Tag Archives: London

It’s that time of year again

bus seatsI know! It’s been quite a while, hasn’t it? The thing is, I’ve been a little busy lately. As a matter of fact, right now I’m writing to you from just about 38,000 feet, listening to my fave chanteuse, Ms. Brandi Carlile, on my way to yet another conference. Which, if I do say so myself is quite an accomplishment since, not so long ago the only way I would get on one of these things was with the help of my “little white pill” and you certainly wouldn’t want to be reading anything I wrote in that state, even if I would have been able to write. I’ve come a long way in more ways than you can imagine. Because, if you have been reading this blog carefully you’ll know that around this time last year both me and the President of the United States of America had quite a lot to celebrate. One year ago, give or take a few weeks, Mr. Obama was reelected and I made my way into yet another decade (you don’t really expect me to tell you which one, do you). And, if I can speak for the both of us, the year has had its ups and downs, perhaps less for me than for him. After all, most of the web stuff I’ve developed over the past year has actually worked.

But that doesn’t mean it’s been smooth sailing. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I have a problem with getting older. Quite to the contrary, I actually think it’s a “good thing” given the alternative. As a matter of fact, I’ve managed to save quite a lot of money this year by taking advantage of all the discounts that have very recently been made available to me. Let’s face it, I’ve always enjoyed a good hotel but now I get to enjoy it 10 to 15% more, most of the time. And shopping has become a bit of a treasure hunt, what with all of the potential savings to be had on Tuesdays, my new favourite day. If only the sales clerks could remember to always ask me for my identification. It’s a funny thing the cycles of life. For years I hoped no one would make me take my pic out of my wallet to prove I had reached that all-important age of majority because really, how much more mature was I going to be once I did reach 18? But now I’m quite distressed when they take my word for it that I actually meet the requirements for their “special” prices. Which brings me to the one thorn in my side, fly in the ointment, wrinkle in an otherwise well thought out plan.

You’ve heard it before. The boomer generation has redefined aging. Well why not? We’re a big group of people and that’s what big groups of people do. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that we’ve managed to convince the rest of you that “60 is the new 40” whatever that might mean because I’m afraid most of us can barely remember 40. Nonetheless, I’m going to come right out and say that I’ve done a pretty good job of staying fit, at least enough that I can still do 5 long ones on the treadmill without causing any serious damage. And when people who haven’t seen me for quite some time proclaim, “you haven’t changed a bit” I try my best to believe them. Which is why I found my recent experience on the Tube (you recall it was not all that long ago I was wandering the streets of London) just a tad concerning.

As a Mother of two fine young men, I know it was incumbent upon me to ensure that my sons were aware that, finding themselves seated on any type of public transportation meant they needed, at all times, to be prepared to relinquish their seats to someone older and perhaps wiser than them. It’s the right thing to do. Period. Well other Moms, you and I may have made a mistake. You see, on my most recent travels, almost without fail, as I stood comfortably and securely holding on to the poles provided for just that purpose, some young man would politely tap me on the shoulder and say “Ma’am, please take my seat”. And while I knew his Mother would be proud I, on the other hand, was just a tad mortified. Because up until that very point in time I was happy in my illusion, content to think that I really “hadn’t changed a bit”. But that one act, that innocent and generous gesture, that simplest of requests, that one thing, in and of itself, burst my bubble and made me realize that no matter how much I want to believe otherwise, to those who don’t know me, I have changed, likely quite a lot. And in that moment, my otherwise smooth ride became just a little bumpy.

So Mr. Obama, it looks like we made it through year one and as you begin the second year of your term I wish you all the best. As we both continue on our journeys, here’s hoping the ride will be a smooth one from here on out. Although, if you don’t mind me saying, I’d like to think that my term will last a whole lot longer than yours.

Before I leave, a quick thanks to my little bro’ for the idea for the post. It helped unblock the writer in me and now you can blame him for this one.

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Blimey! What’s that you said?

DSCN0795smallSo here’s the thing about travel. It’s complicated. First there’s the security line with all of its rules and the decisions you have to make. Do I take my shoes off or don’t I? Should I throw out my water or drink it, a decision I may later regret should the seat belt light stay on too long after take-off.  Was it a 1 litre bag or a bag of 1 litre bottles that I’m allowed? Should I opt for the machine or the pat down? Once you get through all of that there’s the airport signage to decipher and the total recall you’ll need to try to remember whether your gate was B39 or D93 which, given the long and opposing corridors in many terminals, could significantly impact your chances of making it onto your plane.

Now as a shallow person I do my best to live my life in a way that is as uncomplicated as possible. For that reason I have a distinct preference, once I make my way through all of the previously mentioned chaos, to disembark at a location where I am able to understand what is being said.  And while I can read, write and say “the house is near the garden” in Hebrew, I’m not sure that qualifies as a second language. As a result, I am most comfortable in my native English. Which, imho, made my recent foray to London a particularly good choice.  At least I thought it did.

Let me start by saying that having grown up during the “British Invasion” (no, not the 1812 one) I was aware that I would find some discrepancies in the meanings of words between my homeland and the Mother country. Face it, how many times did one have to hear Mr. McCartney refer to his “blokes” before realizing he was talking about the gentlemen standing beside him. And it’s pretty common knowledge that a “lift” is something that elevates you and  a  “brolly” is used for protection from the rain. Of course it didn’t take me too long to figure out that at the end of every meal when I politely inquired as to the location of the “washroom”, there was a reason for the funny look I got as the server wondered why it was that I wanted to bathe before going home. And I will admit the use of “toilet”, in this case, is much more direct and to the point. I can’t say however, that I was always prepared for the challenges I faced as I encountered a rather heretofore unfamiliar version of the language I speak each and every day in my home and native land.

Now don’t get me wrong. Some of the local banter is rather intuitive. I mean I  get why they call their subway the “tube” because the little round cars that you can barely stand up in live up to the name. And it doesn’t take much to understand why the “lady” on the loudspeaker repeatedly reminds you to “mind the gap” since if you don’t, you’ll find yourself removing the wheels of your luggage from the rather significant space that exists between the train and the platform in the 10 or so seconds you have to exit your car. “Take out” and “take away” mean pretty much the same on either side of the pond although the latter seems infinitely more popular than the former. The same can be said about walking on a “footpath” because you’ll actually think you’re on a  “sidewalk” even if one sounds slightly more “paved” than the other.

Smooth sailing? A cakewalk? Think you’ve got this carpet beat? Well hold on ‘cause the ride’s not over. It’s not all peaches and cream and at times it gets downright confusing. So you’re at the theatre and you feel like a little popcorn. You ask for the “concessions” and a nice young man lets you know that senior’s tickets are available at a discount through the wicket. Which I suppose is the true meaning of the word. Then there’s the time you want “fries” and have to ask for “chips” or you want “chips” have to ask for “crisps”. But I was particularly flummoxed by the tendency to make less more by turning “Yield” into “Give Way” and “Detour” into “Diverted Traffic”, which seems slightly more complicated not to mention the resultant need for larger signs. But all of this pales to what you might face when you want to eat. So listen carefully.

When confronted with “bubble and squeak” on a breakfast menu all I can say is “Don’t order it! Just don’t order it!” because it has nothing to do with either of those things. Which brings me to a little tidbit I would like to share with you should you decide to venture into a land where you have little experience with the spoken word. This is important. If you learn nothing else before you go, learn to say “chicken” in whatever language(s) you think you may encounter. Here’s why. One evening you may find yourself comfortably seated in a four star restaurant and upon carefully perusing the menu settle upon something called “rognons de veau et champignons à la sauce moutarde” because you remember a little of your high school french but clearly not enough. When it arrives at your table a very polite server looks directly at you and says “the kidney is for you madam?”. Your look of astonishment will tell the tale but, even so, the lovely woman from Miami sitting at the next table won’t be able to stop herself from proclaiming “I wondered if that was what you really wanted”. To which you reply (but only in your head) “Well if you knew, why didn’t you open up your mouth and say something when it mattered?!” all the while wishing you had stuck with the chicken. Perhaps however, that’s a story for another day.

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A little under the weather

kleenexBy this time I suspect that many, if not most of you, are wondering to yourself, or perhaps even proclaiming out loud “where the heck has she gone? Last time we heard from her she was meandering her way through the streets of London and promising to provide tips for the shallow traveller. Did she get lost amongst the catacombs? Swept away by the pomp and circumstance? Become overwhelmed by the sheer awesomeness of walking in the rather iconic footsteps of notable figures the likes of Monsieurs Jagger and Lennon? Or did the majesty of the old country, in all of its splendour and historic grandeur make her reconsider her shallow ways?”

Well it’s time to put a stop to all of the speculation and surmising because I’m back both from London and to the blog. And while I did spend a good deal of time pounding the same pavement as the “Fab Four” none of the aforesaid reasons account for my neglect of this little project of mine. You see, upon my return from abroad I found myself feeling a little under the weather and quicker than you can say “Jack Robinson” I was down for the count with a full-fledged, mind numbing, cough inducing head cold. And that made things rather fuzzy for a while and rendered me entirely unable to practice my craft to the exacting standards to which you have become accustomed. So I took a break. For all of our sakes.

But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t do anything while waiting for my head to clear. There’s a lot to be learned while sitting in my chair patiently waiting for the fog to lift. I mean who knew that last week Kelly and Michael would be celebrating one year on air together. After all, it seems like only yesterday that she and Regis were engaged in their daily banter and now, all of a sudden, she’s the first lady of morning TV. And that’s not all I learned. I now know exactly how much three designer watches (2 men’s and one woman’s) cost thanks to my new friend Mr. Carey. Not to mention that as a result  of this opportunity to spend more time in my chair I have become intimately acquainted with Judy the Judge thereby increasing my understanding of the American justice system, and how to mediate conflict manyfold. Then there’s Ellen who, without a doubt, is not only the coolest host on the tube but also the best dance teacher this side of, well anywhere really. On top of all of that, I’m pretty sure I can now make a pretty mean meatball.

So that’s it. I’m feeling better now and expect to be back in the saddle with more of those travel tips in no time. But if anyone happened to PVR Kelly and Michael’s really big day on Friday I’d love to have a boo. Apparently I got back to work just a tad too soon.

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Shallow People Travel Too

london buttonYou may recall in the not too distant past that I dedicated one of my posts to the solicitation of potential shallow topics from my readers. While I can’t say I had an overwhelming response, I did receive a couple of ideas that seemed reasonable for me to pursue. As a matter of fact, there was one suggestion that stood out from the others as it was truly serendipitous. The idea was that I write about travel for the savvy, shallow person. Now I think it has been long established that I meet the “shallow” criteria and while I am not savvy about everything I am about some things, enough to say I’ve got that characteristic in the bag as well. But perhaps most importantly, I do travel a fair bit and as luck, and perhaps fate would have it, I just happen to be in London, making my way around town as a tourist, so I think I can safely say that I am fully qualified to wax eloquently on the subject at hand.

When I first decided that I could write a “how to” for the savvy, shallow traveller, I had in mind something like a “top 10” (you know how I love those lists) of tips. However, now that I am on a jaunt myself it seems that perhaps a better approach is to simply recount some of the experiences that I am having, as these alone should provide a guide of sorts to those who are so inclined to follow in my footsteps. And as expected, it turns out I’m a pretty good shallow traveller. So here, perhaps, is the start of a kind of series that follows me as I make my way through the rather crowded streets of London.

After three days of running around  like chickens with our heads cut off I can absolutely recommend that the first step to ensuring your travel is as shallow as possible is to slip into your nearest tourist information centre and ask to purchase a “City Pass” for whichever city you happen to be in. There’s a pretty good chance that your city will have one, particularly if there happens to be a river running through the centre, an original “settlement” and at least one national museum or monument. You see, what this pass will allow you to do is visit a multitude of sites over a specified number of days, for one seemingly low fee. There’s a pretty good chance that the booklet you receive with this pass will outline for you the remarkable savings to be accrued by following their suggested itinerary and by doing so you will ensure that you not only visit the most touristy of all sites in the city but you will do so at a pace that prevents you from getting to know even these on an intimate basis. In other words, you’ll likely spend more time in the gift shop which will be strategically placed between you and the exit than you will at the attraction. Which is not such as bad thing as it is there you will pick up a postcard or two so you can remember where you have been.

It’s entirely possible that the first stop on your sightseeing marathon might be an art gallery of some sort. In our case, we chose to visit the Tate Modern, a collection housed in a rather imposing building on the banks of the Thames. Now I have been known to appreciate the works of the likes of Warhol, Lichtenstein and Salvador Dali. At the same time I must admit that on occasion, while working my way through the many rooms of a gallery such as this one, I think silently to myself that I too could paint red lines on a white canvas but no one would pay me substantial sums of money to hang it on their wall. I do my best to be tolerant and understanding though until I come across a work of art that I simply cannot understand. On this day it was a mirror. That’s right, just an ordinary mirror. The idea behind this “work of art” is to allow patrons to reflect on what they see in the mirror without having an image imposed upon them by the artist. Now I might be shallow but I’m thinking that I do this every morning when I get up and go to the bathroom. So I was having a little trouble grappling the exact meaning of the work.

Nonetheless, as I stood and watched people walk by I had to admit that the mirror garnered a fair bit of attention and I’m pretty sure there were a few people who, like me, were kicking themselves for not coming up with the idea. But the longer I stood in front of the mirror watching all of the reactions the more I thought about the exhibit and somewhat surprisingly, I came up with an idea of my own. You see, most of the people who stood in front of the mirror decided to take a picture of themselves standing in front of the mirror. What if, I thought, I could capture the images of the people who had stopped to reflect on the images of themselves? What if I stood behind them and took a picture of them taking pictures of themselves? Would that not make me an artist as well? So that’s what I did and here are some of the results.

Mirrir2Mirrir1

I’ll be the first to admit I’m no Michael Angelo but come on, it was an art gallery! Not exactly a home away from home for a shallow gal. So here’s a hint. If, while on your travels, you find yourself outside your zone of comfort, try to come up with ways to amuse yourself. You never know what hidden talents you might uncover.

I’ll be back as soon as my heels heal with more great tips for the savvy, shallow traveller.

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