Thursday, January 21, 2016

Now I'm Sixty-Four

definitely grey

Do you remember long ago when the Beatles sang "When I'm 64"? It seemed impossible, didn't it.
Well, now I'm there. The years since retirement have flown by. I've travelled lots, fulfilled my dream of living in Paris, done some volunteer work, lost a parent and embarked on a search for purpose in the last part of life.

It is the last third of life no matter what attitude one wants to adopt. I joined the Senior Centre this year and received a happy birthday call from them today. A member of my study group from church
called as well. It is so important in this part of life, I believe, to connect with others and to keep meeting new and interesting people.

a walk near home
In the new year, I have increased the frequency of my walks. My friends and I enjoy walking along the river where we often see eagles and herons. This winter has been mild and I have spotted my early snowdrop. Each year, I find the same patches of brightness in the January grey!

Winter is short here and the camellias bloom early.
I have been culling for a very long time: papers, books, toiletries and clothing. Right now, my favourite clothing is grey or blue. My daughter gave the grey cashmere cardigan that I am wearing in the photo and I have chosen a pair of freshwater pearl earrings for my birthday gift.

I am currently reading Elena Ferrante's second book of the Neapolitan series, The Story of a New Name. The two friends, Lila and Elena, take different paths in life and yet remain friends. I find it interesting to look back on my own life and choices. As a teen, I had a friend with whom I was inseparable but at a point, I chose an academic life, marriage(s) and motherhood. My friend, who studied art in her 50's, lives in a small community with a long-term partner and his extended family.

In my study group, we are reading The Encounters:Retelling the Bible from Migration and Intercultural Perspectives. The title sounds a bit heavy, but we are looking at the stories of migrant
women in the Old Testament.  As our church is sponsoring some immigrant families, our discussions
seem timely.

Reflection is an important part of my life. Just as young girls make choices on the cusp of adulthood,
it seems to me, that older women have so many more choices to make about the roles that they are going to play in the later part of life. Perhaps, as we age and are freed (hopefully) from the burdens
of our conditioning and expectations, our choices can be fulfilling ones. I hope so!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Trip Planning Part 2

Do you like to travel with a partner, friend or family member? Or do you enjoy solo travel with perhaps a few days of organized group touring? Do you enjoy trip planning or would you rather leave those details to the experts? `

I ate my lunch every day at the restaurant below my apartment in Paris.

Personally, I am adaptable to different travel situations and to different travel partners. Since my husband is not a keen traveller, I often travel alone. I enjoy setting up "a home" in other countries
and getting to know the grocer, the waiters in the local restaurant and the vendors at the market. Buying cleaning products in the Monoprix basement in Paris is almost a exciting to me as visiting the
Eiffel Tower (I did say almost!)

Flowers, an inexpensive tablecloth and living across from Gérard Mulot...what else could a woman want?

Finding an apartment is quite the process but there are many agencies and websites that can help. Try not to choose an agency that charges a fee in addition to the rental cost. In my experience, once the apartment has been located, you are on your own to deal with the property manager or owner. All agencies are not created equal but Paris Address provided me with a comfortable apartment and great service during my 5 month rental. Fresh sheets and towels were provided upon request and I hired their driver for my departure to the airport as the apartment was on the fourth floor and I had acquired quite a lot of books and papers from my French studies.

I clean our apartment at home so I don't mind doing the same in a long-term rental. If I am renting for a shorter period of time, weekly cleaning ensures that I have plenty of time to enjoy my destination.
I enjoyed my daily encounters with the smiling and fastidious Sofia at Casa Peyrera where I stayed
last year.

my Oaxaca dining room

I enjoy renting solo and having friends or family visit my "home away from home."  I always rent
with the possibility of having visitors. A fold-out couch or a rollaway bed provides my guests with an opportunity to share the apartment and my adventures. Visitors sometimes contribute towards the rental cost and sometimes take me out for a meal. I enjoy showing guests around "my new city" when I'm not busy studying or volunteering.

As I am a 60+  woman, nightlife is not a big part of my travel experience. I eat my larger meal during the day and  I usually save visits to the theatre or evening concerts to be shared with visiting friends. Reading and watching movies on Netflix are great activities for my evenings.

This year, I am planning a trip to Ireland in the late summer. I will be travelling with friends who enjoy being free to experience the small and out of the way towns. None of us wishes to drive so it will take some planning. I'm thinking of a coach pass for flexibility with some hotel bookings made ahead. Does anyone have experience with Irish travel in late August and early September? To reserve or not to reserve, that is the question? Can three "ladies of a certain age" with carry-on bags manage a two week visit to Ireland on coach?

Monday, January 11, 2016

Trip Planning

Since I retired, four and a half years ago, I have travelled extensively. At the beginning of each calendar year, I try to get an idea of where I would like to go, what I can afford and whether I shall be a solo traveller or whether I will travel with a friend (or infrequently,  with Monsieur).

We visited Steinbeck country on a driving trip down the coast.

 For many years Monsieur and I did a lot of camping. Indeed I have backpacked, slept in a pick-up truck and in a few yurts in my time! It was fun at the time but I'm really not interested in sleeping on the ground or doing without running water in my seventh decade. Monsieur and I have stayed in several lodges in Olympic National Park in Washington State and I heartily recommend them for nature lovers who appreciate a comfortable bed and a tasty meal. Kalaloch Lodge is a wonderful spot for storm watching and beach-walking.

I enjoy walking in new places so I found hf discovery walking holidays in Cornwall and Devon to be great experiences. Personally, I am not as concerned with the number of kilometres that I cover as with visiting small out-of-the-way villages and sitting down in the local pub with a salad and a glass of wine. Friendly companions of similar age and fitness level are also important considerations

The path took us along the coast of Cornwall.

Language and learning are my passions! The first year of my retirement, I followed in the footsteps of an earlier retired friend and studied in Paris. Ever since 1919, Le Cours de la Civilisation Française de la Sorbonne has been offered. The course is offered to spread an appreciation of French language and culture throughout the non-French world. Courses are offered for 8 weeks or 4 months and are reasonably priced. I studied in Paris for 4 months and took a full program. Programs are offered at all levels of French and there is an oral placement test.

My dream came true!

Sometimes language learning and teaching can be combined. I have volunteered at The Oaxaca Learning Centre on a couple of occasions and have improved my Spanish as well as taught English.
No teaching experience is required to have intercambios (language exchanges) with students. Accommodation is very reasonable in Oaxaca and the state is renowned for its cuisine. When I visited, I attended some cooking classes at La Casa de los Sabores. Classes begin with a trip to the mercado and then the class members (usually 5 or 6 people) prepare a meal under the direction of local chef Pilar Cabrera. We finish with a typical Zapotec meal and a drink of mescal.

Oaxaca is a culinary destination.

Monsieur and I have taken a repositioning cruise from Vancouver to Fort Lauderdale. Repositioning cruises are great value! Once the Vancouver-Alaska season is finished in late September, the ships need to return for the fall/winter season in the Caribbean. We boarded the ship at Canada Place in Vancouver and sailed through the Panama Canal to the sunny Caribbean Islands. Prices are reasonable and only a one-way airline ticket is needed.

Monsieur was fascinated by the story of the Panama Canal.
What will I do this year? I am working on it. Next month, I will be travelling back to Oaxaca with Maman who loves Mexico. We will be staying in an ex-convent near the Zocalo (central square).
Oaxaca is a city of music and art and history so I know that Maman will love it as much as I do.
For the rest of the year, time will tell...I'm really a rolling stone!