Summer Week 1 and 2020 Reading Update #2

Hello blog friends! How are you? I hope your day is going well. Come on in to my blog space so we can share a coffee or tea and catch up on our news.

If we were having coffee, I would share my first week of summer 2020 in pictures and what I’ve been reading in the second quarter of 2020. How have your reading habits been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic? Did you find yourself unable to finish a book or did you read more than usual?

Summer Week 1

The first week of summer brought warm temperatures, mostly sunny, brief periods of rain, heat and humidity. I got all my exercises done (meditation, language lessons, strengthening workouts, yoga) and enjoyed my walks by the lake or in a park.

My sister met me for another coffee date on Friday. We sat outside chatting, sipping coffee, listening to bird songs, smelling the light fragrance of flowers in the air, and relaxing on a beautiful sunny day with some clouds and a light breeze.

Here’s a look at my Summer 2020 Week 1 in pictures:

Gull by Lake Ontario.
Hello gull! It’s a beautiful day. Don’t let it get away.
Sailboats, lake view and maple trees.
Watching the sailboats in the harbour from under shades of maple trees.
Bright and showy daisy.
Bright and showy daisy.
Mother duck and two young ducks.
Mother duck and two young (teenager) ducks. Did the other 4 to 6 ducklings survive?
Beautiful green space, perfect for a picnic by the lake.
Beautiful green space, perfect for a picnic by the lake.
Fragrant rose bushes.
Fragrant rose bushes attract many bees. Watch out for the bees and the thorns.
Lake view with clouds and sailboats in the distance.
Lake view with clouds and sailboats in the distance.
Bright red flower.
Bright red flower.
A patch of pretty white daisies.
A patch of pretty white daisies.
Another beautiful day with white clouds and a light breeze.
Another beautiful day with white clouds and a light breeze.
These pretty peachy roses brighten up any day.
These pretty peachy roses brighten up any day.

Library Curb-side Pickup

In my 2020 Reading First Update in March, I mentioned that Toronto library branches have been closed since March 13 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The library has been offering excellent digital services during the lockdown. Fast forward 12 weeks later, starting on June 8, Toronto Public Library re-opened for curb-side pickups by appointment.

My first curb-side pickup appointment went well. I was the only person there. The library staff wore a mask and asked me to place my library card on a table then step back to maintain a safe distance. He verified my account, delivered two brown bags of books to the table and stepped away. I picked up my library card and the book bags to go. All in less than one minute. Nice!

Books Read in 2nd Quarter of 2020

Books read in second quarter of 2020.

Here’s what I read from April to June 2020 by author’s last name:

  1. The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt.
  2. Lucky Man a memoir by Michael J. Fox.
  3. The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory.
  4. An Autopsy of a Boring Wife by Marie-Renée Lavoie, translated by Arielle Aaronson.
  5. Angela’s Ashes a memoir by Frank McCourt.
  6. How To Be A Good Creature: A memoir in thirteen animals by Sy Montgomery, illustrated by Rebecca Green.
  7. Dear Life by Alice Munro.
  8. Say You Still Love Me by K. A. Tucker.
  9. Embers One Ojibway’s Meditations by Richard Wagamese.
  • Number of books read: 9 books in the second quarter of 2020. This brings my Year-to-date total to 27 books from January to June 2020. My goal for 2020 is 36 books in various genres. I’m getting there.
  • A book by an Indigenous author: Embers: One Ojibway’s Meditations by Richard Wagamese is an excellent book to celebrate June which marks National Indigenous History Month. The book is full of wisdom packed in 176 pages.
  • A book that made me laugh: An Autopsy of a Boring Wife by Marie-Renée Lavoie and The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt. Two totally different novels, each with brilliant comedic moments.
  • A book by a Canadian writer and Nobel Prize winner: Dear Life by Alice Munro who illumines the moment a life is shaped in this collection of short stories.
  • A book about a real person: Lucky Man a memoir by Michael J. Fox who has been living with Parkinson’s Disease since his diagnosis in 1991, and Angela’s Ashes a memoir by Frank McCourt, a Pulitzer Prize winner.
  • A book I picked because I liked the cover: How To Be A Good Creature: A memoir in thirteen animals by Sy Montgomery and nice illustrations by Rebecca Green.
  • A book about romance with strong-willed female lead character: Say You Still Love Me by K. A. Tucker and The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory. Both authors are new to me even though they’ve each written several novels.

Other readings

  • In addition to physical books, I also listened to actors’ readings of Chapters 1 to 11 of Harry Potter The Philosopher’s/ Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling on Wizarding World web site.
  • May was Short Story month so I switched gear and read the first ten of the 73 short stories available free online. I hope to find time to read more of these short stories. I like the variety of writing styles and the stories themselves.

Week 1 of summer 2020 was beautiful. The weather forecast for the coming week is sunny and warm. I look forward to spending more time outdoors and doing something fun to celebrate Canada Day on July 1st.

How did your week go? What book(s) are you reading? I’d love to hear your comments.

I link up here.

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

Life with Flower Plants

Hello blog friends! How are you doing? I hope your week is going well. Come on into my blog space for a coffee or tea. We’ll catch up on what’s new since we last talked about May.

On Friday, Toronto Public Library announced that beginning on Monday, June 8, library users can start reserving times for curbside pick-up of holds at most branches where the service can be safely provided. I’m looking forward to scheduling time to pick up a few books. My default branch is still closed so the library has redirected my holds to another branch. I plan to bike or walk there with my backpack for my book haul.

The weather was great for the first week of June. Daily high temperatures were in the range of 23C to 30C (73F to 86F) with sun, clouds, and some rain. I’ve had several nice walks to local parks and by the lake. So grateful for the beautiful flowers, trees, birds, public art sculpture, and stunning lake views.

On one of my walks, I went on a photo hunt to find and take photos of ten different plants, ideally with flowers in different colours. I’m sharing the results of my photo hunt below. I hope the flowers brighten your day and bring you a smile like they did for me.

Allium

Allium 'Purple Sensation' flowers
Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ with deep purple and rounded blooms atop tall stems.

Anemone

Snowdrop anemone
Snowdrop anemone clusters are fragrant and festive.

Apple blossoms

Apple blossoms
Creamy and light pink apple blossoms at their peak are gorgeous.

Azalea

Pink azaleas
Bright pink azaleas offer a colour burst and flamboyant flowers.

Lady’s Mantle plants

Lady's Mantle plants with rain drops on green leaves.
Simple beauty to my eyes: Clear rain drops on green leaves.

Pasque flowers

Purple Pasque flowers
Pasque flowers with violet petals, yellow centre and feathery foliage are attractive.

Scilla Siberica (or Siberian Squill)

Blue Siberian squill flowers
Siberian squill blue star-shaped flowers form a carpet and beautify the ground.

Spurge Fireglow (Euphorbia griffithii)

Spurge Fireglow orange-red flowers.
These plants offer clusters of pretty orange-red flowers and deserve the name “Fireglow”.

Tulips

Deep burgundy tulips
‘Queen of the Night’ tulips present dramatic deep burgundy blossoms.

Wild Tulips

Yellow wild tulips
Wild tulips provide bright yellow flowers and a sweet fragrance.

Here’s my photo hunt in numbers: 10 photos, 10 plants, 10 colours (purple, white, cream, pink, green, violet, blue, orange, burgundy, and yellow). Proof that plant life has been wonderful here this spring. The blooms beckon bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.

I look forward to walking around, exploring what else is blooming, examining the plants from the root to the tip, and taking photos. When I see the beautiful flowers, they make me feel happy and positive. They expand my interests in garden designs and plants as well.

I’m linking up this post with Terri’s Sunday Stills Photo Challenge, Cee’s Flower of The Day, and other link-ups as listed here.

How did your week go? I’d love to hear your comments.

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

Life with Moments of Beauty

Hello blog friends! How are you doing? I hope all’s well with you. Come on in my blog space for a coffee or tea and let’s catch up on our news since last week when we chatted about staying fit and having fun.

Life This Week

Lake view with white clouds
The essentials of life: Air, light, water

If we were having coffee, I’d share that the Government of Ontario allowed more businesses to re-open starting May 19. All public schools in Ontario remain closed for the remainder of the current school year and online learning continues until the end of June.

The business re-openings have made no difference to my daily routine. We still need to maintain physical and social distancing. Canada’s public health officials now say Canadians should wear a mask whenever physical distancing is not possible.

I continue to stay home most of the time, except going out for short walks to exercise or to buy groceries. During the day I’m active and in the evening I have plenty of digital media to keep me entertained. I go for walks 5 or 6 times per week. While out in nature, I experience many moments of beauty that make me feel positive and grateful.

Moments of Beauty

If we were having coffee, I’d share the moments of beauty that came from the fresh spring flower blossoms on one of my walks. Every day new flowers appear and the trees become more lush with green leaves. The variety and individuality of the flowers are ideal for my virtual bouquet. Let’s see how many of them are familiar to you.

Trillium flowers
White trillium flowers
White trillium flower is the official provincial emblem of Ontario, Canada and is featured on the province’s official flag. The name itself derives from the fact that nearly all parts of the plant come in threes – three leaves, three flower petals, three blooming characteristics (upright, nodding, or drooping) and three-sectioned seedpods.

Pasque flowers
Pasque flowers
Pasque is the Old French word for Easter. The lavender colour of the flowers fits right into an Easter colour scheme. But happily, the Easter bunny will leave them alone because rabbits dislike leaves that are fuzzy. 

Little Beauty tulips
Mystery pretty flowers
These Little Beauty tulips (tulipa humilis) are lovely tulips that make a striking impact. I was excited to find out their name after some searching. Initially I called them Mystery pretty flowers.

Cushion spurge flowers
Cushion spurge flowers
Cushion spurge grows in an attractive dome (cushion) and the combination of neon yellow flowers on green leaves is eye-catchy when you see them in real life.

Grape hyacinths
Grape hyacinths
These grape hyacinths have clustered flowers hang from sturdy stalks, resembling bundles of grapes. They look luscious in the sunshine.

I’ll pause here since my virtual bouquet is getting big with all the flowers. There are more to see. Maybe in a future post. For now, another enjoyable walk done in my book. I come home with a smile and feel positive.

I call these flower blooms “moments of beauty” because the time period when they look their best is brief. I feel grateful to be around to witness these moments. Thank you for coming along with me. I hope my virtual bouquet brings you a smile.

If you’d like to extend the virtual walk, continue to my blogger friend Erica/ Erika’s Behind The Scenery Photo blog for stunning tulips and more.

How did your week go? What are the common spring flowers where you live? I’d love to hear your comments.

I link up here.

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

Life and Advice From A Tree

Trees

Hello blog friends! How are you doing? I hope all is well with you. Last Sunday it was sunny here with the high temperature reached 21C (70F). Then during the week, it was cooler than normal which made my walks relaxing. Cooler weather and walking in non-peak hours mean less effort required to keep physical distancing from people.

Life This Week

If we were having coffee, I’d share that Ontario, my province, started allowing a few seasonal businesses to reopen on May 4. All other non-essential business closures continue so my mostly stay-at-home routine continues. Every day is full of simple pleasures that make me feel positive and grateful.

I take time to appreciate sunrise, deep breathing, quiet meditation, a bowl of warm oatmeal sprinkled with cinnamon for breakfast, ripe-just-right fruit, a good cup of coffee, OK two cups of coffee, birds chirping outside, cheerful spring flowers, lots of daylight, moving at my own pace, a walk to the lake, a hot lunch, getting things done, a cup of tea, hand clapping with neighbours for carers, dinner at home, sunset, relaxation, and rest.

Cherry blossoms

Some of the things that I got done this week made me smile:

  • Congratulated my nephew who graduated from university with honours this month and promptly accepted a very good full-time job offer in his field of study.
  • Completed my daily meditation, 5 outdoor walks, 4 yoga sessions, and 3 workouts.
  • Tried a dance workout on YouTube to spice up my fitness routine and had fun.
  • Walked to the Toronto Music Garden and saw many beautiful spring flowers, including cherry blossoms and trillium.
  • Did my grocery shopping in non-peak hours and got most items on my list.

Advice From A Tree

If we were having coffee, I’d share that the trees that I’ve seen on my walk this week inspired me to think about Ilan Shamir’s poem Advice From A Tree and the Tree pose in my yoga practice. I’m sharing the poem (text in italic) and some of my photos below:

Dear Friend,

Stand Tall and Proud
Sink your roots deeply into the Earth
Reflect the light of a greater source
Think long term
Go out on a limb
Remember your place among all living beings

Willow trees

Embrace with joy the changing seasons
For each yields its own abundance
The Energy and Birth of Spring
The Growth and Contentment of Summer
The Wisdom to let go of leaves in the Fall
The Rest and Quiet Renewal of Winter

Feel the wind and the sun
And delight in their presence
Look up at the moon that shines down upon you
And the mystery of the stars at night
Seek nourishment from the good things in life
Simple pleasures

Trees with yellow flowers

Earth, fresh air, light
Be content with your natural beauty
Drink plenty of water
Let your limbs sway and dance in the breezes
Be flexible
Remember your roots
Enjoy the view!

Lake view on a sunny day

I enjoy my walk so much. I always come home with a smile and feel renewed. Nature inspires me to think about the Advice From A Tree poem and the Tree pose in my yoga practice. If you practice yoga, you know the Tree pose requires and improves our focus, balance, and strength.

During these uncertain times, I choose to focus on the positives, work on finding a balance in my day, be flexible, and stay strong. Once in a while, when anxious thoughts occur, I take a few deep breaths and think about the trees. This week is another good week. Thank you for coming along with me. I hope you enjoy our virtual walk.

Wishing you a Happy Mother’s Day weekend!

Tulips

How did your week go? What good things happened? I’d love to hear your comments.

I link up here.

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

April Smiles

Orange tulips and daffodils

Hello blog friends! How are you doing? I hope you’re well. Come on in so we can share a coffee or tea and our news. If we were having coffee, I’d share with you what made me feel positive and gave me five big smiles since I mentioned my Gratitude list. Heads up that there are lots of spring flowers in this post.

Smile #1 – Family and Friends

My family and friends are well. We stay in touch by phone, text, email, and the occasional virtual meetings. Most of my family members who are working are essential workers so they’re actually busier and under more stress than usual. Knowing that everyone in my circle is safe and in good health makes me smile.

Smile #2 – Health

If we were having coffee, I’d share that I was diligent about my health routine in April. I meditated every day, practiced deep breathing and yoga three times per week, and did strengthening workouts three times per week. I also walked outdoors five or six times per week, about one hour each time.

I’m mindful of keeping a safe distance from everyone else. Most of the time, it’s easy to do physical distancing because there is no one in my path when I go. My 5K walks let me see Lake Ontario, beautiful spring flowers, wildlife, and interesting murals and sculptures. They keep me in good spirits.

Smile #3 – Home

If we were having coffee, I’d share that in April, I baked my first Blueberry Coffee Cake. It would go well with our coffee or tea. I used Jean Paré’s easy-to-follow recipe from her Muffins and More book. She’s a Canadian and author of the Company’s Coming cookbook series that has sold over 30 million copies since 1981.

The cake was a success so I’d make it again in the future. The topping has cinnamon which smells very nice when I bake the cake. I included the recipe. Note that I used blueberries instead of cranberries. Raspberries work, too.

Smile #4 – Leisure

During this global pandemic, there is a huge amount of arts and entertainment available online 24/7 without extra cost. With my library card, I have access to more leisure materials than time to explore them all. In April, here’s some of what I enjoyed:

  • Books: I was happy to spend time away from the screen and read over 1,000 pages from three compelling books, Dear Life by Alice Munro who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2013, Angela’s Ashes, a memoir and Pulitzer Prize winner by Frank McCourt and The Sisters Brothers, finalist of several literary prizes in 2011, by Patrick deWitt.
  • Films: My library card gives me access to a great collection of films and documentaries. I chose to watch three films in April: The Gold Rush, Modern Times, and Call Me by Your Name. The first two are Charlie Chaplin’s comedic masterworks. The third film won several awards in 2018 and its location reminded me of my wonderful time in Italy.
  • Languages: French and Spanish lessons on Duolingo are my fun brain exercises, 30 minutes/ day. I chose two languages that have similarities to challenge myself. They also remind me of my many trips to France and Spain. The happy memories make me smile.
  • Music: I listened to Andrea Bocelli: Music for Hope, One World: Together At Home, and Stronger Together, Tous Ensemble concerts, plus numerous classical concerts online at the Berliner Philharmoniker Digital Concert Hall, and music played by professional DJs on the radio.
  • Shows: The Cirque du Soleil Premier show on CirqueConnect and The Nutcracker ballet at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre were incredible to watch. Pre-pandemic I wouldn’t be able to watch them from front row seats. In April I could watch them in close details from home for free.

Smile #5 – Blogs

I wrote five blog posts in April and the “Oscar” goes to Life is Like A Box of Chocolates with the highest number of comments I received to date. Your comments brighten my day, thank you! Please keep them coming. I have fun reading your blogs and leaving my comments, too. Check out this page to see where I link up.

Tulips

Stay Safe and Healthy

So I had many good reasons to smile and feel grateful for in April. The recipe for me to be well emotionally, mentally, and physically is to stick to my health routine and spice up my day with a variety of leisure activities.

I expect to continue staying at home most of the time in May, except to go out for exercise walks and groceries. I hope this 3-geese sign brings you a smile. Stay safe and healthy everyone!

How was your April? What makes you smile? I’d love to hear your comments.

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

Life Is Like A Box of Chocolates

Hello blog friends! How are you doing? I hope all is well with you. Forrest Gump’s expression “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get” came to my mind this week. If we were having coffee or tea, I’d share what made me smile and feel positive since my Trumpeter swan sightings last week.

It’s also time for the fourth Wellness Weekend link-up in 2020. The optional prompt is Water Sports. I hope you join me and my blogger friend, Leslie, to share what helps you stay healthy these days.

Family and Friends

I did my round of calls, email, and texts to my family, friends, and neighbours. Everyone has a story and I’m listening. Sharing our thoughts and updates was like sharing a box of chocolates. We were able to make each other smile or laugh out loud. I feel grateful that I’m with a group of optimistic people and everyone is well so far.

Three crocus colours

Family members and friends who are working shared their experience of working from home or how their employers arranged for physical distancing in the workplace. My nieces and nephews who are students shared their online learning experience and social life while schools are still closed. Friends who care for elderly parents shared how they’re managing it. My neighbours shared their early “senior hour” shopping experience.

Health

I’ve been diligent about my fitness routine to keep me emotionally, mentally, and physically healthy. Here’s what I do to stay calm and feel positive:

  • Daily meditation, 15 minutes/ day.
  • Deep breathing at meditation, yoga, bedtime, or any time.
  • Outdoor walks with physical distancing 5-6x/ week, one hour each time.
  • Strengthening workouts 3x/ week, one hour each time.
  • Yoga 3x/ week, one hour each time.
Gulls by the lake

My outdoor walks are like a box of decadent chocolates. I love my time by the lake where I see open space, hear the sounds of water and bird life, and feel what the weather brings. The birds and waterfowl are very active. Their antics and conversations made me smile.

Nature

Tulips

Nature continues to show her best in spring time and delight me with her transformation from one day to the next. Daffodils and tulips started to bloom this week, adding more colours to the existing crocuses and hyacinths. I feel grateful to be able to walk outdoors with my senses all engaged.

A bunny

Oh, I spotted a bunny in a bush. S/he moved slowly around for a while before hopping away. I live near the centre of the busiest city in Canada so seeing bunny in the wild is a rare sighting that made me smile. I usually see them in the suburbs or more rural areas.

Shopping

Grocery shopping has been like a box of chocolates. The grocery stores continue to tweak their directional signs, the queue location, and in-store procedures so every trip is a mini-adventure. The stock inventories are inconsistent. I never know what I’m going to bring home with me.

Basmati rice bag

Example: No long grain rice from Thailand? Buy Basmati rice from India. I’ve never had such a colourful rice bag with a zippered top before. Now I own one. The rice was good, and I have two rice brands to choose in the future. I feel grateful to be home in my familiar surroundings while having opportunities to try food products from faraway places.

Water Sports

Being close to one of the Great Lakes means I’m close to popular outdoor water sports such as canoeing, kayaking, sailing, power boating, and stand-up paddling. The season usually starts in May and ends in late September.

Canoes and kayaks

The bright colours of the canoes and kayaks made me smile. They look like cheerful chocolate wrappings. Even though it’s still chilly to be out in the lake at this time of the year, the canoes and kayaks lying in the sun are like a promise of the summer fun to come. Something to look forward to.

How did your week go? What helps you stay healthy? I’d love to hear your comments.

Click here to join the Wellness Weekend link up and share your wellness updates.

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

Life and Trumpeter Swan Sightings

Trumpeter swans

Hello blog friends! How are you doing? I hope all is well with you. In my March Wrap-Up post, I wrote about keeping a routine. This week I took a few cues from nature and mapped out a number of activities that made me smile and feel positive.

Family and Friends

Three sparrows

Nature: Three sparrows stood on a wooden handrail and chirped almost non-stop to share their news. They were so busy “talking”, they let me take a group photo. Their brown feathers blend them well with their habitat.

Me: I made my round of phone calls and texts to touch base with my family and friends. Wished one of my dear friends a happy birthday. Sent an email to my friend in Finland. Had a fun virtual party with my extended family, and a good phone conversation with my cousin who lives in France to share updates. Also did hand clapping every evening at 7 PM to show my support for the essential health care professionals and front line workers.

Health

Canada geese and ducks

Nature: Two Canada geese and two ducks swam happily in the calm harbour. They are exercising or meditating while physical distancing, LOL.

Me: I did my daily meditation, three yoga sessions, and three workouts at home using my own body weight and a Theraband resistance band. Also did short walks outdoors by the lake when there was no one around, just the birds.

Leisure

Nature: A variety of spring flowers are showing up in different colours, shapes, and sizes. Each is pretty on their own. The skies change daily, from clear and sunny to clouds and short showers. Why not try different leisure activities?

Me: Nature is my endless source of art and inspiration for sure. What else did I do from home and all for free?

  • Visited art exhibits at the Virtual Museum of Canada.
  • Wrote one blog post to wrap up March.
  • Read the thought-provoking Dear Life book by Alice Munro.
  • Took daily French and Spanish lessons on Duolingo.
  • Watched Charlie Chaplin’s comedic masterwork in The Gold Rush movie.
  • Watched the amazing Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet The Nutcracker at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre (Russia’s most famous theatre).
  • Watched an incredible Cirque du Soleil Premier show at CirqueConnect.

Trumpeter Swan Sightings

About ten days ago, when I was at the Toronto lakefront, I saw two Trumpeter swans flew by and heard their call to each other. This week I got to see them up close in the marina, right under my feet. Their black bills distinguish them from other species. I saw the tags, P24 and T63, on their wings.

The bright yellow numbered wing tags mean the Trumpeters are from Ontario. They are tagged by volunteers, often when on their winter feeding grounds. The two swans lingered near me for a while then swam away gracefully.

Two Trumpeter swans

Did you know that the Trumpeter swan is North America’s largest wild waterfowl and that it was almost driven to extinction early in the 20th century? The All About Birds web site gives an excellent overview of Trumpeter swan and clear audio of their unique sound.

Biologist Harry Lumsden began a provincial reintroduction program in the early 1980’s to re-establish the Trumpeter swan population in Ontario. With a lot of staff and volunteer efforts, the restoration of the Trumpeter swan in its former habitat and range has yielded good results.

I consider myself fortunate to be so close to these magnificent birds and to spend a few moments captivated by the sights and sounds of a pair of Trumpeter swans. They made me smile and gave my week a nice ending.

How did your week go? What wildlife have you seen recently? I’d love to hear your comments.

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

A Walk Among the Roses

Valentine’s Day is almost upon us and in my part of the world, roses and chocolates are common gifts on that day. If you’re buying or receiving long stemmed roses in Canada and the United States, chances are the roses come from Cotopaxi in Ecuador.

An Ecuadorian red rose
An Ecuadorian red rose

Where is Cotopaxi?

Cotopaxi is one of South America’s most famous volcanoes and one of its most active ones. It’s located 60 km south of Quito and is within the famous “Avenue of Volcanoes” in Ecuador, a long stretch of 320 km (200 miles) comprised of tall peaks and volcanoes.

At the base of Cotopaxi volcano, there are many rose plantations or rose farms (seen as white buildings in the photo below). My sister and I took a walking tour in one of the plantations and learned how Ecuadorian roses are cultivated and exported to other countries around the world.

Snow-covered Cotopaxi volcano and rose plantations near its base
Snow-covered Cotopaxi volcano and rose plantations near its base

Why Roses Thrive in Cotopaxi?

  • Climate: Ecuador has the perfect conditions for growing roses. Ecuador is right on the Equator which means constant temperatures year round. During the day, it is around 20C (68F) and during the night, it cools down to 4C (39F).
  • Altitude: The roses grow in Cotopaxi at about 3000 meters (10,000 feet) above sea level. The intensity, luminosity, and the 12 hours of sunlight ensure the roses grow beautifully.
  • Volcanic soil: The soil in Cotopaxi is rich in minerals, allowing the roses to grow very tall with thick, strong stems, the largest blooms, and in the most vibrant colours.

What Does a Rose Plantation Look Like?

A rose plantation has many rows of white plastic-covered houses. Inside each house, many rows of Ecuadorian rose varieties grow more than 2 meters (6.5 feet) tall.

Rose plantation

Automated irrigation and heating systems control the temperature and relative humidity to ensure the optimal conditions for the plants. The rose buds are kept in perfect shape with nets.

Ecuadorian rose buds in green nets
Ecuadorian red rose buds in green nets

There are about 500 rose varieties in Ecuador. The rose plantation that we visited offers about 40 varieties. I attach a sample of six different roses here.

Once the roses are ready for harvest, they’re cut and placed in a pre-cool area where the outdoor heat is removed from the flowers as they arrive from the field, swiftly halting the opening of the flowers.

Next, the roses are placed in containers in a large hydration and packing cold room where temperature is kept between 0.5°C and 2°C guaranteeing quality prior to shipping. Rose production and international shipments are planned in time for special holidays such as Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.

Roses to go
Roses to go

How Are Roses Used Locally?

Roses are sold in local markets or flower stands along the roads for a very inexpensive price. They are also given as complimentary gifts to visitors at the plantation. The local haciendas have rose arrangements in their reception areas and some give a long-stemmed rose to welcome their guests upon arrival.

Roses at Hacienda La Cienega
Roses at Hacienda La Cienega reception desk

Some hotels have more formal flower arrangements and gorgeous fresh roses on display, like this hotel in Quito.

Roses at a hotel in Quito
Roses at a hotel in Quito

Where To Buy Ecuadorian Rose Souvenirs?

The souvenir shop on the plantation site sells all kinds of rose products. For example, dyed roses, dry rose petals, rose-scented lotion, rose-flavoured tea, and since Ecuador also produces cacao, rose-infused chocolates as well.

A popular store chain named República del Cacao has locations in Quito, at Quito international airport and in major cities where you can buy Ecuador chocolates, cacao products, Panama hats, rose-related souvenirs, etc.

Blue roses

It was a real treat to walk among the beautiful Ecuadorian roses and receive them so freely during our stay in this area of Ecuador. I’m closing this post with a photo of a cute pair of llamas that we saw upon leaving the rose plantation.

Happy Valentine’s Week!

Two llamas

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Papallacta Hot Springs: A Delightful Stay

During my travels, sometimes I discover places that exceed my expectations. The Termas de Papallacta (Papallacta Hot Springs) resort in Ecuador was one of them. Our stay there turned out to be one of my 10 favourite experiences in Ecuador. Let me share some of my photos and brief descriptions with you.

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Where is Papallacta?

Papallacta is a small town about 70 km (43 miles) east of Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Papallacta is located at an altitude of 3,250 metres (10,600 feet) in the Andes, at the edge of the Cloud forest.

Cloud forest

Where are the Papallacta hot springs?

Papallacta hot springs are located on the banks of the Papallacta river in between Antisana and Cayambe-Coca Nature Reserves. Two nearby volcanoes, Cotopaxi and Antisana, create thermal baths which vary between 30°C and 70°C (86°F and 158°F).

Active Antisana volcano

How to get there?

By car it’s about an hour drive from Quito’s Mariscal Sucre International airport (UIO), and about 1.5 hours from Quito’s city centre. Visitors can also book day tours or take local buses to Papallacta.

Where to stay?

I recommend the Termas de Papallacta (Papallacta Hot Springs) resort for its location and amenities. The resort has a large public bathing complex, a hotel, and a separate spa complex. The natural hot springs in Papallacta feed the thermal pools in the hotel.

Termas de Papallacta Resort

What to enjoy at Termas de Papallacta resort?

Thermal pools: Termas de Papallacta resort offers three different sets of pools:

  1. Private pools right outside the hotel cabins and rooms: These shallow pools, surrounded by rocks and pretty flowers, are free and exclusive for guests of the resort.
Papallacta private pools
  1. Public thermal bath complex (the Balneario): This complex has at least ten different pools with varying temperatures. These pools are open daily to the public with admission fees. For hotel guests, entrance is free.
  1. The Spa complex: This complex has five thermal pools equipped with various water jets, bubbles, water spouts and one polar pool. The pool area has garden-like setting of flagstones and flowers, with plenty of lounge chairs. These pools are open to the public at higher admission fees than the public baths. For hotel guests, the spa pool entrance fees are discounted.
Papallacta spa pools

The entrance fee for the Spa complex includes a locker, bathing cap, and towel. The change rooms in the Spa area are more luxe than the public bath complex, with heated floors, complimentary shampoo, conditioner and blow dryers. Bathrobe rental is extra.

If you’re spending just one day at Termas de Papallacta, I’d suggest to pay for entrance to the public pools at the Balneario or for the pools at the Spa complex. At the pools the temperature ranges from 36°C to 38°C (97°F to 100.4°F).

Hiking trails: Termas de Papallacta owns a protected area of approximately 200 hectares, called Canyon Ranch, located at the entrance of Cayambe-Coca Nature Reserve. Visitors can explore the hiking trails on their own or for a few US dollars, book a guided hike at the Exploratorium in the resort.

The Exploratorium is a research centre that provides information on the different species of flora and fauna found around Papallacta, some unique to the area. Up in the highlands, the cool air is great for hiking and makes lying in the hot pools that much better.

Hotel rooms: The hotel rooms are made of preserved wood with private bathroom and heated flooring. The rooms are situated around the thermal water pools for exclusive guest use. There are also bungalows for families and cottages separate from the hotel area.

Papallacta hotel room

Spa services: My sister and I booked a spa package which includes 30 minutes in the Spa thermal pools, a 20-minute steam bath in a thermal grotto, and a 30-minute back and neck massage. The steam bath grotto has hot water trickles over rocks and eucalyptus leaves while guests relax on deck chairs. There is an area for guests to rest before the massage.

On-site bar and restaurant: The hotel restaurant offers Ecuadorian and international fare using ingredients from the organic kitchen garden. I enjoyed the quinoa soup and local fresh trout, the restaurant’s specialty dish, for dinner.

My Conclusion

Termas de Papallacta resort offers the perfect pairing of recreation and relaxation. I can hike then rest or rest then hike in a magical setting. This is a stunning area for nature walks, mountain views, and hot springs. If you’re in Quito, consider a visit to the Papallacta Hot Springs. I highly recommend it!

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

My 10 Favourite Experiences in Ecuador

Last month my sister and I made a trip to Ecuador, a country on the Pacific side of South America. Our itinerary included visits to Quito, Otavalo, Papallacta, the Amazon, Banōs, and Patate. We had a wonderful time with numerous memorable moments.

I love so many things about Ecuador and it’s tough to name my ten favourite experiences. Nevertheless, I’m listing ten for now and plan to write more details in the next few posts.

My 10 Favourite Experiences in Ecuador

1. Visit Quito and its historic centre: Quito, founded in 1534, is the capital city of Ecuador. The historic centre of Quito was one of the first centers of its kind to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. A good place to see the panoramic view of Quito is at Itchimbia Park.

Quito sign at Itchimbia Park
Quito sign at Itchimbia Park
View of Quito from Itchimbia Park
View of Quito from Itchimbia Park

We walk the cobblestone streets in Quito’s historic centre and visit some of the beautifully restored colonial-era churches, palaces, and public plazas, such as the Independence Plaza, the Cathedral, Presidential Palace, and the Archbishop’s Palace, La Compañia de Jesus Church with its beautiful gilded interior, and the Church and Monastery of San Francisco with its impressive facade and atrium.

Independence Plaza in Quito
Independence Plaza in Quito

2. Straddle the Equator at the Middle of the World Monument: The country is called Ecuador as the Equator passes right through it. We visit the Middle of the World Monument which commemorates the first Geodesic Mission of the French Academy of Sciences. This is where Louis Godin, Pierre Bouguer, and Charles Marie de La Condamine first determined the equatorial line in 1736.

Even though GPS measures later proved that their magnetic measurements were flawed, and the actual equator is located 250 meters from the monument, it’s still a nice place to visit and to stand at a latitude of 0º0’0” with one foot in the Northern and one in the Southern Hemisphere.

Middle of the World Monument at Latitude 0º0'0''
Middle of the World Monument at Latitude 0º0’0”

3. Hike and hike some more: We hike to Peguche waterfall near Otavalo, and the Devil’s Cauldron waterfall near Baños. The landscape that we see along the Pan-American Highway is breathtaking. The most strenuous hike for us, however, is in the Amazon rainforest.

Mountains and San Pablo lake near Otavalo
Mountains and San Pablo lake near Otavalo
Morning view of San Pablo lake
Morning view of San Pablo lake
Peguche waterfall
Peguche waterfall

4. Shop at the Otavalo market: The Otavalo market is one of the largest in South America run by the local Otavaleños. Here, we enjoy the lively market atmosphere and browse the various stalls for traditional goods such as handwoven cloth and rugs, Panama hats, art work, jewelry, and more.

Otavalo main square
Otavalo main square

The Panama hats, by the way, are made in Ecuador, and not Panama. The construction of the Panama Canal caused a great demand for toquilla straw hats from Ecuador, because of their qualities to protect from the sun. From Panama the hat was internationally known and people began to call it “Panama Hat” even though the place of origin is Ecuador.

Art for sale at Otavalo market
Art for sale at Otavalo market

5. Relax at the Papallacta hot springs: Ecuador has many volcanoes hence hot springs are plentiful. We enjoy the thermal hot pools and our overnight stay at Termas Papallacta hotel and spa. It’s a beautiful place to relax and recharge before we go to the Amazon rainforest.

Papallacta hot springs
Papallacta hot springs

6. Explore the Amazon rainforest: We stay at a lodge in a lush tropical and tranquil setting on the banks of the Napo river in the Amazon Basin. Birds, flowers, and sounds of nature and nocturnal animals fill our senses. We go on a guided and challenging hike for approximately two hours while viewing many species of tropical plants and insects up close.

The Amazon rainforest
The Amazon rainforest
Boat in the shade of the Amazon jungle
Boat in the shade of the Amazon jungle

7. Visit beautiful colonial-Spanish haciendas: We stay at Hacienda Leito which provides a fabulous mix of old and new. The original ranch building, with its original cobblestone driveway, central fountain, and antique artworks and furnishings, is a classic example of a colonial-Spanish hacienda. The up-to-date rooms and free Wi-Fi let you know you’re in the 21st century.

Hacienda Leito entrance
Hacienda Leito entrance

On another day, we lunch at Hacienda La Cienega, one of the oldest and most historical haciendas in Ecuador, dating back to the 17th century, with a view of the snow-capped Cotopaxi volcano, in the background.

The old chapel at Hacienda La Cienega
The old chapel at Hacienda La Cienega

8. Try Ecuadorian food: We try various dishes in Ecuador and like most of them such as ceviche, quinoa soup, potato soup, shrimps and grilled fish. We did not try cuy (guinea pig). There are also lots of fresh and inexpensive fruit such as bananas, plantains, papayas, and chirimoyas. Ecuador cacao and chocolate taste divine in their desserts and hot chocolate drinks.

Cacao-based desserts
Cacoa-based desserts

9. Tour a beautiful rose plantation: Although roses are not native to Ecuador, the country has a perfect environment for rose cultivation and is presently one of the world’s major producers. On the plantation tour, we learn about the farming process, from planting to exporting, and admire numerous rose varieties.

Rose plantation
Rose plantation

10. Watch nature, local fauna and flora: While in Ecuador, we are surrounded by nature and innumerable varieties of fauna and flora. I take in the lush vegetation, mountains, volcanoes, lakes, lagoons, waterfalls, rainforest, and cloud forests as much as I can. Below is a sample. I hope you see the hummingbird on the right of the red flower.

Hummingbird by a red flower
Hummingbird by a red flower
Tungurahua volcano at dusk
Tungurahua volcano at dusk

Many tourists come to Ecuador and jump from Quito or Guyaquil to the Galapagos Islands. There is much more to Ecuador than the Galapagos. I’m happy with what I’ve experienced on my first visit to beautiful Ecuador: culture, history, nature, food and its people. I hope you enjoy seeing Ecuador through my lens.

Have you been to Ecuador? What do you think? I’d love to hear your comments.

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.