Canadiana – Part 1 (Nova Scotia)

We say we should do more local travelling and sometimes we manage sometimes we don’t. With the visit of Husband Chris’ Mum and Dad we took the opportunity to get serious and we arranged two fun filled long weekend trips.

Enough of Ontario and Quebec, other provinces deserve our attention especially when we incorrectly think we can eat lobster at will and see puffins. We flew in and had no problem getting the car and driving to our beautiful AirBnB home by the lake. Unlike other flight adventures, this was smooth sailing. The home we rented was on the lake, a luxury, plus we shared the same taste in couches so plenty to make us feel at home.

Husband hates driving in Toronto, and regularly complains about appalling ‘Toronto driving’ but he loves adventure driving, promenade driving so that is what we did most of the days. The first day was spent driving around the coast, a lighthouse here at Chebucto Head Lighthouse, some Pitcher carnivorous plants there and a stop at the Halifax food market. It was on July 1st, Canada day, and while everything was in a good mood, the stalls were closed so we came back home and ended the day with a nice walk around the Lower Sackville Park and in the evening watching fireworks over the lake from our very generous neighbors.

Nova Scotia.Nova Scotia.

Other sightseeing included highest recorded tides at Burntcoat Head, a quick rainy look at Peggys Cove Lighthouse, the beautifully quiet and picturesque Grand-Pré National Historic Site, and a second Unesco site at Lunenburg. The Grand-Pré National Historic site is so beautiful and peaceful. There is an old wooden church on the way towards the coast that you pass, in there in the afternoon with the light shining on the wheatgrass it is perfect.

Nova Scotia.Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia.

We had a fun evening in Lunenburg where we enjoyed a delicious dinner lobster (although the restaurant was a bit disorganized) and a walk around the port admiring the schooner replica Bluenose II.

Lunenburg.

Nova Scotia.Nova Scotia.

To Eat
We falsely thought that it was the lobster season in Nova Scotia, it wasn’t. But we still had a delicious lunch and lobster rolls at a couple of places one of which was Shaw’s Landing. Also, the Halifax Markets are fun to walk around and there is some excellent looking produce.

Next Canadiana episode covers our fun trip to Bruce Peninsula!

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Poppies in Dordogne and EuroCup in Paris

Husband Chris’ family know how to organize some excellent getaways. This year it was abound with visits as we had my dad visiting from Romania for a couple of weeks in March and later, in July, we had Husband’s Mum and Dad visiting for a couple of weeks. Before their arrival they stopped in the UK and together with my sister-in-law and her husband, they planned a trip to the South of France. We were invited to join and after some minimal consideration, we started looking at plane tickets.

Dordogne

The trip was spent mostly in Dordogne.

Before the fun times, we kicked it all off with yet another travel adventure. As I was rushing to catch a bus, whose schedule I did not check ahead of time, I lost one of my favorite sweaters. Realizing I didn’t have it, I was pondering if I should go back to look for it or not. I didn’t and while running to the bus station, the airport bus was waiting there with 1 minute to departure. I, of course, did not have a ticket and to get one in a minute was not achievable. I could buy a ticket on the bus if I had cash, something that rarely happens nowadays. Luckily a young man paid for me (and they say the new generation is not polite). The saga continued when we arrived in France during a rail strike, floods around Paris and the Euro Cup. Something we found out by trying to book accommodation for Paris on the way back to Toronto and found out that our regular hotel was fully booked and AirBnBs kept refusing us. The plan was to arrive in Paris, take a train to Bordeaux, and from there take a regional train to Bergerac, where we would pick up our rental car. The flight was smooth, train to Bordeaux was ok but the strike hit us at the end and the regional train got cancelled although very helpful staff directed us to a bus. A comedy of stress occurred while boarding this as it did not accommodate to all the people due to be on the train and the queuing etiquette so well cherished in the UK, was nowhere to be found here while everyone was trying hard to not miss this last opportunity to get home. We made it in, probably not very elegantly, and it could have been a very enjoyable ride with all the scenic little towns and villages if we wouldn’t have been so exhausted. We arrived in Bergerac to collect the car with no rental office to be seen in a seemingly deserted station. Husband walked around looking for a car rental while I waited fresh as a daisy in front of the station. Out of nowhere a man comes out and it turns out there was an office open just close to the tracks, second door to the right after you pass through another door and go on the tracks and you pass the toilets, and kiss a frog, any way you get the drift.

In Paris when I say my well-practiced ‘Bonjour’, there is an immediate switch to English by my interlocutor, seeing right through my feeble attempts at speaking French. In Bergerac not the same, my few words were kindly interpreted as a true attempt at speaking French and it was the cherry on top of the cake to push the cloud off my brain and try to make some sense of what we needed to do to pick up this magical vehicle. Somehow, hands waving in the air, passports were checked, keys were handed and we ended up picking up a car always smaller than what we booked. For the next hour Husband Chris pushed through and drove with me guiding him from written directions through the beautiful countryside and finally making it to a family reunion over a delicious dinner.

Next day we enjoyed it by simply relaxing and walking around, eating delicious bread, cheese, croissants, roasted chicken and asparagus. La Tourache, our home for the week had a gorgeous garden so I spent my day walking around barefoot and taking it all in.

House.House.

Traveling with my sister and brother-in-law is a treat as they are experienced travelers who research interesting things to do, know where to go for delicious food and also enjoy a nice slow pace. A lot of the places we saw and good food we had were the results of their work.

Les Eyzies is a lovely place to walk around with the magnificent buildings in rock. Les Jardins de Marqueyssac reminded me of French movies featuring royal gardens so well manicured and maintained. It had gorgeous views and it was an impressive place to walk around. We had lovely drives around the countryside with Mum and Dad and one of the highlights was seeing poppies around. We used to have them close to where I grew up and I have not seen much of them since, so it was glorious to photograph them while thinking of my Mom. She is a huge poppy lover so I will definitely have to bring her there one day.

Poppies.Mauzac.

To Eat
There is no surprise that the food was amazing and one of the highlights was the markets, full of delicious goodies. The two we went to were in Bugue and Sarlat. We had two amazing lunches one at the Au Vieux Moulin in Les Eyzies and the second at a farmhouse, Auberge du Belvédère where I managed to have three glasses of wine in front of me at once.

Sarlat.

To buy
The local nearest town Bugue, had a glass blower that did a little demonstration for us, also helped us stock up on some glasses and a bottle to bring home. Some things don’t change we still end up carrying awkward and breakable things as always.

Paris

Afterwards, we squeezed a couple of days in Paris before our return. We have been going to the same hotel for the past 5 years and this time we had to go out of our comfort zone and stay not too far from Rue des Ecoles. I may want to do that in the future and try different areas. We were also right in front of the Natural History Museum with a view of Galerie de paléontologie et d’anatomie comparée from our window. We visited the Natural History museum, which is a bit harder to take in without a proper English guide. It is more of a local museum with the displays mostly in French. The grounds of the museum are impressive with a gorgeous rose garden to walk through, a zoo and just an overall lovely place to spend a few hours. I will say it was very strange to see kangaroos in the middle of Paris.

Paris.

On Saturday we went through about 5 security checks to the Eiffel Tower and together with true football fans cheered for a goal, any goal. There was definitely a lot of chanting through the city with a lot of inebriated fans supporting their countries through thick and thin.

Paris.

To Buy
Rue Jacob had a few shops to keep us amused, one of them Gien, the home of some gorgeous plates. We also went to Merci Merci which was madness due a sales event and the crowd of people flocking to this (a bit too hip) place.

To Eat
We overdid it by booking two good restaurants. The food although delicious in both, lacked a service and a welcoming feeling, which I started to crave in my eating experiences. The first restaurant had an absolutely amazing dessert and dessert wine pairing. Things got a bit friendlier after they mixed up Husband’s order but before that, they were more than happy to snub us. The second restaurant was fish-focused, with delicious food again yet the same lack of friendly and welcoming service. Gérard Mulot provided good brunches to keep us going through the day.

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London, Paris, Cologne, Bucharest

September is our wedding season. For two years in a row, we have been part of beautiful weddings, as you may remember from our adventures in Sardinia. Well, in 2015, we were part of our sweet Mrs. Breakfast at Tiffany’s wedding, I was a maid of honor for the first time in my life. En route we hit a few of our favourite places: London for family and friends, Paris for ourselves, Cologne for a wedding and home in Bucharest for family and friends. To establish September as a bonafide wedding month, I also got lucky to match my week in Bucharest with a dear friend’s wedding. Two weddings in two weeks is an impressive record.

London
We walked around my sister in law’s new neighbourhood in Bermondsey with delicious markets and a lovely Thames walk. They have moved into a new flat with one of the most spectacular bookcases I have seen. The bookcase needs a ladder so that should give you an idea. Our crew here spoiled me on my birthday with a Vivien Mayer exhibition, a visit to the Serpentine Gallery, the discovery of pretty tin boxes full of cookies at Fortnum & Mason.

We reunited with our adventurous friends, who recently finished their bike tour from Europe to China, our we-always-have-something-to-talk-about friends who moved in a beautiful flat on a street called Mount Pleasant. We looked for half a year in Toronto for a place on the same name street in Toronto with no luck. Another pair of friends who just moved to London from Australia whose nuptials we attended in February in Brisbane and yet another pair of friends who have been travelling and working around Europe and North America. The combination of family and friends reminds me that a part of me feels at home in the UK. Ironically enough I write these lines after Brexit, almost a month later after a significant number of people have voted against the ease of such a group living and working in the UK. Although 6 of them are Aussies, three of us were from EU countries and one glorious Englishman so maybe some Commonwealth tweaking is next. Too soon maybe for such a joke. It is easy enough to indulge in feeling excluded and snickered as a Romanian national in the UK but the love I had there outshine the random negative incidents so I am hopeful that people in diverse groups as our own will find their support and their future together. And there were many groups like ourselves, a collection of nationalities and experiences from all over the world building lives together.

I digress back to family and friends. Sadly during this trip we also received life-changing news for the wedding we were about to attend in Cologne. It is incredible how life changing moments and their accompanying details remain fresh in our emotional memory. I can still hear and picture Husband Chris receiving a call and one OMG said too many times.

London.London.

London.Cologne
A few weeks ago would have been the birthday of the mom of our Mrs. Breakfast at Tiffany, the bride. Ali was a sweet lady who has met us and spoiled us silly every time we visited Cologne, as well she attended our Romanian wedding with a lot of joy and elegance, all in all, she was a gracious lady who left the party too soon. We have been lucky to have our parents part of our important life events so far, so being there for a friend who has lost her mom was probably one of the hardest moments I have experienced. It was an experience I felt helpless through, also realizing this was about how to best be there for her and help in any way we could. Being there during those days has taught me so much about how strength and vulnerability can both survive and take us through life when the unimaginable happens. The bride was as elegant and gorgeous as her mom would have dreamed of and although not physically present, the touch and her spirit were felt during a day. Weddings are a celebration of a pair’s love and while that is something to be cherished and a valued, this wedding was special in its quiet celebration of a mother’s love and the kind of life appreciation as only loss teaches. Our bride and groom were gorgeous and I even managed to put together a speech that hopefully brings them joyous memories in years to come.

Cologne.

Paris
Before Cologne, we did manage to stop in our sweet Paris for two days. With heavy hearts after the news, we walked around and cleared our heads and revisited a city which always seems to invite me to come and move in for a little bit. I hope one day we can spend more than 2 days here and there.
We stayed in Latin Quartier as we always do, walked around, did a bit of shopping, went to Petit Palais and enjoyed the gorgeous inner garden. Walked around Louvre and Garden Luxembourg with its amazing sculptures and parted ways in hopes to return soon. Not before some desserts from Gérard Mulot.

Paris.Paris.

Paris.Paris.

Bucharest
Speaking of loss in November of 2015 there was a fire at a rock concert in a Bucharest club where approximately 60 young people died and much more still recovering from the traumatic experience. I bring this up during this post because in the days following this tragedy I followed what happened with a deep sorrow, I felt a deep longing to be back there and to be part of the generation I left 15 years ago. I was 20 when I left Romania so my core is still rooted there and it is still a place that anchors me. After living in 3 countries in the last 10 years and realizing I am happy experiencing the world as it comes, I still find a unique connection to Bucharest and my childhood village. During this event and the days following it, I had the realization that the deep relationship it has with my childhood and the teenage years is what pulls me back and keeps it so alive. It will always be the playground of my development and I will always long for it one way or another and that can survive very well in my emotional space with the fact I do not feel the pull to live and work there as an adult, especially not at the moment. And again loss helps put in perspective my life and how to embrace and how to let that longing take over me when it wants as it shines a light on the child and teenager in me.

Onto the memories of the trip, I enjoyed a few days with my sweet Aunt who is a gem and whose laughter has always made life better. With her, I started doing recorded family interviews. Husband Chris has advised me to do this as an inspiration from Story Corps and I am very happy to have some serious footage to cherish in years to come. We walked around through parks, we looked at carpets, and we laughed and talked about my sweet departed grandparents.
I also interviewed my grandmother, my dad’s mom who is as quirky as a 91-year-old can be. I got spoiled by my dad and stepmother and ended the trip on a high note, with the wedding of my dear friend the Dragon, his nickname from high school. This a friendship that has taken us through many stages of our lives from calculus homework to bridge and also to some healthy debates.

Bucharest.

Until the next catch up, hope the two lovely couples are having the time of the lives.

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Boothbay, Knickerbocker Lake and plenty of Lobster (by Husband Chris)

To fulfill our yearly quota of delicious food and scenic drives, my sister organized an amazing trip to the US state of Maine. End of July, we flew from Toronto to Boston, where we met briefly with P & S, to hire a car for our drive to Maine. The lady at the rental booth was friendly as could be and I think that she upgraded us to a better car, some sort of Lincoln that had a camera on the back and all sorts of sensors that took some getting used to.

We drove up there on a beautiful afternoon, I absolutely love driving on holidays, not so much to work, but holiday road trips are my favourite thing in the world. On the way up we stopped off Wiscasset to have our first lobster roll. We didn’t eat at Red’s probably what looked to be the most popular lobster joint, but at a place across the road, Sprague’s Lobster. Well, it was amazing. I drool over thinking about the first of many lobster rolls that we had while in Maine. Another lobster roll well worth mentioning was at Muscongus Bay Lobster Co.

We arrived at our cottage, which was near Boothbay, on a lake called Knickerbocker Lake. The cottage was nice, but the location was what made it. The lake was so beautiful and clear and the weather incredible. Warm but not too hot, with a nice crispiness in the air. Enough warmth to jump in the beautiful lake for a swim and then hop out and warm up on the verandah of the cottage. There was also a miniature cottage with a single bedroom that one of was meant to stay in. All of us having come from big cities it was impossible for any of us to sleep there alone, it was just way too quiet.

Maine.Maine.

For our first lunch, or I think it was our first lunch, we went up the road to Bet’s Fish Fry. The fish and fries were delicious, something that I have been really missing since moving away from a coastal area. Over the coming days we spent our time kayaking up and down the lake in beautiful sunshine and relaxing with a few road trips around the area. One was Pemaquid, one of the many Lighthouses around which started off grey and gloomy to have it turn within an hour to beautiful blue skies. Another road trip was made to the lovely Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. If there is something else in abundance in the area other than lobster, is the many, and by many I mean tons, of antique shops. Taxidermy is not something I am too keen to remember, but it is hard to forget a collection of squirrel bottoms only.

Maine.Maine.

Our last outing was a trip the Cabbage Island Clambake, thanks to some handy work by P. based in NYC at the time. We caught a boat that took us for a trip among the various islands surrounding the area, finally stopping at Cabbage Island. Here we had their famous clambake which included two lobsters, clams and some potatoes. The meal was good, but I feel as though we had better throughout our stay. The best part about the clambake was the boat ride and the experience of being on the island. The lady who ran the gift shop looked the best part of 3 figures in age and her two sons looked as if they had been on the moonshine since breakfast time. So an interesting experience all in all.
It was sad to eventually have to pack up and head home. Thankfully I had my sister coming to visit in Toronto for a couple of days making the effort of having to go back to work a bit easier.

Maine.

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Trip to Warm Mother Country

Boxing day 2014 we decided to fly south for the cold month of February, skip some of Toronto‘s harshest temperatures and visit our home there. So far I have spent 7 months in Australia and it was surprising how quickly certain things feel familiar. Although there are so many more things to experience, I cherish it as a new home. With family there, parents waiting with home made bread, an amazing niece and nephew and family to spoil us, how can it not feel like a home.

Parents and twins were notified, joy was felt all across and threats of taking Husband down on PlayStation were made. We left on a Saturday and before our trip we stopped to visit the local pair of twins we have here and take them on their first slay ride during a lovely snowy day. One of the most amusing outfits a one-year-old, in our case, two one-year-olds can be seen in, other than lady bug costumes for Halloween, it is n-layers for winter weather. You can almost bounce them in the snow that is how padded they are. They almost liked the snow and they almost didn’t scream all the time we were outside so an overall success. It is such a surreal experience to leave Toronto on a full snow day and wake up in Brisbane during perfect summer.

Updates from home
Our twins here are 5 years old. Last time we spent time with them they were around 3 but thanks to technology we keep in touch and we speak often. Our conversations are a continuous show and tell of toys on their end and random things from our apartment on ours. Their lives are entering very busy stages with sports, fun activities and pre-school. I do find it wonderful how sharp they are and how quickly they come up with their own plans and adventures. They also can get cranky and tired so I guess some things are similar to their younger selves. It was and it is very hard to leave them to come back and we miss them dearly. There is a beautiful balance of emotion and pragmatism that characterizes their communication with us. Sometimes Gus will be so logical and his realism is incredible. He reasons our departures and explains to Aggie that we had to go back to our world to make money so we can come back to visit them. Meanwhile beautiful Aggie told me we can still go bounce on the trampoline the day before we left, since it is not yet tomorrow when we were to leave. Her ability to just focus on the present moment so we can make the most of it, sent me to the bathroom in tears. And as the good-byes are so tough and emotional, the only coping mechanism I can come up with is to remind myself to make the most of it while there and deal with the melancholy when back in Toronto and then start planning a new trip.

Our parents there, Husband’s parents spoiled us as they always do, and from daily fresh bread to freshly squeezed juices, fresh seafood they were all provided along side some classic movie watching and laughs over the weather reports from Canada. Construction and new waves of townhouses built all around the place changed the scenery a bit and the cutting down of trees pushed more birds around Chris’ mum and dad’s place. So our Kookaburras were around, King Fishers, some Cockatoos and plenty of Rainbow Lorekeets.

Trip to Australia.

Day trip to Sydney
International traditions are very important and comforting to remind you how close we really are to each other. Husband’s friend, Mr. I Surf in Sydney and his girlfriend hosted us in yet another session of walking around their new lovely home, real estate horror stories, butter chicken dinner at the same restaurant as two years ago and watching Taken 3 to follow from 2 years ago when we watched Taken 1 and 2. Yes Liam Neeson brings us together every few years. There better be a Taken 4 or this reunion will not happen.

We also took a few hours to spend at the Sydney Art Gallery and see beautiful aboriginal art work and various pieces of history.

Trip to Leura
The little Leura heaven Chris’ aunt and uncle have is always an oasis to look forward to. We get spoiled with beautiful food, drives through beautiful Blue Mountains sceneries, conversations with Chris’ uncle that make me feel I need to read more and soon. Also I am very excited to see how the mosaic of a lemon tree branch is coming along as it is being in the studio worked on as we speak.

Trip to Australia.

Trip to Caloundra
We went to Caloundra for a weekend to enjoy some sun and ocean waves. The first day was shared with Gus and Aggie in a mini trip which proved to them that Uncle Chris is definitely the swimmer of the family. A day of beach and splashes ended with a failed attempt on our part to put them to bed. Aggie went to sleep with her dad, and Gusie sneaked into bed with Chris and I. While we were in and out dosing away, he was going at 100 miles per hour with no signs of sleeping in sight. He finally took pity on us and turned to me to tell me he needs to be kissed on the forehead to fall asleep. As soon as I did that he closed his eyes and slept through the night. It was one of the sweetest moments we shared and realized how among all the shenanigans they do, there is a need for comfort they have that reminds me of their innocence. During our stay we took some lovely walks along the shore and photographed parrots and other lovely birds.

Trip to Australia.

Airport experiences
I am not sure I can finish this post without mentioning how the flights both ways were excellent but the airport experiences could make up a sitcom episode.

Departure Toronto:

  • Bought ice wine sets from Peller Estates as we thought it best to share some Canadian goodies with our family and friends.
  • 6 bottles were individually wrapped for a secure transport through the LA stop over airport.
  • Flight delayed for an hour while the plane had to go through cleaning services because of the large amount on snow on it. If we wouldn’t have had 20 hours of flight ahead of us I would have thought it cute.
  • LA Airport: Slightly on the uncomfortable side time-wise after the snow delay we realize we have to exit and go through security again. All while frantically trying to sort out where to go in a very poorly organized airport.
  • Security clearing unsuccessful as the bottles did not clear the explosive detector for any potential bomb threats. And just as quickly as you can say ice wine, each individual security-friendly wine bag was open and declared inappropriate for travel with more and more security officers around us explaining to me that security is more important than the expense of the bottles. I am being patted down again, carry-ons open and checked again and I am getting aggravated while Husband Chris is trying to calm me down not so say anything silly.
  • In my loss of calm I ask for printed proof that the bottles do not clear security to pick a later fight. They look at me as if I asked for snitzel in a French restaurant and between disagreements they allow me to take a photo of the machine with its sad verdict against our wine.

Departure Brisbane:

  • I should preface this by saying we were also a bit cheeky here. We had to take back about 12 plates, various little bowls and cups all we had left at Mum and Dad’s place before moving to Canada. We managed to push our carry on to a silly weight of 15 kg.
  • We escaped the check in without anyone poking at out carry on and a lovely lady joked with us and wished us a good flight back.
  • Towards the security clearance a guard with a scale randomly selected us among other suspicious heavy lifters to weigh in their carry-on.
  • Our puffed up carry on managed to catch his eagle eye and what followed was a horrible dance between him and our initial lovely lady, who wrote us a free pass as I am getting teared up explaining some of the stuff we are carrying are wedding presents. Her pass did not impress our guard and we had to downsize to 10 kg.
  • We ended up carrying everything in shoulder bags and drag and empty carry on, the silly thing is almost 7 kg by itself. Painful.
  • Arrival in LA: The departure of the Air Canada flight back home caused so much disorganization and commotion that people were facebooking photos of the chaos.
  • Arrival in Toronto: Wait for approximately 2 hours for our bags.
  • It all ends with me losing Husband’s identity card.

Memory Hunting
We were a bit tame here, since we had to carry back wedding presents from years ago but still managed to stop at Nook, a lovely shop where I bought a top from Miranda Murphy and got a lovely blue suit for Chris to attend a friend’s wedding. Later on in the year we were explained by Mr. Zoolander, a friend of Chris visiting us in Toronto that suits are not made the way they used to and they are glued. Husband is no longer as much in love with the suit as he used to be.

The arrival back was soothed only by the thoughts that we will go back soon, but made absolutely painful by a week of serious jetlag.

Trip to Australia.

Trip to Australia.

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Detroit – Colour me ignorant

Remember when we used to go to Paris for the weekend from Manchester? Well now we go to Detroit. This joke got some chuckles before our weekend trip to Detroit and ironically enough I look back and consider my little gem ignorant and snobbish. This was a lovely learning experience and a reminder how silly it is to create opinions out of thin air. We have to thank our partners in crime, Mr. Ball-Time and Mrs. Love-Gilmore-Girls for suggesting it and making it happen.

The Guardian Building
We are at times food snobs, so we avoided the hotel breakfast and chose The Rowland Café in the Guardian Building. This was the first stop during the weekend and as we walked around downtown on Saturday morning, it is the opposite of downtown Toronto with people rushing from one place to another. There is a feeling of an empty movie set, something similar to what we experienced in Christchurch. And then you get caught off guard when a street cleaner says ‘Good morning’, not the expected behavior in the famed scary Detroit, not even regular downtown behavior. Maybe they knew we were tourists and they were putting on a show. I am sure that is it.

While snooping around a Made in Detroit shop those sneaky Detroitians offered free tours of the building. A gentleman came in and talked to us for a bit more than an hour about the history of downtown and the buildings around. A quick summary: the Guardian was architected by Wirt Rowland, and it has works by Corrado Parducci, muralist Ezra Winter with an inside covered in Pewabic Tiles, locally sourced. The guide also recounted that at the time of construction the artistic direction was moving from European influences to native art motifs as well as inspirations from all the Egyptian archaeological discoveries taking place at the time. Classed as an Art Deco building the attention to detail is impressive, even the furniture pieces were designed to fit the overall feel of the building, creating the financial cathedral it was meant to be.

The Guardian Building.

The Heidelberg Project
The drive towards the Heidelberg Project snaps you out of the protected shelter of Pewabic tiles and shows you harsher realities: deserted houses, some burned down houses and even sadder, houses which you think are deserted but are not.

The site of the Heidelberg Project is incredible, unlike anything I have ever seen. Started in 1986 by Tyree Guyton it opened the doors of creativity, started healing through art and it grew over the years to span over multiple houses. Each one is a little universe of its own with different themes. Unfortunately some of them have been burnt down within the last months. Initially we thought that is how it was set up; even though burnt, they still provoked emotions. I could spend hours walking around and finding metaphors in all the installations, if not that, then just admiring what miracles you can do with day-to-day objects. From Duchamp’s toilet to bring us all the comfort of art expression, this is an extraordinary extension of that seed. Now, hundreds of photos later I am itching to create some prints from my little Etsy shop. Before that will need to contact the project and get permission so will keep you posted how that advances.

The Heidelberg Project.

The Heidelberg Project.

The Heidelberg Project.

The Heidelberg Project.

The Heidelberg Project.

The Heidelberg Project.

Eastern Market
The day could have ended there and I would have been happy, but it continued with an afternoon around the Eastern Market through antique sales and even a bit at the market itself. And you know those dangerous Detroitians, well … during the morning tour our friends met a gentleman very keen to share information about the best spots an he recommended visiting the market. Here he was again ready to take us to a marvelous print shop. We were in Detroit less than 24 hours and we already bumped into friendly acquaintances. Another attraction in the area is the multitude of street art around.

Eastern Market.

Eastern Market.

The Fox Theatre
There were no tours of the theatre available during the weekend we were there, so we bought tickets to see a show as an excuse to go inside. I will not name the entertainer and I am usually very forgiving with live performances but the whole show would have been well suited in a 5-minute YouTube video. It brought me great excitement to wait outside in line with everyone else, looking up at the letters of the FOX Theatre coming on and off. The inside is majestic with colorful Burmese, Chinese, Indian and Persian influences.

Fox Theatre.

Fox Theatre.

Detroit Institute of Arts
While collecting guides before the trip I read that there was a thought to sell their art pieces to help the city come out of bankruptcy. I didn’t really grasp how much difference that would make until we entered the Detroit Institute of Arts. There is no lack of free-guided tours and if there is anything I love more than buying uncomfortable things to carry back home, that is a guided tour. An Impressionist explosion in Detroit, a Diego Rivera court and many more pieces we didn’t have time to see. Also a local photography exhibition to remind you that while we come, visit, take photos, use terms like urban decay and analyse capitalism, at the end of all this rhetoric people are holding on and working hard to improve their lives, looking for ways to brighten the future of their kids and to foster a feeling of community. In one of the photo captions we read about a school where the curriculum includes topics specifically related to Detroit, aiming to nurture a wish for the kids to stay in the city, further their education and build a future there. A lot more to see and I am more than happy to go back soon, hopefully for the Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit exhibition.

The Central Station
I was very keen to break the Private Property chains to go in. A lot of the other places we were around had more of a resilient feel to them. This one, unfortunately didn’t and it was a sad note to end our visit on.

Memories Hunting
The Made in Detroit souvenir shop in the Guardian Building is good, you can also find Pewabic Tiles here. We bought a print from a lovely shop in Easter Market at Signal-Return.

This trip was one of the most surprising I can remember in a while, going in with so much preconception of how dangerous or bleak it is and to find that sure, sometimes it is but this is not a museum we go to and poke around, this is very much a city in the process of rediscovering itself and find a better future. What we can do to support it is take less photos of the urban decay and more of hard work people put in to revive it, support them before anything else.

Around Detroit.

Around Detroit.

Around Detroit.

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Thank you 2014

Dear 2014,

You were a odd one. Here are some of your:

Travel highlights:

  • Attended three weddings. Family wedding Florida, adopted-cousins wedding in Sardinia and friend’s wedding in Toronto. All spectacular.
  • Secluded beaches in Sardinia.
  • Family time and delicious seafood in Norfolk, UK.
  • Flooded Piazza San Marco in Venice with funky Manchester crew.
  • Mountain Hike for Canada Day at Mont – Tremblant.
  • Ice Climbing at Beaver Creek near Haliburton.
  • Skying lessons at Blue Mountain.
  • Detroit Institute of Art and Weekend in Detroit.
  • Niagara on the Lake Lunches and Wine Tasting.

Personal highlights:

  • Keeping up the plan to be best Aunt to 2 pair of twins. I think by the end of the year I had 4 kiddies who can pick me in a crowd. Tremendous success.
  • Our Etsy shop has increased sales by 100% that is two sales have made me really giddy, super giddy. They were sales from our neighbour down south and I can attest I do not know these lovely people and I did not guilt trip them into buying them. Also very proud that both prints were Romanian-based.
  • Upgraded my Camera.
  • Read 24 books and 8 children books.
  • Found a Yoga place I/we like.
  • My software development work has extended to include both medical assessment as well as clinical. It is something I wanted for a few years now.
  • Walks in parks even on my own, without Husband pushing me out of the house.
  • Decided on the type of place we want to live in.
  • Had my 15 seconds of fame by ending up on stage in a Romanian play.
  • Stuart, our Norfolk Pine Tree is growing beautifully.

Toronto highlights:

  • Long walks through parks. Worth mentioning again because they are some of the most peaceful moments we have.
  • Friend’s visits from overseas helped us walk around downtown more than usual.
  • A visit to the Royal Ontario Museum.
  • Theatre plays: Some at Passe Murraille Theatre, Book of Mormon, a trip to Stratford and one to Shaw Festival, some Romanian theatre and Australian Opus.
  • Good food: Rose and Sons, Smoked and Cracked, Café Belong brunch, hot chocolate at Soma and NADÈGE and some other regulars.

I call you odd 2014 because it is hard to classify you. You were a year of searches, patience, lots of work, and learning. It is easier to channel your peaceful self when all is fun and games, travel and good times. It is equally important to find the same balance when work takes precedence and things do not move at the speed you want them to. I am lucky to enjoy both my work and my hobbies so balancing it all and myself is achievable with some good nights of sleep. The key to all, as simple as it may sound, is to take it one day at a time. So 2014 you really pushed me to take it one day at a time.

Before we let 2015 take center stage here are a few highlight photos of the year, all based in our lovely Canada. Wishing everyone a peaceful 2015.

Around Toronto.

Around Toronto.

Around Toronto.

Around Toronto.

Around Toronto.

Around Toronto.

Around Toronto.

Around Toronto.

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Venice – Water, Colour and Tourism

The last leg of our trip was setup for a reunion with Mr. E and Miss Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Now these two have been a part of our lives since our first weeks in Manchester and by now we have bonded across life events and countries. The four of us used to spend a lot of time together even after Husband and I changed the dynamic by starting a romantic relationship. Fast forward five years later, this group of four is richer with added partners to make a six people link. This was our first trip together and how better to test our chemistry than through the busy, colourful streets of Venice. All this happened before the Amalooney wedding. We missed that invitation but George, Amal we could have been your best Canadian Cousins. Remember that for the next family reunion. If you are not sure what I mean make sure you read the previous post. Georgey, Amal don’t pretend you are too busy. We all are.

San Giorgio Maggiore
Gorgeous wood carvings in the monastery and incredible view from the tower. Unfortunately I don’t know much about the history/art history of the place so I can’t whip out any impressive statements here.

Venice.

Venice.

La Fenice
Built and rebuilt multiple times it lives up to it’s name (the Phoenix). A staple example of opulent architecture and interior decorations reserved only for the privileged of the era. I find these places intriguing, stirring a wide range of emotions, one being appreciation of the amazing craftsmanship. All this luxury came at a high cost for the working class and most people who originally worked to create such beauty could never enjoy it for it’s purpose. So how lucky we are now to walk around and appreciate all this beautiful work and who knows even attend an event one day.

Venice.

Venice.

Piazza San Marco and Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco
Flooded by both tourists and water it is a hub for everything you can imagine. It is impressive to see the piazza flooded and yet there was no intention of stopping any activities from carrying on as if it was a normal day. Everyone in water boots, or bare feet, gave an extra kick to the whole experience. A bit of an empty canvas situation here with regards to the past of the place and the artists at work. It truly makes a world a difference when I have some historical link to build on. But nonetheless I enjoyed the beauty of it and the Basilica brought me straight to Hagia Sofia. The gold mosaics definitely helped make that connection. Even here, at the exit there was water coming in and they were all equipped with a temporary pass-way to keep the tourist flow active.

Venice.

Venice.

Food Cravings
Hard to follow up from the wedding debauchery but Mr. E found a memorable place to indulge in delicious gelato at Grom. And yes, we walked away from it just to return in 10 minutes and have a second serving.

Memento Hunting
Oh for the love of Murano glass. It was to be expected that you would find anything from cheesy souvenirs to high class expensive glass. So what do you think, as avid readers of our wanders did we buy or didn’t we buy glass? Comments anyone?

I will say we found some postcard gems in Libreria Acqua Alta where literary chaos exploded, with book stacks everywhere, cats, and smoke. Oddly enough as a non smoker, quit a few years ago, there are times, very specific scenarios when I enjoy the smell of it. This was one of those times. Another good find was the sweetest things for my beautiful nieces, little lace parasols and some lovely monogrammed handkerchiefs.

Venice.

I was sad to leave but at least we did it in style: walk, bus boat, airport boat, airport bus, a security line at the airport that ran outside, OUTSIDE the airport, a slightly delayed flight. As for our friendship circle, so far we have yet to achieve a year without seeing each other since 2008. Stay tuned since upcoming celebrations may bring us together again in 2015.

Venice.

Venice.

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Canadian Cousins visit Sardinia

One has to be careful with inviting us to events, we may end up saying yes and book a trip to come to your wedding, even if it is in Sardinia. Not only that but we will end up pretending we are your cousins and take family portrait photos. If they want to make a sequel to Wedding Crashers we are available to be cast in the cousin roles.

The trip to Sardinia started with a classic sequence of dragging suitcases through London public transport, a low cost RyanAir flight, a check-in where I had to shift a kilogram from one bag to another to avoid extra pay, a fire alarm to push us out of the bar where we were spending the 3 hour flight delay, a panic session when Husband Chris realized that he did not get his international driving permit, and an attempt to contact the car rental company to check if they are still open when we arrive after 10 pm. There was no applause when the flight landed, but all was streamlined and within an hour we were at our farmhouse dragging suitcases again but this time to our room.

Alghero
We chose a farmhouse, Agriturismo Berlinga to stay for the first three days of the trip. It was near Alghero and by the time we arrived on the first night we were asking for anything to eat, a sandwich or something and  in turn they fed us a three course meal. It was a very decent location, well priced for the home cooked meal you get, the type of farm where they have their own lambs and they use their own produce. It wasn’t as romantic as the Masseria Serragambetta in Puglia but still we enjoyed our stay. Our room was in front of this lovely hill and as we were dragging our bags to the room on the first night, Husband appreciated the personal touch, a 4x ashtray in front of our room. Australian traditions travel far don’t they.

We made a visit to the Grotte di Nettuno and yes we took the stairs, although on the verge of dehydration, we enjoyed it all from the spectacular forms to the mesmerizing colour of the sea around. After the hot climb up the stairs, we went for a dip and later on spent the afternoon in town. It seems to be a great location for tourists with lots of places to enjoy a meal by the sea and plenty of street life. Around the city center I managed to take stock of probably a million red coral pieces of jewelry. Unfortunately the multitude had a negative effect and couldn’t appreciate any of it after a while.

Sardinia - Algero.

Bosa
Poor Husband Chris got sick as soon as we landed but sniffles and all he was amazing and drove us on the first day through a spectacular coastal trip from Alghero to Bosa. Gorgeous, breathtaking and any other travel brochure compliments you can think of can apply to this scenery. Environmentalists say that the Mediterranean has some of its cleanest patches of water here. On the way there are spots where you can stop and off the side of the road you will find little secluded beaches and even the bigger beach at Bosa Marina is well worth a dip. We were here a bit off season when the water was a bit chilly and Italians from all over the country can get some peace of mind while they enjoy their porcetto without the pesky tourists with their nosy cameras, yes, Husband Chris I am talking about you.

The town has lovely coloured houses and and a castle towering over, making sure everyone is well protected and don’t be shy to try the figs from the trees around, they are delicious.

Sardinia - Coastal Road.

Sardinia - Coastal Road.

Sardinia - Coastal Road.

Sardinia - Bosa.

Sorso
This is a very cute little town and it is here at the Pallazzo Baronale were our dear friends joined forces to become a super couple of awesomeness. The celebration was sweet with lots of love cheering them on, followed by a choir and a crowd awaiting them outside wearing masks of the happy couple. We were whisked away in a mini bus for a 20 min drive of excitement and horn blowing to let the world know we are celebrating. The wedding reception and party was idyllic to say the least, at Kent’Annos a restaurant and winery in a gorgeous scenery, where we could snap photos of the couple as silhouettes against the sunset over the vineyard. Please make sure you read these lines with violins in the background and if you have some delicious food dripping over the keyboard, then you may be recreating some of the atmosphere of the event. We wore our cousin roles impeccably and we almost convinced the groom’s family to invite us over for family Christmas lunch. A perfect wedding ending with Husband Chris in tears of laughter before we made a run to the bus and even on the last steps before departing, we did a group dance on Jump, Jump with our dear aunt while waving good bye to the happy couple. Let these memories keep us warm over the winter, during our hibernation months.

Castelsardo
Some lovely views walking around the top of this town. We also had a mini tour of a chapel where you can find beautiful works of Maestro di Castelsardo, whose identity is still unclear. From the end 15th century to the beginning of 16th, the pieces are typical Renaissance all with influences of linear perspective. I can whip terms like that in a sentence after months of listening to our great teachers at Art History from Khan Academy.

Stintino
La Pelosa beach had the most outstanding water I have ever seen. Of course this statement caused Husband Chris to puff his feathers as a proud Australian. To lil ol’ Romanian girl, although exposed to the beauty of the Black Sea, this still was the most clear water I have ever bathed in.

Sardinia - La Pelosa.

Sardinia - La Pelosa.

Sassari
We did not have a chance to spend a lot of time here except a walk around the centre, which of course had some fun pieces of architecture to enjoy.

Sardinia - Sassari.

Food Craving
The highlight is without a doubt the amazing wedding menu at at Kent’Annos in Sennori. The porcetto arrosto was probably the best I have ever had.

Sardinia - Wedding.

A second celebration with the lovely couple was at L’Agnata di De Andrè. After spending most of our time near the coast, this was a beautiful in-land drive, between mountains to the once summer home of the Italian singer Fabrizio De André. A beautiful meal in a truly amazing setting. I have never heard of the singer before but after listening a bit and reading about him, he was a legend with a very rich life.

Memories Hunting
I was ready to spend money on lots of handmade carpets and rugs and handicrafts. As it turns out that was not as easy as one thinks. We tried to find ISOLA locations, the organisation that protects artisans and their work but the ones we found in our little guide were not really there. So instead we found a lovely carpet in Bosa. In Castelsardo we entered the house of little old lady who was selling straw plates she made and we snatched one while she was establishing our income based on our professions.

I shall end this post thanking the lovely couple for giving us the opportunity to discover little parts of Sardinia, to experience a beautiful celebration of love and help define our role in the family. Congratulations!!

Sardinia - Wedding.

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Norfolk Mistery

Oh vacation plans. It seems like a fun easy enough thing to do but having now to consider vacation days as a finite entity is motivating to make the most of it. Our original plan for this year was to head back to our Australian home for the holidays and see family, especially since our twins there are growing up so fast that I am afraid they will forget my name. Partly due to our extended home search we put that plan on pause for now. Instead, we seem to have a wedding attending kind of year. For the first time in my life we are able to say yes to a few of them. We had a lovely Polish wedding in Toronto, we were invited to an Italian/English wedding in Sardinia and an upcoming family wedding in Florida. We already missed two beautiful events, one in Kenya and one in Australia, so when we received the invitation of our Mancunian friends for their Italian nuptials we put our planning hats on. We managed to set up a trip to see family, friends and reserve a bit of time for ourselves.

First part of the trip was to our adoptive country, England.

A lot of thought was put into if we are ready to go back to Manchester, and although every other day I have The Smiths in my ear, I thought it was too soon; which is a bit disappointing since we could not see some very dear friends of ours this time. The scenario that describes the best how I feel about it is a break up while you still have feelings for each other. It is better not to see each other for a while until we are ready to move on to the next phase of our relationship. I know Manchester will be part of our lives in one way or another but for now we needed the distance; there is still chemistry there.

We landed in the morning and enjoyed a very odd day London. We had such a full on week preceding the trip and with no sleep from the flight I felt a bit like a zombie. We spent the day visiting work friends and being escorted around by Mr. E, a regular wander companion, one of our favourite partners in travel adventures. My first blog post with travels had a feature of him. We also had a bit of a half a day to spend on our way from Italy and it was worth mentioning that Mr. E took us to see Warhorse an impressive play with some amazing puppetry. I also have to brag a bit about Mr. E, as he is not just a loud laughing/sneezing pretty face. Oh no, no he is also a smart one and he works with, be ready for it, Hydrogen Fuel Cells. Yes people, he is on the cusp of very interesting research work which of course, makes me look very good. I can work it in conversations and spin it, maybe even bring up Mr. H and G biking around the world and dinner conversations will be impressed everywhere. Here is a video to see what he does.

London.

We may have not made it to Australia, but we are lucky enough to have family a bit closer, so most of our time in UK was spent with my sister-in-law and her husband (S & P), on a trip in Norfolk, to remind us why we love UK. It was a lovely three days spent in green wonderland, with exquisite food, some nice walks and some happy family time. It is an easy yes to any suggestion coming from S & P, we blindly trust their choice of places to see and food to eat.

Our homebase in Norfolk was Cley next the Sea.
We stayed in a cute, welcoming cottage Sky Blue Cottage, where a Victoria Sponge Cake awaited us. Enough said. Within walking distance was the beach, with a classic windmill, the Cley Towermill to be admired on the way. One of my birthday gifts included a book called ‘The Norfolk Mystery’ by Ian Sansom, a cute little murder mystery to accompany me, and make me chuckle everytime I recognize the name of a place.

Norfolk.
Norfolk.

Blickling Hall
The Blickling Hall, a gorgeous location, at some point owned by the Boleyn family. What spectacular grounds, and garden. We were lying on the grass embracing the beauty of it all and imagining how much work and how many gardeners are needed to maintain it.

Norfolk.

Sheringham Park
I can imagine this place being an absolutely breathtaking to walk through during blooming spring season. A bit late in the game, our walk was lovely nonetheless with a bit of rain and lots of cute dogs along the way.

Norfolk.

Wells-next-the-Sea
We visited the seaside here and it was one of those unique times when the tide was all way out and we were walking on the long, looong beach. A bit of an odd experience to see it like this and think you are walking on land rightfully belonging to the sea.

Norfolk.

Food Cravings
There is never shortage of good places to eat in London. We tried to make it to the good ol’ Koya but we found it closed, so instead we ended up at Princi. It is a challenge to find something you don’t like there, even if you just look at the colors of their food and you are happy. We started there and on our departure day we had a lovely breakfast at Caravan.

The highlight was the delicious sea food we had in Norfolk. A home dinner with seafood from Cookie’s Crab shop, a third generation owned place in Salthouse. A second delicious seafood lunch from Wiveton Hall Café with a beautiful crab salad and for dessert scone with an amazing raspberry jam. Cley had some lovely locally sourced shops with both Picnic Fayre and Cley Smokehouse.

Norfolk.

Memories Hunting
Of course I bought something to bring home. Although the temptation was high with a great ceramic store in Cley, I only bought books on this trip. The Bickling Estate has a lovely bookshop, selling old books to help support the estate, here I bought ‘Diary of a Nobody’ by George and Weedon Grossmith from the Folio Society. Meanwhile in Cley there is another lovely shop Crabpot Books, where I purchased a fun pair of books by Milan Kundera and Oscar Wilde. From previous posts you may have noticed our obsession with buying unreasonably difficult items to transport such as bowls or plates. I paced myself this time and started the trip with books, heavy at least they are not breakables.

We ended our trip with dreams of future plans for family travels and until next time we are back in our adoptive country we shall buy overpriced Jaffa Cakes from the British Goods store in Toronto.

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