D’Arcy & I both slept through our 5:30 alarms.  I awoke with a start at 6:50 a.m. and realized we were LATE!  We flew around getting everyone up and the van packed, and were out the door and on the road by 7:10.  We knew that our 6:00 starting time had allowed us time for delays, but our stress level was high that we wouldn’t get to the ferry terminal on time.

We made it to Goobies before we stopped to drain the kids and fill the van.  We had put Sarah, still sleeping, in the van in her pyjamas, so got her dressed at the gas station.  We got the kids each some juice and they ate cereal while we drove.  This was one time we hoped we would not see a moose!  All went well and the little traffic there was flowed steadily until we got just outside Marystown.  A woman pulled out in front of us and drove between 30 and 50 km/hr.  We couldn’t pass her, and I eventually started to giggle because what else could we do? Marystown is one place we will never forget!  I called the Tour Company and told them that we were coming and would be there shortly.

It turned out that we arrived at the ferry terminal in lots of time.  The ferry wasn’t scheduled to leave until 11:30 and we were there at 10:45.  We got our tickets and boarding passes and went to the dock.  There, the kids & I sat with our luggage while D’Arcy took our van to a secure parking lot for the night.  The ferry was late coming in from St. Pierre and everyone was already lined up to get on board when it docked.  I gave each of the kids Gravol – just in case, knowing that this crossing would be much rougher than the ferry to Newfoundland was.

We chatted with a father & son from the Miramichi while we waited.  They had driven from Bonavista that morning. The captain came over to the gate and announced that they were considering cancelling the crossing due to high winds and rough water.  He said that they would make an announcement at 12:30.  I could see look of panic on Alex’s face as he asked, “You mean we might not get to go?”  We went in to the information centre and had some lunch while we waited.  It was out of our hands.

Before long the word spread that the winds had died down and the boat would cross.  We gathered up our things together and off we went.  It was windy with light rain, so we went downstairs into the cabin.  The captain announced that it would be a rough crossing and would take longer than normal.  We settled in and played cards, watching for whales.  The girls drew pictures on the barf bags.  The crossing was definitely rough and the kids described it like being on a roller coaster.  There was a family on board that three out of four were sick.  Also, there was a kids’ soccer team from Miquelon and a number of them were sick as well.  The family was made up of a man in his late 20’s or early 30’s, his mother, his pregnant girlfriend and his pre-teen son.  He totally flipped out when they were getting sick and every other word out of his mouth was the f-word.  He did absolutely nothing to help them , and it was the coach of the soccer team who took over and aided them.

Our family fared well, but by the time we docked, Evan told me that he was starting to get a bit queasy and was sweating.  Olivia slept through most of it!  We docked and went through French customs and got French stamps in our passports.  The kids were so excited to have finally arrived!  We headed towards our B&B which turned out to be right at the top of the hill.  We had a map which wasn’t very good (no street names!), so we did stop at a hardware store to ask directions.  The kids are good walkers – I have to give them credit – they didn’t complain, even when carrying things.

We made it to St. Pierre - Finally!!

We got to our B&B, Auberge Quatre Temps, to discover that they had us in two rooms which were not connected, but were side by side.  The rooms were small and each had a double bed and a set of bunk beds.  They weren’t fancy, but we decided that they were adequate as we would only be sleeping there for the night.  We showered and got ready to go exploring.

We walked back downtown and went to the Visitor Information Centre.  As we opened the door, I noticed that they were TIANS members!  We got some information, along with a better map of the town and set out to find a place to eat.  I already had a restaurant in mind, La Feu de Braise.  We stopped at a bank machine and got out some Euros so we would have cash, and realized that the restaurant was right there – but didn’t open until 7:00.  We made the decision to go on the bus tour of the Island to pass the time, and then come back for dinner.

The TIANS membership sticker, although hard to see in this photo, is located between the two "Hours of Operation" signs!

The bus tour was run by a man named Hubert and his granddaughter Emilie.  They were 4th & 6th generation of their family to live on the Island. We were glad we took the tour and learned some interesting information.  There are just over 6,000 people who live in St. Pierre and over 4,000 vehicles! Over 90% of the population is Catholic. Over 65% of the population works for the government and the rest work mainly in construction or tourism.  There are over 400 horses on the Island, used purely for the pleasure of horseback riding.  Most of their food is delivered to the island via Halifax, Nova Scotia, once a week.  They start school at the age of two and if they wish to go to university in Canada or in France, their education is paid for.  The government gives them an allowance of 450 Euros per month and pays for a flight to return to St. Pierre once per year.  The French Gendarme are responsible for policing and come from France with their families for three year terms.  (We didn’t see any while we were there!)  The jail on St. Pierre has only five cells and only one prisoner!  (We were wondering what he did…)  The crime rate is extremely low. I think one of our favourite facts was that they paint their houses such bright colors because they have so much fog and bad weather that they need something to cheer them up!

Zazpiak-Bat, a wall in the centre of town where three different handball-type games are played. This comes from the Basque culture.

The cemetery. There is no cremation, nor embalming. Family members' are buried four deep, the caskets one on top of another.

Just one example of a brightly coloured building!

One of the 4000+ cars on the Island! (They also drive very quickly!)

Normally, the bus stops at four different places along the route for photo opportunities, but it was so foggy that we only stopped at one.  Sarah fell asleep early on in the tour, and Alex napped through the second half.  After the photo opportunity, Olivia was pretty pleased to go sit in the very back row of seats.

Beautiful St. Pierre - This was taken on the west side of the Island

Sarah, so excited to go on the bus tour, fell sound asleep for the entire ride!

Olivia at the back of the bus

After the bus tour, we woke Sarah and walked up to the restaurant.  The girls each had pizzas (after we were assured that the dough was safe for Olivia), Evan had a calazone, I had scallops in puff pastry and D’Arcy & Alex shared prime rib for two.  It was delicious and the setting was wonderful.  After so many barbeques and ready-made meals, we were happy to have a decent dinner made for us!  D’Arcy & I even shared a bottle of French Beaujolais.  We talked about the adventures we’ve had on the trip so far.

At dinner

After supper, we explored more of St. Pierre as we walked back up to our B&B.  At the B&B, there was no one to be found.  D’Arcy rang the bell to get some ice and we went to our rooms and got ready for bed.  Earlier in the day, we had thought that the boys could share a room and we would share the other with the girls, but then Olivia decided that she wanted to sleep with me.  Alex went back & forth between rooms and ended up pulling out his tooth in our bathroom!  It had been loose the whole trip, but he was determined to lose it in France. D’Arcy went in to one room with the boys and I slept in the other room with the girls.  It was really warm and because there was no screen, I couldn’t open the window.  We watched a couple of the girls’ favourite television shows in French, and Olivia and I were asleep very quickly.

In the morning, Alex was quick to come in to tell me that the Tooth Fairy had come and had brought him Euros!  How exciting!  We got dressed and went to the B&B’s restaurant for breakfast.  We had coffee, juice and chocolate milk along with bread, jam and pastries.  I was pleased that they had made up one basket with bread that was safe for Olivia’s allergies and another basket (with croissants!) that was not safe for her.  We used our french and chatted with the girl who was serving us.  There was a huge rack of postcards, so the kids were excited to choose and buy some with their Euros!

Check out time was 10:30, but we were packed up and ready before that.  We walked back down to the Visitor Information Centre (And Olivia lost some of her money in someone’s long grass along the way!) to store our bags until we caught the ferry in the afternoon.  We spent time there writing postcards and looking up postal codes on the Internet.  D’Arcy also looked up a couple of geo-caches on the Island.  The girls – of course – had to go to the bathroom, but they were not located in the Visitor Information Centre.  We went on a wild goose chase to find the public bathrooms, located across the street! When we met up with the boys again, who were starting to worry about us, we realized that unless we rented bikes or took a taxi, we would not have time to get to the geocache.  We took our postcards to the Post Office, bought stamps and mailed them.

The wall of the soccer field.

Writing Postcards at the Visitor Information Centre

Looking up information at the VIC

Mailing her postcards!

We explored the town, stopping in at many shops along the way.  The streets and sidewalks were very narrow and it was difficult to hold the girls’ hands.  We ran into the ladies from our B&B, dropping the laundry at the laundromat before lunch, but they weren’t very friendly!  (We wouldn’t go back there again!)  Everyone was starting to get hungry and we realized that it was almost Siesta time (12 – 1:30) where all shops, museums, etc. close and only restaurants & pubs are open!  We happened to run into the baker from the bakery who was very friendly and gave us options & directions for lunch.  We ended up going to the Hotel Robert for lunch, which was near the VIC.  As soon as Alex & Sarah heard “Creperie”, the restaurant was decided!!  Olivia was able to have a plate of french fries that were safe while the other kids had hamburgers, D’Arcy had a sandwich and I had Coquilles Sainte Jacques and a salad.  They made sure to save room to have crepes for dessert!

With Alex at lunch

Crepes! Alex & Evan shared one filled with bananas, whipped cream & chocolate sauce; Sarah's had maple syrup and whipped cream!

We went back out into the town.  I really wanted to go to the supermarket to see how it differed from ours, but we had to wait for it to open.  I peeked in and then we started back towards the ferry terminal.  The kids really wanted to do some souvenir shopping.  We walked back downtown and picked up our belongings which we had stored at the VIC.  We went into a couple of stores and then ended up at one close to the ferry terminal where we bought a flag, some stickers and badges for the boys’ campfire blankets.  We had to go to catch the ferry, but the girls had really wanted to ride the carousel and it was finally open.  D’Arcy took them for a ride while the boys and I kept our place in line.  Sarah tells us that the carousel was one of the best parts of the entire trip!!

A view one part of town from the running track.

We think this sign means "no parking" but we didn't ever find out for sure!

Amusing themselves with the telephone, waiting for the supermarket to open after siesta.

The "best part of the trip"!

After the carousel ride, D’Arcy & the girls came back to meet us in line and we waited to board the ferry back to Newfoundland.

We wished we’d had more than just the one day in St. Pierre.  It was definitely a highlight for all the kids and we would have liked to have explored and learned more.  D’Arcy would have liked to find at least one of the geocaches hidden on the island as well.  Another reason I think we’d have liked to stay longer is because we knew that as soon as we got back to Newfoundland, we were essentially on our way home, and none of us was ready for the trip to be finished!

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The name game

June 16, 2009

This morning we had a full house for breakfast and they all were due to eat breakfast at the same time.  One couple had been with us for the past four nights, and another couple from Quebec had arrived last evening. The first three members of  these two couples were seated at the table waiting and when introducing them to one another, I called the woman from Quebec “Josee” (a guest from the other day- her name was actually Lucie), drew a blank on her husband’s name, then introduced the woman who had been with us for four nights as “Trish”.  I have no idea where that came from because her name was Laurie.

Definitely NOT my finest moment!!

Washer Woman

January 6, 2009

Back at the beginning of December, our washer stopped washing.  In a house with six permanent residents and a multitude of guests coming in and out the door, along with Christmas functions and extra holiday washing, we do a LOT of laundry!  My washer & I have a love/hate relationship because although it is probably my most used appliance, I HATE doing laundry!!  I would rather wash windows, dust, or scrub toilets  any day! 

When the washer first stopped spinning, the appliance guy came right away because they were aware we run a B&B and do a lot of laundry.  It turned out that the switch in the door latch was gone and we needed a whole new door latch.  (Our washer is a front-loader, so without the switch, the washer wasn’t recognizing the door was shut and wouldn’t engage.)  The switch turned out to be back ordered, and then when it finally arrived from Ontario, it was broken, so another one was ordered.   It finally arrived and was replaced on December 19th for *just* $250.   By then, my mother had taken pity on us because we were buried under laundry and started taking it all to her house each day and returning it folded and ironed! 

I wasn’t sure I wanted to give up this sweet deal, but did a few days of laundry.  I let it pile up over Christmas, and on Boxing Day, when I went to put a load in the dryer, noticed that the load was still soaking wet.  I set the dial to spin and turned it on.  It clicked, but didn’t spin.  Then we smelled a sulphur-y smell.  I tried again.  I tried to open the door, but it wouldn’t unlock.  I called the appliance guy again in a panic, only to learn that they were on holidays until the 29th!!

He came over right away when they re-opened and pronounced the motor dead.  I immediately thought – well at least there are still Boxing Day Sales on…  Alas, when we re-did the laundry room two summers ago, we stacked the dryer on top of the washer, so to replace one, we now need to replace both.  Needless to say, as much as I’d like to do my part to help stimulate the economy, we decided to replace the motor.  The appliance guy called to tell me that due to the New Year’s holidays, he could probably get a motor in by the 5th.

My brother heard my whining and happened to have a washer & dryer sitting, unused, in his bedroom.  (They were in the basement of the previous restaurant and he doesn’t have room for them in the new location.)  He asked me if we wanted them, and for the cost of his gas & time, he delivered them to our basement on Sunday night.  Now I have two washers that don’t work!  The washer & dryer were originally in the basement, but the pipes have been capped off.  D’Arcy can hook them up, but is due to defend the first part of his Thesis next week, so it won’t happen until after that!

As it happens, both girls have had chest colds and have been coughing until they throw up – and they’re not fussy about whose bed they do it in.  We actually had to put guest sheets on our bed because they went through all of our sheets – and blankets – and pillowcases – and two duvets!!  I waited all day yesterday in the hopes that the motor would arrive.  Finally, at suppertime, he called and told me it had arrived by courier and he would be by to install it today.  D’Arcy went out and got some stainless steel washer hoses since we had not replaced the rubber hoses in the ten years we’ve had the washer, and asked him to replace them at the same time.

Today’s bill was $450.  However, we had the bearings changed two summers ago, and now the door latch, hoses and new motor so I essentially have a brand new washer!

More importantly though, I have a whole new appreciation for the ability to do laundry – we’ll see how long it lasts!

It’s 11:36 p.m. as I start to write this and we’re still waiting for our last guest to arrive.  It’s been snowing here all night, our first snow of the season, and they’ve actually closed down the highway to the North of us.  Her flight was supposed to arrive earlier this evening, but another guest was telling us that it took someone she knew two hours to get from the airport to here earlier this evening.  The highway advisory says that the roads are passable with caution.

Olivia made it through Day Two wearing panties with no accidents!  I even took her out for the morning; I just packed an extra pair of pants in her epi-pen bag.  She did fall in the toilet once while in her father’s care, but that hasn’t seemed to deter her.  I am thrilled!!

The girls both had well-baby checks with their family doctor this morning.  He was pleased with how healthy and robust Olivia is, despite her allergies.  She’s still off the chart for height & weight and her skin currently looks great.  Her eczema is mostly gone, with the exception of a couple patches on her feet.  She seems to be outgrowing her reflux, so we’re going to take her off her Prevacid.  However, she does have a wheeze in her lungs.  We’ve been warned that due to her allergies, she’s at increased risk of asthma, and to be honest, I think we’re pretty lucky that none of the other kids have it since I do.  He perscribed a rescue inhaler for now and we’re going to keep track of how often we use it.  Her allergist also is an asthma specialist, so I would imagine we’ll talk to him more about a diagnosis and plan of action at her appointment in January.

We had a long discussion about the flu shot since Sarah is just getting over a cold and was a bit wheezy herself.  She ended up very sick after her flu shot last year (two trips to the ER for sustained high fever – 106*F – over a week) and I was concerned that the same thing could happen again.  We have to outweigh the benefits & the risks.  Olivia can NOT have a flu shot due to her anaphylactic egg allergy, and she & I are at higher risk if we get influenza.  Everyone else in the family is in school & activities, so are at higher risk of contracting it and bringing it home.  Not to mention, we don’t know what guests are bringing into the house after traveling.  We decided it would be prudent to get it again this year, but since Sarah’s not at 100%, Dr. E offered to come over to our house next week when she’s feeling better and give all five of us the shot!  Did I ever mention how much I love him?!

Hallowe’en

November 3, 2008

So for Hallowe’en this year, we had a giraffe, a “unihorn”, a toilet & a bathtub.  D’Arcy dressed up as a plumber to compliment the bathroom fixtures, however, since the US election seems to be on everyone’s minds, he had more than enough comparisons to “Joe the Plumber” before the evening was over! 

The giraffe we bought for $20 for Evan to wear when he was two and each of the kids has worn it, so that makes it a $5 costume, right?!  The unicorn was a hand-me-down from cousin Erin, and this is the 2nd year in a row that Sarah has worn it.  D’Arcy & Alex made the toilet last year for Alex to wear, but he had the flu on Hallowe’en and wasn’t able to go out, so it’s been sitting in our basement and he’s been just waiting for this year.  Evan decided about a month ago that he’d like to be a bathtub.  They were trying to convince their cousins to go as a sink & a shower, but they didn’t bite…  We used the double stroller box, some white paint, cotton batting & a set of taps that were lying in the basement.  D’Arcy cut the straps off of an extra golf bag and we tied it on with ropes.  It was a neat costume, but quite heavy (the taps were old ones from a cast iron tub) and cumbersome.  I had to ask his teacher to walk down the stairs in the school with him because he couldn’t see his feet!

We had a great night and made it through without any allergic reactions!  Olivia wasn’t going to be left behind and was pushing her way to the doors of houses with her bag.  Of course, we only go to the houses in the neighbourhood that we know well.  Her godmother had made up special, safe bags of treats for our kids, and three other houses had either stickers or pencils for her.  My parents had made up bags with Sunny-D & Teddy Grahams for the older kids and Apple Juice & Organic Maple Arrowroots for Olivia.  When we got home, we took out any candies with peanuts & Mars bars (egg) and threw them out right away.  We learned that skittles, twizzlers & some chips are safe for her (dairy, soy, egg & pea/nut free) so her siblings get to share all her chocolate & other candies. 

We were able to get the kids to bed by about 9:00 and then I started working on Olivia’s birthday cake.  The doorbell rang at 10:15 and D’Arcy asked me, “Do we have a room?” to which I replied, “No – not at this time on Hallowe’en night.”  He went to the door and I could hear him telling the guy that we didn’t have any room.  When he came back into the kitchen he said that he thought we probably dodged a questionable one – the guy had a backpack, but wasn’t wearing any shoes!!  We turned out all the lights pretty quickly after that!

Alex the toilet at school

Alex the toilet at school

 

Evan the bathtub with his friend Alijah

Evan the bathtub with his friend Alijah

 

The giraffe and unihorn with Colin and Suzana

The giraffe and unihorn with Colin and Suzana

The spooks ready for trick-or-treating

The spooks ready for trick-or-treating

Boy, am I cranky today!  I stayed up until 2 am waiting for our guest to show up.  Finally, when I could no longer keep my eyes open, I wrote her a note that I’d left the lights on in her room upstairs and would see her for breakfast in the morning.  I left the front door unlocked and the outside lights on too, turned the baby moniter that we keep by the front door on, and went to bed.  You can just imagine how well I slept, listening for her arrival!

I checked around 5 a.m. and she still hadn’t come in.  I was a little bit worried, because she has stayed with us before, so I called the office first thing and spoke with the girl who had booked the room.  The conversation went like this:

Me:  Hi C.  E didn’t arrive last night; is everything okay?

C:  E, (who apparently was with her) Where did you stay last night?

E: (In the background) The [chain hotel].

C:  But I had you booked into the Bed & Breakfast!

E:  No, they (other office) told me to book my own room.

C:  Do you want to stay at the B&B tonight?

E:  Well, I already gave the hotel my credit card number.

C:  (to me) I’m so sorry!

It’s too bad.  I will be charging the company card for last night’s non-stay, and a $25 cancellation fee for tonight’s reservation.  I think they need to work on the communication between offices!  I was tired & cranky annoyed enough this morning , I was going to charge the full amount for tonight too, but my husband, whom I had sent to bed at midnight so at least one of us could sleep, reminded me that I don’t want to ruin the relationship for future bookings with them. 

One of the hardest parts of this job is managing to hold my tongue!

Monday!

October 20, 2008

Mondays around here usually mean recovering from the weekend – the laundry and the mess are always piled up after everyone has been home for two days!  Today is no different, but last week was unusually busy around here.

I haven’t forgotten about the blog, but so many exciting things happened last week that are going to take some time & thought to put into words!  My cousins were here from Portland, OR, I got to go away overnight to a Board meeting and went on a graveyard tour, I had a visit with my grandmother for the first time in years and she knew me (!), we had a great-nephew born, and I started planning Sarah’s birthday party.  That on top of basketball registration, skating registration, two birthday parties, guests, and normal activities meant I was not at the computer very often!!

We were so happy to have Phil & Susan here, and glad that they brought along their friends Mark & Pam from North Carolina.  They are so easy to have around and the kids love them!  The last time they were here, I was expecting Sarah and they had to leave just shortly before she was born.  Phil’s daughter Lori & I are traveling eerily similar journeys through life with our four children.  Phil tells me he teases Lori by asking what she’ll do if we have another baby!  (Don’t worry, it’s not going to happen – although their story of adopting their youngest daughter from Russia is so compelling!)  We had one last dinner together here on Saturday night (lobster!) before they headed back to the States early Sunday morning. 

I got to leave and go away on a retreat overnight with one of the Boards I sit on mid-week.  The retreat was held at the beautiful Hillsdale House in Annapolis Royal.  The setting was beautiful and the leaves on the drive were absolutely gorgeous.  I drove down on Wednesday, a perfect, sunny, Fall day.  That night we met at Fort Anne and went on the last Graveyard Tour of the year.  I have heard our guests rave about it for years and it was everything I had expected and more!  I loved it! It wasn’t the least bit creepy or scary but I have to admit that when I got back to Room 5, the two ladies on the wall did creep me out a bit!  Everybody made out just fine without me, and the boys were thrilled that I arrived home just as they were getting home from school so that they could see my rental car – a white Jetta!

Our meeting had ended early on Thursday morning, so I took the time to visit my grandmother who is in a nursing home in the area before I went home.  I hadn’t seen her in about eight years, shortly after she had broken her hip.  At that time, she had dementia and thought I was my mother.  I do have a happy memory of her insisting on giving Evan some ice cream from that visit, so I wasn’t sure if I wanted to replace it with a memory of her in the state she is in now.  Love won out though, and I decided that even if she didn’t know me, I would never forgive myself if I were that close and didn’t go…

As luck would have it, the director of the nursing home where she lives has stayed with us as a guest a few times, so I sought her out and said, “I know it’s close to lunchtime and she probably won’t know me, but do you think I could visit my grandmother?”  She told me that it didn’t matter if she knew me or not, she would love a visit!  We started out in search of her, and I knew her the instant I saw her!  She was in a wheelchair, outside the dining hall and she looked wonderful, not at all what I had expected to find!  (The last time my parents were there, she was curled up in a ball in bed & unresponsive.)  I said, “Hi Gram!  It’s me, your grandaughter.” She beamed at me and repeated, “Yeah…yeah…yeah…yeah”.  I started to remind her of some of the things we used to do together and she said, “Oh.  My.  God!”  The nurses couldn’t believe that she recognized me, let alone spoke!  I started to cry and she moved her hand slightly, so I took it and held it while I kept talking & talking to her.  She was so nicely dressed in a pretty red cotton sweater, with a cheery yellow blanket over her lap.  Her hair was nicely brushed back and she even had on a string of pearls and clip-on earrings.  When I leaned in to kiss her, she smelled clean and well cared for.  This meant so much to me, especially because my visit was unannounced!  She didn’t ever break eye-contact with me and kept trying to tell me things, but I couldn’t understand her.  I told her over and over that I loved her and got her caught up on all the family news.  One of the other nurses called her “Princess” and another stopped and said – “Look at that – she knows you!”  I realized I was holding up her lunch, so I left her reluctantly with promises of sending more photos of the kids.  Needless to say, I am thrilled that I made the effort to go.  She’s 92, so this may very well have been my last visit.  Funnily enough, on my last visit before she died with my other grandmother, who had Alzheimer’s, she recognized me and called me by name after not knowing me for years.  Funny how the brain works!

Yesterday, we had a meeting of our local B&B association.  We are part of a larger organization which is becoming dysfunctional so over the next few weeks, I will be busy preparing some presentations to make at our upcoming AGM.  These presentations involve going over the Constitution & by-laws with a fine tooth comb, not something I enjoy doing! 

This week involves Curling Registration, PTG, the beginning of skating for the season, planning a birthday party and the debut of Highschool Musical 3.  I have been told that you can buy advance tickets at the movie theatre so that is on my “to do” list…  I’d better go get at some of these things!