Sunday, May 30, 2004

Bonding Time With the Twins

The twins both have chicken pox (hence the medicinal goop on Megan's head), so they were a bit fussy. I managed to pick them both up, and they calmed down. But that's more than 17lbs of baby! Oof! Megan (on the left) is around 10lbs, and Maribeth is around 7lbs.

My mom with Megan -- poor baby has chicken pox... Posted by Hello

Melissa will have her cake and eat it, too. Posted by Hello

Allan's Birthday

Allan's birthday is actually today, but we celebrated yesterday to accommodate scheduling. He's 33 today, which -- eek -- means I turn 32 in less than three weeks! I think Allan's trying to show the kiddies how old he is...

Friday, May 28, 2004


You'll be able to tell when I'm busy, because this will turn into a Photoblog. Which is really not a bad way to show the photos from my trip, since there are enough of them to fill up the rest of the year on this blogspot (and more...). I do like the Photoblog feature a lot, though, it's easy to post photos using the Hello software and it saves me a lot of time with photo editing, then FTP'ing the picture to my webspace, then linking it into my blog.

A photo I took in Port Vell, Barcelona. Posted by Hello

Thursday, May 27, 2004

My Canada Includes Accordion Guy

Who is Accordion Guy? A Filipino-Canadian! Yessiree, there's a bunch of us here in the Great White North (ironically, Toronto is below the 49th parallel, in case you haven't noticed). Thanks to my older bro, who will be 33 on Sunday, for sending the link.

Almost 30 years later, and I still don't belong


I've been looking at the invitation for a while now, and I jumped in and joined. There are some excellent features, but we'll see how it goes.

Go ahead and send me an e-mail: gailontheweb [at]

Nice for me that it would be called GMail. I was tempted to take the moniker, but I think that would just be plain confusing.


One of my favourite photos from the Alhambra, in Granada, Spain. Amazing place. I took around 500 photos just in Spain, and many of them were at Alhambra.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Primus Broadband Phone

I was going to be an EARLY-early adopter, but I waited months before diving in. I have Telus Enhanced ADSL, so I thought I might as well get my money's worth and ditch the Telus landline since I can't claim it on my taxes. Also, Telus charges a small fortune for features such as Caller ID, voicemail, Call Forward, etc., that even though I pay for those features in a cheaper bundle, it adds quite a lot onto the total.


1) I can take the phone number with me, just by bringing the gateway router and plugging it into any broadband connection. Anyone who phones me can reach me at the same number, even if I'm overseas;
2) Calls are free between Primus Broadband customers (obviously would need more people on this system for this to be a usable feature);
3) More features available that Telus does not have;
4) Bigger voicemail capacity, messages held on system indefinitely;
5) Cheaper!


1) The word is out whether my broadband connection can handle this much traffic -- I already use it all day for VPN with the office, in conjunction with PCAnywhere to remote control my office computer, plus the regular stuff like e-mail and surfing;
2) No Advanced Call Forwarding, which I use all the time to forward the home phone to my mobile... I often forget to forward the phone, so I usually end up doing it on mass transit or in the car. Now I have to do it from the phone itself using *72;
3) No 411 or 911, the former which I never use and the latter which I hope I'll never use (I have one charger at home and one at the office, and keep the mobile phone on full charge all the time);
4) I'll have to get a better cordless phone, because of all the equipment in this room affecting the line quality (Ross already complained about it today);
5) This is the only phone currently hooked up to the gateway, so it should be cordless, anyway; if I want to hook up another phone, I'll have to use the splitter, which means even more cables/cords... right now I have three power bars full, running from two power points in this part of the room. It's a cable/wire crazy mess.

Right now I'm in the middle of the process called porting, where Telus gives up the line to Primus. At the moment my incoming calls are ringing on the landline, but not on the broadband line. I can make outgoing calls on either the landline or the broadband phones. I thought my intercom wasn't working, but it turns out I forgot I'd turned the ringer off while Matt was staying here. Feeling a bit sheepish about that, since I was totally convinced the intercom was hardwired into all the apartment phone jacks, not routing through the phone company (as it does with new buildings; yay for old buildings in the West End!), then convinced myself otherwise when the courier companies couldn't reach me. When I asked the building manager about it today (before I checked to see if I'd turned off the ringer), she said half the tenants in my 32-storey building don't even have landlines in their suite -- they just use their mobile phones. So, for sure the intercom should work.

The twins last week, when their maternal grandparents and two aunties were in town. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Michievous Little Megan

Look at that mischievous little twin grin (it's Megan). Less than four months old and already charming everybody's socks off.

Hiking to the Office

I'm not kidding! I actually hiked up to the office!

We were working on our big monthly report, so we'll take a day off in the summer in lieu of today. I took public transit so I could avoid the long weekend ferry lineups and general busy-ness. Also, I wanted to time the walk up to the office, and see how easy it was to spot the head of this trail Carol says they made from the road up to the house. I set off around noon, off the ferry and up the lower road towards Gibsons (I think it might be Marine Drive already). It was a fine, warm day, and the views going up the hill were pretty distracting.

One of the views I get walking up the hill to the new office. Apparently there's a proud Welsh person living on North Road.

Watch out for deer! They should make a deer crosswalk. There is no shoulder on North Road. A small section of the road has a tiny bit of shoulder where the houses are, on the ocean side, but other than that, it's how you see here. The deer better watch out for me, though, they're pretty plentiful around here.

The house/office (still under construction). That's AJ in the playpen with the umbrella on top.

You can see there's a lot of landscaping to do. The house section should be finished sometime in July, so I think we'll have a summer of clearing brambles!

The office is the part of the building from the clocktower to the right, except for Allison's office, which is the smaller window to the left of the clocktower.

The office is high up on the hill, so the trail up to it is steep. But, it's a much faster way to get to the office when comparing it to the driveway and the road. I timed it on the way home, and using the driveway adds about five minutes to a journey that would otherwise take about 15 minutes, because the long way means you have to go up this hill of a driveway, then along the road, down to North Road, before heading towards the ferry.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Summer Cityscape and Science World

One of the playgrounds beside Science World. That's False Creek off to the left, the blue and yellow tents belong to the famed Cirque du Soleil. 

The aforementioned Big Ball of Science.

OK, this is one puzzle I was determined to finish, but Michael was a big help.

One of the many puzzles we attempted to do this morning. Whenever I go to Science World, I feel like a dufus. It takes me so long to do a puzzle that a kid usually figures it out before I do. This is no doubt linked to the fact that I'm always at Science World on a Sunday after a long Saturday night.

Big Ball of Science with Brandon

Michael and his new friend Brandon, hiding from the giant arachnid on the ceiling of Science World. Since the other kids had chicken pox, I took Michael out on his own today, to the "Big Ball of Science", a.k.a. Science World. I pulled an all-nighter giving this website an overhaul, so by about 10am, I was already bagged, while Michael was raring to go.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Chez Hopkins

Dinner at Chez Hopkins Friday night, with Eliza, Tosca, Mike, Mark, and Vicky.

Dessert at Chez Hopkins, courtesy of Eliza. Posted by Hello

The Twins

The twins, last weekend. Posted by Hello


I'm trying out a new feature, Photoblogging, which allows me to post and HOST photos directly through an application called Hello, from Picasa. There are some great features here, including being able to enlarge the photo by clicking on it (three different sizes as options). By far the most appealing feature of this is being able to host the photos on the Blogger server, thus saving space in my Telus webspace. Plus, I don't have to rename, resize, or FTP the photo to my webspace, either. Who knows, maybe one day they'll charge for this, but until then, I'm taking advantage of the convenience.

May 1, St. Bartholomew's Church, Wolverhampton, England. In the bridesmaids' car, a lovely white vintage Rolls Royce. (click on pic to enlarge)

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Geeking Out

I'm going to my first ApplesBC Computer Society Meeting this evening. Don't laugh. For those in my inner circle, you know I barely use Macs -- mainly at SFU and, more recently, the eMac -- so why am I going?

Kevin, the true MacHead, says a Microsoft guy who's involved with the programming of Office for Mac will be there tonight, and he wants to know if I'd like to go to gladhand and see if Office for Mac has new features that can help us migrate out of our PC environment over to the sunny side of the computing street.

Hey, why not? I wish I were more conversant in VirtualPC and all that jazz, but I've experienced firsthand enough compatibility problems at the office in our Mac and PC co-existence to ask a lot of questions.

Besides, an evening with a bunch of users and programmers will do my Inner Geek a lot of good.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Feedback Please

Someone from Orkut complained that this blog has black text on a dark background. So far, he is the only person to complain about this, but he's done it TWICE now, and will probably continue. But I'm not about to change my template for one – albeit annoying – guy. I've checked this blog in IE, Netscape, Mozilla, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera. I don't know what black text he's talking about, since I customized the template back at the beginning of the year, and all the text is coloured.

Please do me a favour and leave a comment if you are having any difficulty reading this blog, by way of odd colouring, messed up text layout, or whatnot. And don't forget to include what browser you're using, the version, and your screen resolution.


Department Stores: I'm Not Their Target Market

I was at The Bay on Saturday afternoon, buying a gift for somebody in the cosmetics/fragrance department, which wasn't busy since the weather was good. The ladies at the counters were on me like flies on... poop. I went in there to buy something fairly specific, but found myself in a sea of items that matched what I was intending to buy.

Clarins, Shiseido, Clinique, Elizabeth Arden, Estee Lauder, Lancome, MAC, Helen Rubinstein, Guerlain... the array of brands was dizzying, and I was pretty unfamiliar with most of them, only knowing their names but not the products.

Finally, I made a decision on two gift sets. The cashier rang up the sale and asked if I had a Bay card or rewards like HSBC HBC. I said no. She looked at me expectantly.

"Would you like to get an HSBC HBC card?" she asked.
"No thanks," I replied. "I don't shop at department stores."

She stopped, then looked at me like I'd just said I had a toad for breakfast.

"I go to department stores maybe once or twice a year," I offered. I don't know why I felt the need to say that, since what did it matter? I didn't want a card. Years ago, I procured an Eaton's card on the spot so I could get a discount at the till. That was the only thing I bought with the card, paid the bill, and never used it since... For anyone familiar with the demise of Eaton's in Vancouver, that is indeed a long time ago.

"Once or twice year?" she repeated. Her movements after those words indicated to me that she had no idea where on earth (or, at least, in Vancouver) one would shop if not at The Bay. In fact, I think it stymied her, since she said nothing after that. I felt she was either waiting for me to offer an explanation for what I do with my money, or say that I'm unemployed and have a filthy shopping habit courtesy of my Aerogold VISA.

Inexplicably, I took the bait: "I spend my money on travel..." She glanced at my clothes, with either a look of oh yes, that's obvious or where do you shop, then?

"I just returned from a trip..." I began. From that point, I think I brought her around by telling her how cheap clothes and shoes were in Spain, and how good the selection is in Europe. It's obvious I'm no fashion maven. I was also tempted to round things off by telling her how I'm an advocate of clothes recycling -- second-hand shops, consignment, Salvation Army, etc. -- but I left it at that. I was more perturbed by the fact that there are people in this world who feel that they should only buy new, trendy clothing from the likes of department stores. Department stores are generally money-sinks, if you ask me...

Supersize Me

I saw the film earlier this evening, and I have one thing to say:

If this film doesn't turn you off McDonald's food, I don't know what will. A medical practitioner would have to intervene. I don't know what was scarier: watching Morgan Spulock's health decline at such a rapid pace, or watching the reactions of the people around him as his McDonald's experiment took its toll on his internal organs and mental health. Scary, scary stuff.

Supersize Me

Friday, May 14, 2004

The New Office

I'm at the new office with the million-dollar view, surrounded by muscular tradesmen... what better way is there to work? (Kevin's going to laugh when he reads that tradesmen part.)

I guess the only way to beat that is to sit on the veranda with a tall, cool drink, but let's not be greedy.

I took this pic from the top of the driveway, looking down the hillside towards the house (the office is to the left), which overlooks Jervis Inlet and what I think is the Garibaldi mountain range?? Yesterday I watched the ferry come in, which is amazing since when we were at the Sechelt office we never knew if the ferry was on time. I left the office at 6:16pm and was sitting in the ferry lineup three minutes later! My mileage was chopped in half, too, and I didn't have to deal with that dratted Sunshine Coast Highway, either... all in all, the move was the best thing to happen to all of us (Kevin still has to move his family in; the house won't be finished for probably at least another month or so).

Ofoto album for Spain

I've uploaded my photos for Spain, although I haven't finished adding text. I'm turning into an old fart -- I can't seem to recall the names of the places I visited, it appears I have to look them up in my Lonely Planet guidebook. Egads.

I'm ready to hit the sack (early start tomorrow), so I'll just post a couple of links to some videoclips I shot in England, before the wedding, and uploaded to my SFU webspace.

Mount Hotel, Wolverhampton -- groom's party (13.3 MB, avi format)

I barely remember shooting this... It was some crazy hour of the morning, and the Belfast crew were were getting louder and louder.

Rachel and Joe at the Nicholson's house (12.4 MB, avi format)

Rachel is a very well-behaved four-year-old from Belfast who is John's niece and the flower girl. Joe is Lucy's boy, five years old (turning six this summer), with a broad West Midlands accent and a tendency to hog the camera!

On a completely different note, I was going to see Supersize Me, but I gotta go to the new office tomorrow, and that means waking up at the crack of dawn. As soon as I get home tomorrow, I'm going out for dinner near my apartment with some out-of-towner foodies from Ontario -- Il Giardino's, an Umberto restaurant and another one of those fancy places in my neighbourhood that are out of my price range! So, I kept things low-key tonight, opting to stay home instead of going out. It will be a very expensive spring, I think.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

French Connection

Last night I gate-crashed Michel's cocktail party, part of the Market Pulp Conference that's here in town, and ended up talking to the proprietor of the fancy French restaurant, L'Hermitage, Hervé, about France's 35-hour work week.

"The French are lazy," he said. "I put in more than 14 hours a day here, and I can't do that in France, because of this law." He thinks that since the law was introduced eight or nine years ago, the country is going downhill. It's hard to argue with someone who's managed to keep a high-end restaurant going in Vancouver, the city of the dining fickle, for 16 years. It's a dog-eat-dog world here for restauranteurs. Meawhile, as we were discussing labour legislation, I was dying to shimmy over to the bar and get a glass of wine. I'd already had this discussion with other French people last week, whose opinion were less negative towards it -- or more positive, whichever way you want to look at it.

I didn't just show up at L'Hermitage, exactly, Jane suggested I pop over for a glass of wine, so who was I to say no? I walked in, saw Michel, and as soon as I mentioned I was only just a few days before in Mont St. Michel, he introduced me to Hervé, who's from the area. I hadn't even said hello to Jane, Martha, or any of my colleagues. I think I hadn't had enough to eat at lunch, because I swear I hadn't even finished the glass before I felt myself getting more than a bit tipsy. I also seemed to go a tad deaf, too, because when I was introduced to other pulp market movers and shakers, I thought the person I was shaking hands with was George Petty.

"George Petty?" I asked, leaning forward, his hand still in mine.

Everyone laughed uproariously, but rather than get embarrassed I managed to squire some effective follow-up jokes that took the edge off the "oh-my-goodness-I-just-put-my-foot-in-my-mouth" look of horror. The man I was shaking with was Dan Veniez, and I did eventually meet George Petty, but I think people were laughing because these two look nothing alike. So, it could've been much worse, since I'd initially thought it was because I'd just insulted someone by suggesting he was someone else.

My colleagues had to go to a dinner hosted by another company, so I had all of about two minutes to talk to Kevin, who I hadn't seen for a month. I have yet to see the new office, and I didn't have a key! But, I'll head there on Friday.

As the cocktails wound down and the others headed off, I became even more brash and invited myself to stay for dinner at L'Hermitage, a restaurant I've only been to once before because it's so out of my price range, the appetisers cost more than my average entrée... but it was good to spend time with this bunch of people I only get to see once a year, at our company Christmas party. You can never get enough conversation in, since there are too many of us to have a decent chat with all. There was only one person at L'Hermitage who wasn't an associate of our companies -- it was one of Michel's clients from Seattle, so at least the dinner wasn't all shop talk. I waited for the bill, but it never did arrive -- in the end, Michel took care of it, so I think I'm going to see if I can get him some of his favourite cheese -- Rocquefort!

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

The Wedding Album

... is uploaded to Ofoto. The photos here are by the professional photographer, but I took everything in the albums, bar a few in the church that I had to get Dom to take because I was up in the front.

Ofoto album for France

OK, I just finished the photo album for France.

Click here to preview all photos in the France album. Once you click 'view photos', the slideshow automatically starts in a pop-up window, so you'll have to shut off your pop-up blocker for this page for it to work.

For more info on Mont St. Michel, a UNESCO world heritage site, click here.

I'm missing a whole bunch of photos from Monday night and Tuesday in Paris... they don't show up at all on the flash card... the only one I could preserve was this metro sign, because I'd printed it out, so I scanned it when I got home. So, no photos of Manu and the famous Berthillon ice cream, or the ancient Citroën that Manu pointed out to me, or my better photos of the Notre Dame... the ice cream was to die for -- I had a scoop of pistachio and a scoop of white chocolate... yum yum!!

Tons o' Photos

I'm still catalogue-ing (catalogging?) the virtual mounds of photos from my Eurotripping. It's taking quite a while, since I had to transfer two flashcards onto CD after Spain, in England, but it was a bugger trying to get those back on the flashcards because of the Canon A80's auto-rotatation feature... the camera window software wouldn't upload the portrait-oriented photos because they weren't in the same digital format pre-CD. Bugger.

The reason why I wanted to upload them back onto the cards to download them is because when I download off the camera I can assign prefixes onto the files, so they're not just a bunch of sequential numbers. Everything's fine when you view by thumbnail, but I prefer at least the date in the prefix so I can catalogue them easier. Lazy bugger, me.

Anyway, to make a ridiculous rant a lot shorter, the photos are coming... I've uploaded many of them to Ofoto (they said I had no limit), so there's a France album, and one for Lucy and John's wedding, and it's still uploading Spain (which has literally hundreds of photos). I would normally be more selective in which photos to upload, but it takes time to cull, and this is easier! I'll have to go back through them later and add some captions or labels or something. Or, maybe I'll just let the photos speak for themselves.

Speedo's Public Service Announcement

It's only a few weeks away, so it had better warm up!

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Back on Home Soil

I'm back!!

Actually, my flight was half an hour early and I was out of Customs & Immigration, got my bags, then out the door by 3:40pm. Which is quite amazing since my flight wasn't due in until 3:40, and I'd never spent so much time in the Immigration queue before -- a pile of flights arrived all at once, so the entire area turned into a giant maze. The problem with being a half-hour early is that the people picking you up don't know that, so you wait around for a while, anyway.

The weather was gorgeous coming in -- I love coming home to sunshine, mountains, clean air, a waterfall at the airport, "welcome home" at the Immigration counter, and walking into my apartment with a view of the ocean... NOTHING in this world matches this.

Went to CinCin restaurant to pick up the keys from Matt, who I barely recognized with his shaved head and shaved face, took my parents to Samurai (where our total bill came to less than $20, not like the bill in London last night that was £235+, or around $600 Canadian!!), then home to crash and burn... spoke to my boss, who was in New York and phoned me on his way out to the airport, because I have a presentation to make in a matter of hours... don't ask... this is my life -- no stopping, no transition, just go from one thing to the other...

And boy, did I crash -- I lay down on the couch looking at the ocean, and woke up at nearly 2am... what was supposed to be a little snooze turned into a full-on coma. If I'd have slept on the plane, I would've been OK, but I spent probably at least half of the 10 hour flight chatting to my one seatmate, who works for the Canadian military in bomb disposal -- which makes for interesting conversation, as you can imagine.

So, around 2:30am after I woke up a bit, I started to download stuff off my flashcards, and Matt arrived. We poured drinks and put some of my French CDs on, and now it's after 5am, and I haven't started anything. He's asleep now, and after a couple of glasses of wine and some gin I'm ready for bed again, but there is so much to do still... the birds are chirping, I'm buzzing, and will need a shower to wake up again and get energised for my morning of work.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Tour de France

My Tour de France is officially over (I flew back to London this afternoon), and I should get the yellow jersey for five days of touring in record speed.

As you can tell, I have been nowhere near a computer terminal for days...

Paris metro
Uploaded by gailontheweb.
I did manage to JUST -- with Manu's help -- make my 17:05 train to Le Touquet, but not without some major darting and dashing. Rather crazy few moments there. Then it was north to Le Touquet, where Jerome picked me up at the station in his suit -- typical Jerome to still be working at 7:30 in the evening. I got the quick tour of Le Touquet, although it's a pretty small place, so I don't think a long tour is possible. The place reminds me of the Sunshine Coast, put it that way, so I won't get all long-winded about Tuesday night, as Jerome and I spent pretty much the entire evening nattering.

I took the 11:00 train back to Paris, and picked up my ticket at Montparnasse station, but I had to take my bags to Gare d'Austerlitz (a smaller station, where I dropped off Claire on Monday night when she returned to Orleans), because they don't allow luggage storage at Montparnasse. I tried to meet up with Philippe, but he was in an all-day meeting an hour away from me, and there just wasn't enough time, so all we could manage was a couple of quick conversations... he told me not to book a hotel next time, so I think my next trip to Paris I'm going to take him up on that offer.

So, I spent the afternoon in Paris shopping on the Champs d'Elysee instead, then raced back to Gare d'Austerlitz to pick up my bags, then took a cab to Montparnasse to catch the TGV to Rennes...

... made it to Montparnasse only 10 MINUTES BEFORE THE TRAIN LEFT!! Talk about cutting it close... arrived in Rennes and stood in the plaza in front of the train station, looking for Gilles or Nolwenn... a few minutes later Nolwenn came running towards me, and I recognized her immediately. I hadn't seen her for more than 11 years!!

Uploaded by gailontheweb.

After that little reunion at the train station we had to stop by the hospital, where Gilles and Nolwenn's sister were with baby Chanelle, who has a dislocated hip. Chanelle was winched up in this spread-eagled position with weights off a pulley system, poor baby. Apparently this hip dislocation is common in two regions in France, amongst girls, and one of those regions is Brittany -- medical people have no idea why.

From the hospital in Rennes Gilles and Nolwenn and I went back to her parent's house in Combourg (this little village with an enormous castle), and spent the rest of the evening chatting.

Yesterday was a big tour, that included Mont St. Michel and St. Malo... my meter is ticking here, so I'll post the photos later. My friend George is waiting for a phone call from me so we can meet for dinner and drinks -- I haven't seen him for a couple of years!

This morning Nolwenn took me to the airport in Dinard, where I experienced my first painful sting of an excess baggage fee... Nolwenn tried her best to talk the agent out of it, but my bags were 12kgs over Ryanair's limit of 15kgs, so my fee, which was 78 euros, was well over and above my actual fare, which was 20 euros... you win some, you lose some... I've been flying all over Europe and have been accumulating ridiculous amounts of stuff, but it feels like I've just been carrying around a pile of dirty laundry.

OK, time to meet George! Next post will be from Vancouver!!

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Paris, avec Manu, then... ?

... Le Touquet? Stay tuned.

Today's a bit up in the air at the moment. I just picked up an e-mail from Jerome with his mobile number, and hopefully I can catch a train to Le Touquet this afternoon to meet him for dinner, then return in the morning to Paris. I have to meet Manu in an hour, and my bags are sitting upstairs, since I'm not sure what I'll do with them... the luggage locker here only keeps bags for 24 hours, and Claire mentioned it's not possible to store luggage at Montparnasse for security reasons...


Monday, May 03, 2004

Paris, avec Claire

I'm back at d'Artagnan after seeing Claire off at Gare d'Austerlitz -- she took the last train back to Orleans, at nearly midnight. It was so good to see her again today, the time just flew. We were discussing possibly meeting in London on Friday night, but she's stuck in Luton training for new job with Easyjet, so it's going to be an incredibly boring month for her there. If I wasn't meeting George in the city on Friday night, I'd head out to Luton for the evening.

This morning when the alarm went off, I was cursing my pride. Both Jerome and Claire offered to pick me up at the airport last night, but I opted to get into the city myself. Stupid me, I should've said yes!! I would've had a much earlier night.

But anyway, I booked in for this evening, and explained to the front desk person that there was a 50/50 chance I would be going to Le Touquet for Tuesday night. She was very accommodating and made a reservation for me (this place is VERY BUSY), and I said I'd find out today if I was going to visit Jerome or not.

After a train delay from Orleans, Claire met me in the lobby of the hostel, and we headed out to Montmartre after sitting in the sun over some catch-up chat at a sidewalk cafe. What a gorgeous day! We wandered around for photo ops, and headed towards the Eiffel Tower, avoiding the hordes of tourists. We were so engaged in conversation we weren't making much headway on foot, so I decided we'd take a little break and bought a couple of boat tickets so we could continue talking and taking photos and discussing the points of interest, like Pigalle, Moulin Rouge, Grand Palais, Pont de Neuf, Notre Dame, the islands... It was a bit surreal, since it was only a few months ago that we were in Vancouver in Claire's last days there, and we were doing something similar -- walking very slow and talking very fast.

Like I said, the time just flew... along with our animated conversation, Claire gave me the tour of Paris, a layout of the city and some historical information. I felt that Paris was not the kind of place that could be covered in one visit, since the museums alone are enormous and there's a great deal of territory to cover. It's the kind of city I'd return to again and again and still be able to see something new.

We had a fantastic Lebanese dinner after some aperatifs at a pub/bar, and I decided I'd better try to ring Jerome if I wanted to meet him for dinner tomorrow. Le Touquet is 2.5 hours away by train, so it would mean leaving Paris in the late afternoon, probably before rush hour. We couldn't reach him on Claire's mobile phone, so then I tried to call Manu to set up a time to meet tomorrow, hoping that I would have enough time to still go to Le Touquet. We did manage to reach Manu, and set a time and place, but we still couldn't get through to Jerome. If I don't go to Le Touquet, I'll stay in Paris another evening. I booked the TGV for Wednesday to leave for Rennes at 7:05pm, so I'll have to be back in Paris either way, to get the TGV from Montparnasse.

After I saw Claire off at the train station, I arrived back at the hostel hoping for a message from Jerome, but instead there was one from Philippe, who lives in Montmartre and whose number I didn't have since the notebook where I'd written it was lost somewhere between Barcelonia and Valencia. I can't pick up my Telus e-mail, so I don't know if Jerome has sent me an e-mail, which means I don't know where I'm staying tomorrow night. I'll have to try and reach him in the morning, but fingers crossed, I'll get a chance to see him before I leave for Brittany. I'm just glad I was able to see Claire today, since now that she'll be working for Easyjet, she'll be in the air all the time!

Sunday, May 02, 2004


I made it. Without paying a single euro cent to get here from the airport. But, I'm just happy to arrive. Major rerouting today -- railworks at Wolverhampton station, so I had to take a bus to Crewe, a train to Liverpool, then a bus to John Lennon Airport. Then, when I arrived at Charles de Gaulle, there were no trains running, so I had do something similar to get into the city centre. I think transportation deserves its own post.

The Wedding

The wedding went splendidly, all involved were very pleased. There were some hurting people this morning, I can tell ya. We stayed at the hotel (where the reception was going to be held) on Friday night, and the groom's family and friends from Belfast all flew in that afternoon, and I was drinking with them until the wee hours. It started off in the evening when Emma (Lucy's older sister) and her husband arrived... I hadn't seen Emma for nearly 5 years, since she lives in Coventry, about 35 miles away, so when I'm in Wolverhampton she's not usually around. So we had a round of drinks, then Dom (Ruth's fiance), and his family from Plymouth showed up after dinner, so it was another round of drinks. I met Dominic back during that crazy Christmas of '97, when he and Ruth were still studying at the University of Salford in Manchester -- Lucy and I just flew back from Amsterdam, and her car keys got stolen when we stopped at McDonald's on the way ... (what a story)

Anyway, the last couple of visits when I saw Ruth and Dom I was just passing through, so it was nice just to spend time with them in leisurely conversation. Just before they went off to bed, John the groom showed up at the hotel lounge with his dad and his mates from Belfast, fresh from closing down the Oddfellows pub down the road. The best man, Brian, fell asleep in a chair, and the rest of us had a tableful of grog on the go. I kept waking Brian up to remind him that he was in charge of John, and to make sure they made it back to the Novotel (where they were staying) in one piece. Scottish Brian would open his eyes, say "Oh, aye" and promptly go back to sleep. Finally, I couldn't last any longer -- I hadn't had a proper dinner but had already outlasted two groups of people. John's dad had toddled off to bed, which left John, Anto(ny), Marty, Peter, Kieran, Dee, Brian, and me with a night porter-bartender and a bar full of booze. There was no way I could keep up with the lads from Belfast, so I waved the white flag some time after 3am.

I was staying with Lucy in the bridal suite, but she forgot I didn't have a key, and locked the door. Thank goodness the suite was only near the top of the stairs -- I was holding a pint glass of water with one hand and the railing in the other. I had to pound on the door to get back in, and then took the longest shower ever... when I set the alarm, it was after 4 o'clock in the morning. I even pumiced my feet... I was so loud Lucy could hear me scraping away, even though the suite was huge. Apparently she called out to find out what on earth I could be doing in the bathroom, but I don't remember that. After more than a decade of shenanigans, Lucy has lots of stories about the stuff I get up to when I've had a few too many.

The three hours before the alarm went off felt like a minute. Lucy wanted the bridal party to have breakfast together, so Lucy's sisters, Ruth and Emma, joined us and I scoffed the full English breakfast to try to detoxify... I saw Anto at breakfast, and he was looking pretty bouncy, considering.

The whole day went tickety-boo. What a relief. It took all morning, but we all got ready in time... Hair appointments went smoothly (I did my own hair, which took all of my concentration), and Lucy was corseted up well before the photographer arrived. We, the bridesmaids, were in a white vintage Rolls Royce, followed by Lucy and her dad on their own Rolls Royce on the way to the church. Lucy's dad sang during the service, which had the entire two front rows sniffling and nose-blowing, and Lucy and John made it through their vows without a hitch. They signed the register in the vestry with us, and we left the church down the centre aisle with flashbulbs blinding us. I was just happy I didn't trip and fall while I was up near the carpet. I even TAPED on the straps of my slingbacks onto my ankles so they wouldn't slip off... which looked ridiculous, but my dress was really long in the back so nobody would notice.

After the confetti-throwing and a kazillion photos, I got the chauffeur to pour Lucy and John the champagne I sneaked into the car before we left the hotel. I was going to steal the glasses from the bar, but thought I'd better keep my nose clean and ask permission instead... the hotel people were pretty accommodating with that. Meanwhile, I was snapping as many photos I could for the wedding book I bought on Friday, and staying away from the Moet Lucy bought for us to drink in the morning while we were getting ready.

The weather held out for the big photo session in the afternoon before the reception, thankfully. The reception was in the Grand Hall, which was indeed very grand (photos forthcoming), and Brian successfully delivered the speech he'd been getting wound up over... he told me how nervous he was when we were dancing the second dance (the best man and chief bridesmaid, as they're called here, dance together, and the bridesmaids, Lucy's sisters, danced with John's brothers the groomsmen, as they're called in Ireland but ushers as they're called in England). The evening guests arrived after 7 o'clock and we had entertainment in the form of Irish dancing and singing, and a disco. I was kept busy taking everyone's photos and printing them out with the photo printer, which had everyone oohing and ahhing. I alternated between shooting and printing, and steered clear of the bar, only drinking the odd glass of vino that people would foist upon me (ha!).

By the time the DJ packed up, the Irish contingent was still raring to go, but it was different staff on who closed down the bar tills completely and sent everyone off to bed earlier than they would have liked. Peter wasn't making any headway trying to convince them to keep serving us, and pleaded with me to sweet-talk them into opening the bar up ("C'mon Gail, they'll listen to you"), but meanwhile Lucy's Uncle Steve had roped me into this totally nonsensical conversation about iron and steel and Mexico?? I was tired but totally sober and I still couldn't figure out what he was on about.

I'd moved all my stuff over to the Garden Suite next door from the bridal suite in the afternoon, which I was so thankful for when I dragged myself upstairs at some crazy hour of the morning. I was trying to print out the rest of the photos, but I was falling asleep in the chair supervising that little operation, and eventually lay on the bed with all my clothes and makeup still on... at least the shoes were off...

I checked out as late as possible, got onto the hotel's internet and booked the TGV for Wednesday, and managed to get one hour at Lucy's parent's place, where they were putting on a spread for the Irish families who were returning to Belfast later in the afternoon. I had to basically dine and dash, even though I would've liked to stay longer.

Lucy and John are off to Barbados for their honeymoon! Congratulations!!