Christmas In POG

28 12 2011

This year, we spent Christmas in POG and it was certainly much different than any other Christmas I’ve experienced.  Normally we’re in cold Canada, sipping caesars, playing games, opening stockings, watching movies and eating A LOT with our family.

We started the Christmas weekend off with a dinner out with friends December 23.

Chez Jimmy with friends

Christmas Eve was spent at a friends house.  Each of us brought a dish and drinks and we chatted, ate and laughed the night away.  When I looked around the table it was evident just how multicultural our lives have become – Joe and I represented Canada, our hosts were Japanese and we also had Indian, Indonesian and British couples.

Christmas day, Joe and I woke up and watched “A Christmas Story” downloaded ahead of time, ate cinnamon buns made by me, and relaxed.  Later on we spent a few hours on the beach before returning home to make Pad Thai.  Certainly not very Christmassy but fine nonetheless.

Beach time

However, I did enjoy something Canadian…

I’d been saving that “Caesar Pleaser” packet since August when a fellow Canadian gave it to me to try.  Not near as good as the ‘real’ thing but did fine in a jam.

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A Week in Paradise

26 12 2011

Mauritius is beautiful – plain and simple.

The colour of the water, the beautiful beaches, the charming people and their hospitality made it the perfect holiday destination.  As I mentioned before, Joe & I were really looking to relax this trip.  We’ve had a busy year full of ups, downs and travels so we were ready to head somewhere where we didn’t have to do anything but had the option to do something in case we got bored.

We stayed at Hotel 20 Degres Sud and it was PERFECT.  Again, we chose something on the smaller side as the last thing we wanted was a giant resort with music blasting and big buffet meals.  20 Degres Sud has 34 uniquely decorated rooms and it was beautiful, tranquil and subtly luxurious.  It was so great that we didn’t even really want to leave — so we hardly did and we don’t regret it.  Our days were filled with beach, books, drinks & food and instead of describing, I’ll let you see for yourself.

20 Degres Sud from the water.

Our room that also included a giant clawfoot bathtub overlooking the ocean and an outdoor, rainfall shower.

Our private terrace

Poolside

A glimpse of the beach.

Drinks

In Grand Baie





Airport Grievances

21 12 2011

Nothing like going on vacation to remind you what a nightmare travel in Gabon can be.  It doesn’t seem to matter when we travel, how prepared we are or how much we’ve paid for the tickets, we will have problems.

The Port Gentil airport has been working on a new runway in hopes that Air France will begin direct flights here instead of through Libreville.  This started months ago and they had hopes to be finished in January but of course, they are behind schedule.  Sunday night the government announced they were going to close the airport from 6 pm – 6 am commencing immediately.  Most international flights arrive in LBV 5:30 pm and after so this means everyone who is arriving must now find accommodation for the night.  Did I mention, this is going to continue for at least 2 months?  (Luckily, Joe’s company re-arranged everything for us while we were in the air so we didn’t have to do it when we arrived.)

Air travel in Africa is something very different from the orderly and routine travel we’re used to in North America.  It can be incredibly aggravating and I could probably write grievances from now until the new year arrives but I’ll pick the worst.

  • Regional travel in Gabon is a nightmare.  On average, I’d say 30% of flights are cancelled.  This is almost never done ahead of time.  Often, you are at the airport and checking in when someone comes to notify you that the flight is no longer going.  Sometimes, they don’t even refund your ticket.  There are weeks where things are pretty stable and then there are weeks where the majority of flights don’t go.  Of those that do fly, 95% are not on time.
  • We’re used to checking ourselves in to the flight and showing our passports to verify our identity.  Here, anyone can check you in.  Often, you have 1 man ahead of you in the line and he makes several trips unloading dozens of bags in front of you.  The 1 man in front is actually checking in 6 different people with multiple bags.  It’s ridiculous and it slows things down incredibly.  The attendants complain, we complain but no one ever puts a stop to it.
  • There aren’t many laws here that are enforced so many people just don’t understand how to follow the rules.  When traveling internationally either to Gabon or from Gabon, a lot of passengers completely disregard the carry-on baggage allowance.  People show up at the gate with 4 giant bags and get angry when they are told they have to check 3 of them.  It also means that you have to make a mad rush to board just to ensure you have room for your one allotted bag because often the overhead storage is full before 1/3 of the plane is boarded.
  • For some reason, someone decided that all large flights coming from South Africa, Germany and France should depart and arrive within 10 minutes of each other.  This is never compensated for in terms of immigration and customs.  Undoubtedly, there are hundreds of people lined up and only 2 immigration workers stamping passports.  Often times, one of those 2 immigration workers decide they need a coffee break just as you make your way to the front and no one replaces him/her leaving you to return to the back of a now, much longer line.
  • The regional airlines have conveniently made their baggage weight a few kilograms lower than all other airlines.  (A clever money making strategy for them, but annoying for us.)  We are almost always overweight on the inter-Gabon flights so after you’ve finally fought your way to the front of the check-in line, you are told that you now have to find the ticketing counter, pay your excess baggage costs and return to the line to present the receipt to get your boarding ticket.  Just when you couldn’t stand that line a second longer, you have to go back.

I’m not even mentioning that much of this occurs without air conditioning in 30 degree heat.

Flying from Canada, South Africa & Europe, even with their problems, is like a breath of fresh air after Gabon.

I know I’ve been a bit absent from the blog but that is because Joe & I were enjoying a fabulous vacation in Mauritius.  We’re now back in POG and as soon as I get the rest of the photos uploaded, I’ll post about the trip!





It’s Beginning to Look A lot Like Christmas

6 12 2011

Wait, no it’s not!

I’m finding it a tad hard to get in the Christmas spirit.  Everyone is posting their tree decorating pictures and without that, I might not even know it’s the Christmas season probably because there is no

-snow,
-Christmas carols playing in the shops,
-Christmas commercials,
-red Starbucks cups,
-homes decorated with Christmas lights,
-extended shopping hours,
fireplace channel on the TV,

and
Christmas baked goodies.

Instead, all I have is the view of the Port Gentil Christmas tree lot…

The lot is conveniently located 1/2 a block from our house.

It includes a black tree still covered in white cotton - I assume it was used for Halloween as well.