Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Glitch #2

This is our 7th summer abroad. For the past six trips to Europe, Joe has rented us some AMAZING houses and apartments. I'd estimate we've stayed in almost 40 different rental homes in France, Italy, Spain and Germany.

Each place has been wonderful (okay, maybe not that farmhouse on the outskirts of Lyon where cows and flies were the number one attraction) and we have enjoyed our stays immensely. Joe has done a terrific job.


Glitch #1 happened in Dublin where the rental agency never showed up to let us into the apartment he had rented for us. Who knows what happened there.

Glitch #2 happened yesterday just after we landed at the Edinburgh airport.

We jumped on a bus to take us into the city and arrived tired and weary. We had caught the 6:30am flight out of Bristol which meant we had to wake up that morning at 3:45am.

Our first order of business was to eat breakfast. The second was to find the apartment.

We went to the tourist information centre to get a map of Edinburgh so we would know which way to go.

When we studied the map, the first thing we noticed was that the apartment was located on the outskirts of Edinburgh. "That's okay", we said to ourselves. "We're only going to be there to sleep."

We walked south for about 20 minutes and found the apartment block. We buzzed and a young man let us in. "Great!" Joe said. "Thank goodness someone is here to meet us! Not like the last time."

The building was somewhat old and decrepit. The stairs were ancient, dank and dark. But I have learned to reserve judgment because in the past I have been beyond thrilled when I've seen what is on the other side of apartment doors.

We walked into an apartment THAT LOOKED LIKE IT WAS BEING LIVED IN BY OTHER PEOPLE! Joe and I looked at each other with quizzical faces.

The young man, Greg, was very friendly. He showed us our room. It was the apartment's original sitting room. A double bed sat in the corner with a couch and a coffee table in the middle. We hadn't rented an apartment! We had rented a ROOM in an apartment!

Greg was from Poland and he was excited when we told him we were from Canada, that we lived in a little town just north of Vancouver. "My girlfriend lives in Vancouver! Just outside in a town called Coquitlam. Do you know of it?" Did we know it?! I told Greg I grew up in Coquitlam! He could not believe it. Such a small world.

He showed us the kitchen if we wanted to make tea or coffee. The counters were covered with food and kitchenware.


Greg then said, "Well, I have to go to work now. Here's the key. See you later. Have fun." We heard the apartment door slam.

I looked at Joe with a WTF expression on my face. Joe said, "Let's give it a chance. I can't see straight. I have to sleep."

And with that, he flopped on the bed. And then started to laugh. He held up a pillow. It had to be 2" thick at most.

I, too, laid down on the bed and we slept.

After our nap, I ventured out to find the bathroom. It was full of shampoo bottles, razors, toothpaste and toothbrushes, the usual paraphernalia one would find in a private bathroom. I sat down on the toilet and that was when I noticed there was no lock on the door.

I hurried back to our room and said, "I can't stay here." Joe agreed with me.

We quickly used Greg's WiFi to book us a hotel in the centre of the city.

We wrote Greg a note thanking him for his time, explaining that this kind of accommodation was not what we wanted. We left the note, along with the key, on the kitchen table and headed back down the long, winding staircase.

As we were walking towards town Joe said, "We'll, I guess I'm going to have to pay more attention to the details when renting us apartments." I agreed with him wholeheartedly.

And then he said, "Man, that was an expensive nap!"

Because of course we had already paid in full.

Click on the photo to get the full effect!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Freedom 55

You know the saying "Age is only a number"? It is absolutely true. Every single word of it.

Today I celebrated my 55th birthday. I don't feel that age. Oh sure, my bones and muscles are creaky and sore every once in a while. But feel 55? Not a chance.

I feel more like 25.

And sometimes I catch a glimpse of this overweight white-haired woman in the mirror and think "Who the hell is she?"

Looking out from this body I still feel youthful. I am game to try new things. I love learning. I enjoy hanging out with young people. (And then am shocked to discover I'm 30+ years older than they are. I always think we are the same age.) I'm interested in popular culture. I am young at heart.

Why do you think I teach 5 and 6 year olds? BECAUSE WE ARE KINDRED SPIRITS!

To celebrate my special day, Joe took me out for lunch at the Queens Arms in Pitminster, a little village about 10 minutes away from here by car. The building doesn't look like much, but behind its walls is a very good chef.

We sat at an open window in a charming dining room.

Joe asked for a yummy bottle of prosecco to start things off right.

We ordered roast beef with all the trimmings. It was the best meal we've had in England thus far.

I'd have 'licked the platter clean' but I didn't want to embarrass myself in public.

We barely had room in our stomachs for dessert but how could we say no to a dish of 'Gooseberry Fumble'?

So remember, age is only a number. Every birthday we live to see is cause for celebration. Another year! How lucky we are!

Gotta run! Joe and I are heading down to the local pub. It's 'Open Mic Night'. Who knows? Maybe I'll get up and belt out a couple of tunes for the crowd. You only live once!

*Don't forget to click on the photos to enlarge them!

Cheese Festival in Caerphilly, Wales

Yesterday we drove to Wales. It's not far from Taunton. It only took us an hour and a half to get there.

I had read about Caerphilly's famous cheese festival so we decided to check it out. About 70,000 people will visit the fair throughout the weekend! We figured it had to be good if that many people attended it.

The festival is held on the grounds of the Caerphilly Castle. Pretty impressive, I'd say.

It certainly had a festive air about it!

Lots of people, lots of dogs. Everyone enjoying themselves.

We were crossing the bridge to go into the castle, when I heard honking. I turned to look and there was a flotilla of geese paddling single file in the moat! HOW ADORABLE!

After three hours it started to rain. Everyone scurried for cover. We took that as our cue to leave and head for home.

Another fun day in the UK!

*As always, please click on the photos to enlarge them.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Dorset and the Jurassic Coast

There is so much to see and do in this beautiful part of the world! Yesterday we took a trip south to Dorset to meander along the Jurassic Coast.

The beaches were filled with holiday-goers. Men fishing, mums sun-bathing behind wind screens and little kids squealing in the waves. Unfortunately for us we didn't bring our swimsuits along!

We couldn't get over the colour of the water! It almost looked tropical!

We chose not to hike to the top of the cliffs as we were only in sandals. But others did as you can see in the photo.

We had lunch (fish and chips of course) in the harbour of West Bay. Then we were on our way to Abbotsbury to hike up to Saint Catherine's Abbey. We could see it long before we got to it.

We needed some sustenance before our hike so we stopped in at the Old Schoolhouse Tea Room for a strawberry cream tea.

We walked through the fields to the abbey at the top of the hill. Again, such beauty! I could have stayed up there with the sheep for hours.

*As always, please click on the photos to enlarge them.

Good Times in Dublin

We just got back from spending a couple of days in Dublin, Ireland and had a terrific time.

Dublin is gritty, feisty and full of life! The city looks tired but there is a strong energy that burbles out of its faded buildings.

Dubliners are friendly, helpful and HILARIOUS! I could not get enough of them!

From the sweet waitress in the pub who made me a sandwich with her own hands, to the hotel clerk who hugged us when we checked out, to the guide on our 'splash tour' whose running commentary kept us in stitches, to the server at the Jamieson Distillery who was a stand-up comedian, to the tour guide who offered us a piece of his chocolate bar as we waited for the bus on the sidewalk. I loved them all.

Our flight to Dublin was early and we had to be at the Bristol airport at 6:00am. That meant getting up at 4:15am! (Whoever is booking these early morning flights can you please stop now, thank you.)

Our first order of business was to find breakfast. I had heard about Slattery's from Anthony Bourdain's TV show 'The Layover' so we walked there. It was the first time I've had a beer with my bacon, eggs and blood pudding. Not a bad combination!

We then hopped on an open air bus to get a tour of the city and a lay of the land.

Our upbeat energy didn't last long. After the bus tour, we found a patch of grass in Saint Patrick Cathedral's park and caught 40 winks. (Thank goodness people are allowed on the grass in Dublin's parks, unlike some cities I know...PARIS!)

Feeling refreshed from our impromptu nap we carried on. We grabbed a bite to eat and went in search of the apartment we had rented. We walked across town and found it. The apartment wasn't in the greatest neighbourhood, but we figured it would be fine because we'd only be there to sleep.

Joe had made arrangements for someone to meet us there at 4:00pm. For the first time in our travelling history we experienced a glitch. Whoever was to meet us never showed up! We waited on the sidewalk from 4:00pm-6:00pm very tired and very hungry.

Joe sent the property managers a few messages but received no answer. We hailed a taxi and got dropped at The Hilton. Best decision we ever made.

The next couple of days were full of sight-seeing.

We went to the Guinness Storehouse where we learned how to pour a glass of Guinness. We met a couple of guys from Winnipeg and we drank our perfectly poured pints with them.

We visited Kilmainham Gaol and learned some of Dublin's tragic history.

While Joe and Kevin toured the Jameison Distillery, Chrissy and I took the 'Viking Splash Tour'. I never realized Vikings played a role in Dublin's early history.

We were given plastic helmets to wear, encouraged to yell at the people on the sidewalks in angry Viking voices, and learned interesting facts about the city as we drove on land and sailed through water. Like I said earlier, the guy driving the bus and providing the commentary was F-U-N-N-Y!

At one point, the driver yelled to us, "Who here is a Chelsea supporter?" Before anyone could answer we heard a shout from from the sidewalk. "I am!" The next thing we knew, our driver had tossed this man a complimentary Viking helmet.

We went to Saint Patrick's cathedral.

I toured Trinity College where I saw the Book of Kells (800 A.D.) and visited the Long Room in the Old Library. Molly would have LOVED it.

We roamed Temple Bar at night. Lots of people, lots of buskers, lots of music, lots of laughter.

Thank you, Dublin. You are a great city. We had a lot of fun within your walls. We will definitely be back.

*As always, please click on the photos to enlarge them.