Monday, February 28, 2011

Frigate Bird, Galapagos Islands
Imagine swimming with playful sea lions, stepping around comical blue-footed boobies, and photographing gigantic tortoises and prehistoric-looking marine iguanas.

 Nowhere else on Earth can you commune so closely with exotic and bizarre wildlife as in the Galapagos Islands. With an expert naturalist as your guide, venture among the cinder cones, lava flows, white and black sand beaches, rocky cliffs and dramatic shorelines of this showcase of evolution.

Wildland Adventures' Galapagos travel specialists Jeff Stivers and Sherry Howland will detail the myriad of travel styles available from voyages on small yachts and expedition ships to land-based adventures utilizing new eco-lodges.

Combine your Galapagos trip with an exploration of the native villages, rainforests and Inca ruins on the Ecuadorian mainland or visit the ancient citadel of Machu Picchu in Peru. Whether traveling as a couple, a family or a group of friends, Ecuador offers a plethora active adventures and cultural explorations from the Andes to the Amazon and the Galapagos Islands.

Sign up for this local event.

Post from Wildland Adventures

Keukenhof flower display

World Renowned Keukenhof Gardens in Holland, opening March 24 showcasing a flower bulb mosaic of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.
KEUKENHOF, LISSE – The theme for Keukenhof 2011 is "Germany: Land of Poets and Philosophers." Highlights this year are the various inspirational gardens with a German twist, the flowering bulb mosaic of the Brandenburg Gate incorporating more than 100,000 bulbs, and a special theme route. The official opening of Keukenhof 2011 will be performed by Mrs. Bettina Wulff, spouse of the German President Mr. Christian Wulff in the afternoon of March 23, 2011.

Despite the severe winter weather, there is a lot of organic activity going on under the ground at Keukenhof in Lisse. Around seven million flowering bulbs have been planted during the past months and as spring breaks, these will provide the traditional colorful splendor of the international flowering bulb exhibition.

Corn windmill in Keukenhof Gardens
For several years now Keukenhof has chosen to feature a different theme country each season. In 2009 the USA – New York City – was featured in honor of the Henry Hudson - NY400 year with the theme "USA, New Amsterdam - New York, 400." Last year Russia was highlighted with the theme ‘From Russia With Love.’ In 2011 Keukenhof stays close to home. From March 24 to May 20, 2011 the focus will be on Holland’s eastern neighbors with the theme "Germany: Land of Poets and Philosophers." Keukenhof will be paying colorful attention to Germany, the second most important export market for flowering bulbs and the country which supplies most of Keukenhof’s foreign visitors.

Netherlands-Germany Experience

Another highlight in this theme year is the Netherlands-Germany Experience, an exhibition at the Juliana Pavilion in which the many aspects of German-Dutch solidarity will be expressed. Image, light, sound and decor will make this exhibition a truly special experience. Historically, Germany has been one of the most important trading partners of Holland. The ornamental plant and tourism sectors play a particularly important role in this, and it is no coincidence that these are the disciplines that form the basis of Keukenhof. However, it is not only the economic ties that will be in the spotlight: a chapter of the exhibition is also dedicated to the long-term soccer contacts, and visitors can experience the world cup soccer finals of 1974 and 1988.

The Brandenburg Gate at Keukenhof

Tulips in Keukenhof Gardens
The most popular draw at this year’s Keukenhof is sure to be the flower bulb mosaic of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. The final bulbs for this were planted back in October, 2010 by the German ambassador in Holland, Mr. Heinz-Peter Behr. Simultaneously to this event at Keukenhof, the Dutch ambassador in Germany, Mr. Marnix Krop, planted the first of a total of 55,000 flowering bulbs at the Parizer Platz near the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin itself. Besides this, work is currently underway to complete the inspiration gardens with a German feel and the special 1½-km (approx. 1.3 miles) theme route meandering throughout the park.


Keukenhof was originally the herb garden ("keuken" means kitchen in Dutch) of the Countess of Holland, Jacoba van Beyeren (1401-1436). In 1840, the horticultural architects Zocher, a father and son, designed the park that forms the basis of the current Keukenhof. They also designed the noted Vondelpark in Amsterdam.

Opening times and admission fees

The Keukenhof Gardens, open to the public from March 24 to May 20, 2011 can be visited daily from 8:00am to 7:30pm (ticket office open until 6:00pm). Entrance fee is 14,50 Euro (approx. CAN. $20) for adults and 7,00 Euro (approx. CAN. $9) for children. Keukenhof can be reached by train and bus, or by car and combination tickets are available when traveling by bus from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.

Annual flower parade
The famous annual flower parade from Noordwijk to Haarlem, the largest in Holland, will take place on Saturday, April 16, 2011.

Photos copyright Anne Gordon

Post from H. Groenendijk

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Winnipeg Festival, Festival du Voyageur

St. Boniface, across the river from the bustling city of Winnipeg, is Canada's oldest community and the site for a Winnipeg Festival called Festival du Voyageur.  It is a celebration honouring the fur traders of centuries ago.
For 10 days in February, Winnipeggers, French and English, celebrate their combined heritage with the Festival du Voyageur, western Canada's largest winter event.

This year's festival started with a gathering of locals and visitors at the Forks Market close to the confluence of the Red River and the Assiniboine. Attired in fur coats; mink, fox, wolf and coyote, thick felt coats with pointed hoods and fringed shoulder decorations, and coats fashioned from Hudson Bay blankets (ever-popular even now in the 21st century), the candle-lit walk to St. Boniface was about to begin.

Walkers and modern day voyageurs, protected their upper extremities with Davy Crockett hats complete with luxuriant tails, red woolen Voyageur hats with pom poms, hats decorated with the head skin of coyotes and stylish Russian fur chapeaus. Footwear in many cases was beaded deer skin moccasins. Local police on duty were impressive in bulky buffalo fur coats.

As dusk crept over the city, we set off on the traditional Torch Light Walk along the middle of the iced-over Assiniboine River to St. Boniface Cathedral; hundreds of men, women and children, in a snaking line with candles flickering in the deepening dusk and snow gently powdering our procession.

Torch Light Walk to the Cathedral in St. Boniface
Climbing the bank leading to the front of the city's historic cathedral, we walked past the grave of Canadian folk hero Louis Riel, who was hanged in 1885 on the charge of high treason. The booming tones of church bells rang out a welcome. The mid-winter air was crisp and clear and the bell's joyous peels echoing all about us, was for me a magical experiences. The annual festival had officially begun.

Photos copyright Anne Gordon

Posted by Anne Gordon on Thursday, 24th February

Good enough for the mustache competition

Competitions are an important feature of the Festival du Voyageur. On December 9th, those competing in the Beard and Mustache competition – categories “Wild and Woolly” and “Groomed mustache and beard” - were publically shaved at the Le Garage Cafe in St. Boniface in preparation for the event. Titles are to be awarded on February 25th. Other competitions include a Jigging contest on the 26th February, a Pea soup test and taste on the 27th, and a Fiddling contest featuring Alex Lamoureux on the 27th February.

Not to be missed are the Kitchen Parties where the dancing is wild and the fiddling spectacular. If I go by the energetic and expert fiddle playing that I heard at a number of different Kitchen Parties, I would say that Manitoba has some of the finest fiddlers in the land.

Dave Bart, a fabulous fiddler
Grandmas and Grandpas, Mums holding babies as they danced, the young and the tinies were all out on the floor. Visiting Pageant Queens from winter festivals in Minnesota, Michigan and Dakota, all resplendent with diamante crowns, joined the crowds in a riotous display of French high spirits as they danced the night away.

At Kitchen Parties in the park, dinner served at long tables in heated tents with sawdust floor, comprised thick pea soup, tortiere and sugar pie, a traditional dessert of such sweetness that it had to be eaten slowly at two sittings.

The formal Governor's Ball at the Fairmont Winnipeg was attended by the grand and the good in old-time finery; the walls of the ballroom appropriately decorated with bundles of furs; Arctic fox, beaver and coyote.

Fur trader in Fort Gibralter
Festival du Voyageur
Fort Gibraltar in Voyageur Park was abuzz with visitors exploring the lives of the voyageurs. It was in the fort that the fur traders gathered to buy and sell the furs acquired from Aboriginal trappers in the north. It was a home-away-from-home, where they socialized with people of their own persuasion.

Photos copyright Anne Gordon

Posted by Anne Gordon on Thursday, 24th February

Mask ice sculpture at Winnipeg's Festival du Voyageur

Strolling on a frigid morning among the massive winter artworks in the park, I couldn't help but admire the dedication of the ice sculptors from around the world who stood atop tall ladders putting the finishing touches on their ice sculptures. Sculptors from Mexico and Argentina had never seen snow, but that was no deterrent. Flood-lit at night, a set of leering masks and another of medieval warriors and their horses appeared like strange creatures from another world. Looming at the entrance to Voyageur Park was my favourite, a 15 metre long, 5 ½ metre high rendition of a musher on a sled pulled by a team of husky dogs.

Another of the Festival's interesting and tasty diversions was a culinary event. In a rustic log house cum restaurant, Fort Gibraltar’s wine expert, Shawn Brandson, invited our tour group to a wine tasting and lunch. Starting with three different wines; Sandhill (Pinot Blanc), Angels Gate (Riesling) and Rigby (Mead Framboise) with a selection of cheeses; Bothwell Madagascar Green Peppercorn, Oka and Riviere Rouge Cheese, and Clover, Espresso, and chocolate honey, we sipped, dipped and sampled. A green salad followed, involving the participation of a volunteer from each table whose task was to prepare a dressing under the directions of the head chef.

A Voyageur at the Festival du Voyageur
For me, as always, the piece de resistance was the dessert of blackberries, cherries, and strawberries with a Sabayen sauce made with egg, sugar and wine drizzled over the fruit. As the chef carefully stirred the sauce on a wood stove until just the right moment, Brandson described the thickening creamy liquid as very tricky to make, and he laughingly told us “if not done very carefully, you could end up with Sabayen ... or scrambled egg”.

Today, although St. Boniface is a neighbourhood where French is the predominant language, close to 100 other languages, from Inuktuk and Mikmaq to Icelandic and Punjabi can be heard throughout this charming Francophone locale. It is a multi-cultural success where the old culture of the voyageurs is lovingly preserved and celebrated by all.

Photos copyright Anne Gordon

Posted by Anne Gordon on Thursday, 24th February


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sanibel Island shelling

Some of the finest shelling in the world is to be had on the shores of Sanibel and its out-islands. Sixteen miles of shell-strewn beaches are a sure thing for coaxing shellers to emulate the “Sanibel Stoop”, where the majority of beach walkers are bent double in their quest for conches, banded tulips, coquina shells, lightning whelks, scallops and even baby's ears, a smoothly beautiful white shell with an uncanny resemblance to its namesake.

On an early morning boat tour to the out-islands for a day of shelling with Mike Fuery, the island's only shelling captain, I marvelled at the perfect judgement of an osprey that captured a fish, then rose heavily from the sea to fly directly across our path. With its wickedly sharp talons locked on too weighty a catch, the osprey would be unable to rise and could drown.

Photos copyright Anne Gordon

Posted by Anne Gordon on Thursday 10th February

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Keukenhof tulips in the spring

Centuries ago, the gardeners working for Jacoba van Beyeren, the Countess of Holland, were probably harvesting cabbages and herbs in the very place where I sat on the edge of a pond in Holland's famous Keukenhof garden.  In the 15th century this was the great lady's kitchen garden, a vital resource for Teylingen Castle where entertaining during the hunting season was a daily occurrence.

Windmill at the Keukenhof
An now, 600 years later, the Countess's kitchen garden has been supplanted by drifts of tall elegant tulips, brilliantly coloured hyacinths, a golden rain of forsythia, crocuses, fritillaria and dozens of other spring bulb varieties.  In shaded dells, yellow trout lilies and cowslips floourish in an informal woodland setting.  Trees heavy with spring blossom, ponds with fountains and a corn windmill with gently turning blades, draw almost a million visitors to this garden each year "The Keukenhof" (the kitchen garden) with an annual planting of 7 million bulbs is reputedly the largest bulb garden in the world.

Photos copyright Anne Gordon

Posted by Anne Gordon on Tuesday, February 8th

Saturday, February 5, 2011



On the lawn at “Cooee”, one of New South Wales’s premier sheep stations, when the heat is intense and the sprinkler has been turned on to water the grass, parrots love nothing more than drenching themselves in the spray’s flying droplets. Lightheaded with the pleasure of the cool water, they lose all vestige of normal parrot behavior and start doing back flips on the wet grass.

The birds of Australia are an amusing and sometimes interesting bunch. Apostle birds, large and black with occasional white markings, fly in flocks of 12 – hence the name. Only one pair in the flock of 12 will mate.

Sulphur crested cockatoo
I watched a snowy sulphur-crested cockatoo – another of the ‘stupid’ birds – while out on an evening walk in the Blue Mountains. Our guide’s words, “Those birds are not too bright. They can be taught to speak, but they sometimes fly upside down, suddenly plummet from a great height, or occasionally they fall off branches.” As we watched, a flock of sulphur-crested cockatoos swooped and dived in the darkening canyon. Separating from its companions, one bird alighted on a spindly branch overhanging the canyon. Then, without warning or reason, it toppled over sideways and dropped for a good distance before seemingly gaining control and flying off.

The stupid behavior of the Australian Gallah on the other hand is counteracted by its beauty. With a pale pink head and raincloud grey plumage, a flight of Gallahs has the pastel subtlety of a cloud in the early morning. But gorging is their downfall. A field of wheat is an irresistible temptation for these birds, leaving them unable to fly.

The vultures of South Africa exhibit an equally greedy behavior. They also gorge until waddling along is their only means of motivation. When their meal is finally done, they inevitably have to vomit so that they’re able to fly.

My husband James tells of his own first-hand experience of such an occasion. When working as a game warden in Africa he was responsible for tagging vultures. On this particular occasion, the group were having trouble catching the fleeing vultures after they had swallowed a heavy meal and James threw his bush hat over the head of one lumbering male. Within seconds the startled bird vomited pounds of putrefying flesh into his bush hat. Much lightened, the bird hopped away and took off leaving James shaking the stinking contents out of his hat.

Because of the intense heat, the hat was promptly placed back on his head, leaving him for a lengthy period, persona non grata among his companions.

Photo copyright Anne Gordon

Posted by Anne Gordon on February 5th