The Tale of Three Cities: Chapter 3 – Kitchener

Thirteen days in Ontario should have been easy for me; after all I spent nearly six months of winter there one year, as well as four other winters for a month each time. Then there were the two early summers. Surely I could manage less than to weeks. Let me just say that I did try. I even had fun, as noted in earlier posts. It was just so darn difficult this time. A dragged out cold left me wilted, and I am still not fully over it despite being home for six days. However, time, rest, the gym, glimpses of the sun and the west coast air will soon find me back in full swing. I am feeling well enough to finish up the tale of three cities.

I talk about Kingston a lot so writing about Toronto was fun and I was looking forward to visiting the Kitchener-Waterloo area where daughter 3 is studying. It is an interesting area, a lot of cross connections, including Waterloo University and Sir Wilfred Laurier University. My daughter goes to Waterloo. They have a Starbucks on campus – which was a huge issue and seems to be all on its own in what I believe is the Engineering Department. Waterloo has many Starbucks. It appears Kitchener has none. I like to keep track of such things for orienting where I am.

I did not find too much to enamour me with Kitchener-Waterloo. Perhaps it was just due to it being winter, cold, my being sick, and my daughter being robbed a week earlier. There is a definite factory town feel to the area. Not a lot was happening. The Tannery District, (as far as I could tell this is just one building rather than a true district – it was too cold to explore) as the name implies, was once an early 20th century mill that has been refurbished and now holds a number of businesses, eateries and, from I read, an event venue. The only place open was Balzac’s Coffee Roaster. For which I was grateful.

The day I decided I should just stay at the house, early 1900s, was only broken up when I finally ventured outside long enough to get the kinks out and to find a store. I came across one house, apparently into offices, and one austere Lutheran church worthy of photographing. Unfortunately I did not cross the street to be across from the Sun Life Financial head office property that appears to include a building dating back to 1912. It was not until the next day, when on a bus, that I saw there is a provincial plaque of its history – next time I visit I will check it out. However, further research seems to indicate the building was always in the hands of Sun Life, until 2014. (Now leased back to them)

Not my photo – no snow here!

Lutheran Church on King St.

I loved the brickwork and the tri-corner style is lovely. The area it is in not so much.

It was not until the day before I left for home that I would go on an adventure. This is when I ventured to the university with my daughter, had coffee at Starbucks and hid from the elements,while waiting for her to attend a class, for a couple of hours before we headed to the Mennonite village of St. Jacob’s. I was feeling a bit better and looking forward to something different. The village dates back the 1850s, with Mennonites settling in the the region in the 1840s. The population of St. Jacobs is around 2000 and swells during tourism season with visitors arriving on bus tours, heading to the market and checking out the many, many shops along the Main Street. As often happens in small places that depends on tourism, many stores were closed. However, we did manage to have some fun poking about what was open, discovering some treasures – a pity my phone battery died – enjoying lunch, then coffee, and a sense of a time warp. Interesting bit of history, St. Jacobs is the home office for Home Hardware

A real fire in the fireplace at Stone Crock Restaurant !

Former Anglican Church is now a pretty neat toy store. I had to force myself to not leave with a few fun items.

Talk about a time warp! I could not have caught a better sandwich photo of past, present and cold.

We discovered the maple syrup museum along with a small model train set up. We had hoped to visit the larger model train display across the street – it was closed. We did however walk through the old silo mill where there are a few stores. The only one actually open was the pottery store. Here they sell products made locally, or made in Canada. There is a Wedding store that uses an old freight car as a place to store dresses and a section of the silos as a boutique. It was probably just as well it too was closed. With so much closed for the season, including the huge market, I already know I will be returning in the summer when I visit. I will most likely be with 2-3 of my daughters, maybe even one SIL so it will be attended unattendedgrandma.

We made this discovery on a side street when searching for the old school house. Unable to discover if it was open until after we finally tore ourselves away, I was happy to just take pictures and marvel at the collection. Such fun!

look at what we found at the mini train model display! My daughter graciously took then shared this with me after my phone died. I am looking into taking both trains. The table settings and menus belonged to other trains. Too bad!

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Slow Down, You’re Movin’ too Fast

Or: Woe Is Me

Sometimes I look in the mirror and wonder who that reflection is only to admit it is definitely me after attempting to outrun age and common sense. So, after having fun in TO, visiting my daughter, ‘SIL’ (they are the ones getting married) and my grandson in Kingston and finding a dress I slowed down a bit after arriving in Kitchener. Just a little though.

When I arrived my other SIL and 3rd daughter greeted me at the train station and I foolishly agreed a twenty minute walk would be fine. I am happy to say I survived that, the temperature had started to plummet. I seriously wonder why the whole population of anywhere beyond the south west coast of Canada does not head to a warmer climate during winter. I guess Canadians are just too polite to overtake another nation. Besides, what would we have to talk about if our weather woes were taken away?

By the next day it seemed to be warming up enough to venture out. We decided to check out The Museum, an interactive space that encourages visitors to actively experience the space. We were disappointed to discover half of the third floor, and all of the 4th were closed. No idea why for the 3rd floor section, but the 4th floor was being changed over for a new exhibit.

Although a bit dubious we would find much to engage us for a couple of hours we decided we would take a look. Indoor activities during winter can be a challenge so we were happy to discover a large self serve coat check. Divested of coats, hats, mittens and scarves makes it easier to explore.

The space for children under 4 looked inviting to my daughter, when she was encouraged to enter she tried out all of the big buttons that lit up various boards before heading to a low peek-a-boo window for little ones to wave at unsuspecting patrons. Of course my travel companions were by now quite excited. I had stuffed them into my pocket at the last minute when I worried they could get lost if sitting in the coatcheck.

My daughter and SIL had a marvellous time and, although I did try to get into the mood I would have enjoyed myself more if I had been feeling a little healthier. However, just look at the fun we had! The Museum is a great little gem. We did indeed visit for nearly two hours before hunger took over. I was taken to Crabby Joe’s where I ate half a chicken prosciutto sandwich (with only half the crusty bread) and a small Caesar salad. Dinner ended up being the other half. I had half expected to not be able to taste anything due to my cold but it was good. We took the bus home with minor plans for the following day.

A playroom like this would be fabulous.

A real bed of nails!

who hasn’t wanted to try out a bed of nails?

We had a little help from a visitor with small fingers to extract the bears.

Who would have thought my parents Commodore 64 might have become a museum exhibit! Most of the computers were in working order.

Àq1An extremely rare photo of me (I look as old as the dinosaur) with my somewhat worried travel companions.

The next day my SIL stayed home to cook while my daughter and I headed to City Hall Rotunda Gallery art exhibit with a stop for lunch at a place called Slices. I ordered a gyro breakfast that was enough to feed both of us – I convinced my daughter she was hungry. There is a small skating rink outside City Hall where happy looking families were enjoying a somewhat warmer day as they glided, spun and tumbled on the ice.

The title of the exhibit, The Face to Face Project, by Eva McCauley is 38 pieces, mixed media, with two common threads – people (understandable considering the title) and a turquoise hue in all of them. I have no idea if the colour was significant, my daughter read the information to me as I had left my glasses behind. A small number of the paintings were of the artists students while the majority were photographs of single or groupings of people from several decades ago that were then painted over to enhance, reveal, or possibly hide some aspects. It was an interesting view to the past.

I now want one of these coffee bean bins!

As we headed home we discovered a coffee shop in the Tannery, Balzac’s Coffee Roasters. So of course we had to go inside. My daughter was quite pleased to see they also had Turkish Delight – have I missed something – seems this delicacy is making a comeback. I had coffee, my daughter had hot chocolate made from Lindt chocolate – sinful! I ate a piece of the pistachio Turkish Delight, and we just relaxed.

We also saw an interesting wall mural along the way that at first we thought was a structure with a person standing on it. From another point of view it appeared to be 3D with several cut outs of people, it was not until we were across from it we realized it is a flat surface. It was colourful and fun on what was quickly becoming a chilly late afternoon.

Imagine how happy we were to arrive home to home cooked lasagna!

When morning arrived the next day plans to visit Waterloo University, where my daughter is a PhD student, were postponed when the guest speaker for a workshop had a flight cancelled somewhere out of the States. Coupled with more dipping temperatures plus wind it was a perfect day to stay inside and finally listen to everyone who had told me to SLOW DOWN!

Wedding Wednesday: Dress shopping for the rest of us

Planning seemed to be relatively quiet over the holiday other than confirming a weekend in Toronto to shop for dresses for the wedding party, have a ‘girls’ weekend and see a show. We spent about five hours at the Easton’s Centre Mall checking out all of the dress shops. I was rather disappointed in the lack of choices. By the time we made it to Le Chateau I was exhausted, the bridesmaid (another daughter) had ducked into a make-up shop, and we thought we were done. However, another look ended up with us taking up another hour I. The store. My daughter had been waffling over her colours until her sister found a dress she liked. Plus shoes! With that decision made there is no going back. I hope. The matron of honour also picked a dress then returned it some hours later after looking at photos of her wearing it. Although she did look stunning in it I did understand her concern about it rising too high when she moved – and she had not even tried to sit down. We are now looking, as originally decided, at a shade lighter than navy with silver as the complementary colour. I think it will be quite elegant. Not wanting to take away from the bridal party I chose to only take a cursory look for a dress.

Little did I expect to find something in Kingston! I was on my own so shared a photo with my youngest daughter who was still in Japan but at the airport to return to Canada. (She did not like the cold – good thing we live on the westcoast) She approved and said I should just buy it without her sister’s approval. Sticker shock had me convinced I really should get the opinion of the bride. It also provided me time to decide if I could really afford it. My youngest did offer to buy it for me, we even looked into ordering it online – the final difference, with delivery, would have saved me perhaps $30.00. I told her she can buy the shoes. The bride loved it, I bought it, and will wear it every year to justify spending around $290.00, with tax, on a dress! I do understand that is not unreasonable. It s now hanging up in the closet in Kingston. I do not have to worry about packing it now and can most likely find shoes in the week leading up to the event. No photos allowed yet.

As for other activity leading up to the big day I think I might have suggested they could always elope. When my already married daughter had her wedding there was not time to panic – we had two weeks to plan after they decided waiting a year was ridiculous. (She swears it was three weeks) The wedding dress had already been purchased so it was a matter of finding a venue for a cozy ceremony and reception, ensuring the parents, siblings and a few very close friends could attend, then figuring out the budget. As with that wedding the upcoming nuptials are being paid for by the couple. The bride seems to have all of that under control although she does worry at times. January has been her minor panic month.

What do brides worry about? Turns out, a lot! Even in the 21st century. We packed in a lot during the very short time I visited. The wedding dress – I had seen pictures of it but not in person. One late morning, as I was doing something in the kitchen I turned, and there was my daughter in her dress – with an ever so slight worry line and lots of smiling waiting for my reaction. I think she looked beautiful in it. Being from a family in which the women are on the short side it is of course too long but otherwise it is a gorgeous dress and she will be stunning. Then my daughter started to worry, what if her fiancé did not like it, did it flow enough (I admit that has me somewhat mystified), did I really like, would it fit properly by the wedding…. oh my, I had not expected such doubt from her.

The guest list was another concern, she was worried people were not responding soon enough. I refrained from saying that Prince Harry is getting married in May and those invitations will not go out until about eight weeks before. Of course there is venue to consider when counting numbers, I believe a 60% positive response is pretty good. However, being a practical mother I asked if she has a back up plan. Well, sort of. There are two smaller boats she can choose from instead of the paddle wheeler. I suggested she not worry about that until one month before the next deposit needs to be put down.

Brides need lists. They need spreadsheets. They need a personal assistant. Brides need to put a big sign on their workspace and repeat, like a mantra, Keep Your Sense of Humour.

One Night In Toronto

My thirteen day trip, including travel time, to Ontario was planned in Sep. This, of course meant I was reluctant to make any changes after all the back and forth emails, phone calls and building excitement. What I had not factored in was my being ill, and needing some minor surgery at my doctor’s office. However, come Hell or high water, I was determined to make the rendezvous with my daughters.

I started to feel unwell on Christmas Day. This was fine as I ended up staying home with yet another daughter where we had a very quiet day. I did manage to enjoy a turkey dinner – I even made the gravy. However, by evening I knew I was not at all well and left the cleaning up for my daughter to take care of while I went to bed. I had come down with the flu. I had twelve days to get well. No problem. Except for the small marble sized growth on the back of neck that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. The growth that definitely felt like it might be infected. Getting sick, and needing to see your doctor over the holidays is never good planning. Fortunately I was able to get in on Jan 2nd, having made sure to call at 9:00am on the dot. There were also two doctors in that day.

I had never met my GP’s student until that day. My first impression was just young she is – I later found out she is the same age as my youngest daughter, 26. She took one look, then did a more thorough assessment, then called in my GP for further consultation before the next step – basically lancing what turned out to be a sebaceous cyst. My GP never shows a lot of emotion, so his quiet exclamation of, ‘Oh my, that will need taking care of’ did rather worry me. Three absolutely horrid needles later, to freeze the area, and a lot of tugging and pushing meant the cyst had been emptied although it was not certain the actual cyst was fully removed. It was time to discuss after care.

Even before all that was done it was suggested I might want to rethink my travel plans in case of infection or complications. My response was absolutely not. I had sound reasoning for this, first I was not leaving the country. Second, I would be spending the first weekend of my trip that included two nurses, the second week with one. I felt I was well prepared and the doctors agreed so long as I went back the following day. Armed with instructions for care I assured everyone I would be fine. Which I basically was although there were a few days that had us a little worried. I went to a walk-in clinic while in Kingston for another assessment and was given the good news that everything was healing nicely. Canadian medical is absolutely fantastic!

It is now time to go back to the beginning of my actual trip. I like to think I am always well prepared for when I travel. I tend to arrive early to my departure point, carry as little baggage as possible, have all my necessary documents, and even empty personal water bottle. What I had not factored in was just how insane security would be on this last weekend of the holiday period. Despite arriving at the airport over an hour ahead of my flight, and having only carry on bags, I nearly missed my flight. The saving grace was the 50+ passengers still behind me who were also stuck at security. Once seated my first flight, to Calgary, was fairly uneventful.

Deicing in Calgary – it looks like so much fun!

I did have to nearly run from the Calgary international gate (rather random in my opinion for a domestic flight) to my next plane at the farthest domestic gate. While flying to Calgary it suddenly dawned on me that WestJet no longer provides meals – I was looking at about another four hours flying without a meal. (I had packed four healthy cookies and a couple of ‘emergency’ granola bars) Never a good idea when on certain medication. As I neared the gate I saw that the passengers were lined up next to a Starbucks. In my head I was calculating if I had enough time to grab something to eat and make it to the plane before the doors shut. Of course I had one lady hemming and hawing over her selection of food, and then her coffee. Fortunately I was able to have my yogurt scanned, tapped my bank card and dash off. I forgot I had Starbucks money on my phone. There were still passengers behind me when I had my boarding pass swiped. Phew! I made a mental note to prepare a proper lunch for my flight home.

As if my day had not already been riddled with inconveniences, upon arriving in Toronto, the plane ended up sitting on the tarmac for 1 1/4 hours plus another 15 minutes just metres from the gate. So many flights had been cancelled due to the frigid weather and snow storms on the East Coast that the gate had another plane where we were to deboard. (Later in the evening I heard about the planes at the same airport that were clipped resulting in an emergency evacuation due to fire – my problems became minuscule) While waiting to taxi in I sent some messages to my daughter who was to meet me at the train station – no response. I sent messages to her sister – strange responses. Seems the latter had already started to party with her friends and one of them was responding for her. I was not amused. While typing a message to my missing daughter’s husband her sister called me while I was still on the tarmac – technology is grand – to let me know her sister had been robbed! That explained why I could not reach her. I was beginning to worry about this trip.

The view from the condo. We could also see the CBC building, and I gather there is a baseball field next to the CN Tower that I had a vague memory of seeing in 2014.

Eventually it was agreed the three already in Toronto would meet me at Union Station (trains) with coffee and food. I was greeted with lots of cheers, they may have been only three but they made up for that with their somewhat inebriated enthusiasm. It was bloody freezing outside at -25c. (Chill factor made it a frostbite -32c) I was convinced I had temporarily lost my sanity. A quick update about my other daughter, she would not join us that evening although she did seriously consider it, but would in the morning. (Her phone had been snatched right out of her hand at the bus station. She did the one thing police say not to do, she ran after the guy yelling at the top of her lungs.) We made run to an Uber car ( fantastic idea) and we were off to the condo we had booked for the weekend before going out for a night on the town. I was ready to sleep. This was only day one! I was feeling a little like it was One Night In Bangkok.

My daughter on the right and her friends out of the cold.

We did go out dancing. One place had a 90s theme – not really anything I could really rock to. We then went to a club called the Rocking Horse (I think that is correct) which had me worried it would be too country. The saddles and cowboy hat decorations, plus several people wearing cowboy boots, jeans and plaid shirts did not convince me otherwise. The music proved to be a good mix though, I danced up a storm – some young women seemed quite taken that I was on the dance floor keeping pace – until my foot turned but my knee did not. My daughter even tried out the bucking bull and made it over 40 seconds! She beat out every other person we saw over the course of about 20 minutes. I have that on video.

It is difficult to catch a bucking bull in a still shot! This was from the video I took – just under 5 seconds

We were all ready to call it a night, arriving back at the condo around 1:00am. Plans were made to go dress shopping the next day once my daughter arrived from Kitchener. Did I mention the weather had not been that cold since 1959?

COMPLAIN, COMPLAIN, COMPLAIN: and yes, it did rain

Or, Why I have not posted anything lately

I rarely get ill. When I have been sick it was usually fairly significant – bronchitis being high on my body’s favoured illnesses. So, I am usually knocked down flat when that occurs, as well as thrown on a heavy course of some form of penicillin. I was also always working – with young children. Need I say more. So when I first managed to get the flu, most likely directly from my daughter, I blamed it in part, as previously mentioned, on not having the flu shot. I was just happy it was over with and the cyst I had drained was finally on it’s way to healing. So I was rather alarmed when I came down with a nasty head cold. The type of cold that sneaks up on you. A slight scratchiness in the throat, a little cough, perhaps some sneezing. All fairly easy to laugh off as a sign of being tired, staying up too late, travel weary – in my case all reasonable assumptions. I did not have time to be sick let alone bothered with a cold.

Crave fireside seating. Always lovely to visit here.

Crave fireside seating, always a lovely spot for sipping coffee or tea and settling in for a visit or reading.

Except there I was, the end of day five (which also happened to be what would have been my mother’s 83rd birthday) of my visit and fading fast. By this time I had already seen the doctor, had coffee at Crave (my favourite cafe in Kingston) and checked out three more stores for dresses and I still had a couple of hours before I was to meet my daughter. Where does one go when staying a 30 minute drive away and your ride will not be available for two plus hours? For me the library is always an excellent choice. Except the Kingston Library was still closed while undergoing major renovations that started in April 2017. It is slated to re-open spring 2018 – I will visit when back. Meanwhile, I needed a place to hang out away from the burgeoning crowds on the streets of Kingston. Plus 5c. and sun seemed to have beckoned people outdoors.

As I was heading up Princess St. looking for stores I came across this otherwise empty space – those are my daughters! The middle one and the one on the left. (The short ones) They had not seen the display. This was for a fundraiser held sometime in 2017.

I headed to the university library, grabbing a sandwich and coffee at the snack bar before hunkering down to read my book without interruption or internet for about two hours. I had one commitment, meet my daughter at her work then head to Princess St. (Basically the main shopping street in Kingston) to show her the dress I thought would be suitable for me to wear to her wedding. We said yes to the dress – a little pricier than I had expected. I claimed I could accept the cost if I wore it to one or two events every year for the next ten years.

I then committed the ill traveller’s sin and went out for dinner. (Nothing like spreading a few germs for all to share) Although still in denial I was pretty sure I would not be able to taste anything the next night.Then it rained. A lot. By the next day, the only day I had left in Kingston, I knew I would not be leaving the house. I barely managed to do my laundry and pack everything. Thank goodness I travel light. I slept. I finished my book (Stones to Schools by Greg Mortenson) I highly recommend it. I napped.

Union Station construction has been ongoing for some years now. By the time they finish it will be necessary to start at the beginning again!

The small station is Brampton – the pounding rain and hail made it difficult to capture any of the fine workmanship.

My train to Toronto, then onto Kitchener, the next day was for 7:32am. A freezing blast was forecast, basically ice rain with a severe drop in temperature (it had gone up to plus 9c after the deep chill) that would cause dangerous, icy roads. School buses were cancelled. I was not about to tempt fate by changing my tickets so I could rest. Leaving Kingston I could see outlines of fog enshrouded roads, farms and tracks from inside my snug seat by the window. And here I am, in Kitchener. Where it was hailing when I arrived, then snowing. By morning all was bright, chilly looking and windy. I was still coughing and ready to scrounge about my daughter’s house for cold medicine. I was quite sure I would staying in again. So far I only had photos taken while on the train.

Behind that curtain of ice rain, up on a hill, is a beautiful church. All I know is that it is somewhere between Brampton and Kitchener.

Q (avid Star Trek fans) thought I needed some help as I got ready for bed.