The Day After Halloween

 

I am a HUGE Halloween fan. Always have been. But not so much the morning after.

Today is the day after Halloween and we now suffer the “day after syndrome.” It’s the day after dress up day for kids and grown-ups. It’s the day after the silliness of embracing childhood fears. It’s the day of reckoning. It’s the day after. It’s clean-up day.

In the year 2016, Halloween fell on a Monday. An awkward day of the week for any holiday, as everyone hates Monday.

Didn’t really matter. All of the parties and the festivities for the big day were held on the previous weekend. There were kid parties with candy, and adult parties with candy drinks. We’ve had quite enough candy by the time the damn day actually gets here. We certainly aren’t going door to door to get one more piece.

And on a Monday, no one really expects you to. Except, of course, your kids.

We decorate the house every year starting October 1. All the kids in the area know our place as the cat eyes house. Through the years, we’ve watched the number of trick or treaters rise and fall. Whether the holiday is on a Monday or a Friday makes a world of difference in the numbers as well.

This Monday saw a pound of candy leftover from the five and half pounds I’d bought. For my neighborhood, that’s a real thinning. I’ve bought more before and ended the evening handing out quarters because the candy was gone.

I want to believe the dwindling numbers are a balance. The holiday had gone through the roof in popularity, and now, it’s balancing out. Monday is just another weight on that scale.

But still, for me, the door to door experience is the biggest and most fun part of Halloween. The children are so adorable in their costumes, with parents nearby, beaming. And the teenagers are grateful I even opened the door. I have a chat and a laugh with all of them.

I remember when my kids were young and I got to help them with their costumes. Every year, without fail. Halloween meant trick or treating. Even on Mondays. Good times.

But then there’s the clean-up. If you’ve put a bunch of décor up around the outside of your house, November 1st comes with a stigma, doesn’t it? You’ll be the laughing stock of the neighborhood if you don’t pull it down by the end of All Saints. All of those Styrofoam gravestones in the garden, and the muslin ghosts dancing in the trees, all of that must come down the next day.

Looking at the chore being done as soon as you get home from work Tuesday is what’s laughable. Enjoy the day after!

 

Disconnected

 

Living in Florida, one is never too far away from the water. Ocean, gulf, lakes, anything you could want. For saltwater aficionado’s, it is a fabulous place to live.

Please note that I say this during a breezy, cool, fall day, and that this would be after the skin-blistering, drought-threatened, and then hurricane-ravaged summer.

Ahem. Anyway.

Today, while babysitting my three-year-old grandson Malcolm, he asked if I would take him to the beach. Here in Orlando, it’s an hour and a half drive east (2 hours west), and you’ll be standing on beachfront.

I packed all of the essentials for a day at the beach. Swimsuits, towels, sunblock, cooler. Everything one might need, including beach chairs, and an umbrella to sit under.

Yes, I’d forgotten it was fall. Florida fall weather can be fickle.

Malcolm happily chatted away in the back seat as I drove toward sunrise. We were about twenty minutes from the coastline, when I spotted a rainbow in a cloud, shimmering high above. As we came to a stop light, I reached for my phone to take a picture.

Turns out, I would have a long way to reach. It was still laying on an end table back in Orlando.

Moment of truth; I seriously considered turning back. I mean, after the Trip of A Lifetime, I did not want to be away from my phone.

Dismissing the immediate thought, I drove on toward the beach.

It is (almost) embarrassing to tell you that I have 3500 various pictures and videos stored on my phone. I simply haven’t had time to transfer them from the phone to an external hard drive. For the last three years.

Don’t judge me.

So today, no camera. I mean, no phone. Honestly, the phone thing didn’t bother me as much as the lack of a camera. I grew up without a phone in my pocket, thank you very much. I can cope. But the camera. Damn. I’m not even gonna miss Google as much as the camera.

It’s all right. I can do this.

We reach the beach, and Malcolm runs ahead to check out the scene. I come trailing up behind, to find him speaking to a young man and woman. She is cradling something that is resting on a bed of seaweed in her hand. I come closer to see she is holding a baby sea turtle.

Of course, the first thing I think is, damn tourist! You can be arrested for touching such a vulnerable creature. But before my righteous indignation is unleashed, she explains to Malcolm that the sea is so rough, the little guy kept getting washed back up on shore. They said they were taking it to the Brevard County Sea Turtle Rescue, where it would be cared for.

Never heard of such an organization, and I didn’t want to challenge them.

However, Malcolm was mesmerized. He leaned in a little closer, until it was no more than 10 inches from his face. I put my hand on his shoulder to stop any more forward lean-in. He glanced up at me, the wonder still on his face, with the little turtle on its bed of seaweed in the background.

That would have made a great pic.

But, I might have gotten the lady in a whole lotta trouble.

Down at the beach, the wind had turned the waves chaotic. The sand became stinging nettles, as the sea foam washed on the shore. I was concerned the weather might put a damper on his spirits. To my surprise, we had so much fun scooping up sea foam, throwing our arms high in the air so the wind could blow the froth like bubbles from our fingertips.

It would have made a great video.

But, I would’ve been too busy with the phone to enjoy the foam.

The beach did not lend itself to a long-term stay, so we did what any other All-American Nana and Grandson would do in such a situation.

We went shopping.

A lot of people bad-mouth my favorite low-cost department store, and sometimes for very good reasons. However, it is still ‘low-cost’ enough for me to pop in when the time is right. And now was just right. We got out of the wind, enjoyed the air-conditioning, and I let him pick out a toy. It killed an hour or so, and then it was lunch-time.

We head for the diner/ice-cream shop across the parking lot. It used to be a popular chain, but now is only found in a handful of places. Friendly’s is a restaurant that I used to take my own boys to when they were young and had earned a special treat.

I was more than a little bummed that I didn’t have my phone to do a check in, because sharing this moment with my now-adult sons would’ve given me such a delight.

But then I might have been too distracted trying to share the moment rather than play connect the dots with Malcolm, or to color in the milk shake as he colored the sundae on the gigantic paper place mat. Seriously, the thing nearly covered the entire table.

The true reality of not having a phone hit me on the drive home. Well, not literally thank God.

Once upon a time there were roadside call boxes for emergencies. I knew they were there, but I took them for granted. Now, if anything should happen, I would have to depend on the kindness of strangers for some help on the side of the road.

Oh. Right. That’s how it used to be.

Maybe being disconnected isn’t all that bad.

 

 

Trip of A Lifetime – The End is Near

In case you missed this hilarious misadventure of Americans in Europe, you can catch up here…

Part 1 – This should be fun.

Part 2 – Run like hell.

Part 3 – Handsome and Impressive

Part 4 – The lost phone

Part 5 – My Warterloo

Part 6 – A Respite

Part 7

The End is Near

The final, full day in Ireland found us in the tour bus, being charmed by the passing scenery, and our CIE tour guide Patrick’s history lessons of the “fixer upper” castles which dotted the landscape. We and our fellow passengers talked and joked as the miles fell away. It was positively idyllic.

Then, at 11am, my phone rang.

The caller ID displayed the number as from Ireland. The gentleman on the other end of the line introduced himself as Dean, from Aer Lingus. In that millisecond I thought of at least 6 reasons that the airline we were slated to fly home with might be calling me. None were pleasant.

He said, “The scheduled departure flight for tomorrow at 9:00 from Shannon has been cancelled.”

Well, of course it has.

Here’s a piece of advice. Never try to hold an important conversation on the phone, while on a tour bus. I could understand only half of what he said. Crouched low in my seat, one hand covering my ear to block the outside noise, the other pressing the phone too hard against my other ear, I felt the need to repeat everything after him.

This is how it must have sounded to my husband.

“I’m sorry, what? Our flight’s been cancelled?

“What’s operational reasons?”

“Wait. What? You’re putting us on a bus at the Shannon airport tomorrow at 6am?”

“Hello? Hello? Oh, good. You’re still there.”

“So, the bus will take us to Dublin for the flight home?”

“No. I understand. I do have a few questions, though. What’s the new flight number?”

“Hello? Hello? Oh, good. You’re still there.”

“Can I call you back? I’m on a tour bus and can’t… Hello?”

I had too many questions, and the phone kept cutting off his words. I asked if I could call him back, and he offered to instead return the call later to save on the international charges. He would call me at 2pm.

If you’ve been following this tale, you may recall this is how our trip got started. Except, that cancelled flight was hurricane-related. Then that airline, Iceland Air, scrambling to accommodate all of the redirected passengers, crammed their planes to the absolute max. It wasn’t a fun flight, but it got us to where we needed to be.

So, here we go again.

After the call, the other passengers were looking at me with concern. I may have underestimated the volume of my voice. Those nearby asked what had happened, and after telling what I could, they were all aghast. Patrick, who couldn’t help but overhear, said he’d never heard of Aer Lingus treating customers like that, and apologized on their behalf. He then explained that the drive from Shannon to Dublin is approximately two to three hours, so it shouldn’t be too awful.

We tried to return our attention to the tour, but my mind would not let me enjoy the moment. I obsessed over all of the details needing attention before leaving at 6am.

Okay. Selfish moment. I cried from the frustration of it all. Once that was out, I felt a little better.

My husband and I wrote a short list of questions to ask. The first of which being is there a later flight available. I gave up waiting for Dean to call me by 2:45. We called the main number.

No, there were no other flights scheduled. Due to Operational Reasons (I still don’t know what that means).

Turns out, things could have been worse.

We now have a flight number of the one way, non-stop direct flight from Dublin to Orlando. The worst of it will be the five hour wait from the bus arrival in Dublin, and the flight’s departure. We’ll still be home on Wednesday afternoon, around the same time we’d planned, if all goes well.

Unless, it doesn’t.

The last night of the tour found us at Bunratty Castle in Shannon, Ireland. Next to this ancient stronghold sat a pub named Durty Nellie’s, established 1620. We went in and found two members of our tour group, one from New Zealand, one from Malaysia, speaking with a couple from Wales. After ordering two Guinness, we sat down with them to hear the man from Wales bragging about his favorite rugby team, to the chagrin of the New Zealander. The six of us laughed and carried on until time for the medieval-style banquet in the castle.

While there, we were entertained by a wonderful group of Irish actors in period costumes. They each possessed amazing singing voices and comedic timing. It made for a marvelous history lesson.

The castle had originally been wood, and built in the 1400’s, then burned during an attack. Then rebuilt. Then burned. Then rebuilt with rock in the 1600’s, and that was where we dined this evening.

So, our last night in Ireland was spent in a six hundred year old pub and then a castle, drinking Guinness, wine, and honey mead, while laughing with people from all over the world. Such an amazing experience.

But then…

We returned to our hotel and I checked my email.

Cheap-O-Air, from whom I originally booked our return flight home, notified me that we have a new flight. We are now to leave Shannon with a different airline tomorrow at 11am, then fly to Boston, have an hour layover, then fly to New York, with a twelve hour layover (accommodations would be our responsibility), then on to Orlando, arriving around noon Thursday.

WTF?

Unconvinced that our trip had become so convoluted, we called Aer Lingus. Their offices were closed, and would reopen at 8 in the morning.

Argh!

The only immediate phone number found for Cheap-O was toll free, and those calls cannot be made internationally.

That didn’t add to the panic at all.

Eventually, we reached a clerk at Cheap-O who could not find our flight on Aer Lingus. After a LONG time on hold (international charges apply) she said yes, we do indeed have two seats on the direct flight from Dublin to Orlando.

Woah! Thank you, Lord! Nothing like being told how bad it might have been.

And that should be the end of the tale.

Except.

We were up at 4:15am and, arriving at the Shannon airport at 5:30am, we checked in. We’re told the bus will arrive shortly. It will park over there (she waved her hand, pointing to the doors) and it departs at 6am.

Dragging our bags, and our tired selves, to the seating area, we settle in, facing the doors that were pointed at.

We saw no bus.

At 5:55, we decide to face the biting cold wind, and wait outside.

Good thing, too.

As small as this airport is, we saw an unmarked white bus at the farthest end of the parking lot, being loaded with suitcases.

We ran. Yep, we were the last passengers to board the bus to Dublin.

I still shake my head in wonder at what might have happened had we missed that connection.

Thank you Europe, for a most outstanding adventure. Hope to see you again someday.

 

 

 

 

Look for JL Mo’s publication of these adventures, and much more that had been excluded, to be available soon.

Trip of A Lifetime – Irish Eyes Are Smiling

Part 6

 

The vagabond suitcase had been severely damaged during its time away. The back wheels did not want to cooperate, due to the new cracks in the hard plastic between the back two roller mounts and the hard shell. We tried to make it work for as long as we could, but the poor thing gave up the ghost in the wild chase to the airport. One wheel came off. The cab driver was as careful as he could be, but we knew that before boarding the tour bus tomorrow, we’d have to get a new one. Since we didn’t have to meet up with the tour guide until 2pm, we felt there would still be plenty of time.

We reached the Clayton Hotel at 10pm, and after checking in, we tried to organize as much as possible. Around 1am, we passed out.

We should have set an alarm. If we had, we may not have slept until 11. I guess “pass out” until 11 would be more appropriate.

The hotel clerk gave us quick instructions as to where the closest place to find a suitcase might be, then she started to give me bus instructions.

I thanked her, then told her we’d prefer a cab. She agreed that’d be quicker.

The cab driver heard a small portion of our sob story and laughed/sympathized as a real Irishman can do. It was cathartic.

He waited for us to run in, buy a case, and run back out to his cab. It took us ten minutes. We didn’t even stop to try the zipper.

By the time we got back, swapped bags, and woofed down a semblance of a meal, it was 1:30. I showered, dressed, and ran to the lobby as my husband rushed to do the same.

The tour guide, Patrick, was a gem. He said no problem about the time crunch. He told me to take my time. So long as my time was 2pm.

Somehow, we did it.

From that moment on, this trip has taken a complete turnaround. Patrick drove the tour group totaling twenty-three wonderful souls around Dublin. He spoke as only a true native who knows and loves his country could. We were immersed in the history, culture, and highlights of this city. Back to the hotel for a quick change, and we were taken to the ultimate tourist stop of Dublin, The Merry Ploughboy Pub. Complete with an Irish band and Irish River Dancers, it was a rollicking, joy-filled evening. Even as two tourists from tourist town, we were impressed. And drunk.

I should mention that one of the main reasons we chose to come to Ireland is due to a friend who was a native born Irish man. Jerry was a man among men, God rest his soul. While he was with us, he said we should come to Ireland and sample the real life. He wanted to show us what the real Ireland was. To take us to the places he knew and loved. We did not have the opportunity to take him up on his offer before he passed unexpectedly, and far too soon. The joy that the man possessed was a testament to the spirit of Ireland. His family and friends, all those who had the honor of knowing the man, still reels at his loss. We have the privilege and honor of knowing his sister, who still lives here in this enchanting place.

We told her that we were coming for a tour bus-type visit, and she insisted on seeing us. If you’ve taken a tour bus before, you know that schedules are tight, and tough to work around. But this woman would not be deterred. I wanted to let her know that she didn’t have to worry about seeing us this round. That we would do our level best to return. She still wanted to know where we were going to be, and when. I caught her up on our itinerary, which was Blarney at noon, then on to Killarney at 3:15.

On Sunday (my good lord, is it only Sunday?) Pat drove us to Blarney, the home of the famous Blarney Stone.

We trudged up the incredible spiral staircase to reach the top of the battlements, and took pictures of the two men who would hold the tourists feet as they climbed into the small crevice to kiss the stone. I took pictures of the men, and the caged stone, because there was not a snowball’s chance in hell either one of us were going to kiss that rock. But, we were allowed up on the ledge to get a better angle of the view. I’m telling you true, there really should be parachutes issued before leaning over that wall.

After we got back to solid ground (a harrowing experience, to be sure), we wandered the grounds admiring the gardens, the waterfalls, and the witches caves. Tired and hungry, we headed back to the parking area for the restaurants. I stopped at the bus to see if I could get wifi on my phone, and while staring intently at the screen I heard a woman call out “Jeanie!”

Jerry’s sister Sara had come to Blarney to find us. She’d been wandering the tour groups, asking if their bus was Killarney bound. She and her husband had grilled each tour bus driver if they had customers from America, Florida specifically.

Can I stop for a moment and tell you how emotional this moment was for me?

Oh. Wait. I just did.

They joined us at the lunch table, and we talked excitedly like old friends. I watched her talk, and my heart swelled with honor to be there, at that moment, watching not only her lips speak in the rapid, heavy dialect of her native cadence, but to see the smile reach her eyes. To see the joy of the spirit of this fabulous, strong Irish woman.

I don’t know my personal heritage. That’s the curse of being a bastard American mutt. But at that moment, I decided I will be Irish. Someday I might do that whole DNA test thing, but probably not. My spirit connected with this person. With this place. With this time. I felt home.

But wait. There’s more…

Our tour stopped for the night in Killarney. A small town, yes, but a bustling tourist destination just the same. I’m told it would take only fifteen minutes to walk end to end of the entire town.

We had a grand dinner, then left the comfort of the room to see the area on our own. We had a Jameson in a pub, and then bought some souvenirs. Soon, it was dark, and we were tired and tipsy, so decided to return to our hotel and get ready for the 6am wake up call.

You may not believe this, but on our way back, we ran into a parade. Cars led a fire truck, merrily sounding its horn and blaring its siren. Loaded with the team members who’d won a major tournament just that day, and they were brandishing an incredible winning cup. The entire town must have turned out to follow it through the street. My husband and I stood on the sidewalk, cheering and recording the festivity on my phone.

Toward the tail end of the pageant, a man walking in the procession saw me. He said, and I quote, “Put down the phone and join the parade!”

And so I did. We walked with them, cheering the team and learning about the father of one of the boys on the team who walked nearby. He was nearly bursting with pride, as any eye could see. And we had the honor of sharing his moment.

I have video of the original man’s invitation. It will be saved for as long as I have video to save. It will be saved in my heart far longer.

We’ll be traveling from here to Shannon in the next two days. I cannot imagine how this last twenty-four hours might be topped.

Go ahead, Ireland. I dare you.

 

Trip of a Lifetime – The Dominoes Keep Falling

Part 5

 

We set the alarm to get up at 6:00am. When it sounded on Friday morning, we reluctantly got up. After making a cup of coffee from a maker that we still did not fully understand, we started working. Me on my laptop, my husband getting our stuff together. Around 7:30 I was done, and he was well under way. We had it all together with the apartment cleaned by 10.

The Tower Bridge being closed had more of an impact than we realized. This time, cabs. Had the bridge been open and traffic brisk, the apartment complex would have been crawling with cabs. But now, with one half of the artery closed, not so much. The streets were veritably empty.

So we hoofed it several blocks until, by the Grace of God, a random cab drove by. The ride to the Waterloo Train Station was fairly painless, and we arrived for our noon departure at 10:45. At that moment I realized that I had not bought any London-marked souvenirs. The shops lining this station catered to the working world, not the tourist. After giving up my search for anything with the Union Jack, I realized that I would need Euro’s in Ireland, rather than pounds. So, I stopped at the currency exchange. My husband leaned over and told me we didn’t have time for this. I waved him away and continued my banter with the clerk. He leaned in again and repeated that we don’t have time for this. The time couldn’t have been much more than 11:30 by now, so I rubbed his shoulder, in an effort to sooth him.

The money transaction complete, I turned to him and he stalked away. I jogged to keep up, thinking about how he is always so anxious at departure time. On the platform, I headed for the train.

Except, it wasn’t our train. Ours had left ten minutes earlier.

In my defense, I had no idea it was 11:55 when he first chided me. Caught up in the search for souvenirs and currency, I didn’t look at a clock. He thought I had. Tension ensued.

My upbeat attitude about all that had transpired so far, fled. I snapped.

We found that we could catch the next train in ten minutes. Since we missed our non-stop train, this route would deliver us to Bristol with only thirty minutes to spare rather than the hour and a half we would have enjoyed. And that was only if we didn’t miss the transfer.

Even after an emotional (but quiet) exchange, we didn’t miss our connection. But by the time we got into the cab at the Bristol train station, it was rush hour.

Of course it is.

We missed the plane by ten minutes. The next flight to Dublin left in four hours. And we could have two tickets on it for a mere £100 each. Change fee, you understand.

Yes, I cried.

If you’ve not had the pleasure to visit the Bristol Airport, let me tell you that downstairs, where we were made to wait until check in, which was two hours away, has little to offer. Its purpose is to be a cross-over for arrivals and departures. A sandwich shop, a coffee shop, and some souvenirs (where I bought my Union Jack gifts) were the only things to distract.

Two hours later, we were allowed to check in. After passing through security, we discovered the true Bristol Airport. The second floor held all of the trappings of an international airport. Duty free shops, full restaurants, and most importantly, a bar. Two double shots of Makers Mark, if you please. Oh, and my husband probably wants something, too.

Two hours pass to find us on the plane flying toward Dublin. Exhausted, frustrated, irritated, we decide that tomorrow, Saturday, will be much better. We’ll meet up with the professional travel tour group, taking us on a five day bus ride from Dublin to Shannon, Ireland, where we will fly back home.

What could go wrong?

Trip of a Lifetime – Piccadilly Run

Part 4

 

With suitcase delivered, all is well. We slept in a little, had some real max-and-relax time, and left the apartment to find some grub around noon. The highlights we wanted to hit on our last day here were the Kensington Museums and the shops at Piccadilly.

Breakfast was an egg mcmuffin and hash browns.

I’m kidding! Please!

Truth is, along the way to the Tower Bridge we found a breakfast/lunch spot that had only a few of their dozen tables taken. “The Watch House – Tower Bridge” makes everything fresh, and the chicken wrap was fabulous. While we ate, the lunch crowd arrived. We left as the place enjoyed standing room only patronage.

Afterwards, we walked over the Tower Bridge to where all the tour buses converged, found ours, and settled in.

The warmth of layered clothing made the ride so much better than the previous trip. Did I mention this is mid-October in London? Quite chilly. The light shirt worn yesterday did little to fight back the cold, but now, toasty warm, we sat on the upper level to enjoy all of the sights to come.

We reached the museum corner around three in the afternoon. We wanted to visit the Victoria and Albert Museum first. Then we’d check out the Science Museum, and with any luck, peek into the Natural History Museum.

Stop laughing. We tried.

So as it turns out, these places close around five or six, and you cannot just “peek in” if you have any real interest. It would take days and days to see it all. So, we saw what we could before they shut the V&A down, and then went back to the bus stop. Still, we did see some very cool, very interesting things. But trust us, get an earlier start if you want to see even one of these magnificent museums. You’ll notice we did not even tease with the idea of seeing The British Museum. We knew that could take a few days by itself.

We’d had enough of the windy cold. Settling into the lower level in the very back of the bus, we decided to ride straight to Tower Bridge and call it a night. We were travelling along at quit a good clip, when the driver pulled over and announced he was done for the day. He told us all to depart and the next bus should be along in about ten minutes to pick us up.

This was unexpected. We snatched up our backpack, coats, and scarves and made a beeline out of the bus. As it sped off, my husband’s eyes grew wide.

“My phone!”

The bus was out of sight by the time he’d finished his exclamation. He’d taken a couple of pictures on this ride, so we knew he did have it. I helped him search the backpack as he triple checked all of his pockets.

Yep. His phone was gone.

First, I called London Pass, which I’d bought online in the states. The purchase seemed like a good idea back then. I thought certain I’d get some help. Instead, I got the phone number for Golden Tours, the operators of their bus system. I called and spoke to Brad, who was sympathetic and attempted to help. Then the international phone call got ‘dropped’. I called again, briefly speaking with Nathan this time, who transferred me back to Brad. He said they were trying to reach the driver, and then the international phone call got dropped again. On the third attempt, a woman answered who told me to go to stop number seven, where the driver would meet us within an hour and a half. The way it was stated, I was under the impression the phone had been found, and he was delivering it to us.

You may not know where stop number seven is. Well, neither did we. After a quick check, we discovered we needed to be about 15 blocks from where we were. Hence, the ‘hour and a half’ meet up time.

After a twenty minute jog, taking us through the incredibly crowded Piccadilly Square, we reached stop number seven, across the street from the Hard Rock Café, London. But there was no bus. We waited. And waited. Then two Golden Tour buses arrived at stop number seven. Neither of them were our driver. Neither had a clue what we were talking about.

Exhausted and frustrated, I asked one of the drivers if they were heading to the Tower Bridge, which is about five miles away. We needed a lift back from where Golden Tours left us before sending us on this wild goose chase.

Nope. They were shut down and not taking passengers.

WHY did we buy the London Pass?

I called Golden Tours again, and guess what? They were about to close, and couldn’t help us. We were advised to call back tomorrow, around 9:30, and check if the lost and found located a phone.

The problem with that is, we have tickets for a train that leaves at noon tomorrow, in order to get us to our plane that leaves at three. Nine-thirty is cutting it a little too close.

It’s always an adventure.

We hailed a cab and paid almost thirty pounds to reach the Tower Bridge. (WHY did we buy the London Pass?) Both hungry and more than slightly agitated, we decided to indulge ourselves. LePont de la Tour restaurant accepted our exhausted, jean clad, sneaker wearing selves into their fine dining establishment. We were treated like royalty. The food, wine, and superior service were just what we needed to wash away the frustrations of the day.

I don’t know if we’ll ever see his phone again. But, even after all of this hassle, we will definitely be seeing London again.

Probably not with a London Pass, though.

Trip of a Lifetime – London Calling

Part 3

 

On my husband’s birthday, we took the train from Paris to London. It was a relaxing, wonderful ride. We were able to see the lovely countryside of France and England. We agreed that the scenery was reminiscent of the New England area in North America. We enjoyed a delicious (cold) lunch served along the way. Our fellow passengers and the staff of the EuroStar were delightful.

The St. Pancreas Station was a cross between a train station and a shopping mall extraordinaire. The bustle of shoppers, along with those trying to reach their destinations, and tourists such as ourselves, made for an exciting arrival. We found our way to the Taxi stand and the cabbie knew the Circle Apartments, which we’d rented on VRBO.

We were giddy with anticipation of beginning the relaxing portion of our trip. We would stay at the apartment for three nights and four days. Certain our luggage waited for us, we didn’t even engage in the conversational topic of ‘what if’.

Well, we should have, because it hadn’t arrived.

The concierge, while sympathetic to our situation, could offer nothing but shrugged shoulders. He worked for a private residence apartment complex. Not a Hilton. While renting a local apartment can provide home-like accommodations for less than the average hotel room, you are a resident with no professional travel support.

In other words, we are on our own.

Fortunately, the phone issue had been resolved during our whirlwind in Paris. I would offer one piece of advice should you find yourself in a similar situation.

“Have you tried turning it off and turning it back on again?” I had done a hard reboot, but I was underground traveling the subway system at the time. I should have waited to be topside, and tried again. Okay, my fault on that one.

With working phone in hand, I called the airline. Several times. I’ll not bore you with all of the rigmarole that transpired, but sum up instead to let you know that for two days we spent more time on the phone and suffered the frustrations of insurance BS, rather than exploring this very cool city.

That’s not to say that we didn’t get out. The Tower Bridge, currently under construction and only allowng foot traffic, is within walking distance. And taxis are plentiful. Downtown London is comparable to Manhattan. It’s not truly meant for tourists, but it was the closest place to locate a department store for purchasing “necessaries” if you understand my meaning.

Sightseeing and shopping. Isn’t that what tourists are supposed to do?

We got into the spirit of the seeing the city on these ventures out. Having purchased a three day London Pass before leaving the states, we got on one of the buses and rode the entire circuit, sitting in the back so as not to subject our clothes aroma to our fellow travelers.

What a fascinating place London is. While Paris took my breath away in her beauty, London has a more masculine feel to it. Handsome, and impressive. Like someone who has suffered much, knocked to the knees, bloodied and beaten, then finds their feet, rises tall with shoulders back, and dares the next blow.

Handsome, and impressive.

The lost luggage is forgotten while caught up in the wonder of London. We noted several places we want to visit on the next day’s travel on the tour bus. And, the three hour tour was not without its own excitement.

We’d also noted how closely the cars drove to one another, and marveled at how there were no backups due to accidents. Cars, trucks, bikes, and the ubiquitous buses, all converging from a six lane to two lane road at times, seemed a ballet.

Until it wasn’t.

From our vantage at the back of the bus we couldn’t see our driver. But, we did see the black Mercedes that sideswiped the bus, crunching the car’s passenger side door and mirror. The well-dressed man in the Mercedes was livid. He harangued our tour bus driver, who responded civilly at first, explaining it was not his fault and that the entire incident was captured on CCTV. The discussion escalated, and after a testosterone fueled exchange, the two vehicles drove to our next stop and exchanged information and insults.

Ah, London. Did you do this just for us? Just to make us feel more at home? You shouldn’t have!

We had arrived in London on Tuesday afternoon. Dart’s wish of waking up in Paris and going to sleep in London on his 60th birthday has been fulfilled. It’s not my fault he didn’t ask for clean clothes, too.

The suitcase arrived at our apartment on Wednesday night. I admit. I cried a little at the reunion.

We are so looking forward to a full day in London on Thursday, uninterrupted by glitches and stumbling blocks.

A girl can hope, right?

 

 

In case you wondered, Sam McShane is going to Ireland with us. We’ll be heading there on Friday. Here’s hoping our luggage comes along, too.

 

Trip of a Lifetime – 24 hours in Paris

Part 2

 

Well, that was an adventure.

We landed safely in the fabulous city of Paris. Instead of landing on Saturday, thanks to Hurricane Matthew, it was on Monday. At one in the afternoon. Our train tickets to get to London are non-refundable, and we leave at 11 in the morning on Tuesday.

We’ve got a lot of sightseeing to squeeze in to one day. Of course, we haven’t slept a nickle’s worth, but we will not allow this to stop us!

First up, collect our luggage.

We spent an entire day choosing what we were to pack for ten days in three countries. Both of our wardrobes were condensed to five days worth. We were depending on the laundry services advertised. The length of time we would be away from such services, would be five days (more on that later). All of that, with our daily medications, were packed in one bag. The second held our shoes, and two laptops. I decided to forgo a purse, and we put everything else we might need into two backpacks. After all, we’re tourists from tourist land. We know how to play this game.

At the luggage carousel, we collected the shoe bag. Then, we waited. And waited. And then we waited some more. We waited until the sign proclaimed all bags “delivered”.

Except, they weren’t.

The man at the help desk was very sympathetic with our plight of not having any clothes except what was on our backs. He asked us for the address where the bag could be delivered within the next 24 to 72 hours.

*sigh*

We requested they be sent from whatever place they might be found, to the London address where we were to be in 24 hours.

As a bonus, my phone was not working. The carrier had been contacted before we left the states, and the service should have been activated.

Except it wasn’t.

So, I couldn’t call our friends. Adrian works in the city, and lives in the suburban area with her family. After a delay at the airport, we got on the RER for an educational ride on the train/subway system, trying to reach her before she got off work. Nearing four o’clock, I finally got the courage to ask a young lady who was speaking on her phone in English, if she would be willing to call my friend for me.

Once reached, Adrian asked what station we were coming to next. She said “get off now, and I’ll come to you.” Now THAT’s a friend.

We were to be staying in Paris with Adrian and Arnot for the full three days of our visit.

Once united, she took us to see the Arc De TriompheChamps-ÉlyséesSacre Coeur, and the sparkling Eiffel Tower. All were breathtakingly beautiful.

These friends provided sleepwear for the evening. The next day, we declined taking their clothes with us, since our bags are waiting for us at the apartment.

As we got our few belongings together, she gave us specific instructions as to how to reach the EuroStar. We are so grateful to our wonderful host and hostess for showing us so much, in such a short expanse of time. Adrian, you rock!  I cannot wait to get to our rented apartment in London (the complex has a concierge, thankfully) and be reunited with our clean clothes.

Unless, of course. . .

 

Trip of a Lifetime

 

While having coffee with my husband one morning, we had this conversation.

“Hey, babe. Have you made up your mind about what you want for your 60th birthday?”

“I dunno. Big parties are a pain to plan and clean up after.”

“Yes, but you always enjoy them.”

“Not for my 60th.”

“We could hold it somewhere other than home.”

“Yeah, we could do that.”

“Orlando has a lot of options for entertainment. Where would you like to have it?”

“Ha! We could go travel for the kind of money it takes to book a place in Tourist Mecca.”

“Okay. So, if you could go anywhere, anywhere at all, where would you like to go?”

“Anywhere, huh?”

“Sure, let’s play. Anywhere. Where would you like to tour?”

“Alright. On my birthday, I want to wake up in Paris, and fall asleep in London.”

 

That’s how it began back in July of ‘16. My husband, who turns sixty in October, wants this. He has never, ever, just come out and said what he wants for his big day. This was a major milestone. While we are not a wealthy family, I found a way to make it happen. We’d fly out on October 7, stay with a friend who lives in Paris (and had been asking us to come visit), and then on the big day, take the chunnel into London where we had an apartment booked through VRBO. It is going to be the trip of a lifetime.

Of course, back in July, I didn’t know that Mathew wanted to swing by Florida on October 7 to wish him a good birthday, and cause havoc, mayhem, destruction, and death.

I love being a Floridian. No. Really. Stop laughing.

Our flight got bumped to Sunday, October 9, 2016, which will give us 24 hours in Paris. So much for the three day Paris Passes (non-refundable). We paid extra to “add a day” to the standard two day pass. Don’t care. His birthday wish will come true.

I’ll let you know how the rest of it works out.

 

Maybe McShane will come along for the ride.

 

 

Hillary Loves Donald. An update.

I wrote and published this article originally in March of 2016.

At the time, Gary Johnson had not hit my radar. His candidacy pulled me away from any “write-in-protest-vote” I’d considered. Then, Aleppo. Then, the foreign leader thing. Oh, well. He’s out (for me).

As of today, October 1, 2016, I still stand by my conspiracy theory outlined here. ESPECIALLY the email to the supporters section.

Although, I might have changed my own decision on whom to vote for once or twice since then. Anyway, see if you can follow my mental wanderings.

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I cannot be the only one who has thought of this. However, I’ve not found anything in writing as of yet, so as a registered Independent, I’ll say it.

Hillary Loves Donald.

There, it’s now in writing.

Why do I say such a thing? Is it because I have no notion of politics? Is it because I’m a little naive? Is it because I’m stark raving mad?

Well, a little of all of the above.

Now, here’s my “Vast Left Wing Conspiracy” theory (double points if you get the reference).

There are very few people I know personally that are supporters of The Donald for President. Okay, I’ll be honest. There is only one that I know myself. Even that person, though a good heart, kind, yadda, yadda, yadda… that person is misguided. Always has been. Should his world view ever be expanded beyond his back door, I’m certain he would be a much more rounded person. Read that as you will.

Now, on the left hand, we have Hillary. She has a world view beyond compare. How she’s chosen to interpret the input is in her own doing. The charges against her, though never convicted (she’s not stupid), would tighten the most hardened stomach. Everyone knows she has wanted to be President from the beginning. You cannot have forgotten her quote, “We are the President!” have you? If you claim to have never heard that, you’re cute. Now, go check Snapchat while the grownups talk.

Over on the right hand, we have The Donald. This guy has been talking about running for President since the 1980’s. This is the first time it’s gotten so far. Which raises the question: Why?

Side Question: Have you ever watched House of Cards? If not, let me say it is fabulous entertainment. If you have, you know where I’m going with this.

Also, as a quick reminder; Hillary lost the Democratic nomination to President Barack Obama in the election of 2008.

Now, the set-up complete, the conspiracy theory begins.

donald-trump-hillary-clinton2
donald-melania-trump-bill-hillary-clinton-600(Maring Photography/Getty Images/Contour by Getty Images)

What if…

Hillary was told by the back room powers-that-be to step aside to allow the first black President. Then, once his term(s) were through, she could run with all blessings.

As the Presidency of Barack Obama came to an end, a stooge was  plucked from the masses, someone no thinking voter could tolerate, and set up as the opposing party’s choice. Hillary’s main supporters put out a call (via very private email during her stint as Madame Secretary, perhaps?) to her loyal fan base to switch parties, and vote for the loud mouth ignoramus that has been set up to run against her. She cannot lose. How can she not love Donald Trump?

Wait, you say. What about Bernie?

Okay, everyone. Are we done laughing?

I predict Bernie will have a total meltdown, and soon. Even if he doesn’t (snicker) the Electoral College will sway toward the favor of Ms. Clinton no matter the popular vote. Mark my words.

So, Trump continues to say whatever bullshit that pours from his mouth, because he’s been encouraged to be as outlandish, as ridiculous, and as myopic a xenophobe as he wants to be. His repulsive behavior (and, IMHO, face) will turn even the most hardened hater of the Clinton’s to vote for Hillary.

I hate to say it, but I am nearly swayed.

Nah. I’ll still write in Condoleezza Rice as my protest vote. I know a vote for Ms. Rice is going to be a throwaway vote, and therefore a vote for Clinton. But since I know the next President will be Hillary, I don’t think it much matters.

I dare you to join me.

 

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Thanks for reading. Since March a lot of charges against Hillary have been settled, and my circle of pundits have (almost) gotten me to consider…

Maybe Hillary isn’t so bad after all.