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!

Maple Syrup Heist: Improbable Escapes

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It was a weekend of family fun activities – Christmas present from one of my daughters and SIL for all of us to enjoy. First the shivery, yet delightful Lumina Borealis, then the following night we headed to Bellevue House to try our collective acuity at detective work in a game offered through Improbable Escapes, a local business that encourages interaction, fun and wearing of thinking caps for a fee. Fortunately this was an indoor activity!

A little about the Bellevue House Historic Site, which seems rather off the beaten path until the history of it is known. Built in the 1840’s, Bellevue House was the first non-traditional home built in the area, moving away from the familiar Georgian architecture of the time, to Italianate, and not greatly admired by the population of Kingston at the time.

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There are, according to the floor plans, seventeen rooms, including the cellar, and seven levels! Of interest is how well situated the house is, the style includes an aesthetic that takes into account the lay of the land. I was there at night, in the winter, what I could see in the darkness of night, half moon and stars helped, were the darker shades of bare trees, a vast stretch of snow and vines in need of leaves and blooms.a good reason to visit when the weather is finer.bellevue-kitchen-ashx

According to the Parks Canada website, “the Italianate style belongs to the Picturesque period in architectural history. Picturesque taste, besides advocating unusual architectural styles, valued the siting of a house to take advantage of scenic vistas. Bellevue House was built on a height of land with a southward orientation so that the principal rooms, the drawing room, dining room, master bedroom and study, would benefit from views of Lake Ontario. This orientation, co-incidentally, fulfilled another goal of Picturesque design: the rooms are pleasantly sunlit for a large part of the day.”

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Sir John A. Macdonald , the first Prime Minister of Canada, and his wife, lived at Bellevue House (before his political life took off, and before he was a Sir) for about one year, 1848/49. The house is now a museum set up in the fashion of when Macdonald lived there. As such the house is an interesting look into the past as well as being a wonderful venue for the fun of trying to solve the Maple Syrup Heist.

Maple syrup, that golden, all natural sweet topping for pancakes, as Canadian as hockey. 71% of Maple Syrup in the world is produced in Canada, 91% of that in the province of Quebec. It takes 40 litres of maple tree sap to make one litre of pure Syrup. There was even a real, year long Maple Syrup heist between the summer of 2011 to summer 2012 – worth $18million! We take our maple syrup very seriously and culprits, once the theft was discovered, were arrested. Alas, only 70% of the stolen golden syrup was recovered.

Bellevue House Historic Site is a National Site, which, for 2017 means free entry! Improbable Escapes is not free and only runs through to February. A wonderful way to utilize a historical site that would otherwise remain empty until May.bellevue-dining-rm-ashx

“This will be something you’ve never experienced before. A jump from the traditional escape room. Imagine a series of puzzle rooms with a limit to solve each room.” An apt description of what we were about to encounter. We had one hour or so of chaotic fun searching for clues, running up and down hallways, stairs, into various rooms and being handcuffed. Silliness ensued, we were assisted by a maid who insisted she had not stolen the Maple Syrup and gave helpful hints whenever we appeared bogged down with too many clues and little time.

We had only eight minutes in each of the six rooms we had to search. I became enamoured by all that was not included in the clues which meant I was not very helpful. Observation was important, just not what I observed! Six of us should have resulted in coming up with at least one correct clue, alas, we became two camps and came up up with two sets of guilty party, where the Syrup was stolen from and how they escaped with it. We also had a marvellous last holiday evening.bellevue-master-bedrm-ashx