Archives for posts with tag: Travel
Sleek. I’ll happily travel on the bullet train again.

I recently got my first COVID vaccine – or rather the anti-COVID vaccine. Apart for the slight pinch in my left arm, I felt excitement. Excitement at the thought of being able to travel again…not just yet, but if feels like it’s coming relatively soon. At the moment my second vaccine is scheduled for August 1st. Between now and then, I know I’ll be doing a lot of dreaming about where I want to head to first. Actually, I already “know” where I’m headed first….but that could change. As my current morning meditation says: “I make plans, and I am open to the surprises that life and the universe have for me”. So yes, I am “making plans,” and I’m open to whatever comes my way.

This renewed excitement about traveling got me thinking about where I’ve been the past few years, and I realized I hadn’t yet written about Kyoto. The one overnight trip out of Tokyo I managed in my time there.

I love train travel, and was excited about the bullet train. I did ride it once before, many years ago, when I was in Japan touring a French artist around the country. So I knew it would be comfortable and efficient. And even though you are moving incredibly quickly, you still get to see the countryside.

I traveled with my co-worker and friend, L. As we left Tokyo we talked about getting a glimpse of Mount Fuji on our way to Kyoto. No luck that day though, as it was hidden under clouds, as is often the case. On our return to Tokyo we got extremely lucky. There she was!

After checking into our hotel, we dumped our bags and headed straight out. We wanted to see as much as we could during our weekend and that meant spending as little time as possible in the hotel. Our first destination was the old city. We walked through its small streets and made our way up to a couple of temples.

I realized quickly how wonderful it was to be away from Tokyo’s high-rises, to wander through streets lined with buildings that felt welcoming. To not feel so small in a jungle of concrete, steel and glass.

From the old city we walked up the hill, towards the first of our temple visits. Unfortunately clouds rolled in, however that didn’t dampen the joy of being surrounded by trees and flowers.

Kiomizu-dera Temple is designated as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, with historic monuments of ancient Kyoto. Here, visitors pay their respects to Kannon, a deity of mercy and compassion. Kannon is said to embody “grateful hearts”. A reminder to be grateful for this life and all that we have – family, friends, opportunities like this one. A reminder to express gratitude and practice compassion – daily. Plus, it’s just really beautiful.

Like many areas in Japan, there’s a famous buddha statue in Kyoto. It’s hard to write about these things without always using the same words….beautiful, calming, peaceful – even with tourists milling about.

It felt like Kyoto had an endless supply of temples. Our next one was Yasaka-Jinja Shrine. Here what struck me was the beautiful way wood, stone, water and greenery come together.

I see this and can still hear the water flowing.
It’s always in the details for me. The stone and wood. The natural colours. Time and mother nature adding its touch.

We decided to head out of Kyoto to Nara for a day. An easy train ride away, although not without it’s adventure given the lack of Japanese spoken on our part, and the scarcity of English on theirs. I do love traveling like that though.

Nara is known for its park, and the deer that roam free. Now, I’m told they are docile, but don’t you believe it! I made the mistake of buying some cookies, from one of the many vendors, to feed the deer. “That’ll be fun,” I thought. Let’s just say they are NOT shy. After having more than one nibble on my butt, those cookies flew onto the ground. Help yourselves, and leave my tush alone, thank you very much!

Sure they are cute. But the sign doesn’t make them sound overly friendly! Does “deer mating season” make them more aggressive?

The best part of our day in Nara was Todaiji Temple, built at the request of Emperor Shomu, who hoped to position it as the head temple and Vairocana Buddha (“Buddha that shines through the world like the sun”). Inaugurated in 752 A.D., it was burnt twice during war times, and eventually restored between 1185-1133. A broad range of religious ceremonies continue to be performed here, some going back as far as a thousand years.

My favourite part of the Kyoto weekend was discovering Nijo Castle. Thanks to my brother J for that tip! It’s the only time we decided on a guided tour, which was definitely a good idea. Our guide was funny and charming, and how else would we have known that the floors were intentionally built to squeak, so that Ninja’s wouldn’t be able to sneak in! I have no idea if it’s true, but it sure does make for some fun storytelling. This was our final discovery before heading back to the bullet train and Tokyo. The perfect way to end the weekend.

Ornate gates, sculpted trees, ponds, blue skies, spring blossoms – the perfect way to end a beautiful weekend get-away. As you can see, masks were being worn. It wasn’t long before our time in Tokyo would come to an end.

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

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

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.


St. Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow city centre, and blue skies.

I must have been about 10 years old. And I can still see and feel this moment very clearly. I was in the living room by myself (which is unusual when you have 9 siblings…). I loved watching sport events on tv (still do) and was watching what must have been an IAAF World Championship taking place in Moscow. The TV cameras would go wide, showing spectacular views of gold onion domes against blue skies. This is the moment I first thought “I want to go to places like this”. My mum was in the kitchen and I asked her “mum, have you ever wanted to travel?”. Of course she had – but then 10 kids came along…

I have been supremely lucky and have traveled to a number of countries for both work and play. And last year I found myself in Moscow – the city that first inspired my desire to see the world. Seeing those onion domes in person for the first time. WOW! I was there on a work trip, and I know that afforded me access to places I would never have been able to go – a very privileged visit and experience of Moscow. Lucky me.


At times it felt so surreal –  rushing around for site visits and meetings, all the while being aware that I was seeing these iconic images in person. And the memory of my 10-year old self clearly stating “I want to see places like this in person, I want to travel” was present throughout my stay. It may have taken a while, but it certainly is true what they say about putting a thought/desire out there into the universe and then just sitting back and letting the universe bring it to you — in ways you could never have imaged.

No pre-conceived ideas, no expectations, just a desire voiced in my head and out loud at age 10. A good reminder to be clear about what my heart wants and to let the universe help it along.

Graced with a hostess who is generous, kind, clearly proud of her city and country, and connected meant an experience I would not have otherwise had. Places like Gorky Park and the Kremlin came to life.


My trip to Moscow coincided with their May 9th national day parade – a very seriously impressive parade of military might. More impressive to me, however, was the march that followed. Hours and hours of a 6-lane street filled with people marching in honour of family members and loved ones lost in war (many of whom perished during WW2), carrying photos of their dearly departed. Now that’s a “remembrance day” parade! Just outside my hotel room window was an old veteran with who I imagine to have been his grandson. People marching by thanked him for his service and saluted and you could see and feel the emotion on his face. I hate war. I hate people killing others in the name of whatever belief. I have never understood why some people believe it is okay to hurt or kill others just because they are different. And the emotion of this march…the emotion of people honouring lost loved ones…this…was inescapable. It took a while for me to process my experiences of that day – from military might to heart might.

Parade Veteran

And then there are the cultural and athletic sides to this country. I’ve spent many an Olympic Games and world championships watching Russian gymnasts and figure skaters and have seen countless clips of the Bolshoi Ballet on TV. So imagine my excitement at the thought of actually going to the Bolshoi! Incredibly beautiful – the theatre, the dancers, the entire experience. Definitely a “pinch me” moment.

We were told that no photos of the performance are allowed…and yet people around me were snapping shots on their phones. I wanted to…but I knew the “rule”, so I couldn’t bring myself to do it. The final bows were all I could manage. And that’s okay – the memory of the ballet remains vivid.

And there was dinner at the Zhivago Grand Café – just the name itself “Zhivago” inspires and evokes – and the food was pretty darn good too.

No trip to Moscow would be complete without a glass of champagne – I saw it flowing on a number of occasions. Apparently they love their champagne – just as much as they love their vodka! It may have been the middle of the afternoon on a busy day, however it would have been rude to let one of my hosts drink on his own…sacrifices….

Although my days were filled with work-related meetings and site visits, I did manage a quick walk one evening, delighting in watching Muscovites rush around, enjoying themselves on a warm spring evening.

All in all – what an amazing opportunity and trip. It was my second trip to Russia, and the first to Moscow. I love seeing the history of places all around the world – be it in the architecture, music, culture, cuisine, people. So very thankful to my hosts for this trip!

It would seem that mum was with me – I thought of her often and of our conversation so many years ago. She loved music – there was always music playing and she sang often. Seeing these larger than life music notes in day time, and then lit up at night, felt like a sign that she was watching from above with a great big smile on her face – which of course put an even bigger smile on mine, and filled my heart. Merci maman.



I have been very lucky when it comes to travel – seeing new countries, experiencing new cultures, meeting fabulous people all over the globe. Naturally this has meant logging quite a few hours on planes, through different airports, all over.

I recently flew from Bangkok to Istanbul, via Dhaka (Bangladesh). This routing was not my first choice, however I was flying on points and the direct flight on Turkish Airlines was not available…so this was the next best option. I initially thought the layover in Dhaka was 2 hours, but it was almost 6. It’s a small airport…with not much to do, and it was the middle of the night (I landed there at 1am, and my flight to Istanbul was due to leave at 6:25am). Staying awake so I did not miss my flight was my first priority.

I went off to find the lounge so I could at least get a marginally comfortable seat and wifi. The Thai Airways lounge wouldn’t let me in as I was not flying Thai Airways out of Dhaka (made no difference that I had flown to Dhaka on a Thai Airways flight). I was directed to the lounge that Turkish Airlines uses, and was told there that I should be at the Thai lounge – because I started my journey with Thai Airways, it was their branding on my boarding pass. I had to point out that despite the branding, I was flying Turkish Airlines and he finally let me in. I sat down and kept myself busy by doing few things on my computer, watching some Netflix, and shooing away mosquitos. Nope, it’s not an outdoor airport, there were just constantly mosquitoes on me…..constantly!!! At regular intervals I could hear the zapping sound of a mosquito meeting the electric bug-killing racquet the concierge was armed with. That is a very different airline lounge experience.

Eventually it was time to head to the gate. I was thankful and looking forward to getting into my seat and sleeping. Here’s where things got really interesting….

After taking my boarding pass and allowing me to pass through to the security check (which is right at each gate in this airport) I was called back. Seems they didn’t like the fact that my boarding pass had Thai Airways branding on it. In broken English they asked if I had checked luggage. Yup, 2 bags. They then proceeded to tell me that I needed to go to a transit desk to make sure that my luggage had been transferred to the Turkish Airlines flight. What? Look at my luggage tags – they clearly show my bags having been checked through to my final destination. Regardless, off we went to the Transit desk. Apparently in Dhaka you need to check into a Transit desk to make sure that your luggage has been transferred from one airline to another. It doesn’t matter that they were checked into their final destination in Bangkok.

To make things even more confusing, the one and only Transit desk is the Biman Airlines transit desk (Bangladesh’s official airline). Neither of my flights had anything to do with Biman Airlines, however they apparently take care of all travelers in transit.

Next thing I know there are 3 men discussing my “situation” in Bengali. One speaks enough English to tell me that they need to go have my boarding pass reprinted – so that it’s branded Turkish Airlines. And that they need to go find my luggage… They look at my current luggage tag receipts, my passport, my boarding pass (what’s left of it as it had been ripped with the larger piece retained by the team at the Gate), and one of them leaves with all my documents in hand to get my new boarding pass and luggage tags. It took me a few minutes to properly process the fact that I was now without my passport  and luggage tags. What can I say, it was now 6:15am and I hadn’t slept at all. I didn’t outright panic, but I was getting a little antsy about how long this would take, wanting to make sure I got on that flight. I started asking more questions to the man in charge of the transit desk, who assured me that this is “normal” procedure at all airports when connecting flights with two different airlines. Uhhh, nope. Not when it’s all on the same ticket and the airlines are affiliated and the luggage tags clearly show both flights. He conceded that I may  know better than him how things work in other airports, and assured me that all would be fine. He made a couple of phone calls – I could understand well enough that they were about me and my bags. And he told me that my flight had been delayed until 7:30, so lots of time. “Enough time to go for coffee” he said. I agreed that would be more fun than the present situation…

A few minutes later his co-worker arrived with my new boarding pass, luggage tags and passport. We walked towards the gate, and he had me wait for him at the top of the stairs leading to “arrivals” (where I’m guessing my luggage was still waiting for me…). He was back 2 minutes later – no more luggage tags in his hands (he had given me my receipts). And he started walking. I was a little confused as it was away from my gate, so I asked if I should still follow – he said yes.

A few steps later I understood – we were on our way to the restaurant. Aaaahhh, coffee/tea it is. We joined his 2 co-workers who were now having breakfast (this explained why one of them had been more than just a little annoyed by me and the fact that I hadn’t gone directly to the Transit desk upon arrival – “why did you wait so long before coming?” he asked…”why am I here at all? My luggage has been checked throughto Istanbul” I said). They were at the end of their night shift and having breakfast before going home. I was asked to sit, given some tea, and invited to join in their meal. What??? I wasn’t hungry, but felt it would just be rude to not eat anything, so I tore off a piece of flatbread with my right hand (well, I had momentarily touched it with my left when I realized I shouldn’t – and he didn’t touch his food with his left hand at all, as is custom here. Right hand for eating, left hand for bathroom…) and had that with a fried egg, and a yummy, warm lemon and honey drink. He looked at me and said “you see, I told you it would all be fine. And now we are sharing a meal.”

Indeed, all was fine and we were sharing a meal. Conversation was a little limited given my complete lack of Bengali and his somewhat limited English. But I did find out that he has a 7-year old daughter and likes to spend his vacations relaxing at home (while his wife and daughter go traveling).

So. Freaking. Awesome.

15 minutes later we left, I thanked them for their help and hospitality, and walked off to my gate with a big smile on my face. Now THAT was an experience!

It’s traveling to these smaller countries that reminds you that not everything everywhere is automated and automatic. Nor should it be. There is a lot to be said for random conversations with people you would never normaly meet, ,and so much to be gained by sharing experiences of all kinds. As much as it would have been nice to know beforehand that this was a necessary step at the Dhaka airport, thereby avoiding any last-minute stress for all of us, I smile at the thought of this little experience. Sit back and enjoy the ride, I say.


I’m back. Back with a new adventure and a renewed commitment to writing regularly. Let’s see how that goes.

I flew to Doha on April 1st. That’s right, April Fools Day. I think it’s a pretty good day to start a new adventure in a far-away land. This “new” adventure has actually been 6 months in the making, so when it FINALLY happened it was a relief. And a little bit anti-climatic… I’m not sure if it’s just that I always knew it would happen, or if it had just been so long that it was a little deflated. No matter, once I got here the excitement followed.

The trip from Vancouver was both long, and fast – if that makes any sense. I opted for a Vancouver-London-Doha route with a 7-hour layover in London. Plenty of time for me to hop onto the tube and make my way to Covent Garden to meet friends for tea. It was also a welcome break from sitting on an airplane – the chance to walk around and get some fresh air and catch up with great friends.

Admittedly, I was pretty happy when my 2nd overnight flight was done and I had arrived in Doha. My customs agent reviewed my visa, stamped my passport and said “you now have a new home”. That was a lovely welcome, and one I had not anticipated.


When I am this far from home, I love “feeling” like I am this far from home. Seeing this cross-walk sign while out on one of my first walks made me smile. I am certainly a long way from home.

I’ve been here two months now, and I will also admit that it hasn’t been as “easy” to feel at home and grounded. A few weeks ago I was pretty much completely out of sorts. I don’t know if it was just the past year catching up to me on top of the pressures of figuring out a new job, new boss, new company in the middle of an extremely busy time – or if it’s just getting used to a new place, and the “energy” that it has (if you’ve read my posts about Istanbul,  you know I love the “energy” in that city, and I do believe every part of the planet has its own energy). Or maybe it’s the amount of pressure I put on myself regarding all of the above. Likely, it’s a combination of all of it 🙂 Fortunately, I found a reflexology/reiki practitioner, who was amazing. Unfortunately, she has now moved back to the UK. But the good news is, that things have started to settle down. I’ve found an apartment, and move into it mid-July. Settling in there will help as well.

A few of the highlights so are are:

1.The day I arrived I went to the grocery store close by and was greeted with:

I began to wonder if that lengthy trip over was a dream…and I was actually still in Canada !

2.Part of the process to get a residency permit includes some medical tests (blood tests and lung x-rays). I left the office with my guide for this appointment, a Qatari gentleman wearing the traditional Thobes. We walked out to the parking lot and the next thing I know I am hoisting myself up into a very large,  noisy, red truck. There was just something about the visual that made me smile. Next thing I know we are speeding along, and he’s telling me that I will have to get used to the fact that Doha has bad drivers and that I need to watch out for them – this while he is watching a video on his iPhone as he drives, and nearly crashes into a vehicle merging into our lane… Not his fault, of course…(um, if he’d been watching the road and not the iPhone he would have seen the car’s signal light, turned on well in advance of it moving over into our lane).

3.In my first week here we had an event featuring Tom Brady. Yup, that’s right. I grew up watching the Patriots and have always been a fan of the team. But I had to come to the Middle East to see Tom Brady in person!


Tom Brady in the house!!!

4.I’ve enjoyed walking home from the office at the end of the day. But last week it just became too hot for that. 40 degrees C in bright sunshine. I don’t mind being sweaty when I get home, but there was something about it that just felt oppressive. So its Uber for me now. And soon I won’t be living in walking distance anyway.

Evening Collage

On my way home from the office, at dusk.

5.One of the first nights out was spent at the Katara cultural area. It was lovely to spend an evening walking around the cultural centre, seaside, seeing the mosque, restaurants, and having dinner at an amazing Armenian/Lebanese restaurant. There were even a couple of surprises along the way.


6.I opened up my local bank account, and much to my surprise was sent this. It’s the first time I’ve ever been sent a gift for opening up an account! And there wasn’t even any money in it yet…


I don’t drink Arabic coffee (or coffee of any kind), but I will happily display this lovely coffee pot!

7..Souq Waqif. An evening spent walking around the various stalls, seeing what is on offer, feeling more of the Arabic culture, and ending up eating at a Turkish restaurant. I have to admit the Adana kebab and trimmings really felt good – felt like home away from home.

I haven’t done as much exploring as I’d like, but that will come. As will more posts.

As always, thanks for reading!



I’m always happy to go to New York City – to walk through the different neighbourhoods, exploring whatever the city has to offer that day. It is always a treat. To visit with my Ladies Who Dine, made it even more special. Let’s see how my LWD book would have evolved, had I written it. Let’s call this an experiment in the LWD Book Of Life.

Wednesday. Arrive in NYC. Dinner at Bareburger followed by drinks at Dear Irving.
I arrived first, as I flew in from Montreal and Laura and Vicky were flying in from Vancouver. This meant I was the first one to check into our VRBO apartment in Grammercy – just around the block from the Park. A perfect location for exploring all that Manhattan has to offer.

Veuve in the fridge

I picked up a little something at duty free in Montreal. There was plenty of time before Laura and Vicky arrived for it to be perfectly chilled for a celebratory pre-dinner drink. What were we celebrating? Being together of course, that is ALWAYS cause for celebration!

Once the Ladies arrived, we settled into our apartment. One of us feels the need to completely unpack and get organized before going anywhere, so the other two did the same. I was in the loft bedroom upstairs, Laura and Vicky each had their bedroom on the main floor. No one needs to set themselves up in the bathtub half way through the night…we all have our own rooms. I haven’t seen my ladies since April, so there’s some catching up to do before we head out to dinner. I have been in Montreal, experience what life in that city is like as I ponder whether to make an official move there, so Vicky and Laura want to be filled in. Vicky is completely remodelling her house, and we want an update. Laura…well, she’s busy being promoted to VP. There’s a lot of ground to cover while sipping La Veuve!

As it’s our first night, we opt for something casual and close to home. We make our way by Grammercy Park (unfortunately we are not staying on the park, so we can not access it, but it is beautiful – surrounded by brownstones that I would oh so like to see the inside of! One day….one day.) On we went, through one of my favourite spots – Washington Square Park.

Washington Square Park 2

Washington Square Park gate. Love this place.


Washington Square Park

Bare Burger, Washington Square Park for dinner. One of our guests for dinner asked…”why Bare burger? It’s good, but why?”. Well, because the LWD do not always need to be at a 5-star, and the burgers and fries are fabulous!

Post burgers we made our way to Dear Irving. What a lovely surprise – from the reception desk at the top of the brownstone entry stairs, through the curtains, along the bar into a second seating room. It felt like discovering a secret club with private rooms and seating areas. We were taken to the back room where we settled into our seats and admired the decor, the drinks, and the young couple across from us who clearly didn’t have a private room to go back to. Oh to be young and in love with no place to go!

Dear Irving

The beauty of Dear Irving. Beautiful surroundings, great drinks.

Before heading to NYC, Vicky put together a very detailed spreadsheet of what we were doing and when – she wanted to make sure we didn’t forget about anything and that we all got to see and do what we wanted to see and do. The schedule was nicely broken down by area, making it easy for us to walk our way around Manhattan and Brooklyn. However, Mother Nature had other ideas in mind. With heavy rains on the horizon, we regrouped when we got home and threw the schedule out the window in favour of doing all the outdoor/walking items on what was going to be the sunniest day.

Thursday. Our Sunny Day. Put your walking shoes on.
We started with a quick coffee and breakfast at our neighbourhood Think Coffee. From there we walked ourselves to the Chelsea Market for a quick browse, and then up to the Highline. The Highline is always a highlight for me. Whomever thought of taking over the old, high rail line and turning it into a walking park was brilliant.

Water Towers_Highline

I don’t know what it is about the water towers, but every time I am in NYC I come home with a whole stack of water tower photos. I just love them. And the Highline gives you plenty of water tower viewing opportunities.

From the Highline we made our way to Central Park.

Laura_Central Park Beauty

Oh that saucy Laura! Enjoying some of Central Park’s fine musical offerings. He really was good.

Central Park

The beauty that is Central Park.

Vicky the Star

A star is born. As we were walking though Central Park we were approached by a group filming women reading about motherhood (Mother’s Day was quickly approaching). In this time of intense negative so-called “news”, they were on a mission to deliver a positive story about mums, our love for them and their love for us. Vicky read an excerpt from a book and nailed it – emotion and all – while Laura and I watched with tears in our eyes. Oy….

We stopped for lunch at Tavern On The Green, where this princess became a little picky…The first table was too close to the table beside us, which made it difficult for the servers. So we moved a couple of tables down. But then with the warm sunshine streaming in the glass wall….it was like a green house. So we went outside. 3rd table was just right. Hmmm…princess? Or Goldilocks? In either case, it was a beautiful day and a welcome break.

Tavern salad

The Tavern Cobb salad…this was just half…a big, yummy salad!

From the Tavern we stopped in for a quick walk through The Plaza Hotel, then hopped into a cab to the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge. I always recommend people walk over the bridge into (or back from, or both) Brooklyn. The walkway in the middle of the bridge, above the cars gives you amazing views of the city.

Brooklyn Bridge

A trip to NYC would not be complete without a slice of NY pie…so pizza in Brooklyn it was before heading back to our Manhattan abode. We had noticed a very festive German restaurant next door, apparently permanently decked out with Christmas decorations, and wanted to go in for at least a drink. It looked so inviting and such fun! Unfortunately though, Rolf’s wasn’t quite what we wanted it to be. I am not sure if we were just too full, or if it was an off day at Rolf’s, but the smell…….I have been to Germany many times, and no restaurant has ever smelled that foul! Sorry Rolf’s…but we high-tailed it out of there and “Rooolllfff” became an inside joke – a word used when we weren’t all that pleased or when something made us want to…you know…..Rollff….

With all the walking we did that day, we opted for a drink in the apartment and an early night. As there was only one couch, we decided to open it up into a bed (it was a hide-a-bed) so that there would be more room for the 3 of us to sit and chat. The chairs with the dining table are fine for eating, but not for getting comfy and talking. Vicky had taken her seat and I crawled onto the couch to take mine…and…well, I clearly put all my weight in the wrong spot, as the couch started to fold in on itself, with us stuck in it. I wish I had a photo of that! The two of us, stuck in the middle of a hide-a-bed. Luckily Laura came to our rescue…and we folded the couch back up. So much for that idea!

Friday. To Met….Or Not To Met….
We decided Friday deserved a full sit-down breakfast, and headed over to Friend of a Farmer. Delicious! If you are in NYC and looking for a great little breakfast spot, give it a try. It wasn’t raining when we walked over, but upon leaving we exited into the rains. Luckily we had come prepared with umbrellas. We hopped into a cab and asked the driver to take us to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Might as well be in a museum on a crappy rainy day! When we got there however, we saw a massive line-up of people waiting to get it – it went down the block and around the corner. In unison we all said “no way”. And this is why are are such good friends. None of us wanted to wait in the deluge and get soaked. I have never been to the Met and I am sure it is fabulous….but not that day, not that day. So off to Bloomingdale’s we went.

Magnolia treats

Magnolia Bakery. I first discovered Magnolia while in Abu Dhabi. Yes, that is true! It is a New York City bakery, with an outlet in Abu Dhabi. And I have to say….although the original is from NYC, the cupcakes and cake were better in Abu Dhabi. I would not have guessed that would be the case….but so far, it has been. Still a tasty treat though.

After hiding from the rain at Bloomingdale’s for a while, we headed to the MoMA. Luckily there were no line-ups and we were able to walk right in. It was my first visit and I loved it. Having spent a few years in the art industry, it was wonderful to walk through a place where you could see the work of so may amazing artists. From Van Gogh to Picasso to Monet to Basquiat….it was all there.

Ladies in Moma

My Ladies at the MoMA!

Van Gogh

Van Gogh’s Starry Night. Truly a masterpiece!


One of the reasons we wanted to go to the MoMA was their decision to feature artists from the nations who citizens have been denied entry to the US in accordance with recent presidential executive orders. Supporting this was important to us. And it felt great to see signs like this one throughout the 5th floor exhibit.

From the MoMA we high tailed it to the lower east side for the Tenement Museum Tour. If you haven’t done this…you should. To accurately describe the experience would take too long for this post – but let me assure you, it was amazing to hear stories of the challenges that immigrants had (and likely still have). We were able to see how they lived by walking through apartments restored to the era of the family whose life we were getting a sneak peak into. Using real families, showing us photos of their lives, historical documents, and their modern-day families makes this an experience that is hard to forget – and really, should not be forgotten. Super recommend!

As our nicely mapped out plan for discovering Manhattan’s different neighourhoods had been thrown out…we found ourselves headed back uptown for a night on Broadway. Thankfully our friend Tracie was waiting for us at Bea, where we were having a quick pre-theatre meal. We let her know what we wanted to eat and drink and she ordered as we made our way there. When we arrived the food had just been delivered to our table. Perfect timing!

Kevin Kline

Our choice for Broadway night was unanimous. We all wanted a comedy, and Kevin Kline is IMPOSSIBLE to resist. He is amazing – such talent, from the way he speaks, to the facial expressions to the body language. I’d see in him anything. And shout out to our Canadian Cobie Smulders who is also in the play. It was a super fun show, although the theatre itself was fricken freezing. What’s up with that?

Happy after another full day of fun, food and laughs, we made our way back home – with a pit stop at Almond Bar for a drink. It was just about closing time, and although the place was almost empty and the bartenders had started cleaning up for the night, we were welcomed and able to share a drink and more laughs.

Saturday. Soho, the Village, a Comedy Club and a Piano Bar.
Friday’s torrential rain had passed, and Saturday proved to be a sunnier day than expected. This allowed us to walk over to the Flat Iron building, and then down to the Village and Soho for a little shopping and strolling. It was a fairly relaxed morning and afternoon compared to the previous two days, and a nice reprieve before a busy evening. We headed home to freshen up and change before meeting Tracie at Beauty & Essex for dinner.

As much as dinner and drinks at Beauty and Essex was good…the Comedy Club, not so good. It’s hit and miss with comedy clubs and this wasn’t their best night. So to top the evening off we headed back to the Village, to the Duplex piano bar. Show tunes and other favourites by the piano singer and wait staff. Extremely entertaining.

late night food

Late night snacks post drinks at our neighbourhood diner before heading off to bed. Another full, fun day comes to a close.

Sunday. What…we have to go home???
And just like that it is almost time to go home. The first in was also the first to leave – my flight was late afternoon and Vicky and Laura’s was early evening. Still, this gave us time to get up, hit Think Coffee for a light breakfast and go for a leisurely stroll. My favourite spot in Manhattan is Bryant Park. It never fails to please and to amuse. There is just something about this little park right in the heart of it all. We hadn’t been yet, and we hadn’t been to the Empire State Building either. So we walk to the Empire State, but opted not to wait in line to go up. From there we made our way to Bryant Park – where Laura had found out the restrooms had just been re-opened after a fancy renovation. Although I don’t have the photos to prove it (prospect of taking a photo in the washroom felt weird) I can report that they are indeed very lovely!

From Bryant Park we walked to and through Grand Central Station, then the Chrysler building. It was my first time in the Chrysler…not sure why I waited so long! There are some seriously beautiful buildings out there, and this is one of them.

It was now time for me to head back to the apartment and gather my bags to head to the airport. Our LWD in NYC “weekend” was coming to a close. Another great trip with my ladies, filled with laughter, food, drinks, discoveries, heartfelt talks, and all that best friends share. Here’s to the next trip and more discoveries!!!



From Mont Royal

Montreal – view of downtown from Mont Royal

Whenever I am asked where I am from I say Montreal. In truth I grew up mainly in Granby, Quebec. Well…after being born in St. Boniface Manitoba, and living in a few spots in between…The first place I truly remember is Kenora, Ontario. My parents moved us from Kenora to Granby when I was 5 years old and that is where I spent most of my childhood.

Even after having lived in Vancouver, BC for over 20 years I say “I am from Montreal”. The irony is that I have never actually lived in Montreal! Until recently… I decided it was time. I have always loved coming here but never really spent that much time in the city. So at the end of January 2017 I landed here. 8 weeks actually living in Montreal before heading anywhere else. Time to absorb and explore the city.

I feel at home here. But then again, I pretty much feel at home wherever I am. Honestly, that gets a little confusing when time to decide where home actually is comes along! Istanbul – definitely feel at home there. London, England – yup, feel at home there. Mexico – yes please, that feels like home. Vancouver – of course. And there are many other places that feel like “home”. What makes Montreal different? First of all, I am surrounded by two languages, both of which I know. It really is nice to hear both English and French spoken, and know that I can slip from one language to the other many times a day (frequently in the same sentence) and be understood and understand others. Using the two languages I grew up with daily is a wonderful feeling.

Montreal is also a really diverse city – you can hear many different languages spoken as you walk down the streets. I love that.

There is a little grit to this city.  It’s not all polished and shiny. I like the grit. Hell, you can say that about me too – I can polish myself up and get all glitzy, but I also like to grunge it out. Heels and a dress? Sure. Ripped jeans and a t-shirt? Even better.

Winter has thawed and spring is here now, but my meanderings so far have been in Winter. And in the snow and blue sky I have found so much that is beautiful.

Atwater Market

The Atwater Market along the Lachine Canal

First Snow 2

One of the first snowfalls

Walking along the Lachine Canal in -12 degree weather isn’t so bad when the sun is shining down on you and the sky is so blue. The air is crisp and fresh and I found I could walk for hours. Yes, it’s true, I am properly bundled up. But as has always been the case for me, it didn’t take very long before the coat was unbuttoned and the hat removed. I was like this as a child as well. Warm blooded I guess!


I love this sign. Look up people…there may be a large icicle coming your way!

Canal Peace

Along the Lachine Canal. Artwork that can be appreciated all year long.

A couple of weeks in, I moved over to an apartment in La Tour Des Canadiens. That is a tower attached to the Bell Centre, where the Montreal Canadiens play. On game nights the street is shut to traffic as people wearing the Canadiens red line the street preparing to go into the rink. I was really hoping for a long playoff run, but unfortunately that was not meant to be this year. This is not permanently home…but I do enjoy being here.

Bell Centre Living

Bell Centre – La Tour Des Canadians. Even in shadow you can tell that the first statue is Guy Lafleur – the stance, the hair flying behind him….

Forum theatres

The old Montreal Forum is where les Canadiens used to play and where they hoisted the Stanley Cup more than a few times. I was not a fan of the team growing up – for whatever reason I decided to cheer for everybody they played against. Didn’t end up well for me on most occasions, because they really were that good. Now the forum is a movie theatre, and you can sit in some of the old seats and look onto what used to be centre ice.

As someone who has lived in Vancouver for so long and has seen 2 inches of snow shut the city down….it is amazing to watch this city go to work to clear the snow.

Chabot Snow

After a fresh dump of snow

Snow Removal

Truck loads being removed from the city centre. They plow the sidewalks and the streets, and they the snowbanks are blown into large trucks so that we can actually see the streets…

I had a couple of friends visit me in February, and it was great to walk the city with people who hadn’t been here before. Plus it gave me an “excuse” to go up into Mont Royal, the mountain in the middle of the city. Okay…after living in Vancouver it’s more of a hill than a “mountain”, but it is a pretty awesome park. And in the winter you can skate, cross-country ski, snowshoe or just walk the paths.

Mont Royal Cross

The Mont Royal cross – visible from just about everywhere in the city and lit at night.

And of course there is Old Montreal. Beautiful any time of the year, any time of the day.

Old Montreal Tree in Lights

Old Montreal

Montreal is a very walkable city. But in the winter…the metro is your friend. When the current system was launched in 1966, each station had their own unique design.  I love seeing the more elaborate ones and looking back at the design of the ’60’s.


Namur metro station

And then there’s the food. Oh lord the food…. Poutine. French restaurants. St. Hubert chicken. Little Italy. Cafês. I can’t even…. I don’t know where to start! Luckily for me I have a nephew in the food industry here. He has been at a few of the city’s best restaurants and most recently at Maison Publique (the food is AMAZING) and has his own company – Aliments Viens. He makes charcuterie – does it all himself and it is DELICIOUS. So when I need a recommendation for any type of food, I ask Phil. Every time he is right – whether it’s Vietnamese or a trendy bistro. Merci Phil.

The snow has melted and I’m now discovering this city in spring. Walks through St. Henri, Mile End, Le Plateau, La Petite Patrie…still so much to discover!

Mile End Water Tower

Old brick warehouses and water towers in Mile End

St. Henry Firehall

Fire Hall in St. Henri

I have always loved the old brick homes of this city. Now there are many condo towers joining the landscape. It’s a wonderful mix of old and new. There’s an energy in this city that I haven’t felt before – so much going on and an overall sense of ease and excitement. I am looking forward to uncovering more.


View from the treadmill in the gym. I love that old milk bottle! And I hope that the new towers springing up around it does not mean it will be removed…it’s a landmark and I hope it will be saved.

Boarading TK

On my way to Stuttgart to spend time with family.

It may surprise those who know me to find out that I am not a big fan of flying. I much prefer to have my feet firmly planted on mother earth. But…I also love discovering new places, meeting new people and seeing the friends I have made around the world. So flying becomes something to be endured, if not enjoyed…a means to an end.

Over the past 3 1/2 years I have done a lot of flying. With my home base in Vancouver, Canada and working in Istanbul, Baku and Abu Dhabi, this has meant numerous long-haul flights. I’ve also managed to do a fair amount of vacation travel, including 17 flights in 46 days last summer  (most of them being about 1 hour in length). You would think that meant I got used to it. In many ways I have, but in others….not so much.

Leaving Vancouver

Flying out of Vancouver on a beautiful sunny day.

Take-offs. This is the part I like least. I’m not sure when it started, but for years now I have a ritual for dealing with take-offs. As the plane speeds up and the wheels come off the ground I speak to my dad (who passed away many years ago). I visualize his big, strong, loving hands taking us safely up out of whatever city we are leaving; I picture the route on the world map; and then his hands taking us down safe and sound in our destination city. Lately I also add the universe, mother nature, my spirit guides and God to the conversation – but it is always dad’s hands that I picture. It helps get me through the ascent to cruising altitude. Speaking of cruising…I still don’t like it when the engines cut back from the power required to take off. There’s something about that cut in power that always throws me off. I remind myself every time that this is ‘normal’, that you don’t need as much power when you’ve done the climb and are coasting. Sometimes the cut in engine power is barely felt, sometimes it is more pronounced – I guess it depends on the pilot and air traffic.

Once we’re cruising I relax, and at times I even really enjoy it. When I think of all the flying experiences, there are some highlights that come to mind (not all of them good).

  1. While working for an art gallery I used to fly to France 2-3 times a year. On one of the flights from Vancouver to London I got really lucky. I couldn’t sleep, so I asked to go speak to the pilot (clearly this was before 9-11…). This particular aircraft (a Lockheed 1011) had a jumper seat behind the captain’s seat, and I sat there for a while, chatting with the pilot and co-pilot. About 90 minutes before landing the flight attendant came to get me because they were about to serve breakfast. I said my good-byes and the Captain said ‘maybe see you on your flight home’. I joked that I’d like to sit in the cockpit for take-off and landing. After breakfast was done, the flight attendant asked me if I wanted to go back into the cockpit for landing…Um, YES! It was great. We flew in right over Buckingham Palace. The view of the city was amazing. Now that doesn’t happen every day, and certainly not any more.
  2. On another flight from Vancouver to London the pilot came on the speaker system to tell us to look out to the left of the airplane as the northern lights were putting on quite a show. They were. Beautiful.
  3. Then there’s flying back to Canada from Europe, and seeing the sun set on the right of the plane, and darkness on the left side of the plane.
  4. There are times when you look out the window and it is simply beautiful. It could be blue skies and puffy white clouds. Or flying over the Rocky Mountains on a clear day. Flying over the desert and seeing a pop of green every now again as mother nature finds a way for trees to grow in the middle of the desert.


    Flying over the Canadian Rockies is always a favourite.

    Rockies 3Clouds

    Clouds Over Europe

    It’s almost like fluffy marshmallows – flying over Europe.

  5. Or flying at night and seeing lights below.

    Montreal Arrival

    Arriving into Montreal.

  6. That one time I was bumped up to First Class by Lufthansa on a flight from Frankfurt to Muscat. A girl could get used to that kind of pampering!
    Lufthansa 1st
  7. I loved seeing an animated safety video on Fly Dubai – and a curvy flight attendant at that!
    Air Dubai safety video
  8. And then there are experiences one doesn’t need to repeat – like an aborted landing. I’ve been through one. Not so much fun. We were flying into Istanbul. This is a city I have flown into many, many times, so I know the approach well. I see the mosque and the homes, and I know when we are about to touch down, I’m excited and happy to be back. I swear, the wheels were almost on the ground and the next thing I knew the airplane picked up speed and then gunned it. It was very dramatic – particularly given that there was sunshine behind us and we were heading into a dark rain cloud. After what felt like an eternity (and was likely only about 3 minutes) the captain came on to tell us that we were circling around to get a better approach. A better approach? The approach was fine, we were almost on the ground. I suspect there was another airplane in the way and the captain figured out that we’d run into it. Everything else felt the same as it always did. I have to say though, what I felt was the perfect combination of being completely freaked out, and completely calm – knowing that it was not my day to die. No. Don’t need to go through another aborted landing again…ever… Don’t get me wrong, if there was something off and the pilot knew that we wouldn’t have a safe landing, I’m happy he circled and came back again for a safe landing. It’s just freaky, that’s all.

I admit to self-medicating to help calm the nerves, and to help me sleep on long-haul flights. But really, it’s mind over matter and remembering to breathe. And as someone who is used to a minimum 5-hour flight (years of traveling between Vancouver and Montreal), I still find short flights “odd”. We’re already there? Oh, right, we are. Shortest flight so far was a 20-minute flight from Athens to Mykonos. That’s just crazy.

All the above said….I’ve now been in Vancouver for a month and a half…and I have itchy feet. It feels like it’s time to head out again, to take a deep breath and get back on an airplane. How fortunate I am that I can. Grateful!

Lufthansa champers

Cheers. Santé. Serefe. Saluti. Prost. Bon voyage!