Author Archives: Travelling Tanya

Ottawa and Ontario, May 28-June 4, 2014

When I lived in Virginia, I was stunned that people hadn’t heard of Calgary , Alberta or in a few cases Canada!! One day at work I was speaking with a man – and he said he had been to 2 places in Canada….”Ottawa and Ontario”. Well, that is where I have just been! Ottawa and Ontario! And it was fabulous!

Bevan asked me to join him for the weekend as he would be there giving the RCPS exams. I headed out early and was picked up at the airport by my cousin Mark, and his wife Natalie (whom I have adopted as my cousin too). We had a lovely meal out in Manotick (Ontario) together and then enjoyed a walk around their beautiful neighbourhood in Greely (Ontario).

On Thursday, we drove into Ottawa and enjoyed a beautiful day walking around the Byward Market. It is a bustling and fun area of town with street jesters, restaurants, cafes, and all types of market stalls from jewelry, plants, veggies, and art. People watching can be lots of fun and a little scary at times.

Friday was a real treat. I was invited to go to a dance recital in Kemptville (Ontario)  – apparently this decade recitals are called   “Dance Show Case”.  My cousin’s daughter, Victoria, is a wonderful dancer and this was her last Show Case as she is graduating from high school. The dance troop was spectacular. To boot – some of the parents took lessons and performed as well. I haven’t seen my cousin Geoff for about 13 years – and then I see him on stage in his underwear dancing to the Full Monty.

Saturday morning, Mark and Natalie, woke at the crack of dawn to get me to my Dad’s house in Mallorytown (Ontario) early. When we were about 10 minutes from his house I receive an email from my sister saying that they wouldn’t be home until 11:30 or noon as they were at Kaeling’s soccer game. I thought Mark and Natalie were going to throw me out on the highway, but luckily they are sweet people and had had their caffeine. It turned out nicely though as Linda and Claire were at the house so we were able to visit with them before everyone arrived. Bevan also drove up from Ottawa and surprised people with a couple of hour visit.

It was awesome that my sister and 2 kids drove up from Burlington (Ontario). It was Linda’s birthday, so we all (except Bevan who had to return to Ottawa to work) enjoyed a beautiful supper in Gananoque (Ontario). Davis, now 7 years old, told us that he heard a really bad song at his friend’s house. He said, with his eyes as big as saucers, that “EVERY WORD WAS A BAD WORD”…but as an after thought said, “Well, not EVERY word, there was also ‘Mother'”.

The Ontario reunion continued Sunday evening with a visit from my friend Brad, who I met in the late 80’s in Windsor (Ontario). It was awesome catching up – seeing that although he now has 2 kids, a beautiful wife,  a successful business, a beautiful home, that he really hasn’t changed a bit!

After my Dad drove me back to Ottawa, I enjoyed a beautiful sunny day in our nation’s capital. Ottawa is such a beautiful city and I have the itch to move back to Ontario. The trip was topped off with Natalie and Mark meeting Bevan and I for supper at the Black Tomato.

I love Ottawa…and Ontario.

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Me ‘photo bombing” the kids.

 

 

 

 

 

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Enjoying the weather & cake!

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Snuggles – Shanda & Davis

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Crew out for Linda’s birthday celebration.

Categories: Family visits, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Chicago! Chicago! May 2014

We decided it would be nice to have a little spring getaway – seeing that spring avoids Calgary like a polar bear avoids the beach. Our flight was uneventful and we got into a cab with a very grateful and kind young man. We arrived at rush hour and the freeway was moving along very slowly. Very slowly. The driver asked us if we minded taking an alternate route. The driver asked us if we minded taking an alternate route. He said everything at least twice.  It reminded me of the book “Jacob Two Two” from days gone by. Bevan never heard of this great piece of literature – perhaps because he grew up in a small town that didn’t have a lot of culture. Anyways, the drive to the hotel was very interesting – we went through several neighbourhoods, several school zones, playgrounds, back alleys, and parks. It is all a little bit of a blur – mostly because he was travelling at the speed of light!

Our hotel, The Thompson – Chicago , was outstanding. The doormen and reception staff were all very welcoming and friendly. Our suite was relatively small but the living room window looked down a bustling street of restaurants and cafes and a little park that we found out is called “Viagra Park” by locals. It has something to do with the steady stream of Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Bentleys and the like parked along it. Lots of grey hair and bald spots and nicely dressed people stopping at the cement park for a latte or a juice. We went for a quick walk and then enjoyed some cocktails and snacks on the outdoor patio of our hotel’s restaurant – a great place to people watch. (we saw a bit too much of some people, if you know what I mean. Short shorts should still be longer than your crotch people!)

At 8:30 pm we headed to “The Girl and the Goat” restaurant. It is a very loud and busy place that was recommended to us by our good friends who are always in the know – purdy much about anything. I scanned the menu and the green beans, cauliflower, scallops and halibut jumped out at me. I asked our waiter for recommendations and he listed the same 4 items!!! He is my food twin!!! We told him we were in his hands and asked him just to bring us whatever he wanted to. We began with a scallop, then halibut that was to die for!!! I can’t even start to explain the flavours! In addition to the beans and cauliflower (not sure how they made those veggies with so much flavour!) we had oysters (my first one ever – always thought how can anyone put something that ugly into their mouths). However, my 11 year old niece eats them and I was moved by her never ending sense of adventure and bravery, so I had one. Not as gross as I thought, but I don’t feel the need to try another! We also had something called “Pig Face” – which I think was pork cheek – very tender and delicate, and ?Goat Tummy? I didn’t ask, but by this time everything had been so amazing I just went with it. We could not eat another bite so declined dessert – but the waiter brought a gratis dessert as we “have to try this!” There was bacon flavoured toffee on top of some kind of whipped bliss. I gained at least 10 pounds but who cares – they have stores in Chicago where bigger clothes can be purchased.

Speaking of stores…. Chicago is a great shopping city! I helped Bevan find some great spring/summer clothes, shoes, etc. I found a couple of items for myself but didn’t go crazy.

Other highlights of the trip were talking to locals, the hop on hop off bus tour, Millenium Park, and the architectural society’s river tour.

Weird things: It isn’t weird for people to compliment Bevan’s attire but his shoes were getting lots of attention – from sales people,a tour guide, and even a homeless man complimented Bevan on his “Cole Haan Shoes” and said  “they coordinated great with his outfit”! Also, when we were on the trolley tour a man walked straight toward the bus, right up to our window and took our photo. The driver asked if it was someone we knew or if we were famous. Reminded us a little bit of the guy who took my picture in a restaurant inRome. And the weirdest thing of all – 4 days away and I did not buy one single solitary pair of shoes!!!

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Not my fav!

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Millenium Park looking toward downtown

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“The Bean” at park – reflects 8 miles of city

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view from River boat tour

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Samsonite or Shuffleboard?

In March I travelled back to Argentina – this time with my neighbour and my brand new black Samsonite in tow. I typically load up my large well used cases by  Briggs & Riley, Rimowa and Zero Haliburton  (which is a tank -weighs 20 pounds empty!) However, seeing as the trip was only 10 days long and I had kept most of my summer clothes in Argentina, I thought I would only need a moderate size case. The man at the luggage store convinced me to buy a hard case Samsonite – light weight and extremely reasonably priced!!!

I don’t have too many stories about Carolyne and my trip to Cafayate – as most of you have heard enough stories about Cafayate. Of course there were the usual little tests such as my car not starting although it has a brand new battery, and then being locked out of the house as the inside key was in the door and not allowing my key in. Not the best welcome after travelling for 35 hours! We had someone call Edith (our fantastic house keeper) to see if she could come with another key, while we had a beautiful lunch at the golf course. When we finally got into the house we found beautiful flower arrangements in almost every single room of the house – thanks to our wonderful Edith. Later that night I felt horrible for having Edith run back to the house with the key – totally unnecessary seeing as I found the door to the den open that evening. (I don’t mean unlocked, I mean sitting 6 inches ajar!)

In Cafayate we walked, talked, met up with some neighbours, and had some wonderful meals and talks.  However, Carolyne and others relentlessly made fun of my flashlight as apparently it looks like an adult toy. I will not say more.

After spending a day and a half in Buenos Aires, Carolyne and I jumped into the mini-van taxi along with our 5 pieces of luggage. (I brought one of the big boys back from Cafayate filled with some summer clothes, pottery, and wine for Carolyne’s hubby).We were enjoying the sights as we headed through downtown towards the freeway. As we took off from one very busy intersection I felt a little breeze and looked behind me. The back hatch of the van was open and my big Briggs and Riley case was blocking about 3 lanes of traffic, Carolyne’s little roller bag was cringing in front of a few taxis and my brand new black Samsonite was flying through the intersection and down the street that we had just recently passed. Wow – that thing can slide- just like a rock on a shuffleboard!  I panicked – things ran through my head – such as I hope a motorcyclist doesn’t wipe himself out on our bags and more importantly, “what shoes are in my bags that may potentially be gone forever”? I kept reaching for the door handle to go get our bags but Carolyne advised me not to as I may get killed by the 8 lanes of traffic weaving and winding their way around our luggage and our taxi van parked without any flashers on. Luckily our driver came to the rescue of our  luggage. He “ran” out into the traffic – becoming yet another obstacle for other drivers to avoid. He somehow managed to lift both of my heavy bags in one hand and Caro’s little bag in the other and get them and himself back into the van without incident. I asked in Spanish if he was okay. Had he hurt his back, etc. For the next 15 minutes I monitored his respiratory rate as I was sure he may go into cardiac arrest. I am sure this is more exercise than he has had in years. He was 300 pounds if he was a pound! Luckily, by the time we got to the freeway his respirations were  back to a normal rate. I started giggling. I couldn’t stop. Carolyne was surprised that I thought this event was funny – which I did – seeing that no person or piece of luggage had been hurt – and the more she thought I was weird for finding it amusing, the more I laughed! She thought I was crazy…..she may be right!

Amazingly, we had no flight delays or flight cancelations on our way home. We arrived safely back to Winter, also known as Calgary, and were happy to find that the wine and pottery had survived their fall and slide along the street of Buenos Aires.

 

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Birthday in Colomė (that rhymes by the way) January 2013

We just returned home from 3 weeks in Cafayate! We had a wonderful time and although the weather is “nice” in Calgary, we are missing the sun, warmth, and lifestyle available in a milder climate.

We were very excited to be meeting Tonya and Calvin (who are on their year long trip). Typically we only have a long weekend with them so it was a great opportunity to spend more time together. We met up with them in Salta on December 29th, overnighted, and headed to Cafayate on the 30th. We rung in New Years at the newest winery, Piattelli – which was spectacular. We were happy that about 12 other friends and neighbours were also there. The evening was a lot of fun. For about the equivalent of $40US, we had champagne, wine, festive New Years drinks, a beautiful meal (a beef tenderloin ROAST on everyone’s plate!), dessert, musicians, and a dance….and fireworks at midnight of course. Piattelli is up on the hill so we could see fireworks throughout the valley. It was a wonderful way to bring in the new year.

Cal, Me, Bevan

Cal, Me, Bevan

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Ton at Piattelli

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the 3rd we drove to Colomė.  The hotel at Colomé is only opened if you rent all 9 rooms, or a member of the owners family or organization is there. On my last trip to Cafayate I was lucky enough to meet the new manager and she told me of a couple of days that were available as someone from Switzerland would be there. We jumped at the opportunity and it was maybe serendipitous because it was my birthday. Colomé is one of the highest vineyards in the world and is a totally self-sustaining area. (in other words they have to grow all their food, make all their wine, etc as it is really in the boonies). We had explained to Tonya and Cal that it was a long and bumpy ride, but I think they thought we were exaggerating .  The path to  Colomé is a rocky washboard “road” which often is so curvy and narrow that you play Russian Roulette on the curvy corners. We were lucky in that we missed big trucks flying around the corner in our shared lane by about 3 seconds. Every bump along the way was worth it as the scenery is spectacular.   From Tonya’s blog…she described the road like this “while only 120 kms from Cafayate, it’s about a 3 hour drive on what was termed a ‘gravel road.’ I called it a donkey path, Calvin  called it a wagon trail.For the most part, it was little more than a single lane going through river beds and cliff edges?….”. Colomė was fabulous- the service, the food, the wine, the rooms and the art museum! There is the world’s largest collection of James Turrell art installations in the world. When the artist was told by Donald Hess that he was creating a museum in Argentina James Turrel said “Great, I love Buenos Aires”. When Donald Hess told him that it would be in Colomé and what it takes to get there, James replied, “Since I suffered in creating my work, it seems only natural that people should suffer to see the work.”

Tonya took a video of a drive through ” Las Flechas” which is on a GOOD part of the road. If you go to you tube and search for “Drive to Colomé” you will see Tonya’s video.    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DUgInPRx4uo&sns=em

View from Colomé Room

View from our room

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Hotel at Colomé

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My birthday was wonderful….thanks to everyone who sent emails and cards!  In addition to my special trip I received some artsy gifts! Tonya sang me the birthday song in German (which was actually in English with a very strong German accent), Calvin’s alter ego, Norbert, made a video appearance for me, and Bevan wrote me a poem….which was so awesome it made me cry. I know he is a super talent in his field but he could quit and make a living writing for sure. I won’t share the poem as it will make all you gals jealous and make all you guys feel like inadequate schmucks.

We survived the bumpy trip back to Cafayate and spend the next couple of weeks just enjoying our home and the great weather. Thanks to Tonya and Cal – we ate at home several times. Bevan and Cal handled the parilla and Tonya and I prepared veggies and salads. The four of us played some  golf (Tonya’s first time – she did great!), went on the “El Paso” hike, and did some horseback riding (sin me!) It was Cal’s first time ever on a horse. Although I literally had to force him to go he absolutely loved it and found it exhilarating. I love that word! How often in life do we feel that??? Trying new things is great – makes us feel like a kid again and keeps us young. We made a visit to our favourite potter in San Carlos. Senior Mendoza LOVES Bevan’s Defender and has had his photo taken with it. He wants Bevan to drive him up into the hills to collect his special clay. Watch for future posts on that adventure!!! (the Defender LOOKS tough, but looks can be deceiving!)

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El Paso Hike

 

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It was sad to say good bye to our wonderful house guests. The house seemed empty without them.

I have been asked several times to go to “Sewing Circle” in our neighbourhood. For those of you who know me, I take after my Mom not my Auntie Alice when it comes to sewing. If it weren’t for my husband’s “one hand surgical knots” and sewing abilities I would most likely throw out any blouse if a button came loose. I decided to go just so I would have the opportunity to say hello to some of my neighbours that I hadn’t seen. Jane was knitting a hat for her first grand-baby that is on the way. Deirdrie was making a sparkly bead. The other 6 women were just sitting at the table. ALL of us were drinking Pisco Sours!!! It was great! Who knew that I would like “sewing” so much!

On our way back to Calgary we spent a day in Buenos Aires so that we could have super with our friends Brent and Julieta. They are babysitting a little dog that is super cute – although he bite me in the face. Luckily the bad luck streak seemed to pass and although it took us 4 hours to get to the airport, check in, go through security and passport control, our flight did leave ?relatively on-time? (Argentine time) and we arrived home safely.

Categories: Argentina, Family visits | 2 Comments

A Surprise within a Surprise, within a Surprise. Toronto Oct. 17-21, 2013

For months Shanda and I were planning that we would surprise my Dad by me showing up for his birthday weekend in Toronto! In the meantime, my sister was being honoured with a kick-ass award from her profession a day before – and I was surprising her by being there. Dad was surprising her by being there. Dad did not know that I was coming. And I am surprised I didn’t blow any of the surprises!!! Also, we were surprising my niece and nephew with a surprise visit. Surprises are so fun but exhausting!!!

First things first. I am so proud of my sister. She is awesome at everything and does her best at everything. (She has beauty, brains and ambition – fair enough – she was born first and got first dibs.) Her profession gave her an award honouring her for all of  her efforts and strides she has made in her field, along with her extreme professionalism, and her tireless (??can you say that if someone works until 3 in the morning and feels tired but does it all the same??) devotion she has for her profession. It was so touching to be there at her awards ceremony and I feel that my Mom was there too, in spirit. It was wonderful to see her hard work appreciated by so many.

The next day, my Dad and I spent time together toddling around Toronto – namely the distillery district which is very cool. It was a fantastic day – it isn’t often that we have time together just the two of us. Later that evening, we had his birthday celebration dinner at a restaurant named George. (Fitting as my Dad’s father’s name is George, his middle name is George, his boxer was named George….despite being a girl……) It was a great find by my sister. Also, very cool – there was a big sign “Biscuit” hanging near our table! (which I wanted to bring home in a doggy bag…but was turned down!)

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The next next day we had breakfast, did some shopping, then went to the “I Love Lucy” play, which was a lot of fun. We said our goodbyes afterwards, and Dad headed home on the train, and Shanda and I headed to her home in Burlington.

Claire was at the garage door to scream “Boo” to Shanda when we pulled in. It was quite the surprise to see the surprised face being her aunt’s instead! Davis and Claire gave me a very exuberant greeting! Such awesome kids.

One more surprise – a late Thanks Giving Supper together.Yves woke up early, shopped for the ingredients and then headed down to the lake to wind surf…..Surprise – guess who made the supper??? Claire, Shanda and I (we all hate naked birds) had quite the time trying to clean the bird and get it stuffed. Too bad it wasn’t on film. Let’s just say that the bird kicked us and there was a lot of screaming, a turkey sliding across the counter like a bobsledder at the Olympics and lots of paper towels…and laughter.

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It was a great visit!

Categories: Family visits | 1 Comment

AG w/ Shannon Nov.10-22..actually 23rd! (2013)

Somehow, Bevan and I convinced his brother, Shannon, to come to Cafayate and do some handyman work on our house. An all expense paid trip may be considered a treat to some, but truly this was a sacrifice for Shannon. One – he would be taking time off work to fly halfway across the world – to work! Two, he would be away from his kids for longer than he had ever been before (thus creating more work for his wife and Mom). Three – he would be stuck with me for 12 days!!! It was touch and go for a while but his strong desire to help us out (or probably more likely the things he read about Argentine BEEF!)  persuaded him  to come.

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Beef sized Beef!!! Parilla (BBQ) at Grace Hotel

I booked our flights in Economy Plus (or Business Minus depending if you are a glass half full or half empty kinda person)  – but despite me phoning United 3 times to confirm his seat assignment next to me and having the agent write on his file not to move him out of the “Gold Member” area, Shannon was shuffled somewhere off  to the rear of the plane. Once we were up and flying I started my journey back into the hollows of the plane to find Shannon. Who knew planes were so long?? Poor Shannon was literally wedged between a big man who had his entire office set up on his meal tray and lap and  another large creature that I assume was human but really seemed to be a cross between Sasquatch and a big bear. Shannon looked so tiny! I totally can picture what he looked like as a baby. I was comfy in my super-sized seat and enjoyed a lovely conversation with an Argentine man who is the head of the Catholic church (?priest, ?Pope? God? I didn’t want to be nosey and ask for too many details) This man has travelled the world meeting with other church heads (I was picturing the gargoyles on Notre Dame in Paris) and the UN. I will probably go to hell for thinking things like this. If not, I sure I will go for suggesting he watch “The Heat” because it is a “really funny and cute movie.” Watching it for a second time, with a man who is potentially the Pope, I found it more difficult to find the humour and cuteness between all of the swear words. ( a lot starting with ‘F’ if you know what I mean?)

Shannon was a good sport, and despite not having any sleep on the plane, was in good spirits when we arrived to Salta. We had a nice supper and then headed back to my Salta home: Legado Mitico.

After a morning of shopping for home supplies and having lunch at  Diane’s home, we made the 3 hour drive to Cafayate. As we drove into the property, we saw a meter long snake at “Creature Corner”. I named a certain bend in the road this as I always have animal sightings there (baby foxes playing, doves, armadillo on demand when Lorrie wanted to search one out!, rabbits, donkeys, etc). The sighting was quite rare, I am sure, as I was assured that there were no snakes in Cafayate when we were purchasing the land.

I thought I had entered the wrong house as the lights were on, the water was on, the gas was on, and the AIR CON was on!!!!! Hallelujah!! Hallelujah!!

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Shannon worked on sealing up our windows and trouble shooting and consulting with another contractor that we highly trust. He worked hard during the day, I tried to help, but mainly just ensured that he was fed and that he had time to go to places where he could buy gifts for Crystal and the kids. We had some fabulous meals out and went to the Grand Opening Party at the Grace Hotel. I even managed to get Shannon to try the local wines. I may have turned him into an AG wine aficionado!!!

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Party at Grace Hotel Grand Opening before it got crazy.

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Gauchos at La Estancia.

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We spent a day in BA on our return and had a fantastic time with our friend Brent and Julieta. On the 22nd, we arrived at the airport early to ensure Shannon was sitting with me this time, which he was, and then enjoyed a couple of hours in the Business class lounge. Shannon really appreciated the size and comfort of our seats – well… – at least for 4 hours on the tarmac –  at which time we were told to disembark due to mechanical issues and the flight was being cancelled. (Felt like “Ground Hogs Day” – same thing happened to Bevan and I in June!) Shannon and I had the taxi ride from hell – travelling in an old crap car without seat belts at speeds of up to 150km/hr while the driver kept doing something (?texting) on his phone. We were both sure we would be in a horrific accident and were both somewhat surprised when we made it to our destination.  It was almost 4am when we got out of the cab and kissed the sidewalk in front of the apartment. I had an email from back home with some very worrisome information – which made me feel like I needed to get back to Canada even quicker.

Unfortunately, the next day at 5pm, a mere 2 hours before our planned departure to the airport, we found out again that the flight was cancelled!!! Luckily, I had a very helpful and empathetic agent who booked us on American Airlines despite it not being a partner with United. We were very lucky.

The last 48 hours seemed like hell and I was very worried that I scared the travel bug right out of my brother-in-law. However, with seeing and hearing our families and a good night sleep in our own beds, the positive memories are outshining the negative.

Things I learned on this trip:

1) My brother-in-law is a fabulous travel companion.

2) Cafayate has scorpions.

3) Armadillos scurry around in the daytime. (we saw one out for an afternoon toddle)

4) When with an English only speaker that it is important to translate BOTH sides of a Spanish conversation. I found that I would translate what other people were saying to Shannon but figured when I was speaking Spanish that he should understand what I was saying.

5) Things can actually get fixed in Argentina.

6) It is window CAULK, NOT  window C**K. Who knew ? And why wasn’t I informed earlier?

7) It is possible to get a photo radar ticket even when you are NOT in the country.

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Jacaranda trees make BA a lovely purple colour! BA is gorgeous in summer!

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PHNOM PENH to TAIWAN, Protests to Typhoon! Sept 19/21

So we said our good byes to Cambodia and headed to Taipei, Taiwan. We arrived in the late evening and seemed to arrive in the future! The airport shone it was so clean, we walked through a special corridor that points out anyone with a fever, then stood in line at passport control. On the plane neither of us could remember whether a visa was needed, and if so, if it could be purchased on arrival. We noticed everyone in front of us had printed visa forms (similar to the single entry reciprocity fee for Argentina). The lined moved too quickly to get too worried about it and the man we had must be an ambassador to Taiwan. He was so smiley and friendly. A visa wasn’t required or he just let us in.Our luggage and car was there …. We were probably driving 15 minutes after landing.

We stayed at a small Boutique hotel….we definitely have arrived to the future! There were at least 10 different remote controls in the room. The curtains opened when you touched them. There was a remote for the tv, for the music system, for the bathroom tv, for the blind in the shower, and a remote for the toilet. ( honest! And the toilet had music, heated seat, built in bidet, deodorizer, flush, lid up and down switch, fan, but most interesting was the sparkly pearl colour – the same pearl that Lexus used to come in). Now don’t think Taipei isn’t interesting just because all I have written about is the toilets!

The next morning, we grabbed our umbrellas and headed to Taipei 101, which used to be the tallest building in the world. We were impressed by how clean the city is and were shocked how quiet things were. Bevan renamed the city “Hong Kong Lite”! We later found out two reasons for the quietness 1) it was a holiday and many city folk head south
2) the largest typhoon in the world for 2013 was heading towards Taiwan…it actually got upgraded to “super-typhoon”!

We later visited a traditional tea house. We sat on the floor and had to be shown what to do (no tea bag thrown into a microwaved mug of water). We skipped the famous night market because we were tired, have seen many markets, didn’t want to see all the cobras, we were both feeling a little under the weather and didn’t know if we could tolerate all the market smells….and our hotel had a nice wine bar. We had a terrible sleep as the wind and rain was hitting the windows so hard. The one window, luckily the one in the shower, was leaking and every so often the drain would really giggle.

We luckily were able to leave on our flight as planned. We flew home on Japan’s airline. All of the Asian airlines had very attentive and friendly staff. Actually all people we ran across on our trip were friendly, helpful, courteous, etc. We are now in the U.S. and just spent the last 40 mins listening to the US customs and security folk abuse people. Short, loud, rude. We went to the expedited lane which was for Nexus card holders, Star Alliance Gold members, or people flying business or first class. The lady said we were in the wrong line and herded ( almost with a cattle prong) to the long line….despite us qualifying for all 3 of the expedited lane criteria. Welcome to America….and I won’t even start on how they were treating an Indian lady in a wheelchair.

Really looking forward to getting the Seattle to Calgary flight over with! I have missed Biscuit and missed my own bed….although I must say the beds and pillows in Luang Prabang were probably the most comfy I have ever experienced!

Until next trip….
( will chat in person or by phone)

Love Tanya

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SIEM REAP, TONLE SAP, MEKONG, PP. Sept 13-19

It is very difficult for me to keep a secret, or surprise, from Bevan. However, I did a great job of keeping our anniversary surprise a secret….since Janaury! From Laos, we flew to Siem Reap. It felt really wonderful to be there again- we definitely have a connection to this place…although it has grown tremendously. This time, we, which means me- seeing as it was a surprise- decided to stay at “La Residence de Angkor”…which is a hotel we saw in a book of hip hotels, I believe gifted to us by Tonya 14 years ago….and have always wanted to stay at. The 14 year wait was worth it. Beautiful hotel with a sense of place with wood, plants, and local art and carvings. Speaking of carvings, we bought one from the gallery in our hotel. Being low season we negotiated a good price…so we thought…when we said we would buy it the stone faced, solemn salesgirl literally broke into a big smile, clapped and jumped up and down thanking us. I am thinking there may have been a little bit more wiggle room on the price!!!

We actually chose this time of year to travel, as it is rainy season and things things are very green. We only saw it rain only a couple of times in Laos. However it poured in SR and it was wonderful! Not the one hour rain in the afternoon, but full on rain for days! One of the people we admire most on the planet, David Shoemaker, flew in to SR to see us. He was instrumental in the success of the Angkor Hospital for Children and now is helping other projects in Shinoukville. He is still an advisor and ambassador for AHC. Anyways, we had a wonderful dinner and visit with David, and the new administrator of the hospital and his wife (Bill and Lorri). After supper, David took us to show us the changes at the hospital. I was somewhat quiet for once, being overwhelmed at the advances made. I imagine this is what it feels like when in the presence of somebody totally inspirational and powerful…like the Dali Lama, Nelson Mandela, or Jon Bon Jovi ( I will have to confer with my dear friend who has met them all) I failed to mention it was around 10:30 pm when we toured the hospital. The triage area was filled with families sleeping under mosquito nets, parents sleeping on benches where Marilee spent her first day volunteering with the children, in the hallways and even in the garden. AHC has a policy of 1 patient per bed. Each bed, in addition to the child, usually had at least Mom, and maybe Dad and a sibling or two. We also saw 2 things we would NOT see in a Canadian hospital:
1)family members sleeping on the floor by their children ( no private rooms, all beds are in open area, no walls, no curtains)
2) a gaggle of nurses sitting at the nurses station…wait for it…..not a coffee cup or snack in sight, just one of the more senior nurses taking the opportunity to share knowledge with colleagues, the colleagues totally engaged in the process.

I could type on and on about the wonderful advances ( such as a neonatal unit opening the day before we arrived) ….but will hold off for now. I do need to thank all of you who have kindly donated to AHC and to my fundraisers, you all would be so happy to know that your money has been used wisely and to the maximum. Okay, one more thing, the staff have come up with an incredible way to make a CPAP machine….nasal prongs, tube stuck into a bottle of saline, hooked up to a big old rusty canister of oxygen…..had REDUCED MORTALITY RATE of these patients by 50%!!!! This isn’t a $50,000 machine, cost is $35!!!!! Inspiring!

As you can tell, visiting AHC was a highlight of our trip.

The next morning we got on our river boat. The meeting place was the Victoria Hotel, where we usually stay. Felt a little odd not to have Marilee with us at the poolside patio with us – our spot for our afterwork cocktail hour!

I had been concerned that the boat would be like our gullet in Turkey but it was awesome. We were the only Canadians on a boat full of Aussies. We enjoyed meeting some great people. The River Boat cruised Tonle Sap river (highest density of fish of any body of water in world….and ONLY river in the world to change direction of flow!!….my nieces and nephews should remember this for when they are told by their school teachers that rivers always flow in one direction). We then toodled along the mighty Mekong and arrived back in PP harbour while having a romantic, private dinner at the front of the boat. We over nighted at the harbour, missed the PP day trips as there were protests there ( only one death…protests over outcome of last election. Winning party in this democracy has been in power for over 30 years….just saying….) we relaxed at Raffles for 2 nights and had a great Italian meal near the National Museum. Saw a rat when we were about to leave….waitor said it was more like a mouse because it was small….it was almost the size of Biscuit for frickity sake!

Cheers from Tanya’s iPad

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LUANG PRABANG, LAOS. Sept.7-13, 2013.

We left the hustle and bustle of PP and landed in the sleepy little town of Luang Prabang. We were shuttled to our small Colonial hotel in an old fashioned Mercedes. LP is a Unesco World Heritage site so is protected from large multinationals – no Starbucks even! (the coffee here is fabulous!) LP truly has a sense of place, and a unique quaintness that the travel magazines and websites describe.

The chocolate covered Mekong and the vibrant green trees and shrubs make a beautiful back drop for the thousands of saffron clad monks that walk about all day long. Every morning, around 6am, the monks and townsfolk line the streets. The monks receive their alms. This is a religious ceremony for Buddists. (the way I see it, it is much like Halloween…..except it is daily, they are all dressed the same, it isn’t scary, it is quiet, and rice replaces candy!)

Our small resort was wonderful. We ended up spending a lot of time just hanging around there. Although this colonial resort has 20 rooms, we rarely saw anybody else there. Most days only two other rooms were filled. Our suite was the “Henri Mouhot” suite- named after the explorer who discovered Angkor Wat covered in the jungle. (view from our terrace)

During cocktail hour we thought we would play some cards we were in the library and found a strange deck with 72 cards. We spent quite awhile making up what we would consider a full deck. Bevan asked, “what shall we play?” and we both started laughing as the ONLY game we know with one deck is “fish”! So we taught ourselves how to play “Gin”, but accidentally shouted out “Jim”!

We did end up doing a couple of touristy things. We climbed to the top of the tallest mountain in town (about 270 steps) which was very difficult in 35 degree weather and full on humidity.

We went on a private tour to a village that makes whiskey from rice and weaves beautiful scarves. We visited a cave where for hundreds of years Buddhists come to pray, many leaving statues and ornaments of the Buddha in position of the day of the week that they were born. The cave was amazing but the further in we went, the fewer Buddhas and the more bat poop. Another day we hired a tuk tuk to drive us all around the town and the outskirts.

Other than that we rode bikes around town and relaxed!

We asked some of the staff at the resort if they swam in the chocolatey river. They said that is why their skin is so brown! They loved the paleness of our skin. We asked if there were any dangerous fish or snakes in the river. They thought that was quite funny, so we asked about hippos and crocodiles. We stumped them on hippo, until one lady, who maybe weighs 80-85 pounds said that the Loatian word is “water elephant”- which is her nick name! Bevan and I must have looked shocked, because her helpful friends explained that she is called that because she is fat!

Because we had the resort to ourselves I decided to join Bevan in the beautiful pool- edged by Lilly ponds and palm trees. I am pretty certain I heard the staff giggling and taking photos…just as I did when I spotted the hippos in the Zambezi River.

( cannot add more photos as computer keeps crashing!)

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PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA

The first day in Phnom Penh, which I will abbreviate as PP partly because it is shorter and partly due to the big city smell, we met our tour guide, Sophea, from Mango Cambodia tour company. (We bought a one night hotel with one day tour at a fund raiser for a Cambodian school that a couple from Calgary supports- basically the impetus for this trip). We ate at a restaurant that trains street kids and orphans to be waiters and chefs. The food was absolutely delicious although Sophea ordered us a house specialty for laughs. Tarantulas!

I know this is a horrible picture of me but I wasn’t thinking about my hair while sticking a giant spider leg into my mouth. Sadly my hair has not looked better yet…darned 40 degrees with humidity! Bevan did not partake…but I didn’t want to be rude. Bevan says I worry about hurting people’s feelings too much. He cites our conversation with one highly educated ex-pat who lives in PP as an example. Me: so, what do you do here for work?
Ex-pat: I write gay erotica.
Me: good for you! ( with the enthusiasm as if he had started an orphanage) you can do that anywhere you want to travel!

After lunch we had a tour of PP. We were surprised to see more luxury SUV’s than we see in Calgary. Most had military or police plates – most definitely some government corruption…although we did see a very large beautiful building with a very large placard reading “Phnom Penh Anti-Corruption Office”. Coincidentally it was right across from a very large car dealership selling Lexus, Range Rover, and Rolls Royce!

PP has quite a modern riverfront that bustles in the evenings, and a new development for the rich called Diamond Island. The rich and poor really do live side by side, although Diamond Island developers are trying to push the slums out. Three percent of Cambodians are Muslim, and most live on the water in small narrow boats. An entire family will live and work (fish) from here. This one had much more belongings than the others.

The next day we went to the countryside and visited some Buddhist temples. This was not a very spiritual experience as we were swarmed by women selling stuff inside the temple. They literally were grabbing things out of my hand. It was 10 degrees hotter than the sun in there so we didn’t have much patience and we left. On the way back to the van there were some young beggars in training. How can you say no to these little faces?

I gave the big guy money to buy a new shirt! Smelly!

The next day was a highlight. We travelled with Sophea, a lovely man who laughs continuously, and his brother to the village they grew up in. We stopped and had a close up view of the rice fields and water buffalo. We then had a tour of the village in an ox cart! Almost every person we passed, young or old, waved or hollered hello from their home! We felt like celebrities. We even had a small following!

We finished our day off with dinner at an amazing little wine bar close to our hotel. We had to leave our hotel at 4:30am to catch our 6:30 flight to Laos. The hotel must have asked staff to be ready to help us with our bags because there were 2 staff members sleeping outside our room. They didn’t stir at all! The security guard was fast asleep at the entry. He didn’t wake when we opened up the main gate for our driver who had pulled up. We must be very quiet people!

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