100 Best Cities in the World – Where have you been?


Part 2 – Cities 50 – 74

I finished Part 1 – Cities 100-75 with a score of 13/25. Let’s see how I do with this part of the list.

Keep in mind that I’ve had 73 years to do all this travelling – and it’s not surprising I suppose that I’ve been to lots of places. But let’s be honest here – years 1-15 were spent growing up (Atlanta, New London, and a Navy Base), and years 16-21 were spent going to University and meeting my husband. Of the two – I probably worked harder on the later. But that’s a story for another time.

Bottom line – I started to seriously travel my junior year at Tufts. I spent a year abroad in London – and we took several trips to parts of Europe during school breaks and the summer that my year aboard ended. Be careful what you allow your kids to do I must say. That experience definitely set the tone for the rest of my vagabond existence.

74. Lyon – been there. Lyon is best known for it’s train station – and I think that’s were we spent most of the time we were there. Again this is pre-internet – so you visited the places you could find in a travel book. Lyon was more of a pass thru than a visit kinda town in those days.

73. Shanghai – Missed it! Toured almost all of China and didn’t manage to visit Shanghai. Oh well.

72. Minneapolis – Been through there. Big city in the middle of flat flat flat everything. Might be nicer to live there. Not a wonderful place to visit.

71. Warsaw – Missed it. Same trip as Cracow and Kiev – which is why the price got so out of hand. Check it on a map. You can’t do all three in one tour. We were nuts to even consider it.

70. Brisbane – sigh. See Perth. Never been. Love to go. Not now though.

69. Valencia – Been there! Great oranges. We spent a night there on our way from seeing the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. Which I have to tell you is an absolute must see place! Valencia was a disappointment in comparison. Way it goes.

68. Helsinki – Nope – never been there. On a long list – not a short list too. So I won’t put the odds in it’s favor….

67. Ottawa – Been there lots! It’s the capital of Canada of course – and only about 1.5 hours from Montreal. They have a fabulous Regency weekend there every year – and we’ve been several times. They also have nice bridge sectionals and regionals. And of course we’ve taken folks who visit us there – particularly if they come from overseas. It’s an impressive kind of place – not a big city of course – but a lovely small town. I’m proud of our Capital.

66. Portland – Now here’s a question – Portland Maine or Portland Oregon. Doesn’t really matter because I’ve been to both. Portland, Maine is the cuter place – trust me here. Nice museums, nice shopping, cute water front, nice restaurants, easy walking. Portland, Oregon has big trees. And it’s a fairly big city. 66,000 for Portland, Maine, 695,000 for Portland, Oregon. So that’s really it in a nut shell.

65. Brussels – Ah, Brussels. Can’t even think about Brussels without thinking of Jacques Brel. Love his music – and of course he’s famous through out the city. Brussels has some of the best food in Europe in my opinion. And it’s so accessible. There are great places to stay that won’t break the bank, there are museums to see and enjoy, and there’s the food. Let me repeat – the food alone is worth the trip! And not just the Pates Frit! (Fries to you who don’t read French. And don’t call them French Fries – you are Brussels – that’s in Belgium.)

64. San-Jose – My son and his wife live in San Jose – so of course I’ve been there. We came thru several times – once on our way to Anza for an Napoleonic Re-enactments which I fondly remember. We had rented a motor home planning to visit some of the National Parks. Great plan – but it had issues. For starters – it took us 2 days to get out of San-Jose. We were simply too new to the entire Motor Home thing to feel safe leaving the driveway of my kid’s home. But once we got on the road – it was better. Truly scary thing – driving the highway from San-Jose to Los Angeles. Cross winds and a motor home are not fun!

63. Buenos-Aires – Been there. One of our good friend’s was in the middle of a rather nasty divorce and they hadn’t told the kids yet. And his son was getting married in Buenos-Aires. He commented that the only people he’d know would be his wife (and they weren’t speaking), his son and his daughter. So we volunteered to come to the wedding! It was an awesome trip. We included a trip to Iguacu Falls (they are amazing), went into wine country, rode horseback in the Andes, and had some incredible Argentine BBQ. We toured Buenos-Aires from tip to tail – even paying homage to Evita Perron’s grave site.

62. Delhi – Nope. Not on the list. Frankly – India scares me. I know folks that love it – they call it home. But they are seriously wealthy, and I think that might make a big difference. I love watching movies about India I will admit, and we once were invited to join a photography trip to take pictures of Tigers – in India. That might have been a lot of fun, but still – India scares me. Too crowded, too many really really poor people, Too much class divide.. I know myself well enough to know that I’m not comfortable in a country that treats parts of it’s population like dirt.

61. Riyadh – Nope. Never been

60. Philadelphia – City of Brotherly Love. Been many times, for many different reasons. It’s lovely. Classic even. A little bit of everything, tons to see and do – hard city to resist!

59. Stockholm – on the short list.

58. Denver – Mile High City. It’s not the city itself that’s so amazing – it’s the location. So near the Rocky Mountains you could spit on them. A bit of a cowboy kinda of place, mixture of rough and ready and high tech. Fun to visit. Skiing is incredible. Apparently the Mountain Climbing is also ‘to die for’ – but way out of my comfort zone.

57. Oslo – nope. Like Stockholm (and all of Norway, Sweden and Finland – it’s on the short list)

56. Naples – Florida or Italy? Doesn’t matter actually – I’ve been to both. And like the Portlands – I think I like the smaller one better. Naples, Italy has amazing food, lots and lots and lots of hills, some incredible views, ice cream I can still taste today, and of course – Herculum and Pompeii. I loved Herculum – partly because I had no expectations. And I admit that Pompeii was exhausting and hot and dusty. But still – worth the visit. Naples I’d go back to. Just for the food.

55. Phoenix – been there. Fell in love with it. I was totally ready to move there until my husband pointed out that there is no ocean. Right. That’s a problem. Ok – I’ll just have to visit. Don’t go in the summer though. We were there in the late fall and it was incredible. Still warm enough that you could enjoy going for a late night swim, but the days weren’t so insanely hot that you couldn’t walk outside!

54. Austin – missed it somehow. Which given how much of Texas I’ve visited seems a surprise. Maybe I was there and don’t remember. Hmmm.

53. Lisbon – Love it. My husband hated it. Ok – I admit, it’s hilly. And we were walking everywhere which drove my husband’s hip nuts. But it’s a simply wonderful place. Tons of things to do and see and some of the most incredible shopping. I loved our Air BnB with it’s private garden, I enjoyed riding the buses (a way to avoid the walking), and I found the food delicious.

52. Osaka – My kind of town. I had never been despite at least a dozen trips to Japan and frankly – I was impressed. Great museums, beautiful parks, tons of history, friendly people, nice walking, good bus/metro service – and like all of Japan – very very clean. What’s not to love. Oh – and the food was good. A win, win, win!

51. Hamburg. Germany again – and this one I know I visited. Lots of clocks, lots of old architecture, and lots of Germans.

Ok – so we’re half way thru – and my count is now 15 + 13 = 28 out of 50… Getting there!

100 Best Cities in the World – The count down begins now!


Part 1 – Cities #100-75

I saw this list and of course I started checking them off. Been there, want to go there, not on your life would I go there.

Which given that no one has been able to travel for MONTHS – seems on the face of it an insane activity. But I suppose a traveler remains a traveler at heart. It’s just been a time off kind of year I suppose.

I’m breaking the list down into 4 parts – partly to keep you interested… Marketer at heart that I am – and partly to keep the length of each blog reasonable. Too long is just begging to be boring!

Blogs should be like mini-skirts. Short enough to grab your attention, Long enough to cover the interesting parts!

I am also of course reminded of the line from “Changes in Latitudes, , Changes in Attitudes” that Jimmy Buffet sings – “Reading departure signs in some big airport Reminds me of the places I’ve been. Visions of good times that brought so much pleasure, Makes me want to go back again”

100. Cracow – never been. Probably never going to go either. Oh well – nothing like starting on a high note, right? This actually was on a plan maybe about 5 years ago – but the price of just getting there was daunting. But see – if I’d done it – I’d have done it!

99. Raleigh – I’ve been there. I don’t remember a ton about it though – we might have just driven thru – but it’s a lovely town. So now I’m 1 for 2

98. Salt Lake City – Been there LOTS! Seriously – I know this city. It’s on the way to Park City – where my husband and I have been going skiing regularly since 2002 (yes – that’s when they had the Olympics). It’s not a place I’d live – Salt Lake City that is – but it’s got a lot to recommend it as a tourist high point. And best – it’s a starting point for the truly outstanding National Parks Tour in Utah. Now that should definitely be on your must do list.

97. Mexico City – Now that’s a place I’d love to go. I’ve been to Mexico – but managed to miss Mexico City. Some day…

96. Glasgow – How did this dirty smelly kinda down in the dumps – sorry I went there – city make the top 100 list. Miracle or they paid off someone. Anyway – been there. Not going back any time soon. Never being soon enough actually.

95. Sacramento – I always think I’ve been here – but it might have been passing thru. We did do the drive down the West Coast – and I can’t think we’d have skipped it. But honestly – that was 49 years ago. So I honestly can’t say I remember it. So – 2.5 out of the top 5…

94. Manchester – This was one of my favourite stops on our UK trip s couple of years back. Great Museums. Fabulous train station. Well worth a few nights!

93. Düsseldorf – hummm – can’t remember for sure. I did a ‘Germany’ tour when I was 20 – and I’d bet that Düsseldorf was on it – but if it was – I don’t remember anything noteworthy. I’ll give it a – haven’t been. Probably never going.

92. Nashville – This is on my to do list! I lived in Atlanta for years and years – and never made it to Nashville because my parent’s had no interest. I came close when I went to play bridge at Gatlinburg – fried food capital of the world – they even fry Oreo cookies – but didn’t visit Nashville. Missed out on Dollywood too.

91. Bucharest – Been There. I was young – it was still Communist – I loved it because it was cheap and I could eat like a Queen and pay under $1. Don’t count on doing that today folks. So… 5 out of the bottom 10 on the been there list. 2 on the want to go list.

90. Minsk – sigh. I’d love to go – never been. Not looking good either. Oh well.

89. Perth – Missed that entire Continent! Same for New Zealand. On my to do list… when Covid is over and we can travel again…

88. Hanover – Been there. Part of my Germany Tour. Industrial. Ok. Nothing much to add. Sorry.

87. Kiev – remember how Cracow was on a plan… well Kiev was on the same plan. Trip got canceled due to insane cost.

86. Kuwait-City – Another entire part of the world I’ve never seen. And not on my to do list either.

85. New Orleans – Now we’re on familiar ground! I spent a week here visiting my daughter who was living there for 2 years. Plus we had a fab weekend there when my husband was being interviewed for a position at their new Marriott hotel. We even did the Mardi-Gras Bead tossing silliness! It was a hoot. Good food too. Fried Oysters were the best. And don’t get me started on the Red Fish Grill’s Double Chocolate Bread Pudding. Stuff of dreams….

84. Cologne – Another city that I visited multiple times. This is the home of one of the world’s largest (it might well be the largest – but I’m hedging my bets) Food Fairs. It’s incredible. A floor of Chocolate. 2 Floors of beer stalls. The most amazing raisins I’ve eaten at the Morocco pavilion. Insanely large, your feet are guaranteed to hurt – and that’s just day 1. It takes at least 3 days to see everything – and even longer if you actually want to try the food. I first tried Illy Coffee here – mind blowing. One year we did a taste tour of the competitors to Prosciutto Ham. Another year we focused in on Tomato’s. The fare is called Anuga – and when this madness ends – I highly recommend it if you think you are a foodie. It will set you to rights. Great Cathedral, adorable restaurants, and charming evening walks. Just do all this BEFORE the fair opens. You won’t have the energy to enjoy it afterwards.

83. Auckland – see Perth. Sigh

82. Baltimore – Check that guy off! I lived in Washington, D.C. for 3 years – and it’s not called ‘Balt-wash’ for nothing. Lots to see, lots to do – and super cool. Baltimore – definitely better than #82.

81. Rio-de-Janeiro – on the to do list. Not now of course. Someday.

So – out of the bottom 20 – I’ve been to 9. Not doing that well actually. But lots more to come.

80. Stuttgart – Been There! It’s lovely. Walled city is old fashioned and super quaint – and the new part is – well – new. I was young – on a bike – and stayed in a youth hostel. It was a different time, different kind of travel. You used books to decide where to visit – or relied on other folks reporting back on what they’d done that day. Man – has the internet changed the way I at least travel…

79. Athens – Been There! Went back. Twice. I love Athens actually. It’s not the cleanest city in the world, but folks there are actually really really nice. I sat on my glasses when I visited with my travel buddy – The Intrepid Traveller – and really flattened them. We were staying in a cheap hotel with an amazing view of the Parthenon – we actually shared both the bathroom and the shower with everyone on our floor. The guy running the hotel was super nice though and had a friend who was an eye glass guy! We walked to his office – and he fixed my glasses. For free. Since we didn’t have 2 nickels to rub together – we were thrilled.

78. Muscat. Nope.

77. Marseille – Yup – check that one off. Got to love the French Rivera. Such a lovely place. Too bad I can’t afford it anymore.

76. Edmonton – Yup – that’s another been there. Highlight of a trip to Banff and the Canadian Rockies that we took with our kids 35 years ago. Why the highlight? The Mall blew them away. They have more submarines in that Mall than the Canadian Navy. (Not that hard to do – we actually only had 3 at the time. And I think we might still only have 3). We had heard that the Pierogi’s were amazing – so we went on a Pierogi hunt. Good luck with that. They are made at home – so you need to know someone. We didn’t. Oh well. But the Mall was a hoot and a half.

75. Adelaide – oh dear – ending on a down note. See Perth.

Ok – Out of the bottom 25 cities – I’ve been to 13. So over 50% That’s not bad. I’m not cheating by looking ahead – so you’ll have to stay tuned.

How did you do against the Montreal Madame?

Signing off – The Soup Lady

The escape to Canada – Travel in the time of COVID


I’m not saying I thought getting home was going to be easy – I know London has a scary Varient and that travel was being heavily restricted – but I was still hopeful for an uneventful trip…

But first – what is this War Measures Act? I think it’s pretty important to understand that on a global scale – Canada is doing pretty well – and yet we’re seriously talking about the War Measures Act – now called Emergencies Act. This name change and ability to implement it was done in 1988. The big difference is that the Prime Minister can’t just say – I’m doing this. Parliament has to review it. Not sure they have to agree – but they must review it. So if it gets implemented – it will be after Parliament reconvenes on Monday, Jan 25.

But even so – getting out of Dodge and into Montreal seems the right thing to do on Saturday, Jan 23.

Adrienne and I, as planned, got up from a sleepless night at 6:30, got dressed and loaded up the car with my suitcases. Before leaving the condo I did one last sweep to be sure nothing was forgotten – looked good.

Our drive from her flat to Heathrow was absolutely uneventful. The only scary part was getting the car out of the seriously too small parking spot and onto the road. Once accomplished – the sailing was smooth. Traffic was light to non-existent and we arrived at Heathrow by 8:15.

Parked the car – took the elevator (only had to wait for one other group to board before we were able to ride up alone) to the 5th floor to find out that the COVID testing center – our first stop – was on floor zero. Ok – back on the elevator – back down.

There were lots and lots of signs of floor zero – so we pushed my loaded cart to the test center. It was clear that they were prepared for hundreds of people to be waiting in line – it looked like Disney land on a very bad day. But all the stanchions and all the ropes that marked line after line were completely empty.

There were perhaps 30 folks in line – and several ‘helper’ types directing traffic. I got in line by just asking folks – is this the end of the line – and Adrienne stood with my luggage waiting. It was much cooler in the open space near the stanchions – so she put on my good winter coat. I’m glad it got some use – I think that’s the only time it’s been warn since I left Montreal.

For a line, it moved quickly. Although the guy in front of me kept giving me the snake eye – I was standing too close to him. Even though I was masked and had on my face shield. Sorry about that – I should have grabbed an empty luggage cart to keep us apart.

The guy behind me was chatty – he told me that he’d decided to get the test done today but he was only flying tomorrow. He was heading for the US – and like me – needed a negative result to get on the plane. I’m guess that was true of most folks.

Rather quickly (maybe too quickly – I am nervous about this test) it was my turn. The helper at the front of the line told me that I’d go inside, get tested – they would email me the results. I could just show the PDF of the results to the ticket folks, or come back down and (for free – or basically included in the price) they would give me a printed copy.

Then I was ushered into a make-shift space. There was a row of tables with plastic separations, both front and sides. A young man guestured at me to sit down – took a look at my passport, and made sure I had an appointment (for an hour later – but apparently that was no problem). He took my money, and then sent me directly behind him to visit the nurse.

The nurse couldn’t have been nicer. He told me to relax, that this wouldn’t hurt, and when I had closed my eyes, took a wand and quickly swiped the inside of both nostrils. No swap down the throat, not pain, not even scary.

Whew.

I left the area – they had once side of the row of tables labeled in, one labeled out – but a bottle neck at the door. I had to wait till folks cleared the door way to get safely out and back to Adrienne.

We’d thought we’d be able to sit and have a cup of coffee/chai – but everything was blocked/closed/not available. We could have sat in the car.. but I was too nervous to take that option seriously, so we hugged and said good-bye.

Adrienne headed back to the car, I headed back up to floor 5 to wait for my ‘you are positive/you are negative’ email.

To my surprise – the inside of the airport was mobbed. Seriously mobbed. Well, ok – mobbed by COVID standards. I threaded my way past folks toward the coffee shop that was my destination. I needed coffee and I needed it now.

Unlike 3 months ago – the coffee shop was open ONLY for take-out. All the tables and chairs were blocked off or piled up – you are definitely not sitting here to enjoy that coffee. I got my top favourite British treat – a Bakewell Tart – and a medium latte. I found a quiet corner near Air Emirates and sat on my luggage cart to enjoy my coffee and read my newest story- Calico Joe.

Shortly after 9:30 I got my email saying my test was negative.. Whew. I drag myself back down to floor zero where a lovely staffer takes a picture of my phone showing my appointment ID – and returns with a printed copy of my test results- clearly showing the time, the date, the company that did the test, and my status – Covid Negative.

Whew

Now – onto check-in. I take the elevator back up to floor 5 – again waiting to ride alone. I’m not spending even 1 minute in a closed space with folks I don’t know… and I wend my way thru the crowds towards the Air Canada check-in. They verify my test results, my passport, my ticket – and let me in to the actual check-in area. There they again verify my passport, my test results (Am I Leslie Eiser, Leslie Agrin Eiser, or Leslie Agrin? I explain about my maiden name and the rules in Quebec – and I’m cleared), and told to go thru security.

I’m well ahead of the time I needed to be doing this – but I don’t care. Let me in.

Once passed security – again painless – I’m in the main area of Heathrow – and can check for the Gate assignment. The sign clearly says that the gate won’t be listed until 12:45 – and it’s now just shy of 10:00. So I find a safe corner – and actually can sit down. Unlike outside of security – here there are restaurants open, and even some shops. Everyone is masked, although not every one is ‘securely’ masked – and I spot a few staffers taking the whole – wear a mask thing – a bit too casually, but they have put large Cardboard signs on every other seat. So there’s lots of space between people. I’m fine.

Sooner than I’d have thought (Calico Joe is a great story), my gate is posted and I make the long long walk to section B. Basically I’m walking under the runway. But it’s not crowded (I think all those crowds went somewhere else – I’m not sure where though), and I’m fine.

I get to my gate, I wait for my turn to board. Staff is circulating thru the waiting area – making sure that everyone is clutching their negative COVID test results, has a valid ticket and a passport. The gal came a bit closer to me that I liked, but she did have to take the papers.

Eventually we’re called for boarding – and they take my temperature. Nice. They once again check my test, check my passport (I have to pull down my mask so they can see my face), scan my ticket – and I’m on the walkway to the plane.

Even getting myself and my carry-on down the tiny aisle isn’t too horrid, and I’m thrilled to see that I’m alone in my row. The stewards and stewardesses are making anyone further back than me move forward – they want to be able to sit separated as well. There’s someone sitting at the window to my right, then an empty seat, the aisle and then my seat. So I slide over one leaving 2 two empty seats and the aisle between us. There’s no one behind me. That’s good. And no one on the row to my left although there are folks at the windows both in front and behind that row. At first the row in front of me is also empty – but after the plane takes off, one of the passengers moves in. He’s wearing a mask, looks ok, and immediately lies down to sleep. Ok then.

Lunch is served – and is a LOT better than the cold Eggplant dish they served me on the way to London. At least it’s hot. And there’s a yummy chocolate pudding.. which might actually have had some real chocolate used in the making.

I watch 4 movies – two of which I can recommend – Military Wives (tear jerker but very good) and Wild Wild West. Wild Wild West is a steam punk version of a western action comedy and is really quite amusing, if a tad strange. Time went by quickly. I sanitized carefully every time I went to the toilet – and the ‘goodie’ bag they handed me had personal hand sanitizer inside. I had wiped down my seat before I sat down – so I felt pretty good about the whole thing.

We land in Toronto without issue. Since I’m in the very back of the plane, I allow all the folks to exit before me, and slowly make my way up the aisle and off the plane. Next challenge – Canadian Customs and Immigration.

Again – painless. There’s an extremely short line – clearly marked with 6’ separations and the inspectors are fast and efficient. The only hiccup is my ArriveCAN form. Turns out that there are 2 pages to the form, and I only saved the first page with the ID. I have to turn on my ipad, go back to the app and scroll down to the second page to show the very pleasant border guard my name. I’m in. He didn’t even ask me about the food I’m carrying (most of which I ate actually).

Now it’s follow the signs to the flight to Montreal. It’s a long walk, but since I only have my carry on, the biggest challenge is getting one foot in front of the other without tripping over my coat. All the doors are braced open so you don’t have to ‘touch’ anything. Again – that’s good.

Unlike Heathrow, the airport in Toronto seems relatively quiet. Some restaurants appear ‘open’ with folks sitting at tables. But since it’s now around 10:00 PM in London – I’m neither interested in food or even a drink. I just want to get on my flight to Montreal.

In the past – there were flights from Toronto to Montreal twice an hour – but in the time of COVID – they are down to 3 flights a day. The next flight leaves at 9:00 PM – 5 hours from when I arrived here in Toronto, and 2:00 AM London time. I’m going to have to hang tough on this one. I’m tired, I’m sore, I’m not happy – and I’m scared of exposure. I’m wearing my mask, my face shield, I’m sanitizing everything – and I’m still scared.

I walk and walk till I find the Montreal Gate. It’s isolated at the far end of one of the long halls – and at 5:00 PM is relatively empty. I sit down, but after about 30 minutes get very uncomfortable. Since this is the only flight to Montreal – anyone who is flying in from Florida, from Mexico, from Cuba, from any of a zillion holiday sun destinations – is coming here to sit and wait. And a lot of them are clearly NOT taking COVID seriously. Too close together, too many, too casual about masking.

I’m moving.

I find another area of the terminal that is much less busy, and settle down again. This time, it’s clear I’m not going to have to move on. No one is coming near me at all. I set a timer to remind me when to move back to my gate – I don’t want to miss the flight – and eventually it rings.

Walking back to my gate I realize that things have gone from bad to worse. Flight after flight must have arrived – and the number of folks waiting to get to Montreal has sky-rocketed. This flight could well be full – or at least a lot more crowded that I’m comfortable with.

Eventually they start boarding the flight. No temperature check. No looking at COVID Negative results – just scan your boarding pass (lower your mask so we can see your face) – and then on board. Oh dear.

There are lots of folks who have clearly returned from ‘sun’ destinations. They have beads in their hair, kids in tow, suntans, masks hanging from the glasses instead of snuggly around their faces, sandals and palm frond hats.

The Prime Minister of Quebec has been going on and on about folks taking these all inclusive holidays – at bargain rates I might add – and then returning – infected – back to Quebec and Montreal. He has been publicly blaming them for Quebec high infection rate – not that this has prevented them from going apparently. Part of the logic behind implementing the War Measures Act (Emergency Act) is to stop folks from doing exactly this – And I’m going to be on a plane full of them.

Oh dear.

My seat is on a row to myself, but there are folks behind me and in front of me who are clearly returning from these ‘sun’ destinations. I try to figure out where I can move that would at least feel safer. I try moving further back – but that feels worse. Finally I spot a row near the exit door that is empty. At the last minute I grab my things and take one of those seats. There is still one guy in front of me – and a lady to my left, but they both look like they are treating COVID more seriously.

At this point, the lovely stewardess comes over to hand me my forgotten back cushion. I guess she had spotted me trying to find another place – and knew exactly where I’d dashed off to! After handing me my cushion, she takes her place in the jump seat just in front of me – but safely distant.

The flight lasts for a very scary hour and a quarter. I drink the water they hand me – I don’t want to get dehydrated, but otherwise my mask and face shield stay firmly in place. If I don’t get COVID from this flight – it will be a miracle.

When we are landing, the nice stewardess sits back down on the jump seat – and I ask her if she’s concerned. She admits that the flight is quite a bit more crowded than normal – and it’s a tad alarming, but says that being careful seems the safest option. I hope she’s right.

I wait for EVERYONE to get off the plane before going back for my luggage, and then drag myself down the aisle,

Naturally – the terminal is basically empty. Everyone from our flight has bee-lined to the luggage pick-up location, and since I was last off, I’m basically alone.

I make the walk to the luggage carousel hoping that the suitcases have already been delivered and picked up. No such luck. The herds from our flight are all clustered around the carousel – waiting.

I back off, and move to a quiet area and wait. When I spot my suitcase, I circle around the hoard and grab it off the Carousel.

Now I just need to get a taxi and I’m home. The taxi proves to be more challenging than normal. There’s no one running the dispatch line – it’s a free for all as folks push past me to grab a cab. Finally one taxi takes pity on me and actually stops right in front of me. I get in, we leave, I get home. I’ve never been so glad to see my home – EVER!

Hubby, Bed, Bathroom, my fridge, my house, my yard, my bird feeders… I’m so happy.

Signing off in fond hopes that things are going to get a lot better – soon would be nice… The Soup Lady

Day 226 – 7 Days of total Quarentine done…


And no blood on the floor. Yet. Has to be a record.

When last we chatted – I was flying into London just under the ‘total lock-down’ wire to visit my daughter, her hubby, and my grand-daughter. She had picked me up at the airport – and we’d arrived at her home (a lovely, but extremely cozy – no other term for it really – flat) in London.

The rules for foreign travellers coming into the UK is quite strict. You actually have to fill in a form giving your ‘Quarentine’ location before you board the plane – and they insist on knowing exactly how you plan to get there, if you plan to change location, who will be impacted… ya da ya da.

And they check up! Seriously. I arrived on Wednesday – Nov 4, and on Nov 5 I got a call to verify that I was where I said I’d be – that I knew that Nov 5 counted as day one, and that I wasn’t planning on moving!

Nice to know they are taking it seriously.

So – how is a week trapped in a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom, 1 living/dining/kitchen room flat in London faring?

As I said before – no blood on the floor. Has to be a good sign, right?

To say we are close is an understatement. And while the flat is well insulated for sound – I can’t find anywhere I can sit and chat with my husband or my friends that I’m not overheard by at least my daughter. Her hubby might be listening in – but at least he doesn’t comment on my comments. Privacy – not really happening here!

On the good news side – I’m in London. And my daughter is a chef (runs in the family, eh?) so the food has been really good.

And more good news side – I have my own bedroom with a proper bed. And why is this special? Because my grand-daughter is not in London. She’s ‘camping’ out at her other Grand-parents in Sutton Courtney because she can’t be exposed to me until after I’ve done the 14 day required Quarentine. So – I’ve got the 2nd bedroom. Once she returns to London – she gets her bed and bedroom back and I’ll be sleeping on a air mattress in the living/dining/kitchen room..

Why is sleeping on an air mattress in the living/dining/kitchen room a downgrade? Because it’s on the floor! And at this point in my life, getting up from the floor is a lot harder than one remembers it being even 2 years ago… But I’d do anything to be here… I can re-learn how to get up off a floor if I have to.

Sleeping arrangements aside – life in a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom, 1 main room flat is actually pretty busy. I’ve been helping my daughter out as best I can – which entails doing some data entry (ah – that long ago typing course is yet again a life-safer), some newsletter design, and learning a lot more than I did before about SEO.

She signed up for the amazing on-line E-commerce Growth Hub Program – and it’s awesomely good. I admit to being completely impressed. There’s a section on SEO that I’ve been listening to with my daughter and I am sold. These folks are inspiring, effective, efficient and super knowledgable. Man – I wish I’d known this stuff when I was running a website store.

I haven’t, unfortunately, been playing much bridge. I’m sure my bridge partners are missing me – but the time change is not working in my favor – by the time games start on the East Coast of the US – I’m eating dinner here in London. And it seems wrong to say – yup – traveled all the way here and I’m not joining you guys for dinner. So I’m back to doing the substitute route – and even that’s not working that well. I need at least 2.5 hours free time to volunteer to be a sub – and my daughter is quite capable of making sure that doesn’t happen.

I’ll be fine – the bridge can wait. And honestly – I don’t need more Black MP – I need SILVER MP – and the ACBL (that’s the group that controls bridge playing and the granting of ‘life master’s’) hasn’t offered any opportunities to earn Silver point since May. Boo-hoo.

More positive things – I’m getting very very good at using ZOOM! I’ve been able to chat with my sisters, my friends, my husband – with other bridge players – you name it – there’s a ZOOM for it. I’m on an HOA board in Vermont – no problem, we ZOOM our meetings. Want to discuss bridge hands – you got it – do a ZOOM. Man – I think I should buy stock! They must be laughing at their numbers.

Down sides of this experience – We are definitely having challenges with garbage. As I mentioned – this is a flat (condo?) in a 6 floor building in London. But there’s no garbage chute. Instead there’s a Garbage room on the ground floor – entered thru an outside doorway. But we can’t get there. We’re not supposed to leave the flat. For any reason at all. So the hallway outside and the elevator and stairs are off limits.

What do you do with the garbage and recycling piles that are building up? Answer – we’re not sure. We’ve put one big bag of garbage outside on the mini-balcony – and I’ve repackaged the recycling 4 times to make it as space efficient as I can. And it’s only week one…. I’ve suggested asking neighbors for help – but you need to be really friendly with a neighbor before you can ask them to handle your garbage for you…

I even suggested handing the garbage to a delivery guy.. but that’s a no go either. So it’s going to be building up in here…

Food is also a bit of a challenge. Since all of London is on ‘lock-down’ – available slots for grocery delivery got gobbled up quickly. When we looked last the first available date for the major on-line grocery site was late November… Not good if you need food for this week!

Fortunately – my daughter – being in the food industry – has alternative resources! She can call on friends that are Green Grocers to deliver – and The Butchery that is next door to the place she makes her sausages has offered to do a meat run (ok – I adore meat… get over it!).

We did have some run-ins. Our first attempt to get apples went afoul of our ability to understand units of measure. We thought we were getting a kilo of apples, pears, and red peppers – they sent us ONE Apple. And ONE Pear. And ONE red Pepper. Ok – lesson learned – read the units of measures carefully!

To be honest – we could have figured it out if we’d thought about the prices… but we were in a rush – and you know what happens when you rush… Clearly you end up with an order for One Apple, One Pear, and One red Pepper.

Evenings at my daughters are spent either playing board games (which I love), or watching Netflix. I admit to being rather addicted to RuPaul’s Drag Race, and we also watched some strictly British offerings like Staged. It’s a ‘lock-down’ based drama about two famous actors – David Tennant and Michael Sheen – who are trying to deal with lock-down, the impact of the pandemic, and life lived too close for too long with loved ones. I was particularly intrigued with the idea of going out into the garden and just screaming… Too bad the neighbors got nosy.. If I did that here – I’d be on a tiny balcony in full view of the world..

Not happening.

So – while I can’t say things are going smoothly – my daughter and I beg to differ – loudly – on many issues – there is no blood on the ground. Yet.

Signing off to start yet another day of lock-down… The Soup Lady

Day 219 – Traveling under COVID Restrictions


Getting stir crazy yet? How about a trip across the Ocean – does it sound a bit scary? Well – It seems really scary to me

But my daughter lives in London – and she needs me/wants me to come. And I need/want to come. And since saying no to my daughter just isn’t happening – I’m heading out, masks in hand.

All this explains why I am sitting in a deserted airport lounge waiting for my flight to London to depart.

Last time I flew was April 1 – on my escape from St. Croix (I’m still sorry I had to go – but that’s another story). The airports were deserted then – and trust me – that has not changed! If anything, more things are closed, there are more barriers up, and you can forget about eating anywhere that looks like an inside.. Closed, Closed, Closed!!!

And coming into the airport is now restricted – or at least there is only one working door (conveniently in the middle of the airport – so FAR from where I need to go). I snake around the barriers, spritz my hands, and walk into the empty main concourse. Air Canada is located to the far right – so I drag myself and my luggage basically 1/2 the length of the very long terminal building to the check-in desks.

The plan is for me to leave Montreal and fly to London. I first checked with American Airlines – who are holding my tickets to London on British Airways. BUT… they can only fly me to London via the US. And I’m not going into the US right now. I’m not easy about being in the airport in the US – I’m definitely not going to be in an airport on Election Eve in the US.. Nope. Not for me.

So I had to get a credit for that trip – and re-arrange my trip. I had a choice – X for a flight that changed in Toronto – and Y (X ++) to fly direct. I choose direct. I am not comfortable with going to any more airports than I need to.. No way.

Ok – so I choose Air Canada. My logic here was – it’s the national airline of Canada – no matter what they will get me home from London.. At least that’s the plan.

I had pre-checked in – which may or may not have helped because when I get to the check-in counter they ask for my COVID form for the UK.

Huh? What form?

Conveniently they have an OR code for me to scan that takes me right to the form – so I stand near the check-in desks to fill it in – Nope, I don’t know anyone with COVID. Nope, I don’t have a fever. Nope, I don’t have other symptoms, and Yes – I have a place to Quarantine when I get to London.

Form done – I go back to the counter – and the gal makes a scary statement – “Cutting it close aren’t you?” I immediately start to panic. I thought I’d have 2 hours to clear security and walk to the gate before it was time to board. Time to even include a bathroom stop. Now I’m upset and alarmed – I must have the time wrong – I’m going to be running.

I do the really old lady run (ok – don’t laugh – we can run, it’s just a very slow thing to watch) and get to the snaking line that goes to security. No surprise – it’s empty.

As will quickly become the norm here in the airport – there is more staff than customers in the security area. I breeze thru – well, except I forget that my watch is made of metal – which causes the bells on the metal scanner to go off. Take off watch, leave on counter, go back out, come back in – all clear. Sigh.

Now I need to get to my gate. For those unfamiliar with the Montreal Airport – there are 3 distinct sections. There’s the part that goes to the US (I’m not there), then there are the co-joined parts that go either to other parts of Canada or to other parts of the world. The issue here is that there’s US immigration here in Montreal – you effectively enter the US on Canadian soil – so that part is isolated.

I’m in the Canada and the rest of the World section – with the Canadian gates to my right – and far far far on the left – the World gates. Naturally – my gate is almost at the end of the far left section. Another long long ‘run’ dragging only my carry-on this time – but still – down an effectively empty concourse.

I reach my gate – and discover that the friendly check-in gal was thinking I was going to Paris – not the UK. Her time is short alarm was based on when the flight to Paris left – not when my flight departed. I do have the hour and more to wait that I’d figured on. But now I’m sweaty, I’m panicked, my stomach hurts – and there’s nothing open. I’m not walking back – so it’s find a seat far away from everyone else, recharge my phone and ipad – and wait….

Eventually – and on time I will admit – they load our flight. I’m counting passengers – and it looks like about 40-50. Given that this is one of those massive trans-ocean flights – seating upwards of 400 passengers- the flight will be empty. In fact – there are more staff than passengers. Not only is my entire row empty – so is the one in front and in back of me.

I’m very happy about that. Fewer people, less exposure.

The food is predictably lousy – a cold Eggplant Parmesan which would have been lovely heated, some kind of strange salad I couldn’t eat, and a too too rich piece of chocolate cake. No dinner for you dear!

Well – my husband kindly packed my grand-daughter’s Halloween treat bag gift – so I ate that, watched a movie, slept in a contoured position, and woke to the flight crew announcing that we were landing in London.

Cool – that was painless.

I’m all the way in the back of the plane – so to get off – it’s yet again with the drag the bag. And then there’s the forever long walk thru the empty terminal towards British Immigration.

Huge lines (where did all these people come from?) snake from the immigration booths towards me – and again I panic needlessly. I’m carrying a Canadian Passport with the seal that lets me use the electronic booths – and I’ve pre-filled in that form. I literally breeze past everyone else – walk up to an empty electronic booth – present my passport – and I’m in! Well – that was easy.

I find my suitcase, exit the secure part of the airport and drag myself, my suitcase, my carry-on, and my Montreal weight Winter Coat to my favourite first stop in London. Cafe Nero at the airport for a Late and a scone with Clotted Cream and Jam. Heaven on a plate! And they are open – and they have seating… And the seating is well spaced.

I’m a very happy camper.

Now I must wait for my daughter to arrive. My plane arrived at around 7:00 AM, I was out of the secure portion of the airport by 8:00 AM – and my daughter can only pick me up at 1:00 PM. I’m going to be hanging at Cafe Nero for a while.

But except for a group of airport employees on break that weren’t wearing masks and decided to cluster at a table near me (I picked up and left that seat) – I was fine. I found a comfy chair, put the cart with my luggage in front of me blocking anyone from coming to close – and I played bridge!

Eventually my daughter arrived – wearing a mask of course. As were most of the folks I saw. We exited the airport, loaded my suitcases into her car – and started the long (over 1.5 hour) drive back to her place. London traffic on the eve of a Lock-down is insane. But the rules are that I must go directly from the airport into lock-down, and we’re following the rules.

Our plan now – my daughter and her husband are joining me for the required 14 days of Quarantine. They have been shopping madly, and stocked up. Plus we can get delivery – no worries. So we’re going to hang out here in her tiny condo and try not to get on each other’s nerves or in each other’s way.

Signing off to finally sleep…. The Soup Lady

Day 166 – How do you celebrate 50 years of marriage?


Just to set matters straight.. We were married on Friday, September 11th, 1970.

Yes – I know – September 11. Not our fault. That date became infamous way after we were married – not fair really – a group of terrorists stole my anniversary date and made people think of something other than us..

For many years – because we were married on a Friday – Victor thought our anniversary was on September 13 (Friday the 13th) – but no… it’s Friday September 11, 1970. For sure.

6 months later, we went back to Atlanta to visit my parents – and Victor tried to return me. My dad told him – nope – warranty is up.

And on Friday, September 11, 2020 – it was 50 years…

Which is almost impossible for me to truly believe.

I was 21 when we got married. Hopelessly young and innocent and foolish and so much in love. I’m still in love you know – I adore my husband – ponytail and all.

I’m kinda hoping I’m no longer foolish and innocent – but I keep thinking that I’m still young..

Doomed to disappointment I’m afraid to say.

So just how does one celebrate 50 years of doing anything.. It’s a really long time. Way more than 1/2 my life. And here’s what really scary – longer than 80% (according to the US Census) of folks alive today have been alive!

Martin, the charming manager of Boneparte’s here in Montreal – where we celebrated our anniversary with an absolutely lovely dinner party for just 6 – annouced that he was born – BORN – the year we were married.

Our celebration – as most of our celebrations these days – was broken down into parts.. We celebrated in March in St. Croix – right as the COVID lock-down was happening with just our kids.. First time in over 20 years that it’s been just the 5 of us. It was really great – but the conversation centered around the COVID cases and how the world was going to react. We now know the answer – not great. But at the time.. we were a bit optimistic. Wrong – but positive.

Then we celebrated by traveling to send a lovely long Labor Day weekend in Barrie with our friends and Lucy and Lacy – the horses. It was a blast… a long drive each way – but worth it.

Then we had a wonderful dinner party at Boneparte’s – filled with laughter and gift giving and my kids and their kids.. Only Grover didn’t come, but the feeling was that perhaps the party would go on past his bed time. So we shared videos of him. He stayed home and went to bed on time. Probably better all around.

We got caught up on the lives of our two charming grand-daughters – who look more and more beautiful every time I see them. Their lives – like the lives of all kids from 13 to 21 these days are complicated by the truth of COVID. The youngest one is caught in a ‘bubble’ at school that doesn’t include her closest friends, and the older one is trying to have a relationship with a guy, be a young adult, start her working career – and dealing with idiots who refuse to wear masks, to social distance, to admit they are COVID positive, and thus put her life in danger.

I just don’t understand why people are so sure that their right to do what they want trumps the right of other people to feel safe. Why would any one who knows they are COVID positive not alert their friends. What is there to gain by not saying something. It confuses me.

As usual – I have digressed…

Back on track – Saturday afternoon we had a Zoom conversation with all the family – my daughter and grand-daughter in London (hubby was sick with a cold in bed – not Covid), my son and daughter-in-law in California, and my kids here in Montreal.

The we finished off with an equally splendid dinner party – period correct this time – which means we were dressed in our 1812 finest… Silver service, candles lit, music softly playing, amusing conversation, and No IT! Unfortunately for our hosts – their maid and butler had taken the day off (they always do when we come over… ) so while the service was excellent – it was our friends doing the service!

The meal celebrated our trips together. First course was a salmon tartar (yummy) with ground cherries. They are one of my favorite ‘fruits’ – which my friends only discovered when we were together in Quebec City. The 2nd course was a lobster Bisque with shrimp – we’d gone out to Boneparte’s – in period clothing – and three of the four of us ordered the Lobster Bisque… The 3rd course was Rabbit with Olives – in honor of our time together in Malta. The cheese course was again in memory of the Quebec City trip – we had cheese every evening before dinner in the ‘lounge’ area of our room in the BnB in Quebec City. And the desert course was a magnificent Charlotte Russe with a fruit topping. This was in honor of our times together at the Regimental Dinner parties in Vaudreuil.

The dessert was amazing. The dinner outstanding. The wines were well chosen to compliment the different dishes, and the conversation was delightful. We dragged ourselves out close to midnight – feeling very well feted indeed.

So this is how we have celebrated 50 years of being together.. And today is just another day – we’re headed off to buy fruit at Costco and the Marche near by – and having dinner together…

Life marches on… It’s 50 years and 2 days – if it lasts…

The Soup Lady

Day 156 – Our 50th Wedding Anniversary is upon us!


I got married on Friday, September 11, 1970. For years my husband remembered it as September 13.. because it was a Friday.

And for the record – we are still married. Which in and of itself feels like a record. So of course – I googled it!

We are still playing it ‘safe at home’ – so what else is there to do…

Turns out that – yup – it’s something of a record. Only 7% of American’s celebrate 50 years of marriage.

But upon further digging, it turns out that while I’m among a distinguished few that make it this far – it’s not really the record one might think. It isn’t really about being married… it’s about not dying.

According to a wonderful piece in a blog site called ‘Family Inequality’ the truth of the matter is more that neither of us died!

If you discount the folks that died, and the folks who are widowed – then you are left with the folks that got married married before 1971. And of those folks – who have the potential to celebrate 50+ years of marriage – fully 50% of us are still married.

So what does this mean. It means that folks that got married before 1971 thought we were getting married forever. We didn’t think of divorce as an option, it never even crossed our minds – or at least 50% of our minds… I guess the other 50% that didn’t die, did get divorced.

Bottom line – I’ve gotten to this milestone thru lucky genes (I didn’t die), lucky genes on my husband’s side (he didn’t die), and then I guess – because we never considered being anything other than married.

One other important factor – not to embarrass my kids or my readers – we still find each other very appealing physically. We also share a lot of history, but have our own unique interests and hobbies. We can let each other go on trips without being jealous (too jealous anyway), and rest comfortable in the knowledge that they will return. We give each other space… and a place to be separate inside our home. We forgive each other when we must – if not immediately, then eventually – and almost always before bedtime. We try hard to find the positive stuff – to not get bored when stories get repeated, but to enjoy them re-told and often mis-told. We are still in love.

I’m still happy every morning when I wake up and say ‘Good Morning Honey’.

My daughter-in-law just reminded me that when they got married – I told her that marriage is a 60-60 relationship – you must always feel that you are giving the bigger portion. If both of you feel that way – the marriage will work.

How are we celebrating this milestone? Are we having a big party or taking a fancy holiday? Well in the days of COVID-19 – the quick answer is – of course not.

We’re lucky in that we’re in Montreal, and the better restaurants are open under COVID-19 restrictions and taking it very very seriously. So we’re going out to dinner with the kids who live here in the city. It won’t be a fancy party – but it will be our style. Comfortable and happy.

Signing off to figure out what dress to wear (not really) … The Soup Lady

Day 116 – Traveling during a Pandemic – or dealing with Covid on the road


Honestly – who would have thought we’d be almost 4 months into this thing with cases in the US on the rise, and even here in Montreal we’re not feeling exactly safe.

At least Disney World has re-opened. I don’t know about how you feel about that – but I for one am greatly relieved. They are taking a huge chance – will folks come, can they make sure that these folks are safe – but knowing the massive brain power they can call on – I’m guessing that this is a very measured risk.

I’m quite convinced that they at least know what they are doing… I’m not so sure about our governments. In too many places the rules are changing daily.. Here in Quebec, after much discussion and public consultation, and – I fancy – navel gazing, the PTB (powers that be) have decided to make Masks mandatory in all indoor spaces in the province. They have also decided that the recent upswing in cases (over 150 new ones today – which pales when compared to the over 7000 in Texas alone) is primarily due to large house parties over the two long weekends – June 24th and July 1st. Not the re-opened bars as was feared.

Has anyone mentioned that the US is having a huge upswing about 2 weeks after the July 4th weekend? Just wondering.

Anyway – subject of this blog is going to be travel in the times of Covid-19.

Last night we did a lovely evening Zoom chat with friends in Utah who are planning a 3 week trip to Georgia with their kids and grand kids. When I expressed dismay, they were quick to point out that they were driving – using the kid’s very large motor home. To be safe, they were buying all their food before leaving Utah, and thus stopping only for gas. They wouldn’t even have to use public bathrooms. They are leaving in a few days – I’m quite keen to hear how it goes. I know motor home sales are way way up – people liking the idea of total control over their environment… so I shall hopefully be able to report back.

Meanwhile – We recently decided enough is enough – we’re taking a short trip to the Toronto area. That’s about a 6 hour drive from Montreal but our plans called for us to visit several groups of friends who live in that area of Canada. Our trip journal starts with us leaving home on June 29th, heading West with plans to be back home on Saturday July 4th. So we packed up our clothes, our masks, some sanitizer, and headed out.

Since we were driving in our own car – that part of the trip felt very safe. It’s our car, no one else has been inside – we’re ok.

Our first stop was going to be Kingston, Ontario – about halfway to Toronto. It’s a small city by even Canadian standards, but home to several universities and most of Canada’s major prisons. I allow you to make the obvious links – but we weren’t planning on visiting either. We were going to grab a quick lunch and then get back on the road. Our thought was that a terrace was safer than an En-Route… for sure more yummy.

Our daughter, who lived in Kingston for 4 years (she went to University there), highly recommended Chez Piggy – and they had a terrace. We felt good about eating on terraces – and called to reserve. They cautioned us that wearing a mask was mandatory unless seated at our table – but we thought nothing of that. We were used to wearing masks in public – no biggie.

Turns out it was a biggie. A nail salon in the Kingston area had just been determined to be a hot-bed of Covid cases, and everyone was running scared. Over 20 people picked up the virus from that one location – and while testing is free in Canada – it still takes about 2 days to get results. While folks were waiting to see if they had been infected, Masks were mandated.

Of course we found this out AFTER we were seated and had ordered our lunch.

Nothing was going to change by leaving now – if we had been in contact – we’d been in contact. So we ate our lunch (yummy), and then walked back to our car, and continued our drive West. I will admit, we were crossing our fingers that we were ok – all the servers had been properly masked, and we’d stayed well away from everyone.. we were hopefully fine. (NB: it’s been 2 weeks – we’re fine!)

We stopped at an En-Route – one of those service centres off the highway to get gas and get a bit of a stretch and a toilet break. They had blocked off 1/2 of the toilet stalls in the ladies room (deemed lacking in social distance), and 1/2 of the urinals in the men’s room (again – not enough social distance). They had also shut off every other sink. Interesting. Lines on the floor indicated how to stand to get service front the take-out restaurants that were open – although there were so few people that it wasn’t an issue.

Unlike in the Kingston area, Masks were not required here – although almost everyone was wearing one, including us. We stayed away from other folks, got the needed relief, and headed on to Markham., about 30 minutes north of Toronto. Our hotel for the first two nights was there – a low price option run by the Radison chain, so again – we felt safe.

And the hotel was indeed perfect. They had taken some basic precautions – no maid service, a plexiglass barrier between us and the staff, no breakfast offered, doors (except for our room) opening automatically and sanitizer dispensers everywhere. For the price, we felt quite comfortable. Few folks wore masks, but we did whenever we were inside and stayed away from others.

We took a long walk in what was a light industrial area with basically no traffic. In the early evening the weather was quite pleasant. We found a take-out Chinese hot-pot restaurant for dinner, and walked back to the hotel for bed. Tomorrow was going to be a busy day.

Today we were doing the most ‘exposed’ portion of our trip – we were driving into downtown Toronto to visit very good friends. There was more traffic than expected, but for Toronto it was exceedingly quiet. The surprising thing was the noise level. On previous visits, Downtown Toronto was always quite noisy, but not now. And the change was a pleasure.

We got to our friends condo building, which also had taken significant COVID precautions – hand sanitizers, staff behind plexiglass barriers, cautions on the number of folks who could ride together in an elevator – that kind of thing. Our friends joined us in the lobby, and we walked (wearing masks) to the Royal York Hotel.

The ‘wear a mask’ concept hadn’t really struck home in Toronto at this point in time – we were basically the only folks wearing them on our walk past the Convention Center. But then – the crowds were missing, and that made it easy to keep social distance from anyone we got near.

The Royal York decided that one way to cope with the pandemic was by creating an outdoor eating space – and it was lovely. They had taken over a huge section of the sidewalk and by using fake greenery and a lot of fung shui – created a garden. There were different kinds of sitting/eating areas, all marked at ‘sanitized for your protection’ including an outdoor sofa/lounge section. The 4 of us were seated at one of the lounge chair options – easily maintaining social distance. Wait staff were all masked, menus were cleaned before being presented, and the food was lovely. We sat and chatted and relaxed. It was perfect.

With the lack of traffic noise, it did indeed feel like we were in a Garden – complete with water features including spouting lion masks.

We walked back to our friends condo – and this time braved the elevator to their place. The rules on the elevator were no more than 4 people, and you had to stay in the corners. But in truth, folks just waited as one group completed their trip up (or down) before getting in – and carefully avoided touching anything. Our friend used her key to touch the elevator buttons for example.

Once in their home – we were still careful about keeping social distance, but took off our masks and shared snacks and had drinks. We spent time relaxing on their tiny balcony – just enjoying the view of Toronto harbour.

When it came time for dinner, our hostess took out binoculars to check on available outdoor tables at the restaurants they could spot from their location on the 33rd floor. When she determined where there was space available – we hopped back on the elevator – and walked quickly to that restaurant. It was notably ‘down-scale’ from the Royal York – both in COVID awareness and price range. The wait staff were wearing masks but no face shields and at least one only had only her mouth covered. The menus might have been sanitized, but certainly there was no effort to make sure we knew that this had been done. And we had issues keeping social distance – one gentleman – unmasked – came way too close to our table for my comfort to talk to us about his dog.

But like in Kingston – we did the best we could to be as safe as we could.

After a take-out breakfast at Tim Hortons (got to love Timmy’s) the next day we headed away from Toronto into the Barrie area to visit friends who live on 5 acres out in the country. Seriously out in the country. While the air in Toronto was surprisingly – for Toronto – clean – this was heaven.

In the country – keeping social distance was much much easier… They had one bathroom cleaned for our use – and we spent the day outside on their lovely porch just relaxing and chatting. Our hostess is an amazing cook – she made her own sushi for lunch, and created designer pizza for dinner. What a smashingly perfect way to spend a day.

And the drive from their place to our hotel near Barrie was very cool. We were in rolling farm land – vistas went for miles and miles every time you crested a hill – and it was the evening of July 1st – Canada’s birthday. Fireworks are the norm – and they were visible everywhere. I counted 20 different displays from the top of one raise – simply by rotating my body in a 360 degree circle. We were too far to ‘hear’ them – but it was very easy to see them. Happy Birthday Canada.

Our next hotel was a Best Western Plus in Barrie – and they had also done a decent job of making sure we were protected. Kinda. For example – there was a large plexiglass barrier between us and the staff at check-in – but you had to reach around the Barrier to get your keys, sign the register – etc. So safe… and not so safe. And unlike the hotel from the night before – the walls were like paper. We could hear the music from next door – so loud it might have been in our room. This is not a COVID problem – this is just plain thin walls and cheap hotels. Oh well.

Breakfast was odd. They had signs up explaining that because of COVID they were being careful – so they had removed all the tables and chairs. No sitting in the breakfast area to eat. And there was sanitizer available for use before touching the items on display. Cereal had been pre-poured into bowls and covered with plastic wrap. You had to touch common pitchers to pour your milk, but they didn’t have any ‘buffet’ style offerings like eggs. Yogurt and the like was available from a fridge – but again there was a common handle. I grabbed the food and coffee I wanted, pleased that it was free, and washed my hands when I got back to the room.

Today we were ‘surprising’ our 77 year old friend on his birthday.. His wife and another mutual friend were to go to a brunch restaurant with a terrace – and we were to go there to say – surprise. He wasn’t that surprised I’m sorry to say. My husband had spilled the beans – and while he and my hubby had agreed not to tell anyone that the surprise was ruined – I think they had guessed. In any case – the restaurant was more like the 2nd place in Toronto than the Royal York. Wait staff had masks, but some were only over their mouths. And while the inside was closed to guests, you had to walk thru it to get to the bathrooms. They had gone to the effort to clearly mark a one way in/ one way out path – but narrow hallways made staying social distance really a challenge.

I actually opened the bathroom door from the inside – and was staring straight into the face of the lady waiting her turn… I backed up, she backed up. We strategized – and then she backed out into the hallway so I had room to pass. Awkward moment there…

But lunch was lovely – company was great – and afterwards we drove with our friend to see the horses. We were going to go riding the next day – but today we wanted to just say hi.

Horses get lonely during COVID too.

The barn had rules posted. No more than 5 people at one time in the building, keep social distance, wipe down when you leave. No sanitizer on display here – but it is really not that kind of place. We did bring our own – so we could be careful.

Back to the hotel for break. We took a walk, did some serious liquorice shopping at ‘The Dutch Shop’ and I spotted a rock shop. A large rock shop. As in a shop for large rocks. They even sold stepping stones of Italian Marble.. So our car is going to be loaded heading home.

Our friend’s birthday dinner was outside in their backyard with the rabbits and the birds. It was delicious. The devilled eggs were particularly wonderful and his wife also served cold shrimp, fruit salad – and ice cream for dessert. Yummy doesn’t start to describe it.

The next day we went riding – with a horse between you, keeping social distance is very easy – so no problems there. We had a lot of fun – and again spent time just chatting and catching up on the news – and bemoaning the boredom of too many days too separated. Little did we know that in two weeks the US would be seeing a spike larger than the initial one… but that was two week away.

Our drive home was uneventful – except for our visit to a different En-route. At this En-route – they were enforcing the wearing of masks indoors. A staff member was sitting outside politely telling anyone not wearing a mask that they couldn’t enter. Since we were wearing masks – it wasn’t an issue and I didn’t see anyone get too upset when they were asked to go get one. They were not handing masks out – so I don’t know what folks would do if they arrived at the En-route and had no masks – but we didn’t hang around to find out.

So – our first travel during COVID ended with us glad to be home.

It’s now been two weeks – we are fine and so are our friends. Dodged that bullet I guess. But meanwhile we all know what’s been happening in the US – and as a result Canada and the US have agreed to keep the border closed for another month.

And here in Canada – folks are seeing what is happening to our South, and we are getting a lot more serious about making sure everyone is wearing masks. And that folks know that hot spots like large groupings of friends that don’t keep social distance are problems. We were careful – but were we careful enough – or just lucky.

Like in Bridge – sometimes just being lucky is good enough.

Signing off to plan another trip – still keeping social distance – and definitely not going into the US – The Soup Lady

Blursday Posting – but at least there is light at end of the tunnel


It’s my birthday and I’ll cry if I want to… Words to a song that formed part of my impressionable youth that resonates with me still today.

After countless days in self-isolation – some imposed because we traveled back from St. Croix on April 1, and some just done because my kids were fussing at me about going even to Costco… Like I suspect most of you, my oh so loyal readers, I’m getting a bit bored.

And it’s going to be my 72nd birthday on June 24. Oh man – I never ever thought I’d be this old – I’ve lived longer than my Grand-mother, and I’m 2 years shy of the age my mother was when she died.

My vision of 72 – at the tender age of 15 or so when I thought about my grand-parents – was house bound (check), living basically in a chair in the TV room (nope), limited conversation topics (what was the weather?), and moving only when absolutely necessary.

My husband and I just returned from our daily 2 mile walk along Lakeshore – dodging the bikers in Spandex that race along like it’s an Olympic track – and enjoying the breeze off the lake. My dad was doing something similar when he was this age, but my mom was totally house bound. I work out daily if possible, lifting weights, doing push-ups, squats, planks – well – you know the basic drill. So yes, I’m in much better physical shape than my parents. And glad of it.

But that doesn’t do much for the gut fear reaction to COVID-19. This is scary stuff because it is targeting my age group. 80% of the deaths in Quebec (most in Montreal where I live) are in the 70+ group.

The good news – here in Montreal – the numbers are definitely on a slide downward. Fewer and fewer cases every day, and while the deaths are still happening (about 50 a day) – but they are the cases that were detected weeks and weeks ago.

Testing here – which by the way gets reports in 2 days – was limited to folks showing symptoms or who had been in contact with folks who had tested positive. But the numbers of folks getting tested has plummeted so they are now saying – anyone can come in.

I haven’t been tested – and am unlikely to get tested at this point. I have been careful to sanitize and wear a face mask when out in any kind of public environment – so while this may be a false sense of security – I do feel secure.

Which brings me to the reason for this blog. It’s my birthday. And restaurants in Montreal will be opening up starting June 21. And our favourite restaurant in the city – Bonaparte’s – is having a grand opening dinner on June 23. It’s the day before my birthday – but I’ve never been a stickler for exact dates. And we are going. In 1810 style. Our dinner companion will be the local Vicar – so the conversation, while polite, should be interesting. He’s always in the gossip loop on local doings.

Yes – I’m excited!

The restaurant has taken all the precautions the management can think of. Limited # of diners, all staff wearing masks, menus sanitized before being presented, table etc sanitized before you sit, and they will usher everyone out at 8:00 to re-sanitize the entire space before seating the next group of guests. You can check all this out at their website.

Interestingly – the better description of what they are doing about being prepared to be open again is found on their opentable site… now that is interesting… Check that out here

I shall of course dutifully report back.

Signing off to go fuss in my garden (I think this year everyone is going to have the best garden’s ever…) – The Soup Lady