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Starting 2013 by Remembering

by Ben

rain 10 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

As you read a week ago, Muriel's Dad passed away suddenly on the evening of December 23rd. As you may recall only Muriel made it home and the rest of us stayed in Europe due to logistics. Yesterday, December 31st, was the funeral. Since we are nine hours ahead these events occurred late in our day and I decided to preserve the 31st in Europe for observing Abby's Birthday and marking the change of years. We would mark Dad's funeral in our own way on January 1st.

This morning I talked to Muriel who was just ending her long day and the events surrounding putting Dad to rest. It was good to talk to her although it felt very strange to be apart at a time such as this. I found that during our sleep Marianne had sent me a link to 80 pictures and some video footage from the funeral. These pictures really helped us feel part of remembering Dad. We spent a long time looking through the pictures. We then read the wonderful eulogy Muriel had written. It was really good to hear the words. Hannah had also written something for the funeral and our friend Marianne had read it on Hannah's behalf. Calvin had made a video clip of this and Hannah said she wanted us to hear her words in the same way everyone else had--through Marianne's voice. It was a wonderful love letter about her Grandpa--it is a piece of writing that I will always admire her for.

We spent some more time looking at old photographs of Grandpa that I happen to have stored on my computer and then just shared memories about him, especially his quirks of taking everything to an extreme.

It is a cold, gray and rainy day today and we are going to stay indoors. The weather news is that the sun will return in all its splendor tomorrow. It all seems quite appropriate--tomorrow is a new day and a new beginning.

Posted by KZFamily 08:06 Archived in France Tagged new_year cavaillon grandpa Comments (4)

Happy Birthday to Me

by Abby

sunny 14 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Cavaillon: Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Cavaillon: Chocolate Chip Pancakes

When I woke up this morning, something felt different... I was 14! But if we are going to get into the details, I wasn't really because I was born Victoria time...but Hannah and my dad let me have a wonderful birthday celebration anyways. At eight in the morning my dad woke me up with my mom and grandma on Skype. I was able to talk to them for a while, and I got caught up on things with my mom. By the time I was finished on Skype, Hannah was already downstairs and cooking breakfast, so I decided to get dressed and ready for my big day. Then I called for my dad to lead me down the stairs and when I opened my eyes at the bottom, I saw that most of the apartment was decorated with balloons! My dad took some pictures of me and then we all sat down to enjoy and wonderful chocolaty breakfast--chocolate chip pancakes with Nutella. They were very enjoyable, and we even had some left over for the next day. Then, as usual, I opened my presents at the breakfast table. I started with Hannah's, which were conveniently hidden around the house. I was given a clue sheet to help me figure out where to find my gifts. Each set of clues made a sentence that told me where to look. Try and see if you can figure it out:

Cavaillon: Happy 14th Abby

Cavaillon: Happy 14th Abby

First gift:

1. The opposite of out:
2. ____ cat in ____ hat:
3. Bronze:
4. A fancy outfit:
5. Um, ah, hm, etc:
6. A type of artist:

Second gift:

1. Rhymes w/ pin, win, sin:
2. Hey diddle diddle, ____ cat & ____ fiddle:
3. Do re:
4. Not a raven:
5. Between curly and straight:

Third gift:

1. A place to picnic:
2. The 2nd word above:
3. F1, miss, E5, miss, B3, hit!:
4. The opposite of stop:
5. A pair:
6. Like prison, but smaller:

I think I did it quite fast, actually. And by the way, if you read on you will find the answers to all the clues. My presents from Hannah were as follows: Mascara (in the third dresser drawer), a lip pencil (in the microwave), and eye shadow (park place, battleship, go to jail (in the monopoly box)). My dad also had a clever idea with his gift. I was given them in a particular order, first was a kinder egg (with 14 cents taped to the side). Second was a bag of chocolate soccer balls (with 14 cents taped to the side). Third was a package of marshmallows called "Nubes" (with €14 taped to the side). And last was a package of bobby pins (and in the wrapping there was a cheque for $140). My dad said that the bag of chocolate was supposed to have €1.40 with it, but he had used that part of his coinage for tolls the previous day. He then presented me with another fantastic gift, although this onewas more temporary. He had rented the Disney movie Brave, as I had been telling both of them how great it was and how I wished we could see it. My last present I had gotten earlier that year, in June... a fantastic, red laptop...I still have yet to name him. If you have any ideas I would be glad to hear them.

After breakfast, cleanup and presents, Hannah and Dad went to check out the market which was almost directly on our doorstep. I opted to stay inside. They came back with a few more presents for me, a watch (with the union jack as it's face) and a pair of earrings (both with the union jack on them). I think I might have just revealed an obsession of mine...

After the goods had been put away I was made a fruit salad of mango, pineapple and kiwi. Unfortunately the mango was a little unripe, and the pineapple a little too ripe, but the part of it that I did eat was very good indeed. Energized, I decided that I wanted to walk up the bluff again, as yesterday we had seen two ways to go up. When we tried the set of stairs we had not been on yet, we came to a pair of caves, both with metal bars in front of their entrances so not to let anyone get in. Soon enough the paths met up again and formed into one. We went on a short circular path at the top that over looked a different part of the city. We saw what we thought was a school, but then later decided it must have been a recreation centre, because we didn't think that many schools were equipped with three soccer fields, a track, a basketball court, and a small outdoor arena surrounded by bleachers. On the top of the actual bluff we saw a house that had been damaged by a fire we had heard about. The house itself seemed reasonably unharmed, but the forest around the property, as well as the pool, was quite damaged. After this I decided I wanted to start heading back so we climbed down and explored the city for a little longer. When we got back to our apartment Hannah made some very good tomato soup and we had a baguette alongside that, as well as oil and vinegar as dip. I then decided to try my luck at Monopoly, but it seems that I have no luck when it comes to rolling dice. Either that or the gods of business board games hate me.

Cavaillon: Counting Down to 2013

Cavaillon: Counting Down to 2013

After the very taxing game I said that we should all take a rest... except for Hannah because she had a meal to cook. But it didn't take her too long to whip up a fabulous home-cooked meal of macaroni and cheese. My dad sang his praise at the dinner table, and I told her that I enjoyed it too. I also liked the Caesar salad we had with it... see, I do eat my vegetables. After dinner my dad brought out some New Years hats, necklaces and sound makers that we all enjoyed and picked out which ones we wanted to wear when the time came. Then came the greatest part of the day... the BIRTHDAY CAKE. I picked out a chocolate coffee cake that was fantastic. And because there were only three of us to share it.. we have some left over for the next day. After cake we watched Brave, and I enjoyed it just as much as the first one. I highly recommend it, as well as the movie Tangled. After we finished the movie we still had an hour and a half to kill before midnight so we decided to look at some best of 2012 and 2012 reflection videos. I personally think that Google's is the best. My dad also showed us some Rolf Harris whom I liked a lot, and I showed the two of them some David Garibaldi, who I think is also fabulous. But soon after we began our countdown...and before we knew it, it was 2013! Fireworks sounded outside, although they were too far away and above the clouds so we couldn't see the actual thing. We heard some people in the streets, but we decided to stick with our small and closed celebration which was just for us. But after we finished our couple minutes of celebration we didn't feel like it was time for bed yet, so we searched our favourite websites (Netflix and hulu) for something else to watch. We were caught up on all of our favourite series (modern family, the middle and elementary) and the only one we weren't caught up on we weren't allowed to watch until my mom came home (Downton Abbey). So we settled for an old favourite, a series we used to watch but then everyone but me said it was getting boring, it's a series called Merlin. I think it's great... but the rest of my family has clouded judgement. After we finished the show we were all very tired and promptly hopped into bed, and into a long, deep sleep..the first one of the New Year.

Cavaillon: New Year Kits

Cavaillon: New Year Kits

Cavaillon: Getting Ready to Ring in 2013

Cavaillon: Getting Ready to Ring in 2013

Cavaillon: Ringing in the New Year

Cavaillon: Ringing in the New Year

Posted by KZFamily 07:25 Archived in France Tagged birthday new_year cavaillon Comments (4)

Beginning a Week in Provence: Welcome to Cavaillon

by Ben

sunny 15 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Cavaillon:7th Century Chapel At top of Bluff

Cavaillon:7th Century Chapel At top of Bluff

Unfortunatley for us we could not secure the apartment we booked in Provence unless we agreed to arrive by 11:00 am as this was the only time on the weekend that the agent was available to let us in. This meant we had to get on the road around seven this morning. The kids did great with getting up on time and starting off in the dark before anyone else in the village of Salisgne (where we stayed near Carcassonne) had started to stir.

I had decided the night before not to totally alienate my children (they weren't already alienated by the 7:00 am departure you ask?!) and accept the fact that I would need to take some toll roads rather than require the kids to be out the door by 5:30 am. I was feeling pretty good as we drove down the highway watching the sunrise on a cloudless morning while listening with Hannah to a CBC podcast (Abby was catching up on beauty sleep). That blissful state evaporated for a short time when we came to the end of our second toll road a couple of hours later.

Cavaillon:Catus along the walk up the bluff

Cavaillon:Catus along the walk up the bluff

All the toll booths we have encountered in France are fully automated and on today's journey nearly all of them were exclusively credit card payment. That was not a real concern since I had paid numerous tolls already using my North American cards. I slipped my toll ticket into the machine to see what the damage was. The last 50 kilometers had cost me just over five euros. I slipped in my credit card and it was immediately spit out. It was rejected. I inserted my second card and it was rejected as well. Fortunately, it was early in the morning and no one had slipped in behind me so I thought I would just back up and go to the one automated booth available where I could pay by cash--not a good idea. I backed up a few feet and realized that I needed my ticket for the next booth. I pulled forward again to see if I could retrieve it. The machine was not only not going to give it back, but it wasn't even going to acknowldege that I had even given it a ticket--oh great! Fortunately there is a button you can push by which you can talk to a live operator located somewhere in France. My French was not up to the challenge when someone finally did answer. Hannah leaned over and started to translate for her helpless father. The first question Hannah was asked was where she came from, to which she naturally answered Canada: an answer the attendant was neither expecting or knew what do with (it was quite funny actually). The information she really wanted was regarding where we had entered the toll road.This is where it got a bit complicated. I know we came from Carcassone and had gone through Narbonne, but then we exited our first toll road and travelled some distance before entering the next toll road. I had no recollection of what the originating city or direction was (it could have been any city up to a a couple of hundred kilometers back). The person on the help line kept on firing city names at me to which I kept replying Narbonne. She finally decided we had come from Marsailles which meant a cool 22 euros. At about this time a car pulled up behind us and the agitated driver started yelling that I just needed to put in my ticket and credit card. Meanwhile the online attendant said she would send a real live person to our location. The driver behind us continued to yell at us and despite us motioning for him to try one of the other half a dozen empty booths he stayed hoping his angst would somehow make our credit card machine work.

Cavaillon: Top of Bluff Overlooking Town

Cavaillon: Top of Bluff Overlooking Town

If you need to know, I was no longer at a place of inner harmony. The kids were quite aware of this even though I wasn't congnizant that I was givng them a tutorial in some colourful language that I had stowed away in my deep subconscious for such an occassion. Oh well, my kids have known for quite a while now that the elementary school teacher-librarian persona never fit their dad.

Eventually the driver behind us gave up in disgust, leaving us with one last tirade punctuated by a honk and chirping of tire rubber as he backed out of our toll line. A few minutes later a person did actually show up. We ended up with the same list of questions and a puzzled look to why we would be reluctanct to pay 20 euros. She finally pulled open the toll machine and retrieved our ticket and understood the problem in an instant. I provided the cash (unbenownest to me, I was spending some of the coinage associated with Abby's birthday present--but Abby can speak of that later). It was with great relief that we finally got moving again. It became clear why I had budgeted an hour or so of buffer time to make our 11:00 am rendez-vous.

The rest of the trip was made entertaining by our portable GPS (you may recall our car's build in GPS is on the fritz) which seemed to be suffering from short term memory loss as it would forget to tell us about a roundabout and then mention it a little later, only to stop to recalculate again. Fortunately the beautiful landscape, brillaint blue sky and sunshine more than compensated for the several u-turns required.

Finding our apartment in the small town of Cavaillon was a breeze and Isabelle, the rental agent, was there when we arrived. The apartment was exactly as we had viewed on the Internet--it will be a wonderful home. We are in the centre of the old village and only a few hundred meters from a bluff that abruptly rises 180 meters above the town. After we settled in we walked up the stone steps built in the 15th century to reach the seventh century chapel at the top. The weather was warm and the view fantastic.

Cavaillon:Bluff Overlooking Town

Cavaillon:Bluff Overlooking Town

We picked up some bread on the way home and decided to relax. Since our change of life circumstance over the past several days the kids have developed an affinity for nostalgic activities of earlier years. They came across a French monopoly board and the game brought back memories of playing with their grandpa, so we sat down and played a game (as in the good ole days Hannah won handily--Grandpa taught her well). After dinner we looked through the DVD collection available in our apartment and watched Catch Me If You Can, a movie that the kids had never seen and is one of my favourites.

We were happy to Skype with Muriel this evening even though it meant getting to bed a little late. It was quite a bit later for me, as I had gifts to wrap for Abby's birthday and a whole whack of balloons to blow up and hang in preparation for the next day's twofold celebrations.

A little extra

I had added a little video a few days back about driving the through the Pyrenees that you may have missed. Always look for links in the blog in the form of coloured words. Here is another little clip from that day.

Posted by KZFamily 08:45 Archived in France Tagged provence cavaillon Comments (5)

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