Paris: Day 2

Meghan knows her history and I like walking is my day 2 conclusion. Yesterday we must have walked 20 kilometers, easy. After finding parking at Saint Germain (wasn’t an easy task) we decided to explore from there.

The issue with being at the center of all the action is that there is a monument, building and tourist destination at every glance. Since I have been here before I told Meghan that I was fine for what ever the day brought. Meghan, drunk on building knowledge and picture taking finger would say something like “lets go here, its only 1.6 km away” (according to GPS) and on route we stopped at 17 other sites. 4 hours later arriving at our original destination.

I am glad this occurred because we found so many nooks and crannies that we would not have otherwise seen. Like Jardin du Luxemburg (a park). It was amazing!!!!!! There, I experienced professional chess players with timers…… I was mesmerized.

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Another break was we found artists littered across The Seine River. We found some amazing art and purchased 4 paintings. What? Were on vacation!!!

After over 7 hours of straight walking I was actually glad when it started to rain. Exhausted I suggested we get dinner and Meghan, still drunk with building knowledge realized she was a little famished as well.

We traveled to the Arc du Triomphe where we ate at the same restaurant that my Grandfather and I ate at. The food was still amazing. I devoured Pan Seared Scallop Risotto and Meghan, equally as hungry had Spinach and Fois Gras Tortelli (like ravioli).

We traveled back to the hotel and Meghan was asleep before I could catch up on the NBA scores (LA and Boston final – what up!!!!)

As Ron alluded to, we spent more than 10 hours just roaming around Paris…and just stumbling onto a ton of sites we planned on seeing and some we didn’t…at least 8 of those hours were totally by foot with no metro, bus or taxi. Needless to say, we got back to the hotel last night just before 10pm and crashed for nearly 11 hours…the only reason we sprung up was that the breakfast was only until 9 am!

Let me tell you about the adventure that took place during those hours. First, I have to tell you how big of a fan I am of the French cheese culture. They treat brie here (at the hotel breakfast) like butter, tons of it! Guess what has been making it into my purse for our daily munchies 🙂

Next up, finding our way to the Louvre part of the city which led us to venture down Champs Elysee and around the marvel that is the Arche de Triomphe arrondisement, we found parking down St. Germaine. The crazy drive leading us to this parking spot left us needing a bit of French caffeine, so we bask in the beauty of St Germaine while sipping on café au lait at the Café de Flore before walking around the streets where I could not help but window shop. Along the way, we stumbled into the Colleges des Beaux Art. Have to admit, studying art in Paris sounds like it would be a pretty big deal. Next, we made our way along the Seine and into the Louvre courtyard which we both believe is much more magical when lit up in the night. After discovering the Louvre was closed on Tuesdays; we were not the only ones unaware of this fact, nor did this really affect our spirits. We moved along to view the rest of the outside of the Louvre and started to direct ourselves towards Notre Dame. On the way, we saw many monuments, la place Dauphine, le Palais de Justice (Court House), an old jail house as well as ‘les cryptes archeologique’ just in front of the Notre Dame.

We took in the Notre Dame surrounded by school children there for a visit. Another advantage to visiting Paris in tourist off-season; that and the fact that admission to many sites including the Notre Dame is free of charge.

I can’t even remember what we were destined for on our next stop. What I can tell you are the sites that we manage to see on this adventure. L’Hotel Dieu hospital, l’Academie de Medicine, l’Institut de Curie, many churches, bridges and cafes, Sorbonne, Jardin du Luxemburg and the Pantheon. It’s around this time that the skies broke open and rained like cats and dogs. Getting into the car to go to dinner, ‘It’s raining men’ was appropriately being played. This is also the first time we encountered Paris traffic. Not fun, as you can imagine…much better when you can own the road.

Once we finally found parking off of the Arche de Triomphe arrondissement, we dined on yet another fabulous meal, this time with true Parisienne courtesy. Next stop, bed where I slept a solid night’s sleep, ready for another full day!

To see all of our pictures from this day, click here

Paris: Day 1

It’s been a whirl wind the last few days. Saturday afternoon I arrived in London (Ontario) and for the sake of this vacation, North London at Meghan’s villa and dined on the patio with pad thai.

On Sunday we shot off to Waterloo to exchange sake and sushi with Joe Reid. All you can eat – more than enough said. We left Joe and ventured to Mississauga where I decided to get some colour. I wasn’t anticipating on bright red but that’s what I got.

We got on our flight, everything on time. The airport from what I am used to experiencing was dead. The flights were great. Stopped over in Iceland and didn’t see any whales or elves: very disappointing. Our luggage made it safely and we picked up our Volkswagen. (Note to Joe Manafo: I haven’t stalled the car once!!!!)

We arrived at our hotel, just out side the red light district and we slept… hard. We woke up at 9pm and decided to take the car to see all of the sights Paris had to offer.

For anyone thinking of traveling to Europe (Paris) you need to invest in hacking your GPS!!!!!!! Navigating has been effortless!!!

It’s official, I’m completely and totally ruined for everyday Western life already…after a single (not even full) day in Paris. The city, the architecture, the food, the way of driving; It’s definitely something that needs to be experienced in non-tourist season as we are currently doing.

After waking up from our much needed nap in the very comfy hotel bed, we set off to Montmartre aka the Paris red light district. After finding primo parking on the street directly across the Moulin Rouge, we explored the city drenched in night life and lights.

We decided to dine on the patio at the Chat Noir Bistro complete with perfect street views, piano man and tourist conversations for entertainment. The food was … there are no words. Ron decided on Ravioli Royale avec Cepes and I had Boeuf Bourgignon inspired by my viewing of Julie/Julia on the day’s preceding our trip. Both dishes were phenomenal and we happily shared each others meals and basked in the after glow of the deliciousness for quite some time before making our way back towards the Moulin Rouge.

Meghan drinking coffee at Chat Noir

Moulin Rouge!

Next stop was the Eiffel Tower. First, we saw the searchlight beaming across the city, then the top half peering from above the gorgeous buildings. It looked amazing covered in white sparkling lights, like straight out of the Devil Wears Prada. Simply said, it was amazing. Safe to say I was in awe.

Meghan under Eiffel Tower

Next stop, walking along the Seine to the Pont d’Alexandre, where we got a second chance to see the Eiffel Tower all sparkling. The rest of the night was spent speeding through the streets of Paris, checking out the sights lit up for the night. There was the Louvre, the National Library, La Sorbonne, Notre Dame and countless other gorgeous monuments and buildings.

Ron at The Louvre

Meghan at The Louvre

As I stated above, ruined for life.

To see all of our pictures, click here

Why Bell Canada doesn’t respect my dead Grandfather

Let me set the backdrop:

Feb 27th 2009.
I went to transfer my cellular Bell account over to my Granddad and was informed that there was $4 owing on my account so he wouldn’t be eligible for a $200 phone upgrade nor could we transfer the account until the amount was paid in full. I went home and paid on line.

March 4th.
The payment went through and my Granddad is eligible for the upgrade. We go back to bell, purchase a phone and have the sales person call Bell Customer Service so he can give them his personal information, provide credit card information and transfer the account from my name to his.

Oct 2nd.
My Grandfather died.

Mid October.

I call Bell to inform them that my Grandfather has died. “Sure,” the Bell customer service rep says, “I need a death certificate for Ron Smith and we can close the account.”
I inform her that I am Ron Smith and the person in question is Geoff Shepherd. Who is Geoff Shepherd she asks?

It appears that Bell took my Grandfathers info (changed address, home phone and provided a credit card) but apparently this wasn’t actually a “transfer.” Apparently I needed to call and tell Bell to officially change the account over even though I was sitting there in the store with my Granddad while this passing of information took place.

Me, being pissed off and up for a stand off, contacted the manager of Customer Service and had it out with him. He told me there is nothing he can do for me because according to his notes there was no note of a transfer made, even though the evidence is strongly in my favor.

He then said “its $400 to close the account out or you are better off getting someone else to take the account over” to which I replied “I tried to transfer already with my Granddad but apparently you have a bunch of retards working for you, further more do you think I would EVER put anyone through the agony of using bell as their cell phone provided?”

Sure, yelling at him does nothing for the situation but for 30 seconds I felt damn vindicated.

In the end I will pay the $400 because my credit is now going to be effected if I don’t pay. As furious as I am about the entire ordeal I feel I will win this battle.
Firstly, they lost me as a customer. I am closing the phone and in doing so will end a 6 year relationship of 384-5400. I used to say “Ron Smith is 384-5400.” Not anymore.

Secondly, I work in the technology field and what bell fails to realize is that we are a word of mouth society. People respect my technology input and you can be damn sure that Bell is now the last company I would suggest for anything wireless, home phone, internet or cable.

Third: A part of my job is to manage cell phone accounts for our many employees. Accounts renew all the time and Bell is now on my “transfer” list.

So, thanks for the memories Bell, you should have taken all that money you used on a new look and invested it in handling your customers better.

Geoff Shepherd: A Celebration of Life!

Geoff Shepherd: 1925-2009

On the night of October 2nd, Geoff Shepherd at the age of 83 passed on peacefully at home. Beloved husband to his late wife Dilys (1999). A loving father to Denise and her husband Jim, Val and her husband Ron. Proud Grandfather to Carol, James, Jeff, Ron, Natalie and Great-Grandfather of Benjamin, Evan, Lily and Jaxon.

Yesterday I lost not only a Grandfather but one of my closest, most cherished friends.

Since his passing, I have been surrounded by friends who have been of great support in this time of healing. In recounting our times together, many have expressed how fortunate I was to have had a relationship with Granddad that neared more of a brotherhood. A friendship that some never encounter in a lifetime. I have always been tremendously grateful for my friendship with Granddad. As I continue to tell the many tales about my times with him to my community, the same sentiments are continually repeated: amazement and envy. With every passing day, I understand even more how truly blessed I have been to have him so closely woven into my life’s story and recognize the value of his imprint on my journey.

Growing up in England, Granddad didn’t have much impact in my life. He was a “typical” Granddad. Holidays, presents and pictures were all I knew as he lived on the other side of the country. At the age of 7, my family decided to immigrate to Canada. As before, my Granddad and Nanny would ‘cross the pond’ to visit and stay with us from time to time. It was in my first year of high school that everything started to change.

The catalyst was my Nanny’s unexpected passing. As a typical 14 year old, I never gave it too much thought at the time at how this event must have devastated my Granddad. Not only did he lose a loving partner of 48 years, but his overall life story that he had planned was ripped away from under him. My Grandparents were World-class travelers. When they weren’t visiting with us in Canada, they were traveling Europe; their lives a continuous vacation. They had settled into a great community of friends in the south of France, where they spent the later of their days.

After Nanny’s passing, this lifestyle changed for Granddad. His time spent in Canada become longer and his worldly travels fewer. Finally, he moved into our home where he became a sort of roommate to me, his room being directly across from mine. Looking back that should have been so odd for me, but that was just how things came together and I never questioned it.

Granddad spent his days listening to classical music, walking our dog gypsy, swimming, cooking and reading the paper. His evenings were spent with a scotch in one hand and the channel changer in the other. Everyday when I got home from school, there he was, studying some language, quizzing me on current affairs and preparing some type of soup in the kitchen. Granddad always made dinner. No pizza or processed foods. Fresh veggies, sprouts, meat and some type of herb, spice…. or branches.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but my Granddad was molding me. I find that through watching him over the years I have come to respect and enjoy the real fine things in life: family, food, friends, conversation, music, reflection and, of course, a fine glass of scotch.

Granddad was with me to experience a great many of my firsts in life; the first time I drank too much (can still hear him as he laughed from his chair), my first cigar, gifted by him, which didn’t agree with my stomach (again, he laughed from his chair). My entire teen years have my Grandfather throughout them, from sharing wisdom, teaching and lending an ear. He was a great listener.

During the Second World War, he served the English Royal Air Force proudly. His love and fascination with planes born from these years never left him. When he started taking flying lessons in Sarnia, I remember him taking me up in the plane and flying over Sarnia passing over mine and my aunt’s house. He would let them know he was coming before hand and they would be out in the garden waving away!!

My relationship with my Grandfather changed drastically when I turned 21. No longer was I the teenaged roommate. I was a young man, working full-time and out on my own. But we always found a way to schedule times together almost every week. Granddad would come for dinner and we would cook our meals, watch shows together and he would spend the night. During these times our talks matured. He really opened up about his life. Failures, triumphs, fears, regrets, love and the day to day grind. Without realizing it, he became my confidant.

Geoff was getting older now entering his 80s, so traveling to Europe on his own became more demanding. He required a companion on his travels to do the heavy lifting, the hours of driving, the drinking and dining. I was the fortunate one who became this travel buddy. Every September, for 3 consecutive years, we set sail for Europe. The agenda was pretty broad: go to Switzerland, Italy and France. The rest we made up on the go, speeding down the auto route sporting a Mercedes Benz, sipping on the finest wines and eating the freshest of foods. This was Granddad’s style, Granddad’s way of life.

Geoff had acquired many a friend over the 40 years of travel to Europe. We stayed at Hotels which were once bed and breakfast havens that had flourished over the years. Geoff was on a first name basis with the proprietors at all these hotels, which were a family grown business he’d seen develop from the ground up. They were his community across the continent, some of his closest friends.

I was introduced to his “other family” in a small spot on the southern coast of France called Val-Rose. It is here that he and so many other vacationers from England settled in their trailers. Geoff spent over 10 years of his retired life there with his wife and, after she passed, another 10 years visiting. He made lifelong bonds with new and old friends here. We were always welcomed when we arrived. Lots of conversation, food and of course good drink. The residents are so amazing and I am so thankful he introduced them to me. These people are so full of love and contentment. Val-Rose embodies my Granddad’s way of life. It is his truest home. It is a place I hope to visit many more times throughout my life.

Geoff and I were to set sail again this year. Unfortunately, his body could no longer keep up with the energy of his mind and soul. Witnessing the failing physical form of a man so vibrant and full of life was one of the hardest times in my life. Knowing it was even harder on him made it all the more painful to experience.

On the eve of what should have been our departure for our fourth tour to Europe, I was by my Granddad’s side at the Sarnia hospital. After pouring us each a healthy glass of my finest scotch, we looked each other in the eye and knew what the other was thinking. We cried together. We cried, knowing “you’re going to get better” didn’t need to be said, this was no time for superficial pleasantries. Our bond, the love and respect we have for each other was too genuine for such palliative falsehoods. Through tears, I expressed my greatest sorrows in losing him, in his not being able to meet my future children. He apologized for not being able to meet my future wife and attend my wedding. He wished I were 20 years older or, better yet, that he was 20 years younger.

In his last weeks, Geoff was constantly surrounded by his loving family. He was peaceful and he was ready for his next journey. Granddad and I talked about death from time to time. Having seen the world as he had, having experienced as much as he could, he wasn’t afraid of what was to come. Death, for him, was the next chapter, the next adventure.

Granddad, wherever you are, I wish you all the best in this new adventure.
I will forever recount stories from your journey and will never forget our times together.
Know that I will carry you in my heart, always.
Your Grandson, your friend.

Dealing with Death

Recently my Grandfather has fallen ill – very ill.
3 hearts attacks in the last month, his heart is failing him daily.

After a very unstable stay at the hospital he has been sent home with the hope of recovery of getting comfortable to be at final rest.
This pains me very much. My Grandfather is one of my best friends. I don’t just see him as a relative. He is someone whom has spoken a great deal into my life.
Weekly drinks at Paddies with our reserved seats and yearly vacations to Europe; our conversations have made me rather worldly.

That was then and statistically speaking my better days with him have come to a close. When he was looking his worst we had “the talk.” If you have ever dealt with someone who is on their death bed you know what I mean. It was very intimate. He and I communicated honestly and freely – we said our good byes. We cried deeply about him not being at my wedding, meeting my wife and holding my children. He said he wished that I was 20 years older or better yet, that he was 20 years younger.

It’s tough watching a man who has lived a full life still capable of living an even fuller one. It pains me more when you watch so many people just wasting away their youth.

My Grandfather requires 24 hour attention and I will do my part with the rest of my family to be there, assist and care for. However as I do this, the thoughts of it not being fair or “if only we had more time” wont be present. Granddad and I have had an amazing run together. What I have experienced with him trumps many people’s experiences with their own relatives. He and I have said our good byes.

When he and I catch each others eye from across the room we know what both of us are thinking. He has told me for years that this “way” of life is not for him. He dreads it and now he is dealing minute by minute with it. It’s hard for me to watch him because in his mind I know he is locked down, trapped and tormented.

Even with a “full” recovery things won’t return to way he wanted to live. My Granddad is very active. Daily he works out, walks the dog, swims and plans vacations over seas. He keeps sharp by studying language (he has learned 3 in the last 10 years), reading countless books and learning the ways of the internet and email to keep in touch with people from around the globe.

I miss that person. From what is occurring now I feel so disconnected. I don’t like seeing it just as much as he doesn’t like being it. Even though I am putting on a strong face I don’t like my time with it all. This isn’t the man or the time I want to remember. I remember someone much different. Is that horrible? I am trying to see the positives of it all however if I am being honest with myself I must admit that I would wish him a quick, peaceful passing over a drawn out, flat lining, uncomfortable last few months.
Part of it is selfish and part of it is me knowing his real wishes. In the mean time I will pray, fast, reflect and sit by my Grandfathers side.

Come to Cleveland

Amazing Videos that promotes tourism in Cleveland.

and ……..

Listening to Pearl Jam

I love Pearl Jam.
Tonight while working I caught a line which made me remember why they are awesome.

From their song “Black”

“I know someday you’ll have a beautiful life,
I know you’ll be a sun in somebody else’s sky, but why
Why, why can’t it be, can’t it be mine”

For Kate

Want One.

Wind Power is making progress…. I am starting to salavate.