Home Exchange…a great way to see the world for less!

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I LOVE red doors….not our exchange home, just a great Dublin door.

Our kids had gone off to college and it was time to go on some adventures.  I’ve always wanted to sign up on one of those websites to do a home exchange with another family…and my then husband agreed.  I signed up on homeexchange.com and waited for people to start emailing me.  We were looking to go to Ireland…or other European countries.  We had a few interesting prospects, but most Europeans wanted to come in August and stay for three weeks.  Three weeks was a long time to be away and who wants to go to Europe in August when it’s hot and all the locals are gone…probably doing home exchanges somewhere else!

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A cottage we stayed in for a few nights in far west Ireland…not part of the home exchange

So…I got an email from a gal in Ireland asking for two weeks in our home at the end of July and then they’d go off for an additional week, exploring California and the Grand Canyon.  We emailed back and forth, skyped once or twice and decided it was a good fit.  Flights were booked and we anticipated our trip to Ireland, my ancestral home.  On a whim I decided to try to get dual residency, since three of my four grandparents were born in Ireland.  The journey to get the all the paperwork was interesting, time consuming and fun, but I could never uncover my grandparent’s marriage license, I got the wrong birth certificate for my grandfather, and ultimately gave up the fight.  “Why dual residency,” I was asked many times.  Well, really it just would have been fun to say I was a citizen of two countries…and I would have had the choice at customs whenever in Europe (Ireland is part of the European Union or EU) whether I’m a “citizen” or “non-citizen”….and then choose the shortest line!  It was fun while it lasted.  …but I digress.

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On the Ha’Penny bridge in Dublin

We arrived in Ireland & drove to what would be our home for two weeks.  We had already arranged to also exchange cars, so we had an easy way to get around too.  I think the number one question I’ve been asked about doing a home exchange is, “What do you do with all your stuff?” and “Isn’t it weird having people in your home?”  The answer is simple…”You’re in their home!”  So, there’s an assumption that they will take good care of everything and you, in turn, will do the same with their home.  Sure, you clear out some closet space and put some valuables away, if need be, but that’s about it.  The idea is that you talk & correspond enough beforehand that you feel comfortable with whomever will be in your home.  I put together a book of things to do, simple maps to get to the grocery store/restaurants, how to turn on the TV, how to use the appliances, etc… and Gina (my counterpart in Ireland) did the same for us.  We were invited over to their neighbor’s homes for dinner and my neighborhood had a “meet the Irish” party on someone’s front lawn.  You get to live like a local, have a full kitchen & home at your disposal and your lodging doesn’t cost anything.  I think Gina and her family will be lifelong friends…I’ve already returned to Ireland, with my friend Marsha, a couple of years ago and stayed with them…and we play Wordfeud so we chat every now & then and catch up via email (isn’t technology awesome!).  It’s nice to know you have friends in far off lands, especially Ireland.  I’ve also done an exchange in San Francisco for a weekend and am looking forward to putting my home back up for exchange when I return to the ‘hood next July.  Oh, the places I’ll go!!

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Traffic stops for sheep crossing in western Ireland

Take the leap…I think you’ll be glad you did!  Feel free to email me if you have any questions.  Oh..and there will be a travel post, with more pictures, dedicated to Ireland.

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Sheeps Head Peninsula…farthest western point of Ireland

  You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails! 

Books…Quotes…My Train of Thought

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I was searching the internet for something (can’t remember what?) the other day on my kindle-fire, got distracted and decided to just go back and look at the books I’ve read and what I’d highlighted in each one.  I got my kindle-fire a few years ago, right before I went on my solo trip to Paris.  It’s been interesting to see my train of thought over the past three years.  Here are some books…some things I highlighted along the way & whether I’d recommend it.

what alice forgotWhat Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty“..the right man didn’t complete you, you have to find happiness yourself,”  …”when she woke up the next morning, the day rolled out in front of her like a long hallway for her to meander down, free to linger over the best parts.”  How would your life look if you lost 10 years and you had to re-imagine what you thought you knew….interesting book and concept.

 

 

 

art of hearing heartbeatsThe Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Phillipp Sendker….“There is nothing, for good or for evil, of which a person is incapable.”…”never say never”…”We wish to be loved as we ourselves would love. Any other way makes us uncomfortable.”…”He expected nothing because there was nothing of importance he had not already experienced.  He possessed all the happiness a person could find.  He loved and was loved. Unconditionally.”…..”Why? Must one have seen the world? In this village, in every house, in every shack, you will find the entire range of human emotions: love and hate, fear and jealousy, envy and joy.  You needn’t go looking for them.”  Loved this book!  Probably one of our better book club discussions.  Life lessons and the power of love.

end of life bookThe End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe...“When one sees something especially wonderful, it’s always nice to have someone to share it with.”…”As long as there is paper, people will write, secretly, in small rooms, in the hidden chambers of their minds.  just as people whisper..” ….”We all owe everyone for everything that happens in our lives.  But it’s not owing like a debt to one person -it’s really that we owe everyone for everything.  Our whole lives can change in an instant-so each person who keeps that from happening, no matter how small a role they play, is also responsible for all of it. Just by giving friendship and love, you keep the people around you from giving up-and each expression of friendship or love may be the one that makes all the difference.”…”We’re all in the end-of-our-life book club, whether we acknowledge it or not; each book we read may well be the last, each conversation the final one.”…”I often think about the things Mom taught me. …Be cheerful and listen to people, even if you don’t like it. Tell your spouse (children, grandchildren, parents) that you love them every day. …Celebrate occasions. Be kind.”  I really enjoyed this book.  Sweet story.  …and my mom’s birthday was this past Sunday, so this little blurb made me think of her too.

light between oceansThe Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman“You’ve had so much strife but you’re always happy. How do you do it?” “I choose to,” he said. “I can leave myself to rot in the past, spend my time hating people for what happened, like my father did, or I can forgive and forget.” …”..it is so much less exhausting.  You only have to forgive once.  To resent, you have to do it all day, every day.  You have to keep remembering all the bad things.”…”-we always have a choice. All of us.”  Wow, it really makes you think of lies, morality and the ultimate price you pay for them.

 

 

whered you go bernadetteWhere’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple“The sooner you learn it’s on you to make life interesting, the better off you’ll be.” …”When your eyes are softly focused on the horizon for sustained periods, your brain releases endorphins. It’s the same as a runner’s high.” Bernadette is just wacky…and has an interesting relationship with her daughter.  I enjoyed this book and the journey it takes you on.

 

 

 

tender at the boneTender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl“Hope never hurt anyone.”…”I feel sorrow for the women I grew up with who did not have a chance to discover that they could take care of themselves.”  I savored Ruth Reichl’s memoir…her interesting childhood stories, with recipes laced throughout.  This former editor of Gourmet magazine and six-time James Beard winner has had quite a life!

 

 

 

we are waterWe Are Water by Wally Lamb“Look back on the past but don’t stare.” …”So maybe that’s what love means.  Having the capacity to forgive the one who wronged you, no matter how deep the hurt was.”…”A life I didn’t choose chose me.”…”You know what I’ve always liked?” he says. “The sound of water. It’s I don’t know, kind of comforting or something. ….the rain on the roof, rivers flowing. ..And the ocean.”  Collectively, our book club really didn’t enjoy this book.  Definitely not Wally Lamb’s best. I probably wouldn’t recommend it.

 

 

daring greatlyDaring Greatly by Brene BrownThis whole book is one big highlight!!  You should read it! …or check out her website.  I love everything Brene Brown writes and says…yes, I’d recommend!

 

 

 

 

 

IMAG2321The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brownso many highlights that I did an entire post on it…click here!  Highly recommend

 

 

 

 

There are so many more books and so many more highlights that I could share, but that’s just a really long post!  Just looking at these quotes was so interesting…a walk down memory lane….seeing my train of thought as I navigated my new life.  Some admonished me for being so independent, some validated my feelings, but mostly I think they were hopeful and all reflected on and helped shape my journey.  I feel bad for people who don’t like to read (I’m not judging….everybody has their own thing…I just feel bad for them).  I’ve learned so much, about life, about myself, about the world…and sometimes you just get lost in the adventure of someone else’s fantasy or story, which is just fun!  So many books, so little time.  I’d love to know you’re favorite book to add to my growing inventory of “what to read!”

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  You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails! 

Motivational Mondays…the past

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Don’t look back, you’re not going that way!…Unknown

….basically, keep moving forward.

or…

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Look back at the past, but don’t stare…from the book We Are Water by Wally Lamb

….and ultimately…

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When it’s time to look back, make sure you like what you see!

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   You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails! 

Add Meditation to your Repertoire!

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It’s no secret that my life was a bit stressful a couple of years ago, with the end of my marriage and the death of my mom occurring in the same year.  There were a lot of frantic and anxiety ridden days to get through.  I had made the choice to be happy, not bitter, and I needed some tools to achieve that goal.  Besides daily affirmations, which were my first and very important tool, I also decided to try meditation.  I’ve never really thought about meditating, but my mind was going so fast all the time that I NEEDED something to quiet it.  I have many friends that swear by yoga and I did give it a try, but the classes were just a bit too long for my brain to handle.  I wanted a break from my thoughts…but not that long of a break.  I think a yogi would probably tell me that is exactly why I should practice yoga & take that longer break, but I found meditation to be the perfect alternative.

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My friend, Kelly, a yoga teacher, helped me pick out a guided meditation tape by Dana Conley that’s been just the right fit for me.  There are seven tracks on the CD, but the first guided meditation, Breath Awareness, is only 11 minutes long and it’s the one I do the most.   I’ve tried the Progressive Muscle Relaxation, which is 17 minutes, and the Healing Waterfall Imagery, which is 12 ½ minutes, but that 11 minutes seems to be the perfect amount of time to relax my mind & body and rejuvenate me.  There were times back then in the middle of the day when I’d be at my home computer and literally stop what I’m doing, lie down on the floor, plug-in my earphones and just get lost.  Eventually, after some practice, you get good enough at quieting your mind by closing your eyes and taking in some deep breaths, wherever and whatever you’re doing (except maybe driving!).  Sometimes that’s all it takes to get you through that moment…until you have time to actually lay down and do the guided meditation.  At the beginning I tried to do it every day and it helped tremendously in so many ways.  I highly recommend it! If you need a little bit more convincing that you should meditate, check out this article at the Huffington Post ….  or, for more scientific proof, this one over at Medical News Today

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Last year I slacked off a bit and probably only did it once a month, but I’ve decided that 2015 is the year I get back at it at least 2 or 3 times a week, or more. Why don’t you join me….this weekend is a great time to start!

  You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails! 

Is Chivalry a possibility?

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I think it’s a pretty natural thing after being single for three years to think to yourself “what are the qualities I’d look for in a new guy in my life?”  Of course there’s the obvious…kind, good person, family oriented, has to LOVE my kids.  But then there are some fun, frivolous qualities that come to mind…it is my fantasy!?

So…here goes!  It would be great if he likes watching football, LOVES the adventure of traveling, reading the Sunday paper together and the interesting conversations & banter that go along with that….and chivalry.  I’ve never really been one for chivalry, but I’ve been watching a couple of newlywed friends my age and my brother-in-law with their spouses and I’ve become a fan!  It’s no surprise that I’m pretty independent and I can just hear myself saying in my head, “I can open my own door” or “I can carry my own bags.”  The lack of chivalry in my marriage was my own doing….but this is my “fantasy” guy, so I can change that and hopefully change myself in the process.  Isn’t that what adjusting the sails is all about…making choices to change when it’s needed.  It’s okay to let someone do something nice, even if it’s just holding a door open now and then.  I know some of you are rolling your eyes right now!!  I know I can’t change my independent spirit, nor would I want to, but that doesn’t mean I can’t embrace these small gestures that make one feel taken care of and allow you to rely on someone else.  It’s the little things, right?

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Okay…so it may be a stretch to find someone who’s chivalrous in this day and age (..and it wouldn’t be a deal breaker), but a girl can dream, can’t she??

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 You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails! 

Funky, Fun Interior Design

Have you ever been over someone’s house and you can’t even imagine where they came up with some of their incredibly creative decorating ideas?  I was over my friend Kym’s house during the holidays and left there in awe of her and her home.  She’s one of those people that just changes things around in their home on a whim and it always looks so darn cute and cozy…and did I say creative!!  Now I’m sure you’re dying to see what I’m talking about!  Enjoy….

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The first thing you notice when you walk in the front door is that the old entryway closet has been converted….to an English telephone booth…SO cute!  Check out the stacked vintage suitcases on the overhead shelf.

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It’s too bright to see, but that’s a lighted “telephone” sign above the bench.

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…and who would think of painting an old iron hall tree and hanging old phones on it?? Kym!

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Then you look up and this is the chandelier!  Ridiculously creative!

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The first bathroom…a little lamp with neckties for a lampshade and tied around the base.

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Turn to right in the same bathroom and this fun clock is affixed to the wall.

IMAG3113Continuing down the hallway to the first bedroom dressed all in white…look at those lights that illuminate from behind the curtains…that’s a statement headboard!

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….and the bedside tables can always be used as chairs if necessary.

IMAG3116This is creative bathroom #2 with a couple of trees crafted from paper and a window jutting out to the side yard over the bathtub.

IMAG3117yup…this is the view from the toilet of the paper tree.

IMAG3118This is another bedroom with faux fireplace…black, white and green motif.

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Office/library/exercise room #3 is wallpapered in maps….I should have taken more pics of this room….she made a Christmas tree out of stacked books and lights sitting atop an ottoman…

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On to the kitchen….more adorableness!

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a mirror in the bar area surrounded by fruits and vegetables…yes, they’re fake, but so realistic.

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Signature Holiday Sangria…the tablecloths were black chalk paper…everything on the menu was written on the tables.

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Kitchen Christmas tree….a tree in every room.

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Twinkle lights in the kitchen fireplace give the illusion of a fire…without the mess.

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over the door to the backyard

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On to the living room…an old pew…re-imagined…spectacular!

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extra chairs at the ready up on the wall…with more Christmas trees of course!

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This picture does not do this piano justice….decoupaged, with faux TV on top holding an ipad that plays music (a new kind of “player piano”)  The sheet music holder has been yarn bombedand behind the piano is a iron headboard holding a Merry Christmas garland. So much going on in this pic!

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a little closer view.

IMAG3115Let’s step outside…this is the cozy side yard with fountain, twinkle lights and seating.

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Step through this arbor & small bridge to the summer veggie garden (out of sight on the left).

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…and what would an adorable backyard be without a softly lit gazebo?

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Hope you’ve enjoyed the tour…there’s so much more to see in this gem of a home…I’ll have to go back again with my camera!

Thanks for letting me share your little slice of heaven Kym!  You are an amazingly creative person and I always love seeing the treasures you’ve transformed in your home!

You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!  

Motivational Mondays…it’s alright in the end!

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Golden Gate Bridge with fog

(oops…I scheduled this for Monday delivery, but I guess forgot to “save” that, before clicking “publish…Happy Sunday everyone!!)

Everything will be alright in the end….if it’s not alright, it’s not the end!….Patel, Hotel Manager, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

This quote actually helped me as new snags were thrown into the mix throughout my divorce process.  Basically, as your life is falling apart just know that it will get better and everything will be alright in the end!

  You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!  

Motivational Mondays

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The Beauty of Great Hosmer Pond, Craftsbury Common, VT

 hardship often prepares an ordinary person for an extraordinary destiny…C.S. Lewis

…or a similar sentiment

sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together…Marilyn Monroe

What better way to start each week than with a daily affirmation, quote or just happy, positive thinking….Motivational Mondays!  They’ve pulled me through some really tough times and I truly believe that if you keep them in your thoughts, or the back of your mind, they can become your self-fulfilling prophecy…..and quite possibly change your life for the better.  I hope they help you start your week in a positive way.

Some of my favorite photographs will accompany the sayings…all taken with my phone, never using enhancing filters.

 You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!  

Quivering in Quebec City

 

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Okay…not the greatest use of alliteration, but it was chilly in Quebec, so the title seemed appropriate…although maybe it should be shivering?!  Besides being on my bucket list, part of the reason I chose Montreal and Quebec City is because I really felt like having a European experience during the holidays, with all the twinkle lights hung between buildings, old architecture and cobblestone streets….but I didn’t feel like going that far.  These two cities are the next best thing!  I arrived in Quebec City just in time to have dinner in the hotel restaurant and rest up for the following day’s adventures.

It was bitter cold on New Year’s Eve but I bundled up and braved the elements to see the very European Quebec City.  Old Quebec City is one of the oldest cities in North America and the only two remaining fortified city in North America…the other is in Mexico.  Quebec City sits on the St. Lawrence River, where the fortified walls have stood for over 300 years.  As you walk the ramparts of Old Quebec, you’ll encounter numerous cannons and other vestiges of wars past that protected the area.   The city is divided in two, lower town and upper town, both quaint and worth seeing.  The jewel of Old Quebec is Château Frontenac, the majestic hotel that lures you to upper town…accessible via the funicular…or just hiking up the winding streets.  Rue St. Paul, in lower town, where my hotel was located, has the charm of inviting antique stores & art galleries.  Place Royale, also in lower town is reminiscent of an old town square with the highlight being Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church, the oldest stone church in North America (1688).  I think the best way to describe this quaint European city is with pictures….

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Place Royale…old towne square
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Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church
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interior Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church
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view of the St. Lawrence river from Place Royale


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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love cozy passageways
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view of the Chateau from lower town

 

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quaint stores
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European feeling

I had a yummy lunch at La Cochon Dingue…which was on everyones “best of” list…amazing fries!

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gotta love a red door!!
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Croque-monsieur…with amazing fries!

Strolled the city at night to enjoy the beautiful lights…..but didn’t quite make it to midnight …heard the fireworks show from afar….

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another Notre Dame… Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec…in upper town and much larger than the other one

Gotta have fondue when you’re in French territory…. this was dinner!

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The beauty of the Chateau at night

New Year’s Day was a bit warmer and snow was in the forecast!  I decided to just wander, and in doing so came upon an outdoor ice rink, right at it started to snow…and they had Irish music piped in for the skaters.  What a way to start out the new year!!  It was really magical!

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Parliament building
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cool architecture
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lower town in the snow
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let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

My final half-day in Quebec City included the most amazing meal of my trip…brunch at the revolving restaurant, Ciel, with a bird’s eye view of the city.  I had “Bacon frais,
œufs au plat, rösti et champignons” which translates to…. a side of braised pork (it was two beautiful chunks of bacon that had been slowly cooked overnight to a mouth-watering crispy outside and soft ham/bacon-like on the inside), two fried eggs atop hash browns and sauteed mushrooms.  Yeah, heart attack on a plate!

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Ridiculously rich & yummy!
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bird’s-eye view of Old Quebec

…..and then it was back on the train to Montreal for my final evening, where I took a final stroll through Old Montreal

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sunset on the train
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Hotel de Ville…changes colors about every 5 seconds

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 Goodbye Montreal & Quebec City…I’ll be back when it’s a bit warmer!

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  You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!