Ontario Visit: shaping up to a stellar weekend

Canada Day is fast approaching, July 1st for anyone not living in the Great White North, and people in Kingston are certainly proud to be Canadians. Possibly having a Canadian Forces Base, originally slated to be the capital city all those years ago when the country was in its infancy, and just the fact we do have an awesome, relatively inclusive yet diverse population. (In other words we still have to work to do, but hey, we are still a young country). I digress, a great weekend leading up to a celebration.

This time last year we were doing last minute preparations for a wedding. First anniversary upcoming, nothing grand planned – after all, they have been together for nearly 27 years! This means I can spend time with my daughter, SIL and grandson without any of us feeling rushed or having to fit everything in. It also meant I had another day to explore on my own.

Queen’s University Theology Hall where one of my daughter’s received her MA in religious studies.

Once again I opted to go into town in the wee hours, this time arriving around 6:30am. I think the staff at the Princess Street Starbucks might have cringed when I walked in – no errors, friendly service and I was recognized. I have to expand my horizon. This day I took my book and a lunch. Two coffees later, plus breakfast that I did put on my card and points (5:30am was too early to do much beyond shower, dress, climb into the truck) and probably four chapters later, I was ready to wend my way to the Agnes Etherington Art Centre at Queen’s University https://agnes.queensu.ca/ where there are five new exhibits and a newly acquired Rembrandt. Once more, I am not an artist nor an expert of any media. I just enjoy what others have created. It also helps that entry is free.

Flooded path along Lake Ontario – the ducks were loving it!

Although intriguing, and one of the exhibits I wanted to check out, I had to walk away from much of Let’s Talk About Sex because of the media used. I simply cannot watch screens with jiggling shots, they make me feel ill. Having to wear headphones and watch a small screen just about did me in. My favourite

exhibits were the Stepping Out https://agnes.queensu.ca/exhibition/stepping-out-clothes-for-a-gallery-goer/ and Puvirnituq https://agnes.queensu.ca/exhibition/puvirnituq-graphic-arts-in-the-60s/. Although a couple of the exhibits will close in August 2019 others are open to the end of the year and beyond. Best of all, there will be new ones. I urge anyone visiting Kingston to visit this gallery.

I imagined swirling around in this gorgeous skirt doing the Jive. I am not old enough to have learned it when the craze – in my teens my then boyfriend’s parents taught several of us.

And then there is the upcoming Kingston Artfest https://www.artfestontario.com/kingston at City Park, an Annual 200+ artists/craftspeople/bakers plus, showcasing and selling their works, happening through to Canada Day, a lush, green space about a slow 15 minute walk from town, for all to enjoy; and the ongoing Music In the Park at Confederation Park across from City Hall, a fabulous setting and an hour of great music to dance, reminisce, or just listen to. A quick count of the summer line up shows at least 23 more one hour concerts! (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday) Also the main stage for Canada Day celebrations taking over for July 1st.

It is events like this that I wish I had more than just my iPhone! The fountain let off a very slight spray for those of sitting on the shady side. Such a lovely setting.

By the time I was picked up I was exhausted but my day was not yet over! My daughter decided she needed to go out for dinner so, although I had already eaten, I went along to be company. What do nurses do when they have a couple of days off? They dance! (A few of the other women at the pub that night are also in the health field) Creekside Bar & Grill is a country favourite.

Our nod to Canada Day!

Not even Saturday and I had already filled my plate, a mani/pedi spa day, gift from my daughter, the movie Aladdin, with Will Smith, and dinner out rounded out my Friday. Hats off to Ester at Landmark Cinemas for dealing with our wrong day tickets! We stayed up past midnight, had lots of laughs and planned for more weekend activities. A reminder to anyone at home or travelling the world, look for the little things, they might even be free and far more interesting!

Expenses: Dinner x 2, nail spa and the movie were a lovely treat from my daughter. I had loaned money to my youngest daughter, she returned it plus an extra $5.00 to cover any fees. Still well within budget! It was also the end of the month which meant checking in with finances for those boring bills that must be paid regardless of travels. Happy to discover I could add $200.00 to my budget! Technically this means I could spend an average of $10.00 per day for the month of July. (I still have $100.00 from June)

Ontario Visit: “Take Me Home, Country Roads

During my time in Kingston I am staying out in the country. There is not a lot to do when one does not have a vehicle. Rather than always catch a ride in the early morning rain it sometimes makes more sense to check the weather forecast, catch an early breeze, and follow the tweets and twitters of the birds as I went wandering up the road. The key is to go for a walk early enough to avoid the heat and humidity and again after dinner.

There were sheep lowing, birds twittering, squirrels skittering, frisky chipmunks, leaves rustling and grass flowing. I was also on the lookout for monarch butterflies – my son in-law me had heard this is supposed be a big year for their return. None sighted today. This is what I discovered. I even had time to make muffins and dinner once the heat was less intense.

Every year I expect to see this place tumbled down.

The neighbours up the road.
How much more country can one get! Our very own country road Canada Day Parade is coming up.
To be honest I have no idea what is in these silos. Perhaps hay or grain for the sheep lowing lowly in the next barn.
Only a short cut to school if you have a scythe and the key.
I have no idea what these small, yet robust, flowers are that grow along the roadside. Once they blossom the flowers are laid back in a many pointed star.
Original water pump? Country style only? Who knows, just there.
Reminder to self: never take over someone’s baking when they. Annoy recall at which step they stopped! Banana/applesauce muffins – needed more applesauce.

Ontario Visit: looking up & smelling the roses

First, the only rose bush I came across is in my daughter’s front garden which has yet to bloom from its tightly fold bud. Anticipation. There is, however, an abundance of lovely, sometimes fragrant blossoms in the country outside of Kingston as well as in the city. These in addition to the now familiar streets, lakefront and architectural pleasures that abound in the downtown core. There is also quite decent internet to be found.

After three days of ease in the relative quiet of the countryside it was high time I caught a ride to town. The farthest I had gone since arriving was to a small general store that is a five minute drive away where I bought coffee cream and, wickedly decadent, two small cinnamon rolls. I had no choice, they were packaged together. Not that there was much to choose from by mid-afternoon. Although I do not know if the store owners do their own baking the selection has the look and flavour of being local. Other than that foray into the world I had been catching up on my reading – finished yet another book, am now down to three, one of which I have started, walks every day, feeding the animals, enjoying the weather before it becomes sweltering, and just taking it easy.

My daughter’s peonies had been tightly closed the day I arrived only to suddenly pop into full bloom nearly overnight.

By my fourth day I needed internet that would not constantly shut down at the slightest twitch of a finger or the swaying of a single leaf. The property is surrounded by tall, densely leaved maples that block out the signal. There is something about the configuration of the land and house because the neighbours next door and across the street seem to have no problems. My plan was to edit a paper (I tend to ignore my own errors), while I had a coffee and muffin at SB, then go for a walk before calling (or texting) for a ride. There are not any buses, taxis would eat my paltry budget in two days and walking or riding a bike are nearly impossible.

As mentioned, I am now quite familiar with downtown Kingston. Once I was on a walk it felt rather like coming home. I then wondered what could draw my attention in an area I had thoroughly explored over the past few years. I walked along Confederation Way along Lake Ontario before being enticed by a patio adorned with lush foliage and flowers. After admiring this patio surround I realized many of the small patios had similar arrangements to entice would be customers. I tend to think this is two fold: primarily a way to encourage patrons, as well as throwing off the heavy mantle of winter. What better way than to sit in a comfortable patio chair, umbrella overhead, flowers, and bees buzzing, sipping a cold drink, a perfectly brewed coffee or enjoying a meal without a care in the world.

I then did what I always do, and recommend to anyone when visiting new places – I looked up. I had seen some of the cupolas and bell towers that adorn many of the older buildings and of course churches on previous visits yet never really took cognizance of them. Despite passing by Hotel Dieu Hospital many times, including going there to have my arm casted I had never noticed the rather large, if somewhat dilapidated, cupola with the cross atop it. Perhaps it was how the sun slanted across it. This occurred just as I was to step inside the Kingston Public Library, that had been closed for two years for renovations; across the street is the Greek Orthodox Church, a simple enough structure enhanced by a beam of sun streaming down.

Hotel Dieu Hospital was once run by the Catholic Church.

A two hour stop at the cavernous library, yet full of light (they need more stacks to dull the echoes) to get away from the encroaching heat – the sun and I do not always get along – and to work on that edit, I was more than ready to find lunch and go for another walk. To save money, using the App my daughter has, I went back to SB, where I know they have a small variety of protein boxes that I can eat. I would have brought my lunch if I had not left the house at 6:30AM! I did have a granola bar that I ignored until my blood sugar plummeted when still at the library. (I do try to avoid such events) Sated I continued my meandering.

I want to steal that book title!

I would cross paths with my all time favourite Kingston coffee shop a couple of times, managing to resist temptation, a church with its bell tower appearing to be readied to have its bell removed or possibly returned, another church with all the doors flung wide open – I went inside to escape the heat and humidity that had snuck up, enjoying the hushed tones, cool depths and sweeping ceilings. There are probably ten churches within walking distance of City Hall. I may map out visiting any that are open to visitors. I made a point to walk by St. George’s Cathedral, they still hold weekly summer, lunch time concerts every Thursday. No lunch though.

This is on my extravagant spending list.

It was soon time to text for a ride. I even took a short break at the nearby Tim Horton’s -it has a dreadful reputation for having drug dealers and street people hanging about, the latter were across the street and I guess all the dealers were having a break elsewhere. I was to meet my ride across the street. A long day, arriving at the house after 4:00, yet productive with plans in my head for upcoming ventures into town.

Expenses: $16.94 medicine (I found out later my daughter has what I needed, oh well); $2.05 Tim Horton’s coffee & 2 Timbits. Starbucks card $7.65 (this will not be included in my budget)

Ontario Visit: going broke in Toronto

(Note: Staying in the country has its pluses and minuses: it is so peaceful; so much so that internet access is sporadic. I started to write and download this blog the evening I arrived – Thursday; another attempt and it is approaching lunchtime on Saturday.)

A final farewell to my daughter at the corner of King and Victoria, a grasp of the handle on my small suitcase to trundle my way to the train station and I was on my way to another adventure. My eldest daughter had hopped on a train heading from the opposite direction. Toronto beckoned.

Farewell Kitchener, I will be back!

I consider myself a seasoned traveller, and I have been to Toronto a few times, which meant a whirlwind trip of my not really doing much should have been easy. The trip from Kitchener to Toronto was uneventful other than leaving about ten minutes late. I read more of my book The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck) and arrived by 11:00am. Plenty of time to grab a cup of coffee, relax and look up the best way to get to where we would stay for the night.

I learned that the 24 hours we would be in the city would include a few firsts for my daughter’s friend who was joining her to go to a Kids On the Block conncert for her 40th birthday week. (When did birthdays become weeks? Perhaps only for milestone years) First time on a train. They arrived maybe ten minutes late, our friend took a lot of selfies, then we decided out best option would be a taxi to our stay after considering three people would only be a few dollars over public transit and we would not have to walk a couple of blocks.

I highly recommend checking out university dorms for a summer trip. CampusOne, on College St. is a shining new, extremely clean, 25 storey, quality dormitory. Our suite had four bedrooms, two full bathrooms and a small common area with a view that would normally cost far more than the $200 plus tax, including buffet breakfast, we paid. Lots of amenities and a short distance from Kensington Market, Chinatown and of course the University of Toronto.

The view from my room, mid afternoon.

Although the TV show King of Kensington was before my daughter’s time I remember it and was happy to finally make it to the popular market. Lots of shops to poke about in without even going inside, so many eateries it would take at least a full month of eating out for every meal and snacks, and a tattoo shop my daughter dearly wanted to be inked at. Common sense prevailed, time was tight and she would most likely be dancing up a sweaty storm at the concert. Another trip is stewing.

A sign of the times.we went in. The fellow answering my questions was so laid back I thought he would be dozing any minute.
One of a few murals we came across.

Meanwhile, although the temperature was mild we did feel as though we had been stewing in the sneaky humidity. It was time to stop at Dolce Gelato for what else, gelato! . Another first for our friend! My choices -of course I had two types, mango and pompelmo rosa (pink grapefruit-not allowed with one of my medications) – were delicious. We opted to have bowls and sat inside after our couple of hours wandering the streets. Before we knew it we had to head back to our rooms to change for dinner. I had been up for finding somewhere nearby, perhaps a Persian restaurant. I guess the friend was not quite ready for a foreign meal and my daughter had already discussed where we should eat. Irish Embassy Pub was booked, later I discovered primarily for the deep fried pickles.

Always willing to share!

The pickles ended up being a special request, seems they are only served after 10:00pm from the bar menu. Always ask, and have a good reason. That worked. The empty plate was certainly an indication they were excellent. (I do not like pickles) Pubs are never my first choice to eat at. They are noisy with loud, big screen sports channels and often music at the same time. This place was no different. Our table was tucked right next to the work space of the staff – thank goodness there was a high wall cutting off that view. The whole place just seemed too crowded despite several empty tables. I chose the crab and shrimp cakes plus a bowl of chips (aka french fries). Our friend had fish and chips. My daughter had baked Brie and chicken & asparagus soup. Another first for our friend, she had never had Brie, baked or otherwise! My shellfish cakes were wonderful. They really were real crab and shrimp. Being from the west coast I was rather worried. The fries were good, just too many. I forgot them in the common fridge at our stay. (There is not a fridge in any of the suites) The Brie was also delicious, and our friend was very happy with her fish and chips. However, unless I had nowhere else to go, and that is highly unlikely in Toronto, I would not return.

I was put in a snazzy, huge, black cab (like a SUV but far nicer) to go back to the dorm while my daughter and her friend walked to the Scotia Centre for the concert. I think I had the best of it, a room with a view of the CN Tower, slowly lighting up as the evening progressed, and some live Facebook action from my daughter and her friend of the concert – no jostling crowds, no screaming fans, no overheating, I was in a happy space.

I heard the ladies coming in around midnight. I had a dreadful sleep, the beds are hard and too high for me, making getting out of bed a bit of a death defying leap. However, for the price and the view I will return if with anyone. We could always use one of the extra rooms for our luggage. We had a decent selection for breakfast: scrambled eggs, three types of hash browns, bacon, sausages, and another meat selection in the hot section; two types of yogurt, fresh and canned fruit choices, various muffins or croissants, cereal and do it yourself toast. Of course there was coffee, tea, juice and milk. No hot chocolate, perhaps it is offered to students living there once winter sets in. The eggs were good, and I took some butter and jam for my muffin I expected to eat later when on the train.

When we checked out we were asked if we had gone to the lounge on the 25th floor. We had not; when told it was not a view to be missed we headed up. Once we caught our collective breath we headed back down with a plea to be allowed to go back up for about an hour as it as raining and our train would not leave until the afternoon. This is yet another view that people pay a lot of money for. There are two very decent size lounges, the one we were in has a 180+ panoramic view, of course including the CN Tower and downtown skyline. We had the place to ourselves until the last minute, as we were gathering our belongings six guests arrived. It was a peaceful end, or so I thought, to a nice quick visit to Toronto.

The view from the lounge the following day & proof We were there.

So what happened to shatter the peace? Without being too blunt I was not well. It was not the meal from the previous night, nor breakfast, nor the gelato, I just happen to have an ongoing, as yet undetermined why, issue that makes going anywhere iffy. Thank goodness we had factored in enough to time to walk to Union Station if we wanted to. Also for a drugstore very nearby and a Chinese Herbal medicine shop where I could have managed to state my dilemma in Mandarin if necessary – it was not. I stopped at both. I had a miserable walk, pushing and pulling my damn suitcase, yet I was not so poorly off, or willing, to want to chance getting into a taxi. When I lived in China I was given medication for diarrhea and had considered buying it in Victoria ever since this problem reared its ugly existence, it works wonders, Po Chai pills. A tiny vial of teeny tiny pills is one dose.

We made it onto the train with five minutes to spare. I napped, took the Po Chai pills, napped some more, and by the time we arrived in Kingston anyone might have thought I had just been difficult! My now very tall grandson and his girlfriend met us at the station, I was given a lovely hug, and we headed into the country where solitude, a big porch, dog and cat awaited us.

Expenses: $22.00 dinner (huge bite from my budget); $15.00 taxi. I did not pay for my gelato nor even a portion of the first taxi, and nothing for our suite. I will however repay my daughter for my train from Toronto to Kingston – $40.00. The two medications were paid for with a credit card, there is a good chance my daughter at home will not ask for me to repay that as this is an ongoing condition. That said, I spent more on food and local transportation in one evening than I had spent in six days!

Ontario Visit: Kitchener history and a bit of mine

Since arriving in Kitchener I have kept busy with everything there is to do here. So I am always surprised when residents of the city have absolutely no idea what is beyond their regular routine. This includes my daughter and her husband! When the topic came up, the day after we had visited Victoria Park, I learned that rather than a lack of interest it was more one of not thinking about what might be happening or where to visit. I am probably just as guilty of that when at home except I no longer have to worry about work or academic deadlines. I decided to continue with my morning search of an activity on my last Sunday. To my delight that choice also put me on the trail of a historic site close to downtown Kitchener.

There are many small galleries in the area. I found yet another gallery about a 20 minute walk from where I was staying. The Uptown Gallery at Waterloo Town Square promotes local artists, with new shows every two months, as well as inviting non-members to showcase their work. When I was visiting the works were primarily paintings of various genres, art photography, and glasswork. Sadly my iPhone photo skills were too poor to showcase any of the paintings except for one exquisite glass plate I coveted.

Just as well I have only carry on luggage and a minuscule budget. Breakage would be heartbreaking.

The artist working the space that day asked me if I had been to Schneider Haus National Historic Site in downtown Kitchener – I had not. She was kind enough to look up their hours, open till 5:00 that day. Also the only day open before I would leave. I thanked her, hopped on a bus and headed downtown. It did take a bit of a walk as the site is not in the centre of town – which explains how I had missed it. It is relatively close to Victoria Park. In addition to the house there is another gallery, currently showing Storytelling in Stone (Sophie Drouin) a mosaic artist – also the artist who had directed me to the site without saying too much about her own involvement.

Schneider Haus is Kitchener’s oldest homestead dwelling (1816) built by Joseph Schneider, a Pennsylvania-German Mennonite, for his family. I asked what the difference is between Pennsylvania-Dutch, my father’s ancestors – Loyalists rather than any faith – and Pennsylvania-German. Nothing really except those saying Dutch as their heritage came to what is now Canada in the mid to late 1800s and settled further west. That fits in with my father’s family history.

Master bedroom, there is also a trundle bed, a child’s cot and a cradle.

Although costumed interpreters/historians representing life in 1856, which was when the second generation of Schneiders occupied the homestead, were present they discussed the history, answered questions, and pointed out various interesting items in the present day. It is always easier to learn about a place rather than having staff take on a character they may not move out of.

This wheel was in the upper room of the rebuild first house (tiny) where the girls (the Schneider’s had a ‘small’ family, 4 girls 2 boys) had room to walk back and forth spinning. The interpreter said the women averaged 20 miles a day spinning.

During my walk I came across two other buildings with some historic significance. Mutual Life Head Office (now Sun Life Insurance) the original building, an ornate symbol of “Waterloo’s first life insurance company”, with the new offices attempting to tower above. Despite the high glass new structure the elaborate work of the Renaissance Revival (1912) building never fails to draw my eye. I discovered the oak and maple leaves of silver along the low garden walls. I have no idea if the represent anything beyond being pretty.

Not very comfortable to sit on!

Finally, for many people my age a sad indication of time marching by. I immediately recognized the sign outline, and the shape of blue roof – a glimpse into my past. (Eventually the roof of all these ice cream parlours were red and the only article about this particular store indicates it might have been at one time) This was a Dairy Queen, serving dipped chocolate ice cream cones for 62 years! To give that perspective I am 61. The first Canadian DQ opened in Saskatchewan in 1953. as a child we would stop at Dairy Queen (never DQ) for ice cream after the harrowing 100 miles from Prince Rupert to Terrace.

I had no idea my steps would take me back in time to thoughts of my ancestors and my childhood all the way from Ontario to Saskatchewan to northern B.C. by simply glimpsing an old store and visiting an old Haus.

Expenses: Giant ginger cookie (Sabletine Bakery) $3.63; Schneider Haus $5.65 (I believe this is the first time I have paid an entry fee unless my lunch were included since arriving in Kitchener – well worth it)