Thursday, February 27, 2020

those were the days

Image result for la tourette monastery
La Tourette
Many, many, MANY years ago - fall of 1976 to be exact - my best-friend-from-high-school and I found ourselves hitchhiking through France. as part of our great European Adventure. She had a wishlist; I had a wishlist, and one of my priorities was the Monastery of La Tourette.*

*One of my favourite people, ever, was a friend of a friend: James Adams. He was, at that time, a student of Architecture at U.of T. In the course of his studies, he and a friend embarked upon a (sponsored?) sabbatical, with a view to visiting the architectural wonders of Europe. I was an au-pair in France, and later Spain, at the same time, and was lucky enough to share some of that inspiration with them: Notre Dame du Haut, Chinchon, Cuenca. But the rest of those wonders? Noted. For later.

So: later? Me, best friend, thumbs out, France? We arrived at La Tourette  late on an autumn afternoon. We were shown to our "cells". We joined the monks for supper, shared food, wine, conversation. I talked most, as I spoke French. And I have never forgotten the warmth of that refectory, and those people.

In a couple of weeks, my husband and I will be settling into "cells" at La Tourette for a single, special, wonderful, nostalgic night.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020


And then there was Cuba. And it was brilliant beyond measure. A step-by-step (mojito-by-mojito) is forthcoming.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

A Month in Myanmar: take two


We did get to Myanmar in the end. It was glorious, well worth waiting for, everything we hoped and more than we expected. I'll just share a few of the endless (photo) highlights here, and then break down the itinerary and the choices we made in future posts. Suffice it to say: I am still sighing, a year later, with the wonder of it all.

U Bein Bridge 


Nyaung U 


Inle Lake


Inle Lake

Nyaung Shwe

Nyaung Shwe

Nyaung Shwe
Nyaung Shwe







Friday, September 30, 2016

Op hoop van zegen

"Op hoop van zegen", very loosely translated, means "hoping for a blessing". I might say, though, (simply) "fingers crossed".

When I founded this little hamlet on the Internet a couple of years ago, I had grand and honourable intentions: I wanted to demonstrate to the world at large that people approaching/of retirement age (like me!) can still set off, explore, and experience new and exciting destinations. Not only that, but they can do it without benefit of a travel agent or a tour operator....and certainly without traipsing about behind a waving flag and a stopwatch indicating just this many minutes to see what needs to be seen. And they can plan every adventure themselves!

I entered a kind of competition the other day. One of the best travel food bloggers ever (Mark! Migrationology!) posted a link to a Star Alliance contest. The prize? A RTW  trip for two!  My dream of dreams! Can you imagine the photographs I could take? I have zero hope of winning, truly, but I really do believe that the "older" market is an untapped one. Not everyone can muster enthusiasm for a bus tour with included everything.

As I said: no hope of winning. But I do hope that we going-grey-but-still-fit adventurers become a recognised faction. If there was a vote involved, I would smile disarmingly and hope for the best,  but all I can do now is raise a bit of "honoured-citizen-awareness". :-)

Monday, September 28, 2015

second chance seaside

Years and years and years ago, on a rainy, cold November day in 1976, my friend Joanne and I took the bus from Arles (where we were staying) to Saintes-Maries de la Mer. I travelled, back then, with my head in the clouds, and with plans based mostly on beautiful photographs I had happened upon in National Geographic and travel agency folders, so I expected to see red roof tiles, sea, salt flats, and wild white Camargue ponies pretty much all in one glance. But, yeah, it was November, as I said, and grey and miserable, and the town was deserted during low season. All the shops were shuttered, and not a single café or restaurant was open.  The tile roofs were red, yes, but slick with rain. The seaside was empty and desolate, and -- silly me -- the salt and the horses too far away to visit on foot. We took the next bus back to Arles, and I was terribly disappointed.

Les Saintes-Maries were given a second chance last week, when my husband and I drove down to the Mediterranean coast from our holiday location in the Cevennes. The weather was glorious, and the town bustling. We saw the Camargue ponies on our way there, and the salt flats on the way back. The view from the roof of the church was spectacular. The sea was blue.

This time, four decades later, the town was alive with tourists, and all the shops and eateries were jammed. Rather disappointingly, souvenir stalls outnumbered businesses aimed at locals, and a slightly tacky tour-bus atmosphere prevailed, but it was good to experience the town awake, instead of sleeping, and to replace my monochrome memories with infinitely more colourful ones.

Monday, April 6, 2015

indeed, indeed

So, speaking of best-laid plans: we did not take that trip to Myanmar after all. Abdominal pain a week before departure led to an emergency room visit, half a dozen tests, a diagnosis, and surgery, which in turn led to a month-long travel veto. And so it goes.

But: people! Please travel insured! We had not only flights to cancel this time, but several accommodation bookings, and that prepaid boat trip down the Irrawaddy too. We had gone for the "free cancellation" option with all of our Agoda reservations, but the timing meant some costs, and those were covered by our insurance, as were all annulled transportation costs. Having to cancel a holiday two days before you fly is distressing enough without losing vast amounts of money because of it.

We waited until I was well and truly healed, and then we consoled ourselves with a wonderful week in Lisbon.

And it was good.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

the best-laid plans

As I mentioned once before, we are travelers of the plan-as-we-go sort. We may be "older" (ahem) but we don't feel ready for organised trips, and, to be honest, I can't imagine ever choosing to join a tour group beyond the incidental kind. I always fret: but what if I love a place and want to stay longer? What if I hate a place and long to depart tout de suite?*

And then: Myanmar. If my husband even knew what a bucket list was, Myanmar would be at the top of it. I originally campaigned for Laos top-to-toe (including the two-day Mekong boat trip that we missed in January) but hey. I love Southeast Asia wherever and Myanmar looked stunning, so we booked our flight.

All my research indicated that hiring a Burmese agent to organise the whole trip would be easiest. It also indicated that not pre-booking all accommodation and transportation well in advance would be foolishness. Okay.  I love researching, and I love a challenge, so I practically lived on TripAdvisor, Travelfish, Agoda, and for the whole month of October.

BUT: without an agent (though, admittedly, perhaps for more Kyat) I managed to put together an itinerary that pleases me enormously. I can't stray from it, but okay, that's life:

Mandalay - MaMa Guest House
Boat to Bagan
Bagan - Zfreeti Hotel
Bus (not booked yet!) to Inle Lake
Inle Lake (Nyaung Shwe) - Golden Empress Hotel
Flight (Golden Myanmar) to Yangon
Yangon - Thanlwin Guest House

Perfect. I hope.

And the rest of our trip (Chiang Mai and Northern Thailand/Golden Triangle)? THAT we will plan-as-we-go. :-)

And Laos next year. Because it is beautiful, as you can see from the photos in this post...

*An almost-legend in this family: we found ourselves, decades ago, overnighting - in our tent - at a campsite near Huelgoat, in Brittany. Not only did I not feel safe there, but the caravanners on the adjacent pitch made so much noise all night that I could not sleep. Before dawn, I pulled the plugs out of all four of our air mattresses. It may have been a rude awakening for the husband and young'uns, but we were checked out and on our way, happily for me, as the sun rose.