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We might have missed the chance to celebrate Canada Day (on the day), but we can still celebrate our blogger Nicola’s mom!
It was her 60th birthday not so long ago so how did they celebrate? Calling all family from across the sea to return to this 21-square-mile island. How did it go? Nicola will let us know:
Happy Canada Day Weekend! Canada Day was Sunday, and I’m wandering off to Chicago for the first time. Seize the day… the day off work, that is! Although I did botch up the chance to celebrate fireworks twice, as I will be in Chicago for Canada Day… but in Toronto for American Independence Day. Oops!
Fireworks aside, let’s get down to the real deal. This blog post centers in on a sub-tropical island adventure that occurred this past May.
After 6 months of secrets, plotting, organizing, and email flurries, we finally executed our master plan: a surprise 60th birthday bash for one well-deserving lady!
The well-deserving lady being my mother, lucky Elizabeth. “We” pertains to myself, my sister and her fiancé (Katie & Deneys), my father, my university friend and her husband (Christine & Gavin) and several other key accomplices in Bermuda and abroad. It was quite the feat! We even slipped up once or twice in planning, throwing in something about “when we’re in Bermuda” in Skype conversations, and emailing mom directly one time (instead of emailing dad’s work email). She swears dad did damage control and she remained clueless (or at least was confused and didn’t investigate any details).
Arrive for a walk on the beach... SURPRISE!! Party time.
Needless to say, photographic evidence shows the event was executed to perfection. Not only did we host a beach bash with up to 40 people, we also created an 80-page printed scrapbook with anecdotes, well-wishes, photos and memories from 1952 to today regarding Elizabeth Arnold. Oh and did we mention the iPad gift? There was a lot of work put into this fun and exciting event. And, as you might imagine, also overwhelming. Especially for such a short period of time.
Lucky Liz with her overseas guests from London, Philadelphia, Toronto and Guelph.
In between surprises and birthday happenings, we managed to show my guests a bit of the island. Dockyards, rum cake company, Gibb’s Hill Lighthouse, Grape Bay, Elbow Beach, Horseshoe Bay, Grotto Bay Caves, Swizzle Inn and even a boat trip to see the Vixen shipwreck in Somerset. Not bad for 2 full days playing tourist!
Obliged to taste test some rum swizzles, dark n stormies and local beer.
Let’s have my friend Christine and my sister Katie describe their Bermuda adventures in their own words!
Christine’s thoughts on Bermuda:
We didn’t get to spend too much time as tourists so I can’t talk about that much. However I can say that all the people we met were fantastic and I felt like we were living (almost) like locals. We went for an event so it was a different type of vacation. I still felt relaxed when we got home though, so even though it was busy it was fun, too.
Most surprising: How hill-y Bermuda is. I wasn’t expecting totally flat, but there are some steep hills on that island! [We didn't even drive them up Knapton Hill!] Most relaxing: The water. I really liked the sound of the water and being able to see the horizon when you look out. You don’t get to see the horizon like that in Guelph that often. And napping on the beach at Horseshoe Bay! that’s a great beach. I can’t wait to go back. Regrets? I wish it was warmer in the caves so I could have gone swimming. I know, I know, I’m a wimp! Best view: Gibb’s Hill Lighthouse – I loved being able to see almost the entire island from there.
Something tells me C&G were fans of the moongate...
Katie’s thoughts on Bermuda:
I hadn’t been home for 2 years!! The words popped out of my mouth to everyone I came into contact with a week before leaving, as well as the week I was home. This was an unforgettable week, spending time with friends, family, and the Bermuda sun!
Most missed: Standing in that magic place between the wave and the shoreline, never knowing if the water is going to wash up onto your feet or not.
Thing I was surprised to enjoy: The feel of humid air on my skin. It feels clammy and usually unwelcome, but this time it was a reminder of home.
Best sound: Tree frogs chirping… without a doubt!!
Happiest day(s): Seeing mom’s joyful face at the beach party and when she opened her scrapbook. I will always remember her reaction to me as I surprisingly walked through the door (time stood still and sped up all in one). Her response to the scrapbook ‘this is so touching’.
Best birthday memories for a great mother!
And there you have it folks. Once again, time well spent in the Bermuda triangle.
Happy Father’s Day! And who would be better to travel with than your dad? No one, so our wanderer Nicola and her sister Katie share some of their favourite travel moments with their dad.
So sit-back, enjoy and remember your dad’s on this special day!
Father’s day weekend and Katie and I are far, far, away from our father. So what to do? Write a blog post in dad’s honour, of course! You may recognize dad (Matthew) from the frivolously fun kilt post, and now we would like to tell you a few more tidbits about our fabulous father.
Things We Love About Dad (aka M-A-T-T-H-E-W):
M – ‘magic good-nights‘ – Once upon a time when we kids we visited Disneyland and came home with some awesome fiber optic strands. When we got home and were sent off to bed for bedtime, Dad would turn off the lights and give us an amazing magical ‘light show’! Dad moved the fiber optic torches quickly making all the shapes you could imagine. We begged for it to go on all night, to stall on sleeping and to watch the magic unfold!
Thanks for putting us first, dad (except in this photo!)
A – ‘a bit of drama‘ – Dad always has room to include some drama! If you know Matthew in real life, he is both serious and silly. Much to our delight, there is theatricality and so much love for flair. Broadway shows may have played a role in this one… we started by seeing Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat in New York City and have not stopped seeing musicals whenever we can. One particular event, dad was reading us a bedtime story of Lewis Carroll’s ‘The Walrus & the Carpenter‘ and the ill-fated oysters. Dad read the poem in character, with so much emotion, that Nicola started sniffling at the poor little oysters. Before you know it, we were both in tears!
Dramatic dad even faceplants in the sand.
T – ‘terrific towel-rides‘. Which kids don’t love swimming in pools!? Dad had a special trick up his sleeve to “bend the pool rules” a bit (and this mainly happened when mom had her back turned!). Dad would stand by the side of the pool and hold on to one end of a towel. He would give us the other end and we were pulled along the side of the side of the pool at ‘lightning speed’ as he ran along the side of the pool… the “no running sign” must not apply to fathers!!
T – ‘thrilling wheelbarrow rides‘. When we were on holidays visiting grandparents, we spent lots of time outside. Their gardens were large, full of birdbaths, rock gardens, badminton nets and flowers. Katie and Nicola were always looking for fun things to do with each other and roping in dad if possible! After spying the massive wheelbarrow, dad noticed our interest and offered us a wheelbarrow ride. We took him up on the offer immediately! As long as we were not dumped out, we were having a grand old time.
Dad wouldn't have done it all without mom, of course!
H – “household help” – If dad is good at one thing (as if we can pick), we would say that ironing is one of his household activities. is there some mending to do? Dad will sew it if you ask. Is there some ironing to be done? Dad will do it on a sunday night. Our maternal grandmother was a seamstress and we wonder just a tad if she gave some marital advice to dad on his wedding day. As mother-in-law, she might have planted the seed that a tip to a happy marriage is “ironing and sewing for your family”?!
"Ironing Matthew" as we say
E – “European extravaganza” – Perhaps it’s because we were both born in england, or perhaps it’s because we loved visiting family for Christmas in the “motherland”. But once we ventured to Europe, we could not get enough. From spending a year each as Rotary Exchange Students (Katie in Ukraine, Nicola in France), to a semester in Paris, summers spent visiting our grandmother in Croatia, to bus tours from Spain to Denmark and everywhere in between! Dad instilled a love for travel, exploring and adventure in our blood systems. And it’s NOT just there-and-back. It’s throw in Amsterdam for the weekend, an overnight in Germany. eat local food, drink local beer, and enjoy!
We love having a beer in Budapest, Hungary, with dad!
W – “Worldly wisdom” – Imagine this: On summer holidays when we were in elementary school, we used to ask dad to make up math and English problems for us to keep our brains active. Looking back now, we think perhaps we didn’t “ask” so much as “were encouraged” to exercise our brains. Dad can be found doing a number of brain-busting activities… puzzles, crosswords, guessing flags or country capitals. Listing off all the united states in alphabetical order. You can’t even trick him with things such as spelling kyrgyzstan or the neighbours surrounding laos. Foolproof!
Dad at Grape Bay with his "babies"
Most recently, Dad helped us both plan a super special event: Mom’s surprise 60th birthday bash in Bermuda! Six months of planning led to a phenomenally-executed surprise that included: surprise visits from Nicola and 2 Guelph friends, Katie and her fiancé, a scrapbook full of memories and well wishes for friends & family, and an ipad! Want to know more deets? All shall be revealed in the next blog post…!!
“Put your sunglasses on, because you ain’t going home till the morning comes.“ Frank Sinatra
Yes, the blog has been quiet for a while and hibernating much like our blogger in Toronto, Nicola Arnold. Luckily both the blog and our Toronto-based writer are back!
And what could be better to bring her back? Well spring and the sun of course. How is she going to see it? Well maybe some sunnies? Or perhaps a pair of aviators? You’ll just have to read and find out:
Clocks have changed, snow has melted, layers are unraveling, and sunshine is creeping out. And in my case, eyes are squinting.
I said adieu to my favourite sunglasses in the fall, and not just because it was wintertime. I inadvertently cut short their lifespan. One fall day in October I swung my legs out of bed and stood up. With a resounding CRUNCH (or was it just a tiny snap?), I broke my beloved red sunglasses in one swift step. Darn it!!
Now, as Canada creeps out of a wintry hibernation, I’m realizing I need to hit the shops to find another pair. For a few snowy month, who needs sunglasses? Granted there are, of course, sunny days that break up the monotony of a white winter. Then there’s the occasional winter getaway to a tropical (or sub-tropical ie. Bermuda) destination. Or even ski trips where sunglasses are required. But overall, lack of warmth = lack of sunglasses.
The French Alps, sunny side up
RIP spectacles. No, they were not expensive nor designer. No, it was not the end of the world. Replaceable of course, but they were just the best glasses I’d had in awhile and had their benefits too. It was a memorable buy – a 2-for-1 deal that I shared with my friend, buying at the same time cupcakes and enjoying a lazy spring day eating cupcakes in the park with our new summer accessories. Colourful red frames. Reflective lens making for fun photography. Sat in place without nerdy adjustments. Bought days before my 6-week trip to India (with temperatures soaring in the 40′s Celcius and sunshine beating down… much needed protection!).
We got 2 for $25... sunglasses of course, not cupcakes!
“My look is attainable. Women can look like Audrey Hepburn by flipping out their hair, buying the large sunglasses, and the little sleeveless dresses.“ Audrey Hepburn
Let’s take our sunglasses and make them internationally & culturally cool:
- if I had travelled to Australia or South Africa, I may be sporting some sunnies
- if I was still gallivanting around Paris or Chambery, I would be saying mes lunettes de soleil - if I was in the US of A, I’d be rocking some shades
- if I wanted to rock out to 1980′s music, I’d would belt out Corey Hart’s “sunglasses at night“.
- if I wanted to be trendy I’d have Aviators, or Ray-Bans, or some hipster style…
The kids definitely enjoyed rocking their sunnies as well
Where had my sunglasses had the pleasure of accompanying me on my journeys? Well, bought in Hamilton, Ontario, they were then transported to the sunny beaches near Hamilton, Bermuda. Their first main trip included several weeks in India, proving to be a great photo-taking device for Himalayan hillside sunsets and Taj Mahal, amongst other sights. Next, their adventures led them to Scotland, Germany and Croatia for some summer sunshine and family/friend reunions. Finally, they settled in Toronto where they ended their days prematurely. “It’s 106 miles to Chicago. We got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses! ………. HIT IT!!“ Blues Brothers movie
Visiting Taj Mahal when it was 49°C (120°F)
As the sun is here to stay, it’s time to go hunting for a new pair of sunglasses. The sunlight hours are extended and new adventures await…
Perhaps the coffee is a bit less decadent than this cappuccino
Our weekly blogger is back and Nicola is going to have a busy Saturday traveling around the world! From Toronto, to Greece and beyond!
How is she managing it? Well, here she tells us how:
C’est le weekend! The work week may be over, but that does not mean the end of busy times. Here’s how my Saturday is going to work, in a nutshell:
A bit more of a sleep-in than the Mon-Fri alarm allows, it’s time to wake up and have some coffee…
Today includes a reunion with a university friend/study abroad comrad/Greek travel buddy… so what better way to catch-up then to invite her to Toronto for a chat over meal & dessert crêpes and reminisce over our year in the French Alps? To top it off, we’ve chosen Cafe Crepe, a crêperie in Toronto that also has a unique feature on their menu – Nutella lattes. This is true… will report back if we do indeed give it a taste!
Nutella on my crêpe AND in my drink, please.
Next, time to hop on a bus and head north of Toronto for my next reunion. A Bermudian friend living in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) is getting hitched in August in Bermuda… Cupmatch weekend, to be exact! I am delighted to be a bridesmaid (my first bridal party stint), so we are meeting up to check out bridesmaid dresses. Of course, this means modelling and I am all for that. My time to shine & report back to the others in the bridal party!
Dress to impress in India (may be different for this wedding!)
Naturally, Bermudians being Bermudians, we are going to catch up on news of friends & family back home. Maybe throw in a “wish we were at the beach right now”. Despite enjoying life in Toronto, it’s also nice to think of summery weather to keep us going in the Canadian winter.
August 2012 in Bermuda, here we come!
And to end a Saturday in the best way we know how, and maybe depending on how the dress shopping goes… we are going to turn “stressed” into “desserts” and make ourselves enjoy some sweet treats at Caffé Demetre, specializing in all things in sweet-tooth heaven.
ps. I’ve also been told that I am spending the night in a “man-cave”… so I dearly hope the spiders are aware this wanderer is NOT willing to share the bed!
It’s a new year and our Wanderer Nicola is still finding ways to make us jealous for her travels. In her second round of sunsets around the world we visit Norway, Croatia and, of course, Bermuda! The sun has set on 2011, so Nicola show us what to look forward to:
Happy New Year, one & all! Who can resist a celebration that includes fireworks & champagne? Wow, it’s hard to believe that I wrote my 2011 NYE post just over a whole year ago… on a flight from South Africa to England to Amsterdam. Watching the sun set over Africa and the sun rise over Europe from my window seat.
Speaking of sunsets, remember this colourful entry? Interestingly enough, I received a message from a friend (who also happens to be a photographer) complimenting me on the sunset blog photos. It can be difficult to know how many people these columns reach, so I was pleasantly surprised! Given that the subject was sunsets, though, I cannot take much credit for the snapshots. With the winning combination of clouds, colours, beaches or mountains, sunsets basically set themselves up for splendor!
Simayal, in the foothills of the Himalayas
If you’re itching for a movie to watch as the sun fades behind the clouds, try Before Sunset, and watch Ethan Hawke converse with Julie Delpy in Paris, France. Europe, dusk til dawn, and a conversation that is just as electric at the scenery around them (sequel to the original film, Before Sunrise). City of Love & Lights, after all…
In Bermuda… sunsets really out-do themselves. When you live in a rock surrounded by the deep blue sea you have a lot of natural beauty to boast about. Whether you are at Horseshoe Beach, Grotto Bay or St. George… boating, at a beach or on your balcony…
Bermuda sunset from my parent's porch
We all watch & wait with anticipation for sunsets, and you can tell a good one is coming your way wherever you are. For the fidgety, anxious, move n shake kind of people, it seems that sunsets (and sunrises) are a moment of fresh air. A chance to take a break, and let the magic unfold. See what you think of these quotes about our glorious sundowners:
It is almost impossible to watch a sunset and not dream – Bern Williams
Even the most beautiful days have their sunsets – Unknown
A lucky photographer may only take a picture of a stunning sunset moment; an artist can always make one. - Gina De Gorna
Dusk in Crikvenica, Croatia
While visiting to Croatia in summers, we drag ourselves out of bed (somewhat begrudgingly) at the crack of dawn to walk along the coastal towns. Of all the early starts you could have, a Croatian summer is worth the lack of sleep-in. Besides, as the temperatures creep up into the 30′s Celcius, you want to take a snooze in the afternoon. And then you marvel at the sun setting behind the mountains & hills of the islands along the Adriatic Sea.
An evening walk on Elbow Beach, Bermuda
In Bermuda, we are able to make beach & sunsets go hand-in-hand.
Do you remember reading (or watching?!) Charlotte’s Web? The sun setting has us exclaiming words to extoll the sunset in all it’s glory, much like the vocabulary that we learnt from our friend Wilbur the pig: ”terrific,” “radiant,” and even “humble”.
Sail into the sunset in Oslo, Norway
To sum it all up, Lord Byron has the closing words: “It /sunset/ was the cooling hour, just when the rounded Red sun sinks down behind the azure hill, which then seems as if the whole earth is bounded, circling all nature, hushed, and dim, and still, with the far mountain-crescent half surrounded on one side, and the deep sea calm and chill upon the other, and the rosy sky with one star sparkling through it like an eye.”
In Vietnam, for example, I was told by a guide that if he wanted to leave the country on a holiday he had to have a substantial amount of money in the bank (and proof of it), a good job to return to and apply to his government for a pass.
In India, I was told of a boyfriend trying to go to Canada to visit his girlfriend. Though he applied for a visa, he was denied.
What is this? I am talking about travel bureaucracy. It’s everywhere and it’s not only about leaving a country, but also entering.
For example when I tried to travel between Laos and Cambodia only to be required to pay an “entry fee” to every man standing along the border in a uniform! Ok, so it was only US $1 per man, but still annoying.
And Bermuda? Well my home country is no different. Seemingly ridiculous procedures surround entering and leaving the country too.
I had always heard some stories, but on my recent trip to Toronto I actually got to be on the receiving end. I’m such a lucky girl!
I will give the Bermuda’s L.F. Wade International Airport customs guy one excuse: it was Christmas Day and I am sure he did not want to work, but lots of people have to work on Christmas. Still, I will give him that small leeway for his response:
“Hi, I need to register my camera,” I said.
“Do you have proof you bought it in Bermuda?” said the small man in a crisp blue uniform as he poked his head out of the barely-wedged-open door.
“Uh, well it was a birthday present, so no I don’t have a receipt.”
“Well, I’m not saying you are lying, but we will not give you a registration. Too many people sneak items into Bermuda.”
Bermuda might be beautiful, but.....
OK, I should explain the policy. Bermudian residents are required to purchase items in Bermuda or be prepared to pay duty of 35% on items acquired abroad.
To avoid the duty, we can register electronic devices (usually the only items we are taking that are the most expensive and hardest to prove you had before you left) before leaving the Island. This registration is delivered in the highly modern form of a yellow slip of paper!
Yes, there is no way you will ever lose that (sarcasm is free).
The yellow paper, however, is not a minor detail. Instead it is a Bermudian resident’s “get-out-of-35% duty” card!!!! Can you imagine?
Why, you ask do we have to pay such a high price? Well, the argument is that if government increase the price of purchasing items abroad, Island residents will be more likely to “Buy Bermuda” (I have my opinion about this economic policy, but that is a different blog entirely).
I have two problems with this checking system:
1. when an item is purchased in Bermuda, no one issues a yellow piece of paper. One might think that is important especially for, I don’t know, a camera which is almost definitely going to leave the island and one that might also be a present that the receiver should never know the price of…..I’m just saying.
2. if I do buy abroad (gasp!) and pay duty on the item, there is no way to show that the payment I make (all 35% of it) directly relates to a camera, etc…. So when I turn-up to customs at a later date there is no way to prove that, if I have not bought my item in Bermuda, that I paid duty on it. (I would show you a picture, but these are such high commodities, an extra form is just not possible to get!)
Instead, the form groups together all goods in a particular category i.e. clothing and footwear, and we pay the duty on the total amount. There is nowhere to actually list the items you are declaring and therefore, no way to reference the duty you paid on them. i.e. the customs’ officer was asking me for something I literally could not produce.
Get-out-of-Jail yellow customs' slips!
Let’s be honest here too, if a traveler manages to outsmart the bureaucratic process that is installed to just put more money in government’s coffers and sneaks their goods into Bermuda…..can we really penalize them at a later date? I don’t think so.
Tourists, you are not exempt! You can also be subject to these problems, especially if you are visiting residents. Travellers are allowed a $30.00 excemption on goods they plan to bring into Bermuda.
Bermudians? Well the first $100 for each household is free and then duty kicks in and so do the yellow slips!
So what happened with my recent trip, you ask….well I had to leave the Island with my camera bought in Bermuda (there was no way to send it home before the flight) and prayed that when I returned to the Island I could outsmart the process.
Did I? Well, you’ll have to come back tomorrow to see what happened…….oh and for some fun travels to Quebec City!
Thing One & Thing Two sitting in a tree, p-l-a-y-i-n-g.
Ok well not actually Oklahoma. Well sort of. What am I trying to say? This week our wanderer Nicola hits on a topic that I have experienced too: the friend who travels.
I had a good friend in high school and we would do everything together. After graduation, though, rather than mundane we managed to see each other around the world. From Denver, Colorado to Aix-en-Provence! Where is Nicola going this week? Well read and see:
Oklahoma. OKC. OK. Have you ever been? I have, twice. And hopefully again.
In fact, it was one of the mostexciting holiday destinations of my life!
Does that strike you as odd?
Where the heck IS that state?
Let me explain.
If you are familiar with Dr. Seuss children’s book, it all begins with the mischievous yet lovable Thing One & Thing Two…
Things One & Thing Two met in kindergarten in Bermuda. They became not just friends, but BFF’s. Thing One & Thing Two earned their nicknames because they were just as naughty as the duo in Dr. Seuss: sneaky, giggly and artfully troublesome. One sideways smirk at the other, and both would collapse in a fit of laughter. They had sleepovers, watched Indiana Jones, went rollerskating, annoyed their older sisters, laughed at the “green man” in Beauty & the Beast, frolicked in the waves on play-dates at the beach, and burnt grass outside Thing One’s house – just to see what would happen!
Playful in the school playground
It gets better. Thing One lived on the American Base in Bermuda, which was a highly controlled area. Thing Two was ecstatic that her best friend lived on on exclusive part of the island, as she was granted permission to visit her friend. On the Base, there were all sorts of cool American things: instead of Cadbury’s chocolates, the Thing One ate Hershey’s chocolates like Almond Joy and Mounds. There was a McDonald’s fast-food restaurant, and down the street there was an all-American baseball field! There were even private beaches for the Base residents.
Two classic stories come from those beaches!
First was the bathroom breakout, when Thing One & Thing Two were in the bathroom on a (rather deserted) beach. They were stuck inside and the door would not open. Thing One and Thing Two were worried they ere stuck forever, in a toilet.
So, Thing Two wrapped toilet paper around her hand and smashed the glass window panes out of the high window. The girls jumped out of the window and landed in a thorny bush, but lived to tell the tale.
Second, was Thing One’s birthday abandonment. A handful of friends were invited for a beach bash, and back to the house afterwards for cake & ice cream. On the short car ride from the beach to the house, Thing One’s mother realized that they had left the birthday girl at the beach by mistake!! Which is scary when you are 8yrs old, and even WORSE when it’s your birthday…
Years later, they are STILL laughing about the bathroom breakout...
Then, everything changed. The summer before Grade 4, the American Base closed and Thing One’s family relocated to Oklahoma, USA. Where? Why? NOOOO… Who would Thing Two play with at school? How would they keep in touch? How can you survive without your best friend? Initially, they wrote letter, cards and notes on a monthly basis. They both had childhood dogs, so they mailed each other their dog’s fur in Ziploc bags. Thing One had a pool at her house in Oklahoma, and she sent Thing Two pool water in a small container (who kept it in her freezer for years!).
For Thing Two’s birthday in October, she received a cereal box. How disappointing! But, digging inside, she received a great surprise: two airplane tickets for her and her dad to Oklahoma for November break. Life was good, friendships were rekindled! The following summer during school holidays, Thing Two went on a family vacation to New Mexico, Texas… and Oklahoma! Both families played catch-up, with Thing One’s family showing the visitors the wild & wonderful Oklahoma: Braum’s ice cream, Sonic drive-in food, Men in Black at the drive-in movies, Frontier City amusement park, the musical Oklahoma! at an outdoor theater, and the National Cowboy Museum. Not to mentioned kayaking on the river and collecting Beanie Babies…
Playing the part of cowgirls at Oklahoma's cowboy hall of fame
Then… the inevitable happened. The girls grew apart, middle school consumed their lives. They found new friends, and their memories were just that – memories. High school brought along computers, and they slowly & hesitantly began to email each other and use AOL instant messenger. In fact, Thing One taught Thing Two how to do the sideways smiley face )
They saw each other once, as teenagers, when Thing One visited Bermuda with her mother. Add in the glasses & braces – and it was enjoyable yet awkward.
Fast forward to university: In the January-April 2007 semester, both girls were going on exchanges to Europe – Thing One to Rome and Thing Two to Paris. The universe was conspiring to bring them together again! What were the odds they’d be in capital cities in Europe, same semesters? They planned to visit each other in Rome and Paris. Sadly, Thing Two attempted her first solo, weekend getaway a month into her Parisian adventure, and it was a fiasco – inclement weather, cancelled flight, hysterical call home to her parents at 5am their time… needless to say, Rome was axed. Luckily, Thing One had better luck arriving in Paris in March 2007. Despite being a gloomy, rainy weekend, the girls had an absolute ball: nipping in to the Louvre for free on Friday, taking in the view from the Eiffel Tower, and feasting on crepes and espresso in between downpours. The only thing better than an American exploring Paris is an American exploring Paris with her Bermudian best friend!
The mischief continued at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris
Since Europe, Thing One and Thing Two have reunited. With the help of technology, the long-distance relationship is not quite so long. With the click of a button, they can do what they do best: share their wild & crazy stories and prepare for their next adventures! And they have been adventuring in Bermuda. Thing Two came to visit for a week in summer 2008, where the girls were up to their old tricks once again. Just mention Limoncello or 445 boys, and Thing One & Thing Two will burst into laughter. A wonderful Christmas visit to the island in 2009 led to Thing Two dragging Thing One to a school reunion to see her long-lost classmates. Most recently, on Thing One’s family cruise from New York to Bermuda in summer 2010, both families were reunited after a whole decade.
Beach bums by day, terrible twosome by night!
Why write this now? Well, it was Thing One’s golden birthday recently, 25 years old on November 25th.
The end of the harvest. It must be time for.....Thanksgiving!
“What do you do for Thanksgiving?”
“Well, I’m from Bermuda.”
“Oh, so what do you do in Bermuda for Thanksgiving?”
I gave up.
Tomorrow, Americans will be sitting around their living rooms eating turkey and talking about what they are thankful for.
It’s a yearly tradition for the United States that comes complete with the Macy’s Day parade in New York City and pumpkin pie.
But what I have found, is that many Americans forget is that not everyone celebrates Thanksgiving, hence the intro question, or that not everyone celebrates the holiday at the end of November.
For those who are not American…do you know where it started? According to the History Channel, the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast. In 1863, the celebration became the first national holiday thanks to President Abraham Lincoln and was to be held each November.
Now, it is celebrated with sweet corn, turkey, sweet potatoes, apple pie and gravy (not all in that order!) and even the largest parade, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade completed with balloon animals.
America’s Northern neighbour? Canadians? Well, their Thanksgiving happens on the second Monday of October and recognizes the end of the harvest season.
Like the Americans, Canadians also enjoy turkey and all of the Fall vegetables they can find with their families. This has been carrying-on since 1957 when Canadian Parliament declared: “A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed – to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October.”
One of the best know celebrations in Canada during this time of year? The Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest is an annual nine-day festival that is based on the German Oktoberfest. It starts the Monday before Canadian Thanksgiving and runs until the Saturday in the twin cities of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.
There are an estimated 750,000 to 1,000,000 people every year! And a few even stay to see the largest Thanksgiving parade in Canada in the same place!
Bermuda? Well, we do not really have a thanksgiving per se. I suppose the closest we have to one time of the year where everyone comes together is Cup Match.
According to CURE’s publication, “Emancipation Day – A Day for Reconciliation & Reflection”, Cup Match was born from friendly cricket matches and celebrations to mark emancipation from slavery. In 1902, the cricket celebrations became even more official when the east and west ends of the island raised funds for a trophy to award at the end of the matches.
Take a swim in Bermuda over Cup Match
In 1947, Cup Match transformed again with the Thursday and Friday closest to August 1 officially named Emancipation day and Somers Day respectively. Emancipation Day to mark the end of slavery in Bermuda and Somers Day to remember Admiral Sir George Somers who colonized Bermuda in 1609. Now, Cup Match is filled with commemoration ceremonies, cricket, but also boating, beaches and definitely parties! Thankful? I think so, but let me know if you agree in the comments section below.
Sure we Bermudians, Americans and Canadians have held our traditions for a while, but there are other countries that have created their own type of Thanksgiving.
In Grenada, for example, a day of Thanksgiving is observed on October 25 and marks the anniversary of the 1983 Operation Urgent Fury, a US led military invasion of the Caribbean island. Grenada consists of about 100,000 people and sits about 100 miles above Venezuela. It also became independent from Britain in 1974, however, in 1979 the Leftist New Jewel Movement seized power and in 1983 an internal struggle ended with the revolutionary Prime Minister Maurice Bishop being deposed and murdered.
The invasion on October 25th, 1983 also had troops from Jamaica and the Regional Security System to help! The government was then headed by Governor-General Paul Scoon until elections were held.
Is that thanksgiving? Well, perhaps not like the Americans envision it, but in Grenada ceremonies are held during this time to give thanks, so I think it fits.
Dan pobjede i domovinske zahvalnosti i dan hrvatskih branitelja or Victor and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and the Day of Croatian Defenders, if you must know in English. Yes, Croatia has its own Thanksgiving too.
It is a public holiday and is held as a memorial to the War of Independence. It is also held on August 5, annually.
Well, on that date in 1995, the Croatian Army secured the city of Knin, which essentially ended the Republic of Serbian Krajina, a self-proclaimed Serb entity in Croatia.
Because of the reason for the day, it only makes sense that most of the celebrations are centred in Knin where there are festivities from Mass and wreaths laid in honor of those who died in the war as well as, parades and concerts.
On that day, the Croatian flag is also lifted on the Knin fortress (just in case anyone is confused as to who that day is about)!
Celebrating around the world!
Other countries tend to also have a “Thanksgiving” around the end of their harvest seasons. In China? This is called the August Moon Festival and is held on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. But instead of Apple Pie, there are mooncakes, which are made with sweet bean-paste filling and golden brown flaky skin.
In the South of India, they celebrate the Pongal harvest festival, which is named after a sweet rice dish and takes places on January 14th and lasts for three days. The celebrations vary by days and regions, but neighbours generally come together to feast and give thanks to a hearty harvest.
As you travel the world, these thanking festivals can be seen in their variations, but generally focus on food and recognizing family, friends and gratefulness.
Is Cup Match our version? You tell me on my website www.robynswanderings.com and return for next week’s column: being thankful I could travel and learn ten very important lessons.
“To myself I am only a child playing on the beach, while vast oceans of truth lie undiscovered before me.” – Isaac Newton
Red Beach on the Greek island of Santorini is worth a visit.
It’s Monday morning and for those who might be sitting at their desks or trying to stay warm against the snow that sit outside, Nicola Arnold is here to make you jealous.
Our Bermudian wanderer is missing home, so this week she takes us around the world to visit beaches! So warm yourself with these images and plan your next holiday:
Has it really taken me almost a year of blogging to write about beaches? I come from Bermuda, for goodness sake, home of the pink sand and turquoise waters. You can illegally snatch some sand in a bottle if you visit a Bermuda beach (or inadvertently take some home in your shoes, swimsuit, suitcase… it gets eeeverywhere!).
What better time to think about beaches than when the weather in Canada takes a drastic turn towards the 0°C (32°F) mark? [Sorry, Bermudian/American friends, as I have converted to Celcius-ism given my years of living in Canada and Europe... there's no going back now!] I was actually happy there will be a high of 12°C on Sunday… until I saw that the current temperatures in Bermuda are around 22°C.
So, beaches. Let’s think warm, breezy thoughts…
In Croatia, reserve your spot on the pebbly beach early.
I’m lucky – I grew up on a 21sq. mile island, surrounded by ocean. It’s not a big mystery as to why we often had visitors in the summer months! I know that proximity to an ocean beach is not the norm. So when we don’t live in the tropics with a beach down the road, and we’re not sitting in a hammock under the palm trees, where do we go?
In Toronto we have The Beaches, bordering Lake Ontario. The islands and coastline in southern Croatia, known as the Dalmatian Coast, lead out to the Adriatic Sea (across from the boot of Italy). You could also find a beach in an enclosed area, like a bay or a harbour. What about when you make a special trip to Scotland to see the Scottish Highlands and the Loch Ness Monster? You may find yourself on a beach on a loch – whether you brave a quick dip or not!
Walks along a beach at Loch Lomond, Scotland - breezy but not warm.
Do beaches automatically bring up images of the Caribbean, Hawaii or Fiji in your mind? Perhaps you start dreaming of that trip you once did along the Great Ocean Road in southeastern Australia? Somewhere warm, tropical and sunny, right? For the most part, we think of bright summer days, cooling off at the beach. Summer holidays, a weekend vacation to the coast, or a much-needed winter getaway. Would you ever think about the beaches along the South African coastline? Probably not… but South Africa offers more than safaris and game reserves!
Welcome to the beach in Durban, South Africa.
And let’s not forget types of beaches. I grew up with sandy beaches, and even with sand there is variety – pink, white, grainy, fine…etc. On beaches elsewhere, the sand is red, white, black, grey, or some other rainbow mix. Further still, some beaches have no sand at all. Think pebbles, rocks, or stone stabs.
Winter vs. summer beach visit - boots just do not cut it!
Story time! Once upon a time…
Okay, okay: In 2005, I met a fellow foreigner while studying abroad at high school in France. We were in the same exchange program, and we became good friends. I was excited that she was a Canadian, from Ontario, as I was headed to university in Ontario in the fall of 2005. During our spring break, we joined 45 other exchange students on a bus trip through Spain, France, Italy and Austria. In the south of France, she and I dipped our feet in the ocean as it was a sunny day in the French Riviera. I joked that I had been landlocked in northern France for 7 months (my longest time away from Bermuda at that point), and she vowed to come and visit me in my sub-tropical island of paradise.
Cheers! From France to Bermuda, we are beach buddies... where next?!
Fast forward 3 years: In May 2008, my friend and I reconnect at the airport in Toronto to fly to Bermuda… she was my first friend from Canada to visit!! My family and I made sure to show her the best of Bermuda summers – the rum cake company (free samples!), the ducking stool (she was chosen as a victim to be dunked), taste testing rum swizzles at Friday happy hour, cross-island ferry rides, swimming in the crystal caves, and, of course, THE BEACH.
**While putting this post together, I realized that there was too much to cover all at once… Bermuda will be Part II of the beach blog**
“He who does not travel does not know the value of men.” – Moorish proverb
“Ok, we have 15 minutes at the Pyramids and then we have to be back here,” said an American-sounding tourist at the prime historical site of Egypt.
I could not believe my ears for two reasons.
One, I could not believe a guide would only give their guests 15 minutes to visit one of the marvels of the world. And two, because the guests were OK with it.
Me? I took a taxi from the centre of Cairo and, though I had to ignore more than enough camel salesmen, I also had all the time I wanted to enjoy the Pyramids.
What has this got to do with this week’s Rock Fever column? Well, actually, this is a column that has been waiting in the wings for some time, but also reared its head on my recent trip to the Netherlands and Belgium: traveling slow.
Perhaps you are more aware of the slow-food movement, which proposes actually taking the time to enjoy your food?
Well, I say it is time to start actually enjoying our travel and I think one of the best ways to do that is to: take it slow!
Which brings me to my first tip this week on traveling slow: slow does not mean long! What do I mean? Taking your time while traveling does not mean you need a year-off to see the places you want, but rather it require quality traveling. If you have a week holiday then take that time in one city rather than trying to stuff four cities in one week.
Because reason two is: traveling is not a contest. Sure I went to 23 countries on my trip around the world, but there’s no need to compete! I’m kidding. The point is, I was lucky to find a year to do that and even then I probably rushed through too many places. I think the best thing to do is to spend more time in one place and try to immerse yourself in the culture. It’s something I tried to do in Bali, where I spent almost three weeks (but really I needed years).
Seriously! Only 15 minutes?!?!
And that brings me to three and if you want to travel particularly slowly than mix business with pleasure: teach. Any teacher or someone with a strong background in a subject can find a job in private, English-speaking schools around the globe. I found a job teaching Biology (that’s another column) in Rome, Italy for a year directly out of college. Failing that and if you want to go the more traditional route then, you can also take the Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) course too. I completed this in Prague (after Rome) and then went to work in Istanbul, Turkey. The beauty is you make money while also experiencing another culture.
Which brings me to four and you never really start to know a country until you live in it (ask any expat living in Bermuda). I can tell you from my own experience that I would never have understood some of the intricacies of Turkish life if I didn’t live for five months in Istanbul (and again those five months only, really scratched the surface).
Tip five for keeping things slow on trips is not to bother signing-up for tours. These tours try to be helpful, but they also cram as much as possible into every waking hour. With that kind of schedule you will never meet any locals (any that aren’t trying to sell you anything anyway), you will get 15 minutes at the Pyramids, you will have to eat at “tourist spots” and you will never truly find time to enjoy the country you’re in!
So skip the packaged tours and listen to my tip six: travel independently and do your own research. Traveling independently is not as scary as you may think, even if you are in a country where English is a second language. And planning your travel really does not require much more work than booking a tour. In order to book a tour, you have to know what you want to see. Why not just go see these things on your own schedule? The bonus of going tour-free is that only you really know what kind of hotels you want to stay in, the places you want to eat and the sights you actually want to see. Need advice on what to see? Ask me at www.robynswanderings.com or post something on Facebook. Someone will be able to give you tips!
But if you do plan your own trip and if you have very little time i.e. a weekend, tip seven is plan three attractions you want to see and organize your weekend around them. A minimal amount of planned visits will give you leeway to “get lost” in a city while also ensuring that you also experience the places a city/country/town is known for.
And when should you plan your trip? Well, I will let you in on a secret….I rarely planned more than a day in advance, the entire year on the road. Why? Because there was no point and it was more important to be “Present” for tip eight. If our lives require us to juggle work, Facebook, emails, Blackberries, computers, kids, homes, etc… why not take your vacation time to actually focus on what you’re doing rather than what you will be doing next? Hotels do not need to be booked months in advance anywhere in the world (well, unless you’re going to Octoberfest) so chill-out and enjoy Amsterdam when you’re there.
Enjoying a long lunch in Brussels!
Lack of forward planning also helps if sickness, late planes, broken trains or general travel mishaps occur! My tip nine is: rather than get stressed on your HOLIDAY, leave “carved-in-stone” plans aside. Example? I got sick in the Hague and because I had not booked any further plans, I could rest in a hotel for three nights and recover! I did not lose any money, nor did I worry I was missing anything.
Which brings me to the last tip for traveling slow: you can always come back! I remember when I managed to fool my parents into sending me away for the summer on a French exchange trip and worrying that would be the last time I would see Paris. I’ve been back at least twice. The point is, be an optimist and rather than feeling like you have to cram everything into two days, take your time and actually enjoy your holiday. Just don’t go home more tired than you arrived. What would be the point?