Our lost together locations

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Oysters oysters everywhere!

Hi from Galway, Ireland! Today we have a special treat -- a video blog!

We are here for the big Oyster Festival, at the recommendation of Patrick McMurray (known for his restaurant, Starfish, his book Consider the Oyster, and, most recently, his Leslieville pub Ceili Cottage), who is himself a former World Champion Oyster Opener at this very competition.

In fact, we ran into him just as we arrived at the main event -- the Oyster Tasting, a bargain at 55 Euros a person (as opposed to the 110 Euros for tonight's big Gala dinner) -- and he took us backstage to get a bit of insight on the action as the competitors in this year's Oyster Opening Championship warmed up. (I apologize in advance for the sound quality in the latter part of the video. There was a ton of background noise and because I had to stay out of the way of the servers carting stacks of oyster platters out into the main room, I couldn't get the camera close enough to Patrick for the mic to pick up well. If you can make any of it out, he is mainly talking about the different shucking techniques of the various competitors.)

Before the competition began we feasted on a delicious seafood platter that included smoked salmon, baby prawns, some sort of seafood paté, and salad, plus, of course, a plate of six lovely oysters!

The competition is very spirited and pretty intense. Before they start, each competitor must provide a psedonym so that the judges will not know whose platter of 30 oysters is whose. Audience members shout out suggestions, which the MC takes or leaves at his whim. The first round included competitors nicknamed "Obama" and "Clinton." There was a "Michael Jackson" and a "Shakespeare." This is the third and final heat, featuring the Swedish, Canadian, American, and Estonian competitors. Naturally, we were rooting for the Canadian!

Oyster openers get penalties and bonus points for presentation of their opened oysters, which are added on to the time it takes for them to open 30 oysters in order to arrive at the winner. Watch the American in this video -- the way his knife cuts through the oysters makes them look like they are just made of butter. Also watch the Swede -- cool as a cucumber and perfectly focused! He later won for presentation.

Oysters may be the main event this weekend, but of course the Irish love their trad, so there was music and dancing too. I'll leave you with this last clip -- enjoy; we certainly did!

After Galway: WWOOFing in County Sligo for about a week.

PS to Dawn -- we are staying at the Salmon Weir hostel, where you and I and Sean and Heather stayed in Galway 10 years ago! It hasn't changed a bit. :)

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hmmmm.....where to begin?

Okay, picture this....Sicily. 1929.

Okay, so it's not quite Sofia from "The Golden Girls", but it seems like forever-and-a-day since I was in Toronto and living a "normal" life. Then again, what is normal? I don't know that I'd qualify, that's fer sure.

Let's see, we've gotten married, packed up our one bedroom place and put it into a 12" x 15" storage unit off of Steeles (which we finished doing shortly before leaving before the airport - MANY MANY THANKS TO MARCOS for allowing us to dump some stuff on his porch while he was on Toronto Island basking in his under-60 minutes 10 K run WOOT!!! WOOT!!!), and Jodi's mom and dad took us to the airport. For those of you that know me, you know that I have a lot of stuff. Just stuff. Not necessarily crap, but stuff nonetheless. Somehow (largely due to Jodi!) I managed to pack 4.5 months into a backpack and carry-on.

This includes a supplement (Chondroitin/Glucosamine/MSM) that I take to aid a slight degenerative cervical (neck, not cervix!) vertebrae problem I have, daily allergy pills, two hypertension medications I take (FYI...my pressure was about 121/83 when I saw my doctor last week. Mind you, my doctor also wrote me a script for 3 months with a refill, even though I told him that I was going away for 5 months. MANY MANY thanks are due to the pharmacy staff at the Forest Hill Loblaws for putting together enough to last while we're away.), and all the other stuff I felt I needed. Like Pepto, antacids, Robaxacet Platinum and green tea extract pills (caffeine and apparently they're good for heart health and potentially weight loss).

Traffic on the 401 meant that there was a little bit of stress in the car, but not from me. I just kept my mouth shut (for once!) and we got where we needed to be, when we needed to be there.

I guess I should backtrack, as I've gone a bit too far along in the story. I have been to Italy, and a number of cities in Canada and the U.S. My trip to Italy was in '99 for my friends Sheila and John's wedding, and otherwise I have not left the continent. Jodi has been to several different parts of the world, and of all the countries we'll be going to, she has only not been to Greece and Portugal. Well, she flew into Belfast and then went elsewhere, so North Ireland is going to be new for her too.

A very large part of the backtracking (versus the backpacking) is about my parents. I am who I am in large part owing to them. Not in the traditional sense of nature/nurture, but a little more complicated. I've heard stories about how my parents were as children, teens and young(er) adults, but I haven't seen too much of the wild 'n crazy Bev and Stan that they used to be. One thing I can say with certainty is that my parents are good people who have never really asked for anything from their children. They have given and given their whole lives, or at least my whole life. They didn't finish high school, but they made sure their three children did.

I wasn't the easiest child, teen, young adult, or even now. In fact, at one point my mother told my father to go to the Parent/Teacher interview in junior high, because she didn't want to hear what the teachers had to say. (I know. I'm a teacher.) My father went with me to try and keep from charges being pressed when I was caught giving away free movies to friends at a video store I worked at when I was grade 13 and hoping to get into university. My mother has always had an open door, fridge and wallet, and truth be told I still owe my parents money.

My father hasn't been well the past few years. He turned 80 in June. He almost didn't make to our wedding, and had to leave early to go back to the hospital. He has since been hospitalized again. Saying goodbye to my parents was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do in my life. Much much harder than saying sorry for something(s) or things I've done wrong.

And that has always been hard for me.

Very hard.

Almost as hard as saying, "Thank you" when someone complements me.

So, we got to the airport in time. Going through check-in/customs I was "Lucky #8". Normally, that would be a good thing, since 8 is one of my fave numbers. Thanks to Willie "Pops" Stargell, captain of the 1979 World Series Champion Pittsburgh Pirates. This time I almost got the rubber glove. I was asked if I wanted the random check to be done in a room or in line and I chose in line. I figured if I was going to get a finger in the ass that EVERYONE should see it. No internal exam, it was all external. Jack went through my carry-on and the other fella patted me down. Quite thoroughly, but not near the genitals or butt.

I've flown to five places before this: Dallas, Italy (Rome/Venice), New York, Halifax and Los Angeles, and didn't get on a plane 'til I was 28. We weren't a family vacation sort of family. In fact, we never went on a Kruger 5 vacation that I can remember. We had food on the table, roof over our head and clothes on our back. Not much by way of frills, but we didn't lack for anything. My parents work(ed) hard, and we helped out with chores around the house to make things a little easier for them.

The flight to London on British Airways was GREAT! The food was lovely, and the personal "TV" was grand to pass the time. Dinner was chicken with a wild rice pilaf and I had a couple wee bottles of '07 bordeaux. Which made me think of Paul Taylor. But I digress. Breakfast was not Jodi's favourite, since she doesn't like raisins (nor does Emily or Louie Goodfield) and there was a pineapple/carrot/raisin bread, fat free yogurt (she doesn't much like yogurt or fruit!) and O.J. She had water.

Got into London Monday morning, and headed to our hostel. Only problem with that was that we couldn't check-in until 2:00 and it was 9:00. I wanted a shower, Jodi wanted a nap. We didn't get either one. SO...after a stressful Sunday, and having been up forever, we put our bags in storage and wandered.

Again, for those of you that know me, you know I love to shop. WELL....I LOVE to grocery shop, and I LOVE to shop for Nikes, and I LOVE to shop for a deal. 4.5 months away means that anything I buy has to be consumed, carried or sent somewhere. So I didn't buy anything at Uniqlo or TK Max (TJ Max in the U.S.). I will endeavour to put a picture of the Doc Martens that I fell in love with for 17 Pounds (about $30). Alas. C'est la vie.

We wandered to Kensington Palace and the Gardens there, and then after sitting around, we wandered back to the hostel in Earls Court. Now, remember, I haven't traveled much. My idea of a hostel was something out of "Soldier's Story" with barracks. Lots of bunk beds and not much else. Boy was I wrong. It's quite a nice place. Our double had bunk beds (we're married now!), WiFi and the bathroom/shower was right next door. Anytime I wanted to go use the facilities, it was no problem. In fact, I never saw anyone on our floor.

As we wandered back to the hostel, we encountered Odd Bins. It's a wine/beer seller (liquor too?) and they had Brew Dog, a REALLY fine Scottish beer. I paid $20 CDN for a "Paradox" in Toronto. Here, I got a Trashy Blonde, Punk IPA and "Paradox" (Speyside, whereas I had the Isle of Arran in Toronto) all for about 7 Pounds. $11 maybe. LOVELY!!! Mind you, I drank them out of my stainless steel travel bottle. No drinking fine beer out of the glass bottle for me. Right Roger?

We went off in search of dinner, after our Marks & Spencer (AHHHH....Marks and Sparks from the old days in Toronto and Richmond Hill. When driving to Hillcrest Mall seemed like driving to Guelph) breakfast of a boxed sandwich, crisps (chips) and a "nasty" drink, and our non-existent lunch. We were heading off to Soho, not just because of sort of the gaybourhood in London - remember I'm a HUGE fag hag and Oren did nickname me Gayvid. We were heading there in search of Wagamama. We didn't find it. Jodi almost cried she was so tired and hungry. Oh ya, she was frustrated and we did manage to get in a couple of hours of nap-time after we checked in.

We gave up on Wagamama and instead went looking for Busaba Eathai. John Arvanitis suggested we check it out. Or maybe he suggested we go to Soho and I saw it in a guide book. Regardless, we couldn't find it. So we went to Melati. It's Singaporean, Indonesian and Malaysian and it's REALLY good!

We got back to the room and Jodi passed out.

Short story about day two in London - Simple breakfast at the hostel, Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square, Portrait Gallery, St. Martin's in the Field (and the crypt), lunch at Pret a Manger, talked to the lovely David Shaer on the phone, saw MANY MANY MANY well-dressed (lots of pinstripes!) men and women, Westminster Abbey, took a boat ride/tour on the Thames, Greenwich (Naval Museum....well, took some pictures and Jodi used the loo), had a Scrumpy Jack (Just for you Dan Powell!) and then went to Wagamama in Earls Court. If you get a chance to go to Wagamama, it's worth it.

We packed ourselves up last night, knowing that Ryanair would try to have us "bend over" with their cabin and checked luggage restrictions. We were concerned about costs, and many thanks to Shannon for a great idea. But I had a better one. Buy a larger carry-on bag for 9 Pounds and put some of the heavier stuff from our check luggage into that and it worked! No 15 Pounds/Kg over 15 Kgs, as we were under on all their restrictions.

Took the Tube to Victoria Station, took the National Railroad to Gatwick and found ourselves there VERY early. And for once, it was not of my doing. HA!!! (Jodi.....) So I went through the several hundred shots I took yesterday and we got ourselves on the Ryanair (bargain flight and it worked!) plane and flying to Dublin. Quick flight (about an hour) and I think I got some good shots on the plane. The landing was abrupt and relatively violent, but not traumatic. I'll fly 'em again!

Got a bus/city pass, came to the hostel, checked in, and realized it's not quite as good as the Earls Court hostel, but better in other ways. Much more social and fun, and we've met some good people already. Dan from outside of Ottawa and James from Australia. We got a free beer (6 oz) coupon. For something or other Hooker. Yep, Hooker. Not a call girl, but a boat. Had O'Hara's Stout (LOVELY LOVELY LOVELY!!!) at the Bull & Castle and then went off in search of The Market Bar.

I'll say this. If you come to Dublin, it's TOTALLY worth going to the Market Bar. For the food, if nothing else. Nice space, spotty service, but the food was TOP NOTCH!!! Chicken breast on greens, fish stew from heaven (creme fraiche is my new turn-on) and a lovely bowl of mussels.

Speaking of mussels, I think my biceps are getting bigger in my old age. I also think that I'm getting too much hair on my stomach. Jodi said I should wax it. I just might.

So, I've gone on WAY too long, and I'll sign off for now. I suspect that I'll get some help from the Mrs. on the tech front to upload pictures.

Several more adventures still to come. Oh ya, I've now gone through three duty free opportunities and have not bought anything.

Believe it or not.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Last Day in Canada

We made it!

Well, to the airport at least, as I write this (it will have been posted after the fact, since I'm not willing to pay $10 for 40 minutes of internet access).

It was definitely down to the wire as David and I raced around Toronto running last-minute errands. Still carting stuff to storage just hours before we were due to leave for the airport, we left apartment 605 in our little building for the last time. Look how empty it is!

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Strangely, when we started to empty it, it seemed to look bigger, but fully emptied out, it appears pretty small after all. It's hard to believe that the two of us – and all our stuff! – lived here for three years. It's also hard to believe we managed to cram the entire lot into a 12x15' storage unit. There was just enough room. David performed a few minor miracles finding the last few nooks and crannies for the final carload.

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Now, our lives have narrowed to just two packs and a couple of daypacks.

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And, of course, those same lives have broadened to twenty-one weeks of new places to explore!

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Snee Farm

Hey folks, just like in real life, my blogs won't be as pretty as Jodi's.

We have a confirmed location for the first stop on the farming adventure. Snee Farm.

We run a small-holding in an isolated area at the foot of the Ox-Mountains. We mainly specialize in Pigs and Bees, but keep a vast variety of other animals like cows, a Pony, Chickens, Ducks and Geese and many more. We bought our house two years ago in a derelict stage and are busy with the finishing touches. We grow our own vegetables, cut our own Turf for heating in the winter, kill our own animals at times and, if time allows, spin wool, make baskets and definitely preserve our veg and fruit. We also make our own wine. During the winter (if the cow won't let us down) we'll make butter and cheese. Work with us can be hectic and we work and play hard, but if you're easy going, motivated and don't mind work, you'll have a good time at " Snee ". Unfortunately we won't accommodate vegetarians, but let's face it, this is mainly a Pig farm. If you like to stay and work with us please send applications straight to our E-mail or phone us. We simply haven't got the time to access your mail through another website. Thank you

Brian Jackson & Elona Ambrey.

I think I'll slaughter my meal.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

First official days of no school

On September 8th and 9th, instead of heading back to school with the rest of the world, we took a "mini-honeymoon" in Niagara-on-the-Lake and Stratford. Yes, we did purposely time it to co-incide with the first day of school. :)

Thanks to a wonderful gift from my department, it couldn't have been a more perfect experience. We stayed at a friend's lovely guest cottage, Wisteria House, and we had perfect weather. The Zoom Leisure bike tour of the historic old town and three wineries was idyllic, and it certainly is fun wobbling along the bike trails with just a *wee* bit of wine running through your system! :D

We visited three wineries: Lailey, Reif, and Jackson-Triggs (basically, small, medium and large), and, in addition to some excellent whites and quite good reds, got to sample quite a bit of the local ice-wine, which is world-renowned. The Jackson-Triggs tour also included a brief foray into their vineyards, through their fermenting facility, and down into their cellars, where they often hold wine-pairing dinners amongst the oak barrels.

Dinner at the Charles Inn was delicious: we shared a gazpacho that has inspired David to attempt his own; I had pan-seared salmon over pureed spinach with a wild mushroom tartlet that was to die for; David had halibut in a nice gingery broth; and we finished everything off with a trio of fantastic Quebec cheeses.

Our cottage-owning friend had recommended we ask them to seat us at a "special" table (not sure what she had in mind, but ours gave us a nice view of the sunset over my shoulder. We were also highly entertained by the bizarre conversation of the couple at the next table -- the woman seemed to feel it necessary to read the entire menu aloud to her husband, and to repeat to him everything the server said) and because we had mentioned that we were on our honeymoon, they presented us with a local sparkling wine from Konzelmann that chased our three courses of excellent food down with a little extra something.

The next day, we spent a bit more time visiting market stands and wineries on our own time. Southbrook has a gorgeous facility designed by the same architect who designed the new opera house in Toronto. They also make a spectacular framboise dessert wine. Konzelmann (they of the great sparkling) has vineyards that overlook the lake, making for a most picturesque setting.

Feeling a bit odd every time we saw kids being dropped off by their schoolbusses, we took the long road on secondary highways to Stratford to see West Side Story. Since David's not a fan of musicals, this was a bit of a coup for me, but the show was fabulous, so he couldn't complain. I seriously highly recommend seeing it if you can get down there before it closes!

Thanks so much to my department for such a thoughtful and amazingly apropos gift! It was the perfect way to kick off our year-off travels.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Preparing to get lost

For the past few days we have been working hard at getting ready to sell our place.

This involves some serious de-cluttering, minor repairs, painting, and packing everything we own into storage.

It's amazing how much crap you can fit into a 650 sq ft apartment without even trying. We've rented a storage unit that's somewhere between 150 and 200 sq ft, and it's almost packed to the rafters. Teetering towers of boxes, clothing vacuum-sealed bags, furniture. Pots and pans, towels, winter coats. Our mattress and boxspring, our sofa, our dining room table.

Yeah, you read that right. We don't have any "real" furniture in our place anymore. We pulled the mattress from the pull-out sofa, topped it with an air mattress, and hauled the camping chairs up from the downstairs storage. Add a couple of milk crates, and we're camping out in our own apartment! Here's David waving from amidst the chaos:

Every time we come back from storage, we're somehow faced with still more stuff. Though I have to admit that what you can see in the photo is about half of what's left, so I guess that's a good thing.

There's literally nothing at all in the bedroom except, now, painting supplies, and a few lonely items of clothing hanging in the closet.

Other things we've been busy with in getting the apartment ready: meeting with the real estate agent, eating what's left in the fridge and deep-freezer, and ripping up carpet to reveal quite lovely parquet underneath (and I'm not a huge fan of parquet):
And today we primed and painted the bedroom. If we can get it emptied out some more, we can tackle the main room starting tomorrow.

On the travel front, we've been doing some planning too. We've been contacting WWOOF hosts in Ireland, and so far haven't had much luck -- who knew autumn was such a popular WWOOF season in Ireland? Almost everyone who's gotten back to us (and we've contacted about 20 hosts so far) is full up through October. We did have one recommendation that we're waiting to hear back about, friends of one of the full hosts, and another host who contacted us today with an offer based on our posting our availability to the noticeboard.

Based on how difficult it's been to secure a host in Ireland, we've started looking at hosts in France earlier than we'd planned to. I'm hoping we can find something in the south of France, where November and December are harvest season for things like olives. Fingers crossed!

Wine and cheese tasting @ Strewn WineryImage by Vincent Ma via Flickr
This week we head to Niagara-on-the-Lake to take advantage of my department's lovely wedding gift -- a stay at Wisteria House, dinner at the Charles Inn, and a biking wine tour of Niagara wineries! The following day we're off to see West Side Story at Stratford. Good way to start our non-school year!

posted by Jodi
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