Tag Archives: Trip

Sleep Frighten Dance.

Last weekend I was writing yet another review for Trip Advisor. While pinning down the cities I had visited on a world map in the reviewer profile, something hit me. I realized that my visits to some of these cities had been so hurried that I really only saw the airports, the hotels and a variety of boring meeting rooms and conference venues. That was a bit sad, I thought.

But then, slowly, my little head started churning out some details. I could recall a few incidents from those whirlwind travels. And to speak the truth, they were … a bit bizarre.

I particularly remembered a work trip to three countries in Europe that I executed in less than six days. Far from flawlessly. But I survived, contrary to firm predictions of my travel agent. And now I’m hoping that trip will make some light-hearted weekend reading in the what-not-to-do department.

It all started with a one day visit to Finland. I arrived in Helsinki after an overnight flight from New York around 7:30 a.m. on a Tuesday morning. The rest of our team had arrived the day before, but since my son’s birthday was that Sunday, I had opted to leave on Monday. So now I had to jump right into the team’s meeting schedule. Fresh from the plane. Red-eyed and jet-lagged.

At some point in the afternoon we were in our third meeting for the day in a client’s beautiful meeting room.  I participated in the discussion. But then, gradually, the voices of people talking started to fade away. Until all I heard was distant monotone mumble. I was about to fall asleep. I remember pressing my fingers as hard as I could around the thick edge of the wooden conference table, hoping the pain in my fingers would keep me awake. That trick didn’t work. I drifted further and further away. Suddenly I heard my name being called. I was invited to answer… a question? But what question? All eyes were on me, expectantly.

I glanced at my boss hoping he would help me out. Nothing. Then my sleepy brain came up with a brilliant emergency strategy. Looking around the room I asked: In what context do you want me to explain that?  Addressed to no one in particular. Successful gamble! My boss understood I had not really been there and helped me by expanding on the question. Phew! That was a close call. I was grateful I had remained upright in my chair and not hit my head to the table, with a resultant bump in my forehead. So far so good. During the coffee break that followed, I had three cups of strong black Finnish coffee.

That night I slept like a baby, waking up every two hours wondering where I was. Bright and early the next morning I was at the airport again. On my way to Warsaw, Poland. Solo.

There I quickly checked into my hotel and then participated in a conference at another venue for the rest of the day. Late in the evening, after a joint dinner, all participants received a gift from the local hosts: a beautiful hand-painted Polish coffee mug. I had only my laptop case and a small purse with me, so I shoved the large mug into the front pocket of my trench coat.  A huge bulge.

polish coffee mug ed (2)

On our way back to the hotel where most of us stayed,  it became obvious to me that the other participants wanted to “see the town”.  I protested.  All I wanted was to hit my head on the pillow. But they didn’t allow me to walk alone to the hotel. Could be dangerous for a lady at that time of the night. Little did they know about my self-defense capabilities. But I didn’t feel like elaborating on that so I found myself among people queuing for entrance to a local night club. Just green tea for me, please.

When our company reached the club’s entrance, the bouncer immediately pulled me aside. What now?  He pointed at the obvious bulge in my coat and shouted something in Polish. Loud. Everyone stared at me. Some fearfully, most curiously. Finally my tired brain caught up and I was about to retrieve the coffee mug from my pocket. He almost hit me. Put your hands up! That was English. I swiftly obeyed. Then he carefully reached into my coat pocket and fished up … the mug. The threat was over. Laughter. Who goes into a night club with a large coffee mug in her pocket? Tiny does. Entertainment for the masses.

After some explanations offered by a Polish colleague, we were eventually allowed inside. Bright neon beams. Loud music. I sat at the back wall with my rolled up trench coat, the mug back in the pocket, for the one hour or so we stayed at the club. Finally back in my hotel room, I carefully packed the mug in my carry-on. I still have it and I use it often. It’s special.

After a couple of meetings in our Warsaw office the next morning, I was at the airport again. And boarded a plane to Budapest, Hungary. Exhausted I threw myself on the bed in my hotel room. I would take a nap and go for dinner in two hours. Then enjoy my only free evening on this trip. But that was not to be. I slept 12 hours straight. Took me several minutes to figure out where I was and why. I was in Hungary and I was hungry. It was almost time for breakfast.

That Friday I led a workshop for staff from our local office. All went well. Until the evening. We were invited to a special dinner with cultural entertainment. During the nice traditional dinner,  a band played Hungarian folk music. Very enjoyable. At the time of the dessert, a small group of young folk dancers performed.  And then the band played again. That’s when a youngish male colleague from the local office decided to ask me to dance. Me? No way. So I politely declined referring to my nonexistent skills in Hungarian folk dance. That strategy fell on its face. Everyone stood up and started clapping, urging me to dance. I was their guest so I decided to be brave and give it a try.

I found myself in the middle of the floor with my colleague. Everyone still clapping. He turned out to be a very good folk dancer so I was able to follow him, to a small degree. Whistles and louder clapping. After a few minutes the tempo changed. We started twirling around faster and faster. One, two, three … this was fun! Until somewhere between the fifth and the sixth spin I lost my footing.  As a kid I had never won a competition where we were supposed to spin around in one direction. My head just doesn’t agree with that kind of motion. So there I was laying on the floor. Dizzy. And without the folk dancers’ usual white cotton underwear or long skirt. Colleagues were rushing to pick me up. Not one of my best moments, but quite memorable.

I remember that a group of colleagues walked with me from the restaurant back to my hotel over the Danube river. That was a beautiful walk, we stopped several times to admire the gorgeous night views of Budapest. The next day was Saturday. I would be catching my plane back home around midday.

As a reward for my bravery at the dinner, my Hungarian colleagues offered to show me a bit more of the city the next morning. They took me to a little village in the outskirts of Budapest. It was a picturesque place with lots of craft shops. To my relief there was no music or folk dance that time in the morning. I ended up buying some beautiful traditional embroideries for gifts and some Hungarian crystal dessert bowls for home. I still have them as a reminder of my Hungarian dance performance.

hungarian crystal 4 edited 2

I’m sipping morning coffee from my Polish mug right now. Then will have some fresh fruit from a Hungarian crystal bowl.  I have the evidence. I didn’t dream it all up. I’m smiling. And if you are so inclined, it would be a good time to smile right about now. It’s on me.

More on my wacky travels in other countries later. I wish you all a wonderful weekend. – Tiny

My Shopping Mall in the Skies

On my recent trip to Northern Europe, I was shopping on all six flights. I like shopping in the skies as the “merchandise” on each flight is unique. And it’s completely free, I just put it in my basket and enjoy.

The mall in the sky offers a beautiful variety of landscapes. Most landscapes I shop for include some water views. Or cloud formations.

Preferably both water and cloud formations. But no birds. Please don’t get me wrong: I love birds, but prefer to enjoy them when they are the only ones flying.

When the evening comes in the skies, the sun is sending god flight wishes in splendid colors. Mine to enjoy for free, and yours too.

After the sunset there might or might not be something more to shop. One of my flights met the dim light of dusk over the Big City. I just had to shop for this look. So deceptively peaceful.

In another country, the following day, there was fog and low-lying clouds. Only a token brave tower reached its head above the clouds. It looked pretty funny, I think. Like  saying “hello there stranger”. Had to put it in my basket.

Then, after flying a short night when going East, one suddenly meets the first light of the new day. Far too soon – the body says it’s only just an hour or so after midnight. But of course that doesn’t count.

At first there are just faint colors signaling that the sun is waking up. Then, in only a few minutes, it raises its head above the sleepy horizon, coloring the clouds, the sea and the tiny islands. Very pretty.

And then the shopping trip in the skies was over. I had arrived with my basket full of free gods, courtesy of Mother Nature.

Another Piece of Paradise

Some time ago I wrote about finding the paradise on earth and mentioned two groups of islands, Mauritius and Seychelles, that I think come fairly close to my definition of paradise. I wrote a post about Mauritius almost a year ago and now thought that, for weekend reading, I would dive into the natural beauty of Seychelles, and the tiny island of La Dique in particular.

Some years ago we made a memorable visit to Seychelles. We stayed on the main island of Mahé, close to the capital, Victoria. Our hotel was right on the beach surrounded by lush, green tropical gardens.

We spent some lazy days walking on the beautiful beach and lapping sun around the pool, decompressing from our hectic life filled with work.

After a few days of complete relaxation, we decided to explore these islands little more. We wanted to experience the “Seychelles of yesterday”, the famous, untouched beauty of La Dique.

Early one morning we took a small plane from Victoria to the island of Praslin. From the airport we took a taxi across the pretty island – from north west to south east – to the jetty, where we caught a small freight boat, an old-fashioned schooner, to the island of La Dique. And soon arrived in paradise.

The azure waters were clear, the sand was soft and white-pinkish, the palms and the famous rock formations were breath-taking. It felt like one had arrived at the beginning of times…

This tiny island has about 2000 inhabitants. There are very few cars, bicycles and ox carts provide for transport. The island has many tropical forests and coconut groves, and the Aldabra Giant Tortoises that can live for centuries “stroll” around the island…

Seychelles is one the most environmentally aware countries in the world and has protected its natural environments to the extent that they feel truly untouched. This was very evident everywhere on La Dique.

I could not get enough of the azure waters and the wind sculpted smooth rocks surrounding the sparkling white beaches.

La Dique left a lasting impression…and I hope to go back there one day. Just have to remember to book more than a year in advance as the accommodations on the islands itself are few and sought after…For now, I think I’ll stay a while and paint in the shade of these beautiful rocks.

Bye now and have a beautiful weekend.

A Mid-life Escape

A few years ago, around my “big-O” birthday in September,  I felt the need to spend some time in true peace and quiet, in pristine nature away from the city. So instead of celebrating with friends in the city or flying down to the beach, I packed my small family into our old SUV and we hit the road from D.C. towards the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The drive through the mountains in itself was beautiful. Some of the green was already starting to turn yellow and red on the mountain sides. I had found a small cottage for rent close to Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. It stood there alone on the mountain side, almost a mile from the nearest neighbors. A perfect refuge to enjoy a few days of nature therapy!

The view was breathtaking, mountains everywhere! But what you could not see from the house was the pristine river in the valley, just behind a steep decline in the “back yard”. Every day we spent time at the river fishing, or just sitting on the boulders listening to the sounds of the water and the nature around us. It was exactly what I had bargained for, a perfect setting for the quiet celebration of this mid-life event.

The steep climb back to the cottage 3-4 times a day gave us a good dose of exercise! And in the afternoons the terrace was the ideal place to take in the natural beauty of the surroundings, with some birthday bubbly and good food.

Our cottage was about an hour’s drive from the world-famous Luray Caverns in Shenandoah Valley, Virginia. As we had not yet seen this natural wonder, we decided to exchange fishing for cave exploration for one of the mornings. And did not regret it!

These remarkable caves have formed over millions of years and have an interesting history. Little by little the nature still continues to decorate these caverns through slow seepage of water from the surface above the rock and new deposits accumulate at the rate of one cubic inch in 120 years.

In addition to covering the ceilings and the floors, dripstone or flowstone is also “growing” on the cavern walls in all imaginable colorful formations.

The stalactites are formed in a fluted fashion from the ceiling down and the stalagmites build up in “hills” and ridges from the floor up. When these two formations of deposits meet, a pillar is formed.

Luray Caverns 4 by tiny lessons blog

Luray Caverns also have several bodies of water, the largest of which is the “dream lake”. The clear water reflects the many colors of the stalactites hanging from the ceiling. Very beautiful.

Visiting these caverns and seeing all the masterful creations was a memorable highlight of my mid-life escape to nature. I think we need such escapes every now and then to reconnect with our origins. Almost heaven…life is old there…that’s how I felt driving back home over the mountains.