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 Kitchenerwas 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
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.
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 Universityhttps://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.
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
And then there is the upcoming Kingston Artfesthttps://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.
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.
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 atLandmark 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)
This week I slowed down just a little. It took two days to get over my epic ten km to see the tiny Waterloo Museum! Which gave me a chance to pause and consider where I am at in life and where I have been in the last two plus weeks. Other than the fact I am closer to 62 years than my current 61 I sometimes feel I have not done enough to enjoy my surroundings. Checking in makes me realize it is impossible to do everything so why not enjoy what I can do? (I wanted to title this ‘Dem Bones, Dem Bones‘ then thought that might be in bad taste).
On the day I foolishly walked ten kilometres I at least had the sense to take a break. Still wanting to refrain from spending money I decided a second cup of coffee was called for at a Starbucks I came across. The configuration of the store is such that there is not a lot of space between the door and ordering if there is a line; two women in front of me indicated they were not in line, and were actually management. One was the district manager, I asked if that included the new SB across from Kitchener City Hall. Yes. I explained that overall I was very happy with the service but did have one suggestion – which she said she would look into.
Forward to three days later, I walked to my usual SB to find out if my charger cord had been handed in after I foolishly left it behind two days earlier. Sadly no. While there I had a coffee. Soon after I had settled in to read a bit a young woman came up to me, smile on her face, a friendly hello how are you – as though she knew me – I must have looked as startled as I felt, as she quickly explained who she was. She then said that my observation of no hooks in the washrooms would be remedied next week! I was impressed. The. One of the baristas asked if I had gone through all of my stars yet. When I said no she thought that was great budgeting. Not done yet…another barista, carrying a blueberry scone, came to my table asking if I would like to enjoy a scone – it was even warm! Not a mistaken order. Perhaps I have gone there too often. I like that kind of customer service. Although I lost my cord I do not have to replace it so I am still well within my budget and did not have to use stars for the muffin I had intended to get.
It was just as well I asked my daughter to join me at the Earth & Science Museum at the University of Waterloo – I thought it was at Wilfred Laurier University. Not only does my daughter go to U of W, she also knew where the museum was. We spend a couple of hours out of the rain looking at dinosaur bones, casts of bones, fossils, rocks and stones. Lots of great information too. Too often universities are overlooked as places for the general to visit exhibits, performances or lectures that are very often free of charge. It was fun to see a class of the next generation learning about dinosaurs in one space and convocation photos being taking with one of the dinosaur displays. The only negative was my neglecting to eat my snack – fortunately there was a small cafe in the building where I had a delicious grilled cheese English muffin and a small cup of tortellini soup. In addition to my granola bar. I rarely get to the point of getting shaky and will make sure I do not again as I am usually on my own when visiting places.
The following day I wanted to visit one of the cemeteries in Kitchener – there are seven! Realizing my preference was more than an hour away by bus I decided to walk to the nearby, and oldest, Mount Hope Cemetery. I have always had a fascination for cemeteries, and a lot can be learned about the culture of an area by visiting them. As indicated in the information I read about this cemetery two churches were prominent in the area – Protestant and Roman Catholic. While I am far from being a linguist I believe the names engraved on headstones are primarily Germanic. Although there is a self guided tour available I am glad I forgot all about it as I may have missed some interesting gravestones. I meandered along the paths enjoying the solitude, massive maples and the shade they provided.
The cynical me asked how does anyone know which set of stones is their father and mother? There were several like this. Before GPS.
Magic, Music & Munchies
Saturday morning was relaxed, no rush to go anywhere unless the rain started to come down. We were fortunate as all we ever encountered once we had headed out was a light mist. That kept any biting bugs at bay and made walking cool – perhaps slightly too cool. Being a weekend my daughter and SIL joined me to visit Victoria Park before heading to the King Streatery Food Truck Festival – a fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Victoria Park (1896) has something for everyone, open 365 days of the week. As we enter summer – weather wise it is late this year although I like the lower temperatures – ducks, geese (many, many geese), swans, cardinals and other birds are in abundance, as well as squirrels and chipmunks. We do not get chipmunks in Victoria – they are so cute! In addition to the wildlife we saw glimpses of four weddings and two birthday parties. The park is large enough that there was not any sign of crossing paths between any of them. A massive interactive play area with a splash park next to it was very impressive.
As we entered from one of the side bridges the main entrance became the piece de resistance, the old City Hall clock, with bell, tower had been moved to the park and installed to bring the eyes to a lovely fountain area that gently showcases stone luggage raised above the water. Yes, water does gurgle out of these, yet it works as a meaning of hope and welcome. Which the instalment was meant to do. As we were leaving I saw from the corner of my eye a stone guitar case. Love, love, love it! Music transcends all.
We were early for the food festival, and the musicians were only warming up. What better excuse than to head to one of local second hand bookstores? I showed great restraint despite having finished three of my four books already. My daughter also stayed at one – I am going to attempt to read it before I leave in three days – and my SIL bought seven! Guess who carried all the books. To work up an appetite we walked down then up the length of the street to check each truck out. There were many choices unless one is a vegetarian or vegan. Which my daughter is and I am well on my way to being. We finally narrowed our choices down, stopped at The Crumby Cookie Dough Company where my daughter and I shared a Material Squirrel appetizer (that meant I had 3-4 very small bites) – so, dessert before dinner. We then headed all the way back to Perogi Pigs to have, what else, classic perogies.
Sated, we stopped to watch a magic show, very interactive and a small appreciative crowd meant that everyone, including ‘Amazing, Mike’ (local magician) were all happy, and barely noticed the light rain starting to fall. Despite the still early hour we wended our way home, avoiding unfurling umbrellas and people happily munching on Canadian delights – Beaver Tails, Poutine; Indian food, BBQ, Mexican, french fries, crepes, rolled pizza (sound strange but looked good), pulled pork sandwiches, ice cream or hanging out in the pop-up beer garden and a few more, all while listening to some pretty decent live music or playing games. Although my children are all grown I do like to see events that include families of any kind.
Although my SIL was thinking of taking the bus back I prevailed by saying I had to walk of my carb heavy dinner, besides it is barely a twenty minute walk and they had umbrellas. The rain remained light. It was time to put on my pyjamas and cozy up to my book despite the time of barely 7:00pm. Plans for the following day, maybe laundry. Definitely making black bean burgers and potato salad for dinner.
Expenses: transit $10.00; lunch $7.45; $11.00 Food Truck Festival perogies; $2.00 second book (I rarely leave a 2nd bookstore without at least one book – showing great restraint) $3.00 magician busker.
As I look at the past few days I am astounded at just how many activities I managed to fit in as an audience member or actively join I . There was plenty to do which, at times, made choosing difficult. I mainly opted for daytime, or early evening events as I have discovered I am not comfortable with walking through downtown Kitchener on my own. Even if it is still light out. So, how did I fill my days?
The evening was a cello and either a violin or viola – size wise it seemed the latter.
Sunset Sessions, an evening, outdoor hour of ‘eclectic’ concerts (their wording). The two musicians had to contend with the fountain in the background before it was turned off. Then there were motorcycles revving up engines and careening down the street as well live rock music ramping up at a nearby bar. The session ended after 30 minutes. It did not help that the cellist seemed to be trying to hold back a case of the giggles.
The following day was Live at Lunch, also at City Hall. An appreciative lunch crowd, perhaps 75+ people, at least half had brown bagged lunches. This fellow played and sang familiar, slightly up tempo ballads. City Hall also has a small art gallery that I thought to check out (having done so on another visit). This visit there were two small exhibitions – Fire and Water Show (Liz Skelton), and Sowing Seeds: a microscopic perspective (Gina Jacklin)
When I got home after the City Hall even I found a flyer for a Neighbourhood Day event the following day. The group, I, the Mountain were quite good and really seemed to enjoy playing for the small, local crowd.
The 7th was extremely busy, a local park Neighbourhood Day event with song, games, free food: popcorn, cotton candy and hot dogs plus lemonade, water and coffee. A warm up for the upcoming Cherry Festival, July 6th at, fittingly, Cherry Park. I was in Kitchener for this event last year, sampled Cherry ice cream. Sadly, I will miss it this year. Then the evening was Summer Lights Festival, five blocks of fun for all ages. Several small stages for music, magic and various acts; large size games including Jenga and chess; art displays and activities; a food truck court. It was nearly dark by the time I left and the party was just barely started.
I ended my weekend with a choice of at least three activities – World Refugee Day grabbed my attention the most. There were awards presented, short performances, a dance workshop, audience participation singing, a rather heart wrenching photographic art display – too many of the images are ones too often shown to us, yet nothing has really changed. I turned my focus to the uplifting art and messages of young refugee students – our future is the next generation. There was also food – hummus, pita bread, felafel, shawarma (I think that is correct) – I did partake, so hard to resist felafels. No wonder I feel as though I have gained weight!
There is so much to do wherever you are, and it can be at little or no cost yet be so fulfilling. Get out there and explore, whether at home, a new city or a new country.
Monday will be my day of rest! As I had to walk the dog I am watching I did not mind too much that I had to make a coffee run in the light rain to the nearby Tim Horton’s after forgetting I had run out of cream. Nothing nearby was open at 6:30am.
Expenses: Heart Health for Women donation $2.50; hedging my bets for the next purchase of a Beaver Tail $6.78; toothpaste $2.25; Tim Horton’s coffee x 2 $4.00. Extra $5.00 from my youngest paying back a loan. To date I am still doing quite well.
After doing very little on Monday, I attended one of the activities I had learned would be upcoming when I was out and about last week. On my list for the week: Eid Festival; St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church organ concert; Kitchener Sunset Session – cello; City Hall lunch concert; Summer Lights; Grand Porch Party. I was planning for a busy week.
I am slowly discovering the wonders of using my Maps app, which I assume is Google Maps. Amazingly enough, I never used it, or anything along those lines, when in China, when I could have used it. I think one reason is that when I put in an address the map magically appears. Pretty neat that I can ‘follow’ my progress. Armed with that information I opted to walk the roughly 3 km after I asked one of the baristas the wisdom in doing so. Weather wise it was perfect, slight breeze, about 12c, I even considered putting my jacket back on. My destination was the Eid Festival.
In a nutshell – a very small nut as my knowledge of Islam remains extremely poor – Eid is a time for feasting and celebration at the end of fasting during Ramadan. Families and friends get together, children are given new clothes, gifts and money, and delicious sweets are often shared. Much like many religions & cultures celebrating an important date or dates. So why did I go? It was advertised as a gathering for all. What did I think? Well, there was nothing exactly wrong, it was just not what I expected. Yes, families and friends gathered and there was much for children to do, yet it seemed so disorganized. I had read there would be entertainment, I was told that ‘perhaps’ there might be. Ah well, there was food.
There was recorded music. I arrived around 11:30. (Not until the evening did I read that there had been three sets of prayers) Food was put out, breakfast (what I called a ‘full breakfast’) was falafel, flat bread, (pita?) hummus, baba ganoush, salad. All for $6.00. I think coffee might have been included but I doubted it would be real Turkish, or anything similar, coffee. (Sorry, my mind went blank for another country with delicious coffee) I do love Persian tea, but that too differs based on region, and of course every country has their own take on the best tea. The highlights, many women were dressed in traditional garb, (is that even acceptable to say these days?), children were dressed in their finest. A set of triplets all dressed alike. They were adorable. All three had their faces painted a little later, I was tempted to give that a go. Or I could have had a henna done. However, I was just not feeling the festivities. Perhaps I needed to be approached, or approach someone. Another time. I left by 1:00pm. to try my hand at finding a bus back to my daughter’s.
I am hopeful my adventures will be more uplifting the following day at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church for a noon hour summer concert. Lunch will be served at a nominal fee.