I’m home after travelling through 4 cities in 10 days. I was very happy to see my parents, brother, and aunt (godmother) during this time. The company that sponsored this trip was both gracious, lots of fun, and full of vim and vigour.

I picked up Baka today from Jilly’s place and was given a lavish welcome as he licked my hands and face for about an hour. I think both of us appreciated the time apart, but it is also nice to be back with family. Something to be said about the unconditional affection and trust given by an animal.

Porter Airlines

Yesterday I had my first experience in flying Porter Airlines, a small intercity commuter airline based in Toronto with flights to Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec City, Halifax, Chicago, New York, and seasonal flights to Mont Tremblant; other Canadian and US cities are planned.

I can’t say enough nice things about this first experience with Porter. My mother, Jovette, warned me that I’d love flying with Porter. It must be the first stress free flight I’ve had in many years of flying.

Porter flies from Toronto’s island airport, which was only 15 minutes from the down town core and in spitting distance from the skydome. The island airport is handy to people living and working down town and really removes all the hassle of driving out to Pearson International airport, thus avoiding potential traffic problems and all the fussing, queuing, and waiting associated with going to any major airport the world over.

I arrived at the ferry terminal, which is a free service to passengers. I had some trouble with my reservation while using the automated check-in terminals and the ground attendant, Danielle, was very kind and helpful in resolving the issue with my ticket. The ferry ride was so short, one wonders why they just don’t build a road or concourse bridge. Still I welcomed the brief pause and chatted with Danielle as she shuttle back to the island at the end of her shift with the front desk.

Having already been issued a boarding pass, proceeding to the lounge was a simple matter of weighing and tagging my check-in luggage and passing through security, which was simplicity itself; I still had to pop-out the laptop, remove metal objects from my person, and my coat, but there were so few noon-day travellers that it took no time at all.

The lounge offered complementary coffee, sodas, juices, and bottled water along with free cookies, nuts, and WiFi. The lounge was clean and tidy, with lots of space and comfy chairs, lots of power points near chairs, several cubicles with internet connected Mac workstations and extra plugs, also free it appeared.

I had a short 15 minute wait before the flight. Boarding the aircraft took all of 5 minutes, partly do to the few travellers, but also because the Bombardier Dash-8 Q400 aircraft only seats 70 passengers in total. It’s not like the typical overcrowded jets with their frustrated and tired travellers all fighting for storage space, arm rests, and comfortable exit row seats with some leg room. This aircraft appeared to have more leg room and comfortable seats than the average passenger jet. Departure was 5 minutes after the last person was seated; no long wait for tower clearance.

The Q400 is a turbo prop aircraft, yet is extremely quiet inside, maybe even quieter than your typical jet. Another nice thing about this flight and aircraft was that we flew much lower at 25 000 ft. vs 35 000 ft. of most commercial jet aircraft; this difference means there is actually a lot more interesting things to see outside the window on a clear day. Certainly handy for those who travel with children.

The flight attendants, Kathrina Celio and Joanne Perera were wonderful and because of the few passengers on this particular flight, had time to talk with me about the airline and listen to my cheery first impressions. They did say though that morning and evening flights tend to be a lot busier with almost full flights of people coming and going from one day meetings. The pair quickly served small sandwiches packs and choice of beverages from sodas, juices, beers, and wine were all free and included in the service. I myself had two small glasses of Canadian red wine served in a real glass, not plastic.

The hour and 15 minute flight to Montreal Trudeau (Dorval) passed by so quickly. The flight was so pleasant, that I wish it was just a bit longer, so that I might just sit and enjoy the moments of peace it afforded. Flying with Porter gave me the impression of train travel in Europe, simple, efficient, and comfortable. In many ways I wish I could fly with them between Canada and France. I’m sure Porter could out do the major international airlines for quality of service.

I found all the staff I talked to smiling, happy, and eager to help. Service was simple, efficient, and courteous. Once again, my thanks to Joanne, Kathrina, and Danielle for such a positive experience. It was much like how air travel used to be when I was a child travelling with my family.

I certainly will fly Porter again given the chance.

The Maiden

image047At my parent’s condo they have this Roman-Greco style stature in an alcove at the end of the entrance hallway. It is of a maiden holding a pitcher of wine or water (who knows, might even be lemonade) in one hand with a shallow bowl or dish in the other, probably for drinking from. Not sure if this is a depiction of Virgo or that of a simple serving girl. Either way, every day when I stay at my folks place I place a coin in her dish in way of an offering for luck, health, and happiness. My mum never appears to notice the coins until I’ve gone (or maybe it’s the cleaning lady that does) and has never commented on it; maybe she thinks it’s one of those quaint little habits I have.


I’m currently travelling on business in the US: San Francisco, Provo, Toronto, and Montreal. Four cities in 10 days. It’s now the 4th day and the time zone adjustment from France is only just now feeling like returning to normal, yet I’ll be off to Toronto next. Crossing yet another time zone going east. Long and tedious air travel. All I can really do is sit back and listen to music or play computer games to pass the time. (Or blog when I have access.) Guess not so bad, since tonight I’ll be with my parents and my mum will have prepared a very very yummy home cooked meal. Just thinking about that makes me smile and forget the rest.

Tempus Fugit

20051225021200512250162005122501520051225012200512250092005122500520051225001200512250022005122500820051225011200512120032005121220051224002200512290152005122700320051227001It’s late on a weekday night in winter, that is not winter enough, in a country now far removed. The late night silence disturbed only by the tick tock of The Grandfather Clock, the heart of a home past, a reminder of a memories far away.

I write, looking at some of the last scenic photos taken around my family’s former holiday home, the one constant in my life that I called home through all my travels. My parents sold it about three years ago and I still grieve from it’s loss.

The Chalet in l’Estérel, Quebec is the foundation for many of my fondest memories. The home was constructed by my parents shortly after I was born. A year round family retreat: spring, summer, autumn, and my favourite – winter. It was beautiful and peaceful no matter the season or weather. It was home.

Winter at Xmas time was the highlight of my year, when there would be piles of snow all around, the smell of wood smoke from a large and warm hearth intermixed with those coming from a kitchen that demonstrated all the skill and love my mum could show. My brother and I would spend hours tobogganing down the hill immediately in front the house, often threatening to careen into the family car parked below. If it weren’t for the road and the house opposite us, we could have tobogganed all the way down to the frozen lake.

After passing the day outside in the snow, the pair of us would enter with our rosy cheeks, hang our wet clothes near the fire my dad had prepared, and warm ourselves. Later after our hot baths and in our pjs, David and I would play with our toy cars in front of the fire or watch my mum, Jovette, my dad, Peter, and my aunt, Mado, play scrabble or cribbage.

Often David and I would be awake very early, before our parents. We would sit in front on the huge bay window overlooking Lac Masson (near by Ste. Marguerite and surroundings), beside the heat vents, wrapped in wool blankets and play with our Lego collection and/or other toys.

Sometimes, he and I would take all the (old) sofa cushions, pillows, and wool blankets and make a snug little fort we could sit in. Mum would often have Pillsbury raspberry or blueberry turnover mix at hand, which I’d prepare for David and myself. My parents and aunt would rise and sit in the master bedroom having their breakfast of coffee and buttered raisin toast, watch the morning news, and talk. No rush to the day.

When we weren’t tobogganing or digging tunnels through frozen mounds of ploughed snow, we were out skiing, often in -20C weather: Yvan Coutu, Chantecler, Mont Gabriel (hotel), Grey Rocks, Mont Tremblant. My father started teaching me snow-plough turns when I was three on what seamed a gigantic slope at Yvan Coutu (long since closed and reduced to tooth picks). Later when I was older and more confident, he’d take me on my first T-bar and eventually my first chair lift. David and I loved to ski.

There would be walks to Hôtel L’Estérel only about two kilometres away, to collect the post. David and I would climb up and down some of the large rocks or boulders in summer as we made our way. Sometimes, when mum needed a break, Dad would take us for lunch in the hotel’s cafeteria: hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, salt & vinegar French fries, comfort food that kids love. When we were older, we’d go to the hotel to play pool, pinball, and video games. Dad would watch mostly or read the paper, while David and I amused ourselves.

Early spring, typically around Easter, was just another chance to ski some more. On sunny occasions my mother would prepare a picnic on the roof of the house. With all the snow piled high from clearing the roof, one could easily climb up onto it. (David and I even tobogganed off it.) Mum would place a thick woolly rug down in the sun where my brother, myself, dad, mum, and my aunt who regularly stayed with us would all sit. We’d munch on bread, cheese, hot meat pie, and such. Just a simple lunch out in the cool spring air, despite the fact that there was still about a metre of snow on the ground, in April (or May even).

Summers were hot and humid. The forest around the Chalet lush and green; full of pine, spruce, birch, oak, ferns, and assorted flowers I never learned the names of. I’d sometimes wander in and explore, day dreaming of some adventure. There were some wild raspberry bushes on one side of the house I’d collect for mum. David and I would often attend summer camp and learn to swim in the cold fresh water lake. Outings to the Alpine Inn where locals could part take of the pool and restaurant. Mum and my aunt would lounge in the sun, while the pair of us would swim, learn to play pool and mini golf. In winter the Alpine Inn offered cross-country ski trails over their golf course and surrounding woods.

And then there were the thunderstorms; long torrential, loud, and dramatic, complete with regular power cuts. I remember the back patio door would often be open and we could hear the thrum of the rain fall on the trees, fallen leaves, patio, and roof. The occasional flash and clap of thunder were both blinding and deafening. As a child it used to scare me sometimes, but later I found it comforting. It was just part of the tradition that was l’Estérel.

The drive up the Autoroute des Laurentides from Montreal in the autumn would be a collage of yellows, oranges, and reds spread over the hills; the change of seasons in clear evidence and the promise of a winter once more. During and shortly after university, I’d drive up for a regular Judo tournament I’d attend in October and stay at the Chalet with my team mates.

Once again in winter, when I’d be with the family for Xmas, my parents would order cords of wood for the fireplace. It would be delivered and dumped in the snow at the base of the stairs. Each day for exercise in the morning, I’d run up and down in heavy snow boots for about 20 minutes, carrying a log in each hand to the wood pile by the patio in the back until there was no more pile at the base of the stairs.

Or if there was enough snow piled high on the roof, I’d climb up and spend about an hour each day until done, cleaning off the snow. How I’d sweat underneath my layers of clothing walking up and down the slope of the roof. What might be a chore for others, was fun exercise for me and way to enjoy the scenery around our holiday home. One could see all around the lake and homes decorated in coloured lights. I’d listen to the silence of the surrounding country side; beyond my breath that would form frost on my eye brows and hair.

So many memories. Now it belongs to another family, from Avignon, France I was told. I hope for their family it brings as many fond memories as it did for mine.

All that I have now are photos, several paintings, and The Grandfather Clock given to me by my parents, that ticks away time past and the distance memories.