The Maritimes: days 4 and 5…. Nova Scotia – Cabot Trail 

The Cabot Trail was a journey that was recommended personally and on numerous websites as a must do. I left Antigonish around 10 and set off for the Cabot Trail.  My first stop was Baddeck for breakfast/ lunch and then I was on my way.

As soon as I crossed over to Cape Breton, the accents seemed to change and they had much stronger dialects like Newfies.  I love these country accents.  

I saw a cute little School House near Goose Cove and stopped to take a photo.  The lady who owned the house was outside and invited me in to look around and have a drink.  The house was cute inside, really light with a huge open loft with nice wooden beams. The original wooden school floor was still there and also the blackboards still on the walls.  They ask visitors to sign the black board.  There were messages from years and years ago – I read messages in different languages, and messages that her mum, brother and first husband wrote before they died.  It was all dated and I saw them from as far back as the 60s.  Some less memorable ones have to be removed now and then for new ones.  

On the road again and I drove along the coast with lovely sunshine and views until I got to Ingonish Beach for an ice cream and some sunbathing.   My hotel for the night was in Ingonish. 

This morning I hit the Cabot Trail again.  True to Canadian form, the weather had a rethink and yesterdays glorious sunshine was replaced with rain and drizzle.  The views were pretty and I stopped in a few different places to look.  The trees were pretty and the road was winding up high in the forest until my ears went funny.  There was a cute little farmers market that I found, and a nice bakery.  It seemed to be the community get together with a guitar player and tea and coffee.  I stopped at a place in Cheticamp called Proud to be Hookers!  First I saw the sign saying Hooked Rugs and Crafts and thought, “no dont stop, you will only buy more stuff to pack”, then I noticed the other sign saying “Lolas” and “Proud to be Hookers”.  I was amazed by this this one room shop full of different hooked craft items.  It was fabulous.  Mats, coasters, rugs, christmas decorations, signs – everything you could want.  Years and years worth of work all in one room.  The shelves were piled.  The lady working there showed me how the to be a hooker.  I had to stop myself from buying all the supplies there and then as it looked fun and satisfying – I do love a craft project.  The technique looked a bit risky for someone who easily messes up wool based tasks, but I am itching to give it a go.  I have tried carding wool, felting wool, knitting… something has to stick.  Before I left, Lola the owner came in with a lovely dog called Chance.  Everyone in there was so chatty and friendly, I am smiling with a nice memory as I write.  I couldnt leave empty handed and came away with my very own hooked cow, and of course my ambitions to try it when I am home.

I finished up the Cabot Trail with a few more stops for photo ops, though pictures havent done it justice, and was glad to reach my hotel for night as it was a lot of driving and a lot of rain.  Hotel was the Dalhousie University in Truro which I booked so I could use the gym.  Unfortunately, the gym was closed, and there was no access to hot water for a cup of tea.  I sought refuge in a Goodlife.  It was a lovely gym and there was a little ladies only room off the changing room which was empty, so I set my ipad up and made the most of having the place to myself.  Tim Hortons chilli for dinner and here I am.

Tomorrow takes me to Halifax for my last 2 nights of this journey.  


The Maritimes… day 3 – PEI to Nova Scotia

Before getting the ferry to Nova Scotia, I went to see one more Red Sand beach.  Pinette park is around 20 minutes from the ferry.  I had a walk along the beach by the harbour – the water was sparkling in the sun and was warm like bath water.  There were a couple of houses with steps down from their gardens to the little harbour beach.  

I had a really lovely time on Prince Edward Island.  The whole place is peaceful – it was nice to hear birds, silence, wind in the trees, to smell the fresh clean air – and the cow smells, sea food and sea side.  There is no sense of urgency,  no hustle and bustle.  The people were friendly and helpful but not pushy.  There were purple and pink lupins everywhere dancing in the wind.

The ferry took around 90 minutes – enough time to get an ice cream and sit and read on the deck.

I went to Melmerby Beach when I got to Nova Scotia.  Very similar to the beach from yesterday with soft sand until the wind whipped it up in to my scalp and eyebrows and smashed it against my cheeks.  I kept my eyes shut and music in my ears.  

Tonights accomodation is Francis Xavier University in Antigonish.  Decent room with en-suite, used the gym, went out for dinner, did some laundry and to bed. 

The Maritimes… day 2 – PEI, Green Gables, Red Sand

Day two on Prince Edward Island.  I had a great sleep, the bed in my hotel was really comfy.  Breakfast was included,  bacon sandwich and a cup of tea, lovely.  I also got some bagels for lunch.

I headed North West to visit Green Gables, the house from Anne of Green Gables.  The car park was busy and full of coaches, I was worried it was going to be hectic.  I have no idea where the people were… was too busy at all which was nice.  The setting is so peaceful and relaxing.  The garden is surrounded by rose bushes and neat lawns and trees.  The house was owned by Lucy Montgomerys Aunt and Uncle.   It is not exactly as it was when Lucy Montgomery used to visit them as it was since sold, but it has been redecorated to fit with the era and with her descriptions in the book.  It was a cute house with really light bright bedrooms, and every room had at least one rocking chair in it.  I love rocking chairs!  There was a girl whose job was to wander around the grounds dressed as Anne.  I found this a little weird.  There were also children that had come to visit and were dressed with straw hats and plaits.   In addition to the house, I walked down Lovers Lane and around the Balsam Hollow and Haunted Wood trails.  There were signs with quotes by Lucy Mongomery around the grounds.  She said of Lovers Lane… “How beautiful it was – geeen and alluring and beckoning!  I had been tired and discouraged and sick at heart before I went… and it… stole away the heart sickness, giving piece and newness of life”.  How true this is.  It was so calm and relaxing with a slight breeze rustling in the trees.  Even though there were other people on the trail occasionally, the sound didn’t seem to travel and it felt like I had the woods to myself.  I just looked back at the quotes again to find photos and found another one that LM wrote… “The woods always seem to be to have a delicate, subtle life all of their own… in the woods I like to be alone for every tree is a true old friend and every tip toeing wind a merry comrade… I always feel so utterly and satisfyingly at home…”.  I heard a few people saying that that had seen the film and not read the book.  I haven’t read it for years and wish I had read it again more recently – I was going to buy a nice copy as a momento, but they were really expensive in the gift shop, and most of them had the covers with scenes from the film.  One of the nice things about the whole place was the lovely magical nature of it – to come and see it as a film destination seemed to take some of that away.  I had an ice cream – mint of course – and headed for the beach.  Oh yes, and the mosquitos, the mosquitos were out in their droves.  I have a big swelling on my forehead, and my right ankle is so swollen from one bite, it wont bend properly.

I left Green Gables and had a drive around the area looking at the views of the coast.  I stopped and read my book at a little beach, but there were lots of ants, so I packed up and moved to Cavendish Beach a five minute drive away.  The sand was so warm and soft, it was gorgeous just lying in the sun reading.  The sand was less soft when the wind picked up and used it as an assault weapon against my face.  I had a nice hour or two there and then pottered off in search of red sand.  

Argyle Sands – a great beach with big fields and steps down the red cliffs to the sand.  The water was warm, the sand was wet and very silt-y.  My feet sank in to it like clay squelching between my toes and under my toe nails.  I picked up some huge souvenir shells.  After lying in the grass at the top of the cliff for an hour, the tide had come in almost to the bottom of the cliffs.

McDonalds, Netflix, Bed.

Vancouver, Squamish and Whistler. Part 2

Bear viewing was a brutally early start and I drove as the sun rose up to Whistler for a 5.45am start. There were three of us in the car on the trip and we saw loads of bears. It was brilliant. I loved just sitting and watching one bear potter around eating grass. I learnt so much interesting stuff about bears from the lady who also worked in bear study and ecology. I was amazed to hear that around 10 nuisance bears a year are killed there. She said sometimes moving them works, but that they can come back, become someone elses problems or die of starvation if they are older and less adaptable.  I also learned about Spirit Bears – white black bears who have evolved to be white as they mostly eat salmon and white is harder to see above the water if you are a fish.

After the bears, I headed to the base of Whistler mountain and got the lift up to take the Peak to Peak Gondola acceoss to Blackcombe Mountain and back.  The Peak to Peak was impressive – I think had I not seen so many incredible sights lately it would have been even more breathtaking!  How incredibly ungrateful I feel for saying that!  It was great though and the mountains were covered with thick white snow still.  

I was up so early that I felt ready for a sleep by the time I had some food and pottered around Whistler.  I wanted to head back to Cleveland Dam for a nap in the sunshine, but there was a huge traffic jam.  After two hours stuck almost at a stand still, I had crawled far enough to reach a layby that conveniently had a beach nearby if I went accross some old train tracks and a golf course.  I had a swim in the sea and sunbathed and chatted to people on the beach.  A couple of other traffic jam refugees had also made it there.  Such a strange place where I can be in a winter wonderland in the morning and sunbathing in the afternoon a couple of hours away.

By the time I made it back to Downtown Vancouver, it was late.  I stayed at the University which was okay, but a downgrade from my lovely room in Squamish.  Cant really complain though at $35 a night.  I stayed here for my final two nights.  There was no wifi in the rooms, so the main reception foyer was full of people in their pyjamas using the internet.  Very strange.

It was time for my second go at Whale Watching.  Back in Steveson and better prepared for the open water breeze, I settled in with a packed lunch and a cup of tea ready for the excitment.  Success! Luckily, this time we saw whales.  Lots of whales.  Killer whales.  Groups of them, mums, dads, babies!  The guide knew which whales we were seeing by their marks so could tell us roughly how old they were and who was who.  There were whales all around.  And more boats.  The guide said the whales have never been bothered by the boats and there are strict laws enforcing how close boats are allowed to go.  We saw lots more sea lions hanging out on big buoys.

Back on land and I was off to see a old chum.  Before the adventure began, I met a friend on one of the moving to Canada Facebook groups and we met up before coming here.  That was two years ago and we were filled with excitement and questions and plans and no idea what would happen in the end.  He visited Toronto and is now living in  Vancouver, so it was nice to see him and catch up now we are closer to the end of the adventure.  We went to Kitsilano Beach for some chat and sitting in the sun.  It was really lovely seeing a familiar face. 

The final day in Vancouver and my excellent luck with the weather came to an end.  Oh how it poured!  I still had a few things to do before getting a 10pm flight back to Toronto.  I went to the Vancouver Police Museum which was interesting.  It was small compared to some others like the Mob Museum in Vegas, but it had some cool crime stuff and props, particularly in the old morgue part of the museum.  Unfortunately, there were strict rule not allowing me to open the drawers that hold the bodies.  I kind of wish I just did it.  There were preserved body parts that were once on display with a travelling circus.  They showed bullets and stab wounds through various body parts.  There were also preserved foetuses from illegal abortions – though I actually looked and it amazed me how real it was and not like a blob.  It is still legal to abort at this size in England.

After the museum, I drove around the “dodgy” part of town.  Vancouver has rare Supervised Injection Site where Substance Abusers can go to inject safely.  I wanted to go and look around, but was told it was benefit week and there was no space on tours available as the opening hours are extended.  This is a shame as people have been trying to get one of these opened at home.  There was a memorial wall on East Hastings Street for memories and photos of people that have overdosed.  The area was horrifying.  Absolutely horrifying.  I saw two blue light ambulances within two blocks.  It was clear that the busy street was crowded mostly with active users.  The shops looked closed up, but as I crawled along and looked closer, it was just that they all had bars on the windows and doors, but were still open.  The whole place was so incredibly sad.  I was amazed at Toronto when I first arrived, and the amount of people who clearly have mental health issues on the streets, but this was a whole other level.  I just dont understand how a city can let it get that bad – I wanted to open the boot and give out my clothes and go buy food to give out to people.  

My day was not all doom and gloom,  I was off in search of a donut my friend had told me about.  Deep Cove.  A really pretty lovely little seaside village with boats and cute little shops and cafes.  Im not normally a fan of donuts unless its a Krispy Kreme, but the donuts here were phenomincal.  And warm.  So, so good.  I managed to have a little walk around on the beach, but it was too wet to do the hiking trails when I had to get a plane.

My final stop was Wreck Beach.  I have heard all sorts of things about Wreck Beach.  It was raining, so I can not possibly comment on the optional clothing policy or anything else.  The beaches in Vancouver seem to have big telegraph poles and logs on them laid out.  I love it as it gives you are little area, your own space so its not quite so sardine like.   The steps down were insane, so I asked someone after walking along the beach for a while if there was another way up.  A chap who called himself “Mike, the mushroom guy” who seemed to live on the beach in the summer showed me where the cliff path was.  It was insanely steep and good hard work, but infinitely more satisfying than those steps would have been.  The mushroom guy was very friendly and slightly redeemed the previously mentioned unfriendliness from Vancouverites.

My flight home was uneventful.  I didnt sleep.  There was a gorgeous sunrise getting in to Toronto at 6am.  I was determined not to mess up my sleeping by sleeping all day, so I went home and resolved to have a quick power nap.  Then slept the day away!

Becoming a Tourist

I am officially a tourist.  My two working holiday visa expired today. My friend kindly took us to Niagara Falls and treated us to a hotel last night for my birthday.   The started smoothly with her locking the keys in the car and having to call the breakdown people!

To end the visa, I had to be out of the country today.  This meant we had to leave Canada and then reenter with me coming back in as a tourist.  We left Canada – at this point, I could be left in no mans land if both countries decided not to accept me.  At the US border, I explained the situation and we were given a piece of paper saying we were being refused entry to the US due to the reason for visit being to “flagpole”.  We had to take this back to the Canadian border where the guy at the booth said we were fine to go back in.  I was not getting a passport stamp as I did not get a stamp for US.  I said that I wanted one as I was worried when I go to Vegas on Tuesday, airport border people would think I had outstayed my visa with no evidence to say that I had left.  The guy said we were fine to go back in and it shouldnt be a problem.  He said I was not being referred to the office, but could go if I wanted a stamp.  I did.  This was all very nerve wracking – I got all nervous unsure if I could take my seatbelt off to lean over and speak to the man in the booth, we declared two cans of cider in the car which he seemed to find amusing.  

When we went to the office for the stamp, I again explained I was ending my working holiday visa and wanted to come back in to the country as a tourist.  The man wanted to see evidence of my flight out of the country.  I had a whole folder full of paper with all my other details of travel, proof that I could support myself etc, but they just wanted to know I was leaving and see the flight booking.  At this point, it is entirely at their discretion how long they will let you come back for (up to 6 months).  He stamped my passport to exit the country by the end of July.

I was not charged any money other than $4 to cross the border to come back in to Canada.  The whole process took around an hour.

Time to enjoy our mini break… by this point it was pouring with rain.  We checked in to the hotel.  Realised I had forgotten my rain coat and headed out.  We got some Beavertail, well I had Beavertail, Erin had Tims, and looked in some shops before walking along the Falls.  Then up the hill and in the Skylon Tower for a drink at the top – disappointingly the only hot drinks were coffee based, so I had hot water and lemon.  It was nice to see the view anyway and have a sit down to dry off a bit.

We looked around the shops in the casino mall and then walked back to go to the Haunted House which was fun.  Kelseys for dinner was delicious and a man with a guitar sang Sweet Caroline.  My food was good.  

When we got back to the hotel, we curled up to warm up.  I was so cold and all my clothes were wet, so I put my beanie on.  I must have drifted off within 10 minutes.  I woke up sooo hot as we had the heat on.  I had the best nights sleep though.  I was out so quickly and was so cosy.

We accidentally slept through breakfast, so we went to IHOP and had one last drive around the falls before heading back to Toronto.  Of course, it was sunny today! 

Dad and Daughter roadtrip to Montreal (and Quebec)

Our time in Quebec over and it was time to make the trek to Montreal.  We got there earlier than intended and headed straight to the hotel to check in.   We stayed fairly close to where I stayed last time, and I remembered my way around fairly easily.   Having the car the this time and going back over the same areas amazed me with how much ground I had covered last time on foot.

Unfortunately, the hotel did not manage to put us in rooms near each other, or even in the same building.  Hotel was okay other than that, and the fact that my bathroom was so small, I had to sit sideways on the loo as there wasnt room the other way!We got there in the early evening so drove down near the Old Montreal for a walkabout and to see the Notre Dame Basilica.  The square was busy, so we had a quick look around and then went for some dinner.  Dinner was at the chocolate restaurant, Juliette et Chocolat.  It was shots of chocolate, meringue floating in custard for Dad and chocolate fondue for me.  I remembered the place from last time, it was so good!  We didnt stay late as I wasnt feeling 100%.  I slept really well in the hotel and we had tea and toast for breakfast.

Sunday morning involved some walking around the shops and port, sitting in the sunshine (yes, we finally had a break from the rain and an opportunity to don flip flops).  We had maple taffy rolled in the ice from a sugar shack.  We went to Notre Dame to look around inside.   We just strolled around the city after, and it was lovely.  

I had to take Dad to try Fairmont bagels, so we went to get bagels and the drove to Mont Royal to sit and eat them in the sun looking out over the city.  Mont Royal is a park/ mountain in the city that has a lovely parking area with a view over the city, and lots park and green at the top to visit.   

We didnt want to be back too late (it ended up being 12.45am), so we decided to have some more tasty treats from another Juliette et Chocolat.  This time, chocolate shots followed by a sundae with warm chocolate sauce for me and a crepe for Dad.  I wanted everything on the menu, all the treats in the bakery counter and the entire stock of the chocolate shop.  We got some desserts to bring back and a few bits from the shop.

Back to Toronto.  The drive was just under 7 hours with a couple of short stops.  The road was full of pot holes and we were tired, so it was slow, steady and even more tiring.  

Despite the huge amount of driving, the whole trip was totally worth it.  I loved all of it, but the highlights (other than chocolate based food) were definitely Montmorency Falls in Quebec city and just strolling around Montreal.  So happy the sun joined up on the last day.   Before coming to Canada, 2 or 3 hours seemed like a road trip, now, if I want to go somewhere 7, 8, 9 hours away, I just do it.  I love the opportunities this will open up for me. 

Dad and Daughter roadtrip to Quebec (and Montreal).

Thursday morning came and, after an impromptu Jays game followed by packing on Wednesday, we were tired and set off a bit later than planned around 9am.  The drive to Quebec took a staggering 9 hours.  We did stop a few times for supplies and leg stretching – it is lucky we always have lots to chat about.  There was still snow on the ground at the side of the road as we got further east. We had a small debate over whether it was snow or plastic bags, apparently it couldn’t be snow, it’s not cold enough.  Dad eventually realised it was snow!  

The hotel (Hotel Universal) was nice and the rooms were spacious and had a bit of posh towel folding going on.  We had some food at the Boston Pizza in the hotel and then a sauna, then retired to take baths and sleep.  

The rain forecast had not arrived when we woke up, so we drove to Montmorency Falls and were able to see all we wanted just as the rain hit.  There is a short walk to the falls where you can go out on to a pavillion that sticks out over the water allowing a breathtaking view of the falls.  We both turned the corner and stepped out with a ‘wow’.  The falls are higher than Niagara Falls, though considerably narrower.  We walked accross a suspension bridge over the top of the falls and you can look down and see the ice still at the bottom.  I loved seeing the different layers in the ice that have built up.  The steps down to the falls were closed for the season, Dad vetoed the idea of climbing the barrier.  I did convince him to jump up and down on the suspension bridge though.  

We drove down to the bottom of the falls so we could see the view from the bottom as well.  By this time, it was getting colder.  It was one of those weather situations where you leap out of the car, briskly walk, with little trots to the best spot to see the falls, take a picture, share a quick mutter of appreciation and retreat.

Time to see Quebec City.  A city within old fortification walls, still surrounded with cannons.  Unfortunately, all of the other places we could have been had better weather than Quebec – Toronto and UK were dry and we were at risk of water damage.  We briskly walked around seeing some shops.  The Chateau Frontenac was a lovely detailed fairytale castle with turrets, now a hotel that we went to for Afternoon Tea.  Unfortunately, noone bothered to collect us from the sign saying we had to wait to be seated, so we went elsewhere for burgers and poutine.  We saw some cannons along the fortification walls, and walked back up through the shops.  I found some winter hats reduced in Roots which offered me a little more weather resistance.  I was delighted to find a Christmas shop, Christmas songs playing.  I picked up a wonderful new decoration of a snowlady holding a frog to kiss.  It made me think of me, always on the lookout for a prince.  We pottered around a shop full of such random stuff – cutlery (handmade with all different woods, apparently juniper will always smell peppery which was interesting), knives, leather goods, pistols, clothes, fur hats etc and all sorts of supplies for those models with the little soldiers where people make a scene to play with and re-enact battles.  I bought some red polka dot origami earrings that I loved.  There was a whole interesting range including earrings made from the crane origami shape.  When I asked about them, I found the lady working there made that collection.

Throughout the day, we were on the lookout for a pastry shop.  Somewhere to sit seeking refuge from the rain, and have a tea break. We went in many to check the ambience and menus – luckily we held out for the right one and found Paillard.  The place was packed with fresh breads, pastries, cakes, chocolate and creme brulees.  Of course, we had creme brulee.  It was spectacular, and blowtorched when ordered so it was perfectly warm from being freshly caramelised.

Back to the car and off to the hotel.  Some lazy time, a sauna, jacuzzi and some dinner at Baton Rouge.  Delicious but a little pricey.

We had a good sleep and went back to Quebec City today for another look around the streets we missed.  Breakfast was, of course, at Paillard – bacon and cheese croissants.  Dads turn to do some shopping and we went for a nose around the Chateau Frontenac to check out the view from the top floor.  Can anyone pass a maids cart without being attracted to the smellies?  We are way too silly for this sort of opportunity and I got a little hysterical with the comedy of the casing of the cart.  I would return the hand cream in return for a glimpse of that security footage.

A hot chocolate, a walk in the rain, pottering in the shops and we went for a talk on the history of Old Quebec.  The model lit up as the video and voiceover talked about each area and sound effects were alongside it.  Not something I would usually do, but 20 minutes was the perfect amount of time to be interesting to me.  

A quick hunt for a book on the history of Quebec City for Dad and we set off for Montreal.

Kerry is in Town.  Day 1 – CN Tower, Toronto Islands, Pub Quiz

With two weeks notice, one of my oldest friends from Home is here to visit.  I have been so excited and as it was last minute, there wasnt enough time to get impatient.  She arrived on Valentines Day just in time to go out for a nice meal, where we were asked if we were a couple.  

We hit the ground running and Day 1 involved the CN Tower and Toronto Islands.  This was one of my favourite visits to the CN Tower as it is the first time I have been up and been able to see snow.  It was so much prettier with snow on the ground.  We had hot chocolates, perused the gift shop and headed for the Beavertail place.  Unfortunately, we arrived and it was closed Mon-Thurs.  

We got some chilli from Tims and boarded the ferry for a nice walk around Toronto Islands.  

We went to Far Enough Farm and petted the animals.  It was sad to learn that Charlotte, the giant sow, died.  I loved going to see her.

It was so so cold.  The day started at -8 and we got colder.  The ferry had the school children on it on the way back and we were not allowed to sit indoors.  Cold. 

Off to the Toronto sign and it has had a new piece added – there is now a maple leaf as well as TORONTO.  I think this is because Canada is 150 years old this year.  There are lots of changes and new things creeping in around the city.

We were shattered by the time we got home, but managed to find just enough energy to go to the pub quiz with friends.  I have come last every time I have been.  This time, we were runners up and won a $25 gift voucher.  So exciting! To come second was amazing!  Who doesnt love a quiz night that has Spice Girls related questions?!

We slept. So much. Just passed out on our beds. 

Waterfalls and Christmas lights

This weeks road trip was another visit to Hamilton.   Most Canadians seem to think of Hamilton as a terrible place to visit and think of it as a very industrial place, for some reason, the fact that it has over 100 waterfalls and countless beautiful trails and hikes seems to have escaped them.   

A Welsh, a Scot, a Manc and myself hired a car and after a few dramas with the car hire, we were on our way.  The days agenda:  Waterfalls, Niagara on the Lake, Niagara Outlet Mall and then off to see the Christmas lights at Niagara Falls.

Felkers Falls was our waterfall feature for the day.  6m wide, 22m high and linked to the Bruce Trail.  The woodland was orange and crunchy with all the trees looking bare.  The beautiful autumn colours of last month have gone and are yet to be replaced with snow.  Luckily there was water in the waterfall as I remember visiting Devils Punchbowl in the summer and it was dried up.  We decided to trek to the bottom of the waterfall.  This involved some off the beaten path, Bear Grylls style climbing and outdoorsmanship.  We made it to the bottom and I was able to climb in behind the falls and stay completely dry.  

Just near Felkers Falls was Little Davis Falls.  An 8m wide, 3m high trickle of water ‘cascading’ over some steps in the rocks.

The climb out of the canyon we found ourselves in was entertaining to say the least.  At some points, our feet just slid on the mud and we could only pull ourselves up with the tree roots.  Needless to say, due to this, there are some muscle aches throughout the group today.  The slope was steep and we were low to the ground and covered in leaves when we made it to the top and climbed back over the barrier.  Perfect timing to drive to Niagara on the Lake and see the sunset over the water.  Unfortunately, it began to rain and the clouds got together to ensure our visibility of the sun set was at zero. 

To the mall!  I do love the Niagara Outlet Mall, but I also have a severe self control problem.   We all know how much sugar I can put away, think of that same level of self control when I am in a mall offering me 80% off designer hand bags.  I came away with moisturisers, candles and other body products from Bath and Body Works.  Making a decision proved impossible, so I just bought a range.  I dont think I will need to buy body scrub, moisturiser or scented candles for six months.  Unfortunately, we did not think through our hiking gear and walking around Kate Spade carrying handbags to choose which one was quite ridiculous when we noticed that in addition to fairly ridiculous attire there were leaves and bits of undergrowth stuck to us.  Yes, I bought the handbags.  No, I couldnt decide.  No, I didnt need them.  No, I couldnt afford them.  Yes, they are beautiful.  Yes, they will last forever.  Yes, they smell of leather.  And I actually got $495 total discount due to the incredible savings.  It would have been rude not too.  The others bought winter boots and trainers and we headed back to the car for the next adventure in our day out.  

Niagra Falls has a Winter Festival of Lights.  It was beautiful, even in the rain.  It was late and raining, which made the roads quiet so we could crawl along looking at the lights like little children with our noses pressed against the car windows.  Well, not me, I was driving, and getting very distracted from the road!  There were moose, bears, nativity scenes, swans, trees, snowflakes, mounties, inukshuks.  My favourite display was the light show on the Toronto Power Generating Station.  It was fantastic.  The building lit up in different colours and then multi colours all changing in time with the music.  The music was tuned to a radio station so we could listen to it in the car as we drove past.  It was playing Carol of The Bells.  I found a clip of the show here.

The journey home began with a mandatory Wendy’s.  Who doesn’t love a square burger?  Lets be honest, it was a double, with a side of poutine.   We headed back to Toronto singing Christmas songs – Michael Buble started us off and we then moved on to the Wurzels.  It was a happy journey and makes me smile thinking of it now.

Algonquin, Screaming Heads and Wonderland

How do you follow a sucessful day bear spotting?  With a visit to Algonquin Park to hike in the beautiful autumn colours.  A simple idea one would think…. if the signage was conducive to actually finding the trails.  We found a hippy retreat, a retreat for troubled teens, a sign saying not to pick up hitchhikers, a knife making place, some lumberjacks, a closed canoeing place… all the makings of a perfect horror film.  Eventually we got directions from the closed canoe place telling us the trail was on an unmarked road with a sign at the top?! Of course. 

We hiked up a trail to an old fire tower watch point. Unfortunately the tower was no longer there, but the view and the colours were pretty nonetheless.  The trail itself was a nice meandering 4km upwards earning us our picnic at the top.

We stopped for drinks and drove south to the Screaming Heads in Burks Falls area.  This was a place that has been on my list to visit for some time.  I wasnt sure what to expect, but it was totally worth going.  The site is filled with over 100 ‘screaming heads’ – concrete structures designed to look like a screaming face, often with hands either side.  The artist, a high school teacher, who created them also built his own castle – Midlothian Castle.  I read that he has a studio in the castle, but it looked quite derelict, so perhaps this is no longer.  I have always loved the eerie and the grey, creepy and spooky places, so this was fantasically interesting to me. I read that the artist, Peter Camani, built the faces to raise awareness of environmental degradation – I loved the place, but  I have to say I have absolutely no idea how it raises awareness of anything to do with the environment.

Our final stop was on the way home, Wonderland.  We visited the Halloween Haunt that they run throughout October.  There were people dressed up to scare us around the park and a number of fun haunted houses to visit.  It was a nice random end to a nice couple of days out of real life.