Tag Archives: travel

Downtown from the Brickworks

2015 – Montreal, the Rideau, Stratford and more

Highlights of Our Year

In a year when I’ve been forced by a concussion (Easter Saturday; uneven pavements, a pitch into the metal door of the change room by the ice rink at Kew Gardens – not quite a hockey story) to avoid spending time at the computer, blogging has had to be largely shelved. Life has needed to be lived at a gentler pace and within tighter boundaries. At times, I’ll admit, this has felt constraining, frustrating even. But it has also been a powerful exercise in finding joy and fulfillment in small things, in the everyday; and 2015 has not been without its explorations and adventures.

Trilliums
Trilliums – Ontario’s Provincial Flower

Spring in Toronto is a case of ‘blink and you miss it’. This year I was able to live in intimate relationship with its unfurling, taking joy in the sunshine on my face and each new bud and bloom.

 

We were already committed to a trip to Montreal for Canada Day and WordCamp at the beginning of July. We spent five days enjoying wonderful food (especially at Toqué) and a necessarily gentle exploration of the old city (lovely, though we had to take refuge from a downpour in Notre Dame Basilica), Mont Royal, Le Musée des Beaux Arts, the Olympic stadium, the Botanical gardens and Biodome (Space for Life), and more. It was a little galling to be in town for the Jazz Festival and not to be able to more than cast a glance in its direction – just half an hour passing through the Place des Arts was almost more than I could cope with. Another year! One delightful discovery was ‘Dragon’s Beard Candy’ in Chinatown, a confection of sugar threads, peanuts, sesame and coconut, reputedly once made only for the emperors of China.

Photos of Montreal (Google Album) and Montreal, a Google Story

 

Thankfully we had already made the decision that we needed ‘cottage time’ this summer, opting for a tiny cottage right on the water at Newboro in the Rideau Lakes, about an hour north of Kingston.

Waking, watching through our bedroom window a heron on our dock; lazing in a hammock strung between trees; easing into the water to paddle amongst innumerable islands, idly observing fish and frogs, osprey and loons, cottages and cabins; a fabulous country market in a C19th schoolhouse – fresh-from-the-field corn, dripping with butter; canals, locks and mill-houses, then wild, rocky vistas; and always water to catch and transform the ever-changing light. Is it any wonder that this is more or less the area in which we hope to make our home?
Photos of our ‘Summer on the Rideau’ (Google Album)

 

The one post I did manage to write reflected a magical wilderness weekend at Wintergreen – a truly joyous experience. (See also Wintergreen Studios – a piece of heaven at the edge of wilderness – a Google Story for more photos!)

 

For Paul’s birthday, we chose theatre at Stratford (Ontario). Considered comparable with the London or Broadway stage, Stratford Festival encompasses four distinct stages  and many different styles.  We saw ‘Possible Worlds’, partially performed in a pool of water (odd but effective), an absorbing rumination on alternate dimensions and social constructs. On Sunday, after luxuriating at Elm Hurst Spa, we abandoned wet waterfall walking in favour of a cream tea!

 

Thanksgiving saw a glorious combination of early colour and unseasonable summer temperatures (75 F/ 24C); not wanting to travel too far, we basked in the golden glow at Toronto Zoo, which is set in rolling parkland. Focused as I was on giving thanks, I was particularly wonder-struck by the rich diversity of animal life.
Photos of Thanksgiving at Toronto Zoo (Google Album)

Gina & Paul at Toronto Zoo, Thanksgiving
Gina & Paul at Toronto Zoo, Thanksgiving

 

Fall continued mild, with particularly rich tones, sunny days – even a mild, dry night for Halloween! We had a fine dusting of snow in November, but, so far, December has continued balmy, though we continue in the belief that winter will come . . .

2015 has undoubtedly been challenging. But, despite this, looking back I am grateful for the riches of these and other experiences and the new gifts of insight it has brought. Roll on 2016!

(You can click on any photo on the page to see it at a larger size, and flip through all the others in the same gallery too!)

 

Wilderness, wonder and intentionality

Nestled in the woods just north of Frontenac Provincial Park, Wintergreen is a year-round education and retreat centre. Their focus is education, culture, and the environment and they offer courses and retreat and meeting facilities for individuals and groups.

Wintergreen - the lodgeInside the lodge

This last weekend we had the pleasure of staying two nights in the main lodge, a wonderful, off-grid straw-bale building with a green roof. The lodge sits in a meadow, immediately surrounded by flowers, herbs and vegetables with the forest beyond.

The garden

Wintergreen’s 204 acres features mixed forests and meadows, granite outcroppings, ponds, marshes, and a glacier carved lake – we managed to explore a good part of this during an awesome two-hour wilderness hike.

Glacier carved lake

I watched a beaver slide into a pond and swim across it, my first certain sighting. Less romantically but no less a landmark, I picked my first tick off my clothing as we sat on the dock by the glacial lake. With ticks increasingly present – even in Toronto this summer – and concerns about Lyme Disease, this is something we all need to know about!

Forest trail

I stopped worrying about sticking to ‘the beaten track’ (sometimes we lost the trail for a while) and soaked up the beauty of the woodland, the lake and ponds, the rock, as we explored, occasionally investigating one of the wilderness cabins (including a hobbit house) that dot the property. We did do a thorough tick inspection when we got back to the lodge, though.

Hobbit House (and hobbit?)

Earlier that day, I had joined thirteen other women in ‘Celebrating the Sacredness of Woman’, a workshop led by Julie Vachon a Metis woman who has studied with many elders and has attended ceremonies over the last 18 years. Among other things, we shared a new moon pipe, part of a ceremonial setting of personal intention at Sturgeon Moon, the August new moon. At a moment when my life is literally at the cusp of a major transition, this was moving and profound, as well as joyous.

This was one of those magic times outside time that feels utterly ‘meant’!

By the lake

 

See also Wintergreen Studios – a piece of heaven at the edge of wilderness – a Google Story for more photos!

 

Maine Roadtrip 2014: 6 – Wild Gardens of Acadia

The Wild Gardens of Acadia provided a contemplative interlude, wandering the paths to the soundtrack of birdsong and a babbling brook.

Wild Gardens of Acadia Wild Gardens of Acadia Wild Gardens of Acadia Wild Gardens of Acadia Wild Gardens of Acadia Wild Gardens of Acadia Wild Gardens of Acadia Wild Gardens of Acadia Wild Gardens of Acadia Wild Gardens of Acadia Wild Gardens of Acadia Wild Gardens of Acadia Wild Gardens of Acadia Wild Gardens of Acadia

This is a delightful idea, a well-labelled garden of species native to this area of Maine.  I was happy to realize how many native plants I can now recognize (many of these plants are familiar in Ontario) and how many I managed to include when planting our own back yard!

Maine Roadtrip 2014: 5 – Dive in

Dive In Theatre with Diver Ed proved hugely entertaining as well as informative – boat trip, mixed with live-dive video and expert commentary crossed with improv comedy, and up-close contact with marine species!

Diver Ed's specimins Diver Ed's specimins Diver Ed's specimins Diver Ed's specimins Diver Ed's specimins Diver Ed's specimins Diver Ed's specimins Diver Ed's specimins

It was also joyous to see more than the bobbing heads of harbour seals – we had had a number of glimpses both when sailing and kayaking coastal Maine, but no more than that until now.

Seals! Seals!

Definitely an Acadia highlight!

Maine Roadtrip 2014: 4 – Acadia National Park, “a place like no other”

I have to admit that, although I loved our exploration of Maine, I had a strange, niggling sense of homesickness for Ontario!

That said, Acadia National Park lives up to the hyperbole of the letters to sent to President Woodrow Wilson in the early 1900s supporting the creation of a National Park on Mount Desert Island. Rocky shores and craggy cliffs, golden beaches, cool green woodland, mountains, lakes, a fjord – it is astoundingly beautiful and I am so glad to have experienced it.

Sand Beach, Acadia National Park, ME Sand Beach, Acadia National Park, ME Coast path, Acadia National Park, ME Coast path, Acadia National Park, ME Coast path, Acadia National Park, ME Coast path, Acadia National Park, ME From Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park, ME From Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park, ME Coast path, Acadia National Park, ME Coast path, Acadia National Park, ME Coast path, Acadia National Park, ME Coast path, Acadia National Park, ME Coast path, Acadia National Park, ME Coast path, Acadia National Park, ME Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park, ME Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park, ME From Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park, ME From Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park, ME Strange shadows on Cadillac Mountain Strange shadows on Cadillac Mountain From Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park, ME From Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park, ME

As seems so often the case, it was art, in this case the artists of the Hudson River School in the 1800s, that drew the first visitors to the area. The resultant influx of the wealthy of ‘the gilded age’ and their elegant summer ‘cottages’, the formation of the national park, and the construction of 57 miles of Carriage Roads by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. for hikers, cyclists and horse riders, all contributed to the unique sense of nature at its most beautiful made accessible to all.

Carriage Road bridge,  Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park, ME Carriage Road bridge, Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park, ME

Another confession; it is rare for me to choose destinations that are a focus for mass tourism. Bar Harbour, Mount Desert’s main town, seemed to be the exception that proves the rule! As well as its natural beauty, perhaps it retains some aura of those golden years. We particularly enjoyed the shore walk, awestruck by a single vista encompassing storm clouds, a rainbow and clear blue skies over the harbour and ‘bar’, the sandbar that links the town to an island at low tide.

A 'cottage' in Bar Harbour A 'cottage' in Bar Harbour Bar Harbour Bar Harbour An even bigger 'cottage' in Bar Harbour An even bigger 'cottage' in Bar Harbour The Bar Harbour Shore Path The Bar Harbour Shore Path The Bar Harbour Shore Path The Bar Harbour Shore Path The Bar Harbour Shore Path The Bar Harbour Shore Path The 'Bar' at low tide, Bar Harbour The 'Bar' at low tide, Bar Harbour The view from Bar Island The view from Bar Island The 'Bar' at low tide, Bar Harbour The 'Bar' at low tide, Bar Harbour Bar Harbour Bar Harbour

Why the sense of homesickness? Hard to define really, though there was an implicit acknowledgement of how incredibly lucky we are to have so much beauty on our doorstep – we hardly need to venture across borders to do so many of the things we enjoy doing. And, although people were gracious and charming, there was a sense, as someone else expressed it to me, that Americans are perhaps not quite as free to be individualistic as Canuks. Coming back across the border, we found a more open friendliness, a delightful quirkiness, and knew that we were home.

To be continued . . .