I’m a nostalgic, sort, I guess; while following the events of last night, I found myself browsing through my France photos from earlier this year. For those just arriving here, we (my wife and 8 year old daughter) spent the year travelling the world, and spending two glorious months in France, the entire month of June in Paris.
Spring in France.
Here’s the first photo that spoke to me last night, taken on our first full day in Paris, May 30. A nattily dressed man, walking down the middle of Boulevard de Clichy, carrying not one, but two baguettes. What could be more Parisiene than that?
This is just one of many, many images of my time in Paris that I will forever remember.
Here’s another one I took the same day, close by but in the Montmartre district, up the mountain from Pigalle. You’ll recognize the likeness:
Many quotes are attributed to Gandhi, and his sensibility of non violence, to turning the other cheek to violence. I wish he’d lived in our time to offer counsel. I think he’d have something to say about root causes, about the lasting, inter-generational effects of colonialism, and international interventions.
I’m not a fan boy, but I still like this guy, Trudeau.
But… I’d like to be reasonable about this thing. Here’s (what I think is) an unbiased list of stuff he’s done lately. The good, the bad, and the ugly. And everything in between. I don’t expect 100% from anyone, but I’m hoping for 66% at least.
Here’s my personal accounting how our Canadian PM is doing. If you have any suggestions, or omissions, do let me know what you think. My score so far?
The (major) Good
Infusing a feeling of positive energy, cooperation, and Sunny Ways, my friends. Sunny Ways!
Invited all First Ministers and Party Leaders to Paris Climate conference.
Press conferences at the National Press Gallery. Yea!
NEW: The Long Form Census back!
NEW: The appointment of certain Cabinet Minsters, namely Kent Hehr for Veterans Affairs, and Harjit Sajjan for Defence.
NEW: Scientists (and presumably, the civil service) unmuzzle’d
The (minor) Good
NEW: Created our first gender balanced cabinet – because it’s 2015. (I used to be ambivalent to this, but see the value and symbolism more and more every day).
Removal of Canadian warplanes from Syrian and Iraqi bombing missions. (No, we are not a warrior nation. Our heritage is based on doing what we must, when there are no alternatives. In this case, there are alternatives.)
The Not So Good
Reversed Harper’s decision to allow Canada Post to transition to community mailboxes.
The “what the hell? Noooo!”
Happily, nothing yet.
Here are the things I was particularly looking forward to seeing happen in the first parliament led by Justin Trudeau. They are particularly important ot me
Thoroughly review C-51, and repeal the naughty bits.
Repeal the Fair Elections Act.
Begin a national conversation about the TPP.
DONE: Reinstate the mandatory long form census.
Rehire Tony Turner, the musical Environment Canada guy.
Recommit to providing the proper care and support for our armed forces veterans.
Establish an inquiry into missing aboriginal women.
Reestablish data based decision making. Science, yo!
Kill the F-35. Please, God, kill it with fire.
Reconfirm the independence of the Supreme Court of Canada.
And last, but most certainly not least – the singular most important thing Trudeau committed to… the game changer, the election winner (I believe):
Champion and nurture election reform based on preferential ballot.
Nota bene… for those of you visiting me, Teddy, about travel stories and reflections, this post is a bit different. We’ve just had a national election, and the Liberal Party, led by Justin Trudeau (whom my mother, and others called le Dauphin, perhaps without really knowing what that means). I like the choice.
I’d like to see how many of the things I liked about the platform actually come to fruition.
3. Singapore. After four months of fifty cent or one buck beer in Southeast Asia, imagine our shock when the price rose to $6.50 USD for a Heineken. Needless to say, we went dry during our four days here.
2. Geneva, Switzerland. This is the land where a Venti Starbucks Caramel Macchiato empties us of 8.30 Francs. That would be almost 12 bucks CAD.
1. London, UK. Land of the free museums, but not the London Tower. The tower is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of my travel fetishes (along with Starbucks mugs). But to get in, as a family, we would have had to throw down over 60 Quid. That’s over 120 bucks Canuckian.
It is no secret that we love wine, and it’s no surprise that we should seek out vineyards of the world as we travel. Elliotte is an old hand at following us into the enotecas and tasting rooms of great wine regions, and through us, she’s vicariously experienced Niagara, Sonoma/Napa, Willamette, and the Okanagan. And all in her first eight years! She, and we, can now add the sublime regions of Bourgogne, Limoux, and Toscana to our passport of viticultural adventures.
We came to Burgundy to drink wine, of course, but also to experience a region that I loved so much from afar. In the great Sideways debate, I come down firmly on the side of the Pinot Noir.
One can know about a place, bien sur; we’d done our reading, tasted the wines beforehand. We knew a little. But to get to know a place takes some poking around. And to poke around, near geographical centre of France, is to be constantly amazed by the beauty of the landscape, the down home earthiness of the people, and the simplicity of a life flavoured by grapes.
I find that some of the most breathtaking sights of the world are punctuated by the human touch of vineyards, and the cultivated rows that roll and flow with the landscape. They belong together, a different – but related – definition of terroir.
I had a bit of a break today, and made the melancholic decision to catch up on Brook Silva-Braga’s A Map for Saturday. It documents the year that Brook took off, from a great job and the ability to pay for 108 USD haircuts, to travel around the world.
There were many laugh out loud moments, including sharing the situation of not knowing what day of the week it was.
There are so many messages in this 2006 film, which documents his 341 day, 26 country round the world trip. So many memories stirred up.
I suppose that we’re now back in the groove, with six weeks of the real world under my belt. In less than three years, we rinse and repeat the adventure. One thing I do not want to do is simply put my time in, waiting for the next weekend, Christmas holiday, summer break. As a teacher, it’s so easy to fall into that groove, and I want nothing to do with it.
But I also realize that, to paraphrase Brook from his film, a normal life really doesn’t feel that attractive anymore.I can imagine going back to my 60 hour a week job only because I have to, and it sustains the lifestyle I want continue.
I am also looking longingly at the great times we had, and how at the time I kept reminding ourselves to live in the moment, to be in the place we were.
This film will either inspire or sadden you. For me, it does both. It’s just 1010 days until we do it all over again.
It’s 7:20 as I write this. I’ve the first week of school behind me, and I should be sleeping in, in preparation for the week ahead. Lesson planning, Grade 9 kids… my head is ajumble. La Fille ™ begins this week herself. Our fantasy year is truly over.
Here’s what I’m doing this morning:
1. Drinking coffee from my Starbucks mug from Rhodes. I have a little travel habit, which I introduced La Fille ™ to, that involves picking up a city mug from the Starbucks of the various places I’ve (we’ve) been to We now have a couple dozen. Today it’s Rhodes, or Rodos. [I was going to write Rodos in Greek, but the letters show up as ???????.] I can still read Greek, and I have a Greek Assistant Principal with whom I can practice. Or at least trade mugs with.
2. Returning emails to pen pals we met on the trip. Hello Julien!! We met many beautiful people on our trip, including the wonderful Brouillet family. They’re French (I think) , have lived in Germany, and now in Den Haag… the kids can speak five languages, and we’ve gotten together on two different continents. We first met them in Thailand and spent New Years with them. That’s my buddy Julien helping Elliotte and his sister raise lanterns.
3. Wondering where the hell time went? Time is stupid (like your eyes, sometimes). It seems like just yesterday that we were on our way to Greece. The year was a blank canvas to us, and we could pretty much do anything we wanted, go anywhere we wished to go. And now that we’re home, things seem… so small to me. The greatest joy we have is to be reconnecting with friends, sharing our experiences, and relaxing with a hot coffee on a brisk, sunny Inglewood morning.
It’s nice to be home, but my head hasn’t returned yet.
We’re home, and I haven’t entirely gotten my head around that yet.
Sure it’s nice to see all the new things around my ‘hood and city, and nothing beats a proper bed, feather pillows, hand towels (our friend Liz understands this one completely), and a good shower.
As we unpack, we’re sorting through five parcels we sent home to ourselves over the past year. Opening them is like Christmas, with 70 kilos of souvenirs (two more boxes were sent to our base in Ontario), stuff we didn’t need during our trip (Ellie’s PFD and my running shoes, for instance), and various scrapbooks.
It’s funny that I sent my workout gear back home early in the trip, since we also brought home some extra, unwanted weight. In my case, about five kilos of body mass.
And so we must do something about that; it started tonight.
We have the benefit, here in Inglewood, of having a Crossfit Studio (quite literally… you know, in the literal sense) outside our back door. La Fille ™ et moi have signed up for a short stint to see if it might not help matters out a bit. Tonight was our first of six “onramp” sessions, meant to teach us the techniques and patterns involved in Crossfit.
I’d test-driven Crossfit a couple of years ago, with a one-on-one session at a studio nearby. I wasn’t at all impressed by the machismo-driven attitude, so I let it go. I *want* to like it, I really do. So we try again.
It was still tough. I felt like they concentrated on legs a bit too much, with most of the moves hitting my quads like beer never hits my head. I will be wobbly tomorrow.
We’re supposed to record our WODs. For the record, Russian Twist Lunges are teh evil. Russians be crazy, yo!
The travel weight we’ve gained is crazy. We certainly ate well, especially in Greece, Thailand, Vietnam, Italy, and France. Oh hell, everywhere. But we walked, too. We averaged about six or eight kilometers a day, sometimes as much as 18 (thanks Android!). But sadly, no cardio, and that seems to have been our downfall.
ANd did I say that I’m sore tonight?
Hah! (as Yul Brynner might say) – I just did the math. In the 175 days that I had my LG G3 Android with me (beginning January 6), it seems that we, as a family, walked 1284 kilometers. Elliotte walked every single one of those kilometers with us, with nary a complaint. Our longest day was over 19 km, in Paris, walking to Pére Lachaise Cemetery. I very much remember that day. It was long!
The LG Health App underestimates walking distance, as compared to my GPS Tracker, so we actually walked a bit more. Point is, we averaged 7.3 km of walking a day at a minimum, in 2015. And still I gained five kilos.
On principal, I’m not a big fan of the posed tourist photo. One reason is that it’s mostly, it’s me with the camera (and trust me, it’s hard to give it up sometimes), but mostly because I find that genre to be on the continuum that includes, on the far end, use of a selfie stick. The result is that we don’t have nearly as many family photos as we might deserve.
But every once in a while we bite, and the results look sort of like this.
It’s a particularly brilliant photo, which I can say because I didn’t take it. The important (and interesting) stuff in the foreground is nicely focused and we, in the back, are nicely fuzzy. We, the subject matter, are almost an afterthought. It’s not what the family wants to see, but perhaps (just maybe), it’s something that friends might take a casual look at and say “cool!”, before moving on.
It also captures my favourite time of the day, early evening, civil twilight.
“Platia” means beach in Greek. Venizelou was the Greek Prime Minister in the early 20th century, and is considered to be one of the “makers” (a weird Greek translation) of the modern Greek state. He was a revolutionary, a rebel, and in later years, a Liberal. He grew Greece’s area by invasion and annexation. He won wars and lost wars, attempted coups, and lost.
This beach, and many main streets throughout Greece are named after him, an imperfect hero. Not like our own General Brock at all, but such is Greek history.
So here’s some history to accompany a family photo taken about ten months ago, when Greece was a different, more peaceful country.
They call it The Shard, and its name is appropriate. Located at the London Bridge, it’s the tallest building in the European Union. Funny… from below , it doesn’t seem that tall. Magnificent, but not tall.
The clouds today have been beautiful. This photo is all about the clouds, not the tower. That’s one thing we haven’t seen much in the past year, the epic clouds.
While looking up at this, some young guy in a business suit saw me, an suggested I walk down London Bridge St. for another great view. We did, and it was nice. But this one rocks my world.