I am not sure whether it is the fact of getting older that makes time pass so quickly or just that time passes quickly. Thanksgiving in the United States is the kick off for Christmas. In my last blog I wrote about our lovely dinner with friends on that evening, see: https://suddenly70.ca/2018/02/05/my-florida-part-1/
Before I knew it we were heading off to visit our kids for Christmas. Actually, this year we planned to see them before the actual date so as not to be in airports with thousands, and to give them a chance to do their wn thing for the holiday.
It turned out to be a wonderful if whirlwind trip. We flew from Orlando to Montreal to see our grand daughters, Rose and June. They live in a small town outside the big city and we always stay at a charming hotel in Vaudreuil-Dorion, called Chateau Vaudreuil. It sits on a lake, frozen at that time of year, and the view is pretty with the snow all around. There are mountains as a backdrop. The hotel actually has small suites, however, as we have been staying there for over 10 years we always seem to get upgraded to the Royal Suite complete with winding staircase and sumptuous bathroom, and there is an adjoining room where James and the girls stay for our 2nd night’s visit.
arrival at Chateau Vaudreuil to find snow
the boy still knows how to remove snow from vehicle
As the girls’ parents are divorced they really enjoy spending a night at their dad’s place where they have an assortment of toys. I usually bring dinner or send a shopping list for our son, James. This year it included large shrimp to snack on before dinner, barbecued chicken, and some salads. I like a bit of bubbly, as you know if you have been reading my blogs, and then some white wine, usually a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Charles likes red wine, often a Pinot Noir, and James drinks craft beers. We all hang out together, eat, and then Charles and I leave for the hotel.
The next morning the girls arrive with James after breakfast. I wake up early to go swimming in the lovely indoor pool. The last few years we have gone on a shopping expedition at Christmas. Instead of buying the girls presents we have taken them to a toy store, given them a specific amount to spend and they have a ball. This year I thought books would be in order as they are both voracious readers, and with all the time kids spend on iPads, iphones etc. I wanted to encourage this. So we visited a local Chapters/Indigo Store, a Canadian bookstore chain, and they spent about an hour choosing their books. June even sat on the floor reading one of hers before we had checked out, then lunch, and back to the hotel to swim for the rest of the afternoon. The girls swam for close to 3 hours. I believe that children like routines as well as new and exciting things so they know what to expect.
Rose and her dad relaxing in massive living room at hotel
in the pool
After baths we headed downstairs to the hotel restaurant for dinner. This hotel combines a Quebec French atmosphere with an Italian one, as the owner is Italian. The dining rooms are large, but divided into small areas and ornately decorated, all with a view on the lake, and the sparkling Christmas lights outside reflected in the snow.
Charles and I took a step back in time and ordered Caesar salad made at the table in the very old fashioned, but fun way. The girls watched carefully and were happy to share in the results, which were delicious. For dessert we ordered Crepes Suzette, again made at the table, but this time with flambé fireworks.
making the caesar salad
and dessert Crêpes Suzette
After dinner we spent time together in the living room of our suite. I had a cognac, James and Charles some red wine. And we got caught up. In the morning I swam early, we all had breakfast together, the kids hung out at the pool and Charles and I departed for Vancouver. This was indeed a whirlwind visit.
proud dad with sons in Vancouver
We rented a car on arrival about 5 hours later after a comfortable flight and headed to our favorite hotel, The Rosewood. I have written about this hotel before with its terrific restaurants, beautiful rooms, ours with a view on a giant Christmas tree outside the art gallery. The Rosewood is the old Hotel Georgia, where I hung out when I sang with the Vancouver Opera many years before. (At this time I would direct you to my website, but alarmingly, I was informed by the Webmaster that it has been hacked and taken down only temporarily) I hope. The Georgia Hotel was a Vancouver icon. I love the lobby, long and narrow with a terrific bar, the 1927 Lobby Lounge, the fine Hawksworth restaurant and the Bel Café at one end, and an entrance into the speakeasy, Prohibition, at the other. The façade of old elevators still remains, as does a beautiful clock at the front doors all restored lovingly. The hotel pool is splendid, with geometric shapes in the bottom that change colour, and the temperature is nice and warm. The rooms are luxuriously comfortable with large bathrooms, double sinks, a freestanding tub and shower. The food in all the eating spots was very good presumably because there is a great pride in the Hawksworth restaurant, and this has spilled out into the other venues. Even the soups and salads in the Bel Café were scrumptious and reasonably priced.
window view of tree in Vancouver
I couldn’t wait to see our grand daughter, Sway, who had just turned one year. Everyone arrived at the hotel including our middle son, Niels, with sushi takeout. I ordered wine and beer from room service, and we had a picnic. It seems our visits revolve around eating, watching every move of Sway’s, and getting reacquainted.
discovering the mirror in our hotel room
The next day the plan was for everyone to come to the pool and we would all swim including the baby. Then we retired to our room to relax, and Sway was put down for a nap in our bathroom on a duvet we found in the cupboard, and she slept very well. That evening Kate cooked dinner in their apartment, an above ground basement set up, charmingly and cleverly furnished to maximize the space. This is Vancouver after all, and the most expensive housing in Canada. Niels with his dog Mia, and Mason,Corby and Kate’s dog, also joined us. It was great fun.
in the pool with mommy and then joy in the bath
ready for bathroom naptime
There was snow in Vancouver the next morning, an unlikely occurrence that apparently has become much more likely this year. Good old climate change. The plan was for Charles and I to each meet old friends for lunch. I was particularly looking forward to seeing Carol, who had been my first baby sitter over 50 years ago. We have kept up over the years and seen each other from time to time, but it had been awhile. I tried to convince her that we change the venue as the snow was covering the downtown streets, but she was adamant that we go to Le Crocodile, an old favorite of my dear friend, Juliette, and I am glad we did. See: https://suddenly70.ca/2017/12/11/summer-in-the-city-part-two/ Lunch was delicious, if a bit old fashioned, but I guess that is its charm. I had the half avocado with shrimp and then the black truffle omelet. Service was excellent and the food delicious.
yes, there is snow in Vancouver
I headed gingerly back to the hotel dodging puddles. Vancouver is not sophisticated about snow removal, however it may become so after this winter. We headed over to the kids and I watched baby tv, as I call it, and hugged our little Sway. Then dinner at the kids’ choice Bao Bei, a faux Chinese restaurant that is trendy beyond belief, and dark, dark in lighting and atmosphere. We squeezed in a booth and everyone ordered what he or she wanted and we shared. I love that we are able to take Kate, Corby and Niels for dinners when we see them, often to places that are special to them, and they eat and drink without concern about price. It is our pleasure to share the experience with them and give them delight. One of our very favourite restaurants that they introduced to us is Salvio Volpe . Vancouver has a plethora of excellent and unique places to dine.
perusing menu in Bao Bei
The next morning we headed back to Orlando. We had to switch planes in Toronto, and our late Vancouver takeoff, caused us to run through the terminal, thankful for our Nexux/Global Entry cards and managed to board a few minutes before takeoff. Whew! Back in Orlando we picked up our car that we leave at Fast Park an excellent off site parking place that is covered, very important in the Florida sun. They have the usual benefits and rewards for multi visits, and excellent shuttle service to the airport.
last mountain view before boarding
We left on the 15th and were home on the 20th and missed airport congestion, but with the Vancouver 3 hour time change we really were exhausted. This getting older has its tolls, but the trip was great, and a few days of recovery made it all worth it except that Christmas was approaching, and I was slated to do my usual Danish Christmas Eve dinner. So I headed up to Fresh Market, about 40 minutes away in The Villages, and shopped for lots of goodies, like, duck and cheeses and seafood specialties. Wish we had one nearer to us in Mt. Dora, or Leesburg or Clermont, all cities that one would think were big enough to support a fine grocery chain.
Our home was decorated for Hunukah and Christmas before we left, so I didn’t have that to contend with, and I had had a Hunukah dinner with friends that was fun and candle lit, and for some reason we all drank quite a bit and had a jolly time. I made traditional potato pancakes or latkes, a recipe from my mother’s old Naomi cookbook. The exception for me is that I make them about the size of a silver dollar, and serve them with smoked salmon and crème fraiche. We then had half Cornish hens stuffed with wild rice and served with red cabbage. I usually buy a few jars of cooked red cabbage, cook it again, and add nutmeg, and fruit, this time I used strawberries. Carrots with a bit of brown sugar accompanied, and again using the Naomi I made a simple apple crisp for dessert. I told this story in a previous blog, but it is worth repeating. I have had this torn, food-splattered cookbook for 60 years at least, and it was falling a part. My husband surprised me a few years ago by finding it on Amazon and buying a new/old copy for me. It was such a loving and caring thing to do.
Hanukah table waiting for guests
old and new Naomi cookbooks
And speaking of my husband, I have been hosting a Danish Christmas Eve dinner for many years in honour of his Danish heritage, and particularly because his dad, Niels Petersen, loved this tribute, and the food too. Here in Florida, my dear neighbour and friend, Sheila, a fellow Canadian with a Scandinavian background, makes the most incredible Gravalax, So we start with that, served on rye bread with mustard sauce, and small glasses of Aquavit.
I take two pork tenderloins, make a bread, onion and sage stuffing and tie them together so that when they are sliced through the stuffing is revealed and very tasty. This year I did smashed potatoes, boiled potatoes, cooled them down, then took my hand and pushed down on them to smash them a bit, then I put in the pan under the pork and put a little olive oil on them and some rosemary, and cooked the roast with them. They got some drippings that also flavoured them. I serve the red cabbage with this and I think this year I sautéed some artichoke hearts in panko and served them as well. Yes, that is the sound of my stomach growling. I also make a light gravy. Dessert used to be Kransegage, but is too work intensive, and very expensive if I order it online as I once did. Charles makes Danish ebelskiver, small pancakes that are filled with apple or whatever pleases you. I think he used dark chocolate sauce this year. We have the special pan for this, and it is always a treat. I get to escape our very small kitchen when he is cooking. And that is a good thing.
stuffed pork tenderloins and smashed potatoes
table set for Christmas
my Christmas gift an e-bike and our little tree on lanai
Charles and I spent a quiet Christmas dinner together and then got back in the swing of things here. New Years we decided to celebrate at The Mission Inn’s fine dining restaurant, El Conquistador, and with their permission I brought Caviar and blinis, as well as champagne and a special red wine, Belle Gloss. They charge a reasonable corkage fee. I also put roses on the table and brought our own crystal glasses. The room was filled with many of our friends, but we opted to eat as a twosome and join others for dessert. We left around eleven thirty to catch the New York Times Square activities on television, but fell asleep before midnight. Hmm
Santa installing new grab bars for guest bath
carollers on main street in Eustice and two old hags wine store with special Belle Gloss
Happy New Year
The New Year started well with a visit from family, or rather extended family. My foster parents’ daughter and son in law, Sally and Neil, arrived for a week’s visit. It turned out to be one of our coldest of the winter, but it was sunny, and they are so easy as guests that we just all relaxed and enjoyed each other’s company. Neil is a crossword wizard and I learned a lot from him as I like to do the New York Times puzzle on Mondays, the easiest. We ate in and also we went out to some fun restaurants like Urban Flats in Winter Garden, a charming town about 30 minutes from us. We know this area because it is a great place to cycle along the West Orange Trail. Our brunch was scrumptious, a spinach salad with bacon and a soft egg on top, muffins on the side. Yum. They have super flatbreads of all types.
crossword in the kitchen and Sally relaxing in the living room
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and never found ourselves lacking in something to talk about, be it our kids, their wonderful family and many grandchildren, or just Canadian and American politics. And music, Neil got me singing after I moved into his in-laws home when I was a teenager. See Aria: Song of a life, the memoir that I wrote that describes all. Music is important in our lives, and we like to share our love of it.
morning outside our place during Christmas holidays
I have so much more to tell you about our time in Florida this past winter. I hope you will join me for my next blog.