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  • Antoine Tardif
  • January 08, 2017 03:47:41 PM
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A travel blogger documents his travels to various international destinations including countries that are not frequently visited such as North Korea and Lebanon.

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Dog Sledding Near the North Pole

This was hands down the most exhilarating part of our trip to Svalbard. A day of dog sledding, with the reward at the end being entering an ice cave. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that most of the dogs were rescued from Alaska. The owner of the company flies to Alaska to rescue these...

This was hands down the most exhilarating part of our trip to Svalbard. A day of dog sledding, with the reward at the end being entering an ice cave.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that most of the dogs were rescued from Alaska. The owner of the company flies to Alaska to rescue these dogs. All of the dogs seemed very happy, healthy, and excited to be running.

On both sides, each direction that we looked, we had mountains. It was pure white everywhere, and I had to learn quick how to apply the brakes.

Many times where the snow was thin, I also had to help the dogs by pushing one foot against the snow.

Previous to this, my closest experience to dog sledding was watching the 90s film “Iron Will”. Growing up in Canada it’s never something that tempted me, but having someone else book the trip, forced me to try it, and it’s something that will be forever treasured. It’s probably my best experience in Svalbard, as nothing else quite allowed me to feel so immersed in the natural environment.

As if the dog sledding wasn’t enough I had the opportunity to visit an ice cave. The entrance was small, which meant I had to crawl in backwards. Once inside the cave was a bit larger, and I was surrounded by ice. Some of the ice was only a year old, while the older ice was decades old. I explored the cave up until the point where there was a steep drop-off, and it was too dangerous to go deeper.

Best of all after finishing the cave, I had the return journey with my pack of beautiful dogs.

If in Svalbard dog sledding should absolutely be on your to do list. It’s by far the most authentic way to experience the North Pole.


24 Hours of Daylight in Longyearbyen, Svalbard

Longyearbyen is charming and offers a lot of history. The town is named after John M. Longyear, an American businessman who began mining operations in 1906. While officially part of Norway, Svalbard is a self-governing municipality, which means they have their own tax laws, and are not officially part of the EU. This is why...

Longyearbyen is charming and offers a lot of history. The town is named after John M. Longyear, an American businessman who began mining operations in 1906. While officially part of Norway, Svalbard is a self-governing municipality, which means they have their own tax laws, and are not officially part of the EU.

This is why I received a second Norway stamp on my passport while leaving mainland Norway to enter Svalbard. When you land it literally feels like you have arrived at the ends of the earth.

Several years ago, I visited Iceland, never expecting to venture further North. I was foolishly misguided, as this was nothing compared to Longyearbyen, Svalbard. In fact, Longyearbyen is only 950 kms away from the North Pole.

I didn’t know what to expect. Would I be able to sleep at night with 24-hours of daylight? How would it affect my mood? Surprisingly, a person adapts to never-ending daylight shockingly fast. For some reason, the evenings were always sunny and less windy than the mornings, which resulted in many late-night walks. We watched as skiers hiked up a mountain to ski back down, something that would not be abnormal if it wasn’t 1:00 AM.

We chased Arctic foxes and reindeer to get pictures. We walked around exploring the town. I got lucky with the weather, when I had initially viewed the forecast it showed -10 Celsius, but it lingered around the 0 Celsius mark. This was warmer than growing up in Canada. What makes the cold biting, similar to Iceland is the wind off the ocean. You felt this stinging wind every time you approached the water. Somehow, I managed to survive the cold, and this included some day trips such as dog sledding, where I spent eight hours outside.

As I walked around the town I could not help but wonder how it would be like to grow-up in this community. To be literally the Northernmost town in the world, to have months on end of beautiful sunshine, followed by brutally cold winter months with endless darkness. I give the people credit as I am not sure how well I could handle the isolation, and the cold.

Nonetheless, there is something magical and awe inspiring about being so far away from the rest of humanity. To be able to gaze upon a clear sky, with pure air, and with majestic surroundings that few of us will view in our lifetimes. I felt blessed to be given such an opportunity.

I would absolutely recommend that if possible, that you visit this part of the world. For people who live in Europe, it’s not that difficult. There’s a daily flight from Oslo, and once you visit this majestic terrain, you will realize that it’s a once in a lifetime experience.


Exploring Glaciers Near the North Pole

We booked a day trip from Longyearbyen, Svalbard, to visit a Russian village along with some stunning glaciers. Never did I imagine that I would eat a barbeque while approaching glaciers. The stunning beauty cannot be captured in words, instead I’ll allow the pictures to speak for themselves. This was approximately 800 kms from the...

We booked a day trip from Longyearbyen, Svalbard, to visit a Russian village along with some stunning glaciers.

Never did I imagine that I would eat a barbeque while approaching glaciers. The stunning beauty cannot be captured in words, instead I’ll allow the pictures to speak for themselves. This was approximately 800 kms from the North Pole in early May.

Below is a video that offers a first hand experience.


Exploring the Pitons of St. Lucia

St.Lucia had been on my to do list for more than a decade. The Pitons are the most iconic mountain range in the Caribbean, and I was looking forward to experiencing these mountains first hand. We started our trip by staying at an AirBNB that offered us a stunning view of the big Piton. Unfortunately,...

St.Lucia had been on my to do list for more than a decade. The Pitons are the most iconic mountain range in the Caribbean, and I was looking forward to experiencing these mountains first hand.

We started our trip by staying at an AirBNB that offered us a stunning view of the big Piton. Unfortunately, due to all the rain we were unable to hike the pitons which is something I was really looking forward to. Nonetheless, we did our best to take advantage of the nearby offerings.

On one of the days we had a gap in the rain to visit Diamond Botanical Gardens. This garden took approximately 45 minutes to visit, it’s not a huge garden but it was well worth it. At the end of the gardens there’s Diamond Waterfall, which is what the park is named after. The park is nice, and I recommend it for anyone staying near the Pitons.

Below is a view of the waterfall.

The other nearby attraction was the Sulphur Springs. This is basically what should be a road-side stop whereby you can take a few pictures, instead this was turned into a make work project. To visit, you disembark your vehicle, pay an entrance fee, drive up the mountain, watch a 10-minute video, drive back down the mountain, and have a “guide” escort you 30 feet down a staircase to a viewpoint.

From this viewpoint you then hear a brief history of the Sulphur Springs. This entire process takes approximately 30 minutes when it should take one minute. The scenery is nothing amazing, and I would recommend that you skip this attraction. I was even more shocked to learn that resorts shuttled people here from the other side of the island. If I had to be driven around 4 hours round trip, and pay a tour fee to see this, I would be upset.

These two activities are the main attractions in St.Lucia. Herein lies the main problem with the island, there’s not that much to do.

Afterwards, we decided to spend an afternoon at Sugar Beach. We were planning on visiting Sugar Beach and having lunch at the resort there. When we arrived we were informed that there’s a $50 per person fee to access the beach, and that you can then apply this “credit” towards food. We ended up spending $98 of our $100 credit on lunch and ended up walking the beach to take pictures afterwards.

The lunch was good, and we probably would have returned on a different day, but we didn’t feel like promoting this type of behavior by any resort. Not only this, but “day visitors” were sectioned off to a small portion of the beach with beach chairs that needed to be retired. I’m sorry but if you are charging people to use a beach, you should not treat those people like second-class citizens. We were told this policy was introduced to basically keep “undesirables” away, in other words locals.

Lucky for us, the sun made a rare appearance while at Sugar beach and we ended up getting some phenomenal pictures.

After this, we drove North through the Western side of the island to spend a few days in the North-Eastern section of the island at a all-inclusive resort called the Hideaway at Royalton, located in Cap Estate. We were here to attend a wedding. This was a very respectable wedding venue, and we spent 4 days visiting with friends. This section of the island is significantly less rainy than the area near the Pitons, which makes this area popular with all-inclusive resorts, as they can offer guests a higher probability of sunshine.

After spending time here, we drove back south the Eastern way to return to the Pitons. This allowed us to completely drive the entire island. Below is a nice view point that we found.

After seeing all of St. Lucia, I would recommend you stay at the Pitons. I found the rest of the island had nothing that differentiated it from other Caribbean islands, meanwhile the Pitons offered a jungle type environment that recalls sections of Costa Rica, or other lush jungle.

Our final stay was at Fond Doux Resort, a small boutique hotel, that offers tree-house type lodging. While the free breakfast was extremely disappointing, the lunch and dinner offerings were better. Staying in a tree-house, is by far what set this boutique resort apart.

On our last night we had diner at the Chocolate Hotel, and this was my favorite meal. The view from the restaurant is spectacular, as you are placed directly in front of a piton.

While happy I came, I probably would not rush back to St. Lucia as I feel that I have seen it all and there’s not that much to do. If you visit, make sure you do so during dry season, and that you stay near the iconic pitons.


Arches National Park

Arches National Park is the most famous of the National Parks in Utah. We came here after visiting the sensational Zion National Park, and the equally beautiful Capitol Reef National Park. To visit you can stay anywhere in the town of Moab which is only 8 kms (5 miles) away from the park. While people...

Arches National Park is the most famous of the National Parks in Utah. We came here after visiting the sensational Zion National Park, and the equally beautiful Capitol Reef National Park.

To visit you can stay anywhere in the town of Moab which is only 8 kms (5 miles) away from the park.

While people flock here for the arches, there’s a lot more than arches to see. There’s some phenomenal hiking trails to take. Unlike Zion National Park, you can drive yourself all over the park.

I found that two full days in the park was more than sufficient, as you’ll be covering the same ground multiple times.

The Double O Arch trail is the best of these hiking trails. It’s a 6.8 Km (4.5 miles) round-trip hike, and while the destination is beautiful to see, the actual trail is much more impressive than the arch at the end. You’ll occasionally have to climb up and down on some rocks, but the views are simply incredible.

Below is the Double O Arch.

On route to the Double O Arch you’ll find other arches such as the following:

While these arches are great, they are nothing compared to some of the views.

While this was a great trail, we basically stopped at every opportunity while exploring the park. Below are some pictures from our trip.

I would absolutely recommend not only Arches National Park, but the entire state of Utah. The people were friendlier than I expected, and the state was well taken care of. It exceeded my expectations and actually ended up being one of my favorite states.


Capitol Reef National Park, a Must Visit in Utah

I had just spent 2 full days at Zion national Park, which was the adventure I was most anticipating on my trip to Utah. I expected the best to be behind me, and on this day I was simply planning on driving onward to Arches National Park. After researching Google Maps, we chose to drive...

I had just spent 2 full days at Zion national Park, which was the adventure I was most anticipating on my trip to Utah. I expected the best to be behind me, and on this day I was simply planning on driving onward to Arches National Park.

After researching Google Maps, we chose to drive a slightly longer route in order to hit Capitol Reef National Park. This is a park I had never researched or given much thought to.

The route consisted of 4.5 hours of driving, but of course ended up taking much longer due to the many stops.

Once I arrived at Capitol Reef I was amazed. I kept having to pull over to take in all of the majestic beauty that surrounded us. This park is simply stunning and should be on your radar. If you visit Utah, it’s a must to take this drive. It’s a tiny park and you can do it all in one day. There’s a small hike, but most of it can be enjoyed by driving.

Below are pictures from our various stops. I would absolutely recommend that you leave early if you are driving through this area in order for you to see it all before the sun goes down.

After we finished our drive we continued on to stay in the town of Moab, which is next to Arches National Park.


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