Saturday, November 24, 2012

Journeys Will Be Changing

Well some major news and changes coming in my life, which hopefully will lend itself to more posts.  I accepted a role within Shell this week (that is who I currently work for) in The Hague.  I start at the beginning of February so the next couple of months are going to be rather chaotic and busy as I prepare for my big move.  Plus, I have a trip to Hawaii in there for Christmas and another trip to Mexico for a friends wedding, the week before I am supposed to start.  So really, I think I only have about 6 weeks or so to really wrap my head around all of this.

By the sounds of it, there will be a fair amount of travel - which I love!  I love getting out and seeing new places, even if it means only going from the airport to an office or a hotel - at least I get to see something and experience something new.  I am also hoping that with being based in Europe that I will have a lot of opportunities for travel.  Mind you, if you know me at all, you will know that I seize just about every opportunity to go somewhere, even if it is only for a short time.  Hell - last weekend, I went  to London, England for 2 days!  I had a business trip to Houston and decided to fly back to Calgary via London and the sad part is that it was a lot cheaper to do it this way than it was to fly directly home!  So between my dad (who also shares my love of travel) and I, we are both plotting where we can go.

So keep checking back b/c I hope to have lots of stories and adventures to share with you over the next 4 years.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Friends Closer to Home

I have always said - I will follow my friends around the world - take advantage of the cool locales that they are living in and this weekend was another one of those adventures. Only this time, it was much closer to home.  My colleague Jeff moved to Anacortes (San Juan Islands) at the end of March, for work - we have a nice big refinery there, and since I wasn't doing anything this weekend, I decided that I would go down for a quick visit.

When Jeff moved to Anacortes, he decided to get a little shack so that when he had friends come down, they would have something a little more than a hovel to stay in.  This shack that he has rented is waterfront, is a mere 6800 sq ft, has 6 bathrooms - yes 6 and 7 fireplaces! It has a an elevator from the walk-out level to the "eagle's nest" - a top floor room with amazing views of the San Juan islands.  Although the garage only has 4 doors, it can easily house 9 vehicles, including either a large RV or a boat (it has a pull-thru).  Every room in the house has spectacular views of the water - and oh, the kitchen has a pizza oven, which Jeff has never used b/c he still hasn't figured it out.  All in all, it is a pretty good little bachelor's pad and guaranteed, I will be going back!
 Anacortes is a cute little town with a lot of charm and character in the downtown and a noted absence of any big box stores aka Walmart or Target.  On the weekend they have a fabulous little farmers market where you can pick up artisan cheeses and butter (which I did - a nice lavender cheese and fresh herb de provence butter - yum!), as well as these gorgeous organic raspberries that tasted like a raspberry should!

After getting my fill of the Farmers Market and Anacortes, we went on a little drive about and went through another great little town with a wonderful downtown called ???  What I have noticed about the places down here is that their downtown cores have been revitalized with cute little shops, which all aren't full of "made in China" kitchy crap like we have in Banff but rather little mom and pop types of stores.  They have also done a great job of restoring the buildings, created great pedestrian areas and there seems to be a real pride in the communities.  With that being said, we didn't stop and shop in these little towns but made our way down the I-5 to the Seattle Premium Outlets where I managed to keep the Washington State economy going for another day.   Jeff, bless his heart, took me shopping and I have to say, his father trained him well!  He always seemed to find a bench near to the store that I was going in, happily looked after my bags, while I power shopped.  In return for this, I only subjected him to 2 hours at the outlet but in that time, I did manage to buy a fair bit, including 5 pairs of shoes :-)
Me & Gabert!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Belize Eats

If it's one thing I have learned from all of the retiree, RVing bloggers out there is that what you eat and where is important and even more important is sharing it with others. Now with that learning, I have decided that on my travels I will try and blog specifically about what and where I ate. See, I am learning from my elders! LOL!

Day One Elvi's - this restaurant came recommended to us my friend Candace who rented us her condo down here on Ambergris Caye. She said that they had really good food and that we were to try their jalapeno poppers - so we followed her advice and we were not disappointed. The poppers were home made and were served with a mango sauce of some sort and to me, they weren't too hot.
We also shared an order of coconut shrimp which came in a coconut cream sauce as opposed to being coated in coconut and fried - it was very yummy as well. As for the main course, Diane had lobster ala Elvi (it is lobster season here) - which was about 3 tails worth with some sort of coconut mushroom cream sauce on it with a side of coconut rice. I opted for the special of the day which was a seafood creole that had snapper, shrimp, lobster (1 whole tail), calamari, scallops and conch in a tomato type broth served with coconut rice as well. It was way more than enough food! Elvi's is a definite hit and would recommend.

Day Two Capricorn - we asked our dive master what his favourite restaurant was and at this end of the island, it was a place called Capricorn, which was about a 15 minute walk down the beach from our resort. It had a nice dining patio however the food was so-so. Upon talking with others, it has a reputation for being hit or miss and I think we got a miss day. The meal wasn't bad but it wasn't great. I ordered the conche ceviche for an appy - very yummy! Diane had a lobster cake with a roasted red pepper sauce - it was rather pricy for what you got. For mains, I had the catch of the day which was snapper - I love snapper. It was served pan fried with an olive tapanade and another sauce that I can't remember. The fish was a little overdone - okay a lot, but nonetheless edible. It was also served with this horrid squash that I thought was sauteed pears or apples - it got spit out. Diane ordered the grouper in some sort of sauce and it too was overcooked. Like I said, the dinner wasn't horrible however it wasn't great.

Day Three Waruguma - this was another recommendation from Candace and once again, did not let us down. Now Warugama is one of these hole-in-the-wall type of places that has absolutely nothing when it comes to atmosphere. It has plastic table clothes and plastic lawn chairs but damn the food was good! They made pupusas - which for those of you who don't know are a central american type of dish. Essentially you take some filling, in this case I had pork and cheese, about the size of a baseball worth and you coat it with a cornmeal dough of some sort, so you have an even bigger baseball and then you flatten it and fry it on a griddle. Here they were served with a nice little slaw and some tomato juice ttype of sauce - oh so yummy - and that was just the appetizer.
Lobster burrito
I ordered the lobster burrito - I know - not a traditional burrito filling but it was so good! There were at least 3 tails worth of meat in this burrito - which was huge! They say that they can feed 2 people and they can. I brought most of mine home and had it for lunch the next day. Diane ordered the fish tacos - made with snapper, and that too was a massive portion. It came with this innocuous looking salsa that just happened to have a piece of habernaro pepper in it that could strip your taste buds! Definitely a go to again place - and cheap!

Day Four Captain Morgan's - now this is a resort that is located on Ambergris that happens to have the casino and where the TV show Temptation Island was shot. It is also only a 10 minute walk down the beach from our resort, so after a day of diving for Diane, we decided to go there as she didn't want to take the water taxi into town. I had to admit that my hopes for Captain Morgan's weren't very high especially when we got there and found out that it was going to be a buffet of Belizian food :-( Not that I don't like buffets, but usually only if they have Chinese or Indian food in them and I am always a little cautious of "national foods" - I don't want to be eating goat or anything like that. Well boy was I ever surprised - it was delicious! They had chicken tamales, stewed pork, sweet and sour plantains, beef fajitas, rice and beans and a couple of kinds of salsa and to finish it all off, key lime pie! Yum!

Day Five Rendezvous - can't remember anything else now because it is over a year later when I am posting this :-)  however I have figured out how to back date my posts so they show up in the right place.  I think this is where we had the pork taquitos :-)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Where Have the Days Gone

Wow! Hard to believe it is Friday and the work week is almost over - that means I will be heading back to the salt mines on Monday :-(. Normally by now I have my next vacation in the works, this time - not really. I would like to head back down to the Baja to see my friends Brian & Kim (see last year's posts) but they are only there for a month and I don't think I can swing it due to some work obligations (yes, I do work). I am heading to Houston at the end of March for some meetings so was thinking of tacking on a week of holidays to that - need to give that some more thought. But until then, I will continue to enjoy my last couple of days here in Belize. My plan for today was to go diving this morning with Ecologic Divers however the weather is not cooperating. They came and picked me up at my dock at 8:15am as arranged and we went into San Pedro and the weather, mainly the wind, got worse. Inside the reef, the chop wasn't too bad but outside the reef, where we were to go diving, there were 8-9ft swells, making it too dangerous to go diving. So after waiting for about an hour, the decision was made by Ecologic to cancel the dives for this morning. It was too bad, however it was the right decision - safety first! Unfortunately I can't go with them tomorrow as I fly out on Sunday morning and my decompression time would most likely be too tight. As for what we are going to do today, not sure. Diane is writing her final exam for her Open Water Certification and then we might take the water taxi into town and do some souvenir shopping - need to keep the economy going. The nice thing about Belize, even when it is overcast, it is still about 80F - so still warm. Yesterday was a rest day for me and a diving day for Diane. She did her last 2 open water dives towards her certification. I had contemplated going with her but decided to take a day off. I went for a nice walk up island along the beach checking out the other places to stay. What is interesting about Ambergris Caye is that there are very few cars as everyone gets around in a golf cart with 4x4 wheels on them, so all of the "roads" and I use that term loosely are more like dirt lane ways. In some places, the road is replaced by the beach. The other way that a lot of people get around is on bicycles - which they also ride on the beach. We haven't done either yet - maybe today. AFter my walk, I just lazed around the pool for most of the day reading my book. Although it was fairly overcast, I managed to get some good colour and that is when I realized that I need Botox! I must furrow my brow when I am reading as I have these 2 lovely little white stripes on my otherwise tanned face! Late afternoon it pissed down rain for about 30 minutes, the water was really choppy and my thoughts of taking the water taxi into town were quickly fading, however when we did decide to go into San Pedro, it was as smooth as glass. We had a lovely meal at Wild Mango (I will be posting a specific

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Rough Couple of Days

Yah - not really, more like lazy thus the limited blogging. I can't even blame it on a lack of internet or spotty internet for that matter b/c there is WiFi everywhere here - every shop seems to have it. Now let's see, what can I tell you about the past couple of days. . . . This morning I went on a 2 tank dive just on the other side of the reef that protects Ambergris Caye. The resort that we are staying at Las Terrezas is affiliated with a dive shop called White Sands Dive Shop and they are located just off of the resort so it makes it really easy for me to decide if I want to dive or not. Diane has decided to do her open water course and while she was at it this morning, I figured that I would use that time to get in a few dives. I have to say, it was probably some of the best diving that I have ever done - it is a very healthy coral reef with a lot to look at. There are a lot of nurse sharks and groupers - all that will let you touch them - very cool! One of my dives this morning went down to 90 feet and the other 60 feet - and even got to swim through some "swim throughs" or "channels" - this is a real test of my claustophobia! I got a little green on the way in from the first dive - the 6-7 ft waves weren't helping!

For the rest of the day I have just been laying by the pool reading my book and now I am just sitting on our patio typing away. Yesterday was really a lazy day for us. Went to the beach in the morning (it is right in front of the resort) and read my book for a few hours. Then Diane and I decided that we would try our hand at sailing - yah, 2 white girls who have only lived in landlocked provinces - this should be fun! The resort has a Hobi Cat that is for use by it's patrons and we took advantage of that. After quick lesson from Curl (our go-to guy at the resort) we were off! I am sure he had a few moments where he thought "I can't believe I am letting them do this" as we went in circles in front of the resort but after a few minutes, we, meaning Diane, got the hang of things. Lucky for us, in grade 12, she took sailing lessons on the Glenmore Resevoir, so they came in handy. We were out on the water for about an hour and I only had to get off once and push (parts of the space b/w the land and the reef are very shallow - like up to my mid calf) and we seemed to have sailed into those. We managed to sail our way safely back to the resort and this will definitely be something that we will be doing again while we are here! After our sailing, we did a little pool time and decided that we would go into San Pedro a little earlier and try and keep the economy afloat for a bit! :-)

Now to get to San Pedro we have to take a water taxi that only runs every 2 hours during the day and every hour at night, so you have to plan. During the day, it just looks for people standing at the end of their docks and if they see you, the swing by. At night, it is a different story. If you want to go to San Pedro you flick on the green light and if you want to go up island you flick on the red light. If they see the lights, then they swing by your dock and pick you up. For the most part it seems like a pretty good system, although it can get fairly tight on the taxi. We bought a weeks pass for $50 and that gets us unlimited water taxi use.

For the most part we have been eating our breakfast and lunch in our condo and been heading in to town at night for supper, although one night we did walk down the beach to another resort for support. Speaking of beach, we aren't talking gorgeous white sand, sink my toes in type of beach but rather white, compacted often covered in sea grass, smells bad type of beach but very easy to walk or ride your bike down. And since there is so much development along the island, it isn't too, too dark - although I will bring my flashlight next time. Well, I should run - we are getting ready to head into San Pedro for some supper. Tomorrow I will tell you all about my experience with the dishwasher. . . .

Sunday, January 29, 2012

And so it begins. . . .

Normally Diane and I ease into our holidays - but not this time. She had expressed an interest in learning how to dive and when I asked her yesterday if she still wanted to, she wasn't sure. There is a dive shop located at our resort (White Sands Dive Shop) so we popped in there yesterday and they said that they could do an intro to scuba course in the pool today and then we could go out to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve for a dive. I figured while she was doing that I could get in a dive as well. So needless to say, we were both up before 8am this morning - which you have to admit is an early start for the first day of a holiday :-)

The diving at Hol Chan was really good and I saw a few things that I hadn't seen before. Before I came down I went and bought a torch for underwater as I learned in Hawaii that there are many different little critters that lurk in the nooks and crannies of the corals and today I found this mini eel - probably only 10cm long and about 1cm wide - really cool! We also saw a couple of nurse sharks, a green sea turtle, some tarpon, a baraccuda, a lion fish, lots of two jacks and also sorts of other little fishes that I don't know what they are called. This was Diane's first time diving and I think that she enjoyed it and may contine with her full certification (I hope so as there are lots of dive trips I want to take!) After our dive we went to a different zone in the marine park and snorkelled. Here we saw quite a few rays and a bunch of sharks. Overall, the water is very shallow and our deepest depth on our dive was only 28 feet.

So back to the beginning of our trip. Our flight to Belize City was uneventful although I did get a talking to at customs as I took a picture of the "Welcome to Belize" sign and I wasn't supposed to. Yep - bad me. After collecting our bags and we had to go back into the airport and re-check-in for our flight to San Pedro which was on a small airline called Maya Air.
Not the most high tech boarding pass

While waiting for our flight we were both hungry so got a hot dog and a rum punch (lunch of champions) at Jets Bar - a local institution at the Belize City Airport. I nearly fell off my rocker however when he said $28. Now everyone had warned me that Belize was a little pricy but $28 for 2 hot dogs and 2 rum punches?! It turned out it was $28 Belize dollars or $14 USD - much better.
Now back to Maya Air. They flight little single engine Cessna Caravans with one pilot. Not exactly up to my safety standards but I figured if we went down, I could swim :-) A couple things I noticed on the flight was that there was no safety talk at all - no pointing out of the exits, fire extinguisher or anything - good thing I fly a lot b/c I know all of these things off by heart! Secondly, the co-pilot seat was an actual seat for a passenger. I thinking that when we fly back to Belize City that I am going to try and sit there. Now having had the career that I have had, I am very used to flying in tiny planes and landing on small airstrips but this one has to take the cake! The San Pedro air strip kinda runs up the length of part of the town with homes in close proximity on each side and then the paved strip ends and you hit this little gravel path and yes it is a path and all of a sudden you are at the end and that is that. If you don't like flying, then this was not the place for you to land! LOL!
Coming into San Pedro

Okay - I have more to write but I am getting tired, so until tomorrow. . . oh just so you know, I did have a hard day with diving, reading my book and napping outside in a nice round chair :-)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Belize Bound

Yes, I am going on another holiday.  I know that there are many of you out there that wonder if I ever work - and I do, however I have just learned how to maximize my time off.  Between vacation, flex time and statutory holidays, I can squeeze in a lot of vacations!  Believe it or not, this trip is using up my remaining vacation time from 2011. 

Now back to this vacation. . . .so back in December, shortly after I arrived in Hawaii, I got an email from Diane saying that she wanted to go on a holiday and soon!  So while I was in Hawaii, we decided that we would aim for the last week of January, pending work schedules and after a little bit a discussion (really not much) we decided that we would go to Belize.    In terms of vacations that Diane and I have taken (this is #4), this is probably the least planned we have been.  I mean we didn't discuss until noon yesterday how we were getting to the airport and our flight left at 5:20pm.  I guess the most important things were booked like flights to Belize City, flight to San Pedro, hotel in Houston and condo on Ambergris Caye.  The rest we are just going to figure out!  Belize has some spectacular snorkeling and diving so that is on the list and I am pretty sure we are going to go and check out some Mayan ruins as Diane likes that sort of stuff and this trip isn't all about me! LOL!

This morning Diane and I experienced a first on our travels together - the drug dog search.  Just as we were to go down the jet way to our plane in Houston, we were pulled off to a side hall (this was happening to everyone - we part of a group of 8 people or so), told to put all of our bags on right side and step to the left.  After everyone was assembled, a TSA agent with a beautiful German Sheppard rounded the corner and proceeded to sniff all our bags.  After that, we were all given the all clear and were allowed to board the plane.  I thought it was all kinda cool. . .was wondering though if he would have been interested in Horton's scent which I am sure is on everything I own!  Speaking of which, 7 years ago today, that little brown beast that I love more than anything in this world came into my life - Happy Mama and the Who Day (that is what I call today).

As I type this, I am on our United/Continental flight to Belize City.  Now I know that after our trip to Thailand I vowed never to fly United again if I could help it, but now with the Continental/United merger, I am prepared to be bit more forgiving.  If it is a Continental branded flight, I am more prepared to fly it than a United branded flight.  Plus anything flying out of Houston is a Continental flight as Houston is a hub.  Overall, not that bad.  Oh - yesterday when we got the airport in Calgary we found out that we would not be able to collect our bags in Houston, although we had a long layover (overnight), so we both quickly scrambled to pack our PJs and basic toiletries into our carry-ons.  Have to admit, although it was a bit of a pain not having all of my stuff, including a change of clothes, it made this morning easy as we didn't have to check in - only had to go through security.  Once again, Diane gets to benefit from all of my frequent flying as in the US they have specific security lines for those who have a certain status level - in this case Star Alliance Gold, so that line was a little shorter.  The other upside is that she gets to be my guest in the lounge.   There was a decent United President's Club lounge in Houston so we popped in for a quick breakfast and for me to download my emails.   When it comes to lounges though, the ones in Europe kick butt to anything in North America in terms of food, beverages and amenities. . . but I can't complain b/c it is still better than sitting out with the commoners in the airport :-)

Until later. . .bound for Belize.