West Coast Vancouver Island Birds

18 08 2010

I was out in Ucluelet for 3 days last weekend.  We stayed at the Black Rock Resort – More on that later… What a great place!

Our room looked right out onto “Big Beach” and this gave me a great opportunity to go down and crawl in the seaweed to find a few sandpipers

Spotted Sandpiper:
Sandpiper BC Canada Birds

Least Sandpiper:
Sandpiper Ucluelet BC Canada Birds

We also explored a bit up island and ended up at a place the locals call “The Blowhole”.  While the blow hole didn’t really put much effort out for us, we did see some eagles (unfortunately the evening sun was BEHIND them).  I scrambled like a mad a fool and managed to get on the sunny side of a pair of Black Oystercatchers. They are a funny looking bird and the beak seems out of proportion to the rest of the bird.  Perhaps because it’s bright red.  Here’s one:
Oystercatcher Birds Ucluelet BC Canada

We also drove up to Tofino and checked out Long Beach with the hope of finding more shorebirds.  The weather fogged in badly, but I did get this shot of a juvenile gull (species anyone?):
Gull Tofino BC Canada

It turned out to be a pretty good bird photo opportunity weekend.   We had a great time and look forward to heading back again whenever we can get the time. 

Thanks Ukee!

Moonset over the Mountains

13 08 2010

Last night’s planetary alignment was a bust for me, the haze in our air making it impossible to see anything other than Venus  and the moon.  So…  The moon it was:

moon crescent sunset vancouver bc Canada

moon crescent sunset vancouver bc Canada

The colours are natural!  No colour specific PP was done to these photos.

The Weather we encountered on our European Trip

3 08 2010
Location/Date High Low Precipitation
Prague/May 25 19C 10C 0mm
Prague/May 26 19C 10C 0mm
Karlovy Vary/May 27 14C 10C 0.3mm
Ceske Budejovice/May 28 20.2 5.3C 0.5mm
Cesky Krumlov/May 29 15.8C 7.2C 0.3mm
Cesky Krumlov/May 30 15.8C 11C 5.8mm
Salzburg/May 31 11C 2.8C 25.91mm
Salzburg/June 1 10.3C 3C 14.99mm
Sankt Wolfgang/June 2 11.2C 9.2C 20.07mm
Obertraun/June 3 14C 6.6C 39.62mm
Hallstatt/June 4 21C 10C 1.02mm
Graz/June 5 25.3C 5C 0mm
Dreznik Grad/June 6 26.3C 11.2C 0mm
Dreznik Grad/June 7 29.6C 13.0C 0mm
Seebersdorf/June 8 28.3C 14.6C 0mm
Vienna/June 9 31.3C 18.8C 0mm
Vienna/June 10 31.2C 19.0C 0mm
Budapest/June 11 31C 18C 0mm
Budapest/June 12 32C 19C 0mm
Szentendre/June 13 32C 20C 0mm


As you can see we had weather that was all over the charts.  Definitely VERY cold in Salzburg and VERY hot in Vienna/Budapest. All temperatures were recorded at the closest weather station that I could find near where we stayed.

June 13, 2010 Szentendre, Hungary

3 08 2010

We got up today for for our last full day of our vacation.  It has been a long vacation with a LOT of travelling and walking and some wacky weather.  I’m ready for this to be the last day.

We all skipped breakfast this morning and headed out to catch the metro down to the Urban train station.  We got off at Batthany Ter.  The urban train to Szentendre was about 1500 HuF but since part of the ride was covered by our Budapest card we probably only paid about 900HuF.  We had more or less just missed a train so we had a little time to look around.  There was a bakery selling little mini danishes.  We bought 10 or so and I think it probably cost us about $2CAD. Cheap.  Finally – something cheap :)  The little danishes were quite tasty.  Some had apple, while others had strawberry or blueberry.   A quick bite on a Sunday morning. They were selling quite well too!

We hung out on the platform and waited while another train was getting ready to leave.  Some helpful local guy wanted to make sure we didn’t take that train.  He tried very hard to explain that it wasn’t the train to Szentendre.  We already figured that out but thanked him for helping us as he got his train and away they went.  Not long after that, our train arrived at the station.

The train runs every about every 30 minutes so it arrived quite soon.   The whole ride on the train is only about 40-45 minutes so we arrived at our destination around 1000.  We disembarked and it took a little bit to figure out where we were going.  It was easy to follow the rule of thumb and “Follow the masses”  If you weren’t meeting someone that was picking you up by car or something you were going to be walking into the main “village” area.  We walked with everyone else, into the village.  The sun was sizzling already.  This early summer weather is HOT!

The village itself was quite quiet at this time.  I think it only really wakes up, businesswise, around 1000.  Some vendors were setting up their displays at their shops and talking to each other, probably about the thing neighbours talk about.  I imagine the weather, business and what so-and-so did last night 😉

One of the few places open early was a “Marzipan museum”.  The line to enter wasn’t very long and the cost was reasonable so we went in.  Upon entering, we discovered that it basically felt like someone’s cramped 2 floor home that had been converted to a factory/store/museum and the second floor was all these marzipan figures.  They had a life-sized Princess Diana, a whole fish pond scene, dogs and various recreations in marzipan.  It’s not too surprising when you consider it.  marzipan pretty much has the consistency of soft clay and is just as moldable.   While the museum was interesting, even at this early time in the day the upstairs was becoming a sweat lodge.  We hastened our visit and headed down to the exit – coincidentally through the store section.  The store part was a madhouse.  You’d have thought that the last almonds had died and that no more marzipan would ever be made.  People were buying KILOS of the stuff and many of them were buying pre-made marzipan sculptures… It was crazy.  We squeezed through the teeming throngs and managed to get out of the store.

By the time we got out of the “museum” it was closer to 1100 and we wandered down the one “touristy” street.  EVERY store had souvenirs, crystal or some other thing that they were hoping you’d plunk down your forints for.  If there had been only 10% of the stores, the variety would have been no less.  Wow – how many people can sell the same thing for same price???  I felt like I was trapped in some twilight zone episode where a new Hell had descended upon a pretty little village and Satan was lengthening the street as I walked.  It seemed that it would never end. 

There were a few little side streets that gave a glimpse into the locals’ lives.  Streets that weren’t crowded with tourists that had fun coloured shutters and neat window boxes down one while another had a place with broken windows and long forgotten gates and doors.  This was the interesting part of the village for me.

Back to the main drag…   There was a town square with the obligatory statue, but try as I might, I couldn’t find a good angle in the harsh midday sun.  Down at the end of the street we found out where all the other tourists came from… It was the drop off point for the tour buses.  There must have been 15 coaches there.  So much for the “little village away from the crowds” 😦

As we wandered the streets we stopped for some danishes and then at a little outdoor place that sold “lemonade” by the litre.  Just the thing, we thought.  It turned out to be REAL lemonade.  They took lemons, limes, and oranges and crushed them in with some ice and sprite.  It made for a wonderfully relaxing drink on the hot afternoon!

We wandered a bit more but we really had seen the whole town, so it was time to head back home.  One last stop along the way… there were about 3 Serbian Orthodox churches in the town.  There was one along the main drag but it wanted 300HuF to enter. The others had had enough churches, I think, so I was the only one to go in.  It was probably a very pretty little church in its time, but it has aged poorly. I was glad that I had paid to go in, as I hoped the money would go to helping restore the church.  It’s unfortunate to see the hard work of people from the past slowly deteriorate.

We took the train back home and I think most, if not all, of us slept on the way back. The heat was tough.  We went back to our hotel and freshened up.  We were heading for our last afternoon/evening in Budapest.

After refreshing ourselves, we headed in two groups down the main shopping street “Vaci Utca”.  The street is about 10 blocks long and lined with souvenir shops, t-shirt vendors and restaurants.  Personally, having seen the first block, I was pretty sure the other 9 blocks would be the same… I was right.  After having walked all the way to the Great Market Hall at the end of the street, we turned around and headed back. Mrs Dragonspeed was having a great time checking out the different shops.   We stopped into one little t-shirt vendor and bought matching “Hungary” T-shirts.  There – I finally bought a souvenir.  I had held off for so long, but they finally broke me 😉

We met up with the other three as we were on our return and we all ended up looking at stores together and Mrs D showed the others some of the places she had found and vice-versa.  I wandered a bit ahead of the shoppers, I really was tired of the whole shopping thing.

It was because I was walking ahead (alone) that something interesting happened…

As I was walking, these two women approached me and asked if I knew where an air conditioned bar was along the street.  They said they were from Hungary, but not Budapest so didn’t know the area well.  Well, I’m not exactly a “prize fish” so I was doubtful about their story… Why would these two young women be hitting on me?  I think it was a “come, let us take you to a bar and slip you a little something in your drink” sort of plan.   Well, I turned down the offer to help them find a bar ;)  Funny how your senses just say “This is SO WRONG”.  I saw the same two women about 5 minutes later seemingly selecting their next “friend”.  Well – dodged that one.

We had dinner at a cafe/restaurant that was along the road.  We watched the Montreal Grand Prix and some World Cup action.  It’s too bad our trip is ending as the games are starting.  It could be really fun to watch over here… Europeans are more interested in soccer than North Americans.  The food at the restaurant was “OK” but it was nothing exceptional. It WAS expensive.  We did the group share thing and it helped keep the costs down a bit.

With dinner finished and our shopping complete, we headed back to our hotel.  Mrs D and I had an early flight out in the morning, while the others were leaving at 1800.

After much packing and repacking we got it all fitted in the suitcases.  We went up to the other room and talked with the others and said our good-byes.  It was likely that we wouldn’t be seeing them in the morning.

We went to bed with the mixed happiness and sadness that you often feel at the end of a long vacation.  Our trip to Central Europe was complete.

Thanks for following us through the journey.  I hope you enjoyed the trip with us through the blog and the pictures.

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