The Fugitive

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So that title is a little dramatic.  AGMA hasn’t gotten into any sort of trouble.  

Yet… 

But I AM escaping.

This weekend I’m headed out to Arizona to visit the foster mother of my early childhood.  Jane and her family took me for 18 months when I was 1 1/2 years old to help out my family.  Due to some very nasty circumstances that you really don’t want to hear about, my mother was temporarily out of the picture, and nobody in my immediate family could care for an 18 month old.

Jane was a friend of my mother.  They went to nursing school together and remained close after they each started families.  Jane’s daughters were 8 years old and a 14 years old when I came to live with them.

AGMA has no memories of the 18 months I lived with them, but I know that I received far more love and attention than I would have had I stayed in my home.

That being said, it was a horrible trauma for a 1 1/2 year old to be given to, in her mind, strangers.  I’ve been told that I cried and cried and cried for my “real” family. 

Much like the children who have been separated from their parents and put into cages at the US Southern border.

Science has shown that this type of early childhood trauma actually alters the brain chemistry of the child as they try to cope with what is happening around them. 

Permanently.

This can lead to all kinds of issues from emotional to cognitive to physical to economic.

To add to the trauma circus, AGMA was reunited with my mother when I was 3 years old and removed from Jane’s family.   As part of the nasty circumstances I mentioned earlier, I had not seen my real mother since I was an infant.

So now I was living with another “stranger”.  My mother.

Again, AGMA has no memory of this time.

I’m pretty sure that I’ve mentioned this in a previous post when I wrote about Jane, but I remember visiting Jane and her family with my mother when I was older, but I had no idea who they really were.

All I knew is that the always gave me great Christmas presents!

After my mother died in 1965 when I was 11, I went to live my my father and all contact with Jane and family was cut off.

Fast forward to 2012 when Janes youngest daughter “found” me through Hubs online genealogy profile.  They were overjoyed and I was thrilled to find my lost foster family (as an adult, I found out about their existence from my brother.)

AGMA’s been traveling to Arizona every year since then to visit Jane and her daughters.  I wrote about her last year when I went out for her 100th birthday celebration.

Guess what?

Janie’s 101 now!

And she still lives in her own house and still (last I heard) drives her car short distances.

So AGMA’s heading out to Arizona again for a visit with these good people who took me in and selflessly cared for me so many years ago. 

It’s a short trip – only 2 nights – and I’m going solo.  Hubs is staying home to take care of the cats. 

The first half of the trip I’m hanging with Jane & family.

The second night, I booked a room at a posh resort in Scottsdale.

I’m escaping.

For one night, I am going to do exactly what I want to do.  Or not do.

Part of the effects of my early childhood trauma is that AGMA has always been a pleaser. 

When you are “abandoned” by your primary care givers 3 times before the age of 4, a small child’s mind is not able to reason or understand what’s happening.  A small child internalized the fact that people keep leaving them as a sign that they are not lovable, or worthy of love and care, or they have been too naughty.

As the child grows, they think they have to “earn” the love of those close to them by trying to please them and not do anything that could be interpreted as misbehaving.

Hence, AGMA was an obedient, compliant pleaser for years.  

And I’m here to tell you, you can lose yourself in all that obedience and compliance and pleasing.

In the past, I would have never dreamed of bailing on Jane’s family early – I would have felt too guilty.  Or spending money on a one night getaway at a resort by myself, without Hubs “approval”.  And I would have tried to get together with old friends (who are Don the Con supporters – ugh…) from college who live in Phoenix.  Or I would have invited another old friend from Tucson to come up and spend the night with me on my dime.

But then it wouldn’t be a “selfish, only for AGMA” escape.  I’d have other people I’d have to “worry” about.  And please.

When it’s just me, I don’t have to be concerned about making anybody happy but myself.  At least for a night.

Years of therapy and a powerful spirituality journey toward wholeness have helped immensely in breaking old, unhealthy patterns.  

Honestly, I’m still a work in process.

But then aren’t we all?

See you at the pool!

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Never, ever

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The American Cemetery in Normandy

On this 75th anniversary of D-Day, I wanted to share some of the pictures from our visit to Normandy in 2014, shortly after the 70th anniversary.  Scores of WWII veterans who were part of Operation Overlord have passed away since then.  It’s highly doubtful that more than a handful of them will be with us to observe the 80th anniversary.

My visit to Normandy was one of the most moving experiences of my life.  I actually have tears in my eyes right now as I type this.  I struggle to comprehend the terror so many young men experienced that June morning 75 years ago.  And how many fathers, uncles, grandfathers never were because they fell as young men on a beach in France to defend the world against unspeakable evil.  And how many mothers and fathers never knew what happened to their sons because their bodies were never found.

The world is in danger of forgetting how evil like that still lives in the hearts of some.  Of repeating the same mistakes of rampant nationalism that led to the unspeakable suffering of millions.  Of not being vocal enough in denouncing all if the “-isms” that can lead to the dehumanization of “the other.”

Latest estimates indicate that 4,414 Allied soldiers were killed on June 6, 1944, 2000 of them being Americans killed on Omaha Beach.  There were a total of 10,000 casualties that day.  And that doesn’t include the deaths and casualties on the German side.

Staggering.

We can’t ever forget what happened 75 years ago.  And why it happened.  And do all we can to never, ever let anything even remotely like that ever happen again.

Ever.

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Memorial to the “The Bad of Brothers” Airborne unit.

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Utah Beach marker

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Dick Winters was the leader of Easy Company. This statue was put up after his death because he would not permit anything honoring only him and not the rest of E Company in his lifetime.

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One of the hundreds of memorials in Normandy. This is at the top of Omaha Beach.

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Memorial honoring the 1st Infantry.

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Memorial honoring the Navy.

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There are so many museums about D-Day around Normady. This is the one at Utah Beach.

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Old German guns in concrete bunkers.

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German fortification on Pointe du Hoc where incredible brave Army Rangers scaled the cliffs to take the location against heavy German artillery.

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Memorial at Pointe du Hoc

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The ground is still pockmarked some 70 years later from heavy artillery fire.

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Point-du-Hoc

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The cliffs that the Army Rangers scaled on D-Day.

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The tiny church at Angoville-au-Plain where two young American medics worked treating both Americans and Germans on D-Day. A fascinating story. One of the medics, Robert Wright was buried there when he passed away in 2013.

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The 70 year old blood stains on the pews where the medics treated the wounded.

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A stained glass window in the church honoring the two medics.

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The remains of the artificial harbor the Allies built in Arromanches-les-Bains after D-Day to bring tanks, jeeps, munitions and other supplies to the troops. The story behind the building of this harbor is fascinating.

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Utah Beach

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Utah Beach

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Omaha Beach

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The hillside above Omaha Beach were the German gunners hid and picked off American soldiers in the first wave of landing craft.

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The American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer.

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The American Cemetery contains the remains of 9,380 fallen American, most of whom lost their lives on D-Day and the ensuing operations in the following days and weeks.

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In addition to the American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, there are also English cemeteries, Canadian cemeteries and German cemeteries that all hold the bodies of the young men killed as the result of a madman’s dream of racial purity and world domination. Such a horrific waste of young life.

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God bless them all and may their spirits help us to never forget.

 

 

 

 

What I did on my almost summer vacation

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AGMA goes to France!

I know I promised last week, but it’s just so difficult to distill 15 days worth of sights, sounds, tastes and experiences into just 35 photos.  But honestly…that’s probably the maximum number of pictures of somebody else’s vacation that anybody really wants to view.

I know, right?

The “tile” organization of the pictures kind of distorts them – yuck and sorry…  You can hover over each picture if you want to read the compelling caption on each one.

As promised, “AGMA goes to France” in pictures:

 

 

 

 

 

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The Chateau de Villandry in the Loire Valley that is world famous for its gardens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The back of our car at the end of 2400 miles around France. It’s kind of a good thing our friends luggage never caught up with us, but they were reunited with it in Paris before they flew back to the US.

Speaking of travel, for heavens sake, if you haven’t already, subscribe to Scott’s Cheap Flights!

We just booked another trip last night for September on British Airways, $290 round trip Atlanta to Paris.

Wow!!

We promptly cancelled it this morning to get a full refund (even non-refundable fares are refundable within the first 24 hours).

AGMA hated to do that!

But we need to let our waistlines and bank accounts recover for a bit before heading out again.

Sometimes being practical sucks.

 

Peek-a-boo 2

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In the wee hours of Wednesday, May 22nd (2:00 AM to be exact) AGMA crawled into her own bed.  The day started out 26 hours earlier in Paris.

Yikes.

But hey, I slept 3 hours on the plane to Chicago so I hadn’t entered the realm of total zombie yet.

When I booked our tickets ($392 R/T each courtesy of Scotts Cheap Flights) in February, a 9 hour layover in Chicago sounded like a good idea.  We would go visit the grands for a few hours!

We did have a lovely visit, but when we touched down in Atlanta at 12:30 AM on the 22nd, AGMA was questioning her decision making competency.

But what the heck, it’s only sleep right?  Plenty of time to catch up after the Grim Reaper comes to call…

France was awesome!

So AGMA’s peek-a-booing above from the Chateau Fontainebleau which is about 55 km south east of central Paris.  Often called the forgotten palace because it’s sort of off of the regular tourist track, it’s the only royal residence that has housed French rulers for 8 centuries.

Impressive.

And it was.

Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Napoleon I (short dude with the big hat and an ego to match) called it home for 6 years (1808 – 1814) until he had to abdicate.

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No shortage of self-esteem here.  When I look at this picture of the “Emperor” Napoleon, I keep thinking Don the Con must be sooooo jealous….

Lessons learned or that should have been learned (not necessarily by AGMA or Hubs) on our 15 day trip to France:

  1. If you travel with other people, make sure they are relatively easy going.  K & D, our friends from Missouri, joined us on our grand tour of France.  Unfortunately, they checked their luggage at their home airport on May 5th and then didn’t see it again until it was time to leave France on May 21st.  Despite having no luggage for the ENTIRE TRIP, they had a lovely time.
  2. Never – I repeat – NEVER put your CPAP machine (or any necessary medical device or medicine) in your checked luggage.  Always put it in a carry on and carry it onto the plane.  Your checked luggage may decide to go on it’s own tour of the country you’re visiting and you may not see it again until you’re ready to leave.
  3. Because your luggage may have its own travel plans, always, always, always pack a change of clothes/underwear, basic toiletries and another pair of shoes in your backpack if you check your bag.  Hubs and I already do this due to a missing suitcase in Barcelona several years back, but this trip really drove that point home.
  4. When trying to track down your missing luggage, be proactive.  Very proactive.  Trusting that the airline and the delivery company are going to do what they say they will do is a sweet notion, but not really an effective way to get your luggage back.  Call the airlines several times a day to follow-up on the delivery plan.
  5. Always rent the smallest possible car that will fit all of your “stuff”.  Because there were 4 of us plus our luggage, two overstuffed backpacks, a duffle bag, 2 regular backpacks and an electric scooter, we rented a large car which made for some interesting, let’s just call them, “situations” on the narrow streets/roads in France.  Like trying to put Dolly Parton in a 32A bra.
  6. Unless you pay a fee to them, if you travel with other people who have done all the trip planning, arrangements, research before hand out of the goodness of their hearts, this does not mean they are your tour guide or that they are responsible for your good time. Take responsibility for doing your own research about the areas you are going to visit before hand.  Please. Please. Please.
  7. If you are unwilling to use technology (ie, your cell phone, tablet or laptop) or travel books to research restaurants in the area that you might want to go to, don’t complain about the restaurants that others choose.  And for the love of God, please understand that you will not get the same food you get at home. And when you order a coffee in France, you won’t get the same thing as when you order a coffee in the US.  Thankfully.
  8. AirB&B’s are NOT hotels.  Nobody makes your bed during the day.  If you want it made, you need to do it yourself.  And sometimes the pillows are a bit flat.  And you have to wash the dishes you use and put them away.  Kinda like you do at home.
  9. Not everybody in France understands or speaks English.  Duh…
  10. You never really know anybody, I mean really know them, until you travel with them.  Seriously.

You might guess that there are some stories associated with some of the points above.  Well, of course there are…

But AGMA is not a tell-all kinda girl.  Although I sort of did tell all, didn’t I?

For me, the sights were magnificent, the food incredible, the wine superb and the coffee just plain yummy.  Our AirB&B’s were great as were our two chambers d’hôte (traditional B&B’s) and our three hotels.

We dined in a cave in the Loire Valley, saw Van Gogh projected on the walls of a quarry in Provence, visited a village destroyed by the Nazi’s in WWII that has been left untouched for over 70 years near Limoges, toured a B&B host’s vineyard in the Languedoc, ate foil gras in the Dordogne, scampered around a glacier in the Alps, sampled champagne in the winemakers home.

Pictures soon.

 

 

 

 

Peek-a-boo

…AGMA sees you from…

FRANCE!!

Oh la la!

That’s me at the beautiful Chateau Chenonceau in the beautifil Loire Valley today!!

I couldn’t get my act together enough to write something before I left (no surprises there…), so AGMA’s actually posting on a trip!

Wonder of wonders.

Next thing you know William Barr is going to release an unredacted Mueller Report to Congress.

Ok, now that’s just crazy talk…

But no more posts until AGMA gets back on later this month no matter how much you beg and plead. But don’t beg and plead too much or I’ll feel bad.

There’s wine to be drunk, sights to be marveled at, history to be learned, and some of the best food in the world to be devoured.

I’m trying as hard as I can…

Have a wonderful rest of the merry month of May!

Bon appetit!

Anybody have a map?

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AGMA isn’t all about travel and working and running and blogging and bounce house jumping and watching young men in spandex ride bicycles.

Not at all…

I like to dip my toe in the fine arts pool now and then.  The very tip of my toe.

Specifically, musical theater.

I’ve been musical theater fan since I was a tiny AGMA.  My mother took my sister and I to a Broadway musical (Do I Hear a Waltz) when I was the tender age of ten.  We were in New York City for the 1964 World’s Fair.   I can’t imagine it was an inexpensive trip.  Pretty impressive for a single parent working as a nurse to be able to pull it off.

But I know that my mother loved music, especially Broadway musicals.  We had many records for our old “stereo” console, but the one that I remember her playing the most was the original Broadway cast of The King and I.  Because she died in 1965 I can’t confirm this, but if AGMA was a betting woman (and I am!) I’d say her favorite song was “Hello Young Lovers”

When I hear that song, crust ole AGMA’s eyes glisten…

She passed that love of musical theater onto me.  In high school, I was a dancer (because you did NOT want to hear me singing) in our high school musicals both in my junior and senior year.  And BC (before children), Hubs and I would go to see touring companies of Broadway musicals that made their way to Cincinnati.

We even managed to see a few AC (after children) and tried to pass on our love of musical theater to our skeptical, testosterone laden sons by taking them to see Phantom of the Opera.  Their comments afterward were brutal…

One can only imagine my delight when Son #1 married a woman who is a walking encyclopedia of Tony Award winning musicals, actors and actresses.  And who has taken Son #1 to NYC many times to see musicals in addition to going to shows in their home city, Chicago.

I knew his conversion as a musical theater fan was complete when he was in New York City for work last year and he got tickets to go re-see Come From Away.  By himself.

My sweet mother is looking down on her grandson and his wife, smiling.

Which brings AGMA to this past week.

Hubs and I went to see Dear Evan Hansen (DEH) at the Fox Theater in Atlanta.  DEH won 6 Tony Awards in 2017 including Best New Musical.

It was at the same time incredibly fabulous (cast, music, sets and story) and very disturbing.  Disturbing on multiple levels.

In a very tiny nutshell, it’s about the difficulties of not “fitting in” in high school.  And the difficulties of parenting kids who don’t fit in.  That honestly doesn’t even begin to describe it, but I don’t want to share any spoilers.  In case you ever want to see it.

Which you should.

I found my stomach churning during the show.

On one level, AGMA sooooo related with the main character.  I was a kid very much like Evan in high school – quiet, shy, awkward, and just didn’t seem to fit in with any group. For reasons I won’t bore you with but very much deal with the type of trauma Even had in his young life, I had extremely low self esteem and borderline depression.  I had a lot of acquaintances but only two people I considered friends.  But even then, I felt so alone so many times.  And that I had no voice at all.

Just like Evan.

On another level, AGMA sooooo related with the mothers.  Mothers who were haunted with doubts about their parenting skills.  About their ability to navigate their way through the minefield of their children doubts, fears and struggles to help them without alienating them.

Ah, there’s the rub…

The first song, sung by the mothers, “Anybody Have a Map” was so AGMA back in the day.  How was I supposed to know that teenagers didn’t come with instructions?

And I felt that that old feeling from 20 years ago in the pit of my stomach.  That sick feeling when you knew that your child was struggling and probably lonely.  Maybe dealing with rejection or feelings of hopelessness.  Or was worried about “real” or imaginary dragons they had to face.  And knowing that their brusque answer, “No” to your question, “Is something wrong?” was totally not the truth.  And knowing they didn’t trust you enough to talk to you about it.  And not being able to communicate to them the depth of your love and caring in a way that they would believe.  And not being able to help them understanding that this wasn’t the end of the world.

Yeah – AGMA could have sung that Map song many times over.

Although DEH was very much current in its reflection both in the set and dialogue of contemporary teenager’s use of technology and social media, the themes of the need for love, self-acceptance, friendship and family are universal.

In the end, AGMA left the theater last week feeling thankful.

Thankful that I’m no longer that awkward, lonely, self-doubting, self-loathing person I was in high school.   Thankful for years of counseling.  Thankful for my faith that put me on the path to healing.  Thankful that my children made it thought their teenage years relatively unscathed.  Thankful that they’re emotionally healthy adults. Thankful that I made it through their teenage years without my head exploding.  Or my heart completely breaking.  Thankful that they (mostly) forgive me for my mistakes.

So many mistakes…

Why can’t there be a map?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What happened Nana?

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Ah…out of the mouths of babes…

We were up visiting the MAGITW (most adorable grandchildren in the world) a couple of weekends ago.

These are always bracing visits.

AGMA always thinks I’m doing pretty well physically until we visit the MAGITW.  They have a way of breaking you down and making you feel your age.  I realized my self-deception on this visit within the first 24 hours.

It all started with the bounce house.

My 2 1/2 year old granddaughter, V, has been a pacifier addict since she was a tiny babe.  Her “paci” was a source of comfort, stress relief and just plain ole good times.  80% of the pictures I have of her up until now has been with a paci in her mouth.

Like she did with B, V’s older brother, when he was small, the Paci Fairy made a visit to their house.  In case you didn’t know, the Paci Fairy – a distant relative of the Tooth Fairy – takes away all of the pacifiers in a house, but in their place, she leaves a gift.

On this visit, she cleared out all of V’s pacis and left a bounce house.

A full sized, air inflated, skull cracking bounce house.

Sweet!

So of course Nana AGMA had to give the bounce house a try.

Of course.

I cranked up the inflation thing-a-ma-jig.  The bounce house filled up with air, and B, V and I piled in.

Up to this point, I was still under the delusion that I was in pretty good shape.  Then the bouncing commenced…

It was fun for the first 2 minutes.

Round ’bout minute 3, AGMA started wondering, “What the hell was I thinking????”

B, my grandson, is a large 4 year old who’s a bit hyperactive.  He was literally flinging himself against the sides of the bounce house with all his might.  So much so that I was afraid he was going to collapse one side and all three of us were going to tumble out.

Evidently the frenetic bouncing got to V too, who is still getting the hang of using a potty.

She slid down the little exit slide and announced, “I have to go pee pee.”

Panicked, AGMA tried to get out of the bounce house to assist her, but in my haste, I fell down several times.  B thought I was intentionally flinging myself around so he decided to body slam me a few times.  The last time, as I was sliding down the exit slide lying sideways.  He slammed his full weight down right on top of my left shoulder which jammed my right shoulder into the hard floor.

I remember thinking, “Oh – this is not good…”

Fun times.

And as it turns out, it was all for naught.  V peed in her pants anyway.

Oh well.

AGMA feels like I was in an episode of I Love Lucy.

So, in addition to screwing up my right shoulder, all the bouncing and falling and flinging aggravated AGMA’s lumbar discs that have been squished due to my scoliosis, causing lumbar nerve compression causing my right leg and hip to ache for the next 5 days – 24/7.  Fun times…

“Mr. Feder, you seem like a really delightful guy!” to quote Roseanne Roseannadanna.

The bounce house was NOT inflated again during our visit.

Screw you Paci Fairy!

My granddaughter, V, is actually an incredibly sweet and kind child when she’s not acting like a 2 year old.  She likes to take my glasses off and wear them.  Then she orders me to “Ki Nana!”  And I have to play-act cry that she has my glasses until she gives them back.

It’s the dance we do.

At one point during this visit, before I put my glasses back on after being ordered to “Ki!”, she got up really, really close to my face and looked deeply into my eyes.

At that moment, I was looking into the eyes of pure innocence.  And kindness and goodness and gentleness.  Looking into her young, full of love, beautiful blue-gray eyes that have so far seen nothing of the harshness of the world, I was transfixed.

Then she winkled up her nose and whispered…

“What happened Nana?”

And pointed to the bags under my eyes and the age spots around them.

“Oh sweetie,” I replied,  “Nana just got old.”

AGMA felt like Wendy Darling when Peter Pan comes to visit and and finds a gray haired Wendy with her grandchildren.

Nana just got old.

It happens.  If you’re lucky…

But don’t take it all too terribly seriously.

Betcha AGMA’s back in the bounce house in June.

Aging gracefully my ass!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easy peasy, stress free travel planning – Part 4 (the finale)

 

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So it’s been so long since the Part 3 post, AGMA forgot where I was…

I think I was lecturing everybody about not sleeping with bed bugs.

Not a hard sell (I hope…)

The lodging piece is such a very important part of your travel experience.  It can make or break a trip.  And of course, you want it to make the trip…

…absolutely fabulous, darling!

For our upcoming trip to France (coming up really fast for an unprepared AGMA), we have booked a combination of small hotels and AirB&B’s.  It just all depends on the location, the cost and the parking situation as to what I booked.

We’re going to be traveling with another couple, so getting a two bedroom apartment through AirB&B in several cases was MUCH cheaper than booking two hotel rooms.

AGMA has had wonderful AirB&B experiences and would not hesitate to recommend using them if they make sense for your trip.  I truly believe that 99.9% of AirB&B hosts are NOT going to have a hidden camera in your room.  And if they do, they will be horribly disappointed with AGMA staying there.

Like watching paint dry…

IMPORTANT: ALWAYS read the reviews on any AirB&B’s you are considering.  A-L-W-A-Y-S.  And stay with a Super Host if you can.  These are folks who are…Super Hosts. Very smilier to Super Heros (can you tell I spent last weekend with the grands?), they give you a fantastic, heroic AirB&B exprience.

Our AirB&B host in Epernay, France last year had our fridge stocked with her own brand of champagne!

Eddie and Patsy, com’on over!

AGMA is a “thrifty” traveler. And I generally don’t like to pay for 100% of my lodging up front, which is how AirB&B used to work.  Booking with AirB&B all depended on the host’s cancellation policy (which you need to read and understand.).  With a flexible    policy, you can generally cancel several days before your trip and get a full refund minus the service fee.  Those are the ones AGMA liked to book.

Now, AirB&B has an option to pay 50% of the cost at the time of booking.  Yes please!  The balance is due something like 7 to 10 days before your stay.  Again, you need to pay attention to the date you will be charged for the balance.  It’ll automatically be put on your credit card.

But you still need to be aware of the host’s cancellation policy.  And AGMA still wants to only book the flexible ones!

Check in procedures for AirB&Bs can vary widely.  They will be posted by the host on your reservation which is why you need to have the AirB&B app on your phone so you can refer to them when you’re driving into town!

If you booked an entire apartment or studio, some hosts want to meet you to see how many tattoos and piercings you have (just kidding…sort of) and show you around the property.  This can make coordinating schedules a bit tricky between your travel and their schedule.   But we’ve always been able to make it work and actually enjoy meeting our hosts.

Other hosts give you a code and you get the key out of a lockbox so you can arrive at any time.

If you are renting a room in a home (which I have done on numerous occasions), you will always have to coordinate your schedule with your hosts.

On rare occasions, I have also booked lodging through Priceline or Hotwire.  If you haven’t used these two booking sites yet, they can offer incredibly cheap lodging at your destination, however you don’t know exactly where you’ll be staying until after you pay 100% in advance and book.  And the booking is non-refundable if you cancel.

Ugh.

With Priceline, you can “name your own price” for hotel.  If they accept your bid, again, you don’t know where you’ll be staying until AFTER you pay for your non-refundable booking.  There are bidding strategies to use in order to increase your chances of getting your bid accepted, but that is out of scope for this post.  Sorry…

Google “How to bid on Priceline” and you will get bidding strategies out the wazoo…

Clearly, this is a risky venture if you want to stay in a specific location at your destination or in a certain class of hotel.  Or both.  Both sites show you a radius of the area their hotels are located in, but it’s usually a pretty big radius.  And I’ve also found out that their hotel rating system doesn’t exactly agree with AGMA’s rating system.  Their 3 star hotel might be my 2 star hotel.  Bummer.

There’s a “helper” website called Betterbidding.com that can give you insights from other travelers on they hotels that Priceline and Hotwire are using in specific cities. Many times Better Bidding also has discount coupons for both sites.

AGMA used the Better Bidding site for researching bidding on a hotel in New Orleans because it’s such as walkable/scooterable city.  We got a killer deal at the Royal Sonesta  Hotel on Bourbon Street which would normally be waaaayyyy out of our price range.  It was a gorgeous hotel and we had a spectacular time!

I know that there are many more options for budget travel lodging like house swapping, house sitting, hospitality clubs, friends of friends of friends, Couchsurfing.com, but AGMA hasn’t done any of those so you don’t get to hear about them.

Sorry.

But if you’ve had any experiences with any of those, please comment – we’d love to hear about your adventures!

Every day’s a school day.

Happy travel ya’ll!!

P.S.  Can’t sign off without mentioning the devestating fire in Notre Dame.  I still can’t believe it.  USA tax deductible donations for her restoration can be made at www.notredamedeparis.fr or just Google “Friends of Notre Dame”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yup – that tyre’s flat

tyre

Were the Raisinets yummy?

Time to get back to it…AGMA’s back from Ireland!

And I don’t know how to thank everybody enough for sending those good thoughts our way!

M did not trip once nor did she fall ill for days with some strange virus.  And she was slurping water like a camel to stay plenty hydrated so no fainting.

But AGMA did not dare celebrate until we stepped foot in the good ole’ USA.  One can never be too careful…

We both caught colds but that seemed pretty minor compared to the litany of evils that could have beset us. 

The big excitement of the trip came on Day #1.

After landing in Dublin, we picked up our chariot for the next 8 days – a 2017 Ford Focus with the steering wheel on the wrong side.

Five years ago, AGMA also drove around Ireland with another friend.  The first few days were on good roads (decode: wide enough for two cars to fit comfortably), so I got the “driving on the left” thing down pretty well before we got to more “cosy” roads (decode: 1 1/2 cars wide and curvy, with rock walls on both sides of the road and a speed limit of 80km)

This trip was a bit different.  

Our destination for our first night was the lovely town of Kilkenny.  And as many travelers to Ireland do, we went via the beautiful Wicklow Mountains for a side trip to visit the ancient monastic settlement of Glendalough.

glen

Founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century, Glendalough is incredibly beautiful – especially in the sunshine!

glen2

The Wicklow Mountains are gorgeous!

If you’ve never driven on the left before, there is a natural tendency for us “right side of the roaders” to drive a bit too far to the left.  Some, more than a bit too far to the left.  Until the driver gets a sense of where the middle of the road is and how the car should be centered, they are doomed to hang left for a spell.

On wider roads, this is not a big problem. 

On cosy roads, this can result in, among other things, tree branches slapping the passengers windshield causing the passenger to lean to the right in a vain attempt to magically move the car over.  Seriously.  I’ve been in that passenger seat before and done the leaning.  

It doesn’t work.

One of the other things that can happen is that the driver, in an attempt not to graze an oncoming car, moves over to the left too far and goes off the road.  

Sometimes they get lucky.  Sometimes there isn’t a rock wall.  Or trees.  Or thick hedgerow.  Or sharp, pointy rocks to the immediate left.

AGMA was not lucky that day in the Wicklow Mountains.  

Coming down from Wicklow Pass on the way to Kilkenny, I moved over too far to the left to avoid hitting an oncoming car (that in reality was about 2 football fields away…)   

BUMP. BUMP. BUMP.

I looked at M.  She looked at me and said, “That was jarring.” 

“We need to stop when we can pull over and see if the tire’s okay.” I replied.

Round ‘bout that time, some light came on my dash warning me about something gone amiss with a “tyre”.  And then the low tire (tyre) pressure light came on.

Uh oh…

We made it a few kilometers to Hollywood.  Hollywood, Ireland that is.  And pulled into a Emo Service Station.  

The left front tyre (tire) was indeed well on its way to lifeless flatness.

But a YUGE shout out of thanks to the people of Hollywood who were incredibly friendly and helpful to AGMA and M!

To make a long story short, we got the spare put on, and got a new tyre (tire) the next morning in Kilkenny.

As AGMA advised in my post of March 16…ALWAYS GET THE CDW CAR INSURANCE IN IRELAND!!  A-L-W-A-Y-S!!

Did I say that too loud?

The first few days were full of cosy roads, made even more cosy by having to drive directly into the afternoon sun.  Normally, NOBODY complains about sunshine in Ireland…

…other than a nervous American driver on cosy roads.

Happily there were no more incidents.  Other than backing into a low stone wall which did no damage to the Focus or the wall.  The wall has probably been there for 300 years so no surprise it was okay.

We survived.  The good people of Ireland survived.

Win-win!

Other than the tyre that sacrificed itself for a greater purpose.

AGMA promises I will finish the final AGMA’s “Easy peasy, stress free travel planning” next week.  Until then, enjoy some weird, lovely pictures from my trip.

Sláinte!

babylamb

On the Dingle Peninsula.  It was lambing seasons so there were little lambs everywhere!

bus

On a cosy two way road on a tour bus on the Dingle Peninsula.  Yikes!

cliffs

At the Cliffs of Moher.  We saw a few potential Darwin Awards winners.

fcuk

I beg your pardon…

horses

New friends on the Connemara Peninsula.  They don’t get flat tires!

Cork

The awesome city of Cork!

Kinsale

I like Kinsale’s style!

 

Intermission (Raisinet time!)

guinness-collage

I know ya’ll are just sitting on the edge of your La-Z-Boy with your electronic device by your side just waiting for the 4th (and mercifully, the last) installment of AGMA’s travel advice.

You might want to get up, stretch, visit the loo and get a snack.

It’s gonna be a few weeks because AGMA is going to be….

(wait for it…)

TRAVELING!

Yes – I’m taking my own advice and getting outta Dodge.

And unlike so many of you who write lovely posts and share your beautiful travel photos while you’re on the road, AGMA will not be sharing anything while I’m gone.

Nothing personal.

It’s just that I’ve left on many a trip with the best of intentions of posting while on the road only to go into stealth mode on WP for 2 weeks.

Posting while AGMA’s traveling is about as realistic for me as taking my running gear so I can get some runs in while I’m gone.

Ain’t.Gonna.Happen.

My travel days normally start early and are usually so full and busy that I fall into bed each night exhausted by 9 PM.

Nothing says “Party Girl” like (in the summer) going to bed while it’s still light out…

AGMA will be making another appearance on the Emerald Isle to cavort with leprechauns and fairies!  And maybe visit a few pubs.

Maybe.

This time I’m going with a friend.  Hubs is staying home with the “boyz” (Gus and Max, our cats.).

He might be getting the long straw.

The friend I’m going with, M, is the same friend I went to Spain, Portugal and on a Mediterranean cruise in early 2018.  The one who got ill twice this 14 day trip.  And was kinda nasty with me when AGMA suggested she see a doctor after she spent 72 hours in bed while we were on the cruise.  I thought it was a sensible suggestion.

The good news is that she recovered in time to have a wonderful time in Portugal. For 3 days.

She’s also prone to tripping and hitting her face/head.  The first time I met her was on a trip to Croatia, and she had a black eye.  She had fallen a few days before on the island of Hvar.  She has fallen several times since then on trips (more black eyes.)   The last fall was last Fall, and caused her to stay on Mykonos (and miss Santorini) to recover from a slight concussion.

She is also really bad about drinking water while traveling and has fainted twice because of dehydration.  This past January when we were in Mexico together, she was once again feeling very lightheaded.  She hadn’t had any water since the day before.  Once she had a big glass of water, she felt much better.  Oh my.

And she is a retired nurse.

Say a prayer for AGMA and M!

As an FYI, I booked this trip through Great Value Vacations.  It’s one of those package deals – it includes air, hotels and rental car (upgraded for more $$ to an automatic and we paid the extra $$ for CDW).  We set our own itinerary between/in hotel cities.

And yes…we are renting a car.  AGMA will be driving on the left side of the road while I’m sitting in the “wrong” side the car holding a steering wheel on the “wrong” side of the car for 8 days.  OMG.

Say a prayer for the good people of the Republic of Ireland!

See everybody in a couple of weeks.

Ya’ll behave!

Let stealth mode begin and the Guinness flow…

P.S.  Just for the record, Great Value Vacations has pretty mediocre customer service.  As I mentioned in a previous post, when you call them, you stay on hold for for 30 to 40 minutes before somebody picks up.  Also, when you contact them via their contact form, it takes them a week to get back to you.  This does not make AGMA happy.