Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Winter In Canada - Snow and Ice on Lake Ontario Make Natural Art in Port Credit Mississauga

Winter in Canada - snow and ice and cold winds -- is not my favorite season, but today, here in lovely Port Credit, even though the temperature was about minus 10 Celsius (14 F), and there was plenty of snow and ice everywhere, the sun was warm and it felt wonderful. And so for the first time in several weeks, I headed across Lakeshore Road through Rhododendron Gardens to have a look at Lake Ontario, and see what the cold weather had brought to the shoreline.

Rhododendron Gardens Snow Fence
The mid afternoon sunlight set up blue colored shadows across the large meadow area south of the rose garden and peony bed. Snow fencing is used to block snow drifts, though in this case, it is backed with burlap in an attempt to keep salt from the Waterfront Trail winter trail maintenance from being strewn on the new flower beds. Road salt, even so-called environmentally friendly products, can still harm garden plants and lawns.

On the Lake Ontario Shoreline Looking south to USA
This afternoon, I was the only person in the gardens, and with ice floes hugging the shoreline, and no wind to speak of, the silence was incredible! Hard to believe this location is only a few minute's walk south of busy Lakeshore Road. A unseen plane passed, breaking the silence for a moment. But even the birds bobbing out in the open water past the ice made not a sound.

After a few minutes, I noticed how the waves had broken on this tree branch on the shore, and frozen in place, so I moved in for a closer look.

Winter in Canada = Snow and Ice
Here's a medium shot of the ice covered branch. The puffy mounds in the foreground are large rocks placed here along the shore to block erosion. When there is no snow, you can see where it is safe to step. But today, the blanket of show covers the crevasses, so it's not safe to go walkabout.

Natural Art in Canada - Snow and Ice turn a tree branch into Sculpture
Here's a close up of the same branch. Cool, no? Pun intended. Nature knows how to make her own ice sculptures!

See more Winter in Canada Snow pictures here and how snow is melted by machine.
And stay warm! It's only two months until SPRING!!!!!!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Rattray Marsh Conservation Area Waterfront Trail Mississauga Ontario

Rattray Marsh Conservation Area is one of my favorite walking trails in the area. It's accessible via the Waterfront Trail in Mississauga (Ontario, Canada), which connects to Jack Darling Park. Rattray Marsh is not a Mississauga park, but under the aegis of the Credit Valley Conservation Authority (CVC). It's a haven for inner city wildlife, and a great favorite of birders and hikers, but not cyclists. The trail is a footpath through the marsh - no bikes allowed.

Rattray Marsh in Winter
A few days ago, before today's bone-chilling cold (minus 20C or 4 F) set in, I headed out to see the marsh in winter. As is the case with Jack Darling park, the footpath through this marsh receives no winter maintenance, but the snow was not deep, as you can see in the photo above. From this viewpoint, we are looking south across the marsh 'lake' to Lake Ontario

River Runs Through Rattray Marsh
The light snow marked the ice in the river, with open water around it. Likely today, with much colder temperatures, this river will be totally frozen across. I could go check, but it's too cold for me!

Animal tracks in the snow at Rattray Marsh
I am not sure what animal made these tracks. It might have been a rabbit. Closer to the river, deer tracks led down to the water's edge, where it must have stopped for a drink. Along the boardwalk rail, a squirrel had made a great set of footprints. New fallen snow is not only pretty, it provides a road map for animal traffic.

Grey Squirrel in Underbrush and New-fallen Snow
This grey squirrel blended into the underbrush and snow - his colors echoing the landscape colors. Though the day was chilly, we met a number of other walkers, as well as a photographer, all of us taking advantage of the winter sun.

Rattray Marsh Trilliums in Spring
Rattray Marsh is a great area to find Ontario's provincial flower -- the trillium -- in bloom in early spring. I took the above photo last April. Wild violets bloom around the same time as trilliums, and both white and violet blooms carpeted the hillside. I can hardly wait for Spring!

For more information on Rattray Marsh, see the CVC site.
For photos and googlemap this area and Jack Darling park in winter see this earlier blog post.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

2008 Best Travel Search Engine Queries

From my travel site : A selection of oddball searches from the past year plus a few tips for finding what you want to know, fast.

Search engine queries are those words or phrases that are typed into browser search boxes to find sites with the information needed. Most searches are short and to the point; at least the ones that get most visitors to my travel site.

But some Googles make me giggle, so I started keeping a list. Keep in mind, I have no idea who asked these questions. I only get a list of the search terms they used, called keywords. But some searches make me wonder what the asker really wanted to know, and had me wishing I could help them out, one to one.

[What I don't want to dwell on is why google, yahoo, ask, dogpile or aol sent them to my site. And really I don't care if these keywords ever put my site on page one of the SERPS (Search Engine Results Pages), but some of these wide-of-the-mark searches sure do brighten my day.]

Most searches are to the point:
  • what to pack for a two week trip (one week trip, etc.)
  • allowable airline carryons
  • mississauga pictures
  • (name of) restaurant
  • traditional chile foods

Other searches seem to be prompted by a school project or not directly travel related:
  • haitians wear what
  • history of selling in Ethiopia
  • How cold is the snow in Canada? (as cold as snow is anywhere)
  • why is it Canada have snow (I ask myself the same thing)

Some searches, though, are a little off the mark, and some are way off the mark, or unanswerable, but apparently some search engine thought that my site had the answer. I wish it did. Some searches set up wild mental images, or have me wondering if it's safe to let these people get on an international flight. At the very least, basic geography may help :-)

  • pictures of Haiti in Winter (Haiti is subtropical Caribbean)
  • punta cana visas (visas are issued by country; Punta Cana is a resort area in the Dominican Republic)
  • what should tourists take pictures of in the dominican republic?
  • How much is a condo in Malaysia?
  • How many shoes to pack for a one week trip
  • how do I pack a suitcase
  • pictures adis abah bah ( Addis Ababa, Capital of Ethiopia - I love this one!)
  • how long does it take postcards to arrive from Portugal?
  • What do things cost in China?
  • Buy peak from China
  • What do Chilean women like? (Who knows what woman anywhere like :-) for that matter)
  • Indian flavours Mississauga Ontario
  • fish dining Port Credit
  • papyrus painting sipping beer
  • condom houses borneo
But my favourite of the bunch came in just this week:

do seagulls stick to metal in the winter?

Screenshot of the SERP page Seagulls keyword

So how can you search more efficiently and save wading through dozens of SERPs?

Someone recently mentioned they were amazed at the number of people who still type in complete sentences to do searches. Boy, did that take me back to the old Ask Jeeves days! All that's needed these days are nouns and / or verbs, as specific as possible.

To see which of your search 'key words' Google actually uses to select the results, look at the top right corner of the Search Results page, where you will see them underlined and in blue. But if it helps clarify what you are trying to find out, by all means use full sentences.

If you want the search results to show a specific phrase, you can enclose it in quotation marks (inverted commas); Google your own name in this way to see if, and where, you are written about on the web, or who in the world has the same name: e.g. "jane doe". This brings back only Jane Doe not all the Janes and all the Does.

In the case of How much is a condo in Malaysia? narrow down the number of search results by city or state. Try kuala lumpur condos or kota kinabalu timeshares. For faster typing, Koala Lumpur is known as KL and Kota Kinablau is shortened to KK. These Malay cities are hundreds of miles apart, for Malaysia is a far flung federation.

As for what should tourists take pictures of in the dominican republic?, try the specific destination eg puerto plata attractions or sosua day trips

And though the searcher for papyrus painting sipping beer used specific keywords, I am stumped. But I do thank them for the mental image :-)

Now I really MUST go check that landing page on my site to see why Google thinks I know whether or not seagulls stick to metal in winter.

For more information on travel see Snapshotjourneys.com
Thanks to the gang at Statcounter for supplying the keyword data.

Happy 2009, Everyone!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Jack Darling - Mississauga Park Lake Ontario Waterfront Trail in Winter

Though the Waterfront Trail along Lake Ontario in Mississauga is not maintained (kept clear of snow and ice) during the winter months, I decided to take my chances, as the snow was not too deep. On this chilly day, with a north wind blowing, I came to the lookout point at Jack Darling Park.

Toronto C N Tower Viewed across Lake Ontario from Jack Darling Park Lookout.
The lookout point at Jack Darling Park has arguably the best view of Toronto from this area, with the C N Tower the best landmark. This photo gives an idea of the distance from Mississauga, looking east to downtown Toronto - about 20 km (about 12.5 miles), though it may be less as the crow flies.

Lake Ontario Waterfront at Jack Darling Park, looking west towards Hamilton.
The weak winter sun highlighting the ice at the water's edge made a nice shot. And although I much prefer spring, summer and fall weather, I must admit, winter scenes can be lovely -- cold, snowy, wet, slushy, icy and miserable -- but sometimes, like now, quite lovely.

Close Up View of Beach at Jack Darling Park in Winter
Close up in my camera lens, the beach where water met sandy ice, looked like a still life drawing.

Canada Geese and Ice Covered Rocks - Lake Ontario Jack Darling Park Mississauga
Though I kept an eye out for any of the Canada Geese that might wander up to me looking for food, I managed to get a few shots of these geese at the shoreline. I loved how the colors of the rocky, sandy, snowy landscape matched the colors of the Canada geese. You can see how fluffy they are with their winter feathers.

The Waterfront Trail through the park is blocked in some areas as it heads west to Rattray Marsh. Construction in the park is ongoing throughout the winter, with completion set for Spring 2009. During construction, the leash free area has been removed, with many dog owners using nearby Rhododendron Gardens as a substitute leash free area, although the Gardens are NOT leash free.

Jack Darling Park is a Mississauga Ontario Canada Park. More Info at City of Mississauga (new page will open).

* * * * *
UPDATE new pictures April 2009

See Google Map for Park location:

View Larger Map

Monday, January 05, 2009

BA Flights Canada YYZ to U.K. LHR Spring 2009 on British Airways -- Finding the Best Fare

Looking for flights from Toronto, Canada (airport code YYZ) to the U.K (likely London Heathrow LHR) this spring, I took a look at the online flight schedules for BA (British Airways) still searching for the best fare.

I've flown BA several times before, as have family members, and we have always been very happy with BA flight times, fares, seat pitches, crew and amenities. BA leaves from Toronto Terminal 3, which is very easy to get around.

In London LHR , some BA flights use the new Terminal 5, while some flights use LHR Terminal 4 ( good connections to the Heathrow Express, among other options for ground transportation. Assuming Terminal 5 will have similar). Pay attention to our ticket as to which terminal to be at in both Toronto and Heathrow.

BA Fare Finder Page - Choose Travel Dates

This first page on the BA fare finder shows all available flights, and lets you choose by date and fare. Keeping to my tentative travel dates in May 2009, I clicked on Wednesday, May 6 2009 (Outbound) with a fare of $284 (one way, no taxes, fees included - this date offers a lower fare).

For my return flight (Inbound) I again chose the cheaper option -- Monday, June 8, 2009 which also showed as $284 (One way, no fees or taxes included).

BA Flight Finder Choose Departure Times

The next page (above image) shows flight times for the dates I chose, and which carrier is operating the flights. These flights both show British Airways, which is fine with me :-)

British Airways Price Quote Toronto YYZ to London UK LHR Return

The next screen gives my price quote for the total costs including fees and taxes -- AT THIS POINT IN TIME -- as $993.00 CAD. Interesting to see that these fees, etc amount to nearly as much as the cost of the actual flight.

For flights from Canada to the UK, I expect to pay about a thousand dollars Canadian, so this fare is certainly in the ballpark. It is higher than the charter flights (see previous post this topic, link below) but it is comparable to the other scheduled airline I checked (Air Canada; $1,069, all in). I do prefer traveling on scheduled flights, and for me, that is worth paying a bit more.

Cost to Make Changes to BA flights After Booking (Ticketing)

What if my plans change after I booked? Check the costs of changing flights (above screenshot). However, it's still to early in my trip research to book my flights. These fares, times and dates are a good starting point, though, for when I am ready to book in a few months. As well, I now have a base to research hotels, tours and domestic travel. Of course, checking air fares this far ahead of actual travel dates means they can, and likely will, change.

Seat sales, lower fuel and airport charges, etc will have an impact on final costs, as will summer's peak demand travel time. Do you book well ahead and lock in your fare? Or do you wait and watch and hope that fares will be lower in the coming months? It's always a balancing act!

See British Airways for current fares : (http://www.britishairways.com/travel/globalgateway.jsp/global/public/en_ )
See previous post for Air Transat, Air Canada, and other airlines flying from Toronto Canada to the U.K http://snapshot-travel-blog.blogspot.com/2008/12/cheap-flights-toronto-yyz-to-uk-spring.html