Exploring Western Canada

In July I took a trip over to western Canada and visited some parts of Alberta and British Columbia. (I even made it to the Calgary Stampede!) It is spectacular there, with the different mountain ranges (including the majestic Rocky Mountains), and the beautiful blue/teal coloured lakes. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit jealous of the people that live nearby and can experience the beauty that the landscape offers year-round.

In the 2 weeks that I spent there I did get a little taste of the area and all the outdoor activities the area has to offer. I always imagined that one visit would be enough to see the “top sights”, but boy was I wrong. There are so many national parks and hiking trails in the area, it would take multiple trips to be able to visit even a fraction of the places!

View of the mountains from a lookout on the side of the highway.

View of a mountain range from a lookout on the side of the highway.

With these beautiful landscapes, could any drive through the mountains ever become boring? There are plenty of lookout spots on the side of the highway where you can stop for picturesque views. It was definitely a nice break from the drive to stop at the lookouts.

More mountains

More mountains.

There are lots of wildlife in the area as well, so it’s not uncommon to see some animals such as deer on the side of the highway. However, I have yet to see the elusive Canadian moose. Hopefully next time!

Spotted: big horned sheep.

Spotted: big horned sheep.

PS. I’ve got a few more things I’d like to share from my trip, so stay tuned!

Advertisements

Lemoine Point Conservation Area

This summer I have been trying to get outside more to enjoy the warm weather and to explore nature. So I visited a couple of trails and conservation areas nearby that I haven’t been to yet. One of them was Lemoine Point Conservation Area in Kingston.

Lemoine Point is a 15 minute drive from downtown Kingston, located between the Kingston Airport and Collins Bay. It is made up of 136 hectares of land, and has about 11km of hiking trails. Lemoine Point is a quiet and relaxing place, considering that it is located in the middle of the city.

Map of Lemoine Point Conservation Area

Map of Lemoine Point Conservation Area

Lemoine Point is open year-round, from 7:30am until sunset. Summer activities include hiking, cycling, swimming and fishing, while in the winter it is possible to go cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

Overlooking Collins Bay on a beautiful summer day.

Overlooking Collins Bay on a beautiful summer day.

A beautiful place for a picnic.

A beautiful place for a picnic.

You will also encounter some wildlife in the area, such as ducks, squirrels and chipmunks (the usual).

Duck swimming in Collins Bay

Duck swimming in Collins Bay

There's an abundance of chipmunks and squirrels in the area.

There’s an abundance of chipmunks and squirrels in the area.

View from one of the lookout platforms.

View from one of the lookout platforms.

Doors Open Kingston

Last Saturday was Doors Open in Kingston. For those who are unfamiliar, Doors Open is an event where museums and buildings not usually open to the public allow people to visit them for free. Doors Open Ontario events are scheduled on weekends throughout the summer months, running from May-October, and have many participating cities. Check out their website for more information and for participating locations.

I took this opportunity to learn more about Kingston and explore some buildings that I’ve never been to. Most of Kingston’s participating buildings were located near downtown so I managed to visit the following 4 places.

Queen’s University Archives
The Queen’s University Archives is home to a large collection of documents, pictures and media, preserving the history of Queen’s as well as the Kingston area.Their goal is to save items in their original form, as the format these documents come in can tell us a lot about the specific time period. For example, remember cassette tapes? Wonder if they will be completely forgotten about in a few decades. We were given a guided tour of the archives, visited two of their holding rooms and were told a bit about its history.

Murney Tower Museum
Kingston’s harbour is made up of 5 main fortifications, which are Fort Henry, and four Martello towers (Murney Tower, Shoal Tower, Fort Frederick Tower and Cathcart Tower). Murney Tower is a National Historic Sight of Canada and allows visitors to get a glimpse of military life in 19th century Kingston. Another tower that is regularly open to visitors is the Fort Frederick Tower, which is home to the Royal Military College Museum.

Murney Tower Museum

Murney Tower Museum

Bellevue House
This is another National Historic Sight of Canada, and it was the house of Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. The house has been restored to look as it would during the 1840s, however only a few of the items in the house are original. The staff are dressed in costumes from that time period and are happy to answer any questions.

Tip: If you eat at Sir John’s Public House, located at 343 King St E, in Kingston, and your bill is over $25, then you can get free admission to Bellevue House.

Bellevue House

Bellevue House

Guest room of Bellevue House

Guest room of Bellevue House

Canada’s Penitentiary Museum
The Penitentiary Museum shares the history of Canada’s penitentiaries. The museum sits right across the street from Kingston Penitentiary, and the house used to be the Warden’s residence. There are 8 rooms in total showing visitors the stories, artifacts and programs that have been a part of Canada’s penitentiaries throughout the years.

Canada's Penitentiary Museum

Canada’s Penitentiary Museum

Overlooking Kingston Penitentiary

Overlooking Kingston Penitentiary

Exploring north of Kingston

Kingston, Ontario is a lovely city. Many buildings in Kingston are built out of limestone, giving it the nickname ‘Limestone City’. Kingston also has a beautiful waterfront, where Lake Ontario meets with the Rideau Canal and the St. Lawrence River. On Saturdays there is a farmer’s market downtown, and an antique’s market on Sundays. There are plenty of beautiful heritage buildings to see, and a large selection of restaurants. But there are also a number of little towns nearby that are worth exploring.

A good place to get ideas and start planning activities for the day is at the Visitor Information Center located right downtown. They are very knowledgeable and helpful in providing ideas and helping you make your stay enjoyable. It is also a good place to go to get a map of Kingston and the surrounding areas. This is must for a road trip, after all, where would we be without our trusted map? Another handy thing for a day of exploring is bottled water. The Visitor Information Center sells water for $1/bottle. That’s the cheapest bottled water I know of in Kingston, so it is worth a mention. Now on to the road trip!

Road Trip Map

Road Trip Map

1st stop: Kingston Mills Lockstation
The Rideau Canal runs all the way from Kingston to Ottawa, and along the canal there are a total of 49 lockstations to allow the passage of boats through the different levels of the river. Driving north from Kingston, the first set of lockstations encountered are the three located at the Kingston Mills. On a warm sunny day there will most likely be boats crossing through the locks, which is always an interesting sight. The area is surrounded by greenery and it’s a nice place for a picnic.

2nd stop: Westport
Westport is a village on the Upper Rideau Lake. It’s nice to stroll through the village and explore the banks of the lake. It is also fairly quiet and relaxing sitting by the harbour and looking out at the lake. It seems to be a popular stop for boaters too, because the harbour was packed with boats. Westport was recently named a UNESCO World Heritage site.

3rd stop: Perth
Perth is a picturesque town with beautiful heritage buildings and lots of parks and greenery.

Day Trip to Wolfe Island

Once in a while it’s nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, but that’s not always easy to do without a car. Luckily for me, Wolfe Island is just a short ferry ride away.

Wolfe Island is the largest of the Thousand Islands and is located on Lake Ontario, at the entrance of the St. Lawrence river, near Kingston. The island is made up of rural farmlands, but there are a couple of communities as well, the largest being Marysville. There are a number of things to do on Wolfe island, such as biking, going to the beach, bird watching, exploring Marysville, the corn maze, as well as a number of festivals during certain times of the year!

However, since the island is huge, a mode of transportation is required to get around. This time, I chose a tandem bike! Ahoy Rentals located on the Kingston waterfront is an excellent place to go for daily bike rentals. For the more adventurous, they also provide canoe, kayak and sailboat rentals. After getting our bike, we rode a short way to the ferry dock.  The ferry leaves approximately every hour, and is free. The ferry schedule is available here. As a pedestrian/bicyclist you can walk on to the ferry easily, so there’s no need to be there super early, but if you plan on taking your car to the island, it’s not a bad idea to be at least half an hour early to make sure you get a spot. The ferry takes about 20 minutes to reach Wolfe Island.

Off we go! Leaving the dock.

Off we go! Leaving the dock.

There are 4 cycling routes on Wolfe Island, each of them are of different lengths, allowing you to see a different aspect of the island. A map of all the routes is available here. The route we chose for this trip was the Extension to Big Sandy Bay. Biking from the Marysville dock all the way to Big Sandy Bay was approximately 10km one way.

Tandem Bike!

Tandem Bike!

Big Sandy Bay is a large conservation area, with a 1.3 km trail through wetlands and woodlands, leading to a secluded beach. It is also home to many birds, rare trees and rare species of plants. It is open all year round, and admission fees for the summer are $9 for adults arriving by car and $7 for adults arriving by bike. Just another incentive for biking!

Big Sandy Bay hiking trail

Big Sandy Bay hiking trail

Birdwatching

Birdwatching

Unfortunately the water level was high and the weather was a bit cold, so it wasn’t possible to go swimming that day. However, it was a very nice place for a picnic. After another 10km bike ride back to Marysville, it was time to treat ourselves with ice cream and take the ferry back to Kingston. Overall, it was the prefect day trip!

Big Sandy Bay beach with high tide

The beach with high tide

As I mentioned earlier, there are many other things to do on Wolfe Island, so hopefully I’ll have a chance to explore it some more in the future and write about it here!

1-IMG_5916

Kingston Waterfront from the ferry

Kingston Waterfront from the ferry

 

Springtime in Kingston

The weather is getting much warmer, the trees and flowers are blooming, the days are getting longer, and the mayflies are out. This is a sure sign that spring has arrived and is here to stay!

Kingston is beautiful in the spring! The blue skies against the historic limestone buildings, and the sweet smell of flowers in the air. Walking outside on any sunny day makes me wish I had my camera with me so I could take some pictures. I suppose having a beautiful campus helps too.

Hopefully I can get lots of photography practice over the summer. So, here are a few pictures I took of Queen’s University over the past weekend.

Queen's University Campus

Queen’s University Campus

Queen's University Campus

Queen’s University Campus

Ontario Hall, Queen's University

Ontario Hall, Queen’s University

Grant Hall, Queen's Univeristy

Grant Hall, Queen’s Univeristy

Nicol Hall, Queen's University

Nicol Hall, Queen’s University

Miller Hall, Queen's University

Miller Hall, Queen’s University

 

Christmas Display

2014. It’s a new year. The holidays are over. It’s time to get back to the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Time to start working on our new year’s resolutions. But it’s not too late to look back at the holidays.

One of the things I enjoy doing during the winter holidays is visiting the Christmas display in downtown Toronto. Every December, The Bay on Queen street decorates their storefront windows with decorations telling a Christmas story. The display is accompanied by music and gets you in the festive mood. The displays are popular and surrounded by many people during all times of the day. It makes for a nice break from all the shopping accompanying the holidays.

Caroling.

Caroling.

Christmas Display at The Bay on Queen Street

Christmas display at The Bay on Queen street

 

Santa Claus Parade

Nothing marks the start of the holiday season quite like standing outside in the cold and watching beautifully decorated floats go by playing Christmas music. Yes, it’s that time for the Santa Claus Parade! We had it in Kingston just last week.

There’s always something about the event that can’t help but put you in a festive mood. The day started with beautiful snow-covered streets in the morning. When it started getting dark, it was time to head out to the parade. The main street was shut down and some stores had employees outside with a large container of hot chocolate and tea ready for the parade viewers. The entire street was nicely decorated with snow flake lights and everyone was bundled up. (Note for next time: bring an outdoor folding chair and a warm blanket!)

The parade started off with a red post box walking down the street followed by Canada Post representatives collecting letters for Santa. Other participants in the parade included the food bank and local organizations. There were plenty of floats, lights and Christmas music. The parade was concluded by the appearance of Santa Claus himself!

Let’s go to the Ex!

Nothing marks the end of summer in Toronto quite like the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE). The CNE, currently in its 135th year, runs from the middle of August until the Labour Day weekend. From midway rides, carnival games, concerts, shows, shopping, exhibits, to an entire building dedicated to food, there is something for everyone!

“Tic Toc” Acrobatics Show: I love watching acrobats perform, so this is one of the highlights of the CNE for me. This year’s theme is time.

Acrobatic Show

Acrobatic Show

IMG_20130826_113412-001The Flying Wallendas: Watching one of the famous circus acts perform on the tightrope was amazing. We were able to meet them and get their autographs at the end of the performance, which was super cool. 

The Flying Wallendas - 3 person pyramid

The Flying Wallendas – 3 person pyramid

Shopping: Let’s not forget the shopping! The exhibit hall is full of outlets and individual stands with discounted items, as well as product demonstrations. In fact, the exhibit hall is so large that it would be possible to spend an entire day there. Shop ’till you drop. Literally.

Food: Anyone spending a day at the CNE is bound to get hungry at some point. Food stands can be found throughout the grounds, but for the largest selection, head over to the food building. There is an entire building dedicated to food, so be prepared to spend longer than average time deciding what to eat. There are the usual fast food stands as well as more adventurous selections and many deep-fried foods. Deep-fried Mars bars anyone?

Cordon bleu schnitzel burger from the Schnitzel House

Cordon bleu schnitzel burger from the Schnitzel House. It’s so huge, I got stares from people passing by the table while I was eating it.

The Farm: Visit the farm to see and learn about different animals and to get a taste of farm life.

Llama

Llama

Cascade: Cascade is a group of stuntmen from France who were on Britain’s Got Talent and have also performed stunts in a number of movies. Not only are they amazing at what they do, they also have a great sense of humour and put on a very good show.

Cascades performing at the CNE

Cascade performing at the CNE

Cascades performance

Cascade performance

Lastly, buying tickets online before opening day provides you with discounted admission as well as not having to wait in the ticket line at the gate.

IMG_20130826_113300-001

Carnival games, Sky Ride, and people everywhere.

CNE nicely lit up at night.

The CNE nicely lit up at night.