Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Midnight Run in Saigon

A bit of mystery, a bit of intrigue, that is what it felt like last night as we welcomed our dog, Tika, to our new home in Vietnam. She left the safe comfort of her boarding kennel in England on Wednesday in a dog crate where she spent the next three days with a respite in an airport pet lounge in Frankfurt Germany. We were told that she would land at 4:30pm on Friday and would be transported to our home around 6:00pm after the paperwork cleared. At 6:30pm we were taking extra glances at the front gate, waiting for the bell to ring. By 7:00pm, we were getting anxious. As the hours passed and phone calls went back and forth she finally appeared. In the dark of the night, one motorcycle arrived and then another. With the first motorcycle...I gasped. I thought... surely not...they would not strap her crate to the back of a motorcycle. I have seen everything on motorcycles around the streets of Ho Chi Minh City...a large dog crate teetering on one would not get a second glance.

And then....a sigh of relief....a truck started to back down our driveway...

and there she was...our Tika...home again.

My thoughts went flashing back to her arrival from New Zealand to England
 just two and a half years ago. Talking about contrasts...she arrived in England in the midst 
of a snowstorm. Up to that point she had travelled with us from Australia to New Zealand 
and then to England and there she landed... her first experience with snow. 
She is a travelling trooper!

Tika's arrival in

She is now surveying her new home...checking out the smells, 
sights and we all do.

It did not take long for her to get in the swim of things...
show that dog a pool and she is in like flint.

Ok...I may have gone to far with the hat....

The good news is that her travelling crate days are over...for a while.

She can hang her hat in Vietnam for a few years...until the next time.

Scarf above is my creative genius at work. 
We all went off for a walk this morning and realised the dog lead did not arrive with her. 
I found an extra long scarf of mine..tied it to her collar and off we went.
That good old Vietnamese ingenuity is already doing it's magic. :)

Before I go, I just have to say again how very grateful I am for
the words of kindness and encouragement that have come my way.
Words can not begin to describe how much you have helped these past few days.

If anyone is reading along and thinking of starting a blog...I say..just do it! 
It will add a dimension to your world you could not have imagined.
If you would like to chat about it...drop me a line..I will happily guide you along.

Until next time..signing out in Saigon ( Ho Chi Minh City)..
where a massage awaits. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Jeanne and Chateau Vietnam

My first friend in Vietnam.

Xin chào (hello)...

Woman on the verge has landed and what a landing it has been. Something along the lines of psychedelic for surely that would be your first thought if you happened upon our new home in Ho Chi Minh City.

I am not quite sure how it happened. Our landlord offered to paint the house inside and out before our arrival. Mr. H and I discussed colours and decided to have it painted the same as the previous colour because we were not in the country to look at paint samples. The previous colours were off white, inside and out. Better to be safe than sorry.

I thought this was the end of the story...until we drove up the driveway on Tuesday morning. What was  a safe beige is now orange to be exact. I live in a mango world and as much as I love to eat them, I never thought I would live inside one.

Jeanne and the Giant Mango..James and the Giant Peach...we are one.

It turns out Mr. H thought he would shake things up a bit. He looked at a paint sample on his return to Vietnam a few weeks ago and wanteed to surprise me...and that he did. If you have been reading along lately, you will know that Mr. H is full of surprises. I am still stunned, maybe I will come around. Our adventure has started out with a bright brilliant orange bang!

House has been fun settling into life in Vietnam. We have a driver, Mr. Kai, a gardener, Mr. Truan, a housekeeper/cook, Miss Huyen and a night guard (haven't met him yet)  to keep me on my toes. This is the first time I have had more than a housekeeper and... I think I am going to like it.

around the garden

We are all working on our communication skills, mine needs some work. Vietnamese is a tonal language, one word can be said seven different ways and in turn have seven different meanings. The words do not roll easily off the tongue for me and sometimes they can sound quite harsh...or something akin to when the dentist numbs your mouth and you spend the rest of the day drooling and spitting your words out.  I have mastered hello, 'xin chao' (sounds like ''sin chow'). Although I keep forgetting it's meaning and yesterday I kept using it to say 'thank you'. I thought I was saying 'thank you' to the driver only to have him repeatedly say ' bye bye'. We were both in a state of confusion and laughter. Lucky for me, he has a smile that lights up a room and one that never seems to stop.

Miss Huyen is going to be my lifesaver. After an exhausting process in the supermarket on the first day, reading products in Vietnamese and trying to play guess the product from the pretty picture on the package, I decided to take Miss Huyen with me to the supermarket today to translate. Mr. Kai joined us and between the three of us we had great success. It's the little things that make all the difference, especially whey they are of the foreign kind.

Shopping for dinner at the local Metro.

We have been playing hide and seek with our Internet service. I was quite impressed with how fast the service was until I discovered that Facebook and Blogger are blocked by the powers that be. After a few...actually...many hysterical moments from Mrs. H, it was a case of  Mr. H and his trusty team back at the office to the rescue. They gave me the heads up on Hotspot Shield...of which I am now an Elite member (of my own accord). I am doing the VPN signal in VN...happily.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that another road block will not appear on the Internet front. Heaven forbid I should be cut off from all you wonderful all make my world go round. I have a lot of catching up to do, blogs to read, letters to write, Facebook updates...I have been waiting for the time.  At this juncture of my life...there is know telling what will happen next.

I am starting the morning at 4:30am (jet lag) to the sounds of a very ambitious rooster. I wish someone would tell him the sun is not up yet. He must be confusing the light coming from my window. the night guard is whistling... ah life... in Ho Chi Minh City. :)

More to sure how much you can take....I will stop here but before I go, I just want to thank you all for your blog posts, comments and well wishes. You light up my world...really and truly...and by the sounds of it you are lighting up the roosters world too!

I feel like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz at the to get me a pair of red sparkly sandals..(for the tropics) and then decide where home is... in the meantime, hang on folks...we are in for one wild ride!

He is too cute to ignore and seems to have lots of family with him.
I think I will call him 'Ozzie' for in The Wizard of Oz.

OMG...another like no other..
are there monkey's in the trees here too?
Off to explore....

PS...Tika, our dog, is mid-flight and all is well.
She is currently in the Frankfurt, Germany airport pet lounge 
waiting for her next flight. She arrives on Friday!

More on Chateau Mango here

Monday, July 23, 2012

Woman on the verge at Vietnam

Afternoon in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

The day before, Day One...

I am sitting in the lounge at JFK airport, preparing myself for our new adventure. It has been nearly a year in the making which has it's blessings and also it's frustrations, the long goodbye can be exhausting for all.

I am happy to get the show on the road.... saying that, the show nearly took a backwards step when we checked in this morning. As I saddled up to the check in desk seven extra large bags of luggage and passed over our passports I was greeted with a 'your Vietnam visas have expired'.

My first thought went to my luggage, I had no intention of dragging that back anywhere. My second thought went to my mother-in-law, whose home we had just left and the thought of her greeting us again. I then had a quick reality check and got my act together. USA passports, Australian passports, UK visas...they all came out with me in state of near hysteria. I thought of all those emails flyng back and forth these past months, getting all the paperwork in order. Those visas had to be somewhere.

Why I had not thought to look at them before we left the house was another matter.  Of course, I was blurting all these thoughts out loud as I did my mad search. People around me were looking at me with curiosity. If ever there were a woman who was on the was me at 8:00am this morning at the Cathay Pacific check in desk.

It took a calm 18 year old to take matters in hand. Miss Claire to the rescue...she found them in our Australian passports. Sometimes I wonder how I make it through the day! I blame it on the kayaking
this past week...I think it was too relaxing. :)

With that thought in mind, I sign off from JFK airport...our flight awaits.

Wishing one and all a wonderful week ahead...wherever you may be... :)

Bike love in Hoi An, Vietnam

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Massachusetts and the other Cape...

When I was growing up, if you asked someone from Massachusetts which they prefer, Cape Cod or Cape Ann, many would wonder where Cape Ann was located. In my mind, that is exactly how I wanted it to stay. Send the cast of thousands to Cape Cod...we had a pretty good thing going in Cape Ann and I for one was happy to keep it that way. If you live in a seasonal town where tourists roll in and out like the waves of a stormy sea you will know what I  am talking about. The only saving grace is that when the high season is over...the residents are left with a beautiful spot all to themselves.

Fast forward those thoughts thirty odd years and it is nice to know that not much has changed. I am near the end of my weeks visit to Cape Ann and have managed to visit many of the places that were favourites long ago. There are the obvious sweeps of change..newer and bigger supermarkets, an expansion of highway here and there, new homes and business's but the heart of  Cape Ann is still the same to me. People have come and gone and come back again. The smells, sights and sounds are the same. Some may say progress is still needed and that may be true but for this once upon a time local...I will take it just as it is...thank you very much.

This is not to slight Cape Cod in any is a beautiful spot, adored by many and if you are looking for progress, you will find many spots along the cape able to accommodate your ever need. It is the gateway to Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, two islands I would encourage any visitor to Massachusetts to enjoy. Deciding which one will be tricky, if you asked me, I would say Martha's Vineyard...if you ask another, there is no question, in their mind it will be Nantucket. Seek and you shall find something to inspire you. I am sure of it!

If you ever venture to  Cape Ann, here a few of my favourites. I should mention there is so much more than what I am mentioning here. If you know the area and would like to add your recommendations. Please can write to me and I will add your suggestions onto this post.

So...if you happen upon...

Visit Singing Beach (the sand really sings),  stop in at The Stock Exchange, Cargo and Zaks on Main Street for a bit of shopping. There are endless roads of beautiful historical homes scattered about in all shapes and sizes..I love getting lost in Manchester-by-the-Sea,

Swing through Essex for great seafood...there are many restaurants to choose from. Woodman's of Essex is a local favourite. Be prepared to slip on the lobster bib and tuck in if you do go, it is an experience! If you are into a bit of antiquing...perhaps more along the vintage variety, you will find the road from Essex to Newburyport filled with them.

The Rocky Neck Art Colony is my first stop, from there, a drive along the shoreline to Bass Rocks. There are two popular beaches in Gloucester. Good Harbor and Long Beach. My family history runs deep at Long Beach so I am partial to it.  I enjoy walking the full length of Long Beach..and back again, climbing the rocks along Pebble Beach, riding a bike on the back road from Gloucester to Rockport, kayaking on the Annisquam River, and most important of all, soft serve chocolate dip ice cream cones at Long Beach Dairy Maid. Special mention to The Bookstore of Gloucester...I can never leave town without buying at least one book, they have a great selection.

I was a shop girl on Bearskin Neck in my teenage years. It hasn't changed much which sometimes I find endearing and other times I find a bit frustrating.  The local penny candy store, Bearskin Neck Country Store and Tuck's Candies for salt water taffy and fudge (yes, I have a sweet tooth) do the trick for me not matter how I am feeling.  I love the local independent book shop, Toad Hall Bookstore. It was the setting for a movie made a few years back, The Love Letter with Ellen DeGeneres, Tom Selleck, Kate Capshaw and Blythe Danner. When I feel homesick, I reach for this movie.

There is an active community in Cape Ann...they know how to party. Cape Ann Calendar Highlights include...Essex River Race, Rockport Chamber Music Festival, Cape Ann Artisans Studio Tour, Independence Day Parades, Gloucester St Peter's Fiesta, Rockport Garden Tour, Manchester Festival by the Sea, Gloucester Blues Festival, Essex ClamFest, Gloucester Schooner Festival, Rockport Harvest Week, Cape Ann Farmers Market

Curious about Cape Ann? If so, read on here. If you would like to rent a beach house, I can recommend Atlantic Vacation Homes...they are my first stop when I am planning a visit. The images above are from the 2011 issue of Cape Ann Guide...essential reading if you are planning to visit.

In my scrapbook this week....

Collecting sea shells by the sea shore on Long Beach

 From my kayak, cottage views.

Cafe views overlooking Rockport Harbor.

Rocky Neck, where colour knows no end....

 Misty views over the Annisquam River..

From The Bookstore of Gloucester...summer reading.

Best wishes to one and all for a wonderful weekend!

Jeanne xx

Thursday, July 19, 2012

You are my sunshine...

Every time I travel back to my childhood home, I discover something new and it usually revolves around my mother. She is a woman to be reckoned with, a woman who does not sit still for long...a woman with an art gallery. She has had many over the years. They generally stay within the same location, but they take on different shapes and sizes each time I visit. I have to say, her most recent venture is probably my favourite and that says a lot because this gallery business has been going on for as long as I can remember.

If you happen upon my mother's art gallery...I think many of you would find something to inspire. What you see on Monday could be totally different on Tuesday. She is always moving, changing, decorating...she never loses sight of her creativity. Seeing that I get back every few years, I enjoy photographing her gallery as a keepsake of my visit. I know my mother, what I see this trip will be very different the next time I am in town.

With that in mind, I thought I would share a few pics....

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What is your relaxation barometer?

Do you have a relaxation barometer when you go on holiday? Those little things you let slip away....until you can take a deep sigh?

I haven't used a hair dryer in three days...I can't remember the last time I let the curls come feels good.

A bit of lipstick, blush and a wand or two of the most. My collection make-up is gathering sea dust.

My perfectly pressed linen and cotton clothes have been washed and lay in a big wrinkled pile...the iron made a brief appearance this morning and then I turned it off and turned away. I plan to pack it as is and deal with it next week.

I relaxed in bed this morning, left my phone to the side and finished a book. Such a good feeling.

My relaxation barometer is moving from high. How is yours running these days?

Out and about in my part of the world this week.. Cape Ann...Massachusetts...USA..

My brother has rented a cottage over at Long Beach...a family stomping ground for many years.

I never ceased to be amazed by coastal garden ornaments. I am still pondering the flamingo's in the lobster pot and imagine the owners of this cottage had a good chuckle putting it all together.

Lobsta Land in Gloucester for breakfast? is where you can eat, drink and smile...all day long.

 A reflective moment...

A visit to my mother's gallery is always a treat....I discovered this in a corner of her shop yesterday. Lots more for you creative time!

Kayaking where the sea wind blows....

Monday, July 16, 2012

In a cottage, by the sea, where the soft wind blows...

I am sitting on a porch, in the morning light, with a soft breeze blowing. I know some of you are confused...I left London on Saturday to move to Vietnam...what am I doing in Massachusetts?

The New Englander in me always longs for the sea, the area where I grew up. I try and get back every few years to see family and friends and experience all those little things that are deeply woven into the fabric of my life. I am here for a week, an interlude, before heading to Vietnam on Sunday.

I will stop in frequently to post...apologies to those of you who follow me via email. You may get more than usual from me this week. :)

If I am lucky...I may inspire one or two of you to travel to this part of the is pretty special to me...I will tell you the where and how in upcoming posts.

At the moment, unwinding is in order and it all starts a cottage, by the sea, on a porch, where the soft wind blows...

I have very specific requirements when I look for a holiday rental near my hometown. A cottage first, but not just any has to have an essence of my childhood...and that goes back a fair bit.

I like simple...the flip flop kind of simple..where beach sand follows you in and treads gently under your feet. A cottage is not a cottage without a porch. My earliest and dearest memories of a summer's porch go back to my grandparent's cottage, where I happily curled up with my favourite Nancy Drew books (that girl knew how to take on an adventure). The more chairs the better as that is where family collects. Conversation seems to flow freely and happily when you mix words with glancing views out to the sea.

 I am always intrigued by the owners of the cottages we rent. 
Each little treasure is like turning page of an open book. 
I wonder who has come before us and who will come ahead of us.
One of those quirky things that is always on my mind..

This is what I was waiting for last week..this is what got me through those scores of boxes
and pages and pages of paperwork that never seemed to end. A porch with a view.

We are boating family...over the years they have come in all shapes and sizes. 
The dock to our cottage is waiting.

My boating days are more along the kayak variety. 
This is where I find peace. We hire them for as long as we stay...
They are good for the soul.

Signing off from my morning porch break... my kayak awaits. :)

Back glad you can travel with me!!!

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