Remembering the South of France

In the depths of this deep freeze that is Winter 2014, I find myself reminiscing about this time I went to the south of France.

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I was only there for 4 days visiting my aunt and uncle who had temporarily settled in a small hill village called Sablet.

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Vacationing in the south of France is truly like being in a movie. Driving around in the sun, buying wine straight from the vineyards, eating croque monsieur (pretty much a ham and cheese grilled sandwich) … heaven.

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P1050301_2We visited an ancient Roman Theatre in Orange… the highlight for me, a (then) student of Greek and Roman Studies!

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Provence is full of of absolutely gorgeous cities and buildings! None is more beautiful than Avignon. The Papal Palace is the singularly most impressive building I’ve ever seen. My facts are rusty, but basically there was a period of time where this French guy disagreed with the Pope in the Vatican and said, “I’m Pope now!” and built a palace for the French papacy in Avignon. Though he didn’t do the greatest job with the papacy, he did a fantastic job with the palace.

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P1050524_2If I could, I would go back tomorrow. Anyone feel like paying for my ticket to France?

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My First Real Canadian Winter

I’m sure everyone’s sick of hearing that 2014 began colder on Earth than it was on Mars, but this level of chill is completely new to me! Growing up in Victoria, BC, winter meant a slightly wetter, chillier time of year. -10C was pretty much as cold as it got, and snow was light, beautiful and fleeting.

Pretty much the coldest winter I experienced in BC. Near Mt. Washington, Vancouver Island.

Pretty much the coldest winter I experienced in BC. Near Mt. Washington, Vancouver Island.

I knew that moving to Stratford would be an interesting experience once winter rolled around. The obvious answer is that it is cold. Cold. Cold. Cold.

This was also the year of the South-Ontario Ice Storm and the Mid-Western States’ so-called “Polar Vortex” (most Canadians would call it “Winter”).

Ice-encased antenna! I've never seen anything like this before!

Ice-encased antenna! I’ve never seen anything like this before!

I’m dumbfounded, I’m immobilized, I’m very, very cold. I’m also surprisingly… clumsy. I mean, I’ve never been the picture of grace, but walking in the knee-high snow and icy patches I am filled suddenly with childlike incoordination.

My arms stick out to keep precarious balance. My steps are small and quick and often result in slips. I stare at the ground to increase my chances of finding sturdy footholds, and when I fall, I fall all the way down and stay there until there is a strong hand to help me up.

Needless to say, it’s very time consuming and a bit embarrassing to go out for a walk. As a 25 year old adult, I’m re-learning how to walk.

Winter also offends my stylish side.

Other than the countless days indoors and the pillow-filled layers of clothing that render me almost completely immobile when I do go outside, winter in Ontario is remarkably enjoyable. I’m just glad I don’t own a car!

I have one friend from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan who I know rolled her eyes through this; “Girl, you have NO IDEA.”

How the Scottish Deal with Winter

How the Scottish Deal with Winter

You’d think that being so far north, the Scottish would be accustomed to the cold and snow. This is not the case. Of course, there are rumours about ‘rugged’ Scots who live on proper moors, glens and farms in the northern half of the country who must deal with severe weather, probably most of the time. But the soft, city Scots become completely flummoxed by the annual snowfall.

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As I’m from Canada, I have the “image” of having weathered much worse winters. But since I hail from Victoria BC, the winters there compare very closely to the winters here in Scotland (well, Edinburgh). Though Victoria receives only a small sprinkling of snow for a couple of weeks of the year, the city still deals with it much better than the Scots do.

In Edinburgh, piles of grit and salt are dumped onto the streets and sidewalks very unstrategically – and that’s about as far as the city goes to manage the cold weather.

Driving is perilous, if attempted at all, due to lack of experience and snow tires. A friend of mine from Black Creek BC (who also spent a lot of time in Northern Canada) now lives in Glasgow. On a recent road trip, it took her Scottish friends four hours to drive to their destination. Preaching winter-driving experience, they handed the wheel over to the Canadian, and they made it safely home within two hours.

The trains even have a hard time of it.

The trains even have a hard time of it.

My own experience with British winter motoring is far less dramatic but similarly ridiculous. On a visit to Cornwall, England, a light slush began to fall from the sky at which point a family member I was visiting began to panic, and insisted we go pick up her grandson (my nephew) from the child-minder before we got “snowed-in” – HA

If I can see my ankles it's fine to drive.

If I can see my ankles it’s fine to drive.

I can’t tell you how many people I see walking in the street shivering with a light jacket, hat and maybe some gloves. Whenever the cold wind bites extra hard, I turn up my fur collar and thank my good sense.