April 11, 2020 – Mind Travelling – Journaling through the COVID-19 Pandemic


Remembering Europe

Several days ago, I was thinking about how dire the situation is in Italy, and my thoughts travelled to my very first long-distant adventure, to Europe. So I dug out my photo book, and scrap book of postcards, and took a stroll down Memory Lane.

I was just twenty-two years old and working in a temporary job back in my hometown when I suddenly decided I wanted to go on an adventure after my job was to finish at the end of the summer. I had money saved up. I went to see a local travel agent and came away with information about a twenty-one day tour of Europe through Fourways Travel. I called my friend, Carol, and convinced her to take time off work and go with me.

On October 4th, 1972 I left home by train to meet Carol in Toronto, where she lived.

On October 5th we embarked on our adventure! We somehow got to the airport, probably by taxi, to catch our flight to London. I had a little journal to record our trip, but somewhere during a series of moves that I made after my return, it got lost, so all that I have to tell this story is my now vague memory, my postcards with a few notes beside them, and some photos.

In retrospect, it’s obvious I knew nothing about photography at the time, and I realize that I didn’t pay too much attention to the history and geography lessons that I could have learned. I took a several (poor quality) pictures, but I’m stumped to know what many of them are. If any of my European travellers recognize anything, I’d love to hear from you!

According to my Boarding Pass, we left at 7:00 pm that night. My ticket receipt says that I paid for a round trip ticket between Toronto and London for $210 Canadian! I also have a Menu that indicates a dinner was provided and a Continental Breakfast was to be served at 6:45, so presumably we arrived in London sometime on the morning of October 6th. We were booked into the Regent Palace Hotel Piccadilly. We were on our own to explore London for the rest of that day and most of the next.

London

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Later in the day of October 7th we met up with our Tour Group and took a train to Harwich, where we boarded an overnight steamer “Queen Juliana” to The Hook of Holland. Upon our arrival, our Fourways motor coach, with our driver and guide were waiting for us and our tour began.

London postcard

October 8th – We spent this day travelling toward Brussels, Belgium, through Amsterdam, Breda and Antwerp, with a side trip to the colourful tourist town of Volendam, where I picked up a few postcards. In Amsterdam, I took pictures. Some I recognize; most I don’t.

Holland

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From there the bus continued on to Brussels, Belgium, where we did a walking tour through the old cobblestone streets and enjoyed dinner and camaraderie with our fellow passengers before settling down in our rooms at the Hotel Bedford. It’s funny how some things stick in our memories. The Manneken-pis Fountain was one of them.

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Brussels (2)

October 9th – Germany

On driving out the Belgian capital, toward Heidelberg, my Itinerary tells me that we saw many other principal sights of Brussels, including the Royal Palace, before continuing the route through forests and several towns, including Luxembourg, the capital of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

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In Heidelberg, we toured Heidelberg Castle. The Heidelberg Tun is an extremely large wine vat contained within a separate building of the castle.

We ate dinner at The Red Ox Pub, and we stayed the night at a (not-noted) hotel.

So… five countries in five days!

October 10th and 11th – Lucerne, Switzerland

After breakfast, presumably in the hotel, we drove on through Freiburg, situated in the southern part of the Black Forest, and onto Basle, Switzerland, through Olten and Sursee until we reached Lucerne, where we spent two nights in the luxurious Grand Hotel Europe and had the chance to enjoy more history, culture and cuisine. We saw the Alps up-close from a cable car from Mt. Pilate (7000 ft)

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Beautiful Hotel

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Enjoying dinner out with our fellow travellers

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On our first morning there, I was surprised by this delivery of red roses, from my love back home! Unfortunately, when we left, I had to leave them behind.

October 12th – Austria

This morning we drove on through Kussnacht and Nafels, and made a brief stop in the Principality of Liechenstein where I recall the Prince greeted us before we took a tour of a Perfume Factory, before entering Austria. We climbed the Arlberg Pass (5,910 ft.) and soon reached Innsbruck, a beautiful city. We spent the night at the Clima Hotel. Unfortunately, even the Itinerary tells me nothing about the city so I’m thinking we arrived late and left early the next morning. (Sigh) I do have a postcard.

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October 13th – Italy

This day was spent on the motor coach, travelling from Innsbruck to Venice. We had to go through Customs formalities at the small village of Brenner before crossing the border between Austria and Italy. Because we would have no time to do any touring ourselves, I suppose, the Itinerary includes some history of all the seven cities we passed through. Brenner, for instance is on the watershed between the Black Sea and the Adriatic. In this village several conferences were held between Hitler and Mussolini.

On the Italian side of the border, we entered Vipiteno in the Italian Tyrol, which was formerly Austrian territory until 1918.

It was afternoon by the time we reached Venice. The coach was left at the terminus of the motor bridge, a mammoth, multi-storied garage, and we were transferred to our hotel. I remember it looked onto the canals and the gondolas. I remember feeding the birds and looking at the monuments of Piazza San Marco. I remember that I wasn’t feeling very well, a cold was coming on. I was offered an evening ride by a canal gondola operator and it was tempting, but now I know that it was a good thing I was sick. I was rather naïve back then.

October 14th I was really sick and that was one of our busiest touring days. Most of it is a blur. I remember sitting on a bench in the Palazzo Ducale Great Council Room looking at the amazing art work on the ceiling through watery eyes, my whole body feeling weak, and finally asking our Guide and Interpreter to take me to the pharmacy for some cold remedies. I don’t remember if I did the rest of the Tour. If anyone took the recommended “lift to the top of the Campanile for the magnificent panorama of the Lagoon and the 117 islands that comprise Venice,” after the Tour, I know I couldn’t have been among them.

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Palazzo Ducale

After lunch we left for Florence. I’m sure that I slept all the way. We spent the night at the Hotel Ambasciatori in Florence.

The next morning, October 15th, we were taken on a sightseeing tour with a local guide and saw The Medici Chapel “the most important of Florence’s architectural and artistic treasures, with its façade of white, green and red marble,” the Gothic Cathedral and the Chapel of the Princes. Again, I now wish that I’d been more in the present and captured more of the memory. I have a cut glass ring that is very similar to the engagement ring of Princess Diana, which I’m quite sure I purchased at a glass factory in Florence.

After lunch we drove through Tuscany, Umbria and Campania before reaching Naples. We were on our own to explore until we were ready to crash in our rooms at the Parker’s Hotel.

October 16th  After breakfast in our hotel, we boarded a steamer for the short trip across the blue waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea to the romantic island of Capri. A local tour guide was supposedly in charge, but he spent the whole trip over flirting with Carol and me, and he disappeared into a bar after lunch. We never saw him again. We had a beautiful time without him.

We took the steamer back to Naples, through Bay of Naples, and once more boarded the coach to drive through the Campania region toward Rome. That evening we checked into the Caesar Augustus Hotel.

October 17th and 18th we were again on our own to tour Rome, with all of its Cathedrals, Museums and Ancient Ruins. As the Itinerary says “To see everything in detail would certainly take many weeks.” For that reason, I wish we’d had some guidance as to how to best plan our day.

The last evening we all got together for dinner at Risorante Tempio Di Giove for Pizza and Champagne.

October 19th found us once more on the Autostrade heading toward Rapallo, with a side trip into Pisa to see the leaning tower.

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We passed through Viareggio, La Spezia and Sestri. That evening we checked into the Grand Hotel & Europa in Rapallo, which is a beautiful seaside resort at the head of the Tigullio Gulf.

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It’s too bad we didn’t have more time there, but then most of us wouldn’t want to leave! But then, our next stop was Monte Carlo.

October 20th was spent travelling through several other towns and cities along the eastern Riviera, such as Nervi, Genoa, Finale Ligure Marina, San Remo and Mentone until we reached Monte Carlo, where we would spend two nights, giving us one full day to enjoy the beauty and excitement of this famous resort, and capital of the Principality of Monaco. We stayed at Hotel Balmoral and visited the Casino. Beside a souvenir stub in my scrap book is the note: “Cost six francs to get in and lost two francs playing machines. That’s hilarious! It was the first time we’d ever been in a casino or tried slot machines. I remember being very nervous, not understanding how it all worked, so I didn’t play very long for fear of losing more than I could afford.

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October 22nd we continued our drive along the French Riviera coastline. I’m sure we stopped in Nice, France, although I have no mention of it in my Scrap Book. We went through Cannes, Aix En Provence, Avignon, Montelimar, and Valence and Vienne, which are situated on the banks of River Rhone. We stopped for the night at Hotel Bristol in Lyon France.

We arrived in Paris late in the afternoon of October 23rd. The next day a guided tour was provided. We visited the Cathedral of Notre Dame, and the Place de Bastille, From the coach we saw The Palace of the Louvre and Tuileries, which comprise the former royal residence, the Champs Elysees and the Arc de  Triomphe, and of course the Eiffel Tower.

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That evening the tour culminated with an excursion to the Moulin Rouge to see a fantastic show.

October 25th we travelled to Calais where we caught a steamer to Dover and the train back to London, where it had all begun.

Calais (2)

The next afternoon October 27th, we were on a plane taking us to Toronto.

Wow, that was a whirlwind trip! No wonder I can’t remember many details.

While going through Customs, I was questioned about the leather coat that I was wearing. I’d bought it in Toronto. They made me take it off, so they could check the label I guess. They searched all through my luggage and then shoved it aside and told me I could repack it and carry on. What a warm welcome home! Carol was ahead of me and wondered what was taking me so long.

I always thought that I’d go back to my favourite places someday and take the time to really see them, but it never happened. Life took another turn.

Thanks for the Memories.

April 6, 2020 – Mind Travelling – Journaling through the COVID-19 Pandemic 


I began a much longer post yesterday, a walk down memory lane, my trip to Europe in 1972. But it was a much bigger project than I’d realized, because I had nothing of the trip computerized. I needed to scan photos and post cards and read through the Itinerary to jog my memory. I’m still working on it, but for now I thought I’d share my experiences and emotions from this morning.

I woke up with a feeling of dread. When I looked at my iPad to get a synopsis of what the latest news was, I couldn’t contain my tears. It all was awful. What broke me most were the articles about how manufacturers of the medical equipment that all countries need so desperately, are inflating the prices to 700, or 800 or 900 percent above the normal price, making it so difficult for hospitals and the smaller health care centres such as Long Term Care Homes, to get them, And then there are the stories of people praying on the elderly by offering to buy groceries and then absconding with the money; or offering to clean their homes with them out of them, and stealing from them. What has happened to humanity?

I dried my tears and went to the kitchen to make some breakfast. Although I wasn’t really hungry, I knew I had to eat. The fridge was nearly empty. I made toast from the last two pieces of bread, and made coffee. One thing we do still have is plenty of grapefruit, so I cut up one of those. I knew I had to go shopping.

Jim thought I should just order it again, but I wanted to be brave and not let the paranoia I was feeling control my life. I also didn’t feel it was fair to put extra burden on the stores and volunteers that are generously delivering for free. Despite my age, I’m healthy. I have a good immune system. And I wanted to keep it that way with some fresh air and exercise. So I made my list and gathered my little wagon and reusable shopping bags. I had a mask I’d made from a kerchief, and disposable gloves and hand sanitizer in my pockets. I didn’t take my phone to avoid it being exposed to anything. I took only the one card that I needed to pay for my purchases. I didn’t expect Jim to go into the store with me. He wore his gloves and went into the Post Office to pick up our mail and then waited outside for me.

When I got to the store, the parking lot was full and I almost turned back. Then I realized that many of the cars parked there were probably the ones that had usually been parked beside the old Community Centre next door. Whether they belonged to tenants somewhere, or the owners of the few businesses that were open, I don’t know, but the Community Centre had recently been torn down and Contractors were working within high fencing, cleaning up the remnants.

I took my mask and gloves out of my pockets and put them on before walking up the ramp to the store entrance. A staff member came to the door and told me that I couldn’t take my wagon or bags in with me.

wagon

I hesitated, disappointed. I felt that there was far less chance of there being any virus on my own cart and bags that had been with us in our own space for three weeks, than there was with the store carts and bags. But I couldn’t argue, under the circumstances. I took the cart and made sure she’d wiped the handle.

By now I could feel myself quivering. There weren’t very many people in the store. Some shoppers wore masks and most of them were very conscious about keeping a distance. Perhaps they were more concerned about me because of the heavy mask and gloves I was wearing. I got very warm and for a moment I thought I might faint, but removing my jacket helped. As I made my way around the store looking for the things on my list I was having trouble seeing clearly. I thought maybe my glasses were fogging up from my breathing through the mask. My quivering continued and I cursed in my head, thinking how terrible it is to be so fearful of doing grocery shopping.

At last I was finished, and through the checkout.

“Isn’t this fun?” I said to the cashier, who was one more time sanitizing the gloves she wore, behind a sheet of Plexiglas.

“I’ve had about enough of it,” she said and I agreed. “Thank you,”  we both replied.

I took off my disposable gloves and handed them to the girl at the door, who said she’d dispose of them. She was wearing gloves too. I was glad to see that the wagon was still where I left it. I breathed a sigh of relief. When I walked out into the sunshine, I reached for my sunglasses and realized I’d had them on all the time! No wonder I was having trouble seeing!

I found Jim next door watching the construction crew, of course. We walked home enjoying the sunshine.

At home I put my mask into the bathroom sink to wash. I carefully handled the groceries and bags,  putting them all away, always aware of what I was touching and wondering who else had touched them. I washed my hands many times.Oh crap! Did I remember to disinfect the counter where they sat? Nothing I used to make lunch touched that side. Is it too late?

Now we have enough food to last us for another couple of weeks. Who knows what things will be like when we need more?

I have no idea how the people who have been dealing with this daily as they do their jobs to provide health care and other essential services, have not lost their sanity. I weep some more for them.

Mind Travelling – Journalling through the COVID-19 Pandemic


April 3/20

Today I woke up with the urge to write again. So what should I write about? Obviously it isn’t going to be about physical travelling, at least not anything new, so I guess the Mind Travelling part of the website description will dominate for the next weeks, or months.

It’s been two weeks since we crossed the border back into Canada. The days seemed long, but the weeks have passed quickly. For Jim, I don’t think it is as irritating to be sitting most of the day, but I’ve always been physically active and my body hurts too much when I’m not.

The first week we had plenty of food in our fridge and cupboards, thanks to Jim’s daughter, who took my list that I’d sent her and made several shopping trips to find all but one of the items on it. They were in place when we arrived. After the second week I placed an order with our local grocery store and it was delivered the next day. It’s surprising how much food we go through when we eat at home three times a day, seven days a week! When I think of it, it’s been years since I’ve had to make that many meals in a row! It’s now time to shop again.

Our condo building is small, only six units, all on one floor. We share a small laundry room, so I was hesitant to use that common space until we’d done at least 14 days of quarantine, including our time on the road. Then I got caught up on the laundry. Everyone in here is keeping pretty much to themselves, so I didn’t need to worry about running into anyone.

Most of our days have been cloudy and rainy, which doesn’t help the emotional spirits, but the last few days we’ve had some sun and we’ve gotten out for short walks around our rural neighbourhood. Each time, we bring another load of things from the motorhome, which is parked within sight of our deck, in the parking lot of the Sports Dome that is now closed. It’s good to just say hello to neighbours from a distance, and share knowing smiles.

Besides making meals and doing laundry, I’ve tried to keep myself busy doing little household chores, like finally cleaning up my desk, and putting away things that were dropped onto my dresser. I’ve tried to encourage Jim to do the same, but he has never been so inclined, which can sometimes put a little strain on our relationship, especially now when we share an office and I’m spending more time in it. He spends a lot of time re-arranging new music and learning to play it on his ukulele. We both spend too much time (probably like most of us who aren’t risking our lives to treat the sick or keep essential services running) either on our computers/iPads or watching TV. I’ve been trying to think of how we could get in some pickleball practice.

Yesterday was a full sunny day for which I was grateful because it was also a day of hearing about sad local stories while sitting at my computer. A few days ago I’d seen an appeal to watch for an elderly lady who was lost just a few miles down the highway, in an area near where my Book Club friends live. Yesterday, I learned that it was one of their neighbours and police were out searching the woods and the lake, for the second day.

While following that by Messenger, I saw a GoFundMe request on Facebook asking for donations for the children of a young woman who had died, in my home town. When I looked further to see how she’d died, my heart broke to learn that it was a domestic “incident” that police believe to be a murder suicide. She leaves three small children behind. I don’t know her, but I have friends who do.

And then news of the virus hit closer to home. We now know someone who knows someone who has died from it. A friend of Jim’s sister was one of the many victims who succumbed to it in a small-city Nursing Home a couple of hours drive from here.

So far, our community is safe, but do I want to go out to the grocery store, or should I place an order for delivery again? After all, I am now in that “vulnerable” age bracket of being over 70 (less than a month ago). But I’ve always been healthy and seem to have a good immune system; so could that make me an unknown carrier? Our town is a Retirement Community so there are no doubt many others who are more vulnerable than I.

The really scary part is that nobody seems to really know enough about this virus.

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One day, when all the cars were in the driveways and we were the only ones out, this rainbow gave us a sign of hope. The curve is flattening.