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Pics & Prose

Avoiding the Darkroom

A father and his daughter walk in the middle of the streetMud­dling through the 2nd day of the trip.

Sadly, I’m not quite as com­mit­ted to post pro­cessing as I’d hoped, so the devel­op­ing is tak­ing longer than expec­ted.

I’ll blame the jet lag. Yes, still.

How­ever, I am find­ing some gems. Here’s one of my favour­ites, taken in Mont­martre. While the rest of the group toddled off to visit a shop, I waited for this father and daugh­ter to make their way up the middle 0f the street.

I think the wait was worth it.

And Now, the News from London

Mix of Family Pictures | captured between July 10-12, 2016Good­ness me, these past few days have been a nearly non-stop whirl­wind. And as is com­mon when trav­el­ling, the days are blend­ing and mix­ing together. What I thought happened yes­ter­day was actu­ally this morn­ing or vice versa. The only thing keep­ing me on the straight and nar­row are the pho­tos, which I’ve had little time to get to, but do offer an indis­put­able chro­no­logy of events.

So, after look­ing at the pho­tos, what have we done?

Our trip in England began with meet­ing David–Jennifer’s uncle–at St. Pan­cras sta­tion. We made our way via tube and bus to his home in Rich­mond, next to Twick­en­ham. David was kind enough to pre­pare din­ner for us and we spent the even­ing chat­ting and catch­ing up.

On Sunday, Jen­nifer and I picked up Oyster cards (much like our Presto card) which we could top up for the dur­a­tion of our stay. We bought the kids daily Travel­Cards, then made our way back to Lon­don to meet with Kelly and Gareth, old friends we hadn’t seen since they last vis­ited Toronto in 2002. We caught up and enjoyed lunch at the Punch and Judy pub in Cov­ent Garden before say­ing our good­byes and mov­ing on to Neal’s Yard, nearby.

Our next stop was Abbey Road, but the sta­tion, not the actual road. Luck­ily, we were told which sta­tion to go to which, as luck would have it, on the com­plete oppos­ite side of town. To be hon­est, I was quite con­fused when I noticed we were head­ing the the South­east part of town, know­ing full well that Abbey Road is in the North­west part of town. Listen to you instincts, kids! In the end, we made it to St John’s Wood sta­tion, walk­ing down Grove End Road to Abbey Road where Mar­ina had to wait some time for the traf­fic to break and the line to thin out. I wasn’t able to get a shot of her alone as there were too many other pic­ture seekers, but hey, all of us did strut across the world’s most fam­ous zebra cross­ing. Even cooler, mind you, was see­ing Abbey Road Stu­dios nearby. Mar­ina even signed the wall.

Next, we hopped back on the tube, dis­em­bark­ing at West­min­ster Sta­tion and hop­ing to walk through the Abbey. But being the hea­thens that we are, we didn’t real­ize that West­min­ster Abbey is closed on Sundays. Still, we took the oppor­tun­ity to walk around the beau­ti­ful build­ing also spy­ing Big Ben, the Houses of Par­lia­ment and mean­der­ing along St. James’s Park which was quite beau­ti­ful. We even­tu­ally settled in Tra­fal­gar Square where Mat­thew was impressed by the size of Nelson’s column. We stopped in front of Canada House to snap a photo and then crossed over to St. Martin-in-the-Fields, walk­ing down to the crypt which they’ve now con­ver­ted to a café. We decided to take a break to enjoy some snacks–scones, clot­ted cream and jam for the par­ents, cake for the Girl and a tart for the Lad.

We ended the day watch­ing the final Euro match with David which was, for me, a bit dis­ap­point­ing con­sid­er­ing France played a bet­ter game than Por­tugal but, such is the nature of sport. And so ended our first full day in England.

On Monday, we made our into Rich­mond along a tow path which is where horses used to pull barges along the Thames. Des­pite the over­cast skies and threats of rain, the walk was won­der­fully pleas­ant as we trekked by the Marble Hill House, cross­ing the Rich­mond Bridge and stop­ping at Water­stones, one of my favour­ite book­stores. Jen­nifer picked up the latest Sebastian Faulks novel and Mat­thew found me a Pen­guin Clas­sics Deluxe reprint­ing of Bram Stoker’s Drac­ula which fea­tures ori­ginal art­work from the 1897 book.

After stop­ping for a cof­fee and some snacks along the way, we arrived at Rich­mond Sta­tion, nav­ig­at­ing to Water­loo Sta­tion where we picked up some deli­cious sand­wiches at a Marks & Spen­cer Express Mar­ket; are you noti­cing the food motif? We walked the few blocks to the foot of the Lon­don Eye to meet David before board­ing an MBNA Thames clip­per which is essen­tially a water bus that the loc­als use to get around via the Thames River. Our jour­ney took us from the Lon­don Eye to Green­wich passing by St. Paul’s Cathed­ral, Lon­don Tower, Canary Wharf and a host of other inter­est­ing land­marks includ­ing the Shard, Walkie Talkie, Chee­seg­rater and the Gherkin (all names of build­ings).

After dis­em­bark­ing, we meandered around Green­wich for a bit, strolling by the Cutty Sark and zip­ping in and out of nearby shops. We dawdled through the Old Royal Naval Col­lege before board­ing the water bus back to Water­loo pier after which we quickly zipped through the Fast-Track line for the Lon­don Eye which David gra­ciously bought tick­ets for.

The Eye is a giant Fer­ris wheel (135 metres/443 feet high) with each rota­tion last­ing about 30 minutes. You board an ovoidal cap­sule (as it’s mov­ing) and up you go. Each pod holds about a dozen people, so it’s not too crowded and you’re able to walk around to snap pho­tos of dif­fer­ent views. I was a little wor­ried that Mar­ina would be nervous, but she enjoyed the ride as much as any­one else. Mat­thew stayed close to David, ask­ing ques­tions about which build­ing was which. Both Jen­nifer and I were sur­prised how enjoy­able the adven­ture was; it was smooth, serene and the views were quite magical.

Fol­low­ing our sol­it­ary loop around the Lon­don Eye, we walked along the South Bank, stop­ping for a snack and drinks before hop­ping a South West train to Rich­mond. One of the most won­der­ful aspects of Lon­don transit is being able to board buses, the tube and even local and regional trains. After relax­ing at David’s for some time, we took off again and he showed us around the York House Gar­dens grounds and the nar­row, gor­geous streets of Twick­en­ham. We stopped at Bên Thành for a scrump­tious din­ner fea­tur­ing Indian/Nepalese/Tibetan fusion food.

On Tues­day morn­ing, our last full day in Lon­don, we took the train back to Water­loo after retra­cing our steps of the night before (through the park and nar­row streets) and stop­ping at Gregg’s for some jam donuts. Once in Lon­don, we hopped a double-decker bus, the 139, up to Oxford Cir­cus where we dis­em­barked. Our first stop was pick­ing up an umbrella as the rain was tip­ping down. We then vis­ited a few shops, includ­ing some sports stores where we bought Mat­thew a black Liv­er­pool FC jer­sey for the 2017 sea­son.

We decided to toddle over to Carn­aby Street as it was so close by. Neither Jen­nifer nor I recall it being so upmar­ket, but fancy it is. Still, we were all very hungry and the rain was per­sist­ing, so we settled for lunch at Carn­aby Bur­ger which was quite good, if not a little pricey. After­wards, we ven­tured back to Pic­ca­dilly Cir­cus before board­ing the tube to King’s Cross Sta­tion. To Marina’s sur­prise, we queued up for a photo opp at plat­form 9 and 3/4, made fam­ous by the Harry Pot­ter nov­els and right next to the Plat­form store which fea­tures wands, Marauder’s maps, Ber­tie Botts of any fla­vour and every other con­ceiv­able tie-in pro­duct ima­gin­able. Need­less to say, the Wee-One was quite excited.

And with this, we ended our day in Lon­don. While I fin­ish writ­ing this, the oth­ers are relax­ing. Then, some din­ner fol­lowed by the dreaded pack­ing. Tomor­row, I’m sure, will be a long day of trav­el­ling.

Quiet Time

A passage wayWe’re cur­rently on the Eurostar, zip­ping through the French coun­tryside on our way to the Chun­nel. The onboard wi-fi is quite hor­rible so it’ll be a minor mir­acle if I’m able to post this at all.

It’s been a very long day that star­ted at 6:15 am. Everyone’s hot, tired and, erm, not so pleasant-smelling. I’m not so keen on meet­ing up with someone in such a state, but there you have it. What can one do?

The drive was rel­at­ively easy from Commes to Caen although we were caught up in the exact same round­about on the way in that we had trouble with on the way out. Then, the wait­ing began. An hour before the Ouibus set off. A couple of hours until we were back in Paris. The may­hem of nav­ig­at­ing the RER, just out­side of zone 1 (another tale for another day). Wait­ing another hour to check-in at the Gare du Nord. Wait­ing yet one more hour to board.

I sus­pect we’ll be incom­mu­nic­ado for the next few days as we’ll be vis­it­ing with David, Jennifer’s uncle, in Rich­mond with daily vis­its to Lon­don. If I find the time, I’ll try and recap our adven­tures.

For now, I’ll sign off before we’re shuttled under­grou—


Various photos from NormandyI want to start by say­ing we made a huge mis­take book­ing so little time in Nor­mandy. It is quite pos­sibly one of the most beau­ti­ful places on Earth. While driv­ing through the coun­tryside or walk­ing by the sea, it reminds me greatly of PEI. Until, of course, you enter a town or vil­lage. But I’m get­ting ahead of myself.

NOTE: I will apo­lo­gize in advance for any errors or typos; it’s been a busy day and I’m quite tired, plus, there might have been some wine involved when I wrote this.

Yes­ter­day morn­ing (was that really yes­ter­day?), we hustled our bags down nar­row streets for approx­im­ately a kilo­metre, arriv­ing at the Auber sta­tion where we hopped on the RER to La Défense, in the fin­an­cial dis­trict. We needed to wait about an hour before board­ing the Ouibus which took two hours to drive to Caen, in Nor­mandy. Aside from a sur­pris­ing amount of toll booths, the ride itself was unevent­ful and we arrived shortly after 2:oo in the after­noon.

We picked up our car—a dark blue Peugeot 308 (which Jen­nifer loves to drive)—and made our way out of town to the coun­tryside, cir­cum­nav­ig­at­ing only two round­abouts more than once. I had been look­ing for­ward to driv­ing stick again but the ter­ri­fy­ingly nar­row roads, abut­ted by stone walls and/or houses, at high speeds, has deterred me from doing so. Jen­nifer on the other hand, has embraced the oppor­tun­ity which is mak­ing both the kids and I a little nervous.

The shoreline along Port-en-Bessin

We met Ale­jandro, our host, in the park­ing lot of the town of Commes, in the Cal­va­dos region of Nor­mandy. It’s a small farm­ing com­munity of only 411 souls, adja­cent to the fish­ing town of Port-en-Bessin, which served as a fuel­ling depot once it was re-captured in World War II. We drove into town on Thursday night, parked the car and walked around the nar­row streets and around the mar­ina, stop­ping at a nearby gro­cery store to pick up some food. We then headed back to our flat, which is a lovely apart­ment situ­ated above what would have ori­gin­ally been stables for the château next door. You’d have to see this place to believe it.

Fol­low­ing din­ner we headed to Longues-sur-Mer to check out the Ger­man bat­ter­ies, still nestled into the French coun­tryside. There were four massive guns, each in vary­ing stages of destruc­tion. But most sur­pris­ingly, there were hardly any people, so for the most part, we had the place to ourselves.

We ended the even­ing watch­ing France play Ger­many in their semi-final game; Mat­thew wear­ing his jer­sey and me wear­ing mine. The Lad removed his jer­sey mid­way through the game to clean “some dirt” and because of this, his team lost. I’m just say­ing.

This morn­ing, we awoke to the sound of birds, a wel­come and refresh­ing change from the caco­phony of Paris. Off in the dis­tance, through the mist, we could see Bayeux, about 7 kilo­metres away. This would be our first des­tin­a­tion for the day.

A German gun in Normandy

Bayeux was the first city of Nor­mandy to be lib­er­ated by the Allies and was vir­tu­ally untouched by battle as the Ger­mans had pulled back to defend Caen. The town is simply gor­geous, with row upon row of old houses, spot­ted with medi­eval build­ings. We stopped by the cathed­ral before mak­ing our way to the Bayeux War Cemetery, the largest Brit­ish cemetery in Nor­mandy. Here, Jen­nifer found the marker for her grand­father who died on June 11th, 1944. We walked around a bit, read­ing the names and ages of the young men who gave their lives.

From Bayeux we drove through the coun­tryside to Courseulles-sur-Mer, stop­ping once to take pic­tures of towns in the dis­tance and pop­pies edging a wheat field. In Courseulles-sur-Mer we picked up sand­wiches (and dessert!) for lunch before par­tak­ing in a tour of the site. Our guide, Luke from Regina (which is much bet­ter than Saska­toon, he assured us) took us around two Ger­man bunkers, one an obser­va­tion bunker and the other, the captain’s out­post. One of the most fas­cin­at­ing tid­bits he shared with us—and there were many—was show­ing us a cinderb­lock that the French had laid, incor­rectly, in build­ing a tun­nel. The French, work­ing under Ger­man rule, used their lax super­vi­sion to sab­ot­age the con­struc­tion so that when the Allies arrived, the tun­nel could be more eas­ily des­troyed, which, in part, it was. This por­tion of the beach, Sec­tor 31, was taken by sol­diers from 3rd Cana­dian Divi­sion on June 6th with orders to advance and cap­ture the Bayeux-Caen rail­way line and Car­pi­quet air­field by night­fall. How­ever, they would be stopped 20 kilo­metres inland, meet­ing Ger­man res­ist­ance, and com­ing within five kilo­metres of their object­ive.

Fol­low­ing the tour, we made our way east to Bernières-sur-Mer where we were able to pho­to­graph the “Canada House” and then, headed back toward Commes, stop­ping at Arromanches-les-Bains to check out the remains of an arti­fi­cial port which was also assembled dur­ing the Second World War. You can still see con­crete emplace­ments at sea which were used to attach bridges to trans­port mater­i­als from ships to land.

After a little relax­a­tion back at the flat, we returned to Port-en-Bessin for din­ner which, in itself was pretty mediocre although the view of the Chan­nel was worth­while. We ended the even­ing pick­ing shells on the beach and check­ing for sea life on the rocks.

Tomor­row, we head back to Paris to catch the Eurostar to Lon­don.

Last Couple of Parisian Days

Photos from ParisAlright, where were we?

The last couple of days have been much quieter. Tues­day, we walked down to the oppos­ite end of our street to check out the city view atop Prin­temps, a high-end retailer. That’s one advant­age of Paris being so flat; there are many places from which you can glimpse a won­der­ful view of the city.

Later in the after­noon, we trav­elled to the 14e arrond­ise­ment to visit the cata­combs. Jen­nifer had read that the best time to visit was around 3:00 so we figured the line we came up to would move along at a decent pace. Not so. In mov­ing closer to the begin­ning of the line, say 30–40 people in, I over­heard a women tell another that they’d been in line for over 3 hours. We decided to wait 30 minutes to see how the line pro­gressed but gave up after 20 minutes. It should come as no sur­prise that Mat­thew was massively dis­ap­poin­ted.

We decided to walk back toward the Seine and stop at the Shakespeare & Co. book­store; the Lad had just fin­ished read­ing The DaV­inci Code and wanted to tackle another in the series. On our trek North, we came across Le Jardin de Lux­em­bourg, a stun­ningly beau­ti­ful 25 hec­tare plot of land inspired by the Boboli Gar­dens of Florence and com­mis­sioned in 1612, fea­tur­ing both French and Eng­lish gar­dens.

Mov­ing on, we stopped at the foot­ball store where Mat­thew pur­chased his jer­sey, so I picked up a French national team jer­sey. A nice jer­sey. An offi­cial one. Let’s just say, it costs just a little less than the price of one of the tick­ets I tried pur­chas­ing to one of the Euro games. It’s the only thing I’ll buy for myself and had I not, I’m sure I would have regret­ted it. I’ll be wear­ing it for tomor­row night’s match against Ger­many, where Mat­thew will wear his. If the French lose, I fear it will have been my fault.

Although we enjoyed our time in the Saint-Germain area of town, Mat­thew was not suc­cess­ful in find­ing his book. We car­ried on a few more blocks to the Abbey Book­shop which is run by a Cana­dian gen­tle­man. Although he didn’t have the exact book we were look­ing for (which isn’t sur­pris­ing con­sid­er­ing the thou­sands of books stacked straight to the ceil­ing, some block­ing the shelves) Mat­thew did come away with the latest book in the series.

On Wed­nes­day, we woke up at 8:45. Again. Unbe­liev­able when you hear all those scoot­ers zoom­ing around. Regard­less, we made our way to the Musée d’Orsay which is one of my favour­ite art museums. There seemed to be more areas to visit than the last time we’d been here, includ­ing access to the out­side. Although Mar­ina expressed a little bore­dom with the paint­ings both she and Mat­thew were impressed with the sculp­tures. I was dis­ap­poin­ted that one of my favour­ite pieces, by Cam­ille Claudel, was miss­ing but was equally pleased to see Degas’ La Petite Dan­seuse de Quat­orze Ans up close and Van Gogh’s Étoiles de Nuit (not to be con­fused with La Nuit Étoilée) whose col­ours just drew you in close.

Fol­low­ing our museum tour, we walked to the 7e arrond­ise­ment, passing through La Place des Inval­ides and by the Musée de l’Armée where the kids spied some rab­bits munch­ing on the grass. This got Marina’s interest far more than the world-class art we’d just seen. We even­tu­ally hooked up with la rue Cler, a mar­ket street near where Moppy had stayed on her trip to Paris. We picked up some sand­wiches, drinks and dessert and settled for some lunch before return­ing to our flat.

On almost every Métro trip, we were ser­en­aded by an accor­dion player (once an oboe and once an entire ensemble), even on the train! Mar­ina really seems to like this aspect of our trip. Tonight we’ll head out for a bite, close to our pied-à-terre, before pack­ing for our trip to Nor­mandy tomor­row morn­ing.

Paris, Desaturated

A series of black and white photosI’m simply too tired to write an entire entry right now; not to men­tion that I’ve fallen so far behind in pro­cessing my images. In the interim, here is a series of black and white pho­tos taken from vari­ous neigh­bour­hoods in Paris. Much like New York, this city is a photographer’s dream.