Urban Walk: Oceanside discovery

We tend to get a lot of rain leading up to Christmas, and beyond. Which is fine by me as I really do not enjoy snow and the cold. However, rain usually means no lovely Oceanside walks. Today was shaping to be the one day of the week the sun might make an appearance and I was not about to waste it!

My first stop before heading to town was for a coffee – no real (lactose free) milk for my morning cup was not going to put my in a bad mood. We have a Starbucks barely a five minute walk away. I drove, parked, went inside and ordered a flat white. A lovely drink for my roughly 30 minute drive. I collected my sister and off we went. Today she was able to go farther after a nasty fall a week ago – going for a walk with me. We decided to tackle the longer board and cement walk along the water.

We both made sure to use the treads on the boardwalk sections! The ocean crashing on the shore churned up quite a wake. However, the weather held to present us with glimpses of sunshine. And then a glint flashed off the bushes ahead of us. Someone had decorated the various bushes for all to enjoy!

All we need was a bench to sit down and enjoy
Like shiny, plump plums!
An invitation to all. I have a great school bell – will you ring in the magic on the 24th?
Kitten has lost her mittens? A kind soul tacked these to a lamp post.

Maybe ‘[she] found her mittens’. I was very tempted to claim them for me! However, that would have been a very Scrooge move, or for those who are younger than me, the Grinch, before they both grew hearts.

After a round trip walk of about six kilometres (part way back my sister informed me she had been ready to turn around much sooner) we went grocery shopping (for my sister and one of my daughters). I feel a bit like an elf.

A Retrospective – rising above the bleak

October 2020

**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!

Sayyida

Musa nearly a year after being so ill.

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

Ontario Visit: Upper Canada Village

Before and after my two days in Ottawa I managed to fit in some quality time with my grandson, go to a couple of movies, listen to live music, and get more quality time with my grandson! All during the continuing heat wave. I did so much that I have to break things down to smaller bites.

The drive from Battersea (outside of Kingston) to Upper Canada Village takes roughly 1 1/2 hours which means any visiting should seriously consider putting in a full day while there. It takes about the same amount of time if driving from Ottawa. Fortunately there are many activities and lots to see to keep anyone from feeling bored. With relatively flat and easy roads, and no gas vehicles, this a great place for all ages to discover how people lived in the 1860s. Although many of the buildings do have narrow doorways and upper floors I suggest that should not dissuade anyone from visiting.

https://www.uppercanadavillage.com/things-to-do/.

Although the majority of the buildings are not original to the site they all date from around the 1860’s, and were moved in 1957 from various locations during the St. Lawrence Seaway development project, prior to the founding of the village in 1961. Considering my love for old architecture I did not drag my grandson along on any extra excursions: river barge pulled by horses, wagon ride, miniature train, dressing up although I was tempted! We did watch a funny performance that included a 7 1/2 hour Italian opera performed in five minutes. The lead up to that was a small riot of hilarity. A pleasant surprise to discover the performers rally could sing!

Much as I wanted to let them my pandas were not allowed on the plot of the locomotive.

Whimsical painted glass in Chrysler Hall, probably the grandest home. The artist must have had free rein while also indulging his patron’s passions – dogs and horses.

I most certainly did not trust those shifty eyes! This was outside the Physician’s House, where my grandson caught the roving eye of the guide and vice versa! I laughed at that, told his mother later and asked if he was going to tell his girlfriend.

A ‘private’ yard where wool would be cleaned outdoors in boiling water. Look at all that fleece!

Although I do not knit, or crochet, nor have I made anything out of wool textiles for decades, I was rather fascinated with the ‘modern’ workings of the textile mill.

Would all the fly away bits be up for grabs?

The birds love all the bits of wool that escape.

In addition to the wool being processed there was a flour mill that provides whole-wheat & white flours for the bakery that we also visited. White loaves are baked and sold in the mornings & whole-wheat in the afternoons at the souvenir shop. I bought a hefty loaf of whole-wheat – one slice is enough for a meal! Reasonably priced too when compared to large bakeries in the city.

A fun 30+ minutes of an old fashioned family show. They even had the ever ready ‘cure all’ tonic many travelling shows would push to spectators.

A summer kitchen, my main focus was on the beehive oven to the right where all the baking was done.

Well weathered outer log of a log house. I was astounded that anything so delicate with age could be moved fairly intact!

The cheese factory was done for the day. I believe the product is available in much smaller packaging. No samples.

‘The Queen’ quite the collection piece! This fire engine is housed in one of the only purpose built structures to protect it from the elements.

While many of the activities are included in the entry fee it is best to check. The miniature train was cheaper if paid when purchasing the entrance ticket than at the tiny station. Very popular with children. I was aware this not going to be shoestring budget friendly day. When I discovered the entry fee included a visit on some future date before Labour Day to Fort Henry in Kingston I felt I had hit the jackpot!

The only negative was choosing to eat at the Harvest Barn rather than waiting for ‘afternoon tea’ at Willard’s Hotel. My grandson was satisfied with his panini, everything assembled and cooked while he waited; whereas my grilled chicken sandwich was a dry piece of chicken breast, heated up then slapped onto a dry, white hamburger bun with a piece of lettuce. I did find some mustard and managed to eat the chicken and half the bun. Not cheap either! There are enough places to choose from or take a picnic to sit on one of the many lawns. As always when visiting Ontario in the summer take along lots of water, or at least an empty vessel, hat, sunscreen and bug spray if planning to be up in the evening.

Expenses: coffee & house made potato chips $5.10 (I was trying to entice my grandson to eat something); lunch $21.36; Upper Canada Village entry $42.00 (I am still not old enough for the senior rate and my grandson did not have his military family discount card); loaf of bread $5.95