James and I are on the great honeymoon that happens in multiple parts:
Nice / Grasse / Chateauneuf du pape
Collioure / Mataro
We landed in Paris on Thursday, May 3rd for 5 days in the city of lights, the city of love, the city of all-things-wonderful like croissants, cafe au laits, steak et frites and macarons. Sadly it wasn’t all to be.
The metro from the airport to the 3rd arrondissement was pretty easy, but we got out at Les Halles and the mall where the metro stops is a zoo. The construction outside the mall makes finding a taxi even more of a challenge. Those feats accomplished, we arrived at our apartment but no one was there to meet us and James’ phone wouldn’t pick up a signal. Sometimes travel is hard and you have to remember that there are croissants and cafe au lait in your future and this small inconvenience, despite your 24 hours plus of awakeness, is no big deal.
We had a small dejeuner at Cafe Charlot, right around the corner from our home-to-be. I had an awesome tomato, mozza, pesto salad. The tomatoes were skinned and perhaps even stewed then cooled? Something magical happened to them anyway. It was excellent people watching, if you could keep your eyes open. Our host met us at 2 pm (we’d left Vancouver at noon the day before and Paris is 9 hours ahead so about 5 am YVR time we were finally in for a little nap).
After a brief slumber we tried to get on local time by going outside in the sun for a nice walk, grabbing a picnic from Rue Bretagne, which is right around the corner from our small Parisian apartment. We took cheese, bread, sausage and apples down to pont Neuf, which is a bridge to Ile de la Cité, where the Notre Dame is located. Wow is Notre Dame ever cool. On the point of the island is a little park with benches and we listened to some university students playing guitar, watched the locals smoking and enjoying the sunset and the occasional tourist meander by accidentally. It was lovely, and our first (albeit partial view) of the Eiffel Tower.
Then I was sick for two days.
I doubt it was our picnic as the likely culprit was a pepperoni stick that I’d eaten on the plane under questionable circumstances. James was an excellent caregiver, but it did mean that I spent two days in bed while James spent one day closely monitoring me and the next wandering the ancient book market by himself. Trooper. I asked for a full report and photos as I’d barely been out of the neighbourhood.
My bout of illness meant a revised sightseeing plan for Paris. I was still pretty weak so cycling or walking the city wasn’t yet in the cards, nor was standing in long lineups. We decided to do the Hop on Hop off tour so that we could get a lay of the land quickly and at least get to see the outside of all the marvellous sites, even if we just stayed on the bus.
Our apartment was actually close to Republique metro station, which is also near the Montmartre route for the tour so we jumped on the bus and saw immediately Porte St Denis and Porte St Martin, which are big arches like the Arc de Triomphe (smaller of course but still impressive). We got out at the Paris Opera, which is a stunning building with huge gold statues on top. Our hope was to transfer to the Grand Tour line as that is the one that goes by the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and all the big sites. No luck. We didn’t remember to check the route number and ended up getting on another Montmartre bus.
So up to the Basilique du Sacre-Coeur for us. The bus doesn’t actually go up the hill but we did on foot power, after stopping at a biscuit shop to gather a sugary snack for later. If I could have eaten cookies at this point, we probably would have bought just one and been done with it, but I was feeling sucky about not yet having any Paris treats. Sacre Coeur is actually a pretty young church in comparison to the other attractions like Notre Dame. It’s gleaming white and you can certainly pick it out from a number of spots in Paris once you know where to look.
Montmartre metro station
The famous photo of the escalier du Montmartre are also off this church so we went down those and explored a small portion of the neighbourhood, had some water and got back on the bus. Remember I wasn’t feeling 100% so there was less exploring than we would have done otherwise. Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est are two famous rail stations that we passed by next, each one more impressive than the last. Paris itself is a museum. The architecture is amazing and it’s fascinating just to gawk around from the heights of the double decker bus.
Our second attempt to switch lines was successful and we zipped by the Louvre and the throngs of people lined up to get in, then it was off along the Champ-Elysées to the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel Tower is actually pretty impressive so we got out to walk around the park and peer up at the cool ironwork. There was only one tram going up that day so we had to forego the visit to the top, but that was ok. We had a rather mediocre dinner in Marais (our neighbourhood).
Day two of the tour we zipped around the Bastille and St. Germaine. Then did a little walkabout. I was feeling much better. Next up was dinner at a very cute pizza place in our neighbourhood. It was called Biochet or something like that and was delicious.
Last day in Paris was dedicated to some perfume shopping. I bought two from Nicohai and I’ll let my perfume friends guess which one. Then I bought a nice ring for my mom for Mother’s Day and met up with James to go for lunch at the amazing Comptoir Gastronomie (thank you Siobhan and Chris for the great recommendation). After more walkabouts and a bike ride along Canal St Martin, we returned to our ‘hood for dinner at a wine bar called Le Barav.
May 9 we navigated our way through the metro system to Gare du Nord and the Thalys rail station to take our 300-mile-an-hour ride to Amsterdam for Mobilism 2012. The train is excellent and a great way to travel in the EU. No customs, airport lineups, stress. It was smooth, smooth, smooth. And Amsterdam is lovely, and perfect for another post later.
* No good croissants
* Great graffiti
* Rue Bretagne and Enfant Rouge is a great spot for food shopping
* One the last day some random guy running through the street with a bouquet gave me a rose.
* Biking St Martin was the highlight
* The Mona Lisa is worth seeing, even if you’ve seen all the reproductions
* Picnicking on the Seine at pont Neuf was excellent and an indication that getting off the main drags is required
* Notre Dame is monstrous
* Yelp restaurant recos are worth reviewing
* There are lots of men in coloured jeans
Jimmy and Linda come to Vancouver. We visit the aquarium and have a grand time all around.
(No photos available but fun was had by all.)
Retreat to Mount Baker with the Le Petit gang.
Monique is off to SFO to attend RSA.
(Excellent food was eaten. None available in photo form.)
We discover the UBC Choral Singers. Lovely.
Visit Winnipeg for Jan’s retirement, Linda’s birthday, and a visit with Pa.
Enjoy the Dan Mangan concert with Siobhan, Chris, Boris and Rachael. Discover Aidan Knight.
Monique trundles off to St. John’s, Nfld, to chat about ebooks to the Literary Press Group of Canada. The visit includes celebrating Tom Power’s birthday with John K Sampson, fiddles and a fog machine.
Jan visits. We go to the opera.
James and Monique get engaged. Wait, what? I know.
Monique and James zoom off to NYC and visit with Marshall and Kerry.
Siobhan celebrates the non-shower shower.
Off to Osoyoos to visit Jimmy and Linda.
D & J’s wedding
Siobhan & Chris’ wedding
James and Monique spend August at Ainslie Point Cottage on Pender Island.
My friend Rachael Ashe brings photo canvases from imagination to life. She is currently working on a portrait series and recently I was in the camera light. But what really caught my eye was the altered books that she’s been working on.
If you like my photo, check out other work by Rachael.
I came to San Francisco for the Edward Tufte workshop. Basically it’s all about graphics, tables and visual representation of data, a little bit of statistical analysis, a pinch of PPT ranting and the general goodness that comes from learning new things from a guy who sees it all as old hat.
One of my favourite quotes today was, “you want to keep an open mind, but not an empty head.”
I tucked in some sight seeing while I was there. A reconnaissance mission really. I must go back. (Salt House had the best gnocchi ever.)
The ginger bread houses (or ships) at the Palace Hotel were yummy looking.
The Palace Hotel is gorgeous, and right across the street from The Sentinel, the best lunch counter ever.
Mushy ice skating in front of Macy’s seemed to be a popular source of evening entertainment. Although it’s cold, it’s not Winnipeg cold.
Thank goodness I found the groove. The street buskers (steps from my hotel) were throwing down the 8-counts. Edward was a tap dancing machine. He knows Dormeisha and Jason, Lady Di, Joel Hanna, all the tappers in my world. Albeit, it’s a world I should return to before I lose my place.
My trip ended with a crazy airport experience.
Here’s the Free Speech Booth where the solicitation of funds may occur. Really, what is this?
AirCanada decided to change our aircraft at the last minute, which meant a 1-hour delay. The flight attendants got on the new plane only to discover that the catering carts were not moved over, which led to another hour delay. When we finally got on the plane, they discovered the wing flaps weren’t working. The single mechanic on duty tirelessly worked away at the problem for another hour. After 2 hours and 45 minutes of delay we were on our way. Good thing I was at the airport so early, f-sharp. In flight, they realized the customs cards were no where to be found. An agent met us at the gate with them, although they were US customs cards, which are entirely useless when entering CANADA! I’m sure the flight attendants were as happy to finish the trip as the passengers. What a gong show.
My birthday usually lasts the full month. This behaviour wasn’t instituted by me. It came about because as a teen I lived in one place with lots of lovely friends and had lots of other lovely friends in another city. It meant that I got used to stretching out a birthday in order to make myself and others feel good about not being able to celebrate together on my actual birthday. The practice that started due to geography soon became habit so even now I love stretching out the celebrations.
This year was a truncated celebration. I was away in Jordan during the lead-up to my birthday, in a perfume workshop the weekend of my birthday, and have been bustling away with work since my birthday. The birthday celebration was Sunday night (Nov. 16) and there’s only been a quiet smattering of birthday wishes since. Not my usual full-blown agenda so I was very excited to get a bunch of cool mail this week.
Not in the mail, but stumbled up via Flickr, here’s the photo of my birthday party filling a full theatre row. (Thanks Travis.)
Thursday Andrew Zuckerman’s Creature arrived in the mail. Lovely, beautiful photographs from an amazing photographer. Andrew Zuckerman’s Wisdom is another worthwhile book (watch the video on his site). But Creature is eye-candy for the animal lover. It is about souls beyond human souls.
Friday afternoon my perfume oils from Eden Botanicals arrived. I’m looking forward to playing with the Black Currant.
Saturday morning the doorbell brought this tasty selection of treats from the Sherrett household. Thank you Linda!
Two years ago, the province of British Columbia committed to protecting a region of the province referred to as The Great Bear Rainforest under a new conservancy. All the
stakeholders—the provincial government, logging companies, First Nations and environmentalists—agreed. They committed to a new approach to resource planning, and it was to be implemented by March 31, 2009. Yes, steps have been made in this direction, but it’s not guaranteed. It’s not a sure thing. A promise isn’t always a promise in politics, is it?
I know about Save the Great Bear because every day (for the duration of the initial campaign) I drove past giant billboards featuring kermode bears with the URL tag “Raincoast.org”. I found this mildly amusing and annoying because at the time I was the internet marketing manager for Raincoast.com. There were interesting traffic mix-ups that I was happily taking advantage of by directing visitors to our ancient-forest friendly webpages (which I’ll tell you about in a second.)
I was also cynical about the “spirit bear” (the white kermode bear) and the emotional pull the initial ad campaign was using to raise awareness of this region, but I was working in marketing (how cynical could I be about a tactic that I would use).
Despite these thoughts, the campaign did work to raise public awareness of the kermode bear, which in turn led to greater awareness of the bears’ habitat. Now that—the habitat—was what really interested me. The company I was working for, Raincoast.com, is a book publisher. Trees are pretty important to the process of publishing books. At the same time as the Great Bear Rainforest campaign was running, we were also working to get other publishers on board with Markets Initiative to print on 100% post-consumer, recycled paper instead of virgin paper made from our boreal forests. This is the “ancient-forest friendly” bit that I mentioned earlier.
Here’s what I can tell you about the temperature rainforest:
The Great Bear Rainforest is the largest tract of intact coastal temperate rainforest left on Earth.
One quarter of the world’s temperate rainforests are in coastal British Columbia.
The Great Bear Rainforest is more biodiverse than most forests and ecosystems in the world.
It covers 77,000 square kms—about the size of Austria.
It’s home to 3 kinds of bears: grizzly, black and kermode (white bear—there are only a handful in the world)
Six million migratory birds live here
There are 3000 genetically distinct salmon stocks in its waters
And many species of plants are unique to the region.
The Great Bear Rainforest is an important part of the world, it’s not just important to BC, and not just because there are bears and trees. This forest is a lifebelt. I, for one, am a fan of the oxygen forests produce. I also love this part of the world. It’s right on my doorstep.
Come on Province of BC! Keep the promise.
Gordon (as in Premier Gordon Campbell), you said you’d put the long term interests of the community first. That you’d protect this part of the world. Please see this one all the way through. Charles gets it ...
If you want to save the bears, save the trees, save yourself, send a message to the government of British Columbia by signing an online petition (non-BC and non-Canadian residents can send the message too, Gordon promised the international community he’d protect the forest, he didn’t just promise us).
Why am I on about this today? Because Debbie, the world’s oldest polar bear died today at the Winnipeg Zoo (42 years old), because I’m from Winnipeg and now live here—much closer to bears in the wild—because I love this part of the world, because I hate when governments make promises they don’t keep, especially promises that involve protecting things that I care about, because, because, because ...
Still don’t know what I’m on about? Watch some bears, look at the forest they’re moving through, check out the stream.
Then we had a cocktail party and went to see the new James Bond at the Dunbar, home of Vancouver’s best popcorn. We filled a row of theatre seats. There was dress up.
R & 007
James made cake. A delicious, chocolate cake.
And today, the Beasts took me and Super Nate, who is also celebrating a birthday, for lunch. We wore our birthday t-shirts. Mine says “Not your average Muggle.” I like this a lot.
I love celebrating my friends, and I love celebrating my birthday. What good fortune to combine the two. Thanks for all the presents and birthday wishes. You all (or y’all, as I understand to be a personal pronoun in some States) make me very happy!
Disclaimer: I’m in a hurry so this is a bit of a brain dump for prosperity.
Although the internet is cheaper in Egypt (6 LE per hour, $1.20 per hour), I have been running around trying to see as much as I can. The first day, I walked all around Zamalek, I like this neighbourhood very much. It’s like an expensive version of Commercial Drive. Lots of coffee shops, restaurants, colourful characters and strange stores.
Day two, we went to the Khan Khalili bazzar and spent too much money. We were caught up in lovely things. That night we went on a night trip to the pyramids of Giza. These are the 3 famous pyramids of Egypt because they are in good condition and close to Cairo. There are 110-133 pyramids in Egypt, in fact there are 9 at Giza, but aside from the 3 big ones, the others are smaller queen pyramids. The sound and light show was ok, a quick history of Egypt with the pyramids lit up. There are 3 million blocks, the pyramids are at a 52 degree angle, they are aligned with the sun, all interesting things. Then we had dinner at a restaurant across the street (thankfully not the KFC—lots of development around the pyramids).
Day three, we hired a guide from the hotel to take us to the pyramids during the day. Moheb was great. His name means beloved and his was lovely explaining hieroglyphics and the tombs. I crawled all the way down a tunnel into one of the tombs. There are vertical hieroglyphics and horizontal. The horizontal can be read left to right or right to left depending on the way the figures are facing.The tomb was really cool. This was at Saqqara, which is the oldest site. First we went to Memphis to see the huge status of Ramses II, then to Saqqara, next to the Pyramids of Giza.
I learned about Upper and Lower Egypt, and upper was the lotus flower, the top of the Nile, lower was the delta and the marshes with papyrus. These symbols are everywhere. I love the stories of daily life in the hieroglyphics.You can see the humour, there are fisherman, with the fish jumping out of the basket. There are hippos, lions, crocodiles.
At the end of this very long day, we went on a Nile cruise for dinner. I think we circled this one block, nothing changed outside the windows, but the food was ok, and the 2nd entertainers were excellent dancers. I danced with the belly dancer and was complemented but most I loved the tuntoura, who is a guy that spins like the dirvishes but makes designs with these drums that he holds in different patterns and with his layered skirt. That was by far the best.
Day four, Sherif was our excellent guide for the Citadel, Egyptian Museum and the mosque. It was a fantastic day visiting different churches, the synagogue, the mosque (all in the same block), the crypt where Mary hid, the citadel, ...
The museum is huge and thank goodness Sherif was able to show us the highlights and most important things otherwise I would have been overwhelmed and missed the best parts. The mummies were also creepy and excellent. I understand why there are depicted in horror movies now. I can’t imagine going and discovering a tomb and finding a mummy. They are ok in the museum but really, to see the bottom of someone’s foot and see their facial expression in death—willies.
Day five, bookshop, coffee and trying to pack. My bag ripped so I have to find a luggage shop. Weird day to come.
Tomorrow London, then eventually back to Vancouver. I can’t remember my office phone number so it’s been a good holiday.
I can’t wait to load photos and show you the soup of smog that we came through when landing. Wow!
Zamalek is the neighbourhood where Chris lived in Cairo and that is where the Rabbit and I are staying. I love, love, love it here. Cairo feels like a city I could live in, soup aside. I walked for 3 hours around Zamalek and there is a vibe here that I totally dig. I feel at home. The architecture reminds me a bit of some of the rotting buildings in Havana. There are Christians and Muslims a plenty, lots of mosques. The minarets look beautiful.
I went to the Cairo Opera House, and there is a ballet from Spain there tonight but I’m feeling rather cheap and don’t want to spend my money on ballet when I’ve yet to spend it on pyramids. We saw the ones in Giza when we flew in. What a thing to see. They look really small compared to the encroaching cityscape. Apparently there is a KFC right across from the Pyramids.
I am also wishing that we had more time here and could visit Luxor and Alexandria. Our trip originally was to Egypt, then we switched to Jordan, and it’s only because Chris was here that I was bound and determined to visit. You can’t be that close in the world and not pay a visit. But, alas, he is in Dubai, last I heard. Chris are you still out there in the world? I hope you’re well.
So tomorrow is a Saturday and I have no idea if the things/places I want to see are going to be open. Travel is such a crapshoot.
Today is my last day in Jordan, tomorrow we leave at 6 am. Booooo.
Here’s my list of things I love about Jordan:
The people of Jordan are amazing. I love them a lot. Really friendly and welcoming.
The rooftop terrace at Movenpick in Petra.
Petra. Totally gorgeous place. Tea at the top of the mountain.
Wadi Rum. Incredible landscape. I will have dust in my shoes forever.
Aqaba snorkelling the coral reef. 200 different kinds of amazing coral.
Floating in the Dead Sea. Weird and wonderful feeling.
Sweets that are so sweet they make you sick.
Hummus from Hassem restaurant.
There are lots and lots of things to list. Too many to list.
Things I Hate About Jordan.
Leaving anywhere, you are either 10 minutes early or 3 hours late.
Here’s my “Left and Leaving” playlist from the Aqaba airport. I had 3 hours to go through my iphone from A to Z creating a playlist. These are some of the songs that I was able to listen to all the way through. I was incredibly impatient clicking through songs.
Tool - Schism
(because at this point I really needed to scream)
Weakerthans - Aside
Weezer - Island Sun
Wolf Parade - Grounds for Divorce
(More like grounds for filing a complaint. Why, why, why is this airplane late? Why is the airport chair so uncomfortable? Why can’t I be in Amman hanging out with my friends? Why is there nothing but candy to eat? Why can’t I instantly understand every language in the world so that travel is always easy? Why is it hot, why is it cold, why can’t we leave yet? Come on .........)
Last year James and I were in Malta with Darren, Julie and Gwen for Thanksgiving. It was one of my favourite Thanksgivings ever. Julie managed to order a turkey, which came all the way from France, and she and James cooked it beautifully. Gwen made an amazing roast nut dish that makes me salivate just thinking about it, and Darren and I lit tea lits around the pool. Those lights were a distinct challenge so no mocking, thank you very much.
For breakfast we ate the most amazing hummus. It was creamy in a way that hummus is not creamy in Canada or in this hotel. We had ful (beans—like hummus but with beans), pita bread and tea. Then we walked around through the gold stores looking for jewellery for the Rabbit. Then we walked by the Roman theatre that is in the middle of downtown. Archaeological evidence of human settlements in the Amman area dates back 9,000 years, so a little Roman Odeon is, like, no big deal. We have a Neolitic settlement (6500 BC) over here, early Bronze Age tombs (3300 BC) over there, and this internet cafe.
Not joking. We did go to Books@Cafe, which was Amman’s first internet cafe. It rocks. There are great murals on the wall, an outdoor terrace. The rest of the afternoon was spent hanging out, drinking soda and talking about life and family, politics and religion, typical stuff.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Please have some stuffing for me.
At 7:50 am we left Amman for the Dead Sea. It’s about a 45 minute drive and we arrived at Amman Beach, the public beach at the Dead Sea, with more than enough time to float about before my spa appointment!
The water is incredible. I’m bouyant on my own so with salty salt water, I was even more like a cork. In fact, on my stomach, I couldn’t actually swim. It was like when parents try to teach their kids to swim but hold them too far out of the water. The water felt oily and the salt deposits in the sand looked like epsom salt bath crystals (this is where they come from), and there is a rock that is in all the photos with deposits on it that look like melted wax. http://flickr.com/photos/young_geologist/482781784/
We only bobbed around for an hour because my spa appointment was at 10 am. That would be 10 am to 2 pm!!!! This is the bar at the hotel (one of them) and the spa was equally chic-chic. http://flickr.com/photos/jaakob/1536371410/
Kempinski Hotel and the Anantara Spa. My Thai massage therapist was excellent. I started with a foot bath, then an aromatic bath while sipping on amazing chamomile tea. Then I had the Dead Sea scrub. Exfoliate baby! Next up was a shower, then the mud wrap. The Dead Sea mud is famous and I was rubbed all over with it, then wrapped in plastic, while I had a head massage. I thought I’d died and found my own personal heaven. After my 2nd shower, I had the hour massage. It’s hard to wash off all that mud, and incredibly hard to just lay around all day having people service your skin.
James always feels drunk coming out of a spa treatment and I was falling over my feet. So relaxed, so oiled, so glowy. I loved it.
Then we went to a baptismal site because our guide was pretty keen to take us. Next thing I know we were on some cattle bus being shuttled to the edge of the Jordan river to see where Jesus was baptized. This was not the end of my spa day that I imagined. Suddenly we were being herded like donkeys in the desert to the edge of a river that’s about 6 metres wide, swatting at flies the entire time. Lots and lots of flies.
So yes, today I floated in the Dead Sea (the lowest point in the world), had a lavish spa day, and then walked where Jesus walked, saw where he was baptized, then drove back to Amman.