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

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 – 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

Got my 2nd Dose!


And so far, so good. Nothing exciting to report for sure.

I’m in Quebec, and the rule here is first dose first – we’ll see on the 2nd dose. So I got my first dose as soon as I could make a reservation. And as reported prior – it went very well. I was really impressed with the efficiency and effectiveness of the process, how it was handled, how safe I felt.

Now that 70% of Quebecers have their first doses – the folks challenged with organizing this has added numerous walk-in clinics.

So if you can’t figure out how to make a reservation (such a challenge – NOT) – you can just walk in.

We heard from a friend that if we walked into a clinic – and apparently there are no lines at the walk-in clinics – a steady flow, but no waiting – and they feel good about the quantity of vaccines they have on hand – they will go ahead and give you your 2nd dose. Even if officially it’s not really your turn.

So we decided to give it a try.

We showed up at 8:30 AM at our local walk-in clinic – armed with our paper receipt showing the date and location of our first dose, and our OCR Code that was sent by the Government showing the same information.

At the door we went thru exactly the same routine as we’d done before. Take off your mask, clean your hands, take one of our N95 masks – put it on. Then the young man asked why we’d come. When we said we wanted our 2nd dose – he handed us a purple card and sent us to the left – clearly marked – Walk-in Clinic.

Naturally I asked why the purple card – but he just gestured me onwards.

We follow the arrows (these folks LOVE arrows on the floor – there is a LARGE arrow every 2 paces or so. No getting lost. No getting confused. No going the wrong way…

Another lady greets us, again asks why we came – we explain that our first dose what Pfizer and we’d like a 2nd dose if possible. She asks when our first dose was given. March 11. 12 weeks ago. She checks with a lady in a lab coat – who tells us – Ok – we have sufficient vaccines – go ahead.

Cool – that’s very cool.

Now it’s a lot more following the arrows and hand sanitizing. We check in at the registration desk, she cancels our reservation for July 1 at the hockey arena and adds a reservation for our 2nd dose on her computer at this location. Then she switches our purple card (Astra Zenica) to blue (Pfizer) and sends us onward.

Hand Sanitizer again – and now a lady asks if we need any more information about the shot (nope – got it the first time), asks the basic questions – any allergies, any illness, have you had Covid recently. Have you been tested recently (nope to both). Double checks that it’s ok to give us a 2nd shot – Lady in Lab coat says it’s fine. And on we go.

Next stop – after MORE hand sanitizing – we sit and get our shots.

Next stop – (whew – no hand sanitizing required) – the ‘waiting area’ for 15 minutes.

I’m curious as to the movement of the vaccines as I watch a ‘runner’ bring a blue large piece of laminated paper to one of the folks administering the shots with clearly several syringes attached. I’m guessing – Blue – Pfizer.

So – I ask.

Yup – that’s exactly how they control the distribution of the vaccines. The gal in the lab coat – who is the pharmacist- explains that they keep the vaccines in the deep freezer. Take out one vial at a time, that’s 6 shots. 2 per person giving the vaccines. That avoids the vaccines getting ‘spoilt’. If they are busier, they will take out more vials. But the check-point is at the entrance where we first met her. She keeps track of incoming folks – and times the syringe preparation accordingly.

Cool.

So onwards and upwards. By June 17th we should be as protected as we can be. Although there is now mutterings about a booster – I’ve heard that from my daughter in London as well as on the news around here. Wouldn’t surprise me.

I’m not pleased to see pictures of folks marching without masks and with kids and no social distancing. I think they are being very irresponsible to be honest. Even if they don’t care if they hurt themselves, I for one would like this over, and this kind of behaviour just gives the Virus more fertile ground.

But it’s not my job! I’m working hard on staying safe and out of harms way. And I’m encouraging my kids and friends to do the same. My Job is done!

Be safe and be healthy.

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

Vaccines for All – Quebec’s approach…


I live in Canada – Quebec – and with the travel restrictions in place – can’t ‘travel’ to improve my odds of getting a vaccine. I’m stuck here – and I’m stuck with how Quebec has decided this will be getting done.

So – After a great deal of excitement and political uproar – our Prime Minister – Justin Trudeau – announced that Canada has purchased tons of Vaccines. That’s the good news. The bad news – none of these are made in Canada – so getting the vaccines here – that’s the rub.

The European Union has decided to require all the Vaccine Manufacturers to fulfill all orders for European Countries before they fill orders for other countries (ie: Canada). This sounds like really BAD news – but there’s a good news component. The good news is that the European Countries haven’t actually gotten around to ORDERING large quantities of the Vaccines yet – so after a bit of a slow start – Vaccines have been rolling into Canada at a steadily increasing rate.

And the policy here in Quebec at least has been – get those vaccines into arms as soon as we can – using our 10 step priority list.

First up – homeless, folks in the far north, and staff and guests in old-age homes. These are the groups that have the most limited access to health care and/or died in alarming numbers in the spring. At this point – March 12 – apx 80% of all folks in old-age home have gotten at least one shot.

As the numbers of folks in that priority group dwindled, the government announced that the next priority group – folks over 80 – could make reservations for getting shots. Just one shot only Vasili.. Yes I know, not the recommended strategy – but here in Quebec the goal is to get as many folks vaccinate with at least one shot as possible. At first folks were given return dates in 3 months – now that’s been extended to 4 months.

The program started – but got stalled because the vaccine supplied dried up in February as we all know. But as soon as more vaccine doses started arriving in Canada – they were distributed thru the provinces and the priority list because the really critical thing.

My parents in law – both over 85 – were among the first ‘normally active’ folks to get appointments – but no sooner did they start making appointments – then the age range dropped from 80 to 75.

The first day of general vaccines was filled with scary news – long lines of folks waiting, mobility challenged senior having to get around with no help and no wheelchairs, concerns about speed – you name it, the media covered it.

But by day 2 – with the government stressing that folks arrive no more than 10 minutes before their appointment (folks were arriving hours ahead – which created those long lines), and repeating over and over that everyone should get vaccinated – the issues disappeared.

Plus as more vaccines became available, more vaccination centres opened and the staff got trained. Result – a smoother flowing system and rapid progress thru the priority list.

A few days after 80 year olds got started, it was the turn of the 75+ crowd, and now, just 2 weeks after we started this process, the age range has dropped to 70 – and I was able to make a reservation.

During the first vaccine period from Feb 1 – March 1 – covering Priorities 1 – 5 (Seniors over 80 and health care workers) – Apx 780,000 folks were vaccinated. Now with the age range at 70 – the number eligible to get vaccinated jumped up – apparently there are almost as many folks between the ages of 70 and 75 as there are 75+.

As soon as it was possible for me to make a reservation – Both my husband and I were on the Clic-Sante website (French for Click-health) and were thrilled – thrilled I tell you – that it was well designed and easy to use – even in English!

You entered your postal code – and what you wanted (first choice – get a vaccine) – and a list of places in ascending distance from your home appeared. You could pick a site – and see what appointments were available.

The 2 places closest to our home had no available appointments till the end of March – but the third place – about a 20 minute drive – had tons of availability. So we signed up – and our date was March 11. 9:30 and 9:40 in the morning.

Between signing up and March 11th, the news was full of conflicting reports on the different vaccines – with the governments of Canada and Quebec clearly stating – no vaccine shopping! You get what we have in the place that you go! End of story.

And no cheating! If your health card shows a different year of birth from that of the ‘allowed’ age group – you will be turned away. So much for folks trying to cheat that way. And a worker told me that in another case- three ladies showed up with exactly the same name… and different birth dates. That slowed up the works of course.

But the rules are the rules – and there’s no cheating, no skipping the lines, no ‘fast track for the wealthy’ – just make a reservation – arrive and get your shot!

March 11th dawns – and we get ourselves organized. We wear Short sleeve shirts, grab our health cards, and are carrying a list of medicines and/or vitamins in case we get asked. We drive to our ‘designated’ vaccine center- a sports arena in LaSalle – park in one of the many free parking spots, and put on our masks.

We basically at the front door of the arena – and it’s very obvious where to walk in. At the door are 2 security guards who check that we are wearing masks, ask us to sanitize our hands and ask if we have appointments. When we say yes, we are welcomed into the vestibule of the arena entrance. There another set of security guards ask us to sanitize our hands – and remove our masks. We must wear the paper surgical masks provided by the Vaccine Center.

We walk thru that entrance and in front of us is another security person who again makes us us sanitizer and asks if we have mobility issues. If we do, we’d be sent to a Vaccine center on that level – no stairs. But since we don’t have mobility problems, we go to the left and head thru another set of doors into the area above the arena’s Hockey Rink.

But this is a transformed Hockey Rink! No ice of course. Instead they have taken the entire length of the rink and turned it into a series of stations.. We are instructed to walk the length of the rink at the upper level (above the seats) to yet another security person. Again we are asked to sanitize (oh are my hands CLEAN) and walk down a flight of stairs to the arena floor. We’ve reached Station 1. Another security person watches us carefully. If we had touched our faces, our masked, or the banister – we’d have to sanitize again. Thank goodness we didn’t do any of that.

Now – just 5 minutes after entering the arena – we are directed to Station 2 – Check-in.

Our appointment is verified, our health cards placed on a sliding white board so that the gal who is doing the data entry can see them but doesn’t touch them. She types in our Health Card numbers, verifies that we are who we say we are, and gives us our next appointment – in 4 months. Quebec is telling folks that the first shot, given broadly, will provide everyone with the best results. We shall see. A post-it note on the plexiglass that separates us tells us that we’ll be getting the Pfizer vaccine today.

As we leave, another worker comes over to sanitize the chairs we were just sitting in. Wow – they are taking this very seriously.

Now to Station 3 – Cautions and warnings. And another Sanitizing station. In English, the gal at this desks explains the side effects of the vaccine, ensures that we agree that we recognize that there are some dangers, makes us verbally agree to return to get the 2nd dose, and hands us – again in English – a double sided sheet of information about Covid and the vaccine we will be getting. This sheet also gives the % of folks getting the various side-effects – from over 50% having sore arms to under 1% having serious issues.

Station 4 – wait for a Vaccine station. And yes – another sanitizing station! That takes seconds – there are very few folks here that don’t work here! And 6 set-up stations for giving vaccines. I ask one of the folks about that – and they say it’s quiet but extremely steady – they will vaccinate over 700 people today.

Station 5 – Get the Vaccine. I sit down as instructed, the nurse giving the shot asks if I have allergies (I’ve been asked this already at Station 2 – but I guess it’s a double check), then asks which arm I’d prefer. Left works for me. I look away – she gives me the shot – then hands me a piece of paper with my name on it – and a sticker giving the bar code of the vial she used on me.

She puts a sticker on my hand giving me my 15 minutes of waiting time, hands me a card that says ‘dirty chair’ in French and English, and directs to a ‘waiting’ area with plexiglass barriers between the chairs. I’m told to leave the card on my seat when I get up – so it can be sanitized. There’s a first aid station set up near by (in case of severe reactions I suppose). We wait our 15 minutes, then get up to leave. Yet another security person checks that the time on our wrist sticker matches the current time – and then thanks us for coming – wishing us a great day.

We leave up a staircase – and out to the parking lot.

Vaccine done – in under 30 minutes.

Wow – I’m impressed with both the organization and the speed.

Congrats to Quebec for getting this organized – in both official languages. You clearly rock. Even if we must wait 4 months for our next shot.

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

The trip Home – Travel in the time of Covid


War Measures Act? – OMG – Friday – Jan 22. The news from Canada is taking a frightening turn. Not that cases and deaths are going up – actually they are going down a bit, but the government is mulling mandatory 2 week quarentine in hotel rooms for all incoming travelers. And this morning they are talking about invoking the War Measures Act. This allows the Federal Government to over-rule the Provincial Governments in time of crisis. Think Biden’s Executive orders on Steroids.

To say that my husband – who has manfully been living at our house in Montreal all alone – for 3 months – put his foot down is understating the obvious. I need to get home. And I need to go NOW!

So Friday – while playing my scheduled Bridge games – I need a Mountain of Silver to earn Life Master status – I’m madly trying to piece together all the things that have to align for me to fly from London to Montreal on Saturday.

No two ways about it – that’s short notice.

Ok – the pieces. Move the plane tickets, figure out how to get a COVID test that reports fast enough for me to get on the plane, Cancel my hotel reservation, Figure out how to use the ArriveCanada App. Deal with the emotional upheaval leaving my daughters will create. Pack – figure out how to get to Heathrow. – the list is endless.

And the best way to deal with endless lists is to just start.

First step – figure out how to get the COVID test. Lots of folks I know have gotten one – including my daughter and her husband. They have been getting their tests by mail order – for free. But the rules in Britian are clear – you can only get free tests if you have symptoms or have been exposed or work for an essential service. You can NOT get a free test if your purpose is travel.

Sigh. My purpose is travel.

So – it’s google time. There are lots of folks offering quick turn around COVID tests – with prices from 100 GBP to 200 GBP (that’s about $150 to $250.. like that). But the standout option is a testing center at Heathrow that offers RT-LAMP tests with results in 60-90 minutes. And there test is a bargain 79 GBP – about $135. That would work. But first I have to figure out when I can get to Heathrow.

Consider the complications – My daughters Flat – let’s call it point A – is at least an hour to 2 hours away from Heathrow – let’s call it point B. So I have to figure on a 2 hour drive. (She’s got a 4 hour drive… but there aren’t really safe options. She is going to suffer. I’m so sorry). My flight leaves at 2:00 in the afternoon. I want to check-in at least 2 hours ahead, the test results take up to 90 minutes… I need to plan to get the test as soon as the testing center opens basically.

So I make an appointment – Saturday, Jan 23 – 8:45-9:00 AM. We’ll get up at 6:30, leave by 7:00 – should be ok. It’s Saturday during lock-down. How much traffic could there be?

Then I discover that the Testing Center’s system – while showing me booking for the 23rd – emails me that I’ve booked on the 24th. That’s odd. I’ll do it again. Nope – same result. I fill in the form a third time – take photos of it showing me booking on the 23rd, and the email confirmation clearly says the 24th.

Ok – I’ll contact them. No phone number. An email address only. Ok – I’ll email. Surely they can straighten this out. Step 1 -maybe done.

Now – step two – move the plane tickets. That turns out to be the easiest thing. I call Air Canada – I explain the decision – They (FOR FREE) move my flight and change my seats. Whew. Step 2 – Done.

Now – cancel my hotel reservation. Originally I was flying out on a Friday, but my daughter didn’t think we could make the drive from Point A to B in any reasonable time on a Friday morning. Most of the drive is thru the crowded, narrow, stop light filled streets of London – and on a Friday morning – even in Lockdown – these would be mobbed. So we decide that I will spend the night in a hotel near the airport. But now, moving the flight to a week early and on Saturday means she can drive me in the morning. Won’t be fun – she doesn’t generally get up and out that early – but it’s possible. So I call Hotwire – and low and behold – they offer me a choice of a full refund or a different date. Refund please. Step 3 – Done.

Now – on to ArriveCAN – it’s an app by the Canadian Federal Government that you must use prior to traveling to Canada. You tell them how you plan to Quarantine – and they keep track of you. Cool. I had already filled it in for my original leaving date, so I went back in. No way to change anything. Hmm. Ok – maybe a new application. I try that – and the app works. I take a photo (as directed) of the final screen with my ArriveCAN Receipt ID – and figure – Step 4 – Done.

What else – well – Packing isn’t that difficult – I only take a week’s worth of clothing on these kinds of trips – and I don’t need stuff to be clean to pack it. I toss my suitcase together, leaving out what I’ll need in the AM and search the house. I definitely don’t want to forget anything. The $$ for sending stuff by post from London to Montreal is crazy. Step 5 – Done

What else, what else…

Food – I had a horrid food experience on the flight here – they served me an ice cold Eggplant Parmesan which was inedible. So I raid my daughter’s fridge. Carrot sticks, 3 quick peel oranges, nuts, prunes, some candy. We can’t go shopping – too dangerous to go to the stores – so I’m just grabbing things that will be easy to eat and stuffing them in my backpack. At the last second my daughter hands me an Apple. Step 6 – Done

Meanwhile – back to Step 1. Remember the COVID test date issue? Well they finally (hours and hours later) email me back to explain that the problem isn’t on their end – it is the date setting on my ipad. Really? It’s on British time, and has been for 3 months. But I try their site again – using my daughter’s computer – and what do you know – this time the dates match up. Problem – the time slots earlier are gone. I book for 9:15 – the earliest – and figure we’ll just beg. Begging often works, right.. Ok Step 1 – Now really done.

I try to remember to notify everyone that my flights have DRASTICALLY changed – I’m sure I’ve forgotten someone and I’m sure they will let me know. (Turns out I forgot a lot of people – but that’s the way the Rushed up cookie crumbles).

My husband emails asking me for my food list for the lock-down. He can’t go shopping after I arrive and needs to stock up the fridge. Our plan is 14 days of ‘together’ time – otherwise known as mandatory Quarentine – and he won’t be able to leave the house. So he’s doing a massive shopping and needs to know what I think is essential. I tell him fruit – lots and lots of fruit. And Fish and Steak for dinner. I have kids who live in Montreal – and they have said that they will shop for us as needed – so we’ll be fine. But it’s hard to pre-plan 2 weeks of meals. I feel really sorry for folks forced to do this without some of the advantages we have – like kids nearby and friendly neighbors. It’s not easy for us – it must be insane for other folks.

My daughter had planned on a nice dinner and a game night with her husband and me as a farewell kind of thing – and we slide those plans forward to Friday night. We actually end up playing Monopoly – a British version with the names of the properties all strange.. Or exactly right if you ask my daughter’s husband! It’s a 80 year celebration set – so the playing pieces are actually metal, and the money looks right. We love it – and my daughter wins. Then we watch a final episode of Ru Paul’s drag race and it’s definitely bed time.

I always have trouble sleeping before I travel – tonight is no different. I toss and turn and read my book (Great Story called Camino Winds by John Grisham – real page turner). Too soon it’s 6:30 and time to get up.

Tune in tomorrow for the actually adventure – and remember – it’s not an adventure unless something goes wrong…

Signing off – The Soup Lady

Day 243 – Last Commandment for Seniors (#12)


You sill haven’t learned to act your age – and hope you never will!

Hear-Hear! I never ever ever wanted to act my age. I never acted my age all my life, and now is most certainly not the time to rethink that strategy.

When I was in my early teens – and by this I’m referring to that torture chamber we call High School – I was way to studious and concerned with math and science in particular to take notice of the things ‘girls my age’ considered important – like clothes and boys. To be very honest – I’m still not overly concerned about clothes – See Commandment #2 for Senior – “In Style” are the clothes that still fit.

I did go thru a ‘boys are amazing’ period – but for my time – it was very late, and ended rather abruptly with me marrying my still to this day husband – Victor! I arrived at University as a ‘Southern Belle’ – complete with breathy accent – and was immediately considered a very desirable date. This was beyond amazing to me – no boy had ever considered me interesting outside of class before – and I would have 4 dates a weekend. One on Friday night, One on Saturday afternoon, One on Saturday night, and one on Sunday afternoon. With 4 different boys. And for the record – no kissing until the third date!

Sunday night thru Friday afternoon – I was the model student – taking high level math and science classes, and for the first time discovering that there was history after the end of the civil war (for the record – that ended in 1865). I was raised in Atlanta Georgia – and that’s when our history classes deemed that history stopped. Surprise Surprise – it didn’t stop!

So between fending off boys (I took to hiding in libraries to be sure to get my studing done) and then going to parties all weekend – I was very busy.

I suppose this period is the closest I came to acting my age.

After I met Victor – things got really interesting in the ‘boy’ department. Victor was in the habit of waiting until the last minute before making a date – and I would be ‘taken’ long before. After several ‘I’m sorry, I can’t go out with you, I’m busy” conversations, he learned to book me ahead – and eventually we agreed to go steady. I think the crisis was ‘Homecoming Weekend 1967’ when I was the Princess from one fraternity – not Victor’s – and thus too busy to be with him. I think he asked me to go steady so that he could stop having to ask me out so far in advance.

But I still had to keep up my studies – but now I had to hide out in new places – and just from one boy! Fortunately, Victor pretty much hated libraries – and there were lots of smaller ones on campus that I don’t think he ever found. I was able to keep up my work weeks, play weekends lifestyle.

Then I spent my Junior Year Abroad. I choose to go to London to study Drama – which for a Math/Physics Major was a bit of a stretch. But the folks in the Drama department were ok with it, and while the Math Department got their knickers in a knot (I had to drop my double major), the Physics Department agreed to it. So – London, without my boyfriend, for a full year abroad.

This was, I admit, one of my favourite years (Fall of 68 to the Fall of 69)… and again – I wasn’t acting my age. I was interested in studying, getting good grades, visiting Museums and Art Galleries – and my Drama Department co-students thought me dull, boring, and not really a decent drama student. Push came to shove when I won a lottery to go behind the scenes at the Royal Vic and meet Sir Lawrence Olivier – then starring in Chekhov’s “Three Sisters”. Despite pressure to give up that opportunity to a ‘real’ drama student – I persisted in taking advantage of that win, a meeting I remember to this day.

My year aboard ended the way a year aboard for a square peg in a round hole must always end. I drove with my friends to Istanbul – then waved goodbye as they crossed into Asia on their way to India. I traveled alone by train and hitchhiking (ok – I was 20 – it seemed acceptable) back into ‘Europe’ and met up with a friend who I didn’t really know – but who wanted to do a bicycle trip thru the German speaking section of Romania. We met up in her university town – took our bicycles by train into Romania and spent 2 weeks or so biking from village to village. In those days (Summer 1969) the way you showed off your wealth was by the height of the manure pile in front of your house. I grew to love Lard Sandwiches – and we feasted off the garden crops of peas and green beans. One of the villagers bought my bra for her daughter for the equivalent of a weeks living money – and in a Youth Hostel in Czechoslovakia we swapped a $1 American bill for a day’s worth of food and lodging. Interesting times to visit behind the Iron Curtain.

I eventually made my way back to Paris, met up with my sister who flew in from the US, and we continued to wander thru France and eventually to England. We flew home from London – and while she returned back home to Atlanta and University – I went back to Tufts for my final year. Victor had meanwhile changed schools and was now at Cornell. Our plan was to see if we were still ‘an item’, and if so – I’d graduate and continue my schooling at Cornell – provided I could get accepted of course.

We did, I was – and we got married Sept 11, 1970. It’s 50 years and counting today…

Enough of this – bottom line – I’ve always persisted in being a tad different. I had my kids a bit later than other folks, I got married a lot earlier (I was 21 – Victor was 20), I was studious to the point of embarrassment to most of my peers, and when I got close to retirement – my friend ‘The Intrepid Traveler’ and I started our yearly trips to far off places. Not to be left out Victor and I did a fair amount of traveling too!

I’ve been to China, Mongolia, Taiwan, Hong-Kong, Japan, South Korea, Bali, France, Fez, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Russia, the Netherlands, England, Ireland, Scotland, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Malta, Liechtenstein, Vatican City, Belgium, Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia, Turkey, Israel, Amsterdam, South Africa, Kenya, Botswana, Rwanda, Zambia, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, Czechoslovakia, Greenland, Northern Quebec, Most of the US, Eastern and Western Canada, Venezuela, US Virgin Islands, Mexico, British Virgin Islands, Grand Cayman, Belize, Jamaica, Bermuda, Bahamas, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam. I realize of course that traveling now is not the same – but I was young, I was keen – and I was willing to travel cheap. Mostly – I was lucky to have a friend willing to travel with me! And grateful to have a husband who also found travel interesting.

There are so many places that I loved at the time I was there that I couldn’t imagine going back to – my ‘roughing it’ ability is seriously suffering from concerns about where there’s going to be a clean toilet – but I would recommend doing it NOW – don’t wait till you are your age to travel. It’s never too late – and it’s always rewarding – Masks on for safety of course.

Enough of this trip down memory lane. It’s getting embarrassing. Bottom line – I’m not planning on acting my age any time soon… Get over it.

Signing off to think of something else crazy to do… Mask on of course – The Soup Lady