How the Cookie Crumbles

An irreverant view of life after SIXTY-FIVE


46 Comments

Beijing Part 9: Olympic Park

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

The Olympic Park

The Olympic grounds had been built on razed farmland. We were told all the displaced farmers had been given jobs and a better apartment than the farmhouses they’d lived in. Everyone’s happy; a win-win.

To get to the entrance of the Park, a busy four-lane highway had to be negotiated by foot. The bus had been parked on the other side. Although busy, the hazards of crossing presented less chance of being run over than in the midst of the city if you timed your jaunt.

At long last, we were free to wander the grounds. I found our time there boring, however. The sun smirked overhead. Paved walkways, expansive stone-tiled, and bricked thoroughfare stretched miles ahead, too bright and stripped of any shade. Thank goodness for hats and sunglasses. It felt a clear day and I noticed no smog to date.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtjogMtnrjw  (published Feb. 2014, 2.53 min)

or

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12e3c6mAzfQ  (published May 2014, 9.45 min)

Notice the tents with trinkets for visitors. In the background is the 25-story IBM building (in the shape of Olympic torch)

Notice the tents with trinkets for visitors. In the background is the 25-story IBM building (in the shape of Olympic torch)

 I recall hawkers in the open and sellers of tourist knick-knacks in stall, after stall, after stall, along one side of the center road. These were actually white tents four or five feet wide with a flap raised on some as a sunshade. At intervals, empty stretches separated one cluster from another. The disappointment lay in discovering they all carried the same products! Every one.

One of the last ones, a larger tent, provided a digital photo opportunity for a mock emperor and concubine, or possibly his queen. Ernesto and Lorena, known for their carefree style, donned the costumes provided and had their royal photo taken. One size fit all as the ‘costumes’ tied in the back like hospital gowns.

Another frustration: no open exhibits.

As we left the Park, the ladies inquired about washrooms. Somebody spied one and pointed. “No, you won’t like that one,” Robert said. “See there? That’s a good one.” We’d heard a similar declaration several times now. I wondered in what way it might be different and not to our liking.

The Birds Nest National Statdium

                                                         The Birds Nest National Stadium

No matter what was served at any of our meals, I would never starve. It struck me, though, lunch and dinner dishes were quite similar, with lots of repeats. Time will tell.

Lunch was served at a restaurant not far from Olympic Village. From where we sat, I saw back-to-back orange hoods / like half pods or huge footballers’ helmets and wondered what they were. Phone booths. Say what? Two by two they appeared on the sidewalk, back to back, closer than girlfriends. Migrants and low-income workers use these Public Phone Booths.

Notice the water glasses, which vary in size from restaurant to restaurant

             Notice the water glasses, which vary in size from restaurant to restaurant. 

Lunch:

  • White rice
  • Tea (always hot and ready)
  • Pork meatballs
  • Chicken with cabbage and carrots
  • Kung Pow chicken
  • Rice (with duck meat)
  • Deep fried pork
  • Cucumbers with chicken
  • Deep fried battered fish
  • Egg drop soup
  • Sliced watermelon for dessert

Some Quick Facts about Telephones:

  • Everyone has a cell phone, sometimes two
  • Use text message vs. phone because it’s cheaper
  • Use’ You Chat’ a lot
  • Two providers: China Mobile and China Unicom
  • Phone fee 200 Yuan per month or $40

Housing:

  • Apartment rent 2 bedrooms: $1,000 per month (all USD)
  • Condo rent good location: $1,600 per month (depending on that location)
  • Condos, 2-bedroom, 1,000 square meters, 1 toilet
  • Condos cost $6,000 per square meter
  • 1,000 metres = $600,000 per condo
  • A house and garage, minimum price 30,000,000 Yuan or FIVE million U.S. dollars

Up Next on March 17: Beijing Part 10: The Hutong

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014.


50 Comments

Beijing Part 7: Ming Tombs

word-cloud-7

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

After the Great Wall, a mid-day meal awaited in a local restaurant.

Lunch:

  • Spring rolls (exactly 8)
  • Fish balls with red and green peppers
  • Fried chicken
  • Eggplant with tomato and green peppers
  • Rice
  • Cauliflower and broccoli
  • Soup
  • Cut up orange wedges for dessert
  • Tea
  • The usual one small (free) glass of beer, pop or water
The Spirit Way, original road and entrance to the tombs. There are 13 tombs of which only one has been excavated (Ding Ling)

The Spirit Way: original road and entrance to the tombs. There are 13 tombs of which one only has been excavated (Ding Ling) 

Ming Tombs: where 13 emperors of the Ming Dynasty are buried (1368-1644).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfynyPLm4Q0    (3.04 min)

If you would like a more in-depth version:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1BqspVU2HA  (8:43 min)

Emperor Yongle with money offerings at his feet. This money is collected and used to maintain the building

Emperor Yongle with money offerings at his feet. This money is collected and used to maintain the building and no, no Chinese person would dare steal this money.  

Laundry: 

  • Hung on rope strung the length of apartment balconies
  • Clothes  hung on hangers: socks, T-shirts, sweaters, trousers, shirts, blouses
  • Did not notice any underwear or bedding

 On the way to dinner:

Robert and the driver appeared to converse more than usual. Robert’s cell rang. He talked at length. The call completed, he started another. Both he and the driver seemed tied to their phones for an unusual amount of time. Of course, I didn’t understand a word, yet it occurred to me something might be up. I can pull a rabbit out of any hat, real or imaginary.

Our bus pulled over to the curb and Robert announced he had to leave. The driver would take us to the restaurant, he said. He gave no explanation, but it wasn’t hard to see he was upset. Sue and I looked at each other. We couldn’t see any of the other’s reactions in front or behind us.

IMG_0241

Heavy traffic surrounded us. After Robert hopped off, we drove on for a short distance still in the inside lane. Vehicles crawled bumper to bumper. Another bus slowed next to ours. Sue and I sat on the left of the aisle watching through the window. I squeezed my eyes shut as a bicyclist, with no room to spare, whizzed by between our two buses. I almost had a heart attack.

The other bus moved on. We remained stock-still in the curb lane. Traffic rolled past. I thought the young fellow on the bike might have caused an accident. Traffic shifted moving past, yet our bus waited immobile. Why? By now, the whole group craned necks and raised eyebrows around the seats at each other. We noticed together, a car parked in front of the bus. Another five minutes or so dragged past. What could be happening? A man in a construction vest walked up to the car’s driver window brandishing his arms. I had no idea the car had an occupant. No translation was required. Move now he indicated. Nothing changed. A 20-something Chinese guy in black pants and a white shirt appeared at the side of the bus. The door flew open and he jumped in. The door slammed shut and I don’t recall any words exchanged with the driver. The parked car inched forward. Our bus did as well.

IMG_0243

In minutes, we turned into a driveway and a man, who might have been Security or Police, stepped in front of the bus. He waved his arms and shouted through the windshield and looked as if he wanted to push the bus back. What was going on? Words passed between the man outside and our driver or between the driver and the new passenger who hadn’t taken a seat. Too much going on to follow. The uniform vanished. The bus door opened again and the young man jumped out signaling for us to follow. I felt like a lamb on the way to heaven’s gate or maybe hell’s? All were silent, heads bowed as we passed through an alley and a maze of cars and another lot into a restaurant. I flashed my Travel Tour ID towards an approaching waitress. She led us to Table 6 which displayed our tour group name.

One of our group noticed the young man worked as a waiter there. The picture became clear. This had been an orchestrated event. Before Robert rushed off, either he or the driver had pre-arranged for our escort. The driver had stalled until the black pants and white shirt found us. The driver couldn’t leave the bus to walk us to our destination since there wasn’t room to bring the bus closer. I don’t even know if he spoke English. What teamwork!

By the time dinner finished, and we fidgeted, wondering about our return to the hotel, Robert showed up as if nothing had happened. He looked much better than when he’d dashed off. His voice, I noticed, was still a little odd. At least to me, his reason for the sudden disappearance was suspect.

“I had to see about my next tour,” he said to our obvious curiosity.

 IMG_0249

Dinner:

  • Soup with fresh chopped tomatoes
  • Rice
  • Shrimp with egg and green peppers
  • Corn with lima beans and carrots
  • Sweet and sour chicken balls
  • French fries (surprise)
  • Chicken with fungus and green peppers
  • Green leaf vegetable like spinach but not
  • Chopped mushrooms and green peppers
  • Eggplant, light spice

We returned to the hotel around 8:30 p.m. I picked up my laptop from the room and returned to the lobby for free WiFi access. I had trouble and asked the guy at reception for help. He looked at the list available and pointed to one, even though the words weren’t in Chinese. “Maybe, this one?” His choice didn’t work. He shrugged. I went off on my own, but soon became frustrated and worn out. I wanted nothing more than my bed. I gave up on e-mail.

Finally day's end

Finally day’s end. This is how my brain felt as well. 

Next on March 3rd: Beijing Part 8: Pearl Stores and Summer Palace

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014.

 


60 Comments

Beijing Part 5

word-cloud-7

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

Temple of Heaven:

The entrance to the Temple is a wide avenue meant for masses of foot traffic. It is clean and well-traveled, not only by foreigners like us but by the Chinese people as well. I did not see wrappers or bottles lying around anywhere.

IMG_0164 - Copy

Click below for a three-minute video, which explains better than I can. Sorry for the advertisement. The first few seconds will show you the exercise in the park again but keep watching. Those pink feathers the man is tossing with his feet are the Badminton birdie I had referred to earlier.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Mo6_cskvhQ

IMG_0166 - Copy

The English 8 Group (us) had removed our light jackets. The sun rose higher and the temperature grew warmer, yet around us, young Chinese ladies wore (wool?) leggings under skirts, long sleeved jackets, heavy pants (no jeans) and high heels. I love heels and wear them on occasion, but not in this kind of environment. There were lots of stairs to climb and broken concrete and uneven bricked areas all around. How they walked in those shoes without breaking their necks, and for so far and long, I cannot imagine.

IMG_0170 - Copy

  • The park area is 660 acres
  • Commoners were not allowed inside its gates until 1918
  • It is a UNESCO World Heritage site
  • All the buildings were refreshed prior to the 2008 Olympics
  • Although the doors remained open, visitors are barred from entering. We fought for a spot to look inside from the blocked doorway but could not make out much.

Forbidden City:

We walked until our feet screamed for mercy. Again washroom locations were uppermost in our minds and where bottled water could be purchased. The following video is an hour and a half long. I cannot remember all the interesting history we learned, but take time to take a peak: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XRcwAAsNz8

IMG_0188 - Copy

IMG_0190 - Copy - Copy

Lunch:

The bus driver dropped us at the restaurant. The French group followed soon afterward as well as lots of locals. All platters of food were automatically delivered and placed on the large lazy Susan in the center of the table. Choices of one (small) free glass of soft drink, water, or beer were again offered. All the food served was family style. Our plates for eating were smaller than some bread and butter plates at home.

  • French fries (What? Shocked us too)
  • Deep fried, breaded white fish (mild taste)
  • Cooked cauliflower
  • Noodles (tasty)
  • Thinly sliced beef and cucumber platter
  • Beef meatballs with onions and green peppers
  • One large egg pancake (the size of a dinner plate)
  • White rice
  • Soup with ribbons of Nori in it (I didn’t try it)
  • Green tea
  • Peeled oranges, sections pulled apart and arranged on a plate for dessert

Note: Veggies were not plentiful like they are in the Chinese food we order in the West. They appeared to be more for decoration, except for plentiful onions in meat dishes, along with a few slices of green pepper. I ate till my tummy felt happy. I had no complaints about the food.

Tian’anmen Square

We set out on foot as the bus couldn’t bring us closer to the Square. Shortly before entering the grounds, we passed a strip mall across from the Square featuring souvenir shops and the like. Sue asked if we might shop, but Robert shook his head. Not a chance. We had a tight schedule. (Check out the writing on the building, a different spelling again.)

IMG_0175 - Copy

The Square is so huge, the danger of being trampled during a ceremony or demonstration crossed my mind. The Square accommodates one million people. That’s the size of 90 American football fields. Soldiers still patrol the area,  although they look way too young and of slight build.

  • The monument of the heroes of the revolution is here

IMG_0180 - Copy

  • The Great Hall of the People (in the background)

IMG_0177 - Copy

  • The Museum of Chinese History and Revolution. We were there at the wrong time and it was closed. I don’t believe we had been scheduled to visit anyway.

IMG_0181 - Copy

  • The Mao Zedong Memorial Hall where Mao lies embalmed in a glass case since his death in 1976. We did not go inside the Hall either. This building is at another end of the Square.

IMG_0182 - Copy

http://www.ebeijing.gov.cn/BeijingInformation/BeijingsHistory/t1141051.htm

Dinner:

Tsingtao beer was served, the best beer in China we were told. Ernesto ordered a bottle. I had the one small free glass a change from the water I drank all day. Sue preferred pop or water and the rest chose water.

  • Sliced sausage, fungus (think of weird mushrooms) and cucumbers
  • Cooked green salad (leaves of some kind)
  • Rice
  • Chicken with carrots and cucumbers
  • Duck meat with celery
  • Chicken with celery
  • Battered deep fried fish
  • Sesame bread plus onions and peppers (can’t remember what this looked like)
  • Spring rolls (exactly eight)
  • Soup (forgot to write what kind)
  • Watermelon slices for dessert

Offered separately, for which we needed to pay, were special coffees and ice cream. The waitress quoted 20 Yuan for either (about $4.00 Cdn / approx. $3.30 USD). Sue pointed out the prices posted over the ice cream freezer were 3.50 and 5.00 Yuan. Nope. The price was 20 Yuan. Non-negotiable. We must have stuck out like tourists. With money.

Our restaurant had been backed onto a park-like setting with a large pond of stagnant water. It wasn’t clean and had ugly, black and swampy plants growing in it.

We had time to kill before the bus came at 6:30 to drive to the Opera. Some of our group decided on a walk in the park. Sue and I chose to sit and take a load off. We’d done enough walking all day. My feet shrieked and uttered profanities. No wonder—they must have walked 50 miles on our first day out.

Beijing Opera 7:30 p.m.

Before the performance, a demonstration was given on stage of a male performer applying face makeup and donning a costume with a dresser assisting.

IMG_0197

This is not an art form I appreciated, although the costumes were colorful and dazzling. One of the men in our group complained he couldn’t even catch a nap.

We arrived at the hotel somewhere between nine and ten o’clock. A jam-packed day three had ended. My brain, over-saturated with information, shut down. Goodnight Beijing. Hello, pillow and bed.

~ *~

Next on February 17th – The Great Wall

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014.


57 Comments

Bejing at Last (Part 2)

word-cloud-7

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

At last, we arrived at the hotel and were given an hour to freshen up before the welcoming dinner in the hotel dining room. Would I stay awake that long?


IMG_0140

The hotel is classified 5-Star and this is the lobby. Although splendid and attention-grabbing, it was not spectacular.

Table number 4, awaited, set for eight and covered with a red tablecloth. A yard-wide-diameter glass Lazy Susan (size approximate) adorned the center.

I heard neck vertebrae snap. Sue and I gawked at each other. The waitress attended to the men first. She shook out each cloth napkin and placed one corner beneath the dinner plate—smaller than a bread plate—with the opposite corner on a lap. Picture a square napkin held by one corner with points facing north and south and east and west. This placement also protected the overhang of the tablecloth, I imagine, should anyone dribble while eating. Fallen food could s-l-i-d-e down the napkin and into your lap, but not onto the floor. What do you do with the resulting ‘leftovers’? Mash them into the napkin?

Recreation of place setting

Re-creation of place setting

Did I hear the ruffle of rooster tail feathers? I bet the men in our party hadn’t felt this special since Momma kissed a boo boo. This goes to show how different our east/west worlds still are, and will in all probability never change, or I might be wrong. I giggled into my hand and figured the men might as well enjoy the attention. We females rolled our eyes. It’s possible no one even noticed we did except us.

Once everyone’s serviettes had been organized, the subject of drinks came up. Choices of beverages were water, a soft drink (Coke or ginger ale and never diet) or beer. Once the apportioned amount per table was used up, too bad. The waitress opened two small bottles of water but this wasn’t enough for all the thirsty visitors. Substitutes for soft drinks and/or beer instead of water were unfathomable to staff; no swapping and no flexibility. Our guide, Robert, offered to go to the store to buy more but the hotel staff wouldn’t allow that either. (More on drinks later).

We were called the English Group 8. Another group followed us some time later, a full busload called the French Group from Quebec and area. Busy at our own table, I still overheard a loud voice call: une, deux, trois upon their arrival. Why were these adults being treated like children, I wondered but pushed the thought away.

First dinner in China (menu incomplete due to my befuddled brain)

Robert hung around to describe the platters of food (family style) as they were placed on the Lazy Susan before he left for the subway and an hour’s ride home.

  • Hors d’oeuvres: anchovies sandwiched between thin slices of pork (a guess)
  • Tiny cucumbers, about an inch long, (looked like beginning baby growths) served as a salad
  • Bean salad, French cut
  • Cabbage something (tasty)
  • Corn soup (no corn found, and no corn flavor)
  • Sweet and sour pork (most familiar taste)
  • Cauliflower
  • Fried rice with peas
  • Beef slices
  • Pork, thick slices of boiled bacon (boiled fat, ugh)
  • For dessert: raw pumpkin slices (unflavored, not well-liked) and dates

Dinner over, neither Sue nor I recalled what time we called it a night. I imagine we collapsed into bed soon afterward, thankful for a pillow and a comfy bed.  The unnerving thing is neither of us has any recollection. None. We can’t even embellish a story under threat of pain or suffering.

Take a gander at this, our bathroom with a peekaboo wall. What? Why?

IMG_0201

IMG_0200

You’re going to scratch your head and we did as well. After finding this oddity, no-one we asked gave a straight answer. Not even our tour guide. He mumbled something about watching television from the bath. An expensive glass wall to enjoy TV if you ask me. A Venetian blind hangs in place to open or close. Here the bottom half has been turned down for privacy. Check out these links for comments:

https://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/forums/asia-north-east-asia/topics/hotel-bathrooms-in-china

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/05/travel/05headsup.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

 

A few additional facts about China:

  • China has FOUR municipalities: Beijing (the capital), Chongqing, Shanghai, and Tianjin
  • There are 55 nationalities, PLUS the Han People who are the majority at 93%
  • The rest are minorities
  • Mandarin is the main language.
  • Although written the same all over the country, the dialects are different. Everywhere.

~*~

Next On January 27th: Beijing (Part 3): First Tour Day

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014.


47 Comments

25 Ways to Kill Time at Chicago Airport

I thought I’d revisit the China posts. Some of you haven’t seen them. Enjoy.

Warning: This is longer than my usual posts. Also Note: Newbie person traveling. Some of this may be old hat to you.

We didn’t need to worry about our luggage as it flew ahead direct from Toronto to Beijing. What a blessing, yet this causes me discomfort not knowing exactly where it might be. A whole string of what ifs torment me anyway. The most nagging: what if my luggage goes to the wrong destination? Pul-eese. It’ll be fine. I’d packed two changes of clothing in my carry-on thanks to advice from my blogging friends.

It turns out we’re a long way from the main building and a shuttle arrives as we land in Chicago. We jumped aboard in a fine spring mist, hoping for delivery to the correct terminal. We then jogged in the now drizzle to the entrance. First stop a washroom.

What is this? I feel like a country mouse. The toilet had unusual self-sanitizing seats. Think ultra-soft (memory foam). This video shows better than I can explain:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cokBht49qt8

Only five hours and 45 minutes to kill.

Now, what? We saw Starbucks and MacDonalds; a kind of deli; various health food shops; tons of neck pillows and sunglasses;  books and magazines, and a bar or two. Maybe we should have considered sampling our way through the food shops to keep busy.

25 Ways to Kill Time in the Chicago Airport:

  1. Walk, limp, stumble. keep moving.
  2. Learn to avoid lineups around boarding and arrivals gates on both sides of the building.
  3. Dodge weary travelers more concerned about their wheelies than who’s in front or behind them.
  4. Gape at the zillions of people (I don’t get out enough), from all parts of the world, who arrive and depart in giant waves like schools of fish—big ones— with luggage
  5. Close your mouth time and again and do your best not to stick out as if you’d just left the cabbage patch. Isn’t the world a big and confusing place?
  6. Make a deposit at each washroom you wander past. When the opportunity presents itself, you might as well grab it. Best keep your tank empty.
  7. Hang around the unusual new-fangled toilets. What will they think of next? (refer to Youtube video). I wondered how often the plastic covers were replaced and asked an attendant, but she didn’t know either.
  8. Stand in long lines to buy food/water even though not hungry
  9. Fight the crowd to buy coffee.
  10. Search for an empty table to rest aching feet. Why were all the tables occupied? Pull out my now soggy pizza out of your carry-on.
    At Chicago O'Hare Airport killing time

    At Chicago O’Hare Airport killing time


  11. Take pictures of a plane through a restaurant window, not exactly proof you’re in Chicago but what the heck.
  12. After tiring yourself out walking around the gargantuan airport, sit and try to read or people watch.
  13. Comb the gift shops for a Chicago fridge magnets but don’t buy one. They were too expensive at $5.99 each (U.S. dollars of course) and tiny—the width of two of today’s postage stamps.
  14. Check the screen for your gate early. Why is the waiting area full already. Lucky to find a seat each.
  15. Count tall people / short people. If they keep shifting up and down. start over and give up.
  16. Survey couples in boarding area to guess which ones might be going to Beijing. (Sue spied a couple from our Toronto flight).
  17.  Without hesitation, strike up a conversation and ask if they are on your tour.  knows how to peg them. They are going our way.
  18. Stare at the time in two-minute intervals, which doesn’t move it any faster. One hour and 25 minutes to boarding.
  19. Notice a planeload of pilots attached to wheelie carry-ons, who mill about purchasing food. Have you seen so many at once? Why are they hungry? Are they arrivals or departures?
  20. Gawk and wonder how all these pilots happen to be so good looking, but much more important, fret if they are indeed old enough for the job? Most look around fifteen.

    Someone's tired of waiting and waiting and waiting

    Someone’s tired of waiting and waiting and waiting

  21. Shift and re-shift from one numb butt cheek to the other and blink faster than a turn signal to stay awake. Eyes too dry to read? You wuss. You’ve only been awake 29 hours. Fifteen and a little bit to go.
  22. Evade running and screaming children
  23. Stew over whose toddler is wandering around alone. Not your responsibility, but where are the parents? You want to know, don’t you? Where ARE they? No one’s paying attention to the little guy. Nobody.
  24. Line up as directed with visa and boarding pass to get the visa to China stamped. This takes five minutes. One hour and 15 minutes to go
  25. Spy a female pilot. Wow! She looks about 40, old enough and experienced compared to the fifteen-year-old male pilots. You could trust her but where’s her crew?

The clock clicks one mouse whisker at a time. Time’s up. Boarding is announced by a distorted male voice. Not unlike unconscious sleepwalkers, you funnel into lines and shuffle forward, necessary papers clutched and eyes begging for toothpicks.

*  * *

Next on December 23rd – A Pause for Thanks and Christmas

©Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles.

For more related posts, click on China tab above


68 Comments

An Abbreviated Vancouver Adventure

Last December, sister Mary and I flew to Vancouver for sister Jean’s 60th birthday. The direct flight took four hours and forty minutes. The snack and refreshment cart rattled down the narrow isle after the first class passengers had been served—just three or four rows behind the cockpit ending the seat before us. No curtain of separation divided first class and the rest of the passengers. We ordered coffee. I received mine first and made a face. Mary noticed and tugged on the airline steward’s sleeve to change her order to mint tea.

“No, you cannot,” he said. “You’ve already had a turn.”

Of course, we thought him serious and therefore rude, until he grinned and giggled, laughter reaching his eyes. He was a rosy-cheeked, round fellow, with a belly which hung over his belt. The tousled-hair blonde female flight attendant was a larger woman than hired in years gone by. How refreshing life is becoming more realistic these days.

img_2467

I cannot believe I passed up a free, like-new book left on a brown refuse box inside the airport. My fingers itched for the thick Nora Roberts hardcover novel, but I was already weighed down enough.

After experiencing the Camino-like trek through Toronto airport, we loved Vancouver’s. The baggage claim located close to ground transportation, Jean and her husband met us as soon as Mary texted our arrival. The first rain clouds in a month hung mean and leaden, keen to greet us. This was to be a family get-together with no time for sightseeing.

img_2468

Jean served a lovely snack at the house and later a late supper. The time to catch up turned to night. Weary from travel and excitement of seeing family again, we fell into bed midnight Vancouver time (9:00 p.m. in Ontario). The next morning, Mary and I slept in as Jean slipped out to a Yoga class and Michael dawdled in the kitchen assembling breakfast.

A day of eating, drinking, and talking till we were hoarse (necessitating more drinking) followed. After supper, Michael prepared a cauldron of chili (maybe it was a large pot). I threw together a filling for Jean’s petit choux (like one-bite cream puffs): artichokes, softened sun-dried tomatoes, cream cheese, and feta into a food processor for a coarse blend. These were in preparation for the festivities New Year’s Eve.

img_2414

A day of accomplishing little, we finally called it a night around 11:30 p.m. I tossed and turned, bolting upright at a thunderous crack. I reacted by checking the shelves of books around us in the great room were intact. For a split second, I thought they’d exploded around us. The report sounded once and no more. My heart hammered on. Mary said it must be the wind.

http://bc.ctvnews.ca/overnight-quake-the-strongest-felt-in-14-years-on-b-c-s-south-coast-1.2717808

The household was awake at 6:10 a.m.—ten minutes later than planned—to catch the ferry to Nanaimo. Seniors get a discount but only if they are residents. Michael paid for the tickets. No one mentioned half of us were from Ontario.

The early morning proved knuckle bleeding and foot stomping cold. We ran across and down the road to use the facilities due to our early arrival. Hurry up and wait, but that’s the unwritten rule. If you want to get on, arrive as close to the front of the line as you can before space runs out on board for your car.

The mountains striking and the water calm, we enjoyed breakfast on board at around $10.00 each for eggs, home fries, toast, and choice of ham, sausages, or bacon. Our crossing across the Georgia Straits on the Coastal Renaissance transpired without incidence.

 

Next on November 11th – Penelakut to Thetis Islands

© 2016 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles. All Rights Reserved.

For more related posts, click on Abbreviated Vancouver


71 Comments

Tying up Loose Ends – Homeward Bound

During summer in St. John’s, you can catch a tour bus for $5.00, which stops at all the sites for an hour each. Schedules are available at hotels. What a steal. The opportunity was lost on us as the season had closed.

Tired after our stroll on Duckworth Street, we trudged uphill all the way to the hotel. The drizzle followed us, fading in and out. One moment we snapped our umbrellas shut and open the next. Once we arrived in our room, nothing mattered more than putting my feet up and grabbing my book. I apologized to the novel for awarding it second place. Mary had other ideas. She’d heard about the sauna and prepared to unwind there instead.

The afternoon drew to a close. We had  time to kill before our last dinner with the tour group and decided to check out the atrium. A tall ladder took prominence in one area for some kind of maintenance in progress. The rest unfolded for our pleasure to amble through and explore. It was a large area.

All good things must end. Thoughts of going home struck us with a mixture of regret and relief. For dinner, we had pre-ordered Newfoundland Screech Glazed Salmon and heart of Romaine Caesar. The women dolled up, but the men dressed in casual attire. Our numbers had dwindled over the last few days from thirty-two to about twenty-four. Two servers and a Maître d’ attended us in a private room. Francis wore a suit and brought his wife. I was impressed the tour owner’s warm, down-home speech. Francis became sentimental. Can’t help but love the guy.

Sneaked a photo in art store at the Sheraton

Sneaked a photo in art store at the Sheraton

The next morning after a posh breakfast (this is the Sheraton after all), Mary wanted one last run downtown before Francis dropped us at the airport at eleven. No rain in sight. The sun smiled and the sky glowed pastel blue, a smear of clouds here and there. Yes. Believe it or not. I took this through the hotel window. Trees obscured the view of the ship in the harbor but not the clear horizon.

img_2214

Nervous as a cat, I prowled the room waiting for Mary. We had 20 minutes until transfer to the airport with Francis and a few others of our group. Seven minutes to spare, Mary arrived. We collected our bags and as soon as we hit the lobby, found everyone already on the bus, their bags already loaded.

Mary had checked us in for the flight the night before. The machine took our information but refused to spit out our luggage tags and boarding passes. No one around to help, I ran to grab an attendant some distance away though St. John’s airport isn’t huge. A desk person helped but we noticed too late she’d only printed boarding passes to Halifax and not transfers from Halifax to home. We soon sorted this out upon landing. The airport huge and obviously international, we walked for miles and miles as. Mary searched for a fish store but they had no fresh lobster. Stomachs rumbling, we checked out places to eat and shared a late lunch of salad and maybe mussels—I can’t recall— but still paid almost $50. For lunch.

* * *

Next up on November 4th – A Surprise

© 2016 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles. All Rights Reserved.

For more related posts, click on Newfoundland / Labrador tab at the top of the page


60 Comments

#BlogBattle – Week 63

Prompt: Hero

Words:  1461

Genre: Drama

Check out the rules:  https://blogbattlers.wordpress.com/

reunion-1002241_960_720 Pixaby

Image by Pixaby. No  attribution required.

Butterfingers

The family reunion lurched into full swing.

Will Bailey’s back dug into the battered picnic table Stick-like joints folded elbows to knees like a grasshopper enjoying the sun. They unfurled with a snap, a closed fist smashing a wayward volleyball from shattering his head. Crack.

“Wow. Did you see that, guys?” A crimson-cheeked fat kid raced forward, slack-jawed.

Perspiring teenage boys and girls milled around Will, anxious hands patted his back and shoulders. A hand still at half-mast, his booming laugh replaced a self-satisfied grin. ”It’s nothing. Back to your game boys and girls. Which side is winning again?”

The boys, rowdy and energetic, high-fived. A reedy boy leaned forward. “I can’t believe the girls whooped that wild ball so hard, Uncle Will.” Adam’s apple bobbing, he smirked at his friends. “Surprise. Surprise.”

A raven-haired girl fought her way through the throng and crossed her arms. “The girls? It only takes one, buster, and that would be me—Penny.” She poked a thumb into her chest. “Little old me.” Hoisting herself to full height, the curvy girl stood no more than four feet from naked heels to the top of her head. The boys snickered and shook their heads.

“You do have a mean serve, girlie. Maybe you’ll learn to straighten it before you kill somebody?” He pointed at his nephew. Intermittent gasps sputtered in the crowd. A couple girls whispered, heads bowed, stealing glances at his hand. “When’s the last time you hit the ball half that hard?” He churned the air with open palms. “Go on and play fair.” The boys shuffled off elbowing each other. Will folded his gangly form once more, eyes closed, face to the sun.

Hot and limp from chasing the ball, someone threw a T-shirt heavenwards. “Last one in lake is a loser.” Bare feet pounded the sand, churning it in all directions as they passed organizers filling the park’s stone barbeque surfaces with meat. The sound and smell of sizzling burgers already worked on their appetites. Soggy tees soared like damaged birds only to nose-dive with a thump. Unzipped shorts followed, marking a wide trail to water’s edge. Dozing sunbathers and excited children at play in the sand slowed the rambunctious flock. They wove in and out around them, pushing and tugging, shouting and squealing at the top of their lungs.

Will ran a hand through thinning white hair and smiled. He dropped his hand and studied it. After all these years, he still wasn’t used to it. He turned with a start at the light hand on his shoulder. “I didn’t hear you come up, Josh.”

The reedy nephew pleated himself on the bench beside him. “Dad’s always saying I look more like you than him. Weird, isn’t it.”

Will studied the seventeen-year-old, a corner of his mouth twitching. “Seems so. A hardship, is it?”

“No-o. A comment—is all.” Josh toed the patch grass. “Good to see you. It’s been a long year since the last family picnic. We never see you.”

“You know I can’t drive, right? Can’t afford one of them fancy cars, neither. Even if I had a license, they probably wouldn’t renew it at my age. Something on your mind, Josh?”

“Not really. Wanted to talk without interruption. How you been keeping?” He squinted over his shoulder, breathing in through his nose. “I’m famished. Given the opportunity, I’d eat a whole cow not just a couple burgers. Why does food always smell so good outside?”

Will chuckled, pushing hands against the bench to rearrange his lean rump on the hard surface. “Fresh air and exercise, I suppose. I’m good for an old geezer and the shape I’m in. Thanks for asking. What I’ve missed—can’t lie—was playing sports and the freedom to do as I pleased.” He lowered reflective sunglasses to peer over the top. “Is that your mother bringing food?”

Changed to a dry Tee, Josh rubbed his chest and belly. “That’s mom. Bless her.”

“Son, my hat—is it under the table? The dang sun is frying my brains like steak.” The high-pitched clang of an iron dinner bell pealed in the distance. “Thanks. That feels better already.” He raised a hand in salute to Josh’s mother.

“Why don’t we move you and your chair into the shade? High noon. It’s hot enough to fry bacon on my nose.”

“About time you put your hat back on and moved out of the sun. Can’t chat—don’t want a stampede. The young ones are over eager now the food’s ready.” She chuckled, a buttery sound. “Later, Will.” Plates smacked down, she was gone.

“More comfortable in the chair, Uncle Will? Let’s eat.” Half the burger disappeared in one bite. He chewed, a look of bliss on his face. A raspy noise like someone coughing up sandpaper forced his eyes open. “What?” He bit off another hunk.

“It’s a pleasure to watch you eat. I used to put it away too when I was your age. Don’t want much nowadays.”

“Why do you come to these reunions? Nobody pays attention to you. I don’t even know half my cousins—there’s new ones every year—you can’t know many. The older people are busy cooking, serving and packing up again. Why do you bother to come so far to sit ignored?”

Will chewed and looked away. “You’re all the family I have. No fun living alone in the retirement home. Still enjoy counting the additions to this huge family every year. My friends are gone or dying. I’ll be gone soon, too.”

“Are you sick? Why don’t you live with us? Never understood why you didn’t in the first place. You wouldn’t be lonely in our house. Guaranteed.” Josh leaned over the plate in his lap, earnest brown eyes studying the man he wanted to know.

“Your father has badgered me for years. Can’t do it, son.”

“Why not? You’re Dad’s only brother. Why the heck not?” A crimson river of heat rushed from his chest, over his face, to the roots of his pale blond brush-cut.

“You have your hands full with six aunts and cousins, never mind your mother’s side of the family. I have good 12-hour care. I’m good.” A quick wink and he speared a forkful of potato salad. “You’re right. Food tastes a hundred times better outside.”

Josh dove into the salad and bit into the second burger, thoughtful, eyes assessing his uncle. He swallowed and cleared his throat. “How come no one talks about what happened to you? I want to know, but Dad always makes excuses. I’m not talking about idle curiosity, understand?”

“Nothing to tell.”

“You’re a hero and nobody talks about it. I don’t understand.”

Will heaved a deep breath, wiping his face and hands with a crumpled paper serviette. Like I said, nothing to tell, but if I can answer, I will. What do you want to know?”

Josh grinned scraping together the last of the salad on his plate. “Easy one to start. Why does no one call you Bill Bailey? Why only Will?”

The coughing-sandpaper sound began low and grew in volume. “It’s nothing to do with the song. I was named William, shortened it to Will by my teens. Once I heard about the song, I made it clear my name was Will and nothing else. I’ve had the song hummed enough times to lose my sanity.”

The boy slapped the folded paper plate against his knee, then grew serious. What happened to your legs? Dad says you never married.”

It was the Vietnam War, son. I drove a jeep over a landmine… End of story. About not marrying—why sentence a young woman to a life of caretaking when she can do better?” A shadow of sadness flickered across his face and vanished. He handed the half-finished plate to the boy. “I’m done.”

“And the finger? What happened to the top half? Do you mind if I ask?” Nervous hands slid up and down his thighs.

This time, Will honked when he laughed. His nephew heaved his webbed sun chair closer, exhaling.

“That’s a funny story—stupid if you want to know. About 20 years ago, I worked a table saw, moved the wrong way, put my hand out to catch my balance, and well, lobbed it off. Passed out—don’t know how long. Afterwards no one could find it.” He shook his head. “Dumb accident.”

Neither of them spoke for long minutes.

“I want you to promise you will come visit more often and stay over a few nights.”

 

Once Josh’s friends knew him better, they liked hanging around Will. No one noticed the wheelchair after a while. His habit of stabbing the air with a finger when excited was another matter.

The End

© 2016 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles


80 Comments

Do Salmon Need Help?

Three of our group left us yesterday. After breakfast, we bused to Deer Lake to drop three more couples at the airport. They hadn’t known about the 12-day package and would have liked to stay on. We are down to 22, which gives us lots of choices where to sit on the huge bus.

Another overcast day, but the sun was stubborn and peeked out sporadically around stubborn, sullen clouds. By 8:38 a.m., Francis had popped in a DVD about the last of the Red Indians— the Beothuk —who painted their skin with ochre (their spiritual connection).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ft6pT-xK5FA  (The Last of the Red Indians and Stealing Mary)

After the movie, I dozed as did the rest of my fellow travelers. Though it was early morning, I decided on an early night, maybe straight after supper.

The luncheon offer consisted of cod stuffed with crab. Though not bad, I couldn’t find the crab. Two scoops of mashed potatoes and lots of kernel corn decorated the plate. The coffee was bitter. We did not stay for dessert as we were to enjoy a planned mug up later.

Next stop: the logging town, Grand Falls-Windsor and the Exploits River, the longest river in Newfoundland. We learned how salmon make their way up on the fish ways and how their stocks have increased due to the diligent work done there. Can you believe it takes three years for a salmon to grow to adulthood?

IMG_1781

Lookout to to Salmon Interpretation Center:

IMG_1775

Examples of salmon ladders to the river:

  • The project started three years ago with only 1,000 fish
  • Up to 30,000 now
  • The fish go back to the river and the first year out to Greenland and the sea
  • They then swim upstream once every two years as it is ideal for them and saps their energy
  • Fishing is allowed June, July, and August
  • Restriction of two fish per person each month and less than 63 cm (two feet) in length
  • On bright days, flies need lots of silver
  • Dark color on a dark day
  • The longer the fly, the more chance you catch attention of a salmon
  • They are not hungry, merely attracted to shiny things floating by

We visited a local craft shop in Lewisporte where we were treated to a mug up. A fellow had come in to entertain us on his electric piano. The music was so good, Francis asked Mary for a waltz and made her day.

We had leftover pizza for supper and didn’t bother leaving the room. Television didn’t hold my interest, and my eyes were too heavy to read.

Quick Facts:

  • Current population in Newfoundland approximately 500,000
  • No snakes, deer or chipmunks
  • No ragweed
  • 44 species of orchids
  • 16th largest island in the world
  • Squirrels introduced to Newfoundland in 1963
  • 3 large oil fields on the grand banks
  • Hibernia Oil Field most profitable in Canada

* * *

Next on May 13th – Beothuks

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles. All Rights Reserved.

For more related posts, click on Newfoundland / Labrador tab at the top of the page

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

If you are reading this, thank you for coming back after my sudden disappearance. Without you, I wouldn’t have this blog nor enjoy our pleasant exchanges. A special thanks to those who ‘checked’ up on me. You have been my strength during a difficult time. Bless you all.


84 Comments

Jiggs Dinner and Anchors Aweigh

A long afternoon of driving after lunch. We visited Lomond (in Gros Morne National Park) known for its camping, boating, and picnic area.

We traipsed from the upper road down, down, down, down to the water. over a path and then a gravel road (for boats?). Someone had setup camp in what appeared a field away from the water. We made an effort not to disturb whomever might be sleeping although it was mid-afternoon. We came across lady’s slippers, usually found in July not this time of year (mid-September).

In the evening, the trio from the Bon Boat Tour, who were part of the Anchors Aweigh band, were performing in the evening. We picked up tickets at Oceanview Hotel while in Rocky Harbour.

IMG Anchors Aweigh Ticket_NEW

The tickets were $30 each, more than double a previous entertainment offering we’d passed up. After enjoying the trio on the Bonne Tours boat, and after a video of the five-member group’s performance concert on the bus, Mary and I decided why not. Of course, any drinks we wanted would be over and above the entrance price.

Special Treat Supper: Jiggs Dinner

Boiled salt beef, yellow pea pudding, gravy, a whole potato and carrot, and green peas. I have a story about this farther down. I found my yellow pea pudding dry and overall could not finish the platter. What a huge meal.

IMG_1773

The hotel jammed with tourists when we arrived for the 8:00 p.m. show, favored us with a tall table and four chairs in the back of the room. New Patrons from another group soon joined Mary and me. They’d also been treated to the Jiggs dinner earlier—the original with cabbage. Francis told us our menu had been changed from cabbage to green peas for a reason. The tour company wanted to ensure the passengers on the bus were without growling tummies or upsets, and happy the next day

The three-hour show was worth every penny. The band took only one break for less than twenty minutes. I’m tempted to say it was closer to ten. The music continued fast and lively; the jokes and laughs endless. This is not my go-to music but I enjoyed every minute of it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0woJtm_3Xw

Credit: Shotgun Jilly

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDVLrP9ki4Q  (band bio)

Credit: OnTheBeatAndPath

Giggle for today:

This kind of day is nicer looking down on the grass than looking up.

Next on April 1st –  Do Salmon Need Help?

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles. All Rights Reserved.

For more related posts, click on Newfoundland / Labrador tab at the top of the page