Ontario Visit: Ottawa (2019)

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.

It was difficult to fit in a shot of the name, me & the pandas! You know, proof & posterity.

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!

Kinki Kitchen Lounge. Somehow we managed to share our light lunch!

Patty Boland’s – a bit on the seedy side with surprisingly good food! (I had the chicken tacos) Atop the bar is the best place to belt out a song and grab a quick drink.

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!

The Library of Parliament has also had to be rehoused – quite close to where we stayed. Sadly only accessible to Parliamentary staff.
I did not find out if the Peace Tower will also undergo renovations. The bell still tolls on the hour, and it seemed the half and quarter hour although we did not pay that much attention to the time. (Clock Tower with the Canadian flag)
Peace man! A little time to play before dealing with the ropes.
Rather like a cork popping up! Look through the for front boat to see the man in red to show how much the canal rose!

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?

The temporary Commons was built in the courtyard of the West Block.

Sorry for the poor quality; I want d to show the steel posts that are holding up the temporary Commons roof. The seats for the MPs were moved from Centre Block except for the Speaker’s seat. (Not in photo)
Many Canadians have family who served during war and peacekeeping; many still do and many serve. Let us never forget the commitment.
Let’s never forget that women were also there. Just as they are now.
We were walking along the Promenade where we came upon an elderly woman who had just fallen and most likely dislocated her elbow. My daughter, always a nurse, stayed with her (family was also there) until the paramedics arrived. I thought this display was apt.
The locks from below.

Ontario Visit: Smiths Falls

That name is not a typographical error. It seems the town went through a number of spellings before officially taking on Smiths Falls. Although once the bustling home of Hershey’s kisses, Victor Record (they pressed the iconic first Beatles album), a ploughshares & munitions factory, and a Railway link to the rest of Canada, and the Rideau Canal, the town centre has lost much of its lustre over the years yet continues to attract boaters and tourists for its locks and beaches.

Sad to say the Hershey’s factory shut down in 2009. It sat empty for ten years before being resurrected as a marijuana plant that may also soon be offering edibles. Pot kisses anyone?

I walked along the lovely parkway that skirts the canals where there were some pretty snazzy looking boats. None of the locks were operating when I visited. I checked out the 4 storey Rideau Canal Museum, considering its size the exhibits are somewhat misleading. Then, thinking I might also have time stop at the beach I walked under the beating sun to the Heritage House Museum.

I cannot effectively encapsulate the delightful private tour I was given by the exceedingly knowledgeable Justin, a young university student who provided information through wit, fact and passion. I spent two hours listening, discovering, perusing, learning and even teaching, that I could have easily expanded to a longer visit. My donation of $5.00 was certainly well worth it!

To round off my day, after my daughter picked me up we went to Creekside Pub for dinner where there was live music. I was a little pink, tired, and happy. A sign of a great day!

Trinity United Church.

Being unfamiliar with Sunday services I did not enter any churches. This one certainly caught my eye.

My attempt to show the force of the water – the walkway is cordoned off with with a screen covered in ivy; ropes; cement blocks and signs.

Travel in much earlier days along the canal meant being ready for all occasions!

The bridge across is fixed, still rather scary.

The narrow gates terrify me. The hook is used to help push boats going astray and, I assume, for fishing out hapless fishermen.

View from the Rideau Canal Museum lookout. No fee to visit this Parks Canada Museum.

When I asked if one section opened it seemed unknown – look at what we discovered! This is a carpenter’s toolbox. I expect my guide might have known about it but it was fun to think otherwise.
The lid. The curators do not know who the initials are for. However, it is a piece from the same period of house.
Cast iron stove crafted in Smiths Falls. Note the train engine on the front.

How often can a visitor ask to see the bottom of an antique piece? I still have not figured out what it says. A teapot given to new staff by the 2nd family to own the home. There were a number of artifacts visitors are encouraged to inspect more closely – in the hands, or under the watchful eye, of the guide of course!

To round off the day, Creekside Pub, Sunday music on the patio with Jordy Jackson (he has an album Can’t Cruise Without Country)

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)

Mini-Adventure: tourism at home

Despite several attempts to blog about various topics that sort of include travel my activity could indicate I fell off the face of the Earth. I finally threw in the towel and admitted that without a destination to talk about I have very little to offer that might have a modicum interest to readers. The last couple of months have been tough. It was just as well I did not make any trips. I would love to say I have finally bounced back. I am maybe at half bounce. Definitely not feeling like Tigger. However, I did make the effort to actually do something interesting on Family Day! On my own.

Eight of Canada’s provinces have a Family Day, or a holiday equivalent, on the third Monday of February. Only Quebec, Newfoundland and the three territories do not. Sort of a way to encourage getting out with the family and enjoying our gloomy winter. Living in Victoria this usually means enjoying the cherry blossoms, pleasant walks on the waterfront, cycling, kayaking, walks in the park, golf (not me) and even hiking. Not this year. We had snow! Lots of it, so much that we broke some records for snowfall in February. It was, and still, also below seasonal temperatures. We Victorians are not made for the cold. I usually leave all my winter clothing in Ontario, so glad I had expected to need it for my still in the plans trip to Churchill. I digress. Family Day.

I decided I could do a mini-adventure if I did not have to pay for anything. That meant taking advantage of free entry to two places. The Robert Bateman Centre, that I had been wanting to visit ever since it opened, and the Royal B.C. Museum’s exhibit: Wildlife Photographer of the Year. All I had to consider was a cup of coffee, which I really did not need, and lunch. Aha, I had some money on a Tim Horton’s card, gift from our landlady(!) for my coffee and rewards on Starbucks for my lunch. That is not cheating when it comes to not spending money as my daughter puts money on the card. (I am so lucky!) Although parking was also free I parked at another daughter’s, handed her the keys for her to load up her laundry, (too bad she does not pay for our hydro) telling her I would return in a couple of hours.

The sun was out, people were smiling, a jaunt in my step, was spring finally in the air? It was that afternoon. There was even a piper somewhere in the distance – I could hear him but did not see anyone. Most likely at the Legislature where visitors were lined up for a free visit. Note: visiting is always free (although that should be confirmed before heading there) My first stop was to the Robert Bateman Centre, housed where Victoria’s very popular Royal London Wax Museum welcomed visitors from 1961 to 2010. The building was built in 1924 as the Canadian Pacific Marine Terminal. Although there was concern the building could not be saved once all the was figures left the building (yes, Elvis was represented) extensive earthquake proofing and upgrades were made before becoming the much gentler on the psyche art centre.

Robert Bateman is a well known Canadian artist whose main focus is of wildlife. His numbered prints run at $750.00 and up – well worth it if one can not afford the original. Sadly, I will only be able to look at my photos and perhaps buy a calendar one of these years. What I found amazing is that photos were not discouraged, just not flash. Wonderful, such works need to be shared. It took a bit of sleuthing to find the entrance, seems the restaurant management on the main floor hopes to entice visitors to have a meal first, or after, visiting the gallery. For those less inclined to a fell, sit down meal, there is also a small Starbucks. More on that after.

Heritage – Bald Eagle (2010)

One of the first paintings at the centre; so apt considering the winter we have been hit with.

Eagles and tree stumps are the sad story of progress. Too many nesting trees lost. Seeing an aerie of eagles flying high above where trees once stood is rather heartbreaking.

By the Tracks – Killdeer (1971)

Although not a painting of railway ties in Victoria this fading effect is evocative of our silenced tracks.

High Kingdom – Snow Leopard (1986)

Like all cats this one looks so innocent in repose! an excellent capture in paint.

Gentoo Penguins and Whale Bones (1979)

Robert Bateman has been to Antarctica an enviable five times! I am a sucker for penguins.

This majestic painting was hidden away in a side room, used for classes I believe, no title – not that it needs one. I took several shots at various angles. This was my first, and my favourite. Such disdain in those eyes.

There were several others but these were my favourites. I felt fortunate that, although there were several visitors, including children, I could take my time to enjoy the artistry before descending the stairs in search of lunch. I discovered that the Starbucks in the building does not have much of a selection. My guess is that to share the space with the restaurant they keep the choices to a minimum, choosing instead to concentrate on coffee sales. They were certainly doing a brisk business. Fortunately I was not yet famished and did know where to find another Starbucks.

Before seeking lunch I still had the RBCM to look forward to. I was not too surprised to see the place teeming with families. However, I was quite taken aback by the sheer number of children tagging along with parents to view the photography exhibit. It was so busy it was nearly impossible to see the works yet alone enjoy them. I was happy to have turned left to see the winning picture from the under ten years old category. Sadly, not photographs are allowed. The young boy, I believe in India, saw some owlets flying towards a drainpipe, asked his father to stop the car, and managed to capture these tiny birds cuddled together in the entrance. It was enchanting. My attempts to view much more were thwarted by the crowds of people who all seemed to be taller than me! (Except the children who were with tall adults) I gave up and exited without visiting the galleries I have seen many times but never tire of. I highly recommend visiting. Perhaps not on a free day.

I came across this construction site across from the legislature – I will not be surprised if the lowest price is not below $1 million. The sign is rather in your face.

I believe this is new government offices. On the far side there is a much needed, new library. Until it was built that area of Victoria did not have a library.

I walked back towards where my daughter lives, stopping first at the Starbucks close to her place to have a relatively quiet lunch in a comfortable chair – a few of the stores still have those. There I met an elderly woman struggling with keeping her drink upright in the basket of her walker. After helping her I ended up chatting about a variety of things, nothing extraordinary just a pleasant time for two strangers to appreciate the afternoon and a quarter hour of unity. It was a pleasant end to a very short adventure and a reminder to enjoy what is in my backyard.

Mini Adventure: Wentworth Villa

In an effort to keep my mini-adventures interesting I often search for upcoming, preferably free, activities that could be interesting and provide some exercise. The Wentworth Villa Architectural Heritage Museum seemed like a perfect match. Two free tours were being offered on each weekend day over two weeks – maximum ten people per tour. I checked with my weekend adventurers who were definitely interested before registering the three of us through Eventbrite. Which nearly found me dropping the whole thing due to the ridiculous process for a free event. Too much information was requested, all three names, addresses, emails and phone numbers were requested (blood type optional) if we wanted confirmation and to print the tickets. Only after all this had been provided did we discover we did not have to print anything, nor were we asked our names on the day we attended.

To ensure a good walk I drove to my sister’s house to put in what we thought would a pleasant 45 minutes. A miscalculation meant we had time to spare to walk further down Fort St. then back up. Fort Street has been known as Antique Road since at least the 1970s. Sadly, most of the quirky stores have since closed their doors as interest in all things old started to wane some years ago. There are now only 2-3 stores left. Wentworth Villa, further up Fort Street, had been one of those quirky shops. I had even visited it once many years ago.

The pink paint was not the original colour; it was chosen to showcase the exterior workmanship.

Central hall. Visitors rarely went beyond the door to the private areas of the home. However, aesthetically pleasing stained glass does give a glimpse of the lovely banister on the stairs beyond. (There are only two stained glass windows, the other is in the attic! No easy access had the renovators think it was there purely for looks.

Only two families ever owned and lived in the Villa. Built in 1863 for Captain Ella, his wife Martha, who would eventually have seven children, and Martha’s aunt. Despite the grandeur quarters would have been quite cramped! Some of the family lived in the house until the 1930s. By the 1940s the home was a bit run down, back taxes were owed and Wentworth Villa was purchased by Faith Grant and her husband – paying 25 years of back taxes. Renovated, with plenty of living space, the antique store next door, and the Grant family were soon relocated to Wentworth Villa. Over time the only changes to house were an extension and paint. It was an antique store until 2012. Sold in 2011 to developers it seemed likely the once grand home where Fort St. met Cadboro Bay Rd. (Over time Fort St. was extended and Cadboro Rd. starts at the border of what is now Oak Bay) was slated to be converted into high end suites. Yet another piece of Victoria’s history lost to the almighty dollar.

The door from the other side.

Note the wood floor in the next room is covered – these are floorboards that are laid across the foundation before the walls go up. Floors were often left unstained in the centre of the room as rugs were used to cover that area.

Fortune must shine on the home as it was sold in 2012 with the purpose of renovating it to become a jewel of the Wentworth Villa Architectural Heritage Museum. We were taken through the house by Stefan, one of the extremely knowledgeable members. Although he did not say, I was under the impression he is one of the main people involved in ensuring all the work is completed as closely to the original structure as possible. This meant sifting through family photos from the Ella family, one of whom serves on the board, newspaper articles, and of course the fantastic B.C. Archives. After threes years the house has been fully restored and available for visitors.

As soon as I saw this I asked which cemetery it was stolen from. (I had learned of what happened to many missing stones) Ross Bay, the oldest cemetery in Victoria. Our guide said their renovators were quite surprised to discover tombstones used as paving stones. There are others, none as intact as this one. With names and dates in hand, researchers discovered the story of this, and other, individuals whose stones were found. Their stories are included in the history information boards.

Although we have many heritage designated homes in Victoria only four are open to the public. Emily Carr House, and Ross Bay Villa, and Ellice Point House have all been carefully restored, two with the furnishings of the original owners, one refurbished to appear as it would have been when first built. The plan for Wentworth Villa is to refurbish one room in the style of the Ella family. As their mandate is to show as a Museum of Architecture many of the renovated rooms have, or will have, models and information of various homes of architectural interest. In addition to these there is extensive information mounted on the walls about the process to renovate, the families and history of Wentworth Villa.

Royal Doulton sewer pipes. Ships from England used these pipes as ballast then sold them upon arrival to Victoria as no longer needed.

The architects and renovators could not find any blueprints or reason for why there is an arch from this room to the next. Nor did the very small space in between appear to have any functional use.

One of the finials removes while the roof was being repaired; when the initials carved on it were discovered the decision to make a replica to replace it was made and put the original on display.

Of course, all of this work is expensive, visitors will soon be charged to, and the extension put in by the Grants has been renovated as an intimate, acoustically sound, concert space. I checked out the seats – comfortable! The intention is to invite a variety of musical artists from Vancouver Island to perform. Concert goers will get quite a hit to the wallet though, $40.00 seemed to be the main ticket rate. Not terribly expensive if one considers the cost of movies these days. Our one hour tour stretched to nearly two – the passion of our guide was infectious as well as extensive! His mention of a few other familiar homes was interesting – one of which my daughter had lived in. Check out their growing website, http://www.wentworthvilla.com

bottom of one of the posts holding the house up.

Right hand side of the photo is where these posts were in the ground.

After our walk and two hours at the Villa we were all very hungry. With the house on the outskirts of Fairfield we headed down to Cook St. Village, to me the heart of Fairfield,where there are many choices of eateries, a few I have been fortunate to have already tried. Knowing there would be choices my daughter could have we headed to Bubby’s Kitchen. This place seems to be always busy. We were quickly seated at the end of the communal table (I think these are a great idea) and handed breakfast and lunch menus. My sister was disappointed to be told her choice of smoked salmon croissant had run out of croissants and found her half order Westcoast Benny on a tea biscuit expensive and not as tasty as she had hoped. I had the Falafel Naan Wrap. With French fries at the insistence of my sister – she wanted to share them. I was very pleased with the choice, after our server made the suggestion when I could not decide between that and another dish. Only ate half – carried the rest in a recyclable box for my dinner later. (No recollection of what my daughter had, just that she also took home leftovers)

Those boxes became a nuisance at times. I proposed we head to the ocean at the end of the street before veering off to Moss St. in the hope of seeing the cheery blossoms in full bloom. Moss Street is the best place for visitors in Victoria during cherry blossom season. They were still not in full show mode. Then to Rockland Ave where there are many grand old homes as well as the Lt. Governor’s House. We took a short stroll through the public park inside before wending our way back to the street. We had planned to find one house mentioned during our tour, too bad we recalled the street incorrectly. No matter, we were in very familiar territory, the weather was only slightly chilly and windy, and we were feeling hearty.

Keeping a watchful eye on everything.

On the way I discovered a little wonderland on the edges of one home. Such a delightful sight.

By the time we returned to my car we had walked nearly 14km! (I faithfully wore my knee brace until back at the car – it only helps a very little) No wonder I was tired. My daughter and I put in another 2km shopping before heading home. Another stress free, very little driving, adventure.