Don’t be a scaredy cat–a tip or two for solo travelers

I’m getting really fed up with people who tell me traveling by myself is dangerous.  Don’t go to Africa; you’ll catch Ebola.  Dont’ go to the Middle East; you’ll be kidnapped and beheaded.  Don’t go to Asia; it’s unstable.  Don’t go to Russia; World War III is going to start.

Let’s face it, travel can be scary.  Especially solo travel.  Not everyone loves planning [I don’t], and not everyone would be comfortable jetting off around the world alone.  To many people, what I do is overwhelming; intimidating; downright scary.  I understand this. I understand where the fear comes from, because I experience it too sometimes.  But most of the things we all fear about travel can easily be overcome — and none of them should keep us at home.  Here are some of the most common travel-related fears, along with some suggestions on how to get over them:

Fear #1:  The fear of traveling alone

Tip #1:  Solo travel isn’t for everyone. In fact, for many people, traveling alone would be their worst nightmare. When I told friends that I planned to go to South America on my own, their immediate response was, “You’re going to die.”  Well, no. No, I’m not.  Probably. I’m capable of traveling solo, and I usually don’t mind it. But I know many people would never dream of doing it, and that the lack of travel partners keeps many people firmly rooted at home.

Solution: If you can’t convince a friend/relative to travel with you, book yourself on a small group tour to the destination you want to visit. This way you’ll be able to make friends with the people in the group, and you won’t have to worry about doing any of the planning on your own.

Traveling with friends lets you have photos of yourself that aren’t selfies.

Fear #2: The fear of disaster

Tip #2:  Terrorists attack.  Planes crash.  Ships sink.  Earthquakes.  Hurricanes.  Mud Slides.  These kinds of worst-case-scenario fears, believe it or not, keep many people from traveling. They are the reason tourism suffered so much after the 9/11 attacks.

Solution: Stop worrying about things that are not likely to happen, and that you really have no control over anyway. Do you know the statistics behind terrorist attacks, plane crashes, or ships sinking? The numbers are so astronomically low that you are MUCH more likely to die in a car crash on your way to work than to fall victim to something beyond your control.  So ignore the media coverage, and take advantage of the circumstances.

Fear #3: The fear of flying

Tip #3:  I love flying.  I have piloted a plane before.  I have studied the mechanics and physics of flight.  I think it is awesome.  It seems unnatural that something this huge can soar through the air like a bird.  But it does.  It can.  It’s been happening for over 100 years.

Solution: As mentioned above, the chances of your plane crashing are statistically very slim. But knowing that doesn’t always help to alleviate fears.  So if planes terrify you, consider other transportation options — ships, buses, trains, cars, bikes, walking… there are plenty of ways to travel that will keep you on the move.

The world looks so different from above.

 Fear # 4 The fear of language barriers/culture shock

Traveling abroad to a place where you don’t speak the language and aren’t familiar with the culture can be understandably overwhelming. Most people want to hold on to at least some level of familiarity — that comfortable “bubble” of home — and worry about not being able to communicate or being crippled by culture shock.

Tip #4:   Start out simple, and travel first to countries similar to your own before branching out. Ease into the foreign cultures; sign up for day tours when you are abroad.  Meet people. [CouchSurfing is a great way to do this.  You can just meet for coffee if you don’t want to sleep on a stranger’s couch.  So is meetup if the idea of spending the night with a stranger terrifies you] Or, better yet, spend some time exploring your own country first! It’s amazing what can be done/seen in your very own backyard, especially if you live in a country as large and diverse as the U.S. or Canada or Australia.

Fear #5: The fear of mystery foods/getting sick

Along with culture shock and language barriers, people fear strange foods and the effects those strange foods might have on their digestive tracts while traveling. It seems silly, but I’ve worried about this, too!  I have celiac disease.  If I don’t know exactly what I am eating, it will wreck havoc on my body. Nobody likes being sick, and being sick abroad is even less appealing.  I would know.  I got malaria while traveling, and I was the sickest I have ever been in my life while traveling from Ecuador to Peru.  It sucked.  I finally worked up enough strength to go do a doctor, and I was scared about that too.  But you know what, I survived.  Third world medical treatment didn’t kill me.  It saved me [even if I was a terrible patient].

Tip #5 : Don’t completely avoid foreign foods, but be aware of what you’re eating. Go where the locals go when possible, and be sure to have your Tums and Imodium on hand just in case!  I ate ceviche along the coast–not inland.  I ate alpaca in the mountains, and fresh fruit as much as possible. Also be sure to educate yourself on the region you’ll be traveling — is it safe to drink the water? Are there certain foods to avoid? [I don’t want to eat any food made with blood–maybe it’s me, but I draw the line at body fluids as ingredients].

Fear #6:  The fear of getting robbed

Getting robbed, scammed, or otherwise ripped off is a common fear among would-be travelers — and it’s often a valid concern, depending on where you’re traveling. Some parts of the world are, in fact, known for scamming tourists, or for street robberies. It’s an unfortunate reality of travel.

Tip #6: Be alert, and be informed. Are there certain common scams that target tourists where you’re going? Are there specific areas of town to avoid? Know these things before you go so you know what to keep an eye out for. Also know that most robberies are non-violent… That is you are more like do ask “where did my stuff go?”  Did as in past tense. Another obvious tip would be to leave your valuables at home — if you don’t want to lose it, don’t bring it. If you really need a fancy camera or computer when you travel, make sure you keep it in a secure spot, and never let your bag out of your sight.   Even when you sleep.

Fear #7 The fear of getting lost

For some people, getting lost in a new city is all part of the travel experience. [like me… I don’t consider I’ve been there until I have taken the wrong bus, gotten off at the wrong station, or missed the stop entirely.] But for others, it would be far less than ideal, and can sometimes dissuade people from leaving their hotel rooms or venturing far from the group.
Tip #7: If you’re the type who hyperventilates when you’re convinced you’re lost, make sure to always get a local map (that you can read) before you go out exploring, and don’t be afraid to approach locals for help. Believe it or not,  getting lost can sometimes enhance your experience.

Fear #8: The fear of getting injured abroad

Nobody wants to think about that slim chance of getting seriously injured abroad — getting in an accident, breaking a bone, or winding up in the hospital with some mysterious virus. But of course there’s always a chance of something like this happening abroad, just as there’s a chance of it happening at home. However, the fear of it happening on the road — where hospital conditions can vary and language barriers could make it difficult to communicate with doctors — is usually much stronger.

Solution: First, realize that hospitals and doctors DO exist in other parts of the world — and most of them are perfectly safe. [I have used their services in Mexico, Peru,England, and Canada  and have worked for them in Mexico, Colombia, Peru, and Uruguay.] But if you want to avoid using them, don’t be an idiot. Don’t take unnecessary risks, or let yourself get so drunk that you start making stupid or dangerous decisions.

Fear #9 The fear of coming home

A less-obvious fear that sometimes accompanies long-term travel is the fear of what will happen after the adventure is over. If you quit a job to travel, how will that lapse affect your prospects of finding work?

Solution: Despite the rather widespread belief in America that long-travel is largely a waste of time, only for drop-outs, or those who can’t get a job,  don’t look at it that way. Travel is one of the best educational experiences a person can have, and the skills you pick up while navigating the world can often translate back to your life at home. [I have worked in health clinics that lead to my interest in health care.  I have taught English and health abroad.] Instead of worrying about how taking time off to travel will look on your resume, consider how your experiences abroad can actually set you apart from other people who may be applying for the same job.

The bottom line is that, yes, travel can be scary for a variety of reasons. But I implore you-if you are scared about some aspect of travel to set aside your fears and JUST GO.

When you look back on your life, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the ones you did.

Don’t let not traveling be one of your regrets.

Nov 20, 2015 - Wanderlust    No Comments

The most important disccovery of the 20th century

Apologies…more science

feel free to skip if science bores you, but I think it’s fascinating…

What do you thing the most important discovery of the 20th century was?  Flight?  definitely an important one, especially for us travellers. Einstein’s theory of relativity?   Sure, it’s important, but how often does the average person use it.  I’m going with the discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming in 1928.  Yes, I’m a science nerd [I have a degree in microbiology] but the discovery of penicillin is arguably one of the most important discoveries if you think of its effects on the health of everyone.   So number three in my medical museum adventures in the Alexander Fleming Laboratory Museum opened in 1993  Its centerpiece is a reconstruction of the laboratory as it was in 1928 in the actual room in which Fleming had made his discovery.  How cool is that?

Since photography isn’t allowed in the museum, let’s take this opportunity to learn a little bit more about our hero.

Fleming was born in a farming community in rural Ayrshire [Scotland] and had a very basic education – but he developed his powers of observation during the early years. Bored with being a shipping clerk in London he applied to be a surgeon but was turned down. [We can all be grateful for that ironic twist of fate.  He’d be the one spreading the germs instead of killing them.]

However, following receiving a small inheritance, he re-applied and became a medical student at St Mary’s excelling at all his exams. After graduation he joined the department of Bacteriology, headed up by Almroth Wright. He was one of those caricature flamboyant physicians who believed passionately in research, especially into typhoid, but not in keeping statistics [much like myself…I love experimenting, but keeping records, not so much]. His work was in immunization and this is the department that Fleming joined–working on lysosomes, one of our natural defenses against—wait for it— BACTERIA.

Everyone loves the story of how Fleming came to make his first major discovery regarding lysosymes. He had a cold and a drop of snot fell out of his nose on to a culture plate of bacteria which began to dissolve. Who would have ever thought snot would be the answer.

From there you probably know the  rest …  In the summer of 1928, Fleming left the lab for vacations but left some petri dishes containing the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus [a naturally occurring skin bacteria] on his laboratory bench. He was done with them, but for whatever reason didn’t clean up his work space before he left. On his return to work on 3 September 1928, he took one last look at them before asking his laboratory technician to sterilize them.

In a today’s lab, petri dishes are plastic, used only once and then destroyed. In 1928, they were made of glass and reused after being soaked in a shallow bath of disinfectant followed by a quick wipe. Let’s just say if lab hygiene in 1928 was similar to today’s standards penicillin may not have been discovered…. Anyway….. Something peculiar caught his eye and he said, “Hmm, that’s funny”, he said. The petri dish had been contaminated by a mold which had inhibited the growth of the bacteria.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Fleming went on to publish his findings – that the mold penicillin seemed to kill Bacteria – in 1929 and he continued to practice at St Mary’s. The problem then became how to manufacture ‘enough’ mold to be able to use it to combat sepsis, which was of the main killer of the times.

Ten or so years later the work continued at Oxford where two researchers, Howard Florey (from New Zealand) and Ernst Chain (from Germany), worked on the manufacture of penicillin. The start of world war II added impetus (and money) to the research project with the thinking being that wounded service personnel could be saved and turned round to fight again – by D-Day there was enough penicillin for every combatant.

Public recognition came in the shape  of a Nobel prize for all three men. [yay!]

Nov 19, 2015 - Wanderlust    No Comments

Carolinas Aviation Museum

What is the one thing I love almost more than anything else in the world?  If you happened to  guess airplanes, you’d be right. And what did I discover not too long ago?  We have an aviation museum right here in the Carolinas.  Charlotte, to be exact. I mean we should, being the birthplace of aviation, home of the first flight, ect, but you never hear about it.  The Smithsonian in Washington DC…yep, everyone knows about it.  Museum of Flight in Seattle, it’s pretty popular too, but the one in Charlotte, even I’d never heard about it.

I love planes.  I love flying.  It was at one time my dream to become an Air Force pilot and astronaut.  Fortunately, I did not pursue the astronaut path.  I’d still like to be able to get my private pilot’s license one day though, and I’d love to own a small plane. Any trip to Washington DC sees me spending at least an entire day at the Air and Space Museum so imagine my surprise when I found out there was a local museum dedicated to flight. The Carolinas Aviation museum is a small museum dedicated to flight activities in the Carolinas.  It has a lot of military planes, and quite a few US Air planes [including Piedmont Air which they bought out around 1990].

the requisite Wright flyer

the requisite Wright flyer

The museum is located on the grounds of Charlotte-Douglas International [who knew airports could be so much fun]. The museum’s claim to fame is the USAir flight that is now known as the Miracle on the Hudson.  The actual plane is there along with a ton of info about the plane. Unless you are in to planes and military history, you probably won’t find this museum as interesting as I did, but for me, it was a fun little side trip in exploring Charlotte, North Carolina.

peidmont airlines 2

CAM fighter

Military planes USAF and USN

Military planes
USAF, USMC, and USN

the Miracle on the Hudson plane USAir flight 1549

the Miracle on the Hudson plane USAir flight 1549

 

1549's kryptonite

1549’s kryptonite

 

I have a thing for bi-planes.

I have a thing for bi-planes.

 

I'd love to know what all the switches and buttons do.

I’d love to know what all the switches and buttons do.

 

more switches and buttons...at least this one has room for a co-pilot

more switches and buttons…at least this one has room for a co-pilot

Nov 18, 2015 - Wanderlust    6 Comments

Swimming with fairies and the beauty of Skye

When I was a little kid, I used to love to play make believe, and play in the creek behind my house. I’m sure that I wasn’t the only kid in the world who liked to play make-believe or play in creeks, but being as how I was an only child who lived out in the country far away from other kids, playing make-believe was a great source of entertainment for me. I loved to pretend that I was either invisible sea monster or a witch or better yet, an invisible sea monster-witch. Skye would have been a great place to grow up.

Can you imagine all the fun someone with an active imagination could have here?

Just imagine being an invisible fairy with eternal life and the power to enthrall people.. it’d make sense to live here, bewitching visitors to take off all their clothes [because now I’m a bawdy wench]. The spell of the Fairy Pools is that they look as if they must be warm…

I mean with that kind of vivid blue water it must be like the Caribbean Sea, but having come straight down from the Black Cuillins, they are anything but warm. The saying goes: temperatures in Scotland are either cold, bastard cold, or damn freezing cold. And checking in at a balmy 43F, I say these swimming holes are bastard cold.

Skye, Scotland

Skye, Scotland

Perhaps it is the fairy mischief that makes me want to jump into this amzing clear blue water. Water that is face-smackingly, lung-contractingly cold…wet-suit be damned… I jump in…ohmygod thisissofuckingcold…I clamber back out to catch my breath. Fairy magic…I haul my carcass out of the swimming hole, warm up, and dive in again and again. This is river swimming at its most magical.

The Isle of Skye is the largest of the Hebridean islands. It is easy to navigate, easily reached from the mainlaind village of Kyleakin, and has a huge variety of landscapes packed into a relatively small space. Scottish Gaelic is the predominate language of this part of the country , and in this area of around 10,000 people spread out over the islands, is raw wilderness.  Each sight is slightly more awe inspiring than the previous.

Just let the beauty of it all soak in for a minute, will ya?

Leaving Skye, I passed probably the most famous castle in Scotland. In my less than humble opinion, Eilean Donan Castle is the most beautiful castle in Scotland.  It’s even movie famous. Chances are you recognize it from a film or two.  Eilean Donan starred in Highlander, served as Sean Connery’s home in Entrapment, and was the Scottish Headquarters of MI6 in The World Is Not Enough. Anything related to the world’s most famous spy has my stamp of approval.

Nov 6, 2015 - Wanderlust    18 Comments

Germs, soap, and outcasts, oh my

Medical Museums

I graduated nursing school last October and as a flashback to that time in history, I’m dedicating the month of October to my fascination with all things nursing, medical, and otherwise health related.

First up in my orgy of medical museums and such is the Semmelweis Museum in Budapest, Hungary.   I feel bad for Semmelweis.  He made a major medical discovery, yet couldn’t explain it, so all his colleagues mocked him mercilessly, and then he died…a broken man.  Only to have his discovery proven right a few short years later.  He is one of the reasons we do a 2-minute scrub prior to entering surgical delivery rooms.

 

Here it is:  my ode to Semmelweis and his discovery of germs…

It’s a tiny little thing; it’s hardly ever seen.

But once inside, it can turn you  green.

Germs are many; treatments are few

For many years no one knew

What they were or their effects

Sickness was caused by air or a hex

Then Semmelweis figured it out

“Wash your hands” he wanted to shout.

But no one listened; no one cared

And no one cared how patients fared

A crusade against the little beasts he undertook

He gave speeches; he wrote a book

When he died he was outcast

But twenty years later, a hero he was–at last

Today entire classes are taught how to wash their hands

To wash away beasts tinier than a grain of sand

Semmelweis is the hero; he’s the man

Except to the microbes; talk of him in banned

semmelweis museum

Semmelweis’ father’s apothecary shop Semmelweis was a Hungarian doctor teaching medicine in Vienna. He noticed that the [male medical] students moved between the dissection room and the delivery room without washing their hands and their patients had a death rate of over 30%. [Oh, the infection control police at the hospital would be horrified] while the midwives’ patients, who didn’t do dissections, had a death rate of only about 2%. On a hunch, he set up a policy.  Effective immediately, doctors must wash their hands in a chlorine solution when they leave the cadavers.  Mortality from puerperal fever [aka childbirth fever] promptly drops to three percent and further drops to 1% after physicians began cleaning instruments in the same solution they washed their hands.

semmelweis museum 4
The museum is also a medical history museum

Now here’s the part of the story where things grow strange. Instead of reporting his success at a meeting, Semmelweis tells his boss, but his boss orders him to ‘stand down’. Semmelweis says nothing. Finally, a friend publishes two papers on the method. By now, Semmelweis has started washing medical instruments as well as hands.

semmelweis museum 6

The hospital director feels his leadership has been criticized [by Semmelweis]. He’s furious. Livid. Beyond angry. He blocks Semmelweis’s promotion. The situation gets worse. Viennese doctors turn on this Hungarian immigrant. They run him out of town. Finally, he goes back  home to Budapest.  He is an outcast among the “civilized” Austrian medical community. He brings his hand washing methods to a far more primitive hospital. He cuts death by puerperal fever to less than one percent. He does more. He systematically isolates causes of death. He autopsies victims. He sets up control groups. He studies statistics.  His has it all figured out.

semmelweis museum 2 Requisite skull with a whole in it

Finally, in 1861, he writes a book on his methods. The establishment gives it poor reviews. Semmelweis grows angry and polemical. He hurts his own cause with rage and frustration.  He calls his colleagues idiots and ignoramuses.  He bashes their stupidity. He turned every conversation to the topic of childbed fever.

After a number of unfavorable foreign reviews of his 1861 book, Semmelweis lashed out against his critics in a series of Open Letters.  They were addressed to various prominent European obstetricians, including Spath, Scanzonia, Siebold, and to “all obstetricians”. They were full of bitterness, desperation, and fury and were “highly polemical and superlatively offensive” at times denouncing his critics as irresponsible murderers.  He also called upon Siebold to arrange a meeting of German obstetricians somewhere in Germany to provide a forum for discussions on puerperal fever where he would stay “until all have been converted to his theory.”

By mid-1865, his public behavior became irritating and embarrassing to his associates. He also began to drink heavily; he spent progressively more time away from his family, sometimes in the company of prostitutes.  His wife noticed changes in his sexual behavior. On July 13, 1865 the Semmelweis family visited friends, and during the visit Semmelweis’s behavior seemed particularly inappropriate.  Later in 1865 he suffers a mental breakdown. Friends commit him to a mental institution. Semmelweis surmised what was happening and tried to leave. He was severely beaten by several guards.  He was put in straitjacket and confined to a darkened cell. Apart from the straitjacket, treatments at the mental institution included dousing with cold water and administering castor oil. He died after two weeks, on August 13, 1865, aged 47, from a  gangrenous  wound caused by the beating. His autopsy revealed extensive internal injuries, the cause of death  pyemia–the very thing he spent his life trying to eradicate.

semmelweis museum 3

Semmelweis was buried in Vienna on August 15, 1865. Only a few people attended the service.  Brief announcements of his death appeared in a few medical periodicals in Vienna and Budapest. Although the rules of the Hungarian Association of Physicians and Natural Scientists specified that a commemorative address be delivered in honor of a member who had died in the preceding year, there was no address for Semmelweis; his death was never even mentioned.

semmelweis museum 5
A memorial to Semmelweis, savior of women and children

That same year Joseph Lister [the person whom Listerine is named after] begins spraying a carbolic acid solution during surgery to kill germs. In the end, it’s Lister who gives our unhappy hero his due. He says, “Without Semmelweis, my achievements would be nothing.”

semmelweis museum 8
The anatomical Venus mad of wax…see I do see art from time to time

PS:  I don’t write poetry often; there is probably a reason for that

Oct 22, 2015 - Wanderlust    17 Comments

Looking for bears

It’s fall…and in my opinion one of the best things about fall is leaf color. We don’t always get a lot of color in these parts mostly because of our schizophrenic weather patterns [yesterday it was 80 and sunny…this weekend 50’s and cloudy] BUT the mountains of North Carolina aren’t too far away and the magnificent Blue Ridge Parkway is an easy drive away.

A couple years I heard about a phenomenon called Shadow of the Bear.  It’s in an area of NC more famous for its spectacular waterfalls and day hikes, but in the fall, it’s famous for the leaves.

Let’s go bear-hunting…

no, not those bears [all though those bears are very cute if you come in contact with them in a zoo, not so cute if you come across them while on your afternoon run]…

these bears…

One of the wonderful things about living in Arden, North Carolina is its relative proximity to both the southern Appalachian mountains, the South Carolina coast, and the major cities of Charlotte, North Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia.

Less than an hour away, nestled in the southern corner of the Nantahala Forest, in southwestern North Carolina, is one of the coolest natural experiences around…the shadow of the bear.  It happens twice a year–once from late February to mid March and the other from mid-October to mid-November.  The fall event is by far the most popular since it combines fall color with the bear’s appearance.  I like to imagine that the bear is slowing making its way across the mountain on its way to its winter hibernation…or waking up

It’s starts off with just a small peak of the bear’s head.

The bear makes its appearance for about 30 minutes each day [when it’s sunny, of course] each day revealing a little bit more.

If you happen to be into hiking exploring Whiteside Mountain can make this a worthwhile day trip.  The mountain’s cliffs look like sheets of ice draped across the mountain. The rock is somewhere between 390 to 460 million years old [what’s 70 million years between friends]. The 2-mile ‘moderate’ trail starts as a old logging road and takes you on top of sheer 750-foot high cliffs [plenty of railings for safety].  Follow the road for about a mile until you reach the top. The trail continues about 1/2 long the ridge of the mountain, plenty of places to enjoy the views from the rock face. There are quite a few “educational” signs along the way to add interest. Toward to end of the walk along the mountaintop, look for the highest point with the rock carved “Alt. 4,930 ft.” The last 1/2 mile part of the trail is a steep downhill section that leads you back to the logging road near the parking area.

The best viewing spot for the shadow of the bear is right off Highway 64 at Rhodes Big View Overlook.

Follow your travel dreams–one weekend at a time.
Weekend-Wanderlust-Logo

Oct 20, 2015 - Wanderlust    No Comments

Off to see the wizard…

What I am about to say might be considered blasphemy to some…I didn’t travel the yellow brick road to see the land of Oz and meet the Wizard until very recently… as in I read the books Wicked and Son of a Witch before I ever knew of Dorthy and crew.

the way to oz

I KNOW…what can I say?  I missed out on a lot as a child by not having a TV or living in a town without a movie theatre.

IMG_20151106_222536

So not being a huge fan and being an infant when it closed, I hope I can be forgiven for never having heard of Autumn at OZ. In its heyday the Land of Oz could attract 20,000 visitors a day, but now the neglected Yellow Brick Road is missing some bricks, the Wicked Witch of the West’s castle is empty and the Emerald City has disappeared.

yellow brick road

Truthfully, it’s a little bit creepy.

Local actors dress up as characters from the book/movie. Kids [and some very strange adults] dress up in costumes. Parents take pictures of kids with Dorothy and crew as if they were Santa Claus.

cast of oz

What it is:   From 1970-1980, there was a Wizard of Oz theme park not too far from where I live now. It’s located in Beech Mountain, NC and is open to the public for one weekend only…usually the first weekend in October. [This year is was open on Oct 3 & 4].  I say open to the public because it’s current owner is Emerald Mountain Properties and they rent out the cabins, property, ect to people who want to have private parties at the land of OZ.

If you want to go: Ticket usually go on sale in the beginning of August, and sell out quickly. This year they sold out in just TWO short Weeks. I’m not saying go or not go, but if you do, be aware that this isn’t a theme park by 2015 standards, or even 1975 standard; it’s a quirky, weird little park best suited to real, devoted Wizard of Oz fans.

Oct 20, 2015 - Wanderlust    11 Comments

Traveling the King’s Road from Montreal to Quebec City

Man oh man, do I love a good road trip.  Especially short, one day trips.  Why take the express route when there is a scenic, more enjoyable route available. And renting a car in foreign country always make me feel like an international princess.  Even if that foreign country is Canada–wait…. what?  that’s totally a foreign country… They even speak a language I don’t– French.


quebec king's highway 2

What’s even more spectacular about the King’s Road is that it can be bicycled in its entirety safely.  Not be me of course; I barely know how to ride a bike.  But if that’s your thing,  grab your bike and prepare for 160 miles of charm.  I’d stick to summer if I were you though  because Quebec can get quite chilly during those other three seasons.

quebec king's highway 4
Lots o’ charm on the Kings Road

The King’s Road was the first navigable highway in Canada dating back to the 1700’s.  It is a charming way to travel from Montreal to Quebec City. It passes through little hamlets and hugs the St. Lawrence River making for some excellent photography… especially during the fall foliage season

Quebec king's highway 5

Beginning in Montreal, head north towards Berthierville.  Join up on Highway 138, which is the King’s Road. But if you have the time, stop at Lake St. Pierre Archipelago, a UNESCO world heritage site, which has amazing scenery such as this.

Continuing north on 138, you will reach the city of Trois Rivieres or Three Rivers, founded in 1634 with its amazing stone cathedral.

After exploring Three Rivers, (and stopping for lunch) continuing north along  highway 138, you will go through the oh-so-cute village of Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, and its amazing church of the same name. Built in 1855 and bearing the features of a neo-Gothic cathedral, the church was modeled after the Notre-Dame Basilica of Montréal.

 


Continuing north on 138 you will come to a region known as Pontneuf. It is home to the municipalities of Neuville, Cap-Sante, Deschambault, among others, all of which are members of the Most Beautiful Villages of Quebec association.  Neuville was one of the first villages established in New France around 1665. Cap-Santé got its name from the sudden healing of the soldiers posted in the region. Its church is on the historical monument register and it is one of the last buildings of the French Regime in the region. Deschambault, where Jacques Cartier stopped on his second voyage because of the rapids, which were too dangerous for his ship and prevented him from going farther up the river. In each of these villages, you will find magnificent architecture dates back to the 18th and 19th centuries.

And finally, continuing on 138, you will reach Quebec City, a beautiful city of its own.

wandering around vieux quebec city in the fall

sometimes the weather gods are in your favour and you get not only spectacular blue skies but also incredible leaf colour*.

Leaves covering an old stone building

a white house, a slate roof, and a lime green door…next to a house covered in orange ivy

New England and by New England I obviously mean Quebec and eastern Canada know how to do Halloween. South Carolina is too hot for pumpkin carving. They turn to mush real quick.

more cities should have walls complete with cannons…way to go QC

chateau frontenac…in fall’s glory

Quebec City–early morning goodness


Stopping along the King’s Road to gaze at the beauty of driftwood…in Canada, and not near the ocean

more driftwood-y goodness


I hope you’ve enjoyed the visit to Quebec City by way of the King’s Highway. I know I did. I was quite taken with the charming city and even more so by the drive to get there.

quebec king's highway 7
stone cottages, red roof… I have died and gone to heaven.

 

*Sometimes when writing about Canada and to a lesser degree, England, I like to use the British/Canadian spelling and add in that -u- and reverse my -er to -re. Just one of many, many quirks.

Oct 19, 2015 - Life    No Comments

My bucket list–rediscovered

I’ve been packing up things and in true Michelle form, I take time to explore all the little pieces of paper I pull out from strange places. One of those little scraps of paper had the grandiose title of ‘THINGS I WANT TO DO BEFORE I DIE’,and while I’ve read quite a few blog posts about other people’s “bucket lists”, I hadn’t thought of writing a list of my own.  Oh how the past comes back to bite me… my own list was written in December 1999–as a joke among friends when we all thought the world would succumb to the Y2K bug.

THE LIST OF THINGS I WANT TO DO BEFORE I DIE

PLACES TO GO

THE USA:

  • Visit all 50 states [42 down, 8 to go]
  • See a Broadway play on Broadway [OCT 2011–acted as an usher and saw Wicked” for free–well, most of it anyway]
  • Climb to the crown in the Statue of Liberty [I climbed to the pedestal before it was closed for repairs in OCT 2011–close enough for me]
  • Ride a cable car in San Francisco [MAY 2012]
  • Go to Disney World and have fun as an adult [I never really had fun there as a child so maybe it would be different as an adult]
  • Kayak down the Everglades River in Florida [March 2000]
  • Party at Mardi Gras in New Orleans
  • See the Kentucky Derby live at Churchill Downs
  • See fall foliage in New England [OCT 2011]
  • Visit every professional baseball stadium [Camden Yards, Baltimore 2001, Yankee Stadium 2010, Turner Field 2008, AT&T Field 2012, Safeco Field 2012, Fenway Park, 2011, The Ballpark, Arlington, 1996, Citi Field, 2011, Wrigley Field, 2014, Citizens Bank Field, 2011, Tropicana Field 2005] *This is no longer a goal of mine… I’ll still go to a baseball game if I’m in an area and there’s a game available, but it’s no longer a top goal.
  • Visit every National Park in the US [I am about halfway there. Smoky Mountains NP was the first way back when I was a child in the 1980’s and the latest was  Mt Rainier National Park in October 2017]
  • Visit all the state parks in North and South Carolina [started August 2015; finished SC State Parks Jan 2017 currently working on NC state parks]

Sassafrass Mountain–SC’s highest state park

Canada/Mexico

  • see Niagara Falls (from both sides)
  • spend time in Quebec [Oct 2011]
  • visit Vancouver  [October 2016]
  • explore the Atlantic Islands
  • see the Northern Lights
  • go dog-sledding

Central/South America

  • Cross the Equator [September 2010, December 2010, June 2011]
  • Attend Carnival in Brazil [February 2011]
  • Visit Ushuaia on the Tierra del Fuego [December 2010]
  • Travel across the Salar de Uyuni [December 2010]
  • Take a boat on the Amazon River [April 2011]
  • see exotic animals in their natural habitat [visited the Pantanal April 2011]
  • explore the Amazon Jungle [May 2011]
  • cross the Panama Canal

Europe

  • Eat pizza in Naples, Italy [February 2006]
  • Climb to the top of the dome of St. Peter’s, The Vatican, Italy [February 2006]
  • Witness the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain
  • ‘authentic’ Spain in Andalucia
  • Attend La Tomatina in Valencia, Spain
  • Lay on a beach in Croatia
  • go to Ischia
  • Sail around the Greek islands
  • Island hop in Croatia
  • Experience the true Oktoberfest in Germany [Oktober 2015]
  • Drive on the Autobahn, Germany
  • Ride in a hot air balloon in Cappadocia, Turkey
  • Hunt vampires in Romania [January 2013]
  • ride on the Trans-Siberian Railway
  • cruise the fjords in Norway
  • see the reindeer in Lapland
  • attend the White Nights festival in St Petersburg
  • visit the Christmas markets in Germany [December 2014]
  • see the Matterhorn in Switzerland [Jan 2013]

Oceania:

  • Hike around Uluru in the Australian Outback
  • Climb the Sydney Harbor Bridge in Australia
  • visit one of the islands in the South Pacific

Africa:

  • Climb Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa
  • see the kitty cats in their natural environmnet
  • Go on a safari
  • visit Casablanca in Morocco
  • cruise the Nile
  • surf in South Africa

Asia:

  • Climb the Great Wall of China
  • visit Tokyo

Things to See

The U.S.:

  • The Grand Canyon [2012]
  • Redwood trees in California [2000]
  • Times Square, NYC [2011]
  • Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, New York City [2011]Las Vegas Strip [2012]
  • National Mall in Washington, D.C. [1990 again in 2011]
  • Space Needle, Seattle, Washington [2012]
  • St. Louis Arch
  • Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco [2012]
  • Alcatraz [2012]
  • Mount Rushmore
  • Pearl Harbour, Hawaii
  • The Alaskan Wilderness
  • South Beach, Miami, Florida [2010]

Europe:

  • Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey
  • Hadrian’s Wall, England [Aug 1997]
  • Abbey Road, London, England [September 2015]
  • All the cool sights in London [finally!] [2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016]
  • Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy [2006]
  • Colosseum, Rome, Italy [2006]
  • St. Peter’s Basilica, The Vatican, Italy [2006]
  • Ruins in Pompeii and Herculaneum, Italy [2006]
  • Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy
  • Acropolis in Athens, Greece
  • Diocletian’s Palace Croatia
  • The bridge of Mostar, Serbia
  • The ‘NEWBORN’ scuplture, Kosovo  [January 2013]
  • Red Square, Moscow, Russia [February 2009]
  • St. Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow [January 2009]
  • the LENIN, Murmansk, Russia [March 2009]
  • The Hermitage, St Petersburg [2009 and 2014]
  • Auschwitz, Poland [2014]
  • Dachau, Germany [2014]
  • Eiffel Tower, Paris, France [2012 and 2013]
  • Notre Dame, Paris, France [2013]
  • Rila Monastery , Bulgaria
  • Lake Ohrid, Macedonia/Albania

Asia:

  • Forbidden City, Beijing
  • Elephant Nature Park, Thailand
  • Pandas in China
  • Mount Everest
  • Angkor Wat, Cambodia
  • Taj Mahal, India
  • Temples in Bangkok, Thailand

The Middle-East

  • Petra, Jordan
  • Dubai, UAE
  • Jerusalem

Africa:

  • The Pyramids of Giza, Cairo, Egypt
  • Victoria Falls

South America:

  • Machu Picchu, Peru[2010]
  • Galapagos Islands, Ecuador [2010]
  • Iguazu Falls, Brazil/Argentina [2010]
  • Angel Falls, Venezuela [2011]
  • Easter Island, Chile

Oceania:

  • The Great Barrier Reef, Australia
  • Uluru, Australia
  • Sydney Opera House and Harbor Bridge, Australia
  • Tasmania

Adventures to have

  • Hike out on a glacier [Patagonia 2010]
  • Ride in a hot balloon [that’s not tethered to the ground]
  • Go white water rafting [Nantahala River, NC 2012]
  • Ride in a helicopter
  • See an active volcano up close
  • Drive in a country where they drive on the opposite side of the road [Ireland 1997]
  • Attend a professional sports game in another country (football, baseball, soccer, rugby, hockey, tennis, cricket, ect) [soccer, England 1997 and Peru 2010, baseball, Venezuela 2011, ice hockey, Canada 2011 and France 2013]
  • Celebrate Christmas in a different country [Argentina 2010, Lithuania 2014]
  • Celebrate New Year’s in a different country [Brazil 2010, France 2012]
  • Go on a cruise
  • See a favorite band in concert [2012, 2017]
  • Participate in a wacky cultural event/tradition/race
  • Be a balloon handler at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
  • Take part in an archaeological dig
  • Stomp grapes to make wine
  • Visit vineyards [Argentina 2010, 2011, California 2012, NC/SC 2015, Washington/Oregon 2016, 2017]
  • Visit a nude beach and go nude!
  • go skinny dipping
  • stargazing at an astronomy tower
  • jump off a cliff into water [OK so I sort of halfway did this…I jumped off a bridge–about a 40 ft drop– into a lake, and DO NOT want to repeat the experience at any distance higher than that]
  • Climb a volcano [Ecuador 2010]
  • go SCUBA diving
  • volunteer at an animal park
  • attend the Olympics *bonus if it’s in another country [I went to the ATL ’96 games and the Winter Olympics in Torino in 2006]
  • Go to the World Cup
  • attend Wimbledon
  • go kayaking in the arctic

Cool things to see:

  • Redwood trees in California [2000]
  • The Grand Canyon [2012]
  • Yellowstone National Park
  • Great Smokey Mountains NP [1980s]
  • Fall foliage in New England [2011]
  • Times Square, NYC [2011
  • Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island [2011]
  • New York City [2011]
  • Las Vegas [2012]
  • The Alaskan Wilderness
  • Alcatraz [2012]
  • Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco [2012]
  • Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
  • White Sands National Park in New Mexico

Other:

  • Antarctica
  • Earth from space
  • Icebergs up close [2011]
  • A geyser explode [Chile 2010]
  • Become fluent in a third language [perhaps Russian or German–I’m currently stuck in beginners level with both]
  • Learn how to drive a manual car
  • Fill up an entire passport with stamps [2010-2017 AND I had to have extra pages added]
  • Take surfing lessons [nearly died in Peru 2010]
  • Learn to snowboard or ski [FRANCE 2013]

Non-travel related things:

  • Design my future house
  • Become a homeowner and have a house party
  • Get certified in wilderness medicine
  • hike a multi-day trail solo [Foothills Trail 2017]

What can I say–I’ve always been an overly-ambitious soul…

Oct 10, 2015 - Wanderlust    No Comments

Surgery, history, and chemistry, oh my!

I LOVE all things related to medicine–especially the history of medicine and the science that goes along with it so given that I was ecstatic to visit 6! nerdy, science-y, medical-y museum in a span of two weeks. Not a super well known fact, but IRL I am a registered nurse and before that I worked as a registered respiratory therapist. There isn’t a single area in a hospital that I haven’t spent time in as a professional…Emergency rooms, YEP. Operating Rooms, YEP. Morgue during autopsy, YEP. Pharmacy Prep areas, YEP. Delivery Rooms, YEP. Intensive Care Units, YEP, and regular ole patients’ room. I’ve worked in them all at some point or another. SO, it should come as no surprise to anyone, that I LOVE all things related to medicine. Enter the Operating Museum and Herb Garret, Science Museum, Hospital Museum, Pathology Museum, and Florence Nightingale Museum. All located in London and all open to visitors. [However, they are not all free].  The Semmelweis Museum in Budapest makes up the sixth museum in this sext-fecta of historical medical museums.

First up…The Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garret aka one of the coolest and best museums in LONDON.

operating museum 10

In the shadow of the Shard, near all the cool and modern construction that is going on near London Bridge, lies The Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garrett.  It is a spectacular little museum filled with tons of historic and interesting items related to medicine, pharmacy, and surgery; it is also one of those museums that you don’t necessarily hear a lot about and even if you do, you are still not really sure where it is.  It’s hidden away in the roof space of what was once St. Thomas’ church. It was closed last time I was in London, so I made sure that I’d be able to go in this time. Missing the old Operating Theatre twice probably would have killed me. Thankfully, we won’t have to find out.

The Old Operating Theatre is a bit hard to find.  I found it as I find most things, by wandering, but that’s not the recommended way of getting there. It’s a bit off the beaten tourist path in London [still Zone 1, still in the city].  If you can find the fabulous Borough Market, which is celebrating 1000! [let that sink in a moment] years in Southwark, then you can find the old operating theatre. I whole-heartedly recommend visiting the market for food and drink and then some more food…[perhaps after the museum if you tend to be a bit squeamish] Anyway…you wander down St Thomas Street and as you do so, you are greeted by this ever-so-slightly alarming skull. And this is one of the many reasons I love London. It’s not often that a skull greets the visitor at a proper museum. operating museum 1

What’s far MORE alarming, at least to me and my propensity to trip and fall on staircases and hurt myself, is the never-ending spiral of stairs [32 tiny, narrow stairs, in case you were counting] that lead up into the old operating theatre. It DOES take some effort, but it IS worth it.

operating museum 8

First is the herb garret. The heady scent from the big bowls of medicinal herbs and spices will smack you violently in the face the second you go inside, so be prepared for that. Once inside there are numerous displays of herbs, spices, medicinal plants, distillations, tinctures and powders, all with thoughtful hand-written explanations and thoughtful captions such as this description for Motherwort, taken from Maud Grieve’s A Modern Herbal (1931): “Especially valuable in female weakness and disorders…allaying nervous irritability and inducing quiet and passivity of the whole nervous system. Good against hysterical complaints.”  [because you know those damn Victorians were obsessed with curing ‘female weakness and hysterical complaints’]

operating museum 5

There isn’t a square inch of free surface space in the place – it’s an apothecary of chaos. The ambiance created by the smell is absolutely fantastic – there’s a sense of life and of discovery, purely down to the mixing aromas of all the ingredients in the room. It is visually stunning, and somewhat overwhelming, but it *feels* real. I can almost imagine I’m in the old-school apothecary where they just grab a little of this and a bit of that, call it a prescription and send you on your way. And whether or not they’re sure of which herb goes where, who knows? But you get a real sense for the magic and the experimental spirit that lead us to modern pharmacy we have today.

herb manual

 

Potion making at old operating museum

Once you’ve had your fill of the apothecary [or if the smell starts to get to you], head on to the back to the Operating Theatre. This is the earliest surviving example of an operating room in Europe, [circa 1850 or therabouts] ,and it’s pretty impressive. This one was a teaching theatre, and you really feel that priority was given to the spectators in this environment.

operating museum 2

At times, I tend to have an over-active imagination, and it is easy to picture the gruesome scene– well-attired medics sawing through flesh, blood squirting everywhere, scholars craning their necks for a closer look, and for those without strong stomachs– swooning, or making a mad dash for the nearest bed pan; and let’s not forget the blood-curdling screams of the patients…imagine this…a patient is lying on the operating table…wide awake and staring wide-eyed right back at the surgeon. Anesthetics hadn’t been discovered yet and patients were given the option of whisky, opium, or being knocked out by being hit on the head with a mallet.

Surgical technique was still a bit of a idiomatic expression; surgeons relied on swift amputation techniques, the faster you could remove a limb the better a surgeon you were. Most patients died of infection rather than the actual blood loss or surgery and the old frock coats worn by surgeons during operations were, according to a contemporary, ‘stiff and stinking with pus and blood.’

hospital museum 6

Patients often had injuries which prevented them from taking the spiral staircase up to the theater, and were therefore transported into the theater via a pulley system and an opening in the wall behind the current chalkboard. The ground would also be covered in straw to help prevent blood from dripping onto patrons of the church below the theater. [because that would be rude…taking communion to received the body and blood of Christ only to receive the ACTUAL blood of John Smith or some other mere mortal]

Museum visitors are also provided with a first-hand account for good measure:

The first two rows… were occupied by the other dressers, and behind a second partition stood the pupils, packed like herrings in a barrel, but not so quiet…The confusion and crushing was indeed at all times very great, especially when any operation of importance was to be performed, and I have often known even the floor so crowded that the surgeon could not operate until it had been partially cleared. There was also a continual calling out of “Heads, Heads” to those about the table whose heads interfered with the sightseers.

Having observed [and had!] surgery up close and personal as well as from a gallery [in the 21st century], I much prefer the 21st century way of doing things.

Exit the theatre and one can examine the instruments of torture: tools for trepanning; row after row of blades, designed for every imaginable variety of amputation; and even a physician’s stick, used for walking, but also held across the patients mouth as a restraint during surgery – as evidenced by the surviving teeth marks. This was by far my favorite part of the museum.

hospital museum 5

Elsewhere, there are areas dedicated to the use of animals in medicine (leeches or maggots anyone?), bizarre Victorian contraptions for the hard of hearing, and a number of human organs pickled in formaldehyde, including a pair of lungs blackened by the London smog.

operating museum 11