Sunday, June 3, 2007

Heading home!!

Travel Day. We got to Gatwick Airport with plenty of time. Checked gate status: nothing. Went shopping, then checked gate status: nothing. Did some more shopping and 10min later, the gate status said GATE CLOSING!!! We sprinted to the gate with our bags of duty free stuff, and made it just in time. The flight home (with crappy movie) was fine - a very jealous Stephen sat next to a guy who had Chelsea season tickets, went to the England-Brazil game, and to the FA cup final. We got to Montreal and hurried to jump on the earlier bus home to Ottawa.

We were delayed about a half hour when the bus had to pull over on the highway halfway home to help a poor woman having a screaming psychotic episode on the bus. Poor lady, she was very scared. She eventually had to be removed from the bus by police and put into an ambulance and we were off again

We arrived to a rainy Ottawa and to our home sweet home!


Saturday, June 2, 2007

Macbeth and a Whirlwind tour of London

Beth was great and got us tickets to a show at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre where she was working. We watched the matinee performance of Macbeth and enjoyed it very much ("Out damn spot!")!! What a great theatre! Thanks Beth!

Did lots of walking today, through Regent's Park, Green's Park, Hyde Park then St.James Park, past Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, BigBen, Westminster Abbey, and Trafalgar Square. It was a whirlwind tour, but it was still nice to catch glimpses of them all... just means we'll have to come back again soon to do a proper job of visiting. Unfortunately/Fortunately, we found the famous pigeons of Trafalgar Square to be missing (apparently they were 'banned' a year or two ago)! The parks were lovely to walk through with so many Londonites relaxing and enjoying the open green spaces.

Stephen was excited to be able to catch some of the live Sens game, with the puck being dropped at 1:30am England time. He managed to stay awake for the first 10 minutes of the game (which were terrible) and then fell asleep only to miss the rest of the game which ended up being the most exciting yet!

Go Sens go (1-2)!!

Hours of walking: 4

Regent's Park Open Air Theatre

Big Ben

People relaxing in Regent's Park

Pelicans, what pelicans?

Buckingham Palace with tourist
Trafalgar Square (minus pigeons)

Friday, June 1, 2007

Pub hopping in London

Spent the day shopping in Crouch End and then met up with some of Steve's friends from his days at Lancaster University. We had drinks and then dinner at a nice italian restaurant with Dave, Rich and Zara and was introduced to Pimm's by the pitcher (our summer drink of choice from now on!). Stopped off at a pub to see England score against Brazil, and then to another pub which looked like it was made out of caves (really really old!). Good times!

Hours of walking: 1

The London Eye
Steve, Dave and Rich

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Kenwood Gardens and Belly Dancing

Today was a nice relaxing day! We took a walk to the lovely Kenwood gardens and estate where we strolled around and sat to sip some tea (well, Christina sipped, Stephen gulped). We were treated to an awesome Moroccan dinner with by James gang at a restaurant in Crouch End called Bouga. Stephen, Jane and Christina each had a go at bellydancing (yes, we do have video evidence!) and the friendly waiter rounded out our evening with free shots of limoncella.

Oh no Sens, start going (0-2)!!

Hours of walking: 2

Kenwood Manor
Sip, sip, sip
Kenwood Estate
More flowers!
Scott, Stephen, Christina, Jane, Beth and Kate enjoying some very yummy food!
Christina and Jane dancing it up!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Travel day - on to London!

Travel Day. Today we were heading back to England, so we only had a little time to kill before our flight. Instead of going to take a peek at Nimes, we went to visit the market in St-Remy de Provence for some last minute gift shopping. Afterwards, we drove to the airport only to find out that there was no gas station for miles and miles (even though the airport was surrounded by small villages, none of these had gas!), so we returned the car without a full tank. Drat.

Took our flight to Luton Airport, trained to the King's Cross station, tubed to Finsbury Park, and then bussed to the James' (Aunt Jane & Uncle Scott). They were out at a play, but left us a delicious ready-bake pasta (that hit the spot like you wouldnt believe!), garlic bread and beer. Sat down in front of the tv, and what was on? An hour of condensed action from the Senators' first game in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Not a pretty game - Yikes! But Steve was really glad (and amazed) that it was on tv anyway. Nice to feel kinda at home after all our travels.

Go Sens go (0-1)!!

Hours of walking: 3

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Les Baux de Provence

Getting an early start to the day, we went to les Baux de Provence, a small city perched on the top of a mountain with the castle carved out of the rock. This is a very small city (the only public parking available was on the way up the mountain), but the view from the top was great. We got to see a really big catapult in action, and were almost blown off the top of the tower (still so windy!).

Arles was the next destination, but we were so pooped that we caught a glimpse of the amphitheatre, and decided not to pay the admission fee and went for a late lunch instead. Came back to the B&B, then unfortunately fell asleep for 4hours and missed the small dinner window (~7pm-9pm), so for the second night in a row, we had pizza. Eh. We missed our chance for a fancy final french dinner. I suppose our waist lines will thank us for that!

Hours of walking: 4
Les Baux in the distance
A look back at the castle
Big catapult!
More of the castle (those are pigeon holes)
Treacherous steps!
One of the views from the top
Christina's favorite flowers...
Amphiteatre in Arles

Monday, May 28, 2007

In the Camargue

Woke up for a nice big hotel buffet breakfast (slept in a bit and were the last ones to eat!). Then we headed off to the Camargue, a big national park (swamp area). We managed to see warthogs, FLAMINGOS!!, lots of other birds, a couple of bulls and maybe some wild horses (not sure). Thankfully the wind kept the mosquitos away. Steve decided that it was better to risk his bladder exploding than to use the horrible bathroom at the Parc Ornithologique.

We had planned to do some more biking when we got to Sainte Marie de La Mer, but that turned out to be almost as disastrous as the our first cycling adventure in Alsace. We were biking right next to the sandy beach, and it was sooo windy that a thick layer of sand had blown on to the path, making the biking pretty difficult. On the way out, the wind pushed us along and we didn't even have to pedal... nice... but on the way back, the opposing wind was so bad that there were a few times when Christina would pedal without moving forward at all... it was that bad. We also had the sand blowing in our eyes, our mouths and ears, yummy.

We returned the bikes and were about to head to our B&B for the night, when we passed by a small parade of musicians entering a building -- it turns out we were right next to a small bull-fighting arena, and an event was about to take place! The event was a 'Course Camarguaise', a game where the young men in the ring try to grab ribbons that are attached to the bulls head as he charges them (much more humane than a real bullfight anyway!). The whole thing was fairly daring, and we got some good videos of it, including when the bulls decided to jump over the fence and out of the arena and had to be coaxed back in!

We spent an awful 45 minutes trying to find our way to the B&B given terrible directions and a general lack of useful road signage. Argh!

Hours of walking: 4

Hours of biking: 2

More flamingos!
Even more flamingos!
Now a warthog...
and a monster?
The sea near Ste. Marie de la Mer
Place for dog pooping
Terrible opening band
A bull chasing the 'bullfighters'
Angry bull
You two are on the wrong sides!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Big Orange Roussillon

We said goodbye to Annie and then headed off to the market in Castoulet, which was a bit of a letdown. It was a big market, but we were looking for more arty things, and this was mainly a farmers market. I think Christina still had fun though. We then backtracked and headed to Roussillion. This town was all coloured orange/red -- there was a big ochre mine right next to the town that we were able to walk through. Very colourful! We didn't have any accomodations for tonight, so we headed closer to Arles, and finally found a hotel (this is a long weekend in France, so all the hotels were very busy). On our way, we passed through St-Remy de Provence, which had monster trees lining the road for kms at a time, a very impressive entrance to the city. Tonight was perhaps our fanciest dinner yet, made completely out of local food & wine. We even ordered aperitifs (drinks that whet the appetite)! Tomorrow we tackle the Camargue with the flamingos and wild horses!!

Hours of walking: 4

Ochre mine
Entrance to St-Remy de Provence
Off to dinner!

Saturday, May 26, 2007


This morning, Christina's allergies were at an all time high -- big, puffy watery eyes. We ended up getting a late start (too much relaxing at the B&B in the morning), but then went off to tour Aix-en-Provence (a bigger city like Avignon). We had a yummy lunch of duck, stuffed tomatoes and goatcheese pasta, then took a guided tour of the city known for it's many beautiful fountains.

Congratulations Sean & Melody! Hope you had a wonderful wedding!

Hours of walking: 3

La Rotonde Fountain

Friday, May 25, 2007

Lourmarin Market & Gordes

Today was market day in Lourmarin, so we walked there and bought some nice things. It was really hot again, so we deservedly had a swim before heading off to explore some more villages. We had to pass through Bonnieux (another small city on another mountain) and Christina videotaped the crazy drive up (the drive down was more impressive, when we were on the outside of the mountain road!). Gordes is supposed to be one of the prettiest villages in France, but you don't get to see it until the last minute (it pops out at you on your drive up -- it's pretty unreal). We came home and had dinner by the pool with Annie and fellow lodgers Christine and Cyril, which consisted of aperitifs (?ponche?), wine, cheese and olives.

Hours of walking: 3

Olives at the market
Olive trees on the walk home from the market
Gordes again

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Ansouis and Cucuron

Woke up to a nice breakfast with homemade jams, croissants & baguettes and the zilliondollar view with Annie (our host). We went exploring the small city of Ansouis which was perched atop a little mountain -- we can't understand how these things got built!! Afterwards we went to Cucuron, a neighboring town for a little explore of the city, but also a nice 3hour hike. This time the map was a little bit more friendly, but Steve was still unsure of where we were for about half of it. Fortunately we made it back to the city, and then came back to the B&B to rest by the pool (got sunburnt, but relaxed). After a quick snooze, we headed to Lourmarin for dinner and a walk around the castle. Stephen won the rock throwing game.

Hours of walking: 5 (Steve thinks he is now skinnier)

Village of Ansouis
Parking in Ansouis
More poppies!
A lonely asparagus
At the top of our hike near Cucuron
Old sofa
Lourmarin castle tower