Travel

India: Part 4

JAISLAMER – ROHET

We head a little bit off the so called “beaten track” on this leg of the trip. We head further North to Jaislamer, the home of forts made from sandstone that glow golden during sunset. By this time we are getting a little tired of seeing forts but we are enjoying the look of fear on Dave’s face as we get closer and closer to the Pakistan border.

Our hotel is only a couple of years old but has been built to resemble a fort. It has a wonderful inner courtyard and our guide has ensured we get the two best rooms.
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The rooms took up the entire back upper floor, and were two stories, including a private dining room and a dipping pool. (our two suites are the left and right of the little dome!)

The staff were very attentive and set us a beautiful table after a folkloric show at the hotel. We had a surprise menu that was absolutely delicious.

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The next day we visited Gadi Sagar Lake, a man made lake, the Jaisalmer Fort, toured the old city and the  “havelies” – the mansions of the wealthy traders who grew rich on the trade passing through the desert. The absolute highlight of the day was heading further north, into the desert on camel!!! I had purchased camel riding shoes with bells and I was excited to wear them and listen to them jingle as we bounced along. I must say, I am petrified of horse back riding so I was feeling a quite a bit of angst. I was the first one up though and felt quite elated! (the fear returned as we started moving!!!)

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After approximately 40 minutes of bouncing along the desert ,we watched the sunset and enjoyed the company of our “camel jockeys”. They clearly love the camels and take good care of them. Alli, who lead my camel named Michael Jackson, loved Bevan’s jacket and petted it as I was petting the camels! I was thinking of offering it to him (yes ME offering BEVAN’s jacket to Alli- but I have learned my lesson after giving Bevan’s watch to our safari guide in Africa and then not being able to replace it when we got back home!) We all loved our camel ride although we all were a bit sore somewhere in the “saddle region!”

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The following morning, after being force-fed several different Indian breakfasts in the beautiful courtyard, we headed off to Rohet, where we stayed in a Wilderness Camp that was made when Madonna visited Rohet but wanted to stay closer to where she was riding horses. Apparently Bevan and I stayed in her actual tent. I figure if Madonna can “rough it”, so can I.  Again, we were taken care of like royalty. We had an amazing meal followed by a campfire. We were all reflecting on how being in the second most populated country in the world, and we were the only people (other than our “caregivers”) to be seen.

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We felt very spoiled and privileged. In the morning we had a Jeep Safari around the countryside and visited a Bishnoi tribal village. The tribes are considered the first environmentalists of the world and have been protecting the flora and fauna for the past 550 years.

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We saw some local crafts and local men participating in an opium ceremony. Apparently, our guide tells us, that opium does not affect the brain, but only gives energy. (hmmmmm!)

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A few months ago, opium was banned by the government, so they were not using opium. (by the looks of things, they have used it quite a bit before! They did not have much affect and we did not really feel welcome.) This was my least favourite thing of the trip.

Back in the Van - not a hardship at all!

Back in the Van – not a hardship at all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We next had a 4 hour drive to Udaipur, stopping on the way to visit a huge Jain temple built in 1439. The drive to Udaipur was really pretty – more lush, hilly and I was excited to see more monkeys! Some even jumped onto our van!!!

UDAIPUR

We stayed at the Lake Palace Udaipur, the summer home/palace of the Royal Family – whose main palace is across the lake. (nothing like “getting away!”) The hotel also was the site where one of the James Bond movies were filmed. Upon arrival there was a folkloric dancer and we were showered in rose petals. This time it was lighter out and I was able to enjoy it!

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We enjoyed a lake tour at sunset and the next day had more sight seeing tours. Dave and I skipped the City Palace tour and I think Bevan and Kim had wished they had too. We visited a Hindu priest who “paints on water”- he even let me give it a try! Obviously he hasn’t heard what a klutz I can be! Thankfully I did not disgrace the religious water painting or my friends!

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We had a beautiful supper at the Lake Palace – and the guys played chess in the lobby. James Bond is definitely not the most handsome man that has stayed at this hotel – I think Dave and Bevan win this prize.

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From Udaipur we flew back to Delhi and had an amazing supper at “Indian Accent” the best rated restaurant in India. It was an amazing end to our trip. Kim and Dave left to the airport after supper and Bevan and I had one more day in Delhi. Our eyes were burning from the pollution and we could not see the sun on our last day. The smog is terrible. We cancelled our sight seeing and stayed in our suite all day long except to venture downstairs for meals. Perhaps were just missing our travel companions.

Things I learned:

-Delhi has horrific traffic and pollution that made my eyes burn. I don’t know if I could tolerate the pollution in larger centres in China – so I may have saved lots of money by going on this trip.

-Men and Women are segregated in many line ups, especially if security is involved. Women are not allowed in temples during “that time of the month” and some are segregated at home as well. We would often see men sitting around the town/city squares having tea, but the women, if there, were busy with errands.

-there are many stores that are to “help women” -women make the items, get the money, etc….but we would only see men in the stores themselves. hmmm.

-although India is one of the dirtiest countries, if not the dirtiest,  I have been to, it still has a lot of beauty, colour, light and amazing people. Oh, and great food. Terrific food. MMMMMM. (I gained 7 pounds!)

-I was most amazed at the lack of culture shock I experienced. The only time I had discomfort was seeing extremely crippled (and I use this term purposefully) navigating the crowded streets on their belly or some type of skate board, if they were lucky. As a physio in a previous life, it was hard to even conceive how these poor individuals became so flexed and disabled. (?purposeful damage to growth plates/ tendons?)

-The edited version of the blog can look well spaced and fine – until it is posted!

-I also learned that Christmas doesn’t wait for you to be ready for it!!!

Next stop – Calgary and Christmas!!!!

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India Part 3

JODHPUR

After a wonderful nights sleep we headed to Jodhpur- 6 hours away.

Half way there we stopped in a small village for lunch. We walked approximately a km through the village to reach our lunch spot, which was an old mansion converted to a small hotel with a large courtyard.(which I think would be a more appropriate retirement spot for those looking for the Marigold experience).

The locals – young and old-waved, said hello, and showed general interest in the foreigners traipsing through their village.

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When we arrived in Jodhpur we were transferred from our van into several tuk-tuks as the lanes were too narrow and winding for our van. We all felt like we were somewhere foreign. There was a more Muslim influence and a different energy to the streets.

We turned off the bustling alley onto our hotel property – a quiet sanctuary and courtyard. There were tiny round orangey-red lights in the ground that made the path to reception. The architecture at the RAAS hotel is very striking and we had views of the hillside fort – from the roof top terraces, from our personal inner court yard terraces and even from our bathtubs!!!

Our tour of the fort and city was a little too ‘history and fact laden’ (for my liking) and I felt like I was back in grade 8 social studies class trying not to fall asleep as the teacher monotonously droned on, and on!

We then went to a flea market – locally referred to as the “wash and cry market”( because when you get your item home and wash away the dust you cry in disappointment!) The sari area sells used saris- many coming off bodies taken for cremation.

Everything you can imagine was sold at the market – bracelets, millet, kitchen wares, clothes, spice, toys… the list goes on. And if you didn’t find what you were looking for, you could always enjoy a shave.

Just as we were leaving the wash and cry market Bevan received “luck” from a pigeon!

We were then led into a textile wholesale store. We were told it was wholesale, that we could not buy, we were just being shown the most beautiful and luxurious textiles made in India. We were told that top fashion houses around the world – Hermes, Brunello Cucinelli, Donna Karen etc have some of their items made here. After showing us 20 different items they went in reverse giving us local prices, the European and American inflated prices, asking which ones we wanted and showing us samples in a variety of colours. So much for it only being wholesale. Apparently Brad Pitt bought 120 scarves – I think the salesman was challenging us to do better.

Bevan and I had instant memories of being back in Morocco at a carpet store. Dave said anytime they ask you to sit down they are going to try to get you to buy something! He was right. And “don’t sit down!”, became a phrase Kim and I would hear muttered as we entered many more stores to come! ( in retrospect it was very good advice, although ‘run!’ may have worked better). I did not buy very much. Kim did. But I did see one man on the street who bought slightly more than Kim.

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We enjoyed several hours at our resort and played Parcheesi, an Indian board game.

In the evening we were treated to a private show of the Bhopas . Typically the 14th century history takes 8 nights to tell but thankfully we had a condensed version. We were lucky to experience this private show as there are currently only 25 families who still know and practice this folkloric art that is nearing extinction. The two young brothers had such beautiful smiles as they played their instruments, danced and sang.They had a real passion for their art. The mother, we only could assume, enjoyed it too-but as custom has it, women cover their face with a scarf as they sing, so it was hard to tell.

There was a horrendous stench on the street coming home as some running water was releasing layers of urine, dried cow dung (yes, dung, not tongue) and who knows what else. I was afraid I was going to toss my cookies so abandoned my worries about offending the locals and covered my faced with a balled up scarf. It saved my life I am sure! Looking back I should have just sang so nobody would be offended.

Jodhpur is known as the blue city as many of the homes are painted blue.

There is a much higher percentage of Muslims here than other areas we have been. The call to prayer was so loud (approx 5 am) that we were sure it was coming from our bedroom closet. I understand the history and use of the call but in centres where the majority are not Muslim it does not seem very respectful to the neighbours. By the second morning I found myself feeling very irritated at the morning call to prayer and think it should be renamed the ‘call to arms’. Perhaps stopping this practice could stop all the wars in this part of the world. Our one guide felt that if borders were removed, the Hindus and Muslims would have nothing to fight over. Could world peace be this easy?

Things I learned:
-purdy much everything is for sale in India
-if you ask a store owner for a very specific item they happily tell you they have it and then bring you something completely different
-Hindus are reincarnated 8.4 million times! (Not all human lives, can be bugs, birds, etc) That is a lot of lives. The Jain branch believes it is 84 times
– the Jain’s are strict vegetarians and do not want to harm even a flea- they don’t even ‘kill’ root vegetables

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India Part 2

INDIA – Part 2

JAIPUR
We had a 4 hour drive from Rathambore to Jaipur. The countryside was very interesting. The highways seem to lack any organization, planning or rules! All the transport trucks are decorated and have painted signs, such as ‘honk horn’. The fronts of the trucks and tractors are decorated with Pom-poms and tinsel. The only things more bedazzled are wedding cars.

When we (surprisingly) safely arrived to our hotel in Jaipur we met our new tour guide, VJ. He took us on a tour of the Old City. Jaipur used to be yellow but when The Prince of Wales visited the king ordered the city be painted pink. Each of the streets in the center have 365 stores. We walked through some of the back alleys lined we cubby hole sized shops. They were higher than they were wide and one tiny store may have 6 workers. The sari shops were full as it is wedding season here. Wedding parties all shop together and buy their saris from the same store. The father of the bride and other male members of he family are there as well.
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The colours and scents of the street food were vibrant. One food vender that had his kitchen on his bicycle, was cooking up something that looked healthy and smelled amazing. He offered me a free bite but our guide told him it would make me sick.

This man must be participating in Movember!

The next day we started out early to avoid the crowds. We started at the square were some of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was filmed. VJ knows the owner of the actual hotel where the film was shot. The film was a financial help helped as the hotel owner admits his hotel is run down and not a good place to stay.

We went to a very interesting observatory and marvelled at the brilliance of ancient scholars. Our guide told us our astrological signs are close together so that is why we get along so well.
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We followed this with a tour of the city palace. Our tour company had arranged access for us into the private area of the palace. I thought this was a line but we left the swarm of tourists behind and entered the living quarters. We actually saw the father of the prince and sat on some cushions in one of the more casual meeting rooms.

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We had told our guide that we would be interested in seeing his palm reader. Palm reading and horoscopes are a very important part of life here and play a huge role in all kinds of decisions – such as who you can marry and in which year. The palm reader was bang on with our personalities. He told us our lucky numbers and lucky stones and gems.

We then headed to a beautiful home of a family who has built a small inn – but rarely has guests. The lady of the house gave us a cooking demonstration and Dave and Bevan tried their hands at making chapatis. ( pita-like bread filled with spice and potato). Dave’s was quite similar to our host’s but Bevan’s was much more artistic-heavier on the flour and butter…. and there was a lot of chapati debris on the counter. I must admit that his was very tasty.

After filling ourselves with our home made lunch we toured a hill side fort and palace.

Afterwards we headed to the countryside to an elephant reserve. We were all happy and relieved to see they were healthy and treated well. Each elephant gives only 2 rides a day. We rode up top the elephants while sipping wine. We chose white wine seeing that the ride was quite bumpy.

At the end of the ride we found ourselves at a beautiful clearing with a campfire and lanterns. We were served cocktails and then a beautiful dinner under a thatched roof tent. We gazed at the stars and thanked them for our luck to be able to experience things like this.

The day was not over – we headed to a gem store to try to fulfill our palm readers advice and wear our lucky stones. It was quite a set up and I have never seen so many jewels in one place.

Things I learned:
-we arrived to JAIPUR, not Judaipur ( which I made up by combining with Jodhpur- our next stop)
– everything can be bedazzled in colourful paint, tinsel and mirror ( including cow horns)
-our van can stop within 1/16 of an inch after squealing tires to avoid semi that decided to come to a complete stop in the fast lane (and did I mention most of these vehicles lack brake lights)
-I will not be sending any of my beautiful and aged relatives to live at the Best Exotic Marigold hotel

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India – Part 1

India – Part 1- November 19- 27, 2016

Bevan, trying to prove that I booked our drive to the airport an hour early, looked up our flight only to find that the Flight to San Fran was cancelled! We spent the next hour and a half trying to find alternate routing that would get us to our First Class seats from San direct to Delhi ( thank u Aeroplan) After exhausting all options, we found alternate flights through Toronto. We stayed 5 hours at the airport and had a beautiful meal at the new Marriott- food and service was amazing. Our host, of Indian decent, was excited for us and said that people love or hate India. Nothing in between. This turned out to be a great hiccough bc after a red eye flight to TO we surprised Claire and Davis at 7 am! We spent a really wonderful day with the kids – visiting, playing basketball and a compliment game. Yves made us a beautiful dinner and then took us back to TO. It was a perfect day other than we miss Shanda who was getting a much needed vacation herself.
Another bonus was now we were on the exact flight as Kim and Dave- our travel partners.

After 14 hours we arrived to an orderly, quiet airport in Delhi. We were transferred to a very modern and beautiful hotel close by. We had to go through security to enter – something we have learned is quite common in India.

I was still waiting for the much anticipated culture shock and the swarm of humanity but the airport in Varanasi was relatively quiet as well. Our transportation was a modern bus/van that seats approximately 12. I looked out the front window and at first thought it was a movie screen playing the bus scene from Best Marigold Hotel. There was a large bus heading straight for us and with the 2 road lanes and 40 lanes of buses,cars, cattle, pedestrians, and tuck-tucks a head on collision was certain and imminent. When I realized we weren’t dead, I realized our driver was magical so I have not been worried since.

Varanasi,to Hindus, is like Bethlehem to Christians. It is one of the oldest cities in the world. It looks like it hadn’t been cleaned since shortly after it was developed.

Our guide, quite a religious man, escorted us that evening down to the Ganges, or as Bevan has renamed, the River of Liquid People. Among Hindus, it is ‘the’ place to have your ashes thrown into. Bathing in this magical river is said to erase one of all their sins. Our trip down to the Ganges was by rickshaw and then by foot. There were thousands of people making this pilgrimage and for every person there was a sound of a horn blasting. I had difficulty crossing the street and experience mild – super mild culture shock- mainly due to some people walking barefoot. Keep in mind that holly cows wander freely. At the waterfront their were many priests ringing bells and burning incense.

There are crematoriums along the river banks that have been burning for thousands of years without stopping. Only males attend the cremation, the main griever wears white. After the burn, the main griever throws the remaining large bones ( ie pelvis or femur) into the Ganges. We felt awkward observing from our little boat but we’re assured that the locals did not mind and found it an honour for others to be interested in their culture.

In the morning we witnessed the bathing rituals and were surprised that there were so few people. Perhaps, like many world religions, the number of followers is on the decline?

AGRA- home of the Taj Mahal

After an overly friendly pat down at airport security and a short flight, we arrived in Agra. Our hotel was heavenly and only 600 m from the Taj Mahal.

(View from our terrace)

Our new guide, whom Kim aptly renamed Billy Crystal, due to his looks and sense of humour, guided us to the Taj to watch the sunset. We were to get there n the morning again an hour before the gates opened so we could have a quiet viewing. After yet another security pat down and a literal RUN to the Taj – we entered a tourist free Taj! We could hear the wind circling in the dome and our whispers circle the room. We got an up close view of the very detailed marble inlays. Incredible! Then the masses descended! I must admit that I could easily have skipped seeing the Taj Mahal but we all agree that it far exceeded our expectations.

RATHAMBORE

The 4 of us thought that we could not travel in India without trying the train. Dave had told our agent that we would take the train if we had assistance with our bags. Well, they delivered – literally and figuratively!!! We took the ‘first class train’ and our luggage took a private air conditioned van!

It was dark when we arrived to our next hotel. We walked through a beautiful carved door into a courtyard with fountain and musicians greeting us. All of a sudden I was flapping my arms and swatting at a swarm of moths… which actually turned out to be a rose petal shower. It was lost on me but the other 3 were alert enough to enjoy.

In the am we headed out on our safari. We saw monkeys, deer, wild boar, mongoose and birds – and then we were lucky enough to have a brief spotting of a male tiger.

Kim and I enjoyed a ‘spice talk’ with a young and enthusiastic chef. One spice, we could not figure out. We had never heard the word. Kim politely asked if the was an English name, to which he answered, ‘mam, that is the English word’. We had a great discussion about spice and food. I asked what his favourite dish was – it was something cooked in cow ‘dung’. Of course I couldn’t let that go as I thought I was not hearing correctly. After being told ” yes mam, cow dung” and me asking cow “tongue” and being told ” no mam, cow dung” , I finally clarified by asking ” cow poo?”
To be answered ” yes mam!” He then went on to suggest a Indian tasting platter for my meal that evening. He was so enthusiastic that I agreed. He then told me the price and I agreed having no idea what he had said or what the exchange was. Kim and I were fairly certain it was either $90 or $900!!!

The following morning we saw a tiger in the distance almost immediately. Later we saw a female tiger lying at the side of the path. She was calling to her cubs. After 15 minutes her 3 cubs arrived and we followed them around and watched them have a brief nap on the path. We were extremely lucky as it is rare to see a cub and even more rare to see 3 as it is uncommon for a tiger to have that many “tigletts”- as Dave calls them.

We arrived back to our hotel to be met by the 30 year old Director of Client Relations- who is 1000 pounds overweight.

On safari a branch gave me a few scratches on my neck. The staff who were surprised and happy to hear that we had a cub sighting didn’t know to believe me or not when I told them that they were from a tiger cub.

We had a leisurely breakfast and said a sad farewell to our wonderful hotel and their staff who treated us like royalty.

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Things I have learned
– people in India pronounce Frizzell correctly more often than Canadians.
-chaotic streets seem to work as nobody owns the lane or road ( like we do in N America)
-the most important part of any rickshaw or vehicle of any type is a horn
-Indian security frisks are probably more thorough than a mammogram
-Indians, like most other people on the planet, do not get my sense of humour.
-some of the highways here are almost as bumpy as the Trans Canada between Regina and Winnipeg

Next up – Judaipur – where Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was filmed

Sent from my iPad

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New York, New York. September 24-28, 2014.

New York – always wonderful – always something new to see and do. This time – we stayed in the Lower East End. I liked it – but think I am more of a Soho or Midtown girl. The first night a procession of  approximately 20 police cars, 3 ambulances, 6 black suburbans, 5 fire trucks – and  the presidential limousine passed by us. Obama was in town for the summit meetings. I was hoping that the limo would  stop and Obama and Michelle would join us for supper…then Michelle would invite me to spend the next day shopping with her….but sadly this didn’t happen.

However, when Bevan, Sabri, John and I  were shopping in Soho the next day, we were in a men’s store and this tall, dark, handsome man was trying on a very elegant, cashmere winter dress coat. He was eyeing himself up and down in the mirror with great admiration. I admit – it looked great – other than his summer flip flops. So of course, I made some “helpful” comment to him about foot wear to go with his coat and we started to chat. As I was walking away to find my shopping pals, I hear “Bevan?” coming from this tall, dark stranger! Apparently the young man used to be one of Bevan’s residents. Small world.

We decided to go to one play – I think it was called “It’s Only a  Play”. It had one of my favourite actors in it; Nathan Lane  (Also in the play were Mathew Broderick and Megan Mullally). The play was okay, although I must admit that I enjoyed watching Nathan Lane more than I enjoyed the actual play itself. He is such a wonderful character actor. At intermission, we found a quiet corner near the front of the venue. Sarah Jessica Parker walked right by us – wearing jeans, and of course high heels. Boy is she ever tiny.

Great Friends at the Russian Tea Room.

Great Friends at the Russian Tea Room.

After the play we went to the iconic Russian Tea Room – with friends Sabri, John, Kim and Dave. We had so much fun – lots of laughs. We were practically the only people in the entire place – we felt like the Russian mob was going to come in at any time and start shooting up the place. (I watch too much tv). We acted appropriately for the Russian tea room: we drank champagne and vodka,  and ate caviar and beef stroganoff. We also were able to comment on our friends debut of his newly purchased monocle. Yes, monocle.

Another surprise – I was talked into riding the subway several times. The photo of me is on our first ride. It was not crowded and I only had mild anxiety. The other times were more crowded – I felt very anxious – subways smell, are crowded, and full of weirdos. I always say – they are kept underground for a reason. We are not subterranean for a reason people!

I'm more stressed than I look.

I’m more stressed than I look.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things I learned:

1) My friend looks like “Mr. Peanut” when he wears a monocle.

2) I won’t die if I ride a subway (yet).

3) My Calgary friends are just as fun  in NYC as they are in Calgary.

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British Columbia Road Trip. August 16- September 1, 2014.

Keeping a surprise, especially from Bevan, is very hard work for me. I was really put to the test this past summer. I ordered a car for Bevan as a surprise. It was supposed to be here in June, then July, then for sure at the beginning of August. Thinking that the car would be here for August, I had convinced Bevan that we should drive vs fly to BC as I knew he would want to take his new car. I was dying as the delivery date kept being delayed. We were leaving on Saturday morning and the car finally arrived on Thursday! I picked the car up on Friday and couldn’t wait for Bevan to come home. I strategically parked my SUV so that it blocked both entrances to the garage. I waited and waited in the garage for him. I heard his car pull up – I was sure that the surprise would be ruined as I thought he would be able to hear my heart beating as he approached the door! As he came into the garage he could see something out of the corner of his eye. “What the hell is going on here???” was about all he could manage to say for a few minutes. I was so excited that I pulled the surprise off!! We drove to Bragg Creek for supper and then came home and finished getting ready for the road trip. In the morning, I could hear some odd noise coming from the garage….it was Bevan – in the garage- vacuuming the floor mats!! (it gets worse – he was doing so in his underwear!) I told him if he was going to be a freak with the car that I would return it. He has been a lot better since! I think I have even seen it dirty a few times.

"Surprise!" (He may have been more surprised if I had cleaned the garage!)

“Surprise!” (He may have been more surprised if I had cleaned the garage!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The road trip was a lot of fun. We couldn’t drive too crazy as the engine break-in period states not to drive for prolonged periods over 160km/hr for the first 2000km.

Our first stop was Rockwater Secret Cove Resort  on the Sunshine Coast. We met our friends Sabri and John there. The resort was great – we stayed in “tents” over looking the water. (tents have indoor plumbing, including a jacuzzi tub) We enjoyed hiking, canoeing and exploring local restaurants.

Our Tent

Our Tent

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boys will be boys.

Boys will be boys.

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After “camping” Bevan and I went to Whistler. I was surprised at how busy it was in the summer but Whistler is also a famous biking destination. We hiked, rode the Peak to Peak Gondola, and did a Vodka tasting – in an ice room.

We spent the last portion of our trip on Vancouver Island – visiting 2 sets of friends. We had such a great time seeing where they live, visiting, playing tennis, drinking wine, eating great food – but really the highlight was visiting our dear friends in their homes. We were sad when they left Calgary behind, but really cannot blame them at all. Vancouver Island is amazing.

Ice Room Vodka tasting in Whistler.

Ice Room Vodka tasting in Whistler.

What I learned:

1) Vodka is gross – even award winning vodkas – even while wearing a trendy parka.

2) I can still surprise my husband.

3) It is fun to drive 180km/hr on newly paved, super quiet BC highways.

4) I want to live on Vancouver Island!

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Camping near Caroline, AB, July 4-6, 2014.

Camping is not for wimps.

I am known to be a little wimpy when it comes to leaving the comforts of home at night – during the day – I am fine with getting a little dirty or uncomfy – but I like a clean bathroom, warm shower, jacuzzi tub, and pillow top mattress. Well, I camped at my friend Kella’s property near Caroline this weekend and had a fantastic time!

Kella’s property is approximately an hour and 20  minutes from the north end of Calgary. It is a beautiful drive – often one does not appreciate the beauty in their backyard, for instance while driving out there I know I would have asked Kella to stop a few times to take photos if we were travelling through a foreign land. There were beautiful fields of yellow (canola), a row of silver quonsets, camel coloured cows with their babies, tiny town with its ol’ western pub and pick up trucks. Very familiar and very foreign!

Cute little country church

Cute little country church

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Country Roads……

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a bit of lawn care, we had a BBQ, glass of wine (yes, only glass), bonfire and good conversation. The weather was perfect. The mosquitos were annoying, but otherwise things were perfect. (other than the outhouse….which is an eco compost toilet that to my pleasant surprise/shock  did not stink at all…..until the next day after 4 more people came).

 

 

Things I learned or rediscovered:

1) I like riding a tractor mower – it is fun!

Toot Toot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2) Just because the wine has a picture of a cute ladybug doesn’t mean it will be a yummy, smooth, full body wine….especially at $20. (sorry for bringing such crap Kella)….however, drinking less made trips to the outhouse less frequent!

3) Do not sit too close to the fire with your flip-flops – they will melt!!!

4) Kella’s camper-trailer-house thingy is quite spacious.Not an inch of space is wasted. It made me realize that you really don’t need very much room to live in. My house seemed enormous when I got home. Maybe too big?? But hey – in a small place where would I put the 5 indoor toilets???

5) No matter how great an outhouse is – it is kept outdoors for a reason.

 

 

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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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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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