Friday, April 29, 2011


Well,  we don't really call her "Bibi" any more,  since that was her nickname when she was quite small.
My job this morning was to get to the airport in time to meet our daughter Dana's Air Austria flight from Toronto that was coming in at 8:35.   I think it was within about a minute or two of its arrival time which,  considering the length of the flight,  is pretty good I'll have to admit.
The thing was,  Travelling Companion had phoned from Romania last night,  as is the case any time she's away,  and figured since her flight wasn't coming in until later,  that she'd just get a ride to her office with one of her associates.   Turns out the two of them met up somewhere before the luggage carousel,   which also meant a slight change in plans,  since now I'd be driving her to work first.

See,  if there's no waiting for checked luggage,  that can make all the difference.

The only minor consideration was that I hadn't managed to have any breakfast before leaving for the airport,  but I'm pretty sure I can survive on what's around my midsection at this point.  I think though there might be some other issues involving blood sugar or something,  since I was feeling a little bit pooched by the time we got back home here.
I've since hoofed it down to Merkur (um,  after scarfing down some toast)  and picked up some salmon for tonight.  Not sure what will be going with the salmon,  but potato salad comes to mind.
Dana is now fast asleep,  so I'm hoping when Travelling Companion calls,  she will have read the email I've sent to her,  asking her to call my cell phone, since I forgot to take the phone out of the room where she's sleeping.   That sucker will wake her up for sure.

 When coming from Toronto to Wienerland,  the plan is,  get a couple hours sleep,  and then hopefully you can function for the rest of the day and then go to bed at a normal time.   When going the other way,  the objective is to try and stay up for as long as possible (without checking your watch to see that it's actually 2:00 a.m. in Vienna)  and then try to sleep as long as possible to be on Ontario time.

It still takes me days to adjust in either case.

It was a heck of a sight easier when we lived in Puerto Rico.  There was no time change,  with the exception of some slight issues with daylight savings time.  I don't recall exactly how that worked,  but there was a period of time in the year when there would be an hours difference,  since Puerto Rico doesn't do daylight saving time.  At 18° north of the Equator,  there's very little point.

Apparently Dana had planned to have a checked bag all along,   but was muttering something about having to then take a bigger bag,  since she brought along some requested "loot"  for me and Travelling Companion.
I just noticed this pile on the table when I got back from shopping.
 I've been using the same batch of socks I shipped over in August of 08,  and I'm now starting to wear them out.  So you can clearly see that first of all,  that's not too damned shabby,  and that that is precisely the reason I put them on my Christmas list.
I used to wear them with my steel toed work boots,  so I know they wear well.

Didn't get any for Christmas.  Don't know how that happened,  and then I forgot to go to Costco.  

Yay!  Socks!

Don't misunderstand me,  if I wanted to wear cheap miserable uncomfortable socks,  I could certainly go down the street and pick up all the socks my little heart could desire.   I just choose not to.   Not sure where they're made,  possibly Azerbaijan, but I'm not putting them on my feet.

We haven't told her yet where we're taking her for the weekend.   I'm somewhat hesitant to put anything here.  This could be the one and only time she decides to catch up on her reading.

I'd get into a lot of trouble.

I will however give you this hint.  It's a silly little saying that a friend of mine taught me in about 1978 or something.  I have no idea why I remember these kinds of things.   And....I certainly won't repeat it in the city where we're going. 
Because again,  I'd get into a lot of trouble.

It goes like this..."Elefant, nyald a seggit majd nem bant"

Can you guess where we're going?

Have a fine weekend.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Really Spoiled.

Waiting for the other shoe to drop here, since the weather we've been having has been absolutely beautiful lately.
I mean, it rained in the evening some last night, and probably didn't help matters in the traffic department, but that certainly didn't have any effect on my life.
Question:  Is it "affect" or "effect"?
Bet you're wondering.
It didn't have any psychological "affect", and certainly didn't have any "effect" on my behaviour.
That just makes it more confusing.
Never mind.

Well,  I wouldn't call it a "hobby" actually,  but I do cringe ever so slightly when folks who think they can write can't tell the difference between "choose",  "chose",  "to" "too",  "lose" "loose" etc.

Just a pet peeve of mine.

Where was I?

I have to kind of scurry along here as I have an appointment at 11:30 to get the summer tires put on the car,  and considering that I seem to be running a little behind this morning,  I may not be able to spit everything out here.
 It's perhaps due to Travelling Companion being in another country,  but of course I woke up in the middle of the night and absolutely could not get back to sleep again.  Gah!

Never mind how late I then slept.  Feeling kind of guilty about that. Doesn't usually happen.

In typical fashion I snoop around the net looking for the latest news,  and I think my jaw dropped just ever so slightly to read AGAIN that people in the States have been walloped by severe weather.  
I mean,  I realise there's some risk involved when living in "Tornado Alley",  but when this kind of event goes through a built up area,  the results can be devastating.

Nowadays too,  we all seem to "know" someone,  somewhere,  and there are folks in Birmingham, (and in this case I do mean Alabama,  not the UK)  that I'm at least aware of?
Hard to really say you know someone from reading their blog,  and it's a curious thing when these kinds of remote events tend to affect us,  (there's that word again) even though they may be total strangers.  
Am I making any sense?
When someone puts into print how they feel when their dog dies,  one can't help but feel something.
It's usually sadness.
I should point out here,  that I was actually going to refer back to a post about losing a pet from about a week or so ago ,  and couldn't believe when I saw that these folks had actually lost a SECOND dog. 

This is probably the number one reason why I simply choose not to have a pet.  It's perhaps a selfish streak I know, but it's just very hard to part company with them when the time comes.    These folks once had five dogs.  They've lost two in as many weeks. 
I think the term, "having your heart broke"  comes to mind?
Too many of our friends and relatives have had their hearts broken when their pets die. 

So now finally our "toilet talk".

I'll try not to drag it out,  I promise.

See,  since getting back from Rome,  my memory has been refreshed when it comes to some of the amazing accomplishments that were achieved during the Roman Empire.  Not only were entire cities built,  and roadways created,  the evidence of which is still visible today,  but they also had many conveniences that we take for granted in our every day lives.

One of those things was some form of indoor plumbing.  

Here's the thing though,  judging by the function of the water closet in our hotel room on the weekend,  I had the impression that their technology hadn't really improved much in the last 2000 years or so.  
It looked like a normal toilet,  with the tank built into the wall,  which is something that I've gotten quite used to,  but its operation was by means of what one could only describe as a push button in the wall.
 OK well,  that should work,  shouldn't it?

 Not really.

There was so much plumbers grease in the mechanism that it refused to operate properly the whole time we were there.   The first night,  after the first flush,  it proceeded to dribble and flush,  then dribble and flush throughout the whole night.  Being as we were pretty much exhausted,  we slept through it.
 I brought it to the attention of the front desk in the morning,  and they must have done something,  since it did work for a while the next day.
And this is how I know there was so much plumbers grease in the valve,  since I took the f**king thing apart,  only to discover that it was the stupidest damned arrangement I had ever seen in my life! 
There was no way of actually getting the valve unstuck unless you had a pair of needle nose pliers.  

 For those who may be somewhat challenged in the tool identification department,  they look like this...

Note the pointy bits....

They sort of frown on those types of things at airport security,  so I had left mine at home.


To make things even more interesting,  the bowl hadn't been properly attached to the floor,  so unless you could sit perfectly still on the seat, (hello!  need to wipe from time to time!)  the thing would work loose,  and at one point before we were heading out on Sunday morning to catch a glimpse of the Pope,  it got to the point where,  instead of the water rushing into the bowl,  it simply rushed out onto the floor.

Fun times!

Try to picture a guy jumping out of the way with his trousers down around his knees.

Man,  that was close!
I had noticed there was a built in drain in the floor,  only a couple feet from the toilet bowl.   I quickly understood why it was there.  Good planning.

Oh,  and when you pack as light as we tend to do,  you can't very well have your trousers getting drenched by some poorly installed Roman plumbing.  

Hence the little jig.

We left it for the cleaning staff,  and it was all tidied up and put back together,  albeit temporarily,  when we got back later that day. 
The thing was though,  we never quite knew exactly what was going to happen when pressing that button.

 Even if the thing did flush,  it seemed to take at least a minute to make up its mind,  and then there would be an ungodly whoosh!  

So the routine was:

Push button.
Leave the bathroom.
Make sure the door is closed.
Keep fingers crossed.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Snippets from Absurdistan.

It's a funny thing,  but ever since I mentioned the notion of "Absurdistan"  yesterday,  I've had a couple examples just jump right out in front of me.
First of all,  just about every day I pick up one of the local free newspapers from the corner box,  which is about 25 metres from our front door.   I should mention that this free newspaper is also "worth every penny",  since it's a cross between say,  The Toronto Sun,  The Daily Mirror or perhaps the Vancouver Sun.   I wouldn't go so far as to compare it to the National Enquirer,  since they do cover actual news,  but in with the news there is a certain amount of sensationalistic cr*p.   (That's a journalistic term,  isn't it?)  They also have a website.
Of course,  it's all in German,  but you're welcome to have a look if you so choose.
One of the big differences that I'd like to point out is,  at least they don't have the nerve to try and charge actual money for what they consider journalism.  And really,  I've been offered free copies of the Toronto Sun at the checkout at one of our local Canadian Tire stores in Burlington,  but since we don't have a bird or a birdcage that needs to be lined,  I would simply decline.
Years ago,  at least you could go to page five and read Paul Rimstead, but after he passed away in 1987,  I didn't find too many more reasons to open up the Sun.

 I've gotten a bit off track here,  and I apologise.   Here's example number one:

 It's a little hard to tell what's going on,  and there's some actual video footage on the website,  but it would seem that the weather here in Wienerland was pretty fabulous over the weekend,  and many,  many folks were out and about not only in the cafes,  but also out grilling and generally have fun times in the out of doors.   These nitwits had some sort of disagreement,  and decided to attack each other with their cooking utensils.  There was mention made of a grilling fork,  along with an axe.
An axe?
I've never seen the need to take an axe on a pick-nick,  but maybe I'm missing something.   Nobody got killed,  but there were three injured parties.    
 I should also point out that they are Romanian.  I have no further comment.  Most of these "incidents"  do seem to involve issues between Romanians,  Poles,  Bulgarians and so forth.  Not exclusively,  mind you,  but that's just my impression.
 I'd like to also mention that I took Travelling Companion to the airport this morning for her flight to....wait for it.....Romania!
Hopefully all the axe wielding nitwit Romanians have moved to Austria.
Mind you,  it would be best if they weren't hanging around our front door.
That would be a whole other story involving the dropped ring scam.   I did happen to have my own wedding band on,  and offered to demonstrate just what a lovely impression it would make in the forehead of the individual who was attempting to block my way into our building.
He declined the invitation.  We won't go any farther into that.

Now for the second,  and final example.  I promise.

This one involves the part where I mentioned that the absurdity isn't obvious unless you live here?   One of Travelling Companion's associates is getting married within the next few weeks,  and the report is that their marriage license was €500.    That's FIVE HUNDRED EUROS!    You can do your own conversion.  Doesn't matter.  That's a lot!
I think ours was something like thirty five bucks,  and it was arranged through the minister,  and was just lumped in with the fee that he charged,  the total of which came out to something like seventy-five dollars.    I think I understand now why a lot of these couples I meet have different last names.  They just choose not to get married.   Who can afford that?

I'm afraid I'll have to put my "toilet talk"  off until tomorrow.  I'm sure you're just "gutted",  as the Brits would say,  but between going to the airport this morning and some other minor issues, (mostly sloth)   I haven't managed to eat anything more than a slice of banana bread.
Plus I have German Teacher Dude coming at three.
The sun is well past the yard arm at this point.

Keep those sticks on the ice.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Opera connection.

Now,  you probably thought this was going to be, "Rome,  part deux" but I figured you'd be expecting that.
Instead,  I'm just going to ponder a bit on some of things about Rome that seem to stand out.  I don't just mean the old stuff either,  but I have some theories about that too.
 I still consider Austria to be "Absurdistan",  but after visiting Rome,  I'm no longer sure that Austria is right up there at the top of the heap.   It takes living here in Wienerland and seeing some of the more subtle things that eventually leads one to see the absurdity.   Therefore as a tourist say,  it might not appear that obvious that you're in the heart of Absurdistan when wandering through the Hofburg.  It's all very carefully hidden.  But if you want to live here?   Well,  that's a different story.
 In the case of Rome however,  and perhaps in other Italian cities,  the absurdity bubbles right up to the top,  like a steaming cauldron of craziness that just makes your head spin.   
Traffic lights are only a suggestion.  So what if the light is red?  There's nobody coming,  I'll just proceed.   They don't bother painting marker lines on the streets,  since it would be a waste of paint.   Lanes?   We don't need no stinking lanes!    Speed limits in town?   What's that?
 Thinking of crossing on foot at a pedestrian crossing?  Whoa, you'd better have your wits about you.

 Shall I go on?

 The biggest and most inconvenient example of this bubbling cauldron of absurdity was on Sunday morning when we wanted to get in to the big mass at Saint Peter's Square.
I'm not completely certain of the details,  and I'm not about to waste any more time on the net than I already do trying to find out,  but off and on,  various Popes throughout the ages have been giving Easter Mass since some time around 1450.  You'd think that would be enough time to figure out how to get organised.
Apparently not.
Maybe they need another five or six hundred years?

See,  these days there's all these concerns about security,  so naturally everyone has to go through some sort of check point to get in.  Do you think we could have more than just two??   Hm??
And why are all those cops standing around,  when they could be getting people through the check points?
 Admittedly,  we did discover later that they had more than just the two entry points off on either side of the square  The thing is though,  people come up the main drag from the Tiber river,  and there's nothing telling you that it might be easier to get in if you simply walked 50 meters to one side or the other of the square.

That would make sense.

Can't have it make any sense.  That might be some conflict with Italian tradition.

Now,  let's talk about the yellow tickets.   See,  you could get a yellow ticket that would get you a seat.   Only thing is,  there were way more tickets than there were actual seats.   There were nuns wandering around with tickets that weren't allowed in to get a seat.  If anyone is a "card carrying member",   wouldn't it be a nun?  
I happened to notice one of the tickets from this very annoying Italian family that "camped"  waaay too close to us and right along the bottom there it said you really should get there by 8:30.   Nice.

 Um ya,  if I can read over your shoulder?  You're too flippin' close!  Get away from me!

And by the way,  by the time the Pope got to his "Urbi et Orbi"  speech, there were well over 100,000 people in the square.   We had managed to elbow our way out of there by then.  Travelling Companion had had enough,  and I was just waiting for her to finally say she was ready to pack it in.  *phew*

So now,  let's talk about the "old stuff".   See,  Vienna relies on their "old stuff"  to bring in the tourists,  but I have to say,  they do a fairly decent job of keeping the rest of the city looking half ways decent as well.  The streets are kept reasonably clean and even down around Michaelerplatz,  where it's all cobblestone,  it's still not so wavy that you're liable to lose your lunch.   I've even ridden there on my bike,  and I still have feeling in my legs.
When it comes to Rome,  they have some awesome "old stuff",  but the rest of the city is in really bad shape.  If you care to look at the finances for all the member states of the EU,  you'll see that Italy is right down there with Greece and Spain in terms of their "got no money"  program.
Well,  do you think having about 19 different kinds of police force might be part of the problem? I'm exaggerating  here,  but not by much.
  I swear,  they have a different branch of police for just about everything you can imagine.  I wouldn't be surprised if there were some sort of sheep herder's police.   Seriously! 
And they like to stand around.  Getting paid.  Seems like a good gig.  Sign me up!

Al right,  you've managed to hang in there up to this point,  so here finally is the "Opera connection".  OK, I can see your eyes starting to glaze over,  but just bear with me.

On the Saturday,  as one of the stops on the Roman version of a "hop on hop off"  tour bus deal,   we went to the Castel Sant'Angelo.
This turned out to be a worthwhile stop,  and we were lucky enough that there wasn't much of a line-up to get in.  It was considerably longer when we left,  so we just felt happy to get to see something without queueing up for hours.
 At this point I'd like to mention just how much of a cultural dim wit I am,  since we were standing on the very spot where the final scenes of Giacomo Puccini's opera Tosca takes place.   Yes it's fiction,  but the final scenes take place on the top of the Castel Sant'Angelo.

As a matter of fact,  I had a picture of Travelling Companion sitting on the very spot where,  in this case,  playing the part of Cavaradossi, Placido Domingo sings the final aria before being led to his death.

It's three minutes out of your life if you choose to watch.  There's even English subtitles.  This performance was actually a live broadcast from 1992 wherein, through the magic of electrons travelling at the speed of light and other such things that are also beyond my comprehension,  the orchestra conducted by Zubin Mehta,   was actually several kilometres away.

Now aren't you glad you stuck around?

Scene from Tosca

Try it,  you might like it.

Tomorrow,  I think we'll have a go at Roman plumbing.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Back from Rome.

Well,  how can I sum up Rome in very few words?

"Amazing".  "Overwhelming"

But also,  "Pricey" comes to mind.

You have to understand,  we've been living in Europe now for what? three years?   So it's not like I somehow think twice about paying top buck for run of the mill things.  But we did go through a few Euros there.  I think the cheapest "meal" that we had was something like €33,  and that was a bowl of soup for me,  a beer,  a plate of these rather less than stellar mixed veggies for Travelling Companion along with a glass of wine.
 On the other end of things,  Saturday night we went to the Pantheon and ate at one of the restaurants around the square and were also treated to a very fine operatic singer for over an hour.  I don't even remember how much that meal was,  but it was worth every penny.  Had absolutely nothing to do with the restaurant.  It was simply a combination of the food,  a decent bottle of Chianti,  and this Opera Dude singing in the background.  Just one of those somewhat rare combinations that one doesn't get to experience all that often.  If ever.
He was good.  I have a reasonably good ear for just what a decent tenor should sound like,  and this fellow filled the bill.
All the other street musicians (some of whom were not too shabby either)  just simply stood around with their instruments to hear this guy.  I think their jaws were slightly slack the whole time too,  but I had my back to the square,  so I couldn't really tell. Didn't hurt that he was dressed in a tux,  and was singing the well known popular arias.

You also have to realise that,  even from the point of view of "Scrooge McDuck" here,  and I'm only speaking from the "miserly" point of view,  not the wealth, the whole experience was worth every penny.
 Rome is amazing.  I did say that,  didn't I?
I think if you were to ask each and every person getting on a plane or train when leaving,  they'd pretty much say the same.
 The other somewhat amazing thing was,  it was Easter!

In whatever little corner of the globe you're reading this from,  there's a very good chance that you may have seen something or other about the Pope giving the Easter mass?
Ya,  that one.   We were there.

What a crowd.  Pictures on TV don't really do it justice.

You'll also notice that clicking on that picture doesn't do a blessed thing?   Well,  there's a sad little tale there.
 Seems my camera went missing some time Saturday night between getting into the cab to take us to the Pantheon and when I checked on its whereabouts on the way.   It either tumbled out of my "man bag"  in the cab,  since I did get somewhat tangled up in the seatbelt,  or someone eased it out of said bag when we were under way.   Doesn't really matter which theory we go with,  it's gone.  Along with snippets of video and about 180 pictures.


Fortunately I'm not talking about the Nikon,  which is bigger and bulkier,  making it harder to misplace.  This was my sweet little Canon SD990IS.
But hey,  we're back safe and sound in Wienerland,  and I'm sure worse things could always happen.
I mean,  one of the TV channels we received in the hotel was CNN,  and I'm just glad I have a house to go home to,  after seeing the devastation in the Midwest of the USA.
It's all relative,  isn't it?
So,  no point dwelling on the camera thing.   Just have to figure out a replacement,  since it's handy having a small point and shoot when travelling.  I'm thinking we'll be doing a little more travelling before we're done.

 So Travelling Companion was mighty pleased with herself that she not only got to go to a mass on Friday afternoon at "Santa Maria Maggiore" ,  which was about two blocks from our hotel,  but there was also that whole getting to see the Pope on Sunday morning thing.
Of course,  in order to get to go to the mass at Santa Maria Maggiore,  she did have to put up a bit of a fight with one of the deacons,  or whatever he was,  since he wasn't going to let her in to the area where the faithful had gathered.   It's kinda too bad being a Catholic isn't like having a Union Card,  or belonging to the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks,  since then at least you could just whip out your membership card and that would be that.
He was going on about the Bishop being there,  and somehow that was going to be the reason for turning her away?  That wasn't going to be much of a deterrent.  I'm not even sure why you would try to use some such silly argument?  Wouldn't you want to be in attendance even more if the Bishop is there?   Maybe he was on a bit of a power trip.

I was just far enough behind her that I wisely decided I wasn't going to get into that particular fray,  since I wouldn't have a card even if there had been one issued.

I just stood at the back and watched as he would try and turn away others.  I guess it must have had to do with some sort of secret pass word or something,   since he did let certain ones through,   and I do see the point of turning away the silly tourists,  but Travelling Companion didn't exactly have a honkin' big camera dangling off her neck.
I recall once at Stephansdom I had to convince the deacon that we in fact were not tourists and had gone there for the Mass.   I don't remember when that was exactly,  but thankfully I knew enough of the details (and enough German)  that we got to go in.   Again,  pays to know the lingo.
AND stick to your guns when the situation calls for it.

 Anyway,  I'll happily go on about Rome some more tomorrow,  since I most definitely feel a nap coming on.

 Enjoy the rest of your Easter Monday.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

How many times?

As I was tooling back home this morning after having dropped off our latest guests at the airport,  I had a fleeting moment there, when I actually wondered just how many times I've been there.
Picking up.
Dropping off.
Hey,  one time I just had to get some guests there so they could pick up their rental car.   That was awkward.  There's not really a place to stop briefly down on the arrivals level.  That only happens on the departures level.   Of course,  there are no car rental offices up there.
 I suppose if I really wanted to know,  or even gave a rat's tiny behind,  I could sift through the calendars for the last couple years and figure it out,  but I guess I really don't care.
 It's close enough to the city that it's not that much of a hardship.   With the situation when we lived in Puerto Rico,  we were out in Cabo Rojo,  and it was a two and a half hour jaunt to the airport.  I made that trip 18 times.
This I remember.
I also made sure that anyone flying down for a visit,  should try to get there on the same day that I might perhaps be taking someone else for their return flight home.
Most helpful.

If someone had told me say,  twenty years ago,  "This is what you'll be doing on a fairly regular basis"?  It would have been the farthest from any kind of reality that I was aware of at the time.  That's one way of saying,  I would have thought they were nuts.

 Now,  concerning our overnight guests.  I do have photo evidence.

Here's the thing.  Not only would I prefer to not put pictures of people's kids on line,  but I usually like to have some sort of tacit understanding that a person's image may in fact show up out there somewhere.   The subject was never broached.
You'll just have to take my word for it.

Oh well.

 They arrived here some time around 9:30,  and were met down stairs by Travelling Companion.  Supper was a bit of a non-issue.   They had some traffic difficulties getting out of Ljubljana,  and Travelling Companion has some difficulties getting away from her office.   They're having two days of "staff meetings",  what ever the heck that means,  and basically that just ties up her time so all the rest of the bla bla gets shoved over to the after work hours.
 In addition to the staff meeting issue,  with the ensuing evaporated time,  we're heading to Rome in the morning,  and that's one more day's work that isn't going to get done. 
Well,  not tomorrow anyway.  
The work never actually "goes away",  it just piles up.
She's NOT taking her computer.   I might put up with the crackberry,  but that's pretty much where I'll draw the line.
I won't be taking this laptop,  so there won't be any blogging or other internet tom foolery when we're there.
And yes,  I know there are internet cafés,  but really,  there can't be that much that I'd be so desperate to share.   Besides,  I somehow suspect the keyboard would be some goofy European/AZERTY version.  Typing isn't really something I think I'd ever be able to relearn.  I have enough issues as it is.

See for yourself....


Tried it once in Paris.  I had a shit of a job just signing into my email,  let alone typing anything.  I'll pass.  Thanks.

 Apparently Easter is a bit of a big deal in Rome.   Huh.  Who'd a thunk?

 OK,  I'm being really facetious here,  I'm not quite that dim.

I'm sure it will be just madness,  but one of those things that goes under the heading of "Once in a Lifetime".   Kind of like going to see the Passion Play in Oberammergau.
Not only have I had neither of those things on my Bucket List,  I don't even have a Bucket List.

I think that would just lead to disappointment.

So I've booked our taxi for 5:45 tomorrow morning.  I've just now printed off our boarding passes,  and have our hotel information at hand.
Other than that,  it's just a matter of setting the alarm.

Reports are that the weather both here and in Rome is going to be simply gorgeous,  so I'm thinking we can leave the parkas at home.   Ontario is a bit of a different story so I've heard?  I know we do get homesick from time to time,  but I can handle the weather we're having here,  thank-you.
Our overnight guests will be arriving later today in Toronto to temperatures in the single digits.  (Celsius, of course)  I think it will be a bit of a shock for them. 

"Hey!  Welcome to Canada!  Here's your toque!"

So,  "Happy Easter"  everyone.   Try not to overdose on those chocolate bunnies,  and bundle up.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

No Speed Limits, part deux.

I don't want to bore you to tears with too much about our trip to the Netherlands,  with the exception of a couple observations.
I still find that getting around in the Netherlands is the most stress free of anywhere I've been so far in Europe.
Here's a little list of where we've driven....
Paris (France, obviously)
Austria (well,  duh)
Spain,  both in Bilbao and Barcelona.
The Czech Republic.  Prague,  not just over the border.

 I think that's it.  Never made it to Liechtenstein.  Drat.
Now,  I put that list so you'd get the idea that I have something against which I can compare traffic,  roads etc.

Common sense.

There's going to be a couple smug Dutch readers out there when I say this,  but the Netherlands comes out on top.   Don't know how to put it exactly,  except to say that it's just more "orderly"?
And don't even get me started on the bike infrastructure.
Oh man,  do I ever miss that aspect.

I had spoken at length with our then Dutch neighbours on this subject,  and they did have some issues with the Dutch (car) drivers,  like how they might pull out into the left lane without looking,  that kind of thing.   In spite of that minor annoyance,  I'd still cast my vote for the Dutch systems when it comes to getting around.
Oh,  and of course in the summer months,  there are Dutch caravans (travel trailers)  that can be found throughout Europe like ants that have spread out from the colony.  But again,  that's just an observation.  Has nothing to do with Dutch infrastructure.  I just thought of that metaphor and had to use it.

Idiot drivers can show up most anywhere.

Kind of like the way this place does.

Note the Audi on the right.   From the UK.  Right hand drive.  Takes a special awareness.

Like that segue?

You knew I had to put it in there,  didn't you?

Which is,  of course where I went for a "McBathroom Break".   The notable difference with this one was not only the cleanliness of the washrooms,  (spectacular)  but the bike parking out front.

Where was I?


After dropping off Travelling Companion at her former workplace at nine,  I had a few hours to kill.

Thought I'd swing by where we used to live and take a look.   We had heard from the neighbours that the folks who own the place had decided to move back in,   and it looks like they're doing a little landscaping revamp with perhaps a view to once again putting it on the market?
It certainly needed something.  If they can manage to sell it in the summer months,  that would be a good thing.  Going upstairs in the winter?  You'd better be bundled up in nice wool PJs and a stocking cap.  We couldn't even keep our arms outside the blankets to read at night.  I thought I was back on the farm.

All the grass was gone.   They had installed interlocking in both the driveway and all the way around the back.  (didn't take a picture!)
But that damned Monkey tree is still there!   I can't really put into print the words that just came to mind.
Suffice to say,  that tree and I weren't the best of buddies.  Ever try to push a lawnmower under a Monkey tree?   You'd best be wearing welding gloves.

As for Delden,  not much has changed.  It's still a quiet little place,  and since it was Monday,  a lot of the shops were closed.  That's one thing that you have to keep in mind if there's ever that sudden urge to go shopping on a Monday?  Don't bother.

No worries about getting run over.

I don't know what the rules are,  but I guess they figure if they've been open on the Saturday,  they should be closed on Monday.
 Thankfully the bake shops are all open,  and I stopped by the one I used to frequent when we lived there.   Had a nice little chat with two of the ladies,  who actually recognised me from my previous visits.  Of course,  my Dutch pretty much sucks,  so our conversation was in German.   Thought I was American,  but that's close enough I suppose.
The Dutch actually have a rather soft spot in their hearts for Canadians,  so it's usually a good thing to mention it somehow.

Turns out they had renovated the place, (well,  not those particular two ladies,  but you know what I mean)  and I wasn't sure if it had somehow become self serve (which I doubt)  but since I was the only one there,  I was waited on anyway.

Mmmm. soft bread.

Oh,  that's another thing I kinda miss about the Netherlands.   Soft bread!   The Austrians like their bread hard.   Now by that I mean,  you could take a loaf of their "Vollkorn"  (whole wheat I guess)  and use it to prop up your trailer hitch.

And you actually think I'm kidding.

Funny thing too is,  when the Dutch come down here to visit either on company business or as tourists,  that's one of the things they tend to gripe about.  They don't like hard bread!
And.....the Germans and the Austrians gripe about the Dutch bread.
Seriously people...let's not be fighting that war all over again,  shall we?

Somehow I have this image of them throwing bread at each other somewhere in the Ardennes.

But now I'm just getting silly.

 I have a couple more minor issues to deal with before my daughter's friend arrives tonight from Slovenia like,  what the heck to feed her and her two kids,  so I'd better get that sorted out.

Off I go!

Keep those sticks on the ice!


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

No Speed Limits.

In a silly sort of way,  one of the things I used to look forward to when we lived in the Netherlands  was driving in Germany where,   for the most part there are "keine Geschwindigkeitsgrenzen".    That is to say,  "no speed limits".
You have to understand that that's not just everywhere on the Autobahn,  since there are posted limits in certain sections,  usually at 120 kph,  which can seem like being nearly stopped.
 There's some talk at the moment of increasing the state speed limit in Texas to 85 mph,  which comes in at around 137 kph.  That's pretty quick I suppose,  but the thing about there being sections of highway with no limit at all, is that much less time is spent checking the speedometer and instead it's more prudent to know where you are in relation to others on the road, and when it's safe to pull out to pass.  Awareness of other vehicles and their relative speed is critical.  AND,  the left lane IS the passing lane. 
One does not dawdle in the left lane.

Gawd this scheme would so NOT work in Canada!    But let's not get off on a rant here about my frustration with driving on the 400 series highways!

 Anyway,  I wasn't going to go on too much about the philosophy of no speed limits.   What I wanted to mention is that one does tend to drive at whatever speed is comfortable,  and I was surprised when I actually did check,  that we were cruising at between 160 and 165 kph.   I thought we were doing about 140.
I think that's one of those excuses that you try to use in North America when you do get pulled over?    In Europe they tend to just mail the ticket to your house,  or in our case to the leasing company and they then track us down.  There are no cruisers running up and down the roads burning fuel here.
That would just be wasteful.
So the trick is,  when it's posted 100 say?  you'd best be doing that,  or they'll nail you.
This would be experience talking.

The flight to Düsseldorf was uneventful.   As as matter of fact,  I was pleasantly surprised that we were on an Airbus A319,  which had proper ventilation!  I figured I could tolerate being stuffy for the hour and a half or so that it takes to get there,  but this was even better!

Not this kind....

 And not one of these.

Hey,  I take these pictures,  I have to do something with them!

When we got to the car rental counter,  we actually had a few choices,  and this is what we chose!

I took a couple pictures inside the parking garage,  but with less than stellar results.    This is outside our hotel in Hengelo.

 Of course,  in typical fashion,  renting a car at any airport usually involves walking for what seems like forever,  which is also the case in Düsseldorf.

Looking back at the terminal.

Hey!  There's a monorail!

The rental car is in that parking garage somewhere.

Long term parking?

 So the car was quite fun to drive,   and it's always neat to try some brand or other that you might never ever actually own.   The jury is out on this one.   It was comfortable,  and since it's built by BMW it had plenty of guts.   I only had some slight issues with overhead visibility when it came to traffic lights.   Just the design of the car in relation to where the wind-shield ends.   Probably if my legs were shorter and I could tuck the seat up under the steering wheel it would be fine.

We took a couple minutes to figure out the gps,  since it can be a little tricky to get through the maze of highways in that section of Germany.  We selected "UK English",  which was a little amusing from time to time considering the computerised phonetic pronunciation of the German and Dutch locations.  You'll just have to take my word for it.  It was a good thing that we had made this road trip a few times,  and only needed the gps to be sure of the various exits. 

That's it for today....

I'm going to add a few things tomorrow,  since we have company coming tomorrow night and I got "stuff"  to do.   So I need to get off the computer and get busy.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Weekend happenings.

As you well know,  I rarely have much to say on the weekends,  mostly since we're often out and about.
Today was the Vienna City Marathon,  which runs right along Mariahilfer Strasse,  which is 20 metres from our front door.
Now,  a couple questions.
Ever notice how an Ostrich runs?   Well,  the guy from Kenya who won the thing kind of put me in mind of an ostrich.  Now,  I don't mean that in a bad way,  I'm just saying his strides were so long,  I truly had never seen anything so amazing in all my life.   Plus of course he was so far out in front that I didn't get a picture.  There were the usual media guys on motorcycles,  but there had been a bunch of those,  and I just figured it was more of the same,  so of course I completely missed my chance.
We're right around the 19 kilometre mark,  so there's certainly no huge crowd of runners.  That comes later.

I do know he passed at the 57 minute mark.   That's helpful,  isn't it?

I did manage to snap out of it after the leader ran by,  and caught a few seconds of video of the remaining Kenyans as they strode past.

 These guys are also way out in front...


Now,  speaking of screwing up in the photography department,  (a recurring theme) it's one thing to take a nice photo of a daffodil or your doggie running on the beach,  but just try picking out one guy out of a crowd of a few thousand?   Good luck.
I really could have used a step ladder and maybe a second pair of eyes.
See,  one of Travelling Companion's associates was in the running,  and I did see him.   And he did see me.   No photo though.   Happened too fast.

He's down in the middle there somewhere in the blue shirt.   I think.


There's always next year.   Oh wait,  I think he'll be moving to the States in the mean time.  Double crap.

Have to say though,  he was in the first third of the runners,  and I was kind of impressed.

We'll probably leave later today for the airport around 4:00,  even though our flight to Düsseldorf doesn't leave until 17:40 (OK,  twenty to six).
There's some major construction going on over at the "Hanson Curve",  although I doubt that they'll be working on Sunday,  and I have a sneaking suspicion that there will still be some hoopla going on in the centre of the city.
In other words,  I haven't figured out just yet which way we'll go.

This is why it's usually best to just stay home on Sundays.

The other slight consideration too is,  I do have to make sure I head in the right direction when I come out of the airport in Düsseldorf.   Must head north. 

That's another part that's kind of important.


Friday, April 15, 2011

You may as well laugh.

Since there's no sense in crying over some things.

 I do sometimes go back and re-read some of the drivel that I've written (and STILL find mistakes,  by the way!)  and I had to chuckle when I read about the door installer.  Glad that I can crack myself up I guess.  I wasn't trying to be harsh or anything,  but anyone who works with their hands and is half blind and missing a digit?  Isn't he really handicapped?

Since it's just your average boring Friday here,  and I had this idea that I wanted to at least say something or other,  I figured I'd tell a little story about one of my brothers.  I'm reasonably certain he doesn't mind,  and if he does well,  he's in Nova Scotia,  and I'm in Austria.  So he won't be able to pound me into the ground or anything.  I do seem to vividly recall that he'd like to pin me down on the ground when he was a teenager,  but maybe these days I could either out run him,  or possibly just get him into a head lock.
He's bigger and stronger than me,   but I have the "height advantage".
That's what I tell myself anyway.
Probably best I never find out.

 He just turned 65 in March,  and has a horse farm not too far from the huge metropolis of Wilmot,   Nova Scotia.   It's actually more like "Wilmot Centre",  but that's OK,  Google maps isn't quite "all knowing".
You don't want to blink or look down to figure out what gear you're in if you're going through Wilmot,  or you'll miss it.
I think there's a "Frenchies" on the corner.   That's usually what I look for so I'll know when to turn.
Oh,  by the way,  "Frenchies" is an outfit that handles used clothing.  Kind of like the Goodwill,  but some sort of Nova Scotia version.   Hopefully they never close up and move away,  or I might never find my brother's farm again.

Anyway,   yesterday around four,  I had this flash of an idea to give him a call,  and was particularly proud of myself that I was able to punch the number into the phone without having to try it over again four or five times.  So when his wife Mary answered the phone I simply asked, "Are you having any fun?"  and she couldn't figure out how I could already know that Angus (that's my brother's name) had had a slight "altercation" with a team of horses just a couple days previously.

Well,  I certainly had no clue, and I was just calling because I had meant to call for his birthday,  but with the five hour time difference,  it's sometimes a little tricky.  When I think of these things,  it's usually the middle of the night back home.  Not really a good idea to roust someone out of bed to wish them Happy Birthday.
I know I wouldn't appreciate it.

See,  Angus has had this thing about horses for a few years now.   Probably something along the lines of 25 years or so?   He started out with Belgians,  and since they weren't quite big enough,  he decided to switch up to Percherons.
At one time,  he had 22 in his barn!  But over the last few years,  he's been trying to ease his way out of keeping quite so many.  He didn't actually own all of the 22,  there were two there that were being boarded,  with enough income to pay for the feed for the rest of them.
I think now he's down to around a half dozen or so.

We don't really keep count.

Over the years, since he was going broke having the blacksmith come in, he's had to learn how to be his own farrier, because their shoes are the size of dinner plates.   Plus he's also learned how to make his own harnesses.   A fellow has to do whatever it takes.
Along the way there somewhere,  he's become a bit of a local knowledgeable horsey guy, and has been asked to judge competitions,  as well as having competed in a few of his own. 

Here he is in 2008 (in the black Stetson) judging some sort of horsey competition in Lawrencetown.
I think.   He told me.  I really don't exactly remember.

My understanding is,  that some folks will bring horses to him that need to have some training,  and I think this is where he tends to get into trouble.

The story goes that on Tuesday he was out in the woods with a team of six year old mares that he had been keeping since December.   Now,  I'm not much of a horsey guy,  but as he started to describe this team, I could sense there was a problem.  I didn't even ask if they were his horses,  but at six years old,  and being in need of some "remedial" work well,  that's just not good.
See,  most any horse that hasn't been completely trained at that age is just an accident waiting to happen.  Percherons come in at around a ton apiece,  and if they get an idea in their head well,  if it were up to me,  I'd just stand back and go,  "see ya later".
Oh,  by the way,  it doesn't matter if you're talking about a metric ton or whatever kind of ton.
That's a lot of horse.
Of course.


So when they bolted he tried to stop them.   Which he did.  The first time.  Second time wasn't so lucky.  He did mention something about going around in a couple circles there,  right before he got tossed into a gully and cracked his head on a rock!
 As horses will do,  they ran to the barn.

This is where my "see ya later"  theory comes in?   See?

It's a curious thing about arteries.  When you cut a couple of them on a rock,  they seem to bleed like crazy.   When he finally came in for lunch,  after having unharnessed these two idiot horses and walking back to close the gate,  a decision was made to make a trip to the hospital.
Probably right after Mary took one look at him and almost pooped her drawers.

Seems five stitches were in order.  The report is that,  putting stitches in your head without anaesthetic?
It hurts.
They couldn't stop the bleeding long enough to administer anything.
Also,  that if he had been knocked out,  he might have bled out.
That's not good.

 But the docs weren't done!

 It was then off to Kentville by ambulance for a CAT scan.   And no,  they don't shove somebody's cat on your lap to see if he likes you,  they put your noodle in this machine to make sure you don't have any extra screws loose in your head.   After that it was an ex-ray of his neck,  just to make sure his head stays on the next time he hits it on a rock.
Turns out he does have a mild concussion,  and when he was talking to me on the phone,  he did have a headache,  and for the first time in a long time,  he didn't want to talk on the phone for ever and ever.
(see,  if I'm payin'...he's talkin'.)

 Now you might think that I'm making light of this whole situation,  but you have to realise, we're basically a bunch of idiots,  and we were laughing about this ordeal the whole time he was describing it to me. 
No sense moaning about it.

It's some sort of recessive gene in our family I think.  We've actually been told to "settle down"  at a funeral parlour.  I'm not kidding. 

And really,  it's a good thing he hit his head,  since then at least he can keep working.
See,  he hadn't even made it a year since he laid himself up last May, in a much more serious way.  Like,  getting trampled by a horse,  laid up in a wheelchair with bits of stainless steel in your leg... kind of way.

I have graphic pictures somewhere.  You don't want to see them.

Now,  I'm not one to try and tell anybody just what kind of hobbies they should have.  If you want to jump out of an airplane or,  ride a motorcycle with no helmet or leathers?  Well,  that's up to you.  You might make out OK.  But when your parachute doesn't open or someone makes a left turn in front of you because they "didn't see you",  then it's not going to go so well.
 I might feel bad,  but I won't be really surprised.
 Having said that,  I did ask the question.  "So,  do you think it might be time for a change of hobby?"

It may come to this.

He's thinking it over.

In spite of horse ownership being worse than alcoholism,  he may have to give it up.  Cold turkey.

I think we'll all breathe a sigh of relief.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Back to warm floors.

It's certainly a fine thing to be living in a place that was brand spankin' new when we moved in,  and quite frankly, will look pretty much the same when we move out.  The only slight consideration however,  is that the skills and materials used by the worker bees who built the place,  doesn't always hold up to rigorous scrutiny.
I know I'm a bit of a nit picker,  and I recall once upon a time a comment from a friend of mine when he saw the way I had very carefully cut all the joints for a railing off our back porch.  Something along the lines of the way it had to be in "Bob Land".    I'm sure I took way too much time,  and was way too fussy,  but I knew I'd be looking at it for a while,  and I really didn't want to be fighting the urge to rip it out again each and every time I took out the recycling.  As it is,  there are a few things back home that I want to rip out and "do over",  and I'll get to those things eventually.
 So needless to say,  when we first moved in here,  I had to have a little visit from the near sighted nine fingered door installer,  since he clearly had very little clue,  or simply hadn't finished the job.   Subsequent to his visit,  I ended up adjusting the rest of the doors myself,  since it was just too painful to watch the guy.
Seriously,  he couldn't even see well enough to distinguish between a Torx and Phillips head.

That's kind of an important skill if you're hanging doors.  That and being able to read a level.  He didn't do such a hot job with that part either.

Oh,  and I almost forgot,  we had to have the electrician come back,  since he hadn't left enough copper showing when he was wiring up the panel.   (it's a rule,  trust me)
So of course one of the circuits wasn't getting any juice.  Again,  having electricity running through the wires is important.  Another basic and useful piece of information.
For the rest of it,  I'm willing to more or less look the other way.

More or less.

Here are a few examples....

See the honkin' big crack?

Not enough drywall tape.  Or maybe none at all?

Oh look,  more spaces where there shouldn't be any.

Not a good photo.  Camera doesn't know what to focus on.

See,  there are some flooring manufacturers like Pergo,  who will not stand behind their warranty, and it's a ten year warranty,  if you fail to install their product properly.   They give you very explicit instructions,  one of which is,  the floor needs to move.  Can't hamper that movement in any way.
I don't think these guys were too terribly worried about that.  Also, there seems to be more of these issues out towards the front door than anywhere else.

In a bit of a hurry,  perhaps?

So fine,  you've tolerated my whining up to this point,  but just let me tell you about the one thing that they did really,  really well.    Some genius thought it would be a good idea to have the boiler pipes run under the bathroom floors.

Oh ya,  Baby!   Warm tootsies where it matters!

Yes really,  an actual genius.  What?  I'm not being sarcastic!
Of course,  the fact that they used the wrong kind of tile on said floors would be another complaint,  wouldn't it?

OK,  forget that.

You recall that I had alluded to needing to put the heat back on yesterday?  I guess it was around five,  when my nose was running, and I was starting to feel uncomfortable in spite of adding clothing, when I just decided that there was no way I was going to have any part of that.

 Sorry,  even if we were "back on the farm", I'm sure I'd manage to put another log on the fire,  or at least move a little closer to the stove.   The options here aren't quite the same.  Being on the roof top,  if the outside temperature never goes above about 10,  and today it only got up to around five,  eventually the place just starts to get too cool for comfort. 
Not much point in having central heat,  if you're just going to sit and freeze.

 It didn't take me long to book our hotel in Hengelo for Sunday night.  And yes,  there was a confirmation email,  and I printed off the other stuff to take along.  I still don't know what went wrong with that Rome situation.  I realise I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer, and I don't make notes on little snippets of paper,  so unless there's some sort of electronic bits and bytes coming my way, I'm kinda at a disadvantage.

So this is a place where Travelling Companion has stayed,  but I never have.  Wasn't about to go back to the Eden Star,  since the time we stayed there for a week in March of 08,  they never came around with a vacuum cleaner for the whole week we were there,  and the parking is less than ideal.  Besides,  don't eat there if you can help it.  After a couple less than stellar meals we would just walk around the corner to Buersstraat and eat at the restaurant there. 
Wanted to stay at "Het Witte Paard",  because we like the folks who run the place and were looking forward to a great meal in their restaurant,  but they don't do check-ins after six p.m.
I don't think we'll be to the Dutch border much before 8:30,  so that was out.
It's kind of a "Mom and Pop" type of place,  and they can run the place the way they want I suppose.

So it'll be the "Van der Valk". 

Travelling Companion was completely OK with that choice,  and she seemed to think we might actually be able to get something to eat when we get there.

We'll see how that goes.

 After all,  it's not Spain.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Hey Toto! I think we're in Kansas!

Remember how it's been all nice and sunny and just peachy over the last couple weeks?

Well,  to quote inspector Clouseau,  "not any more".

When I picked up Travelling Companion at the airport last night,  there was some discussion about the bumpiness of the trip back from Belgrade.  Seems the wait staff were able to fire out the sandwiches in a timely manner,  but the drink cart had to be retired,  and one Flight Attendant (OK, I'm sure they'd prefer not to be referred to as "wait staff) had to buckle her self in, without even making it back to her jump seat.
Of course,  this was on JAT airways,  so perhaps they don't even have jump seats?

We've had rain,  wind,  and earlier today we managed to have some hail.  No fire and brimstone,  but it wouldn't surprise me.
Actually no, it's too cold for that.   The trusty thermometer is barely reading 8°C.

So the next topic of conversation was a possible road trip to the Netherlands over the weekend.  Hm.   Not quite as far as driving to Florida,  but still a bit of a hike coming in at around 10 hours.  I suppose for a true Canadian,  that's no big deal,  but Muggins here isn't getting any younger.   Even as a young slip of a thing I'd hear of the boys from Parrsboro, Nova Scotia driving home for the weekend from Etobicoke and it never once occurred to me that that was something I'd ever dream of doing.    That was something like an eighteen hour trip.  Sucks to be that homesick I suppose.
I have to commend their intestinal fortitude though,  especially considering the amount of Moosehead they'd consume once they got there.   And judging by the look (and smell) of them on Monday morning,  there had been a fair bit of drinking going on.

 So then this afternoon,  after having given the notion absolutely no thought whatsoever,  Travelling Companion called out of the blue to ask if I'd like to fly with her to Düsseldorf on Sunday,  rent a car and then drive to the Netherlands?

 "um, OK..."

Far be it from me to just say, "no".   That wouldn't be very sporting.

Seems she wants to go in the worst way,  but has very little desire to either take the train from Amsterdam to Hengelo,  or drive herself on the Autobahn through Germany.
Hengelo is after all,  according to one of our Dutch/Canadian friends,  "out in the Boonies",  so it's a couple hours from Schiphol,  and about an hour and a half from Düsseldorf.

I haven't the slightest idea what the details are at this point,   but at the moment it seems some time on Sunday we'll be heading to the airport.

Meanwhile,  I just might have to put the heat back on.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sometimes I wonder.

How did I even get here?
 OK, maybe nothing that "soul searching"  or any such malarkey.  I just used that word "malarkey"  yesterday,  didn't I?
 Maybe that's significant.
 Here's the thing.  Come Easter Weekend,  Travelling Companion and I are going to Rome.   The one in Italy,  not New York.
 So,  back in March,  after a brief discussion about actually taking some time off and some such miracles,  the first order of business was to book a flight.   Got it.   The evidence of which is posted up on our little cork board next to the kitchen cupboards.  I find I need something tangible,  like some sort of piece of paper.
That whole "paperless society" isn't really in my future I'm afraid.
Well,  with the exception of all our bills here in Wienerland.  Everyone does a pretty good job of quite simply taking the money directly out of our account.   Except for speeding tickets.  I have to show up at the bank for those.  Thankfully none of the clerks I've had so far have felt it necessary to judge.  Probably since speeding tickets are a pretty lucrative cash crop in most parts of Europe,  and they're used to seeing customers come in to pony up 30 or 40 Euros for being like,  12 over.
 Want to send my boarding pass to my crack-berry or smart cell phone?   Um ya,  first I'd need to get the technology,  and then I'd have to figure out how to actually get the information.  I'm pretty content (well,  amazed actually) with the idea that I can print my boarding pass off at home,  and if that doesn't work,  I'll show up at the check-in counter and you can print my boarding pass, just like any other Schmo.
It's OK,  really.
So where was I?
Right.  Rome.

 So then I thought,  I'd better just check on that hotel I was looking at.   Hm,  where's the piece of paper for that one?
No paper.
Slight panic.
Checked my email account.   No confirmation type email.   Checked all folders.   Checked "travel stuff" file on the drive.   Nothing.
Slightly increased panic.

We got no place to stay!   Gah!!
Extreme tightening of the anal sphincter!
I thought I booked something!  Wouldn't I have booked something?
Why didn't I book something?


So fine,  after a couple deep breaths, I go on to (great site by the way)  and after some looking around and reading reviews and other such tedium,  I find and book a decent hotel.   Of course,  any of the places near Vatican City are booked,  since it's Easter Weekend.   Who knew?
So.... there we go!
Continue breathing.  Ease the tension in other "departments".

Feeling pretty good now.  
Everything is in order,  and then I happen to think that,  since I had to sign in to my account on to perform this slight miracle,  maybe I'll just click on the link that says,  "my bookings"  just to make sure all is in order.   Meanwhile,  an email had indeed been sent to my account,  and I had printed out the info.
Remember the "paper"  thing?
Now, have you ever had that entirely sinking feeling?  Like when you're driving along and suddenly stepping on the gas pedal gives no results?  Only silence?  Or you feel a slight breeze and realise you've torn out the ass in your trousers?  And it's a rented Tux?
That one?
Well it turns out,  I HAD booked the flippin' hotel,  back on March 19th!  *gasp*!
There it was.  Plain as day.
Now what?    Can't be in two places at once!   Nor do we want to pay for two places! 

Back to slight panic.

Ah,  but wait!
No need to bring the sphincter into this since,  with certain bookings on,   you can cancel your booking at any time.  Holy crap!
  Is that ever a good thing!   I was very humble and apologetic in my little "explanation",  but maybe people do this sort of thing from time to time?    At least I can only hope I'm not the only one.

I still spent some time this morning looking for some evidence of actually having booked that hotel in terms of some sort of confirmation, and there's nothing.
If anything,  I hold on to way too many old snippets of information,  since I have a near morbid fear of actually cleaning out files and folders.    Admittedly it's better than having a huge four drawer filing cabinet filled with decades old papers,  some of which are manuals and warranties for appliances that wore out and were replaced years ago.
Um,  not that that would be something we might actually have back in our home in Canada or anything.  I'm just giving an example here.  It was just something that popped into my head.
Never mind.

So back to the question. 
How did I even get here?