Tag Archives: Spain

My kingdom for a horse

If you are a lover of Shakespeare you will recognise this –

“This famous phrase originally occurred in Act-V, Scene-IV of William Shakespeare’s playRichard III. Here, King Richard III yells out loudly this famous phrase, “A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!” In the middle of a battle, his horse is killed, while the king wanders to find it in the battlefield for hours, killing everything coming his way with fatalistic rage.” (courtesy Literary Devices).

Kind of reminded me of the viral videos we have all seen of fist fights in supermarkets over toilet rolls. But then the website Literary Devices goes on further with the explanation and it begins to sound even more like toilet roll fights around the world.

“Meaning of My Kingdom for a Horse

The phrase is repeated ironically, when someone needs some insignificant item. Shakespeare shows that the value and importance of things may change suddenly; and simple and unimportant things, like a horse in the battle, could become more important than a whole kingdom. The sense in this line is ironic, as someone wants something insignificant to complete an important task. The king here means that if he does not find his horse, he may lose his kingdom, because in that case he would be either killed or face defeat.”

Well I guess if you want to finish a certain important task then toilet paper is pretty necessary. So does it take a world wide virus for us to start fighting about toilet paper – and – excuse the pun but have we gone soft? As in 4-ply? Anyone who grew up the industrial heart of England will surely remember the squares of newspaper pinned onto the door of the toilet. You could sit there and have a good read (kinda like people do today with their cell phones). The only problem was that you could usually only read the beginning or the end of the story – or sometimes just the middle. Very frustrating – but gave you something to think about.

So this has become our defining moment in the first world – a fight about toilet paper. How would we ever survive in Darfur or Auschwitz?

In every cloud there is a silver lining. People are still travelling in Italy, Spain, Portugal and many other top destinations around the world. Some of these places may not be quite as busy as they usually are – and that is the silver lining – still just a browse of the world’s webcams will reveal that life goes on ….

Madrid at the time of writing this

I first visited Egypt just after tourism had been driven to an all time low. The river cruise ships on the Nile were parked and covered with tarps and the cruise ship which would normally take 120 people had only 25. We had the BEST time ever. Imagine being in the Valley of the Kings with just your small group of 10 people. You could really feel the magic. And then…. we got the chance to visit Tutankhamen’s tomb. Just the two of us. We were alone in the tomb with King Tut! Imagine that! Had we gone at another time we would have faced this ….

There’s something to be said for travelling at a time like this – with or without toilet paper!

Would you like fries with that?

Trying to decide which country will be the cheapest for your next vacation?  Maybe you should consult the Big Mac Index – the latest evaluation having just been released.

bigmac meme

Basically the Big Mac index is a comparison of what it would cost to buy a Big Mac (if it was available) in different countries around the world using the price of a Big Mac in the United States and then comparing what the price would be in other countries.  It gives a pretty good idea of where in the world you could go to and where your dollar would stretch further – or where it would be more expensive.  Pretty nifty test.  Here are the latest figures as at 12th July.

big mac index

So according to this South Africa would be a really good place to go on holiday – it is cheap, cheap, cheap to eat out (and drink out – after all it is the land of the vineyard).  We know this particularly from the sticker shock when South African friends and family come to visit.  Consider – they pay about $1.50 to $2.00 (Cdn $) for a pint of beer.

Britain and the whole Euro area look pretty good too and naturally these numbers are aggregates so some places in Europe will be much cheaper than others.  Friends who have chosen to winter in Spain rather than Phoenix come home with tales of amazingly cheap fresh vegetables and bottles of wine for just 4 Euro.  This is interesting because it also reflects where people are travelling and despite recent terrorist attacks in Europe tourism there still remains strong, with the exception of poor France where bookings are down.  That’s a shame as it is one of my favourite places to visit and river cruises offering Southern France and Bordeaux are just such a win at the moment.

Surprises on the list were Japan and Russia.  I have always seen Japan as a very expensive country to visit as real estate is at a premium and hotel prices are high but perhaps once you are there eating out or shopping is better and cheaper than in the States.

And Russia is hopping!  River cruises and tours regularly sell out to this fascinating country.  Maybe the revived interest is due to the on again off again Trump Putin romance being front and centre in the news.  It has certainly given the country lots of exposure and seeing reporters filing their newscast with the beautiful and exotic Red Square in the background can certainly do no harm.
red square

The full article makes for interesting reading https://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21725034-dollar-has-slipped-over-past-six-months-still-looks-dear-big-mac

My advice?  Go travel – eat local – avoid the Big Mac and if you are looking at a country where the cost of living and/or eating out is expensive then go as all inclusive as you can such as a river cruise with tours, meals, wine and beer included.  It will seem more expensive at first glance but once you secure your price in Canadian dollars and take advantage of those early booking offers you will end up on the winning side!

It’s like riding a bike…

You never forget, right?  I guess that is true for last week was the second time in probably forty years I have ridden a bike.  Although I was a bit nervous at first, having an expert on hand to fit me to the right size bike was certainly handy.  When I had used one of the river cruise bikes in Holland a few years ago I quickly realised that it was way too big and heavy for me so now I was all set up with the right size bike.  Ready steady go!

As I cycled the streets of Victoria I gained more confidence as I realised that the drivers there were very courteous and drove slowly past giving me a wide berth.  Mmm I had to wonder how that would go down in Calgary after seeing so many people speeding through the 30 zone in front of my house.  Some countries even legislate on the space you should give a cyclist when overtaking.

Give cyclists 1 full metre of space while overtaking

Road sign from Tenerife 

My husband had suggested that we ride on the pathway as that would be easier.  NOT.  Trying to dodge lamp posts and pedestrians on this narrow pathway with an ominous looking kerb waiting to “get” me was not that easy.  I said I would rather ride on the street.  OK he says, then ride facing the traffic, it’s much safer.  That didn’t work very well as within a few minutes I was faced with oncoming traffic which was in fact two spandex clad guys on flashy looking bikes.  I stared at them bewildered as to what to do.  They screamed past and I caught the comment from one to the other…”British”.

YES – BRITISH!

Biking is so popular now – especially with us baby boomers – that there are special tours out there that are fully guided, luggage transported from one place to another with five-star accommodation waiting where you can rest up your aching bum.

If you feel you are not up to doing a whole week of biking then why not consider a day or two.  There are some great places to bike – Holland of course is famous for its biking lanes.  The country is flat which is a help (none of those gear clacking, thigh busting hills that I experienced in Victoria).  So many people in Holland bike to work so it is not unusual to see women in suits and heels riding to work – or even taking the kids to day care on their way.

Distracted driving?

Many of the river cruises today carry bikes and even offer guided tours in places of interest.  Just a recommendation however – follow my lead and get some practice in before you go.  Remember – unless you are very well experienced then rather stick with a guided group.  The rules of the road are different in Europe, the road signs may be incomprehensible to you,


and don’t forget about those damn cobbled stone roads.