Saturday, July 30, 2011

Hi from Chicago

Heading downtown in a few minutes so a quick post. Yesterday we went to the Lincoln Park
Zoo and then had stuffed spinach pizza for supper -delish. Today we are going up the Willis (formerly Sears) tower and to the lake front. We will stay and watch the fireworks at Navy Pier.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chic ago, Chicago

In less than twelve hours I will be on the road...or should I say in the Chicago. Spending a long weekend with friends and seeing need to say last names is there. It's going to be a HOT one...whew...and I don't mean me getting all hot seeing Paul (although that will be added heat I must admit) but it will be equal to 104 on Sunday and 100 on Monday.

I will try to blog...have netbook will travel....

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A European Christmas

Yep, I will be spending Christmas in Germany this year. I will be staying with my friend Claudia who lives in a small village in northern Bavaria. I have been there many times before but never for Christmas. It should be fun. Before that I will be in Salzburg, Austria for five days. I don't know how I survived this long without going there as not only is it the home of Mozart but the filming of The Sound of Music, my favourite movie OF ALL TIME was done there. My Mecca. I can't wait! I have a ticket to see "The Sound of Music" on December 17th - it hasn't been performed live in Salzburg in a long time. So what if it's in German, I know every damn word anyway!!! And to pick up all those (over the top touristy) Mozart vibes, I can't wait. You know there will be a concert of Mozart in there somewhere. Mozart and McCartney - the best composers ever! Other than that things are still being worked out - all I know is I will be spending the last part of the holiday in London. How can I not go with being on that side of the pond? I hope to start seriously walking the Thames Path and finish up in May of 2013. The Thames Path is 180 km long so it will be quite the challenge. I hope to do a great deal of the London part of it while I am there. It will get me in shape for the next challenge - the Surf City half marathon in Huntington Beach, California on February 6th. But that is another post...

I wrote a book!

Well not really but I did get this blog printed into a soft cover book. I love it!! All my adventures in one package. I am already planning to get another one printed in a couple of years and hopefully there will be lots of new adventures....South India, Vietnam, Cambodia to name a few....fingers crossed!!!

One thing I noticed is that I haven't been posting too many photos lately - it's just a pain in the you know where. I will try though - of course if you are my "friend" on Facebook you can see all the photos.

Next jaunt is to Chicago next weekend to see Paul McCartney as well as some friends - all Beatles fans of course. It is going to be so much fun; I can't wait!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

England 1997

Yep another trip to England....all good!

My Trip to England 1997

Thursday September 18th After months of anticipation September 18th finally arrived. Neil drove me to the airport and I boarded my flight to Toronto. A good flight with an edible meal and a film called “Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion” that didn’t take much concentration. My flight to London was due to leave at 7:15 however Air Canada announced that they were overbooked and asked for volunteers to take the later flight at 11 p.m. - the “reward” was a $500 voucher towards future travel on Air Canada. I sprang out of my seat and flew to the check-in desk and volunteered immediately. No one was meeting me in London so it didn’t matter when I got there. I also got a meal voucher as the later flight did not leave until 11 p.m. The flight over was good except for the strange man I sat beside. He brought three pieces of huge luggage on board and attempted to put them into the overhead bins, constantly moaned to the flight attendants, brought his own picnic lunch (complete with a loaf of bread, smoked sausages and carton of milk), spent most of the flight with a blanket over his head (and one around him that he nicked from me) and nearly knocked me and a few other passengers off our feet with his luggage cart on the way to passport control. A lady across the aisle and I rolled our eyes and grinned the whole way across and she told me at the end I certainly had a good sense of humour. Upon arriving at Heathrow I took a coach down to Brighton on the south coast.

In Brighton I stayed at the Kimberley Hotel which was close to the sea. The breakfasts were huge - cereal, bacon, sausage, eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes, toast and coffee - and kept me going until late afternoon. After a bit of wandering around I admitted defeat and went back to the room and had an early night - didn’t even stay up to watch “Coronation Street”!

Saturday September 20th - This morning I walked along to the Brighton Marina. On the way I ran into a lady walking her dog and as we chatted and she learned I was a tourist she recommended going to Rottingdean. I carried on to the Marina where I saw a replica of the Endeavour which is the ship that Captain Cook sailed the world in. It is really very beautiful - the wood work is fantastic and I imagine it is really something in full sail. It was leaving that Monday and now I regret not staying around to watch it leave but I had other plans. On the way back I walked along the beach which is a rocky beach and was “treated” to the sight of a pervert who had camped on the beach and was toddling around with his anorak on and nothing else. I chuckled to myself and carried on to the Brighton Pavilion. This was built for King George IV as a seaside residence and he spent a lot of time there but his niece Queen Victoria thought it “vulgar” and did not visit. Brighton bought it from the Royal family and it is furnished with many original pieces. It is really unique as the exterior is East Indian and the interior Chinese. Very interesting!!! From there I took the bus out to Rottingdean and had a look around the village. It is a pretty little place on the sea.

Sunday September 21st This morning I took the train to Arundel Castle which was beautiful. This castle was built in the 11th century by Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Arundel. It has been the seat of the Dukes of Norfolk and the Earls of Arundel for over seven hundred years. It is a huge castle with fantastic furnishings and beautifully decorated rooms. I attempted to climb to the Castle Keep but had to turn back as the stairway was too steep and the steps too narrow - I don’t climb well!! I walked around the grounds for a while and then carried on over to the Waterfowl Park which was nice. Took me a while to get back to Brighton as I got on the wrong train!!! I had to change trains at Ford and I stepped on the London train which dropped me back in - you’ve got it - Arundel! I realized my mistake the second I sat down but just as I went to open the door the train started moving! So then I had to wait and catch a train back to Ford and then wait for a train to Brighton. The two trains arrive so closely together that it is easy to get confused except the second time around I noticed the TV monitor stating which train it was! Oh well!!!

Monday September 22nd This morning I headed over to the village of Alfriston in the Cuckmere Valley. It is one of the many that are called “the prettiest village in England”. It was a pretty little village all right but the prettiest? I looked around a bit but I was a woman on a mission and the mission was to walk as far as Birling Gap on the coast. After purchasing juice (I always carry water with me), a sandwich and chocolate bar off I set. I walked along the Cuckmere River and met many other walkers that I chatted to along the way. I had an Ordinance Survey map but despite that I kept getting lost. To make a long story short I only made it as far as Exmeat. It was quite funny actually as I ran across civilization sooner than I had hoped and I saw a bus and nearly got killed running for it. It was headed in the wrong direction but luckily I found that out before I got on!!! I hopped a bus to Eastbourne and as if my feet weren’t sore enough I went to the shopping centre and invaded Marks and Spencer. I walked along the promenade and on to the pier as well. I took the bus back to Brighton and rested my aching feet while eating one of Marks and Spencers special salads.

Tuesday September 23rd Today I met my penpal Judi and her friend Erin. We had a great day together looking in the shops in The Lanes and walking along the sea front to the Palace Pier. There we sat and had a good chat. We ended our time together by going to Donatello’s for a super Italian meal - I had garlic bread followed by Fusilli with a walnut, blue cheese and cream sauce. It was delicious. Cappuccino finished it off. It was a nice relaxing day, which I needed at that point.

Wednesday September 24th I had the big “brekkie” this morning as I knew it would be a day I’d need the energy. Took the bus to Eastbourne and then from there then the bus to Beachy Head. I walked about 2 miles along the cliffs to Birling Gap (where the above picture was taken) where I had a cup of tea and sat on the beach and enjoyed the sea. The coast is spectacular with huge chalk cliffs. It was especially beautiful that day as the sun was shining - with the blue sky, the white cliffs, green downs and the fantastic blue sea it was breathtaking and something I won’t forget. I decided to carry on walking along the coast which would take me over the Seven Sisters which are actually eight hills with cliffs on the seaward side. For a prairie girl this was a daunting task but I decided I was up to it so off I went. Up and down, up and down I went. It is quite amusing to watch my video of this walk and hear my gasps for air and the comments I make - at one point I promised myself a cream tea and a huge chocolate bar at the end of the walk! Finally it was over but you know I would do it again. I walked through the Seven Sisters Country Park and back to Exmeat where I caught the bus back to Rotting Dean. I had a cream tea like I had promised myself. Back to my room in time for “Coronation Street”!!

Thursday September 25th I took the train to Rye and walked around this ancient town. Visited Mermaid Street which is a very old narrow cobblestone street. Walked past the castle and castle square and just absorbed the wonderful atmosphere of this beautiful old town. Rye is one of the original Cinque Ports. The sun shone which was a vast difference from my last trip there in 1981 when I had to run from shop to shop - however I had other good things happening on that trip in 1981 so there were no complaints then! There were plenty of tourists about though and after a while it just got a bit too crowded so I hopped the train to Battle. Battle is the site of the 1066 battle between William of Normandy and King Harold of England. Of course William (the Conqueror) won and Battle Abbey was built on the site of the battle. It is a ruin now (thanks to Henry VIII) but a very beautiful ruin. It was an interesting place to visit and they had excellent audio facilities as you walked around the battlefield area. Really enjoyed it. That evening I visited Neil’s brother Stuart and family - they have four children ranging in age from ten down to four so it was quite an “interesting” evening.

Friday September 26th - This morning I headed over to Lewes. It is a pretty old town. I visited the castle and I was able to get up to the Castle Keep on this one. Looked in the shops and just enjoyed the atmosphere of the town. I then headed back to Brighton and picked up a sandwich and sat by the sea. Then I committed a sin on a sunny day - I went to see a movie! I went to see the movie “Bean” which I enjoyed - at that point it hadn’t been released in Canada yet and I wanted to see it. It was funny but there were only two of us in the theatre so it felt a bit strange! After that I went and lay on the pebble beach soaking up the sunshine as I anticipated non-stop rain in the Lake District. From there I headed to the launderette and did two huge loads of laundry and then picked up fish and chips on the way back to the hotel.

Saturday September 27th - Hopped the train to East Croydon then on to Milton Keynes and Penrith for my week in the Lake District. The van was waiting at the station to take us to the holiday house in Portinscale which is one mile from Keswick. Derwent Bank - the holiday house - was wonderful and much to my relief I had a room all to myself. I had been told I would have to share. My room had one window overlooking the lawn down to the lake and the other window overlooked a beautiful garden. After freshening up I headed down to the bar for a drink and met a few people who were doing the high mountain walks. The meal was good - as were all the meals. Afterwards we had coffee and listened to the leaders talk about the various walks. There were three or four a day and you chose one according to your fitness level. I stuck with the low level walks the whole week!!

Sunday September 28th - Our walk left at 10 a.m. this morning so had time for a leisurely breakfast and to pick out my lunch. Each evening they would post four or five sandwich choices and we would tick off what we wanted and then every morning they had a long table full of goodies for our lunches - fruit, yoghurt, eggs, cheese, cookies, chocolate bars, fruit cake, fruit bars - the selection was endless!! Our walk today was on Catbells Terrace near the house - it was a bit misty at first so the views weren’t that great but it was a great introduction to the walking routine. All the walks today were shorter due to the fact that we had to be back for a wonderful cream tea at 4 o’clock. This was not something that happened every day - just the once unfortunately!! Dinner was roast beef and Yorkshire pudding with trifle for dessert. Very good! I sat with Linda from Liverpool and Janette from Glasgow. There were about 40 people in all - about 15 from the U.S., one from Germany, one from Canada (me!) and the rest from the UK After dinner a park ranger gave a talk and slide show about the Lake District which was very interesting.

Monday September 29th - The coach picked us up at 9:15 and dropped us at Patterdale. From there we walked along Ullswater and was absolutely beautiful. We had great weather - in fact the whole week was good. Much better than I had expected. Our leader Ann was great and let us stop whenever we wanted to - we had two mini-lunch breaks - one was overlooking the lake and it was a “million dollar view” as one lady put it. Then we stopped at a beach for another break. We carried on and stopped at a pub - I didn’t even bother with a drink - just having a public toilet was good enough for me! This getting back to nature was hard for a city girl. My first attempt at finding a bush wasn’t too successful. In the midst of things I looked down the hill and saw people going along the path and thought “wait a minute, if I can see them they can probably see me!”. So then I let the “experts” pick a bush and used it after them! We carried on walking - we were to meet the coach at Pooley Bridge. I didn’t think Pooley Bridge would ever appear but lo and behold it finally did. The last one and a half miles were hard though as it was a nine mile walk. Dinner that night was an Italian buffet which was pretty good. Barn dancing followed and I laughed at the very thought - a hot bath and bed was more realistic for me!

Tuesday September 30 - Woke up this morning to a sore throat. I had breakfast and afterwards felt faint and dizzy so decided I had better not go on the walk that day. I was grateful I didn’t go on the walk as I did not feel well all day. I sat in the conservatory and read for a while then decided to go into Keswick. The launch left from just around the corner so I walked over there and five minutes across DerwentWater I was in Keswick. I looked around the shops and did a bit of gift buying then took the launch back to Portinscale after booking a tour for the next day. I had a nap all afternoon. Had a mushroom omelette for supper and an early night.

Wednesday October 1st - woke up feeling much better this morning. I started walking into Keswick but some other guests at HF stopped and picked me up which was nice. I looked around the shops again and then sat and had my lunch in a small park. Then I took the launch around DerwentWater before catching a tour of the South Lakes at 2 p.m. The tour was done by the National Trust in a mini-van. I got to sit in the front seat with the driver for most of the way so had a bird’s eye view. Quite exciting especially on the narrow roads when we would have to back up to let other cars past! The driver also stopped to let me take photos and/or video. It turned out to be a fairly sunny afternoon and the scenery was marvellous. Mountains covered with bracken, the lakes, the sheep, stone fences - well everything that is the Lake District. We drove by Thirlmere and on through the Grasmere Valley to Ambleside and then visited Tarn Hows. The Langdale Valley was absolutely fantastic. I saw the other HF Holiday house in Coniston so hope to visit there sometime in the next few years. We stopped for tea at the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel - a beautiful old hotel. The driver told us to go into the lounge and everything was all set up for us - pots of tea, homemade scones with preserves. It was wonderful to sit there and relax and we were the only people there. I had envisioned an ordinary tea shop so this was really special. It was a very enjoyable tour and well worth the money. We got dropped back in Keswick so I walked on the path back to Portinscale and or course I got lost but what else is new? Dinner was a buffet which was good. I sat with the same couple of ladies but we tried to sit at different tables each evening to meet different people. Everyone was very friendly and conversations were always interesting with lots of laughter.

Thursday October 2nd - This morning the coach dropped us at Crummock Water and we walked along beside it - it was so beautiful. However the path wasn’t - very rocky and boggy with a lot of jumping over rocks. Not my kind of fun. We stopped and found a dry inlet and had a break then carried on to Buttermere village. My feet were so sore I decided to stay in Buttermere village while the rest walked around Buttermere. (the lake) As it turned out the path was smooth and no problem and I could have done it but I didn’t want to carry on with scrambling over rocks. Anyway I had a nice time in Buttermere - the time flew by as I stopped into the shop and got an ice cream and sat outside and talked to a couple about their dog and then a whole group of us were busy discussing dogs, walking, Canada, etc. It was fun. I then walked over to the lake and took some photos - it looked beautiful with the Haystacks reflected in the water. The battery in my camera decided to die at that point but as I always carry a spare battery with me (I learned a bitter lesson about that back on top of a mountain in Jasper, Alberta in 1988 and have always carried one since!) I slipped it in and carried on. Met the group coming back and the coach took us back to our little home where I had pork and a decadent chocolate dessert for supper.

Friday October 3rd - After a full breakfast this morning (we could have pretty well anything we fancied for breakfast but I didn’t want to eat too much bacon, eggs, etc. so usually opted for porridge or muesli and toast) we headed off in the coach to Bassenthwaite Lake. Our luck with the weather was running out and it was drizzling a bit but still nothing like it could have been. We stopped at the ancient church of St. Bega and had a look inside then continued on through Dodd Wood where we had a wonderful view of Keswick and Portinscale. We carried on down to Portinscale and a few of us headed into Keswick for some last minute shopping. I treated myself to my last Lake District cream tea!!! Got back to the house in time to do some laundry and have a hot bath then enjoyed a fabulous Oriental buffet for dinner. A “talent” show followed featuring the leaders and some of the guests and it was hilarious.

Saturday October 4th - My last day in the Lake District. So sad!! I enjoyed one last breakfast with the group then caught the coach to Penrith station. There were engineering works on the railway so had to get the coach to Preston then the train to London. Arrived into London King’s Cross at around 3:30 p.m. and got a taxi to Cambria House which is a Salvation Army Hostel. It isn’t as grim as it sounds, honest!! It was hot in London so once I dragged my bags up the stairs I sat in front of the fan cooling myself off! I then changed and walked to Covent Garden and wandered around there for a while. Then I walked over to the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane to see “Miss Saigon”. It was very enjoyable - loved the music - but the ending was so so sad. I took the tube back to Cambria House jostling through all the crowds. London was much more crowded this trip than I ever remember it being before. Everywhere - the tube, the streets, everywhere. Eventually I got used to it - sort of!

Sunday October 5th - today I took the train up to Bedford to visit our family friend Tom. Had a great visit with him and he drove me around a bit in the surrounding villages. It was just nice to be in a home and have a home cooked meal after travelling for two weeks. Tom will be joining us for Christmas this year so our goodbyes weren’t too sad - “see you in two and a half months”!

Monday October 6th - caught the 8 a.m. train up to York then changed onto the train to Malton where my cousin’s widowed wife’s sister (got that?) picked me up. Billie is just like family. Dodo (my cousin Peter’s widow) was in the car waiting and it was great to see them both again. We drove back to Goathland which is a beautiful little village in the heart of the Yorkshire Moors (and the setting for “Heartbeat” a very popular British TV series that I watch over here)and were greeted by Harry, the Yorkshire terrier! After lunch we drove over to see Dodo’s daughter Judy who lives in a beautiful old house with a stream in her back garden! We had tea and cake and then went for a short walk with Emma, the English spaniel. After supper we went over to some cottages to visit a friend of Billie’s and then came back and settled in to watch the telly.

Tuesday October 7th - After breakfast Billie and I walked to the shops where I bought a few gifts. I got to see inside the cottage that my aunt and uncle stayed in for seven weeks in April/May and it was really cute. Dodo and Billie had to go to a funeral so Billie went back and I stayed on walking around the village and taking photos. I then walked over to the Goathland Information Centre which was very interesting. The history and geology of Goathland was interesting but what got me glued there was the “Heartbeat” display! Especially when they showed video of upcoming shows and interviews with the starsThey were going to be filming by the shops the next day but I felt I had to get back to London. Went back and had lunch and then Judy drove me to Malton station. The train from there was late as well as the one from London to York. The whole journey back was a nightmare really - but I made it back to Cambria House in one piece!

Wednesday October 8th - today I had my first bit of bad weather. I decided to visit Canterbury - a place I had never been. It was dull when I left London but by the time I got to Canterbury the rain was starting to fall and it gradually got worse and worse until it was blowing up a gale by late afternoon when I left. I was able to visit Canterbury Cathedral which was fantastic - I got a photographer’s permit so was able to take photos and video. This is where Thomas Beckett was murdered and there is a shrine to him there. Canterbury is such a gorgeous city but I did not see it at it’s best so a return trip is in order. I had to dash from shop to shop and could not wander the side streets and explore like I love to do. I managed one good thing - I got some shopping done. The trip back was another nightmare with train delays and then the fire brigade was at Oxford Circus which closed that station and any lines going through there. Another thing I have noticed - so many delays on the tube. It never used to be like that.

Thursday October 9th - Decided to stay in London today - finally!! I visited the Museum of the Moving Image which I enjoyed - it is a history of films. Good but I think you would appreciate it more if you were British as a lot of the things didn’t mean anything to me - especially retrospectives on the television shows. I went to Jane Asher’s tea room for a cream team and from there I walked over to Battersea Park which is somewhere I had never been before. Of course - my luck - sunny until just before I got there and the sun stayed away while I walked around until I left the park and was waiting for the bus!!! Took a bus (a good old double decker - love to ride in the front seat on the top!) back to Oxford Street and looked in the shops but bought nothing. I stopped by MPL, Paul McCartney’s offices and saw someone I used to be friendly with. We had a good chat and went for a cup of tea. I took the bus back to Cambria House then ran out to get fish and chips. On the way there a fella ran up to me and said (with an Irish accent) “Excuse me - I hope you didn’t hurt yourself when you fell from heaven. You’re beautiful!”. I just laughed - a drunk Irish man at that!!! Pat arrived at about 10 p.m. so we had a good chin wag.

Friday October 10th - Today was sunny so we did our “Now I know I’m in London tour”. We took the tube to Trafalgar Square and then walked on to our favourite park, St. James Park, saw the changing of the guard at Whitehall then went over to give our regards to Ben. (Big Ben to those who don’t know him as well as we do) Of course it didn’t matter that both of us were on our 13th and 15th trip to London respectively - it was snap, snap, snap with the camera!! And the video cameras were busy as well! We then took the tube up to St. John’s Wood and walked by Mecca - known to Beatle fans as Abbey Road - and then visited Paul McCartney’s London home which is nearby. Both of us have had pleasant encounters with Paul at that house so it is always on the “must see” tour of London. We caught a bus over to Regent’s Park and walked around a bit until it was too dark to get photos (we have our priorities!) then a bus back to Cambria House. On the way back we picked up shish kebabs which were wonderful. My pedometer said we had walked over ten miles that day and believe me we felt like it!

Saturday October 11th - This morning we set off for Hastings on the south coast. It was dull in London but when we got to Hastings - torrential rain. So disappointing - I felt badly for Pat as it was her one glimpse of the sea her entire trip and it was grey and horrible. We looked in the shops and had a cream tea in a restaurant overlooking the grey sea. It was no use going to the castle either. It was just dashing from one shop to the other just like in Canterbury. We walked to the Pier and had fish and chips and even that was disappointing. Hopped the train back to London and dropped off our cameras, etc. at Cambria House then headed over to the Tower of London. We admired Tower Bridge which was lit up. We then attended the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower. It is a ceremony that has gone on through wars and disasters for 900 years - it has only been late once during the last war. It was really exciting to be part of it. Basically it is just the locking up of the tower for the night but of course there is ceremony involved. Thrilling to be at the Tower at night as well!!!

Sunday October 12th - Woke up to a sunny day. We took the tube (we always got day passes for the tubes and buses) to Tower Hill where we took daylight pictures of Tower Bridge - to join the other fifty million pictures of Tower Bridge we already have! Luckily we are both keen photographers and quite often get the same idea for a shot. Then off to King’s Cross by tube then the bus to Regent’s Park. We visited the Queen Mary Rose Garden which was still beautiful even in mid October. About half the roses were still in bloom and so many different kinds. Wonderful. I love London’s parks so much. We caught the tube to Tower Hill again and got on the Docklands Light Railway - a first for both of us. It was so interesting to see the development in the old docks area of London - cranes everywhere and beautiful buildings. It seemed strange to see such new buildings in London - as long as there are still the old buildings I enjoy the contrast. We took the train to Island Gardens and then we walked through the tunnel that goes under the Thames to Greenwich. Neither of us had ever been through the tunnel before so it was truly a day of discovery for both of us. We walked around Greenwich and had fish and chips while sitting on the steps of a church - they were delicious! Then we had a pot of tea at a bakery/tea shop. Back under the tunnel and onto the railway again to Tower Gateway. We took photos and video of Tower Bridge then met our friends Vickie and Jim at Tower Hill tube station. From there we took a Jack the Ripper walk. It had the potential to be an interesting walk but not with 150+ other people along! Like I mentioned earlier London was CROWDED with tourists. Perhaps it was because of Princess Diana as someone has suggested to me - I don’t know. It was interesting to walk the back streets though and of course the guide pointed out where the bodies were discovered and some of the grisly details which I didn’t need to hear! You could not recreate any kind of atmosphere with a mob of us though.

Monday October 13th - We walked to Oxford Street and looked in some record shops and stopped in a Marks and Spencers for some treats. We then headed to Piccadilly Circus and looked around. From there we took the tube to Hyde Park Corner and walked through Hyde Park. I had never been in that part of the park before so that was interesting - we sat and had our veggies and dip for lunch. Then we decided to head over to the Royal Albert Hall and discovered we had missed seeing Paul McCartney arrive for the rehearsal. AAAARRRHGGHHH!!!!! To say we were disappointed is an understatement as there weren’t many fans there so he stopped for autographs. We then waited all day - taking a break to grab a quick meal. He finally came out around 10 o’clock but by then there were a mob of people and we could only see him from a distance. He was friendly though and did a little dance and waved at everyone.

Tuesday October 14th - After a hearty breakfast we headed over to the Royal Albert Hall and Paul arrived about 12:00. Due to the press I was only able to catch a glimpse of him getting out of the car then he was lost from sight even though he walked just a few feet from me. Between security and the press it was just impossible. After waiting around a bit in case he came out again we headed back to Cambria House with Vickie picking up shish kebabs on the way. Then back to the Royal Albert Hall to see the premiere of Paul’s classical symphony “Standing Stone” performed by the London Symphony. Our box seats were wonderful. Before the concert began I walked to the toilet and noticed Paul’s security guard standing in front of a party room. I kept walking back and forth to the washroom and the security guard kept an eye on me! I finally felt foolish and went to the box seat which I regretted as two women in our box came in all flushed and happy - they had gotten Paul’s autograph when he left the party shortly after I left. I wouldn’t have asked for an autograph but it would have been nice to have been able to wish him Good Luck for the evening. Anyway we took our seats and Paul and family took theirs and we were able to see them the whole evening which was nice. Nice???? It was wonderful!!!! The performance began and while I enjoyed most of it there were parts that bothered me and I walked out of there with a headache. I saw his wife, son and one of his daughters leave but Paul left from another exit. I just saw the fleeing car. Lucky Pat got a wave out the window from him but I was on the wrong side.

Wednesday October 15th - Pat headed back to the U.S. today and I was due to meet Claudia, my friend from Germany, at 10:30 a.m. I was late arriving due to the fire brigade at Oxford Circus once again - I had to change tube lines and it took forever - and this was leaving an hour before our meeting time. I finally found the location where her train arrived and there she was. We had a great day together. We walked from Victoria station down to St. James Park and to Trafalgar Square where we caught a tube to Hyde Park Corner. We had lunch at the Hard Rock CafĂ© then went to Harrods and had a look around. From there we took a bus to Kensington - I got us lost but we ended up in a pub so that worked out okay! From there we found Kensington High Street and looked in the shops. Claudia bought me a book which was sweet. We then headed over to Oxford St. and we parted ways. I was going to wait in line to get a wrist band as Paul was going to be signing autographs at HMV the next day. Well I found to my dismay that they had handed out wrist bands already - what I didn’t know was that they would be handing out more but I wouldn’t be there. I headed back to Cambria House feeling sorry for myself.

Thursday October 16th - This morning I headed to Oxford St. to do a bit of shopping and then went to Paul McCartney’s office in the hopes that he would show up but no such luck. Headed over to HMV where there was a mob scene - people all over Oxford St. with traffic trying to get by. Paul arrived but of course I hadn’t a hope of seeing him so just listened to him being interviewed over loudspeakers outside the store. I then headed back to his office in case he stopped there afterwards but he was a no show so I headed down Charing Cross Road to check out the book shops. I had a pizza/pasta buffet - food always comforts me!!! That evening I started organizing my things to get ready to go home.

Friday October 17th - Got the 9 a.m. train to York and then the bus to see my cousin Betty who lives in Bishopthorpe. She had moved since I was there last time and lives in a darling little bungalow. Said hello once again to Gemma, the Jack Russell terrier . We had a cup of coffee and chatted until her daughter Ann showed up for lunch. I hadn’t seen Ann since 1986 so it was great to see her again. We had a lovely lunch of salmon mousse and salads. We sat and visited some more over a cup of tea then Ann had to leave and Betty and I chatted a little while longer. Then she walked me to the bus stop and I took the bus back into York. I had a short browse around the shops and got myself a sweater at the Sweater Shop. I love York. It’s such a beautiful old city. Caught the train back to London and had to sit on a pull down seat in between the carriages the entire way as the train was late (of course) and there were loads of people - especially with it being the start of the weekend. By the time I got back to Cambria House it was 9 o’clock so didn’t feel like going out again.

Saturday October 18th - This morning was another gorgeous hot sunny day. I decided to explore further into Hyde Park so took the tube to Hyde Park Corner and retraced Pat and I my footsteps from earlier in the week but delved deeper into the park. It was fun approaching the familiar Serpentine from a different angle - I walked over to the Round Pond where in the distance I could see Kensington Palace. On the way I was lucky enough to see the Horse Guards in full uniform on their horses doing some practice so was able to catch that on my video camera. I walked from the park to Bayswater Road and caught the bus to Westminster. I was lucky enough once again to find the front seat at the top (the only way to travel on a double decker bus!!!!) so smiled the whole way - I love London!!! At Westminster I got dropped on the other side of the Thames so walked along and took photos of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. I walked back along the Embankment and debated on a trip to the Thames Barrier but the queue was much too long and I had other things I wanted to do. So I walked along the Embankment and then cut across to the Strand where I stopped in a shop and got a frozen Mars ice cream - those are fabulous - and realized this would be my last one until perhaps 2000? (sob!) I looked around Covent Garden but found nothing to take my fancy so carried on to Charring Cross Road and took the bus up to Camden Lock to visit the market there. Well it was so busy and crazy I didn’t even make it to the Lock and turned around and caught a bus further north to Hampstead Heath. I walked around there looking in the shops and then headed back to King’s Cross. I had my final fix of fish and chips to take back to the room. Got changed and headed off the London Palladium to see “Oliver!”. It was good but actually I enjoyed the amateur production I saw here in Regina a couple of years ago much more. Then back to Cambria House to pack my suitcase like a mad woman.

Sunday October 19th - my last day. I had booked a van to pick me up at Cambria House and take me to Heathrow so it showed up at 10:30 a.m. I got to sit in the front seat which was fun and we drove around London picking up other people and getting stuck in traffic jams. Got to the airport in plenty of time to look around the shops and pick up last minute things - like chocolate!!! The flight home was great as there was no one sitting beside me so could stretch out - I knew in the departure lounge that there was no way the plane would be full. They showed three movies - I watched two of them “Breakdown” and “Austin Powers: Man of Mystery”. Both were good - I had seen the latter before. The other movie - shown in between those two - was a stupid movie starring Bruce Willis that I dozed through. Had a couple of hours in Calgary then an hour flight home. Neil was there to meet me and there was Miss Sandy waiting in the car for me. She was sitting behind the wheel all ready to drive home but as soon as she saw me she started crying and I got lots of doggie kisses. Neil said she cried all the way to the airport when he told her we were going to see “mummy”.

I had a wonderful holiday in England as usual - my 15th!! Wish I could fly back anytime. What do I miss about England? The green grass, English accents, red phone boxes (when you can find them), red post-boxes, the chocolate, Mind the Gap, the double decker buses, the stone fences, Marks and Spencers food hall, London’s parks, the sheep - well I could go on. What don’t I miss? Paying a fortune for a room that you can’t swing a cat around in, the outrageous prices - there is very little that doesn’t cost more than here, the public toilets (most of them), most of the newspapers (when the headline or front page on ALL the papers has the break-up of the marriage of England’s soccer coach that is pretty sad) - other than that nothing!! I can’t wait until the next trip!!!!

Discovering my roots Ontario 1998

This is a trip I took to Ontario (and Buffalo) in 1998 - I spent time in the area my dad's relatives are from near Lake Huron.

My Trip to Ontario August/September 1998

I flew to Toronto on Friday August 21st. It was funny as after I arrived at the airport, collected my luggage and headed for the airport bus I saw a bunch of teenage girls running around. Well they seemed pretty excited so I asked what was happening and the Back Street Boys were arriving. So I stuck around and video taped these kids - it was hilarious. It reminded me of how I would have acted if I’d seen the Beatles back in 1964!! While I thought the Back Street Boys were ugly (I probably have video that some teeny boppers would kill for) they were gracious to their fans and posed for quick photos for one or two despite being hustled out by their body guards. I had to laugh right out loud when one girl said to one of them “Oh my God you are so hot!”. Anyway it was a fun way to begin the trip - I was so happy for these girls as they were running around thrilled to death screeching at the top of their lungs. I know the feeling!!! If I’d seen the Beatles when I was a teeny bopper I probably would have popped a few ear drums!!! Anyway I had a nice few days in Toronto. I toured Casa Loma which is the local castle - a beautiful building with gorgeous period furniture and wonderful gardens. Also visited the Toronto Zoo which is excellent. I went to see “The Phantom of the Opera” again and really enjoyed it - I was in the fourth row which was a shock. I arranged to pick up my seat there and while I knew it was a good one didn’t realize how good!! I saw my niece - the bed & breakfast place I stayed in was only a ten minute walk from her place - so I met her at her house and got to look around (she shares a house in Cabbagetown with three other girls) and then we went to a pub for a meal and drinks. Spent hours at a patio table outside chatting and catching up with news.

On Tuesday the 25th of August I took the bus to London, Ontario and rented a car for a week. I had booked a sub compact - the smallest and cheapest car I could - but Avis did not have a car that small so upgraded me at no extra charge to a four door Ford Escort station wagon!! I loved it! Loads of room. Off I drove and about an hour later was in the area in Ontario (a town called Brucefield) my family had lived for generations. It is close to Lake Huron (one of the Great Lakes) and I based myself in Goderich which is a pretty little town right on Lake Huron. Supposedly it is one of the best places in the world to watch a sunset and I must admit it was pretty spectacular. I stayed in a bed and breakfast - I was her last guest as she was closing up shop. She gave me a deal - four nights for the price of three and it was cheap to begin with. It was a gorgeous old Victorian house. I spent the next few days driving to different libraries looking at microfiche of old newspapers, historical books and visiting my great and great great grandparents’ graves which was very emotional for me. Also saw the homestead two generations lived on and that my great great grandfather settled - he was the first settler in the area. I was able to find out some more information and once I get things sorted it should keep my genealogy bug busy through the winter. Of course I did some sightseeing too as the weather was fantastic - sunny skies. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find any “live” relatives but I tried!!! I am sure they are out there!!!! My last day in Goderich they had the Tall Ships Festival which comprised of three tall ships coming in and it was something to see. Unfortunately the weather didn’t cooperate that day and it was cloudy and a bit wet. Disappointing for the organizers but the festival was to go all weekend and the weather did improve I am sure. On Saturday the 29th of August I carried on north to Tobermory. It is a small town in Bruce Peninsula Park - surrounded by Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. It is the end of the Niagara Escarpment all the way from Niagara Falls. Lots to see on the way up. I loved that area. Sauble Beach was so neat - miles of sand and you actually parked your car on the beach!!! I wished I had my bathing suit with me then but didn’t even think to bring it - plus with having gained weight I don’t think I’d ever have had the nerve to wear it anyway!!! Arrived into Tobermory in the early afternoon. My bed and breakfast was a modern house just outside town. After dropping my luggage off I headed into town and took a two and a half hour boat tour of the surrounding islands plus we stopped to have a look at a couple of boat wrecks. The water was so clear and calm you could see right down - but obviously it isn’t clear and calm all the time!!! The water was a gorgeous green and blue and reminded me of the Caribbean. The next morning at breakfast I was talking to a lady who was a guest there as well and she told me about a wonderful hike by Cyprus Lake to Georgian Bay. So I drove out there and walked for about half an hour on the trail and there it was - just as she said. A spectacular cove with gorgeous rock formations and the colour of the water was unbelievable. It was called Indian Cove. People were swimming there. There was also a grotto - a rock with a hole in it that you could swim through. Made me really wish I had brought my swimsuit!! Well worth the hike there and back. The trail was really busy so I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all - I refuse to hike by myself if there isn’t anyone around. I then carried on to Shining Sands which was a beach with shallow water. You could walk out a long way and the water was only up to your knees - really nice. That afternoon I took a boat ride out to Flowerpot Island and got off and walked around. It is named Flowerpot Island after the two rock formations that look like flowerpots!! It was enjoyable but the thing I remember most is that I saw a garter snake and freaked out. I don’t do snakes well at all!!! That evening I took a sunset cruise along the coast and saw Indian Cove from the water - not as spectacular as from the view I had!! While in the Huron area I seemed to live on fish (white fish) and chips - loved it as the fish was always fresh. My bed and breakfast in Tobermory was fantastic and the hosts were so friendly and helpful. The breakfasts were to die for - for example: apple pancakes, fruit salad, fresh strawberries, fresh blueberries, juice, freshly baked croissants, fresh bread and coffee. All one breakfast! I headed back to London via Stratford. Tried a different route and while it was nice scenery in a way I wish I had gone back the way I had come just to see it all one more time. I stayed overnight in a motel in Stratford. In the morning I walked by the River Avon - yes they try to make it like the one in England!!! Later that morning I drove back to London and turned in my rental car.

I caught the bus back to Toronto and went to my bed and breakfast in the Beaches area. I loved that area as there are many shops and restaurants and it is by Lake Ontario with a wonderful boardwalk. Due to the lack of energy I suffered from throughout the whole trip I didn’t walk as much as I had hoped to but I still enjoyed it. The B & B was okay but after the one in Tobermory it was a letdown!!! The next few days I went over to Toronto Island on the ferry, went to High Park and took a trackless train around the park. My niece Erin treated me to a Japanese meal - I tried sushi for the first time - not bad!! Then we went to see the movie “Return to Paradise” which was very powerful and disturbing but well done. By then the Air Canada strike was in full swing so I went to the Air Canada office and stood in line for two hours only to be told that there was nothing they could do - they were only looking after people whose flight was in the next five days. Grrrrr... I then went down to Buffalo to visit my friend Pat and ended up staying there for a week due to the strike. We had a great visit though. One day we drove to Niagara Falls. This was my fourth visit to the falls but I had never been on the Maid of the Mist so we went. It is a boat trip that takes you right up to the falls. They provide you with rain coats but you still get soaked - it was great fun!! Especially as we were right at the front of the boat!! As it was Labour Day weekend though the place was packed and after walking along viewing the falls and playing a few slot machines at the Casino we decided to head home. Another day we drove to Ball’s Falls (yes that is really the name) near Hamilton, Ontario only to find out the falls had dried up!! So then we carried on to Port Elgin to see the Welland Canal. It is the canal that links Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. We were lucky enough to see a ship coming through so that was quite exciting. When Pat went back to work I spent a pleasant afternoon looking around a book store/record store/coffee shop and just hung around the house relaxing. It was nice to have a rest as like I mentioned earlier I didn’t have much energy. I phoned Air Canada and they could not get me booked on another airline and so they booked me on a train from Toronto leaving on Saturday September 12th - the two other trains that week were full. I went back to Toronto on Friday and stayed overnight at a bed and breakfast in Little Italy. Anyway the train trip home was long and boring. The first five hours the scenery was pretty but then it got old and everything got boring. The food service on the train was horrendous. It is funny that tourists dream of taking the train across Canada - as one fella who was headed for Vancouver said (three days) - it was like being in jail!! Of course tourists probably wouldn’t travel like us peasants - we just had regular seats. No berths for us. I suppose when you are in a different country it would be exciting but all around me were Canadians and we were bored out of our minds!!! I sat with an English couple and their little girl for a meal and they were loving every minute - of course they got to get off in Winnipeg!!! The first class passengers had their own rooms and I hope they had better meals than us for the price they pay. ($4000 Cdn dollars a couple to go from Toronto to Vancouver - rip off!!!) I wish I had brought more of my own food on board. I felt like we were in steerage class on the Titanic!!! Of course Murphy’s law I had to sit with the craziest person on the train but luckily she spent most of her time in the dome car. (a car that is all windows - I spent a lot of time there as well but not sitting with her!) She took pictures so much I was wondering if she had any film in the camera - there is no way she could get 90% of what she took photos of. She ate a lot of sardines but luckily just grabbed them out of her pack and took them to the dome car!!! We stopped twice before Winnipeg- once at a deserted station where we just all stretched our legs and the next stop had a few stores. I never saw so many people get so excited about a few dusty stores. People were running like crazy (it was ten minute stop) - and I admit I was one of them!!! As it turned out there was only one store open as it was Sunday and this was a one horse town. Anyway I got some juice and pastry. My “friend” came back with a huge stalk of celery and a cantaloupe. She sat and ate the celery then and there and then she went up to the dome and proceeded to eat the whole cantaloupe. (I asked her later and she said yes she’d eaten the whole thing) Then later she complained she felt sick - no wonder!!! Anyway made it to Melville (our train service in this country is so pathetically lousy that the train does not come through Regina or Calgary anymore) and Neil met me there. Neil brought Sandy to the train but she was quite calm when the train came in. Neil said she had already seen two freight trains and she was much more interested in the rabbit she had seen run around the corner of the station!!! I was supposed to be home September 9th but got home September 14th instead so had to use an extra day of vacation and head back into work the next day. (I had planned to have a few days at home relaxing before going back to work)

May/June 2001 Off to Alaska! (by cruise ship)

Saturday May 19th: flew out to Vancouver (uneventful flight) and Shirley met me at the airport. After dropping her husband and daughter off (there was a bus strike so everyone had to be driven everywhere) we headed over to the New Westminster Quay. After a tiny bit of "getting lost" we found it. Looked in the shops and then had fish and chips for lunch sitting outside and enjoying the sunshine. From there we drove back to pick up Brent and then went back to the house to relax with a wine cooler. Shirley barbequed pork chops for supper accompanied by Greek potatoes. Yum! That evening we watched the DVD of "Bounce" which was a good film.

Sunday May 20th: Up and at 'em early this morning as this was our big kayaking day. We had a quick breakfast and then headed out. Shirley and I were both nervous as this was a first for us. We reached Deep Cove and headed over to the kayak shop. Gulp! Let's just say both Shirley and I made use of the nearby bathroom. J We put on our kayak "skirts" (which attach to the kayak so you don't get wet) and the fella told us how to sit in, adjust the pedals for the rudder (my job). We had double kayaks - Brent and Richelle in one and Shirley and me in the other. A big shove off the beach and we were off. We were able to turn ourselves around and we carried on. I guess we were a bit slow as the other kayak left us way behind - Richelle kept yelling "come on you guys hurry up". Oh well. The first couple of times we saw a boat remotely headed in our direction we freaked but gradually we got the hang of it. We paddled out a fair ways then decided we should head back at a leisurely pace. It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed the sun shine and beautiful scenery. I enjoyed being so close to the water - I love the ocean. We eyeballed some of the gorgeous homes along the shoreline and finally got back onto shore. (much easier to head for shore then heading for a dock - still remember that canoe trip last summer in Banff!!!) All in all a fun time and I'd definitely do it again. We then headed off to downtown North Vancouver and lunch - grilled tuna sandwiches. After dropping Brent and Richelle off Shirley and I headed out again. We went to Rice Lake and walked around the area - very pretty with huge fur trees and a lovely lake in the middle. The trees out there are amazing - huge and the smell is wonderful. Very fresh…wish I could bottle it. From there we drove up Mount Seymour where there was still snow. Being the crazy women we are we had to race out and stand in the snow in our t-shirts and shorts for a photo op - brrrrr!!! We drove around the area a bit more then back home where Brent was preparing a delicious chicken casserole. Had a relaxing evening.

Monday May 21st (Victoria Day): Shirley fixed us a wonderful cooked breakfast of bacon and eggs. We fixed a picnic lunch and then started off on our Bowen Island trek. Richelle's softball team had a game out there. It is about a half hour ferry ride from the mainland. We drove over to Horseshoe Bay which is the terminus for ferries going over to a lot of islands off the west coast. It was a zoo with no long term parking that we could find. (we were told to go on the ferry as walk-on passengers) We were trying to find our way around to somewhere else when a man in a van stopped and asked if he could help. Upon hearing our predicament he said we could park in his driveway and proceeded to guide us there. Upon seeing our assortment of lawnchairs, picnic supplies, etc. he then drove us to the dock!!! What a wonderful person. Anyway as we were waiting we found out that the ferry to Bowen Island could not operate. On it's last departure from Bowen Island someone had forgotten to one of the ties to the dock and as it was pulling away it took a portion of the dock with it!!! So we had to wait for a water taxi - naturally the team went first. The ride over was pretty wild - not good for anyone who had motion sickness! We finally got there and walked over to the field. Watched some of the game and took a break and looked in the shops. Bowen Island is the standard west coast island with lots of fur trees and water! By the time we were ready to get back the ferry was able to dock again so we enjoyed the return journey much more! We took a taxi back to the car and drove back to the house. Can you believe that Richelle had another ball game. So Shirley barbequed some burgers quickly and off the family car went again. I had promised some friends of my parents that I would visit and being as there were no busses Shirley offered to drive. It was a long trip but they seemed happy to see us. Their son and daughter-in-law were there as well which was nice. Shirley was such a sweetie to drive me all the way out there.

Tuesday May 22nd: we relaxed in the morning over our coffee and then went to the dog bakery in West Vancouver so I could pick up some gourmet biscuits for my spoiled canine. Then lunch at White Spot - love their burgers!!! Shirley went to lunch and I walked along the path by the sea that starts behind the shopping centre in West Vancouver. There was a beach just for dogs so spent quite a while there just watching a bunch of dogs playing in and out of the water. What intrigued me was two owners for about 20 dogs - obviously they were pet sitting!!! I carried on with my walk and could not resist the impulse to take off my shoes and socks and paddle in the ocean. Then I headed over to Marine Drive and the shops. I stopped for dessert - a European berry gelato ice cream. Yum! Then back to the shopping centre and looked around. I did buy myself a sweatshirt with the Ross name and crest which pleased me and also treated myself to some new silver Celtic earrings as I had lost one from each of my other sets. (I am always doing that) Shirley picked me up and we all headed out to supper at Milestone's in West Vancouver. I had a Caesar Salad as I was still full from the huge burger from lunch, the ice cream and the carrot cake later that afternoon!!! J

Wednesday May 23rd: This morning Shirley went off to work and I relaxed around the house, did my laundry, repacked my suitcase and wrote postcards. When Shirley came home we went for lunch (sub sandwiches) and then went to pick up Pat who was coming up from Seattle. (she was visiting friends there) Pat's bus was late so we headed over to Stanley Park and drove around - we then got snarled in traffic and it took forever to get back to the North Shore. We walked along Ambleside Beach and I ordered Vietnamese food on Shirley's cell phone - ah, the conveniences of modern technology!! (though I still don't want one!) We picked up Brent and then the food and back to the house for a quick meal. (the food was delish) Once again we dropped Richelle at ANOTHER ball game (that would drive me nuts) and headed off to show Pat some of the sights. We went back to Deep Cove, took her to see Lynn Canyon then up Cyprus Mountain for a view of Vancouver. Back home for a drink and a chat.

Thursday May 24th: This morning we had bagels for brekky then off to walk the seawall at Stanley Park. I always enjoy that walk so much and this morning we had the added excitement of seeing our cruise ship sitting at Canada Place waiting for us!!! It was so much fun to walk with and talk to two of my very best friends together! Three hours later we were sitting eating fish and chips at Petticoat Lane in West Vancouver - that's beginning to become a tradition for me when I am in Vancouver! Back to the house to get sorted and changed and then off to our cruise ship. Shirley dropped us off and we began the embarkation process. We were escorted to our state room and it was small but just fine. Two single beds, a desk, TV - storage space. And a bottle of champagne waiting for us from my travel agent. We were so excited we were almost bouncing up and down on the beds like kids!!! We then had a life boat drill. (the highlight being a cute Dutch officer whom I never saw again. L) Then back to our rooms to get changed for dinner. Crab legs, spinach salad and sirloin steak. I was good and had fruit salad for dessert. Our table mates were a couple from Ontario. They were hilarious - although they didn't realize it!! We spent the evening exploring the ship.

Friday May 25th: We were traveling through the Inside Passage today so it was a 'stay on the ship' day. Lots of Mountains and islands. Had breakfast on the deck. We joined the fitness program which enabled us to collect points. (we each were able to collect a t-shirt the last day of the cruise) Walked on the deck as well as attending different seminars and sports activities. I sat in a lounge and read for a while and just enjoyed the atmosphere of the ship. Trying to ignore the assistant cruise director Kurt's loud speaker announcements for Bingo - boy did they ever get annoying. Met Roger the naturalist and attended one of his presentations. We quickly became Roger groupies because he had eagle eyes and we wanted to see a whale. Roger is the only man I have run for besides Paul McCartney! Dinner that evening was formal so we put on our fanciest duds - which believe me weren't that fancy compared to some. However there were all sorts so we didn't feel out of place at all. The meal I chose was wonderful: prawn cocktail, French Onion soup, Caesar salad and Rack of Lamb. There was a great selection to choose from. In the evening we went to a live show which was pretty good - hits from the 50's and 60's.

Saturday May 26th: Arrived into a warm and sunny Juneau just before noon. Immediately upon leaving the ship we bought a ticket to go out and view the Mendenhall Glacier. It was spectacular. Unfortunately my backpack fell off a low ledge and I broke my camcorder. I had to use Pat's from then on. Back in town we went up Mount Roberts by tram. Pat walked up even further but I stayed around the gift shop area. We were able to see our first Bald Eagle there which was exciting. Back down in Juneau we walked down to the Red Dog Saloon where we had a drink. Really interesting place - sawdust on the floors and all sorts of things on the walls. It's one of Juneau's landmarks. Juneau is pretty - surrounded by mountains. A real frontier type of town. The only way in or out is by plane, ferry or cruise ship. It is Alaska's state capital. Looked in the shops on our way back to the ship and bought a few bits and pieces. Back on the ship all the restaurants were closed so we ordered room service. (all free)

Sunday May 27th: This morning we docked in Skagway. Walked over to a tourist office and booked ourselves on an early morning ( as in 8 a.m.) float trip. We walked into town and were picked up. Chris and his wife were really nice (despite being hauled out of bed to accommodate us) and we were the only participants. On went the wet gear and life jackets and off we went down the river. It was a gentle raft trip - not white water. It was lovely to just sit and observe nature and enjoy the beautiful fresh air. We saw a few ducks - nothing wildly exciting but it didn't matter. Chris and his wife (I forget her name!) live in Skagway all summer then move back to Seattle during the off season where he is a tax accountant. Quite different life styles! After being dropped off we walked down the main street and looked in the shops again and staggered back to the ship with all sorts of goodies. Back on the ship we had lunch and relaxed. At 3:30 we left on our tour to Haines - that is the only tour we booked through Holland America. We all got in a bus which proceeded to drive about a block and drop us off at the dock - talk about a waste of time!! We took a catamaran down Lynn Fjord to Haines where we were greeted by our guide. She took us around the area in a van and we observed more Bald Eagles. Haines is another beautiful city nestled in the mountains. Stopped at some beautiful view points - I think I made Kodak very happy on this trip! We then visited an Eagle preserve and learned the difference between a reserve and a preserve. We saw Bald Eagles all right - stuffed ones!!! Oh well, live and learn. It was a nice tour as the scenery was so pretty - the most excitement was when the driver nearly backed us right into a ditch! Pat had to yell at him to stop. Back to the dock where we had our salmon bake. Very good. We were late leaving Haines but they radioed the ship and they waited for us - there were about 40 of us total. (there were about four different tours within Haines) Most of us walked back to the ship!!!

Monday May 28th: This morning we enjoyed breakfast on the deck. What a life. We could not believe how lucky we were with the weather. Blue skies and sun. We entered Glacier Bay at around 10 a.m. Beautiful! We headed towards the granddaddy of them all - the Grand Pacific glacier. The ship stayed there for about an hour and we were able to watch it calving (part of the glacier breaking off and dropping into the water) There was a bear spotted on shore but you really needed your binoculars to see it - after ten minutes finally was able to see it through my binoculars (I was being directed by people looking at a rock!) We then sailed on and stopped at another picturesque spot and the ship slowly turned around - surrounded by glaciers on all sides. We were out on the deck having lunch at this point and it was quite the experience. Pat and I both agreed: life should always be like this. Just a gorgeous day - as we were leaving Glacier Bay at 4 p.m. B-I-N-G-O B-I-N-G-O came over the loud speakers - good old Kurt at it again! (no loudspeaker announcements were allowed while we were in Glacier Bay) It was another formal evening and the meal was super: I chose Lobster tails and they were superb. We shared our bottle of champagne at that meal. Dessert was Baked Alaska - each waiter carried one out all lit up. Quite a sight. We went to another show that evening but had to leave after the second song as we were in hysterics. It was called "Under the Sea". Picture mermaids done up with Tina Turner wigs singing "Proud Mary". You had to be there but we barely made it out of the theatre before nearly falling down with laughter.

Tuesday May 29th: This morning we arrived in Ketchikan. Upon leaving the ship we booked a city tour which turned out to be quite interesting. We visited two Totem Pole parks and were able to watch one being painted. Another lucky day…the saying in Ketchikan is "if you can't see the mountain it's raining, if you can see the mountain it's going to rain". It rained five minutes before we got on the ship!!! Being as there is an average of five feet of rainfall yearly in that part of the world we were incredibly lucky!!!! After the tour we were dropped off at Creek Street which used to be the "red light" area of the city up until the 1950's. Creek Street is unique in the fact that all the buildings are wooden and on stilts. The big tourist place is "Dolly's Place" which used to be a house of ill repute - "Dolly" still hangs out there waving at all who go past - you can actually tour the house but we skipped that! Lots of shops though and I treated myself to a black and white sketch of a puffin - had seen my first puffins a couple of days before. We then walked around the town a bit and looked in the shops. Back on the ship for dinner which was a Dutch meal. We even got to wear Dutch huts!! I chose Bami Goreng (spicy Indonesian pastal) to start then on to Brown Bean soup and sirloin steak. Dutch Apple Tart for dessert.

Wednesday May 30th: Woke up about 3 a.m. and the ship was rocking violently. Staggered over to get some motion sickness medication and then went back to bed. (never had any ill effects but wanted to make sure) We got up and dressed - did not bother with a shower until later in the day as we figured we would fall out of it at that point!!! There was barely anyone at breakfast so did not have to line up for a change. Apparently the waves were up to 18 feet high. We reached calmer waters by mid afternoon. We spent the day doing "our own thing" - looking in the shops, reading in the library. We went for a body analysis which was interesting. The fitness instructor who did mine was more interested in selling me $279 US worth of detoxification pills. After Pat and I had seen her smoking the previous evening (very disillusioning) we did not take much of what she said seriously. I did treat myself to a face and neck massage which was fantastic. At dinner that evening said goodbye to our table companions. (although we did run into them again the next day) That evening we wandered around the ship taking last minute pictures and video. Back to the cabin to pack up our suitcases and leave them outside to be picked up sometime during the night.

Thursday May 31st - this was it - the end of our cruise. Had breakfast on deck and then sat and waited with our hand luggage. And waited, and waited. We were one of the last off the ship. Finally our number was called!!! Shirley was there to greet us so we regaled her with stories of our trip. Off to Queen Elizabeth Park which was a bit of a let down as we thought there would be more flowers. From there we drove over to Jericho Beach where we dipped our toes in the ocean. We then sat and ate lunch and then went for a walk. Off to the bus depot to drop off Pat - she was going to Seattle and then back to Buffalo. Shirley and I headed over to the Taiga store - this company manufacturers sports wear and I wanted a water resistant jacket. I treated myself to one and then we headed south to Richmond to meet my penfriend Darlene. We arrived at her house and visited for a bit and were entertained by her budgie Cashie. I have never seen a bird like that - so smart. We then drove over to Steveston Village where we had supper - fish and chips all 'round. Back to Darlene's house to look at photos and a chat. Then it was time to say our good-byes and it was off to the airport. Shirley dropped me off and the trip was over. The flight back was good - very clear so I had a bird's eye view of the Rocky Mountains.

A WONDERFUL HOLIDAY!!!! Enjoyed all the ports and would recommend the cruise to anyone - if the weather behaves. We were incredibly lucky - still can't believe it.

Another great big adventure coming right up! (2019 version)

Yes, it's time to hit the road again for my annual multi-month adventure.  This time I will be away just less than three months. I don&...