A Whirlwind with a Wedding, Wonderland and Water

We may have only been here for 3 weeks, but look at all we have done in that time! Such adventures!

Advertisements

I’ve been in Ottawa since June 11th. It’s hard to believe that this is only 3 weeks considering what we’ve done in that time:

  • Unpacked what feels like a million boxes
  • Visited and completed school & bus registration for fall 2017 for Mr. T&H
  • Celebrated my sister’s wedding and welcomed Rick to the family!!
  • Attended a local “Paint Nite” fundraiser and painted a night sky canvas with friends
  • Hosted out of town family and guests
  • Driven to Toronto to make an airport drop off of family (that was visiting for the wedding)
  • Camped in a Yurt at JELLYSTONE PARK and met my alter ego, Yogi Bear!
  • Visited Canada’s Wonderland in Vaughn, Ontario
  • Experienced a lot of rain and crazy storms including thunder, lightening, and hail like I’ve never seen before!
  • Spent a few afternoons at the summer cottage, swimming and boating and relaxing by the river
  • Took a hop on / hop off bus tour of Ottawa in an open top double decker bus while it rained
  • Celebrated Canada’s 150th with millions of other people, visited the Carp Farmer’s Market… but spent it mostly at home since it was pouring rain and kids were cranky!
  • Explored our neighbourhood by foot, bike and car

What a whirlwind!

We are finally settling into our new normal routine, after this whirlwind start to our time in Ottawa.

One of my favourite things from the past 3 weeks has been welcoming Rick to our family! After weeks of rainy cold weather, their wedding day dawned sunny with clear blue skies and seasonally warm temperatures. We got a taste of what a true Ottawa summer would be like! The ceremony was a traditional Anglican wedding and the reception was hosted on the back lawn of the church under cover of a big white tent. It was the perfect reception for this low-key, relaxed couple.

They welcomed all members of their church to attend both the ceremony and the reception and I was lucky enough to meet many of these lovely people. A friend of mine offered to take photographs of the people who were at the wedding and so the two of us went around to each table and offered to take photos of the guests. It was a wonderful gift that Belle Images offered to my sister and I’m incredibly grateful for the gift of her time and talents on this day. (She takes exquisite photographs of people, animals and plants in the beautiful outdoors as well as inspiring landscapes from all over the world… if you are looking for some wonderful photographic artwork, I recommend Karen. But I might be a tad biased since I’ve known Karen for over 30 years!)

I am so happy to welcome Rick to our family! The most important part is that Rick loves my sister and makes her happy, and really that is all I could ask for in a brother in law. But over the years that Rick and my sister have been together, Rick has shown us that he has a huge heart and a deep love of family, whether that is family by blood or by choice. He wants to support our family, even the crazy people in it, and is willing to put himself out in order to do that. He believes in family. Rick has strong opinions on topics that matter to him and he’s not afraid to voice them, backing up his opinions with facts and stats, showing me how intelligent and diligent he is. He’s not just a “hot head” but he cares enough about these things to educate himself and others on the topics, in a respectful manner. And he’s got a goofy sense of humour which doesn’t hurt. He’s willing to laugh at himself first, and never at the expense of others. I love how excited and happy he was to marry my sister… he was like a teenager and it was adorable to see.

Plus he’s got excellent taste in rum! šŸ™‚

I’m really happy that Gillian met you Rick… welcome to our crazy little family!

Before the ceremony, my sister told me she had one job for me to do. She handed me her phone and said, “I need you to update my Facebook status before Rick. He always gets there first.” With glee I took the phone and was happy to update her status as soon as the priest announced that they were married!

What I didn’t think about until 30 minutes later is that my sister gave me her phone, with the lock off, and I had free access to take photos on it! And so we did! We took so many fun photos that day on her phone… leaving her with the “back of the room” record of the wedding reception shall we say? Well they DID say that their theme was FUN… I think I delivered quite nicely!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Well after the merriment of the wedding, we decided to head down to Canada’s Wonderland for a short visit. We were driving Miss S. to the Toronto airport anyway, and this was something we wanted to do anyway. We thought “why not?!”

If we had looked at the weather forecast we may have changed our mind!

While this was the view as we left Arnprior the day before our drive to Toronto, it is pretty much identical to what the sky looked like as we drove into Toronto, and later as we approached our campsite at Jellystone Park! We drove through sunshine but also rain, thunder and lightening, and hail!

Storm

As we arrived at Jellystone Park, the skies opened up creating a lake where our fire pit should be! But at some point, you just have to throw up your hands and embrace the wet and mud (after a quick trip to buy some rain ponchos and extra clothes for Miss D) … some of us embraced it a little too closely… ha ha!

The next day dawned chilly but the sun was shining through the clouds so we made our way to WONDERLAND for a day of rollercoasters and fun. The boys embraced the fun and Miss D warmed up to it after a mid-morning nap in the stroller. The skies did open up periodically but we had the rain ponchos and changes of clothing so all went well. The water rides were a little chilly though! Thankfully we’d thrown in bathing suits so they had dry and warm clothes to change into afterwards!

It was a great way to reconnect as a family after a month of being apart or on the go. And such fun sharing my memories of Wonderland with my kids! T&H were the perfect age to go as they could ride anything they wanted, were brave enough to go on the rides on their own, could walk the whole day without losing it, knew when they’d had enough and were ready to go home. As I said to them early in the day, “If we do everything the first day, there’s no reason to come back to Wonderland next year!” They took that to heart so we heard no objections when we left the park shortly after 6 PM. The next morning, Yogi Bear made an appearance at the campsite and it was a great distraction as we packed up to head home. It was truly the highlight of my trip.

You see, my alter ego is Yogi Bear. It has been my “camp name” for 30+ years and I strongly associate with the fun loving, picnic basket stealing, character. He is a character that you don’t see that often and his popularity seems to be waning, but I still adore him! My sister and I made up stories about your camp nick names that involved a mission trip to Africa, goats and a village elder. We strung the entire camp along on our hoax for the summer and there are some campers still today, all grown up that they are, that still believe our make believe story despite it being completely far fetched and pretty much impossible!

Ask me about it sometime… it’s a great story!

Our little family is now settling into the next chapter in our lives, getting into a routine of work and play for all of us.

And sadly, next week Mr. T&H head back to BC for 6 weeks with their father. We will miss them when they go! That will be the next great adventure!

Wasn’t THAT a journey?

Momma T’s journey in Barcelona, on El Camino, and onto Portugal

 

It’s been a rough monthĀ here at home, which is why there haven’t been any posts for awhile! There simply hasn’t been enough time for blogging!

There have been some incredible highs and some devastating lows, but through it all we’ve journeyed together as a family and made it to the other side of the mountain… our legs might be shaky and we are pretty tired, but we’ve made it!

This post will be all about Momma T’s journey towards, on, and beyond El Camino in Spain. In looking back at the photos that she sent while she was away, it seems like the journey was about experiencing the culture through good food, good friends, and good spirits!

It was fitting then that before she left, we had a wonderful evening out at Vij’s, a restaurant that we’ve wanted to visit for several years and just never had the time to get there. We are thankful to family who babysat Miss D so that we could have a meal out together.

Momma T left Vancouver on Saturday April 22, traveling via London, England (9 hour flight) and then onto her final destination of Barcelona, Spain. She met her travelling friend A at a restaurant in Heathrow airport and they made the last leg of the journey together.

Day 1 – Barcelona, 14,912 steps

Today they took the subway and then train to find their way to Montserrat, a Benedictine monk mountain retreat about one hour north west of Barcelona.18057018_10155016792106343_1938256115001047943_n (1)

 

Day 2 – Barcelona,Ā 17,644 steps (13.7 km)

Today Tracy and A explored the Barcelona waterfront and were excited to find that there was a Mexican tall ship in the harbour, which was inviting tourists on board to view and have photos taken with the uniformed crew! The two women also visited the Sagrada Familia basilica

After exploring some of the waterfront (and boarding a Mexican tall ship, with military crew present!), we then meandered the streets to the Sagrada Familia basilica, a beautiful Roman Catholic church designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi.

The inside of this amazing place of worship is made ofĀ  all different stones, and designed so that you feel like you are in a forest, with carvings of a leaf-like ceiling, and then stained glass windows that make you feel like the light is seeping in through the forest walls.

Day 3 – Leaving Barcelona, 17,305 steps (11.6 km)

The weather this morning was rainy and windy, which meant that a planned boat excursion was cancelled. Instead they did some window shopping and visited the Barcelona History MuseumĀ on their way to the train station and the 12 hour trip to Sarria where their Camino walk would begin!

Day 4 – Sarria, 12,798 steps (7.9 km)

Momma T and A arrived in Sarria at 9am on a brisk, sunny morning (4 degrees!), after a rough night with just a little sleep on the train. They gathered their things and walked to the hotel. You know the city is behind you when you lie on your bed, wind blowing in, no car motors, and you hear the cock-a-doodle-do of the roosters all afternoon. Welcome to the country-side!

Later that eventing the 10 women that formed their tour group met at the hotel to have an orientation meeting, then we walked to a local restaurant for a great meal. This Camino adventure is about to begin! We got to know each other in the group. There are two (60+) women from Arizona (AKA “the Arizona’s”), Marcia in early 50’s, Momma T and her friend A, and then 5 Hispanic women from LA, who are 60+ years… all the women are fiercely daring and have lots of spunk and life in them.Ā 

Day 5 – Sarria to Portomarin, 36,177 steps (25.8 km), 7 hours of walking

Tracy and her friend were excited to finally start their Camino today! The tour guide walked with them for about an hour before leaving them to walk at their own pace.

The path was much more hilly than anticipated and T was pretty tired at the end of the day. She is rapidly learning to like Spanish wine… particularly since it is less expensive than pop or even water in many places! And so refreshing midday and with her meal at the end of the walk!

Day 6 – Portomarin to Palas de Rei, 42,241 steps (33.2 km)

Today’s elevation gain was substantial (see photo below) and daunting!

In the words of Momma T:

“Today it was hard to get those muscles going again, but after a light breakfast (smoked meats, cheese, and hard boiled eggs), we were off. By 10:30am we had walked 11km and made a cafe stop for a second breakfast. We weren’t even halfway!! We basically average 4km/hr, depending on the number of hills. I’m very thankful to be using poles, takes some pressure of my knees/legs and builds the strength in my arms too. Saw a couple of churches, and it was a cool, sunny day. At 2:30pm, with about 5km left, it was time for a break and we discovered this amazing “lemon beer” — OMG!! Delicious!!”

Today was an important day as T recognized a dear friend who had passed away in the last year. Before she left on this journey, Mr. H had asked Momma T to take a special stone and his photo of our dear friend and to leave her in a special place on the path, so that “God would help her find her way to heaven.” Today Momma T found that place: an old stone cross beside a centuries old chestnut tree. T spent a few moments in prayer and thinking of our friend and her family. Before leaving on the trip, T had called this family to tell them of Mr. H’s request. Our friend told T that it had been their plan to walk the Camino themselves, before Marlene had taken ill.

 

Day 7 – Palas de Rei to Castaneda, 38,579 steps (26.6 km)

Not exactly the weather forecast that you want to wake up to when doing El Camino…

18193747_10155033314491343_1812902244228534381_n

And it didn’t get much better! The hikers faced every kind of weather this day: snow, hail, thunder, lightening, rain, and yes, sunshine! What is a hiker to do when facing this? Dress in layers and use socks as mittens in a pinch!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In the words of “Scaredy Squirrel”… this was NOT part of the plan!

Day 8 – Castenada to ? (TBC), 29,661 steps (20.8 km)

Momma T hit her wall today and had a super hard day of walking. After slogging through 15 km in pain, dragging feet that felt like they were cement blocks and calf muscles that kept seizing up, she took a ride for the final 7 km. She is super disappointed in herself but I believe she has nothing to feel bad about… she made the best decision she could in that moment and truly, the only decision that would preserve her strength for the remainder of the trip. I’m super proud of her! It’s hard to make that decision!

18221935_10155037302146343_8552487006950007070_n
Photo taken early in the day, while she could still feign a smile!

Day 9: — to Santiago, 31,631 steps (22.6 km)

Knowing that they would be arriving in Santiago today was a good motivating factor on the road. There was a steady climb upwards at one point that stoppedĀ just at the boundary of the airport. They then walked around the airport, amazed by the planes taking off and landing right above us.

After they got away from the airport there was a chance to stop of a small bite to eat. Most of the walking at this point was on gravel or paved roads/paths. T put her poles away as they were walking mostly on roads rather than the gravel and the sound of the poles on the road was quite loud, intruding on the sacredness of the journey. Sadly, T didn’t realize the full benefit of of poles until she was much closer to Santiago, when she started to get substantial knee pain. She believes this was due to the pressure on herĀ knee with every steep descent and then climbing up and up… unfortunately the pain has continued well past the end of the trip and will result in several physiotherapy appointments, along with icing every day!

Day 10 – Santiago

Happy Birthday to Miss A, traveling companion of Momma T! Today they enjoyed massages and a lot of relaxation around the village of Santiago.

Day 11 – Santiago to Porto, Portugal

Today, Momma T successfully got her official “Compostela” or certificate, showing that she has completed El Camino. They then travelled just 4 hours via bus to Porto Portugal, finding their AirBNB accommodation and relaxing the remainder of the day.

Day 12 – Porto

Today, T and A took a boat tour of the Douro River.

The Douro River is a major waterway that flows from Spain and across the entire Douro River Valley in the Northern Portuguese countryside. It is known for its quiet tranquility, showcasing Portugalā€™s stunning river-based cities, from vibrant Pinhao to old world Porto, a city that has been deemed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.Ā 18199395_10155049974346343_2164052668611786299_n

Day 13 – Porto to Sintra, via Lisbon

Today Momma T finally saw a castle,, which she’s desperately wanted to see for years!

They travelled by train to Sintra, a picturesque community set in the cooler hillside of Portugal. The cooler climate was attractive to nobility in by gone eras and so there are many castles, beautiful gardens, and extravagant homes to view.

Day 14 – Porto to Lisbon

Momma T said good-bye to her friend A today, but met up with a friend that she’d met earlier in the trip… J! T and J shared the Air BNB accommodation that T had booked and together they took in the tourist sights of the next few days.

T and J started their time in Lisbon with a “Hop On Hop Off” open air bus tour. With T’s knee still bothering her, walking any distance was a challenge. Much time was spent enjoying the local cuisine as she rested comfortably in cafes! They did see some great sights while in Lisbon though including a tile museum, and an art museum.

Day 15 – Lisbon

Final day of the holiday and T said good-bye to J, enjoying some time to just relax in quiet solitude before the long journey home again!

 

Good food along the way:

Momma T enjoyed much of the cuisine in Spain and Portugal, thankfully documenting much of it for us to live vicariously through her!

Here are some of the meals & “tapas” that she experienced… in no particular order!

 

And so we can see that T’s time in Spain and Portugal definitely had more highs than lows, new experiences and friends, and delicious tastes!

… Coming soon:Ā “While you were gone”… tales from the rest of the family while T was traveling! Perhaps not as exotic as castles, boat cruises and pilgrimages, but just as life altering for us all!

 

Finding our Way

camino 1

About a year ago, possibly more like 18 months ago, Momma T and I watched a movie one Saturday night called “The Way”, and starring Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez. The movie we watched followed Martin Sheen as he walked a path that his son had planned to walk but unfortunately died before completing it. While walking this path, he travels through some jaw dropping scenery, suffers through extremely difficult circumstances, grieves the son he lost and the difficult relationship they endured while he was still living and ultimately, he undergoes a personal transformation.

Halfway through the movie, T pressed pause and looked at me, saying “I want to do that.”

“That” is El Camino de Santiago de Compostela.

El Camino is one of many Christian pilgrimages in the world.Thousands of Christians undertake a pilgrimage every year from their homes, to Santiago de Compostela, walking the “Way of St. James” as it is known in English. Legend has it that the remains of St. James were carried by boat and donkey, from Jerusalem to Northern Spain, where he was buried in what is now known as the city of Santiago de Compostela. Annually more than 200,000 Christians make this same pilgrimage in whole or in part, as a spiritual journey or as a personal challenge.

Today we drove Momma T to the airport where she left on a flight heading to Spain and her own Camino pilgrimage. She is walking the final 120 km of El Camino with her best friend as part of a celebration of a milestone birthday, and with the support of a touring company which will carry the majority of her luggage for her. She will carry only what she needs during the day and not all her food, clothing, sleeping, and cooking equipment! She is also doing some touring of Spain and Portugal while in the region.

The journey seemed simple enough when she began planning for this journey 12 or so months ago… however life has a way of interfering with the best laid plans. As T often will say, “Want to make God laugh? Make plans!”

Despite the obstacles that were in front of us, it was high priority to us that T make this pilgrimage this year. For one thing, it was mostly paid for when everything else came up so there was no reason to NOT go ahead with it, unless we were willing to lose most of the funds that had been put towards it. But more importantly, at least in my mind, is that this was such an amazing opportunity for life changing, transformational, eye-opening, soul searching, personal development… despite all the obstacles and challenges I’ll be facing over the next 19 days there was no way that I would ever consider standing in T’s way to make this happen! I know that she will come back as a stronger, more vibrant, and much revived individual who will be ready to embrace our next journey of life! She deserves this journey and I cannot wait to hear all about it.

And while T is making her journey through Spain, I’ll be walking my own transformational path here at home in Canada! I will have sole responsibility for the care and feeding of three small to medium sized children. Not to mention holding down employment and a half (I’m doing some contract work on the side), packing up a household and preparing us for a cross Canada move in 6 weeks!

Perhaps my journey is not as ‘sexy’ as T’s El Camino de Santiago journey, but I have no doubt that it too will be transformational, life changing, eye-opening and full of soul searching and personal development opportunities!!! Much like T, at the end of it I will be able to look back with pride and say “I survived!” and “I did that!”

Of course, I should probably get a full night’s sleep!

Before I go, here is T’s itinerary so you can follow along:

April 23 – Arrive Barcelona, Tour the city

April 26 – Taking overnight train to Sarria, meetingĀ Tour company there

April 28 – Walk from Sarria to Portomarin (23 km)

April 29 – Walk from Portomarin to Palas de Rei (25 km)

April 30 – Walk from Palas de Rei to Arzua (29 km)

May 1 – Walk from Arzua to Arca (20 km)

May 2 – Walk from Arca to Santiago de Compostela (19 km)

May 3 – Tour Santiago de Compostela

May 4 – Travel to Porto, Portugal

May 5 – River boar and train tour in Porto, Portugal

May 6 – Travel to Sintra, Portugal

May 7 – Travel to Lisbon, Portugal

May 8, 9 – Tour Lisbon

May 10 – Fly home!!!

Stjacquescompostelle1

Camping or Comfort? What would you do?

We love to camp and to be outdoors.

boys walking in woods.jpg
Happy Hiking Boys, Miracle Beach, July 2012?

Ever since the boys have started school we try to kick off our summer vacation with a week of camping, somewhere in BC, as a transition between the hectic end of school activities and the relaxation of summer months.

We’ve been lucky to be able to do this consistently for the past 6 years.

We’ve been to Miracle Beach Provincial Park, Tofino, Manning Park, Shuswap Lake, and Naramata. Usually we’ve gone camping but we have also been able to rent some rustic cabins when we needed a bit more comfort in certain years. We’ve all loved the time outdoors to reconnect as a family, and to experience the awe of nature.

We have had some unbelievable experiences along the way and it has very much become part of our family tradition. I also realize that this is very much a part of my childhood and growing up experiences. I was lucky enough to spend the majority of my childhood camping across Canada and indeed North America! I was very fortunate.

(I’m the one mugging it up for the camera… always!)

And I would like very much to recreate these memories with my children this summer, as we travel from West to East.

But I also know that we will be travelling in early June when weather is iffy at best, and mosquitoes are perhaps at their worst in some provinces. And we will all be exhausted by the emotions of leaving the familiarity of BC behind, combined with the craziness of April & May, wrapping up schools & jobs, packing up our house, box lacrosse season (which is ridiculously intense I have to say) and the added stress of H being at BCCH for 4 weeks before we leave.

So I’m considering staying in hotels along the way instead of camping. Or maybe a combination of camping & hotels? Camping will be fantastic, but there is something to be said for warm beds, hot showers, and no setting up/taking down of our accommodation every single night. I’ll be the sole adult responsible for all of this which is an added stress. BUT there is also something to be said for the peacefulness of a campground and sitting by a crackling fire at night.

It is Canada’s 150th Birthday celebration and we have a free National Park pass! What better way to celebrate our great nation by really getting out and seeing it from all angles.

And I really want to share my cross Canada camping experience with my children. But I’m also gonna be really really tired by that point!

What would you do? Camping or Comfort? Follow Family Traditions or Move to the Future?