Category Archives: Ontario

9, count ’em 9 more sleeps!

Winter Withering ……that’s what I call it….the cold, the snow…..it makes me lazy…..I’m like a big (big) bear wishing I was asleep in my cave not awaking until the first signs of Spring.  Although winter  doesn’t present an immediate danger as do most earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis or tornadoes it produces (in some) a very slow and sure dampening of spirits.  The older I get the less I tolerate it (winter).

I miss my windows being open and having fresh (warm) air to keep the (winter) aches and pains at bay.  Sunshine (not accompanied by cold).  Walks in the forest.  Camping.  I despise wearing winter boots, hats, mitts, scarves and coats.  You bundle up to go ‘out’ and then you die of heat as you tromp indelicately through the grocery store aisles in your winter uniform with unseemly perspiration rolling down your face (maybe it’s just me?? :).

Walk in the cold and then come home, immediately upon entering the warmth of your home the nose drips.  The cold has somehow found it’s way into your bones and it takes a big blanket or a warm bath to turn that bone chilling cold into warmth again.

Winter is my time to day dream.  Planning what I will do during the active 5 or 6 months of my year keeps me focused.   Researching and orchestrating the next great vacation (which passes all too quickly).

9 more sleeps until the next great vacation ….. booked in August (6 months ago).  Night 1 in Managua, Nicaragua.  Night 2 through 3 through 8 in Big Corn Island, Nicaragua, Night 9 through 15 in Little Corn Island, Nicaragua, Night 16 in San Jose, Costa Rica…then back home.  I won’t have daily internet connection during this trip.  The Corn Islands are remote, electricity isn’t guaranteed, internet connections even less so.  Little Corn has no cars.  Big Corn for $1.00 (US) per person you can get a cab ride anywhere on the Island.

Yup, 9 more sleeps until I feel the warmth, the fresh air the sand between my toes . . . . .

p.s. just realized I forgot to mention that I am on Day 3 of a cold…congestion, runny nose, general malaise……*sigh*

 

Sunshine . . . .

Sunshine in the winter in Ottawa generally means it’s WAY too cold to go outside!  Therefore, I am committing some of my day to cleaning up my blog.  Essentially, I have posted WAY tooooo many photos and I’m going to go through and clean things out a bit (I’m reaching my maximum capacity)……

In other news – only 15 sleeps until our long awaited trip to the Corn Islands, Nicaragua!  Woooo…Hoooooo!

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This is why . . .

Some say – great to go away – but better to get home – however when home weather looks like this – the statement doesn’t ring true for me.  Lovely to be sleeping in my own bed with my own pillow but waking up this morning and looking out our windows at the frozen tundra just doesn’t feel inviting.  *sigh*  See below for my final words on our trip.

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To recap.  Christmas is the most expensive time of the year to travel.  Our vacation was from Dec.24.16 to Jan.7.17 – encompassing both Christmas and New Year’s Eve.  As a result prices were high and we elected to stay in a hotel rated 3 star by expedia – 4 star by trip advisor.  Stars relate to amenities available, quality of service, rooms etc.   There was a time in my life I was a hotel snob and would only stay in high end boutique hotels.  However, when travelling south I have never felt the need to go for broke.  South is all about the great outdoors, fresh air, sand, sun & surf.  OK…I do admit that higher end hotels tend to provide better food with more selection, but honestly you can pay less for a hotel and then go for dinners out from time to time for a change.  That way you can experience off resort culture and new food.

We stayed at Whala Bavaro – a self-described ‘low key’ hotel.  What I liked most about it is that it doesn’t have nightly entertainment or many organized things.  A few nights of guitar players (Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve & weekly BBQ night).  Once daily you can find aerobics on the beach.  The food is acceptable with little variety.  Probably the biggest complaint most people had was the food.  I did encounter some people complaining of a bit of ‘stomach issues’ – not necessarily linked to the hotel.  I’m a firm believer in Dukarol before travel, a daily traveller’s probiotic to keep the good bacteria up and metamucil as a binding agent (too much information? 🙂    I always have a bad tummy at least once every trip and in the old days it was worse, lasted longer and even into my trip home – I no longer have that issue with my daily regimen of the above!  (hey, this is VERY important travel info for those with weak constitutions or bad eating habits abroad 🙂 !!

So…Whala Bavaro – casual, don’t have to dress up for dinner (although you can if you like) – no long pants necessary kind of place.  We did buffet every night we stayed in the hotel, they have one small a la carte that we didn’t go to.  It has 3 pools – 2 of which always seemed a bit off colour.  We stayed in the highest priced suite section with our own pool.  It’s a new section and well worth the few dollars extra.  We aren’t pool users – we went in once, it was clean and only people from our section seemed to use it.  The rooms are very clean, the staff friendly and helpful (english is a challenge for them).  Whala isn’t actually on the beach, but has a small beach area a 2 minute walk.  The beach area could have been maintained a little better.  For our purposes, there was a bit of shade (we never sit in full sun for long), we were able to put our chairs steps from the water, there was a beach bar & snack bar (which we rarely used).  The best thing about Whala Bavaro is it’s location – in the El Corticito area of Bavaro Beach it is smack dab in the middle of a wonderful long, great for walking sandy beach and a block away from local restaurants, grocery stores, pharmacy etc.  Would we stay there again – maybe – but since we rarely go the same place twice – probably not.  Is it for everyone – absolutely not – but if you are ok with ‘nothing special’ but clean and less expensive, this might work for you.

I wasn’t fussy about my last trip to the Dominican.  We stayed in the Bayhibe area in a more remote hotel, filled with mostly Italians so it felt a bit more like Italy 🙂  There was little opportunity to mix with the locals.  This trip we came home with a far more pleasant ‘feel’ for the Dominican Republic.  All the Dominicans we spoke with and encountered were happy, pleasant people.  We didn’t encounter one situation that we felt might be dangerous, we felt safe at all times.  We are always ‘searching’ for places we might like to spend extended periods of time once we retire and we do feel that if we could find an area in the Dominican Republic that met our criteria that it would be a pleasant country to spend extended periods in.  Our criteria being a bustling little town on the sea close to amenities such as grocery stores, pharmacies with a great beach.  Of course, #1 is that it needs to be affordable on a limited budget and I think you can do that in most places in the D.R.   Let us know if you have any suggestions (in D.R. or anywhere warm 🙂 !!

48 sleeps until we leave for The Corn Islands, Nicaragua!!!

 

 

5 More Sleeps!

Only 5 more sleeps to our first ever beach Christmas!  This weekend we attended Johnny’s Christmas Party at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier Hotel here in Ottawa.  It’s a beautiful old hotel and a lovely place to celebrate Christmas!

Busy week this week with work, appointments, dinner at our daughter’s house, lunch with friends, cleaning the house, laundry, packing and then finally our flight will leave at 6 am on Saturday morning…wooo hoooooo!!

The reason I brought you to this post today though was to tell you about the movie we saw last night on Netflix…..it was actually a documentary…..minam

Minamalism

We have been de-cluttering/minimizing for years now….starting back in about 2009 with the knowledge that we would be selling our 4 bedroom home in the burbs within the next few years….we put it up for sale in 2011 and we had divested ourselves of a great number of personal effects – and of course we had to because we were moving to an 1,100 sq. ft. condo apartment with one small storage locker for the ‘extras’.  Living with less just felt better.  Of course one always over minimizes in the beginning and we did have to replace a thing or two…  Next step, we sold the 1,100 sq ft condo after 4 years and moved into an even smaller condo in 2015…we are down to about 950 sq ft….and yes….100 sq ft makes a difference when it comes to storage.  Honestly, we had to rent a 2nd storage locker because we are still holding onto some family treasures that will be passed along to our daughters once they have homes, we still camp…..so lots of camping gear….golf clubs….but honestly my real estate files, signs and general *stuff* takes up a lot of our extra locker space.

Our vacations are for the most part done using a carry on bag now…..our camping trips we try to take only what we absolutely need, we no longer buy things for the home. What I didn’t take into consideration was that now I have started doing a few hobbies…sewing, painting (acrylics)….so I have had to recently re-organise our very tight space to accommodate these things.  Our new little cottage in P.E.I. will start to absorb some of our ‘extras’.  Bottom line is….minimizing is quite cathartic, you can turn your attention to other things – such as watching great documentaries on Netflix!   De-cluttering your space, then your mind …….. experience life .. not your phone (which I am VERY bad with)……live in the moment…..watch the movie….I think you will enjoy it!

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Time flies . . . . .

Time does indeed seem to fly.  I have been ‘off’ blogging this summer….’off’ taking photos….trying to become ‘off’ facebook…..to some degree I’m kind of ‘off’ people….whilst still enjoying life….FYI – ‘people’ doesn’t include Johnny or the girls 🙂

Last post was a camping weekend in the Gatineaus June 6th.  Whatever have we done since then…honestly, the summer has been so busy that we’ve started cancelling some of our plans….we need a break!

This was the year of the ‘Staycation’ – all of what we have done in June, July and August is in Ottawa or within a 3 hour drive of Ottawa.

So….Ottawa Jazzfest 2016 took up a WHOLE lot of our time – June 22nd to July 3rd there were multiple performances daily.  We didn’t get to every single one but we saw a whole slew of acts!  We prefer the slightly younger musicians with interesting twists on the old style.  In fact, I am not a fan of the classic Jazz style and am always happier when there is a more bluesy sound.

July 1st – Canada Day – this is a HUGE event in our fair City of Ottawa – the Nation’s Capital~!  We celebrated with friends and family and had a blast!  We could see the fireworks from our new home in the Byward Market.

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Ottawa Bluesfest 2016  took up less of our time – it’s a lot of music and a lot more expensive with tons more people – we went to two nights only and the music was great and I was OK with not spending more time there.  We did see Billy Idol, and some of my favourite Canadian (and non-Canadian) blues style artists.  Monkey Junk hosted an All Star Blues Review most evenings and it was amazing – small venue in the War Museum…very up close & personal…great music!

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Camping – hrm….. after Lac Philippe we went to Lake St Peter Provincial Park July 8th to 11th – it rained most of the weekend…but as always we HAD fun!  We did get out hiking on the one nice day.  I love camping 🙂  We also rented some kayaks on the nice day – but they were awful kayaks..not as enjoyable as the nice ones we had on Lac Philippe.

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August long weekend we went camping at Presqu’ile Provincial Park on Lake Ontario.  We stayed in a campsite with water view – we had a very open campsite, not nearly as private as we are accustomed to.  It also has much more of a Southern Ontario feel – not the ‘northern’ atmosphere we are accustomed too.  My cousin came to visit on the Friday, we went for a major hike on the hot hot day Saturday and of course left beach day to Sunday – and it wasn’t really a nice beach day *sigh*….headed off fairly early on Monday morning and meandered back along the shores of Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River – lunch in Kingston….

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ONE weekend we toured our own fair city!  Double decker hop on hop off bus tour, we went to see the new Star Trek movie.  Next day we went on a plane ride in an open cockpit vintage airplane over the downtown of Ottawa and then to the Star Trek Experience at the Aviation Museum….we had a great weekend….Ottawa is an amazing city with lots to see and do!

Fireworks!  Last night we saw the 4th of 5 Fireworks in an annual competition hosted by Casino  Lac-Leamy.  We saw the first two China & The Netherlands from our Balcony, Estonia we walked over to Major’s Hill Park to see it and last night it was Australia and we were on the bridge between Chateau Laurier and Parliament Hill and then walked down beside the Chateau Laurier to Major’s Hill.  I’m fairly certain that Australia was the best – it remains to be seen which they pick though!  Saturday night (20th August) is the finale of the event with the Canadian fireworks company.  Hopefully, we will remember in time to get a good vantage point!

OK..places to go, people to see ….. I will dig up some photos of all that I have described above and post them in a few days …. ciao ciao!  POSTED!

p.s…….. we have commenced the planning for winter 2017! yee hawww!

 

 

Back at it!

Our weekend didn’t turn out quite as expected.  Original plans had been booked oh so long ago – we were supposed to go camping at Sandbanks Provincial Park.  As the weeks passed it was evident that neither the weather nor my work schedule was going to accommodate that plan.  In fact, it was my work that was the straw that broke the camel’s back (so to speak)…and we cancelled our camping trip.  Johnny still had his Friday off (he’s doing a compressed work week this summer for every 2nd Friday off.

So…next plan – Friday was looking clear – we would take the day and go for a week hike and picnic in the Gatineau Hills.  Well, that would have worked except for the fact that I ended having a sale extended and having to boogie to get some signatures Friday morning, then a last minute call from a couple only in town for the day wanting to see one of my listings within the next hour, topped off by clients I had been working with for 4 months wanting to put an offer in on something that day!  So….no hike in the woods for us!

We did have a lovely dinner in the market (Byward Market, Ottawa) after I was done work though.  Alas, Saturday dawned, the weather looked less than ideal, no messages, phone calls or pages calling me away, so we loaded up the packs and headed to the Gatineaus.  One of our favourite places is Lac Philippe in the Gatineau Hills of Quebec.  It’s less than 30 minutes away so easy to get to.  We decided to do the hike to Lusk Caves, starting off the inland up hill side, getting to the caves and then walking back along the narrow roadway/path along the Lake.  Photos below are in a very random order but you get the gist.

However, as a Canadian….I may have been somewhat more prepared had I actually packed bug spray….black flies being the worst…mosquitos following behind…….was a bit crazy.  Interesting factoid….bugs come to me, sit on me..but don’t bite me….guess they don’t care for my chemistry.  Johnny however is not immune to these things, poor guy got quite a few black fly bites.  It’s quite interesting though, they seem to amass in one section. You can walk along..and nothing, then all of a sudden you enter a cloud of flies..shades of my youth in the near north of Ontario.  Johnny has a theory that I was probably bitten so often as a child that I’m simply immune to them now – let’s go with that.

OK….before you start looking at my beautiful photos taken on the Samsun Galaxy S6 phone…..we forgot to bring the lunch..so OH DARN….had to stop by Wakefield on the way home and eat at the old train station…the food their was absolutely scrumptious, highly recommend!  It’s name is Cafe Pot-au-Feu clickem HERE  A well deserved break after our 10+ k damp buggy hike!  In fact, I’m not complaining at all, I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE walking at this time of year and I think that the world can be more beautiful on a gray day than it is on a sunny day.  I believe my photos below may confirm that 🙂 !!

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Forgot to bring the sandwich for the picnic..oops 🙂

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Hoods and Hats!   To protect from blackflies, mosquitos and rain (mostly blackflies)

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Love this ethereal pond

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Red trilliums not nearly as common as white ones

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White and red trilliums happily co-existing.

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Back at the camp ground on Lac Philippe

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Raindrops on sunroof

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In lieu of packed sandwich

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Fish tacos and salad por moi

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Beet soup and fish tacos por Johnny

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This was a lovely flowering tree

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Nature utilizes everything at hand to survive

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No cave walking today – full of water and no hip waders 🙂

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oops…looks perhaps like partridge feathers…..there were tons of them…no carcass though..a fight perhaps?

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Flowering tree looking over Lac Philippe

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Looking out my window…..

A girl can’t travel every day 🙂  Set up my interval timer on the Nikon D5500 – had some exposure problems with the snow…but otherwise….this was what the day and night was like at my home in Byward Market, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada 🙂  13 of my shots came out white…*sigh* (I didn’t load them in here 🙂

Winter Storm Warning

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4 more sleeps until the coveted winter vacation!  Today Mother Nature has warmed it up a bit while still delivering a blow!  By evening we are expected to receive 20 to 30 cm of snow.  The worst snow of the season.  This means one has to pull on the high waterproof boots to trudge through the snow.  As a person who has (in the past) shunned winter this is never a good thing.  This winter I have chosen to embrace the season.  I bought myself a warm Helly Hansen coat, even warmer Columbia boots and the greatest sheepskin hat & mitts a girl could want to own (purchased at a great little store called Quichua on Sparks Street – click here) .  Dressed to the insulated 9’s I strike out on a daily basis to do my daily errands.  Today amidst the the downfall I will hit the seamstress to get an article of clothing taken in before the Friday trip, stop by the Health Food Store to pick up some Bee Propolis to try to ward off the cold symptoms I arose with, pick up a few groceries and mail off a letter to the UK.  This ‘walking’ trip all possible because we had the good sense to move downtown in November…LOVE IT!  Photo below of Johnny and I dressed to the insulated 9’s (taken in December during our last big snow dump).

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Winter Vacation!!

There comes a day in the lives of many Canadians where they either yearn for or discover the WINTER VACATION.  I was in my late teens when I first started going on trips to Florida and Mexico.  For a period of time when I was raising my children and involved in other aspects of life this activity was curtailed.  When my girls were in their teens this blessed (I use the term loosely) activity was resurrected.  Since then we have managed to sneak off to Florida, Mexico (numerous times), Cuba, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, British Virgin Islands, St. Martin (twice), Saba and Costa Rica.  Mexico is definitely my ‘go to’ place when looking for a quick get away.  I love Mexico and still haven’t found another country that presents the vitality and beauty this country has to offer.

Pictured below – the reason I travel.  Today is the last day of a 3 day POLAR VORTEX.  A Polar Vortex freezes your nose hairs, hurts your lungs when you breath and the moment you walk outside it makes you feel like you’ve been popped into one of those freeze dry machines.  Over this past weekend our ‘low’ was around -28 c with wind chills between -38 to -40c.  Click here for the real definition of Polar Vortex.

This is the reason Canadians go on Winter Vacation.  This is the reason that Canadians can live happily through daily temps ranging from zero c to -20 c for months at a time because one 3 day weekend of Polar Vortex weather makes ya strong, builds character and generally numbs you into the realization that we shall survive whatever Mother Nature has to offer.

Saturday (Feb 20th, we head off for 17 days in Mexico & Belize.  Heeee Hawwwww!  Let the warmth begin!

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Long Weekend Mini-Get Away!

What a weekend!  As posted previously, Friday was surprise birthday, Saturday Escape Manor – then the girls headed off!  Johnny & I decided the weather was perfect for a trip to the Toronto Zoo!  Toronto was a 5 hour car trip on a beautiful sunny day!  We arrived at 1:30 and spent the next 3.5 hours wandering about in the drop dead gorgeous weather snapping photos of all of our favourite animals!  The draw back to this time of day is that a lot of the animals have been fed and then head off for a siesta after lunch…we didn’t get as up close and personal as I’ve been in the past!  Overall, it was a really great afternoon and we had fun!  From there we headed off to the small town of Cobourg, Ontario!  I haven’t been in Cobourg for years and forgot just how pretty it is.  Nestled along the shores of Lake Ontario with a great harbour front featuring a beautiful marina and a big sandy swimming beach makes it a perfect retirement type of town!  We stayed at The Woodlawn Inn on Division Street, head a great impromptu Turkey Dinner and a bottle of bubbly then retired to our well appointed room with a little balcony!

Next day we did the scenic route home, a little along Lake Ontario then crossed over around Napanee to head toward our next destination Hell Holes near Roblin/Centreville.  The hike is only 3.5 km long but the scenery is beautiful!  Incredible rock formations, a 22′ deep cave to climb into, an ethereal valley to walk through, loved it!  After that we wandered back through Westport, stopped for ice-cream and then reluctantly headed back home with the knowledge that this was probably going to be the last warm weather weekend we would experience in Ontario until Spring (although, we will get a couple of hot weekends in Mexico & Belize in February/Marh)!!

Canada is an awesome country and if you dig a little you can find the some amazing things to do (especially if you are a nature lover)!  We have committed ourselves to enjoying our weekends and this is evidenced in our silly little blog posts of our summer filled with camping, hiking, road trips and the like!  Honestly, this was my best summer ever!  Of course, the fact that I had committed myself up front to losing weight (58 pounds altogether this year), and exercising (hiking counts) as often as I could helped me to thoroughly enjoy everything!  The big challenge now will be winter….I’m not a fan of winter……need to find fun indoor things in Ottawa to do to make my winter go by as quickly as our idyllic summer went!  Any suggestions people?? 🙂 !!

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