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Spring and everything that came with it

As you have no doubt noticed, I have been quiet for a while. That’s because life has been quite busy and complicated here lately. We have known for quite a while that we might be in for a bit of a rocky ride, but let me start at the beginning:

I bought my home about three years ago, as I have mentioned before. It is a beautiful, rambling old upper duplex in NDG and as with most of these properties, it is an undivided co-property, meaning that when you buy one of these places, you are essentially entering into an unofficial marriage with the folks living either above or below you. You therefore would do well to figure out who the nosy neighbor in the area is and get all the information you can about the people you are going to be sharing your duplex with before you decide to buy, because if you end up in this type of ownership with the wrong sort of people, you are in for a very bumpy ride. The lady who lived below me when I bought was everybody’s dream in this type of situation. She was a very kind, deaf, elderly lady. She never caused me a moment’s worry (well, except for that one time when she set her oven on fire…), handed over a year’s worth of post-dated cheques for her half of the monthly insurance premiums and was delighted when I offered to take over the care of our front garden and bring it back to life by planting things in it. Unfortunately, her health got a bit iffy in the Winter of 2014-15 and she and her family decided that it would be best to move her into assisted living. My Darling and I were devastated and concerned about who would end up living downstairs, especially when it took months for the unit to sell, a phenomenon that is pretty much unheard of in our area. The longer the home was on the market, the more nervous my darling and I became because we knew our nightmare scenario was getting closer to becoming reality: people who were waiting for a bargain price before snapping the place up in order to tear it apart and put us through months of renovation Hell and then move in and not want to spend another penny on the building for years. Or worse still, these same people trying to flip the house and not know what they were getting into, running out of money and then abandoning it or try to sell it half renovated.We ended up with scenario number one. A couple our age had been watching the unit’s price drop for months and bought it so they could customize the heck out of it. Since our new downstairs neighbors have started their renovations, all Hell has broken lose. First off, we are dealing with the usual inconvenience of work going on downstairs: infernal racket from 8:00 A.M. to anywhere between 4:00 P.M. and 6:00 P.M. (although on Good Friday it was really bad and we had a plumber in and out of our place and theirs cutting pipes etc. from 10:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M. who was unable to get his job done due to complications and left us without heat for 32 hours), dust, noisy workers, debris piling up in front of the neighbors garage and as often happens when the ceilings are torn down, a few minor issues have been found with our place which meant some unplanned spending. Plus, with the ceilings down and all the soundproofing gone, we feel like we have unwanted guests in our house who just keep coming back day after day. When these guys are talking and drilling and hammering away, it feels as though they are working in our own house and not downstairs. In the first three weeks of work, I had three separate meltdowns over the fact that I felt like my home was no longer my own.

The last meltdown was on Good Friday when I had spent all day cleaning a ton of dust that had come up from downstairs through undetected and therefore unprotected gaps between our unit and the lower one to make our home presentable for my in-laws who were coming over for Easter-even lunch the next day only to be informed at 10:00 P.M. that my guests would be eating in a cold, unheated house to the sound of plumbing work being done downstairs. My poor Darling scooped me up and comforted me as best he could before counselling me to spend more time outside the house and away from all the racket, which I have been doing. It has helped, as has the fact that we have been having one of my father’s good friends put the finishing touches on our house so that it finally feels like it is all ours. We had 85% of the house painted last year, so this year all that needed doing was the living room and our main staircase. My dad’s friend is an extremely talented painter and has worked in a lot of homes in our neighborhood restoring them to their former glory. Ours has a lot of its original features, but its beautiful oak beams had been painted over twice in the home’s 89 year history including once in, God help me,  red, and again in beige. See?

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So my dad’s friend stripped them for us and painted our living room in two different shades of my favorite color, purple! We chose purple because it compliments the red we have in the office next door and the paler of the two shades fits in very well with the pale, buttery yellow we have in our main hallway and kitchen. The oak beams though, my goodness! Who in the heck would ever want to paint over such beautiful beams?

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So, finally having our house the way we want it has perked me up quite a bit, as did a seriously healthy dose of fresh air and sunshine last week, part of it taken in during a vigorous 10km run. I also spent quite a bit of time cuddling our cats in the evening once all the noise was over for the day. As you can see, Quinn and Magique have not been nearly as bothered by all the noise as I am. All they need is the couch and some sunshine and they’re all set.

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Quinn soaking up the sunshine
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Magique has a different approach to sunbathing from Quinn’s.

Before we had the painting done, I also cheered myself up by putting some cheerful Spring flowers in the living room.

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Beautiful Spring blooms from Westmount Florist

Also, we enjoyed a lovely Easter Vigil at the Oratory, like we do every year. If you are ever in Montreal over the Easter weekend, I cannot recommend this service highly enough. It is filled with candle light, music and hope. Plus, nothing beats the view of the Oratory lit up at night.

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St.Joseph’s Oratory after Easter Vigil.

I also got seriously excited when I saw that the buds on our Maple tree were opening up. This, if memory serves me, is happening much earlier than last year which wouldn’t be surprising since our Winter this year has been a lot milder. I’ll have a better idea of the time frame later in the season though, because I know that our Maple didn’t have full-sized leaves when we left for Vegas and the Grand Canyon last year and that was in early May.

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Buds on our Maple tree!

So there you have it, my life lately has not been very conducive to creativity, but I think I’m back on track, especially since I took the initiative of purchasing a keyboard for my iPad. I will now be able to write posts away from home and since the neighbors plan to be renovating until at least June 30th, I will be spending a lot of times in Montreal’s many cafes and will therefore more than likely have a lot of time to write and read and take pictures. I will not hide the fact that I would much rather be spending time in my beautiful purple living room though.

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St.Joseph’s Oratory

Sometimes, no matter how much you want to, you just can’t write and that’s what has been going on with me lately, largely because of the events in Paris last week. I had a pretty strong post coming along in my head, but after the attacks, it just seemed so trivial. I’m normally a very happy, positive, fun-loving person and I strive to reflect that here on my blog, so I suppose that’s why I got writers block. I just wasn’t feeling like myself, but I think I’ve started to work that out of my system. That and after a visit to St.Joseph’s Oratory on Monday, I knew that the Oratory was just what I needed to write about. I have always had a thing for churches and although I have visited many stunning churches in Europe, the United States and at home here in Canada, the Oratory is still my favorite. It may not be a jaw dropper in terms of its interior, but in my mind that only adds to its charm. Also, its impressive size and the number of steps there are from street level up to the Basilica on the top floor makes the competition look silly ”You’re flamboyant neo-gothic? Well, I have 283 steps up to my front porch, so there!”. And fear not, if stairs are not your thing, there’s a shuttle bus to replace the first 99 stairs. It gets you to the main entrance level and then there are escalators and elevators inside, or more staircases. They just want to make sure there’s something for everyone, you know?

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St. Joseph’s Oratory seen from street level in early Spring.

So, how did we end up with this beautiful shrine in Montreal? It all started with this fella, Brother André.

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This bronze statue of St. Brother André can be found beside what is left of the original Oratory.

He came to Montreal in 1870 to join the Catholic order of Holy Cross brothers, whose novitiate was housed in Notre-Dame-Du-Sacré-Coeur College (that’s a private high school, we call them colleges here in Québec), just across the street from where the Oratory is now.

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A partial view of Notre-Dame-Du-Sacré-Coeur college all decked out for Christmas. The school has existed on its present site since 1869.

The brothers almost didn’t keep Brother André past his novitiate because of his frail health, but the bishop of Montreal at the time, Mgr. Bourget, intervened on his behalf after being impressed by André’s piousness and his strong desire to remain with the order and he took his perpetual vows in 1874. Lucky for the Order that the Bishop intervened, because Brother André turned out to be more than just your average Brother! His health was delicate (he was born with an undiagnosed stomach ailment that stayed with him throughout his life and prevented him from eating normally) and he didn’t have the necesary education to teach like the other brothers, so he was made the porter of the school and its Jack-of-all-trades. His tasks included helping out in the infirmary and one day a rumor started going around that a seriously ill student had been inexplicably and suddenly cured after Brother André had sat with him and they had prayed to St. Joseph together. St.Joseph, that’s a statue of him in the picture below, is a Saint of the Catholic church who is known for curing the sick and infirm, among other things.

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The Statue of St-Joseph that stands in the Oratory’s Votive chapel. The chapel holds 10 000 votive lamps and this stand alone contains 3500. Each candle that is lit in the chapel represents the prayer of a pilgrim.

Now, St.Joseph is a pretty popular guy and yes, that’s the same Joseph as the one made famous for marrying the virgin Mary and raising Jesus, so when word started getting around that Brother André seemed to have some sort of a direct line to him, people started showing up at Notre-Dame College asking for him. When he was at his doorkeeper’s post that wasn’t too much of a problem, especially at first when there weren’t too many pilgrims (people who travel somewhere specifically for prayer), but French Canadians in the late 19th Century were a pretty pious lot and soon the parents of the boys living at the school began complaining to Brother André’s superiors about the pilgrims who were taking the liberty of wandering around the school in order to look for Brother André when he was not in his porter’s cell. The issue was that a lot of these people were suffering from, or had been in close contact with people who were suffering from infectious diseases which were very difficult to treat at the time, such as influenza, diphtheria, scarlet fever, polio and tuberculosis and there was legitimate fear of the boys who boarded at the school being contaminated by germs. The Holy Cross order and Brother André knew that turning Pilgrims away not an option, so the order eventually gave Brother André permission to build a small oratory in honor of St.Joseph on a piece of land they owned across the street from Notre-Dame College. And voilà! we have the beginning of what was one day to become the largest shrine in the world dedicated to St.Joseph!

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The 1904 (behind the steeple) and 1910 (from the steeple frontwards) sections of the original oratory.

Cute, isn’t it? There was a problem though, Brother André only had 200$, which us equivalent to about 5o00$ nowadays, with which to build his Oratory. He put every last penny he had saved giving 5 cent haircuts at the College over a 34 year period to get the chapel built and it was too small. The oratory opened its doors for the first time on October 19th of 1904 and by Winter the pilgrims were showing up to see Brother at Notre-Dame again because there was only room for 8 people at a time in the chapel and even if they could get inside the building, it was unheated. Brother André and a few of his most loyal friends began collecting donations and in under six years they were able to not only install a wood burning stove but also to enlarge the Oratory twice, first to seat 50 people and then 200. The building was still prone to chronic overcrowding however, so Brother André and his friends continued to raise funds and in 1914, work began on the Crypt-Church, which opened in 1917 and could seat 750 people. To this day, it is the busiest church on the site and the busiest Catholic church I know of anywhere in Canada. There are 7 to 8 masses a day said at the Oratory and all of them except for two on Sundays are said in the Crypt-Church.

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The choir section of the Crypt-Church seen during a concert. The Crypt-Church gets its name from the fact that the Basilica was originally planned to be built directly on top of it, so it has a low ceiling supported by flattened steel arches.

Brother André knew that the Crypt-Church wouldn’t be able to hold all the masses of Pilgrims flocking to the shrine to pray St-Joseph for long though, so in 1924 work began on the Basilica, a huge church that could originally, before seats were put in and crowd regulation laws were put into place, hold 10 000 pilgrims. The Basilica took 43 years to complete because, as with the rest of the enlargements to the original shrine, it was built with donations and it was first a victim of the Great Depression and then of shifting values. It was opened for its first service in 1955 and Brother André, who passed away in 1937 at the age of 91, never got to see it completed. The interior of the Basilica was completed in 1967 in a Medieval inspired Art Deco style.

Nowadays, the Basilica seats 1 750 pilgrims on a regular Sunday, or 1 870 when chairs are added in for special occasions. Mass is said in the Basilica on Sunday mornings at 11:00 A.M. with music provided by its impressive 5811 pipe, 78 stop Beckerath organ and its boys’ choir the Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal and again at 12:30 P.M. It is also used for major feast days such as Christmas, Easter and St-Joseph’s feast day on March 19th. Otherwise, seeing as regular weekday masses are attended by anywhere between 50 to 200 pilgrims at a time, the Crypt-Church is used.

All this talk of overflow may make the Oratory sound like a very busy place, it is actually very, very peaceful and there is a beautiful energy that surrounds it as soon as you set foot inside the grounds. I’m very, very fortunate to have such a beautiful place in my neighborhood and I have been to it many, many times when I was in need of comfort and peace. If ever you are in Montreal, I cannot encourage you strongly enough to visit the Oratory, even though it is a bit off the beaten tourist trail. It is quite easy to reach by public transit since two bus lines stop right in front of it (the 51 and 166) and a very major bus line stops just one corner away (the 165-435 line, the second number is the express number for rush hour). Don’t pass up a chance to visit this unique place, because believe me, you will be sorry! And yes, as with the rest of the city, it is beautiful year-round!

Now, a note about the photos in this post: you will have noticed that they are watermarked with my real name. The reason for this is that I have put some of my photos up for sale on a decorative print producer’s site that is local to Quebec photographers, but ships all over the world. When doing this, I was strongly encouraged to create a photography website, which I did. Please, feel free to visit it here and follow it! Having to watermark my photos twice was such a major hassle that I decided to bite the bullet and put my name on here. I refrained from doing this before because while I don’t care if my family knows that I have a photography blog, there are a very, very few members of my family who have been quite nasty to me on social media before, so nasty that I blocked them from my Facebook account. I don’t need that sort of grief on here when it comes to my writing and opinions. If it’s from some random reader I won’t ever have to meet face to face, I don’t care, but nastiness from family is a bitter pill to swallow, especially when you occasionally have to sit down at the same dinner table as them, hence the pseudonym. I’m keeping it on my Gravatar account and have a seperate Gravatar and e-mail address for the photography blog, so I should be good, but I just wanted to clarify the change with you folks!

 

All about my brother’s wedding

Well, ladies and gentlemen, my little brother got married this past Saturday and it was an absolutely beautiful day. The ceremony was touching, funny and adorable, just like my brother and his wife are and the reception was one Hell of a party. I never expected to cry as much as I did throughout the day though, I must have gone through at least a dozen tissues and unfortunately for me, one of the wedding photographers seemed to get a kick out of how much I was crying because she kept taking photos of my meltdowns. Eventually this got on my darling and I’s nerves and he started shielding me from her view when he noticed her pointing her camera in my direction. I mean seriously, one or two shots of the tearful sister of the groom is fine and touching, but a ton? I don’t get it.

My brother and his wife were married at the Notre-Dame-du-Sacré Chapel of Montreal’s much famed and photographed Notre-Dame-Basilica. They lucked out, it’s their parish and the chapel is a beautiful, intimate place away from the glitz and opulence of the main part of the Basilica.

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Notre-Dame-du-Sacré-Coeur chapel

It was just the right size for my brother’s wedding since he and his fiancée had about 100 guests in attendance. This is the main Basilica:

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Notre-Dame Basilica

Drop dead gorgeous, but huge and not my brother and his fiancée’s style. The one advantage to using the main Basilica for your wedding is that they close its doors to tourists during the ceremony so you and your guests can enjoy the ceremony in private and don’t have to traipse through a herd of them to get out of the main doors for your photos after your wedding like we did. One of the church employees actually had to remove some tourists from our group after they had inserted themselves right in between the bride’s brother and his wife and my Darling and I as we were making our way out of the church. They looked displeased with having been found out, but their checkered shirts (I kid you not) and cameras were a dead giveaway. The horde of tourists outside the Basilica who took pictures of us along with the official photographers could unfortunately not be avoided however, but hey, at least we put a smile on everyone’s faces!

As for the ceremony itself, it was beautiful and touching. I teared up when I saw how nervous my brother was getting, I cried when I saw him cry as his fiancée walked down the aisle and then cried again when the priest welcomed us and mentioned that the candle burning on the altar was there in memory of my father. I got myself under control just in time to go up and do my reading, which was the first one. I only found out I was reading first at the rehearsal last Thursday and flipped out because I could not imagine how I would manage to compose myself in time to read, but desperate times called for desperate measures: I started counting the figures in the large bronze sculpture behind the altar as soon as the priest told us to sit down and that did the trick. I then proceeded to cry when my brother and his fiancée said their religious vows and then their own vows and then I cried when they were pronounced man and wife. One of my cousins who was seated behind me offered to take some of my crumpled tissues off my hands while she handed me another as I had run out. I refused and shoved the whole lot into my clutch in embarrassment at that point and got overly excited when we came across a garbage can on the way out of the chapel at the end of the wedding ceremony so I could throw them all away. I kept one only slightly used tissue because yup, I teared up on the steps of the church when the bells started ringing too.

We had an hour to kill between the ceremony and the cocktail and reception, so my Darling and I walked back to the hotel and went to relax in our room for a bit. The reception was amazing with delicious food and great music and the speeches were wonderful as well. I went up with my mom she gave hers since she wanted me to take over in case she lost it, so I stood next to her with a box of tissues just in case. She did amazing though and everyone got a kick out of us telling my brother he was so not sorry when he tried to apologize for being an incorrigible tease. Oh and the best part of the reception? I caught my sister in-law’s bouquet!!! I couldn’t believe it, hers was the third bridal bouquet I have ever caught! She was actually apparently going to come over and hand it to me, but my brother told her that would be cheating, so she tossed it, it flew over everyone’s heads and landed on the ground in the right hand corner of the dance floor. I made a dash for it and voilà! It was mine and I just about died laughing!

So there you have it, the happy couple are married and currently off on their Hawaiian honeymoon and we are all left with beautiful memories of their magical day.

Special kudos for the day go out to:

1- My brother and his wife, naturally, for all the beautiful personal touches to their day, right down to personalized M&Ms with one of their engagement photos printed on them which we were all presented with as favors and the donations they made to two charities on behalf of each of their guests, one in memory of my father and one in memory of my sister in law’s grandmother.

2- My local hair salon, Salon Au Premier, who, thanks to my stylist and makeup artist managed to make me look amazing in spite of some major bags under my eyes and my being paler than usual.

3- The Westin for their amazing service, food and beautiful, quiet, comfortable rooms. If you are in the market for a venue for your wedding reception or any other event, check and see if there is a Westin hotel near you and be prepared to be impressed!

Where to stay and what to do in PEI

Hello and welcome to my third and final post about our Prince Edward Island vacation! This time I’ll be addressing two other important points, what there is to do in PEI, since it can vary by season, as well as where to stay, since your options will also vary depending on when you visit the Island.

Most people visit Prince Edward Island between late Spring and early Fall and there is a reason for this: The weather. Winters in PEI can be very, very rough and getting around can be difficult. I’m not saying you should not visit PEI at this time of year because Winter on the Island can be absolutely gorgeous, but be warned that if there is a snow storm while you are there, you will not be able to get around until all the snow is cleared away and this can take a few days because the Island shuts down during storms and they wait until the snow has stopped falling before clearing it away.

Your options for where to stay on the Island from October to June will also be greatly diminished since the vast majority of the cottages for rent in PEI are not winterized and are closed up by their owners once it gets too chilly and remain closed until the clay roads they are often on are well set late into Spring. Believe me when I tell you that you do not want to get your car stuck in the muck that the clay roads of PEI turn into in the Spring or after some very heavy rain. Cottages are amazing places to stay in Prince Edward Island though, I’ve stayed in one during three out of my four vacations there and have never had a bad experience. The one my Darling and I rented during our two-week vacation in July was by far the best-equipped cottage I have ever stayed in and its location in the center of the Island was ideal. I have a few pictures of it below and you can find out more about it from its VRBO listing here.

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107T Old Blooming Point School House cottage

So, while I prefer to stay in cottages or apartments when I travel because I love the freedom of not having to worry about where I am going to find my next meal, especially in the morning, I know that a lot of people love to be pampered in hotels and resorts. I am not exactly a well of information when it comes to hotels in PEI and I can say with 100% certainty that there is nary a resort to be had, nor a private beach unless you rent a very, very expensive cottage, I can recommend the two hotels I have stayed in on the island in the past. The Super 8 hotel in Charlottetown is where I stayed during my four-day trip to the Island in May of 2012 and it is a great mid-range hotel with a pool and free breakfast in the morning delivered by Tim Horton’s. It doesn’t get much more Canadian than that! The location of the hotel is awesome, it is right across the causeway from Downtown Charlottetown and not even a five-minute drive from the Cow’s ice cream factory and a nice little strip mall with a great burger joint. The other hotel I can recommend is the Dundee Arms, a lovely hotel in a beautiful heritage building in old Charlottetown. My Darling and I stayed there for two nights during our July vacation and loved it, although the one downside to it is the exhaust outlet for the hotel’s kitchen which is quite loud and makes it difficult to sleep with the window open in about 80% of the rooms…sleeping is no issue with the windows closed however since the beds are very comfortable, or at least they are in the annex section of the hotel we stayed in. The food in the hotel restaurant is delicious as well and eating out on their terrace when the weather is nice is delightful.

Now, just in case anyone was going to ask about camping on Prince Edward Island, yes, it is an option. Campsites are plentiful for both RVs and tents, but do not forget your bug spray!!! Mosquitoes are a force to be reckoned with in PEI from June onward and not in a small way. They will not bother you during the day or on the beach whether it is night or day, but as soon as you are away from the beach in the evening, watch out! The reasons that mosquitoes are so prevalent in Prince Edward Island are the abundance of stagnant water in farmers’ fields and the equal abundance of evergreens, which mosquitoes adore. I enjoy camping as much as the next girl, but I would not attempt it in PEI. You have been warned.

As for what there is to do in Prince Edward Island, as with places to stay, you options will vary greatly depending on when you visit the Island. A lot of places turn into ghost towns as of October, but the island’s greatest selling point, its scenery, is beautiful year round.

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St.Peter’s Bay

One of my favorite times of year to visit the Island, however, is from mid-June to early July, when the lupines are in bloom. Lupines have long been my favorite wild flowers and my Darling got a kick out of me squealing with delight when we started coming across them in New Brunswick. As you can see from the picture below, most lupines are purple, but they can also be white or pink and sometimes even yellow.

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Lupines in bloom in front of a church near Souris.

The road between St.Peter’s and Souris is a wonderful place for lupine spotting and is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful on the Island and I make sure to drive it every time I am there.

Another of my favorite places to visit is in PEI is Victoria-by-the-Sea, a beautiful, quaint little town halfway between Charlottetown and Borden-Carleton. Its bay is a wonderful place to go for a dip or set off in a kayak, canoe or catamaran and it has some wonderful food and entertainment options. Its theater, shops and restaurants are open from mid-June to the first week of  September, but they begin closing for the Fall and Winter after that. You can visit the town’s website here for specific opening and closing dates.

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Catamarans waiting to be taken out for a sail in Victoria-by-the-Sea.

One feature of Victoria that I particularly love is its lighthouse, which you can see below. I have loved lighthouses ever since seeing my first one in Cape Cod when I was about twelve years old. My father loved them too and I remember how he made a point of our visiting all the lighthouses we could when we went on our family vacation to PEI in 1998. The Victoria lighthouse is owned and maintained by the villagers of Victoria and as you can see, they keep it in pristine condition.

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Victoria-by-the-Sea lighthouse

I encourage you to visit as many lighthouses as possible in PEI, but don’t limit yourselves to the easy to reach ones, because if you do, you will miss out on some magical places, like the Cape Tryon light. I will admit that the road to this lighthouse is not for the faint of heart. It is a deeply carved and narrow red clay road and if you car is low to the ground, you will have to park it on the side of the main road and walk to the light. This place is worth the trek though, especially in July when the fields of barley on either side of the road are a beautiful, fresh green bordered by wildflowers. The lighthouse itself is just what you would expect a light on a solitary, out-of-the-way cape to be, weather-beaten and showing its age, but it gives off an aura of steadfastness that I love.

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The road to Cape Tryon lighthouse

I know that I have been giving you quite a few warnings about the clay roads in Prince Edward Island, but really, they are not to be missed. You just have to be logical about how and when you use them. They are actually one of the best ways to get from one place to another quickly in many situations, since most of the main roads of the Island follow the coast. Sometimes it is downright silly to follow the main roads when you can get to where you’re going much more quickly by cutting across the Island by a side road. If this opportunity presents itself to you and it has not been pouring for two days straight and you’re not driving a fancy, low-riding sports car, take it. You will more than likely be delighted by some of the scenery you will come across, such as this:

One of PEI's many charming red clay roads
One of PEI’s many charming red clay roads

As you can see, the road is well driven and well maintained and it was raining pretty steadily when we were on it. Just about 30% of the roads in PEI are unpaved, so they’re pretty hard to avoid and as I said, you just have to be smart about how you use them. Don’t drive down them at 100 km an hour and keep off them if it has been pouring rain for more than 24 hours or if it is any earlier than about mid-may and if you think the road might be too deeply carved for your car, leave it on the side of the road and take a walk. If you do get stuck in the mud on a dirt road, don’t worry. Walk for help and don’t be shy about knocking at the door of a house you just drove by or flagging down the farmer who is mowing down his field of hay, they will be happy to help, they are used to tourists getting stuck in the muck. The bottom line is, the pros of using Prince Edward Island’s dirt roads and what they lead you to far outweigh the cons, such as beaches!

My Darling enjoying a walk along Greenwich Beach.
My Darling enjoying a walk along Greenwich Beach.

Prince Edward Island is famous for its beaches, with good reason. There are at least thirty beaches on the Island, if not more and many of them are not listed, such as beautiful Blooming Point beach where our cottage was. Some of the beaches are supervised, some are not, but each one is unique, so do not ever make the mistake of going to PEI and sticking to just one beach. My Darling and I went to the beach ten out of the fourteen days we were on vacation and visited nine different beaches. One of our favorites was Argyle Shore for its warm water, proliferation of hermit crabs and lack of jellyfish. It is very rocky though, so bring your beach shoes and don’t be surprised by the lack of sand! Now, getting back to those jellyfish! The jellyfish in the waters off PEI are essentially harmless. They do sting, but they are not poisonous and all that is needed to soothe a jellyfish sting is plaster of damp sand. Try and avoid them, naturally, but don’t let them stop you from getting in the water! For a partial list of the beaches in Prince Edward Island, click here.

Sunset on Blooming Point Beach

Now, because no visit to Prince Edward Island is complete without it, yes, you should visit Green Gables. I have been three out of four of the times I have been to the Island and I do not get tired of it. The house is open from May to October with possibilities to visit outside those months by appointment. For more details about the opening dates and times at which Green Gables is open, you can visit this page. Now, why is Green Gables worth the visit? Because it is more than just a house! You can also visit the old barn to learn about life on Prince Edward Island during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, walk two beautiful trails and visit the gift shop and the snack bar. Green Gables is a fun, vibrant place and naturally a great place to go if you have children. A word of advice though: if you see a bus of tourists arriving at the same time as you do, either hurry to visit the house before they make it there, or walk the trails while they go through. Green Gables may look like a good-sized house on the outside, but it is full of small rooms and narrow hallways that make it difficult to visit when there is a crowd around.

Green Gables
Green Gables

And last, but most definitely not least, go stargazing. Prince Edward Island is beyond a doubt the best place I know of to take in the stars. The Island is almost exclusively rural, so there are very, very few street lamps and houses are usually set very far apart so any light from them will not hinder your view of the night sky whether you stop out by a farmer’s field or, like us, step out into your back yard.

The Milky Way above our cottage.
The Milky Way above our cottage.

So that’s it for this trip! If you ever have any questions about the Island, please do not hesitate to ask them, I’ll be more than happy to answer as best as I can.

A love for all things old

Here is something you should know about me: I love all things old. Antiques, classical music, period costumes, historical fiction novels, old houses, old churches…I became fascinated with all of these things as a small child and have remained so. Therefore, when I gave a concert with my choir at St-Viateur church in Outremont two weeks ago, I naturally brought my camera along and happily snapped away before our dress rehearsal began and during our break. I had been by this church so many times and we had sung in it once before, but I had never had an opportunity to take photos inside.  It is a neo-gothic masterpiece and is in a fairly good state of conservation as far as churches in Montreal go. We have so many beautiful old churches in our city and so many of them are in need of serious restoration, but because they are so numerous, they can’t all be saved. About a month ago one church in the Saint-Henri district had to have a cupola above one of its steeples removed because the parish couldn’t afford to have it repaired. Stories like this always break my heart because all of these churches are at the heart of neighborhoods and at the heart of the history of so many families. These buildings breathe history and every time one of them closes, a chapter of our city’s history disappears with them.

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A second stained glass window in St-Viateur, this one can me found at the front of the church, to the left of the altar.
A stained glass window in 100 year-old St-Viateur Church, Outremont.
A stained glass window in 100 year-old St-Viateur Church, Outremont.

The day before my concert, I drove out to Hudson to meet up with my mother at Finnegan’s market. She had told me about the market many times, but it is a good hour’s drive from my place, so I had never been. The market is open every Saturday from May through October and oh, what a treat it is for people like me who love antiques!

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Antiques in one of the barns at Finnegan’s Market in the town of Hudson, West of Montreal.
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More antiques in the same barn at Finnegan’s.
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Crystal is abundant at Finnegan’s!

My goal when I headed out to Finnegan’s with my mom was to find a lovely piece of furniture to add a bit of storage space to my Darling and I’s kitchen and I found just the thing in the form a beautifully 1890s wash stand! It suits our needs perfectly as it combines both a cabinet and a drawer that we are going to file our bills in and it will free up some space elsewhere in our kitchen. What a successful trip that was and I even came away from the market with an adorable find I was not looking for: two wooden hens that one of the antique dealers let go for less than his asking price because the market was closing and he was looking to bring back as little of his merchandise as possible. I promptly named them Coco and Coquette. Aren’t they the cutest?

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Coco and Coquette, my unexpected finds!
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The beautiful 1890s wash stand I purchased at the market.
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The detailing on the doors of the wash stand.

On that note, I’m going to sign off, but I should be back with a shiny new post in the next few days! It took me a while to get this one up because WordPress was being rather uncooperative when it came to inserting my pictures, but my next one will be lighter on pictures, so all should be well!