Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Berlin in B Flat

The Irish are like salmon, they must return to their birthplace. In the case of the O Dowd sisters, it was to an Irish pub. They had to watch the all-Ireland match between Kerry and Cork, with Kerry winning.

If Berlin is the wall art/graffiti capital of the world, our IKEA outfitted apartment was located in the epicentre. Friedrachstain and Berlin makes like anything and everything goes. While New York may never sleep, Berliners never stop. A wonderful edginess saturates the city. I äm sure there are sanitized sections, but Singapore this aint. The renowned German know-how and tightly systemized world may be history as hip, cutting edge designs, fashions and homes shoulder up broken down rails and urban blight.

Highlights include Berliner Dom, Brandenburger Gates, Gendarmarkt, St Helwig and the Jewish Museum, the latter of which is heavily guarded, as is the Synagogue.

Other find was B Flat, a small jazz club way too avant garde for our Diana Krall-like diet, but worth every penny. The quartet from Norway, the US, Germany and Denmark, having met in Banff---an international synchronization.

Everyone bikes here---without helmets and only on the sidewalk, so walking is a hazard.

The collective hurt here is the recent flirtation with communism. The Wall is the most talked about relic and trauma. Strangely enough, Nazism is rarely mentioned, tho hordes of school kids are forced into the Jewish Museum.

Couldn't find German food other than the currywurst--bratwurst with a ketchup curry. Deep fried grasshoppers in Asia will have more appeal than that! Food is dirt cheap, as is living. Unemplyment is high, people from everywhere have flocked to Berlin.

Only hours before our flight to Beijing. We said our goodbyes to Mary and Una as they try to jump the Ryanair bag allowance, having laidened their carry on with shopping.

Weve locked ourselves out of the apt with luggage inside and are awaiting locksmith, Uh duhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!! Otherwise we are well, healthy, and ready to move on.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Scottish delights

So its hard to image a more beautiful city than Edinburgh. Somehow they've managed to by and large preserve the relics of a tragic and heroic history around every corner.
You won't see so much stone and fine craftsmanship anywhere...and we've been to Peru.
And somehow the turbulence of its heroes, villains, myths and legends are imbued in a national psyche that remains defiant to the English and globalism. Hurray to the Scots.
So come. Do check out the Royal Mile and its warren of cobblestoned alleys, nooks and crannies.
But it's the walks, the finely preserved architecture, the cathedrals that may not be laiden with tourist parapharnelia that stand out. And these are everywhere.
Okay, we were here off season, and August sees half of Europe here, but the highlands and the off beaten track hoods and walks are no less impressive.
And the homebrew, my God--thanks to Mike, I tasted real beer--real flavour. Kinda like discovering chocolate as a four yr old.
No way we got to do everything we wanted. Can you believe we never got time to do the Royal Brittania Yacht, or a distillery? But a well paced but non-rushed speed is our style, and staying with mates tempers our gallop while spicing the history lessons. Guess that means we come back later.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Haggis today, haggis tomorrow, haggis Everyday!!!

To all those who dared us to eat haggis, who tried to invoke the fear
of grey animal matter with oats....phooey to you all.
Haggis rocks. Beef, lamb, with gravy, without, with mash tatters and turnip, with oatcakes, name it's serious yummy!! Think meat pie without the pastry, or sausage without the casing but a whole lot tastier
Other Scottish delights. The people are chill, as is the weather though Trish and I like to think we brought joy and out of season sunshine to Edinburgh. The locals dont' have the frenetic pace of Londoners, even with hordes of tourists along Edinburghs's Royal Mile and in the central highlands. History is alive, the architecture has held up remarkably, from the imposing Edinburgh Castle, to the awe inspiring stained glass and stonework of St Giles Cathedral, to the surround sound Georgian, Victorian architecture, to the mish mash influences of Roman, Celt, Picts, Norse, Viking, French, Catholic, Protestant, Calvinism, and more, even the hated English.
We did one final last day touring Linlithgow---the kind of small town packed with genuine character harder and harder to find back home. It stands in the shadow of our favourite castle--the Linlithgow Palace. A long way from restored, but haunted with memories, authenticity and more tragic history than we'd find most anywhere back home.

To all those with Scottish backgrounds---shame on you that a skinny man with Chinese roots and a Yorkshire pudding English lass beat you here----ha ha ha!!!

Special thanks to our wonderful hosts Alette and Mike and their doooog, Japhur---who opened their home, played tour and beer guides, and showed what hospitality is all about.
And to Deanna, for a great day at Stirling, the Highlands, and Glasgow.
An indelible image of Scotland and its striking beauty are etched into our minds.
Next: We take Berlin

For more photos click below:

Wayne and Trish Edinburgh

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bonnie Scotland

Trish has always always wanted to go to Scotland.
And now with her great buddy Deanna there, and my writing compadre Alette and her hub Mike and their poodle in Edinburgh, there was no reason not to go.
We arrived at Mike and Alette's huge Edinburgh flat (2.5 x value of our Ottawa home, 14ft ceilings, 1000 sq ft, heritage area---wait, everything is heritage in Edinburgh) and immediately set out on a lovely walk with their poodle, Japhur. We strolled along a river in Stockbridge though the worker colonies of the old mill, passing by the ancient St. Bernards Well, with its round 1789 temple (think leafy brook riddled with old ruins tucked away in urban enclave).

The next day Alette took us on a magical mystery 2hour hike through an ancient wood snaking alongside the North Esk river.This well worn path is as old as the Inca Trail yet without a soul in sight, far more tranqui. It snaked towards the keep of Rosslyn Castle and on to the enigmatic Rosslyn Chapel. All you Da Vinci Code devotees will recall this stone wonder and its murky links to the fabled Kinghts of Templar. It takes its name from the celtic words for the sandstone overhangs and waterfalls, that dotted our trek. Through the trees we spied Hawthornden Castle, once home of poet Willliam Drummond. We picnicked on venison sandwiches by the running water and the many "burns" flowing into it. We felt like Hobbits on the way to Rivendell, minus the frightening Ringwraiths and wayward tourists.
Several leisurely miles later, Rosslyn emerged. Though it continues to go under massive restorations, it holds an eery silence. The stone walls and ceilings hark to an era when stonemasons and passionate devotion to craft and faith humbled all.

This quiet walk, and mysterious chapel would highlight our Scotland stage.

London Calling

London Calling
(click on pix above for more shots)

For our first overseas post, I was tempted to saturate this blog with pix and descriptions of London's many historical landmarks, it's stunning architecture, and vibrant hoods. But for us the most meaningful part of this portion of our travel was being with Stan, Trish's dad; and then visiting Flo and John.

John is Trish's uncle and Stan's older bro by 11 years. Stan (daddio) is nearing 82. Flo and John courted in the mid 30's until war broke out, then they quickly became legal and married. Do the math--that's 70yrs. After the war ended, they bought the walk up flat that they now occupy. It's smaller than our double garage and would fit right into a Coronation St set. It's faded wallpaper peels away with memories and stories.

Stan and John's bantering about old times was more entertaining and rich than any theatre. Two showmen with full memory, razor sharp wit and genuine sincerity belonging to another era. Somehow it was possible to see them as kids--still young, naive and with long lives to follow. They were worth the trip to London.

Afterwards, we continued on with daddio. The three of us walked and tubed for miles: The one of a kind and free British Museum (Rosetta Stone, half the surviving contents of the Parthenon, etc..), the pristine sounds of a concert at St Martin in the Fields, the majesty of Trafalgar Square fronted by the National Gallery and centred by Nelson's Column and lions, steadfast St Paul's Cathedral and the gothic enclave of their own Parliament, and on and on.

For Trish and I, seeing it twenty years after our last visit gave us more appreciation of the energy, the chic, the colour and the mojo of London. We dragged Stan everywhere, and everywhere he followed. From Stan's old haunts as an office boy to stock brokers, to the open street-like party of gay-village Soho, to the Palestinian demonstrators being taunted by hooligan English Defence League counter demonstrators---London wasn't how either of us remembered it.

At one point we asked daddio what was it like being a tourist in London. He replied that it was interesting. He didn't have to say it, but the never ceasing crowds and congestion, and the enormous changes could only be overwhelming for him or anybody with a previous life 50yrs ago. At one point after the Palestinian demonstration by Piccadilly Circus ended, we asked what he wanted to do next. He said he wanted to go home. By that he likely meant our charming Putney apartment overlooking the Thames. But he could have just as easily meant Toronto, where each of our parents landed 50 some years ago.

Stan slept in as we got up early for our morning train to Edinburgh. He would continue onwards to Seaford solo. I poked my head into his bedroom just before we left. He snored away like an 81yr old baby.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Itinerary

Our Itinerary is roughly laid out below. We only have up to our flights to China booked, the rest has purposely been left open, so that we can meander, be spontanous and have the flexability to fall in love with a place and stay for awhile.

London: touring the city with Stan (Trish’s Dad)
Scotland: to visit Allette, Mike and Deanna
Berlin: meeting the notorious Irish sisters, Mary and Una, to party




India (if time permits) and or Malaysia if Tom and family are stationed there.
Back home to Ottawa

South America and Antarctica – Wayne goes solo

The Bon Voyage Party

Thank you to all of you who came to our bon voyage party to wish us well on our great adventure.

Wayne is still recovering from the tequilla shots ;)


As any cook knows, it takes hours and days to prepare a good meal and seconds to eat it. The same goes for travel. We have been planning for this trip for 3 years.. and now that it is a matter of weeks away, we are frantically researching, packing and taking care of last minute details.

Prep ain’t cheap:
Shots: measles to Japanese encephalitis $1000 each
Meds: malaria pills to Tamiflu, $1000 each
Visas: China $80, Vietnam $120 each, etc.
Gear : packs, quick dry underwear etc.

The Blog

Nowadays laptops are required equipment for most travellers. We don’t get that. For us travelling is escapist, it is our birdie at COSTCO, ROGERS and all the other evil empires. So why do so many explore the world, then esconce themselves behind a screen?

Besides, who wants to read the minutae of a pair of self-indulgent DINKS. But aside from the many requests, there are two worthy reasons for blogging.

  1. For starters as one ages, two things begin to lose their potency and stamina. The first can be cured by a blue pill with uplifting results.
  2. The second is albeit less important, but is irreversable---memory loss. Someday we may forget who we are, but we will always have a journal and pix of the death trap we boarded to a remote village in Lao, or us puking our guts out.

So we will try and write an occational post to let you know that we are still allive and what we have been up.

MTnoise URL – The Trish and Wayne Brand Name

MTnoise – whats up with that in the blog address?
It is the name of our busines/NGO/ if we ever have one

M is for Monkey: Trish’s chinese animal
T is for Tiger: Wayne’s chinese animal
Noise: is whatever ‘noise’ or business we want to make. MT also sounds like ‘empty” so the idea is to fill the space up with some kind of activity and make some noise.

For Wayne Ng's latest travel adventures and book "Finding the Way: A Novel of Lao Tzu", please go to his website and blog at: ...