Monthly Archives: June 2017

Sarah Turns 35 …. Kimberley Moments

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Our Sarah Liisa was born June 25, 1982 … memories take me back to those early months when I became a mother … what I remember very clearly from the first moment Sarah was placed in my arms, is the exquisitely tender protective love that washed over my whole being …. the blossoming of the heart valve, opening to the unconditional love of a mother for her child!   Brian and I spent those early months in awe, sometimes just watching Sarah sleeping!  Children are a gift so extraordinary that any descriptive somehow falls short.  Perhaps this is as it should be … ♥️

Flash forward, and here I am in Kimberley, British Columbia with Sarah and her family!    My own early all encompassing years of parenting, a long ago memory:)!!!   As beautiful a mountain setting as any, to celebrate her birthday … it appears the Kimberley Run may turn into an annual event.  It is Sarah’s second 10 km mountain run and Aliana’s second 1 km bike and run.  Rob may be encouraged to start training for next year, making it a family affair when Oliver turns three and qualifies for the 3-7 year category :)!!   I could hike it :)!!  Sarah and Rob’s friends the Jobidon family all joined in and completed the race as well.  Bravo to all!  

Had some fun park moments with the kids on the weekend … Keiran, Amie, Aliana and Oliver were fascinated by a little fawn that followed us back from the park to our condo …. it was quite sweet …. almost felt like he wanted to join them in their play ….  very endearing ♥️

  

The little ones were excited to surprise Sarah with birthday balloons, pie and ice cream!  I had a hard time finding 35 on a single balloon …. a 3 and 5 balloon worked!  

Whirlwind Vancouver Weekend … The Birthday Celebration Continues

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As if a birthday surprise to the South of France with my children was not enough to celebrate a 65th birthday, but a bonus weekend in Vancouver with my dear friend Linda thrown in? …. Wow!!  Linda and I have known each other for so long, we can scarcely remember a time we were not friends. We have been there for each other through life’s many joys and many challenges.  Our decades of theatre nights were always less about the plays than about the dinner before the play … a time to catch up, share, cry, celebrate, or laugh together.

We had a wonderful weekend of wining and dining, coffee stops, quiet moments people watching and savouring the coastal ambiance on a park bench at Kits Beach, or chatting benchside with the entertaining Kits Beach resident Tony Swain who, with little encouragement, shared his life story, a story worthy of a movie!   Adventurer, long ago pilot, journalist, author, race car driver … the list grew as he talked …. Tony had worn many hats in his working years  …. a man who dared to live by the seat of his pants for his whole life and apparently is still doing so :)!   Meeting this remarkable man reminded me to always remain open to others …. what we miss when we shield ourselves from interacting with strangers!!  Everyone has a story …. a story worth listening to.

Our weekend set sail with the Deva, Miten, Manose concert at Vogue Theatre …. an evening of pure Sanskrit chant magic and concluded with a solitary Stanley Park seawall walk (Linda flew home Sunday, I Monday night) …..  The pictures weave a weekend story … Namaste






Chamonix Revisited …

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  1. The final leg of my birthday extravaganza found us entrenched in freeway traffic for seven hours!   National holiday week, Cannes Film Festival and the Grand Prix all major contributors to the jam!  After inching our way on freeways, all the while being charged a king’s ransom in toll fees, we finally arrived in the rather lovely mountain village of Chamonix.   Summer crowds had not yet materialized leaving the town pretty much to ourselves.  Only a handful of tourists and the hearty hiker crowd in town!  Decades ago, Brian and I had flown there from Kuwait, to meet up with my eldest sister Pirjo and her husband Bill for a ski week!  The memories were overwhelming and poignant.  We were two then, just really starting out on our married lives, 25 and 27!   I return with two children, their partners and two grandchildren … ‘we’ had grown from two to eight!   Memories flooded my heart and mind … I had many tearful moments as I walked the back roads in the early morning mist that first day!   The memories of a long ago Chamonix, coated in winter’s snowy landscape was replaced by the stillness of a mountain sunrise and a field of wild flowers, reminiscent of a Claude Monet painting.  

The chalet the kids had found yet again on trusty Airbnb was everything one could wish for in a mountain setting!  More rooms than we needed certainly but utilize them we did!   Thrilled to find a true Finnish sauna and cedar hot tub outside!!!  And once again, a child’s dream yard where Ronan, Quinn, Oliver and Aliana could play and squabble in equal measure with abandon, or soak in the warmth of the hot tub, or just enjoy a patio surrounded by mountain views one could only dream of. 

 

We all took turns with the various activities available in Chamonix … hikes without youngsters, hikes with them, (all of us taking a turn with childcare),  even a day of shopping in town for hiking boots for some 🙂 or a Gondola trip to the dizzying heights of 12,000 feet for others.  Brian skied down this same hill above the clouds forty years ago!  My sister Pirjo and I, being rather ummmm, tentative skiers at the time, had opted to stay on the lower slopes :).  Somewhere in a dusty faded photo album, I will find those pictures of that long ago time in our personal history.  I loved it at the top …. feeling cradled in the heart of a mountain.  I was loathe to leave, wanting yet again to linger longer. 




A final evening fondue was in order as we bid adieu to Chamonix … finished off with, what else??? Gelato for the children 🙂

 

Leaving Chamonix behind we sped  along the Italian Rivera, going through so many tunnels, we lost count.  The six km long one through Mount Blanc alone was incredible …  a fait accompli!!  The toll stations were everywhere at an ever increasing cost … paying the price for the engineering feat of long tunnels bored through whole mountains,  I guess!  

We arrived in Nice for our final day, minus Tim and Liseanne who took a bus from Chamonix to Geneva for a day,  continuing on to Spain for an additional week of holiday.  

A final early evening walk along the sea, an extravagantly delicious dinner at La Petite Maison, a restful sleep, a morning walk to the market for berries and we were off again for the long commute home!  Thank you my children, my grandchildren, Jenn and Gary et al for a most memorable trip!  Love them all very much.  Au revoir français c’est un voyage amusant!  


A Perfect Idyll – A Country Farmhouse in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

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We bid au’revoir to seaside Cassis and the Mediterranean and hit the inland freeways, where cruising speeds of 140 – 160 are the norm …. toll stations appear to be part of every road network, thus far, ranging from a few Euro per use to well over twenty … beautiful roads but costly to drive!  We arrive at our next destination, a converted farmhouse in San Remy …. a touch of tranquility in Provence!  A place to stretch out, chill, swim, let the kids, big and small kick a soccer ball around the acres of grass, jump on a trampoline, explore a quaint town teeming with restaurants and the many nearby vineyards and oh yes, give everyone a chance to do laundry as well 🙂 ….  

A wine tour with Olivier through parts of the Rhone Valley proved to be a totally interesting, informative and fun day.  Olivier, of both French and English heritage is totally bilingual … the British side prevailed.   A delightful man, full of knowledge, and funny to boot.  We sampled our way through various vineyards …. white and rose Vacqueyras, red Gigondas, red Côte du Rhone, red and white Chateauneuf-du-Pape and various other wines that I have forgotten :).   We learned the importance of ‘terroir’ …. weather, wind, soil type, and a myriad of other conditions and situations that influence and determine the quality and taste of a wine.  The day culminated in a delicious late day luncheon at a restaurant located in the unbelievably bucolic tranquil countryside.  Again, we lingered long, savouring the day.  As I sit here today, in a cafe in Kelowna, typing this, my thoughts and mind easily float back to France.   I feel so blessed to have had this experience with my children, their partners, my grandchildren, Jenn, Gary and their children …  How kind and thoughtful they all were to arrange all this.  It is not easy planning and carrying out an overseas trip for adults, never mind one with young children to consider  …. a Herculean effort surely and one that succeeded brilliantly.  


A most enjoyable dip into life in Provence … a bit of education, a touch of exercise for all, relaxing homey ambiance, lots of wining and dining …. good fun!  Onward … en avant … to the French Alps! 

Nice, Monaco, Villefranche, Antibes, Cassis – Continuant Le Voyage

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One would think that eleven people, four of them young children aged one, two, three and five all living under the same roof for two weeks would create a totally chaotic and crazy experience but strangely, it was relatively peaceful and enjoyable for the most part, with only a few moments of slightly frayed tempers … well actually that would be me one evening on day twelve as I recall 🙂 …. I was bone tired from not too much solid sleep … two kids went to bed early and woke up at the crack of dawn with much fanfare … two stayed awake as late as possible with equal fanfare … the young adults seem to handle this situation better than I, perhaps because of an abundance of energy at their age versus that of someone my age …. they forget I need my sleep or the cranks move in :).   Mostly smooth sailing though for everyone, thanks in large part to Sarah and Liseanne researching and finding awesome Airbnb properties with yards, play centres, trampolines, pools and dirt for the kids to play in and with 🙂 … when the little ones are happy, far easier for the rest of us to be as well!   Any concerns about moving house every three or four days were quickly abandoned … everyone handled it like seasoned pros.  

Tim, Liseanne and I decided to venture into Monaco one day …. a twenty minute drive away from our home in Nice.

After squeezing our car into the smallest parkade ever, space being a premium, we did a walkabout through the town/country (Monaco is roughly two square kms, with a population under 40,000).   Lots of opulence in that wee country by the sea …..  Albert II is the reigning monarch of the Principality of Monaco and head of the princely house of Grimaldi. 

The Grand Prix was to take place a week later …. the place was buzzing with prep activity.  Massive yachts lined the bay, as the uber wealthy moved into town to participate in the big race … a sport for the one percentile!  We sat by the water’s edge and savoured truffle cheese, a charcuterie platter and the ubiquitous glass of wine, thoroughly enjoying some relaxed time. 

 

Villefranche Sur Mer has a special atmosphere with the warmth and charm of a small fishing village from a bygone era, allowing for a pleasant slower pace of life.  We had planned to tie up with the others in this village but they were leaving just as we arrived …. we had lingered longer than planned in Monaco!  The little ones had apparently had quite enough car and restauarant time at that point and were antsy to head back to play at the villa :)!   Tim, Liseanne and I opted for a quiet seaside dinner in Villefranche before hitting the freeway craziness back to Nice.  I remain impressed with Tim’s handling of the French road system without the aid of GPS.  Liseanne admirably handles the manual navigating with very few blips … Rob and Gary did admirably as well and despite using GPS, it still required vigilance and help from their trusty navigators, Sarah and Jenn!  All in all, I was thrilled to have the back seat in this regard … my sense of direction or rather lack thereof, would have found us going in circles 🙂

The following day found us all exploring the streets of the once thriving fishing village and port of Antibes, now known as much for its luxurious homes that dot the landscape as it is for its reputation as the cultural heart of the Côte d’Azur.  Within the old castle walls, sits the Musee Picasso … he lived a spell in Antibes, hence the honour I imagine.   We explored the cobbly old town streets, stopped at the local outdoor market (love these!!) to replenish produce supplies, taking time for a leisurely lunch to munch on a delicious French version of a club sandwich, accompanied of course by a glass of Rose!   Afternoon seemed like a good time to dip into the Mediterranean for a swim in a quiet little bay and soak in some rays.   Another charming village by the sea where one could most certainly linger longer … my life motto 🙂  

A short drive from Antibes, we arrive at our villa in Cassis.  We were all in agreement that Cassis was a favourite stop for all of us!  A most charming small coastal town with a relaxing vibe permeating the air.  A favourite part was being able to walk into town … a nice bit of exercise!  The villa was superb with a well equipped kitchen …. inspiring Rob to cook a meal for us all … a nice break from restaurants!  Shrimp, chicken, pasta, veggies … delicious!  

The little ones loved the ‘merry go round’ by the sea not to mention another large yard and pool to play in!  Totally loving the French Riviera … Côte d’Azur ❤️

Sarah, Jenn, Tim and Liseanne all hiked the majestic Calanque ‘range’ one afternoon … Gary, Rob, the kids and I stayed behind enjoying the amenities at the villa. 

Tim, Liseanne and I took in a boat excursion on our last day in Cassis to view the Calanques up close …. unbelievable formations and a view up close that was not possible hiking from above …. the Calanques of Cassis are a unique geological formation usually comprised of limestone or granite, made up of deep, narrow valleys with sharp edges, partly submerged in the sea … the shapes apparently bear resemblance to those of the Norwegian fjords. 

Another great day in France! 


Birthday Surprise – Côte d’Azur, Provence, Chamonix Bound 

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Last year, my children asked me to set aside May 18 to June 1st, 2017 for a surprise 65th birthday trip.   Amazingly, the surprise was kept right until check in at the airport!   To add to the surprise factor, was seeing Jenn and her family at check in!!   We had a veritable party assembled.  The Magic begins …..  Destination … Southern France …. the luminous Côte d’Azur!   A long day of travel ensued, including a hurried Pret a Manger food stop at Heathrow!  They serve the tastiest healthiest airport food ever!!   A short connector flight to Nice and we were in business!!  A bit of a scramble followed, picking up cars, children’s car seats, with valiant attempts by the guys to stuff our waaaay too many large bags into these vehicles and find room for the humans as well 🙂 …. somehow a miracle happened and we all fit!!! …. Not one of us obviously pays much heed to travel guru Rick Steve’s advice …. simplify your needs … carry on bags only!   I should have taken a picture of the lot of us and our stash … it was a sight to behold!  Off we drove to navigate our way from the airport to our villa somewhere in the hills of Nice!  We arrived very late to our rather sprawling first Airbnb home, our first stop on the Côte d’Azur adventure.  Tim and Liseanne had kindly gone out early in the morning, bringing back breakfast fixings for the rest of us!  So considerate ❤️ To climitize our minds and bodies to a new time zone, the first order of the day was a walk along the seaside, savouring the turquoise Mediterranean, exploring the ambiance of Nice.  The fresh sea air felt heavenly!   Sarah had organized a street food tour for our second day, complete with a fabulous outdoor market!  Nadia was as cheerful a host as one could possibly wish for … she had a rather persistent smile.  She introduced us to local delicacies, such as pissaladière, my personal favourite – a pizza but not exactly … more a tart topped with onion, anchovies and olives, ratatouille which originated in Nice, petits farcis –  a classic Niçoise specialty takes vegetables such as eggplant, tomatoes and zucchini and stuffs them with ground meat, garlic and bread crumbs and can be served hot or cold, various different breads, sweet rolls, cheese, pestos and tapenades, crisp local Rose wines ..  a classic accompaniment, we were told, with every summer meal in Nice.  We all concurred and followed suite with local customs :)!!!  Did I mention gelato?!   A daily stop encouraged by our four little folk …. big folk did not complain :).  We all passed on the local cheap wine poured from large barrels into Evian water bottles … we politely sipped the sampler but quickly chucked it discreetly into the garbage when Nadia’s back was turned  …. this remained our only unanimous reject 😙 The food tour finale was a sampling of local Rose served up with a tasty platter of the various appetizers!  A fine start to our culinary explorations of Southern France …. à votre santé!

The berries were beyond tasty and in a league of their own … all sun ripened local produce!