Although it's been almost 24 hours since we went dog-sledding, I still cannot find the words to accurately describe this incredible experience!!! It was honestly one of the most amazing things I have ever done, and well worth every cent we paid.
The guide was really good -- so committed to his dogs, very knowledgeable, and willing to share his knowledge. He even drew me a diagram of which dogs were lead, and at other places along the pull, so that I could refer to them by name when I share this incredible experience vicariously with my students next week at school!
After a somewhat frustrating flight experience, we have arrived at Chateau Lake Louise in Alberta.
It is my first time seeing the Rockies, and WOW! I am impressed! I have not been in such an environment since I lived/worked for a summer in Pfronten, in southern Germany, surrounded by the Alps.
Below are a few mountain pics taken during our drive from the airport, and on arriving at the hotel. Also included is one “teaser” photo of our next activity, which was AWESOME, and which I will about and include more photos tomorrow sometime.
Once again I am surrounded by loud, annoying travellers. Louder, and more irritating, even, than I!
Stuck on board a 3 hr 45 minute flight from YYZ to YYC, we are seated behind two balding men in “cool” hoodies yelling to each other about investment strategies. Behind us are a woman and her heavily-made-up teenage daughter. The latter seems fearful of flying; the former is “soothing” her in a loud, abrasive voice.
I am not soothed.
The daughter keeps yapping for a while, and eventually drifts off to sleep. The mother continues to grate on everyone around her for about 20 more minutes, then she, too, settles down for a nap.
Soon the flight attendants come through with their cart of in-flight snacks available for purchase. The healthy, fresh, Asian vegetable wrap and cheese with fruit platter I had pre-ordered online at a savings of 50 cents a piece are not on board, nor is there any record of them, or of the other three pre-ordered meals on this flight. The flight attendant is very apologetic, and offers us complementary nacho chips and twizzlers, the only other “vegetarian” options on board.
Bought our tickets to Buenos Aires last night. it's official -- we're going to Argentina! And, as though to solidify the deal, the boys' updated passports arrived in the mail today!
We were very excited, until we opened them and noticed.... well... look closely at the photo to the left.
Notice anything? Well, no, you wouldn't, if you didn't personally know our twin boys, Alex and Simon... But what if I told you that Simon had long hair, and Alex's hair was short. NOTICE ANYTHING NOW???!!!
Oh yes, my friends, it's true! Passport Canada stuck the WRONG PHOTO ON THE WRONG PASSPORT!!!
After considering just leaving it (after all, who the heck would ever know? We always just hand all our passports in in a big jumble when traveling together, and besides, we could always get Alex to grow his hair and then cut Simon's, or just call Simon "Alex" while traveling, or, oh, well, never mind... you can see why we decided in the end to drive out to the passport office tomorrow morning before work, and see how much of a headache it will be to have them corrected.)
The irony is that we'd already had a bit of a headache with this process: First they didn't want to renew the passports, because they expire a considerable time hence (we wanted, though, to be sure we didn't get stuck with expired kids' passports in the middle of our trip next year, so we decided to renew early), then they didn't like the photos we submitted (too washed-out, apparently), and they had to be re-taken and re-submitted, and now, finally, after everything was rec'd and approved, THIS FIASCO!
Stay tuned for the next installment of the beaurocratic saga that I am sure has only just begun....
As there was no direct flight from Lisbon back to Toronto, we had to make a stop in Ponta Delgada, a PEI-shaped island in the Azures, and get on a connecting flight to YYZ. The layover was approximately 2.5 hours, and even taking into consideration boarding and passport checks, it still seemed like a long time to sit around in an airport.
Since we had checked most of our luggage, we had relatively little to haul around with us, and we had recently discovered a few extra euros tucked away in an inner pocket of on of our jackets, so we decided to take the airport bus 4 km to the town’s centre for 50 minutes of exploring, before heading back to the airport to press ourselves into the long line-up with the rest of the passengers boarding our 310 Airbus to Toronto.
Ponta Delgado on a Saturday afternoon in January is like Charlottetown on a Monday morning in September, after all the summer tourists have left the island. NOT MUCH HAPPENING!!! Even the tourist centre was closed, and doors barred!
Undeterred, we pulled out a city map, and wandered around a bit. We even saw a casket being carried into a local church, and marvelled at the unique, fishbowl-like “Hearse” that had carried it there.
Photos of our brief walk through Ponta Delgado below and above, uncaptioned.
Last night I skyped one last time with my babies before heading back home to see them in person. It was about 8:45 pm Toronto time, just after their bedtime. But Alex and Simon are increasing in their worldly wisdom, and both knew that in Lisbon time, that meant we were still awake at nearly 2 a.m.
“Tatsy!” exclaimed Simon to my girlfriend, who was in front of the screen at the time, “You guys are becoming nocturnal!”
Well, yes, it does rather seem that way.
Whereas in Toronto, I fight to get to bed before midnight in order to ensure a decent night’s sleep (I typically rise at 6:15 a.m. for work), in Lisbon, it simply did not seem possible to get to bed before 3 a.m. local time most nights – and even so, we were considered by most to be turning in “early”!!
Dinner in Lisbon begins around 8 p.m. Many restaurants don’t even open until 7:30 p.m. (Most nights in Toronto, we have finished eating by 6, and are getting the boys ready for bed around 7 p.m. or so!)
After dinner, people have a drink or two, then many head to a club, before turning in for the night. Bars don’t generally open until about 11 p.m., and clubs often don’t open until much later. Drinking in the street is permitted, and friends tend to congregate in various public squares before heading to a bar, buying a drink, and then congregating in the streets some more, to chat with friends or make new acquaintances. Around 2 or 3 a.m., the club scene begins to take shape, and people move from drinking in the streets to dancing in nearby clubs.
For this sleep-deprived Torontonian, it was unreal!
Although I myself am not much of a drinker, I do confess to exploring the bar scene a little while in Lisbon, primarily because we wanted to check out the local, er, “alternative” bars, as one of our hotel desk clerks referred to them when giving us suggestions of where to go, you know, the type of bar that caters to “a lot of different types of people”, as she explained. :-)
New Year’s Eve we went to Bairro Alto and were amazed by the throng of people in the streets; even at 3 a.m., the party showed no signs of slowing down!
Last night, our final night, after dinner, we met some friends at the Café Pensao Amor, a burlesque-themed series of lounge spaces that turned into a pretty happening dance room after 11 p.m., and whose sound system was such that the welcome diversity of jazz, alternative and 50’s rock sounded almost live at times.
Once we’d had enough of Amore, we headed around the corner to a completely different scene, sort of a blue collar club where ladies got in free, and men paid 5 EU entrance, which included a drink at the bar.
Our friends were both male. The first handed the bouncer 10 EUs, waving his hand backwards to refer to his boyfriend, who was behind me and Tats. The bouncer wanted to know “which of the boys” was with him, but soon realised his mistake, and apologized profusely to Tatsy.
Inside the dank, smoky joint, the DJ was spinning tunes from the 80s, which I and my friend’s boyfriend (who is also well into his 30s) enjoyed tremendously (the tunes, not the smokiness!) Also tucked away at the back of the club was a small stage with a pole for dancing.
Tats visited the ladies’ room, where she was promptly told off by a bouncer in Portuguese. It seemed he, like his colleague at the door, had mistaken her for a young man, and insisted that she use the other washroom!
But the jewel of the evening was the 1 a.m. show of Fabiana, a well-known Libon stripper who does two short shows a night at the Viking Bar at 1 and 3 a.m. She is adored by both male and female fans, it seems, because she is rather generously proportioned. Her confidence turns on the men, and her healthy body image appeals to the women, apparently.
I suspect that our friends would have easily stayed out another few hours, but by 1:30 a.m. I was ready to head back to the hotel; I still wanted to skype with Trevor and the boys, and besides, we had an early morning the next day, our travel day. So, we night owls turned in ”early”, heading home just before 2 a.m.
I reflected on Simon’s comment later… nocturnal could work for me, I suppose… I like the solitude of it at home, when others are sleeping…. But it’s the constant, necessary early arousal the next day that kills me. Going to bed at 3 a.m. or later only works if you don’t have to get up at 6!
Today was our only organized tour day: we had prebooked a full-day bus tour, including lunch, to Sintra and its surrounding areas.
Sintra is a touristy town with narrow, winding cobblestone paths marked by cafes, restaurants and shops offering their wares, mainly tablecloths and liqueurs. We spent most of our free time and money there in one of the shops specializing in the latter, where we picked up several "souvenirs" for folks back home.
We also did some geocaching in the town's centre, depositing a travel bug we had picked up in a Toronto cache earlier this year in a "hole in the wall" next to the Tivoli restaurant in downtown Sintra, and fighting with some man-eating vines to uncover a cache in front of a private villa nearby.
So, off to the bus we ran, cheescakes and tea in on hand, bags of cherry wine, chestnut liquor and port in the other, trying not to spill our waxy Pepsi-cup tea, as they had no lids...
Next we visited the Pena Palace, a large estate with obvious Moorish influence and too many tourists crowding into its various rooms. This was followed by a fairly average lunch. During our meal, I enjoyed some conversation with a Brazilian mother and daughter, and two sisters, one from Hawaii, the other from Spain.
After lunch, it was on to Cape Rock, the westernmost tip of Europe, or, as the poet Camois wrote, "where the land ends, and the sea begins". The mighty ocean's powerful, repeated assault on the shore and any rock that stood in its way offered an impressive sight indeed, and caused me to think longingly of PEI (only 6 more months).
The areas we visited today were considerably greener than Lisbon; a great variety of trees and other plant life covered the many hills and mountains our bus drove through.
Once back in the urban centre, the bus dropped us off at a square near our hotel, and we saw some skateboarders working their magic on the steps outside the roofless church I wrote about in a previous blog post.
We resolved to eat our final meal at a restaurant that serves Bacalhau, the traditional Portuguese codfish, which my girlfriend had been wanting to try all week. Salgadeiras, a restaurant not too far from our hotel, offered the perfect ambience and menu, so off we went for our last supper in Lisbon.
Off to Belem today, to visit the Belem Tower and the Monastery, do a little geocaching, and eat some famous Belem Pasteis… Lisbon and its surroundings are rich in museums and cultural centres, and today was the day we intended to see at least some of the many offerings.
We had our Lisbon 72-hour card, so were able to get onto public transit for FREE, and took the train out past the monument to the explorers to the Belem Tower. From there, we also had a panoramic view of the Golden Gate, er no, replica bridge, and the Rio De Jan-, er, no, also a replica, Jesus statue!
Next it was off to the Monastery of St Jeronimo, which recently celebrated 500 years. Inside the stone walls of the monastery we found a sculpture that had been crafted by Grade 3 and 4 students at a nearby school. Look closely… can you see what it is made of?!
After the Monastery, we had the opportunity to take in a show at the Planetarium, a real treat for me; I LOVE planetariums, and was really disappointed when the one next to the ROM in Toronto shut down several years ago. My infatuation with the projector dates me, however; my partner laughed her head off at my fascination and amazement with the large, archaic mechanical wonders of the 1970s and 80s, especially when she saw that many of the supplemental images where being projected via slide projector!!!
Click any image above to enlarge.
Perhaps the greatest highlight of the day trip was our stop at Belem Pasteis, to try their famed egg tarts. We had heard they were very good, served hot, and customarily sprinkled with cinnamon, that they come out fresh from the oven every 15 minutes, that people line up from morning ‘til night to eat them… but we were totally unprepared for just how delectably tasty these treats really were: a freshly baked flaky pastry surrounds the still-warm tender egg tart centre… as the fellow traveller at the next table remarked when he saw us order seconds, “you can’t have just one”! (He himself had just packed away two "to go" -- after the several he had devoured at his table!)
Finally, we decided to take the tram back to Lisbon, to look for a grocery store near our hotel where we could purchase the much-anticipated Port to take back to eager friends and family in Canada. We did so, and also snagged a few other souvenirs, before returning to our hotel, a hot bath, and – finally – bed.
Tomorrow, our last day, promises to be filled with adventure once again (so much for the relaxing vacation!), as we head out to Sintra by bus, followed by one last supper and evening out with friends here in the city, before madly packing our bags for the long trip home on Saturday.
Terra offers a smorgasboard of delectable Vegetarian dishes, both cold salads, and Indian-inspired hot plates. Up to this point, any vegetarian salad I have tried to order in this city has featured a can of corn or beans dumped into a bowl, sprinkled with lettuce, and -- if I am lucky -- garnishd with a grape or two, so tonight's buffet really excited me!
The restaurant opens at 7:30 p.m., and when we got there, a small crowd of diners had already gathered in anticipation of the excellent meal about to be unveiled. Terra's ambience is intimate (but not cramped -- there is plenty of seating),and their drinks list extensive. The restaurant's website includes a link to a vegetarian dictionary in several languages -- very convenient indeed!
After dinner, we headed over to a port-tasting cellar, where the three of us (we spent the evening with a musician/web designer friend of mine who currently resides in Lisbon) shared an assortment of affordable and "other" port, accompanied by a house cheese. I myself am not a big drinker, but I must say I enjoyed the diversity of flavours offered by the three different samples we had selected: The pricey port appealed to me more than the dry one or the 20-year-old one. (And if I knew what I was talking about when it comes to such delicacies, I would refer to them by their proper names, which I cannot for the life of me remember now!)
Some colleagues at work suggested I bring back a bottle of Port from my excursions for their consumption; our dinner friend noted that bottles of the stuff could be had at the local grocery store for a considerably more reasonable price than the wine cellar's offerings... perhaps we'll make a quick stop there tomorrow, in between the Belem Monastary ad the Lisbon Music Museum.
After writing for several teacher and multiple birth publications, including ETFO's Voice Magazine, Multiple Moments, and the Bulletwin, Vera turned her written attention to prolific blogging for some years, including BiB, "Learn to Fly with Vera!" and SMARTbansho . Homeschooling 4 was her travel blog in Argentina. She now spends more time on her Instagram (@schalgzeug_usw) than her blog (pictures are worth a thousand words?!) Contact Vera by clicking the photo above.
The views expressed on this blog are the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the perspectives of her family members or the position of her employer on the the issues she blogs about. These posts are intended to share resources, document family life, and encourage critical thought on a variety of subjects. They are not intended to cause harm to any individual or member of any group. By reading this blog and viewing this site, you agree to not hold Vera liable for any harm done by views expressed in this blog.