Friday, July 18, 2014

Au revoir Québec!

Salut tout le monde!

Well here I sit, waiting for the time when my taxi will come to take me to the airport.  It's been an amazing three weeks here in Québec , and I come away with an experience I’ll never forget as well as a newfound enthusiasm for continuing my goal of learning French.  :-)

It’s always inspiring to network with a group of professionals that give up their free time to better themselves (and each other) in some way.  This happens a lot in my line of work, and it’s one of the reasons why I love it so much. 

On Wednesday, we had a tour at the National Assembly which is where the Parliament for Québec is.  After my experience in Ottawa at Parliament Hill, I was looking at and listening to everything with new eyes and ears… this stuff is actually interesting now!  Maybe I’ll quit teaching and go into politics.  Right?  Ha. Ha. Ha.

Last night, we had our final activity: a cruise down the St. Lawrence which involved dinner, music and dancing (of course)!  What a beautiful night with beautiful scenery.  It was a great way to celebrate our respective successes and end our time together.

However, the real end was today.  First we had breakfast, which they provided for us, which was nice since most of us had cleaned out our fridges and donated the food to a local charity. Then we had some thank-yous, then we filled out a rather extensive course evaluation, and then we met together again for the presentation of our certificates.

Before the certificates, though, a special recognition was given out to one person in each of the 4 classes.  Amongst ourselves (not the instructors), we had to decide who in our class:
          ** Spoke the most French while in class
          ** Spoke the most French outside of class
          ** Contributed positively to the class environment, and
          ** Encouraged and supported others

My class chose me!!  Ahhhh!!  I was so surprised and so happy.  It was like winning an Academy Award!  Well except that there were no speeches, and nobody wanted to hear the Level 1 person try to speak French anyways, haha.  Having said that, it was such a compliment because, while we were voting the day before I was thinking about how this award is even MORE significant at Level 1, given our circumstances and the fact that we have a… shall we say… disadvantage compared to the other levels.  :-)  Whoop whoop!

Okay, I’m done bragging now.  Just had to share that with you. 

I really recommend this program to anyone who wants to try to improve their French.  It was not only teachers from BC in my program – they were also from other provinces, territories, and countries!  In addition, they weren’t all teachers/educators, either!  So if you are interested in French, let me know and I’ll forward you the info.

As for me, I’ll be continuing to pursue French using any combination of the following methods, so beware:
-             Rosetta Stone

-             The Michel Thomas method

-             Duolingo

-             Pestering my French-fluent friends and colleagues
-             Pestering Ted (he loves it when I pester him)
-             SD43 French Conversation classes arranged through Sophie Bergeron
-             Travelling to French-speaking locations
-             Possibly a French class at SFU?
-             Eating poutine, baguette, brie and drinking French wine (that way I’ll FEEL more French at least!)
I’m open to any other suggestions especially if they involve eating and/or drinking.  :-)

Thanks for following along with me during my trials and tribulations!  I’m excited to be home very soon!

Cheers & love,

Monday, July 14, 2014

I'll never look at elbows and knees the same way again.

Hello alls you peoples!

Three and a half days until I get to come home, not that I am counting or anything.  :-)  I’m actually not feeling well today (heat exhaustion/dehydration/stomach pain) so I’m sure that my longing for home is more acute than it would be normally.  I’m eating soup and drinking water and laying low… a few of my comrades have also been afflicted with something similar, so perhaps it’s just the FRENCH we are learning, haha.

I hear that there is a pretty extreme heatwave at home, too.  I’m sure that my apartment is rather unbearable right now.  The poor cat.  The poor Ted.  We really need some A/C for those 10 days of the year… ;-)

On Friday we went to the Chute Montmorency which is a large waterfall on the Montmorency River.  It’s quite a sight to behold, and a little bit of a trek to walk the whole trail that goes around it.  I looked at some photos of it in winter, and it looks amazing.

Another popular winter/spring activity is to go to the “cabane à sucre” which is a sugar shack.  After the falls, we went to a sugar shack and had a tour involving all things maple.  Then we sat down and had a traditional Québécois meal consisting of mainly maple syrup, but also ham, bacon, potatoes with homemade ketchup, beans, sausages, pickles, meat pie, and “oreilles de crisse” (ears of Christ), which is basically deep-fried pork rind.  Now you may be asking yourself, why did they name such a food after Christ’s ears?  I don’t even want to speculate except to hope that it was some sort of compliment.  :-)

Music!  There was music and dancing to be had, as there is in any good traditional Québécois establishment.  We played the spoons, we shook the tambourines, we made “les gigueux” (the jig dolls) dance!  The accordionist played and played and played, and we practiced our dances that we learned in our first few classes at the program.  Much joviality. 

And if that wasn't enough, we got to have “le tire d’erable” before we left – maple taffy.  It is as close to heaven on a stick that I’ve ever had.  If pork rind is Christ’s ears, then maple taffy has got to be even more important.  At least an elbow or a knee.  It is delicious, and sweet, and you can hardly believe it exists.  I had two. (Elbows and knees come in twos after all)

Friday was a long day.  I was determined to relax on my weekend (two free days), and I did, but I also didn't.  My roommate Paula and I walked around old Québec for 5 hours on both days.  It was exhausting, but it couldn't be helped – there is just too much to see and do here!  Old Québec is absolutely beautiful with little shops and corridors, street performers, artists, horse-drawn carriages, stone roads and walls, extravagant churches and historic monuments everywhere.  We rode the “funiculaire,” ate poutine, saw a glass-blowing demonstration, and shopped – sometimes in the pouring rain, sometimes in overwhelming heat.

If you have Facebook you might have already heard about the conversation I had wherein I told someone that I live in a raspberry.  That was not my proudest moment, however, I did have a conversation with someone that I am very proud about!  While waiting outside a store for Paula, an older man struck up a conversation with me that went on for quite a while.  He had served in the Royal Canadian Air Force.  I thanked him for his service, and we chatted about all sorts of things: how beautiful Québec City is, how expensive it is to live in Vancouver, what I did for work, why I was studying French, his visit to BC, and on and on.  I was gettin’ 95%!  It was so exciting!  Is it normal to be so proud and excited about speaking to someone, but terrified and wanting to run away at the same time?  That’s what it was.  :-)  In any case, I’m so happy that this program is making a difference for me.

The end of the Festival d’Ete was this weekend, too.  Bryan Adams, although not my super-fave, is an excellent singer and still really rocks it!  I was impressed.  Did you know that he also pursues a photography career now as well?  Anyways, when we got up this morning (Monday), and realized the Festival was over, many of us felt as if the program was over too.  :-P  What are we supposed to do with our evenings now?

Today after classes we visited the museum at Place Royale.  It was good, but I came home early because I wasn't feeling great.  Still to come this week is visiting the National Assembly, and the goodbye cruise!

Until next time,

p.s. – check out this amazing French dancer!  No words – just dance.  It’s so good.
Guillaume Côté - “Lost in Motion

Thursday, July 10, 2014

On n'attache pas son chien avec des saucisses!

Hello everyone!

The weather in Québec City has cooled off a little, which is nice.  The humidity and constant sweating gets tiresome rather quickly.  There have been rainstorms and windstorms, too.  The weather certainly does change swiftly here.  It’s fairly prudent to bring a hat and/or umbrella with you everywhere you go (except into a concert – security collects all the umbrellas and presumably sells them on eBay).

There are a couple of other Coquitlam teachers here (Judy from Centennial, Franca from Terry Fox) who teach secondary French.  They are both in the advanced class (as they should be) so I don’t see them much, but they are pretty friendly.  Almost everybody here is inclusive and helpful; it’s a pretty good group.

Apparently the words for “neck” and “ass” sound remarkably similar.  Who knew?

Every couple of days we do workshops.  The first workshop we had was that one in the computer lab with the web resources.  The second workshop was about pronunciation.  I have discovered that I CAN roll my R’s after all!  Basically, you just gargle, right?  I tried to demonstrate with “Rrrrrroll up the rrrrrrim to win” but my prof did not seem impressed.  However since then, I get strange looks all the time and I think it’s because people are so surprised at my amazing progress.

We had our third workshop today, and it was a group project.  We created a comic strip and it turned out pretty great if I do say so myself.  J  I have attached it to this email so I can show off my newfound skillz.  The last workshop is next week.

The visit to the chocolaterie was pretty cool except it’s not really fair to bring a bunch of poor & starving BC teachers to a store like that.  It makes me feel like I am starring in the next installment of those “Confessions of a Shopaholic” books.  Basically, I just pretend like I have money, and then after I eat all the chocolates there is no evidence of my spending anyways.  Didn’t work out so well for the girl in that book…

Le Festival d’Été is still going strong.  There are so many stages and musical acts, indoor and outdoor, that even if you just wander around you can soak it all in.  We saw Young the Giant and The Killers the other night.  It was a great concert and slightly less crowded than Lady Gaga, which was nice.

Earlier this week our debutante class got a bit of a pep talk from one of our instructors.  He reminded us that it takes years to learn a second language, and that we need to be “gentle with ourselves.”  Good advice!  I was thinking that perhaps I could take a French course starting in the fall to make myself practice a little more regularly.  I am still using the Rosetta Stone, which is great, but it’s self-directed, and perhaps if I had a little more structure, I’d keep up with it more consistently.  Anyways, do you know about anything like that?  I suppose I could look into whether SFU or UBC or Douglas or some place has a beginner’s French course I could take – doing it online would be an option too.  Anyways, it’s something for me to think about.  I don’t want to lose all my progress.  ;-)

Did you know that “le trombone” is a musical instrument and “la trombone” is a paper clip?  J

Does anyone have any news from home?  I’m a little homesick, so feel free to write me a quick note.  Seven days until I come home…
Tomorrow we go to the sugar shack!  So excited!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Musique à mes oreilles - Music to my ears!

Hello all!

Doing this program reminds me of the Teachers Institute I did last November in Ottawa – it’s relevant, engaging and exhausting!  Québec is beautiful and for the most part, people are really friendly.

I say “for the most part” because they must be used to kookie nutbars running around trying to speak to them and striking up inane conversations for no reason at all.  Our program leaders have even prepared us with phrases so that we can strike up conversations with strangers.  For example, here in Québec, the streetlights take forever to change for pedestrians but when they eventually do, you can walk in all directions because ALL the traffic stops.  They told us to say “ces feux sont si longs a passer au rouge!” as if any local would welcome us with open arms if we told them something they already knew.  I’ll keep my nutbar status to myself, thankyouverymuch.  It gets loose too much as it is.  J

Thursday was the opening of the Summer Festival (a.k.a. Festival d’Été) here.  It is a crazy-amazing outdoor music festival with multiple stages.  Downtown Québec turns into one big beautiful outdoor patio party.  As you can imagine, it’s really, really crowded.  But it is worth it to see such acts as Tegan & Sara, Lady Gaga, Serena Ryder, Steve Miller Band, Journey, Snoop Dogg, Local Natives, Three Days Grace, The Killers, The Crystal Method, Deadmau5, Queens of the Stone Age, Cypress Hill, Blondie, Billy Joel, Sam Roberts Band, Soundgarden and Bryan Adams.  And those are just the acts I recognize!  There are over 250 performances, including up-and-coming French artists and international acts.  There’s also a selection of free performances every day, but I (and most of my program participants) bought the festival pass in advance.  $75 if I remember correctly?

I’ve already seen Tegan & Sara and Lady Gaga – the pass was worth it right there.  Dang that Gaga girl sure puts on a show!  I’d never be able to afford to see her in Vancouver.  I’m looking forward to many more shows, but I can’t see myself going every night since I really have to mentally gear myself up for those crowds.  Haha.

This program is turning out to be quite musical – in addition to having us sing French songs every morning, they show us French music videos from artists around the world.  I have already found some new favourites!

We did a workshop a few days ago that also gave me some favourites – for the computer lab.  They showed us a plethora of FSL and Immersion resources that we can use for ourselves or for our students.  Much of it was très cool – and I’ll be coming home with a package of ideas and website links.

Another activity they had us put together was a skit that we performed in front of the group.  Sheesh, doing things like scavenger hunts and performing skits certainly gives me insight into what I ask my own students to do.  Especially my poor ESL students, haha.

We went shopping!  There are 3 huge malls here in Québec, and we figured out how to take the bus there without much difficulty.  Simons is my dream store!  I bought some stuff… a bunch of stuff.  Good cheap stuff!  And, I had to talk to people half a dozen times and most of the time there was no problem and no clarification needed.  And nobody tried to speak English to me, which made me feel great.  J

Today we had a field trip to la Grosse Île in the middle of the St. Lawrence (and we had the choice to do the tour in English, thank goodness, or it would have been such a wasted experience!).  It was used as a quarantine station in the 1800’s for immigrants to Canada or the US.  During the Great Irish Famine, the island received a huge influx of Irish peoples, more than the island could handle.  They were lured with promises for a better life, but instead thousands of people died from cholera, typhus, etc.  It was fascinating, and sad.  At times the conditions described/recreated echoed what it was like in concentration camps in Germany – except it felt more helpless without anyone to “blame.”

Aside from la Grosse Île, I have been trying very hard to speak French as much as possible (although I must admit that when with my débutante roommates, we give ourselves a little break haha).  When we have gone to get groceries or gone out to eat, I don’t let anyone speak English to me.  Well, almost.  If there is a big lineup behind me or something, I might cave.  But for the most part I have been doing my best: I hand back the English menus and ask for French ones, continue speaking French if they change to English, and if necessary, tell them not to speak to me in English.  Having said that, the conversations I’ve had are pretty limited and mainly involve the French verbs that I know.  I have, I want, I eat…. Sounds good enough, right?

I should get to sleep now – but I’ll write again with more I’m sure.  The week ahead contains a chocolaterie, more summer festival shows, and another field trip – this time to Île d’Orleans.  Stay tuned!

Cheers and love,

p.s. – watch this totally cool music video from a Belgian musician!  You don’t need to know what the lyrics mean (I don’t), and it’s totally catchy and the video is neato.  The chorus says, “Where are you Papa?”

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

J'ai chaud? Je suis chaude!

Hello all!

So things have begun in full force here on campus.  We are in full immersion mode now, so it's kind of nice to think and write in English for a little bit.  My brain is tired.  Heh!

My roommates are Deborah from Comox, Kirsten from Vancouver (I knew her already from teaching ESL at Tamwood years ago), and Paula from Fort St. John.  We are all in our later thirties or forties (in fact, I'm the youngest), which is good because we are all pretty fun and relaxed.  Kirsten is pretty bilingual, so she helps us out all the time - and doesn't even seem to mind.

Yesterday we had our placement interviews and it turns out that I am way worse at French than I thought.  Turns out my enthusiasm doesn't mean that I'm good (you have all been lying to me!).  I think the instructors knew right away though, especially when they asked me if I knew any other languages and I thought that they were asking if I could drive a car.  I said yes, they asked which languages, and... yeah.  I'm in the "debutante" class.  :)

Every day they provide us with lunch at the cafeteria, but we do our own breakfast and dinners.  After our tests yesterday, we headed out to the local grocery store and did a big shop.  They drove our groceries home for us while we walked in the humid sun.  We always talk about having several showers a day.  Having a cold shower at night helps me get to sleep since it cools my core temperature down to a comfortable state so I can relax.  

Our cultural activity yesterday was learning some Quebecois dances and we all learned how to play the spoons.  We also listen to and sing songs every day (some traditional, some modern).  After that we watched a French movie called The Intouchables.  And much to my chagrin, no English subtitles (of course).  But that's okay, I was able to get the synopsis off the web and follow along.  :)  Good movie!

Today our classes began and our beginner class practiced a lot of basics like introducing ourselves and saying where we are from.  We're also learning teaching strategies at the same time, and we recognize lots of what's going on.  It's interesting to be on the other side of the coin. Our group activity today was to do a scavenger hunt, and they placed us in groups with one person from each level.  So yah, I was the dummy running behind everyone listening to them chatter in French and not having a clue what was going on.  I have way more sympathy for my ESL kids now.

My (our) reward for going through that redonkulous exercise was to relax at a local establishment for 5a7, which is the saying for "happy hour" here in Quebec.  And it was definitely happy: our leaders had arranged for all of us to have a free drink and appetizers.  Plus we played a few games and more free drinks were up for the taking, if you were up for the talking.

And homework!  We get homework every day.  HA HA.  Today's homework was to pronounce some vowel sounds (blah), and write a poem with a particular framework.  I'll share mine with you:

A L'interieur de Moi

C'est une chambre,
dans mon coeur.
Il y a un poid
sur mes memoires.
Il y a un desir
sous mes pensees.
Il y a une intention
entre mes questions.
Tu me manques,
mais tu habites ici.
Dans mon coeur.

Can you guess what our framework was?  That's right, prepositions!  Good to see that my ability to write sappy predictable crap hasn't waned since highschool.  It's finally coming in handy.  Ha ha.

Hope you're all doing well!  I miss (speaking English with) every single one of you.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Bonsoir from Quebec!

Hello all,

I write this to you from my humid & sweaty dorm room, in the amazing location of Quebec City!  It's so beautiful here.  

I spent most of my Saturday night packing and as it happens, having another car-related adventure with Soni!  This time it involved Soni's car being towed (hey, it's a step up from being stolen, right?), and subsequently being propositioned by an 18-year old boy.  Gross.  I'll let her give you the details on that one.  :P

Early morning drive to YVR meant only 2 hours of sleep!  This of course resulted in my zombie-like behaviour and leaving items behind at security by accident.  I think if they had required that I take off my shoes, I would had left them there too.  No problem, got everything back.  But I was (am) still in a fog.

When Ryan Gosling starting walking down the aisle towards where I was sitting on the plane, I knew I was hallucinating for sure.  It wasn't him, but it was a dead ringer.  Kinda threw me for a loop, but why would he be sitting in coach, right?  Hey Girl... I just wanted to be closer to you.  Haha.

When I finally made it to QC after a short layover in TO (aka Ta-ronnah), the taxi driver seemed to speak neither French nor English.  Not helpful.  Although it's SO intimidating to speak when you know you're going to sound like you're mentally compromised (which I don't tend to mind on the days I speak English, haha) but, sometimes you gotta take the plunge.  Right?

I found my way to my dorm room by the college.  It's pretty bad (as dorms tend to be), but the location can't be beat.  I was checking it all out, pleased to be the first person here (they are quad dorms - 4 bedrooms each with a lock) and talking to myself about this and that, when a lady comes out of one of the bedrooms.  I guess I wasn't first.  And now, the mentally compromised thing just might end up being my rep.  Ha.  Thought I could get away from that on the East Coast but alas.

We went and got a few groceries.  We went the wrong way.  We tried asking someone in French where the grocery store was, and they helped us out (yay!).  But turns out we went way, way, out of our way.  Next time we'll go a little closer.

I'm exhausted.  It's 6:25pm your time but here it's 9:25pm and on two hours of sleep I'm gonna pass out now.

I'll happily pass along any further stories of my mental state... :)

ps - I have a mailing address!  I feel like a student living in a dorm (oh wait, I am) waiting for a care package!  Yeah, if any of you want to send me a large portable air conditioning unit, that'd be great... I'm here until July 18th!

yah I know there's a bunch of accents missing from the French words...

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Emerald Isle

Ahhhh, Ireland. So beautiful. Green and lush, and the people are SO welcoming and friendly. One person said that you never really get lost in Ireland (at least for long) because you just stop and ask someone. I guess whoever said that didn't mean in the bar district at 2am haha! No but really, people have been very helpful. 

We did a ton of walking around in Dublin when we were there. We saw the Famine Memorial, the Ha'penny Bridge, St. Patrick's Cathedral, Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin Castle, and more. The pedestrian walkways are excellent. All cobblestones and shops and pubs. Many, many pubs. B&B's are my favourite type of accommodation (although I think S prefers hotels) because I like meeting the people and I like the home cookin'!  Dragging your bags up and down stairs is a bit of a chore, though. 

Our first driving destination was to visit Newgrange in the Boyne Valley. It's a huge stone-age tomb that is older than the Pyramid of Giza in Egypt! Pretty cool. Then we were off to Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland. It's quite a sight! Hexagonal columns all around the bay. Not sure the science behind it, but the interpretive centre has a whole giant-fable to go with your exploration of the area. I posted photos of both Newgrange and Giant's Causeway on FB if you want a look.

The next day we drove from Bundoran (a cute little coastal town) to Galway (a cute large coastal town).  Our B&B was right on the water: Galway Bay/Atlantic Ocean! Just a short swim and we'd hit the Maritimes. ;)  Another great pedestrian area in Galway with wonderful buskers, shops, pubs, and ice cream parlours. S and I enjoyed people-watching and drinking from the outdoor patio and walking around the city square. Nice!

The landscape reminds me quite a bit of when I visited Scotland in 2008 with C. Rocky areas, fields, hills and small mountains are all over the place. We've been lucky to have fairly cooperative weather. The mildness has been a welcome change from the hot & sticky, and the occasional rain shower is, dare I say, pleasant!

After leaving Galway, the next stop would be at The Cliffs of Moher. Ireland certainly has impressive natural formations! I was dismayed to see that people could walk right along the edge of the cliffs with no railing or anything to keep them from plummeting.  We didn't try it. From where we were, the view was fantastic and we had the pleasure of listening to a harpist.  Excellent. 

After a quick stop in Shannon, we headed to Limerick for the night. It was a pleasant enough city, although for us it was pretty much a stopover. S walked around a little and saw the local cathedral and castle, and I opted for a massage at the spa! It was pretty decadent. In fact, the best food I'd had in Ireland so far was at the restaurant adjoining our hotel. SO GOOD. Of course that may be partially due to the fact that we have been eating a lot of the same food, over and over.  We are both looking forward to peanut butter when we get home!

From Limerick, we headed to Killarney.  What's the difference between a "twinned city" and a "sister city"? Whatever it is, Killarney has plenty of both.  It also has a National Park, and it is the starting point for the Ring of Kerry, which is an all-day drive around a southwest peninsula (kind of like the Road to Hana in Maui).  We didn't have time to do it all, but we did see Killarney, Ladies' View, Ross Castle, Torc Waterfall and the town of Kenmare. Next time we'll plan our time better and do more!

Our last night in Ireland would be spent in Cork.  We drove around and saw much of the city while locating our B&B, and we walked down the street to have dinner at the aptly named Serendipity Cafe. Electric guitar serenaded us while we had yet another fantastic meal; we listened to Clapton, Metallica, Cash, and others. It was pretty cool, gotta say. 

Before leaving the Cork area the next day, we had to go to Blarney Castle and kiss the stone. I was convinced it was an overpriced gimmick but when we got there, there was actually quite a lot to do there, which made it more worth it. We walked through the beautiful gardens, and even one called "poison garden" which had all poisonous plants, including the marijuana plant, which had a cage all around it as to discourage samplers. There was a waterfall, and lovely trails all over. Oh yeah, and the castle too. And the stone. 

Last bit of Ireland was spent driving back to Dublin for a short flight to London, and then we'd have two separate flights back to Vancouver (I had a direct flight and S was via Amsterdam).  

Random bits about driving in Ireland:
- we rented a Toyota Auris at first. It was a standard transmission and it actually indicated when you were supposed to shift up or down. I thought that was cute!
- driving with a stick shift was fine and all, but I soon realized that my fine manual dexterity isn't as good with my left hand.
- the rural roads in Ireland are crazy. They are super narrow, there's usually no shoulder whatsoever, and the speed limits are unbelievably high. For example, the posted limit of 100km/hr was two feet in front of another sign that said, "Be careful of walkers on the road."  There are regularly trucks and semis coming the other way, and let's just say it gets hairy. 
- the roundabouts here are excellent, but I'm not a fan of the double-lane. Makes it confusing for where you think someone beside you is exiting and I don't like guessing about where other cars are going. So, I pretty much stayed in the outside lane in the roundabouts.
- no passing while in the slow lane. I knew this and was respecting it, but somehow without my even realizing it, I messed up. Right in front of a cop. Just my luck, eh? He made sure I was clear about that particular rule. 
- we changed over to a Skoda Octavia with automatic transmission after three days, so that S could drive too. I needed a break.
- they have "traffic calming areas" here. At home this would mean speed bumps, but here it means no passing and narrower lanes (as if they aren't narrow enough!)

Random bits about travel/this trip:
- a suitcase with four wheels on the bottom is awesome!!
- I think I need to be a little less efficient with my packing. I had tons of space in my suitcase, and about a week before the end, I got thoroughly sick of wearing all the same clothes. 
- if we could do it over, I'd plan the Ireland portion of this trip differently. Definitely less driving and more time spent enjoying locations. As it was, we were pretty go-go-go, which was like our tour (except we didn't have someone else doing all the "work" for us!).
- maybe I'm getting old, but a month is a long time to be away from home.  I think I'll prefer to do shorter trips in the future. Maybe. 

Our big adventure has come to an end!  Thanks for reading along and travelling with us!