May 24th – Mind Travelling – Journaling through the COVID-19 Pandemic


Another month is quickly slipping by. It’s been a better month for sure. Mothers’ day brought great comfort, with phone calls or chats with all of my children, and gifts from my step-children left at the door, with a distancing visit.

The box of paints, brushes and a canvas were meant to prompt me to try something new. I took that challenge and found an online Paint Workshop that was suggested. I didn’t join it live because the time wasn’t convenient, but I did it on my own time the next day. It turned out that was good, because I struggled at first with mixing enough paint to do big sections, in different shades of blue, but I persevered. Unlike using watercolours (which I’d tried many years ago) my mistakes could be painted over and corrected. Well, most of them, until I ran out of the very important white paint required for mixing. Then I had to improvise. The two-hour class took me most of the day to finish this one painting. But, in the end I felt  good to have completed it, and it didn’t look too bad for an amateur. I enjoyed the challenge and hope to get some more canvas to try another one, sometime.

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Another gift was a jar of sourdough starter. It brought back memories of the delicious and light sourdough muffins that I used to make. The recipe made big batches and, because the starter had to be divided up with some to feed a new starter and the rest to be used in baking, once a week (actually it seems to me it was more often) my freezer was full of frozen muffins of a variety of flavours. My son told me years later how he used to often sneak down to the freezer to grab one or two and eat them frozen. I didn’t even notice the missing ones. I had to wait a week until it was time to feed the starter before I could use some of it, but I kept those muffins in mind.

I had several days when baking was my outlet, creating another (better) lemon meringue pie and chocolate/peanut butter squares one day.

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Another day I recruited Jim to help me make a big batch of perogies, one of my favourite quick from the freezer meals, but that I’d never made myself before. They were a lot of work, and took a long time, but we worked well together.

 

When the day came to feed the sourdough I was having a major pain day, which usually causes some brain fade. That day was no exception. For one thing, the new way of measuring ingredients is by weight instead of volume. Fortunately we have a scale that we used for weighing packages when doing product shipping for our online businesses, but I had to learn the trick for adding multiply ingredients. Then I put the water in before the flour, which made mixing more difficult. I doubted that it was going to work, but the next day I saw that it had.

I made a batch of muffins, not the recipe I used to use. Seems I didn’t keep it, never expecting to be doing volume or sourdough baking again. They might have turned out good if I hadn’t been trying to do something else in the kitchen while they were baking. I somehow tuned out the sound of the timer and they got way over baked. Not burned, but rather dry. Disappointing.

Oh well, the sun came out the next day and the temperature climbed.

We had a few ukulele players over to our lawn to play some tunes one day, keeping our distance and staying no more than an hour. We limited the invitation to only five of us in total. It was a welcome change.

One Friday evening we ordered take out Fish and Chips from one of our local restaurants, a restaurant that had been closed completely for two months and just recently started doing order-ahead take outs. We invited another couple who lives in the building to join us at the twelve-foot table in the Common Room, each of us with our own orders, using our own plates and utensils, sitting at opposite ends of the table. It was nice to chat and get caught up, something we hadn’t been able to do since we’d been gone for six months.

I bought vegetable seeds and planted one of the three planter boxes that our Condo Board acquired so we could have a little community garden.

I’ve gotten used to grocery shopping. It seems to be the new normal for me now. More people are wearing masks, and so far there has been no news of CORONA-19 outbreaks in our small tri-town community. I have to admit that that might not necessarily be a good thing, only because it becomes too easy to forget that we still have to be diligent with our social distancing and mask wearing. I was shocked when, one day after I was introduced to the woman who agreed to rent us parking space for the motorhome, without thinking I reached out to shake her hand — and she reciprocated! That weighed on my mind for a long time. I sanitized my hands as soon as I got back into the car; I hoped that she did too. I didn’t sleep well that night, after that incident and after hearing the latest COVID case statistics. The curve was rising, or at least no longer falling in many places in Canada and around the world. I had another major pain day.

We sat in our car by a nearby beach and watched and listened to the peacefulness.

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This morning I woke up feeling optimistic and planning things I wanted to accomplish. It was to be another sunny day. But the first thing I saw when I opened my iPad was a message from someone who cares, warning me that “take out” food is dangerous unless we’d cooked it again at home for ten minutes at at  least 80 degrees. He’d seen Jim’s Facebook post about our sharing with neighbours. Then I opened a news app and saw huge crowds of people on beaches enjoying Memorial Day  in the US, and I thought “they are never going to get out of this virus if they continue like this.” When I opened an app with Canadian news I saw the same thing happening in a park in Toronto! There goes my optimism and respect for my fellow human beings.

At least the sun is still shining, today.

And the flowers are blooming in the beds.

And a mother robin has decided to build her nest in a corner of the building, on the ledge of our bedroom window! How beautiful is that?

PLEASE STAY SAFE! AND KEEP YOUR LOVED ONES SAFE TOO!

Journaling Through COVID-19 – May 1st


Wow, I can’t believe it’s May 1st. I thought that I’d be writing and posting more frequently as I intended to Journal Through COVID-19, but although I’ve done nearly daily entries in my personal, hand-written journal, I’ve managed to find several projects to keep me busy with self-imposed deadlines, so my blogging got pushed to the back burner.

What have I been doing? Well, I first decided to try making a couple of face masks for Jim and me to use when we began venturing out to the grocery store and post office.

Jim's mask with ukulele chords on it!

Jim, of course, wanted one with ukulele chords on it!

Then I heard about a number of people making cotton face masks as requested by the local hospitals to be used for non-medical staff and patients being discharged. In exchange for some elastic that I had on hand and was no longer available in any stores that were open, a friend left me some of her extra fabric so I could make some too. I made twelve of them.

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But I was a little slow to the dance. By the time I had them finished, the hospitals declared they had received enough of them. They were now requiring some made with their own specific pattern, and special fabric that they would supply.

One hospital, however, wanted cotton surgical caps and clothing bags made, as well as crochet “mask buddies” – five inch pieces with buttons on each end that the elastic of the masks could be fastened to, relieving the pressure on the tops of the ears after a long day of wear. I had no fabric left, but I had plenty of yarn.  I started making the mask buddies. I was short of buttons, but a shout out to people in my community produced an abundance. I delivered the first batch of twenty-one within a few days. Yesterday, I dropped off another batch of 30.

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I gave a few of the masks to friends before a notice on one of my Facebook pages brought interest from a friend who works at the local prison. She was happy to receive the eight that I had left, and I felt good that I could help her out.

In the meantime my Book Club has had a couple of online meetings, and I joined a meeting of a Writing Club, also online for now. It was great to make some connections with people, and get some feedback on some of my writing.

A week ago we ventured to Peterborough to stock up on supplies from Costco, so that I wouldn’t need to go into the small grocery stores so often. I know, it’s better to support local businesses, especially during these hard times, but I was finding it just too stressful to safely navigate the narrow aisles while following the direction arrows and waiting my turn to enter. I always forgot or couldn’t find something I needed and was too anxious to have to go back through the maze again.

I was nervous about going to Costco too. I’d seen stories on the internet about the  long lines of people, many of whom gave no respect to social distancing, so I had no idea just what to expect.  We were fortunate to arrive at a time when there wasn’t much of a line. The carts were outside, and a fellow was spraying them all down, presumably with disinfectant, as they were returned, so we knew that the one we took was safe. Both of us were permitted to go in together. We put on our masks and were able to navigate the wide aisles quickly, giving anyone we encountered plenty of room. We were able to backtrack to find some things that were no longer where they were when we left in the fall.

The downside was the price of things, but I just got what I needed and left behind those items that I thought I could manage without for now, and ignored the cost. What else can you do when you don’t have much choice? The bill was far higher than I’d ever spent on food in one trip. But then, it’s been a very long time since I’ve had to make three meals a day, every day, for forty plus days in a row and counting! The extra help added to our Canada Pension cheque will make up the difference.

And the cost of gas is lower than it’s been in years too!

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We didn’t need to worry about bags, because Costco never has supplied them. We put everything back into the cart and transferred them to our own bags when we got to the car.

On the way home, we stopped at a local chicken farm that has a small store, where we bought chicken and fresh frozen vegetables. Except for some fresh produce that we’ll have to replenish soon, we are good for a few weeks.

I’ve not only been doing more cooking than I’ve done in years; I’ve also been baking more. I dug out an old cookbook that used to be my stand-by many years ago and I started creating some of my old favourites, and some new.

Lemon Pie

Made with a graham cracker crust because I didn’t have ingredients to make a crust! Used a lemon brought from Arizona tree.

Banana Bread made in Coffee mugs

Banana Bread made in coffee mugs, in fifteen minutes from start to eating! I added chocolate!

I thought we’d be putting on weight, but to our surprise, we’ve both lost those extra pounds we’d put on while eating too large portions in restaurants or at pot luck parties, or the chips that come with every sandwich in the restaurants, while in Arizona!

Last weekend Jim’s daughter asked if I could make a few surgical caps for her daughter’s nursing team at the hospital. She brought me some fabric and I found a bit more. I completed and delivered four to her yesterday. I still have two more cut and ready to put together.

Now I’m anxious to get back to writing, reading and perhaps add some more photographs to my stock portfolio.

It’s amazing how much you can find to do, if you just turn off the depressing news and get creative.

Hope you are all staying well and finding positive ways to get through this crisis.

Warkworth by Night – Food, Music, Dancing, Puppets and Lanterns


This past weekend we went yet again to the Town of Warkworth. It seems they have some sort of festival nearly every weekend throughout the summer. This time it was something new to us – the Second Annual Warkworth by Night Street Festival.

We arrived in time to chat with friends and admire the beautiful costumes some people were wearing,

Lovely costume made from paper

Lovely costume made from paper

before the first entertainers began their performance, The Starlight Belly Dancers.

Next, a brother and sister from Brampton, but originally from India, had fun showing us some Bollywood dancing, and later gave instructions to an enthusiastic audience.

A Costume Parade

Was followed by a Giant Puppet Parade.

Once the sun had disappeared we were treated to a Parade of Lanterns.

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The final performers, the Polky Village Band hailed from Toronto. They are a group of young Polish immigrants who taught us a bit about Polish music and dance, which especially thrilled me, since my son has recently moved to Poland and I hope to visit him there one day.

Polky Village Band

Polky Village Band

What a beautiful night!

We finished the evening off with a cup of “adult” chocolate drink from the local Chocolatier. She assured us that it was called “adult” only because it was a drink made from fine, dark chocolate rather than chocolate milk or hot chocolate that are kids’ favourites. It was yummy, as you can see from the empty, environmentally friendly, heavy-paper cup and straw.

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A Day of Exploring Scottsdale with Good Friends


It’s amazing to find how much more there is to learn about the places we’ve visited before. We’ve been to the Scottsdale area when we went to the Botanical Gardens, and the Museum of Instrumental Music (MIM) both of which I’ve written about before, but after being introduced to the blog. Chocolatour, by a friend, I knew we’d missed some interesting things in the downtown. So one Sunday morning we picked up our friends, Alice and Joe, and headed out.

The drive from Mesa is a good hour and a half. Once we found parking we decided that the best way to find what we wanted to see, and a place to eat, was to hop onto the free trolley. We stayed on it until it made a stop at the Western Museum, and then we got off to take some pictures outside.

When we discovered that it had just opened, we went into the lobby and the gift shop for a little exploring.

There were some incredible works of art.

We were getting hungry so we didn’t take time to do the tour. That will have to be another time. We set out on foot to see what we could find.

We were looking for Zak’s Chocolate that Doreen had mentioned in her blog, but we couldn’t find it. While waiting for our lunch at David’s Hamburgers (I enjoyed a very thick and tasty BLT while the others got their mouths around the tall Texas Burger), we learned from a Google search that Zak’s was a few miles out of the downtown core, and unfortunately, it isn’t open on Sundays. Of course the couple who run it, and make all of the chocolate with little help, need a day or two off, but our taste buds were disappointed. That will have to be next time!

However there were plenty of other things to see and explore!

After lunch we visited “Old Scottsdale”. We admired the old architecture and wondered at the antique farm equipment on display outside the many antique shops.

We took a tour of the beautifully restored Mission Church.

Back in the “new” downtown, we did some window shopping, lusting over the intricate, jeweled, had-made belt buckles and other dazzling jewelry that we knew we could never afford to own. We sauntered down Frontier Town where Alice satisfied our sweets craving by sampling some fresh fudge at Outrageous Olive Oils and Vinegars. We made our only purchase of the day when we split on the special deal of three pieces, to take home. Yumm.

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The sound of music drew us toward this beautiful park and museum area, which I later discovered was the Scottsdale Civic Centre Mall.

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This memorial depicts Scottdale’s founder, Chaplain Winfield Scott, welcoming newcomers, with his wife Helen seated on their beloved mule “Old Maud”

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Herb Drinkwater and his dog Sadie, Scottdale’s Mayor 1980-1996

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This Lagoon is filled with fountains and bronze statues and ducks

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We tried to catch a trolley back to where we’d parked the car, but kept missing it. Once we got walking in the right direction we discovered it wasn’t as far away as we’d thought, but we were all tired after that busy day. Next season we’ll try to return to explore the things we’ve still missed.

Lost Dutchman Days in Apache Junction, and a Fine Arts and Craft Sale in Fountain Hills, Arizona


One cold Saturday morning, not too long ago, we got up early to travel east for the Lost Dutchman Days Parade, the start of the two day festival. By following another car through some gravel back lanes we managed to find ourselves a perfect place to park, just a short walk from the beginning of the parade route. We opened our folding chairs and settled in with our hot tea, bananas and granola bars. We hadn’t taken time for breakfast. Before long the Flag Bearers started things off and for half an hour we watched and waved as the numerous entries passed by. Some were familiar, having been in the Wickenburg Gold Rush Parade. Others were more local, and again, there were numerous horses.

When it was over we got back into our car and drove to the nearest restaurant that offered a hot breakfast. Our toes and fingers were feeling the cold. The Sports Grill served up a generous portion of orange juice, bacon, eggs, home fries and toast.

Once we were sufficiently warmed and fed, we drove out to the Rodeo Grounds to see what was there. I’d forgotten we’d been there once before. We wandered through the many vendor booths and the midway, but the only thing that interested us was this band that was playing under the big tent. The idea of paying to sit on cold metal benches to watch the rodeo appealed to us no more this time than last, so we struck out on another road trip that led us to Fountain Hills.

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The guy in the overalls has some of the fastest picking fingers we’ve ever seen!

We’ve been to Fountain Hills for the Fine Arts and Craft Sale a few times and each time it has been bigger. This year we got too tired, even after sampling some of the food-truck food, to walk the complete route, but we saw many beautiful things that would look great in our condo or motor home, if only they were bigger!

 

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The Fountain of Fountain Hills

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An Animal Rescue Centre had a live Armadillo, something we’d never seen before!

Fountain Hills is always a beautiful town to visit, located east of Scottsdale, Arizona, and a twenty minute drive along East Shea Boulevard, off Loop 101. We often take guest there so look for more on this community in future posts!

Adventures in British Columbia, Part Five – Heading Home


On Monday, August 29th Jim, Pauline and I climbed into their SUV and began the execution of the plan Jim and I had put together several days before. He had a meeting in Comox so he offered to take me with them in the morning so I could catch the Island Link shuttle from there to take me to the Nanaimo Ferry Terminal. We had to leave early to catch the first ferry off Hornby Island. We were already too late.

We caught the second one, which took us to Denman Island. On the other side of Denman we boarded another ferry to Vancouver Island and then drove down the coast toward Comox, stopping for brunch at a beautiful resort dining room somewhere between Courtenay and Comox.

When we got to Comox we made sure we knew where the bus stop was for the shuttle. My phone data was all used up so I couldn’t check email or check in for my next day’s flight until I was somewhere that I could get WiFi, but I didn’t feel any urgency. Jim’s meeting was at 1:00 pm; my bus left at 12:50 pm. After running some errands and taking a walk along the boardwalk, they dropped me off at about 12:35.

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Plane coming into small Comox Airfield

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Boats along the bay at Comox

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Pauline with me

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Pauline and Jim

Perhaps I should have gone into the MacDonald’s to use their WiFi, but there wasn’t that much time, so I didn’t. Soon a young woman named Rose, who was headed back to University in Victoria joined me. We waited, and waited. By 1:10 we began to get concerned. I went into the service station to see if they knew anything about it. They didn’t. Rose looked up the Island Link website to get a phone number so we could call, but there was only an email address. What good would that do at this time? I had a reserved seat; Rose did not. At 1:20 I texted Jim to ask him to check with me before they left for home. At about 1:30 an Island Link bus drove in and dropped off some passengers.  The driver told us that our bus would be arriving shortly. I told him that it was supposed to be there 45 minutes ago. He knew nothing about it. He seemed to be done for the day and left.

To make a long story shorter, I’ll just say that Rose called her Aunt to pick her up. She’d try again the next day. Jim and Pauline came to pick me up and had to drive me all the way to Nanaimo, an hour and a half drive away. It was too late for me to catch the 3:10 ferry that I’d planned on, so the rest of the well laid plans also went down the drain. Pauline and Jim’s grandson Matt was going to meet me at the ferry at Horseshoe Bay and I was going to have him drop me off at the Sea Bus Terminal. From there I’d cross the bay and catch the Sky Train to Burnaby, where Ann would meet me. It was a good plan. Instead, we cancelled Matt and I had to ask Ann to drive all the way to Horseshoe Bay after work to pick me up.

At least this time I didn’t get lost at the Ferry Terminal and I had time to connect to the internet to do my flight check in while I waited. Once aboard, I found an empty row of seats, and slid over to the window. I was too stressed and tired to do anything but watch the waves roll by for a while.

An older woman with a thick accent, perhaps German, dragged her large suitcase into the row in front of me before she stood looking around and mumbling something to me, or herself. She said something about having to call her daughter. She caught a woman wearing the uniform of an employee and asked her some questions. When she was told where she had to go when it was time to get off the ship, and assured that someone would come to help her, she sat down and slept or read for a while. I was deep into my book when I caught movement to my left. I looked up to see her pushing her suitcase toward me.

“I have to find the Purser,” she said. “I need to call my daughter to tell her where I am. Can you watch my suitcase for me until I get back?”

“Of course,” I smiled.

She trotted off, seeming uncertain as to where she was going. I wondered if she’d find her way back on time. As I continued to read, I kept an eye on my watch. Time passed; my anxiety built. I had no idea what her name was or how to find her or what to do with her bag if it was time for me to leave and she hadn’t returned! Eventually the employee she’d spoken to before came looking for her, I thought. But she was looking for her suitcase. She had the woman safely in her office. Thank goodness!

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Ann arrived at Horseshoe Bay at just the time my ferry was docking at 6:30 pm. We’d both been up since 6:00 that morning and were anxious to get home, but traffic was backed up for the first part of the drive. Frank was waiting for us when we arrived at 7:45 and we all walked down the street to the local pub for dinner before Ann and I had to get organized for the next day (her for work; me for my flight) and crawl into bed.

At 6:30 the next morning Ann dropped me at the airport on her way to work. I had time for a good breakfast at The White Spot, which was just outside the Security lines. My first flight was to Calgary and took only 45 minutes. Before it left I got online to check my email. There was a message that had been sent an hour after we left Hornby Island the day before, from Island Link informing me that because of mechanical difficulties, the 12:50 shuttle bus from Comox had been cancelled and I should take either the 12:20 or the 3:20! I wrote back to say that I hadn’t received their email or text on time, and asked for a refund for my ticket. So far I’ve not heard from them again.

I had only a short wait to catch my final flight to Toronto, and it went smoothly, well except for the fact that I may have caught the exposed toe of a woman who decided to step into the aisle just as I lowered my heavy suitcase down from the overhead bin! Sorry!

It had been a great adventure and I was very happy to have seen so much of my family, but I was sure glad to see Jim waiting for me at the airport. As I opened my eyes the next morning, I wasn’t sure where I was! It’s good to be home…at least until our next adventure begins. 🙂

 

Adventures in British Columbia, Part Four – Hornby Island


On Tuesday, September 22nd my son-in-law Frank dropped me off at the Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal where I bought my ticket to Hornby Island at the low price of $17.00. I was there in plenty of time, but apparently my brain hadn’t quite woken up yet. I heard the ticket agent tell me to take the stairs up and then follow the red line to Waiting Area A, but the red line part didn’t register. I looked for signs and when I saw a sign that read “Waiting Area A” with an arrow that appeared to be pointing to my right, I followed it through a door and across an outside passenger bridge. That didn’t seem right. I eventually got turned back around and this time followed the red line! The room slowly filled to capacity before we were called to board. Because the vehicle passengers hadn’t yet made it to the main deck, there were no lines at the cafeterias. I took advantage and bought myself a packaged sandwich and a coffee that would be my breakfast and lunch, supplemented with the cheese sticks and granola bars that I had in my bag. Those two items cost me almost as much as the ferry ticket, at $11.25! Be forewarned, if you plan to travel on the BC Ferry System, and you’re on a budget, pack some food if at all possible.

The hour and a half trip went quite quickly. I slept for a while; I read my book, and I people watched, one of my favourite pastimes. I chatted with the woman sitting next to me who was travelling with her daughter and two granddaughters.  She’d traveled by foot before and told me where to find the Island Link shuttle bus that I needed to catch when I got off the ship. I found it without any problem and an hour later I was at Buckley Bay on Vancouver Island, where my sister Pauline and her husband Jim were waiting to drive me, via two more much smaller ferries, to Hornby Island. I breathed a sigh of relief. I could relax for a week.

On the Hornby Island Ferry

On the Hornby Island Ferry

Every time I visit Hornby I am charmed by the island’s uniqueness. This small island has lots to offer to anyone seeking a relaxed vacation away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s a place where there are no trains to catch, or crowds to push through. There are no big department stores or grand hotels and the only “traffic jam” you’ll encounter is while you’re waiting in line to catch the ferry when, reluctantly, you need to leave.

Driving up from the ferry you will come to the hub of the island where all roads seem to meet.  Here you will find a variety of little shops, including a bicycle rental shop, a couple of clothing stores displaying colourful summer wear and a few little eateries where you can experience some great and maybe unusual lunch items.  The main destination in the hub is the Co-op, where you will find all the staples you need, such as groceries (many organic), pharmacy items, dishes, clothing and rubber boots.  You will also find the post office nestled in one corner and an ATM somewhere in the middle.  The only island gas station is outside the door.

There are many residences on the island, but they are usually partially hidden from the road by the natural vegetation and are quite unobtrusive.  The pace is slow and relaxed.  The only “industries” are cottage industries – a variety of potters and weavers, and small farms.

Some of the highlights of this trip were:

Outdoor Cooking

Campfire Dinner

 

Farm Animals at Outer Island Guest Farm

Farm Animals at Outer Island Guest Farm

Beautiful Sunsets

Beautiful Sunsets

 

Walks on the Beaches

One of the many sandy beaches, at low tide

One of the many sandy beaches, at low tide

The rocky beach of Sand Piper

The rocky beach of Sand Piper

Rocky Sand Piper Beach

 

Good Food

Clam Chowder by Chef Ben. Delicious with corn bread!

Clam Chowder by Chef Ben. Delicious with corn bread!

Blackberries

Freshly picked Blackberries

Hornby Island Market

Hornby Island Market

Hornby Island Market

Walking the Trails

A hidden treasure along one trail

A hidden treasure along one trail

Helliwell Trail

Helliwell Trail

We also enjoyed a fantastic music concert by renowned Marc Atkinson – acoustic lead guitar, Brett Martens – acoustic rhythm guitar and Scott White – stand up bass, at the Community Centre one evening, and a delicious meal at the Sea Breeze Lodge dining room another night.

Before I knew it, it was time to pack for home.

Things Aren’t Always What They Seem, A Niagara Get-a-Way


We drove for three hours to Niagara-on-the-Lake to see Alice in Wonderland at the Shaw Festival. We’d never been there before and Alice looked like a fun production. We almost didn’t go because we’re saving our money for our next big adventure – a tour to China – but we got in on a seat sale and off we went.

For some reason our GPS needs to be always plugged in and the connection has a problem so it kept shutting off and reloading.  Finally I found Google Maps on my new Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime and was pleased at how easy it was to follow. We arrived at the theatre, found a parking spot on the street only a short distance from the door, and still had time to purchase a large chicken Caesar salad at the food bar to share before curtain time.

The theatre is well laid out, meaning there were no bad seats in the house. The production was as colourful as expected, including gorgeous costumes, and brilliant special effects.

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At intermission we enjoyed a cold drink on the patio and toured the gardens. It was worth the trip, to that point.

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Some children wore funny hats

By the time it was over, two and a half hours later, the shared salad had left me yearning for something more. We drove down the main street and again were fortunate to find a perfect parking place. We wandered the street, taking pictures of the lovely old restored buildings, poking our heads into some of the unique shops and checking out menus at the many restaurants.

The prices seemed high, even for a tourist town, starting at about $25.00 a plate. We decided that we’d drive to our inexpensive hotel in Niagara Falls and find a restaurant there.

When we checked into the hotel, we were told that the $48 room didn’t include the $12.00 parking fee or the $3.99 tourist fee, but we had read about that on the website. We were impressed with this Super 8 hotel, which seemed to have recently been updated. Everything was clean and fresh. The room was large.

We were given coupons for a couple of attractions, and $15.00 off a meal at the iHop, just a few blocks down the street. Off we trotted, only to find that that particular iHop isn’t open for dinner during the week. We saw another one in the distance and started walking again. By this time I was feeling a little weak from hunger. When we opened the menu we discovered that the prices at this chain restaurant were only a couple of dollars less than what we would have paid for an exclusive fresh-made meal in downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake. None of the choices were very appealing. Jim chose the chicken fried steak dinner; I settled for a chicken and cheese quesadilla. The shell was a little too crispy, but the chicken was tender and flavourful. Jim had an iced tea; I had water. Total cost including tip, and minus the discount, $45.00!

In the morning we snared another discount coupon and headed back to the closer iHop for breakfast. Along the way we noticed a sign advertising a Breakfast Buffet for just $6.99, but we’d forgotten about the breakfast prices at iHop, and we had the discount coupon, so we carried on. It was 9:00 a.m. and there were very few people in the restaurant. That should have told us something.  We ordered coffee while we looked over the menu. Neither of us wanted pancakes or waffles, iHop specialties it seems.  We asked about just getting bacon and eggs and were told that they could do some substitutions. On one special menu a variety of fruit covered waffles were shown. Below them was a list that read, “Build your Own.” It looked like maybe these simple entrees of bacon/ham, eggs, hash browns and toast might come with the waffles, but our inquiry confirmed that they did not. The price for the bacon and egg plate, without the waffles was $18.99!  We decided to leave. We’d already poured our coffee, and added three milk to the very black liquid. Just a few sips were all our taste buds could handle, but we knew we were obligated to pay for it. When the waitress brought the bill, Jim’s jaw dropped –$9.28!

As we exited, Jim offered our coupon to one of the few other groups of people seated. They exclaimed, “Now we’ve got two!” I didn’t even hear a thank you.

We walked back to the $6.99 Breakfast Buffet at the AlMacs. The place was buzzing. We were shown to a booth not far from the buffet and there we found more variety than the iHop menu provided. We should have gone there to start, and we could have also enjoyed the dinner buffet the night before for only $12.99.

Back at our hotel we packed up to leave. When Jim went to the desk to settle the bill again his jaw dropped. The $48 had become $86 by the time all the little extra charges were added on.

So it turned out that what was expected to be a reasonably priced one-night get away was just a tad more than we’d budgeted for.

 

Exploring and Camping in Canada’s National Parks Part II


Banff National Park

We were awake at dawn the next morning so thought we’d postpone breakfast and get back onto the Parkway before other traffic, hoping, again, to see some of the wildlife that a multitude of signs along the road warned us about. We saw none. Fifty-two kilometers later we finally came to the only service area on the Parkway so we stopped for breakfast. It was nearly 9:00, but neither the restaurant nor cafeteria were quite ready to open. We looked at the restaurant menu and decided that we’d just grab some coffee at the store and eat cereal in the motor home. The Continental Breakfast would cost us $14.95 each, and the full breakfast buffet of bacon, eggs, sausages and pancakes, would be $25.00 each! As it was, two coffee cost $7.50.

The higher we climbed over the mountain pass, the more snow we saw on the evergreen trees and in the ditches. Fortunately it wasn’t on the roads. That’s the kind of snow I like to see! It was beautiful. By 10:30 we had crossed into Banff National Park.

Glacier Parkway

Glacier Parkway between the Glacier Centre and Banff

Glacier Pkwy (176)

It was just before noon when we reached our next planned destination, Lake Louise, but because it was still early we agreed to continue on to Banff and stop at Lake Louise on the way back the next day. An hour later we were at the Information Centre in downtown Banff getting campground information and lunch locations suggestions. We walked to JK Bakery and Cafe to fill up on salad and homemade lasagna for much less than the breakfast offered along the way. I also picked up a big loaf of their fresh multi-grain bread for less than the price of it in a grocery store. Look for it if you are ever in Banff.

We found a lovely, full hook-up campsite at Tunnel Mountain Trailer Park, that included a bus stop to catch the bus back into town, which we did as soon as we were hooked up. After looking around the shops, we found a grocery store where we bought a few supplies, and then had dinner at Tony Roma’s. To our surprise, the same cheery young Australian woman who’d waited on us at JK Bakery was our hostess here. In fact, most of the servers in the restaurant spoke with Australian accents. They love Banff, and I can’t blame them.

Banff

Banff

Banff

Our Campground

Banff (7) Banff (11)While we waited for our return bus I chatted with Wendy from London, England, who was in Banff on a bus tour.

The next afternoon we were out of the National Parks and into British Columbia. We decided to bypass Lake Louise this trip.

A Few Days on Prince Edward Island


The next morning I enjoyed a leisurely shower before Jim and Dave got up. After a stop for breakfast, we had a good ride to Prince Edward Island. Although dark clouds circled around us, we didn’t have any rain until after we crossed Northumberland Strait via Confederation Bridge. On the island, we stopped at the Tourist Centre where we discovered internet connection, so we took the time to catch up on emails and check for orders on our online stores. It was with mixed feelings that we learned there were no orders, which are more difficult to process while on the road, but help pay for the trip.

The sun had been shining when we entered the building; black clouds greeted us upon our exit. We rode for only about ten minutes before the rain started, forcing us to pull into a gas station to struggle into our rain gear, and fill up the gas tanks, and by then the rain had retreated. But, we caught another deluge in a few more minutes. It lasted only five minutes and that was the end of it.

At 4:00 p.m. we were knocking on the door of our friends’ cottage at West Point, and were quickly immersed in Maritime hospitality when neighbours began showing up and bottles of rum or beer were broken open.

The Cottage

Friends and Neighbours relaxing on the porch after a day of renovation work

After dinner we all went for a stroll along the beach and watched a beautiful sunset. We didn’t need to strike our tents for the next few days, as beds were offered in the cottage.

PEI Beach

Beach at sunset

In the morning we decided to ride the bikes to Skinner’s Pond, home of Stompin’ Tom Connors. We visited a fishing harbor, and enjoyed a lunch of mussels and Seaweed Pie at the Seaweed Pie Café. We learned all about the harvesting of seaweed and it’s uses, before continuing on to the Tourist Centre and the Windmill Farm on the most westerly point of the island.

Skinner's Pond, PEI

Skinner’s Pond, PEI

Home of Stoppin' Tom

Home of Stompin’ Tom

Fishing Boats

Fishing Boats

Mussels

Mussels

Eating Mussels

Dig in, Jim!

Seaweed Pie

Seaweed Pie, not what you’d expect,

Our last day was a hot one. Our friend Meg and I went into O’Leary to do some grocery shopping before Jim, Dave and I headed out on the bikes again. We left the jackets off when we rode to Summerside to the Tall Ships Festival. Having endured a half-hour of sitting in the blazing sun at a road construction site, upon our arrival in Summerside we were disappointed to find that only two of the ships had docked, one being the Bluenose, which we’d all toured before. So after a stroll along the shore, a light lunch, and another stop for ice cream, we returned to the cottage in time for the delicious scallop dinner that Meg had prepared.

The evening ended with us clapping our hands and stomping our feet at a Gaelic music concert in a nearby church.