0

The Virgin Islands, or Where They Used to Be

This was a morning, that I was pumped and excited for, I work up stupid early so that I could emerge for breakfast and grab some amazing, red sky in morning, photos of the island as the sun peaked over the horizon.

For this morning, I wanted to be ready to go early and quickly plate loaded from the buffet. I then returned to my cabin to shower and prepare the day bag with everything I needed, camera, phone, tripod, sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, and wallet. I really had no plans at all what to do and I had no US cash on me so the vague plan was to get off the ship, find wifi and catch-up, post some pictures to make those at home jelous, and find a bank. Today I arrived to the port of Tortola, one of the British Virgin Island.

I got off the ship and it was a nice close walk to the Tortola cruise village. It was actually quite obvious that the cruise village was a fake example of stereotypical island life and all the usual shopping. I sat on a bench in front of the Diamonds International and got on the wifi there. It was pretty good wifi, all my Facebook feed was filled with people talking about a major blizzard. I felt bad of course so I posted this picture.

Sunrise over Tortola BVI
Sunrise over Tortola BVI

Then I left the cruise terminal area and came across the CIBC First Caribbean bank and took out $40USD. I then went to a local shop and picked up a tiny ornament. One of the first things I noticed was that the island was filled with random chickens everywhere.

As I returned to the terminal, I negotiated taking a safari type truck tour of the Island. It was beautiful, although it was mainly a lot of what like was like on the island, and “This is where X used to be”. One of the memorable moments was when we were approaching the wall with the mural of the islands history, one van going in the other direction got caught on our truck and we were wedged for a while as the only place for the other van to go was over the cliff.

One attraction that is still around on the island is on the far end of the island where there was an amazing rum distillery and a huge and popular beach.

After the tour, I was exhausted and went back to the ship and found a sun chair on Deck 18.

0

The Irish Finale

I departed the Enterprise starving, and in pain a bit from the ridiculous amount of walking in Belfast. I went down the stairs to the tram station and the Google Transit app said there were no more trains but there was a dot-matrix display showing next tram in 7 minutes with a group of at least 15 people waiting for the tram. Then a local said to the group no more trams tonight and the screen was for the next station down the line.

A vocal man with an American accent convinced the group of people that the local was wrong. I looked at the sign and noticed it said “Busáras” and the blank one said “Connolly”. Since I can also read perfect Gaelic I recognized that Busáras means Bus Station and Connolly was the name of the train station. I decided the local was right and since I didn’t know where the Bus Station stop was, I just followed the track and it was not even a block away.

My plan for the night was to go to an Irish Pub and grab dinner there, but once I got off the Luas (what Dublin calls trams/streetcars) near my hotel most I just had a craving to go back to the Burrito place and have a large Fajita. It was so good.

Then I went back to drop off my stuff at the hostel locker and ended up at the bar in the hostel. I was breaking my rule of local beer and ordered a Tuborg. That is some of the best cheap beer money can by in Europe, especially the draft version. I had a great conversation with the bartender and the conversation lead to making TV shows and then he reviled that he worked on Vikings and Game of Thrones. I will refer to him as Viking Bartender.

As I was coming to the end of using up my cash this guy started talking like a beer snob on the intricacies of Guinness and what it is the greatest beer in the world. To which I countered that Guinness is only to its best potential when paired with a fine Irish Whiskey, and then explodes with flavour. That leads to a round or Guinness and Jameson’s Caskmates Stout for the group in that part of the bar.

At some point, a gorgeous Irish lass comes up to the bar to order a round of beers for her friends listening to the acoustic singer-songwriter in the other side of the bar. She orders a couple of Coronas. I didn’t actually she was Irish at this point. I said, “I would make fun of you for drinking Mexican beer in Ireland, but I just had a burrito for dinner.” She smiles and in a strong Irish accent smiling “While I guess you can’t then can you.” This is the point that I kick myself for not having anything further to say. Then she left.

Then later the other bartender started making drinks and as he cleaned the glasses kept spraying me with a little water. The second time I joked that he got me again. After the third time, he joked that if I stayed there I would just have to accept that I would keep getting “a little wet”. The bartender then began making a pair of Jäger-bombs and as he dropped the shot glasses into the larger glass, he shattered one of the glasses and the liquor soaked my shirt, shorts, arm, and leg. He also got some glass lodged in the skin of my arm. I then said, “This is a little wet?”. He then half horrified and half laughing was like “No I’m so sorry, you know the next drink is on me.”

By this point in the night, I’ve had a good 3 times more drinks than I planned on. I was just going to order another beer, but the Viking Bartender came over and said: “I know you been drinking the cheap beer and whiskey all night but since this one is on us let’s go for a special whiskey.”

I ended up with a special edition 200 bottle Jameson’s that was the most amazingly smooth flavour I’ve ever had. After finishing up, I called it a night as the next morning was a travel day back home to Canada.

For a country I was not excited about before going, I was one that I was sad to leave.

The next morning, I got up and shaved, washed, and packed up my stuff and left the hostel. The morning did not start well as I crushed my headphones in the locker door. As I had some time to kill I went to Costa and had my morning coffee and a breakfast sandwich. I caught up on some news, Reddit, and updated my phone to try to use up my remaining data. At this point, I went a block away and got the shuttle bus to the airport. Since I was trying to use up data, I live streamed the video to YouTube from the bus.

Until which point, I needed to conserve battery life since my boarding pass was on the phone. Once I arrived at the airport the Departures section looks amazing and modern and so not the back hallway looks of the Arrivals area. I checked my bag and placed everything in it so I could easily get through security and enter the duty-free shopping area.

I made the first stop at the Guinness store and bought an Irish Flute kit with sheet music, and a hard Guinness Wallet for holding cards. The second shop was an electronics store, there was no way I was going to use cheap headphones for a 7.5 hours transatlantic flight so I bought a good duty-free pair.

On the flight back, the meal was pretty good. There was this cool pickled cucumber salad side, a bottle of wine, I picked the Chicken and pasta dinner. After the meal I listened to music and podcasts as we flew, I liked to keep the entertainment system on the navigation channel to see where we were.

As we flew over Quebec, I had some land data and Facebook Live posted a bit, then took some long time-lapse videos. Coming back to Toronto there was a long line so I didn’t the “cripple limp” and the navigator pointed me to the fast line for disabled and airline staff. Score! After you go through customs, you end up on the outside and there is an out of the way door that most people don’t notice because the signs point them the other way. It is to the far left wall on the Departures floor.

I quickly cleared customs and went to my gate and waited around for about an hour as my flight was running a bit late. The flight was a success, unlike the Titanic, and I arrived home at the Saint John airport to my mother and stepfather waiting for me. It was the first time ever I arrived to people waiting for me.

That concludes my 5th Eurotrip.

0

Europe 2018 #33 – Part 3

After a well rested night, it is now my birthday. I slept a bit late and left the hostel to wander around Dublin. The most important first stop was the local Costa Coffee shop across the plaza, and to pump up some energy for the day, and to Facebook creep what was going on in the world.

After coffee, I went to the waterfront (river the passed through the city) and walked towards the area that the hostel said was where all the tour tickets could be brought about a 25-minute walk away. I took a lot longer taking photos and resting due to my limitations every couple of blocks.

It was at this point that it hit me that, I was near no one I knew, in a place I knew nothing really about. This got me really sad. The first bridge I came across I thought was the famous (according to my map) Ha’penny Bridge. I Facebook Live posted a video going across it. (Which had no viewers.)

Then as I continued on to the next bridge it had a sign that it was the Ha’penny Bridge. It looked cooler but yet less impressive and had about a half dozen homeless sleeping on it. I decided not to cross it. I then noticed a little shop that sold souvenirs and I dropped in and picked up a little Leprechaun and a t-shirt. This shop also sold passes to the hop on buses so I picked one up here.

Outside the shop, I was waiting for the bus with two guys who were waiting for their wives to finish shopping and picking up tickets to a dinner show. The guy warned his wife that they were going to miss their bus. (Which they did.)

Although I wanted to see the ladies reaction when they got back, I got on the bus. It only went one stop and then we were told we had to get off and could get on the bus waiting in front. Now that first bus had a recorded audio tour, the second bus had a live audio tour and the guy was hilarious.

I spent the next 3 hours going around Dublin on that bus not wanting to hop off because I loved that driver. My plan was to get off at the Guinness Brewery but opted not to, to stay on the bus. I would also point out that the brewery has the strong burnt popcorn smell. As I approached the hostel, I got off the bus and recharged my phone and rested for a half hour.

After the rest , I went next door to the Jameson’s Distillery. This is one of the best alcohol attractions I have ever seen, on Heineken in Amsterdam was better. It does the typical, here’s the history, here’s how it’s made, here’s how each ingredient and process matters, here’s why we’re best, here’s the gift shop and finally the grand finale, here’s the bar. I still considered going to Guinness but met so cool Belgians and wanted to try more whiskey.

Closing in now on the late afternoon, I was stumbling out of the distillery. (Let’s pretend it was because of my bad ankle.) I then walked across the bridge and towards the Viking castle area and then was intending to make it to the Temple bar area. However, I needed to drain from the distillery and came across a restaurant/pub with an “Authentic Irish” menu and decided it was a fitting place for my birthday dinner.

After dinner, I was looking for the bus stop that was on the map and only after it was too late that I was on the wrong parallel street. So I walked along the river, crossed at the Ha’penny bridge, and then retired to the hostel, had another Guinness at the bar, and then “called it a night.”

The quotes on that last part are because it was an interesting night. I had an early morning to catch the train to Belfast. I posted this to Facebook at about 12:30 am:

Picture this situation, 4 bunk bed sets, two on each wall, numbered 1-8. I’m in #8 and the world record holder for loudest snorer is in #1 (90% sure it is a she). #3 and #5 are taking up the sofas in the lobby. #7 is about to lose his anger management chip.

0

Mobile Ordering

Today I visited the local coffee shop in the mall. The line was very long and the people started to appear frustrated or tired, but there was the pot of gold at the end of the line to make it all worthwhile. Correction, it was coffee, not gold but in the eyes of the patrons waiting it was more valuable than gold.

Meanwhile, I enter and walk past the line and pick up my coffee there waiting for me and leave to sit in the mall and watch the people and write this. The people watching began before I could even leave the restaurant. The scowl of disgust on their faces as I did not lime them join in the ancient, or present-day British, the tradition of fair queuing.

I participated in the modern “there’s an app for that” method of placing my order using my phone and picking it up. Although I used an app this is nothing really new. For all my life you could call up and arrange for pick-up of take-out restaurants.

Today’s purchase was at Tim Horton’s using their app. When it comes to ordering their app is pretty good. It is very straightforward and adding modifications is simple. The payment process and choosing a restaurant is also very intuitive. The downside of the app is that the specialty muffins are not in the app and some instructions like double toasting bagels are not there.

However, they are making lots of improvements and when I first used the app you could not have 1/2 sugar. There is a promotion now where you can get a free coffee (Regular, Dark, or Decaf) after 3 orders by the end of the year.

Another app I use regularly is the Cineplex app. This app is good for purchasing tickets, but the number of options to buy a ticket can be daunting. The perk, however, is not waiting in line for the kiosks and 50 bonus Scene points (1/20th of a movie).

The McDonald’s Canada app is of similar quality to Tim’s and is really straightforward to make a complex or simple order.

The final shopping app review has to be the Esso Speedpass+ app. This is really convenient as you do not have to stand outside and swipe your fuel savings card, then your points card, then choose a car wash option, then the on-screen payment. It is simply done on the app with very little effort.

0

Buying My First Car

As it was becoming clear that I needed to get motivated to go to work. It was also clear that getting up to catch a bus was not really physically possible given my state. I was going to need a car. I had set in my mind from two years earlier that I wanted a Mazda 3. That was going to be my car, but I wanted to test drive others first. Since I was not convinced of my abilities I wanted to take the first round to sit in the cars and then shortlist a few to test drive.

The car buying experience if not the most friendly for those that don’t know exactly what you want. The experience typically goes like this. You enter the dealership, you get greeted by the fastest moving sales guy. Then you blow at least a half hour as he gets your information, then starts suggesting features, and financing options before you even look at a car. Then you only get to look at what the sales guy wants you to look at. Then you realize the car is missing some of your must-haves, then the blow off that the must-have is not that important doesn’t work well anyway or, promises it can be added after-market when it really can’t. Then you find one you kind of like and they never end up telling you what it costs, only payment amounts that leave out a few key things that get added when you close the deal.

My main feature need was I didn’t want leather seats. I also needed an auto-dimming rearview mirror and automatic transmission for physical reasons.

The first stop was Saint John Hyundai, the sales rep was new and made it known that he was not on commission yet and was going to look out for me. He then showed me a Sonata, it was nice. However this is where I learned I had another physical limitation, I couldn’t have a pedal emergency brake.

Then I wanted to look at the Accent but the sales rep insisted on the Elantra first. The Elantra would have worked, but the lip by the door was too deep for my leg brace and I would have to go high-end to get the mirror I wanted. I did get to try the Accent that was more comfortable and my size but he in post talks kept pretending I didn’t and insisted the auto-dimming mirror could be added aftermarket after the company he called said it couldn’t.

The next stop was Port City Kia. This place was more friendly because I was familiar with the staff. I sat in the Forte and it was a great fit and mostly met my needs. I was thinking of a Rio when I did my research but never did sit in one. While they were figuring out numbers I sat in a few of the other ones but they were more car than I needed.

The third stop was Saint John Nissan. The staff was friendly, and the Sentra fit well, but I needed the sports model to get a colour I needed. The Micra was also nice but the saleswoman has no interest in selling it.

Stop four was Dobson Dodge Chrysler. I went in thinking maybe a Dodge Dart. However, they were having a promotion that a Chrysler representative was in town and I only got to see a Chrysler 300 that was, “the only car worth considering”. It didn’t have what I needed and was way outside my budget with other options I had seen.

Stop five was Saint John Toyota. I spent a good amount of time here as I was being shown cars. As the sales guy was distracted, I fell in love with the Toyota Corolla iM, it was blue which I really wanted. It was only missing the mirror and the sales guy insisted it could be put in once again after-market, but he could throw it in. They also started insisting that a lease was a better option as it makes it easier to replace every few years, and are taxed better.

The next day I went and visited more places.

The next stop was Fundy Honda, in this case, I tried the Civic and the Fit but none of them wouldn’t work out.

The Seventh place was Brett’s Buick GMC. None of the cars met my needs or budget and the sales guy I got had to constantly leave to work on other sales, and then got the service guy to come out that shot him down that an auto-dimming mirror couldn’t be added.

Stop eight was Downey Ford, who insisted that I would only like a car if it was white, black, or grey. They also couldn’t get anything in that was blue, even if I wanted to wait.

The ninth and last stop was King Mazda. I basically learned that my dream car didn’t meet my needs as the only one that did was the top end Mazda 3 and that was outside my budget considering my other options.

After the round of viewings, my short list was the Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte and the Toyota Corolla iM.

At this point, I went back to all three with my friend Tony to re-sit in all 3 of the finalists and it was really then that I decided the Elantra was just not the best fit.

Later that week I went to test drive the cars, starting with the Kia Forte. They had a red one there, and I was very comfortable in it and was comfortable with the feel of the controls. After the test drive, I was confident I had found the car. However, I wanted blue, and I wanted the mid-year update with Apple CarPlay. It took a few weeks for the car to arrive and was not the easiest process to find out for sure when I was arriving but they appeared to do their best at the dealer level.

On the day the car arrived, I went to the dealership to complete the sale. It was at this point that so learned how all the fees work, and all the service and warranty add-ons and what is actually covered and what is not.

I now have my 2017 Kia Forte EX and absolutely love it and am confident that I made the right choice.