Friday, April 13, 2007

Vimy Ridge

Our tour was over, but our guide surprised us with an added stop at Vimy Ridge. If you don't know about Vimy Ridge, look it up! As Canadians, we should be really proud of the contribution we made to ending the First World War. Many people believe this victory by the Canadians was the turning point in the war.

Above is Daniel, hanging out by the Canadian Flag.

They have restored the trenches, so you can see the elaborate system that both the Germans and the Allies used during the battle.

The French were so grateful for the help, they gave Canada the land where the battle was won. Technically, we were all in Canada. For years, you could even have your passport stamped by the Canadians, but unfortunately this is no longer available. Although, all of the people working at the site are Canadians.

Above is the Canadian front line, and across the field you can see the German front line. They were so close, for so long.

It took me a while to clue in that the bumpy landscape was actually due to the non-stop bombs that were dropped in this area during the war. Some of the craters were so big and deep that it's hard to believe any bomb would be powerful enough to displace so much earth.

The huge Memorial commemorating the victory was under repair at the time we were there. But it has since been unveiled as part of the 90th anniversary.

Paris II

We had amazing weather throughout the entire trip. Paris was the only place it actually rained, and that was just in the morning. By the time we emerged from the Louvre, it was all blue skies again.

Here is the view down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, the most expensive strip of property in Europe. At this point, we had a choice to make. Take a walk down the avenue, enjoying looking at the luxury shops and cafes, on our way to the Arc de Triomphe. Or head to the Disney Exhibit taking place at the Grand Palais.

We chose the Disney Exhibit. :) We had seen the Arch de Triomphe from the bus, and thought the Disney Exhibit would be more up our alley, and a little something different. And it was definitely a good choice! It was huge, and so inspiring. The artwork was incredible, and there were videos, models, toys, paintings, fairy tale books, model sheets, layouts, etc. It was so big, we had to rush through in the end to meet our bus. Fortunately for us, it is now in Montreal, so we will definitely be making a trip to see it again, and I encourage all you animators and Disney lovers out there to do the same!

It was a rush to get back to the pick up spot, but we took a second to take a photo at "the most romantic of all the Paris bridges".

For our final evening in Paris we went to Montmartre, and saw the famous Sacre Coeur Basilica. This area of Paris is definitely worth a visit. Known as the hang out for many famous artists including Dali, Picasso and Monet, it still retains the atmosphere of the historic art district.

After an amazing Parisian meal, we walked to Paris' red light district, and saw the Moulin Rouge. We opted out of the Cabaret trip, and instead explored more of the city.


When we arrived in Paris, we had escargot and champagne waiting for us at the Contiki Village. Then we took a night tour of the city. This is definitley the best way to be introduced to Paris! The city is brilliant at night, and especially the Eiffel Tower.

The following morning we went up the Tower. This is the view down. Perspective is a funny thing! It was really windy, so being at the top was less than pleasant. The whole thing was swaying quite a bit, and if you turned one corner it seemed likely you'd be blown clear off the platform! But the views were breathtaking.

Two days is really not enough to fully experience Paris. We decided to stick to the key points of interest, like Notre Dame Cathedral....

...and the Louvre. The place truly is massive, so we had some choices to make. We decided to see the three key pieces: Mona Lisa, Winged Victory & Venus de Milo. Then I chose the Italian Masters wing, to see more Michelangelo.

Here's me with Psyche and Cupid.

Introducing Max Xavier Thornhill!

Chris and Ang welcomed their second baby boy on April 10, 9:15am. Max Xavier weighted 8lbs, 10oz. All are happy and healthy!

The proud parents:

Happy Family!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

IWK Nudie Run

For the last 6 or 8 weeks we at Collideascope have been collecting our spare change to donate to the IWK Children's Hospital. A little friendly competition between the first floor (represented by Ron Doucet) and the third floor (Mark Cappello) was inevitable. An agreement was reached that the loser would run around the block in downtown Halifax wearing... well... see for yourself!

As you can see, the first floor was victorious... and Mark made it to the front page of the Chronicle Herald. (That's me crouching on the left!)

Here Gord passes Mark a celebratory cigarette as he rounds the final corner to the finish line. I'm sure many videos are available on YouTube if you haven't seen enough. :)

Staff donations were matched by Collideascope, and in the end a total of $4000 was donated to the IWK! Go Collideascope!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Jungfrau II

Here's me enjoying a piece of Daniel's Toblerone bar. I can't imagine a better treat for the top of the Alps! The temperature was officially -4.5 celsius, but it varied depending on where on the mountain we were. I'm actually sitting in an observation post called the Sphinx, which is 3571m high. From here we could see France, Germany, and Italy.

Below is the view down from the Sphinx to the glacier below. This glacier got stuck here during the last ice age, and has been here ever since. Those little specks are people walking the path. We were nearing the end of the tourist season, but usually there are a number of activities, from skiing to husky rides to tobogganing.

Below is me and Daniel talking on the path on the glacier. At the very top of the closest peak behind us is the Sphinx, where the previous photo was taken from. Very high!

It was incredibly hot on the plain. We were totally sheltered from any wind, and the sun was reflecting from every direction. We were warned of sunburns, but no one listened. :) And hey, now we can say we got sunburned while in the Alps!

One of my favourite photos:

Just as the chip bags exploded on the way up, my water bottle (last sealed on top of the mountain) imploded on the way down!

Jungfrau Mountain

Our second day in Switzerland was spent exploring Jungfrau mountain, the highest mountain in Europe. The mountain is 4158m high, but we only went as far as 3454m. Beyond that is only for serious climbers. We took a train half way up to a station called Kleine Scheidegg, then changed to a cog railway which took us up the rest of the way. It's a special type of railway that can handle to steep incline. Below is a view from the train into the valley below where we came from.

The altitude changed pretty rapidly, and many people bought chips just to watch them puff up as the pressure outside decreased. This is Ankie (from South Africa) with her bag of chips. We thought for sure they would explode, but the bag was just too strong. :)

This mountain range actually has three peaks, Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau. There is a legend that the Ogre (Eiger) was putting the moves on the young virgin (Jungfrau) when a monk (Monch) intervened, and somehow the three were turned to stone. (I probably should have paid more attention to the tour guide. :))

The train heads for a plateau between Monch and Jungfrau. On it's way it actually goes THROUGH Eiger mountain. And periodically there are stops were we could get off and look out of windows dug out of the side of the mountain. Wow.

After about two hours on the train, we finally made it to the pleateau! The altitude gave me a bit of a headache, but that went away pretty quickly. The only other effect of the altitude was just how much harder it was to hike through the snow or walk up stairs. We'd get out of breath quickly, and it was easy to over do it!

This is us with Jungfrau behind us... the highest point in Europe. This is also the highest post office and highest train station in Europe.

Lauterbrunnen Switzerland

After leaving Lucerne we travelled to the base of the Alps and stayed in a town called Lauterbrunnen. Coming in to town we were delayed by slow moving cows. :)

We stayed at a campground, which has little cabins and a big chalet. We all stayed in the chalet. Chris and I got a giggle out of staying at a "Swiss Chalet" but apparently the restaurant chain is only in Canada, so no one else understood our amusement. :)

There were waterfalls everywhere. The one behind our campsite was really pretty. We were able to climb up and follow a path that leads right behind the waterfall and look down on the valley.
This gorgeous little bridge was how we got to the dining hall. It was just amazing scenery here... lush valleys with huge mountains on either side, and the Alps in the background. The bridge crossed a very cold and fast moving river.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Europe VI: Switzerland

Switzerland had gorgeous countryside. So green! I still think Austria beats it for beauty, but the addition of the Alps adds a lot to Switzerland's appeal.

Our first stop was in Lucerne for some shopping and sight seeing. It was a beautiful city with a fast moving river and a cool covered bridge. The picture below is taken from the bridge, newly repaired after a devastating fire.

Below is a monument to the Swiss Guard. If you don't know anything about them, you should look it up - it's fascinating. This monument commemorates the more than 700 Swiss guard who died while defending King Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette during the French Revolution. The Swiss Guard were betrayed by the French who failed to inform them that the royal family had already fled the building. You'll notice the proud lion is stabbed in the back by a spear, and lies on a broken shield decorated with the Frence fleur-de-lis.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Europe Part V: Venice

I love Venice. Going there is like an event, not just a visit to a city. It's like going to Disneyland or something. Mostly we just wandered around and got lost... and did a lot of shopping.

I'm so glad it wasn't raining this time!

There is a great leather shop on the Rialto Bridge:

And I finally got to take a gondola ride!

I can't wait to go back there again.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Freaks and Geeks

There wasn't much to do in the small Austrian town we were staying in, so Contiki hosted a "Freaks and Geeks" costume party. We did our best with what we had!

It seemed to be a popular idea to wear underwear in unusual ways:

My freakiest asset seemed to be my hair.

The next day as we left Austria, Louise serenaded us with songs from the Sound of Music.

Europe Part IV: Austria

Austria was amazingly beautiful. The rolling green hills and gorgeous countryside. It was also where we had our big adventures! First we went white water rafting in the Tyrol region. We even rafted past Schwarzenegger's home village!

Chris kept getting waves in the face... Luckily he protected me from the worst of it. :)

Next stop was paragliding! Just fantastic views from the take off point.

This is my point of view. We were about 600 meters up, I believe.

I didn't realize parachutes could go upsidedown! The G-forces were crazy when we were spinning!