Pushing My Buttons: or why my BP goes up

First, I should make it clear that I do not think my blood pressure did go up. Of course I chose to not check it. As I grow older I am also far more mellow than when I was younger, raising children and juggling all the unnecessary stuff that made up my life. Slough off much of that and everything seems just that much easier. It might not be, but it feels like it. Then every once in a while I hit a roadblock. Or, in this case a derailment.

Not to worry, it was a figurative one. After spending far too much time working on an itinerary that will give me time to actually enjoy each place I visit, I booked my train passage for the first leg of my trip. I had every intention of booking this time with travelchinaguide.com a dollar (USD) cheaper than chinahighlights.com and far more information to glean ideas from. However, I found some challenges with their payment request. Little did I know that their competitor also requires a copy of the ‘payer’s passport’. In other words, although it is me paying, me going, but not my PayPal account I would have to ask the person whose account I am using to send along a photo of their passport. 

National Day crowds I am hoping to avoid – one of Shanghai’s three train stations

I realize someone is under the impression this is for security measures. I just do not see it. Therefore, after checking out chinahighlights.com -I used them last year – and finding nothing to suggest any difficulties, I booked and paid through them. Except the app used seemed to only Book one trip at a time. Which then seemed to be booked – but not yet paid – and an email was sent with a booking number along with a request for money. I sent a message to cancel it. 
Back on track using the website, four trains booked, paid for through PayPal using my debit/visa, no need for anyone to do it on my behalf. Except this time all I received was a PayPal receipt. No booking number, no confirmation, nothing. I started to panic. I thought my money was lost in the ether. Finally, about three hours later, I received a message (I had sent an email) that the money was received and my tickets would be ordered. Except….did I really want to leave Shanghai on May 20th? Oh my goodness! Am I glad some bright individual caught that.
Not my ticket, but look at all that information!

So, happy with the agency I used, still unsure if they need a photo of my passport for proof of purchase – the cancelled app order asked for it , but the main order there was no mention. So long as I have four train tickets to pick up in Sep no problem.
Shanghai to Suzhou; Suzhou to Nanjing; Nanjing to Huangshan (this was a test – I told my daughter Hangzhou); Huangshan to Shanghai. All for 165.67 CAD

Day of Reckoning 

Two days of blurred memories plus two more in relative non-action ended my 40 day trip to Ontario and Manitoba. There was a time when going anywhere had seemed unlikely with a sick kitty and so many changes to my itinerary. So, I did not make it to Churchill, New York or Newfoundland this summer; instead I had a great time getting to know Kingston without freezing, and visiting the one museum in WinnipegI had been wanting to see. I even put in a two night train trip.

Which is where I will start this last Canada 2017 entry. The day I was to leave started with a question mark. Just how late would my train from Toronto be? I departed Kingston without an answer. All I knew was that the smoke and fires in BC had caused a delay of at least three hours. It ended up being close to six. I had arrived at Union Station early enough to know I would most likely have a comfortable wait before the original departure time. That ended up being an excruciating time standing in line for three hours – after sitting for the first few I finally moved to where a line was beginning. I did not want to be at the end of a shifting line. A line that seemed to be in the wrong place. It was. Fortunately, I kept an eye on signs and eventually asked if all the relatively young passengers waiting were Canada 150 ticket holders. They were. Those of us who paid higher fares shifted over to a new line. I was 7th in line.


Back to the excruciating part. I choose to not sit on floors because it is difficult for me to easily jump up if necessary. This time I also had increasing swelling and pain caused by three very nasty mosquito bites from the previous night of sitting on the dock of the bay for dinner. Closer inspection showed another three bites on my foot with one not looking great. I did finally cave in and sat at a nearby seat where I could see my bags. Not that I was worried, by this time we were all looking out for each other. On more than one occasion it was suggested I really should take a rest. By 10:00pm the lines had become two writhing lines of humanity. The Canada 150 youth in one much longer line, and the rest of us. (Canada 150 was a one month $150.00 pass available to 1867 youth only for the month of July – crashed the system when offered, sold out in minutes) Via fed us sandwiches, cookies and bottles of water. Hurray Via! I was only still standing with that sustenance and sheer willpower by this time. 


Much of the actual trip was blurred with pain and probably an infection at the bite sites. I later found out that staph infections are common when bites are bad. I did have the Rx cream with an antibiotic in it that I carefully applied. When the commissary was open I also bagged ice. My leg looked so bad I ended up have two seats to myself the whole trip to Winnipeg. Also the corner seat in the small lounge area most of the time where I could rest my leg. I dozed a lot. First time I have not been very interested in the landscape slipping by. Of course, leaving Toronto at 2:00am did mean everyone was ready for sleep.
18 days later these three bites are still visible

This is the only note I wrote. Passed lovely Malachi – better known as Lake of the Woods, northern ON. Soon after the trees were scrubbier and many in stages of bareness or grey. Looked marshy out there and hot at 8:30am. Blue sky. Despite the AC it was time to leave the dome car as the sun beat down. 

The photos behind the fence were at a stop somewhere along the line, the paintings had seen better days. A sad tale of many rail stops now barely noticed.


We arrived in Winnipeg only three hours late, picked up time somewhere. I have never given Winnipeg a positive review. This time I can. I hopped on a bus, backtracked when I got off too late, found my hostel at the university and dumped my bags in the office – check in would not be until 4:00 (despite an email saying 3:00). I decided to head to the Forks for lunch and coffee. An email to my 90+ year old aunt ensured I would see her and my cousin the following day.  Still in pain I was checked in and in bed by 8:00. The next day my only plan was to visit the museum.

Canadian Museum for Human Rights

Opened in 2014, (to the best of my recollection it had been delayed) mere months after I had been in Winnipeg on a cross Canada trip, the admission was $18.00 for a full day with the option to leave and return is desired. I had to wait about an hour – they did not open until 10:00. That gave me the opportunity to take photos without people wandering into my view and makecsome observations. The entrance, especially once leaving when I discovered locked doors, made me think of a birth canal. The red sandstone, high wall that leads to the lower entrance was curved and seemed like a place of temporary comfort (versus what a birth canal is really like) before being expelled onto the walkway or into the museum itself. I doubt that was the intention. Inside did not make me imagine a womb.


There are eight levels. I opted to start at the Tower of Hope. They are not kidding when they say you “may not be comfortable…on the indoor viewing platform. Even the glass elevator ride was rather heart pumping. The 100 metre (23 storeys) tower and view was worth the slight vertigo I had. I quickly headed for the stairs. Each level widens slightly.


As I walked down to each level it became clear that I could not effectively describe each gallery without finding fault with who we, people of all walks, are. However, I did see promise for the future, not in the galleries, but in the people working and visiting.  As I watched one short clip in the Our Canada, My Story my eyes were drawn to a lower scrim hanging from a screen of information where I was sure I could see dancing feet. Peeping between the TV screen and the divider I saw a lone security guard moving with the fluidity of a dancer – he was practicing the Argentinian Tango. I was asked. He explained that dance is so much a part of his life he is sometimes unaware he does this. I forget where he was from, perhaps he did not say – his accent told me English is probably not his first language. Nor French. The juxtaposition was so perfect it had to be happenstance.

The architecture is impressive. The museum is a stunning building, despite it appearing to be the helmet worn by the little alien from Bugs Bunny. Inside is beautiful. Visitors generally start on the ground floor with the intentional focus of “a journey from darkness to light.” Only once was I ‘chastised’ for beginning at the top. I am sure the person meant well by telling there is so much more to see on the first three floors. I however think it is just as important to look back from the light to recall the darkness. Otherwise it can become too easy to be bogged down in what cannot be changed. That is the only problem I had, there were biases, there were many representations of dreadful lack of human rights, but there did not appear to be enough balance of that changing. Therefore, I focussed on the light – as seen in photos of the ramps I took.


I took a two hour break to visit with my aunt and cousin at the nearby Forks, I hope I am still as active at 92! Then admired some artists working on a piece slated for a parking lot of all things. It was time to repack for an early morning taxi. This was the end of my Canada 150. Ahead of me China and Vietnam were waiting.

10,000 , 11,000, 17,000, 6000 steps over the four days going home.
Day of reckoning – crunching the numbers.

Steps: 400,000 = 305km = 7.5km avg per day. I can live with that.

I took an extra $400..00 to cover Winnipeg expenses and beyond. I did not take careful records for about the last five days. The UWin Hostel was $160.00; I bought lunch at the Taj – a reasonably priced place downtown I like to visit whenever in Kingston, 40.00; food for the train trip (and a loaf of focaccia for my Daughter) maybe $20.00; a final Crave coffee because I wanted plastic cutlery, 2.50. Of course all of these numbers were figured out while on the train so I then had time to worry! All I needed was money for two days of meals, the sky train, bus and ferry and then fare for a bus home. I decided there was not much I could do until the station and so long as I had $100 left after the hostel I would be fine. Quick calculation indicates I spent on average $50.00 based on $2000 for expenses. I also had a direct flight to Victoria so only a bus ride home where my daughter met me at the stop to help carry things.

Day 19: Back at full Throttle

Sent off a birthday greeting to my sister and celebrated on her behalf by going for a leisurely walk along a section of the K&P Trail. Built on the abandoned Canadian Pacific Railway rail bed access to the three trails I managed to stumble across starting at the Information Centre (formerly the K&P Station)/Confederation Park, across from City Hall, were connected, the Waterfront and City of Kingston Pathways sections and the K&P sections I took run beside Lake Ontario and Cataraqui River and beyond. I use leisurely loosely, starting from nearby Princess St. then turning back at River St. The route I took included the waterfront pathway, past the boatyard, the former Cotton Mill, a Rowing and a Canoe Club and enough picturesque stops for anyone with a need to just enjoy the view, rest or take photos. As I also took the Waterfront section and  I am unsure how many kilometres I walked but the majority of my steps had to have been during that walk.


The lake and river were still much higher than usual for the time of year. Shy turtles were bathing on the jutting ends of submerged logs, only to jump off if anyone stopped along the path to snap a picture. Of course this meant I only managed a few. In some areas the lake had lapped over the path and one jetty that appeared to be a kayak and canoe launch was looking very precarious. I was rather flabbergasted to see a family fishing from the section closest to shore. My imagination was working overtime with children sliding off the edge. 

The Woolen Mill was a lovely surprise to come up on. It seems to be a bit of an unknown to anyone who does not have to go in that direction. Neither of my daughters knew about it. Now occupied by offices, artisans, a gym and the River Mill Restaurant (est. 1985) (pricey – I did not go beyond the doors), the buildings were constructed in 1882 for the Kingston Cotton Manufacturing Company. It ran as a cotton mill for 50 years before becoming a woollen mill that ran until 1966. Of course it was synthetic material that saw the demise of the mill.


Fortunately it was saved and renovated without losing too much of the original structure. It was declared a historic build no n 1987 which prevents massive, or even minor – other than necessary repairs – renovation. I should have gone inside to see if there is any sign of the machinery that ran the mill over a century ago. According to thewollenmill.ca the original wood floors, pine beams and red brick were only refurbished rather than heavily renovated. The 100 foot high chimney certainly draws the attention of anyone passing by! 


Note:  I had a dreadful time uploading photos for this, thank goodness they all seem to speak withoutadditinal comments!

The Numbers: 8.90 breakfast; 15.00 lunch; 18,500 steps (trying to decide if I should add approx 1500 steps for when my iPhone is not with me each day – I do at home)

Bittersweet Au Revoir

June 30
We were ready to leave, our bags were packed. I had my usual early breakfast, took a roundabout walk to enjoy the quiet morning before the streets, sidewalks, alleys, restaurants and shops were crowded with people. Of course one of my goals was to get a coffee before cruelly waking my GS. I think I wore him out the day before – he did not want breakfast. I tend to leave early for wherever I am departing from so there was only a little time to stop anywhere on our downhill spiral. That was just up the hill from our hostel. Finally, real coffee! Coffee that I promptly attempted to spill over the table, me and the floor. Before I even tasted it. Fortunately I somehow caught the cup before losing all the contents. Desperation does wonders.
Perhaps I am being a bit dramatic, it just felt like we were walking in a spiral. We arrived at the train station with over an hour to spare before boarding. The spiral continued after the coffee. I wanted to take photos of the train station so put my bags on a nearby chair along with my sunglasses – that fell onto the floor. Picked them up, took my photos, caught up with my GS. I tend to find it difficult to sit still when in a waiting room. So I pace, or I change seats or check out stores. 

Other than the stunning entrance and hall the QC station is pretty small and only one small eatery was open. The great hall is so big, and high, my iPhone simply did not have the scope to take it all in. The stained glass on the ceiling was spectacular. I could not figure out what the shields at the top of the windows represented, then forgot all about it after what happened next. I gathered up my belongings, plopped them beside my GS and declared I was going for a walk. He had his music and games on his phone. Grabbed my small bag, went to pop my sunglasses on my head…no sunglasses. 

The cavernous great hall of the station

Let the light shine!

I searched my bags, the seats, the floor and where my GS was sitting. I retraced my steps. Asked a cleaner if he had picked up a pair and said where they were last seen. The only difference was the two chairs I had put my bags on were turned into the wall – no idea by whom. Asked at the large restaurant that appeared to be under construction. Nothing. I was devastated. These were not expensive, brand name glasses. Just a simple pair of wraparounds that originally had a string attached to them for easy removal when going from sun to less light. Except they were my mother’s, she bought them only a few months before she died and wore them on her walks with me or riding in the car. I kept them because they were so practical, but more for the sentiment. 

Although my mother did not travel out of Canada, besides some trips to the US, (after emigrating from England as a young teen) she and my father did hike and camp a lot, including a year crossing the country and back. She was keen to get her life back on track after my father died and she had been ill; walking was always part of her routine, buying the sunglasses was, for her, a step forward to wellness. I decided, after being sad, to think someone else is wearing the glasses while on an adventure. (I wore them on all my trips starting in November 2013.) We had a phrase in my family if things were not going our way, “It’s an adventure.” (From Charlie Brown of course) to which one of us more recently would invariably reply, “I don’t want an adventure, I want lunch!” (Direct quote from my, now 31 year old, daughter when she was 4). This day was also my father’s birthday – he would have been 82.

Perhaps losing my glasses in Quebec City was alright, my parents did visit there when on their trip. I am becoming a sentimental fool.

The trip back to Kingston was anticlimactic.
10.00 coffees & treat (latter for GS); 22.75 new sunglasses (so sad); 2.00 water on train

Day 11: Quebec City with my Grandson

Touring Quebec City is not for the faint of heart, nor the unfit. I was travelling with my grandson to Quebec, QC, the old city, so not exactly an unattended grandma. About six hours of an uneventful trip riding the rails. We had snacks with us which meant no need to spend money on expensive, packaged stuff. The Via station is at the bottom of Old Quebec, the hostel nearly at the top of Ste-Ursula Rue, just inside the old town walls. Thank goodness I am in better shape than last time I was here, of course I am also 3 years older. The next day we discovered it was easier to approach the from St. Anne Rue – one of the streets to explore and become dizzy deciding where to eat.

Cathedral Basilica Notre-Dame de Quebec

The hostel is quite large – I neglected to ask how many dorms and private rooms. There are no elevators. We nearly needed a map to find our room! Walk up to top floor; go through the doors, turn a corner, down a corridor or two, down some stairs to access the connector, turn a corner, another corridor and a final set of stairs. . After sitting on the train for six hours I think I put in some major steps. I was not sure how to calculate steps when my grandson was carrying my phone for Google Maps to get to our destination so i just used those for my total. 

Of course we got caught in the rain, all I had was my tiny umbrella. It was raining buckets with lots of thunder and lightening. Very impressive over the river. I visited the Cathedral Basillica Norte-Dame de Quebec while my grandson stayed outside. He seems disinterested in architecture. Having already been there in 2014, and discovering there is some extensive work being done that means a screen depicting the altar and all that glitters gold is in place rather than the actual view, I only took a few minutes inside. We then headed down to part of the lower old city, ducked into a stairwell going down to another street to figure out where we might be able to find some dinner when my foot was soaked by water suddenly pouring through a drainpipe. I had a rather soggy foot the rest of the evening because I had chosen to wear socks and my walking sandals. A quick decision was made to head back to the Funicular, where we had asked when it closed, for the short ride up to the promenade outside Chateau Frontenac. Of course by the time we were back for the ride the little space for passengers was teeming with other soaked tourists. Everyone seemed in good spirits. For $3.00 you can scale the cliffside in a glass cabin in about two minutes. This is the only funicular of its kind in North America. First built in 1879, using counter weight water process and steam power to move it up and down the cliff, it was converted to electricity in 1907. A fire destroyed the structure in 1945 – must have been dreadful for firefighters to reach it. Rebuilt the following year and refurbished a couple of times the funicular has been operating for over 135 years! Well, I think it is impressive.

View from the Funicular, lots of rain!

By the time we had walked about some more, me trying to dry off, both of us getting quite hungry, I let my grandson choose where we should have dinner. I was not surprised when, after passing by two times and declaring it busy, he chose D’Orcy’s, fancy sport pub – not a lot of my preferred fare but my GS is 14 1/2 and this trip was for us to spend some time together. Fish and chips for my grandson, lamb sandwich for me. Worked out great, I gave my chips to my GS and ate his salad. Teenage boys eat a LOT! I was grateful to sit upstairs away from the giant televisions – they were there but I could not see them. I have to admit the restaurant does have excellent food and I had eaten there before. Sometimes the familiar is all we need.

Square outside the restaurant and across from the Cathedral-Basilica

Our final activity for our first day was a photo shoot at the cannonball tree at the corner of Rue du Corps-de-Garde. I said we must pull all the photos of my GS standing there over the years he has been to show how much he has grown. The cannonball is said to have been embedded in the tree in 1759. There is no reason to doubt this occcured just as it is believable that Montcalm spent his final 24 hours at 47 Rue St-Louis (most likely not the street name at the time) after being shot by the British during the Battle of the Plains of Abraham September 1759. The French soldiers had to take him somewhere.

Nice digs, close to everything! Rain and iPhone did not do it justice

A few townhouses further along for another photo of where my SIL lived when studying 1st year French. (He joined the navy instead of finishing.)
After all that wandering and then dinner we were both thankful to find the down path to our hostel on the hill. We just needed to get our bearings from previous visits. Old QC is small enough that it does not take long to become familiar with the whole area. We kept passing where I stayed in 2014.

The numbers: 

354.72 hostel (3 nights private room, single and double bunks. I slept in the double.) + HI membership; 2.50 coffee on the train; 5.00 funicular; 49.15 + 7.50 tip dinner 11,000 steps (my tracker says climbed 15 floors – must have included all those hills)