BootsnAll Travel Network

Getting there is half the fun?

January 25th, 2009

Kathy in the Garden
Kathy in the Garden

We have successfully arrived in Quito, but the getting here was quite a stressful ordeal. Winter flying is rarely a pleasant experience, and yesterday was no exception. We had a very early flight from Edmonton, so wakeup was a 4am. That means I had to operate on 4 hours of sleep, since we had a symphony concert the night before, followed by me being a bit too woundup to go straight to sleep.

The delays began early. Boarding started as expected, but the lineup quickly stopped moving – the people at the front of line were being stopped at the plane end of the tunnel. The gate people then told everyone to sit back down, boarding was delayed, as the de-icing fluid was frozen…a more concentrated batch of anti-freeze had to be whipped up before we could get underway. That was only about 15 minutes, and then we boarded the flight, still enough time left to get going on time.

When the door was closed and we were ready for pushback, the second delay arrived. It felt like they started to push, but the plane went nowhere. It took about 5 minutes for an explanation to be given – the brakes were frozen, and the plane wouldn’t move, maintenance was on its way. This was by far the worst of the delays, since it involved sitting for about 45 minutes while they thawed out the brakes. We finally got underway about an hour and 10 minutes late.

This was a problem, since we only had an hour and 40 minutes layover in Toronto. If we missed that flight, the next one would be on Monday. I spent the whole flight on edge, since this left no room for error. Luckily, the winds were in our favour, and we made up a lot of time in the air. We got to the gate only about a half hour late.

But we weren’t done yet. We arrived at the gate in Toronto in time for the third delay. The tunnel wouldn’t extend, and we had to wait for airport maintenace to get it working again. This turned out to be another 15 minutes or so. We got off the plane at last with an hour to go before our next flight. The walk was surprisingly long, considering both flights were in the same terminal, and by the time we got to our departure gate there was a lineup. Thank goodness for moving sidewalks!

That was the last of the delays, though, and everything went smoothly from there. Transferring in Bogota was a little complicated, since I had two separate tickets – a result of using points for this trip – so I was told to get to the checkin desk on the other side of immigration. Kathy’s ticket was booked in cash, so she could follow the international connections line. Since my bag was checked on Kathy’s ticket, the Air Canada gate agent was able to really come through for me, though, as she went past immigration and got my boarding pass while I waited in the immigration line. I could then duck out of line and continue with the international connection the same as Kathy.

In all, our flying adventures ended happily, as we’ve now arrived in Quito. No harm done, just a lot of stress. I think for future winter trips, we will try to focus on places with non-stop flights. Then delays just mean you get there late, there’s not the risk of scrubbing a good chunk of your holiday from a missed connection.

On another note, we’d like to post links to our photos. Some will appear on the blog, but the full collection will eventually be on Flickr. Not sure how many we’ll upload while we’re here.
Neil’s photos
Kathy’s photos


-For the record, despite me being the more highstrung and stressed of the two of us most of the time, I was remarkably less stressed than Neil yesterday. I think I was too tired! Also, I don’t think I’d make a very good solo traveller – the 20 or so minutes I was left on my own in the Bogota airport was enough for one trip. I think I’m a bit of a chicken. :-p


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Money’s Such a Pain

November 20th, 2008

Photo by Tracy Olson.
CC-By-SA 2.0

After stressing about it for a couple months, our savings plan is back on track for the trip, so we should be about where we should be come departure time. Which has left me some time to start worrying about another problem – how to get our money out.

Normally, this hasn’t been a problem, I just pull out my bank card and get some cash out. But with the favourable exchange rate earlier in the year, I changed about half the trip budget into US dollars, since that’s what’s used in Ecuador, and this has complicated life a bit. Currently, it’s being held in an ING direct account – to earn some interest – which can only be transfered to another Canadian bank, it can’t be withdrawn directly. I’d figured that all I’d have to do is open up a USD account with a regular bank, and then I’d be able to withdraw the money from an ATM in Ecuador. Turns out this is not the case…all the major banks don’t allow ATM access to their USD accounts.

So I’ve come up with two possibilities. It looks like some of the big international banks – HSBC and Citi – might let me open a regular chequing account denominated in US dollars, and I’m waiting for HSBC to get back to me about whether or not this will come with a debit card. If that doesn’t pan out, the last resort is RBC, which allows you to open an account with RBC Centura – their American subsidiary – and transfer money between that and a Canadian account…this seems a little over complicated.

Really, I’ve done pretty well for having exchanged the money early, all I want to do is not lose out on those savings by having to cycle the money back through a Canadian account in order to actually get cash out in Ecuador. It just seems like this really shouldn’t be so hard.

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Islands in the sun

August 29th, 2008

Or rain. But hopefully sun.

We are off to beautiful British Columbia for a week. Lots of ambition to go cycling, canoeing, kayaking, spelunking, hiking… but chances are there will be a whole lot of laziness and reading involved. Either way, it’s good to be getting away for a few days, especially since Neil didn’t get quite the same holiday as I did back in May, as he worked for a good part of the week, while I was enjoying museums and parks and such.

Speaking of work, a quick update on Kathy’s ever-changing employment status – I have just accepted a one-year contract at Epcor, in the accounts payable department. A great company to work for, and I’m excited about the long-term prospects. The short term will be good, too.

So, off to BC we go, with about 70 pounds of luggage in tow. Good times! Of course, we’re renting a car, or else we’d have to re-evaluate the luggage!
We may or may not get the chance to post and upload photos as we go, so check back in a few days. I intend to practice lots with the new camera.

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Ecuador Bound

June 30th, 2008

Photo by Wil Macaulay.
CC-By-NC-SA 2.0

We’ve long been talking of a trip to Ecuador, but I had serious doubts whether it would happen. But as of last Friday, we have tickets. These are probably the messiest set of tickets I’ve ever had to book. I was buying one ticket with Aeroplan points, and they won’t make arrangements for a cash ticket, nor will they sell tickets for any airline outside the Star Alliance. So I had to book a ticket to Bogota, Colombia on points, and then seperately booked a flight to Quito, Ecuador through Expedia. Kathy’s ticket was booked through Air Canada all the way to Quito. We’re on the same flights, though, just possibly not sitting together. And I never before realised how much of a pain online booking can be. I think they go out of their way to make the process complicated.

But it’s done now, so its official. January 24 to February 15, 2009, Kathy and I will be in Ecuador. I, for one, am really excited. I’ve started looking up things I’d like to do and see while we’re there. I really want to get off the tourist trail a bit, so that makes it a little more difficult to research. So far, the coolest thing I’ve found is the Santa Lucia Cloud Forest, which looks like it’ll be loads of fun.

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On Gulls, Ghosts and Galloping Geese

May 18th, 2008

Seagull at the Door
Seagull at the Door

For the closest thing we’ve had to a real holiday since we got back, Kathy and I are in Victoria this week. I’m not on holidays, but have taken a few extra days around a business trip to enjoy myself. Kathy gets a holiday. Anyway, so here we are, and we’re loving it. We’ve often toyed with the idea of moving out here…I think given the opportunity, we’d jump at it. The grass is literally greener. Things may be budding in Edmonton, but this is a city already in bloom. There are flowers everywhere, and things just grow. Not just in the designated places like they seem to at home. The people also seem to be friendlier. The service industries seem to be well staffed with people in good moods, and we have had random strangers on the street stop and give us a hand – recommending a place to eat when they saw us puzzling over a map, and directing us to a bike rental place when it was nowhere near where the tourist information people had said it would be. I just have a hard time picturing the rushed Albertans taking the few minutes to point a tourist in the right direction, let alone if there were as many visitors as Victoria gets.

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Still Home After all These Months

July 13th, 2007

TView from our Window
View from our Window

Well, we’ve now been home for quite a while now – longer than we were away. So, how have things been progressing?

I’ve landed a great job with a local engineering and land survey company, working in the Health, Safety and Environment department. I’d be lying if I said it was the most challenging work, but when I’m busy, it’s really enjoyable, and moderately rewarding. What’s most important, though, is that it feels like something that could develop into something resembling a career. Hard to say for certain at this point.

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So Now What?

September 22nd, 2006

It’s been about two weeks since we’ve gotten home, and it’s maybe been a little difficult getting back into the swing of things. At first we under a fair bit of stress, as while we were gone the already booming economy went crazy, and finding rental accomodation in Edmonton has proved to be a challenge. We were lucky enough to find a place we’re happy with, an apartment accross the street from the university farm. It’s not exactly what we’d wanted – we’d been hoping for a main-floor suite in a house – but we do have a dishwasher, some included utilities, and the cost of using the laundry facilities didn’t sound too outrageous.

Neither of us is working yet, but we’re taking this opportunity to be picky about what jobs we take. We still have some savings, and, most importantly, there’s a shortage of workers, so you know that if you turn down one offer, there will still be more in the future.

Not much else to say, I’m afraid. Maybe we’ll post some more once the travel bug starts to stir again.


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A Couple More Days in Paris

September 3rd, 2006

We spent a couple more days in Paris after my last update. We took the time to visit Versailles and the Musee d’Orsay. Versailles, naturally was overpriced and packed, but I enjoyed the Musee d’Orsay, though Kathy seemed less interested in it.

Quite aside from the sites that we went to see in Paris, it was the experience of staying there that was interesting. Staying at Andrea’s apartment was a very different experience from staying in a hotel, as I’d done on previous trips to the city. It was quite a cramped apartment, and the kitchen consisted only of a 2-burner hot plate and a bar-sized fridge, equipped with a few utensils, and for cooking in, a kettle, one pot, and one small frying pan. Obviously with those tools, the cooking potential is limited, and I get the impression that Andrea eats out most of the time, but we did make a couple of attempts – a stir fry one night, fried chicken another, and fried beef on another night. It was fun to go out and get groceries…Paris is jam-packed, the second densest capital in the world, after Tokyo, and there were several food stores within a few blocks, but none completely stocked the way we’re used to in Canada. So we would take a trip to the baker, the butcher, the produce stand, and the ingredients all seem to be much higher quality (and admittedly more expensive) than what we could buy at Safeway.

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Rocketing through the sky, Only to go back underground

August 30th, 2006

Once again, a busy few days. After spending a not-so-restful night at the Budapest airport, we continued our journey at much increased speed, hopping in just a couple of hours over half of Europe, and landing in Paris. Quite a change after four and a half months of slowly winding our way over more than 6000km. It was quite fun, really. I always forget how much I like flying. And despite our worries and going crazy making sure we packed everything that might be considered a liquid into our checked baggage, they didn’t even ask us to give up our water bottle.

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So Much to do, So Little Time

August 25th, 2006

The Rain Breaks in Budapest
The Rain Breaks in Budapest

Arriving in Budapest after a long, sleepless night on a train from Romania was quite an experience. Budapest is much more like Western Europe than other parts of the former communist bloc that we’ve visited. It’s a city of only 2 million people, but seems to have the foot traffic of a city 5 times its size. Arriving at rush hour, and being very tired, we had a tough time following the directions to our hostel. We ran into trouble because trams here don’t actually indicate what direction they’re going, so if you’re not sure about the orientation of the city relative to where you are, you don’t know which direction to get on. Also, we couldn’t figure out where to buy ticket. This problem ended up having to be solved by taking a taxi.

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