Saturday, 19 November 2016


We have been in London, England for almost two months now.  We needed the first month to get oriented:  confirm Vern's new job, figure out where we wanted to live, find a new school for Cooper, etc.  Now we're living in our new flat in Putney, just south of the River Thames, trying to furnish it affordably (a reality check after selling everything in Calgary before we left on the we need a lot of that stuff again...!).

Tonight we went into Central London to see some of the fun Christmas lights in the popular shopping areas along Regent and Oxford Streets.  Very crowded, and very pretty:

A park near our house, where Vern likes to go running:

 Big Ben in the background, but Cooper loves the multi-colour LED public art on the other side of the Westminster Bridge!

Vern got his UK citizenship on Sept 28 (inherited from his mother), so he is now a dual Canadian/UK citizen:

Friday, 12 August 2016

Home Sweet Home

Our favourite place in the world is our cottage, on Portage Lake, in Muskoka (Ontario, Canada).  It's good to be back here after 13+ months of travel around the globe!

To see pictures from our trip, click here

Thursday, 4 August 2016


Carolyn.  We spent the last 6 weeks of our trip in Europe:

France, 3 weeks, June 17-July 9 (Paris, Provence, Nice);
Italy, 2 weeks, July 9-23 (Florence, Cinque Terre, Milan);
Germany, 1 week, July 23-31 (Berlin, Dusseldorf-area).

Back in our early planning days (more than a year before we even left Canada), we originally put Europe at the end of our itinerary, because we thought that after 11 months of traveling in countries that were culturally very different for us, it could help our “re-entry” process to visit a region more culturally familiar.

As our planning developed (still before we left Canada), we found ourselves with the new idea that we might move to Europe after our trip, to live and work for a few years before returning to Canada – so with this in mind, having Europe on our itinerary at the end of our trip was a good idea to “scout” possible locations that we could live…

In reality, we arrived in Europe somewhat exhausted from the previous 11 months.  We played tourist a bit, and enjoyed some classic sights that we had never visited before – but the truth is that we all feel a bit “saturated”.  We have been so lucky to experience so many new things on our travels…and now…it seems we are having trouble absorbing anything more…

Cooper summed this up well, regarding his birthday in July.  We were in Florence, Italy and we asked him the day before what he would like to do for his birthday.  His answer:  “I do NOT want to visit a museum, or historic site, or art gallery, or church!” (What did we do?  We all went to a local public swimming pool and enjoyed a great afternoon in the water).

Actually, the temperature in Florence was around 38-40 degrees, and we often felt as hot and uncomfortable there as we had felt in India.  Paris had been a welcome 19-20 degrees when we arrived in mid-June (unseasonably cool for them), and Germany was more comfortable 23-29 degrees.

For us, the best part about our time in Europe was that we got to reunite with people we knew! On five separate occasions, we met with friends and/or family.  We were much more excited about these precious personal interactions than to see anything more on the tourist track.  Looking forward to being back in Canada soon!

Toronto friends Loriann & Kevin, whom we met at their vacation villa in Tuscany!

Reuniting with Gisella & Fortunato, at their Tuscany farmhouse where we stayed 7 years ago - we kept in touch over the years, and they love Cooper.

Visiting cousins Bernie & Susan in Herne, Germany - where Vern's Dad was raised.

Meeting Vern's cousin Andrea -- 31 years since their last family reunion in Germany!

Dinner with twins Bianca & Bettina in Meschede, Germany -- friends whom we know from their annual hiking vacations in the Canadian Rockies.

To see more pictures from our trip so far, click here

Friday, 29 July 2016

Catching up...we just added a Singapore blog entry, backdated to June 17.  Please scroll down if you'd like to read this one (sorted by date).

Friday, 15 July 2016

Very sad to hear the terrible news coming from Nice, France.  So many innocent people, attacked senselessly.  Touches us deeply because we were just there July 4-9...

Image result for google images french flag half mast

Thursday, 30 June 2016

We're in France now!

Will update the blog soon.  Still have some Vietnam blog thoughts to share...

Paris June 17-22
Southern France (Dordogne, Provence & Cote D'Azur) June 22-July 9

Puy L'Eveque (we stayed here for 6 nights)

To see more pictures from our trip so far, click here

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Wow, THAT was stupid!

Vern.  Have you ever done anything really stupid?  I mean REALLY stupid.  The kind of OMG moment that makes your stomach bottom out, leaves you short of breath and then dredges up your entire vocabulary of four-letter words?  Oh, c’mon.  You know what I’m talking about. 

Over our journey, we as a family have subconsciously kept track of a few of those spectacular lapses of reason and/or common sense.   The good news is that only three of these stand out.  The bad news is that it was unanimously agreed that I own all of them.   In the hope of redemption, I have decided to share these incidents.  That, and the fact that if I don’t write about them, Carolyn or Cooper will, and they’ll seem much worse.

Idiotic Act #1 – Fight or Flight
Taken in isolation, this particular brain fart wouldn’t be a big deal.  I mean, everyone forgets to take restricted items out of their carry-on baggage occasionally.  But usually not when there has been a precedent.   Or two.

The first precedent came on day one, back in June 2015.  Cooper really wanted to bring his Swiss Army knife on the trip.   He hunted for weeks, and, after we’d sold almost everything we own and packed up the rest, it hadn’t turned up.  Imagine our surprise when it was expertly located by security at the Calgary Airport … in Cooper’s own backpack.  Luckily, all was not lost:  good friends bidding us farewell at the security checkpoint took the knife and mailed it to other friends in Toronto where we retrieved it a month later. 

So I had my warning.  Not enough of one, apparently, to prevent me from forgetting my own Swiss Army knife in my pack at the airport in the Galapagos Islands.  Again, luck was on our side:  I realized the mistake immediately after sending our suitcases through check-in.  It’s a tiny airport, and airline staff kindly walked me through security where I was able to place the knife in our checked luggage.

I don’t count that minor misdemeanour.  My true idiocy emerged at Rio International, where, accompanied by a feeling of déjà vu, the uncompromising security staff at the huge airport dug my knife out of my backpack thirty minutes before departure time.  Carolyn was not impressed.

Happily, I pulled off the save.  I sprinted back down the escalator where I found a bookstore and a café that could each spare me a small box.  I put the knife in the bookstore box, shredded the café box to use for padding, wrapped the whole thing up in packing tape donated by a friendly woman at check-in, and checked the knife.  It arrived safe and sound in Sao Paulo.   I will NEVER do that again.  I hope.

Idiotic Act #2 – Passport Control
We’d decided to spend our last few days in Brazil in the small resort town of Paraty, a six-hour bus ride from Rio.  The twenty-five minute cab ride from our hotel put us at the bus station a good half hour before departure.  It was during our leisurely check-in that I abruptly realized I had left my passport in the scanner at the hotel, where I’d copied it an hour before.  Carolyn was not impressed.

I did not want to leave my passport at the mercy of hotel staff, asking for it to be mailed on to Paraty.  Leaving my bags with Carolyn and Coop, I dashed out to the taxi queue where I found only one cab.  But man, did I find the RIGHT cab.  1)  The driver knew the hotel and the exact address.  No looking things up or asking for directions.  2) He appreciated the need to make the 50-minute return trip in less than half an hour.  3)  We mutually agreed that bothersome obstacles such as stop signs, no-passing lanes, and red traffic lights were more of a suggestion than legally binding rules of the road. 

The round-trip, including a mad dash through the hotel lobby to the computer with the scanner – to the surprise and alarm of some hotel staff and patrons – took 25 minutes.   It also included a big tip for my life-saving cabbie.

Idiotic Act #3 – Jumping to the Pump
I still don’t know how I managed this one.  We were making our way through northwest Argentina in our rental car, excitedly heading towards Aconcagua National Park, hoping for a short hike to the base of Aconcagua itself, the highest peak in South America.   As a rule of thumb while traveling, I like to keep the gas tank above half full.  You’re in unfamiliar territory, you never know when you’ll hit your next gas station, and there’s no guarantee that they’ll have gas.   We weren’t in a big rush, but when we pulled into the station and nobody emerged to fill our tank, I took it upon myself.   It was only after fueling up that one of the staff rushed over and explained in rapid Spanish that I had filled my gasoline-only tank with diesel.  Well, shit, that’s not good.   Carolyn was not impressed.  (Neither was I.)

I knew immediately that I couldn’t start the car, or diesel would get into the fuel line and possibly into the engine.   With the help of a couple of service station staff, we pushed the car into a parking spot and I considered my options, amongst much (well-deserved) verbal abuse from my wife.   The only possibility was to drain the tank and re-fill it with gasoline.  The critical drawback to this plan was that it was siesta time, and the town mechanic wouldn’t show for two to three hours.  And of course I’d have to pay the asking price.   To add insult to injury, the garage was less than 200 metres from the gas station – I could have pushed the car there myself were it not along the highway.  

But there was no real option.  Carolyn and Coop shacked up in a nearby restaurant beneath a ceiling fan, and I waited it out at the station.   It was almost five hours from the fatal fill-up to the time when we were back on the road, $120 poorer.   We arrived at Aconcagua too late to hike and had to content ourselves with a few pictures of the distant summit.  I will NEVER do that again.

Today is June 25, 2016, and we are down to the final six weeks of our trip.  This should mean that there is insufficient time for me to do anything quite as stupid as any of the above.  Wish me luck.

To see pictures from our trip so far, click here