Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Brief Homecoming

My brief visit to BC is just about to end, as I'm at Vancouver International, waiting at the gate for my plane to board. I flew out here on Thursday and then went with Chris and Theresa to Nanaimo on Friday for Sam and Mike's wedding. I've been back in Vancouver since Sunday evening.

The wedding was fantastic. Mike's parents hosted the ceremony in their yard, overlooking the water. Sam looked fabulous. Mike, unsurprisingly, cried. And Sam gave quite the go-ahead-make-my-day look when we were asked if anyone knew of any reason why they should not be wed.

The reception was great, too. It began with the couple's first dance. This was not just a dance, it was a performance. Clearly, much instruction and choreography had gone into it, and apparently there was a strong desire to get it over with before dinner, which led to its unconventional placement on the program.

Speeches followed dinner, including what was quite possibly one of the best I have ever heard, delivered by Sam's brother Nick. Sam's "ring box", a shiny MacBook, then made an appearance to play the slide show and be the DJ, running an iTunes playlist that was determined by online vote, held in advance. The whole event was a great time.

Otherwise, the visit to Nanaimo was quite uneventful. It's a pretty town, but not all that exciting, and the locals, many of whom fit squarely in the retirement set, didn't prove to be the friendliest. The demographics took a dramatic turn for the better on Sunday morning, as the hotel was overrun by a young rugby team (or several teams?) visiting from England (or Australia?). Whatever the case, yum.

It was really great to get together again with Chris, Karyn, and Gippy and their (apparently very patient) significant others. Much laughter ensued as tired old jokes were resurrected and many new ones emerged.

My time in Vancouver was far too short, but enjoyable. I got together with Jodi and Karen for lunch yesterday, and then got to meet Jodi's pretty new kitties. And, in the evening, a special treat: I met up with Genevieve for a coffee and to catch up. We hadn't talked since high school grad, but had just reconnected through Facebook (thanks Facebook!). As it turned out, we each got to enjoy a free chai (thanks Starbucks!), and Gen was a riot.

She reminded me about how, after her final choir solo (which was self-accompanied on the guitar), I had congratulated her and said, "I didn't know you were talented." A perfectly typical foot-in-mouth moment for me, but fortunately she had taken it as intended.

Anyhow, she just got married, is teaching high school English, and is working on her Master's. Not that any of this was surprising, but it's nice to see that she's doing so well.

So, those are the highlights of my visit. I'll be back in Toronto in about five hours, and I'm already thinking about heading off to Montreal on Friday!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Island Play

Kevin and I left Toronto for PEI last Friday, with both bikes in tow on Kevin's fancy new hitch-attached bike rack. It was a two day drive, with a night in Quebec City.

The first day of driving was complicated by the first nations' national day of protest. An 80 km detour from the 401 slowed us down by two and a half hours, which then put us in Montreal for rush hour. It seems Montreal drivers really are as bad as everyone says: we were caught in no less than five different back-ups, all but one caused by a minor accident. It took two hours to cross the city on Autoroute 40. After twelve and a half hours of driving, we were definitely ready for bed.

The second day's driving went much more smoothly, and we were treated to some very nice scenery. The rolling hills of the Gaspé Peninsula and New Brunswick had me photographing madly. Sadly, these vast landscape scenes, beautiful as they are, just didn't translate well into photos, especially when taken from a speeding car.

Finally, we crossed the Confederation Bridge on Saturday evening.

Impressions of PEI in four words: everything is ridiculously cute. This applies to the landscape, the buildings, the bottled pop, the accents...and especially to Kevin's family.

Oh, one exception to the cuteness rule: the mosquitoes. They're nasty buggers, and I'm covered in bites. There are three particularly awful ones on my neck.

On Sunday, we saw the Canada Day fireworks in Charlottetown, which were billed as the biggest such display in the country. There were probably a couple of thousand people at the waterfront for it, which created some entertaining people watching opportunities. There were many cute grain-fed (potato-fed?) boys, too, but Kevin said they're 16, and have girlfriends and drinking problems.

The fireworks didn't disappoint. Neither did the T-shirt selection at Cows.

On Monday, we went with Kevin's sister Paulette, her husband Charlie, and their son Emery to the beach at Greenwich, in the PEI National Park. We enjoyed a nice long walk along the beach, and even helped Emery climb up the dunes, for which he seemed most grateful. The beach was long and beautiful, with white sand, gracefully curving to a point in the distance.

In the evening, we went back to Charlottetown to see Anne of Green Gables, the musical. It was, unsurprisingly, very cute. And really well performed, though all but a few of the actors seem to be "from away".

Kevin went on a long bike ride on Tuesday morning, and Paulette and I went to collect him at Tea Hill. Along the way, we stopped off at Subway to pick up some lunch (the new lobster sandwich: PEI only, or available everywhere?). Then, we walked along the beach. This one, though not as pretty as the last (which must be why this one was only a provincial park) did feature the famous PEI red sand. In the evening, we met up with Luke and Kevin's friends Amy, Kim, and Louis for dinner in Summerside. Then, we tore up the town. As Luke put it, we climbed two relatively sketchy structures, visited an empty mall, had hair-filled ice cream and examined the local newspaper all in one night!

On Wednesday, we picked up Kevin's parents at their house in St. Hubert and went to Cavendish. We visited the National Park there and Kevin and I went for a short bike ride, while his parents walked down to the beach. Our ride took us along a spectacular shore line and, good news, resulted in no knee pain for me. Next, we got into serious tourist mode and visited Green Gables. Well actually, it's a restoration of what they think the original Green Gables, which inspired L.M. Montgomery's descriptions in Anne, might have looked like. The house was owned by cousins of Montgomery's grandfather at the time, but Parks Canada took a little creative license and labeled the rooms "Matthew's," "Marilla's" and "Anne's." We also walked down Lovers' Lane to the Balsam Hollow Trail, through a woods that apparently provided great inspiration to the author.

Fun facts: Anne of Green Gables and Green Gables are trademarks and official marks of the Anne of Green Gables Licencing authority. L.M. Montgomery is a trademark of the Heirs of L.M. Montgomery.

Kevin spent the night at his parents' place, and then did another bike ride on Thursday. I used the time to get connected to the Interweb, and catch up on e-mail and other online distractions. I had meant to post this blog entry, but didn't quite finish before Kevin called me to come pick him up.

It was a long drive, over 90 minutes, back to his parents place. Actually, considering that this is supposed to be a small province, there have been a surprising number of really long drives on this trip. It seems everything is at least 45 minutes away, and that's traveling at 80 km/h on just about every road. On the upside, the drives provide an opportunity to enjoy the absurdly cute scenery. There are seemingly endless pastures and potato fields everywhere, with pretty woods and rolling hills in the distance. Little barns and houses dot the landscape.

We're spending the day today at the new home of Kevin's other sister, Jeanne. They just moved yesterday into this very cute house. And they have Webbernet access. Yes!

Tomorrow, we'll head to Halifax, and spend the day with Chris. We actually saw him for 10 minutes after the fireworks on Sunday. But it'll be very nice to spend some more time with him, and to see Halifax! Then, it's two more days of driving back to Toronto.