"" Writer's Wanderings

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Canadian Stratford On The Avon River

Many years ago on one of our first visits to England we made a journey from London up to Stratford on Avon to the Anne Hathaway house and the said traditional stomping grounds of Shakespeare. It was beautiful and memorable. We toured the house, looked at some arts and crafts, soaked in the legendary stories and did some rubbings from some raised bronze tablets. I still have them hanging in our family room.

Much to my amazement there is a second Stratford and it's not far away from us. You don't have to cross an ocean to get there. It's also on a river called Avon and it has a tradition of theater albeit not as historical as the town in England. The Canadian Stratford which is in Ontario began its foray into the Shakespearean theater in the mid 1950s.

A journalist, Tom Patterson, and a British director, Tyrone Guthrie, began organizing the Stratford Festival. Construction on a stage and theater was finished in 1953 and the first play opened with legendary actor Alec Guinness. Since then the festival has grown adding a fourth venue in 2002.

Their site lists all sorts of productions from Shakespeare to more modern drama and musicals. There's a $25 bus ride to get to Stratford from Toronto if you are interested in expanding your theatrical experience from the variety offered at the Toronto theaters. You may not find the same quaintness that the original Statford on Avon affords but certainly you won't lack for entertainment.

Monday, June 27, 2016

A City Celebrates!

It's been a little more that a week since the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA World Championship. It was an amazing comeback for an amazing city that has begun to make quite a turnaround from its old reputation of years past.

I don't really like to watch basketball but who could resist watching that last game on Sunday. When the Kyrie Irving shot came, hope began to blossom. Would we really do it this time? And then came the buzzer and the announcer shouting that the Cavs had won. I think people all over the city were pinching themselves and the pinching continued until Wednesday when the Cavs and the city put on the first celebration parade the city has ever had.

Here is where I began to really feel pride in the city, the area, we call home. Not only was there very little trouble in the all night celebrating (they say only five people were arrested and one police car damaged) but a million plus happy people showed up on Wednesday for an all day celebration. Again, except for one incident, there were no problems. Considering the horror stories of some places who have won championships, I was very encouraged to see a great celebration with everyone having a good time even in the summer heat and testing patience with transportation.

Stories of people helping people. Lifting children on their shoulders so they could see and even a picture circulated of a group lifting a man in a wheelchair so he could see his hero Kyrie pass by. Those we know who were there said that it was amazing how polite and kind people were to each other. Cleveland's not such a bad place after all.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Thousand Islands and The Salad Dressing

Long before I knew thousand island was a type of salad dressing I knew it as a place, a destination, although I'd never been there. If you'd listened to my mother though, you'd have thought we came close--often.

My mother learned to drive late in life. I was probably about eight or nine which would have made by brother about three or four when she got her license. Riding along with Mom was always an adventure. Why? Because she got lost so often--or at least she would tell us we were lost. We always did manage to make it back home but not before we heard the familiar line, "If we go any farther we're going to hit Thousand Islands!"

Now it wasn't until much later in my life that I learned that Thousand Islands actually is a place and there are actually more than a thousand islands there. It is located on the St. Lawrence River along the New York and Canadian border. It sounds intriguing to the writer in me as it is said there's a story that goes along with every island.

One such story is of the wealthy owner of the Waldorf Astoria who began building a castle for his wife on Heart Island. Unfortunately she died or as some suspect, ran off with the chauffeur and he abandoned the project but it remains a popular tourist attraction.

In order to qualify as an island the piece of land in the river has to remain above water all year and have at least two trees. One such island called Just Room Enough, takes its name from the fact that there is just room enough for the little house that sits on it. According to what I read, the people who own it were looking for somewhere to get away from the hustle and bustle of life and wanted a place where there would be no traffic and they would be away from people. Unfortunately, it became a popular tourist attraction with lots of gawkers.

But what about the salad dressing, you ask? There are several stories but the one that makes most sense is that the wife of a local fishing guide would make the dressing for lunch for her husband's clients. A famous New York actress liked it and named it after the area. She shared the recipe with George Boldt (the castle building guy) and he served it in his hotel restaurant. The locals who make the dressing now say that the mass market production is nothing like the original. They bottle their own each summer season and when they sell out, it's gone until the next year.

Bottom line, if we ever get lost driving through New York, I want to end up at Thousand Islands. It sounds like a great place for a travel adventure.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Sleeping With The Fish

Around here we are big on fish. We love scuba diving. We love our saltwater aquarium. One of us loves to catch fish and we both love to eat them. Sleeping with them would be a whole different dynamic but not impossible--at least not in Dubai, the city where the biggest, the largest, the most unusual can be found. 

In addition to its indoor ski resort, huge aquarium in a mall and world's tallest building, you can now find a place to sleep in luxury surrounded by walls that look into a huge aquarium. The place is an Atlantis hotel built at the end of the Palm, a man made island that extends into the ocean and is in the shape of a palm tree. 

If you've ever been to Nassau in the Bahamas, you've seen the iconic Atlantis Hotel with the arch. The same design is used in Dubai. On a tour of Dubai we were driven out on to the island, went past the hotel but we couldn't get out and explore. I had no idea until I came across a story about it that the Atlantis had two suites, the Poseidon and the Neptune, that surround you with floor to ceiling walls that look into the Ambassador Lagoon that is filled with three million gallons of water containing more than 65,000 marine animals including sharks and sting rays. I'm guessing it would not be a good idea to tune into Shark Week on Discovery before you go.

The idea of an underwater suite really outdoes the infamous water bed in the James Bond movie that was filled with fish. Didn't someone die on that?

Well back to the luxury suite. As with many of the luxury hotel suites in Dubai the bathroom has 24k gold fixtures and comes with a butler. If you book a package deal you can swim with the sharks and stingrays. I've met up with sharks and stingrays diving but sleeping with them surrounding me. . .well, I don't know. I can think of lots of other places I'd rather spend $5,000 to $8,000 which is what the suite will cost you depending upon the season. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

In A Word- Chocolate!

Several years ago on our river cruise through France, we stopped at Tain L'Hermitage. It is noted for its wine but perhaps even more so for the famous Valrhana chocolate produced there. We were amazed at the free samples given out in the gift shop and I have never tasted such pure hot chocolate. All you needed was a very, very small cup. It was rich and dark. I was surprised it was not mentioned in the Independent Traveler article I read about twelve chocolate spots to visit. We didn't have time for a tour of the place but tours are available.

Hershey, Pennsylvania, was mentioned but more so for its spa. I can't imagine being covered with chocolate for a massage or facial. That seems like a waste and if I had to smell the chocolate, I would just want to eat it.

There were two places mentioned near some of the areas we will be traveling to this year. Umbria, Italy, has a chocolate factory owned by Nestle called Perugina. They make Baci which is foiled wrapped nuggets with a hazelnut cream center and other confections. You can tour the factory and get a bird's eye view of the production from walkways above.

The other place that might be worth looking into is in Barcelona, Spain, where our fall cruise will stop. Cacao Sampaka is the name of the shop which replaced a famous restaurant called El Bulli. It sounds very boutiquish with bars that have ham or anchovies or hazelnut or Modena vinegar in them. What really caught my eye though was the offering of churros and hot chocolate. In a chocolate shop? It's got to be heavenly. Hope I get the chance to try it. If I do, you can be sure I'll share--the story. It's kind of hard to share the chocolate over the internet.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Travel Anxiety- Am I Ready For This Trip?

It has been ten weeks since we last were on the road. Wow. That may be a new stay-at-home record for us. There is an upcoming trip planned soon but after seeing an article, 10 Signs You're Not Prepared For Your Trip, I felt my heart race a bit. Are we ready?

This is a diving trip. The annual trip we take with our grandson so I'm fairly familiar with preparation and we usually don't pack until a day or two ahead but still, I went ahead and checked our readiness against the list.

Do we know the weather? Oh yes. It will be hot and humid. Very hot and very humid. Of course if it wasn't the water would be cold and we don't like diving in cold water. Shorts, light shirts, sandals, swimsuits and one nicer outfit for Sunday church and we're set.

Is our house in order? Hmmm. They didn't mean clean although we will leave it somewhat neat and orderly. The more important thing is to check that we have light timers working, the refrigerator will be clear of the perishables like milk and fruit and the mail and paper will be stopped.

Do we have backup ID? Last year's fiasco with a lost passport has taught us a lesson. We had photo copies of our passports but we had neglected to copy our grandson's. It might have saved us some moments of panic and shear fear that we were in real trouble. So, yes we will have that all done.

ATM? No we won't carry extra cash as the article says to do. We know, at least for this trip, that there will be ATMs available and it's always better to use them to get your money exchanged or use your credit card. I carry an extra card in case one is stolen or canceled. We've had one canceled when a card was compromised. Even if you fly into another country, you can always check the airport for an ATM and withdraw cash there for your necessities that won't take a credit card.

What is your flight status? Bob takes care of this. He has notifications come to his mailbox if anything changes. So far the weather is good. It is hurricane season but so far doesn't look like there is anything churning in the Atlantic. Our condo rental is confirmed and we have all the information for getting in. Rental car is reserved. I think we're a go here.

Have a plan for the little things that can go wrong? At least for this trip we are familiar enough with Grand Cayman that we can navigate any small problems that come up. But if we were going somewhere new, we'd have to consider alternatives if our travel plans were interrupted by something out of our control like a hotel room not being ready.

Is your passport ready to expire? Nope. We recently had them renewed and of course, our grandson had to get a new one. Thanks to his mom he's all set.

Have you thought about packing? Well, yes, thought about it. Won't do it until a few days before. Bob will check our gear out a week ahead to be sure batteries are in our dive computers and all the gear is in one place. I have a list for packing for a dive vacation or a cruise so I follow that and I don't have to fret over what to take. The more challenging trips I do have to plan a little farther in advance.

International phone plan? This is on Bob's list but normally we don't do that unless we will be gone for a long time and/or we are concerned about something at home where we will need to be reached. Email and messaging are a cheaper way to go usually.

No one knows you're leaving? Well, just like a pregnant lady in her eighth month we get the question, "Are you still here?" So for the most part, our friends know when we are leaving. Family too, except for those kids who don't pay attention and say, "You're back? Where were you?" We also put a call into our local police department and have a house watch. Our neighbors are sweet and keep an eye out as well. One even drives her car up our driveway when it snows to make it look as though our cars have been in and out. Longer trips have a friend stopping by to check on our fish tank.

Check, check, check and check. Guess we're as ready as we'll ever be. Let the travel begin!

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