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wmtc: memo to porter airlines passenger who needs lessons in new york city

Dear suburban GTA resident flying on Porter Airlines from Newark to Toronto:

Since you were not talking to me, I was unable to respond to your erroneous statements. But since you were speaking loud enough for the entire plane to hear, I was easily able to determine that you have no idea what you are talking about.

Here are some facts of which you clearly are not aware.

1. I’m glad you enjoyed your stay near the airport in Elizabeth, New Jersey. However, since you did not venture into New York City, you have no idea how the area near (Read more…)

wmtc: where to stay in giverny and rouen, where to eat in rouen, where not to eat in giverny

I’ve mentioned our wonderful accommodations in Giverny and outside Rouen, but each deserves a post of its own. I’ll review them on TripAdvisor but for Googleability, I’d like to do more.

Giverny: Les Jardins d’Helene

In Giverny, for comfort, convenience, and an absolutely delightful stay at a very reasonable price, you can’t do better than Les Jardins d’Helene. It’s located about a 15-minute walk from Monet’s house and gardens, on one easy, flat road.

The house itself is a beautiful mix of traditional and contemporary design, and clearly a labour of love by a very creative person. Among the treasures (Read more…)

wmtc: rouen and home

We slept wonderfully in our beautiful little cabin, and the following morning we waited to see the other Canadians emerge from breakfast before we ventured out. I was amazed that my mother also didn’t like them: she is so much friendlier and less curmudgeonly than me.

We ran into them briefly, and we both had the distinct impression that they had been waiting to see us before they left. And there’s Elisabeth, wearing a Maple Leaf pin! These people must travel with a bag of Maple Leaf pins to distribute! Yikes.

Breakfast was the usual deliciousness of mini baguettes, croissants, (Read more…)

wmtc: rouen

My plan for Rouen was a bit more complicated than it had to be. I was reasonably certain it would prove well worth it. There are many hotel options in Rouen, but they all left me unimpressed, mostly chain hotels or what sounded like dumps. I thought for the final night of our trip, we should do something special. I booked a room and dinner at a French country home about 25 minutes out of Rouen. My experience staying at French country homes has been very special, and I knew my mother would love it. I prepared her for the (Read more…)

wmtc: giverny to rouen

I have a lot to write tonight, and only two fingers to write with, so I may have to post this in two parts. Yesterday, after we dried off, we rested for the afternoon. I remembered that our host needed payment in cash, so we asked about an ATM… and learned there is none in Giverny. Sandrine, our host, very nicely (and of necessity) offered to drive us into Vernon to use a machine there. On the way there, she asked about our last name. I suspected I knew why, and when she asked, “You are Jewish, no?” I knew (Read more…)

wmtc: giverny, plus tablet and ptsd updates

Keyboard I love my Nexus 7. I hate the Minisuit keyboard, although the problem might be Bluetooth. To blog, I need a keyboard, and I need to use Blogger via the website, as the Android app is too limited. (That seems silly, since Blogger is a Google product.) Using Blogger online with the onscreen keyboard is very inconvenient. I can’t select, can’t easily make links, and can barely see where I’m typing.  I’ve adjusted to the tiny Minisuit keyboard. I dislike typing with two fingers, but I can do it. But I will never adjust to the cursor (Read more…)

wmtc: paris, day four

We had quite a big day today! Most of it was completely wonderful.

I woke up kicking myself that I forgot to take pictures of R and Connie and me. I had the camera with me precisely for that reason and never even thought of it. And by the way, R emailed from the Eurostar. They very nearly didn’t let her on the train, but she did prevail.

Connie and I didn’t set our alarm this morning and slept until 8:40, which is like noon for non-morning people. We had one last breakfast at Au Tramway, but since today is (Read more…)

wmtc: paris day three encore, in which I admit ptsd is forever

So it turns out it’s not just my snoring that’s keeping Connie up at night. It’s noises “that sound like you’re upset,” says my mother. Allan recently told me that I cry or startle or semi-scream in my sleep on a regular basis. The incidents I think of as rare are not, in fact, rare. What’s rare is my memory of them.

I feel I must apologize for ever telling a fellow PTSD sufferer that it eventually goes away. I was 21 years old when I was raped. If it hasn’t gone away by now, it obviously never will. Thank (Read more…)

wmtc: paris, day three

We are back in our cozy room after a long, fun day with R… who I very much hope is now on the train to London! Connie and I went to – you guessed it – Au Tramway for breakfast. We had the lovely petit dejeuner complet, with baguette, butter and jam, croissants, juice, and for me, plenty of coffee. Then we headed out to the Gare du Nord, hours in advance of meeting R’s train, hoping to buy Connie a jacket or sweater.   Somehow my mom left her jacket at home in New Jersey. In fact, when (Read more…)

wmtc: paris, day two

Connie and I were both dead to the world by 9:00 p.m., and when I next opened my eyes, it was 8:30 a.m. Yes! That’s an unheard of amount of sleep for me, and I needed it. We had breakfast in the hotel and were soon back on the Metro. Since we didn’t get the earliest of starts, by the time we got to the Musee D’Orsay, the queue/line/lineup (UK/US/Cda) was very long, snaking around a good eight or ten times. But no bother, we were patient and made our way in. The D’Orsay was Connie’s number (Read more…)

wmtc: paris, day one

Nous somme ici! Connie (my mother) and I got tired of killing time in her apartment and decided to have dinner at the airport. Somehow we managed to stay awake until our 11:30 flight, but my mom was asleep soon after takeoff. I, of course, was up all night, as I can’t sleep sitting up, ever. I find that listening to music helps a lot, although it can be a long night when everyone else is snoring. The flight was perfectly normal and uneventful. I didn’t even have to pay baggage overweight fees as I had been expecting. So based (Read more…)

wmtc: tablet update and off to paris

I’ve had a busy and wonderful couple of days visiting family and friends. Today my mom and I are planning our sightseeing, packing, doing last-minute errands, and generally getting in vacation mode.

What i’m writing on

I’m loving my new Nexus 7 tablet… with reservations, or perhaps just a learning curve.

The tablet itself is terrific. Once I got up to speed with Android functionality and interface, it was obvious why people prefer tablets for most online activities, especially those with no or minimal typing. The Nexus is amazing – speed, portability, ease of use, everything. It is magnitudes better (Read more…)

wmtc: in which I go to paris… with my mother!

From my Flickr page

My mother said, “I want to go to Paris. I want to see Paris one more time while I’m still healthy enough and mobile enough to enjoy it. But…” – here comes the good part – “I have no one to go with.” My mom’s best friend passed away some years ago, and none of her other travel buddies are available anymore. I almost blurted out, “I’ll go with you!” but I thought, better run this by Allan first.

Allan and I have each taken small trips without the other, but never for (Read more…)

wmtc: a quieter life, plus photos

Finally, some peace and quiet. This is the first time since the sewage flood on July 8 that our home is quiet. This lovely state of affairs exists because we filed a complaint with the Landlord Tenant Board, requesting our Landlord be ordered to stop renovations on the basement until after we move out. The complaint has not even been processed yet, but the Landlord backed down. Another lesson in Know Your Rights! (I would like to create a new tag/category for wmtc called “know your rights,” but I feel like it would apply to half my posts.)

With (Read more…)

wmtc: in which i try to mail postcards from spain

We used to send a lot of postcards from our travels, but that is a ritual lost to time and email. A few people do still get postcards, though: my mother, Allan’s great aunt in Vermont, and in this case two friends, for specific reasons. I bought the postcards, tucked them away, and kind of half forgot about them and half kept on the lookout for a post office from which to buy stamps.

Every time we saw a mailbox – yellow in Spain, marked correo – I remembered that I didn’t have stamps, but I never saw a post (Read more…)

wmtc: bilbao to madrid, but not toledo

For most of the trip, I was hoping to spend a few hours in Toledo on our last day in Spain. Allan was skeptical at best, feeling it would make the day too rushed and pressured. I was holding out hope until the last moment, but once we found the highway out of Bilbao and saw the time, I realized he was right. What’s more, the medieval synagogue in Toledo, the main site I wanted to see there, is closed on Mondays. The interior is supposed to be beautifully preserved, but we wouldn’t get to see it anyway. Ah well. (Read more…)

wmtc: cantabria to gernika and bilbao, part 2

In the Guggenheim, we took audioguides as a substitute for a tour of the building, which in this season are only in Spanish. The audioguide is included with admission, and available in a huge range of languages, including Catalan – clearly a political statement from Basque Bilbao.

We joined many other people standing in the atrium, the focal point of the interior, listening to the audioguide and looking around at the dizzying curves and cubes and ramps. The atrium is strange and wonderful. Outside on the patio, you are suddenly on the prow of a ship, a theme that is (Read more…)

wmtc: cantabria to gernika and bilbao, part 1

I almost forgot to mention, we had some interesting news from home. Everything is fine now, but Essie had her hands full for a while!

I warned Essie about the danger of skunks in our backyard after dark: absolutely never, ever let the dogs run out into the backyard after dark!! I’ve lost track of how many times our dogs have been skunked, and I’m determined to make sure it never happens again.

But there’s no accounting for early-morning skunks!

Maybe this skunk was an early riser or maybe he was staggering home from an all-nighter, but either way, a (Read more…)

wmtc: cantabria, day two

We’ve had another outstanding day of seeing cave paintings, an entirely different experience that complemented the other two cave tours.

We left Santillana del Mar early and drove on back-country roads to the town of Puente Viesgo, to see the caves known as El Castillo and Las Monedas. The countryside here is beautiful – lush green hills dotted with red-roofed stone houses, groups of cows and sheep and horses grazing here and there. The rural routes wind through little town centres with the usual shops. I know Spain is suffering under severe unemployment, but we see no evidence of it. (Read more…)

wmtc: cantabria and asturias, day one

Today we fulfilled a travel wish we’ve harboured for many, many years. We saw two sets of paleolithic cave paintings.

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The day started out a bit interesting, with an early-morning phone call that appeared to be from our dogsitter, scaring me (although it turned out to be a mistake), and a non-working shower. While we ate breakfast, the desk clerk wanted to tell us the shower was fixed, so she wrote this on a scrap of paper: “The bath this one are repaired. Forgives the inconvenience.” I have no doubt my Spanish sounds equally amusing.

(Read more…)

wmtc: madrid to segovia to cantabria

Getting out of Madrid was a whole lot easier than getting in. We found our way to the highway easily, and had a short drive to the town of Segovia, to see its famous Roman aqueduct. It’s pretty amazing to see a gigantic, completely intact stone aqueduct right in the middle of a town: see here. It’s about 32 kilometres (20 miles) long, 28.5 metres (93.5 feet) tall at its highest point, and made of more than 20,000 stones, and not a drop of mortar.

Years ago, we saw the Pont du Gard, a famous three-tiered Roman (Read more…)

wmtc: madrid, day two

Today was the second half of our Madrid art tour.

We were out early again, went back to the same local joint for breakfast (the counterman remembered what we wanted, which we enjoy), and were once again at the museum before it opened. This was Reina Sofia, the national art centre and museum specializing in 19th and 20th century art, and home to Picasso’s “Guernica”.

Finally seeing Guernica in person was, for me, a highlight of this trip and one of the most moving art experiences I’ve had. I was quite overcome – in tears – both at the (Read more…)

wmtc: madrid, day one

After our cheap pollo asado dinner, wine, and a shower, we had a new perspective on life. We woke up early the next day, had a little breakfast in a neighbourhood joint, and got to Museo Nacional del Prado – otherwise known as The Prado – before it opened. Our hotel in the Cuatros Caminos barrio is right near a big metro station where four different lines converge, and it was very easy to zip downtown.

The Prado is a big museum, not quite as huge and sprawling as the Metropolitan or the Louvre, but too big to see all (Read more…)

wmtc: random notes from madrid

If I get a decent sleep one night, I’m not allowed to have one the next. Apparently it’s a new law: no sleeping two nights in a row. So since I’m awake at 5:00 a.m. again, here is the latest round of notes I’ve been collecting in my notebook.

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When you drive on the highways in Spain, you see these giant billboards of a black bull. There are no words on them, just a huge shape of a bull. There’s one on the cover of our Lonely Planet guidebook: here. I thought there was (Read more…)

wmtc: zuheros to madrid / madrid, night one

This post has two parts: the clerk and the lost.

The clerk.

I had a good night’s sleep and woke up at the leisurely hour of 8:00. We had breakfast at the hotel and packed up, ready to hit the road to Madrid. And wouldn’t you know it, the desk clerk handed me a bill for one dinner and two nights. I politely explained that I had called to cancel one night, and was told that was fine. Desk clerk said I called too late, I had to be charged for two nights. Naturally, I repeated my position.

We went (Read more…)