Sunday, July 28, 2013

Montreal-Mont Tremblant-Peterborough-Kingston and home...

Perhaps I should provide a map!  I returned to Montreal on July 1st, missing the East Hatley Parade.  It's always a bit of a relief depositing a rental car!  The next couple of days I was in Montreal, staying with my friend, Linda, and spending time with her family.  Linda lives very close to the Montreal Botanical Gardens and they are well worth a visit.  They are huge!  You can also visit the Biodome which is great and if you like insects, the Insectarium.  Currently, there is an amazing display entitled Mosaicultures Internationales 2013.  There are about 50 amazing works by horticulturalist-artists from many countries.  I was impressed by some of the displays at Epcot Centre last year and by the living statute Puppy by Jeff Koons at the Guggenheim in Bilbao but to see this many such exhibits was amazing.

Then Linda and I drove up to Mont Tremblant in the Laurentions where we stayed a couple of nights at  Club Intrawest, a bit more luxurious than the Bishops' residence (but at $50 a night I shouldn't complain).  We had a lovely unit complete with a lake view and use of a nice pool and several hot tubs.  In Quebec, towns seem to keep getting renamed and the nearby lovely town of St. Jovite is now called downtown Mont Tremblant while there is the new village at the base of the mountain built when the resort was redeveloped, and the original village of Tremblant on the lake.   Anyway it was a lovely, relaxing couple of days.

Back to Montreal where I spent a few hours in Old Montreal with my childhood friend, Anne Marie, who I hadn't seen probably for 30 years.  Old Montreal is one of my favorite places and it was fun to wander around with Anne Marie.

More excitement in Montreal was Linda's niece and new nephew-in-law's condo.  In Montreal you can buy a brand new condo with over 1000 square feet for $250 000-unbelievable in Vancouver!

Soon on Sunday, Linda and I were off again, this time on our way to Peterborough, Ontario where our friends Anne and Barrie live.  Anne, Linda, and I did a year at Queen's University in Kingston doing Bachelors in Education while Barrie was there doing engineering.  My first really big trip was with Anne and Linda when after a year of teaching we went off to Europe.  Anne and Barrie had our visit totally planned.

Our first full day, Monday, Anne, Linda, and I visited a local art gallery and had lunch on the canal.  Then we met Barrie at their son's lakeside cottage.  I got to go swimming in another lake and even did a bit of canoeing.  Rain had been a bit of an issue during this holiday.  Never have I seen Quebec and Ontario this lush and green in July.  On Sunday we had  driven into Peterborough with huge black skies.

Tuesday we did a run into downtown Peterborough and my cousin's daughter and her husband and very cute toddler came to visit.  Later we were off to a production of Fourth Line Theatre, The Winslows of Derryvore.  The rain held off and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  The play began at 7:00 and the audience and the production were outside in this beautiful setting.  I have always loved summer theatre but this experience was totally unique complete with real horses.  I love how this theatre uses real history and turns it into theatre.  Having been in Northern Ireland last summer it was particularly fascinating looking at a piece of its complex history, a history the writer's ancestors were a part of and history that had implications for this part of Ontario as well.

In doing a bit of research into Fourth Line Theatre I discovered that there was a butter tart war on in Ontario.  I had been a bit surprised driving in to see a sign advertising butter tarts but after reading the article I could see what all the excitement was about.  If I had more time no doubt we would have done more direct research but we did manage to do a bit of tasting at DooDoo's Bakery in Bailleboro on our way back to the 401.  We were impressed!  For more information on the the Kawartha Northumberland tour here you go!

After a bad traffic jam we eventually made it into Kingston where we had planned a stop.  After a late lunch and a swim at our hotel, we spent a lovely evening at my friends', Vicki and Gavin's.  An extra bonus was getting to see fireflies (we don't seem to have them in Vancouver).  The next day we had a lakeside breakfast and a quick poke around the shops in downtown Kingston but no time for the market as we were off to visit my cousin, Nancy, for lunch, on our way back to Montreal.  Another fun visit complete with tea served on my grandmother's china!

one of my cousin's gardens
Back in Montreal the Benoits hosted a retirement dinner for me, and we did a bit more light and window covering shopping for the new condo.  So many choices!  The next morning I packed up, and Linda drove me to Pointe Claire where I spent the day with my friend, Janice and her dogs.  We also met my friend, Val (who had kindly fed me a delicious breakfast two weeks earlier on my arrival) for an ice cream.  Pointe Claire Village is always one of my favorite spots.  It's also easy to forget you are in Quebec because you still don't hear much French there.  In this trip I  seemed to bounce back and forth from English to French, French to English depending on even where you are in the city of Montreal.

Eventually I was pack on a plane, this time watching the sun setting across the country, rather than rising.  All in all a great trip, not that I was able to see everyone I would have liked but definitely getting to have some fun times with lots of great people in some beautiful places!  And now I have some pictures that need adding! Done!

Here's one I had to add...
stormy skies coming into Peterborough

Thursday, July 25, 2013

High School Reunion and a visit to the Eastern Townships-part one summer vacation

North Hatley
 I am still trying to decide if this entry belongs on this blog or my travel blog!  I kind of think that to qualify for the travel blog one needs to do the blog when you are actually there, but due to some technical difficulties that didn't happen this time.  I also took the lazy way out and posted bits and pieces on facebook.  So here begins the saga...
First I wouldn't recommend taking the Red-Eye special to Montreal after teaching the last week of school and then getting in a car in a raging rain storm.  I found myself falling asleep as I finally escaped the rain and was speeding down a relatively deserted autoroute on my way to Lennoxville.

Fortunately when I began to veer into the right lane I did wake up and stayed awake until I made it to
just as river goes into Lake Massawippi 
the dorm at Bishop's where I was staying.

The Eastern Townships are very pretty and one of the prettiest towns is North Hatley.  My father's ancesters were early settlers in this area and I lived in the house my grandfather built until I was almost eight and went to first and second grade in North Hatley.  When I was in second grade we moved to a nearby town, Waterville.  Waterville is also pretty but the kind of place that gets left off maps!  The next town is Compton, birthplace of Louis St. Laurent, former prime minister, so it gets on maps.

favorite corner of North Hatley
I spent grades three to nine at Compton Waterville Intermediate School, a school with about 120 kids.  There was also a French Catholic school.  Anyway when we finished ninth grade we had to go to Lennoxville to finish grades ten and eleven. So here I was on my way to a Lennoxville High School reunion.  I also ended up going to university in Lennoxville as well and that was my destination, Bishop's where two main events of the reunion were taking place, and where I was staying in the dorm.     I was looking forward to a nap but needless to say, I couldn't get into my room until four o'clock so just had to go shopping at the Hatley outlet where of course I ran into friends originally from Lennoxville but now fellow BCers.

a bit of the Bishops' campus
After a bit of wandering around downtown Lennoxville, I finally checked into my residence room (no updating in 45 years I can assure you and of course, on the third floor with no elevator, and I promptly went to sleep.  When I awoke I thought that the meet and greet and already begun and I raced to get changed.  With umbrella in hand I walked over to the Student Union Building but a couple of people I didn't recognize and who didn't seem overly friendly told me that the festivities didn't begin until seven so I had a few minutes to kill.  I decided to check out more of the campus as I hadn't been there in years. Here are a few pictures-you can see why when I went to visit Oxford I felt a sense of deja vu.

It started pouring rain and it was seven o'clock and from a nearby porch I could see people arriving so I decided to brave the reunion.  It was busy and crowded.  I looked around the room and didn't recognize anyone and I was struck that everyone looked old!  Later I had the realization that the youngest person attending the reunion was probably 61!  I fetched myself a glass of wine and found a perch at an empty table.  Soon people I hadn't seen in years recognized me and soon it was a really nice experience, making my trek seem worthwhile!  There was much laughter how the lettering on the name tags needed to be in bigger print!

The next day I slept in, not surprisingly and missed breakfast at the nearby dining room.  The campus seemed busy with families there with kids involved in summer sports camps.  Later this summer Sherbrooke and Lennoxville are hosting the Canada Games and Bishops is one of the sites that will be being used.  Hungry I set off for Tim Hortons as I knew they also had free internet.  The place was abuzz with discussion of the reunion. I hadn't really planned to go to the memorial service at my old high school but seeing as I was near I decided to go.  I had to admire how the committee had done so much research as to who was no longer alive.  There was even a bagpiper!  Next I toured around our old school with several of my former classmates.  The rooms seemed so much smaller and it was funny how much we started to remember...I only went to school there for two years but some of my friends had spent from grades one to eleven in that building though they remembered how you couldn't go into the high school wing if you were in elementary and vice versa.

The house my grandfather built
I spent the afternoon going to Waterville where I lived from the age of eight in a house we sold after my dad had a massive stroke about 25 years later.  I visited my childhood friend, Nancy, and had planned for a swim until a massive thunderstorm descended.  Later I took a picture of the farm I lived in until I was eight and spent a bit of time at a favorite store in North Hatley before going to visit my cousin Ken and his wife Maryse who live on the same property Ken has lived his whole life.  Then I was back in Lennoxville for more festivities.

It was very convenient staying in the residence as it was just steps away from the pub where the dinner and dance were to take place.  There weren't as many people as the night before but it was still very well attended and again fun catching up with old friends.  A grad who worked for the local radio station was on the committee and here is a link to hear a few interviews with other grads.  My friend, Steven, got the award for coming the farthest as for the last six years he had been teaching in China.  Well there was the inevitable class picture of course so here you go! I think our class actually had the most grads return!

view going down King Hill in Sherbrooke
Sunday there was a brunch but since it wasn't until 10 or so and I woke up early I decided to drive into the city of Sherbrooke and have a look.  Although I moved away from this area when I was 21 and moved to British Columbia when I was 29 I have returned many many times especially when my parents and then my aunt were alive but often in Sherbrooke I was just buzzing from point A to B so a Sunday early morning is a good time to go exploring.  I think I had forgotten how steep King Hill was for instance.  I also remember doing my driving test there and never having to parallel park, something I quickly had to learn to do in Montreal!  Much stays the same-the gorgeous old houses, but much has changed...

Howardene in Sherbrooke
The final event was the brunch at the local legion hall.  And it was delicious and a nice note to finish on.  I think the organizers were really pleased with how everything had gone as well they should have. I enjoyed visiting with people I hadn't seen in years and others that I try to see regularly.  And we all have this bit of shared history.  I recently read an article that I thought was quite helpful in explaining the history and changes that have occurred in this area in Quebec.  I have to admit that as a high school student I loved where I was from but I yearned to leave and explore the world and I have been fortunate to do so.

view from the Littles' cottage
 I ended my trip by spending the afternoon and early evening visiting my cousin, Bud, and his wife, Marion at their cottage.  This is also where I spent my teenage summers as we had a cottage there that we sold them.  Later they sold that cottage and bought one by the lake.  They also own a lovely house in the town of Ayers Cliff that they have restored.  I have so many fond memories of Lake Massawippi, the lake that runs between North Hatley and Ayers Cliff.  And jumping in that lake seemed the real start to summer!

I initially thought I would write about my whole trip in one entry but that didn't really work out.  I promise to be more succinct in my next entries!  And what does this have to do with later literacy?  I actually think that I received quite a good early education in all my schools-North Hatley, Waterville, Lennoxville.  I also learned lots of life lessons growing up in small communities.  Recently I was chatting with a friend about her reservations about full day kindergarten for her not quite five year old.  My kindergarten was a small family farm on a road where I knew every family.  My summer days were endless...

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

the very very last week of teaching...

Hmmm... three thousand miles away it's hard to believe I have only finished teaching last Thursday.  I know I really felt as if I was on a marathon especially as I was leaving basically immediately for Quebec to catch my high school reunion (for another post).  Was I really going to make it through a grad assembly, two all day field trips, the teachers' union dinner party celebration for retiring teachers and another retirement party and still make it on that plane?!  Well I did!

Graduation assembly... our school has a tradition of a graduation assembly where parents and the rest of the school come together to celebrate the completion of eight years of school.  Now some may think this is a bit much but I thought it was quite nice the first year I came and I still enjoy it but it meant a weekend of calligraphy of certificates and torment over who should get what prize etc. Their individual projects were so good that I decided they should present to the rest of the school which they did for the first two periods and that went very well.  They were allowed to go home at 11:30 but there was a problem because the slide show about the graduates somehow never was completed.  It was finally completed by one student's older sister minutes before the assembly!

It was all very touching-and the valedictory speeches were well delivered.  A couple of primary classes left a bit early but some made it to the bitter end.  About half our students had been in our school since kindergarten and remembered all the years they had watched this assembly and now it was finally their turn.

Tuesday was our big day going downtown and and exploring, with lunch at the Spaghetti Factory.  All went well except for a silly incident a block from the school on our way back, resulting in one student missing our day at Playland, the local amusement park.  Tuesday night was also the retirement party put on by our teachers' union.  In spite of exhaustion I had an absolutely lovely time.

Wednesday went very well at Playland-no incidents and it was actually quite relaxing for Clara and I, which was good as I had a retirement to attend and washing and packing to do at home.  The retirement was fun and nice to celebrate a wonderful teacher's career.

I couldn't believe when Thursday finally came.  I even got my slide show finished for the final assembly... I was a bit teary eyed when I was presented with a huge hanging basket and later a gift certificate at a garden centre from my staff.  The class was rather quiet-I think Playland wore them out!  We had our traditional picnic in the George Park with our reading buddies.  And then returned to school for the handing out of my "for fun" certificates and report cards.

And finally it was over-with lots of hugs all the kids were out the door released into summer.  There were plans for a water fight in  George Park but quite a few of the boys were back for Open Gym as they said there were a lot of girls and they were dangerous!

I carted with help, the huge hanging plant the staff had given me etc. and spent a  few very busy hours before it was time for the red eye special!