Posts Tagged ‘UNESCO World Heritage Site’

High and dry in Venice

December 11, 2008
Gondolas moored nearby the Piazza San Marco

Covered gondolas moored near the Piazza San Marco

I was reading how Venice has once again flooded, and I feel so lucky that our visit there a year ago was relatively dry. We had rain and chilly weather, but no flooding. We saw the hip high rubber boots that people wear when it floods. I wonder if they rent them to tourists.

Heavy boat traffic in the Canal Grande

Boat traffic in the Canal Grande

Wessel had never been to Venice, and it was so exciting to see the astonishment on his face when we got off the train and started to explore. Nothing, but nothing, compares to Venezia. It was Thanksgiving day, and though the tourist count was low, the center was still crowded. I have no desire to be there in August.

Spaghetti and red sauce as Thanksgiving Dinner

Wessel relishes a traditional Italian Thanksgiving meal of spaghetti with tomato sauce in Venice

We had “Thanksgiving Dinner” at Osteria Kalia (5870A Castello, Calle del Dose. Tel. +39(0)41 528 5153), a reasonably priced restaurant just off the beaten path enough to appeal to locals. In fact, the menu didn’t have a lick of English on it. Wessel ordered spaghetti and red sauce with asparagus and I, already overloaded on starches, avoided pasta and had chicken and potatoes. Of course a little vino came with the meal, and we ordered a nice strong espresso to perk us up for more hours of walking. Even Wessel, with his keen sense of direction, kept getting turned around. That’s the pain and pleasure of Venice.

Venice covered with snow in 1987

Venice covered with snow in 1987

Other than that day with Wessel, my fondest memory of Venice was in 1987. I was living in Vicenza, an hour west. The big news on this February day was “neve” — snow. I hopped on a train, and after several delays reached a completely snow-covered Venice, a rare sight I was told. I ran into a woman I knew who was an art student there and she took me around. She was as enchanted as I was with the snow, and we didn’t get lost once.

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Cycling the ‘Great Wall of Britain’

January 30, 2008

This was first published in the Boston Globe on Jan. 27, 2008, but you’ll find links and a lot more photos in this version. Surprises in England: It really is as expensive (for Americans) as everyone says it is. Beware that most lodging prices are listed *per person.* I loved being in a foreign country where I spoke the language. I hated cycling on the “wrong” side of the road, especially in roundabouts! But I was impressed with the cycling infrastructure, both on roads and dedicated paths.

By Diane Daniel

GREENHEAD, England – “OK, you can stop staring now,” I called out between labored breaths. The sheep kept their eyes on me as I pushed a bike weighted with a week’s worth of gear up the steep path next to their pasture.
Sometimes, when you’re on a bicycle and the hill is vertical, you just have to get off and push. My husband and friends were too far ahead to witness my surrender. Instead, I had an Hadrian’s Wall at Walltown Crags near Greenhead, Englandaudience of 50 or so sheep following my every move.
The reward for tackling one of the few punishing grades along the 175-mile Hadrian’s Cycleway was Walltown Crags, which gave us our most impressive view of the week of “the great wall of Britain.”
Begun in 122 AD by the Emperor Hadrian and his Roman soldiers, Hadrian’s Wall marked the army’s northern frontier in Britain for nearly 300 years. An engineering marvel of stone and turf that ran 73 1/2 miles from the North Sea to the Irish Sea, the wall Hadrian envisioned was to be 10 feet wide and 15 feet high, though those dimensions varied because of materials and manpower as the wall extended westward.
The wall was completed in about eight years and bustling civilian communities sprang up around it and its milecastles (fortlets) and garrisons to do business with the soldiers. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While only small parts of the wall are visible, ongoing excavation turns up new finds yearly.
We, however, assumed we would be cycling along the wall for days. Instead, we didn’t spot it until our fifth day, after 100 miles of riding. But the route is filled with archeological stops – forts, churches, museums, and ruins. Best of all, we were treated to an eclectic sampling of northern England, from its haunting coasts and sheep-speckled countryside to thriving cities.
Hadrian’s CyclewayThe national cycleway, which opened in 2006, was routed using mostly country roads and bike paths. Save for a few spots, it is well signed. For walkers, there is the 84-mile Hadrian’s Wall Path National Trail, opened in 2003.
It was early October when we met our friends in Newcastle, then paid for private transportation across the island to the Cumbrian coast. (Because of prevailing winds, most cyclists ride west to east.) My husband and I rented bikes, while our friends brought their tandem. We carried all our gear and winged it with lodging, but shuttle providers are available for those wanting baggage transfer and nightly reservations.

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In the ‘other’ Rockies: snow and scones

January 21, 2008

“Where they Went” by Diane Daniel
(published Jan. 20, 2008, in the Boston Globe)

From Di’s eyes: I loved hearing about this trip to a place that’s been on my wish list for years. I am going to Calgary, Banff and Lake Louise next month, but I’d rather go in the summer, and attempt to cycle up Going-to-the-Sun Road! My favorite parts: Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse (I’ve heard raves for years), Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump (because it’s fascinating and you can’t beat the name), the backwoods immigration border at Goat Haunt ranger station (amazing!), and the Prince of Wales Hotel (you gotta look at the photo). The other thing that is so cool is that finally newspapers, like my Boston Globe, will run a photo of a gay couple. This warms my heart!!

WHO: Ken Paulsen, 45, and David Valentine, 42, of Malden, Mass.

WHERE: Canada.

WHEN: 10 days in September.

WHY: “We’d both always wanted to go to the Canadian Rockies,” Paulsen said. “I love history. I’ve got a PhD in Canadian history, but my specialty is in Nova Scotia.”

the haystackMANY MILES: Although the couple doesn’t do a lot of hiking at home, they did plenty in Canada. “When I figured it all out, it was about 55 miles of hiking. I was surprised we didn’t feel more tired.” Paulsen mapped out the itinerary and made the reservations for five days in Banff National Park and two days at Waterton Lakes National Park, both in Alberta, followed by two days at Glacier National Park in Montana.

ROOM WITH A VIEW: They stayed at the historic Storm Mountain Lodge in Banff. “It’s an absolutely wonderful place, with 12 cabins from the 1920s and a wonderful restaurant,” Paulsen said. “All the food is organic, and the chef is absolutely fantastic. We were quite up high in a canyon, but overlooking it, between 5,000 and 6,000 feet up.”

HIKING HEAVEN: “We did a hike called the Johnston Canyon Trail, which turned out to be a classic hike, but I didn’t know that,” Paulsen said. Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House“You’re going up through a narrow gorge at the beginning and once you get out you’re in this absolutely beautiful mountain meadow with bubbling cold springs.” They also hiked to the famed Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House. “We had tea and scones and homemade bread made that morning. It was a great little break before we reached the glacier, at about 6,500 feet.”

BUFFALO SOLDIERS: On the way to Waterton, they stopped at Kootenay National Park and for a soak at the spring-fed pool in Radium Hot Springs as well as Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. “They have a great interpretive center,” Paulsen said. “The First Nations, as they call Indians in Canada, would use that as a place to drive buffalo over the cliff. So there’s thousands of years worth of buffalo bones in the soil.”

BACKWOODS BORDER: In Waterton, part of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, they stayed at the majestic Prince of Wales Hotel, dating from the 1920s. A 12-mile hike took the pair from Canada into the United States. “At the Goat Haunt ranger station, in the middle of the woods, we had to bring our passport. They can’t scan your passport; all they can do is look at it.” Most visitors to Goat Haunt arrive by ferry across Waterton Lake, which is how Paulsen and Valentine returned. They were always aware of bears. “There were campgrounds along the lake closed because of bears, and we saw fresh bear scat and clawed logs,” Paulsen said.

SUN TO SNOW: Going-to-the-Sun Road through Glacier National Park impressed Paulsen. “You’re starting out at the lake about 3,200 feet [up] and in 10 miles you’re at the top at 6,500 feet. Once you get to the part where it’s steep, there are cliffs above you, and cliffs below you, and it’s very narrow.” One hiking trail they took looked down on the road, “and with mountains soaring a couple thousand feet above. We were there for the first snow of the year, so when we were hiking, there was an inch or two of snow on the ground.”