Riding an elephant

With the new year coming, I’m dreaming of travel.  Maybe you are too?  But, if riding an elephant was on your bucket list, you might want to think twice:

Daniel Turner, Associate Director for Tourism at Born Free told the BBC:

While some may consider riding on top of the largest land mammal to be a cultural experience that holds an air of romance, few recognise that this practice actually significantly compromises the welfare of these magnificent animals and potentially places people at risk.
Riding or interacting with captive elephants, swimming with dolphins, walking with lions, or cuddling a tiger cub for a photo – these are just some of the many worrying tourism excursions and activities involving animals. All can impact on the welfare of the animals involved, and risk people’s safety.

What can you do instead?  Visit a sanctuary, where often you can interact with the elephants (feeding them, helping with bath time) yet know that they have plenty of time with their peers and in natural surroundings.

Here are some reputable ones I’ve heard about:

The Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand, Thailand

Elephant Nature Park, Thailand and Cambodia

Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary, Thailand

David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Kenya

The Elephant Sanctuary, South Africa (3 locations)

Elephant Rehabilitation Center in Agastyarvanam Biological Park, India

Millennium Elephant Foundation, Sri Lanka

YouTube: David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya

 

 

 

 

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Autumn in NY

The mid-Atlantic and Northeast are rightfully famous for their autumn colors.  Tour busses regularly go along our highways in October bringing “leaf peepers” with their cameras.  They visit the state parks, but miss out on the quiet local parks.

At the start of the month, before you go leaf peeping, get a pumpkin!

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IMG_6385Even the tiny park by my house begins to lay out a welcome carpet of royal gold and red in mid-October.

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The Erie Canal becomes a quiet place after the busy summer, but if you bring a warm hat and gloves, you can still enjoy taking to the water.

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Hiking paths can be empty in the local parks, as people rush to the more famous sites to see the colors.

IMG_6386By the end of October, the bright reds hint the brief season is quickly coming to an end.

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Until next year!

 

(photos are my own)

 

 

Mexico City and environs

I’m back from Mexico City, somehow managing to bypass hurricanes on my flights and be away from the epicenter of a major earthquake (but we felt it in the city and were evacuated until safety checks were complete).  It certainly made me feel very lucky, and my heart goes out to all who were not so lucky.

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This was my second time in Mexico City, and I adore this place.  I revisited the city center but also went to new places.  There are countless cultural and historical gems in the massive city, yet you can see them easily by use of the metro.

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This time around I took the metro to Alameda Santa Maria park and the Biblioteca Vasconsuelos.  It ended up being a very fun dinner experience, as I went to a family run cafe where I sat with the family for their meal, practicing my Spanish.

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I then took a daytrip to Taxco and Cuernavaca.   The bus to Taxco is very inexpensive (at about $12) and very nice.  The scenery is breathtaking.  The city reminds me very much of Ostuni, Italy – narrow cobblestone hilly streets, whitewashed buildings, and art-filled churches.

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If you’re up to it, I recommend climbing to Guadeloupe church for city views.

IMG_6206In the later afternoon I made a quick stop to the Borda gardens in Cuernavaca, which have gorgeous flowers with butterflies, plenty of fountains, colorful ducks, and graceful columns.

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The next day it was Puebla and Cholula.  The bus leaves from Mexico City TAPO every fifteen minutes.  It is really necessary to take either the city bus or a taxi to the center of Puebla from the CAPU bus station.  The outskirts are blah, but the center is charming – so colorful and endless sweets stores, cafes, and artisan crafts await you.

IMG_6232The highlight for me were the churches – beautiful architecture and incredible interiors.

IMG_6221 I ate in the artist district and had the best mole I’ve ever tasted.

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I had not planned my trip around a festival, but Cholula was in pure celebration mode.  The Aztec drumming and dancing was incredible and it was fascinating to see the blessing ceremonies.

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What a wonderful surprise to end my short trip to Mexico. I certainly hope to return many times in my lifetime to this friendly, incredible country.

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Photos are my own.

Niagara Wine Country

IMG_5208It feels like fall today, with gusty winds, clouds, and temperatures no higher than 70F/20C.

It made me think of how my grapes will like it, and I’ll be picking them next month.  It also made me think of Niagara Wine Country, and since I had nothing in particular to do this morning, I drove two hours away to wander around the area.

I’ve been here countless times but I never tire of it.  At any season, it’s an enjoyable excursion.

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Niagara on the Lake is a small town in Ontario with a very British feel.  Have some tea, pop into the cute shops (many British products, many Canadian made goods like hats and Christmas ornaments), buy some delicious baked goods or candies, go to a Shaw play, eat a filling meal with local specialities, or visit a fort.  Then, go wine tasting.  There are countless vineyards, and none are bad.  Many are picturesque and welcome visitors to take photos without expectations of purchase.

If you do want to purchase a wine, this area is famous for ice wines.

If you are here in the summer, local produce like peaches and strawberries are delicious and very affordable at farm stands.

Of course, Niagara Falls is only twenty minutes away so you will have plenty of options of things to do there as well.

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Photos taken by me August 5, 2017

 

 

Summer in the Finger Lakes

IMG_4675Sunrises and sunsets can be very dramatic in the Finger Lakes region, but this sunrise might have been one of the most beautiful I have seen.  This summer has brought rain and thunderstorms, which has given us some fantastic cloud formations.

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And, rainbows.  So many rainbows.  We had double rainbows three evenings in a row.

IMG_4907This past weekend there were two Lavender festivals.  I attended the one in Skaneateles.  It was as if I transported myself to Provence.

IMG_6040My favorite summer activity here is fruit picking.  Cherries for $2.49 a pound.  Western NY is actually the second most agriculturally rich area in the USA – in terms of variety and abundance – Sonoma, CA is ahead of us.

I love to travel, but home is pretty great at this time of year.

(photos are my own)

Toronto

IMG_5977I had a lovely trip to Toronto over the weekend.  If you are planning on going to Toronto anytime in the next month, I highly recommend the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit at the Art Museum of Ontario.  The entire museum is stellar, and well worth the steep admission fee.

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I also visited Casa Loma, a short drive or subway ride from the city center.  The building itself is massive, but I wasn’t too inspired by the interior.  There are certainly nice elements in the decor, but nothing I plan on remembering well.

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The views from the Casa Loma tower, though, are wonderful, and the gardens are very nice too.

IMG_5980I would suggest finding some good food at the Kensington Market area, where there are plenty of coffee shops, bars, cafes, and open air food stalls.

The area certainly tries to be counter-culture, but it seems everybody (tourists included) mosey around to find good eats.

I ended up enjoying the ethnic neighborhoods more.  Chinatown, Little Italy, and Little Portugal were some areas I visited.  Little Portugal is mostly residential, and ended up being my favorite.  Lots of little gardens, interesting houses, Portuguese bakeries, and it is fun to hear many speak the language.

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Previously while in Toronto, I focused on the harbor area visiting sites like the CN Tower, attending a Blue Jays game, and walking around Centre Island.

I’m already looking forward to another trip to this city to explore additional areas.

(Photos: taken in Toronto)

Mexico City

I had free miles to use and will be taking a very affordable trip to Mexico City in September.  I’ll only have a couple days there, but it will be my second time visiting.  It’s a fabulous city, full of friendly people, amazing art, fascinating history, and colorful markets with delicious and cheap food.

IMG_4936Last time, I took a daytrip to Teotihuacan and climbed the temples.

IMG_4913This time, I may try to visit a nearby city like Puebla.  Puebla is famous for its cuisine.

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But, I still have a great deal to see in Mexico City, including more Diego Rivera murals.

IMG_4897I’m looking forward to it!

 

(Photos by me)