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Thursday, 4 December 2014

Tips for the Traveller

The people at RelayRides asked if I have any travel tips to share. I've picked up a few 'En Route' tricks which I'm happy to pass on. Of course things change from one year to another, and my needs may differ from yours, but here goes -


  • Travelling!
Minimalist packing is highly overrated.  I know, "don't bring what you don't need" but how do you know beforehand?  I was in Panama a few months ago and needed tablets for motion sickness. You know what's really really hard to find in Panama?  Tablets for motion sickness. It was hard to find anything that I needed when I needed it.  I guess I should have looked for stores before 11:00 PM.  But you get my meaning. I say if you've needed it in the past month, bring it along.   

This doesn't apply if you're going to, say, Paris.  In that case, you should probably just buy it when you get there.  At least that's my excuse.  Medicinal items of course.....also scarves, gloves and anything else that I can justify buying.  And if you happen to need something late at night when the shops are closed, sit and have a glass of wine at the nearest Bistro until opening time. 

  • Keep Snacks with you at all times
Myth - you won't be hungry, the airline is feeding you,
there's plenty of time to have a meal at the airport.
Wrong wrong wrong.  

I admit I'm a picky eater, pickier than most.  Recently I thought I'd be very clever and order the "Fruit Plate Meals".  You know what I got?  Fruit.  Dinner was apples, grapes, and some cantaloupe bits.  Excellent.  Then, snack time!  Apples, grapes and cantaloupe bits. Time for breakfast.  You guessed it.  "Wake up" and have some apples, grapes and more cantaloupe bits (a bit drier by now).  They totally missed the 'Meal' part of the menu.  How about a bun or something to fill me up?  If I hadn't brought some crackers and nuts, I'd have  grabbed that raw meat right off the plate of the guy sitting beside me and swallowed it in one huge gulp.

  • Don't Joke With the Customs Officers
There are a lot of really friendly people working at Customs but there are also many who feel wearing a uniform gives them military-like authority.  Now I wasn't trying to be funny, this was a case of simply not understanding -

"Howdy" he said.  (So glad I got a friendly one)
"Howdy" I replied
"Howdy" he repeated
"How-dee" I answered again speaking a little louder
"NO........  I SAID I.D." he yelled.

So I whipped out my passport.  Well really! Why didn't he say "passport"?  I didn't understand his accent and could have sworn he was just being nice.  It turned out he was nice and laughed along with me but I think that was mostly because other people were laughing too.

It's not always easy to clear Customs and leave the country...
 Keep Your Sense of Humour

You're away from home.  Hopefully, this will be for an adventure and you're out to have a good time so relax because -
  • The person sitting in front of you on the plane is going to put his/her seat back as far as he can.  Even if you can't move your arms and your legs are cramping up, just think.....soon you'll be someplace else, some fabulous place with room for your knees.  And, if there's any justice, the person in front of you will miss their connection.
  • More often than not some idiot checks his bags and doesn't board the plane. This is a big no-no in the airline world so naturally you'll have to wait until they find the luggage and remove it from the plane.  Would be a lot simpler just getting the guy out of the bar, but no one asked me.
  • There's always a baby crying if you're on a night flight.  There's nothing you can do about it - babies cry, so bring some earplugs.  I don't think the flight will take off if the aforementioned child isn't on board.  This doesn't happen when travelling during the day.
  • The pilot will not get clearance to take off for at least a half an hour.  
  • The pilot will not get clearance to land for at least a half an hour.

These are facts of flight.  Accept, ignore, be prepared to be late.

Travelling by Car

Please see most of the above.  You will, however, not have to worry about the other people travelling with you unless, of course, you have strangers in your back seat.  You can stop, eat, stretch, call it a day whenever you're ready.  There are advantages unless of course you're going overseas.  That can be tricky.

    • So now you may be wondering about RelayRides and how come they're interested in travel tips. RelayRides is a peer-to-peer car rental service throughout the U.S. You can save/earn some travel dollars for, well, MORE travel and what could be better!?!  Rent a vehicle or list your vehicle to rent when you're not using it.  (I wish I could do that with a lot of things). Check it out!

    There are loads of travel tips out there, but the most important is relax, have fun, and think of the "getting there" as part of the adventure.

    Friday, 21 November 2014

    Stay With Me Edith

    I had the unfortunate habit of leaving my phone….well, anywhere.  On my desk, beside the bed, in the car…..maybe it was something at the back of my brain telling me to just 'forget it'.  One morning I arrived at work to see my office door closed.  I thought it was really odd and almost went home just in case there was something creepy going on…..  Well, it turned out I had left my phone in my locked drawer, and my morning alarm had been sounding for hours....


    I’m sure it was really annoying to the other employees especially as I always seem to arrive later than everyone else, but it was a good demonstration of battery power!  Who knew these things could run that long?

    That was before.  Now I have the BEST ringtone and I love getting calls.

    Ringtones reveal a lot about one's interests and character.  This isn't necessarily information you really want to share with the entire city, but how often do you let your phone ring and ring in public?  Hardly ever, right?

    Guess what my ringtone is….go on….guess.  CLOSE!  It’s Edith Piaf singing “La Foule”. Edith really belts this one out loud and clear.  I just love it.  It’s as clear as any CD, not tinny sounding at all.  Luckily for everyone around me I often just let it ring…..they get to hear Edith.  Over….and over….and over….. until the voice messaging kicks in.  And no,  "La Foule"  doesn't mean "The Fool" - it translates to "The Crowd".

    There's something very comforting about having Edith with me all the time.  She reminds me that art, music, Paris and all the things I love are still there.

    "Meeting regarding schedules at 10:00 AM Susan".  Fine.  Sing it Edith.
    "We need 10 of xxx, and 15 of xxx.  Do you have them handy?"  Of course not.  Let's hear it Edith.
    "Your dental appointment is tomorrow morning at 8:00 AM".  Great.  One more time Edith.

    If I'm really getting stressed, I can call myself from another phone and she sings to me.  How great is that!?!

    Michel Rivgauche's lyrics relate the chance meeting between the singer and a man in the middle of a dense and festive crowd. It's love at first sight, at least from the singer's part, who thanks the crowd for giving her this man. But, just as quickly as it brought them together, the crowd separates them and she never sees him again. "The crowd appears as a sort of demiurge (creator), like destiny, playing with the human beings who are helpless against the vagaries of chance.
    Histoire de la chanson française et francophone", Ariela Sillam and Isabelle Taillandier

    If you'd like to see Edith performing "La Foule" here is the link on You Tube.

    Je revois la ville en fête et en délire
    Suffoquant sous le soleil et sous la joie
    Et j'entends dans la musique les cris, les rires
    Qui éclatent et rebondissent autour de moi
    Et perdue parmi ces gens qui me bousculent
    Étourdie, désemparée, je reste là
    Quand soudain, je me retourne, il se recule,
    Et la foule vient me jeter entre ses bras.
    Emportés par la foule qui nous traîne
    Nous entraîne
    Écrasés l'un contre l'autre
    Nous ne formons qu'un seul corps
    Et le flot sans effort
    Nous pousse, enchaînés l'un et l'autre
    Et nous laisse tous deux
    Épanouis, enivrés et heureux.
    Entraînés par la foule qui s'élance
    Et qui danse Une folle farandole
    Nos deux mains restent soudées
    Et parfois soulevés
    Nos deux corps enlacés s'envolent
    Et retombent tous deux
    Épanouis, enivrés et heureux
    Et la joie éclaboussée par son sourire
    Me transperce et rejaillit au fond de moi
    Mais soudain je pousse un cri parmi les rires
    Quand la foule vient l'arracher d'entre mes bras
    Emportés par la foule qui nous traîne
    Nous entraîne Nous éloigne l'un de l'autre
    Je lutte et je me débats
    Mais le son de sa voix
    S'étouffe dans les rires des autres
    Et je crie de douleur, de fureur et de rage
    Et je pleure
    Entraînée par la foule qui s'élance
    Et qui danse Une folle farandole
    Je suis emportée au loin
    Et je crispe mes poings, maudissant la foule qui me vole
    L'homme qu'elle m'avait donné
    Et que je n'ai jamais retrouvé

    Tuesday, 11 November 2014

    Remembrance Day 2014, Montréal

    It began with the bands, the cadets, and various groups marching.  And, of course, the veterans.


    At 11:00 AM, you could have heard a pin drop on the McGill University campus where Remembrance Day ceremonies were taking place.  Two minutes silence.  Not a cough, not a cell phone…..just silence.  It was almost eerie being in downtown Montréal without hearing any noise.  

    With all that’s happening in the world, and after the sad events that led to the deaths of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo in Canada, it’s comforting to know that people will take time to come together and remember, in silence.

    Saturday, 8 November 2014

    An Exhibition Worth Remembering

    On 25 August 1944 Paris was liberated by General Leclerc's Second Armoured Division and the Allies. Two and a half months later, with France and the Allies still battling the Nazis, the Musée Carnavalet began the historical record with a Liberation exhibition that opened on 11 November. François Boucher, the curator and a member of the Resistance, had set out to 'bring together the documentation essential for future historians'. He had consulted official bodies and put out an appeal through the press to help him 'assemble as much information as possible on the events of the Liberation of Paris'. More concerned with immediate emotion than historical accuracy, his spontaneously organised exhibition was an enormous success.  
    Musée Carnavalet, 2014


    This exhibition gives us an up close look at how photographs were created in wartime.  The original material from 1944 is on display, along with material that was documented at a later date.  (I particularly appreciated the labels clearly indicating which images were shown in the original exhibition - interesting to see what was collected so soon after the Liberation).

    I'm ashamed to say (especially as I'm married to a photographer) that I've never really given much thought to this aspect of war.  We often remember the images, but rarely those who risked their lives preserving history.
    The stories of these men are not easy. They were no different from the soldiers, the Resistance, and the civilians.  They suffered the same fear and confusion.

    We're fortunate to have these images of the times.  For history, to help us understand what life was like, and to learn from the past.  If only.....

    The Musée Carnavalet is a wealth of information on the city and I highly recommend a visit. If you're not lucky enough to be in Paris, the website offers a fine overview of the collection.

    Exhibition continues to February 8, 2015

    16 rue Francs-Bourgeois - 75003 Paris
    Tel. : 01 44 59 58 58 ; Fax : 01 44 59 58 10
    Opening hours:
    Daily from 10 am to 6 pm, except mondays and public holidays
    Last entrance for individual visitors at  5 pm.

    Remembrance Day
    November 11
    Lest We Forget

    Wednesday, 5 November 2014

    A Peek at Panama

    Panama was not on my "Top 10 Places to See" list.  I had never even thought about visiting Latin America.  My heart always leads me to France and perhaps a nearby country or two that won't interfere with my time in Paris.  However, last week I had the opportunity to take a quick tour of Panama City after attending a business meeting and it was really interesting and fun.

    So here's the scoop for those of you wanting to see the country-

    From the air, just before landing, I could see boats.  Lot and lots of boats.  Blue skies, boats, and nature.  Lots and lots of nature.  I don't mind telling you this made me nervous.  I could see people on the plane smiling and relaxing as they started to leave their worries behind them.  This wasn't exactly the case for me.  I was sweating.  The Woody Allen side of me was definitely coming out. 

    But for those of you who like city life with nature readily available (I started longing for  Central Park - country at its finest),  Panama City won't disappoint.

    I was more than relieved to see an amazing skyline of super tall and extremely
    thin buildings dotting the coastline.  Whew.

     Pretty at night even when the photo is taken
    with a phone through a window

    Don't get me wrong, I wanted adventure, but civilized adventure if you know what I mean.  The highlights were to be the Gamboa Rain Forest and the Panama Canal,  a quick drive from the city center and the views are breathtaking.

    Gamboa Rain Forest

    Doesn't it look like a nice fall day?  33 degrees C.

    A Tarzan vine (don't quote me - this might not be the correct term).

    My favourite part was seeing the various creatures that live in the forest.
    A sloth hanging from a tree.  A sloth!  

    I particularly liked the fact we didn't have to hike
    to the top of a mountain to see the view.

    According to all sources I've looked at, Panama is out of the hurricane belt due to its strategic location between North and South America.  No proper hurricanes have been seen in Panama.  Maybe not, but we were told there have been some pretty fierce storms.

    The Panama canal connects the Atlantic Ocean (via the Caribbean Sea) to the Pacific Ocean. Not only is it useful, but beautiful too.  We took a boat tour on the canal and were treated to some beautiful scenery.

    We had to move for them.....not the other way around

    Every so often the boat would stop so we could see the animals living in the area

     A friendly monkey.  All the monkeys we saw 
    were quite small.

    Our guide tempted him (and his friends) with bananas.  They came onto the front
    of the boat, grabbed their snack, and stopped for a quick photo op.

    This little guy, a White-Faced Capuchin wasn't quite as brave.

    I know I know......I shouldn't put my photo with the monkey pics..... but there's a point.  If you think you'll look great on a speed boat in Central America, forget it.  My hair frizzed, my clothes were damp, and my ankles were itchy from bites.  Still, I just had to take a photo of myself.......just because.......

    Tips when travelling to Panama:
    • Currency is USD
    • Voltage same as Canada/US - no need for adapters
    • Bring extra light clothes
    • Bring hair conditioner.  It won't do any good, but you'll feel better having tried
    • Bring insect repellent
    • Bring sun screen
    • Learn Spanish
    • Bring water - with you during the day I mean, not from home

    I guess that's it.

    Oh, one last thing.  Puzzle of the week -

    Find the Iguana

    I really had a hard time finding this guy from my vantage point on the boat.  For some reason, I was looking for something green (a hint if you don't see him).

    Sunday, 2 November 2014

    Dear Mr. Hawking, Your Help Please

    Stephen Hawking has just started posting to Facebook which, I suppose, is good for us but maybe not so much for him. When will he have the time to think if he's busy looking at cute cats and chatting with his friends?

    I'm sure he'll be following my blog seeing as I "liked" his page so maybe he'll give us the benefit of his superior brain power.

    Dear Mr. Hawking,

    I've been working on a complicated problem and am hoping you can come up with a solution. This will benefit not only me, but everyone I know.  Probably other people too.

    Example: (And others can adjust the equation to their own numbers when you supply the answer). 

    Let's say I have, oh, 20 years of quality reading time left before my attention turns to reruns of whatever serves as nostalgia in 2034. Maybe "The Big Bang Theory"....whatever. (You were excellent by the way - you missed your calling).


    Let's also assume I read a book a week (which is being overly generous seeing as I haven't done this for years)....

    That means I'll only be able to read another 1,040 books before time's up!  This is really creeping me out especially looking at the pile of books on my nightstand which are basically backlog.

    In a nutshell, we all need more time.

    Is there some sort of time/space continuum thing that we could act on?  Or maybe the calendar year should be 18 months.....or do I mean 8...... (although I'm sure you've already thought of that).

    Anyway.....if you could give us some help on this and provide tips, all book lovers would be eternally grateful.  (Well, you'd know more about eternity than I do......I guess it's another time thing that needs explaining).

    Thanking you in advance for sharing your superior brain power.

    Yours sincerely,

    Friday, 17 October 2014

    What Not To Do During A Conference Call

    This is the "Life" portion of Life, Laughter and Paris......

    Not long ago there was a big meeting called at work.  A BIG meeting.  Those employees on location met in the boardroom.  The rest of us out-of-office people called in to listen.  Normally, "listeners" hit the 'mute' button on the phone to keep out background noise......

    But there’s always someone who forgets

    I know this has nothing to do with the topic.  So what? It's PARIS!

    “I really want to hang up now but I don’t want them to know that it’s me leaving.
    Do you think they’ll know it’s me?  Can they tell?  Will they hear a noise?
    I don’t know how this damn thing works”

    Now I didn't recognize the voice - he could have been anywhere in the world.  But….someone must have recognized him.

    Call me paranoid, but I’d never say anything like this even if my phone was muted.  I just wouldn’t take the chance.  I’d stay at the meeting even if I was doing something else.  Which I wasn’t.  I’m just saying.

    I'm just full of tips this week!

    Wednesday, 15 October 2014

    Back To Reality....Very Un-Paris

    Not Reality

    Sadly, Paris is now behind me and coming back to reality isn't pretty.  It's not vacation, it's not Camembert sandwiches, red wine or staying awake thinking about the fun I'm going to have tomorrow.  It's not museums, galleries, the Seine, cafés, or drinks with friends at Harry's.  It's not a lot of things.  (I'm not complaining mind you...oh, yes, I guess I am). 

    Closer to Reality

    The crash landing wasn't quite as difficult this year because I had a heck of a cold upon returning to Montréal.  No time to dwell on the beautiful, only time to keep blowing my nose and whining.  "I'm sick....poor me....a cold AND a cane....have you ever seen anyone suffer like this"?  Anyway, it's helped me to concentrate on something other than not being in Paris.  (But I'm starting to feel better so will be miserable soon if you follow me).

    And with all the "suffering" I've been doing  I haven't had the energy to go through my photos and papers. Am I the only one who comes home with bags of what I like to call, 'ephemera'?  (Others would use a different word, but 'ephemera' makes this pile sound so legitimate don't you think)?  Brochures, magazines, business cards, gallery info, ticket stubs, receipts. Of course I won't be keeping all this.  It'll probably get tossed well before 2030 or so.

    Anyway, the next best thing to being in Paris is to hold the memories close to the heart until the next visit.  I'm going to start going through that mountain of everything.....keep.....

    Thursday, 9 October 2014

    What Not To Do Before Travelling

    You know how it is when you're really really looking forward to something?  I mean REALLY looking forward to something a trip to Paris? Well, here's a little travel tip for you - and it's a pretty good one -
    • Do NOT go out to buy new shoes a few days before your flight, tear your meniscus while shopping, and end up wearing a knee brace and using a cane for support. Of course this is just my opinion. You can Google "Is having a knee problem a good idea when travelling?" to see what others think. 
      A little hobble through Père Lachaise Cemetery
      Should you end up in this situation, and it must be pretty common, my two packing tips - 
    • Don't bother bringing more than one pair of jeans no matter how long you're staying. You probably only have one pair that will fit over a cast-like brace anyway.  Or, you could try them on before leaving if you're that organized.
    • Bring a good big shoulder bag because with a cane, you only have one hand available to carry stuff.  Personally I go for big pockets too.
    My essentials.  I can't go to Paris and not buy a portfolio!
    Paris is still Paris and fabulous no matter what the circumstances. Seeing all the art and visiting the great book shops, I'm totally inspired to get back to my blog and work on some new paintings. Most of the paintings will probably be from a sitting down perspective, but that's good too. I've always been good at sitting.

    Monday, 22 September 2014

    Once Again, Monsieur Charles Aznavour

    No need to give a fan review of the concert Aznavour gave in Montréal last week.  First of all, you know what I'd say.  Everyone who knows me in the slightest knows what I'd say.  Even people who don't know me know what I'd say.  And really, Aznavour doesn't need a review.  I'd have some nerve to even try.

    Instead, I thought I'd give you a little sample of why I really have trouble with some people.  Really.....

    Many years ago I had bought tickets to an Aznavour concert at Place des Arts.  The best seats a row or two from the stage. I had gone to buy them the minute they went on sale and it was worth it. Well, turned out hubby couldn't go so I invited a friend.  Gave her the ticket.....on me.....I just knew she'd be in heaven because she told me how much she loves his songs.  Guess what she said after the show.  Go on.....guess.

    "He hit a few flat notes".

    Well, let's just say I've spent more time in the same room with Aznavour during the last 10 years than with her.  A lot more. (And there were no flat notes!  Hear me?  NO.....FLAT...NOTES).

    Why would anyone say something like that?  About a person's hero.......and that's why I like animals better than people.

    Aznavour has always had a soft spot for Montréal and Montréal for Aznavour.  He was performing here at the beginning of his career and continues to share his remarkable talent to the delight of Montréal fans. (Who incidentally went wild during his two hour non-stop performance full of energy and life....but I'm not doing a review). 

    Aznavour in Montréal in 1962.  We hadn't met yet.

    Aznavour will always bring the heart of Paris to me when I can't be there, and I'll be waiting in line for his next concert.

    M. Aznavour S.V.P.