A Travellerspoint blog

That's It ...

I can never visit Geoffrey and Allyson again!

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"Why?" you ask.

Well, for those of you who have read all my posts, you will remember where I started with this blog: Mosquito Madness Parts I and II. You will also remember that I went to visit Geoffrey and Allyson in Bequia -- and whatever you would never imagine could happen on a vacation, did!

Airline strikes ... unexpected layovers ... being attacked by mosquitos and sand fleas (sort of like Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds but with bugs) ... the revenge of the mosquito netting ... the destruction of a guest bedroom ... the need to unexpectedly move to a hotel ... raw chicken ... suffocating insects the size of rodents in pillow cases ... need I go on?

So here it is, almost 2 years later. This time I am going to visit them (and have a meeting), where they live in Prince Edward County.

Instead of driving I decided to take the train. So much less work. So much less hassle.

Now the previous incarnation of me would have taken a taxi to Union Station. But now that I am "enlightened" I decided to take the subway. It is, after all, virtually right outside my front door. And I am only going for a couple of days so all I'm carrying is a small overnight bag, my laptop and my purse. It's not like I have major luggage!

The wheels on the overnight bag (and the balance) turn out to be crap, I discover as I waft across the street -- having to stop and right it every step of the way, but never mind. It was cheap, that's what you get I guess, for being frugal (I wouldn't know, you see, because the urge doesn't strike me very often).

Anyway.

Down I go on the escalator. Into the slot on the turnstile my last token goes (I had planned to buy some but as luck would have it there was no attendant on duty). Never mind.

Now this was no ordinary turnstile. You actually walk into this one. So what do you think happened?

I got in and, with my hip, pushed the turnstile. My computer got in. My purse got in. You know what's coming next, I just know it!

My little overnight bag got stuck under the part of the turnstile that was behind me!

I tried to back out and start over. Oh no, because I had already started to move forward it had locked behind me. No going back, in other words.

I tried to get the turnstile in front of me to revolve forward so at least I could get out and try to figure out what to do about my suitcase. Oh no, because my bag was stuck and I was still in the middle of this mess the forward motion was locked.

So there I was: Stuck in a very tiny, cramped space. With a purse, a computer bag and a suitcase that wasn't going anywhere.

Oh, did I mention that I was totally alone? Not a human in sight. Can you imagine? In a subway station? At lunch time? In Toronto???

So I started to scream. "Help!" I yelled. "Help!! I'm stuck in the turnstile!!!!" (I am sitting here now repeating the story laughing out loud, wetting my pants -- but at the time it was anything but funny.)

Do you remember those TV commercials? The "I've-fallen-and-I-can't-get-up" spots? Well, this is the new campaign: "Help, Help, I'm stuck in the turnstile and I can't get out!!!!!!"

Did I see anyone? Did anyone rush over to help me?

Of course not!!! I'm going to see Geoffrey and Allyson!! Do you really think it would be that simple? Now do you understand why I can simply never visit them again?

By now I was sweating and desperate. So I did what anybody in my position would do. What anybody with my limited capacity to move in any direction would do.

Not caring whether or not I ripped the luggage ... not caring whether or not I ever saw any of the contents of that blooming suitcase again ... I yanked it for all I was worth! I mean, yanked!!

And, because it's cheap and vinyl (albeit very cute -- it is brown and pink paisley -- which is why I bought it) it slid right out from under that turnstile like I'd greased it with butter. You know very well that if it had been expensive and leather the top would have gone in one direction and the bottom in another.

All in all I was probably there "stuck in the middle" for about 5 minutes. To me it felt like an hour!

The rest of my adventure to Union Station was, thankfully relatively uneventful, but the day is still young. So stay close to your computer. In all likelihood you'll be hearing from me again.

Posted by a_broad 04.06.2009 10:44 Archived in Canada Tagged train_travel Comments (4)

Traveling Alone Doesn't Mean You'll Be Lonely

you'll meet people if you want to

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One of the reasons a lot of people are afraid to travel by themselves is the fear of being far from home, with no one to talk to or share both good and bad experiences with ... having no one to turn to for advice or guidance -- being lonely, in other words. But I'm here to tell you that doesn't have to be the way your trip turns out.

But before we get to that, let's think about all the positives associated with solo travel:

To begin with, you're actually seeing the world instead of constantly sitting on the sidelines, waiting for someone to go with you ... waiting to find someone who wants to go where you want to go, when you want to go and how you want to go. You could find yourself waiting forever.

Which brings me to my next point. You get to go and do and see exactly what you want. You get to change your mind. You get to change your itinerary if you feel like it. Having fun and want to stay longer in a particular place? Do it. Feel like skipping somewhere you had originally planned to visit? Do it. Want to change hotels? Do it. Feeling a bit tired and want to stay in bed all morning? Do it. Want to fly somewhere instead of taking the train? Do it. Feel like renting a car and driving instead? Do it. Want to splurge on an expensive dinner in a fabulous restaurant? Do it. Want to buy a baguette, some cheese and a bottle of wine at a local market and eat in your hotel room? Do it.

You are on your own. You are not ruining someone else's plans. You're not disappointing anyone. You don't need to ask permission or negotiate or compromise. You are as a free as a bird. You can be as spontaneous as you like. You can spend as much or as little money as you want. You can take as long as you want. You can skip whatever you want.

So are you packing yet? Ahh, first you want to know why I'm so sure you won't be lonely. Well here's what happened to me yesterday:

I wanted a coffee before I began my usual Saturday chores. There happens to be a Starbucks right near my apartment (surprise, surprise). This particular Starbucks is tiny -- only 4 tables. They were all occupied, but there was a woman sitting by herself at one of them -- so I asked if she minded if I took the other chair.

At first we sat quietly -- she reading her book and me engrossed in the Travel Section of the newspaper (my favourite past time). When she got up to get a refill I noticed the scarf she was wearing. It looked very much like the scarves I bought at the Living Fort in Jaisalmer (in Rajasthan) when I was in India.

So I asked her if she'd been to India, and if that was where she'd bought her scarf. "No", she said; and then asked why I was asking. I told her about the scarves I'd bought when I was there earlier this year. We talked to each other for at least a half hour -- probably would have stayed longer if I hadn't had to leave. We had a really interesting conversation. As it turns out she's always wanted to go to India -- but she'd lived in Africa for two years -- somewhere I've always wanted to go. As we talked I realized she had a French accent. Although she lives in Ontario now she's originally from Quebec -- and so am I.

What's interesting is, if I'd been there with a friend I probably never would have talked to that woman. I'd have never struck up that conversation in the first place. And I would have missed out on hearing about her very interesting life.

It could have ended -- as it did in this instance -- right there, in the cafe. Or we could have made plans to get together another time. And what happened to me around the corner from where I live can happen to me or to you anywhere in the world. It can happen in a cafe or at a bus or train station ... or in an airport ... on a beach ... in a hotel lobby ... a museum ... a temple ... a gas station ... a restaurant ... a street corner ... a shop or anywhere else you find yourself in the company of other people.

In an instant, with a nod of the head, a smile, a question or even a simple statement you can turn a stranger into an acquaintance, a traveling companion or even a life-long friend. That's part of the fun and adventure that comes with traveling solo!

Who knows, maybe we'll even meet up somewhere?

Posted by a_broad 10.05.2009 05:57 Archived in Canada Tagged women Comments (1)

Don't always believe everything you read

in other words, make up your own mind

When I first decided to go to India I wanted to go alone. Don't ask me why because I don't know. Anyway, my friends thought I was mad. And to be honest, everything I read -- online and in travel guidebooks -- sort of discouraged it. While no one came out and said it was a stupid or dangerous thing to do, there were articles and sections that could have made a solo female traveler wary.

In the end I went on a tour -- not because I was afraid to go alone, but because I was referred to a travel agent who was leading a trip I wanted to go on. She was going to all the places I wanted to see and she was going at exactly the time of year I wanted to go. And they were staying in spectacular hotels and her itinerary was very appealing to me.

I'm not sorry I did it. I had a fabulous time.

BUT ... now that I've been to India I know that I could have gone myself. I never felt that I wasn't safe. I never felt that if I'd been a woman alone I would have been scorned by many Indian people (which is what a lot of the guidebooks warn you about). I know I wouldn't have been lonely. And I know I would still have enjoyed myself.

It was great to have people to share my experiences with -- but I also know that I would have met people during my travels. I did even on my tour. You meet people and strike up conversations everywhere -- in lines, in bars, in cafes, at museums, at airports, in restaurants, in hotel lobbies, at tourist attractions. Somebody inevitably starts talking -- it stands to reason -- you obviously have something in common because you've found yourselves in the same place at the same time.

If you're a woman traveling alone are there things you need to watch out for? Absolutely. But if you're a woman traveling on the subway at night in your own home town there are things you need to watch out for.

How do you know what to see if you're not on a tour? Well to begin with that's what travel magazines, the travel section of newspapers, the Internet and guidebooks are for. Hotels can also organize tours for you and you can also make arrangements with your travel agent to hire your own, private driver and guide.

All you really need to have a terrific vacation on your own is the confidence to do it. So don't wait for your spouse or your sibling or your kids or your friends to go on holiday with you because you might end up waiting forever -- and while everyone else gets to see the world, you'll be wishing you were.

If you want to go somewhere and you've got no one to go with, go anyway. And if you're not quite ready to fly solo go on a tour -- there are plenty of them that cater to small groups of from 10 - 14 people so if the idea of traveling with 20 or 30 others is putting you off, there are alternatives.

Do it once and I'll bet wish you'd done it sooner. Send me a postcard.

Posted by a_broad 18:34 Archived in Canada Tagged women Comments (10)

auajo

come again

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This photo really does sum up my experience in India. It exemplifies how deeply these people care about their country and the fact that you are visiting. "We tried our best to accommodate your requests and tried to make your stay pleasant; but if we missed out on anything unknowingly please forgive us and give us a chance to serve you again."

I loved every minute I was there; and I know I will visit India again ... and again ... and again. And hopefully you will all come with me -- again and again and again. Thanks for following along and for all your comments and emails. It was great to share my trip with you. Here's to the next one ...

Posted by a_broad 01.02.2009 16:37 Archived in India Tagged luxury_travel Comments (2)

Cochin (Kochi) ...

one of the world's largest ports

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Throughout the second millennium this ancient city has exported spices and coffee all over the world. What it has gained in return is culture and religion from Europe, China and the Middle East.

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Our drive here was long, but informative. Our driver/guide stopped many times along the way to show us banana trees, coffee plants, cashew nut trees and even cardamom plants. We even saw how the more enterprising guys go door-to-door selling fish -- by bicycle! We buy these things every day in the grocery store but to see them in their natural habitat puts a whole new slant on things. I will 'eat' far more knowledgeably now.

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Another glorious sight was the mist rising over the mountains -- remember that we came from Munnar which is about 7,000 feet above sea level. The mist made it seem like we were either gazing at snow-covered alps in Switzerland or a Japanese painting. It was gorgeous!!

We arrived in Cochin in early afternoon which was lucky for us. It meant we had time to enjoy yet another lovely hotel -- which we did -- and also repacked for our journey home. I tried to blog with some success and finally abandoned it all so I could enjoy the scenery -- starting with the picturesque view from my hotel room.

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At around 5 we met for high tea -- the British influence remains -- and then we took a sunset cruise, which was beautiful. We drifted fairly slowly and saw the famous Chinese fishing nets from the water -- they look like huge hammocks spread out and it's hard to believe they're still in use today. We also enjoyed yet another magnificent sunset -- they are so incredible here. I have never seen a sky the colour it turns here -- pure scarlet!!

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Dinner at the hotel and early to bed -- we had a long day ahead -- sightseeing -- our flight back to Mumbai -- and then our flight home.

After a delicious breakfast we headed out for our sightseeing:

First stop -- St. Francis Church in Fort Cochin. This is the church where Vasco da Gama was once buried. A very simple structure, but so lovely. P1050465.jpg
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Then we went to see the Chinese Fishing Nets again from land -- and luckily we got to see them in action.

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They were first introduced by Chinese traders in the 14th century -- and it's amazing to see that they are still used today. So primitive -- but so simple -- and so effective.

Then we made our way to the synagogue -- it is the oldest 'functioning' synagogue in India -- and today the congregation is only 11 families. They can't even make a minion -- they invite tourists to come and join them on Friday evenings and Saturdays -- but they are determined.

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It is beautiful and what I found spectacular was the fact that the room is literally filled with chandeliers -- all different. The reason is that they are donated and everyone donates the chandelier of their choice. The floor is also marvelous -- 1,100 hand-painted, blue and white Chinese tiles -- again each one different -- a "gift" from a wealthy trader, Ezekiel Rahabi in the mid 18th century.

Unfortunately for security reasons we weren't allowed to take photos, so you'll have to take my word for it. This is a strictly orthodox synagogue and so the women (not tourists) are sent to sit upstairs behind a screened area.

But the real highlight of the day was meeting Sarah -- a 75-year old Jewish woman who was born in India.

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She has a small shop in Jewtown where she makes and sells kippas and challah bread covers.

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We loved our visit with her and we all bought some souvenirs from her shop. She looked exactly like all our grandmother's -- a typical Jewish bubbie -- all those many, many, many miles away.

Who would have thought?

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Then our guide took us to a local cafe for a wonderful lunch -- I had a dosa -- it's crisp, flat, pancake -- sort of like Crepe Bretogne -- filled with a potato and vegetable curry mixture. It's really good. Mine was the 'masala' version -- which is a spicy sauce -- tomato, vegetable.

And then, alas, back to the hotel to change into our traveling clothes, collect our luggage and head to the airport. I cannot believe the trip is over.

I've said it so many times you must be bored hearing it already, but India is an amazing, amazing country. I have another blog or two coming -- a few more things I want to share with you, so stay tuned.

See you soon ...

Posted by a_broad 01.02.2009 16:04 Archived in India Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

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