Saturday, December 31, 2011

Day two in Paris

This morning I had an almond square and a cafe au lait at the cafe by me. Good stuff. Then I headed over to Montparnasse metro station. I went up to the 56th floor of the Montparnasse tower and had a good view of Paris. It was fairly clear that morning so I had a pretty good view - it was a five minute wait rather than the hour or more at the Eiffel Tower. I'd definitely recommend going there rather than the Eiffel tower. From there I wandered over to the Montparnasse cemetery. Similar to New Orleans or rather New Orleans is similar to Paris...cities of the dead. There were some really strange tombstones but the most bizarre was of a couple in bed. Really. And before you think this being Paris and all what were they doing they were just laying there. It is still an active cemetery and there were about three burials going on while I was there. I guess it sounds bizarre to say you can enjoy a cemetery but I did. By this time my right foot (with the bunion and arthritic toe) was giving me major grief and I was in pain. I never know when this foot is going to act up on me. So I hobbled to a restaurant and had what they call a set meal - a price for certain items on the menu. I had a cheese omelette (was craving one), french fries and a salad with creme brulee for dessert. I decided it was time to go back to the room and rest so that I did. That evening I had a ticket for a ballet performance of Cinderella so wanted to be in good shape for that. After a rest and change I headed over to the Champs Elysees to see the Xmas lights. Very disappointing...just some red and blue round lights. Nothing like in 1999 or 2008. Oh well. Then I headed to the Bastille area where the theatre was and had a quick cheese and ham panini before the show began. It was wonderful - it was different as was set in pre-WWII New York. Two intermissions as well so it lasted about three hours. Very enjoyable and glad I did it.

Day three in Paris

Well guess I will talk about today then yesterday! I slept in a bit this morning which was good and after my shower I headed off to the local boulangerie - this time I had a cafe au lait and a suisse pain. oh my. we are talking pastry with bits of chocolate in...my my my. Feeling fortified I headed off to the metro and the St Michel metro stop. From there I (sort of) did a walk from the book Simon loaned me - this was of the Latin Quarter. It is named this as it was very academic a few centuries back and the spoken word was Latin. Anyway it was very interesting - wandered down all sorts of narrow cobblestone streets and saw the house where the fellow who invented the guillitone lived...also saw the oldest cafe in the world - or so they say. But I wasn't dressed for the occasion so I carried on - one of the entrees was "cooked calf's head" just like it was done back in the 1600's. Uh...no thanks. I have wanted to explore more of the left bank so am happy I did a bit of it anyway. I saw the Sorbonne - university of Paris and also wandered up to the Pantheon which was built as a church originally. Victor Hugo is buried here but I did not go in. I did not visit a museum at all as the lines were just too long - I guess I am too impatient. I would rather be out exploring and I have seen the museums before - I am sure the Mona Lisa still looks the same since I last saw her in 1999. I had lunch at a creperie - ham, cheese and mushroom - with a glass of wine. I asked for tap water and like the restaurant yesterday they bring it in a little jug. I love that. I went into a wonderful pateserrie with all sorts of sweets. I bought two tiny meringues - one was raspberry with chocolate filling and the other chocolate with chocolate filling - I saved them and just finished them with a cup of tea before I started this blog. Turns out they were giving out free ones so I had an apricot with cream inside there and then. Ooo la la is all I can say. You can buy them in packages but they would never make them home I am afraid! They are very fragile as well. I then took the metro over to Galeries LaFayette which is like Harrods - very high end. One thing - they don't charge for their loos like Harrods does! But the main reason I went was to see the Xmas tree and the galleries in the store which were beautiful. The window displays were cute too - the theme was a Rock and Roll Christmas. The store was packed so I got out of there as soon as possible. The next stop on the metro was near Isle St. Louis which is an island in the centre of Paris - in the middle of the Seine. I walked around for a couple of hours and enjoyed it thoroughly. I read a Patricia Cornwell novel set there and ever since I read it I have been wanting to see it. I treated myself to a double scoop of the famous Berthillon ice cream - cherry/plum and chocolate. Oh my. It was delicious. Very tiny scoops (trust me) but not a tiny price - sometimes you just have to treat yourself. The place was packed to the rafters - I would hate to see it in July! Speaking of which it was dull and drizzled at times all day -but it wasn't cold. I then took the metro back here - picked up a baguette with ham, cheese, egg etc in it for a bit later and some pastries for the morning. I am not sure what is open tomorrow so decided to have breakfast here for a change.
All being well I will head over to Montmartre for the New Years Eve fireworks - being as I haven't even been to Montmartre this trip and it's very close it should be interesting. It's on tomorrow's itinerary.
There is just so much to see in this city that four days is not enough unless you run around like a mad thing and I'd rather take things at a slower pace and enjoy. April in Paris someday perhaps?

Friday, December 30, 2011

Locked out!

Oh I forgot the exciting bit yesterday. Came back here and could not get in the door and Simon was not home. There were three keys and Simon said I just needed one but no I needed two so was trying both but could not get in. I was a little upset to put it mildly. Well after about 20 minutes a woman came from downstairs and I asked (more like begged) her to try the door for me and she got me in. I could have kissed her I was that grateful....when Simon got back I told him and he showed me how to use it but I still wasn't getting it. The second lock was tricky so in the end we swapped keys and doors (there are two doors with two separate set of keys - both doors lead to the same place the only bad part is if someone is having a bath I can't get out as I have to go through the bathroom!!!!) and now I can get in. Oh and if that wasn't bad enough yesterday morning I couldn't even get out of the apartment building....I had to knock on a door where I heard loud talking so the lady came out and showed me. You had to hit a button on the wall...well like I would know that....yikes.
It certainly is a unique place....
Well I am coming to the end of my second full day in Paris. I arrived here on Wednesday evening. Thursday I headed out early and had a pain au chocolate and cafe au lait at an open air cafe type place - not the best and won't do that again but it was close and I was hungry and dying for a coffee. I got a three day pass for the metro - four day ones weren't available so will get a day pass for Sunday. Off I went - I like the Paris metro - not as much as London and way more than New York which is the most horrific one I've ever been on...confusing and dirty. Anyway first stop was St. Michel where I walked around the area a bit until a walking tour started at St Michel square at 11 a.m. However the group was huge and I could not hear the guide plus people were talking. I thought 'screw this' and took off on my own. I walked along the Seine and then crossed over to the Jardin des Tuileries and on to Concord Square where there is a permanent ferris wheel. It also marks the spot where many were beheaded including Marie Antoinette. I then walked down the Champs Elysees where the Xmas market was still in full swing - I walked by but did not look too closely - I think I have overdosed on Christmas markets! I stopped and had a nutella (a chocolate/hazelnut spread for those who are unfortunate enough not to know) crepe and ended up wearing most of it on my face and my jacket. Sigh....thank goodness I had some moist wipes with me. Then I wandered on and saw the new Marks and Spencers so flew in. I walked by and saw the Prawn and Mayonnaise sandwiches but said no Laurie you can have one on Monday. I tell you though if there hadn't been a line up for the till I might have grabbed one. Sick I know....I walked down to get photos of the Arch de Triumphe. Then I got the metro over to the Eiffel Tower. Did not go up as the line was way too long but took enough pictures. I was walking over to the park behind it and realized I had been pulling my small camera out of my pocket and oops no metro pass....I had meant to put it back in my wallet as a pocket is a silly place to put a tiny ticket when you are reaching in all the time. Well can you believe there it was laying on the ground. Thank goodness or that would have been 21 Euro down the drain. I then walked over to Rue Cler which is a street with all sorts of open air shops like a market - I stayed in a hotel on that street in 1999. Back on the metro and back to this area where I had a quiche in a boulangerie. It was okay - guess I had my hopes up too high....back here as I was really tired from not much sleep the night before. Sadie came in and slept on my sofa while I did my internet thing. I wore ear plugs and took a herbal sleeping remedy so the elephants upstairs did not keep me awake. I don't know what they do up there but it's loud. This apartment has charming wooden floors but they are old and they creak and basically no sound proofing.

Beautiful Bamberg and farewell to Germany



On Tuesday the 27th Claudia's friend Matthias came for the day. After breakfast we headed off to Bamberg which is about a 25 minute drive from Heiligenstadt. Bamberg is a little jewel of a city - about 70,000 people. Lots of history and beautiful buildings. We visited two churches at the beginning of our visit - one very ornate Roman Catholic one and another more simplistic Lutheran one. Then along some narrow little roads - more like alleys really and over to Venice of the North. I have to laugh as it seems a lot of cities have Little Venice or some variation of it. I think it would be prettier in the summer but it was interesting. From there we walked into the shopping area and got a good look at the beautiful old Rathaus - town hall. I much prefer the German name though as it's so true. Well that is insulting rats actually. :) I will try to post a picture of it - complete with a plaster leg sticking out one side! I have been there in the 80's in the summer but that didn't stop me taking winter pictures of it! We had a nice lunch - I had pork schnitzel with noodles - these are a few of my favourite things, when the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I'm feeling sad....oops wrong town, sorry! After lunch we headed over to the cathedral which was beautiful - Matthias bought me a detailed leaflet so was able to walk around and learn about everything. I admire the faith that built that church - or was it something else? Whatever I just don't get it....Hmmm....don't get me started on religion please. I just don't think Jesus had all these showy buildings in mind when he was out there doing his thing....my religion is treat everyone the way you want to be treated (with kindness) and that's it. As the Dali Lama says "my religion is kindness".

Of course what should we do after the visit then go for coffee and cake. And what did I have? Well black forest cake needless to say and the best I've ever had. We then headed out of town to the Seehof Palace. We didn't visit inside as it was closed but we walked around outside. It would be spectacular in the summer.

Back "home" for bread, sausages and cheese and stollen for dessert. My last evening in Germany....

The next morning Claudia and Erna drove me to Forcheim to catch the train to Paris. Sad to say goodbye to such good friends. I am so fortunate to have friends around the world - this penpal habit I've had since my teens has opened up the world to me and penpals have become good friends.

Luckily changing trains was smooth in most places with escalators or no climbing required - yay. The ICE (intercity express) trains were awesome - very clean and fast. At one point while waiting for the loo it showed that it was going 313 km an hour! The loos started out nice but my last visit was rather disturbing - let's just say there was fluid on the walls and leave it at that. Ick.

Arrived into Paris ten minutes late and was able to get the metro after waiting in line to get a ticket for a while - luckily it was on the same line number 4 from Gare d'est but I had a little trouble finding the place but finally did. Simon was there to greet me. Simon is taking care of Margot's dog Sadie. He is a true Parisian - his parents are Japanese and they moved to Paris to go to school and Simon was born here. Very helpful young man.

Margot, who owns the flat is in India at present. She is an American who has lived in Europe since the 80's.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Relaxing days over Christmas in Germany

After the day in Nuremburg we had a day at home. We decorated the tree - well I handed things to Claudia or her mom. The tree was crooked though and at one point we heard a crash and sure enough it had collapsed. So after sort of stabilizing it we gave it a wide berth everytime we went into the lounge. Claudia's mom - let's call her Erna as that's her name! - Erna fixed schnitzel with boiled potatoes and beans (both veggies from their garden). It was delish. They always have their big meal at noon. Breakfast is rolls with cheese and different kinds of sausage spread. Supper is the same only bread instead of rolls. Claudia is an anglofile so has loads of British comedies and mysteries so every evening we would go to her lounge in the house (the top floor is basically hers) and drink wine with a big plate of home baked goodies in front of us....

On the 23rd of December we headed off again on the train. Claudia had gotten two six euro tickets for us to use - six euros for two people to go anywhere within a certain radius. So off we went to Weisenberg. It was a pretty little town - we walked by the town wall and saw the sights. Luckily it didn't rain while we were there. We had lunch at a restaurant and I had Laberkasse which says it has cheese in it but that's a lie - what it basically is is fried bologna with a fried egg on top! And this had salad on the side. It was quite good. We stopped at a grocery store so Claudia could buy some wine for a friend we would be visiting and she said are you going to buy chocolate so I did....:) We then took the train a couple of stops and Claudia's friend Renate picked us up and took us back to her house for coffee and cake. She is married to an American (he is now retired from the military)so of course her English was excellent. Bob said I was the first Canadian he had ever met. Anyway it was a great visit and their house is lovely. Back to Heiligenstadt where we had our usual supper. Another evening of wine and DVD's! Heiligenstadt is a very tiny village of 1500 so not a wild nightlife!!!

Christmas Eve day dawned and after breakfast I headed out for a walk. They have created paved biking/hiking paths out of disused railway lines that go on for kilometres. It's wonderful. It drizzled the whole time I walked but I did about 7 km and then back to dry off and a hot cup of tea. We had bratwurst and warm potato salad for lunch - yum! We attended the 4 pm Christmas Eve service at Claudia and Erna's Lutheran church which is beautiful. Even though I didn't understand a word that was said it was nice - they did a skit which was different and then it ended with the lights off and only candles while we all sang Silent Night. f(which was written in Austria!) It was spine tingling and then walking back through the village with the Christmas lights it was truly magical.
Back to a supper of home made pizza rolls then opening up gifts by the tree. (we put them by the tree - not under it in case it toppled again!!) Erna and Claudia seemed pleased with the gifts I brought them. Erna gave me home made socks as well as lots of chocolate and Claudia gave me a lovely small wooden Christmas decoration of carollers singing. It is light and small - perfect! Oh and a package of chocolate truffles and a huge honking chocolate bar.
We then watched a Christmas special that was truly international with songs popular in North America as well.
Christmas Eve is the big celebration in Germany with gifts, etc. and Chrsitmas Day is the day to eat. And eat we did!! Claudia and Erna went to church in the morning but I stayed in and caught up with my travel journal, etc. - the poor church would collapse for sure if I turned up again...as it is I've been to church twice this year - haven't done that it years!! Lunch was roast duck, red cabbage and dumplings. It was good. And I was good getting through all that cabbage...Claudia and I walked around the village and area for over an hour later that afternoon. Then back for coffee and cake followed by supper a couple of hours after that - my pants feel tight just writing about it....
Boxing Day which is just called Second Christmas Day in Germany....we had the usual breakfast followed by chicken curry for lunch. Then Claudia and I set out on the bike path and according to the sign post walked 5.5 out and back but Claudia said it was more like 7 km each way - she has measured it and they are wrong. Well whatever it was a good walk. Claudia ended up with blisters and was sore but I felt great which made me feel good as guess I am in not too bad of shape which is a good thing with that race coming up Feb. 5th.
My knees have been bothering me though on stairs and that house is full of stairs. In fact the shower room is in the basement and the stairs are a killer...plus going up and down to my room then down to the loo on the main floor....ouch. The first couple of days there I was a wreck from walking those steps up to the fortress in Salzburg. I can do hills too - give me some aleve and point me onto a walking path with hills or without and I am fine but if there are stairs it's gonna be ugly...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Come a little closer my little heater or oh Internet - I Think I Love You! (to quote the Partridge Family)





River and bridge in Nuremburg - despite being a large city the downtown area is very fairytale


Sitting in the flat in Paris. No central heating - just a heater. The owner is in India - it is very different but I like it. Oh well I won't be here much. And my room-mate Simon is a young man in his twenties for all those who are dying to know....:) How sick is this...I am on the internet and haven't even unpacked yet. I did make a cup of tea and I think another one is coming up soon....8 days without internet...oh my. Don't think I have gone that long without it in quite some time. (the internet that is, get your minds out of the gutter! )

Germany was lots of fun and I don't want to know my current weight...unreal. Every three hours it seemed there was more food going into my body....I am sure when I leave the room my ass leaves ten minutes later....I have to get back into normal mode (not that that is much better) or I will need two seats on the aircraft coming back. Claudia's mom is a terrific cook. Did I say I didn't like German food? Liar - home cooked that is...Although must admit I don't think I want to look another sausage in the face for a while. I LOVE the bratwurst but think I od'd on it. Luckily I did quite a bit of walking but I still don't think I broke even. Came to Paris with half my body weight in chocolate stashed in my suitcase I am sure. Lots of chocolate given to me as gifts - and okay..got myself two family size (well actually they are Laurie eat in one sitting size) Milka bars and two chocolate Santas before I knew I was getting a whole shit load for Xmas. The gallant men of Paris took pity on me and helped me with my luggage on the metro stairs.

We did the Christmas market in Nuremberg on Wednesday the 21st which was fun. Had some hot gluhwein (mulled wine) and Nurnberg sausages (little ones) in a bun. If you want you can keep the mug from the gluhwein otherwise you return it as you pay a 2 euro deposit so I have two more mugs as could not resist. (did resist one...)Lots of stalls selling everything but the kitchen sink. It was magical with the lights and a choir singing. We looked around Nuremberg a bit as well - Claudia used to live there so have been there a few times since the 80's. There was a misty rain pretty well the whole time. In fact I did not see the sun the whole time I was in Germany but it's winter and it beats snow. We walked up to the castle and had a nice view - in the rain. I like Nuremberg - always have. It had the shit bombed out of it in the war so many of the city centre buildings are new and designed to fit in with the rest of the older buildings that were built pre-war and way way before. Earlier in the afternoon we met Ulla, one of Claudia's friends for cake and coffee - I had Sacre torte which was chocolate cake with strawberry jam in it. Oh my.....I really can't say much more. It was a great day. Of course back to Claudia's where tea and cookies were waiting - along with my evening ritual of a glass (or two) of wine! I will do this one day at a time as just too much to do all at once.

Oh Internet I really really missed you.....

Monday, December 19, 2011

Double the posts

My home in Salzburg
Typical booth at Xmas market
You'll recognize this if you've seen the Sound of Music
Part of fortress
Shopping pedestrian street

Just because I can....I knew I was an internet addict....oh man how am I going to survive 8 days without it. I love having the whole world at my fingertips and being as so many of my friends live in other cities & countries I can connect with them daily. And let's not mention access to so much...oh internet I do love you....

The weather here hasn't been the best but when you travel in December you have to expect these things. This afternoon was good. I was dressed for the weather so was fine. My photo count is well over 500 so far. Lots of gray skies but oh well....like I said before I do like this city. It has about 150,000 people.

The Christmas markets are fun and it is all quite magical. The snow just adds to the ambience.

I am debating whether to bus it or taxi it to the train station tomorrow morning. I have a bus pass but it means changing busses downtown not to mention hauling Eddie on and off the bus and like me, he seems to be getting heavier on this trip. But a taxi would cost about 20 Euros - I know as I took one here. I guess I will see how I feel in the morning - if my knees feel like they do right now it will be a taxi.

I'm online!

Yay the wifi is working....I am afraid to breathe too hard in case it goes off line. Yee haw. One last kick at the can before I go cold turkey. It is nice to be able to sit in my room and type.

Anyway fab day....it snowed again overnight and started out gray - blue sky eventually which was nice.

I took the bus to town and visited a few places I hadn't been yet like the Green market, Salzburg Cathedral (closed for renovations anyway - or it appeared to be), looked in a few shops then was a real piggie and went to a Cafe that is really old and Mozart actually went to...had coffee and some kuchen (cake) - something I really needed. Oh well. It was on my list of things to do and I knew that at 10:30 it would not be crowded. Enjoyed myself. Lots of character and black suited waiters - not your local Timmy's that's for sure. And not the prices either but it was great as a treat and to be honest I didn't think 3.50 Euros was bad for a delicious piece of cake.

This was what I saw when I stepped out of the coffee shop...gotta love it!
I then visited the Advent Xmas market again...this time it was not crowded so I stopped and looked at each booth. I got myself a couple of bags of tea....just what I need....and of course everyone who comes for tea just wants the ordinary stuff not any of my wonderful stash. Oh well I will enjoy it!! The snow was falling again and it was all quite romantic...not...well if you live in a place that doesn't have snow I guess it would be. Salzburg is such an awesome little city - I love it and will definitely come back. I am loving the winter experience and the Christmas atmosphere is unbelieveable. And to top it off you've got horses and carriages clip clopping along....fantastic. I picked up a couple of pretzels for the train trip tomorrow as the lady on the trip over said Salzburg is known for their pretzels. Germany has them too but anyway thought I'd try...

I wandered around St. Peters cemetery again - very different with graves in cages - Sound of Music at the end when they are hiding from the Nazis....that's where it was shot. Then I was goign to take the cable car up to Hohensalburg Fortress but the line was unreal and we were in one line and the machine wasn't working so we had to transfer lines and get at the back. I said forget this so ended climbing steps up to the fortress. Interesting at times as it was icy from the snow. But got there in the end, I had been up to the top on Friday but did not go in but this time

I took the audio tour which was interesting. They are only done every thirty minutes and I was lucky and got there right when they were leaving. Loads of stairs...oh mama....after walking up all those stairs then I get more. Should have doubled up on the Aleve this morning!!! I then walked around a bit then decided to walk the kilometer over to the Musuem of Modern Art...no, not to go in (I hate modern art) but they have an elevator that you can take down through the rock. The walk was lovely except at one point when I started sliding around on a hill and could not take a step for fear of sliding backwards back down and some guys were walking behind me so one grabbed ahold of me and pushed me from behind until we got up the hill. :)
This was the view from the museum after my walk...not bad eh?

I then had a leg of pork or some part of the animal with dumplings. I felt being as it was my last evening in Austria I should have some of their food again but I wish I had the goulash again. Must admit though I am not a big fan of German/Austrian food - the dumplings were good though. It seems the only veggie on offer is cabbage which I do have a problem with...the only way I will eat it is if it is curried and made by me or in cabbage rolls and those I am picky about. I can see my first meal in Paris will be a package of raw veggies as I do eat a lot at home. Anyway the restaurant was okay but made the mistake of sitting next to a couple who were eating each other's faces off instead of their meal - get a room for god's sake!

Back here where I am totally exhausted - lucky I have the internet to keep me awake. Lots of activity for one day - well my knees are not liking it but it's amazing what you can do. My netbook was not plugged in and it said limited time and it's amazing how quickly I got down under this desk to plug it in sore knees or not. (I was not quiet or polite about it though)

Day at the Lakes




Yesterday I went out to the Lake District to visit the tiny village of St Gilgen for their Christmas market. I loved it. What an enchanting little town and the market just made it even more special. There were boat trips over to St. Wolfgang but it was a little too cold for me - also cable cars up the mountain but too cloudy.....I enjoyed wandering around the town. I visited the birthplace of Mozart's mother which was small but interesting. I bought myself a new Mozart CD and the lady in the shop gave me a pretty homemade arrangement with pine cones, ribbons, etc. So sweet of her. I will give it to Claudia and her mom. The town has paintings on the buildings and it is a charmer. I had some hot spiced punch and of course got another souvenir mug....it seems there is no choice - you buy the drink you get the mug. This one I will keep but the other one I will be leaving behind as no way do I have room in Eddie to haul more stuff. Well I do have room - just don't want the weight! When I got back I took the bus out to Hellbrun Palace to go to the Xmas market there. Awesome. As Walter (owner ofthe B & B here) told me it is the nicest and it is by far. I resisted buying anything. Yesterday was a street food day and had bratwurst, a bun and sauerkraut - I don't like sauerkraut but thought I should try it here. Mistake. It did not agree with me and my stomach was upset for the rest of the day.
Today I plan to go up to the fortress to explore it and then walk the path over to the Musuem of Modern Art and take the elevator down.
Tomorrow I head off to Germany and will be off line until th 28th of December at least.
I hope the wifi works out in Paris better than it has here as I enjoy writing but this is just too rushed to enjoy.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The hills are alive...

Yesterday was my Sound of Music day. I went on a morning tour of the Sound of Music locales as of course the outside scenes in the movie were filmed here. It was a different view to be sure with the snow....it was a wet morning but none the less was still fun. The bus was full of a united nations of SOM fans! We saw the gazebo where Rolf and Lisl danced (they had to lock it due to women jumping from bench to bench which resulted in an 80 year old breaking her hip!),
Gazebo where Lisl and Rolf danced - this is the tour guide.

the back view of the Captains home, the outside view of the Captains home (all interiors were filmed in Hollywood), we went to the small town of Mondsee to see the church where Maria and the Captain were married and had an hour to wander around the town. It was great fun. I would take it again - in better weather....
Church where the Captain & Maria were married.



Of course last night I went to see The Sound of Music musical that is playing here in Salzburg - for the first time in 30 plus years. The last time people walked out when mention of the Nazis came up as it is still a sensitive subject here in Austria. (as it is in Germany) The stage play is different from the movie with a couple of extra songs and more emphasis on the war/Nazis. I absolutely loved it of course. It was performed in Germany but at the end the whole cast came out and sang The Sound of Music and So Long Farewell in English as as salute to Rodgers and Hammerstein. A lovely evening!!!

All in all a great day despite the crazy weather. I had hoped to dine at the oldest restaurant in town however I was seated then soundly ignored by the snooty waiters so I left. I had a wonderful dinner of beef goulash and a huge dumpling in a wonderful place in the New town which was close to the theatre. I then wandered along and had apple strudel at a coffee shop - coffee shops are much more formal than the Starbucks, Tim Hortons at home. Coffee here is strong and does not come extra large or double double!!!

Today it looks like the sun will come out. I slept in a bit later. I think the Lake District is calling me today however I will probably only visit one place rather than the three I had planned. First stop however is at ATM!!!

I am typing this at my breakfast table - I must get a picture of the table groaning with all the food - meat, cheese, bread, cake, fruit juice, jams, fruit and then there's the other table holding all kinds of cereal and yogurt. Very good. I would definitely stay here again.

Wifi is still off in my room but works here.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Exploring Salzburg

Busy day yesterday with visiting Mozart's birthplace and his apartments as well as visiting the Salzburg musuem, taking the cable car up to the fortress. Salzburg is a wonderful city and I have fallen in love with it. And I swear Disney could not do a better job with the whole Christmas thing - amazing! I am so glad I am seeing it at this time of year. I'll be back in warmer weather to see another side of it.

A thrill for me was visiting the place Mozart was born and grew up. Even saw a piano he composed on. Wow. Can you tell he is one of my favourite composers - second only to Mr. McCartney. Both buildings were recreated to be like the time he would have lived there so that was very interesting. Copies of letters he wrote to his mother and sister...just a great insight into his life. After visiting the house he lived in before he moved to Vienna I walked over to Mirabell Gardens where some outdoor bits of the Sound of Music was filmed. (where they are running around a fountain, etc.) There I visited the Baroque museum which was a bit boring but included on the Salzburg card so why not. By this time it was drizzling again so a good respite from the rain. The Salzburg museum was interesting in some ways- I hadn't realized that Salzburg was founded by archbishops of the RC church. Oh well I won't hold that against it!!! It was full of religious stuff so that was boring to me - I am glad it was included in the pass and I didn't actually have to pay for it. The most outstanding thing about the museum to me were the sliding glass doors to the bathroom! But I was determined - when you are on the road you take advantage of pampering your bottom with nice toilets. It took me a while to figure out how to get in there! It is a very new museum. Downstairs was the Panorama museum with a Sound of Music display - now you're talking. I did enjoy that. There is an ice rink in front of the museum - Mozartplatz. (statue of Mozart as well) is the name of the square. The entrance to the Christmas market starts there too . I walked through and browsed a bit and got bratwurst and a bun. Sehr gut!

Advent market with St. Peters Archabbey in the background.


St Peters cemetery - where the Von Trapps hid from the Nazis in the movie. (though not in real life)
I took the cable car up to the Hohensalzburg Fortress and walked around but did not go inside the buildings as did not have time. A beautiful view over Salzburg on one side and to the mountains on the other. It is the largest preserved fortress in Europe. I knew it was a good view and with rain/sleet predicted for the weekend I thought I had better get up there and see the view in case there was no other opportunity.
View from the fortress towards Salzburg
At 4 p.m. I attended the Advent concert in St. Peters Archabbey. Somehow I had thought it would be right in the church but it was in a room. Anyway the music was lovely - there were two sopranos, a violinist and a pianist. Simple but perfect.

The sun barely peeked out however it was calm and quite warm. I went into a shop to buy a bottle of water on the way to the bus and when I came out there were gale force winds. It was quite scary actually and came up so suddenly. A lady at the bus stop told me we never get winds like this here! I got back here safely though.

Here's hoping the weather changes for the better. I am enjoying Salzburg but must come in warmer weather.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Gut Morgan von Salzburg

Left: This is the spread I had every morning - on the other table was yogurt and cereal...

Yes here I am. I did not know the wifi code until this morning...forgot to ask. Due to upcoming inclement weather many people have cancelled so I am in the main house with wifi. Lovely place and wonderful breakfast buffet.

The flight over here was good - was lucky enough to sit beside a gal who was originally from Salzburg. She came to Canada as a small child and goes back every year..so she was able to give me tips on the city. One lowlight of the trip was accidentally fondling the fellow behind me's shoe clad foot...more on that later. It can only happen to me...

Train trip from Munich here was okay except that my bladder was ready to blow and there didn't seem to be anywhere for me to go to let it blow. Plus if there was there didn't seem to be anyone I could ask to watch my stuff.

Speaking of stuff...Eddie (my suitcase has been named for Eddie Windass from Coronation St as he is a pain in the ass too) has been a pain. Oh well once I hit Germany I will lose a bit of the weight and I realize I've got some English coins in there that weigh a bloody ton so might move them to my purse for the next travel day.

I was so exhausted when I got here I got a taxi after grabbing a croissant (forgive me...a Mozart croissant...not that it tasted much different) and made the new travelers mistake of going to bed at 4:30 p.m. but I just could not keep my eyes open any longer. Of course I was awake at 8:3 then again at midnight. I was cursing myself that I did not ask for the wifi code (which turned out to be self explanatory if I had had half a brain and been awake) so I could have blogged and facebooked the night away.

Anyway time to go exploring - I bought a Salzburg card yesterday so plan to explore Mozart's birthplace and home as well as as much as I can do before attending an advent concert at 4 p.m.

More later!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Free wifi at Toronto airport

You gotta love it. Flight out here was good and watched "Cotagion" on the plane. I love those individual screens. Had the yummiest salad - spinach salad with all sorts of veggies, orange poppy seed dressing with grilled fat shrimp on top. I am being good and drinking lots of water. I feel like a packhorse already as my suitcase was 35 pounds...yikes. The Air Canada check in person said oh you are allowed 50 lbs....not the point...blame it on Xmas gifts and heavy winter clothing and two pairs of shoes. (normally I take two pairs - one on my feet and one in my suitcase...not two in the suitcase like today - but I just can't go to the ballet in Paris in running shoes or hiking boots...I am no fashion queen, not even a princess or a lady in waiting - but even I draw the line at that)

Loads of people in here so I have no illusions that my flight to Munich will be packed to the rafters. Oh well I have an aisle seat so am free to drink water to my heart's content and not worry about disturbing anyone.

Off to Facebook!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tomorrow, tomorrow...I love you tomorrow...you're only a sleep away!

Oops wrong musical....anyway I leave tomorrow for Europe - Salzburg is the first port of call and I will be seeing The Sound of Music on Saturday evening. That morning I will be taking The Sound of Music tour so what a day that will be!!! I am sure I will love Salzburg - what is not to love - a city nestled in the mountains, the home of Mozart and the setting for The Sound of Music movie.

My internet access there will be spotty - I guess it is available in the main building where I will have my breakfast. I am staying in the farmhouse - economy room - cheap as always. Here is where I will be staying:

http://www.ammoos.at/en-home.htm

It looks delightful and apparently is right by a mountain - it is outside of Salzburg but the price was right and I like the idea of being away from the town for something different. The fact they have a sweet little doggie appeals as well.

click on low price room and that's me.

I am all checked in, packed and raring to go. My suitcase seems to get heavier every trip - guess that's one of the signs of old age.... I wish I was one of those people who could go carry on but not for a one month stay and not with Christmas gifts. That's my excuse and I am sticking to it!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sprucing it up

Looking at other blogs makes me feel ashamed at how "low tech" this one is. I guess I will have to work on it. I need to put more pictures on as well. Another project: going through old diaries and putting them on here. With editing of course! I am sure people don't want to read about me drooling over all the 'cute guys' in the Montreal airport when I took off for my very first overseas trip in January 1975. It's fun to read old diaries. I've fallen off the wagon a bit that way but have bought two Christmasy diaries (cheapo ones from Michaels) so hope to have a hand written journal of my upcoming trip for my eyes only. (I don't tell you guys everything!!!) This trip is low key enough I should have the time to sit every day and write.

I also have to play around with my netbook and figure out why my blog comes up in very tiny font and I can't seem to get rid of it. Needless to say I cannot blog when that is happening. This is just something recent that has been happening. Any suggestions? The first part of the trip will be interesting as the bed and breakfast I am staying at only has wifi in the main house where I will be at breakfast. So guess I will type something up in word and take my netbook with me to brekky and plop it in. My friend in Germany does not have internet access so will be "offline" (Screech!) for 8 days. Yikes. Perhaps I can go to an internet cafe once but that is difficult when you know someone is waiting for you. Paris and London both have wifi - I wonder if Simon has fixed it so I can actually have a good connection in my bedroom or will I have to sit on the stairs again. Oh well for 25 pounds a night I am not going to complain!!!

Ah, the buzzer is going - time to go wash the dye out of my hair!!!!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Plans afoot

Wow I did not post in October at all. I spent Thanksgiving with family in Lethbridge and that was very nice. Had my oldest friend to stay last weekend and that was lots of fun. Other than that I have been working. I really need to do more playing so am going to fix that in the next few weeks. Lots of friends to catch up with before I hit the road again.

Plans are all set for Europe - airfare booked (Air Canada as their schedule was the easiest and most reasonable), accommodation booked, two train journeys booked (the other two tickets will be bought the day of travel) I even have my suitcase out - nothing in it yet but it's there ready to hit the road. I wish I was one of those people who could take off for a month with a carry on but sadly I'm not. I am going with my big duffle - well I call it big but it depends on who you talk to!! Traveling in winter means I will be taking warm bulky clothes. I may try fitting things into my medium sized suitcase (just over carry on size) but don't think that will work...

One of the reasons I booked to go to Europe rather than Vietnam/Cambodia as originally planned was that I wanted to take another winter holiday and would not have been able to afford two if I'd gone somewhere a bit further flung. (besides the fact I need a break from squat toilets and trying to cross insanely crazy roads buzzing with motor bikes all out to get me) Winter here is harsh and long. I decided to go to California and do a half marathon I've been dying to do for ages. And then I got looking at options and to make a long story short two and a half weeks after I get home I fly off to California for over a week then off to Austin, Texas for three nights. Why Austin? Because it's the capital of Texas and I am on a mission to walk in all the state capitals of the U.S. I have had an interest in Austin for quite a while - it is a funky artsy city with more liberals in it than is common for redneck Texas. I am quite looking forward to it. I have booked an Airbnb place that looks adorable - and for $50 a night. I can't wait. Lots to look forward to. And yes I am doing it solo. It works for me. The lady whose house I am staying at sounds so nice and the reviews of her place are great. I love the idea of staying in a normal neighbourhood and meeting local people as well as picking up food to bring home to heat up (note I don't say COOK...no way not on holidays!) rather than constant restaurant eating. Paris and Austin are my first forays into the Airbnb world and if it works I will be going that route most of the time from now on.

I got a great rate - my total airfare came to $607 which includes taxes - that is flying from Regina to Orange County, Orange County to Austin and Austin back home again. So I have loads to look forward to.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Howdy from Calgary


Bow river in Calgary

Having a great time here visiting with good friends and celebrating an 85th birthday. I flew in on Friday morning. Quite the descent - we must have hit an air pocket as we dropped quite a ways and everyone on the plane either screamed, yelled or yelped (me). That is the worst I've ever experienced after 40 plus years of flying. However I arrived safe and sound and got the bus into Calgary. Too early to check into the hotel so I changed and went to the Buffalo 1886 cafe at Eau Claire market - had a grilled cheese, mushroom, bacon & onion sandwich with little potatoes. Expensive but good. The cafe was an old building made of wood. Off I went on my 11 km walk along the Bow river - it started out cloudy but the sun came out and it was great. The leaves are changing here and it's beautiful. Just trying not to think what comes after fall!!! (boo, hiss!) I had a bit of a distraction once I got to the other side of the river and hit Kensington. I love that area! I had a Mount Everest coffee (coffee, irish cream, whipped cream...yum) and a sit down. Then I went into a Tibetan shop and got myself a little "donut" for my singing bowl I got in Nepal as well as a lovely pair of earrings. I then headed back to the hotel and checked in - wow a one bedroom apartment for $74. Yee haw. I "freshened" up, changed and headed to Mountain Equipment Co-op but could not find anything that fit/I liked except socks! I then headed out to the Himalyan restaurant only to discover it was closed until 5 p.m. and this was 3?45 so I had a greek salad and spinach pie at a restaurant just down the road. Disappointing...did not get my momo's. Oh well I do plan to return as it's just a weekend trip on the hound and will do the other walk on the Elbow River as well - and maybe sneak out to Banff or Canmore. The rest of the weekend was spent with friends and had a lovely time. I started this post in Calgary but could not finish it for various reasons so here I am one week later. It was an emotional weekend - the friends I stayed with had to put their little doggie to sleep and so very sad...she was a sweet little girl. It is very hard to say goodbye to a much loved family member - whether they have two legs or four.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Cooling my heels and making plans

Yes I am cooling my heels until my next trip which will be to Calgary in less than three weeks. It will be a weekend of seeing old friends and celebrating an 85th birthday - I am looking forward to it. Using airmiles and actually flying for a change rather than the hound.

I am getting quite restless and it's only been about five or six weeks since my last jaunt. Sometimes I wish I was one of those people that are happy with a holiday once a year but that lasts a few seconds and then I think nah...I like being on the road. Due to work I am pretty well tied to long weekends until my month in Europe at Christmas.

I have been invited to go to Germany for Christmas for years now and kept putting it off but decided I should go for it. My adventurous spirit is kind of having a reprieve and also thought my wallet needed a break so far flung travel is put off until the winter of 2012/13...and just watch me then!!!

I am busy planning that...no airfares booked yet but I know what I am doing - five days in Salzburg where I will see The Sound of Music on stage - I enjoy the stage version too and even if it's in German I will be able to follow it. I will do The Sound of Music tour. Also the birth place of Mozart - my second favourite composer...can't wait to immerse myself in all the touristy Mozart stuff like visiting his birth place, home he lived in later in his childhood and attend a concert. Plus of course the Christmas markets. Perhaps take a day trip into the mountains. I am staying at a guest house on the outskirts of Salzburg that's right on the edge of a mountain apparently - it gets wonderful reviews. Very reasonable too. Then on to Heiligenstadt in northern Bavaria where I will spend about 8 days with my friend Claudia and her mother. Heiligenstadt is a village with lots of great hiking around it and we plan to visit the famous Xmas market in Nuremburg (where Claudia used to live and I have been to many times) as well as others I am sure. I will have a traditional German Christmas meal and might consent to going to church for either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day - not both heaven forbid plus I won't know what the hell they are saying. Claudia's mum is an amazing cook and her cakes are to die for - I will need those hikes trust me. Then I will head to Paris where I will spend New Years - I booked a room through Airbnb.com - my first experience with them so am quite excited. I have to sleep on a futon but for $70 a night in Paris I can handle it. It sounds like the hostess will be away so guess I will be alone in the flat which does not bother me in the slightest although I was looking forward to meeting her and her doggie. Before I leave I will post links on here to all my abodes. I plan to wander around Paris doing a few walks from the Lonely Planet book (from my ereader - should be interesting...) and just enjoying the ambiance. Not planning anything - just get up and go wherever. I will probably spend New Years in Montmartre where it's a quieter New Years celebration. It will be a delicious feeling to wake up New Years morning in Paris. Stopping for a coffee or snack when I feel like it...ah the joys of solo travel! I look forward to bringing food back to the flat and "eating in" for most of the time and having a morning cappucino or cafe au lait and pastry in a coffee shop for "breakfast". Then on the 2nd of January I will take the Eurostar train through the "chunnel" to my beloved London where I will be for nearly two weeks. I plan to see some friends and also walk a good portion of the Thames Path as well as do other walks. I also plan to see a few plays - just found out there will be an alternate version of The Nutcracker at the Sadler Wells theatre so that will be fun. I can't get enough of it....I will be attending one before I leave Regina too. It is at the Royal Opera House as well but I saw it there in 1999...although that is a long time ago....So have to get busy looking on line and my Thames Path book to see how far I can go each day...probably be "Corrie" days or short hiking days when I have performances to attend in the evening. Don't think they'd want me in my hiking boots and water proofs! In theory I'd love to walk from the Thames Barrier to Henley which is almost 80 miles but we shall see. I want to pop in to see things a long the way and of course it gets dark early in January... Not sure I have enough time as I want to do other walks and other things and it's only 12 days...sigh...I will save the more rural part for when I visit England in better weather...

Lots to look forward to!! Now I guess it's back to cleaning the apartment...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Windy City Part 2

Sunday July 31st.... We had a relaxing morning and then headed over to Terry's place to pick her up. We were off to Woodfield, a huge shopping mall - but on the way we stopped for lunch. We had Italian beef sandwiches at Portillos which were good and got us all pumped up for some shopping. At Woodfield I bought a couple of things - a pair of walking socks ( I am obsessed with walking socks but I have not had a blister in my ten years plus of long distance walking...some hot spots when I've worn my shoes past their prime but never blisters...) and a turquoise blue Chicago t-shirt which has turned out to be a favourite. Due to having carry on and determined for it to be carry on on the way home (something I regularly fail at) I could not buy much. Back to Gloria's to change and then we were off to the Paul concert at Wrigley Stadium. A friend of Terry and Gloria's accompanied us and being as she knew the manager at the CVS drugstore close to Wrigley we were able to park there which was wonderful. Only a four block walk. We got there early so we could peruse the merchandise on sale - I bought myself a black t-shirt with a picture of Sir Paul on the front and the Wrigley dates on the back. $40. Yikes but oh well it doesn't happen that often. I carried on onto the field - I was in the third row which is the closest I've ever been. Oh for those who say "he must know you by now". Um...no. Except for a book signing in 2005 I have not seen him up close since the 80's. Don't think his memory is quite THAT good!! My seat in the third row was quite far over but it was still fun. I was able to quickly meet my penpals Mary and Linda from the 60's - we reconnected on Facebook. Say what you will about Facebook but it is a wonderful tool for reconnecting people. We were meeting the next day for lunch so more on that later. I patiently waited except for a nervous pre-concert potty stop in the porta-potties. Then he came on and once again totally blew everyone's mind for nearly three hours. I always bitch about the price of tickets but at the end of the concert it was totally worth it. It makes me feel like a teenager again and is so much fun. For people who say I am a "stalker" (and yes, there are some...) I say BITE ME. (and trust me, compared to some people the amount I see him is nothing) As long as he is touring I will be hitting the road. Anyway we all enjoyed the concert and it was a happy trio heading back home. We were starving so stopped and had a very late supper - 1 a.m.? - at a 24 hour restaurant. I had a grilled cheese sandwich and a chocolate milkshake - not my usual fare at any time let alone 1 a.m. but luckily my stomach forgave me. (my waistline..not so much...)
The next morning I had a quick shower and breakfast then Gloria drove me to the "El" train station whereI took a train downtown to meet up with Linda and Mary for lunch. I walked over to North Michigan Avenue stopping to see the huge statue of Marilyn Monroe. I met Linda (from Pennsylvania) and Mary (from South Carolina) in the lobby of the Grand Lux Cafe and we had such a wonderful visit. I wrote the two of them (amongst other penpals) in the late 60's and lost touch about 1971. We reconnected on Facebook. I was so excited when I heard that they were going to be in Chicago and we would meet at last. (the two of them go to concerts together) It was so much fun and hopefully we can meet up again at another concert. Who would have thought back in the late 60's that 1) Paul would still be making music and performing in 2011 and 2) we would still be going to concerts (heck for me, going to see a Beatle live period and 3) I would get to meet them. On the way back to the "El" station I took photos of the Chicago River and the beautiful buildings surrounding it. Back to Gloria's and a quick sandwich at Terry's before we headed off to the next concert. If possible this one was even better...he changed the set list slightly which was wonderful. That is the only criticism of his concerts - the same songs and the same banter. He did "I Saw Her Standing There" which is my all time favourite song he sings live - nothing can compare with singing (or in my case shrieking...) the "ooos" with him. At the end of the concerts red, white and blue pieces of paper are released - I am still picking them out of my purse. (my hair was covered with them) Such fun. We met up at McDonalds which is where we had met "the night before" and then walked to the drugstore to get the car and head home. We stopped again at the same diner and the waitress recognized us - I had some kind of skillet scramble which was good.
The next morning Gloria drove me to the airport and I flew home via Minneapolis and took a taxi to work - yep how is that for being dedicated. However I was relieving someone and it was only due to the kindness of the manager that I was able to attend that second concert. I felt that was the least I could do.
What a fabulous weekend...I am so glad I did it. Chicago is a beautiful city and I hope to get back to explore her museums and do some of the walks there. It was my fifth trip there but there is still so much to explore. Thanks Terry and Gloria, Mary, Linda and Paul!!!! You made the weekend FAB!


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Windy City Part 1

Well here I am over two weeks later...my access to the internet was sporadic while I was in Chicago so I could not work on my blog. What's my other excuse for being so late? None really - how about laziness? Yeah, that'll work.

What can I say a weekend with good friends, beautiful city, sunshine every day and Paul McCartney. It HAS to be a good time - and it was.
I flew out on the early morning of Friday July 29th on United airlines - direct flights to Chicago from Regina now - gotta love it. My flight was on time and went well but customs in Chicago was pretty jammed up. Finally I got through and phoned my friend Gloria...no answer....oh oh...phoned my friend Terry...voicemail...oh dear. Luckily I had Terry's cell phone and was able to reach her. Thank goodness!!! Turns out I thought I had Gloria's home phone and it was her cell phone which she rarely uses - kinda like me...

It took them a while to get to the airport due to me arriving at Terminal 5 (international) which is hard to get to. Anyway there they were and off we went to Terry's place for lunch - ham sandwiches, potato salad and coleslaw and coke - perfect. It hit the spot. I also got to meet Terry's cute little doggie Casper. We decided to go to Lincoln Park Zoo. So off we went in Terry's car and had a wonderful time at the zoo. My favourites have always been the meerkats. So cute! We managed to see pretty well the whole zoo before it closed. Then it was time for some deep dish pizza - I can't remember the name of the place we went to but the stuffed spinach and cheese pizza was fabulous. It has layers or spinach and cheese and sauce with some sauce on the top rather than cheese ...oh and we had bruscetta to start. I love pizza - if I ever had to have a "last" meal it would be pizza. Back to Gloria's where I got to meet Wren the kitty - but Arbus the other cat hid from me the whole time. He spent the whole weekend (at least when I was in the house) hiding under the sofa.

Saturday morning we went out to the suburbs to visit Gloria's brother and then popped into the charity shop she works at. Then we drove over to Terry's and took the commuter train downtown from there. We had lunch at the train station at a sandwich shop. Then we headed over to the Willis (formerly Sears) tower only to find that there was at least an hour and a half wait. Bummer!! But it was summer and a Saturday to boot...what can you do? Next time I guess - I have been up it but not since 1981 or 82 (I was there both years but can't remember what I did when except I know I attended Beatlefest both years) So we headed over to Millennium Park and saw the Crown fountain. I had seen this back in 05 as well - amazing! It has two screens on either end with (changing) faces projected and at various times water spurts out of their mouths. Being a very hot day both children and adults were splashing in the water. It was a delight. We carried on over to Cloudgate - known locally as The Bean. A mirror in the shape of a bean - love it. We then walked over a bridge that went over Lake shore drive and sat down and drank some water. It was HOT. We then decided to take a taxi over to Navy Pier. Terry and Gloria treated me to a ticket on Windy - a sailing vessel complete with pirates! We had about an hour to wait so went to Haagen Dazs for ice cream. I had Rocky Road and ended up wearing most of it....I tend to avoid chocolate ice cream for that very reason but I just could not resist this time. The sailboat ride was lovely - I just enjoyed being out on beautiful Lake Michigan and admiring the skyline. You can never get tired of that fantastic skyline. Afterwards we went to a restaurant called Capi's Italian Kitchen. You lined up and ordered your meal and then they brought it out to you - I had the Cavatappi with Mushrooms - three kinds of mushrooms with carmelized onions in a cream sauce. Enough said!!! We then took a taxi back to a metro station and got the metro back to Terry's place and back home to Gloria's to relax. Another super day!!!

What a cutie pie.
Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree....

When I took this photos I thought it was cute that the little guy was looking at me but didn't see what he had in his hands....oh well a guy has to do what a guy has to do....

Chewy gooey stuffed pizza...oh I want me some...it was good!

One side of Crown fountain, Millennium Park.
"Cloudgate" but called The Bean by the locals

Part of the Chicago skyline

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Hi from Chicago

Heading downtown in a few minutes so a quick post. Yesterday we went to the Lincoln Park
Zoo and then had stuffed spinach pizza for supper -delish. Today we are going up the Willis (formerly Sears) tower and to the lake front. We will stay and watch the fireworks at Navy Pier.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chic ago, Chicago

In less than twelve hours I will be on the road...or should I say in the air...to Chicago. Spending a long weekend with friends and seeing Paul...no need to say last names is there. It's going to be a HOT one...whew...and I don't mean me getting all hot seeing Paul (although that will be added heat I must admit) but it will be equal to 104 on Sunday and 100 on Monday.

I will try to blog...have netbook will travel....

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A European Christmas

Yep, I will be spending Christmas in Germany this year. I will be staying with my friend Claudia who lives in a small village in northern Bavaria. I have been there many times before but never for Christmas. It should be fun. Before that I will be in Salzburg, Austria for five days. I don't know how I survived this long without going there as not only is it the home of Mozart but the filming of The Sound of Music, my favourite movie OF ALL TIME was done there. My Mecca. I can't wait! I have a ticket to see "The Sound of Music" on December 17th - it hasn't been performed live in Salzburg in a long time. So what if it's in German, I know every damn word anyway!!! And to pick up all those (over the top touristy) Mozart vibes, I can't wait. You know there will be a concert of Mozart in there somewhere. Mozart and McCartney - the best composers ever! Other than that things are still being worked out - all I know is I will be spending the last part of the holiday in London. How can I not go with being on that side of the pond? I hope to start seriously walking the Thames Path and finish up in May of 2013. The Thames Path is 180 km long so it will be quite the challenge. I hope to do a great deal of the London part of it while I am there. It will get me in shape for the next challenge - the Surf City half marathon in Huntington Beach, California on February 6th. But that is another post...

I wrote a book!

Well not really but I did get this blog printed into a soft cover book. I love it!! All my adventures in one package. I am already planning to get another one printed in a couple of years and hopefully there will be lots of new adventures....South India, Vietnam, Cambodia to name a few....fingers crossed!!!

One thing I noticed is that I haven't been posting too many photos lately - it's just a pain in the you know where. I will try though - of course if you are my "friend" on Facebook you can see all the photos.

Next jaunt is to Chicago next weekend to see Paul McCartney as well as some friends - all Beatles fans of course. It is going to be so much fun; I can't wait!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

England 1997

Yep another trip to England....all good!

My Trip to England 1997

Thursday September 18th After months of anticipation September 18th finally arrived. Neil drove me to the airport and I boarded my flight to Toronto. A good flight with an edible meal and a film called “Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion” that didn’t take much concentration. My flight to London was due to leave at 7:15 however Air Canada announced that they were overbooked and asked for volunteers to take the later flight at 11 p.m. - the “reward” was a $500 voucher towards future travel on Air Canada. I sprang out of my seat and flew to the check-in desk and volunteered immediately. No one was meeting me in London so it didn’t matter when I got there. I also got a meal voucher as the later flight did not leave until 11 p.m. The flight over was good except for the strange man I sat beside. He brought three pieces of huge luggage on board and attempted to put them into the overhead bins, constantly moaned to the flight attendants, brought his own picnic lunch (complete with a loaf of bread, smoked sausages and carton of milk), spent most of the flight with a blanket over his head (and one around him that he nicked from me) and nearly knocked me and a few other passengers off our feet with his luggage cart on the way to passport control. A lady across the aisle and I rolled our eyes and grinned the whole way across and she told me at the end I certainly had a good sense of humour. Upon arriving at Heathrow I took a coach down to Brighton on the south coast.

In Brighton I stayed at the Kimberley Hotel which was close to the sea. The breakfasts were huge - cereal, bacon, sausage, eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes, toast and coffee - and kept me going until late afternoon. After a bit of wandering around I admitted defeat and went back to the room and had an early night - didn’t even stay up to watch “Coronation Street”!

Saturday September 20th - This morning I walked along to the Brighton Marina. On the way I ran into a lady walking her dog and as we chatted and she learned I was a tourist she recommended going to Rottingdean. I carried on to the Marina where I saw a replica of the Endeavour which is the ship that Captain Cook sailed the world in. It is really very beautiful - the wood work is fantastic and I imagine it is really something in full sail. It was leaving that Monday and now I regret not staying around to watch it leave but I had other plans. On the way back I walked along the beach which is a rocky beach and was “treated” to the sight of a pervert who had camped on the beach and was toddling around with his anorak on and nothing else. I chuckled to myself and carried on to the Brighton Pavilion. This was built for King George IV as a seaside residence and he spent a lot of time there but his niece Queen Victoria thought it “vulgar” and did not visit. Brighton bought it from the Royal family and it is furnished with many original pieces. It is really unique as the exterior is East Indian and the interior Chinese. Very interesting!!! From there I took the bus out to Rottingdean and had a look around the village. It is a pretty little place on the sea.

Sunday September 21st This morning I took the train to Arundel Castle which was beautiful. This castle was built in the 11th century by Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Arundel. It has been the seat of the Dukes of Norfolk and the Earls of Arundel for over seven hundred years. It is a huge castle with fantastic furnishings and beautifully decorated rooms. I attempted to climb to the Castle Keep but had to turn back as the stairway was too steep and the steps too narrow - I don’t climb well!! I walked around the grounds for a while and then carried on over to the Waterfowl Park which was nice. Took me a while to get back to Brighton as I got on the wrong train!!! I had to change trains at Ford and I stepped on the London train which dropped me back in - you’ve got it - Arundel! I realized my mistake the second I sat down but just as I went to open the door the train started moving! So then I had to wait and catch a train back to Ford and then wait for a train to Brighton. The two trains arrive so closely together that it is easy to get confused except the second time around I noticed the TV monitor stating which train it was! Oh well!!!

Monday September 22nd This morning I headed over to the village of Alfriston in the Cuckmere Valley. It is one of the many that are called “the prettiest village in England”. It was a pretty little village all right but the prettiest? I looked around a bit but I was a woman on a mission and the mission was to walk as far as Birling Gap on the coast. After purchasing juice (I always carry water with me), a sandwich and chocolate bar off I set. I walked along the Cuckmere River and met many other walkers that I chatted to along the way. I had an Ordinance Survey map but despite that I kept getting lost. To make a long story short I only made it as far as Exmeat. It was quite funny actually as I ran across civilization sooner than I had hoped and I saw a bus and nearly got killed running for it. It was headed in the wrong direction but luckily I found that out before I got on!!! I hopped a bus to Eastbourne and as if my feet weren’t sore enough I went to the shopping centre and invaded Marks and Spencer. I walked along the promenade and on to the pier as well. I took the bus back to Brighton and rested my aching feet while eating one of Marks and Spencers special salads.

Tuesday September 23rd Today I met my penpal Judi and her friend Erin. We had a great day together looking in the shops in The Lanes and walking along the sea front to the Palace Pier. There we sat and had a good chat. We ended our time together by going to Donatello’s for a super Italian meal - I had garlic bread followed by Fusilli with a walnut, blue cheese and cream sauce. It was delicious. Cappuccino finished it off. It was a nice relaxing day, which I needed at that point.

Wednesday September 24th I had the big “brekkie” this morning as I knew it would be a day I’d need the energy. Took the bus to Eastbourne and then from there then the bus to Beachy Head. I walked about 2 miles along the cliffs to Birling Gap (where the above picture was taken) where I had a cup of tea and sat on the beach and enjoyed the sea. The coast is spectacular with huge chalk cliffs. It was especially beautiful that day as the sun was shining - with the blue sky, the white cliffs, green downs and the fantastic blue sea it was breathtaking and something I won’t forget. I decided to carry on walking along the coast which would take me over the Seven Sisters which are actually eight hills with cliffs on the seaward side. For a prairie girl this was a daunting task but I decided I was up to it so off I went. Up and down, up and down I went. It is quite amusing to watch my video of this walk and hear my gasps for air and the comments I make - at one point I promised myself a cream tea and a huge chocolate bar at the end of the walk! Finally it was over but you know I would do it again. I walked through the Seven Sisters Country Park and back to Exmeat where I caught the bus back to Rotting Dean. I had a cream tea like I had promised myself. Back to my room in time for “Coronation Street”!!

Thursday September 25th I took the train to Rye and walked around this ancient town. Visited Mermaid Street which is a very old narrow cobblestone street. Walked past the castle and castle square and just absorbed the wonderful atmosphere of this beautiful old town. Rye is one of the original Cinque Ports. The sun shone which was a vast difference from my last trip there in 1981 when I had to run from shop to shop - however I had other good things happening on that trip in 1981 so there were no complaints then! There were plenty of tourists about though and after a while it just got a bit too crowded so I hopped the train to Battle. Battle is the site of the 1066 battle between William of Normandy and King Harold of England. Of course William (the Conqueror) won and Battle Abbey was built on the site of the battle. It is a ruin now (thanks to Henry VIII) but a very beautiful ruin. It was an interesting place to visit and they had excellent audio facilities as you walked around the battlefield area. Really enjoyed it. That evening I visited Neil’s brother Stuart and family - they have four children ranging in age from ten down to four so it was quite an “interesting” evening.

Friday September 26th - This morning I headed over to Lewes. It is a pretty old town. I visited the castle and I was able to get up to the Castle Keep on this one. Looked in the shops and just enjoyed the atmosphere of the town. I then headed back to Brighton and picked up a sandwich and sat by the sea. Then I committed a sin on a sunny day - I went to see a movie! I went to see the movie “Bean” which I enjoyed - at that point it hadn’t been released in Canada yet and I wanted to see it. It was funny but there were only two of us in the theatre so it felt a bit strange! After that I went and lay on the pebble beach soaking up the sunshine as I anticipated non-stop rain in the Lake District. From there I headed to the launderette and did two huge loads of laundry and then picked up fish and chips on the way back to the hotel.

Saturday September 27th - Hopped the train to East Croydon then on to Milton Keynes and Penrith for my week in the Lake District. The van was waiting at the station to take us to the holiday house in Portinscale which is one mile from Keswick. Derwent Bank - the holiday house - was wonderful and much to my relief I had a room all to myself. I had been told I would have to share. My room had one window overlooking the lawn down to the lake and the other window overlooked a beautiful garden. After freshening up I headed down to the bar for a drink and met a few people who were doing the high mountain walks. The meal was good - as were all the meals. Afterwards we had coffee and listened to the leaders talk about the various walks. There were three or four a day and you chose one according to your fitness level. I stuck with the low level walks the whole week!!

Sunday September 28th - Our walk left at 10 a.m. this morning so had time for a leisurely breakfast and to pick out my lunch. Each evening they would post four or five sandwich choices and we would tick off what we wanted and then every morning they had a long table full of goodies for our lunches - fruit, yoghurt, eggs, cheese, cookies, chocolate bars, fruit cake, fruit bars - the selection was endless!! Our walk today was on Catbells Terrace near the house - it was a bit misty at first so the views weren’t that great but it was a great introduction to the walking routine. All the walks today were shorter due to the fact that we had to be back for a wonderful cream tea at 4 o’clock. This was not something that happened every day - just the once unfortunately!! Dinner was roast beef and Yorkshire pudding with trifle for dessert. Very good! I sat with Linda from Liverpool and Janette from Glasgow. There were about 40 people in all - about 15 from the U.S., one from Germany, one from Canada (me!) and the rest from the UK After dinner a park ranger gave a talk and slide show about the Lake District which was very interesting.

Monday September 29th - The coach picked us up at 9:15 and dropped us at Patterdale. From there we walked along Ullswater and was absolutely beautiful. We had great weather - in fact the whole week was good. Much better than I had expected. Our leader Ann was great and let us stop whenever we wanted to - we had two mini-lunch breaks - one was overlooking the lake and it was a “million dollar view” as one lady put it. Then we stopped at a beach for another break. We carried on and stopped at a pub - I didn’t even bother with a drink - just having a public toilet was good enough for me! This getting back to nature was hard for a city girl. My first attempt at finding a bush wasn’t too successful. In the midst of things I looked down the hill and saw people going along the path and thought “wait a minute, if I can see them they can probably see me!”. So then I let the “experts” pick a bush and used it after them! We carried on walking - we were to meet the coach at Pooley Bridge. I didn’t think Pooley Bridge would ever appear but lo and behold it finally did. The last one and a half miles were hard though as it was a nine mile walk. Dinner that night was an Italian buffet which was pretty good. Barn dancing followed and I laughed at the very thought - a hot bath and bed was more realistic for me!

Tuesday September 30 - Woke up this morning to a sore throat. I had breakfast and afterwards felt faint and dizzy so decided I had better not go on the walk that day. I was grateful I didn’t go on the walk as I did not feel well all day. I sat in the conservatory and read for a while then decided to go into Keswick. The launch left from just around the corner so I walked over there and five minutes across DerwentWater I was in Keswick. I looked around the shops and did a bit of gift buying then took the launch back to Portinscale after booking a tour for the next day. I had a nap all afternoon. Had a mushroom omelette for supper and an early night.

Wednesday October 1st - woke up feeling much better this morning. I started walking into Keswick but some other guests at HF stopped and picked me up which was nice. I looked around the shops again and then sat and had my lunch in a small park. Then I took the launch around DerwentWater before catching a tour of the South Lakes at 2 p.m. The tour was done by the National Trust in a mini-van. I got to sit in the front seat with the driver for most of the way so had a bird’s eye view. Quite exciting especially on the narrow roads when we would have to back up to let other cars past! The driver also stopped to let me take photos and/or video. It turned out to be a fairly sunny afternoon and the scenery was marvellous. Mountains covered with bracken, the lakes, the sheep, stone fences - well everything that is the Lake District. We drove by Thirlmere and on through the Grasmere Valley to Ambleside and then visited Tarn Hows. The Langdale Valley was absolutely fantastic. I saw the other HF Holiday house in Coniston so hope to visit there sometime in the next few years. We stopped for tea at the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel - a beautiful old hotel. The driver told us to go into the lounge and everything was all set up for us - pots of tea, homemade scones with preserves. It was wonderful to sit there and relax and we were the only people there. I had envisioned an ordinary tea shop so this was really special. It was a very enjoyable tour and well worth the money. We got dropped back in Keswick so I walked on the path back to Portinscale and or course I got lost but what else is new? Dinner was a buffet which was good. I sat with the same couple of ladies but we tried to sit at different tables each evening to meet different people. Everyone was very friendly and conversations were always interesting with lots of laughter.

Thursday October 2nd - This morning the coach dropped us at Crummock Water and we walked along beside it - it was so beautiful. However the path wasn’t - very rocky and boggy with a lot of jumping over rocks. Not my kind of fun. We stopped and found a dry inlet and had a break then carried on to Buttermere village. My feet were so sore I decided to stay in Buttermere village while the rest walked around Buttermere. (the lake) As it turned out the path was smooth and no problem and I could have done it but I didn’t want to carry on with scrambling over rocks. Anyway I had a nice time in Buttermere - the time flew by as I stopped into the shop and got an ice cream and sat outside and talked to a couple about their dog and then a whole group of us were busy discussing dogs, walking, Canada, etc. It was fun. I then walked over to the lake and took some photos - it looked beautiful with the Haystacks reflected in the water. The battery in my camera decided to die at that point but as I always carry a spare battery with me (I learned a bitter lesson about that back on top of a mountain in Jasper, Alberta in 1988 and have always carried one since!) I slipped it in and carried on. Met the group coming back and the coach took us back to our little home where I had pork and a decadent chocolate dessert for supper.

Friday October 3rd - After a full breakfast this morning (we could have pretty well anything we fancied for breakfast but I didn’t want to eat too much bacon, eggs, etc. so usually opted for porridge or muesli and toast) we headed off in the coach to Bassenthwaite Lake. Our luck with the weather was running out and it was drizzling a bit but still nothing like it could have been. We stopped at the ancient church of St. Bega and had a look inside then continued on through Dodd Wood where we had a wonderful view of Keswick and Portinscale. We carried on down to Portinscale and a few of us headed into Keswick for some last minute shopping. I treated myself to my last Lake District cream tea!!! Got back to the house in time to do some laundry and have a hot bath then enjoyed a fabulous Oriental buffet for dinner. A “talent” show followed featuring the leaders and some of the guests and it was hilarious.

Saturday October 4th - My last day in the Lake District. So sad!! I enjoyed one last breakfast with the group then caught the coach to Penrith station. There were engineering works on the railway so had to get the coach to Preston then the train to London. Arrived into London King’s Cross at around 3:30 p.m. and got a taxi to Cambria House which is a Salvation Army Hostel. It isn’t as grim as it sounds, honest!! It was hot in London so once I dragged my bags up the stairs I sat in front of the fan cooling myself off! I then changed and walked to Covent Garden and wandered around there for a while. Then I walked over to the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane to see “Miss Saigon”. It was very enjoyable - loved the music - but the ending was so so sad. I took the tube back to Cambria House jostling through all the crowds. London was much more crowded this trip than I ever remember it being before. Everywhere - the tube, the streets, everywhere. Eventually I got used to it - sort of!

Sunday October 5th - today I took the train up to Bedford to visit our family friend Tom. Had a great visit with him and he drove me around a bit in the surrounding villages. It was just nice to be in a home and have a home cooked meal after travelling for two weeks. Tom will be joining us for Christmas this year so our goodbyes weren’t too sad - “see you in two and a half months”!

Monday October 6th - caught the 8 a.m. train up to York then changed onto the train to Malton where my cousin’s widowed wife’s sister (got that?) picked me up. Billie is just like family. Dodo (my cousin Peter’s widow) was in the car waiting and it was great to see them both again. We drove back to Goathland which is a beautiful little village in the heart of the Yorkshire Moors (and the setting for “Heartbeat” a very popular British TV series that I watch over here)and were greeted by Harry, the Yorkshire terrier! After lunch we drove over to see Dodo’s daughter Judy who lives in a beautiful old house with a stream in her back garden! We had tea and cake and then went for a short walk with Emma, the English spaniel. After supper we went over to some cottages to visit a friend of Billie’s and then came back and settled in to watch the telly.

Tuesday October 7th - After breakfast Billie and I walked to the shops where I bought a few gifts. I got to see inside the cottage that my aunt and uncle stayed in for seven weeks in April/May and it was really cute. Dodo and Billie had to go to a funeral so Billie went back and I stayed on walking around the village and taking photos. I then walked over to the Goathland Information Centre which was very interesting. The history and geology of Goathland was interesting but what got me glued there was the “Heartbeat” display! Especially when they showed video of upcoming shows and interviews with the starsThey were going to be filming by the shops the next day but I felt I had to get back to London. Went back and had lunch and then Judy drove me to Malton station. The train from there was late as well as the one from London to York. The whole journey back was a nightmare really - but I made it back to Cambria House in one piece!

Wednesday October 8th - today I had my first bit of bad weather. I decided to visit Canterbury - a place I had never been. It was dull when I left London but by the time I got to Canterbury the rain was starting to fall and it gradually got worse and worse until it was blowing up a gale by late afternoon when I left. I was able to visit Canterbury Cathedral which was fantastic - I got a photographer’s permit so was able to take photos and video. This is where Thomas Beckett was murdered and there is a shrine to him there. Canterbury is such a gorgeous city but I did not see it at it’s best so a return trip is in order. I had to dash from shop to shop and could not wander the side streets and explore like I love to do. I managed one good thing - I got some shopping done. The trip back was another nightmare with train delays and then the fire brigade was at Oxford Circus which closed that station and any lines going through there. Another thing I have noticed - so many delays on the tube. It never used to be like that.

Thursday October 9th - Decided to stay in London today - finally!! I visited the Museum of the Moving Image which I enjoyed - it is a history of films. Good but I think you would appreciate it more if you were British as a lot of the things didn’t mean anything to me - especially retrospectives on the television shows. I went to Jane Asher’s tea room for a cream team and from there I walked over to Battersea Park which is somewhere I had never been before. Of course - my luck - sunny until just before I got there and the sun stayed away while I walked around until I left the park and was waiting for the bus!!! Took a bus (a good old double decker - love to ride in the front seat on the top!) back to Oxford Street and looked in the shops but bought nothing. I stopped by MPL, Paul McCartney’s offices and saw someone I used to be friendly with. We had a good chat and went for a cup of tea. I took the bus back to Cambria House then ran out to get fish and chips. On the way there a fella ran up to me and said (with an Irish accent) “Excuse me - I hope you didn’t hurt yourself when you fell from heaven. You’re beautiful!”. I just laughed - a drunk Irish man at that!!! Pat arrived at about 10 p.m. so we had a good chin wag.

Friday October 10th - Today was sunny so we did our “Now I know I’m in London tour”. We took the tube to Trafalgar Square and then walked on to our favourite park, St. James Park, saw the changing of the guard at Whitehall then went over to give our regards to Ben. (Big Ben to those who don’t know him as well as we do) Of course it didn’t matter that both of us were on our 13th and 15th trip to London respectively - it was snap, snap, snap with the camera!! And the video cameras were busy as well! We then took the tube up to St. John’s Wood and walked by Mecca - known to Beatle fans as Abbey Road - and then visited Paul McCartney’s London home which is nearby. Both of us have had pleasant encounters with Paul at that house so it is always on the “must see” tour of London. We caught a bus over to Regent’s Park and walked around a bit until it was too dark to get photos (we have our priorities!) then a bus back to Cambria House. On the way back we picked up shish kebabs which were wonderful. My pedometer said we had walked over ten miles that day and believe me we felt like it!

Saturday October 11th - This morning we set off for Hastings on the south coast. It was dull in London but when we got to Hastings - torrential rain. So disappointing - I felt badly for Pat as it was her one glimpse of the sea her entire trip and it was grey and horrible. We looked in the shops and had a cream tea in a restaurant overlooking the grey sea. It was no use going to the castle either. It was just dashing from one shop to the other just like in Canterbury. We walked to the Pier and had fish and chips and even that was disappointing. Hopped the train back to London and dropped off our cameras, etc. at Cambria House then headed over to the Tower of London. We admired Tower Bridge which was lit up. We then attended the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower. It is a ceremony that has gone on through wars and disasters for 900 years - it has only been late once during the last war. It was really exciting to be part of it. Basically it is just the locking up of the tower for the night but of course there is ceremony involved. Thrilling to be at the Tower at night as well!!!

Sunday October 12th - Woke up to a sunny day. We took the tube (we always got day passes for the tubes and buses) to Tower Hill where we took daylight pictures of Tower Bridge - to join the other fifty million pictures of Tower Bridge we already have! Luckily we are both keen photographers and quite often get the same idea for a shot. Then off to King’s Cross by tube then the bus to Regent’s Park. We visited the Queen Mary Rose Garden which was still beautiful even in mid October. About half the roses were still in bloom and so many different kinds. Wonderful. I love London’s parks so much. We caught the tube to Tower Hill again and got on the Docklands Light Railway - a first for both of us. It was so interesting to see the development in the old docks area of London - cranes everywhere and beautiful buildings. It seemed strange to see such new buildings in London - as long as there are still the old buildings I enjoy the contrast. We took the train to Island Gardens and then we walked through the tunnel that goes under the Thames to Greenwich. Neither of us had ever been through the tunnel before so it was truly a day of discovery for both of us. We walked around Greenwich and had fish and chips while sitting on the steps of a church - they were delicious! Then we had a pot of tea at a bakery/tea shop. Back under the tunnel and onto the railway again to Tower Gateway. We took photos and video of Tower Bridge then met our friends Vickie and Jim at Tower Hill tube station. From there we took a Jack the Ripper walk. It had the potential to be an interesting walk but not with 150+ other people along! Like I mentioned earlier London was CROWDED with tourists. Perhaps it was because of Princess Diana as someone has suggested to me - I don’t know. It was interesting to walk the back streets though and of course the guide pointed out where the bodies were discovered and some of the grisly details which I didn’t need to hear! You could not recreate any kind of atmosphere with a mob of us though.

Monday October 13th - We walked to Oxford Street and looked in some record shops and stopped in a Marks and Spencers for some treats. We then headed to Piccadilly Circus and looked around. From there we took the tube to Hyde Park Corner and walked through Hyde Park. I had never been in that part of the park before so that was interesting - we sat and had our veggies and dip for lunch. Then we decided to head over to the Royal Albert Hall and discovered we had missed seeing Paul McCartney arrive for the rehearsal. AAAARRRHGGHHH!!!!! To say we were disappointed is an understatement as there weren’t many fans there so he stopped for autographs. We then waited all day - taking a break to grab a quick meal. He finally came out around 10 o’clock but by then there were a mob of people and we could only see him from a distance. He was friendly though and did a little dance and waved at everyone.

Tuesday October 14th - After a hearty breakfast we headed over to the Royal Albert Hall and Paul arrived about 12:00. Due to the press I was only able to catch a glimpse of him getting out of the car then he was lost from sight even though he walked just a few feet from me. Between security and the press it was just impossible. After waiting around a bit in case he came out again we headed back to Cambria House with Vickie picking up shish kebabs on the way. Then back to the Royal Albert Hall to see the premiere of Paul’s classical symphony “Standing Stone” performed by the London Symphony. Our box seats were wonderful. Before the concert began I walked to the toilet and noticed Paul’s security guard standing in front of a party room. I kept walking back and forth to the washroom and the security guard kept an eye on me! I finally felt foolish and went to the box seat which I regretted as two women in our box came in all flushed and happy - they had gotten Paul’s autograph when he left the party shortly after I left. I wouldn’t have asked for an autograph but it would have been nice to have been able to wish him Good Luck for the evening. Anyway we took our seats and Paul and family took theirs and we were able to see them the whole evening which was nice. Nice???? It was wonderful!!!! The performance began and while I enjoyed most of it there were parts that bothered me and I walked out of there with a headache. I saw his wife, son and one of his daughters leave but Paul left from another exit. I just saw the fleeing car. Lucky Pat got a wave out the window from him but I was on the wrong side.

Wednesday October 15th - Pat headed back to the U.S. today and I was due to meet Claudia, my friend from Germany, at 10:30 a.m. I was late arriving due to the fire brigade at Oxford Circus once again - I had to change tube lines and it took forever - and this was leaving an hour before our meeting time. I finally found the location where her train arrived and there she was. We had a great day together. We walked from Victoria station down to St. James Park and to Trafalgar Square where we caught a tube to Hyde Park Corner. We had lunch at the Hard Rock CafĂ© then went to Harrods and had a look around. From there we took a bus to Kensington - I got us lost but we ended up in a pub so that worked out okay! From there we found Kensington High Street and looked in the shops. Claudia bought me a book which was sweet. We then headed over to Oxford St. and we parted ways. I was going to wait in line to get a wrist band as Paul was going to be signing autographs at HMV the next day. Well I found to my dismay that they had handed out wrist bands already - what I didn’t know was that they would be handing out more but I wouldn’t be there. I headed back to Cambria House feeling sorry for myself.

Thursday October 16th - This morning I headed to Oxford St. to do a bit of shopping and then went to Paul McCartney’s office in the hopes that he would show up but no such luck. Headed over to HMV where there was a mob scene - people all over Oxford St. with traffic trying to get by. Paul arrived but of course I hadn’t a hope of seeing him so just listened to him being interviewed over loudspeakers outside the store. I then headed back to his office in case he stopped there afterwards but he was a no show so I headed down Charing Cross Road to check out the book shops. I had a pizza/pasta buffet - food always comforts me!!! That evening I started organizing my things to get ready to go home.

Friday October 17th - Got the 9 a.m. train to York and then the bus to see my cousin Betty who lives in Bishopthorpe. She had moved since I was there last time and lives in a darling little bungalow. Said hello once again to Gemma, the Jack Russell terrier . We had a cup of coffee and chatted until her daughter Ann showed up for lunch. I hadn’t seen Ann since 1986 so it was great to see her again. We had a lovely lunch of salmon mousse and salads. We sat and visited some more over a cup of tea then Ann had to leave and Betty and I chatted a little while longer. Then she walked me to the bus stop and I took the bus back into York. I had a short browse around the shops and got myself a sweater at the Sweater Shop. I love York. It’s such a beautiful old city. Caught the train back to London and had to sit on a pull down seat in between the carriages the entire way as the train was late (of course) and there were loads of people - especially with it being the start of the weekend. By the time I got back to Cambria House it was 9 o’clock so didn’t feel like going out again.

Saturday October 18th - This morning was another gorgeous hot sunny day. I decided to explore further into Hyde Park so took the tube to Hyde Park Corner and retraced Pat and I my footsteps from earlier in the week but delved deeper into the park. It was fun approaching the familiar Serpentine from a different angle - I walked over to the Round Pond where in the distance I could see Kensington Palace. On the way I was lucky enough to see the Horse Guards in full uniform on their horses doing some practice so was able to catch that on my video camera. I walked from the park to Bayswater Road and caught the bus to Westminster. I was lucky enough once again to find the front seat at the top (the only way to travel on a double decker bus!!!!) so smiled the whole way - I love London!!! At Westminster I got dropped on the other side of the Thames so walked along and took photos of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. I walked back along the Embankment and debated on a trip to the Thames Barrier but the queue was much too long and I had other things I wanted to do. So I walked along the Embankment and then cut across to the Strand where I stopped in a shop and got a frozen Mars ice cream - those are fabulous - and realized this would be my last one until perhaps 2000? (sob!) I looked around Covent Garden but found nothing to take my fancy so carried on to Charring Cross Road and took the bus up to Camden Lock to visit the market there. Well it was so busy and crazy I didn’t even make it to the Lock and turned around and caught a bus further north to Hampstead Heath. I walked around there looking in the shops and then headed back to King’s Cross. I had my final fix of fish and chips to take back to the room. Got changed and headed off the London Palladium to see “Oliver!”. It was good but actually I enjoyed the amateur production I saw here in Regina a couple of years ago much more. Then back to Cambria House to pack my suitcase like a mad woman.

Sunday October 19th - my last day. I had booked a van to pick me up at Cambria House and take me to Heathrow so it showed up at 10:30 a.m. I got to sit in the front seat which was fun and we drove around London picking up other people and getting stuck in traffic jams. Got to the airport in plenty of time to look around the shops and pick up last minute things - like chocolate!!! The flight home was great as there was no one sitting beside me so could stretch out - I knew in the departure lounge that there was no way the plane would be full. They showed three movies - I watched two of them “Breakdown” and “Austin Powers: Man of Mystery”. Both were good - I had seen the latter before. The other movie - shown in between those two - was a stupid movie starring Bruce Willis that I dozed through. Had a couple of hours in Calgary then an hour flight home. Neil was there to meet me and there was Miss Sandy waiting in the car for me. She was sitting behind the wheel all ready to drive home but as soon as she saw me she started crying and I got lots of doggie kisses. Neil said she cried all the way to the airport when he told her we were going to see “mummy”.

I had a wonderful holiday in England as usual - my 15th!! Wish I could fly back anytime. What do I miss about England? The green grass, English accents, red phone boxes (when you can find them), red post-boxes, the chocolate, Mind the Gap, the double decker buses, the stone fences, Marks and Spencers food hall, London’s parks, the sheep - well I could go on. What don’t I miss? Paying a fortune for a room that you can’t swing a cat around in, the outrageous prices - there is very little that doesn’t cost more than here, the public toilets (most of them), most of the newspapers (when the headline or front page on ALL the papers has the break-up of the marriage of England’s soccer coach that is pretty sad) - other than that nothing!! I can’t wait until the next trip!!!!