Tuesday, May 23, 2017

the earth laughs

Preparations for our next trip started today. Actually I should say tripS as our cruising clothes are washed and packed for our next cruise.

The camper needs its spring repack as well. I went through my clothes and stripped the sheets of the bed for washing. The backseat of the truck was pulled apart with a quilt for the laundry and old foams stored. New, thinner, denser foams will be installed tomorrow after the laundry is done.

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In between each task I wandered down the laneway and basked in the fragrance of apple blossoms. The front of the house, by the steps, was awash in the aroma of honeysuckle and lilac. It is a heady delight.

I did have to dodge the cow plops on the laneway as I went about my day – the neighbors cows got loose yesterday and came to our place, taking down some of our fences and leaving calling cards.

Carm is the fourth of the intrepid travellers to come down with a cold – he’s lucky though as he’s nicely at home with no amazing sights to miss out on.

Earth laughs in flowers. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, May 22, 2017

Our travels

My plan today was to write a summary of our trip but my brain is trapped somewhere between here and there and doesn't seem to be accessible. I stupidly forgot my meds two nights ago which has left me in a worse state than normal jet-lag. Coffee isn't helping - I'll continue to try though ;-)

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Travel is wonderful except for getting there and back. We flew Air Canada Rouge on the way to Barcelona. It's a bare bones, no frills, airline that didn't even have in-seat entertainment. It was a long 8 hours sitting cramped on hard seats with nothing to distract. Airline food continues to degrade… Flying out of Montreal was easy. Flying into Barcelona was a pain - getting through the long lineup for customs took at least an hour. Overall though the trip wasn't too bad - excitement overrode any discomfort.

The way home was another thing. We were tired from our trip and had mixed feelings about the vacation being over. Rome was no big deal although waiting at the gate wasn't very comfortable. Frankfurt though was another matter. It is a horrible airport where nothing is easy. The distance from arrival to departure is long and confusing (bus, train, bus). I was glad none of the airports on my trip to NZ measured ‘up’ to Frankfurt – they seem positively luxurious now. We were tired and getting cranky. The flight was long but at least there was in seat entertainment, although my headphone jack didn't work very well. There were tons of babies but they weren't too screamy. The food sucked. But we were on our way home!

Air travel is not like the olden days. But the main thing is we got there and back so it's all good :-)

Leaving the pets at home is hard, but with Pat staying with them I hardly worried at all. She took good care of them and even befriended Grace enough that she sat on Pat's hand. That is amazing!

We travelled with Jo Ellen and Don who were perfect travelling companions.

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Barcelona was our first city and it was an amazing introduction to Europe. I had been there before when I was 11 but don't have any real memories of the visit so it was brand new to me. Our drive from the airport took us on wide boulevards lined with old low-rise apartments decorated with fancy wrought iron railings and fancy cornices. Plane trees added some green. Our hotel was right in the Gothic quarter and only a few blocks from Las Ramblas - the perfect location for on-foot exploration.

Rome was our departure point and this was a city to blow our minds. Orange trees with bright orange fruit right in the old streets of the city made a big impression on me. Rome is apparently the 2nd greenest city in Europe, second to Stockholm. Statues, fountains and ancient ruins were everywhere. We will return.

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Everything in-between has started to blur. The cruise was a great introduction to Europe - we'd wake up in a new place every morning. We had full-day excursions in most places and would get back in time to chill for a few minutes then head to the buffet for our supper. We were too tired to go to any of the shows. The grueling pace gave us a good taste of where we want to return.

I didn't gain any weight, which is a bit of a miracle as we ate like pigs. Breakfast buffet usually included smoked salmon, scrambled eggs, maybe a bit of frittata or French toast. If we were on the ship we ate lunch at the buffet. The excursions often included delightful lunches with wine. Or we'd eat at a little restaurant somewhere. We went to a specialty steak restaurant one night of the ship; I had filet mignon and lobster tail. The rest of the nights we ate at the buffet - it was good, but not as good as the ship we were on last November. It was nice not to cook! I ate more meat than I have in a few years total.

We saw so many amazing things and places, but there are three that stand out in my mind. I was excited about seeing Sagrada Familia and wondered if it would be one of those things that aren't as good as expected. My first glimpse gave me a thrill, but when we stepped inside I was awe struck and immediately choked up. It was magnificent. The arching space was like standing in a sacred forest. Stained glass lit the interior. I would love to go back.

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We were walking down a narrow street in Florence when around a corner we came to a large square. Dominating that square was Il Duomo. The towering façade with its multi-coloured marble and statues all over was astounding. I was surprised at my response.

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There were lots more interesting sights, but none that impacted me the same as Sagrada Familia or Il Duomo until I stepped into the Pantheon in Rome. The light coming through the oculus in the roof and the ceiling itself brought tears to my eyes. It has been in continuous use for over 2000 years. Yes - two thousand. Unbelievable.

Well, I guess I managed to eek out a long summary of our trip - that extra coffee seemed to do the trick!

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“A journey, after all, neither begins in the instant we set out, nor ends when we have reached our door step once again. It starts much earlier and is really never over, because the film of memory continues running on inside of us long after we have come to a physical standstill. Indeed, there exists something like a contagion of travel, and the disease is essentially incurable.”
~Ryszard Kapuściński

Saturday, May 20, 2017

journey home

3:15… AM… barely asleep for fear of sleeping in, the alarm clock chimed. Up and at 'em for our long way home. Quick showers and after the last minute pack it was time to check out of our hotel (the Savoy) and catch the taxi to the airport.

Hurry up and wait was the drone of the day.

Hurtle through the dark streets of Rome to reach the airport. Check our bags and find the gate. Wait for 2 hours. Finally the plane arrived and we boarded, just in time for an extra 1/2 hour on the tarmac.

Land at Frankfurt. De-plane and cram onto a bus. Try to figure out where to go (flight was a few hours off and gate not yet posted). Guess. Take train to another terminal. Try to figure out where to go. Gate still not posted. Walk, walk, walk. Have breakfast (a typical German breakfast of white steamed/boiled sausage and pretzel). Try to figure out where to go. Walk some more. Check board, flight posted, more walking. Wait, stand in line, wait, stand in line to board bus, cram onto bus, wait in line to board plane in rain, get to seat, wait and wait (over an hour) for clearance to take-off. Sit on plane for 9 hours.

Finally land in Ottawa and we are close to home. Mom is a sweetheart and picks us up. Quick visit in their driveway and we are in the car and on our way home. Relief (and dismay at tall, overgrown grass) as we pull into the laneway. The dogs are released from the house to their great joy. Crying and leaping for joy all the way around.

It was wonderful walking into our own house with our own pets. Pat had vacuumed and cleaned up so it was especially nice. Grace was the only one not happy to see me - she declined a scratch and puffed up at me. She's either mad, or has transferred her affections over to Pat.

Carm was a whirling dervish at unpacking his bag, but I slowly worked at mine. I was too tired to figure out what I had to do so eventually collapsed on the sofa. We did a load of laundry. Too tired to eat anything but chips. My plan was to stay up until 9 or 9:30 but I couldn't stay awake and succumbed not long past 8:30 pm. I may have been asleep before my head hit the pillow, and stayed asleep, (with a little break to have a snack), until 12:30 pm. Even then I had to drag myself out of bed.

Carm was up at the crack of dawn (still on Rome time). He got some paperwork done, printed out applications for a NEXUS card (will get us through customs without a 30 to 60 min wait). And then, while I was sound asleep, got cracking on the grass. He was still at it a few hours later when I emerged from the bedroom.

The grass is green (stating the obvious), and the apple trees are in full bloom. The first one in the row has more blossoms than I have ever seen. It is beautiful! The pink tulips are at the last of their glory. All together it is a wonderful welcome home.