Throwback Thursday

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Manon and Ben dancing on a table at my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary.

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Ben and Lyne arrive today. (Why is Ben always standing on furniture by the end of the night?)

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Louis and Manon will follow on Sunday.

On va laissez les bons temps rouler!

Bien hâte d’avoir tout le monde ici pour leurs montrer Londres et fêter un peu comme dans le bon vieux temps.

Congestion Zone Charge in London

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In central London there’s a congestion zone charge. Monday to Friday from 7 am to 6 pm. If you live within the zone you get a 90% discount. If you have a vehicle with 9 or more seats, an Ultra Low Emission Discount car or a motorcycle, you just need to pay £10 to register your vehicle and you can drive in the zone for free anytime.

This is the zone:

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Two weeks ago Peter had a golf tournament with his company. They were actually playing at the same golf course Peter is a member at. Easy peasy he knows how to get there fast. We live just below Hyde Park. Peter left early on Friday morning before 7 am and headed East and then North into Marlybone. Problem is, he was at a light right on the edge of Marlybone (Just below Regents Park) at 7:02 am and got caught on camera! This is London, Big Brother is always watching like “1984”!

Peter was probably out of the zone by 7:04 am and we didn’t know he actually drove through the zone. If we had known we could have gone on the app or on-line and made the payment of £16 for the day. (You have 24 hours after you have entered the zone to pay a daily rate). That’s right, £16 a day to get the privilege to drive into Central London in the congestion zone. And people in Montreal complain about a mere $3.30 for the bridge on autoroute 30 in Valleyfield.

Alas, we did not know and ended up getting a fine of £65! If I had been on vacation for the next 10 days the fine would have gone up to £130. Another 10 days and it would have been £195. Good thing I was home and not spending the rest of the summer in Montreal.

Lesson learned! Now we know. This upcoming Friday Ben and Peter are going to play golf. They are leaving at 9:30 am. I can guarantee you we will go on-line and pay the £16 before they get on the road.

The Book of Mormon and Living Behind Jesus

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When one lives behind the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints one cannot stop from hearing the question “Do you know about the book of Mormon?”

Lately the boys with white shirts and black pants have been parked in front of the Church by our mews and every time I go out to run, go to the gym, do some grocery shopping etc…doesn’t matter where I am going there are two guys parked on the corner trying to sell the great book.

Yesterday I had a good chuckle because as I was walking in front of the Mormon officials (let’s call them that), and they were asking a passerby if he knew about the Book of Mormon? to which he replied, “Yes of course, I saw the musical the other night and it was very funny!” They looked a little stunned and replied, “Well, this is the REAL Book of Mormon….” before I could hear anything else from that exchange I was already gone. When you walk by the officials it’s a brisk pace and keep your head down. Avoid all eye contact or else you will have a discussion with one of the officials about their book. Of course, if you want to discuss the book, by all means, go ahead, talk to the boys, maybe you can even go inside, there is a 20 minute video about the savior…(Mackenzy wanted to go in when he was on break but I was afraid to let him go in there. Maybe he would never return? or worst, he would come out wearing black pants, a white shirt with a pocket for his pens.)

I must say, the big Jesus statue is handy when it comes to giving directions to get to our house. Usually when someone asks me “How do I get to your house?” depending where they are coming from I reply, “take a right at the Jesus and then a quick right and a quick left, can’t miss us.” Or when I am coming home in a black cab and the cabby is looking for our street I just point to the Jesus and tell him we live behind him.

Is this bad of me? Using Jesus to give directions? Am I going to hell?

Oh what the heck. Who am I kidding? I am already going down to hell. When Mackenzy was 3 years old and we were waiting for Sarah to come our of school, I’m the one who let him pee on the front lawn of St. Catherine school in Manchester, NH. Right under the watchful eye of Sister Janet who was staring at us from her office. I figure since then, it’s all down hill for me…..”Yes Mr Cabby, right behind Jesus please.”

Dublin!

Pretty soon I will change the name of this blog from Canadian Mama to Traveling Mama. (Disclaimer, this is a long post, grab a coffee and enjoy!)

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As I mentioned last week, Peter had meetings in Dublin on Monday and Tuesday therefore we decided to make a weekend of it and leave Friday night in order to spend the weekend discovering the city. I had never been and every time Peter goes he never makes time to see anything. He just goes from his hotel to work and back. This was a great opportunity for him to actually visit the place.

Saturday we toured the city and made several stops. One was at Guinness. We tasted some Guinness and learned about the process to make the famous beer. I also found out the founder, Arthur Guinness, made a deal for the 64 acres of land where Guinness sits on by signing a lease for 9000 years (yes 9000) for £45 a year. Two things come to mind with that statement: 1. What a bargain! 2. And yes Guinness will be made for at least another 8,744 years. All good news. Peter and drank a pint at the Gravity bar on top of the famous brewery. We had a chance to see how a Guinness is poured and we relaxed while watching the city skyline.

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After our pint and some lunch at The Parnell Pub, we continued on with our tour. We stumbled on the Writer’s Museum and thought we should go in and take a look. Because of Trinity College in Dublin, the city has produced some very famous writers. Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Bram Stoker, Johnathan Swift, Samuel Beckett, C.S. Lewis and many more. The museum was very interesting.

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Here is Mr Oscar Wilde with some of his most famous quotes.

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After a good hour spent with the writers we kept on walking and found the river Liffey and its many bridges. 

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After a lot of walking, touring, reading, drinking and eating we retreated back to our hotel in the Temple Bar area. I don’t know about Peter but I was tired.

Sunday morning was a little more relaxing. After breakfast we set out for a little walk to look at Dublin castle, Christ Church Cathedral and St-Patrick’s Cathedral. We didn’t really want to enter and visit anything. We just read the many posters and plaques found outside and that was plenty. After lunch we met a colleague of Peter at the Blue Light Pub outside of Dublin. There we spent the afternoon and early evening drinking pints of Bulmers cider (2 pints) and pints of Guinness (3 each!) Yes you have read correctly Peter and I had 5 pints of alcohol and we also had 3 mini Guinness. Mini Guinness are shots of amaretto and Baileys Irish cream. The way they are poured they look exactly like mini Guinness, (they are YUMMY!). It was a great afternoon. We listened to a band and a folk singer. We talked with locals…some older folks asked me my name when I was ordering drinks at the bar and when Peter showed up to help me carry the drinks and I introduced them to Peter they said “ah, oh! How are you!” They said they were just talking with me and thought I had beautiful “green” eyes…..yeah they had many, many pints since I have never had green eyes. Doesn’t matter. Super nice people (the entire local population was there), great music, lovely day. We rolled down the hill from the pub in a taxi back to our hotel in Dublin around 9 pm. What a great day!

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The view of Dublin from the pub.

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The band!

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The locals just catching up while enjoying a pint or two…or three!

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Monday while Peter was at work I continued with my visit of Dublin.

First, I went for a long run along the Liffey river into Phoenix park. Phoenix park is huge. It’s 1750 acres of land across the river from the Guinness brewery. Just to give you an idea, I think Hyde Park can go into Phoenix park some thing like 6 times. There you can find the zoo, the President’s residence, the residence of the American ambassador, the monument for Duke of Wellington (from Dublin. I thought he was English), a castle, some cricket pitches and a heard of 400 fallow deer among other things. After running around for almost an hour and spotting some deer I went back to the hotel for a much needed shower.

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The entrance to the park.

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The Duke of Wellington monument.

Then I decided to go explore Trinity College and the book of Kells exhibit.

I tried to go to the registrar office in order to get an undergraduate book for Mackenzy. Maybe I can convince him to attend Trinity College in Dublin….this way I would only be a 45 minute plane ride from my baby…(come on Mackenzy!) but the registrar office was very busy. Everywhere I went there were groups of international students getting tours of the campus. I decided to just stick with the book of Kells and I was going to come back to the registrar office on Tuesday morning.

This is how Wikipedia describes the Book of Kells: is an illuminated manuscript Gospel book in Latin, containing the four Gospels of the New Testament together with various prefatory texts and tables. It was created in a Columban monastery in either Britain or Ireland or may have had contributions from various Columban institutions from both Britain and Ireland. It is believed to have been created ca. 800 AD. The text of the Gospels is largely drawn from the Vulgate, although it also includes several passages drawn from the earlier versions of the Bible known as the Vetus Latina. It is a masterwork of Western calligraphy and represents the pinnacle of Insular illumination. It is also widely regarded as Ireland’s finest national treasure.

Very interesting exhibit and a must see. I also had the chance to enter the long room and the library of Trinity College. (Mackenzy, you could be studying here…).

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The main entrance of Trinity College founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I.

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I went back to Trinity College on Tuesday morning and went straight to the registrar office. I was there before a group of Italian students and was able to talk to an admission counselor about entry requirements, fees and the English and creative writing program. “Call me Mackenzy, I can tell you all about it, Call me!”

We returned home last night. Another great weekend, another lovely trip. I can check Dublin off the list  and look at the list and ask myself “Where to next?”

Take Vacations Go as Many Places as you Can!

Take Vacations

Since this has become our new “Mantra” and Peter was going to Dublin Monday and Tuesday on business, we decided, “Hey what the heck, let’s leave Friday and make a long weekend out of it!”

Peter goes to Dublin many times a year. Sometimes just for the day. In the almost three years we have been here, I have never been. So I decided it was time to change that.

Got my BA flight, we are staying at The Morgan Boutique Hotel…whatever, I don’t care! I am going to Dublin and I will go to a pub and order a pint of Guinness. My Babe Julie assures me Guinness only taste good in Ireland. I’ll take her word for it. Can’t be worst than sour toe cocktail in Dawson city.

Be sure to watch out for my blog on Wednesday. I’ll be posting photos and sharing stories. Got to pack, weather looks a little cooler than South of France. Mid to high teens. Yikes! Better bring my jeans and cable knit sweater.

Les Mardis de Londres

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Les Vignes y’en a partout!

Nous sommes revenus du sud de la France hier en fin d’après-midi. Super beau weekend avec mon frérot et les collègues de Peter.

Vendredi matin nous sommes partis très tôt, (6:50 am) en avion en direction de Montpellier. Arrivés à Montpellier, nous avons vite ramasser notre voiture de location et sommes allés en direction du condo ou Louis se trouvait à Carnon. Notre décapotable n’était pas encore prête donc nous avons eu une petite voiture et ils sont venus nous porter la décapotable en fin d’après-midi.

Une fois à Carnon on a rencontrés Louis et Manon et nous sommes allés vite à la plage. Je crois qu’il faisait déjà 40 degrés Celsius et il était juste onze heures. On a passés la journée à relaxer à la plage et à jaser. Après la plage on a prit l’apéro et on c’est ensuite diriger pour un petit souper dans la marina.

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Le Palais des Papes.

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Dans la cour du Palais des Papes.

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Manon dans le rôle de Grace Kelly à l’arrière de la décapotable.

Samedi on est allé visiter le Palais des Papes et le pont d’Avignon. L’ancienne résidence Papales qui était quasiment en ruine en 1906 se fait tranquilement rénover… La visite du Palais et du pont fûrent intéressantes mais il faisait environ 40 degrés et en fin d’après-midi on s’est vite poussés de la ville en direction de la plage. On a quand même arrêtés en chemin pour une petite dégustation de vin. Louis et moi avons fait des achats…Il y a des domaines et châteaux partout donc il fallait ben arrêter! Après une petite saucette dans la méditérranée et l’apéro, on a été souper dans la marina (Encore! J’aime bien ce style de vie des vacances).

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“Sur le pont d’avignon, on y danse on y danse…”

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Sunday morning Peter and I got up and after a quick breakfast we put the top down and off we went to Valflaunès where Peter’s colleagues had rented a massive old house with swimming pool by the Château Valflaunès. There we spent the day drinking, eating and playing in the pool with the kids. After a great evening, some amazing food and more wine that I have had in years, Peter and I left the party and returned to my brother’s place in Carnon.

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So much wine, so little time.

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View off patio while dinning Sunday night.

Monday morning we packed our things, returned the rental car and left. Our lovely weekend getaway to the South of France was over. Now we are back in London. The weather is cloudy with some sunny periods with temperatures in the 20s, more like it for us but what a great weekend we had.

Throwback Thursday and More

I am packing for our trip to the South of France tomorrow. Little weekend with my brother and his wife on the Mediterranean and some of Peter’s colleagues. As I am packing I have this song in my head from an old Air Canada commercial, “Mon bikini ma brosse a dent…”.

Should be a fun weekend with lots of sun.

Canada Day in London

This year there were no major celebrations in London. No party at Trafalgar square in front of Canada house. No beaver tails, no pancakes with maple syrup, NOTHING. It’s austerity time and the Canadian government is cutting back. Still, Canada Day fell on a Wednesday and for a bunch of us Canadian women that means one thing, a good walk in Regent’s Park followed by coffee and a lively conversation. Yesterday was a gorgeous and hot morning in London and eight of us showed up to walk and talk smack about Canada. When we got to the Rose Garden I couldn’t help taking pictures. That part of the park is in bloom and it’s absolutely beautiful.

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During our conversation over coffee many of us started talking about our recent experiences with regards to law enforcement. You have to understand, until recently (Charlie Hebdo shooting), police in UK did not carry guns. Now they carry machine guns! BBC reported that ISIS had threaten to bomb something during Wimbledon. Wimbledon as you can imagine is huge here. Clubs such as this one in front of South Ken tube station have transformed themselves into places where you can go have a pint and watch tennis. Pretty soon there will be jumbotrons all over the city in order for people to watch tennis.

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But because of ISIS, police officers are being cautious and there seem to be more of them walking the beat while armed. Some are doing random evacuation drills here and there. Just as a precaution. During our book club meeting at the French institute on Monday, two armed officers walked in and asked the front desk lady if everything was okay? The French institute is attached to the French Embassy. They were just checking and making sure everything was safe. Many women have been experiencing the same thing all over the city. It’s great that law enforcement is being proactive but as for me, it really makes me look around on the bus or tube and wonder who I’m really sitting with?