Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Pueblo chico infierno grande

We were enjoying breakfast on a rooftop terrace overlooking Kool Beach in Playa Del Carmen. I was speaking with a local hostess about the property and the history of the town of Playa. She grew up in a small town and I asked her about various parts of Mexico and how they compared to Playa. Her response was this:

Pueblo chico infierno grande...which she translated for me.

Small town, big hell.

As we get older, we crave that smaller town feel of hospitality and warmth. When we lived in Toronto we barely knew our neighbours. In the town of Brantford it seems everyone knows everyone.

We spent the weekend in quaint Niagara-on-the-lake and inquired into housing prices. Everything was so fresh, so beautiful. People riding bicycles to vineyards, local markets, charming shops and B&B's and of course, everywhere we went we were surrounded by water.

Michael and I looked at each other. Why don't we live here?

The truth of the matter is, every city has it's advantages. I often crave the hustle and bustle the large metropolis's bring but it is always nice to come home to my quiet yard of swaying trees. Sometimes you want to go out and run errands and go unnoticed. When you live in a small town you are always guaranteed to bump into someone you know, even if you are not in the mood. They say to never get too close to your neighbours. It has it's advantages but when things go south, the comfort of home suddenly becomes tense. When you live in the concrete jungle, walls and elevators separate neighbours from friends.

Where is the ideal place to live? Isn't it always true that wherever we are, we wish to be somewhere else? When you're surrounded by people, you often want quiet. When things become dull, you crave the big city.  When I daydream of moving to rustic Italy, Michael often says I would miss the comforts of home. I wonder....would I eventually tire of walking and biking everywhere or would I truly soak up the Dolce Vita?

I guess for now....there's always vacations until we decide where we should end up. We were fortunate to meet so many people from around the world on this last trip who offered (and sincerely meant it) their homes when we visit....Mexico, Vancouver, England, U.S.A.

Where's your dream home located?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ben & Tim.....Him & Him

Strangers are just friends that you haven't met yet. At a quaint and romantic Mediterranean restaurant in Mexico, Michael and I were one of three tables seated outdoors for dinner amongst candles, music and surrounded by water. I noticed two young fellows together. One taking photos of the other. We partners? Friends? Lovers?

And then I saw them hold hands. I immediately went over and asked if they wanted a photo taken together. Michael and I have weeks of vacation photos where we take turns taking pictures of each other but very few together and my luggage is usually too overweight with an unreasonable amount of shoes to even think about packing a tripod.

They gazed into each other's eyes in that familiar way that reminded me of my youth. Definitely lovers.

Later that evening we would cross paths at an all white themed beach party. We started chatting and the four of us danced and joked around like old chums. Maybe it was the tequila, but I could have sat and listened to their British accents all night long.

We discovered that Tim and Ben were in their early 20's, and both studying to become Barristers in the U.K. This was their first real trip together and they were also excited about their new flat back home.

We live in a modern society of mixed marriages, races and sex but I can honestly say I've never really had any gay couple friends. Man, have I been missing out.

We spent our second week with these two gents and seemed to keep crossing paths. I am known for asking a lot of questions. How can I ever learn if I don't ask? Michael often gives me scolding looks as if to say you're going too far.  I wanted to know if they had ever dated women or if they always knew about their preference. They just knew.

On our last night together, there was a fiesta on the beach, complete with colourful triangular Mexican flags, streamers and tables dressed in linen cloth. We decided the four of us would dine together. We shared life stories, hopes and dreams. They taught me to speak proper English and we had many laughs about my feeble attempts to sound like Queen Lizzie. I borrowed Ben's hair straightener. These were the perfect BFF's who so happened to live on the other side of the pond, happened to be 15 years my junior and somehow just so happened to be in the very same spot in the world as us. At one point, Michael said to me that Ben could be our son and this could be his boyfriend. Realistically at 40 years old, that was the truth.

As in any relationship you could start to see that each partner brought something different to the table. Ben is the budget conscious one who helped Tim save 300 quid per paycheque to sock away for their trips. Tim is the strong and quiet type. Ben is definitely sensitive. When we were at dinner, he quietly and tearfully mentioned how happy it made him to watch Tim swim with the dolphins, because it's always something he had wanted to do. One night in the late night pool, a group of obnoxious guys showed up. They were heckling the bartender, spitting and I sensed trouble. Ben and I craned our necks in fear while Michael and Tim teased that we looked like two giraffes in the pool. Tim was not at all afraid. He calmed Ben.

During the two weeks we were away, there were daily soccer matches in the sports pub. Ben and Tim would hang out with me and we would talk about fun things like Adele, celebrity gossip and what life was like in the U.K. When I asked if they wanted to join Michael and the other Brits to watch the game, they responded Oh God no. 

In a world where little is of shock or surprise, it was interesting to still see some old fashioned guys giving disapproving looks to these two kind hearted souls. I spent a week with them. They weren't bothersome. They didn't flaunt. I had to literally drag them on the dance floor. They were quiet and reserved and most in love. Truly, madly, deeply in love.

When our bus pulled away, my heart yet again wrenched at goodbye. I hate goodbye. I saw through the window that Tim was wiping his eyes. Ben ran back onto the bus and chirped in his glorious proper accent, I told you he was sensitive!

They told us they were lost without us and that we made their first week of their trip very special. In fact it was us who were unbelievably blessed to be in their company. Ben & Tim....your love is inspiring and special. May you always treasure each other the way you do now.  Others should stop passing judgement and instead look to you both as an example of what true love and loyalty is all about.

Until we meet again,



I've made up my mind, don't need to think it over
If I'm wrong I am right, don't need to look no further
This aint' lust, I know this is love

~ Adele ~

Monday, June 25, 2012


So on our second week of Mexico, we got acquainted with two Ohio families. It started when I was sitting on my lounge chair chuckling to myself as I heard some people talking about time and punctuality. A kind looking gentleman looked my direction and asked my thoughts on what time the girls should be ready. They said that "Six-ish" usually means an hour late. And from there we would run into these families a couple of times a week at the pool. 

I found out that Ron and his wife were travelling with their friends of almost 40 years, Faith and Scott, and their two children Joe and Megan, and Joe's wife Jenna. Ron asked us what we loved about Canada and we got into a discussion of the differences between U.S.A and Canada. We would later find out that Ron used to work in Corporate American and later quit his job to become a spiritual guider to the troubled. We discussed religion and faith and he blessed us with some wonderful and positive insight.

We would also later find out that Scott also quit his job and was attending college at the same time their son was. Times were tough financially but the stars aligned and he eventually went back to school to become a teacher. Joe served in the armed forces and briefly touched on his experience with Hurricane Katrina. He is now a firefighter and married to lovely Jenna.

I was speaking to Faith about her gorgeous daughter whom I would then discover had her heart and spirit broken in a past relationship. Faith and Ron were highschool sweethearts so I was able to give her some insight as to how hard it is to get over a bad relationship and learn to trust again. She will, I mused. Give her time to heal. Faith then asked what I would charge for a quick photo on the beach. I then responded that I wanted nothing for one photo. 

We showed up fifteen minutes prior to the shoot, and the entire family was there, dressed and not only on time, but early. I was impressed that it wasn't "Six-ish". Once we started snapping they were very thankful and ready to walk away. We had them there. We kept shooting. Faith started to cry because she said she hadn't seen her daughter smile in a very long time. I gave Meg the camera and she took some amazing shots! To our surprise, we were then handed an envelope and a note. When we later opened the envelope, we were humbled with a very generous amount of money that basically paid for our spending money for two weeks away and a note that said we are very special and a part of their family.

Ron let us know that meeting us was a highlight of their trip and the photoshoot just topped it off. The absolute kindness of strangers is just overwhelmingly wonderful. We will definitely be visiting this family soon! Maybe on our trip to Pennsylvania this July!

To the Wilson & Scott Families...thank you for your company in Mexico! An absolutely inspiring group of people. We'll be seeing you! Here are just a few of the photos you will be receiving in the mail in the next couple of weeks.



Sunday, June 24, 2012

Dr. & Mrs. Miller

This past weekend we were so fortunate to spend with our new bride and groom, Lesley and Matthew, whom now are so lovingly referred to as Dr. & Mrs. Miller. They said "We do" in front of their many friends and family.

We checked into the beautiful White Oaks spa and walked into a heavenly hotel room. We were greeted with a welcome bag with thoughtful gifts including camera cuff links for Michael. The next stop was to the church for rehearsal, followed by dinner at The Charles Inn.

Michael and I were greeted with a challenge yet again at the church as the minister was very stringent on where we were allowed to stand and shoot from. We exchanged silent looks and politely pulled him aside when everyone left to discuss the logistics of how we were going to both respect the church's wishes as well as get the shots the couple wanted. We explained that we too would like to go unnoticed by the congregation but that the tight quarters of this beautiful 19th century church would present some challenges. He agreed to agree, and gave us his blessing to shoot where we needed to.

We spent the evening getting to know Les and Matt's wedding party and immediate family. The venue was gorgeous. The excitement was evident. We dined on and in luxury and then headed back to the room to rest for the next day. The biggest day.

We awoke to perfect wedding weather. Slightly overcast, warm with zero humidity. I spent the morning with the ladies and was welcomed so graciously into the bride's mother's home. We had been corresponding through email for some time before the wedding and she had so many lovely things to say. I sent her a note in the mail thanking her for raising such amazing children. She truly is a remarkable, beautiful and graceful woman who knows how to handle otherwise uncomfortable situations with class and tact; two qualities that a lot of others don't seem to have these days.

Michael went golfing with the guys. He already knew two of the groomsmen from past shoots we had with them. We are so excited to be spending time with this amazing family again in December for their other daughter's wedding at Queen's Landing.

Everytime I looked at Debbie, Les's mom, she had tears of pride and emotion in her eyes. Her bridesmaids were lovely and maid of honor, sister and best friend Jen was so obviously overjoyed.
When Lesley swept down the stairwell to meet her step dad Vito, his eyes shone with love and adoration for his daughter.

The limo arrived and Lesley was nervous. For such an absolutely stunning woman, she dislikes being the centre of attention. I pulled her aside and asked her if there was anything I could do to calm her nerves and reassured her of everything I knew about my own wedding and others I have witnessed. Her hives behaved themselves, but I was totally feeling her anxiety to get to the church. I promised her that later in the day, she would relax and enjoy her day. And she did.

Matthew's eyes beamed with love when he saw her two dads walk her down the aisle. The gallery both cried and applauded. And then two became one.

We headed to the downtown of Niagara on the lake for some candid photos and then to a local winery for some tastings and photos in the barrel room. The limo then took us back to the hotel where we entered a breathtaking room full of candles, shades of white floral peonies, roses and hydrangeas and stunning details. Nothing was overlooked and planned entirely by the bride herself.

The speeches were both hilarious and touching. The food was divine. And the party. Oh the party.
The dance floor was rocking. At one point we wanted to pull the bride and groom away to take photos with some sparklers we bought but to be honest, they were just having too much fun to interrupt them again. We were eventually convinced to put our cameras away. We got down and partied on the dance floor with the guests until the lights were turned on and we were all kicked out. They had glow sticks, the DJ played tunes reminiscent of my clubbing years and since one of the guest's cousin Dead Mau5 was not available to spin, we had our own party on the dance floor like I have never seen at a wedding.

At one point, I knew the night was coming to a close. I remember at my own wedding, many of my friends formed a circle around me and swooped in, out and around Michael and I when we were dancing. The last song of the night was The Temptations "Shout" so I rounded up the party animals and we made a huge circle around the bride and groom...we got low when they told us to go a little softer and we got LOUD when the song told us to. Matt picked up his bride and we all celebrated and surrounded them in a moment that he said he would never forget, and I know I sure won't.

Lesley pulled me aside and I asked her if she was enjoying herself. I told her how much I loved her and she told me that she was able to get through her day calmly because she knew I was there beside her. Imagine that. Me as the voice of calm and reason.

Michael and I were so humbled and overwhelmed with the amount of people who came up to us and said they would either hire us or wished they had in the past. The feedback and comments and love that we were showered with, sent us through the moon with happiness. Hard work I guess indeed pays off.

The next day we all went to the bride's parents' house for a barbeque and swim. We laughed and reminisced about the perfect day we all experienced and wished the bride and groom a wonderful honeymoon. They were surprised with a trip to Italy and Greece and we know they will have an amazing time and hopefully soak in all their memories.

Lesley, Matt and your absolutely wonderful families, we wish you nothing but the best in life and want to thank you from the bottom of our very full hearts for allowing us to be part of this monumental time. We cannot wait until Jen & Casey's wedding in December.

We love you!!!!