All You Need To Know About Norway

Norway is one of the coldest countries on this planet. It is literally freezing up there. The country is near the top of the planet that we might as well call it the inhabitable north pole of Earth. But there is one thing that mesmerizes people and makes them want to live here forever – The Northern Lights. If you have never heard of them, then worry not because we are here to explain what they are and why they are something you need to go see at least once in your life. These lights will leave your breathless and will make you want to stay in the moment forever. And they are the reason why you should grab an air Canada ticket and fly to Canada today.

1. What are the Northern Lights?
You might have seen the sky turn blue, black or yellow. But have you ever seen a green night sky? If not, then this is what the northern lights represent. Auroras or Northern Lights happen near the north pole and in reality are collisions between electrical charged particles from the sun that come all the way here and then enter the Earth’s atmosphere. They happen at the south pole as well but since that area of the Earth is practically inhabitable, most people turn towards countries such as Norway (near the North Pole) to go and see them. The auroras are called ‘Aurora Borealis’ in the North and ‘Aurora Austalis’ in the south.

2. What colors can we see the Auroras in?
Even though green is the only color that comes to mind when we think of Auroras, they are actually found in a lot of other colors as well. Pale green or Turquoise is the most common out of these. However, if you’re lucky you might even get to see Auroras in Pink, red, yellow, blue and even violet colors. Since it is the dispersion of light, you can find auroras in all the rainbow colors if you’re lucky enough. These lights do not have a defined form and may appear as patches or scattered colors across the sky. Sometimes they look like scattered cloud across the sky or like rays from the sun.

Auroras are a beautiful phenomena of nature and we should feel lucky to witness it. Now that you know what they are all about, we highly recommend that you add them to your bucket list.

Wonderful Experience At Yosemite National Park

Yosemite is an example of a National Park that’s being loved to death. Most visitors to the park cram into the one Valley that gives the park its name. The pollution from all those cars, trucks and buses gets trapped there because the valley is boxed-in for the most part by those scenic 2000 foot tall cliffs. To combat the problem, the Park service has instituted a free hybrid shuttle bus system for visitors to ride while in the Valley and by encouraging visitors to park their cars outside the park and take a bus in. But there’s a third option for people like me who want to visit Yosemite Valley while reducing the pollution of its air–driving an emissions-free electric vehicle, like the Toyota Rav4 EV that I drive.

Electric vehicles have never been more available or more practical than they are now and it’s getting better all the time. Sure, they still don’t have the range that a gasoline or diesel powered car has, but the range they do have makes them capable of handling about 90% of an average person’s driving needs. And the greater availability of charging stations is making longer trips, like to Yosemite, even more doable.

There are three types of charging stations. Level 1 is standard household current at 110 or 120 volts AC. Level 2 is 208 or 240 V AC, the current an electric clothes dryer takes. Then, there’s DCFC (direct current fast charging) or sometimes called DCQC (direct current quick charging) that can be up to 500 volts DC instead of AC current.

Within this last level, there’re also three different types or protocols. First is the Tesla Superchargers that are only available for electric cars from Tesla Motors. Then there is the Combined Charging System (CCS) or DC combo charger. And finally, there is the one called CHAdeMo. Unlike level one and level two this is direct-current and it goes straight into the battery pack instead of through a charger like with alternating current. The key concept is that the higher the wattage (volts times amps), the faster an electric vehicle’s battery can be recharged. The upshot is that Level 1 is the slowest and Level 3 is the fastest.

To find out where these different charging stations are located, you can go online to Or if you have an EV with the CHAdeMO type quick charge port, then you’ll want to check out the website Yosemite Village has three Level 2 charging stations, including one in the parking lot for the Village Store.

Thanks to a quick charge port added to our car called the JdeMO by a business that calls itself Quick Charge Power, we’re able to use the CHAdeMO type quick charge stations. Our RAV4 didn’t originally come with this quick charge port nor was Toyota offering it as an option. Many of today’s electric vehicles come with a quick charge port already or it can be an option added by the manufacturer.

I have visited Yosemite twice this year in my electric car starting from my home in Sacramento. The first visit was before we added the quick charge port. On my first visit, I followed Highways 16 and 49 to 120 to reach the Valley since MapQuest showed it to be the most direct, shortest distance route to the park. This involved charging at the approximate midpoint of my journey- the Tuttletown Recreation Area of the New Melones Reservoir. A day use area there has a Level 2 electric vehicle charging station. I stopped there for a lunch break and read some newspapers and other material that I had been meaning to read for a long time.

After a two and a half to three-hour break, I was on the road again heading for Yosemite and soon picked up Highway 120. A famous or, depending on your perspective, an infamous section of Highway 120 is called the Old Priest Grade Road. The modern Highway 120 bypasses it, but for those so inclined this steep, narrow, winding strip of asphalt provides a shortcut to the park. I was sure the Rav4 wouldn’t have any trouble climbing it, but, just to be sure, I punched the button that sets the motor into “Sport Mode.” This setting increases the vehicle’s acceleration and top speed, so I would have a little more power for this climb. I climbed it at the posted speed limit with no problem, except that some motorist behind me honked at me because he wanted to go faster.

Sheesh! What did he expect! I responded with a shrug but increased my pace a little bit. When I reached the top of the grade, I pulled over into an adjoining side road to let the dude pass me. I switched “Sport Mode” off and turned back onto the highway continuing on at my own pace.

By the time I reached the northwestern entrance to Yosemite, the Big Oak Flat Entrance, I was really concerned about whether I would make it to the charging stations in the Valley. The range meter on my dash was showing one mile less than the sign at the entrance station was saying it was to Yosemite Valley. Yikes! I continued on, hoping for the best. I gotta tell ya, I was sweating through every curve and every upward incline in the road. Oh my gosh, I’m not going to make it, kept running through my head. When I reached Crane Flat, I knew I wasn’t going to make it, unless my EV was able to regenerate enough electricity on the downhill run into the Valley.

And that’s when it happened. After Crane Flat, the road declined to a steady unrelenting downgrade. The beauty of that was not just that the car wasn’t drawing any electricity out of the battery pack to move, since gravity was doing all the work, but also that the car’s motor was now acting as a generator and recharging the battery. I was getting closer and closer to the Valley while the range meter was actually increasing.

I still didn’t know if I would have enough charge to make it to the charging station, but it was looking better and better for me to at least make it to the Valley floor. I even pulled off at the first overlook of the Valley to take in a magnificent view of El Capitan and Half Dome. Then, I continued with my coasting toward the Valley.

By the time, I finally reached the junction with Highway 140, I was showing 19 miles of potential range and was pretty sure I would make it to the charging station. The slower speeds in the Valley are actually very efficient speeds to run any car on, including electric vehicles. That helped ensure that when I finally did get to the charging station, I had about 11 miles showing on the range meter. Hardly even exciting, right!

And, again, that’s why it’s a great thing that the park provides a free shuttle service while in the Valley. While my Rav4 was plugged in at the charging station, I could use the buses to get around to the different viewpoints and trailheads to enjoy the park. In fact, after pitching my tent at Camp 4 in the Valley, I drove over to the charging station to plug in for the night and then took a bus back over to the camp to spend the night. After breakfast the next morning, I took another bus back to the charging station and had a fully charged EV waiting for me with 131 miles showing on the dash.

On the drive home, since I was going mostly downhill from Yosemite back to Sacramento, I was able to drive well beyond the halfway point and didn’t stop until I reached the town of Jackson and only had to charge for about an hour before continuing home.

My second visit was after we had the ChaDEMO quick charge port installed and it made a big difference in the trip. Instead of taking the most direct route, I instead planned a route that would take me by quick chargers, which meant Highway 99 to 140. That actually made for a faster route, since I was on freeway longer. My one stop this time was in the town of Atwater, near Merced, and the stop was only for about an hour. It gave me time for a Subway sandwich lunch. The quick charger I was plugged into only charged for 30 minutes at a time, so I did have to restart the charging midway through. Then back on the road for 89 miles to the Valley with 32 miles of range left when I got there. Nice cushion.

When I headed back home, I had 134 miles showing on the range indicator when I unplugged from the charging station. As you would expect, I drew down the range as I headed out of the Valley, but then an interesting thing happened. After passing through the Arch Rock entrance station, the road took a fairly steady downhill course toward a couple of crossings of the Merced River and my EV gained range along the way. At one point, I was seeing 135 miles showing on the dashboard, so I had gained more potential range than when I left the Valley in the first place. Pretty cool!

So, if you love Yosemite and want to do your part to keep a haze from hanging over the valley, then think about visiting in an electric vehicle. There have never been so many models to choose from and conveniently located charging stations both in the valley and along the way for you to plug in.


Why You Should Going To France

France is the undisputed leader in international visitors, totaling upwards of 84 million a year. This surpasses the US, with around 75 million, and far outpaces Britain with around 32 million. What are some of the reasons France is on so many travelers’ bucket lists? And which of these reasons might inspire you to follow suit? As a start, consider these three motivations for taking a trip to France.

Reason #1: Cultural Discovery

A trip to France is endlessly entertaining and fascinating. France is proud of its heritage and celebrates its history. Everywhere you go you will find atmosphere and old-world charm and historic buildings with stories to tell. You will constantly be reminded that you are walking in the footsteps of kings and artists, conquerors and queens. Every day will be filled with discoveries.

A trip around the Loire Valley to visit Châteaux will take you along the travel route of the extravagant 16th century King Françoise I, who mounted up astonishing national debts in order to live large and well. His castle in Amboise, perched high above the river, is a source of many stories. There are the large round turrets, with wide spiral roadways inside to allow horse-drawn carriages to ride up into the castle grounds to deliver its passengers-especially handy when one of the queens was pregnant. Here on the expansive lawns, firework and festival displays were performed, designed for Françoise by his cherished friend Leonardo da Vinci. Da Vinci himself lived out the final years of his life across the street from the king, in a fascinating mansion that is now filled with models of his many ground-breaking inventions. A secret tunnel connects the abodes of these two close friends, used for late-night visits between the king and his brilliant buddy.

In Blois, Françoise added an elegant wing to the already impressive palace, accessed via an exquisite external stone staircase. Here you will see the study of Catherine de Medici, wife to Françoise’s son and successor, Henri. The wood paneled walls provided her with secret hiding places for her acclaimed collection of poisons, the political “solutions” of those perilous times.

Then there is the stunning Chenonceau, with its glorious gardens and the vast ballrooms that extend out over the river. Initially this gem was home to King Henri’s mistress, Diane de Poitiers. But when Henri was killed by a large splinter in the eye during a joust, his wife, Catherine de Medici, threw Diane out of her Château and took it over for herself. Not to be outdone by the mistress, Catherine then proceeded to construct an even more splendid garden on the opposite side of the chateau from Diane’s, and an even grander balcony than Diane’s to overlook it. She placed a huge, glaring portrait of herself, looming over the bed in what had once been Diane’s bedroom. And she had the initials on the tiles reengraved, replacing the “D” for “Diane,” intertwined with an “H” for “Henri,” with a “C” for “Catherine.” This was a woman determined to make her point. As you enter these lives from long ago, and experience their luxurious surroundings, you will gain a true and immediate sense of the culture and the history.

And on it goes. The people, the history, the passion, and the humanity… All of these surround you on a trip to France. You will be intrigued and awed, captivated and enthralled. Every day of your visit will be intensely interesting, as well as surrounded by carefully orchestrated beauty.

Reason #2: A Feast for the Senses

Your senses will be stunned for the entire time you are in France. The sights are beautiful beyond description. The Eiffel Tower in Paris rises up like a giant erector set, with an elevator to take you to the top for views out over the Seine and the city. At night the tower is set aglow, best to be viewed from a boat as it drifts along the Seine, passing under one lovely bridge after another.

The Orsay, once an elegant turn-of-the-century train station that was built to welcome guests to the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle, now houses a startling collection of impressionist art – Monet, Renoir, van Gogh, Dégas, Gauguin, Cézanne, Seurat – within a building that is itself an historic, architectural treasure. Here you will be able to lunch in the grand ballroom of the former grand hotel attached to the train station, and look through the glass of the giant clock that faces the river and makes this building distinctively easy to spot.

There is more and more to come… The glories of Notre Dame. The remarkable stained-glass windows of Saint Chapelle Chapel… The beautiful flowers and statuary of Tuileries Gardens… The onslaught of visual sensations of the Champs-Élysées… The towering Arch de Triomphe, facing the smaller Arch in front of the Louvre at the other end of the five-mile grand boulevard where Napoleon pictured himself leading a march of his victorious armies.

There will be the glorious tastes of the food and wine. You will hear marvelous music of all sorts, from the Vivaldi at Saint Chapelle, to the lively piano bars and boat bars along the left bank of the Seine in Paris and atop Mont St. Michel, to the mighty organ of Notre Dame. You will walk through flower markets, vivid with colors and scents, and shop at weekly markets, alive with people and all manner of tempting offerings.

This assault to the senses will remain with you in memory long after your travels are over.

Reason #3: Intro to the Good Life

The last, but certainly not the least, reason to visit France is that it will introduce you to another, and a better, way of life. You will experience a different manner of interpersonal interaction in France – more engaged, curious, outgoing, and animated. The French truly recognize the importance of enjoying the best of life.

Here dining is a delightful experience, not just a stop to refuel. Food is an art form, combined always with the ideal wines to enhance the meal. Waiters take pride in their work, striving to make dining a memorable occasion by offering up their expertise, and carefully guarding your right to take all the time you need to enjoy your meal without feeling rushed.

People in France are carefully polite with each other, and will be with you. You always will be addressed as ma’am or sir, and asked with a please, followed by a thank you. Cordiality is not only suggested in France, it is expected and omnipresent. You will quickly grow to anticipate and appreciate this.

From the first moment you walk down a street passing all the umbrella-shielded outdoor tables of the cafés, you will notice that this is a culture where people gather together to enjoy each other’s company. Old, young, families, singles, rich, modest, fashionable, artistic, intellectual – everyone is out in the squares and along the avenues, drinking in cafés and eating in restaurants. It becomes easy to join in and be stimulated by the lively, friendly atmosphere. Musicians wander the streets, from old men playing accordions outside the restaurants, to full jazz bands playing in city squares. And because the house wine is so inexpensive, stopping off for a glass or a carafe is a customary, not an exceptional, occurrence.

At the tables that surround you at these cafés, you will notice couples engaged in animated conversation, looking intently into each other’s eyes. France is a culture of philosophy and art, science and technology, style and literature, and of love. As you take all this in, you may begin to find it has an impact on you and how you yourself relate to others. You’ll notice yourself listening more actively, expressing yourself more earnestly and clearly, paying closer attention, acting more considerately, showing more curiosity and interest.

The luxury of time for all this gathering together is in part thanks to the French commitment to keeping an optimal balance between work and life. Shops close for lunch so workers can focus their attention on enjoying a good meal and the company of friends and colleagues. Employees who work 39 or more hours a week must receive more than the legally-required five weeks of vacation per year.

While you are traveling in France, you will come to enjoy and to expect this higher level of connection, this enhanced appreciation of food and wine, this better balance between work and life. You will never forget what you have learned about a different, and better, way of living life.

The Sum of these Three Parts

Taken together, the cultural discovery plus the feast for the senses plus the introduction to the good life, create a travel opportunity that is second to none. You will have a great trip to France, particularly if you travel independently and avoid the bus, possibly by using a preplanned trip-in-a-book to guide your explorations and adventures, and to ensure that you have the full experience while you are there.

Your trip will enrich you. It will refresh you. And it will change you. When you return home, you will find yourself incorporating elements from your travels into your lifestyle, and plotting to return to France.


Live on Chandler Arizona

Are you interested in buying a home in Chandler, Arizona? Discover the many great places to live, work and play in this vibrant city. No longer just a sleepy farm community, Chandler is a shining example of a 21st Century city in the Desert Southwest.

As you search new homes in Chandler, you probably keep seeing certain names pop up. Sun Lakes. Ocotillo. Morrison Ranch. Fulton Ranch. Chandler is home to many new home communities, owing in large part to its rapid growth and booming economy. As the San Tan Freeway was completed in 2006, a lot of large employers made the move to Chandler, and many that were already here expanded operations. Intel, Microchip Technology, PayPal, Wells Fargo, Verizon Wireless, to name a few, are some of Chandler’s corporate citizens. As the business climate continued to thrive, the cotton fields and grazing land of south Chandler yielded to destination shopping centers, hotels, restaurants and lots of housing. Builders such as Fulton Homes, Toll Brothers and Pulte made their mark on the landscape with spacious modern homes in beautiful communities. Many older historic neighborhoods are experiencing rebirth as homes are remodeled and modernized.

Chandler Schools consistently meet or exceed state and national averages; multiple charter schools and academies also provide top-notch education. Chandler-Gilbert Community College offers a wide variety of classes and programs, and private institutions such as Western International University and Ottawa University have branches in town as well.

There is no shortage of things to do in Chandler. Downtown on the square you will find unique shopping, dining and entertainment; there is almost always a festival, farmers market, art show or other affair to enjoy at AJ Chandler Park. Take a break and enjoy a craft beer, or a glass of Arizona wine. Visit Chandler Center for the Arts and catch a national act. Drop in at Vision Gallery or Uptown Art for more eclectic tastes. Downtown is also home to the beautiful, historic Crowne Plaza San Marcos Resort, Arizona’s first golf course.

Speaking of golf, Chandler is a linksman’s paradise. Courses run the gamut from executive to championship; you can visit driving ranges and golf academies, and stock up on the latest gear at the PGA Superstore!

Looking for other outdoor fun? Tumbleweed Regional Park boasts a rec center, sports and picnic areas, as well as Playtopia-a playground paradise based on Chandler’s heritage. A perennial favorite is the constantly expanding Arizona Railway Museum where you can explore a great collection of classic railroad cars and equipment. Skate park, BMX park, dog parks, equestrian and aquatic centers; Chandler has it all!

For indoor, air conditioned fun, Chandler Fashion Center is an upscale regional shopping powerhouse! Enjoy its great variety of dining choices from fast to casual to elegant. There are shows, movies, nightlife, shops and services galore, and special events almost every weekend. Another popular destination is The Ice Den, a favorite for skaters of all ages and a great way to keep cool year round.

This just a small sampling of the great features this amazing city has to offer. Chandler is consistently recognized for its responsible and sustainable growth and a quality of life unmatched in the Valley. This is just one more reason why so many families choose to make their home in Chandler.