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Victoria, British Columbia PDF Print E-mail
Written by Greg Prohl    Friday, 17 June 2016 10:20

The Legislative Building, seat of the provincial government of British Columbia

(The Legislative Building, seat of the provincial government of British Columbia)

Once again it's time to visit our neighbors in the Great White North, aka Canada. This time we're off to the beautiful provincial capital of British Columbia, Victoria.

Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia, Canada, and is located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island off Canada's Pacific coast. The city has a population of about 80,000, while the metropolitan area of Greater Victoria has a population of nearly 350,000, making it the 15th most populous Canadian urban region. It's also the third most expensive city in Canada to live in by average home prices, trailing only Toronto and Vancouver, the latter by far the priciest with median home values now well above a million dollars. In Victoria an "average" home will cost you in the neighborhood of $650,000. Of course, that's Canadian money, which means it's about 300 bucks U.S.  Just kidding. It's still expensive, and if you spend some time roaming around town it's easy to see why. It really is a lovely city with a relaxed pace, mild temperate climate, generally snow-free winters and sunny but not too hot summers. It's extremely popular with retirees and was recently ranked as one of the top twenty cities in the world for livability by Numbeo.

Victoria, the Inner Harbor at night

(Victoria, the Inner Harbor at night)

Named after Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, Victoria is one of the oldest cities in the Pacific Northwest, with British settlement beginning in 1843. The city has retained a large number of its historic buildings, in particular its two most famous landmarks, the Legislative buildings (finished in 1897 and home of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia) and the Empress hotel (opened in 1908).

The Empress Hotel...somewhere behind the flowers

(The Empress Hotel...somewhere behind the flowers)

 
Hiking in Washington # Six Rattlesnake Ledge PDF Print E-mail
Written by Greg Prohl    Wednesday, 04 May 2016 10:32

View from the top of Rattlesnake Ledge

(View from the top of Rattlesnake Ledge)

It's springtime in the Northwest which means snow still covers the high country hiking trails we love. So what's a hiker to do? Strap on your boots and hit the lowland trails, of course! Rattlesnake Ledge fits neatly into the category of lowland hike not very far from large metropolitan area with easy access from major freeway = traffic jam on the trail. If that's a category. And no, I'm not exaggerating about the hordes of people. And dogs. Lots of both, so if you're averse to sharing the trail and the eventual view at the top with a whole passel of other folks, two-legged and four, avoid this one.

Our destination, Rattlesnake Ledge, as seen from Rattlesnake Lake

(Our destination, Rattlesnake Ledge, as seen from Rattlesnake Lake)

Although this is a popular and well known trail in the area, I'd somehow managed to miss trekking it all these years. Maybe I'd heard or read too many tales of its overcrowded popularity and deliberately avoided it. Whatever the reason, my wife and I decided it was time to check it out for ourselves on a recent sunny spring day.

Irina removing trail obstacle on the way up

(Irina removing trail obstacle on the way up)

 
Mexico Part Two: Chichen Itza PDF Print E-mail
Written by Greg Prohl    Friday, 01 April 2016 13:00

El Castillo, the Temple of Kukulcan in Chichen Itza

(El Castillo, the Temple of Kukulcan in Chichen Itza)

Among the premier attractions when visiting Cancun are the world-famous Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza. In 2007, Chichen Itza was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a worldwide vote. Chichen Itza is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is the second-most visited of Mexico's archaeological sites, receiving approximately 1.4 million visitors per year.

The site is about a two and a half hour bus ride from the Cancun hotel zone. It's easy enough, and not terribly expensive, to book your tour through your hotel. We did it this way and paid around $80 U.S. apiece. This includes both pickup and return at your hotel main entrance, a very comfortable, modern air-conditioned bus, an extremely knowledgeable all day tour guide, admission to the site, and an extensive all-you-can-eat buffet-style lunch. Also, our excursion included stopovers at an authentic Mayan village (featuring a massive tourist/souvenir shop selling "authentic" Mayan jewelry and other assorted dust-collectors), a drive-through of the Spanish colonial city of Valladolid, and the opportunity to jump into and swim around one of the underground cenotes (large, freshwater basins hollowed out of the limestone bedrock over the centuries by erosion) found throughout the Yucatan Peninsula.

The ol' swimming hole. Cooling off in a cenote

(The ol' swimming hole. Cooling off in a cenote)

Incense blessing by Mayan elder...or am I just getting asphyxiated? Cough, cough...

(Incense blessing by Mayan elder...or am I just getting asphyxiated? Cough, cough...)

 
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