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An Eco-Adventure in Senegal?

Africa is a place that I have always wanted to visit.  Senegal is on the west coast, making it one of the closest African destinations to North America.  Senegal has several interesting attractions for eco-travelers; here are some of the things I am adding to my bucket list:

Kédougou
I really had to dig deep to find out about this and I’m still waiting to hear back from Senegal tourism for all the fine details, but what better way can there be to find all of the best spots in Senegal than with the people that live there!  The small village of Kédougou, offers eco-tourists an experience you won’t find too often, a chance to be a part of the village.  For the cost of $40 U.S., the village will take you in for a week as one of their own.  The $40 is paid directly to the villagers themselves and has allowed them to greatly increase their quality of life.  Mind you, this village is not going to provide the level of comfort amenities that will be found at the average tourist attraction, but I am thinking that this will be the best way to be able to see all of the hidden secrets of the landscape and wildlife that I am looking for.

Lake Retba (the Pink Lake)

Probably the most well-known of Senegal’s tourist attractions is Lake Retba known as the pink lake.  This lake, which looks like it is filled with Pepto Bismal, is colored pink because of a breed of rare algae that is found in the water.  The algae are attracted, because the lake contains an extremely high salt content in the water, which also allows people to float on the surface of the water effortlessly.  I didn’t see terribly much to do at this location but I would surely want to stop and take some pictures.  This lake is also located nearby the Village des tortues (turtle sanctuary), which would be a great spot to check out on the same day as the lake and make a full day’s trip.

The African Renaissance Monument
The statue, unveiled April 3, 2010, has sparked a lot of controversy in Senegal.  So many residents of Senegal live in poverty that the statue is widely criticized as a poor choice of Government spending.  However, that controversy does not take anything away from the magnificence of the art.  The figures depicted in the artwork clearly illustrate pride, success, momentum and companionship, so I can see exactly why it was built.  It is a shame that the standard of life within the country is at a level that would take away from the pride that should be associated with this piece.  People sometimes need a symbol to associate with a region, such as the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, or the Pyramids, maybe this artwork could attract much needed attention to Senegal and end up being worth the money.  The statue is larger than the Statue of Liberty and I consider on the must see list for a Senegalese tour.

Gorée Island
This island is well known as being a symbol of liberation from the Atlantic slave trade.  It has been argued by historians that this island was not actually nearly as active a hub for slave-trading as the nearby island of St. Louise, but this theory remains disputed by the locals.  Gorée Island is home to the Statue Des Esclaves (The Slave Statue) and the Maison des Esclavesthe (House of Slaves) where it is said that millions of abducted Africans were held while waiting to be shipped to the western hemisphere to serve as slaves.  I am particularly interested in the Statue which looks to be a very inspirational piece.  Aside from all of the historical items, Gorée Island has a beautiful landscape and beach.


#GreenHouston Contest Update

This summer Dispenser Amenities: The Eco-Travelers Club ran the #GreenHouston Sweepstakes and Design Your Own Eco-Vacation Contest.  Our contest winners were out enjoying their prizes last month. 

Our grand prize winner Kathy Davis was unable to make it to Houston because of a personal commitment so we randomly selected a new winner – Shaun Brown of Winnipeg Manitoba.  Shaun and his wife Crystal loved their prize of a round trip flight to Houston to stay at the Element Vintage Park Hotel, with tickets to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers live at the Houston Toyota Center.  He had a chance to tell me about it when he got back:

We loved the Element Hotel especially the Full Kitchen. We had our own dishes/cutlery and even a dishwasher… so we were able to grab food and bring it back to our room.  We checked out the USS Texas Saturday morning, it is huge! We must have spent 3 hours there, wandering all the bottom decks, a couple of the top decks and checking out all the different rooms, and equipment.  We got a first-hand account of what it must have been like to live on this piece of solid metal at sea.

We then headed south, grabbed a cold drink and toured the Kemah Boardwalk visiting all the small little shops. After that, we finished off the afternoon with some seafood at Joe’s crab shack overlooking Galveston bay.

The concert was great!  Honestly, I was not a huge Red Hot Chili Peppers fan coming into this, but the show and their older songs were great.  

Emilia Turner was the winner of our Design Your Own Eco-Vacation Contest.  She is a true eco-traveler and chose to spend her weekend vacation prize in Vancouver, Canada, on her way to another scheduled vacation in Glasgow, Scotland.  Emilia is in Scotland now but took the time to send us a little update of how everything went for her:

Coming to back to Vancouver is always a thrill for me.  Thanks to The Eco-Travelers Club my weekend with my husband very memorable.  Vancouver is a very walkable city.  From our hotel we walked to Granville St heading north to the beautifully restored Waterfront Station building where the Seabus, Canada Line and Westcoast express meet.  There is always a buzz of movement here.   Restaurants, shops and easy access to Gastown make this stop exciting.  It is very easy to get to all points of the city, airport and suburbs from here, which makes this an important hub for me because I don’t own a car.

I then walked along Coal Harbor, a stunning walkway with no cars.  It is perfect for bike riding, roller blading, or just strolling for hours and is right beside the water with open views of the North Shore Mountains.  As you walk you come across the marina with beautiful yachts.  Shops, public cared for washrooms make this walk very comfortable.  For lunch, I stopped in the “Lift Bar Grill” which had an assortment of seafood and pasta, with stunning views of Stanley Park, the mountains and marine life.  It was delicious and the presentation was beautiful and to top it off, for menus, they handed out iPads.  As we continued our walk Coal Harbor takes you to English Bay which is full open spaces and views and even features palm trees in Canada!  This is a great safe place for bike riding, walking, rollerblading with no interference from cars.  After spending hours walking we went back to the hotel for a nap.

Night life in Vancouver is always fun.  Granville St. and Yaletown are my favorites.  The next day I went to Pacific Centre, a mall with all my favorite shops.  For lunch we went to the Vancouver Art Gallery.  A must for tourists in Vancouver, is to try the sushi; there are tons of sushi places at a reasonable price.

I wanted to visit Stanley Park but decided against it.  I would need a whole day there and a bicycle to get through it, it’s huge.

I went to bed early as I had to catch a flight to Scotland the next morning.  I am quite proud that I took the greyhound to Vancouver, walked to the hotel, Canada Line to Airport.  In Scotland, I took the shuttle bus to Glasgow Queens St train Station, the train up to Inverness, then walked across the street to the Inverness bus station and took a one hour bus ride to Dornach.  These buses are beautiful.  

Emilia also promised me some pictures from her Scottish adventure once she’s had a chance to take some.  I’ve heard great stories from her about the beauty of the local Castle and Cathedral with the back lighting at night as well as the beaches and highlands, so make sure to keep an eye out for those in upcoming posts.  If anyone has any comments or suggestions for future contests, be sure to give us a tweet @disp_amenities.


Four Great Travel-Worthy Events for Remembrance Day or Veteran’s Day

Belgium – Menin Gate Memorial Ceremony
Since November eleventh, Armistice Day, is a public holiday in Belgium, there are a great number of people able to attend ceremonies to mark the anniversary of the end of World War 1.  One of the most prestigious ceremonies is a special church service at St. George’s Church preceding the famous Poppy Parade.  Attendance at this event has become so popular that invitation to the church ceremony is now available by ticket only.  After the service, everybody then joins the Poppy Parade, which begins at St. Martin’s Cathedral and leads to the Menin Gate Memorial of the Missing.  At the gate, there is a special version of a daily ceremony known as the Last Post Ceremony.  This ceremony is a tribute to the missing soldiers of World War 1, many of whom have their names listed on the gate.  Usually done as a daily routine at 8pm, on November 11, the ceremony takes place in the morning and has a much larger crowd than usual.  It has become such an event that the city of Ypres has had to take extra measures to accommodate the large crowd.  There are speeches and music followed by the laying of the wreaths, where members of the public may lay a family wreath in honor of fallen soldiers.  (http://www.greatwar.co.uk/events/ypres-salient-events-armistice-day.htm)

 

New York City – The Veteran’s Day Parade

The Veteran’s Day Parade in New York City is a huge 4 hour event.  Starting in 1929, the parade has since been a yearly tradition in New York.  It is the U.S.A.’s largest veteran’s day ceremony and one of the largest November 11th ceremonies in the entire world!  It is a nationally televised event with well over half a million spectators expected to attend with 25,000 people participating in the parade alone.  The parade exhibits representatives from each element of the American Military and Law Enforcement, many of whom display their weapons and vehicles.  In 2011, former Miss New York, Alyse Zwick, was a guest reporter covering the event and hosting interviews for FOX News. The 2012 theme will be “United We Stand”, a theme dedicated to encourage the nation to stand behind America’s veterans. This event also features a wreath laying ceremony at the Eternal Flame in Madison Square Park. (http://gonyc.about.com/od/autumninnewyork/a/veterans_day.htm)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ottawa – National Ceremony of Remembrance at the National War Memorial

Every year Ottawa hosts the National Ceremony of Remembrance at the National War Memorial.  In this nationally televised event, starting at Cartier Square Drill Hall, a parade of Canadian Military and Law Enforment marches through the streets of Ottawa to the National War Memorial.  During the ceremony, speeches are followed by wreaths being placed on the Memorial by Canadian dignitaries including the Governor General and the Prime Minister.  A salute to the fallen soldiers is marked by the firing of artillery.  Members of the public place their poppies on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which holds the remains of an unidentified Canadian soldier who died in France during World War I.  The Governor General also takes some time to speak with Silver Cross mothers and veterans.  The parade features units from all sections of the Canadian Military in full gear, military vehicles, and the R.C.M.P in shining red uniforms. (http://ottawastart.com/remembranceday.php)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

London – Remembrance Sunday Ceremony at the Cenotaph

In England, Remembrance Day or “Poppy Day” is recognized on the eleventh of November.  However, the biggest ceremony takes place on the closest Sunday to the eleventh known as Remembrance Sunday.  A national ceremony takes place at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London, where the Queen of England lays the first wreath and is followed by a countless number of royal and parliamentary wreath-layers.  This is one of the biggest and oldest Remembrance Day events, worldwide, and receives international viewership on the BBC.  A true sense of tradition is illustrated by the style of the event and traditional uniforms sported by the British Military.  (http://myenglishteachersblog2010.blogspot.ca/2010/11/poppy-day.html)


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