Saturday, 27 August 2011

Danielle & Paul's Wedding in Las Vegas, May 2011

Our daughter married a wonderful man on May 24, 2011.  Danielle and Paul met in July 2010 and it was quickly apparent that they were made for each other.  They share the same quirky sense of humour, the same values and morals, they treasure the importance of family in their lives and they were both searching for someone to complete their lives.

Danielle has been a single mom since she gave birth to Sebastian at the tender age of 18.  She may have been young when she became a mom, but she was determined to be a great mom to her little boy and she has certainly fulfilled that destiny.  She has worked incredibly hard to make a good life for her and Seb, putting herself through college while working and taking care of a toddler.  She left Seb's dad when he became abusive and fought the court system to ensure that Seb was protected and safe at all times.  She is very strong in her determination to make Seb a polite, sweet, honest, caring and productive member of society.  As a result, our grandson has a very positive attitude and believes he can be whatever he wants to be when he grows up.  We are so proud of both of them and so happy that Danielle has found happiness and true love at last.

Paul is patient, kind, funny, hard working, intelligent and just wants to take care of Danielle and Seb.  He is a loving husband to Danielle and a dedicated and patient step dad to Seb.  We have welcomed him to our family with open hearts and were thrilled when they told us that we will be grandparents again in early 2012.

They decided to get married in Vegas and a small group of us were lucky enough to join them for this momentous event.  Den and I, Paul's mom and aunt and my mom (and Danielle's grandma) joined Paul, Danielle and Seb to witness their promise to love each other for the rest of their lives.  It was the perfect wedding for them ~ fun, informal but also very moving.  You can see the love in their eyes as they look at each other in many photos.

Here are a few pictures of a trip we will always remember and treasure:

Our week in Cuba with Seb, April 2011

We spent a wonderful week in Cayo Guillermo, Cuba with our wonderful grandson, Sebastian.  We have been to several islands in the Caribbean (Jamaica, Cuba, Dominican Rebuplic as well as the Mayan Riviera in Mexico) and while we have enjoyed them all, we have found the most beautiful beaches to be in Cuba.  The food may not be gourmet (due in part to the ongoing US embargo) and the hotels may not be 5 star, but the beaches are the most wondrous we've ever seen ~ the sand is like spun sugar and the water is crystal clear.  The people are so generous and warm, and although the Communist system does take its toll on the human spririt sometimes, it also provides free health care, education and lodging for its citizens ~ things some Western developed nations still do not.

Sebastian was a joy to be with all week ~ he was full of wonder at the beautiful beach and grounds, he was sweet and polite and even tried to use a few words of Spanish to communicate with the staff at the resort, the Iberostar Daiquiri.  One of the servers at the buffet just fell in love with him and had little surprises and gifts for him at dinner on several nights.

Here's a few pictures to enjoy:

Our Christmas Lights Trip, November 2010

Den surprised me with a trip in late November, 2010, to go see the Christmas decorations and lights. This was our Christmas gift to each other and it really was the best present I could ever have hoped for. We got an incredible deal through Air Transat of $699 each, including taxes, for our flights, hotel for 4 nights, airport transfers and full breakfasts. It was too good to pass up, so we didn't!;DHere are all the gory details:

Day 1

We landed at CDG around 10am and our shuttle driver was waiting for us. After dropping off some passengers at 2 other hotels, we arrived at the Quality Abaca Hotel on rue Vaugirard in the 15th around noon. The hotel is a 3 star with 72 rooms in a great neighbourhood. Our room was tiny, but the bed was comfortable, the bathroom was clean and we really had everything we needed for such a short stay. We really enjoyed the neighbourhood, which had many cafes, bars, restaurants, bakeries, cheese shops, and a great Monoprix 3 doors away. There is a great public market on rue Convention 3 times a week. The public transportation options were fantastic ~ Convention metro on line 12 was half a block away and we had access to great bus lines all around us. I would really like to stay in this area again, we enjoyed being in an area that was very Parisian without being touristy whatsoever. Prices reflected that this is not a tourist destination and our meals, drinks and other purchases in the area were some of the best values we've ever enjoyed in Paris.

After unpacking and checking out the rooftop view from our 7th floor room and grabbing a baguette sandwich from the bakery across the street, we hopped on the metro and made our way to the Madeleine stop. We then proceeded to walk for the next 5 hours ~ jetlag or not, we only have 4 days and so much to see! We visited Hediard and Fauchon of course and then made our way to Les Grand Magasins ~ Printemps and Galleries Fayette.

 We marvelled at the wondrous Christmas windows and enjoyed the childrens' faces pressed against the glass, eyes open wide and grins on their faces.

 There was a light sprinkling of snow while we walked along the stores which just added to the holiday atmosphere. The huge Christmas tree at Lafayette has to be seen to be believed!:oIt's 4 stories tall and decorated with probably thousands of twinkling lights. This is one of the sights that stands out amongst so many wonderful things we saw this trip.

 We had a quick dinner at the cafeteria at GL and Den went up on the roof to capture some night time shots of Paris. 

We made our way back to the Madeleine metro, stopping to admire Opera Garnier and many little shops along the way. We were back at the hotel around 7pm and in bed by 8, exhausted but gloriously happy to be in Paris together at this wonderful time of the year.

Day 2

We were up bright and early and after enjoying a filling breakfast at the hotel, we were back on the metro for another day of walking with our mouths and eyes wide open. We got off at Hotel de Ville because I wanted to see how BHV was decorated for Christmas ~ meh, not so much, expecially compared to the grandeur of both Printemps and GL last night. We walked down Rivoli a bit and then turned up rue de l'abre sec, passing the Spring boutique and restaurant as well as La Regelade St Honoure around the corner, bringing back memories of some great meals from our fall trip. We happened upon Mora, the great kitchen supply store and happily spent some time there imaging what we could buy to stock our kitchen if we lived in Paris.8-)

We then walked to rue Montorgeuil, down rue Reaumur and over to Place Vendome, where we stopped to admire the very understated and classy decorations (and all the designer shops that we will never be able to afford!)

 We stopped for a well deserved cafe creme at a little place on Cambon right across from Chanel and then continued on to Place de la Concorde where we got our first look at La Grande Roue.

 We spend the next few hours at the Christmas market on Champs Elysees where we enjoyed a foie gras and duck magret baguette from one of the many street stalls set up for the market.

 Now this is street food!;DWe decided to walk over our favourite bridge, Pont Alexandre III and catch the metro back from St Germain. We stopped in at Le Petit Palais to admire its grandeur and took our time strolling through the 7th towards rue de Bac metro stop.

After a little rest in our hotel and a few drinks at a little bar down the street to fortify us, we hopped on the #80 bus which took us through the 15th, 7th and 6th arrondissements so we could see some more of Paris all lit up for the holidays. We got off on Avenue Montaigne which was beautifully decorated, both with Chrismas lights and some of the most exclusive designer shops in the world ~ Prada, Dior, Chanel, etc. We walked down the Avenue until we got to the Rond Point at the Champs Elysees, where we just stood in awe at the million lights strung on the trees on both sides of the boulevard. This is a sight that has got to be seen to be believed.

 We strolled the CE for about 2 hours, up to the Arc de Triomphe and back down to the market, ending up at La Grande Roue all lit up. 

We hopped on the Concorde metro and were back in our little neighbourhood in 20 minutes, giddy from our day and very hungry. We found a little Italian place near the hotel called Pomodoro and enjoyed some hot pasta, red wine and yummy desserts. We called it a night at around 11pm and were back in our cozy little room for a well deserved sleep.

Day 3

We didn't get up quite as early today::). After another great little breakfast (and did I mention free!),we walked over to the Sunday Convention market and strolled the stalls for about an hour. We then took the metro to Republique and walked down to Square de Temple for a Christmas brocante I had read about. There were many exhibitors spread out over about 6-7 blocks near the Square and along rue de Bretagne. We wandered around looking at all kinds of interesting stuff for a little while and then made our way down rue de Turenne, passing the apartment we had just stayed in last month. Ah, memories. We went into the Carnavalet Museum to see the Louis Vuitton exhibit (and to warm up). It was really interesting to see how the Vuitton family made their fortune with their innovative luggage designed to take advantage of the changes in travel during those years.

 We stopped in at La Creperie Suzette on rue de Francs Bourgeois for a little warmth in the form of cafe creme and caramel crepes.;D

We then made our way to Ile de la Cite, where we marvelled at the huge Christmas tree in front of Notre Dame and the beautiful creche inside the cathedral. We wandered over the bridge to the 5th and strolled down along the river, decided to go to the D'Orsay Museum (for the art and to warm up again!). We spend about 2 hours revisiting some favourites, including the Van Goughs and the Latrecs. We also saw some of the new areas with Art Deco furniture, which was pretty cool.

We again took the metro back to our neighborhood and found a great little cafe on the corner where I had fantastic oysters and moules frites and Den had his ubiquitous foie gras and then a hamburger steak with a blue cheese sauce. We shared a creme brulee for dessert and it was off to dream land for two exhausted 50 year olds!

Day 4

This was a walking marathon! We ususally walk our little tootsies off while we are in Paris and I didn't know how the cold weather would affect our habit, but we found that we walked just as much as we usually do, just a little faster due to the cold. It was about minus 5 celcius today with a little wind and there was a dusting of snow on the ground. Cars were covered with snow and ice, proof of a very cold night.

We took the # 80 bus right to the terminal at Jules Jeffrin. We waked in the quiet streets of Monmartre, enjoying the snow on the ground and on the trees, lending an air of calmness to our stroll. We walked up to the side of Sacre Coeur, where Den took many pictures of Paris down below.

 We crossed over into the 9th and strolled over to rue des Martyrs, looking for a place to have a coffee and pastry. Believe of not, we couldn't find what we were really looking for so we kept on trucking and happened upon La Mere de Famille chocolate shop, a wonderful place full of old fashioned candy, chocolate and other goodies. They had beautiful Christmas windows and decorations and we splurged on some delicious chocolate bars. 

We then decided to keep walking to rue Montorgeuil in the 2nd for a late lunch at Les Petit Carreaux. We had their daily special, Blanquette de Veau, which was meltingly tender and warmed up our cold bellies. A half litre of red wine also did the trick! We continued on to the Seine and crossed over into the 6th. I realized we had not really had any pastries yet (horrors!:o) so we went in search of the Laduree on rue Jacob in the middle of St Germain. Den had a religeuse with a decadent hot chocolate and I had a huge apple caramel macaron with tea. 

We enjoyed both the food and the warmth and fortified ourselves to go back outside. We decided to take a bus back to see some last Christmas decorations on our last day and we found that the #39 had stops close by which would bring us back to the 15th. There were beautiful lights strung along rue des Rennes with St Sulpice in the background. The bus took us by Le Bon Marche department store so we could see it all lit up, as well as down rue Lecourbre, which was also strung with Christmas lights. When we got back to our street, we found that it was all lit up as well, a kind of final Christmas present on our last night.

 We had dinner at another little cafe on the corner, made our last chocolate purchases at the Monoprix, and walked back to our room to pack.

6am came very quickly the next morning and our shuttle was right on time to pick us up. Our flight was delayed a little bit because they had to deice the wings!:oWe were back home at 3pm, tired but also exhilarated at our spur of the moment trip to the city we love more and more each time we visit it.

I know how lucky we are that we could even think of a little trip like this and I take nothing for granted. Life is so short, we are making the most of it and we are grateful for everything we have.