Marbell-ous

ImageMonday

It is nearing the end of day two here at the Club Marbella Crown Resorts here in this small town (of the same name) near Malaga, Spain. What an excellent decision to leave this leg of the trip for last, since for the past week we’ve been commuting, sightseeing, and sleeping very little. These past few days, however, have consisted of eating, having a siesta, heading to Dani’s kiddie pool, eating, having a siesta, and so on. We are quite relaxed to say the least.  Perhaps a little too relaxed, as my belly jiggles and giggles and I can barely get up a few flights of stairs without panting (it’s also quite hot, teehee).  There is no AC in this apartment and the temperatures reach 30 degrees, so perhaps that’s why we’ve been really sluggish. Even Dani has been sleeping uninterrupted and for long stretches at a time (hope I didn’t jinx that).
Up until this afternoon, we’d eaten at the on-site restaurant and at a few places down the hill from our resort, and then we took the resort shuttle bus down to the supermarket and did some grocery shopping. It’s nice to have a fully-equipped apartment, complete with kitchen, washing machine, two bedrooms, and full bathrooms. The only thing lacking is a dryer, but there are is a communal drying facility somewhere onsite. In an effort to save a few bucks, the environment, and the strenuous task of hauling bags of wet laundry goodness-knows-where, we’ve been hanging our clothes out on the drying rack on the balcony. Now, the clothes don’t smell Bouncy fresh; rather, they barely smell like anything at all, and they are clean. Smelling of fresh florals doesn’t matter much anyway, since five minutes out the door, you’re damp from sweat and not noticing nor caring how greasy your skin is.  I’m breaking out in pimples on the left side of my face, dammit.
We don’t have much planned tomorrow (Tuesday) other than heading to the nearby Cabopino beach which costs 2 Euros return, payable to the resort shuttle bus driver. I’d also like to check out some of the sister resorts, of which there are four, since one apparently has a really cool playground that Dani should enjoy. She’s the only child I’ve seen using the playground here, and it’s so hot that her juicy butt sticks to the slide, so it’s not very fun at all. There’s also a shopping centre I want to visit, though my spending  urges haven’t been too great throughout this trip. Just having enough energy to see what we need to see and having full and content bellies at the end of the day is enough reward for me.
On Wednesday, we have a day trip to Gibraltar in the United Kingdom, for which I have a few reservations.  All over the news and as forewarned by the PR representative at orientation this morning, Spain and Britain continue a 300-year-old war over ownership of the Rock, and are slowing down border crossings with extremely long checks and waiting times. If driving, we were told to park vehicles on the Spanish side of the bridge and just walk over. We’re taking a guided tour, so I can only hope and pray we make it across in a seamless fashion for my sweet, impatient little Dani’s sake.
Thursday is our full-day excursion to Tangier, Morocco, for a tour through the markets, lunch and mint tea, and perhaps even a camel ride.  For both trips, we are being picked up at our hotel via air-conditioned coach (cue heavenly music), so we just have to sit back and enjoy the scenic ride. We booked both trips with Viator along with our previous excursions (see Paris post) because they had seemingly good reviews and are well-known.
For some off-topic news, we’ve had a breakthrough with Dani, who pulls at her diaper and says “yes” when we ask if she’s “poo-pooed.”  I like to always keep the bathroom door open when I go, don’t ask why (it’s just ’cause), and she likes to walk in and say “poo poo” and laugh  whenever I’m using the bowl.  When we return home (noooooo!!!) someone’s going to start potty training!
 Gosh, how I love this munchkin. Some of the locals fell in love with her when we passed by them in the street, and whenever there are other youngsters in the pool, they go up and talk to her and instantly become BFFs. Life in Spain is just amazing.
Wifi is limited here, so the next time I post might be a few days. Thank you for reading, wherever in the world you are!
X’s and O’s

Lady in White

image image imageAs of 9:00 am Saturday morning (3:00 am EST) we are in Malaga, Spain. Our last day in Paris was the usual: tiring but beautiful, with visits to the Notre Dame, the Galeries Lafayettes (mainly for a coffee atop the 7th floor panoramic terrace, as shopping is tres cher) and Au Printemps department stores, and the Sacre Coeur, ending the day off with Dani running around Les Jardins Tuileries and riding the carrousel.

Seeing the magnificent white Basilique du Sacre Coeur sitting atop that hill reminds me of my late Aunt, known affectionately as Tita Peng.   She was a simple and inspiring lady. She had devoted her life to God and only wore white, which is why I thought of her yesterday. She passed away in 2004, in my first year (2nd attempt) of college.   In my early years after first moving to Toronto from Calgary, she was always so kind and supportive. Ever since our arrival, my mother’s 4th eldest sister had always been my favourite.  Though she was never officially ordained (pretty sure that’s not the right word, but there isn’t any wifi for me to google it so it’ll do), we always thought of her as a nun, and were actively part of her prayer group called Rufina’s Family Crusade. We would bring the Mother Mary from home to home and pray the rosary together, and we had even taken a pilgrimage to Montreal to visit churches and spread our word. I remember sleeping in a cot in a bare-bones monastery there, and that it felt cold and quite eerie. There was nothing on the bed other than a sheet and nothing on the walls, so I stuck a small prayer card of St. Joseph on the wall above my head with some toothpaste to protect me.
 I also remember doing processions in the streets of downtown Toronto. My aunt always talked to and never turned away from the homeless, bringing them food and an ear to listen whenever they needed one. She didn’t even own a television in her apartment.
Going through my rebellious years, I would fight with my mother a lot, and I remember one incident when my mother told me to get out of the house. For a week I did, staying with my boyfriend at the time.  Then I received a call from her, telling me she was sorry and to return home because she loved me (she had never, ever in my memory admitted she was wrong, nor apologized for much of anything).  I later learned this was under the influence of my Tita Peng.  After hearing of our fight and the harsh words exchanged, she was appalled at her younger sister and told her to call me and tell me to come home right away. Now, I was a pretty wild teenager who partied many late nights, yet my aunt never doubted that I had my head on straight and I’d make something of myself. In my eyes, she was the only great influence in my life who really knew and believed in me.
I thought of you, that beautiful white presence atop the hill, Tita Peng. I wonder if you can see for yourself, but in case you can’t, I’m working very hard. I’m trying to be the best person and mother I can and I think you’d be proud. I wish you were here to see for yourself.  Danica would have loved to know you, too.
I miss you every day.
Love, your Di-Di

Trip Trippin’ Part IV – Bonjour Bon Bons

Wellll let me say that our transition from the Beauvais airport to the Port Maillot Metro station was not a difficult one – Mommy walks really fast so we beat the lines to get the bus tickets and were on the next available bus before those lines got ridiculously long.  THEN came the stress I’ll call the Paris Metro Stroller Haul.  It’s not that difficult to get around the subway system, rather just like Rome, accessibility is another issue.  There are faster and more efficient elevators, but they’re not on every floor in every station (at least not the ones we’ve been in).  Thus, we again began the juggling act of Dani, backpacks, carry-ons, stroller, and the like up and down many flights of stairs.  This time with less sleep than ever.  One of the exits was strange, because you had to insert your luggage and stroller through a hole in the bottom left of the partition before going through the small turnstile yourself.  This took some strategic planning but we managed somehow without having to stuff Dani or our own butts through the hole 🙂

After tons of sweat and passing through many a urine-stank-soaked elevator, we arrived at our hotel 1.5 hours early, so we went to a Chinese restaurant across the street for lunch and to kill some time.  That was a big mistake.  Snobbiest waiters ever, who had these “get out of my way” looks about them when Dani got up to walk around.  They seemed annoyed that we weren’t speaking French, and took forever to deliver our ultra-chintzed, child-sized portions that ended up costing 20 Euros, or $28 HARD-EARNED CANADIAN DOLLARS!  For LUNCH!  Man, I’d have a shitload of fried tentacles, chicken’s feet, scramp rolls, tripe, siu mai, etc. etc. back home (Tremendous or Perfect, take your pic.  HOLLA!) for that much.  Now, I never, ever, get homesick.  But one thing I’ve been missing here (okay, two) are Timmy’s and FOOD.  GOSH all we ate in Rome was pizza and all we’ve been eating here is sandwiches and crepes.  We’d like to branch out into the smaller neighbourhoods and experience more of the local tastes, but when working with a child’s schedule and temperament, we’re lucky to sit and grab a bite at all!  That goes for shopping as well.  We barely bought a thing in Rome and we haven’t hit the department stores or any of the shops on the Champs Elysees (not like I’m able to fork out hundreds of Euros as it is).

I start to miss Rome when I see how SOME (not ALL) people look irritated when they see Dani running around.  Others think it is cute and will smile and wave at her, but that’s rarer than the former.  Also, it seems like no one waits in line, rather just rushes in and out of whatever lineup, doorway, subway train, etc. like it’s every man for himself.  In Rome, your children are LOVED.  Most people of all ages stop and smile and chat to your child, and there isn’t one time that a seat wasn’t offered on the subway because we were pushing a stroller or carrying her.  I have yet to see that here, although most of our servers and the shop keepers have been very nice.  Perhaps we’re just picking up the vibes of irritated locals during busy tourist season 🙂

On day 1, after we finally checked into the hotel, we took a nice long nap, were out the door by 10:00 pm, and hit the city.  We visited the Louvre, Palais Royale, and even the local carnival for some crepes and churros.  Photo ops along the way were inevitable.  The next day we slept in, made it in time for our Seine city bus tour (as you can guess, we got lost, LOL – prepare for PLENTY of getting lost whenever you’re in a foreign land), went to the 2nd floor of the Eiffel Tower, to Leon de Bruxelles for some dinner on the Champs Elysees, and then back to the Seine for our evening cruise.  We had booked this tour (which includes the bus tour/Eiffel Tower visit/Seine River cruise) through Viator.  Our Disneyland (which is where we went today) tickets were booked through the same supplier.  Let me exercise some caution.  When you order online, you’ll be emailed a voucher with a barcode.  Do NOT mistake this for your ticket.  We were lucky to find out in time that you need to go to Information and exchange the vouchers for actual tickets before you can join the excursion.  I’ve seen some people turned away and have to re-enter really long lines for this reason.  Also, don’t mistake your printed RECEIPT for a voucher, either.  Mommy had a dum-dum moment and for that, we had to return to our hotel after already getting to Disneyland.  Dani had a nice nap in between this fun little setback and the lines had disappeared when we got back, so it all worked out in the end.  Heh.  Heh.

I’ll stop blabbering away now.  Tomorrow we will spend our last day in the red light district (woo-hoo!), visiting the Sacre Coeur- my favourite, and what I find to be the most beautiful place in Paris- and the department stores Galeries Lafayettes and Printemps for some shopping, if we can get there in time.  All in all, Paris is beautiful as always.  We’ll be very sad to leave tomorrow night.

Pics are below.

Au revoir for now.

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

Trip Trippin’ Part III-Ciao Roma

Reflections of Roma

(black eye, sore scalp and all)
As I write this, we are on the bus direct from Paris Beauvais airport to Porte Maillot Metro station. It is 10:30 am here, and we’ve been up since 2:00 am preparing for a 6:40 am flight out of Rome. We’ve yet to eat anything, and once we reach Porte Maillot (a one hour, 15 minute-long ride) we’ll be on the metro and then the Paris RER train before we can check into our hotel on the other side of the map, near Disneyland (estimated travel time of an additional hour).  I think that’s enough “fore”ground information, so I can tell you all about our highlights of Roma.
I got teary-eyed our last afternoon thinking about leaving, and of how I’d miss all these beautiful cobblestoned streets, getting lost within them, and turning the corner to find something as spectacular as the Trevi Fountain (we ended up “finding” it at least eight times total throughout the trip), Vatican City, or the Pantheon.
The locals, few and far between in August (when they all head beach- and mountain- ward for their summer vacations) were very friendly for the most part. Dani was quite the celebrity, as she made even the sternest looking Vatican guards all goo-goo-ga-ga mouthed and making silly faces at her.
The splendours of Vatican City, the Colosseum, and the Roman Forum really need no praise from me, as I’m sure it’s been written about thousands of times and depicted way more beautifully than I can describe.  Or more than I would perhaps enjoy to, since I’ve gotten less than three hours of sleep last night.
There are definitely things I will be glad to leave behind, one very important one I had already mentioned earlier: the lack of accessibility for infants in strollers.
When riding the metro, it’s faster to take your stroller up and down the escalators to save yourself a lot of grief.  We didn’t even bother bringing it along to the Vatican, which is very stair-ridden and crowded. It was a good decision overall, as we were able to take the “fast-track” route to the Sistine Chapel quite painlessly, with Dani content in Daddy’s arms all day long.  If you are unaware, the Vatican museums are gigantic, so unless you’re travelling with a bored, fussy almost-two-year-old, it is safe to say you can spend a half or even full day sightseeing in there alone. I have great admiration for those with art history knowledge, who can stare at a painting and know exactly which fabulous representation lies behind it. That’s not for me, however. I think museums are boring.
Another thing I don’t care for is the heat. I know people enjoy summer, and kudos to you all, but I get very dizzy and tired to the point of passing out when it’s too hot.  Plus, our hotel was a good 15-20 minute walk from the metro station (bless those dear souls who advertised that it was only a “short walk” away).  Add that to a 7- or 8-hour long day already, and you can see why we headed “home” early every night. I do wish we had taken some snapshots of the mighty Colosseum by moonlight,  however.
Rome is very dirty. There is graffiti everywhere, and not even the nice-looking Beat Street kind. There are no local regulations to pick up dog doody, so guess what you should be careful of before walking into it.  And gosh darnit, people smoke a LOT.  Stinky!
All in all, Rome is beautiful and rich in history, but old and inconvenient. This is my honest opinion only.
I shall leave you with some photos of our travels within this majestic city, as well as a picture of John’s black eye. If I could capture my aching scalp in a photograph, I’d do that too. Both are care of, and thanks to, our darling Dani. Apparently, she hit Daddy in the eye, and the next day I asked him wtf that ashy black sh*t was. Poor Daddy. And poor Mommy too. If you own or have ever owned a cat, you would know how they like to claw up their bed, a blanket, whatever, in order to cozy up for a nap. Dani does the same with my hair, only she yanks it really hard, smells it, and keeps it in her kung fu grip until she falls asleep.  It feels good mostly, but in the morning when I wake up, my scalp is throbbing and aching in patches. That’s what the final picture is of, when she finally slept at 12:00 am but woke up two hours later anyway when we were getting ready to leave. She will not be sharing any beds with us and it’s back to the crib when we get back to Toronto, but I don’t even want to think about that so good night it is… 1:40 am Paris, 7:40 pm Toronto.
Next post: Our arrival and first day in Paris. And: it smells like pee.
xoxo
photo (2)photo (3)imagephoto (4)imagephoto (9)photo (8)