Thursday, November 29, 2007

Images of Philly...

For those of you who have been waiting with bated breath :-) I finally got around to adding a few pics to my earlier posts from Philly. Scroll down a bit and check 'em out! Also, in August 2005, I wrote this post about my discovery of Philadelphia's amazing mural arts program. Here are a few of the ones I was able to see this time 'round.

Murals often commemorate local celebs, such as Patti Labelle (mural #2) and Herman Wrice (mural #3).

Pace e bene,

Monday, November 19, 2007

Walking, Philly-style...

What a great day! Weather sucked, but what a great day! Cold, damp, drizzly weather didn't stop us from walking close to 9km today. We had a few places we knew we wanted to go, and it turned out to be a well-paced itinerary (although it sorta morphed along the way).

We started by going to the Franklin Institute Science Museum. I was intrigued by a special exhibit that opened there last week on Identity. We also took the time to take part in a time-honoured tradition: walking through The Giant Heart. :-) Our timing there allowed us to see one of the shows at the Fels Planetarium. Very cool!

By this time, it was just around lunch time and we decided to make one last visit to the Reading Terminal Market. The food on the train is so horrible, so we're bringing more with us this time. I stood in line at the most popular butcher counter in the market for close to 20 minutes. That place was bustlin'! I could totally picture myself as a resident stopping by to get my week's supply of food. I started chatting with another fellow who was waiting. I learned that he was 57 years old... that he's been coming to this market since the 60's... that he's been coming to this butcher for 4 years... that he and his wife don't eat red meat... that he'd done some crazy stuff in his youth ("the whole 60's drug scene, y'know?") but that health was very important to him now... Amazing what you can learn while waiting for the butcher to call your number!

Back to our "apartment" for a quick lunch before heading towards our next destination: Antique Row. Many of the shops were closed - and perhaps that's a good thing! - but the architecture was just delightful! Beautiful laneways lined with attractive "brownstones" and paved with cobblestone. Much to my delight, we also stumbled upon a work of art I had seen during my first visit to Philly in 2005: the amazing mosaic art of Isaiah Zagar. I couldn't remember the artist's name, nor the location of his main masterpiece... yet I remembered it. Funny how I just "happened" upon it anyway. :-)

We enquired about local coffee shops. One shop owner directed us to The Chapterhouse, an independantly owned coffeehouse and art gallery. How perfect! I sipped on a ginger tea as we warmed up before heading back out to catch a movie. On our bus tour, we had noticed a movie theatre that seemed to be showing an interesting slate of films. We decided to go see the early showing of Into the Wild. The Ritz 5 Theatre was delightful: small... quiet... a breath of fresh air. Rather than blaring loud pop music and showing stupid celebrity quiz questions on the screen prior to the start of the movie, we were treated to classical music, opera arias and a "slide show" of works of art on the screen. The film? If you haven't seen this yet, I would highly recommend it! It's definitely a "big screen" film with stunning cinematography. Inspired by a true story, the film is thought-provoking and very engaging. Although it's over two hours long, not once did I look at my watch or feel that it was dragging on. A story worth hearing...

We walked back and are now preparing for our early morning departure. Our train leaves at 5:50am. Luckily, there will be plenty of time for sleeping later in the day. :-) And so, this is jag, signing off from Philly... See you back in Ottawa!

Pace e bene,

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Brief Race Brief...

The sun has barely cleared the horizon, although we can't see it behind the clouds. It's cold. And windy. And close to 10,000 runners have are lined up along Ben Franklin Blvd. to run a marathon, a half-marathon or an 8K (5-miler). First to go are the marathoners & half-marathoners. The theme song from Rocky blares out of the loud speaker and the crowd roars as the start of the race is signalled.

And thus began my day... Well, actually, my day began a couple of hours before the 7:15am race start time. Much to my surprise, I was even awake! :-)

I am happy to report that I successfully completed my first 8K race! I felt quite good throughout and could even have pushed a little harder. However, I wasn't sure if I'd have enough juice to get me to the finish line, so I ran at a cautious pace at the beginning. My final chip time was 51:43. I met my first goal of getting through in less than an hour, and just missed my second - more silent - goal of trying to finish in 50 minutes. The scary thing is after it was all over, I found myself thinking "Hey, if I can run 8K, then I can probably run 10K..." But not this week! Perhaps it's a good goal to set for the spring. Originally, I had thought I could run a 10K race this fall, but I hardly ran all summer. This opportunity to run 8K presented itself and it turned out to be a good stepping stone.

I'm proud to report that Hubby successfully completed his 11th marathon! The official results haven't been posted yet, so we don't know his exact chip time. However, he believes it will be around 3:45:00. His Boston Qualifying time (BQ) remains elusive and he looks forward to trying again next year for Boston 2009. He experienced problems with his hip flexor and ended up having to walk approximately 4kms; that's a guaranteed slow-down. He finished strong though, running the last 5kms. I managed to see him and cheer him on twice on the route.

Due to the unseasonably cold weather, we didn't stick around for long after he crossed the Finish Line. I had already been waiting around outside for close to 3 hours. After a few minutes to allow Hubby to quickly change into dry clothes, we walked the 2 km back to our hotel.

Needless to say, the rest of our afternoon in our "little apartment" was pretty relaxed. We went out for dinner and are back in for the evening. Tomorrow is our last day to take in some of what Philadelphia has to offer. Yesterday, we took a city bus tour and that really gave us a lay of the land. Now that the race is over, we can use this time to stretch our legs and feast our senses...

pace e bene,

Friday, November 16, 2007

Welcome to Philly...

"Railway termini are our gates to the glorious and the unknown. Through them we pass out into adventure and sunshine, to them, alas! we return." G. K. Chesterton

Spirit and body have survived the 14-hour + train trip to Philadelphia! We arrived just before midnight on Thursday. I look forward to seeing Philly's 30th Street Station again on Tuesday when we leave; I was just too tired to take in its architectural glory last night.

We got an unexpected treat in Montreal on Thursday morning. Due to a change in the Amtrak schedule, we had to go to Montreal the night before in order to be sure to catch our train. As a result of that, I was able to connect with my cousin Sylvia who lives in New Brunswick and was arriving in Montreal for a conference. We only saw each other for a few minutes, like passing trains, but it was enough to get a hug and quickly catch up. It wouldn't have been possible without the change in Amtrak schedule - sometimes, the reason for things is not immediately revealed to us. :-)

The trip from Montreal to NYC went by pretty quickly actually. We were stopped at the Canada/US border for about 90 minutes though. The US border patrol guys came on board and basically took over the train until every single person's ID had been confirmed and intentions cleared. It was quite interesting to watch them do their work. The guy who questioned us didn't crack a smile once! I know they have to remain serious, but even when his words appeared to be tinged with humour, his facial expressions remained deadpan.

If, for whatever reason, they wanted to question you more, you were sent to the Dining Car for further "inquisition" (my word, not theirs). I felt bad for a woman travelling with two small children. English was not her first languange and, from what I could gather, she didn't have proper ID for her children. Before leaving Montreal, information was given to us clearly stating that it was up to us to ensure our documentation was in order. If not, we risked being let off the train at the border. All I know is that the woman was sent to the Dining Car, then came back to retrieve all her luggage. Oy. I said a silent prayer for her...

The trip was quite uneventful. We'd get up every now & then and walk around or stretch. The views were beautiful sometimes and unspectacular much of the time. It was a true November day: grey... wet... with bare trees etch-a-sketched against a cold sky.

Our train leaving Penn Station in NYC was delayed by about 10 minutes. Interestingly, there is no seating in the waiting areas, so we sat on the floor or stood around - like everybody else. Finally, our train arrived. By then, my body was expressing its disagreement with sitting yet again. I was so fidgetty and restless and sleepy during this last leg of the journey... I was thrilled to arrive in Philly.

Our hotel is perfectly located in the downtown core, just across the street from City Hall. Our room is great - like a little apartment really. Reading Terminal Market is just a couple of blocks away, so I've already stocked up on veggies, yogourt & humus. (BTW, I'm SUPER impressed with this market. I'll no doubt have more to say later. In the meantime, see a short video here.)

Today, we went to the Race Expo to pick up our race bibs and a few souvenirs. We're both beat so Hubby is napping on the couch and I'm here, blogging. I'll add pics to the blog post when I get back. Unfortunately, I forgot the cable required to do that. Tonite, we're just going to relax in our little "apartment" and get to bed early. Race day begins before the sun rises, so we need to ensure we get plenty of rest between now and then.
View from our bedroom window - 21 floors up!
So, for now, I'll bid you farewell from Philly!
Pace e bene,

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

First stop...


We arrived on the evening train to a dark and wet Montreal. Since the hotel was only a few blocks away from the train station, we decided to walk. Little did I suspect that we'd get caught in a downpour! But we made it...

We had dinner at a place called Reuben's Diner on Saint-Catherine. I wasn't overly hungry, yet I still managed to pull a muscle in my jaw while eating. What the heck is up with that?!

There you have it. Our adventure is only a few hours old, and I've already pulled a muscle and walked through puddles resulting in soaking wet feet. Isn't Life grand?!! :-)

Hubby & I haven't taken a vacation together this year. Yet. This is it and I'm thrilled...

Next stop... Philly (via NYC)!

Pace e bene,

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

On your mark... Get set...

...and a new adventure begins!

We leave for Montreal tomorrow, stay overnight, then it's a morning train to Philadelphia (transfering in NYC). That's a LOT of hours on a train! Luckily, I love train travel. It's just so civilized. I only wish train travel in Canada could be as affordable as it is in Italy or even in the US. Round trip tickets for two, from Montreal to Philadelphia, cost us under $300 - total! We can't even get to Cobourg (3 hours away) for that price... It's absolutely ridiculous.

While in Philly, Hubby will be running the Philadelphia Marathon and I'll be doing the 8K race. Send good vibes our way! Remember, I'm running for one boy, one van. I'll likely post once or twice while we're away, just to stay in touch. :-)

Other than that, here is a cool site that will feed the hungry AND make you smarter. Thanks to fellow Mad Chatter, Ted, for passing this one on!

And many thanks to Sis for providing an answer to my long-standing question about pomegranates. Who knew it could be so easy?!

Pace e bene,

Friday, November 09, 2007

Running on...

Something really weird and - dare I say it - exciting happened to me during my run today. For the first time that I can remember, I felt like I could keep on running! I was out during my lunch hour, so I had a set route and timeframe. When I reached the end of my run, I was disappointed that I had to stop... What's THAT all about?!! Usually, I'm struggling to get to the end, but not today. I guess the energy was simply available to me. I'm grateful for that feeling...

I had a wonderful run of about 35 minutes. I'm so fortunate to work downtown, with access to such beautiful running routes. I ran across the river to the Quebec side and followed the Voyageur Pathway to the Museum of Civilization. Then I crossed back to Ottawa with the amazing view of the back of Parliament Hill. I slipped down to the Rideau Canal Locks, crossed the Canal and headed towards the National Arts Centre. You can see exactly where I ran here. (I don't know who this photographer is, but I appreciate that he pretty much photographed my run! :-)) From there, I simply set out along Albert St. towards Bridgehead Coffeehouse, my final destination. See a map of my full route here.

All this bodes well for Philadelphia next weekend... and for Geordi and his van.

Pace e bene,

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Small joys...

Sometimes it doesn't take much to make me smile and feel content, despite feeling tired. Here are two things that made me smile tonite:

Laverne & Shirley: I've discovered that they're back... in re-runs of course! This was one of my favourite shows and I've long been on the look-out for a DVD set of this show. Evenings at 6:30pm, I know what I'll be doing... By now, the tune is probably already playing in your head. Go on, admit it. You don't know what they say after they count either! 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8... Shlamiel... Shlamozzle...

Andy McKee: I discovered this guy while traipsing around YouTube one day. I bookmarked this particular video and have often gone back to listen in amazement. Treat yourself to a four-minute break and listen for yourself. I wish I could make my guitar sing like that! I s'pose some gifts are simply meant for others to have... and for us to enjoy.

Pace e bene,

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

What Love Does...

There's just something about Love...

I spent the weekend with 300 friends and, by the end of it, I was high on Love. I don't mean romantic love, I mean the kind of Love that connects us at levels we rarely pay attention to... the kind of Love that we don't like to talk about because it sounds too "corny" and it makes us squirm... the kind of Love that gives meaning to human interconnectedness... the kind of Love that makes romantic love possible in the first place... the kind of Love that comes without conditions.

I have the pleasure of belonging to a spiritual fellowship that is guided by twelve simple steps. Simple, but not easy. Whenever I spend time in the presence of people who have the courage to follow this way of life, I am replenished by that unconditional Love. There was a time when I didn't really have enough Love to give to those around me - or to myself. I was deeply wounded and had lost touch with unconditional Love. I truly believe that my Friends in Fellowship loved me back to health. This past weekend reminded me of that gift.

A couple of years ago, I was at a 2-day workshop on Leadership. We were asked: "What gift are you withholding?" I still remember my answer: Love. Well on the road to recovery by then, I believed - and still do - that we withhold Love at our peril. This message was reinforced by His Holiness the Dalai Lama at his recent public talk. He spoke of the two keys to a truly global citizenship as being the development of a holistic mind and a compassionate heart. To me, this means the development of our interconnectedness and our willingness to Love.

When I remember that my Life overflows with unconditional Love, even the darkest days offer a glimmer of hope...

Love does that.

Pace e bene,