Saskatchewan Stopover

Approaching Regina’s airport, I got my first glimpse of my beloved coulees.

I’m home at Haven, “living off the land with Charles and Caroline” (that’s what they told me to tell you).

The first part of April has been about racking up as many billable hours as possible. I haven’t had much leisure time and haven’t been in the mood to blog. I’ll pick it up again as I head south and I do have a bunch of drafts in the pipeline, but there just haven’t been enough brain cells left at the end of the day to string together two sentences.

So my parents came back from their holiday on Friday (the 14th) and on Tuesday (the 18th) I headed to Haven. I had an absolutely uneventful and pleasant flights with Westjet, with a short layover in Winnipeg. It was a week where Air Canada and United Airlines were in the news a lot for being despicable to their customers so I want to publicly thank Westjet for reliably being the airline that gets me around without any drama and with smiling personnel who seem to love their job.

Charles and Caroline were waiting for me in Regina when I landed on time at 5:23PM. We were at our hamlet just past 8PM. I’m staying with them since Haven has no water, power, or internet, plus it’ll be easier to pack if I’m not trying to live and cook in my space.

Wednesday morning, Charles and I went to Haven to see if we could start my truck. He reconnected the battery and it took only two tries for my Moya to roar to life, no boost needed! Haven itself was in fine shape, just more mouse poop and spider webs than I expected. The only thing of note is that I now have a proper street address rather than just a land description!

It wound up being a pretty lazy day. I spent a few hours at home figuring out a plan of attack for packing, including reaching the conclusion that I’m better off using cardboard boxes rather than Rubbermaid totes. I plan to unpack quite a bit even while housesitting because I’ll be staying in the guest casita for six month and so it’s not like all my things will spend the summer in cardboard boxes getting mouldy. This way, I don’t have to buy new storage containers for Haven and I won’t have a bunch of useless Rubbermaid totes to store in Mexico.

I also made a call to schedule some service for Moya since she needed two new tires, an oil change, and a minor repair. They couldn’t fit me in till Monday, which didn’t work for me since I wanted to go to Moose Jaw to stretch Moya’s legs. Plus, I had to drive a certain distance and then have the wheels retorqued (the fact that Moose Jaw has a great all you can eat sushi restaurant is purely coincidental). The garage managed to fit me in today, Thursday, for the new tires and we put the rest to Monday.

It was an early morning since I had a largish job to do before heading out in the afternoon to run errands with Caroline in Assiniboia and get the tires put on Moya. I got it done in the nick of time, but, of course, Google is not compatible with the crap internet here. I remembered at the last minute that Bing works well here and was able to do the research I needed to do to get the job sent off. I then headed out with Caroline, dropping her off for her appointment before going to the SGI office (DMV).

There, I picked up the registration I’d paid for by phone on Wednesday. Moya will be duly registered and insured for the next 28 days. After that, she will have a valid plate, but not be street legal in the US and Canada since the Mexico insurance will take over. I also had a new driver’s license done since my current one expires next spring and I don’t want to have to fly back here to renew it! I want to keep it active so that I don’t have a gap in my Canadian driving history even if I end up getting a Mexican license as well. Slight hiccup, the new license won’t come for two weeks and I’m hoping to leave on Tuesday. So added to the list is trying to figure out how to DHL my license to Mérida. There’s always something!

I tested my new real address and their system took it, so it’s legit! It’ll be great to have a proper address on my driver’s license now. It also means that people who wouldn’t ship to me for lack of a street address would now. Actual unexpected progress. Getting an address was going to be my next fight…

The SGI stuff was quick so I went to the bank to drain my USD account to cover my meals on the way down. It’s not much, but whatever I don’t have to convert from CAD will be appreciated.

I then picked Caroline up and we went for a nice lunch at the Greek restaurant where my immediate neighbour works as a server. It was lovely to catch up with her. After, I left Caroline at the library to do the updates on her new Mac. I headed to the gas station to fill up and went next door to the home store to get house numbers for my property. 🙂

It was then time to drop off the truck and I kicked myself for forgetting the laptop so I could do a post, but they wound up being too fast for me to do that anyway! I was able to start the post on my phone and upload a photo, though, so that’s why you get a picture. 🙂

The tires weren’t cheap, but now Moya has shoes I can trust to get me to Mérida. She’s had enough service there for the mechanic to say that my road warrior might not be pretty, but he’d bet that she’ll get me there without incident, which was good news! I found she handled a lot better after the tire service.

I picked up Caroline, we ran a few more errands for her, and then we headed home. She made us a lovely dinner (coquilles St. Jacques!) while I was on standby to run to the basement to pick up pantry items as needed. 🙂

So tomorrow will be a Moose Jaw run for a 300KM run to work out any of Moya’s kinks in case I need the garage to look for anything else on Monday. I’m also going to Bulk Barn to pick up spices.

Saturday, I’ll do a thrift store run to drop some stuff off and start packing. Sunday will be another packing day. Monday will be an Assiniboia day and then I should be able to leave on Tuesday. We shall see if that comes to pass since I still have a bunch of paperwork to sort out, including my bilingual inventory. But I prefer to aim for Tuesday as that’s going to light a fire under my butt.

But let me tell you, I wish I could stay home for a spell.

Last Day at Home and Off to London

My last day at home wasn’t the flurry of activity one would think. I’m absurdly organised and good at managing my time. I methodically ploughed through my to-do list, including getting three loads of laundry done by noon. I was so on top of things that when Charles came to ask me to run an errand with him in the late afternoon, it didn’t throw a wrench in my plans at all.

When we came home from that, with me taking a good long last view of my beloved valley as we came down the hill into the hamlet, it was time to shut down the internet and power and do one final sweep. I almost forgot my toothbrush and… computer charger!

I trundled down the street with my two travel bags as well as a bag filled with what I needed to get me through the night at C&C’s. I’d brought a few things over earlier in the day, including a tote of things I didn’t want to freeze, and would stow the bag in that tote.

Caroline made me an extra special going away dinner. We started with Greek salad, then had roast pork tenderloin, beets, yellow beans, and rice. They bought a whole live pig last year and butchered it themselves, and boy was it delicious! There was a maple syrup glaze on it that was succulent! The beans were home grown, of course, as were the beets that Caroline canned last year. So good! The extra special part of dinner was that she’d made dessert, a strawberry rhubarb pie (with vanilla ice cream). I’m so spoiled!

Needless to say, the food and wine put me into a coma and I slept pretty well from 10:30 to 3, then, thankfully, I managed to fall asleep for nearly another three hours.

It was pouring rain when I stumbled downstairs, enjoying coffee on the porch with Caroline as we looked at our damp green hills. I forced myself to have a bit of breakfast, just some toast with peanut butter and honey, and then got ready, changing into my airplane outfit, closing up my bags, and stowing what wasn’t coming with me.

The plan had been to leave at 7:00 and we pulled out at 7:15. The drive to the airport in Regina took almost 2.5 hours, but they flew by! As we approached the exit for the airport, I once again expressed how grateful I was for the lift and Caroline replied, “We just wanted to get rid of you and the surest way to do that was to make sure you got to the airport all right!” Bwa ha ha ha. I love her and Charles so much.

We only had a few minutes at the unloading point at the airport to say goodbye and then off I went. I’d checked in the day before and had my boarding passes on my phone, so I went straight to security. There was a bit of a lineup, but it went quickly. It was rather a pain to get my electronics out of my computer bag since it was packed so tightly, but I got it done by the time it was my turn to put stuff in bins.

I got through the scanner without it beeping and then came what felt like an interminable wait for my stuff to get through the X-ray machine. But everything scanned okay and they didn’t make me open my bags or take off my shoes.

Then, came a wait. There’s not much at the Regina airport terminal. I got a second breakfast and a really good coffee and spent some time doing online stuff before calling SaskTel to cancel my service. That was painless and the reps I spoke to were very excited about my trip.

We boarded on time. It was very quick flight to Toronto and I bought a sandwich on board to eat. The airplane sandwiches are always good and fresh and no more expensive than what you get on the ground, so I don’t see the point of trying to juggle a bag of food onto the plane with my gear. Speaking of which, my gear was perfectly sized. My computer bag was really at the limit for under the seat stowage, but I could actually have expanded my suitcase if I wanted to.

My layover in Toronto was really short. We landed at about 5:10 and my next flight was departing at 6:00, which meant I really only had at most 40 minutes to get to the gate. It took forever to deplane and no one else appeared to be in a hurry. I was way at the back of the plane and pleaded to folks to let me through, but no one cared. By the time I got into the terminal, it was 5:30. There was no signage, no departures board, no one to give directions, nothing. I had no idea where I was supposed to catch my flight to St. John’s and didn’t want to risk going too far in the wrong direction looking for assistance. I finally spotted a WestJet agent who was in no hurry to help me. She was chatting with someone else about her plans for the weekend and gave me a dirty look when I said, “Excuse me…”  If there was a time for rudeness, this was it and I firmly said that I needed my gate info. She finally brought it up and the gate was pretty much clear across the terminal. OMG. I raced off and with Pearson being under renovations, there were detours. It took forever to reach the gate, where they were at final boarding call! According to the agent who checked me in, I was literally two minutes from missing my connection. PHEW.

Having made my flight to St. John’s, I could finally relax since I had a longer layover there and now knew that I would very likely get to London on schedule.

There was frost on the window near the end of that leg of my journey:

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Here’s how my two bags stack for easy transport through the airport. I do have to say that this got really heavy by the the time I got through Gatwick and I was happy to have a backpack.

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My layover in St. John’s felt like it took no time at all. I was disappointed that there was no food to be bought that late at the terminal. I knew I could get a sandwich on the plane, but had hoped for a “real” meal.

I was a little freaked out when I got paged, but it was because they wanted to make sure I was there since I hadn’t checked any luggage!

Before I knew it, it was time to board for the last leg of my journey. I’d hoped to sleep, but the 5-hour flight wasn’t conducive to that. There was a lot of turbulence, so there were constant announcements, plus I was famished and it took almost two hours to get our first beverage service, when I could get a sandwich. But like with my previous two flights, I did nothing on the plane, but close my eyes and at least attempt to doze.

The clouds were thick like snow as we pushed east:

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For the second time in my life, I watched the sun rise over the Atlantic.

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Sometimes, there was enough break in the clouds to see the ocean:

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Ireland!

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We flew over what felt like the whole of the south of England, coming up the North Sea coast. I was struck by how rural the country appeared, with so much farmland and only small clusters of cities. Gatwick Airport is well outside of London, so I didn’t get a first glimpse of the city from the air. We landed right on schedule at 8:20am local time.

All I wanted after we landed was to wash my face and brush  my teeth. The first bathroom I encountered was over crowded, but the second was empty. Feeling a little more human, I was ready to face passport control. The long lineup moved quickly. I’d already filled in my tourist card on the plane, so there wasn’t much to do when I got to an agent. I just confirmed how long I was staying and why and that was it, and got my first stamp in a passport since the last time I got to the UK!

Next was customs, but I had nothing to declare, so I just breezed through that. And then, I was in the main part of Gatwick airport and it was time to figure out how to get to London, then across London! Yes, I’d done my research, but it was contradictory and I’d made the decision to figure it out on the spot. To be continued!

Landed in London

I have been up for just over 24 hours straight now, so this is just a brief check-in. I don’t think I’ll blog much while I’m here, to be honest. But I will take lots of pictures and notes and blog when I have the time and energy!

It’s been quite a journey to get here:

Car to Regina

Planes to Gatwick

Train to London

Underground to Queen’s Park

My last connection on the Tube! Was I glad to see it! Gatwick to London Victoria on the train, London Victoria to Oxford Circus on the Tube Victoria line, Oxford Circus to Queen's Park on the Bakerloo line, then switch to the overground part of the Bakerloo line.

My last connection on the Tube! Was I glad to see it! Gatwick to London Victoria on the train, London Victoria to Oxford Circus on the Tube Victoria line, Oxford Circus to Queen’s Park on the Bakerloo line, then switch to the overground part of the Bakerloo line.

Overground to Kensal Green

My own two feet to the Airbnb!

I caught glimpse of the Palace of Westminster and the London Eye, bought an Oyster card, and mastered the Tube. Not a bad day considering I feel like a zombie!

I’m off to find food and to get very far away from my bed!

Sleep Deprived

I’m home from my very brief trip to Quebec! Between the sleep deprivation (I always sleep poorly at my mother’s for a variety of reasons), a cold (thanks, kids!), and the high carb diet, I’m feeling surprisingly rundown. But I am glad to have seen everyone.

Sunday, my mother and I spent the bulk of the afternoon working on the floor plan for my cabin! So exciting! 🙂 I’m nowhere near ready to start on construction, but having a very rough plan will help me make some decisions over the winter.

Monday, I borrowed the car and drove to Ville LaSalle to see my cousin. We had lunch and she sent me on my way with books and Japanese treats!

I was out later than planned (lost track of time gabbing…), but I made it back to Chambly in time to have dinner with my family and my grand-mother. We had pâté chinois (shepherd’s pie), so that was two times in one day eating beef! I very rarely seek out red meat, but I do eat it if it is offered, no problem.

It was a very early start today, 6AM, with just enough time to finish packing and gobble down a cup of coffee and a little cottage cheese. My step-mother gave me two beautiful wool vests that I’ve always admired and my sister gave me two tops, a pair of brand new jeans, and an incredible jean dress (yay for a 60lb weight loss!), so let’s just say my suitcase was VERY full.  So full, in fact, that I wound up layering the two vests!

I managed to squeeze the books from my cousin into my tote, but the Japanese treats and a small loaf of my mother’s fruitcake had to travel in a plastic grocery bag. I love my new carry on bag (a Grand Traveler by Vera Bradley), but I could have carried a bigger tote than I did, been better able to distribute my load, and would have looked less overloaded for carry on. My bag still fit fine under the seat since it was 100% squishable, but I got a scolding from the flight attendant for the Montreal to Winnipeg flight. She also made me put my tote in the overhead compartment even though it had traveled between my legs the whole way east and barely gave me time to get what I needed from it for the flight. It was only a 2.5 hour flight, so it wasn’t worth getting up and opening bins to find the one with my iPad, computer, wallet, passport, etc…, but I was one of the first ones up to claim her bag when we arrived!

I had hoped to be at the airport for 7:30 this morning, but Montreal traffic is disastrous and we got to the terminal around 8:10. Boarding was to commence at 8:20 and the flight was departing at 8:55. Thankfully, there was no line up at security! I learned from my Regina security experience and was not wearing a belt or under-wire! My head scarf did get patted down, a first, but I was asked beforehand if I was wearing it for religious purposes and if it was okay to touch my head. It was one of my easiest and quickest security checks ever! Even my mother’s fruitcake, which looks like a block of hashish, got through no questions asked!

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My mother’s fruitcake didn’t raise any eyebrows. Dang that stuff is GOOD. It’s going to be a nice treat on high activity days. I have it with a piece of cheese and it makes a full meal. Next to it, some of the Japanese treats!

After security, it was a mad dash across most of the airport to get to a gate that felt like it was halfway to Winnipeg! I arrived just as boarding started, so I had just enough time to use the washroom first.

Other than being in an aisle seat and not having access to my tote, the flight to Winnipeg was good. It was my fourth time (at minimum) landing in Winnipeg in six years and I can officially say that there’s something up with landing in Winnipeg. I have never had a smooth landing there and I always arrive with my ears blocked!

I was quite hungry by the time I deplaned, but I only had about 40 minutes till boarding for the next flight, not enough time to get a meal at TGI Fridays (a YWG treat when I have time). I settled on some of the strangest sushi I have ever seen as it contained HUMMUS. Made with brown rice, it was a satisfying meal, but rather strange!

The flight to Regina was super quick. We were in the air less than an hour, barely enough time to receive and drink a cup of coffee! This commuter flight had ‘Skycheck’, which I love!!! It’s the best of both worlds: you don’t have your big bag on the plane, but you don’t have to wait at baggage claim to get it back. I also had Skycheck’ from Ottawa to Montreal. There, we boarded at ground level and put our bag on a trolley. In Winnipeg, we boarded higher up and our bags were sent down to ground level on a conveyer belt.

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Can you spot my bag? I’m such a girl! 😀 There’s no mistaking mine, though, in that sea of black!

I left Montreal in a cold drizzle and arrived back on my beloved Prairies in sun drenched HEAT. Landing in Regina, I didn’t have a feeling of ‘being home’, but I still had 2.5 hours of driving to do! I found my truck without any trouble, it started fine (wasn’t worried!), and then it was time to pay for parking. That’s $11 per day, so I expected to pay $77, but was only charged $71. Six bucks is six bucks! 🙂

I probably should have picked up food while I was in the city, but I just wanted to get home. It wasn’t until the Moose Jaw skyline (what little there is!) disappeared behind me and the landscape started to undulate that I started to get that little hit of emotion that told me that I was heading HOME.

It was wonderful to pull into my very own property for the very first time in my life after a long trip far away! I topped up the water tank, fired up the water heater, had a shower, and then collapsed in my very comfy bed for a much needed nap!

Tomorrow, it’s back to work and between spurts of that, time to close up the property, pack up the truck, and get back on the road!