Thursday, 29 August 2013

#361: Travel Time

Being retired has nothing to do with feeling ready for a trip. It just means that you have more time to worry about what you are forgetting.


Saturday, 24 August 2013

#360: Training for Spain

Being retired and all, I supposedly have a ton of time to prepare for our upcoming trip.  And I have been doing a bit, both mentally and physically.  I want to know something about our destination and I would like to have a few basic Spanish phrases at the ready.   I also need to be fit enough for the hiking part of the holiday -- 12 days and 90+ kilometres in the Picos de Europa. It would be so embarrassing to be carried off the trail on a stretcher.

Reading about must-see Madrid, Bilbao and Granada is easy enough, but language acquisition at my age is a hard slog. When faced with a list of Rick Steeve's essential Spanish phrases, it is all too easy to plead neuron overload.  Desperate for a break, I heed the siren call of clean towels heaped on our bed.  Fold me, fold me, fold me they plead, and suddenly that seems like an excellent idea.

But hiking -- that is a different sort of training altogether.  Hiking is a no-excuses activity.

Ten kilometres into today's walk on the Bruce Trail (the closest thing we have to picos in southern Ontario) we discovered that we had miscalculated the distance.  Oops. We still had 5 more kilometres to go, 5 more kilometres of rocky trail, heat and mosquitoes.  But stopping was not an option.  We could either spend the night under a tree or trudge on.  Because the only way to finish a hike is to just finish.  It is that simple. Today's hiking-inspired life lesson: if you want to reach your destination, you need to keep going. And that is what we did.

Now if only I could apply that philosophy to every aspect of my training for Spain.....

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

#359: ¿Habla Usted Espagnol?

So here I am with a hundred things to do before we leave for Spain. Make that ciento.  Where shall I begin?  Oh. I'll think I'll clean the bathroom. And the bedroom.  I can't stand a messy bedroom.

I feel like my 19-year-old self during exam week. Must clean my room. I simply can't study in an untidy space!

It appears that 50 years of growing-up haven't made a dent. Now I have all the time in the world but I still have a talent for procrastination.

At this rate I had better concentrate on one useful phrase: yo non hablo Espagnol.  I think I am going to need it.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

#358: Jubilation

In preparation for our upcoming trip, I have learned a new word in Spanish, and it is one I will not likely forget:  jubilado. 

I love it. It means retiree.  

In Spain, superannuates must have way more fun than ho-hum Canadiense pensioners.

We'll see.  I intend to enjoy testing this theory!

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

#357: Mid-Summer Matters

In Canada the first Monday in August is a holiday, a day off with no other purpose than to provide the citizenry with a well-timed long weekend.  (It has different names in different cities and provinces. This year, I even heard it referred to as Holiday X, which seems entirely appropriate considering its pragmatic origins.)

Whatever we call it,  the August Long Weekend is summer's midpoint, the day on which we look wistfully back at summer gone, and hopefully forward to more simple summer pleasures which, in my case, include more outdoor rambles, more al fresco meals overlooking our back yard, and more ice cream consumed at the Boathouse by the lazy, ironically named Speed River.

I also need to spend August honouring the promise made in my last travel blog post: to do some real preparation for our September trip to Spain.  Learn a bit of Spanish, read about Bilbao, Madrid and Granada, and some do training hikes in readiness for village to village walking in the Picos de Europa.

But regardless of  how I spend the rest of the summer, it will be hard to top the pleasures of July when we had a wonderful visit with our Canadian family. My Toronto daughter Keri and her husband Ben frequently joined up with the folks from Saskatoon (Jenny, Patrick, 8 month old Erik, and Patrick's niece Lennea) who were with us for two sunny, fun-filled weeks.

Don't get me wrong -- it was fantastic to have the whole gang together.  My adult children and their partners are fabulous company; 17-year old Lennea is a delight.  They are all welcome to return at any time, and they don't even need to bring the baby.  Honest.

But I would be lying if I didn't confess that during this recent visit, it was Erik who was the star of the show.  At the risk of sounding like a gushing grandma, it really was enormous fun getting to know this little person. We were captivated by his repertoire of baby-behaviours.  

Besides, he is completely, adorably cute.  

Not for the first time, it occurred to me that all that cuteness is an evolutionary strategy designed to ensure that babies survive infancy.  When they protest at bath time with howls and tears that can only mean YOU ARE NOT MY MOTHER YOU ARE DOING THIS ALL WRONG I'LL NEVER FORGET THIS TERRIBLE EXPERIENCE EVEN WHEN I AM AN OLD MAN we think twice about throwing them out the bathroom window. They are so very sweet.

Erik's adorableness also saved him from falling down the stairs, getting stuck under a chair, and scalding his little hands with a cup of hot coffee.  He is so delightful that we just couldn't tear our eyes away. Look at him!  What will he do next?  Will he head for the little brown teddy (a "heritage" toy unearthed from the basement), or crawl over to Keri's handbag with all its zippers and clasps. (No contest.  Erik loves anything with moving parts.)  Bruce and I experienced one AAAAAAW moment after another as we played with him, feasting on his adorableness all the while directing his attention away from interesting wires, knobs and pointy corners.

Now it August, and they have all gone home. It grieved me to put away the brown teddy and other toys, and to return the borrowed high chair.  Teaching myself Spanish for Travellers will not be nearly as much fun as showing Erik how to place the coloured rings on a Rock-a-Stack.

It's OK.  I will enjoy the last of the summer.  But I need a new knitting project, another Erik-sized garment that I can work on while committing useful Spanish to memory.  Gotta keep that baby-buzz going.