Saturday, August 29, 2015

Upper Canada Village -- Time Travellers Camp (2015)

For the third year in a row, Ashley attended Upper Canada Village's Time Traveler's Camp. Unlike last year, this year they did not need jackets.

The camp runs from Sunday at 4 through Friday at 2. During the day, the campers dress as 1860's Canadian children and live lives similar to those of those children. They attend an apprenticeship (in Ashley's case she learned to make yarn, make a broom, and set type). At night they sleep in a modern house complete with running water. They also eat meals together and do chores (set the table, wash dishes, etc.). In the evenings they play games and have run of the village to themselves. 

We asked at the front desk where to find Ashley. They kindly told us to look in the print shop. The first year they gave us no such clues and we raced around the camp playing "where is Ashley?" That was also our first time at the Village and we had no idea where to look. They had her hard at work.

When she finished setting type, it was time for her to return to the cabin to make lunch. Or so we thought. We took this opportunity to buy lunch, only to learn she was playing games for the public to see. We missed that. Fortunately they played more games after lunch. 
While Ashley really made her lunch, Don and I finally took a boat ride on the canal. I say finally because every trip we talk about doing it, but we never do. We could see the United States from our ride. It was a slow cruise, a perfect way to enjoy the nice day. 

We found Ashley again in the school yard eating lunch. The first year she went to camp, this was her least favorite part -- eating lunch in front of tourists snapping pictures of them eating lunch. By now she is an old pro at it. We met the other family from New Jersey, all of the rest of the campers were from Canada. If they had a camp this awesome in New Jersey, we would send her to it, but if a historical sleep away camp exists within driving distance of our house, it remains a secret. 
From lunch they went to "school." First they line up girls on one side, boys on the other, and the teacher checks their hands to make sure they are clean enough to enter the school. They sit across the room from each other along benches. Lessons include singing "God Save the King," charades, reciting, and whatever else the teacher decides would be good. I like this picture of the teacher (also named Ashley) looking disapprovingly at Ashley and another girl as they are chatting when they are supposed to be doing their lessons.
By this point the sky was looking iffy. there was debate about having the campers play games inside or outside. It was hard to communicate with the parents (after all GPS tags and cell phones did not exist in 1866), so one group took one road, and the other took the other road. I found Ashley and her friends hanging out in front of the tavern watching a show. What do they teach these kids? Ashley is the one on the right wearing a snood. The week before camp she decided to cut off 8 inches and donate her hair to Pantene's Beautiful Lengths program, thus rendering it too short for the usual braid.

The sun peeked through, so they played their games outside. The games are all very innocent and involve running around and laughing. Made me yearn for a simpler time when all children were entertained this way.

The camp provides two costumes for the children to wear during their five days wearing period attire. The Loyalists received a third outfit to wear on Wednesday, but Ashley was in the other group this time (I want to say Patriots, but that is such an American term, I'm not sure if that is it). At the end of the week she was sporting a new cranberry-colored tee-shirt and already dreaming about coming back in 2016. As the camp only goes up to age 14, next year will be her last year as a camper. Watching her become too old for things is a great topic for a future blog post.

Le P'tit Train du Nord - Canada

Another reason we brought our bicycles to Canada was to ride Le P'tit Train Du Nord, a railway line that was abandoned in the 1980's. This was the first of two abandoned rail lines we rode on this trip. The other was in the Adirondack Mountains in New York State.

Le P'tit Train du Nord literally means the Little Train of the North, in this case it is a 200 kilometer (132 mile) stretch of abandoned railway that has been converted into a multi-use trail. From the Spring to Fall, the trail is used by bicyclists, pedestrians, (in some parts) roller bladers, runners, skateboarders, and maybe even unicyclists for all I know. In the winter the path is not cleared and is actively used by skiiers and other winter sport enthusiasts -- in other words, not me.

The path starts in Saint-Jerome in the province of Quebec and stretches to Mont-Laurier. The surface varies from fully paved to hard-packed crushed stone to dirt. They recently added a southern portion of the trail from Saint-Jerome to Labelle, which brings the trail closer to Montreal and more traffic.

We began in Saint-Jerome. After some initial reading of parking signs (which are all in French) we parked the car for the day and paid the meter. At this location there is a place to rent bicycles: "tandems, girafes, et remorques" included. Girafes? We determined that is what they call the one wheeled bike that attaches to the back of a parent's bicycle so the small child can keep up. Remorques are recumbent bicycles.  

We started our journey around 10 AM. Every so often we had to stop to cross a road. The further we were from Saint Jerome, the less often we had to do that. As you can see on this elevation map, it is a pretty flat path. According to the website, people can do all 200 kilometers (132 miles) in one day. Don and his co-worker Chris are looking into doing that next summer. I would drive them to the top early in the morning, and let them cycle back to St. Jerome. Meanwhile, I would park in St. Jerome and ride the distance that interests me (probably trying the southern route this time for variety) and hang out and wait for them. Not much different from this year's experience. I rode with them about 9 miles, then stopped in Prevost. Prevost was the first of many stops along the way that turned an old rail station into a rest stop for users of the trail. They have bathrooms, wifi, and a coffee pot. All the comforts of home.

After they left me, I went for a two mile round trip run as part of my duathlon training. After cycling, I felt as if I was going at a snail's pace. On the other hand, I find it more enjoyable to study scenes like this when I'm not whizzing by them on a bicycle.

Prevost was also my lunch stop. I picked up a pita from the mini-golf/restaurant on the road behind the Prevost rail station. My only challenge was getting an iced tea. I've learned, and accepted, that unsweetened iced teas do not exist in most places in Canada, instead I make a "Canadian iced tea," -- take a cup of hot tea and pour over a tall glass with ice cubes in it. It works beautifully for me. They were out of ice, so after lunch I went to the nearby Subway and made my iced tea (yes, even Subway does not have unsweetened iced teas). I happily sat at the Prevost train station reading "The Gates of Evangeline", and people watching while I waited for Don and Chris to return while they rode another few hours, turning at the 40 kilometer mark (25 miles). They sent me updates. 
They passed lakes, streams, lots of trees that will look amazing during fall foliage. They also passed a balanced rock garden (also known as cairns). As you can tell by my writing, it is hard for me to write about what I did not see and experience.

By the time they reached me, I only had 40 pages to go in my book. Argh. I put the book down and joined their riding.

The trip back we returned through the tunnel with graffiti (similar to the one in Gatineau) and a waterfall.

Along the path are signs with directions (in French, of course). This one is telling pedestrians to walk on the left, while cyclists ride on the right and dodge pedestrians walking on the left.

Back at our starting point in Saint-Jerome we went under the fancy arch. I popped into the "Veille-Gare," literally the old train station and saw a neat exhibit (completely in French) about the town of St. Jerome. My favorite part of that exhibit wer the old cameras, some of which I remember using in high school and college. It has a way of making us feel old.

Biking in Gatineau and Ottawa

Now that I'm turning into a cyclist, albeit a slow one on a very girly bicycle, I seek ways to get out and ride. Friends told us about the awesome bike trails in Ottawa, so we brought our bicycles to Canada with the intention of going on a couple of long bike rides. 

Gatineau and Ottawa was the first ride.

Our first mistake was picking up a bike map. After our experience walking around Celebration, Florida for hours in the sun without a map, we thought this was a good idea. What I didn't realize, though, was the map we picked up from the visitor's center across the street from the Canadian Museum of History was a bike map for Gatineau only. It did not include the many kilometers of trails on the other side of the Ottawa River.

After stopping by Parliament to see the Changing of the Guard, we crossed the Ottawa River again (it was daylight, but I really like this picture) and cycled on the Gatineau side. The Gatineau side is quieter than the Ottawa side, it is also a little hillier and lends itself to mountain biking (I have a hybrid, so I was happy). Gatineau Park alone has 32.5 kilometers (20 miles) of trails, then there are more trails if you want to ride further. Some of the trails hugged the Ottawa River, there were places with public art on display (including this oddly amazing sculpture of plastic water bottles -- glad to see them getting some life after being tossed away, but would still rather they did not exist in the first place).

I liked riding through the tunnel with graffiti.

About 10 miles into our ride we decided to cross the Ottawa River again into Ottawa. They have the Big Loop traversing 35-40 kilometers (21-23 miles) along the Rideau Canal. Canals are flat. They were designed that way so the horses carrying cargo could do so more easily. Flat surfaces are nice for biking.

Crossing into Ottawa you pass a counter. This counter keeps track of how many bicycles use the Portage Bridge. This bridge, and the Alexandra Bridge (pictured earlier in this post), are the most pedestrian and bike-friendly bridges I have ever been on. There are lanes for cars, separate lanes for pedestrians, and a third set of lanes for cyclists. 

There were several types of bike lanes in Ottawa. Some were lines on a road with cars very nearby, but there were many others where the bikes were completely segregated from the cars, either by grass or a concrete median. Even someone as phobic as I am about riding in traffic could navigate the area.

There were also maps every few kilometers, which helped us to regain our bearings. 

It was also very scenic. The path passed many historic sites. Ottawa is the most photogenic city I have been to in a long time. The only "ugly" building we passed was the American Embassy. Many of the other buildings looked like something out of a European city, but within driving distance.

Within the day of our trip to Ottawa, Don said he could picture us living there. Ah, if only it was that easy to relocate to a new country. If only the weather was as perfect year-round as it was that day. If only ... well, it is nice to dream.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Canadian Museum of History -- Gatineau, QC

We dropped Ashley off at Upper Canada Village for a week of living like an 1860s girl, just like we did over the past two summers. This time, though, we added a twist -- we drove north-ish to Ottawa to see the capital of Canada.

Until the moment I booked a room in a B&B on that morning, I truly did not think this was going to happen. The B&B was charming. It was perfectly situated next to the two things we planned to do in Ottawa -- go to the Canadian Museum of History and ride the bike trails <-- a link I wish we had downloaded before leaving New Jersey.

I asked the owner of the B&B how to get to the Canadian Museum of History, she said walk down the street. Could it really be that easy? She took us out front and pointed to a giant dome two blocks away. Yup, it could be that easy.

We walked to the Canadian Museum of History to see the IMAX showing of Cirque du Soleil's Journey of Man. For whatever reason I was under the impression it was going to be about the history of Cirque du Soleil. No, it was by Cirque du Soleil. Instead it was about a boy growing up, then returning to his youthful imagination. We saw it in English, but would have been able to follow the plot in French. At least we enjoyed it.

The challenge came after the movie. Gatineau, like Trenton, rolls up its sidewalks after the workers go home. The only place we found for dinner in the immediate area was a Thai restaurant. Fortunately we both like Thai food (well, Don does now, it took a few attempts to find something on a Thai menu that did not involve curry). Unfortunately for me, I underestimated just how spicy dinner would be. I must have bitten in to a jalapeno pepper just as I was finishing dinner. The waitress had to keep refilling my water glass as smoke felt like it was coming out of my ears!
From dinner we crossed the bridge over into Ottawa. 

After biking for several hours in Gatineau and Ottawa we ended our visit by touring the museum. The museum has some permanent exhibits, such as one on the 1867 Rebellion and Confederation. Thought this was timely since Ashley was living the life of an 1866 girl at Upper Canada Village. Again, another possible entry in the series "Who Wore it Better?" 

This is the part of the trip where we learned something about Canadian history. Unlike the American Revolution, the Canadians met civilly with Great Britain before coming to the conclusion they would become their own country on July 1, 1867. Hardly any bloodshed. Of course, it took until the 1980s before they were fully independent. There were two basic things happening at this time: 1) the US was wrapping up the Civil War and was seen as the strongest army in the world, some thought they had their eyes set on Canada next. And 2) Canada was becoming too expensive for Great Britain to support, they definitely could not support them in a war against the United States. 
Much of the museum focused on First Nation history. We've been to other museums that have explained this time in history, including Site Traditionnel Huron, so we did not give it our full attention. I did like the part of the exhibit talking about their lives today, including the first person to make a professional hockey team. That sounded so Canadian to me.

There were also some temporary exhibits, such as this one about Terry Fox -- a 19-year old who lost his leg to bone cancer and decided to fight back by running across Canada in 1980 wearing a prosthetic leg. I'd heard the name, and as a runner I was curious to see how he did this. I followed his journey throughout the exhibit, and even saw a video clip of him running. I was nearly in tears as he neared the end of his excursion and his life. Surely, there must be more as a healthy person I can do with my life?

The children's museum looked like someplace we would have spent hours had we been with Ashley, and had Ashley been a bit younger. Walking through it as a childless adult, I felt a bit creepy. I think my inner child really wanted to be released.

On the way out of town we stopped at the Farmteam Cookhouse for dinner. The building, and it's name, caught our attention on the way into Ottawa. I have no idea what they are trying to say in this sign (and yes, it is in English), but I can say we enjoyed our dinner. I had a delicious salmon. Don had a beer in a jug, plus a nice dinner (I don't remember what he ate).

The decor was masculine, but still felt homey. It made us wish for a similar type of place closer to home.

Canadian Parliament - Ottawa

Before leaving for Ottawa I did the most basic of research and came up with a very short list of things to do: visit the Canadian Museum of History (which everyone raves about, but they also keep calling by different names yet describing the same exhibits), see the changing of the guard, and ride our bikes around Ottawa and Gatineau.

We arrived in Gatineau early Sunday night. This is when we learned our first lesson of the trip about Canada -- that the Ottawa river separates the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Though Gatineau and Ottawa are on opposite sides of the river, it feels like one city, but is actually two different cities in two different provinces and (seemingly) speaking two different languages. I'm still a bit confused about those thoughts.

After burning my tongue off at a Thai restaurant across the street from the museum (after seeing the IMAX movie), we crossed the bridge into Ottawa. It was one of those perfect summer nights -- ideal for walking around a city. In general, Ottawa felt like a safe place to walk around. Yes, there were the usual homeless people who one associates with a capitol city, but there were plenty of other tourists walking around. By sheer chance we stumbled upon a Light and Sound show on Parliament. This year's show is called Northern Lights, which tells the history of Canada in both French and in English. From where we were standing, though, it seemed both sides were speaking the same language as the adults in Charlie Brown episodes.

Judging by the size of the crowds, we were probably the only people in the area to not know about this. The show lasts a solid half an hour. People are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and make a night out of it.

Here is a sampling from the show:

Famous people in Canadian history. They looked like sculptures coming off of the building.
This image is not doing it justice. These flags truly looked 3-D. To the extent we wondered if they had dozens of people inside pushing the flags out of the windows at the same moment.
The stained glass look made us think of It's a Small World at Disneyland. Yes, we need to go back.
The Steampunk look make us think of Ashley.
Closing image -- O Canada!

The next morning we rode our bikes around Ottawa. My intention was to catch the changing of the guards. I could have sworn that was also supposed to take place in front of Parliament, but following the sounds of a bagpipe brought us to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (I think). There were guards and they were changing, though not many people were around to watch it.

Fortunately someone pointed us in the right direction. I had the wrong time, but the right place. We took a few pictures and watched them march away. This ceremony also seemed to last 30 minutes. I thought of Ashley who saw the Changing of the Guard in front of Buckingham Palace a few weeks earlier. A thought for a new post would be along the lines of: Who Wore it Better? Comparing her experiences in Europe with our parallel experiences on this side of the Atlantic. Perhaps once I catch up on blogging about Canada and some scrapbooking.

A few pictures of the Changing of the Guard:

Who knew you could have so much fun hanging outside a building you never get a chance to enter.