Grabbing life by the handlebars and the steering wheel
(Photo above: Gananoque Inn, view from the water)
Well, it’s pretty clear that you can’t keep a good travel advisor locked down forever. This week, in the first part of the adventure, Ineke Brinkman and her partner, David set off to explore Eastern Ontario for 10 days and discover a host of close-to-home wonders along the way.
Seventeen days after ticking the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean off my bucket list, the 132-country count came to a standstill on March 18 in Perth, Australia.
Seabourn’s Captain Timothy Roberts ordered all guests to disembark the MS Sojourn, which had left Miami on January 4.
On the 75th day of our 146-day world cruise we walked off ship, suitcase in hand.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had called us home.
Our wings were clipped.
We stayed home, worked and followed protocol. Five months passed and we got itchy feet.
We had reached Phase 3 of the COVID-19 reopening.
Out of hibernation
On August 21, we closed the office and stepped out of hibernation; loaded the bikes into the truck, the boat on the trailer and drove 252 km from St. Catharines to Peterborough.
It had been my partner David’s dream to take his cedar strip motorboat through the highest hydraulic lift lock in the world, constructed in 1904. The locks are part of the Trent Canal system, where rivers and lakes link Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay.
The Holiday Inn Peterborough Waterfront offered ideal accommodation as we could dock the boat in room’s view. Check-in was pleasant and that was it, no further communication or services until three days after, when we paid the bill, returned the keys and said our goodbyes.
Hotel occupancy appeared to be high over the weekend, but we missed the human connection.
A phone call, handwritten note or a few chocolates in the room would have been a nice gesture of the hotel’s appreciation receiving guests during the COVID-19 crisis.
It’s the Locks
Cycling the Peterborough and Kawartha’s trails was challenging, except for the flat Canal ride that took us to picturesque Lakefield, where we lunched in the Canoe & Paddle restaurant.
The classic pub fare was so good that we returned the following day by boat for coffee and home-baked blueberry muffins at their bakery!
Parks Canada offered a $26 Day Pass to motor through the locks.
The Path of Fame, waterfront sculptures, gardens and city walks taught us about Peterborough then – a commercial and manufacturing centre – and now – an attractive University City and tourist centre for the Kawartha Lakes Region.
On the least sunny of days, we visited the Canadian Canoe Museum. The building houses 600 canoes, kayaks and paddles, representing Canada’s heritage on the water; exclaimed in 1684 by Baron de Lahontan as: “Carriages, in Canada, are canoes made of birch bark.”
Charmed by the historic Gananoque Inn & Spa, within a stone throw from Kingston and the Thousand Islands Parkway Cycling Path, was the next stopover.
Our benefit of the low midweek occupancy at the “place on the rocks by swift moving water” was the ease of pulling truck and trailer up into the Inn’s parking lot.
The top floor room in the main building was beautiful and spacious, until we opened the windows and were feted to a noisy kitchen exhaust fan. This was quickly resolved.
When we returned the next day from cycling, staff had moved our belongings to a lovely Jacuzzi suite in one of the two-story wings close to the water and next to the Prime Minister’s suite.
As our PM did not show up, we enjoyed the stillness and the spectacular view over the St. Lawrence River.
Hotel staff encouraged us to put the sign “please clean my room” on the outside door before leaving for the day and upon “homecoming” the room was again not only spotless but replenished with fresh towels.
Perfect for a picnic
We packed a picnic and took the boat to Mermaid Island in the Heart of the 1000 Islands. A couple from Niagara-on- the-Lake took our picture; they had been sailing the Ontario waters for five months.
Strolling through Confederation Park, visiting St. John’s Romanesque church; dining on the hotel’s patio and in different town venues; cycling along the amazing waterfront trail to Rockport and taking the cable ferry to Howe Island all made for an amazing staycation connecting heart and soul with nature at its best.
On the one and only rainy day we visited Kingston, where the friendly Visitor Centre Representative provided us with maps and suggested to see the Agnes Hetherington Museum with two interesting collections by Canadians: Shannon Bool a print/textile artist and Chantal Rosseau with birds in motion – a playful exhibition of squirrels exercising and a seagull tap dancing.
The Kingston Public and oldest Market in Ontario had outdoor seating arrangements safely distanced. On the tables, you would find four restaurants’ menus from which to choose, scan and order a meal via your electronic device.
After 6 pm there would be musical entertainment.
We followed the “Limestone City’s” road map and drove by the historic Bellevue House, former home of Sir John A. Macdonald, a Father of Confederation; the Kingston Pen; Fort Henry and the Royal Military College.
In between showers we walked the Waterfront observing St. Lawrence River Cruise boats docked and pausing operations until they can spring back to life. Some offered shore dining and entertainment options.
At the Gananoque Inn & Spa check-out we bumped into people from Pelham, a rural town in the Niagara Peninsula, 20 km from our home.
Next week: The journey continues as Brinkman and her partner arrive in Ottawa and surprise, surprise – it’s all about the shoes, not the politics.