Ontario visit: art galleries and stuff

I realized my main title made little sense as I am not staying in Ontario. So, here I am, in Kitchener, and what a packed first two days I have had! Amazingly, all well within my shoestring budget. To date the only money I have spent was for the bus from the Pearson International Airport (Toronto) to Kitchener.

Keeping in mind just how closely I want to keep away from spending actual money I looked up free activities I might enjoy. I was not disappointed. Other than the hiccough with my Starbucks (SB) points on the day I arrived – dealt with the next day – I have found it is relatively easy to forego expenditures. My first full day was jam packed with a morning at the Kitchener Art Gallery, a picnic lunch, then a shared meal at a local pub.

My first stop was for coffee, no points, no cash for that cup. I should reiterate, I am mainly going to SB to use the points accumulated by mainly my daughter – with her permission. Besides, it is a handy respite. I then headed towards the Kitchener Art Gallery for the Expressions 44: Creative Communities exhibition. This is an “annual exhibition of student artwork that celebrates the next generation of creativity…”. And celebrate they did! There was another temporary exhibition as well as permanent selections; so much art that I will break up my visits to galleries (I visited another, smaller one the following day) into 2-3 blogs. As I am wont to say, have you visited a gallery or museum lately?

A Walk in the Park. Homeschool Grade 5

This was by far my favourite. Perhaps my experience with homeschooling, despite some of the pitfalls, my children has made me more aware of the importance to let children follow their passions.

What’s Under Your Umbrella? Grade 4 collaboration

Try to zoom to read the message these young people were trying to convey.

Eerie Knowladge Grade 10

I am not sure if the spelling is in error or was purposely made – after all, it takes time to amass knowledge. I was drawn to this one for looking like a voracious caterpillar although by the title there might be more to the story than just wanting to read everything.

Entry Grade 12

A simple piece yet full of suggestion. I have a thing for pictures of doors. This one could be arrival, waving farewell, pleading….use your imagination.

By the time I left I had a voracious appetite. Fortunately I had the forethought to make a picnic lunch, and take water with me, to ensure I would not be tempted to grave a bite to eat along the way. Or course the three hour time difference was wreaking havoc with my internal clock which meant a bit of a battle to wait out the hunger. Kitchener City Hall has tables and chairs on the promenade, with a simple, but forceful, fountain to drown out the noise of traffic.

Table for one

My day ended late, after midnight, with dinner and a show (TV) at My Rich Uncle’s Pub. Only recently did I discover that my secret vice for watching RuPaul’s Drag Race is shared by my daughter. She paid! We were at the pub to watch the finale on a big screen. First, dinner and drinks. (My go to is club soda with lime) Truffle chips and vegetarian curry – shared. I stole two bites of the crepe brûlé my daughter had later on. The finale was fun, lots of cheering for the favourite, ‘Brooke Lyn Hytes’ the first Canadian to be on the show. Sadly, we did not have a winner. We stayed long enough to watch the last of the basketball game, the Raptors (Canadian team) won – lots of celebrating on the streets when we left the pub. I know nothing about the game and found it rather silly.

I was exhausted by the time we walked to the house. A good night had by all.

Tavern, not pub. I also thought it as a frog on the sign. It’s an owl.
As I did not imbibe I can only go by what other patrons said – the Yvie Oddly seemed to be the favourite. Also the winner of the season.

Victoria to Ontario: day one (and the aftermath of the day before)

I like to be prepared. I tend to be prepared for whatever could possibly go wrong. Therefore, I made sure I have parking insurance for my car dealt with before I leave although it will not kick in until July. I also had to renew my driver’s licence before I returned and made plans to do that in the afternoon. However, I was also going with the daughter with the broken toe which meant I had the morning to go for a walk and just enjoy some quiet time before entering the madness of bureaucracy.

I headed to Ross Bay Cemetery in Victoria. Opened in 1873. The 27.5 acre cemetery is part of a public park and its south side faces Ross Bay on the Pacific Ocean. It is named after its owner, Isabella Mainville Ross, the first registered independent woman landowner in British Columbia. Isabella was also Indigenous, an Anishinaabe and French Métis woman, which makes her accomplishment even more remarkable. 

There are some remarkable tombstones and lovely epitaphs as well as some very simple ones. One that pulls at the heartstrings has new, flat stones sitting in front of more recently deceased family members. It has been many years since I visited the cemetery so it was only the original carving I ever saw.

Rather sweet to see someone still leaves a little gift for the child.

The cemetery has a fantastic view of Ross Bay and the mountains across the waters. It is such a peaceful place, of course the permanent residents are very quiet although some of the annual residents can be a bit alarming when one stumbles across them! Clover abounds and there are not any vehicles.

There were more deer, these ones just happened to be close enough for me to capture in photos without disturbing them. A common sight. (As are cougars and even bears – wildlife and city live by cheek and jowl in Victoria)

Best part of my morning wandering was when I though perhaps I was hearing things, or perhaps a call from beyond? Someone was tuning up, then playing bagpipes! Unlike many people I happen to enjoy the pipes. I did not want to disturb him to ask why he was there, nor had I seen any indication of a burial or people gathering.

Not a great shot, and I chose to not zoom in or crop anything.

Of course many tombstones have interesting stories behind their design, this one intrigued me. I like the idea of tripping the lights fantastic for eternity.

I even managed to fit in a walk along the ocean wall, probably just as well considering how my afternoon unfolded.

Whenever I think of permanently moving to maybe Ontario I am reminded of how much I love living on the island with easy access to the ocean.

After putting in nearly 10,000 steps I felt ready for the rest of my day although it was barely 11:00am. I picked up some plants for my youngest daughter, checked out some stores at a local mall – killing time – then headed to the college to pick up my injured daughter. AS we both had to deal with ID it made sense to do everything at the same time. Parking was not easy, ended up being costly in my effort to not force my daughter to walk too far on a broken toe.

The time we spent for her BCID and my DL was not too bad, but the result pushed me into major panic. Hers was easy. Mine was more complicated. Seems honesty can create delays. I left with a Driver’s Medical Exam form that must be filled out before I leave – today. Of course I called my GP’s office right away, seems there was no space to squeeze me in yesterday of today. Go see a walk in. Panic rose. We checked the medi.map and headed to a clinic on the way home. They were great, except we could not download the information needed and the receptionist, in an effort to help, called the lab to fax it, except they sent the wrong one! So, after much wringing of hands, thanking them effusively, and muttering under my breath that I should have done my DL sooner – or lied – I said I would be back in the morning. Which I am.

Now to wait. The plan is to be done and out in time to drive home, park the car, change the litter box and catch the first of three buses to make it to the airport on time. High blood pressure anyone? Thank goodness I plan my packing way ahead!

Victoria to Ontario: budget, hitting a wall, packing…and budget

I cannot believe I am only two days from leaving for Toronto – not that TO is my final destination. (Westjet $210.00) Of course, despite micromanaging, too many lists, and lists for those lists, I am still working on all the little things. My main goal for the weekend was to repack my carry on yet again do some bookings, check that my budget is on track, running around and any shopping for Musa. Much of this Blog will be about budget travel because travelling in Canada on a very fixed income is bloody expensive. (What I had not factored in was a broken toe. Not mine.)

Let’s start with the injury. I am usually the one who ends up injured when on a trip – a broken wrist one year, torn menisci another, banged head nearly every trip, dreadful allergic reaction to mosquito bites, just some of what I have managed to collect in my memory bank. However, this time, not having an elderly kitty to worry about, my daughter picked this week to run into a corner wall resulting in a broken toe! So I ended up doing far more driving this week than I had anticipated. It is no fun hobbling to two bus stops with one shoe only partially on. I had already agreed to drive her to college a couple of times due to work/school/mid-terms time constraints, including the morning I depart, if she wanted but not until after the weekend. Thank goodness for over preparing! She will be on her own very soon hobbling to the best of her ability.

Fortunately Musa seems to have everything he needs. I bought a new toy for him and may buy something else if I think it will be destruction proof. The new toy is a laser pointer, we set it to a butterfly and so far he loves it. Interactive play is great. We are only somewhat worried he might be upset when I do not come home the same day – he seems to adore me. He is also quite spoiled having someone around most of the time, if not me then my daughter. She has to learn his routine!

Musa stole my new socks, I found them on the living room couch, and left his banana on my bed. Either he is trying to prevent me from leaving or needs more toys.

Onto budget. I booked my train from Toronto to Vancouver for mid August and was ecstatic when the whole trip could be covered with my combined Via Rail Preference points $260.00 equivalent and my Via e-vouchers bought with my Airmiles cash points. (Very much a Canada thing). It did take a bit of planning, praying and trading. I was short 55 points to get to Edmonton, and my one way to Kingston would only give me 44 points so the agent gifted me with the 55. Thank you Via Rail! The trip from Edmonton to Vancouver was a special rate just short of $153.00 if booked online. As one daughter does take Via at times she agreed to ‘buy’ $160.00 of my vouchers. I still have enough for Toronto > Kingston > Toronto. I am happy to say I am still on track with my budget.


If everything works out as planned I can go for coffee s whopping 16 times using Starbucks points thanks to my daughter having a card and allowing me to use her points. I doubt she will be going for coffee anytime soon for me to have even more points. Doing the math that is the equivalent of $80.00 factoring in a free refilled each time. Note, I do not regularly visit Starbucks when I travel but this time I will so as to get out and about, and perhaps meet people.


There has been a lot of negativity regarding Airmiles over the last few years, even I have been disappointed at times. However, overall I find that if I have a goal, regularly shop at one of the stores, and pay close attention to when extra Airmiles are offered, it is fairly easy to accumulate the miles. The key has been to not shop for the sake of making the miles. We still only shop for what we need or want but will consider waiting or going a couple of days sooner. Not only have I managed a free Via Rail trip home, I can buy the groceries I will need for the trip, and even get an Ultimate Dining Card e-voucher to dine out at one of the many Cara affiliated restaurants. With 1000 across the the country I should be able to find something! To date equivalent of $160.00


Besides Musa trying to be ever so helpful I am relatively ready. Except I tore everything apart in the clothing section in my attempt to pare my choices down even more. I had planned to take two dresses, now only one that will also serve as a long top for capris length leggings. I also took out my bathing suit – I just do not think I will need it. I did buy two new tops, under $20.00 for both, but removed two others. Oh, and brand new socks. I will have to make sure Musa has not run off with more of those.


This will be a budget trip. possibly the tightest travel budget I have attempted. As mentioned, Canada is expensive. I am fortunate that I have family to stay with when I am in Ontario. However, some of the negatives are not being able to change great flights, or trains, already booked when things go slightly askew unless one is willing to shell out a lot more money. It also means I am travelling strictly in economy when I fly to Toronto and when I take the train home. I will have one night in Toronto that my eldest daughter will cover for me. I will be pet sitting for my daughter in Kitchener while she jets off to Vancouver then visits home (sob) since moving away five years ago. I also found out, after booking my train, that my eldest daughter and family will be going away before I leave. That in itself is not a major problem other than their home being in the country and their vehicles are too big for me to feel comfortable driving. I do have the option of returning to Kitchener or just enjoying the country like a summer retreat. They also have pets so I could pet sit until I have to leave.

The number crunching indicates I am ahead $411.00, which is great! I plan to budget in $310.00 starting from when I leave Victoria and would love to not need more than that despite being away 2 1/2 months. (Now where is my notebook to keep track) However, knowing most of my transportation is now covered I feel quite comfortable that if I should need more it will not be a problem. Even after factoring in transit to and from departure spots the only possible big expense might be an overnight stay in Toronto the night before I catch the train home. That is what hostels are for!

Victoria to Ontario May – Aug/19: finding activities

In the hope I will indeed be in Ontario for 2 1/2 months I decided to start to write about my preparations. In my previous blog I mentioned I want to begin doing a YouTube channel. Which was a lofty goal. Also a mighty fail. That was my packing video. The video I was so confident I would have on my channel that I deleted it from my phone. So much for screen shots to enhance my blog. (Not that I have mastered that yet)

Onward. As I am working at this being a one shoestring budget trip I am always happy when an activity I might be interested in, at minimal cost, turns up. My daughter in Kitchener, who will be here rather than there, told me about an opportunity she would love to attend on June 9th. But, she will be here, not there. It is a tour of the Buddhist Temple in Bethany, near Peterborough ON.

Artist’s rendition of the temple. It is not yet completed.

A significant chance for my daughter to possibly meet some of the people involved, but she will be here, not there. So I offered to call the number to get more information and see if I can go instead. I would not be doing any research per se (oh, did I forget to mention that this temple is the one my daughter is doing her thesis on? So, significant!) but I can listen, take any written information and of course take pictures. I may even dare to chance a video. The only difficulty will be getting there and back to Kitchener all in one day.

I spoke on the to the ‘local ambassador’ for the temple, a role she has had for twelve years, when I explained my interest she provided some information on upcoming events, names of contacts, and her email address to pass to my daughter, and pencilled me in for the noon tour after providing some suggestions for getting there.

It sounds like the only stumbling block will be getting from the Peterborough GO Station (all these names & transportation mean very little to me) to Bethany – or maybe it is Manvers. Visitors are to meet at a tea room where, I think, we will be driven to the temple site.

I am thrilled to be able to consider this as I did not have time to visit the Cham Shan Temple in Niagara Falls where my daughter did her MA research. There is a chance I can also go at a later date in the summer with my daughter; however, it would most likely be research based for her. I think there is enough time to get it all sorted and it will mean a little solo adventure for me. Of course I will take my pandas.

Things Are looking Up

It has been some time, two months according to my stats, since I last wrote. I am verging on saying wrote anything meaningful. However, I mainly write for me although seeing there has been past interest in my nattering is rather nice. It is also a bit guilt inducing. It seems my lack of writing jumped into not reading the posts of some excellent bloggers. I stick to only 2-3. Perhaps my viewing will open up again once I have one foot firmly stepping forward.

The photo has nothing to do with travel! This is the new addition to our family, 6 month old Musa – he is my daughter’s but has adopted me as his main person. I do have a video of him ‘helping’ me pack, just have to figure out how to grab a still picture.

All this begs the question, why? Definitely lack of movement was primary. Perhaps some jealousy that there are others out there doing what I want to do. Travel, marvel, revel….you know, all those hits at the emotions when something exciting, frustrating, NEW, occurs. I just did not have the monetary means to go anywhere much further than my backyard. By the time January hit I was even less inclined to do anything besides be a slug, or at best a bear deep in hibernation. Rather silly considering I live on the west coast of Canada, on an island of sublime beauty, where snow is a foul word. And that should explain part of my malaise, we did get snow. It did get cold.

I did a quick weather statistics check, it seems that the period of Feb 1 – 15 this year Victoria had “…the most snowfall out of all major Canadian cities in February” which is quite significant for here. Even our cherry blossoms, for which we are to an extreme proudd of despite their not being native to the area, came out late. Or regressed. So it was a miserable winter. I had nowhere to run off to for a break in the monotony. I was bored.

I was also possibly sick. The jury is still out on that. And my knee still hurts from a fall in November 2017. (Torn menisci – I never do things by halves – on the last day of my 3 month trip in Vietnam and China) Of course the main suggestion was to slow down. I tried working instead. That was a bust. Yet I still wanted to do something. As I knew I would be flying to Toronto late May I started planning for that with, finally, a trip to Churchill. Sadly, that part was once again derailed – fortunately not the actual railway this time. Just enough changes in what is available to make me put that trip on hold. However, I did know I would be visiting family in two cities. All in an effort to travel even if on a very tight, frayed budget.

Except even that was sidetracked! I started to feel as though something was telling me to stay home. Upon reflection it became apparent I was just jumping into solo travel again – my favourite. It seems trying to surprise an academic (my daughter is a PhD candidate) can be a problem when various conferences are being held. My plan to visit for two weeks was thwarted when she told me she had been accepted to do a presentation in Vancouver! During the time I would be where she lives. So, I will look after her pets while she and my son in-law visit ‘home’ after being away nearly five years. Not a complete loss. We will still do things in her city and area upon her return. I am pushing to visit the site she is focussing her research on.

I shall sally forth. The plan is to visit back and forth between Kingston and Kitchener for about two months. If anyone has suggestions of free things to do in Kitchener-Waterloo, Toronto, or even Kingston (although I may have exhausted everything of interest to me on my last extended stay there) let me know!