Saturday, May 28, 2011

Montreal Odyssey - Part II - Terry

Most people don't realize that Whitegates was a place - it was Terry's childhood home. It was common years ago to name houses, especially on country properties. Whitegates was named before any kennel name was needed - it was named for it's white gates which were part of the white picket fence in front of the house. Later, when a kennel name was needed, it just made sense to use the house name.

We decided to go see the house, which Terry lived in with his family from 1953 to 1967 - so his whole childhood. This was Joan's favourite house, good times were had here. I was excited to see it!

We headed out over the Champlain Bridge to Richelieu. The house is right on the Richelieu River. A road goes in front, but the strip of land and waterfront directly in front of the house and across the road goes with the house. Terry had not seen the house in the 44 years since he lived there.

When we arrived, the owners were having a yard sale. This was good - it put them outside so we could talk to them. I snapped a few quick shots first. Between our rusty French and the lady of the house's much better English, we managed to make ourselves understood and explained that Terry had grown up in this house, etc., how good it looks, how we were here for his mother's burial, so we wanted see the old house and area, etc., lots of chatting and then she uttered the words I was so hoping to hear: "Do you want to look inside?" DO we!! I still can't get over her generousity, we got a complete tour and she was so nice.

The house as it looks today. This couple has had the house for just two years and they've done a lot of work on it - it looks fabulous. Lots of character and unique features inside and out that have been beautifully preserved. All the hedge, etc. (and the white picket fence) that were in the front are gone.

Whitegates when the Paveys first bought it, they thinned out some of the growth later, like the tree in the corner front. That's Joan in the driveway. Part of the white gate is showing.

Whitegates in winter. Two Collies in the drive!

Part of the living room today.

The fireplace in the living room as it is today.

The Pavey boys sitting in front of the windows as seen in the living room picture above. L-R Chris, Gord, John and Terry.

Terry's Dad Walter in his chair by the same fireplace as above, the mantle and surround were painted white then. The built-ins are gone, and another window is there now. The same wainscoting is still there, painted a contrasting colour now.

Joan in the living room on the other side of the fireplace. The bottom half of the built-in is still there. The wood floors in the house today are the original wood floors. You can see them in both the old and new pictures.

Terry, John and Gord sitting in front of the same fireplace as above.

Part of the kitchen as it is today. It's a really huge room, with a large eat-in part, and and extra sitting room part to the right. Through the door where the piano is straight ahead used to be the dining room - that piano was left by the Paveys when they moved and is still in the house!

Christmas dinner in that dining room as above. Terry is the little one beside Joan.

Part of the kitchen as it is today.

Walter Pavey with three of the boys and a Collie. If Walter were to look to his left, he would be looking at the kitchen as it is seen in the picture just above. L-R John, Collie, Gord, Terry (and Curious George) with Walter. The one and only TV would be in front of them.

The front porch as it is today.

Walter Pavey and three of the boys (John, Terry, Gord) - with one of the pillars of the porch as above behind them.

The side of the house with the garage. The white gate has been preserved between the house and garage.

The boys and Joan standing in front of the same garage in 1958. Chris, Gord, Joan, John and Terry.

The white gates between the house and garage, seen from the back patio. When we showed interest in these the owner of the house said to us that the house used to be called "White Gates". We just about fell over! We hadn't mentioned a thing about this. I don't know how she knew about the name after 44 years and who-knows-how-many owners of the house. Our French/English exchanges weren't good enough to get into those nuances.

The Richelieu river right across the street. REALLY steep to get down there. Someone has built a deck about half way down. This property also belongs to the the house. I couldn't believe how FAST the water is there. Almost rapids. Terry and his brothers swam there all the time growing up, and lots of it unsupervised. That would never happen today - supervised or not! I couldn't believe they swam in that fast water but he said they were all strong swimmers. I guess so! It was that or drown! When we saw white water just down river that they used to ride inner tubes on, I asked him if he remembers any kids drowning in those days, but he doesn't. The stuff we all used to do! We saw guys with special kayaks, gear, helmets, etc. getting ready to take the same rapids the kids used to inner tube on. Things change!

The steps down to the river in the same spot as above back in Terry's day. The dog even got into the action. Terry is at the bottom, Joan at the top.

Terry standing by the house numbers in 2011. We had looked at old pictures of the house before we left Toronto, and we were taken aback when we realized what the house numbers were (he had forgotten). 2's, 0's and 8's have followed us, and especially him, his whole life. Our current phone number is nothing but 2's, 0's and 8's. Our current house number has 8's and 2, last house a 2, last house phone number 292-6808. His current cell has three 8's and two 2's, my current cell is a 2, two 0's and two 8's - you get the picture.

Terry (closest to numbers) standing beside the Whitegates 2008 house numbers (which were on the post by the gate then) in 1955. Fifty-six years between the two pictures, and a lot of memories.

I will never forget the kindness of this woman to let us explore Terry's old house. This was the highlight of our trip and really meant a lot to him and to me.

Next stop - the West Island.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Montreal Odyssey - Part I - Joan

The long weekend found us making it even a little longer by embarking on a journey back to Montreal. The main purpose of the trip was to attend Terry's mum Joan's inurnment at Mount Royal Cemetery on Friday.

Terry and I both grew up in the Montreal area, him on the South shore and myself on the West Island. We both have very fond memories of Montreal - I have never met anyone who ever lived there that doesn't love this city - what's not to love? Joan loved it too and the fact that she was going to be laid to rest there would have made her very happy.

So the plan was to drive out to St. Sauveur in the Laurentian mountains north of Montreal to stay with Terry's cousin and his wife at their cottage for one night, head in to Montreal for the gathering at the cemetery, then stay at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel downtown for two nights, exploring downtown Montreal and Terry's old house and haunts on the South Shore, before heading out to the West Island to see my old house, school and hang-outs.

Crossing the border into Quebec from Ontario - woo hoo, quite the fancy new sign with "Welcome" in four languages. Really nice, nicest border marker of any Province or State I've seen. AND, no ker-thunk-thunk-thunk change of pavement right at the border anymore either! Smooth transition into the Province.

What a gorgeous "cottage" on the lake Terry's cousin Michael has, great hospitality, great meal, great company. Michael and Cheryl were very close to Joan, so this is a chance for them to say their goodbyes as well. Lots of reminiscing between the four of us.

We drove around Saint-Sauveur the next day before heading into Montreal, what a pretty town. This is the typical huge Catholic church that graces most every Quebec town, even the smallest of villages.

I'd forgotten what real Mountains look like - it was nice to be back in the Laurentians where I spent quite a bit of time as a kid. This is real ski country, and multiple lakes. More built up but still unspoiled.

Mount Royal Cemetery, one of the most beautiful cemeteries in North America, on the North side of the mountain (Mount Royal) that is the center of the City of Montreal. 165 acres of terraced cemetery opened in 1852.

More Mount Royal. Beautiful and peaceful.

Everything went well, although I know I discovered I hadn't healed as well as I thought I had and I know Terry felt the same. A little too much like an old wound being opened. But, we moved forward more quickly this time. I just focused on Joan and how pleased she would have been with this spot, in this place. Fittingly, it was one of the few truly gorgeous, warm and sunny spring days we've had this year.

Our home for two nights, the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, largest hotel in the Province. Beside it with all the statues on top is the Basilica-Cathedral Mary Queen of the World.

The Queen Elizabeth hotel was where, 42 years ago (today! May 26, 1969), John Lennon and Yoko Ono held their week long bed-in for peace in this corner suite (rooms 1738-40-42) at the Queen E. They recorded "Give Peace A Chance" in this room. I remember when it happened, as I lived in Montreal at the time and it was big news. I'm not sure when they put the plaque on the door, but I knew I had to get a picture of it!

View from one of the windows in our room, looking towards Old Montreal. The tall black building in the center of the picture is where I was working when I left Montreal, on the 38th Floor, for the legal department of a large shipping company (as in ocean going vessels). I loved that job, best job I ever had. I was there five years and it was really hard to leave it behind. The building is Place Victoria - "Tour de la Bourse" (Stock Exchange Tower).

We decided to walk to Gibbys for dinner, which is a well known restaurant in Old Montreal housed in a 200 year old stable building. This is the courtyard there. It used to be the best spot for an unbelievably excellent meal; although very expensive. Now it's just very expensive, but still packed with people. Sometimes you can't go back!

The next installment catapults us into Terry's past.

Monday, May 16, 2011

All Things Bright and Beautiful

My favourite photo subjects are definitely birds and animals. There is a challenge to capturing them when you can't dictate positioning or anything else.

This year we've had so many more birds than ever before, and so many different types as well. It's good to see. And hear! Everyone comments on the constant bird song around here.

We've had many, many Purple Finches this year. A very good sign! Up to 4 males and 6 females at one time. Last year we had one pair, and the year before, none. This is a male.

The female Purple Finch. I love this shot.

Toronto's bird - the Blue Jay. We have an incredible number of these this year as well.

White-throated Sparrow.

Another view of the White-throated Sparrow.

An Eastern Towhee. First time I've ever seen this type of bird. I'll have to try harder for a better picture, if I see it again.

A colourful staple, American Goldfinch. Changed over to breeding colours.

A White Crowned Sparrow. Sunning itself in the rare sunshine we've had this year. Longing for some sun like the rest of us!

Our bright and beautiful veteran girl Tiffany at age 12 1/2. I snapped this picture of her on the back porch this weekend while I was sitting there waiting for the Hummingbirds to show up. She is looking just incredible for her age - for any age for that matter! As good as it gets.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Sailing Away - Part II

The second port was Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

Our ship is the one on the far left, white hull. We got to see quite a bit from our bus on the way to our one and only excursion of the trip - a half day at Magen's Bay Beach - supposed to be one of the nicest beaches to be found, and it really was.

Away from the town, a typical view.

Magen's Bay Beach below. The beach and land was donated by a family on the condition that no hotels or condos ever be built there. Really a gorgeous beach with clear water, going out gradually and a plain sandy bottom. Already we had decided that a cruise to sun destinations was not for us, we really missed the water, despite being surrounded by it! The pools on the ship are way too small to be appealing - too many people for the size of them. We had no desire to try them out. This beach was really worth it and we so needed it by then! Most of the time though, I think the cruise ship people get ripped off on what beaches they can easily use when in port. For sun destinations at least, I'll take a good resort any day!

This is a private house on St. Thomas that I thought was just gorgeous. The stonework has green and blue stones interspersed and it just "fit" the surroundings.

I took this picture of a Laughing Gull at the beach - I thought it looked like a comic book character!

Saving the best until last - coming into St. Maarten. This was our favourite port and we would return here to see more of this island.

St. Maarten - Philipsburg. Dutch side of the island. Really beautiful. Seemed more Caribbean than the other two ports.

Beautiful beach, a boardwalk behind it, restaurants/bars on the boardwalk, and two long streets of shopping behind that.

After walking around, checking out the shops and walking most of the boardwalk as well, we decided to sit for a while and people watch. We just had to pick one of the bar/restaurants with seating on the boardwalk - they all were pretty much the same, how to choose which one? Sometimes you just know it when you see it:

Yes, this fits!

And more birds....

We had seen these Brown Boobys (yes, real name) at the beach in Magen's Bay, St. Thomas U.S. V.I. where they would plunge into the water for fish right beside swimmers. They are about half the size of a Pelican and odd looking as the feathers on their heads start behind the eyes. This one was in St. Maarten right beside our ship as we were waiting to pull out, and we watched it wrestle with this fish that seemed too big for it. It lost the fish in the end after a struggle underwater with it.

We saw some brown Pelicans as well - beautiful and prehistoric looking.

It's now over a week since our trip and I'm still having vertigo problems. We had fun, but our instincts were right, cruising isn't for us, at least not for this kind of destination. "They" say the vertigo problems don't always happen to the same people, or can happen even if it's never happened before. All I can say is I'm really ready for the floor to stop moving!!