A Travelogue

Sunday, February 27, 2005

"The Party"

If you've seen the movie "The Party" with Peter Sellers, you'll be able to visualize the scene at dinner this evening.

We had Rock Cornish Game Hens. Just as I was critizing someone else for their bad table manners, my cornish hen flew off my plate and skittered across the table. Bits of chicken went flying in all directions.

"You have a piece of chicken hanging from your eyebrow", said Teddy, nodding at Hans.

"He's just keeping an eye on it", said Vern.

The Ante-Trip, Day 1

Our first day, which consisted of endless snow-capped mountains standing sentinel along our drive, is already over. And we're still in Canada.

It's a long drive to Kelowna and our last pit stop was in Canmore 5 hours ago. Teddy and I share a psychic bond, as evidenced when she met me at the door holding a large pot, gesturing to the open door and explaining that Vern already had the lid up on the toilet and cleared a path for me...

After intense visiting with 4 of us talking at once, each one trying to get his piece said before it was forgotten, we relaxed. Now almost 6 weeks of sensible eating punctuated with near daily workouts on the treadmill, pushups, situps, and other assorted fitness routines, we fell from our pedestals with a thud. It was The Drink. I was seduced by The Grape, a willing and even eager victim. Hans fell to The Rum and Coke. Having virtually abstained over the past few weeks, our systems found it hard to cope and we collapsed into bed by 10:30 our time, comatose before both feet left the ground.

Today (Day 2) Vern and Hans will hit a few golf balls and look at hybrid cars. Teddy and I will visit $2 million show homes. This evening, The Evil Grape will sing its siren song to deaf ears. Well, nearly deaf.

Friday, February 25, 2005

You Count

You're being counted! I've asked my dotter to install a counter on my blog so I can see if any of you are actually reading this stuff!

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Happy Birthday Rotary!

For a collective group that just turned 100, we've never looked so good!

Last night the Central Alberta Rotary Clubs celebrated with gusto. Nearly 200 people, including DG Ken Copithorne and Wendy, and DG Nominee Raju Paul and Asha, came together to share food, wine, stories and friendship.

I confess to having surreptitously (but alas, temporarily) liberated a bottle of red wine from the adjacent table while the oblivious guests were lined up at the buffet. However, I wasn't allowed to get away with it. On their return, they noticed the previousy full bottle was suddenly empty and they stared suspiciously at our table. I can't imagine why.

We bid on a couple of items in the silent auction and *won* a night in the jacuzzi suite at the Black Knight Inn. I like to think of it as having won a prize because, after all, we're competing with others here. Hans points out that we don't really *win* silent auction items. But I think we did.

Thursday, February 10, 2005


After 30+ years of speaking virtually no French, I've been asked to pull those rusty verbs and nouns into the light of day and give them a brisk dusting-off. Mon Dieu!

I'm secretly looking forward to it. It will quickly become obvious to everyone that:
(a) I used to speak French fluently, and
(b) I don't anymore. *sigh*

I spent some time yesterday afternoon translating a document from English into French. This exercise was seriously hampered by the tediousness of having to create the various accents using keyboard shortcuts (which, I'd like to point out, don't all work as they should). And secondly, I had to refer to the online English/ French dictionary a shocking number of times.

I feel like a toddler who's just learning to speak. Kids have so much to say but don't know the words so they go 'round and 'round the subject till they make their point. That will be me tomorrow.

C'est la vie.

But the really good news is... I get a free dinner out!

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Bait and Switch?

Hans has been busy finding us a rental car in New Zealand. There are many companies available, but a number of them have "older" cars and we're not desperate enough to take a chance just to save a few bucks.

But it is all quite confusing:
§ some companies don't let their cars go on the ferry to the south island
§ some companies will, but it costs a fortune
§ others want you to drop your car off at the north island, take the ferry with your luggage in hand, and pick up a second car when you reach the south island
§ many won't let you drop the car off in Christchurch if you pick it up in Auckland UNLESS you rent the car for more than 30 days. We need it for 25.
§ All of them will hold you liable to the tune of megabucks if you have an accident unless, of course, you pay an extra $10 per day. Then they'll only hold you liable for about $200 worth of damage. No word on what happens if you run over someone.

And finally, after having sorted through all this information and trying to compare apples and oranges, Hans finally settled on one company whose quote was quite reasonable. Then he asked how much more if we get the next larger size? Well, it was lots more, so he agreed to go with the smaller size. Oh, except the smaller size is now also more!

Why is that, we asked. Well, apparently the busier they are, the higher their rates. Go figure.

So phooey on them. We're renting from #2. They try harder.

Friday, February 04, 2005

The Joy of Sekts

Disclaimer: Sekts is the short German name for Qualitatsschaumweins or sparkling wines. The author in no way intends this term to be misconstrued by readers with over-active imaginations.

Even in this enlightened day and age, the topic of sekts carries with it a great deal of mystery, confusion and even taboo. Many still feel uncomfortable talking about the subject frankly and openly. However, it is only through such discussion that some of the misconceptions, assumptions and even embarrassment surrounding sekts will be clarified and reduced, and true enjoyment realized.

It is difficult to ascertain when sekts was first enjoyed. Historical documents reveal that it has been around for at least a thousand years. However, there can be no doubt that the type enjoyed by ancient races was not nearly as refined as what we love today.

The French, naturally asserting expertise on the subject, claim to have practically invented sekts. In fact, French sektsperts argue that it was a blind monk, of all people, named Dom Perignon who "discovered" it quite by accident while experimenting back in the 17th century. That the frisky Dom stumbled across something magical goes without saying. Whether or not it was true sekts, as we know it today, remains the question.

The Spanish also experimented at an early age. Jose Raventos, the "Don Juan" of sekts, created a Spanish variation in 1872, apparently having heard rumors of Dom Perignon's cork popping episodes. As a cultural footnote it is interesting to observe the absence of women in the creation of the world's first sekts. However, as history shows, men typically enjoy sekts when women are present.

And while the French and Spanish both have high-quality sekts, Germany has the most of it. In fact, Germany is responsible for twice as much sekts as France. Who would have thought?

There is no doubt that many of you have already tried sekts – perhaps many times. For those of you who haven't, you should realize that it can be something of an acquired taste. Like many of life's more gratifying indulgences, enjoying sekts to the fullest may involve patience and practice. Not everyone takes to it immediately and a bad experience at the beginning could have dire consequences later in life. Have an open mind and remind yourself that you may have to try it two, perhaps even three times before deciding whether or not it is right for you.

Timing is an important consideration. Traditionally, people often abstain from sekts until their wedding night or other times of celebration. While this may be acceptable when really great sekts is in order, the amount of good quality cheap sekts available means you can indulge regularly.

Truth is, you can enjoy sekts almost anytime you're in the mood. While many have discovered the joy of having it before dinner, more adventurous souls have found that indulging in it throughout the course of a meal can add interesting new dimensions. A little sekts first think in the morning can also be extremely luxurious and satisfying. A word of warning: you can have too much of a good thing. Overindulging can result in pain. Especially the morning after.

While sekts can indeed be magical between two people you can, in fact, enjoy it all on your own. Other times it is best shared with others. "Group sekts," as this activity is often called, allows people to compare different types in a frank, open and adult manner. This is one of the best ways to introduce novices to the infinite variety available.

When young, sekts can be exuberant, even giddy. With age, it takes on a more serious and mature nature. The best can last for many, many years. But like all things, it won't last forever and will eventually lose its fizz. Once you find your preferred style, it's best to enjoy it to its fullest before it becomes flaccid and lifeless. While your introduction to sekts may be secretive and behind closed doors, your passion will inevitably develop to the point where you will no doubt become more demonstrative. You will want to spread your knowledge among others. Indeed, it will probably become an important part of your family life.

As we know, children and teenagers are very curious indeed. There will come a time when you will have to talk about sekts with your young ones. For instance, your son Bobby may come home from a friend's house and say, "Mommy, Daddy, I saw Jimmy's parents having sekts…in the kitchen!"

How you choose to respond can affect your children's attitude as they mature. Explain to them that sekts is a wonderful thing that adults enjoy, but something that young people must be very cautious around. There are a number of good books that can introduce and explore the subject if you find doing so yourself is uncomfortable.

Sekts is natural indulgence, and a very civilized one at that. It can be enjoyed by all mature adults alone, in groups or with a special someone. By experimenting with a variety of styles, in a variety of situations, you will discover what is right for you; the sekts that really pops your cork.

By Dr. T. Stewart, certified sekts counsellor