Archives for posts with tag: Adventure

I can’t seem to help myself these days – I’m still thinking about travels past and future. Why not? So here are a few more fun and whacky moments that make me smile.

Photo by Mike on Pexels.com

1.Ever receive a call at a phone booth, that you weren’t expecting?

Okay, I promise there will be stories from places other than London – but this one, this one is something else. One of my best friends had come to visit, on her way to backpacking through Europe. Just before leaving Canada, A.M. had started dating T, but he was not on this trip. One evening we were hanging out at my apartment in St. John’s Wood. Allison’s brother C and my boyfriend R walked in, announcing there was a call for A.M. What???

Every day A.M. would call T from a payphone at the park right across the street. He would call her back so that she didn’t have to keep loading the phone with change. T was missing her, and his friends at work told him to call. He resisted at first, knowing she wouldn’t be at the phone booth waiting. Then he figured why not just call?

As the pay phone rang, C and R were walking by, and decided to answer. When they heard someone ask for A.M., they told him to hold on and came to get her.

Crazy. Funny. Awesome. We could barely believe it, and still laugh at the memory. FYI, A.M. and T are still together, happily married.


2.Dutch passport control.

I was in Belfort, France for work, and heading to Amsterdam for a quick visit before flying back to Vancouver. I left my little inn in the mountains at about 5am, which in and of itself felt strange. It was dark out, nobody was up but me, and feeling like a spy in a novel, I slipped out the door.

I decided to take the train from Belfort, as I love train travel. The journey took me from Belfort to Brussels, where I boarded the train to Amsterdam. In Antwerp the train would split into two separate trains, both going to Amsterdam, but by different routes. Before we got to that stop, the conductor looked at my ticket and told me I needed to change cars to be in the train that matched the route on my ticket. I did what I was told.

Once we crossed over into Holland, Dutch border patrol came on to check our passports and tickets (ah the days pre European Union!). The conversation that ensued when I showed them my passport and ticket was this:

Him: You are on the wrong train. You need to pay XXXX more (I can’t remember what the amount was, somewhere around $40 Canadian). Cash, of course.

Me: But my ticket is for Amsterdam, and this train is going to Amsterdam.

Him: But you should have been on the train going via the western Dutch border, and this train is going via the eastern Dutch border.

Me: But we are still going to Amsterdam, and my ticket is for Amsterdam.

Him: You are from Canada, right?

Me: Yes, I am.

Him: Sighing….It would be like if you bought a train ticket from Canada to Mexico to go along the western border, but got on the train that went down the eastern border. The price would be different.

How the heck was I going to argue that one? First of all, Holland is the size of a postage stamp – unlike Canada. Second, who takes a train from Canada to Mexico? Third, if there were trains from Canada to Mexico, would you have to board in Winnipeg…and decide if you wanted the east or west coast route? I had to bite my tongue not to laugh in his face.

I paid. The experience was well worth the cash. I hope he enjoyed a nice dinner…

3.Airport transfer in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

I have a full post on this little story, so I won’t go into great detail here. Suffice it to say that it remains one of my favourite experiences. Sometimes you just have to trust that the universe has your back and that all will be well – despite someone taking your passport and boarding pass because you apparently needed to have your luggage tags changed, even though they were checked into your final destination when leaving Bangkok.

It was a good reminder that in this day and age of technology, where travel is easy and you don’t have to stop and speak to locals, it is always better to actually do so. They might even buy you breakfast, just because.

4. Lufthansa special treatment.

It’s not often you are met at your plane and chauffeured to your next flight! We had left London an hour late, which meant I landed in Munich at the time I was to be boarding my flight to Rome. I asked the attendant if I would be put on a later flight. After looking into it, she told me a vehicle would meet us on the tarmac, I would be taken to border control so they could stamp my passport, then driven to my plane. I would make the flight. I asked her if my luggage would also have a car – she didn’t think it was as funny a question as I did.

It was something else. When we got to the plane for Rome, we arrived at the same time as the busses of people from the terminal. The busses would not unload until I got out of the vehicle and on the plane. Instead of not making my flight, I was the first one on. Mind blown.

My luggage did not get so lucky. It arrived the following day.

5. Columbian Adventure – my first military check point.

While in Bogotà, a friend and I were invited to a little island off the north coast called Isla Fuerte.

We flew from Bogotà to Montería, where we were picked up at the airport and driven through the countryside to the coastal town of La Rada. From there we would take a 30-minute boat ride to the island.

On our way to La Rada, we were stopped by Columbian military for a “routine check”. Andrés (our host) asked us to give him our passports, and get out of the jeep (we all had to). He assured us there was nothing to worry about. This is a man who worked in government and was involved in the sport/Olympic world, and has a house on the island. He was no stranger to this. To me, being out in jungle like countryside, with military officials and their machine guns checking our documentation felt surreal.

Thankfully, he was right. It was “business as usual” for them. And we were quickly back on the road. Phew!

6.That time I got to sit in the cockpit for landing.

Clearly this was pre-9/11. I was flying from Vancouver to Paris via London and couldn’t sleep, so asked to go speak with the pilots. The airplane was a Lockheed 10-11, and the cockpit had a crew of three – pilot, co-pilot and navigation guy. There was also a jumper seat behind the pilot, which I was invited to sit in while we chatted. Eventually a flight attendant came to get me as they were about to serve breakfast before landing. I said my goodbyes and thank you’s, and the pilot said “see you again on your way home.” I mentioned I would be flying back to Montreal, not Vancouver, and he said he flew that route as well. “Then I’ll see you, and maybe be in here for take-off and landing?” I figured it didn’t hurt to ask.

As breakfast ended, the flight attendant came to find me and asked if I wanted to go back into the cockpit. I nodded as my insides screamed HELL YES! I buckled myself into the jumper seat, which gave me a clear view out the window. Our pilot had asked the co-pilot which runway we were assigned. It was runway “5”. He requested a change to runway “1”, and I watched as the city approached. Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral all came into view. The crew was pointing everything out to me, and I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I’d lived in London for a year and knew what I was looking at. The plane was on auto-pilot for much of the approach, and then the pilot took over and landed us safe and sound. As they did their post-flight communications and checks, I whispered a thank you and silently left, not believing my incredible luck.

As I look forward to the days where travel will be allowed again, I marvel and chuckle over some of the experiences I have had. Travel is truly a wonderful education.

Get out and see the world – if and when you can. There’s so much to experience. You don’t have to go far, and it doesn’t have to cost you much. You just need to open your eyes, ears and heart and see what’s out there for you.

Oh travel adventures, how I miss you and look forward to having new ones again.

This is the longest I have been in one place in over seven years. I’m grateful for the time to “nest” and be still. And yet, I miss the adventures – the excitement of experiencing something new, meeting new people, or going back to old favourites. So as I sit here waiting for the pandemic to end, and to be able to travel again, I can’t help but look back on some of the trips and times abroad. So many discoveries, adventures, beautiful moments, and experiences that were a little out of the ordinary – ones that still make me give my head a shake – and smile. I love these quirky moments.

Here are some of my favourites.

Me, just before my departure to London. This is the hat that came with me to the UK. Wish I still had it!

1.First trip abroad – London. Warm and fuzzy airport arrival (not so much!).

I was 19, and it was the first time I got onto an airplane. I was London bound. At the time the IRA was active and Thatcher was still in power. When we landed at Heathrow and the plane came to a stop, I got up out of my seat still half asleep (a quick overnight flight from Montreal) and made my way to door. I was surprised to see that we were still on the tarmac – close to the terminal, but not actually at the terminal. We had to walk down the mobile stairs and make our way in. And what was there to greet us? The British Army, lined up, with their machine guns in hand. Yikes! Not exactly a warm and fuzzy welcome – somewhat intimidating for this kid from Canada. I was suddenly, very much, wide awake.

2.Meeting my first friend in London.

After a short mini panic session, I got out my backpackers’ guide and figured out how to get to a youth hostel. You see, I got on the plane without any idea of what I would actually do and where I would go upon arrival. I knew I would head to a hostel, but hadn’t figured out which one, nor pre-booked anything. I found one that was fairly close, and accessible by Tube. It was too early to get into the room (they shut them during the day, and you had to be back in by 1:00am, if memory serves). So I sat on some chairs with my hat over my eyes trying to nap, until I could go in and get settled. The chairs were set up by a pay phone, in a quiet corner away from the desk.

Suddenly I could hear the following: “I’m fine, mum, just send money…… I’m fine. I’m fine mum, send money. I’ll see you next week.”

I opened my eyes, and was greeted by a smile and a “mums!” (said with a shrug and a laugh). My introduction to JB, who was in London on his way back to Detroit, having sailed across the Atlantic with a Polish tall ship. My first week in London was his final week of adventure before heading home. It was the perfect way to arrive – spending time with someone else who wanted to discover the city.

3.Bail money?

Still in my first week in London, I met two Irish guys and another Canadian girl at the youth hostel. One evening we headed to a small, posh pub in St. John’s Wood. Just before last call (which was 11:00pm), a crowd came in – so they could be seen to have been at the pub, though they could only afford one drink. All of a sudden there was a rush towards the door. I stepped onto the stairs that we were standing in front of, so I wouldn’t be swept away, and looked left. There was a fight starting – a “skinhead” and a “new wave”. Police were quick on the scene, and as they walked past us, one of the guys I was with said “We need to leave now. See the skinheads outside? Do not make eye contact, just walk past and keep going”. There were five skinheads standing by the pub entry with sticks and bats in their hands. They had sent one member of their little gang in to pick a fight, while they waited for the unlucky target to come out, at which point they all would gang up on him and beat him. The idea of this being a way to pass time still makes me feel sick. The two guys I was with would have been considered “new wave”, so no eye contact was key. Once we were far enough away, one of my Irish friends said that he had heard a police officer quietly mutter “anyone who doesn’t leave now, will be taken in.” Can you imagine? Me in my first week, calling my mum and saying “I’m fine, but can you send bail money?” Ha! Thankfully that did not happen.

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

4.More pub fun.

My second week in London. I was in another pub, this time near Piccadilly Circus. It was still afternoon and we had stopped for some food. A man came in and went to the bar, but was refused. He was already drunk so the barkeep decided not to serve him. The man didn’t say much, and left. A few minutes later….a brick came flying in through the window about three feet away from my head.

Seriously, all of the above in my first 10 or so days in London – my first time out of Canada! Was this a test? A challenge to see if I would stay? I did stay, and I didn’t see anything remotely like this again. If it was a test, I guess I passed.

5.Confusion over my accent when I speak French.

Well into my time in London now. I was living with four other people in a house in East Finchley. We decided to have a house party, as one does. While out the night before, one of my roommates and I met a rugby team from a Parisian economics school, who Alison invited to our party. They all showed up. I was surprised and somewhat impressed that they were able to find their way to our house. While talking with some of them, in French of course, this….this eventually happened:

Dude: It’s very odd…. (with an utterly confused look on his face).

Me: What?

Dude: You speak like a peasant……….but you do not look like one! (still a very confused look on his face).

Me: Um, yes, well….probably makes sense if you think about it. Who left France in search of a better life?

Seriously dude… So freakin’ funny! The look on his face was just something else.

6.Ferry ride to France.

Alison and I decided we wanted to go to Paris for a weekend. We took the train, which also involved an overnight ferry ride from England to France. At the time the ferries were run by a French company. As we tried to get settled on board, it was dark and cold out. Yet all the seating was partially outdoors. We made our way around the boat and eventually found an indoor room – a dining room all set up, but completely empty. The sign on the door said “No Entry”. Hmmm… I decided that wasn’t going to do, so I started chatting with some of the guys working on the ferry. I’m telling you, this is not the only time speaking French and being from Canada has helped me on my travels. We were soon invited into the dining room, and when one of the guys said he was worried they would get into trouble for letting us in, another said “It’s okay, we’ll just tell them she’s my cousin from Quebec.” Yes, yes we will! The next thing I new someone else showed up with a bottle of Malibu and juice. Not a great drink, by any means, but we emptied it, and spent the ferry trip chatting in the coziness of the “no entry”, indoor room. We arrived in France warm and happy, said thank you, and off we were.

I love to travel, and if I can help it, there’s no need to go without at least a little comfort, even if I don’t have any money 🙂

Friends, roommates, parties, travel around the UK, goofy times….lots of wonderful memories. Unfortunately the camera I had was crap. Fortunately the memories never fade.

I hadn’t intended on this being all about moments during my first time abroad, however the more I thought about it, the more I remembered. There are so many more fun, quirky stories from various trips. I’ll have to keep them for another day.

The things you experience, the people you meet, when you go beyond your day-to-day routine, comfort zones and country borders. No wonder this broad loves to go abroad!

London is still one of my favourite places to visit. I’m looking forward to being back there again.

If you have any favourite quirky travel experiences and feel like sharing them, please do so in the comments. I’d love to read about them.

I finally started going through my photos of Japan in preparation for a long overdue post about my time there. As I went through the myriad of images, I found some that remind me of one of the things I love about travelling.

I can not express how much joy I have in discovering signs that make me scratch my head wondering “whaaaat???”, remind me that I am far from home, make me laugh, or at the very least put a smile on my face.

On my first walk around Doha – definitely a reminder that I was very far from home. And I really like the image.

Seeing the photos I took of signs in Japan made me think of some that I have come across in other parts of the world – like South Korea where a sandwich board outside a pub, shaped like a big frothy pint of beer, said “Live Beer”. Unfortunately that photo is deep in storage so I can not share it with you today – but I still remember it and it always makes me smile.

So I thought I would share some of my favourites from the past few years.

Some are “typos” or give you an idea of some of the local language challenges (like the letter ‘L’ in Japan).

I often saw the “L” replaced by an “R”.
“Frence” 🙂

There are some that I have difficulty understanding – or rather figuring out what they really mean.

In Istanbul I was introduced to “Birdshit’ ice-cream. What? What the heck is that??? Not sure I want some. But then, how do you not order it? Turns out it was pistachio….apparently the colour of pistachios is reminiscent of bird shit.
Ya…no clue here. What is “Hot water crack” or “Hot water crack of buckwheat”? For that matter, what is “Shochu”?
Okay…I can figure this one out – as long as they are not actually going to serve me a roasted vegetarian, that is.

Menus can be a fabulous source of smiles…or WTF’s… I mean, as much as I love wine, I’m not sure I want to “chug” it. I also don’t know that I want an “ice cream burger”. I can say that the pepper dressing is indeed “very delicious”, and I am not sure why their other dressings were not labeled as such. And then there’s my favourite Turkish breakfast egg dish – menemen. I have often said that I love “men-E-men” for breakfast, but this is the first time I saw it on the menu as “Men & Men”.

Every now and again I come across signs that are just really very clever. I always appreciate those and want to congratulate whoever thought them up.

Then there’s the time I was with friends in Amsterdam. We were walking around and wanting to find a little coffee shop to sit in and chat over coffee or tea.

But apparently a ‘coffee shop’ in Amsterdam isn’t necessarily serving you coffee. Oops…sometimes I really just do not have a clue. I finally asked why we were walking by all these coffee shops (thinking my friends were being super picky). Ha!

When you do touristy things you can be met with many signs designed to help you – some do and some don’t. While traveling in China with two of my brothers we went to the Great Wall (so beautiful). When we got there we had the choice of taking a little cable car up, or the ever popular “stair way of mounting the Great Wall”. Again, unfortunately that photo is in storage, but clearly the sign left it’s mark!

At the train station in Kyoto. I’m pretty sure they are saying that only adults can enter the smoking room – not that there is a separate smoking room for children….pretty sure…
Always nice to be reminded that I am “ordinary”. Hehehehe
Does the name engrave itself?

I do hope that these signs never get “fixed” or have their grammar corrected. For me it is definitely part of the charm of visiting and discovering new places and cultures. It can also give you an indication of how the local language is structured which comes in handy when trying to speak it. Part of the lure of travel is to experience something new, different from home. As much as it can be nice, and sometimes comforting, to see English (or French), let’s hope it doesn’t all become one consistent, sterile, grammatically correct world.

Finishing off with one of my faves. I always chuckle when I see this photo.