Getting closer to home…

March25

We said good-bye to family and friends in Toronto and headed west.
Moose

We were eagerly awaited by loving family in Vancouver. We had a get-together the next day and it was another wonderful Hunt-Kerfoot celebration. The guys are gettin’ their man on with this great looking hunk o’ beef.
Beef

We had a great meal, topped off with these cute cakes:
Cakes

All this celebrating can be pretty tiring for a jet-lagged three year old…
Pooped

But it’s always fun hanging out with other kids, espcially their friend Imogen.
3 girls

Détente aux Laurentides – Relaxing in the Laurentians

March21

We made a visit to our dear adoptive family, Jacques et Nadine. They have a wonderful chalet in the woods on Lac Doré north of Ottawa. It is very quiet and relaxing there. This year there is still almost a metre of snow there so we had some fun sledding.
Em slides
Maddie slides
The girls love to feed the local deer, who come to the house twice daily for corn and alfalfa pellets.
Feeding deer
On this visit, a neighbour left her dog, Fluffy, with us for a few days. She was well loved.
Fluffy
Nous sommes tristes de dites au revoir aux Jacques et Nadine…à la prochaine!!

Canada!

March15

Although it is always hard to come to an end to one’s travels, we were very excited to come back to Canada. I can’t say why exactly we were so excited, perhaps it’s the familiarity of being surrounded by English-speaking people, or perhaps the knowledge that we are in a relatively safe environment, but definitely coming home to mom’s cooking is always a treat!
Our travels have not ended yet, we spent a week in Toronto visiting friends and relatives. We visited the McMichael Gallery, which has a large number of paintings by the Group of Seven. Lawren Harris is one of my favourite painters. This modern interpretation of a totem pole was quite interesting.
Modern totem
Simon had a jam night with our friend Carl, while our kids played with theirs. We never would have imagined this scenario way back when Carl and I were in college together!
Jamming
The girls had a chance to play with more children of our friends, which is always a bonus for all of us.
Girls
Also not previously imaginable is Simon’s past fire crew-mate, Dean, reading bedtime stories to all of our girls. Life is so full of irony!
Bedtime stories

London

March8

London. So big. So little time. We mainly came to London to meet up with my high school buddy, Brett, and his family. It’s been a lot of years but the giggles are all the same!
We took the kids to see the London Bridge. Of course the song was sung and aptly videotaped.
London bridge
After that we took the tube over to the London Eye, the world’s largest ferris wheel.
London eye
We figured this was the best way to see as much of London as possible. The views were great and it was nice and cozy in the sun-basked pod.
London skyline
We ended our visit with a fine Indian meal. It was so great to see Brett and meet Ali and Danielle. We thank them so much for making the trip down for the day to see us as well!
Buds

La Belle Paris

March4

Our stay in Paris started with a trip to the Canadian embassy, which all worked out just fine. After that we went over to see the world famous Louvre museum.
Le Pyramide
A bit of trivia, there are 35,000 pieces of art in there. If you spent one minute in front of each piece, it would take you 4 months to see it all. Needless to say we saw a fraction of it, but it was impressive none-the-less.
I loved the sculputres:
Sculpture
The rest of the family was quite enamoured with the Ancient Egyptian displays. This stone tablet is very, very, very old.
Heiroglyphics
There were a lot of nice sacophagus’ and even a real mummy. I think that was the girl’s favourite.
The next day we went up the Eiffel tower. A note of advice to any future-goers: It is cold and very windy up there in the winter. Even if it’s kind of nice lower down. Our stay at the top was brief but a nice view anyways.
Top of the tower
A different kind of perspective:
Eiffel tower
Family at the Eiffel tower
We took a boat trip along the Seine. The architecture is beautiful:
Paris architecture
And beautiful near-sunset views:
Paris skyline
The next day I went to pick up our passports and had a leisurely baguette while sitting on the Champs-Elysees. After that I strolled along the Seine on my way to the Musee d’Orsay. Tellement francais! The museum was beautiful and houses many famous impressionist works of art by some of my favourite painters; Van Gogh, Matisse, Monet, Gaugin, Degas, Seurat, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Rodin, amongst others. Simon hopes that I am inspired to create masterpieces of my own! We shall see…

Tarbes

February26

After Cannes we took the train across the bottom of France, southwest towards Toulouse. A little farther south is the city of Tarbes, where Simon’s Australian cousin and his family live. Our first day was the epitomy of a beautiful spring day in France. We enjoyed a lovely midday meal outside with James, Caroline, Alais and little Julien.
Dejeuner
Afterwards we enjoyed a walk to the park, the little cousins are having a great time together:
Cousins

Monaco

February24

While we were in the French Riviera we took a short train ride to the principality of Monaco. We took a tour bus ride to see the sights, as it’s not very big at all.
Monaco
We also took a boat ride across the harbour inbetween the old city and Monte Carlo:
Monaco harbour
Here is the castle entrance where Prince Albert II still lives:
Monaco castle
The Grand Casino in Monte Carlo:
Casino
But, for it’s size, the degree of opulence is off the charts. We had our most expensive meal so far; a Caprese salad, a chocolate crepe, a margherita pizza, 2 hot chocolates, a tea and a glass of wine, all for $75!! I figure it was a $50 view of the harbour! I guess with all the decadent and rich choices in the food department, this may come in handy for some:
Defibrillator
Here’s how the big boys compete with their toys:
Big radar

%$&*#!!!!!!!

February23

So, on a trip that includes 10 countries, 9 languages (8 of which I don’t speak), and over 25,000 kms, there’s bound to be a bad day. The last 24 hours certainly fit that bill.
In the wee hours of the morning, as we finished packing our bags, it all looked idyllic.
Pals
We awoke to a snowstorm in Munich, only the second that winter. It slowed the driving down considerably and we were late getting to the train station. As Simon physically touched our train as it was about to pull away we were not on it. So much for the 500 km/hr non-stop trip to Paris. As we had a connecting flight to get later that day, we opted for the only other available option; a train with 3 connections. Seeing as we have 5 pieces of luggage, 2 small children and I cannot run or climb stairs quickly, this is a major undertaking. We were totally keen on being first out the door on the first stop; so keen that we got off one station TOO EARLY! We actually thought the train was 4 minutes ahead of schedule. Bad move…So there we were, stuck in somewhere Germany. Simon ran around the city centre and checked in 10 cafes, and no internet in sight. The DeutscheBahn ticket office could not guarantee seats on a French train so we were seemingly screwed. Simon did check in with a travel agent in his cafe search and found that we were near Frankfurt and maybe we could catch the 2pm plane to Paris.
Speed!
TGV
A new city added to our list:
Frankfurt Hbf
Enthusiastically we booked the 2 necessary trains to get to Frankfurt Flughafen (airport). All was going well until the second train; it was delayed 25 minutes. By the time we arrived at the airport and took the shuttle bus to Terminal 2 it was too late to catch that plane. Foiled again! So we checked at the dodgy-looking ‘last minute flights’ desk, which looked to be funded by the Russian mafia, and they offered us a ‘deal’ worth $1500 CAD to fly to Paris for all of us. Well, we settled for losing a lesser amount of money and missing our Paris to Nice flight and got a train to Nice instead. I was pretty happy about taking the TGV to Paris then transferring by Metro to another train station then taking a night train in a sleeper cabin. It was a great ride to Paris, the Metro went off without a hitch and we tiredly boarded our night train to Nice. We slept soundly and it was a great sleep.
The next morning the train made it’s first stop at Toulon at about 6:30am. This stop woke me up so I quietly slipped out, gently closed the door and padded down the hallway as nature called. When I returned the door was open, as often happens on a moving train so I thought nothing of it. As I slipped into bed I noticed my purse had moved. I figured it fell off the end of my bed and I would get in upon daybreak. What ACTUALLY happened is that some opportunist seized the chance AND my bag and it was gone. Wallet, passports, i-pad, i-pod, all GONE. It was a sad realization. The rest of our day consisted of making the necessary phone calls, filing a report at the station and again after a 3 hour wait at the police station, which pretty much took up our day. We did have a few moments to take in the beauty of Nice and a nice creperie for lunch.
But all’s well that ends well. The girls were thrilled that we took a double-decker train to Cannes. We met our Romanian friend Gheorghe who has an apartment at the truly swanky Grand Hotel.
Grand Hotel
We took a lovely sunset walk on the promenade and dined on truffle foie gras, a special Alsatian dish of confit de canard aux pommes de terre and fine French wine. Magnifique!!

Playing Bavaria

February22

Our friends in Munich have some lovely traditional Bavarian clothing. We took the opportunity to dress up just for fun! Prost!
bavarians

Munich

February21

Our ten days in Munich was really great. We had a great visit with our friends who had a lovely dog, Maya.
Maya and girls
What most of the world thinks of as German is, in fact, Bavarian. Leiderhosen, dirndls, beer halls, castles and painted alpine cottages, they are all to be found in Bavaria.
We visited the Neuschanstein castle, built by King Ludwig II, until his mysterious and untimely drowning in a nearby lake in 1886. Construction of the castle was halted upon his death, and it became a museum only 6 weeks later.
Neuschwanstein
Today, still only 1/3 of the interior of the castle is finished and there was to be another taller tower in the castle as well. This castle is the one that Walt Disney got his inspiration for the Disneyland Sleeping Beauty castle.
Neuschwanstein towers
As many know, Munich is the centre of the Oktoberfest celebrations. This is a statue of the Queen of Bavaria, who overlooks the giant field when, for 3 weeks in October, 8,500,000 people gather to celebrate and drink beer. The field holds over 100,000 people at one time. There are many beer tents, and one has the capacity of 8,000 people, about the population of Revelstoke!
bavaria
We did some touring around the central and oldest part of Munich as well. Here is the beautiful city hall.
Rathaus
Later in the day we visited the Hofbrauhaus, the official brewhouse of the King of Bavaria over 400 years ago. Many of the locals come dressed in the traditional Leiderhosen and hats adorned with tufts of the beard of a local goat.
Hofbrauhaus
Here is Simon with his one litre mug of beer!
Beer!
I opted for the Weiss-beer, or white beer, which comes in a more managable size.
Yay for beer!
There was a guy’s stag going on at the table beside us and the girls charmed the table and got some of their party favours from them.
Clowns
We took a night walk around the city centre after the brewhouse, watching the local nightlife and beautiful historic buildings lit up.
Hofbrauhaus outside
It was a big day for little girls.
Sleeping girl
It was my birthday this week, and My friend, Dana, made my favourite cake, a Black Forest cake. It was really yummy!
Black forest cake
Thanks to Norman and Dana for hosting us in their lovely house! We look forward to them visiting us in Canada!
Munich friends

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