Monday, 27 June 2011

Gone Hikin'

Hello Internet.


My parents arrived in Switzerland last Tuesday, and will be here for three glorious weeks. As you can tell by the above picture, we have already been exploring the best that Switzerland has to offer.

I'll be back.

Soon.

Ish.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Nirvana

On Saturday Dan and I were invited to a dinner party where we ate THE BEST food.

This was a dinner that was so good, where I ate so much food, so much dessert, so much of the final cheese course, and had so much wine, that I reached diner's nirvana. In case you're wondering, diner's nirvana is this pleasant fuzzy feeling of gluttony and merriment where you can't imagine ever being hungry again, but what the hell! Of course you'll try the cheese. And have three more glasses of wine.

As everyone at the table was grooving in their seats to some old Swiss tunes, I looked around and woozily wondered when was the last time we'd stayed out until 2 a.m. Yeah, it was actually only 11:00 p.m. when Dan had to roll me out the door. Oops.

Great night, though.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Pappa Don't Preach

Today is Father's Day in Canada, and as far as I can tell they don't celebrate that day here in Switzerland. What's up with that, CH? Dad's are important too.

Here is an assorted list of why my dad is ultra rad.

(Though, the lame rhyming is all on me. Don't blame my rad dad for that bad.)

1. He will beat your dad at golf. Guaranteed. If your dad decides to bet your allowance money on his game of golf with my dad, you won't have an allowance that week. When my dad was a young(er) pup, he could have pursued a career as a pro golfer. Luckily for my sisters and I, he decided to become a policeman instead because that's how he met my mom.

(Which makes it sound like mom totally got arrested. Not by my dad...anyhow...or ever...or did she??)

2. My dad laughs at the irony of situations instead of punching walls. My dad grew up in Victoria, so for anyone not geographically in the know that means he grew up a stone's throw away from the ocean in a lush and gorgeous environment. Before heading off to Regina to commence his police training, he did a roadtrip through BC and passed through a dusty little one horse town called Cache Creek. "Kill me if I ever live somewhere like this!" My dad laughed to his friends. Upon completing his police training, when he was open to the possibility of being posted anywhere in all of Canada, Dad ended up being transferred to Cache Creek. It's all cool though because that's where he met mom, the rodeo princess royalty of that one horse town.

3. My dad will pull off the road during a roadtrip along the Oregon Coast so his lovesick young teenage daughter can find a public library so she can send an email to the boy back home she has a crush on. My mom was annoyed at the request, my sisters mocked me ruthlessly, and my dad just kept quietly driving because he was scouting out the library for me.  Crushes went away, disappearing into the wind like dandelion seeds--numerous but fleeting--but Dad's silent support is the stem I still clutch.

(Though, I'm not sure if you guessed this Dad, but Dan is sort of around now. But you probably already guessed that when you walked me up the aisle.)

4. My dad picks the best pets. After our best pal Bess had to be put down after having lived the deserved life of a queen for ten years with our little family, my sisters and I were devastated. For months it felt like we lived in an empty house. Then my parents started to cautiously mention the idea of getting another dog. One day after school we came home and Dad was holding a squirming, happy, black puppy who was so full of life she couldn't stay still. That was Kelly. Mom likes to laugh about how she and Dad went to visit a farmer, who's spaniel had a litter of pups with a lab, just to look. Mom says she was holding a perfect quiet little pup in her arms who was sleeping soundly, while Dad studied the other joyful little pups. But in the corner of the yard was one pup off alone. A pup who was determinedly trying to dig a hole...in plywood.

"We'll take that one!" Dad declared.

Kelly was with us for fifteen years, and for fifteen years she was playful, energetic, frustrating, loving, protective, and perfect. Thanks Dad.

5. Whenever he could, my dad watched Saturday morning cartoons with my sister's and I, followed by some WWF wrestling. After our shows, we'd gang up on my dad and try to wrestle with him, but it always ended up in hysterical laughing because Dad would tickle us until we were laughing so hard we would gasp, "I can't breathe! I can't breathe! Help! Ais! Meg! Caitie! Help! I can't breathe!" But we couldn't help each other because we were all being defeated by the tickle monster.

6. My dad is funnier than your dad. He was our Jerry Seinfeld. I remember the first time ever going into a Walmart, we were in the States because the big W hadn't made it to Canada yet. As the automatic doors swung open, my family of five trooped in and then we all stopped short as we looked at all the people paying. If you've never seen the People of Walmart website you best be clicking on that link, because that is what we were seriously confronted with as we entered that grand establishment. Every single cashier station had a Person of Walmart customer. Specifically I recall the man who was dressed from head to toe in Daffy Duck paraphernalia, complete with a thin and greasy pony tail that had been saved even though the rest of his hair was buzzed. Also, there was the woman who was wearing old pink bedroom slippers, SHORT-shorts y'all, and a white saggy bra. Nothing else. As my eyes bugged out of my head, I heard Dad whistle under his breath, "Phew, look at all the martians." Hahaha! I'm sorry, but that was an entirely accurate description and if you spend time browsing the above website and don't agree, then your funny bone is broken.

7. My dad makes beef jerky. Nuff said. Am I right or am I right?!

8. I used to be obsessed with Sesame Snaps when I was a wee child. Dad once took me into the candy store and told me I could have anything I wanted. Any sweet. I picked a package of Sesame Snaps. A bar of seeds, if you will. Dad must have looked at this choice of treat and caught a glimpse of the responsible and Nerdus Nolifeus teenager his young daughter would become, then tried to encourage that behaviour, because for years he would sometimes surprise me (and my sisters too) with Sesame Snaps.

9. My dad will put himself in peril to accommodate his five year old's insistence that Santa WAS on the roof last night. It is a snowy, icy, freezing Christmas morning. Me and little Meghan are standing outside in our snow boots, Mom is in her pajamas holding baby Aislinn, and Dad is climbing a really tall ladder onto the roof. He stops on the last rung and turns his head left and right.

"I can see the sled tracks, girls! You're right! Santa was definitely here!"

Meghan and I scream in excitement.

10. My dad can hug the hurt away. In my early twenties I was in a car accident. My car was a write-off but I was physically fine. That's all the matters, I know. But emotionally I was devastated by the accident. My first car that I'd saved for so long to buy, declared scrap metal. The smell of an accident scene. The feeling of being thrown against your seat. The air-bag punching you in the face. Glass shattering. People screaming. The scary seconds of stillness when everything stops moving, but people don't know how to help yet. I couldn't forget any of that. For a long time. But Dad would crush me in his arms while I cried, and it made me feel better. A hug that feels safer than a seatbelt.

Love you so much, Dad.

See you on Tuesday.

Friday, 17 June 2011

A London Funk

Here are the reasons you want to travel with Dan and me:

(1) I can read a map like it's a summer beach read, and we don't get lost when I'm on map duty. This seems like an odd thing to be proud of, but a lot of people can't read maps and don't have a very good sense of direction. Also, I can re-fold the damn map when I'm done with it. BOOM, someone award me the Travellin' 4 Life award.

(2) Because of his height, Dan always has a good view of a parade and can get you pictures that would otherwise have just been the backs of people's heads. This means that rather than having to keep jumping up and down to get a glimpse of what's going on, you can lounge by a fountain and listen to the music and look at the pictures later.

(3) We're incredibly easy-going tourists and spend a lot of time sitting down in scenic spots, eating ice cream or drinking beer.

Here are the reasons you don't want to travel with us:

(1) Dan never lets you sleep in.

(2) I make bad footwear decisions and so by necessity we spend a lot of time sitting in scenic spots, eating ice cream or drinking beer.

Okay here's the deal: I hate wearing clumsy ugly running shoes when I'm only exploring a city. And the reason I hate wearing the running shoes is because THEY DON'T MATCH MY OUTFITS.

There, it's out there: I can be as shallow as a kiddy pool.

And no, I'm not fooling myself into thinking that every day is a runway opportunity (puhlease), but when I'm on a city vacation I just like to dress like how I would have when I was home and this means that comfortable and ugly athletic shoes cramp my style. But conversely, and hot damn, and oh-me-oh-my, my style can sure cramp my feet.

As we were packing for this vacation, I eyed up my sensible shoes with the killer arch support and then immediately turned my back on those ugly ducklings. Then by the third day in London, when Dan walked and I hobbled back to the B&B after having been out for fifteen straight hours, I was convinced that the burning pain I felt was an indication my feet had dropped off. I think I'd lost them somewhere around the Globe Theatre.

The next morning Dan asked if I'd brought anything other than the pair of flats that I was lurching around in. So I opened my bag and removed...a pair of wedges. Oh the shame. The shame! There's nothing more humiliating then looking at your husband's comical eye-roll and realizing you really are the most incompetent fool that ever lived.

But I can read maps! I want the Travellin' 4 Life award!

Sorry self, but if you can read a map but can't walk to the destination, you aren't even going to get nominated for that badass prize.

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These shoes are now molded to the shape of my feet. That means they're now curled up like a fist.
Also, they're gross because my tourist foot sweated through nylon socks.
Dan and I say that they're our only souvenir that carries a 'London funk' with it.
You are so welcome for the above visuals and descriptions.

It was a great relief to me that on our last day in London, we planned to see the changing of the guards ceremony. This meant that I could sit down while we watched the parade. After touring Westminster Abbey in the morning, we quickly made our way over to Buckingham Palace to try and get a spot on the Queen Victoria memorial to sit down.

There was a lot of people there, but I found a solid spot.

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Dan didn't trust sitting down, so he staked a spot out on the sidewalk, and then we waited for forty minutes for the event to begin. Once it started I joined Dan, but I didn't have a great view. After standing for about twenty minutes and seeing a few different troops march by, my burning feet in their London funk shoes needed a break, so I went back to sit at the fountain while we waited for the next half of the ceremony.

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It a long time.

Then we saw the Queen's husband. He came on the balcony for 4.5 seconds, waived, and went back inside.

It was really cool.

Then we waited some more.

I took a long time.

Then finally, the cavalry (or whatever they're called) rode by.

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The guards did their changing-up thing behind the palace gates while the marching band played some funky music.

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The old guards left the palace, and it was all over.

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After having stood for almost two hours, Dan comfortably ambled up to me, who had been sitting for almost two hours.

"Well, it's lunch. Where do you want to go?"

"Uh," I said rubbing my still throbbing feet, "Want to grab a picnic and go sit in the park for an hour?"

So that's what we did.

Then we ate ice cream.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Notting Hill

Because of the endless photo opportunities in this neighbourhood.

Because of missed photo opportunities in other neighbourhoods.

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London: I'll be back.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Sweet As A Peach

I interrupt the London recap to bring you Poppy.


You're welcome.

Monday, 13 June 2011

That's A Blooming Big Bridge

On our third day in London we started our morning at the Tower of London, which was definitely a must see destination for both of us, because seriously? A site with precious jewels and a bloody history?

YES PLEASE.

The first thing we did when we got there was to head straight for the crown jewels so we could see that main attraction and avoid the crowds.

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Where the jewels are kept.

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One of the guys who guards the entrance.

You weren't allowed to take any pictures of the jewels which was a bummer because as you can imagine, the lighting was ultra-fab and those rocks really sparkled like diamonds.

To paint a visual of the display though, first you have to clear security and then you weave through a room that has on display the name and reigning date of every single British monarch since the beginning of the monarchy. When you leave that room you will then move through two separate rooms that have videos playing; the first video is dedicated to the history of the different regalia that you will soon see, and the second video is a summary of the Queen's coronation. Then when you clear these rooms it's finally time to see the crown jewels!

Entering the room, you will see there are two automated walkways flanking a centre display case. Step on whichever walkway you want, and then you will slowly be moved past the centre display case that holds different crowns, the sovereign's orb, the impressively jewelled state sword, coronation rings, diadems, and the Star of Africa. Once you reach the end of the belt, you can circle back to view the regalia again or you can move through the room towards the exit to see displays of massive gold plates, bowls, baptism vessels, and altar ornamentation.

Since Dan and I got there first thing, we probably spent twenty minutes maximum viewing this collection. It was so sparkly. I loved it.

After we left we then we went back to the Tower's entrance, picked up our audio guides, and started touring the rest of the site. Our first stop on the tour was Traitor's Gate.

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Looking over the wall at Traitor's Gate I saw the water pooling beneath the iron jaws of this ominous entrance and noticed people's money--their wishes--glinting on the rocky bottom. Do any of you readers remember the post I did about The Wish Fairy? Because my theory that humans are incapable of passing still bodies of water without hurling their life savings into these shallow depths has been proven right.

Do you really think that tossing your money into a splashing of water that has randomly collected inside a seafaring entrance called TRAITOR'S GATE is really the right place to make your wish for a bikini body by summer? No, it isn't. This was the entrance to the Tower where many prisoners--Anne Boleyn famously amongst them--were rowed through knowing that when Traitor's Gate slammed closed their lives were literally over. Sliced, hacked, chopped. Over. So get it together people! Save your money for fish n' chips or wishes at Disneyland.

Other sites we saw at the Tower were the torture chamber, the White Tower (the original 'tower' of the Tower) that spans four floors and extensively documents early military history (which means I had to spend a lot longer there than I wanted to), the ravens, the Tower Green where executions were carried out, and one of the chamber rooms where prisoners were kept.

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Fortress walls and slingshots

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I liked the circular towers.

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'Oh Madam, you do know we have one room still available in the Bloody Tower?'
'Oh really? You don't say. Erm, haha. Silly me, I WAS going to pay for this apple but my wallet is at home. I'll just put that back. So yeah...have a great day. Toodles. Bye.'

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I threatened Dan that if I had to visit one more military museum, he was going to end up like the guy on the right.
Except, Dan isn't actually afraid of me.
That's a problem.
Later that afternoon we went to another war museum.

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The white tower.
Named so, I assume, because it's not pink.

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Military stuff.

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The white, not pink, tower continued.

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The tower green.
This is where all public executions occurred.
The glass memorial marks the spot of the chopping block, and an inscription reads:

'Gentle visitor pause awhile, where you stand death cut away the light of many days, here jewelled names were broken from the vivid thread of life, may they rest in peace while we walk the generations around their strife and courage, under their restless skies’

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Prisoner carvings.

For some odd reason it seems like the only thing I didn't do at the Tower was see a ghost or get a picture of a Beefeater.

Say what?

I totally wanted to see a ghost. Surely there must be some kicking around there, searching for their heads.

After we left the tower we went to gaze at London's Tower Bridge. Upon fully setting eyes upon it for the first time I told Dan, "This can't be the Tower Bridge?! IT CAN'T BE."

Since Dan is extremely sensible, he firstly tried to ignore me. But I cannot be ignored. So with a great deal of mocking in his voice he asked, "Please tell me why that's not the Tower Bridge?"

"Because it's blue! What the hell? Shouldn't it be more...I don't know...sepia coloured? This can't be the 'right' Tower Bridge."

"Well, since we're at the Tower of London, and this is the only bridge around with towers on either side of it, I'd say this is probably the Tower Bridge."

(I can tell that sometimes Dan must have to have the patience of a Kindergarten teacher to deal with me.)

"But it's blue. So blue. This is disappointing."

"The whole thing isn't blue, Caitie. Anyhow are you going to take a picture?"

"Yeah, I guess. SIGH."

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It's blue.
I think that's weird, if you haven't already guessed.

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Actually, upon reflection I match the bridge:
 my glasses are blue, my earrings were blue, as was my jacket.

After taking our picture, we started to walk back over to the dock where we were going to catch a tour boat up the Thames. As we started to walk away I stopped.

"Wait! I promised Meghan I'd say something!"

So I turned back around, stared at the Tower Bridge, and said in my normal Canadian voice that was coloured with just a hint of sullenness:  "That's a blooming big (blue) bridge."