Fitou, Carcassone and more!

A brief sojourn in London, a fabulous dinner with a great combination of family and friends on a glorious summer evening in a beautiful garden and then we were off again. A very early start to Stansted and the glories of Ryanair, which, as it turned out, was not as bad an experience as expected! I slept from the moment I sat down until we landed, refreshed and ready for driving in France!

Pat had give us perfect instructions to their house in Fitou. In no time at all we were sitting on the terrace drinking champagne and talking and talking! A dip in the pool and off to a beach bar for an aperitif followed by a beautiful dinner at home. There are so many interesting places around Fitou, we are spoilt for choice in terms of excursions! We started the next day with a visit to Carcassone, it is a fairytale place, a complete medieval village with tiny winding streets, full of cafes and restaurants, touristy shops intermingled with beautiful patisseries, the cakes dsiplayed like jewels, galleries and miss-able museums according to Stanton’s guidebook, we missed them so we will never know! We wandered through those little streets and I tried to imagine how it must have been in the times of knights and serfs but it was impossible to look backwards with all the trappings of modern life aimagell around. A brief respite and swim and then onto dinner at another beach, the restaurant was right on the beach, built at the start of each summer and disassembled at the seasons end. It is hard to believe that it would be blown over during the winter at this time of year. A quirky place by way of decoration with fabulous food and great service but I can’t remember the name. Perhaps Michael will when he wakes up!

Now we two are in Collioure, a beautiful seaside town full of galleries, the home of many an artist over the years, particularly Marisse and Derain. I have wandered about whilst Michael was sleeping and am excited to go to the museum tomorrow. We made our way from Castello d’Empuries this morning where we stayed last night, at a very elegant hotel, Hotel de la Moneda, a converted convent, high ceilings, beautiful rooms, a lovely terrace with a small pool, great service and the best breakfast! We went to the Theatre Museu Dali yesterday evening, a surreal experience! Some extraordinary, bizarre art, challenging and interesting and now I need to understand what was going in Dali’s mind when he created those pieces. And how prolific he was, so much in so many mediums (?media). His jewellery was fabulous, if somewhat bizarre (again) but strangely beautiful.

Off to explore Collioure more but perhaps we will have to forgo our Michelin star dinner! I don’t think Michael fancies eating at the moment. Oh, I missed our going to Narbonne market with Stanton and Pat yesterday morning, a great indoor market with a treat for lunch, wooden platters with white ham, prosciutto and local cheeses accompanied by the local rose! Such fun! Felling very spilt and very fat! Oh well, plenty of time to diet later!

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Wildlife on the way to Arrowsmith!

imageNot only does Simon have to contend with defensive parent geese protecting their goslings but snapping turtles too! Actually, she was just off the path having crossed the road to find somewhere to lay her eggs! Such a treat to see al this wildlife on the way in the mornings! 

What a good few days. We went to The Keg for dinner with some of Simon’s classmates one night this week. The Landsdowne Shopping Mall, in which The Keg is situated, doesn’t have quite the same ambience of The Keg overlooking Niagara Falls but the food was equally as good. Great cheesy garlic bread to start with followed by a variety of steaks and ribs, all of which were delicious and perfectly cooked! A so called mini brownie was not mini at all, horrifyingly big in fact and caused us mums to regret ordering it!

Yesterday we joined Lynette, Zac and friends at our first ever lacrosse game, as spectators of course! Lacrosse is comsidered the National Game of Canada, silly me, I thought that was ice hockey!  It was strange to see the ice in the Peteborough Memorial Centre no longer present and a green pitch there instead! lacrosse is a fast and furious game, so fast sometimes that it is hard to follow the ball, but we enjoyed it nonetheless. I think it is almost as rough as ice hockey, with much belting of opposition players with sticks! I am happy to report that the Lakers won by 15 to 10, according to the helpful man sitting next to me, who gave me an informed running commentary, that is an unusually high score!

Happy weekend, everyone! Simon is out at Friday night, I am at Andrea’s but she is in Ottawa so no Friday night for me, hence time to update the blog! Sorry Richard!

Go Petes Go!

This is the cheer for the Peterborough Petes who play in the Ontario Hockey league. Tonight they were playing the Saginaw Spirit, a team from Saginaw Michigan. Our first ice hockey game! There was a minutes silence for the soldiers killed this week in Quebec and Ottawa before the game. You could have heard a pin drop, it was very moving and respectful. The Stars and Stripes followed and then a very rousing rendition of Oh Canada (sorry my Canadian friends but it is an odd title for your National Anthem!) followed by much cheering, which was defiant. I don’t often agree with steven Harper but I thought his proclamation that Canada will not be intimidated was great. And then in true Canadian spirit it was on with the game. Even though the Petes were roundly defeated, 4-0, it was such an exciting game! So fast and thrilling, lots of action! Simon and Ben both really enjoyed it, as did I, so much so we will go back next week! A telling remark from Simon “Mum, last year I wouldn’t have understood what was going on in this game”. imageHow great that he can understand so much more and appreciate those changes. That remark made my evening.

And earlier in the day, Mr Coppins obviously decided to make the most of the beautiful Indian summer (you know what I mean!) by stopping class early, going to the oval and organising a game of touch football! What a fabulous way to celebrate the sunshine. Ben and I went for a walk along the canal to the Lift Lock which has stopped operations in anticipation of winter but is very impressive nonetheless.

Simon’s golfing fun!

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Back in Peterborough now! At last there is time to write about our time in Sydney! We have so enjoyed being with our family and friends – there is something irreplaceable about the familiarity of home, so much so that despite having been away for almost 6 months, once home again it seemed as if we had never been away.
Pictured is one of the highlights of our time in Sydney! Golfing with Dad is always an adventure for Simon – this time particularly so! The first four holes went very well, Simon’s golf much improved even though he hadn’t played for months and months, Michael being delighted to be able to play at all, being only 3 weeks post knee replacement, but getting to the fifth hole proved too much! Driving over the EXTREMELY narrow bridge somehow the wheels got stuck pointing in the wrong direction so that once over the bridge the golf cart veered off course and straight down the embankment, with Simon shouting “WHAAAAAAAAAT!” before Michael realised what was going on! The intrepid golfers scrambled out, rescued their clubs, climbing up the embankment to be met by the astounded green keeper who went to get the golf pro who said they had never seen this happen before! I collected two very wet and smelly golfers, leaving behind the stranded golf buggy – the talk of the golf club for weeks to come! Michael and Simon giggled all the way home in the car and have enjoyed re-living the tale many times since! It is a game that will be often remembered!
Simon also had a golf lesson, much less of an adventure, but he was amazed to find that his golf had greatly improved, despite having not played for months, apart from 4 holes! He thinks that that the improvement is because of the changes happening in his brain due to the Arrowsmith programme. We have now heard some stories about Arrowsmith students finding that their sporting abilities have improved subsequent to undertaking the programme; this is, for Simon, an unexpected bonus of all that hard work!
Now we are back in our little apartment it seems not long since we left! Looking out of the window, we can see a glorious sunny day but the current temperature is -11, rather a shock after our balmy Sydney days. Back to putting on layers to brave the cold to top up the fridge, even though Amanda had been so wonderful and left some goodies so we didn’t have to go out in order to make ourselves dinner when we got back last night. Back to Arrowsmith for Simon and back to knitting followed by a much needed trip to the gym for me tomorrow!

PJ Sunday, followed by ice hockey and carols at Lang Pioneer Village

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PJ Sunday, followed by ice hockey and carols at Lang Pioneer Village

What a great day! Still in our pjs at lunch time but a quick change and putting on several layers we headed off to the Memorial Hall to watch Shanah and her team, The Kawartha Komets, play in a fund-raising match against the Peterborough Petes. The Kawartha Komets are raising funds to send their players to the Special Hockey Games in the USA in May. As their website states “the Jack McGee Kawartha Komets was launched in 2009 to give girls & boys, teens and adults with physical, emotional and/or neurodevelopmental challenges an opportunity to play the game they love.

Young people with Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, ADHD, Tourette’s Syndrome, Down Syndrome and other challenges can enjoy playing non-contact hockey and build lasting relationships with others who share their love for hockey. The only requirement is that the player must be able to stand on skates.”
The Komets teams (junior, intermediate and senior) are based on skating ability, not age, so there were some players who looked so tiny compared to the Petes (who are in the junior hockey league, aged 16 to 20 years old). The Petes were founded in 1956, are the oldest continually operating team in the junior hockey league and have produced many players who have gone on to play in the National Hockey League, a fact of which they are justifiably proud! It was great to see them playing together with the Komets and now I’d like to go to a match with someone who can explain to me what is going on! Perhaps we should go and see the Toronto Maple Leafs (shouldn’t that be leaves!) next!
We left a little early to go to the Lang Pioneer Village with our Aussie friends – there was a special night looking around the village which is complete with every a village would have had in the Pioneer days – an old school house, the general store, a blacksmiths, a carpenters, and houses of the time, and for this special event there were carollers, sleigh rides and the Nativity story. The Nativity story was told by the local vicar (think Vicar of Dibley) as actors played out the story, complete with a real baby and a real donkey, together with shepherds, real sheep and lambs though there were no camels with the three wise man (the one wearing ugg boots didn’t look quite as authentic as the other two!)! The story was interspersed by carols. It was quite lovely. The photo is not great as, being a Pioneer Village, there is no electric lighting so the lighting was dim, but hopefully you can make out the donkey, blocking the view of Mary and the baby Jesus, but maybe you can see Joseph who was trying to make the donkey move to the side!
We were glad of our hot apple ciders just before to keep us warm and I had my first mince pie of the season! We then stopped in at the (very small) Town hall where there were two jolly men singing carols on request so it was with Frosty the Snowman and White Christmas, amongst others, ringing in our ears that we made our way home! It feels much more like Christmas now!