The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Anyway, back to Sri Lanka!

Well not really - just in my imagination - but I did want to write up a little about my Sri Lanka trip before my memory became "fuzzy"! I think I've mentioned before that what tends to suit me vacation-wise is to take a warm weather holiday sometime in the winter - to break up the cold weather a little - and then a European vacation around September/October time - a kind of last hurrah before the bad weather kicks in. It's beautiful here in the summer and we don't get huge numbers of tourists to be honest - unlike in the winter - so this set-up seems to work for me (for the time being, at least). One of the drawbacks of going away in the winter, of course, is that there is always the slight risk that bad weather might cause one of my flights to be delayed or cancelled but so far, touch wood, I have always been lucky! Anyway, with that in mind I made the decision to make my own travel arrangements (flying from Switzerland rather than back to England and out again) and choosing to arrive the day before the rest of my group and spend a night recuperating from the flight in Colombo. Well that was the plan anyway. So again, with a view to avoiding any possible flight delays, I chose to make the trip from Geneva to Zurich by train rather than plane, just in case. It turned out to be a rather nice three-hour train journey through Switzerland, although it did bring home to me that I think "our" part of Switzerland (western Switzerland) is prettier than the northern/eastern parts, although they are still lovely of course!

Anyway, I arrived well in advance of my flight - only to get a text message from the airline to say that my flight would be delayed by 90 minutes due to the late arrival of the incoming aircraft!!! Bloody hell, I was so hoping that it was only going to be a 90 minute delay and not end up being cancelled! I was there six hours early anyway so the thought of spending another two hours just hanging around didn't exactly fill me with joy! But at least I had a good book so having checked in (always a positive sign when the let you check in!) I bellied up to the bar to get something to eat and nurse a glass of wine as long as I could before I got dirty looks! Not that they should be giving me dirty looks anyway (they didn't!) given the prices but … you know the guilty feeling. All in all it wasn't too bad given the wine, the book and a rather lovely young Irish lad I ended up chatting to when I paid for his apple juice!! No, no, it wasn't like that. He was about 13 I would guess and had wanted to order an apple juice when the waiter explained that while they would accept his 50 euros they would have to give him his change back in Swiss francs! Well he didn't want the Swissies because he (his family) had no use for them, so I told the waiter I would pay for it - which set us up for a lovely chat in which we sorted out Brexit and figured out who was going to win the rugby 6 Nations (we were both wrong - he said Ireland and I said England. Turns out it was Wales)! Mom and dad came over afterwards and thanked me for paying for his drink and we had a nice chat, but what a lovely young lad he was - so charming and sweetly confident! It certainly helped pass the time!

It turned out in the end that the incoming flight was delayed because it could not fly over Pakistani airspace given the current tensions between India and Pakistan! So while I was somewhat fed up of having to hang around even longer I guess it's always better to arrive late than never! The flight was a good one, almost 10 hours and I never slept a wink, although I have now learned to dress comfortably and take mini toiletries on the plane so I at least feel/smell better even if I do end up looking like Phylis Diller when I get off!

I did get to watch the movie "The Wife" on the plane though and I can see why Glen Close was nominated for the Oscar! She was brilliant (as was Jonathan Pryce). It wasn't a film that I would have chosen to go and see but it helped pass the time and, as I say, she was excellent!

I spent my first night in the beautiful Gateway Hotel in Colombo. It was pretty expensive but an excellent choice. Indeed the whole experience was excellent and the food in the Chinese restaurant was sublime! Whenever I'm going to be in a foreign country on my own I make sure to stay in a good hotel and it didn't disappoint!

The next day I got a taxi to our tour's first hotel in Ngombo to meet the rest of my group. To be honest this hotel was a real disappointment, pretty shabby and definitely very tired. But, the bed was clean and the water was hot so I knew I could put up with it until we moved on. Later that evening I met the rest of the group, who turned out to be really nice. Well, with one exception as it turns out, but then there's always one. There was an older Canadian couple who were just great. Instantly chatting with everyone and when we went out to eat that evening the husband would sit apart from his wife and chat away to everyone. She was the same. They were obviously seasoned travellers and such good company, so a good start!

The next morning we had a short trip around Ngombo fishing village before loading up and heading on to our next hotel.

My hotel room in Colombo
Ngombo port
Drying fish
On the way we stopped at a spot where the locals showed us how they climb up the palm trees to slash them and use the sap to produce arrack, which is distilled from toddy or palm syrup! Not that they used anything as boring as harnesses or hard hats (or even rope ladders!). Nope, straight up he went and in about five minutes he had whipped round and slashed all the trees!

Can you see him at the top of that tree - not a harness in sight!
En route we stopped at Wilpattu National Park where we switched to jeeps and set off in the hopes of spotting all kinds of wild life. The only disappointment was that we didn't see any leopards (there are about 20 in the park they think), although there was some discussion about whether one of our group had spotted one. Even with my binoculars I couldn't make it out but … who knows. We did see a good variety of other animals though, so the day wasn't wasted. Then after about four hours in the Park it was on to our next hotel in Nuwarawewa!

Temple on the way to Nuwarawewa

Water buffalo

Not a good picture - but a mother bear and her cub

When I saw this I ran back and got my bag out the jeep - "thieving monkeys" is pretty accurate
and I wasn't going to let that little bugger get away with my passport!

Saturday, 16 March 2019

They did it!

We've had crap weather ever since I got back from Sri Lanka - yesterday was just awful and apparently tomorrow doesn't look much better. Buuuuuttt the heavens decided to cooperate today and it was glorious sunshine and "no coat" weather, just in time for the civil wedding. Yep, son number two is now officially hitched. It was very informal, with the Maire making it a nice, funny service and in about 15 minutes they were married! After that it was back to mom's house for a rather nice tartiflette (mom) and rather good cookies, shortbread and fruit salad (me and my friend). All in all a lovely, informal wedding. At least they are married before Brexit so that's a positive! Now we get to look forward to the big party in July.  Congratulations Jordan and Jen!

Thursday, 14 March 2019

How to waste an entire morning!

I haven't really gotten my head straight since getting back from Sri Lanka on Monday but I will post more about the trip when I get my thoughts together. Not that buying a Rubrik's cube helps with getting anything done! You see, when I go away I am always looking for small souvenir-type gifts to bring back for my kids and a few friends. Nothing "souveniry" in the sense of a decorative dust catcher, but usually something consumable or useful. This time I bought back wonderful spiced cashew nuts, which feature widely in Sri Lankan agricultural production, so they won't be gathering too much dust I imagine. I bought other things back too of course, but I am also always on the look-out for Christmas presents/stocking fillers! Just on the off chance! When I was in Costa Rica this time last year I bought back beautiful photo albums - they almost looked like they were made of papyrus - and Jen told me that she is going to put their wedding photos in it as she loves it so much!

Anyway, this time I picked up some beautiful silk scarves for the girls and a few other small items buuuut I spotted Rubik's cubes in a small toy shop in Galle and something clicked. Now I don't know that Mr. Rubik was Sri Lankan (probably not, don't you think), but I remember having one when they first became popular and learning how to do it. Can you believe they first came out in 1974!!! Crikey, I'm showing my age now. Of course, after a while the craze wore off and I forgot how to do it, although I'm pretty sure I still have it somewhere. So, me having a warped mind, I like to buy small Christmas gifts that are either silly or drive you slightly nuts! Last year I bought my kids Mad Libs and got the biggest grin out of my sons as they remembered all the stupid "stories" we put together when they were young. Of course all the nouns or verbs we provided were generally along the lines of "fart" or "onions", so the finished story usually ended up being pretty silly. Still, they both like that kind of thing! Anyway this year I am already thinking of Where's Waldo/Wally books (they have different names in different countries) as I know it is the kind of thing my boys get a laugh out of. I know, I know, but it's easier to buy for the girls - my sons get what momma here thinks will amuse them!

Anyway, to cut a long story short I bought three Rubik's cubes, two for my sons and one for me. But of course, as I mentioned, I had forgotten how to do it! So yesterday morning I spent almost four hours watching a Youtube video on how to put it back together! I completed it several times in time with the video and so far have memorized about two-thirds of the moves, so I'll be back at it tonight. But talk about a way to waste your morning! Thankfully I'm not quite this obsessive with most things! I had a drink with my lovely Dutchman last night and mentioned it to him and get this - he is completely impressed and wants me to teach him how to do it (hey buddy, you can get Youtube too), so I'm thinking I already have a good idea of what to get him for Christmas too!

Cartoon by The Internet Scaengers -
On a different note, while I was in Sri Lanka I could only occasionally check my emails or read my favourite blogs as the internet was often very iffy - hence the lack of comments on other people's blogs. But one day I got an email from FedEx about a parcel that they were trying to deliver and apparently I was to "click here"! I didn't of course because I frequently used to get these kinds of scam emails at work, but since the email apparently came from a work colleague who did, indeed, work in my employer's mailing room, I wrote to him and asked him if it was legit. Turns out it was, and in recognition of my long service my employer sent me a personally engraved plaque which is actually rather nice, plus a signed letter from the Director-General. Now I'm not usually one for the old "carriage clock and pen" kind of leaving token, but I have to admit this was rather nicely done!

And finally, Brexit! We were talking about that weren't we!!!! Well, as someone who is intimately caught up in the whole debacle by virtue of being a Brit living in France, I signed up for a link to the UK Government website which is trying to handle this whole bloody mess, and to be fair, they are ploughing out the information in what seems to be a very efficient way. Now as someone who has a slight inkling of just some of the problems that are heading the UK's way (my former employer dealt with international trade), I have to admit that even I had no idea how bloody involved and complicated this whole matter is. And to think people were asked to vote "do you want to stay in the EU or leave"? As simple as that! I took a screen shot of my inbox showing the emails I get on a daily basis just from this UK Government website, and I would say, in all honesty, I get three times this many emails per day on all the different issues they are having to deal with! Bloody hell, glad I'm not responsible for that!

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Internet a bit iffy ...

... but the mozzie repellent seems to be working. You just wouldn't want to be down wind of me! Nice group, food good and Sri Lanka lovely. Hope to post more soon.

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Made it!

Turns out the reason the incoming plane was delayed was because they weren't allowed to fly over Pakistani air space because of the tensions! I won't argue with that! And Edelweiss Air were good, flight reasonable and I reckon I got about four hours of so-so sleep so not bad. I always say "never again" but once I get here and get showered things always look better. The hotel at the airport is glorious and it's hot so I'm already a happy camper! I meet my group tomorrow and assuming they're nice (they inevitably are), I'm sure it'll be great. Just looking forward to a decent night's sleep!

Saturday, 2 March 2019

Oh dear!

After a pleasant enough three hour train journey to Zurich (you know, clean and punctual trains), I just found out my flight to Sri Lanka is delayed 90 minutes! Great fun. I wonder if I can nurse this glass of white wine until 10 o'clock tonight! Hopefully I'll sleep though. At least at the last minute I decided to go "comfortable" in track suit and T-shirt! Kinda classy looking huh! Actually just sitting here it always amazes me how classy some women can look when they travel. But don't count me in that group I guess. Money helps of course but I have just never "had it"! My former admin assistant when I worked at the World Bank always looked like a million dollars too and she didn't spend a lot on clothes either! Oh well!

Another thing that always amazes me is while I was sitting here a Swiss German family sat down next to me and dad spoke to me in Swiss German. I didn't hear him at first so he immediately switched into English! Impressive huh!

Anyway I don't know how much I will be able to post while I'm away but if not "see ya next week!"