Blighty ho!

Not long now and we’ll be on a plane to Heathrow, ready to enjoy an English summer of warm beer, cricket and CCTV. What ho!

The Montreal apartment is all packed up and stored in various places. Our aches, pains and bruises from moving all the boxes are starting to fade. We’re enjoying some last Canadian sun so we land nicely tanned and I might even have a shave so I don’t get pulled aside for looking too suspicious. Ah, modern travel.

See you all soon…

Short, but Sweet NYC Weekend

We’re now safe and sound back in Montreal after a (literally) whistle stop visit down to New York this weekend. Good fun but I have to say I’m looking forward to a night’s sleep of over four hours tonight!

The trip started at 7.15am on Saturday when we left Montreal. At 8.20am we entered the US and 2pm hit New York. Bit of shopping, drinks with Paula, then out to Williamsburg for our traditional dinner at the ever wonderful Sweetwater. Then down to Jess and Gerald’s to visit them and the hella-cute Auden. M crashed out at 2.30am while I went down to Union Pool to catch Gerald DJ in the back room. Splendid. Then 4.30am we were back upstairs to pass out.

9am Sunday I was up and awake, so went on a wander round the ‘burg taking some photos to test my new polarizing filter and compact flash card on a beautiful, bright sunny morning. Latte and a muffin in hand I woke M up, and we chatted with Jess, Gerald and Auden for a bit before heading off for a quick wander/shop down Bedford Avenue. With a pile of my favourite t-shirts from Artists and Fleas in hand, we ended up having Mexican brunch at Bonita – before driving the car back to the old apartment to pick up my last stuff (thanks Lisa!).

At this stage we were a bit off schedule, as I’d totally under-estimated the time needed to get 10 storage boxes full of books down four flights of creaky old stairs with my creaky old knees. Luckily my knees held out (unlike one of the boxes) and M performed miracles getting all the boxes into our car. Phew. So now it was onto the BQE where we ran straight into major traffic on the way down to Brooklyn Bridge on the way to see Stephen, Yi-Hsian and Kate down at the south end of the island (learning point: getting onto Brooklyn Bridge from the BQE is a pain, just take Williamsburg Bridge). Thankfully a parking space turned up just as we were about to give up and pay the $25 parking fee – for an hour… ug. So we headed upstairs and hung out chez Godfrey for a bit. Wish we’d had longer as Kate was being very cute indeed, unfortunately it was getting onto 7pm and we still had six hours of driving ahead of us. Arg.

Having said our goodbyes, we headed back onto the Henry Hudson Parkway off north. The sun was setting as we crossed into Jersey which was very pretty indeed, but worrying as I was already tired and we knew that sunday evening traffic on dark roads, plus over the mountains, would be quite draining. Thankfully we made it to the Canadian border by 1am, a bit late as we’d seen a lot of deer eating by the road so I was driving slower than I normally would just in case the deer felt suicidal. Unfortunately the border guard was not convinced of my travel plans, plus we’d overspent our dollar limit on shopping having not being in the US for over 48 hours (just). So we got to spend a stressful 45 minutes explaining my travel plans before they decided to let me in after paying some import duty. Phew. Borders are so stressful, especially when you’re sleep deprived and tired!

Finally we got back to Montreal about 2.15am, then we unloaded the car and I trogged the boxes up another two flights of stairs into the apartment. Yay, home! 3.30am I finally hit the pillow. Unfortunately at 8.30am my alarm went off as I had to move the car, so I bought us some coffees from up the road and drove M into work before taking the car back to the rental place. So now it’s 11.30, and any minute now I’m going to pass out and have a full eight hours of kip. Splendid.

From Sun to Snow

Well after two and a bit weeks of sun, sand and surf it’s a bit of a shock to the system to be back in Canada where it’s snow, cold and ice. Luckily it’s not super cold here right now, just chilly, so I can adjust into winter mode without too much angst. Mexico was super fun and here are a few of the highlights/observations:

  • Lying in the sun on a near white sand beach on Christmas day, listening to the waves come in on Paraiso Beach, then having a wonderful dinner underneath clear skies and thousands of stars.
  • Diving the Santa Rosa wall off Cozumel, a place that deserves its diving reputation. Plus my first ever fresh water cavern dive in the stunning Chac Mool (Claw of the Jaguar) cenote. Both of these dives were with the lovely Tank Ha folks in Playa del Carmen who I highly recommend.
  • Visiting Chichen Itza with its stunning Mayan ruins, reminiscent of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Just wish we’d had more time there – not only for the ruins, but it was actually the cheapest place to buy tourist stuff and I never had a chance to shop.
  • Sipping various cocktails poolside to one of the biggest pools in Mexico, plus very rarely using that same pool for exercise style lengths. Yeah right.
  • All that good mexican food; fajitas, enchiladas, moles, soups and the rest.
  • Experiencing Mexican police corruption and bribe gathering at first hand, as well as Mexico’s wonderful exuberance regarding un-signed road bumps that you can only go over at 5mph on a road with a 70mph speed limit. Bless.
  • The wonderful, smiling people who are so friendly and fun – they totally make up for those corrupted by their little bit of power in the police force.

So thanks again to Marsha and John for an amazing trip, you guys rocks! Expect to see some photos up at my Flickr stream soon – honest!

Twelve Monkeys (or One Stupid Man)

Reports are circulating now about a guy who, while infected with a rare, drug resistant form of tuberculosis, traveled extensively from America to Europe and back through Canada – while he was aware of his disease and having being told not to travel. Great. You just have to think he’s either incredibly stupid or incredibly selfish, or both. Worryingly he traveled through Montreal and New York, but we won’t know if he had any impact as the incubation period can be up to decades.

Fly the Virgin Skies

Virgin America is finally approved to start flying! Good news for fans of Richard Branson. Sorry, I mean fans of companies that have a name starting with ‘Virgin’, as due to FAA regulations no US based airline can be operated by non-US citizens. This seemed to be a bit of an attempt by their (justifiably scared) competitors to slow them down, as it was almost a year ago that I saw some Virgin America plans sitting around up in Montreal.

You can check out some of their in-plane gadgets over at youTube. Highlights for me are the full embedded Linux media center for every seat, proper keyboard on the controls and a full 110v socket at every seat. Yep, they are totally targetting the current Web 2.0 boom kiddies with this one, and being based out west that’s no surprise.

All good things

Back in the US again – sunny New York City is outside my window with the usual chorus of sirens trilling away on the streets below. Flew back yesterday with the delightful Virgin who, having saved me an hour of queuing through the use of my silver card then decided to upgrade me to Premium Economy for the first time ever. Yee-haw! I’m now thoroughly hooked and will be contemplating how to get a non-economy flight back to the UK and then a non-economy round the world ticket. The thought of spending 20 hours in a plane to some far off country in cattle class does not appeal…

Other thoughts now fill my mind – which parts of my life do I pack up and ship back to store in England while I travel and which to leave behind? Don’t have a huge budget for shipping so that will help keep me to the bone on what stays and what goes, plus most of the electronic equipment won’t work so that’s easy. What of the less physical aspects though? The friendships and behaviors I’ve developed over the years? At least this time I’m emotionally more prepared for such upheavel, something that I totally underestimated three and a half years ago when I came here from London. Still scares me a bit though – the through of just leaving stuff and stepping away for a while, if not ever. Never was very good with change, so this is a great opportunity to get better at it. Chocks away…

Fromage

Just got back from a tiring but fun day trip to Calais with G’ette and Simon. Had to get up at the unearthly hour of 5.10am (GMT while I’m still in EST – yep, that means 12.10am) to drive down for an 8.30am ferry from Dover. Brought back many fond memories of my last trips over to France which were oh so long ago – yes dear ones, probably before the Ecu was even spawned from whatever twisted mind it came.

Much delights were to be found in the French hypermarche – wine, chocolate, wine, cheese, wine and of course cheap stationary. Did I mention the wine? Also got the chance to experience how British mobile phones actually work in other countries, and the difference in service levels between French and New York restaurants. Very.

Now I’m just completely exhausted having only really had about 10 hours sleep since Monday morning… Somehow managed to fit a trip in to see Blue Jam at Riverside Studios in Hammersmith. Chris Morris of Brasseye fame wrote this sketch play and it shows. Very bizarre but often extremely funny. Enjoyed it immensely until halfway through when I realized that part of me was not enjoying the contexts – for example a woman getting a plumber in to ‘fix’ her baby that has been dead for 4 days. This has since lead to many discussions about whether it’s right to laugh at this stuff or not, or whether it’s fundamentally wrong/unhealthy/whatever. I was reminded of a sketch show I went to see just under a year ago in New York (Kiddies/Pumpkin Corner or something like that – the name escapes me). The last sketch was highly disturbing and left a very bad taste in the mouth, discussing child abuse between disabled siblings. Living in New York has definately changed my sense of humour, is that a good thing or a bad thing though? Answers on a postcard please.

Oh, and on which note, Grand Theft Auto 3 (PS2) is a really enjoyable game – very clever, highly addictive and well done. The main character runs round town carrying out gangland tasks and stealing whatever car he fancies all to earn more money/success. You have to question though whether sleeping with a prostitute to raise your health levels, and subsequently pummeling her to death to steal the money back is healthy for your mind. And you know the kids play this…. God I’m getting old!