On my last day looking after my daughter’s cat, before going home to my two, I took advantage of the foggy yet fairly decent morning to walk along the coastline pathways. So many people think the west coast of Canada is too grey in the fall and winter – I say they are not looking for the gems. Although I have not left the island, nor gone beyond Greater Victoria, I can find so much to enjoy.
**As I slowly return to writing my travel blog this draft nearly had me rolling on the floor in laughter and agony. The final sentence could not have been farther from reality for humanity. Yet, for me, beyond not travelling, life has not been too terrible.**
I started out saying I had not travelled this year. Then I cast my memory to prior to October, when I spent three months in Ontario, before everything seemed to go downhill. Thank goodness for that time! Even fitting in little at home adventures seemed to be lacking. Or I did not find them very exciting/illuminating/educational or any special nugget to hold onto. Can it be I am becoming jaded?
That question brings me to the tail end of October. I had minor surgery then. Nothing to really worry about beyond the anaesthetic and recovery. It did set me back a bit. Then I was hit with a dreadful stomach flu bug that held me down for ten days. I was so ill my daughter with whom I live considered calling her older sister, a nurse, to ask if I should go to the hospital. I only found this out when said nurse told me I should have gone to emergency. I survived. Lost about 12 pounds (necessary but not that way) plus another few when I ended up with a bad cold! I was a sad sack indeed.
Not to be held down I did manage to work a temporary retail job, first time in my whole working life I have done retail. It was fine. Would I do it again? I hope not. However, this was to help out with joint finances my daughter and I share after her hours were severely cut. ( **I did find another part time job. Little could I have known what a saving financial grace that would be, after the fact, after the world shut down) Little did we suspect the powers that be were massing together in an attempt to bring us to a complete halt.
Musa, our black cat (with a triangle patch on his chest) became deathly ill. We ended up with a massive vet bill – a piss poor ‘Cat Clinic’ (I had words with them and eventually the main vet) plus the animal emergency hospital – of over $3300.00! So much for me even thinking of perhaps a day trip up Vancouver Island. As we did not have the funds we borrowed heavily, and received some donations from family, friends and a GoFundMe. (Desperation means doing whatever one can) I think the latter only works if people already have a strong connection in social media or a strong work/community/friends source. This is not to say one should not try, rather it is important to have as many resources as possible.
The first ‘clinic’ had a locum vet. She and the staff working with Musa on his second visit chose to misconstrue what I told them as well as withhold drastically important medical factors from me. Musa was sent home, unbeknownst to me not a great prognosis. Fortunately I know the signs of a cat in urinary distress. Musa was taken to the hospital, immediately treated and carefully monitored. Two days later he came home. My daughter will be paying back the angel who loaned the funds with her student loan. Who cares if we will not be any further ahead – we have a healthy Musa!
I am ready for whatever 2020 may hurl or gently offer.
Of course I was not ready for a pandemic. It put a near instant halt to so many plans. My workplace shut down. Being at a college it will not open in January as originally hoped. A move to Ontario was not only put on hold, it was killed. (Not too dreadful, I hate the snow) Musa is great. He hates us. We got another cat – rescued from Texas!
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.
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.
Of course I sang! Very quietly. Cute movie, not what I expected.
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.
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
I was extremely fortunate to be treated to two wonderful days and nights in Ottawa by my daughter, and in a way my SIL. He worked, we played. I had only been to our capital city in the dead of winter – twice! If possible visit after all the ice has melted even if it means in the heat of summer. Choosing to only walk while there we barely scratched the surface of all there is to see and do – much of which is free!
We ate out a lot! How could we resist The Cupcake Lounge with two trips through Byward Market? No photos so no guilt! I actually enjoyed the market more when I was there one winter. Go figure. Great restraint, half a cupcake after dinner, then half a one for breakfast. A boat cruise took us across to Hull, and gave a water view as we cruised past 24 Sussex Drive, a few embassies, the Rideau Falls, and so much more.
We took a tour of West Block, the only way to visit is to book a tour online. Well worth it, free, despite the very heavy security. Wherever we were water, sunscreen, a hat and places with AC were a necessity. We also put in a lot of stairs and walking. I would do it all again.
Expenses: what can I say here? I paid for so little. Two days in Ottawa for two people, staying within a stone’s throw of Parliament, could easily run into $600 – $1000. We had free accommodation, walked everywhere, took in free activities or my daughter paid. I hope I can return the generosity if she ever makes it back to the west coast.
Bytown Museum. Ottawa’s oldest stone building.
A great museum with a permanent collection plus temporary exhibits makes this a must see for visitors and locals, all for the incredible sum of $2.00 each. Can’t find a coffee for that!
The cynic in me turned around to get a shot of Cartier with his back turned to all. At least he is standing on the same side of the fence as all we commoners!
All lit up just before the stunning, and dare I say, made me proud to be Canadian.
Northern Lights is showing every night until September 8, 2019. A sound and light show depicting the history of Canada in a breathtaking show. Times depend on the month. We stood right at the ropes on the edge of the grass at the back, a great way to prevent anyone from standing immediately in front of us. Or take a picnic supper and sit on the grass. Did I mention it’s also free?