Which destination would you revisit?

I stumbled across a list of travel-related questions on Nicolette Orlemans’ blog, and I think I’m going to play with some of them here for a while.

I tried to answer the first one – what and where was your most memorable travel experience – and realized I don’t have just one answer. And that the answers I do have, I’m already writing about.

So, on to number two. Which destination would you revisit and why? At the moment, my answer is Cuba.

My sister ran a yoga retreat in Cuba in February, and begged my mother and I to join her. And, given how brutally cold this past February was, she didn’t have to beg very hard. My sister has been to Cuba many times, but I hadn’t ever been before. My decision to go was spur-of-the-moment, and I didn’t do any reading or research before I left. And, to be frank, I was really only in it for the sun.

My first impression of the country… was not great. The airport in Varadero was painfully disorganized – it took our small group of eight people three hours to get through customs and into the country. By the time we boarded the bus to drive to our resort, it was nearly midnight, so I couldn’t see any of the countryside out the window.

Really, though, the airport (both arriving and leaving) was the only sour spot of the trip. We stayed at a three star resort, which was just fine. All I wanted was the sun and the beach, so I was very easy to please. For the first couple of days the wind came in over the ocean, so jellyfish were a big problem. Halfway through the week, though, the wind shifted, the temperature went even further up (yay!) and the jellyfish were blown out to sea, which meant I got a chance to swim in the ocean.

The very best part of the trip, though, were the chances I got to leave the resort. We took a guided walk up into the hills to see some local plant life and get a lovely view back down over the resort and the beach. We also got a chance to meet some local farmers and sample their fruits. Guava, sugar cane, coconuts, all freshly cut. One man gave us a tour of his house, and another one showed off his beautiful vintage yellow jeep.

On our last full day in Cuba, my sister organized a trip to Havana. Five of us piled into two of Cuba’s beautiful vintage cars (I rode in a green 1952 Chevy with a maroon interior) to drive the hour along the coast. I loved everything about this day. Our guide, Leo, was a school teacher who gave tours in his spare time because it paid better. He was friendly and patient and knowledgeable. And I followed him through the city, just delighted by the chaos and the exuberance and the life of it all.

And I want to go back. I want to read about the history and the politics and Hemingway, do my research, and then go back and see more of the country. Meet more of the people. The people in Cuba were so wonderful, so friendly. Intrepid Travel – a tour company I’ve travelled with before – does a 15-day tour of Cuba that intrigues me. So that trip is on my list! Maybe even for this coming winter…

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Crazy? Probably…

So… I’m considering buying an apartment in Paris. I’ve tried to talk about this with a couple of friends, and when I do I frame it as… a joke, or a mental exercise. A pie-in-the-sky game that’s just fun to consider.

Except, I’m seriously considering buying an apartment in Paris.

If I trace the idea back to its root, my dad is to blame. We’ve played pie-in-the-sky all my life. I learned the game from him. And then a couple of weeks ago, my 76-year-old father, who had in the recent past talked about down-sizing to a small apartment or even a retirement home, impulse-bought a 15-acre property in the countryside.

When he first brought up the idea, I thought we were playing the game again.

“Well, in that case,” I said, “I’d like an apartment in Paris, please.” Paris got into my bones when I was there this past October, and I’m planning to go back again this fall.

And then my mother called me back two hours later to tell me my dad had bought the place. He’s selling up in the city and moving out there at the end of the summer. All by himself. I have a whole separate spate of concerns about that.

Inspired – sort of – by his lunacy, I spent a couple of hours poking at my own insane idea. And it’s not quite as crazy as it sounds.

As part of my where-do-I-want-to-be-in-five-years navel gazing, I’ve been thinking it’s time to consider buying a house. The problem with that is, due to my job, I move twice a year. In the summer I work at a large theatre in a small town, in the winter I work in television in the big city. I can’t afford to buy anything in the city – and even if I could, I’d need to sublet it for eight months of the year, which is an enormous pain in the ass. If I buy in the small town, I either have to commute two hours each way to work in the city in the winter, or I find a part-time retail job in the small town and all my travel money goes towards the mortgage.

But if I buy an apartment in Paris, I can have an agency rent it out to travellers during the high tourist season and then have a base in Europe for my travels in the winter. There are certain problems this plan doesn’t solve, but I like it the best out of all my current options.

I’m going to do some research and some math, and see if rental income would realistically cover the mortgage. I want to talk to the agency I found online and get a serious idea of the costs involved and what they charge for their services. But this might just be the five-year project I’ve been looking for.

The Corner in Torrin

The Corner in Torrin

The road to Elgol, the small village where my family lived going as far back as there are records to show it, has only one lane, winding and twisting with lochs on one side and steep hills on the other. … Continue reading

Laura Ingalls, here I come

Today is another day spent in the kitchen. Not mine, this time, though. My mother’s. And there’s something about helping my mother cook a huge holiday dinner, peeling potatoes with a dish cloth stuck into my waistband for an apron, that sets me daydreaming.

I read a lot of historical fiction as a child. All the Laura Ingalls books, all eight Anne of Green Gables books and just about all the rest of L. M. Montgomery’s young adult fiction, Janet Lunn’s The Root Cellar,┬áLouisa May Alcott’s Little Women and its various sequels, several books by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The list goes on and on. And girls helping out in the kitchen came up at one point or another in all of them. It’s part of a cultural tradition that stretches back centuries, and for all that my feminism has been on the rise this year, I feel very connected to my roots at times like these.

And very privileged that helping out in the kitchen is a choice, not a requirement of my gender. It’s what keeps the whole notion so romantic.

The Things You Learn in Driveways

I found out this afternoon that my dad’s surgery went well. I found this out because I arrived at my father’s house to do a few errands for him as he was finishing up a conversation with his neighbour in the driveway.

“Well, I’m glad to hear you’re doing well,” Neighbour said. “Call me if you need anything.”

So, prospective tenants and neighbours get to know. Daughters, not so much.

I may sound it, but I’m not actually bitter. Or even surprised. This has been SOP in my family for a long time.

In other news, Neighbour had to call the OSPCA to come in and retrieve a sick raccoon from under his porch. My dad thinks it may have eaten the rat poison that the restaurant up the street puts out near its garbage.

Thirty-five years old and still sheltered

My dad had surgery yesterday.

He still hasn’t told me that he had surgery yesterday – I’m 35 years old, but he still feels I should be sheltered from unpleasant truths. There were clues, though. Health-related articles on his desk, reminders for doctor’s appointments on post-it notes in the kitchen, ‘what to do on the day’ information sheets forgotten on the counter, email subject lines, and a notation on my mother’s kitchen calendar for Saturday, September 14th, under the printed caption for Yom Kippur – Micheal, 6am.

I know it sounds like I’ve been snooping, but I do my father’s admin work, so I stumbled upon each clue in the course of doing something else. He lives alone, so he’s not used to hiding ‘incriminating’ information.

On Thursday, he asked me to show an apartment he is trying to rent out. The potential tenant was coming at 2pm on Saturday, while the current tenants were out. “I’m going to be busy all day on Saturday,” he said.

I played along. He doesn’t like to discuss personal subjects. And the surgery was in a sensitive area, so I let him keep his privacy.

On Saturday, I trailed around the apartment after the prospective tenant as she rearranged furniture in her head and picked out paint colours. She did most of her thinking out loud and I did my best to make encouraging noises.

“So your dad’s having surgery today?”

It felt strange to get the confirmation from a stranger.

We were in the bathroom. I was leaning against the white-painted wooden doorframe. She was silhouetted against the black marbled tiles, bent over to inspect the under-sink storage.

“I don’t know,” I said. I watched her face, trying to gauge just how awful a thing it was to admit. “He doesn’t tell me these things.” She paused in her searching to look up at me. “He doesn’t want me to worry.”

“Awww,” she said. “That’s so sweet.”

“Yeah,” I said. I didn’t believe it, but it made the truth more acceptable.