Kingston Penitentiary Museum 

Off to Kingston for a few days with a visit to the Kingston Penitentiary Museum at the top of my things to do list.  You used to be able to also tour inside the actual prison, but unfortunately, they no longer do public tours which is a shame.  The museum itself was so interesting and, as usual, I was photographing everything excitedly.   

  The museum is accross the road from the prison and is in Cedarhedge, this was the Wardens Residence from 1973 until 1993 when it was was used for admin.  The first room had different uniforms worn by prisoners and officers.  The officers uniform had a baseball cap and made me think of Orange is the New Black.  The keys they had in the cabinets were massive – they said they did have smaller keys later, but that that some remained huge – the size of my hand.

There were replica cells and I was suprised to learn that, despite the modern ones being similar in size to current day cells in England, they never had two prisoners to a cell.  This meant that the cells had a nice cabin type bed that children tend to have with a bed on the top and a desk area underneath.  It made the cells a lot more like a bedroom than a cell.  The cells from before upgrades and rennovations were tiny – the width of a single bed, if that.    

 The punishment room was fascinating and had a list of different methods of punishments as well as contraptions used.  One of the punishment display boards did look like something from Fifty Shades of Grey I have to say!!  There were wooden structures called Triangles that were used as whipping posts.  The sign said that corporal punishment ceased in 1969 and was removed from the Criminal Code in 1972.  I am amazed that it was as late as 1969.  Another punishment was The Box.  This was used at Kingston Penitentiary more than 800 times in 2 years from 1847-1849.  It was basically a coffin with a few holes in it and prisoners would be confined in it for 15 minutes to 9 hours.  Obviously, I had to get in and try out the The Box.  It was a cosy fit!  There was also a Water Bath a.k.a The Shower Bath.  Again, I took a seat to try it out.  This was used from 1855-1859 as an attempt to find a substitute for the lash.  It was introduced in Auburn State Prison in New York.  This description was given by a Warden of Kingston Penitentiary on seeing it used in Auburn “I have been present in Auburn Prison and witnessed the water punishment, for which I felt under compliment to the Warden of that Institution.  The Convict is stripped quite naked, and placed in what may be termed the stocks, in a sitting position; a shower of water is brought down on the unfortunate being, which as I could observe produced a suffocation; this continued for some time, the operator either increasing or slackending the torrent at his pleasure.  On view of this proceeding, I was quite satisfied with the system of punishment in practice in this Instituion.”  They stopped use of this punishment following a fatal use in Auburn.
In addition to a room showing the punishments, there was a punishment book in another room.  It detailed offences and punishments issued.  Unfortunately, it was behind glass and I could only see the page it was open on.  The script was difficult to read.  I would have loved to have been able to flick through a printed version of this.  There were also a number of different knives and weapons made in prisons, along with tattoo guns and equipment to make alcohol.  One cabinet had a number of guns made by prisoners to use in escape attempts. 

 There was an amazing stack of cafeteria trays that had been stacked and then the stack hollowed out for a prisoner to hide in and escape from maximum security Millhaven Institution in 1981.  With great dedication to the cause, he also lost 30 pounds so he could fit in the gap.   He was caught three months later, but did manage the escape.    
Upstairs was a room about women in prisons and details about first female Wardens etc.  There was also a room containing prison memorabilia from around the word.  The map of UK Prisons was from 1996, so not 100% accurate anymore, but I was excited to see Dartmoor and a little section in the cabinet with Dartmoor mentioned.   

 The only disappointing thing was the lack of prison books in the gift shop as I would love to read more.  This is one of the few occasions that I have excitedly read and digested every sign and piece of information!  More often than not, I whizz around and head for the gift shop with museums!    



Brits, Blue Jays and Kensington Market

One of the more organised Brits from the Brits in Toronto Facebook group organised a meet up for us.  Whilst keen to attend having spoken to some of the people on Facebook over the months, I was also anxious and sure that most of them would turn out to be weirdos.  After a few more meet ups, we have established that most of us went into it with this expectation and we were all pleasantly surprised that we met a fairly normal nice bunch of people.  No others from Devon, but we had representations from England, Ireland and Scotland as well as one token Canadian along for the ride.  After a sucessful first meet up, the British socialising is on fire and we have since been to a Blue Jays Baseball game.

I wasnt sure about going to the Baseball game – watching sport has never been my thing.  In fact, I have spent most of my life actively trying to avoid it.  The tickets were $19 and I didnt want to be left out!  I LOVED IT!  We were sat way back up high, but we could still see everything and were not annoying die hard fans with our chatter.  A man brought drinks around in a cool bag and we could go down to the bar and food area for burgers and hot dogs.  The area around the stadium was packed with thousands of people and there was lots of queueing surounded by people wearing Blue Jays attire.  Towards the end of the game, I think I had a pretty good grasp of what was happening and now feel prepared for next time to go into the game with more idea of whats what.  The stadium reminded my of the film Never Been Kissed when she goes down and waits on the pitch for him to turn up….  It was Blue Jays Vs Baltimore and they didnt win, but still, I loved it and cant wait to go again!  Next time, I hope to have purchased my own Blue Jays shirt like a true fan in the making.    

Since this, I have also been to Kensington Market with some of the Brits and saw the car that is also a giant planter that I have heard about and seen pictures of.  Kensington Market has lots of food and shops to potter around and was a nice way to spend a few hours.  We had a burrito and one of the Brits took us on a mission to Honest Eds.  He was very excited about this and couldnt wait to show us it.  Apparently it is used in some films, though I hadnt heard of any of the films they mentioned to me.  Anyway, it did prove to be an interesting store, just like Trago Mills but bigger and cheaper, and who doesnt love Trago?   

 One of the Brits came down to The Beaches this week – it was nice to have one down to visit the area for a girly day of sunbathing. 
For now, I am looking forward to a few days away visting Kingston and will be reconvening with the Brits for a pre planned trip to Hooters to experience local culture and chicken wings next week!

Niagara Falls

Last week was Niagara Falls mini break week.  I booked two nights at the Ramada Fallsview before I left the UK and then got the Megabus from Toronto Bus Station to Niagara Fallsview Casino.  The bus was $17 each way and took about two hours.  It was raining and cloudy when I left Toronto, so I filled my backpack with gloves, a scarf and some warm layers, put on my raincoat and off I went.  Obviously by the time I arrived, the sun was beating down and I looked ridiculously, felt sweaty and had a bag full of useless items!  After the 10 minute walk to my hotel, I had shed as many layers as possible and couldnt wait for some air conditioning.  The room wasnt ready for check in until 4pm, so I sat in reception and cooled down for half an hour.  At 4pm, I checked in and they said they had upgraded me to a room with a jacuzzi bath.  The room was lovely with a ginormous bed big enough to starfish and not touch the edges!

I went straight down to the falls.  I could feel the spray before I could see them through the trees.  I have to say, with most big things like this, I get there, take a photo and go again, but on this occasion, I couldnt take enough photos.  I could have stood there all day.  Niagara Falls is all its cracked up to be and so much more.  There was a rainbow accross the falls as well which was amazing.  I walked down and located the boat trips to the falls – Hornblower Cruises, booked my ticket, got given a waterproof poncho and off I went.  The boat trip was about half an hour and goes right up past the falls by Rainbow Bridge and America and up into Horse Shoe Falls.  The ponchos are a good shout, its kinda wet.  Again, I just cant say enough how amazing it was and already cant wait to go back.  One lady I chatted to on the boat had got off, booked another ticket and gone straight back on.  

I walked all up the wall along the falls and got right up by the top of the drop, took another few hundred photos, and went on the Journey Behind the Falls.  Provided with another poncho, I went down in a lift and through some tunnels to see the windows out behind the drop.  Worth doing, but after the boat trip and the walk with the falls view, it couldnt compare.  

 The gift shop was a treat – everyone loves a gift shop and I bought a new hoody to replace my favourite snuggly one that I brought with me and lost. 

I went back to the room and spained ankle was hurting.  The room was big enough for two, so I thought I would let the fat girl inside come back for one night only.  I fired up the jacuzzi bath and ordered Papa Johns – large pizza, with mushrooms of course and a side of wings and sat in the jacuzzi eating it and watching Pretty Little Liars on Netflix.  It was good.

After a nice lie in, day 2 commenced.  Every now and then on this trip, I get these moments where I stroll along and just think how amazing it is that I came to Canada and am just strolling around.  I had this all the way down to the Bodies Revealed Exhibition.  Again, I bought the tickets before leaving the UK on Living Social.  Th exhibit is a chance to see the inside of bodies revealed, much as the name says!  It was incredible.  Again, I want to go back.  I got to see the famous ITB that caused me so much trouble with my running for years, had a good look at the bits and pieces of the ankle that caused all the business with the crutches and many other things.  The smokers lungs and healthy lungs have so much more impact in real life than in pictures!  They even had all of the blood vessels preserved – it looked like a tree painted red!  I didnt believe that bit was real til I read the card.  I must confess, I was glad I was not with certain friends from home when I reached the male and female bits as I am not sure we could have passed through without giggling.  I held myself together, just.  The final part was a complete body cut through in sections from the head down.  This did cause me some concern as it looked like steaks!!  I left hungry.

This led me to another gift shop. I went a bit crazy here, books and guides galore. Books about dead bodies, immense. Who needs Dexter?!

After heading back to the room to offload my purchases, I decided to walk to Marineland.  It didnt seem far, it was about 2.5 miles I think.  I got a Tim Hortons milkshake and off I went.  Anyway, Marineland is another story already told.

After Marineland,  I used the gym in the hotel and then went see the falls at night.  Into a restaurant by the falls for a nice meal and then when it got dark, I walked down to the falls.  I did debate eating at the Skylon Tower where you can see the falls from a height, but am going to save this one for next time.  Now.  The falls at night.  They put some coloured lights behind them.  Thats pretty much it.  Again, it was nice, but nothing compares to the amazing rainbow over the falls.

The hotel had a pool, so I headed back for a swim before bed.  Unfortunately, despite it being 10.15pm,  a large group of children had set up residence in the pool with a number of inflatable balls.  Nuffield flashbacks!  A relaxing swim was not to be had so I sought refuge in the place that always makes me happy to end a day, back to the gym.

The megabus home was fairly uneventful.  By now, I had a lot more luggage to carry and I was glad to get home to the The Beach.  I did some other bits and bobs – another story for another day, just remember Fearless Fitness – and headed down to the pub for a beverage with my neighbour to end a lovely few days.

Marineland, Ontario

Whilst on my recent trip to Niagara Falls, I headed for Marineland.  I did um and ah as it is quite expensive for a fancy aquarium.  I am so glad I went though!  I know some people are up in arms with it being wild animals etc and have preached at me when I said I wanted to go and after saying I had been.  At the end of the day, the whales are already there and wouldn’t survive being put back in the wild now, so time is better spent preventing further being captured.  For this reason, I would advise everyone to go to Marineland or that type of place while you still can – I absolutely loved it.  I know we have the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth, but quite frankly, I find it dull, even moreso now I have seen this!  

The kids havent broken up from school yet and I went on a weekday, so the park was really quiet.  It is a bit outside of Niagara Falls main area and, being determined not to pay for a taxi, I ended up walking 45 mins in the sun there and back – not too bad if you have a bottle of water!  As soon as I got there the marine show was starting – it was made up of sea lions, whales, otters and dolphins.  It doesn’t matter that I get a year older each year, I still feel like a big kid when I go to these things.  The animals all did tricks for treats and the music played and the audience sat in a big auditorium around the pool.  The sea lion did sit ups, the otters caught rings and played fetch and the dolphins and whales swam and jumped and twirled.  

I headed off to find some food and then had a look for the whales.  I found the Beluga whales.  They have a constant smile, I have never seen Belugas before and they were adorable!  You can apparently see them in the wild and swim with them some places in Canada and I really hope I get to do this while I am here.  I paid to feed the Beluga whales and got to feed one and stroke its head.  They are cold and rubbery to touch.

 Off for the main attraction in my eyes – the killer whale.  I just couldnt stop staring watching her swim around and come over to be sprayed and play with the hose pipe.  There were big rocks in the tank and I just wanted her to jump them like on free willie.  The keepers said she is retired and in her 40s and this is the equivalent of being over 100 for a human, so not sure how much longer she will be there.  There tank had an underwater viewing area.  Again, I could have stood there for hours mesmerized just watching her swim around.

I saw a bunch of bears at a bear enclosure – they were much much smaller than I anticipated and were jumping up waiting for people to throw food down for them – some kind of nuts and ice cream cones that you could buy I think.  After this I saw some other less interested water based animals and then went back and watched the marine show again before heading back to the hotel.    

Keeping occupied when unemployed

Unemployment definitely has it’s perks – I have spent a lot of time walking up and down around the local area.  I have sat in coffee shops with a book, met friends for a coffee (hot chocolate), walked along the beach, sunbathed and sat in the bar looking out complaining that it’s either too humid or wet.

On one of my walks on the beach. I intended to find a nice spot to drink a hot chocolate and read.  Instead, I found rings.  Now, most of my fellow upside down friends will share my excitement at a random discovery like this.  Rings with a beach view less than five mins from the house – I now consider this my own personal playground.  If the city could just put a pole next to them, that would be ace.

On Saturday night, I ticked another thing off my list and headed off with my English friend to see the Filthy Improv show at the Bad Dog Theatre.  I was prewarned by my lovely Canadian friends that we should get a connecting bus and not walk there from the street car stop unless we wanted to offered drugs or groped.   Now, I was assured by English friend that she has walked it before and we would be fine.  We made it safely with no untoward incidents and I was later told by my room mate that Canadians have a different assessment of dodgy areas.  It is nice that they have our backs, although I probably felt safer there than walking down Mutley Plain in the evening.  We got fajitas at a pub near the theatre.  I was amused when I said to the waitress that I miss the easy card machines at home and she said, “yes, I miss Australia” and proceeded to tell us where she had been in Australia.  We didn’t bother to correct her.  I should explain here that at home you press your PIN number and then enter and that’s it.  In Canada, it is a whole faff full of buttons and options and tipping.  Anyway, we made it to the comedy show – Filthy Improv.  It was a level of filth beyond what I expected, but hilarious.  I will definitely be going again.  My only disappointment was that 45 mins was no where near long enough.  We had some wine and headed home.  I feel like when you attend a comedy show of this kind with a new friend and both share the humour, it is going well!

Last night was a different kind of entertainment with a visiting raccoon to the apartment.  He was adorable and came right up on to the deck at the back.  He looked all cuddly and had the cutest little hands.  My room mate said I couldn’t keep him as a pet, but I did get to name him Womble.  I spent a lot of time looking out of my window watching him and his buddy, Ed.  They were bickering noisily throughout the evening.  I also witnessed Ed climb on to the bins, lift the lid, reach in for a rummage and pull out some munch.  He was not quiet putting the lid back down – this is the noise that has been keeping me up at night.  Locals complain about the raccoons and the bins, but I don’t understand why they don’t just get clips to clip the lids down?


The Distillery District

This week I thought I would address my Things to do in Canada list by heading to the Distillery District.  An easy straight street car journey followed by a ten minute walk and I arrived at the cobbled streets of the district.  On reflection, the Rovers Return would have fitted in well!  Lots of little shops to look in with clothes, jewellery and keep sakes.  There were lots of artists studios where you could look around as they made their items for sale – jewellery, photos, paintings….  Whilst I could definitely have made quite a few purchases, this is not Silver Stall prices and I settled on a nice pair of black and white stripey knee high socks.  I never can resist a nice pair of socks.
In addition to the shops, I found the love locks that I have seen in pictures before visiting.  Just like the ones in Paris that have recently been removed.  I wanted to get a padlock to put on, but I think it may be a bit weird just writing my name on a padlock and clipping it on!  “CS woz ere” – it doesn’t have the same ring to it as the love locks do.  I found an amazing chocolate shop.  It smelt so good I just walked around touching the packets overwhelmed by the smell.  The roasted white chocolate and dark chocolate with mint were totally worth the money and I foresee a special trip for these and the amazing mint chocolate cookies I had from the bakery soon.

It was a nice area with a few restaurants and nice bars and I feel like it will be a nice place to go for a girly evening for wine or food.  I also found the giant heart statue but must confess I have no idea why it is there or if there even is a reason for it – it looked pretty so I took some pics.

After pottering around the Distillery District, I wandered out of the area to look around.  I heard a microphone and followed the sound thinking something might be happening.  I found a school fair.  Not quite what I was hoping for.  Wherever I had wandered to, it definitely wasn’t the same as the nice little beach life cocoon that I have fallen in love with.  A swift return to the street car and I made it back to The Beaches.

Swimming in Lake Ontario and other stories

My freedom has kept me busy the last week and since posting, it started with a pole class.  Great fun and so good to be doing some form of exercise, especially when it involves a pole.  My ankle was still a bit sore, so it made it difficult to walk on the balls of my feet or point my toes, but I loved being back.  The studio was baking hot – so the first thing was acclimatising and trying to stay cool when I am used to running around trying to warm up!  The poles are higher than the ones at home – the kamikaze part of me loved the extra height.  Following this, I was reminded what it was like when I first started pole.  For the next two days, I had bruises from pole sits and every part of my body was aching.  Since the successful first class, I have also been to a spinning pole class.  

Last weekend was busy and following the pole class, I went off to see some friends I met in the bar across the road play in their band.  Luckily, they are actually fantastic, so no awkward smiles or insincere praise needed!  A great fun and random night.  Got to see a few others bands as it was a competition.  Eclecticus came second.  They were very nice and Canadian about it, I showed some British outrage on their behalf (quietly of course,I didn’t  want to make a scene in Canada).

This week I have learnt a few new Canadianisms.   Firstly, they call tights, leggings and they call leggings, tights.  Secondly, when I say I paddled in the water – as in paddled my feet, they think this means I paddled some sort of water sports-mobil such as a canoe or a paddle board.  This led to me saying, “paddling, you know, as in a paddling pool”.  Well, of course, they don’t call it a paddling pool – its a kiddie pool, so this didn’t help.  I also commented that I had heard before coming here that Canadians don’t get sarcasm.  Now, most people I said this to were outraged (in a nice way, of course) and proceeded to tell me how they get comedy.  I have to say, I have not yet noticed anyone not getting sarcasm until this point.  One chap in the bar said to me, it isn’t that they don’t get sarcasm, maybe that they are offended…. I responded (sarcastically) with a comment about them just going off and crying…. he gave me a very serious explanation about how they don’t go and cry, they might just not like what was said….  

A random observiation – I bought some Mini Eggs as they sell them all year round and they taste different and dont have speckles on them. Why would you not put the speckles on the eggs?!  

The rest of the week has involved pottering, laundry, exploring the shops along the road and handing out CVs (Resumes) everywhere in attempt to get a job – so far unsuccessful, but tomorrow, the quest will continue.  I went to the Nutty Chocolatier that sells British food to see what was occurring.  Amused to see they stock loads of Marks and Spencers stuff!  Among other things such as highly priced Bisto, McVities, Galaxy chocolate and more.

One day, I met a new friend to walk her dogs.  We went to a water treatment plant nearby, by the beach.  It is apparently used in films sometimes as a prison or asylum.  Yesterday, I went for a walk and coffee and some shopping with another new friend who lives next door.  It was really nice to go shopping and chat and do such an every day thing.  We were aiming for a nice stroll back along the beach… out of nowhere, we were caught in a massive thunder storm walking along the beach.  Trying to avoid the lightening, we got soaked to the skin – but it still wasn’t cold.  The weather changes so quickly here.

Today, I finally swam in Lake Ontario.  The beach was roasting, I am roasted – so sunburnt, AGAIN.  The beach was quiet again and the Lake was absolutely freezing, but all limbs were off the sand with just my head above water for a couple of strokes, that counts as swimming right?  This afternoon I went to see a two man band play at a bar down the road and it was nice that I am starting to recognise people now as I am out and about and can say hello and chat a bit to locals.

Earlier on, I accidentally dropped my “Ts” on a word – Canada is rubbing off on me. The day, I find myself saying Torono instead of ToronTo, I will know they have really got me in their grasp.