The Christmas Lights of London

This afternoon I left the house at 4:30 with my camera and I decided to go for a walk and take pictures of the many Christmas lights around London. London may lack the snow for a white Christmas but they make it up in lights.

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I started off by going into Hyde Park to look at the Christmas Winter Wonderland. This is sort of Christmas market with lots of rides. Even around 5 pm it was getting very packed with people.

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Then I came out of the park at Marble Arch and started walking along Oxford Street. The stores on Oxford street are always spending lots of money on lights and window dressing. Very impressive.

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The beginning of Oxford Street.

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Selfridge always has the best windows. Tonight there were several hundred people in front of the windows.

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New Bond Street

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House of Fraser and John Lewis

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Oxford Circus

Then I walked down Regent Street. Less lights than Oxford Circus but very pretty nevertheless.

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Piccadilly Circus

After that I walked down Haymarket to Trafalgar Square. They have a big tree there but let’s just say they have nothing on the tree at Rockefeller center. First of all, its tall and skinny and the lights are only white. I think it would help to have multicolored lights but that’s just me.

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I left the tree and the choir that was singing in front of it and walked to Embankment. There I decided to cross the footbridge to South bank. I had heard there was another Christmas market by the London eye. It was actually very nice.

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After all this walking I took the tube back home at Westminster station. Walking home in South Kensington I couldn’t help myself, I had to take one last picture in front of the National History Museum.

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It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Last Friday I flew to Montreal to attend the annual Bishops College School Christmas concert. Mackenzy plays the trumpet in senior and stage band and sings in the choir.

When I arrived in Montreal on Friday night it was snowing. I thought now that’s what Christmas is all about, the white fluffy stuff. The Christmas lights in Montreal are absolutely gorgeous this year.

I settled in the condo and did some cleaning while Sarah was at school for a tutorial. Sarah is in “finals mode” and let’s just say that cleaning is not high on her priority at the moment. That’s fine, that’s why I come once a month, to do some cleaning, some baking and cooking…my mama jobs.

Saturday morning my sister and her two daughters met me in order to run the Santa Shuffle on Mount Royal. A little 5 km on the mountain and all the proceeds go to the Salvation Army. Sarah ran it with two girlfriends from McGill. It was tons of fun. All the runners had Santa hats and there were lots of local elementary schools and families with young children. Running in the snow is hard but it was worth it. We all went to “Chez Cora” for breakfast afterwards and celebrated our tight calves.

After lunch my sister and her daughters headed home. It was time for me to get ready for the concert. My parents picked me up and we drove together to the Eastern Townships to see Mackenzy play and sing his little heart out.

The concert starts out formal with the senior band. Then you watch the dance group of the school perform some routines followed by the choir and finally the fun stage band.

Mackenzy sang very well and I was very proud of his solos. He looks like he is having a lot of fun with it.

Sunday I decorated the condo for Christmas, baked some banana bread and some biscotti for Sarah and cooked some chili for us to have before my flight back to London. I flew back this morning, I have a cold and this afternoon I passed out on my couch but it was all worth it. This was my first BCS Annual Christmas concert in the six years that the kids have been attending BCS but it won’t be my last. I am going back next year and I will bring Daddy along for date night.

Another Job I Am Great At

As a stay at home mom of two who are in another country, one of my important job skills is traveling agent. Over the years I have become quite a pro at it. I manage flights, air miles accounts, coordinate dates for holidays, concerts, end of school, start of school etc….if there is a time my kids or my husband and I have to be somewhere for something, I plan it and get it done.

Back in 2001 my husband and I bought a timeshare. Most people think, timeshare is a waste of money but in our case it’s been quite good. Our home base is the Pollard Brook Resort in Lincoln, NH but we have never been there. Instead we have transferred our week to other resorts and have skied in other places such as Lake Tahoe (twice), Banff, and Austria. We have used it to go to Disney 3 or 4 times and also Sedona, AZ. For us it’s been a good investment but I can tell you from experience it takes time and energy to look into resorts, put in a request, and call people to bug them about getting the week you want and the facility you want. Great news! Yesterday I found out that my latest harassing has paid off.

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And the winner is, Turin, Italy. That’s right, the first week of March, Peter, Sarah and I will be skiing on the slopes of Sestriere in Turin and we will be sleeping in the Villagio Olimpico at the foot of the mountain.

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Last night Peter and I started to look at flights and we can actually get a BA flight, in business class for the 3 of us a return ticket non-stop from Gatwick to Turin is £810. For the three of us in business class!!! I couldn’t believe it. I pay that for myself alone to go to Montreal in economy most times. I plan to phone Sarah today in order to find out exactly her March break details and I may make another booking with BA.

I am so psyched I have already sent emails requesting ski maps, resort info etc….

Next step, brush up on my Italian. Ciao!

Thing 1 and the Dishwasher

3 pm, I come out of a lovely CWC (Canadian Women Club) Christmas luncheon and my 19 year old genius sends me this picture with the caption that starts with the word “F”. And then she asks “what do I do?”

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Now, we don’t have a janitor in the building. We have maintenance people who take care of the building and I am sure if there was a huge pipe that would burst somewhere they would know who to call but they don’t really do house calls. I told her to ask that person what to do.

In the meantime I called Peter and he said “it’s probably full of food. Tell her to clean the bottom, you know how she is”. I sent her a message back and asked her to check the dishwasher itself.

Thing 1 has a tendency to put the dishes in the dishwasher without rinsing or well, with food really. Every time I visit, there’s an inch of water in the bottom of the thing because it’s clogged with food and the poor suffocating appliance can’t breath…. 

I instructed her to look at the bottom and see if there was anything blocking the dishwasher. Apparently spinach may have been the cause. 

I am told the floor has been mopped up and it’s all clean. There’s still water in the bottom of the dishwasher but she will deal with it after she comes back from school. 

I have a feeling the dishes will be hand washed until I get there Friday night and I will have to fish out whatever is clogging the dishwasher. I just hope she has wine for this operation, I will need it.

Superb Weekend in Brussels

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Walking to the Grand Place.

Last Friday Peter and I left for Brussels on the Eurostar.

Before I start describing our wonderful weekend let me say a few words about the Eurostar. For me, it’s the most civilized way to travel to continental Europe. It may be more expensive, £275 for a return ticket but we were in premier standard. This includes a meal, wine, coffee and tea and you can choose your seats. We left the house just before 4 pm on Friday, took us 20 minutes by tube to reach Kings Cross/St. Pancras International railway station. We went through security by getting our bags scanned, no stripping down, we showed our passports to two French customs officer who barely looked at us, stamped them and returned them to us. We boarded the train 15 minutes before departure and off we went at 5:04 pm. Right on time. Travel time to Brussels by bullet train is 2 hours. You add-on an hour of time difference, we arrived in Brussels at 8:04 pm, right on time. Took a cab to our hotel. Checked in, changed a bit and off we went. We were walking in the winter market in Brussels around 9 pm. Now that’s amazing!

When we arrived on Friday it was the first day of the Winter Market in Brussels. Winter markets are a big thing in Europe. This is a great way for a city to display their attractions and for local artists and vendors to sell their crafts and products. Every year they rate the top 10 winter markets across Europe and last week before leaving I came across an article ranking Brussels at No. 3. I haven’t seen No. 1 and 2 but I can tell you, Brussels loves Christmas. The decorations are beautiful, the light show that takes place every night on the hour is spectacular and the street food is yummy for the tummy. We tasted the beignets d’hiver with a nice hot chocolate with Bailey’s, yummy in our tummies. 

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The beignets were warm, freshly made and delicious and the hot cocoa with Bailey’s hit the spot.

We walked around with our Bailey’s and doughnuts, took in the light show and we were happy.

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Saturday morning we headed out and made our way to the comic strip museum. Brussels is known for being the birth place of many comic strips such as, Tintin, Spirou, The Smurfs, Benoit Brisefer, Gaston Lagaffe, Boule et Bill etc…You walk the street of Brussels and there are large figurines and painted murals of comic strip characters everywhere. As soon as I stepped into the comic strip museum, I went back to my childhood. A little confession here, I was a fan of Spirou, Tintin, Gaston Lagaffe but I was a HUGE fan of the smurfs. In fact I noticed that the last one I purchased was #18 and there are now 32 Stroumph (French spelling) books. I have some catching up to do next time I am in Montreal. I read all the stories about the creators Herge and Peyo and looked at the many storyboards. Lovely way to spend the morning.

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After the comic strip museum we headed back to the old part of town. We walked around and took in the sights. The city is very pretty, easy to walk and we just enjoyed the sites. Many museums are free, you can simply walk into them and start looking at artifacts. People in Belgium are very friendly. Better than the French! We had a nice lunch at a small tavern. I had the escargot and the vertimouzz with fish (belgium fish stew) and Peter had coquille St. Jacques, which is simply sautéed scallops on a shell. The scallops were a good size and they were excellent. No potato, no sauce, it was good. Then Peter had the mussels. Great lunch. Plenty to fill our bellies and for us to get out and once again hit the pavement. We walked, and walked and walked. My pedometer said we walked over 6 miles that afternoon. 

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That evening we had dinner at Ogenblik an old French bistro in the galeries royales. When we walked in I noticed a lot of sand on the floor. I asked the waiter what the sand was about, he explained to me that it’s an old tradition. In the past, men would go to this restaurant, chew tobacco and spit it on the floor. With the sand it was easier to pick up the chewed tobacco. These days you can’t even smoke in the restaurants in Brussels but Ogenblik still keeps  the tradition.

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Of course the meal was lovely. Foie d’oie dans du porto, some scallops, a nice chateaubriand and some good wine. What could go wrong. Once again, we needed to walk around, get some fresh air before making our way back to the hotel.

Sunday morning we actually slept in. Just made it in time for the breakfast that was closing at 10:30 am. We checked out, left our luggage with the concierge and off we went for more sightseeing. It was a little bit chilly, after walking to a new part of the old city and looking at lace and tapestries we decided to warm up by taking a bus tour. This tour took us out on the outskirts of town where the Euro Parliament is. Where King Leopold used to live and simply where the other half lives. It was a great way to see another part of Brussels.

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At 3 pm we had a late lunch reservation Chez Leon. Chez Leon is a restaurant established in 1893 and their main dish is what else, Moules Frites. Mussels with fries and of course beer. It was great. The mussels were big and fresh. Best mussels I had in a long time. Soon after we paid the “addition” it was time to get our luggage at the hotel, grab a cab and head to the train station. At the station it was once again easy. Security, customs, wait ten minutes to board train etc….Coming back is always a treat because we left at 6:56 pm, the train ride took two hours and we got one hour back by returning to the UK. We arrived at St. Pancras promp 8:04 pm, took the tube home to South Kensington and we were walking into the house around 8:45 pm. As far as I’m concerned, if you can afford it, it’s the best way to travel to continental Europe bar none. 

Just a great weekend in Brussels.

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