Friday, May 18, 2018

So Much Change

Well this blog was on hiatus for a long time. I’m bringing it back to life to record my life and my travels. Because blogging is my way to make sense of this world.

The story of the last 2 years is that hubby of 36 years died on November 17th, 2017 of esophageal cancer. He fought the good fight and we thought it was beat. But cancer has a mind of its own. He was so healthy and physically fit. By that I mean he was a 5th degree black belt in karate, ran 10 km, 3-4 times a week, biked 50 km the other days and did amazing weight lifting and spartan races.

Cancer takes. And those that remain live a new normal. It sucks. Really sucks. That the man I was to be with for the rest of our days is gone. We had the best of the best and I miss him most ardently.

So now it is “The Rest of My Days”

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Kilkenny and More Discoveries

Arriving in Kilkenny on Wednesday, September 11th,  we found the Newpark Hotel and went to the bar for a drink and dinner of fishcakes for Sandra and fish for Tim. The hotel is 2 km from the city center but we found it convenient, free parking and easy to get out of town. We decided to stay for the remaining 5 nights and make it our base to discover the area.

On our agenda:

  • Tour of Kilkenny.
  • Hike in Glendalough.
  • Visit to Mount Cashel and Cahir Castle.
  • Drive to Wexford for some ancestor hunting.

On Thursday morning (September 12th) we walked to the main info center and were lucky enough to be in time for a walking tour. We were the only ones, so it was quite informative. It was overcast and drizzly at times but our tour guide was good and told us multiple stories about the medieval town.

After the tour we had a quick coffee and snack at the TBA café attached to the Hole in the Wall bar. Cute little place and excellent coffee. We then headed to Kilkenny Castle and with our cool Castle app toured the building which has been restored as if someone still lives in the place. It was an OPW site so got to use our card. they don't allow photos inside so only have exterior views of the place, except...

Ancestry had a display of tracing your Irish descendents. On display was a large scroll listing names gathered in the census over the years. As I stood beside this 30 foot cabinet, I glanced down and saw the name Evoy. Since I was using my phone for the Castle app, I lay it down on the glass, pretending to read and surreptitiously snapped a picture of the entry. That was the first time I had seen Evoy in our travels in Ireland. Supposedly, the Evoy's were from north of Kilkenny around Portlaoise not far from Roscrea.

Kilkenny Castle was home to the Butler family. It has been refurbished in period as if the family still inhabits the rooms.

We then left to have lunch at Kytelers Pub. Fish and Chips for Tim and soup for Sandra. I do like my soup. It was a nice lunch area, outside under a canopy. There were palm trees too!

From there we revisited some of the sights from the morning tour.

St. Canice's Cathedral & Round Tower 
Toured the Cathedral and climbed to the top of the Round Tower.

Thursday: Kilkenny
Friday: Glendalough hiking
Saturday: Mount Cashel and Cahir
Sunday: Wexford and finding the ancestors

Monday: Check out and drive to Kells. Hotel at Airport--had pizza and bottle of wine in the bar. Flight back home on Tuesday, September 17th in the morning.

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Wonderful, Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen

OK, so that is the title of the hokey movie with Danny Kaye who mispronounced the name of Copenhagen or København. The "hag" is a long "a" as in hay or day or even hag (the witchy one).

This is the English pronunciation. I won't even attempt the Danish.

We arrived at the airport mid-morning and hopped on the train. But it was the wrong line. Very confusing signage even with some English thrown in. We ended up changing to the Metro a stop after Central Station (beside Tivoli Gardens) and only had a half km walk on a beautiful sunny day. Temperature was around 20C. We are staying at the Best Western Hotel City for 3 nights pre-cruise. It was quite a good deal with a free full breakfast each morning. A bonus in this expensive city.

Checking in we had a room. Yippee. It is so nice not having to wait around hours to check-in at 4. A quick feshen up and we set out to begin our exploration of Copenhagen. A block from our hotel we walked along the water heading for Nyhavn. It is the area of painted houses along a canal with many, many outdoor restaurants.

Nyhavn, Copenhagen, Denmark

We chose a table outside the Nyhavn C ( to watch the crowds pass by. First up were 2 Carlsbergs, the beer made in Copenhagen.

I chose the Shooting Stars Platter: Steamed and breaded fish, served on grilled bread with lettuce, shrimps, asparagus, caviar, eggs, and dressing.

              Me looking a bit jet-lagged.

Tim chose the 3 Herring lunch platter: Three kinds of delicious herring-curry herring, spicy herring, salt fried herring from Bornholm with beet roots, mustard and “soft”onions. Served with capers, egg and dill.
        Eaten half before we remembered to take a picture.

Both were really good. The bill came to 378 DKK and we rounded up to 400 (`$80). Not quite sure about the tipping policy. Currency in Denmark is the Danish Krone (DKK). Converting to Canadian: 5 DKK ~ $1CDN (divide price by 5).

Leaving the restaurant we walked along a few streets and then headed back to the hotel for some rest and relaxation after a long travel day/night. The streets are full of bikes and tomorrow we will rent a bike from our hotel and explore more of the city.

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Exploring Copenhagen by Bike

It was another beautiful sunny day in Copenhagen. We rented bikes from our hotel, $25 each for the day. Tim turned on his GPS tracker and it seems we did over 35 km from one end of the city to the other.

Copenhagen is a city of bikes. And bike lanes. We even experienced a bike jam during rush hour. There must have been 50 bikes lined up at the lights. It took a bit of quick learning to figure out when to cross and how to make left and right turns but we survived with only a bit of a sore butt.

There is a wheel lock and key on the bike. You just lock it, park it and off you go. With so many bikes, few lock it to a bike rack. It is rather unique. And so easy. Not many wear a helmut either but I guess that is just convenience.

Bike return at the end of the day.

Our first ride took us to the Little Mermaid statue on the waterfront near Langeline. We arrived just as the tour buses dropped off their first load of tourist. Of course they all had to climb next to the statue for pictures but I was able to get a good picture in between them switching places.

A short ride up the road, we stopped at the Gefion Fountain. Pretty setting beside a cute little church.

St. Alban Church

We then did a short walk around the Kastellet (Citadel) with armed soldiers patrolling the upper ramparts.

Back on the bikes we just headed west and somehow found the Round Tower or Rundetarrn. First we made a slight detour at the Pandora store where I picked out a "Book or Fairy Tales" Charm for my bracelet. And found out that Pandora is actually a Danish company. I didn't know that!

The Rundetarn ( is cool. It is a circular tower attached to a church with paving stones all the way to the top where you can view the city. There is an observatory on the top which is open in the evenings from October-March. Although not extremely challenging, if you aren't in ok shape, it is a bit of a climb. I loved it.

Inside sloping walkway looking up (above) and down (below).

A view from the top.

We had a huge breakfast at the hotel so decided to continue to see if my sister and her husband had arrived at their hotel. Off in the distance I saw the Radisson Blu and off we went on the bike. Seemed odd to have to cross the river. At one point we had to carry the bike up steps to the bridge but they have these rails that the tires of the bike fit in to make it easier to push up. A young guy even asked if I needed any help but I was good.

Alas we arrived at the hotel about 12:30 but no sign of my sister. We then decided to bike to the Carlsberg factory. When Tim plugged the coordinates into his GPS it showed we were somehow on the other side of the city. Asking at the desk, we found out there were 3 Radisson Blu hotels in the city and we were at the wrong one. About 3 km out of our way. But we headed out anyway, thinking we would lunch at the factory. But they had very little in the way of food-hamburgers, sausage-nothing appealed. We also decided not to take the tour as we had done numerous beer tours in other places. There were some nice architectural details though.

The entrance gates.

The Elephants at the second entrance.

By now we were hungry and on the way back found a cute little cafe for lunch. Of course I had to take pictures.

Goulash Soup with bread and a glass of wine. A make your own chicken club sandwich and a beer. All for a mere 240 DKK (about $49).

We were able to touch base with my sister, but given their jetlag decided to meet up later for dinner. We headed back to our hotel for a quick rest, then back on the bikes. Got a bit lost but finally found their hotel across from Tivoli park. They were famished but we found an all you can eat pizza buffet which fit the bill for all of us. Well the price this time wasn't too bad. About $20 each and that included beer for the two of them. The place was packed with a tour group of young people. Guess they got their money's worth.

Before bed we walked to Nyhavn to take some last night pictures.

The following day, our last day in Copenhagen we took a canal tour, walked the central district and visited Tivoli Gardens. A pretty place. Quite serene park in the middle of the city. There were games and rides-of course I'm not getting on those roller coasters. When it started to rain, we headed inside for dinner. Food was ok, just so expensive. We did find out that 25% tax is included in the price. We also leave about 10% gratuity. 

Canal Boat Cruise.

Hans Christian Anderson Statue

Tivoli Gardens

We board our Cruiseship, the Royal Princess tomorrow. Next stop Oslo. 

The adventure continues.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Baltic Cruise

We're off again for a trip to the Baltic region, cruising on the Royal Princess. This is our first ever cruise on a big ship. And big she is at 3600 passengers and 1200 crew. The red arrow shows our deck—mid and low. It is one humongous ship! She was christened by Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge last June 2013.
Dolphin Deck. We're on the Starboard side (the other side of the ship!)
We start our vacation in Copenhagen for a few days to get over the jet lag and see some of the sites. Then it is on-board to travel the cities in the Baltic Region.

Our Itinerary:
Day 1 Copenhagen, Denmark
Day 2 Oslo, Norway
Day 3 Gothenburg, Sweden (Goteborg)
Day 4 Warnemunde, Germany
Day 5 At Sea
Day 6 Tallinn, Estonia
Day 7 & 8 St Petersburg, Russia
Day 9 Helsinki, Finland
Day 10 Stockholm, Sweden  (Nynashamn)
Day 11 At Sea
Day 12 Copenhagen, Denmark and fly back to Ottawa

Hope to find my sea legs quickly. But others have told me that these big ships are very stable and I should be ok. Hope they are right. Just in case, I've packed lots of Gravol and my anti-nausea wrist bands.
My sister and her hubby are coming along, in fact it was their idea, along with two other friends. The big difference between this trip and our Ireland trip last year is the clothing I'm bringing. We lived in jeans and hiking gear in Ireland. But the ship has these "dress-up" nights so I'm packing a fancy dress and hubby will be fully "Kilted Out" for those two evenings—Kilt, sporran, dinner jacket and bow tie.

That means two large suitcases for a 2 week trip. Just not used to packing so much. And lists galore. Plus lots of different currencies for our day trips.

Click here to read about the entire trip on Travelpod:


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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Birthday Fun and Am I Really That Old?

My birthday was March 15th, the Ides of March. I turned 60.

But I don’t feel 60. I remember when I was young(er) that someone who was 60 was OLD. I really don’t know how 60 is supposed to feel these days. Just as I didn't know how 30 or 40 or 50 was supposed to feel. Sure there are a few aches and pains but generally I’m in good health, eat well (most of the time), travel and keep active.

Having a birthday in March sucks. It's almost always cold, snowy and dreary. So I planned a birthday weekend. Had my hair cut and coloured. My youngest sister visited from Toronto and along with my older sister, niece and daughter here in Ottawa went for tea at the Chateau Laurier. Here are some pictures from the day.
Selecting our tea at the Chateau Laurier.
I skipped the sparkling wine.
Our steeped loose tea arrived and shortly afterwards three tiered plates of scones (with Devonshire Cream & Jam), finger sandwiches and sweets, one for each of us.
Posing with one of my sisters.
Finger sandwiches. Two biters.
Yummy sweets
The tea was fun. At another table was a group of women spanning the generations from 8 to 80 with their fancy hats and fascinators. It was decided then and there that when I turn 80, in twenty years, we would again get together for afternoon tea at the Chateau, this time with our granddaughters who would be in their twenties.

Hubby gave me a lovely Pandora charm for my bracelet—a gold bouquet of diamonds. 
And on March 16th, we girls had manicures and pedicures. Just a bit of pampering to celebrate a milestone. I also watched as my Retirement countdown calendar (to the right) switched to less than 4 years til retirement. Time is flying! 

I’m still working which kind of sucks. I was out of the full time workforce for most of the 90’s, while my kids grew, only working part time or no time. Which means I’m making up for lost time and padding my pension with each year of service. Two years ago when I started this blog I asked the question “Will I be Ready to Retire?” At the end of that post I wrote:
"I will explore what will make me happy. Now. And from there I won’t see retirement as something that has to have a final plan in place but an extension of my current life. I just won’t need the alarm clock to get me up each morning. Unless I want to get up early."
The same holds true two years later. Lately a few close to me have been dealing with illness or death. We can never predict how our life will unfold.

So, I’m doing what makes me happy now, because we don't know what tomorrow will bring.


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Friday, August 9, 2013

Healthy Years

I was scrolling through some blogs today and this one caught my eye: Life Expectancy at Age 65

Now I am not 65. But it’s only a few years away so this was rather interesting. I took the map and added where I live up here in Canada (red arrow) and extrapolated the light green colour from the Northeast States (you know Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York and a couple of those little states!) and decided I must be in the green zone too.

(I couldn’t find the original map on the CDC siteso used the one the blogger posted. Thanks!)

This map wasn’t about how long you are going to live but the expected “Healthy Years” remaining past age 65.

In my case—green zone—just over 14 healthy years. Which means I should be healthy til I’m 79. Then after that its downhill.

The Heart & Stroke Foundation have launched the coolest commercials called Make Health Last. In the video they say that the majority of older people today will live their last 10 years in sickness. The video is split screen showing the same man living in health on the left and living in sickness on the right. It really is powerful.

Youtube Video:

As I work through planning retirement in a few years, all my hopes and dreams will be overshadowed by my “health”. 

Not just as a statistic but in the healthy lifestyle I’m following. Well 90% of the time anyway. Eating well to control my weight, being active, lowering stress, having lots of friends and family around. 

Right now I feel I’m good. I just need to keep it that way.

Cause I still have lots to see and do!


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