Grotto Canyon in Winter

As most of you know COVID-19 has making its rounds around the globe, infecting over 936,000 people so far and taking the lives of 47,000 people as of the writing of this article on April 1st 2020. I was supposed to take an Eastern Europe roadtrip starting on March 18th 2020, ending on April 7th 2020. This trip has been postponed until further notice, but I will complete it when it is safe and socially acceptable to do so. In the meantime I am following government guidelines and maintaining physical distancing from others.

Last weekend I needed to get out to get some fresh air. I didn’t want to be around others so I picked a winter hike that I was fairly certain wouldn’t be too busy. I chose to hike Grotto Canyon, and I’m glad I had because I was the only person there until I was almost back at my car when a small group of people showed up. I completed this short hike in the summer with my father and really enjoyed it, and it provided a completely different perspective in the winter. I loved seeing the frozen waterfalls! If you want to check out my blog post from my hike in the summer you can check out my blog post here.

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USA – Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah – Part 1 of 2

In September 2017 my Dad and I went on a one week trip to the USA to explore the beautiful scenery that Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah have to offer. I started my blog series in 2016 but due to 2017 being such a busy year for travel I actually forgot to write about this.

2017 USA Road Trip

Our trip started and ended in Las Vegas, Nevada. The reason for us starting the trip here was the frequency of flights offered from our home city of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Non-stop flights can be had on Air Canada Rouge, WestJet for around $300-500 return if booked 45-90 days in advance. The savings can add up even more if you book a hotel and flight package.

We arrived on an evening flight and stayed at the Desert Rose Resort, which went for roughly $130 CDN a night back in 2017, but with a recent renovation has gone up to roughly $300 CDN a night. I can almost guarantee that you’ll get better value staying elsewhere now.

The next day we drove to Page, Arizona where we stayed the night. We had a few stops along the way at some nice slot canyons, but nothing as amazing as what we were going to visit the next day.

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Accommodation in Page was at the Motel 6 for roughly $60 CDN. For dinner we ate at State 48 Tavern, which I highly recommend. We both had burgers and beer.

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On Day 2 we woke up early and drove into the center of town to get picked up by Chief Tsosie Slot Canyon Tours to take us for a half day tour to Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon. When we used them they drove us out in 20 year old pickup trucks with cages in the back, but they have recently upgraded to very nice shuttles that have air conditioning. Either way I highly recommend them!

Antelope Canyon is a two separate slot canyons located near Page, Arizona. Upper Antelope Canyon is known as “The Crack” and Lower Antelope Canyon is known as the “Corkscrew”. The Navajo also refer to Upper Antelope Canyon as “the place where water runs through the rocks”, and Lower Antelope Canyon as “spiral rock arches”. The canyons are formed by the erosion of the Navajo Sandstone due to flash flooding. Rainwater during the monsoon season runs into the slot canyons, picks up speed, and over time erodes away the sandstone, thus deepening the canyons. Flash flooding can occur suddenly and care must be taken; one such incident occurred on October 30th 2006 for 36 hours, and caused the Tribal Park Authorities to close the Lower Antelope Canyon for five months!

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After exploring Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon we explored Horseshoe Bend, which was just a few minutes away. Horseshoe Bend is a horseshoe shaped meander of the Colorado River. The river has an absolutely beautiful blue-green tinge to it.

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After visiting Horseshoe Bend we drove to Flagstaff where we stayed the night at the beautiful Courtyard by Marriott for about $165 CDN a night. At the time it had just opened a week prior and still had the new hotel smell (formaldehyde). For dinner we ate at Flagstaff Brewing Company. The food was okay, but fairly greasy. The beer was very good though!

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On Day 3 we drove to Albuquerque, stopping at the Puye Cliff Dwellings about 1.75 hours north of Albuquerque. I forget where we stayed to be honest. We stopped at Nemesis Brewing Company for dinner and some beers. The food was quite delicious and the beers were extremely delicious; they even had some IPA’s which are my beer of choice.

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Be sure to check back soon for Part 2 of 2 of this USA road trip!

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Abraham Lake

Last weekend Julie and I took a road trip to visit Abraham Lake, located in the Kootenay Plains. The drive to Abraham lake took roughly 4 hours via Rocky Mountain House on Highway 11. Abraham Lake is a photographers paradise because trapped methane causes frozen bubbles to form under the ice on the lake’s surface. The methane is formed from decaying plants on the lake bed. The methane gas ends up becoming trapped within the ice, in suspension, just below the surface of the lake as it begins to freeze.

Abraham Lake is actually an artificial lake and Alberta’s largest reservoir. The lake has a surface area of nearly 54 square kilometers and was created in 1972 by the former Calgary Power Company (now known as TransAlta) when the Bighorn Dam was constructed. The lake was built on the upper course of the North Saskatchewan River and is used to feed the 120 MW hydroelectric Bighorn power plant. The lake received its name from a contest that the Government of Alberta sponsored in 1972, during the final stage of construction of the Bighorn Dam. Students across the province submitted names to be taken into consideration. The lake was named after Silas Abraham, an inhabitant of the Saskatchewan River valley in the nineteenth century.

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After visiting Abraham Lake we drove to Banff to soak in the Banff Hot Springs by continuing to drive along Highway 11 to where it meets up with Highway 93N, and then looped around to Banff that way.

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Waterton Lakes National Park & Lundbreck Falls

Last weekend my girlfriend Julie and I visited Lundbreck Falls and Waterton Lakes National Park. It was a fairly chilly day with a lot of wind, so our time outside was limited.

Lundbreck Falls is a waterfall of the Crowsnest River and is located in Southwest Alberta in the Crowsnest Pass. The twin waterfalls were absolutely beautiful! It shocked me because it was a lot smaller in person than the pictures depicted. Being half frozen it was a unique perspective compared to many of the pictures that I had seen online. I would like to come back in the summer to see it completely thawed.

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The next stop was Wateron Lakes National Park, which I had not visited since right after the great fire of 2017, and never in the Winter. Much has changed in the park since the fire with many buildings still completely gone, and many still being rebuilt. The view of Cameron Falls half frozen was also quite spectacular.

Waterton Lakes National Park is located in Southwest Alberta. It borders Glacier National Park in Montana, USA. Waterton was the fourth Canadian National Park that was founded; being former in 1895. The park offers beautiful iconic views of the rocky mountains as well as some premier hikes such as Crypt Lake Trail and Bertha Falls.

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Luxembourg

Today I had to wake up fairly early to catch a 5:00am train to Luxembourg via Brussels, and Arlon. In Brussels I grabbed a sandwich and a coffee at the train station before switching trains. I arrived in Luxembourg at 10:00am and dropped off my bag at the hotel I was staying at; Empire Hotel, which was conveniently located right across from the train station. I then proceeded to walk into the old city, with a quick stop for another sandwich at the supermarket.

First stop was Luxemburgo-Passerelle, a gorgeous viaduct spanning 290 metres long and is 45 metres above the valley below. The viaduct has a total of 24 arches, and is also known as the “Old Bridge”. The viaduct was finished in 1861 to connect the city center with Luxembourg’s new railways station (the one I just arrived on). The railway station was built away from the city center so it wouldn’t detract from the defensive capabilities of the city’s fortress.

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I then proceeded to walk down a narrow road to the valley floor below. In the valley you can see some incredible views of the old town above, as well as Neumünster Abbey. Neumünster Abbey was built in 1688 after the previous two abbey’s were destroyed by fire. After the French Revolution it served as a police station, prison, and as a barracks. Since 1997 it has been home to the European Institute of Cultural Routes.

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Next stop was a lot of stairs to climb back out of the valley and to explore the beautiful views of Neumünster Abbey, and the surrounding valley below, as well as walk through Casemates du Bock,  the site of a former fortified castle from 963 AD that has an intricate maze of casemates underneath of it that were used the shelter soldiers, workshops, kitchens, bakeries, etc. The original fortress was destroyed in 1875 after the declaration of neutrality in 1867. The casemates proved to be impossible to destroy, so they were left. 17 km of the original 23 km still remain.

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I then continued to walk around Old Luxembourg overlooking the valley below as well as stopping at Cathedral Notre-Dame, and the Monument of Remembrance. The Monument of Remembrance, a 21 metre tall granite obelisk with a gilded bronze statue representing Nike (Goddess of Victory) was dedicated to the thousands of Luxembourgers who volunteered their service in the armed forces of the Allied Powers during both World Wars and the Korean War.

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It was then time to head back for a nap as I was getting tired.  I ended up napping from 3:00pm to almost 5:00pm.

I ended up grabbing a salad from the supermarket for dinner and chatting on the phone for a few hours before getting ready for bed. Be sure to check back tomorrow when I visit Prague, Czech Republic!

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Belgium – Brussels – Day 2 of 2

Today I woke up at 8:00am and had some coffee in my room before venturing out to explore more of the city.

First stop was Hôtel van Eetvelde, which was sadly under construction so I couldn’t get any good pictures of it. Hôtel van Eetvelde is a town house designed in 1895 by Victor Horta for Edmond van Eetvelde, the administrator of Congo Free State.

Second stop was Maison Saint-Cyr was built in 1903 to serve as a mansion for the painter Georges Saint-Cyr. The façade is about four metres wide, and is rich in finely worked ironwork that forms a set of lines, curves and geometric figures. Each balcony has a railing with different patterns.

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Third stop was Stoclet Palace, after a few quick photos of some various things along the way. Stoclet Palace was built in 1911 in the Viennese Secession style by architect Josef Hoffmann. It was built for Adophe Stoclet, a wealthy industrialist and art collector.

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Fourth stop and fifth stop was Arcades du Cinquantenaire and Autoworld. Arcades du Cinquantenaire is a triple arch in the centre of Brussels and is topped by a bronze quadriga sculpture group with a woman charioteer, representing Brabant raising the national flag. Autoworld is a substantial collection of vintage vehicles in extremely well preserved states.

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The sixth stop was the National Basilica of the Sacred Heart, a beautiful Art Deco church that was completed in 1970. Construction began in 1905 in Neo-Gothic style, but only the foundations had been completed before World War 1 broke out. Construction of the actual basilica began in 1919, with the architectural style changing to Art Deco, and was not completed until 1970.

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The seventh and eighth stops were Mini-Europe and Atomium. Mini-Europe is a miniature park that was started in 1989 and represents over 80 countries and 350 buildings. Atomium was designed and constructed for the 1958 Brussels World Expo by architect Andre and Jean Polak. It is 102 metres (335 feet) tall and has nine 18 metre (60 foot) diameter stainless steel clad spheres which are connected by escalators and stairs. 3 metre (10 foot) diameter tubes connect the spheres. The central tube had the world’s fastest elevator at the time; allowing people to reach the summit in only 23 seconds at 5 metres/second. The Atomium, was designed to last a mere six months and was slated for destruction after the 1958 World Expo, but due to its popularity it made it a major element of Brussels landscape. A weird piece of history about Atomium is that SABAM, Belgium’s society for collecting copyrights, claimed worldwide intellectual property rights on all reproduction of the image via the United States Artists Rights Society (ARS). There are numerous censored images circulating the internet, but finally in 2016 there was a bill enacted to allow pictures to be legally distributed.

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I then stopped for dinner at the same restaurant I stopped at for lunch yesterday; Tonton Garby, before heading to get a new power adapted, because I somehow forgot mine at home. After getting a power adapter I visited the Brussels Comic Strip Museum, and then went to Beer Planet and picked up a few authentic trappist monk beers that were recommended to me.

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I went back to my hotel room to edit photos and write my blog before heading out to take some night time photos of Atomium.

Chicago!!!

Two weekends ago I had the wonderful opportunity to visit my friend Chelsea in the beautiful city of Chicago, Illinois. I spent three glorious days in the Windy City eating and drinking my way through the amazing city, while soaking up the amazing architecture in this metropolis that 9.5 million people call home (2.7 million in the greater Chicago area).

Chicago, the third most populous area in the USA, was founded in 1780 and officially was recognized as a city in 1837. Chicago had a spectacular fire in 1871 which destroyed many homes and left over 100,000 people homeless. This didn’t stop the city from rebuilding and by 1900 the construction boom and population influx left the city as being the fifth most populous city in the world at the turn of the 20th century.

Chicago is now an international hub for finance, culture, commerce, industry, technology, communications, and transportation. It also is a massive destination for tourism, with over 58 million visitors annually!

Below is a handful of the photographs that I took on my weekends adventures with Chelsea. I also had the wonderful opportunity to meet many of her friends while I was there.

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