Saturday, September 30, 2006

Glasgow (JC)

Went into Glasgow for a walkabout.

First thing was to get the money for our B&B bill. Went to Lloyd's TSB's bank machine and took out 500 pounds. The machine issued the amount all in 10 pound notes. UGG! We proceeded to the teller's window to ask for 5 100 pound notes. The idea was so that we would not run around Glasgow all day with a fat wad of paper. Sounds easy enough, right?


The teller told us that they could not offer 5 100 pound notes for the 50 10s as we did not have an account there. WHAT?!?!?!


We were then sent to the Post Office where we stood in another lind to be told they do not handle big bills like 100 pound notes, and we should line up at the other side of the Post Office at the "Bureau du Change" (BDC).

The lady in front of us handed over her company's payroll, and rather than putting all the coins in rollers, she put them in baggies. I gather that this is the regular practice over there, but I had never seen it before. The clerk took the baggies and put them on a scale and weighed them. Bloody odd if you ask me.

At the BDC we waited and told the clerk our story, handed over our wad of 10s to get five rather beat up 100s. What a waste of time! Such built-in inefficiency. ARGH!

After that we took a short bus tour of Glasgow's east side. In Toronto, the distances covered would be a walking tour. Strathclyde, Glasgow Green, Necropolis, and the Barras are no more than a 30 minute walk from George Square. Those places are not the trans-Siberian treks we had been told they were.

We finalized our dinner plans for tomorrow night's pre-Kol Nidre dinner, ugh. A last minute thought of mine was to get our Scottish notes transformed into English notes as Canadian banks do not accept Scottish ones. The folks at Marks & Spencer did us this favour as I guess we had a pained look on our faces after our run-in with the bank earlier today.

We had lunch at an authentic, crappy, cheap put called The Cairns. After eating their food and seeing what it does to the customers, a cairn is the next step.

The pub was straight out of Coronation Street, complete with fat, rolly polly, sad looking people ready to down ales while they tell you about how the mill closed or how Metric is a plot by Tony Blair to bring Britain closer into the EU.

Potato jackets were naturally on the menu as you cannot be sad, fat and Scottish without a potato jacket.

The most stomach churning choices were: BBQ chicken with cheese or the daily breakfast which was egg, sausage and bacon. Frightening...

Friday, September 29, 2006

Arriving back in Glasgow (JC)

Our fears of the repaired engine behind us, we still had to land. The last 30 minutes of the flight were bumpy and the plane came down with an awful thump. I think it was the pilot's first day, or he had to put the stewardess down to grab the controls to land.

We walked through Glasgow's terminal to the BA office, hoping to get an earlier flight home. We were having *such* a great time with my family that we wanted to get the next plane out. No luck, no seats for love or money. Only mutants like us fly home from the UK on a Tuesday!

We climbed into our taxi and arrived back at the B&B. On the way to the B&B, I called my uncle to confirm we arrived in one piece. Keeping in mind that a three hour flight is equal to flying from Toronto to Regina or Toronto to Miami, we were dealing with a long, stressful day on the heels of two days of non-stop hilly cobble-stoned walking and shopping. Of course, this doesn't include our three hour stopover in Amsterdam.

We did not hear back from my uncle in the two hours we had been at the B&B. Before we left for Rome we did arrange to meet up for dinner for tonight, but he told us it wasn't written in stone and we were free to change our minds. However, he showed up at 6:00pm on the nose to go out for dinner. No thought was given as to how we were feeling or if we still wanted to go. In fact, when he arrived, Rhonda was in her PJs trying to relax.

As I mentioned, Ian planned ahead for the time to meet, but no thought was made as to where we were to eat. Deep down Ian wanted to go to the Royal Turban, an Indian restaurant across the street from his friend's apartment.

After Kiddush, the debate over where to eat started. I know a great place but it's in London but it's shomer shabbos (closed on shabbos).

We drove 15 minutes around the suburbs and settled on a modest Chinese restaurant, whose name came out as "organ failure", instead of it's real name "Orchid Veil".

Typical of Chinese eating, it's communal. You order several dishes to get several tastes. Ian stated it was individual. WRONG!

The plates came on a small hot plate assuming that everyone would share and not the eat large individual portion my esteemed uncle assumed.

It was like feeding time at the zoo. Disgusting! He ate his entire dish himself and commented about how large the portions are. He had no idea that the portions were that large because there were four people at the table and each person was supposed to take a little bit of each. I guess he just naturally assumed that Rhonda really liked lemon chicken, as he expected her to eat her entire dish of it.

Rhonda and I even hinted at the fact that it was communal eating by offering some to each other. Ian's friend even got in on it, and she shared hers as well. But Ian just sat there, eating his entire dish of duck and vegetables.

I'll take "people who don't have a clue for $100, Alex..."

Leaving Rome

Our limo arrived at 6:00am, we ordered it really early, but it ended up that we didn't need to get to the airport quite so early for our flight at 9:30. Though, I guess, better safe than sorry.

We got to the Alitalia desk around 6:30 and went to line up to get our boarding passes. It turned out that the signs were wrong and we waited for a little while before inquiring and were told to line up elsewhere. We were told that the correct desk didn't open until 7:00 so we waited some more. I guess they needed another cappucino because they didn't open the desk until 7:15.

Josh and I had a lot of time to kill so, what else, I went from store to store looking for other things to buy. I came very close to buying an Armani watch (it was *gorgeous*), but he talked me out of it. He said to get one from a company that specializes in watchmaking. I said "Ok, so does that mean you'll get me a Rolex?" He looked at me, his face contorted into that of a chipmunk eating nuts and said "I'm sure I'll hear that from another brunette soon enough." ;)

We were walking towards our gate, which we were told was B7, only to find out that they switched the gate at the last minute to B14! We had to run the length of the terminal, down an escalator (past Gucci and some other stores I didn't have a chance to go into) and finally arrived at our gate in time to hurry up and wait some more.

When they finally took our boarding passes we were ushered onto a bus and driven to the plane.

Now I'm normally not a nervous flier, but when the bus pulled up to the plane a panel covering an engine was open and there were, what seemed to be The Three Stooges standing around the plane all scratching their heads. The maintenance manual was sitting inside the plane's air intake and there was one guy sweeping under the plane's engine. This did not give me the proverbial "warm and fuzzies", but the plane did, eventually take off 45 minutes late at 10:15.

When we flew into Rome on Tuesday it was overcast so we didn't get to see a lot of the scenery from the plane. Today, however, it was a clear day so we got an amazing view of the Italian Alps. The view was spectacular and we were even able to see a river valley and what looked to be a little town below.

It's always my luck to be given bad passengers to sit near on any given flight. Firth it was the two smelly Dutchmen on the way from Amsterdam to Rome, now it's Zoopie the wonder slug on the way from Amsterdam back to Glasgow. Why Zoopie, I hear you asking? Simply because he has a bad cold, is sitting across from us, and rather than blowing his nose, he's sitting there 'zooping'. His friend just gave him a not-so-subtle hint, went to the back of the plane and got him some napkins to blow his nose. He said "thank you" and stuffed them in his pocket.

Sitting next to Josh is someone who looks like the sailor from the Simpsons brought to life...

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Rome - Day Three

Josh and I got a relatively early start on the day, we walked across the street to a little cafe to have breakfast. The staff didn't speak any English so I had to speak my best Italish and placed my order. I requested a croissant and a latte. The guy behind the counter said something neither of us understood and pointed to his machine and I repeated my order of a latte. He nodded and then a minute later he handed me a tall, frothy glass of milk. Apparently a latte isn't quite the same thing in Italy as it is back home. It was still good.

After breakfast, around 9:30am, we started walking around Rome. Over the course of the day we saw several Roman ruins (where we saw tons of little lizards crawling all around), Monument of Vittorio Emanuele II, and the Colliseum (but we didn't have time to go in). From there we went to the Jewish quarter and had a guided tour of the big synagogue. WOW! I decided that I hadn't done enough damage to my credit card yesterday so we went back to the Spanish steps and I bought a gorgeous belt.

While walking around that area we saw several of the city's poor and saw a man lying on the ground being cradled by someone. Just as I looked his way, his artificial leg fell off and rolled down some steps and landed right in front of Josh and I. Nasty!

We got back to the hotel around 6:00pm after a very long day, freshened up and headed out for dinner. I had a strong craving for pizza. I figured there had to be at least one place in Rome to get a good pizza. ;)

We went to a little place around the corner, got a funghi pizza, relaxed and just enjoyed each other's company.

What a great end to a whirlwind tour of Rome!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Rome - Day Two

Last night before we went to bed we arranged for a wake-up call. The quaint hotel we are staying at, perceives a "wake-up call" as pounding on our door 10 minutes late and yelling "get up" in Italian.

We were told that breakfast was included in the price, which it was, but what was served I wouldn't have fed to Deuce. Josh and I took a look at what there was and decided to head out.

We started walked at 10:00am, and some of the sights we saw were: Trevi Fountain, the Four Fountains, the Spanish Steps(where I wore the numbers off my credit card) at Salvatore Ferragamo , then on to Castel Sant'Angelo, Vatican City, Saint Peter's Square and the Sistine Chapel. The store with the name "Expensive!" just about sums up the day beautifully. ;)

As luck would have it, Vatican City was celebrating "World Traveller Day" today, so Josh and I got into the Sistine Chapel for free! We saved 24.00 euros, thank goodness for made-up holidays. ;)

There are simply no words to describe what it's like to stand in the Chapel, look up, and see all of Michelangelo and Raphael's art. To say that it's breathtaking is an understatement.

After leaving the Chapel at 4:30, we walked outside, turned to each other and said "let's get a cab". We got back to the hotel, relaxed for a short while before our dinner with Josh's colleague; "his man in Rome".

We met up with Rocco at 7:00pm and walked around while we waited for Maximillian to show up. Josh and Rocco talked business while I was ignored for the most part. We walked up and down the street and around the block but still no Maximillian. They continued talking and walking and finally Rocco called Maximillian on his cell, but got no answer. We walked some more, and finally at 8:15 Maximillian called to say he was stuck in traffic and would be another 15 minutes. He eventually showed up at 8:45. I guess Jewish time is equivalent to Rome time.

A very noticeable difference between Toronto and Rome. When we got into the backseat of Maximillian's car, we were trying to put the seatbelts on. Maximillian turned to us and said "don't bother, you won't get a ticket, only driver's have to wear one." Umm, it had nothing to do with getting a ticket, I didn't want to get splatted, thankyouverymuch...

Maximillian suggested a restaurant called Papok, and when we arrived he walked into the kitchen, spoke to the chef and ordered our dinners. We started with a salmon dish which was akin to smoked salmon (lox) surrounded by shaved carrots and had a light drizzling of olive oil on top. This was followed by a bottle of wine and our main course of small fusilli (small spirals) in a mushroom/cream sauce. WOW!

After we ate that, the chef came out and asked if we wanted something else. He said anything we wanted he would cook for us, but we declined. He then offered dessert and that too we declined. He began to rhyme off all the desserts he makes from scratch and kept nudging me to order. We did, however, settle on some specialty coffees. Since we were "special customers", he came out with apperitifs.

This is the part of the meal that gets a little fuzzy. I tried grappa, jagermeister, and a very sweet wine like ice wine. I swear I could feel the room spinning!

Maximillian paid for the meal and asked if we wanted to go to a club and unwind. We declined and suggested he take us back to the hotel as we planned a very busy day the next day.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Rome - Day One (JC)

The day started off with a shot. I had spoken to my uncle last night and he mentioned in passing that he would take us to the airport on Tuesday. So we didn't bother to call for a taxi to take us to the airport this morning. Bonus!

However, not everything was as it seemed.

Something funny happened on the way to the forum. The Clark Kent/Superman routine my uncle did when I thought the Tuesday pick up at 7:00am was today and not when we were going home next Tuesday. Oops.

After a lot of confusion and panic, he was at our door in 15 minutes, unwashed and without his false teeth. Yes, he made a point of telling us that. TOO MUCH INFORMATION!

Thankfully, Glasgow's airport is small and there was only one flight to Amsterdam covering three airlines. A trip like this to Heathrow with its multiple terminals would have been catastrophic.

We flew from Glasgow to Amsterdam and then on to Rome. The plane trip was uneventful with a too short stop in Schipol.

"No diamonds for you!"

For some reason our seats were not side by side on the last leg of the journey. I had two Cossacks sitting next to me who spoke Russian and Portuguese. Rhonda had two smelly Dutchmen sitting next to her. I was glad this was not the non-stop to Shanghai.

Arrival in Rome!

The hotel was modest, but clean. Hotel rates skyrocketed, four to five star hotels were 100 euros per star. Yikes! We got away with 130 euros/night. We have a balcony, hot shower and breakfast was included. It's not a Holiday Inn, but it has AC and soundproof windows which kept the noisy street and pollution out.

We had a close-up view of what it's like for those 'in power'. We went out to dinner on the Via Veneto to a little cafe that was literally on the sidewalk and all enclosed in glass. A woman sat at the next table and she must have been important because three waiters were looking after her. They kept bringing her alcoholic drinks, coffee, etc., and when it was time for dessert they brought out a huge piece of pastry, an apperitif and espresso. When all was said and done, she walked away without receiving a bill.

We called the hospital where Deuce is, and success! He peed on his own today! (Yes, you needed to know that).

Monday, September 25, 2006


As soon as we woke up, I called the hospital where Deuce is to get an update. Thankfully the clinic is open 24/7 and the admitting doctor was on duty. Deuce had started to improve overnight and was being playful with her. I expressed my shock as usually Deuce is a terror and needs three people to hold him down. She agreed and said he was like that yesterday, but now he was in better spirits.

Feeling quite sorry for us and our plight, our innkeeper made fish cakes for breakfast. What a nice surprise and start to our day.

We headed into Edinburgh after breakfast and got in shortly after noon. We walked our feet off as I wanted to do some shopping. I was kind of disappointed with the shopping here, but I did manage to find a nice red cashmere sweater that was on SALE, so the day wasn't a complete wash.

While we were walking along the Royal Mile we passed by a baked potato shop called "The Tempting Tattie" and we both challenged each other to get a disgusting combination and eat it. I chose the tuna and butter potato, while Josh chose the baked beans and cheese potato. Yes, there IS a potato underneath all this goop. Connie, now that you've seen what they look like, do you still contend that they're yummy? ;)

It can be said that with each sin comes equal punishment. As punishment for eating of the fruit of the tattie tree we both had to find the 'head' aboard the HMY Britannia. It went through Josh twice like a grande prune smoothie from Starbucks.

We did stay on the yacht long enough to see most of the important sights - state rooms, formal dining room, officer's mess, surgery, and the deck made of aged teak wood; the Rolls Royce of wood for ships. Also aboard was the Queen's Rolls Royce, WOW!

I can see why the UK government retired the Britannia. The labour and cost of keeping her afloat (the boat, not the Queen) would be outrageously high.

Lots of ticky tacky, genuine Scottish souvenirs turned Josh off of shopping.

The new mall in Leith indicated a sign of the times, like Inverness, the malling (mauling) of Scotland is at hand. The malls have sucked the life out of the small, quality shoppes.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Rosh Hashanah - Day Two (JC)

If a Charlie Brown cartoon could be made into a live action movie, then this day was a scene from that. We were Charlie Brown and the football had been pulled away from us at the last minute to have us land on our backs yelling "Argh!"

For most people, Rosh Hashanah means three things: shul, food, and family all in double helpings. My aunt and uncles were not going to shul with us on day 2 Rosh Hashanah. An important day as it's the only day to hear the shofar (since day 1 was on Shabbos and it's not played then), last chance to talk to the BIG GUY before he closes the book of life. HMMM.

After a vibrant service and hearing the shofar blasts, we made our way to the door. The shul secretary and her husband asked us where my aunt and uncles were. When they realized that we were abandoned by my FAMILY, they gave us a lift to Giffnock (two train stations away from where the B&B is) so we could get some lunch.

The rain fell heavily, no one was home and taxis were absent. It was a really crappy day and getting crappier by the minute.

While the rain was falling and we were quickly getting drenched, we ran into a grocery store to try and call a taxi. I picked up the direct phone in the store and was told it would take half an hour. As our options were slim, we decided to wait it out. After 20 minutes we started getting impatient and I called again. This time I was told the company had no cars on the road. Yet again, we were let down.

We relented and took the train back. On the way back we were told that Deuce was sick and in the hospital with a UTI (Urinary Tract Infection). ARGH! What else could happen?

We finally arrived back at the B&B with flowers in hand for our innkeeper who has been very much like our wee bonnie bubbie.

We came in sore, tired, wet. We slept for a few hours and our innkeeper made us two cups of tea and some cookies as we had not had dinner. We told her about our day and her eyes went wide in disbelief as she exclaimed "some people!"

Rotten day. Tomorrow WILL be better.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Rosh Hashanah - Day One

We went to shul this morning at Garnethill , which, incidentally is at the corner of Garnet and Hill Streets in the Garnethill section of Glasgow. I think the people who brought us "...For Dummies" books made the streets signs and place names in and around Glasgow.

The shul has been around since 1879 and Josh's great-grandparents belonged there. In fact, this is where Josh's grandparents met! So that place holds a lot of memories and significance for him.

After the services Josh's uncle took us out to a kosher restaurant for lunch. You might wonder what kosher restaurant would be open on Shabbos AND Rosh Hashanah? Well this is where the proverbial rubber hits the road! Josh's uncle found this place and its grand opening was today. He pre-paid for the meals, so that takes care of the handling money issues and they cooked the meals in advance, so that takes care of the food preparation issues. It's still not in the 'spirit of things', but for Glasgow it was the only real alternative.

The meal itself was quite nice, but watching Josh's uncle eat pretty much spoiled my appetite. The way that man eats is simply frightening! His place was piled high and he ate every last bite, to the point that he used his challah to nab at the last couple of grains of rice on his plate. He really takes 'waste not, want not' to a whole new level! The entire meal was a buffet, and when it came time for dessert, he took five little cakes and a couple cookies. By this description, you would think he weighed a lot, but in fact he is quite slim and trim. Perhaps this is the diet secret I've been looking for; eat until you're about to burst and then eat some more!

Then, just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water...

We were invited to Josh's aunt and uncle's for dinner, yes, that's just whawt we wanted after today's gastromonic parade.

When we got there we went for a long walk and talked, which was quite pleasant. Then we had dinner and I was grateful that I wasn't hungry! She served sandwiches; egg, herring, and lox and cream cheese. That was fine, but on top of the bread was butter. BUTTER! I don't think I've ever been so grossed out as I was eating a cream cheese, lox and butter sandwich. I only realized after I bit into it that there was butter on it. The look that must have been on my face...

She kept trying to stuff food on our plates. Everytime our mouth was empty, she kept offering more! Then came dessert which was cookies and cake, and surprise, the cake was coated in...come on, you can guess...BUTTER!

Thankfully everyone was tired after dinner so we called it a night. WHEW!

After we got home my mom called us and the first words out of her mouth were "don't worry". I asked her what was wrong and she said that she checked on Deuce today and there was nothing in his litter box. At the time I thought that maybe Deuce was having a bit of a temper tantrum because we weren't there. We said our goodbyes and I called Josh's father and he said that Deuce's box was completely empty on Thursday, but on Friday they added some kitty litter and he ran in and did what he had to do. He asked if he should call the vet and I said that might be a good idea and that was where matters rested for the night.

Let's just say I don't think I got a wink of sleep that night.

Friday, September 22, 2006


With all our running around over the past few days, we decided to have a shleppy day and woke up leisurely at 8:30. We agreed to take it easy and stay in Glasgow and explore the city and all its history, shopping, museums, shopping, oh, and shopping. Or at least that was the plan, but it didn't quite work out that way.

We ended up walking up and down Buchanan Street and Sauchiehall Street, but I was rather disappointed with the shopping.

We did, however, go into a nice Italian restaurant for lunch 'Pizza Express' which is a lot fancier than the name implies. Josh had a pizza with anchoivies and buffalo mozzarella and I had a Caesar salad with 'torn' chicken (they really need to change the wording on the menu). ;)

We passed by a store named "Schuh" and we had seen it in other locations, but weren't sure how to pronounce it so I had Josh go into the store and ask. We felt kind of stupid when he found out that it was a footwear store and the name is pronounced "shoe".

Our one 'frightening' gastronomic fare was passing by a bagel restaurant which boasted of it's 'authentic' cream cheese and pastrami sandwich, "just the way New Yorkers eat it". I'm sorry, but which New Yorkers would *those* be?

During our walk we passed a hairdresser and, being the priss that I am, I went and got my hair done for the Holiday. We were going over to the shul secretary's home that evening for a nice, quiet Rosh Hoshanah/Shabbos meal.

When we got to her apartment, we got off the elevator and were greeted by four tables set up in the hallway (there are three units on her floor, she invited her neighbours, so it was one large hootenany). All tolled there were 26 people for dinner. The entire dinner was catered by a local kosher company; meat had to be shipped in from Manchester.

The food was incredible! We started with soup, then had a buffet consisting of chicken in pineapple sauce, meatballs, beef with au jus, pepperami (a spiced salami), rice, cabbage, carrot and pinnapple tsimis, and peppers, but all the dishes had Scottish names so we had to keep asking what things were. Then we had dessert consisting of raspberry mousse, lemon pavlova, dried fruit and cookies. Then there was tea or coffee with yet more sweets (and you wonder why the English have such poor teeth?)

After dinner we said the Birkat Hamazon to the tune of My Bonnie Lass (the same tune as Scotland the Brave). It was quite the surprise, Josh and I had never heard it done that way! We said our goodbyes and made our way home after a wonderful evening.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Gretna Green (JC)

Woke up leisurely, had breakfast and we planned on taking the train to Gretna Green. This town is famous for doing quicky marriages. It is also known for offering marriages to 16 year olds, where 21 is the non-consent age in England.

We realized that we didn't have the rail schedule, so Rhonda called up for information. The lady on the other end of the phone asked "What time are you thinking of going to Gretna Green?", so Rhonda replied "around 11:00am". The lady responded, "There isn't an 11:00am train, but there is one leaving at 11:03am." ARGH!! (Typical British "efficiency".)

First Smithy's shop wanted 70 pounds for the marriage and Celtic ceremony. SMB 70 pounds! (If you don't know what SMB is, you don't watch enough South Park and yes, the reference is somewhere on that page).

We aren't cheap, but the idea of spending 70 pounds on a (mainly) Christian ceremony was a bit amusing to us, being Jewish and all, we figured that the blacksmith would burst into flames if he performed that on us. We researched the remarriage ceremony before we left for Glasgow and were fully aware that there was a blacksmith in Gretna Green that performed the ceremony for free.

We went down the road to the other Smithy's shop and got married! The ceremony was quite nice and the blacksmith had a good sense of humour. When it came time for me to kiss Rhonda he kindly requested "No tongues".

We did a fair bit of shopping at the Smithy's shop. Rhonda got a souvenir necklace for herself, my mom and a friend of her mom's. I, on the other hand, got a couple small bottles of Gretna Green scotch. The blacksmith got his honourarium in the form of our purchases.

We are heading back to Glasgow. The area between Gretna Green and Dumfries is rolling green hills. The weather - HOT & SUNNY - someone must have worked their magic so that Rhonda's hair would stay pretty in the heat.

Lots of cows and sheep. Green everywhere!

Every morning when we leave on a day trip, the innkeeper asks us where we're going. This morning when we told her we were heading to Gretna Green she replied "There's nothing there!" Rhonda mentioned that we were going to get remarried and she just smiled and said "that's sweet" and that was the end of it.

When we got back to the B&B, we were completely blown away. The innkeeper had covered our beds with confetti, streamers, rose petals and there were helium balloons hanging from a little lamp. We couldn't believe that this sweet lady, who we had only known since Sunday, would go to the trouble of doing this for us! On top of all this, she got us a gift, too. A cute little pink pen that had a plastic strawberry dangling from the top and a bar of swiss chocolate. Rhonda told me that I can have the pen, she has dibs on the chocolate...

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


We were originally planning on taking the early train to Inverness, but when we heard the time of departure, we had a change of heart. The thought of being at Queen Street Station for 7:07am (while on vacation) and knowing that we are half an hour away from there by train, didn't exactly turn our proverbial crank! Working backwards, we would have to have been there 10 minutes before we went to sleep.

We ended up taking the 10:10am train instead and got into Inverness at 1:50pm. While it's a long train trip, watching the scenery go by made the time disappear.

The Highlands were impressive and seeing the hillsides dotted with cows and sheep was amazing!

To pass the time on the way in I did some Sudoku (what else?) and wrote Heather a postcard. I couldn't pass up sending a postcard of a Scotty dog sitting in a patch of heather to her. Before we left we forgot to take our stamps with us, so I had to get one when we arrived in Inverness. Fairly straight-forward, easy task, right?


When we left the train station we popped in to the hotel next door and asked the desk clerk if we could buy a stamp from him. He sighed at me (apparently I interrupted his surfing for porn) and simply glared at me for a moment. He then gave us directions to the post office, which ended up being wrong. Long story short, Josh had to make an important phone call so we walked back to the hotel so he could have some privacy. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed an MBE store and walked in. I got my stamp and mailed the postcard! What a kerfuffle!

From what I remembered Inverness to be when we visited in 2000 to what it is now is simply heartbreaking. All the nice, quaint shops that were around then went out of business. A large mall opened up and forced all the "little guys" out. Inverness, which is known for scotch and sapphires, had very little of either! Our original plan was to take the late train back to Glasgow, but after viewing the town and a quick visit to Inverness Castle , now a court building, we left.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Oban and Isle of Mull (JC)

I took a bath this morning; the B&B had no shower. Shaving with no hot water, in a bathtub, was like wresting with a wet cat.

As we had to catch an early morning train, the innkeeper prepared a care package of oranges, bananas, 4 packs of cheese, a yogurt drink called Yakult and 100g of premium Marks and Spencer Swiss chocolate. If Rhonda was a cat, she would be purring.

The train trip to Oban was spectacular. Enough sun peaked through to reveal miles and miles of Highlands, untouched by civilization. Not a Starbucks for 200 miles!

Oban is the gateway to the Inner and Outer Hebrides . We took a ferry to the Isle of Mull.

The 3rd largest island in Scotland and saw more unspoiled wilderness, and had a tour of Duart Castle which is the residence of the MacLean clan.

We were so impressed by the amount of fishing that went on in the area, but only found out too late that there was a fish restaurant. Oh well, maybe next time. Instead we went to an authentic Scottish restaurant, I had the haggis and Rhonda had the lamb. She asked for them to just add a little gravy on it, and it came to the table literally doing the backstroke.

This restaurant had the most disgusting assortment of potato jackets. What did potatoes do to the Scots they had to assault them with haggis, baked beans and tuna? GROSS!

At the end of dinner, I turned to Rhonda and mentioned that if we didn't get to the train in time we would be "stuck on the island!". Our waitress overheard this, snorted and I quickly backpedaled and said "no, really the island is beautiful, that's not really what I meant." (but it was).

Tomorrow we're heading off for Inverness!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Aberdeen (JC)

Still a bit jet-lagged, neither Rhonda or I slept, in fact we were so messed up, we could tell time. I looked at the time thinking it was 6:05am, but it was actually 11:30pm with my watch upside down. Oops.

Rhonda and I slept 2 hours talking like it was summer camp as we did not want our "counsellor" to hear us. Wet willies and pink bellies tomorrow night, it's hands in the warm water tonight! Heh heh.

When we realized it was 2:00am, we went back to sleep and had breakfast made by the innkeeper in the morning. Croissants, cereal, fruit, cheese (orgasmic), and sliced ham. We passed on the ham.

We took the train to Aberdeen and saw the east coast.

The North Sea looked still, about as still as a woman who has gone 1 week without chocolate. "Argh Billy, the sea is angry!"

We arrived in downtown Aberdeen, where the train station is, and walked around for a while. We saw the Aberdeen Maritime Museum, St. Andrew's Cathedral (which was closed), as was Aberdeen's retail sector at 5:00pm. We passed by a tattoo parlour during our walkabout which had a sign in the window that read "No junkies or kerb crawlers!" After all, tattoo parlours are where the elite meet...

We also walked past the University of Aberdeen and the grounds are spectacular...

We had lupper at The Monkey House . The menu raved of its hamburgers and selection of succulent mouth-watering monkey meat (just kidding). I had the pate with the house specialty "monkey burger" which was thankfully free of Scottish raised, organic, free range monkey meat. Rhonda, on the other hand, had a Caesar salad and, what else, fish and chips. As the saying goes, "When in Aberdeen..."

Along the way, we saw a restaurant called "East Hurlet", which didn't look nearly as appetizing as it sounded, so we passed.

We did a big walkabout and headed back to rainy Glasgow. In Britain, pedestrians do not have 'right of way', crossing streets was like playing a bad round of Frogger . One car actually sped up while we were in the intersection!

Tomorrow we are off to Oban and the Isle of Mull.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Still on our way...

We arrived in London around 7:45 after circling for quite a while. Both Josh and I were staring at our watches in horror as our connecting flight was set to leave at 9:25 and all the paperwork said that we needed at least 75 minutes to go from Terminal 4 to 1.

After walking for a while, we finally got to the bus that links the terminals and encountered the British national sport; queuing ! We had to queue to get on the bus, queue to use the escalator, and then queue to get through security, and finally queue to go through customs.

As I mentioned, we actually had to queue to get on the escalator! One particular airport employee's job was actually to make sure that people queued properly to get on the escalator. He was oh so good at his job that he didn't even have any set requirements for who gets on the escalator. There were two lines, and most *normal* people would let the people on their right go up and then the people on the left and so on...not him! He seemed to have no rhyme or reason as to who got on the escalator. I got out of line, practically tapped him on the shoulder, and said that we had to get on a plane and didn't have time for his little ritual. Well, that was the wrong thing to do. He wouldn't let our line move for another 10 minutes because apparently he didn't like that I was telling him how to do his job. ARGH!

After all that, we arrived at our gate with 10 minutes to spare! OY! That flight was uneventful, thankfully. Upon arriving in Glasgow we went to collect our luggage.

In an effort to prove that the Scots invented standard time, mechanized rubber, etc., they all perfected the overpaid, underworked, smartass airport worker! Proof of this, was telling us that Toronto was not in Europe and we were waiting for our bags at the wrong carousel. For some reason, bags coming off the same flight are separated into EU and non-EU cities of origin. Had they simply off-loaded the bags from one flight onto one carousel, fired the smartasses, we would have been out of there 20 minutes sooner! ARGH!!

As if that weren't enough, we got to the taxi stand, and as luck would have it, we found the only taxi driver in all of Glasgow who was dumber than wood! He didn't know where we were going. He had to ask a fellow taxi driver for directions and then in a final fit of obliviousness he called the owner of the B&B for directions. He then proceeded to argue with her about where she lives. Guess who won that argument?

We got to the B&B (finally) and were greeted at the door by a kindly older lady and her Yorkie. The scene looked right out of a Scottish calendar. She showed us to our room, we opened the door and found two single beds. The look of disappointment on Josh's face was priceless.

We unpacked, took a much needed nap and woke up in time for dinner. Josh's uncle took us (another of Josh's aunt and uncle, a friend of his, Josh and I) out for dinner for authentic Scottish fare; Italian.

Everyone was talking about how large the portions are, so Josh and I settled on getting half portions of pasta with a starter salad. Seems simple enough, right?While everyone else also got half portions of pasta, that was treated AS their starter.

The portions were so utterly large that I couldn't even finish half of my pasta. Take a moment and imagine a full plate of pasta then washing it down with a chicken breast smothered in a sauce with rice and veggies. The sight of them eating all that was a bit hard to take. Personally, I'd be afraid to see what the 'full portion' looked like...

When my Caesar salad arrived, Josh's uncle's friend took a look at the plate and asked, "What's that?" I told her it was a Caesar salad and she replied, "It must be a Canadian thing." I felt like turning to her and saying, "Umm, don't they have salad on your planet, lady?" but I demurely smiled.

After dinner we said our goodbyes and called it a night.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

On our way!

We left home at 3:45 and drove over to my mom's house. We dropped our car off at her place because we didn't feel great about leaving our car at our apartment building for two and a half weeks, unprotected. A while back our car was broken into and they broke the driver's side window and ripped out both airbags, rummaged through the trunk, and took various other things. So, obviously, we didn't want the car left here. Not that our building is that bad or we're in a dangerous area or anything, it's just that we didn't want to take a chance with anything.

Anyways, she took up to the airport so that we could be there three hours in advance. Especially with all the new security foofura, they suggest that you have to be there that early to go through various procedures.

We walked around the terminal for a bit and then said our goodbyes, and wouldn't you know it, getting past security took all of 15 minutes! Had we known this at the time, we would have taken my mom up on her offer of taking us out for dinner. Oh well.

After walking around we finally decided to have a snack and shared a turkey sandwich, or at least that's what they said it was; it had all the consistency of popcicle sticks...slightly dry. We chased it down with a chocolate croissant from Starbucks. Hey, a girl's gotta have some comfort food, right?

We finally made our way to the plane without incident. Though a few 'exciting' things happened on the plane, I got shnockered on wine, gotta love those itty bitty bottles...

About halfway through the flight, the lady sitting across from me fainted. She completely passed out! The BA staff handled this like real professionals to the point that if you weren't sitting near this woman, you wouldn't know that anything was amiss. Josh said that they swooped in and saved her like Spiderman in a BA uniform.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Vacation time!

So tomorrow Josh and I are headed off on vacation. For the past several years we've talked about how we want to spend the High Holidays with his family in Glasgow. His father is from there, and Josh still has an uncle and aunt that live there. Anyways, this year, we decided we were just going to book the trip and go!

We were a little nervous about booking because we did that when our dossier was still being prepared. We weren't sure if we'd have to be in town at that time, but thankfully everything worked out in our favour...for once. Everything went off to China a lot earlier than I had anticipated at the time. I was really hoping to get our LID before we go, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen, unfortunately. Josh is convinced that I'm going to go around to internet cafes and push people out of their chairs so I can check our email. He's probably right.

Anyways, we got a ScotRail pass in advance so we can travel any '8 days in 15'. We still haven't figured out exactly where we're going, we're more or less flying by the seat of our pants. Sure, Josh has done research into the various cities we *can* visit, but we haven't set up an itinerary. We're basically going to get to the station, look at the map, figure out where we want to go...and go! I like it this way, it should be awesome! ;)

I know one place in particular that we're going to go to, Gretna Green , to get remarried. We're not going in for all the bells and whistles, we just want to go there and get married by the blacksmith. How cool would that be?

We were thinking of going fishing while we're there, while we emailed a company a couple weeks ago, they never got back to us. I have a feeling that we're probably not going to get to do that. Oh well.

Since we're going to be in Europe anyways, we decided to go to Rome! I've never been there, I wanted to go there, so we're going. ;)

Josh and I are going out for dinner with a couple of work colleagues of his, hopefully on the 26th which would be our first day in Rome. Since they live in Rome, they can tell us where we should go (no, not in that sense), what we should see, and hopefully what we should avoid.

We're staying a few blocks away from the Via Veneto, so I'm sure by the time we get back my credit card will be smoking...

I've asked E (Spitgirl) to work on the Little Maple Project when and if she has time while I'm gone. So there might be new Mandarin phrases over the next couple of weeks.

Yes, I know what Johnny says about not telling people you won't be at home, but we've got people coming in to our place and we have a killer cat! (Just ask "Lefty" our postman) ;)

Anyways, one more sleep until our trip! I can't wait! See you in October...

Suggestions, please...

Does anyone have a suggestion for a really good book for me to read on my trans-atlantic flight? (Possibly with a little blurb letting me know what it's about). ;)

The book(s) don't have to be adoption-related, but if you know of a good one that I'm likely to find at the airport, toss me a comment. I'll probably also be doing su doku as well, especially with the train trips.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

I think I threw up a little...

at least that's what I said to my husband when he asked me if I liked the program. After he finished laughing, he agreed...

My in-laws were looking through the tv guide a month or two ago and found an episode of Touched By An Angel that dealt with Chinese adoption and taped it for my husband and I. I put off watching it until last night because I'm not really into 'syrupy' shows like that. It had Angela Lansbury in it, so I figured it *might* be watchable, how wrong I was...

The premise of the show was that Angela Lansbury's adult grandchildren (in their 40s) were having trouble conceiving and had been through five tries of in vitro. They decided to 'just adopt' and had a home study done by the Della Reese character. Long story short, Angela's character's parents were missionaries and had to flee China. The mission they were in was bombed, but just before it was bombed, her character was helping out her Chinese friend and gave her a locket to remember her by.

VERY long story short, they eventually (with a few highly unrealistic bumps along the way) pass the homestudy, they have a commercial break and the next scene is them packing their bags for China...uh ok?

The Della Reese character travels with the couple AND the parents go into the orphanage's 'baby room'. Sure. That happens ALL the time...

Next scene is Angela's character holding the baby on a bench at the orphanage and she's sitting next to an elderly Chinese woman. Angela breaks into a hymn and wouldn't you know it? The woman sitting next to her was her Chinese friend from all those years ago, holding her locket...

Anyone else need a bucket?

My FIL asked me today, when I gave him back the tape, what I thought of it. I told him, other than it being highly unrealistic and sugary sweet, that I didn't like it but thanked him for giving it to me.

He turned to me and in his Scottish accent replied 'yeah, I thought it was thick treacle myself.'

Has anyone seen this episode? Any thoughts? Feel free to share, I don't bite...much.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I don't know what to say...

at all.

I'm having a pity party and you're invited!

So the weather this morning was utter shite, and therefore, I had a migraine...big shock. I've been up since 3:00am, took some pills and I'm feeling loopy. But instead of attempting to sleep it off, I did the most logical thing one can do with a migraine...I went to the dentist for a cleaning.

I can't say this strongly enough, this has to have been one of the stupidest things I've done when I've had a migraine. I was thinking of cancelling, but they require two days notice, or they charge you. So after they scraped and scraped and scraped, it was time for the flouride! Now normally that doesn't bother me, but along with my migraine, my TMJ was acting up as well.

But wait, there's more!

I also had to have a full set of x-rays done. No, not the usual 4-8 x-rays, this was 18...and to make matters worse, it was done by a student or new graduate (or at least that's how it seemed). She was really nervous about doing this, and I didn't want to tell her to 'stop, I'm in freaking pain here!', so I let her continue. She kept jamming those damn x-ray films in my mouth and they kept scratching the inside of my mouth...badly. But then again, I do get hypersensitive when I have a migraine.

Then came the joyous news of the bill...$271! At least we'll get some of that back with insurance. ;)

I was feeling so crappy that I ended up taking a cab home...I should have made her pay for it. :P

On the upside, however, I bought new luggage last night for my upcoming trip...and it was on sale...70% off!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Mom and Dad on the podcast page

Okay, so I blew it a little - talked to my roommate and it turns out the two variations of mother and father aren't as formal as I thought they were. She reminded me of two phrases that are very rarely used except by telemarketers and in formal occasions - Fu Qing and Mu Qing, which means father and mother in a very traditional sense.

Anyway, I've posted the more colloquial Mom and Dad on the Little Maple page. The two are about equivalent, although the latter one is slightly more formal than the former. I'd say start with the former and go with that.

In other news, I found this dude on Odeo. He's very energetic, very cheesy, and speaks with a very Southern Chinese accent. I found it amusing when I listened to it, but it does have additional phrases I'll probably not get to immediately.

Learn Chinese!

Chinese American Cuisine 101: Zhin-zhu-nai-tsa

I will preface this by saying that this is something I consider quite a treat - they tend to be high in calories and caffeine, and I can't handle either of them well. However, they are very nice, they're yummy, and I think they're also kosher. (Excellent, as Bill and Ted would say.)

What I'm talking about is bubble milk tea, also known colloquially as boba. As always, Wikipedia has a great description: All About Bubble Tea. It's also referred to as "Pearl Milk Iced Tea," because that's the formal name: Zhin-zhu (pearl) nai (milk) tsa (tea).

This is not necessarily for the faint of heart. Of all of the Westerners (I lump in Americans and Canadians here) I've introduced this drink to, about 50% of them like it. On the road trip back from my trip to Mexico in June (we were coming back from working with underprivileged kids in Tijuana), we stopped by with a bunch of (Caucasian) teenagers from Idaho at a Californian Asian grocery store chain called 99 Ranch (or Ranch 99, depending on who you talk to). While there, some of my team members convinced these poor, hapless kids to order this drink.

My boyfriend and I had been wandering the store, seeing if we could purchase some goodies to bring back to his friends, when we saw the guys, happily sipping their boba.

"Oh, you got the pearl milk tea?" exclaimed my boyfriend. "That stuff's great!"

I didn't know he'd liked it at the time we first tried it on our first date. In fact, he had been positively skeptical of it the whole time.

Let me tell you why - the tapioca balls are chewy. I don't know how many of you guys remember the ill-fated Orbitz drink, but it seems that a lot of Westerners don't like little chewy bits in their drinks. Given that I grew up with it (but not necessarily with this stuff, as it only started becoming common in the last 5-8 years or so), the transition to chewy bits in my drink was pretty much none. (Besides, I'm the type of person who likes high pulp in my juice - the pulpier, the better.)

So, if you're feeling adventurous and want to try something instead of your standard frappaccino, try to find a store in your area and check out the standard "pearl milk iced tea."

Monday, September 11, 2006

Comfort food

This evening I was in the mood for some comfort food. So, Josh and I sat down and ate the cake that Nicole and her husband gave me for my birthday. (It was delicious, but SO not good for a diet!) ;)

I got these neat ladybug plates from my MIL, so I thought tonight would be the perfect time to break them...out.

When I lit the candle on the cake, Deuce came scampering in as he had to investigate everything. Josh got this really funky picture of him. It's either funky, he's stoned on tuna, or we're living too close to a power decide!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Mini-bloggy summit!

Last night my husband and I met up with Nicole and her husband for dinner. We were trying to figure out a place that was sort of mid-way for both of us and picked Niagara Falls (Ontario). We were originally thinking of going to Buffalo, but we couldn't think of a nice place to go there. So I took the initiative and picked Tony Roma's.

My husband and I arrived around 5:00 and killed some time by going shopping. I finally found a purse that looks half decent and at a cheap price too! You can't beat $30.00 for an all leather shoulder bag. It's got all sorts of 'secret' pockets in it, so it's going to be great for our upcoming European odyssey.

We set 6:00 as the time to meet and I had the reservations for 6:30, just in case Nic and her husband got stuck at the border on the way in. Anyways, they pulled up right at 6:00 and we greeted each other like long lost friends. I was kind of nervous to meet them, I've never met anyone that I've only known online before, so it was quite a departure for me.

We walked into the restaurant, sat down, and talked for a good 30+ minutes. I think we kind of annoyed the waitress, she kept coming up to the table to take our orders but we hadn't even cracked the spine on our menus. :P

We finally ordered some ribs, while the boys ordered BBQ beef sandwiches. We sat, shmoozed, ate, shmoozed some more, oh and did I mention we shmoozed? While they may not be as good as Heather's 12-step BBQ ribs, they were pretty damn good. I excused myself near the end of the meal to use the washroom (yes, you needed to know that), and when I got back to the table they had sneakily ordered a dessert for me. I called the waitress over and had her bring over three more spoons and we all dug in. They didn't sing 'Happy Birthday', thankfully...I'm not a huge fan of public displays of 'It's my birthday, pay attention to meeeeeeeeeeee' in restaurants. ;)

They also got me a birthday cake and I got my first quilt square! I'll be sure to put it in a very special place. However, I'm not doing the quilt, or at least not yet. I love the *idea* of the quilt, but I'm not doing anything prior to getting our child. In Judiasm it's considered 'bad luck' to have anything prepared for the child when no child exists. It all has to do with the 'evil eye'. I guess we've been through so many disappointments along the way that any superstition (which I guess this really is) we give creedence to.

After dinner we went for a walk around the grounds of the Fallsview Casino , but we didn't go in to gamble. (Maybe next time). Around 9:30 we called it a night as we both had a bit of a drive to get home.

I think I was a tad nervous when we first met, I *am* painfully shy in person, as I'm sure Nicole can attest to, but by the end of the evening we were talking about just about everything under the sun and we made tentative plans to meet up again next month. I hope it works out!

Technical difficulties...

Apparently for the past day or so, people who use Firefox or other browsers than IE, have been unable to view the blog. Since I use IE, I had no idea anything was amiss.

When Nicole and I had our mini-blogger summit last night, I mentioned over dinner that Heather had redone the blog and it looked amazing now. I got an email this morning saying that all Nicole could see were the links on the right side of the page.

After counting down from 10, I started asking people to check out the blog and I got the same answer. Long story short, I talked to my friend D who looked at the template and tweaked it so now it works!

Thanks Connie and Nicole for letting me know, and thanks again Heather!

Also, if you haven't done so, please read the previous post about 'Taking the Survey', it would be a great help to E.