New Zealand haiku

In Rotorua now

Lots of volcanic features

Smells like rotten eggs!

P.S. Having a great time (other than the smell…) Wish you were here!

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.

 

 

 

 

Intermission (Raisinet time!)

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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.

 

 

 

 

Easy peasy, stress free travel planning – part 2 (how to get around)

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So I’m sitting at my favorite coffee shop ready to write.  Sort of.

The professional cycling season is gearing up in Europe.

And ya’ll know how I LOVE my men in spandex!

For those of you new to AGMA, I have this strange, inexplicable obsession with men’s professional cycling.  Tour de France type stuff.

Right now two stage races (meaning they last more than 1 day) are being contested in Europe.  Paris-Nice in France (duh…) and Tirreno-Adriatico in Italy.  And at this moment, AGMA is streaming Paris-Nice on her phone.  Sitting in the coffee shop.

I’m a woman of divided loyalties.

But I promised a part 2.  And AGMA always keeps her promises.  And there are only 19km left in today’s stage…

I need to preface the rest of this post and the next by saying that most of my travel advice is specific to Europe, Australia and New Zealand.  I’ve not traveled to South American or Asia, but AGMA feels certain there are lots of resources on “The Google” you can use if you’re planning travel there.

How’s that for a cop out?

So, you’re feeling pretty good about yourself because you snagged a super inexpensive airline ticket to Paris (or wherever) for a 10 day trip.

Now what?

I highly recommend you order several good guidebooks (or down load them onto your Kindle), and get onto travel bulletin boards specific to where you will be traveling.  Fodors, Frommers, & Rick Steves are all good sites you can check out.

When you’ve figured out where you want to go and what you want to see, NOW you need to decide if you need to rent a car or take trains and/or busses.

Taking trains and/or busses can be a great alternative to renting a car.  It’s generally cheaper and less stressful.  And many tour operators offer day trips to see interesting areas outside of where you might be staying.   For example, just Google “day trips from Rome” and you can see the incredible number of places you can visit for the day while you’re staying in Rome.

Keep in mind that many of those places are also easily accessible by train if you want to self-tour.

Remember, if you want to book a day tour from a tour operator, read the reviews on them and understand their cancellation policy in case your plans change.

More often than not, because of Hubs mobility issue, we rent a car if we are going to cover a lot of ground.  For us, train travel with a scooter/wheelchair and luggage tends to be a bit of a challenge.

If you’re planning to rent a car, AGMA has 3 words for. you – research, research, research!

Rental car costs can vary wildly based on the time of year, the rental car company and the website giving rental car cost estimates.

Lots of US membership organizations will offer discounts via a coupon code for US rental car companies overseas.   Check out any organization you belong to to see if they offer discounts.  AAA, my professional massage organization (AMBP), Costco are just an example of some organizations that offer discounts.

If you book a rental car using the Costco discount code, there is no charge for a 2nd driver (which can save you 100’s depending on the car rental duration and if you need  2 drivers.)

But keep in mind, booking through a travel site like rentalcars.com can often be cheaper than using a discount code on Hertz or Alamo.

Also, be aware that, unlike the US, most cars for rent in other countries are manual transmissions.  If you want an automatic, you need to change your car search criteria.  And automatics are always more expensive.

Priceline and Hotwire often have lower prices for rental cars, but you must pay in advance and you won’t know the company you’re renting from until you’ve paid.

Most of the time, no matter whether you book directly with the car rental company or through a travel site representing many companies, the least expensive option will always be a pay in advance option.  If you choose that, check carefully to see if you will get a refund if you cancel prior to pick-up.

AGMA has been known to book a car then cancel it two months later because I found a cheaper deal.

Finally, understand that there are places on this good green earth that you would NEVER want to drive.  Not sure you could master driving on the left side of the road (for North Americans)?  Don’t rent a car in the UK, Ireland, Australia or New Zealand.

As much as AGMA loves Italy (Hubs and I were there a few weeks ago), I would NEVER drive there.  We just don’t have the nerve!

The rental car companies recognize that there’s a higher damage risk to their cars in certain countries.  Specifically Ireland and Italy (see….).

In most countries, you can decline Collision Damage Waiver insurance.  If I use my United Chase Visa to rent a car, it actually covers CDW for rental cars in most countries.  EXCEPT Ireland and Italy…  Hubs has a deal with AmEx that also covers CDW for a charge of $19.99 no matter how long the rental period.  EXCEPT in Ireland and Italy…

Are you sensing a theme?

If you do rent a car in Ireland or Italy, you either must buy the CDW insurance (at a pretty penny) or they put a 700 Euro hold on your credit card to insure against any damage to the car.

Trust me when I say that you will have waaaayyyy more peace of mind buying the CDW insurance.  You can return the car with two missing bumpers, a missing mirrors and huge dents in the rear.  And just walk away.

If you put the deposit down, you will NOT like what you will be charged for any damage repair.  Ouch!

Part 3…wait for it….

P.S.   The race just ended and a rider on my fantasy team won the stage!!  And another rider on my team took over as the overall race leader!!  It’s been a good morning…

 

 

 

 

Keeping my day job

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AGMA loves to travel; ya’ll know that.

At some point last year, I declared on AGMA that I was done traveling for a spell.  I’d lost the joy of the planning to the stress of the planning.

Bummer…

Hubs and I used to take overseas tours that didn’t involve any planning with a value tour company.   They were normally no brainer, whirlwind tours with mornings often staring at 6 AM, but you got to see a whole lot of wherever you were.  And while the tour groups were larger (38 to 42 people), 98% of the folks were delightful and fun to be around.  The hotels were lovely and we found the tour guides excellent.  And we ALWAYS bought the tours when they were “on sale”.

Interesting factoid…did you know that travel goes on sale on Black Friday like everything else?  Sometimes you can snag an amazing travel bargain.

But alas…we can go on these types of value tours no longer.  Hubs genetic condition in his legs is slowly progressing and, although he can still walk slowly with a cane, he’s at the point where he needs a wheelchair or scooter to go any distance.

Bummer…

We have this awesome portable electric scooter (Ralph) that Hubs uses to get from here to there when we travel.  The seat comes off and the handle folds down to make it incredibly easy to stow and gate check.  And at 39 pounds, even a weakling like AGMA can lift and carry it.

It turns out that Ralph or a portable wheelchair are not welcome on traditional tour company tours.  WTF??

They say it’s because there isn’t room on the tour bus for mobility devices, but with a portable wheel chair that folds up flat and our offer to only take one suitcase between the two of us, we kinda figured out that “room” wasn’t the issue.

And tour companies that cater to those with mobility issues are priced way out of our price range.

Sooooooo…..

Most of our trips since 2016 have been AGMA planned and executed.

And they have been good.  Real good.

Because AGMA is an excellent travel planner.

Yeah – I said it.

I’m a left brained, ADHD, OCD detail oriented person who, despite having no Scottish ancestry, is as thrifty as they come.

So of course I plan fabulous trips that won’t break the bank!

But it is precisely because I’m a left brained, ADHD, OCD, detail oriented person who LOVES a great bargain that it takes many, many days to plan a 2 week trip.  Which is fine if you have nothing else to do…

That isn’t normally the case in my or most everybody’s life, so sometimes – most of the time – trip planning ends up being kinda stressful.

Total first world problem.

AGMA’s become a bit famous with her family, friends and acquaintances for her travel planning acumen.

I’ve had quite a few offers to “come along” on trips with friends/acquaintances to destinations I’ve already visited.  Seriously?

AGMA didn’t fall off the cotton truck yesterday…

I know the “come along” offer translates to “we expect you do all the planning and then be our tour guide when we get there.”  In the case of folks who are normally delightful, but would be absolute nightmares to travel with, I politely decline and offer to give some ideas for their trip.

With a smile.

They say you never really know anybody until you travel with them.  But with some people, AGMA knows absolutely for sure, for certain, even before setting one foot on a plane, that we would NOT be good travel companions.  Like oil and water.

Or more like gasoline and a flame thrower.

Some have suggested that I should hang a shingle out and help others plan their travel for a fee.

But honestly, AGMA can’t think if anything more nightmarish than travel planning for paying clients.  Well – I probably can, but this would be a close second.

It’s one thing to give friends and family pointers and tips on planning the perfect trip, and even some booking help now and then.  But when $$ gets involved, people tend to get a little cray cray.  They become unreasonable, demanding and just plain nuts.

Honestly, they couldn’t pay me enough.

With today’s technology, I’m sure I could figure out some way to leverage what I’ve learned so far about travel planning into some sort of business in the future.  That doesn’t involve dealing with the general public.

(shivers run down AGMA’s spine)

Right now, I think I’ll be keeping my day job.

There are 4 international jaunts AGMA’s trip hopper for 2019.  My head is spinning like the pea soup girl in The Exorcist.

So much for not traveling…

Two trips are easy peasy – short, and hotel/airfare/car pre-booked through an independent trip package.  These are packages booked through a travel operator but are not tours – the book your airfare, hotel and car (if you need one), but you are on your own for day to day activities.  And both are revisits to familiar places so we pretty much know what we’re going to be doing.

The other two trips are more challenging.

So while AGMA is in the throes of planning these two trips, I thought it might be fun to give you a view into the convoluted, demented and intensely OCD time consuming process I go through to end up with a fantabulous travel experience.

Not sure fun is really the word.

Tune in next week…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A lot of sh*t can happen in 5 years!

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In 2015, at 92, Harriette Thompson became the oldest woman to complete a marathon!  She passed in 2017, but what an inspiration!

So somewhere in the bustle of the holidays, my never ending sniffles, and out of town guests, I missed my 5th anniversary on WP!  It happened like on December 30th (give or take a day.)

Happy Anniversary to my little ass, Aging Gracefully!

Holy cow, that was a fast 5 years!

When I started AGMA, I had a lot of time on my hands.  Blogging seemed like a good way to fill some of it.  I’m a bit ADHD, so I needed something to keep me busy.

Little did I know that the next 5 years would turn out to be crazy eventful.  And my days would soon be overflowing with “opportunities” to be busy…

  • The most adorable grandchildren in the world (MAGITW) made their appearances in 2014 and 2016.  And there is soon to be a 3rd MAGITW!  Stay tuned this summer…
  • I decided to start “running” marathons, and have 6 notches in my belt so far.  I ran my 1st one 2 months after starting AGMA.
  • My love of thrifting turned into a little Ebay business.  The problem is that AGMA loves thrifting more than listing the items on Ebay.  And I’m running out of places to store the crap…eh…treasures.
  • I gave up the space I was renting and made the decision to switch my massage practice almost exclusively to corporate chair massage.  And business has been good. Very good.
  • Because of the series of most unfortunate events on November 8, 2016 and after, arranged by Comrade Putin, I’ve become a Resistor (NOT the electrical kind.). This has taken up quite a bit of AGMA’s time.  But it’s time well spent (refer to the 1st bullet point!)
  • I’ve been able to indulge my passion for travel both domestically and internationally like never before.  With a very flexible work schedule, family & friends flung all over the US, a bit more in the bank account, and the desire to sample local wines in every country in the world (still working on this…), AGMA has racked up beaucoup miles in the air and in the car.  Now THAT’s what I’m talkin’ about!
  • Some “not aging gracefully” health junk has taken up way too much time.  I’m not a fan and ignore whenever possible…   But I’m pretty pumped because I had my BIG birthday a few weeks ago.  It’s Medicare time now baby!

Whew.

It’s been a rockin’ and rollin’ 5 years.

But I love this little AGMA blog and ADORE my blogging friends.  Yinz guys (to say it in my native Pittsburghese!)

And I’m looking forward to another 5, 10, 15, dare I say 20 (?) years of blogging.

By 2038, I predict I will have at least 4 more tattoos, will have run at least 30 marathons, have an Ebay business that Jeff Bezos will envy, will have finished my wine quest (hic), will have a great grandchild, and will have visited the Big Orange Cheeto and his posse in prison at least once since being sentenced in 2019.

Nah – maybe not that last one…

But you can read all about it here on AGMA so stick around!

P.S.  I am forever grateful to the now “retired” blogger, Dobster, who gave me wonderful encouragement in those early months of AGMA.  I still miss him – he quit blogging cold turkey one day in 2015.  It was jarring and I felt like I’d lost a friend.  If he hasn’t already, I hope he returns to the blog-o-sphere one day.  His posts made me laugh.

BUBBLES!!

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If I made a movie about our recent trip to Istanbul, Rotten Tomatoes would describe it: “The adventurous AGMA and her humorous sidekick Hubs sing and dance their way to Istanbul while encountering wacky blondes, many naked people, and never ending samples of Turkish Delight.” 

Turkey has been on my “list” for a long time now.

A few months ago, after having just read a travel post of one of my favorite bloggers, Life in the Boomer Lane (or LBL), describing her latest trip to Istanbul, AGMA perked up.

Turkish Airlines started flying direct to Istanbul from Atlanta several years ago and offered dirt cheap promotional pricing for a while. But it was right after the terrorist attack on the Araturk Airport and the coup attempt. 

Timing…not so good.

But two years later, LBL’s post about Istanbul got me thinking again…

A couple weeks later, a sale to Istanbul popped into my inbox from one of the travel sites I follow.

It was a sign!

Not only did we book the trip, but two friends of mine from my former life in Ohio decided to join us!  P-A-R-T-A-Y!

AGMA has to say that this was one of the best (albeit shortest) international trips I’ve ever taken.

Sadly for the Turkish people, their currency, the Turkish lira, is at one of the lowest levels against the dollar and Euro it’s ever been.  For Hubs and AGMA, it meant a $3.77 twenty minute Uber ride and lunch for two for at a local place for less than $6.  We left big tips.

Prices for tours, authentic name brand clothes/accessories and “experiences” (think a Turkish Bath) are in Euros because of the unstable lira.  

Did somebody mention Turkish Bath?

Yeah we did!  

We went to the Cagaloglu Hamam. They’ve been scrubbing and bathing the good people of Istanbul since 1741.

Reservations (done via email) are a must because it is a relatively famous Bath in Istanbul.  They have a “Wall of Famous Clients” (pictured above.)

AGMA’s picture will be added beside Oprah’s next week, I feel certain.

We opted for the 50 Euro “Istanbul Experience” – sort of the basic Turkish bath.  

The check-in area in the lobby was serene and peaceful, with a flute player playing mellow melodies. There was a fountain in the middle, and low table and stools for post-bath tea.

Serenity now…

 A lovely woman who spoke wonderful English whisked me off to the “Ladies Only” section.  I said bye to Hubs, praying that he wouldn’t bolt as soon as I left. 

She escorted me to a courtyard area surrounded by dressings rooms. I got my own personal room complete with a lounging couch, a side table, lamp and mirror.  On the couch was a towel and sandals wrapped in plastic.  And some “undies”.

This was getting interesting

I changed out of my clothes, wrapped the lovely towel (called a peshtemal) around me and slipped on my “underwear”.

Turns out, it was a disposable thong.  A thong??  AGMA, for reasons that would be totally clear if you knew me in person, has never worn a thong in her life.  But when in Rome… (or Istanbul!)

When my attendant Eaja came to fetch me, she told to leave my glasses in the dressing room.  AGMA is blind without her glasses.  

In hindsight, it was a good thing.

Eaja lead me to the sauna area first.  The idea was to literally sweat the crap out of your pores.  Turned out, I had a lot of crap in my pores.

After about 15 minutes, Eaja lead me to the large bath area and one of the many sinks that surrounded the large central marble slab.  Sans my towel (oh-la-la) Eaja dumped small bucket full of water on me.  Cool water.  

WTF?

She also washed and rinsed my hair.  With cool water.

Eaja then lead me to the central raised marble slab, laid my towel out and had me lay on my back.  

Mind you, AGMA is only clothed in her “thong”.  YIKES!  But my fuzzy vision could tell that everybody else was going almost commando.

It took me about a minute to get over it.  I guess that answers my question about going to a nudist camp!

Then Eaja started scrubbing me with a kese (a exfoliating mitt).  And baby, she scrubbed me from head to toe.  On both sides.

No soap; just the kese.  From the looks of the kese afterwards, I was pretty grubby.

But the next part…OMG…was the best!

BUBBLES!!!

More bubbles than I’ve ever seen in my life!  They covered me like a blanket.

Then a massage.  A bubble massage.  For about 10 minutes.

I flopped over onto my tummy, and got bubbled and massaged again.

AGMA was sooooo relaxed and little fuzzy on what happened next… 

Somehow, I got rinsed, wrapped in a dry towel and was lying down on a lounger back in the dressing room courtyard with a cup of tea, small glass of sharbat and some pieces of Turkish delight beside me.  

After 15 minutes of lounging and sort of getting my wits back, I changed in my dressing room (sadly leaving my “thong” behind.)  I dried my hair, gave Eaja a nice tip and was off in search of Hubs.

I found him in a robe, with his hair in a towel, drinking tea on a lounger in one of the rooms off the lobby.  Smiling.

He LOVED it!  Whew…

The wacky blonde was my friend who almost spent $500 (but didn’t) on saffron for “stocking stuffers” in the Grand Bazaar.  Long story…   

And Turkish Delight was EVERYWHERE and everybody wants to give you a sample!  

It was a quick hit trip – we were only gone for 5 days.  But it was a truly amazing 5 days. 

We found the Turkish people incredibly friendly and so very helpful.  Somebody was always willing to help Hubs and I when we needed to lift up his mobility scooter on a curb or up some stairs.

AGMA signed up for Turkish Airlines deal emails as soon as we got home!

I can’t wait to go back to get scrubbed and bubbled again!  Naked (nearly…)

Don’t judge me.

 

Tape me!

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So last week turned out to be every bit as cray cray as AGMA thought it would.

Readers Digest version…  We went to Naples, Florida on Thursday for a weekend wedding.  Son #1 was Best Man so he rented a 5 bedroom condo and brought the wife and kids.  And my DIL’s parents came as well.  And Son #2.

And we celebrated my sweet grandaughter’s 2nd birthday.  And got together with my Belle Mare’s (DIL’s mom) newly discovered siblings (thanks to Hubs brilliant genealogy research – that’s going to be a whole other post!)

And got together with my old boss who I haven’t seen in 5 years.  And entertained a few friends who came down for the wedding.  And went to the beach.

Besides the wedding, we went to the “out of towners” cocktail reception the night before.  And all the guests were invited to breakfast on Sunday.

Busy.

The groom is my Son #1’s BFF and was Best Man in my son’s wedding eight years ago.  They grew up together in Cincinnati, a lovely, but very conservative town in southwestern Ohio.

I used to be very good friends with Groom’s mom.  And all of the other moms of the kids Son #1 hung around with in Junior and Senior High.

But something ugly and orange happened on November 8, 2016.

And we are no longer good friends.  Some of the moms defriended me on Facebook because of my rather “spirited” comments on Cadet Bone Spurs and his Nazi posse.  Others, I’m sure, are following my posts closely and report them to the Bolton Gestapo.

AGMA won’t be going into any US Embassies on my travels.

So what’s the best passive aggressive way to show these GOP right wing Ohio mom’s that AGMA denounces all the hate the Massive Cheeto stands for, and is pro-humanity, pro-decency, pro-diversity, pro-equality, and pro-compassion?

I needed to show up at that wedding looking absolutely fabulous.  Of course.

This proved to be a challenge.  AGMA is a no make-up, comfy jeans, and Birkenstocks (generic of course…) kinda gal.

But I had a plan:

Step 1.  Get a “blow-out”.  It’s not what it sounds like…  It’s where you go to a hair salon looking place, but they don’t do haircuts.  They only wash, blow-dry and style your hair.  I spent $44 bucks (ouch) and the “do” lasted for about 8 hours.  But it was long enough.

Step 2.  Wear make-up.  The “blow-out” place also does make-up, but AGMA felt that would be over kill.  So for what I would have spent on them smearing stuff on my face, I went out and bought a whole slew of make-up and brushes.  Evidently you need a separate brush for everything. Seems like a bit of a racket…

Step 3.  Wear a fabulous dress.  AGMA doesn’t like wearing dresses.  So I really needed it to be very comfy.  But chic.  I found a winner on a visit to Nordstrom’s Rack,.  And better yet, it was on sale for – I kid you not – $13.50.

Crazy considering it was a great brand, lined and really good quality.

And it has a little strip of rhinestones in back.  At the top before the back plunges down almost to my waist.

What??

A plunging back?  With my barcalounger lazy girls that require severe trussing up on a daily basis?

If you didn’t already, you can read about them on a post I wrote not too long ago here.

Ever the optimist, AGMA felt confident that I could find some way to hold them in place.  Somehow.

There are these things called “sticky” bras.  They are supposed to hold you up and allow you to wear backless, strapless stuff.  AGMA found out they are mostly made for 34AA types.

I need support.  Lots and lots and lots of support.  There were a few who made that promise…  I bought a “sticky” bra at a store and ordered another one online to have options.

Then I found this hysterical post about a woman in a similar situation.  Her conclusion, “Stick-on bras are not made for women with a lotta boob, full stop.”

Her solution?

Tape.

The magic answer was to tape the ladies into submission.

Not scotch tape or duct tape or electrical tape, but Gaffer Tape.

I did a practice taping at home to make sure that it would work.  AGMA wanted to give the girls the help they needed, but also wanted to make sure the damn stuff would really stick.  Disaster could ensure if it let loose at the wrong time.

Oh the humanity!

To make a long story that NOBODY wants to hear short, it worked!

My hair looked fantastic. I did a decent job of putting on makeup (AGMA practiced that too!) and wore lipstick.  And the dress was lovely and chic in front but oh so sexy in back.

Take that you GOPers!

There was one point in the evening, after I had been dancing up a storm and sweating a bit, that I felt a few of the “anchor” pieces sort of peel off.  Uh oh…  But it lasted a few more dances until we left the reception.

Sweet.

It was a beautiful wedding.  The bride was stunning and the groom dashingly handsome.  Son #1’s toast went over very well.  And we all, blue, red, and purple, behaved ourselves and nobody talked politics.

We got home late Monday afternoon.  AGMA’s still exhausted.

But that’s okay…   I can sleep on the plane tonight.

Yup – AGMA’s hitting the road yet again.

This time it’s a short trip to Istanbul (or is it Constantinople?)

And AGMA and Hubs are going to go to a Turkish Bath.

I sense a really funny blog post in a week or so…

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!

 

 

 

 

Cycles, Wars & Wines

Frites all over Belgium.  All. Over. This was a shop in Antwerp that we enjoyed.  They have frites shops/stands like we have hamburger joints in the US.  Word has it that fries were invented in Belgium, but were given that name “French fries” because WWI soldiers got confused because the people in the Flanders part of Belgium speak French.

AGMA loves to travel.

But then you knew that.

Surprisingly, I’m getting a bit burned out on travel. Actually more than a bit.

WTF? Yes…

AGMA’s sure it’s just a temporary condition. AGMA HOPES it’s just a temporary condition.

But seriously….six weeks after I got back from a 2 week trip to Spain/Portugal with a friend, Hubs and I left for a two week trip to Belgium & France. Two days after we got back from Belgium/France last week, we left for a wedding in Nashville.

It was a beautiful wedding by the way…

We got back on Sunday and leave next week for 5 days in Chicago to visit the grands. And their parents. Of course.

Too much travel – definitely a 1st World problem and a really good one at that. But as Hubs can attest to, when AGMA gets pooped, she gets pooped.

And I’m pooped.

Today Hubs suggested a short getaway to NOLA in June because airfares were on sale. I told him to take Son #2, who will be soon unemployed (his choice – he took ‘the package’) and available for junkets. I hope they go.

I’d actually love to have the house to myself for a few days.

So before AGMA turns into a total travel troll, for your entrainment and delight (I’m sure…), I’m sharing a few of the best pictures (not the ones of the ground, my lap, my fingers, etc…) of what I like to call our Cycles, Wars and Wines trip.

I promise it won’t be the 240 pictures that Hubs shared on Facebook. OMG….

First for the Cycles. And you know AGMA loves those young men in spandex!

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So the famous Cobbled Classic bike race, the Tour of Flanders (Ronde Van Vlaanderan) is a one day race that takes place in Belgium.  And it starts in Antwerp.  And at the frite shop that we went to in Antwep (pictured at the top of my post), this was ALL the sauces that you could put on your frites!.  Ketchup is so yesterday…

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Night falling on the Grote Markt (main square) in Antwerp.  AGMA loved Antwerp (over Gent, Brussels and even Bruges!)  The construction in the foreground became the main stage of the start of the Tour of Flanders where the riders signed in.

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A day of spring sunshine brought Antwerpians (??) out to the Groenplaats in Antwerp.  The sunshine didn’t last….

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We’re now in the tiny village of Kwaremont, Belgium where there is a very narrow , steep hill full of cobblestones (called The Kwaremont) that is one of the famous climbs in the Tour of Flanders.   Riders have to ride up not one, not two, but three times! AGMA could barely walk up it….  Oh – and the sunshine and mild temps of Antwerp did not show up in Kwaremont,

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Though a wonderful Belgian organization called Inter that promotes accessibility to sporting events and festivals, we had a GREAT view of the goings on at the top of The Kwaremont.  You know the riders are close when their team cars pass though.  AGMA’s excitement was building….

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My fav rider, World Champion Peter Sagan from Slovakia.  You can tell it was a cold day because the riders are somewhat (for professional cyclists) bundled up.  And so is the crowd.  And so was AGMA.  And Sagan didn’t win – he finished 6th.

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The main square of the town of Oudenaarde, Belgium.  The finish line is just outside of town.  We visited Oudenaarde the day before the race to explore the town, go to the Tour of Flanders Museum (yes there is!) and see the riders in the Tour of Flanders Sportive.  This event takes place a day before the ‘real’ race and allows any cyclist who thinks they have the right stuff to ride part of the course (some ride the whole course – 273km!) There were 3000 riders who rode the Sportive this year.  And I think they all stopped in Oudenaarde for a beer afterwards.

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The official finish line with Sportive riders coming in.  Son#2, the cyclist, rode the Sportive a few years ago and says the vast majority of the Sportive riders are MAMILs (Middle Aged Men In Latex.)

Sunshine, mild temps, riders not bundled up…  Dorothy, I don’t think we’re at the Tour of Flanders anymore.  And you would be right!  We are in a tiny town in France called Maing.  This is another very famous one day Cobbled Classic race called Paris Roubaix.  We drove 100 minutes from Epernay, France and 100 minutes back to watch 5 minutes of bike racing in Maing.  Hubs is a total saint for indulging AGMA’s weird cycling compulsion!  Here’s Peter Sagan again.  And yeah – we were that close to the riders.  And he won!

The guy in the pink helmet is Taylor Phinney, the only rider from the US who was in Paris Roubaix this year.  One thing I adore about cyclists is how incredibly tough they are.  In 2014, at the age of 23, at the US Nationals Road Race, Phinney totally shattered one of his legs in a horrific crash.  He’s worked incredibly hard to come back from that near career ending accident to ride in the Tour de France last year and finish 8th at this Paris Roubaix.  And he is a total character.  When he’s interviewed, he sounds like a laid back California surfer dude, and has a never ending supply of wise sayings and smiles.

Sooo…yikes…this post has gotten way longer than I had intended so I’m going to give you a breather.

And let you heave a sigh of relief that that cycling “stuff” is done. Heathens…

Just kidding.  Not really.

Wars and Wine shortly…