Ontario Visit: from Drag Race to Lakeside

The last two weeks were a mix of big city crazy to sublime quiet. The only factor that did not change was the heat and humidity. Thank goodness for AC in the house and the truck! Even when there thunderstorms it was still hot and humid with the added drenching.

My daughters treated me to a show of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 11 Roadshow. I am unsure if that is the actual title although it makes sense if it is. My eldest drove us to Toronto, we met up with my other daughter, had lunch at the New York Cafe, (I had the single serving of French Toast – what a great idea to offer that choice) across from the Danforth Music Hall where we would see the show, and had enough time to wander around Danforth a bit. The show was great, all the audience gave a big round of applause for the Canadian favourite, Brooklyn Hytes – I do wish I could have shown him dancing en pointe!

Very unassuming theatre. Pretty sure it is not where the stars perform. The queue started early – no seats on the main floor.
Unfortunately it was so dark that none of our photos did justice to the performers. If anyone has a chance to see a show do so! Even if in a grungy theatre.

We saw my younger daughter off at the GO Station before heading back to Kingston. Halfway there we stopped for dinner in Point Hope, a lovely little town with some great old buildings. Dinner was at Turtle Jack’s because we loved the name. I never did discover why it is called that. Then a very quick walk to admire some of the architecture. I am crossing my fingers for a return trip. especially if there is a chance of getting some better photos!

Bank of Upper Canada erected in 1857. Now the Carlyle Bistro and possibly a boutique hotel. If I had seen this earlier we might have eaten there instead.

Port Hope Town Hall
The following day was a time to hide from the exhausting heat, read and literally watch the flowers pop out much like popcorn does. The morning had started with perhaps five fully opened heads to then be a burst of colour by the end of the day.
A summer school group headed out on Gould Lake.
A restful view at the lake after the hectic city – once all the canoes had passed by. Also where I discovered I really did need the bug spray I had bought!

More adventures to come it’s a trip to Ottawa, and probably Niagara Falls as well as more forays into Kingston if I can avoid the heat!

Expenses: (oops, forgot to put in the ones for when I was in Smiths Falls) Museum $5.00; lunch $11.25 (just me so quite extravagant); insect spray + sundries $12.22 (although my daughter bought more I think I will need my own); Starbucks account $20.00 (this was over a few days to cover what my daughter in Victoria had used – points & money); bottled water $4.00 (gasp, gasp); lunch in Toronto for two $19.00; groceries $7.30

Although it appears I have wantonly spent my limited funds this was over a period of roughly three weeks. I am still well within budget. Just as well considering I have some upcoming travel expenses.

Victoria to Ontario May – Aug/19: finding activities

In the hope I will indeed be in Ontario for 2 1/2 months I decided to start to write about my preparations. In my previous blog I mentioned I want to begin doing a YouTube channel. Which was a lofty goal. Also a mighty fail. That was my packing video. The video I was so confident I would have on my channel that I deleted it from my phone. So much for screen shots to enhance my blog. (Not that I have mastered that yet)

Onward. As I am working at this being a one shoestring budget trip I am always happy when an activity I might be interested in, at minimal cost, turns up. My daughter in Kitchener, who will be here rather than there, told me about an opportunity she would love to attend on June 9th. But, she will be here, not there. It is a tour of the Buddhist Temple in Bethany, near Peterborough ON.

Artist’s rendition of the temple. It is not yet completed.

A significant chance for my daughter to possibly meet some of the people involved, but she will be here, not there. So I offered to call the number to get more information and see if I can go instead. I would not be doing any research per se (oh, did I forget to mention that this temple is the one my daughter is doing her thesis on? So, significant!) but I can listen, take any written information and of course take pictures. I may even dare to chance a video. The only difficulty will be getting there and back to Kitchener all in one day.

I spoke on the to the ‘local ambassador’ for the temple, a role she has had for twelve years, when I explained my interest she provided some information on upcoming events, names of contacts, and her email address to pass to my daughter, and pencilled me in for the noon tour after providing some suggestions for getting there.

It sounds like the only stumbling block will be getting from the Peterborough GO Station (all these names & transportation mean very little to me) to Bethany – or maybe it is Manvers. Visitors are to meet at a tea room where, I think, we will be driven to the temple site.

I am thrilled to be able to consider this as I did not have time to visit the Cham Shan Temple in Niagara Falls where my daughter did her MA research. There is a chance I can also go at a later date in the summer with my daughter; however, it would most likely be research based for her. I think there is enough time to get it all sorted and it will mean a little solo adventure for me. Of course I will take my pandas.

Chemainus: the little town that did

What does a small town falling into wrack and ruin do when all of its resource jobs are rapidly disappearing? Pull out the paint and brushes! This little town understood the concept of “build it and they will come.” They did, into the millions, from around the world, since the early 1980s. Which is how I first heard about this out of the way little town.

Named for a local Cowichan First Nations band, “Tsa-mee’-nis” that had been living off the land and sea for thousands of years before the first Europeans arrived in 1791. By 1858 settlers were felling trees to clear the land, within four years the first sawmill was up and running and took advantage of the naturally deep port to move logs and board. Although iron ore was mined in the area and fishing was important, the forests provided the majority of jobs. Until everything fell apart with the downturn of the markets. As this was happening I was moving to Vancouver Island. By 1983 the last sawmill in Chemainus had shut down. Five murals had been painted in 1982 as part of a revitalization plan. With the closure of the mill plans were put in place to keep on painting. The theme was the history of the area – trains, logging, the working man, the immigrants, the festivals. Although the mill did re-open in 1985 the locals had discovered a new way to earn money. Tourism.

Street heading to the docks from the main park.

My first trip to Chemainus was probably some time between 1986 – 1989, the murals were so fresh it seemed that wet paint would be left on your hands if you dared to touch a wall. Wood walls, brick walls, rough and smooth walls, were painted with stunning, and not so great, murals. They were impressive, present and approachable. These were our people depicted in giant form. Over the years I would return a few times, my children encouraging me to hurry up and look. They were always interested – and each had a favourite. They also had an uncanny memory for where to find the best ice cream cones.

check out the upstairs windows! This is a candy shop. I wonder if my children could find the ice cream store now.

It has been probably 15+ years since my last visit. My mission was to drive to Nanaimo, north of Chemainus, to purchase some wedding centrepiece items – the store would not send to the either of the Victoria stores. That accomplished, two hours from home to store and back on the road, I felt we needed a little adventure. I chose Chemainus.

I cannot swear to this however I am quite sure this building was a new build in the ’80s

Today was out of season, many shops were still closed, or only open Tuesday to Saturday. This gave my daughter and I the freedom to just wander without jostling elbows, avoiding tour buses and cars. We checked out the Chemainus Theatre, I have heard their shows are high quality. I finally picked up a list and schedule of the plays for this coming year – with a goal to see one. I love trains, so was quite happy to find some murals of various trains. Of course there were others, 44 is the number I read. We did not make a full tour of them, perhaps when it is less chilly.

Mural showing iron ore being mined. I do not see the hardship in this one. Perhaps the artist did not want to upset tourists

One I liked, not of trains, was of float festival winners from 1939. This was a Japanese float, all I could think of was if any of the people who had been part of the float were forced to one of the Japanese interment camps in Canada during the Second World War. I looked it up. Despite being Canadian citizens, even second or third generation, perhaps 200 were displaced out of Chemainus. Many never returned, their homes, businesses, property had been seized.

where else but on the wall of the Post Office

I bought a rather yummy sausage roll, an apple turnover and a coffee (except I think it had a different name) at Utopia Bakery, hidden around a corner. The sausage rolls, including the meat, are house made, beef and pork with a little spice for a bite. Warmed just enough rather than piping hot like many places do. The coffee was bold, probably because we managed to get caught in the only rain during the five hours we were up Island! I ended up not eating the turnover until I was home, it was quite good. Not overly sweet, always a bonus, and flaky, yet sturdy, pastry. (I never appreciate having pastry crumbs flying about)

Many of the homes built over 100 years ago are still in use, or sadly, sitting empty and looking rather forlorn. I was rather intrigued by Castle B&B, so much so I suggested we might want to rent the small ‘castle’. The rent was reasonable, Chemainus perhaps not so much.

There are some problems with living in a tourist town, particularly one that operates seasonally- what to do when the tourists leave. Of course there are still some mills. Outdoor activities are thriving, still mainly during warmer weather. Which is a pretty decent window – usually March to October. However, I could not help but notice the once bright yellow footprints showing the way are fading, the paint is chipping on a few murals, several shops have closed permanently.

We came across this and a similar one in the garden of a house. Look closely to see the white orchid

Once a shop filled with a variety of items to entice tourists. Now it sits unloved, draperies pulled tight.

Spectacular mountain, ocean and forest views

We left home at 7:30AM and were home by 12:30PM. A five hour trip up island and return with a wonderful little break in ‘the little town that did’ where we were refreshed, walked and enjoyed the art. It is suggested visitors stay a little longer. Perhaps I will when the place comes out of hibernation, to be drawn into the full magic of Chemainus just as my children were over twenty years ago.

Justifying Expenses

I have been monitoring the long range weather reports for Jasper. Of course this means that the closer I am to departure the reports are likely to change. This has meant I am waffling about buying anything I might no use more than a few days. Eight days before departure I finally broke down and bought two T-max Heat thermal mock neck tops. Not Merino wool, but suitable for my needs.

Men’s, because of course women have no need for warm base layers as we approach March. These items were on sale, $19.88 each, down from $44.99 each. It did mean my choices were few, I ended up with an XL and a medium. If I were still in my 20’s the XL could serve as a mini-dress. Perhaps I will be able to go dogsledding after all. Not sure I want to try riding tandem on a snowmobile. Flurries and snow with temps just below 0 C forecast for the days I will actually be in Jasper.

Getting There

I may have mentioned in other blogs just what it takes to begin an adventure from where I live. The winter months make it even more of a challenge. If I did not live in the capital of the island an extra few hours or so would have to be added on.

I could drive my car and park it Swartz Bay, bcferries.com terminal for this side trip. However, it seems a major waste of money at $12.00 per day in the long term parking and more opportunity for thieves to ransack vehicles. It also does not save a lot of time on this end. Therefore, public transit is the most sensible mode of transportation.

It does irk me that passengers must now pay for each section of their trip or get a bctransit.com day pass for $5.00 – payable only on the bus. I would prefer to buy the pass at one of the many outlets where monthly passes can be bought. It will take two buses to get to the terminal. Perfect driving conditions will take 1 1/2 – 1 3/4 hours to get there.

As the ferries will still be running on the winter schedule I have to time my arrival at the terminal to catch a ferry without having to wait an hour. After March 15 I believe the run between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen will be every hour. It takes an hour and 40 minutes to cross. When the weather is fine the $17.20 plus any applicable taxes is well worth it. Heck, even when the weather is not fine it is worth it!

Then hop on a Translink bus once on solid ground again to the Canada Line skytrain then transfer to the Expo Line, about another 1 1/2 hours, $6.00 with a Compass Pass. Be prepared to enjoy 5 plus hours of scenery. Never a hardship when living on the westcoast of Canada.

Checking my Lists

I know I have noted in previous trip post that I never travel with a credit card. I am at the point now where I do not want one. Sometimes this poses problems. Such as when the accommodation I choose absolutely insists on one. I understand their reasoning, but not when I offer to pay a reasonable, immediately refundable upon check out, deposit. Usually I book using my debit/visa. Sometimes it is accepted, others not. (My trip across Canada brought out the little old lady in me when this happened; or, when that did not work I insisted on seeing a manager) I search for places that do not insist on a credit card to check in.

I was very happy to discover that HI-Jasper Hostel, where I chose for my stay in Jasper did not need one. Also the free shuttle to their location. The latter I double checked a month ago with an email after reading different reviews and an ambiguous description on booking.com by the hostel. Hm, seems they do charge,”a nominal fee.” Due diligence brought me back to a look at their information just days before departure. New information perhaps? It now says free hostel shuttle service between Oct 16/16 to April 30/16. Another, more worrying, change in information is that a credit card is now required at check in.

After a major night of tossing and turning, as if I do not wake up far too often during the night already, worrying about having to sleep in a doorway, or perhaps a jail cell, I finally decided I have two choices, ignore the newer listing information, or call them. I am leaning to calling, in the hope they will not cancel my booking for lack of a credit card. It is a hostel, not the Fairmont! I am willing to pay $3.00 per shuttle trip, but think it is unacceptable to have to need a credit card. I am even reluctant to get a prepaid one; which, by the way, are often not accepted at various accommodations. I need this break. I do not need the aggravation. I will post the result of my conversation.

Hurray, hurray! I do not have to worry about having a credit card and there is no charge for the shuttle until the end of April. Sometimes all it takes is talking to a real person.

Still concerned about keeping warm I bought some dollar store hand and toe warmers. Funny that hand warmers say to place inside mitten, and warns against placing against the skin. Good thing I had the foresight to pack mittens I can wear over gloves.

Wavering over taking my small, soft sided cooler – with or without the inner box – for my food. What does one take when travelling towards winter on the train in Economy class? I raided my earthquake emergency supplies, the timing worked out as they need replacing every six months. Dried fruit, variety of tuna and cracker packages, almonds, granola bars.

I tend to have a battle with myself over the bars, they have too much sugar – or none and taste like cardboard and sawdust – but are so easy to throw into a daypack for when I might need an energy boost. I will add bagels, cheese, tea eggs, fruit and pre-cut vegetables. As the hostel is 7 km out of the town I want to ensure I have enough food to last me if I decide I do not want to venture beyond the property. I have not quite figured out how to travel with coffee cream. Not sure I could bear to not have my morning coffee.

I nearly forgot about my travelling companions! Must keep them away from any hungry sled dogs.

Packing Light: or how to keep warm for a winter trip


As promised, perhaps more of a threat, this will be a list of gear – not winter sports gear, just the basics needed when travelling on a budget to a winter location. No easy feat to pack light when everything is bulky. It is a good thing I am not planning to fly anywhere on this trip. Just looking at my handwritten list – old school all the way when I first start researching a new adventure – has me reconsidering if I really need all that stuff.

A note about outdoor winter activities: it appears some of the higher end accommodations provide the necessary gear through rentals. Guests pay for rooms using credit cards, ergo, no worry about anyone walking off with a winter coat, boots or whatever else they might not have brought I will not be using a credit card. Lesson although a nuisance, bring back my winter clothes every year from Ontario!

Daunting task – My reasoning seems sound, the weight and bulk may change my mind. Some of the items are always included when I travel.

  • Osprey Sirrus 36 – lightweight, no need to worry about stowing it in the baggage car.
  • Ultra Light Down Throw – from Quilts Etc
  • WAci ultra quick dry towel – from Home Outfitters
  • Emergency kit – I still have to go through this to pull out the important items and decrease bulk
  • Travel coffee press and coffee – perhaps the most necessary item! Small flashlight
  • Medicine for one week – after I dropped several pills while waiting at a taxi stand in Chengdu, China I always take extra with me. Perhaps I should look into the likelihood of avalanches that could close the railway in March.
  • Day pack – to stuff my thermos, food, etc. into while on the train; emergency kit, food and water if I become foolish enough to attempt a hike along one of the trails. Such an endeavour will need some extremely serious thought; I am prone to meeting up with bears.
  • one book – possibly one I can just leave behind, as difficult as that is for me to do
  • electronics – iPad, iPhone and chargers; camera. I always use my iPhone but dropped it when in ON which means the necessity of a back-up, after all, I am going to be in the Rockies!
  • toque, (2?) mittens, gloves, scarf (I did mention I left all my major winter wear in Ontario)
  • Boots – my conundrum is that they do not have great grips, only figured that out recently, and my icers are, of course, with my winter gear.
  • Winter socks – 4 – 5 pairs, I will break down and buy some
  • Light socks – 4 – 5 pairs, anything to ensure I do not get cold feet
  • slippers – I hate wearing outdoor footwear when sleeping
  • 2 pairs warm joggers (outer layer)
  • 4 pairs leggings (they will double as pyjamas)
  • 3 long sleeve light shirts (also doubling as PJs)
  • 2 sweaters – or should it be 3? My handwritten note asks if I even have that many.
  • fleece jacket and Mac in a Sac waterproof jacket (the latter is to keep my dry) I also have a heavy duty, knit sweater I am considering as an extra layer. I already know it can withstand -15c wind and cold.
  • basic toiletries

In addition, I am considering purchasing gaiters and another set of icers to keep me from getting snow in my boots and slipping. As for keeping warm, I cannot decide if I should just eat the cost and buy some Merino tops – sales are on now – or hope what I do have will be warm enough. My preference is to just buy sleeves, similar to what cyclists wear.


After writing my list I had to take Mozzy to the vet – we do this every two weeks – which usually means some talking about his routine, when I will be away, that sort of thing. One of the staff said that a great place to look for winter coats is at second hand stores! So I did. I found a coat at W.I.N. a not for profit store that helps women in need. It might not be perfect for -30 C weather but I think it might suffice for the five days I need something to keep me toasty.

Best of all, it has a hood and is long enough to cover my upper legs. All for the insane amount of $18! For the time being my daughter can borrow it, she who came home from Taiwan to a snowstorm. If I think of it as the equivalent of five coffees, (not fancy ones) I can justify leaving the coat in Jasper for the next unprepared person.