Category Archives: Canada

Niagara on the Lake Candlelight Stroll 2013

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The historic town of Niagara on the Lake holds it’s annual Candlelight stroll on the first Friday in December every year.  I first heard about the event about 10 years ago but only this year did we finally manage to attend.

 

Locals and visitors congregate by the Clock tower at 6pm bundled up against the usually frigid temperatures where they purchase candles (the proceeds of which go to a charity or worthy cause) and sing along to festive songs and carols.  A couple of the Niagara on the Lake horse and carriages lead the way through the streets where a variety of performers entertain the crowds along the route.  This year the performers included various choirs, a bell choir made up of an amazing group of young girls, a bagpiper and ends with a very talented male acappella group called A Cappella Niagara.  Who were not only fabulous singers but also extremely funny and had the crowd chuckling at their humorous number.

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Many of the homes along the route are decorated for the festive season and the Romance Collection Gallery, showcase for local artist Trisha Romance, has an almost life size nativity scene in the front.

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All this creates a fabulous festive atmosphere and was every bit as lovely as I hoped it would be, it is a great way to kick off the Christmas season.

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I am so pleased that we finally got to go to this magical event and next years date is already marked on the Calendar!

 

If you are ever in the Niagara area in the beginning of December I highly recommend you go and check out this wonderful family evening.

Tips:

Make sure you arrive in plenty of time, many streets are closed to traffic and parking so you may have to park quite far away and walk in.

Dress appropriately, comfy shoes and winter coats, hats and gloves are essential, it’s usually a couple of degrees cooler by the lake.

Bring some money, most shops in the town remain open late and offer unusual and unique gifts.  A perfect opportunity to finish off your holiday shopping!

 

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The Gallery – Morning

Last Wednesday morning started much like any other, up by 6 to get Hubbie and the kids out of the door along with copious amounts of tea to get me going and then out for a walk with my camera to kick start my day.

I love walking along the lake shore it gives me fresh air, exercise, it’s good for the soul and there’s usually something interesting to  photograph. This time however, was different because was the night before produced our first snowfall of the season.  As it is still quite early in the year the snow was wet, as apposed to the dry fluffy stuff we normally get, and stuck to the trees creating the most beautiful wintry landscape.

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This is my late November morning walk…Canadian style!

The Gallery

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Winter arrived in Canada this week.

When I posted my Silent Sunday at the weekend, I used this picture taken a few days earlier. It was autumnal, bright sunshine and about 10C.

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Then on Sunday we returned to the same place for a walk and this is what it looked like

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The -15C wind chill had frozen the river solid and the banks were dusted with the snow flurries of the previous days.

For now, the snowfall is pretty it builds excitement for Christmas and is a novelty, it may not be the same in four months time when we will all be grumbling that the spring cannot come soon enough!  While it is all fresh and new I thought I would share a few photos of the first snows.

 

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The Gallery – Halloween

This is the front of my house, all decorated and ready for Halloween.

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Halloween in Canada is completely different to the ones we experienced in England.  Like most holidays here, Halloween is a family affair.  Even the youngest of kids are dressed up in a costume for school or day care and as soon as the sun begins to set the doorbell starts to ring as we are bombarded with an adorable array of pirates, princesses, witches and wizards.

According to a recent survey almost half of Canadians will celebrate Halloween in some form, mostly it is dressing up, trick or treating and decorating their homes.  My decorations are pretty tame compared to many, lots of houses in my neighbourhood have tombstones, skeletons and cobwebs all over the front yard. So although we didn’t celebrate Halloween in England we do now, when in Rome…right?

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And no one is more pleased about our new tradition than youngest son because this was his haul last year, in little over an hour he collected enough candy to see him passed Christmas!

The Gallery

What’s the Story? – Photobomb

This is one of those photos that always makes me smile, it’s one of the best photobombs I’ve seen eventhough it was taken well before the word even existed!

Mid-air photobomb

This was Boxing Day 2006 and we were on holiday in the Canadian Rockies in Alberta, the holiday that literally changed our lives.

 We were travelling between Banff and Jasper along the Icefields Parkway, often referred to as the most beautiful drive in the world and having done it I believe it to be true.  One of the places to see on the route is the Athabasca Falls which, being December, were mainly frozen except for the bright blue glacial water crashing under the ice, it was spectacular.  On the way back to the car hubbie had walked ahead of me and the boys and stopped to photograph us stumbling through the snow.  Eldest son and I stopped and posed for the shot before hearing a splat beside us as youngest son looked up at us from the snow, giggling. We had no idea what we had captured until we downloaded the photos later that evening…the ultimate mid-air photobomb.

Athabasca Falls

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Camping in Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park

We have camped in various countries in Europe and Africa but this is our first summer camping in Canada, so far we have been to Canisbay Lake in Algonquin and Fairbank Provincial Park. As we had a whole week off this time we decided to pack up the tent and canoe and head to Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park.

This park is located on the historic Mattawa River near the Ontario/Quebec border.  The Mattawa River was used by the first European explorers to Canada and native peoples for centuries so it seemed like the ideal location to try out our new canoe.

The view from the back of our pitch

Our site, which was very private, backed onto the river and you could hear it tumbling over the rocks.  After hearing a few whooping sounds coming from the river we searched round to find where it was coming from and realized people were riding down the river, which runs the length of the camp ground, on inflatables.  The next day we drove 30 minutes to North Bay to buy some dinghy’s to join in the fun.  Now at almost 40 you may think that I am a little old to enjoy this but let me tell you I was a spring chicken compared to some of the campers joining in with this.

 

Our first canoe trip was on Long Lake which was sheltered, calm and perfect for novice canoeists.

What quickly became evident was that our canoe was not big enough for the four of us so we hired an additional canoe direct from the campground the following day so we could go a little further afield.

This time we went across Moore lake and turned west.  We spotted some beautiful painted turtles basking in the sun.

 

On our final day we decided to get adventurous and venture onto the Mattawa River, into The Gut and back through Long Lake to experience our first portage.

 

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The canoe routes from this campground are just beautiful.

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The campground in general has been my favourite so far, the pitch was huge , the toilets and showers were clean and the surrounding area was beautiful and ripe for exploring 😀

 

The sunsets over the lake were pretty stunning too.

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Back to School Road Safety

As the long summer holidays draw to a close government road safety campaigns begin here in Canada reminding motorists that soon the roads will be full of commuting kids again, which got me thinking about the different approaches to road safety in England

I remember the green cross code being drummed into us as kids at school in England, the phrase ‘stop, look and listen’ being repeated so many times you couldn’t help but remember and obey the rules.  The approach here in Canada is somewhat different with the onus being more on the motorist to yield to pedestrians.

 

The majority of kids use school buses for the school run, you know the big yellow ones that you see in the movies?!  These buses have their own set of road safety rules.  When they stop to pick up or drop off students they turn on flashing red light indicating that you must not pass and traffic in each direction comes to a halt.  The students then, without hesitation, walk straight out in the road trusting that everyone has stopped.  This regularly sends shivers down my spine and I still teach my kids to be responsible for their own safety by looking about and being aware of their own surroundings as it is all too easy to be involved in a road traffic accident.  I always tell the boys not to assume that a motorist will stop even when they are supposed to, after all in a dispute between a car and a pedestrian the car is going to win regardless of who was in the right moral or legal position.

Canada is a very environmentally aware country that promotes cycling to school where possible. In complete contrast to the road safety laws it is a bylaw in many communities that you have to wear a helmet when cycling.  This is a great help with teens and tweens who are often more concerned with their street cred than their safety.

Walking to school is also encouraged so as the boys go back to school I always buy coats or backpacks with reflective patches, they are easy to come by here. I think this is especially important as we go into the autumn term and the nights start to draw in.  Remember – be safe, be seen!

Canadians have a very practical approach to most things including the fact that people often need to drive to school or work, so the very practical solution to this problem is the “kiss and Ride’.  Kiss and ride areas are common in numerous situations such as schools and train stations. They are areas at the front of the building where you can drive up to drop someone off, these prove particularly useful during the winter when it’s -20C outside and the kids can go straight from the car into the school building avoiding both dangerous car park situations, crazy windchill  and knee high snow!

We were given an excellent safety tip last year that I want to share with you all. Decide with your child on a secret password, a word that only your family knows so if you are running late or have an emergency situation and you need someone else to pick up your child for you, you give them the password so your child instantly knows they are safe to go with them.

Do you have any road safety tips you teach your kids?

 

Hidden Gems – Cascade Ponds, Banff, Alberta.

The great folks over at Tuscany Now are running a competition called Hidden Gems.  Why not pop over and take a look or consider sharing a hidden gem you have found on your travels?  As soon as I heard about the competition through Jaime at The Oliver’s Madhouse I immediately knew the place I would write about, I’ve written about it before as it is, in my humble opinion, the most beautiful place in the world.

This is Cascade Ponds, located in the shadow of Cascade Mountain, just outside the town of Banff in Banff National Park, Alberta.  The most beautiful hidden gem I have found,  in fact I love this place so much I have a copy of this picture hanging on the wall in my dining room.

There are a so many reasons why I love this place, obviously the outstanding beauty of it is the most evident thing but also we first discovered Cascade Ponds at a very difficult time in our lives.  It was Christmas Day 2006 and just two short months since my mother-in-law had lost her battle with cancer at just 56.  We had booked ourselves into almost every activity available while on holiday including dog-sledding, hiking, snowmobiling, helicopter tour, ice skating and skiing in an attempt to escape the Christmas festivities as it was all too raw and too soon after our loss.  So we found a local map, instead of a guide book, and decided to find somewhere quite close to the hotel for a walk before a full on Christmas dinner and saw the name cascade ponds and decided to go and grab some hot chocolate and head off to take a look.  Little did we know the gem that awaited us.

 

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I was awe struck by the natural beauty of it and as we had the place to ourselves, as it’s not on the tourists beaten track, we could be silly, throw snow, make snow angels and let go of the trauma of the past twelve months and reconnect as a family,

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This place helped us on the way to heal and inspired us to reevaluate our life style and make some life changing decisions about where we wanted to be in the future, within a few short months of that holiday we had made the decision to emigrate to Canada.

Christmas 2007

We visited Banff for the next two years and every Christmas day we returned to Cascade Ponds with the camera and the hot chocolate.

 

Hot chocolate

Walking in the snow Christmas 2008

If you are ever in the area, take a look and enjoy the peace and tranquility, feel dwarfed by the surrounding mountains

and keep an eye out for the incredible ice climbers.

Camping in Fairbank Provincial Park

Last week we decided to take advantage of the long weekend, pack the tent in the truck and head ‘up North’ to a campground in Fairbank Provincial Park, Ontario.

The journey itself took about 6 hours, which was pretty good considering we went on the Friday of a long weekend.  The drive up to the campground itself was full of potholes and didn’t look too picturesque and we started to wonder if we’d picked the right place.

Our sense of foreboding didn’t abate as we went to check in.  The sign on the counter announced there were bears in the area.  Trying to sound casual (and probably failing) I asked the staff about the bears.  “We have a yearling around here” she said “but it’s up here near our garbage, it hasn’t been seen down in the campground, yet”  Hmmmm …yet!

Our site was pretty small and we messed around for quite a while trying to fit everything on, they were also close together which was not what we were expecting.

Despite this the site actually grew on us over the weekend.  The neighbours were actually pretty friendly and all stopped by for a chat and we got some great info from them on other places to visit.  We discovered a while ago that people love to give their opinions so the best way to find out things as a new immigrant is to ask everyone and anyone.  Our small site happened to be ideally placed close to the (clean) showers and the beach, not so bad after all.

There was only one hike route on the site, which was a little short and over in about 20 minutes but did give some great views down onto the lake.  Without a doubt the main draw of this area was the lake, spring fed and beautifully clear it was lovely for swimming, canoeing or fishing.

On Sunday we wanted to do some hiking so on the advice of the neighbours we headed 40 minutes north to Chutes Provincial Park where there were many hiking routes to choose from along the beautiful river, rapids and waterfalls.

 

The whole area was stunning.

We had a fantastic weekend, the boys survived without internet access and we discovered some amazing places that we can’t wait to investigate further.