane River and the Story Bridge. It is firmly established as one of Brisbane’s favourite food and entertainment destinations with a marvelous variety of eateries. Eagle Street Pier also is the perfect place to meet for drinks or cocktails and is also an ideal place to head for lunch or dinner, thanks to the many cafes and espresso bars

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I have been going to Riverside/Eagle Street Pier for many years and although there are dozens of wonderful places to dine I have chosen George’s Seafood the most. It is a lovely restaurant with fabulous views of the River and the Story bridge, that I am always proud to take my international visitors to

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On the edge of the city center, Eagle Street Pier is a great place to be day or night. During the day you can sit and enjoy the river and people watching and by night the lights from the buildings and the Story Bridge are dazzling.

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One of the best Information Centres is at Eagle Street Pier, where the staff are more than helpful and you can get free brochures, timetables and other information. From here you can choose your direction of travel either upstream or downstream from here, with City Cats arriving/departing every 15 minutes carrying commuters and tourists from around the world by day and night. Riverside centre is also the place to see the famous ‘Kookaburra Queen’ paddle steamers which offer morning tea, lunch and dinner cruises. This is another wonderful experience that I have shared many times with my overseas visitors.

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This vibrant exciting precinct is a fantastic place to visit at any time of the day or night.

 

 

Beach Paradise in the City – Southbank Parklands.

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On this beautiful sunny winters day I took the bus from my home in to Southbank Parklands. It is easy enough for me to drive and only takes about 20 minutes but arriving by bus is so stress free for me. I can enjoy a glass of wine with my lunch and not worry about driving. Southbank is easy to get to regardless of your mode of transport. There is always lots of parking if you choose to drive or if you take public transport there is the choice of arriving by train, bus, and ferry or city cat.

South Bank Parklands is Brisbane’s premier lifestyle and cultural destination. Located on the southern banks of the Brisbane River, its 17 hectares of lush parklands, offers world-class eateries, stunning river views and hundreds of delightful events all year

Southbank Parklands is one of my favourite places to take my visitors to explore, swim, dine, and stroll along the river front with Brisbane cityscape backdrops. We go on the Wheel of Brisbane to get an overview of the River, Parklands and Brisbane City

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South Bank is a wonderful public space that was developed after World Expo 88, a place well loved by locals and visitors alike which symbolises the Queensland life style. This relaxing oasis in the middle of the city offers a wonderful man-made beach with crystal clean water and shady park lands that meander through entertainment hubs, restaurants and pubs. Here you will find plenty of picnic and bbq areas, eateries and toilets. South Bank is accessible by two bridges.

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You can walk across the pedestrian bridge from the Botanical Gardens to South Bank or you can walk across the Victoria Bridge. There is also a free city ferry, the city hopper, that will take you from Queen Street or Eagle Street Pier to South Bank. Also, from Southbank, QPAC, is easily accessed. QPAC, Queensland Performing Arts Centre is one of Australia’s leading centres for live performance, including ballet, musicals, stage shows, and opera. We often enjoy dinner or lunch at one of the many restaurants in the area before attending a show at QPAC.

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City Hopper – free ferry

Apart from the stunning views of the city and the river this venue offers something for everyone, swimming at the beach, bike and scooter riding, many restaurants, a gorgeous bougainvillea covered archway, market gardens that are tended by volunteers or just strolling around taking it all in. It is a wonderful place to just sit and people watch.

There are many fabulous ways to spend a day out in Brisbane; Southbank is on the top of my fabulous list. It is a fun, easy and inexpensive way to spend a day in Brisbane.

Natural Botanical Gardens off the Beaten track

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Just a short drive through the hinterland heading west from the Gold Coast or about an hour south of Brisbane, you will find the area of Mt Tamborine. Here in this very pretty location is the Tamborine Mountain Botanic Gardens.  The gardens are 11 hectares in size encompassing a wide variety of roses, magnolias, bromeliads, orchids, camellias, many varieties of Aussie natives and so much more. The gardens include a glorious lake as the centrepiece, a tranquil Japanese garden and a tropical rain forest.

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There are many easy walks which along with the vast gardens are maintained by a dedicated group of volunteers. Volunteers have been working on these gardens for over 30 years and have done a fantastic job.  It seems, wherever I go now days, in Australia or internationally I run into volunteers who are always committed to their chosen areas.

Just walking around these charming gardens is so peaceful. There are picnic tables and bbq areas with shelter if it rains and seats that over look the central lake. There are clean toilets close by to the picnic areas.  The gardens, which offer free entry, are well signaged plus there are maps available to aid in getting around. The atmosphere is amazing and the natural plants combined with Rain Forests areas are unique

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They are not big botanic gardens but they have a very nice feel with enough short themed tracks to give a good sample of the beautiful greenery in the area. We loved venturing though the Sooty Owl walk. The rain-forest board walks and rocky bridge are something different and unique to any other botanic gardens I have been to.

They are beautifully laid out gardens with many plants indigenous to the area. We found it to be easy walking around the lake which has a sculpture of a big dragonfly in the middle.

These delightful botanical gardens are a must-see for anyone who is in the area. We were happy to put a little donation in one of several donation boxes.  It was an enjoyable morning exploring the gardens which are maintained by volunteers.

Wonderful Experience with the Camels

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About a 45 minute drive south west from Brisbane in the beautiful Scenic Rim is the Summerland Camel Farm at Harrisville.

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When we arrived at the Camel farm there were camels everywhere standing directly in front of beautiful mountains and landscapes in this very pretty location. It clearly was a very peaceful home for these graceful creatures.

After a quick visit to the farm house and café we met up with Jeff the director who took us on a guided tour of the farm, the camels and the dairy operation. It was so enjoyable learning about the history of this amazingly successful venture from such a passionate and knowledgeable person. I truly was not aware of how beneficial these lovely creatures are. These very inquisitive and friendly animals were comfortable with us getting up close to them. It was a very hot day when we were there however with the trees and breeze it was surprisingly very pleasant and very interesting to learn that camels are so clean that there were no flies.

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The owners have over 30 years of experience in biodynamic holistic farming techniques and land regeneration to build a resilient farm eco-system without the use of chemicals, insecticides or pesticides. They care for their camels with world first low stress handling techniques to minimise stress, ensure the herd structure is respected and the mother and calf bond is maintained throughout. Their herd is loved and nurtured by a team lead by one of the world’s leading Camel Veterinarians using holistic health care techniques. Most of their camels are brought in from the wild in Central Australia, where they would otherwise be inhumanely culled.

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After our tour, which I could have enjoyed for much longer, we returned to the lovely country farm house which overlooks the camel paddocks and Flinders Range in the Distance. This is where we sampled the camel milk which was really pleasant and has so many incredible benefits. We learned that Camel milk is harder to harvest than cow’s milk, however it has properties worth the price, which is about 9 times what you pay for cow’s milk at the supermarket.
They are also producing cheese, Camel milk skin and hair care products, and Gelato which is simply scrumptious. I left there with some of their delicious camel milk and feta cheese.

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Up until this day I always thought that Camels originally came from the middle east or even Africa. Do you know where they actually originated? Unless you already know, you will be surprised.

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A visit to Summerland Camel farm was a fantastic way to spend a day out. All you could ever want to know about Camels, camel farming and the products that are produced from their milk you will learn here. This is an experience that I could recommend to everyone and anyone.

A Day with the Deer at Nara Park, Japan

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Nara Park is a large park in central Nara. This beautiful park engulfs within its premises shrines, temples, gardens, and deer. Established in 1880, it is the location of many of Nara’s main attractions including Todaiji, Kasuga Taisha, Kofukuji and Nara National Museum.

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The park is home to hundreds of freely roaming deer. Nara’s nearly 1200 deer have become a symbol of the city and have even been designated as a natural treasure. You can feed them with the crackers that you can buy from the vendors in the park. We paid 150jpy for a bag of about 8 crackers. Be prepared to be surrounded by a lot of them once you start feeding them. One of them stole my banana which was really quite funny.

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The park is huge, free to get in and full of deer. Yes, there is a musk smell and you still have to be wary of a wild animal but it is beautiful. You can touch the deer and take photos with them without any fear of aggression. Nara’s deer are surprisingly tame, they really are very comfortable being around humans, probably because they do it every day.

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As with most attractions in Japan, very well organized and of course, extremely clean.
We enjoyed seeing the deer and interacting with them. As with the Miyajima Island, you need to be careful not to let them get too aggressive. I was nipped on the back a few times and they tugged on my clothes to get attention but I was never hurt nor frightened by them. In fact, I found them to be charming and lots of fun. They bow their head every time they ask for food and bow after the food for respect just like the people of Japan

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It was such a fun morning mingling with the deer and also visiting the shrines, temples and enjoying the lovely gardens.