Thursday, August 28, 2008

Paris of the Prairies

which is not be confused with my previous posts. this 'Paris' has lots of bridges and a river and street names I do not know yet, and thankfully- there is no metro. according to wikipedia, Saskatoon Saskatchewan IS the Paris of the Prairies. according to miss B's new landlords, no one here would say that. according to miss B, this was the major selling feature.
regardless, we are here and the reason is because B has moved here to do her masters at U of S. I am here for moral support and as a mule for her luggage. we flew in this morning and have already had a tour of saskatoon, moved into the house, bought her a bed, unpacked and furnished her room as well as went grocery shopping. it is a lovely house from the 1940's and it perfectly charming and close to the university.

I am here for the weekend and we will do all the running around and site seeing we can fit in. it is the long goodbye. the next 2 days need to be packed with all the fun we can muster to last us this fall and until the snow falls.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

flying by the seat of your pants

well I am home. 26 hours in transit yesterday has left me wiped, but I am glad to be here in my apartment. it was a very close call yesterday in Paris as I finally got on the 3rd flight of the day by the skin of my teeth.

I fly stand-by and let me tell you a little about how it works:
the first biggest misconception about flying stand-by is that it is free. it is not, nor has it ever been free. cheapER but never free. even though it has given me many opportunities to travel, see family and friends and see the world- as far as I am concerned, the cost one pays for never knowing if or how you will get home is quite high. you are there "standing by" hoping that a seat might be open on the plane and then the airline wants to fill the seats so they will put you on when space permits. this might sound easy, but it is not.
yesterday was probably in my top 3 most stressful flying experiences in 31 years of stand-by travel. there were something like 80 stand-by passengers (those are currently working employees, everyone from ticket agents to pilots, their families and sometimes friends, then retired employees family members-thats me at the very bottom of the seniority list) and those 80 stand-by people are vying for 5 seats left open on the plane. there were 2 flights to Montreal and 1 to Toronto daily from Paris, and I tried all 3. my last chance was a Montreal flight at 1:30pm... and the flight closed, was full, all of 3 stand-by people got on and they told all of us to come back tomorrow. and then they looked at me. to my advantage I was the only person flying alone, and I only had carry on baggage. and even though the flight was full they allowed me to go down to the gate and make sure there wasn't some last minute change.

* now considering that flying stand-by is often totally dependent upon paying customers not showing up for their flight- this is something I will never understand. if I paid full fare for my plane ticket I would not NOT show up for my flight. ok, maybe you had such a wonderful time you decided to rebook for a later date, or you were in a car accident- but I don't see how you can arrive at the airport, check in, go through customs, security and then not get on the plane.
and this, is how I got home yesterday.

so back to me standing at the gate, and they are calling the names of 2 people who did all of above, and were still not on the plane. and there are about 8 agents all working at the gate and looking at me and calling the other passengers names again, and again... and then finally they decided to give the spot to me. it was something out of a space odyssey movie, they sealed the door at the gate and I stood their on the ramp waiting for an agent to accompany me to the plane. they shuttled me off in a bus to the plane waiting on the tarmac, I got on, and they closed the door.

its almost a day later. you can see why I am relieved to be here. taking it easy today and back at work tomorrow. I missed my apartment and my friends, but over all it was a great trip with so much to see and do. I am grateful for my travel companions and the hosts along the way. now a bit of catch up on life back home...and planning the next get away (sooner than you think)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

au revoir Paris et ma vacances

well Paris has come to a close. right now I am sitting have a glass of wine in our hotel room, after a lovely dinner on a patio with drinks and a view for people watching, we are repacked and have our game-plan for the metro tomorrow morning.
Paris has been interesting- I cannot lie, it was not easy at moments for me.
I was here once as a teenager, but this was different. the city was overwhelming in size and busy-ness for me. I tried my hardest to understand and communicate in french but its evident my language skills are rusty (truth be told gr. 11 was a long time ago). as far as I am concerned the biggest problem was that of the street maps: they don't include all the streets!

but...we are in Paris. Paris baby! highlights include: sitting on patios, taking bagettes to the park and cracking open a bottle of wine, walking and walking, going to mont martre and seeing that view, exploring, skillfully cropping tourists out of photos, the louvre, the pompidou, still managing to find destinations sans address, champs de lysees, top of the arc de triomphe, the eiffel tower during the day, the eiffel tower at night, holding a boys hand under the eiffel tower, notre dame, paris crypt, finally navigating without a map and not getting lost, and everything in between.

special thanks to CR for sticking by me and reading the map from time to time.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

it happens to the best of us

well, today I had a little break down somewhere in the Paris metro- honestly, I really can't tell you where as that was part of the problem. I was all out of sorts and I had warned CR that this might happen at some point. culture shock and a bout of homesickness.
it was brewing yesterday, but hit heavy today. although happy to report, more like a 24 hour bug. I think its out of my system now. we have one more day in Paris and then homeward bound. will still blog about Paris and my return...
tomorrow is pretty casual, coffee, game plan for the metro departure to the airport, pack up and have a glass of wine. a bien tot!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

in Brugge

well, we are in f*ckin Brugge. colin farrel isn't here, but we climbed the belfry and sat on his patio. CR and I arrived yesterday, and will be gone again by tomorrow- but its been nice. busy, very busy but nice. there are tonnes of tourists, but we are often off the beaten path and this suits us all the better. weird shop hours though... we always seem to catch them closed at lunch, dinner, or because its wednesday. tonight we will sample a few more beers, some chocolate. last night I already had the waffles and mussels- but not together.
tomorrow...another train- this time to Paris.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

i am sterdam

CR and I have been staying with my dutch family in the most lovely town of Weesp (about a 15 minute train ride West of Amsterdam). Weesp is about 600 years old- give or take, and it has a population of about 18,000. I do not speak dutch, but I feel strangely most at home here. there is something about the daily life that I can not capture elsewhere. the family we are staying with are my mothers cousins (and age), but are about the coolest and trendy of the family. their english is fabulous. we live in an old brick house on a canal. as I child I thought I was like Anne Frank... and truth be told, we are set up in a lovely room in the attic (this time a 3 floor walk up- my calves are killing me). every night we eat and drink like we are in a 5 star restaurant. they have also taken us all over the country side to various pubs and sites.

highlights: trying every beer on the menu, wandering in utrecht, figuring out the train schedule, shopping in amsterdam, canal tour in the rain, trying on wooden clogs, wishing I'd bought some, thinking in orange, red light district, buying another round, still wanting to live here, another patio, windmill up close and personal, everything small, bike riding inspiration, family, and my attic room.

tomorrow...a little bit of shopping and meeting up with some of CR's friends. family dinner, and then packing to be off again. I plan on sitting on a patio and soaking as much of it in as I can...

Thursday, August 7, 2008

so sofia

I have just finished a week in Bulgaria. miss B was the super hostess as always and took excllent care of me. she was not only my travel companion, but constant translator and guide. I would not let her out of my sight even for a minute! this was an evident lesson early on when I arrived at the airport, went through customs, collected baggage and was greeted by a crowd- not a single english word was seen or heard- and then no miss B. the airport cleared out, and looked as though it might shut down for the night and I was left all by myself with 1 lurking taxi driver. dutch tourists took pity on me and let me use their cell phone. she was waiting at the OTHER terminal...and no one here or there offered up such information. incuding the "information" booth.

memorable moments: miss B's uncle Toni, getting good at the 6 floor walk-up, having her point out memories from her childhood, going to the passport office to be registered, many drinks on many patios, going to the mosque, personal tours with Dushko, having a bulgarian birthday, going shopping at the market for food and hosting a little party at our apartment, kisses for each cheek, road trip to Koprivshtiza, road trip to Plodiv, listening to techno at one of the most historic sights I have ever witnessed, old friends, icecream under the fall of communism.

we stayed in her childhood apartment building in downtown Sofia- in an attic studio. it was nice to see and meet the people and places she has spoken about since I met her (and I must say, painted a most accurate picture). I would love to go back again one day with miss B, and know that I could have not done this trip without her!

Monday, August 4, 2008

london calling

so I am again writing from the road... was in london england for 3 days visiting my dear friend miss che and what a lovely time! I have not been to london for 10 years or so, but she had me set up in a lovely room in notting hill and it exceeded all expectations: rendez vous with other friends, walking on the thames, shopping, the pound, riding on a double decker, pims in pubs, tate modern, english blokes, riding the underground, wrong side of the street, more pubs, snogging (ok, once)