Hearst to Long Lac

Posted in Uncategorized on June 11, 2018 by David Palmer

Lazy morning. Late 9.30am start under a blue, cloudless sky along a ridiculously quiet HWY11. I motored along at a steady 90kph (legal max), staring blissfully ahead at the endless tarmacked road stretching to the horizon with a 50m grassy apron on either side limited by a line of pines, beyond which there was a trillion or so more. The 200 or so kilometres had a couple of bends in them (I think), but you couldn’t really call a gentle leaning to one side for 2km, a bend.

There were three distractions; randomly we would pass through a sections of forest that had recently been involved in a fire, this was when we could glimpse further into the tree line, now consisting of lines of charred denuded poles, or an oncoming lorry or RV, but this didn’t happen for kilometre upon kilometre, but most interestingly (from my point of view) was Sue getting to grips with technology and searching for a radio station on the car radio. We had listened to FM stations earlier in the week, but these had disappeared and then she only found AM channels with varying crackles to break the monotony of straight roads and similar scenery. Now we had no signals at all, we were passing through a part of Canada that had no settlements and very little traffic so I guess the authorities had thought there was no point in going to the expense of putting in relay transmitters along the route. However, my mobile was connected to the cars power supply via USB and earlier in the week it had begun to play my music library through the car speakers as well as direct me on its Satnav. Sue spent a pleasant 20 mins or so working out how to repeat this function and bingo, we had music all the way into Long Lac.

As soon as we arrived at our destination we had lunch in a small restaurant by the river. Long Lac lies alongside the Trans Canadian railway, its very existence being that this is where the trappers trail met the railway to take the pelts to market. Today it is a small town with an impressive bridge that the majority of Lorries stop at for fuel, food and sometimes a break. However, get away from the highway and the town itself is quite pretty and down by the lake the park is well thought out and a pleasure to relax in.

We checked into our room at 2pm to be told that we were lucky, the rest of the motels in the town were full, even the local inhabitants were letting out rooms. There was a large Railway meeting going on and the town was rammed. On our orientation drive we came across a great long line of really neat accommodation carriages parked up along a siding. I suppose those workers unlucky enough not to be in these had to suffer motel rooms. Strange though, the town didn’t look busy to us, but the motels were certainly full. I guess the Northern Ontario definition of busy is akin to the European definition of comatose.

We had a walk around town, checked to see if the local steakhouse was open for a meal tonight and looked for some peach wheat ale that we have discovered we like in the liquor store. They had none so we substituted it with some local brew. There was a minor drama at the liquor store, as we entered the establishment a quite large and grossly overweight Canadian kindly opened the door for us. Inside was like being in the inner workings of a freezer cabinet and we were glad to get out side with our purchase. It was a hot day (close to 30 degrees) and on exiting I saw the kind gentleman of earlier leaning against a post in obvious distress and his wife quite concerned. He attempted to reach his car some 5m away and managed to stagger as far as the bonnet where he looked in real difficulty. His wife was phoning 911 when we got into our car, feeling guilty, we drove off.

A short drive took us to the ‘posh’ end of town where we sat and watched awhile as the local residents went about their Sunday business, which was put the boat in the water and go fishing.

On our drive over to the other side of town we stopped to have a wander around the ValuMart. It gets quite annoying that the price marked up is not the price you pay as they add the tax right at the very end!

The Public Park and landing stage was just as popular as at the ‘other’ end of town, though the boats taking to the water were not of the same calibre. We noted that, though there were numerous signs informing fishermen that they should not gut their fish and leave it in the bins (for obvious reasons), they were indeed full of fish guts. French is the language spoken here and French is the attitude on being told what to do, one of the bins had its contents scattered everywhere, no doubt by the wildlife. Not a place to visit by night I thought.

Returning to our room, we whiled the time away until it was time for our evening meal.

Oddly enough we both had fish and chips at the Steak House and Pizzeria, but it is what we both fancied and we enjoyed it. The portions here are far too large and some had to be left, though witnessing the size of pizzas emerging from the kitchen we would have left far more. Not surprisingly, other dinners were taking home doggie bags.

It was still light when we returned to our room, so we watched TV until zzzz’s.

The news here has been concerned over the last few days with Trump and the G7 meeting. The Canadians seem incandescent with rage at Mr Trump comments about their leader and the nation. I find it astounding that someone of his age has not learned to conduct himself better, his rudeness and ignorance seems to have no bounds.

Cochrane to Hearst (via polar bears)

Posted in Uncategorized on June 10, 2018 by David Palmer

We had a much better sleep, the TV snorer of the previous night has gone and with only two other guests in evidence, there was silence all night long.

We left just after 9 am and headed for the Polar Bear Habitat just a 5 minute drive away. We were surprised that the motel owner had no idea of its location and had to Google it. We used our Satnav.

After paying the entrance fee (Sue disappointed on no reduction for age) we made our way outside to check out the inhabitants of the three enclosures. There was one other couple visiting, we saw them leaving the first enclosure as we arrived but they appeared reluctant to chat so we left them to their own devices.

The centre has three polar bears, all three magnificent specimens, huge and though cuddly looking, you wouldn’t want to. Each has its own enclosure and access to water, two of them a concrete swimming pool and the other a large natural lake. One of the bear kindly obliged us by taking a swim, seemingly to enjoy the photo opportunity. You can observe them underwater through glass windows set into the side of the pool. We took some great photos.

Next, we observed them outside in their enclosures. Disappointingly we noted that they were exhibiting signs of captivity, pacing backwards and forwards and rhythmically swinging their heads from side to side on the same spot. They seem well treated and their enclosures look ideal but I guess nothing is a substitute for freedom. One of the bears was a rescue bear and the other two were from other centres. Later on we watched a video of them enjoying the snow in winter and they were clearly relaxed and felt at home. I guess captivity in summer heat isn’t very pleasant if you are a polar bear.

The place had a Heritage Village within it and though it wasn’t yet open for the season we had a wander down its Main Street. We could enter some of the buildings but we figured that during ‘the season’ the stores and houses would be occupied in a re-enactment of those past times. Even so, we found it fascinating.

We had lunch at a Harvey’s in the town before hitting HWY 11 towards our next stop, Hearst (pop. 5500).

Our journey to Hearst was a quiet joy, pretty little villages, often next to a river with a bridge. The place names were most often in French and as we found when we arrived at our destination, so was the language spoken by its inhabitants. Around an hour from Hearst we came across some road works which delayed our journey considerably. They were resurfacing the road and just up in front of us there was a rather nasty accident. We suppose that a juggernaut had shunted a car, the damage to the car looked considerable as we eventually passed. It was awhile before an ambulance came to attend to the injured.

After check-in at the motel we had a walk around the town and confirmed that this was a bastion of French culture. We were surprised to find that all the shops apart from those that sold food were shut and we noticed that they didn’t open on Saturdays or Sundays. How do they do business? Passing the cinema we noticed that it was showing ‘The Avengers’ so keen to reminisce and wallow in seventies nostalgia we bought tickets to see Steed and Mrs Peel later that evening.

Returning to the hotel we decided to visit a lake situated outside the town next to a small airport. It took only 10 minutes to drive there, but it was worth it. There is a lovely beach there of which a few of the town’s people were taking advantage of. It was a gorgeously hot day and we were surprised that there wasn’t even more taking to the cooling waters. We certainly did, with a little refreshing paddle in the crystal clear water.

We returned to the motel via circuitous route, changed and then found a nearby restaurant and ate. It was while we were dining that the thought occurred to us that the film might be in French, particularly as when we took our seats in the auditorium the trailer for the local hospital was all in French. Would the film be subtitled or would we have to figure out what was being said by the actions alone? In the event we needn’t have worried the film was in English. However, neither Steed nor Emma made an appearance; they had been substituted by Thor, Loki and a dozen other super heroes from the Marvel comic. Oooooops, wrong ‘Avengers’. The action was fast and furious, the story line vague and the believability was nil. We sat through it (we didn’t know the French for “Can we have our money back, s’il vous plait?”) until the bitter end, though I am not quite sure that it did have an ending!

Walking back to our room and bed we discussed what actually happened in the film and why such creditable actors should get involved in such nonsense. We couldn’t find an answer. I blame the French.

Cochrane to Moosoonee (Polar Bear Express)

Posted in Uncategorized on June 9, 2018 by David Palmer

It wasn’t a goodnight; I woke at 3.30am to hear the TV in the next room quite loudly. I could also hear snoring indicating that the occupant had fallen asleep with the TV on. Sue was also awake so it was decided to try the trusted method of knocking on the wall. It was to no avail, even when I hit the wall with as much venom as possible for that time in the morning. Plan B was to be avoided as we are in North America (knocking on the door), they have guns up here and a tendency to use them, then think afterwards. So Plan C was put into operation, I rang the room on the internal phone. After a few moments of ringing it was picked up and immediately put down. Good, I now had their attention. I rang again and was greeted with a, “What is it?” I pointed out that we were in the room next door and asked him to turn his TV off. The TV went silent and 5 minutes later the snoring replaced the brief silence. You can’t win them all I thought, but a gun would come in handy.

The alarm woke us at 7.30am and after a much needed, strong coffee we readied ourselves for the day’s activity.

We arrived at the train station, parked the car and waited in the platform waiting room along with a dozen or so of other passengers. Most seemed of local Indian descent, but a few appeared to be tourists like ourselves. The Polar Bear Express is a really a local workhorse that satisfies the needs of the tiny settlements in the north of Ontario and is not the glamorous fantasy speedster as the name intimates. However, the seating is the most comfortable I have ever sat in, though they need to be as the track is far from flat or seemingly parallel. Lurches and violent swings are the norm. The train left on time.

The seats have charging points, both mains and USB, so I plugged in my mobile, brought up a Map App and checked our progress on its little screen, for any points along our route that might be worthy of a photo.

The weather was very kind to us; much of the day was just clear, warm blue skies with occasional puffy clouds, which we soon left far behind us. The route is 186km long, always heading north, but winding through forest, along lake shores and over rivers from mighty to tiny. The ground became obviously more sodden the further we went and the height of the trees, mostly lodge-pole pine, seemed to shrink in size but never in density of population.

There was the occasional cabin, and outbuildings, but even these thinned out as we progressed north. I guess there are people brave enough to want to scratch a living in remote locations but there are obviously even less who are mad enough to attempt it where even the flora and fauna struggle to survive.

The train can be waved to a stop at various halts along the track and this was the case. Most often when people disembarked or joined our lurching metal steed, I could see no habitation or even a path that led out of the forest! The legend of the Greenman came to mind, but that is fanciful, they must have come from, or are going to a location that affords shelter, it just wasn’t here. More usual to my mind was when two guys on ATV’s (quad bikes) waved us to a stop. They mounted the train with rucksacks on backs, but left their expensive machines parked at the side of the track. We were in the middle of nowhere, so I guess that they were not going to be stolen unless the local bears have acquired a new skill, yet it just felt odd.

The scenery was endless pine and occasional stands of deciduous, mostly birch. There were many signs of logging, with great tracts along the line having been felled and in various stages of regrowth. We saw very little wildlife, just birds and not many of them, but they were big! The ponds and little streams were everywhere and like their larger counterparts were tea coloured, Yorkshire tea I fancy! I have seen the same colour in the water courses in the highlands of Scotland, so either it is a mixture of minerals and bog-moss that is responsible or the locals are distilling an awful lot of whisky.

Before we got to Moosoonee one of our stops was at a hydroelectric plant, awe inspiring to see how the water had been bent to mans’ use in such a remote location. To see the water thundering over the dam was quite spectacular.

We had breakfast on board the train and despite it being a golden opportunity to fleece the passengers, the prices were very reasonable. However, most of the native Indian passengers brought their own food and drink to consume on board.

Arriving in Moosoonee we disembarked to a gorgeously warm afternoon. We had been promised a stopover of 3 hrs 10 min, but due to the many halts we had lost half an hour. Couldn’t be helped, this train was for the locals not us. Most other passengers disappeared in cars, some in taxis. A few like us moved off on foot in various directions. We chose to head down what appeared the main street towards the body of water in the distance.

The town’s people of Moosoonee (pop. 4500) were going about their business as we first passed the school, then a supermarket, a church, a restaurant and then a bar (closed). Arriving at the Moose River, we sat awhile and drank in the clear crisp air and watched the numerous powered canoes charge about picking up and then disappearing in one direction or another in delivering their cargo of passengers. Most seemed to take the same route and we guessed that this must be to The Eco Village at the Moose factory on an island in the river. We had tried to book accommodation there but they had failed to respond to any of my emails. A shame.

The water and air seemed to sparkle, which is fortunate as this is a town without tarmac, compact dirt and grit are the roads surfaces and dust is kicked up by passing vehicles. I bet Sue was wondering how they kept the washing clean. We roamed around the town for a couple of hours, taking photos and discussing what it would be like to live there. We passed a large machine several times that had the task of scraping the road surface flat, but frankly it made a lot of noise, a lot of dust and a not very flat surface.

The town is laid out in a grid, so isn’t difficult to navigate around but as all the local attractions (a couple of museums) don’t open until the ‘The Season’, July 1st we returned to the river and watched an array of large seals bask in the sun on a large sandbank in the middle of the river, seemingly oblivious to the scurrying powered boats zipping across the surface often quite close.

On our return to the station we went native and visited the supermarket, buying some snacks for the return journey. We thought the prices were again reasonable for such a remote location, I guess you don’t mess with these Indians!

The train left at 5pm, on time. As on the outward journey, the train was around half full, mostly locals. We made our way south under a cloudless sky, passing through the same scenery, but this time we sat on the other side of the carriage to take in anything that we hadn’t seen on the way north. We had our evening meal in the dining car, both choosing shepherd’s pie, Canadian style with sweet corn and cheese. I think that Canadian Rail have made an improvement to this very traditional English dish, very, very tasty!

If you have a phobia on trees this wouldn’t be the trip for you, but if you wish to experience the awesome determination of nature at its rawest then it is a must. The vastness of the Canadian northland viewed from above as you fly over to Calgary or Vancouver gives an insight into its beauty, but down here where you see the detail of tree, marsh, water and animal never ceases to amaze. Perhaps there is a grand plan?

We were an hour late arriving in Cochrane, it was 22.50 hrs and dark. Some (I heard) were travelling on to Toronto, good luck to them I say, and we are off to bed!

Latchford to Cochrane

Posted in Uncategorized on June 8, 2018 by David Palmer

We breakfasted on coffee, blueberry muffins, bananas and an apple. Not my idea of full English, but that is what was on offer and it filled the same hole. While we ate we chatted amiably to the young guy on Reception. He had once been in the navy and now ran this motel, so he wasn’t that young! He suggested that we visit some waterfalls just half an hour north along HWY 11 at Pete’s Dam Road, we would find them interesting.

After packing the car we set the Satnav to the waterfalls and set off under an indifferent sky. The journey was indeed around 30 mins, there was little traffic, most being huge juggernauts usually hauling two trailers. We parked up next to a picnic spot situated above the river and noticed that a couple of young women had just returned from the trails and were preparing to leave, which they promptly did before we could engage them in conversation.

As we read the information board which showed the various trail that could be taken, the sun decided to make an appearance and turned what had promised to be a miserable morning, into one that showed promise. We opted for a circular route that followed one river bank then crossed over and returned on the other side.

Our route wound through the forest on either bank, some parts much drier than others, but the variety of spring blooms on show was delightful, it is a shame but I am afraid the only ones we recognised were the wild strawberries. We stopped often to photograph the many passing waterfalls before reaching the narrow wooden bridge on which we rested for a while in a refreshing breeze, glad to out of the way of the millions of flying insects intent on having a nibble on Palmer flesh.

Pushing on through thickening undergrowth we came across fresh bear paw prints, clearly only made that morning and following the same path as we. Sue expressed concern and I noted that she took up position behind me as we pressed on. After around 1/2 km the prints disappeared and I think we both felt a lot easier for that fact. We passed a young woman heading in the opposite direction, into bear country, headphones on and seemingly oblivious to our presence because of them. Well Mr Bear may have missed an opportunity for breakfast, but I think brunch was heading his way.

The sun was still out and smiling as we returned to the car so we sorted ourselves out and headed back to the Trans Canadian Highway.

There was little traffic on our easy drive up to Cochrane; at times it got quite lonely with nothing appearing in either direction for great lengths of time. Occasionally we would pass a neat and well cared for homestead, each time wondering what it was that had attracted them to build a home in such a remote location. I would dearly love to stop, knock on the door and ask that question of the residents, but we are British and we don’t do that. Besides we have seen ‘Cabin in the Woods’, and ”The Blair Witch’ and we know how that would likely turn out.

The SatNav took us through Cochrane and out the other side of the town, informing us that we had reached our destination among a small cluster of residences. We returned to the town and enquired at one of the motels that we had passed and were directed to our correct destination around 1/2 km away. Well done SatNav, very funny.

We checked into our room and then set off to find our destination for tomorrow morning, the train station. We are booked on The Polar Bear Express up to Moosoonee and were keen to check out a few details on the journey. We soon found the station and after a few queries to the helpful young girl behind the booking desk we were satisfied that were ready for our next adventure.

We took lunch at a nearby fast food outlet then parked up alongside Lake Commando (named after a local Indian) situated in the centre of Cochrane. We had a pleasant walk around the lake admiring some of the properties on its shore. Today was Election Day in Ontario and much of the foot and car traffic we passed was involved in voting as there was a Ballot Station at one end of the lake. There is wall to wall coverage on the TV for the election and it is difficult to avoid some of the repetitive messages, but I gather that the resident Liberals are in for quite a shock as they have been recently embroiled in corruption accusations (nothing different to the British system them!)

Back at the Motel we settled in for the rest of the evening.

Our plans for tomorrow are a 5 hour journey to Moosoonee, a 3-4 hour stop over to ‘do something’ then another 5 hour journey back. We had planned to stay over in Moosoonee, but after many unanswered emails and a phone call that wasn’t answered, it was decided to return the same day. It is not a place you would want to end up without accommodation and a train ticket for a few days hence!

Deep River to Latchford

Posted in Uncategorized on June 7, 2018 by David Palmer

Again, I rose well after Sue and Gwenda, and found them sitting in the small dining annex, drinking tea and chatting merrily away as I descended the stairs and headed to the kitchen to prepare my own brew of very strong coffee. Annoyingly I spied a lovely day through the window, no dark clouds in sight, no waving trees at the end of the garden and a dry driveway surface indicating no rain overnight. I wondered briefly why I had slept so well, but the answer was obvious, I was now in holiday mode!

What a shame that our brief stay with Gwenda coincided with the worst that Canada could throw at us……….. I guess that is a little over the top as I have seen photos of the snow drifting up to the guttering of Gwenda’s bungalow, but it does illustrate how disappointed we were not to be able to sit out in the garden and enjoy the evenings or wander along the river at leisure. It was not to be, but we did at least enjoy each other’s company and after all, location then becomes irrelevant.

After breakfast we continued to chat about this and that until nearly midday when Sue set about making a lunch of quiche and coleslaw. I took the opportunity to fill up the car with gas (that is a Canadian/American non-sensesical word for petrol), after which I put out Gwenda’s garbage for collection later in the afternoon then tinkered around with her TV to improve the sound as she was starting to have difficulty hearing some of the programmes.

All too soon we had eaten lunch and were saying our goodbyes. Just prior to leaving we met the next door neighbour Garry, who kindly took some photos of the three of us, and then leaving a tearful aunt behind, with a lump in our throats we headed for the Trans-Canadian Highway.

The journey to Latchford went without a hitch. The roads are unerringly Roman-like straight (I didn’t know that they made it here, I thought they had stopped at Hadrian’s Wall) and it was trees and lakes all the way with the occasional settlement to wake up the senses. The SatNav on my phone decided after a few miles to stop talking to me (I guess it had looked at the route and thought it might as well have a nap as it reckoned I could do ‘straight’ all on my own!), so I followed the little black arrow along the endless blue line that marched from the top of the screen to the bottom until we pulled into the carpark of the Frontiersman Motel on Highway 11, some four hours later.

We obviously woke up the young lad who gave us the key to our room as a few minutes after we had pressed the bell for attention in the Reception, he arrived dishevelled and barefooted. Quickly explaining; where the room was, that if we wanted a shower we should persevere as we were at the end of the pipe and the hot water would eventually arrive, there was a restaurant across the road if we were hungry, a gas was station a little further down and it was a lovely walk along the lake to the dam. Leaving him to return to his bed/cot we found our room.

First we checked out the restaurant, and then the gas station before heading down to the lake to see what was there. It was a pretty lake, obviously used much in the summer months by families having BBQ’s etc. but today it was quiet and peaceful. For a while we watched a beaver/otter on the far shore of the little bay we attempting to walk around, but we couldn’t be sure of the species as we could only see the top of the head and wake chevroning behind as he searched for fish.

We came across the world’s shortest covered bridge, famously situated in Latchford and no doubt the end point of many a pilgrimage, but alas, not today, there appeared to be a lack of fellow pilgrims, just Sue and I. We took a few photos to prove that we had actually been to this iconic spot and no doubt they will be framed alongside our pictures of the great Pyramid of Giza, the Eiffel Tower, Machu Picchu etc.

We wandered along the bank of the lake until the mosquitoes decided to make an appearance. Retracing our steps we found Latchford dam, which we walked over and back, stopping into the centre to gaze at the waters racing below. The dam was rebuilt in 2016 and is quite impressive and has the road bridge and the railway bridge alongside it. We stopped briefly at a small memorial park to a WW2 Latchford soldier who in 1945 through his outstanding bravery earned himself the VC before returning to the Motel.

Later in the evening we did indeed eat at the small restaurant recommended by our young receptionist (it is the only one in town) and we had a good hearty and very filling meal.

Returning to our room, Sue read a book and I wrote this before watching TV and zzzzzzzz’s.

Toronto to Deep River

Posted in Uncategorized on June 5, 2018 by David Palmer

Breakfast was different. Sue, Sean and I were sat outside Subway next door to the hotel, waiting for it to open at 9am. Sean clutching a breakfast voucher for the three of us acquired from the reception of the NU hotel. We were the first customers of the day and were due to receive a sub containing egg (omelette) and cheese with our selection of salad fillings, we supplemented it with bacon. We sat down expecting our order to arrive quickly. The place slowly filled up, Dominic and Caitlin joined us and placed their order as did a few others. After quite a while we noticed that everyone else seemed to be receiving their order, on enquiring where ours was we discovered that she had forgotten it! How do you manage to do that, when we were the first and only customers there for quite a long time? Breakfast was disappointing.

Afterwards we caught a shuttle bus to the nearby train station where we caught the frequent connection into terminal 1 at the airport. Locating the Budget car rental desk both our groups gave over our details and found our cars in the carpark. We decided to upgrade as we were doing quite a bit of mileage, and this soon turned out to be the right choice. Wishing each other a good trip we went our separate ways.

The morning had been bright and sunny, but as we drove out of Toronto it became progressively cloudy. Our first stop was in Barrie to enquire at the Tourist information and decide whether to go via North Bay or cut through Algonquin Park. We opted for the slightly longer route through the park.

Next stop was in Huntsville for lunch. We both had a very filling salad at a Harvey’s fast food outlet, before driving on under increasingly leaden skies. We had chosen our route as we thought it would be more scenic, but very soon the showers that the radio had informed about, arrived. It then lashed it down for the next 3.5 hours and we saw very little scenery, though we did stop along with other tourists to watch a black female moose eating at the side of the road. We were glad we had updated the car! A much firmer drive on wet back roads than the small compact option.

We arrived at Gwenda’s around 6.pm and it was still raining, and it did for the rest of the night. Though Gwenda’s eyesight is suffering from macular degeneration, she is still able to see well enough to get about and her mind is just as sharp as ever. We spent the evening chatting and I took a brief respite from the conversation to fetch a pizza from Goodfellas in the town. After consuming the rather oversized fayre, Sue and Gwenda continued catching up with family news while I looked at and edited a document that Jamie had sent me after his early morning phone call in Toronto notifying me that he had sent it, and please could I look at it before Tuesday?

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It was still raining when we went to bed around 10pm. The raindrops clinking on the metalled roof of Gwenda’s bungalow would sooth me to sleep I thought, and it did. I find the sound of heavy rain quite sleep inducing, unfortunately Sue does not.

It was still raining the following morning and after breakfast I drove to a nearby cafe which had internet access. Gwenda does not have Wi-Fi so this was my only option to send Jamie’s edited website document. Unfortunately I couldn’t get my tablet to send, though my phone did access Messenger and I conversed with Sarah for a while about whether to have a proposed operation on her ankle or not.

A little later we took Gwenda grocery shopping to ValuMart in the town, before returning for a light lunch of bread rolls and yogurt.

During a rainy afternoon we drove to Ryan’s to have a mooch around this fascinating tourist shop. Ryan was sat with his dog Holly and I chatted with him and stroked Holly while Sue and Gwenda considered every item on display at least three times, in the end buying nothing. Afterwards in the car, Sue assured that she nearly did purchase some arrow heads and moose teeth, but she wasn’t sure that they were authentic. Hmmm, authenticity, always has been a tricky one to judge, best be safe than unauthenticated!

We next visited another tourist shop with rather pricier objects on display before moving on to Hortons again for coffees and I tried again to send Jamie’s document. My tablet refused to trust this internet access point, but on removing the security filtering I had success. With the rain still falling we had a short drive down to the river frontage, but the visibility was poor so we returned to the warmth and dryness of Gwenda’s bungalow.

Unusually, Sue had a nap while I talked to Gwenda until it was time to depart to a local hotel restaurant for our evening meal at the Bear Pit. On finishing our food, for a spot of entertainment we watched a line-dancing group perform in an adjacent room.

Returning to the bungalow we passed the evening collectively doing crosswords until it was time to climb the stairs to sleep.

Sue and Gwenda had been up well before I made my way downstairs at 8.30am, I had woken around 7am but at that moment the rain came and lulled me back into dreamland.

After breakfast we attempted once again to venture an amble along the board walk that stretched along a scenic part of the Deep River river frontage. After parking by the memorial garden the three of us braced ourselves under grey skies against the chilling breeze and set off purposefully. Soon Gwenda urged us to go on ahead and let her make her own pace and we did. We made it as far as the small marina before the first squall whipped across the water promising heavier rain to follow before we opted for a return to the car and shelter. We were surprised to find that Gwenda had put a spurt on and caught us up! Leaving the two of them sheltering in the Yacht club I returned to the car and drove back to pick them up.

After a lunch of salmon sandwiches we again drove down to the river (we are persistent), this time our destination was the popular public beach where Deep River residents teach their children to swim in a shallow section of the river. It has a playground to amuse those too young to learn how to avoid drowning. As expected, the place was deserted, though there was a JCB in operation, obviously getting things ready for warmer and calmer days to come. The river was darker than this morning and the waves were being whipped up into breakers by a bitter wind. We didn’t stay long.

We continued upstream to Pine Point. Sue was keen to re-visit this spot as 28 years ago we had played with Charlotte and Jamie on the very pretty beach there on a warm sunny day. Today was a very different scenario and after a few hurried photos we returned to our mechanical haven.

Next stop was ValuMart to get the supplies for our evening meal, BBQ chicken, potatoes, sweetcorn and coleslaw.

Back at the bungalow we settled down for the rest of the day, grateful that the inclement Canadian weather hadn’t been too bad to stop us from venturing out altogether, but the phrase “Mad dogs and Englishmen” comes to mind.

Preparing for a visit

Posted in Uncategorized on June 3, 2018 by David Palmer

They say that being retired gives you the freedom to do what you want, when you want to do it. Well, that is the theory; in reality freedom does require a certain amount of planning. Since the last blog was written much of what Sue and I have done is preparing for our trip to Canada to see aunt Gwenda, not the how do we get there and back, plus what do we do when we are there? That was done way back on wet and cold January evenings, when flights, routes, hotels and car hire were decided on and booked. No, we have been preparing the house and family for Sue and Dave not to be ‘at home’ for two weeks. Notifying the ‘kids’ has its problems, we won’t be around to support Charlotte with her difficulties brought on by the horrendous injury to her spine, Sarah and Lee won’t be able to have their Dad’s tuition on how to sail, Mia won’t be having her long walks with lunch and then there is Jamie. Not much support needed there, other than checking his website for errors and making the garage available for the occasional bit of work on his cars. Besides, tell Jamie we won’t be around for a while goes in one ear and out the other, instantly. It is always a surprise to him when he rings on my mobile to discover that we are not answering the house phone because we are not at home. I guess Jamie comes the closest to being truly freer than any of us as he does what he wants, when he wants, largely because he takes little notice of anything that doesn’t satisfy those two categories. For example, last night he rang to let me know that he and a friend were off to Rhodes for a week (he has not long since returned from there with Ashton). Have a great time I responded and pointed out that we will be returning from Canada the week before he goes. Today he rang, surprised that we were just parking the car at the airport and enquired as to how long we were going to be away and how was he going to get his quad bike out of our garage with the house alarm system on? Hmmm.

Sorting out the washing, the garden, the pool, two allotments and the running down of the food in the fridge takes precision planning, some obviously more important than others, but they can make then the problem of forgetting to pack a spare of socks pale into insignificance if we returned to an empty pool, a dead greenhouse, a smelly wash basket or an even smellier fridge! Things we have experienced over the last four decades of travelling to our annoyance and occasionally significant cost.

Well sod it! Val next door is looking after the garden greenhouse and pool. Charlotte and Suraj are keeping an eye on the house through the security cameras. And we are on our way to see Gwenda. What will be, will be.

We are travelling to Toronto with Sean, his son Dominic and his girlfriend Caitlin. We journeyed to the airport together, meeting Caitlin at the service station off the M11 next to Stansted airport for lunch before travelling on to the airport. It is a fortunate coincidence, but we are on the same flight out and back, booked into the same hotel in Toronto and have rented a car from the same company. How’s that for chance?

We are flying with a new airline called Primera. They are Icelandic owned and are probably the first budget long haul airline. We appear to be on their first flight to Toronto as the maiden flight should have taken place 2 days prior but due to late delivery of aircraft it was cancelled. They appear to take their business model straight from the Ryanair manual; cheap tickets and you pay for everything extra such as food, seat choice, hold baggage, etc. etc. The seating is primitive, but I think more comfortable than Mr. O’Leary’s versions, but like short haul there is no TV on the seat back, but you do get a USB port and are encouraged to bring your own media. I am not sure it is a good move, but I do think it will be influential on the rest of those in the business of getting us about the planet. Oh and the aircraft are new, clean and service seems quite efficient.

It was an excellent flight, we had a strong tail wind so flight-time was just a little over seven hours and transit off the plane through customs and the very new-tech security system they have here went smoothly with no delay. Our fellow travellers even had their luggage already off-loaded from the belt when we got to baggage reclaim. Sue and I are travelling light and have only cabin bags which hopefully will pay dividends when we migrate from hotel to hotel on our marathon trek of Ontario.

We had a short wait to catch the shuttle bus to our hotel for the night, the NU hotel (yes, it does look fairly new). As soon as we checked in, Sue settled into our room sorting out the loose ends of the day’s journey while Sean and I went in search of much needed refreshments. Dominic and Caitlin opted to sort out a few loose ends in their room (I guess) rather than join us at a bar a few doors away.

Sitting and chatting watching the other patrons of the establishment we were sat in was fascinating. Most were also eating, scoffing enormous quantities of grub with just a fork to shovel it down, to a European just looks wrong. No matter how many times I have travelled to this continent and witnessed this rather lazy method of eating it always seems to irk. However, I am all in favour of the portion sizes!

Sean and I returned to the hotel around 2.30am (standard Greenwich sensible time) and hit the sack. What will tomorrow bring?