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Just a quick note from my phone to say we had a fun visit with Aunt Leona last night, and a very nice day with Aunt Joyce and Uncle Eddie today, driving all round the family sites and chatting over tea and coffee and staying up later than we intended! 🙂
I’ll try to write something more substantial later… Tomorrow we hope to be on the road around 8:00 AM to arrive in St. Albert for supper!
Yesterday was our first “real” full day of vacation. So we slept in until 10:30…hahaha no, we have Eden along, who am I kidding? We got up pretty much at the normal time, but took things slow. Eden had a bath in the giant tub (well, in a Rubbermaid container, in the giant tub), and we went to the farmer's market, which conveniently operates Wednesday mornings less than a block from our condo!
We walked around, bought corn and potatoes for supper, had lunch from a food truck, picked up some fruit, and I took my camera out at last.
Then we went shopping…to a thrift store (among other things, I found Tintin and Choose Your Own Adventure books!), and a used book store that I saw earlier (bought nothing; after the thrift store it seemed so expensive!), and a paper store (which Ali and I wanted to buy most of, but we restrained ourselves). Then it was back home for supper (the corn was fantastic), and then it was Eden's bedtime.
Eden disagreed, though, so we went for a walk…through the mall. In the middle of the mall there's an old stone façade from the Canadian Bank of Commerce. For no particular reason I went and read the plaque on it, and learned that it came from Winnipeg! Apparently it was originally on a bank in Winnipeg and then they moved the whole thing to Regina to put on a bank there. Seems like a lot of work, but I guess it's cheaper than making a new one?
We started cleaning the condo and packing our bags last night, because we're leaving today. This morning we went out for breakfast to a place that a coworker recommended: “Fresh & Sweet”. Apparently it's been on the Food Network, on “You Gotta Eat Here”. It was within walking distance, but it turns out that their big breakfast menu with features like the Caramel Apple Pie Waffle is only available on weekends. Oh well. It was pretty good anyway — the toasted cinnamon bun is worth a repeat visit sometime.
And now we're getting ready to pack up and drive out to Kelvington and Wadena. I probably won't blog at all while we're there…maybe a really short post or two from my phone, but I'm not going to have wifi for my laptop or iPad. We hope to be in Edmonton on Saturday evening, and I'll have Internet access again then!
We're in Regina!
Actually we've been here since Saturday, but it's only really now that I feel like I can say we're on vacation. See, it's sort of a drawn-out affair. Saturday was my almost-annual trip to Regina for a Riders game. We (that's me, Ali, and Eden) drove out Saturday morning, about 45 minutes ahead of my parents, Heather, and Pamela. After driving through a LOT of rain (at its worst, we only had about 300-400 meters of visibility) we met up in Moosomin for lunch at The Red Barn, and continued on to Regina just behind them (long story involving a new waitress who couldn't figure out how to separate and combine bills properly). All told we had rain from just outside Winnipeg until just outside Regina…except for in Moosomin.
(Yes, that's a phone photo. I've hardly had my camera out yet. That will change.)
But when we got to Regina, the rain was gone. And Eden was a great traveler, sleeping most of the way and really only being fussy when she was hungry. Good thing too, because with the rain we didn't really have a lot of options for getting out of the car with her.
I had managed to book the company condo for a few days — the company has a Regina office, and owns a condo for people to use while visiting — so we headed into central Regina to find it, on a nice pedestrian street in the heart of downtown. We headed up the elevator and were very surprised to find the elevator opening not into a hallway, but straight into a living room! I looked around a bit to convince myself that this was the right place, and then left Ali and Eden and headed back down.
See, I had the condo booked, but due to a miscommunication, I didn't have the condo garage booked. And the closest parking spot I could find was about three blocks away. And we needed just about all our luggage. And the game was starting in about an hour. And Ali couldn't help me unload, because someone had to watch Eden. So I made five or six rushed trips to the car (which was parked in a giant puddle) and hauled all our stuff upstairs (Ali says it was only about four trips but it felt like more to me!), and then we drove to the hotel where everyone else was, so that we could drive back to where the game was…and get to our seats just as the game was starting.
Oh, and it was about 10° C and windy, and I had forgotten my hoodie. But even if I was cold, and even if the Riders lost, it was fun, like football games in Regina always are.
Afterwards we all visited for a bit at mom and dad's hotel, and then Ali and I parked our car in the parkade of a downtown shopping mall (free parking on weekends!) and walked back to the condo to bed.
The condo is the best hotel I've ever stayed in, I think. Three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a big kitchen, a jet tub, and about the same square footage as my house. We feel pretty spoiled at being able to stay here. Eden has a ton of space to crawl around in, and since nobody lives here full-time there's not even a lot of stuff for her to pull off of tables or anything.
So we set up the pack and play in the master bedroom (king-sized bed!) and went to sleep, having more or less settled in.
The days since have been simpler. Sunday we slept in (church is at 11:00 here!), went to church, had the others at the condo for lunch, said goodbye, and…relaxed! We went for a walk, I think, but mostly just hung out. I put on that night's football game on the projection TV, and we didn't do anything much.
Monday and Tuesday (today) I actually worked. The office is walking distance from the condo, and officially I haven't been on vacation yet! This is partly why I got the condo…I'm combining a business trip with a personal trip. (Don't worry, I'm not cheating anyone, this is all above board!) So I took my laptop to the office, had meetings with some of the Regina people, gave a presentation, and did other boring work things, while Ali and Eden explored, on foot and by car.
But now…now I am officially on vacation! Today was my last day of work before my actual vacation time, and I'm looking forward to it!
Day 23: Rogers, MN. 5,909.4 km.
Today was, in a way, our “day off” from our trip. There are only a few days left on our vacation, and they're scheduled for shopping and driving. Today was our day of rest.
After breakfast (no waffles, but fantastic cinnamon rolls!), we were hoping to watch the Grace church service on my iPad. Unfortunately, the wifi in our room is extremely unreliable, and we could only watch about five seconds at a time. After struggling with that for a bit, we resigned ourself to it not working, and decided to get out of our hotel room.
We found a small coffee shop nearby (“Caribou Coffee”, which is a chain we've seen in a few places) and went for a coffee and snack. We ended up sitting at our table for 2-3 hours, talking, using the coffee shop's wifi on our phones, and playing checkers (Ali won).
We also realized that we hadn't thought about what we'd do for supper today. We ended up going to a grocery store (actually a Super Target) and picked up some food to eat in our hotel room. In the parking lot, I gave a boost to a local with a dead battery, whose wife declared “Well, Minnesota Nice failed but Canada Nice came through!” (She also said she could hear my accent; I haven't really noticed the locals speaking differently than Winnipegers/Canadians, but Ali says she's heard a difference.)
After we got back to our hotel room, we napped, watched a bit of a movie, read, and generally relaxed. After supper we went down to the hot tub for a bit, and now I expect we'll probably turn in a bit early.
For those wondering: We're still in Hamilton/Brantford. The weather is pretty miserable: snow / freezing rain. We were thinking of leaving for Montreal tonight and getting a head start past Toronto but changed our mind because of the storm. At this point we're HOPING to leave for Montreal tomorrow (which was our original plan) but we're going to play it by ear depending on the weather.
Also, my email is down and I still have very limited internet access so I can't fix it. Ali's email is working though, if anyone needs to get in touch. (And I can get text messages but iMessage is sketchy.)
After our nice leisurely day in Edinburgh, we’re on the road again today. We’re told that the drive from last night’s hotel to tonight’s hotel could be done in not much more than two hours, but we take all day to do it, because we take the scenic route and make a couple stops. So, after breakfast was served (I didn’t have any), we had about a 90-minute drive in the drizzle and cold to the Scottish town of St Andrews.
A bustling St Andrews street
This seems to be a really sleepy little place. It has an old ruined cathedral, an old ruined castle, a very prestigious university (the one where Prince William met Kate Middleton), and a very prestigious golf course (if they decide to let you play there, you have to book a year in advance, and it costs about £1,000).
The ruined cathedral in St Andrews
St Andrews on the coast, and it was cold and damp and rainy and windy. For some reason, I had a series of massive coughing fits for about 15 minutes when we got off the bus, so that really got my morning off to a good start :). There’s not a lot to do in town, and neither Pamela nor I were really excited to be there. We saw the old cathedral and its graveyard (where William Wallace’s gravestone is), as well as the castle (from a distance). Then we saw a Costa Coffee, and I was all over that. Hot chocolate and a brownie served as my breakfast, and Pamela bought a gingerbread man with union jack buttons because it amused her.
The ruined castle in St Andrews
We did have a older local gentleman apologize for the weather (“It’s no alwaes like this!”), and then we stumbled across a cute little churchyard that was out of the wind; I took the opportunity to take a few pictures. We had nothing that we really wanted to see, so we just meandered through town. We saw parts of the university (it’s spread out quite a bit), and passed a coffee shop that proclaimed “Will and Kate met here for coffee” (with “for coffee” in much smaller letters). We eventually made our way to the official St Andrews Links golf shop, where we were supposed to meet the bus. We nosed around the tiny little shop, and were quite ready to leave about 20 minutes before the bus was. So I took a few pictures of the golf course, and we hung out with all the other people who were waiting to get back on the warm bus.
St Andrews golf course
As we continued towards Inverness, the scenery really started to remind me of driving through BC. It was hilly, and very green and lush, with streams and even pine trees at times. Quite nice; not exciting.
Lunch was at a town (city?) called Pitlochry. We just stopped for about 45 minutes to grab a quick lunch, but it’s clearly a popular coach stop. There were another six or seven coaches in the parking lot that we were in, and the area was full of restaurants and gift shops. Pamela and I ended up in a fish & chips shop run by a burly Scot. Deep fried food is very popular in Scotland; Pamela’s hoping to find a deep-fried Mars bar somewhere. We had “chicken breast chunks” and chips (with white vinegar instead of malt vinegar, for this first time this trip), and I had an Irn Bru. I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before.
Just some of the coaches parked in Pitlochry
Irn Bru is a soft drink that’s very popular in Scotland. In fact, it’s apparently more popular than Coke, making Scotland one of the few countries in which Coke isn’t the #1 soft drink. Irn Bru is basically orange pop, though it’s got a more complex flavour than, say, Orange Crush; I think it tastes a bit like cream soda.
We kept heading north, and made it to the Glenlivet distillery for a tour and whiskey tasting. It was neat to visit such a well-known distillery, and the free scotch at the end didn’t hurt either! We had three options; I think the one I chose was an 18-year-old. The amusing highlight of the tasting was probably the fact that most of the people on the bus obviously don’t drink scotch.
The Glenlivet warehouses
Quotes afterwards included:
- “Our tastebuds are destroyed.”
- “My stomach hurts.”
- “Very bad memories.”
I was apparently one of the few people on the bus who will actually drink a scotch on occasion. I was probably most amused by our 18-year-old American, who has been enjoying drinking legally for the first time. He…was not a fan of the scotch :-).
The Glenlivet distillery. The new distillery is on the left; the old is on the right
Then, just after leaving the distillery, we passed a golf course named “Ballindalloch Castle Golf Course”. Which amused me and seemed worth sharing.
A nice display inside The Glenlivet.
Overall, the drive today felt a lot more familiar than probably anywhere else we’ve been. Some of the houses could have been right at home in Canada. There were cattle pastures by the side of the road, and forests of pine and birch. Some of the hills and windy roads in the highlands might have been the Trans-Canada through northern Ontario. Of course there were plenty of discrepancies, starting with the fact that we were driving on the left side of the road, but the scene was not nearly as foreign as most of what we’ve been looking at on this trip.
Sheep in the Scottish Highlands
We’re now at a hotel that’s just full of character: the Loch Ness Lodge Hotel. It’s kind of small, and the rooms are freezing, but it feels like stepping back in time. There are about a dozen of us in the library right now: tartan carpet, tartan curtains on the bay window, couches, a wood fireplace with a roaring fire, and one wall covered in a bookshelf full of old books. And we’re all on our iPads and smartphones and laptops because it’s one of the only places in the hotel that you can get wifi 🙂
Because I know you’re wondering:
- The plane seems to be boarding late, so we managed to get our lunch served, eaten, and paid for in time.
- Lunch was at a bar called “Senate Chambers”. You know you’re in Ottawa…
- Apparently there are in fact bathrooms.
- Pamela’s not crazy – the escalators here really do speed up when you step on them.
- Double-thumbs-up to Ottawa Airport for providing free wi-fi and a place to plug in a laptop.
Hi! I’m on a vacation! Actually, I’m in Ottawa airport. Just did the “baggage transfer” from the Canadian flight to the US-bound one. Kind of a weird experience, partly because it’s all in the weird “back” parts of the airport that look like you’re not allowed there, partly because it doesn’t fit the nomal “airport script”, partly because we were the only people doing this particular transfer so we were just wandering off doing out own thing while everyone else went to claim their baggage the normal way.
Oh, and 100% of the females transferring on our flight were “randomly” chosen for the backscatter full-body scan. (Which means: Pamela. Because there wasn’t anyone else.)
Anyway, we’re waiting for lunch now, hoping it arrives before our plan boards (which is in…twelve minutes), wondering why there aren’t any bathrooms on this side of security, and watching two toddlers who are completely hypnotized by, presumably, video on a laptop, but from here it just looks like they’re staring at a stroller.
It’s hard to explain, but this is a really weird surreal experience. The airport is very empty and very quiet, and the flight transfer was unusual…but our food’s here and I want to eat before we board!
…and so has this vacation.
It’s Wednesday morning, and time to start packing our bags and making our way home. We’ve got a 4:50 flight – I don’t know what we’ll be doing between now and then. The flight has a stopover in Hamilton; we should be back in Winnipeg around 8:00.
That’s probably the end of this blog for a while – hope you’ve enjoyed it!