A Canadian Canary Visits Paris: Art, Music, and Unity Overcome Dark Days in the City of Light*

Expressions of Je Suis Charlie quickly appeared everywhere in Paris.  This one was painted on to the front corner of an apartment building in Montmartre, the area where I stayed for my second week.

Expressions of ‘Je Suis Charlie‘ quickly appeared everywhere after the horrific  January 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris. This one was painted on to the front corner of an apartment building in Montmartre, close to where I stayed during  my second week in Paris.

It will be difficult to ever forget about the horrific events that took place in Paris, starting on Wednesday January 7, and ending on Friday January 9, 2015. I had no idea that the  regularly scheduled monthly test of the  startling and eerie-sounding air raid siren  at midday Wednesday would be a harbinger of what had just taken place a short distance from my rendez-vous point with a French friend.  That afternoon, just after lunch hour, I was to  meet Magali (the mother of friend Gildas, the groom-to-be) in a café beside the stately neo-classical Notre Dame de Lorette Cathedral.  She was going to take me to some smaller, lesser known museums and sites in the New Athens area of the  9th arrondissement.

I arrived in good time.While I sipped my café au lait, I noticed  that customers seemed to be glued to the TV screen located behind my left shoulder.  I turned my head to take a quick look, and could see police and soldiers  in combat gear with guns and a number of ambulances in front of a building. I hastily assumed that something bad had happened somewhere in the world and immediately thought, “how sad.” In the din of the packed brasserie, I could not make out what was being reported on the  French TV channel.

Then Magali came along, followed by Carole, the bride-to-be.  After a quick greeting and orders for café, they turned their immediate attention to the TV screen.  “What’s going on?” I asked. “There was a terrorist attack at the Charlie Hebdo  satirical  magazine office,” said Carole, “It’s not far from here,” she added.  Feelings of shock, fear and disbelief stunned me momentarily.  “Should we go out?” I wondered aloud.  “Of course, we will be fine,” Magali replied.  Although I was a bit nervous,  we ventured across the road to the  cathedral. We entered its peaceful interior and I immediately felt calmer as we quietly admired the paintings and sculptures there.

After about 20 minutes, we exited that serene setting.  Carole left to continue with her pre-wedding errands.  I then followed Magali along quiet side streets in the neighbourhood and she pointed out where some famous artists, musicians and writers had lived in earlier times, particularly during the Romantic era (ca. 1800-1900) – my

Magali stands in front of the Museum of teh Romantics, the House of painter Ary Scheffer in the New Athens district of Paris.

Magali stands in front of the Museum of the Romantics, the former house of painter Ary Scheffer in the New Athens district of Paris.

favourite époque!  We ducked into a tidy lane-way where I gasped with delight at the sight of a perfectly preserved 19th century mansion, aptly named ‘Museum of Romantics‘. Its contents focussed on the works of some of the then-thriving artists, musicians and writers of the first half of the 1800’s. Painter Ary Scheffer, whose family owned the house at that time, would regularly entertain other renowned neighbours in his studio there, including: writer/painter George Sand; musician Chopin; painter Delacroix; composer Rossini; pianist/composer Liszt; and others. While a  soothing background  of recorded Chopin piano nocturnes diminished my uneasiness about this strange day, I admired paintings, sculptures, letters, and jewelry belonging to these famous French artistes,  which included a cast of pianist/composer Chopin’s left hand!

Chopin once lived here, a short walk from his friend, painter Ary Scheffer and very near to his 'lover' George Sand, a female writer.

Chopin once lived here, a short walk from his friend, painter Ary Scheffer and very near to his ‘lover’ George Sand, a female writer. The space is now part of a business school. A small plaque is on the wall.

We then wandered the streets in search of another little artist’s museum, that of Romantic era Symbolist painter  Gustave Moreau.  However, it was closed that day and I did not have an

I did not get to see the Gustav Moreau museum.  It's on my list for next time!

I did not get to see the Gustav Moreau museum. It’s on my list for next time!

opportunity to return during this visit.  To me, there were few people around.  It seemed too still for a city as lively as Paris. On any other day, I would not have thought anything of it; however, something was going on that was not good and we were as yet, ignorant of unfolding events.  We ended up at another beautiful church: the Sainte-Trinitie.  Again, we went in and gazed in wonder at the plethora of sacred murals and paintings, as well as the Epiphany display for that recently concluded Christmas celebration.

I picked up a pamphlet which advertised a free classical flute-guitar concert the following day and I immediately planned to attend it.  Magali and I then reposed at a pretty café in sight of the church.  While I enjoyed my second café au lait of the day, she read over my presentation for the wedding ceremony of her son, Gildas and daughter-in-law Carole, which would take place the following Saturday. She kindly corrected a few errors so that the speech could be better understood by those in attendance at this memorable occasion. (Sometimes idioms in one language lose their translated meaning in another!)

It was almost dark by the time we parted; Magali left me at the Métro stop  right outside the café while she went in another direction to catch her train. When I reached my AirBNB apartment  in Montmartre about half an hour later, I still had no idea of what had really transpired that afternoon.  I turned on my tablet to find an email message from Elsa, my lovely AirBNB hostess.  She advised me that I might find roads blocked and subway delays in my area, as the terrorists had made their escape on a main route very near to me! My anxiety mounted a bit, but it had been a few hours since she sent the note, so I knew I had to find out what was going on.  I could not figure out how to operate the European TV, so I resorted again to my trusty tablet.  I read  reports from French, British, Canadian and American media outlets to get a sense of the magnitude of this debacle.  Meanwhile, emails and texts arrived from  family members: a cousin who is a retired ‘Mountie’ (RCMP officer) and his wife; as well as from my brothers and their families.  They  wanted to know if I was okay and what exactly was going on.  I immediately responded to all, telling them that I was fine, and that they probably knew more about it than I did! Interestingly, I also felt supported by numerous friends and acquaintances who were sending me ‘good vibes’ telepathically from North America and the Caribbean.  These strong positive feelings really helped me to dampen my fears, and to all of you, heartfelt thanks!

I decided to stay inside that evening, and made an effort to find out what was going on.  It seemed that the terrorists were outside of Paris now, but no one knew exactly where.  I read as much as I could online.  Admittedly, that night I did not sleep well.  The streets seemed too silent: was everyone thinking the same thing?  I even wondered if a curfew had been imposed, but my research disclosed that everything was operating as usual.

Next morning, news reports indicated that someone had identified the terrorists at a gas station and that the police were actively tracking them northeast of Paris. Meanwhile, French President Hollande had declared Thursday January 8th to be a day of mourning in France.  I stayed in the Montmartre area for a few hours and then headed to the Métro just before midday so that I could be on time for the 12:45 p.m. concert at the Trinity

The guitarist and flautist who performed at the free midday concert at Trinity Church sounded heavenly.  They also looked angelic in the dim light, as captured by my camera.

The guitarist and flautist who performed at the free midday concert at Trinity Church sounded heavenly. They also looked angelic in the dim light, as captured by my camera.

Church. It was noon when I stepped into a crowded ‘wagon‘ ( subway car). Right away, an announcement was made that there would be one minute of silence in respect of those who had lost their lives the previous day in the terrorist attack.  The subway stood still and the only sound I heard was silence.  I bowed my head and  quickly prayed for peace.   After a few minutes, we were on our way.  I made it to the church in good time and seated myself about halfway from the performance area.  Before entering, I noticed my first ‘Je Suis Charlie‘ sign on a

The first of hundreds of Je Suis Charlie signs that I noticed around Paris. It was posted on a newspaper kiosk at Trinity Suare, just aacross from the Trinity church.

The first of hundreds of Je Suis Charlie signs that I noticed around Paris. It was posted on a newspaper kiosk at Trinity Square, just across from the Trinity church.

magazine/newspaper kiosk near the church.  I also saw that it was closed for business.

Although the musicians had taken their places,  not one note was played until the MC asked the gathering audience to honour the lives of those lost in the previous day’s attack by paying tribute to them with a minute of silence.  I could see without a doubt that the French were deeply moved by this horrific event and paid respect to their lost countrymen and women frequently during the next several days.

When the flautist and guitarist commenced playing, I really wanted to cry.  The beautiful blend of their sweet harmonies floated to the roof, and perhaps beyond, and the ethereal sounds freely resonated within my heart. I could only feel peace and love in these sacred surroundings, and the joyful noises encompassed everyone in serenity, at least for a short while. For an hour, ‘all was calm and all was bright’ in that lovely sanctuary.  When it was over, I happily made a small donation to the church fund.  I wish I could have personally thanked the musicians for their uplifting gift on a such a sad day.  I hope this brief mention will suffice, in some way.

Trinity Church, located at Trinity Square in the 9th arrondissement had an etheral glow in the late afternoon sunlight following the wonderful concert.

Trinity Church, located at Trinity Square in the 9th arrondissement had an etherial glow in the late afternoon sunlight following the wonderful concert.

I then spent part of the afternoon ‘window shopping’ in a district that was jammed with people taking advantage of  Paris’s semi-annual sales. I contented myself with wandering around in the crowds, unaware of the latest developments in the terror crisis until later that evening. I happened upon a cute little café that caught my eye: The Cat Café, in fact.  Well, with a name like that, how  could I,   a cat lover resist going inside.

The Cat Cafe is a cool place to catch a cuppa. It's located in the shopping district, near Trinity Square.

The Cat Cafe is a cool place to catch a cuppa. It’s located in the shopping district, near Trinity Square.

This time, I had organic English breakfast tea, along with a piece of carrot cake made with wholesome ingredients. After I had finished the tasty treat, I chatted amiably with one of the owners.  We shared stories about our mutual love of cats, and I listened with interest when she explained that tourists were attracted to the café, not only because of its quality products, but because they speak English, as well as other languages! She also updated me on the terrorist situation:  they were still at large and now a police officer had been shot and killed in Paris.Terrorism was felt to be the motivation behind this senseless slaying too.

I had help from friends Jenny, Georgie and Geis to interpret this poster that I saw that I saw on a shop door in Montmartre.  'Je Suis Charlie' was  adroned to a poster of Van Gogh (Absente) and the poisonous drink, Absinthe

I had help from friends Jenny, Georgie and Gijs to interpret this poster that I saw on a shop door in Montmartre. ‘Je Suis Charlie‘ was affixed to a poster of Van Gogh (Absente) with the poisonous drink, Absinthe. Very meaningful!

Once again, feelings of uneasiness surfaced as I headed for the Métro to return to my guest apartment at Montmartre.  However, others on the street appeared to go about their business, and only paused momentarily with frightened looks when  police vehicles with  sirens blaring occasionally roared by.

As everyone knows by now, these traumatic episodes climaxed on Friday January 9, 2015 with the hostage taking and murders of  some of the people in the Kosher Grocery Store, and the  fatal shooting of  three terrorists (two from Charlie Hebdo and one involved in both the grocery store incident and the police officer’s death on Thursday the 8th- the female accomplice is still at large as of this writing).  I would say that the city breathed a sigh of relief, except that there was understandable anger and a collective desire to express unity against these horrific acts.

The American-owned Joe Allen Restaurant and Bar  publicly expressed support of Charlie, along with thousands of other establishments in Paris.

The American-owned Joe Allen Restaurant and Bar publicly expressed support of Charlie, along with thousands of other establishments in Paris.

By Friday, there was a police presence in strategic locations, including tourist sites.  I tried to get used to walking alongside soldiers with sub-machine guns ‘at the ready’, strapped across their chests.  I wondered if it was safer to walk beside, behind or in front of these highly trained military personnel. I also realized that I was learning a lesson from the tenacious French, who throughout their history had experienced many tumultuous events and still believed that ‘Life Goes On’.  Yes, indeed, I was carrying on.  I also witnessed the courage of the people and their firm intention to gather peacefully to show terrorists that they would not ever be intimidated by their heinous acts.  Sentiments about the fundamental right of Freedom of Expression are definitely alive and well in the City Of Light too.  The massive public demonstration  of millions, along with world leaders in the streets of Paris on Sunday January 11th made it very clear to me that Liberté,  Égalité and Fraternité  (Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood) are principles to which we must all aspire for a better world.  I think that my coincidental visit to Paris during these attacks has  reinforced my beliefs about being courageous in the face of fear and  walking freely to my own beat, even  if others might think that my steps should have a different tempo!

Bon courage, mes amis,  bon courage! (All the best, my friends, all the best!)

* This piece is dedicated to Magali Rouland, who took me to see some bright sites  in the City of Light on an otherwise dark day.  I sensed the strength and fearlessness of Parisians everywhere we went and I admired their tenacity and bravery, which is ever-present.

**And to my very special French Friends, Carole Bogdanovcsky and Gildas Lefèvre, I am forever honoured to have attended your beautiful wedding in Paris on January 10, 2015.This special occasion was filled with joy, peace and love, even though it was celebrated only a few days after those horrific terrorist attacks. Because life is a precious gift, we did indeed “carry on!”

 

 

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A Canadian Canary Visits Paris: Food, Fabulous French Food!

Bread is a ubiquitous  staple  of countless variations in France!

Bread  (le pain – pronounced ‘pan’) is a ubiquitous staple of countless variations in France!

I expect that everyone knows that France is famous for its gastronomie, among other things. My culinary

Here is a little visual to make your mouth water!

Here is a little visual sample to make your mouth water!

experiences in Paris took me almost completely off of my established tropical régime  (diet)  of bountiful fruits and vegetables in Dominica.  But that was part of the plan and I was well prepared to sample some different flavours and textures, without any regret!

Because of my environmental health challenges, I tend to avoid common processed  and/or refined foods (bread, milk, sugar) that can give me allergy-related problems. However, it was impossible NOT to eat ‘French’ bread: the scent, the texture, the taste and its appearance at EVERY meal broke me down at least once a day.   YOLO (you only live once!), as some of my friends would remind me.

This rich pumpkin soup sustained me for the better part of a day!

This rich pumpkin soup sustained me for the better part of a day!

As I am not much of a meat eater, I fared well with hearty soups:  a pumpkin variety and popular zucchini were rich, energizing and filling as a midday meal.

I'd never had zucchini soup until Paris.  I did benefit from its popularity while I was there!

I’d never had zucchini soup until Paris. I did benefit from its popularity while I was there!

For protein, I did ingest abundant eggs in omelettes and galettes (a savoury crêpe),

French omellettes suited me very well; with home fired potatoes and salad, I was satiaited for many hours!

French omelettes suited me very well; with home fired potatoes and salad, I was satiated for many hours!

occasionally chicken or fish dishes  and mild goat cheese (chevre). I did break down one Sunday afternoon between outings to have a big  traditional dinner:  delicately seasoned pork charcutiere, mashed potatoes and green salad. It reminded me of one of my late  mother’s special concoctions, so of course, it was divine!

As it was still the yuletide season, I appreciated sweet Clementine oranges from Spain and Corsica, which brought back childhood memories of discovering this tasty foreign fruit in my stocking on Christmas morn.  Bins at every grocer and market were spilling over with this Vitamin C rich fruit and I purchased them frequently at very reasonable prices.  I also gorged on apples; while not likely organic, I peeled off the skin and ate them with the chevre and oat cakes for a light supper snack.  Speaking of which, I was able to find organic oatmeal and local honey, which I cooked  into a hot, sweet porridge to start my day when I stayed in a lovely AirBNB apartment in Montmartre.  (Details to follow in a subsequent post).

The cheery staff at the Solar Hotel served me an organic cafe au lait every day!

The cheery staff at the Solar Hotel served me an organic café au lait every day!

But for the first week of my stay, I was situated at the Solar Hotel, where a 100% organic breakfast was offered

The bright dininig room at the Solar Hotel was set fronm breakfast: the organic apple juice was already on the tables!

The bright dining room at the Solar Hotel was set for breakfast: the organic apple juice was already on the tables!

every day as part of its ecological philosophy.  There, I was able to enjoy French foods that had not been treated with pesticides:  cider-like apple juice and compote; jams; yoghurt; croissants and breads; hearty granola;milk; tea;coffee; hot chocolate; sugar; and honey. While there may have been other organic offerings around the city which escaped my notice or knowledge, I did happen upon a pizzeria in Montmartre( Pizza Pink Flamingo), which offered this Italian delight with an organic crust, and other chemical-free toppings, when available.  It was located only a few steep steps from the famous Sacre Coeur cathedral, and did very well from the tourist business! While it was winter, fresh vegetables were scarce, but I was able to eat mesclun (green salad mix) every day. If by chance they were grown in greenhouses, then I would hope that they were organic!

Okay, I admit that I did not suppress my sweet tooth: that would have been a distasteful thing to do in Paris! I didn’t overdo it but I did succumb to the sugary flavours in a few  delectable desserts: the carrot cake at the Joe Allen  Restaurant and Bar was hearty, nutty, spicy, creamy, and rich: a meal in itself!

The Carrot Cake at the Joe Allen Restaurant almost disappeared from my plate before I remembered to take a photo of it!

The Carrot Cake at the Joe Allen Restaurant almost disappeared from my plate before I remembered to take a photo of it! I tried it at my second visit to this popular American eatery.

Isn't this incredible?  This is a traditional French wedding cake - made from macaroons, which was served and Carole and Gildas's wedding!  More on that event later.

Isn’t this incredible? This is a traditional French wedding cake – made from macaroons, which was served and Carole and Gildas’s wedding! More on that event later.

Macaroons, for which France is famous were too sweet for me, that is, after I had eaten two!  Little patisseries (pastries) with coffee perked me up with a café au lait on the side for a mid-morning break. Generally, I avoided bakeries as there were always  other temptations everywhere I turned.  Chocolat chaud, thick and creamy with a biscuit and a bitter chocolate square on the side proved to be the perfect mid-afternoon energizer.

Hot chocolate was the perfect  afternoon pick-me-up during my fun-filled days in Paris.

Hot chocolate was the perfect afternoon pick-me-up during my fun-filled days in Paris.

After a delcious chicken ceasar salad at the Joe Allen Cafe, I refreshed myself with a few glasses of water from that carafe.

After a delicious chicken caesar salad at the Joe Allen Restaurant and Bar, I refreshed myself with a few glasses of water from that carafe.

I also drank lots of tap water, as it did not taste as if it were heavily chlorinated.  I also caught on to the French habit of  asking for a carafe de l’eau (carafe or glass of water) with every meal or even just a coffee.  That way, I stayed hydrated, despite the winter cold.

And as for those extra calories, well, I might now understand why most French people stay slim!  It may be the wine (I only had a few sips of alcohol at the wedding), but it must also be the hundreds of steps or stairs that one encounters everywhere(Métro (subway) access, buildings with no elevators, hilly Montmartre, parks on different levels, basement toilets in restaurants etc.) or the quick movements necessary to cross wide boulevards before the light changes or the collective inclination to walk fast (and keep warm)! I even picked up my pace and was glad of my prior physical conditioning in Dominica.  Therefore, I have NO guilt  about(and nothing to show for)  any of the fabulous foods that I relished in Paris!!!

In Paris, a cafe and a plate of patisseries is sure to provide a mid-morning boost!

In Paris, a café and a plate of patisseries are sure to provide a mid-morning boost!

This Crepe Breton is actually a galette, made from buckwheat flour. It contains spinach, fresh cream, and the soft egg on top. Delicious!

This Crepe Bretonne is actually a galette, made from buckwheat flour. It contains spinach, fresh cream, and the soft egg on top. Delicious! Mild apple cider (2 %) complemented the meal perfectly.

Groom-to-be, 'Chef' Gildas prepared a tasty omellette for Carole and me. It fortified me for the three hour mystery tour that followed our 'dejeuner'.  More on that adventure in a post-to-come.

Groom-to-be, ‘Chef’ Gildas prepared a tasty omelette for Carole and me. It fortified me for the three-hour mystery tour that followed our ‘dejeuner’ (lunch). More on that adventure in a post-to-come.

This was the first of an unknown quantity of  cafes au lait that I enjoyed during my visit to Paris!

This was the first of an unknown quantity of cafes au lait that I enjoyed during my visit to Paris!

A Canadian Canary Visits Paris: the Palace of Versailles, an Extraordinary 17th Century Creation!*

Gwendominica is completely mesmerized in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palais Versailles, a 17th century marvel southwest of Paris.

Gwendominica is completely mesmerized by the Hall of Mirrors at the Palais Versailles, a 17th century Chateau southwest of Paris.

When bride-to-be Carole and I stepped onto  an RER train in central Paris bound for  Versailles on a foggy morning in late December (my second day there), we had

Louis XIV, a.k.a 'The Sun King' was an extraordinary man, to say the least. He was a long-lived powerful monarch who apparently had a number of reasons for identifying with this brilliant planet.

Louis XIV, a.k.a ‘The Sun King’ was an extraordinary man, to say the least. He was a long-lived, powerful, and highly creative monarch who apparently had a number of reasons for identifying with this brilliant star and using it as his emblem.

no idea that thousands  of residents and visitors would be of like mind! This was to be my only excursion to a suburb of Paris, and I was curious to experience  a historic site that many people had highly recommended that I see while in the City of Light.

But when we first arrived at the Palace of Versailles, we collectively gasped at the  very long line of people patiently waiting their turn to enter ‘the State Apartments’ section of the grand complex.  While I held a place in the queue, Carole went off to another line to buy our entrance tickets.  We were both thankful that I was wearing my brightly coloured Rasta tam and canary yellow Canadian ski jacket, as it did prove to be highly helpful when she returned to the growing, moving line of darkly attired bodies and easily spotted me in the massive crowd.

I wasn't the only one enthralled with the Hall of Mirrors...

I wasn’t the only one enthralled with the Hall of Mirrors…

A smal section of the queue who waited patiently to enter the Palais Versailles. Thank goodness it wasn't raining!

The seemingly endless winding queue generally waited patiently to enter the Palais Versailles. Thank goodness it wasn’t raining!

While I waited for her, I gazed around me in complete astonishment. Yes, I had previously learned bits and pieces about Louis XIV, the ‘Sun King’ (as my former professor at Alliance Française de la Dominique, Carole had introduced me to this memorable monarch!). But I had really no idea of his power, influence, personality or creativity until I ‘set foot’ on the grounds of his palace.  Of course, the massive structure was not his doing alone.  Obviously, the highly skilled and talented artists, artisans, sculptors, builders and landscapers of that  era could design and construct beyond the capabilities of most people, I daresay, even in the 21st century!

After a three-hour wait, we finally approached the entrance way.

But after all that time spent shivering, a bathroom was my first priority, once inside.  I trembled with the chill and was thankful that the sun started to shine (appropriately!) as I could not shake the feeling of cold that penetrated my very being.  Thankfully, my lovely friend had gone off in search of food a little earlier, and brought back the most delicious sandwich I have ever tasted in my life!  It was a warmed soft (tortilla) wrap, containing three types of mild, barely melted cheeses ( I recall Emmenthal as one of them), which were covered in a mildly piquant sauce. That quick meal succeeded in reducing the shivers and hunger pangs for a few hours!

The Chapel was my introduction to the splendor of the rest of the Palace.  I only wish I could have heard the notes emenating from those organ pipes!

The Chapel was my introduction to the splendor of the rest of the Palace. I only wish I could have heard the notes emanating from those organ pipes!

Now that I was comfortable, I concentrated on the massive ‘rooms’ and ‘ornaments’ which were everywhere to be seen: in all directions, as well as above me.  I quickly observed that many of the hundreds of people around me had their mouths open.  I don’t think they were being intentionally rude:  tilting one’s face upwards towards the decorated ceilings and then absorbing the stunning artistry of the paintings overhead

In every room, there was a good reason to look up! This scene was located in the Mercury drawing room or 'bed-chamber'.

In every room (salon), there was a good reason to look up!Each ceiling depicted a scene related to a different mythological god or goddess, angels or demons!

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Elaborate busts, ornate doors, marble table tops…if I hadn’t seen this with my own eyes, I would have sworn the setting must have appeared in a dream!

compelled visitors to “drop their jaws” in amazement and awe!  I am not well versed in mythology, but anyone who is would truly delight in the depictions of the gods that Louis XIV preferred. It was truly incredible that this long-lived and long-reigned king had turned his father’s hunting lodge into such an opulent abode.  It certainly defies the extent of my imagination and I know I am not alone, as evidenced by the thousands who viewed the site along with me that day.DSCF3771

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The King’s Chamber must have been the epitome of comfort (and privacy!) for Louis XIV!

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Imagine the coördinated efforts it would have taken to light the candles on the chandeliers in those days!

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The Queen had her own ‘salon’ too. But do you think there was only one beloved? I am not going to tell!

Carole did make every effort to explain so many pertinent details to me.  But I was so taken with the grandeur of the place that I could only nod, then gawk and gape some more! I simply marvelled at this structure and its elaborate contents.  But I did also  naïvely wonder how or if a building of such proportions with its elaborate artistic displays could ever be built in today’s world. The ‘Sun King’ certainly was a creative visionary, and he couldn’t have been worried about the cost of his mansion, even in the 17th century!  There is definitely more to that story, so if you’re curious, I am sure you will search for the facts!

After more than an hour, I felt satiated by this artistic feast and was now in need of some fresh air. Carole suggested that we spend a little time in “the Gardens,” and I eagerly agreed.  We found a little food hut that offered hot chocolate, so we sat down (finally) for about 20 minutes and sipped the sweetness, while giving our weary legs a much-needed rest from  the many hours we had spent standing up!

Carole poses with the stately Palais Versailles behind her.

Carole poses in  ‘the Gardens’ with the stately Palais Versailles behind her.

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The trees along the pathways in the Garden of Versailles were perfectly symmetrical and evoked a feeling of serenity in me. The canal is on the far right.

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Gwendominica stands by the Dragon fountain.  The Sun King certainly loved mythology!

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The Apollo fountain is situated between the Palace and the Canal.. Louis XIV apparently identified with this sun-god! The Grand Canal is in the background.

After that little break, we both felt refreshed and decided to take a walk by the Fountains around the grounds, even though it was the middle of winter!  We were not deterred, and as we walked around, I was mesmerized once again by the natural and created beauty: stone sculptures, fountains, the mile-long ‘ Grand Canal’ and perfectly pruned rows of trees. As I breathed in the fresh cool air, I became entranced with the stillness and the silence. It was late in the day,we were almost the only people there. Occasionally, a bird chirped or a runner passed beside us.  Sometimes we spoke and other times we retreated to  our private thoughts.  My mind drifted to an earlier time:  I could almost visualize Louis XIV and his court strolling around the grounds in any season to improve health and well-being. Our leisurely saunter took us along the small body of water to its opposite side.  At this point, it was quickly becoming dark. When I glanced at my watch, I saw that we had been on the move for over an hour!  There were no artificial lights, so we  turned around and hastened our steps back to the Palace where we exited the gate and walked a short distance  to take the train back to the city.

It had been a very long day and we were both pleasantly exhausted.  As I look back on that magical experience, I realize how lucky I was to have  had a good look  and a new appreciation for the artistry of a fascinating time and place in France’s history!

*This piece is dedicated with gratitude to my dear friend and former French professor, newlywed Carole! XO

 

A Canadian Canary Visits Paris: A New Year Adventure in the City of Light

Gwendominica (in canary yellow!) shivers at the top of Arc de Triomphe, having arrived in Paris only a few hours earlier.  Photo taken by Carole.

Gwendominica (in canary yellow!) shivers at the top of Arc de Triomphe, having arrived in Paris only a few hours earlier. Guess what’s in the background? Photo taken by Carole.

My first-ever trip to Paris, France from  Roseau,Dominica had been anticipated for several months.  From the moment French friends Carole and Gildas extended an invitation to their wedding ceremonies to take place on January 10, 2015, I focused on preparations for this big trip overseas. I never dreamed that I would see them just under a year after they left Dominica. And it would be my first winter foray in 18 years! Fortunately, my Canadian visit during the summer of 2014 enabled me to buy winter clothes at bargain prices! However, it wasn’t a simple matter of packing my bags and boarding a plane.  With my environmental health challenges, I ensured that my immune system would be in good shape for this exciting

Gwendominica enjoys her first cafe au lait on the Champs d'Elysses. After a very long flight, very little sleep and a confused internal; clock, it certainly tasted sweet!

Gwendominica enjoys her first café au lait in a cozy café on the Champs d’Elysees. Despite a very long flight, very little sleep and a very confused internal clock, it certainly tasted sweet! Photo taken by Carole.

 

 

adventure. As a conscientious ‘canary’ (that is, a person living with significant environmental health challenges), I consulted by phone with my longtime Canadian naturopathic physician, Dr. Shawna Clark, N.D. , whose clinic is located in Orillia, Ontario. She advised me about helpful nutritional supplements and homeopathic remedies which would provide support throughout this new  and unfamiliar journey.  Although she knew that I was somewhat apprehensive about what could happen, her positive encouragement enabled me to put my fears at rest and expect only the best!

I have been fascinated with ‘French’ for most of my life. I guess that makes me a ‘Francophile‘ who grew up in a Francophone country – Canada! However,  I was born to Anglophone parents in La Belle Province, which means,  in essence, that I  really am Québécoise! I actually spent some time there in June 2014, and if you’re interested in that French adventure, then you can read about it here.

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This little beach near Princess Julianna Airport in St. Maarten is a popular spot to see, hear and feel big jets landing – and taking off! I kept well away but the distraction help to pass the time while I was in-transit to Paris.

As I boarded the WINAIR flight at Charles-Douglas Airport in Dominica, I looked inland towards Morne Diablotin, which was shrouded in clouds.

As I boarded the WINAIR flight at Douglas-Charles Airport in Dominica, I looked inland towards Morne Diablotin, which was shrouded in clouds.

Over the Christmas season in Dominica, I rested as much as possible, and continued with my walking, so that I would be in good shape for the Big Trip. My French friends, Carole and Gildas (the bride and groom) had asked me well in advance

My French friends, Gildas and Carole took time from their busy schedules to take my on a day-long mystery tour of Paris a week before their wedding!

My French friends, Gildas and Carole took time from their busy schedules to take me on a day-long mystery tour of Paris a week before their wedding! More on that in a subsequent post.

for a list of things I would like to see and do.  After I submitted it for their recommendations, they surprised me by informing me that during my first few days,Carole would escort me and then they would both take me on a mystery tour later  that week. They had also provided me with detailed instructions so that I could more easily find my way  from the airport to the Solar Hotel (an ecological hotel), where I would be spending several days. I had my agenda at the ready and I was determined to check everything off of my list.  You’ll find out later whether I succeeded or not!

Finally, Sunday December 28th arrived.  I left before daybreak to travel across the island to board my flight on WINAIR from Douglas-Charles Airport at Melville Hal,l Dominica to St. Maarten. From there, I spent a few leisurely hours before boarding my Air France flight to Charles De Gaulle

There's my Air France plane.  I am ready to board and fly away 'across the pond' to France, a land of my dreams!

There’s my Air France plane. I am ready to board and fly away ‘across the pond’ to France, a land of my dreams!

Airport (CDG) near Paris.  While there were some slight delays, I was well occupied by watching planes land not far from a crowded beach, just a short walk from the airport. I also studied the guide-book that my Dutch friends Gijs and Georgie had loaned to me.  And I also carried a mini-tablet, which proved to be an invaluable tool for communication with friends and family, ordering tickets for a jazz concert,  getting detailed travel directions for locations around the city, and reading  frequent updates on the terrorist attacks during this unforgettable trip.

Although I only slept a little on the overnight flight, I was almost beside myself when the plane crossed over the southwestern coast of France en route to CDG. As we neared Paris, and started our descent, the bright lights of the city kept my attention, as I marvelled at the unrelenting darkness. It was well after 8 a.m. local time!  I had forgotten about the very short days this far north just after the winter solstice!  I certainly did gain a full appreciation for the lovely City of Light, as the displays of illumination at night were breathtaking.

The RER train station (Denfert Rochereau)where I first surfaced in the City of Light!

The RER train station (Denfert Rochereau)where I first surfaced in the City of Light!

Thanks to those specific instructions from my French friends, I easily made my way from the CDG Airport by RER train to the Denfert Rochereau station, a mere five minutes walk to my hotel.  However, after I stepped out of the warm train and then dragged my 50 lb. bag and other paraphernalia up a steep flight of stairs, I walked out into the cold air and gasped. My hands turned to ice quickly as I  searched  for my gloves without success. I had Carole’s map in hand, but I felt so disoriented in the dim light that I did not know in which direction I should proceed.  As I dragged my heavy  load across a busy street, I noticed a taxi stand. Although I knew I was close, I approached a driver  for directions and he graciously pointed the way.  He could see that I was uncertain, so he kindly offered to take me without charge to the Solar Hotel, which as it turned out, was just around the corner.  No sooner had I stepped out and thanked him, than Carole ran up to me and embraced me warmly.  I said (in English) “I have to pinch myself.  I can’t believe I am really here!”

I, like millions of others, enjoyed admiring the Tour Eiffel from various viewpoints - this one from the top of the Arc De Triomphe.

I, like millions of others, enjoyed admiring the Tour Eiffel from various viewpoints – this one from the top of the Arc De Triomphe.

I did not feel tired due to my immense excitement, so I dropped my bags, quickly showered and located my gloves while Carole patiently waited for my in the

Some sections of the Paris Metro have been around since 1900!  I like the older signs: this one was located 5 minutes from the Solar Hotel in the 14th arrondissement. (Denfert Rochereau)

Some sections of the Paris Metro have been around since 1900! I like the older signs: this one was located 5 minutes from the Solar Hotel in the 14th arrondissement. (Denfert Rochereau stop)

foyer.  We had a light lunch (I savoured a big bowl of French Onion Soup!) and then we headed off by Métro (underground) to the Arc De Triomphe and the Champs d’Elysées.

Sacre Coeur Cathedral is a prominent landmark as Paris's highest point. I had many adventures in that area, including an unforgettable wedding ceremony!

Sacre Coeur Cathedral is a prominent landmark as Paris’s highest point. I had many adventures in that area, including an unforgettable wedding ceremony!

The vibrant Champs d'Elysees ia a sight to see at any time of year!

The vibrant and lively Avenue Champs d’Elysees from atop the Arc De Triomphe is a sight to see at any time of year!

I was still chilled, so the first order of the afternoon was a café au lait!  As we strolled along the broad boulevard, surrounded by thousands of darkly attired Europeans and tourists, I realized that my brightly coloured Canadian ski jacket was not in vogue in this fashion capital of the world.  However, I did stand out in the crowds, which proved to be helpful during the next few days. Carole  could easily spot me in long queues when she went elsewhere to buy our tickets or find food to sustain us during lengthy waits to enter tourist sites!

When we commenced our climb up the winding stairway inside the 50 metre high Triumphal Arch (I was too close to take a proper photo of it), I was indeed thankful that I liked to walk up hills in Dominica.  What I didn’t expect was a little shortness of breath due to the cold air – a dramatic climate change for me!  While I admired Napoleon’s handiwork, I was more than mesmerized by the 360 degree views of Paris. Carole continued as my professor by pointing out numerous sites and explaining their significance.  My head was not just spinning from the height!  I took in what I could, knowing that I would follow up in my guidebooks and online references.  Meantime, we circumnavigated the structure, and I swooned when I looked through a sheet of glass down to the Memorial to the Unknown  French Soldier during WW I (1914-1918)beneath the arch, far below! After our descent, I spent a few moments there, thinking of my late paternal grandfather who as a young man, served in the British Army  and spent time in the trenches in northern France.  While he did survive, I wanted to pay tribute to him on French soil as that was one of the important priorities on my list of things to do here.

I hadn’t yet been here a full day, and I had taken in some important points of interest with my wonderful guide and teacher, Carole.  We decided that we should continue our explorations the next day, so we boarded the Métro with plans set for a few hours hence.  When I arrived back at the Solar Hotel, another

The eternal flame beneath the Arc De Triomphe pays tribute to the unknown French Soldier who died during WWI.

The eternal flame beneath the Arc De Triomphe pays tribute to the unknown French Soldier who died during WWI.

Season's Greetings were plentiful in the City of Light.  Despite recent tragedies, let us remina hopeful that peace and love will prevail this New Year.

Season’s Greetings were plentiful in the City of Light. Despite recent tragedies, let us remain hopeful that peace and love will prevail worldwide this New Year.

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I, like the merchants on Rue Daguerre in the 14th arrondissement wish you happy celebrations and all the best in 2015! I took this photo on Monday January 5th, two days before the terrorist attacks.

warm shower and a cup of organic herbal tea enabled me to lie down for a restful night in anticipation of the many adventures that lay ahead!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dominica’s Music Missions International: A Dream Come True on Waitukubuli*

Canadian Luther Kosowan is a man to be admired. Since overcoming significant health challenges, he has devoted his energy, time and talent to helping others in Dominica. Read his amazing story here.

Ti Domnik Tales

Luther 'jams' with a young Dominican music friend in his wife Ruth's  kitchen in Dominica! Luther ‘jams’ with a young Dominican music friend in his wife Ruth’s kitchen in Dominica!

When Canadian expatriate Luther Kosowan was a little boy, he became fascinated by an article in National Geographic about an unfamiliar far-away land called Waitukubuli. About 55 years later, his daughter and friends vividly described a recent trip to a wonderful Caribbean island of lush green mountains, sparkling rivers and plentiful palm trees. It was called Dominica. Then in 2006, Luther and his wife Ruth journeyed to this beautiful tropical paradise to see it for themselves.

During that first visit, they immediately fell in love with the country`s natural beauty and friendly people. Upon their return to Canada, they immediately organized and planned for an overseas move to Dominica. However, they experienced an unforeseen delay when Luther was diagnosed with cancer. But the couple`s determination and vision of their new life sustained them. After Luther`s…

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A Canadian Thanksgiving on Dominica, the beautiful and bountiful Nature Island

I am reposting this piece on Canary Gal to emphasize the plethora of incredible produce found on the Nature Island.

Ti Domnik Tales

Anthurium lilies perfectly complement my celebration of Thanksgiving in Dominica. Anthurium lilies perfectly complement my celebration of Thanksgiving in Dominica.

It`s a special weekend in my `home and native land.“ And although I am far from the `far north,`I am taking time to celebrate Thanksgiving,

Despite being a dark day, a beautiful rainbow touches Roseau, as seen from my porch. A beautiful rainbow touches Roseau, as seen from my porch. I give thanks for the exceptional natural beauty found on Dominica.

Canadian style. For those readers who were unaware, this annual celebration of the harvest takes place on the second weekend of October, and is not to be confused with the larger festivities of the same name that our American friends celebrate on the last Thursday of November.  In Canada, the primary purpose of this holiday is as it says, to `give thanks“, in both sacred and secular ways. Thanksgiving was proclaimed an official holiday  in 1957, but has actually been celebrated  since the time when European explorers traversed the northern terrain in the…

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A Canary Flies North: ‘Home’ to Kingston, Ontario, my lovely ‘Limestone City’ and its familiar Environs

The Kingston waterfront at Flora MacDonald Confederation Basin Marina has always been the perfect place to cool off.  The limstone structure is a martello tower was one of six built in the mid 1800's as part of a military defense system against the U.S.!

The Kingston waterfront at Flora MacDonald Confederation Basin Marina  on Lake Ontario has always been the perfect place to cool off. The limestone structure is a Martello tower which was one of six built in the mid 1800’s as part of a then-military defense system against the U.S.!

Kingston's limestone City Hall was completed in 1841 and is a National Historic Site of Canada.  the nations's first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald lay in state in this building after he died in 1891.

Kingston’s limestone City Hall was completed in 1841 and is a National Historic Site of Canada. The nation’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald lay in state in this building after he died in 1891. Kingston was the first capital of Canada!

By the time I arrived in Kingston, I was more than ready for a little down time around my old haunts.  Mind you, I had enjoyed every minute of my visit to Canada thus far.  Now, with few obligations, I simply wished to relax and take it easy before heading back to Dominica.

My first home in Canada never disappoints:  the Limestone City was in the midst of a Buskers Festival.

A Hip Hop Troupe from NYC was teaching some boys how to make the right moves to the rapper's beat.

A Hip Hop Troupe from NYC was teaching some boys how to make the right moves to the rapper’s beat.

A young juggler from Montreal sets his cap on Princess Street, the main drag and attracts passersby with his clever throws.

A young juggler from Montreal sets his cap on Princess Street, the main drag and attracts passersby with his clever throws.

Although I was tired from a day of travel from Halifax, I quickly perked up when I watched some of the entertaining acts on the streets.  I was staying overnight just off of the Queen’s University Campus so I spent a little time wandering around the student ghetto, revisiting some of my old digs.  It was fun to see that they still looked the same, although I am certain in 30+ years, much had changed!

The sunflowers at the Kingston Farmers' Market brought back fond memories of my parents' garden, just north of the city.

The sunflowers at the Kingston Farmers’ Market brought back fond memories of my parents’ garden, just north of the city.

I fondly recalled my two year spent in this house on Earl Street with three other roomies.  My room had the upstairs window, was large and airy, and was referred to as the 'Executive Sweet'!

I fondly recalled my two years spent in this house on Earl Street with three other roomies. My room had the 2nd storey window, was bright and airy, and was referred to as the ‘Executive Sweet’!

Edwin and Beth dance a two-step to a little Cajun music emanating from tow saxophonists who were playing on  an anchored tour boat wihile passengers boarded.  Everyone smiled at their spontaneous fun!

Edwin and Beth danced a two-step to a little Cajun music emanating from two saxophonists who were playing on an anchored  paddle wheel river tour boat while passengers boarded. Everyone smiled at their spontaneous fun!

Next morning, my brother Edwin and his wife Beth came to meet me in town before we headed north to the cottage where I would be staying for the next week.  We did spend a little time walking around the Saturday Farmers’ Market, and also enjoyed part of the trail along the Kingston waterfront in MacDonald Park (named after Canada’s first prime minister who lived here).

Gwen hams it up on the restored century old Gaskin Lion in MacDonald Park.  She was a bit more demure when the last photo of her was taken here - 50+ years ago!

Gwen hammed it up on the restored century old Gaskin Lion in MacDonald Park. She was a bit more demure when the last photo of her was taken here – 50+ years ago!

Brother Edwin has a  more stately demeanor while astride the stately historic lion in MacDonald Park.

Brother Edwin had a more stately demeanor while astride the  historic lion in MacDonald Park. Lake Ontario is in the background.

The Kingston Farmer's Market offered numerous varieties of fruit in mid-July.

The Kingston Farmers’ Market offered numerous varieties of fruit in mid-July.

After I picked up my rental car, we drove in a northerly direction, bought groceries in our long-time local grocery store in Glenburnie (where we grew up), visited our parents’ graves at  the Latimer Cemetery and then headed further northeast to the village of Battersea.  There we took a side road to Dog Lake, where I would be staying at one of the Three Little Cottages, owned by  family friends Sharon and Will Freeman.  Another longtime neighbour from our childhood days, Jean (Sharon’s mother) lives

I return to this "Little Cottage"  on Dog Lake again and again.  It is so peaceful there and I always feel really well during my stay.

I return to this “Little Cottage” on Dog Lake again and again. It is so peaceful there and I always feel really well during my stay.

close-by and I felt as if I were really coming home.  They also run the Freedom Farm,an organic operation offering Community Supported Agriculture, wherein clients buy shares in the weekly harvest.

This beautiful mosiac sign welcomes clients and guests to the Freedom Farm property, which included the Three Little Cottages.

This beautiful mosaic sign welcomes clients and guests to the Freedom Farm property, which includes the Three Little Cottages.

I settled in easily with help from Edwin and Beth.  It was a lovely day and we took a walk around a pretty point of land with a little community-supported beach, a few minutes walk away.  It felt a bit cool to me so I was not inclined to take a dip!

Later that evening, the American fishermen in the adjacent two cottages returned with their catch.  We watched them come in and then noticed that one who had already disembarked from the boat had returned with a machine that at first we thought produced smoke to keep away bugs.  Almost instantly, I felt it was something more harmful.  In half a minute, without my bidding, my brother went outside and politely asked: “Is that smoke?” “No, it’s insecticide,” came the reply. “Turn it off please! That will make my sister very sick!” shouted Edwin.  They quickly complied but even though the fogging machine was only on for a couple of minutes, I could smell it in the air and had to leave the windows closed all night.  I did attempt to contact Sharon and Will, but they were out.  However, early next morning, Sharon came down from the farmhouse to tell the fishermen that insecticides were not permitted on the property, as an organic farm is in operation and there are  also bee hives on site.  This was a most unusual occurrence and we were all very surprised by this freak incident.  I think the fishermen felt very badly and had not thought about consequences of chemical use in this extremely pristine area.  I am sure they will think twice before they ever do that again!

The granite rock outcrops form part of a bio-diverse region, called the Frontenac Axis.  The topography is dramatically and naturally snesational, and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Area.

The granite rock outcrops on Dog Lake form part of a  unique geographic region, called the Frontenac Axis. The topography is dramatically and naturally sensational, and has been recognized as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve since 2002.

Dog Lake is a fisher's  and draws hundreds of enthusiasts every summer.  I believe there is ice fishing in the winter too!

Dog Lake is a fisher’s delight and draws hundreds of enthusiasts every summer. I believe there is ice fishing in the winter too!

The scenery around the Three Little Cottages  on Dog Lake is restful and restorative

The scenery around the Three Little Cottages on Dog Lake is restful and restorative

The view of early morning mist on Dog Lake from my cottage porch evoked a feeling of complete serenity.

The view of early morning mist on Dog Lake from my cottage porch evoked  feelings of complete serenity.

Chef Edwin tends to the savory homemade turkey sausages (no additives!) that we purchased at the Glenburnie Grocery.

Chef Edwin grilled the savory homemade turkey sausages (no additives!) that we purchased at the Glenburnie Grocery.  It had just started to drizzle. Dog Lake is in the background.

Later that evening, Edwin and Beth returned to their hotel in Kingston and came back early next morning for a big breakfast. It was a rainy day, only the second one in my five-week Canadian stay and I could not complain about the weather despite ‘Hurricane’ Arthur’s unforgettable appearance in Nova Scotia.  Our meal was a team effort, and we did certainly overindulge as torrents of rain pounded on the roof for a couple of hours.

Part of the lock system at Jones Falls on the Rideau Canal between Kingston and Ottawa Ontario.

Part of the lock system at Jones Falls on the Rideau Canal between Kingston and Ottawa Ontario.  A few boats were waiting to go through at the highest lock en route to Ottawa.

Beth and Gwen pose on the bridge at Whitefish Lake at the Jones Falls Lock Station on the Rideau Canal.

Beth and Gwen posed on the foot bridge at Whitefish Lake at the Jones Falls Lock Station on the Rideau Canal.

It cleared up somewhat just as we started out on a little trip to Jones Falls, a scenic and historic site  half an hour further north.  It forms part of the Lock System  for boaters on the Rideau Canal, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre.       The locks have been operational since the early 1800’s!  The walk-about in the fresh damp air was most reviving and we even worked up an appetite for ice cream, which we purchased at a little café near the parking lot.

We returned to the cottage for a quick lunch, and then Edwin and Beth departed in the early afternoon so that they would stay ahead of heavy Sunday afternoon traffic returning to the Greater Toronto Area from points north, commonly called  “cottage country.”

I was then left to my own devices: naps; books; walks; visits with my friends on the farm; and occasional half-day trips to Kingston.  It was a little cool the week I was there, but I bundled up and warmed up with plentiful cups of coffee and tea.  One evening, the plaintiff yips of nearby coyotes reminded me that I was on the edge of the wilderness – and it was wonderful!

While I did have a few moments of guilt about not helping out on the Freedom Farm, I recognized that my abilities in that specialty are limited and my allergies to grasses and bugs would not have made any task easy.  Therefore, I sometimes walked around the organic farm while staff and WWOOF volunteers toiled away to raise the finest organic produce one could ever consume.  The air was sweet and pure.  I took pleasure in

This artistically appealing organic raspberry pie tasted as good as it looked.  It was prepared by Bill, another amazing nonagenarian.  The Freedom Farm staff, volunteers and I quickly devoured t eh whole thing!

This artistically appealing organic raspberry pie tasted as good as it looked. It was prepared by Bill, another amazing almost nonagenarian. The Freedom Farm staff, volunteers and I quickly devoured the whole thing!

my little chats with the workers and partook of the demolition of a delectable organic raspberry pie, baked by Jean’s almost 90-year-old brother, Bill.

Here are some scenes from Freedom Farm in production:

The green house shelters special produce such as gigantic egg plants.  I've never seen any that big! (sorry -did not have camera with me to capture them)

The green house shelters special produce such as gigantic eggplants. I’ve never seen any that big! (sorry -did not have camera with me to capture them)

This is one of the two mini-horses on the farm.  Children adore them and so do I!

This is one of the two mini-horses on the farm. Children adore them and so do I!

Sharon and a WWOOF volunteer tend to the organic plants with TLC.

Sharon and a WWOOF volunteer tend to the organic plants with TLC.

Sharon proudly holds up some beautiful beets - a Freedom Farm specialty.

Sharon proudly holds up some beautiful beets – a Freedom Farm specialty. And look at those incredible carrots in the background!

Jean, mother of Sharon is an energetic septagenarian who is actively involved in the farm's operation . She is seen here harvesting pole beans.

Jean, mother of Sharon is an energetic septuagenarian who is actively involved in the farm’s operation . She is seen here harvesting pole beans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whenever I ventured in to the lovely Limestone City, I was aware that I did not feel as well as I did in the great outdoors north of Kingston.  I would be very tired and feel  nauseated after a few hours in the urban centre, but that would gradually clear once I was back at Dog Lake.  Such is the life of a person with environmental health challenges! I have no regrets, however, about time spent in my hometown, as there were some people to see and things to do, such as a long-awaited  tour of Queen’s University, my alma mater.

I had been in touch with Faye Ransom, from the Arts and Science Advancement Team with respect to my small bequest to  the Queen’s School of Music.  We had corresponded for a couple of years and it was she who offered to show me around the campus next time I was in town.

We met at a predesignated street corner on the edge of campus.  I was dressed like a tourist, but that didn’t fool Faye.  She greeted me with a huge smile and a warm hug, as if she had finally found a long-lost friend!  I couldn’t help but feel welcome with her cheeriness, enthusiasm and easy-going demeanor.  She didn’t mind all of my questions either!  There were a few unfamiliar buildings on campus.  I was particularly interested  in the new library, as that is one of my areas of interest and training.  We went inside the massive complex, and while it is certainly technologically current, I was relieved to see that books still exist!

The new sports complex is state-of-the art and also houses other facilities for the students and faculty.

The new sports complex is state-of-the art and houses other facilities for the students and faculty.

The Stauffer Library (social sciences and humanities) was completed in 1994 and is the largest building on campus.

The Stauffer Library (social sciences and humanities) was completed in 1994 and is the largest building on campus.

I did wonder about the music library collection, as it is no longer housed in School of Music.  No more said, and Faye took me to Special Collections, found within the old Douglas Library (from my time).  She introduced me to the new librarian, and he took us into the stacks where I observed ‘classical’ LP’s that I know I had listened to during my studies.  How did I know for sure?  As a librarian, I recognized the accession numbers on the jackets, which dated back  to the 70’s and ’80’s!  There were even a few turntables in the listening room. I am glad that not all is obsolete!

Gwen and Shirley Roth, Administrative Officer of the School of Music at Harrison-LeCaine Hall, which was built in the early 1970's.

Gwen and Shirley Roth, Administrative Officer of the School of Music smile on the steps of  Harrison-LeCaine Hall, which was built in the early 1970’s.

The highlight of this foray was of course, a visit to the Music School.

Music 1981 alumni and longtime friends Gwen Whitford and David Self recently got-together in Barbados, where David is working and still playing piano/organ. Gwen was on her way home to Dominica, where she still does some singing.  Photo taken by John.

Music 1981 alumni and longtime friends Gwen Whitford and David Self recently got-together in Barbados, where David is working and still playing piano/organ. Gwen was on her way home to Dominica, where she still does some singing. Photo taken by John.

They were in the midst of some renovations, but the workers pointed to a stack of composite  photos on a table and I quickly came upon my dearest Class of 1981.  Ever-efficient Faye also introduced me to Administrative Officer Shirley Roth, who updated me on many of the latest in-house developments.  I was also honoured to meet Dr. Margaret Walker, current Director of the School of Music.

Faye Ransom was the perfectperson to take me around the campus.  She was very sensitive to my interests, and also gave me a great overview of Queen's today.

Faye Ransom was the perfect person to take me around the campus. She was very sensitive to my special interests, and also gave me a great overview of Queen’s today.

I love the blend of oldand new on the Queen's Campus.  Here is some limestone again.  This is Kingston Hall, which no doubt dated back to the 19th century.  Queen's was founded in 1841.

I love the blend of old and new on the Queen’s Campus. Here is more limestone – one of Kingston’s claims to fame. This is Kingston Hall, which I believe dates back to the 19th century. Queen’s was founded in 1841.

I briefly updated them on my music endeavors on Dominica and told them I was very touched to revisit this special building where I spent untold hours and made lasting friendships between 1977 and 1981.  I didn’t have time to see the new world-class Isabel Bader Centre for Performing Arts, which is opening in September 2014, but I will certainly check it out next visit.

After 1 1/2 hours, I felt very satisfied with the overview of my beloved Queen’s, and I thanked Faye profusely for showing me around, bringing back some sweet memories and wowing me with what

is new!

My remaining days at the Three Little Cottages passed quickly. I was fortunate to see both brothers one more time before I left, thanks to tremendous efforts on their parts.  I went back to Dominica with a firm desire to spend quality time with my Canadian family again very soon!

My niece Mara is graduating from high school in June 2015.  I plan to be there for the celebration - God-willing and weather-permitting.

My niece Mara is graduating from high school in June 2015. I plan to be there for the celebration – God-willing and weather-permitting!

My nephew Dallin (pronounced day-lin) performs with the Stirling Festival Theatre every summer. I've got to see him in action next summer!

My nephew Dallin (pronounced day-lin) performs with the Stirling Festival Theatre every summer  This year, he was in the cast of Footloose, the Musical, which received rave reviews. I’ve just got to see him in action next year!