The "Whiz-ard" That Is Dr. Oz

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Israel Then and Now

ElAl

EL AL Airlines postcard circa 1961.

After my mother died, I found a bin where she had some of her cards and letters saved.  I came across a stack of letters and postcards from my grandparents first and only trip to Israel in 1961.  My grandmother wrote my mother almost daily while she was away; her musings and love for travel put a smile on my face.  There was a wonder about travel in the 1960s.  People were still amazed that you could fly overseas and they dressed up in their finest clothing, not in their yoga pants like I do.  Sometimes, I wish that we had the same innocence, but my latest trip to Israel did remind me of how incredible the country is.  It was the right place at the right time in my life with the right people.  I thought it would be fun to look back at how much the country has changed using the postcards from my grandparents, putting them side by side with current pictures of the places that we visited.

 

It is not exactly Tel Aviv, it’s Ashkelon on the coast of the Mediterranean on the left, with a photo of the beach in Tel Aviv on the right.  The biggest differences?  The swimsuit fashion and now Israel is so dog crazy that they have part of the beach reserved so that the pups can bond, play and go for a run with their owners.  Here was a passage from my grandmother’s note: “We arrived here tonight (Ashkelon) and this is the loveliest place.  Our rooms are like bungalows facing the Mediterranean.  We are staying here overnight, then leaving for Beersheba and Jerusalem.”

Tel Aviv has changed so much in the 57 years since my grandparents visited.  On the left you see what part of the city used to look like.  On the right, the modern skyline of the White City.  My grandparents loved Tel Aviv with my grandmother telling my mother that “I enjoyed every minute of this wonderful city.”  She also wrote: “If my cards sound mixed up, Daddy was rushing me, so forgive the mistakes.  Daddy is so excited.”   Yes, my grandparents called each other Mummy and Daddy and no, it was not creepy in the least.  It was adorable.  They had quite a love story.  If you are all good, maybe one day, I will tell you about it.  It really is swoon-worthy.

Haifa Hotel

We did not go to Haifa this time, and I only got to spend one day there when I was in Israel in 2006.  It is a city on a hill with the beautiful  Bahá’í Gardens being the centerpiece. She wrote: “Arrived here yesterday, I doubt whether any place could be more beautiful than Haifa.”  The hotel featured on the postcard was Hotel Ben Jehuda – I do not believe it is still open, but there are plenty of places to stay.  I cannot wait to go back and spend a little more time there.

My trip ended in Jerusalem and even though it was the second time that I was there, it is still awe-inspiring to see the first view of the city as you wind around the Judean Mountains.  My grandmother wrote: “We just arrived in Jerusalem and never will I forget this drive!  When we came into the city, Daddy was asked to say the prayer and everyone was crying.”  Remember, that when my grandparents visited, the country was only 13 years old, and the Holocaust was not even a distant memory.  My grandparents and their contemporaries, likely never thought that there would be a Jewish State or that they would have the opportunity to pray at the Western Wall – a single spot that has not changed in thousands of years.  It meant everything to them, and that is just one of the reasons why I find visiting Jerusalem such an incredible experience.  It is a blend of ancient and modern; quiet contemplative moments and hustle and bustle; religious and secular.  It’s everything.  By the way, the President Hotel has long been abandoned, but had a very interesting history – check out this article to learn more https://guyshachar.com/en/2016/abandoned-president-hotel-jerusalem/

There were other postcards, from other places, like Eilat, where my grandmother was so excited to sail on a glass bottom boat.  One of the nicest surprises for them was the last night of their trip, at a farewell banquet, “…and for dessert, oranges from the Zelikovitz Orchard.  Was Daddy proud!”  My grandfather and two of his brothers, were in the fruit business for a long time, and until a few years ago, our family had the orange orchard.  The land was donated back to the State of Israel but for a long time, it produced oranges that were sold around the world.

The best part of Israel?  It is a country that is continuously changing.  The Tel Aviv skyline has changed, even in the 12 years since I was last there.  The Old City in Jerusalem has changed as archaeologists continue to excavate and discover groundbreaking knowledge that is corroborated by both the Old and New Testaments.  It is at the forefront of new technology and advances in medicine that can change lives.  It is a country that was a desert and where trees and flowers now grow.  It is a place where I can go, even though it is thousands of kilometres away, and feel the presence of my family.

 

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Happy New Year and Admitting Failure

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Yup, I’m a failure.  I failed at my year of challenges by not really doing any, and I failed in my reading challenge by only reading 22 of 35 books.  I can actually tell you why I didn’t finish this – it comes down to three books 1) Outlander – it was long (almost 1000 pages) and it took me 500 pages to get into it, 2) All the Light You Cannot See or as I like to call it All the Books I Didn’t Get to Read Because I Had to Finish This Dud.  I know a lot of pretentious people who are going to judge me for not liking this one, that’s OK, I don’t mind. 3) Wicked or as I call it Wickedly Boring – too long and only about 50 pages were at all enjoyable.  Here is where I netted out:

A book about an animal – Emory’s Gift (a lovely book)
A book based on a fairytale, myth or folklore – Wicked (ugh – see above)
A book based on people from a religious text
A book based on true events
A book considered a ‘classic’ – Oscar Wilde’s Plays
A book considered a ‘modern classic’ – A Thousand Splendid Suns (a truly splendid book)
A book from a series – Top Secret 21 (I read all of the Stephanie Plum books – hilarious and fun)
A book from one of the “Must Read” lists – When Breath Becomes Air (Unforgettable and deeply touching)
A book from Oprah’s book club
A book involving religion
A book involving royalty – a king, queen, prince, princess etc.
A book picked for you by someone else
A book published this year – London Belongs to Me (Memorable, fun and written by a fantastic person – please read this)
A book someone gave you – After You (Well written chick lit but not as good as Me Before You)
A book that a relative or friend loves
A book that everyone is talking about
A book that you can read in a day – Complete – If I Stay
A book that’s less than 300 pages long – Complete – Where She Went
A book with a cover that drew you in – Fear Dat (A must read if you are going to New Orleans)
A book with a creative title – Year of Yes (LOVE – check out my 2017 blog coming up tomorrow or Monday for more details)
A book with a short title – E2 (HOOEY)
A book with a title that describes your life – Rude Bitches Make Me Tired (they really do)
A book with a title that has more than five words – All the Light You Cannot See (See above)
A book written by a politician – Crippled America (in my defence, it was a gift and I was too embarrassed to return it to the bookstore)
A book you borrowed – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Amazing)
A book you could use as a doorstop (ie. 700+ pages) – Outlander (see above)
A book you own but haven’t read
A book you would normally read on holiday – Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married (not bad, but completely forgettable – I don’t remember anything from it)
A book you’re embarrassed to read in public – Coreygraphy (It’s Corey Feldman’s biography – need I say more?)
A book you’re excited about – The Rainbow Comes and Goes (Anderson Cooper – need I say more?????????)
A book you’ve always wanted to read but haven’t
A book you’ve been putting off reading
A classic children’s book – I Love You Forever (if you can read this without crying, you are dead inside)
A humorous book – Why Not Me? (Mindy Kaling is my spirit animal and home girl and this is a fantastic book)
A play by Shakespeare

The Type A in me says that I have to try for 35 books again, so I will.  I’m going to switch some of the categories up since I found some too similar.  Plus, I really want to get rid of more books!  I’ll update you on the challenge for 2017 when I figure out which categories to swap out.

2016 wasn’t all about failure, I did get to travel a lot which you’ll hear more about, I enjoyed my city a bit more and I did get a few things off of my bucket list.  It also had it’s challenges, and no, it’s not about Princess Leia, Prince and George Michael dying, although that’s very sad.  The one ability that I have is to know when to pull up my big girl pants and make a decision, even if it’s a tough one.  I think that sometimes knowing what path that you need to take is half the battle.  I was told that 2017 was going to be a year of change for me, and I welcome it!  I hope that you all have a Happy New Year’s Eve and challenge yourself in 2017.


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Well, I Declare! Do You?

Getting back to travel, I’m just wondering how many of you shop ’til you drop when you vacay?  I bet many of you are taken in by useless tchotchkes, shoes that you just have to walk away with, jewelry that matches the sparkle in your eye and clothes that will reside on your elliptical for years to come.  I eschew touristy souvenirs, I have absolutely no use for them.  I do have a weakness for clothing and accessories though.  Plus, I’m a generous hearted Leo who likes to buy useless, yet thoughtful gifts, for family and friends that make the cut.  This translates into sometimes going over our paltry $800 limit (remember I’m Canadian).

It used to be even worse, and cross border shopping meant pulling tags off, donning about 6 layers of clothes, throwing out old shoes so I could wear new ones and looking like the Michelin Man as I got questioned by Canadian Customs.  Not being a natural liar, I usually stuttered through the answers or mumbled into one of the 5 sweaters that I was wearing (in the heat of the summer) that I spent about $50.  LIAR LIAR pants (3 pairs to be exact) on fire, I knew that Officer Bob was thinking to himself as he sighed and let us pass through.

There were times that I couldn’t lie or layer my clothes in such an overt way because I made the mistake of going to the US with someone that had been black listed.  Declaring pained me, so I’d sneak a sweater or blouse into my over-sized purse and hope that my friend didn’t discover my little peccadillo.  Then, I started going with one of my dearest friends who could lose her job if she was caught lying at the border and a condition of cross border travel meant…shudders…being completely honest.  At first, I resented it, but as more time went by, and I was waved through without paying duty, even when I overspent, I started appreciating the weird freedom that honesty brought.  I no longer was tongue tied  when I spoke to Customs.  I also looked better – 3 pairs of pants and 5 sweaters is just FUGLY.

The last two trips that I took, I was declared positively everything to the dime, and guess what?  I got brownie points.  One nice Agents of the Shield gave me a discount because I was honest so I paid a measly $30 – think of it – you lie to save $30?  Not worth it in my humble opinion.  Last night, when I got back from New Orleans, I was over by $50 – but declared it anyway – I have to be honest because I have Nexxus Card.  Once again, I was rewarded for being a do-gooder and paid absolutely zip.

So what does this all add up to?  Do you really want to stammer haltingly through a border crossing or sweat through your new clothes to avoid a few dollars at the border?  I no longer do, and I do declare, it’s freeing.  Enjoy your travels.


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Barcelona for Dummies and Type A’s La Segunda Parte

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You already know that I love Barcelona, but I wanted to share my top ten things to do in this bella ciudad (that’s beautiful city to those of you who don’t hablo español).  It’s hard to narrow it down to just ten places, but for you, my lovely readers, I’m making the sacrifice.  Here are your first four – in no particular order:

  1. Sagrada Familia AKA Scared Family – I know, I know, it’s another church you say to yourself.  If you’ve been to Europe, you’ll see your fair share.  No offence to my Catholic readers – you have some fabulous architectural marvels, it just gets a little church-y when you go from city to city.  Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia is different though – it’s a building still under construction for one thing estimated to be complete in 2026.  For another, it’s Gaudi people!  That means unusual architecture and overall amazingness and yes, that’s a word, or if it’s not, it should be.  I could go on and on, but I’m going to let the pics speak for themselves.  Just a hint – pre-book your tickets, or if you can, get a guide, they’ll give you details that you would never know just visiting it on your own.  Don’t skip the museum at the end.  It’s pretty cool.  If your wondering, it’s a Basilica, not a Cathedral – there is nary an Archbishop in site at this modern marvel.

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2. Park Guell – Yup – more Gaudi.  If you are a regular reader, you will already have read a bit about my obsession with this place.  I missed it my first time which makes me a dummy.  It’s one of the most unique places that I’ve ever visited – if you ready my previous entry, you’ll see some of the fab pics from PG.  Gaudi thought of everything.  Even the benches are ergonomic.  There is plenty to see, and you don’t want to rush.  Give yourself at least 2 hours to walk through it if you can.  You won’t be disappointed.  You’ll see structures that look like the underside of an elephant, a gigantic lizard, gargoyles and more in the world’s best park.  You have to pay to get in, but it’s worth it.

3. The Mercat – You’ll find this at Las Ramblas  – another must do.  Apparently this market is very touristy and a lot of locals have moved on to greener pastures but it’s still worth a look.  Let’s face it, if you are paying to stay in a hotel, you are a tourist.  You can be pretentious and sniff that if locals don’t go, you shouldn’t either, but you aren’t Spanish and neither am I.  Go and enjoy.  The produce looks amazing.  If you are an animal lover, be aware, there are a lot of butchers in the market, and you will see things that you may not want to.  Let’s just say, ham is very popular here.  If you are ironic, and like the song fish heads – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKDtUzRIG6I – you will see those too, and that song will be in your head ALL DAY LONG.

4. Plaza de España is one of those GINORMOUS European complexes that makes you feel small and insignificant.  If you already feel that way, and haven’t been to the Plaza de España then perhaps some of Dr. Phil’s sound advice is in order.  This is just a really beautiful photo opportunity.  It provides you with a great view of the Venetian Towers, an old bull fighting arena which is now a shopping centre – YAY to Barcelona for getting rid of that blood sport and is a great place to catch transit if you need it.  You don’t need a lot of time there, unless you just want to sit and people watch.

I’ll finish the list in my next entry.  Until then, adios amigos and amigas!

 

 


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Barcelona for Dummies and Type As (Primera Parti)

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Some years ago, I’m not sure how many to be precise…scratch that – it was November 2012, so 3 years and 10 months and two days ago, I visited Barcelona for the first time.  It’s called Barcelona for Dummies and Type As people, and I’m no dummy.  I can’t forget a thing, but that’s a story for a different blog.  Anyway, back to Spain…so I visited this city, and fell in love with it’s unique combination of old and new and totally unexplainable.  This is a city that Gaudi helped to popularize, and you will never see anything as amazing as his architecture.   I want you, my furry friends, to love this city like I do, so I’m giving you all my best tips and tricks whether you have one day, or many!

Where to Stay:

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Image courtesy of hotelclaris.com

This time, I stayed at the very lovely Hotel Claris, conveniently located less than a block away from the tony Passeig de Gràcia area.  I always wanted to use the word tony in a sentence – thank you for making my dreams come true.  Anyway, this hotel is really well situated, it’s absolutely  beautiful and they have the best service of anywhere that I’ve ever been.  The Bell Hop doesn’t let you lift a finger and couldn’t be more helpful.  I needed a drug store and he practically walked me there.  The rooms had the fluffiest towels that I’ve ever experienced, and who doesn’t like a fluffy towel?  They had the best shower…ever…seriously…I never wanted to get out.  You had turndown service at night, and they left you with a fresh pair of slippers AND a chocolate on your pillow. The decor was fab and very modern.  I can’t recommend this place enough.  It wasn’t horrifyingly expensive either, but book in advance for the best prices (the executive room is probably your best bet).

Getting Around:

I can only speak for me, but the first time I went, we pretty much walked everywhere.  The one time we didn’t walk, we took a cab to the Miro museum.  I’m sure transit is easy, but remember, the best way to see a city is to walk, and walk and walk some more.  This time, we took a private tour which was great.  We got to see so much of the city and really got to understand the history of it.  A great option for tired and weary travellers is the trusty “Hop on Hop Off” tour.  The buses are everywhere and they’ll get you where you want to go.  They can also help you orient yourself in the city.

The Weather:

The first time that I went, it was in November, and it was still around 20 degrees celsius.  This summer, it was 28 degrees (celsius) during the day – more than pleasant.  If you are bringing your smart phone, download a weather app.

The People

The people are different than you expect.  They are polite and direct.  They never make you feel like they are in a rush, but there is an unusual efficiency there.

Wireless Connections

These were spotty at best.  The hotel wasn’t great for wireless connectivity, my suggest it to get yourself a decent data plan.  If you can’t roam like home, take a cyber break.

What to do:

Check back for everything that you need to do rumble down Las Ramblas in Barcelona!


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What I Learned This Month – a Mini Post

You are never too old to learn something new, and in true blondish fashion, I learned things in August that perhaps I should have know before such as:

  • What “Wainscoting” is.  I did a survey of approximately 30 people (friends, co-workers and family) and 29/30 people knew what is was.  I was the 30th.  Just so you don’t have to feel like a dummy, its the inner wooden covering of a wall.  Thank you Shai for spelling it for me 3 times, and explaining, very slowly, what it is.  To my other friends, at least one of you could have lied to make me feel better – thanks a lot
  • What Tu B’Av is.  It’s a minor Jewish holiday that celebrate’s love.  It’s also known as the Jewish Valentine’s Day.  Here is a longer, more detailed explanation in case you are interested http://www.haaretz.com/jewish/features/.premium-1.609805.  Unlike Wainscoting, 4 out of 4 people asked had no clue what it was. Thank you Phil for teaching me something new.
  • Last, but not least, I learned that I could sit outside, in the country for an entire afternoon with an incredible group of women and only mildly freak out about the bugs.  Thank you to the hostess with the mostess – you know who you are.

 


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Atlanta for Dummies and Type As (Part 1)

 

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Taken at CNN

No…I didn’t get to see Anderson Cooper – he works out of CNN’s New York studio, but I did get to do a lot of cool things.  And no, I’m not calling you dummies, I just couldn’t figure out something fun and clever to use as a title.  You may ask me why did my friend and I decide on Atlanta.  I say, why not Atlanta?  I know it’s not at the top of everyone’s travel list, but if you have 3 days, and want to visit a city that has a little something for everyone, Atlanta is a great destination.  It’s also one of the cleanest cities that I’ve ever visited.  My bucket list also includes visits to all 50 States (and all of the countries in Europe) so this helped me tick one off.

Where To Stay

I was lucky enough to experience two lovely hotels in mid-town Atlanta (my friend and I went to Savannah in between) – The Artmore Hotel and The Georgian Terrace.  Both were lovely. The  Artmore had a really cool courtyard pictured above and was a little more cool – it reminded me a bit of the Opus Hotel in Yaletown  (Vancouver, BC).  The Georgian Terrace is part of the historic hotels group.  Out of the two, it was my favourite.  The Artmore is a little more out of the way – my friend and I had to walk further to get to the plentiful restaurants that mid-town had to offer.  It also was just more impressive with a beautiful lobby, a historic bar frequented by locals and was right across from the Fox Theatre – a plus if you are doing the food walking tour.  Both are close to MARTA stations (Atlanta’s subway and public transit system).  I wasn’t disappointed with either hotel, but if you want to be more in the heart of things, go Georgian Terrace.

Getting Around:

Use the MARTA – it’s really easy and relatively cheap.  The one caveat, it’s not like many big city subway systems where the stop is right in the middle of things – you have to walk quite a ways to get to where you want to go.

The Weather:

I can only speak for early March, and it was perfect.  Warm enough that I didn’t need a jacket during the day, but not so hot that I felt sweaty and dehydrated.  It is very changeable and it can get cool from what I understand, so use your weather app and bring a few “just in case” clothes.

The People

The people are very nice, very polite, and the city was more refreshingly multi-cultural than I expected.  The one thing that I did notice was a reserve that I wasn’t expecting – it was really more like a big city versus the true southern experience that I was hoping for.

What to do:

Check back this week for everything that you need to do when you head to HOTLANTA!