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.
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.