Ali's Adventures

May 31, 2011

I can cross triathlon off my to-do list (sort of)

Filed under: Adventure,Plans — by Alison @ 2:17 pm

I completed one of my first adventures – the Early Bird Try-a-Tri. It’s a shorter version of a full triathlon, designed for first timers or recreational triathletes. The hard-core triathletes get to do longer distances but in about the same time.

The evening before race day, the Ottawa Triathlon Club hosted an orientation session. There were close to 100 people there, of all ages and sizes. It started in the pool area, where Geordie explained how to line up and what time we need to get there at. The more he told us “You’ll be nervous, don’t worry about it”, the more nervous I could feel myself getting. He then walked us from the pool to the transition zone, where the bike and run parts of the race would begin. He explained how to set up our gear, and which way to head out. After the hour-long session, I picked up my race kit and headed home.

After the kids went to sleep, I gathered up everything I’d need. I realized I didn’t have running or biking shorts, so my soccer shorts would have to do. I was planning on using my husband’s bike as mine is hooked up to the bike trailer and the front brakes are a bit suspect. We adjusted the bike, I tried it out and he loaded the car.

The next morning I got to Carleton just after 6:30, and set up my transition zone area. There were all ready quite a few people there, mainly in the try-a-tri section. After getting marked up, I headed to the pool to wait.

The swim distance was 100m,  2 laps of the Carleton University pool, and swimmers were self organized by time. There was a great atmosphere on the pool deck, and I chatted with a lot of very nice people. Most were first timers and everyone was a bit nervous. A swimmer starts every 5 seconds in one of the lanes, so the swimmer ahead of you has a 30 second lead. After finishing the swim and feeling good, I headed outside to put on my shoes, shorts and shirt. Luckily, this part wasn’t timed. The transition zone was about 500m from the pool, so I jogged/walked to my bike.

The bike course was just under 12 km along the canal. Along with those doing the Try-a-Tri, there were also the Duathletes (run-bike-run) on the course. I may have been passed by one of them twice, but with their fancy helmets and spoke less bikes they all started to look alike.

Finishing the bike with wobbly legs, I returned my bike to the racks and started on the run. It was a 2k loop, and we ended back in the parking lot. This was the hardest part for me, and I started to second guess myself and didn’t push as hard as I could have. I did finish running through the gate which made me smile. Then I noticed that my husband and kids had made it down to see me. Definitely the best part of the day!

I’m glad I did a triathlon, I’m proud that I finished, but I worry that I didn’t push myself enough. I guess I’ll just have to do another one and see if I can get better. I’m planning for the National Capital Triathlon at the end of July, and I may have convinced my daughter to do the Wylie Run Surf N Turf (swim-run) on the same day.


May 30, 2011

Friendship- Monday Moments

Filed under: Monday Moments — by Alison @ 2:06 pm

We’re outside playing on the driveway before heading to the bus stop. The daycare kids across the street are heading home. They start shouting “Hi, hi”. My daughter looks up and waves back. One little girl says “That’s my friend” with pride in her voice. The other little girl responds “She’s my friend too!”. They agree that she can be friends with both of them and happily go into the house. My daughter colours on, unaware of the 3-year-olds battling for her affection.

Hopefully all future conflicts over friendships will be resolved this easily.

This post is part of Capital Mom’s Monday Moments. Join her every Monday by blogging about a moment from your life based on a theme she has provided. Your moment can be long or short. Recent or from the past. All it needs to be is a moment you experienced.

May 24, 2011

Pretend- Monday’s Moment

Filed under: Monday Moments — by Alison @ 2:25 pm

This post is part of Capital Mom’s Monday Moments. Join her every Monday by blogging about a moment from your life based on a theme she has provided. Your moment can be long or short. Recent or from the past. All it needs to be is a moment you experienced.

First, we need to pretend its Monday and that I’m not a day late.

My daughter goes through the bin of toys my husband has been collecting for years. She pulls out two figures and then looks in the preschool figures for a small one. She lines them up on the floor and starts explaining to me – Okay this is the mommy and this one is the daddy and this one is the baby. They live over there.

She starts to make them talk, with the littlest one asking to be carried home and the mommy being concerned.

Somehow, I don’t think this is what my husband meant when he asked her if she wanted to play Star Wars, but a Wookie family living in the Millenium Falcon is a perfect pretend world for her.

May 10, 2011

Adventures in Europe – Part 3

Filed under: Adventure,Vacation — by Alison @ 2:45 pm

We had to leave the farm house on Saturday, but there weren’t any flights to England until Sunday and we didn’t really want to separate before Easter. My parents were planning on staying a few more days in the region and then visiting Barcelona before returning to Canada. We were going to visit my sister’s place in Plymouth.

Our last night in France was spent in the seaside resort town of St-Cyprien, about 5 minutes from the farm house. The hotel was right on the beach. There were also two pools, one of which was supposed to be heated. However, we were the only family at the pool. My sister and her fiancé even went into the sea.

Not swimming weather.

The rest of us stood on the beach, in pants and jackets, to watch. My daughter got a little too close to the waves and was knocked over by one as she ran up the beach (hiccup). It didn’t seem to faze her, but I didn’t enjoy paying $10 to dry her sweater.

That evening we had hoped to have a nice meal to finish the trip, but there was nothing open before 7 that would seat all of us (hiccup). The kids were getting fussy, and I was getting annoyed. Luckily, we found one restaurant close to where we had been staying that we knew would be open.

The four of us ate, and the others waited to find a restaurant closer to the beach. It also continues my streak of eating at a McDonald’s in every country I’ve visited. Not that I started out with this as a travel goal.

Our flight back to England was on RyanAir, and it was about as enjoyable as a RyanAir flight ever is. When we arrived in Stansted there was some confusion over our cab (hiccup). My sister and her fiance decided to take public transit into Paddington station and we took the slowest cab ride ever. At one point, we passed another major train station and I was concerned that he was taking us to the wrong place. We made it to Paddington on time for our train to Plymouth. We didn’t have a direct train, and the first train was a lot nicer than the second one. While we were unloading from the train, people stopped and offered to help. It was a bit shocking after being in France. I’m not saying the people in France were rude, they just didn’t go out of their way to be helpful.

Our few days in Plymouth were some of the nicest of the whole trip. The weather was great and there was enough to do to keep us busy. As the Monday was a holiday, we got to enjoy it with our hosts. Their flat is close to the sea front, you can actually see the sea out of the bedroom window (when you’re standing). We went for a walk along the Promenade overlooking the sea, but didn’t make it very far because the West Hoe Funpark was in full swing. There were train rides, bouncy castles and very affordable soft drinks.

After the fun park and lunch, we continued our walk up to the Hoe. The view from the Hoe was breathtaking. A lot of Plymouth was destroyed during World War II, as it’s a major naval port, and the homes along the Hoe had been reconstructed. The downtown was designed in classic 1950’s cement design and isn’t as picturesque. On our walk back, we passed more fun.

Who doesn't want to run in a giant bubble??

You can see my sister’s flat from the bubbles, and she’d never visited the park before. Can you believe it?We headed back to the flat for a dinner of fish and chips, and deep fried creme eggs for dessert.

The next day, we set out to explore Plymouth on our own. As we were walking along, there was a naval warship sailing around the harbour with the sailors on deck. People were stopping to watch, and it turns out the HMS Cornwall was being decommissioned and this was its farewell sail. Neat to see.

We also hit the highlights of Cornish cuisine, the pasty. It was one of the most delicious things I have eaten. The tea shops were closed so we didn’t have a Devon cream tea (hiccup). Instead we went to Chococcino and had brownies.

So delicious!

For my daughter, the best part of the day was visiting Toys R Us. There was a huge selection of clothes for her Baby Born doll, and she enjoyed buying an outfit. I may have to provide my sister with a list for her to bring back.

The last night in Plymouth wasn’t the best, as my daughter became sick. Thankfully, no one else was sick and she was feeling better before our train ride to London.

The train ride was very scenic, as the rail line runs right by the sea. At one point, there seems to be nothing between the sea and the train. When we arrived in Paddington station, we found the Paddington statue. My cousin had arranged to pick us up, so we could have supper with his family. We weren’t sure how we were going to manage to see them, and I was really glad we worked something out. My daughter is a huge fan of my cousin’s teenage daughter, and started out a bit shy (we hadn’t seen them in 3 years) but was soon chatting away about Plymouth and her baby doll. My son was charming, and once he discovered their cat, he kept searching for it. Seeing them was the perfect way to end our trip.

The flight home the next morning was uneventful. There was some confusion about the seats we’d booked and the need for extra oxygen masks, but it got sorted once we were on the plane. The plane wasn’t full, so we ended up with 5 seats for the price of 3. I hardly saw my daughter the whole flight (Garfield again) and my son enjoyed walking around the aisles.

It was a great trip, and I miss my sister already. Can’t wait until she moves back in August.

May 8, 2011

Adventures in Europe – Part 2

Filed under: Adventure,Vacation — by Alison @ 9:03 pm

So when  left off we had our massive vehicle and were about to leave Perpignan to find our farmhouse.

My mom is amazing at finding these house rentals. We had both been looking on the various home rental sites, but she stumbled across Mas le Moulin. It was just what we were looking for and the price was fantastic, especially split 3 ways. Which reminds me that I still have to pay my mom.

The home owner had provided us with interesting directions. Reading them I was convinced we were going to get lost, and was very grateful for the GPS on my phone. However, reading the instructions as we were driving and they turned out to be excellent. Except for the initial instruction upon leaving the station to “remember the view because that is where you need to head to in order to join the main road”. A helpful cab driver directed us to the main road we needed, so we were all set.

Just a side note about how much roundabouts rock. We managed to never get lost while driving in France, because of all the roundabouts. Each exit had signs, so if you weren’t sure which was the right exit, you just did another loop of the roundabout until you got yourself sorted. It might have seemed odd to other drivers, but I’m sure the size of our giant vehicles clued them in that we weren’t locals.

Here are a few photos of our house that I took:

Playing chess on the upstairs terrace.

The oldest part of the house dated from the 16th century.

We had fires most evenings. Stone farmhouses can be damp.

I didn’t take any pictures of the bedrooms because by the time I thought of it, we’d been there a few days and the rooms looked like they’d hit by a clothes tornado.

The house was great, and we spent most of the time just hanging out. There was a daily morning run to the bakery for bread and chocolate croissants. We were easily going through 3 or 4 baguettes a day. My son would take a chunk of bread and happily wander around the house and garden.

The pool wasn’t as warm as we hoped it would be. The solar heating is probably fantastic in the summer months, but left a little to be desired in April. We did swim a few times, but my daughter prefered hanging out by the steps.

We weren’t hermits the entire week though. We visited the beach in Argelès-sur-Mer. Guidebooks had warned against staying there as it’s considered “tacky” and maybe by French standards it was but we enjoyed our afternoon there.

First view of the Mediterranean.

We couldn’t find any carousels but there was an inflatable play area.

We also visited Carcassonne. (You may recognize the name from a popular tile game, which we had brought from home and played a few nights). Casrcassonne is a really interesting medieval city that was rebuilt in the 1800’s. The narrow cobblestone streets are lined with tourist shops, filled with the most impressive collection of toy weaponry I’ve ever seen. Some of the bows looked a little too realistic, but the maces and swords were obviously plastic. We toured the castle and walked around the city walls.

It must get very busy at the ticket booth in the summer.


Our other trips were to the old town centre in Perpignan. My sister took us out for dinner one night, as a belated birthday celebration. They tried snails, I did not. It was probably the best meal I ate in France. However, before we found the restaurant we walked past a bakery that was closing for the night, and inside were the most delectable looking rum balls. As they were closing, I decided to wait and go back another day.

We also took the kids into Perpignan, while the rest of the crew went to the mountains. My sister and her fiancé went hiking, while my parents sat in a café and visited an old monastery. My sister highly recommends than anyone planning on hiking on Mont Canigou come prepared, as part of the path required rope assistance to climb. They were in jeans and running shoes (hiccup) but managed okay.

On our day in Perpignan, we again passed the bakery but I decided to wait until after lunch. However, when we went back after lunch the bakery was closed. The region is heavily Catalan, so very Spanish in some aspects – including the siesta. Many stores, restaurants and bakeries closed in the afternoon. I wasn’t too concerned, as we were planning on going back to Perpignan on Good Friday for the Procession de la Sanch and I figured I could visit the bakery then.

Good Friday was our last full day in Mas le Moulin. The traffic was very heavy in Perpignan, and finding parking was difficult (hiccup). Apparently, we weren’t the only ones who’d decided to see a 600 year old tradition. We luckily made it into a parking garage right before the march was to begin. Once we met up with the other car load, we headed to the square in front of the church. It had started to rain while we were driving, and the rain got heavier and heavier.  It was miserable. The kids were getting drenched, we couldn’t see anything because of the crowds, and all the floats depicting the Passion were covered in plastic sheeting. After about 30 minutes, we gave up and decided to go back to the car. My parents wanted to stay, so we headed off. The bakery was in the opposite direction as the parking garage, so I never did get my giant rum ball (hiccup).

However, that night for dinner we had a belated celebration for my sister’s birthday and I got my share of tasty pastries.

Birthday treats.

The next morning, we packed up from the farm house. Turns out we didn’t pack up everything (hiccup). The owner is sending my sister in the UK a package with the clothes and toys we left behind.

To be continued with our last night in France and excitement in Plymouth.

May 4, 2011

Adventures in Europe – Part 1

Filed under: Adventure,Vacation — by Alison @ 2:08 pm

My family just returned from 2 weeks abroad (I enjoy saying that). We visited Paris, rented a farmhouse near Perpignan close to the Mediterranean and spent a few days in Plymouth at my sister’s flat. It was a busy two weeks involving three plane flights, three train trips and two really long cab rides. Good fun was had despite a few hiccups.

We flew from Montreal to Paris on the midnight flight. My daughter wouldn’t sleep on the car ride, but did get a few hours sleep on the plane. My son slept on and off during all the travel. They are both great travellers, we’re very lucky. My daughter entertained herself with the iPad and watched Garfield about 6 times. She even made my sister watch it with her on the train from Paris to Perpignan.

As we had less than two days in Paris, we tried to hit a few key sites. First, the Eiffel Tower:

We decided not to go up to the top, as the line for the elevator was pretty long. Our bus ride took us past the Arc de Triomphe which was a nice surprise.

The next day we went to Sacre Coeur. I think it’s one of the prettiest sites to see, and the views are spectacular.

While there, my sister texted me to say they’d come meet us in 15 minutes. She’s been in England since August, so we were all pretty excited.

After that, we took a cruise on the Seine and had Nutella crepes. Apparently, I put my camera away for the rest of the day 🙂

One of the best things about Paris were the carousel at the major sites. Visiting monuments might not be exciting, but apparently carousels were. My daughter rode them at the Eiffel Tower and in Montmarte.

My son was just happy to have a bit of bread. 

The next morning we were to meet at the train station to head to Perpignan, where my parents were waiting. I had it all set that we needed to go to Gare de Nord, so booked a cab and headed out. Luckily, I checked the tickets before getting out of the taxi as we were actually supposed to be at Gare de Lyon about 15 minutes away (hiccup). The driver laughed at us, but we made it to the station on time. The TGV ride was fantastic, although the train swayed a lot more than I expected.

When we arrived in Perpignan, the car rental place was difficult to find and when we made it there (it’s outside the old station not the new station), the attendant had left for the day (hiccup). We tracked him down, luckily I’d retrieved my phone from the train where I’d left it (hiccup), and got our massive rental vehicle. We booked a Ford Focus sized car and ended up with a Grand Caravan. Nice for travelling with kids, not so great for travelling narrow French roads or parking garages.

More tomorrow on our 16th century mill turned farmhouse, and eating our way around Plymouth.

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