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!
Last month Adam and I finally made it off on vacation for the first time since our honeymoon in June of last year. Let me tell you, it was a much-needed change of scenery and rhythm! Our chosen destinations were Paris, where we spent two nights in the Montmartre area followed by a week spent in an apartment in Versailles. From there we commuted back and forth to Paris, went on a day trip to Chartres, explored every nook and cranny of the Château and Domaine of Versailles and visited Malmaison, the home of Joséphine Bonaparte. After nine days in the Paris area, we hopped on the Eurostar and travelled across the English Channel for two nights in London and a final two nights in Windsor. Needless to say, I have plenty of travel tales to tell, so I will be breaking them down into three separate posts.
Let’s begin with Paris! This was my first visit to the City of Light which, at the age of 35, is a bit odd for an art and architectural historian but there you have it! I loved my Parisian experience however I must say that the image of Paris we see in popular culture is seriously glamorized. Paris is portrayed as a beautiful, romantic, chic city, the type of place you cannot help but fall in love with. I did not fall in love with Paris but I did fall in love with parts of it.
Paris is a surprisingly small city but extremely densely populated by both Parisians and tourists. Do not go to Paris on holiday if you are looking for peace and quiet, you will not get it. I was also surprised by how loud the city is. Paris is by far the loudest of all the European cities I have visited so far because of how heavy traffic can get. Also, a large portion of the vehicles in Paris are scooters and motorbikes which are louder than cars. Don’t get me wrong though, Paris is a beautiful city and despite all the people and noise, it is very easy to get some lovely photos of all the most famous landmarks thanks to the fact that central Paris was largely rebuilt by Georges-Eugène Haussmann in the mid-19th century.
Thanks to Haussmann, Paris is very easy to explore on foot and it also has a very vast public transit system so if you do get tired of walking you are never more than one block from a metro station. However, there is a serious lack of concern for the comfort of visitors in the city’s attractions, namely in the availability of bathrooms. Notre-Dame-De-Paris? Stunning, I absolutely loved it but there are no washrooms inside the church. If you need to go, you have to leave the cathedral, go around to the back and pay .50 centimes to use the washroom there. When I wanted to go the bathroom, unfortunately the only one in the area, it was closed while the church was still very much open.
And the Louvre? It is also, naturally, a must see. Do not expect to leave the museum feeling anything other than exhausted though. You will more than likely start your visit by standing in line. We spent forty-five to fifty minutes in line outside. We were lucky it was a cloudy day because the lineup for the Louvre is in the palaces courtyard and there is no shelter from the elements. I cannot begin to imagine how horrible it must be standing in line at the Louvre in the Summer heat with no shade and no water fountains. Be advised that there are no water fountains inside the Louvre either, so bring water! P.S.: There are no bathrooms in the vicinity of the Louvre, so plan accordingly or you will suffer like I did.
Once you are inside the museum, be prepared for massive lineups for the washrooms. I suggest you go even if you don’t really need to, because bathrooms are few and far between in the galleries. Wear comfrotable shoes because there are very few places to sit and above all else, do not set out to visit the entire museum in one day, it simply cannot be done. Decide what you absolutely want to see and limit yourself to that. As for the Mona Lisa, she is indeed splendid and worth the crowds that surround her but be sure you pay attention to all the other stunning works of art that lead up to her and surround her. Also appreciate how incredibly amused she seems by being the center of so much attention.
My favorite area of Paris was Montmartre where we stayed in a lovely little hotel for two nights. Montmartre was too far from the center of Paris to be touched by Haussmann’s overhaul, so it has kept its network of narrow, winding streets. Also, since far fewer tourists make it all the way to Montmartre, Parisians are much friendlier there. If you are lucky enough to visit Paris one day, make sure you set aside at least half a day for a thorough exploration of Montmartre and you will be charmed.
To sum it up, I loved my first visit to Paris and while the city itself was a bit of a trial at times, I was thrilled to finally get to see so many places and monuments I had been dreaming of seeing; in some cases, since I was a little girl.
Here is a list of dos and don’ts to keep in mind if you are planning to visit Paris for the first time:
1-Carry toilet paper, hand sanitizer and .50 centime coins with you at all times. You cannot get into pay-to-go bathrooms in France that do not have an attendant with anything other than a .50 centime coin and be aware that they unfortunately frequently lack toilet paper, soap or both.
2-Keep your bag in front of you at all times when you are in crowded areas if you are a lady. Gents: keep your wallet in your front pocket.
3-Carry water, a hat and sunblock with you.
4-Walk as much as you can! Paris is best enjoyed on foot, if you try to drive in the city you will spend a lot of time in traffic. Adam and I walked an average of 10 kms a day during our entire vacation and wow, did it ever leave us feeling amazing!
5- If you are a foodie, enjoy the markets! France is very well know for its excellent food and the French love using fresh ingredients, so rent an apartment for your stay so you can do your own cooking and go for a walk in your neighborhood to learn where the local bakeries, cheese shops, butcher shops and fishmongers are. If you cannot find one of these within a few blocks of your place, ask a shopkeeper and they will more than likely be able to point you to the right place to find your missing ingredients.
1-Do not expect service with a smile. You may have heard that Parisians are not the friendliest of hosts. This is unfortunately true and I must admit, it really rubbed me the wrong way. Service with a scowl is more the Parisian way of dealing with tourists…
2- Do not bring your diet on vacation with you! French food completely lived up to my expectations. I did not have a single bad meal the entire time I was in France. We drank wine every night and ate all the cheese, baguettes, pastries and charcuterie we wanted and guess what? I actually lost weight while we were away. See point #4 of my ‘do’ list for probable cause but seriously, you will regret blowing off your diet while in Paris way less than you will sticking to it.
4- Do not eat right next door to a tourist attraction or within one no matter what. You will be the victim of inflated prices and low food quality. Walk a few blocks away from any major attraction before giving any serious consideration to eating.
5- Do not take public transit at rush hour if at all possible, especially not if you are even the slightest bit claustrophobic. The Parisian public transit system can get extremely crowded, so for your comfort, try getting on after peak commuting times.
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!
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.
So, you have undoubtedly noticed that I have been away for a while. We have some new downstairs neighbors and it has been a bumpy ride since they took possession of the lower half of the duplex in mid-March and began demolishing it in order to renovate it. A bumpy ride as in beyond the usual irritating consequences of a nearly hundred year-old house being gutted to the studs and rebuilt. We were expecting noise, dust and a few issues being discovered with our home as well, but on top of that we got work being done on common elements of the building without our permission, legal threats, express instructions that only electricians cut wires being ignored and therefore power to sections of our home being cut, our alarm system being damaged and our phone line being cut. We were also treated to personal accusations and insults being thrown our way through the hypocritical medium of e-mail which led me to put my foot down and cut all ties with the neighbors except for requests for bills being paid or permission being requested for work to be done on common elements.With all this going on, to say that I have been lacking inspiration to create anything at all would be an understatement. I have actually been lacking the time and energy to get anything done beyond dealing with the mess being created by the new neighbors at all. The one thing that has been able to give me a reprieve from the confused heap our life has recently become was a two day trip to Quebec City we ran off on at the drop of a hat two weeks ago so Adam could attend a conference. It gave me a chance to spend some time wandering around one of the most photogenic cities I have ever seen, reconnect with my mother’s family history and disconnect from anything neighbor related. Oh, and Adam and I got to have a nice, romantic dinner in one of our favorite restaurants as well. We discovered it on our last trip to Quebec City two years ago and were so happy to be able to go back.
Quebec City is a beautiful little jewel of a place filled with colorful row houses and its oldest section is surrounded by the only intact fortified walls to be found in America north of Mexico which were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. The city is one of the oldest in North America and was founded by Samuel de Champlain in 1608. While all of this makes the city exceptional in and of itself, it is the history of my family that always makes me happy to go back and visit it. My mother’s family has its roots in Quebec City and can be traced back to the 17th century in the area, so needless to say I always feel at home when I am there and love remembering all the stories my grandmother has told me about growing up in Quebec City. I love walking through Quebec’s narrow streets and feeling my family’s past around me. This was the first time I really had the time to photograph the city as well and my goodness did I enjoy every second of those two days.
Finally, I’ve decided to post only in English from now on to make life simpler for myself on here. One language to post in means it takes me half the time to get a post up which is a good thing. All the photos featured in the slideshow in this post will be added to the travel photography page, so if you want to get a close look at them, you can pop over there.