Last Day at Home and Off to London

My last day at home wasn’t the flurry of activity one would think. I’m absurdly organised and good at managing my time. I methodically ploughed through my to-do list, including getting three loads of laundry done by noon. I was so on top of things that when Charles came to ask me to run an errand with him in the late afternoon, it didn’t throw a wrench in my plans at all.

When we came home from that, with me taking a good long last view of my beloved valley as we came down the hill into the hamlet, it was time to shut down the internet and power and do one final sweep. I almost forgot my toothbrush and… computer charger!

I trundled down the street with my two travel bags as well as a bag filled with what I needed to get me through the night at C&C’s. I’d brought a few things over earlier in the day, including a tote of things I didn’t want to freeze, and would stow the bag in that tote.

Caroline made me an extra special going away dinner. We started with Greek salad, then had roast pork tenderloin, beets, yellow beans, and rice. They bought a whole live pig last year and butchered it themselves, and boy was it delicious! There was a maple syrup glaze on it that was succulent! The beans were home grown, of course, as were the beets that Caroline canned last year. So good! The extra special part of dinner was that she’d made dessert, a strawberry rhubarb pie (with vanilla ice cream). I’m so spoiled!

Needless to say, the food and wine put me into a coma and I slept pretty well from 10:30 to 3, then, thankfully, I managed to fall asleep for nearly another three hours.

It was pouring rain when I stumbled downstairs, enjoying coffee on the porch with Caroline as we looked at our damp green hills. I forced myself to have a bit of breakfast, just some toast with peanut butter and honey, and then got ready, changing into my airplane outfit, closing up my bags, and stowing what wasn’t coming with me.

The plan had been to leave at 7:00 and we pulled out at 7:15. The drive to the airport in Regina took almost 2.5 hours, but they flew by! As we approached the exit for the airport, I once again expressed how grateful I was for the lift and Caroline replied, “We just wanted to get rid of you and the surest way to do that was to make sure you got to the airport all right!” Bwa ha ha ha. I love her and Charles so much.

We only had a few minutes at the unloading point at the airport to say goodbye and then off I went. I’d checked in the day before and had my boarding passes on my phone, so I went straight to security. There was a bit of a lineup, but it went quickly. It was rather a pain to get my electronics out of my computer bag since it was packed so tightly, but I got it done by the time it was my turn to put stuff in bins.

I got through the scanner without it beeping and then came what felt like an interminable wait for my stuff to get through the X-ray machine. But everything scanned okay and they didn’t make me open my bags or take off my shoes.

Then, came a wait. There’s not much at the Regina airport terminal. I got a second breakfast and a really good coffee and spent some time doing online stuff before calling SaskTel to cancel my service. That was painless and the reps I spoke to were very excited about my trip.

We boarded on time. It was very quick flight to Toronto and I bought a sandwich on board to eat. The airplane sandwiches are always good and fresh and no more expensive than what you get on the ground, so I don’t see the point of trying to juggle a bag of food onto the plane with my gear. Speaking of which, my gear was perfectly sized. My computer bag was really at the limit for under the seat stowage, but I could actually have expanded my suitcase if I wanted to.

My layover in Toronto was really short. We landed at about 5:10 and my next flight was departing at 6:00, which meant I really only had at most 40 minutes to get to the gate. It took forever to deplane and no one else appeared to be in a hurry. I was way at the back of the plane and pleaded to folks to let me through, but no one cared. By the time I got into the terminal, it was 5:30. There was no signage, no departures board, no one to give directions, nothing. I had no idea where I was supposed to catch my flight to St. John’s and didn’t want to risk going too far in the wrong direction looking for assistance. I finally spotted a WestJet agent who was in no hurry to help me. She was chatting with someone else about her plans for the weekend and gave me a dirty look when I said, “Excuse me…”  If there was a time for rudeness, this was it and I firmly said that I needed my gate info. She finally brought it up and the gate was pretty much clear across the terminal. OMG. I raced off and with Pearson being under renovations, there were detours. It took forever to reach the gate, where they were at final boarding call! According to the agent who checked me in, I was literally two minutes from missing my connection. PHEW.

Having made my flight to St. John’s, I could finally relax since I had a longer layover there and now knew that I would very likely get to London on schedule.

There was frost on the window near the end of that leg of my journey:


Here’s how my two bags stack for easy transport through the airport. I do have to say that this got really heavy by the the time I got through Gatwick and I was happy to have a backpack.


My layover in St. John’s felt like it took no time at all. I was disappointed that there was no food to be bought that late at the terminal. I knew I could get a sandwich on the plane, but had hoped for a “real” meal.

I was a little freaked out when I got paged, but it was because they wanted to make sure I was there since I hadn’t checked any luggage!

Before I knew it, it was time to board for the last leg of my journey. I’d hoped to sleep, but the 5-hour flight wasn’t conducive to that. There was a lot of turbulence, so there were constant announcements, plus I was famished and it took almost two hours to get our first beverage service, when I could get a sandwich. But like with my previous two flights, I did nothing on the plane, but close my eyes and at least attempt to doze.

The clouds were thick like snow as we pushed east:


For the second time in my life, I watched the sun rise over the Atlantic.


Sometimes, there was enough break in the clouds to see the ocean:




We flew over what felt like the whole of the south of England, coming up the North Sea coast. I was struck by how rural the country appeared, with so much farmland and only small clusters of cities. Gatwick Airport is well outside of London, so I didn’t get a first glimpse of the city from the air. We landed right on schedule at 8:20am local time.

All I wanted after we landed was to wash my face and brush  my teeth. The first bathroom I encountered was over crowded, but the second was empty. Feeling a little more human, I was ready to face passport control. The long lineup moved quickly. I’d already filled in my tourist card on the plane, so there wasn’t much to do when I got to an agent. I just confirmed how long I was staying and why and that was it, and got my first stamp in a passport since the last time I got to the UK!

Next was customs, but I had nothing to declare, so I just breezed through that. And then, I was in the main part of Gatwick airport and it was time to figure out how to get to London, then across London! Yes, I’d done my research, but it was contradictory and I’d made the decision to figure it out on the spot. To be continued!

Regina To Saskatoon To Ottawa To Montreal To Chambly

It was a good flight day, with no delays and a layover that was just the right length.

The first bit of the flight took us northwest to Saskatoon, where I did not have to deplane. I wound up being grateful for the detour because I didn’t have time in Regina to get comfortable for a long flight since a lady who really should have bought two seats made it impossible for me to get my boots off, remove my cardigan, and get my luggage sorted in a way that would give me some leg room. She got off in Saskatoon and I had time to settle in before my next seatmate arrived.

As it turned out, the Tim’s at the Regina airport only makes breakfast sandwiches, so my only options for food were bagels, pastries, and convenience store items. I decided not to bother and satisfy myself with the Cliff bar I got from the b&b.

But by the time food service started, I was feeling nauseous from the carb crash from the morning’s breakfast and no protein to speak of. So I decided to buy an on board chicken wrap and wound up being super impressed with it! I won’t be annoyed by my Visa bill for it at all. 🙂 It was loaded with crisp dark lettuce, a sharp cheese (likely Asiago), and chewy sun dried tomatoes. The wrap itself was lovely and fresh. I paired this with a cup of surprisingly decent (complimentary) coffee and ended up with a much tastier meal than Tim’s would have provided.

The flight was smooth and I was thoroughly engrossed in a novel I bought (used) just for the occasion. My seatmate asked me what the book was about and I told her to read the jacket because I couldn’t discuss it aloud. It’s a John Nance novel about a series of terrorist attacks on airplanes! What can I say, I’m not a nervous flier! 🙂

We got to Ottawa a little early. I wonder if I will ever get the “I’m home!!!” feeling landing in Regina that I have always gotten in Ottawa and never in Montreal…

I had about forty minutes to kill before boarding for the last leg of the trip, just enough time to grab an okay slice of pizza and treat myself to a magazine. I was too tired by this point to keep reading the novel, but the flight would be too short for a nap.

The weather was bad between Ottawa and Montreal and there was turbulence, enough that I was a little nauseated and glad to land when we arrived.

Dorval Airport is one of the larger ones in Canada, so I had quite a ways to go to get out beyond security, enough that there is even a moving sidewalk that surprised me and almost made me face plant!

My mother was waiting inside the terminal and we hurried out to the car. The drive to Chambly felt super fast.

I’m glad to be here and am beat! It’s late here, midnight, but 10:00 my time, which is my normal bedtime, so hopefully I’ll actually sleep and wake up at a reasonable hour.

Waiting For My Flight

I left the Dragon’s Nest at about nine and decided to make a quick run to Walmart for some litre (quart) sized zip bags for my liquids. I had them packed in a gallon bag and was worried that I wouldn’t get through security even though I really didn’t bring much since I can get what I need at my mother’s. I’m a little finicky about sharing tooth paste, like to carry sanitizer gel on the plane, and recently received a sample size of my favourite hand cream so that’s all I have.

I had to drive around long-term parking for a while until I found empty slots, all near the exit and ‘far’ from the terminal entrance. I made sure to snap a picture of the sign telling me what row I’m parked in. 🙂

Regina Airport is TINY, so it was quiet today and there was no wait at security. I decided to use my iPhone as a boarding pass and am not sure yet that I like that. Even though I left the ‘Passbook’ app open, I still had to swipe a few times to get to the boarding pass. The lady at the first security checkpoint said I did it like a pro and thanked me for being organized.

Security people were nice, but I was there a bit and got felt up. Ladies, no underwire at the airport! 🙂 It was also my first time with a belt and I had to remove it as well as my boots.

I find it interesting that computers get singled out for special screening, but not iPads.

I also find it interesting that I haven’t yet had to produce ID.

There’s not much beyond security, just a Tim’s and a convenience store. I grabbed a coffee and will get a sandwich to go before I board.

Finally, I tried to get my new bag into the rack that lets you check the size. There was some smooshing involved, but it’s definitely okay. I also have a tote with my electronics and I stuffed my purse into the tote! If I have to gate check the big bag, I have everything I need in the tote.

So on to Saskatoon (stay on the plane) and then a short layover in Ottawa. No time to go there for a visit this time, but at least I’ll see my beloved city from the air. I’ll be in Dorval in about seven hours from now.

The Canadian War Museum (Very Briefly)

My eight year old nephew, R, expressed a desire to visit the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. I decided that it would make a nice day out for us and mentioned this to my mother. She came over last night to let me know that today was R’s last day off from school for a while and that he had nothing planned. So if I wanted to go to Ottawa with him, I had to decide immediately. Needless to say, I was on board!

I picked him up at about 8:30 this morning and we set off westward. Getting out of Montreal was tricky enough for R to actually worry about whether or not we’d make it. He was very relieved when we finally hit the open road!

I asked him why he wanted to visit the War Museum and his answer was delightful; he was just curious. He’d been to the Nature and Science & Tech museums already and felt that his education was missing a visit to this museum.

At some point along the way, the subject of lunch came up and I mentioned that we would be eating at a restaurant. His eyes lit up and he said, “Sushi!” Ah, R and I are kindred spirits! 😀

I really should have done some research ahead of time about Ottawa sushi restaurants as I didn’t eat sushi back then, strangely enough. Now that I think about it, I really can’t figure out where my sushi obsession came from, but I digress. At any rate, I decided to just head for the heart of Chinatown, where I knew I’d find several suitable options on Somerset.

We parked at the corner of Arthur right in front of Koreana, a Korean BBQ place that also serves sushi. R said that there was no sense going any further, or crossing the street, so that’s where we ate. We had a great lunch!

I ordered a combo meal with nigiri, tempura, delicious glass noodles, veggie pancake thingies, and more. R asked for ‘shrimp with rice’, which I correctly guessed was ebi nigiri without wasabi, as well as ‘cucumbers with seaweed’, which I also correctly IDed as being kappa maki. I thought that there would be more than enough food for the two of us, but I wound up having to order him another six pieces of the kappa maki, of which he ate four, and I had the last two.

What I most appreciated was that the meal came with a complimentary delicious miso soup and a bunch of Korean sides! I had a chance to try radish pickles (YUM), kimchi (it’s true what they say, the stuff needs to grow on you…), potatoes with a sweet glaze, and some unidentified tasty green veggies with sesame seeds.

Our Koreana spread.

Chinatown is tiny, but then again, so is Ottawa proper. But there’s no mistaking you’re there as the area has the ubiquitous arch:

The second to last time I went to the War Museum I actually left my car parked in Chinatown and hoofed it, a distance of just a couple of klicks, but I didn’t want R to be tired before we arrived. The last time I went to the museum, I lived just north of it in Gatineau, within even closer range, so I just ambled over.

So we piled back into the truck and I drove us down to the museum, which is located at the intersection of Wellington and the John A. MacDonald Parkway (no, dear, he did not launch the McDonald’s restaurants). I didn’t get to take a picture of the exterior, so I’m borrowing this one because the Canadian War Museum is housed in a spectacular building!

Parking is underground and I worried that my truck wouldn’t fit. My mother scoffed at that, but my fear was justified. I had only a couple of inches of clearance from the lowest points in the ceiling, but my roof rack brushed against the clearance signs! I parked right at the bottom of the entrance since I just fit down the ramp and figured I could just squeeze back up.

There is now an admission to the museum, and it’s not cheap when you factor in parking. Admission for the two of us was $23 and then I had to add another $12 on top of that for parking!

The museum feels like a bunker:

Lobby area.

The theme of the museum is Canada’s place in global conflicts. So it starts right at the beginning with wars against the Native Americans and between European powers before Canada was even a nation, then moves to the Boer and First World Wars, the Second World War, the Korean and Cold Wars, and then modern conflicts. This year, there is a special exhibit about the War of 1812.

R liked this exhibit and the beginning of the main museum a lot because he is currently studying the Iroquois at school and he got lots of information for an upcoming project. He especially enjoyed an activity where we were shown how to do ‘wempum’ style beading like the native peoples did. It was explained to us that the beads and patterns all told a story.

Arts and crafts are fun! I beaded this purple and white key chain. 🙂

The interpreter teaching this activity told us to keep an eye out for a blue and white belt symbolizing two powers (as rivers made from blue beads) sharing one land peacefully (white beads). I dryly commented that Quebec could learn something from that belt and the guy burst out laughing. This is the belt:

We moved on to the US Civil War era, where I found my gaze falling onto a Gatlin gun. I still can’t believe that machine guns like these existed that early on!

the first machine gun, US Civil War era

The WWI exhibit has a fun bit where you can determine if you would have been eligible for service by making you check your height, foot arch status, eyesight (I’m apparently blind), and teeth.

We have normal feet; not flat, not over arched!

We spent some time at a computerized display listing all the Canadians who served in WWI. I typed in Henry Blake and my great-grand-father’s listing showed up:

My great-grand-father’s enlistment papers for service in WWI.

I tried to convey to my nephew that this was his great-great-grand-father and that he, R, wouldn’t be here if this man hadn’t existed, but I don’t think that sank in.

And then came my favourite exhibit. I remember seeing it at the old war museum way back yonder with my dad and it never ceases to fill me with a sense of awe that it is here, in Ottawa:

Hitler’s car

That caption is correct. This is the car you see in photos of Hitler standing in a car saluting his troops. Through some miraculous circumstances, the car survived the war and was shipped to Canada, where it is now available for all to see. That car gives me the shivers.

Believe it or not, R walked into this exhibit area and said, “Oh, Nazis!” He actually had a little bit of knowledge about the era and a sense of who Hitler was (“A very bad man with a little mustache.”) What amazed me the most was when I told him that the car is Hitler’s, he asked if it was “built for the museum to be like Hitler’s car or an artifact?” I was stunned! He casually replied that he’s studying artifacts at school and understands that some things in the museum are reproductions and others are real. Wow!

This exhibit also includes a captured Nazi flag:

captured Nazi flag

I was disappointed to not find the exhibit that completely ruined Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade for me. In the movie, there’s a scene where Jones literally runs into Hitler and gets his autograph. ‘Hitler’ signs his name using a pointy A for Adolf. The old war museum had a bunch of documents signed by Hitler, showing that he made round As. (Yes, I’m a history nerd and this kind of detail fascinates me!)

There is also a sad reminder of Hiroshima in this exhibit:

This was a temple roof shingle that miraculously survived the atomic bomb while the temple itself was destroyed.

I rushed us through the more modern era stuff as R reads really well and some of the texts were very graphic, as were the photos. It’s all well and good that he learns about the dark side of human nature and another to bring him home completely traumatized. Moreover, I started to get emotional as we went through exhibits of conflicts that have occurred in my life time, including the Rwandan genocide and the current conflict in Afghanistan.

At the end of the exhibits, you can enter the ‘point’ of the building:

And then you enter a huge space filled with just about every military vehicle ever used in conflicts Canada has been involved in. R said this is what he will remember most, and with good reason. This section is impressive!

Just a tiny corner of the vehicle exhibit.

Me: “I want one of these amphibious German vehicles to tow behind my motorhome!” R: “You’ll need to go back in time and ask the Nazis for one. That doesn’t sound like a good idea.”

Both of us in unison: “Hey, it’s the Bat signal!”

This vehicle’s front end was destroyed when it hit a landmine in Afghanistan in the early 2000s. Thankfully, the vehicle was so well armoured that everyone survived.

Just a few of the tanks on display.

R noticed that this tank was missing its chains.

We did a quick tour of the gift shop on the way out (he asked for and received a $1 post card!). By the time we headed for the truck, it was past 4PM and I had said I would bring him home by 6. So I called in with the change of plans and that we’d be getting supper en route.

Getting out of Ottawa was a little tricky because of traffic and construction, but I know that part along the Queensway so well that I just wound and wend are way around until we could finally get onto the highway. It was stop and go to the Orleans junction and there was a bit of construction along the way, so we did not make good time.

By the time we hit Rigaud, R needed a break so I decided to stop early for dinner. He wanted poutine and I decided that he’d had a nutritious enough lunch, so I agreed. We split one, but it wasn’t enough for him, so he asked for something I have seen in years, a pogo:


I think the English world calls these corn dogs. I can’t stand them, but R was thrilled with the treat. I’m just glad that’s not the first thing he mentioned to his mom when he got home! 😀

Today was completely off the cuff and unplanned, like a proper adventure. R is a great kid and I couldn’t have imagined a better companion today. It’s been a very long time since I’ve gone on a day-long adventure with a youngster and I enjoyed it!

Major Chaos For Major Improvement

WHEW. My mother and I are done with the last bit of the hard core renos we planned for the summer. Now, we have all the little details to finish up as well as the inverter and battery monitor projects. So I really don’t have much to show off just now, but some is better than none!

First off, my new desk top. OMG. I didn’t even know I needed this until my mother informed me that I did:

Hopefully, third time will be the charm for the desk. 😀

What we did is cover the existing desk with two layers of 1/2″ MDF glued together (no 1″ sheets available). We then covered the new work surface with cloth-backed vinyl. The colour is delicious. It’s sold as ‘plum’ but looks like chocolate in artificial light and wine in natural light. It contrasts perfectly with the green and the red tones can be found in the flowers of my curtains. The lady at the fabric store told me three times that I had made an excellent choice of colour and she was right!

I am worried about kitty claws, so I’ll be covering empty swaths of the desk with a mat or blanket.

There is now a gap between the top of the little bookcase and the new desk and I have a wooden ‘in box’ that fits perfectly there. I’ll show it off once it has a handle and latch. There is also a gap at the other end of the new desk top, at the end of the mattress:

My mother thought that my extension cord management idea was good, so she improved the idea, building a new bed frame with gaps for holding cords. We covered it with plastic trellis to give the mattress a flat surface to lie on. The trellis is rigid enough to be a good surface, is light, and will wear well. It was expensive, but the best product for the job.

At the end of the mattress, you can see a wide plastic drawer. I picked it up at the Ottawa Solutions store (I’ve never been to a Container Store, but I suspect it’s the same idea). The drawer spans the whole width and depth of the hole and is going to be used for archival storage (ie. old report cards, greeting cards, correspondence, and the like). I used to have all of that in a basket in an overhead cabinet, but this is a much better use of space. Over top of the drawer is just enough space for storing my laptop for travel.

Also at Solutions, I picked up what I needed to stop swearing each time I open the door to my wonderfully spacious medicine cabinet:

I like to open the door when I pass and just smile at how pretty and organized the cabinet is now. 🙂

The cabinet is well designed in that it has a lip on the bottom of each shelf, but everything would tumble out when I opened the door. I wanted containers that would fill the space and be retained by the lip.

So I brought the measurements for the shelves with me to Ottawa and went through the store until I found the cheapest items that could fit in the space. The silver containers were deeply discounted office supplies. There were three of the big ones left and without any real thought, I grabbed four of the narrower ones. Got home and discovered I still had a gap, perfectly filled by my brown basket. I couldn’t have designed this space more perfectly! Every space is sorted by use and everything is so apparent. No more opening up a tube of toothpaste when I already have one started.

To whet your appetites a little, my wonderful new dresser is now functional and just awaiting finishing details. The wall in the living room is up, but the door needs some catches and both need paint. There’s a new water pump access panel in the entrance stairwell, but it too needs paint. The filing cabinet still needs securing, but we think we have the solution. The office and dressing room both need paint touch ups. I also need tons of trim along the floor, but that will come with the electrical work.

My home was fine the way it was, but it is now ‘much better’ (said in my mother’s hilariously exaggerated French Canadian accent!).