Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season. I didn’t realize how much time I had let pass between posts until a couple of my flock asked when I was going to post again. So…. here is a snapshot of our very busy December.
We finished our time in Praia da Rocha by walking as much as we could, drinking a lot of good wine, watching the sunsets from a cozy little pub on the sea wall, supervised most days by Mr. Seagull. A big sassy seagull had a regular perch on a section of the wall, and he sent ‘please be clumsy and spill something I can have for a snack” vibes our way. Our last days we spent every moment we could enjoying the sun, sitting out on the balcony in our skimpy European bathing suits (which will probably never see the light of day in Canada), enjoying the seafood and wine. Because wine.
December 11 we regretfully packed up and did the bus, trains, planes and cars to travel to Schmalkalden, Germany, our daughter in laws home town, where her family hosted us for a few days. As always, their hospitality and welcome was fantastic and ohhhhhh those German breakfasts. Bakery fresh rolls, cheeses, meats, fruit preserves (home made and store bought)…. oh my. And the beer! Mr Z made us roast wild boar and venison for lunch one day, both incredibly delicious.
The real draw for travelling to Germany this time was to experience the Christmas markets in the cities and small towns. Imagine, a little village of tiny brown cottages, open at the front to offer a counter filled with amazing things to buy, eat, smell and enjoy. Every other booth wants to feed you, bratwurst, fresh pretzels, gingerbread, candies, nuts, meats, cheeses. The alternate booths want to…drink…you? Gluhwein (delicious hot spiced wine), beer, cider. Standing outside at the little tables with a steaming hot cup of fragrant wine while snowflakes float by is an amazing experience. And the crafts! Beautiful traditional German Christmas decorations, glass, knitted goods, leather, you name it. All locally crafted and traditional, lots of wooden items, beeswax candles, and all the delicious smells and decorations. We went to four different markets, in Erfurt, Schmalkalden, Eisenach and Wartburg Castle.
We were also able to travel to a nearby town to take in the Z’s grandsons Christmas concert. Driving on the autobahn is a thrill ride. 160 km/hr cruising speed, 180 for passing. No big deal! Thank goodness we weren’t driving! It was a very special moment to hear Silent Night played at the concert while sitting in a small village church built in the 1750’s. The little boys think Ron and I have something wrong with us because we can’t understand what they are trying to tell us and we speak gibberish when replying to them! Guess we need to brush up our German.
The four days passed too quickly, and we started our epic journey home. Train from Eisenach to Frankfurt, fly to Lisbon, then Toronto. Sleep over in Toronto and pick up the daughter then home to Edmonton for Christmas. Of course, since we travelled to Europe with our one crammed and jammed suitcase each, and of course we accumulated some souvenirs to bring home, we had no room for Christmas shopping, so we did some commando shopping, (get in, get stuff, get out) and got ready for the big day. All the kids and spouses were home, as well as our spare son who has joined us for the last six or seven years. Having a 3 1/2 year old in the house makes Christmas so much more fun. We missed her so much while we were away and she seemed excited to see us too!
Our family has been talking for the last couple of years about paring down Christmas and making things simpler, and they finally dragged me kicking and screaming into the light. We drew names, shopped less and generally simplified. The truly important things like being together, playing games Christmas Eve and catching up all happened with less stress for everyone. Sometimes those kids are so damn smart. Don’t know why I don’t listen sooner!! Never fear though, the rumpot and Prosecco overindulgence tradition continued and 3 of us girls covered most of the Abba songbook, Cher, Eagles, some Queen in full voice at 1 am. I can’t believe we haven’t been recruited to open for Aerosmith.
No point in letting any moss grow, so on Dec 28th we hitched up the trailer and made tracks to get south ahead of the stormy weather. We are set up in Apache Junction and getting settled in for a few months stay.
So, what have I learned in the last couple of months?
- Portuguese wine. Yes Please!! All delicious.
- Piri Piri chicken. Loved it.
- Cataplana. Ohhhh myyyyy.
- Long plane rides. Not my favourite, especially when the people in front of you think they need to fully recline their seats for the entire flight. Sure, want to put your head in my lap? No problem. We had to be contortionists to get out of our seats to go to the washrooms. But, after being stuck in the middle of a row of 4 seats flying over we made very sure to get 2 seats on the side so we only had each other to deal with getting in and out of our seats.
- Missing people. Travelling is amazing, we are so lucky to have the opportunity. But I do miss my family and dear friends. Thank goodness for video chats. If you haven’t tried the What’s App app on your phone, it’s great. A good text message platform and a robust video chat function. Easy to set up group messaging. Our latest one is titled “Mom and Dad ran away” and lets us keep everyone updated on our movements!
- Christmas. The Grinch was right. It can come without packages, boxes and bows. Or at least significantly less of them.
- Day job. I should not give mine up for a singing career.
- Flamingos. I got so so many wonderful flamingo themed gifts! Including a diamond painting kit. Stay tuned for photos.
- Data and internet. Great when you have it. Painful when you don’t. For some reason our RV park is not fully wired for internet. So we are using data on our phone’s hot spots. Telus customers down here must get put onto the slowest cell towers with the least band width available. Soooooooo I wanted to upload more pictures, but that might have to wait until I can find better wifi. Makes you realize how much we rely on Mr. Google, the internet generally, the dreaded Facebook etc. I’m going to take a few deep breaths and see if it will stream Netflix later.
- Speaking of Netflix, If you haven’t checked out “A Users guide to Cheating Death” by Tim Caulfield please do. He is a professor at the University of Alberta in health ethics and the series focuses on debunking health myths and trendy cures, often promoted by celebrities (anyone want to steam their vaginas with me and Gwyneth Paltrow?).
- And get your damn flu shot! We couldn’t in Portugal without a prescription so held our breath on all our flights until we could get home to Canada. First day home we rolled up our sleeves.
- Natural disaster or possessed? After the gastrointestinal episode in Portugal, you would think I deserve some complication free travel, right? Yeah, not going to happen. Broke a tooth yesterday so off to see a dentist tomorrow. Bloody leftover Christmas caramels.
OK, enough for one night. Will try to be a little more prompt with the next post. Thanks for sticking with me and reading.