Anything you can do I can do better

Irving Berlin wrote the song for the musical “Annie Get your Gun”, but I find  this video featuring the Chipmunks (courtesy ktCATSbone ) encapsulates the sentiments in a more meaningful, more relevant manner for today’s audiences.

Yes, Anything you can do I can do better has been a way of life for my family as long as  I can remember. Originally my daughter, the Hippie-Dippie Wildchild was the one trying to keep up with her older brother, The Obnoxious One.

Anything you can do I can do better
I can do anything better than you

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No you can’t

She tried to outdo him on everything, like Halloween costumes

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except I clearly won as the Wicked Witch 😉

and then declared she loved Killer, the dog, way more than he did.

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poor Killer doesn’t look too thrilled with either

My kids tried to outdo each other while on a beach vacation for the prize of silliest-looking and the best skin (after the mask).

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three-way tie

 

As they grew older their antics didn’t stop – just morphed into bigger and more ridiculous sibling rivalry.

Spat

courtesy iclipart.com

They competed to see:

who was the loudest and most obnoxious? – usually my son, The Obnoxious One but sometimes my dear darling hubby, The Original Obnoxious One won the hotly contested battle

who was the weirdest? – definitely my daughter, The HIppie-Dippie Wildchild

who had the better worst tattoo? –  my son’s was totally overshadowed

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The Obnoxious One’s Tattoo

by my daughter’s, much to my dismay as I am SO not a fan of tattoos.  Sorry folks.

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this tattoo was originally just the phrase from “Dear Prudence”, until she added the tiny sun. Sigh.

And food? When The Obnoxious One came home for the summer after his second year of university with severe sensitivities to gluten and dairy, the Hippie-Dippie Wildchild just had to become vegetarian and ultimately vegan to differentiate herself and outdo her brother. Preparing a healthy meal for the four of us became such a Herculean feat that I soon gave up – and cooked only for my hubby and I. After all, we’ll eat just about anything as long as it’s spicy and fresh and flavourful and homemade and …

By the way, after feeling sluggish and generally lousy for many, many months, the Hippie-Dippie Wildchild finally succumbed to eating seafood a couple weeks ago, and even some meat. Hallelujah!! ‘Cause it’s kinda tough being a healthy, energetic vegetarian, let alone vegan, if one doesn’t eat beans or nuts.

At all.

The latest? Years of competition, heated debates and massive arguments have been replaced with a bare-bones tolerance, a delicate truce between The Obnoxious One and the Hippie-Dippie Wildchild.  Almost. Although I never know when it will blow up completely

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courtesy iclipart.com

and utterly.

But for now they seem to have found a new source of “fun”, a new opportunity to show off.  Now they compete to see who can buy the most ridiculous, most useless present for their dad,  a conservative business lawyer and senior partner with one of the largest law firms in CanadaAs mentioned in Our Very Own Goddess of Green, for Christmas the Hippie-Dippie Wildchild made a generous donation on his behalf to the British Hen Welfare Trust .  The Original Obnoxious One is now the very proud sponsor of Sky and Sparkle, two thankful British hens who are enjoying the great outdoors for the first time ever .british hen stuff

This lovely donation is the gift that won’t stop giving, because every couple of months he receives something quite lovely, such as this beautiful notebook and two charming greeting cards

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and this fascinating update on Sky and Sparkle’s return to health and happiness

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aren’t they handsome hens!

as well as this informative magazine.

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I do have to wonder though if the postage to send these fine items from the UK all the way to Vancouver BC costs more than the original donation amount?!

For Father’s Day not only did my son The Obnoxious One come home for a great 10 day visit from London, England (first time we saw him since Christmas), but he managed to snag a delightful Father’s Day gift for The Original Obnoxious One. This gift was so thoughtful and so relevant that the Hippie-Dippie Wildchild just couldn’t resist checking it out herself.

 

At the end of the day I just can’t imagine why my children are so competitive and try so hard to outdo each other. Perhaps it’s in their genes. Way, way back in the Dark Ages their father and I met at university in a second year Philosophy class in Logic. Every week the prof gave us quizzes and of course we always checked to see who received the better mark.

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I did of course!

Really!

 

Oh the Places You’ve Been

ohtheplacesframed_shadow

courtesy Oh, The Places YOu’ll Go by Dr Suess

Somehow you’ll escape
all that waiting and staying
You’ll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing

When my dear darling husband, The Original Obnoxious One, suggested we travel to Japan, I agreed  with one caveat – we had to spend several days afterwards at a totally chill beach resort. And since we were already halfway around the world in Asia, the place I chose was this:

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We had stayed at a Six Senses Resort a couple years before in Vietnam and it was magical. What’s not to love – architecture in harmony with natural surroundings, private villas complete with private plunge pools and butlers, incredible fresh local food, sustainable water and waste practices, and prices not as steep as you’d think, especially in the off-season.  The Six Senses Samui in Thailand did not dosappoint not one little bit, not when the main pool looked like this:

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And the view from our bed looked like thisDSCN0860

Even though the weather was hot and it was humid, which we usually find unbearable, somehow, we managed to survive. We had lattes in the morning  – not Green Eggs and Ham – and Sex on the Beach – the drink – in the afternoon.We dined on the hill, DSCN0925

we dined on the rocks,DSCN0872

we dined wherever and whenever we could.

And it was heavenly.

We wandered along the resort’s private beach,
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we swam and we kayaked in the clear turquoise waters,DSCN0863

and we talked to the wonderful locals who worked there – our butler, our servers, our housekeepers. Those hardworking folk were always smiling and happy and laughed at my hubby’s silly jokes and catered to our every whim as we started the long and challenging process of unwinding. My iPhone even died so our daughter couldn’t reach us to complain and shriek about the cold weather or her lack of friends at school or her courses or any other earth-shattering issues.

It’s opener there
in the wide open air. 

But it wasn’t all fun and games you know.

Nope, not for us.

I put The Original Obnoxious One to work and enrolled him in a Thai cooking class at the resort. All that chopping, all that tasting, all that sauteing – quite a demanding proposition, especially combined with the gorgeous outdoor setting.DSCN0885

Surprisingly enough he got more right than wrong, so the slave-driving chef gave her love, thumbs-up, grudging acknowledgement.DSCN0883

In the end The Original Obnoxious One somehow created such amazing culinary delights and was so proud of himself  that he became almost insufferable, and rather…obnoxious! DSCN0887

To this day I have not heard the end of what a great “cooker” he is.

Next I decided The Original Obnoxious One required a serious tune-up, an arduous physical transformation, so I forced my reluctant hubby to undergo the dreaded Thai Signature Treatment, which just happened to be for two people. At the place of our doom

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courtesy Six Senses Samui

we were presented with white cotton pajama-like tops and bottoms for our own protection. No oils. No aromatherapy. Just damn hard work.  For an entire hour each of us submitted to the battle-hardened warriors who thrashed and pummeled us. Those tough veterans poked our muscles, stretched our limbs and contorted our bodies into poses never seen or even imagined before . And yes, it was extremely scary – at least for The Original Obnoxious One who moaned and whimpered and screamed yelled screeched over the course of the daunting procedure. When the horror ended my hubby thanked the sweet little Thai ladies professional masseuses and proclaimed the treatment the best massage of his life.

With banner flip-flapping,
once more you’ll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
Ready because you’re that kind of a guy!

Now it was time for him to torture me – a happy marriage is all about equal pain and suffering compromise after all. So he dragged me on several treks around the island, along unfortunate garbage-strewn beaches (yes, really)DSCN0895

roads choked with mopeds and trucks and fascinating colourful temples.

And after those terrifying forced marches we enjoyed our home away from home that much more – well at least my dear darling husband certainly did.10580943_10152713416644400_2647866384709508617_o

And sure enough,  The Original Obnoxious One finally found his long-lost mojo .DSCN0890

Until the next time we return. We met some Brits who spend a couple months suffering at this same spot year after year. Ahh…to be so lucky! In the meantime we’re planning a trip to Portugal in the fall, and I’ve found the perfect Six Senses there. Really!

Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. There are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.

 

 

 

 

Oh the places you’ll go

dr-seuss oh the places you'll go

courtesy Dr. Seuss

You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So… get on your way

In the fall of 2014 we did travel to a great place – Japan. Usually I’m the Grand Master of Trip Planning, the Decider, the Doer, but because of our impending move in October 2014, my husband, the Original Obnoxious One took over my duties. So I could pack boxes. And more boxes. And so many boxes from the house we lived in for 12 years.

As a result he picked the flights and the actual destination. Why Japan you might ask? Darned if I know. It was his choice though, so I agreed as long as he agreed to several days at the Six Senses Resort on the island of Samui in Thailand afterwards.Which he did.

But I get ahead of myself.

And then things start to happen,
don’t worry. Don’t stew.
Just go right along.
You’ll start happening too.

And yeah, things did start to happen just as soon as we landed at the Tokyo airport. My dear darling husband was feeling tired and out-of-sorts, so he wandered off as he frequently does and disappeared. For over an hour. Just vanished in a place where no one spoke English and all the signs were written in Japanese characters.

But that’s a story for another time.

Suffice it to say we got back on track within 24 hours – thanks in large part to the wonderful Mandarin Oriental Tokyo (he actually picked this amazing hotel all by himself!?) and started doing what we like best.

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go

Wandering the streets of Tokyo with eyes wide open, we were mesmerized by the unique and fascinating  Japanese culture so very different from ours in North America.

For example …

around every corner, busy street markets sell everything from shoes to clothes to food

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and vending machines offer all kinds of weird and wonderful items.

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Sumo wrestlers really are something special and they walk around town just like everybody else.

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You can find really good Ramen at tiny little hole-in-the-wall underground spots where no one speaks English but there are photos of the food available.01b6953ffab3dd681eaea0b97b6f9f0018366ed236

The Japanese love their themed cafes – cat cafes and my little pony cafes and especially maid cafes. This is as close as we got to a maid cafe.

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Since fish is served morning, noon and night, the Tsukiji Market is a super big deal and the Original Obnoxious One sure loved it.

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And when you’re alone there’s a very good chance
you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.

 

But the greatest and scariest sights that we saw?

Can you guess, can you say, do you know?

Was courtesy Toto, the toilet folks pros!

So I’m no Dr. Seuss,  but I’ll tell you that I’ve never seen anything like the Japanese high-tech, music playing, multi-function, super-specialty toilet/bidets with heated seats anywhere before. These were way more complicated than any similar ones I’ve seen in Las Vegas – trust me!

toto toilet

And when faced with a budget choice of a dishwasher or a Toto luxury toilet, most Japanese families  choose the toilet. Our guide told us her mother now refuses to leave Japan, despite having lived in places like New York city for several years. Why?  Because no other country enjoys a similar level of toilet sophistication! In fact, the Japanese are determined to bring their enlightened toilet culture to the rest of the world as the video below illustrates.

And for the ignorant uneducated travelers like the Original Obnoxious One and me, Toto also produced videos which provide more detailed and focused information on exactly how to use the washout – too bad I didn’t come across this video until after our trip!

 

So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
And remember that Life’s
A Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

When we returned to Vancouver I spent several weeks researching these marvelous contraptions – yes, by the end of our time in Japan I was totally smitten with the Toto Washlets, especially their heated seats! Unfortunately I couldn’t find any beauties here for less than $5,000 and the Original Obnoxious One was enamoured with them quite that much.

So, I’ll have to wait until our next visit to Japan or Vegas. 😉
Really!

Oh, the Places You’ll Go! quotes courtesy book by Dr. Seuss

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t worry, it’s just a flood of Biblical Proportions

It was a dark and stormy night – yes I know that’s a big fat cliche, but the wind was blowing, the sea was churning and there was no light whatsoever. We had just moved into our new home, a concrete bunker, outside the city between the mountains and the ocean, just off the highway to Whistler. On one side of us was an empty house (the owners live abroad and use the house only in the summer) and on the other, a raging creek river.

raging river

our concrete bunker beside the creek (when the creek isn’t raging)

My husband had just left on a week-long business trip to China and my kids were at university across the country. That left me and my traumatized little lab Franklinstein.543264_10151311621917492_420617158_n

I know he was traumatized because he marked his territory many, many times those first few weeks, inside and out – outside was one thing but inside on the cream-coloured wool carpeting ?! Yuck! (By the way, the carpeting didn’t last long – as soon as we could we replaced it with hardwood flooring.)

dogpoop

courtesy iclipart.com

Franklinstein was a very nervous  boy, barking and growling at every little sound and at every wild creature. Actually a ton of scary wild things do live out here – ginormous river otters, seals, mice, minks and raccoons – and each one is at least ten times larger than its cousin in the city.

Madmouse

Mad Mouse courtesy iclipart.com

So there we sat, scared worried by the storm. Worried that the power would go out and we would freeze and/or starve to death. Worried that a wild thing would somehow break into our concrete bunker and devour us.

Or at least terrorize us.

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courtesy iclipart.com

It was almost 11 pm, so it was too late to call my Mommy  – I didn’t think she’d appreciate a call at 2 am her time. Same with my children and I had no idea how to reach my husband as his cell generally goes on strike the minute he leaves home.  So I bit my lower lip and told myself to stay strong. And it was at that point the door bell rang. Now, I should point out that we actually do have a large real live bell at our door.doorbell.JPG

Poor little traumatized Franklinstein barked and cowered as I made my way up the dark and winding staircase to the front door. Standing on my porch I found a police officer; now the only other time in my entire life that a police officer has come to my door was after my then thirteen-year-old daughter called  911 during an argument about computer privileges and told the dispatcher that her parents were evil. (Yes it’s a long story.) Anyways this police officer had kindly and bravely ventured out into the storm to inform everyone in our small community that the the raging creek river had flooded and now covered three of the four lanes of highway, making travel out of or into our place almost impossible. 

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courtesy iclipart.com

But not to worry. What, me worry?! I’m the Champion, no the Queen of Worry. When anyone in my family has a concern they give it to me because they know that my worry skills are absolutely magnificent, and second only to my dear mother’s.

I wandered back downstairs thinking and worrying about this little bomb the police had left me with. I now felt a greater need than ever to reach out and talk to somebody besides my shaking and quivering  Franklinstein.

worried woman

courtesy iclipart.com

So I located the contact information list for our community and at 11:00 pm made the desperate decision to phone my nearest neighbour  – a sweet little 80 year old retired schoolteacher. You know you’ve moved to a wonderful place  when the phone is answered on the first ring, “Yes dear, are you all right? Have the police been to see you?” Followed by, “Did you understand what they told you?”

grandmother

courtesy iclipart.com

And then, “If you’re nervous or scared you’re welcome to pop over for a drink or you can even spend the night.”

At that point the reality of the situation finally struck me like a whack on the side of the head – she was most likely in bed trying to get to sleep. “Thanks very much Kathy, but I ‘m okay now.  I think I might survive.”

Really!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Annus Horribilis

The Queen had hers way back in 1992 when Charles and Diana separated, a fire burned Windsor Castle castle almost  down to the ground, and the tabloids enjoyed themselves far too much reporting on royal antics.

I had just had my own annus horribilis this past year and a bit  – a truly terrible, really bad, horrible year. Yes, menopause was and is still a monstrous thing, and yes I broke a couple of fingernails, I earned several of large black and blue bruises and I even found a few grey hairs.

But you have to understand – I went from this:

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courtesy iclipart.com

to this practically overnight:

old lady

courtesy iclipart.com

  • My mother who lives half-way across the country was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer  – tumors in her breast, lymph nodes and cancer in her hip and leg bones. A few months later she was also diagnosed with a brain tumor.
  • After suffering through multiple open houses and far too many  showings, we finally sold our beloved house of 12 years. Moving day proved to be a nightmare featuring stoned and scary-looking movers who damaged furniture, broke treasured mementos and left the old house with lights on, doors wide open, fridge full of food and valuables on the kitchen table. (And we even used one of the so-called top local moving companies – really! ) Because we were gluttons for punishment we lined up painters and carpenters and electricians and tile layers immediately and kept them busy for almost a year.
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courtesy iclipart.com

  • And while a fire didn’t almost destroy our place, we did experience more than our fair share of leaks and floods from the three toilets, the refrigerator, several windows, the roof, my son’s bedroom wall and of course the pool.
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courtesy iclipart.com

  • We sold and vacated our water-access-only cabin  which we had owned for almost 20 years and was a source of many wonderful family memories. It truly was a bittersweet moment.

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  • Due to my incredible lack of coordination I fell and cracked my ribs on the rocks by the ocean while shoveling dog dung into the ocean the day after Christmas; the ER was not the optimum spot to spend on Boxing Day.
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courtesy iclipart.com

  • My husband of 30 years, a corporate lawyer who generally works 60-80 hour weeks, became extremely ill and inexplicably weaker and weaker, spending at least 20 hours a day in bed.  He was no longer the Original Obnoxious One. After seeing 14 doctors and making 5 ER visits to 2 different hospitals he was finally diagnosed with heart disease and placed on 2 kinds of medication; then he suffered a mini-stroke and stayed in hospital for almost a week.
Medication

courtesy iclipart.com

  • My son’s best friend from high school died very suddenly and unexpectedly this summer – my son, the Obnoxious One and he had been estranged the past couple years which somehow made the whole situation worse. The boy was a lovely sensitive and creative soul who lost his way.
  • In addition to dying her beautiful hair black with blue ends, and adding a couple more tattoos and piercings, my daughter developed several medical issues which  culminated in three lengthy hospital stays.
  • My 4 year old yellow lab nearly died as a result of ingesting a large amount of rat poison.
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courtesy iclipart.com

And when my husband and I took a much needed vacation for some rest and relaxation this past fall guess where we went – Jordan and Israel right when the 2015 stabbings and Wave of Terror began. Of course! Keep in mind that we live in boring little Canada where no one carries guns and people are way too polite most of the time. In fact, the most exciting thing that has happened to us in decades is the fact that the New York Times called us “hip” in  January 2016.

mounted

courtesy iclipart.com

But…deep deep breath… I’m back. And I’ve cried enough tears and hosted enough personal pity-parties to last me for a very long time. So no more, besides, I’ve got stories to share.

womanundies

courtesy iclipart.com

Stay tuned.

Really!

 

The Devil’s left Georgia, and has gone up to West Vancouver

Where she’s living in my house.

Yep, last September I sent my daughter, the Weird One, off to university in the UK , but the Demon Child returned home in April 2014.

courtesy iclip.art

courtesy iclip.art

How do I know?

She begged and begged and begged me to get her a summer job at the cafe down the hill, even though she had never worked in a restaurant or coffee shop before. And this was my absolute favourite cafe that I frequent a couple times a week.

Chat

courtesy iclipart.com

Somehow the universe and the stars all aligned and I came through for her; the manager of the coffee shop was an old friend and was looking to hire for the summer. And it’s a 15 minute walk down the hill – I didn’t have to drive her. But the manager soon found a new job and moved on. Meanwhile absolutely everything changed at the cafe and the working environment went totally downhill. For example, the new manager:

forced my daughter to work shifts with people she didn’t like or know

and 

scheduled her for three 8 hour shifts in 3 days thus interfering with her extremely busy social life

plus

she wasn’t allowed to wear Lululemon pants or Uggs!

courtesy iclipart.com

courtesy iclipart.com

But this The Terrible Awful Mother told her to suck it up; I shared with her all the lousy summer jobs I’d had over the years and how I frequently worked two or more jobs at the same time so I’d have enough money for university. When those comments didn’t gain any traction, I told her I would cut off her credit card if she quit her job before finding a new one.

In the meantime my sister and I took our parents on a week long cruise to Alaska to celebrate their both turning 80.embarkation
Yes it was fantastic, but that’s the subject of another blog. Halfway through the cruise, in a very weak moment, I sent my daughter a text message inquiring how she was.

I should’ve known better.

She texted me back that she had quit her job, and predictably I SAW RED.

courtesy iclipart.com

courtesy iclipart.com

When I asked what had happened, she told me that she had a panic attack at work because the environment was toxic and she wasn’t going to let me push her around. She called me names (really, really bad ones) and demanded my support (mentally and financially);  I told her to get a grip and figure out a plan to get another job. A few more choice words flew back and forth, culminating in a 1:00 am screaming match on the cell phone. In the middle of the Alaskan Inside Passage. She threatened to leave home and live with friends and I… I said that was fine. She could either stay, apologize and be respectful or go and live elsewhere.

Such a lovely spot of entertainment in the middle of a cruise far from home IMG_2759Although clearly not far enough!

Her parting words to me:

Honestly if something happens to me it’s all on you. And also after this I want NOTHING to do with you. 

But the very next text said: Can you please put the money on my credit card. I have no money to eat!!!  (despite the fact that I did a humongous food shopping trip just before I left)

And: I found a place on Commercial to stay for the month of August for $300. Can you please chip in.

cinnamonroll11-300x236

the Demon Child’s latest obsession which the coffee shop doesn’t sell

In the mean time The Demon Child revoked my friend status on Facebook.  But hey, it’s important to have your priorities right!

Really!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who ya gonna ask…?

Who are you going to ask for directions, for recommendations, for tips when you’re travelling far far from home and you don’t speak the language?

Back in the day when my children actually kind of liked each other and kind of got along, we took them on a number of summer vacations overseas to Europe. In the months leading up to such trips I would overdose on travel books – Fodor’s, Frommer’s and especially DK Eyewitness Travel were my kind of porn, not to mention Conde Nast Traveler magazines and the TV show Rick Steeves’ Europe.

We generally rented apartments in the big cities for a few days, then drove our rental car (minus the dog) to the

courtesy iclipart.com

courtesy iclipart.com

agritourismo in Tuscany,Top-3 cottage near the sea in Dorset,103_0315_resizedgite in Provence,IMG_0210_resized
barge in Burgundy,
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gulet off the Turkish coastIMG_1537
where we lived just like the locals for a week or so.

Due to my incredibly thorough and never-ending research, we  I knew the recommended sites (the castles, cathedrals, museums)  to see and the top restaurants to savour meals (the local pubs, the tucked away bistros, the hidden tavernas.)

courtesy iclipart.com

courtesy iclipart.com

Of course, this was before there was an app for all that.

However I have found out the hard way that the views expressed on Trip Advisor don’t always match my own, like the place in Miami Beach that came highly rated. Yes the location was amazing, but the service was virtually non-existent and majorly disappointing given our midnight arrival after 12 hours of travel time. Also the carpet sagged in many spots over strange protrusions, the bed was hard and lumpy and the pool staff &/or drink staff never materialized.

Now my daughter, the Weird One is absolutely, positively, totally the opposite of me – yes,  she does take after my husband, the Original Obnoxious One, although she’s more a seat-of-the-pants kind of gal, a go-with-the-flow bohemian babe with chutzpah.

courtesy iclipart.com

courtesy iclipart.com

No planning or preparation ahead of time, no way!

For example when visiting Paris with classmates, in order to fully experience the city in all its glory, she went to confession at Notre-Dame Cathedral. Yeah, that one – the religious centre of France constructed 850 years ago. The thing is, we’re not Catholic – my kids were baptized in the Presbyterian Church but it’s been many years since we graced its doors.

But she didn’t go to Notre Dame to confess her sins…oh no, that would be too pedestrian, too…normal. No, the Weird One went to confession at one of the largest and most historically significant cathedrals in all of Europe, heck in all the world, so she could have a life chat with the priest.

And ask him exactly where to go and what to see in Paris.

Really! 

Can’t say I’d recommend this as a shining example of how to how to procure travel advice in a foreign country, but when you’re the Weird One, anything goes!