100th Post: Ten Places that have “Stuck with Me”

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Skyline Ridge Loop at Sea to Sky Gondola, Squamish, British Columbia

I was going to continue with my Laos series when I noticed that this is my 100th post. To celebrate, I decided to do a post about places that have stuck in my mind and in my heart. It was a tough exercise limiting this to only ten (there are many runners up). I took a broad approach to the word “place” and the list includes countries, regions, and provinces. A few of the places are from visits that happened long before I’d ever heard the word “blog” or even used a computer, and I’m happy to be sharing these “old” favourites. Thank you for reading, for your likes and comments, and motivating me to keep at it.

Namibia

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Dune 45 in Sossusvlei, Namib Desert—C.Helbig

My list isn’t in order of preference, but this place —Namibia—is my #1. In 2008, we did a 3-week self drive trip through this sparsely populated country and I was completely awestruck by its stunning desert landscape. Namibia has some of the world’s largest sand dunes and their orange hue is truly amazing. I loved the contrast of massive ocean waves crashing on beaches backed by a desert that is one of the driest places on earth. We saw tons of animals in Etosha Park but our most memorable encounter was hanging out beside a couple of gorgeous lions while waiting for a park ranger to “rescue” us from our car that had a flat tire. We got a kick out of capital city Windhoek, and coastal city Swakopmund, a quirky pair where we dined on kudu steak washed down with huge steins of German beer (a few good remnants of German colonization).

Egypt

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Camping excursion in Egypt’s White Desert—C.Helbig

Our trip to Egypt in March of 2011 was memorable on so many accounts. It was my 50th birthday and just six weeks after the Arab Spring uprising. Egyptians were rife with optimism about their future. We were among a small group of tourists who had not cancelled travel plans (some called us crazy) and we received the most warm and enthusiastic welcome wherever we visited. I’ll never forget sleeping under the stars in the White Desert, hanging out in the remote Siwa Oasis, having the Great Pyramids and Valley of the Kings virtually to ourselves, and diving in laid-back Dahab. Awesome country. Awesome people. Unfortunately, Egypt’s important tourism industry is still reeling. My heart goes out to the Egyptian people who continue to wait for a brighter future.

Newfoundland, Canada

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Iceberg near Twillingate, Newfoundland—C.Helbig

I had the great pleasure of living in Newfoundland for two years in the early 90’s. There’s a book about Newfoundland called This Marvelous Terrible Place and it is the perfect description of this province. The weather is crappy, communities are isolated, and resource sector work is difficult. But the  “The Rock” (as Newfoundland is sometimes called) has a harsh beauty that I totally fell in love with—the precipitous wind-blown cliffs, the stormy North Atlantic Ocean, the tiny coastal fishing villages. It’s one of the best places in the world to see whales and icebergs. St. John’s, the pretty capitol city, is filled with lively bars and good music. “Newfies” are the friendliest and funniest people in Canada. Where else can you find town names like Dildo, Come by Chance, and Heart’s Desire. We lived in Conception Bay and Paradise.

Indonesia

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Java, Indonesia: Mount Bromo sunrise—C.Helbig

I’ve had spectacular experiences in all the countries I’ve visited in SE Asia but Indonesia stands out. I spent three months there as a backpacker in ’91 and visited again with Mike and Alex in 2010. Perhaps it’s the diversity of landscapes, cultures, and attractions in this enormous country that holds such appeal for me. I’ll never forget sunrise at Mt.Bromo and Kawah Ijen on Java, the stunning temples of Borobudur and Prambanan, and the aesthetics of Bali. I still shudder when I think of the dragons on Komodo, and sigh when I picture the beautiful island of Flores. Trekking in Tana Toraja and diving in Bunaken, both on Sulawesi are a couple of my all-time favourite travel adventures. Returning to dive in remote Raja Ampat is near the top of my bucket list. Did I mention how great the food is in this country!

The US Southwest

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Canyonlands National Park, Utah—C.Helbig

The US Southwest is a region I could return to over and over again. There is so much beauty, recreation, and adventure. Many of our best family vacations have been there. Standouts include mountain biking the White Rim Trail in Canyonlands National Park, backpacking to the glorious blue-green water of Havasupai, Grand Canyon (my featured image of Alex on the rope swing), camping in Monument Valley, and exploring the spectacular sandstone formations at Coyote Buttes and White Pocket (Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona)…oh ya, and my first glimpse of Bryce Canyon National Park, and hiking in Zion, and discovering off the beaten path gems like Yant Flat, and…and… I have just scratched the surface of this incredible area and I hope to visit many more times.

British Columbia, Canada

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Kayaking among the whales in the Broughton Archipelago—C.Helbig

I am lucky to live in Vancouver, British Columbia. The Coast Mountains are my neighbourhood playground and home to many of my favourite hikes and snowshoeing excursions. I am spoiled with Whistler Mountain only an hour away, but I also love the interior ski resorts like Big White, Silver Star, and White Water. Further west, in the Rockies near the Alberta border, is perhaps my favourite Canadian park: Yoho National Park (though I have lots more parks to see). And then there’s the ocean! Kayaking next to whales and dolphins in the Broughton Archipelago, off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island, is definitely among my most memorable experiences. We’ve spent many happy family vacations on the beaches of Pacific Rim National Park and discovering the coastal beauty around Tofino and Ucluelet. There’s still so much for me to see in B.C.!

Southern Spain

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Enchanting Cádiz, Spain—C.Helbig

A couple of years ago, we spent most of November in southern Spain. I was completely enchanted by the magnificent towns, historic sites, food, wine, and fabulous weather. Some of you will remember me raving about Granada and its Alhambra, my favourite place among consistently great spots. Moving west we stayed at postcard-perfect Pueblo Blancos (White Towns). In Sevilla, a city with many “must-see” attractions, we enjoyed watching the world go by in a few of the hundred (or thousand) outdoor cafes and restaurants. Cordoba’s Mezquita is one of the most fascinating religious sites I have ever visited and the city is lovely. Perhaps the biggest surprise for me was beguiling Cádiz, an ancient coastal city with a fabulous vibe of old, new, and exotic. Oh…and the beaches near Bolonia, wow!  I’m sure the rest of Spain is wonderful too and I look forward to returning.

Mexico

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Playa Balandra in Baja California Sur, Mexico—C.Helbig

It’s tough not to have Mexico “stick with me”; I’ve been there almost ten times. Mexico has become our go-to destination for a quick hit of Vitamin D during our bleak Canadian winters—the beaches are great, the people are friendly, the food and beer are muy buena. So far, our trips have mostly revolved around water activities: diving in Cozumel, snorkeling in the beautiful cenotes of the Yucatan, kayaking around magical Isla Espiritu Santo, hanging out on the gorgeous beaches of Tulum, Zihuatenejo, and Balandra (the one in the photo above—my personal favourite). One of these days I’ll make it to some of Mexico’s fascinating towns like San Cristobal de las Casas and San Miguel de Allende. Alison at Adventures in Wonderland has got me very excited about exploring Mexico beyond the beach.

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

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Gardiner Bay, Isla Española Galapagos Islands, Ecuador—C.Helbig

One August way back in the late 80s, my friend Carol and I boarded a rickety little boat named the Pato Feo. Despite its name (Ugly Duck), it was by far my number one boat excursion—7 days exploring the Galapagos Islands. Each of the islands we visited brought unique and thrilling animal encounters, from giant Galapagos tortoises, to huge colonies of sea lions, to fabulous blue-footed boobies. Two of my favourite all-time snorkel experiences were in the Galapagos: surrounded by sea lions performing amazing underwater gymnastics, and watching the incredible swimming ability of Galapagos penguins that screamed past us like missiles. When Tomás de Berlanga stumbled across these islands in 1535 he called them Las Encantadas (The Enchanted). I couldn’t agree more.

Turkey

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Open-air museum in Zelve, Cappadocia—C.Helbig

Mike and I honeymooned in Turkey 23 years ago. Much of our 4-week trip is still fresh in my head: getting wonderfully lost in Istanbul’s Grand Bazzar, cruising down the Bosphorous to Izmir, soaking in the pools at Pamukkale, exploring the rock dwellings in Cappadocia, lingering over meals in the impossibly romantic town of Kas, and of course being harassed by carpet sellers every place we went. We still have two of our purchases in the living room. A third one disintegrated years ago—interestingly it was the one that we haggled over for hours, over many cups of tea. A charm we bought seems to have protected us from the Evil Eye and is a beautiful reminder of this fascinating country.

Honorable Mention:

On a different day, some of the places below might have made the list. It was a tough call. There are so many awesome spots out there and so many more to explore.

Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Guatemala, Belize, South Africa, Zambia, Botswana, Malaysia, Laos, Thailand, Fiji, California, NYC.

Next up: I’ll get back to Laos

Categories: British Columbia, Egypt, Indonesia, Mexico, Namibia, Places, Spain | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 37 Comments

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37 thoughts on “100th Post: Ten Places that have “Stuck with Me”

  1. All these places are simply breathtaking! I completely undersatnd why they left you such an impression!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I do not know how I missed this but here I am to say that that is a most gorgeous list. I would go bonkers trying to figure out which would go first on the list. Each one is stunning and without compare. The photo of your friend and you on Galapagos along with the bad boys is adorable 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! It might be adorable, but in hindsight not that smart (big daddy is probably not far away).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Pardon me, but I am dense as you know. Big daddy would be…?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Haha, not at all. My assumption (might be wrong) is that these are relatively young sea lions and the large bulls are keeping a watchful eye. They can be dangerous if they feel threatened (though we hardly look threatening!)

          Liked by 1 person

          • They look so adorable that I cannot think of them as protective bulls. But you are right, they would be watchful about the pups, and two women (however grinning and harmless) eyeing their young must not be a comfortable notion for the elders 😛 The fact that you got by without inciting an attack means that they looked upon you rather kindly 😉

            Liked by 1 person

  3. What a great list! So many of these places are on my bucket list. I’m especially jealous they you lived in Newfoundland! I have a whole giant Newfoundland road trip planned out but no time or money for it right now. But when I do, I’ll definitely come to you for some recommendations!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am so glad Newfoundland is on your list. It is such a unique and beautiful place. Give yourself lots of time. It’s a big province with lots to see. I didn’t mention Gros Morne National Park in my post—it’s an awesome park with great hikes.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yep, that one is on my list! I think the trip I have planned is about 3 weeks, and even that doesn’t seem like enough time. Guess I’ll just have to plan another trip some time!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Caroline you guys are so well travelled. This is such a great compilation, I really enjoyed it.

    When I was eighteen, my younger brother and I, along with my parents travelled through Namibia in an RV. We too got stuck in the lion park due to a flat tire and my dad had to walk through the lion park to get a ranger. Rather scary. But rather funny we both had that same experience!

    Some of these places are known to me (Spain, Turkey, South Africa, and others are definitely on my list of places I want to go to… Remote areas of Indonesia, Egypt.

    Great post. Nice job!

    Peta

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Peta! That is a funny coincidence with both our lion experiences. Your dad was brave (crazy?) to walk through the park. We decided to hang out in our car and finally flagged down another car who then got word to the ranger. Looking back, it was really quite perfect having the lions all to ourselves for what seemed like quite a long time. Cheers,
      Caroline

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  5. Some great recommendations here, thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You have been to some great places Caroline. Cadiz looks beautiful, has never been on my radar but is now. Indonesia is a great place I would really like to go to the Toraja area on Sulawesi to see the graves and wooden effigies there. I think you were brave and maybe a bit crazy laying on the beach with seals. We were chased by a large sea lion on a beach when we were kids,They can move surprisingly fast. Great post. Louise

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Louise! I had never even heard of Cadiz before our trip; I think it flies under the radar for many people. Seeing the graves/effigies and being part of a funeral ceremony in Toraja is something I’ll never forget. We were definitely a bit crazy with the sea lions. I’m sure I wouldn’t do that now…chalk it up to being young and fearless (stupid). Cheers, Caroline

      Liked by 1 person

  7. great post, you have experienced & discovered already fantastic places on earth! Nice photography

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  8. Oh I love this post! And congratulations on 100 posts! And thank you for the idea – I can see a similar post in my future 🙂
    Namibia sounds amazing, I totally agree about Egypt, Galapagos, Turkey, and beautiful BC. What special photos – especially Namibia, US southwest, Indonesia, and Spain. You really captured the beauty and the light.
    Exploring more of Indonesia has long been on my list. We’v only been to Bali and that was awesome enough!
    Thank you so much for the mention. I hope you get to all those magic towns in Mexico.
    Alison

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! It was a fun and frustrating post to write. I was beating myself up trying to select the 10, and for not being consistent, ie: mix of countries, regions, provinces, but what I wanted to highlight just didn’t fit into a perfect package. I think I need to loosen up a bit!
      I know we share the same thoughts about Egypt and I am sooooo glad to have visited. Bali is awesome and what I have seen of the rest of the country was incredible (particularly liked Sulawesi). In three months we never even made it to Sumatra… such a huge, fascinating place.
      I just had to mention your blog. You really have captured me with your Mexico series (among many others). Cheers,
      Caroline

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Congrats on your 100th post!

    And wow your travels are so inspirational. It’s pretty brave/exciting to visit Egypt right after the Arab Spring uprising, and your photos of the White Desert are incredible, it looks like an alien world.

    The US Southwest also tops my list, there’s just something about wide open desert vistas…

    Can’t wait for more on Laos!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Ashley. The White Desert is unbelievable, and you’re right, absolutely otherworldly. As you know, I’m a sucker for the desert…and they come in so many amazing varieties. Glad you’re looking forward to Laos. Between work and more travel I’m having trouble keeping up with my writing (rough life, I know!)

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  10. Oh my god, I didn’t even know some of these places existed but they’re SO BEAUTIFUL. xx

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Brian Foster

    Super blog idea. Will be interesting to see if the inclusion changes with places you’ll travel to in the next 5 or so years. Many of your favourites are also ours. Some we haven’t been to. We’re planning Ireland for a month in September and the Mid-East for three months next winter. That’s one I’ve been wanting to do for many, many decades and have finally decided to ‘suck it up’ and run the risks. After all, Paris has become more dangerous than Israel. Have you done any of India? If not, well worth it, both north and south. It is #1 on our list. Keep on trucking and again wonderful post, as all of yours are.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Brian. I’m absolutely sure the list will change as we continue to travel. Ireland is also high on our list and have heard nothing but rave reviews. We have not been to India but that’s another one I’m super interested in. Friends just returned from Sri Lanka and were totally overwhelmed (in a good way). Where are you going in the Middle East? I was in Israel way back and really enjoyed it. Jordan is supposed to be great. Shame about Syria (in all sorts of ways). I have a good friend who adores Damascus, of course he hasn’t visited for some time. We have no firm plans yet for fall/winter but thinking about Peru, Argentina, Chile, Sri Lanka…? We have lots of hiking and biking trips planned over the coming months (BC, Wyoming, Montana).

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      • Brian Foster

        In the mid-east, Israel, Jordan, UAE and looking for one other warm weather place to round it out. Loved Peru and Argentina. Missed out on Machu Picchu in 2010 unfortunately as three days before we were to go they had flooding and mud slides and people had to be evacuated by helicopter. Closed for months. When we go back to SA, want to take it in.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Wow you have done some serious travelling. Beautiful place and photography.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Congratulations on your 100th post.
    You visited many places and your pictures are very nice.
    I am guessing you are the same age as me and I was born in March too! 😄

    Liked by 1 person

  14. My goodness, friend, is there anyplace you haven’t been? Your travel list is astounding! I’m so inspired by your passion for travel and life. If I could make it to even half the exotic locales on your honorable mention list, I’d consider it a life well-lived indeed. Loved seeing your beautiful photos from decades and fabulous trips past. I had a good laugh, too, over that devilish Newfie humor. Come by Chance, seriously, lol? I can’t help but picture it on Christmas cards, in the mail..:-D I’d love to hear your Namibia and Galapagos tales someday. A friend recently came back from South Africa and fell in love with the people–would love to hear about your experience there. Happy 100th–here’s to many more!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Chris, I am indeed fortunate. Writing this blog made me realize that there are so many past trips I’d love to blog about (of course I don’t have enough time to even keep up with the current ones). I have one post from Namibia (unfortunately not the lion story) and a few from South Africa, including two amazing hikes. I’m sure you’d love it there. Yup, Come by Chance is for real…haha, I could totally imagine that Christmas card.
      We are part of the mutual admiration club. While I’ve definitely traveled a lot, I am totally inspired by your love of America’s national parks and your efficiency in organizing lengthy backpacking trips for a family of five (not to mention that you have a hubby and kids who all seem in sync with these adventures)!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I did the same tour in Andalusia as you did. Wonderful! You have to come again to to see the countryside! It’s stunning! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I have visited about half of these places, and would probably also put them on my Top 10. That means I would probably also love the other half of your selections! 🙂 Namibia seems particularly enticing. -Verne

    Liked by 1 person

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