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Sunday, 24 July 2016

Tobermory to Manitoulin - an Ontario treasure!

Tobermory to Manitoulin - an Ontario treasure!

I've always been a kid at heart - something that, methinks, will never change! Since I was knee high to a grasshopper, I've always loved trains and boats and would relish every opportunity to travel on them that my parents would provide. 

Growing up in Essex, England, we would often take the train into Southend-on-Sea for day's outing (much better than riding the bus). This was enjoyable for several reasons; but my real joy was when it was announced that we were going to Gravesend, in Kent, for the day. I was always full of happiness because, not only did I get to ride a train to the very end of the line at Tilbury Riverside, but I would also get to walk through the gate and straight onto the  Tilbury-Gravesend Ferry for the 10- minute ride across the Thames to our destination. The beach wasn't much to write home about in those days, but there was the anticipation of the return journey. Oh, such wonderful memories - especially in the days of steam trains. 
Train comes to a stop at Tilbury Riverside Station - the end of the line
(The station is no longer in use)

Tilbury Ferry

The beach at Gravesend - back in the 1950's

So, what has this got to do with crossing from Southern to Northern Ontario via Lake Huron? 

Earlier this year, I had been booked for a wedding at Laurentian Lodge,  just north of Elliot Lake. A few months later, the opportunity for three, back-to-back house/pet sits came our way. Two of them were repeats, and one was a new venue for us. The only issue was that the wedding was to take place in the middle of the four weeks away. Mark and I talked about it and we agreed that I would return to Elliot Lake for the weekend while Mark would continue to look after the home and animals, and enjoy the swimming pool!

About a week before leaving for our first sit, it suddenly dawned on me that I had a choice - either to go by road and drive all the way to West Lorne via Highways 401, 400, 69, and 17 17, 69, - OR - take the Chi-Cheemaun Ferry across from Tobermory to South Baymouth, on Manitoulin Island

The boring, stressful way!

The much more exciting, scenic and restful way!!!

Although no train was involved, I felt the old familiar excitement of taking a ferry - this time, with my own car! 

I had decided that this was going to be my experience and commenced the task of convincing Mark that it was going to be the best route to take!!!  You know - 'traveling on the highways during the holiday period - not so good - more stressful during rush hour'... 'could get a bit tired on the long journey home, and don't want to keep stopping at Timmies and spending more money'... and my masterpiece, 'I've never been on that ferry'!!!  In truth, Mark didn't take much convincing, and I know that he was happier with me doing two 3-4 hour stints of driving with a 2.5 hour rest in between. I was delighted - nay.... ecstatic!!!!

Arriving at Tobermory just over an hour before sailing, I remembered what a beautiful town this is. A few years ago, I had taken my sister and brother-in-law on the Blue Heron Cruise around Flowerpot Island and had loved the boat trip and the stroll around the town after we had returned. It felt good to be here and I spent about half an hour walking alongside the dock, with the moored boats bobbing gently up and down. It was a hot, sunny day with few clouds and the spectacle coaxed out my camera. 

From the boat launch, Tobermory

The inlet from Lake Huron, Tobermory

Returning to the car ready for boarding, I watched as the adjacent lanes emptied themselves of the lined up vehicles. Then is was my turn, and I actually became excited as I started to slowly inch forward onto the ferry, guided by the experts up a ramp for smaller cars. 

Boarding the ferry

Going up the ramp


There she is, safely on top!

There was little room for maneuvering past the parked cars, but within minutes I was on the upper deck, surveying the scene from above. 

Watching the cars load from the deck

I was pleasantly surprised by all the facilities on board - and they even announced that there would be entertainment on one of the decks - though wasn't sure what form it took as I wanted to take in the fresh air and sheer pleasure of the wind rushing by as we crossed Lake Huron. 

Lots of facilities on the ferry

Bar lounge 

Informaton Bureau on board

This man asked me if he would now be famous!

On two different deck levels, there were several Muskoka chairs which were snatched up by those who boarded early - and there were many benches to choose from, as well as the lounge area in the lower deck.

Wonderful way to relax for 2.5 hours!

At one point, a gentlemen vacated his Muskoka chair and I asked him if he was leaving. An affirmative answer added to my delight as I was now able to sit in comfort while enjoying the breezy crossing, with an unfettered view of the lake. 

Got my own chair!

At one point, looking towards the west from my side of the deck, all I could see was water - and it crossed my mind that this was rather like it would be on a cruise. (See the pic at the top of the blog). (Neither Mark, nor I, have been on a cruise - but it is on our ever-increasing bucket list). 

After about an hour or so, I decided to leave the chair to the next lucky person and stroll around the deck. Looking eastward, there was a continual view of near or distant land masses to remind this would-be sailor that we were not actually at sea. 

Gradually, the land mass that is the huge island of Manitoulin drew closer and I could see the beginnings of South Baymouth - the ferry's destination. 

Manitoulin Island in sight 

The entry to South Baymouth, Manitoulin (on the left of the pic)

Before I could get a decent photo, we were called back to our vehicles. It was while I was sitting in the car, waiting for the ship to dock, that I felt the gentle lull of being on water. It had been a smooth crossing and now, just a few minutes later, I was moving again, finally alighting onto familiar territory - back home in Northern Ontario, with its rocks, trees, and lakes that we have come to love so much.

For me, it was well worth the longer travel time and the great thing is... I get to make the return trip tomorrow!!! Lucky me!

The colourful, first-nation designed chimney on the Chi-Chemaun

Note: Chi-Chemaun means 'big canoe' in Ojibway.

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Tuesday, 19 July 2016

The Village of St. Jacobs - A Must See!

The Village of St. Jacobs - A Must See!

While staying in Waterloo, we knew that we just had to get out to see the Village of St. Jacobs - a small town that we used to visit at least once a year when living in Etobicoke and on the Holland Marsh. It wasn't until we were approaching the main street that we realized it had been over 15 years since we had last been here. Although, in our opinion, it has lost a little of its charm because of modernization, it is still a quaint place to take in. 

Lunch at the Stone Crock Restaurant never disappoints - and the home-made soup and bread are to die for. It is always a challenge not to succumb to the display of tasty treats at the adjoining bakery, with the aroma of fresh cooking wafting under the nose! We have to say that we rarely succeed in getting out of there without something to munch on later in the day. 

King St. N. (Main Street in St. Jacobs) 

As mentioned earlier, we were a little disappointed with the nods to modernity which have crept in to the main street. Fortunately, there were still several stores that were reminiscent of times gone by. 

Loved the carved seat

Great sign for any home, not just a cottage!

...and this 'Touch of Scotland' still had an 'olde worlde' feeling to it. 

The streets that ran parallel to the main street (King Street North) are festooned with wonderfully kept homes and gardens, and are worth a detour. 

We did take a look at the rail cars that were in the siding, but the steam train wasn't running on the day we were there. 

Of course, no trip to St. Jacobs would be complete without a visit to the famous Farmers' Market. We had not seen the new building, which replaced the one burnt down in 2015; but we were thrilled to see that none of the ambience of the market had been lost. 

The sheer pleasure of walking around absorbing the freshness of the meats, fish, fruits, veggies, and preserves is something that everyone should experience - at least once in their lifetime! 

Notice the swans on the lowest shelf!

We loved the Portuguese bakery - especially as they had one of our favourite treats: Portuguese Custard Tarts. If you haven't tried one of these, you haven't yet lived! We spoke with Lourenço at his bakery and asked if we could have his permission to post some pictures of his baked creations. 

Not only did he give us his 'OK', but he gave us each a free custard tart! They didn't last long!!

They didn't last long!

Laurenço was awesome!!

Upstairs, unique 'one-of-a-kind' stalls punctuate the perimeter. Wares ranging from African wood-carving to pottery; from quilting to metal sculpturing - it all fills the visitor with a sense of awe at the creativity that is present within these communities. 

Angela's Secret Garden

Had not seen these before

Pavlo Pottery

Esther's Quilts

Sunnyside Up

More from Pavlo Pottery

Shawna P. - Fine Artist

Shauna allowed me to video her at work.

Wonkies! by Masterpiece

Outside, there were more fruit and veg stalls, as well as other goodies...

A new concept for us - Zucchini Blossoms!

Very funny signs!

... and we were enthralled by a variety of musicians - three soloists, and a couple playing a harp and violin. 

Mark felt he had had a good, successful shopping experience!

All in all, it was an awesome day and we were glad that we had made the effort to travel the 5 minutes that it took to get there from the house where we were staying!!!

N.B. All pictures are taken with the permission of the vendors (not including the musicians). 

Thanks, specifically, to the following vendors:

Masterpiece           Shauna P. Fine Artist    Pavlo Pottery        

Sunnyside Up (at St. Jacobs Market) - Leather goods since 1974.        Lourenço's Bakery

Esther's Quilts (at St. Jacobs Market)        Angela's Secret Garden (at St. Jacobs Market)

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