Category Archives: Canada

New Brunswick in July

photo of a meadow and low mountains on a sunny day
Our journey began with a train ride to Whitby to meet Matt’s aunt Donna. I followed the train route on the map I’d recently designed of Toronto’s Gardens and Conservatories, announcing the nearby parks to Matt with enthusiasm. Donna picked us up from the Whitby GO Station and we made our way onto the highway around 8:45am.

It rained on and off for first part of the drive, making me glad I wasn’t driving! It made for beautiful views though, with dramatic skies against lush green trees and the occasional silo next to an old farmhouse. Once we hit Quebec City we had beautiful mountains to admire against a wide open blue sky. With nightfall came a distance lightening show over the mountains and deep within the cumulonimbus clouds overhead.

We arrived in Moncton at half past midnight. It was dark, but the air smelled lovely! Even in downtown, it smelled like evergreen trees to me. “Thats what fresh air smells like!” Matt told me.

photo of a cross against a blue sky

Day One: Pump House Brewery and Magnetic Hill

My first day in New Brunswick was spent driving around Moncton and surrounding areas with Matt showing me all the important places from his life there. We also took in some tourist sites too, such as Magnetic Hill that I thought was a total rip-off for $3/person. It didn’t have monetary value in my opinion.

I was surprised how small Moncton was! We stopped for lunch in the Pump House Brewery where I did some beer tastings, settling on the blueberry beer and sharing a radler with Matt. He got his favourite – the Cadian beer, with a mushroom burger and beer bread.
After lunch, we continued our “Tour de Matt”, walking around downtown Moncton. We stopped by the historic Lutz house and the memorial to the first eight European settlers of the area – one of which was Matt’s family, the Steifs. Funnily enough, the monument was also a Pokémon Go stop, so it was crowded by young people on their cellphones playing the game that had recently taken the world by storm.

We had dinner with Matt’s family back at Riverview, and then set back out to go to the family cottage at Cape Enrage on the Bay of Fundy. I saw my first moose on the way – it was pretty exciting!

photo of two glasses of pink wine cheers-ing
We got there just in time to see the sun slip behind the clouds. We cheers with glasses of strawberry-rhubarb wine to the view. Matt got out his telescope and did some stargazing before it clouded in to look at Mars and the rings of Saturn. I saw my first ever shooting star! I was pretty excited.

It started to rain soon after nightfall, so we sat in the dark for a while listening to the pitter-patter outside. Once we retired, the ominous hum of mosquitoes kept us awake. By morning, I was covered in bites! Matt joked that it looked like I had chickenpox!

photo of a mug on a railing, overlooking the green landscape of Cape Enrage

Day Two: Hopewell Rocks, Fundy Park, and Alma

Matt prepared a nice breakfast of baguette and granola with yogurt. It was a beautiful clear day, so we planned to go for a walk on the beach before heading into Fundy Park. However, when Matt went to do his morning budget he discovered his credit card had been victim to fraud, so spent the morning on the phone making various enquiries and arrangements.

photo of red stones on a beach on a sunny day
I wandered down to the beach with my camera, following a footpath behind the cottage to a springy meadow of wild berries, moss, and flowers. I crossed the meadow to the gravel path and onto the beach. As the tide was out, Cape Enrage was an expanse of sand with snail trails patterning the sand, ridges from the water, and colourful pebbles. Steam with rising up from the small pools of water leftover from the tide.

After wandering about on the sands, I made my way towards the cliffs where the occasional dribble of shale would ring out like falling ice down the cliff-side. It was a magical yet eerie reminder of the impermanence of the world around us. The large rocks near the base of the cliffs were intriguing too – such as variety of textures and colours.

photo of a cottage at the top of a fern covered hill
Matt met me on the rocks and we walked back up to the cottage together. We loaded up the car and headed to the Cape Enrage lighthouse. As we were pressed for time, we didn’t pay to go in, but parked just outside the lot to view the lighthouse from afar.

Next on our list was Fundy National Park. We made a quick pit stop at two trails, just to walk in for a couple minutes then go back into the car. It was a Fundy tease! Matt’s favourite hike is the Coastal Trial, but unfortunately we didn’t have time for that.

photo of fishing boats and a hook on the dock
After our mini-hike, we drove into the tourist/fishing village of Alma for lunch. We shared a seafood platter at Fundy Take-out, which the locals raved about. It wasn’t the best seafood we’d had, but enjoyable nonetheless. We got a milkshake and a seafood platter of lobster, battered scallops, clam strips, shrimp, haddock, and fries, which we ate on a picnic bench outside.

On our way back into town, we stopped at the Hopewell Rocks to see them at high tide. Fortunately admission is good for 24 hours, so we made plans to come back at low tide. There was a nice walk down to the rocks though, and multiple wheelchair-users were enjoying the gravel path. We snapped a couple pics of the rocks, then headed over to the visitation for Matt’s grandmother.

The visitation was in his grandmother’s childhood home, before it was repurposed as the Bishop Funeral Home. I had not been to a visitation since I was a child, so it felt like a new experience. I met Matt’s extended family and friends of his grandmother. Coming from a small family, I was amazed at how many relatives Matt had – and all from the area too!
After the visitation, we went back to his parent’s house in Riverview where we took their two west highland terriers for an evening walk along Petitcodiac River and up through residential areas before settling back into the house. We then had a glass of wine with Matt’s sister on the patio before heading to bed. It had been a busy day!

Day Three: Funeral and Family Time

The funeral for Matt’s grandmother took place on Tuesday morning. We drove in as a family: Matt, his parents, his sister, and me. The service was at the Albert County Funeral Home, followed by tea and sandwiches. Matt really wanted to show me the Hopewell rocks at low tide, so we slipped out in our funeral attire to make our way down to the rocks.
The rocks were much more fun at low tide than high tide. I found hard to get a good photo with the position of the sun, but enjoyed walking along the ocean floor and under the rocks themselves. Amusement was added to the fact we were wearing suit and dress, mucking around in the wet sand.

We caught up with the funeral procession, taking wildflower lined country roads down to Waterside Cemetery. The cemetery once had a church with special meaning to Matt’s family, but had been struck by lightning in January a few years back and burned down to the ground. Now a plaque and charred hydro-lines remain.

Matt joined the other pallbearers to carry the coffin to its final resting place. The children and sisters threw roses onto the coffin and the grandchildren placed a metal rose by the gravestone as Matt played Amazing Grace on his harmonica. Even though I had never known Matt’s grandmother, I found it very moving.

After the ceremony, Matt and his parent’s gave me a tour of the cemetery, pointing out their favourite epitaph, written by a young man who had accidently shot himself while hunting. He had a good sense of humour even on his deathbed apparently.

After everyone had left, we made our way up to the family cottages on Cape Enrage. We went to one cottage for leftover sandwiches and veggie dip, then Matt walked me down to his old cottage by a small lake before heading back up his parent’s cottage for wine and cheese.

photo of a small cottage by a misty lake in the woods
The fog started to roll in and as we made our way back up the hill, I noticed a large bird coming towards us. At first I thought it was a seagull, but as it neared I realized in was a bald eagle! It flew right over us, disappearing into the mist. It was magical!

Back up the hill, Matt and I hung-out on the deck for awhile, watching the fog roll in while listening to his dad’s bluegrass music coming through the living-room walls and the fog horn at the Cape Enrage Lighthouse. The bald eagle swooped overhead two more times before the darkness of night soaked up everything in sight.

photo of purple wildflowers by a misty lake
Matt and I went for a nigh time walk along the beach, stopping to sit on a piece of driftwood to listen to the tide coming in. Soon we saw a flicker of light through the fog. We recognized it as a bonfire and made our way back up the hill to join his cousins around a blazing fire of foraged driftwood. We sat around the fire for quite sometime, talking and watching the flames, making it back to the cottage around midnight to sleep.

photo of two glasses of pink wine cheersing in the fog

Leaving New Brunswick

We woke up with sun streaming in the windows, the Bay of Fundy in view with fog nestled on the treetops. We packed our bags and Matt made coffee, which I took out onto the porch to enjoy with a bouquet of flowers as Matt updated his budget. The fog soon covered the Bay, hiding all but the trees lining the cottage garden. I washed the dishes and Matt dried while listening to Tempo on CBC Radio 2, enjoying our domestic moment.

photo of a small bouquet of flowers in a mason jar

Ha Ha Cemetery & Mary’s Point

Come noon, we packed up the convertible and drove off down the road. The fog cleared once we neared the main road, revealing a beautiful summer day fit with blue skies and cheerful, fluffy clouds. We drove down to Mary’s Point, stopping in Ha Ha Cemetery along the way.

Ha Ha Cemetery was a beautiful cemetery – quiet, private, with both shade and sun, nestled in with trees and wildflowers. Apparently it had been a lost cemetery until it was discovered when someone was clearing bush one day. I thought it to be one of the most beautiful places of rest I’d ever been.

photo of a beach covered with driftwood and debris
We drove past Mary’s Point at first. It had a Government of Canada sign out front that read “Shepody Wildlife Reserve”. We parked the car and walked down to the shore, but unfortunately there were no shorebirds in sight to enjoy. The tide was out, so the birds had plenty of land to search for food. Apparently it is best to come 2 hours before until 2 hours after high tide to get the best shorebird experience.

photo of a meadow with a covered bridge in the background

Hillsborough

Matt took me down a variety of back roads, stopping at the church his parent’s had been married in. It was a gorgeous old building in Hillsborough, now serving as a storage locker, German bakery, and medical clinic. One of the fathers of confederation, one of Matt’s ancestors, is also buried in the cemetery next to the church, which gives the church an additional layer of interest.

photo of an ice cream cone
We went to the neighbouring gas station where Matt used to get ice cream as a kid. They didn’t sell ice cream anymore, so we drove out to Momma T’s Ice Cream Shop. Matt was pleased to see they sold Northumberland ice cream, a co-op dairy. We each got two flavours of ice cream on a waffle cone, which they took their time scooping each order. However, each cone was gigantic (we ordered a small) and totalled only $6! It was an absolute bargain in comparison to Toronto where a single cone will set you back more.

Homeward bound

We got back to Matt’s parent’s house in time to pack for the plane and have a quick shower. Matt’s mom packed us a lunch for the airport with local strawberries, green beans, and homemade egg salad sandwiches with sourdough bread. His parents took us to the airport where we sat in the cafeteria to eat our sandwiches before it was time to board the plane.

Getting through security at the Moncton airport was a breeze. We flew Porter, which is always a treat. The airline served us cocktails and Terra chips on the first leg of the trip. I wrote a couple postcards and Matt settled into his podcasts after he gave me the birds eye tour of Moncton out of the plane window before we rose up above the clouds, home to Toronto.

photo of a convertible car on a country road

Brain Tracking, Psycho, and a Pig’s Head

I’ve always loved Halloween: the macabre, the colour, the scents and sounds of autumn. When I think “Halloween” the image of  sinister jack-o-lanterns, crows, and yellow leaves come to mind. This year, the holiday featured a different kind of delight: headwear that tracks your brain waves, a screening of Psycho accompanied by a live orchestra, and a dance party with a talking pig’s head, where you could sign-up for your own funeral.

People standing in an alley, looking at the buildings

Psychology on the Street walking tour

Psychology on the Street

The holiday fell on a Saturday this year and it took no time to fill up with festivities.  I started my day at the Urbanspace Gallery at 401 Richmond for Psychology on the Street. Since the summer, I’ve been fascinated by how urban design affects our day-to-day well-being. Combine that with my love of assistive technology and new gadgets, and you have one happy Nell. This walk promised to do both.

The walk was part of a university study on how different urban environments affect our state of mind. Each participant at the gallery was given a Muse electroencephalogram (EEG) headset and a smartphone with a tailor-made app for the study. My master’s thesis had been on eye-controlled technology when brain-control technology was coming onto the consumer market. I was ecstatic to finally  handle a Muse headband.

Muse headsets in hard cases on the floor

Muse headbands

The headband felt delicate in my hand and took some time to position correctly on my head. We calibrated it through thinking and association exercises, followed by playing some games on the phone app were were provided. Once we were all set-up, we were guided through the neighbourhood, stopping at specific locations to observe and perform tasks on the app. Tasks included rating out emotional response to the environment on a scale 1 to 5, word association, and occasional number games on the phone.

I found myself wondering how the study would reflect different perceptions of space. For example, one alley screamed “Photoshoot!” to me, while the Art Deco typeface used on an otherwise bland building captivated my attention during our minute of silent observation. How did our life experiences and professions affect our perceptions?

After the walk, we handed in our headsets and phones. The principal investigator gave a short spiel on the study. It wasn’t anything new really, having read the information boards in the gallery and listened to the feature Spark on CBC did a couple weeks back. I looked longingly at the galvanic skin response sensors we hadn’t got to use, and left.

Psycho

Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is a classic! My first introduction to Psycho had been a Royal Canadian Air Farce parody with a Furby, but when I saw the actual film later in life, a shower was never the same… Combine it with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and you have the perfect Halloween date!

I dressed up as a dark angel with black wings, a vamp dress, and my heel-less heeled boots. Matt wore costume make-up and ghoulish contact lenses, turning into a very handsome zombie. The theatre was full of people in costume,  including the symphony. One of the members was even dressed up as an actual shower – genius!

I had forgotten much of the film’s story and became totally engrossed in the film. We had excellent seats from which we could comfortably see both the screen and the orchestra below. Matt pointed out that it was all strings – no wind, brass, or percussion. I had never noticed that in the music before.

It was fantastic!

Dark stairwell lit by red lights

Eerie entrance to Ghost Hole

Ghost Hole

After the show, I met up with some friends at Ghost Hole, a Halloween party at the Jam Factory. The place was packed! I had difficulty navigating the crowds with my wings on, but everyone else had such elaborate costumes on that it didn’t matter.

There were abstract projections on the screen, sound art, and a band that reminded me of the Flying Lizards. At the door was a bloody ghost dancing next to a pig’s head mounted on the wall. Caitlin urged me to go talk to the pig. I was resistant at first, but was glad once she convinced me as it was highlight of the event for me! Once I approached, the ghost handed me a headset and directed me towards a mic between the pig’s teeth. The pig and I had then had a short but delightful conversation about the meaning of life, which according to the pig, was bacon!

My friends had signed up by SMS to have their funeral that evening. This involved being lead into a private room with a funeral director and an organist. The director had quick words with the ‘deceased’ before leading them to a child’s coffin. She would then make-up on the spot a hilarious speech based on whatever the deceased had isolated as her passions. This was followed by strobe lights and a masked devil jumping out from behind the curtains. It amused us every time!

I didn’t stay late as I was quite tired from a week of 5am wake-up calls. So, I took the bus home in the rain and curled up in bed. It had been a wonderful day! Perhaps the best Halloween since I paraded the streets with a pillowcase of candy as a child!

Happy Day

Canada Day fell on a Wednesday this year. It felt like a weekend, bordered by two two-day work weeks. When I awoke at 6:45am I was greeted by a wondrous sight. The view outside my window was blurred by white fog. It was so thick that I couldn’t see the houses one street over on the west side of Dovercourt Road.

I tried to take a picture of the view with my iPhone, but it wasn’t translating well to digital. I was still groggy from the night before, so I went back to bed. When I awoke again at 9am, the fog had cleared and the sun was out! It was almost as if I’d dreamed the whole fog thing…

As it was Wednesday, I took advantage of the $1.50 special at the Laundromat at Hallam/Ossington. I try not to go there as the old lady working there is a very difficult personality to deal with, but $1.50 for a double load is too good a deal to miss sometimes!

In-between loads, I finished packing for my trip to Europe on Friday (minus a couple things of course). I bought some asparagus and a lemon at the grocers’ and set about making myself a late lunch. I tended to some emails, phoned my Mum, and before I knew it, it was time to go pick up my tickets for the Fringe Festival.
Photo of strawberries, a theatre ticket, and a hand reaching for a rhubarb pie on a white table

Cheese to Theatre

I was going to support a friend’s local theatre production called the Woolgatherer at the Fringe, directed by a recent ex of mine. On route to the show, I stumbled across a farmers market in a parking lot just off of Bathurst and Bloor. It was full of people, vendors, and good natured dogs enjoying the sun.

I love farmers markets, and one of the vendors was from Beamsville, a town near where I grew up, so I bought fresh strawberries and a rhubarb pie from them. I also picked up some cheese too – I love cheese!

I’m not quite sure what cheese I bought, but it was cut into sweet little triangles with a grey rind – and under $5! I love the different textures and tastes of real cheese – not the crap you buy in the supermarket, but real cheese. This stuff actually has flavour and texture to it. That and the cheese lady had an incredible hairdo – shaved at the sides with a purple and blue victory roll at the front!

Come 6:15pm, I cycled over to the theatre in good time for the show. The play Woolgatherer was about a crazy young girl and a trucker who falls in love with her. To my surprise, not only Yehuda and his new girlfriend was at the show – but his entire family! I was unprepared for that.

After the show, Yehuda and his family came over to me to say hello. Everyone was very happy and it was nice to see Yehuda’s family one last time. However, once hugs and kisses on both cheeks were exchanged, I quickly went to find the nearest washroom to go cry in.

I had meant to do work that evening, but was feeling distracted by all the emotions that came up. So, I went to Civil Liberties with a good book (totally enthralled with Happy City) to have a glass of Islay whiskey among people, candlelight, and vintage tunes. However, the atmosphere wasn’t as communal and chatty as usual, so I left after only one drink.

An Unexpected Gathering

To my good fortune, my friend Kitty was zooming down Bloor Street on her bike as I was getting onto my own. “Nell! Come to my house! I’m late for my own party!” She yelled towards me as she continued down the street.

Destiny.

I stopped in at my house to drop my book and pick up a beer. I found Kitty in her backyard breaking twigs around a fire, accompanied by our mutual friend Jamie and a fellow I didn’t know.

“Nell, you look nice!” Jamie said as I sat down.

Without thinking, I replied back, “Thanks! I just saw my ex who I hadn’t seen since we broke up in February.” Then realizing I was in the company of another, turned to Kitty’s friend and said, “Hi! I’m Nell.” to which laughter ensued.

More and more people slowly joined the fire, many of which were accompanied by instruments. There was an accordion, a ukulele, two types of guitars, and a cello. I was tempted to run home and get my harp, but the atmosphere was too enjoyable to leave, even for a minute!

Kitty was being the ideal hostess, getting everyone drinks, lighting candles, and being charming as usual. Someone brought marshmallows and soon fireworks were going off overhead from the neighbouring yard. It was lovely!

Once I started getting dozy, I moseyed on home to the song of House of the Rising Sung being sung around the fire. It was beautiful, and lasted with me the whole ride home.

Now I sit at home with the scent of campfire still on my clothes and the distant sound of fireworks going off in the distance. Today really was a wonderful day – it really felt like a whole weekend in one day!

A happy day indeed.

Roughing It With Espresso

Cup of espresso, pen, and journal on a picnic blanket

We went on our third annual interior camping trip to Charleston Lake Provincial Park this past week. Last year we stayed at Hidden Cove, and this time around we returned to Buckhorn where we stayed our first summer here. Both are canoe-in sites with hiking trails behind them.

We set up our tent at 501 rather than 502 which turned out to be shadier and a direct path to the out crop of rock that serves as a landmark of Buckhorn.

canoe on a lake at sunset

This camping trip was much more laid back than usual. Normally, our days are riddled with hikes and paddles, but this time around, it was reading, writing, and napping that took place most often. We enjoyed tea and espresso made on our camp stove while away, making for a most comfortable stay. I became quite accustomed to powdered milk in my tea by the end of the trip!

cup of tea by a campfire

 

I enjoyed working on the plot line and excerpts for a creative writing project I’m starting, writing postcards, reading a David Bach book on finance planning and starting a Diana Gabaldon book Yehuda had given me after I finished reading Susanna Kearsley’s latest novel last week. The joys of summer reading!

It was lovely to sit on the rocks by the lake, listening to the lapping water and the wind in the pines. There were owls at night and loons calling across the lake. Five days away were not enough! I am eager to return next year to savour the sights, sounds, and beauty of Charleston Lake.

 

 

Clear Lake

When I was invited up to a cottage this weekend, I dropped all of my weekend plans. Its a rare luxury to be invited up to a cottage! It was located on Clear Lake in Muskoka. Opening the door to the cottage was like stepping back in time and into a family’s history. The cottage had been built in the 1970’s from salvaged items and hadn’t been decorated since – it was a time capsule!

We spent the weekend relaxing, sipping tea, reading, and playing Dominion. Saturday was very chilly, so we got a fire going in the wood stove, and at night had a campfire where we roasted marshmallows while wrapped in woolen blankets.

Sunday was warm and sunny in contrast. I woke up to a placid lake with green waters coloured by the reflection of the trees. It was a beautiful sight to start the day with.  After we made peach pancakes with maple syrup for breakfast, I lounged in the sun reading a book on the dock. It was a sublime way to spend a weekend.

I could get used to the cottager’s life…

Pole in the woods with signs reading cottage nameschina tea cup on a dockOld green door

Storm Clouds Over Kingston

We stopped in Kingston like we often do during camping trips or on our travels between Montreal and Niagara. This time however, while Mum caught up with her friends, I went for a very long walk. The light was beautiful at that time of day with storm clouds adding drama to the skyline. I wanted to take pictures of everything!

Boats in the setting sunGrass blowing in the breeze along the water in KingstonWater fowl in a line in shallow water beneath cloudy skies

I made my way along the water’s edge and soon found myself in the downtown core of Kingston. I decided to go in search of local brew. So, I went to three bars asking for a local beer on tap, and all three sent me in direction of the Kingston Brewery. I got a bit lost, but eventually found it had had a splendid time sitting at the bar chatting with the staff. I sampled three beers: Dunkelnacht, Framboise Royale and one other I can’t recall the name of offhand. They were all excellent. I had a wonderful time and will make a point to return next time I’m in town.

Silhouette of houses and phone lines against the sky at sunset

Wildflowers at Charleston Lake

Flowers. They are an universal object of beauty in this world. However, flower photography is ho-hummed at much of time. I love taking photographs of flowers myself, and here are three from my recent travels to Charleston Lake Provincial Park.

White flower among green foliage next to grey slats of board.White spikey orb like flowerOrage leichen grows on a rock next to purple flowers

If you know the names, please feel free to comment below. Thanks!