Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunday morning

Totally lacking imagination for the name of this post. Here I am over a week back. I'm still not sleeping well - waking up very early. I think it's a combination of jeglag (not wanting to let go of English time) and the stress of the past week at work. We won't go into that here...let's just say one more week and then it's over. I made a decision while on vacation that will affect my bank balance but make my life happier. Yep, cutting down my retirement working hours. There are a lot of other options out there.

I intend to make my life simpler as well - how much simpler I can go is a question mark as I don't have a car nor do I own property - both matters of choice.

A friend at work told me about the blog of a lady who has retired and is living in Mexico -I am now addicted to reading it each day and to me her life sounds idyllic. Like me she does housesitting and petsitting. I think I would like to try it in a few years once my working days are over. Not year round probably but perhaps from November to May. Here is the link to her blog:

http://mexicodailyliving.blogspot.com/

For a while I have thought of taking a Spanish course in San Miguel de Allende just because it looks so darn pretty. Afterwards I would travel solo around the area by bus trying out my basic Spanish on unsuspecting Mexicans as well as seeing possible places to spend some cold Saskatchewan winters. That would give me a good idea of what to expect and if that would be something I would like to do.

I love my apartment and the location but someday I will pack everything into storage and off I will go. A new exciting chapter of my life. It just gets better and better!

Monday, February 16, 2009

She's outta control

Yep I am - spent most of the morning booking flights. Tried to use my NWA points to fly into North Carolina and out of Vegas with a cheap flight in between but they won't let me do that. I have to go in and out of the same area. Snarl....hiss! So luckily snagged a seat sale on West Jet to and from Vegas and then booked my freebie air miles flight to North Carolina. I was ready to punch my fist thrugh the computer screen though as my computer kept crashing when I would go to complete my purchase on the NWA site. If I booked it on the phone they would have charged me an extra $20 so I kept trying - I am cheap when it comes to stuff like that what can I say.

So in just one month and one day I am off for two weeks in North Carolina to visit my oldest friend Linda and her family. Can't wait!!! Gonna be fun, fun, fun and I will get my ocean fix too. As long as Al the Alligator stays in their backyard pond and doesn't join me for my morning coffee life will be good. Then two and a half weeks after I get back I am off to see Mr. McCartney at the opening of the new nightclub at the Hard Rock hotel in Vegas. Woo hoo.

Back to work tomorrow but it all has a purpose....

Sunday, February 15, 2009

What can I say

Less than 48 hours home and already working on the next trip. I managed to score not one but two tickets (one for my friend Pat) to see Paul McCartney in Las Vegas April 19th. He is opening up a new night club in the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino - standing room only seats. I GOTTA BE FRIGGIN NUTS!!!!! So now I am working out how to get there from North Carolina where I will be visiting my good friend Linda and then home on air miles - the back home on air miles isn't working too well. Ah well.....it's fun to be insane.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Three countries in one day

Yep we all knew I am a jetsetter but you know you are when you have three currencies in your wallet and using them all the same day.

Morning came early yesterday...after enjoying the musical "Mama Mia" the night before I got up to discover that the fuse had blown at the B & B and except for my bedside lamp which was plugged into an outlet that wasn't affected the whole second floor was in darkness. Oh goodie - so I had my shower with just the light from outside (which at 5 a.m. isn't much) and worried about getting my "bag from hell" down the stairs in the dark. My fears were unfounded as I heard footsteps as I was getting dressed so Simon obviously knew about it and the problem was fixed. The taxi arrived on time and got me to the airport in half an hour flat. I was impressed. Haven't spent that much on a taxi but wow it was worth it. Had my last cappucino at Costa Coffee. :(

The flight to Minneapolis was all right but I've had better. A whole 'slew' of teenagers were flying over as well as a horrible toddler who barely quit screaming the whole time. As in having temper tantrums - it's handlers obviously had never heard of discipline. I was ready to put the kid out of it's misery with my pillow - no lie. (well I can't stand kids at the best of times). Even the flight attendant I commented to (jokingly) said "that kid is way out of control". The teenagers spent the time visiting in the aisles ignoring the flight attendant's requests to sit down when the seat belt sign was on. They even announced at the second meal service (lunch before we landed) "we will be serving meals for the next thirty minutes so please stay in your seat" and the kids were still up and around and the flight attendants made them stand behind them while they served - good for them. I saw a flight attendant afterwards in the airport and said "that was quite the flight with the teenagers and the screaming brat from hell" and she commented it was a terrible flight and had them pulling their hair out the entire time. Anyway we arrived in one piece.

At customs the inspector said I should go the Mall of America with my 8 hours between flights so that I did! I had lunch at Ruby Tuesdays, got my hair shampooed and cut - hey why not - and trudged around. I was too cheap to pay for a locker so hauled my backpack and between the exhaustion and the load I spent most of my time sitting down people watching. That was my third trip to the mall - quite the place. I think it would make a great "girls weekend away" - hint hint to my Minot buddies...

Then FINALLY my flight home - short and sweet and got through customs no probs and got a taxi right away. Stopped at a convenience store so I could get my milk and cream for coffee/tea and made it home in one piece despite dropping my wallet in the van and having the driver go back to the store so I could find it. What can I say after over 24 hours I was not in my right mind. Got my "bag from hell" up the stairs to my apartment and collapsed.

AWESOME AWESOME trip.

What can I say - good to be home but I know I will be itching to get away again SOON.

Because I am Restless Prairie Girl and that's what I do!

Stay tuned as I plan to edit each of my entries and put pictures in and more on what I thought of the amazing Middle East - I will also be updating Facebook so will put a link to that.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Fantasy time

Well today started off windy and rainy but while it's still cold and windy the sun has come out. After waiting for a taxi forever we finally got into Worthing and did a bit of shopping. I was let loose in Marks and Spencer and for lunch we are going to have Roasted Mushroom and carmelised onion pie and vegetable casserole with parsley dumplings - with brussel sprouts. And for dessert a hot apple crumble with double cream. Slurp! Can't wait!!!

I was able to go down to the beach and take some piccies of the English channel - so that was fun. Hope I didn't embarass Judi TOO much with my excitement!!! :)

I have already decided that Judi should get a dog and I will come over and look after it when she goes on holidays.

Tonight it's back to London and two more days before my wonderful holiday comes to an end. I will be so busy running around I might not have time to blog!!!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Chilling with champagne

Here I am in Lancing, W. Sussex with Judi - drinking champagne - it's a tough life. We are having a great visit and setting the world right. I am boring her with stories about my trip!! It's pouring buckets out there but we are snug and warm inside. I am spoiled and Judi is fixing roast chicken, potatoes and veggies for supper tonight.

Double episode of Corrie tonight - life is good!!

Tomorrow we will probably go into Brighton IF THE WEATHER BEHAVES and then back to London tomorrow night.

Hey, not complaining about the weather as next week at this time I will be freezing my ass off!!!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Another day in paradise

Okay not quite....but had an enjoyable day. Not too cold here today - no wind anyway. It was a park day today - Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.

I started off the day going to the doggie area at the park in Muswell Hill but only one dog to stalk...how sad. Anyway I sat outside in hope and had a coffee but nobody showed up. Oh well....

What can I say.....sounds like a boring day as not much to talk about and am very tired but it was good.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

A foodie day

Am full to bursting after a day of good food. Started this morning at the Borough market - well I wandered around and got myself a brownie (best brownie in the world..devoured it this afternoon) and a small bag of cherry tomatoes. I had a cooked breakfast at a nearby cafe as the market was too cold to spend any time in - had bubble and squeak which is potatoes with cooked vegetables in. Very good!! I then jumped on the bus and went to Hackney...just because....wanted to see what it looked like. I stopped to look at a church and was reading the description when a lady came up to me and said they are with the church and help those less fortunate and asked if I wanted any hot soup or coffee. I said no thank you and she said are you sure and patted my arm and I said no thanks I can buy my own soup. She said if you are sure and looked so concerned. Geesh I know my jacket is getting a bit travel weary and my hair was wind blown but didn't think I looked that down and out!!!!
Back into Central London and walked through St. James Park (my favourite park in London) and on through Green Park and then back to this area for a delicous veggie currie and garlic naan.
Burp!!!
Next is back to the room to catch up on my travel diary and start packing up.
I will be moving to another place Wed. so I can have easier access to Heathrow for Friday...six more sleeps. Waaaaa!!!! :(
Tomorrow I plan to head over to Hampstead and walk around there again and perhaps Primrose Hill, etc. We shall see how the spirit moves me.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Hi from Oxford

Am in Oxford now - decided to go for it for a change of scene. It was snowing when I arrived so walked around and took photographs of the snow. Then I looked in the shops and had lunch at the covered market. Lots of book shops here so I was in heaven - I got a copy of one of my favourite travel writers new book and she is supposed to be at the travel show tomorrow so hope to get it autographed. All about her dog sledding in the Yukon - nothing like going to England to buy a book about Canada!!

My bus leaves in about an hour and a half so decided to pop in and check up on email and blog. The bus was very clean and it is the law here to do up seatbelts so felt much more secure than riding the hound. Plus the trip was much shorter than my usual hound trips - less than two hours. I bought a cherry loaf from a bakery in the market and I am salivating - can't wait to get back to the B & B and make a cup of tea and have a piece...or two. I hope it is as good as it looks.

I will definitely come back here on another trip when the weather is nicer as it's a very pretty city but not seen at it's best on a snowy day.

This afternoon I went to see the film "Slumdog Millionaire" which was really good - brought back memories of India for sure. I wanted to see it here being as it's a British film and very much in the news here - as well as England being the base I left for India from. Okay lame excuse but I always try to see a movie over here despite the horrible price. I just shut my eyes and hand the money over but it ain't cheap. It saves me going to see it in London as I am running out of time to do the things I want to do there. Normally I would not go to a movie on a day trip but it was warm and dry!!!

Tomorrow I am going to the travel show at Earl's Court Olympia so can't wait - I am sure I will get all sorts of ideas for my next adventure or two or three....

One part of me is glad to be going home to see my friends, make coffee in my own coffee maker, (yea strange what you miss....) check out what's been happening but the other part of me doesn't want to leave! I wish I was wealthy so I could stay longer. I wandered around Marks and Spencers today drooling over all the ready meals they have here. I wish I had access to an oven or a nuker at least. Plus the wonderful brussel sprouts - okay I am a bit obsessed with them but oh my they look so damn good compared to home. Well I like the food here better than home I must admit. I know England has a bad reputation for food - or did have - but not anymore. London has every kind of food you could ever want.

So looking forward to tomorrow - a day at the travel show, a double episode of Corrie and it's my eat at home night (too damn expensive here to eat out every day) which means a prawn mayonnaise sandwich (YUM!) and a little bag of either parsnip crisps or root vegetable crisps. I discovered the crisps (English word for our chips) this trip (they must be new) and they are YUMMY. Plus a bottle of fresh cox apple juice - slurp!!! Life is good!!!!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Chaos in Cairo

Well an early start - Lorraine and Mark knocked on my door and said a final goodbye and I was dressed and ready to go. (they were due to be picked up at 6:30) A few minutes later my phone rang and the taxi was there for me even though it wasn't booked until 7. So off I went - got to the airport at 7:15 and the airline did not open up until 8 a.m. They would not let me into the check in area - it was secured with a guard who would not let me in. So had to sit and wait. Finally got checked in but only got a boarding pass as far as Cairo as my flight to London was with BMI - part of the Star Alliance with Egypt Air. (as Air Canada is) The flight to Cairo was okay and I even got a meal (free) for the 75 min. flight - which was a lucky thing.
In Cairo we got to arrivals and all transits were bussed to the transit area. As I was walking in a fellow looked at my ticket and said "flight cancelled, bad weather London - number three, get luggage and go to hotel". I am like 'what". Trying to ask him what is going on, is it rescheduled but he ignored me. Anyway he led me outside and put me on a bus that took me to arrivals. He kept saying number three number three. I'm like what is going on - had to wait in line and go through customs and of course they didn't let me in as I had no valid visa - mine had been used. the customs guy rolled his eyes at me and jabbed his thumb towards the so called transit area there. You don't want to know what I was muttering at this point but it wasn't very nice. Of course the person at the transit area there had no clue so put me on another bus - guess where to. Back there I was absolutely fuming and nearly in tears with frustration. I could not find anyone who spoke English I could understand and not only that they took away my passport and ticket - I was told later because I had no visa and who knows I might want to stay in the country illegally (NOT). I had to go to the bathroom so badly and dying of thirst so took care of those problems all the time worried about what was going on. I kept going to talk to a different person each time and found one who spoke English and explained my flight was cancelled and the other 12:45 flight was delayed. He said probably it would get cancelled so they would send us to a hotel. While I was standing there they paged London passengers to come to the gate so they all came and were herded up and taken to a hotel - all except the few of us who did not have a visa. (was told later that once they got to the hotel and were checking in they were hauled out again and told that the flight was now going) We had to wait around. I started talking to a fella in the same situation as me - he'd be travelling from South Africa since the previous evening so was exhausted. We got the ticket agent to let us call London (I wasn't supposed to tell anyone they let me!) so I was able to get ahold of Simon (B & B guy) and tell him I'd be late. At that point I got my passport, ticket back and a boarding pass as well as my luggage tag changed. Anyway they gave us vouchers to MacDonalds of all places. Yuck. So MacDonalds two days in a row when I never eat there. (my system rebeled the next day) Anyway there ended up with four of us sitting together - two men from Sudan joined us and we talked about everything. It passsed the time. I was also chatting to an English fellow and he is the one who came running up to us and said the flight is loading. No announcement! This was 5:45. We took off at 7.

I had a row all to myself so was able to stretch out. That was the good part. The meal was vile but of course I had that "good" MacDonalds meal inside me to keep me going.

Arrived into Heathrow and no line for customs - more good news. I tried reaching Simon but the line was busy, busy. A fellow let me use his mobile on the tube so I talked to Simon's wife. I worried the whole time that I would not get to Golders Green on time to get the last bus to the B & B.

Well I got there and no bus....(found out later it wasn't running that day because of the storm) so luckily I was able to get a taxi cruising by. A miracle as they aren't that common. Someone was watching out for me. I get to the B & B - lights on so I thought "good". NOT. I rang the bell, pounded on the door and nothing - finally after five minutes (felt like twice that) Rosie answered apologizing saying they had fallen asleep. I was so upset thinking here I am at 12:30 at night with no place to sleep and utterly exhausted.

Anyway it was good to get to bed. I didn't even try dragging my suitcase up the stairs - just threw off my clothes and fell into bed.

And that's the end of my story.

Back in London

Nightmare trip back but made it. Will post more on it later. It was a gong show in Cairo - I flew from Amman via Cairo and the flight was cancelled due to snow here and talk about disorganized there. Yikes. I spent yesterday in bed as have a bad cold and felt horrid. Today is a bit better - my legs are a bit shaky but desparate times call for desparate measures. I have no clean clothes - your clothes get very dirty/sandy/dusty in the Middle East!!! So off to the laundromat to spend another ten pounds again.

The snow is melting now (although the park opposite me is still covered and kids were out making snowmen yesterday) but guess it was a nightmare on Monday. Supposed to be more later this week...oh goodie. Things come to a standstill here as they are just not prepared for it.

I am due to go to Oxford tomorrow on Megabus - had booked my pound each way trip a few weeks back. Will see how I feel - had planned to do a 10km walk there but can't see that happening but I may go and bop around a bit and lurk in coffee shops. For the price why not.

I had to miss seeing the musical "Billy Elliot" last night as I felt too rotten. Simon, the host of the B & B was going out anyway so I gave him a little list of a sandwich, banana and juice so at least I got to eat something. On the bright side maybe I lost a little weight - yeah right.

A lucky American couple is next to me so between my snoring and coughing bet they had a good night's sleep. Oh well they were friendly and we sat for an hour over breakfast exchanging travel war stories.

Anyway I am off to the launderette to wash the remnents of Egypt and Jordan off my clothes.

Once I feel a bit better and my sense of humour returns I will post "Chaos in Cairo".

Tarrah!!!!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Amman

Here I am in Amman, Jordan - my last full day in the Middle East as I fly back to London tomorrow. It's been a great tour and such a positive thing for me - full of all sorts of new experiences, making new friends, seeing fantastic sights, learning more about a culture so foreign from ours but learning we are all the same inside. It's been great. Some of the people on our tour have been having a problem with accomodations, food, etc. but when you stay in hostels and the bathroom is down the hall you can put up with anything. Hey, I get my own bathroom every night to myself - yay. I thought we are going to have a mutiny on our hands last night - you get what you pay for.

Must confess I was just at Mickey D's as it's close to the hotel. Never thought I'd do that as I hate it but oh well...tonight is our farewell dinner with the group so should be fun.

Up early tomorrow as I get taken to the airport at 7 a.m. It will be sad to say goodbye to everyone knowing I will probably never see them again.

This morning we toured Jerash - a Roman city north of Amman. Interesting (I was imagining the chariots roaring about!) but we were all tired, sick or grumpy - or all three. Being on the road is hard work!!!

Yesterday was fun fun fun. The best part was floating in the Dead sea. I stayed in long enough to have the requisite picture taken but was paranoid about getting water in my eyes. Weird to be able to sit in the water and bob around! We then slathered up with the mud and after 10 minutes went into the water to wash off. We then spent the rest of our time going down the water slide at the pool and hollering like kids. (okay it was just me hollering!) I forgot to mention that a few days ago (losing track of time) we went snorkelling in the Red Sea. Okay mine was more splashing around and falling down in the water walking in my fins - Libby and I provided entertainment for the locals who were photographing us. I had problems breathing again so just bobbed around a bit - we wore wet suits. I had my photo taken in mine and will put it on my fridge to prevent me from overeating - let's just say it's pretty damn scary!!!

Anyway it's been quite the experience. Jordan is more prosperous than Egypt. It is funny as in Egypt when they ask where I am from they say "Canada Dry" without fail. In Jordan it is sweet as they say "You're welcome". I must say I like the Jordanians better than the Egyptians. Jordan is the one country in the world that has a good relationship with every country in the world - not neutral like Switzerland is but actually a positive relationship. Of course they get a lot of foreign aid which they have used to build hospitals and schools. 85% of their population gets free health care which is awesome.

I think I will miss hearing the call to prayer and the people of the Middle East will always have a special place in my heart. It's a tough place to live. For the first time in my life I kissed my Canadian passport.

Will post more on my trip and my thoughts on it with pictures when I get home.