Through the mountains from Montego Bay to Sandals Whitehouse

After our flight from Ottawa to Montego Bay, Charlie and I were both tired.  Still, we looked forward to the 1-1/2 hour drive through the mountains as we headed to Sandals Whitehouse.

Overlooking the grounds of Sandals Whitehouse, Jamaica

Overlooking the grounds of Sandals Whitehouse, Jamaica

I had read, on tripadvisor.ca, about the route to the resort and found many complaints of people who wished the resort was closer and the ride on the twisting road not so bumpy but since taking it was necessary, unless you hired a helicopter to take you there, we regarded it as part of our adventure. I tried to take pictures from inside the moving van and I apologize for the quality.

Going from Montego Bay in St. James Parish to Whitehouse in Westmoreland Parish is about 64 kilos, as the crow flies. By road, according to the mileage indicator in the van, it was 150 kilos.  The B8 highway traverses the high mountain range and with so many hairpin curves I almost got carsick. There were no shoulders and, In some areas, the road was bordered by either a high stone fence or meter high bushes.

Stone fence next to the highway

Stone fence next to the highway

The road was very narrow and you risked an injury if you dared stick you arm out of the window. We drove by oncoming cars and trucks missing them by inches. When our driver came to some of the curves he pressed the horn to warn oncoming cars that we were rounding the curve.We passed through small villages that were interesting to look at only because of how dilapidated were the buildings.

Some of the buildings long the way

Some of the buildings along the way

The bright spot were the children. All the girls looked well groomed in their white blouses and jumpers of blue or bright yellow, green or burgundy while the boys wore beige uniforms.

School children in uniform

School children in uniform

Some of the small houses along the road had the front practically touching the highway while the rear was perched on precarious stilts a few meters high. I wondered where they got their water from and since there was no space for an outhouse how they managed. Small houses were built next to huge houses secure behind wrought iron gates, doors and windows.

A house in Jamaica

A house in Jamaica

Large gated house

Large gated house

The vegetation was luscious and so tropical green. We drove up the mountain and I was surprised to suddenly come upon large orange groves. They somehow looked out of place along this mountainous road.

Orange groves in Jamaica

Orange groves in Jamaica

When the driver swung over to the opposite side of the road to avoid a huge pothole I held my breath convinced that a car would round the curve and come straight at us. My body vibrated as we bounced around and I almost got carsick as we zigzagged through one curve then another. I breathed in deeply and swallowed hard and knew that it would solve itself as soon as we crossed those beautiful lush mountains and got back onto a more civilized straight road along the coastline.

All went calm when we drove through the entrance of the resort. The flat land with its manicured lawns, flowering red and white bougainvillea bushes, tall palm trees and tropical plants made the ride worthwhile.

On the grounds at Sandals Whitehouse

On the grounds at Sandals Whitehouse

In a couple of weeks we’d’d do it all over again as we headed back to Montego Bay to catch the flight home. I wouldn’t have missed this ride for the world.

author – Lucy’s Road Trip – RVing Across Canada

ISBN 978-1-77216-006-2

http://bit.ly/1vGjta1

Co-author – Travel Dreams and Nightmares – Four Women Explore the World – ISBN 978-1-4759-8201-5

http://bit.ly/18vQOFi

Facebook  http://on.fb.me/1t93uQJ

http://www.louiseszabo.weebly.com

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The RV we named Lucy

I still remember the day when I came home from work and Charlie opened the door for me all excited and pleased with himself. His announcement that he had put a deposit on a ten-year-old 24-foot long RV came as a complete shock. We had discussed buying one when we got married over 30 years ago but I thought that the dream had died long ago. We’d camped in a tent, progressed to a tent-trailer, then to a 13” trailer and now owned a cottage which kept us grounded. Obviously the lure of the open road was still in Charlie’s soul.

“I know you. You’ll love it. Wait until you see it.” He brings me to this monster of an RV, so dirty that I couldn’t tell if it was white or gray. Parked at the back of a farmer’s field I wasn’t impressed.

Charlie opened the door, I took one step in and almost tripped as I stumbled back out again. It smelled of a heavy smoking male who had lived in it with minimal washing facility for himself or his laundry. The stink was so overpowering that it almost knocked me over. What on earth was he thinking? He must be out of his mind. No way was I going back inside that thing.

Charlie opened the windows and vents, left the door wide open and coaxed me back in. With my hand over my mouth and nose I gagged as I entered again but managed to stay long enough for a good look. At first glance I hated it. At second glance it looked alright. At third glance, once scrubbed, shined and disinfected I could see its potential.

I walked out, took a deep breath, took another, turned to Charlie and smiled. Travelling across Canada in this RV would be fun. We bought it. We named her Lucy and I am forever grateful to Charlie for finding her.

Check out my book ‘Lucy’s Road Trip – RVing Across Canada’ ISBN 978-1-77216-006-2 http://www.chapters.indigo.ca

http://louiseszabo.weebly.com

The Most Beautiful Jewel Box in the Theatre World

The Jószef Katona Theatre in Kecskemét, Hungary is named after the writer of the first Hungarian national drama. It was built in 1895-1896, renovated and modernized in 1960-1962 and again in 1986-1987. Its last restorations were done sometimes after 2000.

The Jószef Katona Theatre in Kecskemét, Hungary

The Jószef Katona Theatre in Kecskemét, Hungary

On our last visit to Kecskemét in 2010, our host had managed to get permission for a private tour of the Jószef Katona Theatre. It was mid-afternoon and a few hours before the evening performance of ‘Les Miserables’. Let in by the security personnel, we entered the building through a back entrance used by the actors and staff. It felt strange and eerie to be the only ones on the premises. A very narrow meter wide hall led to the backstage. On each side the many doors opened to dressing rooms. I would have loved to peak in but didn’t dare open any of them. The cramped quarters and almost dungeon feeling made me realize the antiquity of this building.

As we entered the theatre all changed from dim surroundings to an opulent area. The gold from the molding glinted against a burgundy and white background. Rows upon rows of seats were draped in white sheets to protect them from the dust. With two levels of seats I noticed way at the top a sectioned off area for the standing room crowd. And above all was this magnificent immense chandelier glinting above the 850 seats. The theatre was magnificent.

The theatre hold 850 seats with standing room at the top.

The theatre hold 850 seats with standing room at the top.

 

IMG_2261

We then entered a spacious and bright lobby. Wide staircases led to the upper level where we found many comfortable cozy seating areas.

The theatre lobby.

The theatre lobby.

Seating areas of the upper floor.

Seating areas of the upper floor.

 

The place looked royal and majestic and well deserving of the accolades given to it when the Europe theatrical convention voted it as the most beautiful jewel box in the theatre world

Caribbean visit to Martinique

Come with me to St. Anne in Martinique

St. Anne, Martinique

Martinique is a French island in the eastern Caribbean Sea with a land area of only 1,128 sq. kilos (436 sq. mi). We were staying in a suite at Le Hameau de Beauregard walking distance to Sainte Anne, a quaint town with narrow streets. On this Sunday afternoon we joined the crowds of people in town. Along the dock fishermen sold the catch of the day chopping up, as requested, the size of the piece of fish you wanted. A small crowd gathered around a woman busy cutting into a huge Marlin fish.

A narrow street in St Anne

A narrow street in St Anne

Along the main street we found restaurants, souvenir shops and a few grocery stores. As in most typical tourist town the price of everything was high. Where only an hour ago there were people everywhere, by four the place was deserted as all the shops closed.

La Saline beach near St. Anne, Martinique

La Saline beach near St. Anne, Martinique

One of the most beautiful beached of Martinique is Les Salines beach. The beautiful silky sand made it perfect for walking. The water was as warm as the air and a pleasure to swim in. We did find it strange that along the shore there were no sea gulls or any kind of birds at all.

Trees bordered the beach and we were lucky enough to find an empty picnic table to sit at for a bit of people watching. Behind us at a fruit stand a young man used his machete to cut up coconuts that he clients. After watching him take that same machete and dig it into the stand to make a hole to plant his umbrella pole we sure didn’t feel inclined to buy any coconut from him.

All along the shore beautiful young local girls carried large baskets of bathing suits. They’d approach tourists their own size and began their sale pitch by modeling the suits. They’d slip the bikini bottom over their own and removed their top and replace it with the top of the bikini that was for sale. One after the other each bathing suit was modeled. If the client was interested they tried on the bikini the same way. Sports Illustrated was nothing compared to what we were seeing. It was done in such a natural way with such beautiful girls that it looked almost poetic. It was the most entertaining activity on the beach. If only I’d been 20 years younger.

Travel Dream and Nightmares – Four Women Explore the World

by Louise Szabo, Barbara Brown, Jan Jacobson, Wendy Quarry

http://louiseszabo.weebly.com

http://bit.ly/174QSP6

http://www.amazon.com/dp/1475982011

My husband stole my computer

My husband stole my computer to look at old photos.  For over an hour. He enjoyed watching them so much I didn’t have the heart to take it back.  With over 6 thousand photos on my computer he could have been sitting there for another five hours.

A few years ago I spent hours transferring my photos onto my computer. What a painful operation. Not only did I have envelopes of negatives, I also had boxes of slides. This is so old school but then we are an old school couple.  When I transferred them onto a new computer I am sure they doubled up. Or tripled up. I haven’t figured out a way to sort them and spot repeat performances. Nor do I take the time to name each one. It stay as a future project. Believe me it’s iIn the far far future.

Years ago pictures were put in albums or thrown in a box.  Every now and then we’d take then out and do exactly what my husband did this afternoon.  In this digital world picture go directly onto the computer.

Years ago the cost of getting pictures developed made you think twice about the scene you would capture. In this digital world you can take a video and split each so called frame.

Years ago you stored your photo albums and boxes in the closet shelves. In this digital world you stick them in your IPhoto software and forget about them.

Years ago you’d take your newly developed pictures and show them around. In this digital world no one bothers to look at them.

How many of you have shared their travel photos with anyone besides your immediate family?

I must admit that it is so much handier to take photos in this digital world. I’m not too sure if the memories get shared.

Tomorrow, I’l let my husband steal my computer again. It’s nice to live over the memories with him.

Next time it’s the train all the way there and back

The last time I’d travelled alone was over 25 years ago when I’d taken a plane to Toronto on a business trip. My last train adventure was in 1962 when I’d gone to Montreal. I looked forward to the trip but wondered about my transportation there and back.

The first leg of the journey was by train from the Fallowfield Station in Barrhaven, a suburb of Ottawa, to Kingston.  I expected to hear the clickety-klack of the track as in the old movies and was surprised at the steady soothing hum of wheels rolling on metal bars.  The seat was comfortable, I had plenty of leg room and the view of farm fields and bushes made me relax. Alone in my row, I placed my carry-on in the empty seat next to me and made myself comfortable. I loved every minute of it.

I disembarked at Kingston where I was met by my best friend Lorie. By car we headed for Toronto. On the 401, the great conversation with someone I hadn’t seen for a while made the kilometres whiz by. As we headed towards the Don Valley Parkway, the highways increasing to 4 lanes, then 6 and on. All these zooming cars made me nervous. The amount of traffic is the reason my husband and I never drive to Toronto unless absolutely necessary. I was glad when we parked the car in her driveway.

For the few days I was in Toronto our main means of transportation was on foot. Lorie walked everywhere. Since I instruct aqua exercises 3 times a week, I thought I was in good shape. Obviously walking at her speed is a lot more of an aerobic exercises than what I do. I had to up my stamina to keep up with her.

With my wish to go to the Eaton Centre and see the shops on Younge Street Lorie, who hates to drive downtown, decided we’d take the bus and subway. This suited me fine as we didn’t have to worry about parking, gas consumption and the subway ride reminded me of the Budapest (Metro). Like any other town if you know which bus to take it’s no problem. Taking the subway is even easier. If I knew my stops I could do this on my own.

The return trip to Ottawa by bus was not that pleasant.  Especially since it arrived at the pickup stop half an hour late. By the time I boarded, there were few seat choices. Sitting next to the aisle, one seat from the back, I was right next to the toilet. The seat was uncomfortable and I couldn’t see where we were going. The young man sitting next to me never said a word and spent the entire journey playing games on his computer.

I managed to have a cat-nap, I started to read  the James Patterson book ‘ Violets are Blue’, I struggled to get connected on my iPad and gave up, I went back to read my book, had another nap, read some more, tried to figure out where we were, went back to reading.  With a 20 minute stop at an AnRoute rest stop right before we reached Kingston, I was pleased that I’d brought my own supper. I wolfed down my roast-beef sandwich, headed for the bathroom, rushed over to the bus and we took off again.

The bus drove into the Fallowfield station in Barrhaven one hour late. Tired, still a little hungry, and feeling clammy and dirty I was happy to get off the bus and kiss and hug my waiting husband. He was so pleased to have me back home that he didn’t bother bitching about the late arrival. Back in my comfort zone I enjoyed the ride home.

With my transit experiences, if at all possible, the next time I go somewhere out of town, I’ll take the train.

Travelling Alone

With my RV book tucked away at the publisher I have decided to visit my best friend in Toronto.  Of all the travel I have done in my life, RV across Canada, many trips to the Caribbean, flights overseas, winters in Florida, this is my first true visit to Toronto.  Whether I actually see the city is another story. The purpose of the trip is to give love and support to a grieving widow.

The last time I took a train was 53 years ago when I went to Montreal and I have long forgotten what it was like.  My return trip is by bus. It will be a longer journey than my usual bus trek of going from the suburbs to  downtown Ottawa.

Besides going on work trip ages and ages ago, believe it or not, this is the first adventurous journey I take without my husband.  Now that I am older and more cautious all this makes me a bit nervous. In this changing world, news items of attacks, terrorism, crazy people and weird accidents sits at the back of my mind. I will leave it there.

To be honest, I wish for some excitement to write about.  Find a story in the journey. If I don’t, I’m not much of a writer.