Friday, September 26, 2014

An unplanned day in Chicago

In an earlier post I was heading off on the public bus to Hartford airport.  A two dollar trip to the airport?  Count me in especially as I had loads of time   I checked in and all was well until we were informed the incoming flight to Chicago was delayed.  So delayed in fact that I would have about 15 minutes between flights.  Eek!  I talked to the gate agent and she agreed it was too close especially when my next flight was at another end of the building.  So she first started booking me for overnight in Harford, 6 a.m. to Washington DC. then Toronto then home.  UGH!  I said can't I just go to Chicago and stay over...then I jokingly said "Paul McCartney is playing Chicago tomorrow night...could I possibly fly out Thursday morning".  She just gave me a "look" over her glasses - well you can't blame a gal for trying right?  I did manage to talk her into an evening flight out of Chicago.  They gave me three food vouchers and overnight in a hotel...I must confess I have bitched about United but they really came through for me. 

The flight went well and instead of madly dashing around the airport I collected my luggage and called the hotel number I had been given by the agent.  I got picked up by the Intercontinental van and off we went.  I walked in in my jean capris and felt sorely out of place but oh well..I soon got over it.   I took the elevator up to my room and here it was...

For someone who travels on a budget this was indeed a thrill.  I know some people stay in places like this all the time but not me.  I would rather take more trips and stay in cheaper cosier places than take one big trip and spend it on fancy hotels.  When I do stay in one it makes it extra special and exciting - especially on someone else's dime!!! 

I had a great sleep and in the morning I went down for breakfast.  I used all my vouchers on the breakfast buffet as it wasn't cheap but I knew it would hold me for a while.   The complimentary shuttle then drove me to the metro station...ha ha.  Well he meant to but forgot he was taking me to the metro and got into the wrong lane so dropped me off along the highway.  There were sidewalks but no where to cross - the lights did not coordinate for cars or people going straight across. (it took a couple of light changes before the light bulb went on in my head about that..)  So I had to dash across but luckily there was a boulevard half way.  Anyway I made it to the subway station and then fought with the machine to give me a ten dollar day pass.  Finally I got on the train and off we went to downtown Chicago. 

I got off at the Jackson station and proceeded to walk down towards the lake front.  First stop...Millennium park to see the Crown fountain...I never get tired of this place.  It was a beautiful July day and lots of children were playing in the water and shrieking their heads off with delight. 

One day I am going to let that guy "spit" on me too! 
Then it was on to Cloudgate...known locally as "the Bean".  Another sculpture I never get tired of...just so many ways you can photograph it!!! 

Looking up from the centre - so neat.

Then I walked through the park and down to the lakefront...normally I would do the 11 km walk here but I was too tired and too hot!!! 

A lovely walk! 
Next up was this beautiful fountain - I hadn't seen it in a few years as I believe it was being renovated the last time....the Buckingham fountain. 

After all that walking it was time for lunch so off I went to Giordano's for some stuffed pizza.  After all if it's good enough for this fellow it's good enough for me!!!

oooey gooey deliciousness
Stuffed with cheese with the sauce on top.   The small pizza with a salad and a pop was less than ten dollaras on a lunch special - can't be beat!!! 

I then headed out to find the nearest Garretts...the best popcorn EVER.  I had the Chicago mix which was caramel corn & cheese corn.  I got a HUGE bag - it barely fit into my backpack.  I did share...a bit....

Stunning architecture

Chicago river

Under the "el" 
 Sadly it was time to get back on the train to O'Hare but what a wonderful unexpected day in downtown Chicago. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

A day at the Vancouver Aquarium

Nowadays visiting an aquarium or zoo seems to be a controversial thing to do.  (I am not even going to comment on that as it would be a blog post of its own)  When Julie said she wanted to visit the Vancouver Aquarium I advised her to do that the day after I left or else I'd do something else while she was there.  So I am sure she was quite surprised when we were discussing what to do on our last full day together and I said to her "why don't we go to the aquarium?".   It was a great day out and I make NO apologies for it.  This is a facility that rescues sea mammals & is active in local and international conservation.  While I don't approve of circuses who use live animals and I don't support zoos or aquariums that use the animals solely as entertainment I do think this one is a good one and my conscience felt clear.  The aquarium is in Stanley Park and has been renovated since I was there fifteen years ago. 

So come along while we meet the various finned, furred and feathered residents of the aquarium.

Who doesn't love penguins? 

Photos of rescued sea lions who were nursed back to health and released into the ocean

Love the names!

Beluga whales- so beautiful!!! 

We then enjoyed the dolphin show. 

 And we got to see the sealions do their thing as well - this one was a real sassy dude.

Wally the sea otter -one of the cutest things on this planet!!

Scarlet Ibis in the Amazon section - aren't they gorgeous? 

.  All in all a great day out!!  Would I go again?  Probably not but I've learned that "never say never".

Friday, September 19, 2014

Guess what's happening in my life?

I know the blog has been awfully quiet lately...I am working on a post about visiting the Vancouver Aquarium that I should be able to hit the "publish" button on this weekend hopefully.  But what has occupied me this week is the final plans for my big adventure finally were sealed in stone this week...

Here's a hint...

Yep, I'm moving to London!  Not permanently (sad to say) but for six months - as long as the British government will let me stay without a visa.  Back in the day (1980 to be precise) I did have a five year patriality visa/certificate due to British grandparents and and I had plans. Sadly they never came to fruitation due to a pair of overprotective parents....and me trying to please the parents... but let's not go there... So finally I am doing it and I am beyond thrilled. 

It's the right time in my life to do it.. I live in a small apartment (which I will keep as I adore it and don't want to be "homeless" when I come back) and I no longer have a vehicle.  I have a monthly pension to pay minimal ongoing expenses here and to help pay for food & transport, etc over there, no heartbroken significant other to live behind, no elderly family members to worry about...I am in good health.  There are no strings on me!  (to quote Pinocchio!)

Flights are booked and I take off December 10th with a three night stopover in Iceland on the way over and four nights back there again on the way back in early June.  The first couple of days will be spent at my favourite B & B in Hampstead Garden Suburb and then I move to South Wembley to petsit for a dog and a cat for approximately three weeks over Christmas and New Years.  From there who knows?  I sure don't.  I am hoping to get at least a couple more petsitting "gigs" especially during the winter months to help out with accommodation expenses.  Trust me, this will be done on a strict budget. I am far from rich.  I will be booking most of my accommodation through airbnb as not only is it generally cheaper than a hotel/traditional B & B but I can then use the kitchen to cook. (okay let's face it Laurie - probably more like heating up ready meals or savoury pies)  Perhaps a quick (cheap) winter getaway to somewhere in southern Europe? Vienna, Germany, Prague, France in the Spring?  Ireland? And it goes without saying I will be traveling around the UK and hopefully exploring some walking paths as well.  It will all work out. 

I've traveled enough to know it won't be a wonderful fun filled time every day.  Some days I will get really annoyed (because believe or not there are some things about England that DO piss me off!)  and want to get on the first plane home to fix coffee in my own coffee maker and make scrambled eggs in my own pan, call up a friend, etc......I know that.   I also know I have to pace myself - this is a vacation but it's also a temporary relocation so I don't need to be racing around like a mad woman each day seeing this and that.  There will be some days (preferably cold/snowy/rainy ones) that I will stay in and read, watch telly & catch up with editing pictures, etc. I know I will get lonely at times so I must learn to use Skype to keep in touch with friends and family especially on those "what the hell am I doing here" days.  I do know I will have to watch every penny as the UK is very expensive. I have hopes of keeping track of every pence spend...yes, we will have see how long I do that but I do need to keep track of my outgoings that is for sure.  That is the only thing I am a bit apprehensive about....the money end of it. 

I DO know that this blog should be lots of fun (except on the above mentioned grumpy days so just bear with me and send me some jokes or send me a Facebook message or comment saying "get over yourself Laurie, you're in England"!))  I plan to make this a sort of "day by day" diary but also highlight some of the places I intend to vist or re-visit such as Windsor Castle, Liverpool, Hever Castle, etc. etc. etc.  and just getting a day to day dose of what it's like to live in England.  And of course lots of photos. 

I hope you want to come along for the ride - it's going to be a good one!  

Monday, September 1, 2014

A beautiful walk in Canmore

Canmore is a town of about 12,000 people a short ten minute drive away from Banff National Park.  It is nestled in the Rocky Mountains with Kananaskis, a popular area for winter activities and hiking close by.  This town is an alternative to staying in pricey touristy Banff townsite with gorgeous hotels and bed and breakfasts.  Mind you, it is getting more touristy than when I was there last but still not as bad as Banff is.  The day after the CVF convention in Banff we headed out to do the 11 km walk there and spent that night in the Hostel Bear  before heading east on the Trans Canada Highway back home the next day.

We arrived into Canmore in the rain so quickly legged it to a coffee shop for a cup of joe (and some of us greedy ones who may not be named had a cinnamon bun as well..)  Once the shops were open we had a quick look and before long  behold the skies cleared and off we went.   Judi did the 5 km walk while June and I did the 11 km walk.  A lovely couple from Edmonton were doing the 11 km walk as well so we all stayed together - getting a bit...ahem... "misplaced", hailed on and admiring the fantastic views. 

Not a bad way of starting a walk!!!

 I am just going to shut up now and let you walk along these paths with us and drink in this beauty...breathe deeply and smell....the smell was out of this world....but put your rain gear on because we get hailed on!  Volkssporters are NOT wimps! (and only witches melt in the rain)  Never mind, a few minutes and it was over and the sun came out again....

Getting near the end

The four musketeers happy to be back at the start point - the Grizzly Pub 

I tucked into this bad boy with gusto....
What a fantastically beautiful walk.  One of the best!   I would recommend walking with a partner - we didn't encounter any wildlife but it is possible.   Canmore also has another 11 km walk and a shorter 5 km walk.  Go to the CVF website for more information on this walk.  And go to the grizzly pub for a beer and burger after the walk - you won't regret it!!! 

Bopping around Budapest - The Old Town of Buda

F riends had raved about Budapest and having read quite a bit about it I knew it was on my "to visit" list. And I knew it was goi...