TRAVEL TRIPS (click on the name)

DOUG BONDE'S Spain and Portugal
DOUG BONDE'S Turkish Delights
JEFF GROBERMAN'S Road Trip to See Africa


Posted July 30th 2018

It was the 1st of May when we took an Air Portugal flight from London to Faro in Portugal, picking up an Opel Cadet from Avis and then we drove to sunny Lagos. That's where apparently in 1587 English pirate Sir Francis Drake attacked and damaged the city before withdrawing, but we told suspicious Portuguese that we were Canadian not English and changed the subject by asking for the recommendation of a beach and were given directions to Santa Ana on the Gulf of Cadiz where we had a nap before a dip in the waves  Our next stop was at the fishing community of Portimao, an important centre for Portugal's fish canning industry. Join me for sardines and wine anyone? 

It was a short but hot 37 degrees drive to the Portuguese/Spanish border and our destination was the Hotel Puerta de Triana in magnificent Seville, the capital of Andalusia. For history buffs like myself, Seville dates back to 205 when the Romans named it Hispalis. It was then the capital of the Vandalls (411), Visigoths (441, the Moors (712) before in 1195 Yacoub-Al-Mansur (builder of the famed Giralda (see photo), the name of the Cathedral’s belfry) won a victory over the Christians till Spain’s Ferdinand eventually expelled the Moors. The impressive Giralda Tower, once a minaret, was built in the 12th century and is 322ft. high. Recommended on the list of tourist attractions is the Cathedral of Seville, the world’s 3rd largest, after St. Peter’s in Rome and St. Paul’s in London. It was one of the last to be built in Gothic style but has Renaissance influences. Christopher Columbus is buried here. Seville was Christian at the time the Nasrids were building Granada’s Alhambra. And so the use of the Mudejer style (Moorish and Christian) reflects the fascination for Arab design in the city. We changed hotels on May 3rd to the Simon Hotel before getting back on the road, stopping for a picnic lunch by the medieval castle at Santa Ollala Del Cala with the temperature at 35 degrees.

Our destination was the very old city of Cordoba and it was an exceptionally beautiful drive. Along the way we noticed a peculiar sight and on a closer look we discovered it was a stork’s nest on top of a chimney pot!  Ever wondered where storks nest?  Well now you know.  Cordoba is situated at the foothills of the Sierra de Cordoba on the Rio Guadalquivar. It dates back to Iberian times and became the chief town of the Roman province of Hispania Ulterior in 152 BC. The Moors took it over in 711 but eventually it was captured by the Christians in 1236. The magnificent 14th century Alcazar Palace, built by Pedro the Cruel, is one of the oldest European palaces still in use today. Our overnight was at the Hotel El Triunfo. Below on the right is a favourrite photo of a small side street with masses of geraniums in small pots set in wrought iron holders on the white painted walls – a stunningly beautiful sight. Imagine how difficult those must be to water daily in the extreme heat!   

Below is another extraordinary geranium photo and Spain has a lot of them. Flowering profusely, these are growing in the cracks between the rock face at Castro Del Rio! The date is May 5th and we are driving towards Granada with a detour to Jaen, a Carthagenian walled town (there on the other side of the river) where we stayed at the Parador Nacional Del Castillo de Santa Catalina, very expensive and hugely disappointing, with the bread wrapped in cellophane and no soup spoons!  Spain's paradores are a network of over 90 state-run Spanish hotels, supposedly providing luxury accommodation in Castles, Palaces, Fortresses, Convents, Monasteries and other historic buildings. I had looked forward to staying at any one of them and so this was such a let down.  By the way, Jaen is known as the world capital of olive oil.

One of my favourite locations in my European travels is Granada, largely  because of the exotic Moorish Alhambra. I’ve visited it 4 times over the years and each time I have been impressed. In AD 711 Granada fell into the hands of the Arabs who built a castle on the Alhambra Hills. It reached the heights of its glory when Muslims from Cordoba, which fell to the Christians in 1236, sought refuge here. For the next 2 ½ centuries the kingdom of Granada flourished with magnificent buildings like the Alhambra. Then in 1492 Christian monarchs conquered Granada which brought 781 years of Moorish domination of Spain to an end. Incidentally, Granada is conveniently just an hour's drive to the popular Costa de la Luz on the Andalusian coast by the larger and busier year-round tourists' favourite Costa Del Sol.

The National Palace was built around two courtyards in the 4th century, the Patio de Los Arraynes and the Patio de Los Lones. The Lions courtyard was built by Mohammed V and is in the centre of the second palace, the permanent residence of Spain’s Catholic Royal family. In 1492 they would be King Ferdinand 11 of Castille and Queen Isabella 1 of Aragon.  It was here that year Christopher Columbus requested royal endorsement for his westward expedition.



And now onto something totally different!  I have always been fascinated with caves and I love exploring them. On May 6th, imagine my luck while heading for the Mediterranean coast in coming across the spectacular Caves of Nerja, a series of caverns stretching for about 5 kilometres. One of Spain's major attractions, it costs 400 pts to enter, but look at the dimensions: the lower gallery is 880 yards long, the upper gallery 2200 yards long. Just one pillar is 200ft high and 60ft in diameter!!!  Neanderthal cave paintings from the Paleolithic and post-Paleolithic eras dated in 42,000 years have been discovered in the caves. They could be the oldest paintings of humanity. Needless to say, I was esctatic !

With time running out, we bypassed touristy Malaga and Marbella on the coast and stopped for the night of Friday May 6th at the Hotel Santa Maria in Estepona. There was a neat little antique shop Antiguedades Cavon close by in Guadalmina where I managed to purchase some old coins, my hobby!  Then it was on to Gibraltar. How big is it?  How about 6.5 sq kilometres by 2 ½ square miles and with a population of 30,000. The Rock and its counterpart Mt Abyla were known as the Pillars of Hercules.  It was transferred as an Islamic citadel after the Moors invaded in AD711 and built as castle on it, naming it Tarik’s Rock after its conqueror. But it was recaptured by the Spanish in 1642. During the War of the Spanish Succession, Anglo-Dutch forces captured the Rock in 1704 and it was ceded to Britain by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. Now Spain wants it back!  Perhaps they’ve trained these Barbary apes, the only monkeys living wild in Europe, to annoy and chase the Brits off the Rock?

So endeth our history lesson and our visit to Portugal and Spain with a return flight to London on May 9th.   I had driven 1,168 kms in the 9 days and I was exhausted but exhilarated!   Sorry, I'm too tired to pose for a bio photo.  Viva Espana!!! 

In 1989 Doug Bonde joined CBC Vancouver as a mail clerk and during his 2 ½ years there he eventually ended up as a production assistant in the TV News and Variety departments.  He left CBC and rejoined Mountain West Studios for a year as photography manager. Then for 15 years he was with BC Ferries, starting as a ticket agent and progressing to the position of Second Officer. He formed his own general contracting business, High Maintenance Contracting, employing around a dozen for 12 years, and is currently running a solar energy business called Synrg Renewal. Doug is married and he and Claire have 2 children, Tavish and Kaley, and they live happily in Squamish with their cats.

Posted May 14 2018

Doug Bonde’s Recommendation for sightseeing Turkey.

Where do you plan to spend your holidays this year?  Have you ever given a thought to Turkey?  It’s a land rich in history, folklore, ancient sites and natural beauty.  The best way to travel if you have the time is by car and that’s the way we saw Turkey for two weeks in the month of May from the Mediterranean up through to the Sea of Mamara and the Bosphorus. The weather was perfect. Here are 18 photos of places I particularly enjoyed and which I hope will interest you sufficiently to consider a visit to Turkey sometime in the future.

We started in Bodrum where the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas meet.  The town is dominated by the impressive medieval castle of St. Peter, built by the Knights of Rhodes in the 15th century. It’s also the site of the birthplace of Herodotus, “the father of history”
  (485 to 425 BC) and the site of 4th century’s King Mausolus’ Tomb, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  The harbour was contrastingly filled with luxurious modern yachts.

The advantage of having your own vehicle is that you can explore the countryside at your leisure and 14 kms from the main road with the last 8 kms on a rough dusty road high in the mountains led us to the totally deserted (except for one caretaker) Roman site of ancient Labranda, abandoned around 1000AD. The ruins were excavated by a Swedish team early last century and it’s known that the Olympic Games were held at this site!. The caretaker seen here didn’t speak English but we got by with sign language.


Easily the highlight of any visit to Turkey is Ephesus (Efes), the grandest and best preserved of all the ancient sites and classical ruins, and once Roman capital of Asia Minor. Surprisingly, only 4-5% of the site has been successfully excavated so far. It’s believed Amazon Queen Ephesia founded the city. In its heyday, Roman Ephesus had a population of 250,000. It was here St. John wrote his Letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul preached against the goddess Artemis, and Cleopatra and Mark Anthony rode in procession. The Arcadian Way leads to the Great Theatre, built to accommodate 24,000 spectators and, with perfect acoustics, still used for performances each Spring. That's it in all its magnificent glory at the head of this article.

Erected in A.D.110, Ephesus’ Library of Celcus is easily the best preserved of all the buildings. It held 12,000 scrolls in niches around its walls. Incidentally, the streets are paved with marble!  It’s recorded that St. John brought the Virgin Mary here after the death of Christ and she spent her last days close by.  Next to the library on the right is the Gate of Augustus, which was reported to be a favourite place for Romans to "relieve" themselves!!

 Our next stop was at the vast Acropolis of Aphrodisias which is not a natural hill but a prehistoric mound built up by successive settlements from the Bronze Age (2800-2200 BC).  Aphrodite was called by the Romans Venus, the Goddess of fertility, fun and fornication.  As you can see, much of Aphrodisias lies scattered around the huge impressive grounds. Seeing it early in the morning when it is cooler. We were almost entirely on our own to explore ..  and that does take time.

The magnificent Tetrapylon or Monumental Gate was the entrance way for the pilgrims as they approached the temple. Among the sights worth seeing is the 30,000 seat Olympic stadium.  In case you were wondering, yes, we pay a fee for entering and parking at each site.  And Turks like to be tipped for any information or service rendered.  Be prepared for con-men (especially taxi drivers) in the cities where they are adept at sleight of hand when money is involved!

And now for something really different - and popular since Roman times!!! This is  Pamukkale (Hierapolis) – meaning Cotton Castle - a spectacular natural site, totally unique in the world.  Thermal spring waters laden with calcareous salts running off the plateau’s edge have created this fantastic formation of stalactites, cataracts and basins. As the hot calcium laden mineral waters cascade over the cliffs, the water cools, the calcium precipitates and clings to the cliffs, forming snowy white waterfalls. The hot springs have been used since Roman times for their therapeutic powers. There's also a Roman Theatre seating 7000 spectators in excellent condition. We stayed overnight at the Australian and New Zealand Pension and hated leaving this extraordinarily enchanting location.  

Back on the Mediterranean coast, we stayed at the Feryil Hotel in Fethiye.   Above the town called Telmessos are seemingly hundreds of Lycian tombs cut into the rock face!  In fact this whole area near Dylan and Pinara has a vast honeycomb of wonderfully crafted tombs in the Lycian style, some of which you can climb up to. Once the tomb was completed, the deceased had to be lowered down to the tomb for internment. Just look at this on the right. The magnificent Tomb of Amyntas (350 BC) reproduces the Doric façade of an ancient building, actually carved into the sheer rock face! It's hard to imagine how long it must have taken to complete this. 

North of Olympus and up 300 metres is Yanartas where, according to mythology, Lycian hero Bellerpphon, mounted on his winged horse Pegasus, slew the fire breathing monster Chimaera by pouring molten lead into its mouth. Olympians worshipped Vulcan, the God of Fire. The mysterions Chimaera has gas seeping continually from fissures, burning brightly with an eternal flame springing from between the rocks (look closely in front of me and imagine being surrounded by these pockets of flame).

Yet another unique location!  Cappadocia’s history began with the eruption of three volcanoes as much as ten million years ago. The eruption spread a thick layer of hot volcanic ash over the region which hardened into a soft porous stone called tufa. Over time, wind, water and sand erosion wore away portions of the tufa, carving it into shapes. Boulders of hard stone caught in the tufa and exposed to erosion actually protect the tufa. The result is a column or cone of tufa with a boulder perched on top! And so here you have a spectacular surrealistic landscape of rock cones, capped pinnacles and fretted ravines. These days troglodyte dwellings in rock cones and village houses of volcanic tufa merge into the landscape. Tufa was easily worked with primitive tools and sturdy buildings could be cut from it. Centuries ago when invaders came, Cappadocians disappeared underground, having carved elaborate multi-level cave cities, some as deep as eight levels beneath the earth!

Not only are there homes and guest houses in the cones but restaurants and shops.  Hard to believe, we stayed overnight in one of these Goreme "guest houses", and for a totally unique night's experience it's highly recommended! 

Shopping! So, as you can imagine, Goreme is a popular centre for visitors. Here the temptations include a vast selection of carpets and kilms.  The best carpets are 100% wool and of course you are expected to bargain. Beware of the charmingly over-friendly Turk who will start a conversation with you, leading to an invitation to a restaurant and along the way he will insist we meet a cousin of his who just happens to own a carpet shop where the prices are unbeatable.  Now how can one resist in just having a look?  Yes, that's me giving in to the sales pitch.

Next stop was at “the capital of the mighty Ottoman Empire,” Istanbul, formerly Constantinople and, before that, Byzantium, although Ankara is actually the present capital.  Our Hotel Park on the Sultanahmet had a wonderful sun deck from which when I looked to my left I saw the six minaret Blue Mosque (the blue comes from the Iznik tiles) now called Sultanahmet, seeming a stone’s throw away. Likewise to my right was the 14 centuries old Basilica of St. Sophia, now called the Aya Sofya.  And behind me was the ever busy Bosphorus. Absolutely stunning views!  Before 1973 and the construction of a bridge, the only way between the European and Asian parts of the city was by boat.  Other essential Istanbul sightseeing in the old town are the Archaeological Museum, Topkapi Palace and the massive Kapah Carsi or Covered Bazaar (see below). It’s hard not to browse here and be tempted to buy at least one souvenir.    

Finally, I recommend you take with you a copy of the Lonely Planet travel guide which gave me all the details mentioned above, and its Turkish phrasebook has words and phrases for travellers. Not everyone speaks English but wherever we went we found the people friendly and helpful. Turkey is a vast country and the variety of things to see and do is enormous, as is its history, extending for almost 10,000 years! And there you have it - highlights of our fortnight in astounding, surprising and fascinating Turkey.

Doug Bonde: In 1989 Doug joined CBC as a mail clerk and during his 2 ½ years there he eventually ended up as a production assistant. He left CBC and rejoined Mountain West Studios for a year as photography manager. Then for 15 years he was with BC Ferries, starting as a ticket agent and progressing to the position of Second Officer. He formed his own general contracting business, High Maintenance Contracting, employing around a dozen for 12 years, and is currently running a solar energy business called Synrg Renewal.  Doug is married and the Bondes have 2 children and live happily in Squamish.