Return to Asia – KL – S’pore – HK – Part 1

Still in Montreal, Tuesday, December 10, after clearing my truck through customs, I took the stamped paperwork to Ginger and proceeded to Cours Mt Royal to look at the apartment next door, which had come up for sale.  It’s a little one bedroom, and it doesn’t boast frontage on three streets like mine does, but they managed to bill it as a corner because it is a notch and has a little look out on Peel, as well as Place Mt.Royal.  It’s also $11/sq.ft. cheaper than mine.  It’s a perfect apartment for a McGill student, in move-in condition, and I could keep it as a rental.  But I am not sure I am ready to have all my eggs in one basket.  And I had a plane to catch.

It wasn’t flying out until five o’clock, so I took my United One-Time Pass to the Maple Leaf Lounge, because my flight was a codeshare with Air Canada.  There’s no rule that says they have to honor it, but all this grey hair is worth something, sometimes, and I got in.  I used the time to order taps, shower heads, towel bars, etc.  for the whole house, from Wayfair, in the only model that Andrée and I had liked at Home Depot.  Etc. were TP holders. I’m partial to those.

By the time I was done with that, it was time to board and I was off to SFO.  The plane touched down more or less on time, around nine, but the gate wasn’t ready, so we sat on the tarmac another half, three-quarters of an hour, got the luggage, got the car, paid an extra $40 to get the “Manager’s Special” down from a mini-van to something I might actually be able to drive.  Won’t book that again.  Couldn’t get the space ship of a Beemer into park or drive, couldn’t find anything on it, did manage to hook up blue tooth, but it was all very disconcerting.  Finally got on the road only to spend an hour and a half crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, which merged down to one lane for midnight construction.  It was about one thirty, when I got to Fountaingrove, where the long suffering Steve was waiting for me. Trish was in England for a funeral.

Steve and I can talk forever, any old time, and we did, over almost two bottles of Pinot Noir.  That set me up for a very good sleep and I didn’t surface the next day until after noon.  I took care of the necessary paperwork to get my FGL deposit back, help my clients, work with my Montreal Interior Designer, etc. and barely made it to a Wine Wednesday in memoriam for Ted Johnson, who had died suddenly a couple of days before.  He was a good friend and Bridge-player, and I shall miss him.

Pat Gustafson had put together dinner for me, and Trish was arriving back from England.  Besides Pat and Mike and Steve and Trish, Pat Finot and Sue and Carol were at the happy table. It was wonderful to see everyone again.  I’ll be back for a longer stay late January.

Thursday, December 12th,  I was back on the road at the crack of dawn, bound for SFO and KL. When I reached the Petaluma narrows, I called Ginger to see how the move was going.  They had hit a major snag.  My custom-made red ginger jar shaped cabinet wouldn’t fit in the elevator.  SculptureCabinet170614small

I guess I should have thought of that.  It’s seven feet tall and six feet wide.  Once again, I thank my lucky stars for having Ginger Petty for a friend.   Who else has a four-car garage in downtown Montreal?  So there it will sit, while I work out the logistics.  I am still hoping we can get it in a window with a crane, but God knows what that will cost.  Alternatively, I have to hope that Dennis Douglas, in Napa, who made it, knows where to take it apart and put it back together again.  Not easy with the bent wood.  Thank you, Ginger, I am your slave for life.

After that high drama, an eleven-hour flight to Narita, followed by a seven-hour flight to Kuala Lumpur, was nothing.  Vellu, the ride I had booked through Expedia, was there waiting, at midnight, and he was delightful to talk with.  He was a karate teacher and twice all-Asia champion, when he wasn’t driving people around and managing the taxi/limo business.  He had a solution for Linda, who had been robbed in her own driveway, inside her gate, last month.  The answer is dogs.  You get yourself a couple of rottweilers.  I can just see Linda, in her wheel chair, and her 95-year-old father with those.

I was still lively when I got to the Cititel Hotel in the Mid-Valley Mall, at two in the morning.  So, at 2:30 am on December 14,  I had Nasi Goreng, before I went to bed.  It was good, and I was able to sleep until 3 pm, when I got up and got ready for my dinner-date.  Ulla’s daughter Angela, and her daughter, Arianna were picking me up and taking me out.  Angela is in her early 50s, Ariana is 15, and we got along like a house on fire.  On the forty-minute drive back to their neighborhood and their favorite restaurant, I caught them up with my move and how to live with Montreal’s miserable weather.  Between us, we came up with “The Mole in the Mall”, which is what I’ll be, while I am unpacking this February-March.  In the future, I have no plans for even being there, then.  The Restaurant was Tamarind Springs, and it was lovely.  We ate outdoors, with a roof over our heads, but no walls.  The cuisine was an East-Asian blend, with a Thai chef, so it leaned that way, to which I had no objections at all.

We talked a lot about Arianna’s future.  She’s a wake-boarding star, at the moment, at a crossroads.  Does she pick her university to further that career or does she settle down and get some serious academics?  How lucky she is to be in a position to even have that choice.  She’s also lucky to be half-German, where university is free, but no wake-boarding to speak of, although she does compete under the German flag. Anyway, she’s charming and level-headed and I know she’ll do well, whatever she chooses.  I am happy to have a young friend to follow, at this stage in my life.  So, thanks, Ulla, for the “you must meet them in KL”. I am very glad I did.

The 15th  was a  Sunday, and it was about time I went to see Linda Chew, my partner in fun, from our Hong Kong days. Her nephew, Steven, with his wife , Connie, and children, Olivia, Edmund and Josephine, from New Zealand, were visiting at the Chew house, which is why I was at Cititel, nearby.  Linda and Steven picked me up around 9:30 and took me back to the house for a breakfast of mango-sticky rice, my favorite.  Yes, there is one fruit, I really love.  I had had it for dessert the night before.  I can’t get enough of it.  Linda’s maid, Maria, makes a wonderful version and packaged some up for me to take back to the little fridge in my room.  It made three more breakfasts.

Linda’s father is almost 96 and he is doing fabulously well.  He’s barely frail.  People ask him to what he attributes his longevity and good health and he says it’s because he never eats his vegetables.  I knew I was on to something and here’s living proof.  Too bad Ted just died.  I’d love for him to be reading this.  He was a vegetarian.20191215-05MalaysiaKLMrChewHelenLindaChew

At noon or so, we all left, eight of us in two cars, and went to Aunty Irene’s for lunch.  Aunty Irene is over eighty, herself, but it didn’t stop her serving a multi-course lunch to 14 people.  Linda brought her maid, Maria, to help Irene’s maid, Annie, but sill. It was impressive.

The piece de resistance was Assam Laksa, which is a fish stew, to which you add five or six chopped things, mostly vegetation.  I liked it well enough to have my bowl, without the veggie add-ons, but I probably won’t be ordering it, when there are things I like better on the menu.  It’s supposed to be quite an expensive dish, if you prepare it right.  Most restaurants cut corners nowadays, so the Chew family were happy to be eating the real thing.  There were also noodles, called “Fried Bee Hoon”, which were very nice.  Dessert was a sweet soup and a couple of cakes, which were really jellies.  They were pretty and delicious.

This family speaks English, when it gets together.  I gather that is the language of the educated class in Malaysia, which was under British rule, until 1957.  The new Malay government would like it to be Bahasa Malaysia, but that’s not a world language and those who can afford to, educate their children in English.  Smart.

Mid-afternoon, they brought me back to Cititel, where I planned to dine alone at Dragon-I, in the hotel, but with its entrance in the Mall.  It was packed every time I saw it, but I was underwhelmed.  It could have been I just made a bad menu choice, because my appetizer was excellent.  It was about six chili won tons.  The noodles were tender and the sauce just right.  The main course, which was the restaurant’s specialty, fell short for me.  It was hand pulled, hand cut, noodles with seafood.  The sauce was thick, brown and unimpressive and there was no end to the noodles.  The more I ate, the more there seemed to be on my plate.  I guess they were getting fluffed up by my chopsticks, but it was depressing not to be able to make them disappear.  I finally gave up.

Monday, the 16th, I was picked up again for a family lunch, this one at Trace, in the Marriott, overlooking the famous twin towers, on the 40th floor.  Yesterday afternoon, and on the way to lunch, I learned a little about Malaysian politics.  You see IMDB, all over the place, mostly on skyscrapers.  It’s a government company, controlled by former prime minister Najib Razak, now famous for his troubles with the law.  He’s currently on trial for money laundering, and there is talk in the papers of adding murder.  He kind of makes DT look like a choirboy.

Linda’s friend Yonne was with us and took me shopping in Brickfields afterward.  Brickfields is a suburban version of Little India, with less of a parking problem.  It sure worked for my cushion cover purchases.  With Lonne and Connie helping with the bargaining, I ended up with five wedding sarees in red, gold, turquoise and purple.  I wanted red, gold, turquoise and black, as those are the colors in my latest art acquisition, an 80” triptych by Zabel.  But you can’t get a wedding saree in black.  It’s bad luck to wear black at a wedding.

They didn’t have any of the white Indian blouses I wear all the time.  So Lonne took us to Amcorp Mall, one that no tourists know about, but, again, easy access and good shopping for locals.  Within five minutes, I had three acceptable white blouses.  Then we spotted the carpet store.  After getting nothing for carpets I had loved, when we moved to Santa Rosa, I was into genuine imitation copies, this time.  I found exactly what I wanted for my office, in what I think will be just the right colors.  All we have to do is ship it to Montreal and get it through customs. Yonne knew where to have dinner, too.  We went to a Japanese restaurant in another mall, called Edo Ichi.  It was excellent and it’s part of a chain, so it can be found in Singapore, Penang and (would you believe) Connecticut.  If it comes to your town, give it a try.

Full and happy, I went to bed around eleven, and, at midnight, the phone rang.  The power had been cut off at my apartment in Montreal.  Silly me.  I had assumed it was part of the condo fees.  I could have sworn I asked that question when I was buying the place and was told they took care of heating and air-conditioning.  I suppose that could be true, but I have to run my own lights, stove and appliances.  Anyway, Andrée told me it was easy and I would be able to do it from here, and she was right.  The Internet and Hydro’s site were very slow, though, and it took me until one-thirty to get it done.  It’s nice to have that crisis averted and nice that you can do this kind of stuff from all over the world.

Over dinner, the brilliant Yonne had suggested I get in tough with the carpet guy first thing in the morning to see if I could add the sarees to the shipment, because they were pretty heavy.   I didn’t get up any too early after that night, though, so it was noon by the time I was back at the carpet shop with the sarees.  While Salahuddin was working on packing, weighing and comparing shipping methods, I found a rug that would do nicely for my living room yoga mat.  Then I found another and couldn’t decide which would work better, so I bought them both.  By the time I was done, I had 40 kilos worth of stuff and a whopper of a shipping bill.  I likely won’t have saved that much in the end, but it has been fun.

I had to hurry to get back to the hotel and change for Linda’s 70th birthday party, as I was being picked up at 5:15pm.  The party was a big deal, a lot of food and a lot of fun.  I took a few pictures.  Here’s the menu:20191217-03MalaysiaKLLindasBirthdayMenu

And the wine flowed, and conviviality led to karaoke, as it has been doing since the nineties, when I was in Hong Kong.  First the only other white guy in the place was tapped to perform, and, bless him, he did a canto-pop song. 20191217-05MalaysiaKLLindasBirthdayTonysingsCantoPop

More and more people volunteered, some better than others, until Linda’s 95 year old father joined in and stole the show.


And the paparazzi couldn’t resist.  They were my two new friends, Yonne and Connie:20191217-15MalaysiaKLLindasBirthdayPapparazziYonneConnie

Dessert was served, we all had our pictures taken with it.  There was a family picture and a friends picture.  I was the honored friend, having come from farthest away, and got to sit beside Linda. 20191217-37MalaysiaKLLindasBirthdayFriends

Gorgeous as those desserts were, I had to show you the dessert that was on the menu and let your imaginations go where mine went:



It wouldn’t be a holiday in Malaysia without a trip to Perlang, a famous local Port Klang restaurant, by the river.  Linda’s friend, Dolly drove us there.  I was pleased to see they had upgraded the washrooms to nice clean western toilets.  Last time, we went to McDonald’s for that part.  The food, however, has gone to the younger generation, I guess, as the chilli crab was sweet, and not as we remembered it.  Next time, we’ll mention that in the ordering process.  It was still good, and always fun.

Linda was ready for another meal that night, but I was ready to crash.  Comcast had called me, at what was 1:00 am KL time, to collect the 56 cents it thinks I owe, and those miserable telemarketers in the US that tell you your social security number has been compromised, called me seven more times between one and seven am.  I am answering everything because I have people working on my house in Montreal, who might need me, but that had been no fun at all. At ship’s prices, I’ll be declining if the area code isn’t 514.  By the morning I was of the opinion that all telemarketers should be taken out and shot.  I know they have to make a living but torturing people is not an honorable occupation. So, we just had tea and I went back to my room, packed and crashed.  I didn’t need supper after that lunch.

Plus, on the 19th I had to get up at 6 again.  Such is traveling.  I was flying to Singapore.  I got to my hotel by 1:00 pm, checked in and set out to find the full-service Chase Bank that Google promised at 150 Beach Road.  I chose a bus and an 11 minute walk, which I thought would be good for me.  Well, they don’t put numbers on skyscrapers anywhere where you can see them from the street, so it took a lot longer to get here, only to find out there was no Chase Bank in the building.  JP Morgan still has a branch in Singapore, but they bank with OTB, because Chase no longer has a presence.  It was important to find one because Fountaingrove Lodge has returned my deposit to my Chase account in Santa Rosa, and I need to get it to the Royal Bank of Canada to clear my bridge loan, before another month of interest accrues.

I took a taxi back to the Regent and had tea in the lobby, with the piano.  Every so often I treat myself to a very nice Asian hotel with such amenities.  I stuffed myself so I wouldn’t need dinner and went up to my room for a nap.  I woke up, did my yoga, cleared my email and called Chase, when it was 9:00 am on the East Coast.  I found out I could do it on the Internet in $200,000 tranches and set about doing that.  Once I got all the forms filled out online, it told me that part of the site wasn’t working, and I should try again later.  That’ll be tonight. Wish me luck.  I’m not having too much.  The US dollar is falling with the impeachment and I am getting less and less Canadian dollars, the longer it takes me to move the money.  Oy.

Today is the 20th and I treated myself to The Regent’s buffet breakfast, reading the impeachment news from the points of view of the New York Times and The Straits times, Singapore’s paper.  It’s four thirty and I have been photoshopping and blogging all day.  This stuff doesn’t write itself.  Now to go to the gym and off to Little India for dinner.


Montreal – La Rentree – Part 2


Sunday, December 1st I spent some time with my computer, still not enough to blog, but I did take time to exercise.  I left the house around 4:30 because I was planning to walk to Park Avenue to meet Linda, Bev, and Wendy at Blumenthal’s, close to the movie we were going to see, part of the LGBTQ film festival.  It wasn’t much colder than it had been, but it was a lot damper and that makes a big difference.  I lasted about eight blocks along Sherbrooke, before I broke down and took a bus, to get out of the cold.  I got there first and had a nice glass of Montepulciano d’Abbruzzo, to warm me up while I waited.  Dinner was good.  They had foie gras, so I had it, and boeuf bourguignonne, too.  The movie was excellent, Vita and Virginia, and yes, Wolfe.  Now I am reading Orlando, because it’s about Vita Sackville-West and I know some of the story.  I am almost half-way through, and Orlando is still male. We came back on the Metro.

Monday, December 2, I signed up online for my McGill Lifelong Learning courses and ordered my party furniture from Bench and Table – 5 banquet tables, 40 chairs, two garbage cans, and two coat racks with hangars and boot bags.  The pavement was dry, but just in case. At one thirty, Joan McGuigan, my Real Estate Agent, picked me up to take me to the notary’s office to close on the condo.  This I did and picked up the keys.  It felt good.  It’s been feeling good the whole time.  The weather may be terrible in Montreal, but everything else is just wonderful.

When I got back to Ginger’s she was home and what did we do?  We went out to dinner.  We picked her local Thai restaurant, which, sadly had been going downhill these last few years.  It had been so great.  But it was good enough and again, within walking distance.  We took cabs, though, because the weather was pretty foul.

Tuesday was full of party related activities, getting all the purchases in and setting up the rented furniture.20191203-01MontrealMoveInParty

The chicken came at 6:30pm and the people followed at seven.  In the end there were 30 people eating warm dead bird, drinking boxed wine and having a wonderful time.  I know I sure did. The snow held off and there were no boots to deal with at all. 20191203-03MontrealMoveInParty

Still no news as to when my furniture, etc. will arrive.  But now I am ready for it.

Wednesday morning, I walked back to the condo, broke down all the chairs, threw out the garbage, and cleaned it up as best I could. Then I walked back to Ginger’s, did my exercises and read my email.  I found out my car had arrived at the car pound and I had 72 hours to get it out of there before it started costing $40/day.  The train is moving.  Ginger and I walked back to Peel St and had dinner at Alexandre, of which I had fond memories of lunches and happy hours, when I was working downtown.  It was good.  I had liver and onions, yummm.  It was, however, pretty empty, as all the other downtown restaurants had been.  Montreal’s new mayor’s focus on bicycles and all the new, as yet unoccupied, condos, have made it very hard to park downtown, with the result that people are eating out in the neighborhoods, where there are a lot of new little restos, many of which let you bring your own wine.  It’s a concern.  We passed the Ritz on the way home and stopped in for a drink at the newly restored bar.  It was very nice but should also have been fuller.  Oh, but the Madeleines, OMG, we ate two orders.

Thursday, I finally met with Andree Sauter, my Interior Designer, at 1207 (the condo).  Here began some very intense days.  We went over the place with a fine-toothed comb and found a lot of stuff that looked a lot worse than it did when I looked at the place in August.  It’s going to be a big ka-ching, but every penny will come back, because it’s one of the best in the building and will surely be the best two-bedroom, when we are done.  We see eye to eye on a lot, but Andree likes her colors a lot lighter than I do and has no truck with red walls at all at all.

Around 3:00 pm, we quit because I had to go deal with the car at the pound and it was sort of on her way home to the West Island.  She drove me to Saint-Laurent, where I picked up the paperwork, and over to customs in Dorval, where it took about a half-hour to clear.  An agent will inspect the car tomorrow, and I should be able to pick it up in the afternoon.  I took a taxi back to Ginger’s.  The weather was awful, all snow and sleet and wind.  Ginger and I were supposed to be having dinner with Maqbool Spencer, but we called it off because she’s in a walker and it was dangerous out there.  We stayed in and had warm dead bird leftover from the party.  Perfect.

The next morning, I woke up knowing I was going to have to insist on my red office.  I had lost a lot of sleep over losing it.  In the end, resale is not as important as being happy in the house you just bought and plan to live in for a while.  I picked up my email and found out Justine Sentenne was ready to have dinner with us and so we decided to be a foursome, with Maqbool, as the weather had improved some.  Ginger and I went to meet Andree at Union Electric to look at light fixtures and taps in the same building.  We got a bunch of LEDs for the ceiling lights, and checked out ceiling fixtures, should my existing ones not work.  Then we looked at very high-end taps, so high-end that it was going to be over six thousand dollars just for the master bedroom bathroom.  I gulped.  Then Andree drove me back to the car pound to pick up Babar, as it was getting on in the afternoon.  He was waiting patiently, covered in two or three inches of snow.  I don’t own a scraper, so I tipped Hugo, who works at the pound, and he scraped him off for me.  Bless his metal heart, Babar started on the first turn of the key, as if he had been in Montreal all his life.  His windows were frozen shut for a few minutes, but that’s par for the course.  I drove him home through the slush and bought him a hand car wash from the guy in our garage who does such things.  Nice place to live.

Ginger and I picked up Maqbool and Justine and their walkers and went out to eat in a neighborhood.  We picked Baton Rouge, which was packed and noisy, and we wished we had eaten downtown in one of the nice, empty, quiet places.  Oh, well.

Saturday, Andree and I met with our general contractor and painter for a good few hours and got a lot done.  It was pretty intense, though, particularly when I rejected the red she came in with as dusty rose and got out one of the Dollar Store red napkins to show her what I wanted.  I can hear Deborah Robertson laughing from here.  Never mind, we’re getting through it and it’s going to be fabulous.  Best of all, I am going to be happy.  I am happy already.  I got back to Ginger’s around five-thirty, did a little work and exercise, and we went to eat at the bar at The Ritz.  That place could easily become our local.  Not a cheap local, but very, very nice. When we got home, I got a phone call from Kevin, the Allied Van Lines driver who had picked up my worldly goods in Santa Rosa.  He would be in town soon.  I would meet him on Tuesday morning at 7:30 am, at the same pound where I picked Babar up, get the paperwork and clear customs.  He would deliver the goods on Thursday, December 12.  I sputtered that I would then be on my way to Kuala Lumpur, but that was how it had to be.  Wait until you see the plan we came up with.  I have the most amazing friends.

Sunday, December 8, we went to the first ever Children’s Christmas party at the Mount Royal Club.  Ginger decorates the club at Christmas, along with the A & P, and Victoria Hall.  It’s her Christmas gift to these nice places.  Anyway, the party was fabulous and lifted The Mount Royal Club, that staid bastion of Montreal’s English establishment, to a new place.20191208-05MontrealMtRoyalClubChristmasRam

The Club President donned a Santa Suit and took letters from the children, there was face-painting and a balloon man, and everyone brought a present to go to the Toy Tea a few days from now.  The children learned the art of tipping, note the balloon man’s hand.  It’s a life-skill they’ll need one day.


I especially loved the carol singing, which alternated between English and French carols.  There really is no longer an English establishment, and that’s how it should be.  It has all happened in my lifetime. Note the little boys playing the piano, along with the pianist. She reacted by drowning them out.  It was good fun.20191208-20MontrealMtRoyalClubChristmasCaroling

Next thing you know, the club will have a woman president.  Ginger would be a good candidate.


We walked over to The Vogue Hotel bar for a top-up dinner, after the lobster rolls, cheese, etc. at the club.  That was a great place, too.  So many great places to walk to.

Monday, December 9, I was back shopping with Andree.  This time we went looking for window shades, which was easy, after the taps.  Then we went to Home Depot, where we got track lighting, a medicine cabinet, a nice bright ceiling fixture for the kitchen, felt and clear pads, a new tap for the powder room, and we looked at floors.  I was still fussing about taps and didn’t like much of what Home Depot had, except for the little powder room tap that we did buy.  Andree vowed to get the price of the ridiculously expensive ones down.  Helen and Ginger ordered in warm dead bird again.  It was wonderful, and easy to digest.  I had to get up at five-thirty and I still had to pack.

Today is Tuesday and I did get up at five-thirty.  My taxi driver was waiting at six-thirty and we loaded my very heavy luggage into his trunk.  We went to the pound and met Kevin and my truck.  I got the paperwork and the taxi took me to customs, twenty minutes away.  I cleared customs in record time.  The nice customs man didn’t even ask for my passport, as he had seen me bring it, well, them, out to clear Babar, last week.  Then we went back to the pound and they released the truck to Kevin.  It’s complicated, but he will be unloading on Thursday, so in lieu of me being there:

Ginger will be there at 8:00 am, Andree will take over at 10 am.  If they are not done by 1:00 pm, Bev will be there from 1 to 3. Andree will return at 3:00 pm to finish up, if they are still there.

I will be at the end of my cell phone until 1:30PM Montreal time, after which time I will be in the air for many, many hours.  I am flying to Kuala Lumpur.    Huge thanks to Ginger, Andree and Bev.  I have the most amazing friends in the universe.  I can’t wait to get back and see what the place looks like.




Montreal – La Rentree – Part 1

Coming to you from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – shows you how busy I have been

“Bloom where you were planted.”  The idea had been haunting me for some time, since the fires of 2017, to be exact.  I believe in global warming, and California’s perfect weather could get pretty hot in fire season.  When our 2017 fire, Tubbs, which was the biggest on record, lost its title, the very next year to the Paradise Fire, I started thinking about getting out of there while I still could.

I came to Montreal this last summer, with the idea of maybe looking around and seeing what was available, in no rush.  Then I saw the cranes and I knew the time had come.  20191125-15MontrealCranesAround 1970, Montreal went through a period known as the FLQ crisis.  French Canada had been lobbying for its language rights for years. It did not seem right that 20% of the population (The English) controlled 80% of everything (at least).  But that’s the way it was.  The FLQ crisis consisted of protest marches, the kidnapping of British Diplomat James Cross, and the kidnap and murder of Pierre Laporte, Quebec Deputy Premier.  Pierre Trudeau, Justin’s father, invoked the War Measures Act, apprehended the perps and all should have been well.  The Partie Quebecois, a legitimate way of handling the situation, was formed and rose to power, with its first premier of Quebec, René Levesque.  The English establishment was not amused.  It picked up its marbles, which included almost all of Canada’s financial institutions, and moved their head offices to Toronto.  What did you think that would do to a city?

I watched all that happen and was never very happy about it, but I understood.  The city was impoverished, property values sunk to new lows, fluctuating with the fortunes of the political parties.  It evolved and filled in the office buildings with more creative enterprises and festivals.  It’s the world capital for French language entertainment.  Le Cirque du Soleil was invented here, and the first circus schools in North America.  We have the biggest jazz festival in the world, not to mention comedy, and a number of great music festivals.  I wouldn’t be surprised if we had the most Michelin starred chefs for one city, too.  Tourism is at an all time high, and…the cranes.  They mean rebirth and growth, and I wanted to be part of it.  I also wanted to pick up a little piece of prime real estate while I could still afford it.

I had my eye on Cours Mont-Royal, an elevator ride to the first and largest underground city in the world, smack in the middle of downtown, but still part of Montreal’s Golden Square mile.  A safe urban neighborhood, where a woman can still walk home alone at midnight.  I scored big time.  I am on the top floor of the old Sheraton Mt-Royal Hotel, looking out at Peel and Ste-Catherine.  I have a two-bedroom apartment, where I have parked just a little more money than I had in Fountaingrove Lodge and it will appreciate handsomely, I’ll wager.  Well, I have wagered.  In the meantime, I am paying less than half of my monthly fees at the Lodge and in Canadian dollars, no less.  I still have to eat.  If I give myself a budget of $1000 a month to do that, I can eat out a couple, three nights a week, more, if I don’t pick the most expensive places.

Ritzie Cracker came in on November 17th and 18th to help me sort things out, as only she can.  They were pretty intense days.  Ritzie doesn’t let you waste a lot of time.  Once I was ready for the packers, I packed myself on the 19th,  for Montreal and my upcoming trip to Asia.. The packers came on the 20th, the movers on the 21st and the car transport on the 22nd. I had been planning to give Babar, my 1998 Mercedes, to KQED, and had it all arranged.  Then I slept on it and I couldn’t do it.  So Babar was towed to a vehicle truck and off he went on the 21st. 20191121-01Rear

Then Steve Harrold drove me all over Santa Rosa, to negotiate with T-Mobile, return the video and Internet boxes to Comcast, mail the Fastrak transponders back, etc.  Thanks, Steve, love you.20191121-11SantaRosaT-MobileSteveHarrold Around five, Eric sent Chris to drive me to SFO and I took the first red-eye I have ever taken in my life.  It wasn’t so bad.  By 10 am I was in Ginger’s kitchen on Redpath, having scrambled eggs.  Ginger makes wonderful scrambled eggs.  She learned on her prom night when she spent the wee hours in the kitchen with the hotel chef, rather than getting drunker and drunker. I can make them too, now, and did most every day for my two-week stay with her.  No toast, jam, or anything else but a bit of ketchup. They hold me longer than an Atkins shake or yoghurt and a croissant and don’t contain any ingredients with 10 letters in them.

Montreal has already had snow.  It had left the streets and sidewalks, but some of it was sitting on a table on Ginger’s patio.  Welcome home, Helen. 20191122-13Ginger'sPatio I went for a nap. That night I walked up the hill to Linda and Bev’s condo on Dr. Penfield.  It’s wonderful having good friends so close I can walk to them.  Yes, I know FGL provided good friends, too, but this is the real world.  Bev made wonderful hamburgers.  I don’t even like hamburgers, and I thought these were super.  Wendy was there, too.  We talked about things to see and do, and I’ll be signing up for the McGill Community for Lifelong Learning, that Paul Terni was so involved with, these last twenty years.  I am going to learn about Modern Warfare, Pity, and Performance in Montreal.  The latter will involve going to a lot of live heater, which I love, anyway. Wendy offered me a lift back to Ginger’s, and I took it because it was 28 degrees out and I wanted to stay warm and cosy.

The next day, I put my nose to the grindstone and turned out a party invitation in franglais:


I was still pretty tired, so Ginger and I ordered from Chalet BBQ, who were to be the caterers for this grungy party, in an empty condo, I hoped.


Sunday, November 23, I went to church with Ginger at the A & P.  That’s what the locals call St Andrew and St Paul.  It’s a rich Presbyterian church with some of the finest stained-glass windows you’ll ever see and a whispering arch.  It’s just across the street from Ginger’s, terribly convenient.  They had a visiting preacher and, if it hadn’t been for Ginger being so well known there, I might have walked out during the sermon.  He was preaching about Jesus’ trial and time on the cross and the mockery he had to endure from government, the people and even the thieves.  That was all well and good until he drew a parallel with what is currently happening in the States.  He went so far to say he wasn’t being political, but I take exception to DT being put in the same category as JC.  This is very dangerous preaching, and if I’m hearing it in Canada, you can imagine what’s spewing out of the pulpits of middle America.  But I digress…

I spent the afternoon catching up with email, and joined the Symansky family dinner at 63 Chesterfield.   I walked there, too.  That was a bigger challenge, as it was more than two miles and it was something like 24 degrees.  My trusty mink-lined raincoat kept me warm, but it was the only one I saw.  Montrealers have adopted down coats, big time, and everyone looks like the Michelin Tire man.   The whole Symansky family was there, with all the grandkids.  It’s such a nice tradition.  After dinner, I hung around longer with Judy, cleaning up and discussing a cruise they wanted to buy, while Adam ran some of the family home and came back for me.  One 2 plus mile walk was enough for one day.

Monday morning, I walked to my Notary’s office in St. Henri, about a mile and a half away.  I signed for my mortgage and bridge loan and took the Metro, first to my bank in Westmount, then to its central station to be photographed for a Seniors’ card, allowing me to ride anywhere in the city for $1.75CAD.  The Metro is fabulous here, similar to Tokyo’s and Hong Kong’s, clean, safe and really covers the territory.   I took it back to Ginger’s, too.  We went to ShoDan that night for some nice Japanese food.

Tuesday, December 26, I worked on Adam and Judy’s cruise and other travel business, cleared my email, started this blog but didn’t write enough to send.  Later in the day, I went out with Ginger and we explored a new Provigo (supermarket) that had opened in the Bell Center, something else I will be able to reach, without going outside, I think.  They had great Teddy Bears for $15, so we bought three, for the Christmas parties we were going to, that asked for Toys for shelters.  We also bought a couple of decadent rib-eye steaks for dinner, and went back and cooked them.

Wednesday, the 27th, I walked to the offices of the Regie des Assurances Maladie du Quebec, to sign up for Canadian Medicare.  Apart from having me wait almost two hours, they were very nice to me, and I’ll soon be a part of the Canadian Medical system.  I rewarded myself with a hot chocolate and a doughnut at Tim Horton’s, on the way home.  All of this walking would be so healthy, if it weren’t for the tempting shops along the way.  Ginger and I ate left-over warm dead bird and had a lovely evening together.  Our days are really intense, but we are a couple of old shoes in the evening.

I don’t remember where all I walked on Thursday, but you can bet I did.  Ginger had left at 3:30 am to go to Minnesota for Thanksgiving with her family.  I went to Molinaux, a Greek restaurant, with Adam and Judy.  Again, I walked there and back.  I will thank you to remember I am doing all this walking in below freezing temperatures.  Ginger lent me a Michelin Tire man coat, of which she has about six.  It’s lighter to walk in and I am loving the walking.  One of the nicest things about it is all the young people you walk among.  McGill is near my place and Concordia is near Ginger’s.  There are only eight blocks between them, along Sherbrooke, which runs between our houses.

Adam picked me up the next morning so I could do a Costco run for the party.  We ended up leaving my considerable purchases at 63 Chesterfield, to be brought to the party on the 3rd.  With the house to myself, I had Linda and Bev in for dinner.  It was lobster and shrimp penne, which I had bought at Costco, and it was very good.  I had procured pastries earlier in the day, on another walk, at Christian Faure, the new fancy pastry shop in town.  They were $6.75 each and they were nasty, compared to our beloved obeserie, the Patisserie de Gascogne, which failed last year.  I have a new theory.  They failed because they weren’t charging enough.  Christian Faure has seen the first and last of me.  I have to find a new pastry shop.  They were pretty, though, and you should have seen the box before it opened up to that flower.  Bev was amused:


On Saturday the 30th, I took Ginger’s car out and hit the Dollar Store, the pharmacy and the liquor store for my boxed party wine and some decent stuff for Ginger’s house.  Then I changed and took the Metro to Place des Arts to see “Come from Away” all by myself, because all my Canadian friends had seen it. It was great, and the audience was most appreciative.  I’ll be able to visit this fine concert hall all I want, without putting a coat and boots on, once I am moved in.

Kincade Fire – 4

The big news is that Fountaingrove Lodge is welcoming us back as of this afternoon.  I can’t say enough about how well they handled this one.  We always knew what was happening.  They bused everyone out in a timely fashion, put them up if they needed it, etc.  Huge kudos to Linda Fisher and her team.

Me, being me, I was out of there before they even thought of evacuating, and having the wonderful friends I have, I haven’t suffered much at all, except for the mental anguish.  With these factors still in play, I won’t be back in until Monday or Tuesday.  I have a bunch of new plans, you see, and free places to stay, while I execute them.  Thank you Pati and Freddie, for two more offers.

Before the fire, I was scheduled to host the Women’s Technical Wine Group’s Annual “Small Plates Extravaganza” at Fountaingrove Lodge, this coming Saturday, November 2.  It didn’t look good for that as of the day before yesterday, with the fire only 15% contained.

I wrote an email, trying to postpone the party a week or two.  That didn’t fly very far.  This is a busy bunch of people and it had been hard enough to nail down November 2, in the first place.  Barb Olmsted didn’t want to give up and offered her home for the “Glamping Small Plates Extravaganza” and that’s what we’re going to do.  We agreed that, more than ever, we need to get together, drink and hug, drink and hug, repeat, repeat.  FGL probably didn’t want to host the party, while people will still be re-entering, and they are in start-up mode on everything, and, frankly, we aren’t totally out of danger.  It has not rained and there’s no rain in sight.  I am still plenty uncomfortable.

So, glamp, we will.  That’s glamourous camping, by the way.  I hired Ritzi Cracker, who had her own fire problems, but I think it was just a power outage.  She lives up near the fires, nearer even than I do.  We’ll use paper plates, but Barb says she does have enough silverware, napkins and table cloths.  I’ll pay for everything I can, it will still be way cheaper than the bus I had promised to provide without checking its cost.  The bus company was charging me by the hour for six and a half hours, not just two trips.  Now I have learned a lesson without having to pay for it.  “tis an ill wind that doesn’t blow some good.  I’ll take a picture of the menu and send it out Sunday.

So, I am going to take Maurine Potter to the party, as my date.  This party is where the husbands come and every member brings three bottles of the winning wine from her tasting and a dish to pair with it.  I’ll take a picture of the menu and post it here on Monday, with thanks to Barb, et al, but especially Barb.

Pat and Mike have been out as long as I have, and for the same set of reasons.  Yesterday, Pat reported that they had spent a couple of days at a casino in Reno.  Brilliant idea.  The rooms are cheap, because they want you to gamble and the drinks are free, if you do.  Mike got them a bunch of free drinks and came out fifty cents ahead.  And I thought I was good at this evacuation stuff.

I’ll be in Napa through Monday, as I have repairs to the car’s air conditioning scheduled at Alpina, who have been maintaining it since it went off warranty, eighteen years ago.

Enough – Happy Halloween to all.



Pat & Mike’s stpry

Kincade Fire – 3

Have moved today, into Pat Perrin’s apartment in Sacramento, while she is in Santa Fe.  Very grateful, Pat.  All’s well.  Had dinner with Mariann, Steve and Trish.  All’s well with all of us, except for being evacuated and more strong winds coming, we hear.  I was in a conference all day today, but I’ll be all over the Internet tomorrow.

Love to all.

Kincade Fire – 2

Just a little update.  The fire is getting worse.  We will be out at least until Friday.

Sue Jamieson, my HK, friend, just wrote: ” I feel you are blessed so don’t panic..soon in the middle of the ocean, right?”

And I answered:  I am blessed.  In the middle of all this I have a choice of three places to stay.  What wonderful friends, I have, all over the world.  Huge thanks to Maurine Potter and Ulla Brown in Napa, who are among the few with power.  More thanks to Mariann Sheldon and Pat Perrin in Sacramento, where I am now.

I am at a Nexion Conference here tomorrow.  If Alpina Car in Napa still has power tomorrow, and so does Maurine, I’ll go sleep there tomorrow night and have my scheduled maintenance which includes an A/C problem worked on, on Wednesday.  I’ll probably come back here Thursday, as Steve and Trish will be here by then.  We all need our friends around us and I am blessed with a lot of very wonderful ones.

Thank you all for your good wishes.  This substitutes for long answers to all of you.  You mean a lot to me.

Mariann Sheldon in Sacramento just wrote:  “Sleep well tonight, dear friend. Just think of how everything is working as best as possible in a bad situation!!❤”  As usual, she’s right.

Kincade Fire

I can’t believe this is happening againFire181110smaller

But it is.  I just remembered my blog is the way to update everyone.  I have clients to meet in an hour, so here’s a very quick update:

I am in Sacramento at the Hilton Arden West. I was scheduled in here tonight for a travel company conference. I decided to come a day early. That was yesterday.  Not sure it’s the best place to be, as I passed a fire within a few miles of the city coming in. The wind was blowing west, away from the city, but it could change. It is still blowing stink here. That’s a sailors’ term. I gather it’s obvious.

The Sacramento fire was at the airport and is out today.  I might stay here longer, but I have to go now.

For Montrealers:

Arriving Mtl Nov 22, signing and receiving goods, deciding on paint colors,  leaving again Dec 10 for travels.  Returning to unpack January 27.  Having grungy come see party Dec 3.  STD.  Serving warm dead bird, on rented tables, with rented chairs, newspaper, paper plates, beer and jug wine.  RSVP to my regular email.

Parts North – Part 16 – Home to Montreal

Saturday, September 7, YUL.  The flight was uneventful, and the plane got in more or less on time.  Hertz gave me a nice upgrade to a Volvo station wagon, and I was feeling pretty good, so I decided to go straight to Magog and Andrea Terni.  Not very long into the drive the weather went very bad on me, and I drove through a lot of rain and construction cones.  That part wasn’t much fun, but there was fun waiting for me in the form of a nice steak, sweet potatoes and probably too much wine.

We stayed up until about one, drinking wine and swapping stories, catching up.  Andrea has a man in her life again.  His name is Jim and he’s very nice and pulls his weight around the place and then some.  She’s very lucky and she knows it.  I hope he wasn’t too upset with us old drinking buddies.

Sunday, it was a little hard getting up, but a night like that resets the body clock and I was fine.  I didn’t get to play tourist in Magog, because I had calls and paperwork aplenty.  The reason I have been talking about so much paperwork can now be told.  I was buying a condo in Montreal and the offer went in from Iceland.

I am moving back to Montreal, effective some time around the beginning of December.  I am sorry, but I just can’t live with the fear of fire.  I feel so safe and happy in Montreal.  I have bought a condo in Cours Mont Royal – at least there’s an accepted offer and a mortgage is being organized.  It’s on the underground city and I’ll be cruising most of the winters, anyway.  And… it’s home. It always will be.

I’m certainly not leaving because I have no friends in California.  I have many wonderful ones, but it is what’s right for me.  I have been sleeping like a log ever since I made the decision, which was around the first of August.  I see the city coming back gangbusters, after a long slow period.  There is a wave to be caught and I am catching it, before prices for the good stuff go out of my reach.

By the time I had done my phone calls and paperwork, and a couple of small loads of washing, it was time to visit the SAQ, to buy wine for my hosts.  Andrea came with me and we just kept on chatting.  Then we went back, and I got some exercising and yoga done in her yoga studio. We were due at Page and Andrea Fairchild’s on the other side of the lake at 5:30 pm.  Page’s grandfather bought a huge piece of prime property on Lake Memphremagog in 1912.  Page and Andrea live in one of the original houses on it, to which they have been adding steadily over the years.  It is absolutely charming.  The property, which is now owned by a lot of family members, includes a wonderful Sandy beach.  I took this gorgeous picture at sunset from Page’s own beachfront.20190908-01MagogFairchild

We had drinks and appies there and then went into downtown Magog to a very nice Italian restaurant called Alessa.  I can heartily recommend it for all but the noise level, but we managed, and it was a very nice evening out.

Monday morning, I was on the road again, back to Montreal and my second opinion doctor’s appointment with Linda Snell.  I had to get there an hour early because the paperwork isn’t funny, if you aren’t in the Canadian medical system.  I had to check in downstairs, then again on Linda’s floor, then go back downstairs to pay for the hospital visit, then back upstairs to pay Linda directly.  Anyway, it’s good to have one of Montreal’s very best docs take a look, once a year.  She prescribed Symbacort for my cough that just won’t quit, and I had the prescription filled before I checked in to the Symanskys’ for the night.

I shared the condo news with them, settled in just a bit, and went to pick up Justine and Wendy for dinner with Linda and Bev.  They too had chosen an Italian restaurant.  This one was Il Cortile on Sherbrooke, easy walking from my new digs, as well as from Linda and Bev’s apartment up the hill.  This is one smart, powerful group of women, and I got a lot of very useful advice.  By then the counter-offer was in and my panel agreed I should accept it, since it was only $5,000 more than what I had said was my limit.  This was no time to quibble.  Smarten up, Helen.

So, Tuesday morning, I signed, and went to see my Royal Bank Manager, who put me on to his mortgage counselor and the train started to roll.  The Condo Association’s AGM just happened to be that night and the seller offered to take me. That’s an offer you can’t refuse.  I ended up having an early dinner in Chalet BBQ, with Janet from 61 Chesterfield, which had just just sold in about three days.  I never found out the sale price but asking was $1.8M, which makes Adam and Judy, at 63, pretty happy.

The Annual General Meeting went until almost nine, but there are no special assessments on the horizon, so it was a good one and it was time to move out to Ile Bizard.

I didn’t get there until about ten.  The door was open, but no dog rushed to meet me.  It was all very quiet.  Ginger has hay fever from the ragweed that the floods brought in, so I didn’t want to wake her if she was asleep, but I was starting to worry that Scruffy may be no more.  I must have been in the kitchen for twenty minutes before he finally appeared, followed by Ginger.  Poor old Scruff has gone deaf, it seems.  Dogs suffer from old age, too.

Wednesday, I woke up on Ginger’s fabulous estate.  It had been hit hard by floods and battered by melting ice, the last two years, so there’s a lot of heavy equipment on the property, and the work goes on.  Ginger will be in residence there all month managing it.  It’s still plenty gorgeous, though, and I am privileged to be able to stay there.  I was determined to get my exercises done, before my body seized up on me, which it very well can do.  Ginger’s closet is her exercise room.  It’s a pretty big closet.  We moved a scatter rug in and I got going on my yoga exercises.  Somewhere in the middle, while I was rotating and stretching, the rug started to spin, at speed.  I raised myself up on my elbows and waited for it to stop.  Then I sat up and waited some more.  This is scary stuff.  I took it pretty easy for the rest of the day, but, while the problem didn’t return, I still felt shaky, by late afternoon.  So, I called Bev and asked her to have Linda call me when she got home.  She diagnosed Benign Positional Vertigo over the phone and said it would go away by itself in a couple of days but that I had better Uber to Dinner tonight.  Ginger wasn’t feeling well enough to come.

So I Uber’d in to the city to meet the Morneaus, Brunets and Symanskys at a wonderful BYOB on Villeray called, of all things, TANDEM.  We had a fantastic five-course tasting menu, with great wines, and there I was, barely drinking.  Sad, that, but still a lot of fun and an absolutely top-notch meal.  I wasn’t taking notes, but there was foie gras and steak, scallops, fish…  all very French Laundry at a small fraction of the price.  That can become an annual event very easily.  What am I saying?  It can be more often, now.

Luckily, I felt well enough to drive on Thursday morning, as I had a dental appointment in Cornwall, an hour-and-a-half west.  It was a nice sunny day, perfect for driving.  I didn’t feel quite so well after two hours in the dental chairs, getting a couple of crowns replaced and a good cleaning.  I was up for my cousin Rosemary’s steak and corn dinner, though.  There’s nothing like Canadian corn, in season.  John, my dentist, cooked the steaks.  I like that.  His wife, Joanne, is a physio and highly recommended the fellow I already had an appointment with for Friday morning.  I had done that from John’s office, after his hygienist recommended.  This is a physio who specializes in BPPV, the vertigo thing, and I was lucky to get a cancellation.

So, on Friday morning, I went to see him, but Linda was right.  I didn’t have it any more.  I did learn a lot about it, though.  It was worth the hour of my time and the $90.  Then I had a quiet lunch with Rosemary, at ESCA, who make interesting pizzas.  I got back to Ginger’s in time to hit the liquor store and the supermarket for party fixings.  Our guests were arriving at six.  President’s Choice makes nice bake-able appetizers, just like Trader Joe in California.  This party included Ginger, Rod and Claude, Jo Ann, Chris and Marge, and Adam and Judy.  Only Adam and Judy didn’t get much, as WAZE had directed them by the Laval-Ile Bizard ferry, which was backed up for an hour.  It only takes six cars and rush hour can be a nightmare.  But they did get to see Ginger’s house, after all, before we all went out for dinner at the Royal Montreal Golf Club, nearby.

It wasn’t the gourmet food you’d get at Tandem, nor what we got at Chris and Marge’s last year, but it was good enough and it was quiet.  Quiet is huge.  We were able to talk to each other and we all had a wonderful time.  We drank too much wine, I fear, but we usually do.  Luckily, we still can.  Huge thanks to Rod and Ginger who split the bill and wouldn’t let me step up to it.  I’ll be entertaining them big time when I am a Montrealer again.

Saturday, Ginger and I just nursed our hangovers, which weren’t all that bad,  and had a quiet dinner at home.  Steak and corn again.  You can’t beat it this time of year.  The wonderful mille-feuille from the local bakery was a bonus.  Ginger and I are a pair of old shoes.  Even though we disagree on things like politics and religion, we respect each other’s right to her opinion and we never actually argue.  It’s comfortable and very, very nice.

Sunday, I went to the flea market in Ste. Genevieve with Monique, another very old friend.  It was fun.  She goes every Sunday and all the dealers know her.  She spends fifty or sixty dollars, gets books, jewelry and décor items, and gives most of them away.  You get thoughtful, recycled, cheap presents from Monique and she expects you will give them away when you are done with them.  Good theory, that.

Then we had a nice big bacon and eggs breakfast and I went back to Ginger’s.  We moved to her town house in the late afternoon, to be ready for the following morning, and walked out to dinner at Marcus, in the Four Seasons.  We had a beautiful meal.  This one I remember, even though we drank too much wine, again.  There was corn bread in the bread basket and we had all we could eat of it. My appetizer was spicy tuna tartare and my main was scallops and lobster.  Ginger had a green salad and salmon, and we shared a dessert that had a fancy name which, we renamed “good chocolate goo”.  This place is even closer to my new place than it is to Ginger’s.  We are only eight short blocks apart.  On the way between our houses, we pass a couple of beautiful old churches, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Ritz, Holt Renfrew, the Chateau Apartments.  It’s about half of Montreal’s Golden Mile.  I’m excited.

Monday, we went to the condo and measured, so Valerie Lasker can do CAD with the floor plan and our measurements.  I am going to have to buy a couple of sofas for the living room, and I am going to make them hide-a-beds.  Then the house will sleep seven.  Y’all come.

If you want to see my condo, google 1001 Place Mt Royal, apt 1207.  It’s pretty swish.  It has windows on three sides, so it’s lovely and bright, has nice high ceilings, and looks out on the corner of Peel and Ste. Catherine.  It sits on top of the underground city.  I can walk miles without going outside and I can hop a Metro to Place des Arts or take a train to Cornwall from Central Station.  I think there’s a train to Laval, too.  Most of Montreal’s best restaurants are within walking distance, as is McGill.  It’s a life-changer.  I expect it will make me younger and that’s a goal, too.

Parts North – Part 15 – Scotland Again

Jean called me again at 1:35 am, because the Northern lights were active, and I should go see.  Rolling over to the other side of the bed to get the phone had set off my sciatica, or whatever it is, and I had to jump around the room for a while, before I could dress to go up to the Crow’s Nest.  I threw my “Colombo coat” over my nightshirt, put on my furry slippers and went up there.  You had to go outside where there was no light, and it was cold.  I didn’t have enough on to last until the next flash, or I missed the last one.  I went back to bed. I’ll just enjoy Ruth’s pictures.

September 2 was a sea day and It was just a quiet work day.  After that and some gym time, I worked on my own paperwork and emails, which contained some fun ones from The Als, who are visiting England.  They are doing the kind of stuff I need a partner for, like meals at Gordon Ramsey and Alain Ducasse.  It was Gala night and the entertainment was the Post-Modern Jukebox, which I didn’t like the last go-around.  Dorothy and I parked ourselves in Stryker’s piano bar, instead and waited for the chocolate surprise at 9:45.  I swear this is a different Stryker from the one I remember from about five years ago.  Anyway, he was good enough and we had nice seats for all the chocolate nibbles and sips that came around.  Urp.

The next day, September 3, we were in Scotland, again.  Lerwick is a quiet little town on a Shetland Island, that inspired a lot of Westmount, from what I can tell.  I had a leisurely breakfast and gym time, before going out around one, in nice bright sunshine.  I walked around, bought a linen blouse for ten pounds and had tea in the Peerie Tea Shop.  The scone was home baked on the premises, and the special Hot Chocolate was something else again.  It was lovely, now.  I think this is my best Lerwick picture.20190903-13LerwickScotland

We had a group dinner in the Dining Room, again, and this time I was pouring wine from my wine package.  I had appetizer and main at one table and moved to another for dessert, in an attempt to have eaten with everyone.  It might have been a mistake.  It was a pretty rowdy table.  No one chastised us for it, mind you, and the group was having a wonderful time.  I was so pleased with all of them, that I offered to do boarding passes, a thing I had sworn I would never do again.  These guys deserve it, though.  So, I will.

The comedian was William Caulfield, an Irishman with a plaid suit on.  In spite of it he was pretty funny.

Next day, next port: Invergordon.  I had been in to Inverness before, so I thought I would just do Invergordon itself this time.  Once again, I did all my business and had my gym time, first, so I went out about one-thirty.  I wanted to do an hour’s walking around before I stopped for my tea this time, and it was a mistake.  When I got to the Café at a quarter to three, there were no more scones left and they were only doing take-out, as they were closing at three.  With a ship in town?  Really?  These people don’t understand business at all.  Maybe that’s why the houses are so cheap.  I always read Real Estate agents’ windows.  There’s nothing in St. Helena, for instance for under a mil and a half.  Here you can get an apartment for under a hundred thou, and a house for just a bit over. The wee house looks like this, mind you, but you’d own it outright.20190904-05InvergordonScotland

Since I couldn’t have tea and scones, I stepped into the local hotel for a pint.  I sat at the bar with Mark and Irene from Belgium and we traded stories.  They tell me the next time I find myself docked in Bruges, that I must get myself to Ghent.  That seaside tram I saw the last time would probably do it and I should be able to get by with French.

I had met one of my DV couples in town, and they asked me for dinner, so I begged Dorothy in, and the four of us had a very nice one.  No one believes the age of Dorothy.  She’s so thoroughly modern and alive.  We went to the show.  It was Kaitlyn Carr, who sings and plays Celtic music on an assortment of flutes, tin whistles, etc.  She was good.

September 5, found us tendered off South Queensferry, port for Edinburgh, Scotland. We were lucky with the weather again and had another perfect day.  It was still cool, but the sun was out, and it was beautiful.  I had so much fun in Edinburgh three weeks ago, I decided to take the Lothian bus in again.  Of course, after my oinky eggs Benedict and strawberry crepe breakfast, gym time and email, it was noon by the time I got to the bus and almost one, when we got to town.  Without The Fringe being on, entertainment was harder to find, and time for it, harder still.  So I settled for tea and a mille-feuille at a French Café called Valerie, up the hill after you cross the North Bridge on the way to The High Street, The Royal Mile.  They did a beautiful tea for two, with the finger sandwiches, scones, and all, but I hadn’t had a mille-feuille in way too long.  My San Francisco source has been closed for renovations and my Montreal obeserie went out of business.  Sniff.

Then I walked the Royal Mile, all the way to the castle gates.  I got this lovely day in Edinburgh on my way down from there.20190905-01Edinburgh

We were having dinner with our “first night” table again, but Brian and Sharon didn’t make it.  Sharon came up to tell us and to say goodbye.  Their tour had just got in and Brian is still struggling with a cold, so they weren’t dining room material that night.  So, Dorothy and I ate with Rolf and Marion and I found out that Queensferry itself is a charming hamlet and a good place to spend an afternoon, when you’re not overnighting.  Marion said it was the nicest little town on the whole cruise and I respect her opinion.  She’s an architect.

It was gala night and the show was the Postmodern Jukebox again, and I won’t waste an hour on that again.  I went up to the Crow’s Nest, instead, where Oliver, the bartender, was glad to see me.  He had a note from Lisa, the Bar Manager, whom I had copied on my last letter, circling the No-Host Farewell Cocktail on the next night.  The captains corner was free and she had reserved it for us.  I was delighted.

On our last day at sea, there was a lot of traffic at the desk.  Offering Boarding Passes will do that every time.  I had six couples in less than an hour, all with their data.  I checked it all at Delta/KLM, because often the confirmation you think you need with your airline, isn’t the one you think it is.  When I knew what time to go to which airline with which reference number for which couple, I went back to my room to pack and work on them, as they come up.  Luckily, I had asked them to be in their cabins when their times came up, because I did have to ask three couples to please bring me their passports.  KLM was requiring them, and some weren’t saved with the reservations.

I managed to slip in an hour in the gym, between planes, but it got very busy as it got close to cocktail hour.  I did make it up there with 8 minutes to spare and all boarding passes in hand.  This astounding group was there, in force.  Everyone came except my four Neptune Suite people.  I have to assume the suites have their own farewell party.  The rest of us had fun speculating about that.   We kidded around like the old friends we have become.  I had Dorothy join us around 6:30 and we had dinner with the last two couples there.  Again, it was a lot of fun and a lovely way to end a great cruise.

Too soon, it was time to disembark in Amsterdam.  I had a little extra time, because I woke up early and couldn’t get back to sleep.  So, I had breakfast served to me in the Dining Room, all very decadent.  I was on the ship’s transfer with three of my couples, and we were able to shoot pathetic looks at each other, as we navigated the zoo that was Schiphol.  We kept meeting in the cattle herding gates, as we wended our way back and forth and forth and back.  We never did decide we were having fun, but we asked each other a few times.  So here I am waiting to board my flight to Montreal and my log is up-to-date, another first.  I think it came from traveling alone.



Parts North – Part 14 – Iceland Reykjavik

August 30 continues:  It was time for a mid-cruise dinner with our first night table, so Dorothy and I rounded up Brian and Sharon and Rolf and Marion.  It would have been a lot better if we hadn’t landed the worst waiter in the place, but it was still fun, and we agreed to do it one more time.  The entertainer for the night was Jonathan Johnson, an Irish flautist, who was pretty funny to boot.

Saturday, August 31, we had our Distinctive Voyages tour from Reykjavic.  Reykjavic is a very clean city and mostly new looking.  The corrugated tin buildings have given way to concrete and everything is heated with hot water from nearby springs, since 1939.  The settlers have mostly been Norwegians and British Islanders, though they were ruled by Denmark for 35 years, so there must have been Danes, too.  The main industries now are tourism and fishing.  The soil isn’t good enough for much farming.  If you can ever get some Icelandic lamb to eat, do.  It’s the purest you’ll get anywhere.  They have earthquakes just about every day, and we got to see their effects all through our day, not to mention the signs of ongoing volcanic activity.  This may not look like much, but it’s the Bridge Between Continents, and those are our people standing on it.20190831-07ReykjanesBridgeBetweenContinents  It’s over where the North American and Eurasian Tectonic plates meet, far, far under ground.  Around 200 million years ago, the North American plate was joined with the Eurasian, African and South American plates, until all that started to break apart between 135 million and 65 million years ago.  These things take time.  The earth under Iceland is still moving, always.  You can see the cracks, and the lava.  It’s very evident and sort of surreal. There’s a lot of lava rock everywhere and there are at least six different types of it depending on when and how it got to the surface.  Eruptions under glaciers, for example produce a different kind of lava from those which breach the surface under the ocean or into the air.  Am I boring you?  It was actually fascinating for a day, but I wouldn’t want it all as a constant companion.  The weather was pretty good for us.  It was cold and damp, but it didn’t rain.

The highways are good, and there’s not much traffic, even though 2/3 of the population has cars.  The total population of Iceland is only about 350,000, you see.  It was doubled for 55 years, when there was a NATO base here.  That brought sports like basketball to the Icelanders and left them some pretty good housing, when it closed in 2006.  It’s near the airport, so there are plenty of jobs for the folk who now have the housing.

Iceland has been an independent country since 1944.  The earth’s crust is thinner here than on any other continent.  It supports 450 kinds of plants, but you don’t see all that many of them.  It also has 600 different mosses, and you do see a lot of those.  It will take millions and millions of years before they amount to anything, though.  They do have a lot of lovely, clean energy as you don’t have to dig down very far to hit a hot spring, which you can use to build a power plant for a whole city the size of Reykjavik.

20190831-51ReykjanesKrysuvikLavaLandscapeNeil Armstrong, Buzz aldrin and company trained here for their lunar expedition.  They came back later and told the Icelanders that their country was more like the moon that the moon itself.  In the middle of all this, they managed to build a golf course, but it is pretty pitiful and must make for some interesting play, as the lava rock is close to the surface and sticking out all over the place.  You don’t have to worry about your ball hitting a tree, though.

We stopped for lunch at a fishing village.  The rustic restaurant was a reproduction, on a grander scale to accommodate tour groups.  The food was authentic, though, and the fish was beautifully fresh.  We all enjoyed it.  The landscape got more active after lunch when we visited Krysuvik geothermal area, where the ground was giving off all over the place and they have to keep moving the paths.  20190831-53ReykjanesKrysuvikSpewingThe colors were pretty.  The odor was not.  We made another photo stop at LakeKleifarvtan and returned to the ship.  It was just starting to rain, and it poured.  Our timing was impeccable.

Dorothy and I shared a table for two for the first time and enjoyed the show, which was an Icelandic folk/rock band.

We were still in Reykjavik on Sunay, September 1st.   After a false start, where I forgot my wallet and it cost me three-quarters of an hour to go back and get it, I boarded a HopOn HopOff bus, which was just the ticket.  Reykjavik means “smoky bay” but it was a glorious sunny day for walking around all over the place, which I duly did.  I might have bought a sculpture of an Icelandic horse, had the shop been open, but Sunday saved me.  I did note the gallery name and address, though.  All aboard was three-thirty, so you couldn’t do much but simply enjoy the town, and there’s nothing wrong with that.


Because Jean Woods and I each had a free Pinnacle dinner for being five-star, she invited me to come have it together.  We had a lovely time and ate too much, of course, but it was all very good.  They we went to see the Dutch Magician, Ronald Moray, whom I won’t have to see again.