© Communication Matters 2013

ARMCHAIR TRAVEL

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. Mark Twain

Elaine’s many travel experiences and photos inspired her to offer armchair travel programs. The over 40 destinations that she offers include anecdotal stories along with a focus on history, landscape, culture, cuisine and architecture.

Armchair travel destinations include Scotland, Ireland, Northern Ireland (Derry and Belfast), Tunisia, the Azores Islands of Portugal, Argentina, London, Greece, Turkey, Prague, Budapest, Berlin, Krakow, Havana, Malta, Sicily, Canary Islands, China, Wales and many other locations in the UK (including County Devon and Exeter,  Isle of Man, Liverpool and Shreswbury). Canadian destinations include Iles de la Madeleine, Montreal and Grosse Isle, the Yukon and Saskatchewan.

Ireland and its Canadian Connections: Elaine takes her audience to several counties within Ireland and talks about the many, little known, but fascinating connections to Canada. For example, a ship that was used to bring immigrants to Canada during the famine years was built in Quebec and all the stallions at the National Irish Stud are related to Canada’s famous race horse, Northern Dancer. She brings several items from Ireland to the presentation.

Dublin, Ireland: What could be charming and fun than a visit to Dublin Town and many of its attractions? We will visit its cultural and historic high points such as Trinity College, Dublin Castle and Gardens, Stephen’s Green, Christ Church Cathedral, Ha’Penney Bridge, local theatres, the reproduction of the Jeanie Johnston ship, the infamous Kilmainham Gaol and several monuments and architectural gems. The lively local scene includes the Temple Bar area, street musicians and buskers.

The Titanic and Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland: Hear the compelling story of the Titanic and visit the Titanic Museum in Belfast, built in 2012. The Titanic was a British passenger liner that sank in the North Atlantic Ocean in the early morning of April 15, 1912 after colliding with an iceberg during her maiden voyage from Southampton, UK, to New York City. We will also visit Carrickfergus Castle, the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, the Old Bushmills Distillery  and the Dunluce Castle built in the 13th century. The Giants Causeway lies at the foot of the basalt cliffs along the sea coast on the edge of the Antrim plateau. It is included on the World Heritage site list as both a cultural and natural site. Hear the mythical tale about Finn McCool, the giant of Northern Ireland.

Belfast and Londonderry, Northern Ireland: Belfast has a history like no other city. The core of the city’s business and tourist area is  upbeat and full of culture. Highlights of Belfast include the Europa Hotel, Parliament Buildings, Waterfront, Courthouse, beautiful Municipal Buildings and Titanic Museum. St. George’s Market is one of Belfast's oldest attractions. The Crown Liquor Saloon is an outstanding example of a Victorian gin palace. I took a “Black Cab” through West Belfast, where the “troubles” occurred, and where a wall still divides Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods. Many colourful wall murals depict a time of political upheaval from both perspectives, including on the Shankill Road, a main road running through a mostly loyalist working-class area. Derry, officially Londonderry, is the second-largest city in Northern Ireland. The name Derry is an anglicisation of the Irish name Daire or Doire meaning "oak grove". The walls surrounding Derry are one mile and an eighth around four main gates. We visit several churches, streets, pubs the Guildhall and the Peace Bridge. The Bogside, where wall murals depict the struggle for minority rights, is a majority-Catholic neighbourhood which shares a border with the majority Protestant Fountain neighborhood.

London is city of antiquities, theatre, shops, music and pubs. The old saying, “He who is tired of London is tired of life...” is completely fitting to this exciting cultural hub of history, culture, fashion, theatres, music, outdoor markets of every description, historical sights, galleries and museums.

Exeter and County Devon, UK: Exeter is a historic city in Devon, England on the River Exe. The beautiful Exeter Cathedral was founded in the early 12th century. We will also visit historic Plymouth and the “Hoe”, a large south facing open public space overlooking the cliffs that form the seafront. The town of Dartmouth is a tourist destination set on the banks of the estuary of the River Dart, Then on to the village of Chittlehampton and Biddacott Farm in Umberliegh, a local Bed and Breakfast. A visit to Devon wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Moors: Exmoor, Dartmoor and the tiny village of Widdicombe-on-the-Moor.

Isle of Man, UK: The Isle of Man is located in the Irish Sea midway between Ireland and the UK. Highlights include a visit to Douglas, the capital, with its Gaiety Theatre, horse-drawn Tramway and magnificent Victorian buildings. Other highlights include the Snaefell Mountain Railway and Steam Railway, the Great Laxey Wheel, the world’s largest working waterwheel and a Marvel of Victorian engineering, Peel Castle built in the 11th century by the Vikings, Niarbyl and the Calf of Man. We also visit Port Erin and nearby Cregneash, a living museum which shows what life was like in a 19th Century crofting community.

Cardiff, Wales:The history of Cardiff, the capital of Wales spans at least 6,000 years! The area around Cardiff has been inhabited by modern humans since the Neolithic Period. A tour of the city includes a visit to the National Gallery of Wales, the magnificent Cardiff Castle and to Cardiff Bay, the site of a very successful regeneration project. The National Assembly of Wales, on Cardiff Bay, features Canadian sourced Western Red Cedar. In the same area is the Norwegian Church and an intriguing memorial to the British Antarctic expedition led by Captain Scott.

Broad Haven and Tenby, Wales: Broad Haven and Little Haven are two small sea-side resort towns on the western coast of Wales. We’ll see all the activities that take place on their huge expanses of beaches, beautiful sunsets and views from a walk along the Pembrokeshire Coast Path and through Canaston Woods. We’ll also visit historic St. David’s Cathedral, considered the holiest site in Wales, it is one of Britain's oldest cathedrals. Then on to Tenby, a most charming walled seaside town in Pembrokeshire on the western side of Carmarthen Bay. Notable features of Tenby include its amazing sandy beaches,13th century medieval town walls, including the Five Arches barbican gatehouse, the 15th century St. Mary's Church, the Tenby Museum and Art Gallery; and the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.

Conwy and Mount Snowdon, Wales: The beautiful National Trust Bodnant Gardens, founded in 1874, spans 80 acres of hillside and includes formal Italianate Terraces, informal Shrub Borders, the Dell, a gorge garden and waterfall. It is stocked with plants and trees from around the world. Conwy is a walled market town on the north coast of Wales. Conwy Castle, a UNESCO Heritage Site, is considered to be one of "the finest examples of late 13th century and early 14th century military architecture in Europe.” Visit The Smallest House in Great Britain, Aberconwy House, Conwy's only surviving 14th-century merchant's house and Plas Mawr, the finest surviving townhouse of the Elizabethan era to be found anywhere in Britain. We will travel up Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales, on a steam train and also visit the 19th Century National Slate Museum near Llanberis.

Porthmadog and Portmeirion,Castles and Train rides, Wales: A return to Wales includes a visit to two more castles built by Edward I, both World Heritage sites. Beaumaris Castle has been described as a “most perfect example of symmetrical concentric planning.” Caernarfon Castle is one of the most impressive in Wales. Porthmadog is a harbour town and rail centre for the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways. We visit beautiful Black Rock Sands Beach and also Portmeirion built between 1925 and 1975 in the style of an Italian village. It was the site for many films and TV shows, including The Prisoner.  There is beautiful scenery between Porthmadog and Shrewsbury.

Liverpool and Shrewsbury, UK: Liverpool is the home of The Beatles! We will visit the Cavern Club and the area where the Beatles, got their start. Many sites to visit in this grand city include St. George’s Hall, St. John’s Garden, the multiple award winning Beaton Library, Walker Art Gallery, World Museum, Albert Dock, Liverpool Cathedral and Chinatown. Shrewsbury in Shropshire, England is on the River Severn. It is a market town whose centre has a largely unaltered medieval street plan and over 660 listed historic buildings including several examples of timber framing from the 15th and 16th centuries –so there is much architecture to take in. We will also visit the beautiful Quarry Park with its landscaped sunken garden and Shrewsbury Cathedral.

Travels with Nana to Tunisia is a presentation Elaine does with her granddaughter, Cara. In it they capture their travels to Tunisia in 2012. They offer a coffee table discussion that focuses on the highlights of their trip – differences and similarities, along with humorous anecdotes and of course many photos. Elaine brings many items from Tunisia including art work, carvings, ceramics and fossils.

Djerba Island,Tunisia: The mythology of Djerba goes back to ancient times when the island was known as Lotophagitis. It’s where Ulysses almost lost his crew. The local maidens fed Ulysses’ crew lotus flowers, causing them to fall in love with the island and forget everything else. On Djerba’s 538 square kilometres visitors will find a diverse number of activities for tourists; beautiful beaches surround the entire island, most hotels offer thalasso-therapy, a form of treatment that uses seawater, seaweed and seamud; then there is scuba diving, all manner of water sports and lots of horseback riding. It is also full of cultural focuses: old forts, museums and medinas offering pottery and all sorts of artisan products. Tunisia’s oldest and most famous synagogue, El-Ghriba dates back to 586 BC and is located just outside the village of Hara Sghira.

Saskatchewan: Legendary Sunsets and Anecdotal Stories Part 1: Saskatchewan has much beautiful landscape – and it's not all flat! For example the Cypress Hills is the highest point between the Rockies and Labrabor. Elaine calls it an undiscovered jewel in Canada's landscape. It's one of the friendliest places to travel to and rich in geography, culture and history. She shares anecdotal stories. Boring? Never!

Wild West Adventure Tour in Saskatchewan Part 2: Hit the trail with Elaine as she treks across the Saskatchewan prairie on horseback and in a covered wagon. She relives the vibrant history of the West as she follows the trail that was first used by the Boundary Commission to establish the 49th parallel and later by the NWMP, on their Great March West, who came to establish law and order after the Cypress Hills Massacre. Boundless prairie, forever sky and lots of adventures along the way.

Saskatchewan Road Trip in 2013: In August 2013 and good friend, Diane, and myself did a road trip through Southwest Saskatchewan, hitting all the high points: The Big Muddy, the Outlaw Caves,  Gravelbourg, Grasslands National Park, the Cypress Hills, Moose Jaw and its famous tunnels and Regina and its legislative buildings. Together we will discover Southwest Saskatchewan and some very funny Saskatchewan humour.

Montreal, Quebec City and Grosse Ile: Through this presentation and photos we will discover the history of these three places, which represented the very beginnings of Canada. Grosse Ile is part of an archipelago of islands that was used as a quarantine station for immigrants coming into Canada from 1832 until 1937. It was of particular importance during the Irish Potato Famine, when thousands of Irish landed there. Over the years as a quarantine station, doctors and nurses tended to immigrants suffering from a variety of diseases including cholera, typhus, Spanish Influenza and Smallpox. Learn about its fascinating history.

Iles de la Madeleine, Quebec: These islands are located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. These little known, but beautiful islands, with their colourful houses are “jewels in the Gulf,” and have a vibrant culture related to food, art, artisanat and music. They are mostly French speaking, except for one island, Entry Island, whose descendants are of Irish and Scottish descent. This island is the setting for a fascinating story about a horse called Farmer.

The Yukon: The 600-kilometre down the Yukon River from Whitehorse to Dawson City was as unforgettable adventure that traced the route taken by the legendary paddle wheelers. A memorable stop at Lake Laberge, is where the Poem “The Cremation of Sam McGee” by Robert Service was set.  Elaine describes her trip by boat and bush plane, as she travels to parts of Canada’s most remote wilderness and relived the captivating history of the First Nations and Klondike Gold Rush. The voyage goes further and further into the wilderness with a stop at Pelly Farm – the location of the first register Yukon farm, then on to Wilderness Outpost, and last stop Dawson City, the heart of the gold rush.

The Splendour of Scotland: Scotland is a land of rugged stark beauty, lochs, memorable walks, cultural hubs...and kilts. Explore Scotland’s highlights – Glasgow and Edinburgh, the Isle of Skye and some of its smaller towns. Plockton is a haven for the 55+ crowd. Hear about Robbie Burns, one of Scotland’s most famous writers and the many inventions made by Scottish people.

The Azores Islands, Portugal are little known volcanic islands that are found two-thirds of the way across the Atlantic ocean, and one-third off the coast of Portugal, making them very accessible from Canada. Each island has its own character. Visit São Miguel, Faial, Pico and Terceira. Typical on the islands are white houses with red-tiled rooftops, a countryside replete with green pastures, neatly divided by stonewalls. And what appear to be rolling hills dotting the landscape are in fact the craters of extinct volcanoes. Portions of the coastline are rugged with jutting black volcanic rock, while others contain tranquil ports or sheer cliffs that drop to the sea.

Argentina is fascinating country where Elaine went in search of the gaucho – the “cowboy” of Argentina to discover his lifestyle and character.  As well as visiting several ranches in Argentina, other highlights include Argentina’s capital city of Buenos Aires, the Iguazu Falls, a UNESCO World Heritage site and Colonia in Uruguay.

Greece’s highlights and ancient mythology. Visit Athens, Santorini, Patra, Delphi and Meteora. Explore Greece’s varied landscape, ancient Greek ruins along with its fascinating mythology and history.

Prague, Budapest, Berlin and Krakow: Elaine does a separate program on each of the aforementioned cities and focuses on each city’s history, culture and cuisine, along with architectural highlights.

Havana, Cuba is a vibrant city characterized by colonial style architecture. It is a city that is alive with music, dance and art. After following Elaine through a tour of Havana, you will feel like you’ve been there.

Amalfi Coast, Italy: The Amalfi Coast of Italy is one of the most beautiful places in the world. We start our journey in Sorrento, the starting point for the Amalfi Coast. We travel along the coast by ferry, viewing the coast and stop at town of Amalfi, then climb up to visit the picturesque, mountainside town of Ravello and visit its beautiful gardens; Ruffolo Gardens and Cimbrone Villa and Gardens. We also visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Pompeii where a horrific volcano struck in 79AD.

Ventimiglia and Matera, Italy: We visit two Italian towns: Ventimiglia a Northern Italian town on the Italian Riviera with a modern and medieval side, not far from Nice, France. Then, we go much further south to visit the Italian town of Matera, with its interesting Sassi area and cave-like structures that were abandoned by families in the 1950s, but which have now become a tourist attraction with hotels and restaurants keeping cave-like features for visitors to enjoy. This area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Rome and Florence, Italy: Do I need say more? Both these cities are on everyone’s top “must-see” list of places to visit in Europe. Florence the birthplace of the renaissance has so many delights to take in: Il Duomo, Michelangelo’s David, art galleries, Ponte Vecchio, Boboli Gardens and Pitti Palace and frescoes spread throughout the city. Rome with its Colosseum, Pantheon, Roman Forum, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and enticing piazzas, all with their own character. There is something here to captivate everyone.

Valletta, Capital of Malta: Visit the ancient city of Valletta, founded in 1566 by Jean de Valette, and its beautiful cobblestone streets, waterfront and harbour. Highlights include St. John’s Co-Cathedral built by the Knights of Malta, the grand Master’s Palace and Armoury, Mdina—Malta’s most hauntingly beautiful fortress city and the National Museum with its collection of “fat ladies” of Malta—statuettes recovered from Malta’s temple culture which date back to 3,600 BC.

Malta Island: Visit more of Malta’s beautiful countryside and learn about its famous temple culture that date back to 3,600 BC. Three temple sites are UNESCO World Heritage Sites that predate the pyramids of Egypt. Visit also the Ghar Dalam Caves that date back to the 7th century BC. Other highlights include the Dingli Cliffs, Blue Grotto, Marsaxlokk fishing village and the National Gallery of Malta.

Gozo Island, part of the Maltese archipelago: Victoria, also known as Rabat, is the capital of Gozo with a citadel at its centre. We will visit several churches on the island—St George's Basilica, Cathedral of the Assumption, Church of St. John the Baptist and National Shrine of the Blessed Virgin of Ta' Pinu. The Ggantija temples is Malta’s oldest Neolithic Age temple site and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Comino is an island near Gozo with its beautiful Blue Lagoon. Other highlights include the Azure Window, the ancient town of Gharb and the Salt Pans.

Siracusa and Toarmina, Sicily: Siracusa was founded in 733 by Greek Corinthian settlers and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The famous Duomo or Cathedral of Syracuse/Greek Temple of Athena was built in the 18th century over a 5th century BC temple to Athena, a perfect fusion of pagan of and Christian worship. We walk the narrow, charming streets of the island of Ortigia. We visit a Greek theatre which was begun in the 5th century BC and became the largest in Sicily with a seating area of 15,000 spectators. Other highlights include the Basilica of Santa Lucia and Our Lady of the Tears catholic church.Toarmina is located on Monte Tauro above the Ionian Sea and was founded in 304 BC. Its famous Greek Theatre is second only in size to the one in Siracusa. We visit its charming narrow streets, churches and cathedrals, then travel the countryside to visit Europe’s largest volcano, Mount Etna, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which continues to be one of the world’s most active volcanoes.

Toarmina and Cefalu, Sicily: Welcome back to Toarmina to visit Castelmola, 1,800 feet above sea level—it takes “scenic” to a whole new level with its 360-degree panoramic view of mountain, sea and sky and narrow, quaint cobblestone streets. We also visit the city gardens of Toarmina created by Florence Trevelyan, a British citizen.

Cefalù is located on the northern coast of Sicily, Italy on the Tyrrhenian Sea is one of the major tourist attractions in the region. Normans arrived in the 11th Century and built the dramatic cathedral which gives the town its heart. Cefalu's narrow streets are full of character and lined with traditional Sicilian shops and restaurants, with a lovely seaside beach and quaint marina. Nearby La Rocca has a summit of 912 feet and the ruins of Cefalu’s 12th century castle.