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: going broke in Toronto

(Note: Staying in the country has its pluses and minuses: it is so peaceful; so much so that internet access is sporadic. I started to write and download this blog the evening I arrived – Thursday; another attempt and it is approaching lunchtime on Saturday.)

A final farewell to my daughter at the corner of King and Victoria, a grasp of the handle on my small suitcase to trundle my way to the train station and I was on my way to another adventure. My eldest daughter had hopped on a train heading from the opposite direction. Toronto beckoned.

Farewell Kitchener, I will be back!

I consider myself a seasoned traveller, and I have been to Toronto a few times, which meant a whirlwind trip of my not really doing much should have been easy. The trip from Kitchener to Toronto was uneventful other than leaving about ten minutes late. I read more of my book The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck) and arrived by 11:00am. Plenty of time to grab a cup of coffee, relax and look up the best way to get to where we would stay for the night.

I learned that the 24 hours we would be in the city would include a few firsts for my daughter’s friend who was joining her to go to a Kids On the Block conncert for her 40th birthday week. (When did birthdays become weeks? Perhaps only for milestone years) First time on a train. They arrived maybe ten minutes late, our friend took a lot of selfies, then we decided out best option would be a taxi to our stay after considering three people would only be a few dollars over public transit and we would not have to walk a couple of blocks.

I highly recommend checking out university dorms for a summer trip. CampusOne, on College St. is a shining new, extremely clean, 25 storey, quality dormitory. Our suite had four bedrooms, two full bathrooms and a small common area with a view that would normally cost far more than the $200 plus tax, including buffet breakfast, we paid. Lots of amenities and a short distance from Kensington Market, Chinatown and of course the University of Toronto.

The view from my room, mid afternoon.

Although the TV show King of Kensington was before my daughter’s time I remember it and was happy to finally make it to the popular market. Lots of shops to poke about in without even going inside, so many eateries it would take at least a full month of eating out for every meal and snacks, and a tattoo shop my daughter dearly wanted to be inked at. Common sense prevailed, time was tight and she would most likely be dancing up a sweaty storm at the concert. Another trip is stewing.

A sign of the times.we went in. The fellow answering my questions was so laid back I thought he would be dozing any minute.
One of a few murals we came across.

Meanwhile, although the temperature was mild we did feel as though we had been stewing in the sneaky humidity. It was time to stop at Dolce Gelato for what else, gelato! . Another first for our friend! My choices -of course I had two types, mango and pompelmo rosa (pink grapefruit-not allowed with one of my medications) – were delicious. We opted to have bowls and sat inside after our couple of hours wandering the streets. Before we knew it we had to head back to our rooms to change for dinner. I had been up for finding somewhere nearby, perhaps a Persian restaurant. I guess the friend was not quite ready for a foreign meal and my daughter had already discussed where we should eat. Irish Embassy Pub was booked, later I discovered primarily for the deep fried pickles.

Always willing to share!

The pickles ended up being a special request, seems they are only served after 10:00pm from the bar menu. Always ask, and have a good reason. That worked. The empty plate was certainly an indication they were excellent. (I do not like pickles) Pubs are never my first choice to eat at. They are noisy with loud, big screen sports channels and often music at the same time. This place was no different. Our table was tucked right next to the work space of the staff – thank goodness there was a high wall cutting off that view. The whole place just seemed too crowded despite several empty tables. I chose the crab and shrimp cakes plus a bowl of chips (aka french fries). Our friend had fish and chips. My daughter had baked Brie and chicken & asparagus soup. Another first for our friend, she had never had Brie, baked or otherwise! My shellfish cakes were wonderful. They really were real crab and shrimp. Being from the west coast I was rather worried. The fries were good, just too many. I forgot them in the common fridge at our stay. (There is not a fridge in any of the suites) The Brie was also delicious, and our friend was very happy with her fish and chips. However, unless I had nowhere else to go, and that is highly unlikely in Toronto, I would not return.

I was put in a snazzy, huge, black cab (like a SUV but far nicer) to go back to the dorm while my daughter and her friend walked to the Scotia Centre for the concert. I think I had the best of it, a room with a view of the CN Tower, slowly lighting up as the evening progressed, and some live Facebook action from my daughter and her friend of the concert – no jostling crowds, no screaming fans, no overheating, I was in a happy space.

I heard the ladies coming in around midnight. I had a dreadful sleep, the beds are hard and too high for me, making getting out of bed a bit of a death defying leap. However, for the price and the view I will return if with anyone. We could always use one of the extra rooms for our luggage. We had a decent selection for breakfast: scrambled eggs, three types of hash browns, bacon, sausages, and another meat selection in the hot section; two types of yogurt, fresh and canned fruit choices, various muffins or croissants, cereal and do it yourself toast. Of course there was coffee, tea, juice and milk. No hot chocolate, perhaps it is offered to students living there once winter sets in. The eggs were good, and I took some butter and jam for my muffin I expected to eat later when on the train.

When we checked out we were asked if we had gone to the lounge on the 25th floor. We had not; when told it was not a view to be missed we headed up. Once we caught our collective breath we headed back down with a plea to be allowed to go back up for about an hour as it as raining and our train would not leave until the afternoon. This is yet another view that people pay a lot of money for. There are two very decent size lounges, the one we were in has a 180+ panoramic view, of course including the CN Tower and downtown skyline. We had the place to ourselves until the last minute, as we were gathering our belongings six guests arrived. It was a peaceful end, or so I thought, to a nice quick visit to Toronto.

The view from the lounge the following day & proof We were there.

So what happened to shatter the peace? Without being too blunt I was not well. It was not the meal from the previous night, nor breakfast, nor the gelato, I just happen to have an ongoing, as yet undetermined why, issue that makes going anywhere iffy. Thank goodness we had factored in enough to time to walk to Union Station if we wanted to. Also for a drugstore very nearby and a Chinese Herbal medicine shop where I could have managed to state my dilemma in Mandarin if necessary – it was not. I stopped at both. I had a miserable walk, pushing and pulling my damn suitcase, yet I was not so poorly off, or willing, to want to chance getting into a taxi. When I lived in China I was given medication for diarrhea and had considered buying it in Victoria ever since this problem reared its ugly existence, it works wonders, Po Chai pills. A tiny vial of teeny tiny pills is one dose.

We made it onto the train with five minutes to spare. I napped, took the Po Chai pills, napped some more, and by the time we arrived in Kingston anyone might have thought I had just been difficult! My now very tall grandson and his girlfriend met us at the station, I was given a lovely hug, and we headed into the country where solitude, a big porch, dog and cat awaited us.

Expenses: $22.00 dinner (huge bite from my budget); $15.00 taxi. I did not pay for my gelato nor even a portion of the first taxi, and nothing for our suite. I will however repay my daughter for my train from Toronto to Kingston – $40.00. The two medications were paid for with a credit card, there is a good chance my daughter at home will not ask for me to repay that as this is an ongoing condition. That said, I spent more on food and local transportation in one evening than I had spent in six days!

Ontario Visit: Kitchener history and a bit of mine

Since arriving in Kitchener I have kept busy with everything there is to do here. So I am always surprised when residents of the city have absolutely no idea what is beyond their regular routine. This includes my daughter and her husband! When the topic came up, the day after we had visited Victoria Park, I learned that rather than a lack of interest it was more one of not thinking about what might be happening or where to visit. I am probably just as guilty of that when at home except I no longer have to worry about work or academic deadlines. I decided to continue with my morning search of an activity on my last Sunday. To my delight that choice also put me on the trail of a historic site close to downtown Kitchener.

There are many small galleries in the area. I found yet another gallery about a 20 minute walk from where I was staying. The Uptown Gallery at Waterloo Town Square promotes local artists, with new shows every two months, as well as inviting non-members to showcase their work. When I was visiting the works were primarily paintings of various genres, art photography, and glasswork. Sadly my iPhone photo skills were too poor to showcase any of the paintings except for one exquisite glass plate I coveted.

Just as well I have only carry on luggage and a minuscule budget. Breakage would be heartbreaking.

The artist working the space that day asked me if I had been to Schneider Haus National Historic Site in downtown Kitchener – I had not. She was kind enough to look up their hours, open till 5:00 that day. Also the only day open before I would leave. I thanked her, hopped on a bus and headed downtown. It did take a bit of a walk as the site is not in the centre of town – which explains how I had missed it. It is relatively close to Victoria Park. In addition to the house there is another gallery, currently showing Storytelling in Stone (Sophie Drouin) a mosaic artist – also the artist who had directed me to the site without saying too much about her own involvement.

Schneider Haus is Kitchener’s oldest homestead dwelling (1816) built by Joseph Schneider, a Pennsylvania-German Mennonite, for his family. I asked what the difference is between Pennsylvania-Dutch, my father’s ancestors – Loyalists rather than any faith – and Pennsylvania-German. Nothing really except those saying Dutch as their heritage came to what is now Canada in the mid to late 1800s and settled further west. That fits in with my father’s family history.

Master bedroom, there is also a trundle bed, a child’s cot and a cradle.

Although costumed interpreters/historians representing life in 1856, which was when the second generation of Schneiders occupied the homestead, were present they discussed the history, answered questions, and pointed out various interesting items in the present day. It is always easier to learn about a place rather than having staff take on a character they may not move out of.

This wheel was in the upper room of the rebuild first house (tiny) where the girls (the Schneider’s had a ‘small’ family, 4 girls 2 boys) had room to walk back and forth spinning. The interpreter said the women averaged 20 miles a day spinning.

During my walk I came across two other buildings with some historic significance. Mutual Life Head Office (now Sun Life Insurance) the original building, an ornate symbol of “Waterloo’s first life insurance company”, with the new offices attempting to tower above. Despite the high glass new structure the elaborate work of the Renaissance Revival (1912) building never fails to draw my eye. I discovered the oak and maple leaves of silver along the low garden walls. I have no idea if the represent anything beyond being pretty.

Not very comfortable to sit on!

Finally, for many people my age a sad indication of time marching by. I immediately recognized the sign outline, and the shape of blue roof – a glimpse into my past. (Eventually the roof of all these ice cream parlours were red and the only article about this particular store indicates it might have been at one time) This was a Dairy Queen, serving dipped chocolate ice cream cones for 62 years! To give that perspective I am 61. The first Canadian DQ opened in Saskatchewan in 1953. as a child we would stop at Dairy Queen (never DQ) for ice cream after the harrowing 100 miles from Prince Rupert to Terrace.

I had no idea my steps would take me back in time to thoughts of my ancestors and my childhood all the way from Ontario to Saskatchewan to northern B.C. by simply glimpsing an old store and visiting an old Haus.

Expenses: Giant ginger cookie (Sabletine Bakery) $3.63; Schneider Haus $5.65 (I believe this is the first time I have paid an entry fee unless my lunch were included since arriving in Kitchener – well worth it)

Ontario visit: Dinosaurs, fossils, graveyards, appreciation & then some

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.

This is a massive casting high on a wall.

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.

Hockey Mom. Such a happy memory.
These are all gravestones for Reverends of the Congregation for the Resurrection (est. 1836)
I had never seen a cross placed on a stone like this.
This gravesite made me smile. Stickers(?), spinner, chimes and the stone nestled between two trees.

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.

“For me this region is a metaphor for new rhythms and beats.”

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.

This tower was actually moved from atop the old city hall in 1973, & disassembled before being moved to its present location in 1995.

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.

No idea why the name considering traditional perogies do not have pork. Perhaps in reference to adding bacon on top, or simply for how scrumptious perogies are.
“Amazing Mike”. My 30 y/o is quite taken with magic.

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.

Ontario Visit: weather, walking, wonders

Wanting to remain within my tight budget as well as having the freedom to choose or discard an activity can have ups and downs, as well as very worn out feet. I should preface this with the fact I do check out distances when I consider walking as well as the option of taking transit. Naturally, weather must also be factored in. To date I have been fortunate that overall the weather gods have been kind to me. Only a couple of steering hot days and two downpours. So, I got soaked yet managed to escape becoming sunburned. Being prepared is key. I do not carry an umbrella but do have a rain shell. I try to choose based on the weather forecast. I carry a sunscreen stick, water and a snack.I map out places for breaks (usually bathroom breaks) and wear sturdy, comfortable shoes. Fashion is far down my list of priorities, discoveries are at the top.

I made the insane decision to walk from my daughter’s place to Conestoga Mall. All I knew was it was basically a straight line and there would buses, Starbucks, and a breeze. Seemed like a great idea at the time. My final destination was the City of Waterloo Museum where a new, free admission, exhibit: The Sublime Mr. Seagram was opening that day. Two hours later, with a stop for coffee and a breather, thinking I would never do that again, I finally made it. Distance, over 9km. Before I even made it to the museum I was exhausted! I am definitely getting older.

The museum is tiny, which is how it fits so nicely into a small corner of the mall. Mr. Seagram was one of Waterloo’s founding innovators. With the 100th anniversary of his death this exhibit shows his life in business, horse racing, politics, family and local community engagement. Whisky and Horse racing made an excellent match. Mr. Seagram invented Seagram’s VO whisky, became the largest-selling Canadian whisky in the world. About all I will even consider drinking is champagne which means I have no idea what VO tastes like.

I was horrified to see the lettering on the bottle of whisky. Surely done many years ago.

The museum itself is worth a visit if already at the mall. I do not recommend going solely for that purpose. There is a lot of writing, which would have been fine if I was not so worn out. I would have preferred small cards be with the few artifacts in addition to the information on the walls. According to the website exhibits are changed regularly which would certainly entice me to go for another visit if in the area. I took the bus back.

It was not until the following day that I discovered there is an Earth Sciences Museum at the University of Waterloo that I had walked past on my way to the mall. Anyone up for dinosaurs? I arranged to go with my daughter later in the week. Meanwhile, I also found The Art District Gallery (free admission) that I planned to visit after another lunch concert.

Unfortunately my lack of photography skills caught up with me on this day. All I managed to salvage were photos of my travel companions eating plus one lovely piece of art I fell in love with. I am hoping my sensory memory will recall the beautiful voice of the soprano, Jennifer Carter, no need for a microphone for her! Her voice soared and surrounded the audience – it has been a long time since I have heard opera performed live, I had forgotten how much it can lift you. From the translations I took the theme to be about the various forms of love. Found, lost, spiritual, physical, waiting, remembrance. My body and soul needs were once more fed.

My daughter still needed lunch, I was tempted! Only had a very small bite.

Next stop was the Art District Gallery where a juried exhibit titled Solstice is on display until July 17th. The Gallery generally has art done by its members, and once a year invites other local artists to submit pieces. The gallery changes its exhibit every six weeks. My daughter and I spent a long time talking to the artist running things, I do hope we did not bore her! We had some common interests beyond art. I could not draw to save my life. As it turned out my favourite piece was done by her.

This was my favourite. I like the medium used as well as the cat in the tree!

While at the gallery we were told of two more. Kitchener has surprised me with just much talent is here! All in all a lovely, calm day made all the much better by spending the afternoon with my daughter. Next, DINOSAURS!

Expenses: Lunch at the church $8.00 Lost: the cord to my phone charger. I forgot to unplug it. Called, no sign of it. Fortunately I have another one and, considering one of my chargers is not working not a major issue. Just irritating.