Not To Be Trusted With Knives

The Internet’s leading authority on radicalized geese

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Bus Tours Are Like Cruises, But With Less Water

I should probably preface this posting by saying that I’ve never actually been on a cruise. But from my limited understanding of cruises, I believe that cruises involve a bunch of people all traveling on a big vehicle, going from place to place, where at  the places they let you off said vehicle to go look at stuff and do things. So that’s pretty much like a bus tour. Except the water part. And the living on the vehicle part. But other than that, totally like cruises.

The tour company we went with was called Royal Irish Tours – a company that my aunt found through her travel agent – and who market just to Canadians, so all of our tour mates were also Canadian. In fact, other than myself and a couple from Gander, Newfoundland, everyone else was from Ontario1.

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The deal with the bus tour is that they arrange the whole trip for you – from your accommodations in various castles and other fancy hotels to your trips to different tourist-y sites to entertainers2 to cool places to take photos along the way. Plus breakfasts and dinners were included3, as well as a few places where we got other goodies included, like tea and scones and pints of Murphy’s and Irish coffee while we shopped. Truth be told, I would have preferred fewer hotel dinners and more of the dinners at pubs or takeaway fish’n’chips4. Don’t get me wrong, the food was delicious, but appies, big meals, and desserts every single night got to be *a lot* of food!

Essentially the way it worked was that we would stay in a hotel for one or two nights and then move onto the next hotel. On the day that we changed hotels, we had to have our bags packed and sitting outside our hotel room door by 7:30 am – then you’d just go down to breakfast and the bell hop would pick up your luggage and bring it to the bus. I was kinda confused the first time the driver said this was how it worked. “You mean we just leave our luggage unattended in the hallway and no one is going to steal it?” I swear you would never do that in North America, but, true to their word, the nothing ever got stolen and it really was nice not to have to carry our bags down. On several of the days we go to stay in the same hotel two nights in a row – as we’d just drive around that area for the day and return to the same hotel – and those days were pretty sweet because packing is for suckers.

One of the best things about the bus tour, of course, is that someone else does all the driving, so you don’t have to worry yourself about such things as how to get where you are going5 or how the hell to drive on roads that are too narrow to actually accommodate two vehicles driving past each other.

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As well, we have a fantastic driver and tour guide6 who not only got us where we needed to go right at the time we needed to be there, but also gave us super interesting Irish history lessons as he drove and told us jokes and played awesome CDs of Irish music for us and even read us poetry!

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Martin really went above and beyond to make sure everyone was having a good time. We were very lucky to have him as our driver and tour guide.

And now, some fun moments from the bus tour:

One of our tour mates, Ed,  decides he’s going to be the driver today!

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Irish coffee on the bus? Why not!

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When we stayed in Killarney, we actually got off the bus early and got into jaunting cars (a.k.a., horse and carriage) and took a jaunting car ride through Killarney Park before being dropped off at our hotel. Here we are on the jaunting car:

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You’ll notice that my Aunt Eileen isn’t in the picture. That’s because Billy the jaunting car driver fancied her, so he insisted that she sit up front with him!

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Another fun surprise on the tour was when we stopped into a gas station that had Tim Horton’s:

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Apparently this stop was only recently added to the tour. Since the tour groups are almost always Canadians, apparently every time they drove past this gas station people saw the Tim Horton’s sign and freaked out, so they decided to make it an official stop so all the Canadians could get their fix!

Oh yeah, and speaking of cruises, we actually did one – on a boat called the “Rose of Innisfree”. Here’s Martin serving some tea on the boat:

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Did I mention how much I love scones?

When you are on a bus tour, with all the getting on and getting off of the bus, the driver has to count heads at every stop to make sure everyone is on the bus. As well, most people were traveling in pairs, so if someone’s partner was missing, they’d be sure to tell the bus driver “hey, my wife’s not back yet!”7 Most people on the tour were traveling in couples, but I was partnered up with my mom, there was another mother-daughter pair, and my two aunts were together, though they didn’t sit together because the bus wasn’t full, so they each took a window seat for themselves. The system worked very well for the most part, except one time, there was a miscount and we left someone behind – one of my aunts! It happened at Moriarty’s, where we’d stopped to shop:

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On this particular day, we had a “relief” driver, as Irish law does not allow anyone to work 11 days in a row with no breaks8, so while Martin was on the bus with us, he wasn’t driving. When we finished shopping, my aunt thought my aunt was right behind her getting on the bus, but she wasn’t. Somehow the driver miscounted, thought everyone was on the bus, and departed. We were probably 5 minutes down the road when someone said, “Hey, where’s Lynn?” And right then Martin’s phone rang – it was another driver from another bus who was stopped at Moriarty’s, telling us we’d left a passenger behind.

We turned around and headed back to get her and I was totally thinking that if that were me, I’d be freaking out, but was we drove up, there was my Aunt Lynn, cool as a cucumber, sitting next to the cute young bus driver from the other bus. I’m pretty sure she didn’t actually want us to come back and get her! Thankfully, my aunt has a good sense of humour9 and we all got a good laugh out of the whole thing!

When we signed up to do a bus tour, I figured that I’d really enjoy the not having to make any decisions part of it, as well as the not having to drive (because I’d inevitably get lost!). But I had no idea that I’d get such rich lessons in history – as well as lessons in contemporary Irish politics and culture – and I was also really pleased with what a fun group people were on our tour. Everyone was friendly and in good spirits – we really did have a blast!

Group photo:

ireland team 2013

So, in conclusion: A++. Would bus tour again.

  1. Of course, having a Vancouverite and two Newfies meant we could legitimately say we represented Canada from “coast to coast”! []
  2. On our trip we had an Irish storyteller come and tell us tall tales after dinner one day, a harpist come and perform for us after dinner another day,  a stop at an bar with live music, a night out to another pub with Irish music and dancing, and another performance of music and dancing at yet another tavern on our final night. []
  3. Usually at the hotel. []
  4. We went to Leo Burrdock’s fish’n’chips and it was delish! []
  5. Especially given my sense of direction! []
  6. Apparently there is a new law coming into effect next year that will mean that drivers will no longer be able to also do the talking, but at this point, Martin still had to both drive the bus and provide the commentary. []
  7. There was one guy traveling alone, but everyone was looking out for him because they knew he didn’t have a travel buddy to pay attention to his whereabouts. []
  8. Our tour was 11 days long. []
  9. I must take after her, because she said, “That is probably the best story we have from the whole trip!”, which is generally how I react when things go sideways – just think of the story! []

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FSM on the Xmas Tree

In addition to the chili peppers, I decided that my Christmas tree needed one more thing, which I made this weekend:

FSM Christmas Tree Ornament

The Flying Spaghetti Monster now graces my tree. May he touch you with his noodly appendage this Holiday season.

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Dominican Vacation!

Well, I’m on the plane back from the Dominican Republic and I figure now is as good a time as any to start writing my blog posting summarizing my adventures1. First off, the trip to Punta Cana, via Regina, was long. A long, long flight, during which both Tod and I each, mercifully, managed to sleep a fair bit, was followed by an hour-long bus ride to the resort. It was night time when we arrived and so we couldn’t see much on the drive, other than the many, many motorcyclists who drive, sans helmets (and, in some cases, sans headlights on unlit, very potholed roads). We’d sent the advance team – a.k.a. my sister, her bf and my niece, a.k.a. the Three Musketeers – a day before us to scout out the resort2. Upon arriving, we checked in, received a note from the the Three Musketeers telling us which room they were in, discovered our room keys didn’t work, then, after getting new room keys, discovered our room was not the we ordered3 and so headed to the buffet for dinner while they cleaned a room with a king size bed for us. And then we totally randomly ran into the the Three Musketeers, who had not yet received the voicemail messages we left for them, but just happened to be walking by where we were4. The goings for the remainder of the trip was something like this:

  • Nancy would get up early in the morning and secure one of the awesome poolside beds.

View from one of the awesome poolside beds.

  • Tod & I would wake up, much as we did on our Mexican vacation, around 10:30 a.m.., just in time to enjoy the breakfast buffet before it closed at 11 a.m.
  • We’d join the 3M poolside and there would be some combination of chatting, reading books, listening to podcasts, swimming in the pool and/or making a trip to the beach.
  • Buffet lunch, with much nachos and cheese sauce had by all.
  • More poolsideness.
  • A trip to the gym for me and Nancy.
  • Back to our respective rooms for showers before dinner.
  • Dinner.
  • Hanging out.

Unlike our Mexican trip, where we literally did the same thing every single day, there was a bit more variety in the day-to-day schedule on this trip. There were trips to the spa – couples massage for Tod and I one evening, mud treatments for me & Nancy the next day5 and a couples massage for Nancy & Jeff the following night. There was ocean kayaking for Jeff and I. Jeff actually knew what he was doing, so he navigated us out into the ocean and kept us afloat amongst the crazy white capped waves while I mindlessly paddled. And after surviving the treacherous ocean we managed to capsize while we were about 3 feet from the shore6. There was also sandcastle building for Jeff, Madeline and me – wherein Jeff built a lovely sandcastle and M and I poured water on it for reinforcement:

Other highlights of the trip included:

  • swimming with my niece. That kid is like a fish and would swim all day and night if you let her. She’s also very brave and will jump off you in any number of surprising directions, despite the fact that she can’t touch the bottom, so it really kept me on my toes to make sure I was there when she needed to come up for air. We swam until I was pretty much exhausted (as much from the stress of making sure she didn’t drown as from the actual activity) and this was after she’d already swam for hours with Nancy and/or Jeff. But even as tiring as it was, seeing how happy the swimming made her made me a happy, happy aunty.
  • birthday somersaults in the pool. At dinner the night before my birthday, Madeline and I decided that a somersault in the pool would be an excellent way to celebrate my 33rd birthday. And it was. So excellent, in fact, that I did several. Both forewords AND backwards somersaults. Because that’s the way I roll 7.
  • scuba diving lesson. It was just an intro lesson in the pool, but it was the first time I’ve ever worn a scuba tank and breathed through a regulator and I *loved* it. The instructor said that people usually found it weird at first, because their brains tell them “you can’t breath underwater!” But I didn’t find that to be the case at all – it felt perfectly natural to me. The BC coast apparently has some very fine scuba diving, so I may need to look into scuba lessons and certification! 8

There were, of course, a few lowlights, such as:

  • Angry British Man next door. Each room had an adjoining room with a very thin door separating the two rooms. One night after dinner, a bit after 11 p.m., the five of us went to Tod’s and my room to hang out and we’d only been chatting for a few minutes when we heard a ruckus, which I thought was drunken rowdies in the hallway, But then we heard, clear as a bell, a British-accented voice yell “SHUT THE @#$A UP!” We were a bit taken aback because (a) it was only 11 p.m., and (b) if the noise of us talking was too loud, a civilized human being would have knocked on the door and asked us to be a bit quieter. My sister called back, “Are you talking to us?” (as it wasn’t clear at this point whether he was yelling at us or at what I thought was drunken rowdies in the hallway, but which, in the end, turned out to be angry British man next door’s incoherent yelling) to which he replied, at the top of his lungs, “EVERY BLOODY NIGHT!!!!!!!!!!” So Nancy replied, “You could have just knocked on the door and asked politely.” Like, seriously, would that have been so difficult? From then on we hung out in the 3M’s room, but on the last night Tod and I were there (after the 3Ms left) we heard him yelling all sorts of horrible things at his wife, so I’m pretty sure the guy is just a douchebag.
  • toe injury. On our first foray into the ocean, I bashed my unsuspecting toe against a rock.  Bashed it but good. And as I jumped up in pain I landed on another rock and then another rock. I continued to play in the ocean, but on the way to lunch I said that my toe hurt like a mofo and I thought it was looking purple and Nancy said it wasn’t but then by the time lunch was over, it looked like this:

If only I’d seen this sign *before* I went swimming:

  • a gigantic spider in my room. On the last day that Tod and I were at the resort, the morning after the 3Ms had left, we decided that we had better get up early to snag one of the poolside beds (which Nancy had always done for us, because she is awesome), especially since we had to check out at noon, but didn’t leave for the airport until about 5 p.m., so we needed a homebase! The plan was to get up a bit before 7 a.m. and grab a poolside bed, on which we could sleep for a few more hours. So I set my alarm for 6:45 a.m., and up I got at this ungodly hour and as I walked to the bathroom I discovered a humongous, enormous, gargantuan monstrosity9 sitting outside my bathroom door, staring at me with its eight evil, beady little eyes10 as it plotted my untimely death. So I screamed and ran and jumped back on the bed. Which served as a delightful “alarm” to wake up Tod. And, because he’s a total sweetheart, Tod pushed the beast out of the room and then, when I said I couldn’t possibly go into the hall with it in the hall because now it was clearly going to have a vendetta against me and would surely eat me if it saw me, he put a towel on it so it couldn’t get me as I ran out of the hallway as quickly as possible. I can’t even imagine what the across-the-hall neighbours thought when they found a random towel laying outside their door and then picked it up to find a huge fucking spider underneath!
  • the weather. We got a couple of bright sunny days, but there were more cloudy days than I’d bargained for and it even rained on my birthday! Only I could go to a sunny destination and have it rain on my birthday!

As for the resort itself, it can best be described as “consistently inconsistent.” Sometimes the nachos were chewy and other times oily and yet other times perfect. Sometimes the nacho cheese was thick and orange and other days it was thin and pale. It wasn’t so much like “oh they must have a different chef today” as “oh, they must have used a completely different *recipe* today!” On the first day the chilaquiles at breakfast were vegetarian and so tasty that I decided they would be my go-to breakfast, but then we didn’t see them again for four days, at which time they had chicken in them. When you went to the spa they had you fill out a card of what you wanted (like “medium amount of massage oil” and “no abdominal massage”) but then they’d give you whatever services they wanted (like drenched in oil one day, barely any oil the next; or give you an abdominal massage even though you’d checked the “no” box for that). When Tod and I went for our massages, we were told to change out of our robes and back into our own clothes after the massages and before our private patio with fruit and chocolate-dipped cream puffs. But when Nancy & Jeff went for the *exact same package* they were brought to the private patio while still in their robes and given fruit and spun-sugar covered cream puffs11. Communication was also not their strong point – when Nancy and I went for mud wraps, they told us that there would be disposable underwear there (so you don’t get mud all over your own clothes), but then in the room, they were all “take off your clothes and lie on the bed.” And after they covered us completely in mud and wrapped us in plastic, they just left the room without a word. No “we’ll be back in 5 minutes” or “we’ll be back in 20 minutes” or nothing. Don’t get me wrong, the mud treatment was awesome and my skin was super soft afterward, but a little communication would have been nice!

Other inconsistencies included:

  • the 3M had a fruit plate and bottle of rum left in their room on their second night. We never got anything left for us on any night.
  • the 3M had turndown with chocolates several nights, while we got a few turndowns but the chocolates only once.
  • one random day, we had a card with the next day’s forecast left in our room. The 3M never got one and we only got it once.

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All that being said, however, the resort was very big and very lush, the beach was lovely, the staff were uniformly friendly12, and the poolside beds were the bomb! The resort also seemed to be a real hotspot for weddings. There was at least one wedding per day and on the last day we were there we saw three13! So it’s not surprising that when my niece set to drawing something, she drew her wedding. Curiously, as she drew, she told us that “I have to do all the work for the wedding because my boyfriend is sitting on the couch watching hockey!”14 This seemed like a rather specific complaint, but we can’t figure out where this would have come from as neither her stepdad nor her dad watch hockey and when we asked her “Do you know anyone else who watches a lot of hockey like that?” she just said, “no.” Kids just say the strangest things!

Oh yeah, and lest you think I forgot about you, my beloved readers – fear not. I made this little video to let you know that I was thinking of you:

And, to finish up, I’d just like to say that the trip home has proved to be adventurous too. We managed to get 30 counterfeit Dominican pesos given to us at the Wendy’s at the Punta Cana airport15, our flight started to board an hour early16, but once they took our tickets and let us through, we had to stand on the tarmac for 20 minutes because our plane wasn’t there. And then when it got there it was on the complete opposite side of the airport and we had to walk all the way over there to get on the plane! And now I’ve written a complete summary of our trip and eaten two salads, which they gave me since they ran out of vegetarian meals17. And Tod is still fast asleep, which looks quite appealing, so I think I’m going to try that now!

  1. Tod is sound asleep, I’m sick of reading (having read 2+ books on my trip), and I’ve processed all the email that came in during my trip via the magic of Offline Gmail []
  2. or, you know, their vacation package from Toronto happened to get them to the resort the day before us []
  3. we ordered a king size bed, but the room they tried to give us had two double beds []
  4. actually, it was just Jeff we ran into at first, as Nancy & Madeline were using the bathroom at the time []
  5. which was my birthday present from Nancy – thanks sis! []
  6. on the plus side, I remembered what I learned from my surfing trip – protect your head until you *know* where your surfboard (or, in this case, boat) is, not until you *think* you know where your surfboard/boat is – and managed not to be knocked unconscious! []
  7. ha ha! Roll!  WORDPLAY!! []
  8. It also made me question why I didn’t learn scuba diving when I was young and then move to a tropical island to become a scuba diving instructor. []
  9. I’m not exaggerating! It had to be at least five inches across its disgusting hairy legspan []
  10. I’m assuming it had eight evil beady little eyes – I didn’t look at it long enough to see []
  11. note that the brochure described “fruit and chocolate” with no mention whatsoever of cream puffs []
  12. sometimes tooI friendly as in the case of Creepy Spa Guy []
  13. interestingly, the date of these three weddings was Jan 12, which was the date on which I got married (this year marked my third “nonaversary.” It hope these three marriages go better than mine did!), separate brides ((the grooms were hard to spot, as they tended not to be dressed up, while the brides were in traditional white gowns. I’m pretty sure none of these brides were marrying each other (which would explain the lack of grooms being spotted) as they each had an entourage of bridesmaids with them and I’m guessing that at a lesbian wedding all the bridesmaids would wear the same dresses, as opposed to different dresses for each bride’s respective maids.  Though I could be wrong on that []
  14. this was later amended to include “and playing racing car video games” []
  15. yes, they have a Wendy’s at the Punta Cana airport. And a Baskin Robbins too! []
  16. which was fine since our transportation from our hotel got us to the airport three hours before the scheduled flight time []
  17. I didn’t think to order one because I’m not used to planes that serve meals anymore! []