Tag Archives: Island

Happy Place – WPC (11 Images)

Happy place. I taste the words. A place where I feel happy. Where I go to let go of stress and frustrations. And worries. A place where I can laugh or cry. And where my soul can rest.

There are many such places, I realize. For different uses. But all my happy places have one thing in common. Water. On the water. Near the water.

There are everyday happy places right here at home. Like standing barefoot in the shallow water watching the sun dive into the Gulf. Or a catamaran sail into the sunset.

sunset on sat ud26 sunset sail ud26Or sitting on “my” bench next to the deep water at the salt marsh, listening to Mockingbird’s song and watching Mama Osprey enjoy her garden.

salt marsh next to the osprey nest HPmama osprey in the nest UD26

These are everyday happy places. Places to run to whenever I feel in need of soothing stillness surrounded by nature.

And then there are special happy places. Treats of complete happiness not enjoyed every day. Like an afternoon on a small island inhabited only by birds and dolphins.  Or a day spent on the water with family.

3 rooker bar island boat hp

Or hikes on old, unspoiled islands. Diving into happiness as it used to be long before my time. Special treats of happy.

caladesi island beach hphiking 2 on caladesi hp

And then there are forever happy places. Places with traces of my short history here on earth. Places that remember me. From the time my tiny feet felt the cool water for the first time. Where I return to find peace. Sitting on a rock alone with the moon. Enveloped in warmth on a summer night.

Lake in the fall hp

I wish you all a happy week.  Wherever your happy place might be. You can find other responses to this challenge here.

Another Piece of Paradise

Some time ago I wrote about finding the paradise on earth and mentioned two groups of islands, Mauritius and Seychelles, that I think come fairly close to my definition of paradise. I wrote a post about Mauritius almost a year ago and now thought that, for weekend reading, I would dive into the natural beauty of Seychelles, and the tiny island of La Dique in particular.

Some years ago we made a memorable visit to Seychelles. We stayed on the main island of Mahé, close to the capital, Victoria. Our hotel was right on the beach surrounded by lush, green tropical gardens.

We spent some lazy days walking on the beautiful beach and lapping sun around the pool, decompressing from our hectic life filled with work.

After a few days of complete relaxation, we decided to explore these islands little more. We wanted to experience the “Seychelles of yesterday”, the famous, untouched beauty of La Dique.

Early one morning we took a small plane from Victoria to the island of Praslin. From the airport we took a taxi across the pretty island – from north west to south east – to the jetty, where we caught a small freight boat, an old-fashioned schooner, to the island of La Dique. And soon arrived in paradise.

The azure waters were clear, the sand was soft and white-pinkish, the palms and the famous rock formations were breath-taking. It felt like one had arrived at the beginning of times…

This tiny island has about 2000 inhabitants. There are very few cars, bicycles and ox carts provide for transport. The island has many tropical forests and coconut groves, and the Aldabra Giant Tortoises that can live for centuries “stroll” around the island…

Seychelles is one the most environmentally aware countries in the world and has protected its natural environments to the extent that they feel truly untouched. This was very evident everywhere on La Dique.

I could not get enough of the azure waters and the wind sculpted smooth rocks surrounding the sparkling white beaches.

La Dique left a lasting impression…and I hope to go back there one day. Just have to remember to book more than a year in advance as the accommodations on the islands itself are few and sought after…For now, I think I’ll stay a while and paint in the shade of these beautiful rocks.

Bye now and have a beautiful weekend.

Hello Greece!

I have been fascinated by Greece since I was in high school and studied Greek mythology and the teachings of the great philosophers.  Luckily I have had several opportunities over the years to visit and get a small glimpse of the history as well as the natural beauty of this country. So today I wanted to take a break from poetry and tell you about Greece from a visitors point of view.

Athens has been called the cradle of the Western civilization. It’s one of the oldest cities in the world, with over 3000 years of recorded history. It was the cultural and political powerhouse of Greece and the home of famous ancient learning centers, such as Plato’s Academy and Aristotle’s Lyceum.

new and old side by side in Athens by tiny lessons blog

Today’s Athens is a bustling metropolis with over 3 million inhabitants in the greater Athens area, of which a bit less than 700,000 live in the city itself.

One can still feel the wings of history throughout the city that retains many ancient and other more recent historical monuments, the most famous of which is the Parthenon temple on the Athenian Acropolis.

The last time we visited Greece, several years ago now, we were lucky to be invited by friends who were stationed in Athens at the time. They showed us around the city from Acropolis to the churches, monuments, museums and historical buildings. I could feel the past there, the culture and education, the wars and the invaders – all these influences were still present in the air.

Downtown Athens is lively with colorful flower shops and fruit markets, shops for Greek handicrafts and other souvenirs, boutiques and of course, packed with one cozy street café after another, and excellent restaurants where one can enjoy the famous Greek cuisine accompanied by authentic bouzouki music.

Our friends lived on one of the hills surrounding the downtown area – with cleaner air and wonderful views of Athens, both day and night!

After a few days of exploring Athens in the sweltering August heat, we felt the need to cool down! So we decided to visit one of the numerous islands in the central Aegean Sea, Paros. We had not visited this island previously, and discovered that to go there one could travel on a large cargo vessel from Athens’ harbor. That was an adventure in itself as only a few “passengers” were allowed onboard on any given voyage. So off we went on this large vessel early in morning, spent most of the day on the deck admiring all the small islands en route, and arrived in Paros late in the afternoon.

Paros has been known for its white marble, and somehow the sight approaching this island in the late afternoon sun was fitting this historical fact: clear blue water and blue skies enveloping the dazzling whitewash buildings.

The municipality of Paros consists of numerous small islets, many uninhabited, and one can easily reach a number of other islands from Paros, so much of the life on the main island is focused on marine activities: water transport by ferries, catamarans and sailing boats, whether of inhabitants or visitors. And on fishing, of course.

In the town of Parikia, and in the smaller villages around the island, most houses are built and decorated in the traditional Cycladic style, with flat roofs and whitewash walls.

The tempo on this picturesque island is pleasant and leisurely, inviting the visitor to enjoy the small moments of life, like sitting down in a small side street café for a drink of ouzo and a plate of mezés in the middle of the afternoon.

In recent years, Paros has become more popular as a tourist destination. It has lots to offer in terms of clear blue waters, white beaches and numerous small secluded coves where one can still enjoy the sun and the sea breeze in relative privacy.

Paros is also attractive to surfers due to the wind conditions in the strait between Paros and neighboring Naxos, and visitors can engage in a variety of other watersports as well.

A visit to Paros, or one the other small islands in the Aegean Sea, is truly relaxing. One understands what Heraclitus meant when he said “the sun is new every day”. And by combining an island stay, or even island hopping, with a few days in Athens one can enjoy a fascinating combination of history and nature that feels both timeless and refreshing.

Island Beauty

This morning I was scanning some old photos again and before I knew it, I was reliving one of our most beautiful trips ever. It was a well deserved 10-day vacation many years ago to Mauritius, a small island nation (actually a group of islands) with a population of just under 1,3 million. Mauritius is located in the Indian Ocean about 540 miles/870 km east of Madagascar off the southeast coast of Africa. The island’s  history includes influences of Arab, Portuguese and other sailors, and then Dutch, French and British rule before its independence from UK in 1968. Immigration from Africa, China, India and many European countries has added to the fascinating and unique mix of people, cultures and religions on the island.

This multitude of influences is also reflected in the languages spoken on the island: lingua franca or Mauritian Creole,  French, English and Bhojpuri. We managed quite well with our poor French, but many people also speak English, particularly in the areas frequented by visitors.

The island is famous for its white beaches and crystal clear turquoise waters. So if you enjoy beautiful beaches, swimming, snorkeling, boating, water sports and sun bathing, this small island paradise is for you!

We were living in a landlocked country in Africa at the time so being on an island was a big attraction for us.

We did not stay in the capital, Port Louis, but drove north passing many sugar cane plantations. Our home away from home was a small villa close to Grand Bay, right on the beach. We spent a lot of time exploring the

beaches from land as well as from the water.  And learning about the local life, nature and the economy, which at the time was mainly focused on fishing and sugar production.

We rented a car for a couple of days and could easily reach any part of the island in few hours. But observing the local traffic, I soon became confused as to what side of the narrow roads I was supposed to drive. So I asked a local driver. His response was quite scary.

He said: “First we had the Dutch and the French who wanted us to drive on the right side of the road, then we had the British who wanted us to drive on the left side of the road, so when we became independent, we decided to drive in the middle of the road”. No kidding! That was exactly what I observed. Coming up each curvy hill, I’d go as far left as I could and tried to be prepared to meet someone trying to move on my right (their left) just before we had to pass each other.

Another way to see the island’s many beaches, mountains, sugar cane fields and tropical forests with rare trees and absolutely gorgeous flowers would have been biking or hiking along  the smaller and less trafficked roads and trails.

A third way to see the island, which soon became our favorite, was taking a boat along the shores and making stops along the way. There were always many boatmen (and tour companies, of course) prepared to take us on a trip along the coast in any direction we desired to go. So we spent several days on the water, mostly on smaller fishing boats. One day we also sailed a large catamaran to one of the nature reserves and some of the tiny uninhabited islands along the west and south-west coast. The beauty of the coast and the small islands, for example Isle Aux Cerfs, was breathtaking, but the one most memorable experience for us during this sail was to see small “flying fish”  jump out of the water! They were literally “flying” beside and in front of the boat. Their jumps were so short and unexpected that unfortunately we couldn’t capture them on film.

Our explorations also brought us to the nature reserves and the few remaining forests. It was quite an experience to try to climb up a liana. I have to admit, I’m no Jane and my hubby is no Tarzan. We didn’t get too far up before having to jump down.

In the evenings we sampled local foods, mostly creole seafood, and entertainment. Creole dancing was a popular and colorful form of entertainment. And of course, we went to see some of the local reggae bands. It was nice to connect with a culture of so many influences.

All in all, our  stay on this beautiful island has remained among the most treasured experiences of all our travels. No dangerous encounters, for a change, just a lot of enjoyment of natural beauty and exciting culture.

Today, this island nation is doing well. It’s economy is much more diversified and not as dependent on sugar production as it used to be. High-end financial services, IT and outsourced services combined with tourism and preservation of the islands unique flora and fauna now complement the traditional industries. If you are looking for natural beauty, this island is truly worth a visit!

A Small Sunday Outing

I love little outings on weekends, provided they are nature bound. One of my favorite destinations is a very small, uninhabited barrier island just off the coast here in the Mexican Gulf. We can reach it in about 30 minutes by boat.  On the boat ride we usually spot a variety of birds, such as pelicans, cranes and fish hawks. Oftentimes a couple of dolphins will swim alongside the boat and we can stop to chat for a while.

For those in the family desiring a more adventurous experience there is always the option to jump on the raft instead of just riding the boat, provided you have strong arms. It’s one wild and bumpy ride on the ocean! I definitely prefer the soft seat on the boat…

Once on the island we usually watch birds and then just walk around on the white sand and pick shells. There is a fantastic collection of them both on the land and in the water. The water is absolutely crystal clear and we always snorkel for a couple of hours picking large sand dollars and other “treasures” from the sand. And admire the many spices of small and occasionally even bigger fish that frequent the shores.

Sometimes the dolphins come there to swim with us. It can be a bit scary when they come from behind and nudge you in the butt, because you may think it’s a shark looking for a meaty piece for lunch. But once we know they are there, it just a wonderful experience. There is something so peaceful about dolphins.

Sometimes there may even be visitors more rarely seen. Playful manatees may come to say hello! And if they take you by surprise while you are in the water, you’re likely to make it to the dry land quickly! These sea cows are huge, but friendly and just a little curious.

After spending a half day on this island I always feel serene and refreshed, and grateful to have this tiny and still a relatively wild sanctuary so close by.