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“WE DAY” INSPIRATION

Yesterday, October 22nd, WE DAY was celebrated at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. Youth from all over the province earned the right to attend and celebrate their actions towards changing the world.

It caused me to pause and reminisce to five years ago, as a principal accompanying some of West Bay’s Grade 6& 7 leaders to the first WE DAY in Vancouver. It was a powerful experience to hear from world leaders and ethical change agents immersed in making a difference in their communities and the world. Marc and Craig Kielburger (the co-founders of Free The Children) compelled the audience to become engaged activists with an awareness of global issues and the compassion to build a better world. The WE DAY experience inspires youth to develop the confidence and social skills required to be part of the ME TO WE GENERATION. Craig Kielburger introduced and had a conversation with the Dalai Lama that day. The Dalai Lama explained his beliefs in this way, “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” It was a message that united all of the religious beliefs of audience members. Human kindness is a concept and virtue of which any age group can relate. The Dalai Lama’s goal has been to “raise the next generation to be calm and confident, compassionate, peaceful and kind, and engaged with each other and their studies to make the world a better place.” (Vancouver Sun, Oct. 18th, p. A8)

Having that experience with WE DAY and nurturing the International Baccalaureate’s Mission Statement as our compass, West Bay students had confidence – building experiences, raising funds for a school and well in Liberia, sponsoring a book drive to fill the library, and much more.

The International Baccalaureate aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.

To this end the organization works with schools, governments and international organizations to develop challenging programmes of international education and rigorous assessment.

These programmes encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.

Upon retiring, I have written three novels in a tween Frenchie Series. In Book #2, Frenchie X2- Follow the Blog, the adolescent main character, Ethan, gets involved in a fundraising scheme by joining a school leadership team. Ethan doesn’t see himself as a leader, much less someone who could bring about positive changes to make a difference. The novel is a humorous story about a boy growing up and becoming more confident and self-aware. The series is humorous, while it deals with the teenage angst that youth go through at this stage. This is a short Pet Blog excerpt from Frenchie X2- Follow the Blog:

Frenchie X2 Cover

Blog: Fundraising King!

I can’t stop grinning. The Doggie Boutique Day was my idea and it turned out to be a really good one. Not only did the whole thing actually go off without any major glitches (meaning no one got scalded making tofu dogs or bitten while washing dogs), and if my Doggie Wash Station is any indication, I think we’ll have cleared thousands today. And that feels GOOD! It isn’t just about the cash; it’s about making the money to help those disadvantaged kids in Liberia. I can’t get over how great I feel about being part of the solution.

My Mom couldn’t stop talking about the event when she returned home with the puppies. She was blown away by the organization and variety of goods and services that the school provided. The thing that impressed her most was that the kids at our school had done it all and that they had followed through and participated selflessly on a Saturday. The fact that her son was the brainchild of the initiative just made her ecstatic. She’s been on the phone for two hours straight calling all our relatives to brag about her son- me Ethan. Can you believe it? Now that makes me feel like a winner! (The problem is that this will be short-lived, once I have the nerve to present her with my report card. That’s why I intend to milk this for awhile.)

And what of the puppies? What was the highlight of their day? Well, Pierre’s been tearing around the house costumed as Elvis in a gold sequined suit with a cape flying behind him. And Sissy is wearing a pink beret (that stays on her head at an angle with elastic) and a tight tiger-skin fake fur jacket. I think the costumes may be a little much, but they’ll look cute on Halloween at the Doggie Park. I’m surprised that they love their outfits. It never occurred to me that they would enjoy wearing them, but Pierre won’t stand still long enough to get his off; I think he likes the cape flying as he races through the house. And Sissy, she actually gave me a baby growl when I dared to take her beret off her head. Too funny!

Mom picked up this pink leather halter thing with lots of bling all over it. She keeps calling it Sissy’s bra… I personally think it looks ridiculous and let me tell you…. Sissy is not excited about putting the thing on. She refuses to lift her front paws so that Mom can slide it up and fasten it. I don’t blame her, why would a puppy want to wear a bra? What’s gotten into my mom? What was she thinking?

Too much excitement for one day, I’m beat and just want to crawl into bed and dream about our big success.

High on Himself New Papa,
Frenchie’s Best Friend

Whenever I present readings and author workshops to classes in Grades 4-7, my visits become a school fundraiser. They receive 25% of all book sales to donate to their favorite charity or their local SPCA. It is another way to raise funds to give back to one’s community.
If you are an educator or parent, interested inspiring your tweens to become kind, confident global citizens, these novels may be right for them.
To purchase the paperbacks of Frenchie X2- Follow the Blog in Canada for your tween or school, go to:
http://www.redtuquebooks.ca/publishers/books/distribution/180

Amazon for  paperback and/or ebook:
US:  http://www.twocandobooks.com/out.php?a=B007BG2ETG&l=us&s=a
If you would like to follow up with an author visit at your school or library, leave an email contact in the comments section below. I live on Vancouver Island and am in the Portland, Oregon area often. I would love to hear back from you regarding your leadership efforts and successes to help make a difference in our world. Did any of my readers attend the ME to WE Day in Vancouver yesterday? What was your experience? Please do tell me about it!

Last November, Vivalogue hosted its first Independent Book Festival in Richmond, British Columbia. It brought independent authors together to promote and sell their books, and provided excellent feedback from sessions with editors on their books. As well,  workshops provided  authors more information regarding the self publishing industry. Please watch the You Tube video from last year’s festival to see for yourself what the two day festival accomplished.

Raindance Book Festival 2013

 

2013-11-09 4 RainDance

 

2013-11-09 3 RainDance

On Saturday, Nov.1 and Sunday, Nov.2, 2014 you are invited to participate in the Tidewater Book Festival for Independent Authors in Nanaimo, British Columbia. It promises to be an outstanding two day experience for self published authors, as well as for the public.  The authors will share their books with the public at the  Nanaimo Museum on Saturday, November 1st.

Kait Burgan from Shaw TV will be covering the Tidewater Book Festival for Independent Authors for her program Go! Island. This is a great publicity opportunity for authors participating in the festival to promote their books to a wider audience. Kait will be talking to visitors & authors at the Book Fair on Sat., November 1 at the Nanaimo Museum.

Sunday, November 2nd is a full day of 10 hour-long workshops offering essential advice and information for new and existing authors from industry experts. Topics range from how to craft your pitch, sell your book, create the best cover and the latest practices for e-book marketing and creation—sign up for the workshops you need to self-publish successfully.

Registration for this year’s Book Fair is strictly limited to 25 authors only. Register now at http://www.tidewaterfestival.com to secure your table at the Festival.

Don’t miss out on this excellent learning opportunity and a chance to become better acquainted with the business of self-publishing. Let me know in your comments if you have registered as a participating author or if you will attend as a visitor to peruse the books and meet the authors.

AN ATYPICAL THANKSGIVING

I don’t know how your family celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving, but I’m almost certain it didn’t resemble the one I experienced this year.

Most of us conjure up a vision of an elegant, cozy, homey dinner of stuffed turkey and homemade pumpkin pie. The table set with autumn decor, a crackling fire adding ambience to the delicious, mingling aromas.

Of course nobody considers the harried cook in the over-heated kitchen frantically mashing potatoes, carving turkey, stirring gravy, and trying to have all the feast fixings laid out on the dining room table before it cools and congeals. Thanksgiving dinner pressure – that’s the real picture.

Well, wipe that image from your mind and conjure up, instead, a family of three couples: parents (in their early nineties), their son and daughter (in their mid-sixties), and their spouses (aged 60 and 80). A typical family gathering of parents and their kids, right? And where did they have their Thanksgiving feast? Well, don’t you know- Milano’s PIZZA, of course! Not a whiff of roasted turkey to be found, but certainly aromatic garlic wafting through the cavernous restaurant.

And didn’t the daughter of the family conveniently dream the night before our Thanksgiving gathering that she, her mother, and her sister-in-law won BIG at the casino? It was a premonition that obviously must be acted upon. There was no stopping “the girls” from heading down to the Casino directly from the pizza table, deserting the guys with instructions to return home and prepare the coffee and COSTCO pumpkin pie!

All three gamblers had their $20. limit clutched tightly in their fists, posed to feed the nickel machine… Yep, I did say nickel- not dollar machine. Why, you ask? Apparently, there is more play time on a nickel machine. The three “girls” clustered in front of the machine of choice, anticipating the big win as the $60. deposit disappeared within the bowels of the starving machine. As the final nickel was played, there was an audible sound of disappointment. It was over, all three of us incredulous that somehow the “dream omen” had not played out!

The 90 year old decided she wasn’t ready to be wheeled back to the car without her winnings! She enticed her daughter to put an extra $10. into the machine of her choice (a winning machine as opposed to the greedy machine that had already eaten up our combined $60.), and she continued to play. So the “girls” stood behind their mother’s wheelchair hanging on each hit of the button as the $10. quickly started to disappear. On the second last hit, and with all three of us sighing in resignation that someone had had a faulty dream, eight BONUSES lit up on the screen and the top of the machine sounded as a sum of $1544 was highlighted! That’s right, a BIG, BIG WIN!

And wow; we felt so thankful when we walked into the apartment for our pie and coffee- tightly clutching our loot!

OH HAPPY, HAPPY THANKSGIVING! Our unconventional Thanksgiving proved to be tons of fun!

 THANK YOU!                                                     Show Me the MONEY

 THANK YOU!

 THANK YOU!

I’d love to hear about your Thanksgiving.  This was such an unusual celebration, and I’m not sure entirely in keeping with the theme of thankfulness, but it certainly was fun!  Why don’t you leave me a comment to let me know your thoughts?

OKANAGAN TWEENS READ

PeachfestKiddieParade

Okanagan TWEENS are readers. The  THE CHILDREN’S PARADE at PEACH FEST  this summer highlighted the array of wonderful, rich stories and novels that Canadian authors have currently published. This picture of TWEENS sharing my 3 Frenchie novels in the KIDS PARADE, made me realize that there are so many Middle Grade readers (ages 9-13) who don’t even know that these titles are available in paperback or ebook format. Red Tuque Books distribute the paperbacks of the three novels in the series in Canada. Just click on: http://www.redtuquebooks.ca

Amazon Stores/Book Links

You only have to click on the country you live and you will have access to Kindle formats or paperback of Frenchie Diva (Book #3) If you want Book #1 and #2- just search for them: Frenchie’s Best Friend- Follow the Blog & Frenchie X2- Follow the Blog

Australia   https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B00GXIW57E

Japan    https://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/B00GXIW57E

Germany   https://www.amazon.de/dp/B00GXIW57E

Mexico     https://www.amazon.com.mx/dp/B00GXIW57E

Italy   https://www.amazon.it/dp/B00GXIW57E

UK    https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00GXIW57E

Canada   https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B00GXIW57E

Spain   https://www.amazon.es/dp/B00GXIW57E

India     https://www.amazon.in/dp/B00GXIW57E

Brazil   https://www.amazon.com.br/dp/B00GXIW57E

France  https://www.amazon.fr/dp/B00GXIW57E

USA   http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GXIW57E

If you would like to order Book #1 or Book #2 in any other ebook format, go to: https://www.smashwords.com

 What do readers say about the Frenchie Series?

One Mom recently wrote: “My daughter has been ploughing through books this summer and discovered your Frenchie ‘s Best Friend novel. She has been reading it to her brother and they are both laughing their way through. I have banned any more pets that poop or have fur in our house. So my kids are liking the book and all the angles to getting a pet.”

One TWEEN wrote: “During the presentation at Okanagan Elementary, I learned Mary Laudien is a very inspiring writer; her books are humorous, smart, creative, and satisfying. Right now I am reading the third book of the series, Frenchie Diva. So far this book is amazingly entertaining, and very relatable.

The book reminds me of when I had a basset hound back in England, called Wellington, for first time (in my life) I saw snow, same for Wellington. It only snowed about an inch but, to me it was like a miracle, and same for my dog! The things he did in it were hilarious, and it was a great experience.”

 One teacher wrote: “I had such fun reading about Ethan’s full-speed-ahead plans for getting his French Bulldog! I loved his crafty ways of dealing with the adults in his life, and his mad-cap solutions to his spa troubles.

The ending totally snuck up on me and finishes this great story beautifully. A fun read for middle year students.”

 Colleen Ruttan (Young Adult Fantasy Writer):YOUNG TEEN ETHAN Larimour sets out with his eccentric grandmother to train one of his two Frenchie puppies for a career in film. A story which well captures the angst of being a young teen – not to mention all of the work involved in owning two mischievous Frenchie puppies! – This book would entertain readers in the 9-12 age bracket.”

My challenge to you is to check out the Frenchie series in whatever part of the world you live and in whatever format you prefer to read. The novels make affordable gifts (about the same price as a birthday card) and appeal to everyone mentioned below:

  • tweens (ages 9-13)
  • librarians
  • teachers
  • parents
  • grandparents
  • pet lovers

 Send the GIFT of READING to all those that you care about. And please, leave a comment on this blog site (http://www.twocandobooks.wordpress.com) after reading the Frenchie Series. I love to receive feedback on the novels, it helps me grow as a writer. So leave your comments… the GOOD, the BAD … and the UGLY!

FATIGUE IN AMSTERDAM

FATIGUE IN AMSTERDAM

You know you’re sleep-deprived when you’ve sat up the entire 9.5 hour night flight in an economy class seat. The two TYPE A travelers would have coped if they hadn’t started their journey with a 5:00 alarm to make a ferry connection first. And no one sleeps well when relying on one’s alarms going off, right? Certainly, arriving at the airport too early for one’s flight and hanging out in the airport for a number of hours, made for an endless day, before even taking off! … And so their story began.

The real fun started when arriving at one’s destination after being awake for 30 hours. Operating in a fuzzy, brain dead state, it only made sense we’d disembark the train at the wrong station, adding further travel time to the arrival. Once reaching one’s destination, there are introductions, visiting, unpacking, bathing, and dining before ultimately collapsing into bed. Only to awaken 3 hours later, bright eyed and bursting with frenzied excitement. We laughed and chattered through our “HAPPY DANCE, We’re Here!” celebration. And since we were ravenous, we gorged ourselves on treats left for us just in case jet lag hit in the middle of the night. There were 2 floors between our host’s bedroom, and ourselves and yet we’re sure they were disturbed by our raucous. Naturally, as the birds began to chirp outdoors, the 2 happy travelers dozed off. Good luck with that! Our outside shutters were programmed to automatically roll up at precisely 8:30 am, leaving our bedroom flooded in sunlight. Wakey, wakey, rise and shine! You’re in Europe!

CIRCLES UNDER OUR EYES

CIRCLES UNDER OUR EYES

Traveling Europe as a tourist- going place to place all within 3 weeks, can be strenuous – definitely NOT in the same category as a Mediterranean Cruise! We seemed to find ourselves in a perpetual cycle of sleep deprivation. There were many factors that contributed to our state of fatigue and yawns:

  • Sharing a room with one’s travel mate is a far different experience than the relaxed, comfort level one has with traveling with a marital mate. Couples are used to one another’s idiosyncrasies, but a travel friend- not so much.

-Think of the terror of having gas before bed or making the odd purring sound (Certainly not a snore!) while   sleeping.

-The nightly interruptions of taking pee breaks, caused another level of concern in each new hotel venue. Some us can see in the dark and some of us… not so much!

-And don’t we all need to have water by the bedside? Some of us can sip quietly from a plastic water bottle, while others have mastered the technique of wrapping their lips around the neck in the daytime, so that their lipstick doesn’t get disturbed while drinking. Of course, this technique isn’t appreciated in the middle of the night … duh! Imagine just how annoying making the plastic bottle contract with those crackling sounds can be!

WATER BOTTLE ANNOYANCE

WATER BOTTLE ANNOYANCE

-The more the one with insomnia tries to not disturb their travel partner, the more they do. They can’t get comfy. The pillow is too thick. The bed is too hard. (Absolutely the case in Europe.) No one has heard of sinking into pillow mattresses. Oh no, European mattresses give a whole new meaning to firm. (Envision sleeping on a piece of plywood without any cushioning or give.) HARD! If you had bruises or sore muscles from pulling suitcases or carrying backpacks, one had no relief when hitting one’s bed.

HARD! WHERE'S THE PILLOW TOP?

HARD! WHERE’S THE PILLOW TOP?

-Most people know that the worst thing insomniacs can do is engage in a conversation. This will only make one even more wide – awake! Imagine trying to control that!

-But what if your travel mate needs to read before bed to unwind and get sleepy, but you can’t tolerate the light, even if it’s just the background lighting on an eReader?

-Oh it’s quite a dance having 2 middle-aged, menopausal women share the same room. Of course, one will function on less sleep than the other and if there is a train, plane or tour bus to catch, she’s going to be up before the birds start chirping, grooming and getting ready. Think HAIR SPRAY permeating the sleeping quarters … OMG!

  • It’s the European way to dine later in the evening. Funny how this didn’t bother one a mere decade ago, but wining and dining after 7:00 pm appears to have an adverse effect on menopausal women. Truly, this practice results in all night digesting and reacting to the sugar high brought on by the wine. Knowing this and being able to change up the routine, was next to impossible while touring Europe. (TOO BAD, SO SAD! – TRULY GLAD IT DIDN’T!)
  • No one can predict weather, but if you’re fortunate/unfortunate enough to hit a heat wave on your visit, you know that there will not be the level of air-conditioned relief that one is accustomed to in North America. Do they actually have air conditioning in Europe?
  • And who knew that Holland would be playing in the World Cup semi-finals while visiting Amsterdam or that Germany would be striving towards the finals when we reached Munich? Of course, our boutique hotel rooms faced the streets with all the bars and trams, obviously! And what great soccer parties those European fans enjoyed. A-L-L  N-I-G-H-T L-O-N-G

Sleep deprivation can have some crazy outcomes. It can even affect one’s language skills. While in Germany, my German Canadian travel mate started to thank our servers with, “Danke You.” Or I found myself resorting to French with shopkeepers, forgetting the foreign language of choice was German. One can lose their sense of humor, forgetting to relax and have fun laughing at oneself. It’s natural to get edgy and let things get on one’s nerves. You’ve been there, right?

But realistically, think of the inspiration one experiences when soaking up the ambiance of Europe on a daily diet for three entire weeks. Is it any wonder that one would be over-stimulated by the brilliance and beauty of European architecture and culture?

Duesseldorf 3

 

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How does sleep deprivation affect you when traveling? Have you ever traveled with other menopausal women? What stories do you have to share? What are some of the more absurd experiences you had while traveling in Europe? Please don’t be shy, leave your stories in the comments section below. I know we’ll be entertained.

AND DON’T FORGET- YOU CAN SUBSCRIBE TO MARY LAUDIEN’S BLOG AND RECEIVE POSTING NOTIFICATION. I’D LOVE TO HAVE YOU VISIT OFTEN!

After returning from a three-week adventure in Europe, our hostess sent me an email with the following German proverb:

“Came as a stranger and left as a friend.”

It couldn’t have expressed my feelings better.

When our travel plan to Germany and Holland was hatched, it was somewhat decided on a whim. My husband decided to circumnavigate Vancouver Island over a period of 4 weeks with three other sailors. The minute my friend (and sister-in-law) heard this, she pounced. She had a strong yen to return to Germany where she still had a best friend living. My sister-in-law had lived there in another life, back in the 70′s. She asked me at the right time (I had declined the year before.) and I impulsively agreed. As I pondered my quick decision, arrangements were made. Within a flash of time, the flight tickets were purchased, Doris (her German friend) had been put on alert of our plans, and a travel agenda was organized. Of course, this was all within the 2 weeks that I was simultaneously getting ready to embark on my birthday Caribbean Cruise. Hmmm…

Doris is a whirling dervish when given a task. Once the itinerary of where we wanted to travel from was established, using her home as a base, Doris went to work. This travel agent wanna-be extraordinaire found us discount train and air tickets to our destinations and booked us boutique hotels in the four cities we hoped to explore. No arrangement was too daunting for the incredible Doris!

 I’d only met Doris once before when she’d traveled to Vancouver Is. to visit my sister-in-law. There were times before leaving that I questioned my decision to go on this adventure. After all, even at my age, there could be a chance of ending up feeling like a third wheel. You know that saying, 2′s company, 3′s a crowd! Regardless of those anxious pangs of uncertainty, the trip plans moved forward. And five months later, the incredible Doris greeted us on a train platform in Dortmund, Germany!

She took one look at us and ushered the dishevelled, travel-weary twosome home to get unpacked, bathed, fed, and put to bed. One could read her expression and it was obvious that she was somewhat shocked at the size of our suitcases that would completely overtake the awaiting accommodations that she had prepared for us. I don’t think we were in the house more than five minutes, that she had us unpacking our gigantic cases and storing our “clothes on parade” in the emptied closets and bins she had set up for us.

This hospitable woman had thought of everything. She had bottled water and snacks laid out for us, in the event we awoke in the middle of the night, jet lagged and craving munchies. Oh thank you Doris… we did indeed partake and probably awoke you and your husband with our giggles, chatter, and treat-frenzied partying.

The next big surprise was walking upstairs to their dining room, where she appeared with an entire laundry basket overflowing with exotic cheeses. Just a little overwhelming for these Canadian designer girls who try desperately to eat modest meals of mostly salads and fruits. Oh no, we had incredible fresh bread (that neither of us had been eating forever!- I mean, who would after reading, The Wheat Belly), creamy cheeses, and yummy wine. Nirvana!

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I remember going to bed that first evening, after being up those many hours, and incredulous that I had been able to follow Doris’s husband’s German throughout our conversation. Of course, by the time we hit the pillows, we were out and the best I could do was wish my travel partner a “gute nacht”. We lasted about 3 hours and then jet lag hit… of course it did. And, I must admit, that was the last time I understood anything that Bernd (Doris’s husband) said, as he didn’t like to use his English and spoke high German- far different from the Black Forest dialect to which I had been exposed (also in the 70′s). I did a lot of nodding and smiling whenever Bernd was conversing with us and let my travel partner use her impeccable language skills.

Doris made us feel so welcome in her home. She would tap on the bedroom door in the mornings to hand deliver cappuccinos! Can you believe it? Nothing was too much effort for her. She provided us with more suitable cases for our trips, and of course, insisted on laundering our clothes for us. I don’t think I have ever been so mothered in my entire life. (I’m 60 years old and I loved it!) She actually came up with a nickname for me. I became Smutje. My understanding is that this is a name given to someone who works in the tiny galley of a sailboat. Doris thought my stature was small and since I was always the one to clear the table and load the dishwasher in her somewhat space-challenged kitchen; the name struck her as brilliant. She’d get that devilish grin on her face, each time she used this suspicious term of endearment on me.

Space-Challenged Kitchen

Space-Challenged Kitchen

What’s great about Doris is that she not only made all these fabulous travel arrangements for us, she also came along on two of our “girl” trips. She loves Berlin and Potsdam (our first destination) and Munich (our final destination). Having her along, really cemented the friendship that she and I formed. What were some of the situations/experiences that endeared Doris to us as a friend?

  • We experienced the benefit of visiting areas of which she had personal knowledge. She loves people and everywhere we went (even in the heat wave…), she would stop people to ask directions and tell them her story about hosting her friends from Canada. I thought, at times, that the testier Canadian visitor of the pair was going to throttle her good friend if she stopped one more time to tell us a story on a crowded, 107 degree sidewalk or engaged in one more conversation with yet another bus driver. What does one realize in retrospect? This is Doris’s charm. She is a gifted people person and she’ll always make time for everyone and anyone she encounters.
  • Thankfully, Doris loves to have a good time. She makes the most of her days and engages fully in everything around her. There wasn’t one “down” day where we had time to get bored. There were always plans- places to go, people to meet, family to visit.
  • She adores her afternoon “cake and coffee “. As we completed our trip in Munich, I think it is fair to say that the designer twins were becoming somewhat nauseous from the calorie intake of all the delectable sweets. (They silently longed for an ice cold Pinot Gris under an outdoor umbrella.In fact, the Canadian contingent finally asserted themselves in this direction near the end of the trip.)
Breakfast (not cake and coffee)

Breakfast (not cake and coffee)

  • Doris made sure we sampled German cuisine – of course we had currywurst, bratwurst, sauerkraut, schnitzel, … Yes, we ate our way through Germany! It was heavenly!
Bratwurst at the Haufbrau Haus in Munich

Bratwurst at the Haufbrau Haus in Munich

  • Evenings were always fun in the hotels when Doris was along. It was like a pyjama party- snacking, wining, and having some good laughs at one another, and ourselves as we shared our stories and showers… This is a picture from our final leg of our journey- Munich. Doris had her own little room without a shower, so she’d come over in the evenings to use ours. We must have been so fatigued that final night when she arrived at our door wearing her sunglasses and looking like a BLUES BROTHER!

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I arrived at Doris’s home, wondering how this whole adventure would unfold. Would I leave three weeks later, feeling I had made a friend? There is no doubt in my mind that the #3 is NOT a crowd. Sharing our adventure with Doris enhanced our trip and we all parted knowing that the trip bonded us as friends. Doris is an extraordinary woman and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to spend time with her (and Bernd!) and call her my friend, as well.

“Came as a stranger and left as a friend.”

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I can only imagine that some of you have had this sort of experience. I find it ironic that at the age of 60, I experienced this friendship angst and friendship building. It sounds like something teenagers and young adults go through, not middle-aged women, right? Anyways, I’d love to hear your opinions and stories related to this. I’m sure this happens at all ages, right? Please leave me your comments and stories, I look forward  to reading them.

 

 

 

Over-Packing

Over-Packing

DISCLAIMER: My travel partner has given me permission to divulge some of the more colourful journeys our overweight suitcases went on during our somewhat muscle agonizing adventure.

One has to ask, where were you when I posted my PACKING DILEMMA before flying to Europe? Someone needed to set me straight – BUT NOOOOO- you didn’t comment. I’m almost certain I would have listened…

Prior to embarking on our BIG ADVENTURE, my traveling partner and I talked almost daily for months about what we’d take (not what we SHOULD take). She’d tour my packing progress, and I’d check out her continuously changing clothing piles spread out in her spare bedroom. Our biggest decision we agonized over for weeks was what outfit and shoes should be worn on the flight. In retrospect, we’ve decided that we took our wardrobes on a “clothing parade” throughout Europe. What was that all about?

Let’s just say, for women who have travelled significantly, we’re somewhat ashamed of ourselves. Yes, we were going for three weeks. But when one has a base, as we thankfully did, doing laundry intermittently was always an option. No need for 21 pairs of underpants – really!

The first sign of trouble was getting our cases in and out of the car trunk shuttling us to the ferry. It took the strength of the two of us to heave those beasts! And then weighing those cases in the terminal – of course these overweight bags were destined to be red tagged!

Picking up the cases on the mainland, was another foreshadowing of the mess we had made for ourselves. The limousine driver taking us to the airport was most accommodating as he graciously strained his own back getting them in and out of the trunk (And indeed, earning him a sizable tip).

However, being the over-anxious Type A personalities that we are, our arrival at the airport was hours before Condor Air’s ticket booth opened to allow us to drop off our luggage. What options did we have? Everywhere we wanted to go in the airport, our burgeoning bags accompanied us. Of course, one questions, “What’s the big deal? They’re on rollers, right?” And yes, that’s a correct assumption to make, but picture a gigantic case that has its zippers opened to enlarge its capacity to a mammoth-sized depth. Yep, now you get it, don’t you? I might also add that we aren’t exactly the weight-lifter type of women who could probably manage this without a problem. We’d be better described as slight designer women, loving anything trendy and stylish, but not particularly sensible. (Or at least that’s how we’d like to describe ourselves!) And seriously, where does one to put such a case when needing to visit a tiny washroom stall?

The relief of sending those incredible burdens off was the best part of the day! Our arms were giving out from the strain of pulling them behind us for the three hours spent waiting. While packing, never once did we anticipate the number of times we’d be carting those cases along and boarding and retrieving them from planes, trains, buses, and cars. The workout! / The pain! / The stupidity!

 

Travel Weary

Travel Weary

 

TRAIN STORY ONE

After sitting upright in a discount air carrier for a whopping 9.5 hours, these naive adventurers had the joyful experience of having to retrieve their bags and roar through the terminal to load them onto a train for an additional 3 hour ride. Looking anything but fresh, Twiddle Dum decided to use the train washroom. Once she emerged, she found her frenzied partner convinced that the train would be stopping any minute at our stop. She had positioned the 2 oversized brutes together for a speedy exit and had been praying that Twiddle Dum would come out in time. As expected, the train pulled alongside a platform, we struggled to get the *#!#!*bloody cases off, and just as the train pulled away, the station sign was spotted. Surprise! Twiddle Dee, my capable German-speaking partner, had read the station prompter incorrectly. We had gotten off in a city one stop before our destination! Of course we had! No wonder our welcoming hostess wasn’t standing there to greet us!

Well what can 2 women dragging 2 massive cases do in this situation? Wait for the next train and reload “our elephants”, that’s what! Our German friend would be standing at her train station worrying that something had gone terribly wrong with Twiddle Dum and Twiddle Dee. Of course, neither of us brought a cell phone to Europe, so we had to accost passengers on the platform, by offering to pay to make a call. Not everyone was warm and receptive to the prospect of handing over their phones to the two distraught women with the massive cases. Luckily, however, a young man with a good sense of humour took pity on the two dishevelled, anxious women and put the call through to our friend. He teased that he’d be calling us back in half an hour to check up on us. And no, he wouldn’t take any euros for lending us his phone!

Picture us finally pulling into our destination station with our German hostess waving and “Yoo-Hooing” (the German way) to us. Such a welcoming sight, until we heaved those crazy cases down onto the platform, only to discover that we had a flight of stairs to attack and no available elevator or escalator in sight. MADNESS!!

TRAIN STORY TWO

Thanks to our gracious hostess, two smaller rolling cases were put at our disposal for our trips to Berlin, Hamburg and Amsterdam. One would think that this would resolve our over-packing issue … but alas, NO! We still needed shoes, clothes, cosmetics and all our hairstyling brushes and products, didn’t we?

Nevertheless, the cases proved to be a godsend, and we were actually able to load them onto the rack above our seats like the other train passengers. (Alright, maybe not as effortlessly, but we were managing.) That is, one of us was managing well, the other one was headed for trouble (obviously the weaker of the two with a better manicure). And trouble with a capital T arrived.

As we neared our station, Twiddle Dum, made an innocent suggestion (remember, she’s TYPE A, as well) that perhaps getting the cases down and moving along the narrow aisle towards the exit area would be a good idea, knowing its a fast stop and congested. No sooner had she mentioned it, Twiddle Dee jumped out of her seat, pulled on her overhead case, lost her balance while bringing it down, somehow propelled it to slam into the aisle (thankfully not on a fellow passenger’s head) and landed on her back, hitting the armrest with her hip, on her way down. This all occurred within 2 seconds of the suggestion.

The entire railway car of passengers was aghast, as the fallen adventurer lay there, not moving and not responding to her travel partner’s angst to help. Obviously writhing in pain and looking very pale, she ignored any help her travel mate offered, and eventually allowed a male passenger to pull her up from the aisle floor. As she came to her feet, she pointed her finger in Twiddle Dum’s face, yelling, “SHE PUSHED ME!” causing another collective gasp throughout the cabin. What the heck was that? It must have been the shock of her injury! Obviously in pain, she ignored any assistance, and made her escape down the aisle towards the exit area. Before reaching the door and retreating from the car without any further drama (if only), she addressed the carload of stunned German travellers, “Well the show’s over folks. You’ve had your entertainment for today and now I’m getting off. Hope you enjoyed the show!” Yet another collective gasp was heard as the two embarrassed, travel-weary Canadians silently disembarked.

BUS STORY

Who could anticipate a windstorm of 150 km whipping through the portion of Germany that we were visiting? Not Twiddle Dee and Twiddle Dum, that’s for sure. We certainly heard about the chaos the fallen trees had made to the train system when we went to book our seats to Amsterdam. Shockingly, the only seats left available to us were first class tickets that would have cost more than our flights over to Europe. So what to do? Forfeit our prepaid room in Amsterdam or find another method of travel. This is where our superstar hostess came to our rescue. (You must understand, our German friend was far more tenacious than any travel agent would ever be!) Miraculously, she found, online, a new tour bus company that would take us to and from Amsterdam for a mere 35 euros each. Seriously! And even better, the bus was a brand new Mercedes with luxurious amenities and the two over zealous travellers had the front seats with unobscured views. What could possibly be better than that?

If any of you have ever travelled in Europe, you have had the privilege of using the autobahns. There are no real speed restrictions and road rage stories abound. As we embarked upon our short 3-hour jaunt to Amsterdam, anticipating the lovely sites, little did we realize we’d be white knuckling it the entire trip. Our driver was no 40 year-old. Oh no, he was pushing 60, at least. As well, a heat wave had hit Germany while we were there and NO ONE drove without wearing their prescription sun glasses. No one, that is, except for Mr. Geriatric Bus Driver. But he did have his readers dangling from his neck and in short order, we figured out why that was. (They certainly weren’t for driving!) Not only was he the driver and tour guide, he also had to keep track of the passengers he picked up along the way, sell them coffees, beer, snacks while driving, keep an inventory of goods sold and an accounting of the money earned and change given, and keep up on-going communication with the company with email, texts, and phone calls. And this was not while he was at a stop picking up passengers … Oh no, that would have interfered with his smoke break.

Yep, we took off on the bus ride from HELL to Amsterdam! So, Twiddle Dee let her mouth run away with her, voicing her fears with loud, inflammatory comments (knowing he spoke and understood English) about how the fat slob driver needed to keep his hands and eyes on the road. While Twiddle Dum applied brakes and nervously held on tight as the multi-tasking driver sold one more beer, sent one more text, fingered one more driver, or read one more email. Did we think we’d live to tell this tale? We weren’t entirely sure! The one incident that really summed up our angst was travelling at *!? km per hour on a curve, readers perched on the driver’s nose while he simultaneously texted with both hands?!? OMG!

The ultimate insanity was when the passengers were asked to disembark the bus in some obscure suburb of Amsterdam, away from the city center. We were without a map, at a regular city bus stop, and next to a busy bicycle lane. He stopped the bus, opened the baggage hatches below, and told everyone to meet back at the same spot in 2 nights for pick up. Twiddle Dum disappeared into the bowels of the baggage compartment to retrieve the 2 suitcases that had rolled to the other side of the underbelly of the bus. (Retrieving suitcases wasn’t in his varied job description!) Bikers tried running us down, as Twiddle Dee asked politely where we were and how we were supposed to get to town. He pointed at some sculpture landmark and said, “Four Tables”, and at a laminated paper sign taped precariously to the city bus stop post with his bus company’s name on it and told us, “Be here for pick up Sunday night at 7:00.” Yeah, right!

We surprised ourselves! We made our way to Amsterdam center by tram, and even figured out the tram change to make to get us to our accommodations. Of course, we had a room on the top floor with only a narrow, windy, somewhat unlit staircase to reach it. (The hotel was too old and small to install an elevator… it’s Europe, after all!) Did we carry our cases up or down that flight of stairs? NOT A CHANCE!

Regardless of our overpacking issues, Twiddle Dee and Twiddle Dum had a wonderful European vacation and would return again (once their muscles have recovered) and do it again, only smarter!  I’m sure you have some comments to make about our over-packing and perhaps have some humorous stories of your own to share. Please share these in the comment section.  Remember, it’s always good for the soul to laugh at ourselves!

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