The Best of 2015

After having read this post by a blogger I follow, I thought it fitting to follow suit and reflect on the top 15 things/moments/experiences of 2015. Some of these were huge things, others more mundane, but altogether these made my year.

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Our first visit to the Tett and the Isabel. These were actually two separate occasions, but they’re in the same complex and together make up Kingston’s newest creativity hub. We went to watch the KSO play at the Isabel in February, then attended the Tett grand opening this May. I still can’t believe we have such amazing spaces in our city.

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Andy’s birth this March. Hands down the biggest event of the year. This little guy has changed our life forever, and we could not be more thankful for him.

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Having my poem featured on GOODJust for fun, I participated in a little poetry challenge online. I wrote an acrostic poem on parenthood.

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Winning a ticket to the 21CLI conference in Hong Kong via #whatisschool. For the last year or so I’ve been really into twitter chats as part of my own professional development. I’m really excited to attend this conference in February 2016.

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Watching the Jays vs. the Astros at Minute Maid Park. Kelvin had a work meeting down in Houston this May, so we made it a family affair. How we came to actually attend this game was pretty random, but it was definitely one of the most memorable, electric experiences of the year.

The Live Sent sermon series. We are blessed with an amazing pastoral team at our church, and this sermon series really challenged us to think about the vision of our church and how we are to go about our daily lives missionally as people of faith.

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Witnessing the marriages of some of our good friends. It is a joy to share life with those around us, and it was an absolute honour for us to have had the opportunity this year to see so many of our friends commit to serving and loving each other for the rest of their lives. These weddings took us far and wide, from within Canada, to the States, and even to Spain.

Joining the KFPL board. I talk about our local library system a lot. I absolutely love what they’re doing. I’ve always enjoyed taking on new roles, and this is one that I’ve wanted to do for a while. It’s only been a few months and already I’m learning so much about governance and about the shifting role of libraries today.

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Moving into our new house. This August, we ventured to the edge of suburbia for a little more breathing room. It’s been an adjustment, but we are settling in nicely and really loving making the space our own.

Planning my very first Edcamp here in Kingston. Ever since attending my first edcamp in 2011, I’ve been wanting to host one here in town. With the time off from work, I was finally able to get it done! Hoping this will become a yearly event.

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Our trip to Europe. I could probably fill a top 15 list from this trip alone, but hands down this was one of our favourite vacations yet. There’s something other-worldly about Europe that is so hard to replicate here in North America. We spent time in Spain and in England, and though they couldn’t have been more different, we enjoyed them both.

Discovering podcasts. I know podcasts have been around for a long time, but I just started listening to them this fall. Now I can’t stop. I listen to them all the time. Here are some faves.

Reading Tim Keller’s Every Good Endeavour. This book has really broadened my understanding of what it means to integrate faith and work. I’ve loved the discussions that have come out of this, and I cannot wait to finish it with our small group.

Finally subscribing to Darling. This was one of my treats to myself on Black Friday. I fully support the mandate of Darling and I am so happy that  it now comes to my mailbox every 3 months. Pages and pages of goodness that truly feed my soul.

Netflix with Kelvin after Andy goes to sleep. One of my favourite times of day (other then going to sleep) is when Kelvin and I get to hang out, cook dinner, eat, and watch a show together. We’ve worked our way through lots, including Selling New York and Worst Cooks of America.

And there you have it – the Top 15 of 2015. Here’s to reflecting on an amazing year, and looking forward to the next one!

The Beauty of the Spanish Seaside

So after our two nights in Barcelona, we headed southwest a short distance along the Spanish coast to attend the wedding of some friends from university (our first transatlantic destination wedding!). Navigating the renfe website prior to this was a total nightmare, plus you can’t book tickets ahead of time for every ride, so we opted just to go to Barcelona-Sants and buy our tickets in person. For less than 9€ each, we were on our way to Altafulla-Tamarit. 

It took us about an hour to get there, and about halfway in, it dawned on us that we were in for a beautiful time. The city gave way to the sea, and the train wove in and out of mountains and valleys. I wish I could have take pictures, but alas I was nursing Andy for the majority of the trip. After arriving at Altafulla-Tamarit station, we walked the few minutes to our hotel. And what a beautiful hotel it was. We had a view of the courtyard, and had it been a tad warmer (or had the pool been heated), we would have plunged in for a dip that afternoon. 

  

Instead, we decided to walk down to the beach, to Carrer Botigues de Mar, for a leisurely stroll towards Tamarit. 

 

The walk reminded us of our time in Newport Beach, except that it was off season so not many of the villas were rented. We headed to the end of the beach before turning around and strolling back. We visited Villa Romana dels Munts (well, we walked up a hill to a dead end street where we could see it all) and then enjoyed a wonderful beachside dinner with the other guest of the wedding. 
The next morning, we decided to visit Tarragona and see some of its sights. We took a ridiculously expensive taxi ride to Pont del Diable, a Roman aqueduct a short distance north of Tarragona. It was amazing to see the architectural feat they accomplished…

 …and even to be able to walk across it!
  
To save ourselves some money, we decided to take the bus back into town. It was actually really easy – we took the 85 (you could also take the 5) bus from right off the highway and it wound its way through Sant Salvador back into Tarragona. And it cost us less than 2€ each. We saw the Mediterranean Balcony, their version of Las Ramblas, and the beautiful Roman amphitheatre they’ve preserved. The city is absolutely stunning, and had we had more time, we definitely would have wanted to see more. 

    

And this brings us to the real reason we came to Europe – the wedding! The whole occasion took place at the beautiful Castell de Tamarit, and MAN were we blown away. 

 
I mean, look at that ceremony venue! Does it get any more perfect? (I will have you know that that pool is strictly for looks. We asked repeatedly whether swimming was permitted, and much to the dismay of some guests, it was not.) 

There were a number of little courtyards and spaces (and come to think of it, we never actually stepped into the castle itself) that we got to enjoy while eating more than a dozen hors d’oeuvres. Below the cliffs and walls, people lounged on the public beach, which beckoned to us. 

  
Looking up, the castle was just stunning.    

The dinner venue was no less magical. 

 At the end of the night, we were pooped, but also filled with the beauty of the people and environment that we were surrounded by. 

The next morning, reluctantly, we packed up our things and headed back on the train to Barcelona. Once more, we whizzed by the seaside, surrounded by many more people this time. Old ladies on their way into the city, students heading to another town for class, businessmen presumably going to work or catching a flight. 

Arriving back into Sants, we took another train to the airport, and after a two hour delay (thank you, French air controller strike), we were on or way to London. 

Barcelona, Spain

Hola from Spain! So I’ve attempted to finish this post about Barcelona on a number of occasions, and alas here I am, writing it as I wait at the airport for our flight to London, which has been delayed. A post on the second half of our Spain leg will have to wait. 

First off, let me just put it out there. Whenever you tell someone that you’re going to Barcelona, the thing that most often comes up is a story about one pickpocket experience or another. Thankfully, the policia has ramped up their security around the city, especially in places like La Ramblas. We’ve been pretty vigilant and my parents let us borrow their pacsafe backpack, so all has been well!

All that aside, Barcelona is truly a beautiful city and we’ve really enjoyed getting to know it over the last two days. We took a red eye flight (such a good idea – Andy slept really well) and arrived into the airport around 12:30 on Sunday. After no more than two words with the customs officer, we were released into Spain and all its glory. 

  
On our first day, we were a little lacking in sleep (good movies on the plane get us every time…) so we didn’t stay out too late. However, we did manage to get in a pedicab tour of the old city (loved meandering through narrow streets and into the Parc de la Ciutadella), a quick pop in to see the ruins at El Born, and some dinner. It was also a Sunday, so pretty much everything was closed anyways. 

 

We stayed at Le Meridien right on Las Ramblas, which was a perfect home base for us as we explored the city. Its proximity to Placa de Catalunya was perfect, and though we’d never stayed there before, it had an SPG familiarity that we have come to look for whenever we travel. 

Andy is a huge hit everywhere we go. He is not shy at all and he smiles at everyone who engages him (and for those who don’t engage him, he takes the initiative). On the bus turistic, he made friends with the other passengers, and when he wasn’t doing that, he tried to eat all the handholds (gross). 

  
Undoubtedly, having spent only one full day in Barcelona, we were able to see but a little portion of the city, but here are a few of the highlights from our trip so far.

Eat

bacoa universitat – just a few steps from Placa de Catalunya, this burger bar has a very North American feel to it, but with the most delicious burgers ever. Highly recommend the one with manchego cheese and caramelised onions!

Carmelitas – best tapas ever. We ordered all these seafood tapas and every single one was delicious. So was their tiramisu. If we had discovered this place earlier we may have had all our subsequent meals here. 

  

See

On our one full day, we opted for the hop on hop off (also purchased ahead of time online for 10% off) to bring us around to the sights. It was a beautiful day and we thoroughly enjoyed that open-air, rooftop seating. Plus if we sat in the right spot, we could see our stroller which needed to be stored on the main floor. They give you headphones for the onboard audio guide, through which you get more info about each of the places you’re passing. 

Sagrada Familia – I’d been here in 2007, but they’ve done quite a bit more work since then! We booked our tickets ahead of time (highly recommended) and opted not to get the audio guide. The entire structure awes you, and the way light is reflected into the cathedral is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Gaudi truly was a master architect inspired by nature. 

  
Montjuic – We paid for the teleferic (even with a 2€ discount it felt steep) and went for a walk at the top of the hill by the castle. We didn’t actually go into the castle, though one could for 5€/3€ (16-29 years. 

  
The best thing, really, is just walking around and enjoying the sights. There is so much to see and explore and so many little cafes that I wish I could while away my time in. Perhaps when we come to Spain next we will visit Port Vell and peruse some of the galleries and museums in the city.