Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend 2014

Marie and  I spent a few days this weekend in Montreal to attend the baby shower for William on Saturday and a late Mothers Day supper for Marie on Friday at one of the kids favourite little tucked-away cafes for some homemade Mexican food. Seems it is all we eat these days but we both have acquired a taste for it after our two long stays in Mexico and eating at home with Phil and Fer. Saturday morning I took Amy to Melons and Clémentines, a boutique specializing in lingerie and apparel for nursing mothers where Fernanda has been working this past winter. Saturday mornings they invite young children to gather for musical games and Amy seems to enjoy going so I volunteered to take her while Marie stayed behind and helped Fer prepare for the baby shower. Amy especially liked dancing when the music was more upbeat and behaved very well in the company of the other seven or eight kids.

thanks Grandpapa!

As it was a girls only event in the afternoon Phil and I took Amy for a walk to the big park on Sherbrooke that has a great of children's outdoor playground and spent two hours enjoying one another's company while Amy ran around trying the slides, swings and climbing nets. She loved the bigger kids swings and fell a few times but bravely climbed back on. I couldn't believe she is just two!

We three got back to the house in time to say hello and goodbye to some of the ladies while the others stayed for supper. Lara and Christina were there and we all had a great evening together. Unfortunately we didn't get to see Joshua this time but Lara assured me he was well. Marie took some photos of the baby shower which I have included below and a few I took before everyone left. We headed back home the next day at noon after giving Amy a blowup pool to play in in the back yard and promised to see everyone again soon. Meantime back to work on the bathroom!  gws


Joshua and Lara, April 2014

Thursday, May 22, 2014

A New Hampshire & Vermont Weekend

Since our return from Europe we have been very slowly getting back to work on the house. Key word here is slowly. But the first thing we had to do, after catching up on some sleep, was to replace shingles that had blown off the roof while we were gone. There had been some wicked winds I was told in April and we lost seven or eight of our new asphalt roof shingles. Should we have gone with a metal roof? Only time will tell I suppose...I spent the next week cleaning up the yard after 6 months of snow cover - broken tree branches, bits of plastic garbage, roof shingles (see above) - and shook off the last remnants of winter by removing the snow chains off the old Dakota, reorganizing the sheds and airing out the cabin. They are all still full of furniture that has to come up to the house so any visitors this year will have to rough it outside! In the meantime Marie decided enough was enough and hooked up our new smart LG washing machine so we wouldn't have to go to the laundromat or use Fernanda's washer whenever we went to Montréal. I am eventually going to run a clothesline from the deck to one of the maple trees about 40 feet away.

Marie, keen about Keene, New Hampshire
This past weekend we drove our new truck to Truck Camper Warehouse in West Chesterfield, New Hampshire. We had seen some great reviews about this place, the largest slide-in camper dealer on the east coast and we needed to beef up the truck's suspension so we could carry a camper safely and within the capabilities of a F250. After talking and exchanging emails and checking them out on a camper forum we felt confident they would steer us in the right direction. Our other truck, the Ram 1500, is up for sale as it is not big enough for what we plan to do.

checking out the inventory

 The first day in West Chesterfield was beautiful and hot and, after touching base with the guys at Camper Warehouse and planning to return first thing in the morning, we drove into Keene for lunch and to shop. Keene is a college town, clean and typically New England with the brick buildings and the white church spire towering over the tree lined streets. We ate at their Mexican restaurant, Pedraza's, and really enjoyed some authentic Mexican food - a large El Platito for me and fish tacos for Marie.That night we stayed at the Motel 6 just across the river in Vermont and had a beer at 99's, a bar next door before retiring early for the night after our long drive from home.

El Platito!

 The next day at Truck Camper Warehouse we spoke to the owner's son Ryan who told us what would be best for the type of camper we wanted and while we were checking out some of their stock he and Jessie began  installing Supersprings in the rear and four Torklift frame mounted tiedowns with turnbuckles onto the frame. Supersprings for those who don't know are installed directly above the truck's rear leaf springs and work in parallel with the existing suspension system. The increased spring rate produced by the Supersprings helps eliminate rear-end sag ( hmm...I need to quit looking in the mirror at my butt ) and improves towing capabilities. Don't know if we will be towing anything soon but it's there anyway. They also reduce body roll when cornering, encountering strong cross winds or driving on Route 145 in New Hampshire (see below).
Next step when we are ready will be to replace the factory shocks with heavy duty Ranchos shock absorbers. While we were waiting we met another couple from Maine, Brett and Celina Binns, who had just purchased a new Ford F350 and an Arctic Fox slide-in. They too were new at this type of camping and we spent some time chatting about upcoming trips and why we had chosen to go with a truck camper instead of a trailer or fifth-wheeler.

Jessie putting on the Torklift tiedowns
Marie and the Binns chatting about a trip to Alaska
Ryan installing Supersprings
 The weather turned wet and cool on the way home and we decided to get off the Interstate 91 and check out the backroads. This was a bad move. They were atrocious and the closer we got to the Canadian border the worse they became. I find that everywhere in the east - especially as you near Canada - the towns and infrastructure all look decrepit, run down and mostly deserted, the roads a mass of frost heaves and pot holes that threaten to tear your vehicle apart unless you drive 20mph. My advice to anyone: Do Not Drive Route 145 from Colebrook, NH to Pittsburg, NH! Parts of highway 3, along the Connecticut Lakes, was just as bad and moose warning signs abounded. It was just as well we were going slow when we came across a youngster crossing the road ahead of us!

  This weekend we are off to visit the kids and attend Fer's baby shower for William, due on the 18th of June. Naturally we are all nervous and praying for the best for Mum and son. It has been a couple of months as well since we have seen Lara and Joshua and I am looking forward to seeing how much he has grown! gws

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Salisbury - London - Montreal (Day 29)

Our last night in Salisbury we went out to a French restaurant - why not? - and then back to our wee loft with a bottle of Spanish wine and a box of  Belgian chocolates as we packed for an early train to London. After leaving Salisbury we changed trains at Basingstoke, got on the wrong coach to Reading but made it off just in time, changed again in Reading for Hayes and Harlington but due to a strike ended up waiting for a double-decker to get us to terminal 3 at Heathrow! And all this time dragging our by now heavy baggage behind us, my arms stretching just a bit more at each stop. I don't think any of my long sleeved shirts will ever fit me again. We had a few hours to wait at Heathrow when we finally got there and a good thing too - we had to walk nearly a mile from the main entrance to our gate. Why do they always put Air Canada at the very end of any terminal I have ever been in? Our flight was on time - wow that's a first for AC - and oddly uneventful for a 6 hour drive in a steel tube decorated in blue - to calm me Marie said. What's with the blue maple leaf though? The food was good, the movies plentiful but the stewardesses were older than me. What gives there? Montreal hadn't changed much when we got back - still grimy and grim this time, without the snow. It was good to be back home though, safe and feeling better than when I left, but boy did miss the green fields of France and England! We promised ourselves we would return one day, and not just for a month! But before we forget Marie and I would like to thank all those who made our journey back to my childhood and forward into her girlhood dreams so enjoyable - and please stay in touch!  gws

waiting in Salisbury

I swear we stopped at all the ones with a circle.....

how the heck can you still be smiling?

some cool dude waiting for the 140 to Heathrow

Heathrow at last, flight ME4507 at 1500, gate 43 somewhere in the next county

our Airbus flying over Newfoundice ...better not be anything  like that in Montreal!
Home at last...and a rainbow to welcome me!

'Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world'.
Gustave Flaubert

Salisbury (the Cathedral)

view toward St Mary's chapel from the west window

Moments after we left Old Sarum, and as we stood waiting for the bus into Salisbury, the cold rain began to fall. I was glad then for the umbrella which we used for the first time. The bus seemed to take forever to arrive and we made it with minutes to spare, our tour beginning shortly after we arrived back at the Cathedral. The Salisbury Cathedral spire is world famous and the tallest in Britain at 404 feet and this is really the closest way to experience it and the rest of the Cathedral's beautiful Gothic architecture. Our tour guide, an elderly man who spoke softly but knowledgeably about the history of the roof and spire, unlocked the huge wooden door to the first set of 332 stairs we would climb. We passed some of the oldest and well preserved stained glass windows in the first roof space as we looked down the entire length of the Cathedral. The ancient oak wood beams above the vaulting were absolutely amazing to look at and feel. It was hard to believe the Mongol invader Genghis Khan was roaming Europe when these beams were cut and shaped. We could see the ancient iron bracing put in during the building of the tower in the 1200s to stop the weight of the spire's 6500 tons from spreading the walls out! When we reached the bell tower the bells were ready to ring out 4pm - they were so well cast the reverberations last 32 seconds! And what a glorious sound it was.

800 year old roof beams above the vaulting

800 year old nails and beams

Graffiti from hundreds of years on stone walls
Ancient iron bracing
looking down at the cloisters
waiting for that glorious ringing

looking up to the spire

 and now some views of Salisbury....


As you can see the views of the city from where we had climbed up were spectacular. And as if on cue the sun came out again as we stood on the edge looking out on this beautiful city on the Avon and Nadder rivers. We had finally come to the end of this month long trip but not the end of our travels; even the distance landscape I gazed over seemed to beckon me to explore further....  Before we left Salisbury I stopped and reflected about our visit here and the wonderful memories that will stay with me always, sad to leave all those who had touched us both yet thankful for this opportunity to see some of the greatness that was, and still is,  England.   gws

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
-Marcel Proust