A Visit to Canada House

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Canada house is the High Commissioner’s house here in London. It sits on Trafalgar Square across from the National gallery in an area known in London as “Little Canada”. It’s little Canada because across Canada House you find the old Canadian Pacific headquarters and behind them around the street is the building where the Grand Trunk Corporation used to be.

Canada House used to be home to two buildings. On one side, the Union Club, (a gentlemen’s club) and on the other side the Royal College of Physicians. The Canadian government acquired the defunct Union club in 1923 and later when the Royal College of Physicians moved, Canada acquired that building as well and connected the two to make one big House.

It has been under massive renovations since the fall of 2012. It just reopened last February and it is absolutely breathtaking. Your Canadian tax dollars at work!

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The architects and designers decided to solely use materials, light fixtures and artwork from Canada. All the wood is from various parts of Canada. Every light fixtures had to be adjusted for UK electricity. Every single rug was designed by a Canadian artist. Tables, chairs, credenza, paintings, sculptures, books etc… all from Canada.

Every room is named after a Province, a territory or an ocean. There are also 3 rooms named after two wartime Prime Ministers, (William Lyon Mackenzie King and Robert Borden) and one for the first Prime Minister (Sir John A. MacDonald). The size of the rooms is according to the population of that province/territory. Since this is a working diplomatic office, we were able to view some of the rooms but not all of them.

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A painting from Jean-Paul Riopelle sits in the Quebec room. Also found in this room, a beautiful rug with the lyrics “Mon pays ce n’est pas un pays c’est l’hiver” bordering it as well as a beautiful desk and various works of art from Quebec artists.

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The light fixture in the Ontario room as well as the incredible round cedar table. The Ontario room is where the gentlemen belonging to the Union club used to play cards. The designer thought it was appropriate to put a round “card table” in this room.

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Look at this beautiful table in the Manitoba room. This is where you also find Winnie the Pooh.

She brought us to the “attic”. Apparently this was a room full of employees in their cubes. Now it’s a nice event room with gorgeous views.

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View of the National Gallery from the attic.

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View of Trafalgar square from the attic.

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In the attic you can find an original Clarence Gagnon.

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View of the eye from the Attic.

The tour takes one hour. It’s free and offered only on Fridays at 3 and 4 pm. If you are ever in London and wish to see your Canada House I invite you to go on-line and sign up. http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/united_kingdom-royaume_uni/events-evenements/visiting_house-canada-maison_visiter.aspx?lang=eng

Well worth it.

A Beautiful Weekend in Normandy

Last May 4th was a public holiday here in the UK but Peter was in Hong Kong and did not use his May 4th holiday. We made up for it last weekend since today, May 25th, was another banking holiday here in UK. We decided to go away to France for 4 days and decided to use the Euro tunnel “Shuttle”.

In order to beat the massive traffic that was going to take place on Friday, we decided to hit the road Thursday night after Peter’s work. After driving through some major traffic in Chelsea, (we made the mistake to drive by the Chelsea Garden Show!) and then crossing London’s East end, we finally arrived in Folkestone/Dover just before 10 pm. We stayed in a little hotel by the sea in order to catch some zzs and be able to get up first thing in the morning to get on the shuttle.

At 5 am either one of us could sleep anymore. We just wanted to hit the road. I had purchased a “Flexi-Plus” ticket to get on the shuttle. Best thing ever. You can get on whenever you are ready. You have a dedicated line for you, no waiting, and you can stop in the lounge get free food, coffee, etc….We were driving in front of everyone did not wait at all so as far as we are concerned, best way to get across the channel.

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The line of trucks waiting to get on at 6 am!

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In case of emergency! The engineering is pretty amazing.

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Calais!

Once in Calais we just drove to our B&B. I had booked us a room at Le Vieux Château B&B in Le Renouard, just outside Vimoutiers. We arrived 3 hours and 15 minutes later, just around lunch time. We couldn’t believe how lucky we were. Le Vieux Château which is owned by a retired English woman sat in the middle of a valley. Part of it is from the 900s. It was occupied by a troupe of SS officers during the WWII. It was absolutely beautiful.

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After checking in and meeting our wonderful hostess and her two dogs, we set out and drove North East to Juno Beach. There we took a tour and saw German bunkers and heard the story of how the Canadians landed on Juno Beach on June 6th, 1945.

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After our tour and walking through the museum we inquired about the Canadian War Cemetery and found out it was down the road in the village of Beny-sur-Mer. This cemetery is solely dedicated to the fallen soldiers in the liberation of Normandy. We were told that there are also other cemeteries with fallen Canadians soldiers all over Normandy. Everywhere we went there were Canadian flags. Small towns such as Lisieux, Vimoutiers, Montreul and others, have plaques dedicated to Canadians in their town centers. Makes you proud to be a Canuck!

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I found a fallen soldier from the Black Watch Royal Highland Regiment. This is the same regiment associated to the BCS #2 Cadet corps.

After all this driving, reading and sightseeing we stopped for a Calvados tasting in a shop in Caen. Calvados is an apple brandy made in the region. We were instructed on how to drink it, what to look for etc…we spent 20 minutes in the shop tasting Calvados and eventually buying a 15 year old bottle plus some apple cider which is very popular in the region. Soon, we had to leave since we had a rendez-vous at a one star Michelin restaurant called “A Contre Sens”. If you are ever in the vicinity of Caen, I highly recommend it. Excellent food and the price cannot be beat. Caen was an hour from Le Vieux Château. We finally made it back to our B&B around midnight. Exhausted but happy we had spent a great first day in Normandy.

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You can find poppies on the side of the road.

Samedi c’était au tour de Bayeux. Après avoir fait la grasse matinée nous sommes descendus pour le petit déjeuner vers 10 heures. Nous avons quittés le Château aux alentours de 11:30 et nous avons pris la route pour Bayeux. Je voulais aller voir la tapisserie de 70 mètres, qui a quasiment mille ans. Cette tapisserie qui explique la guerre entre Guillaume le conquérant et le roi Harold. Très intéressant et la condition de la tapisserie est superbe. Après avoir vue la tapisserie on s’est dirigés vers le musée de guerre et cimetière Britannique. En marchant dans les rues de Bayeux nous avons arrêtés à la boulangerie pour acheter des sandwichs et des pâtisseries, (you know, when in Rome), et c’est aussi en marchant dans la direction du musée que nous avons trouvés notre marchand de vin. Après une grande discussion sur les bons vins, nous avons achetés 4 cartons (24 bouteilles) et avons demandés au gentil Monsieur si il pouvait les mettre de côté pour nous pendant que nous visitions le musée de guerre. Il nous a répondu, “pas de problèmes, je suis ouvert jusqu’à 20 heures! Venez les ramasser quand vous serez prêt!” Ils sont gentils ses Normands!

Nous sommes allés visités le musée de guerre Britannique. Bayeux a été libéré par les Anglais. Le village de Bayeux a été chanceu car il n’a pas été touché du tout durant la guerre. Bien des villes dans les parages ont été rasés mais rien à Bayeux. Après avoir visités le musée et le cimetière Britannique nous sommes retournés à la voiture et avons pris le chemin pour Omaha Beach.

Omaha Beach is impressive. The sheer size of it, the grounds and the way it sits overlooking the Atlantic ocean. The cemetery is not only used for fallen soldiers during the battle of Normandy but also for soldiers during the entire WWII. We found soldiers who had died in 1942, 1943 and unfortunate souls who died just a few months or weeks before VE-Day. It is by far the grandest one.

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We found a fallen soldier who belonged to the 101st AB. Currahee!

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The grounds are just immaculate. 

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Walking down to Omaha Beach and watching local kids play you can’t help but wonder if they realize the sacrifice the men buried on that hilltop did for them.

After some walking on the beach we retreated to Bayeux. Picked up our wine and made our way to our dinner reservations. I had found a restaurant in Bayeux called “La Rapiere”. The reviews were good so I thought we should try it. The reviews were right. The food was excellent, the wine even better and the people were very nice. I have another recommendation, if you are in Bayeux, go visit Linda and Simon at “La Rapiere”, you won’t regret it.

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Sunday we decided to take it easy. We wanted a break from cemeteries and sightseeing. We just wanted to walk around a village and people watch. Our inn keeper recommended Trouville-sur-Mer. She said they had a great Sunday market and we should go try out the seafood. She told us to go to one of the seafood shops with a table with a bucket. Off we went, Trouville-sur mer is north of the Château and just across Deauville. We parked at the local train station and just in time. As soon as we arrived, there were no more parking spots. We made our way down the street towards the ocean and found the seafood market. The inn keeper was not kidding. You basically sit at a table, a waiter comes and says “what would you like?” You just point to the seafood you want, (in our case we shared 1 lobster, 2 crab claws, 2 huge gambas, Peter had 6 oysters, and 10 snails), and of course I had a glass of Sancerre and Peter a glass of Muscadet to wash everything down. It was wonderful just sitting there, peeling our shellfish, throwing stuff in the bucket, eating and drinking. What a lovely meal. After our feast we went for a walk on the beach. Trouville was packed with tourists. We decided to slowly make our way back to the B&B.

We didn’t have any dinner reservations so on our way back to the car we decided to pick up a baguette, some cheese and saucissons and bring everything back to Le Vieux Château for dinner later. We slowly drove back through the Normandy countryside and made our way back to Le Renouard. We spent the evening chilling and eating at our Chateau. Exquisite!

Not so exquisite, this morning we had to drive back through the lovely French countryside and drive home! Bummer! The shuttle was once again a fun experience. The not so fun experience was the 15 to 20 minutes parking lot on the M20 when we came off the shuttle. We just looked at ourselves and said “yep, we’re back in the UK!”

Les Mardis de Montréal

Peter et moi sommes de retour en terre anglaise depuis 10:30 am heure locale. (Il est quasiment 15:00).

Un autre gros weekend à Montréal!

Vendredi la revue annuelle des cadets. Mackenzy a très bien joué de la trompette, et tous les étudiants de BCS ont bien marchés. Quatre ont tombés sous la chaleur mais il y en a toujours à chaque année. Après un souper tôt avec Nanny, Pappy, Cooper et Laura chez Jerry’s Pizzeria nous avons pris la route pour Montréal.

Samedi matin Peter est allé jouer au golf avec Ben et Grand-Papa pendant que Sarah et moi sommes allés courrir et que Mac a continuer sa conversation avec Morphée. Après notre jogging, Sarah et moi sommes allées au marché Atwater acheter nos plants et nous avons pris le chemin du jardin communautaire pour planter notre jardin. Vers midi nous sommes enfin retournés au condo. Pleine de terre mais satisfaite de notre 2ième édition jardin communautaire Versailles. Cette année nous avons ajoutés des betteraves (pour Émilie), des carottes et deux sortes de laitue.

Après un petit dîner et les douches de tout le monde nous avons pris la route vers St-Lazare. En route nous avons arrêtés voir Joey pour que Mac ait une coupe de cheveux. Après notre arrêt dans le West Island nous avons continués vers St-Lazare pour le party des 80 ans de Grand-Maman. Nous avons joués au Blockus et au cribbage, nous avons bien bus bien mangés, “j’ai la peau du ventre bien tendu. Merci! Mon petit Jésus!”

Sunday was finally a nice relaxing day. We all slept in. I made my famous “pancake Sunday” breakfast. Very chill. Mac and I went for a swim at the M.A.A. while Sarah studied and Daddy looked at some work and relaxed. Mac and I picked up some lunch and bought our tickets to go see “Mad Max”. Wow! what an intense movie. I think I held my breath during the entire intro scene, which lasted about 15 minutes. I swear, when the credits  started to show up on the screen I let a big relaxing breath. The movie is AWESOME. No CGI, great fighting scenes, great story lines. Sometimes it was a little gross but you just couldn’t stop watching. Two thumbs way up.

Monday morning I went for a 10 km run. The weather was lovely. Then while Peter and Sarah went to play squash, Mac and I relaxed. Mackenzy’s friend, Nick came over. We had lunch (Peter and Sarah brought back some burgers from “La Banquise” on the plateau. Excellent burgers!) After lunch, while Sarah was studying once again for her midterm, Mac, Nick and I went up the street to see “Pitch Perfect 2”. Funny movie. Fat Amy crushed it!

Sadly, all great things must come to an end. After having one last dinner with the kids Sarah drove us to the airport. Our flight was delayed and we finally took to the sky around 11:15 pm.

Peter is back at work and I am making sure Bart is on track and hopefully the scaffolding will come down before Friday. I would like this work to be done before our weekend in Normandy. That’s right. We are putting the car on the “Chunnel Shuttle” and going for a long weekend drive in Normandy. Stay tuned.

Throwback Thursday – And Playoffs Hockey Pool

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Already two years have passed since Sarah was Cadet commanding officer of BCS’s No. 2 Cadet Corps. 

Every year for the past 7 years either Peter or I, or both have made a pilgrimage to Lennoxville, Qc to see the kids being part of this long-standing tradition and this year is no different.

Bags are packed, boarding passes have been printed and we are off this afternoon to YUL and tomorrow morning we will go see Thing 2 perform and march with the BCS No.2 Cadet Corps band. Can’t wait to see the kids again.

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Her name is forever on the wall.

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Mackenzy playing the trumpet two years ago.

The Pool!

Before the playoffs started Peter received an email from Matt (one of the Minnesota Boys with whom he is in a regular season hockey pool with) to see if he wanted to enter a friendly and easy hockey pool with his family and some of the other Minnesota Boys. Just rank the 16 teams from 16 (who you think will win the Stanley Cup) to 1 (the worst team in the playoffs). Of course Peter said yes and invited me to play along. Challenge accepted! I looked at TSN stats, NHL Player stats and some reviews on-line and made my picks. Peter has his own method whatever that is, and I have mine.

After the first round of playoffs, I was in 16th place out of 26. Not bad. Peter was in 23rd!

Halfway through the second round of playoffs, (Matt sent us another report last week). I was in 11th and Peter was in 21st! Ha!

Peter had picked the Habs as his #16 team. To win it all. Sadly, the Habs lost this week and have been eliminated. I don’t know what Peter’s ranking will be when the next report comes in but it doesn’t look good for BIG.

As much as I love the Habs, I didn’t think they had stamina to make it all the way. Peter picked the Habs because he is a true fan, I on the other hand am in it to win it! Hey, there’s money and bragging rights involved, I have my eye on the prize. I picked Rangers to win the cup this year. Thank goodness they won last night against the Capitals. The peasants rejoice and I’m Alive! In order to make some moolah Chicago needs to win against the Ducks and Rangers need to beat Tampa Bay. Finally, in the end Rangers need to win it against the Blackhawks. Revenge from last year’s loss. So for the next few weeks this gal will be cheering Go Rangers Go! If the Rangers do win the Stanley Cup I think I may have to share my winnings with 10 other people in the pool but it doesn’t matter, bragging rights is all this one is about.

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Les Lundis de Londres

Le weekend a commençé en douce vendredi soir avec un petit verre de vin et l’écoute de deux épisodes de “Band of Brothers”, question de commémorer le 70 ième de la victoire en Europe. J’ai dû me coucher tôt, vers 9:30 p.m. car je devais me lever à 4:15 a.m. pour aller chercher Peter à Heathrow.

4:15 a.m. est venu vite en tas! Enfin, je me dirigeais vers Heathrow lorsque j’ai eu un texte de Peter comme quoi il venait juste d’atterir….en avance….j’ai accélérer sur la M4 jusqu’à la M25, tout en essayant de respecter les nombreuses caméras de vitesses. On va voir si cela a fonctionner. Y’en a tellement que je pourrais me retrouver avec une contravention pour vitesse. Avec deux mois qui me reste sur mon permis de “probation” (quand tu passes ton permis au Royaume-Uni, tu as 5 points de démérites pendant deux ans. Après deux ans de conduite satisfaisante, tu obtiens tout tes points, 12 ou 15? et un permis régulier bon pour 30 ans!), je fais attention.

Je suis arrivée juste à temps. J’ai attendue Peter 5 minutes et hop nous sommes retournés à la maison….faire dodo. Lorsque je me suis levé vers 8:00 am, je suis allée faire mon jogging, suivit de lavage, commissions du samedi, suivi de lecture, de flânage etc….Journée relaxante avec Peter qui sentait son jet lag.

Dimance matin j’ai courru un 10km (voir mon blog d’hier). Il faisait super beau. Enfin la température commence à se réchauffer à Londres. En fin d’après-midi nous avons rencontrés des amis. Nous sommes allés prendre un verre, on a souper ensemble. Tous le monde est revenu chez nous pour le dessert et le digestif. Une belle soirée entre amis.

Un weekend relaxant quoi.

Maintenant Peter est retourné au travail, mes travailleurs Polonais sont arrivés et ont commençés à travailler. Moi j’ai des choses à faire avant de rencontrer une chum au “British Library” pour une exposition sur Magna Carta. Alors je vous laisse. Ciao!

My Very Own VE Day 70th Anniversary Run

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This morning I decided to do an early run around St. James Park, Whitehall, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace and Green Park. I had heard of the many festivities for the 70th anniversary of VE Day and I wanted to check them out. Since I am not one for standing among crowds of people, I was hoping this would be a good opportunity to see things without the crowds. Surprisingly, running early was a good thing.

When I left the house I ran up Exhibition rd, took a right on Kensington High street and made my way to the entrance of the Mall. After passing some security guards at the entrance of the mall it was eerie running down the Mall by myself between Green Park and the gardens of Buckingham Palace.

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When I reached Buckingham Palace I stopped to see if anything was going on, if it was decorated in any way….but no, just like Christmas the Queen is not much for accessorizing. I guess he subjects are happy she is not being frivolous with their money.

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After the Palace I followed my route down Pall Mall along St James Park. Again, pretty cool to be able to run all by myself down Pall Mall. Looks like there is a huge exhibit of military artifacts in the park but I could not enter. The guards were on duty and the exhibit was not quite opened yet.

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After the Mall I took a left to go see if Canada House at Trafalgar Square had done anything special. Nope, not really. Just like the Queen, Canada House doesn’t really spend money on fanfare. Economic austirity is the norm I guess. Still, I stopped and took pictures of the newly renovated Canada House.

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Canada House

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Once some photos were taken, I decided to run away from Trafalgar Square and towards Westminter Abbey and the Parliament. In the park in front of the Abbey are the flags of the many allies.

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I turned right and ran back down alongside St James Park and back toward the palace. There I decided to cross the Canada gate and cross Green Park. Once I crossed the gate I had to stop at the Canadian Memorial and take a photo of the wreaths laid down in front of the memorial fountain on behalf of Canadian soldiers. “Lest we forget”, “N’oublions Jamais”.

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This was my last photo. I climbed up the road up Green Park and emerged on Piccadilly street. I crossed the street, took a left and ran towards Hyde Park and made my way home.

Happy 70th VE day, Happy Mother’s Day!

Elections in UK

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Well I did it! I just went to vote. My first vote in a federal election since 1997. That’s correct, I haven’t voted in a federal election since we left Canada 19 years ago.

Won’t tell you who I voted for but I will say I did not vote for Milliband and his Labour party. I was listening to the man in an interview the other night and he doesn’t sound stable. Now, this is my own personal point of view but as my Hulk often says, “He is flakier than Kellogg”. His numbers just don’t add up and with the strong possibility of losing 53 seats out of 59 to the SNP in Scotland, Labour may be in a very different position by tomorrow morning. Mr Milliband has already said he would not agree to a coalition with the SNP since that party’s plan is to break up the UK. At least, on this issue he makes sense.

Peter is now in Hong Kong. He did not get to vote. We weren’t quick enough to apply to vote by proxy. I wonder if I could have paid someone to go vote in his behalf? When I walked in the polling station all they asked me was my street name, my house number and then my name. No ID. was required. No voting card. All they did is give me a ballot, pointed me to the booth and the box. Voila! That was easy.

Now we wait for the results. I may stay up late to see what the outcome is. We’ll see.