Friday, December 30, 2011

I Survived!

Well I just survived the dreaded flight back from Hawaii to the mainland, which more often than not involves an overnight flight - ugh! Fortunately a nice (and small) couple from Washington, DC were sitting next to me and even nicer was that they gave me their window seat for my isle. I much prefer a window seat on a night flight as I can lean my head and even better, this was a window seat with no window but a wall, so I didn't have to deal with the window dent in, which can add an extra crink to your neck. I can assure you that what I got was not quality sleep by any means but I didn't wake up until the pilot came on 80 miles out of Phoenix indicating that we were starting our decent.A

I am now in Phoenix sitting in the US Airways Lounge (it is about 9am) and a lady ordered a beer - kinda early isn't it?!

My mom and dad got to save on a trip a to the airport yesterday, as my departure coincided nicely with my brother and sister-in-laws arrival. They were getting in at 9:45pm and I was leaving at 11:45pm, so my dad dropped me off at my check-in counter and then I went and joined my mom to meet them. Originally my mom had hoped that we would all overlap at for some time during this trip so we could have a family picture, but unfortunately it didn't work out that way. Well we did overlap, but just for about an hour - long enough to say "hi', "Merry Christmas" and "Happy New Year" and then I was off. I know that they will have a fabulous time. Collin and Andrea are much different travellers than I am - where I am content to sit at the beach or by the pool for hours on end, soaking up the sun, they will be off doing every know activity to man on the island - they do make the most of their vacations! I know that they will have fun!

So my family does not spend a lot of time all together - in fact, I think the last time all 4 of us were all together for any length of time was probably when Collin and Andrea got married in Maui in 2006 -don't think anyone has died since then or got married and there were parts of that trip that were not all too positive for me, so really, why would I want to replicate that again?! You see, I come by my selfishness naturally - my vacation time is very important to me. I work very hard, and at times have a very stressful job, so I don't want my holiday time to be stressfull and we all know that family time can be stressful. Thus me leaving as Collin and Andrea were arriving. I had hoped that we would overlap by a day, but that didn't work out. I had contemplated changing my departure by a day, however I wouldn't get home until the afternoon of NYE and since I am going to Kimberly for NYE, that wasn't going to work. Plus, flights were sold out - I did check - I am selfish but I will still put in some effort ;-) In any event, my mom isn't going to get her family picture like she had wanted and part of the reason for this trip. It was their 40th anniversary this year and my mom was wanting some sort of group photo - guess us all standing together at the airport wasn't going to cut it!

So this ends another trip. As mentioned, heading down to Kimberly for NYE and then the travels back and forth to Fort Mac begin again the 2nd week of January - gotta keep amassing those aeroplan points and status miles, so I can continue to travel like a princess. And then it looks like Belize at the end of January. Until then. . . .

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Big Island Highlights






Here are a few highlights from the past couple of days. . .I have been rather remiss in posting

  • Night dive with manta rays. There were 11 different mantas out last night. This was also my very first night dive and was a really cool experience. The largest manta was about 15 feet across and about 1000 lbs. They would swim up to you, mouth wide open and it would initially scare the hell out of you! One even hit me in the head with one of it's wings.
  • SPAM macadamia nuts - yep, they taste as bad as it sounds. . . but I had to buy them!
  • Let's take a wild guess as to who this sign is meant for! This was at the black sand beach on the south side of the Big Island where we saw 2 green sea turtles hanging out on the beach. We would have stayed at this beach however the gale force winds, pushed us away.
  • In honour of John Brown - one of my first food pictures on my blog. This was from the southern most bakery in the USA - it was lovely sweet!
The last couple of days I haven't been up to a whole lot other spending as much time in the sun as I possibly can and working on my tan in the process. I call this my SAD eradication - it should hold me until my next holiday which looks like it will be at the end of January in Belize if all works out :-). As mentioned, a couple of days ago we drove to the south end of the Big Island, past the coffee fields and through a couple of lava flows to a black sand beach. Would have been lovely to stay there however the winds were so strong. Plus the heat coming up off of the beach was intense - it would be like sitting on asphalt!

Yesterday was a sit by the pool, sunning day and then off SCUBA diving late in the afternoon as our one dive was scheduled to be a night dive with the manta rays. www.jacksdivelocker.com Very, very, very cool! I won't tell you what I told my dive master but I did use a few naughty words to describe the experience.

Today, more time just sitting by the pool, which is next to the ocean, reading my book and then my dad and I went down to White Sands Beach for a little ocean time. I also reckon that it was "people wearing bathing suits that they shouldn't day" at the beach today. Now, most people don't look great in a bathing suit, myself included, but I do try and spare the rest of the beach going public while I am out there from too much harm to their eyes.

I head back to Calgary late tomorrow evening - back in the afternoon on the 30th and then it is off to Kimberly for new year's eve.


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Mele Kalikimaka

Mele Kalikimaka or Merry Christmas!

I have to admit that I do enjoy spending Christmas somewhere warm, with the sun shining, the waves crashing and sand under my toes. My dad and I are getting into a bit of a rhythm - he gets up, usually I am down at the pool eradicating my seasonal depression and then him and I go snorkelling somewhere. We have been snorkelling each day that I have been here and we try and go somewhere new each time. We have been very fortunate to see turtles each day and today when we were at the beach with my mom, there were 2 turtles in quite shallow, so lots of kids could see them which was cool. As mentioned, my dad and I went snorkelling this morning - we went to what is commonly known as the `snorkel beach` and after our snorkel, he dropped me off at White Sands Beach and went to get my mom and the 3 of us spent the afternoon at the beach. It was nice to see so many families spending Christmas this way.


Last night we joined half of the Big Island for a candle light church service which was located outside on the lawn of the Lighthouse Church (?), with the waves crashing in the background and the palm trees lit up in red and green. Now this service was a little different than what this conservative Anglican is used to. Firstly, there was an amazing praise band who played a full range of Christmas carols - for those of you non-Anglicans, Christmas carols aren't sung until after Christmas - not sure why, but that is just the rule. They even sang one of my most favourite carols - Oh Holy Night, which almost had me in tears. All in all, it was a lovely service - lasted about 1 1/2 hours and then we headed back home (along with half of the island - seriously, there had to have been over 500 people at the service)

Thanks to Safeway, we won`t be starving tonight - the turkey is currently in the oven. You can buy a whole dinner, complete with all the fixings, pre-cooked that you just reheat - it smells like Christmas in here but without all of the work. Well, supper is almost ready, so I will sign out - Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Aloha!

Aloha from the Big Island of Hawaii . . .yes, my travels continue and even better, so does my blog! I bought myself a fancy little iPad holder/keyboard combo from Brookstone that I saw a lady had in the lounge in Phoenix. When I saw it I immediately thought that I needed one and low and behold, the little magazine shop in the airport had it so I got myself a Christmas present! It is taking a little getting used to b/c it is so small but it is still way better than tap typing on my screen.

So yah. I am in Hawaii. For Christmas. With my parents. And no one is dead yet, mind you, I have only been here about 24 hours :-) Seriously though, it is all good and will be a nice break and a nice way to spend Christmas. We went to Safeway yesterday to order Christmas dinner, so we will be having turkey and potatoes and all the fixings. There are the odd Christmas decorations around but by the looks of it, most people don't seem to decorate and those that do give the Griswold's a run for their money and pretty much light up the entire island!

This morning my dad and I went down to White Sands Beach - which is a beach that disappears at different times in the year b/c of the tides and the waves. Fortunately for us, the beach is there right now. What is also interesting is that it is directly across from the White Sands condos which we stayed at as a family 15 years ago when we came here for my mom and dad's 25th wedding anniversary. I was rather surprised at how many people were at the beach at 10am - it was very busy - both on the beach and in the water. My dad and I mainly went there to do a little snorkelling. The snorkelling was okay and we did see one small sea turtle at the end however it reaffirmed to me why I dive. . .I much prefer to be under the water close to the bottom when looking at fish. Speaking of diving, my dad and I have a dive planned for December 27 when we are going to do a late afternoon dive and then an evening dive with the manta rays. Last night they saw 16 mantas so I am pretty optimistic that we will see something. My friend Charley, who runs the Scuba Shack in Maui recommended Jack's Dive Locker to me, so that is who we are booked with and my mom is going to come along and snorkel. I guess snorkellers can also see the manta rays.


The rest of the day was spent relaxing, reading, did a bit of shopping with my father - which is always fun and then supper. As my mother pointed out to my brother and I (who is arriving with my sister-in-law the day that I leave), this is everyone's holiday, so we both cooked supper tonight. She bbqed and I was responsible for the potatoes - thank you Costco, and I did a salad. (sorry JB - my feasting isn't as exciting as yours) This was a picture from our balcony at sunset today.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bye Bye London

It is always hard to say good bye and I find that as time goes by it never gets easier  up rather just takes on a different feeling.  Now, I feel that I have a lot more control over my good byes than  I have had in the past.  Maybe because I am now in a place that after I say good bye, if I want to go back, I can and I control that a lot more.  In any event, I truly love London - the energy, the feel, the looks, the shops, the great places to eat and just all the architecture.  And it helps that I have friends there that are always more than willing to either house me or entertain me - not that I need much entertaining.  I am sure that there will be a London trip or two in 2012, either as a stand alone getaway or as a passing through stop.

Last night I was on my own for supper as Tylor, my friend that I was staying with had to go to Scotland for work today, so he left in the afternoon.  I got home from shopping around 7ish - I am becoming very comfortable with certain parts of London, including where he is living now so I ventured out to see if I could find something to eat.  Needless to say I couldn't find anywhere that was open for supper other than a Pret Manger, so I ended up dropping in to the Sainsbury (like Safeways) which also happens to be a packaged food Mecca.  My body was in a definite need for some vegetables after al of the rich foods and drinking of the past few days, so I bought some along with some hummus and attempted to figure out the TV.  It took a couple of texts but I eventually figured out how to turn it on and got to a channel that had something that I enjoyed, and that was that! Overall a quiet night in.

Now in case you are wondering I am leaving on my next vacation in just over 5 weeks.  I am going to spend Christmas in Hawaii - The Big Island, with my parents.  After that, I have no other trips planned for a long while :-(. Gotta definitely change that. . .will keep my eyes open for a seat sale and am open to suggestions.  There is a good chance that I will be going to TO in March and if that happens, I will most likely use the opportunity to head to the Caribbean,  there are a bunch of places I haven't been to there yet but hey, who knows!

A London Sunday & a Bike Crash - Again

So I had another bike crash yesterday, although this time I was not on the bike but rather trying to cross a busy street by Oxford Circus. I went to step to cross the road and as soon as I looked right, I screamed as I saw a cyclist hurtling towards me and we both dodged in the same direction. He clipped my back and went flying over his handlebars into the curb and I think really hurt his shoulder. I felt so bad. I have to admit, I was fairly shaken out by the whole episode. As for yesterday's crash, I am pretty bruised up. I banged my hand and knee pretty bad, as well I noticed a good bruise on my stomach today - all class, all class!

Today is Remembrance Sunday in London- this is their equivalent to our Remembrance Day, although not a holiday. We watched the service on TV, I thought going down there. I thought that it might be a little crazy as the royals were down there. It was a nice ceremony and all, both solemn and celebratory and always brings a tear to my eye, thinking of all of those who have given and lost - we can never forget those who fought for our freedoms.

Tylor and I went for a late breakfast after watching the services, after which I left him and headed back towards Oxford Circus and Bond Street to do some shopping and I use that word loosely as I really do not care for shopping, however I needed to pick up my obligatory magnets for my team at work and I wanted to check out a shop called Liberty (oh my!), and we can't forget Marks & Spencer's. On my way to Liberty, I noticed the sign for Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Wizard of Oz and it looked like there was a show to start soon, so I went to the box office to see if I could get a ticket. For £25, I got a fabulous seat in the Royal Circle and what a great show! You always here about how great shows are in London and they are, so more quainter than at the Jubilee. It was however kiddyville, but that was okay. Of course I had my once a trip cry at the start of the show, thinking about how blessed my life is. I also realized that I deserve this and I don't mean it in a conceited way but rather, I work really long and hard and my job takes a lot out of me, so to treat myself to great experiences isn't necessarily a bad thing. I do realize how lucky I am though.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Grilled Cheese Bliss

Ah, I found my little taste of heaven again today. This yummy grilled cheese sandwich is crunchy, salty, buttery heaven all toasted at the Borough Market in London. I tried to go back to this place in August but they were gone :-(. But maybe it was because they knew I was back in town they decided to reappear - yah okay. Seriously though, I love this sandwich and if we weren't going to The Ledbury this evening for dinner, I would have had 2!

Now to get to the market we decided to ride bikes there. London has this great thing called "Boris bikes", which are essentially these bike racks throughout the city where you rent a bike for a small fee. And cycle it to where you want to go and then drop it in the rack - they are awesome. And who would have guessed that London is so bikeable - I know that I didn't. It took me a moment to figure out where to ride (the other side of the street) but after that, people are very accommodating to cyclists. I only had one minor crash as we were traveling down a lane with some construction where I caught my handlebar on the fence and crashed. I have a few good bruises but other than that I was fine. I got an amazing tour of the City this way as the Mayor's Parade was on today in the city and we had to navigate our way around that. Still, it was a fantastic way to see London - who knew?!

So in case you are wondering why I am here, there is no reason other than the last 7 weeks at work have been insane and I figured that I needed a little treat. I knew that this hell was coming, so in mid-sept when there was a seat sales took advantage and booked a good fare over here. So no reason other than I love London (and to have a good grilled cheese :-))

Monday, September 5, 2011

Good bye UK

Well, I am still behind on my posts - I have one last one to do for Nigeria and then one for the wedding, however you all know how much I hate typing on my iPad, so that has held me back. Now I am sitting in the London Lounge at the Hell they Call Heathrow waiting for my flight, so I am taking the opportunity to use a real computer with a real keyboard to do my last posting of this trip, but not my last post - if that makes sense. (I am comitted to my other 2 posts)

I got back to London yesterday afternoon after a quiet train ride back from Newcastle. I do believe that we all had had a good time and needed the 3 hour train ride to regroup before we hit London again. Unfortunately the aircon was down in the car that we were riding in - ugh! Once we got to London, Nick & Susan headed back to his aunts and Judy (these are my friends I was with this weekend) and I took the tube together to my stop, where I got off and she changed trains. Keep in mind that by now I am now dragging around a 25kg suitbase, 1 carry-on, a pillow and a purse - so I am sight to be hold as I navigate the tube and the streets! :-) I was booked into the Sheraton Park Lane, which is a lovely old art deco building built in the 1920s facing Green Park and right by Buckingham Palace. Luckily my patronage with the Starwoods group has paid off and they upgraded me to an executive room, which was quite nice. Unfortunately the Queen wasn't home or I would have popped by for a visit!

When I was in Nigeria, I got a note from an old friend from uni who invited me out on my way through London, so I took him up on the offer. He was having a few people over for a bbq yesterday, so when I got to town, I checked in and headed over to his place. Luckily, it was a bunch of Canadians, so I thought that my liver would be a little safer than the weekend I had just spend with the Northern Irish. I was wrong. On my way over to Greg's, I stopped at a wine store to pick up a bottle and the fellow there assured me that it wasn't swill, however when I got to Greg's, I immediately saw that he was a huge wine lover, as evidenced by the 2 large wine coolers in the kitchen and immediately knew that my wine was probably swill - I hope that he just binned it! In any event, I had a lovely evening catching up with him and getting to know his friends - one was from outside of TO, one from Manitoba and one from NE BC. We managed to drink a bottle or 6 of wine and had a lovely meal. Today I am feeling much better than anticipated, however my body is looking forward to detox. 3 days of consumming for me, is probably more than I have drank in the past year! I love hearing about their London lives and how they are going to pop over to France for the weekend, or head to the weekend place in Switzerland. Yah, I get to go to Fort McMurray. Something just doesn't seem right here. Speaking of which, I am heading there nice bright and early tomorrow morning - the travel never ends!

For those of you who know me well and know my travel habits, you will be shocked to hear that this princess is riding at the back of the bus for this flight home. I am low on upgrade credits and unless the gate agent feels sorry for me when I board, I will be sitting in economy. Shocker I know. I have known this for a while, so I am mentally prepared :-) Plus, since it is a day flight and I don't need to sleep, I figure that it won't be too bad. The good thing is, is that with my Elite status, I still get to board the plane early and get all settled, without having to jostle with the commoners as they board the plane :-)

So this is probably my last great adventure for the year - I think. I am heading to Hawaii for a couple of weeks at Christmas but I am not so certain as that qualifies for an adventure or it's own posts but we shall see. What I am continually reminded of as I globetrott this world, is that it is an amazing world full of amazing and beautiful things and people to see and how so very lucky I am to be able to do so!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Poulard?

What is poulard?  Twice now I have been offered it on Lufthansa and when I said I would have chicken, in was told, no, it is poulard.  I asked if it was turkey and was told kind of.  So if you know what poulard is, please tell me.  To be honest, it was like a dry chicken breast.  Oh the joys of mystery meat coupled with airline food.

Overall, Lufthansa isn't bad to fly with.  They have really good blankets and pillows - probably the best I have ha so far.  I mean who has feather pillows?  And I am not talking about upfront either, I am talking back in economy - yes we have feather pillows and yes I do fly economy. :-). Their lounge in Lagos leaves a little to be desired.  It is 3 floors with the 3rd floor being an enclosed smoking room, however the smoke still managed to waft down to the main - ick!  It was still a much better place to hang out rather than in the terminal since I had 3 1/2 hours to wait from when i arrived at the airport. Then when I was walking to my gate, I went past the BA lounge and it looked pretty posh - Lufthansa definitely has the ghetto lounge!  They have also cheaped out on their E90 - no seat back TVs - what gives?!

So my flight was leaving at 9:50pm and I left a good 7 hours before - crazy I know, considering i am the girl who likes to show up just as the plane is boarding!  Not here i didn't!  However in Lagos you never know what traffic is going to be like and today it took us about 3 hours to get there.  Traffic was a little crazy but I guess it can be worse.  Then when you get to the airport it is like a quasi-organized chaos.  First you get your bag weighed, then you get your passport and ticket checked and once you have done that you go up to the counter, all whilst moving in and amongst a maze of people and different boxed off lanes.  You don't decide where to go yourself, someone tells you and there are people everywhere.

At the boarding gate you go through another round of security.  I am telling you that the security here is more stringent than at Heathrow or anywhere in the US.  After another round of ticket and passport checks, they search your carry- on again and then you get a full pat down and when I say full, I mean full!  She patted down the girls and  lady bits!  Only felt slightly violated. :-). Nope, can't say that in was hiding anything there.

Our flight was almost an hour delayed leaving Lagos - something to do with luggage. Fortunately I have my iPad and was able to keep on watching the last season of the Deadliest Catch, which I had started earlier in the evening in the lounge. I really don't know how people travel without one. I managed to get about 21/2 hours of not good sleep on my flight to Frankfurt and we only landed 15 minutes late, which was good considering. I then caught a 6:45am flight into London City Centre which I much prefer to the he'll that they call Heathrow, although the immigration lady sure was not chipper at 730 in the morning and had a lot of questions. Remember lady, I am from one of your former colonies, we have the same queen!

I have a wedding up in Newcastle on the week, the whole reason behind the trip and the plan was to take the train from London around mid-day with my friends Susan and Judy. Luckily for me, Susan was staying with her husbands aunt so I took the tube up to there - I am very good with the tube ;-) and was able to take a shower and feel like a human again after my over night flight and before we hoped on the train. Overall a fairly uneventful trip up north. The wedding is tomorrow and we head back for London on Sunday and back to Calgary on Monday where this adventure will end.

I still have some more tom post on Nigeria which I hope to get around to by the end of the weekend. Hope everyone has a great labour day weekend!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Shopping Day!

Oh I could so get used to living here. I wake up, breakfast is made for me, someone makes my bed, someone makes my lunch, my laundry gets done, including my pajamas ironed(!?) and someone makes me my supper and I don't have to clean up! And no it is not my host Carley, but rather her house steward Tobias, having help here is common. On top of her house steward, she has a driver and is supplied a vehicle and a nanny to help with Ryder. Samuel, her driver, was very surprised when I told him that I don't have a driver back home, that I don't have a cook (well I kinda do over the next 10 weeks but that is another story) and that I walk my own dog. I do have to admit that it is taking a little getting used to and I feel slightly awkward having someone do all of this for me.

This morning Samuel took Carley and I to the Lekki Market so I could continue to fuel the Nigerian economy. After driving down this road, and I use that word loosely we came to this gated compound type of place which once we entered was the market. After seeing all the kitchy stuff, similar to what you see in Mexico, except African (lots of carved wood, paintings, etc.) I had to ask Samuel who shopped here and found out is was people like me - expats! Here I managed to buy a bunch of beads for my aunt (you will love then Auntie Lyn), a couple of leather (crocodile) purses and I found my elusive magnets for the people at work and Samuel made sure they all stuck! Like in Mexico, they start high and you have to barter them down and be prepared to walk away because you know the next guy down is selling the same stuff! I also managed to find a nativity scene - another thing I collect.

Carley and I went to a restaurant for lunch called Cafe Royale (it is on TripAdvisor), whch totally caters to expats who want the comforts of home. I have asked about Nigerian food and I have been assured that it is bad, by a Nigerian I might add, so nachos and chicken strips it is! I have to say, it was very nummy. After lunch we came home, dropped off Carley and picked up Tobias, and me and theboys (Samuel and Tobias) went grocery shopping. Or rather I tagged a long with them as they did the weekly shopping. Once again they humored me as I gawked around the grocery store and took pictures and asked more questions. I so love grocery stores in other countries!

Today and tomorrow are national holidays in Nigeria as it is the end of Ramadan and about 40% of Nigeria is Muslim, 50% is Christian and the other 10% believe is an indigenous type of religion. I guess the government doesn't tell you until about a week in advance if it is going to be a national holiday or not. Go figure. Can you imagine not having Christmas off?!

Hard to believe that I only have a couple of days left here in Nigeria before I head back to the UK for Caz and Andy's wedding. Until then, I will continue to make the most of it and explore what I can, where I can!

Living La Vida Lekki, Lagos

Well i have been a little negligent on my postings but it is because I have been busy :-). For the past 2 days I have been out and about around Lekki and Victoria Island which are all a part of Lagos. I have been fortunate to get out a lot more than I thought I would, and the roads are much better than I expected, so I am seeing a lot. It also helps that there is a car and driver who has been letting me tag along.

Things that I have noticed here or make me go "only in Nigeria":

No one smokes except expats and seeing it is very rare

It is illegal to talk on your cell phone when driving here and it is rare to see someone doing it. Texting while on the back of a motorcycle as a passenger, not so rare!

I think that the only reason cars have signal lights here is because they are imported and come with the car. Pretty sure most people don't even know how tom turn them on! I would say that when it comes to driving, most people stick to their lane, except if you want to pass, you honk to saying I am coming, honk to say move the hell over and honk to say I am more important so move! Nope, no signaling.

Where I am staying is just off the Lekki freeway which also happens to be Nigeria's first toll road complete with toll booths at each end and people that work in the toll booths. Only thing is, they don't collect any tolls, however you still have to stop, wait for the light to turn green and the arm to raise. Why? Not sure. Maybe this is practice for the day when they start paying tolls (which will probably be never!)

Yesterday Carley and I went out with Samuel, her driver to the "mall" - yes there is a mall here and it wasn't too bad. It even has a multiple theatre movie theatre with current movies including the Smurfs. There was even a Nike Store and a KFC in the mall. We popped into the grocery store to pick up some baby cereal and I got a good peak around. I have to say that they had some of the best faced shelves I have ever seen - precision straight.

In the afternoon David had to go to some meetings so I went with him and Samuel and while David was at his meeting, Samuel entertained me. :-). He took me to an artisans shop where there were different vendors. Lucky for me, Samuel did most of my bartering. There I bought a painting. After shopping he drove me around Victoria Island and we went to the beach/malecon and we walked and chatted and Samuel humored me as I asked a lot of questions about living in Nigeria. Some guy there wanted us to pay to walk along the malecon - um, no. But where they can make money, they try!

Once again, saw lots of guys peeing on walls - even guys in suits! I guess public washrooms are pretty much non-existent here!

Until my next post . . . Living la Vidal Lagos!


Monday, August 29, 2011

Suburbia

Sorry - had a glitch and had to repost, this was from yesterday, will get today's up later tonight.

Am I in suburbia - kinda. Or at least that is what life is like here where I am staying. This afternoon, Carley took me for a walk around the 'hood to show me around, and honestly, I could be in any southern suburban neighborhood, with their houses that all look the same, cars in the drive way and their manicured yards. We even stopped by the pool and fitness centre (which were empty). Honestly, if you didn't pay attention on your drive in, you would forget that you are in a third world country.

So my impressions/ thoughts of Nigeria so far:

Firstly, India makes this place look rather clean and rich! I am happy that I have that country under my belt as a comparator to, as everywhere seems nicer after you have been there!

Man you should see the vehicles here! At the airport, you would have thought that you were in Calgary, minus the trucks, with all the shiny new BMWs, Mercedes, Lexus, Ford Fusions, etc. I was very surprised at the vehicles. Now don't get me wrong, there are the requisite beat-up minibuses filled to capacity with people hanging out of the open doors. Then there was also the guy who was standing/ riding on the running board of the petrol truck as it was heading down the expressway, but to his credit, he was wearing his safety vest. Or there are the people that just run across the expressway and dodge cars, or the guy who is selling bottled water and other assorted drinks on the side of the road as cars go by. But probably the thing that said "you are in Nigeria now", were the 2 guys pushing a broken down Toyota, in the dark, on the freeway, with no four way flashers on, in a driving lane. Go figure!

Other things that have made me think "I need to blog about that include":

All the no parking signs along the roads at the airport that are clogged with parked cars.

Then guys who have chairs and small tables set up with huge stacks of bills along side the sidewalk at the airport. Gives a whole new meaning to the words currency exchange. Yah, somehow whipping out a few hundred dollars on the sidewalk to a guy with a bag of bills doesn't seem too wise.

At the airport, if you are a guy and you have to pee, you just find the nearest wall outside and pee on it. I saw so many guys do it including the police. I wonder what they would have thought if I went and squatted?

No McDonalds or Starbucks here but there is KFC. Am I surprised - Starbucks no, McDonalds yes, KFC no.

Immigration at the airport doesn't apply to everyone. If you have someone meeting you, like a local meeting a foreigner, those people seemed to just walk around the immigration desk without being checked. But not me, I got experience the whole Nigerian experience of "efficiency". On my immigration card it asked for my occupation and my employer and me thinking ahead figured that it was much easier to be a homemaker rather than say who I work for- we aren't loved here. :-). So now that is my job. All in all from the time I landed to the time I got to Carly and David's, it was about 2 hours - so not bad at all.

Tomorrow Carley is taking me to the "mall" - am looking forward to this experience and seeing Lagos in the light, as it started to get dark shortly after I left the airport. I will also get the opportunity to experience more "I am in Nigeria" now types of things.

Well, I am off to bed as I would like to be up at a more normal hour tomorrow, compared to my 12:13pm I woke up at today - good houseguest eh?!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

London Calling - actually it is Nigeria


So I have to admit, I am a little behind on my blogging for my latest adventure, so this entry is going to be a bit of a mix of my trip over to the UK and my initial observations of Nigeria.

Now for those who are wondering why the he'll would I want to go to Nigeria, I have this rule about following my friends around the world. If they move there, then I will visit. So here I am now in Lagos, Nigeria visiting my friends Carly & David Morgan. For those of you who follow my blog, if you look back to my blog when I went to Australia in 2008, I have a post about my friend Carly, who I had gone to visit I Perth and her friend David. Well in those 3 years, they fell in love, got married, moved to Nigeria and had a baby boy, and now here i am, visiting them.

So below are a few random thoughts/observations since the start of my trip:

Thank you to the lovely lady at Air Canada made sure that I got to fly at the front of the plane - nightmare averted.

60+ lady with no bra -seriously! They weren't perky either!

Figured out over Algeria that although I had my camera, I forgot my memory card! What a piss off! Fortunately David has loaned me one.

Americans - ugh! World revolves around them everywhere! Yes the eastern seaboard of the US was closed to most flights today because of the hurricanes and no it is not Lufthansa's fault that your flight is canceled. And maybe have a little compassion for those who are experiencing the hurricane rather than bitching about why should you be delayed by this because you don't even live in New York.

Even if you ask the agent 10 different ways to rebook you ticket, he will still tell you that you need to go to the ticket counter, and maybe if you would listen to him, rather than bitch to him, the line would move faster!

Love London! What more is there to say?!

Lufthansas - they want you drink. They offer you wine and cognac non-stop.

BMI lounge in T1 Heathrow- probably one of the nicest I have been to in terms of design. Very modern and chic. Mind you I have heard that Lufthansa has a very nice new lounge in Frankfurt. Maybe if I hadn't had to stand in line for an hour this morning while listened to another American bitch about their flight cancellation, I would have been able to experience it!

Took me over an hour to get to the Borough Market to buy the world's most amazing grilled cheese sandwich only to find out that it closed shop about 2 months ago -ugh!

I have lots to say about Nigeria so far, but is 11pm for me and I have been up since 5:30am, coupled with a 7 hour time difference from the day before, I am a little tired, so I am going to call it a night.

Know that I am safe and sound and will not be blogging from jail. :-)


Monday, May 2, 2011

R E L A X A T I O N

The last 2 days have been about pure relaxation! We are a staying at a lovely resort on the northern end of Koh Samui called the Melati Resort and Spa, which is a lovely garden oasis on the coast. They have a great infinity pool that overlooks the beach and that is where we seem to be spending much of our time. The other good thing is that the resort has WiFi and I can get the internet on the beach. It was nice this morning to be laying on my beach chair watching the election results. Let's put it this way, I am so happy to see a country of blue!!!! And it is nice to see a country of blue across the country and not just in one part. Back to the resort - now I have heard people talk about how the water is so warm before, but I have never experienced water this warm - it truly is like bath water, which is nice, except if you are trying to cool down! It is still hotter than Hades here - 35C with 68% humidity making it feel like 44C) and I am loving it! Diane, not so much. She has decided that her and this kind of heat do not go together - so she is thankful for our a/c in our room :-)

In each place we have been to so far in Thailand I have been seeing these things called "Fish Spas" - they are essentially these tanks of water with all of these little sucker types of fish and when you put your feet in, they nibble off all of the dead and cruddy skin off your feet. Now being the adventurous sort that I am, I decided yesterday to finally try this. At first I almost died having all of these fish starting to nibble on my feet but after a while, it felt pretty good. They seemed to like my foot/leg that has all of the bruising from my crash landing while zip lining. It felt like a bunch of tiny little kitty licks on my feet - kinda cool. Can't say I noticed a noticeable difference in my feet but then again, I wasn't too sure what to expect.

Last night we went into Bophut which is the little town to the west of us for supper. There is this cool road there called Fisherman's Village which is lined with all sorts of open air/water front restaurants. I had met a couple of Aussie's earlier in the day at the pool and they recommended a restaurant called the Happy Elephant and they weren't wrong - the food was excellent. I had shrimp in a curry and coconut sauce that was to die for! I can still taste it! And then going on the recommendation of my friend Kim, we tried the banana pancakes (I had nutella in mine) from one of the street carts. OMG - they were so delicious, however after watching them make them and seeing the amount of fat that goes into making them, I think that we will be eating them in limited quantities :-)

Today we had another lazy type of day. Did a little beach and pool time until about 2pm and then took the shuttle into Chaweng Beach to check it out. It is a little town on the eastern side of Koh Samui where a lot of the resorts and restaurants are. It was nice to wander around for the day, but that is about it. We stopped for a nice bit at a restaurant called Eat Sense which overlooked the beach and the Gulf of Thailand - it too had come recommended and didn't let us down.

Tomorrow I am supposed to be going diving over in Koh Tao which is a neighboring island in this archipelago, however I am still trying to figure out the boat times over there and they don't seem to be lining up with the dive times. . .so who knows. Might just have to go diving here in Koh Samui, although the diving is supposed to be far more superior in Koh Tao - so keep your fingers crossed that I can make something work :-)

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Best Adventure Yet!

Yesterday was one of the best days of my life! Diane and I went to the Patera Elephant Farm which is located in the hills north of Chiang Mai. (www.pataraelephantfarm.com) to be elephant owners for the day. Basically you get to know and do as what one of the elephant owners would have to know and do with their elephant throughout the day. We learned how to approach our elephant (we were each assigned one), how to unchain it, clean it, learned about it's poo, walked it, feed it, and washed it in the river. We then got to ride it through a mud/water system for foot care - the muck helps with keeping their toe nails filed down. We then took our elephants up to a waterfall for lunch and to watch them play in the water.

Riding an elephant is not that hard once you figure out how to haul your butt up on to one and getting off of it is fairly easy (they kneel down and your slide off the head), however the whole riding thing does a number on your hips! You essentially ride up on the elephant's neck and your hold your knees up in a folded position behind their ears. Once you legs start to quiver in utter pain and exhaustion, you can put them down and ride with them straight. For the little, skinny girls - that hurts too but for those of us with larger hips, not so bad. Needless to say, both Diane and I are sore today!

My elephant's name was Mae Boon Dee (something like that) and I fell in love with her instantly (and I think she with I!) She was just such a gentle soul and was so much fun to be around. She LOVED to eat and grazed the entire time we were walking. She is also an avid "logger" as I called her - she loved to snap logs while we were walking - me not so much given that I was sitting on top of her while she did this and was always worried that I would get hit by a stick!

At the elephant farm there were 3 baby elephants - ranging in age from 10- 12 weeks old and so bloody cute and friendly! It was so hard not to love them! Their mamas were really good about letting us play with them. There is a really good chance that these elephants will be released into the wild when they are old enough. This farm that we went to both rescues and rehabilitates elephants but also runs a breeding program and in the past 10 years has been able to put 7 elephants back into the wild. I know it may not seem like much but it is a step in the right direction.

So far the only colour that I am really sporting on this trip are shades of blue, purple and ugly brown - all from my various and assorted bruises that I mainly got from my ill-fated landing while ziplining. Although some of my massages are leaving me a little coloured. Important to note that if you look at me the wrong way I bruise! My one leg looks just lovely! Although it is hotter than Hades here - it is about 33C with about 60% humidity - so needless to say I am sweating non-stop - it is worse than India where I was dewy all the time. When we were in Bangkok the humidity was around 95% so this has been a little better. I am just hoping that when we get down to Koh Samui that it is 33C with very little humidity and a lot of sun so I can bake for a while!

As previously mentioned, I have been wanting to get a Thai massage and did so the other day. Let's put it this way, I probably won't be doing that again any time soon and will just stick to my regular foot massages. I wasn't violated in any way like the first massage, however he sure loved to dig deep into certain pressure points and seemed to have a love affair with my IT bands on my left leg. They weren't loving him so much and neither was I! Holy painful! Then he did a number on my triceps as well - who need that pressure points in your triceps could hurt so much! I am hoping that down in Koh Samui that I will be able to find a good massage place - I am really enjoying these $6 foot/back/shoulder/neck massages!

One thing I have noticed about Thailand which has totally surprised me is how good the meat has been. Normally when I travel I don't eat the meat b/c it always tastes a little off - but not here. Their chicken is great and so is their pork - and the bacon. . . . oh the bacon at our hotel in Chiang Mai is so amazingly good!

Diane and I are off to Koh Samui later this afternoon. We were supposed to leave at 4pm but got an email from Thai Airways this morning saying that our flight was cancelled and we are rebooked on a 5pm flight - which is all fine and dandy except we had to check out of our room. We are able to use the hotel until we leave for the hotel at 3:30pm but most of the common areas are not A/C but rather open air and fanned so we are both sweating like little pigs!

Last night, both Diane and I agreed that while the adventure portion of the trip has been amazing, our bodies probably can't take anymore and we are both really looking forward to the relaxation!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Keeping the Thailand Economy Going

Well, I do believe that Diane and I (more Diane than I) are keeping the Thailand economy going and I can honestly say that I am almost shopped out. Today was a "shopping day" and we wandered around the streets of Old Chiang Mai looking for that elusive find. We ended up going into a bead shop - my aunt has asked me to buy her beads and it turned out that they had some great necklaces. We ended up giving in and hiring a tuk-tuk driver to take us a little out of the main part of town to some of the bigger shops to look at silks and the like. The tuk-tuk drivers get some sort of commission or something if they bring you to a shop and our driver was more than happy to oblige us. Personally, I think that hiring him was the best thing we did today b/c the 3 hours we spend wandering around the streets, we hardly bought anything b/c all the stores sell pretty much the same things - just like at the night market.

Last night when we went down to the night market, I wandered into a shop while Diane was buying a shirt and ended up having a custom made suit made - jacket, pants & skirt, in charcoal grey cashmere & wool blend and a white blouse for about $350 cdn. I went back this morning to have my jacket fitted and my pants measured and will go back this evening for another fitting - the entire outfit should be done by tomorrow. I am super excited to see the finished product because having a jacket that fits properly over my chest will be nice and a pair of pants that are long enough in the leg but short enough in the rise has always eluded me. Somehow I don't think that I will really want to go back to off the rack after this!

Last night was an evening of excesses. Because it was my birthday, we decided to eat at the night market which cost each of us about $2 - yes $2 - including a drink. Add on the ice cream we had after, we were up to $3. We have also found a new massage place and decided to splurge and spent a whopping $6 on a foot, back, shoulder, neck, head and arm massage - for 1 hour. I think we are going to go back there again tonight - I am bound and determined to have my Thai massage. We figured that this place we went to must be a pretty good place b/c it was full of Thai people getting massages as well. I likened it to Chinese food - if there are Chinese people in the Chinese restaurant eating, it must be good food - same with massage. Oh it was heavenly! Honestly, I could probably get massaged a couple of times a day.

I forgot to mention that the other night when we were at the night market, I had stopped and asked a woman about how much a magnet is (a practice in my team at work is when you travel you buy everyone a magnet) and she said 100 baht - about $3. I said - "they are cheaper in Bangkok" at which time she responded to me - "go back to Bangkok then" - the first time I have experienced any sort of attitude here! I did manage to find some magnets for about $1 each at a different stall.

A couple of things that I have noticed while in Thailand is that it is fairly clean and there isn't a lot of trash around - which is nice. And the other big thing that we have noticed is the absence of Americans - I wonder why that is? Don't get me wrong. . . I am not complaining!

Tomorrow is hopefully going to be the highlight of our trip - our day at the elephant farm. We are going to be elephant owners for the day. We will each get assigned an elephant and we will be responsible for it for the day - including feeding, cleaning and bathing it. We will also get to ride it. So make sure you check out my blog in the next day or so to read about that (and hopefully I can get some pictures up too!)

Well better get back to watching the Royal Wedding - Kate looked so beautiful!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Chiang Mai Adventures

Well folks, we have moved into the adventure phase of the holiday - in case I forgot to mention, this is our shopping, culture, adventure & relaxation holiday. We did culture and shopping in Bangkok, are doing shopping and adventure in Chiang Mai and will be doing relaxation in Koh Samui:-)

Happy to note that 1 hour foot massages here in Chiang Mai are down to a paltry $5 - yes, you read that right - $5 - same with a 1 hour Thai massage, which I will be getting this evening and I am happy to report that this type of massage does not include any sort of violation - I stay fully clothed!

Yesterday Diane and I went to a Thai cooking school that had come highly recommended to me by my friends Michelle and Chris. Given that they are foodies, I knew that this place would not disappoint and it didn't. We were picked up in the morning and taken to their main office to register where we met a lovely lady from Tasmania named Lyn who we ended up cooking with for the rest of the day. Our first stop of the day was to a local market where we were given a tour and each had to "buy" a local ingredient for our cooking. When I say "buy" - essentially we handed the stall person our piece of paper with what we wanted and how much and somehow it got paid for. One thing that both Diane and I noticed was the level of cleanliness and the good food handling/sanitation in the market - at a much better level than I had expected. Next we were taken about 10 minutes out of Chiang Mai to the cooking school which was set in a lovely community. We were each given our own cooking station, complete with wok and assorted cooking utensils. The format of the day was they would show you in an air conditioned classroom what we were making and then you would go out into the open air, although covered kitchen and you would have to replicate what was made. The beauty of it all was in between cooking sessions the little cleaning fairy came along and cleaned up your station and reset it with everything that you would need for the next dish. In the end we made a noodle dish, a yellow curry with chicken, chicken with cashews, a prawn salad and a dessert - I am sure we made something else but I can't remember. In total, we were there about 5 hours, 6 including the market.

Last night we opted to go back to the Night Market for some more shopping. Now the night market here is nothing like it is in Bangkok. Firstly, it is less crowded and secondly, the knock-off quality is a fraction of what it is in Bangkok - not a place that I would be buying a Rolex (which by the way I did buy in Bangkok) Nevertheless, Diane and I have each managed to purchase something each night and I am sure that tonight will be no different.

Today was an AMAZING day! As it is my bday, we decided that we wanted to do something fun and chose to go ziplining up in the jungle and it was so awesome. The hotel that we are staying at recommended Jungle Trek Chiang Mai and they sure did not disappoint (they also got good reviews on TripAdvisor). We were picked up at 9am and taken up into the mountains about an hour north of Chiang Mai. It was a gorgeous drive up into the jungles and I was amazed to see all of these remote little towns just dotting the landscape with nothing more than a few people living there. By the looks of it, their homes are rather simple and sparse and although there looks to be electricity in the area, I am not sure that many people had it in their homes, which makes me kinda wonder what they do at night when it is dark?

Back to ziplining. In total we went on about 30 different ziplines with the longest one being just over 300m. We had to do 4 apeils (repels down) with the longest being 40m down. We also had a couple of suspension bridges and a lovely .5km hike uphills - in the hot and humid forest. Let's put it this way, I didn't realize that if I kept going down I would eventually have to go back up and it was a hellish back-up when you are overweight and out of shape! :-) In the end though it was so worth it - although I did have a nasty crash coming into one of the platforms with a tension wire. I banged my leg into it pretty good and managed to cut it on a bolt but the staff were so good in doctoring me up. They were all very concerned that I was alright (which I am) although I will have some bruising. What I learned with all of this is that when you bang yourself or have a fresh bruise, put Tiger Balm on it as it stops the internal bleeding - what went from looking like really, really, really nasty bruising will not just be some nasty bruises. Another thing with this company was safety - it was paramount! I was truly amazed a how conscious they were about safety - not just for their customers but also for their staff. At all times you were safety strapped to the platform or the zipline. After the first couple of zips, and after I developed trust in my gear, I just let go and went for each and every time - it was so much fun. On top of it, our guides were super funny.

Tomorrow is going to be a shopping/relaxation day. Our hotel is amazingly beautiful - complete with an active rice paddy, so it will be nice to spend a little time enjoying it. We have also heard that there are a couple of really good silk shops here in in town that we want to check out so. . . .that will be tomorrow. Oh, one last thing - shortly after we got back from ziplining there was a knock at the door and there was a staff member holding a small chocolate cake with happy birthday written on the plate - it is those little extra touches that make this place great. (it was great cake!)

Until tomorrow. . .

Monday, April 25, 2011

Bangkok

Sorry about the delay in posting to my blog - as I mentioned, I am not a fan of the touch screen typing on my iPad and have been searching, albeit not very vigorously, for an external keyboard, to make my bloggin & emailing much easier. Unfortunatley I haven't found one yet, but I did find a computer :-) so now is time for a BIG update on our trip. As I mentioned, this is a "spoiled Heather & Diane" holiday and the avails of all of my work travel are paying off. What I have learned is that my Elite status allows me to bring a guest into all of the lounges with me, and all I can say is that I far much prefer hanging out in a lounge during our layovers! Right now we are in the Royal Thai Silk lounge in Bangkok - awaiting our flight to Chiang Mai but I will get to that in a bit!

We have a fairly uneventful flight from Tokyo to Bangkok however we were on United Airlines and that is enough said. Happy that we are flying with Thai Airlines from Bangkok to Tokyo on the way home :-) Managed to make it through customs very quickly, grabbed our bags and were in a cab all within 30 minutes of landing. We got to our hotel - the Le Meridien Bangkok at about midnight - what an amazing 5* hotel. We were both a little peckish given that we had just been travelling for about 20 hours, so we went to one of everyone's favourite haunts - the Golden Arches for a quick snack. Yep - sad to say that our first meal in Thailand was a set of chicken nuggets. Our hotel was in the Silom region (?) which is the main business district but also fairly close to the red light district. Although we didn't "see" a whole lot, we were asked a lot if we wanted to "see" various and assorted sexual acts - we both passed.

Bangkok is famous for both it's night market and it's weekend market and given that Diane is a huge shopper, and I persuaded her to come to Thailand with grandeurs of shopping, we opted to go to the weekend market as our first activity. We hoped on the subway (great system by the way) and headed out for a day of shopping. Let's put it this way - we only lasted 3 hours at the market - partly b/c of the heat and humidity - it is about 34C and about 95% humidity - but also because the market was SO overwhelming. If you wanted to buy it, they probably had it. There were 8000 stalls and it covered about 35 ha. It just reinforced to me that there is far too much "crap" in this world. In the end, we covered maybe 10% of the market and missed out on some of the good parts like furniture and house stuff but I saw enough. I did manage to get something and bought myself a pair of Havianas (a type of flip flops) for about $10 and that was about it. After about 3 hours, we both admited defeat and decided to head back to our hotel and go for a famed foot massage.

Now all along the roads are places that specialize in massage. One tradition that Diane and I started on our trip to Hawaii was to go to the spa in the Vancouver airport and were planning on doing that on Friday, but there is no spa in the international departures level - go figure - so I was a little bummed. Now, not so much after seeing how cheap massage is here! A 1 hour foot massage is running you about $8 :-) Diane and I loved our foot massage so much, we both decided that we wanted to continue our relaxation and opted to each have an oil massage and this is where the violation began! Let's put it this way, every bit of me was massaged short of the lady bits! She even did both the girls. Humility was thrown out the window when she had me on my back with my arms above my head with the girls hanging out as she massaged my stomach (which by the way feels really good) She did my butt, she did my legs, my back - you name it, she massaged it. And then when she was done, she said "have a shower now" - there was shower in my room and pulled my towel off me - so there I was buck naked - she was waiting for me to get up so she could change the table. Oh well, I am sure she has seen white cellulite before - just not sure she has seen girls like these though! :-) Both Diane and I agreed that we were equally violated. I have to admit though, I am now addicted to foot massages and went for another one yesterday. I think that this might be my daily trend.

Yesterday we spent the day touring Bangkok. We both agreed that it was probably best to hire a guide to take us around and asked the conceige for a recommendation. The hotel lined us up with a tour guide and driver - her name was Ning and our driver's name was Mr. Wat. I found it interesting that they provided us with a female guide and she made it very clear when we got in the car that they were insured. We had a brand new Toyota Camry - with air con, which became so essential! Ning took us to a bunch of temples - now for those of you who know me and have read previous posts - if I have seen one temple, I have seen them all. Well let's put it this way - I saw a lot of temples and was amazed by each and every one of them - not sure I need to see too many more though on this trip ;-) I learned how to tell the difference b/w a Buddha statue and a monk statue and how to tell the different cultural influences on the temples. (when I can upload some photos I will and I will show you) We also went to the Grand Palace and on a long tail boat down the river. By the end of the day, both Diane and I were exhausted - mainly from the heat and humidity - it was so hot even the front of my shins were sweating! No tour would be complete without the requisite stop at some place to go shopping. Here it was a gem and silk shop. Diane found a set of ruby earrings and pendant and I bought 5m of some beautiful blue silk. I have a couple of weddings this summer and figure I will have it made into a dress for those.

As I mentioned, we are heading up to Chiang Mai for about 5 days. We are staying at the Siripanna Villa Resort and Spa -which looks devine on the website - another 5* resort. I think tomorrow is our Thai cooking school and on Saturday we are going to the Elephant Farm to be owners for the day. Not sure what will fill our time in between but I am sure we will have no problem making the most of it. Once again, there is supposed to be some good shopping in Chaing Mai!

Well - gotta run - flight is boarding soon. Until my next posting. . .have a good one and remember to smile!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Bangkok Bound

Greetings from Tokyo. You will have to forgive my sentence structure as I am typing this on my iPad vs laptop and this onscreen typing and me don't get along too well. My friend Diane and I are offtoThailand for a couple of weeks for a little adventure, culture, shopping and beach time. We are currently on our way Bangkok - we have a 3 hour layover here in Tokyo and fortunately my Aeroplan stays allows me to bring a guest into the lounge so Diane are just hanging out. She/we are chatting with a guy who went to see the oldest cherrytree in Japan. She is currently looking at pictures as I type this.

Back to our trip - all of my flights last year paid off and Diane was the lucky recipient of my excessive travel as I upgraded us to executive first over here - once again, I have avoided economy long haul :-). Not too sure that we will be so lucky on the way home - keep our fingers crossed. Managed to watch 4 movies on the flight from Vancouver to Tokyo - hopefully onourflighttoBangkok there will be some different movies - we are on United for the Tokyo to Bangkok flight. It is currently pissing down rain and this airport from what I can see is fairly boring so we are hanging out in the lounge. We get into Bangkok tonight at 11 pm. I hope to be at our hotel (the Le Meridien) by about 12:30 am - by then I will have been up for about 36 hours and traveling for about 20! I am trying out those No Jet Lag pills - I have heard that they work - we shall see.

We are in Bangkok until Tuesday when we will hard up to Chiang Mai for 5 days. Tomorrow, I do believe that we are going to take in the weekend market which looks huge and insane! Quite looking forward to it.

Well, I have determined that I hate

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Good bye Cabo, Hello Los Barriles

As I write this, I am on the bus on my way from Cabo San Lucas up to Los Barriles to meet up with Kim & Brian again. I have been hanging out in Cabo since Saturday – taking it all in and for the most part, doing a whole lot of nothing!


 

This blog is going to be more about observations ,experiences, etc. as opposed to talking about what has been happening, as I haven't blogged in a bunch of days and have a long list of things to cover. J I have learned that in Cabo ALTO (STOP) on a good day means a soft yield, but for the most part, it goes completely ignored. I will be the first to admit, I am not a good passenger when I am in a vehicle with someone who I don't feel is up to my driving standards and can often been seen braking with my foot in the passenger seat, so you can just imagine how I am in Cabo. I have come to accept that the Mexicans know what they are doing and that a t-bone collision isn't inevitable – so in other words, my foot is no longer going through the floor board of the car.

Speaking of cars & taxis, they have some of the cleanest taxis that I have ever seen down here. Every taxi that I have got into has been spotless! We did have one taxi in San Jose that I thought that we might have to get out and push up the hill – my uncle figured it needed a new fuel filter(?) – but it got us home in one piece and that is all that really mattered. Yesterday I took a taxi from the hotel to the bus station to find out what time the bus left and how much it would cost, as this information was not on the internet and the hotel couldn't seem to help me (go figure). Round trip, it cost me $200 pesos (highway robbery) and as soon as I got in my taxi, my driver called his brother, who happens to drive bus, and found out that indeed the bus does run to Los Barriles and should cost about $100 pesos. Naturally I ribbed my driver about this – that it was costing me almost double to go the station as the actual trip itself! So I made him come into the station with me and translate – told him that he had to earn his money! J

I have heard some choice comments and phrases since I have been here that I would like to share:

  • "Okey dokey" – our taxi driver said this to someone over the radio – we all had to laugh. Not something you expect to hear from a Mexican.
  • "They don't have shoes but they all have guns" – our shuttle driver to diving, when we were talking about some of the neighboring states
  • "Amiga, you look like a red lobster! Whale watching? Glass bottom boat? Water taxi" – the pick up line I was given yesterday in the marina. Not I didn't go with him.
  • "Nice" – accompanied with a blatant look at my chest (this one wasn't surprising – however he was very obvious)

I went to 3 different movies when I was in Cabo, and unlike at home, you don't have to mortgage your house to go. A show was about $49 pesos and a large pop and popcorn was about $79 peso. And get this – you can chose between regular popcorn or caramel corn J They also have these really cool trays that you hook into the cup holder that hold your beverages and food. That way if you are sharing your popcorn with someone, one of you isn't left holding the bag. They are also handy if you have a couple of drinks or bags of popcorn – that way you aren't doing the juggling act. In terms of the movies themselves, they were all in English with Spanish subtitles, so it worked well for me. However in the first movie (can't remember the name b/c it was in Spanish) the sound cut out a bunch of time and given that I can't speak Spanish, I lost a bit.

So a few things that I have seen that have made me wonder/go WTF/OMG include:

  • A couple – probably close to my parents age (late 50s, early 60s) – she was literally holding him up b/c he was so bombed walking down the street. You could also tell that he was getting the "I am so pissed off at you look". Am thinking that he had the 10 beer for $10 specials that is so pervasive in Cabo – maybe times 2!
  • Also another couple – I would guess he was my dad's age (60) and she was in her mid-late 40s, getting it on on the beach by the Capella Pedregal (which I will go back to). I think what started as putting on some sunscreen turned into a full on grope-fest by him within about 30 seconds.
  • The gramps wearing his socks with his flip-flops – when will people learn that this is never acceptable!
  • The shear number of restaurants/bars/holes in the wall that sell food and booze in Cabo. One has to wonder how any of them make any money but they must if they are still around. For the most part the d├ęcor is fairly rustic – some plastic lawn chairs and a few tables and it seems that the grittier the place is, the more popular it is.
  • The military presence on the marina – I can understand that. What I don't understand is why during the day they don't carry firearms, or at least they aren't visible, but at night they are all sporting some sort of rifle?!

So that's it for now. . have made it back to Los B and back to a good internet connection. . . will blog and post more photos later.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Cabo Pulmo



Today my uncle Garth and I went up to Cabo Pulmo to go scuba diving. We were up nice bright and early to catch our ride (7:10am) however our driver failed to show up until about 8:20am, after much phoning around by the front desk. I was fairly oblivous to the whole situation, however later this afternoon I realized that he was incredibly hungover -thus his lateness. We convinced him to make a quick stop at Starbucks and then we were on our way (after backing up blindly and almost taking out 2 people) Now having been up to Cabo Pulmo twice in the past month, I was fully aware of what the road was like out to there - 15 km of washboard. One would also think that given I knew what the road was like, that I might have second guessed the venti mocha at Starbucks. Let's put it this way, I have a very strong bladder and it was given a good workout this morning!


My diving experiences have been fairly limited to date and have all been in warmer water (Great Barrier Reef and Maui), so when the dive master put me in a 7mm suit today and said that the water was cold, I started to wonder. But honestly. once I was in the water, I didn't notice it at all and was rather quite comfortable. The other thing that I have not experienced while diving is a small dive boat. The boat we were in today held about 8 passengers (cramped) and 6 comfortably. It was completely open air as well. They also had a very unique way of getting the boat in the water (in absence of a dock) - the pick up truck essentially gunned it through the sand and pushed the boat into the water. Our first dive was at a place called El Bajo. The water was a balmy 66 F and we got to depths of about 58 feet and were down for 39 minutes. Not bad for my first dive in 2 years. The visability was not bad but also not great - about 40 feet or so. This princess is used to 70 - 100 ft. visability. While under, I saw not one but two schools of manta rays swimming by which was really, really cool. They are so beautiful when they swim. Also saw 4 guitar sharks - always hiding under the edge of the coral - not wanting to be disturbed. Some huge groupers, parrot fish and all of the standard warm water (although it was chilly) type of fish. Overall, not a bad dive. Coming to the surface though, well that is when the fun began.
While we were under, the wind decided to pick up - you don't notice this when you are 50 ft down. So needless to say, when we emerged the sea was rolling pretty good and that is about the same time that my stomach started to roll and I started to turn green. Upon getting back into the boat, I realized that I wasn't exactly feeling healthy and since I only had a mocha for breakfast, there was not a whole lot for me to hurl up, so I just had to accept that I was going to feel yucky.
Our 2nd dive was at a spot called El Cantel. Unfortunately this time I could not get down no matter how hard I tried. After a couple of attempts, including having more weight put into my weight belt (I was at 20 lbs), emptying both my BCD and lungs, I finally admitted defeat and crawled back into the boat, which was a good thing b/c visibility was about 10 ft while they were under and the rest of the group came up after 28 minutes. All anyone was seeing were the fins of the person in front of them. When I got back into the boat, I just sprawled out on the bench b/c I knew that my eyes watching a bobbing horizon was not going to help my green stomach. However by the time we got back to shore and out of the boat, I was okay. Not sure what was up with all of that but guess the big Guy upstairs figured that I shouldn't be doing my 2nd dive.
Included in our dive was a nice lunch - we had 3 really nice sea bass tacos - sauteed with a little veg -very tasty and some excellent candied grapefruit scones. Considering that my uncle and I are on the fish taco mission, this was a nice addition.
Oh, I was introduced to a little taste of heaven last night - pecan cream tequila. Let's put it this way, we bought out the guy it is that good! We went for tasters last night and tonight and tonight I managed to get the last bottle (after buying a couple last night). It is so, so yummy!
Tomorrow my aunt, uncle & cousins are heading back to Vancouver :-( and this part of my holiday is coming to an end. I have had a really great time with them and hope to be able to join them again in the future on a holiday. Tomorrow I am going to head into Cabo San Lucas for 2-3 days before heading up to Los Barrilles. When we were there the other day, I realized that it has changed A LOT since I was there 10 years ago, so wouldn't mind to hang out for a bit and check it out. Plus, I want to just lay on the beach and veg. :-)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Whale Watching Times Two




So I made it down to Cabo safe and sound, although I did opt to be voluntarily bumped from my flight from Phoenix to Cabo. They were looking for 1 volunteer and the wait for the next flight was only 1 1/2 hours so I thought "what the hell". For my "troubles" I got a $200 flight credit and a food voucher for a big whopping $5. Didn't go to far considering my salad was $9.28. Fortunately with my Aeroplan Elite status I have Star Allinace Gold privileges so I just hung out in the US Airways lounge and did a little work (yes -I said work :-( ) In any event, instead of getting into Cabo at 1:30pm, I got in at 3:00pm and made it to the Coral Baja by about 4:00pm. It was amazing how many people wanted to "reimburse me" for my transportation costs to the resort - no I don't want to go to a timeshare presentation and I think I can suck up the $11 that the shuttle cost me. I can tell you, my time is worth more than $11.

Today we decided to head into Cabo San Lucas and headed to the pier and see what sort of whale watching deal we could get, considering when we tried to book something through the resort but everything was full. At the pier we were quickly acosted and managed to get the guy down from $80 per person for 2 hours and an hour at Lover's Beach to $30 per person for 3 hours, 2 1/2 hours at Lover's Beach, beer and water. Our "captain" Arnold was a tad challenged by the english language so we would get about every 5th word and then just agree with him. I have no clue what he was saying! We managed to see a ton of dolphins and they got within 2 arms length of our boat and we saw 3 different whales. Given that there were 4 women on the boat, there was a fair bit of squealing at the beginning every time we saw something come out of the water. After about 2 hours watching whales and dolphins, we headed to Lover's Beach for some sun and beach time.

Lover's Beach is opposite to Divorce Beach (which is where that couple from Calgary drowned last week. As soon as we were getting out of the boat at the beach, they made it clear to us that we were not to go in the water on the other side, but I was amazed at how people still went into the water. Dumb asses! It was at Lover's Beach that we got to experience whale watching again. Now once again, God is going to strike me down I am sure, but watching some people try and get into these bobbing boats was hilarious! There was this one woman who was probably in her 60s and one moment you saw her and then the next it was ass in the air with her legs straight up. I give her credit though, she made it into the boat - it wasn't pretty but she made it. :-) Given that we were waiting for Arnold to come and pick us up again, we probably stood and watched people for a good 20 minutes - gave a whole new meaning to whale watching! I do have to admit, that when I had to make my entry into the boat, I sorta got heaved up and rolled into it. I know that it was not pretty!

After our afternoon out, we stopped in Cabo for a late lunch/afternoon snacks. My uncle Garth and I are on the quest for the best shrimp tacos. Todays were better than yesterdays - still very good but still not quite there yet. Maybe tomorrow will be the lucky day?! Managed to put back a couple of girlie drinks and then 2 shots of tequila - hey, when it Rome. . . . then as we were passing through the mall, we stopped in a Mexican tourist store called Fiesta Mexicana where they had a tequila cart. Unfortunately the tequila cart didn't have any little plastics glasses so my uncle and I each just drank straight out of the bottle, much to the horror of my aunt! We figured - no harm done :-) The guy eventually came over and asked us if we wanted a sample and we politely declined. Had we been thinking, we would have taken a souvenir shot glass off the wall and drank out of that.

Tonight we went into San Jose Del Cabo for a couple of drinks and some tapas. As well, every Thursday evening from 5-9pm there is an Art Walk - all of the local galleries stay open a little later, they haul out the wine and encourage people to stop by. There was a really good vibe to the area where the Art Walk was and made for a very lovely evening.

Tomorrow my uncle and I are heading up to Cabo Pulmo to go diving for the day. I am pretty excited about it b/c when I was up a few weeks back, I stopped at the dive shop at Cabo Pulmo and it seemed like a great place to dive. Plus I have been diving in a couple of years. So I best be going and get some sleep. As our cabbie said tonight - "okey dokey". :-)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Back to the Baja

Surprise, surprise - I am en route to the Baja - I know, AGAIN. Yes, I was only home for 2 1/2 weeks but I have had enough of the snow and the cold! Seriously though, this is my originally planned holiday.

I am heading down to San Jose del Cabo for about 4 days and will be hanging out with my Auntie Karen, my uncle Garth and my 2 cousins (who are much younger than I), Kelsey & Kait. It turned out that our trips were going to overlap so I decided to come down a little earlier and hang out with them - should be fun. I have never really travelled with family before - so hopefully we won't kill one another :-) They have a condo at the Coral Baja and I will be crashing with them. Then on the weekend, I am going to head back up to Los Barrilles to hang out with Brian and Kim again for another week.

I know, rough life. In my defense though, this makes up for having my trip to Madrid cancelled because of the volcano. And I did have to go to Fort McMurray yesterday, so I deserve a trip. And, it has been bloody cold in Calgary and it has been snowing. So yes, I deserve this!

So check in over the next week or so, and I will try and post updates. I am also on a different computer this time, so will be able to easily post pictures :-)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Bye Bye Baja

The time has come for me to head back north :-( Fortunately it started to chinook on Friday so I will be going back to plus temperatures, but the cold is still going to be a shock! I have had a fabulous time down here in Los Barriles and it has been made even better with some great friends.

The last couple of days have been what I would call lazy days, but hard days nonetheless. I don't quite understand how you retirees aren't perpetually exhausted doing nothing! The last couple of days we have stuck fairly close to home, hanging out and we are all plum tired each night! Maybe there is an upside to working!

Thursday was Brian's day and given that he has been our chauffer all week and the majority of the roads that we have been on have been crappy, he decided that we were going to stick to a beach close to home. There is an arroyo about 5 minutes from the house that we cross when going into town - 2 in fact and there is a beach at the end of it. We decided that we would hang out on the south arroyo beach. The big difference with this beach was that you could actually see people and houses from this beach - so our spoils of having a beach to ourselves was over. Mind you, you still don't see very many people.

Friday was my day and by then the winds had started to pick again in Los Barriles style, so I knew that it wasn't going to be a beach day. Earlier in the week we had been told about some hot springs up by Santiago so I decided that that would be on the agenda, but first we would spend a little time in town going through some of the shops. We went in to this one shop that sold the typical Mexican crap and came across what I call Mexican porn (will post pics when I get the chance). They were these little clay domes that kinda looked like a butter dish and when you lifted the lid, there were two little clay people engaged in various sexual positions. Little was left to the imagination! After our shopping, we drove out to Santiago which is about 20km south of Los Barriles - what a beautiful little town. It looks like there is a natural spring that runs through it, so it was nice and lush and green and CLEAN! We even saw garbage cans on the side of the streets which is rare down here. Everywhere you look, they seem to use the ditches as the recycling centre. After passing through Santiago, we carried on down a little dirt road and came to the park where the springs were. It was a $2 entry fee for each. There were some nice camping sites and even some outhouses - if I were into camping more than I am, I would consider staying here. The hot springs were great - in one pool they go up to about 95F. We probably spent about an hour there - mainly watching Gus Gus swim around and chasing fish. After the springs we came home for "happy hour on the deck". I some fresh salsa and guac and had a nice margurita.

Since it was my day and I didn't want to cook, we went out for pizza at the Greek place we tried on the first night. Great pizza, although Kim and I had a bit of a misunderstanding with our pizza - we ordered one with 4 toppings only to receive it with each topping relegated to it's own quadrant - it was still good though. We also opted to not have the cherries put on the Hawaiian pizza :-) Only down side to my day is we forgot to put the hot tub on early enough, so no hot tubbing.

Yesterday was Kimmie's day and Brian and I each made an effort to not pick on her - I have to be admit, we have picked on her a lot on this trip but it is so easy b/c she is so obsessive about the dog! Even worse than me with Horton if you can believe it! Kim decided that Saturday would be a free day. Early in the day, Brian and I noticed some people walking up the road - right away I thought that they were either Mormons or JWs, however I ruled out Mormons quickly when I couldn't see name tags through the binoculars. They spent about 20 minutes at the neighbors and then came and knocked on our gate. Brian engaged them from the deck, while Kim took pictures from in the house. After about 3 minutes of their chitchatting at a distance, Brian nicely told them that he didn't think that he would be attending their service. Now for those of you who know Brian, it would have been more in character for him to tell them to F off! We all had a lazy yet exhausting day sitting in the sun (it was windy out) but managed to get in a nice hot tub!

Every night we have been treated to an amazing moon rise over the horizon and the sky full of amazing stars - I am definitely going to miss that! I will not miss the cat that screeches every night about 4am! I will miss hearing the waves crash.

As mentioned it has been a great trip with great weather and great times. Now I am packing up and we are going to head into San Jose del Cabo and poke around and maybe do some shopping before my flight at 5:30pm. Kim and Brian are down here until the end of February, so I may be back. . . or I might head to Nigeria :-) Will keep you posted.

Friday, January 21, 2011

It's My Day to Decide

Today is my day to decide what we are going to do and I have decided (with the support of Brian and Kim) to take break from the beach. I know - drastic, however we are all pretty much beached out right now, it is taking a lot out of us and the breeze is up today. So instead I think we are going go and check out some hot springs and maybe do a bit of poking around Los Barriles (code for shopping). Yesterday it was Brian's day and he picked a beach about 5 minutes from the house - which was nice. The only downside was that we got there early (for us - about 12:30pm) so were on the beach during the heat of the day and it was hot. We ended up leaving about 3:30ish b/c we were all baked! Brian and I went into town and bought a few groceries for supper and when we got home I made us a nice supper of bbq steak - beautiful new york strips - yum, roasted potatoes and carrots with a chipolte cream, tossed salad and garlic bread. Not sure what is on the menu for this evening but I had better decide! Of course we topped off the evening with a hot tub and as we were sitting in the tub, the moon rose over the horizon - which was spectacular. Given our hard days at the "office", we are generally in bed by 10pm.

I had wanted to post some pictures today (my blog is looking a little naked) but for some reason, Blogger isn't uploading them - not sure why?

Thank you to John Brown for his shout out on his blog about my blog (I just need to figure out how to link his to mine - that is for another day) Welcome to all you retired RVers out there! I promise that I will get back to work soon - gotta keep that oil & gas flowing so we can keep your homes on wheels running! LOL!

Until next time. .

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Baja Beaches

Today is looking like another glorious day down in Baja California Sur. To be honest, I was a little "ugh" about coming down to Los Barriles because they are known for their winds - they even have a huge kite surfing festival called Lord of the Winds - it ended the day that I arrived. With the winds comes the microderm abbrasion on the beach - free of charge of course, so I came down with the understanding in my head that there would not be a lot of beach time - boy was I ever wrong. The Big Guy upstairs must be liking me right now b/c since I arrived, we have had nothing but windless days and great days at the beach! There is one place inland that we want to go - some sort of hot springs but have agreed that so long as the wind is down, we will be beach bound!

We have discovered some amazing beaches both north and south of Los Barriles and for the most part, there is not a soul on them. Yesterday we went down to Los Frailes which was located in the Cabo Pulmo National Park. There were some people camped on the beach and about 1/2 km off the beach, but the beach is so big, you don't really notice them. I think the other reason why they are so quiet is that they are off the beaten track. To get to this beach we had to drive on 20km of washboard that would take about 45 minutes - but so worth it! As well, we are out of the "tourist zone" and the majority of the people down here are the type of people who come down and winter. Don't get me wrong - I am not complaining and neither is Brian about the lack of people - we think that Kim might like a few more people, so we won't pick on her so much :-).

I am not sure what today brings. It is Brian's day to decide everything and all he has told us is to wear what we would normally wear and maybe bring a few dollars in case we decide to stop somewhere. Normally surprises like this would drive me nuts, however in this case, it is kinda cute to see Brian all excited about where he is going to take us, so I haven't been harassing him for details (unlike Kim) He has already decided that we are going to bbq steak for dinner, roast some potatoes and have a salad - my kind of easy cooking! And if the winds stay down, I am sure he will decide that we will hot tub it.

The only downside to not having the wind is that I can't hear the waves crashing at night and I really do enjoy that, however if I have the choice, no wind wins!

Hard to believe that it is already Thursday. . . I wonder where all the time has gone? I leave Sunday at 5:30pm so we have already decided to head into Cabo for the day. I want to check out Costco and we want to poke around town a little. I guess the upside is that I am on holidays again in about 2 1/2 weeks and there is a really good chance that I will be back down here.

I apologize for the lack of pictures - I am still using Kim's MacBook Air to post to my blog. JB gave me the suggestion of using Live Writer (or whatever it is called) but every time I try and download it it says I need to upgrade some Windows file and whenever I try that I seem to get in this loop and nothing happens. . .so until I figure out something, this will be a pictureless blog!

Until later. . .

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Hard Day at the Office




Ah yes, another hard day at the office. . .our word for the beach. This area of the Baja is notorious for it's wind - in fact they had their big kiteboarding festival this past weekend, so when by 10:30am today the wind hadn't started gusting yet, we figured that today would be a "beach day". Kim and Brian had discovered a great beach about 30 minutes up the road (we will get to that in a minute) and we decided to pack up the wagon and head on up there. Now the road - every time we travel on the gravel roads here, I know that Brian is just itching to take a grader to it. We did one road yesterday that was 30 km of wash board. Some of these roads make the Demspter Highway look like a small piece of driving paradise! To get into Los Barilles, we have to cross 2 arroyos (big flood ways) at which point the pavement and 2 lanes end and the sand/dirt road that quickly expands into a 3 1/2 lanes begin. It is always a crap shoot as to where people are going to be driving - one would think that it would be fairly standard - stay to the left, but nothing is normal down here :-)




Today after about 20 minutes of large rock ridden, narrow winding road, we landed on a gorgeous beach with not a soul on it. We unloaded our crap (we travel with a lot of stuff - chairs, umbrella, cooler, towels, snorkel gear, etc.) we all planted our asses in the sand for an afternoon of work. And by work I mean, 20 minutes on the front, flip and 20 minutes on the back, followed by some water time and possibly a walk. Or in my case, putting my chair at the waters edge and reading my book.





On this trip we have instituted a new way of decision making that seems to be working fairly well, however Kim hasn't gone yet and that is that each day a person is responsible for making the decisions on where we go, what we eat and if we hot tub or not. Yesterday was my turn - we went to the beach in La Ribera, I made chicken soft tacos for supper and we hot tubbed. Today was Brian's turn and we went to the beach, I made bass with tequila, garlic and pepper with a nectarine salsa and we hot tubbed. Tomorrow is Kim's day to decide. We have already agreed that there will be a time limit on decisions or we could be at home all day before she decides. One thing to note is that in exchange for lodgings, I have offered to cook. :-)





We are almost at a full moon which is making for some spectacular evenings in the hot tub. Also being out in Cabo, we get amazing views of the stars. Now my friend JB, I am sure your star vistas are a bit better being in the desert and all, but coming from Calgary and all the light pollution, it is great to be able to see all of the stars nice and bright. I marvel at them every night before I got to sleep.





Oh - one last thing - it truly is a small world. Brian has NWT plates on the jeep, so this guy wandered up while we were sitting there. I had my iPod on when he introduced himself and when I got the sense that the conversation was going to go on for a while, I turned over and took off my iPod. Lo and behold, it was Gord Rozon - a consultant that I had worked with about 6 years ago up in the Mackenzie when I was working in the Beaufort. Him and his wife have a place just south of the beach that we were visiting. I think he has the right idea - semi-retired, able to work from there with the odd trip thrown in to places like Asia. . .sounds like a plan to me!