100 Best Cities in the World – #’s 40 to #1 – Where have you been?


Given that no one has been able to travel for MONTHS, a review of the top 100 cities in the world 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 admit it – when I’m in an airport, I do look at the departure signs – and consider – been there, want to go there, nope – not interested.. Been doing that for years.

So here is the last 40 of the list of the world’s 100 Best Cities – taken from http://www.best cities.org. Out of the last 60 cities, I’ve been to 37 of them – or 62 % – let’s see how we do on the top 40, shall we?

First – an apology – I was so long in doing this – that the list changed! So I’m playing a bit of catch-up – I’m starting with 42 – Seoul (which was much higher in my original list – and then working my way from there, trying to avoid repeats.

42. Seoul – Amazingly beautiful city. I loved the renovation of the Canal (stream) that runs thru the downtown area. It’s below street level, but open to the sky and filled with stones for ‘crossing’ and it even has elevators. And I loved the history and the museums – even the free ones! And the food – oh, don’t get me started on the food. Korean Fried Chicken is a revelation – and while we have Korean BBQ in Montreal – clearly it’s a pale and shameful copy of the real thing. And the best thing – the subway cars have senior sections! Reserved seating for seniors – where folks play a game of – I’m older and frailer than you are. Actually – the game is the reverse – clearly you are the older and frailer one – so you need the seat. With Jill’s white hair – we were always able to sit down! I do think this might be one of my favorite cities in the world.

41. Orlando – moved up from 48 in the last post… read all about it there

40. Bangkok – My first impression of Bangkok – fresh off the plane from Montreal – was dirty, noisy, crowded, scary. But after 5 weeks of travelling thru Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, my return to Bangkok proved how wrong first impressions can be. Bangkok now seemed modern and sophisticated and lovely. So do give Bangkok a chance – it will quickly grow on you!

39. Munich – Home to Octoberfest and Helmut and Andrea – dear friends. Can’t say I thought much of Munich – we just did Octoberfest and left – but Octoberfest was fun – so I must rate Munich well for that.

38. Sao Paulo – moved up from position 44 in the last post – still haven’t been there

37. Budapest – Been there – I was 21 – can’t remember a thing

36. Seattle – drove thru on our way from Vancouver (lovely city) to Los Angeles. Do I remember it? Nope.

35. Zurich – Banking, Banking, Banking – and some decent restaurants and some really really nice hotels.

34. Miami – I’m aghast – I tell you aghast that Miami rates on this list. It’s a gold diggers, wild man’s frontier – no rules, no law, no order. A mess – with some wonderful hotels and a famous beach. Ok – and Joe’s Crab House. That’s probably good enough to put Miami on the map. But trust me – I’m not a fan of Florida in general, and Miami in particular. There are a lot nicer places to hang a hat.

33. Dublin – visited when I was 20 – which is 52 years ago now. So my memory is dim. What I do remember is kissing the Blarney Stone (hey- it’s near Cork which is in Ireland – close enough. I also remember loving Shanty’s – which are basically watered down beer – but I didn’t know that then. Most memorable was getting stuck in Limerick (ok – again not Dublin) when the plane my sister and I were flying in had an engine fire and had to turn around over the Atlantic and fly back to the UK. Limerick had the nearest large airport. We were stuck for 3 days there – waiting for the engine to be repaired. It was 1969 – these things happened.

32. Houston – Cowboys and Guns and Big Buildings and Money. Not what I’d consider a great place to visit. Go at your own risk.

31. Boston – Ah – Boston. I lived there for 4 years while at University – and I met my husband there. Boston has a very special place in my heart. It’s totally worth a visit – or two, or even try living there. I do love Boston.

30. Melbourne – nope – down under is forbidden these days

29. Hong-Kong – Moved up from 42 – doesn’t deserve it – but maybe things have changed. It has been 20 some years since I was there.

28. San Diego – been there. Don’t remember it at all.

27. Milan – been there – I was 21. So I remember almost nothing except that it was – by Italian standards – graceless and busy and industrial and lacking in the pleasures that make Italy so wonderful. Maybe a return trip is warranted?

26. Prague – been there. My food memories are of Beer (which the Intrepid Traveler will not drink) and Sausages. I loved the bridges, and we rode the buses everywhere with our guide books open. You can see a lot of a city with a good bus map and a guide book with pictures…. Just saying.

25. Beijing – been there. The Intrepid Traveler and I went there just before the Olympics and were shocked at how completely the city was being remade. Entire neighbourhoods that had survived for hundreds of years were being completely emptied and razed to make way for the new modern China. Condos were being built to house the folks tossed out of their traditional homes in the thousands – with little or no respect. Many of these new ‘condos’ were still ghost towns, places waiting for folks who might never come. But China is China – and we did love the Forbidden City, the ceaseless natural rhythm of the nights, and the wealth of options for entertainment – some really upright, some debatable. This is a wild and wooly place – the Wild West on Steroids in a foreign language.

24. Vienna – been there. I was 21 – that was 52 years ago – I remember very little – except I went to the Opera – standing room for $5 – and loved it. Hey – I was really really young…

23. Istanbul – been there. Multiple times. It’s a cross-roads from East to West – and really a nifty place. Two strong memories – the magnificent Topkapi Museum – which needs two days, and we only had one to give it. Among other must-see items is the staff of Moses, and the arm of John the Baptist. His head as a child is in another museum in case you wondered. We managed to not see the famous Haram – we simply ran out of time. I think the advantage of having a tour guide would be that they move you along. As the Intrepid Traveler and I are wont to do – we moved slowly… My other strong memory is more unique (everyone knows to visit the Topkapi). We were eating an outdoor lunch in a large park and a couple walked by. The woman was in traditional Muslim covered dress – but still posed for pictures! We found that so interesting. We were less thrilled with the food – I think we just never found exactly the right restaurant – but I’m sure there was one that would have made us happier. But I would go back in a heartbeat. It’s a wonderful city.

22. Washington, D.C. – been there, lived there for 2.5 years. Magnificent gardens, glorious homes, frighteningly poor ghettos (yeah – still). But of course it’s the museums that will bring you back over and over again. There is never ever enough time to see them all.

21. Las-Vegas – been there. Several times. Always a bit sorry I went. Once it was with my Dad, about 4 months before he died. He was in a wheel chair, but basically feeling ok – so we just ‘rolled’ him here, there, and everywhere. Because of the wheel chair, we had to park and get him into the wheel chair and from there into the hotel. So we discovered the fact that it is impossible to get from a parking lot into a hotel in Las Vegas without going thru the Casino. No way! Once we were going from point A to point B – and I had to stop for a ladies break. I left my Dad sitting near the entrance to the ladies room in the Casino area and disappeared to do what was needed. When I returned, he was chatting gleefully with a gal wearing nothing but tail feathers and a head dress. She was doing that bunny stoop that shows off the best features – and my Dad had a grin from ear to ear. Only in Las Vegas.

20. Berlin – been there (one of my favourites). The Intrepid Traveler and I visited for a week, my husband and I for a few days. I found the city completely stunning. The food was incredible – although I most fondly remember just a roast chicken we bought near our lodging from a Turkish Roast Chicken Place. The museums are incredible. The Germans were great at taking ‘souvenirs’ back from abroad – entire Altars, Walls, and such. And they keep them safe and tourist friendly. Amazing. I most enjoyed a very adorable private museum on life in East Berlin – and the History of the rise and fall of Hilter is a must do (and needs a strong stomach). Give the Germans credit for coming clean on how and why things went so wrong. The Eastern part of the city was more interesting – when you go (and you definitely should) – see if you agree with me on that perception.

19. Sydney – haven’t been – and since they are completely shut down – not even the top ranked Tennis player in the world can get in – I don’t think I’m going any time soon. Oh well.

18. Toronto – been there. My daughter lived there for a year, and they have a really good bridge club, and hosted a National Bridge Competition one year. So I’ve been in and out many times. It’s a modern North American City with a very diverse population, some excellent museums, and as I learned when I went with my sisters for my 65th birthday – a very loud, very in your face – Rainbow community.

17. St. Petersburg – been there. The Intrepid Traveler and I spent 3 weeks in St. Petersburg – enjoying ourselves immensely. You can check out my more detailed blog report elsewhere on this site. The trick to St. Petersburg is to avoid like the plaque (Covid or Black) the crowds from the cruise ships. I watched in horror as one lady took out another for getting in the way of her ‘shot’ in a museum. And saw another man lift his iphone over his head to aim at the tiny but incredibly famous painting of the Benoit Madonna. There was a crowd of about 25 people in front of him – so he took his shot – and went on to see other things. We just avoided the famous sections of the Hermitage until the cruise ship passengers left (around noon), and then had the entire place to ourselves. Crazy city but really good food if you are willing to go where the normal folks eat and avoid anything smacking of tourists. And you can get incredible Georgian Wines at the local quick market for around $2. Now that’s worth visiting a city to experience.

16. Amsterdam – been there. Canals are amazing, buildings are amazing, food is expensive but really really good – and there are interesting museums. I did enjoy visiting the Anne Frank house – crowds aside, it’s worth doing. When I visited with my husband, we even checked out the red light district. Interesting. Can’t say much more though – but I’m glad I did it so I can say I did. I did not, I admit, participate – not there, and not in the Canabis houses. Not my thing. But certainly part of the life of the city.

15. San Francisco – been there. It’s hilly

14. Abu-Dhabi – kinda maybe sort of want to go. Know nothing about it though

13. Chicago – been there. I must say my memories are mostly of our hotel – the Trump Palace. I got a Hotwire discount rate – and simply couldn’t resist. Location was perfect – and since this was in the days before he was President – I didn’t much mind taking advantage of a lovely 5-star hotel in a great location. Not sure if I’d easily stay there again, but there you go. My other memory is of our abortive attempt to see a play. We made reservations, got to the theatre to discover that someone had stolen the computer that powered the lights. And without that – the play couldn’t go on. But the Magician that was the ‘star’ decided to offer a free magic show to the very disappointed customers – and that was great! We also had a fabulous dinner in one of the 5-star restaurants – a tiny place open only to 4 tables a night. Meal was great – company even more fun. Chicago is pretty cool.

12. Doha – in Qatar – I looked it up. Never been there

11. Rome – been there. If you have not – why not? What are you waiting for? Have you not read the guidebooks? I’m asking seriously – to not have seen Rome is to not have traveled. It’s a must. If only for the Pistachio Gelato.

10. Madrid – been there. There are some great museums – and some lovely parks. The problem with Madrid is that the rest of Spain is so amazing – it kinda loses it’s thrill because you can’t wait to get on to the rest of your tour. Too bad too – because I think Madrid might be worth a much closer look – I just never had the time. Barcelona on the other hand… sigh.

9. Barcelona – been there, been thrilled. The Gaudi homes, parks, and Cathedral are literally beyond belief. And it doesn’t surprise me one wit that Barcelona is higher on the ‘great cities’ list than Madrid. It literally has everything. Great food, a beach, a proper city, an old city, and all the Gaudi stuff which alone is worth the visit. And it’s driving distance from the justifiably famous Salvador Dali Museum. And home to Museums featuring works by Miro and Picasso. I think it’s the lighting that inspires so many famous artists to call Barcelona home.. the city has a glow about it that is quite the stunner. Anyway – it’s well worth a visit. Or two. Or three.

8. Los Angeles – been there. Not that thrilled – So Sorry. I actually lived in Los Angeles for 3 months – on the beach – in Venice. Which at the time (early 70’s) was cheap and dirty and full of outdoor workout ‘gyms’. The beach was large and flat – and honestly, not that thrilling. I was in my ‘hippie’ days – and spent most of my time selling drift wood sculptures and just hanging around. I had neither the money nor the interest in doing much exploring. Do you think I should plan another visit?

7. Singapore – Ok – I’m going to say been there – but in all honesty – I was only in the airport. But I was in the airport for a really long time. I think that counts. Of course I hated it. Dirty and crowded and no where comfortable to sit. But I watched ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ and I think I’d like to go back with someone to tour around with. Maybe when the intrepid Traveler and I plan our next trip to Taiwan…

6. Tokyo – been there several times. Went on business with my husband, and for pleasure with the Intrepid Traveler and her son. This is a massive, massive, massive city with the cleanest subway toilets in the world. And I should know. I’ve visited lots of them. Yes it is expensive – and Yes – I had to go without coffee when I was there with the Intrepid Traveler – but still, it’s amazing. And folks in general are very friendly. I love the museums, I love the people, I hate the crowding and I got seriously scared in a subway station when massive of folks just swarmed thru at the same moment. Moral learned – steer clear of the subways during rush hour.

5. Dubai – nope – not really interested

4. Moscow – oops – want to go

3. Paris – been there. Unfortunately – this is probably my least favourite city on the entire list of 100 cities. I have been there many many times, starting when I was just 16 – and I even have a tiny bit of French so I can handle menus and most signs. But the folks that call Paris home are so universally snobby that I just can’t enjoy the place. One memorable trip featured a subway strike forcing us to walk miles and miles to get back to our lodging. Another trip included one of my worst meals ever – eaten at a 3-Star Michelin Restaurant that should have known better. Yes the pastry shops are delightful – and you can easily get coffee, so I suppose that’s in Paris’s favour. And I’ve been there on Free Museum Night – which was wonderful. But honestly – there are better cities out there folks. Trust me.

2. New York – been there. Like Paris – I’ve visited many many times. I have family that actually own homes in the city, and the Intrepid Traveller has friends that live there as well. So it’s not for lack of a local vibe that New York tends to annoy me. It’s just dirty. For years my mantra was – never wear white in New York City – for obvious reasons. I will admit that during my last visit, the efforts that have been made to clean it up did seem to be having an impact – and I found the High Line really really nice. Green space on a former elevated railroad – that’s a concept I can put my head around. Anyway – I’d take New York over Paris – but I’d take Berlin or Barcelona or London or Montreal over either of those!

1. London – been there – and here right now. As I write this blog I’m actually sitting looking at the traditional January Grey London sky. Not cold enough to be really cold (snow STOPS this city – big time), not dry enough not to be chilly, barely tolerable weather really. And Covid has made London hurt. The theatres are open, but suffering. The Covid numbers (on Jan 7, 2022) are sky-rocketing – everyone knows at least someone who is sick, and hopefully not living with them. 3/4 of my daughter’s team were sick with Covid over the Christmas run-up – which made getting product out the door rather challenging. And now with Christmas sadly behind them, Londoners are slogging their way thru to Spring. But aside from Covid – I do love London. Not as much as Barcelona – it’s the weather that hurts London it that comparison – but it’s got a sweet, kinda anything goes if you are polite about it, vibe. And almost everyone speaks English. Not generally American/Canadian of course – but English. One does wonder why underwear are pants, why dessert is pudding, and why bonnet refers to the engine space on a car, but in general, it’s polite, it’s friendly, they have decent food, and if you ignore the exchange rate – the prices aren’t horrid. London is a good city to top the list

And there you have it – out of the top 100 Cities of the world – I’ve been to 70 of them – that’s an easy calculation – 70%.

How did you do on this list? Do you agree with my descriptions? I think the list has issues – but the folks that created it used a scale that they developed – not a been there, remember it well analysis. So I guess that’s that.

Hopefully some day we shall be able to travel again. Think Positive I say! And Travel safely and be healthy! Signing off to plan for my very scary flight back to Park City Utah from London…. The Soup Lady

Sorry Chief – I’m Air Frames


That’s a very British Military way of saying – not my party!

And frankly – I love it. Craig, my daughter’s husband’s father – or as my grand-daughter tells me – her daddy’s daddy – is a retired British Officer – and he taught me this one! Thank you Craig

Back to the car – or as Craig would say – Sorry Chief – I’m Air Frames.

The car is still lying dead on it’s back – despite a momentary glimpse at life after death.

We drove back to Sutton Courtney on Saturday, we had to revisit the rental agency to extend the lease since at that point the car was still dead. They had tested everything they could think of – including replacing some electrical something (Hence the Sorry Chief – I’m Air Frames). Didn’t help.

We met up with Craig and Jan and had a delightful adults only lunch at the Barley Mow. This is a gastronomic Pub that is well worth it’s full bookings and occasional – sorry, no room apologies.

The pub is nestled in a village that if you squint your eyes and ignore the recycling bins is straight out of the 1800’s – maybe the 1600’s for all I know. Thatched roofs on all the brick cottages, narrow roadways, it even has a stream that rambles thru so it can be featured on narrow boat trips. It has everything – including the Barley Mow.

We knew we were in the right place this time because the decor was upper cottage. Dark beams across a white washed ceiling, well spaced tables, lots of tiny rooms that linked up in some strange (is there a map) way – and a lovely fireplace in every room.

We were escorted into the very oldest part of the Barley Mow – a low ceilinged room (under 6’ for SURE – and maybe topping out at 5’8” in places) that featured 4 tables and a lovely roaring fire. Cozy, cute, comfortable – and one hoped – food to match.

Like most gastropubs – the menu was filled with pub classics – fish and chips in several varieties, shrimp scampi and the like – plus oddities like French Onion Soup and Beet Salad – kinda 2022 meets 1920.

I loved the presentation of my fish and chips – I ordered the sweet potato fries, and opted for garden peas over mushy peas – so not truly traditional. But yummy. Even the onion soup was yummy although I don’t think the restaurants in France are going to lose any sleep over it.

The true food highlights were the conversation on how to make Tarter Sauce (never eat with foodies if you don’t want to know those details), and the best Bakewell Tart I’ve had since I’ve been coming to London.

I’m sorry Costa – your commercial offering, while yummy, is not up to this offerings scratch.

We had a nice long leisurely lunch – it’s really pleasant when it’s just adults, something you forget quickly when constantly accompanied by a lovely, and well behaved, but still 5 year old.

Then we checked in on the dead bug. Still dead. So we headed back to London. 2.5 hours later, we arrived in London to be told that the garage had called – and the car was fixed!

Miracle of Miracles!

Turns out that there was a blown fuse. His fix of the obvious electrical whatever (I’m Air Frames remember) didn’t appear to work because the fuse was blown. When that was fixed – the car ran!

We decide that another 4 hour plus drive just isn’t going to happen – so the plan is for Adrienne to take me to Heathrow Monday morning early (I’m heading to Utah next), then drive on to pick up the car.

Best laid plans

This morning we are greeted with an oops – not quite.

Craig – completely helpful soul that he is – decided to walk to the repair shop and get the car. In doing so – he discovered that the cure wasn’t permanent. The fuse had blown again. Three fuses later – and the conclusion is that there is something blowing the fuses.

Ya think?

So bug is still dead. I’m still going to Heathrow on Monday – but when the car will be deemed healthy remains a mystery.

Signing off to do VeriFLY – the newest wrinkle in an already painful flying experience… Can they possibly make it worse?

The Soup Lady

Car Trouble Continued


I will admit that I was hoping that I’d have good news to report. But no – Adrienne’s car is still sitting with it’s wheels in the air looking more like a dead bug than a car. And it’s in Sutton Courtney

We are in London – Adrienne had to rent a car to get us here – and the only car available at the most local place to Sutton Courtney had only a Leon on offer.

Leon – ever heard of a Leon? Me neither. But this is easily the most technologically advance car I have ever, ever been in.

Let’s start with the little lights that come on when you open the car doors. These are under the rear view mirrors on the sides – and alert folks behind you that you are opening a car door. I was amazed to see them! (Only works at night – but hey – they work).

There are no dials, no buttons, not knobs. There’s what looks like an ipad attached to the dashboard – and there are electronic displays of dials on the area right thru the steering wheel – but these are just representations of dials – they are totally electronic.

The real console is that ipad looking thing. You control the heating and A/C from it, the music and radio from it, the navigation from it, the gas mileage from it. In fact you actually control everything related to the car from this one location.

There are some options on the steering wheel – up and down generally but you have to choose what you are going up and down about from the console.

It’s one crazy car.

But there are no options. We are stuck with the Leon until someone somewhere figures out why Adrienne’s Polo (who names a car after a horse sport) suddenly just stopped running.

Hanging tough in London

The Soup Lady

What did you do on Jan 2, 2022?


We had a very exciting Jan 2.

Adrienne was going to drive back to London from Sutton Courtney. She left at 2:00 PM. Plan was for Craig to drive Abigail and I to a half way point on Jan 4 – and Adrienne to pick us up there. Then Abigail’s school is still starting on Jan 5.

I’m leaving Jan 10 – so there would be a week of me taking care of Abigail before and after school – then I fly away.

Best laid plans of mice and men

We go for a lovely tea with friends of Jan and Craig – their son is Abigail’s age and they get on a house afire. So we’re enjoying ourselves when my phone rings. It’s Adrienne (and it’s now 4:00 PM – 2 hours after she left the house). I figure she’s saying – I’m home – but no. The car broke down. Died. Won’t start. Not interested. About 15 minutes away from Sutton Courtney. She thinks she might have put Disel in the gas tank (it takes gas..) – which actually turns out to be wrong – not the problem.

But it’s Jan 2 which is a Sunday – and NOTHING is moving… well, mostly nothing. It will be 2 hours MORE before Tow Truck can come and they have suggested she go back to the house. So we drop kids and other family off at a play ground and go pick up Adrienne.

We make sure she put in proper fuel (she did), and we head back to Sutton Courtney. Then we head back to where we’ve deserted the car. Then we find out that nothing is open near that location, so we sit in the cold car. I’m so cold that I wrap myself in my good coat and lie down on the back seat. Anything to stay warm.

At around 7:00 PM a Truck appears – but it’s not a ‘tow’ truck – it’s a service truck. The driver agrees that it’s not the gas – that the car is dead and needs to be towed.

Another 2 hour wait for a real ‘tow’ truck.

He kindly says – go for dinner – we will call. And we can do a ‘keyless’ tow. So don’t worry about the car – we will get it to Sutton Courtney for you some time tonight.

So where to go. Our first choice says no dice. They have lots of reservations and are running out of food. So they can’t take the risk of disappointing someone who reserved to feed 3 cold and hungry drop ins. Given that it’s Christmas time – this feels somewhat like a Christmas Story.

So we continue down the road to another ‘Gastropub’. These are pubs that have determined that the money lies in food. And it is lovely, and empty. So we go in. There’s a beautiful outdoor eating area – with working heat lamps, but the inside is the real winner. It’s a meat lovers heaven, and the decor is higher antler. Huge massive stuffed heads of various animals adorn the different small sections – but since I’m quite a meat lover – this looks wonderful.

The menu is equally inspiring. A 2 course or 3 course option for 27 or 33 GBP – or you can choose the Sunday Roast. We go for the Roast – Adrienne and I will share the Roast Platter – Craig is going for the Lamb.

We know we’re in trouble when the waiter comes to tell us that they are out of Roast. But they can sub the Lamb in the Roast Platter. We agree, and continue to wait. No bread service, but they do bring hot water – which I definitely need at this point.

The waiter finally appears with our food. Craig’s Roast Lamb is a massive plate with a large hunk of Lamb, some roast potatoes (I think they might have been sitting for hours…), and slivers of fried parsnips.

Our Roast Platter is carried out on a huge wooden carving board – and consists of bowls of the various offerings. There are 2 bowls of the Roast Lamb, plus a bowl of pork belly bites, a smaller bowl of slivered and fried plantains, two really horrid Yorkshire Puddings acting as filler around the roast lamb (oh well) and some interesting veggies that looked rather like carrots and green beans but on the sweet side. The lamb was outstanding.. yummy. So good. And the pork belly bites – well – I do love those and these were great.

I’m feeling better about the restaurant – so we foolishly get inspired by the dessert offerings – and then of course are disappointed – really horrid Rice Pudding (I refused to pay for it – yes – it was that bad) and a mediocre Bread Pudding. Since that was much better than the Rice Pudding, we finished it.

We then headed back to the house – no car yet. So we put everyone to bed – and suddenly heard the tow truck. So dead car is now sitting in the driveway.

Ok – situation – we have dead car in driveway, we are 2 hours drive from London, and there is one functional car among the family. And we are here in Sutton Courtney.

Adrienne does some research – and we decide the best bet is likely to rent a car that we can drive to London – and eventually return here on Saturday to (we hope) pick up the repaired car since there is a lovely car repair place about 10 minutes away.

So… plan for today. Mourn the car, take a walk, eat a lovely dinner – perhaps at the Swan… deal with the rest of this tomorrow.
Tomorrow is another day!

100 Best Cities in the World – the Count down Continues


So – let’s review – 50 cities – I’ve been to 28 of them. That’s 56%. Hope I do better on the next 25…

50. Dallas – Great start – I’ve been there several times. I’ve also been to Fort Worth, and most importantly – to Plano! Plano is actually a lovely suburb of the vast and massively tall buildings of Dallas. We once made the mistake of thinking that downtown Dallas might be worth a visit – on Saturday. Boy, were we wrong. Like many US downtowns – it’s a city of office buildings – alive during the day, dead at night. Really really dead on weekends. Unlike Montreal, with it’s bustle day and night – Dallas looked and felt dead that day. We left and went to the Science Center in Fort Worth (great place). But hey – things change and it’`

49. Atlanta – I was raised in Atlanta. Lived there from 1951-1966. My fondest young memory is feeding the ducks bread from our table at a lake (pond?) near our home. My memories of growing up aren’t all that wonderful generally – but I did love our yard. We lived on an acre of land – mostly woods with a creek running through it – and we had a gardener. One time a rattle snake came into the grassy part of the yard – and he had to kill it with a hoe. Very memorable. I also remember playing for hours and hours and hours in the woods. Basically by myself – but sometimes with some of the neighborhood kids – all of them boys. I was very glad to leave Atlanta when I graduated high school. At that time – 1966 – 50% of the girls in my HUGE graduating class got married within 2 weeks of graduation. I was a square peg in a round hole. I was the ONLY kid in my class who applied to college across the Mason Dixon Line. My favorite high school class – math of course. But I loved science as well. My senior year we had a science fair – and for my project – I learned to program a computer. The very first IBM 360 – it was in a AC room with a raised floor for all the cables. And the guys running it were amazed that a 16 year old GIRL (it was the GIRL that amazed them) was interested. I wanted to be an engineer. But in those days – Girls didn’t become engineers. So I settled on Math and Physics. Up hill battle even so. None of this described Atlanta however. Last time I visited it was a lot like Dallas. Huge downtown with towering office buildings and not many folks actually living there. Vibrant suburbs – still segregated to this day. Oh well.

48. Orlando. Another easy one. I love Disney anything.. I’m a Disney nut. I’d have worn Disney clothing with princesses if it came in boy stylings. I’ve taken my kids, I’ve gone with my sister Carrie (we rode King Kong at Universal so many times they allowed us to just sit in the front rather than run thru the maze). I’ve taken my grand-kids. I think that Disney blew it big time when they lost out to Universal on Harry Potter – but I love Harry Potter lands to death. I adore the Star Wars section of Disney Hollywood – and I’m a true believer in the Avatar lands. Memories of Orlando are many – although I think my favorite was when we took Sophie (about 3 at the time). She was up up up – then asleep. She slept thru every dinner, thru meeting Belle, thru truly expensive Princess dinner parties. But her highlight – having a short conversation with Rapanzel over how to wash hair…

47. Calgary – Wow – if this list sticks to North America – I’m golden. Ok- Calgary – definitely a yes. We took all 3 of my kids on a trip to Banff and the National Parks and started in Calgary. Huge empty streets except for the street walkers. My oldest son – Robert (12 at the time) – wanted to know what these ladies were doing. They would hang around the nearby all night convenience store because it had a pay phone. We’d go to the place to grab a treat before bed. Paths crossed. Questions were answered… maybe.

46. Copenhagen – well – I’m not surprised this city made the list, it’s cool. I’ve been to Copenhagen, but I was really young (like 20), I saw the Mermaid, I caught a ferry back to England. All I remember.

45. Tel-Aviv – Check that guy off too! After the war in 1976 we got really concerned about the long range life span of Israel, and felt we had to visit while there was still an Israel to visit. Went with my oldest (only at that time) son – who was just 18 months old. We camped our way around most of Israel, visited the Sinai (at that time part of Israel), and even went snorkeling in Elat. I managed to leave my passport at the cable car station at Masada, ended up driving back to get and went to the wrong side of the mountain! With an 18 month old kid and a stroller. And weather over 100 degrees. The Israel army took pity on me – and a solider went to the Cable car base, got my passport – took the cable car up the mountain and then RAN down the Roman road to where I was sitting in the shade with Robert. He gave me my passport and than RAN back up the Roman road. These guys are fit.

44. San-Paulo. Knew it wasn’t going to last. On my short list. Oh well.

43. Frankfurt – Been there. Got bumped off an airplane and had to spend the night. Toured the city. The sidewalks were covered in dog poop. In those days – they didn’t have ‘clean up after your pet’ laws – so folks just let the dogs poop as needed. Horrid. You couldn’t look up to admire the architecture or even straight ahead to watch for traffic lights. If you didn’t watch your feet – you walked in it!

42. Hong-Kong – Been There. Sadly. Unfortunately for Hong-Kong – we had to leave Kyoto to fly to Hong-Kong. I really didn’t want to leave Kyoto – and arriving in Hong-Kong was literally a flight into hell. The airplane had to dip between two mountain peaks on the way in – and the belly of the plane scraped the tops of buildings on the descent. The streets were packed – and folks walked around/over/ignored the millions of beggars in the streets. I’m not good with places where there are really really wealthy people living on top of really really poor people. And there are really really poor people in Hong-Kong living on boats with no proper water or toilets, living in slums, living on the streets. Our hosts did their level best to impress us – but I left thinking – never coming back.

41. Montreal – I live here! Wow – I live in one of the World’s Best Cities. But I knew that. I adore my city, it has everything except perfect weather… Outside of say February and March – when only the insane lie here – it’s great. Our version of a heat wave is when it get’s above 90 – and even then, it doesn’t last long. Our spring is too short (we go from covered in Snow to covered in flowers in under 30 days – often with a snow storm thrown in to make sure we’re paying attention). We have great theatre (read my blog if you don’t believe me), we have great Festivals – Fringe is just one – but there’s the Laugh Fest, The Jazz Fest, Formula 1, The Graffiti Fest, Movie Fest after Movie Fest – it’s a never ending cycle of things to do and see. Well – not during Covid of course. During Covid we’ve gotten to respect our multitude of fabulous parks, walking paths, bike lines and out door markets. Our restaurants have rediscovered the delights of having a veranda – and out door dinning – even out door FINE dinning is the newest in thing. No – we’re not perfect – but we’re close. I’m super glad I live here. And I dearly wish I didn’t have to stay in February and March like I did this year.

Ok – I’m Pausing again. Of these 10 cities – I’ve been to 9 of them. So out of 60 cities I’m up to 37 – or 61.666%… That’s pretty decent.

Stay tuned to find out who made the top 40 cities of the world… You might want to start making your own lists actually.

Signing off for now – but promising to finish the list some time this summer… (that gives me a lot of space, eh?)

The Soup Lady!

Fringing Out In Montreal – 2021


OMG – Theatre is finally happening in Montreal.

The Fringe Festival 2020 – like most things 2020 – was canceled. But this year the rules have relaxed sufficiently to encourage the organizers to take a chance. About 60% of the offerings are on line – via Fringe TV of all things – but they have 5 locations with live theatre happening.

And the Intrepid Traveler and I didn’t need a second invite! No sooner had they announced the line-up then we went on line to grab tickets. At $8 to $12 a piece, Fringe tickets are bargains – worth the price admission for sure.

We ended up with performances spread out over a week and a half. And we saw 6 different theatre experiences. (In the Fringe Universe – calling things ‘plays’ can be a bit of a stretch!)

Worst of the bunch – a forgettable two person musical experience called Blxck Cxsper: No Justice, No Peace. I think the mis-spellings should have been the indication that this was going to be a mistake. The main performer mumbled so badly into the mike as to be completely unintelligible. I think the point was how to explain how conflicted it would be to be a super hero – but this point was lost in the unintelligible mumble. Oh well. I wasn’t alone on feeling disappointed – the applause could be be described as tepid

My Favourite – Generations. Also a two person event – this was a one act play happening over several years. It mapped the development of a relationship between a mother and daughter – and explored how immigrant parents and their too Canadianized youngsters deal with that divide. At one point the daughter takes out her cell phone, and the two start swiping left and right thru potential matches. When the Mother makes a ‘Match’ – causing chimes to ring on the cell phone – she explodes in Glee – it’s a Doctor! I knew you’d get a Doctor! I had trouble stopping my laughter.

Interesting – The Celebrity Obsession

Awesomely good (but with a flawed ending) – for some reason, the heroine stripped naked. I’m not sure why though, and it kinda distracted me.

The Space Between – Much better. This is a wonderfully performed story of a chance encounter between one woman and another. The heroine has just suffered a terrible loss, and her new friend invites her to a seance where she could contact her lost buddy. Turn out it’s Halloween Eve that she decides to follow thru on this lead – and things decidedly go downhill from there. It’s cute – fast paced, and very cool. The ending is just that – and end – but the rest – adorable!

And earning a – I’m so glad I went award – GlenMary Kate Moss. The description implied this would be a gender twisted version of the famous Glengarry Glen Ross. The first thing to note – it was sold out, and sold out fast. But why that happened became obvious when we walked into the theatre. This play was being performed in a standard theatre format – 6 rows of adjoining seats, tightly spaced together, about 120 seats altogether. In order to cope with the rules of Covid Social Distancing, the theatre folks had put black drapes over most of the seats – leaving just 25 seats available – all spaced 1.5+ meters apart on the sides and on the back. I’ll bet they could have sold out the original 120!

Anyway – back to the story of GlenMary KateMoss. The idea, like the play that inspired it, is that there is a group of people who are scam artists – knowingly selling folks on land that isn’t habitable. That’s a story as old as time – they are selling the dream. And these ladies are good at it. What they aren’t good at is liking each other! It’s the cat fights and the crafty manipulation of the facts and the story that keeps you focused. Add to that some pretty decent singing and dancing – and you’ve got great Fringe Theatre. I loved it.

And the best of the bunch – yes, better than Generations although less poignant and personal – Spiral. This one is truly challenging to describe. On stage is a giant Rube-Goldberg device, and there to make it work is the maker and fixer of all things. Our heroine starts off by creating light, then dark, then light – just to show that she can, and then proceeds to explain how disappointed she is in how hard we’ve been trying to break her inventions. She has the audience using raised hands to fess up to their part in making the mess she has to fix – Were you always nice to your parents? Did you ever Gossip? Have you ever stolen anything. Meanwhile she is tinkering with the device, fixing this, repairing that until – at the end – in a truly glorious reminder of how great she really is – the thing works!

I’m reminded of the MEME that my daughter once described to me. Folks are describing how bad things have become and a woman labeled “Mother Nature’ says – “Hold my purse for a moment” and rolls up her sleeves.

It was a fabulous Fringe – albeit shortened and tightened and abbreviated. I loved every minute of it.

Signing off to see if there’s any more theatre happening in my great city…

The Soup Lady

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

Bears – There are Bears in Beaconsfield


This is not a joke. I’m serious. You know that nature is taking back the world – at least our part of the world – with great enthusiasm. Well – apparently that includes the bears!

I was sitting – ok – playing bridge – I admit it – at the table in our eating area that looks over my back-yard. It has a nice view of my bird feeders, and I do enjoy watching the birds battle it out over the last peanut.

Some how – it’s always the Squirrels that win. But that’s off topic.

It’s dark out – so all I can really see is the lit marble statue that stands regally keeping guard over our back yard. And I hear odd noises. Like a steel bell being rung.. or clanged.. Very strange.

On my bird feeder is a raccoon baffle – it’s a large cylinder of black metal that is designed to make it impossible for raccoons (and for squirrels – the real enemy of bird feeders) to climb the pole from which I hang the feeders.

This baffle has worked wonders for years and years. It’s kept both the squirrels – numbering in the ‘lots and lots’ at bay – and nary a raccoon has braved our backyard.

But tonight – there is an animal on the pole – and it’s not a small animal either. Bigger than a raccoon – and effectively standing on it’s hind legs, leaning against the raccoon baffle and reaching up into the wooden bird feeder!

I’m as scared and shocked to see it as it is to see me! And after a brief moment of eye contact – round head, can’t see a nose he’s looking right at me – and two very erect ears – the animal falls to 4 legs and lops off into the trees around my yard.

I call my husband – who effectively says – I’m dreaming. It wasn’t even a raccoon – what was I drinking…

The next day – the news is FILLED with photos and reports of a young brown bear that has been seen around our area of Lakeshore! They finally tree it around 1:00 PM on Sunday – and manage to tranquilize it by 4-5:00 PM. The bear will be taken off island (Far off island) and released.

That was the animal at my feeder! A young brown bear.

My husband now reminds me that I have a phone with a flash – and could have taken a picture.

Right. Next time.

Signing off to see if there are any more bears in my backyard. 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