Mid-August

It’s incredible to be at mid-August and to know that these glorious hot and sunny days — a perpetual summer of sorts — are going to continue. After spending months hearing folks up north whine about how hot it is, I’ll soon get to hear them whine about how cold it is and how they want to go somewhere with better weather. Hopefully, I’ll be ready to host them by then. ūüôā

I used to hate cold and snow and winter until I thought I was stuck with them for life and learned to embrace them. And then, I took a train ride to Google headquarters in Mountain View, California, in late June of 2007. It was then that I first had the life altering realisation that not everyone in the world lives in difficult climates where you only get a few precious weeks of glorious sunny weather.

It was in Dawson City, Yukon, in 2009 that I first experienced living in a climate of unrelenting heat for an entire season. I was quite heavy back then and it was difficult to handle the heat, but all that sunshine revitalised me.

And it was in Mazatl√°n, Mexico, over the course of of the 2014-2015 winter that a rather lighter me discovered that she can thrive in a hot, humid, sunny climate. I learned from the locals how to keep my house comfortable and clean without air conditioning and how to keep myself from getting heat stroke walking upwards of 20KM in 30C/86F or higher temperatures at all times of day as I explored Mazatl√°n. I knew by the end of those first six months that while I have housekeeping-related issues with living in a humid tropical climate, it makes for a much healthier me. I make much better diet choices and I don’t have my skin issues here, plus the sunshine helps my mood tremendously.

So, really, I had no qualms in moving to M√©rida no matter how many people — mostly Mexicans! — warned me about the heat here. But very surprisingly, I’ve been here since May and have yet to experience temperatures that come close to what I had to deal with in Bulgaria last year. I don’t think we’ve passed 35C/95F plus humidity here while it rarely dipped below 40C/104F plus humidity over there!

The construction of the house I’m minding and the owners’ wishes dictate that I keep the AC on 24/7 to keep humidity levels low. My compromise that I run the AC at about 28C/82F, which is still warm enough that if I’m doing something physical, like cleaning or exercising, I can still get overheated. This means that there is very little contrast with the temperature outside and I never have that moment of, oh, I don’t want to go out because it’s so much more comfortable in here.

The only time I have issues with the climate is the same as many Meridanos — spending time in my truck in the city. I’m sure there are idiots who don’t realise that cars get very hot in even a cooler climate, with temperatures reaching as high as 50C/122F (or more) if you are unable to park in the shade, and who would perceive my having a problem being in such an environment as being unable to handle the local climate.

Well, a very long day of running around like last Thursday could have been life threatening. I actually took my temperature when I got home and even with all the precautions I took to stay cool during the day — waiting in AC or on the sidewalk in the shade rather than my truck, drinking plenty of liquids, and enjoying the cool breeze on the long stretch of highway between M√©rida and home — I was still hyperthermic (feverish) when I got in, with a temperature of almost 39C/102F.

The “truck days” are what wipe me out here because I’m spending time in temperatures of 20C/36F more than the actual ambient temperature. It’ll be nice when I live in town and can ditch the truck and walk almost everywhere. I also know from Bulgaria that even if I get the AC fixed on the truck, that doesn’t necessarily mean much if I’m stuck driving in full sun with no shade, but it’ll help and, of course, make it much easier to get groceries home. A cooler works great for a spell, but then turns into an oven!

I took yesterday off to catch up on my exterior chores. I did all the hard work before the sun got too high in the sky around 11:30AM, then retired to a lounge chair in partial shade with a book, a beer, and Puppy until the sun backed off a bit. Then, I got back to whipping the garden into shape. I probably spent more actual time outside than I did on Thursday and was comfortable and energetic all day. It was a really relaxing day that I really needed.

I’m heading back into M√©rida first thing tomorrow for my first meeting with the owners of the house I’m hoping to rent. Thankfully, I’m going straight there so that I won’t look too crumpled. Let’s just say I wasn’t at my freshest by my 4PM on Thursday. ūüôā

Here’s another teaser/hint about the house, an aerial view of it. Notice the incredible luxury of it not sharing any walls with neighbours:

First Anniversary of Living in the 21st Century

It was a year ago today that I got internet access in Bulgaria and discovered that it is possible to stream a movie while downloading something in the background. I finally had 21st-century quality internet.

So today is my first anniversary of living in the 21st century at last. It’s been a full year of paying a reasonable amount for internet access, not worrying about bandwidth usage, dealing with ISPs who understand that internet is vital and needs to be fixed NOW, being in locations where free unlimited WiFi is ubiquitous, and getting a taste of that Star Trek-like future where the internet is just there.

Oh, it hasn’t been perfect by far. But when I look at my first 20 years of internet access in Canada and compare it to the last year spent mostly in Europe and Mexico, it’s like I jumped ahead a full century, as evidenced by how difficult it was to be offline that week I was home.

I can now take any job a client sends me, even if it’s a huge video, and because I can reliably download tons of audio in a day I’ve been able to grow my business and take on more clients.

Netflix is actually part of my routine now and I can download reliably from the iTunes store. So I’ve considerably cut down on torrenting (the only download method that works on slow and flaky internet).

All my device updates are done as they come out and the ever increasing security breaches with Macs aren’t as nervewracking since I can get the security update right away.

I can now sync my calendar, notes, and to-dos between my devices and have considerably cut down on how much paper I use and am less scattered.

In the next year, I want to learn what podcasts are all about and start backing up remotely (on top of the local backup).

But first, the challenge of getting myself hard wired to internet at my first home in Mexico. I’ve been promised that that will not go smoothly, but with 20 years of dealing with stupid Canadian ISPs under my belt, I can take anything TelMex or whomever I end up with throws at me! ūüėÄ

Hove to Gatwick to Iceland to Quebec (With Bonus Views of Greenland)

I was awake just before my 5:30 alarm this morning. I quietly slipped out of the house by about 6:10, with my train to Gatwick being at about 6:30. I was surprised that it was already light out at that hour. Moira had given me a heads up that the caf√© at the Hove station is decent and inexpensive, so I grabbed from there a coffee to go with the croissant I’d bought at Tesco’s last night.

Train was on time and rather full as I’m imagine it’s a commuter since it goes to London Bridge. It was a quick trip to Gatwick, even with stopping to attach more cars at the stop prior to the airport.

Wow Air hadn’t let me check in online and their website said that the counter would open three hours before my flight, so about 7:50, but it was open when I got there at about 7:20. As I suspected, I had to check in in person so they could examine my carry-on luggage. Their scale is inaccurate as it weighed my suitcase as being quite a bit heavier than it is, but they let it through since my other bag was under the limit. I then had an absolutely painless and quick trip through security, complete with complimentary full body massage…

I then had a couple of hours to kill. I popped into a Boots to get some water and saw that they had a meal deal for just ¬£3.50, so I grabbed a full litre of water, a bag of crisps, and what turned out to be an amazing Moroccan style chicken wrap complete with raisins. I would regret not buying more food…

We boarded on time and left pretty much on time. The cloud cover was very thick.

Before I knew it, we were approaching Iceland.

It looked like an alien world!

The highway seems to be out in the middle of absolutely nowhere.

We arrived at Keflavik Airport a few minutes late. I only had a one-hour layover, so I was glad I was right at the front of the plane. I really wanted a bathroom and food, but my first priority was to check the status of my flight to Montreal…. Delayed one hour. I was actually happy about that! The bathroom and food lineups were insanely long and I wouldn’t have been able to do either with my original layover length.

The bathrooms were impressive. Each cubicle is its own complete little bathroom!

What was not so impressive was that the bathroom was flooding and most of it was about to be shut down. You can’t see it well in this picture, but water was pouring through the ceiling!

Food was incredibly expensive, and not just by airport standards. I knew that if something was, say, 1,500¬†kr√≥na, that meant it was roughly 15USD, and from¬†¬†that, I could get to the rough Canadian price. I bought their cheapest sandwich, ham and cheese (no mustard as that was several dollars more expensive),a yoghurt, because I’d been told I had to try this brand…

and some Icelandic chocolate…

…which was very odd and not very chocolately. More vanilla-y. You can tell just by the colour that it’s not normal chocolate.

My meagre lunch will end up costing me about 20CAD. But, hey, I get an Icelandic charge on my Visa statement this month. ūüôā

Before I knew it, my Icelandic stopover was done.

After a snooze, Greenland was upon me…

Which was good preparation for the mess that awaited me in Montreal!

It was a really easy and effortless travel day, yay! Now, I’ve been up almost 24 hours and it’s way past time for bed…

Brightoned Out, But So Glad I Went

I forced myself out of bed early this morning for two reasons: 1) to get a bit of work done so I wouldn’t have a daunting amount left after my outing; 2) to encourage me to get to sleep early…

My destination for today was Brighton proper. My host strongly recommended that even though it’s only a 3mi/5KM round trip on foot that I buy a ¬£2.90 return ticket and go on the train to save my energy, which I think was very good advice. I headed out around 9:45¬†to take the 10:08 train, but I got in with plenty of time to catch the 9:59 even with having to stop to collect my previously purchased ticket.

That put me in Brighton just past 10:00 and I headed out of the station to my first destination of the day. There was plenty of signage and clues that I was heading to the touristy part of town.

The first touristy thing of interest that I saw was the Brighton Dome, an arts venue. It is part of the Royal Pavillon complex and is quite impressive from outside!

I walked around the Dome and got my first view of the Royal Pavillon. Keep reading for more details, but let’s just say that I was not expecting this in Brighton and am so happy my host and her decorator put it on my must-do list! There were even palm trees by it, adding to the exotic feel.

I wandered up North Street to find a second breakfast.

Then sat in front of the entrance to the Royal Pavillon to enjoy my last sausage roll and really good coffee from Greggs.

Then, it was time to enter what is, bar none, the most incredible building I have ever had the privilege of visiting.

Unfortunately, interior photography is not allowed in King George IV’s seaside pleasure palace. But the are tons of high resolution photographs on the palace’s website. Please head there now to at least look at photos of the banquet hall and its dragon chandelier. This palace was sold and completely stripped by Queen Victoria, who did not find it a suitable home for her family, but was bought by the city and carefully restored over the years to give an inkling of how sumptuous it was in the days of George IV. Spoiler: while the outside is of decidedly¬†Indian influence, the interior decor is of Chinese influence!

I could have spent a day going through the palace as there were so many exquisite details to take in, but it was overrun by school children and hard to visit leisurely. ūüôĀ I think the music room was my favourite, but the dragon chandelier that is just two feet shorter than Miranda (!) was the most memorable feature.

Entrance to the palace is £12.50, or you can buy online a combination pass with the Brighton Museum for £15 (plus play an additional £2 for the palace audioguide if you want to get any real value out of your tickets). So the museum was my next stop.

It’s adjacent to the Dome.

The museum has a hodgepodge of exhibits, most of which are behind glass, so difficult to photograph. The building held  more interest, to be honest. Here are photos of a few things that caught my eye.

The tiles are gorgeous and have so much depth!

I enjoyed making a motif of Iranian-style tiles.

This turquoise colour is very traditional in Iran.

This pot looks like a beautiful work of art, but is a”stealth bomb.” The background of the images are of unspeakable wartime horrors.

This stack of crockery has a rod going all the way through it to hold it.

There was an exhibit about how Brighton was the place to come for a “dirty weekend.” This is very much England’s Sin City.

The mosaic floor in parts of the museum was a work of art.

This French-inspired bathing costume was the standard in Brighton for a long time.

I really liked these.

This one looks like a rainy day viewed through a window.

This one is deceptively simple. So many colours in it!

Frankly, at ¬£5.20, I don’t think the museum is worth a detour unless you pair it with the Royal Pavillon and basically get in for half price.

I was ready for lunch when I came out of the museum and knew where to go, a little Japanese restaurant right in front of the Dome. Get this. I was thinking I wanted Asian noodles for lunch and was going to ask my host if she could recommend a place, but she beat me to it! It’s rather scary how well she’s gotten to know me! The restaurant is Pompoko and it was super busy, always a good sign. I went with their lunch special of udon noodles with prawns and squid. This picture is terrible, but if you squint, you can see how they cut the squid to make it more tender. This was crazy good!

I then meandered my way down to the water.

My destination was, of course, the tourist trap that is the Brighton Pier.

The pier is free to access, so I got to take it all in without spending a penny. The entire structure is owned by one company so prices are the same throughout all the shops. Not much was open today.

There are free deck chairs to use on the pier. I imagine these go very quickly in the hotter months!

At the end of the pier are a bunch of rides, some for kids, some for adults.

I learned while watching a programme recently that that tower at the back with a slide is called a helter-skelter.

I eventually reached the end of the pier. I’m looking towards France here.

Spot the annoying typo.

The last thing on my list was to walk through “The Lanes,” Brighton’s shopping district in a maze of narrow lanes not unlike the bazaar in Sarajevo.

On the way there, I paused for a gelato, surprising myself when I picked “sour cherry,” which was exactly that, with very tart fruit contrasting pleasantly with the smooth vanilla ice cream.

Brighton Square.

This block of flats does not suit the ambiance of the neighbourhood.

Most of the shops in The Lanes sell jewelry.

I didn’t linger long and decided that I was ready to go home after having a beer.

More pretty tile work at a hotel.

Another church made of flint.

This pub seemed welcoming.

I ordered a half pint of bitter and was offered a choice of four. I went with their darkest and strongest, Laine’s Best Bitter. So pretty! One of the options was an American pale ale, so I’m thinking that’s what I have to look for in North America.

I then meandered my way back to the train station.

But took a detour up a very steep hill to check out St. Nicholas’ Church.

I am fascinated by the use of the flint as a construction material. It is exquisite!

And here I am back at the Brighton train station, where there was a train only going to Hove leaving in two minutes. Talk about good timing with trains today!

I’m glad I went to Brighton for the day, but it’s definitely not a place I would care to return to and I’m happy I stayed in Hove. As I’d been warned, Brighton proper is very dirty, run down, and full of panhandlers. It’s also very tourist and gaudy. I can imagine that there are much nicer places to go for a seaside holiday in England. But the Royal Pavillon is worth the detour!

When I got into Hove, I had the bright idea of picking up my ticket for Gatwick tomorrow to save me a step. Well, I witnessed a distraught young girl have her money eaten by a machine. She said that there’s never anyone working at the Hove station and that¬†when this has happened in the past, she was never able to get her money back. A nice man stepped in to buy her a ticket on his card before I could offer, so she was able to get home. But that sure validated my feelings of hopelessness the other night when I missed my stop!

I popped into Tesco to pick up a pizza and a small bottle of wine for dinner. One of the first things my host showed me in her kitchen was how to use the grill to heat up a pizza, so I knew I wouldn’t have any trouble doing that for my dinner.

Now, my host is the lovely Moira! I don’t like to say where I stay when I’m there, but I can finally¬†give a shoutout to her and her ¬†Airbnb listings. Coming home tonight, I marvelled that I’ve been living with her a full week and haven’t gone nuts yet! ūüôā Her home is unfussy, cosy, clean, and so welcoming. I could make meals at home if I wanted, watch telly in the lounge with her in the evening, and just live my normal routine. It says a lot that I felt comfortable leaving the door to my office open while I worked and didn’t feel the need to squirrel myself away to¬†be as invisible as possible.

My European adventure has¬†wound down. If I have time to grab a late lunch in Iceland tomorrow instead of just rushing through the airport, that will be icing on the proverbial cake! It’s been incredible and I feel so grateful to have had this opportunity.

Now, it’s time to go pack. I’m told WOW Air is extremely strict and won’t let me on with my purse in addition to my backpack and suitcase, so I have to get everything packed the way it was when I came over here. Even though I actually have less than when I arrived, I’ve been struggling with the packing, so I really need to go spend some time on that. Then bed, because 5:30 is going to come really soon…