A Travellerspoint blog


rain 9 °C

I get home yesterday to find a $50 voucher for WestJet, coursesy of my close and personal friend MasterCard. But I've already booked my WestJet flight from Ottawa to Toronto - which set me back $140 #&*#*& Canadian bucks. It was better than Montreal-Toronto, however, at nearly $200. And that's for a one-way flight!

So after a long chat with an overly friendly WestJet lady (are they trained to be so happy?), turns out I booked too early to take advantage of the voucher. Everything else she would have let slip - I already booked, it was put on my friend's company card, I couldn't find my reservation number. BUT! Too early, so sorry, have a very nice day, dear.

Posted by tway 06:04 Archived in Canada Tagged preparation Comments (0)

Indian Summer

Please, please, please don't let it end...

27 °C

Today is the 6th of October and the weather man has given us a rare gift. It is 27 degrees C today. It is hot and humid and so sunny you can't spot a cloud. It's been like this since last Saturday, when we sat outside on the porch in the country, absolutley amazed at the heat of the October sun and wishing we'd thought to bring t-shirts. The trees on the mountains were changing colours in the blink of an eye, but here we were as if it were the middle of August. It's odd and a bit unsettling, this Indian Summer business, but I'm hanging on to every last bit of it.

It's all supposed to end tonight, broken apart by a weekend of rain. But I don't want to believe it. I don't. Because after the rain comes more rain, and then colder rain, until one day you look out the window and squint really hard only to realize it's not rain any more. Suddenly the cold, wet slop has given up completely and the snow is here to stay. And not just pretty Holiday snow! Six bloody long months of snow, melting snow, sideways-blowing snow, snowstorms, slush, hail, snow in your boots, snow down your neck, snow on the carpet, snow on the floor, and finally melted snow soaked up into your socks.

So tonight I'm going to take advantage of this small unexpected gift. It can rain all it wants tomorrow. It's been a long, lovely summer.

Posted by tway 13:11 Archived in Canada Comments (1)

Belfast by way of Ottawa

Taking the scenic route

semi-overcast 20 °C

So flights costing what they do here in North America, I'd originally planned to take the train to Toronto (an 8 hour ride or so) and from there catch my plane to Belfast. But - 8 hours? And then the trip's just barely begun? Well, when you put it that way...

So my good friend Debby suggested she could get me a deal through work. Air Canada was charging something outrageous for a one-way ticket (upwards of $300) and United had me bumping around all over airports along the border till I finally settled down in Toronto six hours and $600 US later. But WestJet had a space at $99 ($132 with taxes I still can't figure out) - IF I leave from Ottawa. Which is a two-hour drive away. Without traffic. And I don't have a clue where the airport could be - maybe another hour outside the city or something.

So Debby and I are planning to make a day of it - leave in the morning and find a place in the Capital to sit and veg and drink sangria till we're wobbly and then go for a walk along the canal. The plans at the beginning and the end of my trip are unravelling just a tiny bit - nothing drastic, just small changes that I have to consider and plan around. But I'm hoping they'll unravel to reveal something rare and unexpected and beautiful underneath.

Posted by tway 16:17 Archived in Canada Tagged preparation Comments (0)

A glitch!

So that's the catch with cheap airfare.

semi-overcast 22 °C

So Zoom Airlines sends me a reminder that the rest of my ticket fare for October is due (hello, Mr. MasterCard), and at the bottom of a terribly long e-mail I do a double take. My plane from Paris home on November 12th is leaving at 8 in the morning? I thought take-off wasn't untill 11:30!

And sure enough, when I check my previous ticket confirmation (doesn't the name itself imply something that's confirmed?) it clearly states that the plane leaves Charles de Gaulle at 11:30. Now, I'm an early bird - so missing sleep for an early flight doesn't bother me much. The problem is that I will be in Caen - 3 bloody hours from Paris where the morning trains only start running at 5. So, if I do the math:

5 a.m. + 3 hours = 8 a.m.

Arrrghhh! So I take a deep breath and figure OK, hold on, let's get a few hours sleep and catch a night train. But it turns out that the latest one runs at 7 in the evening. So now my choices are:

a) catch the 7 p.m. train and sleep at the airport (and hopefully get a refund on the last night of my hotel stay - which I've already booked)

b) leave November 11th in the afternoon and book a place to sleep in Paris

The problem with the latter is that I'm going to Normandy to be there on November 11th for the Remembrance Day ceremonies. That's why I chose the flight I did on the day I did and at the time it was offered. But an insignificant time change (so said the guy at the 'help' desk when I called to complain - while adding that flight changes are covered in the Terms and Conditions) has gone and put a big stick in my wagon wheel, as they say in French.

I guess that's all part of travelling - making adjustments and amendments to plans you thought were set in stone. Still, with all this changing of flight times willy nilly, it's a wonder we ever get anywhere. It does explain why my baggage usually ends up visiting another city, though.

Posted by tway 17:35 Archived in Canada Tagged preparation Comments (3)

No mosquitoes in August!

A weekend in Saint-Faustin-Lac-Carré

overcast 27 °C

We were supposed to leave after work on Thursday night, but a last-minute booking nixed our free night - and between the late sleeper and the last-minute packer, we were finally on the road Friday at 2. Neal and I were smart and hopped into the car that had air conditioning and leg room, and left a few others to fend for themselves with the open windows and overexcited Labradors in the much smaller car. At least I didn't end up with dog drool in my hair!

Saint-Faustin is about 2 hours north of Montreal - just short of the big resort town of Mont Tremblant. We rented the same chalet we did two years ago - this little lopsided thing that smells of mildew and too many greasy meals, with old dirty curtains and musty pillows (we brought our own). But it's secluded and quiet and they don't mind if you bring along dogs (although try playing badminton with two Labs who keep running away with the shuttlecock!).

So we picked our rooms, made up the beds, drove to the nearset grocery store (which was huge and absolutely packed with out-of-town campers - no where else in Quebec could you be in the middle of the country and hear so much English). We made it almost all the way back to the chalet when Debby and I looked at each other and realized we'd forgotten, of all things, to pick up the beer. So back we went, with a stop at Canadian Tire for a cord of wood - as the sign on the property clearly told us we weren't allowed to cut down the limp trees on the lawn, although it looked like other people had taken their chances.

Neal made tartiflette for supper - an embarassing quantity of potatoes and cheese, but very good. I tried to counter it with a green salad, but half ended up in the trash. And David made his famous punch - a ridiculously expensive concoction that tastes like candy and is reputed to go down easy (although Leanne disagreed with that all over the front porch on Saturday night). It was so nice, just sitting outside around the fire, roasting marshmallows until you just can't eat a single one more (then just burning them to bits for the fun of it).

The next day we went out to Lac-Carré - square lake. It wasn't very square and someone dubbed it Lake Mercury for its strange red colour. We sat for hours in the water with make-shift "fish catchers" - bits of clear tupperware and water bottles - to try and nab us a minnow. I caught about 15 teeny, tiny, see-through things - and Leanne's growing frustration was finally abated when she captured a nice, big minnow and a tadpole, to boot. After showing off our prize catches to a clearly unimpressed 9-month-old on the beach, we set them all back in the questionable water to meet their own fates.

There's nothing quite like three full days of eating, drinking, swimming, feeding fires, sitting around, chasing after runaway shuttlecocks, trying to remember how to play volleyball, distracting your sister so she won't spill the beans about some embarassing story or other, plotting future practical jokes, and just enjoying the company of the people you love best in the world. It may be a two-bit chalet in a hick town, but it's as good as travelling to me.

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Neal and I and Jazz's tail in the background.

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Neal and I at the "beach".

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Tartiflette! Before we were stuffed silly.

Posted by tway 12:42 Archived in Canada Comments (4)

Vamos a la playa...

... in good ol' Quebec.

rain 21 °C

One of the great advantages of working in an overly relaxed office is that we get Friday afternoons off all summer long. And for the last month or so, we've been packing up my friend Debby's car every lunchhour come Friday to head off to glorious Oka Beach just outside Montreal.

Now, Oka Beach is no Fort Lauderdale. It's not even Plattsburgh, NY. But it's got sand and water and a snack bar and the occassional good-looking lifeguard. Plus it's a great way to pass a lazy afternoon and the smell of suntan lotion and beer reminds me of those summers my sister and I spent in Florida with my grandparents (my grandfther was a big fan of beer).

Oka does have its drawbacks, though. Oka is part of a lake that jetties out from the infamously polluted St. Laurence river. The water quality for Oka is posted at the entrance of the park, and it can read anything from "Excellent" to "Watch out for visible floaters". Just kidding, just kidding. But last week the quality dropped from "Excellent" to "Good" and we all looked at each other and wondered what foreign entity was messing up the water and whether or not we'd have the privilege of running into one. Or getting one caught between our toes.

No matter - we were there and it was 35 degrees C with humidity and we had an inconspicuous water bottle full of vodka and enough change to get some cold Cokes. I bought Neal a bathing suit for Christmas, I think it was, that was made for swimming laps in the pool but lo-and-behold not so much for the beach. The closest I can describe it is that he looks like a floundering pot-bellied man minus the pot belly. Plus his tag is always sticking out.

But he's a fish out of water and I have to keep reminding him to put on more sunscreen, as our first trip turned his pasty-white Irish self into a well-cooked lobster. He's also good for curbing our occasional bout of complaining (cause that's what women do) with a hearty "Wise up!" and then we realize, once again, that it's Friday afternoon, and we're not working, and we're sitting on a beach in the sun with a vodka-and-Coke, and life is good after all.

Posted by tway 10:04 Archived in Canada Comments (4)

Putting things into perspective

or "the art of living"

semi-overcast 28 °C

Had to share this, as I've just gotten off the phone and a really bad day has sudenly turned into a very calm moment.

I interviewed a couple whose son has a progressive, as-yet-incurable disease. He can't take care of himself, and their lives are absolutely chalk-a-block filled with doing things for him that most of us take for granted. Yet what came out over and over again was how he's an inspiration to them - a strong, positive, caring boy who wants to help other kids who he sees as worse off that he is.

Here I was trying to get info to include in a newsletter and make our mailing date, and there's this family that is both physically challenged and spiritually (or whatever word you want to use) strong. And suddenly my deadline and my busted laptop and my MasterCard bill (the one with the plane ticket!) and the pile of dirty laundry on the floor at home are all put into perspective.

It's a great gift to be alive, and to have the privilege of worrying about things like planning a trip and trying to get that dang "list" button in the forums to work properly. I think I'll come back to this blog whenever I start to turn the little things into big things, and I'll remember that the art of living is about appreciating what it means to be alive.

Posted by tway 14:37 Archived in Canada Comments (1)

Five months and counting...

sunny 29 °C

That's how long till my next trip. Five months. I've already booked my plane ticket, reserved part of the hotel stay, and nagged the boyfriend about going to see Giant's Causeway this time. I'm a little ahead of myself, but I like the feeling of knowing I'm going. E-tickets take away a little of the "got the ticket in hand" feeling, but I suppose I could just wave my MasterCard bill around and get a similar high.

So here's the plan so far: take the train (or a lift, if I can find one) to Toronto, fly to Belfast, stay 2 weeks, then fly to Southampton, bus it to Portsmouth, and then take the ferry over to Caen for 5 days before flying out of Paris. Sounds like a lot of cities, but I'll be seing most through the windows of moving vehicles.

I'm excited about Ireland, although I've been before and the lack of "newness" takes a little of the edge off. Still, I have a long list of places I'd like to see or see again, and I can't think of the of duck and sweet/mashed potato dinner at the Northern Whig without my mouth watering. Throw in cheap beer and a chance to see Neal for two more weeks before we're apart again for 7 more months and there you go.

In Caen, my goal is to see all the D-Day beaches and cemeteries, and attend the Canadian Rememberance Day ceremonies on Juno Beach on November 11th. It's one of those always-wanted-to-do-it things - both because the history of WWII fascinates me, and because my grandfather landed on St-Aubin-Sur-Mer on June 6, 1944 and switched from one division to another (and from Canadian army to British army and back) as he was more stealth (and more lucky, I imagine) than the other members of his divisions.

But all that's still 5+ months away. For now, I'm waiting around the office at suppertime to interview a family for an upcoming newsletter, while worried (cause I like to worry) about my busted laptop and how much I'll have to take out of my vacation fund to fix the dang thing. Ah, well. I'll always have Paris! At least for the half-hour it'll take me to get from the train station to Charles-de-Gaule.

Posted by tway 14:00 Archived in Canada Tagged preparation Comments (4)

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