Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Future Olympian / Family Weekend 2012

Since Siobhan asked so nicely in her blog comment, I will try to post something every day this week.  I’m sure reading my blog is exactly what everyone feels like doing when they could be watching the Olympics instead.  We’ve been spending a lot of time watching TV in our dark, damp basement.  I believe it’s almost an unpardonable sin to watch TV in the summer (except to keep the kids occupied when necessary – there are always gray areas), so I feel conflicted but it’s been so hot that it’s sort of a relief to spend time in the cellar.

Spencer has been absolutely obsessed about the Olympics.  His goal of becoming an Olympic athlete began during the 2010 winter games and hasn’t subsided since.  His zeal has increased since they began on the weekend and he knows so much trivia about every sport, it’s not even funny.  He told me getting to the Olympics was number four on his list of goals.  I asked what number one was, and he said, “Winning gold.”  He’s not a fan of drinking milk, but this morning I saw he had poured himself a glass and drank the whole thing.  “I have to increase my calcium,” he said.  When he’s not watching the games, he’s either memorizing his Olympic edition of Owl magazine or building an Olympic scene out of Lego (quite impressive).  He goes to camp next week and is very upset about it conflicting with the Games.  If he had known about this when he registered, we could have saved ourselves a couple hundred bucks.

On a related note, he went to fencing class last week and a local radio station was there filming a video:


You can see him in the background if you look closely (especially around 2:09 when he's walking on what looks like a ladder on the floor) - he’s wearing a greyish faded Star Wars t-shirt and black sweats with a white stripe down the side.  (You can also catch a glimpse of Dale standing way back by the doorway.  He’s wearing one of his usual two t-shirts: the black one with white printing on it.)

My brother from Vancouver is in town so we had our annual family weekend at my parents’ this weekend.  It was a fantastic weekend as always and the weather was perfect.  The highlight was a new zip-line that my dad and brother built – it starts way up in a tree, and it took a bit of nerve to do it the first time.  And the second, and okay, maybe the third too.  Poor Chloe couldn’t get up the nerve to do it until the second day.  By that time, even my 4-year-old niece Bella had done it by herself.  That’s not really a fair comparison since Bella has no fear.  But even Neve had done it, and she’s not the bravest.  Once Chloe finally did it, she was hooked.  If anyone is up for an hour’s drive and wants to try it, let me know – I’m pretty sure my dad would be happy for it to be enjoyed (at your own risk!).

Other activities included swimming, a water balloon launcher, fireworks, volleyball, driving the tillactor, bean bag toss game, campfires and of course lots of food.  My parents always go all out for this and the whole family loves it.

The cousins

Lois Hole with a knife

Digging potatoes

me and my one legged bean bag game

Monday, July 30, 2012

Our East Coast trip in minute detail

Part of the reason (besides the laundry) my trip update is not very timely is because I don’t even know where to start.  Twenty-four days of holiday fun is hard to sum up.  We experienced and saw so many amazing things that a few words can’t do it justice.  So I won’t even try.  I took over 1500 pictures, but even that seems low in proportionate to everything we saw.  Since I’m pretty sure no one (including me) wants to see all 1500 pictures, here is a summary for those who are interested.  Feel free to skip this if you're not, but I'm not promising I won't quiz you on our trip if I happen to meet you.  It's going to be super awkward.

We arrived in Ottawa on Canada Day and the streets were a sea of people, mostly dressed in red and white.  We stayed at the Westin downtown, which was awesome and well above our class level. 

This was the view from our room.

We walked around and saw the sights and street performers, and then went to the fireworks that night.  My expectations were possibly a little too high, but I was a bit disappointed.  The show was 15 minutes long. The fireworks were pretty cool and there were a lot of fireworks at once, but I would like to suggest to the organizers that they send up less at one time to make it last longer.  They’re probably not reading this.  It was a long way to drive for 15 minutes.

The next day we met my old (there should be another word for this that doesn’t sound like she’s a senior citizen.  Long-standing?) friend Julie and her husband for a lovely breakfast at a cute little diner in the Byward Market.  After a quick tour of the Parliament buildings, we were on our way to Quebec City.

Quebec City was one of our favourite places; we spent two nights there.  Spencer wants to learn French and move there, and Chloe is already planning a road trip there with her cousins in a few years.  I’ve also chosen it as her future honeymoon spot, with all its cute inns and patios.  And that was even before we saw the shop in the picture, so assuming she marries Justin Bieber as planned, it’s the perfect place.  We went on a historic walking tour, which we all loved.  Well, maybe not the little one, judging by how many times she asked “WHEN will this be over?”

Almost by accident, we stumbled upon a free Cirque du Soleil show under an overpass bridge, just a five minute walk from our hotel.  That sounds too good to be true; we were asking people if we needed tickets, but it turns out it’s a show they do every summerevening.    It was so cool; it helped make Quebec City a highlight of our trip.

The morning we left, we woke up to rain which made it a little easier to say goodbye to such a beautiful city.  We drove all day and ended up in New Brunswick at the Bay of Fundy.  We stayed at a cute little inn right on the water for two nights.  The tides were amazing.  There was a little harbour beside our inn and the boats went from sitting on dry ground to floating in deep water every six hours.  At low tide, we walked WAY into the ocean.  It was a lot of fun and would have been ten times more fun if we’d been wearing shoes.  Who knew there were so many sharp little stones on the ocean floor.  (Apparently a lot of people, since everyone else was wearing hiking boots.)

The boats in the harbour at low tide

Boats in harbour at high tide

The Hopewell Rocks were a 30 minutes drive from our hotel, so we went to see the rocks immersed in water at high tide, and standing high and dry at low tide.  The kids loved walking on the ocean floor and seeing the little caves in the rocks.  The ground was incredibly mucky and no one came out clean.  It was pretty interesting, but possibly falls into the category of Overhyped Tourist Attractions.  I liked seeing the different tides at our little hotel and harbour better.  

We arrived in PEI exactly a week after we left home.  We stayed in Charlottetown the first night, then headed to the cottage we rented.  For those of you familiar with PEI, it was on the east side of the Island, near Souris.  After a brief, initial disappointment that the cottage wasn’t closer to the water (I had been expecting a ten second walk to the beach, but it took about 30 seconds), we fell in love with both the cottage and the beach.  The additional 20 seconds did not end up being an issue whatsoever; the kids could still run between the beach and the cottage on their own.  The cottage http://www.sandysbeachhouse.com/  was clean and well laid-out and perfect.  The beach was a dream.  It was almost a kilometre long, blocked by rocky cliffs on each side.  At low tide, we could climb over and around the rocks to other beaches.  There were a few other cottages on “our” stretch of beach, so during the day there were always a few other people somewhere on the beach, but in the morning and evening, we often had it all to ourselves.  The sand was fine and soft, and it squeaked when you walked.  They call it the Singing Sands, but that’s a bit of a stretch.

Confederation Bridge

The cottage

The view from our cottage  

Our beach

Neve insisted we bring the boogie boards from home.  Luckily they were put to good use, so dragging them 4500 km each way wasn't a waste.

Playing Scattergories in the gazebo

The sly fox

A close up of the fox.  I have about 50 fox photos, so let me know if you want to see my multi-media fox slide show.

We were at the cottage for a full week, just relaxing and swimming and eating and playing.  We only left twice: once to see a nearby lighthouse, and once for a full day excursion to Cavendish and Charlottetown.  We packed a lot into that day:  Anne of Green Gables House, Cavendish Beach (not nearly as nice as ours, and packed with jellyfish), a lobster supper in New Glasgow, and the Anne of Green Gables musical in Charlottetown.  We had front row seats and we all loved it.  We went to Cows for ice cream after and met the boy who played Gilbert Blythe, so that was pretty fun.  We went to Cows every chance we got (it’s a PEI thing, but they also had it on the ferry and in Halifax), which I believe was four times.  But who’s counting.  We all know carbs don’t count on holidays.

Does anyone not know whose house this is?

As sad as it was to leave the cottage, more fun awaited.  We stayed in downtown Halifax one night, then went to stay with friends near Digby, which was 3 hours from Halifax.  They live in the Acadian part of NS, right on the ocean, and we had such a nice time with them.  They served us fresh scallops and fish for lunch, so fresh that they had still been happily swimming in the ocean just that morning.

Then we headed back to Halifax for two nights, stopping in at Peggy’s Cove on the way.  We didn’t plan this part of the trip very well, and it was further complicated by the fact our air conditioning stopped working.  We had just had it fixed before we left and it was covered by warranty if we went to a certain kind of repair shop.  We found such a shop in Halifax, so that’s why we went back.  Long story short, the warranty didn’t cover the repair because it was something different – of course – and we’d have to wait a few days for parts.  So instead they were kind enough to top up the AC fluids for free, and it worked (for the most part) all the way home.  The good part of all that was that we got to spend more time in Halifax.  We spent lots of time at the waterfront, went to Pier 21 immigration museum (Spencer did a project on it last year), the Public Gardens, and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.  Museums aren’t usually my favourite thing, but we went to quite a few during our trip and I honestly loved them all.  The Maritime Museum was my favourite because of the Titanic exhibit and all the information on the Halifax explosion. 

Many, many hours were logged swimming in hotel pools (this one is in Halifax).  If diving for plastic pool rockets was an Olympic sport, my kids would win gold.

Halifax harbour

Cows in Halifax

Hmm, this blog entry has evolved from a summary into a play-by-play account.  Let me wrap it up.  And then we went home.  We drove and drove.  We stopped to tour a coal mine.  And then we drove some more.  We stopped at a nice hotel the last night.  It had a waterpark, a beach with inner tubes and paddleboats, and smores on the patio in the evening.  It was the perfect way to spend the last day.  And then we drove home and unpacked and did laundry.  The end.

Further summary:  I had dreamed about a trip to the East Coast for a long time and it fully fulfilled (and in many ways surpassed) all my expectations.  The kids were at a great age, they did so well with all the driving, and everything went smoothly.  Twenty-four days on the road was a bit long for them and they were very much looking forward to coming home by the end of it,* but Dale and I weren’t.   Besides some cloud and drizzle while we were at the Bay of Fundy, and some rain at our friends’ in Nova Scotia, the weather couldn’t have been better.   Basically every day was sunny and warm (in the low to mid 20’s).  We had a few hotter days, but usually it was just very comfortable and pleasant.  Our aging van pulled through for us – not without some difficulty, but we didn’t have to spend any money on it.  All-in-all, Best Vacation Ever.

*On the fourth or fifth day, Neve’s first sleepy words one morning were, “I want to go home.”