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

Florida Snowbirds – The North Welcomes you…


I don’t normally quote someone else’s article – but this one was impossible to resist. It was published in the Montreal Gazette on August 30 – and totally summarizes the differences between living in Quebec and basking in the sun in Florida…

The author – Josh Freed – is quite funny – in the subtle and understated way of most Quebecers… We know we live in a unique part of the world, and are more than willing – as Josh so clearly points out – to laugh at ourselves..

Read and Enjoy! The Soup Lady

Josh Freed: Floridians can reverse-snowbird here, under these conditions

Dear Florida:

Every year since the last ice age, almost a million of us Quebecers have temporarily migrated south to your state, to escape the cold jaws of winter.

But now, at last, you Floridians may be ready to escape the cold jaws of COVID and flee north to us. Several Gazette readers sent me an entertaining column by Palm Beach Post columnist Frank Cerabino that makes the following modest proposal:

“Dear Canadian snowbirds: As an unofficial South Florida ambassador, I would like to begin negotiations for a reverse migration this winter. We’ve bungled the response to COVID-19 so badly nearly all the world won’t allow American tourists to come … and we really need to leave. We’re desperate. Now it is your turn to host us. We here in South Florida will come to you in Canada this winter.”

The writer wants Canada’s Parliament to arrange special “refugee visas” for COVID-fleeing or election-exhausted South Floridians between November and March.

But he promises Florida’s new snowbirds will be good houseguests who’ll shovel our driveways, learn to ice fish and embrace Tim Hortons double-doubles.

Overall, Florida, this seems a reasonable request to me. Perhaps we do owe you shelter after all these years of Quebecers swarming your beaches and all-you-can-eat-buffets.

As well, we desperately need some almost-extinct U.S. tourists, so I’m open to Florida’s proposal on certain terms.

But before I go to bat as your unofficial Canadian ambassador, you Floridians must know the rules and realities of cold, COVID Canada.

If you want to migrate here this winter, then as Joe Biden might put it: “Here’s the deal, folks!”

There are no outings whatsoever permitted, not even to McDonald’s, Burger King or KFC. Just order-in healthy meals from say, Mandy’s salads.

Like all good Canadians, you must also wash your hands 10 times a day, which will then be inspected by our Royal Canadian Hand-washing Police.

Protection: Here in Canadaland we worship hand sanitizer, not hand guns like many Floridians, who can still legally carry a concealed weapon.

Masks are mandatory indoors under Quebec law, and we always wear ’em. There are no major culture wars over face coverings here, where a mask is just a mask is just a mask.

You do have the right to protest against masks democratically, outdoors, but ideally while wearing a mask.

Also, under Quebec’s Bill 21 you have the right to see the faces of all government service employees. But under COVID laws they don’t have the right to show their faces to you.

Quarantine: To start, you must spend two weeks in quarantine — and I mean Canadian quarantine. That’s 14 full days under virtual house arrest, Canada-style, not some sissy-style Florida quarantine where you probably get to visit Disneyland every other day, then play golf.

Politics: Be warned, Florida is a politically mixed state with redneck Republicans in the north and blue neck Democrats in the south, and many voters swing both ways. But Canada and especially Montreal is strictly Kamala Harris territory.

She’s the first former Canadian resident to become a U.S. vice-presidential candidate, and we’re homers.

We can offer a Kamala Harris Early Roots Tour, from her mom’s former McGill office to Kamala’s one-time algebra classroom and Westmount dance class studio.

Unlike your president, we see her as a remarkable American woman, not a foreigner, immigrant or illegal V.P. candidate.

Of course, we’re also counting on Harris to grasp crucial Canadian and Quebec issues. As an ex-Montrealer and lawyer she will surely understand the subtleties of the “bonjour-hi” debate, the complexities of the Montreal English School Board Wars and the intricacies of Westmount Park’s dog run laws.

Weather: It is either cold and unbearably freezing here or hot and unbearably humid, so dress accordingly.

In winter, be warned: There are no Early Bird dinner specials, no pitch-and-putt golf courses, no winter surfing. There are no all-you-can-eat buffets since COVID arrived, in fact no buffets at all.

There are several important new Canadian words you must learn, including snow tire, windshield scraper, wind chill factor, polar vortex and Celsius.

The temperature here is an entirely different system than yours, but don’t worry: Fahrenheit and Celsius temperatures do meet and become identical at minus 40, which you may well experience.

On the plus side, if you do somehow get COVID-19, our Medicare-for-all system is free and we welcome all your pre-conditions. On the down side, be warned orange juice comes from cartons here, not from oranges.

Ultimately, if you do migrate to Canada, then when COVID ends you can decide if you want to leave or not. If you’re a Biden-lover and Trump wins you might want to settle here.

Likewise, if you’re an arch Republican and Comrade Biden wins and DESTROYS AMERICA’S SUBURBS as Trump claims, you can find refuge in Mississauga or Longueuil.

But there is one last condition before allowing you in: Come the U.S. election, your home state of Florida has to vote Harris-Biden, otherwise the deal’s off.

Day 137 – Whales – I’m going to see Whales!


Well -hope I’m going to see whales.

This is going to be my second try – the first was in South Africa – and for those of you who read my blog regularly – that didn’t work out that well.

Actually – it worked out seriously badly. And my husband and I had one of our infrequent knock-down/take-out fights about the experience. Turned out that I had one agenda (see whales) and he had another (go to wineries). The highlight of that mis-adventure was the hotel (amazingly beautiful – with a private butler) and the dolphins. No whales.

But this time – I’m hoping for much much better results.

Because of COVID-19 – Canadians can’t travel into the US until late August at the earliest – and honestly – I’d be amazed if the border opens up before late September. So while we can fly to Europe, the Caribbean – actually anywhere except the US and Australia and New Zealand – effectively our travel is restricted to ‘Chez nous’. That’s French for Our House. And by that we mean within Quebec and minor excursions into Ontario.

So – I’m going to Whale Country.

There is a huge section of the St. Lawrence Seaway that is semi-salty – has ocean tides, and some seriously amazing geography. And the result is a version of Whale Heaven. Krill (a Norwegian word for Whale food) inhabit the lower temperature zone of the seaway in huge huge numbers. And the tidal shifts mean that twice a day those Krill are drawn up from the lower reaches into the warmer water.

Whale Buffet in the making.

There are 13 different types of whales that come into this part of the St. Lawrence between May and October – and the Bulgas make this area their year round home. The best time to visit of course is while the weather is warm, even hot. This doesn’t bother the whales of course – and it will make your time on the boats a lot more pleasant. It is definitely cold in a zodiac in the middle of the St. Lawrence – even in July!

We knew that Whale Watching Center was a place called Tadoussac, but honestly – that’s all we knew. I couldn’t even have found it on a map!

Looking back, I think a bit more research might have been in order because, while Tadoussac is of course the ‘Visitor Central’ – it’s a town completely devoted to tourism. It barely exists outside of the months of June, July, and August when tourists ‘flock’ to see the Whales.

I’m using the term ‘flock’ with a bit of a sarcastic grin. While there is little question that there are a lot of tourists in this tiny tiny town – this is a huge recreation area. Folks come to do a lot more than stare at whales. They hike, they bike, they climb the massive sand dunes, they fish, and they kayak. Boy do they ever Kayak.

Keep in mind that while Tadoussac is clearly ‘Tourist Central’ – it’s not like New York – or even Quebec City. It’s simply too hard to get here.

The drive from Montreal to Quebec City is a simple 3 hour jaunt on Super Highway – your pretty standard stuff. Once past Quebec City however, the coast road turns into a 4 lane snail trail thru not so picturesque towns that have sprung up to capture the tourist dollar. And the driving is tough – watch out for cars, trucks, bicycles, pedestrians and even strollers. Fun looking, not so fun for the driver.

As you get closer to Tadoussac, the towns do get cuter. Also smaller and more likely to be clustered around a cove.. old fishing villages that have seen the light – and it’s tourism.

We kept checking Google Maps – and suddenly realized that our road ended up at a ferry! Man I thought I had ferries turned off… wait a minute – I did have ferries turned off. Why am I headed for a ferry anyway?

Turns out that the ONLY way across the Saguenay Gorge when you are on the coast road is by car ferry. You want to go to Tadoussac by the coastal route – you are taking that ferry.

The good news – it’s huge, it’s COVID-19 friendly (even the bathrooms – thank goodness), and it’s free. And we hit it perfectly – no traffic to speak of, and they were just starting to load it up. So we followed the directions of the masked man in the yellow visibility vest – (Ok that sounds weird – but trust me – it’s the truth) and drove onto the ferry.

I immediately walked up the three flights of iron outside stairs to the ‘observation’ room – which was closed due to COVID – and lined up for the bathroom. Why, oh why, is there always a line-up for the ladies room.

The view was spectacular – and made me want to take a boat trip up the gorge – which it turns out is closed at this time of year to keep the whales safe.

Once across the Gorge, we were right at our lodging for the night – a cute little tourist lodging called Hotel Gagne. It featured breakfast, a room with an en-suite bathroom, and great reviews. It was on a large pond that fed into the Gorge, and while the view from our room (more on that later) wasn’t great – the location was perfect. 15 minutes walk from the marina and beach were the boats to go Whale watching could be found.

My husband had done the research on restaurants – and had our dining completely planned out.

I had done the research on whale watching (Ok- different priorities) and had picked out the smallest Zodiac Adventure with the highest ratings. And I’m glad I did. Called Tadoussac Adtremont (I kid you not) – these folks had just one zodiac – but it featured a plastic cover with large windows that you could move out of the way – and more importantly – comfortable re-cycled seats from a defunct airline.

According to their website – tourists were required to wear masks at all times – so that felt safe. It was also a lie. Once the boat got started, the Captain climbed into the driver’s seat on top of the plastic shell and out of sight of the tourists. And the family next to us immediately ditched their masks. Thanks.

However – we opened our window so the rather harsh breeze was blowing from us to them, and kept our faces looking outward. I think we will be ok.. I hope we’ll be ok. But I really want to see the whales, the family has 2 kids who are sitting next to me, and theoretically should be safer, and anyway – the boat has left land.. I’ll just be careful.

The long ride out to where the whales were playing was spent in comfort – sitting on cushy seats, and not holding on to a railing exposed to the rain and cold. Once at the site – we could move onto the back of the zodiac to get straight outdoor shots – the best view – or kneel in our seats to shoot over the heads of the other folks.

And we saw Whales! Several Minke swam past, at least 2 Bulgas – easy to spot with their white skin – and the highlight – an hour spent watching three Humpback Whales – a mom, a dad and a baby (only a few months old).

The baby of course was the best – diving, jumping, flapping his fin – doing all the whale stuff you see in movies.

The down side – and you should know this – is that whales in general are endangered, protected, and respected in Canada. So no going closer than 100 meters. This meant that the ability of your captain to predict the movement of the whales was key.. If they swim towards you – you get the best views! And our captain was an expert. We were perfectly positioned to get the best possible views.

And while I did the best I could with my iphone – a proper camera with a long lens and a motorized drive would be much better. But I didn’t come to take pictures – I came to see the whales.

It was great!

So now I’m checking Whale Watching off my bucket list. I’m finally able to say – yes – I’ve seen whales..

Signing off to work on her next blog – The Soup Lady

Day 128 – We’re Great Grand-parents


We are officially great grand parents. His name is Grover, and he arrived at our house with little warning.

I hate to admit this about my own relatives – but honestly – He’s a bird brain…

Of course he’s forgiven – because he is a bird. A Cockatiel to be exact – which is a small parrot. He’s gray with large orange feather spots over his ears, he’s just a bit over 2 months old, fully weaned – and very very cute. For those wondering about him flying away – his wings have been clipped – something you need to do yearly apparently. So he can ‘glide’ to the floor, but he’s not going to fly up in a tree. If his wings weren’t clipped – we’d need a bird leach.. That just sound really too weird.


Why are we in charge of Grover you ask? Well – my Kids left for Greece (Canadians can travel to Europe, even though Americans can not) – and apparently we were top of a very short list of ‘bird-sitters’, if there is even such a list.

Grove is going to be our house guest for 2 full weeks. And he came fully equipped – with a cage the size of a small closet, lots of food bowls, a play ground that my grand-daughter made for him out of recycled stuff like cardboard boxes, ribbons and cord and empty paper towel rolls. It has different heights, lots of different textures, and is adorable.

The best news – unlike my kids at this age – he sleeps thru the night… That’s very cool. And he doesn’t consider being banished to his ‘room’ (his very very large cage) a punishment… also heads over any kid I’ve had to be in charge of for 2 weeks – including my own.

And as mentioned before – he’s very cute.

He pretty much came finger and perched trained – so I quickly added towel training to his repertory. And I’m working on more tricks.

The short list of quick tricks for Cockatiels is Bow, Up, Down, High Five, Eat, Turn around, wings out and of course – eventually – talking.

I’ve got him coming ‘up’ onto my finger basically every time I guesture and say up. And similarly he gets down when I guesture and roll him off my hand towards the table. So that’s two down.

Bow is also coming along well. He loves being scratched behind the ears – so using the word Bow with a motion towards his head works perfectly.

I’ve been less successful so far with High Five. The idea is that he puts one leg on my hand and then pulls it back. High Five! (in his case – it’s a High Four since he only has 4 fingers/claws/foot parts… but I digress). But it’s a word and a motion and for Grover – an action.

As for feeding Grover – that’s actually fun. He can eat anything except avocados and Chocolate – and he adores the part of grapes without the grapes on it – the vine.. He’s quite the vine-a-holic! And kernels of cooked corn are also a treat. And he can spend hours making holes in cardboard – egg cartons being a huge speciality.

One big difference between Cockatiels and Larger full-sized Parrots is the noise volume. Grover will chirp sweetly at us to remind us he’s upstairs if he hears us arrive – and he doesn’t like it if we raise our voices – so he’ll chirp then as well – but that famous loud screech.. haven’t heard that yet thank goodness.

One other fun thing – if I’m typing on my ipad – Grove loves to come and watch. Which is fine until he starts walking on the keyboard. My spelling is bad enough – I don’t need a bird brains help!

Since we don’t want Grover to stay alone more than he must – say while we are working, He has been going on our 2 mile walks every day. I must say we do get a lot of attention – ‘Mom – that’s a bird!’ Is a frequent one. Grover just ignores most folks, but when bicycles speed past he gets tall and thin and his head feathers shoot straight up. After the third or fourth bike – he stopped reacting so strongly. You can, apparently, get used to anything.

Bedtime for Grover is simple. Around 6:30-7:00 he gets carried up to his clean cage, given seeds in one bowl, water in another and maybe some treats in a third and told – ‘Good Night’. The room is dark, but has a night light – and he quickly goes to sleep. Or at least – stops moving around… I don’t dare check to see if he’s really asleep.

Well – that’s the news on my first Great Grand-kid. I just thought I’d share something fun in these days of too many lines and masks and sanitizer.

Sighing off to see if I can make a video of Grover doing tricks… so far I’m batting zero on that effort.

The Soup Lady

Day 19 – It’s feeling like Ground Hog Day


You remember that movie – it was awesome. Bill Murray is caught in a time wrap – he keeps repeating the same day over and over again.

Well – this forced confinement is beginning to feel a bit the same. I’m caught in a time wrap of repeated actions – get up, get dressed, play bridge, maybe chat with folks, eat dinner, watch an old episode of Death in Paradise – go to bed – and repeat

But if you remember that movie – you will also remember how Bill’s character gets out of the loop. He re-invents himself by using the time constructively. And I’m watching folks who are capable of doing just that – and I’m unbelievable impressed

Take this link for example:

https://www.facebook.com/601402741/posts/10157229075837742/?d=n

A Sedar on Zoom?

How absolutely creative is that – they had to have re-written the song, then learned and practice their parts, then figured out how to get it all captured on ‘film’.

Amazingly creative.

Ok – They are from Berkeley – and maybe they are actually theatre folks in truth – but I don’t care. They used their time to do something that made me laugh. And honestly – that was well worth their time.

Signing off to find something else funny –

The Soup Lady

Why don’t folks go to the Theatre?


Not a trivial question is it. Why do you go to the Theatre? Do you go to the Theatre? And before you say yes too quickly – when was the last time you were in a legitimate Theatre – one with live actors and a real audience. Not on line, not a movie. A Theatre.

This question was asked – and the gal who asked it tried to answer it – at a ‘Chat Up’ at my local Theatre company. The price for the ‘Chat Up’ was right by the way – it was free, it was on Sunday starting at noon, there were comfortable seats – and they supplied coffee and biscotti. So while not a feast – it was an interesting hour and a half. And full. Because it turns out that both of the performances that afternoon – ‘Shoplifters’ and ’27’ were sold out.

The ‘Chat Up’ was a live interview between the Editor in Chief of the Gazette (arguably Montreal’s top English Newspapers) and a Francophone Professor of Social Media from the University of Montreal. The Professor also was involved in getting folks from the Eastern side of Montreal to come to the theatre – and briefly argued that they don’t come because they are afraid that their clothes aren’t good enough.

I beg to differ here. I don’t think the issue is clothing. I wear jeans everywhere, to the Opera, to the Theatre, to fancy restaurants, and I’ve never been turned away. I’ve seen folks in all manner of dress at the Theatre’s that the Intrepid Traveler and I frequent – and no one has ever been turned away there either. I don’t think it’s the dress code – because there isn’t one!

I think folks don’t go to the ‘legitimate Theatre’ because they can’t see how it’s relevant to their lives. It’s perceived as expensive, it’s seen as potentially boring, and it’s not always marketed as well as more ‘crowd pleasing’ options like the Cirque, Football, Soccer matches, or even Tennis. Shopping centres have done a better job of marketing than Theatres (Other than Place Des Arts) here in Montreal have done. And the ‘fringe’ events – which are often seriously cheap and quite entertaining, often have no marketing at all. If you don’t get their emails, and keep your eyes open for brief mentions here and there – the productions come and go before most folks have a chance to react!

This said – this weekend I was at two different theatre events – a production of the ‘new’ Opera 27 about the life of Gertrude Stein, and of course ‘Shoplifters’ – the play that was the nominal topic of the ‘Chat Up’. I had brought my 11 year old grand-daughter with me to see the play, and even though this was a 2:00 PM show on Sunday – when bringing young adults would seem a reasonable choice, my grand-daughter was the only person under the age of 30 there.

So one anecdotal observation that might address the basic question would be – kids are not being exposed to the Theatre. Whose fault is that? Are parents not bringing their kids because they are too busy themselves to come? Because they don’t know if the kids will like the play and don’t want to have to put up with fidgeting kids? Because they can’t afford it? I paid full price for my grand-daughter – a not insignificant investment to be honest. And a lot more than the cost of taking her to a movie, or to a swimming pool, or to even a bowling alley (do they even still exist?).

But I suspect that money is not the only explanation. I’ve often offered my children free tickets to the theatre – but unless it’s a musical and clearly on a topic of interest – they are unlikely to accept. Even my telling them that this play is a must see probably won’t bring them out. This despite the fact that my grand-daughter asked if she could go see it again! I’m of half a mind to arrange that for her. If I can’t change the opinions of my kids – can I make things better for my grandkids? I hope so.

I am blessed by my friendship with the Intrepid Traveler. She will go to theatre at the drop of a hat – and is my frequent companion. And far to often it’s her that spots the options – and invites me than the other way around. But my attempts to get other folks to join us generally falls flat. Even the offer of free tickets and a free ride down and back (I get it – night travel can be scary for seniors) hasn’t gotten them to budge.

I ran into the same issue on the bridge cruise. All the ‘shows’ were free – but attempts to get folks to join me at Mamma Mia or the Comedy Shows were rebuffed. Maybe it’s me?

My buddies opted to stay in their cabins – they wouldn’t go for free, dress on a ship is irrelevant – trust me – so that’s not an excuse, and these were not mentally challenging theatre options. So why won’t people go? It’s not the price, it’s not the dress code – what is it?

Why do thousands of folks play bridge on line, and not show up at play?

And what can I, one lonely senior trying her best to keep live theatre alive, to do about it.

Another scary statistic – 40% of folks in Quebec live alone. I’d think getting out of the house would be a huge priority – and yet – they are definitely not coming out to the live Theatre.

Musing in solitaire – the Soup Lady.

Where are you in the Global Economy?


Ok – I know – strange question from an admittedly old Grannie living in Canada – but I went to a ‘Chat Up’ at my local Theatre company yesterday, and the play they were discussing was ‘Shoplifters’ by Morris Panych. And during the discussion, the question of where we fit in the Global Economy came up.

I want to start with an awesome link – Are you in the Global Middle Class – published by the Washington Post in January 2019. So it’s up to date – and seriously interesting. You can quickly determine where an income of say – $59,000 US would put you relative to almost every country in the world. For those of us in Canada – who struggle with outrageous taxes – trust me, this is an eye opener.

Check it out.

Shoplifters is a very funny, very understandable, very mental challenging play about 4 people – 2 security guards, and 2 ‘shoplifters’. The guards are male, the shoplifters female, and the crime obvious. But how they deal with the crime – not so obvious. It is clear from the very beginning that none of these 4 people are in the upper class. And as the play proceeds – it is made clear that none of them are in the middle class either. So the question arises, what exactly is the ‘crime’?

While morally I can’t condone shoplifting, I think it just makes the prices higher for the rest of us, it is hard to avoid appreciating the protagonists point of view. As one of the security guards admit – I’ve never had a steak that good! And all 4 of them, as are most of us as well, are primary concerned about personally doing better. How to ‘do better’ is of course the real question. Is being a coat check girl for the rest of your life really ‘living’? Alma, the older and more experienced shoplifter, argues that this is not living. And I’m thinking that the folks in the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ group would agree with her.

We all want the very best for our kids and grand-kids. That goes without saying. Would I want them to think that shoplifting was ok if they couldn’t afford anything better? Or would I want them to try to find a way to afford that something better? I naturally think I’d go for the latter, but so far I haven’t really been faced with that choice.

There was a time in my life when I couldn’t afford steak. I could only afford a box of Mac and Cheese for dinner every night. But I always knew that this time would end – and maybe that optimism is what kept me from shoplifting. I don’t know for sure, one way or the other.

Bottom line – this is a great play – do try to see it when it shows up in a local theatre near you. And do check out that website. See if you in the global middle class – and where you fit in your local economy as well. Then consider the folks below you. How do they make ends meet?

Signing off to write another blog – about another topic discussed at that Chat Up – The Soup Lady

PS: if you follow my travels – my next trip with the Intrepid Traveller is to Japan – so if you’ve wonder if a low cost trip to one of the world most expensive countries is possible – stay tuned!

Party Central at the Toronto Pride Parade


I’m a tad conservative – I’m not talking political, I’m talking life style. Husband, kids, house, grandkids – conservative lifestyle, conservative dress – you wouldn’t think from looking at me today that there was a flower child in my past. And the honest truth is that there wasn’t. I was in University during that period in history – but I spent that time studing physics and computer science, not marching from rights at every opportunity.

Color me conservative.

So you can also color me surprised to discover that I’d managed to decide to visit Toronto during Pride Week. This is a massively important week for Toronto, if the sheer number of rainbow flags, wall hangings, designs, and posters is any measure. I don’t think it would be possible to ignore the fact that it was Pride week anywhere in Toronto, but my sisters and I had managed to reserve ourselves a VRBO rental right in the heart of the Gay Village. No way we were going to be ignoring the festivities. Much to our surprise, we were part of them!

Hot Spot Central for Pride events is Church Street near Bloor – and we were just 2 very short blocks away on Mutual Street. We couldn’t have asked for a better location if we’d realized what we were signing up for. Church Street is party central, and we were just far enough away to avoid the noise – and close enough to have to walk thru it every time we ventured out.

We arrived in Toronto on Thursday, navigated our way to our lodgings, and quickly realized that something was happening. The unmistakable signs of a huge street fair being set up were everywhere. Tents being dropped off, boxes and boxes of supplies being unloaded, and giant marquess being set-up at all the major street corners were just some of the more obvious hints. And to say that folks were dressed – well – distinctively – would be an understatement. Clearly, something big was happening, and it didn’t take us long to put it all together. Of course – Pride Week – with the huge Pride Parade (over 3 million people (apx?) attended in 2017) was happening on Sunday.

By Saturday, things were in high swing. The street closures started at Bloor and Church and extended for blocks and blocks – well past where we were and only petering out at around Gerrad Street. Even the local Loblaws – a super Loblaws with both an upstairs and a downstairs was in on the act. An entire section of the grocery store was getting a quick redesign as a dance floor – with a DJ of course. Folks were handing out free drink samples at both entrances – Some kind of Lemon/Lime Coke at one door, and a fru-fru water at the other. Nothing like shopping to head-banging noise…

The hundreds of stalls set up along Church were definitely an eclectic group. From Light your Dick (selling penis shaped candles), to a wooden watch display whose 6’2” salesman wore high heels and a sequinned top, to a pose yourself in a bathtub photo opp – there were stalls the likes of which I’ve never seen before.

The lower portion of the parade route was devoted to more community oriented stalls of the likes of Save Water (handing out free metal water bottles), Pet Rescue (with their doggy mascot in his wheel chair), and a huge 2 floor bar/DJ set-up sponsored (yes I asked) by the largest Pot growing company in Canada. Nope – no free samples there!

My sisters and I wandered up and down the street – many times with our jaws dropped open in surprise at the clothing choices of some of our fellow revellers.

There were drag queens galore – some young, some definitely not so young. One of my favourites was wearing a dashing ballon headdress – and not much else. There were men – at least a dozen in my best count – sporting the full Monty. They had on rings that were strategically placed – I never did figure out why, but if you need to know – ask a guy. Leather strips formed a lot of the clothing options, as did push up bras, corsets, and tatoos. For some reason – lots of guys were wearing dog masks – mostly of the German Shepard variety – and being lead around on chains by either other men, or young woman. I will leave to the reader’s mind to figure out what they were doing. There was a Goth Statue of Liberty, a guy wearing ‘grapes’ (I think he was from a wine store), and lots of belly buttons (and other parts) on display.

And the noise – oh my – the noise. Every major street corner had a DJ booth and dance floor set-up. Some were massive 3 story affairs with light shows. Other’s were a bit more subtle – but not by much. One booth was playing a wild rendition of YMCA as we struggled past, but most were the more popular younger music that I can barely recognize as music. It’s mostly base noise, with a hint of melody.

And this party lasts, lasts, and lasts. It started warming up around noon on Saturday, and only slowed down a bit when it rained late Saturday night. On Sunday morning they began gearing up for the main event – the Pride Parade, but we opted to avoid both the rain and the crowds by heading towards the Royal Ontario Museum. This kept us dry and relatively sane. We let the crowds of Pride Parade Goers do their thing with out us. There is only so much Full Monty I need to see in my life.

Would I go back to Toronto for Pride Parade? Nope. Been there, saw that – I’m done. Would I suggest you check it out? Sure! It was eye-opening for sure.

Signing off to go back to her conservative life-style…

The Saroche – Luxury has a price!


I’m aboard the 39 meter (127 foot) long barge – the Saroche. And I honestly – I’ve think I’ve landed in the lap of luxury.

The service on the barge is so personal, and so fast that I’m reminded of Goldie Hawn’s line when her butler brings her Cavier in the film ‘Overboard’, “Thank goodness, I almost had to wait”.

This is definitely not your budget holiday trip, but then sometimes it’s fun to be different. We opted for this cruise for several reasons, and it is interesting how close and yet not close it came to matching our expectations.

I should start by explaining that this is not really a cruise. It’s really a barge trip down a series of canals in the Champagne Region of France – the Marne Valley to be exact. And where our expectations and the reality have diverged is really in the Champagne Touring. But I’m getting ahead of my story.

The Saroche is an absolutely lovely boat – low and long, she was purpose built to be a ‘hotel’ barge, and while her history diverted from that at times, it is her basic design. The front of the barge, under the deck where there sits a large Hot Tub, a dining area, and a lounge area, are just three staterooms. This is a trip for a max of 6 passengers – and with 4 crew, it’s easy to imagine why the service is so completely personal. And we are just 4 passengers – one of the couples had to cancel at the last moment, leaving Jason, our host, unable to fill that slot.

Our cabins are glorious. Dawn and Jason spent last winter completely remodeling the cabins – and they now reflect the Art Deco/Art Nouveau theme that Dawn thought would be appealing. Light wood, poster art from 1930, and huge beds and equally large bathrooms make the cabins a haven. I’m particularly fond of the shower in the our bathroom – it has both a rain shower and a hand shower, and plenty of nice hot water. Perfect.

The main cabin, which has the spiral staircase to the upper deck, a large lounge area with a full open bar, two sofas, and a game/library cabinet is quite comfortable. The focus however is on the dining area. Here Dawn with the help of the crew (Sarah, Luther, and occasionally Jason) serves up delightful 4 course meals for lunch and dinner. I’ve never eaten so well, or so often, in my life! Wine glasses are never allowed to be empty, and once they figure out your preference (I love hot water if the weather is nippy), they are fast to be sure that your need is met, before you even have time to think about needing it. “I almost had to wait…”

There is simply nothing that I can say about the food that wouldn’t sound like I’d been drinking the Koolaide. It is outstanding. Jason does his very best to match the food with wines from Vineyards in France, but with less absolute success. His pairings tend to be young wines, and their lack of maturity is often a flaw. But this is a minor quibble. This cruise is not about fine wines (albeit that there were some outstanding wines opened and enjoyed) – it’s about knowledgeable pairings – and in that Jason excels.

The cheese courses are a case in marvellous point. We have a cheese course twice a day for 6 days. And Jason does not repeat a cheese. I will admit that there were cheeses that I could die for (the Comte he served us was the best I’ve ever had), and cheeses I didn’t try (I’m not keen on the Blue Cheeses, and I can’t eat cheese made with goat’s milk, it makes my throat swell), but all in all, the cheese course and the wine pairings that with them were legendary.

Jason did promise us a list of the cheeses and wines – I’m sure it will come by email in a few days – but even holding a list I doubt I could duplicate the experience. The kitchen has a built-in cheese store, so that they are served at the right temperatures – something that has always given me trouble at home.

Each night finds us moored at a different location along the Marne Valley Canal system, enjoying a late dinner. Each morning finds us either moving at a snail’s pace down a canal or through a lock, or sometimes taking a day trip into the surrounding area.

While I loved the relaxed pace of the cruises – not really a snail’s pace as much as a walking pace – it was the side trips that I found truly interesting.

We visited a little known battlefield from World War I – La Main de Massiges. This labyrinth of trenches laid buried for years until it was unearthed and an association started (only in 2008) to keep it open, accessible, and properly signed. For an in-depth description of the place (in French – sorry) – do click here. Our visit was made even more interesting by about 20 WWI re-enactors who were there to film a movie about the involvement of soldiers from the Czech Republic. It was unworldly to walk thru the trenches, knowing that just around any corner one might run into soldiers doing their level best to be period correct.

For me, as much as I dislike visiting battlefields in general, this visit was a highlight.

Another outstanding exploration was to the Eisenhower War Rooms – a small museum in Reims that was the actual site where the treaty ending WWII was signed. It was signed again the next day in Berlin because the Russians wanted it to be officially signed there – but here in this tiny room, in this now lovely town – but at the time heavily bombed battlefield – the treaty was signed. It is hard not to find the room strangely inspiring, and it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see the then movers and shakers gathering to end the war.

I also loved the visit to chocolatier Thibault. It’s a lot of fun to make praline filled chocolate champagne corks – although the very best part was the wrapping machine. I’m such a techy! I really loved the tasting as well – there’s is simply nothing wrong with chocolate – particularly good chocolate.

Bottom line – I loved aspects of our cruise. I enjoyed the company of our new friends, I totally relaxed in the hot tub in the afternoons as the glorious scenery glided by, and I ate way to well, and way to much. I think for me, a week of ‘relaxing’ is too long. I was itching to get going again, but that’s a personal problem. And I definitely think that Dawn, Jason, and their crew deliver on their promise – you are indeed in the lap of luxury for a week.

Signing off to enjoy Museum Night in Paris – Muse d’Orsey here I come! The Soup Lady.

Students Party HARD in Coimbra


We either lucked into an amazing party – or got kicked in the butt by one! It’s a bit hard to tell right now – but I shall let you decide.

We planed on visiting Coimbra to see the National Museum there, and to visit the University. We didn’t plan on coming on Graduation Week – but that’s exactly what we did. And man, do those students know how to party.

There are thousands and thousands of students at Coimbra University – it’s the largest in Portugal, the best known, and the most respected. And it’s a university town – there’s nothing but students here – and on grad week – their parents.

Students normally dress in black pants, white blouses, and have coloured ribbons that indicate their school of study. Yellow = Med School, Blue = Liberal Arts, Red = Law, etc. But during Grad week, they kick it up a serious notch. Students getting advanced degrees wear top hats and frock coats with lapels in the colour of their discipline – and if they are a dual major (law and say Literature) they wear two colours – Red and blue in this case. And they carry walking canes that match. Students with canes – now that’s going to get interesting.. fast. They have a lovely tradition though – if one grad student meets another – the first takes their cane and knocks 3 times on the top hat of the other one – then they hug (boys) or kiss (girls) and wish each other good luck!

We chatted up several of the students, participated in the hat knocking – and traded kisses and hugs! It’s fun.

The 2nd tradition we witnessed concerns beer. Not like students need a special occasion to drink beer – but Coimbra Students have taken beer drinking to an insane level. It’s not just quantity, it’s about shaking the can and spraying everyone you possibly can! I don’t mind the pouring of beer on heads (as long as they don’t do it to me), and I don’t mind the shaking and spraying – but there were kids with water pistols filled with beer! That’s taking beer spraying to a completely new level.

And of course they know they are going to get totally soaked – so they all carry around their necks a plastic pouch that features those discipline colours – and holds their cells phones, a bit of money, and I’m hoping an ID!

Yet another tradition we witnessed were the floats. These have been decorated by each discipline, and they of course feature the colours. They are also loaded up with the graduating undergrads – who have wrapped themselves in ribbons of matching colours. Most of the girls had the ribbons in their hair. I leave it to your imagination to figure out what the boys were doing with them.

Undergrads also wear capes! Since it was hot on the day we visited, the capes were rolled into long tubes, and slung over their shoulders and tied around their waists. Some capes were blazed with badges – but I never found out what the meaning to the badges were – it was rare to see the emblazoned ones – most were – as one student told me – Harry Potter Capes!

There is a tradition that we didn’t see, but read about. Apparently at the end of Grad Week, all the ribbons are burned in a frantic release of energy! Given the number of ribbons we saw, I’m guessing this is a pretty massive bonfire.

Students we chatted up told us that there is a heady feeling of belonging in Coimbra – that grads come back year after year for this party – and I’m not surprised. It was intense.

After the parade of the floats – there is a rock concert in the Coimbra Stadium – and that’s where we ran into trouble. I don’t mind Rock music – I love it in fact — but our absolutely lovely BnB faced right onto the Stadium – and the noise of the concert was beyond belief. And it lasted for hours… Ending sometime after 4:00 AM.

So – good news – we got to see the party. Bad news – no sleep!

Good thing we’re leaving Coimbra today – we didn’t get to see the Museum (it was closed on Grad Week), and we didn’t get to tour the University – I wasn’t going up that hill twice. But we did get to witness Grad Week – up close and personal.

Signing off to get some sleep before we travel… The Soup Lady