Sunday, 14 April 2019

Day Trip to Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Greetings! In March, my sister and I went on a guided tour to visit Croatia and Slovenia. Our itinerary included a day trip from Dubrovnik in Croatia to Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We knew little about Mostar and were curious to have an introduction to the city.

In this post, I'm sharing a few quick facts about Mostar, and the main sights that we explored during our walk in the historic centre of Mostar. On the day of our visit, the weather was unusually warm, with sunny skies, and the high temperature reached 24C (75F).

QUICK FACTS:
  • Mostar is located just inland from the Adriatic Coast, about two hours drive from Dubrovnik.
  • Mostar is on the banks of the River Neretva, in the Herzegovina region, in the south east part of Bosnia & Herzegovina.
  • The historic Old Town of Mostar was developed in the 15th and 16th centuries as an Ottoman frontier town and during the Austro-Hungarian period in the 19th and 20th centuries. It was added to the UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2005.

ATTRACTIONS:

1. The Old Town: Under sunny skies, the historic Old Town of Mostar on the banks of the Neretva River looks picturesque with Islamic and medieval features. Some of the main mosques and their minarets dot the landscape. The walk through the historic Old Town is straightforward by following the cobble stoned main street. Sturdy shoes with good grips are essential as the stone surface is smooth and slippery.

Mostar and the Neretva River

2. Stari Most (or Old Bridge) - This striking single-arch stone bridge is the main attraction. The original bridge was built from 1557 to 1566 during the Ottoman Empire. It connects the left and right banks of the Neretva River. On the east bank, the semi-circular Tara Tower was used as a deposit for ammunitions in the Ottoman era and, today, houses the Museum of the Old Bridge. On the west bank, the Halebija Tower, was once the prison on its lower floors, and small barracks on its upper floors, also used as a look-out post.

Stari Most (Old Bridge), Mostar

The Old Bridge was destroyed in 1993 during the Yugoslav wars. After the wars ended, it was rebuilt with stone from the original quarry in the exact way it was built so long ago. The rebuilt works were finished in 2004. The ground surface of the bridge is steep, smooth, and slippery, with raised ridges. We were advised to use those raised ridges to step on.

3. Bridge Diving: One of the key activities of life in Mostar naturally revolves around its famous bridge: Bridge diving occurs mainly during the summer months, and involves trained professionals diving from the top of the Stari Most to entertain the crowds. The distance between the top of the bridge and the river below is about 20m, so bridge diving must only be undertaken by professionals or by tourists who have taken a training class beforehand.

My sister and I happened to be on the Stari Most when a local professional diver did a dive from the top of the bridge to the cold Neretva River below. Once he finished the dive, he swam to the rocks on the river bank and got out.

Mostar and the Neretva River

4. Building Architecture - The houses here reflect the Ottoman influence and Western medieval architectural features. There are a number of historic mosques and museums such as Nezir Aga Mosque, Tabacica Mosque, the Museum of the Old Bridge, or the Hamam Museum within short walking distance of each other.

Near Stari Most (or Old Bridge) there is a small ‘Don’t Forget’ Stone - This small stone serves as a gentle reminder of the civil war and the city's tragic past. While tourism has ensured that Mostar has been able to thrive since the war, not long ago it was under siege, and many of the locals living in the city today would have lost friends and family members.

Mostar medieval architecture

Colourful walls in Mostar

5. Kriva Cuprija (or Crooked Bridge) - For a smaller and less touristic version of the Stari Most, the Kriva Cuprija (or Crooked Bridge) is worth a visit. It is older than the Stari Most, and is thought to have been a test-run of sorts for the later construction of the larger and more famous bridge. It has only one arch so is relatively small, but still exemplifies typical Islamic architecture of the 16th century. The bridge was washed away by floods in the year 2000 but was rebuilt with aid from UNESCO a year later, and was relatively unscathed by the civil war.

Kriva Cuprija (Crooked Bridge), Mostar

6. The Market - In the heart of Mostar’s picturesque Old Town is its market. The market has a distinctly eastern feel, with stalls selling rugs, painted plates, copper items, and souvenirs. Some of the items, like the tea sets or lamps or jewel boxes, reminded me of the markets in Morocco. We were advised to be vigilante of pickpockets here.

Mostar stone walled houses and cobblestone street

Mostar Market

7. Mostar Peace Bell Tower - Constructed in 2000, the height of the bell tower is 107.2 m. Visitors can climb 370 steps or take a lift to the top. The Franciscan church below is a replacement for an 1866 basilica that was badly damaged during the war.

Mostar Peace Bell Tower

The walk in the historic Old Town of Mostar is not long. However, it takes a couple of hours to pause and see the main attractions. This does not include time spent in any of the mosque or museum, or other sights, or souvenir shopping.

I'm grateful for the opportunity to visit this part of the world during peace time, with my sister by my side, and on a beautiful, sunny day.

Thank you for travelling with me. I'd love to hear your comments. 

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Wellness Post #4: How I Keep My Mind Healthy


Welcome to the fourth Wellness link up of 2019! In case you missed my previous three Wellness posts, they are here: A Fresh Start, Icefest 2019, and Ice Breakers 2019. Feel free to join in on the fun with your recent or past wellness-related posts every second Wednesday of the month.

The optional prompt for April Wellness topic is Healthy Mind. In this post, I'm sharing how I keep my mind healthy. I look forward to hearing your feedback and suggestions.

HOW I KEEP MY MIND HEALTHY

I think of my brain as a muscle that needs regular exercises to stay strong. However, the type, the quantity, and the frequency of stimuli for my brain need to be just right for me so my brain does not get overloaded. It's also necessary to have some calm time to relax my mind and to give space for new sensory experiences. I'm sharing how I keep my mind healthy, in alpha order, below.
  1. Get enough sleep daily - Sleep allows our mind and body to rest and recharge. As much as I love to be active during the day, I love my beauty sleep at night. Eight hours sounds good!

  2. Learn foreign languages and play word puzzles - I've been taking online French and Spanish lessons on Duolingo daily and playing word games as time permits. I enjoy learning languages and I've had opportunities to use French and Spanish in my travels.

  3. Listen to, or view the creative ideas of others - I listen to music recitals, view art works like this exhibit, and watch movies on a regular basis. I'm grateful to live in a multicultural city that supports the arts. The concerts and art exhibits that I go to are free to the public.

  4. Meditate daily - Sometimes I meditate in one chunk of fifteen minutes, sometimes I do 7-8 minutes in the morning and 7-8 minutes at bedtime. I focus on my breathing, inhale all the positives, and exhale anything that I don't want to take with me.

  5. Move daily - In addition to thinking exercises, I believe my brain benefits from a good physical workout that can help improve learning and memory. I walk daily, attend yoga class 2x/ week, do strengthening exercises in the gym 3x/ week, and swim laps 1x/ week. I'm consistent with my fitness activities because I value my good health.

  6. Read as widely as I can - This is to keep my brain sharp and to stay aware of what's happening around the world. This year I took on the Toronto Public Library's 2019 Reading Challenge and have been reading more widely than before. I'll do a check-in next week to see how I'm doing with the Reading Challenge. 

  7. Spend some time each day reading, writing, or doing something creative - I enjoy blogging, taking photos, creating photo collages, reading... to name a few. Meal planning and cooking are creative activities, too.

  8. Stay social - I balance my 'me' time and time for my family, friends, and neighbours. Plus blogging time to connect with bloggers and blog readers :)

  9. Take a trip to a place I've never been and learn about another culture - I always learn so much when I plan to go to a new-to-me place and when I travel. My most recent trip was to Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Slovenia in March.

  10. Visit nature on a regular basis - By walking on a trail, visiting the lake front, or exploring a park like this cool park. Sunrise or sunset is lovely to see every day.

The next Wellness link up will be on Wednesday, May 8. Optional prompt: The B.E.S.T. Care (BEST is for Breasts, Eyes, Skin, and Teeth). Hope you join in on the fun.

How do you keep your mind healthy? I'd love to hear your comments.
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Friday, 5 April 2019

Art Discovery in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Greetings! Last week when I was in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, I stumbled upon Gregor Pratneker's V Naravo art exhibit. His art works were displayed in an intimate courtyard at Ljubljana's beautiful City Hall which was open to the public.

I learned later that Pratneker (1973) was born in Maribor, Slovenia, where he currently lives and works. In 2012, he received an MA at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana. He participates in numerous group and solo exhibitions at home and abroad.

Pratneker won several Slovenian awards, among them the Maribor Fine Artists Association Award for Best Painting in 2013 and in the same year the May Salon Award of the Union of Slovene Fine Artists Associations.

I was so impressed with his paintings, most of them are oil on canvas, with a nature or landscape theme. I took a number of photos, some close-ups, and some at a short distance to capture how the paintings are displayed on two levels of Ljubljana's City Hall. I grouped my photos by the main colours that I saw in the paintings as I didn't see the painting titles.

1. THE BLUE-THEMED PAINTINGS:





2. THE GREEN-THEMED PAINTINGS:

River in the Summer by Gregor Pratneker


3. THE GOLDEN and WINTER-THEMED PAINTINGS:


 
4. THE YELLOW-THEMED PAINTINGS:



What a pleasant surprise to discover Pratneker's beautiful art work! His exhibit was originally scheduled to end on March 13, however, it was extended to March 28, when I coincidentally was there in time to see it. This talented Slovenian artist's exhibit made my visit to Slovenia even more enjoyable and memorable.

I'd love to hear your comments.

Monday, 1 April 2019

March Wrap-Up

Greetings! Welcome to April 1st and what a gorgeous, sunny spring day we have where I live today. March was a unique month since I spent part of it at home and part of it in Europe with my sister. We had an amazing trip visiting Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Slovenia. I just returned home on the weekend and am now catching up with my blogging.

For readers who are new to my blog, this is my third monthly wrap-up in 2019. My January wrap-up is here, and my February wrap-up is here. I plan to write a wrap-up for each month so I can look back and see how well the year has turned out.

MARCH 2019

ARTS

In March I viewed three colourful outdoor and indoor art exhibits in my home city, one indoor art exhibit in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, and one outdoor art exhibit in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. There were also lots of beautiful art and architecture in Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Slovenia. Sample photos of the indoor art exhibits that I visited are below.

Pratneker art exhibit in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Paintings and Blown Glass Arts in Toronto

BLOGS

I wrote three posts in March before my trip to wrap up February, and to share my outdoor walks to Canoe Landing Park and Ice Breakers 2019. I didn't blog while I was traveling in Europe :-).

My thanks to everyone who have left comments on my blog and those who linked up with the Wellness Wednesday on March 13. A friendly reminder that our next Wellness link up is on Wednesday April 10. Optional prompt is Healthy Mind.

BOOKS

I read eight terrific books written by authors from Canada, Croatia, France, Sweden, and the USA. Most of the books are literary award winners or international bestsellers and are good reads.

Books I read in March

  • Love Dishonor Marry Cherish Perish by David Rakoff, 113 pages. This is a novel in verse with witty words that weave the stories together.
  • The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani, translated from the French Chanson Douce by Sam Taylor, 228 pages. Leila Slimani is the first Moroccan woman to win France's most prestigious literary prize, the Goncourt, which she won in 2016 for The Perfect Nanny. A journalist, she was born in Rabat, Morocco, in 1981. She lives in Paris with her French husband and their two young children. I enjoyed this book and picked up a second book, Adèle, by the same author from the Best Bets section in my local library.
  • Adèle by Leila Slimani, translated from the French Dans le Jardin de L'ogre by Sam Taylor, 216 pages. Leila Slimani won the La Mamounia Prize in 2014 for Adèle. The book tells the story of a woman afflicted by sexual addiction that loses control of her life due to her addiction. In this book cover, it states that the author is a frequent commentator for women's and human rights, and she is French president Emmanuel Macron's personal representative for the promotion of the French language and culture.
  • A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, translated from Swedish by Henning Koch, 295 pages. I've always meant to read this book and enjoyed reading it so much I couldn't put it down. I finished it in a day.
  • Bellevue Square by Michael Redhill, 262 pages. This book won the 2017 Giller Prize in Canada. The book is set in Toronto with locations familiar to me. The story is about a woman's doppelganger and mental health.
  • Binti by Nnedi Okorafor, 90 pages. This science fiction novella won the 2016 Hugo Award for Best Novella and the 2015 Nebula Award for the same category.
  • 419 by Will Ferguson, 399 pages. This book won the 2012 Giller Prize in Canada. It's about the insidious Internet scam from Nigeria, and how the characters' lives intersect.
  • The Rough Guide to Croatia, 479 pages, written and researched by Jonathan Bousfield who lives in Zagreb, Croatia.

CONCERTS

I attended three wonderful concerts at home before my trip:
    •    A Taste of Mardi Gras concert by Jordan Klapman, Gary Scriven, and Patrick Tevlin.
    •    Peace and Turmoil piano concert by Jialang Zhu.
    •    A classical piano concert by David Potvin.

FAMILY, FOOD & FRIENDS

In the first half of March, I met with one of my friends for a gym workout, and attended a fun social event that one of the yoga class participants organized to celebrate International Women's Day.

I spent the second half of March travelling with my sister. We had a wonderful time together in Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Slovenia. Our tour package covered all breakfasts, and we were on our own for lunch and dinner so we tried different eateries in various towns and cities that we visited. There were plenty of food and drink choices to choose from, plus delicious desserts.

HEALTH

In March, I meditated fifteen minutes daily, walked forty-five minutes or more every day. While at home, I completed ten strength workouts in the gym, five yoga classes, and three swimming sessions. On our trip, my sister and I walked on average three hours a day for sightseeing. I love my outdoor walks and when I get to see colourful art displays on sunshiny days, I'm a happy person :)

Outdoor arts for my fit and fun walks

LEARNING

I continued with my daily French and Spanish lessons on Duolingo, and learned about Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Slovenia before and during my trip. The tour leader and local tour guides gave us a lot of information about the three countries that we visited.

MOVIES

I watched two movies with my neighbours in early March (Instant Family, Ralph Breaks the Internet), and two in-flight movies (Venom, A Simple Favor). They were entertaining.

TRAVEL

My sister and I visited Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Slovenia on a guided tour. The trip was wonderful with several stops along the Adriatic Coast and two capital cities (Ljubljana in Slovenia and Zagreb in Croatia). We also made one stop in Mostar, in Bosnia & Herzegovina.

We lucked out with the group size (only twelve people), and the weather (mostly sunny days and only one cloudy day). Our itinerary was similar to the snapshot below. We had a good mix of guided time and free time to explore on our own. I plan to share my travel highlights and photos on my blog once I get my travel materials sorted out.

Adriatic Tour

Overall, March was a month full of new and fun experiences for me, both at home and abroad. I welcome April and look forward to enjoying the Spring season :)

How was your March? What good things happened? I'd love to hear your comments.

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Wellness Post #3: Ice Breakers 2019


Welcome to the third Wellness link up of 2019! You might like to read my January wellness post here, and February wellness post here. Feel free to join in on the fun with your recent or past wellness-related posts every second Wednesday of the month.

HEALTH GOAL UPDATES

I was at home the month of February which made it easier than when I travel to achieve my health goals. I use a simple sheet to keep track of all my goals for 2019, and write a monthly wrap up on my blog. My February wrap-up, including my Health activities, is posted here.

ICE BREAKERS for OUTDOOR FITNESS

For this month's Wellness post, the optional prompt is Indoor or Outdoor Fitness. I live in Ontario, Canada. In the winter months, the weather is unpredictable so it's necessary to do fitness activities both indoor and outdoor to stay healthy throughout the year.

Today, I'm sharing my 'fit and fun' outing to the Ice Breakers 2019 event in Toronto's Waterfront area. This is an annual outdoor event that showcases five winners of the Ice Breakers International Design Competition. Let's take a closer look at the five installations.

ICE BREAKERS 2019 - THE FIVE WINNERS

1. Tweeta-Gate by Eleni Papadimitriou and Stefanos Ziras of Space Oddity Studios SOS (Athens, Greece) - I like the yellow colour, the different shapes of the gates, and the small bells attached to the corners of each gate in this design. When you reach the end of the gate, you can see Lake Ontario.

Tweeta-Gate. Ice Breakers 2019

2. Chroma Key Protest by Andrew Edmundson of Solve Architects Inc. (Toronto, Canada) - I like the green colour and the simplicity of this design. The twenty-five wood buoys are anchored in a basin so I can look at them from the bridge but cannot touch them.

Chroma Key Protest, Ice Breakers 2019

3. Stellar Spectra by Rob Shostak and Dionisios Vriniotis (Toronto, Canada) - I like how this art installation invites interaction. When I look at the two light grey columns from the side walk, they are not that interesting. However, when I step inside each column and look up, I see warm colours (red, orange, yellow) in one column, and cool colours (blue, green, purple) in the other.

Stellar Spectra, Ice Breakers 2019

4. Tripix by Ryerson University (Toronto, Canada) - The modern look of this design is interesting. When I examine it closely, the reflective panels and how light gets through the gaps give a kaleidoscopic effect.

Tripix, Ice Breakers 2019

5. Connector by Alexandra Griess and Jorel Heid (Hamburg, Germany) - I like the striking orange colour of this design and how it invites interaction. I've seen children speak into the black mouth pieces at the corners and listen to the sound transmission.

Connector, Ice Breakers 2019

WHAT I GAINED:
  • Raised heart rate from the brisk walk outdoors.
  • An enjoyable walk along the waterfront on a sunny day. 
  • Positive sensory experiences from the visual art exhibits, the clear blue skies, the lake view, the sound of the bells, the touch and feel of most exhibits, the sunlight, and the cold air.

OVERALL RATING: I gave this outing five out of five points, one point for each of the following:
  • Affordability: Admission to the event is free.
  • Elements that support wellness: The art installations are along the Waterfront Trail which is open year round to cyclists, joggers, and pedestrians.
  • Fun: The art exhibits are interesting and interactive.
  • New experience: It was my second visit to the Ice Breakers event so I'm familiar with the event but the exact locations of the art installations changed slightly. I wrote about Ice Breakers 2018 here.
  • Uniqueness: The Ice Breakers event is once a year and each year five new winners are chosen.

I was pleased with how well this winter outing turned out. I left the Ice Breakers art installations feeling energized and joyful. Another fun walk, another good day!

I look forward to doing more fit and fun walks in the Spring. The next Wellness link up will be on Wednesday, April 10. Optional prompt: Healthy Mind.

Which of the above five winners do you like the most? I'd love to hear your comments.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

A Walk to Canoe Landing Park

Two days after a major snowstorm, on the first day of March, we had sunny skies with calm wind and the high temperature near freezing point. It was perfect for my 'fit and fun' walk to Canoe Landing Park.

Canoe Landing Park is an urban park created in 2009 in downtown Toronto. Its total area is 8 acres (3.1 ha). Its location is adjacent to the Gardiner Expressway, a municipal expressway, running close to the shore of Lake Ontario.

What makes Canoe Landing Park visually interesting are the standalone art pieces by Douglas Coupland, the Vancouver artist, author, and sculptor.

Here's a closer look at the art creations:

1. The Red Canoe: The canoe is large enough for people to stand in and see over the Gardiner Expressway to Lake Ontario. It's placed on a hill made from on-site excavated fill and geosynthetic reinforcements. Some 20,000-25,000 dump truck loads of fill were diverted from landfills.

The Red Canoe

2. Iceberg Benches are a pair of benches situated near the canoe. On a clear day, one can sit on the benches and have a panoramic view of Lake Ontario to the south and the high-rise buildings surrounding the park.

Iceberg Benches

3. Fishing Bobbers: A colourful display of twelve large fishing bobbers adds visual interest, especially on the white snowy ground. In the summer, when sprinklers are turned on, this area becomes a fun splash pad. Imagine running around, or in and out of the fishing bobbers with water spraying.

Fishing Bobbers

4. Beaver Dam: It's a sculptural beaver dam situated near the fishing bobbers, not a real one :) Due to the snow, my photo did not show the sticks and branches similar to what beavers use for their dams.

Beaver Dam

5. Terry Fox Miracle Mile: It's a one mile run named after Terry Fox, the Canadian athlete who ran the cross-country Marathon of Hope in April 1980 to raise money for cancer research. His life story and actions are incredibly moving and inspiring.

Map of Terry Fox Miracle Mile

6. Heart-Shaped Stone: This bronze artwork was cast from a stone retrieved by Terry Fox's brother at the end of his journey. Terry Fox was forced to end his run after 143 days and 5,373 kilometres (3,339 mi). He died at the young age of 22.

Heart-Shaped Stone

The beautiful sunshine encouraged me to continue my walk from Canoe Landing Park to the lake front. There I saw lots of seagulls, ducks, birds, and a few white swans.

Seagulls on Lake Ontario

Swans in Toronto Harbour

Then it was time to head home. I felt great and relaxed after walking outdoors in the sunshine and observing nature. Another fit and fun walk done, another good day!

I'd love to hear your comments.

Friday, 1 March 2019

February Wrap-Up

Greetings! This is my second monthly wrap-up in 2019. My January wrap-up was posted here. I plan to write a wrap-up for each month so I can look back and see how well the year has turned out.

FEBRUARY 2019

ARTS

In February I viewed two visually interesting outdoor art events titled Icefest 2019 and Ice Breakers 2019, and two wonderful indoor art exhibits titled Same Dream by Omar Ba, and Mapping Worlds by Shuvinai Ashoona.

I wrote about my visit to the Icefest 2019 event here. The Ice Breakers blog draft is in progress. Each of the two indoor art exhibits had about thirty or more beautiful paintings. Taking photos without flash was allowed so I took several photos and might share some of them in another blog post. In the interim, I included two photos below.

Omar Ba is an artist born in Dakar, Senegal. He lives and works between Dakar and Geneva. His works have been shown in Belgium, Switzerland, the UK, and Senegal.

Art by Omar Ba

Shuvinai Ashoona lives in Kinngait (formerly known as Cape Dorset) on the southern tip of Baffin Island in Nunavut, Canada. Her work has been shown in various galleries and museums in Canadian cities.

Art by Shuvinai Ashoona

BLOGS

In February I blogged about my travels to explore some of the main attractions in Guatemala, my fit and fun walk to see Icefest Hollywood North ice sculptures and ice carving demonstrations, one monthly wrap-up for January, and one final update for my Winter Fun List.

BOOKS

I read seven books written by authors from Australia, Canada, the UK, and the USA. I was kind of surprised that I could finish this many books in a short month like February.


  • Scrublands by Chris Hammer, 368 pages.
  • Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini, 48 pages - This book was inspired by the Syrian refugee crisis and the death of Alan Kurdi. The Afghan-American author, Khaled Hosseini, will donate author proceeds from this book to the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees and The Khaled Hosseini Foundation to help fund lifesaving relief efforts to help refugees around the globe.
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, 432 pages - This book was made into a movie starring Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck in 2014. The movie and the actress were nominated for several awards. It must be quite a thriller to watch.
  • Washington Black by Esi Edugyan, 419 pages - I was so pleased to pick up and read this book which won the 2018 Giller Prize in Canada. Last time I checked, there were 1685 holds for 399 copies in the Toronto Public Library system. If you're looking for an award-winning Canadian author, add this book to your reading list.
  • Defending Jacob by William Landay, 421 pages.
  • The Widow by Fiona Barton, 336 pages. 
  • Family & Other Catastrophes by Alexandra Borowitz, 302 pages.

CONCERTS

I attended two piano concerts performed by Rudin Lengo and Jean-Luc Therrien, one guitar concert by Louis Lawlor, and one choir and organ concert by Bach Children's Chorus at Roy Thomson Hall. The live singing and music were simply incredible.

Organ at Roy Thomson Hall

FAMILY and FRIENDS

Sharing delicious food with my family and friends was the theme in February. Each week we had a food event: A potluck dinner with my family clan, followed by a potluck lunch with my yoga class, and a Mexican fiesta dinner on Family Day. There were desserts at each event, too. I also met up with my friends for three coffee and one lunch catch-ups. One of my friends is taking early retirement in March so it's an exciting time for her.

Potluck lunch

HEALTH

Being at home the entire February means I can be consistent with my fitness routine. I got in all my daily meditation time, and walked outdoors for forty-five minutes or more every day, except three Sundays which were my rest days. I also completed thirteen strength workouts in the gym, eight yoga classes, and four swimming sessions.

LEARNING

I continued my French an Spanish lessons on Duolingo, fifteen minutes for each language daily. I also learned about the new artists when I went to see their art exhibits or attend their concerts, and new authors when I read books that are new-to-me. I usually end up researching more about the artist or the author and their works.

MOVIES

I watched four movies in February. As we know by now Bohemian Rhapsody won four Oscars for Best Actor, Film Editing, Sound Mixing, and Sound Editing, and Shallow from A Star Is Born won an Oscar in the Original Song category.
  • Johnny English Strikes Again starring Rowan Atkinson
  • Bohemian Rhapsody starring Rami Malek
  • The Front Runner starring Hugh Jackman
  • A Star Is Born starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper

TRAVEL PLANNING

My sister and I booked a guided tour to Croatia, Bosnia, and Slovenia in March.  We're both looking forward to the trip. The weather forecast at our destinations definitely looks more spring-like than what we have at home at the moment.

Overall, February was a fun-filled month for me. I enjoyed time with my family and friends, and the continuity of my health and leisure activities. March is off to a great start with plenty of new things for me to explore and learn.

How was your February? What good things happened? I'd love to hear your comments.


Sunday, 24 February 2019

Postcard from Guatemala City

Greetings! In January I took a trip to Guatemala in Central America. I wrote three blog posts on the first three stops in my itinerary as follows:

Today I'm sharing my tour and photos in Guatemala City, the capital of Guatemala and the largest city in Central America. Its official name is Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción (New Guatemala of the Assumption). The population of Guatemala City is about two million, however, with the addition of the neighbouring municipalities, the total increases to about four million.

Guatemala City is divided into twenty-two zones, which are numbered in a spiral fashion starting in downtown Guatemala City. I decided to book a half-day city tour to explore the various city zones. The tour included hotel pick-up and drop-off. There were eight people, including me, in the tour group, plus an English-speaking tour guide and a driver. Our shuttle van could accommodate twenty people so we had lots of room in the vehicle.

Our tour began with a visit to Plaza Berlin which offers a good view of Guatemala City and its surrounding mountains. From there, we made a few stops to see Iglesia Yurrita, a Catholic church known for its ornate Gothic features, and the Central Post Office which has the arch way similar to the Santa Catalina arch in Antigua.

View of Guatemala City from Plaza Berlin

Plaza Berlin, Guatemala City

Yurrita Church in Guatemala City

Main Post Office in Guatemala City

We continued on to Central Plaza, also known as Constitution Plaza, at the heart of Guatemala City. Here, we viewed the Cathedral, built between 1782 and 1815, and the National Palace, one of the most important Guatemalan architectural achievements of the last century. Formerly the seat of the government, it is now a museum and venue for government affairs.

Cathedral in Guatemala City

National Palace in Guatemala City

Constitution Plaza , Guatemala City

The tour also took us through the residential, the educational, and the business districts of the city to gain a full understanding of life in Guatemala City. We visited a gated residential district where many embassies and consulates are located. Photos are not allowed in this area. We also viewed at a distance zones that are deemed unsafe to visitors due to gang-related crimes, and passed by the Zoo.

The Zoo, Guatemala City

We walked through the city's Historic Centre, part of it is being converted to pedestrian-only area, and the Central Market where fresh produce and colourful handicrafts are visual treats.

Fruit in Central Market, Guatemala City

Fruit juice selection in my hotel

Guatemala City is a clean city as the municipal government has educated and encouraged its residents to keep the city clean. I was pleased with my decision to take the Guatemala City tour. It covered a lot of ground in three and a half hours. The tour guide was very knowledgeable, and with a small group, the pace was relaxing. This is my last stop in Guatemala, before flying home from La Aurora International Airport (airport code GUA) the next day.

My trip to Guatemala, known as the Land of Eternal Spring, was amazing! I hope you've enjoyed visiting (or revisiting) Guatemala through my lens.

I'd love to hear your comments.