Lumina Borealis: Fort Henry Magic

I had the pleasure of going to an outdoor winter wonderland with my Ontario family. A time to let the worries of the day, let work and school blues be dropped for an hour, don warm winter garb and be treated to a light show for all enjoy.


The original Fort Henry was built in 1812, for fear of an attack close to the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, an important shipping and trade route, when the British were fighting against the Americans. Canada was, and remains, a member of the Commonwealth. Today it has absolutely no connection to the military in Canada besides being across the street from a base. It is now a museum and historic site. Over the winter the Fort and most of the facilities that are open for tourists are usually closed. Of course, this means I have never been inside the grounds.

My travelling companions joined us.


Lumina Borealis opened the gates to a quiet, mystical wonderland that welcomed all who entered; from the swirling mists and illuminated walls depicting various scenes, to the soft, inviting music from beyond, it was an ethereal, magical hour. Upon entering we were encouraged to slow down, stay awhile, follow the blue movement and changes on the walls of the Fort before wending our way around a bend where we came upon lit iceberg sculptures. A short piece of poetry was illuminated on the wall, stopping walkers in their slow tracks. Arches of the Fort in this area echoed pleasantly with throat singing mingled with softer sounds. As we reluctantly left the soft light and crags of the stylized bergs we rounded another bend.


It was a little like entering Narnia. A forest of low pine trees that held lights in their branches, then lit up all around us. On the stone walls depictions of animals slowly came to view. The curve of a head, twitch of nose, the stealth of foot, wings spread, silent howl. An owl, rabbit, a fox, the wolf, and other friends of the forest were there, then faded away. Like a memory from long ago. Of course I knew it was all done with lights. It did not matter, for a short time we were outdoors, enjoying life.


Fire pits served three purposes, warmth, light and more creatures. The light show this time was interactive. We could walk across the path where soft blue hues dominated, heading towards s main fire pit where ‘our’ animal would present itself. I was a wolf. When several people were there, we were a party of six, a wonderful display of pale blues, purples, reds, oranges and whites mingled towards a fabulous explosion of muted colour. The shades of winter. All with music that was just there, as though not being present would diminish the sensation.

There was more, and it was wonderful to see Fort Henry being put to positive use for all. Similar winter shows are happening in Quebec, Nova Lumina, Chandler; Forest Lumina, Coaticook, QC; Anima Lumina, St – Felicien, QC. I encourage anyone living nearby to attend. It is an hour of enchantment – and we all need that. I hope a similar show is offered for the 150th birthday of Canada in December.


I also had the pleasure of visiting a relatively new bakery, tucked away in a small plaza. We nearly missed it. Of course I had to go in, it is called Grama’s House. We bought a couple of apple tarts and one butter tart. The Apple tart was yummy! Not too sweet, the apple still a teeny crisp, flaky pastry, and a small bite. Perfect for a little snack without feeling dreadfully sinful.

Winter can be quite beautiful.


First full day in Kingston


Too often we tend to forget that when visiting family or friends during a holiday it is also a chance for a different kind of vacation or, in my case, another opportunity to be a traveller and learn more about the place I am at. I started my day by venturing out.

Yes, the sidewalks are icy and the temperature was -7c when I headed out. We are expected to be feeling below 0 in double digits! Oh, the weather out there is frightful… I am happy to say that although it was cold I kept pretty snug, so glad I dragged along my snow boots! First on my list of getting reacquainted with downtown Kingston was to find breakfast. There are more restaurants in the city, for its size, than anywhere else in Canada. (I believe I gave that statistic last year) Lower Princess Street, finally having Phase 3 of reconstruction completed summer 2016 – budget was 13 million.

It was dreadful to navigate last winter. Too bad the sidewalks are still not treated for well enough for safe walking, particularly the corners where there are little crossing signal posts, surround by ice and snow, just out of reach of pedestrians already slip sliding along.


I am pleased to have made my way to a coffeehouse that opened last winter and is still running strong (pun intended). Students seem to be the niche Crave has carved for itself, lots of seating, at least one shared table, plug ins for the inevitable computers, tables sturdy enough for textbooks, decent prices, and of course lots of choices of coffee and far too many of food, particularly of the baked variety.


I had planned to be very good after too much bread on my day of travel, but the pastries, muffins, all sorts of cinnamon buns, croissants (in a category of their own in my opinion) and bagels, which I first turned away from, drew me in again when I glimpsed the board. So I had a breakfast sandwich – whole wheat bagel with an egg, bacon and cheddar cheese. Plus an Americano.

I love university students, especially during exam time, there is such earnestness and determination in the air, along with the tip tapping of keyboards, flipping of pages, scratching of pens or pencils (still in use, usually on index cards). I might have been the only person there not using some form of electronic device.

Good coffeehouses are fantastic for people watching, and I was only near the front of the place – it is such a favourite I was lucky to have found a seat at all. I stayed for an hour or more, reading, listening and watching before grabbing a muffin and coffee, and my uneaten yogurt, for my daughter. This is where travelling and visiting so nicely meet.

I then sought out a little art studio I had found the year before, Martello Alley, where I had found two prints of places I had been to while in Kingston. I wanted a third one, and was very happy to discover they are still in business selling the work of local artists.


I did find another print, same artist, of the bakery my SIL works at. Although I have not actually been inside the bakery/deli, I have been the delighted recipient of their delicious baked goods. I thought that would be a perfect addition for my collection.

My walk back to the house was a little perilous, I finally walked part of the way on the road, they are clear, the sidewalks are not. I even have a kitty I can cuddle with, he is new to the family, an adorable 7 month old grey with a bushy tail. He discovered snowflakes and was trying to catch them as they fell – the window kept deceiving him. An excellent way to view winter, from inside!


Trains, planes and automobiles indeed!


To get from Victoria to Kingston is a test of stamina. Up at 3:30 to get to the airport, there by 5:00 and so was everyone else escaping the cold weather! I did make my flight, even managed to buy a banana and fill my water bottle. However, next time I plan to leave earlier if flying out of YVR. In the air, zip across, point the nose down, land in YVR 15 mins later.

Not many choices for buying food at gate C50 so I trekked back to near the gate where we had landed from Victoria, bought a sandwich and coffee, then did a balancing act back to my gate. No spills. I worked on making my two bags easier to carry and stow. Too bad I had not done so before checking in at YVR – my carry-on had to be checked in as technically I had too many bags. I was grateful to be told the fee would be waived, this after I was trying to figure out which boots to take – severe weather or the ‘let’s pray it stays mild’ pair. Once in YVR, I realized it was just as well I was not carrying everything, what I did have was heavy. Decision to leave my winter boots and heavy sweater in Kingston when it is time to go home. I am tempted to leave my winter coat too.

Smaller gifts too. I had two containers filled with macarons my daughter made for her sisters and their families. Security guards do not listen when told to keep bags upright. I would not know how the cookies fared until late evening.

It is very easy to get from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport to Union Station. From Terminal 1 take the UP Train, it stops at Union Station. However, arrival can be more than a little confusing as the station remains in the throes of “extensive renovations through multiple phases as part of the City of Toronto Revitalization Project.” This was slated to for completion in 2016. Unless they have magic wands it is not about to happen. There appears to be no end in sight. Most recent information indicates 2017 to finish, an approximate one trillion-dollar (boggles the mind) budget and now over budget!

Unlike at airports, with pockets of places to grab a bite to eat or a coffee, (unless it is me wanting something – I seem to always have gates out in the ether) the pocketful at the train station are not easy to access, have no seating, and are a pitiful choice. Once a purchase is made ‘guests’, as Via now calls passengers, provide entertainment for all by juggling meal, drink and baggage all in an effort to find a seat back in the central area five minutes away. With Via, UP, GO and access to the metro all using Union Station I can only hope there will eventually be more than just five vendors. After all, “If you build it they will come.” I can only hope someone has actually looked at the plans.

Money – I am always amazed at how much more expensive it is to travel by air in Canada. With travel insurance, Victoria to Toronto was $560 return. Plus my UP train and Via train at $165 return. Fortunately I will not be spending anything on accommodation, meals and transportation while here unless I visit Quebec City, or Ottawa with my eldest daughter.


The train was comfortable, nobody sat next to me, it was relatively quiet as we hurtled along the track in the dark. It is a shame Via is so expensive, more people would be inclined to take the train just as is done in so many countries. Leave the car at home, relax, get some paperwork done, even use the internet on these short routes.

I made it, the cookies made it. A hug from my SIL, not expected. A long trip but relatively easy.

Expenses for day:

  • a turkey and lettuce sandwich and coffee from Starbucks at the Vancouver terminal for nearly $15
  • a pumpernickel bagel with roasted red pepper cream cheese, $5
  • an inflated $6 flat white at Starbucks bought at Union Station in Toronto
  • water, tea and a Kit Kat on the train $6
  • taxi $13

If I spend that kind of money, $45.00, everyday I will be flat broke.

Winter Trip

Cold weather packing is far more challenging than for a summer trip. There is just so much bulk! My plan is to get everything into my Lug, plus my Tracker sling bag, for the simple reason I do not want to check anything in. I resent paying extra, so my backpack will stay home this trip. This will most likely mean I will once again be attempting to stuff my smaller Lug into my daypack. Including gifts. Gift cards for everyone?


I thought I would add what I use to travel light and how they make my travels nearly hassle free. Tracker Sling Bag, I bought mine at Walmart, I believe in 2011. Probably the best deal for my money on luggage. I can fit all my travel documents, my panda friends, small Lug when necessary, extra clothes, snacks, two water bottles, notebook, book and so much more. It has carried food and water for day trips, teaching material, winter and summer supplies, and even survived a motor scooter accident – my daughter had that mishap, not me. This bag has travelled everywhere with me since I bought it. I love that I can change which side to carry it on and even switch from my back to my front when in crowded stations.

My bags are black, not putrid green or camouflage.


The IPad Pouch was for my iPad plus everything else I would need on two flights when travelling with a cat in a carrier. He, the cat, became my carry-on piece of luggage. I needed a lightweight, versatile, easy for me to access – yet safe from others – small bag. The Slingshot was perfect. It can go over my shoulder, had a long strap, a side handle and can be turned into a small back/front pack. I use it all the time and can even put my small water bottle in it.

propeller-camoblue-front-web_1024x1024Bought on my third winter trip when I wanted to dash home for a month. It is really meant as a gym/yoga bag, with a place for a mat plus a shoe bag and storage. This is a great bag for overnight or weekend trips. With luck it will suffice for a month long winter trip.

I am going to Kingston, Ontario for the holiday, except I will be there for a full month. A possible side trip to Quebec City is in the works. So, when travelling with winter in mind from the much warmer, and wetter, climes of Vancouver Island, I am always challenged with what to leave behind rather than what to take. I hate being cold just as much as I hate being hot. Visiting family does make it easier to cut back. I can borrow sweaters, toques and mittens from my daughter, and I left one wool, button up sweater there from last winter.

Considering the importance of layering, I am unlikely to cut back on the pairs (5) of leggings (versus long johns), warm pairs of socks (6), thin long sleeve tops (4) to wear under sweaters, and night gowns (2). I will wear leggings with the latter rather than take along pyjama bottoms. So, where to cut back? All of my sweaters? The two nice tops for dinners out, Christmas dinner and New Year’s? Which will also be worn with leggings. I do want some of my own clothing. I have my winter coat and boots, plus a pair of lighter, but excellent for winter, boots.

This will be my fourth winter in Ontario. I leave in twelve days. On the first day before departure….