A Trip to the East Coast

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Canada is a vast country, from the east coast to the west it is over 7100 kilometers or 4370 odd miles and that’s not including the area that stretches from the US border to the Arctic Circle and beyond. We Canadians know this and accept that visiting relatives and friends often requires the use of our vacation time and much planning. I remember when my daughter-in-law moved here from Manchester, England, she suggested that she and my son drive east for the weekend to visit his grandparents. She was a little insulted that we laughed so hard until we explained that it would take the whole weekend just to get there never mind having a visit and getting back. Anyway the hubby and I have been taking this trek for forty years now and over the last five years have made it at least twice a year if not more. His mother is ninety, and my stepdad is eighty-two, so we really feel the visits are important to them and to us. We live in Ontario so our trip is over eighteen hundred kilometers just to visit Dartmouth where my stepdad and little sister live and another four hundred north to see his mother in Cape Breton.

We usually plan to get on the road by seven am, and generally get going around nine. We take our suitcases in which we have to pack a variety of clothing, from cool weather gear to shorts and tees. Also the laptop, an assortment of ‘just in case’ tools, cold drinks and water, and of course our travel candy. So all packed up and we set off across eastern Ontario. In previous blogs I’ve detailed the gently rolling landscape and beautiful trees in Ontario and after about two hundred kilometers a traveller would start to see some shale rock as well as sandstone and granite. We take the TransCanada highway that goes from St John’s, Newfoundland to Victoria, British Columbia.  You can take a more scenic route along Lake Ontario but we prefer the faster highway for this trip. After about four hours it’s time to stop, stretch the legs and fill up the tank and then we enter Quebec. After a relatively short time the landscape flattens out and we head toward the city of Montreal which is on an island in the St. Lawrence river. We no longer go through Montreal but take a bypass but every tourist should make a point of going into the city proper, see the European style architecture and enjoy the very cosmopolitan feel of the city. There are of course, historical areas as well as newer parts to the vibrant city that are well worth the visit. Then the drive continues in a north east direction. Again the landscape is notable because it becomes rocky. I love rocks too and this is part of a geological formation which we call the Canadian Shield. The Shield is almost four billion years old and there were the high peaked mountains like we see on the west coast, but millions of years of erosion and the glacial retreat have left rounded mountains that seem to pop up from nowhere. Our route takes in the south side of the St Lawrence as we follow the TransCanada to New Brunswick. We get through Quebec, stopping for coffee and restroom breaks where I can practice my very rudimentary french and the local servers practice their much better english language skills. Living in a bilingual country doesn’t make a person bilingual but I do try.

Our next stop is the City of Edmunston in New Brunswick and supper at the local Pizza Delight. After driving for nine hours, this is a most welcome stop. Supper is spaghetti and meat balls for the hubby and seafood linguine or alfredo for me. Scallops, crabmeat and real lobster equals yummy! And they have a grill your own bread bar where you grill bread over a charcoal pit and butter it with plain or one of a variety of flavoured butter. After that we drive for one more hour and stop over in Woodstock. No not the famous Woodstock from the 60’s but a pretty good place anyway.

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As I have previously mentioned this part of Canada is very well treed (forestry is a big part of their economy) and one of my grandsons, when he was five asked his Dad why there were so many trees. The response? So we can send oxygen to the rest of Canada. By travelling along the TransCanada we avoid the villages, towns, and cities but we also miss the scenic routes and we said that the next time we travel down, we are going to take in some of the more scenic areas, as we haven’t been through those areas for a number of years. New Brunswick has five specific routes that take in different parts of the province.

I’m just going to tell you now what these scenic routes entail. There is the River Valley Scenic Route. I call it the Fiddlehead Route because the signs are green with a white fiddlehead on them. A fiddlehead is a young fern that hasn’t unfurled and is a delicacy in the province, a green that tastes much like spinach. It includes the western part of the province and passes through major potato growing country, the capital city of Fredericton and agricultural land. All through the tourist season, there are many festivals and celebrations to attend and in the winter the River Valley can be travelled by snowmobile.

There is the Fundy Coastal Drive along the Bay of Fundy where you can see the famous tidal bores twice a day and the highest tides in the world. The north shore was home to the Acadians who migrated to Louisiana. This route will take you along the southern shore of New Brunswick through quiet villages, great scenery, plus birding, parks, historic treasures, whale watching, and fossil filled mudflats. Follow the signs depicting a beaver to find this one.

Follow the Starfish signs to the Acadian Coastal drive that will take you from the original Acadian settlement along the Northumberland Strait, past the Confederation Bridge link to Prince Edward Island, all the way to Nova Scotia. Beautiful sandy beaches line the shores and of course the seafood, you just can’t beat fresh caught and cooked seafood.

The Miramichi River Route travels along the river and offers opportunities to go tubing and salmon fishing. World class waterways and magnificent parks line the Appalacian Range Route. It’s popular for biking, canoeing, and hiking. I hope you all have the opportunity to take these travels at some point in time; we have such a beautiful country.

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Ice Cream the Enniskillen Way!

 

 This past weekend, the hubby and I stuck close to home but we did take a jaunt to a small hamlet about twenty minutes northeast of our city. It is a pretty little spot with a population of about 2930. Strangely enough, it was named after the Earl of Enniskillen, Northern Ireland. Though I have searched through Google, I can’t find the relationship (if there is one) between Enniskillen, Ontario and Northern Ireland. It is part of a larger municipality and is primarily an agricultural community.  The area is beautiful with rolling hills much loved by cyclists. The McLaughlin Carriage Company began its life there, you may know it currently as General Motors Canada, as a blacksmith’s shop but shortly after he began building his carriages, McLaughlin moved his business to Oshawa, Ontario to give his business closer access to the railway. On a side note, the creator of Canada Dry Pale Ginger Ale was also a McLaughlin from Enniskillen.

The village is known far and wide, for its general store. Originally built in 1840 as a post office, it evolved into a general store to serve the needs of the community. At one time it was a butcher shop where the farmers would bring their cows, which were butchered on site and kept in a huge meat locker in the basement until the owner needed the meat. The meat locker is still there, used for storage I imagine. Now it is also famous for the huge ice cream cones available in about forty different flavours.

  

 Which brings me to the reason for our visit. Our daughter-in-law organized an Ice Cream Eating Challenge through her company How To Organize That and our son had entered the challenge. Anyone who can eat the biggest bowl of ice cream gets their name and picture on the store’s Wall of Fame and of course has bragging rights. Those of us who didn’t enter, all bought cones to enjoy while we watched. I purchased one called the Big Baby, the largest two scoop cone I’ve ever seen and though I did eat it all, I quickly realized that supper that night was not an option. The challengers had to eat about a liter and a half of ice cream as fast as possible and with a little plastic spoon! They were given ice water to drink which helped cut down on ‘brain freeze’ and dug in. Unbelievable that the winner finished his bowl in three and a half minutes! Although he had chosen two or three varieties, I don’t think he actually tasted any of it. Me, I think ice cream should be savoured and enjoyed but then I wouldn’t be able to meet that challenge anyway.

Bored? Try Your Local Flea Market

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Junk gypsy

I was bored on Sunday. What could I do with my time? I just didn’t feel like doing any writing, crafts or (shudder) housework, I just wasn’t in the mood and I have to be in the mood. So what to do with my poor, bored self? Well I decided to take a few hours at the local flea market. We have one just fifteen minutes away, an easy little day trip. I’ve recently rekindled an interest in antiques and collectibles so the market seemed like a logical place to explore. I haven’t been there for over a year, it lost it’s appeal, but this seemed a good time to revisit and see if anything new had come along or if my interest was piqued by something else. People visit the flea market to find deals or a unique item. The overhead is lower for the vendors so goods, whether new or used should really be cheaper and this savings should be passed on to the customers. It helps if you know your prices and what to expect from a flea market vendor. Make sure the items actually work before you leave the stall, avoid that type of rip off. But usually the vendors are pretty good about making sure something works the way it’s supposed to.

I dragged the hubby out with me, we parked and started out exploring the first building closest to us. It’s called the Junk Gypsy. Aptly named, there is a whole lot of stuff jumbled on tables and shelves. None of it has ever been dusted let alone cleaned. I couldn’t go near the books, I’m sure they were full of silverfish and the musty smell would have followed me home. What a shame to treat books that way. There may have been treasures hidden away but I couldn’t bring myself to dig into any of it.

The next two buildings held antiques and collectibles. These had some good stuff that had been cleaned and cared for. We aren’t in the market to buy but really enjoyed examining the items and talking to the owners. They are always interested in talking abut their wares and have a ton of information. there was a lot of furniture, some old and some newer in the last outdoor space. Most of it was in good shape and reasonably priced. We came across some very unique items to

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It was time for a break so we joined the queue at the chip truck for an order of poutine and cold drinks. Poutine is a uniquely Canadian dish made with French fries topped with cheese curds, usually mild white cheddar or mozzarella cheese curds, and lovely brown gravy poured over them. The hot gravy and the hot fries melt the cheese between them. These were made with grated orange cheddar that was a little sharp in flavour, not as good as it should be but tasty in a different way.

Refreshed we entered the main building. There are all sorts of really great booths with a wide variety of goods for sale. Some hand crafted items, fresh deli food and a little fresh baked goods booth where I bought absolutely delicious sunflower seed and light rye bread. The owner threw in a loaf of wonderful seven grain bread too because it was getting late and he didn’t want to have to throw anything out. He tempted us with samples of truly wonderful streudel but we were able to avoid the temptation to buy one. Next time though I’ll be getting a blueberry streudel and damn the calories! Another booth I loved was the one that sells rocks. I love rocks and had a big collection of rocks and fossils when I was a child. It sounds odd to have a booth devoted to the sale of rocks but these are mostly crystals and raw stones like amethyst and agate. He gives out printed sheets describing each stone, its physical, healing and mystical properties. I found it so interesting that I may go back, purchase a few stones and begin blogging about their properties.

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Finally we visited with a friend who has a booth. He is a realtor and uses the booth to promote that part of his business, but he also has a sideline of metal detector sales and is very knowledgeable. He also sells little odds and ends at prices as low as five cents. Back outside, we strolled around tables filled with locally grown fruit and vegetables, homemade jams and honey. We saved that one til the end so we didn’t have to drag our veggies through the rest of the market. You just can’t beat locally grown!

So on a boring Sunday afternoon, might I suggest a visit to your local flea market and a stroll through the booths. It’s a great little daytrip even if it’s only fifteen minutes from home.

Oshawa’s Hidden Gem

 

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Here in my city, Oshawa, Ontario, we have a hidden gem, a wonderful place to get away for a few hours. I wonder if very many people, aside from the local population, know about Oshawa’s Second Marsh, a beautiful urban wetland. It’s bordered to the north by highway 401, to the south by Lake Ontario, to the east by industry and to the west by the McLaughlin Bay Wildlife Reserve. There is  sandy beach separating it from the lake, a lovely spot for turtles to nest. Three hundred four acres of marsh, swamp, meadow and thicket, it is home to hundreds of species of birds, mammals and reptiles. It is a provincially significant wetland protected under law, home to four species at risk, owned by the city and helped out by groups such as Friends of the Second Marsh and Ducks Unlimited.

Paved walking trail
Paved walking trail

There are a series of hiking trails and viewing platforms that offer an opportunity to explore this unique environment without harming the fragile ecosystem or disturbing the wildlife. It is one of the largest coastal marshes on the north shore of Lake Ontario. Along the trails are interpretive and direction signs that have been installed to guide visitors through the habitat areas. The primary trail is asphalt so it is wheelchair accessible. The adjacent area, McLaughlin Bay Wildlife Reserve, is not paved, has lovely paths with woodchip coverings, is also well marked, and has interpretive signage. Originally the trails surrounding the marsh were used as portage areas by the First Nations people to connect the interior of the province to Lake Ontario, later by European settlers to open up the area to trade and exploration, and now for our enjoyment of all things nature.

North part of marsh
North part of marsh

A former premier of Ontario, Davis Crombie, called Second Marsh an “environmental gem in an urban setting”. Right now I call it an emerald. The greenery is stunning with spots of colourful wildflowers and birds winging through the trees and across the marshes and ponds. In winter it would be a diamond, with a beautiful, bright snow cover; spring is an opal with its soft colours coming to life and autumn is a combination as the fall colours are spectacular. I spent time on the viewing decks overlooking various ponds and the marshes just soaking in the quiet and peace before I roused myself to take some photos. Most of the waterways bear the names of families important to the development of the city; Wilkinson’s Pond, Scott’s Pond, and Scattergood’s Pond to name a few. The creeks running through the marsh are important to breeding fish species, birds, and even some flowers that are spread via the water. The creeks are occupied by rainbow and brown trout, white suckers and even Chinook and Coho salmon. All these can be spotted, if you’re lucky, travelling upstream to breed at specific times of the season. There are muskrats, minks, at one time river otters populated the area and hopefully will again, along with the usual fauna, racoons, rabbits and deer. Of course there are busy insects as well and the always hungry mosquito so don’t forget to use an insect repellant before you venture into the area.

 

Encroaching industry
Encroaching industry

It is a great spot to “cure your nature deficit disorder” say the members of Friends of the Second Marsh. There is always a need to protect this area against pressure for future industrialization of the area east of the marsh and citizens are ever vigilant to prevent this happening. the peacefulness is broken by the sound of machinery at work. Many hundreds of Oshawa citizens remain alert, hoping their efforts will prevent attempts at future industrialization. Anyone can visit Oshawa’s Second Marsh. It’s free! There is a bus service and some on street parking on Colonel Sam Drive. It’s a lovely bike ride from anywhere in the city or like we do, carry your bike down in the car and ride along from the General Motors Headquarters.

Does your city have a unique preserve like Oshawa’s, a hidden gem?

Off to Prince Edward County

 

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A good friend of mine owns some property about 250 kilometers from our home city. She doesn’t drive so I thought a day trip to see her property would be a great way to spend this fine summer day, and off we went on our little adventure. We left early, about seven thirty am, and drove east to a spot called Prince Edward County, known to the locals simply as the County. It’s located at the eastern end of Lake Ontario and just west of the head of the St. Lawrence River, spectacular! It is an island of about a thousand square kilometers with about 500 kilometers of beachfront including a popular tourist site appropriately called Sandbanks, named for its gorgeous sandy shoreline. This area is home to the world’s largest freshwater sand dunes. We visited the more southern piece that faces Lake Ontario. Much of this part has rocky beaches and a lot of brush but a little bit inland are lush rolling fields and farmland. Because we were about to hike through some bush, my friend and I rolled down our pantlegs, tucked them into our socks and put on walking shoes. We also wore longsleeved shirts. A little warm, yes, but we had to protect against ticks that carry Lyme disease. Whether those tiny insects have made it to the County or not, I don’t know, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.

 

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So we made our way to the rocky shore, I have an affinity for water and could have sat and watched the small waves lapping up to smooth the stones for ages. Just about all the rocks were nicely rounded, perfect skipping stones. Most were your garden variety rock with a few sandstone and granite stones there to add interest. Mother Nature sure knows how to decorate with colour and texture rivalling any designer. We found a little crab skeleton and then stopped by a small pool to watch tadpoles swimming about, so peaceful. (big sigh) Interestingly the firs that abound are mostly juniper and there is a lot of  deciduous growth as well. I think a trip back in the fall to enjoy the autumn colours is definitely in order.

 

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The area is known for its produce, particularly organic produce and thanks to an interesting microclimate, has become well known for its fifty vineyards and about thirty wineries. It is now a designated viticultural area supported by tourists and wine lovers from far and wide. We made a stop at one of those wineries, where the owners give tours and tastings. It’s also well known for locally produced cheese from the Black River Cheese Company. Every year the community and tourists gather for the Great Canadian Cheese Festival. The County also boasts that it is a community of artists and local chefs.

Because it is a wonderful, organic fruit and vegetable producing area, we felt our visit wouldn’t be complete without a stop at a farmer’s sales stand where raspberries, blueberries, zucchini varieties, potatoes,beets and so many other fruits and vegetables were available. Since I love my fruits and veggies and you can’t beat the flavour of organic produce, we did stock up a bit. Then it was on to a great little spot for lunch. I enjoyed a prime rib sandwich topped with the absolutely best tomato I’ve ever eaten and my friend had smoked salmon with cream cheese. Both our sandwiches were on homemade bread and accompanied by a salad made with locally grown veggies, really, really good. The owner was very hospitable and wouldn’t you know it, we both hail from the same part of the country, sixteen hundred kilometers away. It really is a small world!

We didn’t have time to do the eastern part of the island, so I would say this side trip should be more of a weekend getaway rather than a day trip. Visiting this fertile island should be at the top of anyone’s “staycation” plans or a spot to show visiting family and friends.

 

The Marine Railway Spectacular

 

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We are fortunate to have very good friends who own a cottage on the shores of Lake Couchiching in Orillia, Ontario. They also have a pontoon boat and take us out on it when the opportunity arises, When planning a weekend at their place last summer, our friend asked if we’d like to boat up to the Big Chute Marine Railway. Who could possibly say no to spending a whole day on a boat meandering a waterway that leads through some of the loveliest scenery, to an engineering marvel? Not me that’s for sure. So we made plans, packed up some snacks, lots of water and of course sunscreen, and prepared for our boating excursion. No alcohol involved as it’s frowned upon when boating and against the law for the skipper to drink when boating. Knowing this would be a whole day, we set off pretty early, just after breakfast and prepared to enjoy. Let me give you a brief history of the Marine Railway and the Trent Severn waterway it accesses.

The waterway itself extends from Trenton in the south on Lake Ontario, up about 386 kilometres to Georgian Bay on Lake Huron in the north. The boats pass through a series of locks, swing bridges and under taller bridges. The small portion we were boating through would take almost nine hours to traverse, involve three locks and a swing bridge. Samuel Champlain was the first European to travel the entire distance in the 1600’s and he would have had to portage several times carrying his canoes overland to avoid waterfalls and rapids. The route was later canalized and in 1833 construction of the locks began. It took eighty-seven years to complete and by 1920 a boat could complete the route. Initially the system was built for industry but is now used for recreation and tourism.

Travelling by boat is not about racing up the river. There are speed limits enforced to protect other boaters, swimmers and water craft. We enjoyed the magnificent scenery and peeks at cottages along the way, marvelling at the ones that had a hundred stairs from cottage to lakefront. If I was in one of those I’d take a full day’s supply of whatever so I didn’t have to walk those stairs three or four times, unless I had a weak bladder.

So we chugged along slowly and quietly, enjoying utter relaxation that only the water can bring. Our boat, even with the canopy up, was low enough to go under the swing bridge, barely, and I held my breath as we went; whew we made it. Then on to the first of the three locks. when travelling through a lock, we had to drop the bumpers over the side and attach to a metal ring so we didn’t float all over the place. You drive in, get ready and the lock doors close behind the boats. The locks can hold quite a few boats and you just sit there and let the water level do its thing. It was my first time in a lift lock so really exciting. The walls look so high, probably twenty feet or so, the water is let in through unseen pipes I presume, and we just slowly rise to the level of the next part of the river. On the return trip the process is reversed. It really doesn’t take too long to go through each lock. I wish I had timed it but I think no more than a half hour at each one. Of course we did extend that a couple of times for needed bathroom breaks. The waterway meanders off in different directions but fortunately, the folks at Parks Canada have erected large, painted signs so we didn’t get lost. Well actually, we did once but that was because the sign was covered by overgrown brush and we didn’t see it.

 

 

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Finally we came to the Marine Railway! It is so neat! First you gently float your boat into a cradle of sorts. There are helpers to get you straight and they place slings under the boat front and back that are then attached to the mechanism. Each boat is cradled separately, there are front and back wheels for each to keep the boats level and the slings keep your boat steady. A system of hydraulics raises your boat out of the water, on rails, about sixty feet up and then down the other side where you are gently deposited into Georgian Bay, unhooked from everything and off you go to explore some more. It seemed that the whole bay is visible from the top of the railway, just gorgeous!

We didn’t have time to explore very far into the bay as the locks close at seven pm on the weekends and we had to get back but wow I hope we get to take a weekend the next time we do the trip!

And Then It Hit Me!

 

 

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I want to blog and write, but I am very slow to publish. The first week was great, I followed the challenge precisely, but somewhere in the second week I really lost momentum. Was I suffering from the procrastinator’s excuse, writer’s block? No, I’m still writing a bit every day but I am not finishing, refining, or publishing. Herein lies the problem, and then it hit me! Because my main theme is about my life as a retired person, I’ve been trying to include many topics at once instead of assigning myself a single theme and writing about that one until it is done at least for the time being. It may be one blog or five, but they all should be following the theme of the week or month. So back to square one and using a proper schedule to write about the topic. This is so important and I only just realized how important it is for me to follow an organizational chart.

 

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I am a former operating room nurse so I tend to be a little obsessive-compulsive about work, most of us are and this carries over somewhat into our personal lives. When I retired, I decided to bury that part of me and allow my brain free rein. This probably wasn’t the best idea as now my brain goes in a hundred different directions a day, never really settling into any one line. Again back to square one, picking a theme and writing about it.

Instead of writing just out of my head, I must also start researching my blog topics more thoroughly. This is very important and since I don’t know everything about everything, I don’t want to give wrong information either, it’s time to put on the research hat and go to Google or Wikipedia to get educated. My experiences, or those of others, will round out the blogs nicely. see? Now I have a plan!

 

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So please bear with me as I begin again with this month’s topic. Day trips in Southern Ontario will be my focus and I hope you’ll follow along and enjoy this exploration of the southern portion of the province where I live. If you read and enjoyed my fifth blog, Weekend Getaway, you’ll appreciate my next one about the marine railway.

 

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