Day 9 – Laugh a little – it’s good for the immune system


Seriously – I’m sure there is some study out there that proves that laughing improves the ability of white blood cells to fight off COVID-19. Must be right?

In any case – my daughter-in-law has been gleefully sharing jokes related to the epidemic with me – so on the eve of my getting on an airplane (that’s scary) to leave my safe haven (also scary) – I share with you some humour.

What if they close the Grocery Stores? We’ll have to hunt for our own food. I don’t even know where Doritos live!

Like a Good Neighbor – Stay Over There —->

First time in History we can save the world by laying down in front of the TV and doing nothing. Let’s not Screw This UP!

A link to a song that sums it up – Stay the F*ck at Home – so worth a listen!

Thoughts and prayers going out to all those Married Men who’ve spent months telling the wife – I’ll do that when I have the time.

Every few days it would be smart to put your jeans on to be sure they still fit. Pajamas and Sweats will have you believe that all is well.

Now that we have everyone washing their hands correctly – Next week Turn Signals!

Wanna find out who your real friends are? Ask them to borrow a roll of toilet paper!

Yet another great video worth watching – again shared by my daughter-in-law – and trust me this one is really funny – in a serious way: Flatten the curve\

Single man with Purcell seeking Woman with Toilet Paper for good clean fun

Ladies – time to start dating the older dudes – They can get you in the Grocery Store Early

I know that there are a lot more in this vein out there – I saw a bunch that basically made light of all the sports cancelations – implying that men suddenly realized there was a wife in the house.. Like all jokes – funny because they have a grain of truth in them.

True – but still very funny – the Leader of Quebec has decided that during this crisis all stores need to close on Sunday – even Grocery stores. Why? All workers need a day off. (Why am I leaving my island hide-away to go home I am forced to wonder…)

So share any jokes you have here – and remember – Orange Juice and Laughter are great for the immune system.

Be safe

Be healthy

Signing off to spend 25 hours getting from my island to my home in Montreal – all the while keeping social Distance and wiping down surfaces… The world has never been so clean…

The Soup Lady

Day 8 – We must leave our island hide-away


The borders are closing and the flights out of here are getting canceled.

As much as I’d rather hide here on the island – we have just 9 COVID-19 cases on the island – we need to get back to Canada while the getting is still possible.

We had a flight planned that would leave the island around 3:30 in the afternoon, getting us home (via Miami) at around midnight. But the direct flight from Miami to Montreal was an early casualty of the need to cut back on planes flying empty.

Our next option – leave early in the morning – fly to Miami, from there to Chicago, and then home. The idea of spending 4 hours in the Chicago Airport exposed to all those travellers was frankly scaring me to bits – but at least it was just one day.

Now the morning flight from St. Croix has been canceled.

We have to go to Miami and spend the night in a hotel there. Then in the morning – we need to get back to the airport – from there via Philly home.

I called the hotel – who warned us that food service is very restricted – basically carry out only and eat in your room. And there are no services in the hotel – no pool, no sauna, no nothing… and no loitering in the lobby.

On the good news side – they are using serious measures to sanitize the rooms – and I trust them to do what they say.. It’s a very nice hotel, and I think they would make every effort possible to make sure we’re safe.

So that’s the plan.

I’ll report on how it goes when it goes….

Signing off to wish her husband of 50 years a very happy 70th birthday – The Soup Lady

Day 6 – Advice on home schooling – from an Expert!


I read this on one of my absolute favourite sources of interesting news and health info – the Tufts University Newsletter – called “Tufts Now” (google it already) and thought it good enough to share. Enjoy.

The author of the piece is Taylor McNeil – and his email address is at the bottom.

He starts off with a fabulous quote by a British Professor forced to home-school his 6 year old. After 30 minutes – he tweeted – School Teachers should earn a Million Pounds a year for doing this!

Having been lucky enough to ‘home-school’ two of my grand-kids for several years – I share both the pain and the joy of spending hours and hours with a young person. It’s not an easy task – and my best advice is to break it down into small, extremely manageable bits. We can keep focus a lot longer than a 3, 5, 7, you name it, year old. Teachers know that short and sweet and highly focused beats out long, boring, slow paced learning.

In any case – what follows is the text of his article. It’s basically suggestions by a senior lecturer in the Department of Eduction, and I’d suspect taken from a paper. But it does contain some really good ideas for all those parents out there now getting up each morning to the ‘sunny’ faces of their kids – ready to start the day with a lesson. Or two.

“That doesn’t mean there are not things we can all do with our children, said Erin Seaton, a senior lecturer in the Department of Education in the School of Arts and Sciences. From creating new routines to devising project-based learning, she thinks parents can turn a potentially distressing time to an opportunity for new types of learning.

At the same time, she recommends talking with your child about the changes going on in the world. “Take cues from their questions, and respond with honesty and reassurance,” she said. “Seek out support,” she added. “Ask friends and relatives what they are doing to keep busy.”

Here are Seaton’s recommendations about how to help children cope with so much time isolated at home.

Routines are important. In a chaotic and uncertain world, schools can provide a structure that is comforting to a child. Losing this routine can leave children unsettled. Think about when your child will do best with more structured times, and when you need your child to be independent for your own sanity or work schedule.

Invite your child to help you create a routine and try to stick with it. Build in breaks, and if you can, try to find time for your child to go outside. Think about spaces that are best for working and learning—sharing these can be challenging. Try to carve out a corner or counter space for your child to consistently work.

Establish screen time guidelines. Talk through screen time ahead of time, so that your child knows what the expectations are. Keep in mind that unsupervised screen time in a crisis might be scary for young children; have to-go and approved apps and programs a child can access on their own.

“Follow the child.” Italian educator Maria Montessori urges parents to “follow the child”—observe a child’s passions and tailor their education to them. Learning at home can offer children a chance to dig deeply into a subject of their own choosing, from baking to politics, video game design to volcanoes, women’s soccer to activist art.

Focus on project-based learning; help your child to identify a project they can explore deeply and without too much guidance or adult support. Can your child create their own paper basketball court and use statistics to show how they might pick their dream team? Even though they are homebound for now, could they create a travel plan and budget for a new destination, here on Earth or in space? Can they design their own future city, including the laws and policies they might enact? What would it look like if your child tried to map their neighborhood? Could they create a cookbook with favorite family recipes to share with others?

Independence is important. Montessori argued that children need to learn through experimentation and practice and that independence can build a child’s sense of confidence. In my family, there is always a tension between wanting my child to do something independently and the need to rush out the door.

Right now, parents have the gift of time. Allow a young child to practice tying their shoes or an older child an opportunity to solve a puzzle or problem without solving it for them. Likewise, don’t feel as though you need to rush in to fix every problem. Invite children to come up with their own solutions or try things first without coming to you for assistance.

Help with household chores. Inevitably, having children at home is going to create more mess, more dishes, more unidentified sticky globs on the floor and chairs and, in my house, windows. Help your child to identify some daily chores they can accomplish on their own as a part of the routine. Have your child make a box or bag or chart that lists activities they can do when they feel bored or you need them to play independently.

Keep up skills, with an accent on fun. It never hurts to practice basic skills, but allow for children to do this creatively. Playing cards and using dice can be a wonderful tool for reviewing math skills. Cooking offers ample opportunities to apply ratios or measure out fractions.

Reviewing these basic skills never hurts and can strengthen understanding for more advanced concepts, and it does not require expensive materials. Games and puzzles build skills in logic and reasoning, but also in taking turns, planning, and creative problem solving.

Make time for literacy.Reading can mean many things. Children can read directions to a game, read a book to a younger sibling, read a comic, read a newspaper story, read a biography, cut up a newspaper and arrange the words into a poem. They can write a letter to a far-off friend or a nearby neighbor who might need support, or draw a picture of what happens next in a story or movie.

Help your child to process information by asking your child about what they notice, or see, or wonder about, or what they think might happen in a story. Listen to a book online. Watch a video of a favorite author or illustrator talking about their work. Have your child film a stop-motion movie scene with toys or act out a story with their siblings or stuffed animals.

Go easy on yourself. Do what you can. These are difficult and uncertain times for parents and children. Parents will feel stressed, and children will, too. Talk about this with your child, explain how you manage stress, and invite children to help think through ways they can be more helpful or ways you can both make a difference in your own community or family. Skype with older relatives or invite them to Zoom in for dinner one night. Seek out support. Ask friends and relatives what they are doing to keep busy.

If you can, have fun. Build a fort. Have an indoor picnic. Take a walk. Make a pie. Create playlists. Have a dance party in the kitchen. Write funny tweets about how hard this is. Try to find a rhythm or a time when you can get the most work done and maximize this. In a world where children often feel over-scheduled and overwhelmed, try to frame this time as a break from the stresses and pressures children face. Offering children opportunities to go outside or experience unstructured play are valuable opportunities. “Play,” Montessori argues, “is the work of the child.””

Taylor McNeil can be reached at taylor.mcneil@tufts.edu

Interesting reading, eh? And much of it echos what I suggested for Seniors – and really for all of us. Keep busy, Make a schedule. Have Fun. Be easy on yourself. Skype. Viber. Touch Virtual Hands

Signing off to attend a meeting, play bridge, and basically be glad I’m alive. The Soup Lady

Day 5 – Reach out and Talk to a Senior


Do you know a Senior who is trapped at home alone? Reach out to them right now!

As a senior I can tell you that the hardest thing about being stuck at home is the loneliness. Seniors organized their lives to keep busy. Volunteering, playing bridge, going shopping, visiting the bank – even just walking the mall – our lives are kept organized by our schedules.

And the effect of being ‘home bound’ is to lose our schedule. My BFF – the Intrepid Traveler – is an wonderful example of how a Senior organizes her life. She volunteers at a host of different places – including two museums as a docent (volunteer guide), and also does Meals on Wheels. Her normal schedule includes swims at the Y, walks to get groceries and the like, and of course time spent going to the theatre with me. She also takes classes at our local university and volunteers there.

Expect for Meals on Wheels – all of that has ground to a halt in Montreal. No Theatre, No Museums, No shopping except for essentials, No nothing.. Now my friend has alternative resources including her daughter and grand-kids and her husband – and she’s still doing Meals on Wheels which she tells me is taking amazing precautions.

A digression here – Meals on Wheels, for those who don’t know – is a program aimed at feeding the elderly who are shut in. They sign up to get 1 or 2 meals a week which are cooked and ‘plated’ in a community kitchen. Then a team of 2 – a driver and a delivery person – take the preprepared meals to their homes. Generally the delivery person uses the ‘drop off’ as an opportunity to make sure the elderly person is in good spirts. A quick visit does that trick.

But COVID-19 concerns have changed that. Now there are two delivery persons in the car – and keep in mind that most of these volunteers are well above 70 – one to open the doors with gloves, and one to carry the meal. And no more visiting. A knock on the door (gloved hand) – a through the door – are you ok – and off they go.

In the kitchen things have changed as well. Normally the space is shared with a day care, the occasional meeting, maybe a Yoga or Tai-Chi class – but now it’s just the two cooks – staying 6 feet away from each other for safety.

End of digression

As you can imagine – my friend’s life has drastically changed – and she is not without resources. Imagine other seniors who count on their schedules to keep their lives full – now reduced to reading books or playing bridge. I have another senior friend who is coping for now with solitary walks up the mountain if it’s sunny, and a lot of reading. Her computer skills are not up to using the new technology – and she’s alone. She let me know that her daughter is calling daily- which is a help – but her social interactions have completely dried up.

So – got a senior in mind? Reach out now – and set a schedule to contact them regularly – daily if possible, but at least every other day. Even a 5 minute ‘check-in’ will provide them with something to schedule their lives around – and right now – that’s going to be a life saver.

Be safe, Be healthy – keep social distance if you must go out – and wash your hands.

Signing off to call her friends…

The Soup Lady

Day 4 – Why is Soap so great against the Coronavirus?


This is a cut and paste from a reenacting friend of ours from Malta – but it’s so well written that I just know everyone is going to be sharing it around. Read – and Wash Hands! Singing Happy Birthday twice is about 20 seconds… in case you wanted to know.

“Why can a common cleaner, available for hundreds of years be so effective against a 21-Century pandemic virus?


Well it comes down to the makeup of soap. Soap molecules have two halves, one loves water, the other loves Lipid’s, which are fats like oil and grease. The real name for these molecules is AMPHIPHILIC (amp-er-phil-ic) meaning it is Hydrophilic (loves water) and Lipophilic
(fat loving). This is what makes it so good for washing up. Soap bonds to the fats on your breakfast plate and to the water it is being washed in.
Corona Virus is made up of a ball (membrane) of Lipids containing the Virus’s RNA.

When you wash your hands, the soap lipids bond with the virus lipids and the water you are using and break the virus membrane apart, literally shredding it.


The trick is to wash long and hard enough to break all the virus membranes on your skin. 20 seconds is the average time for the bonds to break. But even if you don’t break all the membranes, the soap still clings like mad to the viruses and you wash them away under the tap.
Hand- sanitiser uses alcohol to break down the virus lipids, but it is really volatile being 60-70% alcohol, so gives it much less time to work, as it evaporates.

With soap you can just keep on going.”


Paul Osborne IEng APkgPrf MIET MIMMM
Managing Director – Performance PharmaTech Ltd.

Ok – Admit it – you read it all the way to the end right? It’s just a lovely easy read!

Be safe. Be Healthy

Wash hands!

The Soup Lady

Day 2 – and I’m already getting bored


Which is probably a good thing. Better bored than sick – Right?

London – and the UK in general – has finally started taking this thing seriously. Which is very good news. Countries like Iran – that didn’t take it seriously – are having someone die every 10 minutes – as per the latest from CNN

Everyone I know is either voluntarily self-isolating – or being mandated to do so by the government. I think this is likely a good thing, but it’s really really going to hurt small business. Actually, it may hurt any business that came into this period anything but flush with cash.

One of the CNN reports actually Refered to the Great Depression in terms of the impact this is having on the economy. But since we’re in this together, it would make sense to paddle together – so I’m thinking if you are in business – talk to your supply chain. Better to not pay them today, then for you to go bankrupt tomorrow – and so on down the line.

Canada in general, and Quebec in particularly have made downsizing the number a company must pay easier. They have removed the delay on getting Un-employment benefits – so employers can be frank with their staff. “We need to let you go – so go on Unemployment – as soon as we can, we’ll hire you back”. This works, at least in a country like Canada, in a good way. The company stands a much better chance of weathering the storm, and the employees are protected.

Think ahead. Plan for folks ordering on-line, wanting delivery to their doors with no touching, etc. I think there’s potential here for businesses to flex and change and stay in business. But being able to Flex? That’s tough.

Meanwhile – as a retired lady – stuck in the Caribbean, I’m entertaining myself by Skyping my family and friends, playing bridge on-line, and reading a book. Thank goodness the library was still open, although that might not be forever. Or even correct tomorrow!

Which would be easier if the Bridge sites weren’t finding the sheer quantity of folks trying to use them almost impossible for their servers to cope with. Which is actually kinda funny if you consider what this must mean in terms of ways to handle boredom.

Maybe my number of followers will go up?

Hope beats eternal here in St. Croix. Signing off to take a walk on the beach – and incredibly happy she’s able to do so – they are closing beaches in Pensacola… The Soup Lady

Hiding out from Coronavirus


It’s beginning to feel like this will be a marathon – not a sprint. We’re going to have to all hunker down to weather this thing out – and fortunately for me – I’m not in a decision making position.

I actually feel really bad for those in power – any kind of power – right now. And that includes my kids. Not that any of them are either medical or political in any way shape or form – but they all have folks that rely on them to make the smart decisions – and smart decisions seem to be the challenge. Is closing down the right or wrong thing to do? I’m not so sure there’s a correct answer – if you close down (as many folks have) you put people out of work at a very tough time. If you stay open, you risk their health, your health, other folks health.

So my question to you – my readers – are you hunkering down, or trying to pretend things are normal?

Personally – I’m hunkering down. The good news – if there is good news on this topic – I’m hunkering down in St. Croix, USVI. Montreal is still extremely cold, and wet, and nasty outside – our typical March – and we’d come to the island a week ago, not knowing at all that things would go from bad to incredibly scary in just 7 days.

It’s really the terrifying speed of this that’s the really worrisome part. That and the panic buying. We went to Costco in Montreal a bit over a week ago, and toilet paper was on our list. There was NONE – of any brand – to be had. Why would people think it critical to stock up on toilet paper of all things? Will we still be laughing at them in another week? Maybe they know something we don’t know? News from Heber City in Utah (I have friends there) is similar – no stock of toilet paper. As someone quipped – don’t they know this is a respiratory problem, not an intestinal one? Buy out Kleenex – that makes sense. On the other hand – on the Montreal News this morning – apparently Montreal has been restocked.

I can tell you that here on St. Croix, it’s very different. Given that stocks have to come in by barge, and running out of something means RUNNING OUT – for months – the stores seem incredibly well stocked of everything except alcohol. I think folks are taking the advice to wipe down surfaces seriously, and yes – alcohol is superior to Anti-bacterial wipes, which have no impact on viruses at all.

Which brings to mind the gal at the Plaza Extra (it’s a grocery store) here on St. Croix with her shopping cart full of big bags of anti-bacterial wipes. I think she bought out the entire shelf. Hmm.. smart? Dumb? Mis-informed? I’m not sure.

In any case – I’ve taken to checking the WHO site every day – and reading CNN – live every morning. The list of countries that have closed their borders grows and grows. I think they are going to have to start publishing a list of countries that have NOT closed their borders.

Meanwhile some news that won’t make headlines. My son has an Amazon Store that sells our Soup Bases (Luda Soup Bases) – and his team is busy filling the orders that are pouring in. Given that we sell to restaurants, we’re talking fairly large quantities of soup base, enough to feed a family for months. But our bases have a really long shelf life, so at least this buying makes sense. And my daughter – who makes and sells artisanal sausages from her own website (Crown & Queue in the UK) is also reporting an up-swing. So it wasn’t surprising to hear that Amazon is hiring 100,000 temporary workers to fill the demand.

Another no news trivia – the major on-line Bridge Playing website – Bridge Base – got overwhelmed big time this weekend. If you don’t play bridge, you won’t understand – but there are literally thousands of folks that do play bridge, most of them in Clubs scattered all over the US and Canada and the rest of the world. All have been closed – and all these folks now have time on their hands. Result – the on-line site got swamped. I’m betting that Netflix, Amazon Prime, and other’s of that ilk are also getting hit big time. My son who does IT says that the ‘Cloud’ is suffering as well.

My question to you – my readers – what are you doing? What are your kids doing? Are any of you Covid-19 positive? Did you get really sick? I realize that we’re hardly a news worthy group, but I’m wondering. Right now I don’t personally know anyone with the Virus – and I’m hoping it stays that way.

Signing off to admire the beach and sun, and hope to Heaven that this too shall pass – The Soup Lady

If Nothing goes Wrong – It’s not an Adventure!


Ugg – I hate to travel. Well, not the meeting new people, seeing new things and visiting new places part of traveling – it’s the TRAVEL part of travel that drives me bonkers.

I never sleep the night before I have to fly – too many things can go wrong… And it’s more fun to start a trip exhausted, right?

So – Night before we had to fly home from Japan was no different than any other night before a big TRAVEL – I couldn’t sleep. But eventually dawn comes, and the Intrepid Traveler – who has no such issues – wakes up cheerful as always. I’m just tired.

We spend our last day in Japan looking for souvenirs to bring home – we have lists and we try hard to get stuff folks will like without breaking our poor bank – and eventually, we head off the airport. We each buy a package of sushi to have as a last meal… The grocery store Sushi in Japan seriously rocks – it’s so yummy – and we know that whatever we’re served on the plane – this will be much better.

Quick train trip (200 Yen or $2 Canadian) and we’re at the Airport. Check-in is easy, security is easy, boarding is easy. Things are going too well to be honest.

The flight is full, full, full. My seat mate is a young man from Vietnam, heading back home to the US. The seriously older gentleman behind the intrepid Traveler is also from Vietnam, being sent to Phoenix by his family. His son dropped him at the airport – I’m guessing (hoping) that another family member is going to meet him in Phoenix. He’s just a bit confused about why he’s on the airplane, but the crew takes it in stride and gets him seated and his carry-on bag safely stowed above his head.

This is actually a problem. He wants his bag, speaks neither Japanese nor English, and gets more and more concerned about his bag as the pre-flight stuff moves forward. The plane takes off – and he’s quickly up and moving around trying to locate his bag. I only know this because the only person on the plane who can talk to him and also talk to the crew is my seat mate.

Apparently the older gentleman doesn’t understand that the plane is in the air – and wants to get out. He also wants his bag. And he’s roaming around thru economy, Economy Plus, and First Class. The flight crew really don’t want him roaming First Class – Economy is apparently ok.

The crew has their hands full trying to get him to stay seated. With the help of my seat mate, eventually they realize that they need to let him hold his carry-on – at least he’s less alarmed when he knows where that is.

During the entire 13 hour flight – he’s either getting up, sitting down, being calmed down by the crew, trying to roam into first class, or finally – sleeping. The crew apologizes to me, to the Intrepid Traveler, to his seat mates, and basically to everyone in our area, but there is little to be done.

Mostly we’re all pretty annoyed. It’s clear that his family had to know that he wasn’t going to handle a long flight very well, but they didn’t plan enough to put a family member on the flight with him. Nor did they warn the airline. In chatting with the crew, they are very concerned that he needs to change planes in Dallas, and since no one is meeting him in there, they are worried about how that is going to happen. I understood their concern – what I didn’t realize was that no one was changing planes in Dallas!

Neither the Intrepid Traveler nor I can really do anything to help (we don’t speak Vietnamese)- so I watch movie after movie, and the Intrepid Traveler tries to sleep. It’s tough to do with him constantly pulling on her seat to get up, or banging her seat when he gets escorted back and forced to sit.

But all things must end, and eventually we arrive in Dallas.

I’ve now been over 24 hours without sleep – so I guess that explains what else goes wrong.

We need to change terminals – but since we have 3 hours between flights, it’s not a big deal. We go thru security and customs into the US – our bags are booked thru to Canada, so it’s just us and our tiny backpacks. We then re-enter the airport thru US security (again – no problems), and find what our gate number is for the flight to Montreal.

Quick note for those who don’t normally fly into Canada from the US. Major airports in Canada (Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary) actually have US border control. So you officially leave Canada for the US before you leave Canada. And the reverse is also true. The flight going from Dallas to Montreal is a US controlled flight. We don’t go thru passport control until we get to Montreal. So in effect, we physically entered the US when we got off the plane from Japan – and won’t ‘leave’ the US until we physically arrive in Canada. That’s going to make a difference shortly!

Anyway – we are now in the Dallas airport – without our luggage – it’s bound for Canada. We make our way to our gate – and we sit and wait. There’s a lot of people roaming around – and we’re hearing bits and pieces of conversation. “I’m not sure where to spend the night”, “I hope they get us out of here”, “Any news on our flight?” Under normal circumstances I’d have reacted – but I was working out 26 hours of no sleep and counting – so I ignored the warning signs.

My bad on that one.

Our gate agent announces that the flight from Montreal is slightly delayed, but should arrive shortly. Then she announces that the flight has arrived and we’ll be boarding shortly. Then she announces that while the plane and our crew are here, our pilots were bumped off their flight into Dallas and are stuck in San Antonio. But no worries – they will arrive soon. Then she announces – we’re boarding.

I’m still obvious to the problem… and quietly wait to board.

We get on the plane, and I start to watch a movie. Another bad move – I don’t notice that our pilots still haven’t arrived.

Suddenly – our pilots do arrive – and announce that they don’t think there is enough fuel in the plane – they have sent out for more.

Then they announce that they just realized that there is a curfew in Montreal – planes can’t land after a certain time, so they are trying to get the curfew lifted for us.

Then the steward announces that the pilots have been working for too many hours – they have to find us new pilots.

Then the steward asks us to leave the plane, take all our belongings with us – just for a few minutes.

As I’m exiting the plane – I’m now at almost 30 hours with no sleep – I spot the sign that says – flight canceled!

What – our flight has been canceled. You are kidding me!

It’s now 10:30 PM in Dallas – there is no way we are leaving here tonight. Best hope is tomorrow.

We have no luggage – just the clothes we have on. The Intrepid Traveler doesn’t even have her toothbrush.

But I know how to use Hotwire – and I quickly book us an inexpensive hotel that offers a free Airport Shuttle. And then call American to see if I can get us rebooked.

I’m still on the phone (on hold of course) as we make our way to the Customer Service (or really – Customer no service) Desk. It turns out that things are worse than I thought. There is only one way to get us out of Dallas on Thursday – they offer us a 16 hour, 2 stop, overnight trip that would get us into Montreal late on Friday.

I ask to speak to a manager. Surely there’s another airline that has seats available?

No luck. Every airline is booked solid. There have been huge weather issues all over the central US and flights were delayed and canceled – shoving everyone into a frenzy. We could get one seat maybe – but not two. Won’t happen.

Meanwhile the automated system books us onto the non-stop that leaves at 7:00 PM on Friday. That’s almost 48 hours away!

We decide to accept that option, and after being sure our luggage is really, seriously, completely impounded – you can’t not have it – we head to our hotel.

On the way to the hotel, we realize that both of our husbands are going to wake up Thursday morning wondering where we are… so we dash off emails to them on our way out of the airport.

I’m now at 31 hours with no sleep – and definitely not thinking clearly.

I managed to book us a hotel with a shuttle that stops running at 8:00 PM – it’s now almost 11:30 PM. Thank goodness I know how to use my Uber App!

That at least goes well. Our Uber arrives – and drives us to our hotel. On the way it finally dawns on me that I have family in Plano, Texas. So I ask – how far is it to Plano? Answer – 25 minutes.

Ah Ha – Maybe I’ve got Thursday night solved!

Yup – family is willing and able to put us up for Thursday night (and keeps asking why we didn’t come Wednesday night). We spend Wednesday night in our hotel and wake up feeling a whole lot better about the world in general, and Dallas in particular. We have a decent North American style cheap hotel breakfast – Make it yourself waffles, eggs that saw a chicken somewhat recently, and sweet pasty. The best part – unlimited coffee. I’m so happy. The Intrepid Traveler enjoys her tea.

We take the now operational shuttle back to the airport, pick up a rental car, and drive out to visit my relatives for 2 days. They kindly lend us clothes (our suitcases aren’t going anywhere but Montreal – end of story), feed us, bed us, and let us use their pool.

You have to love family in a crisis.

On Friday the weather has cleared, the planes are operating normally and alls well with the world.

We drive back to the airport, return the rental car, and head out. Thank goodness no further adventures await us – the rest of the trip goes painlessly. We arrive in Montreal on time – and low and behold – there’s our luggage!

All’s Well that Ends Well.

Signing off to catch up on much needed sleep – The Soup Lady and the Intrepid Traveler.

Day 1 – The Adventure begins in Narita


(Oops – this never got published… so going back in time…)

The Intrepid Traveler and I are off on another of our adventures. This time we’ve chosen Japan. I know that the idea of a budget trip to Japan seems completely crazy – and I admit to being concerned – Japan is hardly considered budget traveler friendly – but here we are.

To make a budget trip these days of raising costs, no travel agents, and internet reservations requires not only confidence, but also a fair bit of bravery. The Intrepid Traveler comments here that Stupidity probably helps too. Not for us the well known brands – the closest we are going to get to a Hilton, a Marriott, or even a Comfort Inn is going to be the bathrooms!

So for the past 6 months I’ve been scouring Air BnB to find the right combination of price, location, availability, and facilities to meet our needs. We want to stay under $50 a night per person for lodging, and to be honest, it’s better for our budget if we run at around $25 a night per person. Canadian. And we want places that are close to public transit, walking distance to main sights, and highly recommended. We know from past trips that having access to a Kitchen is critical for keeping costs down, so that’s high on our list of need to have. We also enjoy meeting people, so a place that has more than just us as guests is automatically given a higher priority.

We do not need a private bathroom, although it’s preferred. And we can handle stairs – as long as it is not a 6 floor walk-up like we got hit with in Russia.

As all trips must – we started in Montreal by getting on an airplane. The lowest cost option was to break our flight in Dallas – so we flew first to Texas to enjoy some BBQ, then got on our flight to Narita.

To our amazement, the economy section was empty. I mean like – empty. I had a full row of 4 seats to myself, and the Intrepid Traveler, who is shorter than I am, took a row of 3 for herself. She was able to put her back against the side of the plane, and stretch her legs completely out.

Service was blisteringly fast. There was a full crew for about 1/3 the normal number of economy guests – so the crew could literally race down the aisles.

Interesting to note – the tiny section of ‘Option Plus’ was full – not an empty seat. So we were far more comfortable in budget economy. And on a 13 hour flight – you definitely want to be able to stretch out. I chatted with some of the attendants – and they told me this was a rare fluke. The flights out of Japan this week are over-booked. So they too were relaxing a bit before the hard work of the return trip began.

We arrived in Japan feeling, while not 100% – not completely 0% either. I’d booked what I’d hoped was a proper hotel (the APA Hotel in Narita) for our first night, knowing that after getting off that flight I wasn’t going to be able to cope with complex navigation problems. It is the most expensive place we will be staying – at a whopping $118 Canadian a night – but I figured I wasn’t going to be up to handling language challenges after the flight.

And I was right. On the booking confirmation were the times and location of the free shuttle from the airport to our chosen Palace – and while the line for check-in was surprisingly long, after about 45 minutes we were given the keys to our ‘Small Double Room with Bath and Breakfast Included’.

Small doesn’t really describe our room. It has all the essentials squeezed into the smallest possible space. The room is a rectangle – barely twice the width of the door. Actually – I think it is less than twice the width of the door.

There is a double bed that fills most of the space, with a desk featuring a 55″ TV that takes up all the rest. You can’t walk straight down the space between the desk and the bed – you must slide down sideways.

There is absolutely no closet, no drawers, no storage of any kind. The tea kettle is on the floor under the desk, and there are 2 mugs on a shelf. The required bathrobes – generally provided at all Japanese hotels – were on the bed along with the ‘Ruses for using the public bath’. There were 2 hangers on hooks in the space opposite the bathroom door. When we put our door key card in a slot, the electricity went on, and lights glowed, a most welcome sight.

The bathroom was almost as large as the bed. And was fully equipped with a 1/2 size deep soaking tub, a sink and a proper Japanese toilet with bidet functions. That said – the toilets in the Airport had bidet functions! This is Japan – proper toilets are a must.

Our first challenge was to just slide open the floor to ceiling drapes that covered the far wall of the room. I always like to see the view, and I prefer ‘real’ light. I think I might have been the first guest to do so, the dust from moving the drapes was considerable. But never mind, I found a shelf – and that was perfect for putting my purse. And our view was acceptable – over the center of Narita towards a forest of trees.

Our next challenge was to locate the light switches for the bathroom. Ok – I know – they should be near the door to the toilet – at least they would be in Canada. But diligent searching found no trace of a switch near the bathroom door. No switch on the outside of the bathroom, nor on the inside of the bathroom. Where could they be hidden? Diligent switching on and off of all switches in the room finally identified them. They were above the bed!

Also above the bed was a built-in clock radio and room control unit. Labels were in Japanese and English (thank goodness) or we’d have never figured things out. All the light switches for the room were on this unit – except the bathroom and ‘hall’ lights. Those were independent switches. The ‘hall’ switch was right near the door – it’s only the bathroom switch that proved a bit odd. And the knob on the radio (it might not be a radio actually – I can’t see a tuner) controlled the night light.

Being really good friends, the Intrepid Traveler and I worked out how to get our clothes out of our suitcases (a challenge when there isn’t enough room to put our tiny carry out bags sideways to open them), and got into bed.

I’m going to sleep – and deal with my lack of time zone correctness in the morning. Which explains why I’m blogging at 2:00 AM Japanese time!

On the bus ride here we spotted Cherry Blossoms – and the promising buds of flowers of all kinds. Tomorrow will be another travel day – we have to get to our lodging in Tokyo, but once there and settled in – we can begin exploring Japan.

Signing off to go back to bed…

The Soup Lady

Narita – Worth staying at least 2 nights!


Most folks just pass thru Narita on their way to Tokyo or Kyoto – If they sleep even one night in town, it’s to rest up after their flight – and then to quickly race off to other parts of Japan.

But that’s not fair to Narita. It’s a very famous place in it’s own right! One of Japan’s most famous and most often visited pilgrimage sites is right here in Narita – the Naritasan Shinshoji temple.

This is a huge complex – dating back to the beginning of Buddhism here in Japan – and is well worth a long visit. Particularly special is their three times a day services in the main hall. These feature some amazing drumming – and were very very different from the services we saw in Koyasan.

This temple has been performing a Goma (fire burning) ritual every day for over 1000 years. No matter what your religious affliction – that’s a lot of devotion!

And I had to see it. So we got organized, left our absolutely lovely Air BnB lodging, and went to Temple.

The service started with a brief introduction in Japanese – to a congregation of almost 500 people. There were 4 sections of participants. two large groups kneeling quite near the center alter on the right and left, a much larger group kneeling in front of the altar, and then the senior group. We were sitting on benches that ran along the back wall – with a good view and no kneeling required.

I expected something similar to the morning prayers in Koyasan – but what happened was very different. The service started with the entry of the monks – about 10 of them in formal attire. The main monk seated himself in front of the altar, the gong rang out in the courtyard, the lights dimmed, and a monk sounded a single, extremely loud, Thump on the giant Taiko Drum. That started the service. The monks said some prayers that clearly the gather congregants knew, and then there was some gong ringing and drumming. Suddenly a huge fire burst out in front of the main monk. We were blocked by his body from the bottom of the flame, but the top was easily a body length above his head. This was a signal for everyone to get up and line up to the right and left of the altar.

The Intrepid Traveller and I tried to decide in our own minds, what they might be doing. Comparing notes I thought they were going to do confession, the Intrepid Traveler thought that they were going to a lesson or communion. But it turns out they weren’t doing either. They were handing bags and purses and personal belongings to the helper monks, who were bringing these items to the altar and exposing them – briefly – to the flames.

We had read up on the Goma ritual – and the idea is that the flames represent the wisdom of the Buddha of Unmoving Knowledge – and they burn away the root causes of your suffering. Bu exposing your belongings to the fire, you are allowing the wisdom of the Buddha to impact your life.

Obviously as soon as I realized this was what was happening, I got up with my backpack and joined the line.

After the service ended – folks again lined up – this time to run their hands along a staff that ran in front of the main Buddha. We never figured out why they did this – but it’s been happening for a really long time. The staff was carefully wrapped in ropes to prevent it from being worn away by hundreds of hands, multiple times a day.

Great Service, very interesting Temple, lovely walking meditation garden. This shrine was a definite winner.

We did also had an incidence of ‘Japanese nabbing’. I left the Intrepid Traveller alone for just a minute – and when I got back, she had disappeared. Two older Japanese ladies had grabbed her and forced her to go with them into the tea room for a cup of tea. They spoke no English, so she felt the polite thing to go was to go with with them.

While she was being polite, I spent several anxious minutes wondering where she’d gone when she finally re-appeared to explain that she just had to drink the offered tea – it would have been rude to have refused.

Lunch was in a traditional Eel house. It turns out that Narita is famous for it’s ell restaurants – they are the preferred food of pilgrims – health restoring and considered beneficial after a long trek. And the Eel restaurants in Narita have been serving this dish for over a hundred years. We sat down in a traditional looking restaurant, but with a hole for your legs – no kneeling unless you wanted to – and ordered a meal of eel to share.

It was delicious – and the tea (both hot and cold) was unlimited and free. We were the only westerner’s in the place – it was packed with Japanese – so you know it’s the right place. Delightful meal – and a great way to end our trip to Japan. Tomorrow we are heading for home.

A note on shopping in Narita. We happened into the two largest grocery stores we’ve seen in Japan here in Narita. The land is clearly cheaper – and the shoppers clearly either locals or pilgrims to the shrine – not a foreigner in site.

The sushi selection in the 2nd of the grocery stores we found was unreal. So fresh, so beautiful and so reasonably price. $5.00 Canadian ($6.00 US) got you a platter of at least 8 different sushi option. And need we say delicious?

We are so glad we opted to spend two nights in Narita. It’s a really cool spot – well worth visiting. If you come – check out the Aeon Mall – and buy the sushi. And of course – have at least one eel dinner.

Signing off to get our selves to the airport – our flight home awaits.

The Soup Lady and the Intrepid Traveler