Are you totally bored with typical canned packaged same-old holidays? Longing for something a little different? Are you tired of walking half a mile down corridors, waiting for elevators, then walking another half mile of paved walks to get to an over-stuffed pool or a crowded beach with people lined-up like dominoes? Are you sick of having to race down to the pool to put a towel on a chair to save it? Or worse yet, paying for a chair? Are you tired of lining-up to book a restaurant table days before you even know what kind … More… →
Ok, here’s the thing. Everybody is too friggin’ busy at Christmas to read (or write) a blog post. So we’ll keep it short and sweet. You’re not the only one freaking out about all the things you still have to do before Christmas. Everyone is! Well OK, maybe it’s more likely the women in every family. If you’re one of the lucky ones (or smart ones) to avoid all the stresses of preparing for Christmas, tell us your secret… pleeeeeese… tell us… We are begging you… Because, damn it, next year, we will be more … More… →
T is Mr. Christmas. You’ve heard about his smart remarks and wry sense of humour in previous posts, but I think we shall reveal a little more of his character, since he is always the silent partner in our escapades around the world. Did you ever in your life hear of someone having 30, yes thirty, Mr. and Mrs. Santa Clause dolls, most of them 2-3 feet tall?! One set is even a Vintage Animated Mr. and Mrs. Claus. Aren’t they the cutest? But that’s not all – no, no, no, not by a long shot. He … More… →
The Chinese people were warm and sweet, smiling beguilingly at Westerners, offering quick assistance, showing deep respect, bowing slightly, and always using “you first” gestures. A Chinese acquaintance told me that the government is very strict that the people make Westerners feel welcome, but I sensed, especially outside of Beijing and the tourist places, that people felt flattered and privileged to know, talk to, or have a picture taken with a Westerner. It seemed as if one gained status to have some personal contact with a Westerner. Several times I was invited to stand affectionately close to a … More… →
Did you ever experience a Chinese Foot Massage? Wow, amazing. Absolutely nothing like our North American massages, at least the ones we’ve had. It was a special and unique opportunity to experience a traditional Chinese foot massage at the famous Liang Zi Foot Massage in Beijing, China. Absolute pampering is the only way to describe it, and considering all the walking you’re likely to be doing, it will be just the cure for aching feet and tired muscles. OK, maybe pampering is not quite the right word, but you will have to read on to find out … More… →
From Xian, we flew to Tsingtao (pronounced ching-dow), a small city (according to Chinese standards) of only 6 million people, on the southeast coast of China in Shandong province. It had the feel of a beautiful small resort nestled between the mountains and the ocean. It was quiet, and not at all crowded. I don’t know where all those millions of people were, but we didn’t see many. There were supposedly one million people at the annual Tsingtao Beer Festival, which was on the week we were there, but again – it didn’t seem crowded. Tsingtao Beer … More… →
From Beijing, we travelled inland south to Xian. 2200 years ago, Emperor Quin Shi Huant, one of the most famous emperors in China, was losing a battle with his enemy. He developed an ingenious plan. He asked his soldiers to build an army of clay soldiers exactly like his own army, with soldiers of all ranks, as well as horses and chariots. The thousands of soldiers were even painted in colour. They are known as the Terra Cotta Warriors. Lined up at a distance, this massive army appeared foreboding and frightened the enemy. What a simple but clever … More… →
My friend, L, arranged a car and driver to take us to the GREAT WALL – not to the touristy rebuilt sections but to the original authentic Great Wall, unrestored, fewer tourists, 120 km NE of Beijing, called Simatai. We were anxious to see the countryside in China, and the trip there was utterly astonishing! Not so much for the lush green valleys, the approaching Yanshan Mountains, the fruit stands dotting the edge of the winding mountain highway with bags of apples, pears, and exotic fruits or vegetables selling for a mere 15 yuan (C$3), but for the riveting … More… →
The parks in Beijing are simply stunning! They make parks in Canada look embarrassingly simple. Beijing’s parks are full of themed areas with separate pathways leading to separate areas within the larger park. Each one is set in a magnificent and serene setting and unique theme. With ponds and streams, hills and valleys, glades and gardens, rare trees, unusual flowers, the landscapes were choreographed to reflect each specific theme. Even the scent of each theme area seemed to match the theme. With impressive displays of wisteria, bamboo, peonies, orchids, cherry blossoms and apple blossoms, ancient cypress trees, pine … More… →
The food in Beijing, China was absolutely nothing like any Chinese food I have eaten in North America or anywhere in the world, for that matter. Because they were business dinners, we had fairly formal dinners in the better restaurants. All of the dinners were served on large round tables with a huge turn-table or Lazy Susan in the centre. At least twenty dishes would appear on the table, and no matter if the end of the business dinner was obvious, no dish, according to custom, could become empty and would be replaced as soon as it was … More… →
The Art of the Chinese Sale, also known as The Calculator Game, is actually a lot of fun! I never considered myself much of a bargainer or a haggler – it felt way too pushy – so what happened was a bit surprising. Everyday in Beijing, I went somewhere on my own, but the Xiu Shui Silk Market was my favourite place to shop, and there were hundreds of tiny stalls lined up along alleyways with clothes and other goods hanging 8 feet high on the walls, lining the floors, and piled high on tables. Five levels filled to the … More… →
I didn’t even want to go to China! Too many people for me, I thought, but then I was invited to join a friend who had been there many times on business, so that was it. Two weeks later, I found myself in China. First of all, Beijing was not crowded. I fully expected wall to wall people, being unable to walk easily down the sidewalk, crushed within a crowd of people, panic attacks setting in, as well as pagoda after pagoda, temple after temple, but it was none of that. In fact, it was a big … More… →
It all started quite innocently. We planned a trip to visit T’s adult children in Manitoba: one in Winnipeg, another in Morden. T would travel from Ontario and I would travel from Saskatchewan. About three months ago, we spoke a little about getting married, about how much fun it would be to have a special ceremony on some exotic island, about whether it was easier to just live common-law, the merits of formal comittment for our children and families vs a silly piece of paper. We have been together, so to speak, for over eight years, mostly travelling … More… →
TRAVEL PILLOW – Total Travel Pillow Gone are the days of flying when you could expect to find a pillow and blanket on your seat. Now it’s more of a DIY experience. Functioning as a travel pillow and blanket in one, the Total Travel Pillow claims to keep you warm and reduce next compression. $29.99 A More Practical Solution – buy a suede blow-up neck pillow and wear a cosy hooded sweater that you will also use in your travels. The pillow folds to a tiny flat pack so takes up less precious room in your carry on, and the sweater will serve many purposes, … More… →
SOLAR LAPTOP The world’s first truly solar-powered laptop. It never needs to be plugged in! It “plugs” into the sun. When the sun isn’t there at night you can run it all night long with its powerful battery. With a rugged design & durability, you can take SOL with you to the most remote places on earth. It has free software, too. You don’t need to purchase any more software to get started. There are thousands of free apps available online with UBUNTU. In a world where 1 in 4 people have little or no access to stable electricity, the device … More… →
We both felt the nausea and dizziness of altitude sickness in the giant Andes Mountains, yet somehow enjoyed the incredible experiences we had in Ecuador. In fact, I had forgotten how sick we were until T reminded me long after the trip was over. Amazing that I only remembered the good stuff. Altitude sickness starts at about 8000 ft and we were often up over 10,000 ft. The highest point in the Andes is over 22000 ft. As air density drops, there is less available oxygen and hydrogen, so it feels like having the flu or a bad hangover … More… →
Don’t you just love the rhythm of that name – Inga pirca? I’m not much of a history buff (T is), but the idea that a society existed in the 1600’s and that the buildings are still somewhat in tact amazes both of us. Ingapirca Ruins, Ecuador… On the right is the Inca Road that goes for miles and miles through the Andes Mountains. At very high altitudes of 10,000 feet above sea level in a basin between mountains, the views from Ingapirca Ruins left us standing with our mouths wide open. The … More… →
Courtesy, courtesy, courtesy. Respect, respect, respect. How do you feel when a foreigner criticizes anything in your country? Or if a foreigner is demanding in any way? Think about it. “When in Rome…” You’re in a different country, curb your ethnocentrism and try to fit in. Stop comparing everything to how it is at “home”. No one cares how it is in your home country. Consider that a different way to do things might actually work better in this country. Accept a different culture as it is – new, unique, interesting. Avoid being a typical … More… →
We were in Cuenca, a pretty little city, high in the Andes Mountains of central Ecuador, enjoying the town square. It had a European feel with cobblestone streets, Spanish colonial architecture and lots of brick. Take note of the hats… Sipping some hot chocolate… Wandering over to another square… And then, here was a flower market. I was hoping we had found something I had read about – a dozen roses for $6! Contrary to a romantic nature, some of us do not like red roses, even if they do photograph well. T did find a lovely pale pink bouquet … More… →
The train to the SKY… SKY… SKY… Dennis, at www.guanguiltagua.com, who organized our car and driver for Ecuador, tried to tell us that we should come back to Quito through the mountains. I tried to tell him that I don’t really like mountains, nor windy roads that make me motion sick. Plus, we had read that the Andes are so high that people get altitude sickness. The altitude is extremely high, in the 10,000 ft range. Just what I need – altitude sickness and motion sickness. No thanks I said. Once, twice, maybe half a dozen times, I politely said “No!” … More… →
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Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.
— Paul Theroux
Shirley and Mr. T
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