Diminishing returns

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:27 pm

After a long rainforest hike, we stopped by a kiosk for a batida, a milkshake kind of thing made with fresh fruit.  Mubby offered Miles a drink of hers.  He nearly drained it and handed it back to her with about a centimeter remaining.

M:  I don’t want it.


Stuff I eat and stuff I do

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:00 am

I enjoy a good vacation for a lot of reasons, and I especially enjoy a Caribbean vacation because of how much I love ocean swimming.  I realize not everybody shared that joy.  In talking to others, it seems common for people to feel like the ocean is scary and overwhelming and unpredictable.  I can see that, I guess, but whenever I’m in there, I feel so calm and happy.  Darth Vader agrees, I think.  Every time we swim (which has been twice a day so far, since Miles sides with me on the ocean debate), the kicks and stretches in my belly stop.  I assume it’s because he’s lulled by the sounds and movement in the sea.  I imagine it’s a lot like an amplified version of the general in-utero environment.  The waves probably sound like my circulatory system, and the movements are a gentler version of the movements I make every day, minus the jarring lunges I sometimes make around Miles.

Heck, maybe that’s why I like ocean swimming so much.  It’s a primeval, fetal kind of experience.  The beach has been lovely in the mornings and early afternoons, though not so much in the evenings when the tide comes in and lots of seaweed globs around.  Maybe I could just pretend that’s a placenta or something.

Okay, I had planned this to be a food post, so here we go.  I don’t have much for still food photos, but I did get video of the most visually impressive meal to date, so I’ll update later with evidence.

The first night we got in, it was late and we were tired, so we stayed in Palmas for dinner.  Palmas del Mar is a strange beast.  It’s sometimes called a resort, but it’s not the all-inclusive hotel kind of resort.  It’s really more like a big complex with lots of condo buildings, each of which has its own name.  There are also golf courses and tennis courts, but that’s not really on our agenda this time around.  Palmas has a couple of commercial areas with restaurants, so we went to Blue Hawaii the first night and got some expensive but high-quality Chinese food.  That’s been our experience in Palmas–eating at the resort is expensive, but we haven’t had a bad meal yet.  That’s better than paying way too much for crappy food.

The second day we hit a Tex Mex place, where my dad and I had Puerto Rican tacos.  They were really interesting.  I don’t know what you call the shell part, but it was a hollow little bread thing made with coconut.  It was available with a variety of fillings.  My dad got octopus and chicken, and I got shrimp and pork.

We’ve also been doing a good amount of cooking and eating here at the condo, which is nice both for finances and for getting stuff to please Miles.  He’s done a good job so far—he likes rice a lot, and that’s pretty ubiquitous,  but it’s good for him to have some fruits and vegetables for snacking.  He’s also a convert to Bimbo cookies.

Our most exciting meal yet was at Casa Rustik, a pretty authentic-seeming little place where we were the only gringos.  We drove a ways down highway 3 and parked on a sidewalk, but it actually wasn’t too hard to find.  Denny, my mom and I all got mofongo, which was a big pile of mashed and seasoned plantains stuffed with meats.  They got pork and I got crab.  My dad got a very impressive whole fried fish (chillo, I think the waitress said) in ajillo sauce.  It was a lot of food and we all got very full.  Miles liked the bathroom because they had blue soap.

I’m not sure what’s on tap for the rest of the week, but I’ll re-update later.  There are many more photos on Flickr.

P.S. Denny is more of a pool guy.


California videos

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:48 pm

For those who haven’t seen them elsewhere (each video is about 1:30)…

Miles has fun with various California-based relatives, notably Cousin Lisa (puppet show auteur):

Flickr Video

Adventures in San Francisco, including a mildly offensive hat for Miles and a whap in the face for Mubby:

Flickr Video

Our trip to Monterey:

Flickr Video

Denny and Aprille and lots of whales:

Flickr Video


Monthly Miles Memo #30

Filed under: — Aprille @ 11:31 am

Hey, Miles—guess what I love?

Your brain.

We were reading one of your favorite books, Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester.  It’s about a penguin who is kind of weird, but valuable in his own way.  Unlike his tidy friends, Tacky doesn’t march 1-2-3-4; he marches 1-2-3, 4-6, 3-6-0, 2 1/2, 0 (or something—pardon my slight inaccuracies).  One recent time when we read that story, we got to the 2 1/2 part, and you said, “Just like Miles!”

Yes, my little heart, you are two and a half.  I read somewhere that the terrible twos peak right around this point, but you have been a joy lately.  You handled our vacation like a little trooper, despite air travel, car travel, jet lag, weird nap schedules, new people, and lots of busy and loud places.  You had a few trouble spots, of course, but mostly you handled things great.

In fact, you even invented a new strategy for ensuring your precious personal space.  You employed it with great aplomb with your Auntie Lily, who is a deeply loving person and your very special buddy, but she can sometimes be a little enthusiastic for your tastes.  When she got up in your face requesting kisses and you weren’t into it, you turned back to your watercolors and said, very matter-of-factly, “Busy painting right now!”

I’m so proud of what a good job you’re doing as you learn and experience new things.  You had a blast playing with your cousin Lisa in California, especially swimming in Uncle Larry’s pool.  With your water wings on, you quickly got over any trepidation and tooled around the pool like a big guy.

We had so much fun on our vacation.  You ate lots of noodles and Chinese food, and you loved the fish and penguins (you did the ASL sign for “I love you” to them through the glass) at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.   You thought the shops full of brightly colored plastic junk items in Chinatown were fantastic.  You danced and sang and watched fireworks, and you and Skittergramps did inventory of your little guys and little girls every morning.

On our trip to the beach in Monterey, you enjoyed the sand more than the ocean, but that’s an improvement over last time.  You liked finding rocks and instructing your dad to throw them into the water, and you really liked the seashells Mubby collected for you.  They’re in your penguin backpack right now, ready to play with once the newness of your home toys wears off.

Today is the first day back to our normal routine, and I think it’s good for everybody.  You were excited to see Beanie when she arrived this morning, and you gave her a nice round of applause and a big hug.  You reminded us that Mommy would be home at lunch time and Daddy would be home at dinner time, and you let us leave with nary an issue.

You’re making sentences and forming observations about your world.  You’re telling jokes, mostly focusing on the absurd (e.g., telling me that Daddy is actually Mommy and that we eat not with our mouths and tummies but with our eyeballs).  We’ve been telling bedtime stories, and you can recite Goldilocks and the Three Bears almost start-to-finish, and you’re able to fill in the blanks of Jack and the Beanstalk pretty thoroughly too.  When I was a little girl, Skittergramps would tell me bedtime stories, and sometimes he’d fall asleep and I’d have to finish them for him.  I think you’re not to far from that level.

You definitely like things your way.  This morning I was tidying up a little before Beanie arrived, and you got mad at me for moving your penguin backpack into the play room.  When I brought it back to the living room, you weren’t happy about me standing it in corner, either.  No, it had to be lying flat, exactly as I’d found it.  I guess that makes for easier access to your seashells.

Your dad is happy about the fact that you guys can play Legos together.  We just got back from Chicago, where I was attending a conference and you got some good Daddy time.  Your dad spotted the Lego store, and the items you purchased there occupied you for the rest of our time in Chicago, and they were among the first things we unpacked when we got home.  You are especially fond of the clear blocks.  Your dad is pretty psyched about them too.  Sometimes he remembers to share.

You’re doing all kinds of smart and cool stuff lately, and I love watching you make mental connections.  You were watching me edit video of our trip, and the iMovie icon for a cross-fade transition shows the silhouettes of three people riding bicycles.  You pointed to them and said, “Mommy, Daddy, Miles.”  You said the same thing last night when you found three columns in your block set.  We’re a good team, the three of us.

Thanks for letting us be your co-captains.

(This may be optimistic.)




Photos from Lincoln

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:43 pm

Last weekend we took a very fun trip to Lincoln, Nebraska, to see my brother and for some of the group to attend some kind of sporting event.  The time with Tyler was fun.  The public has mixed opinions on the sporting event.

Miles took the opportunity to model his Halloween costume, which is Max from Where the Wild Things Are.  My dad took some nice pictures of that as well as some other goofing around, including two smallish adults in one giant jacket.


One flu over the Mexican nest

Filed under: — Aprille @ 9:20 am

That is not a very good title. So it goes.

I’m a little perplexed by this whole swine flu thing (H1N1 or whatever). As far as I can tell, it seems like not really too big a deal. This is in no way to downplay the deaths in Mexico or the one death in the U.S. of the toddler who came from Mexico for treatment—I hear a vaccine is in the works, and I hope it is successful and adequately administered to those at risk. But disease exists in many forms, and for the most part, this hasn’t been worse than the regular old flu.

Excerpted from the L.A. Times:

As the World Health Organization raised its infectious disease alert level Wednesday and health officials confirmed the first death linked to swine flu inside U.S. borders, scientists studying the virus are coming to the consensus that this hybrid strain of influenza — at least in its current form — isn’t shaping up to be as fatal as the strains that caused some previous pandemics.

In fact, the current outbreak of the H1N1 virus, which emerged in San Diego and southern Mexico late last month, may not even do as much damage as the run-of-the-mill flu outbreaks that occur each winter without much fanfare.

So why the freakout?  I have my suspicions that there’s some racism involved.  I’m not sure people would be talking about closing the border with Canada if this were focused in the north.  There’s also the unfortunate association with pigs, which just contributes to the “Dirty Mexicans are going to kill us with their dirty disease!” mentality.

Maybe I’m just thinking wishfully and downplaying the facts because I don’t want anything to disrupt our vacation to the Bahamas next month, but it does seem like people are reaching a level of panic that is more based in emotion and prejudice than evidence.  Also, I think we’re a lot more likely to encounter people who have recently been to Mexico in Iowa than in the Bahamas.

I’m a long-time fan of handwashing (and Miles is shaping up to be as well; he particularly loves rubbing his hands together with soap or lotion on them), and I think some basic precautions can go a long way, like President Obama mentioned in his speech last night.

Speaking of Miles, he did something funny last night.  I was getting some asparagus ready for dinner, and he kept whining and tugging at me, trying to get my attention.  I wasn’t quite sure what he wanted.  I offered him cereal and cheese, two of his favorite snacks, but he wasn’t satisfied.  He likes asparagus, but it didn’t occur to me that it would warrant begging until he went over to the garbage can, got out one of the asparagus ends I’d cut off in the preparation process, and came over and showed it to me.

It was like he was saying, “For the love of God, mother, what does it take to get a message through to you?”  Then I gave him some cooked asparagus and he was happy.  He ate a lot of it at dinner, too, and had the asparagus-pee diaper to prove it.

He impressed me with his communication skills.  He’s using some basic ASL (including “all done” when I went to get him after his nap the other day) and picking up more words.  I’m excited to hear what he has on his mind.


Reading on a jet plane

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:39 am

When I am about to travel somewhere, I like to read a book set in that location so I can get a feel for it.  It’s also fun to do things and see places referenced in the book.  Right now I’m reading Hemingway’s Islands in the Stream, which takes place largely in the Bahamas (although I’m currently in the Cuba section).

It’s good insofar as I always enjoy Hemingway.  I like how he says what he means, and I think he really accurately captures the brutality of human interaction (in both good and bad ways).  I’m only about halfway through it, but thus far, the book is a bit of a downer.  Hemingway wrote it at the end of his life, around his suicide, so I guess that makes sense, but thus far the themes seem to be failure, desertion, disappointment, and death.

A Moveable Feast, which I read shortly before and during my trip to Paris, was a whole lot more upbeat.  The Sun Also Rises, which I think remains my all-time favorite book, takes place partly in San Sebastian.  I read that before I went there for the first time. It has its ups and downs.

Maybe I need to find a less-moody favorite author.


International Baby

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:48 am

Filling out a passport application form for a baby is hilarious.

Height:  um…short?  I’ve never seen his height described in feet before, only inches.  I guess he’s about 2’6″ or something.  I’ll have to get out the measuring tape, because he’s probably grown since his last check-up.

Hair color:  mostly bald with evidence of brown?

Occupation:  clapping, howling like a wolf, knocking over boxes?  Or are those more like hobbies?


Bahama Mia

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:45 pm

So, an update on that internal debate I was having a while back about vacation destinations:

We decided on the Bahamas, specifically Grand Bahama Island.  It’s not, like, undiscovered by any means, but it’s somewhat less frequented than New Providence (where Nassau and Paradise Island are), especially in the low/shoulder season.  It’s still easy to reach—just one connection in Atlanta—and we hope it will be a nice combination of exotic and not too challenging.

We’ll be renting a condo rather than staying at a hotel.  We’ve had good luck with this model in both Rome and Norway, so we’re hoping to go 3-for-3.  In our experience, renting a condo or apartment is cheaper and more spacious than a hotel room, plus there’s none of that awkward tipping expectation that you get in a resort.  Plus I think the money goes more directly into the local economy (thought that’s debatable in this case, since the condo we’re getting is owned by Californians).  At any rate, we’ll be buying groceries in local stores and stuff.  I get tired of eating out all the time on vacation, so it’ll be good to have some cereal and sandwich stuff to have around, then we can go out for dinners.

I’m psyched about the condo.  Check out the view from the living room:

More details on the condo.

In equally exciting news, I’m flying for free.  We picked Delta just because they could get us there with only one connection, which is good when there’s a little dude involved.  As it happens, they’re merging with Northwest, and it ended up being quick and painless to transfer my Northwest FF miles to Delta, and I had enough for a free ticket.  I think that earned me a lobster dinner, don’t you?


The big places are tiny

Filed under: — Aprille @ 5:42 pm

Here’s a cool effect for your landscapey-type photos.  It makes them look like miniatures.

This is from Saint Josef in Montréal, which is quite large.

You can do it, too.

Thanks, Mark.


I think we have decided

Filed under: — Aprille @ 4:35 pm

I get antsy if I don’t leave the country once a year or so.  That’s why I am particularly pained right now, because it has been nearly 1.25 years since I have used my passport, and that last time was just to Canada.  At least it was Montréal, where they have the good sense to talk funny, which makes it feel more like a true adventure.

To that end, I told Denny all I wanted for Christmas was a trip to somewhere exciting.  I’d like to fly one more time while we can still have Miles as a free lap-child (though something tells me we’re going to be doing a lot of aisle-walking, since he is not very pleased to sit on a lap for very long).

There were no plane tickets in my stocking, nor were there any glossy brochures or Lonely Planet guides, but to be fair, Denny knows that for me, half the fun of a trip is the planning process.  He has mostly just gotten out of my way and let me sort it out.

So, here’s what I think we’re going to do.  I think we’re going to rent a condo in the Lucaya area of Grand Bahama Island for a week.

You might say, “That’s less foreign than Montréal, even.”  You might be right.  But you know what?  I’m going to have a 17-month-old with me, and simpler sounds better.  We can make there in two relatively short flights (Delta flies to Freeport with just one stop in Atlanta).  I picked Grand Bahama Island as opposed to New Providence (where Nassau lies) for these reasons:

  • It is known more for its natural attractions (an underwater cave system, for example) than the glitzy casinos of Nassau.  Glitzy casinos do not interest me, as I do not share my brother’s talent for poker, and I am too Midwestern for much glitz. Plus, you know, the baby.
  • Especially in the off-season, which is when we’ll be going, it apparently is still possible to find unspoiled, uncrowded little beaches.  I like that better than the miles-of-bodies model.
  • Despite these things, it’s still developed enough that it shouldn’t be too inconvenient to manage with the kiddo.  It has a relatively major airport with car rental agencies I’ve heard of.

Why the condo?  It just seems like a better deal than a hotel.  We don’t drink all that much, and an all-inclusive model doesn’t seem like a very good value unless you were going to drink your way through the rate.  I get kind of tired of eating in restaurants all the time on vacation, so having a kitchen will let us save some effort and money (maybe; I’ve heard groceries are expensive) by eating in.  Plus, this is intended to be more of a relaxing vacation than an adventure vacation, so it will be nice to have the extra space that a condo provides.

Here are a couple of condos I’m thinking about:

Option 1

Option 2 (I certainly hope that the image captured on the TV in the living room shot is representative and that Anna Nicole Smith is a 24/7 fixture there)

For the sake of full disclosure, I should also say that one thing I’m really excited about is getting Miles his first passport.  My friend Ken’s son has a passport with a photo from when he was a baby, and it’s about the cutest thing in the whole world.


I’m rethinking Mexico.

Filed under: — Aprille @ 12:08 pm

I’ve got this white middle class guilt situation going on with regard to Mexico.

Or, more specifically, resorty, Mayan Riviera-type Mexico, which perhaps I ought to refer to as “Mexico.”

I have never in my life been the kind of person who would stay in a resort.  Having never been to a resort, I guess I’m not exactly sure what that kind of person is, since I’ve never seen them in their natural habitat, but I imagine them as people who want to visit an exotic land without ever seeing any poverty or doing anything slightly inconvenient.  I was all about “authentic” travel, which I defined as doing things like staying at small, locally-owned hotels or renting apartments in actual neighborhoods, making a valient attempt at speaking the language, that kind of thing.

One time I even went to actual Mexico, as opposed to “Mexico.”  My cousin and I went with a person we knew from Cuernavaca and stayed his family.  It was super fun.  We went places a couple of güeras probably wouldn’t have gone, ate interesting things, and had a generally good (and informative) time.

I was extremely conscientious about not drinking the water.  I never had drinks with ice in them, I kept my mouth clamped shut in the shower, and I even rinsed out my toothbrush with bottled water.  I still got the runs.

For that reason, I’ve kind of avoided Mexico since then.  There are so many other places in the world to see with so much natural and cultural splendor.  Many of them would require similar vigilance for my tender gringa gut, but many of them do not (c.f., all of Europe, Puerto Rico and many other parts of the Caribbean, Costa Rica).

I need a beachy-type vacation.  The last time I saw the ocean was a year and a half ago at my cousin’s wedding in Sarasota, and while that was lots of fun, it didn’t scratch my itch for tropical fish viewing.  I am also for the first time considering a resort.  Adventure travel is great, but now that Miles is in my life, everything is about twelve times more complicated.  I suddenly feel a lot less stuck-up toward people who want to take the easy route and just relax on their vacations.  I did some research and was feeling good about the Cayman Islands.

But then I read about and saw pictures from a friend’s trip to Mexico.  She assured me that she didn’t get sick.   It’s so close by, it’s so reasonably priced, it’s so easy to fly there.  There are some resorts that have gotten really good reviews and purport to be family-friendly.  But is it exploitive to go to Mexico and just do lite travel?  Miles is probably still too young to really be swayed, but I don’t want to give him the impression that the world only exists for white people with enough money to insulate themselves from the challenges these countries face.

I don’t know.  Ponying up for a resort is a pretty swell thing for the local economy.  When Denny and I went on our honeymoon to tiny Nevis, we stayed at a locally-owned property and avoided the Four Seasons, but when we talked to locals, they kept bringing up the fact that the Four Seasons has been a huge boon to their island.  They say if they get one more resort hotel, they’ll finally be able to secede from St. Kitts.  I’m not sure if they’re joking or not.

What to do?


Oregon photos

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:19 pm

I know, it’s been a million years, but I finally got my Oregon photos uploaded to this site.  I’m having an internal conflict about it; I always post to Flickr, but it’s nice to have things organized a bit more consistently on this site too.

Anyway, these are not new to those of you who visit my Flickr account, but if you’re interested, click the photo below.


Home again, home again

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:42 pm

We made it back from our trip to Oregon. We very, very briefly went to Washington as well, because our GPS (aka Mrs. Garman) failed to give us sufficient warning for an exit, and we had to continue across the border before we could get back to our Portland destination.

Miles did just wonderfully on the plane. He got a little grumpy a few times, but he only really cried for about 10 seconds. It’s a lot easier to fly with him than take a long car ride, apparently. The fact that there were two adults dedicated to entertaining him, as well as various fellow passengers and flight attendants, helped a lot.

Fun things about our trip:

  • Best quote: while we were waiting to get things sorted out with our rental car, a little boy (probably about 3) went to the bathroom with his dad. As they emerged, the little boy said, “But if we went potty and there’s soap in there, why didn’t we wash our hands?” The dad just mumbled and quickly ushered the boy out of the office.
  • Powell’s Books, a huge independent bookstore in downtown Portland with outlandish numbers of new and used books and a cool coffee mug for me.
  • Portland coffee. I went to a different coffee shop every day to try the local brews (and had to try some local pastries along the way; woe is me). Even the bad coffee (e.g., free hotel coffee) was good in Portland.
  • Fish and chips and an IPA in a brew pub.
  • Hauling Miles around the Portland art museum. He didn’t let me stay as long as I might have liked, but he seemed to enjoy the portraiture. He likes looking at faces.
  • The MAX light rail system, especially the fareless square that includes downtown and our hotel. We bopped around all over the place.
  • The Bijou Café, where Denny had the best cheeseburger of his life. I had a bite. It was freaking awesome. My sandwich was good too, but his was better.
  • The gorgeous beach at Cannon Beach, featuring Haystack Rock.
  • The friendly bunnies on the grounds of our Cannon Beach hotel (photo credit: Denny)
  • Just relaxing with my family.


The recent-past and proximate future

Filed under: — Aprille @ 9:32 am

I have been remiss in posting lately. Life has been busy.

Here’s a quick recap on recent and upcoming events:

Last weekend we went to my cousin Laura’s wedding shower. She and her fiance Joe are getting married in St. Louis in a couple of weeks, which will be our first significant trip with the kiddo. We’re excited about it, especially since their reception is at the St. Louis Zoo. I’ve never been there, but I’ve always wanted to, ever since my dad told me stories of Phil the Gorilla when I was a kid. Phil was a stuffed gorilla housed somewhere on the zoo property; I don’t even know if he’s still there, but I’m glad to have my childhood dreams fulfilled and see my beautiful cousin get married at the same time. Birds, stones, etc.  Edited to add:  Phil apparently only exists in bronze form nowadays.  Nonetheless, I hope to get a picture with him.

At the shower, Miles (and Denny and I) got to meet cousin Anna, my cousin Betsy’s little girl. Betsy and I are close in age and always had lots of fun together growing up, so I think it’s really cool that our kids are close together too. Anna was supposed to be older, but due to Miles’s surprise appearance and her reluctance to emerge, Miles ended up coming first. It was really fun to have two babies to play with.

My first Mothers Day was great, even though I was really tired because Miles pulled one of his bad nights that night. He only does it about once a week now; most nights he’s only up once, but that particular evening he woke me up four times. Happy Mothers Day indeed. However, it was nice to spend it with my family, including my own mother and one of my grandmothers. Denny got me some really thoughtful gifts, including a lovely bottle of wine and dinner at our favorite restaurant.

We went early, thinking that would be the best time in case Miles got squawky, and the staff there actually carried him around and played with him while Denny and I ate our food. Now that’s some serious service. On a related note, we were watching Little People, Big World the other night (a non-sleazy reality show about a family that includes some dwarfs), and part of it took place in Mount Vernon, where Amy had a speaking engagement. We asked the staff if she ate at the Lincoln Cafe, and apparently she did. Excellent choice, Mrs. Roloff.

Things aren’t going to slow down any time soon; this weekend we have a graduation reception for Denny’s cousin, then a reunion of our childbirth class (babies on the outside this time). After that is Laura’s wedding, then we’re going to Portland where Denny has a conference to attend and Miles and I will see the sights. June is full of more weddings, and at some point I hope to get together with my best girlfriends in Ames.

Perhaps when this is all over, I’ll report back with fascinating anecdotes. The prospect of flying on a plane with a four-month-old is a recipe for content, no?


Currency Conversion Fee Antitrust Litigation

Filed under: — Aprille @ 11:10 am

I got a thing in the mail last week about the Currency Conversion Fee Antitrust Litigation. It’s an official-looking form asking me to fill out information about my international travel between 1996 and 2006, because I’m eligible for a refund due to a class action lawsuit against Visa, Mastercard, and Diners Club due to overcharges in currency conversion.

Here’s the official website: http://www.ccfsettlement.com/

It sounded awfully hoaxy to me, but Snopes says it’s for real:


I thought that might be of interest to those of you who do a lot of international travel. I estimate that I spent 134 days abroad during that time, so we’ll see what comes of it.

It’s times like this when being a meticulous blogger really pays off.  I was able to go back through my blog for much of that period and be reminded of all the trips I’ve taken, as well as the duration, because I always post “I’m leaving tomorrow and I can’t wait to get out of here” and “I’m back, here are my pictures” entries.


Montreal photos

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:16 pm

We’re back. We had some travel problems on the way back (unreliable bus to the airport, flight delays in both Montreal and Chicago), but we did make it eventually. I was glad to have a double-advantage in terms of getting up this morning: the change to central standard time plus traveling west one time zone made it seem later than it was. Otherwise it would have been hard to get my buns out of bed.

Montreal was very fun, by the way. My favorite parts were climbing to the top of Mont Royal (a gentle mountain with a lot of resting benches along the way) and seeing the city scape, and eating lots of good food. Check out the evidence here.




Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:32 am

I had a brief moment of panic last night, knowing my passport was going to expire soon, but not being able to remember exactly when.  Luckily, it’s not till April 08.

It’s crazy that I’ve had my current passport for nearly 10 years now.  The picture in it is a decade old.  Old Passport and I have had some good adventures together.  I like looking through my stamps and remembering the places I’ve been.  The only downside is that the stamps can be deceptive; ever since the EU came about, they only stamp it at your first point of EU entry/exit.  Therefore, because I’ve often connected in Amsterdam, a person looking at my passport might assume I’ve spent a lot of time there, when I’ve never set foot outside Schiphol airport.  Same with Dusseldorf and some other perfectly interesting places that have just never been on my itinerary.

If I recall correctly, you have to send in your old passport in order to get your new one.  I think the last time I renewed, though, they sent back the old one with a hole punched in it or some other invalidating mechanism.  That was 10 years ago and pre-9/11, though, so I may be remembering wrong or maybe things have changed.  I do hope I get this one back. Ah, the memories.  I’ll have to take a look at it and try to recreate all the trips it’s been on.


Montreal, there we shall be

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:49 pm

Denver’s off and Montreal is on. This is good news. I have no problem with Denver and was looking forward to going, but I am more excited about a trip that involves a passport.

I generally don’t have much use for those last minute travel sites, since I like to start my planning months in advance, but this time it worked out great. Here’s what I did.

  1. I went to http://www.11thhourvacations.com (recommended by a friend who bought a trip through that site and didn’t get ripped off)
  2. I chose the Last Minute tab and put in my home airport (unlike a lot of these sites, it lets you choose even dinky airports like Cedar Rapids and Des Moines), then chose International and All Cities.  You can be more specific, but I wanted to see all my options.
  3. A search resulted in the “Montreal, Canada: Luxury Hotel Getaway” package.
  4. I chose my hotel, my flight times, and boom, done. We even get to earn frequent flier miles, which is another thing a lot of discounters don’t let you do

They also had a regular hotel getaway, but it was the same price, so why bother? Granted, we’re probably getting the smallest, cheapest room in the place, but it’ll be fun to stay at the Ritz Carlton Montreal anyway.

Best of all, it was downright affordable. Let’s just say that 2 round-trip plane tickets from Cedar Rapids and 4 nights at the Ritz were in the same price range as some of the hyper-modern cribs Denny was interested in. I think the money is better-spent on this; babies have no taste.


Why I love gmaps

Filed under: — Aprille @ 11:30 am

Google Maps has solved a problem that has been vexing me for years.  This might not even be a new feature, but I just noticed it today.

So…whenever I’m planning a trip to a city that has a Metro/Tube/subway, I always have trouble with the maps.  The Metro maps aren’t usually nicely overlaid with city streets, so even if I have the address of where I want to go, it’s really hard to visualize how near or far that is to a Metro stop.

No more worries with Gmaps!

For example:

See?  Right near the Peel Metro stop (also conveniently located to McGill University and the Parc Mont-Royal, though I cropped the latter out of the screenshot).


Why am I looking at Montreal again, you might ask?  Well…it’s looking like the Denver thing might not work out, and I found a killer deal on a long weekend in Montreal.  Nothing is for sure yet, of course; a spot might open up in the training Denny wants to attend in Denver, and if I can find a decently priced plane ticket, that might happen.  But if it doesn’t, well, I might just have to insist on some French-Canadian excitement.

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