2022 – 5 Great Danes, Franco Folies, and Port – Part  5 – The Douro and Madrid

2022 – 5

Wednesday, July 6, 2022  continued

I don’t usually say much about history but this is important, in case you, like me, don’t know much about Portugal, except that it shares the Iberian peninsula with Spain.  What really differentiates it from Spain and the rest of Europe, is that while the rest of Europe was fighting itself, Portugal was under the rule of Arabian invaders, whose advances in science and philosophy put them in the forefront of learning.  It became independent in 1140 and its explorers around 1500, The Age of Discovery,  were second to none.  Portuguese is still the sixth most spoken language in the world.  (At least that’s what our tour guide said.  I googled and got: 1 English. 2 Chinese. 3 Hindi. 4 Spanish. 5 French. 6 Arabic. 7 Russian. 8 Bengali. 9 Portuguese. 10 Indonesian.)

Our first official event in Lisbon was the welcome dinner at the Queluz Nacional Palace.  I have eaten in some pretty swish places, but this might be the swishiest.  In St. Petersburg, we got to eat in the summer palace, but in the basement.  Here we got the actual dining room:

We dressed up for the occasion but not to do it justice, I am afraid.  This dining room is still in use for dinners of state, so the tourists do have to compete for it.  I met six lovely people, traveling together, while we were having champagne and hors d’oeuvres in the garden, and they took me in at their table.  We had a lovely time.  There were a number of groups of six or so on the tour.  Tauck tends to attract like-minded people and they keep in touch and travel with each other again. 

Thursday, July 7, in Lisbon

Tauck took us on tour in the morning, in a couple of buses.  We learned about the earthquake of 1755 which pretty much annihilated the place.  Luckily Portugal was at the summit of its riches at that same time, so they managed to rebuild a fabulous city.  My only quarrel with it is the very small cobblestones, which are everywhere.  It’s only a walking city for the young, and that’s only until they turn one ankle too many.  A very few sites survived, one of which was the Monasterio Jeronimos in Belem.  The Arab influence is all over the architecture.

Vasco da Gama is buried here.  He also has a restaurant across the street from me in Montreal.

They took us through the nearby “Museo dos Coches”, which contains the oldest coaches in the world.  I was quite smitten with them and took a lot of pictures.  Here’s one:

Royalty used to travel all over the country in these things, heavily guarded, of course.  Can you imagine?  It wasn’t all that long ago, either.  The automobile only came into use in the 20th century. There were hundreds of years of these.

We were free for the afternoon and I spent it with my computer, as usual.  Around 6:30pm, I ventured out seeking the simple restaurant Caroline had found a couple of nights ago.  It was at the other end of Edouard VII Park from the Intercontinental, and about at the end of my ankle’s tether.  It was well worth it, though.  I ate on the street and my waiter danced attention on me because I was alone.  I had clams in white wine, Spanish style, Frites, flan and a half bottle of vinho verde for 25 euros.  He called me a taxi and I went home happy.

The restaurant is O Cagho Dourado Rue Eca de Queiroz, no5, 7, e 9

Lots of addresses for a little place.  A very good little place. 

Friday, July 8, Lisbon to Porto

The adventure begins.  The loaded us into our two buses and took us to Coimbra, Portugal’s medieval capital.  Today it is best known for its university, which we visited.  There was an optional walk to go hear Fado but I have heard it before and it wasn’t worth doing in my ankle for.  I had a chocolade with a meringue in a place that specializes in them. Spanish and Portuguese hot chocolate is more like chocolate pudding before it hardens.  It was one of my favorite things as a kid.  I have it all the time here.

From Coimbra, we drove to Porto, where we boarded the Andorinha, Tauck’s new riverboat, built for the Douro.  Andorinha means “swallow”, sweet birds who mate for life and only nest in one place.  There are only 65 of us on board, so she’s not quite full and she feels like our luxury yacht. 

I had dinner with a different group who are something like eleven, so they have multiple tables.  They were lovely, food was good, had a nightcap in the bar and turned in.

Saturday, July 9, in Porto

We were docked away from the centre of town, off towards Afuera, near the fishing village I had walked to on St. Peter’s day.  There was an estuary coming in and a bathing place, very near the end of our dock.  A couple of people went no further for the day.  It was hot and it only got hotter as we went inland.  The temperature was well over a hundred most days.  I am not going to complain.  We all went into this, eyes wide open.

I didn’t take the walking tour, I went by land river and air.  The land included an historic tram, and a very historic bathroom in a park.  The river, we crossed one way by water taxi and back by cable car.  We were rewarded with a very nice snack and a wine cooler.  We saw the sardine canneries and the grand mansions of “The Brazilians” and we learned more about bacalao, cod, and its importance in the Portuguese diet.  They have at least 365 recipes so they can have it every day of the year.  The funny thing is it doesn’t even come from Portugal.  They buy most of it from Canada, as it’s a cold water fish.  Huh.

Lunch was served on the Andorinha and I used the time to work a bit.  There was a port tour and tasting in the afternoon but few of us were impressed.  We do wine tours and tastings so much better in California and even a Porto tour guide we picked up on the pier about 15 years ago did a better job.  I had dinner with Irene and Donn from Williamsburg, VA and Patty, Doug and Randi from Escondido, CA.  This is fast becoming “my gang”, the ones that close the bar every night.  I don’t hardly drink anymore but old habits die hard and a couple of glasses of soda water before bedtime insure a good night’s sleep.  All five of these people arrived at the ship, after a couple of days in Lisbon, still with no luggage.  Some of it trickled in but Irene and Doug never saw theirs at all and I am not sure about Donn.  Irene was super at shopping in every port and was almost the best dressed person on the ship.  Patty won that one, after her luggage came through.  So, not exactly a fair competition.  I was out of the game, that which you give up for the pleasure of carryon.

We had entertainment on board that night, a university group called a Tuna.  They play baroque instruments, sing and dance and raise money.  Here they are on the top of the ship with the Porto skyline in the background:

Sunday, July 10, Guimaraes & Vinho Verde

More Tauck touring in the morning.  We went to the historic city of Guimaraes and saw a lot of old stone buildings and had another historic bathroom experience.

That’s Susana, one of our tour conductors, beloved by all of us.  The town was very interesting and afforded about the only place we found for souvenirs.  I now have eight new table napkins to replace the wine auction ones that are starting to give up their ghosts.  We drove into the countryside to the Aveleda Winery, which had some of the most beautiful grounds I have ever seen, complete with peacocks, goats, and the like.  I took a lot of pictures there.  I think this is my favorite:

The winery served lunch with their vinho verde.  It was some kind of stew, which I found fine, but a lot of Americans won’t eat what they can’t identify, so they went hungry.  The wine was drinkable but unexceptional, the same as everything else they have been giving us.  The Andorinha had been moving as we were, so we rejoined her and kept sailing on, through happy hour, dinner and bar time.  It’s all very pleasant.  We seem to have a routine now. 

Monday, July 11, Peso Da Regua

This would likely have been my best touring day.  I had picked Vinyard Walk and Cocktail making, and we were in Regua, the lovely place where I had visited my friend, Kay’s Winery & B & B.  I needed a day off, though, that is, my ankle did.  I can’t ask it to go 8,000 steps for a week without protest.  It just swells up and gets impossible.  A day of rest resets it and that is what today was.  Also, the tour was billed as “Vineyard Walk & Cocktail Making” and the last thing I think one should be doing with good port is making cocktails.  You just drink it.  I don’t have any use at all for bad port. 

Just before happy hour, Inken, our Tour Conductor, gave us a nice lecture about the Moorish occupation of Andalusia.  When the Moors first arrived they were tolerant of the local people but became increasing less so and more insistent on Muslim observation.  Then there was the Reconquista, whish we have all heard of, where the Christians of Europe took it back. It took them 780 years, mind you. The Moors finally fell in 1492 – momentous year, that one.

It also heralded the start of the Inquisition, which was NOT a good thing.

Dinner was a nice event at a Portuguese riverside restaurant called DOC, a nice mix of traditional and modern.  I enjoyed it but it could have been made more exceptional with a knowledgeable sommelier and a wine pairing. 

Tuesday, July 12, Pinhao

This morning, we went on the most fun activity of the entire tour.  We were set up with clues to get us to visit five or six local merchants.  The closest one to the ship provided a tasting of chocolate and port, which one wag dubbed “Breakfast of Champions”.  We moved on to, of all things, a Viking butcher, who had us tasting meats and cheeses, washing them down with red wine. Next we were on a terrasse scarfing down a hot dog, with mustard, cheese, ketchup, and French Fries.  There was a Coke with that lot.  The fourth place was closed due to some family emergency and the 5th was the train station.  This latter was in a beautiful setting and its walls were covered with very nice tile paintings, well worth the walk to see. 

A dozen or so of us had a Portuguese dinner in Arthur’s, which was excellent but I would only do it once.  It was a lot of food.

Wednesday, July 13, Cruising the Douro

We haven’t had enough of just cruising and it’s delightful.  I went up top were the view is the best, only to miss a lot when I inadvertently got shut in Arthur’s, most of which collapsed ingeniously to permit us to exit a lock.  Not to worry.  There was plenty of gorgeous scenery and a couple of fixer-uppers that we might like to buy:

For a couple of hours Susana held us spellbound with her own story of life in Spain under Franco.  His dictatorship lasted 40 years (1935-1975) and inflicted terrible hardships on the people. You were only free to speak inside your own homes, everywhere else there could be government ears.  All the music was military marches, all the TV shows were propaganda, dissenters were tortured and killed.  Susana was born on Cordova in the ‘50s.  Her parents soon moved to the countryside to a two-room home with 13 people living in it. She was one of six kids.  Everything got washed by hand.  There were only very basic supplies.  You brushed tour teeth with baking soda and a branch.  They got meat and fish once a month.  They ate a lot of potatoes and the odd tomato. 

Women could not work for pay, nor get divorced.  They could not go out without a man.  They didn’t learn much in school and were married off at 16.  Yes, her, too.  Her husband was nice enough to teach her to read, though, but to this day, she’s not good with numbers.  Franco only had two allies, Hitler and Mussolini and he fell with them.  Meanwhile Susana’s grandfather was living in a cave because he was a dead man, if caught.  Her grandmother and 8 children fled to another cave.  Only two of the children survived.  Her grandmother lived to 104 and never told the rest of the family how they survived. 

Susana finally got out to NYC in the ‘80s and all she could think to do was to bring the USA home with her – candy, gum, trinkets, etc.  What a story!

In the afternoon, we visited another winery, which, again, wasn’t much.  Happy hour, dinner on board and its aftermath were good, as usual and more and more people are now getting up to dance.  It took us a while, but, we do party.

Thursday, July 14, Coa valley and Castelo Rodrigo

50 years ago, they discovered Paleolithic Art in the Coa valley and have made a big deal museum out of it.  I wish I could say it blew my socks of, but it didn’t. 

There had been fire nearby a couple of days previously and the fire brigade were still at the museum looking out over the gorgeous landscape, dimmed by smoke, and hoping not to see it start up again. 

Not there, too.

We got back on the Andorinha for lunch and a sail and got off farther up the river at Castelo Rodrigo.  It’s a partially ruined, partially restored hill town.  The Portuguese government is subsidizing settlers who will re-occupy the houses in the town and take up the old crafts to show tourists, like us.  Not sure how that will work in the long term, but the chocolade was good. 

And the farewell dinner was good and even more people got up and danced. 

Friday, July 15, Salamanca and Madrid

Salamanca, near where we disembarked, is a limestone city dating back to the1200s.  I think I like this organ best there.  It didn’t hurt that someone was actually playing it:

We bussed into Madrid and checked into The Westin Palace, Madrid.  What a gorgeous building, in a city of gorgeous buildings.  The wealth of Spain is on display everywhere you look.  I could probably spend a lot of time in Madrid.  As it was, we went Tapas tasting that night and finished up in the bar with top-up tapas, just Anne and I.  We should have got together sooner.

Saturday, July 16, Salamanca and Madrid

We visited the Royal Palace and the Museo del Prado and had our farewell dinner at the hotel.

Sunday, July 17, Madrid

And I was glad of a day on my own in Madrid to walk around and rest up for the trip home.  I had a lovely dinner with Gail and Sherry at the concierge-recommended Rincon de Estevan.  We had way too much food – just the paella would have done it:

2022 – 4 Great Danes, Franco Folies, and Port – Part 4 – Portugal

Sorry for the delay.  I realize I am now chronicling the events of a month ago.  I have been back for almost three weeks, but they have been eventful, to say the least.  First I rested up a bit and delivered all the travel deliverables to the travelers who are now traveling again.  Then I got busy on my annual summer party at Ginger’s on Ile Bizard.  Ginger supplies the fabulous venue, the guests supply most of the extravagant vittles, and I supply steaks and organization.  In the process of making a dozen phone calls on a Sunday afternoon (July 24) I slipped on a scatter rug in my office and made a three point landing, shoulder, knee and toes.  The shoulder came back quickly, the knee (the one that broke a Volvo steering wheel in 1968 and has had plates and screws in and out twice) landed me on crutches for a day, and the toes, which are doubtless broken, still hurt and swell.  July 25, the day I spent on crutches, was also the day I had Mohs surgery scheduled for my nose.  So, I showed up in the hospital and had it.  Then I spent the rest of the day, until 10pm in emergency getting the knee X-Rayed.  The doc released me at 10pm, unable to tell whether there was a fracture there or not, the image was such a dog’s breakfast.  By then, I was able to put a little weight on the knee, so there was hope.  I managed to pick up Chinese food with my taxi home and finally got something to eat before I crashed.

The next day I could walk again and I started getting on with my life, interrupted with dressing changes on my nose, and a 2nd shingles shot, which flattened me for a day.  Yesterday was the party and it was as wonderful as ever.  The participants are ageing and we don’t last until 2am anymore, but we do appreciate still being able to get together and have fun.  Now, back in time to Europe and my story.

Saturday, July 2 2022

Jerome picked me up early in the morning in Batignolles and drove me to Orly, where I caught my little Vuelan to Porto.  I took an easy train to the center of town and a taxi to the Hilton Porto Gaia which had graciously offered me two free nights with breakfast for having met them at a “Visit Portugal” event in Montreal in May.  It’s a beautiful, newly renovated hotel, very modern, comfortable and spacious.  I can highly recommend it as a place to stay in Porto.  I can see most of this view from my balcony, but I took this picture from the waterfront itself, when I walked out to dinner. 

Alex, the concierge, who was sweet and helpful, had sent me to Sancho Panza, on the waterfront.  I found it too touristy, though I did see many locals there.  My recommendation for where to eat on Gaia’s beautiful waterfront comes in tomorrow’s section.  I walked up and down it a bit and home to the Hilton for a good night’s sleep.

Sunday, July 3

It was a quiet day for me.  I began with my exercise program on the computer.  The staff wanted to clean my room, so I took it out into the hall, which was about 25 feet wide and contained a sofa and coffee table, right outside my room.  I put the laptop on the coffee table and exercised with Miranda while my room got spiffed up.  I spent most of the day in it, catching up.  I did write some of this stuff while I was on the trip, and this is one of the places I did it.  I was also busy being my own travel agent and figuring how I was going to get to Regua, in the middle of the Douro, where I had to be on the 4th. Around 3:30 pm, I walked down to the waterfront and found a pastry shop that served Natas tarts and hot chocolate, which made a wonderful 4:00pm breakfast.

Back at the hotel, I investigated my commercially available options and checked with Kay Bouchard, owner of Quinta do Tedo, where I would be staying.  She put me in touch with Clare Mellor, a Brit living in Porto who has a little business called MyFriendsRoom  and books limos at decent prices.  Around six, I went down to the front desk, to discuss my dinner options.  Diogo was very sweet.  I told him I wanted an authentic Portuguese experience, unlike Sancho Panza, and he sent me to a fishing village a 3 km walk away. The restaurant was called Amazem do Peixe and sounded perfect.  But…It was San Pedro’s day and I ran into a procession, where the locals were carrying their favorite santos through the streets.  It was a fun to be a part of.  I didn’t get dinner there because the restaurants were all closed, but I was glad of the experience.  I was also still hungry.  I thought of trying to beg my way into one of the family dinners that were being set up in the street all over the place, but my Portuguese is almost non-existent, which would doubtless have spoiled the fun.  I found a girl with enough English to call me a taxi, but it wouldn’t come into the village during the festival.  I would have to walk out a km or so.  So, I did that and ended up back on the Gaia waterfront near Sancho Panza.  Just a little toward the cable car from there was a restaurant called Provas v Nova that looked nice enough.  They said they were full and couldn’t take me.  I told them my sad story and how tired, footsore and hungry I was, and they relented.  It was a staff problem, there was plenty of space.  The whole world has staff problems now, though.  They had a special they only do on weekends called “cod in cream”.  The Portuguese have hundreds of ways to cook cod.  This one was like coquilles St. Jacques, if you substitute cod for the scallops and boiled potato pieces for the mashed.  I absolutely loved it, scarfed the lot and went home happy.

Monday, July 4

I don’t eat until 4pm but figured I needed to have one of the Hilton’s free breakfasts, so I could tell about it.  I was very glad I did.  I had a mimosa, some smoked salmon, bacon, prosciutto, a cheese, onion and bacon omelet made to order, an apple turnover, a chocolatine and a natas tart. The tea was done right.  It arrived with the bag already in the teapot.  I had another natas tart and a piece of French toast with apricot jam (oink).  The room was spacious and well-appointed and my fellow patrons were interesting.  The one at the next table was on his fourth glass of champagne when I left to go meet my driver.  I was sorry for his young oriental companion.

Carla, my driver was delightful, and I had an entire Mercedes Sprinter to myself, so I sat up front with her.  The view was outstanding.  We’ll be doing this route on the river, but I was happy to do it overland, too, because it’s entirely different.  There has been terraced farming in these hills for at least a thousand years and they are enchanting to drive through.  Carla has never been out of Europe because she is afraid to travel on boats and planes.  She was afraid to drive through the necessary 5 km tunnel, too, but she braved it.  It’s even harder for her when she makes the return trip alone, but a gal’s gotta make a living. 

Quinta do Tedo is positively enchanting.  I was there because it is owned by Kay and Vincent Bouchard (of Bouchard, Père et Fils) and I met Kay at a food truck near the DMV in Napa in 2019.  I was having my car fixed at Gabriel’s.  Her son was with her and he went to McGill.  They have a cork business in Napa and live there part of the year, etc.  You know when you just click.  So, I was here for an evening with my friend Kay.  Their bistro was only opening the following week, due to staffing problems.  (Everybody has them.)  But, the chef had brought her a lot of food to try and she created a feast for us out of the left overs of that tasting.  We had cold Spanish garlic soup, Turkey fricassé with sweet potato gnocchi and panna cotta with apricot sauce.  We ate it in her dining room and had dessert on her terrace, overlooking the Douro.  Thank you, Kay.  That was fabulous.  The rest of you, go to http://www.quintadotedo.com/ and think about this B&B for a holiday in Portugal.  It’s smack mid-Douro and four days here with a rental car would give you a super experience.  Just look at that view. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

The Bistro was open for breakfast and it was delicious.  The pastries were flaky and he view was to die for.  I had made another exception.  Carla picked me up again and I had another lovely ride to the Porto airport and  $56 plane ride to Lisbon.  In the Lisbon airport, after Tauck’s limo failed to appear and couldn’t get to me sooner than a taxi, I was helped into the taxi rank by a very nice young woman, who is now a new friend.  I found our where she was going, offered her a ride in my taxi and there we were.  She has been living n Madrid for three years and was on a quick trip to Lisbon to meet up with some US friends.  She’s a Californian and will be going back there soon to continue her studies in Criminal Justice.  Another click.

I checked into the Intercontinental Lisbon, Tauck’s hotel.  I should have been meeting Chris Silver and Karen Irvin, but they had had to cancel, so I was eating alone tonight.  Danièle had made me a reservation at their favorite Lisbon restaurant, Essencial.

OMG – was that some dinner reservation.  It was exquisite, and unpretentious.  Food like The French Laundry’s (and, yes, I do know.  I have been there 5 times and I know Thomas Keller, too.) And it was about 1/10 the price.  Essencial – rue da Rosa 176.  I had the tasting menu for 80 euros with the wine pairing, 45 euros – TK wants about a grand for that.  You can also get a bistro menu for 45 euros that looked just fine.  Not that I don’t love the French Laundry, just that I can come here more often, like every time I am in Lisbon. 

It was also just the right place to dine alone.  There was enough kitchen theatre and nice attention from the staff, with the many courses and pairings and all, that the time passed very easily and pleasantly for this solo diner. 

This was the second course…

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

This was another quiet day to get a bit of work done in the hotel.  I checked in with Tauck and met the first three people with lost luggage, arriving from the states.  There were at least three more, that I later found out about.  I checked in with Caroline an we found an hour to get together near the end of the afternoon.  So I ended up introducing her to Natas Tarts and Hot Chocolat at Il Corte Ingles, the big Spanish department store.  It turned out to be the closest place to our hotel that did that.  The view was spectacular:

The Tauck welcome dinner will start the next and likely last installment. 

2022 – 3 Great Danes, Franco Folies, and Port – Part 3 – France

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

We got to Plumanac’h around lunchtime, found the Schéré’s house and found our way in.  It’s a different, larger house than it was last time I was here, probably 15 years ago.  We had a little aperitif in the living room and made off to lunch at their favorite seaside restaurant.  It was a very yummy lunch.  I started with mackerel rillettes, followed with carpaccio St. Jacques, which is scallop sashimi, in a different culture.  They were delicious with some of the frites that came with Gil’s burger.  Dessert was the best, a crèpe au caramel au beurre salé with ice cream.  Purrr.

We got back to the house to find out we were locked out by Constance, the other Schéré daughter, who was off having osteopathy or some such like. 

So Gil and Jean went for a swim in the pool, which has its own little house, and Danièle and I went to visit her mother, Elizabeth Cosson, who will be 104 on October 7.  I always remember her birthday because it is 3 days before mine.  I don’t want to live quite that old, though, as there really isn’t that much left you can do.  Elizabeth kept up her Paris apartment, went out every day, etc., into her late nineties, but she doesn’t do much now.  She does live in a very nice place called Kergomar in Lannion, that provides total care, and she can look forward to a visit from a family member every day.  Robbie will be flattered when he hears she has our Christmas card with its pictures of him on her wall and that I had no trouble finding the loo. 

Oysters were obviously in season in Brittany, because they were on the Schéré’s dinner menu, too.  Gil volunteered to shuck them but Jean said “non, non” and that he was good at that.  Gil, being about the most competitive person I know, insisted that they have a contest.  He gave up when Jean had shucked 6 of them before he had one open.  Sandy would have loved to have been there. 

And we had shrimp, too, and Danièle roasted a chicken, the wine flowed, and we had a local custard cake called a tropezière or something like that, for dessert.  I must mention that the Schérés and Gil follow politics, avidly, to say the least, and that their favorite political commentator is an expat from Québec named Mathieu Bock-Côté.  I must say, he has good insights into world affairs, but he does repeat himself.  Likes the stage he is getting, I suppose.  I knew we were exporting French entertainers, like Celine Dion, and the Cirque du Soleil, but political commentators, well, that’s a new one. 

Thursday, June 30, 2022

We got up late and futzed around the house, me doing TA work and Danièle doing some of that and everything else, including laundry, for which I was grateful.  In the afternoon, we went to visit her mother again and she took me on a bit of a tour, and shopping, of course.  We visited a particularly nice cathedral in Lannion, built by the Ordre des Templiers (Knights Templars), filthy rich warrior monks at a time when they were not compelled to celibacy, in the XIIth century.  The parish is called Brélévenez whose name has a lovely origin.  It is made of of two celtic words “bre” and “levenez “, which mean “Mountain of Joy”.  It had lovely vistas and I have pictures of same, but I found the graveyard even more interesting. 

Here you have an actual china wreath.  It’s beautiful, doesn’t look cheap like all plastic flowers do, is cleaned by the rain, or maybe the groundskeeper’s hose, and doesn’t fade.  It just sits there looking elegant.  It’s also a testament to the respect the site is afforded by the people of the town.  There are a lot of these and they don’t get vandalized.  Kudos, gens de Lannion.  You know how to bring up your kids. 

Friday, July 1, 2022

Jean drove us to the train station.  It might have been Lannion, or one a little further that was even more convenient.  On the way, I finally remembered to ask him whet Plumanac’h meant and here’s your answer:  “Plu” is parish and “manac” is monk.  So, it’s the parish of the monks and that explains why one part or the other of it appeared on a lot of road signs.  And the town has just changed names, so I’ll be addressing my “thank you” note to “Perros Guirrac”.  I forgot to ask what that meant.

The TGV got us to Paris by about four, without event, except that, when I went to get out of my seat, I didn’t take about a seven inch drop into account and fell into the table across the aisle.  The seven inch in diameter bruise is still turning all sorts of pretty colors, eleven days later.  I’ll spare you a picture of that.  Jerome had managed to screw up again, and after waiting for him for almost a half-hour, we gave up and took a cab that was just there.  We dropped off our bags at the house and went straight to Printemps on the bus.  We sat down for an ice cream before making for the dress floor, because I had decided I needed one, and had just enough space in my carry-on for it, as long as I kept it simple. 

Like everywhere else these days, Printemps dress floor is arranged by designer and Gerard Darel came through for me again.  I am very happy with it.  Danièle and I made an event of diner when we walked to Guilia, a short walk from the apartment, and a great place.  The Schérés know Rashid, the owner, of course, and Danièle knew what we wanted to eat.  It was a côte de boeuf for two, and it was rare and succulent with both garlic mashed potatoes and frites.  Danièle started with a salad and I had terrine de foie de volailles, and we finished up with the dessert of the day a fresh home-made lemon pie.  Rashid danced attention on us and recommended our bottle of wine, which was excellent.  I love this picture:

Don’t you?

2022 – 2 Great Danes, Franco Folies, and Port – Part 2 – France

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Back at the Phoenix Copenhagen, I was up early and off to the airport, while the others were having breakfast.  I am pleased to report they had uneventful trips home.  After the agony they went through getting to Reykjavik, it was only what they deserved.  I had an uneventful trip to Paris, too, only Danièle’s faithful driver, Jerome, wasn’t as faithful as usual and I ended up taking a taxi after ascertaining that he was still 45 minutes from Orly.  Danièle, and her daughter Liz were at their apartment in the 17th arrondissement, and we were soon off to lunch, just down the street.  They live in Paris like I do in Montreal, with everything you could want close to hand.  It was weinerschnitzel at the German place and that was fine with me. 

I had some TA work to do in the afternoon, a good bit if it for myself, this time, because the shoemaker wears bad shoes, and my travel between my various destinations wasn’t booked yet.  I had invested in a Eurail pass for $US441 and I won’t repeat the list of derogatory adjectives Danièle had for that brilliant move.  It just wasn’t worth it.  She couldn’t picture me going through all the hours of train travel that would entail from Copenhagen to two destinations in Brittany and on to Porto all in 9 days.  She got me an SNCF (French Railway) senior’s card for cheap train rides within France and had me buy cheap airline tickets for Copenhagen to Paris, Paris to Porto, and Porto to Lisbon.  Then she went about getting the train tickets I would actually need, Paris to Vannes and Lannion to Paris.  Good to have a friend who can be the travel agent’s travel agent.  I needed that. 

Liz has a friend who has written a book called “Dinner for One” about how cooking and eating got her through her after divorce period in Paris.  Her name is Sutanya Dacres, and you can buy it at Amazon.  I did.  Haven’t read it yet, I have been so busy, but I will get to it in another couple of nights.  Anyway, it was a very nice book signing, in a nice Monmartre Bistro, where the wine flowed and the charcuterie were excellent.  Daniele and I were, by very far, the oldest people in the place.  I like that.  We met some nice young people but we left early when Danièle noticed that her wallet was missing from her purse.  It was likely at home because we had had in-house financial transactions for her TA services, but she wasn’t sure.  That kind of thing can ruin your evening, so we decided to walk back, downhill, to the 17th to check.  Sure enough, wallet was at home where he belonged and we could relax.  We hadn’t eaten quite enough, so we popped out to the local creperie and had a couple with vanilla ice cream, chocolate and salted caramel sauce.  I was in heaven. 

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Danièle’s driver, Jerome, showed up early this time and she came with me all the way to the Montparnasse train station and right on to the train.  She got past the ticket checker by explaining that I was an old dotty person, from Canada, who spoke no French.  It was very sweet of her and I probably did need it, but oh, the ignominy of it all.  I must admit I had to ask for help transferring at Rennes.  So I asked the best person, a lady with a baby in her arms, a carriage to deal with, and a large soft suitcase.  A person like that has to know how to get from A to B the most efficient way.  It still involved an elevator up into the station and an escalator down to the track for the train to Vannes. 

The French countryside, from the train, is beautiful.  Little farms and villages dot the land and fields display their crops.  Farmhouses that are too close to the tracks have a row of trees standing guard over their privacy.  And so they should, but I’m a voyeur.  That is, I am when my nose isn’t down writing away, like I was on that trip.  All those long train rides I gave up, in the interests of efficient travel, might have got this newsletter out sooner.  

Gil wasn’t there at Vannes, when I arrived, which didn’t bother me except that I didn’t have 20 cents to pee.  I had 100 Euros but not 20 cents.  So, I called him and he was across the street having lunch, having got the time slightly wrong.  So, I crossed over and had a pee and lunch, too.  It was a very nice Croque Monsieur.  We drove to the ferry pier for Ile aux Moines, and Gil dropped me, and the luggage there, while he went and parked the car in his rented garage.  This is what you do when you live on an island, you see.  The Merciers do without a car in Paris, take the train to Vannes, like I just did, and the ferry to their house on Ile aux Moines.  While we were waiting for the ferry, we noticed some nasty weather coming out of the clear blue sky and after seventy years of using the expression” out of the blue”, finally figured out where it came from. 

The Merciers now have a motorized tricycle, and that’s how we got to the house with the luggage and all.  Sandy and Rudi were waiting for us.  I settled in and learned a few things, as you usually do when Gil is around to teach you, and I got this really cute picture of the author of “The Rudi Reports”. 

Dinner was unexpected and delicious.  It was pork vindaloo, which is explained by the fact that the Merciers spent a lot of years in Indonesia, back in the ‘90s.

Monday, June 27

I got up late and indulged in a nice bath, while Sandy took Rudi to Vannes for dental work.  I brought the computer downstairs to do my exercises with Miranda Esmonde-White on my computer.  I should have known better.  I endured fifteen minutes of him making fun of her gentle stretches and moves, based in ballet.  I don’t think laughter mixes all that well with relaxation-based exercises.  But when she got to the part where you are to pretend to squeeze a beach ball between your legs, it really went off the rails.  We were still howling when Sandy got back, looking like the proverbial drowned rat.  The skies had opened between here and the ferry and she was on her bike.  An hour later the sun was back out and Sandy was hanging out the laundry when Gil took me on a trike tour of the island. 

It’s interesting to see what was built, centuries ago, on what was a remote island and still doesn’t have a bridge.  Here’s an example:

And, being the observers of the human comedy that Gil and I are, here’s an example of a modern tourist with exceptionally poor fashion sense:

We were trying to find a restaurant where I could take the Merciers out to dinner the next night but none of them were open and, if they were, they weren’t planning to serve dinner until July, which, alas, is 3 days away.  Gil decided he would make faijitas and have a party instead.  I continued to protest because I was trying to make less work for these nice people, not more.  But, Gil was having none of it and I had to admit, they have a pretty spectacular party venue. 

Luckily, Sandy had been smart when she was out and had come back with a very nice quiche for dinner and rhubarb tart for dessert, so it was an easy night.  We finished up playing backgammon, the girls against Gil.  He didn’t much like it when we won. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Party or no party, this was the day Sandy and I planned on going shopping in Vannes, and so we did.  When I got in the car, I thought a cheese had fallen out of Gil’s grocery bag from a couple of days ago.  But we didn’t see one on the floor of the car, so we just opened the windows and drove on.  Sandy introduced me to AmorLux about twenty years ago and I have been buying it ever since.  I was ready to stop in at the factory outlet they now have in Vannes.  I replaced my well worn Brooks Brothers navy and white striped three-quarter length sleeved T-shirt.  Sandy is putting it in the poor box on the island.  It can go sailing now. 

Then we got to downtown Vannes, which has some very good shopping.  I needed a couple of things to wear over the black sausage base of tights and T-shirt.  I had forgotten to pack the usual, but Gerard Darel and Burton were happy to fill in for me.  When we got back in the car, Sandy discovered the source of the cheesy smell. It was a little bag of dog poo, which was summarily dispatched to a bin. By the time we got home, Gil had actually made the faijitas and was ready to make the short trip to a neighbor who harvests and sells fresh oysters.  How good does that get? 

Gil shucked the oysters and Sandy got out all the necessary and pretty soon we had a party going.  We were lucky with the weather.  It was the first day we could have sat out on their fabulous deck and we made the most of it.  Gil had invited the neighbors in and we ended up with two couples, Lucie, the 15-year-old grand daughter of one of them, who is going to school in Drummondville this fall, and 90+ year-old Francoise, who was very impressive.  She still keeps an apartment in Paris and bikes all over the city, like she bikes around the island here.  I didn’t tell her how much of a wuss she made me feel. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Gil and Danièle had hatched a plot whereby he would drive me the three hours from Ile aux Moines to Plumanac’h, stay overnight there and return to Sandy, who had a son arriving from Canada the next day.  We started out by ferry, as you have to when you leave an island.  If I thought I was impressed by Francoise, that doubled when there was a 100-year old lady, spiffily dressed off to do her shopping in town.  It’s inspiring. 

Our conversation in the car was free-ranging and, as usual, and, also as usual, I learned a lot.  Gil is a Renaissance man and he has a lot to share.  While we were engaging in more-or-less intelligent conversation, I was taking in the road signs of Brittany.  Given our destination was Plumanac’h, I was especially interested in places that began with “plu” or had “manac” in them.  There were plenty of each.  So, I decided to ask Gil, who knows pretty much everything, what “Plumanac’h” meant.  All I knew was that it was a Breton word and that isn’t saying much in these parts.  To my astonishment, Gil admitted that he hadn’t a clue what it meant.  I figured that, it that case, he would just make something up but he couldn’t, really, because all I would have to do is ask Danièle of better yet, Jean, who had been coming here for more than 50 years.  So we left it as a question for him.

2022 – 1 – Great Danes, Franco Folies and Port(s)

Saturday, June 19, 2022

I’m so glad COVID confinement is easing up.  I was busy enough with 34 people traveling in June, not to want to deal with another COVID test.  I worked my butt off seven days a week, until the last group flew to join their ship on June 16.  Then I got myself ready and found time to party with friends, Andrea and Jim from Magog, Patrick and Rose from NDG and Denis, who needed to meet some of my buds before he ends up cooking for them at Ginger’s on Ile Bizard, when I get back.  Denis is a chef, you see.  He has a PhD in Food Science, and taught it for years, while running a few restaurants.  He still has one but it’s simple, a Take and Bake” pizza place.  So, I call him “Chef Dr. Pizza Guy” Good title for an 80-year old.  Way better than most of the alternatives. Speaking of titles:

The invitation to what must be our 11th, maybe 12th  annual summer party, started off like this:

“Canada is a safer place, now that Ginger is an Honorary Lieutenant Colonel in the Grenadier Guards, for life, no less.  As safe as it gets:

Ya think?  I sure do.  And I don’t know about Canada but summer wouldn’t be summer without our annual party at Manresa.”

And that party will be happening the first Saturday in August.  I have a month off in Europe first.  I am flying to Copenhagen to meet Mariann Sheldon, my old Napa neighbor, who’s a Dane and had volunteered to take a privileged few back to see some of her favorite Danish things.  When we first booked this trip for 2020, the Norwegian Fjords cruise that preceded it, was a Distinctive Voyage and I was its host.  It wasn’t this time and SilverSea at full price, single occupancy, was a little rich for my blood, particularly as I had already sailed the Reykjavik to Copenhagen itinerary.

For the three passengers that started in Sacramento, getting to Reykjavik had not gone well.  That’s an understatement.  Alaska Airlines delayed their flight out of SMF such that they would miss their connection in SFO bound for Reykjavik.  I was all over SilverSky, who had booked it, but they were powerless, and all over SilverSea, for compensation for my poor travelers.  For the very first time, my efforts failed.  It ended up taking them 60 hours, to get to Reykjavik, when it should have taken less than 12.  It has to do with the chaos at the airports, and the number of things that are going wrong with flights all over.  The cruise lines are fed up with paying for the airlines’ incompetency and have decided to put their keels down.  My explaining that it was SilverSea that had taken the passengers’ money for the flights didn’t make a ripple once that decision had been made.  I did what I could and compensated them as best I could.  It couldn’t be enough. 

I managed to upgrade my Air France flight to Copenhagen at check-in, so for $404 more, I was in Business and enjoying the lounge at YUL after Denis dropped me off.  Like every other one, my flight took off a little late but it made most of it up in the air.  I took a taxi to Phoenix Copenhagen, where the Danes stay, according to Leona, and was greeted by the friendliest hotel staff, ever.  Mads the Bellman was just darling and as cute as they come, and Isabelle answered my countless questions and organized our taxis to the airport for 5 days hence. 

Monday, June 20, 2022

I had slept a little on the plane, but not very much.  My room at Phoenix Copenhagen was ready and Mads took me there, but all I did was drop my bags, backpack and rolling carry-on, brush my teeth and leave for the RDYC, which I wanted to check out.  It turns out the Royal Danish Yacht Club has three facilities and the restaurant is in what is probably the most uninteresting.  It’s on the water, of course, and has a few yachts in its harbour, but it’s not the old one with all the history.  It’s a modern building in a waterfront development.  I had a nice table for one, right at a window overlooking the yachts and the menu was interesting.  It was a typical Danish lunch.  Look at my lovely tartare, mache, and potato chip sandwich.  I had mignardises for dessert and they were delicious, too.

I went to the office to introduce myself and see what I could buy and came up with a very interesting tubular scarf, navy with crowns all over it.  I can keep it in my raincoat pocket and slip it on whenever the weather feels like it might get at my throat.  Brilliant.  I liked it so well that I bought another for Mariann.

I used the YC phone to call Oliver at Great Dane, our purveyor of cars and drivers, to make sure all was in order for me to meet the ship tomorrow morning, with a van.  My passengers needed this transfer to go smoothly.  Then I went home to the Phoenix.  I walked out a bit to see if the local Telco shop could figure why I had no phone service in Copenhagen.  It couldn’t, so I walked home again, observing the Danish bike culture and was in bed by 6 pm. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

I slept well, and since I don’t eat breakfast, I was ready when Per showed up with a nice Mercedes Sprinter van in the morning.  We found the Silver Moon all right, and picked up our passengers, Mariann, Carol Berg and her sister Cindy Clot, Barbara August and her daughter Lee Simpson.  Off we went, back to Phoenix so everyone could check in. The rooms weren’t ready, so mine became the loo, cum luggage storage.  That done, Mariann took us on a mini-walking tour around the palace, before we went to Nyhavn to meet our canal boat tour.  Mariann, you see, went to the private N. Zahle’s School in Copenhagen with the present Queen of Denmark, Margrethe II, when she was a little princess.  She is a much beloved queen and Mariann says she was always a very nice, fun person.  She’s 82 now and she still smokes like a fiend.  Those are some good genes. 

Mariann took us on a little detour to show us the palace grounds and we made our reserved canal boat tour at 10:30 am.  The weather, which heretofore had not been anything to write home about, turned very nice for us and we toured the canals of Copenhagen in glorious sunshine. 

Mariann’s friend, Kirsten, met us for a typical Danish lunch, right near the dock in Nyhavn, at Nyhavns Færgekro.  Most of us had the open-faced sandwiches.  Mine was gravlax.  We didn’t do herring and schnaaps, likely more’s the pity, but our digestive systems ain’t what they used to be.  Sorry to disappoint.  We had some free time after that and it was just as well, as Mariann and I had plenty to do.  We all met up again around six o’clock and asked the bell desk for a taxi or taxis to the famous Tivoli Gardens.  He found one for six, but he probably shouldn’t have.  Barb and Lee were most uncomfortable in the back row and it cost within about a buck of the price for both of the taxis we took home. 

Tivoli was fun.  We didn’t go on any of the rides, but we walked around a bit and had dinner from assorted kiosks in the food hall.  Since we have a couple of vegetarians, three omnivores, and a vegophobe, that worked well.  I had a lobster roll and it was pretty good, washed down with a nice white wine.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

We were all down in the lobby on time and our guide, Uffe Folkmann, arrived in a couple of minutes, with a decent sized van, for our excursion into the countryside.  We later learned that Uffe was the CEO of the company and had picked our tour for himself because Mariann wanted us out in the countryside and that would be a minivacation, read busman’s holiday, for him.  After two years of you-know-what, the tour and travel business has exploded and this is the beginning of high season in Denmark.  His phone hardly ever stopped ringing but that didn’t stop him from being excellent at the job.  We kind of toured Copenhagen on the way out, him telling Danish Royalty stories the whole time.  I liked the one about the queen who had four lazy sons, so she turned them into bulls to pull her carriage:

He was also really good, with the juicy stories of fornicating royals of all ages and stages, but always named either Frederick or Christian.  Denmark was an absolute monarchy from 1660 to 1849, when the king and queen stepped down. It was her idea, of course.  Better to step down and remain titular heads, that spark a revolution and be deposed.  By noon, we were in Nyborg, where I broke my fast early for a Danish pastry, in a Danish bakery, with a cup of very delicious hot chocolate.  Then we moved on to Egeskov Slot.  Slot means castle in Danish and this tour is all about slots. 

Like everything else in this world, Egeskov has evolved and lunch was a pretty disappointing affair, read hot dogs, hamburgers and French fries.  I was a vegetarian for that.  The castle was nice, though.  It still has it’s very politically incorrect trophy room

and a nice toy exhibit.

  I enjoyed it.  It’s on the island of Fyn, where we would stay a couple of nights.

The best slot of all was the one we stayed in.  Our rooms were very large and well appointed with antiques, which was as it should be.  The housekeeping left a bit to be desired in Carol and Cindy’s, which probably hadn’t been used in a couple of years, and they had to dispose of a good few cobwebs.  The grounds were lovely

and dinner was delicious.  I had tomato soup, cockerel, and a white chocolate panna cotta with fresh local strawberries for dessert.  Mariann and Uffe and I had the wine pairing with it and it was excellent.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

My intermittent fasting caused me to miss a yummy pancake breakfast, I was told.  But I used the time to keep up with my exercise program, which is no longer optional, as I age less than gracefully.  The grounds are beautiful here.  Compare this photo with the first one here.  They remind me of Ginger’s, 

We got on the road around 9:30 am, bound for Jutland and Koningshus, which Mariann particularly wanted us to see.  It’s beautiful countryside, not unlike that around Montreal, which isn’t a stretch as we are pretty much at the same latitude. 

There was trouble on the highway, in the direction coming towards us.  We hoped it would be cleared by the time we were coming back, as Carol and Cindy had a train to catch, and we had a specific time at our next stop.  As we approached Jutland, Uffe started coming out with Jutland people jokes, which are the same as Canada’s Newfie jokes and America’s Polish jokes.  I understand that the Danes make fun of the Swedes, too. 

Koldinghus was fabulous and I would put it on anyone’s list who can find the time.  I have seen a lot of ruins in my travels, and lately governments are making attractions of them, but I have never seen one done like this.  When a castle catches fire, and most of them do, being under siege regularly and all, the wooden interiors burn, but the stone walls hold.  So, you can just tour the walls and read the story, or you can do something like this with it:

The current exhibition commemorates HRH Crown Princess Mary’s 50th birthday. It paints a portrait of the Danish Crown Princess and her four predecessors in the Glücksborg dynasty.  It was very nice. They did lunch really well, too.  It was a real Danish smorgasbord with herring, eel, chicken, frikadelles, lots of cheeses, desserts, the works.  We just loved it.  Then we had to deal with the traffic jam, which had definitely not cleared.  Google knows where the traffic is, and it was everywhere.  It was one of those accidents where the 18 wheel semi-trailer jackknifes and blocks the entire highway.  In this case, it was the new (1970) bridge. Those are not easy to clear away.  This one had been three hours and counting.  Uffe called ahead to H.C. Andersen Hus to say we wouldn’t make our appointment but would get there as soon as we could.  They were very nice about it.  We weren’t the only call on the subject. 

We got there with enough time for Carol and Cindy to see a bit before their train.  The architecture is stunning but Hans Christian Andersen is doubtless rolling in his grave, chewing tacks and spitting nails.  Uffe’s wife Joan took the train down from Copenhagen to have a very tiny holiday and replace Carol and Cindy in the van back to the city.  She is delightful, and gorgeous, to boot.  We were happy to have her along.  She summed H.C. Andersen Hus best when she said “There is no spirit of Hans Christian Andersen here”.  The fairy tales have been distorted almost beyond recognition for the sake of clever display.  Methinks it’s a failure.  Don’t waste your time. 

This was Skt Hans day, the longest day of the year and first day of a week of celebrations.  There were thus a lot of people on the Island of Fyn for the holiday.  Barb, Lee, Mariann and I, Joan and Uffe ate at the coast in a seafood restaurant they had chosen, Hvide Pakhus, in Faborg.  I had a gravlax appetizer followed by moules frites and the dessert of the day, which was very good but I have forgotten what it was. 

Then we walked around the restaurant to a parking lot by the water to see the local bonfire.  There are bonfires all over Denmark this night.  They used to burn witches but this one was just an effigy.  We were all back in bed at the castle, except Uffe and Joan, when a group of partying guests set up a bonfire in the courtyard, pictured above.  I heard the noise but was too lazy to get dressed again and go out. 

Friday, June 24, 2022

I missed another wonderful breakfast but I am keeping my body going, so all’s well and off we went, back to Copenhagen.  This is Uffe and Mariann, loading up the van, in front of Hvedholm Slot

and this is Uffe and Joan, saying goodbye at the door of the Phoenix Copenhagen. 

I shall remember them fondly and use Great Dane, whenever I need a tour supplier in Denmark.  We were there by noon, time for the Sacramento people to check in for their SAS flight to SFO.  Barb and Lee had no trouble, but SAS had jerked Mariann’s seat out from under her for the third time.  My favorite thing to do is to hang on hold, standing up at the front desk of a hotel, the only place in Denmark where the call was free for me.  SilverSky said they couldn’t help me because SAS now owned the reservation but while I was on hold for SAS, Mariann tried again and managed to check in.  So, either SilverSky did something or SAS did what it was going to do all along.  The seat Mariann got was a business class seat, but it wasn’t the one she had purchased.  That was 2A, beside Barb and Lee’s 2D&E.  I had watched that one disappear months ago and replaced it with 8A.  The A seats have both an aisle and a window on the plane in question and so are very desirable.  8A held until a week before flight time, which was the last time I checked it, before we tried to check in.  So Mariann flew in 9D, still an aisle, but in the middle section.  You have to wonder why the airlines think they can just jerk their paying customers around like that and you have to believe it is to suck up to their very frequent flyers, no matter how late they book.  It’s pretty disgusting. 

Mariann went back to her room to finish packing and I went out to get some plastic folders.  I have been wondering for almost 30 years, now, why the rest of the world files in see-through plastic and North America hasn’t given up the manila folder.  I recycle them every year at tax time, but I keep needing more.  What other 77-year old do you know with a growing business?  I must be nuts.  It was only Mariann and I for dinner on our last night and we just walked out and found ourselves a restaurant where we could eat with a view on the street.  It turned out to be Mexican and the Margaritas and enchiladas went down pretty well.  To add to the fun was the reason we wanted to eat on the street.  It was the day Denmark’s high school graduates were out celebrating.  Each class rents a bus and goes around to every parent’s house, getting food and drink every time the bus stopped.  By seven o’clock, when we saw this one, they were pretty schnockered. 

And so, farewell to Denmark and thanks to Mariann for putting together a fabulous tour. 

2023 – Going around for the 5th time

And doing it on Holland America again.  This 5-Star Mariner has no objections.  The perks are fabulous and I get to spend another four months with my old cruise buddies.  Come along and I’ll introduce you. Take the whole thing or a segment.  It’s surprisingly affordable. 

128-Day Grand World Voyage


JAN 3 – MAY 12, 2023



Cruise around the world roundtrip from Ft. Lauderdale. Explore colorful ports and stay in incredible destinations: Panama City, Tahiti, Sydney, Hobart, Adelaide, Perth, Cape Town, and Amsterdam. Return, forever changed. Note the itinerary proceeds west from Fort Lauderdale, so you start at the right side of the map.

Here’s the link to go play at HAL’s site:  U309 128-DAY GRAND WORLD VOYAGE (hollandamerica.com) 

It’s surprisingly affordable and there’s not much flying involved. And take a look at the terms of part two here.  Like the cheap cancellation insurance and the single cabins. I haven’t had time to check them out for the world, but, show some interest and I’ll do that in a heartbeat. 

OK: PART TWO – Fall for Montreal – and Sail with Me – Just for Fun

There are now 5 of us girls on HAL’s Montreal to Fort Lauderdale and, in the process of booking one of them, I found out that the Zaandam has SINGLE cabins.  Single ocean-view cabins, if you don’t mind.  So I have two of those sold, now.  The singleness of them brings the price down below $2000 US, including taxes and fees.  You can probably pay your tips and still be under $2,000.  Singles don’t see deals like that very often.  And, for about $150, you can put “Cancel any Reason” cancellation insurance on it and get 80% of your money back up to 28 hours before sailing.  Just in case COVID has another wave or Monkey pox actually becomes contagious, which it isn’t very, you know. 

We can play in Montreal for four days or so and then just take a taxi to the pier.  My city is finally waking up and the shows and festivals are back.  Just for Laughs and the  Montreal Jazz Festival have full programs.  I don’t know what’s going to be on in late September, but we board on a Saturday and so there’s bound to be something great.  And I’ll have you on tour of the city and surrounding area, getting you into places only I can.  Gourmet restaurants abound and I’ll take you to have the best Rotisserie Chicken in the town that invented it.  Did you know that?  Then there’s Montreal smoked meat, another delicacy “de chez nous”.  We can skip poutine but you can order it at the chicken place or the smoked meat place.  You get to meet a bunch of my Montreal friends, too. 

Who’s in?  The more the merrier.  Have a look at X256 9-DAY THE ATLANTIC COAST (hollandamerica.com).  The current offer includes a 50% reduced deposit (non-refundable) and a $100 ship board credit.

.Might as well grab it.  But don’t book it online – call or email and let me collect the commission, for my trouble in organizing the best time ever in Montreal.  I can’t wait to show off my city. I am leaving town on June 19, so dawdle not. Ship Ahoy! All aboard!

2022 – Hong Kong Helen is on YouTube

Hong Kong Helen is on YouTube

The McGill Community for Lifelong Learning recorded it a couple of weeks ago and put it up to their YouTube Channel.

You can spend 45 minutes with it here, whenever you want to.

I have to warn you, it contains a number of politically incorrect slides.  I certainly didn’t mean any offence to anyone by posting them.  We just had a lot of fun back then.  But, if anyone is really offended, let me know and I’ll have the offending material removed. 

A number of you will see yourselves in the pictures.  I hope you find that fun.  Be honored.  They have captured some of my fondest memories. 

Here’s the Link:

Hong Kong Helen rides again – on ZOOM

HK Helen Rides Again on Zoom

This Friday, 1:00 p.m. EDT or 10:00 a.m. PDT


YCLML 523 A Montreal Expat in British Hong Kong

Time: Friday, May 6, 1:00 p.m.
Presenter: Helen Megan

When she found herself between husbands and banging her head against the glass ceiling, Helen Megan left a nonetheless very full, fun life in Montreal, to seek her fortune in Hong Kong. How this happened and what she found there will be revealed in this light-hearted look at a fascinating and complex place. Helen will illustrate her presentation with personal anecdotes and pictures.

There.  Doesn’t that look Official?  It’s part of the McGill Community for Lifelong Learning program.  I have the mis-fortune to be a personal friend of this year’s Program Coordinator, so I got tapped.  Most of these lectures are from serious people about serious things.  And, then there’s me.  I couldn’t be serious if you paid me.  But here I am and I wonder how serious they are because

They scheduled me against

This is a famous doctor talking about the subject most near and dear to our hearts.  I’m doomed. 

But…  If any of my friends (That’s you) wants to hear my Hong Kong story again, no holds barred, and with pictures, you can.  It’ll cost you ten bucks Canadian but I think it will be a fun and I’d love to see you there. 

Here’s how to do it: Click on

Online Lectures | MCLL – McGill University

Scroll down to the numbered list and click

1 – Registration for all lectures

Then pick me, the 4th one down

Click on the “+” to add to cart

Click on “add to cart”

Then click on “Checkout” – When this screen presents, unless you are one of the chosen few who already takes classes at McGill, go over the black bar with “I am a new user” in it, scroll down and click on “Create Account”

And, I warn you.  It’s not the easiest thing in the world so pay close attention.  It might be an intelligence test.  Thank God all my friends are smart.  If it defeats you, call me and I’ll help you through it. 

After you’re all signed up, just wait for the link on Thursday and I’ll see you on Friday. 

Fall for Montreal – and Sail with ME!

Fall for Montreal – and Sail with Me – Just for Fun

I am not even working on this sailing – well, I will for my own friends and clients, but it’s not official.  As you know, I was supposed to be hosting New York City to Quebec on Crystal in October, but we all know what happened to that.  My good friend from Napa, Carol Berg, had a cabin booked on it, too.  We were bummed when Crystal put its keel in the air.  I just got Carol her money back in a tearing hurry and we left it alone for awhile. 

Last week carol came back to me and I had a look at options to include some fun in Montreal.  I am a 5-star Mariner on Holland America, thanks to all those world cruises, and I get travel partner rates.  So, I turned up this:

It’s brilliant!  I figured it would be a treat and Carol agreed.  We can play in Montreal for four days or so and then just take a taxi to the pier.  My city is finally waking up and the shows and festivals are back.  James Taylor played the Bell Centre on Thursday.  I don’t know what’s going to be on in late September, but we board on a Saturday and so there’s bound to be something great.  And I’ll have you on tour of the city and surrounding area, getting you into places only I can.  Gourmet restaurants abound and I’ll take you to have the best Rotisserie Chicken in the town that invented it.  Did you know that?  Then there’s Montreal smoked meat, another delicacy “de chez nous”.  We can skip poutine but you can order it at the chicken place or the smoked meat place.  You get to meet a bunch of my friends, too. 

It may not be SilverSea or Oceania, but when you sail Holland America with me, we buy premium wine packages for 50% off and party like it’s Napa.  That’s what 5 stars will do for you. 

Who’s in?  The more the merrier.  Have a look at X256 9-DAY THE ATLANTIC COAST (hollandamerica.com).  The current offer includes: 3 DAY DEAL: $200 Shore Excursion Credit per stateroom.  Take advantage of this great cruise at the lowest fare available and a 50% reduced deposit (non-refundable).

Might as well grab it.  But don’t book it online – call or email and let me collect the commission, for my trouble in organizing the best time ever in Montreal.  I can’t wait to show off my city.  But I’m waffling.  If a couple of people sign up by Tuesday.  I’ll put down my deposit.  So, dawdle not. Ship Ahoy! All aboard! Whatever.