Category Archives: Travel

Quebec, again.

This post is long overdue and will do not justice to the beauty that was our trip to Quebec, but I will try! We had been longing to go back to Quebec since our initial pilgrimage in 2013, but there just hasn’t been an ideal time until now. We lovelovelove Canada and try to go once a year (last year we went for our honeymoon). We were unsure if this trip was going to happen because finances are a bit tight, but we felt at peace with going and ta-daaaaa the Lord provided in many ways this month. God is good.

We started the drive up Friday evening and stopped for the night in Stowe, VT (stayed at the Stowe Inn with a groupon – so charming!). It broke up the long drive which was great, and we had a very relaxing trip up Saturday morning through the wonderful greenery and mountains of Northern New England. We crossed the border with no issues (not that there would be…it just always makes me nervous) and there we were!

The weekend was on and off with the weather – rainy then sunny then cool then rainy. But it didn’t really matter to us. We spent good quality time at St. Joseph’s Oratory – and gosh, the second we stepped foot back in there it was a wave of peace. Walking through the Votive Chapel is an experience. It just feels filled with grace (which it is!). There are several different statues of St. Joseph above different stations of votive candles – each with a different title of his (Protector of our Church, Consoler of the Afflicted, Pure in Heart, Patron of Families, Patron of the Sick & Dying, Terror of Demons, Model of Workers). Needless to say, there were many prayers to be prayed and many offerings to be made.  We spent much time off and on in this Chapel.

We also were able to spend some beautiful time in prayer in Brother Andre’s Chapel. Brother Andre (now Saint Andre) was the one who had the Oratory built in honor of Saint Joseph; a very humble man and being in his chapel (alone, nonetheless) was a moving experience. It’s probably where I received the most consolation of the weekend.

There’s so much that could be said about the Oratory, but…just go. Just go and see it for yourself. This trip we were fortunate enough to also visit the Shrine of St. Anne de Beaupre just outside Quebec City. I had been wanting to visit this shrine for quite some time, but even I had no clue what was in store for me. Driving along the St. Lawrence river (delightful!), we pulled into the town of Ste. Anne-de-Beapre and soon saw what had to be the Shrine. It’s amazing – just off the main road being all stunning and what not!

This Church took my breath away. Everything about it. Whoever built this Church had a true devotion to St. Anne. There is just so much detail, so much complexity, and it all is weaved together so effortlessly in this magnificent structure. The whole thing was a treat, but I was especially fond of the little side chapel holding a RELIC OF ST. ANNE (bone of her arm!). I mean, no big deal. After Mass (which we understood very little of, but being Catholic and all it’s usually fine since it’s all the same), the Priest came over to give us more details about the Shrine. He talked of the miracles he’s been present for that have occurred in front of the relic, and my goodness…it’s unbelievable (but also believable!). We were so grateful for our conversation with him; it helped us to appreciate even more about the Shrine that would have gone unnoticed by little old me!

There was also the outside areas which were so simple yet so incredible. There is one particular chapel that is host to a number of relics of the holy land – it has 28 stairs which pilgrims are meant to climb on their knees – each step in reparation for Christ’s passion (and many of the steps have the relics built into them)…uhhhhh-mazing. To sum it up, the short time we had at St. Anne’s was powerful. We were able to pray at the foot of her statue (said to be the place of many miracles) with the petitions weighing most on our hearts.

The rest of the trip was more exploring Montreal and Quebec City. We had already seen most of Montreal that we enjoy – there are lovely parts (like Old Montreal, ohhhhh I love it), but there are also typical city parts…that I don’t particularly care for. Quebec City, though. Lurv it. Such charm. Such cuteness. The old city is huge and it is a feast for the eyes! Unfortunately, it was super rainy when we were there, but I still fell in love. And the Chateau Frontenac – ahhhhh the famous hotel that I read about in high school french class! It was a joy seeing it in person. Kevin and I decided that the next time we visit (which we will), we will reverse our itinerary and stay in Quebec City with a day trip to Montreal & the Oratory.

I hope to put together a mini Catholic Canadian travel guide soon (Kevin’s very encouraging of doing that) for all those dyyyyyying to visit. I hope I’ve sold everyone enough on this delightful province!

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Back to the Oratory

A little over two years ago, when Kevin and I had been dating for 7ish months, we took a pilgrimage to Montreal together. We stayed at the retreat house on the grounds of St. Joseph’s Oratory, and a truly special trip it was. There were highs and lows to the weekend, and in a lot of ways, I really felt afterwards that this was it. I would be with this man forever. It’s kind of funny to say that now since there really were some rough patches over those four days. But it was the first time we openly spoke about marriage with one another…and children…and baby names. (That was as emotionally unchaste as we’d get until engagement.) 

 Montreal is a really special place to us (and really just Canada in general). And spending so much time at the Oratory was a truly spectacular experience. St. Joseph has always been a great intercessor in our relationship (hello 30 day novena that ended with a first date), so praying to him throughout that weekend also aided greatly in preparing us for our future. And there is something about the Oratory itself: it’s majestic, but humble. If you’ve been there and stood in the great shrine on top (with no one else around), you’d understand what I mean. For all of it’s simplicity, I could sense my unworthiness in a very real way.   

 There were other great aspects of Montreal that we got to explore outside of the Oratory grounds, and I was continuously stunned with beauty (could have also been the fresh snow). We spent an evening at Notre Dame in Old Montreal and that.church.is.beauty. Anddddd Celine Dion was married there, nobigdealthatdoesntinfluencemyopinionatall

 Anyway, we are going back this weekend and we are so excited. We’re at such a different stage in our life, and since it’s not January spontaneousblizzardseason, we’re hopeful that we won’t get snowed in like last time when we tried to visit the Shrine of St. Anne in Quebec City. That’s another place that we’re so looking forward to visiting. St. Anne is my patron Saint, and we’ve been praying to her in particular for some special intercession in these recent months. I so look forward to bringing our petitions and our love to that beautiful, sacred shrine. 

 And! I just can’t wait to be in French-speaking Canada again! The beauty! The elegance! The romance! The cheese! And the spring time!

Au revoir!

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Out of the city we go!

Just for a few days…but I’m so grateful! Even with the occasional snow day (only thanks to the MBTA shutting down), it has been “GO GO GO” around here. And I am so excited to GO elsewhere! Like middleofnowhere, New York for the long weekend with my best friends?! I don’t care how much snow there is, as long as it does not delay our traveling and I am not in the city.

This will be our third annual YO_O trip since college. We’ve certainly seen each other many other times in these past few years, but these trips are long weekend trips to a neutral place and they are the best.

2012: YOMO – “You only Minnesota Once” (little did I know I’d marry a Minnesotan…)

2013: (just realized this one never happened…but there were a couple of weddings, so it’s understandable!)

2014: YOLVO – “You only Las Vegas Once” (my bachelorette party…good time, but no need to go back)

2015: YOLMO – “You only Livingston Manor Once”

This year is super exciting because we are meeting the lovely John Paul! Ashlie and Josh had their first child in November and we all have been dying to meet this lil guy! We will also be meeting Elise’s new beau…so it’s gonna be a great time!

This will be our first trip with any of the men (except Josh…he attended YOMO), but I’m sure the four ladies will find a reason to all be in the bathroom at the same time for 5 hours or so (or until JP needs to be fed)…

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The four of us almost 2 years ago!! CRAY!!

 

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The Land of Plaid, Argyle & Tweed.

I’ve been fantasizing all day about plaid & tweed. I texted Kevin this picture saying “could be us”:

He said if we dressed a little bit more chic than that, he could be down.

It makes me long for the land of the Scots! Edinburgh, perhaps one of the lovliest cities I’ve ever had the good fortune to visit, is my dream location with my dream lifestyle with my dream fabrics: plaid, tweed, and argyle. Everything just goes so perfectly together: the cobblestone streets, the medieval architecture, the darling shops, the vast greenery, the accents. And, one of the few atelier schools in the world is in Edinburgh…Kevin attends/teaches as the one in Boston…soooo, just sayin’. 😉

My family is taking a trip to Scotland & Ireland this May, and it’d be a real treat to join them, just gotta see if we could swing it with both our finances and our schedules. I don’t want to get my hopes up too much, but who knows? I won’t rule it out completely.

 

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Oh, beautiful Quebec

I receive all of the promotional emails from Fairmont since Kevin and I stayed there on our honeymoon (the Chateau Banff Springs and Fairmont Lake Louise), and my heart aches every time I see a photo like this…

Chateau Frontenac

Their hotels are so phenomenally gorgeous and make me feel like a Queen just looking at them.

Kevin and I have been to Quebec together once on a pilgrimage when we were dating; we stayed in Montreal at a retreat house next to St. Joseph’s Oratory (so.awesome.).  We had plans to go up to Quebec City to the shrine of St. Anne (and to see Le Chateau Frontenac), but it snowed multiple feet of snow…so our plans were thwarted. Our trip was by no means ruined – Montreal had much to offer. But we really hope to go back to Quebec once more while we’re living in New England.

Magical snow storm in Montreal

I would looooove to stay at the Chateau – chances are it won’t happen anytime soon because of $$$$ but it will still be a treat just to even see it in person. In my French class in high school, we read this random book about bears and it kept referencing Le Chateau Frontenac, and so, I feel like I’ve always been destined to go. And St. Anne is my patron Saint, so to go to her shrine would be so great! We’ve been thinking we might go for a long weekend at the end of April for my birthday, but every time I get an email like this, Kevin and I have exchanges like this:

“UGHHH MY HEART!” “Let’s just do it…now!” “Maybe we should just spend Christmas alone in Canada!” “When is the soonest you can take an extra day off?” “Why do we not live in Canada?” “Do you think we can afford-…okay, never mind.”

Until then, yield to bear… 🙂

 

 

 

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A Canadian Honeymoon

Canadian Honeymoon

WARNING: LONG POST REGARDING BEST HONEYMOON EVER

Planning our honeymoon was an adventure. It took us a long time to figure out where to go as we (well, more like I) had our hearts set on Europe. We initially had planned out our itinerary for 4 days in Portugal, and the main attraction there was Fatima, then we’d stop over in Rome and see a good friend who is studying in seminary there, and then do a week in Ireland driving all around. I worked so hard to make this work, I planned out every day, where we would stay, how to get the best rates on travel…and duh, it was like 5x more than we could afford. When we finally came to the realization that this honeymoon was not going to happen, we actually felt a lot of peace. Mainly because we admitted we were trying to make it a pilgrimage. It would have been an awesome pilgrimage, and one we’d like to take one day, but maybe our honeymoon was not the right time.

We love Canada – we’d been to Montreal on a pilgrimage together after 6 months of dating. My parents had honeymooned in Canada, and my brother was about to as well. And for some reason, maybe God’s will, it felt so right. All the pieces came together (a lot of it has to do with my parent’s generosity), and we were ready to go! Let me take you on a tour of the best honeymoon of all time (I’m a bit biased)..

Part One: Whistler, BC (two days)

Whistler is essentially a small, luxurious, resort town north of Vancouver. And it was perfect. We stayed in my parent’s timeshare, Club Intrawest, and what an amazing experience. The hotel was beautiful, just what we wanted. It was a short walk to the main village. The town was close to empty. We had our pick of walks and trails and restaurants. I would recommend this place to anybody looking for a nice getaway. Since it was early June, not everything was open, but it didn’t make much of a difference for us. The beauty alone (combined with perfect 60-70 degree weather) sufficed.

Part Two: Vancouver, BC (three days)

Vancouver, BC

What an interesting part of the honeymoon. Kevin’s not much of a city person, and although I can certainly enjoy wandering around cities and finding cute coffee shops, this was unique. The evening we got in, the front desk lady at the hotel suggested we take a stroll down this one street leading to the harbor. Well, we did. And I don’t want to offend anyone, but it…umm, it wasn’t our scene to put it simply. So our initial impression of Vancouver was…not the best.

We were determined to make the best of it, though, and the next day was actually pretty good! A nice city market can really do a lot for me (it was my favorite part about living in London besides the pubs), and we spent most of the day on Granville Island. There was lots to see and the market was huge. It had so much to offer, and turned the inspiration wheels for Kevin. Afterwards we went to the Cathedral for confession and mass – really beautiful! And then off to the pier to see FlyCanada – a 20 minute imax experience showcasing the beauty of Canada. I did get a bit sick, but it was stunning, nonetheless.

View from Kitsilano (I think)

That was definitley the highlight of Vancouver as the next day turned out to be a really big fail. Everything we tried to do got thwarted somehow or cost exhuberant amounts of money. We joke that Vancouver is the place where they take your money. When we asked two separate concierges for cheap eateries, both sent us to restaurants with entrees no less than $20 (whattttttt?!). Overall, we had an enjoyable time. Would we go back? Probably on our way to Whistler.

Part Three: Lake Louise, AB (one day)

Lake Louise from the Chateau where we stayed!

GO HERE GO HERE GO HERE. First, let me say how spoiled we were. We totally splurged and stayed at the Fairmont Lake Louise AND they upgraded us to a suite. Speechless were we. Amazing service. Amazing view. Amazing lake. We could just sit on that lake for hours staring, and time would not have been wasted. We tried hiking a trail, but there was lots of snow getting higher up, and…bears. We didn’t see any, but the area was on grizzley watch. We did, however, get up in the morning to watch the sunrise over the lake. We didn’t see a super clear sunrise due to the mountains, but it was still stunning.

Part Four: Banff, AB (4 days)

Once again, spoiled. Through the generosity of my parents, we stayed at the Fairmont Chateau Banff Springs. Talk about the life of luxury. That place is a castle, and in this most romantic way. You could spend a day just exploring the hotel itself. The view outside our window was Bow River and the Rocky Mountains. There’s so much to say about this part of our trip. One thing you should know is that apparently in early-mid June in this part of Alberta, you have daylight from 4:45am to past 10pm. So that’s one of the reasons we have so much to say – it felt like we did about 4 different activities per day!

Town of Banff – what a cute place. So quaint. Just walking around this was great; we found our absolute favorite restaurant, Bear Skin Tavern – I think we actually went here 3 times. They have the BEST pizza. They also kept giving us coupons to come back, so we did. There’s the town Starbucks, obviously, where I got my wifi on. It’s just a super cute place that made our trip even more of an experience.

Johnston Canyon – our first hike in Banff, and it was lovely. You’re walking alongside the river (with railings for a large portion of it cause your essentially on the edge of a cliff) for a couple miles? I don’t know. But it brings you to this stunning waterfall, and I love waterfalls. A very refreshing hike about 30-40 minutes from town.

Vermillion Lakes – ahhhhhhhh GORGEOUS! It’s right on the edge of town, so super close, but you can drive/bike/walk in a loop around them. We stopped one evening there during the golden hour (Kevin’s favorite time of day), and it was simply breathtaking. If it weren’t for the million mosquitoes (that always seem to favor me over Kevin), we would have sat there forever.

Sulphur Mountain – so worth it despite my hidden (not so hidden anymore) fear of heights. We took a gondola to the top (you can hike, which Kevin did one afternoon during introvert time, but it was evening and we just took a quick trip). The view at the top of Sulphur is wonderful, but you can walk across it to the peak of another mountain and you just keep going higher and higher and higher and the view keeps getting better and better and better. We were super blessed with perfect weather everyday, so needless to say it was phenomenal. Oh my gosh. I kept wanting to stop cause of the height, but Kevin gently pushed me to keep going and I’m glad he did.

Horseback Riding – this one I have to laugh a bit. It was a unique experience, Kevin loooooved it, I just had a super rogue horse. There was a group of eight of us, and we took a two hour trip around some beautiful land and up a smaller mountain. Objectively – awesome. Seriously. But my horse kept wanting to eat everything in sight. And I did not like having to continuously kick my horse and then have him get mad at me and start shaking his head furiously. We did see a coyote on this trail, though, which was cool.

Tunnel Mountain Drive – another one of my favorites. When you stop along here, you feel like you’re overseeing all of God’s creation (well, not all of it, but a good part). Stunning. We went back twice cause it was just too beautiful. It’s a simple drive from Banff, and you just pull off the road at points and take in the beauty.

Lake Minnewanka – a nice spot (very big lake). Not my favorite, but still glad we went. It looks like a great spot for summer water activity, but was pretty empty when we went. One notable thing about this area, though – ALL THE BIG HORNED SHEEP YOU COULD EVER WANT TO SEE. Not joking. They were just chillin’ everywhere. Didn’t care who they blocked, who took photos of them – they were just doing their thing.

Moraine Lake – this was my top rated spot in the Rockies. We almost didn’t go cause it was our last night in Banff and it was about an hour drive away, but we are SO SO SO glad we did. We got there around 9pm and it was almost deserted. The moonrise would happen at about 9:45pm, so we wanted to stay for that. We walked up a bit and just overlooked pure goodness. It’s a glaciel lake, so it was still partly frozen just like Lake Louise, but I think that added to the beauty. There was a perfect reflection of the 10 surrounding peaks in the water. We just sat in awe for a while. This was the most worth it drive ever.

The Final Stretch

Our final night

(We did then go to Calgary, which I won’t really mention. Sorry to all the Calgary lovers out there, but umm…didn’t do much for us. We watched Harry Potter in our hotel room.) The entire honeymoon was just so refreshing. A perfect way to enter into our marriage. It was perfect too in that we had plenty to do, but it was also relaxing. And I’m so grateful we were able to take two weeks. It really allowed us to enter into it and feel removed from our everyday lives. It marked a distinct start to our marriage and we loved it. I would encourage this trip to anyone! If ever there are questions on how to plan the perfect trip to Canada, we’re HAPPY to help!

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