Chinese New Year · Family · Feel-Good · Friends · Japanese · Kuching · Nostalgia · Personal · Reunion · Siblings · Wedding

The Wedding: One Stone that killed several Birds …

When my brother in Canada announced that his eldest of 4 sons was getting married, we felt elated at hearing the news. That was Nov 2018. With the cold and dreary Canadian winter (ahem … Alberta to be precise), the low-keyed garden wedding was beautifully executed.

Since the garden prenuptial was purely a Canadian family affair, families from afar did not get the feel of the joys of that matrimony. Knowing this brother of mine, he’s not one to fall short for such plan. Let’s put it this way … he’s not an ‘alang-alang’ guy. LOL!

One fine morning we all got up to reading a pleasant message from my brother via WhatsApp

We’re going to Kyoto for the wedding!

So desu ka?

So desu ne!

I was over the moon with that news …

If you’re wondering, why Japan? Well, my brother has embraced a new addition to the family. His daughter-in-law-to-be is a stunning Japanese 😉

By the way, Japan has always been one of the countries I have bookmarked. Coincidentally, it’s also the destination I have promised my younger son with a sworn statement, swearing my promise to bring him to the Land of the Rising Sun, one fine day… Here’s the story if you missed it : My ‘Japanese’ Boy

A Damper!

Just as we were feeling euphoric with the news, our ecstasy suddenly fell flat southward. Alas, the cruel force of gravity! Our joys were short-lived because there was not going to be a trip to Japan. Sob! Sob! Instead, the Japanese contingent preferred to travel to the Land of the Hornbills! So much for my Japanese dream … sigh!

Another stumbling block was the Wedding date: 30th January! It’s the month-end close and coupled with the unceasingly intense news coverage of the pandemic Covid-19. Ai yai yai! So how?

Well, I could choose not to make the trip, but the thought of missing such event that occurs once in a lifetime was just unendurable. So, geared with my laptop et al, I booked my flight and hotel. Hubs and BIL booked theirs separately.

Exit Miss Piggy, Enter Stuart Little

We touched down Kuching International Airport exactly on the first day of the Lunar New Year. While the family were enjoying scrumptious Chinese New Year Eve reunion dinner, we had to make do with the mediocre Emirates meals on air. The 24-hour flight and transits covering 4 airports and 3 continents had left me feeling absolutely knackered and groggy. To add salt to injury, 3 of 4 of our check-in luggage went missing, or rather, they did not arrive in the same plane as our ETA, therefore, we had to go through the hassle of filing reports of our missing baggage. At that point, I could not wait to have a nice warm shower and jump into a comfortable bed. Luckily the hotel shower was excellent and the bed was very clean and comfortable. I was in slumberland in no time at all.

Oh by the way, the 3 luggage arrived the next day.

Working Holiday

In between working and delivering my reports, I thought some free moments could be spent with my family or friends, but I was wrong. The time zone difference of 7 hours was the most challenging factor. When I was free, it was already midnight M’sia time and time to hit the sack. This was the mode I had to endure for the next 2 weeks …

I must thank my hubs and especially my younger sis for being the protector of my tummy while I was on “lockdown” in my hotel room

All I needed to tell them was what I craved and hocus-pocus, my wish was granted. Ha ha …

Wedding Day: Morning

The day arrived when the Lands of the Hornbills and the Rising Sun became ONE.

The beautiful bride and the handsome groom exchanged their Holy Matrimonial vows with their unyielding “I do” and promised to be true to each other in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, for they will love and honour each other until death do them part.

Amen to that!

With teary eyes of joy, families from near and far flocked together and rejoiced in jubilation.

 

Teary-eyed moment between Mum and Daughter

Congrats Kanoko. You’re next … 😉

Wedding Day: Afternoon

While the melodic morning bells chimed and made way for the fiery afternoon crackers, we adjourned for the traditional Tea Ceremony at the groom’s uncle’s house with a “light” brunch.

A Wedding tea ceremony is the epitome of respect and gratitude by the newlyweds towards their parents and elders by serving them tea.  It also symbolizes that the bride and groom officially belong into a new and extended family.

Wedding Day: Evening

My sisters, a niece and I were the first to arrive and therefore we had the first glimpse of the banquet hall without any mortal in sight.

Oh no, we were not trying to be prying “kaypo“, but we were there early as ‘duty managers’. Lol!

Duty calls. The early birds at their work station 😅

Once upon a moment, very immaculate, absolutely quiet and empty …  Sssh… ssshh..

The empty banquet hall was slowly filled with guests, one by one, filling each table to the brim, and zing, boom, bam, the roof caved in and the noise began!  Forget whispering to your neighbour because you would never get your message across to the recipient correctly 🙂

Bless me Your Grace for I have sinned …

The party began with the clamourous and deafening Yuuuuuummmm Seng!

The Prosperity Toss

What an appropriate dish to serve as we were still in Chinese New Year mood.

The higher the better, the messier the table means you have done your part in shouting at the top of your lungs, the blessings of good luck, fortune and happiness. Toss High! Lo Hei! 

Reunion of Family and Friends

Although it’s the Bride and Groom’s day, it was, without a doubt,  an opportune day of reuniting with long lost relatives and friends. My brother must have invited his entire year school mates that evening.  Buddies whom he had not met for more than 30 decades came from near and far!  It was practically a class reunion.  I bet the boys felt 17 again …

Likewise, it was great meeting cousins and relatives whom we have not met in donkeys years!

Only an event as such, could bring us together.

And by the way, I shared my fair share of reuniting with long lost friends whom I have not met since Primary school, since Form 5 and since Form 6.  They have evolved to be successful ‘towkay’ and ‘towkay neos’. One owns the chain of Curry House restaurants throughout Sarawak, one an acclaimed Music teacher and one ‘Superman’ in the person of the Most Hallowed, His Grace, the Archbishop of Sarawak!  I was so thrilled and blessed to have met them all in one evening!

Cheers!

Family Bonding

Luckily, I was not the one getting married. A wedding day is a very exhausting affair akin to a full time job with full-blown overtime albeit for a day! Been there, done that. Ha ha …

It was a BIG relief when the party’s over and we’re back on the normal track.

Although I was physically in Kuching for 3 weeks, it was a working ‘holiday’ for me for 2 weeks . I had only one week of ‘me-time’, therefore, it was very precious.  I had consciously chosen to spend more time with my siblings, reminiscing the good old days. There were too many stories to share in too short a time.  We knew Mum and Dad were with us throughout because we could not stop talking and thinking about them.  How else could we be here without them, right?

As we grow older, we’ll find the only things we regret are the things we didn’t do, and one of the things is making the most out of visits to our elderly relatives.

They’re not getting any younger and so are we.

Life is too short so let’s make the most out of it.

Live SIMPLY

Laugh OFTEN

Love DEEPLY

The truth is, a family is what you make it. It is made strong, not by the headcount at dinner table, but by the tradition you help family members create; the memories you share, the commitment of time, cares and love you show to one another.

Families are like branches on a tree. We grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as ONE.

Have a Blessed Weekend!

Cheers!

Family · France · Nostalgia · Personal · Provence · summer holidays · Travel

Our last days in Provence, our next stop and the Summer heat continues …

Our holidays in the Provence were coming to an end…

Arles

We returned to Arles, but again and again, what a surprise… we discovered a new location that we had not been to in our previous sojourns in the Provence! It’s a drawbridge which was a subject of several paintings by Vincent Van Gogh. It was the replica of the original Langlois Bridge (Pont de Langlois) or better known as Pont Van Gogh.

Walk

Nearby the Pont Van Gogh was a lovely walking trail that seemed to run to infinity. The surrounding flora were very simple; dried thistles, wild berries, shrubs and bushes, fathomless stream and dusty trails.

We seemed to be walking for ages until thirst and hunger got the better of us 🙂

We returned to the car and drove back to the centre of Arles. We found a good spot under a shady tree but had to walk quite a distance passing deserted alleys and back lanes.

We finally stopped at the first resto we saw, Le Bistrot des Artistes. Surprisingly, the choice of dishes were fab, but the service was quite slow, despite the fact that we did not order a set lunch for once. From too much of walking, we did not feel like eating too much variety of dishes, but were definitely more parched. Or perhaps we wanted to save space in our tummy for the much talked about artisanal ice-creams in Arles!

Last year my friend and her family stayed in Arles and she recommended an ice-cream parlour that served only artisanal ice-creams.

We thought we found it. It’s located just outside Le jardin de la Maison de Santé à Arles de Vincent Van Gogh (once upon a time a hospital). Whew! It’s a bit of a mouthful, innit?

It was there that Van Gogh was admitted after cutting his left earlobe. The Hospital of Arles is the subject of Van Gogh’s 2 paintings; one of them was the painting of the inner courtyard of the hospital called Le jardin de la Maison de Santé à Arles (Courtyard or Garden of the Hospital in Arles).

Oh by the way, the pink-coloured ice cream parlour we went to (Glacier Fraîcheur et Délices) was not the one my friend mentioned. She went to the yellow coloured ice cream shop called Soleileis. Anyway, there were several artisanal ice-cream makers in the vicinity of Arles. We just found one that succeeded to ‘cool’ us down on a hot day and both parlours were in close proximity to Place du Forum.

Unfortunately, the day was still young and there were no stars in the sky! Sorry, no starry night, Vincent 😉

Finally at Le Bistrot de La Galine!

It was Friday and our last day at La Maison Blanche. We were to check out the next morning.

Before wrapping up our stay at La Maison Blanche, we were looking forward to lunch at the nearby Le Bistrot de La Galine. We had missed that place just a week before because it was closed on a Sunday.

I had the Bistro menu of smoked duck salad and the local specialty of Camargue, Gardiane de Taureau à la Provençale served on a bed of tagliatelle. Both the starter and the main course were good until the house dessert came. The banana chocolate tart was an anticlimax, for me at least. It was just not my favourite, however, my younger son hit a home run with his choice of dishes; ravioli, burger and fries and tiramisu!

Back for the Muscat

Last year our trip to Beaumes-de-Venise was extraordinarily special with a hint of nostalgia. This year we only went to the wine tasting cave of Coyeaux. Yes, we came back for the muscat Beaume-de-Venise! After tasting 4 different Muscats, hubby bought the muscat Beaume de Venise rosé (2016). The 3 bottles followed us back some 1k km…

Knock! Knock! Who’s there?

We headed back to La Maison Blanche and guess who came to visit us?!!

Yay!!! Our friend came back! He may not have the friendliest of faces, but I guess for a dog’s expression that would probably be translated as his sensing our imminent departure from La Maison Blanche, hence the sad drooping look through the glass door of the back yard.

By the way (not in the photo), before the littlest hobo scampered away, he peed on the shrub bed, as if to tell us that he’d be back.

I’m sure he would or did, but with new tenants to pick up where we had left off…

Bonjour! Merci! Au revoir!

À bientôt!

Until we meet again!

From Bonjour to Hola!

We checked out La Maison Blanche at 10 am and left St-Rémy-de Provence in South France direction Girona, North East Spain!

Thus, ended our Provençal vacation, and the beginning of Catalonian summer escapades!

From Bonjour et Au revoir France to Hola España!

Spain, here we come !!

To be continued…

Enjoy the rest of the week. TGIF!

Cheers !

Family · France · Nostalgia · Personal · summer holidays

Red ‘Blood’ Water of Salin-de-Giraud

Have you heard of Sel de mer La Baleine or Le Saunier de Camargue?

When we had one of our lunches in Arles, Le Saunier de Camargue was seen placed liberally on every table alongside a bottle of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.

Mind you, this sea salt is not some cheap table salt. It’s one of the finest, produced in Camargue, or more specifically, on the salt marshes in Salin-de-Giraud, situated just next to the River Rhône. By the way, Sel de mer La Baleine and Le Saunier de Camargue are the salt brands from the production of sea salt at Salin-de-Giraud.

And that’s where we’re headed to.

Our GPS navigated a distance of 98km from La Maison Blanche with an ETA at 1.05 pm (ca 1.5 hours).

Last year, I bought some 2 kg of Le Saunier de Camargue. It was good to be back to actually visit the less known side of Camargue, id est, visiting the salt marshes or salt flats of Salin-de-Giraud. ‘Salin‘ is saline in English meaning a solution of salt in water.

When Blue becomes Red

The normally blue water turns red under high salt concentration, thus making the blood red water landscape phenomenally striking. Nothing we have seen before.

Curiosity killed the cat. We had to get closer to the bloody water pan.

If you are wondering, actually the red or pink colour of the salt flats is due to the presence ~ in large quantities ~ of microscopic algae (Dunaliella Salina), rich in beta carotene and antioxidant activity. Got this info from the instruction board, here below 😉

It is, however, unclear how often the phenomenon occurs, but we’re lucky to have experienced the most picturesque sight where salt has been the lifeblood of the region for years!

Saintes-Maries-de-la-mer

The temperature was at its highest at 38C! We left the salt pan of Salin-de-Giraud at 1.30 pm to Saintes-Maries-de-la-mer. It’s interesting to discover that the town is named after three Marys (Mary of Clopas, Mary Salome and Mary Magdalene), who were said to have arrived there by sea.

It was also at Saintes-Maries-de-la-mer, that Vincent Van Gogh made several paintings of the seascape and town, the famous one being the Fishing Boats on the Beach at Saintes-Maries-de-la-mer in June 1888.

With the scorching sun above our heads, we found the best place to shelter and take comfort at Bistro La Mama Sita. Being so close to the sea, the seafood salad was spot on. And so was the entrecôte of bull steak. It was a huge portion, especially so when the bulls have the predominant presence in the Camargue! Hubby had the famous local specialty dish of Camargue called La Gardiane de Taureau (slow-cooked Camargue bull stew) served with Camargue rice. I must say all the dishes we ordered were mouth-wateringly sublime.

With all the dishes we had consumed in such hot weather, we made a short stroll along the Promenade Charles de Gaulle.

The beach was packed with very tanned looking locals and holiday-makers. We felt out of place and at the same time, I could feel the blazing heat penetrating my skin, so we left Saintes-Maries-de-la-mer. The boys were looking forward to taking a dip in the pool back at La Maison Blanche .

While I walked around the house taking snapshots of what became a chronicled narrative of our Summer getaway in the Provence 🙂

A Blessed Sunday!

Cheers!

Family · France · Nostalgia · Personal · Provence · summer holidays

What the heck … nothing floated on L’isle-sur-la-Sorgue!!!

We had a good night sleep despite the heat (36C). It must be because we were dead tired from the super lengthy journey under the blazing heat of the Provençal Summer.

Sunday, 6th August

We were looking forward to the most unique annual Floating Market at L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, which takes place for only one day on the 1st Sunday of August! We wouldn’t miss it for the world because we missed that last year as we had special friends over at our holiday home that day. You can read the post here.

So we got up early in order to catch the supposedly unique and spectacular floating market on time. After all, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is dubbed as the Venice of France and we came this far not to miss the eye-catching event. I was super thrilled!

By the way, it was drizzling that morning, hence, it was a welcoming feeling. The cooler breeze was an excellent change from the blistering heat the day before.

We reached L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue at 10am. The morning Market went in full swing… BUT where’s the Floating Market ???!!! Nothing’s floated while everything’s grounded!

Wasn’t 6th August, 2017 the first Sunday of August ?? We were conned!! Darn!

The market was the normal weekly Sunday morning market so typical of the Provence.

What a shame… No Floating Market. No spectacular nego chins but just this lonely vacant boat berthing on one of the water canals.

Tsk! Tsk! Tsk!

We did not stay long at L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue as it was a Sunday and our pantry at La Maison Blanche was as bare as stone.

It was 11.39 am. We headed straight for Intermarché, not realising that it was closed at 12 noon. We were dilly-dallying along the aisles browsing through some stuffs, until an agitated looking duty manager rushed us for time. If only you could see how I flung the shopping trolley down each aisle, grabbing items while picturing spagbol in my mind! Okay, I believed I had everything, or did I??!!

We drove back to La Maison Blanche and hurriedly filled the kitchen pantry and the fridge before stepping out of the house again.

4 Rumbling Tummies

We had not had any decent food since we arrived the day before, hence, we were in dire need of FOOD!

It was 1.15 pm and hubby wanted to bring us to Le Bistrot de La Galine, which was not far from La Maison Blanche. Hubby had good memories of a fab meal there when he and his brother and our older son went there in 2014 while our younger son and I went to Rome when my Mum and older sis came to visit us that year.

But…. alas! Le Bistrot de La Galine was closed on Sundays!!

Our tummies! Our poor rumbling tummies! I told hubby that we should drive to the centre of St-Rémy-de-Provence as chances are high that the restos are opened on a Sunday. Fingers crossed to that!

Phew! What luck! A few cafés and brasseries were still in business at that hour. It was 2 pm and Brasserie de L’industrie at Boulevard Mirabeau saved our bellies!

I had a superb meal of pavé de thon (grilled tuna) with sautéed carrot, courgette, aubergine and tomato and some rice. The boys had a hearty men’s meal of hamburger with fries. Ironically, our dessert was îles flottantes (Floating islands)!!!!

The service was fast, precise and friendly. The dishes were simple but superb, and the price tag was correct. What could I say more? Bullseye!

Happy Weekend!

Cheers!

Family · France · Nostalgia · Personal · Provence · summer holidays

Saint-Rémy-de-Provence again??!!

Hey folks! I’m back!! My blog has been in comatose status for quite a while, I know. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, most unfortunately 😦

By the way, this is a scheduled post 😉

Friday, 4th August

Hubby, my boys and I were counting down the days to our annual Summer hols! We were to leave on Saturday. I wish I could say TGIF, but it’s still a workday for me. I told my colleagues that I had to urgently WFH that day due to too many last minute activities. Besides my office workload, I had made an appointment with my bank to pick up my new Silver Credit Card. The old one was expiring soon.

Good thing I had pre-packed my clothes the evening before. I was hoping for less stress, unlike last year! You can read it all here 🙂

I had to take care of the foods, drinks, snacks and our lunch boxes for our impending lengthy journey of ca 1k km. Travelling super light was not possible as there’re 4 of us, all grown ups. My hubby’s car boot was packed to the gills!

Like last year, I asked hubby what our ETD was going to be. He replied, “when everyone feels like waking up

That made me even more nervous as I hate being late or being caught in a traffic jam!

Okay, our ETD strategy changed completely, which, surprisingly, worked a charm! You’ll find out why …

No waking up time was mentioned. No ETD was broached. No alarm was set. All we needed to do was to sleep through the night and woke up according to the inherent timing of our biological clock!

By the way, I was awakened by my biological clock at 5.20 am. The guys were still in deep sleep. So yes, I was the first one to get up, as usual 🙂

Listen to the Rhythm of the Falling Rain …

How could this happen? We’re in the midst of the Summer season and it’s raining cats and dogs! We have never left for our Summer hols on a rainy day. Anyway, the sounds of the raindrops were hypnotic and relaxing at the same time. But what a damper to having to drive on an extremely wet day. Now I understood why hubby said to wake up when we felt like waking up. We have all gone through our deep, light and REM sleep cycles, and we were all completely awake. Cool!

Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, here we come … AGAIN!!!!!

With a total distance of almost 1k km, our ETA was 3.55 pm. We left at 6.47 am.

Rain, rain go away, come again another day! The combination of the soothing heavy rain on the highway with the monotonous sound of the windscreen wiper were amazingly mesmeric. Everyone was as quiet as a church mouse in the car which was a perfect mode for hubby to traverse the wet and dreary roads of the Belgian highway with full focus.

When we finally reached Luxembourg for gasoline, the skies were a lot bluer but cloudy.

We know we have reached France when the inescapable sign “péage” (toll) is posted on the French “autoroutes“. Good thing we have the BIP&GO pass which is an electronic toll payment badge that allows us to travel on the entire French motorway network. It is the most convenient way to travel on the European Motorway, meaning as our car approached the tolls, the barrier will automatically lift, without us having to stop and pay at the toll booth. Shorter queues and a time saver!! We need only to pay at the end of our trip(s) where direct debit payments are made at the end of the month.

The cloudy skies made way for clear blue skies and suddenly we felt a ray of sunshine.

And then the voice from the GPS chanted, “There are traffic disruptions on the route. An alternative route cannot be recommended.”

Oh-oh! Time to have a break before being trapped in the gridlocks from Valence to Montelimar to Orange. Yup, we know the Black Saturday drill by heart 😉

We stopped just a bit after Lyon at 10 am for brunch and left the highway rest area at 11 am with the soaring temperature at 35C. With such heat, every single car leaving the rest area was given cold and refreshing Volvic fruit juice water. Precisely what we needed!

And so we were caught in the traffic jam for more than 2 hours under the scorching sun of 39C!

Finally the last leg of the traffic jam ended at 6 pm. Our ETA shifted too. We finally arrived at Saint-Rémy-de Provence. The familiar avenue of trees so typical of that region was a welcoming sight.

We reached La Maison Blanche at 7.11 pm and sweated buckets with the mercury level of 36C!! I quickly checked the temperature at home and it was only 17C! Wow! What a difference, eh? We didn’t feel like going out with the heat that evening, so the guys ended up dipping themselves in the swimming pool while I had a cold shower. I remembered La Maison Blanche, as it was not the first time we were there. It was my second stay there and the third for hubby and our older son.

The house has not changed since my last stay there in 2012 (you can read the post here). Just that we have become 5 years older 😦

What’s in store for us the next days were memories that would remain pristine in our psyche. And I wonder what’s coming up next? Stay with me in my new adventure to the unknown …

See ya …

Cheers!