Ontario Visit: Fleeting Glimpses – Via Rail Day 1

Once again my bags were packed and I was ready, or sort of ready. I spent the evening out with my daughter, SIL & friends of theirs at the Kitchener Blues Festival https://unattendedgrandma.wordpress.com/2019/08/19/ontario-visit-winding-down-to-go-home/which meant getting back to the house later than was a good idea. However, as already noted we all had a great time. At least nearly everything was ready to just grab and go for the 5:04am bus to Toronto. Fortunately that was just a short jaunt to the stop. I had been up since 3:00am and actually fell asleep on the bus during some of the 1 1/2 hour trip before having to change buses. I also saved money when the driver only charged half the fare – I guess I look older first thing in the morning!

At Square One, no idea where that is situated other than between Kitchener and Toronto, I had enough time to grab a coffee before about another 1 1/2 hours on a bus. How to determine if a major terminal? Look for a Starbucks. I was making use of my App and already ahead by $10.00 – a great start to my morning. By the time I arrived in Toronto and made the short walk to Union Station I was ready for more coffee and breakfast. I think it was 8:30 – my train would depart at 9:50. Slightly behind schedule.

I snagged a window seat – home for four nights – I was saying a silent prayer for nobody joining me.

First in line – perhaps first choice of seats? Nope, but I did just fine. This is a popular sign for pictures!

Parry Sound – looks like a lovely place to visit. Perhaps another trip.

Capreol – a little rain was welcome. The smokers who clogged the carriage aisles to get out were not.

Kawaweogama Lake: 210km NW of Thunder Bay, (the train does not go there) still in Ontario -TB is yet another town I once lived in as a child. We had entered Day 2.

I was not lucky my first night, a woman in her 80s joined me fairly late. Not so bad except she was a smoker. I spent my first night in the chilly sky dome.

However, the glimpses out my window were magnificent. A lone falcon slowly circling; herons still as the bulrushes; lily pads wearing golden crowns; a giant stop sign nailed to a tree with no sign of human traffic; brightly coloured canoes slip sliding away; then much later, another lake a lone fisherman slowly motoring against setting sun reds. Dusk descends early, sun dappled trees darken, lakes earlier inviting, shine ominously black. Molten silver confuses. Deadheads lurk. A single blackened tree – lightening strike? Disease? Too swiftly moving forward – all is wonder.

Swaying and steady clickety clack lulled me to sleep.

Ontario Visit: ahhh, the ocean!

After four days at home I was finally feeling more like myself. Just as well as I had an early morning appointment the first Monday I was back. Which also meant I would have time to drive to a park I used to take my children to but rarely visit these days. Note: I have not forgotten my four day train ride – see above, it took four days to get back to normal – I just have to gather my notes and thoughts along with my sparse photos. It is not easy taking pictures from a moving train. Meanwhile, a quick respite at Cadboro-Gyro Park.

Perhaps Caddy, our very own Cadborosaurus was frolicking on the shores a bit too much. All polished up since my children played on her.
Or that lurking octopus may have had a hand…tentacle or two in the wanton destruction.
That giant starfish looked far too busy to have had anything to do with it.
Easy access to the beach for any and all. Of course I took off my sandals to wiggle my toes in the sand. We do not have many sandy beaches in Victoria.
Natural driftwood sculpture and driftwood architecture in the background.
Rarely does a day go by when there is not a craft on the waters nearby.
Aha! I found the modern day culprit. Perhaps they did not get the memo. Like all sand castles the powers that be smooth them away – albeit with a little help from Public Works.

Ontario Visit: winding down to go home

The afternoon I left Kingston for Kitchener was not special or sad or spectacular, but the memory of waiting for a breaking news announcement remains etched in my brain. Five of us may have missed our train despite it being late if we had waited for the news. It was not even earth shattering news. Rather, it was a harsh reminder of how horrible events grab our attention. It made me think about how fragile life is and why I should always be grateful for what I have.

Waiting at Via Rail Station, Kingston

In Kitchener I met with my daughter, we walked to her house, and had a quiet evening. My visit was already winding down. However, I did manage to ride on the new transit system, called the Ion. A rail system that runs from the far end of Waterloo to the far end of Kitchener in about 45 minutes. A smooth ride, shiny cars, still spic and span after running for about a month.

My last two days were packed full. First we had lunch at one of my daughter’s favourite coffee shops. (Too bad I forgot the name) Funky order pieces, fun tables. A great place that gets excellent coffee, vegetarians and vegans! We then met up with some of her friends to attend the Blues Festival – both nights. There were three main stages and several smaller venues. Kitchener was hopping! Opening night we managed to partake of heavenly cones at Four-All pop-up ice cream parlour. The final night the food trucks were making brisk business and the vibe was fantastic. I had a giant Turkish samosa plus rice stuffed grape leaves – nothing like dolmades – at the Queen of Shawarma. I was so impressed I convinced everyone else to go back to try something then discovered another friend, who is from Turkey, highly recommends her. As for the music, oh my! We were privileged to hear the smooth sax of Vanessa Collier as she wove her magic through the tent without missing a beat nor seeming to take a breath. She is also blessed to be a mean guitar player and an excellent blues singer. It was tough to be wrenched away but 4:00am would be early.

The lobster imprint is hilarious considering this is a vegetarian cafe!
My bags were all packed…
All I had to do was…stuff all my food into containers for the four night train ride!

I had 7 divided containers that I used to make grabbing meals easier plus breakfast and snack choices. Ice packs come in handy but foldable, on wheels, coolers they a couple of passengers had may be a purchase I will have to look into. I did not expect to have enough food for my whole trip yet needed enough to ensure I would not run into s problem with no choices I could eat as well as keep my costs down. What I packed: six boiled eggs; three small tuna cans; mini croissants; pre-cut broccoli and apples; cheese; aioli dip; yogurt; granola bars; dried apricots; two muffins; coffee cream; ground coffee. (I would purchase meals three times.)

I must have looked worn out after sleeping very poorly and getting up at 3:00 am, the bus driver gave me the senior rate. At half off I was not going to complain. Two buses later I was at Union Station. I was beginning to seriously doubt my sanity before I was even on the train. A cup of coffee helped to temporarily normalize the morning.

I was even first in line to board the train which meant I would be able to get a window seat. No guarantee I would not have a seat mate at some point. (I did, but not for several hours and only one night). We rolled out roughly ten minutes behind schedule. Once settled I had a small picnic breakfast then stared out my window. I was headed home!

EXPENSES: up to boarding the train. (I may have missed a couple of amounts as I kept track in more than one place)

Vagabond Coffee $2.75. Bleh! Even adding more cream and hot water did nothing to improve the taste. This infuriated me as a I specifically asked if the server was using the bottom of the pot after seeing her tip it. Shawarma Queen, $12.00 – enough to share but I ate it all. (Probably not a good idea for early morning travel) GO Bus, $9.75 (general fare 19.75); groceries & sundries for train $45.00 including a pair of flip flops for wearing on board. I worked out the actual meal portion to $7.00 per day. I was cutting my available cash very closely.

Ontario Visit: prepping for my epic journey home

 I am busy not being busy for once. A couple of down days for my four enforced down days on a train. I do have to figure out food, and COFFEE, to remain somewhat sane sleeping on seats that recline only a very little. It is my hope I will not have anyone sit beside me. I will be at the station quite early which means there is a chance I can at least grab a window seat unless there are a lot of young people travelling. They tend to rush ahead of everyone and spread everything out on ‘their’ territory. I am speaking from experience, not crotchety old age. Having travelled on hard seats in China I will not be thwarted from establishing my own space. Perhaps most of the passengers will be berth or cabin paying. even I can hear my inner voice asking if I am bonkers.

Back to food. The on-board choices are not great for economy besides having fairly generous hours of operation. I had played with the idea of buying pre-packaged meals from StarBucks using my AirMiles. Aha, thinking like Pooh &  using my “Very little Brain…[to] Think of Things” I came up with buying a package of ‘meal prep’ containers I had come across at Dollarama. Only $4.00 for 7. (that’s CAD) Three compartments each, lid closes well, and reusable! So far I have mini croissants, small cans of tuna, dried apricots, granola bars, small pots of yogurt (still trying to figure that out) & orange juice. Squishy ice packs. Ground coffee. I have absolutely no recollection if cream, or even milk, is available to we lowly economy class passengers.

Considering my so far rather sad selection I have had to think what else I should take along that will last for 3-4 days. Ideally I should not have to make any purchases along the way. However, we do not live in an ideal world and the train is far too often spectacularly late! There is usually a fairly long stop in Winnipeg with the station just a hop, skip and jump from the Forks where of all sorts of yummy supplies can be bought. However, I do not want to run short if there is a delay in arrival. Stops in Edmonton and Jasper might work, except the former is well into the evening and I experienced a 12 hour delay waiting for the train to arrive in Jasper one winter! From Edmonton. Which brings me back to what else to buy.

I have settled on boiling six eggs (tea eggs would be divine, sadly my daughter & SIL do not have what I need; and I am not supposed to have soy products), apples (I will pre slice those), cheese, broccoli & cauliflower – preferably already cut unless my SIL will use it up, some sort of dip. Cream. In Ontario the milk and cream come with pour spouts that have caps – hurray! I am hoping a 1/2L will be enough until I determine what is on-board. With all of that I think I should have enough, yet I still worry I have forgotten something. Of course I may become sick of tuna and eggs!

As for coffee. Of course I already have that! It came with me from home.

Ontario visit: the in between stuff!

I have been fortunate to spend quality time with my daughter and grandson over the last few weeks as well as finding activities I can do on my own when they are working or having their own fun. Visiting family for extended stays is all about balance.

What did I find to do in Kingston when I have already seen and done so much during past visits? A surprising lot! As always, Music In the Park (Confederation Park – not Centennial Park as I constantly call it! The latter is in Victoria) is always a great place to sit back and relax, have s picnic, enjoy some great music and, when it comes, a cooling breeze off Lake Ontario. During the summer Thursdays are a perfect time for the afternoon hour of music then an hour of Downtown Country before heading to the far side of City Hall for a an outdoor movie at Springer Market Square! On the evening I was in the area I saw Mama Mia: Here We Go Again after some pretty mean country picking earlier.

The United Steelpickers
I went prepared! Book for when I had to wait for the movie; lots of water, a hat, dinner in snack form, my fan – I did use it – even a snazzy seat built into a backpack that my grandson loaned to me!

Of course I sang! Very quietly. Cute movie, not what I expected.

There was finally a day when my daughter did not have to work 12 hours followed by sleeping. We had an impromptu afternoon – 3:00pm movie? Of course! Lion King was great!

I managed to snag my grandson for another Monday outing! We took advantage of the two National Parks for one price from our outing the previous week, choosing to visit the much closer Fort Henry. The original Fort was built and garrisoned during the war of 1812 but saw no military action. (Must have been pretty boring times stuck in readiness every day)

Despite having been on a tour a couple of years ago I learned more about the military and civil daily life for the inhabitants from an engaging guide. In addition to that there were some changes made since my last visit. Although I like fresh baked cookies and bread I was unsure about grilled cheese sandwiches being served at the Bonnycastle Bakery that is now within the Lower Fort – although they were far less expensive than the Battery Bistro where we eventually had lunch. However, the chocolate chip cookie I did buy, and shared with my grandson and pandas, was quite yummy. My issue is that sandwiches, like the cookies, are not authentic fare. Not that anything at the bistro, in the Upper Fort, serves anything authentic either. Their outdoor patio has a million dollar view of Lake Ontario. If given a choice another time I would go for the bakery.

A visit to Fort Henry where my friends were very near in trouble for wanting to eat the cookies before they cooled down.
I am quite sure cookies were not part of the daily rations back in the day. However, still the same ovens!
Those poor drummers were practising under the severe sun and in high humidity – I hope they are paid well to entertain we tourists!

Precision stepping and measured piping.

It might be expected that I was becoming quite worn out with so much to do! Fortunately I did have days I could just relax, go for a walk – most days it was too hot so I went to Cataraqui Mall, open late Monday through Friday, to get in my much needed steps. A visit to Picton, one of many small towns in Ontario’s wine country, to the local, exceptionally well attended and large, arts & crafts fair did nearly do me in despite having my hat, sunscreen, plenty of water from the refill station, and a few delicious choices to snack on. My daughter and I shared a giant pretzel, a variety of spreads (most of which I could not eat) before deciding we would not get dinner at the nifty, mobile fire truck pizza.

Firewood in a fire tuck!

We rocked out to Moist at Stringer Market downtown.

Attended a backyard bridal shower the following day.

Then a barbecue, complete with roasting marshmallows, the next evening!

I will be heading to Kitchener soon to spend three days before heading home on the train. The decision to return to Kitchener makes the most sense financially as well as a way to visit my family there again. I will avoid the expense of staying in Toronto overnight if I had left from Kingston by taking GO Transit from Kitchener very early the morning.

Expenses: after my trip to Ottawa I slipped in keeping careful track of everything – no real reason beyond laziness. However, despite yet another expensive day with my grandson, despite not having to pay an entry fee, I do seem to still be on track. (Speaking of which, my train trip to Kitchener was booked on Discount Tuesday by my daughter who will take my e-vouchers in payment = $60.00)

Bonnycastle Bakery: $1.60 cookie; Battery Bistro: $32.00 lunch for two