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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Our trip to Canada

We've just returned from a hectic week of visiting north of the border. One of our family friends in Brockville, Ontario, had to have heart surgery and we felt it was time to visit, which was also a good change to stop at Montreal and see Gesa's parents and her sister and family. So we booked a mooring in Portland for Ty Dewi, arranged a rental car, packed an amazing amount of stuff for just a week, and headed off.

On the Monday morning, we got picked up by the nice people from Enterprise rental and were on the road by 10am. Brockvile was a long and tiring eight hour drive away but, reinforced by our portable DVD player and lots of story CD's, plus all manner of junky snack food, the kids and us made it OK.

We'd looked at nearby hotels then found a farm B+B. With happy memories of farm B+B's in the UK, we booked a couple of nights, and at a very reasonable rate. The farm has exotic breeds, including llamas and emus, and looked really interesting. It was, and in a number of different ways. Our rooms were nice and comfortable and the kids room had many farm toys and cars which delighted the kids - although returning a few hundred tiny plastic cows and sheep to the correct, standing position on the table at the end of the trip was, well, tedious in the extreme. Outside chickens, ducks, geese, dogs, goats, sheep and many more animals roamed freely around the farmyard making the full range of farmyard noises and aromas.

Overnight the animals got a little quieter around 1am before the first cockerel at about 4am. "Mummy," says Max, "don't the animals EVER sleep?". Come 6am Issie said to the cockerels "OK, OK we're awake already". Oh the joys of country life. Downstairs, breakfast was served and we got off to begin our day.

Just a few miles away live Oren and Marguerite, long-time friends of Gesa and honorary grandparents to Issie and Max. It was Oren who, having felt unusual pains in his chest, ended up two days later with a quadruple heart bypass. He's recovering really well and it was good to see him in such good form just weeks after major surgery. Marguerite has been looking after him and their house, and when we arrived she had managed to successfully clean the floor and gutters, safely coming down the ladder only to trip on their front step and badly cut her lip and face. Apart from making her slightly less photogenic, she seems to be fine now. We had a fun visit with them, including a nice lunch at an honest to goodness, and deservedly popular, American Diner.

Another evening at the farm was slightly more restful, and Max got the chance to help out with feeding the animals, including a newborn lamb that had arrived the previous evening. Issie displayed her irrational fear of dogs and combined it with her drama queen command performance so was soon led back inside to escape the friendly farm puppies.

The next day we were on the road again for a few hours into Montreal, arriving at Oma and Opa's (our German name for Nana and Grandpa) who welcomed us all with much love and a nice dinner. It's been a long time since we visited so it was lovely to get together again. After dinner we drove across Montreal to stay with Anke and Norman, our sister and brother-in-law and their three kids. Issie and Max haven't met their cousins for many years, so after introductions they were right into play and fun. So much so that we totally lost all control of bedtime and it was gone midnight for all of us.

Over the next couple of days we spent time at both places and the various mega-retail opportunities on the drive from one to another. Late nights and hectic socialising took their toll but we enjoyed ourselves.

We met up, for the first time, with Elisabeth and Hans, our e-connection to Oma and Opa. Whilst Gesa's parents don't have a computer, Elisabeth and Hans (both well into their eighties or beyond) do, and they download and print these blogs regularly so that Mama and Papa can read them. Thanks once again to both of you.

We went, with Oma and Opa, to the Montreal Biodome - a fabulous arrangement of four ecosystems built within the old Olympic Velodrome next to the 1976 Olympic Stadium. We walked through Tropical Rainforest, Canadian east coast woodland, Canadian maritime seashore and Arctic / Antarctic environments with their range of flora and fauna. A picnic afterwards and a ride home on the Montreal metro capped of our trip for Issie and Max.

On our last day we drove halfway home to meet up with some new friends in Hanover, New Hampshire. We'd met them in Bar Harbour, Maine, riding the same bus when Issie got chatting to a little girl the same age. One conversation leads to another and we took up their invite to drop in when we were passing. Hanover is a beautiful town, home to Ivy League Dartmouth College, and their home was a few blocks from Main Street on one side, and a few more blocks to the river and forest walks on the other, a lovely location.

We had to work hard to tear ourselves away from such hospitality and get back in the car for the final few hours to Portland but once back, Ty Dewi was still bobbing safely at her mooring and the nice guys from Portland Yacht Services ran us out to our home. It was very nice to open up the cabin doors to the familiar smells and sights of home, and to be back on the water in our own little space. Now all we have to do is find out where to stow all the stuff we've brought with us.....
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