Our family

Entries in romantic moments (7)


Disney cruising

I think Hayden has found his natural habitat. The Disney cruise ship gave him chances every day to meet his heroes. There were waterslides and splash pools to play with Daddy, and in the evening shows with Mummy. There was a whole deck of the ship devoted to children, where he could camp out for activities in different rooms, and in case he ever got bored he had his own TV showing all the Disney movies.



And baby makes five...

 Lydia's favourite artist, Li, kindly drew me and Lydia, baby Hayden and Pepper and Mint, together at Porte de Hal.

Fortunately the kittens have warmed to Hayden over the last couple of days, and Lydia's carefully researched baby protocol has ensured that he is learning to have nice long sleeps most nights. Yesterday he even made it to a personal best of five and a half hours! It is too early to say that everything is back to normal, but we are on our way, and our little Belgian family is a happy one.


All prepared...


Our babymoon



Our wedding

We had the most perfect weekend, a beautiful way to share the world together.

We flew up to Banff on the Friday night and stayed in the beautiful Fairmont Springs, the fairy tale castle of the Canadian Rockies. On Saturday we went on a few wildlife trips around the Montane forests of Banff. We forests are mostly Lodgepole pine and Spruce, with a few groves of Aspen. It was really interesting to hear how the flora was shaped by the geography (the harsh weather and alkaline soils blocks the growth of most other trees) and fires (Lodgepole pine cones need the warmth from fires to germinate). the previous fire suppression tactics have caused a lot of problem by building up the fuel in the forest to the point where the fire burns too hot, killing the cones, so burnt areas are turning into meadows.

The fire suppression has also given a large pine bark beetle problem. The extra meadows, however, are perfect habitat for many of the grazing animals of the Rockies. Trembling Aspen also have an interesting reproduction tactic - it is not know how new trees sexually reproduce, because all of the known Aspens grow from ancient colony root systems, springing up new trees as the grove expands. The colonies in Banff are 3000 years old, which makes them relatively young compared to Pando in Utah, which is an 80 000 year old Aspen colony of 47 000 stems.

We saw two white-tailed deer, an elk, a very close Bighorn sheep, a pair of nesting Loons (which can only live in large still lakes since their solid bones require a long smooth runway to take off), an Osprey and a bald eagle, a pika and a few very cute Colombian ground squirrels.

In the afternoon we also went in and signed for our wedding licence, affirming that we understand that marriage does not make the other person your property, and that every person has the right to a marriage free of violence.

Sunday morning was simply perfect.

"Our bride and groom have brought us amidst the beauty of these mountains to celebrate the peace and joy that they have found together. Let us gather our thoughts and good wishes as we witness and share in their formal joining in the legal state of matrimony. The state of matrimony has matured as our society has matured. From an ancient tradition, marriage has developed into an expression of joy between any two people sharing love, respect and understanding. Our couple have found true happiness in each other, and with joy they have entered a life-long companionship and will comfort and support each other with gentleness and strength. In marriage, we give ourselves freely and generously into the hands of the one we love, and in doing so, each of us receives the love and trust of the other as our most precious gift. Today our bride and groom proclaim their love to the world."

"I call upon those persons present to witness that I take you to be my lawful wedded wife. To grow with you and learn with you. To cherish you for who you are. To be a loving friend and equal partner in marriage. To laugh with you and live life to the fullest with you. You are my best friend, and you bring out the best in me. You have brought me my greatest happiness. I love you dearly, completely and utterly."

"I call upon those persons present to witness that I take you to be my lawful wedded husband. To share hopes, thoughts and dreams. To communicate fully and fearlessly. You are an amazing and extraordinary person. You have my deepest friendship, respect, trust, confidence and love. I give you my hand and my heart as a sanctuary of warmth and peace. I ask you to share this world with me."

"Having shared your vows and exchanged these rings, now by the authority vested in me by the province of Alberta, I pronounce you husband and wife."

I couldn't have been happier as I formally expressed my love at being joined with the most beautiful, generous, kind, loving and charming person I have ever meet, the truly special person who showed me all the happiness in the world, and who gives me the shared joy of special moments every day.

After our perfect morning we had a delightful afternoon visiting Lake Louise (where we saw the cutest chipmunk) and Moraine Lake (where we saw Clark's nutcracker and several golden mantled ground squirrels. On the way back to our castle we saw a mother black bear with three baby bear cubs, very cute as they clambered over rocks to keep up with mum. There won't be any new bear cubs in Banff next year, since normally the bears eat 200 000 buffalo berries every day during summer (making their scat look like strawberry jam) so that they are fat enough to nourish new bears during the winter hibernation. This year the berry crop failed, so mother bears will not express the hormones to allow the eggs fertilised in June to the wall and develop. We drove the rest of the way back to Banff along the trans-Canadian highway (which has 20 underpasses for wildlife, and 2 overpasses for bears), and then got dressed up again for a perfect dinner.

I couldn't be happier.


Proposal plans B to D

My Plan B to propose to my dearest girl was during sunrise by the bay, watching the city walls start to glow with warmth. We had planned to spend the day by taking a day tour around Montenegro, the world’s newest country. We woke up early to watch the sunrise, walked outside and it started pouring down with rain. I sighed, we went back inside until it was time to leave for Montenegro, and I started considering a Plan C.

The Slavic history of Montenegro began in the 6th century, when Emperor Heraclius invited the Slavic tribes into the empire to repeople Ilyria, in doing so pushing the local Shkipetars back to the Albanian highlands. With the fall of the Eastern Roman Empire soon after, the Serbians nations became independent. While Serbia was taken in the battle of Kosovo in 1389 by the Turks, due to the difficulties of controlling the highlands, Crnagora (Montenegro) remained effectively independent. With the independence of Serbia in 1815, Montenegro was able to develop from a highland refuge into a state, with a ruler who was both King and Bishop (until 1851, when Danilo Petrovic Njegus the second fell in love with Darinka Kuekuic, and had to formally separate Church and State in order to marry her, also secularising and reforming the legal system). This also allowed Montenegro to take control of its coast, which had constantly changed of hand between Venice and Austria. After WWII, Montenegro joined with Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Vojvodina, Serbia, Kosovo and Macedonia to form Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia joined the Tripartite Alliance in 1941. Tito overthrew the Facist government in 1945, forming a communist republic allied with Stalin (but non-aligned by 1948). While most of the republics split off in 1992, due to the racial tensions caused by the “Greater Serbia” attitude after Tito, Montenegro remained joined with Serbia until the 3rd of June this year.

Our first part of the tour to Montenegro drove south from Dubrovnik along the Dalmation Coast. It was really obvious why the coast had such a different history from the mountains, the thin strip of shore has tiny cities sitting on excellent ports facing the Adriatic, while the mountains go straight up, preventing any easy access inland. We visited the city of Kotor, which had been constantly taken by Venice and Austria. The city sits on what is called a fjord, but is actually a series of three bays, giving it an excellent harbour. The occupying forces built a wall around the city that extends to the top of the first hill, to protect from invasion from the highlands (knowing that it was impossible to push inland from the port, and being focussed on the seafaring trade anyway). In the bay is a church called The Lady of the Rock, on an island formed by dropping stones in that spot every 22nd of July. The old town (Stari Grad) was small and pretty (especially the Orthodox St Nicolas’s), similar to Dubrovnik except the new areas surrounding the town had been rebuilt in modern styles after the earthquake, so it didn’t have the same atmosphere. Since it wasn’t quite as romantic as Dubrovnik (and because unlike Ragusa, Montenegro stayed independent through war) I decided to wait until we were back before proposing.

We drove up into the mountains, requiring many switch-backs on the narrow roads, to reach the Slavic highlands. The area was beautiful and green, with low bushes and rocky outcrops rather than farmland. We stopped to try honey wine, Montenegro beer and cheese sandwiches, then we drove to Centinje. In Centinje we looked Nicolas I’s house (built in 1871), converted into a museum showing the last royal family’s clothes, bedrooms, dinner sets, and dead polar bears. From Centinje we drove to Budva, with another charming Stari Grad, and Bar, a tourist town for Serbs, with a long beach and a commercial 1000 year-old walled city.

Back in Dubrovnik, I had decided on a Plan D for proposal. We would go to a nice romantic restaurant, then after dinner I would take my special girl up to the stairs that look down on the city from the Franciscan Monastery. As we walked through the town my love started to tell me about Orlando’s Column, in the centre of the town square. Orlando’s column was built in 1419 to celebrate the defeat of the first serious Venetian attempt to end the independence Ragusa in 972. The column celebrates the greatest knight of the Middle Ages, who had become a symbol for nobility and independence. Plus it is functional too, with the distance from Orlando’s the fingertips to his elbow (of the right arm) being the standard unit of measure, the Ragusan ell.

In Ragusa, the column became the symbol of liberty, and from 1419 flew the independence flag of Saint Blaise (in 1990 it flew a white flag saying “Libertas” in the same spirit). My dearest was telling me how the column was the centre of the city, with all proclaimations of importance being made from its steps. On an impulse I improvised on Plan D and suggested that my love stand on the steps of Orlando’s column. I then told her how much she had changed my life, how she brings me more joy and delight than I could ever imagine, how much I admired and respected her, how I loved her completely and utterly for the wonderful person she is, and I asked her to marry me. My dearest girl, beautiful in every possible way, blinked in surprise and said “yes, of course”. We then had to sit down to calm her shaky legs, and she told me how happy she was to be engaged to me, how she had secretly hoped I would propose but hadn’t expected it, and how she was almost as impressed that I had thought to bring along a ring size-converter as she was with the engaged ring itself.

After talking together on the steps of Orlando’s column for fifteen minutes, we slowly walked hand in hand to an Italian restaurant, where we talked together over a bottle of wine until they closed. A perfect end to a perfect day, and a perfect start to a perfect life together.


Proposal plan A

Our holiday started in Dubrovnik. After contemplating just how much wonder and delight my special girl brings into my life, I had decided to propose to my dearest on the first day of our holiday together in this very romantic place. Even before I had reached Dubrovnik I thought it sounded perfect. Founded by Latin refugees from the fall of Epidaurum in the 6th century CE, the city of Ragusa (as Dubrovnik was known until recently) maintained its independence for over a thousand years in a very turbulent region. They fought off original attempts by Venice to occupy the city, but mainly, Ragusa kept its independence by diplomacy. They relied on massive walls surrounding the city (built ever higher), protected with a tiny civilian militia, to protect against fortes, but most of the attempted invasions where prevented by the skilful Ragusan diplomats. In fact Ragusa was often used as the meeting place for warring regional factions to sit down and work out peace treaties. While the rest of the Dalmation coast constantly traded hands between Austria and the Republic of Venice from the 12th to 14th centuries, Ragusa grew as a important port and trading partner. Even during the Ottoman occupation of the Balkans, tiny Ragusa was the only region to remain independent from the Turks (apart from the inhospitable Montenegran highlands), having purchased a peace treaty at the price of 120 000 gold ducats per month. For its context, Ragusa was highly progressive, being peaceful and relatively secular. In 1808 Ragusa invited Napoleon inside, ending its independence and introducing the progressive Napoleonic Code. This is a city that I felt my dearest and I could have a real affinity with.


I arrived in Dubrovnik five hours earlier than my beloved, and the minute Dubrovnik came into view I was breathless. The city is simply stunning, a gorgeous old town, untouched by recent development, sitting on narrow ledge of land between the mountains and the Adriatic.

I ran around the city to scout out the most romantic places to propose at, planning to propose that night after my love reached town. I decided that a stroll through town would be a perfect start, then perhaps we could get some icecream and sit on the city walls overlooking the ocean. My dearest had told me that she would meet me at our apartment (a quirky six story building deep in the old city, where the owners opened the front door by using an elaborate arrangement of strings from the sixth floor), but very anxious to propose, I put the ring in my pocket and went to meet her at the bus stop. Several hours after she should have arrived, I started to worry. Running backwards and forwards from the bus stop to our apartment I was sure she had not snuck in, and calling the airport her flight had come in, only an hour late. A few more hours, and I started to panic. The airport told me she had left an hour ago in a taxi, bad advice to complement the bad advice they gave her, the reason why she had ended up stranded at the airport, needing to hitch into town. Finally, at 2am on the last check at the bus station before calling the police and embassy, I saw my love walking towards the bus stop, and all the panic swept out to be replaced with love. Needless to say, Plan A was out.