Winter Hikes

I find that I kindof like outdoorsy things these days. I used to be not one for such – I was an indoor person: I read, I shop, I’m cozy. As time goes on, though, I look forward to walks in the woods, forest bathing, and, in the winter, a bit of the ol’ snowshoeing. 

It was -30C when these were taken! We were brave and intrepid Canadians, though, and traipsed around the mountain like it was a piece of frozen cake. 

Worth it for the views.

This year, winter is going by so quickly! I have a hard time believing it’s already mid-January. Pretty soon everything will be melting and we’ll already be late in planting the garden. 

My mom got me this winter coat and it is super warm. It’s my third year with it, and I am really happy with it. Even on the coldest of days, it keeps me cozy. Add three or four scarves and a hat or two and you don’t even realize how cold it is. (You do.)

Friends Trip!

We’re the luckiest people in the world, so we had the opportunity to offer our great friends Aaron and Leah a place to stay rent-free on holiday to the South of France.

It was Leah’s gift to Aaron for his 40th birthday. Can you believe he’s 40? It doesn’t show. He’s a vampire or something. I think they had a good time. We’ll know more if they ever agree to travel with us again.

We stayed in this amazing bastide in Provence for a few days, because I deeply wanted to see the lavender in bloom in July! It was just as amazing as you imagine. It’s FULL of bees, the fields buzz all the time. You smell it when you roll down the windows of the car! Heavenly. Provence is heavenly.

Julien enjoying the Bastide’s pool.

We spent a lot of time just relaxing, which is super unusual for us on holiday! Normally, we go-go-go and this time since we were with people we had to let them chill out a bit, so we spent a day on the beach in Cadaques, and lounging by the pool in Banon. It was difficult to let go, feel like there is nothing else we need to be doing or seeing, but not that difficult. I often find it hard to slow down and relax, though. It was nice to be forced to do some of that.

One day, we drove around the vineyards locally and picked up a few cases of wine here and there. Did tastings in the caveaus, met the vineyard dogs. It was probably my favourite day of the trip. At Domaine Villepeyroux, they took the time not only to show us around the caveau and deguste right from the stills, but also recommended three other local vineyards who are making interesting wines. I really appreciated it. They sent us to Domaine Sibille, where we found the most amazing Chardonnay, and Pierre Cros, where their Veille Vignes spoke to me. Super wonderful day.

Finally, we did get a road trip in, to see Tommy Cash perform in Clermont-Ferrand. On the way, we stopped at VOLVIC – where they make the best water. There was a little musée of water and you can fill up from non-source water at their old fountain. Man, I miss Volvic water. It sounds silly but the mouthfeel is really different from our water here. Seriously! Try it. You’ll see.

Tommy Cash was a pretty great show, highly recommended if you’re into that kind of thing.

Family Trip – May 2018

This May, as soon as flights on Toulouse started, we headed to France to spend time with Julien’s grandma. At 98, we’re spending as much time with her as possible! She’s a truly amazing lady.

She lives in the south of France, which means we get to explore the most amazing places nearby. This time, we stayed quite close to home, venturing only as far as Perpignan (~ 1.5 hrs from home base). While there, we checked out the Palace of the Kings of Majorca! It was super cool.

Julien & I at the Palais des Rois de Majorque in Perpignan.

One afternoon, we headed out to Albi, got caught in the rain, and took refuge at the Musée de la Mode – a private collection which was quite a sight. So many beautiful dresses! 

We happened upon a town fair celebrating its 761st year, in Tarascon. They put on quite a show, with costumes from their sister cities, a marching band, and a King and Queen of the Foire. We watched the whole thing, and then stuck around for some reunnionais food, and churros.

Foire de Tarascon

Mostly, we kicked around at home, spent time with Mamie, and disconnected a bit from life at home. It was a good holiday. 

Hello Kitty Vans, road thyme, road fennel.

Valentine’s Day in the Hobbit House

Seems we’re often escaping the busy day-to-day! Ages ago, we had seen this amazing eco-cabin in the Eastern Townships, Le Hobbit.

It’s always booked up super far in advance, but Julien noticed a Sunday night that was open, so we jumped at the opportunity! 

Just one night is not enough in this super zen little spot, I tell you what. We spent the night playing cards, sitting by the fire, and, of course, taking photos 🙂 

They offer fresh eggs from their chickens, a selection of board games, everything you need for a super cozy stay. I wish we had had more time to enjoy. We’ll definitely return.

Downside: scraping the car upon leaving. 

Holiday in France

It turns out that I have this super amazing life which allows me to spend a week visiting Julien’s family, in France. This time, we decided to drive from coast to coast in one single day, because we are silly. So from Gruissan to Biarritz! 

 

Biarritz in spring is absolutely lovely, full of hydrangea and the beach is largely deserted except for brave surfers and people walking their dogs. One pupper decided our cheese looked like the BEST thing, and so made a beeline for it and got it all in his face. He didn’t grab the saucisson, so we were cool. We were cool anyway, he was a great dog. 

The atlantic from the other side! It’s quite a sight, I highly recommend it. 

Same trip, we also did a jaunt through the Pyrenees, which is positively littered with roadcows and roadhorsies. We stopped in this meadow and had a picnic. Their bells were absolutely wonderful, it was like being in a movie.

Shadow Selfie in Aigues Mortes. Aigues Mortes was fine. Quite touristy for my taste, but there is real history there. We got some wonderful flavours of ice cream and took a walk around the perimeter, and then headed off to do a tour of the salt .. fields? flats? Of the Baleine: 

 

This was SUPER fascinating and I would recommend that everyone go. There’s a salt museum and a petit train that takes you around all the collection areas and the water is SUPER pink and it’s magical. Magical. 

 

The roof of the salt museum. These colours have not been edited. 

Aigues Mortes from the petit train. Again, real colours. Can you imagine? It is amazing. These bodies of water are also full of FLAMINGOES!! REAL FLAMINGOES! Ah! Some Flamingo facts: 

 – their colour comes from the tiny creatures they eat! (same with the water) 

 – they can drink boiling water

 – their feeties can be frozen overnight when they stand and then unfrozen, and they are totally unharmed by this.

I learned a lot about flamingoes from Every Little Thing. Great podcast, great topic. 

Road vineyards on the way to the Chateaux Lastours, which is a hike, I don’t mind telling you! We made it up and down in about 3 – 4 hours and on our way back down when we made it back to the entrance, I declared “WE MADE IT!” and a lovely German couple was like “It’s that bad? Is it worth it?” It’s totally worth it. It’s totally that bad.

From across the gorge, the Chateaux at sunset.

We tried to go to the Grotte de Limousis, but it being France on a Tuesday, it was closed. Everything in France is closed all the time. Instead we went for a drive around, and ended up in this gorgeous meadow. The jauniers were in full bloom and it was incredible.

I have a photo of this same non-house from our trip in October. It looks super different, but the same. 

The canal du midi, and a boat off in the distance (a Le Boat boat). We watched them go through the locks, it was dope. 

So instead of the Grotte de Limousis we went to the Gouffre Geant of Cabrespine, which is a giant gouffre. I think they’re missing an opportunity there to sell giant waffles from a food truck (Les Gaufres Geants de Cabrespine, patent pending). 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside the Gouffre. We had a superb guide both at this one and at Limousis, which we finally made it to in October. 

Julien appreciates art. 

This is the Abbaye de Fontfroide, and I am certain the Scarlet Monastery or whatever it’s called in WoW is modeled after it. I literally knew there was going to be a room behind this one before going in due to that map. 

This is where in the Scarlet Monastery the ghosts are. There’s a pat that runs around the perimeter. I didn’t find them, in this RL version, weirdly. 


 

Who?

 

 

Adventures in Spain

We got to do quite a bit of travelling this year. One of my favourite little jaunts was through Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park, in northern Spain.

Cows.

All along the trail, there were baby cows (and non-baby cows, but these are pretty baby). It was a good two hours hike along the trail, some of it quite steep, and I had a pretty rough time of it, but looking back on the photos all of that bad stuff is gone and it’s just like “hey we should do this again, so amazing!”

There were ants in the tree. He poked near them. This is him reacting.

 

Along the way we met a tree full of ants. The shady spots of the trail were SUPER welcome, it was really warm. Luckily, much of the trail was covered. 

 

 

 

Regilait is hiking necessary.

We got to our destination, a clearing with a lake and a mountain and it was juuust stunning, so we had a wee picnic and took a walk around the area. Little break from the climb up was so welcome, too! One of the things I love about Europe is how picnic friendly it is! Just about everywhere you can sidle up and have a break, spread out your blankie and just nap in the sunshine. 

 

Meeting cows.

They’re not super sure about humans, which made me happy because it means tourists aren’t constantly hand-feeding them.  This is the closest we got, and he ran off to be with the rest of his pals pretty quickly. 

Our final destination!

Mountain from our rest spot was super majestic. Aiguestortes – well worth the trip! We sat down and had a mini picnic (regilait, saucisson, you know – the essentials), took a little nap, took a walk around the man-made lake, and just took it in. 

 

River near the beginning of the trail

In my photo class I learned a bit about long exposure! This was before then, so I am hopeful I can make nicer / more stable shots in the future. This was hand-held over a railing, so you can definitely see a little shake. Nonetheless, it is lovely and I am moderately proud of it.

En route to Spain, wild horses.

 

Taken from the car – wild horsies! 

Photo Classes

This summer I took a beginner’s photography class with The Photo School.

It was super great! I would definitely recommend it to anyone who feels like they don’t quite ‘get’ what their camera is up to and how it make it better. It was over three weeks, and we covered a different topic each week. I definitely learned a tonne and my pictures have gotten better! 

 

Homework: Aperture & Shutter Speed

Learned about how ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed work together to make my photos bad / not sharp / overexposed 😉 

 

Classwork: Drawing with Light

 

We did this awesome exercise in class where the instructor did some light painting and we practiced long exposures. I really love the way they turned out! I’m eager to get some done when we go camping this winter! 

 

Homework: White Balance

Learned how to set the white balance on my camera so that things aren’t too orange / purple in weird lighting. This is my rings & bouquet by candlelight in my bathroom (it’s the darkest room in the house!) 

 

Homework: White Balance

 

Cabin in the Woods

Over the winter we rented the best cabin in the world on AirBnB. Honestly, it was perfect. We played Battleship, and Scrabble, and sat in the hot tub and drank wine and ate bone marrow and made French Onion Soup and just relaxed.

 

This is Julien’s Battleship strategy. CAN YOU IMAGINE?! He’s a monster.

 

We went with Aaron & Leah and EDGAR, THE BEST DOG EVER. Edgar likes long walks in the snow, and probably on the beach, and he loves snuggles, and he wears his hair in a little ponytail.

EDGAR, complete with mini pony and little tiny paws. Look at those tiny paws, LOOK AT THEM.

 

It wasn’t quite off-grid.

We also hooked up the NES to the GIANT PROJECTOR. Did I say best cabin or what?! Very seldom do I think “I will rent this same cabin again” but I totally will. It’s across the street from a genuine farm, where we met cows and then ate some of the cows (not the same ones, I assume). We went for a walk around the (giant, beautiful) property and just felt absolutely wonderful. Super great cabin, seriously. Will go again. 

Canadian.

Springtime Walks

Yes, I’m very behind. It turns out, though, I uploaded a bunch of photos and never did posts with them. Here is one such post. 

This Spring we did a bunch of lovely walks in the parks around town! It turns out I really like being out-of-doors, who knew. (A: NOT I!) 

Family fishing at the Lachine Sculpture Park
Family fishing at the Lachine Sculpture Park

 

Lachine Sculpture Park trees
Pink trees! I could have laid under them all day long. It’s super nice to look back now that it’s autumn at the Spring – it seemed really long ago, so we must’ve had a nice year!

Lachine Sculpture Park - beaversky
This is a huge metal dome thing, and the view from the middle, looking to the sky.

Cap-Saint-Jacques Nature Park  
Bark of some kind of tree at Cap-Saint-Jacques Nature Park. We had gone after a load of flooding hit the island, and many of the trails were closed.

Bois de L'lle Bizard
My focus is often poor. Julien enjoying the views at Bois de L’lle Bizard

Some of the park was totally flooded – and some was super dry!

Morgan Arboretum – We did a guided walk and learned all about useful plants in the area! Jewelweed for soap, willow for pain relief, and birchbark baskets 😀

 

We took a bunch of really nice walks this summer. Hopefully when winter sets in we’ll get to do some snowshoeing in these same parts! 

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