Tag Archives: Travel

Fine Travels


I’m fine.

 

No, really, I’m fine.

 

Ok, I’m a little stressed, but I’m fine.

 

Maybe more than a little stressed because I’m traveling, and travel is stressful.

 

Did you know that Fakeipedia says that travel is the 3rd most stressful thing anybody can put themselves through, right behind missing the winning field goal in the Superbowl, and supervising a field trip to a gunpowder factory with 62 seven year olds who’ve just eaten a 2 pound bag of sugar… each? It’s on the Internet so it must be true.

I imagine that the amount of stress from travel depends on the type of travel combined with how far you are going. For instance, when we get off of our couch, during the commercial break of Sheriff Lobo, and travel to the fridge for another “delicious” Pabst Ultra-Lite with “Lime”, the stress is fairly low.

When we get off of our couch, during the commercial break of Sheriff Lobo, and travel to Chongju North Korea by steerage on a Turkish oil tanker for another “delicious” Glorious Leader Malt Liquor™, it’s a little more stressful.

Air travel seems to fall somewhere in between these two examples, (even though it can feel a lot like steerage on an oil tanker) and you would think that it would get less stressful the more you flew. Sadly, this is not the case.

 

If you are a person who only flies occasionally, say once every few years, air travel becomes an exciting stressful adventure. You start by booking a ticket to London England, nine months before you want to travel, because there is a Super-Duper-Seat-Sale where you can save 3% on your ticket (not including security fees, airport fees, taxes, and flight attendant polyester uniform surcharges), but you’ll have to pay extra for all of your luggage and seat selection.

Then 6 months before you fly, you see a Facebook event about a Sheriff Lobo festival that happens in Cornwall, three days before you are due to arrive in the UK, so you change your flight in order to attend, (for a flight change and internet inconvenience fee) and start combing the Value Villages for cowboy hats, sheriff badges, and a Deputy Perkins bald cap.

But then 3 months before you go, you discover that the Sheriff Lobo festival is only celebrating season 2, which is when they changed the format and added that stupid alien deputy from outer space, and you are NOT subjecting yourself to those horrors again, so you change back to the flight you originally had (for a repeat business indecision fee) but you keep the Sheriff Lobo costume so you can wear it around the house and to weddings.

Two months before you are due to leave, the Canadian economy takes a nose dive, and the British economy surges due to the rise in the price of scones, and you end up needing $14.45 Canadian to buy a Pound Sterling, but you’ve already booked your vacation days from work, so you can’t cancel.

But then you see something on the Twitter about a copycat Burning Man festival called Smoldering Dude that takes place just outside of Butte Montana. They encourage participants to bring their musical instruments and “Jam whilst the Dude smolders”, and since you just bought that one of a kind amazing banjo off of Ebay, you think “I can smolder”.

 

So you change your flight again (for a rudeness levy and a British colony rejection fee) and prepare for the trip by practicing Radiohead on your banjo, cutting a bunch of holes in your Wranglers, and growing a beard so you can fit in with the rest of the Butte Smolderers.

Two weeks before the trip, you start gathering all the things you need and start packing. After packing, you decide that a giant rolling suitcase might look out of place at Smoldering Dude, so you go on to Ebay and buy a top of the line 80 litre German made backpack that is constructed from the same space age polymers that were used to make The CERN Large Hadron Collider. It only cost you a nonrefundable $1800 because you used some of your frequent flyer points along with a gift card that you got from Secret Santa two years ago, otherwise it would have been $2100.

So you unpack your Jar Jar Binks super-roller suitcase and you congratulate yourself for being a savvy shopper.

The next day you see the exact same backpack in a window at the mall for $49.95.

 

The day after that, whilst getting all of your travel documents together, you discover that your passport expires right in the middle of your trip, the same day that they will try and light the hundred foot stick figure that is made from wet hay and fire retardant wicker. You can’t miss the excitement of smoldering the Dude!

So you rush out and get yourself a prison photo and then run to the passport office and fill out the paperwork for a rush renewal (which includes a very large tardiness fee and the standard secret government agency intrusion tax). It should be ready for pick-up the day before you leave, so everything will work out fine. Yes, it’ll be fine.

A week later, you start to get worried about whether your backpack is going to arrive in the mail, so you repack the Jar-Jar Binks super-roller and hope the smolderers will think that it’s bitchin’, and welcome you into their smoldering fold.

 

That night you get an email, from Ebay, announcing that the backpack will be delivered by courier the day before your trip, the same day that you’re supposed to pick up your passport. Oh crap.

So the day before your trip you rush out first thing in the morning to receive your passport and pay the penitentiary photo pose payment, and rush back to your residence hoping you didn’t miss the delivery.

 

Sure enough, as you round the corner, you see a big truck that is just about to pull away, and a note pasted to your door, that you just know says something like “Sorry we missed you, but we were watching your place and waited until you left to make the delivery. You can pick up your package at our offices, which are located on a dirt road 40 miles outside of the city. Our office hours are from 1:15 pm until 1:45 pm. Please bring 9 pieces of photo ID and a note from a priest to collect your package.”

So you run at top speed screaming “Stop!” and throw yourself in front of the truck, skinning your knee and dropping your new passport into a puddle in the process.

The driver kindly releases your package, (after you pay the vehicle obstruction fine) and you unpack the Jar-Jar Binks super-roller, pack your newly acquired Überteuert brand backpack, and try to dry your passport off with a hairdryer. Even though it was a harrowing day…  you’re fine. Everything’s going to be fine.

 

You arrive at the airport after a sleepless night with your Überteuert on your back, a banjo in its case, and wearing the Sheriff Lobo costume complete with Wranglers that have holes cut in them.

When you check in, the attendant hands you some bad news.

 

“I’m sorry sir, but your musical instrument can not be brought on as carry-on luggage, you’ll have to check it”

“I can’t check this! It’s a Stradivarius banjo! Its name is Bob.”

“I’m sorry, but your strangely gender specific eighteenth century Italian banjo cannot be brought onboard… unless you buy it a seat.”

“Fine then, that’s what we’ll do. Bob can have his own seat. Fine.”

So you buy Bob a seat (which includes a non-biological passenger surcharge).

 

Then as you pass through security, you’re stopped again.

 

“Sir, impersonating an officer of the law is against government regulations, you can’t fly dressed like that.”

“But these are my Sheriff Lobo threads!”

“Sorry, in order to proceed you’ll just have to be a Lobo without the sheriff. Hand over the badge and hat.”

 

Reluctantly you comply and step through the metal detector, which sets off all of the klaxons.

 

“Sir, do you have anything in your pockets?”

“No.”

“Are you wearing anything metal?”

“I’m wearing my commemorative Lionel Richie sequined boxer shorts… are sequins metal?”

“Sir, step into that room over there and somebody will be with you shortly.”

 

After a quick strip search (and an antiquated pop culture underpants levy), you head to your gate just as you hear your last name being called.

 

“Congratulations sir, you’ve been upgraded.”

“Finally, something good has happened today.”

“That’s right Bob, you now have a seat in first class.”

“Wait, I’m not Bob. Bob is my banjo, they made me get him a seat right beside me.”

“Oh, well then, your banjo has been upgraded to first class then.”

“Well where am I?”

“You’re in steerage.”

 

So you watch your beloved stringed instrument board the plane when zone 1 is called, and then you wait for your turn when zone 37 is finally announced. You reach your middle seat and find that you’re sitting between a four year old child and its mother who has the flu. When you offer to switch seats with the mother, she insists that her child stays farther away so it doesn’t catch the flu and she’ll just talk over you when needed.

Later, when the flight attendant brings you a quarter can of flat soda, you can just see past the curtain into first class where Bob is enjoying a glass of Château Lafite Rothschild Cabernet Sauvignon with his meal of pheasant in a truffle reduction served over a pomegranate risotto with a side of sautéed fingerling pumpkins.

You try to enjoy the inflight entertainment system, but their copy of Dumb and Dumber 2 is only in Portuguese with Korean subtitles. However, if you strain to hear, you can pick up the live performance in first class of Sir Ian Mckellen reading his favourite Maya Angelou poems.

 

After you disembark and collect Bob from his personal concierge, you head to collect your Überteuert from the luggage carousel, but it is nowhere to be found. When you enquire, you discover that it has been mistakenly sent to Southern Liechtenstein, but you can get it back in four to six weeks (after you pay the European wayward baggage tariff).

As you leave the airport, you are greeted by the smoulderers who agreed to pick you up in their 1976 Ford Pinto.

“Hey! You made it! And you brought Bob, that’s fantastic! We can jam at the event, but I have to warn you that we can’t play any Radiohead due to their views on fire retardant wicker. Not cool man, not cool. So how was your trip?”

 

 

“It was fine… just fine.”

 

banjo

Tagged , , , ,

There be rocks… and crêpes… but mostly rocks…


The drive from Plourac’h to nearby Huelgoat would be the only time on the entire trip where transportation between destinations would not be by train. Andre offered to drive us, for the cost of petrol, the 25 kilometers along the winding and scenic roads of Bretagne.

20140516-010448.jpg

We were greeted by Paolo and Julie, the owners of Les Glycines B&B where we would be staying for the next 4 nights.

20140516-010649.jpg

After stashing our stuff, we took a walk around the Huelgoat townsite to get our bearings, and then some lunch. Like a lot of places in France, many stores and restaurants are open for lunch (11 until 1 or 2), close in the afternoon, and then reopen during the dinner hours (5 until 9 mostly). It was just after 1, so we needed to find a place quickly if we wanted to eat.

Fortunately, right around the corner from the B&B was a crêperie that L recognised from her research of the area, so we ducked inside out of the pleasant drizzle of rain that had started.

20140516-011049.jpg

We were greeted by a fantastically kitschy cafe, a jolly proprietor, and a delicious smell of buttery yum.

20140516-010903.jpg

Now, back home I’ve had some crêpes, and to me they were nothing more than chewy thin pancakes that tasted like any iHop or Smitty’s. I was never very impressed with the actual crêpe itself but more with the fruit or sweet fillings. I just figured that in Brittany the fillings would be grand and didn’t think much about the pancake itself. But I wanted to try the delicacies of this journey, so I started with just a plain butter and buckwheat crêpe with a café crème (coffee with cream).

I thought I would start crying it was so good…

Seriously, it was amazing. There have been a few times in my life where I’ve thought I knew what things were supposed to taste like because of my ignorance stemming from a supermarket GMO styrofoam foodstuffs aisle. I can think of a few foods that have changed me, like the coconuts and fingerling bananas in India, the heritage tomatoes that I first had in BC, and the organic right out of the chicken fresh eggs and right out of the cow fresh yogurt in Nepal. Each of those times I exclaimed “OHHHHH, That’s what it’s supposed to taste like!” I can now add the buckwheat crêpes of Huelgoat to that list.

So I had another one. This time with crème chantilly. The noises that emanated from me started to scare the children. If Billy Crystal’s mother was sitting at the next table, she would have asked to have what I was having. The owner seemed amused.

After lunch, we continued walking through the town square and around to the lake on the other side.

20140516-020715.jpg

As we walked the short distance that makes up the town (about 3 square blocks in total), we noticed that there might be a theme to the store fronts.

20140516-011157.jpg

20140516-011227.jpg

20140516-011316.jpg

20140516-011353.jpg

20140516-011430.jpg

20140516-011623.jpg

There are more crêperies in Huelgoat than there are Starbucks in Seattle…

One of them had a sign that said they were open “non-stop” which means they didn’t close in the afternoon. We had to vacate the other crêperie because it was 2 o’clock and closing time. So, naturally, we went in for more crêpes.

The next morning, there was a family with two small children who were having breakfast in the common room, so Paolo and Julie offered to feed us breakfast in their dining room. There, we met the other residents of Les Glycines, Gilbert and Streak (picture taken from their website because I forgot to get a snap of them).

20140516-011838.jpg

With a set of Dachshunds warming our feet, and lively conversation, we ate fresh bread and yogurt with french pressed coffee and had a blast. We enjoyed ourselves so much that we asked if we could dine with the puppies every morning, which worked out great.

The days were spent walking the many hiking trails that sprawled through the old growth rainforest filled with these massive boulders and gurgling streams.

Some boulders had special names like Le Champignon (The Mushroom)…

20140516-012235.jpg

or La Roche Tremblante (Trembling Rock) which trembles when pushed in the right spot…

20140516-014917.jpg

There’s La Grotte d’Artus (Arthur’s Cave)…

20140516-015556.jpg

An ancient Gaulish hillfort called Le Camp d’Artus…

20140516-020155.jpg

and Le Chaos de Rochers (Chaos of Rocks)…

20140516-015808.jpg

which leads into the Devil’s Grotto…

20140516-015942.jpg

Unexpected rock… which was unexpected…

20140516-020418.jpg

And the famous emoticon stump…

20140516-020542.jpg

Ok, I made those last two names up… but those things needed names.

After walking around for many hours on our first day, there appeared a small structure in the middle of the forrest close to La Roche Tremblante. Of course, it was a crêperie, and naturally we stopped for another savory delight along with more coffee and some water.

20140516-021010.jpg

Over the next several days, we explored many of the paths and saw some fantastic vistas. I was also able to navigate a French laverie (laundromat) without completely embarrassing myself… well, a little anyway. I almost put the detergent and clothes in a dryer first, and I spent a good five minutes trying to figure out why the washer wouldn’t take my Euro coins, which turned out to be two pound coins left over in my pocket from the UK.

20140516-021116.jpg

Huelgoat is a wonderful place with fantastic food and fantastic sights. One could easily spend a couple of weeks there and not see or taste half of it, and I can’t thank our hosts Paolo and Julie enough for their hospitality, warmth, and all of their help with our transportation needs. If you are ever in Huelgoat check out their fantastic, hospitable, inexpensive, well appointed, puppy filled, wonderful B&B. They won’t disappoint… and then have a crêpe, because you kind of have to. I suggest the ham and cheese or the andouille and egg followed by vanilla ice cream and chantilly cream or just a plain butter crêpe…

20140516-021205.jpg

Then you too can make Meg Ryan sounds and have the happy happy crêpe face.

20140516-021258.jpg

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: