How I ended up in the wrong CA!

Flying Over the Rockies on AA

I couldn’t believe it, Maryam said some place cold?! No one ever wants to go some place cold. I’m not sure one can imagine just how excited I was. After tossing around a few destinations we quickly selected Lake Louise and Banff National Park as the top choice. After a month of researching and reaching out to the tourism board to selecting local activities that would give us both a fantastic opportunity to take pictures of the amazing scenery that region has to offer and enjoy the – albeit cold – outdoors, we were set. The investment in winter wear wasn’t cheap, but would be worthwhile in the long run, and I really needed a pair of proper snow boots, even if I wasn’t sure when I might wear the long johns! Bundled in wool socks and ski jackets we head to the airport at some unseemly hour of the morning to catch a stupid early flight.

At Dallas we found a bar directly across from our gate and decided to start our vacation off proper and have a beer with the ten minutes we had until boarding. We were in such high spirits. What could go wrong? Although I didn’t know Maryam that well, we had been co-workers for about a year. I knew she enjoyed traveling as much as I did. What I didn’t know was how well we would travel together. I didn’t give it too much thought being that we were only headed out for a weekend and our schedule was pretty full. The thought that we wouldn’t end up in Calgary 4 hours later and in the blink of an eye change our plans wasn’t even a considered thought.

Then it happened. Given 2 minutes to decide to get on a plane by myself and travel solo on what was meant to be a girls getaway, or say forget about it, let’s go somewhere else and make the best of it, is really not a lot of time. If I had already been seated on the plane when I got the news, I probably wouldn’t have gotten off. But as they started to board us, they quickly realized the crew wasn’t on board yet and sent the few of us priority boards back to the gate. Maryam had been not allowed to board, so being turned back, I joined her at the gate counter while she curiously stood waiting for someone to explain why she wasn’t allowed to board.

“Ma’am you cannot travel on this passport”. Excuse us? Did we hear that right? Her passport wasn’t due to expire for a few more months, but it was well outside of the three-month range. And this is Canada, practically a domestic flight, it was a domestic flight if you consider we still had to pay for luggage. This particular passport had been well-traveled and very well-loved. Was it the stamps from the Middle East? Is she being profiled? Is she black listed? She had just used in to go to Puerto Rico less than two weeks before. Evidently the ladies at the airline counter wouldn’t let her board because the passport was plain worn out – the back page was peeling apart.

WOW…disappointment. What do I do? What could I do? I didn’t have enough time to weigh my options. I am an organizer. Do I just not get on that flight and say let’s fly by the seat of our pants? Is she capable of doing that without freaking out? As we stood stunned, I couldn’t speak and my decision was there for made for me. The airline ladies ordered both of our luggage removed from the plane. Well, there it is. My first major travel hiccup…ever.

Our tickets had been purchased with my air miles, and not even with air miles of the airline we were flying with. We collected our luggage and as I sat on hold for over an hour with for my executive airline club, Maryam set to seeing if a manager would override the other ladies decision. The answer was no. The most the airline people could offer was telling us to go to the passport office…which was closed on a Saturday and wouldn’t reopen until the following Tuesday, the day we were suppose to be headed home. Maryam began to cancel all of our reservations for the following few days that I spent a month arranging. I finally got someone on the phone, and a shout out to British Airways for being so awesome, but… what were our options?

We sure as hell didn’t fly to Dallas to fly down the street to Huston, and we didn’t want to spend the weekend in Dallas, and definitely weren’t flying back to the east coast to end up in Atlanta… California, Las Vegas, Seattle, Denver, Chicago??? Nothing that same day… but wait, 7am tomorrow to Los Angeles… sure! Snow boots, wool socks and long johns in tow… we were headed to the amazingly year round good weather destination of LA!


A Day at the Farm…

Let me set the scene for you so that you have a full picture of why a group of six young women ventured out for a morning to a National Park in search of a cow. It was a beautiful summer Sunday at a group brunch. New friends, old friends, good food, a lot of laughter and plenty of bloody mary’s! A new friend, quickly to be come a good friend, Regina, pulls out this 4 1/2 page, typed, single space bucket list. Originally created before she was even in high school as a to do before she turned 30 list and updated in her college years. This list had sat dormant for a long time., eventually to resurface a few months before her 30th birthday.

Up to that point Regina had accomplished about a page worth of her items. So I started reading through it, as one does, and I get to the item “Milk a cow”. I chuckled as I read it out loud to the group and offered the opinion that this could be done at anytime she wanted. At this point the whole table turned with a surprised reaction of “we can?” Evidently Regina was not the only one with this item on her bucket list. Even though I had grown up in a metropolitan area, this was something I had done several times, along with visiting dairy farms, I even have an Aunt (and late Uncle) who own a milk delivery service… in Long Island NY of all places! Regina on the other hand, grew up near farms… with lots of cows, as her grandmother told her, you didn’t need to move to DC to milk a cow!

Group shot

I live in the DC metropolitan area, and it would only be appropriate to wonder how far do I need to drive to find a cow to milk. Well the answer, from where we were sitting at brunch was “just on the other side of the bridge” that the restaurant is near (literally about 2 blocks from the bridge). Still to quizzical looks I explained that there is a National Park with a living farm in stones throw distance of our bloody mary’s; all we needed to do was show up.

the farm

It took a few weeks to arrange a date, but one beautiful fall morning we headed to the farm. The Park Ranger was slightly surprised to find a group of adults with no children all lined up. But she was very kind and treated us just like the others interested in the same experience. We were just less scared. Our cow’s name was Minnie. She seemed very friendly and at one point when I was a bit close to her head reading a sign, she attempted to eat my long hair!

Jen, Regina, Gerylee, & Kat milking a cow

Although we came only with the intention of milking Minnie, to our enjoyment the farm experience continued. We headed to the chicken coup! Evidently the chickens fight a lot, so they tend not to look healthy, but the rooster seemed happy to be surrounded by so many hens. We feed them and collected their eggs.

Rooster Feeding

At this farm, they don’t let anything go to waste. We took the eggs from the hen’s and feed them eggs to the pigs. The park ranger was aware enough to make sure everyone either got a turn to collect the egg, or feed a pigs. Along our route we were honked at by a huge white goose; then we stopped by to oooh and ahh over the horses. Followed by an awesome picnic lunch. And all this before noon! It was a great day out and a really fun experience to do with friends.

Pig

All of the thoughts, opinions, and bad jokes are my own.

Interesting Links

Oxon Hill National Park

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The Sweet Side of Philly

I woke up Sunday morning with little thought of what to do for the day. I told my friend I was visiting that I was in her hands. I wanted to do something in “Hallie’s Philly”. We discussed getting cheese-steaks for lunch, and Hallie suggested getting there when they open as to avoid the long lines (at 11). She also settled on the idea of an old-fashioned sweet shop near the river that she thought would be fun to see. Disclaimer: Hallie love’s her sweets! Philadelphia is full of sweet shops, ice cream shop’s and even cupcake shops. But none as special as Shane Confectionary.

We left her apartment in search of a light breakfast, and since we had sweets on the mind, we decided to stop off at Max Brenner, not just a chocolate shop, but a chocolate restaurant. I had an amazing hot chocolate. Along with a bit bigger of a breakfast then intended. Scrabbled egg’s with tomato and sausage, home fries, and a sugar glazed biscuit. The meal also came with a side of chocolate, similar to how one would receive a side of ketchup! Hallie did everything but lick the cup the side of chocolate came in to finish it off. I was impressed she resisted the licking! At this point we were still thinking cheese steaks, so we split the meal. The chocolate went okay with the home fries, but fantastic with the biscuit!

Max Brenner Hot Chocolate

By this time it was already 1030, so we hopped on the bus and headed down town. Since we had just eaten we decided we could afford to wait in line for the cheese-steak as we weren’t overly hungry at the moment and went to the sweet shop first…

Max Brenner Hot Chocolate

It’s beautiful. Shane Confectionery was established in 1911, this historic candy shop doesn’t just pretend to be old-fashioned, it is! The ladies behind the counter were dressed in style too! They had jar’s full of candy and the walls were lined with shelve’s full of sweets. They had long glass counters filled with chocolate and old-fashioned cash registers to give the place a true old-time feel. Well, we both purchased something, i mean we had too, it was a sweet shop, and they allowed me to take pictures for my blog, although they normally don’t allow professional photographs (I have a big camera, most people see it and think I might be taking commercial shots!) The receipt then allowed us 10% off at The Franklin Fountain, an old-time ice cream shop next door.

Shane Confectionery, Philadelphia

Well, at this point, we discussed that neither of us were hungry enough for a cheese-steak, but who doesn’t have room for ice cream?! So we headed next door. What a fun ice cream shop. The Franklin Fountain also has an old-time look and feel along with an old school ice cooler full of glass bottle soda’s. Their ice cream was amazing, so creamy and rich, and of course we got toppings! Be warned their small, isn’t a ben & jerry’s single scoop. It was what I refer to as my “mother’s small scoop” which is a very decent size bowl of ice cream, mine was loaded down with hot fudge and Hallie’s with white chocolate shreds and almonds (Sorry no pictures, we were too busy enjoying eating!).

The Franklin Fountain

Needless to say, we never did get our cheese-steak, but there’s always next time!

Interesting Links

Interested in learning more about Shane Confectionery and The Franklin Fountain and their histories? Visit their websites:

Shane Confectionery

The Franklin Fountain

As always all thoughts are my own, no I did not get free ice cream, but I do want to thank Shane Confectionery and The Franklin Fountain for allowing me to take a few photographs for my blog.
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Travelling with Friends…

It’s not easy travelling with others, everyone has different adventure styles, interests, personality traits, the list goes on. Whether it’s family, friends you have known for a long time, or a group of people, every situation is different. It’s hard to give or seek advise without knowing the parties involved. However, I would never give the advise of “Don’t do it”; which is the advise that I found more then not while researching before a big trip to Spain. With that said, there are people, I know I wouldn’t want to put up with for an extended period of time. However, I am all about travelling with friends, I feel it can really enrich the experience. I hope that some of the things I say will help others thinking of venturing out of town together.

Some of what I find to me the most important tips:

  • Communication
  • Listening
  • Open mind and willingness towards other peoples needs and wants
  • Concession
  • Knowing that you don’t have to spend every minute of everyday together
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Trust

Aside from the “Don’t do it” advise I found, communication was the biggest suggestion out there. Talk to each other and listen to each other, before you go and while you’re there. Make a point to say your piece, but realize that this is a shared adventure, and so listen to those you are travelling with as well. If the whole adventure you want to do what you want to do, then maybe you shouldn’t travel with others. However, if you’re willing to give and take, you might find yourself having a good time. Even though you would have preferred seeing or doing something a different way, at a different time, or not at all.

Realize that you don’t need to spend every minute of every day together. When you’re in a location, venture apart and see what you want to see instead of feeling forced to go to a museum or park that you don’t want to go to. Just have a plan of where and when to meet back up, and respect your fellow travellers enough to abide by it. There is nothing better then regrouping over dinner and a bottle of wine to share your day’s adventures. If you are going away for a long enough period of time, plan to have a day apart or a day of pure relaxation. Speaking from experience, I would recommend doing this half way through a trip. That way you have time to reflect and re-energize.

Roles and responsibilities seems very formal, but I couldn’t think of a better phrase for now. I read on someone’s blog, I think it was a couple who travel full time, that they each have their own responsibilities. For instance the room key, the car key, location of where the car is parked, the ticket holder. This will help ease everyone’s mind and cause less issues when it’s late and everyone thought the other person had the key!

Trust. Lets face it, if you don’t trust the people you are travelling with, that can cause a lot of issues. Solo travellers have to make decisions about trusting all the time. If you’re going to be travelling with others, trust is important, if you don’t trust the people you are choosing to go on adventures with, then that can create problems.

My Experience

In October 2011, I ventured on a 10-day trip with two of my best friends. They are a husband and wife team, I have been friends with them respectively for 15+ years and almost 30 years. All three of us have our differences, in every way possible. However, we have managed to remain great friends. I knew from the beginning there would be challenges. But all of us seemed up for the challenge, so I began my research.

friends

The value of space and communication.

Several months before we headed out on our journey, I invited them over for a “Spain” night, we had Spanish food and wine and we discussed our thoughts. I started by sharing the information I had found. Mainly being that we needed to be open and communicate. Share when we are tired, bored, want to do something different and we need to not get on each others nerves by doing so. We need to be comfortable enough to walk our separate paths, but share the journey.

Immediately following our adventures in Spain, I am sure all three of us were ready for the break from each other. I know I had my moments of frustration and irritation as did they. I did completely loose it with my friend one night over dinner. She is very pick about food, the menu was in Spanish, I just wanted to eat, we were both tired. I wasn’t the nicest at that moment, and she recognized my frustration and her own. Somehow, she amazingly remained calm, and communicated back to me her own feelings and thoughts. In the end we stayed and had a fantastic meal thanks to our awesome waiter who ordered for us. The point is, that we discussed it, laid our feelings out on the table instead of getting into a heated argument or storming off.

friends

Dealing with important issues with friends around.

I do recommend that if there is a couple + solo (or couple + couple) involved in the travel, that the couple recognize that the others among them need not to be in the middle of the couples personal business. I love my friends and very willing to offer a helping hand, or hear their horror story about the time their house flooded, the dog ran away, their car was stolen. But current situations that need that couples attention while travelling, should be handled separately, complain to the others over dinner, but don’t have that conversation in front of the others if it can be avoided.

I can only write this from my perspective. And I know how important of an email my friends were attempting to draft to deal with an important situation at home; and that it was time sensitive. However, it was 3am to the person receiving the email, I was driving in a foreign country and should not have been witness to the discussion. So I stopped it. Again, I was likely rude, and I apologized to them each individually later. However, it wasn’t my business and I told them that. The matter was important but didn’t have to be dealt with right then at that moment in front of me. Regardless of what was going through their heads, they stopped, and after we parked, I went off to have a coffee while they took care of their business. I still enjoy hearing their ups and downs over dinner and drinks; from what I can tell, they also prefer to tell them to me over dinner and drinks instead of me being a witness!

friends
Copyright 2012 Kimberly Stowell

Concessions.

I stated that there are people that I wouldn’t choose to have an extended venture with. Normally those people are those that I don’t enjoy the company of except in small doses. However, I tend to be a people person and seem to get along well with others from what I can tell. I wouldn’t have given up those 10 days in Spain for the world, even with our differences.

My friends and I are very different when it comes to travel. They are very boom boom boom, see it, next, see it, next (well thats my impression!). I on the other hand, although not a slow traveller, enjoy a bit slower of a pace. I love to revisit places, I feel I get a better sense of understanding. I could wander the streets or sit on a double decker tour bus for hours, just wandering in circles taking in what I missed the previous time. I want to eat and drink, she likes to shop, he likes… not really sure, he’ easy going and we were two women and so he got very little say!

I give the advise of having a relax day in the middle of the journey, because I know by that time in mine, I was ready for a day off. I really just wanted to sit on the beach or at the pool with a drink and zone out everything. However, it was the last day we were together before I took that day. And I am sad that on the last day, we were apart.

I know I made a lot of concessions in my trip, and I have no doubt that my friends made just as many. One particular day, I didn’t want to be anywhere, do anything, see anything, most of all be with my friends, I needed that break. But we were on an adventure in a new city. I was tired and I didn’t want to walk, but I would have never been able to navigate the car and drive by myself to get to the bottom of the hill. So I devised a plan. I sent him one way and took her with me, and when we got to the bottom, she climbed up to meet him and I had a few minutes to sit by myself and enjoy the scenery. By having just one of them next to me and not both of them at that moment in time, made me less exhausted.

Although at times my friends exhausted me and I exhausted them. By the end of the day it was always short lived. I didn’t get to see and do everything I wanted to do, but if I was travelling solo, I wouldn’t have had the time or energy to do it all anyway. Pick and choose one’s battles. At the end of that particular day when I wanted to be by myself and I wasn’t, I was so thrilled to be with my friends, because we sat drinking sangria, on the beach, watching an amazing sunset over the Mediterranean. Together.

friends
Copyright 2012 Kimberly Stowell

Conclusion

The memories of frustration with each other, and lets face it, myself, have quickly faded. But the memories and moments I shared with my friends was so worth it. We did goofy things that we wouldn’t have done if we were by ourselves, like our picture taken in Plaza Mayor standing behind Spanish costumes. Or the memory of my friends face when his wife accidentally locked us on the balcony. Or her face when she found this kick-ass purse in the shape of a radio that she just had to buy. Or that moment on the rock in Gibraltar, watching the ape’s, when I realized that I was so fortunate to be sharing that specific moment with such amazing friends. Or even just buying candy to feed our sweet tooth at the fair! My first camel ride, I can’t think of better people to have been with at that time in life to have had that experience with, but them.

Would I do it again? Yes. In a heart beat. If and when I get an opportunity to travel with this specific couple again, I would take it, and I think we will be better travelling buddies because of our past experiences. Would I do it with others, yes, each adventure is different, and at the end of it, I am pleased to look back and remember how great it was to share it with friends. Especially when I look back at the couple I have had so many adventures with, not just in Spain, but in life. And yes, I do have a list of to do’s when I make it back. But I would have had that list either way.

I would love to hear your positive stories of travelling with others!


The moments that you’ll remember for a lifetime!

Ronda

On my recent journey’s with some friends, at the end of the day we went over what our favorite part of the day was. I had mentioned mine was getting lost. My friend felt that was her least favorite part of the day. And I said it might be, but in 10 years from now, when you tell this story, I bet you anything that the focus of seeing the bridge in Ronda, Spain, will be how we spent way to long to figure out how to get to the bottom of the hill.

When I started my journey in Spain with my friends, I tried explaining to them that GPS’ are a recent technology, and although they can be useful, they are not the end all. Especially where the roads are narrow, or simply just gravel paths. Even the paper map we had, didn’t do us much good. Part of the adventure is figuring out where your going and how to get there. The little moments in life. I am not sure they heard my comment then, or took to heart the enjoyment of those 45 minutes driving around the same few square blocks, but I know that to me, it was worth every wrong turn.

In the end, the site that was offered to us was very beautiful.

Ronda Bridge, Rhonda, Spain, Costa del Sol

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The Time Share

So evidently, in Spain, the timeshare my friends and I were staying in believes that door handles on the outside of patio doors lead to more break-ins. As it turns out, being 4 stories above the ground, having a sliding glass patio door that self locks behind us, is very dangerous. So dangerous in fact we managed to easily, lock our selves on our patio. Fortunately one of us had a working phone with email to check and call the number for the timeshare. Even more fortunate, because it was around 9pm, someone answered. Although we weren’t stranded for long, it’s a fun memory to talk about. Especially considering one of my friends wanted to scale the wall, to the window, and climb inside… with nothing but a 4 story drop, and her being clumsier then I… neither her husband nor myself were fans of that idea.
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The Red Door

My friends and I were taking a self guided tour of a small but beautiful bull ring. One of my friends decided she needed the loo, finding one near us, she closed and locked the red door behind her. A few minutes later, she is telling us to stop joking around because she can’t open the door. As it turns out, she managed to lock herself inside the bathroom. While her husband goes to find someone to help us, she finds a window…maybe I can climb through this window, she exclaims… mean while I feel the need to go to the toilet myself because I was laughing so hard at her, because she thinks she can fit through a 1’x1′ window. Soon came a young gentleman in attempt to help open the door while an older gentleman goes to look for keys. Here comes the kicker… at least we didn’t break the door handle. The nice young man who tried so hard, manages to break the door handle off the red door, I suppose this was part of the issue to begin with. In the end, the older gentleman returns with a key and rescues my friend.
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Red Door, Mijas, Spain, Costa del Sol Red Window, Mijas, Spain, Costa del Sol