Not sitting at her favorite coffee shop typing blog posts on her laptop, that’s for sure.
Where have days (weeks, months, years…) gone?
So while AGMA was goofing off, not posting blog posts, Hubs and I decided to beat the European travel rush that is supposed to happen this summer, and we headed over the Pond in March.
Because Hubs has a mobility disability, we travel with a mobility scooter, most tour companies don’t want to deal with us. And the ones that cater to folks with mobility issues are out of our price range.
So I have become Hubs’ private travel agent/tour organizer.
In March, AGMA Travel and Leisure, LLC. planned a trip to Europe with 4 very distinct parts.
Ever since AGMA saw Poldark on Masterpiece Theater in the 1970’s, I’ve wanted to see this incredibly beautiful part of England. My desire to visit Cornwall was heightened the past few years by the new Poldark on PBS, and my blogging friend, Hogrider Dookes, who lives in Cornwall.
As a matter of fact, Dookes took a YUGE leap of faith and decided to actually meet up with me when we were in his neck of the woods. Risky business on his part. But he knows AGMA is a bit….AGMA.
Still, I was hoping that I wouldn’t freak the bejesus out of him…
Turns out that he and his wife were as charming, welcoming and gracious as I am weird, strange and cray, cray. We all got along famously.
Thanks Dookes for a fantabulous time!
Oh…and did I mention that on the way to Cornwall, we stopped for tea at HIghclere Castle (otherwise known as Downton freaking Abbey????) Being a huge fan of the Downton Abbey series and movies, AGMA was pretty psyched that we were able to take a tour of Highclere. Unfortunately, the weather that day was pretty much the worst weather we had on our entire trip – this is the best picture I was able to take.
By the time the tour and tea was done, It was pouring cats, dogs, and hedgehogs outside. And no pictures are allowed inside. Damn.
First world problem.
Part 2 was in jolly old London Town.
I hadn’t been to London in over 20 years so a visit there was long overdue. It was a bit of a whirlwind visit – only 3 nights – but we hit the ground running (and scooting.) Dinner with a friend who lives there, a visit to the British Museum, an evening walking tour of gaslight London, the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, and the Tower of London kept us busy.
I was wracking up the steps on my smart watch.
AGMA finally got to ride the London Eye, something I wanted to do when I was there 20 years ago. And it was pretty dang impressive…. It helped that the weather was uncharacteristically beautiful with blue skies and lots of sunshine.
We also went to a revival of Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club at the Playhouse Theater. It was a stunning show with incredibly innovative staging and choreography, and a stellar cast. It was also expensive… On top of the price of the tickets, everybody had to show a negative COVID test to get into the theater which set us back an additional $95. Ouch.
But totally worth it!
Part 3 was Berlin.
Brandenburg Gate that was on No Man’s Land during the Cold War.
I was in Berlin in 1976 as part of a college-aged student two month tour (translation = drunken boondoggle) of Europe. If you were in college in the 1970’s, AGMA bets you saw the flyers for this ISE (International Student Exchange) tour.
Berlin in 2022 is vastly different from the Berlin of 1976.
For starters, no wall, no Checkpoint Charlie, no East Berlin. 90 percent of our time was spent in the old East Berlin which I didn’t have access to in 1976. Stalin truly did take the “best bits” of Berlin when they carved it up after WWII. Our small, lovely, boutique hotel, the Montbijou Hotel, in the Hackescher Market area, is in former East Berlin area as is Museum Island, the old Jewish Quarter, and the TV Tower.
Hubs & I got together with a lovely young German woman (she was the au pair for my niece for 18 months in DC until last year) and her sister for a wonderful breakfast at the restaurant on top of the Reichstag. AGMA highly recommends it!
As it turns out, our 5 days in Berlin wasn’t nearly long enough to explore this fascinating, complex city. We’re ready to go back!
Part 4 was Lisbon.
We flew across the Atlantic on TAP Airlines, which is a low cost, Portuguese airline. No matter where your final destination is, you will connect through Lisbon. TAP offers free stop-overs in either Lisbon or Porto, so AGMA said, why not?
This was our second visit to Lisbon. The first was part of a tour and was a whirlwind 48 hour visit that included Sintra. This time, we stayed in Lisbon for the full 3 days and had a chance to explore this absolutely beautiful city. Our hotel, The 7 Hotel, was modern and delightful, and in a fantastic location in the Baxia neighborhood.. Aside from the incredible food, the beautiful weather, and our evening at a Fado restaurant, the highlight of our trip was the TukTuk tour we took (get it – TukTuk took??) It wasn’t inexpensive, but the one on one interaction with our driver who knew the city and its history inside and out was worth every penny.
So 6 plane rides, 4 COVID tests, 2 passenger locator forms, innumerable times showing our CDC vaccination card, and 17 masks later, we got home at the end of March. Let’s just say, to travel internationally during COVID, you REALLY need to want to travel internationally during COVID.
And you’d think AGMA would have learned her lesson.
But nah baby nah.
50 years ago, when I was a mere girl of 18, I took my first international trip. I went to Greece for a week over spring break when I was a freshman in college on a student/alumni trip.
To celebrate that momentous trip that sparked a lifetime love of travel, AGMA is returning to the scene of the crime. Tomorrow.
So clearly the Russian cyber-attacks in response to the global sanctions on Russia for Putin’s illegal, immoral, and Hitler-ish invasion of Ukraine, have started.
AGMA’s sitting in my 3rd favorite coffee shop (for blogging) and my MAC is as slow as molasses. (Do people even say that anymore…??).
It’s taking like 3 minutes for a page to load. Oh the humanity!
Back in the dark ages when we had to dial into the world wide web via a modem, this wait would not seem excessive. In some cases, this was considered ‘fast’.
But times have moved on, and now we’re used to split second responsiveness. And AGMA tends to get very impatient when I experience a technology hiccup. Talk about your champagne problems…!
But I noticed a slow down a couple of days ago and again today. This just might be the tip of the iceberg.
People I consider rational and reasonable are seriously getting ready for the Russian ‘cyber invasion’. They are preparing for an all out cyber attack, taking 1000’s out of the bank, freezing milk and other perishables, and loading up on non-perishable food items. AGMA hates to tell them that the power grids will probably be an early target (Texas, are you listening?) which will take out electricity, hence freezing anything will provide only a short term supply. Unless you have a generator and then, of course, there will be the shortage of gas to power it.
Don’t you hate it when that happens?
I find that those of us living at Casa AGMA are woefully unprepared for Armageddon, cyber or otherwise.
And that’s okay with us.
It’s always been my position that I want to be taken out by the initial strike. AGMA’s seen too many movies/TV shows about surviving in a post-apocalyptic world.
No, brain eating does not sound like a survival technique I would like, thank you.
I’ll just be like Scarlett O’Hara – I’ll worry about it tomorrow.
AGMA is 50% Ukrainian. My grandparents emigrated from Ukraine in the very early 1900’s and settled in Western Pennsylvania. My mother and her siblings were all 1st generation Americans.
My other 50% is mostly German with a tiny sprinkling of the Biritish Isles mixed in. Very tiny.
To be honest, I’ve never been overly excited about my heritage.
It’s stunning to see the resolve of Ukrainians in defense of their homeland against the unprovoked, terrorist aggression of super-power lead by an unhinged, wannabe Nazi. AGMA is gobsmacked by the courage and bravery of ordinary citizens being reported in the media.
And just when you think that there are no courageous, inspirational leaders left in the world who not only talk the talk, but walk the walk, Volodymyr Zelenskyy is doing a most excellent job channeling Churchill.
I’m hoping he’s a distant cousin…
We always wonder (at least AGMA does) what we would do put in a situation like the Ukrainian people. I like to think that I would be the lady offering the Russian soldier sunflower seeds. Or the grandma who is learning to shoot an automatic weapon. Or the woman who learned how to make molotov cocktails by Googling it. Or the Ukrainian soldiers on Snake Island who told the Russian warship to, “…go f*ck yourself!”
Make no mistake, AGMA (being the liberal, progressive snowflake that I am) is totally against war, and the horrors it brings to the innocents involved on both sides. I mourn not only for the Ukrainian lives lost, but for the young Russian soldiers who do not want to be doing what they are doing in Ukraine. I mourn for a country that can never return to what it was a week ago; forever changed by the untenable reality of either kill or be killed. I grieve for the children, wives, husbands, mothers, and fathers who are and will be grieving for their murdered loved ones. And for those who have fled their country and left everything behind.
My heart is broken for my (50%) homeland.
That being said, I am also filled with pride that I have the same DNA as these incredibly brave, courageous people with their dogged determination to defend their homeland against incredible odds.
And AGMA believes that they will ultimately prevail over their would-be oppressors, though there will be much more death and devastation before that happens.
In the meantime, I pray the world will support the people of Ukraine in every way possible.
Right now, there doesn’t seem to be a more important item on the pro-democracy checklist than stopping this war-crime laden aggression with all of our collective global efforts. Despite the temporary inconveniences that may happen as a result. Higher prices at the gas pump or grocery store are nothing in comparison to having thermobaric vacuum bombs used to kill your children.
We kind of need to suck it up folks…. Again. But AMGA knows ya’ll can do it!
Also, and this is really important, let’s work as hard as we can on keeping pro-Putin fascists (otherwise known as Republicans or the GQP) out of power here in the US.
If you think what is happening in Ukraine can’t happen in the US, you haven’t been paying attention.
AGMA really enjoys those Progressive TV commercials where the self help therapist, Dr. Rick, is trying to help young homeowners who are “turning into their parents”.
He’s challenged by young homeowners wearing fanny packs (that are coming BACK into fashion by the way!) who have paper tickets at the airport, pack snacks from home for their plane ride, are worried about exiting a football game before it starts, and compliment the grocery store deli worker for great lunchmeat slicing…
You get the picture.
I enjoy them until it dawns on me that I AM the parent he is trying to help the young homeowners not be like. What?? For some bizarre, AGMA-twisted reasoning, I think I am one of those young homeowners, not the older parent.
Considering we bought our first home in 1978, I’ve obviously been consuming too many gummies.
We are most definitely NOT young homeowners. And we’re guilty of pretty much everything that the the commercial is poking fun at. Although I don’t think I’ve ever complimented the deli person on their slicing skills. Out loud.
Time marches on…. And AGMA has been feeling that quite acutely.
Now I know how my father felt in the 80’s & 90’s with the advent of personal computers, the internet, and cell phones.
Today it’s crypto currencies, VR, NFT’s, and the Metaverse. I think they’re all connected. Maybe. I’m really not sure.
Yup – AGMA is turning into my father. This is terrifying.
My brother turned 80 (OMG!!) a few months ago. He’s a recently retired investment advisor. When I saw him this past fall, he told me he invested in a cryptocurrency, but he has no clue exactly how the crypto thing works.
Join the club.
I heard this morning that the US government is looking into issuing cryptocurrency, and that we are actually behind the 8-ball compared to other countries. Damn – just when I was getting ready to fill up my nickel collectors card…
Clearly, crypto is hot and a ‘thing’. But, right now, when Matt Damon tells me from the TV that “fortune favors the brave” in advertising crypto investing, it all feels a bit like a Ponzi scheme.
AGMA is kind of a crusty skeptic.
Then there’s VR or virtual reality. I have enough of a hard time with with reality reality. Not sure I want to add another layer to my reality anxiety issues.
NFT’s are really interesting. I think. And bizarre. Another thing that feels a bit like a pyramid scheme. But since I don’t understand what they are, who knows?
NFT’s are Non-Fungible Tokens.
What the heck does fungible mean??? Is that even a word?? It sounds like something I would use to describe the love child of the Orange Cheetolini, the Pillow Guy, and Kid Rock.
“Oh my goodness, what a fungible baby.”
AGMA can’t tell you how many time I’ve Googled NFT’s to try to figure out why people are spending millions of dollars on them.
And all I get is that it has something to do with proprietary digital “stuff” stored in a blockchain (whatever the hell that is) somewhere in some cloud that you need a special code to access. So I guess you’re really paying for that code, but, again, who knows?
Artists are cashing big time on the NFT craze, and it may expand to real estate and other “stuff”.
Now there’s an oxymoron for you – digital real estate. I wonder if that’s like naming a star after your significant other? I mean, it’s not REALLY named after them, but you have a piece of paper that says it is. It’s a gimmick.
Can you raise crops on a digital farm? Or cows? How about building a house? Or a sky scraper?
AGMA just has so many questions….
Which brings us to the Metaverse. AGMA has a sneaking suspicion that cryptocurrency, VR and NFT’s are all part of the Metaverse, but I couldn’t swear to it. Again, this is something that I’ve Googled multiple times, but am having a difficult time wrapping my very limited brain around.
If somebody out there can explain any of this to me, please have at it!
Honestly, the older I get, the more it seems like The Matrix is becoming the new reality and less just a plot for a movie.
Give me the red pill please!
Oh, to go back to the good old days of flip cell phones, email, and typing www before a website’s name.
The days before 9/11, MAGA hats, FOX “news”, the Big Lie, COVID-19.
The days when women’s reproductive rights weren’t being stripped away, voter suppression of POC wasn’t wildly popular because there was Federal Government oversight, corporations weren’t considered ‘people’, tens of thousands of people didn’t needlessly die because of anti-vax propaganda, and traitors who attempt a violent overthrow of democracy would actually get imprisoned rather than elected to the US Congress. Or the Presidency.
Longing for days past where school children didn’t have to endure active shooter drills, school boards didn’t ban books/curriculum that teach actual history, libraries didn’t have to close because of threats of violence against their employees because they ask the public to wear masks to protect others, and fences didn’t have to be erected around the US Capitol to keep out the ‘tourists’ (who erect a gallows to hang the Veep.)
AGMA guesses both Hubs and I are just old fashioned folks who believe real estate should be real, doing our own ‘research’ is no substitute for listening to learned professionals, science is not subjective, history is reporting what actually happened even if it makes people uncomfortable, reading challenging books develops critical thinking skills, every citizen should be able to cast a ballot for the candidate of their choice and have it counted, black and brown lives matter, people who try to overthrow the government need to be in jail, and women should be the sole decision makers concerning their bodies.
So maybe it’s not a bad thing that my young, home-owning sons turn into their parents?
Gotta go now ‘cause AGMA has to pack up my NFT that I bought with crypto in the Metaverse and take a trip though VR.
See you, Alice (and the White Rabbit), and Neo on the Nebuchadnezzar.
Some of you are old enough to remember a TV show in the mid-60’s called That Was the Week that Was. It was the forerunner of much of the political/news satire of today.
Being a clueless, dewey eyed, innocent of 10 when it premiered in the US, I didn’t understand that much of it. But one thing I do remember is part of the theme song…
“That was the week that was; it’s over, let it go.”
Holy sh*t, that WAS the December (and 2021) that was; thank God it’s over. And AGMA is all about letting it go!
December saw the hopes of a return to some semblance of pre-COVID normalcy totally screwed.
I went from personally knowing about 10 people who’ve had COVID since March 2020 to knowing 40+ people who got COVID just in the LAST 10 days of December. Son#1 and his family included.
And omicron’s timing couldn’t have been more precise. Wouldn’t you know it? Grand#1’s 7th birthday was messed up, Christmas was messed up and New Year Eve was messed up.
Thankfully, due to being fully vaxed (other than Grand#3 who is too young), all recovered quickly and are back to their normal abnormalness. Grand#3, after a few concerning days of really high fever, is back to his enchanting and delightful self.
But hearing how full pediatric hospitals were (and are now), AGMA has to admit it was scary.
And, of course, there were the losses.
Personally, it started with 12/10 passing of Mike Nesmith of the 1960’s group, The Monkees. The group was “created” by Hollywood television types for a TV show to capitalize on the success of The Beatles’ A Hard Days Night.
AGMA was the exact demographic The Monkees TV show was aiming to capture – the little sisters of Beatles fans. And I totally fell for it!! I read about The Monkees in teen magazines. I constantly passed notes – the 60’s version of Tweeting – with another Monkee obsessed friend at school.
And, of course, I watched the television show religiously. It was like a sacred 30 minutes every week for my soul! Such a Monkee devotee was I that, at dinner one night, when I absolutely refused to eat the live and onions my step-mother fixed, I was punished by not being able to watch the show that week.
Oh the humanity!
But it goes to show you exactly how much AGMA hated (and still hates) liver and onions….
The Monkees was the first concert I ever attended. My neighbor and I screamed the entire time. It was glorious!
It was difficult in 2012 when Davy Jones passed away at 66. But imagine my shock when I found out, reading some tributes to Mike Nesmith, that Peter Took, the favorite of a starry eyed 13 year old AGMA, had passed in February 2019. How did I miss that??
Then there was the unexpected passing of John Madden. I can’t say I was a huge football fan in my younger years, but being married to football crazy Hubs, I watched more than my share over the last 40+ years and have become a fan. And John Madden was THE voice of football for many, many of those years.
In 1991, the John Madden Football game came to Super Nintendo. Also, in 1991, AGMA had 8 and 9 year old boys with a Super Nintendo. Madden Football became a staple in Casa AGMA. It was John Madden, all the time.
Finally, and this is one I am not sure AGMA will be able to get over, there was Betty. Sweet, sassy, talented, inspirational, naughty Betty.
She was the personification of NOT aging gracefully, and will ALWAYS be my AGMA-spiration.
Since her passing, I’ve seen many memes created to honor her memory and amazing spirit, but this is my favorite…
As Forrest Gump said, “And that’s all I’m going to say about that.”
The losses weren’t only in the national news. 2021 brought the passing of a number of close friends, and family of close friends. It sucked.
So now we are 4 days into 2022.
The new year is starting out kinda wild and crazy. Dire warnings about omicron crippling the country, continued US political turmoil (the Big Lie of Cheetolini continues to be propagated by the QOP), inflation, crazy weather caused by climate change, wildfires, global supply chain issues, Russian aggression, Chinese censorship, and ___________________ (you fill in your favorite Debbie Downer prediction.)
But AGMA is very hopeful that 2022 will be like the month of March. You know, it will come in like a lion, but go out like a lamb.
I’m claiming that.
HAPPY NEW YEAR my friends, please stay hopeful, and be safe out there!!
AGMA has become very “sturdy” in the last two years.
I always tell people that I’m still working to lose the baby weight I gained while preggers with Son#2.
Son#2 will be 38 next month.
I’ve gained and lost the same 15 pounds for years now. And every time I lose them, SWEAR that I will not gain them back. And AGMA means it.
At the time.
For about 6 years, until late 2019, when I ran on a regular basis, I managed to bar the door to the oh too familiar FPM (Fifteen Pound Monster.) No matter how loud it screamed and screeched and pounded at the door, AGMA kept the deadbolt on tight.
Then there was COVID.
AGMA was already on shaky ground in March 2020.
I had finished my last marathon in October 2019. And I ended up injuring my knee. And I couldn’t run for about 3 months.
Then of course there was the holiday season (which lasts from Halloween until January 1st!!) which definitely perks up the ever vigilant FPM.
It whispers through the door, “A few more of those cookies that you LOVE won’t hurt you.” and “It’s only once a year, enjoy another glass of nog!” and “It would be rude not to sample everything your host made for his open house.”
AGMA cautiously takes the deadbolt off and opens the door a crack, but keeps the chain on. I can always go on a diet after New Year. Right?
Of course, then there are January birthdays. Of course. I mean, you HAVE to celebrate birthdays with rich food and homemade German chocolate cake. Right?
February saw the door’s chain straining to the max. Hubs and I take off for a 2 week trip to Provence and the Cote de Azure. Pretty much any thoughts of restraint as far as food goes is now limited to the volume of my stomach. I mean, it’s France! Right?
AGMA can always go on a diet when we get back from the trip. And as soon as my knee gets better, I can start running again and that will really help. Right?
By the time COVID19 shut the world down, the screws holding the chain on the door are almost completely out.
Between the stress of COVID19’s deadly spread, the Orange Cheetolini telling us to drink bleach, selling our house in Atlanta and moving to Chicago, and a still wonky knee, the door bursts open.
The FPM is, once again, in the building.
But it didn’t stop there…. Oh no…. Soon, it’s little sibling, Eight Pound Monster (EPM) joins big brother.
They pretty much took up residence until this past summer when AGMA started running again. And eating more sensibly. Things were looking up, even after a week long trip to France in July. I had almost gotten rid of little sib EPM.
But….after a 24 day trip overseas in October, all bets were off. It was over. FPM & EPM were in charge again.
Now, it’s cold in Chicago. And AGMA is a major wimp when it comes to running outside in the cold. And I like to eat warm comfort food when it’s cold.
Honestly, right now I look like a panda bear without the fur. And the cute look on my face. .
Desperately trying to find some sort of indoor activity that might kickstart my purging of FPM and EPM, I….
wait for it….
wait for it…
Took an introduction to bouldering class this past week.
At the beginning of class, we were asked to introduce ourselves and include our preferred pronoun. I was glad I wasn’t first because AGMA was a bit confused by the pronoun thing.
Sometimes it’s best to just shut up and listen.
Turns out it helps identify your gender orientation – her/she, him/he, them/they.
Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore…
(But AGMA thinks it’s wonderful that people are allowed to be who they are and are given the dignity and respect to be addressed in the way they want to be addressed. Something I think that the Rethuglicans hate… I savor that!)
Everybody in the class was AT LEAST 40 years younger than me. And 50% my bodyweight. And didn’t have bad knees or a bad back. And looked like they worked out. And probably didn’t have a fear of heights
OMG – what was AGMA thinking signing up for this class???
But I DO have a great sense of humor. So I got that going for me…
But I was kind of a party pooper. I didn’t participate in the “practice” how to fall drills. And I didn’t participate in the climbing. Other than on the kiddie wall.
However, after class was over, realizing my reluctance to look like a beached whale in the practice falling drills, and to show my panic at going more than 5 feet off the ground on a climbing wall, the very kind instructor offered to work with me privately on falling and climbing.
I did two practice falls (ouch – those knees!) And I climbed a purple circuit. Purple is supposed to be the easiest. Of course, my 5 year old granddaughter did the same circuit on Sunday…
The day after, my back hurt. And my knees twinged. And I realize how my immense mass of panda body must have looked trying to scale that wall to all of those young, fit, lithe GenZers who were there.
AGMA believes that a person should spread their wings. Get out of their comfort zone. Try to new things.
Wait for it…
In all of my travels since starting AGMA almost (gulp) 8 years ago, I’ve refused to do a traditional “trip report” post. I never felt I’d be any good at it, especially after reading some of your, dear reader, posts about your domestic and international travels. They are wonderful.
But last week, I changed my mind. I decided to try something new. Spread my wings.
Like Icarus. And you know what happened to him…
AGMA had such a delightful trip to Ireland in October. And knowing that many of you are still not comfortable with traveling yet (or don’t want the hassle that travel is these days), I thought I’d try my hand at a travel blog post to maybe get folks thinking about traveling in 2022. I mean, how bad could it be?
Turns out, pretty bad. Kind of a snooze fest.
Too many words and not enough snark.
And ya’ll know AGMA’s all about the snark.
My heartfelt thanks though to those of you who said you liked it. And bravo for staying up to read the whole thing.
It did have pretty pictures.
Not that I’m using this as an excuse (translation: I am TOTALLY using this as an excuse), but I haven’t flexed my blogging muscles very much since March 2020. I’m out of practice.
It was foolhardy to try something new when I am so out of blogging shape.
Did I mention that recreational cannabis is legal in Illinois?
And no – that’s not the reason last week’s post was so long and rambling, and why I had to have a snack when I was done writing. Actually several snacks.
AGMA was never a smoker. I tried both tobacco and marijuana waaaaayyyyy back in my college days, but just couldn’t do the ‘sucking smoke into my lungs’ thing.
I was raised until I was 11 by a mother who smoked, then went to live with a father who also smoked. There was a big enough risk from inhaling 2nd hand smoke in my formative years; I didn’t want to make things worse by taking up smoking myself.
And I remember eating some cannabis brownies my college roommate baked. AGMA could never understand why you would ruin perfectly yummy brownies with something that made them taste like they’d been stored in Steve Bannon’s armpits for a couple of years.
But, for whatever reason, after I moved to Chicago last year, I REALLY wanted to go buy some weed (or a derivative thereof.) Just because I could. Legally. It’s an AGMA thing.
I’ve used CBD products in the past and was frankly amazed at the pain relief they give when you use a topical cream on a sore back or knee. I tried the ingestible oil, but no thank you. It tasted like armpits. Again.
Based on recommendations from Son#2 and a couple of friends, and actually trying some THC/CBD gummies Son#1 gave me to help me sleep (with lovely results), I decided AGMA was a gummy gal!
It took me a few months to get up the nerve to go to one of the dispensaries in Chicago. Not sure what I thought would happen…. Sometimes AGMA gets overly dramatic.
Turns out, my first dispensary visit was quite the event.
Hmmmm – it had no sign out front and an armed guard outside the door. Okay…
Thankfully, the security guy must have thought I looked like I wasn’t going to cause too much trouble (ha!) so he let me in. In Door #1 that is.
I came face to face with a thick sliding plexiglass window (think dental office) in the anteroom. However I suspect that, unlike your dentist’s office, it was probably bulletproof. The nice lady behind it asked me for my drivers license, then she had me smile at the camera
They definitely didn’t get my good side.
Now I was buzzed in through Door #2 to the waiting room. With another armed guard.
I was getting a Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid vibe.
Then they called my name. AGMA got buzzed through Door #3 into the sales room.
The promised land!
I pulled out an empty gummy container that Son#1 had given me.
“Do you have any of these?”
Well…AGMA’s happy to report that not only did they have them, but the lovely young man who was helping me signed me up for the frequent buyer club AND a senior discount.
Why have I never seen this advertised on the AARP website?
And I also found out if I go there on a Wednesday, I can spin the ‘discount wheel’ and win $$ off of my gummies.
Sort of like hitting a slot machine in Vegas, but with a much more mellow edge.
And aside from being filled with all sorts of pricey cannabis products, I figured out that the armed guards are there mostly because the dispensaries are all cash only. And my gummies aren’t cheap, even with my senior discount. I gotta hit up the ATM before each visit.
Ten 10mg gummies with 1:1 THC to CBD (the best for sleeping) cost me $38 this past week. AGMA went on a Thursday so I didn’t get to spin the wheel….
I won’t make that mistake again. “Mama needs a new set of gummies!!”
But I only take 1/2 a gummy at a time and only on nights that I really need to get a solid night’s sleep.
Yes – it’s true! I’m not waiting two months to write another post. What???
I had so much fun last week posting, I thought, “What the heck!”
Plus, I have to report about the third leg of AGMA’s great travel adventure in October to Ireland.
WARNING: This is a loooonnnnggg arse post. But there are pictures at the end as a reward.
I LOVE Ireland. This was my 9th visit to that beautiful country.
Did I mention that I love Ireland?
My good friend Lisa (from St. Louis) is very well traveled. She used to travel extensively to Asia on buying trips for her jewelry business. And she has been to Africa multiple times. Plus lots and lots of other places.
Let’s put it this way – she is a member of a travel club where the basic requirement for membership is to have visited 100 different countries or more.
But….she had never been to Ireland.
She said she was saving it for when she gets older.
Did I mention that Lisa is 81?
Knowing about AGMA’s many trips to the Emerald Isle, she asked me several years ago if I would be her tour guide. And she offered to pay for basically the entire land portion the trip.
“Absolutely, I’ll be your tour guide!”
AGMA has been an unofficial tour guide in Ireland for 2 other friends, but they didn’t offer to pay my way. And it was kind of a lot of work escorting them…
So hell yes, I’ll be her tour guide!
It only took us three attempts to get there.
They say that you never really know somebody until you travel with them.
AGMA’s happy to say that Lisa proved to be a much easier travel companion than my other two friends. She’s a Buddhist so has this Zen attitude toward life and problematic situations. She never got flustered about much of anything. She was a ‘roll with the punches’ type travel companion. I loved that.
But as we all know, we all have our quirks. Even AGMA (although I am actually practically perfect…)
Lisa is hard of hearing so she brought her hearing aids. But she rarely used them. And when she did, it was only one in one ear, and only for about 20 minutes at a time. She said her ear got itchy??
Even with her one hearing aid in place, she had a terrible time understanding the Irish accent. Which was pretty much everybody we talked to on the trip.
AGMA has honed both the skills of speaking very loudly as her 2 sons were growing up (VERY loudly at times!) and, on my previous 8 trips, understanding an Irish accent pretty well so it all worked out. Literally, I was her interpreter, often repeating in my loud voice and Midwestern non-accent, what was just said by the Irish person talking to us.
You do what you gotta do.
And she ate. She ate a whole lot. She ate throughout the day.
She is pre-diabetic and felt that she needed to keep lots and lots of protein snacks handy, so our little car was full of bags of peanuts, almonds and cheese sticks.
She would get up in the middle of the night and eat. She would eat after she got up in the morning. She would eat an hour after breakfast. She would snack right before lunch, in mid-afternoon and before dinner.
And she would eat a normal sized breakfast, a huge lunch, and a decent sized dinner.
AGMA certainly understood that she needed to do what she needed to do, but at the end of the trip, she told me that she thought she gained some weight.
No sh*t Sherlock.
While planning the trip, I tried to see what she might be interested in seeing. Multiple times. I figure a good tour guide needs to find out what her clients wants to see and do.
She just said she trusted me to decide what she should see and do.
Hmmm….no pressure there…
I booked some day tours before we left. But after we got to Ireland, it turns out she did have some preferences (of course) and they were things that needed advanced reservations to see/do. Plus most restaurants required reservations for dinner.
So I was on my phone and laptop everyday trying to make arrangements for the next day. It was a bit stressful, but most of the time, AGMA prevailed. After all, it was kind of my ‘job’, so it was all good.
After we had a joyful rendezvous at the Dublin Airport on day #1, we picked up our cute, little, automatic transmission rental car with zero deductible CDW insurance. That’s the ONLY way to go in Ireland when renting a car and driving on the left. A knocked off side mirror and flat tire on previous trips taught AGMA to get full coverage. Always.
Our first three nights were spent in Waterford city at the really beautiful Granville Hotel. It was probably our favorite hotel on the trip because it’s an old school Irish upscale hotel. On the other hand, we had gray clouds and drizzle the entire time we were in Waterford.
But, seriously, it’s Ireland.
Because Lisa had jet lag, we took it easy the first few days. We went to New Ross to see the Dunbroody Famine Ship, tooled around Wexford city, and drove to the Hook Head Lighthouse, all on day #2. Day #3 was a walking tour of Waterford, a visit to Waterford Crystal and a nice dinner in an Italian (??) restaurant.
We left Waterford city on day #4 and stopped for a few hours for a private walking tour of Kinsale on our way to Killarney. Miraculously, while we were in Kinsale, the clouds gave way to sunshine and blue skies. And I had my first piece of banoffee pie of the trip. It was a glorious day!
The sunshine followed us to Killarney and decided to hang around for a few days. We stayed at The Ross Hotel. It was interesting. On the outside, it looked like an old school upscale Irish hotel. On the inside, it was an ultra modern Irish upscale hotel. Think Andy Warhol with lots of neon thrown in… Interesting.
Our bus tour (cuz AGMA won’t do that drive) around the Ring of Kerry was spectacular. This was my 3rd time to do the Ring tour and this was by far the best weather ever. Stunning.
The next day (day #6) we visited Muckross House, St. Mary’s Cathedral, Killarney House, and took a jaunty jaunting car ride. AGMA was happy none of them required an advanced reservation.
Day #7, we were on the road again – to Galway. The “must see” stops on this drive are the Cliffs of Mohr and The Burren. The blue skies went bye bye, replaced by high clouds. But no rain. That’s a very good thing.
While AGMA was planning the trip, Lisa mentioned that she’d like to stay in a B&B. But I’m not really sure she meant it… When we got to our wonderful B&B in Galway, The Stop, she got a bit out of sorts. It wasn’t in the center of town (which she prefers), but was only a 7 minute walk to the start of Quay St. And our room was up one flight of stairs and was pretty plain with a tiny shower. She didn’t complain, but she said she was feeling grumpy.
Gotta respect a woman who is upfront with her grumpiness. She was very gracious in her grumpiness.
However, between Russell, the charming owner of The Stop, and the absolutely phenomenal breakfasts (seriously delicious!), she ended up loving our B&B. Whew! And she loved the energy of Galway city.
Day #8 was a full day tour around the Connemara with a 3 hour stop at Kylemore Abbey. The skies were still cloudy, but the sun would tease us now and again.
Our big thrill on day #9 was going to Ashford Castle in Cong. Ashford Castle is one of the top hotels in the world (yes -the WORLD), and costs like a kazillion dollars a night. I actually stayed there for 2 nights back in 2006 on my first trip to Ireland. It was expensive then and dominated our lodging budget (1/3rd of it) for our 2 week trip, but it was nothing like it is now. $$$$$$. AGMA’d have to win the lottery to stay there now.
So the only way to see the castle if you aren’t staying there (cuz they have two gate keepers on the way in, plus a doorman) is to have afternoon tea, which is what we did. AGMA felt like freakin’ royalty! Maybe illegitimate, but still royalty.
Day #9 was a travel day to Donegal town. On the way we stopped in Knock. It’s sort of Ireland’s version of Fatima or Lourdes if you’re a religious sort. Google it. Then a short stop at the Belleek fine china factory in N. Ireland. Despite Brexit, there are still open borders between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
AGMA fell in love with Donegal a number of years ago when Hubs and I stayed there for 2 nights. I’ve been trying to get back ever since. It’s remote, wild and gorgeous! It doesn’t get very many tourists because it’s tucked up in the northwest corner of the country. Sadly, we could only spend 2 nights there on this trip, and the weather was getting ready to take a turn for the worse. While Lisa was napping after we checked in (she generally napped everyday), I walked around town snapping pictures while sky was blue and the sun was shining.
We stayed at The Abbey Hotel on “The Diamond” (which is actually a triangle??) in the center of Donegal town. It is a lovely hotel with a great, lively bar. More old school Irish pampering? Yes please!
Day #10 was a private walking tour of Donegal town, then a drive to the majestic Slieve League Cliffs. These cliffs are twice as high as the Cliffs of Mohr and are stunningly beautiful. We got there just in time. About 10 minutes after we parked, the rain rolled in and low clouds totally covered the cliffs.
We still had to do Dublin, so on day #11 we headed east. We stopped in Castleblayney in County Monaghan for lunch with an Irish friend I knew in Atlanta in the late 2000’s. She and her American husband moved back to Ireland about 6 years ago. The view from their home is spectacular!
Later in the day, we motored into Dublin Airport, did our pre-booked, 35 Euro each COVID tests for our return to the US (ouch), and dropped off our rental car. AGMA does NOT drive in Dublin. It’s a rule.
We stayed at The Arlington Hotel at O’Connell Bridge. I’ve stayed there before – it’s just an okay hotel. But it has the all important location, location, location! Most sights are in easy peasy walking distance.
On day #12, we did a walking tour of Dublin, then went to Bewleys on Grafton Street for lunch. We had tickets to the Guinness Experience at the Guinness brewery in the afternoon, but Lisa wasn’t feeling it, so I ended up doing it myself. LOVE that pint at the top of the brewery with the 360 view of Dublin!
Day #13 meant it was time for the Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour which, in Dublin, is great. The HOHO tours in most cities have pre-recorded audio during the tour that are sort of meh, but, in Dublin, each bus driver actually narrates the tour. And they are normally very funny!
There was soooo much in Dublin we didn’t see, but it was the end of the trip. And Lisa was getting pretty tried. So we packed up our suitcases the morning of day #14 and headed to the airport to fly home with our negative COVID tests in our hot little hands.
Speaking of hot, did AGMA mention that temperatures were in the 60’s the whole time we were in Ireland? What??? Yes! It was unseasonably warm. I didn’t wear my sweaters, but, honestly, that was okay by me.
Finally, AGMA has to give a shout out to The Palace Bar in Dublin’s Temple Bar area. Temple Bar is normally the 20 somethings place to drink heavily and party into the night. The Palace is at the very beginning of Temple Bar on eastern end of Fleet Street. The quiet end of the street.
It’s a bar. They serve no food. And the most interesting folks hang out there. I stop there every time I’m in Dublin.
On this trip, we met friends Jim and Jerry, two Irish undertakers (seriously), who were meeting up for the first time since COVID started. They had evidently been at The Palace for a while before we got there, because they were pretty pickled when Jerry came over to talk to us. We all talked and laughed and made some pretty tasteless jokes about their profession. It was probably our most fun evening in Ireland!
AGMA’s already planning my next trip to Ireland. I want to spend most of my time in County Donegal. With a day or two in Dublin so I can go back to The Palace.
(The below was written nearly 2 weeks ago while flying across the Atlantic back to Chicago.)
It’s been a month of Sundays. Several months of Sundays.
AGMA has missed everybody!
But it’s been a crazy busy (with good stuff!) September and October.
I started out September visiting family in Washington DC over Labor Day weekend. Then a few days after we got back, Son#2 came to visit. That’s ALWAYS fun!
Then the weekend after that, AGMA went to her 50th high school reunion.
OMG…my 50th high school reunion.
5-0 (as in a half a century!)
It was weird, crazy, and otherworldly. Who were all those old farts & blue hairs?
Some of us have aged well (but NOT gracefully…) Others looked like they fully drained their batteries during the disco era and were out of juice.
AGMA, by the way, looked fabulous!
Then the weekend after, I left for 24 days in Europe (mostly…)
COVID? What COVID?
I’m pretty sure I DON’T have COVID since I’ve been tested for it 4 times in the last 26 days.
My right nostril hurts. TMI, right?
Hubs and I started the adventure in Reykjavik. We’ve never been to Iceland. AGMA’s not really sure Iceland is the right name for this stunning windswept country. It was cold while we were there. It snowed while we were there. It rained while we were there. The wind nearly blew me off my feet while we were there. The sun came out and it was warm while we were there. There was a 3.5 point earthquake while we were there. A volcano was erupting while we were there.
And we were only there 3 days!
More like Disassocationdisorderland.
Oh – and we ate some of the famed Icelandic hot dogs. Yum!
Seriously, I would love to return and explore the entire country. The little bit we saw was stunning. But, clearly, one must respect Mother Nature before attempting any sort of sojourn there. No selfies on the edge of any cliffs or volcanos!
Then we hightailed it out of the snow, wind, rain, sunshine and earthquakes for my favorite city in the world (this week at least.) – Paris.
Yes, yes, yes…. I know. AGMA was just in Paris in July. But Hubs was with me this time so it was different. And there were no men in spandex to chase. Well – there were, but that’s a story for a different post.
Paris was a bit cool and rainy at times, but next to Reykjavick, it was like a walk in a park. Literally. We stayed at a lovely 4 star hotel next to Luxembourg Gardens, The Hotel Observatorie Luxembourg, courtesy of a TravelZoo deal I bought months before. We tend to be “value” travelers (translation: cheap – but not tacky or dangerous), so 4 star hotels are definitely out of our price range. But the TZ deal put it in our price range – sort of – and it was lovely!
AGMA could get used to being treated like I’m a rich *itch.
We did the “normal” Paris stuff. Eat, see art, eat, see art, eat, see a palace or two, eat, see art, eat. Repeat. We got to see the Arc de Triomphe wrapped up in a posthumous tribute to Christos, the new multi-sensory art exhibition (like the Van Gogh one that is going around the US) on Dali with a bit of Gaudi thrown in.
Anything with Dali as the main attraction is totally nuts! AGMA loved it!
We went to a practically empty Versailles. We saw the Morozkov collection (sort of a once in a lifetime type thing) at striking The Louis Vitton Foundation. We also went to the Picasso Museum, something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.
And we did what everybody does in Paris…we walked and walked and walked. Well, Hubs actually scooted on his mobility scooter. But AGMA walked my sweet tootsies off. It was wonderful!
After 6 nights in Paris, it was time for Hubs to head back to the Windy City. Buh bye Hubs!
And AGMA continued on with Phase 3 of the adventure.
I flew to Dublin and met an 81 year old friend who flew in from St Lous. My job was to be her unofficial tour guide around Ireland for 2 weeks.
AGMA, reporting for duty.
But the story of that part of the trip is another post…
So what was it really like traveling internationally during COVID? A bit stressful as one might imagine. Not really because of fear of catching the virus, but more from all of the safety precautions put in place by the various countries.
Because AGMA’s trip covered 3 countries, I pretty much kept on top of the travel requirements for each country in the weeks leading up to the trip. A COVID test was required to enter Iceland, but not France. But France requires what’s called a Passe Sanitaire be presented to enter indoor spaces – museums, palaces, historic monuments, restaurants, music venuse, etc.
AGMA & Hubs applied for our Passe Sanetaire 3 weeks before we left. It was supposed to take 16 days to get approved. Yeah – 16 days came and went. 21 days came and went.
Soooooo…the evening we got to Paris, we decided to get COVID tests at 25 Euro a test. That would give us 72 hour “temporary” passe sanataire. The next day, we went to Versaille and discovered that, if you don’t have the regular passe, then your COVID test can’t be any older than 48 hours.
Got it? Corn-fusing….
And so the trip proceeded. We got new COVID tests 3 days later (at 25 Euros each again!) to give us another 72 hours (which would also give Hubs the test he needed to fly back to the US!) The next day we went to the Pantheon, which was like Versailles in only allowing people with COVID tests less than 48 hours old in without the regular passe sanitaire.
Got it? Continued corn-fusion…
And for most sights (other than outdoor venues), you need to have a timed reservation. Kinda discourages that last minute, impromptu, spur of the moment spirit of adventure.
To travel in Europe now, you definitely can do it, but you really need to WANT to travel in Europe now!
Next post…. AGMA, the Irish tour guide.
P.S. Oh, we each finally did receive our official French passe sanitaire. The day we left France. Of course…. So very French!
So the weeks are just flying by like Marjorie “Traitor” Greene (of the Jewish space laser delusion) on her MAGA broom!
AGMA could have sworn I wrote my last post only a couple of weeks ago. Hmmm – nope!
What a sh*tty month it has been news wise.
For my own survival, AGMA has had to regularly turn off the news and not look at social media. While this feels a bit like being an ostrich, I think we’re all entitled to a mental health break every so often. Please.
And with the news of this past week out of Afghanistan and the Rethuglicans efforts to gleefully politicize the murder of our service members and Afghan innocents, I’ve been watching re-runs of Bob Ross’ The Joy of Painting 24/7.
That could be an exaggeration.
Of course the COVID-19 Delta variant is causing ERs and ICUs in states with low vaccination rates to fill up again. Dangerously so. It’s estimated that nearly 100,000 Americans will die – most needlessly – before the end of this surge.
Who knows how many desperately needed doctors, nurses and other medical support staff will quit from hopelessness, trauma, and sheer exhaustion with this spike of unvaccinated people getting COVID.
Have you heard about the Lambda variant? Coming soon to a hospital near you…
And AGMA needs to go into my address book to remove the names of four friends who have left (3 way too early) our dangerously warming, chaotic, COVID infected planet to fly high with the angels. I’m hoping that they might put in a good word for those of us left behind because we sure do need friends in high places right about now.
It’s been a hard summer.
And now a hurricane is bearing down on New Orleans with a predicted life threatening storm surge. Sadly many parts of the city haven’t recovered from Katrina in 2005. And unless some miracle has occured, much of the city is still below sea level.
Oh, did I mention my new neighbor decided that he hates (I mean really hates) Hubs and I because we are not Trumpers? The minute he found out last January, he stopped talking to us and has been everything you expect a MAGA crazy to be.
He turned a creepy dark magic voodoo statue on his deck to face our townhouse for a couple of months. That was bizarre.
He plays ultra right wing talk radio on his back deck all day loud enough for us to hear when we are on our deck. So very relaxing.
He ordered two dogs that his poor, long suffering wife was dog sitting, to eat our cats. They didn’t. I think they’re closet Democrats.
And just this morning, he posted this sign on his deck right above our deck pointing toward our back door.
I think he needs to cut back on his Ivermectin.
Is it any wonder that AGMA has developed a new obsession to help ease my angst from a world gone mad?
Comfort eating has always been a thing with me, but it’s gone up to a whole new level with COVID and everything else that seems out of control.
At the beginning of the pandemic, it was mug cakes. A year ago, it was peach/blueberry crisp. This past winter it was hot fudge sundaes with home made hot fudge.
No wonder AGMA gained 14 pounds since March 2020.
With my 50th high school reunion (OMG!!!) looming in September, I decided I need to try to at least try to fit into my pre-pandemic clothes. There is no way in h*ll that I could ever be my svelt 115 pounds self of 1971. That ship has sailed into the Bermuda Triangle, never to be found again.
AGMA has been making progress.
With my knees (sort of, kind of) not causing too many problems, I started run/walking again. And I’ve built up to run/walking a 5K every time I go out.
However it’s been beastly hot and humid here in Chicago for a good part of August. And we watch our grands pretty often. The running has been spotty to say the least.
But I was making better choices with my diet. Less sugar, more fruits and vegetables, fewer carbs.
I finally, after a lifetime of searching, found my one true love. In the candy aisle of Jewel Osco.
AGMA has downed two bags of these puppies in the last week to steady my nerves after going back to listening to the news. The 2nd bag was half empty by the time I got to the checkout.
Like Girl Scout Thin Mints bad.
Even now, I find myself wondering if I have the energy to drive the 5 minutes to get to Jewel to buy a bag that would probably be empty by the time AGMA goes to bed tonight.
I do have some “gummies” that could help take the edge off. Did you know that recreational cannibis & products with THC/CBD are legal in Illinois?
Don’t judge me.
But 1/2 of a gummy would not be nearly as orally satisfying as my sweet, soft, delectable Australian delight.
I think I need a cigarette.
So it looks like, until the earth starts to cool, vaccination rates rise to 95%, the Taliban surrenders, the GOP rejects the politics of fear & hatred, my friends stop dying, and my neighbor turns into Mr. Rogers, AGMA will be “pleasingly plump” for my reunion.
There are far worse things in the world to be than pleasingly plump. Somebody like my neighbor for example.