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Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Jaro is staying in the town of Le Tampon ....


                                              Map of Reunion - Jaro lives in Le Tampon.

Back from another ride... Overlooking the apartment house in Trois Mares, with St. Pierre in the distance, along the coast.

                                              The bridge from Tampon to Entre Deux....

This is quite a ways downhill from where I'm staying, and much warmer - too warm in fact, when you consider that I have some 550m of climbing to do, to get home......
But the downhill ride to get here is a blast!!


A look towards the mountains from the bridge....

Bamboo groves along the road....

Nice roads here...

Local flora ( this is Australian species, not endemic...)

Photos belong to Jaro Franta.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Our first stop was at Astoria, Oregon.....

On the next day, when I went up for breakfast, the ship had docked at Astoria, Oregon.

Astoria has many, many volunteers -  they were meeting the boat, working on the trolley and volunteering downtown.

I was talking to the volunteers who were meeting the ship, and they were telling me about a private house full of antiques, and they told me that Holland America had a brochure of this house at their tourist booth.  They told me to to buy a bus ticket to go to the house.  Otherwise, I should walk up a block, and take their trolley going up and down the town.  I decided to go to the house, so I bought a bus ticket for $7.

I had lots of time to go and see the house, so when the bus stopped downtown, I got off and walked around. There was an old theatre downtown which is being fixed up - there is no charge, just a donation box. Well worth going to see. And the bathrooms are on the second floor, so again, well worth it to go upstairs.  I also went to the Deals store - a store we don't have in Canada - and bought 3 pairs of socks for $6, and love them all.

As I was walking around downtown, the trolley track was right there, and I jumped on the trolley. You took the trolley one way, got up and reversed the seats, and faced forwards again for the ride back. The trolley ride was $2 - and I think that if you paid $5, then you could ride it all day.   Neat little ride.

I asked the train volunteer about the house, and she said she would phone and find out.  After about 15 minutes, she told me that I would have to walk uphill for quite a way.

When I got back to the ship, I went to the tourist bus office, and asked them how to get to the house.  They told me that I would have to walk 5 blocks uphill from the bus stop.  I said that I had only bought the ticket to go to the house, and they immediately refunded my money - they were very polite and helpful.

Photos belong to Dorothy Lloyd.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Jaro went on a bike trip to the Indian Ocean.......

If you are looking at a globe, find Madagascar off the coast of Africa - the islands are to the right - Reunion (first three months) and Mauritius for the remainder.  Jaro went from mid November to the end of April.  Here is his blog....

It's a very long trip to get here - about 6 hours from Montreal to Paris, and then another 11 hours from Paris to Reunion.  Mauritius is only about 130 km away, so there is a choice of flying or taking the overnight ferry, which is much cheaper.  Of course, I rented a place in Reunion, and will do likewise in Mauritius.

                          Bike survived the flights and bus rides OK, didn't have to retrue the wheels or anything....

When you think about it, there aren't really that many places around the world where one may bicycle comfortably during the months from November to April that has a reasonably modern infrastructure, and lots of good paved roads - preferably with interesting scenery as well.

Reunion and Mauritius certainly qualify, plus the currency exchange is not bad right now either.
And I didn't even consider Mauritius until I found out that I can't stay on French territory for longer than 90 days without a visa  (and it was too late to get one by the time I found out, and the flight was booked)....

                                                            Arrival at Roland Garosse airport, Reunion.

After nearly three weeks here, I have yet to see any big tourist beach hotels.  Part of the reason is that I haven't been to the beach yet, but I can see from my location several km away that there aren't any, at least not on this part of the island ( I think that cities in the north end of the island tend to be more touristy...)

The economy here is problematic - I heard that the unemployment rate is around 30%.  There is much subsidization from the French mainland, and the rest is mostly sugar cane and small scale construction.

Photos belong to Jaro Franta

Sunday, 18 November 2012

My first cruise - 34 days to French Polynesia....

This was my first cruise - 34 days to French Polynesia with Holland America Westerdam.  Why I picked it was because the cruise sailed from Vancouver, got back to San Diego, and I had always heard about Bora Bora.   Because I was travelling alone, and wanted to not spend too much, I got an interior cabin.

I looked at two or three times a week, waiting for the price to come down.  In mid September, the price dropped to $2425 and I booked it on September 13th.  But the price would be x2 this, because I was travelling alone.

During the summer, I kept on phoning the Customer Service number on Holland America website.  I got many different stories - I couldn't get on in Vancouver, I had to go to Seattle, I think they quoted me the wrong price on Single Share, etc.   I found out that to be a cruise consultant, you take a few courses, and you are one.  It turned out that I knew a cruise consultant, and she booked the cruise for me.  She also found me airfare from Edmonton - Vancouver then San Diego - Denver - Edmonton for $368.44, including taxes.  Westjet is 1 bag free, but in San Diego, you have to pay $25/bag.

From reading my blog about Hobart, I use aeroplan miles.  On their website, under UseyourMiles, I  printed off two cruise certificates ...  $500 credit for 59000 miles, which saved $1000.

So here are the costs:

Cabin  4849.88  Taxes  199.96   Bus to ship  28.14  Bus to Airport  18.44
Flights  368.44   Bag  25.00  Tips (11.50/day)  391.00

Total   5880.86  less 1000 aeroplan certificates ....  $4880.86 

Holland America gave me a cabin number 10 days later ...  5166 on the Verandah deck.  The cruise consultant e-mailed me, and said that if I would have booked a Category L cabin, it would have cost me $1158 more. 

On September 30th, I flew Westjet out to Vancouver at around 11 a.m.   I was the last one off the plane, and the pilot was helping to clean it - the flight atttendant told me that everyone helps.

Holland America met the cruise passengers in the luggage area, and put us on a bus to the ship. They looked after the luggage, and it was delivered to the cabin later on in the afternoon. The bus driver gave us a tour about Vancouver, and the trip lasted 45 minutes. It took about an hour of standing to board the ship, but very efficient.

I wanted to drop off my carry on, so went to the cabin.There was a queen sized bed with two tiny night tables, just room to walk at the bottom of the bed, then the bathroom and closets. When I saw how small the cabin was, I was happy that I came alone.

There were quite a few people travelling alone, and most were in an interior cabin. But many cruisers were two in the interior cabins. I met two scuba divers, and they stored their scuba gear in the shower.

That's enough about business - now let's follow the cruise.

If you would like to use my cruise consultant, Message me.
Pictures belong to Phil Bianco.