Travel Diary: Mmmm. I love Waffles.

It’s sad, but true… I think I might remember the food on this trip as much as the places and the people. But, who am I kidding… I love eating, no use pretending ;).

Here’s a few food confessions from a novice European traveller:

  • I have become so accustomed to having Espresso every day that I might need to get an actual espresso maker when we get home. It’s that good.
  • Apfelstrudel in Germany (served with some amazing custard-like sauce – a bit nut-meggy) is worth the jet lag.
  • Belgian Waffles in Belgium are nothing like the ones I try to make at home… when combined with nutella (which is actually FROM Belgium! Who knew?!), bananas, and gelato… well, oh my.
  • Paprika Nuts are delicious (also Made in Belgium).
  • Belgian CHOCOLATE. The. End.
  • 4EUR bottles of Bordeaux from the grocery store in France… are VERY, VERY, VERY drinkable.
  • Croissants.

But… quite a lot has been going on other than eating (I am happy to say that the 20,ooo+ steps we are getting every day seem to be accommodating for the above mentioned deliciousness. We are now in Caen, France… and I haven’t even begun to tell you about the amazing significance and beautiful sights we saw around Ypres, Belgium… but you can check out the boys blogs concerning our adventures in Trier and Bouillon on the road to Ypres.

Our first day in Ypres was a treat… partly because we did not get in the car AT ALL! Ypres is a beautiful town, with lovely walking paths, excellent restaurants (Flemish Stew is AMAZING!), and a plethora of tributes and reminders of WWI battles and fallen soldiers.

Panorama of Ypres from the top of the Bell Tower (Cloth Hall)

We began our day at the In Flanders Fields Museum… and 4 hours later came up for air! The museum is housed in the old town Cloth Hall (historic, medieval Ypres was well-known for their beautiful cloth trade, and the central Cloth Hall was a symbol of the prosperous nature of the town), and it is absolutely fantastic. If you are planning on visiting, it is well worth the extra cost to climb to the top of the Bell Tower. We were captivated by the history and significance of this area during WWI, and humbled by the sheer number of lives sacrificed in the battles… over 50,000 of their names are written on the wall of the Menin Gate in Ypres, once a grand entrance to a grand town, and now an historic and striking reminder of its war-torn past, and dedication to peace of this Belgian town.

Menin Gate, Ypres Belgium. The Cloth Hall is visible behind the gate.

 

Under the Menin Gate, reading some of the 50,000+ names written on the walls. We drove under this gate as we entered the city on our way to our hotel.

We finished this day with a beautiful run in a park surrounding the city. We did get a few strange looks as we ran amid the tourists though… What? People don’t run in Belgium?!

The last days of our pilgrimage in the Flanders area took us through the Belgian countryside, marvelling at the golden fields of wheat and barley, the cattle (every singe one of them a Belgian Blue!), horses (none of them actual Belgians as far as I could tell!), corn, and sleepy towns (each with at least one beautiful, Gothic church), and trying to imagine the moonscape and mud that were the Ypres Salient (front line) – the First, Second, and Third Battles of Ypres, Paschendale, and Vimy Ridge were particularly bloody battles that we were blessed to learn about and to now remember with a higher level of consciousness. What remains is a countryside literally changed by memorials, monuments, and cemeteries devoted to those who died. Many were named and laid to rest as known heroes to their families and countries… but many are laid to rest in unmarked graves. The striking similarity of each of these sites is the feeling of quiet and peace that they evoked in us all. When passing among the graves, I felt the air was a little stiller, a little warmer. I’m not sure what that is… whispers from those lost to never forget is what the signs and interpreters say. Surrounded by Canadian Maple trees, with Canadian Flags billowing, it is hard not to feel sad, proud, and fiercely protective of these fallen heroes. Truly, we must never forget.

In this case, pictures speak far louder than words…

We must never forget… and we must learn to do better, lessons from the past.

 

The names of the 12,000+ soldiers buried at Tyne Cot Cemetery are written on the walls surrounding the grave sites.

 

This photo is not staged. I found JJ sitting here… we were all very thoughtful during these visits.

 

Tyne Cot Cemetery

 

Rest in Peace.

 

Cattle graze peacefully beside the graves of fallen Canadian Soldiers at Tyne Cot Cemetery

 

Over 12,000 Canadian Soldiers are buried here. It is a strikingly beautiful and peaceful place.

 

The Brooding Soldier (the Second Battle of Ypres monument). This spot marks the beginning of the use of chemical warfare. A dark time in the history of this war… and for all mankind.

 

Many of the sites of Canadian war dead have been given to Canada by Begium. These government of Canada signs made us feel like we were coming home as we entered the sites.

 

Langemaark German Cemetery… this site is the final resting place of over 44,000 fallen German Soldiers, buried without the grandeur of Allied soldiers. This too, is a quiet, peaceful place… sons, husbands, and fathers that didn’t make it home.

 

On a lighter note… read this inscription. …children in Canada learn paper mache… we might need to step up our programs…

 

CT and JJ have asked to tell of our visits to Hill 62 (strategically important – Canadians fought to hold this hill, but were overtaken in June 1916), and Vimy Ridge (considered impregnable by German defenders, and Canadas Allies, but Canadians captured Vimy none-the-less in April, 1917), so I will leave that to them and give you the links once they are done. We are all spent emotionally after our days in Ypres. Our hearts are full, yet heavy at the same time. We love this place, because it feels a little bit like an extension of our place… just a world away.

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Travel Diary: Costa Rica (4)

We are not the kind of family to lounge by a pool for long… but we have managed to fit in a great deal of pool lounging ;).

So… if you are the adventurous type and wonder what you might find to do in Costa Rica, many local tour companies in Guanacaste will set you up with an “All-Day Adventure” or “Combo Adventure.” Our adventure included zip-lining, rappelling, rock-climbing, Costa Rican lunch,  horse back riding, white water kayaking, and then some relaxing in volcanic mud and hot springs!

I have to be honest... watching my babies get hooked up to a line 100 ft above a canyon didn't seem like a great idea when I really thought about it... but "When in Rome..." right?! It turned out they both had a blast!!!
I have to be honest… watching my babies get hooked up to a line 100 ft above a canyon didn’t seem like a great idea when I really thought about it… but “When in Rome…” right?! It turned out they both had a blast!!!
For those that know me well, you can imagine that this was a *little* outside my comfort zone. But actually, after the first one or two zip lines, I enjoyed myself quite a bit! No hymn singing required ;).
For those that know me well, you can imagine that this was a *little* outside my comfort zone. But actually, after the first one or two zip lines, I enjoyed myself quite a bit! No hymn singing required ;).
Our guide warned us that although all of us would easily be able to do the rapelling, it was a difficult climb up (and in the bright sun!)... so Lee and a few of the other guys in our group were the only ones that gave it a go!
Our guide warned us that although all of us would easily be able to do the rappelling, it was a difficult climb up (and in the bright sun!)… so Lee and a few of the other guys in our group were the only ones that gave it a go!
It was a very hot, very long climb up!
It was a very hot, very long climb up!
We all felt a little badly at the look of these horses and tried our best to make it an easy ride for their sake!!
We all felt a little badly at the look of these horses and tried our best to make it an easy ride for their sake!!
The white-water portion of this trip was a little hairy if you ask me... but for the adrenaline junkies in the crew (CT and JJ included), it was a hit!
The white-water portion of this trip was a little hairy if you ask me… but for the adrenaline junkies in the crew (CT and JJ included), it was a hit!
Volcanic mud in Costa Rica is about as close as I plan to every get to a "tough mudder" ;)!
Volcanic mud in Costa Rica is about as close as I plan to every get to a “tough mudder” ;)!
Even the guys got in on the action!!!
Even the guys got in on the action!!!
Everyone needs a little natural hot springs after a hard day of fun!!
Everyone needs a little natural hot springs after a hard day of fun!!

You can imagine that after this day of fun in the sun (the temperature here has hovered between 33 to 36 degrees C for our entire trip), we had two VERY tired kiddos (and their associated grown ups) at the end of the day. Supper tasted good that night, and it didn’t take very long for anyone to fall asleep!

In addition to this fun day, our excursions have also included some surfing… well, the boys did the surfing… I bobbed in the wonderful bath-tub temperature water! We ate at a wonderful restaurant called “Eat at Joe’s” in Tamarindo located next to the Witch’s Rock surf shop after surfing. Excellent service, good prices, and very tasty food!

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Aaaaand… An awesome day at a local national park, where we saw over 20 species of birds, some very cute monkeys, some not-so-cute crocodiles, and enormous iguanas! We also had the opportunity to feast on a customary Costa Rican lunch… it was delicious!! For some great photos of this excursion, hop on over to Cole’s blog where he and Jake have written a little bit about their adventure so far! But, here is one of my favorite photos from that day!

We are LOVING Costa Rican coffee!!
We are LOVING Costa Rican coffee!!

To cap off our daily adventures, we took this show out on the high-seas for some ocean kayaking and snorkelling. The water was absolutely brilliant blue and clear. After a short paddle to a small beach, we were able to see several species of fish, coral, a sting-ray, and even an eel! I LOVE snorkelling, so this was by far my favorite excursion of the trip!!

So, there you have it friends. If you are looking for some excitement on your vacation, Costa Rica will not disappoint!

Pura Vida until next time!!

Joyful. Patient. Faithful.

It seems to me that far too many people dear to me have been dealing with far too much turmoil and heart ache recently. Enough already. In my human view of things, the world would just make a whole lot more sense if things (at least eventually) turned out good for the good ones, you know? But, that’s not how it is at all, is it? Sometimes the good ones finish last. Sometimes they don’t get to finish at all.

In a broken, fallen, grieving world; in the world of here and now, things don’t always add up the way we think they should.

So, as I was spending some time in quiet meditation and prayer this week, and this verse washed over me in such a new and vibrant way, thoughts of all these dear souls flooded over me and I just knew that they needed to feel encouraged as I was.

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(This lovely version was not created by me, so my thanks to the artist who posted this here).

If today is one of the best days of your life, dear friend… be joyful in hope. I am so grateful for these days you are in. Let them be strength to you for the days that are not! Don’t look for ways to darken the light. It is good. Bask in it. Be joyful in hope.

If today is one of the darkest you have ever trudged through, dear friend… be patient in affliction. The old adage is true – this too shall pass. The darkest of days are always followed by dawn. It is a universal law. It will not be broken. You already have within you whatever you need to walk this road. Trust that you will. Trust that you can. If all that you can muster is one breath, Take it. Take the next one, and the next one, and the next one. And before you know it, some time will have passed. You will be a tiny bit further through the shadows. Keep moving through them. Be patient in affliction.

And covering, like a warm, soft, fragrant cloak over these two extremes – the high and the low, the strength and the weakness… be faithful in prayer. You are held, dear friend. In higher esteem than you can ever imagine. You are heard. Cherished. Beloved. So, pray. Pray in disbelief, in anger, in fear, in sorrow. Pray in love, in abundance, in fits of giggles and triumph! Words sent up to heaven, the cries of your heart, are holy. Speak them in earnest, never-ceasing. Be faithful in prayer.

Wherever you are today, be encouraged. I sure am.

A Night at the Museum

We are going on year 4 of Dinomania in our household. It all started when CT was 4… and then again when JJ turned 4 (neither interest level seems to be waning). Don’t get me wrong. This science-loving, research-loving, biology-loving mom is tickled pink that her lovelies are taking an interest in the natural world… but 4 years of reading dino encyclopedias is getting a bit much, if you know what I mean…

However, I’m a sucker for all things educational, and dinomania counts… sooooo…

What does a dino-loving, hiking-bound, fun-seeking family in Southern Alberta do when they need yet another dino fix? They drive to the Mecca of museums for dinosaur lovers in our part of the world, which by some magical twist of dino-fate is only 1.5 hours from our humble abode. Of course, I speak of the Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta (A.K.A, dino-heaven to our little paleontologist prodigies).

As you might imagine, our last few years have been riddled with countless excursions to this destination. So, when the request came this summer to, again, visit the museum, I had to find a way to shake it up a little. We have done all the activities. We have done all the hikes. We have done all the interpretive programs… what could possibly be left?!

A SLEEP OVER!!! I’m not kidding. For a very reasonable price, we found ourselves camping out under the dino bones after filling our bellies with a yummy dino-snack, and resting our minds after 2 hours of never-before enjoyed behind the scenes dino-experiences. The kids? Ecstatic! The parents? In the good books for the time being!

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After a (surprisingly!) good sleep under the bones, we awoke to a hot breakfast, dino movie, and a full day in the museum!

On this mom’s scale of fun-famly-excursions, at a reasonable price, and in the vicinity of home, this one rates 10/10. If you have dino-fans at home, I highly recommend you check it out!