Christmas in Montevideo – Part 2 – Buenos Aires

Thursday, December 20, 2018, Buenos Aires

My plane landed in Buenos Aires, probably an hour before the plane from Toronto, carrying J.P. and Ellen, Patrick and Rosie, and Andrea.  I made contact with Eilat and Vivianne, our transfer person, and waited.  Eventually they processed through and we were off to our hotel, The Brick, a Sofitel, in Recoleta.  It was around noon, and we had all been traveling all night and then some.  We got our rooms right away, dropped our luggage and went out for lunch.  We plan to be fully on Buenos Aires time, by tomorrow.  We pretty much are, already, just tired.

 

There is a currency crisis in Argentina, and it’s the holiday season.  The HSBC ATM in the upscale mall, across the street, wasn’t even giving the natives money, much less us.  We had lunch there, though, and it was good.  After lunch, Patrick, Rosie, Andrea and I went out on the streets, following the hotel’s directions, to the nearest ATMs.  None of them was in the mood to accept the Royal Bank’s debit cards but Patrick got some money out of another Canadian Bank through the National Bank of Argentina, about eight blocks away.  We’ll keep trying, but now it was nap time.

We had a dinner engagement, planned by my BA friend, Eilat. We were going to a restaurant she was dying to try.  It was called Mishiguene and, when I just googled it, I found out it is one of the Diners’ Club 50 best restaurants in the world.  Singlethread in Healdsburg is on that list, but The French Laundry and Per Se aren’t any more.  There are three in Tokyo, though, so I’ll be dragging Trish and Steve to at least one of them.

We were ahead of the crowd, so Mishiguene’s celebrity chef, Tomas Kalika, had time to help us choose our meal and wine.   The cuisine is “Modern Jewish” and it was unique and wonderful.  It was served like a Chinese dinner, all about sharing. I was too brain dead to list all the appetizers, but I remember the one I contributed.  It was Kibbeh Nayeh.  It wasn’t quite what I was expecting, which was a pile of raw lamb with bulgar and spices.  It was just outstanding, though, as was everything else Tomas served us.  By the time we got to the mains, we were filling up, and we had ordered two bone-in pastramis, grilled and sauced up, with caramelized onions draped over the sides.  It was too much.  We sent more than half a pastrami home with the delightful Eilat, for her husband, who had been baby-sitting.

Eilat was thrilled with her treasure and called her husband, César, from her taxi to tell him she was bringing home supper.  He said he had already eaten. She got home, triumphantly put the box on the table and told him to dig in.  He said he had already eaten.  She got him a knife and fork and opened the box.  He said he had already eaten, and then he saw it.  He was persuaded to have just a bite.  He ate the whole thing.  He was very happy. Don’t miss this restaurant when you visit Buenos Aires. http://www.mishiguene.com/prensa.php

Of the four taxis we took, one had a dishonest meter, so J.P. Ellen and I paid double to get there, but we were a lot smarter on the way back, and we had Eilat cautioning the driver, not to try that.

Friday, December 21, 2018, Buenos Aires

We slept like logs and just made it up for the last half-hour of The Brick’s buffet breakfast, which is absolutely excellent.  I took Chase’s ATM card out and had better luck getting money.  RBC still wasn’t giving me a peso.  I had work to do for my Distinctive Voyage on board, so I bought the rest of the group a tour guide for the afternoon.  They all liked Soledad a lot and had a lovely time with her, at Eva Peron’s grave and all the usual Buenos Aires highlights, except …… JP got attacked for his Rolex.  He fell but he managed to hang on to it.  The perp got away on the back of a motorcycle.  JP took it off and put it in his pocket.  Less than half an hour later the same perps had the nerve to try again.  Unbelievable.  What else is unbelievable is that he was able to identify them, following the group, in one of Patrick’s photos.  Here they are:20181221-13BuenosAiresPerps

There was no fancy dinner this night, we were going out to tango with Soledad.  We weren’t seeing a Tango Show.  We went to a place where the locals go to tango.  We left the hotel around 9:30 pm.  I hadn’t had dinner yet, so I was dependent on the snacks they would serve.  The others hadn’t had all that much, either, just a few treats on tour.  We were hungry.

Soledad took us to a Milonga.  We were the only tourists in the place.  The other couple of hundred people were there to dance the tango.  The tables were set so almost everyone could face the dance floor, especially on the boys’ side and the girls’ side.  The couples sat at tables on the ends.  That way everyone knew who was who.  Very efficient.  All the ladies had proper tango shoes, as did Soledad, and she put them on.  No one asked her to dance, though, doubtless because she was busy with us, because she’s lovely, and serious about tango.  It was wrong, but we, myself in particular, were pretty focused on food, and we were not in luck.  They had three little empanadas left, and some terrible pizza.  We ate it anyway, and we drank bad wine.  JP was smart.  He had a giant Stella Artois in a thermal cooler. He also had a pretty sore shoulder, thanks to having hit the pavement a couple of times.

We were glad we went, because we like authentic cultural experiences, but none of us was ever going to tango, so we left around eleven.  The night was young, if you tango, but we just wanted to go back.  I know Soledad was disappointed in us, but she had been with the group when JP was assaulted, so she understood.  We went back to The Brick.  I gave JP my Voltaren and Andrea and I went to Rosie and Patrick’s room to share their very nice Canadian wine.  Yes, I did write that last sentence.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

After another yummy Brick buffet, Rosie, Patrick and Andrea went walking around town, which they love to do.  JP, Ellen and I went to the Brick’s fitness center, which had a nice little covered pool, as well as the usual machines, weights and mats.  I got an hour of exercise in, along with a short swim.  Ellen swam a lot more, and JP rested and nursed his sore shoulder.  Then the three of us walked to the Saturday Artisan market in Plaza Francia to spend a fun hour.  I ended up buying a bag of plastic bags.  Well, it was supposed to be a sleep shirt.  I think I insulted the vendor, when I made a fuss over examining my change for a thousand pesos.  I had been caught with counterfeit, on a previous trip to B.A.  She fixed me.  The money was real, but the shirt was fake.  She probably need the $7.50 a lot more than I did, but I felt pretty stupid, all the same.

Eilat was coming out to play with the three of us, all of whom knew her from previous trips.  Ellen and I had found the Alvear Palace Hotel on the way to the bank the day before.  It was perfect, a Grand Dame, with a perfect English Tea.  At a little more than $25 per person, it was less than half the price of all the other Grande Dames I know.  Apart from the scones, cucumber sandwiches, smoked salmon and petit fours, it included a glass of champagne and desserts from the trolley.  20181222BuenosAiresAlevearPalaceEllenEilatHelenJP200pxBy the time the trolley came along, we were thoroughly stuffed.  Lucky César, again, Eilat chose him four, full size, delectable pastries.  He may start liking minding their little daughter, if she keeps coming home with the treats.

We had to eat again in a couple of hours.  You can’t do Buenos Aires without a fabulous steak dinner.  Belen, our hotel concierge, had found us Piegari Carnes, a couple of blocks up the street.  The ojo de bife’s were fabulous, and cooked right, and the Malbec was delicious.  The bill came to about $75 a couple, which wasn’t bad for the quality, but not a patch on Mishiguene, where we had twice as much very good wine, and paid about the same.  We recommend both these restaurants, as well as The Brick Hotel.

Sunday, December 23, 2019

There’s not much to do on boarding day except board.  Vivianne came back with her van to pick us up at 12:30 pm.  The van driver and bellmen began loading it up.  She kept suggesting they try to close it before they topped it up with luggage.  She must have told them three times before they found out for themselves.  Ellen and I knew, too.  When the bottom suitcase won’t let the door close, there’s little point in finishing the job, until you solve that one.  But what did we know?  We were just women.  But we had a secret weapon, Patrick, a man who was really good in geometry.  He stepped in and solved the equation in a jiffy. QED.

Boarding was slow, but uneventful, the way you want it.  I had trouble getting the info I needed for the Distinctive Voyages letters, though, and Andrea had trouble getting her suitcase.  We got the folders all ready, but not delivered, by dinner time.  I recorded the broadcast welcome, and we delivered them after dinner.  It was a pretty good dinner, and we all fell into bed, after we had delivered the letters.

Christmas in South America – Part 1

Friday, December 21, 2018

It was busier than ever this year before I left. I had deliverables on no less than six cruises, this one, another Christmas junket to Mexico, Shanghai to Singapore, Shanghai to Tokyo, a SilverSea combo that was complicated, and a brand new one, National Geographic circumnavigating Iceland, in July.  I sure would like to go along on that one.  I might.  They have single cabins.

Anyway, I curtailed my social life for a few days and got it all done, with two nights that I could socialize, and I did.  Sylly P was moving downstairs to Steve and Trish’s apartment, and her vet was visiting her mother, next door to me.  She brought Sylly P some meds, including steroids, for her unrelenting diarrhea.  (Only I would discuss this in my blog, I know).  It’s no joke.  It has been going on for months, but the pooping puddy tat is otherwise healthy, acting normal, and so far, not messing the rugs.  Steve and Trish and I had dinner on the 17th with Dan, her vet’s husband, and Geri, her mother.  And last night she moved in with the Harrolds.  It was strange, not having her in bed, especially as she had been so loving the night before.  I missed her warm furry little body.

I had booked a couple of last minute things for our holiday, yesterday, and woke up this morning realizing that re-printing our itinerary and sending it to Montreal would be a very good idea, so I did that, and the long suffering Eric put up with me being 25 minutes late out the door.

The Petaluma narrows didn’t do us in, but there was a lot of traffic getting through Marin.  It didn’t matter to me, as my plane was only scheduled to leave at 12:15 pm, but it put Eric in a crunch for his next ride.  I used the time to wish the family a Merry Christmas and to call the Montreal friends who were flying out later to join me.

I had to call them again from the airport, and Eilat, my Buenos Aires friend, too.  After I had left my checked bag, and was comfortably settled on the pot for my morning constitutional, AA sent me a text saying my plane now wasn’t leaving until 12:50 pm, and I would likely miss my connection to Buenos Aires.

On that happy note, I got back into the service line at American, and waited over an hour, because I had been too cheap to pay for Business Class or even an extra $33 for “Priority Service.”  I had paid for a seat upgrade, mind you, but priority service was extra.  No wonder everybody hates flying now.

By the time I got to the head of the line, I had another text to say that my SFO-LAX would now leave at 12:35 pm.  I stayed in line and talked to the agent.  I figured I had earned it.  She was most reassuring that the plane would dock near the LAX-EZE plane and I would make it.  I headed for the gate.

On my way there, lo and behold, I passed a yoga room.20181219YogaRoomSmaller

It was pretty basic, but there were a couple of mats, and some sanitizing wipes, and I had a half-hour to spare.  By the time I was done, there were five people in there, all of whom could put me to shame, but I am sure it did me good.  By the time I got to the gate, it was almost time to board.

Of course, the plane left late, and by the time it got to LAX, we had to dock at a farther gate, and there were less than 10 minutes before take-off, for Buenos Aires.  I shouldered my backpack, grabbed Rroffice (Red rolling office) and took off at a very fast walk.  A couple of minutes later, I was at the gate, which was closed, but they were waiting for us.  I was the first passenger from LAX to get there, and I wasn’t even breathing hard.  “I’m a healthy little old lady”, I said.  The gate agent wanted to know what I ate.  I had to fess up to the fact that my diet contains absolutely no green vegetables.  That even impresses my own doctors.

So, here I am on American Airlines inaugural non-stop flight LAX-EZE, with my computer balanced on its spine, because the person in front of me is rude enough to recline the seat.  Welcome to the friendly skies. They can’t get much friendlier.

And about the blog.  Please always remember to practice safe sex with the Internet – If you answer this blog be very sure your coordinates don’t appear in the message.  Better still, email me directly.  You know my email.

Happy Holidays, and Purrs,
Helen and Sylly P

SyllyPEmailGraphic

 

California is on Fire Again – Part 2 – Final, I hope

California is on Fire, again – Part 2

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Sylly P is in good spirits and still asking for food.  If she would just not be pooping all over the place…  Maybe these antibiotics are working.  I hope I have long enough here to find out.  The air quality is a bit better this morning but the Camp Fire (Don’t you love the name?) is up to 109,000 acres and 25% contained.  If the acreage would stop going up with the containment, that would be more cheering.   Over 6500 structures have been destroyed, most of them homes.  Most of them poor old folks.  You want to cry.

Many people have written about Sylly P, whom, by the way is a lot better today.  I started giving her cannabis oil three days ago, and it has given her the munchies.  She’s grooming herself again, and is most social.

Marilyn Salhany wrote: “Poor Sylly P.  She probably  missed Elvon more than you realized if you say she got sick last Christmas.  Pets are funny that way.”    Sure enough, I noticed the coincidence.  It started with her pooping in the bath tub, and that happened very soon after his death.  The odd thing is he hadn’t lived with us for 2 months, but I suppose I brought his scent home every night, and then no longer.

Sylly P is getting better every day, but my poor carpet is still in pain.  We’re only half-way through the antibiotic, so there’s still hope.  We’re expecting rain next week, so it will soon be over for this year.  There is concern for what the future holds, if you believe in Global Warming, and, I do.

So, a last note, from the SF Chronicle:

Camp Fire: Death toll grows to 48, Butte County requests National Guard help in search for remains

Kurtis Alexander and J.K. Dineen Nov. 13, 2018 Updated: Nov. 13, 2018 10:57 p.m.

Fire181114smallerCHICO, Butte County — The death toll from the Camp Fire, already the worst California has ever seen in a wildfire, grew by six to 48 on Tuesday, officials announced at an evening news conference.

The Camp Fire grew to 130,000 acres and was 35 percent contained as of Tuesday evening.

It had destroyed a total of 8,817 structures — including 7,600 single family homes and 260 commercial buildings, officials said. Officials said 5,615 personnel were fighting the fire; 52,000 people remained evacuated in and around Paradise and 13,085 people remained sheltered.

The conditions in Butte County are extremely dry, officials said. They said 212 days have passed since it has rained in the area.

With the cadaver dogs and search and rescue teams still scouring the obliterated structures in search for human remains, it’s still uncertain when property owners will be allowed to return home.

 

Upcoming: 3 nice cruises

For those of you who have been asking where I go next, that’s Buenos Aires to San Antonio, on Celebrity, Eclipse, December 23, with add-ons in BA and the Chilean Wine country. https://tinyurl.com/2018BAtoChile

If you want Asia, I have TWO choices for you:

I’ll be hosting on Celebrity – Millennium – March 30, Shanghai to Tokyo, 14 days
Celebrity Millenium – Shanghai to Tokyo – 2 back-to-back China/Korea and Japanese Explorer: https://tinyurl.com/2019ShanghaiTokyo

Start with a few days in Shanghai, then”

  • Seoul
  • Beijing – 2 overnights
  • Jeju Island, South Korea
  • Kobe, Japan – overnight
  • Mt Fuji

End in Tokyo –Stay a few days there.   I have good friends to help me script that.

https://tinyurl.com/2019ShanghaiTokyo

Then, I have four exceptionally nice ladies from L.A. who are going, Shanghai to Singapore, also on Celebrity, in eraly February.  I have been working with these gals for a few months, and they are all lovely.  They like to travel well, and they don’t quibble.  I have some pretty nice stuff lined up for them.  Read my own Asia blog from last February, to get the flavor.  They’d be happy to have a couple more people along to share private tours, etc.

Email me about any of these, or anything else you want.  I’ll be home when you get this.

 

 

 

California is on Fire, again

Fire181110smaller

Thursday, November 8

There’s a big wildfire to the east of us.  It started at 6:30 am and grew rapidly.  By the end of the day it was bigger than our fire had been, and the smell of smoke was heavy in the air.  Our normally raucous chickens were very quiet when I went to feed them and pick up the eggs.  I’m spooked.

Friday, November 9

The big fire is 170 miles away, in Butte County, but the smoke is so bad here that I had to get off the treadmill after five minutes.  Then I got down on the floor and had to quit exercising after about 20 minutes because I was getting headachy and nauseous.  This is in an air-conditioned room, with its door taped shut.  My apartment is better sealed and I have a “Molekule” air purifier which is doing its job.  But it’s no picnic.  We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

So far my internal systems are holding and that will be true as long as the power stays on and the fires don’t come too close.  They are predicting high winds again for tonight and Monday night.  I am trying to keep busy.  I have plenty of work to do.  If we have to evacuate, I’ll have to stop at a vet’s and have Sylly P put down.  She has been sick since Christmas.   I gave up on the holistic vet, whose treatments never ended, and were very hard to administer.  She is now on anti-biotics, 2nd round, this time directed at colon and bladder.  4 days into that, and I am still cleaning up, two or three times a day.  I have a wonderful offer from the Scalbergs in Carmel, again, but if I get there, it will be all alone and very sad.

 

 

Upcoming: 3 nice cruises

For those of you who have been asking where I go next, that’s Buenos Aires to San Antonio, on Celebrity, Eclipse, December 23, with add-ons in BA and the Chilean Wine country. https://tinyurl.com/2018BAtoChile

If you want Asia, I have TWO choices for you:

I’ll be hosting on Celebrity – Millennium – March 30, Shanghai to Tokyo, 14 days
Celebrity Millenium – Shanghai to Tokyo – 2 back-to-back China/Korea and Japanese Explorer: https://tinyurl.com/2019ShanghaiTokyo

Start with a few days in Shanghai, then”

  • Seoul
  • Beijing – 2 overnights
  • Jeju Island, South Korea
  • Kobe, Japan – overnight
  • Mt Fuji

End in Tokyo –Stay a few days there.   I have good friends to help me script that.

https://tinyurl.com/2019ShanghaiTokyo

Home and Rome – Part 11 – FINAL for now

We all had the same plane to catch, on Friday, October 19, Air Canada 893, to Montreal.  The Fairchilds and Martins live there, and I had a eulogy to give for Paul Terni at 5:00 pm, Montreal time.  We caught the 9:00 am shuttle from the Hilton – Rome Airport, for our 11:45 am flight.  It would have been plenty of time, had there only been two or three wheelchair passengers, as we had one of them.  However, there were a bunch of them.  I heard eleven.  Our wheelchair passenger ended up walking, with the aid of a luggage cart, but it didn’t help much, as a good five of them didn’t have the option.

We ended up missing breakfast entirely, and we reported it to Air Canada and the airport officials.  They should take notice, too, because the plane had to wait for all they wheelchair bound passengers to be aboard.  It wasn’t their fault.  They were all there two hours before takeoff.  The plane took off a whole hour late and only made up 10 minutes of it.

Instead of touching down at 2:40 pm, it was 3:30 pm.  Thank the Universe for the Fairchilds’ daughter, Christa, who was picking them up. I couldn’t have got a taxi anywhere near as quickly. I walked through the door of the beautiful Mount Royal Funeral Complex, on the dot of five, and slipped into the second row, on the extreme right.  Just behind the family.  I was scheduled second to last, just before Paul’s daughter, Jennifer, herself.

When the MC called on me, Jennifer rose to tell everyone my plane was late, and I had not made it.  I was standing just behind her and gave her a surprise hug, before I took the stage.  This is what I said:

Paul Terni, my boss, my mentor, my tenant, my travel buddy, my client, my patient, my friend.

20020803-07 OwlsHeadPaul

As Paul reminded me himself, the week before he died, it was 46 years ago when I walked into the office of the new IBM Ed Center manager, and asked him “Do you play Bridge?”  and then “Do you drink?” Affirmative answers got Paul and Andrea into the best Bridge group, ever.  We met once a month, on a Saturday night, played all seven rounds of Chicago, drank like fish, ate a gourmet meal, prepared by the hosts, and three couples drove home, while the fourth cleaned up.  It was usually around 4:00 am on Sunday.

Every good manager finds a few subordinates they and can trust with any project.  Paul found that in me and took me with him.

When my then-husband was one of the salesmen on the Air Canada proposal team in the early ‘70s, and Paul was in charge of the Technical Support Team, he added me to it. After months of technical work, the proposal itself was getting out of control—all four two-inch binders of it. We were up against a deadline and the thing was a mess.  Paul was called in and he devised a plan.  It involved putting one person on point and filtering all documents through her.  That would have been me.  I sat at a terminal for 28 hours straight.  They fed me at my desk, but nothing went into the final version, when I had to go to the bathroom.  We printed, bound and delivered the proposal in time.  We still lost, but Paul had made me a hero.

Paul switched to sales after that, heading up the Canadian Pacific team, three salesmen and four systems engineers, and I was one of them.  When CP went Amdahl, IBM, in its infinite wisdom, kept the team together twiddling its thumbs for almost a year.  We all found our own ways out, of the company, and went on to better things.

Right around then, Brock and I split, and when my dog was six years old, she had lived in seven houses.  The last one was 425 Victoria, in the heart of Westmount village.  When I took it into my head to try my luck in Hong Kong I needed a tenant, who would manage the duplex.  Paul and Andrea were in the process of selling their TMR house and moving to Magog.  They needed a pied à terre, where Andrea could teach yoga and Paul could keep working, during the week.  Next thing you know, we had another wonderful relationship.

When I came back from Hong Kong, five years later, re-married, Elvon and I went to live in the Napa Valley, and moved in with the Ternis in Westmount, for a month or two every summer.  Just like family.

We spent a lot of time with them in Magog, over the last 25 years, and we went a lot farther afield.

Traveling with Paul was special, as he spoke seven languages, which meant you could always get help, anywhere.  We spent our month in Fonte Vetriana, Italy, as if we were Italian, ourselves.  Not only did we visit just about every town in Tuscany, there was a reunion of no less than five of Paul’s classmates from the very chichi Victoria School, in Alexandria, Egypt.

We cruised with the Ternis, all over Europe, we visited them in Magog, and they visited us in the Napa Valley.

We went to Jennifer’s wedding to Phil, at their home in Magog.  Jennifer baked her own cake and I helped decorate it.  It was the best wedding cake I ever tasted.

Michael married Cullen in the Eastern Townships, too. I’ll never forget the fireworks.  If you are laughing.  You were there.

Ten years ago, Paul celebrated his 70th birthday in Puerto Escondido, where they had been wintering for a couple of years.  He said he was tired of celebrating Jesus Christ’s birthday, every December 25th and wanted to celebrate his own.  We joined them, and repeated that for two more years, until it became too difficult for my husband, and we took to sailing around the world in the winter.

We mourned with Paul, Andrea, Jennifer, and Cullen, when Michael died in a tragic hockey accident. And I came up for a week to give Andrea and Jennifer a break, when Paul needed company, and a hospital advocate, all day, every day, while he fought to come back from a four-way heart bypass operation, done under what the hospital calls “dirty conditions”, meaning there was infection in his system.  Not many people make it out of that situation.

But Paul did.  He was a quiet fighter, and a very good one.  You rarely saw him upset.  He would just put his head down and get it.  He made love, not war, and he won his wars.

This year, he met a battle he could not win.  But he was ready, and with his usual quiet grace, he simply bid us all farewell, and left.  The last time I was with him, his doctor called.  I handed him the phone and he said: “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes” in a strong even voice, as she detailed the arrangements to him.  When he got off the phone, we had a little laugh about them not taking “Yes” for an answer.

I’ll never have a better friend, nor one I could respect more.

Upcoming: 3 nice cruises

For those of you who have been asking where I go next, that’s Buenos Aires to San Antonio, on Celebrity, Eclipse, December 23, with add-ons in BA and the Chilean Wine country. https://tinyurl.com/2018BAtoChile

If you want Asia, I have TWO choices for you:

I’ll be hosting on Celebrity – Millennium – March 30, Shanghai to Tokyo, 14 days
Celebrity Millenium – Shanghai to Tokyo – 2 back-to-back China/Korea and Japanese Explorer: https://tinyurl.com/2019ShanghaiTokyo

Start with a few days in Shanghai, then”

  • Seoul
  • Beijing – 2 overnights
  • Jeju Island, South Korea
  • Kobe, Japan – overnight
  • Mt Fuji

End in Tokyo –Stay a few days there.   I have good friends to help me script that.

https://tinyurl.com/2019ShanghaiTokyo

Then, I have four exceptionally nice ladies from L.A. who are going, Shanghai to Singapore, also on Celebrity, in February.  I have been working with these gals for a few months, and they are all lovely.  They like to travel well, and they don’t quibble.  I have some pretty nice stuff lined up for them.  Read my own Asia blog from last February, to get the flavor.  They’d be happy to have a couple more people along to share private tours, etc.

Email me about any of these, or anything else you want.  I’ll be home when you get this.

 

Home and Rome – Part 10

Finally, on October 16, it was time for our shore excursion in Nice, out of Monte Carlo, Monaco.  The weather report didn’t mention rain, so I left my raincoat in my stateroom.  That was a mistake.  It rained plenty.  Most, but not all, of my people were smarter than their fearless leader.  Our guide was excellent.  She really knew her stuff.  Her patter was right on point and we all learned a lot, even the likes of me, who has spent a month in a villa in Villefranche-sur-Mer.

Because we were so near the end of the cruise, I hurried back on board, finished the letter, had it printed, signed it and collated it with the Comments Cards.  Then I ran it around the ship, so they all had them by 3:30pm.

I had one more treat for my own clients.  I took them to the Yacht Club de Monaco, the snazziest Yacht Club in the World.  It’s right across the harbor from our ship, and there’s a Bateau Bus to take you there for 2 euros.  I took a little bottle of Elvon’s ashes with me and dropped them discreetly over the stern.  I think he’ll like it there with the mega-yachts.  Some of them are pretty unreal.  Their owners doubtless belong to the YCM.

I presented my credentials, and letter of introduction, we toured the parts that were open, which, alas, included no restaurants, as 5:00pm is between lunch and dinner.  The dining room opens at eight.  So, we had a couple of drinks in the bar, overlooking the harbor, and saw a good few four figure outfits, on men and women.  The most spectacular one must have been between $5,000 and $10,000.  And it was in mustard yellow, which is only in style every thirty years or so.

We took the Bateau Bus back again for a 7:30pm dinner in the dining room.

On October 17, 2018, in Livorno, Italy, I met up with the Millers and Zahorkas a little after nine to go to Florence.  Life threw us another 5 Euro port shuttle, and that would only get us to a taxi, which would get us to the train station.  There were a few eight passenger taxis for hire there, that had permits to enter the port.  We started negotiating and ended up back at 55 Euros, but it was door to door, no fuss.  We got the deal by taking on a couple of other passengers, overflow from another van.  They had relatives in the other van, who wanted to see Pisa, too, and we agreed to a very short stop there.

These two lovely couples wanted me for their travel agent, too, and I had to tell them I simply could not do that.  They understood, but they were pretty persistent.  Their Agency should be warned that they are very dissatisfied with the service they are getting.

My purpose in going to Florence was to meet up with Edgardo Pinto Guerra, one of Paul Terni’s Victoria School classmates.  I knew him from our month near his home town, back in 2008 or so.  Meeting up was a serious problem, as he had told me he would be at McDonalds, and there were three of them.  Only one was actually in the station, though, so I stayed there.  His train was to arrive an hour before mine, but of course, I wasn’t on the train.  I arrived before his train was scheduled.  I tried to phone him, but the number I had was his home, not his cell, and he hadn’t given me that.  So I waited, and waited.  His arrival time came and went.  I wasn’t having fun, yet.  About twenty more minutes passed and, finally, he showed up.  He had been waiting where the people stream out of the trains.  So why, pray tell, did he tell me McDonalds?

Anyway, it was good to see him, even if I was skeptical about his choice of restaurant.  It was Capitale de Chine.  A Chinese restaurant in Florence!  Edgardo assured me he knew food, and this was the best Chinese food he had ever had.  He does know his Italian food, and guided us well when we were there, but he hasn’t lived in Hong Kong.  I have.  It was pretty grim, and what made it worse was that he kept looking for reassurance from me that it was great.  I can hear Roslyn laughing from here.  Anyway, it’s meeting old friends that counts, and we were getting plenty of good food on the ship.

I walked back to our meeting point at the Duomo, on the corner of Prada and Gucci.  I was a good forty minutes early.  In less than ten minutes I was joined by the Millers and Zahorkas.  We circled the baptistery and took a few pictures.  This is Charles and Rita Miller.  Note the FitBit on her wrist.  I’ll get to it, soon.  It’s part of our story.

20181017-09FlorenceDuomoRita&CharlesMillerSmaller

Everyone showed up for our taxi, more or less on time, and we were off for Pisa.  Rita was sitting in a middle seat and every time we went over a bump, her FitBit lit up, and recorded a bunch of steps.  She was at 11,000, when she first noticed it.

I have been to Pisa before, two or three times.  I don’t believe people who say they have seen everything in Hong Kong or Singapore or any big city, but, when you have seen Pisa, you have seen Pisa, plus I was getting a blister on my toe, so I couldn’t walk much.  When Simon, our driver, announced it would be a one-hour stop, I wasn’t amused.  I was back at the van in half an hour, and the Millers and Zahorkas weren’t far behind me.  The lateness of the hour was bothering me, too, but Simon assured me we were only fifteen minutes from the ship.  But we were leaving at 5:00pm.  Simon assured me there was no rush hour traffic.  I am never sure there won’t be something or other to cause it.

There was.  It was soccer game night and the authorities had closed one of the roads.  Simon got us around it and we made 6:30pm All Aboard, with 20 minutes to spare.  That meant it had taken an hour and ten minutes of mostly back roads.  Rita’s fit bit was well over 14,000 by the time we were near the ship.

October 18, was disembarkation day in Civitavecchia, port for Rome. We five met for breakfast in the Lido, and disembarked about fifteen minutes earlier than our planned 9:00 am.  We knew Cabroma would be there, and sure enough, there was our driver with my name on his sign.  We piled in and were at The Hilton – Rome Airport, a little after 10:00 am.  The rooms weren’t ready, of course, but I got us our boarding passes, and pulled my email.

We had Pizza, Quattro Fromagi, for lunch in the Hilton’s café, and it was very good.  Then I went to the gym, and worked on my computer, until it was time for dinner.  The Martins and Fairchilds insisted on treating me at Miranda, a concierge recommended seafood restaurant in nearby Fumicino.  We still had two bottles left from our second half-price wine package, and I brought them with me.  Of course the restaurant had never heard of corkage and wanted to sell us wine.  I explained how it worked in our wine country and asked them to name their price.  Finally, they just looked at us and said “open your bottle”. Good thing they were screw caps.

 

Upcoming: 3 nice cruises

For those of you who have been asking where I go next, that’s Buenos Aires to San Antonio, on Celebrity, Eclipse, December 23, with add-ons in BA and the Chilean Wine country.

If you want Asia, I have TWO choices for you:

I’ll be hosting on Celebrity – Millennium – March 30, Shanghai to Tokyo, 14 days
Celebrity Millenium – Shanghai to Tokyo – 2 back-to-back China/Korea and Japanese Explorer

Start with a few days in Shanghai, then”

  • Seoul
  • Beijing – 2 overnights
  • Jeju Island, South Korea
  • Kobe, Japan – overnight
  • Mt Fuji

End in Tokyo –Stay a few days there.   I have good friends to help me script that.

Then, I have four exceptionally nice ladies from L.A. who are going, Shanghai to Singapore, also on Celebrity, in February.  I have been working with these gals for a few months, and they are all lovely.  They like to travel well, and they don’t quibble.  I have some pretty nice stuff lined up for them.  Read my own Asia blog from last February, to get the flavor.  They’d be happy to have a couple more people along to share private tours, etc.

Email me about any of these, or anything else you want.  I’ll be home when you get this.

 

Home & Rome – Part 9

Saturday, October 13, 2018, and we were at sea.  It was about time.  Sea Day, Office Day.  I would have liked to have walked “On Deck for a Cause”, but, instead, I set up shop at my desk at 10:00am.  First in were two women who aren’t at all happy with their travel agent and wanted to recruit me.  I explained the ethics to them, and they got it, but they weren’t very happy.  Apparently, they have given this agen a lot of business over the years, and this is the first perk they have seen, and she didn’t even tell them they were getting it.

A few more people came to sign up for the Shore Excursion.  There was a Mariner’s lunch at noon, so I closed up shop a bit early and went to it, with the Martins and Fairchilds. When I got back there were some phone calls to return and I had to get a final count for the Cellar Master’s Dinner, as it’s tonight. Most of the people were out at full price.  Sheila Martin and Andrea Fairchild dropped out, too, but Bob Martin and Page Farchild were coming.  They and the Tsengs were the half price takers, Richard Dixon and Sue Widmore were coming on his four stars, and I paid full price.  I returned what money I had to and dropped a Shore Excursion Flyer for Monte Carlo on Joanne Gardiner’s desk, hoping she and Michael would take my second bus.  I had a spare ticket for them.

Finally, I got on the Internet and found there a delightful invitation from Tony Kilgallen, to appear on his Napa TV show.  I’ll let you know when it will air.

The Cellar Master’s Dinner was a blast.  First of all, it was six courses, paired with appropriate wines, and every one of them delicious, both food and wine.  We had:

  • Seared Foie Gras, with blackcurrant reduction and parsley foam, accompanied by Veuve Cliquot
  • Porcini, Chervil and Artichoke Soup, with chicken dumplings and crème fraiche, accompanied by 2013 Cellar Master’s Blend, Chateau Ste. Michelle, WA
  • Warm Lobster Salad with Truffle Vinaigrette, asparagus spears and artichokes, accompanied by 2016 Domaine Laroche Premier Cru Chablis, France
  • Roasted Tenderloin Beef with Sweetbreads, salt baked celeriac, crispy onions and mushroom foam, accompanied by Flanagan Beauty of Three, Proprietary Red, CA
  • Chocolate Pot de Crème, grand marnier and marshmallow, with Emilio Lustau Pedro Ximenez Sherry, Spain
  • Artisan Cheeses, dried fruits, nuts, crackers, with Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Ruby Port, Portugal

 

But that wasn’t the half of it.  It was our table that was so fascinating.  My clients, Bob Martin and Page Fairchild are a lot of fun, and they have interesting lives and interesting wives.  Both their wives are retired university professors, and assistant heads of departments, both have PhDs, of course.  Then Bob was President of Iron Ore Company of Canada, in Sept Iles, where I traveled, one day a week for about six months, to teach his people how to program their new IBM 360 computers, back in the day.  Page made his money in Banking and Insurance, which is a good way to do it.  Both of these guys can be very funny, and they were.  Sean and Grace Tseng, were a lot of fun too, and we learned that to immigrate to the USA from China, you need a couple of Masters degrees, at least.  Sean just wanted to be a builder.  There’s more money in it.  Grace was in IT, like me.  They live in Houston.

Our most interesting table mate, by far, turned out to be Richard Dixon, by his own account, a 5 Star General, and Commander of the United States’ Global Anti-Terrorist Force.  Gee, I would have thought he’d have to kill us, after telling us that.  He says there are secure communications on the ship that he can use, and a stealth helicopter scoops him off and takes him to meetings, on occasion.  We had to get a picture:

20181013-05KoningsdamHelenPageFairchildBobMartinRichardDixonSueWidmanGrace&SeanTsangSmaller

So here we are: Helen, Page, Bob, Richard, Sue, Grace and Sean, having a wonderful time.  I do have to note, though, that there were more than twenty vacant seats at the diner, meaning there would have been plenty of room for all our people who wanted to come, Holland America Voyages and Distinctive would have profited from a lot of goodwill.  Instead, HAL just looked like a welcher.  I didn’t get any bad reviews.

The next day we docked in Barcelona, Spain.  I like this port a lot, but it was time for another newsletter.  So, I wrote it and delivered it.  Then I went to the gym, pulled my email, wrote a bit, etc.  It was a longish shuttle to the bottom of Lsa Ramblas, and I wasn’t going to have time to do much.

Dinner at the Pinnacle was wonderful, too.  The Waltemaths, Aimers and Wolfs were fabulous people, too.  Doug Waltemath and Al Aimers are both engineers.  Doug builds bridges and overpasses, and Al builds large commercial buildings.  Sue Waltemath is a Dietitian, which matched with the Wolfs.  He was a high school teacher and she a nurse, when their five sons started in to university.  They quickly realized they would need a third source of income and have been very successful selling supplements.  Our fourth couple never showed up, but seven is a better number for a dinner party, anyway.  I surprised them with a couple of bottles from my wine package, and we were all very happy.

On Monday, October 15, we were in Marseille, and the weather was absolutely foul.  It was pouring.  To add to that, the shuttle was long and expensive.  The Med is not as much fun as it used to be, since there are more and more cruise ships.  In the larger ports, we often find ourselves berthed in the container port, instead of downtown.  The cruise lines don’t build the cost of these shuttles into the fares, and they end up with a bunch of disgruntled passengers.  I just stay aboard, especially if it’s raining.  By the time it cleared, it wasn’t worth paying for the shuttle.  I used the time to get the post shore excursion farewell and comments card letter mostly written, as I was going to have to finish, print, collate and deliver it tomorrow afternoon.

Richard Dixon called in mid-afternoon, with his regrets, for the shore excursion.  Something had come up in the world, and he had to stay near his command post.  A few people called wondering if we needed tender tickets, and I assured them we did not.  Anne Cordani wanted to know if she could stay and shop in Nice, and I told her about the train that runs along the Côte d’Azur, and stops in both Nice and Monte Carlo.  It would be an early call in the morning, so I packed everything I would need for the Shore Excursion before dinner.

Tamarind delivered again and we had a very nice meal just we five.

 

Upcoming:

For those of you who have been asking where I go next, that’s Buenos Aires to San Antonio, on Celebrity, December 23, with add-ons in BA and the Chilean Wine country.

If you want Asia, I don’t have one booked yet, but I have four exceptionally nice ladies from L.A. who are going, Shanghai to Singapore, also on Celebrity, in February.  I have been working with these gals for a few months, and they are all lovely.  They like to travel well, and they don’t quibble.  I have some pretty nice stuff lined up for them.  Read my own Asia blog from last February, to get the flavor.  They’d be happy to have a couple more people along to share private tours, etc.

Email me about either of these, or anything else you want.  I do work from at sea.  I just booked a cruise for clients today.

 

 

Home and Rome – Part 8

Wednesday, October 10 – Happy Birthday to me in Cartagena, Spain

Many thanks for thinking of me.  Makes me feel good to know I have so many friends who care.  Lord knows when I’ll pick my electronic cards or get to Facebook.  I am saving my Internet at Sea for plain email, sending my blog, and booking cruises.

In the morning, I called Giawa about the oversold Cellar Master’s Dinner.  He wasn’t in.  I updated my manifest and picture file, while I waited for his call back.  I fielded some calls, and did a bunch of paperwork, updating the manifest and starting a letter that I would have to get out tomorrow about the Cellar Master’s dinner.  Then I went to the gym for an hour.  I didn’t get out in Cartagena, until after four o’clock, and had to be back aboard at 5:30pm.

The guy I spoke to yesterday called back to make an appointment before dinner, with me and the Dining Room Manager.  We met in the Tamarind Bar, before my dinner appointment.  The Cellar Master came, too.  There was no way we could have another date, because the venue was booked every night, and they were almost sold out for Cellar Masters.  I was having trouble believing that part.  It felt like they were holding out to get full price for the dinner.  I explained once again, how much face both I and Holland America were losing.  They said they would take it higher up and we would meet again at 9:00 am tomorrow in the Dining Room.

I joined the Fairchilds and Marins for a Tamarind dinner to celebrate my birthday.  It’s an Asian restaurant, serving sushi, alongside dim sum, Peking Duck, Pad Thai, etc., pretty decent quality.  It’s not Hong Kong, but it’s good.  I got the sparkler in the little cake and the “Panjang Amurnia”, too.  Kristian Grey, an Irish Magician/Comedian was on the World Stage at 10:00pm, and he was no good at all, at all.

Thursday, October 11, we were in Ceuta, Spanish Morocco.  My 9:00am meeting with Tan was disappointing, to say the least.  He offered me 10 spots at full price, for the Cellar Master’s Dinner, and said I could come myself and bring one more person for half-price.  I got that up to 4 at half price and 12 total.  Then we dickered around some more and I ended up with a grudging 12 in the Pinnacle at half price and 10 in Tamarind for 25% off.  I had just taken 5 people for 50% off last night, so I was underwhelmed, but my arguments fell on deaf ears.  I gave up, finished my two-page, somewhat embarrassing, but very clear, newsletter, and delivered to all cabins.

Soon after I got back, I got a call from Richard Dixon, to book the Cellar Master’s dinner as a 4-star Mariner.  That gave us 6 at half-price.  I called it in to Tan and got these two seats added, for a total of 14.  I did get to the gym, and I managed to get out in Ceuta for an hour, where I bought some pretty sexy pantyhose. Tan’s intransigence had cost me another day, when I could have been enjoying a nice port.  This was one of the better ones, as the shuttle was short, and free.

Angela Corso called back to ask me to just return the money, so I did.  Karlan Zahorka and the ladies in 8032 confirmed the Shore excursion.  Lawrence Wilkinson booked the Tamarind dinner.  We could have had dinner on shore but, thanks to the Cellar Master’s Dinner kerfuffle, I didn’t have time to do the research., Hence, the Dining Room.  It’s good and the price is right.

On Friday, October 12, we were docked in Cadiz, Spain.  Charles Miller called to confirm that we would be going to Florence from Livorno together, taking a taxi to the train and on to Florence.  We can decide on the time later.  There will be 5 of us, with the Zahorkas.  Sheila Mason called to book Fairchilds and Martins for Tamarind.  Page Fairchild called that in, too.

Around 10:00am, I went out with the Fairchilds and Martins.  Our plan was to take the brand new Hop On Hop Off bus, and I couldn’t wait to have Churros again.  Well, I just gained some good local knowledge.  There were three ships in port, and City Sightseeing couldn’t jam the port gate, so, they just sold you the ticket at stop Number 1, and made you walk to Stop 2 to get the bus.  That way, you didn’t notice how long the line was until you were in it.  We waited almost an hour to get on the bus.  The better strategy would have been to walk across town and get on at Stop 7.  It wasn’t more than a ten-minute walk, and walking is easier than standing.

Sheila got out at Stop 5, to go to the beach, so it wasn’t a dead loss, at least for her. She got a nice swim, while Bob had a beer, and Andrea, Page and I rode the HOHO around its full circuit.  Sure enough, by the time we got back to Stop 5, Sheila and Bob were getting back on.  We got off at Stop 7 and stopped for a beer at a side walk café.

20181012-05Andrea&PageFairchildSheila&BobMartinSmaller

Then we ambled around some more, looking for my churros.  When we found the place, we also found out they didn’t serve them until 5:00pm and we had to be back on the boat by 4:30pm.  The gelato we found up a side street was a pretty nice consolation prize, though.

There were no more calls re the Cellar Master’s dinner.  I might have as many as 13 if 6 people, plus me, are willing to pay full price. So far, no takers, but I called the 13 in to Tan, for now, along with 9 for the Pinnacle and 5 for Tamarind, me and my own clients.  If I don’t get more for Tamarind tomorrow, I’ll cancel it and take my people, on my 5 stars.

 

We went to dinner in the Dining Room at 6:30pm, and to the Production Show, 1000 Steps, at 8:30.  It was good, but I’ m not up on my modern music, and not sure I care to be.  Good dancers, though.

Upcoming:

For those of you who have been asking where I go next, that’s Buenos Aires to San Antonio, on Celebrity, December 23, with add-ons in BA and the Chilean Wine country.

If you want Asia, I don’t have one booked yet, but I have four exceptionally nice ladies from L.A. who are going, Shanghai to Singapore, also on Celebrity, in February.  I have been working with these gals for a few months, and they are all lovely.  They like to travel well, and they don’t quibble.  I have some pretty nice stuff lined up for them.  Read my own Asia blog from last February, to get the flavor.  They’d be happy to have a couple more people along to share private tours, etc.

Email me about either of these, or anything else you want.  I do work from at sea.  I just booked a cruise for clients today.

 

 

Home and Rome – Part 7

For any friends of Paul’s who haven’t seen it, in the Montreal Gazette, here is Paul Terni’s obituary.  Thanks to Roslyn for sending it to me. I’ll be speaking at his Memorial Service, and the title of my eulogy will be “Paul Terni, my boss, my mentor, my tenant, my travel buddy, my client, my patient, my friend.”  I’ll post it here, when I get it written, which will likely be on the plane to Montreal.  It’s rolling around in my head, though.  He was such a special friend.

http://montrealgazette.remembering.ca/obituary/paul-terni-1938-2018-1070558866

 

Monday, October 8 – Happy Canadian Thanksgiving, a little late now

The Cabroma driver was half an hour early. I scrambled to get out of the room, texting the Martins and Fairchilds, as I scrambled.  Bless them and our driver, we all came together earlier than planned and were on our way to Civitavecchia.  That was an easy ride, too, and soon we were on the nice, new msKoningsdam, launched in 2016.

I had got the Martins a significant upgrade to a Spa Verandah, because Sheila actually has a condition called Loudness Hyperacusis, which means moderately intense sounds are perceived as being uncomfortably loud, and her original cabin, just above the main stage, could have been a real problem.  My five stars, or my super sales performance on HAL, thanks to Joan Westgate, gave me a significant upgrade, too, from sleeping with the fishes on deck 1, to a nice unobstructed verandah on deck 7.  So I traded with the Fairchilds, for their obstructed balcony on Deck 4.  I didn’t think I should have a better cabin than my own clients.  I don’t do anything in the cabin but work and sleep, anyway.

I booked us some specialty dinners and investigated how many people I could take to a group dinner, using my five-star 50% off privilege.  The gal at the desk, brought out a flyer on the Cellar Master’s Dinner, for $89, six courses with wine pairings.  I thought that would be just the ticket, and asked her how many people I could host at 50% off, for that.  She didn’t know, but she went off to check with someone higher up.   She came back, and, to my great delight, told me I could have as many as I wanted, on my privileged tab.  It’s wonderful to have something really special, especially as this ship already has galley tours and a virtual bridge tour, that even includes parts of the engine room.

I met with the Assistant Beverage Manager, the Assistant Shore Excursions Manager, and the Entertainment Coordinator.  I went back to my room, and adjusted my welcome letter, mail-merged,  had them printed, stuffed them in their folders, and delivered them to the staterooms.  On this ship, that takes 45 minutes.  It’s pretty big.  I didn’t finish until almost 8:00pm, so I ended up going to the dining room alone and eating with four Aussies and two Americans, Patti and Todd Hutchison.  Patti and I share a birthday, and we’re both Monkeys.  She’s just the Monkey that’s 24 years younger than I am.

Tuesday, October 9

I returned Helen Wang’s call, which was moot, because she had now read her Welcome Letter, and was clear on everything.  I went down to man the desk.  People came by to talk about the ports, especially Barcelona.  That’s a city that I love, so I was happy to have that conversation.  My people are interesting.  One is involved in an organization called “Feed the 9”.   That’s the 9,000,000,000 people who will be on this planet by 2050.  It’s a scary thought on many levels.  Another told me a very sad story about how her husband died on a cruise ship.  It was a ruptured gall-bladder, so he was probably a goner from the time it happened, but I didn’t like her story about how the ship handled it.  It’s not a cruise line that I promote.

I went back to my room and wrote my cocktail party speech.  I was excited to tell them about the Cellar Master’s Dinner.  I invited him to come, as well as the Future Cruise Consultants, old friends Joanne and Michael Gardiner.  Journeys Ashore bowed out because the first day is a paperwork nightmare for them.  That, I believe.

I also called every single room, reached some people, left more messages, and went to the Cocktail Party.  The venue was half of the Crow’s Nest.  It’s not a disco on this ship.  It’s just a reading room, and a place to access your devices and enjoy the view.  It was perfect.  45 people came out of 62, which is pretty good.  The Cellar Master came and charmed them with his knowledge, and our good deal, and Joanne Gardiner always gives a nice enthusiastic presentation on Future Cruises, then they all introduced themselves.   By the time that was over, 19 people had signed up for the Cellar Master’s Dinner, and a few more signed up after, for a total of 23.  The Cellar Master got nervous, and called his manager.  I got a call, right there on the Crow’s Nest phone.  The caller told me there were not that many places left, as they had had a Wine Tasting that afternoon, and were almost sold out.  I could expect, at best, ten places.  I told him everything I knew, how much face we would all be losing, and asked him if we could find another date and repeat the event, just for Distinctive Voyages.  He promised to get back to me tomorrow.

I went to dinner in the Dining Room, with my friends and clients, Page and Andrea Fairchild, and then to BB King’s Blues Club, which was a lot of fun.

Upcoming:

For those of you who have been asking where I go next, that’s Buenos Aires to San Antonio, on Celebrity, December 23, with add-ons in BA and the Chilean Wine country.

If you want Asia, I don’t have one booked yet, but I have four exceptionally nice ladies from L.A. who are going, Shanghai to Singapore, also on Celebrity, in February.  I have been working with these gals for a few months, and they are all lovely.  They like to travel well, and they don’t quibble.  I have some pretty nice stuff lined up for them.  Read my own Asia blog from last February, to get the flavor.  They’d be happy to have a couple more people along to share private tours, etc.

Email me about either of these, or anything else you want.  I do work from at sea.  I just booked a cruise for clients today.