Category Archives: Leisure

(Not quite) walking in the air . . . on snowshoes!

Striding through the forest, three feet above ground level, with snow gently falling, the utter peace broken only by the crunch and slide of our movement and the occasional chirp of an early Chickadee; our first experience of snowshoes felt totally natural and easy, though we were told we kept up a cracking pace.

Snow-shoeing Snow-shoeing

Then creating fire from nothing with a bow and drill to heat up picnic wraps (ambient temperature about -14C), before returning to a room  cosy with the warmth of a roaring wood-stove and dozing the afternoon away. What a magic way to spend a wintry Saturday!

Making fire Making fire Making fire Making fire Making fire Making fire

Evergreen Forest Resort B&B Evergreen Forest Resort B&B (near Wiarton)

Evergreen Forest Resort B&B – a great place to escape to!

A Christmas Card from Quebec City

Fairy tale castles and ice; quaint houses from the seventeenth century and city walls; seasonal decorations – from traditional ribbon and foliage to a very creative use of shiny colanders – and a magical festival of lights; ‘bols’ of coffee and hot chocolate, patisserie to die for (or from!) and wonderful ‘boreal’ food, both traditional and modern; and, above all, a gloriously festive feel.

Quebec City - The Fairmont Le Château Frontenac Quebec City - The Fairmont Le Château Frontenac Quebec City - Aux Anciens Canadiens Quebec City - Aux Anciens Canadiens, the oldest house in Quebec City, built 1675-6 Quebec City - The Fairmont Le Château Frontenac Quebec City - The Fairmont Le Château Frontenac
Festival des Lumières de Québec Festival des Lumières de Québec Quebec City - ice! Quebec City - ice! Quebec City - Novel decorations Quebec City - Novel decorations Festival des Lumières de Québec Festival des Lumières de Québec
Quebec City  - Le Croquembouche - Boulangerie Pâtisserie Quebec City - Le Croquembouche - Boulangerie Pâtisserie Quebec City - JA Moisan Quebec City - JA Moisan, the oldest grocer in North America Gina with a 'bol' of coffe at Cafe Hobbit Gina with a 'bol' of coffe at Cafe Hobbit

Although it was -27C on Christmas Day, the sun was shining and we must have walked over 8km through thesnow on the Plains of Abraham before a short skate a Place Youville, just outside the old city walls.

Quebec City - On the Plains of Abraham Quebec City - On the Plains of Abraham Quebec City - On the Plains of Abraham Quebec City - On the Plains of Abraham Quebec City - Place Youville Quebec City - Place Youville

A definite highlight was the return trip on the ferry across the St. Lawrence to Levis, something a friend had suggested as offering wonderful views of Quebec City, which it did. But even more amazing to us was the experience of cutting through the ice, watching and hearing it crack – mesmerizing and meditative. It also amused us to see two ice canoe teams out practising for the winter carnival competition – only in Canada!

Quebec City - ice! Quebec City - ice!
Quebec City - ice canoe Quebec City - ice canoe Quebec City - ice! Quebec City - ice! Quebec City - Paul on the ferry Quebec City - Paul on the ferry

We also loved an innovative interactive journey through time at the Maison historique Chevalier and re-cap of the military history of the City at Le Musée du Fort using model soldiers and battleships, complete with sound, light and miniature explosions. After five hours at Les Musées de la Civilisation we were ‘museumed out’, but had played our way through the history of computer games, discovered Quebec artist Pierre Gauvreau, immersed ourselves in what it means to be aboriginal in the 21st century and more.

But for us, one of the real joys of any city visit is simply to wander, to notice the quirkiness and contradictions, to find small back-street restaurants and cafés.

Quebec City Quebec City Quebec City Quebec City Quebec City Quebec City
Quebec City Quebec City Quebec City Quebec City Quebec City - ladder for cats only! Quebec City - ladder for cats only! Quebec City Quebec City

Quebec City will be hard to beat for an urban white Christmas!

Ice Ice Baby – Toronto Ice Storm 2013

Beauty and brutality . . .

It just looks as if it is raining – as Brits, we know ‘cold, wet and miserable’!

But this is rain that freezes on contact, ‘accretes’ on branches and leaves, on Christmas lights and baubles, on roads and side-walks, on cars, on road-signs . . . . on anything it touches.

At first it is just a fine layer, but the layers build and build until all is encased in crystal.

Toronto Ice-Storm 2013 Toronto Ice-Storm 2013 Toronto Ice-Storm 2013 Toronto Ice-Storm 2013 Toronto Ice-Storm 2013 Toronto Ice-Storm 2013
Toronto Ice-Storm 2013 Toronto Ice-Storm 2013 Toronto Ice-Storm 2013 Toronto Ice-Storm 2013 Toronto Ice-Storm 2013 Toronto Ice-Storm 2013 Toronto Ice-Storm 2013 Toronto Ice-Storm 2013
Toronto Ice-Storm 2013 Toronto Ice-Storm 2013 Toronto Ice-Storm 2013 Toronto Ice-Storm 2013 Toronto Ice-Storm 2013 Toronto Ice-Storm 2013 - ice forming globules on the ground
Toronto Ice-Storm 2013 Toronto Ice-Storm 2013 Toronto Ice-Storm 2013 Toronto Ice-Storm 2013 Toronto Ice-Storm 2013 Toronto Ice-Storm 2013 Toronto Ice-Storm 2013 Toronto Ice-Storm 2013
Toronto Ice-Storm 2013 Toronto Ice-Storm 2013 Toronto Ice-Storm 2013 Toronto Ice-Storm 2013 Toronto Ice-Storm 2013 Toronto Ice-Storm 2013

Eventually, the rain stops. If you venture out, safely clad with ice-grippers, there is a magical beauty, everything robed in clear ice that can be three or four centimetres thick. As the breeze shifts iced-branches, they sing an unearthly song, though for anyone who knows, there is a frisson of fear. When branches are weighed down like this, there is a risk that they will simply shear off.

 

Many areas of Toronto looked like a war-zone. We have lost around 20% of our urban tree canopy. Falling branches mean electrical wires torn loose. Over 300,000 homes were without power for anything from a few hours to over a week through Christmas and even into the New Year. Our power flickered through Saturday night and was gone by 6 a.m. on Sunday. It came back on at 8.30 a.m. on Tuesday, two hours after we left for Christmas in Quebec City. It is estimated that the clear-up will take two months and cost $75 million.

The pragmatism of Toronto’s people has been awesome, as well as the outpouring of mutual support. I can’t speak highly enough of the efforts of Hydro (Electricity Supply Board) workers from all over the country who put aside their own family Christmas celebrations to help. A priest I know spoke of a Hydro worker who positively glowed with the pleasure of restoring power to a church on Christmas Eve.

The last major ice-storm to affect Toronto was in 1998. I was mesmerized by the beauty inherent in the experience of an ice storm, but my heart goes out to all those significantly affected by it and I am heartily glad that past records suggest that we shouldn’t have another one too soon!

 See all our ice storm photos in our gallery!

Summer Reflections 2: Spirit Island

The largest freshwater island in the world, Manitoulin is considered sacred by the People of the Three Fires, the Ojibwe, the Odawa and the Potawatomi. It has been inhabited for at least 12,000 years and possibly for as long as 30,000. We found it restorative and fascinating, though not a place we could live. It seems to exist in that difficult space in which you have to be born there to be truly of it, yet if you are born there, you may well have to leave to make a life!

Summerbloom Cottage, Mudge Bay Summerbloom Cottage, Mudge Bay

Downy Woodpecker at Summerbloom (outside our back door) Downy Woodpecker at Summerbloom (outside our back door)Looking out over Mudge Bay from our cottage, the language of legend seemed to seep through me – I saw the wind striding from Killarney across the depths of Georgian Bay towards us, a huge being, throwing down his shadow-cloak as he passed. It is easy here to sit and watch for hours as the light and water shift. It is a place to be still, surrounded by the noisy peace of woodpeckers, blue jays and the constantly changing rhythm of wind and water.

Sunset at Summerbloom Cottage, Mudge Bay Sunset at Summerbloom Cottage, Mudge Bay Bridal Veil Falls, Kagawong Bridal Veil Falls, Kagawong Kagawong Harbour Kagawong Harbour
Carter's Bay, Manitoulin Carter's Bay, Manitoulin

Highlights that remain with me (in addition to Wikwemikong and the cultural Pow-Wow there, which merit a post of their own), include Kagawong’s bridal falls –  much-visited, but still magic; kayaking up river above the falls, existing outside time in the flow; and, to the south west of the island on Huron’s shores, the sweep of Dominion and Carter’s Bays, sand dunes and scrub offering up an ancient, solitary beauty.

For more photos, see our Gallery (Summer Trip 2013)!

Summer Reflections 1: A Watery Affair

Our photo album tells the love-story of a summer’s kayaking . We paddled (and I swam) in three of the Great Lakes (if you count Georgian Bay as the extension of Lake Huron), as well as exploring rivers and marshes. Always, here, good weather lures us outside; now, in the warmer months, I hunger to get out on the water.

The Beaver River - getting underway The Beaver River The Beaver River - I did it! The Beaver River The Beaver River The Beaver River

The Beaver River - Bald Eagle The Beaver RiverOur longest paddle to date took us 12 km down the Beaver River, skirting submerged hazards and occasionally cutting back the dead-fall; all around us was the rich summer-green of early July woodland, wild and timeless. As we journeyed, a relay of kingfishers called their warning of our passage. The sighting of a bald-eagle nest was a truly special gift.

For more photos, see our Gallery (Beaver River and Nicolston Dam)!

Gull Lake, Gravenhurst Gull Lake, GravenhurstA gentle exploration of Gull Lake (Gravenhurst) warmed us up for slightly more challenging expeditions on Manitoulin Island, the biggest freshwater island in the world. On Maintoulin, we circuited Manitouwaning Bay (which opens onto Georgian Bay) from Two O’Clock to Manitouwaning and back across open water. And we paddled up the Kagawong River into Lake Kagawong, fighting the wind back down the lake, then floating lazily with the river’s gentle flow to our start point above Kagawong’s Bridal Falls – time disappears out on the water as the peace, the light and the reflections seep into the soul.

The Norisle at Manitowaning, Manitoulin The Norisle at Manitowaning, Manitoulin The Norisle at Manitowaning, Manitoulin (and Paul!) The Norisle at Manitowaning, Manitoulin (and Paul!) Playful Paul in Manitowaning Bay Playful Paul in Manitowaning Bay
Paddling the Kagawong River Paddling the Kagawong River
Paddling the Kagawong River Paddling the Kagawong River Lunch on Lake Kagawong Lunch on Lake Kagawong On the Kagawong River On the Kagawong River

For more photos, see our Gallery (Summer Trip 2013)!

At Canada’s southernmost tip, the marshes at Point Pelee were almost eerie in their quietness (or possibly Erie – sorry, bad pun!) and the light was especially awesome; but it was the paddle from our B&B, with a short portage across a sand bar, into Wheatley Provincial Park that delivered more herons than we have ever seen and a white wonder of egrets.

Kayaking in the marshes at Point Pelee Kayaking in the marshes at Point Pelee Kayaking in the marshes at Point Pelee Kayaking in the marshes at Point Pelee Kayaking in the marshes at Point Pelee Kayaking in the marshes at Point Pelee
Swallowtail at Point Pelee Swallowtail at Point Pelee Plantlife at Point Pelee Plantlife at Point Pelee Plantlife at Point Pelee Plantlife at Point Pelee
Heron Heron Sandpiper at Point Pelee Sandpiper at Point Pelee Heron Heron
Egrets everywhere! Egrets everywhere!
Cormorant and kayak Cormorant and kayak Kayak capers! Kayak capers! Kayak homecoming Kayak homecoming

For more photos, see our Gallery (Essex County – Ontario)!

Nearer to home, from our local beach, a sunset paddle along the shores of Lake Ontario below the Hunt Club amazed us again that we can live in a city yet, with very little effort, feel so far away from it all! And the return view of the down-town lit red and gold still takes my breath away.

Sunset kayaking on Lake Ontario from our local beach Sunset kayaking on Lake Ontario from our local beach Sunset kayaking on Lake Ontario from our local beach Sunset kayaking on Lake Ontario from our local beach