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.


Parts North – Part 13 – Greenland and back

On August 28, when the PA system woke us up, it was 8:00 am and we were anchored off Nanortalik, Greenland, another tiny little place of fishing and fur trading.  It was very cloudy and very cold, like about 5 degrees C.  I took my time having breakfast and going to the gym and doing just a little paperwork.  It was 12:30 pm, when I left my stateroom, and still cloudy.  When I reached the tender platform, I was met by a tender load of frozen people, muttering about the cold.  By the time I was on the tender the sun had come out.  I was about to have a much better experience than they did.  If I live to be a hundred, I will never figure out why so many people have to get off the ship as fast as they can.  They queue up for tender tickets as soon as they are announced, at 8:00 am.  I’m just rolling out of bed at that point.  By noon, they have seen it all and they’re frozen.  Here was me, having a fine time.

The town is a couple of hundred years old.  The original houses were of stone and look like our Quebec houses.  The new ones are colorful affairs in wood and corrugated tin.  They look very gay.  I checked out the souvenir shop and I could have got my slippers about $15 cheaper but I’m not sorry I didn’t wait.  I could have missed them.  It’s not like they had a complete size range or anything.

I didn’t need to go in to the general store, as it had the same sign as the one in Qaqortoq, and doubtless the same merchandise, only half as much.  I kept walking until I came to the museum and paid it its five bucks.  This one was well worth it.  It was pretty much all the old stone buildings, and a couple of wooden ones.  They have been or are in the process of being lovingly restored and stocked with treasures donated by locals.  The kayak building was particularly interesting, as was the one in which I found this:20190828-29NanortalikGreenlandMuseumBlubberPressSmaller

And, no, it’s not a wine press, although it sure looks like one.  It’s a whale blubber press.  That was another big deal here, once upon a time.  The catching of a whale was a cause for much feasting and rejoicing, and I am sure they found something to get drunk on, but it wouldn’t have been wine, for lack of grapes.

I crawled all over every single building, and I mean that literally.  The ADA will just have to turn a blind eye on this place.  They are doing the best they can.  When I was done, I walked back to the pier, in time to be treated to what the locals do on a beautiful day like today.  The kids go swimming, right there in the harbor.  20190828-35NanortalikGreenlandkidsSwimmingSmallerThat’s one of our tenders coming in in the background, probably the one I took to get back on board.  It was a very good day in Greenland and I was glad to get my feet into my reindeer and fox slippers.

We had another DV group dinner and it and was fun, again, although not as uproarious as the first time. The show was The Knights again, and they are good.  I must tell one of them that they need to take their cellphones out of their pants pockets.  They have such nice bods, it’s a shame to spoil the look with bulges.  One of my people had seen Northern Lights around eleven-thirty from her stateroom on Starboard, when we came through here the first time.  I’m on port, so it should have been my turn, but I checked at 11:30, 12 and 12:30 and saw nary a one.  I couldn’t stay up any later because the clocks were going forward.

I woke up on the 29th with mountains and glaciers in my window, as we had been in Prince Christian Sound since 6:30 am.  It was another gorgeous sunny day.  A lot of people will get a lot of wonderful photos, but I am happy with the one I woke up to.20190829-02RotterdamPrinceChristianSoundSmall

I went to my desk, for an hour, then left to enjoy the view from my balcony, while I did my paperwork.

Our magic table from the first night came back together, on purpose this time, and it was nice.  The entertainer was an Irish Flautist, who was funny to boot.

August 30 was another sea day.  I went to the desk a little early.  Then I went to the Mariner’s reception and lunch.  It started at 11:00 am.  When they had done giving away medals and all, we went to the Dining Room for the Mariner’s Brunch.  Then I printed and delivered a reminder for our tour tomorrow and went to the gym.  The old bod needs work, always.




Parts North – Part 12 – Greenland

On August 25, we entered Prince Christian Sound.  This is real scenic cruising.  I was at my desk from 10:00am to 11:00 am, but not much longer.  The captain came on the PA about 11:05 am to tell us we were approaching a glacier and he was going to stop and do a 360 degree turn so it could be seen from everywhere on the ship.  I figured everywhere included my balcony, so I went there, post haste.  I was just in time for the turn to begin and was rewarded with this picture. 20190825-05GreenlandPrinceChristianSoundMyBalconySmall

The Internet wasn’t working too well, mind you, but I guess that was to be expected.  It doesn’t get a lot more remote than this.  I enjoyed the scenery, instead.  You can only transverse Prince Christian sound a few weeks of the year, and we are very lucky with the weather.  It’s cold, but it’s beautifully clear.  Just look at those colors.

We got commentary from Glenn-Michael over the PA, every couple of hours.  He shared some interesting research.  The Greenland ice sheet has been both growing and shrinking over the years it has been possible to measure it.  Despite everything you hear, it has changed 0.0% since we have been measuring it.  That’s reassuring.  The ice sheet is two to six miles deep and covers most of Greenland.

I had dinner with Dorothy again.  We are now meeting on purpose and taking pot luck, mostly, for the rest of the table.  We got Judy and Dave from Victoria, BC again, and Anita and Brian from the East Bay.  Judy and Dave have written a series of children’s books and distribute them wherever they go.  I googled “Fumble the Bumble” and they are for real.  Judy is getting David to make a “Greenland: Not for Sale” sign, for when we get there.  The evening’s entertainer was Canadian, too, Greg Rodman, a solo guitarist.  Dorothy cracks me up.  She’s 90, but no one wants to believe it.  She was in an assisted living place but moved out a couple of years ago, because it was full of old people.  She makes the most hilarious snide comments about the other passengers, none of which are fit for this blog, but they are spot on and they crack me up.

August 26, we tendered off Qaqortoq, Greenland.  I had breakfast in the Lido,  went to the gym and got on a tender into town around noon.  This is the biggest town we’ll see in Greenland.  It is between 3,000 and 3,500 people.  Between us and NCL’s Aida, which was also there, we more than doubled the population.

There was one souvenir shop at the pier, about four tables set up by locals, a general store and a couple of second-hand clothing stores.  There were also three bars/restaurants, and that was about it.  We are in early to this port.  It’s not tourist-spoiled yet, and the houses all have water views, even the colorful apartments. 20190826-11QaqortoqGreenlandApartmentsSmall I walked around most of the accessible parts, not climbing the really steep slopes, which often involved rather dicey stairs for an old broad.

The general store was a kick.  You could buy absolutely everything there, none of it cheap.  The food items were the most interesting.  They did have fresh and frozen fruits and veggies, meats of all kinds, mostly frozen, raw and cooked.  There was an array of frozen foods representing the cuisines of the world, Italian, French, Thai, Chinese, Indian, you name it.  They also had pork crackle, and a wide variety of local fish.  They even had a selection of wines of the world.  Kendall Jackson Zin was $33, which I guess is about twice the price it is where it comes from, close to Santa Rosa.  But, it’s there, and that’s a good thing, I think.

As luck would have it, I rode back on the tender with Judy and Dave and got this picture of her while we were waiting for it. 20190826-31QaqortoqGreenlandJudyNFSsmall

I scored a very expensive pair of reindeer hide and Arctic fox slippers, which are so cosy and comfy, I wore them to dinner and the show.  The show was good.  The singer was Welsh and her name is Maria Lyn.  Methinks I have seen her before on the Amsterdam.

On August 27, we anchored off Paamiut, Greenland.  This little place is about half the size of Qaqortoq and the weather was pretty bleak.  I had breakfast, did some work, went to the gym and picked up a tender ticket.  It was after noon.  Nearly an hour later, my tender was called and I made my way to the tender platform on deck A.  The people coming off the tender told me not to waste my time.  The whole operation takes over an hour and a half and there wasn’t much to see.  Despite this being the center of the fur trade in Greenland, there were no shops open, nothing at all to buy, and only a little old church to see.  I could easily pass on that.  I am so happy I got my slippers yesterday.