The Grinch won’t leave!

What is it about the holidays?  My mental health is better than it has been in months but still the festive season pushes all my buttons.  I think I used to enjoy Christmas but at some point it just became stressful.  It was better when there was very little money in our lives.  Presents were much needed and usually a delight – despite a white and brown polyester dressing gown that I had to wear for years…  In later years my late crazy mother got her knickers in a twist about the varieties of Christmas puddings and drove her daughter nuts trying to find the PERFECT one.  Remember when there was only one or you made your own?

As my mental health was improving during fall, I got very busy creating postcards from Teddy’s beautiful images.  Then I started on my handmade soaps and enjoyed the process.  I wrapped them prettily and gifted them to everyone.  It backfired somewhat as I made some friends feel that they had to reciprocate.  The true joy is in giving with no expectations.

Then Teddy got some unanticipated leave from his new job and we went to Fredericksburg for Christmas, possibly the most famous German town in central Texas Hill Country.  It was really beautifully decorated and the weather was fantastic – photos to follow.  Despite enjoying my environment, historic buildings and endless wineries, I couldn’t stop being irritated.

  • There were too many tourists yet we were two of them…
  • The other cars were driving like crazy Grinches – especially through Austin, the most traffic-congested city in Texas.
  • Our luxurious room wasn’t quite clean enough (it really wasn’t).
  • I was bored and tired.
  • The road from Medina to Kerrville was ridiculous – hairpin bends and really steep gradients. I guess I missed the point about visiting the hill country.
  • Teddy sleeps like an owl and I am like a bear. Maybe I should hibernate through winter??
  • Other guests. That’s a standalone but they were talking outside in broad daylight, beeping their cars locked and worse still, talking in their room at 7 pm.  They ate all the breakfast.

I know what you are thinking – poor Teddy.  It’s true that he put up with a Grinch wife but we still had wonderful meals and laughed all the time.  I am hoping that made up for the time, after driving for hours in silence, I turned on the CD to keep myself focused AND THEN he started talking.  I told him to Shut the F*** Up and gave him the finger.  Thirty seven years and counting – I love you Teddy!!!!

 

Where’s Kerry?

On the water somewhere?

Can you guess? Apologies for my absence from writing and reading blogs. My life has been a little hectic recently and I took advantage of a short hiatus in my schedule to fly to San Diego. What a photogenic city! I chose this destination because some of my American ancestors were early settlers in San Diego…and it had a great weather forecast. I am so shallow.

Over the next few weeks I will share my travels but for a change, I had very little funny human encounters. I think I was disadvantaged by staying the Gaslamp area which was full of convention visitors and tourists. The Uber drivers were eagerly engaging but other people didn’t seem to want to talk to me. 😢 I’m Chatty Kerry, for goodness sakes! Nobody was unfriendly but just focused on themselves. When I walk around the trails near my house most people wave or say hello whether I know them or not.

The Gaslamp is an interesting part of downtown San Diego which is on the way up but some parts are still a little run down. My hotel had a guide for safety at night and there was a safe in my crappy room. Istanbul seemed safer… I dutifully took sensible precautions and went to dinner at Happy Hour, taking advantage of sunset and safer streets. When I walked into the lobby of the Hotel Andaz, I thought I had interrupted a photo shoot for a glamorous magazine. There were a plethora of handsome young men in snappy suits. When they ascended to the rooftop bar, I asked why they were being photographed. It was a groomsman party from England would you believe? They must have had megabucks to party across the pond! More lovely shots of them in blogs to come.

Groomsmen PARTY!

I love rooftop bars because of the photo opportunities and this one was lovely but full of lonely people sitting by themselves (and me…) It crossed my mind that this would have been a good Bunny and Teddy destination but we are travelling alone until our last cat makes it to the rainbow bridge. On the the second night I ventured further afield and for the the first time ever, rejected a meal at a swanky bar. It was terrible so I found yet another rooftop bar (not the hip Hotel Andaz in the shots) which was much better but the food was still meh…

Kerry with the San Diego skyscrapers at sunset in the delightful Hotel Andaz

The barmaid in the second unnamed rooftop hotel, however, was wearing an outfit that shocked even me. She was an attractive slim blonde who was wearing a non supportive bralette with see- through linen pants that revealed that she had forgotten to put on her underwear that day. Perhaps it was a way to increase her tips? Ladies at bars were wearing very revealing costumes so maybe it is a really fun city after dark. Guys were giving me lascivious looks or none at all and I was wearing very supportive underwear. I don’t mind a nice compliment or admiring eye but I felt uncomfortable on my own.  Many beautiful shots to come and some funny stories.

Bloody Dolphins!

Do you see the dolphins?

Do you see the dolphins?

Bloody dolphins! I know they are invisible but there is a mummy dolphin with two cute little babies, diving in and out of the water. Diving in precisely when I took each shot… Despite my fear of deep water I love to be near it and took advantage of a little water taxi service in Charleston that takes you upriver to the Aquarium, across the Cooper river to Patriot’s Point where the USS Yorktown Aircraft Carrier is now a military museum, then to the Marina, and then back to the center of the Historic district. It was $10 for all day use and I just loved it.

Water Taxi Charleston

Water Taxi Charleston

Charleston is a peninsula, with two rivers on either side leading out into a wide estuary and then into the Atlantic Ocean. It was curiously hot during my stay and very humid (even more than Houston) and the water was soothing to both my dry eyes and soul. My desperation to snap more dolphins made me put up with being in a tiny boat across a major shipping lane – eek!

This is how deep the Cooper river must be....

This is how deep the Cooper river must be….

When we lived in the north of Scotland (for almost 20 years) we were close to the Moray Firth, home to the most northerly group of bottle-nosed dolphins. The water is warmed by the North Atlantic Drift supporting plants and creatures that would normally not live in such a cold climate. Despite being on the coast thousands of times we only saw the dolphins ONCE! I am sure they were always there, laughing hysterically as they do, hiding when we watched for them. They had a bad reputation as fearsome predators and would regularly beat up the poor little porpoises. It was man’s fault, as ever, because we had over fished their territory and there was a battle for food.

Back to Charleston – those too are Atlantic bottle-nosed dolphins. The rivers and estuaries are home to all sorts of seabirds and fish. It was a seafood lover’s paradise which was wasted on me but I did enjoy some really delicious food. Between the sea and the sun, I and every other tourist was as brown as a berry. There is no need to have a car in downtown Charleston as there are free bus services and easy walking with sidewalks everywhere. I didn’t notice many overweight people – it was quicker to walk to your destination than wait for a bus. It was a very short visit but I would have loved to have visited a plantation and got out into the real countryside.

On land for the next post but one last action shot from the person who is terrified of deep water.

I was leaning right over the taxi to get a shot of USS Yorktown.

I was leaning right over the taxi to get a shot of USS Yorktown.

Instructions from Mexico

mexican-flag-medium

No more blogs for a short while as we go on a little vacaciones to Mexico. I had threatened to go to Mexico City on my own as my husband is curiously tentative about going south of the border. We have both traveled most of the world and he has been to very dangerous places in Africa and Latin America. A few years ago I went on solo vacations to Belize and Yucatan and finally I tempted him to go to Baha. Not Cabos – a little mission town where you have to take cash…

I have bad Spanish but it is good enough to argue the price of a taxi in Spanish when in Peru. The Canadian tourists that I met in Yucatan were amazed that I traveled on local buses solo. Anyway…I am too cheap to use the expensive transportation from the airport so searched around for a local shuttle operator. My husband said, “What if they don’t turn up?” “We will take a taxi”, I replied exasperatedly. To his relief I have chosen well and I laughed out loud when I read their very precise instructions.

There are reservation numbers, maps of terminals, and endless documentation for a $12 ride – told you I was cheap. It is so precise – ‘go directly through immigration and customs, blah, blah. Do not stop! Only approach our representatives with orange t-shirts, the company logo and your name on a sign’. I wondered if we were potential kidnap victims but this is just to get us past the time-share predators! All that was missing was the title – For Stupid Gringos.

It is a pity that I look like my one Scandinavian ancestor or I might breeze through but I know they will make a bee-line to the incredibly blonde white lady. Once I start being stroppy in Scottish accented Spanish they will back off in terror – it’s even better in Arabic. The Egyptian taxi drivers called me ‘Khamsa Guinea’ which translates to 5 Egyptian pounds. I would pay no more than 5 LE to go anywhere in Maadi. That was the middle ex-pat rate, not the ridiculous tourista rate or the slightly cheaper local rate. One unsuspecting driver from another area, like Nasr City, once picked me up and said it would be 25 LE. I shouted, in Arabic, for him to stop the car and got out. He tried to argue with me but I just said I would wait for the next taxi. Eventually, with his tail between his legs, he told me to get in and he would accept 5 LE.

Hasta la vista, baby!