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.

 

 

 

 

The miracle of Rick Steves

luggage

“I don’t understand how you can possibly take just a carry-on sized bag for two weeks in Europe.” my sister said to me on Monday.  “I just need too much stuff!”

“Too much stuff” is an understatement.  I’ve seen the luggage they use. The entire von Trapp family could have escaped Austria in it.  No mountain climbing; just smooth, 4-wheel, 360 degree swivel action all the way to Italy.

I told her to pack less clothes.  Wash things out in the sink.  Or the bidet.  She said she packs very few clothes.  But she admits her husband needs a new outfit every day along with matching shoes.  Seriously?

I’m a minimalist traveler and my packing hero is Rick Steves. My younger son told me never to trust anybody with two first names…

For those who don’t know, Rick Steves is a US travel guru/television host who has specialized in European travel for the past 35 years.  He has hundreds of guidebooks/DVD’s not only about individual European countries but many specific European cities.  Lots of American Baby Boomers are fans of Rick.

Or is it Steve?

But the true miracle that elevates him to near-travel god-like status is that he can go to Europe for an entire summer with only a back pack and a carry-on.  Let that sink in.  One back pack.  One tiny, fits-in-the-overhead-bin carry-on.  Mind blowing.

It’s like Jesus feeding the 5000 with one loaf of bread and one fish.  Rick/Steve miraculously just keeps on pulling out clothes for a whole summer from that little carry-on!

I’m a Rick Steves packing disciple.  I try to emulate him.  And I’m getting pretty darned good at it.

So for those of you who travel who might want to get on the bandwagon (NOT my sister) here are AGMA’s top 10 reasons for minimalist packing for an overseas trip:

10.  Speed.  You can get though customs faster because you don’t have to wait for your bags.  Okay, maybe only 5 minutes faster.  But it feels like a win.

9.  No worries about lost luggage.  When your carry-on is in the bin above your head, you know you’ll be able to change your nasty, been-wearing-them-for 36-hours-straight travel clothes that have almost welded themselves to your body as soon as you get to your hotel room.

8.  Accessibility.  When your carry-on is in the bin above your head, you know you’ll be able to change your nasty, been-wearing-them-for 36-hours-straight travel clothes that have almost welded themselves to your body in the airport bathroom as soon as you get off the plane.  Or in the airplane restroom.  Or at your seat.

7.  Saves money.  Totally limits souvenir buying!  There’s no room for that bulky Aran sweater or the three Belgian lace tablecloths or that impressive Australian didgeridoo. And buying another suitcase on your trip is cheating…  Although my MIL did that once. No surprise there.

6.  Simplifies wardrobe choices.  People honestly don’t care if you wear the same outfit in Paris that you wore in Rome that you wore in London. Or if you wear the same outfit twice in the same city.  Think about it.  Nobody.  Cares.

5.  Mingle with the locals.  Most cities and towns in the industrialized world have stores with the same stuff that you can buy at home.  You don’t have to pack for Armageddon. It’s fun to meet new people while you shop for your Imodium or Pepto-Bismol!

4.  Nimbleness.  It’s much easier and quicker to get on and off trains, busses, ferries, etc. Or to carry your bag up to your 4th floor hotel room because the 3 ft X 3 ft lift is broken.  It’s sad to see people struggling trying to get their three 70 pound bags up the steps onto a train or into their hotel.  And kind of funny in a twisted way.

3.  Avoid personal injury. See #4.

2.  Avoid pity/ridicule.  Especially the withering, smug, superior glances of AGMA and husband as they deftly and every so delicately whisk their light carry-ons onto the train or up the hotel stairs while you struggle with the von Trapp family luggage. See #4. Yeah – everybody is looking at you.  And feeling sorry for you.  Or snickering.

And the #1 reason for minimalist packing…

1.  It’s cool. You’re friends will be awed and amazed that you only took a carry-on and a backpack for two weeks in Croatia. They now think that YOU are the packing travel god.  Don’t tell them about Rick/Steve.

So that was all to say it’s time for this AGMA travel goddess to pack her minimalist bag and hit the road again.  Back to the land of Guinness and Leprechauns.  I’ve never actually seen a Leprechaun. Maybe I’ve never had enough Guinness…

I’ll really miss AGMA and writing and my WordPress family.  But I’ll be sure to lift up a pint in your honor!  Be back in mid-April.

Slainte!

The paradox of the neck waddle

fat-personal-trainer

AGMA’s been quiet lately.  No posts.  No reading of any of her favorite bloggers.  No comments made or answered.  I hate that.

But all my time and energy for the past few weeks has been focused on something that I needed to get out of the way.  Like seriously get out of the way.

Last September, I signed up for personal trainer certification program.  Somewhat ironic and absurd since I’ve never had any interactions with a personal trainer in my life.  And it has been years and years since I’ve been to a gym.  You can kind of tell by looking at me.  Okay, you can definitely tell…

“Why then?” you might well ask.  There is a method to AGMA’s madness.  This time at least.

As a therapeutic massage therapist/bodyworker – the legit kind – I need to be able to give my clients corrective exercises that will stretch the over-active (tight) muscles and strengthen the under-active (weak) ones.  Legally.

Ah – there’s the rub… (no pun intended)

Massage-world trivia you didn’t know and couldn’t care less about – assigning corrective exercises to clients is out of a massage therapist’s “scope of practice”.  At least in the US.  No can do.  Nah baby nah.  AGMA could get into some seriously hot water if she gives out an exercise and her client get’s hurt doing it.  And complains to the Georgia Board of Massage Therapy.  And sues AGMA.  Boiling water.

Giving corrective exercises is definitely in the scope of practice for a CPT (certified personal trainer.)  The light begins to dawn…

AGMA likes to follow the rules.  Most of the time.  And she likes to help her clients as much as she can.  Hence the CPT journey by the woman who looks least likely to simply go to a personal trainer, let alone be one.  Life is strange.

I had six months to complete the book/online course and take the exam.  My drop dead date was March 11th.  After that date, I would have to pony up an additional $600 for another go at it.  $600 is almost a round trip ticket to Dublin.  Thank God I have my priorities straight.

I took the test on March 10th.  Of course. No need to rush these things.

While I did all of the reading and online videos spread out over the past six months, the last few weeks have been spent exclusively cramming for my test.  Well…and doing the other very basic “stuff” that one needs to do to simply survive each day.  Work, eat, sleep, Skype with my grandson, watch The Big Bang Theory…

When I first started really seriously studying, I almost gave up.  It seemed neurologically impossible for me to store that much information in an already over-stuffed, under-active, aging brain.  For one brief instant, contrary to her nature, AGMA wanted to quit.

But $600 is a big motivator.

So I crammed.  And I did the online flash cards and the practice tests.  I condensed key information on study sheets.  And would pull out the study sheets at stop lights to review.  Did I mention I can get a bit manic?  You may have guessed that by now.

It worked.  I passed.  Yippee.

I can now proudly put CPT behind my name along with LMT, MBA.  Oh – and BS too. The BS is probably the only one that truly captures AGMA’s essence.

So here I am.  A paradox.  A 60 something woman with a thick mid-section, cellulite infested thighs, flabby, jiggly upper arms, and a substantial neck waddle who is now a personal trainer.

Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

But I’m inspired.  The day after I passed my test, I resolved to lose 25 lbs.  And I threw down the gauntlet in a very public way.  I put it out there on Facebook for the world to see.  Or at least the 20 or so people who actually follow my FB posts.

Today is the third day of tracking calories.  Ugh.  I’m using MyFitnessPal.com and their Android app.  It allows you to  scan the barcodes of food with your phone camera and capture all the nutritional information.  It makes tracking what you eat easy peasy.

Damn.

Scanning the barcodes is fun ’cause I’m pretty easily amused.  But actually seeing how many calories, how much sugar and how much fat are in the foods that I have been eating isn’t so much fun.

It explains a lot.

I’m sure a new, svelte AGMA is right around the corner.  Or down the block.  Or maybe in the next town over.  We’ll see…

I’m just glad the I passed the test, get hang with my blogging buds once again and can afford go back to Dublin!  At the end of the month.

How many calories are in a Guinness again?

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

They’re Always After Me Lucky Charms…

craictheone

Top o the marnin’ to ya!  Or afternoon.  Or whenever your reading this.

So I just got back from Ireland last week and still have the residual mist of the Emerald Isle charm hanging onto me.  I also have the extra pounds from scones, butter and beer hanging onto me as well. The mist will have long dissipated before the pounds will.  It was worth it.

Did I mention I love to travel?

This was my sixth trip to Ireland since my first in 2006 so I guess I officially qualify as a Hiberniophile.  I keep trying to convince the Tourism Ireland folks that I should be one of their US reps, but so far, no go.  I’m thinking of starting a Twitter campaign.

I’m pretty sure that one of the reasons I keep going back is the phenominal pub culture.  Great craic in Irish pubs.  According to Wikipedia, craic “is a term for news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation, particularly prominent in Ireland.”  I’ve had some of the funniest, most interesting conversations of my life in Irish pubs.   Yes – I’m a craic addict.

Plus, I love Irish beer.  L-O-V-E.  Especially the stouts.  Particularly Guinness.  And I don’t care what anybody tells you, it does taste better in Ireland.  I can barely choke one down here in the US, but I hear angels sing at that first sip of my first Guinness on that first pub I visit after I land in Dublin.  Yeah – that’s right – angels.  Or maybe it’s my tinnitus acting up after that long flight.

Fun, disturbing Irish beer facts….  On my first trip in 2006, I discovered that the best selling beer in Ireland is Budweiser.  Huh?Then, when visiting the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin in 2009, I found out that the country that drinks the most Guinness is Nigeria. That one left me speechless.

I’ve also learned that the amount of Guinness, Murphy’s, O’Hara’s, Smithwick’s, Kilkenny, etc. I drink on a trip to Ireland is directly proportional to the amount of “crazy” displayed by my traveling companion.  Minimal crazy, minimal daily beer consumption.  Of course there is ALWAYS consumption because the beer is just so damn good.  Angels sing remember?  It just tends to be lower because I’m drinking it for the great taste and not to help me stay sane.

The more the traveling companion crazy meter ramps up, the more desperate I become for a pint of the liquid prozac to calm my frazzled spirit.  On this trip, there were a number of three pint nights.

I respect a persons right to drink or not drink.  Most of the time, I chose to not drink for a variety of reasons.  Except when I travel. Especially when I’m in a pub in Ireland. And my traveling companion is an 8 out of 10 on the cray cray scale.

It’s for this reason I give the following advice…

AGMA Rule #1 for Ireland travel: Never, ever, under any circumstances, take a trip to Ireland with somebody who doesn’t drink if you do and/or isn’t able to engage with people in conversation if you are.  You will have to work way too hard at not being miserable.  Way.  Too.  Hard.

They will try to fool you.  A socially awkward nondrinker will be more than understanding and even jovial during your first pint. To them, it’s an academic exercise to experience the Irish pub culture firsthand.  But when you order that second pint (after having first asked “permission”, I might add), the fidgeting, sighing and eye rolling starts.  And it continues all they way through that second pint.  It has the potential to turn into open warfare if there is even a hint of a third.  So the cruel irony is that the more talkative and mellow you get with each pint, the more hostile, sullen and passive aggressive your companion becomes.

What’s up with that?

Toward the end of the trip, I wised up.  I started depositing my traveling companion in our hotel room prior to the “cross over” to hostile, sullen and passive aggressive.  She had a wonderful time watching TV, keeping track of the weather at home and playing with her smart phone.  You know, all those things you come to Ireland to experience…

I had a wonderful time having that third pint, being part of great craic at a nearby pub and not having to endure the “eye roll”.

Win-win.

When we came home last week, we were definitely ready to put a little space between us.  Maybe a lot of space.  By mutual consent, it’ll probably be a long time before we travel together again.  If ever. But, miracle of miracles, we remain good friends.  Best of all, we have the memories of a shared adventure to a beautiful, magical country rich in history, myth, wonderful food, great beer, welcoming people and stunning scenery.

Every time I leave, I can’t wait to come back.

Slainte!