Category Archives: travel

A whirlwind trip… totality and back


My brother Charles got wind of the fact that I had Sunday and Monday off work. Just enough time to drive to the eclipse in Sweetwater Tennessee and back. He really wanted to go, and total eclipse was on my bucket list. It took me three asks to persuade Alan to come with us, but he caved. We checked the weather forecast on Sunday morning to make sure we weren’t heading for total cloud cover and headed off from Ottawa at about 10.30. We picked up Charles and left Mum’s by about noon.
Mum had packed us sandwiches and bananas so we didn’t need food until suppertime. Of course we stopped at a Crackerbarrel once it went dark. Charles had never been so we got a new convert. I picked up a road atlas in the gift shop because we had only managed to find maps of NY and PA before we left. Not that it was hard up to that point…cross the bridge and stay on the I-81. We got back in the car and drove till midnight when we stopped at a Motel 6. we were back on the road by 6 and stopped for breakfast at 8 at a McDonalds for the wifi. This was critical because we had to decide at this point if we were heading to South Carolina or Tennessee. The weather forecast looked much better for Tennessee, so back in the car and south we went.
Knoxville gave us pause and at one point I thought we were going to spend the eclipse in a giant traffic jam just north of the totality zone. How depressing would that have been? We did eventually crawl through Knoxville and on to Sweetwater. We pulled into the last space in the parking lot of a Burger King with an hour to spare and the moon already starting to cross the sun. It turned out to be a perfect location. We bought lunch from a very harried staff and sat down to watch eclipse coverage on CNN. Every few minutes or so we went to check the moons progress with our eclipse glasses left over from our Transit of Venus viewing in 2012. We left the restaurant for good about 20 minutes before totality and joined the legions of peaple with their lawn chairs in the parking lot.
Totality only lasted 2 1/2 minutes but I can say that it was worth driving 3000 km for. The crowd cheered, the crickets started chirping up a storm and the sun looked like the pictures (the ones taken with real cameras…not mine taken from my phone!). Someone let off fireworks a few hundred meters to the north west. I am not sure it was a good use of their totality watching time, but their choice I guess. The diamond ring effect happened, I got the men into the car and we booked it home. We only stopped for gas and subway sandwiches which we ate on the road. We got back to Mum’s in time for me to have a shower and head straight to work.
Road trips…gotta love em/

A day in the Cambodian countryside.


Charles has been living in Phonm Penh off and on for many years and has befriended people over time. Today we went into the countryside to visit the home of Ro’s parents. Ro is in the middle between Charles and Chanras. It took a little over an hour to get to their home.


Apparently at least 10 other members of my extended family and their friends have enjoyed their hospitality over the years.
This platform became the table for a lovely meal, then we were invited to have a nap when the meal was cleared away.The meal consisted of three fish dishes, roast chicken, Khmer beef with green tomatoes and onions, a cabbage dish, mango salad, rice and homemade condiments.We all sat together cross legged on the platform to enjoy our meal.
On the tuktuk ride we stopped and bought some lotus seed pods and learned how to break them open like a pomegranate. You also have to peel the seeds. All in all a great day.

Saigon

Yesterday we spent wandering round Saigon, starting with the very disturbing War Remnants Museum. It is all about the Vietnam war, starting with the French and continuing with the Americans.Our next stop was the Reunification Palace, a fabulous 1960’s building with amazing furnishings. Huge estate rooms and a grand staircase.From there we went to the central post office.It was designed by Eiffel, of tower fame.Attached to the post office was a McDonalds, so I did my traditional visit to see what the local item was. Pork with rice. Horrible, reconstituted pork.

24 hour bus ride…Still doing fine

Here in Southeast Asia, the sleeper bus is all the rage. We just finished an 844 km journey from Hoi An to Saigon, which took 24 hours. The bus was supposed to leave at 6 pm and it pulled into place and took on the bags then. Then the power trip started. They kept coming and opening the door, telling us to wait and leaving again. After an hour they let us on the bus but tried to bully us to the back “behind!,behind!”. It became obvious in the morning that they wanted their friends near the front. Fair enough, I suppose.The journey was long, but we knew it would be so we weren’t bothered at all. Snoozing off and on, waking up to see little vignettes, hills, towns,rice paddies and beaches. The seating is very civilized, each with their own pod. We have been on 4 different buses so far (we also had an 18 hour journey from Hanoi to Hoi An)and each of us has had two seats that come back up to sitting, many are broken.
We got spit off one bus not long after dawn and had to line up outside the next one for 45 minutes after our bags went on. At least it was beside a pretty river.

I am a sucker for those world heritage sites….

n.B. WordPress is apparently censored here, so it is intermittently available for posting
Today, we went on a day trip from Hoi An to the My Son temple complex. We took the swishy tour, so for $75 cnd, we had our own car and driver.As well as a tour guide, Lam, in the pink shirt. He was quite well informed and very pleasant.
We toured the ruins, a 3rd to 12th century Hindu site.Luckily we had been warned about the heat, and found surprisingly few other tourists, another thing we had been prepared for.
After the site, we went out to lunch at a “local food” restaurant (rice noodles with chicken) and ended with a boat back to the city …with a stop at the obligatory artisan village. Thankfully there was not much of a hard sell. Their hearts weren’t into it, probably the heat.

Home and away


The view from our living room window before we left on Friday
And after a mere 30 hour journey we are in Hanoi
Yesterday we went to the fine art museumToday the Temple of Literature
And the Ngoc Son Temple
On an island in Hoan Kiem Lake

There and back again…Algonquin park yesterday

IMG_20160516_154642 !!!!!!! ROAD TRIP !!!!!!
IMG_20160516_151417
Yesterday, we dropped Heather off at the trailhead of the the Highland Hiking Trail in Algonquin Park. She doesn’t start at the village till next week (…long story), so she is hiking this week to kill time, and I suppose because it is one of her favourite things to do. I had the day off and Alan took the day off so we could go together to take her up. Her cousins will pick her up on Saturday on their way through the Park to mums for the long weekend.IMG_20160516_151352Here they are. What Alan is covering up is the part of the sign which says don’t hike alone. Which is one of the reasons I am awake at 4 in the morning, although it is dawn and so time for the other people to soon find her lifeless body on the trail, don’t you know…IMG_20160516_152447It was great to be back, however briefly in the land of Tom Thompson. I spent five feild seasons in Algonquin park when I was Heather’s age, back in my biology days. IMG_20160516_155351It is truly one of my favourite places on earth. No matter where I go, it will always be one of the best. IMG_20160516_165133This church on the way up to the Park has always killed me. It is literally in the middle of nowhere, yet it is so huge. When you google the nearby village of Wilno, Ontario, you find out about its “famous” annual chicken dinner.IMG_20160516_170028This nearby plaque explains the history of the Polish settlers in the area. There was probably a lot of timber money in the past to bankroll the church. They clearcut the whole area and sent it floating down the Madawaska River and on to the Ottawa River and the world at large. I remember seeing the log booms from the Peace Tower of the Parliament buildings as a kid, when they were finishing up the process 50 years ago.IMG_20160516_155804This is the trees now. Still beautiful but not really very old.

Ok, I lied…one more travel post

IMG_20160505_045825Just before my flight was supposed to start boarding, I heard my name over the PA system. When I got to the flight crew, they handed me a new boarding pass for business class. YEAH!
This was my first and maybe only time in business class so when I was greeted with a tray of wine, beer, fresh squeezed orange juice, and Champagne, I chose the Champagne to celebrate, even though I pretty much hate it. The next time I had a Heineken, cause I am much more of a beer gal.IMG_20160505_050009I was also given a flight kit with socks, blindfold, earplugs, lipbalm, toothbrush and paste.IMG_20160504_173429They have WAY better food in business class, served with a ‘tablecloth’ over your tray and real glassware, china and heavy cutlery wrapped in a cloth napkin (so you know you are in a classy joint). This was dessert course of the first meal. When the flight started, the pilot announced that there was someone with a peanut allergy on board, so there would be no peanut service… No problem in business class, they serve your choice of gouda or mixed nuts (the no peanut kind) IMG_20160504_201802Of course, being me, I spent most of my time watching movies on a much bigger screen than I would have had on the other side of the curtain. The chair reclines and changes shape infinitely. I was using those buttons constantly. No chance to get uncomfortable! Oh, and did I mention the massage feature? And the two rounds of hot towels.IMG_20160505_045925At the end of the flight, they gave me this little ceramic house. I had previously been unsuccessful in finding a small object to join the collection I have of little mementoes from my travels. This will do nicely. If I had actually paid for this experience, the difference in price would have probably equalled the amount of money I spent on 6 weeks of hostel accomodation. Would I pay for it? No way. Anybody who knows me knows I am too cheap for that. But it was a perfect ending to a perfect trip and it was by far the shortest 7 hour flight I have ever been on.