One Long Lovely Summer in Eastern Canada: Wilderness, History and Celebrations near Kingston, Ontario

My 'home from home' for six weeks was this quaint little cottage on Dog Lake near Battersea, Ontario (as seen from a canoe!)

My ‘home from home’ for six weeks was this quaint little cottage on Dog Lake near Battersea, Ontario (as seen from a canoe at sunset!)

During the summer of 2015, I had a wonderful opportunity to enjoy a prolonged stay near Kingston Ontario, which is my home town.  For six weeks, I stayed in a familiar  rural setting and got to know it even better.  On the edge of the wilderness,I stationed myself for numerous idyllic summer days at one of the  cozy Three Little Cottages on Dog lake. These cute and comfortable cabins are owned by longtime neighbours and friends, Sharon and Will

The Freedom Farm is situated near the Three Little Cottages, and the home of proprietors Sharon and Will Freeman.

The Freedom Farm is situated near the Three Little Cottages, and the home of proprietors Sharon and Will Freeman.

Freeman of Battersea, Ontario. Their organic Freedom Farm, which is situated in close proximity to the cottages is the perfect complement to my Canadian quest for clean air, food and water!  While these dedicated farmers quietly toiled over about 30 varieties of produce for their clients of the Community Supported Agriculture program, I was able to observe the tending and growing process and occasionally devour the ‘fruits’ of their labours – with great pleasure!DSCF5773

There are lots of good reasons to spend time at the Three Little Cottages and Freedom Farm - I should know!

There are lots of good reasons to spend time at the Three Little Cottages and Freedom Farm – I should know!

Its somewhat remote location actually forms part of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere (FAB), which is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. One of the biggest thrills for me in this place of  serenity and solitude was the abundance of opportunities to observe wildlife up close.  It was very exciting to be able to ‘shoot’ animals without ever disturbing them in their natural habitat.  For me, that was a new experience that I want to repeat!  A sampling of my encounters with wild four-legged and two-winged creatures is found below.

Bees happily buzzed around these hives on the Freedom Farm. They certainly had fields of plenty to make great honey!

Bees happily buzzed around these hives on the Freedom Farm. They certainly had fields of plenty in order to make great honey!

I nick-named this Great Blue Heron, 'Herman' because he seemed to want to get to know me. He certainly left his calling card - on my car and the roof of the cottage!

I nick-named this Great Blue Heron, ‘Herman’ because he seemed to want to get to know me. He certainly left his calling card – on my car and the roof of the cottage!

Little bunnies occupied the fields and lane ways - around the garden, of course!

Cute little bunnies hopped about the fields and lane ways – but they were not encouraged to hang  around the garden, of course!

OF course, some domestic animals occupied the Freedom Farm - ponies, dogs and a cat added to the homey feel of the place.

Some domestic animals occupied the Freedom Farm – ponies, dogs and a cat added to the homey feel of the place.

At daybreak, , a family of deer would sometimes come to the shore directly opposite the cottage for a drink.

At daybreak, , a family of deer would sometimes come to the shore directly opposite the dock of the cottage for a drink.

I caught this Pileated Woodpecker early one morning at Gilmour Point on Dog Lake.

I caught this Pileated Woodpecker early one morning at Gilmour Point on Dog Lake near Battersea Ontario.

It’s also an area renowned for fishing, and my brother and sister-in-law took advantage of that opportunity.  Edwin did catch a ‘big one’, but that is a story for another day.  I had fun watching them cast their lines – morning, noon and night!

Many days, I read books by Kingston poet laureate and author Helen Humphreys. I also took short excursions to nearby villages such as Westport, Glenburnie Latimer, Seeley’s Bay and Inverary.  These little

It's fun to look over the pretty village of Westport on Upper Rideau Lake from Spy Rock in the Foley Mountain Conservation Area.

It’s fun to look over the pretty village of Westport on Upper Rideau Lake from Spy Rock in the Foley Mountain Conservation Area. Photo taken by Edwin.

hamlets formed part of my childhood experiences  and I always enjoy returning to them.  Then there were times when I

There's always another 'big one' out there, and the many fishing enthusiasts on Dog Lake will tell you so!

There’s always another ‘big one’ out there, and the many fishing enthusiasts on Dog Lake will tell you so!

I caught Edwin and Beth casting their lines at the crack of dawn - ever hopeful for one that didn't get away!

I caught Edwin and Beth casting their lines at the crack of dawn – ever hopeful for one that didn’t get away!

drove half an hour south of the cottage near Battersea  to go ‘downtown’, as my family used to refer to outings to Kingston from our country location.

This year, I decided that it was time to refresh my memory about the history of my  beloved Limestone City, which was settled in the mid-17th century.  It was no coincidence that  my sudden

This regal statue of Sir John A. Macdonald figures prominently in the park named after him in Kingston!

This regal statue of Sir John A. Macdonald figures prominently in Kingston’s City Park!

interest in a local refresher was prompted by the celebration of the 200th anniversary (bicentennial) of the birth of Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister.  Although he was not actually born here, he resided in Kingston, Canada’s first capital, for most of his life  He subsequently died in Ottawa, the current longstanding federal capital.  This visionary man was instrumental in developing a national railroad (from coast to coast) and, as a Father of Confederation, recognized that the country’s early cultural and regional differences  would ideally make an exceptional nation! He met with many pitfalls along the way (both personally and professionally), but he perservered, and  his ideas greatly influenced the kind of country that Canada is today!

I

There are a number of buildings around Kingston that were once occuspied by Sir John A. for personal or business interests. This pub was his law office. It's located on King Street East and offers good food at reasonable prices!

There are a number of buildings around Kingston that were once occupied by Sir John A. for personal or business interests. This pub was his law office. It’s located on King Street East and offers good food at reasonable prices!

caught up quickly on what was long forgotten in terms of my knowledge of this great Canadian when I took in the Salon Theatre Company’s top-notch re-enactment of the key events during Macdonald’s life in Kingston in an outdoor setting.

If you are in Kingston Ontario in the summer months, you've got to check out the Salon Theatre Company's super show on Sir John A.!

If you are in Kingston Ontario in the summer months, you’ve got to check out the Salon Theatre Company’s super show on Sir John A.!

The Salon Theatre Company offered a highly entertaining and instructional production called 'In Sir John A.'s Footsteps in downtown Kingston.

The Salon Theatre Company offered a highly entertaining and instructional production called ‘In Sir John A.’s Footsteps’ in downtown Kingston.

I thoroughly enjoyed the one hour performance by this professional acting troupe, and I could easily understand why they were rated a Trip Advisor top attraction in Kingston this past summer!

As this production further provoked my interest in reacquainting with my home town, I took a guided bus tour

Bellevue House in Kingston is afascinating museum that displays effects from the time when Sir John A. and his family lived there in the mid 19th century.

Bellevue House in Kingston is a fascinating museum that displays effects from the time when Sir John A. and his family lived there in the mid 19th century.

of the Limestone City, as Kingston played such a prominent role in the founding of the Dominion of Canada. The historic sites are all very significant and well worth the review.   As well, I heard more about our first prime minister.  Kingstonians are certainly proud of their Sir John A.!

The dome of Kingston City Hall (centre) and the spire of St. Mary's Cathedral (left)figure prominently as one approaches from Lake Ontario.

The dome of Kingston City Hall (centre) and the spire of St. Mary’s Cathedral (left)figure prominently as one approaches from Lake Ontario.

One another steamy day, I took the ferry from Kingston to Wolfe Island and back in order to get cooled off and to appreciate the lovely city from  its

Kingston is renowned for its excellent sailing conditions. It hosted the sailing competitions during the Montreal Olympics in 1976.

Kingston is renowned for its excellent sailing conditions. It hosted the sailing competitions during the Montreal Olympics in 1976.

important location at the intersection of Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River and the Rideau Canal! Certainly the afternoon’s journey was most revitalizing. However, I did not take time to visit the quaint town of Marysville on the island, but will certainly do that on my next trip to Kingston.

The rehearsal studio at 'The Isabel' overlooks Lake Ontario. What a spectacular setting for musical and theatrical endeavors!

The rehearsal studio at ‘The Isabel’ overlooks Lake Ontario. What a spectacular setting for musical and theatrical endeavors!

It was a complete delight to take a guided tour of the brand new Isabel

I was very honoured to be taken on a tour of the Isabel Bader Center for the Performing Arts by its Director,Ms. Tricia Baldwin. I am very grateful to Ms. Faye Ransom, Senior Development Officer/Gift Planning at Queen's University for organizing this delightful visit.

I was very honoured to be taken on a tour of the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts by its Director, Ms. Tricia Baldwin. I am very grateful to Ms. Faye Ransom, Senior Development Officer/Gift Planning at Queen’s University for organizing this delightful visit. Photo taken by Faye.

Bader Centre for the Performing Arts at Queen’s University.  As a graduate of the School of Music, I truly admired the state-of-the-art performance hall and attractive rehearsal space, both with world-class acoustics.  I was bold enough to sing a few notes from the stage and was completely amazed by the quality of the sound.  I envied current students, who I am sure will make good use of this facility.  I hope they will enjoy it as much as I would!

In fact, the entire summer seemed to be filled with joyous events and occasions.

Before the formal grad ceremony commenced, Mara played flute with the high school band. Behind her on alta saxophone is her brother Dallin (in the hat). They are both accomplished musicians!

Before the formal grad ceremony commenced, Mara played flute with her high school band. Behind her on alto saxophone is her brother Dallin (in the hat). They are both accomplished  young musicians!

My niece Mara was thrilled to receive the Governor General's Medal at her high school graduation for the highest average in academics.

My niece Mara was all smiles when she received  the Governor General’s Medal at her high school graduation for the highest  academic average at her high school .

It was an honour  as a proud Auntie to attend the high school graduation of my niece Mara, whose incredible academic accomplishments earned her the prestigious Governor General’s Medal, among other awards and  post-secondary scholarships.  She is a very humble, hardworking young lady, and I wish her much success in her university studies (at Queen’s!) and beyond.

A couple weeks after that ceremony, I was honoured to attend another milestone: that of the marriage of

It was a beautiful day in early July when my longtime friends David and John 'tied the knot' in a moving ceremony before 100 guests at their home in eastern Ontario.

It was a beautiful day in early July when my longtime friends David and John formally ‘tied the knot’ in a moving ceremony before 100+ guests at their home in eastern Ontario.

longtime friends David and John at their home in eastern Ontario.  Throughout that special afternoon, I was enveloped in the complete sensation of love and honour that prevailed throughout this unforgettable day.  I felt so proud to be one of the 100+ witnesses of their formal vows of commitment to each other.  The feelings of good will were definitely infectious.  I wish my dear friends happiness and love always.

I cherish this photo of me with my brothers, Edwin (l) and Marc from our Summer 2015 reunion.

I cherish this photo of me with my brothers, Edwin (l) and Marc from our Summer 2015 reunion.

Then later that summer, I realized a commitment that had been overlooked for several previous visits due to the timing of my stays in Canada. My nephew Dallin is an accomplished student actor who

Auntie Gwen delighted in the chance to spend a little time with her niece Mara and her nephew Dallin in the Summer of 2015.

Auntie Gwen delighted in the chance to spend a little time with her niece Mara and her nephew Dallin in the Summer of 2015.

has participated in a number of plays produced by the  Stirling Festival Theatre‘s Young Company in Stirling, Ontario. This year, I got to take in all the fun watching him and the cast singing and acting their hearts out in ‘Legally Blonde, The Musical’. After I saw the hilarious show for the second time, we gathered for a family reunion at The Black Dog Family Restaurant in Stirling, to top off the happy events of the Summer of 2015. We were all in fine form, and I have the photos to prove it!

After our gathering I drove back to the little cottage north of Kingston to spend what I thought would be my final week in Canada. As we now know, Tropical Storm Erika changed my plans and I got to enjoy a longer visit with family and friends. But before that happened, I felt  completely at peace with my commune with nature and the pervasive tranquility that enveloped me during my six week retreat at the Three Little Cottages.  I hope it won’t be too many summers before I can return there again!

But wait… there’s more! I haven’t told you about the adventures in Nova Scotia  with my relatives this past July!  Find out about my down-east fun times in the next post!

At summer's end, even the fishing fanatics have gone 'home'.

At summer’s end, even the fishing fanatics on Dog Lake have gone ‘home’.

One can get up close and personal with the granite shoreline when in a canoe.

One can get up close and personal with the rocky granite shoreline of Dog Lake when in a canoe. It’s part of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere (FAB).

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A Canary Flies North: Family, Friends and Rides on the Rails between Toronto and Quebec City, Canada

Toronto's statuesque CN Tower stand out clearly against the beautiful blue backdrop on a perfect Sunday in June.

Toronto’s landmark CN Tower stands out clearly against the beautiful blue backdrop on a perfect Sunday in June.

I enjoyed my daily dose of fresh raw foods at Rawlicious on Brock St. in Whitby for the week I was in the area. Pcitured here  are soft tacos with side salad.  Every item on the menu is gluten, dairy and refined sugar free.

I enjoyed my daily dose of fresh raw organic foods at Rawlicious on Brock St. S. in Whitby  Ontario for the week I was in the area. Pictured here are soft tacos with side salad. Every item on the menu is gluten, dairy and refined sugar-free. Their lemonade is one to beat! The meals were creatively prepared and tasted divine.

When I finally arrived in Toronto (right after a tornado had touched down just north of the city), I was mildly shocked by the cooler, damp weather.  By the next morning, the clear skies and strong sunshine indicated lower levels of pollution and I felt relatively well in this industrialized, highly populated area.

I regained my Canadian bearings in Whitby, a pretty city with tree-lined streets  about an hour east of Toronto.  As I attended to medical and other personal matters there,  I appreciated the friendliness of the people and an organic restaurant near a conveniently located small motel called The Lucien.  It is a family run business and I am a repeat guest over a several years.  The rooms are clean, quiet and unscented per my special request.  I don’t need a car there as everything is within walking distance or can be accessed by a regular bus system.

When my business had been completed, I headed down the highway for a special event:

my one and only nephew’s graduation from Grade Eight!  In the Canadian system, this is the educational milestone one achieves before continuing on to four years of secondary school.

I was a very proud auntie indeed, as my young relative received top awards for science, geography and for his exceptional contribution to school music activities.  The biggest surprise was his distinction as class valedictorian, and he delivered the address in both of Canada’s official languages, English and French.

Nephew Dallin the Grade 8 Graduate with his proud Auntie before the ceremony and the valedictory surprise.

Nephew Dallin the Grade 8 Graduate with his proud Auntie before the ceremony and the valedictory surprise. Photo taken by Mum Sharon.

Dallin and his sister Mara after the graduation ceremny - my two pride and joys.  Mara is in her last year of high school and is an outstanding scholar and musician too.

Dallin and his sister Mara after the graduation ceremony – my two pride and joys. Mara is in her last year of high school and is an outstanding scholar and musician too. They are the lovely children of my brother Marc and his wife Sharon.

I’ll just say, that with the bit of extra noise that I generated during the applause after his speech, everyone knew that I was ‘related’ to the young graduate!

Brother Edwin and Sis-in-law Beth get ready to to have a little birthday feast with me.  This delectable cheesecake was purchased at  the renowned Mariposa Market in Orillia, about 1 1/2 hours north of Toronto.

Brother Edwin and Sis-in-law Beth got ready to have a little birthday feast with me. This delectable cheesecake was purchased at the renowned Mariposa Market in Orillia, about 1 1/2 hours north of Toronto.

Then I was off to visit my other brother and his wife. Edwin and Beth had met and married since I was last in Canada, so it was another joyful occasion.  It was a delight to meet this lovely woman, and to get better acquainted.  We had plenty to celebrate, as I was there between both of their birthdays . I surprised them with a delectable summer fruit cheesecake from the renowned Mariposa bakery about a half hour north of their city.  They in turn spoiled me with all kinds of treats and meals. We parted with assurances that we would meet again in a few weeks time, after my trip to Nova Scotia for Aunt Vivian’s milestone 90th birthday.

While I was in the Orillia area, I took time for an all important face-to-face appointment with my longtime naturopathic physician, Shawna Clark, N.D.  We consult regularly by phone, but there were a few tests that required my physical presence.  This helped tremendously with my ongoing treatment of environmental-based health challenges.  Shawna has helped me enormously to have an improved quality of life over the past 18+ years.  Her professional assistance has been invaluable to me and I do not know what I would do without her highly trained, professional, complementary

After a delcious lunch at Apple Annies, friend and naturopath Shawna Clark, N.D. took me on a tour of Mariposa Market in Orillia Ontario.

After a delicious lunch at Apple Annies, friend and naturopath Shawna Clark, N.D. took me on a tour of the Mariposa Market in Orillia Ontario.

medical knowledge and  techniques.

Between all the above-mentioned visits, I spent one day in the big city of Toronto expressly to visit a friend from Dominica who had returned to Canada a few years earlier.  I had promised John in our Christmas correspondence some months earlier that we would get-together this time so I could bring him up-to-speed on the latest news on the Nature Island.

The GO transit systme is a great way to get around the Greater Toronto areas - it's convenient, economical and ecological!

The GO transit system is a great way to get around the Greater Toronto area – it’s convenient, economical and ecological!

On a beautiful Sunday morning, I took the GO train into downtown Toronto from Whitby and arrived at Union Station, not far from the CN Tower, just before midday.  John met me across busy , congested and construction-clogged Front Street.We headed to Le Marche, a cosmopolitan eatery nearby for a freshly prepared delicious lunch and an intensive two-hour chat. As I provided John with my latest perspectives on my  life as an expat in Dominica, he filled me in on his forays and projects.  It was no surprise when he informed me that he was writing a book because he has “had an unusual life.“

From John`s condo, the southerly Toronto skyline beyond St. James Cathedral portrays urban beauty at its finest in this booming metropolis.

From John`s condo, the southerly Toronto skyline beyond St. James Cathedral portrays urban beauty at its finest in this booming metropolis.

I won’t give anything away, but I can’t wait to read it.

John Carson is a nonagenarian with boundless energy and a brilliant mind.  He spent about 25 years of his life in Dominica, with his wife Renie.

John is a nonagenarian with boundless energy and a brilliant mind. He spent more than 25 years of his life in Dominica with his late wife, Renee.

John is the kind of person who carries through with all of his goals.  All best wishes, John!

I think this is the VIA Rail train station in Kingston Ontario - my hometown.  You'll ave to excuse me -over the course of a few days and many kilometers,  I passed by quite a few!

I think this is the VIA Rail train station in Kingston Ontario – my hometown. You’ll have to excuse me if I am wrong: over the course of a few days and hundreds of kilometers, I passed by a few!

After all my pleasant meetings in central and eastern Ontario, it was time to go’ down east’.  On a clear Saturday morning, I boarded a VIA Rail train in Oshawa, just east of Toronto, en route to Quebec City where I would overnight before hopping aboard The Ocean to continue my rail  journey to Halifax, on the east coast.  It was a pleasant trip to Montreal, where I had one hour in between trains before the next departure to Quebec City.  My only complaint is that I was not aware that baggage could no longer be checked.  As such, I had to hoist my 20+ kilo suitcase on to the raised platform with minimal assistance.  In doing so, I twisted my back and coped with the pain for the rest of my Canadian visit.  Fortunately, I had visited my Canadian chiropractor, Dr. Leanne Bruni ,D.C. in Whitby  the day before, and she had set me straight.  Perhaps it is good that I had been adjusted before the start of the journey, otherwise it could have been much worse!

On the way to Montreal, I engaged in conversation with a young man who was sitting beside me.  He was returning from a quick overnight visit to Toronto to take in some of the World Pride events. I quickly discovered that he is a heavy metal musician with roots in jazz and classical.  From our discussion, he also disclosed that he was raised in two cultures with a French-Canadian mother and an English Canadian father – a genuine ‘Canuck’ if there ever was one! Although he looked the part of his style of music (body piercings, spiked hair etc.), he was a real gentleman – and even carried my heavy bag off of the train in Montreal! I have long ago learned not to judge people by their outward appearance – genuine souls reside in all guises!

The train transfer in Montreal was smooth and easy.  I also started to practise my French!  At first, I was a little shy, but it became easier during my two-day stay in Quebec.  You’ll hear more about it in subsequent posts.  I hope I will have made my French teachers at Alliance Francaise de la Dominique proud!

I really enjoyed day dreaming and watching the clouds, as well as  the verdant, varied  scenery that passed by my window.  Occasionally, I worked on my new mini-tablet.  Although the train rocked from side to side, thereby making my eyes and hands jiggle as I familiarized with this device, I quickly adapted.  Below are some shots from my train window.

Next post: A Night  and Day in Beautiful Quebec City!

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This is Canada along the flat lands above eastern Lake Ontario near the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Eastern Ontario Summer Sky.

Eastern Ontario summer sky.

An eastern Ontario town - Brockville, perhaps.

An eastern Ontario town – Brockville, perhaps.

Montreal skyline and greenery.

Montreal skyline and greenery.

Taking in the hay at a large farm between Montreal and Quebec City.

Taking in the hay at a large farm between Montreal and Quebec City.

Abundant crop and dairy farms dotted the landscape along the St. Lawrence River Valley.

Abundant crop and dairy farms dotted the landscape along the St. Lawrence River Valley.

Although not far from Quebec City, the trained passed through some dense forest with sparkling little rivers.

Although not far from Quebec City, the train passed through some dense forest with sparkling little rivers.

This pretty Quebec country house had a 'traditional 'habitant' look to it.

This pretty Quebec country house had a ‘traditional ‘habitant’ look to it.