Tag Archives: summer

It’s not what you think . . .

Today we became Canadian Citizens!

For those who may be unsure, this does not mean we have to renounce our British Citizenship. Dual citizenship blesses us with considerable freedom of movement in both Europe and North America, as well as consolidating our status here in Canada and giving us the right to vote (and hold office). There is also something important to me about embracing the full responsibilities of a citizen – we feel very fortunate to have this opportunity and would like to play our part in helping to make Canada the best it can be.

To honour the occasion, I thought I’d reflect on some of the misconceptions we have come across about Canada and Toronto!

  • Toronto is not ‘the far north’ – it lies way south of the UK, at the same latitude(43 42’N) as Nice and just south of Florence.
  • Average July temperatures are 3.3C higher than in London at 26.1C, though of course the winters genuinely are colder. Temperatures usually hover much of the time around -1 to -5C, though this year we have dipped on occasion to nearly -30C. But we get 2066 hours of bright sunshine on average a year compared with just less than 1500 in London. And that little bit of extra cold actually takes away some of the dampness.


  • Despite the recent glare of publicity on the less than savoury exploits of our mayor, Toronto is ranked the second most reputable city in the world, by the Reputation Institute, the world’s leading Reputation Management Consultancy.
  • As far as crime goes, Toronto’s rates are just slightly lower than London’s.


  • ‘Canada produces wine?!’ Yes, and much of it is very good! In Ontario, there are three notable wine areas; Niagara, Prince Edward County and the North Erie Shore. I am enjoying becoming increasingly knowledgeable about Ontario wine – it is fun to find winery tours so accessible. And, just for the record, in 2013, the Decanter World Wine Awards judged a wine from the Okanagan valley in British Columbia, Mission Hill’s Pinot Noir, as one of the World’s Best Wines! Echoing Napa Valley’s breakthrough moment, this could herald increasing interest in Canadian wines.

And on that note, it’s time to raise a glass to the country we have chosen to call home.

Erie Shore Wineries - 'Inside I'm a sweet and spicy blond!' Erie Shore Wineries - 'Inside I'm a sweet and spicy blond!'



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)!

Birthday Shoes!

Happy birthday Paul!

A joyous start to the day; meeting our lovely daughter Jess on Skype for a tour of her new home.

Toronto Harbour Toronto Harbour Birthday lunch Birthday lunch Toronto Harbour Toronto Harbour

Blue, blues skies and clear golden light – a perfect day for the lunch cruise that was part of a charity auction package we bought at the recent BuskerFest Ball.

Gina Gina Gina & Paul Gina & Paul Gina Gina

We were reminded how lovely our city is when viewed from the water (as is so much of Ontario); the CN tower‘s inescapably commanding presence; the relaxed greenness of Toronto islands; the exuberant to-ing and fro-ing of every kind of water-craft, revelling in this patchy summer’s last hurrah.

Rogers Centre and Kayaks Rogers Centre and Kayaks CN & Rogers Centre CN & Rogers Centre A day to be out on the water A day to be out on the water

Toronto from across the Islands Toronto from across the Islands

Gardiner Museum Gardiner Museum - personal favourites. 'Playa' by Steven Heinemann. Gardiner Museum Gardiner Museum - personal favourites Gardiner Museum Gardiner Museum - personal favourites

We got our culture fix from a couple of hours at the Gardiner, Canada’s national ceramics museum – so much to delight us! If we had to pick one piece, I think it would be a huge modern bowl called ‘Playa’ by Steven Heinemann, its interior like a parched surface on which is superimposed a giant fingerprint.

Gina in conversation Gina in conversation A birthday kiss! A birthday kiss!As always in Toronto, there were unexpected pleasures – a quiet conversation with a studious statue; a birthday kiss; a swathe of skateboarders swarming down University Avenue to a meetup in Queen’s Park.

Finally, a detour to the Distillery District to buy birthday shoes.

Birthday shoes! Birthday shoes!


And, at home, cake (of course)!

Paul with cake Paul with cake

(There are more photos from Paul’s birthday in our gallery)


Whisperwood, July 2012

Around Whisperwood Around Whisperwood - our wonderful lake

[If you click into any photo to enlarge it, you can then page through all of them as an album!]

June 30 Arriving at Whisperwood late afternoon on Saturday – first impressions: green, cool, black-mirror water studded with clouds, air loud with birdsong (so many voices I don’t recognize) and, as evening falls, the acapella twang and gurgle of frogs. Peace does not imply an absence of sound!

July 1 (Canada Day!) Needless to say the dawn chorus is awesome, but, this first morning, we are late risers. Legs dangling from the dock, soaking up the stillness over coffee and cinnamon buns, the peace is punctuated by a yelp of surprise from Paul as a rather large turtle nibbled his toe. Later, we narrowly missed a cottage incursion by chipmunk, even though all our screen doors were closed.

Canada Day in Parry Sound Canada Day in Parry Sound Canada Day in Parry Sound Canada Day in Parry Sound - Christmas in July Canada Day in Parry Sound Canada Day in Parry Sound

Canada Day in Parry Sound Canada Day in Parry Sound - Sequinned Ladies and birthday cakeHappy birthday Canada! Canadian bacon in a bun, Kawartha ice cream and free birthday cake (two kinds!) served by sumptuously sequined ladies (not sure what this tradition signifies, but a little like the Cockney ‘Pearly Queens’) on the town-dock in Parry Sound. Then, under an all but full moon, ‘Christmas in July’, a procession of jewel-lit boats (headed by the Police launch) though the thronged harbour – the warm-up act for the ubiquitous but still impressive fireworks. Parry Sound has a population of 6,500; how is it that even these small towns put on such a spectacular show, filling the summer night with stars and magic?

In the hammock Paul in the hammock - a great place to chillJuly 2 Truly a day on which to enjoy the luxury of doing nothing and then resting afterwards. A pre-brunch swim in the silken water of the dock; hammock-time and a good book, with the delicious distraction of those bird-voices, singers tantalizingly close yet so hard to see. We are now on good terms with our chipmunk (though we have learned to shut the door), handing over peanuts on demand. The ability to carry three shells-ful of peanuts in the pouches of one small mouth is awesome.

July 3 Slob-out day (and itching)! I really could do without being irresistible to biting insects!

Around Whisperwood Around Whisperwood Dragonfly at Whisperwood Dragonfly at Whisperwood Frog at Whisperwood Frog at Whisperwood

Blue Heron at Whisperwood Blue Heron at WhisperwoodJuly 4 So much water; swimming, kayaks, canoes, docks and a gently sloping sandy bay – and wonderful wildlife. Nosing the canoe into the muskeg to stalk darting dragonflies (deep red, blue and turquoise); another turtle passing by; easing towards a frog-prince, enthroned on his lily pad; then graced by the majestic stillness of a blue heron until our presence prompted him to rise, soaring over the lake and above the trees; and, finally, an otter breaking the surface to leap with a fish, disappearing to emerge somewhere completely different, playing hide and seek with us!

Evening brought the arrival of friends Steve and Paul K, and the joy of good food, good wine and good company!

Wild Turkey Wild TurkeyJuly 5 A day to share the peace and pleasures of this place. Sightings of Ruby Throated Hummingbirds, Wild Turkey and deer were a bonus (though we were quite pleased not to have a close encounter with the mother bear with two cubs with whom we share these woods). Having thought about it, though, Paul K did decide he would quite like to see a bear.

July 6 Where better to spend a scorchingly hot summer’s day than on the waters of Georgian Bay? The M.V. Chippewa III, formerly one of the Maid of the Mist boats at Niagara Falls, took us out through the swing-bridge at Parry Sound into the labyrinthine channels of the 30,000 islands towards the perfect island lunch of Pickerel (fish) and fries (chips) at Henry’s, appropriately enough at Sans Souci on Frying Pan Island – deserving of its reputation as a Muskoka classic.

30,000 Islands - Approaching Henry's Fish Restaurant 30,000 Islands - Approaching Henry's Fish Restaurant (2 hours out from Parry Sound)

On the return cruise (two hours), we watched as a baby black bear swam to shore and clambered out of the water, just across a narrow channel from another island restaurant, Craganmor’s – and, of course, it was Paul K. who spotted it. Life doesn’t get much better than this!

M.V. Chippewa III tied up at Henry's Fish Restaurant M.V. Chippewa III tied up at Henry's Fish Restaurant Bear Cub at Craganmor Bear Cub at Craganmor 30,000 Islands (Parry Sound and into Georgian Bay) 30,000 Islands (Parry Sound and into Georgian Bay)

July 7 As Paul and Steve headed back to Toronto, we reverted to inactivity after a brief excursion to the tip to get rid of our garbage. Lesson for the day; always drive round the tip and observe before leaving your car. It is not unheard of to be surprised by a bear clambering out of a bin!

July 8 Algonquin bound, we stopped in Hunstsville for brunch at 3 Guys and a Stove – great choice! With just a day in which to get a taste of this oldest of Canada’s national parks, we drove east to the visitor centre (really interesting) and fitted in three short (but steep) hikes; to a waterfall and to two lookouts, both with stunning views over the wilderness.

Algonquin Provincial Park Algonquin Provincial Park

Moose in Algonquin Park Moose in Algonquin ParkWildlife seems to be appearing to order (except for the beaver, who remain elusive); I asked for moose and, sure enough, we spotted two just before we reached the Eastern Gate and were able to watch them for a few minutes before they headed back into the trees.

The dusk drive home brought our fifth ever bear sighting, and probably the most dramatic, as a black shadow bounded across the road in front of us and disappeared into the forest – such a sense of the power of this wonderful creature.

July 9 Chill time – with much idle enjoyment in pursuing the perfect chipmunk shot – we now have three regular visitors, though a scrap ensues if more than one arrives at a time!

July 10 Drive time; Muskoka was described to us by a boat salesman as a place where people buy cottages because their business associates have them. Touring the lakes, the small towns and villages, the natural beauty vies with the gloss of the kind of ‘simplicity’ that tends to carry a premium price tag.

There are glorious vistas, millionaire cottages and islands, boats, boats and more boats (I have committed to permanent memory an antique wooden one with the elegance of a vintage Rolls Royce), yet, perhaps because I don’t live that kind of life, I didn’t feel that connectedness that tugs at the soul until we reached Rosseau, right at the north of the lake system. Both of us found a tranquility, a warmth, a sense of community here that we hadn’t sensed elsewhere – and I was seduced by a swim-suit designed as an homage to 50’s glamour and curves, a rather more affordable luxury than the boat that stole my heart.

Rosseau, Muskoka Rosseau, Muskoka

Should fortune come knocking, Rosseau just might beckon . . .

Wildlife encounter of the day was a White Tailed Deer that danced across the road in front of us.

July 11 A cottage day; sitting on the dock and relishing the slightly gentler heat; finally beating Paul on a round of Backgammon – and in style, with a ‘Gammon’!

Kilbear Provincial Park Kilbear Provincial Park

July 12 After a slight interruption to provide e-mail support for my daughter, Jess (the joys of modern technology pursue one everywhere!), back to the shores of Georgian Bay, this time to explore Killbear Provincial Park. A fabulous day-use beach gives onto the distinctive rocky shoreline – eons ago, so we are told, the Hudson Bay expelled a vast surge of water under the glaciers over a few days or even hours. The force of this smoothed and sculpted the shield rock, also dropping boulders hundreds of miles from their source. Once again I find myself awed by the Great Lakes – I know that I do not ever want to live too far from the ‘big water’! 

Kilbear Provincial Park Kilbear Provincial Park

July 13 Our last day; we make the most of it, portaging a canoe to the next lake – very different from our spruce bog, with a small sandy entry and quite a large seasonal cottage community. Poking around among the waterlilies, the air is studded with dragonflies, glinting. We see quite large fish – and then a brown head that I’d convinced myself was a log ducks out of sight; was it that elusive beaver? (The more I think about it, the more I think it was!)

Later, back on our own lake, I finally take out the kayak (my back has been misbehaving, sadly pushing this off the agenda for most of our stay). It eases through the glassy water so effortlessly; I now understand Paul’s disdain for the cumbersome canoe, though it does have its place both for companionability and for carrying the gear.

Today I said I wanted to see a woodpecker; it appeared, to order. A sound below our deck – not quite the normal chipmunk chatter; so I look, and the woodpecker attacking a log on the ground takes flight into a nearby tree.

Chipmunk at Whisperwood Chipmunk at WhisperwoodMeanwhile, our alpha chipmunk (there are three regular visitors) has become ludicrously bossy and brave, bullying us for more peanuts and climbing all over Paul to make sure he gets them. It is easy to see that he is bigger, stronger, brighter and more courageous than his peers.

July 14 Time to leave. We nearly had a stowaway – number one chipmunk was racing around us as we packed the car and I half expected to hear rustling and scolding from the luggage as we drove away. I think the mark of a good holiday is that you are simultaneously sad to leave but so re-energized that you are looking forward to returning to ‘real life’! Our two weeks at Whisperwood definitely made the grade.

Around Whisperwood Around Whisperwood Around Whisperwood Around Whisperwood Around Whisperwood Around Whisperwood Around Whisperwood Around Whisperwood
Around Whisperwood Around Whisperwood - our dock Around Whisperwood Around Whisperwood Around Whisperwood Around Whisperwood - Paul setting off in the kayak
Flowers at Whisperwood Flowers at Whisperwood Flowers at Whisperwood Flowers at Whisperwood Dragonfly at Whisperwood Dragonfly at Whisperwood
Flowers at Whisperwood Flowers at Whisperwood - First Nations peoples thought of these water-lilies as stars fallen to earth. Flowers at Whisperwood Flowers at Whisperwood Flowers at Whisperwood Flowers at Whisperwood Fungi at Whisperwood Fungi at Whisperwood Dragonfly at Whisperwood Dragonfly at Whisperwood - the fairy on the top of the Christmas Tree? Flowers at Whisperwood Flowers at Whisperwood

 See the Muskoka album in our photo gallery for (lots) more photos!


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Ottawa – Summer and Winter

Ottawa - frozen locks on the Rideau Ottawa - frozen locks on the Rideau Rideau Locks, Ottawa Rideau Locks, Ottawa

The same locks, winter and summer.

Ottawa: looking across the river to Parliament Hill (Panoramic) Ottawa: looking across the river to Parliament Hill

Parliament Hill, Ottawa Parliament Hill, Ottawa

If you look hard at the winter shot, you can see Parliament Hill on the skyline at the far right. Even in this mild winter, the river is almost frozen over.