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Alex Vivas's Posts
Alex has posted 7 reports and 7 photos.

Existing reports and photos: (Mouseover any camera icon for sample images. Click on any camera icon for all images)

Bahamas Visit: 2009-1
2009-01-18 - We flew from Fort Lauderdale, Fl to the Grand Bahama Island.

We rented a scooter to explore the Island; there is a big refinery west of Freeport, near the place where all the cruise ships disembark. The most picturesque area is Port Lucaya just south east of downtown Freeport. They had an outdoor New Year's Eve celebration with a band, drinks and fireworks, just beside where all the souvenir booths are located. We missed the Junkanoo Festival, which is now at 6pm on January 1st, although there are some websites still advertising it with the old 2am time.

There are many beautiful beaches in Grand Bahama but the one I liked the most was in the Lucayan National Park, about 40km east of Freeport. Access to this place is only US$3 and definitely worth it; The contrast between the dark caves, mangroves, and the beach over the sand dunes is incredible. Further east, in High Rock there is a good restaurant by the sea where you can taste the local food; go for fish or the traditional Cracked Conch.

Freeport/Lucaya is a small city with very friendly people. By nature they are heart warmed but they also want you to come back (to bring some more $$$). Be aware of tourist traps (expensive marine activities). At the souvenir booths, make sure you do not pay the asking price; in some cases I was able to get a 70% discount! If money is not an issue, there is plenty of things to do, like snorkeling, fishing tours, jet skiing, parasailing, etc.

California Visit: -

Colombia (mainland) Visit: 2006-7
2009-01-18 - This is not only a country of coffee, emeralds and 'other exports'. Colombia is the second most bio diverse country in the world (first is Brazil, 7.5 times bigger than Colombia)

It also has a variety of unique attractions, like some UNESCO world heritage sites including the Port and Fortresses in Cartagena, the Malpelo Island Fauna and Flora Sanctuary, the San Agustin Archeological Park, and others.

Food and lodging is inexpensive in Colombia, if you choose to stay away from resorts and international hotel chains. The easiest way to get to Colombia is by flying to the capital Bogota, a important hub with direct connections to/from North America, Europe, the Caribbean and the rest of South America.

It is understandable if some travelers want to avoid this destination, due to the -perhaps well deserved- reputation of violence and kidnappings. However, latest efforts from the government have lowered crime rates and traveling to most areas is safe. Cartagena and San Andres Island have seen an unprecedented increase in hotel occupancy rates. Other cities worth visiting are Santa Marta, Mompox, Villa de Leyva, Bucaramanga, Medellin, Cali and of course Bogota.

I encourage you to visit my homeland, a place with many wonders, diversity and home of some of the happiest people on earth.

Florida Visit: 2009-1
2009-09-07 - My stay at the Sheraton in Orlando was great, close to the downtown area and a short drive to the parks. Averaging a high of 23-25C everyday the weather is ideal in December (for us Canadians, anyway).

France Visit: 2006-8
2009-01-18 - I had the opportunity to visit Paris for one week. I learned that even though Paris is an expensive city, you do not need lots of money to enjoy it; everywhere you look there is a photo opportunity waiting for you. Is like having works of art all around you.

Hawaiian Islands (including NW Islands) Visit: 2009-3
2009-04-23 - Found a good deal flying NWA from San Francisco to Honolulu. Stayed in Honolulu and went to explore the Island of Oahu on a rental car; you can find good deals through Expedia, priceline or Hotwire. You can actually take the bus to go pretty much anywhere in the island but is not as efficient as a car rental. You can stop anywhere you see an interesting site and back on the road in no time; all beaches in Oahu are public, so you feel free to stop at any resort and enjoy the sand and ocean.

The bus is actually a good way to explore Honolulu; there are many routes along Waikiki beach and you can take it to start your hike to the Diamond Head crater, which is a must; once you make it to the top (not that difficult but it might be challenging for the beginner hiker) you will be rewarded with an amazing view of Waikiki and the rest of Honolulu. You will likely experience high winds and a strong tropical sun, so drink lots of water and protect your skin.

My biggest surprise was to see such a big amount of military personal present in the island. Of course everybody has heard about Pearl Harbor but the image I had of Hawaii before going there was beaches, surfing and volcanoes. But the Army, Navy and Air Force are everywhere.

The islanders seem to enjoy a high quality of life, they are laid back and love their paradise; I felt very safe during my whole stay although there are many warnings about leaving valuables in cars. Groceries are on the pricey side but reasonable

I tried the Ono Hawaiian foods restaurant as I had heard they had good island food. It is not a fancy restaurant but the food is great. Give it a try: http://www.geocities.com/napavalley/9874/

I would love to come back to Hawaii, stay for more than a week and explore all the islands.

Ontario Visit: 2009-1
2009-01-18 - From the tranquility of small lakes and natural parks to the magnificence of Niagara Falls and the Great Lakes and from small and charming towns to multicultural metropolis this is a land of contrasts.

I have lived in this beautiful Canadian province for over 13 years so I know my way around. Southern Ontario is the most developed area, with a good highway and railroad system. The far north is isolated but with access by air, sea and some railroads.

Toronto is the main gateway to Ontario and Canada. You can see people from all over the world walking in this City of more than 2.5 million (5.5 million if you include the Greater Toronto Area). It is easy to get around by public transportation if your purpose is to visit the main attractions. A must see attraction is the CN Tower, which until recently was ranked as the tallest structure in the world. From the observation deck you can see the city and the vastness of Lake Ontario.

There are many interesting sights in Ottawa; I love the Museums: Nature, Science & Technology, Aviation, Civilizations (across the river in Quebec), etc. It also has great parks, and opportunities for skiing, skating on the Rideau Canal, cycling and canoeing. Taking the bus is a reasonable option to get around although I would say the best way to get to know the city is by bicycle; there are many bike paths including one along the Rideau Canal, which recently was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The best times to visit Ottawa are early to mid May (Tulip Festival), late September to early October (Fall colors), late January to early February (Winterlude Festival) and of course summertime. Do not miss the Canada Day Celebration on July 1st; all traffic is closed around Parliament Hill and a big crowd gather to celebrate Canada's birthday

There is no need to introduce Niagara Falls. I have been there many times and it always amazes me (I guess I should get out more...) A stroll by the falls is always nice but you can also ride a bicycle along the parkway and enjoy all the attractions that the area has to offer. It is better to go on low season (late spring or early fall) and working days for better hotel rates. For unique photo opportunities winter is also a good option although you have to bundle up. At the north end of the Niagara River Parkway you will find Niagara-on-the-Lake, a charming town you should not miss if you are in the area.

In Ontario you can reach the edge of the Arctic Ocean by taking the Polar Bear Express (http://www.ontarionorthland.ca/en/railpassenger/pbx/polarbearexpress.html) to Moosonee, which is located ~20km south of James Bay.

San Andres and Providencia Visit: 1988-7
2009-01-18 - The first time I saw the ocean at age 12 was on my way to San Andres; I was not disappointed and I still have a vivid picture of the 'Mar de los siete colores' (Sea of the Seven Colors), as the locals call it.

San Andres is a beautiful Island in the Caribbean, surrounded by coral reef, cays and small islands. I have been there twice and these are the things I remember the most:
- A boat ride to Johnny Cay where I tasted some delicious fish and Coco Loco drinks.
- A snorkeling tour to Acuario.
- Visit to the Morgan's cave.
- Visit to the Hoyo Soplador, on the southernmost tip of the Island.

I also remember how proud the locals were of being Colombian. Last time I went it was July 20th (Colombian Independence Day); you could see Colombian flags and patriotic events everywhere, much more than in Colombia's mainland.

Next time I visit I will make sure I take a detour to Providencia, as I have heard this is the most beautiful place in this Archipielago.

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