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!


Vietnam: Saigon 3 nights

I was dealing with four currencies in one day – very confusing. The VND is in ridiculously high notes – 500.000VND = 30CAD. At least my just shy of 500CNY can be put away for 20 days. I will have to be vigilant about spending, too easy to get confused and end up paying too much for something. The fact USD/CAD/EUROS & even CNY could be used at the airport – besides exchanging – surprised me. I squirrelled my money to brave the streets of Saigon to find dinner. I hoped to do some tours while in Saigon as there was no way I had enough time to work out how to get anywhere on my own.

When I first went to China in 1996 I could not believe how many bicycles there were, to be replaced by motor scooters then cars over two decades – all making for some crazy driving. Move forward 21 years to Vietnam and it is motor scooters – except the streets are insane! The noise is deafening, people jostle for a foot or wheel hold, horns toot, people shout out to passing riders to stop for a bite, parents are fetching children from school, the after school vendors are on their scooters (ready to push off if any authority shows up – happens in China too). Everyone has a place to with pedestrians at the bottom of priorities. Perhaps simply because they must not be going far if walking?

I somehow managed to walk to the wet market several blocks down – I had no idea where I was heading – and even tried out some street food. The French influence means some pretty tasty, crusty bread is found at many stalls. One place drew my attention when a crust had just been opened and was being filled with something interesting. The fellow holding it was also quite entertaining while he tried to entice me to try some. It worked. For 20,000VND I had dinner – bread filled with nicely done tofu, a long slice of cucumber marinating in something (most likely to keep it fresh), some pickled goodies, slightly cooked sprouts and a dash of hot sauce. No pictures, no pandas allowed out to share, too dangerous with all those scooters. Probably some fumes mixed in the meal. Picked up some milk to make coffee, then called it a night other than arranging for a full day City tour the next day. 

View from my room.

War Museum, how the hell does humanity still get so entangled to maim, torture, wrest away freedom, deny basic rights, fault religious and political beliefs, enough to kill each other? As my fellow morning seat mate said, I was crying on the inside. We did not have enough time for thoroughly learning about the atrocities of yet another crime against humanity.

Made from shrapnel this sculpture depicts the anguish of the mother’s of Vietnam.

Reconciliation Palace (not the War Museum) ignore the date – itvreally wasx taken in 2017!

While there My youngest daughter tried to call me. Her closest sister let me know then connected us with FB – seems she wishes she had met me in Saigon after all. I said to just come. Logistically it will most likely mean she will be a day behind me on the motorcycle tour. We are waiting on flights and an available driver and bike. (Update – it took a couple of days for her to organize everything so she would meet me in Hoi An after my tour)

Chinatown – sort of the same as any wet market, and wholesale goods in China. No idea why we were brought there other than perhaps to keep us amused for an hour. I think most of the participants were just confused and not too happy at the prospect of hanging around a maze of shops selling everything from spices, chili sauces, dried everything to whatever one might need in the home or office- plus items never even considered, let alone knowing what they were for, this form someone who has shopped in Chinese markets.

Incense cones – individuals buy these to be hung from the rafters. They tend to burn longer than the sticks.
Two deities in full glory – so brilliant behind glass. Note the pink seat next to it – in some cultures a most venerated monk would sit here, I am unsure if that was its purpose as I did not see such seats in Chinese Buddhist temples.

Pit stop for civet coffee. Of course this was the inevitable sales pitch to buy, buy, buy. At least the coffee served was free. 
A short stop, about 20 minutes at the Chinese Temple to the goddess of the sea. Built in the 17th c. The idols were beautifully draped in finery. I was beginning to feel rushed. Lunch stop, I finally had Pho! Naturally this was an extra charge. It worked out because everyone could order what they wanted or go to one of many other small restaurants. They all seem to work together when it comes to large tour groups.

Another Pit stop, this time at one of several (I discovered this the next day)Handicapped Handicrafts tour/sales pitch. The sign says 100% of the proceeds goes to the care of the individuals doing the lacquer work but how do we know? The Reunification Museum – where the tanks crashed through the gates in 1975 which basically ended the war – has about 100 rooms but we only had an hour to rush through maybe half of them. I know it sounds crazy for someone interested in history but I chose to give it a miss and headed to Highland Coffee outside the gates where I had an iced coffee and stayed cool. The gardens did look lovely, but I could see hem from outside the wrought iron fence. When I asked a fellow passenger what she thought she said it was only alright and they were rushed. Happy with my decision. Perhaps I will return to Vietnam.

Notes Dame Cathedral, built in the 1880s, was on the list of places included in the tour – too bad they did not bother to mention, until we were there – that it has been closed past three years for major renovations. All we could do was peer through the fence and take photos from a distance. I would have loved to see inside. However, with the Central Saigon Post Office right across the street I might have managed some interesting pictures. The post office was built in 1886, busy times back then, with a definite French architectural influence from the time. This is a favourite stop for tourists to buy a postcard, buy a stamp and have it postmarked from Ho Chih Minh – I wonder if they mail the postcard to their address. 

The arched, high ceiling of the post office.

That ended my first full day. I foolishly booked a 5:30am early morning tour plus the Cu Chi Tunnels for the next day. It was time for bed.

Day Two

Time for my early morning tour. I opened the door to don my sturdy, comfortable, Clarke’s sandals that used to be my mother’s….to discover they were not there. I looked inside, I checked my room, I checked all the rooms, although I knew full well I had left them on the door sill. Someone had stolen my shoes. So much for trying to live like the locals. I thought I was doing what everyone does by removing my shoes before entering a home. Seems they also bring in their footwear before retiring, I was furious and angry. I hoped the shoes would bring him nothing but misery – perhaps trip and break a leg; a possibility considering they were a size 8 whereas most women in Vietnam wear a couple of sizes smaller. Perhaps it was a man. So, that place will not be recommended.The poor guide who met me was unsure what to do with a sobbing woman the age of his grandmother when I informed him I did not know if I was up to a tour. All I wanted to do was pack and go home. 

I persevered, we headed out to see the sun rising, feel a cooling breeze and watch the city wake up. Although my guide, whose name has now escaped me, suggested I turn around to watch the sunrise I chose to watch the reflection on the river and buildings in the centre of the city . Much prettier than the garbage and rat I saw scurrying nearby.

Saigon has a massive population of over 20 million, very little space and few tall buildings to put them in. They do however have the Saigon River and many people live on the water selling a variety of goods. Most of these people come from further north, only going home during major holidays. Their children stay with grandparents to attend school. The one boat we were hoping to visit was not yet pulled into shore so we chatted about the lives of the people and some of the goods they sell. This one appeared to sell plants and, like nearly every other boat, coconuts. Each boat has living quarters and a small kitchen at the bow and lots of space for goods. They all had large, stylized eyes painted on the prow looking down to frighten away any evil spirits lurking in the water. Unlike many fishermen off the westcoast of BC when I was young up boat dwellers know how to swim – we discussed this and came to the conclusion that it is easier to climb out of a river than an ocean if you fall in. I should note that nowadays fishermen in Canada tend to know how to swim and have all sorts of flotation equipment. 

My guide was sweet, he asked if I felt any better and could he give me a hug. He was an awkward 22 year old so I thought it was alright. I did indeed feel better. Our next stop was the wholesale flower market. Flowers, flowers and more flowers. Made the me think of the musical My Fair Lady where everyone is preparing to sell and buy flowers for the day. The market never closes, 24 hour flower power. Deliveries of flowers from the delta arrive in the early morning – usually by 4:00am – and flower shops from all over the city pick up their choices starting around 6:00am. Not only were there flowers to sell in large quantities though; some stalls had astonishingly large arrangements prepared, others were preparing fancy arrangements and everywhere was busy. I learned that a display including purple and white flowers are for funerals whereas ones with red flowers are for good luck. We stopped at a stall where roses and orchids are sold where my guide presented me with a red rose. I knew it was a gimmick but his sincerity washed that thought away. 

The next stop was to a park for breakfast where people gather to hang their bird cages, sip coffee and eat breakfast while visiting. Hundreds of bamboo cages were hanging above the low tables where the birds could have fresh air and provide some rather pleasant birdsong. I would have though so many varieties of birds would create a cacophony of noise. It was actually rather pleasant. Of course we had coffee. I am becoming good at saying absolutely no sugar although I do get some stares of horror. Thick, heavily sweetened, condensed milk added to a Espresso shot is practically a national drink in Vietnam. In addition, a glass of iced green tea is often provided to help cut the bitterness. Coffee and Pho, not a bad was to end my early morning tour. We went past the two hours so had to hustle to my next tour – the Cu Chi tunnels outside of Ho Chih Minh.

The war in Vietnam was a tragedy, as is, in my opinion, any war. The politicians do not suffer the indignities or war. So, again, how often do we need reminding?  The tunnels are about a 1 1/2 – 2 hour drive from the city centre. We made one stop at yet another Handicapped Handicrafts site – a chance to stretch my legs while avoiding the sales pitch. 

The Cu Chi Tunnels were built and used by the Viet Cong from the 1940s, hidden in the jungle, as a way to escape the French during the Indochine war and eventually from American soldiers into the 1970s. The Viet Cong lived in the tunnels when absolutely necessary but otherwise had camps above ground also. Rather gruesome traps were built to prevent discovery, hidden air holes were drilled and hidden for staying underground for several days. Quick escapes into and out of the tunnels were built and camouflaged. I did try one of the tunnels, these are nasty places even now with low lights to guide visitors. I am only 5’2″ but had to stoop to pass through. It is impossible to carry a bag on your back and in some spots it is necessary to nearly crawl forward close to the ground – I did not make that attempt. Not a place to visit if claustrophobic.

Like an enemy soldier, it is possible to stand on one of the escape hatches without knowing it is there.

When I finally made it back to my room there was still no sign of my sandals. They were truly gone. I went in search of dinner, got turned around at one point – not a good idea in a city maze – finally made it to my corner, bought my dinner then was stuck where I was when a major rainstorm hit. An hour passed, I ate my dinner, sat on a chair provided by a shopkeeper and watched as water poured from the sky, down the road and into ditches. We were nearly inundated. I finally made a dash for my corner again to be stopped by water that would most likely go half way to my knees. So I did the only sensible thing – I bought a pair of pink thongs (flip-flops).
Fast food in Vietnam.

Exciting last night in Saigon. I would be heading out in the morning on a ten day motorbike tour – I hoped for sun.

Vietnam visa 25USD; SIM 15CAD;Taxi 165,000VND;Room 1.9 mill (106CAD) includes brkfst; Lunch 51,000; Entrance fees 15,000; Tour 9USD; TAXI 62,000; Iced coffee 49,000; Dinner, water, milk 42,500; Morning tour 25USD; Tunnels 125,000? + 110,000+ lunch 70,000 Pho & bottle water; Dinner: bought two eggs 6000VND; one orange 12,000!; donair because caught in a rainstorm 17,000; thongs 39,000

Or, to make things easier, I spent about 75.00CAD per day. 

Day 13: Friends & Moments

Clip clip of horse hooves outside our hostel window made it sound like we were thrown back 150 years ago, perhaps just before the Confederation of Canada. I believe the section of the hostel we are staying in is quite old. (I later found out perhaps less than 100 years) I wonder what inhabitants of QC thought about the future of Quebec, if they gave it any thought at all. There had already been so many major changes since the French and British arrived.
We again had a full day ahead of us that started at the Plains of Abraham Museum. I had already abandoned my GS to his pillow earlier to get a decent cup of coffee at Starbucks. Who would have thought I would know where two of these are in QC. Fortified with breakfast, coffee and adventure we were ready to explore. My first stop was a revisit from the previous day to take some photos of a church and nunnery that are closed, behind bars and in a state of destruction that is up the road from our hostel. The Missionnaires Du Sacre-Coeur looked miserable with its naked windows, stairs stripped away and walls bared. The church next door has a massive hole dug out in the forefront, pipes exposed. The doors shut out the beautiful stain glass (found photos from 2014) that I hope will be salvaged. I could not find what is planned for either structure. The little information I gleaned from the hostel reception was that, as the numbers of nuns decrease, nunneries and the chapels they connected with become obsolete.

On to the museum. Either I am really thick or the museum is very small. It is in a large building, next door to the burned out armoury, which had me thinking we would be spending at least a couple of hours there. However, other than a basement reception area, a small interpretive and display section, and a student display that would not open until July 1st, there was very little to see. I was quite disappointed. No apparent directions to lead us to other floors, besides where we had entered and been directed down, we left through the back doors then headed to the Citadel.
Once again it took some persuasion to convince my GS it would be interesting to pay the fee for a guided tour – the only way to see what is inside the walls of this working fortress. His father is in the military but it sounded like they had never actually gone beyond finding a free space to park. One of the perks of being military. We arrived just as a tour with the goat was finishing and within minutes for ours to begin. However, we missed the changing of guards. Our ticket did give us the opportunity to return the next morning for just that one activity.

That bayonet looked sharp.

La Citadelle de Quebec was very interesting. Home to the Royal 22nd Regiment and still a working garrison, the current citadel was built between 1820 – 1850 but the history of the site dates back to the late 1600s; we saw structures from 1693, 1750 and 1842 plus several more. The Governor General’s residence is within the walls – we could have had a tour of the house rather than the citadel.

The only cannon with a name – Rachel. A relative of mine with the same name was buried in Upper Canada in the late 1600s.

The now 105-year-long Royal 22e Régiment, the Canadian Forces’ sole French-language regular force infantry regiment, has been at the garrison since 1920. Their mascot is a goat named Batisse, I believe the current goat is Batisse 15th. A direct descendent of Batisse 1st, a gift from King George V after WWll. We saw Batisse having photos taken at the tail end of the changing of the guards. Although we missed that spectacle we did get to see and hear the noon cannon fire. Deafening.

By that time we were ready for lunch and probably a nap. The nap had to wait, we were meeting a former student of mine who now lives in New York, and her husband. I had not seen her since she was only a little older than my grandson! That was in Nanning, China. Although not the original plan we met up for lunch after we both said we were starving after a full morning exploring. Some awkward minutes for those who had not met, then a very nice meal at Chez Jules (I am quite sure I ate here on my 2014 trip!). I had the quiche, lovely.  Good conversation – even my GS – and then a couple of hours spent seeing even more sights, discussing history, academics and religion. My GS and I took them to the lower section to visit the smaller cathedral, enjoy the long allee window shopping and people watching, two murals and ride the funicular. We finished the afternoon at the Fairmont le Chateau Frontenac in the lovely lower lobby outside Starbucks. Yay, iced coffee! It had been a very hot day.

Canada through the centuries. Of course street hockey is in the forefront.

I have no recollection if we rested at the hostel after. During our pre dinner wandering I did take notice of my GS noticing some young women walk in and past our direction. I refrained from saying anything. Oh my poor daughter!
We eventually sought some dinner. To my surprise my GS did not choose Fondue or Crepes – both having been on his list my must do. After passing a couple of places a few times, one does tend to go in circles within circles in QC, checking out a few menus and discussing pros and cons we finally chose Cafe de Paris a restaurant next door to l’Omelette – the place I was not smitten with. Rather than embarrass my GS by leaving after I discovered both are owned by the same person I decided to give it a chance. Excellent service, (after I was convinced my GS they were not being snooty) great ambience, somewhat crowded with everyone seated in the front section to appear busy (popular) and very good food. I had traditional Boeuf bourguignon, my first bite of meat was melt in your mouth perfection. My GS had a very cheesy pizza. I did have to laugh when our napkins were settled on our laps with great flourish to only have my GS place his on the table. Another lesson in etiquette. We had an enjoyable evening….until I ordered coffee. What is it with the lousy coffee in QC? I have no recollection of a problem on my previous visits. This time I said something. My GS is firmly convinced I am too fussy and like to complain. I explained that if I am paying for something, especially when the price is inflated to beyond Starbucks, I want it to be good. I was willing to forego excellent by this time. The coffee was deducted.

I cannot believe we then went out for another walk! This was our last night, it was a lovely evening so off to the old city wall for a view of the lights of the city below.

This is how walls should be used if built. A show of comradeship.

5.70 coffee SB; 22.00 citadel; Funicular 12.00 (4 ppl); 4.00 ice coffee; 60.00 dinner inc tip; my former student and her husband kindly paid for our lunch; 18,000 steps

Day 11: Quebec City with my Grandson

Touring Quebec City is not for the faint of heart, nor the unfit. I was travelling with my grandson to Quebec, QC, the old city, so not exactly an unattended grandma. About six hours of an uneventful trip riding the rails. We had snacks with us which meant no need to spend money on expensive, packaged stuff. The Via station is at the bottom of Old Quebec, the hostel nearly at the top of Ste-Ursula Rue, just inside the old town walls. Thank goodness I am in better shape than last time I was here, of course I am also 3 years older. The next day we discovered it was easier to approach the from St. Anne Rue – one of the streets to explore and become dizzy deciding where to eat.

Cathedral Basilica Notre-Dame de Quebec

The hostel is quite large – I neglected to ask how many dorms and private rooms. There are no elevators. We nearly needed a map to find our room! Walk up to top floor; go through the doors, turn a corner, down a corridor or two, down some stairs to access the connector, turn a corner, another corridor and a final set of stairs. . After sitting on the train for six hours I think I put in some major steps. I was not sure how to calculate steps when my grandson was carrying my phone for Google Maps to get to our destination so i just used those for my total. 

Of course we got caught in the rain, all I had was my tiny umbrella. It was raining buckets with lots of thunder and lightening. Very impressive over the river. I visited the Cathedral Basillica Norte-Dame de Quebec while my grandson stayed outside. He seems disinterested in architecture. Having already been there in 2014, and discovering there is some extensive work being done that means a screen depicting the altar and all that glitters gold is in place rather than the actual view, I only took a few minutes inside. We then headed down to part of the lower old city, ducked into a stairwell going down to another street to figure out where we might be able to find some dinner when my foot was soaked by water suddenly pouring through a drainpipe. I had a rather soggy foot the rest of the evening because I had chosen to wear socks and my walking sandals. A quick decision was made to head back to the Funicular, where we had asked when it closed, for the short ride up to the promenade outside Chateau Frontenac. Of course by the time we were back for the ride the little space for passengers was teeming with other soaked tourists. Everyone seemed in good spirits. For $3.00 you can scale the cliffside in a glass cabin in about two minutes. This is the only funicular of its kind in North America. First built in 1879, using counter weight water process and steam power to move it up and down the cliff, it was converted to electricity in 1907. A fire destroyed the structure in 1945 – must have been dreadful for firefighters to reach it. Rebuilt the following year and refurbished a couple of times the funicular has been operating for over 135 years! Well, I think it is impressive.

View from the Funicular, lots of rain!

By the time we had walked about some more, me trying to dry off, both of us getting quite hungry, I let my grandson choose where we should have dinner. I was not surprised when, after passing by two times and declaring it busy, he chose D’Orcy’s, fancy sport pub – not a lot of my preferred fare but my GS is 14 1/2 and this trip was for us to spend some time together. Fish and chips for my grandson, lamb sandwich for me. Worked out great, I gave my chips to my GS and ate his salad. Teenage boys eat a LOT! I was grateful to sit upstairs away from the giant televisions – they were there but I could not see them. I have to admit the restaurant does have excellent food and I had eaten there before. Sometimes the familiar is all we need.

Square outside the restaurant and across from the Cathedral-Basilica

Our final activity for our first day was a photo shoot at the cannonball tree at the corner of Rue du Corps-de-Garde. I said we must pull all the photos of my GS standing there over the years he has been to show how much he has grown. The cannonball is said to have been embedded in the tree in 1759. There is no reason to doubt this occcured just as it is believable that Montcalm spent his final 24 hours at 47 Rue St-Louis (most likely not the street name at the time) after being shot by the British during the Battle of the Plains of Abraham September 1759. The French soldiers had to take him somewhere.

Nice digs, close to everything! Rain and iPhone did not do it justice

A few townhouses further along for another photo of where my SIL lived when studying 1st year French. (He joined the navy instead of finishing.)
After all that wandering and then dinner we were both thankful to find the down path to our hostel on the hill. We just needed to get our bearings from previous visits. Old QC is small enough that it does not take long to become familiar with the whole area. We kept passing where I stayed in 2014.

The numbers: 

354.72 hostel (3 nights private room, single and double bunks. I slept in the double.) + HI membership; 2.50 coffee on the train; 5.00 funicular; 49.15 + 7.50 tip dinner 11,000 steps (my tracker says climbed 15 floors – must have included all those hills)

Day 10 (I think): Belleville

One of the jobs my daughter does when training patients to do their own dialysis is to visit them at their homes soon after to see how they are doing. This worked out for me as it meant I could be dropped off at the nearby town while she headed down a dusty country road. (I admit that description was solely in my imagination) This particular day I visited Belleville. Early. In a sleepy, quiet town. I was doubtful I would find a place for a cup of coffee until my D called me from her car – Bluetooth is great – saying she had passed a place. 

Very impressive Belleville City Hall.

By this time I had walked past the rather stunning city hall, around the block plus some and noted there were several churches, upon a second tour, slightly extended, around I discovered that one of the main streets is aptly called Church Street. My day was planned. Find a washroom, then coffee, then explore. At 8:30 in the morning it is not always easy to find facilities in a small town. (Or is this only an issue for older travellers?) However, most towns with a decent population do have a city/town hall that have public facilities – I suggest to anyone travelling to seek out this public building, after all taxpayers pay for it and you are a guest. Information can also be found about the area if an Information Centre is not available, closed or on the outskirts.

Next on my agenda was to find one of two cafes. I was hoping for The Brake Room, and had actually passed it on one my earlier circuits. A perfect blend of two of my favourites, cycling and coffee. A fabulous idea, open a bicycle repair shop combined with a coffee shop that is situated near one of many trails and, “they will come.” It helps if the fare offered is good, and it was. They promise locally sourced food and quality coffee. I was not disappointed. A flat white and a maple scone (finally a scone that was not so dry or overly fluffed with baking soda to choke a person) to tide me over. Although the seating area was not exceptionally busy at the time there was enough coming and going to think this place will stay in business for some time. I did have a fleeting thought about how slow things must be over the winter months. I also thought that if I knew how to repair bikes I could sink my teeth into a similar business. Not in Victoria though, I believe the bike repair and the Cafe market is saturated despite not having a combined shop. I was ready to take on the rest of Belleville.

Thinking as a cyclist I checked out possible paths where walking was also encouraged. My first stop was at the railway station. “Belleville became an important railway junction with the completion of the Grand Trunk Railway in 1856.” Unfortunately it appeared the station was closed so I walked further on to admire some of the condos and townhouses along the river – minimal glimpses. Some very nice boats tied to private docks. No access to trails that way so I headed back to the railway station. This is where one of my few prejudices kicked in. (I will not go into detail as to why; suffice to say I do have a legitimate reason) Two men, who appeared to be insufficiently homed and possibly inebriated (this was before 10:00am), were sitting on a bench at the entrance to both trails so I approached the trails around the backside in the hopes of not creating any friction. In either direction the main arteries were closed due to flooding. So I had to backtrack to the crosswalk, smack damn in front of the aforementioned benches and occupants. To raise my blood pressure one of the men sauntered towards the same crossing I was heading for. I crossed, waited for the next crossing to go to the opposite side. Of course this fellow saw someone he knew and crossed over part way up the street. I know I was overreacting but knowing should never be discounted when in an unfamiliar place. I headed to a Church Street.

The river appeared very close to lapping the tracks

Of course, once again, none of the churches were open. This makes me think about my daughter’s PhD focus on the interconnection of Sacred and Secular spaces – where tourism flourishes. I expect locking the doors is a direct impact of too few congregates, priests and pastors and the various individuals who make a church run smoothly. As steeples seem to fascinate me I took photos of those rather than poor ones of stained glass. The United Church, sitting on a hillock above the street, had a quite an ambitious garden going. I have a strong belief that churches should use the land for gardens to “share his bread with the poor.” On that note it was time for lunch.

Like I had passed the Brake Room, I went by Paulo’s Italian Trattoria a couple of times during my wandering. My daughter had a couple of hours before seeing her patient again and sent a text suggesting an early lunch. I was checking out the menus when a server and then the owner said I could come in although it was not even 11:00 and they would not open for another half hour. Coffee was put on to brew, water provided. I was duly impressed without even eating anything. Lunch turned out to be delicious. Warm bread with butter, and a hearty soup. It had been raining off and on all morning. Great service, all within the timeframe before we had to rush off. 

I was dropped off at a nursery where I am sure the owners thought I had been abandoned. One can only traverse the aisles of a small greenhouse and the outdoor paths of a small operation for so long. I probably walked 5000+ steps! When I was finally picked up we bought some lovely flowering plants and I thanked the owners for letting me hang out. 

The numbers: $7.00 snack $ coffee; $35.00 for train meals and snacks while in Quebec; 20,000 steps