BFF

11 Oct

With tiny hands we scooped from the seeds of life,

And Joyously we scattered them, warm and free from strife.

We tended our fragile garden with  extra loving care,

Determined to ensure it’s growth was strong and good and fair.

When threats of stormy weather shadowed bygone days of fun.

We learned to bend together, ’til  once again we saw the sun.

Our lives have been entwined like the branches of  a tree,

with nectar that’s as sweet and pure as from the honey bee.

Gratitude.

5 Oct

There is much in this country for which we should be grateful. Canada is a democracy teaming with opportunity. We have an education system envied worldwide, the potential for fame and fortune, and the freedom to make our own choices. Our health care system, while lacking, is still light years away from no health care system at all. We are not suppressed by a tyrannical culture fraught with fanatics with no regard for human life. Why then do we, as a nation find so much to complain about?

As Thanksgiving waits in the wings to make an appearance let us be grateful for the many wonderful things afforded us by this country? For those who gave and those who continue to give their lives, so that we might maintain our freedom. For the free trade that allows us the luxuries with which we surround ourselves. For the judicial system that keeps us safe and for the opportunity to live side by side with many diverse cultural and ethnic groups, in harmony and without fear. We must not forget the many beautiful parks maintained for our enjoyment; the fine roads that allow us to travel this great nation from one shore to another and a myriad of other advantages that we mostly take for granted.

There are plenty of other reasons to count ourselves lucky.  Lest I forget I have made a list.

I am grateful that I have a sense of humour. It is much better to laugh then to fill my heart with anger and frustration.

I’m grateful for not being a super model. There’s no pressure to be a beauty in my world. No reason to eat bland salads or succumb to anorexia.

I’m grateful that I do not have total recall. I’m happy to forget all the times I have put my foot in my mouth.

I’m grateful for not being rich. I know who my friends are.

I’m grateful for having survived the 80’s, mullets, platform shoes and spandex! Really?

I’m grateful for not being a movie star. How tiresome maintaining ones image. Always on parade, the constant barrage of questions, the invasion of your personal life and all that money to have to decide how to spend.

I’m grateful for not having more than two children. We could have had so many more kids to embarrass.

I’m grateful that I can’t afford a Jaguar. Do you know how much it costs to get those babies serviced!!

I’m grateful that my husband can sometimes be oblivious to things. Early in our marriage his occasional insensibility frustrated me. Now it serves me well, as he fails to notice my extra rolls, wrinkles and grey hairs.

I’m grateful for having been born in the fifties. Life was simpler. As teenagers, we knew the rules and we knew when we had crossed the line.

I’m grateful that I’m not royalty, too much bad press.

I’m grateful I am a grandmother and am loved unconditionally.

Others might want to be grateful that I am not omnipotent.  I would have bullies banished, those who would dupe the elderly, castrated and hate mongers flogged.  I might even deal with a few politicians in the same way.  It is good to be King!

Here is a challenge for you. Make a list of all the things that make you feel grateful. Don’t forget to inject a little humour. Carry it with you. When you are frustrated and angered by bureaucracy and red tape, take it out and read it aloud. You’ll be grateful you did.

Daily Rant

20 Sep

So I’m in the store speaking with the sales person this morning, when a woman walks up and interrupts us with her burning question, “Do you have any empty boxes?” I then said, with as much sarcasm as I could muster, “Oh I’m sorry, did I interrupt you?” To which she replied, slightly annoyed that I had interrupted her, by stating, “No, not at all.”

I think what bothers me most in this frequent scenario and believe me, it happens often, is that the sales clerk stops dealing with me and addresses the intruder, as though I no longer exist.

Why is it that some people think their needs are so much greater than others? Let me assure you, they are not. I am every bit as busy as you are. Even needing directions to a toilet is not a license to interrupt others,  unless you have a child in need, or have consumed way to much chilli, in which case a simple, but effective, “Sorry for the intrusion”, would be much appreciated.

I wish to appeal to sales persons everywhere. When this happens in future, I’m fairly certain that all of us who have been on the receiving end of this rude behavior, would be delighted if you turned to the perpetrator and said, “I’ll be with you in a moment.”

End of Rant.

Europe Here We Come Part 7

23 Aug

Oh to be in England now that spring is here!

My heart is giddy with excitement as we hit the road on our England trip.

First of all we are touring around the countryside in a brand new (only 18 kilometres when Mario turned the key) luxury van:  a most comfortable ride.

We didn’t get out of London until 1:30 in the afternoon.

Our first stop. Dover, about two hours south east of London. Took a bit to find the entrance to the cliff tops but once there, the view was spectacular. Directly below us we could see the ferries that carry passengers across the channel to the coast of France, which amazingly was visible on this very clear day.

As for the White Cliffs, we saw only a portion of the miles of pathway available to hikers as we arrived quite late in the afternoon and still had a good many miles to go before we reached our destination for the night. Wish there had been more time as I was itching to explore the cliffs more closely.

John enjoyed watching the ships come and go from the port and was much impressed as each ship was piloted inside the tiny harbour and then backed into their assigned bay by what must be some pretty skilled crews.

Rye was what we like to call a “drive by fruiting”, a quote from the movie Mrs. Doubtfire. What we saw of it was not that impressive so we just continued on to our hotel.  There may have been a more interesting part of Rye, but we were not about to drive back the next day to find out.

I admit that after the Paris hotel fiasco I was a little concerned about what we might find at this hotel.  I need not have worried as this place was the quintessential quaint old English Inn with plenty of class and style.  It is called, The New Inn and I believe the brochure said that it had been built somewhere around 1776. It has been lovingly restored by its new owners and we were much impressed. I was in love with its charm.

The town is a gem of a place called Winchelsea. John was quoted as saying it was, “a delightful little village”. It was originally built as one of five ports by Edward I. It also happens to be the smallest village in Great Britain to have a mayor.  It still maintains its charm and at certain times of the year the homes host an open house where they show off their cellars. Honestly! John and I viewed one as we strolled by and it was quite amazing, looked like an ancient ruin.  I didn’t take a picture as I thought it might be an invasion of privacy, but can testify to the fact that they are most interesting and apparently attract a lot of tourist when they are open for viewing.

We ate dinner at the Inn and slept like bugs in a rug.  This morning we had a lovely English breakfast, included in the reasonable price of 66 pounds per night, (pretty good for Britain). The only downside to the place was no elevators, typical of Europe of course and a very small staircase for maneuvering bags and such although you will get help if you need it.

Mario has been an excellent driver and Sabine an excellent navigator, but I have to say that John and I have been excellent passengers as well, aptly impressed with their expertise.

Our next destination, Bradford on Avon, not to be confused with Stratford on Avon which is older.  Bradford while built on the Avon River, it is more Georgian Style with very tiny winding streets. Roads are so narrow that most houses have hedges to stop the cars from possibly crashing through their living room windows. There are no sidewalks, or footpaths, as they call them here which makes walking the countryside difficult.  Footpaths in the town are so small that two cannot walk abreast.  I was afraid that either John or I might lose our balance and fall onto the road.

The Bridge Tea Rooms, (plural because they have two rooms), is a 300 year old, you guessed it, tea room. The building was once a blacksmith’s cottage and is an example of a wonderful old Georgian building with walls that bow out into the street and a small door with a warning to duck as you enter. The interior is Victorian and even the waitresses wear Victorian costumes. Every kind of tea is served up in lovely china cups. John and I ordered a cream tea, (scones with clotted cream and strawberry and blueberry jams and of course, tea). Scrumptious!

Our home for the next three nights is called the Granby House and it is a very grand Georgian style mansion. The décor is eclectic and stunning, with pieces from the Georgian period as well as Edwardian. The walls are filled with original artwork ranging from traditional to modern. Many of the pieces were painted by the daughter of the owner Maddie Cooper.  Maddie is a retired actress and she is a very warm and gracious hostess.

The grounds are amazing and I have taken many pictures.  There are two ponds at the front of the property, surrounded by lovely lazy trees and colourful bushes. An in-ground pool sits at the side of the home, which is not open as yet. Wisteria drapes itself gracefully over a canopy formed with natural grapevine and makes a lovely peaceful walkway. There are also many wild and cultivated flowers, enormous trees that must be hundreds of years old and a wonderful cement pond at the back of the house filled with gold fish. We have since learned that the grounds are cultivated by Maddie’s husband, who also cook’s our lovely English breakfast each morning.

Tomorrow we move on to Cornwall. Future posts will include today and yesterdays trips to Bath and Salisbury.

Beautiful Granby House

Beautiful Grandby House

Charming entrance to Grandby House

Charming entrance to Grandby House

Common area of the house where you are served tea and cake when you arrive.

Common area of the house where you are served tea and cake when you arrive.

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The tea rooms in Bradford on Avon

White Cliffs of Dover

The White Cliffs of Dovefr

Lovely centuries old Inn.

Lovely centuries old Inn.

Europe Here We Come Part six

20 Aug

Stein am Reine

 

Arrived in Switzerland!

Switzerland is so beautiful, very lush and green. At the moment flowers are bursting with colour, lilacs are fragrant and wild flowers and bright yellow Rape seed (Canola) fill the fields. Everywhere choirs of birds tweet their own sweet songs for all to hear. I wax poetic, but nature does that to me.

Our friends Sabine and Mario are the most wonderful hosts and have seen to our every whim. We have had Sabine’s home all to ourselves, are we not spoiled?

Mario was waiting for us at the train station. After some vital information, what stores have the best selection of wines and beers, who has the best deals on groceries and where the café and pastry shops are, he took us to buy a new camera, (as I mentioned earlier, our was pooched and we were sadly not able to take descent pictures in Paris). Mario assured us that while most things are very expensive in Switzerland, their electronics are very cheap. He was correct on that score and we got quite the deal on a wonderful camera that takes fabulous pictures from a store that was similar to Best Buy, but offered deep discounts.

Day two was spent resting and doing overdue laundry. We were supposed to get together with Sabine and Mario once Sabine finished work, however, Sabine called with the bad news that Poor Mario was in a cycling accident and was in hospital. His bike hit a rock and he went flying over the front of the bike. He does not remember anything as he suffered a minor concussion and also compressed the bone under his eye. He had to stay in hospital overnight, but was released the next day. Other than a noticeable black eye he says he is feeling fine and will not miss our holidays.

Sabine’s condo is like living in the lap of luxury. A kitchen that any chef would be happy to call his own, a fireplace, the use of the wifi, and a sunken tub for starters. The condo is surrounded by windows that slide completely open, bringing the inside out of doors. There are two balcony’s one at the front of the house and the other at the back running the length of the condo. Sabine loves gardening and both outdoor retreats are bedecked with various beautiful shrubs and flowers all in white her favourite flower colour. The view from the back balcony is of the surrounding countryside, but the condo itself is still close to a small shopping centre with very modern shops. The close proximity of woodland to the back beckoned and I happily went walking whenever I got the chance. On a previous visit our walks in the woods filled us with delight when we were greeted by a lovely herd of cows complete with cowbells that moseyed on over to say high to the Canadian visitors, but alas though I tried I could not find them on my own and Sabine could not be around to show me where they were hiding: shame.

Mornings we awoke to birds singing and church bells ringing, of course we get the birds at home, but not the church bells, such a lovely comforting feeling almost like going back in time to my childhood.

Nearby was a shooting range for the local police academy and guns and rifles could be heard most weekends and some evenings. First time I heard them I wondered if we were being invaded, but once we knew what they were we got used to the sound. Still, it was a little unnerving.

The stores in the nearby mall are typical Swiss chains except I did note that it had an H&M. Many of the foods were familiar to us however, there was a variety of products that were if not new to us at least marketed differently and therefore fun to see and try. Prices are steep, but cheeses, of which there seems to be no end, are quite reasonable. We can’t resist trying them all. And the variety of breads! We will have to purchase two extra seats for our trip home to accommodate our expanding butts.

Some people speak English as well as a Swiss version of German, French or Italian, but alas, I speak very little French and can manage only a handful of German words so shopping on my own is a challenge, but I have managed thus far and there is always cheese. There is a grocery store that has more wine than our LCBO so I’ve got that covered as well.

Sunday was mother’s day, Sabine took us to see her parents, we had met them before, but of course several years have passed and life has taken its toll, both have aged considerably as have we all, but they are still so adorable. Sabine’s mother made a rhubarb custard dessert that was delicious. After having accepted a second bowl, (one does not wish to offend) John was offered more, which he politely refused. Somehow his refusal was lost in translation and he was served a third bowl, (normally John would be up to the challenge, but since her servings were healthy to begin with, he was more than stuffed already. Once it was laid before him he had no choice but to consume it. She does not speak English, however, in her Swiss German she asked Sabine if perhaps nobody had fed the poor man breakfast.

Once Mario had a couple of days to recover from his accident he took us to the Rhine Falls which is at the mouth of the Rhine River, but still in Switzerland. Sabine had taken us the last time we visited, but like Niagara Falls you never grow tired of the view. We drove through many small villages, under four hundred year old covered bridges and passed rich green Farmer’s fields. Today with the help of a stunningly beautiful clear blue sky, we were treated to a great view of the mountains as well.

Near the falls is a little Swiss village called Stein am Rhein, a very touristy area and one of the most picturesque towns in Switzerland. The buildings are painted with beautiful frescoes and there are many fine outdoor cafes. So lovely! The new camera is capable of taking panoramic views, I am excited to see how they come out. There is a river boat that takes you through the area, which we will try to do before the end of our stay. We had a picnic lunch on the banks of the Rhine while we watched boats, swans and ducks navigate the waters.

On the trip home we stopped at a Monastery, accessible by a footbridge. Nestled beside a quiet part of the Rhine it is serene and very lovely. It sat neglected for many years with the city unsure of what to do with it and not wanting to pour cash into its restoration. Finally, a private investor donated 50 million with the stipulation that it be turned into a music school.

Am learning a tiny bit of the language. Switzerland is bordered by France, Germany and Italy and their language is a Swiss version of the three languages, depending on what country you border. So, there are many French, German and Italian words. There are also a lot of words in English, so where once I figured I knew nothing, I have now discovered I may know something I didn’t know that I knew. Once I know what that is I will know more. Got it? I hope so, because I would hate to have to explain that again.

Wednesday, another full day feasting our eyes on the wonders of the Swiss countryside.

Fischingen Monastery is a wonderful old retreat that is now used as a convention centre. The interior of the church is magnificent with its marble columns, ornate gilding and painted ceilings. Every bit as impressive as any church I have seen. I took many pictures, including some of the doors which were also amazing. In fact, I have noted that many of the doors in Switzerland and the Netherlands are beautifully ornate with some wonderful chased locks and handles. Can’t resist snapping them with our new camera.

The centre of all the little villages, monastery’s etc. are home to many lovely cement water troughs, with decorative spigots. The water is piped down from springs up in the mountains. Suitable for drinking you simply cup your hand under the tap, scoop and drink your fill. Cool, refreshing and delicious.

We stopped at a small restaurant that is a kind of beer garden for local farmers. Sat under a covered patio, it was very clean and neat, painted white with checkered table clothes. Never have we seen a place filled with so much local Ketch. Painted sawblades, cowbells, stuffed deer heads, (real ones), antlers, baskets, dolls, gnomes, oxen yokes, pipes, horns, toy goats, little Heidi dolls, it went on and on even carried on into the ladies washroom. Well busy, it was like a neatly organized junk drawer. I took pictures as it must be seen to be believed. The food was great, but their specialty was ice cream, all kinds of elaborate dishes of varying flavours. I know you will find it hard to believe friends, but John decided to have ice cream for dinner.

We made our first venture into town unassisted today, (Friday). The bus system is so easy. Each stop is called out as is ours now, but it is clearly shown on a computer screen, allowing you to see how many minutes to your stop. The town of Winterthur is only a few minutes from Sabine’s condo, so it is very handy for getting to the train station and the airport, etc. One could walk if one had the time and the inclination, but it would take a good forty at a medium pace. The Swiss love to walk and cycle so these aging Canadians will leave the walking into town to them and save our energy for window shopping when we get there.

Here is how the bus system works. You purchase your fare at a machine at the bus stop before you board the bus. A short trip pass for, well, short trips, (good only if you are going one way and/or a short distance there and back). A twenty four hour pass, which you can use as many times as you like in the 24 hour period. You are on an honour system, if you are asked to show proof that you paid for your ticket and can’t produce same there is a hefty fine. And it is policed on a regular basis. Employees of the bus company hop onboard in packs of threes wearing yellow security vests. They check each passenger for a ticket then get off at the next stop to await another bus. Very nifty and so civilized!

Tomorrow morning we leave for England and I have just finished packing, ugh!Stein am Reine

Europe Here We Come – Part 5

12 Aug

Day three and getting braver.

Really Paris is quite spectacular, the architecture is stupendous.  Today, courtesy of King Louis XIV, also known as the Sun King, a visit to Chateau de Versailles, via the metro and without our mommy’s.  Tickets are purchased in the town and for a few extra Euros we got priority, (there is that word again) and got in ahead of crowds and crowds and crowds, definitely worth the extra. This is where it all gets tricky. You are given a time and instructed to rendezvous at a certain gate where you will then await a guide who will appear holding a large silk Sunflower at said time. You are warned not to be late.  She or he will take your tickets and get you into the palace, kit you out with your audio tour device and then leave you on your own. The tricky part– they explain where you are supposed to do the rendezvousing and even give you a picture, however the photo is not of your actual rendezvous spot and the original directions are rather complicated. I personally can only follow the first few instructions of anything as after that it is all just blah, blah, blah. Asking once you are in the palace grounds does not help as none of the persons guarding the entrances seem to know anything about any pre-arranged tours, causing you to think that perhaps you have been a victim of a scam once again.  However, they say there is safety in numbers, so a group of us holding the same tickets with varying times hung around with others that wondered if they too were in the right spot and low and behold, not quite at the designated time, a young lady appeared holding a sunflower. Sigh of relief!

What a marvelous place! The hall of mirrors is wonderful, although the mirrors and the chandeliers were overdue for a bit of a shine up.  I took pictures, but our camera was pooched and I had to use my little, simple, not quite up to the techie minute, phone which did not do anything justice. Our audio tour leaned more to the theatrical rather than the sharing of good historical facts and we found ourselves wanting more.   Will have to do some research on-line.

The gardens were fabulous and went on for as far as the eye could see.  It was unfortunate that the fountains were not going at this time of year (beginning of May), as I am certain they would have added much to the beauty.

After our wonderful tour of Versailles, John and I partook of a few libations.  I’m not used to drinking, in the afternoon.  Anyway, between the beer for John and the wine for myself we both had to have a nap when we finally got back to our room, which by the way was looking a bit better by this time. However, the nap was proving difficult as our room overlooks a courtyard and the sound carried easily. A woman across the way was talking on her cell phone and was so loud she made it impossible for anyone to have a snooze.  In my alcoholic state my French suddenly became very good and I hollered out the window, “Fermé la bouche Madam, s’il vous plait!” With that she said her goodbyes in a much lower voice and got the hell off the phone.  My grade school French had served me well.

Definitely the highlight of our Paris excursion was The Louvre. I cannot say enough about how spectacular it is.  We were able to purchase priority tickets for this while we were in Versailles, “yeah”!

Once inside it seemed we had to walk for ages just to get to an exhibit and the walk was proving difficult for John from the get go as he decided to take just his cane, as it is difficult to fit anywhere in Paris with a walker.  I had a stroke of genius and decided to go back to the information desk and see if I could rent a wheelchair, Turns out they had several and at no cost as well. Just leave your driver’s licence with the information desk, which is given back to you upon its return. What a deal!  Took me awhile to get it and find my way back to my honey, but it was to great advantage as I am sure our tour would have been severely challenged without it.

What a collection of antiquities it houses!  The Louvre was the palace that sheltered French royalty until Louis XlV decided he wanted something grander and changed the royal digs to a country retreat known as Chateau de Versailles.  It is huge and its finishes of frescoes, cornice moldings, carved doors and marble floors were at times, grander than those at Versailles, in this girl’s opinion anyway.

As seniors we are easily confused when it comes to following directions, but in fairness to our advancing age directions at the Louvre are not that clear. Trying to find a particular exhibit was almost impossible.  Directions from none English speaking guides to none French speaking tourists were shaky at best. After some frustration we eventually just allowed ourselves to explore and be pleasantly surprised, ultimately enjoying our tour that much more. In any event it really doesn’t matter what exhibit you end up seeing as they are all spectacular.

After about four and a half hours, with tired muscles and barking dogs we realized that we had not as yet seen the star attraction.  Could not leave without doing so, even though it meant retracing all of our steps. She was well hidden and we had to ask directions several times, but eventually there she was, Mona Lisa. Problem was, the room in which she hung was extremely crowded, everyone wanting to behold her adorable face.  Problem solved with what else, “Prioritee” the voice of another helpful French woman who took us straight to the front where those in wheelchairs (and their drivers) are granted the best look see. John and I were surprised to see that she was a reasonable size having heard for years that she was quite small.

That was it, we were done and wearing our perfectly satisfied Mona Lisa smiles we had a fine dinner and returned home to pack, a perfect end to our Paris stay.

Image

Europe Here We Come Part 4

22 Jul

Paris in the Springtime.

If I were to make any complaints regarding Paris anyone reading this would shout, “Hello, you’re in Paris!” So I won’t.

We had read on-line that priority tickets for the Louvre and other attractions could be purchased at the train station which meant that we would not have to stand in line. So upon our arrival we found the appropriate ticket booth and waited for out turn behind others in the cue. When those ahead had finished we approached the wicket where the girl behind the desk quickly closed the window stating that she was done for the day and that the booth was now closed. So much for Parisian hospitality.
Our hotel was called the Villa Fenelon. In describing it I would have to say that it is somewhere between a kind of passé Parisian chic and the best Marigold Hotel without any of the charm. The first room was on the fifth floor which really was the 6th floor as the French number their floors differently with the first floor starting at “0”. There was an elevator, which was even smaller than the one in Amsterdam and seemed very menacing indeed.
The bathroom shower-head in the room itself was completely broken off, although the front desk promised they would get to it the following day. The complimentary fridge was also broken and halfway into the middle of the room, presumably because someone was working on it. The bedspread was patched and the television remote lacked batteries. John liked the pillows and to be perfectly honest I liked the fact that we only had three more sleeps until we are out of the place. (That was the Pollyanna in me.) We asked for another room.
The second room was across the courtyard and on the second floor which really was the 3rd floor, but without an elevator, so it may as well have been the 5th floor. The bathroom shower-head worked, but there was mold in the corners of the shower itself. There was no shelf or sink surround so we did not have the room to leave anything there not even our toothbrushes. The sheets were clean, I will give them that much, but the blankets were stained. Luckily, we did not need them as it was sweltering in the room anyway. Everyone smokes in Paris and smoke from the courtyard wafted up into our room throughout the night. It was impossible to sleep without the windows wide open due to the heat, so we just persevered.

Paris is huge and it is hard to get ones bearings. The traffic is crazy, line-ups enormous and the language makes it difficult to communicate. I feel a little bit like Alice in Wonderland, everything is so tiny, the rooms, the toilets, the cafes and the elevators, (especially the elevators), but as I said, I’m not complaining.
Our first full day we took a bus tour, hop on and hop off, we mostly hopped on as John was quite tired. Possibly because we had a bit of wine and beer the previous night causing him to snore and the crank he sleeps with kept poking him in the ribs. Poor thing!

Our hotel was quite far from both the metro and the tour buses and walking the cobblestone streets is great exercise for the healthy, but proved difficult for John with a walker.

When we finally found the stop for the tour bus, we waited. We were approached by a sweet young girl who looked about seventeen, although we suspect she was much older. She had a petition in her hand and explained that it was to get the city to make the streets more accommodating for wheelchairs, etc. Having just had a difficult trek from the hotel, I thought it could not hurt to add my name although I did not see where a visitor would have any pull. It also asked for my address and I just scribble something as I really did not want any correspondence. When I was done, she asked me for a donation. Dah! I finally clued in that this was a scam, but stupidly took a euro from my pocket and handed it to her anyway. “No”, she said, taking the coin from me, “the minimum donation is 5 euros”.
“Oh sorry, I guess I will have to take that back”. I said, holding my hand out for the return of the coin.
She quickly put the coin in her pocket and in a disappointed voice answered, “No it’s okay”.
First few minutes on the street and I had forgotten my own rule, “Be aware of scams in foreign countries.”
Not five minutes later an older woman walked towards John and drew his attention to the ground, “Oh look!” she said, as she bent to retrieve a man’s ring with an enormous stone in it, (which she had actually dropped herself). She tried to press it into John’s hand, but he is much quicker on the uptake and pulled his hand back. The woman insisted that he take the ring saying, “God has blessed me in life and there is nothing that I need. You take it and bless you.” Still trying to coax John into taking it she added. “All I ask is that you give me some money for a coffee”. John didn’t bite. Wow, two scams in five minutes!

As we made our way from one tourist attraction to another throughout the day, we passed the woman and the young girl many times as they worked their individual scams while earning their living in Paris.

Lesson learned folks.

Europe Here We Come. Part 3

16 Jul

Our hotel is called the Apollofirst, a Hampshire classic hotel which we booked through Bookings.com.  It is classy and quite large, more like a suite.  The building has been renovated, still has the original elevator (referred to as a lift over here) which is no bigger than a linen closet.  It was a comedy of errors just getting in and out of the thing, but taking the stairs is a death defying act as they are narrow and spiral, the widest part fit only for the daintiest of fairy people; Surprising as the Dutch are not slight people and dainty would not describe their feet. I do not refer to their weight as from what we have seen they are very fit. To prove my point there are about 9,000 cyclists within the city limits on any given day. Definitely lessens vehicle congestion and emissions, making the air much cleaner to breathe and the citizens much healthier.

John has done a wonderful job of recovering from the flight. As those of you with Parkinson’s will attest, recovery from any long trip can take days. We speculate that it is a result of being able to stretch out completely during the flight.  All Parkinson’s sufferers should be allowed to fly business class.

The first morning after a good night’s sleep we found a lovely breakfast place, freshly squeezed orange juice, free range eggs made to order, bread baked on the premises  real ham and a myriad of cheeses and great café lattes all sufficiently proportioned, not super-sized and I must say, well priced.

A quick ride on the tram brought us to the city centre where we purchased a hop on and off ticket on a cruise around some of the 300 canals that serve the city area. Took lots of pictures.

We were told, perhaps not from a reliable source that the city has some 7 million citizens, but somehow it is very relaxed and inviting.  There are very few cars, as I mentioned above, it is the cyclists that you must watch out for as they whiz by from every direction at a good clip.

The Dutch are a handsome breed, especially the men, all too young for me, but then the woman are all too young for John as well. Oh well, we can both have our dreams.

Since we were in the area we decided to visit the Anne Frank House.  The line-up for which stretches far down the street and far, far, around the corner.  We had decided not to wait when a woman turned to us and informed us in her broken French that because John had a walker, we would have “prioritee”.  Turns out she was right and we got in way ahead of the line.  This trip marks the first time John has tried using a walker so he felt a bit guilty, however he soon got over it.  That being said, he had to leave the walker by the ticket booth as the house itself is tall and narrow with lots of stairs, but together, we managed.

What a moving experience! I would recommend that anyone who visits Amsterdam, must visit this exhibit.

We dined in an extremely crowded mom and pop type restaurant, barely room to swing a cat as they say. Getting round to our table was an experience our butts pulling table clothes and silverware as we went, the locals and staff seemed to take it all in stride. Pour John no sooner sat down when nature called him to duty and he had to do it all again in reverse.  The toilets were at the top of the stairs which seemed extra steep. Seems there were tables for patrons on the second floor as well and with much more room.  I guess it was not offered as an option as they assumed that John would not be able to climb them, although that is not the case, he can manage stair better than I.  Since we had already been served wine we did not bother to ask to be moved and besides, a large party had just left on the main floor so there was a little more room to relax.

The structure was built in the seventeen hundreds and as I looked around this old building, which I gather had always been a restaurant, I could not help but think of the war years and what it must have been like during the occupation.  Who sat in these rooms enjoying a meal and perhaps a bottle of wine, while others nearby lived in fear for their safety, wondering when they would eat again?

Shortly after leaving the restaurant we crossed the road to catch the tram on the other side. It was getting dark and as the road was quite wide we picked up our pace. We did not notice that the tram track sat proud of the pavement. My toes slammed into the track and I went down hard onto the ground. Whilst trying to save my fall, John slammed the wheels of his walker into the track and went down with me.

My first thought was to move as fast as I could to get John to his feet before any on-coming traffic, but my sixty three year old frame is that much heavier from a “lifting myself from the pavement” point of view. Fortunately, the road was, for the moment, clear and gratefully, a flurry of able bodies came seemingly from nowhere easily bringing the two of us to our feet. Thanking them, we hurried to the other side, apparently none the worse for the experience, escaping with only a few minor cuts and grazes.

Our boat tour of the canals was lovely and the day perfect. Many people live on the canal and I wonder what that would be like.  Seems quite romantic at first glance, but I imagine there are a lot of logistics that must be taken into consideration.

John’s Parkinsons and a brief stay of only three days, means there are many places left unexplored, but we content ourselves with what we are capable of doing—a lot of people watching, as we sit sipping lattes, beer or wine, whilst seated at local outdoor cafes. Not bad really.

The morning of our departure by train to Paris I had managed to eliminate the carry-on, which initially made us feel lighter and more organized, but in actuality it only made the other suitcases that much heavier to maneuver. As we boarded the train, a very nice young man offered to help and it turns out he was a Canadian from Regina.

Europe Here We Come – Part 2

15 Jul

On the Plane.

Boarding the plane was a little bit of a gong show with a brigade of wheelchair bound passengers, (easily 15). My husband John actually had a walker, but we were lumped in with the lot. This did not mean that we got aboard sooner, quite the contrary. The porters of said brigade were complaining about the time it took to load the wheelchairs on and decided that those directing the show on-board did not know what they were doing. Indeed, while we waited in the queue there was a woman ahead who easily weighed 350 pounds, the porters decided she should stand up and walk the few feet onto the plane, but those handing her off neglected to tell the stewards that she was also blind, as a result, of course, she tripped. A case of the blind leading the blind? Seems the complainers didn’t know what they were doing either. Luckily she didn’t go down, which definitely would have resulted in a delay in take-off.

Have to say that business class is all that it is reported to be – – wonderful! From the white linen table clothes and extra-large pillows, to the quilted blankets and added goodies, such as toothbrush and paste, eye masques, socks to keep our tootsies warm, comb and face cream to our very own on-board chef. Soon after boarding he came out and handed us menus so that we could choose our dinner and what we wanted for breakfast. Not sure if he actually cooks the meals, but he did make our specialty coffees, which by the way were amazing. He also heated our croissants which made them seem homemade. All the yummier!

The seats are much wider than those in economy class and fully recline so as to make our ride as comfortable as possible. In spite of all these things we slept nary a wink, but at least we were able to stretch out, cozy and content.

The seats are much wider than those in economy class and fully recline so as to make our ride as comfortable as possible. In spite of all these things we slept nary a wink, but at least we were able to stretch out, cozy and content.
Flight landed in Vienna smack on the time the captain predicted. Zero eight thirty two hours was what the man said and 08:32 it was. Our connecting flight did not board until 15:05 hours and since we were not allowed to leave the airport for security reasons, we spent our time in the Vienna airport VIP lounge, nothing like the lounge at Toronto Pearson International so I will spare you the boring details.
Our Business class flight from Vienna to Amsterdam was light years away from the luxury of our flight from Toronto to Vienna. Although it was the same Airline, (Air Austria, a sister ship to Air Canada), the plane was so old it still had ashtrays in the seats. Business class was two passengers in a three seater with the seat in the middle left free to give the illusion of more space. An old curtain separated the economy class from the business class passengers. The plane rattled and shook its way to Amsterdam, but it was only an hour and a half and we did arrive in one piece.

It is difficult to know what to pack for a trip that is to last through a couple of seasons. In this case mid spring to summer. Knowing we could have any kind of weather from cool nights to sweltering days I packed everything from a spring coat, long pants and sweaters to shorts and sun dresses. Of course that was just for me, John’s clothes consisted of much the same only bulkier, man sized duds and a carry-on just for his medications.

So what a job getting from the Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam to our hotel. One large suitcase, 1 huge suitcase, 1 carry on, a very heavy computer bag, even without a mouse, a backpack, a purse and a husband with a cane and a walker. I am Cheryl Strayed from the book “Wild” with my “monster” on my back. Thinking of buying a second backpack and disposing of one suitcase. Was relieved that there was no end to people offering assistance with getting our bags onto the train.

Beautiful Amsterdam to follow.

Europe Here We Come!

13 Jul

Our European vacation 2015 is finally underway.

Numb nuts, (that’s me) forgot her mouse so I have a serious learning curve to overcome as I write the first blog on our European vacation.

Was not sure if we were actually going to make it to the airport as our heat seeking, butt sucking limo driver was so far up the butt of every vehicle in his way that I had to tell him to back off more than once. Never have I driven with anyone that was so lousy behind the wheel. Don’t know the criteria for passing the driving test in his country, but it seriously needs a rewrite. I am usually not one to complain, but I will definitely be having words with the company that hired him, although, from the sound of the woman who confirmed our pick-up time she is probably his wife and my words will fall on deaf ears

On a better note, we are in the VIP lounge for Air Canada thanks to our Aeroplan membership that has finally paid off after years of saving points. The drinks flow (help yourself to the bar folks) and the food is aplenty. There are lots of comfy seats, magazines, newspapers and of course complimentary wifi. John and I will have a couple of glasses of wine to celebrate the fact that we are travelling business class and that in spite of our driver, we arrived alive.

We arrived very early to take advantage of the VIP treatment so our flight is not for another two and a half hours. We are looking forward to getting on with it although the wait in the lounge is a pleasant one.

Further reports will be forthcoming.