Dave Duncan

"Eat Well, Stay Fit, Die Anyway"

Archive for the 'Travel' Category

Sun and Sand on the Cheap (Within Reason)

So if you had all the time in the world on your hands, and you were still getting paid for a while, what would you do?  You know exactly what you would do, and that means I need your help.  We’re looking for a cheap all-inclusive vacation filled with sun and sand for later this fall (maybe), but it’s not our usual sort of vacation.  Where’s the best place to go to find a deal on a trip that won’t be full of thieves and cockroaches?

I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about cheap all-inclusives and I’d prefer to avoid having a similar experience, so we need your help.  Where do we want to go?  We’re not that picky, which should make any recommendations that much easier.

So, where have you stayed and had a great time?  What sites do you use to find a cheap deal on a great trip?  The comments are open and waiting for your input.


Driving in the Fatherland

We’ve all heard tales of the German Autobahn and drooled at the idea of driving on a highway with no posted speed limits, and I was eagerly looking forward to maxing out my rental car on these glorious highways.  The reality was more disappointing than I’d expected, and it had nothing to do with the roads, but more with the experience.

When we arrived in Munich, we made our way to our car rental place where we were handed the keys to a Fiat Panda with manual transmission.  As soon as I heard the name and noted its cuteness, I just knew that my dreams of going 220 km/h were quickly going to be dashed.

This car was easily the smallest I’ve ever been in, let alone driven.  It was slightly larger than a motorcycle, only with more legroom and a backseat that was more for show than for passengers.

The little auto that could... sometimes.

The little auto that could... sometimes.

In lower gears, it had enough pep to jump on the steeply graded roads in the mountains, but over 80 km/h, it lacked power.  At one point, I managed to get it up around 160 on the autobahn going downhill with a tailwind, but the glory of the moment was superceded by the Audi’s and BMW’s blowing past me at lightning speed.

The actual driving on the ‘bahn was awesome.  Drivers were courteous to a fault and traffic rarely slowed or stopped moving, even in major cities (where there is a speed limit, 120 or 100).  The only time we stopped dead was because of a major accident where someone towing a camper trailer had jackknifed.

Driving on the windy mountain roads was pure insanity.  The posted speed limit was usually around 80, but I could barely hold 60 in some of the turns (where it’s legal to pass!).  It was on those narrow, NARROW roads where I was thankful for the tiniest car of all time, with tour buses and transport trucks hogging most of the road and usually going double the speed limit.  It was terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time.  I loved it!

Finding your way in Germany is a little tougher than here.  Road signs are based on destinations, so you have to plan you trip thoroughly if you’re not a native.  Once we got the hang of that, Danielle became the greatest navigator in the history of road travel (I was the sole driver as she’s still learning standard).

Roundabouts are pure awesome and keep traffic moving really well.  They’d never work here as they require courtesy on the part of the drivers, something we lack.

In summary, I would have liked to have driven less (we put nearly 2,000 kms on that little car in a mere 10 days), but I really enjoyed the experience and hope to do it again soon… maybe in an Audi A4 or a Beemer.


“In the Unlikely Event of a Water Landing…”

Since we’re still going through our photos from the trip, today I’ll focus on the time actually spent travelling.

Our direct flight from Toronto to Munich was just over eight hours, while our return trip was just over nine.  I can only assume the slight difference has something to do with tradewinds since it can’t be more downhill one way or the other.

After years of driving long distances to the cottage, I’ve inadvertently trained myself to stay awake while in a moving vehicle, so red-eye flights are something of a nightmare for me.  Passing the time for eight or nine hours in a flying aluminum can filled with flatulence-tainted air and the occasional wail of a child can be a pretty Herculean task, more so when you just can’t sleep.

Air Canada to the rescue!  Even in their cheap steerage seats, each person has a touchsreen television in front of them with free on-demand access to a suprisingly large quantity and variety of films and TV shows.  There were Hollywood hits, classics, art films, foreign films and avant-garde arty ones too.  TV choices were fantastic too.  Comedy, HBO hits, drama, news…  the selection was actually better than I have on basic Digital Cable here at home.

I got caught up on some episodes of the US version of “The Office” and the “The Flight of the Conchords” and saw a few movies I’d missed in theatres, like “Adventureland“, “I Love You, Man” and “Grand Torino“.  I even watched one movie I never would have thought of watching, even if it was on TV, “Ice Age 2” (don’t bother).

Each bank of two seats also shared an outlet (which could convert for either North America or Europe) and a powered USB input, so I could’ve watched all three seasons of my beloved “The IT Crowd” on my iPod without fear of draining my battery, or anything on my laptop had I brought it.  We live in truly magical times.

One thing that still hasn’t changed is the quality of airline food, and Air Canada’s standard meals are still pretty lacklustre.  However, on our return flight, we were given a hot snack from the UK which is sort of like a McDonald’s apple pie, but filled with lamb meat stew.  Kudos to Monty’s Bakehouse for a delicious treat, and hopefully they’re available in Canadian grocery stores soon, or maybe even at TFC games!

Our actual flights were pretty uneventful, for the most part. A little light turbulence here and there at cruising altitude, but on our descent into Toronto, we were bouncing and weaving so badly, I actually found myself wondering if we would touch a wing or the tail to the ground before the wheels hit, but the actual landing was smooth as glass.

For me, the actual trip overseas is my greatest barrier to travelling more, and it’s not that I dislike flying; I actually love the feeling of being in a plane.  For me, it’s the discomfort of travel and the sheer, sleepless boredom of a transatlantic flight.  Well, I’m now halfway to enjoying flying more so maybe it’s time to upgrade to Business Class to improve the comfort portion.  All I need to do is win this week’s $32 million 6/49 draw.

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Muchos Photografias

Well, at long last I’ve actually updated my online gallery, and that means that you can spend dozens upon dozens of minutes today looking through my life. Specifically, I put up pictures from our housewarming back in February, my last trip to BC (including visits with my nephew) and last but not least, this weekend’s Easter Dinner.

Below is list of the folders and where you’ll find them in the gallery…
2006.04.15 Easter Dinner in ‘Parties’
2006.02.04 Housewarming Party in ‘Parties’
2006.02.24-03.05 BC Trip in ‘Events’

I promise that in the future, I’ll try to update my gallery more often than once every four months. I’ll clean out some of the older photos in the coming weeks, so if there’s something you want, grab it! I’m going to need the space for what I hope will be a summer filled with canoe trips, cottage trips and other photo ops.

So sit back, enjoy the photos.

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El Camino de Muerte

Ah, the El Camino. What a distinctive vehicle. Long before we’d all even heard of the SUV, the El Camino blew our minds by blending two car styles… the sedan and the pickup truck. For those of you from my generation, it’s almost as synonymous with the 70’s as the boxy brown Volvo station wagon is with the 80’s.

It’s the kind of car that when you see one whizzing by you on the highway (or more likely YOU’RE whizzing past IT), parked proudly along a city street, or left apparently abandoned by the side of a highway, you point it out to people… you might even take a photo… but at the very least, you remember it.

Sunday, on my way to the airport, I pointed out just such a car. My parents were driving me from Langley to Abbotsford (in BC) along Highway 1 and I saw an orangish El Camino with a cab cap like you see on many pickups. I’d never seen that before and mentioned it to my parents.

Well, as it turns out… I’m not the only person who noticed that El Camino. You see, evidently it sat there for a few days and even had its plates run TWICE by the police (first local, and then the provincial detachment of the RCMP) before an El Camino enthusiast took a closer look. Inside, he found the body of a 75 year old man who died while parking the car on the shoulder of the highway. Also inside was the deceased man’s live dog. It’s all in black and white here on CBC.ca.

You’ll all be glad to hear that the dog is doing well.


Van City

Wow. Vancouver is a nicer city than I would have believed. On Wednesday we did some of the touristy stuff (walking around the Vancouver Aquarium, going to Granville Island) as well as some of the more urban Vancouver stuff (drinking lots of coffee in indie coffee shops and eating vegetarian food… meh).

Basically, we had an awesome day which was bookended by a very early and a very late SkyTrain rides… which are expriences in themselves.

Last night we had a really nice dinner with Shari’s friends April and Danny, played some Foozball, and then hung out with Tiernan some more. Shari is taking the next few days to pack up her stuff and spend some time with her family before she heads back to Toronto on Saturday. I’m chilling out with my nephew until my flight on sunday. Since I’ll be around a PC more, that also means I should be posting in here a little more regularly too.

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La Premiere Photo

Sorry for the lack of posting lately, but if you were constantly holding a baby THIS cute, would you want to sit at a computer typing? Yeah, me neither.

Tiernan Bonnar

Here’s a brief summary of the trip so far.

Friday: Shari picked me up at the airport and we hung out in Abbotsford for a bit, and then we came to Deb and Tim’s place so I could meet my nephew. I held him for about two hours and took TONNES of pictures of him.

Saturday: Shari’s parents took us to Pike Place Market in Seattle. It’s a really great indoor fish market and bazaar. There were collectibles store, art booths (some good and some very, VERY bad). I fell in love with Sweet Salmon Jerky (also known as Indian Candy) and got some great photos of the bay. Then we drove through Redmond to Auburn to see an awesome movie called “End of the Spear“. It’s about five missionaries who are killed in the jungles of Ecuador, and how that affected a tribe of spear-hunters known as the Wodani. It’s a very moving film, and it’s beautifully shot. If you can see it (it’s not exactly in wide release yet), you should…. everyone should.

Sunday: Aptly, after watching that movie, we attended Abbotsford Alliance Church on Missionary Sunday and heard a minister from Rexdale (Toronto) speak. Weird. I spent the rest of the day at Deb and Tim’s with Tiernan (mostly holding him, again) and crashed here overnight.

Monday: Deb, Mom, Shari, Tiernan and I watched The Sound of Music together in the afternoon, and Shari and I spent the rest of the day with her sister, Alisa. Afterwards, we watched “Red Eye” with her parents. It was a pretty garbage film. Don’t waste your time.

That brings us to today. I crashed at the Gibson’s, but got a ride to Langley (Deb and Tim’s) with Shari’s Dad on his way to work. The plan is to chill out here today (another day with the baby and his mom and grandma), have some coffee with friends tonight, and have an early night before we head into Vancouver for the day tomorrow.

How’s things back home? Is the bank still running without me? 😉