Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Italian Birthday Party


Part I - The Adventure Begins

About 2 years ago, M received an invitation to take a trip to Italy to help her good friend, P, celebrate her 50th birthday. This was to be an ALL GIRLS trip. When she first started talking about it I quacked "She'll never do it....she's a big chicken! Cluck! Cluck! Cluck!" Well, she showed me! There was some hesitation, because, The Man wouldn't be going and she was feeling guilty leaving him behind. In the end the Gypsy in her won out.

Since The Man wasn't allowed to go, I had it figured out that I would have to stand in for him and once again stow away in the "personal" bag. I'm really getting tired of hiding out in those bags. You'd think by now she'd just give in and let me go without a fuss. This time it was a bit tougher because, you see, she decided to travel carry-on - no checked baggage. This is an accomplishment. M is a girl and girls can't go without all the hair gear and make-up and 22 different outfits for a 7 day trip. I had my doubts, but she did it. One carry-on and one "personal bag". I had to fit myself in between the new camera and 2 lens attachments. I'm not small, you know, but I managed.

Into the Friendly Skies

The adventure began on a Sunday afternoon in October. The itinerary is Detroit - Paris, France - Florence, Italy. This is gonna be one long night. We leave OKC at 4:45. I'm still hidden and hope to stay that way all the way to Florence. I can tell M is a bit nervous as she's traveling totally solo and will be the last one to arrive. What if she misses that connection in Paris? The whole trip is critically timed to make it as easy as possible for the welcoming committee to collect her in Florence.

We make Detroit and the flight is 15 minutes late. Oh, man......complications already! But M's friend B, another traveling gypsy, had advised that Detroit is easy to navigate and she was right. We made it to the gate with 10 minutes to spare and even got to go through that tunnel with the really really cool changing lights!

Next stop.....Paris, France. I thought I was home free but just before boarding the all-night flight, she found me! I thought I'd get another one of those lectures, but she was so relieved to know she wasn't totally alone that she gave me a bone crushing hug and kisses that I thought would never end. The really cool part was the plane was less than half full, so we had our own "bed" of seats and could totally stretch out. We cuddled up under two blankets and slept all the way to Paris.

Paris......What can I say? This airport is HUGE with 6 different terminals. To make matters worse we are arriving at the terminal that is really 6 terminals in one AND we have to go to another terminal to make our connection! Since the plane was so empty and since it seems no one was traveling on a Monday, we cleared customs in 5 minutes. Next task, to reclear security. Once again, not so many travelers and we were done within another 5 minutes. M had done her homework on how to get from one terminal to the other and knew exactly where she was supposed to go. The shuttle was found within another 5 minutes. What is with all these 5 minute segments? The shuttle takes 8 minutes. Life is sweet. We have more than 90 minutes to wait for the connecting flight to Florence where the welcoming committee of party girls will be waiting for our arrival.

Florence......Piece of Cake!!! We text message the birthday girl that we are on the ground. She texts back that she is on her way and which airline did we fly. This is the tiniest airport I've ever been in and I'm thinking...."What does that matter? There's only one door in and across the room there is one door out!" Two hours later the welcoming committee arrives. It took them 1-1/2 hours to find the airport and 1/2 hour to figure out how to get to the front door where we are. I won't understand this for at least another 3 days when we return to Florence to tour. I learn navigation here is clearly an unclear task, even with "Gypsy" GPS.

It's late so we head directly for the villa that has been rented in the Tuscan hills of Corsano, near Siena. Now that M and I are here, the group is complete. We are a band of 19 Americano Gypsies. Let the party begin! And begin it does.......We cook our first big dinner of salad, steaks and pasta. MMMMMMM.......and then we stay up til 1am dancing and drinking wine. These gypsies can sure party! There was table dancing and so much more! I have drunk so much wine. However I can't figure out why I have no buzz. If I have no buzz, will I be hungover in the morning? I hope not! Finally we are off to bed for some much needed sleep. We have to get up early in the morning to go to our Italian Cooking Class. Wonder what we'll fix?
I'm going to stop for now......enjoy this picture of the Tuscan hillside view from the Villa and I'll continue the story in another day or two.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Really, I promise

I Mean It, I Really Really Do!

I really AM working on my next post. Seriously, I am ......and I know what you're thinking...... Quack! Quack! Quack! I promise I'm going to tell you all about Eyetally and the Gypsy Girls, but you're just going to have to be patient. It's a bit of a long tale.

I KNOW! Quack! Quack! Quack!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Silence is not Golden.....

I see here that I've had quite a few visitors recently. Sorry I haven't been quackin'......I do have a few stories to tell, just as soon as I can find the time. You see, right now I'm on guard duty at My Heart's Fancy. Christmas is comin' and what with my meetin' and greetin' duties, it'll keep me a bit busier than normal. But M did take me to Italy a few weeks ago and have I got some stories to see, there were these girls who went to celebrate a 50th birthday. Well, let me just say the party was wild and crazy. I promise to quack more just as soon as possible.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

O Canada!

I decided it was time to do a little traveling so I used my boyish charms to convince M to start making plans. She decided that it would be fun to visit Washington DC on the 4th of July but The Man said "I'd rather go to Victoria". That sounded good to me, but M promptly stuck up her nose and said she thought it out of the budget. I knew she secretly wanted to see the Victoria Girls from the Most Excellent Adventure, so she'd have to have a look-see. Sure enough it was only a little more moolah, so she booked it! Yippee!

We took off at the crack of dawn on the 1st - Oh, how I hate those early morning departures. We arrived in early afternoon to learn that it was Canada Day! Those Canadians really know how to celebrate! They dress up like the flag, wear the flag, stick mini flags in their hair, they have fireworks and lots of live music and dancing - all civilized of course! We party, party, party until the wee hours of the morning. After a long day of travel we're bushed! However we are already booked on a tour of the Butchart Gardens so we have to get up early to catch the bus (no rest for the wicked!).

On the way to the Gardens we stop at a butterfly garden. I thought I'd get a good breakfast of butterflies or caterpillars, but no.....I'm not allowed to snack. Well, no worry - I'll do a little fishing in the ponds at the Butchart Gardens. WRONG! No fishing allowed! I had to make do with Salmon Salad in the tea room. Oh, well. The Gardens were really spectacular as you can see. Check out those fountains! I wasn't sure we were ever going to leave as The Man fancies himself some sort of gardener (NOT) and M couldn't stop taking pictures (you can see them here I had to remind them that we had dinner plans with the Victoria Girls and we'd better not miss that last bus back! That did it.....we were off and just in the nick of time too.

Dinner with the Girls was predictable....lots of hugs and laughs. They promised to pick us up at 9 the next morning for their special Victoria tour. Who better could show us the best parts of their own universe? So up we were at the crack of dawn again. We hopped in the van and off we went. At Government House I got to see a few of my more well-to-do cousins, but they turned tail and ran! What's up with that? Jac & Annie though tea and cookies might be soothing after such a display of snobbery, so we stopped at a local bakery for a proper cup of tea. Yummo! (I know, that's what Rachel Ray says, but hey, it IS a good description.)

Then Johanne said we really must see if the Bald Eagles were home. They live in the tree next to the local fire station. Home they were, feeding the babies. I'm sure glad they didn't catch sight of me (although I'm sure fish is much tastier). At Johanne's favorite marina, we stopped to feed the harbour seals who like fish heads. They don't even care that they're frozen! YUCKKK!!! Then we stopped to see the house boat harbor. I'm not talking boats with beds down below - but real floating houses! Excellent! We should all live like that! The fish and chips here are supposed to be the best, but we stop for ice cream instead as we have dinner reservations at the restaurant overlooking the Victoria Harbor. What a day!

On our last day we took a whale-watching excursion and spotted 3 resident orcas. It was too hot for them, so we didn't see any of the really big fancy stuff they do. Bummer! After that I begged for fish & chips at the house-boat marina. Once again....Yummo! M wanted to take the Harbour Ferry tour so I had to listen to a history lesson. I thought I was through with school! After a walk through China Town we headed for dinner. M and I liked the crab cakes we had on the "Seafood Canoe" at Nautical Nellies on our first night so we headed back there for dinner. Yummo and Yummo again! Before heading for home we had one last visit with the Victoria Girls at breakfast. It was really hard to leave them behind again. I promised to stay in touch.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Travels in Belize Part 3

Sailing the High Seas

After another big breakfast of scrambled eggs, fry jacks (a cross between fry bread & flap jacks) & peanut butter (Caribbean substitute for butter), everyone loaded up the kayaks and after a brief lesson on SAILING (yes sailing was a new rip on kayaking for us) we started the 6 mile journey to our next destination. The sun was gorgeous - but then it looked as if we were heading right into a very dark and dangerous rainstorm! Good thing everyone was wearing their life vests! But the storm passed just before we got there and we landed safely at Southwater Caye. Of course we had a fabulous picnic lunch of pasta salad and various fruits. (Did I mention that we ate three squares a day?) We snorkeled right off the beach and then headed for the IZE lodging - our home for the next 3 nights.

Southwater Caye & IZE

Well, I've made quite a few friends by now, so we headed for the bar. Barmistress Jennifer has discovered the "Magic Bullet" and her specialty is frozen Pina Coladas. My new friend Laura decided that's what she'd have and the night began to take shape! IZE was a step up from the Paradise Island Resort and we could actually acquire chocolate here. Fellow adventurer Mike likes Twix Bars and Barmistress Jennifer made his day - Twix is a staple at her bar! Now as the night wore on, I got wilder by the minute. Barmistress Jennifer only knew one way to make my margaritas - stout. After it went to my head, I went down on my bill. Ouch!! Then out came a dancing musical gecko and everyone went crazy. The dinner bell sounded and off we went to a grand dinner of chicken, rice and fryjacks. I'll bet you can guess what breakfast would be - scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, biscuits and PEANUT BUTTER. After dinner we played Trivial Pursuit which I won of course because I am a know-it-all.

The next morning I greeted the sunrise in a chipper mood from the deck of the 3 bedroom cottage. Not one to be bothered by hangovers, I was ready to kayak to Carrie Bow Caye. This is where the Smithsonian has a research station and we had arrangements for a special tour. But first,of course, the customary breakfast was served complete with you guessed it, PEANUT BUTTER. I decided I'd rather swim with the fishes, so that's what I did. Next thing I heard was all my new best friends discussing the "restroom" at the Smithsonian. Apparently it's just a hole with a toilet seat in an outhouse suspended over the water! What will they think of next? I was hungry so I checked out the picnic lunch we brought with us. The IZE kitchen made huge black bean & rice burritos - Yummy!

It had been another wonderful day exploring the sea. We headed to the dining room for our last evening together, stopping on the deck to enjoy the sunset. It was "surf & turf" for dinner (you know, steak & lobster) with homemade ice cream for dessert. My bestest new friend Jac had spied a handsome young man we had begun to call "Bandana Boy". He is f-i-n-e and after Kris introduced them, he invited her to go out for a round of pool later that evening at the Blue Marlin. Well, you know me, I can't be left out of anything so I convinced her she needed a chaperone and, well, the rest is history.

Homeward Bound

Jac & I managed to get back before dawn, just in time to enjoy the usual breakfast of scrambled eggs, biscuits & PEANUT BUTTER. This was our last time to enjoy each other's company. After that breakfast, we headed for the dock to load up. This was the hardest thing I'd done on the whole trip. I didn't want to leave my 12 newest best friends! How would I live without them? Oh yeah, I forgot, it's No Problem, Mon! We have e-mail!
I hope you enjoyed my awsome adventure in Belize. I'm not sure when I'll get to post again, so until then practice random acts of kindness. You never know what good things will come your way if you do.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Adventures in Belize Continued

The Adventure Begins

Our breakfast was a big scrambled egg feast, with fresh fruit, bacon, and flat biscuits with peanut butter and jelly. No one would be hungry today! With great excitement, we once again boarded the Kia Bus to head down the Hummingbird Highway for Dangriga. The scenery is, We saw a lot of small village schools and churches in this mountainous area. But enough sightseeing - where was the water?!
Finally we arrived in Dangriga where we met our guides, Kris & Omar. We loaded up on the motor boat and headed for Tobacco Range for lunch and Kayak lessons. Everyone had to practice the "wet exit" by rolling the kayak, falling out, and then getting back in. I don't see why I had to learn it, but then, did I really need a Kayak? After practice, we loaded the kayaks and proceeded to paddle to Tobacco Caye, our home for 2 nights. I wasn't really sure we would make it in 45 minutes, but sure enough, it was easier than I thought. We all landed safely on the beach behind the kitchen of Paradise Island Resort (Resort? Well....maybe) and Kris sorted out where each of us would spend the night.

Paradise Island Resort

This was going to be home for 2 nights and although I was really hungry, I was too tuckered out to eat so I had a snooze in the hammock and then a cold shower (YIKES). We had a satisfying dinner of fish and rice with ginger spice cake before we bedded down for the night. Next morning after another big breakfast of scrambled eggs, fresh fruit (mmmm, papaya!), biscuits with peanut butter & jelly, we went out to learn how to snorkel. I told them I did't need fins since my feet are already webbed, but nobody believed me. I would just have to prove myself. And by the way, why did anyone think I needed goggles or a snorkel? Rules! Rules! Rules! Well, we walked to the dock and jumped in. I had never snorkeled in a pack before and as soon as we hit the water, there were fins and hands in my face - HELP - get me out of there! After a full day we had a lovely dinner of rice and beans with chicken. This was the last night here. The next day we would learn to sail.

Next post: Sailing the High Seas and the IZE

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

An Excellent Adventure in Belize

I've just returned from a most excellent adventure in Belize, Central America. Let me see if I can give you a complete picture of my trip to the Barrier Reef of the Carribean.

The Arrival

We left OKC early Saturday morning for Belize via Houston. M & The Man had booked the most awesome adventure trip through Island Expeditions. We were to kayak and snorkel for 5 days.

We arrived at 4 in the afternoon where we were greeted by a most gracious Island Expeditions representative. Being the 1st to arrive, we waited patiently for the rest of our group to land. Twenty minutes later, Mike and his boys, Steve & Austin, Rob & Andrea, and Doug & Laura were gathered up and brought out to the bus to meet us. We all happily boarded the Kia Bus and headed out for the TEC (Tropical Education Center), our home for the evening. After our arrival we met the rest of our tiny group of twelve, Johanne & her two girls, Jac and Annie. We were given a brief history lesson before a delicious dinner of native delicacies and then a night tour of the Belize Zoo. To say the animals were interesting would be a bit of an understatement. Some of us were peed on by a very excitable tapir. Then the Howler Monkeys started up. You'd have thought we had invaded some private island the way they kept at it! It was too eerie. After all that excitement, we headed for our "cabins in the sky" where we all promptly fell fast asleep. Next morning we were awakened by the sound of thousands of tropical birds. What a delight! After the night's peaceful slumber, it was time start the adventure!

Next Post: The Adventure Begins