Tag Archives: Shopping

Too many photos

With this period of non-travel and lock down I thought it would be a great idea to organise my photos and maybe scan them and keep digital copies. Well talk about how to lose hours of your day into a black hole. If you are going to scan photos you should put a caption on them or at least put them in a group or a folder, right? Well what if you can’t remember where they were taken?

Yes I must say that I am spoilt enough to have travelled to so many places that sometimes they become a blur and then I find myself saying to my husband “Where was this?” He usually has the answer. In fact I am doubly spoilt by the fact that my husband does all the crappy stuff when we are travelling – like handling the currency and doing the tipping. I am usually too busy staring at the people around me and eaves dropping on conversations. We will sit down at a pavement cafe in, I dunno, Split Croatia and the first thing I do is check out the people around me. I am always interested in the locals but very often you won’t find that many of them in a touristy spot. Then I turn my attention to my fellow tourists and if they happen to speak English, well I just can’t help follow their conversation. I will then turn to my husband and say to him in Afrikaans (our secret language) “Oh my god, you can’t believe what this woman is ordering.” or “This guy has just crapped on the waiter for not having any grilled cheese sandwiches on the menu.”

My husband is always bewildered by this. He just cannot understand how I can pick up on a conversation going on behind my back. It’s not noseyness, I promise, it is just curiosity.

So you can see why I get distracted by people and therefore often remember a place not from its castles, churches or boulevards – but by the people I met there.

I have no idea which temple this was in, or even which city but I do know it was India (that’s something at least). But I sure remember this guy. What a hoot. He was smoking something here which was making him very mellow. I am not sure if he could speak English because he just kept smiling and laughing every time I spoke to him. He probably went home at the end of the day and said to his wife “OMG what a day at the temple today. Had this crazy English lady who kept talking to me and you know how I hate talking to strangers so I just kept puffing on my shisha and pretended I was stoned out of my brain.”

Now I do remember exactly where this was – the Sahara Desert in Morocco! This cute camel guide took us for a walk in the desert. He could speak very little English and was better in French. Of course my French is terrible but it didn’t matter. He was so cute with big dimples and I could imagine that as soon as he got home he got rid of the keffiyeh (head scarf) and djellaba (long loose kaftan) and donned his Drake t-shirt before heading out on the town. I bet his mom was shouting after him not to spend all the money he got in a tip from us!

Oh yes I remember these. Istanbul! The lovely lady on the left had gone to one of the food trucks and had purchased this HUGE baked potato with all the trimmings. I wonder how she could stay so slim and gorgeous looking. Then the next day we came across a whole crowd of kids dressed up like they were going for their first communion. The parents were happy for me to have a picture with him but this kid did not look happy at all – even though he was all dressed up. It was only afterwards I found out that this gathering was a circumcision ceremony – no wonder the poor lad looked upset.

The market in Malta. You know – I just can’t pass a good market by and I needed a new shirt. So I hid behind the hanging clothes while I tried on this top. The old lady running the place was getting impatient. She kept saying “Gud, very gud. You buy. Very gud”. I wasn’t sure – as you can see by my face. As you can see by her face she had had enough. The way she is looking at me tells me that she didn’t think the shirt was very good either. Look at the direction of her eyes. Was she looking at my stomach? Maybe, but I was too far gone by then. Had to buy it. I don’t think I would have escaped alive. Maybe you have seen this shirt in Value Village in Calgary ‘cos that’s where it ended up.

So you see – these pictures of people who I have met along the way bring me right back to the moment and I know exactly where I am – even if I don’t know the currency in use and I have no idea how much that cost in Euros or Dollars. That’s my husband’s part of the ship – thanks Honey!

Back off Grinch…. I got some Christmas to do!

Long line up at the cash register ….

No parking at the mall ….

High interest on the credit card …..

5 pounds extra on the scale ….

Huge piles of gift wrap for recycling ….

Lists, lists and more lists …..

Too late for Canada Post ….

Too expensive by Fedex …

Too tired to do any more ….



christmas clock









Gifts piled under the tree ….

White Christmas by Bing Crosby reminds me of my dad ….

Turkey roasting smells fill the kitchen ….

Snow outside sparkles in the sun ….

Children’s giggles ….

Paper tearing ….

Champagne corks popping …

Hugs and kisses ….

Nothing better ….

Merry Christmas

Gramma's Christmas Stories

Why did I buy that?

I think I am getting past it – shopping that is – when I am travelling.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love shopping for things I can use – like clothes or shoes – especially in exotic places like the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul or the Silk Markets of Hanoi.  But cut me out with knick knacks.  I am really done.  I think I am moving into that part of my life where I yearn for simplicity and order.  Really – I have to look at some of the things I have from my travels and say to myself  “What the hell were you thinking of when you bought this?”.


Take this alabaster cat.   It’s horrible.  It’s heavy.  It’s not particularly well made.  It was at the end of our tour in Egypt and we were taken to the alabaster shop, shown ancient tools still used today – to make badly carved cats and vases.  I felt bad.  The shop owner followed me around the store while I desperately looked for something that wasn’t going to cost an arm and a leg.  I felt I should really buy something – and I like cats.   Mmmmm – this was one of my mistakes.

Let’s not even talk about the bangles that made my wrist go green or the pure cotton woven shirts that disintegrated in the washing machine.

My colleagues are just as bad … look at their desks…..
anni desk amanda desk

Vered desk  donna desk

Mind you – I do have a few little bits and pieces that I am quite fond of.  The peat Celtic cross I bought in Ireland, the medieval soldier from Germany and the Buddha from Vietnam.
cross buddha and soldier






And then there are those cute hats I bought in Vietnam which I have hanging on the wall.  And they are special because I saw the lady making them.
DSC_0352   hats

How can I throw any of these away?  They are all memories – some good some bad but on a snowy day in Calgary they remind me and take me back again and again.

Is it over yet…. pleeeeze

Next Christmas I am definitely heading out of town – somewhere hot would be nice.  A beach, a margarita and Feliz Navidad would suit me just fine.  I know it is a crazy time to travel – that’s what I tell my clients.  Everything is overpriced and overcrowded.  Airline staff are grumpy, baggage handlers unreliable and there is not a spare seat on the plane.  At the beach you can forget about getting a beach chair without at least bribing ten people first and if you are at one of those all inclusive resorts where the speciality dining requires reservations that morning – good luck with the queue.

So why would I put myself through that hell rather than stay at home in this “lesser hell” of crowded shopping centres, crying children and excesses of spending, eating and drinking?  You see, Christmas just doesn’t seem the same any more.  I know, I know – I am not 6 years old any more and if I had to line up and sit on Santa’s knee at the shopping centre – well let’s not go there.

I honestly don’t think I am going to find anywhere in the world that hasn’t fallen victim to the Christmas Commerce Bug.  Even in Hanoi and Siem Reap Christmas trees popped up on every corner and shops were lavishly decorated in Saigon with wintry scenes of sleighs and frosty trees.  I guess if I really want to escape it altogether I might find a corner maybe in Papua New Guinea or in Nepal?  Any ideas or recommendations would be welcomed.

In the meantime I will busy myself with taking down the Christmas tree.  Funny how everyone wants to help with putting the damn thing up – no-one ever wants to pack it away.  That’s OK – I am in the right job to spend a whole year dreaming and planning for a Christmas where Santa won’t be….. I know!  The North Pole.  Not exactly a beach but hey – maybe I get to see some polar bears – now that would be cool!


If you like Attitude (capital A please note) take yourself on a trip to New York.  Yes people.  New York New York – the Big Apple – the city that never sleeps.  Here’s an idea.  Don’t stay in Times Square or in the Village or on Park Avenue.  If you want to meet the real New Yorkers go stay on the upper West Side where people actually live and play and shop and go buy kosher bagels and yummy lox cream cheese.  These people take life seriously and don’t mind giving you their opinion.  Take Nick – well Big Nick as he is known.  His restaurant/diner whatever is in the ‘hood.  To find a table there you might have to take a wander through the kitchen and past the storeroom.  This ain’t no Starbucks and Nick makes that abundently clear with a large sign “No laptops – this is a restaurant, not a library”.

Now there's telling you!

New York was full of surprises.  The subway was amazingly efficient, easy and cheap and we used it until late at night.  Wall Street was so tiny – disappointing really considering its influence.  Times Square was unbelievably tacky and somehow strangely thrilling.  A visit to the mega store My American Girl was extremely disturbing – they specialise in expensive 18 inch dolls chosen to look like the little girl owner with matching outfits and even a hair salon upstairs – for the dolls not the kids.  Yes grown women paid to stand behind a counter and braid a doll’s hair or give it a manicure or pedicure. Bizarre.   I found it rather sickening in today’s climate of starving children in Somalia – but I grow morose…..

The best part of New York was Little Italy.  Now shrunk to just one street – but what a street.  We nearly didn’t find it but after wandering around Chinatown and getting directions a couple of times we turned the corner and there it stood – oh wow.  Pretty lights in the street, tables and chairs laid up with check cloths and candles and even serenading musicians.  A wonderful evening.

So go to New York and enjoy all of it – its vulgarity, its charm, its vibe and mostly its people – it should be called the Big Heart rather than the Big Apple.

Minarets and Mosques

As the call to prayer rang out over the evening skies of Istanbul I had a serious case of goose-bumps.  Here I was in Constantinople – the ancient city that featured in ALL my history books, the gateway to the East, the Guardian of the Bosphorus. Wow.   

Mosques line the Bosphorus

 What did I expect in Istanbul?  After reading online travel blogs I was a bit worried about getting a taxi.  Horror stories crop up on every Google about having to haggle about the fare after the fact.  Dire warnings pop up about not taking public transport and Western women being harassed by fundamental “policemen”.  Instead I stepped off my amazing Olympic Airlines flights (there’s another blog all of its own) into a very modern, clean, bright airport terminal.  Passport control and my visa purchase were quick and easy procedures.  Outside the arrivals hall a line of well-kept looking yellow taxis were waiting to whisk us away to our hotel.  No hassles, no haggles, no bargaining.  So far so good.

 It is such a beautiful city but I couldn’t decide which was more fun – sightseeing or people watching.  I was fascinated by the variety of tourists there.  Many tourists from Arab countries such as Qatar or UAE visiting and doing just the same things as I was doing –  cruising on the Bosphoros, eating hot roasted chestnuts in the park, visiting the Blue Mosque.  I was struck by how beautiful and mysterious many of the Muslim women looked with their beautiful scarves and dark exotic eyes.

Now why can't I look like that?


As a woman one of the highlights was visiting the Grand Bazaar.  Oh my – I even saw people with wheelie suitcases going shopping.  Well why not – with over 4000 shops in this centuries old bazaar you could “shop till you drop”.  Dotted around the Bazaar are numerous places to rest a while and enjoy Turkish coffee.  Mmm – well I am not that sure about Turkish coffee.  I think I still prefer my Americano.  However Starbucks never serves coffee in cute little brass coffee cups so that wins hands down.

This ain't no Americano baby

 And the food – the food – the food – fish so fresh it was practically dancing on the plate, tiny tomatoes as sweet as grapes, light fruity wines from Antalya,  the biggest stuffed baked potatoes I have ever seen.  This seemed to be a big favourite “fast food” in the markets.  Take one giant baked potato, scrape out a bit of the inside and then choose your toppings from chopped olives, fresh yoghurt, chopped herbs and goodness knows what else until it is piled high into a heavenly potato mountain.  Did you notice I liked the food?

 Public transit – fabulous!  We took the tram which was really easy and quick because the traffic is awful in Istanbul.  It was brand new, clean, air conditioned and cheap – about a dollar a trip.  We got lost a couple of times and wandered into some really strange areas of the cities.  One street was Plumbing Street – every shop had a selection of toilets, sinks and taps spilling out onto the narrow cobbled streets.  The next street was Electric Avenue – every conceivable wire, cable, electrical connection that you could think of.  We got some strange looks from the tradesmen sitting in their doorways – and jeez I thought I was blending in.  I did feel perfectly safe however.

 Would I go back to Turkey?  In a heartbeat.  It’s exotic, cosmopolitan, exciting and refreshing.  They say East meets West in Istanbul.  They do more than that – they embrace!

Still dreaming of Istanbul

Flying carpets and Genuine Fake watches in Kusadasi

  “As you walk down these streets remember that you are walking the same streets as St Paul, St John and probably Mary, the mother of Jesus,” our guide told us as we walked into the ancient city of Ephesus. 

Just go and immerse yourself in history

It was also the honeymoon choice for Cleopatra and Marc Anthony.  Imagine that!  Excavations continue on an ongoing basis as and when funding is available and only about 10% of the city has been excavated so far.   If you do have Kusadasi on your itinerary a tour of Ephesus is a must.  Our guide (a high school teacher) made the place come alive for us so please don’t feel that this is just another tour of ancient ruins. 

Inevitably as part of our tour we ended up at a carpet weaving demonstration.  Our guide joked that this was part of the tour and assured us that the proprietor was not his cousin and he wasn’t getting a commission. 

Honestly - they flew - they really did!

It certainly was interesting learning how the carpets were made and we were served with refreshments of our choice while a whole team of robust looking Turks rolled out carpet after carpet on the floor.  When they got down to the smaller ones they skilfully spun them up in the air so we could truly say we had been to Turkey and seen a flying carpet. 

When the demonstration was over however the skilful carpet spinners honed in to see if they could spin a sale.  Don’t get me wrong – they were quite pleasant and polite when we declined to purchase.  Some of our group did indeed buy rugs and came home with some delightful examples of extremely skilful work from the carpet co-operative.

Kusadasi was really not what I had expected.  It is very Western in feel.  The people are sophisticated, friendly and speak English quite well.

Genuine Fake Watches - gee what a find!

  Shopping in Kusadasi was a treat.  Great silver, leather, silks and ceramics and even some Genuine Fake watches.  I had to keep in mind that I was planning to return to Turkey later in my trip and the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul was calling my name.  I did however make a very small contribution to the economy with the purchase of a silver necklace.  Well really – I like to do my part!

Donkey fighting in Santorini

Now back off Mr Donkey

Now I feel sorry for the donkeys, don’t get me wrong.  But I know where the mule part comes from and when you are negotiating a steep rocky path from the top of Santorini down to the ferry station everyone is fighting for territory.  Maybe we should have taken the gondola – we did have the tickets after all – but the line-up was horrendous so we thought we would be clever and walk down.  What we didn’t realise before we started was that the rocks on the path were polished smooth by the thousands of people (and donkeys) who have gone up and down this path.  In addition to this they were well oiled by liberal doses of donkey poo.  I was halfway down the path ahead of my sister when I realised that she was in a confrontation with a donkey.  Unable to move and squashed up against the side of the wall by the donkey she burst into tears so her husband had no option but to punch the donkey in the neck.

Now before you go all PETA on me it hurt him a lot more than it hurt the donkey.  Trust me – his hand was red for days. 

Any idea when these cruise ships go away?

The problem was of course that there were no less than 7 cruise ships in the harbour.  Imagine pouring out all those passengers into the tiny streets of Santorini.  The people pressure was unbelievable and I was told that 11 ships were expected the next day.  What a shame.  It is indeed a beautiful island with stunning little hotels literally hanging onto the side of the cliffs.  My best bet – if you really want to see Santorini go in October, sleep late, eat lunch at the pool of your hotel and then by 4 pm you should be safe to venture out and enjoy the island as it was meant to be enjoyed.

She's shopping - he's sleeping

After seeing Monemvasia I am sure there are many such undiscovered and beautiful places to visit in Greece and I plan to find them.  Stay tuned!  Preferably somewhere without a donkey ride involved!