As metioned in my previous post, 2018 definitely put a few roadblocks up on what was previously a pretty clear path in my life. It wasn’t all bad though, the year also saw me ticking a few destinations off my travel bucket list and gave me more than a few opportunities to take some pretty nice pictures. In celebration of my finally making it to Paris, Versailles, Windsor and Canada’s most Easterly province, here are a few of my favorite photos from 2018. Enjoy!
It is no secret that Adam and I love the ocean, although for completely different reasons. Adam loves to lie on the beach and soak up the sun, while I love getting in the water regardless of how cold it might be. With this in mind along with the fact that Adam wanted to go someplace neither of us had ever been this year, we agreed to spend one week of our Summer vacation in Newfoundland.
Adam and I have now been to all three Maritime provinces and have enjoyed all of them immensely with Newfoundland, we discovered, being the most natural, untamed maritime province. It is the least densely populated with only 1.5 inhabitants per square kilometer. When you take into account the size of the province (405,212 sq. kms), you can get a bit of a feel for how rural a place it is, especially when you know that most of the island’s inhabitants live in the capital city of St. John’s. So if you are going to visit Newfoundland and want to see more than St. John’s and its immediate area, you need to enjoy driving. Adam and I rented an SUV for our one week stay and by the time we returned it I had driven a solid 2000 kilometers and we only visited the Avalon Peninsula, which is the Northeast and Southeast of the province.
How was the weather, you might be wondering? The weather in Newfoundland is notoriously difficult to predict and can change very suddenly no matter which part of the province you are in. Typically, if it is not nice in your neck of the woods, it will be sunny about an hour up the road. Just check the radar and head to where it is clear. We got a bit of everything while we were in Newfoundland, including some lovely, sunny, 30 degree (celsius) days where we went to the beach and got a tan. What we got the most though was, yes, fog, very, very dense fog. I can guarantee you will encounter fog several times a day, every day in Newfoundland and if it is a rainy day you will have to contend with that as well. If you want to learn more about the geography of Newfoundland and what makes it so foggy, you can read this Wikipedia article. Suffice it say, not only do you have to not mind driving if you want to have fun in Newfoundland, you also have to be a fairly relaxed driver, no matter the weather. I do not recommend driving at night if you can avoid it, regardless of how confident you are behind the wheel because on top of the dense fog, you may also encounter a moose. There are roughly 150 000 of them in the province and while we did not encounter a single one during our week-long vacation, there are on average 600 moose vs. car collisions in Newfoundland every year. Most of them are not fatal for humans, however the same cannot be said for their cars or the poor moose which is why many Newfoundlanders prefer not to drive at night. If you do have to drive at night and catch up to another driver, stay behind them as driving in groups is safer.
I wholeheartedly recommend visiting Newfoundland if you have the chance, it is an absolutely beautiful, peaceful province and Newfoundlanders are a very kind and welcoming bunch who will be happy to help you enjoy your stay in any way they can. If you want to get the most out of you trip to this unique province, I would recommend visiting as many wildlife and nature reserves as you can. I thoroughly enjoyed Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve and we both absolutely loved our whale and birdwatching tour with O’Brien’s Boat Tours. The historic town of Trinity was another of our favorites, we visited there twice and both times we ate at the Trinity Coffee Company and Mercantile. Trinity is also a fabulous place to shop for locally made arts and crafts for yourself or as a gift for friends and family. Finally, do not pass up on enjoying the view from the cliffs of Bonavista and keep an eye out for puffins of whales, we saw plenty of them!
Two weeks ago Adam and I took a trip to La Maison Lavande in St-Eustache. It was a spur or of moment decision made over Sunday breakfast. I had seen a photo taken there go by on my Instagram feed the day before and felt inner peace just looking at the lavender flowers, so off we went.
A nice, soothing experience was just what Adam and I were looking for that beautiful, sunny Sunday because the Saturday of the week before, I had suffered a miscarriage. I am not sharing this information to garner pity or to shock anyone. I am sharing it because I feel that pregnancy loss is not something that is spoken about enough in our society. I have spent nearly a month now mulling over how to write this post and why I have not come across more women who share their stories of loss publicly.
Pregnancy loss is a very painful experience both physically and emotionally, however it is a very atypical type of grief which comes with a fear of misunderstanding when it is shared. Often, miscarriages occur before the twelve week mark, so parents may not have even had the chance to hear their baby’s heartbeat or if they have heard their baby’s heartbeat before a miscarriage occurs, then they likely have not had the chance to feel their baby move since babies movements in the womb can only be felt by their mother for the first time anywhere between sixteen and twenty-five weeks of pregnancy. Adam and I did not have the chance to experience either of these things, but our hearts still shattered to pieces when we lost our baby because when he died, we lost the chance to ever get to know him. As soon as we found out we were expecting, we began to wonder whether our baby would be athletic or laid back or whether they would be musical since we both are. We speculated about the chances our child would be a creative dreamer like me or more of a rational thinker like Adam. How, though, can you hope that people will understand how deeply you are grieving for a little being you never really got to know? The fear of this misunderstanding pushed us to keep our pain largely to ourselves for the first few weeks after our loss.
Don’t get me wrong, we did find a great deal of comfort and support from our family and friends, some of whom who had also experienced a miscarriage or if they hadn’t, they generally had another friend or relative who had. Despite all the kindness and understanding, I still ended up feeling quite isolated in my grief and going through a pretty bad bout of depression, particularly during the week following our loss when my ongoing physical healing process prevented me from being as active as I normally try to be when dealing with grief. To compensate for my inability to use endorphins to get me over the worst of my emotional pain, I tried to find books written to help parents through their grief following the loss of an unborn child. After searching through the online inventories of every single book store in Montreal, I found one book devoted to mothers grieving miscarriages and stillbirths at Indigo. I went down to the store, found the book and nearly burst into tears when I realised that it was not what I was hoping to find. The book had been written by a very conservative Christian and therefore addressed healing from a purely religious standpoint i.e.: read the bible and pray and you will feel better in no time once you have understood that God took your baby back into his loving arms for a reason. I respect the fact that this may be helpful to some but it was not helpful at all to me.
I went back home empty-handed and spoke about my experience with Adam and that’s when it finally struck me that maybe families also do not share their stories of pregnancy loss because miscarriages are often referred to as failed pregnancies. Modern society is endemically afraid of failure. We try as much as possible to project an image of perfection, especially nowadays with social media. Anything less than perfection is of seen as not worth sharing. Some would even point out that we lost our baby because he was not perfect. I, for one, have not been afraid of failure for some time. I have had plenty of practice at it, I challenge you to find anyone who failed more math exams than I have. I failed both my theoretical and practical drivers exams the first time I took them and it took me an extra year to get through both high school and university. I don’t care that it took me longer to do these things, it just makes me prouder that I did eventually succeed at them. I also don’t care that science says that our baby more than likely died because he wasn’t perfect. To Adam and I he was exactly who and what he was meant to be and lived the life he was meant to. Our little one brought us such hope and joy while he was with us and we loved him so very deeply. Some might call that a failure and be ashamed and hide it, but not me, not us.
It is no secret that we live a frenzied lifestyle nowadays. We are constantly connected to others through cell phones and social media on top of regular, everyday human interaction, especially if you are a city dweller like me. That is why I love getting away to the countryside when I can. That can be difficult to do though, because getting out to the countryside requires that ever precious and elusive thing: time. That is why it was difficult for me when my mom announced that she was moving out to the boonies last Spring. It is no fun when your mom tells you she is moving 100 kilometers away, even when you are an adult. Mild consolation came, however, the first time Adam and I went to visit my mom and saw how lovely her home was. It also happens to be right on a lake. So the downside: my mom lives 100 kilometers away and it takes us an hour and twenty minutes to get there when traffic is good. The upside: look at this beautiful, serene setting. We can go canoeing on her lake when we visit her in the Summer and leaf peeping in the fall. It will more than likely be drop-dead gorgeous in the winter as well.
My last visit to my mom’s place left me wondering what I could do to slow down the pace of my frenzied life a bit. Felling overly solicited is a problem of mine and am known for my bouts of Superwoman syndrome which leave me drained and guilt-ridden when I cannot handle taking care of the house, cooking every day of the week, running errands and a few hours at work thrown in for good measure on top of taking the car into the shop. Of course, taking care of myself goes completely by the wayside when this happens as well. After my most recent Superwoman syndrome attack I analysed what I spent time on every day closely for a week or two. I was alarmed by how much time I spent checking my e-mail and social media accounts, so I decided to gradually cut back my access to them. I started by turning off e-mail alerts on my cell phone and tablet, then I removed Instagram from my tablet as well. I gained a lot of time during the day just by doing that. Then a few weeks ago, I was embroiled in some Facebook drama and that was the last straw. ‘Real’ life is dramatic enough, I didn’t need Facebook antics adding to my every day struggles, so I removed the Facebook app from my phone and my iPad. I now have to go onto the Facebook site on my phone, PC or tablet and log on to access my account and news feed. Talk about liberating! I still have Instagram on my phone so I can take and share photos and those go onto Facebook but that is pretty much all I put on there. I have shared one status update in the last three weeks or perhaps even longer and I feel like my privacy level has gone way up. I have more time to do what I love, like reading, writing, cooking and working on my photos and I feel much less like I am living in a fish bowl.
Lesson learned: life will always be crazy, there is no getting around that. You can, however, find ways to free up some precious time for yourself by analyzing how you spend your time and where you waste any of it. For me, my use of social media was the logical thing to cut back on and I have been considerably happier since I have done so. My private life has become just that: private.
Here, now that I am finally done sorting through our wedding photos, are some pictures from our amazing Maritime Honeymoon!
Adam and I were asked many times why on earth we would decide to go to the Maritimes for our honeymoon? Would we not rather go to some far-flung tropical destination with palm trees, a swim up bar and room service? Uh…no, no, we would not. We thought about it at first but that’s just not us. Adam and I wanted peace and quiet and to be with nobody but one another for our honeymoon and you just can’t have that in a resort. Also, for the price we paid for our cottage for one month, we would have only been able to spend two weeks at the most in a resort. We wanted to go to a place where we knew we would be able to fully recharge our batteries, do things at our own pace and not feel like we were missing out on anything if we decided we needed to spend the day just loafing around at home. We both know and love PEI so it was the logical choice and we decided to stay near the Wood Islands ferry terminal so we could make a day trip to Nova Scotia, which neither one of us had ever visited.
In the end, our honeymoon was perfect and just what we needed. We spent the first week and a half taking things slow, napping whenever we wanted to and the third week we made our trip to Nova Scotia where we visited Halifax, Lunenberg and made a quick photo stop in Mahone. We came home tanned, much to everyone’s surprise (hello, beautiful PEI beaches!), rested and blissfully happy. So, when planning your honeymoon, do not be afraid to think outside the box. Honeymoons do not have to involve sunny, tropical destinations. They can also be built around going back to a place you love or around an activity you love.The main thing is, make sure you can relax during your trip and do not feel the need to leave 24 hours after you walk down the aisle. Even though weddings are a blast and you come through them on a massive high, they are stressful and once you come down off your adrenaline rush, all you will want to do is sleep and lie around in your PJs for a few days and we really appreciated being able to do that for a week before we had to spend a day and a half driving to the Island.
Finally, here is a list of the most romantic things to do in PEI:
1- Sunset beach walks
2- Having dinner at the Point Prim Chowder House at sunset
3- Dinner at Dalvay by the sea
4- Indulging in an ice cream cone from Cow’s while strolling through Charlottetown in the evening
5- Enjoy a walk through the PEI Preserve Company’s Gardens of Hope
I hope you all enjoy the photos from our trip, I’m so glad I finally had the time to get on here and share with all of you!
So, it’s been a while again and a lot has happened! In mid-June Adam and I were finally able to get away from the constant noise and dust of our downstairs neighbors renovation project and off we went to Poland, but not before getting engaged on June 14th! I had sort of been expecting him to pop the question for a while, but he still managed to surprise me and the proposal was so simple and perfect and romantic and so completely US! As many of you know, planning has been going full steam ahead and most of the big things are already dealt with. THANK YOU to everyone for your good wishes, encouragement and help so far, we love you all dearly and feel very fortunate to have all you in our lives 🙂
Now, on to Poland! We were very busy during our trip since Adam wanted me to see as much of his country as possible. We changed cities six times in two and a half weeks, beginning with Warsaw. We then traveled to Adam’s mother’s home town for a two-day visit with his family there before going to Czestochowa, Krakow, Zakopane and back to Krakow. My favorite place to visit was definitely Krakow. I love the architecture and laid back, small town feel of the city and also the fact that the entire historic center of it is pedestrian. A major highlight of Adam and I’s time there was being able to spend a few minutes alone in a room with Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘Lady with an Ermine’, which is temporarily on display at the Wawel Palace while the Czartorinsky museum where it is normally exhibited is renovated. Pretty much every single person in Poland has seen Lady with an Ermine because it is a point of pride for Poles that they have one of the only completed Da Vincis in the world outside of the Louvre Museum in Paris. Since most Poles have already seen the painting and the country is not nearly as overrun by tourists as France is, it is incredibly easy to spend time alone with the painting if you’re willing to wait in the room a little while until it empties out. What a treat! Another must-see in the Krakow area is the Wieliczka salt mine. They have tours in several different languages, including French and English, but be prepared to go down a ton of stairs at the beginning of the tour and to walk a lot. One of the most impressive things you will see during your tour of the mine is its chapel which, as with everything else in the mine, is carved directly into the salt bed.
Another treat during our trip was our lovely, long hike in the mountains in Zakopane, barring a rather traumatizing episode when we ended up in a rather more challenging area than we should have been. Heed this warning: If you go hiking in the mountains in Zakopane, do not rely on the tourist maps, difficulty levels of the trails are not indicated and the locals have a rather distorted view of what is difficult and what is not since they have grown up in the area and are very proficient hikers and rock climbers. Czestochowa is beautiful as well and I absolutely loved visiting the Jasna Gora sanctuary.
As for the food, it is generally excellent and authentic. Do not go to Poland expecting to have an easy time finding sushi and Italian food, you will be grievously disappointed. Enjoy the Polish food, it is hearty, made with local ingredients and not full of all the nasty funk we have in processed foods almost everywhere else nowadays. You will wait for a while for your food anywhere other than in a milk bar (Polish fast food restaurant) and that is a very good thing because guess what? You’re getting fresh stuff made just for you! I was only disappointed by my food twice and both times we ate in a flashy tourist trap because we were starving and it was what was easiest to do. It can happen to the best of us, so just steer clear of tourist traps that seem to be full of Americans and you will be fine 🙂
The only downside to this trip was the language barrier. I have a basic knowledge of the Polish language and I still ended up feeling homesick about 3/4 of the way through the trip because I just could not process what was being said around me most of the time. Polish is a very difficult language to master (this coming from a girl who is completely french/english bilingual and has studied and done not too badly in three other languages) and even when you do okay in a basic situation, like being able to ask for the washroom or a tram line, you will end up being completely befuddled when trying to comprehend what people are talking about around you because there are so many different tenses and gender variations depending on just about everything under the sun, like whether you are referring to a table, a table with something on it, a table with something under it, or dancing on a table at your grandparents 70th wedding anniversary. I kid you not. I’m not saying communicating in English is an issue in Poland, everyone who works with the public in any capacity speaks very good English, but it is definitely a good idea to have some basics of the Polish language under your belt before travelling there, or make sure you have a very good Polish/English dictionary in the back of your travel book just in case.
All in all, I highly recommend a visit to Poland, it is a beautiful and authentic country, with plenty to offer and that is not, as with so many other European destinations, completely overrun by foreign tourists. It is also wonderful for travelers on a budget, because the country has kept its own currency, the Zloty, which is much friendlier for Canadian travellers since you can typically get about three Zlotys for every Canadian Dollar. Your biggest expense will be your plane ticket there, but once that is paid for, you will be stunned by how little you will spend on food, attractions, accommodation and shopping. Enjoy!
Ah, Spring! It finally made its way to Montreal! Okay, you can’t really tell today because it is pretty darn chilly out there, but that’s the nature of the climate in this neck of the woods at this time of year: just when you’re convinced you won’t have to wear a sweater or jacket again until September or October, Mother Nature plays a trick on you and throws in a touch of April weather just to keep you on your toes! At least there are leaves on the trees, flowers in my pots and strawberries growing on my from deck though and I’m happy to be sharing these pictures of them with you! Isn’t it awesome how the pollen on the hibiscus bloom looks like caviar? I got a serious kick out of that! I also loved that I was out on the front balcony just at the right moment to snap a photo of this ant as he wandered around on my strawberry plant. I have gotten photos of butterflies, bees and other small insects before, but never an ant.
People often think that you can’t get photos of nature when you live in town, but really you don’t have to look too far, especially in my neighborhood which is full of parks, small front gardens and balconies that most people take a great deal of pride in. I honestly adore my part of town and wouldn’t move out of it for the world!
For more photos of flowers and gardens from Montreal and elsewhere, you can head over to the ‘Flowers’ page.