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Seaside, Denmark. September 23-26

Seeing as the weather in Europe is usually amazing in September, I thought it would be a great idea to travel to the seaside for a few days to enjoy the sunshine and the beach.  Whenever we were asked where we were heading after Copenhagen, we would stumble and stutter a bit, then say “in the North, T-i-s-v-i-l-d-e-l-e-j-e…” the Danes would look excited and say, “Oh, you are going to (something incomprehensible), it’s beautiful there”.

Beautiful it was. Warm it was not! We stayed at a beautiful old house that has been made into a small boutique hotel.

It was cool and very windy, we were even in a HAIRricane (as my brother-in-law Cal called it after seeing the photo below). At one point my hair was actually standing straight up!

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We didn’t let the weather keep us inside, and when the wind died down it was actually quite nice. We enjoyed sitting on our terrace, watching the waves, toddling in neighbouring town, and walking in the forest.

The forest had a lot of twisty trees that reminded us of the forest where my aunt and uncle used to live. A year ago when we visited my Uncle Al, in his late 80’s, he straddled a bent tree and said it was a horse. Bevan re-created that moment – with a little bit more of the Calgary Stampede Spirit.

Next up – Berlin…… but first a few pics of Tvisled..Tivislee…Téjele….of the Northern seaside area!

 

Things I learned

1. Don’t eat mushrooms or anything else you happen to find lying around the forest floor.

2. My hair can stand straight up on end without seeing a ghost.

3. Europe isn’t always hot in September.

4. How to pronounce T-i-s-i…..okay, haven’t quite mastered that yet.

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Copenhagen, Denmark Sept.18-23, 2018

After having a solid 6 hours or so of sleep on the plane we arrived in Copenhagen at  8:30 in the morning feeling ready to start exploring the city.  We were impressed with the airport and how fast it was to get a driver to our hotel. After quickly checking in, we headed towards the center of the city, which  just happens to be the shopping district. We stopped half way at an indoor/outdoor market.  The market had a great selection of fresh fruit, vegetables, cheese, take away,  food kiosks and of course beautiful Smørrebrød (hard to say, but easy to eat) which are fancy open face sandwiches.

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We saw the food truck of “Hija de Sanchez” a Mexican place highlighted on a tv show – we vowed to come back when we had more of an appetite. We enjoyed walking along the streets and were impressed with how many people commute by bicycle (approx. 75% of workers) We checked out Illum Bolighus department store and the Royal Copenhagen China store/museum; it is always interesting to see other countries’ fashion and home accessories.

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We took a quick nap and then had our first meal at “Host” – we were seated in a room that they called the “sweathearts’ garden”. We noticed our table had a flag of Denmark on it, as well as one other table. Our waitress told us that it is customary to put a flag on the table of people who were there celebrating an anniversary or birthday. (Happy 18th Anniversary to Us! Bevan deserves a medal.)

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We had a wonderful meal – a great introduction to Nordic cuisine – our favorite course being ‘blue mussel soup with celiarac root’ – wish I was able to describle the taste because it was one of the most scrumptious soups I have ever tried – and like nothing I have experienced before.

Being in the center of cycling we thought it only fit to do a bike tour, and opted for the 4 hour neighbourhood tour offered by “Be Copenhagen”. We were lucky to have our guide almost to ourselves – there was one other couple from Victoria with us. Seeing the different neighbourhoods was very interesting and it was an experience to bike on the busiest commuting cycling street in the world during rush hour. Many of the locals have bikes with carts in the front that hold their children, groceries, dogs, etc.

The following day we decided to put Bevan’s newly achieved “personal watercraft operator’s license” to good use and rent a boat. We spent two hours on the open waters of the Baltic Sea / canals of Copenhagen. Seeing the buildings and monuments from the perspective of the water was completely different. We were lucky to have had sun as the forecast was for rain.

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The black building in the photo montage above is a new library called “the Black Diamond” because when the sun is shining the side of the building sparkles from the reflection of the water.

The food here has been amazing – our most memorable meal was at a place called Marv & Ben – some of the most creative and tasty food that we have enjoyed in years. There was an older lady at the table across from me and it was apparent that she was enjoying herself as much as we were. She was dancing in her chair, drank the leftover sauce from the halibut dish, and even licked one of the plates. She giggled like a child when she realized we had caught her. Her enthusiasm definitely added to the joy of our evening, and we were lucky to be blown a kiss as we left.  Again, photos don’t do justice —- but you can appreciate the creativity.

We didn’t do much else in Copenhagen – our last day was rainy – so we seeked shelter in the stores…..enjoyed more food, wine, snacks, and appreciated the beauty of Copenhagen. True to ourselves, we didn’t visit any museums or castles…..but did walk through the King’s garden.

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The people of Copenhagen outshone the food, architecture and weather! Everyone we encountered were very friendly and positive. When we asked sales people, hotel staff, etc how they were, they replied, “Great – I am here at work”. We hope to bring some of their positive attitudes home with us.

What I learned:

1) Danish people are very happy and positive people. Their smiles go a long way to make you feel very welcomed.

2) I can cycle on a busy street without causing too much chaos. (I almost had a head on collision with another lady but her experience with tourists and her cat-like reflexes on her bike were to both of our advantage).

3) I still enjoy being in a place where I don’t understand the language.

4) The Danish design is a little bit (too) spartan. A well placed hook or shelf could really improve a room’s functionality.

5) I learned that I really like bread!!! The pumpernickel, brown and even white bread here is very flavorful- and the butter rivals the French.

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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!!!

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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 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.

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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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Carmel Valley, California. June 18-22

Carmel….never disappoints. How could a place that sounds so much like caramel?? I’m often nervous to revisit a place I loved but this trip made me fall in love with this area of California even more.

We had wonderful weather – that perfect summer weather – sunny, warm, with a mild breeze so you are comfy – know what I mean? Well, if you live in Canada you probably do not.

We spent a lot of time outdoors, walking,hiking and playing tennis. We even had outdoor pedicures complete with a glass of chardonnay and a cheese plate! We had supper at the #1 top rated restaurant at the hotel we were staying at (Bernardus Lodge) which was lovely, but we probably enjoyed our meal at Baja Catina more! Maybe we are enjoying “the simple life” more these days.

Carmel-by-the-sea is a picturesque  little town with great shops and bistros. The town is even more quaint with many buildings that look like they are out of fairytales. Carmel-by-the-sea is always cooler and foggier than Carmel Valley – a 10 minute drive away.

Thatched Roof Store Lobo National Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last time in Carmel we saw a man who I have named “Fernado Ferrari”. He is a man in his 60’s who was hanging out on main street listening to music being played from his Ferrari. He was sporting a bright red Ferrari jumpsuit, red Ferrari baseball hat, red Ferrari runners, and I am guessing he had red Ferrari undies on too. Apparently he just hangs out there – looking cool. I was hoping he would be there this time so I could get a photo of him, but no such luck. Something to look forward to in the future.

While we were en route to Carmel, we found out that our dear friends Juli and Brent were near San Francisco visiting family. We were able to skip our Monterey to San Fran flight and drive to San Fran – enabling us to spend a few hours with our friends and their family. We had such a great visit and were so disappointed when we had to leave at 3:30 to catch our flight. We should have stayed, because after hours and hours of our flight being delayed, it was cancelled. We ended up taking a flight to Houston after midnight, then flying to Calgary. Our 3 hour flight ended up taking us 19 hours! We were annoyed – not only by United’s terrible customer service and disorganization, but for missing out precious time with our friends.

It was a great time, despite the travel delays!

 

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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.

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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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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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Pacha Mamma is Testy! Argentina July 11-18,actually 19th, 2013

After my trip to  Cafayate in March -with my friend Lorrie-  I was convinced that the house was trying to kill me. That sounds a little crazy and dramatic, so let me rephrase. I was convinced that the negative spirit or energy inside the house was trying to drive me away. (not sure if that sounds any better?) Perhaps this is because every time I am there, weird things happen. Less so when I am there with Bevan. Many of you have heard the details – but I don’t want to put them in print incase someone from the Psychiatric Association reads this and feels compelled to have me committed!

So super long story shorter – I was recommended to see a Shaman. This lady, Karen, “travelled” to our house (via astral projection), and told us that Pacha Mamma was angry that we hadn’t asked permission to build on the land. She (Pacha Mamma) was also annoyed that our land was uncared for and desolate. (I wonder if the Shaman was actually speaking to our neighbour??) Pacha Mamma is “mother earth” in S. America and she was a big deal with the Incans. We have been told that it is a custom to do a Pacha Mamma ceremony in Argentina prior to building. The Shaman gave us clear instructions as what to do for the inside and outside of the home. Considering all we have gone through with the house, and the hope of trying to make the house work for Bevan’s sake, we booked a flight down although the timing was not great for us.

We almost didn’t get there! The flight out of Calgary was delayed due to mechanical issues. United Airlines thought it would be a 15 minute delay – but time kept on ticking. We decided that the latest that we could leave YYC would be 3pm – getting us to Houston on time to run to the next gate and get on the flight to Buenos Aires (BA). I had said 2pm – as this would be the latest time to arrive and still be able to get my favourite salad at Pappadaux…but I agreed to 3. If we missed the connection in Houston, the next flight out would be 24 hours later – and seeing that the trip was short to begin with, we decided we wouldn’t go in that case.  Three o’clock arrived. We said this must be the universe telling us that we shouldn’t go to Cafayate and Bevan said we should sell the house. We told the United agent that we would not be flying and to have our suitcases removed from the plane.  As he picked up the phone to have our luggage removed he was told the problem was fixed and they were ready to fly. “Board the plane, board the plane” (think Ikea commercial – “start the car!”) So, then, we weren’t sure if this was karma/ pacha mamma saying to keep the house??? Oh this spiritual -energy- universe- stuff is so confusing!  We still knew the connection would be tight. We landed a little late, and had a long slow taxi to the gate…then a delay at the gate! The stewardess said it was 9:03 and our flight left at 9:10 – she said if we ran quickly we would make it….although the other couple sitting further back on the flight, would not. We ran as fast as we could. I am fairly certain that one of my lungs exploded as I could taste blood and what I am sure was lung debris in my mouth. We arrived to the gate – and the flight was an hour delayed – so was just about to start the boarding process. I didn’t think it mattered as I was sure I was going to die.

I didn’t die – so we boarded the plane, had some wine and a nice meal, and slept all the way to BA. We took a taxi to the smaller airport – which was now a tight connection seeing that the flight out of Houston was an hour delayed. Not sure why they can’t just put the pedal to the metal to make up time? Our friend, Brent, was meeting us at the small airport. He alerted the airline that we were on our way, met us at the taxi and took us to the front of line 13 – where the agent knew what the storey was. We were processed quickly, went through security and boarded the plane right away.

We had a great supper and sleep at the Finca Valentina in Salta. I had been waiting to hear back from our Shaman – as she was to travel back to our house before I got there to ensure that the negative energy and grasshoppers (disease) that she cleared previously, were still gone. Her email message came only partially through – and what I saw was, “I wasn’t lead to the house…” Gulp. Why? What was happening?? Couldn’t she just lie and say that everything was good? Is it possible that I am starting to believe it this stuff?

After our drive to Cafayate, we had lunch on the town square before going to the house. Thankfully, the Shaman’s message downloaded – the rest of the sentence was “..at first. Initially I was taken into the garage, then to the back corner of the property where there is the wild shrub, then into the house.”…all was clear. Our lot is completely desolate except a big weed that turned into a bush! Not sure how she would know this.

The next few days we enjoyed Brent’s company and just relaxed. No weird things happened in the house – although I experienced an increase in my neurological symptoms! Oh – and the furnace wouldn’t work so it was very cold at night. We went shopping to get the items we needed to do the Pacha Mamma ceremony. We went to the “Pulperia”. It looks like a hardware/grocery store from the early 1900’s. Think Little House on the Prarie, but not as fancy. There are animal feet, skins, twine, open bags of lentils, dust (not sure if it is for sale), cheese, and men older than the dirt sitting around chatting. I proudly asked for some herbs – the kind needed for Pacha Mamma ceremony. I thought this would ingratiate me with the elders of Cafayate. He answered really quickly – my understanding of Spanish when spoken at the speed of light, when I am extremely tired, is poor. I asked for some string. It seemed like he was saying no. My friend, Brent, took over and was speaking as quickly and pointing to approximately 1200 rolls of string. The man charged me an outrageous amount for the string…perhaps it has been there since the ice age, so considered “antique”. Later Brent told me he was not impressed that I wanted herbs for Pacha Mamma ceremony. He said that they don’t believe in that around here and I can go buy it from the “Bolivians”. So much for trying to be culturally sensitive. So much for flying half way around the world to honor their age old tradition!! We found what we needed at another store – not sure if they were Bolivian or Argentine. Don’t really care. I do know I will not be doing a lot of shopping at the Pulperia. (like I planned to anyways!)

After Brent went back to BA, Bevan and I had lunch with our new neighbours, who we really enjoyed meeting. We came home to do our Pacha Mamma ceremony. The front door key would not work as the other key was left in it on the inside. Usually this is still okay and works, but not today. (I think She is playing with us again!) I told Bevan that I had asked that all the exit doors be keyed the same – and I had paid a pretty penny to have it done. For those following the house saga – you won’t be surprised to hear that that didn’t happen. Thankfully we accidentally left one of the doors open at the back. We began our ceremony by  planting 4 trees – 1 in each corner of the yard – as per our instructions from Pacha Mamma. We also did a smudging ceremony in the house – we lit santa palo wood and waved the smoke into every corner of the house. I didn’t realize how big the house was until I had to put smoke into every corner! It took a long time. Spiders seem to like to make their webs in corners. I am sure all the negative energy was dissipated (some of the spiders were). I was hoping nobody would pop by to visit as the house smelt like a rock concert, if you know what I mean.

Bevan and I headed back to BA for a day, as we wanted to see our lovely friend, Julieta, in her first musical. She played Morticia, in the Adams Family. It was fabulous. I was so proud of her. After the play, and photos with fans, (Julieta that is, not me and my fans….) we had supper at a great restaurant in Palermo. I would highly suggest you go there – I just can’t remember what it is called. We left the following night – thursday – as we needed to be back to Calgary friday morning to meet our 7 house guests who would be staying with us in Calgary while attending our cousin’s wedding. The flight was an hour delayed – we boarded – sat on the plane for several hours – before the announcement that the flight was cancelled. Unfortunately – because it was a holiday in BA, no hotels were available. Apparently taxis too. Bevan and I grabbed a cab outside (which is a taxi no no there) but for 40 pesos more, we avoided the long line and wait. We made some calls to some boutique hotels, our friends, and our apartment. No availability, no answer. Our cab driver was 90 if a day, and had droopy or sleepy eyes. I decided they were actually closing – pre-sleep kinda closing – as he was literally veering between 3 lanes on the highway. There were no seat belts, and I thought for sure we were going to die, and then we surely would miss the wedding. Every time I saw the man’s eyes start to shut – I would make very interesting conversation with him. Considering this was 2 am (and we had left for the airport at 5pm) I cannot say that I was the best conversationalist ever. It kinda went like this: eyes closing, “Hola Senor. Are you tired?” one word answer, no….eyes closing, “I have a dog”…..eyes closing, “Do you live in BA?” (because I am sure many taxi drivers commute!)..eyes drifting..”I like practicing speaking Spanish”…..eyes closing…”I like monkeys”…. He started to wake up and drive faster – perhaps the stimulating conversation did the trick! (Bevan thinks he wanted the crazy lady out of the car). Whatever works. We woke up the porter at Poetry Building and he graciously let us into an apartment that had just been vacated. We were lucky to be able to have lunch again with Julieta and Brent and use their home to get ready for our flight.

We landed in Calgary at noon – and miraculously cleared customs, got our luggage, and got home in time for a 2 minute shower, and made it to Kyle and Megan’s wedding that began at 2pm! Yeah!!!!

So, overall, I think Pacha Mamma has a quirky sense of humour and was testing us a little bit, but I think we have made her happy and now we will be able to enjoy the house. (and hopefully the heating / air con will finally get fixed!)

….next planned trip to Cafayate – New Years with Tonya and Cal!

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My sister in law is awesome

Thanks Lil T for setting up my blog site!!!

I hope I have some interesting tales to share from Ecuador.

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