Tag Archives: senior

5 Fevrier 2018 Lundi

My last day on Martinique before flying back to the States early Tuesday morning. I woke up early, by 5:30 AM, and began packing my big suitcase, determining what should go in my checked bag and what to bring in my shopping basket that I was going to take as carry-on. I wanted to use the internet to see about meeting up with Stine today, so headed out at 6:00 AM for The Baguette Shop. It turned out not to open until 6:30 AM, but I sat at a table beyond the closed panel and was able to use the internet for 30 minutes. As soon as the shop opened, I was the first customer, buying another pain chocolat – I am going to miss that for breakfast!

I hadn’t reached Stine, but left her a message on Messenger. I went back to the cottage to pack some more, and give the cats the last of the milk, as well as some more dry food. I went back over about 9:30 AM to Creole Village to use the internet and try to reach Stine again, but still didn’t get her. I thought she was going to try to catch the ferry from Anse a L’Ane to Anse Mitan, so I said I’d be on the beach with my green beach chair.

I heard a loud drumming and a lot of commotion coming from the street, so walked over to discover that the local school children were having a parade for Carnival. Children and accompanying adults were in various costumes, and what looked to be high school band students were playing drums.

What a fun sight to see! Mardi Gras, the day before Ash Wednesday, isn’t really until next week, Tuesday February 13th, but the celebration, like in New Orleans, lasts loner here.

It started raining as I was going to head out the door, and I figured she would catch either the 11 AM r 12 PM ferry anyway, so I waited out the storm, continuing to pack and arrange things. I had decided to do one last laundry load, which I hung up to dry during the day on the sun porch. I got to the Anse Mitan beach about 11 AM, but didn’t see Stine, so settled onto my chair, propping it against a wall because the back isn’t locking in place. Unfortunately, with the sun rising higher, I lost my shade by about 11:30 AM. I walked along the beach, then sat on the wall that was still shaded, then walked back to the ferry again when it came at 12 noon. Stine wasn’t on it.

I gathered my things, went back to the cottage, and then to Creole Village to get on the internet. Stine had messaged me that she didn’t take the ferry after all, but if I could drive my car she was waiting at the Carrefour. I messaged back that I needed to finish packing, as well as get the food stuff and other items I planned to give her. At the Creole Village I ran into Christoph and Thibeaut eating lunch at the K Fe – they said they were between dives.

Back at the cottage, I had some more of the coco-rum sauce chicken for lunch. There was way too much to finish by myself, so the cats got a treat. Then I washed dishes and took out the garbage and recyclables. Finally I gathered dry food (like sugar and pasta) in one bag, and emptied the fridge to put in another. I loaded the groceries and beach chair in the trunk, and decided about 4:00 PM that I had to drive to meet Stine if I could, even though we hadn’t been able to make direct contact. I drove to Anse a L’Ane, parking at the lot next to the beach. I walked down to the Kfe Kreol where Stine had previously said she’d gone to use the internet. The bartender didn’t know where Regis had his BnB, but showed me the internet password. I was finally able to reach Stine by phoning through Messenger. She sent a map to Regis house and his address, which she said was a pink house up a steep hill. I couldn’t get my American Google Maps to show the exact address, so relied on the map Stine had sent. I managed to find almost the right street – luckily Stine walked down the hill to meet me. She showed me her sleeping porch with hammock, and said she would put away the groceries after I left. I wanted to get back before sunset, so I could turn the car around in the yard and be pointing forward for when I left in the dark early the next morning. Stine hugged and said she’d next see me either visiting her in Denmark or visiting me in the USA.

After my return, I was parking my car when Annette told me no other guests had cars, so to park beside the cottage so I could leave quietly in the morning. I lugged out the large suitcase and put it in the trunk, then finished readying the carry-on and my purse. I left out my PJs for overnight and the clothes I would wear on Tuesday for my trip home. I planned layers – I had left my warm coat and snow boots in my car.

With no groceries left in the house, I intended to spend my last evening dining out. I walked down to the Kano Restaurant in Anse Mitan, which I hadn’t tried yet, but was on the beach. However, the music was loud and annoying, and I didn’t see anything on the outside posted menu that appealed, so I walked bck to Pointe du Bout. I wanted to eat again at L’Explorateur, but it turned out to be closed on Mondays. Instead I ate dockside at the Embarcadero Restaurant, where I ordered beef steak with rice and salad, with a glass of red wine – which only cost 3.50€. While awaiting service, I wrote up more for my travel blog. I was able to get online with both my phone and my tablet. My cell phone beeped at me – a weather alert for back home in Central New York – a winter storm on Wednesday is supposed to bring several inches of snow. I checked the temperature back home and it was only 18° F., while I was sitting at an outdoor restaurant with temperature in the high 70s. I felt a moment of panic, that I can’t go back to that?! Isn’t there some way to stay? But of course, I have been blessed to be able to take a whole 4 weeks worth of vacation and to afford to visit a place like Martinique. I will retire next summer and have more time to travel, but not as much money.

The restaurant was full and the server quite busy. When my steak arrived, it was cooked medium as I’d requested, but there was a lot of gristle on it. I ended up feeding bits to the cat that appeared under my table, and taking home more to leave for the cats we’d been feeding the last 4 weeks. The rice was nice, but plain, the salad just leafy lettuce, although I liked the vinaigrette dressing on it. I declined café or dessert, just wanting to get back to the cottage.

It was about 9:00 PM when I walked home, even though I’d gotten to the restaurant by 7:15 PM….everything takes time in Martinique, you have to be patient to be waited on, to have your food delivered, to get “l’addition” (the bill) and to have your credit card picked up and the charge made. By the time I’d gotten back and showered, washed my hair, and prepared for bed, it was after 9:30 PM. I hoped I’d get a sound sleep, as the alarm was set for 4:45 AM. I heard one rainstorm before I was dreaming and in a deep sleep.

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9 Janvier 2018, Mardi Retour au Martinique

We had such a wonderful time a year ago, when we spent 9 days in Martinique, that my friend Kathleen and I planned to come back again. I am staying for 4 full weeks; Kathleen will be here 3 weeks, and then my youngest daughter will visit for 5 days at the end of January. I asked Annette about renting before we left in January 2017, and paid 100 euros deposit.

After spending the night with my youngest daughter in NYC, I drove my car over to my friend Jill’s house in Bellrose on Long Island – she will use it while I am gone. She dropped me off at JFK, 3 hours before scheduled departure. Luckily Terminal 1 had not suffered the damage that Terminal 4 had experienced with the bombegenesis winter storm a few days earlier. The flight was only slightly delayed, so we left about 30 minutes after schedule.

I always choose a window seat, if I can. My seat mate, in the middle seat, turned out to be a young woman from Denmark. I said, Oh, my last name is “Hansen” and I have Danish ancestors. Stine’s last name is “Nielsen” – also a common last name in Denmark. She is a social worker, coming to Martinique for 2 ½ months, planning to do some volunteer work with autistic children. The European Union agreement lets her work in another country – and apparently the Danish government will still give her a stipend, as long as all the right paperwork is filled out.

Although Stine was exhausted from more than 35 hours traveling to Copenhagen, to NYC, then stuck at the airport overnight, we ended up talking more than sleeping. We exchanged contact information so that I’d be able to contact her on social media, and hopefully connect with her on the island while we are both here.

After considering the high cost of one way taxi rides ($80 one way to Pointe du Bout from the airport) and unreliability of other public transport, my friend Kathleen and I had decided to split the cost of renting a car for the whole month. Now used to this airport, I was able to quickly confirm my rental, catch the shuttle to the Budget car lot, and get my subcompact. The guy at the desk wasn’t sure if I could really drive a standard, did I need to upgrade to an automatic? I assured him that No, I drive a stick shift.

Annette greeted me when I arrived at the cottage, and gave me the keys. After unloading the car, I decided that, even though I don’t want to eat out as much this time, I deserved to go out to eat my first night. I went back to the Havana Café, where I ordered a citron crepe and a pina colada. The crepe was delicious, but I had forgotten that the rhum portions are very generous here, so the drink was too strong for my taste. Nonetheless, I enjoyed sitting in an open air café at 9 PM, with a soft tropical breeze ruffling my hair.

After dinner, I walked the short block back to my cottage and prepared for bed. I tried to shower, but couldn’t get the hot water to work (finally figured it out the next day when I wasn’t sleep deprived), so after a lukewarm rinse, I changed and went to bed, where I slept till daylight, without my usual trip to the bathroom.

Amtrak Lakeshore Express

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There is a Cafe Car on this Lakeshore Express Amtrak train that offers beverages, chips, hot dog or hamburger. Or, down one more car is the Dining car, which offers different menus for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Since reservations had been made & the dining car was pretty fully booked, I was seated across from a young man from Rochester who is on his way to Boston to a conference.  Adam enjoyed a sirloin burger, while I tried out the daily special of BBQ pork shanks & mashed potatoes. Both dishes came with opening appetizers of marinated vegetables and sliced fruit.

Two women were seated across the aisle from me, and asked if I would use their phone to take their picture. This is their first train trip. Another older couple got seated at their table across from them. They are from California and travelled overnight through Colorado, then a 2nd overnight from Chicago heading east. After seeing NYC, including the new Ground Zero museum they will take another train down to DC.  They’ll fly back to the West Coast from there. My seat mate back in the coach car is a student at Geneva heading home to Boston for the weekend. He plans to drive his car back. Such an intriguing cross-section of folks from around the States.

As an extrovert, it’s easy for me to talk to strangers and find out a little of their story. But the train is perfect for introverts – there’s no need to talk at all. I spent most of the time looking out the window at passing scenery, checking where the train was on an Amtrak app that showed progress along the route, and checking email and social media on my smartphone. The passenger seats on the train are about 4 inches wider than on a plane, recline more, and it’s easy to walk around… like down to the Café Car for snacks.

Trip to the Azores!

 

(Looking out train window… trees in Upstate New York still haven’t leafed out yet)

I was going to fly to the French Caribbean with a relative when she had a week off at the end of April. But due to the zika virus, those plans were cancelled and we get to visit the Azores instead. I made the arrangements, keeping in mind the countries and types of places Clare had said she’d like to go to, and trying to find reasonable airline tickets. SATA was offering reasonably priced flights to the Portuguese Azores Islands, and some friends had taken a wonderful “trekking” trip to the Madeiras just 2 years before. So I booked our flights, having a vague idea that we were flying to islands somewhere off the coast of Portugal.  Then, when we looked at a map, we realized we were flying to a tiny little dot in the Atlantic Ocean! I guess the Azores are 900 or 1000 miles off the coast of Portugal.

Apparently when whaling ships were being built near Boston, Portuguese from the Azores helped to build them. Azores Airlines offers direct flights between Logan International and Sao Miguel Island, with connections on to Lisbon or to the Madeira Islands. Clare is going to meet me in Boston tomorrow for our overnight flight. But I decided to start my trip by taking Amtrak between Syracuse and Boston. I haven’t been on a cross country train trip since 1988 when I traveled between  Chicago and Santa Fe  (Lamy really).

Trains got a little fancier in the last 30 years (although not as advanced as Europe or Japan). Nice padded, reclining seat, electricity to recharge my phone or other electronic devices. I’m going to go check out the dining car, since it’s lunch time!

Women Who Buy Shoes

I can’t believe I came to Martinique and bought shoes.

A daughter who lives in New York City was upset when her puppy chose to chew on – you guessed it – her designer heels. I’m now a senior citizen. Not only do I NOT care about designer heels, I don’t care for heels at all. I don’t know how those young women can walk around NYC in stilettos, and think they’re crazy. Especially with all the grates in the sidewalks. I gradually stopped wearing high heels as I got older, and gave them up completely in my 50s. Then, after breaking a bone at the bottom of my foot, I gave up even low heels. I now wear running shoes or other shoes that support my feet.

For my trip to Martinique, I brought an older pair of white running shoes and flip-flops. But, it turns out the older pair of running shoes are getting worn down and were hurting my feet after walking around all day. So I switched to the flip flops. Only I ended up with blisters where the stupid thong fits between the big toe and next toe, and also sores where the plastic rubbed the tops of my feet.

Old women have different priorities from younger ones. While my daughter cares about style, I just wanted shoes that didn’t hurt my feet! I decided I couldn’t last even the one remaining day of vacation, so hobbled over to the shopping district in search of comfortable shoes. Most of the shops had swim suits and more flip flops; I found one store that carried a few pairs of patterned canvas high tops that looked like they were meant for skateboarders. Finally I found a store that had Birkenstock sandals with 2 straps across the foot and nothing between the toes. They were 49 euros, but I probably would have paid even more to save my feet.

So, the souvenir I’m taking home from the French Caribbean is German shoes. LOL!

That Trip to a Greek Island – rerouted

Another dream trip was to go to Greece. Not just the mainland, but a Greek Island. Corfu is one of the Ionian Islands off the west coast of Greece. Tourist season is in full swing June, July and August, but early May is just getting warm and just right for someone wanting to avoid all the crowds.

We had a brutally cold winter in Upstate New York – the month of February broke records for cold since records were kept in the 1880s. So I was really looking forward to my week on the island of Corfu. My smart phone told me temps were into the 70s and even low 80s, Fahrenheit.

I had booked through American Airlines, who used their partner British Airways for the actual flights. I drove to JFK (230 miles) and caught a redeye to London Heathrow, then was supposed to catch a direct flight to Kerkyra. Something was wrong with online check-in, so I had to wait in a long line with hundreds of other people at British Airways desk at JFK. They only gave me a boarding pass for the JFK to Heathrow portion, but I thought maybe I had to pick up the other boarding pass when I actually got to London.

Turns out , when I tried to use international connections to catch my flight to Corfu, JFK had only booked my checked bag as far as Heathrow. They mistakenly handled my trip as 2 separate tickets instead of one connecting flight. So my checked bag was waiting at baggage claim. I was told I had to go back out to disembark through customs, fill out a landing card to enter the UK,  go retrieve my bag, go upstairs to departing flights, drop my bag, go back through security and make it to my gate. I said I’ll miss my flight to Corfu – Oh, you’ll make it they said. NOT.

I don’t usually feel my age, but try being over 60, dashing through a large airport, having to deal with long lines and airport attendants who didn’t care what my story was – I still had to go through with everyone else, exit secured area to retrieve bag at baggage claim, go back upstairs to departing flights, try to drop off my bag again to go back through security and get to my gate – I was almost in tears when informed I was too late, they’d taken my name off the flight.

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British Airways tried to make it up to me, apologizing profusely. They only have one direct flight a day to Corfu and offered to put me up overnight a the 5 star airport hotel. I wanted to be in a remote part of a Greek island, away from tourists. They finally got me on a flight to Athens, then switch to Aegean airline  to arrive in Corfu close to 10 PM – 5 hours late. Getting to ride in business class was nice, but doesn’t make up for getting to Kerkyra after dark, having to drive in the dark to my destination at the southern end of the island. They did call Budget for me to make sure I’d still have a rental car, and I was able to call my small inn.

A Classic Sail on the Passaat (1911 Schooner)

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On Thursday I booked a dinner cruise on the Passaat, a 1911 long sailing ship that offers both day tours and weekday dinner cruises. The dock behind Skipjack’s restaurant is the loading area, with folks ferried by dinghy under the Simpson Bay bridge out to where the ship is moored. Pieter and Mirian crew the ship and provide the drinks and meal, which are part of the dinner cruise package.
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