Tuesday, 18 October 2022



I am loath to admit it, but our September 19 departure from Toronto Pearson Airport was a “s**t show”, to use my husband’s rather accurate graphic description. After 30 minutes in a “lab-rat-maze’ queuing system for baggage drop-off, we were rewarded with an additional 45-minute wait in the ‘lab-rat-maze’ queuing system for security. How do you add insult to injury? Arrive at CIBC’s Terminal 1 Dragon Lounge to be met by another 30-minute wait due to over crowding. What?  If I didn’t love to travel so much, our departure experience at Pearson would have rung the death knell for future journeys. God bless Air Canada who successfully boarded passengers on our filled-to-capacity flight, pulled away from the gate on time and arrived in Venice early. That and the quick efficient entry into Italy though Venice’s Marco Polo Airport restored my faith in air travel.

You can imagine that it was with trepidation that Jim and I stepped out of the shuttle van for our return flight from Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci Airport. From that moment to arrival in the boarding area was 35 minutes!  Whoa! It should be noted that the Dragon Lounge here is spaciously large. I need to ask, though! How does one of Europe’s largest airports move passengers in such a friendly, efficient, stress free manner? Italy was one of the worst hit countries during the pandemic. How have they returned to acceptable service levels at two of their major airports when Toronto’s Pearson appears to be incapable of doing so? 


Canadians, Brits, Aussies, Americans, plus, plus, plus…after two years of pandemic, the flood gates have been opened and we have been unleashed on the world! 

Most certainly Venice was busy, but the choking crowds from cruise ships, sometimes up to an insane 7 ships per day, were delightfully and visibly absent. Gone were hordes so dense that movement was next to impossible until after 4:00pm when the lemmings returned to their ships. Gone were the selfie-sticks we angrily referred to as ‘decapitation devices’. Gone were impassable bridges. Gone were…..you get it!  During the pandemic, Jim and I read with great relief that effective July 21, Italy had barred huge ships from entering Venice’s historic centre via the Giudecca Canal. Any shipping would be restricted to small passenger ferries and freight vessels. Good bye cruise ships! Long overdue, this restriction will prevent the destruction by these monoliths of Venice’s underpinnings and fragile lower level architecture. Thank god!  The change during the day was palpable; visitors and citizens could actually move about freely and fully enjoy magical and mesmerizing La Serenissima. Go! Enjoy!

Compared to our past two visits, I found Rome to be crazy busy. That said, major attractions remain easily accessible, some, such as the Borghese Galleria require reservations. Sadly, some sites now have restrictive fencing around them to, believe it or not, prevent tourists chipping off bits of marble or travertine as souvenirs. I can barely write that without breaking into a rant. On past trips, Jim and I have enjoyed many an evening, wine glass in hand, seated at the Trevi Fountain watching the show of marriage proposals, romantic kisses and coin throwing. Because a few disgusting tourists felt the fountain offered great swimming and urinating potential, that seating is now blocked off.

Rant building! Just know that the Trevi is the rock star of any fountain you will ever see. Visit and throw in the magical coins that will grant your return. Yes, Rome is more crowded, but that adds to the excitement! The eternal city will forever remain a city of history around every corner, glorious art, great food eaten al fresco, magical neighbourhoods, majestic fountains, attractive piazzas and crazy, exciting busyness. Go! Enjoy!

….to be continued!

Tuesday, 9 August 2022


When Jim noted that during our time in Rome this year, he wished to return to the Borghese Gallery, my heart sang and my cheers upon securing reservations could be heard, I am embarrassed to admit, far and wide.

The Bourghese Galleria isn’t just Rome’s best art gallery; it is classified as one of the best collections of Renaissance and Baroque art in the world. Visitors  are permitted a two-hour time slot; with the exception of phones and/or cameras for ‘non-flash’ photos; it is mandatory that everything else you may be carrying - purses, even small purses, backpacks, waist packs, etc. - be checked before entering. Security, with vigilant guards in attendance, is extremely tight in each of the rooms.

Have you ever listened to music or viewed artwork that reached out to you, touched your heart, left you in awe and rendered you changed, never to be the same again? Bernini’s “Apollo and Daphne” (No, not  because of the name) spoke directly to my heart. Rick Steves, the travel writer describes the sculpture best:
In the mythological story, Apollo - made stupid by Cupid’s  arrow of love - chases after Daphne who has been turned off by the “arrow of disgust”. Just as he’s about to capture her, she calls to her father to save her. Magically, her fingers begin to sprout leaves, 

her toes become roots, 

her skin turns to bark, and she transforms into a tree. Frustrated Apollo will end up with a handful of leaves.

At 24 years of age 😲, Bernini, using ‘ancient’ drills, chisels and rasps created a masterpiece that would speak to my heart almost 400 years later. I stood in awe of the movement and action of the moment he captured. How at such a young age and in marble, did he accomplish this? 

The security guard, observing Jim and I on the verge of tears, came forward to whisper to us that the specialized cleaning crews marvel that so thin are the leaves that they make the sound of good crystal when being cleaned. Now my mind was totally blown!

I truly need to view this sculpture again, need being the most appropriate word. 

Italians have a phrase which I love. Non dimenticare! Don’t forget! I desperately need not to forget that in this dangerous time of horrific war in the Ukraine, China rattling its sabres over Taiwan, the precarious state of democracies around the world (especially just south of our border), increasing online hatred, and never-ending turmoil and famine in third world countries, that humans over time have not just waged war, but also created magnificence. I need to not forget that there is more than man’s ugliness and hate, that man is capable of creating great beauty which touches the hearts of mankind. I need to not forget that in the face repulsive actions there can be stunning beauty. I need to not forget that there is hope.

Non dimenticare!

Friday, 1 July 2022


Warning: Apologies for this self-indulgent blog, but my excitement about once again boarding a jet, pulling away from the gate, feeling the thrust of those engines lift us from earth and not just travelling anywhere, but travelling to bella Italia, has been bubbling over. I am in danger of exploding if I don’t let it out. Consider yourself warned! 😂

Fingers crossed, we head to Italy this September.

At 75 years of age, Jim and I are past the check-off-another-destination travel. We have arrived at the where-are-we-happiest point in our lives and bella Italia is it.  We so enjoy the feeling of being home there, even when we are not.

In a pandemic moment of perhaps feeling his age or vulnerability, Jim asked me, if I knew I had just one more trip, where would I go; Rome, was my immediate answer. We have visited twice, 15 days in total and have not yet scratched the surface. Rome is not a city; it’s a world and it is my favourite world.

I just want to be in Rome, to explore charming ancient neighbourhoods, to enjoy a cappuccino or wine at an out-of-the-way trattoria, to watch and join in the evening passeggiata, to be mesmerized by salmon-tinted evening lights reflecting on monuments and structures as timeless as time itself and to absorb the pure magic that is Rome.

Renting an apartment will allow us to meet local shopkeepers - persceria, formaggi e mercato di populari. Romans are a gregarious, friendly people….even with we tourists. Nothing pleases a Roman shopkeeper more than being queried about his foods and then being asked for cooking advice, allowing him to share recipes his family has used for centuries. For a moment in time we will be able to immerse ourselves in Roman culture, enjoy the essence of Rome and pretend to be Romans.

When I responded, Rome, Jim laughed and agreed; it was Italy for him, too, but his choice…..Venice!

Jim’s love affair with Venezia has withstood the test of time and three lengthy visits. Why? Corinna Cooke, the travel writer, expressed it best: 
The audacity of it. To build a city in the water where no city should be, and on top of that, to make it not only one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but also the most unique city in the world. Then to defy all the odds and have it still standing proud, gorgeous and improbable 1600 years later.

Venice is small; have we seen it all? Not possible! Around every corner is something magical just waiting for you to discover it. And so we will wander, soaking up the essence of la Serenissima, visiting more sites of interest, savouring addictive cicchetti and a lagoon’s worth of seafood and relaxing over a glass of Prosecco lulled by the hypnotic music of rising and falling gondolas slapping on canal waters.

We have long wished to visit Umbria, the green heart of Italy. Then let’s do it!!!! An apartment for a week in Orvieto, we decided, will provide us with a great base. 

On my bucket list has been the mediaeval town of Civita di Bagnoregio, sitting atop a cliff of tuff. It is known as one of the prettiest towns in Italy - quite a claim in a country that has pretty towns galore. At under 25km from Orvieto, my dream will finally be realized.

We will wander Orvieto and Umbria, giving in to the urge to take that alluring turn, to follow that spire, to veer into the narrow gate of a village on market day to buy grapes and pancetta. We will hunt for truffles, explore Etruscan caves, examine the famous craft handiwork of Umbrian guilds, savour famous Orvieto Classico wines and experience the essence of Umbria.

Pearson Airport chaos, monkey pox, new COVID variants, rising inflation, increasing gas prices…whatever! I don’t just want this return; after over two years in hibernation I need this return. Italia ti amo!

Monday, 31 January 2022


I have realized during this past week of the truckers’ convoy (I refuse to classify this rabble with the word “Freedom”) how blessed I am. My Facebook friends have shown humour, passion and intelligence, taking nothing at face value. 

My friend, Vel, redefined Freedom as FREEDUMB, noun, “belief that your personal freedom outweighs those of others”. Funny, but so true. The City of Ottawa has been held hostage; citizens wearing masks have been intimidated (whose freedom); 

Tuesday, 28 September 2021


I laughed to myself as I hung up the phone. There I sat in my office, Broker Owner of a real estate firm, responsible for 70+ agents plus administrative staff. Such responsibility was evidence of at least some level of intelligence, wasn’t it? Well how does that person inform her staff that she is headed home because her Mommy warned her of an incoming blizzard and advised that she leave work immediately? I didn’t leave, but smile every time I am reminded of weather warning calls from my Weather Mom.

It was my practice to phone my Mother every night to check in on her. Three words into my greeting and Weather Mom never failed to interrupt with updates on the next day’s forecast. Immaterial to her was the knowledge that Jim and I always watched the news and weather.

Our favourite family Mother story took place in September, 2005. My brother, David, and his wife, Lorraine, were headed to Florida for a vacation. Caribbean blood coursing through her veins, Weather Mom was apoplectic. Didn’t David and Lorraine understand that it was hurricane season? Her warnings became increasingly frantic as their date for departure neared. Meanwhile Jim and I were headed to the Royal LePage National Sales Conference in Halifax…..where on September 17, Hurricane Ophelia hit Nova Scotia. David and Lorraine? They enjoyed a sunny beautiful vacation. Correct forecast, wrong country, Mom. 😂

When my Mother passed away, her closest Bajan family members, Sheila and Michael, asked if we could possibly delay Mom’s Celebration of Life by a few days, giving them time to fly up from Barbados. During the memorial, many hilarious stories were told, but none as amusing as the numerous references to Weather Mom. During one Weather Mom tale, I noticed Michael nodding and smiling. Only then did I appreciate how far my Mother’s reputation as a weather beacon had spread.

Like Mother, like daughter, they say. Oh how I hate to admit the truth in that old adage, but find myself texting our son, Matthew, of incoming inclement weather or emailing Christopher with St. John’s blizzard and hurricane warnings. Responses to such weather alarms are generally, Channelling Gramma again, eh Mom? 

Like an addict, I am incapable of stopping myself. I’d like to blame 26 years of sailing for my fascination with weather radar, but sadly believe it is in my DNA. When my Weather Radar App (doesn’t everyone have that app?) notifies me of an advancing inclement system, I become glued to my iPad watching weather fronts move across the map, wondering who I should text. Oh Mom, you would be so proud of  me.

After a year and a half of not seeing Christopher and Stephanie, Jim and I finally fly out to St. John’s on October 7 to celebrate Thanksgiving with them. We have held our breaths and crossed our fingers, praying that Newfoundland does not experience another surge in COVID cases, messing up our plans. So far, so good. Well, that was until Sam ( Hurricane Sam, that is ) showed up on the weather radar. 😲

Okay! Okay! I hear you Weather Mom.


Saturday, 11 September 2021


One of the most important things you can do when travelling to a foreign country is learn a few helpful words and phrases in the language of that country. No, they will not expect you to be fluent in their language, but they will be pleasantly pleased that you made the effort, no matter how badly you mangle the phrase. I promise that your reception will be exponentially more courteous and helpful than should you expect them to speak fluent English. Believe it or not, many travellers do. Flash news! You are visitors in THEIR country.

This is why I smiled this afternoon when I found Jim beginning to brush up on his Italian for our 2022 trip.

In 2010, before a 2011 six-week trip to bella Italia, Jim and I signed up for a night course in Italian. The first six sessions were wonderful. Hallelujah, I could actually remember the meaning of Italian words the following week. And then…..aaaach! 😩 The teacher launched into sentences and conversation. Whaaaaat? Unlike Jim, I have a horrible ear for languages. When sentences were spoken to me they sounded like, jshurnwbxyvifkenxgcugoemxbcy. How do you respond to that…..and in Italian? 

Jim, meanwhile, happily conversed with the teacher and fellow students….no problemo!

Jim’s ear for languages is quite simply awesome. During our first trip to Barbados I had to ask him not to imitate the locals as it may appear that he was having fun at their expense. Jim, filled with incomprehension, rewarded me with his hurt puzzled puppy dog look. He had no idea that he was speaking with a heavy Bajan accent; his ear just picked it up and his mouth ran with it.

Three years at bilingual Laurentian University resulted in a French speaking graduate. Lack of constant exposure and Jim has lost most of that French, but he sure got by in France with flying colours. If you have the ear, it is amazing what returns almost instantly.

Italian? Me? I can read signs and menus and make myself understood with flailing arms and gesticulating hands. Jim? With a few months of brushing up on what he has previously learned and practised during past trips to bella Italia, he will be speaking like un vecchio gentiluomo italiano in no time.

Study on, James! I’m liking this personal translator thing.

Monday, 6 September 2021


Jim and I are half a year from turning 75. Neither one of us feels 75……..well, most of the time. 😂 We eat well, are active and according to our doctors, are very healthy. It would be naive, though, to think that this good health is infallible. We have watched too many ‘healthy’ friends suddenly suffer from or succumb to illnesses. Thus far we have been blessed.

My feet now suffer from chronic itchiness. I so wish to travel, to reconnect with that world out there, to feel the powerful thrust of a jet as it takes off, to lose ourselves in another culture and history, to visit Christopher and Stephanie, to enjoy the ocean breezes in Barbados with Morgan and Zachary, to wander the cobblestoned streets of Europe and to gaze at centuries-old sculptures and paintings, to eat different foods, to, to, to….I need the tonic of travel and I need it soon!

Neither Jim nor I are fans of cruises ships or bus tours. In fact, we spend our trips studiously timing our visits to avoid the crush of cruise ship and bus tour hordes. Give us a car, a map, our GPS, mostly small towns, no gitchy, made-in China souvenir stands, real people, local markets and regional food. The emerging problem for us is that car rental companies don’t much like drivers over 75. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that how to get around “on our own” will soon become an issue. Private drivers and trains, here we come? 🤔

As Jim and I twiddle our fingers waiting for travel to become relatively safe once again, I feel as if time, like sand, is slipping through my fingers. We have so much planned and being realistic, dwindling time. Courtesy of our unvaccinated, this pandemic has been prolonged. For now I will bite my tongue (deeply bite my tongue) on that issue.

Maps, books and the internet have been scoured; airfare and accommodations have been booked. Move forward, I keep telling myself. With fingers crossed we dream of soon boarding those jets and curing our itchy feet.