Have laughs, will travel

Sometimes, you just need to act like a nutter.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

In December of 2009, M and I spent a week in Geneva and five days in London before returning home to Canada.

We had been living in the UK while I was on research leave for my MA, and we really wanted to wrap up our trip in a special way.

We figured stops in two brilliant, bustling cities (in the weeks leading up to Christmas no less) would make for an excellent send off.

Now, suffice to say that I love my husband madly (emphasis on the mad) and when I state that we have a heck of a good time travelling together, this is not hyperbole.

This is fact.

During our time in Switzerland, we bopped about the place, our eyes semi-sprung from our sockets, incredulous at how expensive everything was (I mean, twelve francs for a happy meal!? How is that even possible?), attempting to take in all the jaw-dropping beauty offered up by our environs.

M is half-Swiss so we had the immense pleasure of staying with his amazing cousin Lisette, a woman whom I love dearly – so much so that I will be hard pressed not to name my first child after her.

(If luck should have it that it be born a boy, well, he’ll have to endure. Perhaps some hard living country songstress will write a rousing tune about him and his namesake. It would be a bona fide hit; a certified chart topper.)

Lisette’s sister Bea is another of my all time favourites – she is the epitome of chic. Her doggie Tisha is also the epitome of cute, with her eyes that melt your heart, and magical powers to make handfuls of biscuits materialize out of thin air.

On our first day in Geneva, we toured much of the old town and then visited St. Pierre Cathedral. Having climbed to the bell tower, we took full advantage of an empty observation deck to partake in some high tom foolery.

Exhibit A:


On our trip to Bern, M kept asking me to take photos so “it looked like he was running to jump aboard the train while it was still moving.”

This is the best I could do:

It’s amazing the associated press hasn’t been blowing up my phone trying to get me to come and work for them.

Perhaps one of my most favourite laugh-until-you-cry-and-then-bloody-well-laugh-some-more moments came when we were in London.

It was our second day in the city. We sprung out of bed at an early hour, despite having walking some twelve-odd hours the day before, so eager we were for adventure.

Boy was it was cold as heck.

We arrived at Kensington Gardens and immediately were besieged by hoards of hungry, and as such, aggressive water fowl. They were absolutely insatiable! I managed to capture the madness (albeit all too briefly) in the following video.


Finally, because I’m a silly, silly girl, and I’m always asking M to pose for inane photos, I requested that he pretend to tickle the giant, mummified hippopotamus that’s hanging two stories up in the Museum of Natural History:

And then pet the skeleton of some poor prehistoric beast that perished in some Jurassic tar pit and/or meteor shower:


Just typing out these words – just looking at all of our many photos from this trip has got me feeling homesick. Yearning for our small, rubbish flat on Rotton Park Road, my running loop at the Edgbaston Reservoir, my young English students at Right Track School, the beautiful red brick at the University of Birmingham, and all the carefree nights and weekends M and I spent around the city, and different parts of the country.

So you’ll have to excuse me.

I’m off to take some photos. I’m off for a new adventure.

Like a monkey with a miniature symbol

Hey kidlets!

It’s once again time for another Friday Fry-up. So let’s not waste time mixing metaphors and just get this show on the road.

First on the docket?

Awesome reasons to eat cheese.

Glücklich (wenn auch spät) Schweizer Bundesfeie meine Freunde!

Yes, that’s right. Happy belated Swiss National Day.

Over here at chez-madhouse, we look forward to celebrating this holiday every year on August 1. It’s a chance to hang out with other Swiss nuts (aka M’s family), eat a ton of amazing cheese, drink sparkling wine, and make merry as the night is long.

So this past Wednesday we tuned up our alpen horns, practiced our Roger Federer one-handed backhands, and drove over for a feast of feasts with the rest of the gang.


Number two?

I think I’ve seen this all before.

So it’s not that I get déjà vu a lot, it’s more that the déjà vu that I do end up getting really knocks me for a loop – it is out-of-this-world BONKERS. I am literally struck silent (one might even say immobilized) by the feeling that everything that I am experiencing has already happened to me before.

And when I’m not living through this strange, quasi-out-of-body sensation, I’m just doing really silly things on repeat – over, and over, and over again.

(See: Hot Chip)

For instance, did you know that in Russian, the work for juice is cok? You see, c = s and k = c/k.

The confusion and embarrassment comes into play when even though you are THINKING in Russian, your brain is READING in English, and you end up saying “cok“ (and who are we kidding, if you say cok, nobody is thinking “oh, like Russian juice only mispronounced!“ and everybody is just thinking THAT GIRL JUST SAID WANG!!! BAHAHAHAHA!!!“.)

Which is bloody awkward as all get out.

Seriously, all throughout Russian 100 I’m fairly certain that I told 90% of my classmates that on the weekends I liked to drink vodka and cock.

Which is silly because I don’t EVER drink vodka, and the prospect of a vodka penis just makes the whole venture one hundred fold more unappealing.


Why are you telling this story lady? I bet many of you are thinking at this very moment.


Yesterday I was with my colleague J, and I asked her to accompany me to the kitchen so I could get a drink.

Unfortunately, I wavered between pop and coke, and so it came out: “I just want to grab a cock.“

And so it continues.

Seriously, how this is still happening to me, I will never know.

I can only blame it on the Russians.


Amazing YA fiction.

Have any of you cats read this book?

I just started it yesterday morning and I am about halfway through. It is absolutely awesome!

It’s driving me batty trying to figure out what exactly is going on – the plot is slowly unfolding but I feel as though I cannot trust any of the narration.

I am hooked. I implore you – ch-ch-ch-check it out.

As for us Canucks, we have a three day weekend to look forward to. Hopefully the sun will be shining like a shining thing. M and I are looking forward to hiking Mt. Seymour, and just spending as much time outside as possible. I have a really, really wicked foot tan shaping up, the likes of which I haven’t seen for a couple of years.

Wishing you all a fab time off, whatever it is you do.

And miles to go before I sleep

Hi Friends,

Is it just me, or are any of you itching for an excellent and exciting escapade in a fantastical foreign landscape? It’s been two weeks since my return from the land of palm trees and face-lifts, and while I very much enjoy my employment here on the West coast, (I actually really do love my job) I am already daydreaming about the next big trip Monsieur M. and I will take together.

Or small trip.

There is just something undeniably awesome about international travel and intrigue…

I'm like a bird, I want to fly awaaaaaayyyyyy.

So pip pip, my passport is expiring at the end of March and I am putting together my application for a renewal.

Because everyone knows that a top spy-cum-adventurer needs two things at her disposal at all given times:

– valid passport

– excellent sense of humour and improvisation. (Okay, this might qualify as two things in some circles, so I beg of you to cut me some slack.)

A cute outfit, a quality camera and an ever present willingness to take on the unknown probably never hurt anyone either (in my experience at least.)

I’ve been surfing the internets quite a bit, researching all sorts of magnificent and mesmerizing locales – everything from Sweden to Salt Spring Island; Costa Rica to Colorado; Morocco to Montreal.

Seriously dudes, as much as I rail against the morally bankrupt ways of that ever elusive one percent (has anyone been able to find a contact number for them yet?), sometimes I can’t help imagining how lovely it would be to live with unlimited funds.

Sweet cash dollars would not only buy me many terrific trips, but countless beautiful shoes and a villa in the South of France.

(Lest you think me superficial, these are but other must-have accoutrements for said previously mentioned spy. Plus they’re pretty!!!)

This fantasy, however, always comes crashing to a (rather spectacular) halt once it veers into the territory of what I would actually have to do or condone in order to get that wealthy.

This knowledge alone would undoubtedly ruin all the splendor of that villa (and those shoes) and eventually turn me into some tragic pseudo-Lady MacBeth.

All in all, pretty darn grim.

And that is why I am happy sitting and planning out The Next Great Travel Thing! (Copyright Ethel the Dean, 2012).

In the meantime, let me share with you three snapshots of times past, spent in brilliant places, with beautiful people.

Someone once asked me: why do I love to travel? why do I need to travel? The following are just a part of the answer.

Hawaii 2007

M and I travel to Oahu’s North Shore where we stay in a beautiful one-floor, many bedroom-ed beach house with five hilarious, and very accommodating friends.

The view from our house. Heaven.

We end up sleeping on the sofa bed in the main room and I fall asleep every night to the sound of the breaking surf, just steps away from our lanai, while our friendly neighbourhood gecko makes quick work of the few flies that made it past my feverish guarding of the patio bug screen.

We go swimming with sea turtles and sting rays, eat chunks of fresh pineapple and laugh as the juice trickles down our cheeks, tan ourselves brown (such a contrast to the white of the sand) and learn that Vancouver’s Starbucks obsession doesn’t hold a flame to the ABC stores in Waikiki.

The shell my ring was hidden under.

On the third day of our visit, M asks me to accompany him on a sunset walk. There, on a beach, a few miles outside of the quaint seaside town of Haleiwa, with the sky the colour of one big Shirley temple, he asks me if I will spend the rest of my life with him.

I cry. And cry, and then I cry.

And then because he is just sitting there, looking at me, I tell him yes, of course yes.

I will.

I will until the end of the world.

Greece 2008

M and I have been married for exactly one week.

We set out on our honeymoon, travelling to a place the two of us have only read about in books (he especially, and we’re not exactly talking about contemporary literature either. I mean, say what you want about the relevancy of Ovid, et. al. but we’re not exactly getting any younger here.)

Greetings centurion!

The weather is excruciatingly hot, but we travel light, and from the moment we arrive it is as though we have been instilled with a boundless energy – so eager we are to explore and experience and indulge in the decadence of this dream-like world, that we walk until our legs our coated with a fine dust, our lips chapped dry.

We came early to get good seats.

An ancient city, a modern time.

During our time on Crete we visit King Minos’ home, pay homage to Theseus (and the Minotaur) and visit Matala, an ancient Roman graveyard.

Old spirits greeting newlyweds, teaching us the secrets to a long life, but longer lasting fame.

Switzerland 2009

Christmas in Geneva. The streets are frosted white and the mercury dips lower, and lower with each passing night. The air here in the city is so much crisper, so much cleaner than that of Birmingham, our home for the past four months.

People look healthier hear. (People sound healthier too.)

There must be something said for chocolate and cheese.

(And I’ll be the first to say it.)

We stay with M’s cousin. The way she speaks French is a bit difficult to describe. It sounds almost as though she is singing. The tone and cadence so gentle yet lively – a quality particular to the Genevois people and I love it.

On our third day in the country we travel to Bern.

The beauty packed into the city’s old town is as striking, as it is astounding. The history of this place is breathtaking to behold, but the so is the cold, as it sneaks into my boots and down my coat and around my ears.

Be still my heart.

I munch on roasted chestnuts as M and I walk to Einstein’s old apartment.

We watch out for bears. But on this day, it seems there are none to be seen.

Holding hands, we catch snowflakes on our tongues and I whisper sweet French nothings into his ear.

Just like a song.

Oh make me over

I have a question for all the beautiful people.

What, pray tell, is the difference between “very black” and “classic black” in terms of mascara?

Or equally confounding, in life?

Won't somebody please think of the children!?

I mean, there can’t actually be a discernible distinction between the two – can there?

From what I remember of Art 8, (and there really isn’t much) black isn’t even a colour, so there can’t be all that much variation in terms of its presentation (or interpretation).


Of course this conundrum doesn’t even begin to scrape the surface of the impossible and completely insufferable colour coding on the (seemingly) millions of packaged eyelash-extending products available for purchase at your friendly neighborhood drug and/or department store.

The amount of merchandise on display is overwhelming to the point of paralysis.

Seriously, what is this? Bill’s Candy Shop? I mean, a company (that shall remain nameless) actually markets a product called “blackest-black”.

Those twisted bastards.

To be fair, I totally get why they do it.  They’re just trying to make as much money as they possibly can, through their totally warped and markedly transparent manipulation of the otherwise blissfully unassuming masses, and yet I still want to scream: HELLO COMPANY EXECS! WE ALL SEE WHAT YOU’RE DOING HERE AND WE KNOW ITS ALL ABOUT STUFFING THOSE GIANT ALREADY FIT-TO-BURSTING MONEY BAGS OF YOURS!

Also, if we are going to venture into this totally inane, waste-of-time-marketing-territory couldn’t we get a little creative? Where is my “the-Grinch’s-heart-pre-Cindy-Lou-Who-black,” or “black-hole-before-you-knew-anything-about-physics-black,” or “everyone-knows-you-look-skinnier-in-black-black”?


Well, give me time. I’m working on it.

In the interim, I can’t bring myself to buy any other brand than this one pictured below:

This colour scheme is pretty darn 80s.

It’s still the cheapest product available that (in my opinion) provides the best results.  Yet, I’m worried. The price has been steadily rising and I’m afraid that its affordability may be heading the way of the dodo.

So, in the near future, should you see a woman stockpiling Greatlash mascara with an almost deranged fervor, don’t fret – I’m just saving up in preparation for the zombie apocalypse.  Because if there is one thing I’ve learned from the Resident Evil franchise, (and I’ve learned a lot), it’s that the hotter I look, the more proficient I will be at kicking major flesh-eating, walking-dead butt.

So boy do I plan to look SMOKING.

Another point I feel as though I must touch on today is a bit of a post-script to my post from Monday, in which I mercilessly lampooned Forever Twenty-One’s horrifying fashions and equally disastrous window display.

Not to be outdone, it seems as though Holt Renfrew has thrown its hat into the ring in order to compete for the “erm…right…okay…” prize of the year.

Exhibit A:

No Bessie! Not on the Chanel!

Yeah, I’m pretty sure the last time I checked, right below “buy couture clothing” on my bucket list DOES NOT READ “bottle feed baby cow.”

In fact, the more I think about it, those two enterprises done in tandem just seem downright counter-intuitive.

(I’ll let you guys guess which of those two is actually on my bucket list. Please, be nice.)

Also, I cannot help but think of all the individuals of Swiss heritage I know, and how hard they would laugh at this display – not so much in a “hah! What a novel idea for a high-end department store to employ over the holidays,” but more of a “hah! Canadians are such silly, simple creatures. Please pass the gruyere.”


The other displays are equally alarming: bird people playing tin-can telephone? French maids wearing lace corsets over Victorian-style blouses?

Voulez-vous acheter des vetements vraiments cher? EH?

Didn’t anyone ever teach the store’s head display designer the dangers of mixed metaphors?

Can they even read?

(I kid. I kid.)


I worry that someone could end up with a bad case of mistaken (or even lost) identity from simply setting foot in the store!  Though to be fair, something tells me they are more likely to suffer from massive hemorrhaging of sweet cash dollars that anything else.

But I digress.

I also shouldn’t lie and say that I don’t desperately want those birds chilling out on the teeter-totter.  These awesome dudes were what definitely caught my eye in the first place:

Come on Jim! Left, left, left, right, left!

(Though the Swiss-miss Vogue cover shoot was a close second.)

They would make an excellent addition to my office, any day of the year.

Finally, yesterday my excellent friend A accompanied me to the Hyatt over lunch where we perused some of the stellar gingerbread creations currently on display in the hotel’s lobby.

It’s really quite amazing to behold how creative people can be in terms of the tasty treat! These people aren’t just culinary masters – they are bloody architects to boot!

Now, if I can just find a way to make this one life size I’ll be set.

Our house! In the middle of the farm!

Even more so if those Holt Renfrew birds want to join me.