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June 1st- 2018
My vacation is almost over, so I have to start working my way back home, it's going to be winter soon. Luckily, I will be able to squeeze in one last stop before I finally put my fins up and RELAX! Although this vacation has been amazing, all this traveling is tiring.
This week I am continuing my island hopping to an archipelago in the Indian Ocean made up of 115 islands. These islands have the smallest population than any other country on the continent it is part of. And, there are a lot of countries to compare it to. There are also many other, larger, island nations around me. On my journey I had passed one to my southwest. Although, everyone has heard of it, I decided to keep going. I saw a movie that showed it is very hard to get off this island and get home, especially since I am an animal.
Although it is very possible that Arab traders visited these islands, the first documentation of these islands don’t appear in history until Vasco de Gama in 1502. But, like many other nations, Britain eventually gained control, in another Treaty of Paris. (I have learned about so many Treaty of Paris’. Do they ever meet in other cities?) Independence was not granted until 1976.
It took a while for the nation to organize themselves. In 1977 a coup d’etat ousted the first president of the republic. I found the government of this nation very interesting. The constitution, which has now been amended, declared a one socialist party that lasted 12 years. Presidents are elected every 5 years, but there is no limit on how many terms they can run. The 2nd president, who took office in ’77, continued to be elected until 2006, when he stepped down to his vice president. Very different from the United States government, although they do have a cabinet and a legislature.
I am still in Spain! Well, not exactly, but when I got here I found out that my new destination is considered Spanish territory. Although an autonomous archipelago, since it is not part of the European continent, the islands are one of the outermost regions of the European Union. I really would have thought they would have been part of a southern continent.
Earliest European contact is thought to have been with the Portuguese, although there is not enough evidence. The first documented conquest started with Castilian kingdom. One of the major exports of the islands was sugar cane, although they faced stiff competition from the American Spanish colonies in the 18th & 19th centuries.
The current population is just over 2 million, the most inhabited island having a population of 906, 854 and the smallest having 10,960. And, the population is growing more each year with the arrival of new African immigrants. It must be wonderful to live on one of these islands; the climate is subtropical, which means that they have long warm summers and moderately warm winters. Not too hot in summers, and no cold winters! With all the beaches and growing tourism there are also tons of water sports and activities to participate in.
I thought I might see some beautiful birds here, but more likely the islands are going to the dogs!
I love flipping through the Mediterranean Sea. I feel so free after being confined to land for so long. From here it has been very hard to determine my next stop. There are so many continents, countries and bodies of water that border the Mediterranean, the possibilities are innumerable. I finally made my decision after learning about this country’s deep rooted Christian roots and Easter celebrations.
Easter is celebrated in every corner of this country, and each city, town and village does it in its own special way. Almost anywhere you go the streets become the stage for religious fervor and devotion, combining grief and meditation in memory of Jesus’ crucifixion. Cities hold parades which combine music, art and color in a magical procession. A solemn event, people accompany religious images on the route through the towns. Some include drums, bugles, scenes from the bible or people waving palm leaves… There are also many delectable treats that the people indulge in at this time. The one that sounded the best for me, similar to French toast, were torrijas; slices of bread soaked in sugar, milk and egg; then fried in olive oil. The hardest part was choosing which topping; they can be presented with wine, syrup, honey, or cinnamon sugar. I don’t know if the children here get Easter baskets, but there are special Easter candies that the children here love. Monas de Pascua are chocolate shapes that have a surprise inside.
I was a little surprised to learn about how strong the Catholic faith was in this country based on the little history I did know. This country was once part of the Carthaginian Empire, who practiced polytheism and later, the Moors brought Islam. It is also interesting that during their 700 year reign the Moors built grand cities, and spread education. During the 8th century when the Moors invaded, 99% of Christian Europe was illiterate, including kings and nobles. By the 10th century when the rest of Europe had no public libraries and only 2 universities, this area had 70 libraries and 17 universities.
Besides the Easter festivities, I also wanted to experience some of the local culture and history. I was very excited to get to wear my cowboy gear, I felt like I was going to a rodeo. Although they don’t do bull riding, this clash included bulls and men on horseback, who put on quite the show. Bulls were originally part of the religious culture, and these events took place in Celtic-Iberian temples which included ceremonies and sacrifices. It was the Greek and Roman influences that made it the spectacle it is today. I also went dancing one night, and got excited because I thought there were going to be flamingo dancing, but I was mistaken. It must have been the language barrier.
I am heading south, and thankfully moving closer to water. I am now surrounded by water, well at least on most sides. And, when I leave I will be able to swim down the 3rd longest river of this country right into the Tyrrhenian Sea and then to the Mediterranean.
I am doing a two for one this trip… visiting 2 cities in one, or really two countries in one. I would really love to visit the country side and sample the fine vino, but there is so much to do in the major cities that I don’t think I will have time. Although not all of the sites I plan on visiting are aquatic, to me they are still some of the most wondrous in the ancient world. The one I am most excited to visit can actually be flooded. I wonder if they ever had any dolphins present during the sea battle simulations? I also visited some fountains, and took a bath. Taking a bath in ancient times included a lot more than it does today.
Under the streets is a completely forgotten city that over time became a museum, consisting of theaters, baths, stadia, imperial villas, apartment buildings, fire stations, and pagan temples -- even an enormous sundial that used an Egyptian obelisk as a pointer. Some of the city disappeared due to natural silting and intentional burial; old buildings would be filled with dirt to create solid foundations for new structures and the former buildings became landfills that raised the ground level of the neighborhoods by several yards. A fire is 64 A.D. finished off two-thirds the city, and the emperor decided to start rebuilding the whole things from scratch, according to his liking. If you are lucky, you can even get a tour and explore this underground realm.
I also visited la più piccola città. With only a population of 800, its tourists number much more than that. Even though this country was only established in 1929, it’s Bishop has been associated with the region since the 1st century, and has a long history. I will definitely have to attend mass while I am here. It is amazing to consider the historical, artistic and religious history associated with this small country. The basilica alone is like a museum, from the ceiling above to the tombs below.
Bonjour, Buon Giorno, Gutten Tag, Bun Di... I had a lot of studying to do over the last week. The country I am visiting now has four official languages; three of which are languages from neighboring countries. Je suis fatigue. Je ne nage pas. I had a little more trouble traveling this week because of the landlocked location. It took a while to get my land legs, or fins, but once I did I decided to do some hiking and mountain climbing. Like my trip to Newfoundland, I hope to meet some cute & cuddly pups, but instead of rescuing drowning swimmers they will probably be rescuing climbers in that grand pass Napoleon traveled through.
In school we learn that Clara Barton developed the American Red Cross, but she got the idea after visiting Europe and learning of this country's international movement. It's no surprise that this country, so intent on saving and protecting human lives, has historically followed a policy of neutrality.
Before I go I was thinking of opening a bank account. They seem to be pretty good with their money and they seem to take good care of their clientele.
Aurevoir, Ciao, Auf Wiedersan...
I’ve been very busy trying to visit as many places as possible. I had an amazing time in Ireland and am heading south east for two more incredible spots. Not much is known about the early people of my first stop. This region was eventually inhabited by Celts, who intermingled with the prehistoric peoples and created an organization of Celtic tribes. Although there have been many names given to this region, including Romanized names describing its seaside location, the one that stuck was the one that referred to the origin of the Celts who immigrated to the land to escape Anglo-Saxon invaders. Throughout their history the people of this region felt very disconnected from the rest of the country. They did not take to Romanization and during the Middle Ages few spoke the nations language. I didn’t really know much about this area until I arrived here, although “Dove of Death,” one of the books in my favorite series, Sister Fidelma, takes place here. The geography also appealed to me; it is largely a coastal region. Although it is mostly a long jagged coast in the north, the south has some nice beaches. While there I did some body surfing; the size of the waves were amazing. The distance between the high tide and low tides marks can be up to 49 feet in some bays. Due to this the height and speed of incoming tides is awesome. I even rode a 100 foot high wave. I wonder if Fionnuala has ever thought about visiting here.
Moving east the 2nd region I am visiting was easy to access, I just had to swim through the English channel up to the nice beaches. I saw the coolest thing on my way. These 3 guys were driving a pickup truck across the channel from Britain and landed on le plage. This region, like my first stop, was also inhabited by Celtic tribes who replaced the Neolithic peoples. After that Julius Caesar’s armies conquered the land. Emperor Diocletian gave control of this province, as well as Britain to Constantius. The later collapse of the Roman Empire lead many groups fighting over and claiming control of this area, including the Franks, a Germanic Tribe and Vikings. It’s name actually comes from its occupation by the Vikings, because it was the “country of the Northmen.” In more modern history, its close location proved to be a major factor in the victory of the allied powers.
In addition to learning about the rich history I had a great time visiting some of the local sites; chateaus & manors, churches & abbeys. Some of the most interesting landmarks were from the time of William the Conqueror. Due to the geography they offer tons of beach activities, including; sailing, windsurfing, surfboarding, kitesurfing, sand-yachting and skimboarding. I had a lot of fun!
I had a wonderful Christmas vacation and hope you did as well! I'm visiting the home of some of my ancestors on this leg of the trip; I went to two of my favorite west coast cities. My first stop was a peninsula right on the coast. The economy was always based on fishing and farming, but more recently tourism has become increasingly important, especially since the filming of a major motion picture in 1969. The town was established as a port after the Norman invasion, and later became a walled city. The streets of the town are very hilly and the lay out still reflects the history as a walled city. If possible I would love to come back in August for the regatta. The highlight of my trip was swimming around with Fungie, my 2nd cousin- twice removed, for a little bit. We got to pose for pictures with many boat tours around the harbor. I ended my stay with a ride around through the hills and cliffs, unfortunately it was so foggy that I could not see down into the town or over the harbor.
My second stop was a little farther inland. It is the location mentioned in my favorite lullaby from when I was little, and was sung by Bing Crosby in “Going My Way.” The prosperity of this town was halted in 1845 due to the potato blight, but by 1850 tourism picked up again. Queen Victoria even planned a visit and stayed at the estate of the Herbert’s, who remained in their home and helped with famine relief. I spent a lot of my time in the national park, with the rolling greens hills. I first went horseback riding and then took a hike up the waterfalls. I even visited the Herbert’s estate. My trip was topped off with a stop in their quaint town, where you have your choice of restaurants, pubs and shops.
For my next destination I traveled across the Gulf from Panama, around Florida and up a few degrees of latitude. Not quite to the North Pole, but definitely heading that way! Since this province is an island I will feel more at home, although the temperatures here will definitely be a lot lower than where I am from. I am hoping a meet a few cute and cuddly playmates on my trip. I’ve heard their dogs are known for swimming, so hopefully they will hop in the water and swim with me for a bit. They also look big enough to pull Santa’s sleigh if Rudolph ever needs help!
If you are ready to bundle up there are many outdoor activities, but be ready for the cold because there are frigid temperatures 8 months of the year. You can go boating, diving, bird watching, or hiking, which is probably the best choice. The towns are quaint and offer great food and lodging. I am planning on staying in St. John’s due to the traditional Irish atmosphere.
The geography of this area is very similar to the United States’ New England coast. The coast line is very rocky and the area is known for it’s fishing, especially cod, but over fishing has greatly decreased the cod in these waters. Inland there are very few forests, made up mostly of lakes and marshes.
Most of the people are of Irish and English decent, again, very similar to my home of New Zealand. The indigenous unfortunately were killed, like so many in North America, by European diseases. The first to create a settlement, besides the natives, were the Vikings in 1000 a.d.. Jacques Cartier and John Cabot are also reported to have visited, which lead to the increase of Europeans. Although the French and English fought over this land, and it changed hands many times, it officially became part of Great Britain in the Treaty of Paris in 1763. This province, and it’s country, gained independence in 1867.
Merry Christmas Y’all
I learned so much in San Francisco, I'm excited to continue my travels in the Americas. Traveling south I followed a central spine of mountains that is this country’s dominant geographic feature. This country has over 500 rivers and borders two major bodies of water. Geographically it is an isthmus and this characteristic later makes this country an important part of world commerce.
Another one of Spain’s early colonies; it was first explored by Bastidas and then Columbus. It wasn’t until later that Vasco Nunez traversed the land and discovered the Balboa Sea. This country remained part of the Spanish empire for 300 years. It declared independence in 1903 with the United States support.
President Roosevelt had very close connections with this country and began a critical, 10 year, building project. This was the second attempt to build, the original was under French leadership. Unfortunately the French failed when a large number of workers died from malaria. The United States controlled all commercial comings and goings through this country until the 1970s when it was placed under joint control. Finally in 1999 this country gained full control of their lock system.
I am leaving Asia and heading out across the ocean for my next destination. The original, native inhabitants settled in this region because the bay provided many natural resources. A peninsula, the area is known for its hilly geography. Unfortunately, like many areas around the world, the Europeans pushed the native populations out of their homes to settle the land for themselves. In the late 1500’s both Spanish and English explorers passed by and mapped the area, but never fully explored the bay. In 1769 a Spanish soldier claimed the land for Spain. Seven years later a Majorcan Franciscan friar set up a mission to convert the natives living in this part of the Spanish colony. (Fun fact: on September 25, 1988, Pope John Paul II beatified this Friar.)
In the 1821, the region where this city is located won independence from Spain, but just 27 years later the land was handed over to a new country in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. This city had a relatively small population that all of a sudden boomed overnight with the discovery of gold. Many came to this area to claim their fortune, while others came to run businesses and make money off those mining. This growing city not only brought settlers from the west, but also many immigrants from the east. Most toiled in mines and worked laboriously on the railroads. Many others used this as a chance to build their fortunes. These tycoons built mansions on nob hill, more like snob hill.
Although the large population increase of this city helped the territory gain statehood, the early city was chaotic. There was much crime and corruption, not helped by the vigilantes. By the late 1800’s the city began to grow and develop into a major metropolis. In 1896 the new mayor helped raise funds to build new hospitals, schools, sewer systems, parks and libraries. In the midst of the city’s rise, a devastating earthquake caused horrible damage, as well as fires that ravaged the city for days, resulting in the destruction of 80% of the city. Fortunately that did not stop the citizens and they worked hard to rebuild. It is now one of the top cities in the country; it has the 13th largest population and has been ranked one of the 100 most visited cities in the world.
P.S. Happy Thanksgiving! I was lucky enough to indulge in some wonderful turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry chutney and apple pie- all that was missing was Miss Minot's pumpkin bread! Hope you all enjoyed your holiday.
After Fiji, I am continuing a northward route, finally hitting the mainland. The country I have decided to visit next is so vast, the geography tends to change from region to region. There are mountain ranges (including a large range along its southwest border), a desert to the north, plateaus, rivers and fertile river basins. In fact it is these fertile rivers, like so many other places in history, that gave way to civilization. Due to its size, it also has varied climates. Northern regions can have frigid winter temperatures below zero, but the central area is milder with temperatures ranging from 30 degrees in the winter to 80 degrees in the summer. The east, bordering the Pacific, has hot wet summers, while the western desert can have temperatures in the 100 degree range.
The first recorded dynasty, or developed civilization, is recorded to have lasted from 1700-1046 B.C. From there many dynastic periods ruled this country until the 20th Century. These dynasties faced lows and highs over 3,000 years; from the threat of invasions to the building one of the wonders of the world (specifically one of the 7 Wonders of the Medieval World). This country is credited with inventions that have changed how the rest of the world developed. In the 1200’s they also hosted a famous Italian who learned much about their culture and brought this knowledge back to Europe.
Happy Veteran’s Day to all those who served back in the States.
*Bonus points if you can name two inventions that changed the world. (Hint, one is militaristic & one maritime.)
Growing up in New Zealand I always wanted to visit Australia, and I wasn't disappointed. I set out on a Northwest course for my new destination. I haven't decided if I want to enjoy the white sandy beaches of the islands or trek through the luscious rain forests. Even though, by nature I am more at home swimming through the waters off the beach, I think I would like to try zip-lining.
Although an independent country, it's nationalities are a mix of indigenous, Indian, European, Chinese and more. With such a wide range of inhabitants, I was surprised to learn its official language is English. Well, maybe it wasn't so surprising, since, like many other nations, Britain did hold it as a colony from 1874-1970. Going back in history, it is though that this country was first inhabited by Polynesians in 1500 B.C. Before this, the island were of created by volcanoes. There are 332 islands, although only 110 are inhabited. Relatively, they are only the size of New Jersey. Obviously there are many sandy beaches; there are also many mangrove forests. The Coral Coast, on the main island, is very popular for its beautiful lagoons and palm trees, although I hear the snorkeling is not as good.
In more modern history, this island didn't show up on any radar until it's first European settlement was established in 1822. Following this, it became a site for missionaries. Christian missionaries arrived in 1830, followed by Methodist missionaries in 1835. One of its first encounters with the United States was in 1849 after John Williams', a U.S. settler, had his shop accidentally destroyed by cannon fire and looted by natives. The intimidating U.S. navy then arrived in 1851 to demand money for Williams' losses. Unfortunately, Williams' home was destroyed four years later, and the USS John Adams demanded recompense and took over a few islands as credit. From the 1820's on, many wars began to break out between the natives. Finally in 1874, after one of these wars, Chief Cakobau finally ceded the island to Britain.
I came ashore on the Northern coast, near a town named for the famous naturalist, who sailed on the Beagle. It is recorded that he came to this country, and the surrounding islands, during the last 2 years of his travels, from about October 1835-March 1836. I then swam down the eastern coast and did some of the best diving the world's oceans have to offer, it's a shame that with the damage being done to our environment these natural wonders may not be here for future generations to dive on and enjoy. The breathtaking coral and marine life is exquisite, one of the Seven Wonders of the World!
I then landed at the south eastern tip of the island and visited Victoria, named after Queen Victoria, the British monarch. One of the number of colonies the British controlled, this nation did not receive official independence until 1901. In Victoria, I stayed in one of the major cities for some R&R before going on a trek. Due to the rough terrain, most of the population lives along the coasts. Before starting my travels I met a mate named Dundee, who showed me the ropes and offered to guide me through this rough terrain. He seems to have been the original Crocodile Hunter. Starting in the southeast we crossed mountains the color of the sky, but once you get to the interior, it is mostly desert. We ran into some mean looking critters; wombats, crocs, lizards and snakes. However, there were a few cute & cuddly ones too. I saw a lot of marsupials, a platypus or two, and some who smell like Halls cough drops.
'Til next time,