Theam on the Big Island

Gallery

As Montréal got pummeled with the first big snowstorm of the season a couple of weeks back, I was incredibly lucky to be on the Big Island of Hawaii with my team, where two of my colleagues live. (Did I mention incredibly lucky — I try never to take for granted any of the amazing travel opportunities I have, especially warm ones in the winter.)

Despite coming down with a cold, I had a memorable time with my colleagues, full of amazing views and communal breakfasts. Here are a few visual highlights — like my fellow Canadian theme-team member, Laurel, I do feel the need to apologize for the volume of sunset shots. It was impossible to restrain myself. There are worse sins, right?

Hanging Out With Elephants

Gallery

While I’ve never had a particular fascination with elephants, when I found myself in Chiang Mai, Thailand, last month, I felt compelled to take the opportunity to see Asian elephants up close. After doing some research, we booked a trip with the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. We got up super early to meet our vehicle, an open-air truck fitting eight people in the back, alongside dozens upon dozens of bananas, aka soon-to-be elephant fodder. As we hurtled down the highway, I tried to think happy elephant thoughts – and not to focus on the lack of seat belts, or even doors. Then we turned off the paved road and the really nerve-wracking part started, as we drove extremely slowly down an incredibly steep and narrow trail into the jungle.

But it was all worth it, because that day we got to feed elephants bananas and grasses, frolic with them in a mud bath, look into their brown eyes, and watch them hang out as we ate lunch – none of which I’d ever imagined being able to say. But I have photographic evidence, so I guess it really happened.

A couple of days later, we saw elephants again, this time in a much sadder context, at the Friends of the Asian Elephant hospital. A private institution, they look out for elephant welfare in Thailand, while taking in and rehabilitating elephants needing special care. I’m grateful for their incredible – but heartbreaking work – which includes helping elephants injured by landmines, which they fit with unique prosthetic limbs.

 

Microburst

Gallery

Microburst: a word I’d never heard before this week — but now that I’ve seen what one can do, a word I’ll remember. The Montreal Gazette calls it “an intense, rain-fuelled downdraft of air from a severe thunderstorm that slams hammer-like into the ground.” Within minutes on Tuesday, its 120 km/hour winds brought down trees and power poles across my neighbourhood, leaving us without electricity. We were very fortunate not to suffer any damage; some of our neighbours weren’t as lucky. Nothing like a reminder from Mother Nature to put things in perspective.

Signs of Summer

Gallery

I’ve fallen way behind in posting. Instead of continuing to stare at all the great ideas I have for epic posts and not actually writing any of them, I’ll try to break the bloggers’ block by posting some amusing signs I’ve come across in my last couple of months of travels. They might be amusing only to me, so no guarantees… Photos taken in Montréal, Toronto, and Paris, France.

Défense d'afficher (do not post)

Do not post. File under: “Irony”

Ice Cold Ramen

File under: “Who thought this was a good idea?”

Est-ce que les sacs pour les fruits et légumes vous conviennent?

How are the fruit and vegetable bags? File under: “Low-tech, in situ survey technology”

no stapler here

File under: “If staplers are such a common request, why don’t they just keep one there?”

Petit bar à chiens

Little dog bar. File under: “Just plain cute.”

Spring Butterflies

Gallery

I took a trip to Montreal’s Botanical Gardens to be surrounded by butterflies. After a long, dreary winter, it was exactly what I needed.

Lighting the Forest

Gallery

A couple of hours east of Montreal lies a natural phenomenon called the Coaticook River Gorge. During the day, hikers cross its spectacular 169-metre suspension footbridge and picnic by the rushing river, itself a memorable treat. This time, we saw the area in a new light — or rather, dark. Foresta Lumina is a nighttime experience introduced to the forest by multimedia entertainment company Moment Factory, which used sound, video, and light to transform an already magnificent environment into something uniquely immersive. Here’s a taste.

Photographing the Moon

Gallery

I may be cynical about a lot of things, but the spectacular-ness of the natural world is not one of them. So last night, I went down to the corner of our street to stare at the sky for a while with my husband. And we took a camera and tripod with us.

Before the digital-photography era, I was pretty comfortable with a single-lens reflex camera. I knew my way around F-stops and shutter speeds. I even developed my own negatives and prints in the darkroom. When I finally gave in and got a digital camera before a trip to Australia back in 2006, I never learned how to apply the skills I had to the digital world, and sadly lost the ability to manually adjust settings on my camera. I rely on automatic settings and blind luck to get OK-looking photos, which is why I was so pleased to have some of last night’s shots turn out much better than I’d expected. Here’s a few, straight off the camera.