Monday, June 16, 2008

Switzerland and Beyond

Currently in London. Catherine's flight from Toronto was majorly delayed due to severe thunderstorms so we have had to alter our lans somewhat. We have decided to nix the dublin excursion and stay in London and do it up right. Cath arrives tonight at 10pm, we overnight at Yotel Heathrow and set out tomorrow.

Dave and I covered a lot of ground in Greece and Turkey. We saw some amazing sights and met lots of backpackers along the way. I think I covered most of the highlighs in past posts, but the Hammam (Turkish Baths) are worth a mention. We decided to do this in Goreme, Cappadocia. So, first you take a sauna. Hot as hell. Then you lie on this very hot slab of marble...and I mean hot! It was only after lying there like a piece of raw meat, that I noticed you can douce yourself with cool water. What a relief. Then a very large, burly Turkish man beckons you to his cubicle where he assaults you with hot water, cold water, suds, and gives you many goings over, scrubbing you like you have never been scrubbed before. There's a lot of massaging, well pumelling, bordering on beating. A few neck cracks etc and you are done with the assault, but squeaky clean and surprisingly quite refreshed. Then we moved to the pool where Dave and I compared notes. A refreshing juice later on a lawn chair and the one of a kind experience was done.

Greece was great too. We missed our bus to Delphi so spent some time at the archealogical museum and went to Olympia (home of the anchient Olympic games). It was a beautiful site in a very small but picturesque town. The next day we returned to
athens where we said our goodbyes. Dave was off to theGreek Islands and I to
switzerland. I worried about Dave on his own probably more than Pam did. I was happy to hear via Faceook that he arrived safely. Similar to Colin and
sarah MIA for two hours in Dubai, if I had kids I would be in Unit 9 from worry.

Switzerland was stunningly beautiful. There were about 40 on our tour ..Americans, Brits, Welsh, Aussies, Kiwis, Indian, Korean, Malaysian and evenIcelandic. I was great hearing about everyone'shome country. I was the only Canadian.

We started the tour last sunday and our first stop was a small Alpine Village.
eing Sunday, church bells were ringing throughout the valley, echoeing off the green rolling hills, only interupted by the clanging of cowbells. In the distance we could see the Alps. This was Switzerland!

We covered a lot of territry in 9 days. We even popped into the small principality of Lichenstein, governed by a prince. His family bought the territory several hundred years ago ..long story..and is now one of the smallet countries in the world. Another bonus was that we popped into Italy several times. Language and currency were always a challenge as switz. did not join the EU so is on the Franc while Italy is on the Euro.

Swizerland is truly multilingual with four official languages. It was wild because in the a.m. you could be in a completely German part,later Ialian, and evening French.

Our guide Fiorenza was from the Italianpart of Switz. and she was fantastic. She showed us it all...Alps, waterfalls, rolling countryhills, castles, rivers, and glaciers. We saw sun, rain, snow and even hail. We were in the Alps as high as 10,000 feet, but we were also in subtroical areas such as Lake Como and Lake Lugano (which they call the Swiss Riviera).

The entire country is going nuts as they are cohosting with
austria the Euro Football event.
bye or now

Friday, May 30, 2008

How I Spent My Birthday - by Mr. Terry

It started May 29 at 12:02 a.m. on a bus in central Turkey when I encoutered a hand reaching from behind me to shake my hand. It was Daan, a Dutch guy we met at our Cave hostel in Cappadocia. Yes, we slept in a cave, but that is another story. Daan was contratulating me on my birthday. I looked at the clock at the front of the bus, and indeed, it was my birthday. Dave too offered congratulations. I think I would have let a good hour slip by before I really realized that it was officially my birthday.
We had been on the bus for two hours. It was ten more hours to Oludeniz where we would be paragliding. We left Goreme at 10PM. Goreme was indescribably gorgeous. It was out of this world. It is full of these stone houses carved out of the mountains and hills, fairy chimneys, and all sorts of madness craeated by volcanoes and millions of years of erosion. Just google Cappadocia for photos and explanation.
On our first night in the cave there was a thunderstorm! So, we are in a cave, with the call to prayer bellowing, and a thunderstorm rolling in. It was magical. We spent three days in total hiking and hanging out with other backpackers. We flew into Cappadocia from Istanbul. I say flew in, but as Dave describes it, the pilot basically just dropped the plane on the runway. It was a pretty sketchy landing. Istanbul was great and we were back for one night last night and we return tomorrow night to fly to Athens the next day. We have been covering a lot of ground.
So, back to May 29. The overnight bus ride was remarkably comfortable for an 8 hour bus ride. A couple of Gravol and I managed two or three hours sleep. I remarked to Dave that I was awake for about 21 hours of my birthday. Gotta get your money's worth!
We arrived in Atalya at 8am and changed to a mini bus to continue to Fetiye. This was a hilariously authentic bus ride. Just Dave and I and one Belgian lady among swarthy Turkish men, plump women with kerchiefs and little old men hunched over with canes. It was a real milk run. It went on forever through the hills of Southern Turkey.
We finally arrived in Fetiye buy still had to get ourselves to Oludeniz for birthday paragliding. Of course we were swarmed by taxi drivers. Being a bit tired after the 10, no 12, hour bus ride, I opted for the easy taxi mode to travel the 30 minutes to Oludeniz.
We arrived, checked in with Nicolet, who I have been emailing back and forth for two or three weeks now, and decided we would go for a swim in the beautiful blue Mediterannean in lieu of a shower as we were just in Olundeniz for the day and had no hostel as we flew to Istanbul later that night.
As we sat on the beach we could see the paragliders soaring and landing within feet of where we were sitting and finally the time had come!!!
We signed the standard "if you die it is not our fault" form and got in the jeep for the 40 minute climb up the mountain, stopping to give a lift to locals who were down in the valley doing their shopping. Pretty hilarious.
The view was spectacular and I pointed out to Dave the lower clouds which were basically at our eye level. 6000 feet. The place where other paragliders were taking off did not seem to to suit our guys, so we continued to the absolute top of the mountain.
Dave was first to go. So...basically you have a guy strapped on your back and they tell you to run like hell off the cliff and keep running even if you are in the air or you will just drop. Nice.
Dave did it like a pro.
My 'co-pilot' was Onur. He was quite the cat. We had to wait about 10 minutes, standing there with 6000 feet below us, for a good breeze. The only time I was even a tiny bit nervous, and I wouldn't even call it that, was standing there because of the delay.
I heard, "Terry, are you ready?". I said hell ya, and Onur said, "Then, run like hell, Terry". So I did.
I can't describe the feeling. It was surreal. Almost like being in a movie. You are just hanging in mid-air. You are so high, you don't think you are even moving. There is no sight of the chute above you. It was incredible.
Onur and I chit-chatted a bit, got each other's life story. He has a degree in psychology and a masters in economics, but he does this 6 months a year and travels the other 6 months. We kinda bonded. I told him it was my birthday and that is when things got really interesting.
He took off my helmet (Later when Nicolet was looking at the photos she said, "Terry....where the hell is your helmet?". I guess Onur wasn't supposed to do that) so that the photos and video he was doing while flying would be better. Then he said, "Terry, would you like to fly it". Obviously I said yes and he gave me a quick lesson and I was flying! Then, I got a bit bored and told him I was going to do a big 360 turn. I guess Onur figured I had some life in me and asked, "Terry, should we do some tricks?" I replied, "Funny you should say that Onur, I was just going to ask if we could take this up a notch." Well, that we did. He handed me the video camera, grabbed the strings and it was a circus ride from hell - all while Onur sang me Happy Birthday. I have no idea what we were doing, but Dave watched from the ground and said we were upside down. I just about lost my lunch. It was intense as hell, I screamed with joy (and a little fear) and finally it tamed down and we started our landing. A perfect landing.

And that is how I spent my birthday.

Dave and I caught the evening flight to Istanbul. Had to tell the cab driver how to get to the FRIGGIN BLUE MOSQUE - hello and got to bed around 1:30 a.m.

I don't know if I will get a chance to write about other happenings. Being bathed by a burly Turkish man at a Hammam was quite the experience. Hiking in valleys where you see hardly anyone else, being 8 levels below the surface in an underground city was the bee's knees. It goes on and on.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Final Post from the Villa

'Trips don't end when we return home - in a sense it's when they usually begin.' - Agnes E. Benedict.
Things are winding down here. We said another farewell to Ashley last night as she left to catch her 2:30a.m. flight back to Canada. The Matthelows and Rea leave tonight and then Dave and I leave tomorrow a.m. for our adventure in Turkey.

We are all mellow at the villa, packing, hanging out etc. Aaron and jon have gone down to the souks for some last minute shopping.

I'm not sure if I will be able to do many, or any posts from the road in Turkey, Greece, Switzerland and the UK. Thanks to everyone who has kept up to date with the goings on here and I hope you enjoyed villa life from afar.

'I haven't a clue as to where my story will end. But that's alright. When you set out on a journey and night covers the road, that's when you discover the stars.' - Nancy Willard

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


The camera-shy Jason.

The Month Long Birthday

Dave and Jason PS3 Boxing: Jason had a big comeback in recent days: Won three in a row, but latest game Dave won. So total to date: 3:2 for Jason. Dave just reminded me that 'they have all been close games'.

Jason's cake.

The villa gang's cake

An Emotional Day

It has been quite a day, full of tears - but the good kind. Today we had tea at the Burj Al Arab. Although it was my third visit (twice this trip and once last year) I am still overwhelmed by the experience we have there. Each time, the experience is shared with different friends and that makes it even more special. Wendy wrote a wonderful post about our tea experience, but I wanted to expand on the emotion of it all. When the Catherine Zeta-Jones look-a-like piano player started playing (right beside us), we all became a little quiet and intro-spective. Someone got a little teary-eyed and that set us all off (maybe it's the heat). Rea, hoping to lighten the moment, asked us to raise our glasses to toast our moms. Well, that really got us going. I started to cry even more, trying to get out 'I'm's...Mom's birthday.' This really started Sarah, then I went to pieces and had to excuse myself. Don't get me wrong. It was a wonderful toast. Very appropriate and Rea didn't even know that it was Sarah's mom's birthday (who passed away a few years ago). It was all meant to happen.

Just a few hours ago I was surprised (well, not really, not easy to get something by me) by a birthday cake from the gang. The dining room table was festooned with Canadian flags and red and white. I was surprised, however, that there was not one, but two birthday cakes. Jason had gotten me a cake too! I was very touched. The gang did manage to surprise me with some lovely gifts. These month long birthdays are the best thing ever as I think back to the many friends, gifts, champagne bottles, cakes, meals...

Another great moment to the day was that Dave and Ashley babysat Finn so the Matthelows could enjoy their Burj experience. We called two or three times and all was well. When I returned home, Dave and Ashley were playing beach ball with Finn in the living room, Dave gave Finn airplane rides, and they just did a lot of chatting. Pam and Bob, Graham and Marilyn -you have raised two wonderful kids and you should be very proud of them. I must say that Dave does have a bit of a dark side. He has taught Finn (2 1/2 years old) to roll dice and shout out 'Daddy needs a new pair of shoes', or 'Snake Eyes', or 'Box Cars!'. This cracks Jason up.

That's it for now. Our time grows short. Dave and I are busy planning our next adventure to Turkey and Greece. In just a couple hours we will say farewell to Ms. Wendy. There is no end to the emotion.

The Burj Al Arab

Today, we went to the Burj Al Arab for afternoon tea. For those not familiar with it, it is a self proclaimed 7 star hotel here in Dubai, pretty much the nicest hotel in the world. You cannot enter the hotel without a reservation of some sort, either food or room. So, we made a reservation for the Indulgent 7 course afternoon tea. Not cheap, but pretty much as cheap as it gets at the Burj. So after about 15 minutes of oohing and ahhing in the lobby, we headed to the tea room. It was on the mezzanine level, overlooking the coolest fountain in the world.

We were promptly shown to our table, beautifully set with crystal and and sterling silver. We were seated on couches and comfy chairs. The hostess expained a little about the tea and where to find the washrooms, and then came back with cool, scented handcloths that had some kind of wnderful lotion in them that made your hands soft and wonderful. The menus arrived, and she then explained the champagne.

The menu consisted of 10 -20 teas to choose from, and several coffees and espressos. We ordered our tea, then the champagne (Moet & Chandon) arrived. We each got a glass (except Aaron, of course, who had sparkling juice). Finger sandwiches arrived, which there were 8 different kinds. (tuna, chicken cucumber, roast beef, egg, prawn, salmon and zucchini). Just a bit of advice - if you ever find yourself having this meal DO NOT get more snadwiches. there are still 6 courses to go and you will be very full!

Next came a salmon dish. It was the size of an appetizer, really. It was salmon wellington with spinach and a mango sauce. YUMM! After that, the smoking sorbet arrived. It was strawberry sorbet, served in a small, cone like dish, that was resting in a small fishbowl like dish. The fishbowl was filled with red liquid, into which they had put a small C02 pellet, which created smoke underneath the sorbet. Very cool.

At this point in the meal, a piano player arrived (who looked remarkably like Catherine Zeta-Jones) and began playing a grand piano that was right beside us. Several members of our party became somewhat emotional and overwhelmed by the moment. It was quite something.

Our tea then arrived, served individually in Sterling silver tea pots with steamed milk, vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks, 5 kinds of sugar and chocolate shavings on the side. Soon after tea came the scones with clotted cream and preserves.

Next came the fresh berry basket. It was an edible biscuit basket with fresh berries and cream in it. At this point we are getting pretty full, but soldiering on as there are two more courses to go.

The final two courses arrived together, a wheel of petit fours and chocolates, and a tray of french pastries! Yum.

All delicious.

Between each course, our silverware and plateware was removed and replaced with the appropriate ones for the next course. We had no less than 4 servers throughout the experience, which took well over 2 hours. It was delightful!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Latest from the Palm

It has been a few days since the last post, so I thought I would update it while there are a few extra minutes. It has been action packed here at the Villa. On Monday, Dave and Ashley returned to the villa after a visit to Egypt. So, we are currently at 9 people here, a record according to mr. Terry. We are having a great time, but having trouble keeping the fridge full! So, on Monday, Rea, myself, Jon and Aaron went on the Oman trip. WOW! I will keep description to a minimum, as most people reading this have either already been on the trip or have already read about it at least. It was an amazing day though, one of the best ever. We did get to see a baby dolphin, which was unusual and pretty much the highlight of the day.

Tuesday was a quieter villa day, a few of us went shopping. Mr. Terry and several others got a chance to meet a few of the neighbors and spent some time in the frond getting to know them. They were great fun, quite some characters around here.

We then got all cleaned up and dressed and went for an evening out at the ice bar. It was something else, 7 Canadians standing in a freezing cold room with parkas and gloves on! It was a great outing though, we all really enjoyed it. I hope to be able to figure out how to post pictures on here, cause we got some great ones over the past few days.

Today was Wild Wadi day for Jon, Aaron, myself and Terry. Great fun, but really folks, Speedos? Really, if you think you look good in one, I guarantee you look better in any other bathing suit! I am very red and tired.

Tomorrow is our big outing to the Burj Al Arab for tea. Then it is home for me :(

Saturday, May 17, 2008

One of my favourite photos of the trip! Mr. Dave.

Asiwald and Bernie

Bernie and Asiwald - too fast to capture a good image.

This is either Asiwald or Bernie; the next door neighbour's dog.

Overheard on the Frond

Wendy, Aaron and I were kayaking today and a nice lady paddled over to us to say hi. She then said, "Are you the guy who is here for a month will all the guests visiting?". "Yes, indeedy." I replied. I guess word travels fast on the Palm. 'Trish' is from Vancouver Island. She lives two villas over and is good friends with Andy, my villa owner, so that is where she got the scoop. She runs and internet based business. She had been taking a year off, but when everyone in Dubai asked her what she did - a weight loss patch - she was hounded for orders, so went back up and running.

Sarah, Jon, Wendy, Aaron and Rea went to the souks tonight. Jason was going down there to mail a package home to Manila so he kindly offered to drive them. They decided to go in the evening as it is much cooler (just checked the temp -33 degrees at 8:15PM - I guess it is all relative.

I am happily babysitting Finn and catching up on the financial markets. Finn is in her bed singing to herself!

Tomorrow Jon, Aaron, Wendy and Rea go on the Oman excursion that some others, including me, have done. We tried to book our friend Yousef, but he was unavailable and the booking agent said Mohamed was "just as nice".

Today I decided to learn a little Nepalese to make S.P. feel at home. I got a big grin when I said "Nameste, S.P., tapain-lai kasto-chha". Basically, "Peace to you, S.P., how are you?". Today, S.P. brought another worker-bee with him. Equally as friendly, happy, and efficient as S.P.! Everything is right in my world as all toileteries have been arranged by size/category.

Once again Jason has enquired, "When does Mr. Dave come? I have to beat him in boxing". I assured him that Dave would return and he could win back his honour. Dave, do you have it in you to let him win??

Yesterday we went to the Mall of the Emirates...again. It's an easy fall-back and always entertaining. We did a big grocery shop. Grocery shopping in a foreign country is one of my favourite things to do when travelling. You can interact with the locals, and tourists, and the expats, not to mention see a stunning variety of crazy stuff on the shells. We go to the Carrefour which is about three or four times the size of an average Superstore. We made a pit-stop at Virgin Mega store to buy a copy of one of my favourite movies, "Death at a Funeral". It was a great change of pace and a good laugh. I highly recommend it.


A few Days in the Sun

Hello All! Wendy here again! It has been a lazy few days at the villa. The Mathelows arrived late, late Thursday night. After the tour and the midnight snack, some went to bed, some decided to stay up for sunrise. Regardless, we all slept in till noonish on Friday. There was a small mishap with my bathing suit in the morning, but Terry came up with some garden wire and we fixed it right up! We spent the afternoon in the frond, the pool, the kayak, back to the pool, then the frond, then the pool.. you get the idea.

We needed a few things at the store, so a few of us ventured off to the supermarket. Now, as most know, the supermarket is at the Mall of the Emerates, so we decided to take an hour and wander around. There was a lovely mariachi mexican band playing in the courtyard. It was Friday now, and that is the weekend here. This meant that the mall was packed with people. But we got through the crowds, got some groceries and made it back to the villa.

Today was another lazy day involving the pool, the frond, the kayak etc. We had a visit from Asiwad and Bernie, the Shiitzus from next door. They are very friendly, their owners, not so much. We are off to the souks this evening, and the day trip to Oman is tomorrow!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Frond Traffic

We were all sitting down to an early dinner and this floated by - everyone jumped for cameras!


So, I am sitting here in the villa doing some blog maintenance and find this draft! I guess Deidre started to upload from Egypt. I HAD to publish. Go, Deidre!

Wendy's first blog post!

Hello! Rea and I have been here in the lovely Dubai for a few days. We arrrived late on Tuesday after a long but relaxing trip here. We have been thoroughly enjoying all that Villa 29, Frond E has to offer. We went to the mall yestereday, which Sarah already spoke of. We came home and had a lovely dinner and retired early.

Today, we woke up early and went to the Jumeira Mosque. They offer a tour and an explanation of the Muslim faith. It was quite interesting, very peaceful, and I got to wear an Abaya. We then hit the local Starbucks for ice Coffee refreshments (yes, there are starbucks everywhere here too). As it was 40 degrees celcius today, and of course sunny, we opted not to go down to the old Souks. Yeah, we are wimps! So, we went to what I call the "fake souk", which is actually called the Madinat Jumeira. It is actually a hotel complex with 875 rooms, and a full indoor souk (or at least stalls designed to look like a souk). The prices were fairly reasonable, and there was great selection. We bought jewellry, pashmina scarves and a variety of things. The complex also has a fantastic collection of restaurants. We chose a persian restaurant, and had a fantastic lunch of beef kebobs and saffron prawns. Rea took a shot at making pita bread as well. We then took an abra ride around the canals. This hotel is created over an inlet of the persian gulf, so that all the rooms are only accessable by boat. So any guests of the hotel take the abras anywhere they have to go. We took the tour, about 15 minutes, through the canals. It was lovely and I got some great photos (I will post them if I figure out how to).

We then jumped in a cab, came home to villa 29, greeted by our gracious host at the door. We showed Terry all of our purchases, had a cold beer, then jumped in the water. We went for the frond first (man, you can sure float easily in the Pursian Gulf). We then randomly opened a bottle of champagne (completing one of my "10 things to do before I die) and had champagne and lays potato chips. A nice walk around the frond judging all the other gardens (ours wins!)was followed by a jump in the pool. All in all a great day. Terry is grilling us some burgers, as we prepare for the arrival of the Mathelows this evening.