Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Day the 18th in which panic happens.

I woke on the bus to Gatwick, trundled my crap off, and went in to check-in. My flight left in about three hours, and I was excited to be going home. All I needed was my connecting flight from Toronto to Edmonton, and I could bask in the light of familiarity once more.

My flight was delayed to 1315. Don't ever travel with "mytravel" airlines. Not only did they refuse to assist me in making the connection I now had less then an hour for, but they refused to accept responsibility for the late arrival. The 7 hour flight passed by , marked by a feeling of dread and hyperventilation. I only managed to regain control over my panic ridden body by listening to the two kids chatter on next to me. They kept me entertained by such phrases as, "When that was popular, Mr. Clean had an Afro!" and various "three men are walking along a beach/on a plane/eating sandwiches." jokes.

I missed my flight. The second in this trip.
I began to silently weep as I approached the Westjet service counter, anticipating exorbitant expenses.
"Do you have a boarding pass?"
"Yes." *sniff* "It's for three hours ago."
I was swept up in a tide of human generosity.
"Oh you poor thing! We'll get you on the next available flight possible! Don't you worry about a thing!"
*sniff* "I love you."

Not only did I get on a new flight for a very cheap amount, but it happened to be on the flight that Mike was taking home! Once I found him, reading some mystery book on the other side of security, I clung to him, and wept my little face off.
I leeched onto him for the duration of the flight home, and, upon, arrival, leeched onto both him, and my mother, who came to save me from the airport.

I'm home now, and you know what? Europe may be prettier, but Canadians are nicer.

Trip day the 16thm In which strangeness happens, and trip day the 17th, In which delays happen.

On the sixteenth, I had the unspeakable pleasure of entering, after three tries each of which included a half an hour wait in the burning sun, the Vatican Museums! They were incredibly beautiful, including the Sistine chapel, which was really small! I mean, when you see the posters of the painting on the roof, you gain the impression it is 1000 feet long and 300 feet high, but In reality it was about 60 feet across, and about 120 feet long. It is quite high, however, making it difficult to pick out details. The majesty and talent of Michelangelo is effortlessly apparent. I moved through it rather quickly, despite the lead up being several miles of rooms filled with minor works of art, and hope to have the pictures I garnered from it up shortly. Afterwards, I lunched at the Vatican cafeteria, forgoing the "wine-in-a-juice box" for a coke and pizza containing some type of tough-skinned fish. I didn't eat slowly enough to really examine it, however.

After attempting some shopping, which resulted in a few items for others, I metro-ed back to Tiburtina to catch my bus, confident in the knowledge that I had already been on this bus, and thus knew everything that was necessary.
I become so distracted by the Italian countryside, however, that I neglected to notice my stop. This is a hazardous move when you are on an inter-city bus. I exited the bus in Palombara, Italy, A small town where people substitute comprehension for volume. However, communication was made, and I found myself sitting on a low wall, with a brittle smile on, hoping that the bus both came by here, and took the same route back. Both turned out fine, and I gratefully fell into bed, aware of my flight the next day.
Determined to make this flight uneventful, I shuttled into Rome, Metro-ed to Tiburtina, and train-ed to Ciampino. The town, outside of the airport. Drat. I hoisted my trunk and began walking. after a half an hour, I stopped to ask directions, and was told that it was far too far, would I like a ride?
I arrived 8 hours early for my flight.
I spent the time rearranging my bags in the desperate hope that I would somehow lose 4 kg, the amount over my baggage was (they had a 15 kg limit). I was sweating bullets by the time I approached the check-in counter, but the lady waved my bag through without a backwards glance. Yes!
A few hours later, I was inside Stansted airport, after fording the sickening lines in front of Customs.
I found myself in between a store called "LoveJuice" and a man using a luggage trolley as a wheelchair.
I bought myself a ticket to London Gatwick on a bus which ran directly there, and sat on my duff.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Trip day the 14th, in which religion happens, and Trip day the 15, in which little happens.

I've bundled them because, to be perfectly frank, the 15th was boring. I phoned people, and lazed around, and desperately tried to calm my mind enough to tan. It didn't work; I was so antsy! There was no shuttle into town, so I thought, "this is a good excuse to stay home."

The fourteenth was spent at San Pietro (St. Peter's Basilica to the 'un-italian parloing') It is really spectacular. The pizza is huge, and the line to get in wraps around the piazza, and disappears in minutes. It took me approximately 20 minutes to get from one end, to inside. (security takes a while) I'd gone with some Romanians from the Villa, but as soon as we were inside, I bolted. They were nice, but well, I didn't really want to play tour guide. Michelangelo's La Pieta took my breath away, despite being behind Plexiglass (a hammer wielding maniac damaged it a few years back; they take precautions now)and the statues were magnificent. The first area I really saw however, was the tomb of the popes, including our beloved John Paul II. Even with the reverent quiet, people praying, asking guards in hushed tones if they would touch treasured objects to his grave, which they would, people were still somewhat disrespectful. I saw multiple pictures being taken. But, to me, the most poignant moment came when I found the sanctum of St. Peter himself, where a man was praying with such fervor that I felt I had stepped into another world, invading his planet. The area is perfectly preserved, and commands respect in every foot. (Re-checking my handy book, it seems that some bones were found, confirmed to be St. Peter's and interred in this space) This is holy ground, I can feel it.
However, this holiness doesn't stop me from being a moron. Upon seeing some people exit a stairway, I ask "Questo Via San Pietro?" (Is this the way to St. Peter's?) They offered it was, and I excitedly made my way up the steps, expecting to see the great hall itself (which I had yet to). I found myself behind an alter. Oh crud. Which was all fenced off. Oh crud. Opting not to sully myself and the space by hopping the fence, I hurriedly made my way back down the stairs, and tried to look innocent. Good grief, my luck.

Once I find the hall, it is incredibly breathtaking: The statues, the sarcophagi, the alters, masses being held everywhere, confessionals in every language under the sun. I say a quick prayer in the chapel off to the side, and, after taking some discreet photos in the main hall (which were allowed, I just felt invasive) I returned outside to the beauty of the piazza. Apparently, the cross on the top of the tower in the middle contains a piece of the holy cross which Christ was crucified on. I feel really blessed to be here, and alive, today. I hope you guys feel it too, reading this.

I felt less blessed when I realized I had no Euros on me, and I required 2 to get home. Even less so when the only place in the city that I knew took my Visa, wasn't working because their system was down. Really REALLY less blessed when no shop anywhere would give me even one Euro back off my Visa. I tried for 6 hours.
So was I.

Then a teen came up to me and said, "Are you alright?"

After I stopped bawling I explained that I couldn't get home cause I couldn't buy a bus ticket. He asked how much and I replied, "One Euro and twenty". He said, "A hundred and twenty Euros?" (I could see he was a little nervous because he wanted to help, but good grief, a hundred and twenty Euros!) I replied, "No; One Euro and twenty centissimi." He laughed, and bought me a ticket. We bussed home together (his stop was later then mine) and I gave thanks again for the hand of God in my life.

I also told him that I'd learned my lesson,and would start planning further ahead in the future...

Anyway, I was hoping to get 'day the 16th' up because it has been really exciting, but it looks like it will have to wait. If you would like a sample though, three scenes ought to do it: I'm standing in the Sistine Chapel, I'm eating some strange sort of fish on a pizza (not anchovies...more eel-ish...) and I'm in some random town that isn't Rome, where no-one speaks English.
Not to worry, I am safe at the Villa once more,awaiting my flight tomorrow evening, but it was interesting!
Love everybody!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Trip day the 13th, I'm which I assault women's cleavages.

Well,ditched the tour in favour of wandering around with some really cute Swedish guys. They speak English perfectly, but tend to lapse into Swedish when talking to each other; sometimes I don't notice, so they'll be talking, and then I have no idea what's going on. Or better, they'll be speaking Swedish, then change into English to talk to me, and I'll completely ignore them. Ah, sigh, the fun with languages. We bought tickets for a tour of the Coliseum (thus skipping the huge line!) however, it seems surprisingly small, especially from the inside. It is also far more damaged then I had thought. I mean, yes it's very old, but well, so is my great grandma. We toddled over to the arch of Constantine, which was nearly perfectly preserved, despite being around the same age (well, 200-300 years difference, who's counting?) Compared to the Coliseum, though, it was HUGE! For a big carved block of rock, it's pretty damn big!
Wandered up many side roads, getting multiple directions, to see the Trevi fountain, the Spanish steps, and the Piazza de Medinine. One of the neatest sights on the way, however, was a radio next to some paper cut outs of Mickey and Minnie, which were dancing to the music! I was astounded, formulating some theory about magnets and radio waves. They were dirt cheap, but I decided not to buy one. One of the Swedish men did, and I vowed to ask him later how they worked. At the fountain, we all threw in coins (myth says if you throw one in, you'll return to Rome, if you throw two in, you'll meet your Italian true love, and if you throw three in, you'll marry them. needless to say, I threw one in. However, this did not save me from fate attempting to spark my lesbian love career. I threw it into a woman's cleavage. Thank goodness, "Mi Scuzzi!" is my best phrase, and my sneakers were laced up tight.) We had some really great supper after that, (Penne Pasta for myself) and taxied home (which was really cheap, despite being from the center, and even divided four ways, which makes me wonder if I got fleeced on my cab ride to the hotel from the airport. Lost, huh? Yah, right.)

I'm hoping to see Vatican City tomorrow, but I may have twisted my ankle. Crap. Poot. Damn.

I also have some breath-taking photos! Which I hope to be posting on Facebook asap.
For the interested, I will be returning on the Friday of this week, at 11:15pm.

Oh boy,Oh boy!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Trip day the 12th; In which I tan, and run into more Candians.

Wake late, eat breakfast, tan, try the pool.
Oh Yah, coolest umbrellas ever.
They hang, but also fold closed. There's no pole, you crank them up by a rope!

Figured I'd spoil myself today so I tried the sauna (holy crap! 60°!), the Turkish bath (smelled like wet cement) and got a massage (fell asleep in the middle).
Afterwards mostly just wandered around the area poking things. No-one wanted to listen to my Chirgulchin tho, I may have to wait until I get back to bathe in their dulcet tones again.

Also figured out that honking is a way of saying, "hey there!" and they'll do it. Even if it visibly scares the pants off you.

We have two restaurants in walking distance, but one wasn't open (no hours displayed either) the other didn't open till 7:45...pm! Weird hours these people keep!

I've got a tour booked for tomorrow, covering all the main spots of Rome. Very exciting! Although they are very confusing as well, half of them are "San such and such" the other half are "Piazza what-have-you".

I spend the evening lounging in my bed watching Ranma 1/2 in Italian. (Ranma is a Japanese Anime populated by gender/species-changing individuals that are all in confusing love triangles) Strangely, it is just as understandable in Italian as it is in English. I think "body" should become an official language.

Well, ciao bella! (the second Italian phrase I have learned)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Trip day the 11th, In which I leave for Rome

oh shit.
Oh no.
No no no no no. No!
I've woken up at 7:30.
My flight left at 6:10.

What the hell do I do?

All my luggage is packed.
I am sitting on the bed, stuck. Completely.
I don't wanna stay here anymore.
Please send me to Rome.

The guy at the desk says it's possible to buy a one way ticket quite cheaply, so I'm going back to try and get some more sleep.
I don't think it's working.
Alright. I've got a ticket. It's kinda expensive but you know what?

The sun is shining, I feel pretty, God is good.
I think it's gonna be a wonderful day.

Wandered to Crystal Palace, after saying good-bye and thank you at the hotel, bused to East Croyden, then promptly got onto the wrong train. A non-stop to Brighton.
This isn't a problem, since I allowed several hours to travel to the airport, my ticket covers all available trips, and I get to talk to a fascinating man on my bas named Paul Hewlett, an Irish former boxer who now roofs and raises stallions. We laughed about London, he told me about his kids and Ireland (lives in Cork), I told him about my Dad who used to box, and we worried we would be thrown out of first class together.
If anything, this whole pile of poo has made me more excited to see Rome, and gave me a lasting good memory of London.

Plus, it was kinda funny, when I think about it. I ran out to the front desk to see what time it was (in case my clock was wrong) in my backwards jammies (thrown on too fast) with my hair all messed up, in my bare feet, but despite my panic, I still remembered to put in my contacts and grab my room card. Sometimes, I really astound myself.

I saw London,
Flew over France;
I'm in Rome, now,
watch me dance!

Shuttle wasn't at the airport.
ah, screw it.
Rented a cab.
We got lost.
We left Rome.
We entered Rome.
We toured Rome.

Finally, when I was about ready to pack it in and go to another hotel (I didn't have that much money on me, and was having horrific visions of myself sleeping on the roadside of Country Rome) we found it.

It. Is. Incredible.
No, wait, that doesn't do it justice; C'est Incroyable!
I'll describe it tomorrow; I'm so tired my eyes may fall out, and I haven't eaten at all today.
But I have to say this; I have a Bidet.
My toilet is a Bidet and my AC has a remote.
HA-HA World!

Just when life couldn't get any worse, now it couldn't get any better!

Okay I'm way too excited to sleep! I'll tell you about it now! My own TV, bathroom, all wood furniture, ceramic floor, patio door to the pool area, huge striped curtains covering a whole wall, huge lockable wardrobe (doesn't lead to Narnia), my own writing desk with lock, mini fridge, AC! AHH!

The comforter is nearly as thick as it is wide (no seriously. Someone needs to let the Italian's in on the secret of duvets because this thing is 7ft long, about 6 inches thick (all over!) and about a foot and half wide. It's awesome, don't get me wrong, just weird.) I'm so enchanted! I wish I was staying longer then 6 days. We should bring the family here! For how nice it is, it's so damn cheap!
OK going to bed.
Oop, one more thing: My clock is 24 hour.
So cool.

Now that I am updating today, I'd like to add that the keyboard is rearranged, so any spelling errors are likely due to the new configuration, and the fact that blogger is all in Italian. Seriously cool. Wanna see the new characters? ç ò à ù § £ ì è é €. Awesome, huh?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Trip day the 10th; in which I "potter" around

I've been worried about going to Rome, until I saw a show about a lady that likes to travel to Afghanistan and Iraq on vacation. Her main point is, "If people live there, why can't I go on vacation there?"
I think this may be the best advice to give or hear.
So I arm myself with my "amazon-in-training" button, and head off under grey skies (perfect for the tower of London).

I keep forgetting my Italian book, so I brush up on mandarin instead. Why not? A nod's as good as a wink, eh?
I don't have a cockney accent yet, but I think this is due to conscious effort on my part. Surrounded by the soft rolling tones, I can feel them line up on my tongue, but when I open my mouth, I still sound like that lady off "This hour has 22 minutes". Speaking of which, I almost forgot; Rick Mercer is GAY! Jas was in a gay bar in London with a friend of hers when he walked in. He was trying to be discrete (apparently he's really short, but always wears a suit.) but they danced around him singing, "Rick Mercer! Rick Mercer!". Poor guy.

The tower of London is great, with a Yeoman Warder tour included. He was extremly funny, cracking jokes about how no lady's engagement ring could compare to the crown jewels, but the men can get back at the ladies by showing them the galley where King Henry hanged his wives, and speculating on King Henry's codpiece (the first incident of psychological warfare).He also, when we cheered to hear more stories of torture, called us "Weirdos" but was "bloody glad there's no Frenchies here".

Harry Potter was so much better then the last two, neither of which included much in the way of plot points, and felt too rushed.

I'm in a pub, watching an Indian rap video about pregnant women. Seriously, this singer is surrounded by dozens of pregnant women. I have no idea what it's supposed to be about, but they all seem really happy.

I head home, book a wake-up call for 4, and desperately try to get a few hours sleep.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Trip day the 9th; In which little happens

Alright, if you eat only sandwiches, it's possible to eat quite cheaply in London.

I slept in until 2 today. My body seems to be pinwheeling between no sleep and all sleep. Silly thing. (yes, this is all my body's fault. Not because I woke at 7 o'clock and said, "Bugger this"...)

I also really like the feel of the £. It's got some serious weight to it, and it feels pretty damn good to slap that down on a cafe table after consuming a coffee and croissant, and then be able to leave. If I had to, I would say that this is what maturity feels like.

It saddens me that the more I see of the world, the less of it I like. In fact, I think the only bits of it I really like anymore are beneath the feet of people I know. I mean, I whine about London, how expensive it is, blah blah blah, but I think if I moved here, and started earning British pounds, I'd love it. There's a lot more culture, style, taste, love put into this place. I feel like a young girl who started seeing a 30 year old. So much more mature, established, delightful, but I've no idea how to talk to people and my meager savings look really paltry. How can I go back to dating sweaty teenagers (Edmonton)? But all my friends are there! Maybe I will look into the British army. I hear they're way more hardcore then Canada.

Over a red Cabernet Sauvignon that hints of chocolate, and a pumpkin ravioli to die for, I wonder why this country is not permanently soused, given how easy it is to find really good booze here. It seems to be on every street corner. It's certainly in every grocery store.

I feel kind of silly, because I bussed all the way to Cromwell to see Harry Potter, which opens tomorrow. Damnit.
I buy a ticket for the 5:00 show, anyway, delighted to find you pick your seats in advance. I've got a pretty groovy one near the front. Sorry if you wanted me to wait family, but well, drat-it-all, I have to see it in Britain! And then spend the remaining night looking for number 4 privet drive! It's here somewhere!

I've come all this way, though, too far to leave without something, so I buy a ticket to "La vie en rose" the story of Edith Piaf (No-one tell Mike; he'd be so grumpy!).

So I'm bawling my eyes out in the middle of the theater, then humming the tunes all the way home. Really great stuff. Life just poos on this poor woman, to a beat you can dance to.
Afterwards, I finally satisfy my 3 month long craving for Creme Brulee. It was apple and rhubarb flavored, and I have yet to find proof that the joy didn't kill me. (Neither the ride home nor the programming were convincing that I am not in purgatory)

Anyway, I hope for the tower of London before I leave, the day after tomorrow! I'll be able to breakfast in London, then Lunch in Rome! w00t!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Trip day the 8th, my first full day in London

I can't sleep. Finally, I stop trying around 7 and just get up. I hope this doesn't become a habit.

The promised "traditional English breakfast" apparently doesn't involve any kind of fruit, but it doesn't really matter since my cereal appears to be "ludicrously tasty". I think they might be exaggerating though...

Well, hurray! My first big trip in London and it's on the top of a double decker bus! Ha!

Little kids playing cricket, well, holding cricket bats, anyway...

Big Ben is really huge. I mean, awe inspiring! And guarded by so many men in uniform with big, rapid fire auto weaponry! ...is someone trying to steal big Ben?

The National gallery is really fabulous, but there is no photography allowed. Damnit.
The 1st paintings to really strike me are a quartet, "The allegory of Love". Scorn, unfaithfulness, respect, and happy union. It's the same couple pictured in all of them, but the guy just gets dumped on! Beaten, cheated on, thoroughly teased, then finally, he gets her in the last one, but I can't fathom why he wants her!?
The paintings of St. Jerome all become easily distinguishable, he always has a rock somewhere close by...
There is a painting (I couldn't make this up) called "A grotesque old woman" that seriously looks like an orangutan in a dress. My heart goes out to this lady, who is flawlessly painted in all her ugliness, with a brilliant smile. Painters are so strange.

The painting "the execution of Lady Jane Grey" is really spectacular, a must see in person. You can see the executioner's tights bunch around his knees, and the way the Lady gropes for the executing block just squeezes your heart.

The picture by Reuben, "the massacre of the innocents" almost reduces me to tears. It depicts the soldiers executing Hebrew babies on the order of King Herod (I think?), and this painting pulls no punches in it's quest to show the true horror of it's subject. Brutalized infants, women desperately trying to save their children. An old women bites a solider to protect her grandson. Really terrible, but really moving.

I even manage to work in Piccadilly circus and Buckingham Palace today; too late for the changing of the guard though, maybe another day.

I do get a picture of a bobby standing at the gate, though, who informs me he carries a glock? I think? This man is defending Buckingham palace from what-ever-have-you, carrying a heavy sidearm, wearing a flack vest, aware that he may be called to lay down his life for the queen, and he thinks I'm brave for traveling alone.

Good heavens.
The exchange rate is really putting a damper on my fun though. The prices, number wise, are exactly the same as they would be in Canada, but with the pound symbol instead. I've also discovered what a "quid" is; a pound, in cockney.
I know it's silly, but I didn't know that.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Trip day the seventh, In which I travel to London, U.K.

Gate 33 seat 33A. This is a really good sign, I think. Plus, I'm over the wing.

The flight is uneventful, though I only sleep one hour, except for the shining triumph of obtaining TWO meals. Ha ha!

London smells incredible, and I'm so excited I may hurl. My train to Croyden leaves off platform 4, and let me tell you, it feels really awesome to say that. Luckily, it leaves in a few minutes, so I don't have time to take a run at the brick wall between platforms 9 and 10. The trains are so steady it's creepy, but every time they pass each other, there's a terrific "WHOOSH THUD" noise that scares the beejesus out of me.

The walk to my hotel is arduous, even more so due to my sleepy non-thinking state. I train to East Croyden, bus to West Croyden, bus back past East Croyden to (almost) crystal palace, walk an outrageously long time up a stupid steep hill, taking only a few wrong turns, toting my damn heavy bag (which I vow to strip of all useless items upon my imminent arrival), finally finding the hotel.
Marvel at the hotel.
It's fabulous!
It's brilliant!
It's all MINE!
It's got a bed!
I'm so tired!
I wake late in the afternoon to have a light lunch, and then proceed to subjugate Croyden. All of it. My knees ache from the walk, later, but I uncover a world of delights. The original site of the Crystal Palace, an actual hedge maze (forded in about 5 minutes, thank you) countless little pubs with more character then a Chapter in Tom Jones; London is so compact, so tight, the streets generously claim to be be 2 lane, with parking on the sides, but the cars whiz up and down these streets with not enough room for an anorexic locust in between them. If a new car paint shop opens in London, the accidents will be crippling. I wander the path called "Capital ring" for hours before getting supper (mac 'n' cheese). Returning to the hotel, I uncover a singular triumph, the crowning peak on the day; the room comes with a plug adapter (which I had foolishly neglected to acquire, and was a tad worried about). I crow about this while plugging in my much abused camera.
I am also somewhat embarrassed to admit that I spent the evening watching cheesy British shows. But well, they're kind of addictive.
I wonder if I can join the British army...?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Trip day the fifth; in which I discover Mongolia

I wake to find Mike ripping up the carpet in the hallway; it's noisy, arduous, and necessary, so I guess I'll give him a hand.

I hope they can repair that banister.

We walk, later, to Sunripe, a garden market nearby filled with perfect produce, meat, incredible cheeses, nuts, seafood. I wish we could pick up more but we have to carry back whatever we buy, and it's sweltering already. I restrict myself to a bunch of raspberries, and the ingredients we'll need for a couple of breakfasts. We plan to head to London's Sunfest once we've eaten.

I have another headache. Maybe it's the loss of my usual morning coffee...

Sunfest is a vast sea of booths, filled with jingling shawls, shirts, swords, food, pictures, buttons, and anything that will stay still long enough to be bought. Despite how entranced I am by the sights, I only buy a wrap dress that doubles as a skirt, and a few postcards and buttons that highlight political issues close to my heart, ("no cars", "Don't try to legislate morality" "Amazon-in-training" you know, the essentials.)
The shops, however, are not what we've come for. (although the Vietnamese salad rolls are so good, I eat 4. Ohh my organs!)
The first show tonight is a group of Truvan throat singers, their voices rising eerily, creating a melody that catapults me back to an older time, riding skittish heavy Mongolian horses past acres of vast plains. Although the deep male voices sound like cartoon Dwarves with gout, when they "throat sing" they produce three notes each. One deep, a base line, one middle, the melody, and a high piping flute, an eerie winding harmony. They play the accordion with a few songs, the Erhu (a type of Chinese violin; sounds incredible, if you have a chance to hear it, I highly recommend it) with most, wood blocks with a couple, and many with my favorite instrument; tiny cymbals that sound like spurs. I'm so enchanted with their music, I buy their CD, the first I have purchased in a LONG time.
The only other act we have time for, unfortunately, was a Taiko drumming band. Although they are not as moving as Chirgulchin (the throat singers), the powerful mix of grace and speed, technique and passion makes me vow to start training in martial arts again.
I wake from my revelry, so deeply hypnotized by the performance I didn't see or hear Donna approaching, to hear Donna's friend, Charmane, wonder why they are so subdued. Although the four performers are working incredibly hard, sweat pouring off the main drummer, she says when they really get going, "It's like fire pouring off the stage". She tells me of a famous 15 person, all female, Taiko drumming group. I watch the group play, and wonder if I could learn this somewhere in Edmonton.

I plan to skip writing Day the sixth, since the day I should post it, I will be traveling to London, England, and I would rather not worry about posting. Besides, pretty much nothing happened. I got up re-packed, had ice-cream, looked at cars (Jasmine's buying one) and danced my feet off to a Celtic/Italian fusion band at Sunfest. It was awesome going through, but not very fascinating to read about. When next I post, I ought to be in England! My flight leaves at 5:00 today from Toronto, all, wish me luck!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Trip Day the fourth: in which weather changes faster then my mind.

The mourning dove is following me.
All around my jog.
Outside my window.
Wretched thing...

"I'm sorry, we don't accept Interac."
"What? But, you're a Tim Horten's!"
After obtaining breakfast elsewhere, we depart for Niagara Falls.

It's a long trip there, but full of fabulous scenery; an "inconvenience store", old barns, animals, forest. Our first stop, Lake Colbourne, is so rainy the windshield wipers can't even keep up. I wonder, vaguely, if we'll be flooded. Then, in the blink of an eye, it stops. Halfway up a hill, we break into clear skies, with only the soaked car to remind us of the deluge. The water and sandy beach are soothing and there's even a honest-to-goodness lighthouse, with a sign showing "No diving, no swimming," and a blank "No" circle which I assume means, "No nothing". Never the less, we terrorize some seagulls, glad to be out and running. After trying, warily, some "Perch burgers" we drive along the Niagara river to the falls. The buildings along the trail are huge, some so old they still have places for carriages to park. Donna drops us at a point near the falls, and leaves to find parking, so Mike and I get to wander up to the falls, really appreciating the way it abruptly turns nasty, and stops. I take so many photos, I wonder how much room I'll have left for England and Rome. Apparently, as well, the roar of the falls is only a few notes higher then the lowest audible note for humans. There's rainbows everywhere, the mist cool and relaxing. I'm half marveling at the incredible height, the power of mother nature, and half marveling at all the foreign people! It seems people from every corner of the globe are here, dressing in authentic costumes, speaking new languages! I consciously close my mouth, and try to remember not to stare. Surely half the show is the earth, half the show is who's here!
The city nearby, itself, is just as fascinating. Neons, lights, signs, restaurants, extravagant colors, everything crowding for your attention all at once! A huge ferris wheel over looking the falls, a giant "hulk" figure staring you down menacingly! This must be what a true market is like! I wonder if I've fallen into a cheesy comic book; Dick Tracy designed by M.C. Escher, with Tim Burton leaning over his shoulder. The sidewalk is such a crazy angle, sometimes I feel like I'm spinning out of the book!
I drag Mike into the Ripley's believe it or not museum, a fascination of mine since I started reading the comics. For 13 bucks each, it was totally worth it, a singular treasure! Dozens of my photos will likely only be lit by it's neons.
After a point, the commercialism disturbs us, and we leave for more historical fare. We fit in Fort George (the site of the Canadian's bunker in the war of 1812. Donna tells us the Canadians and Americans would just trade pot-shots across the river), the statue of General Brock (shame we didn't have time to climb the massive staircase, or time to push down a slinky!), lake Ontario (3 of the 5 great lakes seen now!) as well as the Laura Secord homestead (what an incredible woman!) and the town of Niagara-on-the-lake (I want to retire here; so opulent!) before night fell and darkness rendered sightseeing difficult.
Donna tells us how she biked this trail with a friend, camping on the woods surrounding the road. She points out the "Prince of Wales hotel", where the Queen stays when she's in Niagara, and a gazebo where a famous horror movie was shot (couldn't remember which one, tho).
Even the trip home is eventful, seeing the lights of Hamilton and Toronto before finally making it home at 1:30.
I'm starting to become acutely aware of my impending England and Rome trip.
I'm still not convinced it was a good idea.
But every thing's booked, so, Carpe Diem, I suppose!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Trip Day the third: In which I lose my book, and fall behind a day in updates

A plinking Jack Johnson song wakes me, and I'm so glad it's raining. My body's so stiff and sore from yesterday's workout, jogging would be half-hearted if it didn't kill me.
In the front room it seems Donna has purchased three plush rugs from the auction; they match the house really well. She's painting the hall when I get up, and I feel really lazy but, meh, It's vacation, right?
We're headed to Donna's for breakfast with Mike's grandparents, but I wouldn't hold my breath till we leave...
I'm surprised to find that I'm homesick, already tired of sharing space with people who have different habits.
We arrive at Mike's grandparents. Really great people, lots of old stories, His uncle just had an aneurysm, they say, but I cannot tell, he seems tougher then most people I know. His Grandpa dropped us off at the base, Mike needs a computer with access to DND files, but we discover it is closed down. Walking to the central base (we were at a satellite compound) we pass a mental hospital with bits of plastic bag littering the lawn. I am disgusted until closer inspection reveals them to be tiny white morning glory. Charming.
On the base I peruse the RCR museum, entranced by old rifles, maps, and uniforms. It saddens me to know I will never be part of this world, but it's an incredible look at the past. Anyone interested in photos will be satiated upon my return.
The afternoon holds a childish delight; Novack's. A building full of traveling and camping supplies, from top to bottom. I pick up hand sanitizer, a money belt and some Unhol(e)y socks. I vow my next camping trip will be a backpacking one. Their displays desperately make me want to go camping in the woods. I would spend all day here, and all my savings too, but we tear ourselves away, wrapping the evening up with Ratatouille and Die hard.
I already knew Die hard was good, had seen it before, wasn't worth seeing twice, though, but Ratatouille was fabulous! Very cute, made me really want to eat something well prepared, or cook, but few deep laughs. Mostly tread lightly on my brain with little tiny rat feet.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Trip day the second - In which I am useful and confused.

I wake in the morning to discover Jasmine has returned from Montreal, her blue rental car in the driveway and her door shut. After a jog around the neighborhood, discovering more fabulous scenery, a workout and a shower in which I need to balance on one foot in order to drain the tub with my other, I'm content to wait for Donna to come over so we can indoctrinate her into the fold of Dim Sum.
"You went to China, but never tried Dim Sum?"
"Ah, good. It's better in large groups, you'll love it."

There's Mourning Doves outside my window. God, they sound pathetic.

Since Jasmine wasn't really in the mood for Chinese food (damnit), we lunched at a fabulous place called "Cora's" That had a huge breakfast menu and the most phenomenal Omelette crepe. Really. An Omelette crepe, and good coffee.

After painting the halls, during which I gave thanks for my dad's tall gene, we walked to a live auction. I've never been before, and am a little worried about looking stupid. I'm number 162 with my eye on a lovely rotary phone, and a set of Matruchka dolls painted like soviet presidents (Stalin, Yeltsin, Putin, and Gorbachev). I wonder if I've inherited my Dad's impulsiveness at auctions.

I am the bemused owner of a brass moose.
No, It doesn't do anything. It just is.

Once I sufficiently recovered my senses, I bid on a fabulous box of costume jewelery. Bidding is easier then I thought, but I am still very conscious of my movements. I don't want to scratch and wind up buying a 300 dollar painting. Afterwards, I do pick up my moose, another object, which will be a surprise for someone, and my treasure chest. This is poured over like an archaeological dig, with about the same success. Lots of fun old stuff.
The evening is spent watching "Arrested development" and eating enough cherries to make myself a little ill.
I figure if I'm going to be sick anyway...

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Trip-Day the First, In which I arrive, make camp, and fall in love with architecture.

Stepping off the plane, the sun was rising over a tidy line of green bushes, it even smells differently. Mike says Alberta is the Texas of Canada, but I like how they both smell. Waiting for my embarrassingly over packed luggage, I think of my carry-on, with a ziploc container of cheesecake. I wonder if I'll eat it. I know it's good, but it's awful fun to watch it squish.

Donna takes us to Jasmine's new house, and I'm astounded by it. Stained glass over the living room window, tiny wood carvings across the peaked roof. The living room, front room; bright colors, red and orange, green circular plush chair at my knees, a chandelier that, even dusty, makes me stare. The kitchen looks like a colonial transplanted back to America's 50's scene. Donna shows us the hard wood floor, tragically covered in carpet. Ugly carpet. Tells us how she's going to rip it up, sand off the glue, varnish the wood, build a staircase to the dust filled attic that takes my breath away, light filtering in. I wonder, idly, if she means she'll hire someone to come in. I stop wondering when she shows us the immaculate wall she made to replace a shoddy one.

We pile back into the white Toyota, driving home past the Kellogg factory, smelling of baking corn flakes. Arriving home, we disperse to sleep, my bed sounding like a herd of a angry badgers farting. I text some key loved ones to announce my safety, then liberally sprinkle my pillow with drool.
"Come fix the deck with me!"
Off Jas's room is a balcony shading the porch. The wood is all rotted and it takes us less then half an hour to pull it all up, garnering 6 cents and a rusty bottle cap. We'll burn the wood later in the fireplace, and set down new planks on the deck.
After gleefully discovering the old record player also accommodates CDs and tapes, I dance on the black and white tiled floor, imagining ice cream later.

Even the street lights here have more character; fat little hanging fruits, ripe on metal poles.

The Ice cream list at a place called "Merla Mae's" floors me. A staggering array of fabulous sundae (yes, sundae) options, as if they'd robbed a bakery, fruit stand, and candy store, depositing the swag on vanilla soft serve. I sacrifice one with roasted macadamias and hot fudge for a "beam me up, Scotty": Irish cream, coffee, and bananas.
It is really fabulous and I even try a bit of Mike's apple crumble, despite the hated caramel.
We drive with a French exchange student named Guillaume, who is staying at Donna's, finishing his master's, to Stratford on Avon, where we marvel at the old buildings,see the theater where "Pirates of Penzance" was filmed, and discover I am terrified of hissing ducks, swans, and brake pedals. Wandering along the river, I'm surprised that the swans and ducks don't move, no matter how close you get. They stare at you, arrogant and superior like High Level's Ravens. I test their nerves and mine by edging closer and closer until one rears up and honks, sending me scurrying. I hide behind Mike to snap some photos, then mock them from the safety of the car.
The beach at Lake Huron underwhelms me. Fairly cold and windy, full of loud people and garbage, it's the first thing I've seen that doesn't knock me on my ass. We take a walk, decide there are too many clouds to watch a pretty sunset, dare each other to admonish the couple we're pretty sure is having sex under the blanket undulating on the beach, then depart.
On the way home Donna points out the Roman Line, (where the black Donnelly's were killed, a fascination of mine for many years) and an old house she grew up in, that she and her family had built, with a pool in the back.
I face-plant into bed, this one mercifully silent of animals' digestion tracts.