Marbell-ous

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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

Over and Out…

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*crying
As I type, it is Sunday night at the Sheraton in Dusseldorf; we had left our casa in Spain this morning and just returned from visiting this quaint German city for the evening.  It’s been too expensive and inconvenient to connect to wifi in Spain, so I’ll be posting a few days’ worth as I sit here in the Sheraton lobby, in my Spongebob pajamas, past 11:30 pm.
Yesterday, our last entire day, we headed to the nearby Cobapina beach for a few hours, having fun in the sun and jumping in the surf. I tried to get my dark on, well, as much as I could within two and a half hours.  Dani really enjoyed playing in the sand, and just relaxing to the sound of the ocean was heavenly. This morning, we checked out and blessedly had a return airport transfer, so a private taxi picked us up and drove us to Malaga airport. Our public transportation adventures hadn’t ended yet, at this point, but more on that later.
At the check-in counter in Spain, we encountered a totally slow and/or confused lady who took over an hour to check in three guests, and here was Dani, screaming her head off, impatiently strapped into the stroller.  I won’t even get into the little argument we had, since we had gotten on and off the plane with our bodies and luggage intact after all. But-  pfft. I’m still annoyed.
The flight seemed very quick, with Dani asleep about half the time. And the nice thing was that after grabbing our luggage, we only needed to cross the airport parking lot and take an elevator to the fifth floor, and we were at our hotel!
A little before 5:00 pm, we took the tram (subway) to Dusseldorf HBF, what seemed like a major station in the middle of the city. From there, we walked for about 40 minutes in the rain until we reached the Rhine River, and found there was a neat Urban Art Festival happening, with live music, exhibitions for the kids and, most importantly, a little stand selling curry wurst (a curry-sauced sausage) and pomme frites (French fries). Yes, we had centered this entire layover on curry wurst! We had also wanted to take a Rhine boat tour, but didn’t look too hard for it since it was already raining and getting a little late.  Back to the train station we headed, with some really shady looking, possibly strung out/ drunk/prostitute types hanging out nearby.  We did a little running around the station, getting more Euros from a bank machine (we had run our wallets DRY at this point), getting change for said Euros (the ticketing machine didn’t accept anything larger than a ten-dollar bill), and trying to select the correct of many options of destination/train/platform etc.  When in doubt, ask for help!  One thing I’ve noticed is that in all of Europe (that we’d visited, at least), everyone was able to accommodate us in English!
Though it was our shortest stay, I found this little town most intriguing. It’s so friggin’ OLD but preserved so beautifully. And I can’t help but think back to the days when Germany was at war, and how lucky we are to be of many ethnicities sharing the streets, restaurants, and other public areas today.  What could it possibly have been like back then?! I’m so glad we don’t know firsthand!
Pics are below. It’s been an amazing two weeks. Please feel free to add any comments or ask questions about anything relating to our travels- tips, directions (look at me attempting to offer help with directions- haha! ask at your own risk!) -anything at all. I will answer each and every inquiry!
Real world, here I come (back). I got a lot of effin’ homework to do!
See you soon.
X. O.
Di.

Sad Siesta

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It is now Friday evening. I kid you not, all we’d done in Spain for the first 3 days was sleep, eat, and wade in a pool.  This evening we visited a local pub for pizza and tapas- the tapas, which was one dish of curry and chickpeas, and another of pork stew, both with bread, was very tasty indeed.  The pizzas, however, were a soggy, mushy disappointment which gave me almost immediate tummy aches. I didn’t send anything back, however, due to fear they’d spit something nasty in the next attempt and/or give us bad vibes. I don’t dare show my rudey-tudes in foreign land unless absolutely necessary. I didn’t tip instead, though I would’ve, had I anything other than two loonies in my wallet.  Man, I’m so tough.

 Our Gibraltar trip, which I mentioned in the previous post, was amazing, and yesterday, Thursday, we visited a beautiful place called Tangier, Morocco.

The bus picked us up at our door again, and after another 1:15 ride (similar to the travel to the Gibraltar/Spain border), we arrived at the port. There, we boarded a ferry which had us in Tangier, the gateway city of North Africa and Europe, a little more than an hour later.
Just an hour away, but a world’s difference. It seemed like most of the walkways were paved in marble. The gated and mosque-shaped doorways reminded me of something I’d seen in Aladdin. And the people were very friendly, and even odourless, quite unlike the Parisiens who, I swear, stunk up entire subway cars first thing in the morning!  Another unmistakeable stench of Paris was of urine in the Metro, and there were no such offensive odours in Tangier, at least that I’ve quickly noticed.
Stuck to our tour guide and group, we wound through the tightly-knit streets, with a history lesson or two along the way. We visited a snake charmer but, after half a dozen others ran in and quickly clogged the lineup, ran out of time and I didn’t get a chance to hold the snake and take a picture with it 😦
Onwards we went, shortly arriving at a restaurant for lunch. There were musicians playing in one corner. We had a starter of soup (similar to tomato soup without the tomatoes, thank goodness), two meat skewers, couscous and chicken (tasted like a Filipino dish called Afritada, if you ask me), a sticky, floury, sesame-covered dessert that I didn’t care much for, and mint tea (didn’t care much for that either, because it tasted like warm toothpaste water). All in all, I enjoyed my lunch and finished every bite because, as those who know me personally are aware, I hate to waste food!
We continued along, visiting a shop selling rugs of every size along with wooden wares, wonderful marble chests, and handmade jewellery. One day I’d like to return and furnish my home with at least three or four of these beautiful items, including one small rug, but for now they’d be waaaay too expensive to ship home on my budget.
Our second last stop was to an aesthetics shop (I don’t know what the proper term is), where a very informed man taught us of the many oils, herbs, and lotions which were made of local ingredients (such as rose petals, saffron, mint, etc.). I bought some rose petal oil for my under-eye bags (it will perform miracles if these horrid things go away) and some crystals you can use to freshen your underarms AND your clothing, which smell amazing and seem to be keeping the odour away.  I realize how horrible and chemical-laden North American beauty products really are!  Ah well, what can you do, right? Certainly not fly to Tangier for the good stuff every week!
Our final stop was at the marketplace, where we had half an hour to bargain for small souvenirs. Afterwards, we got back on the bus and drove to the seaside where we could ride the camels (Dani was asleep in our laps and John has severe allergies, so we passed) and then to Hercules’ cave to take photos (Dani was still sleeping, so we passed on that, too).  Then we headed back to the ferry, bus, and were home by 6:30 pm, making it a 12 hour trip and worth every damn cent!
As I type, it is Saturday morning, and our last full day in Spain. I woke up extremely sad, and as I look over our pictures, Rome seems to have been an eternity ago and worlds away.  I wish we could hit rewind and start it all over again, even with all the hitches, exhaustion, and stressful beginnings.
We head to the beach shortly, our first time, since we didn’t get there earlier this week as planned. Then tomorrow afternoon we fly to Dusseldorf, Germany, for one last overnight hurrah before we head to Toronto on Monday morning.
Sad, sad indeed. (insert crying here).
And damn you, soggy pizza. My stomach hurts.

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