Archives: travels

pittsburgh pittstop + on to DC

In mid-March, when winter was still kicking it big, we decided to go on a family road trip to Washington DC!

We had little to no expectations about the success of our travels (it being an 8 hour car drive to DC and having an active toddler that doesn’t normally like to sit still). We went for it anyway, opting for a overnight midway-stop in Pittsburgh.

I love Pittsburgh! But unfortunately for this particular visit, the exploring and wanderings were kept to a minimum. We were really only there to break our journey and to give Omi some romping time. Despite the short visit we did manage to fit in a quick early morning breakfast meet-up with some old friends before getting back into the car for the rest of the journey to DC.

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We’ve most definitely got a runner on our hands! This trip mostly consisted of chasing after Omi.

pittsburgh doors

Pittsburgh has some great doors, buildings, bars, diners, dives and just all round an amazing vibe. Wish we could’ve stayed longer.

We made it to DC unscathed and were rewarded with budding tulips, crocuses and warm spring weather. All the while we’d heard that Southern Ontario was being hit by a crazy mid-March blizzard!

The visit was a mix of relaxing and visiting with family, sharing good meals together and the occasional day trip out for some sightseeing.

Happy to be somewhere without snow, we stripped ourselves of winter coats and picked a warm grey spring day to check out DC proper.

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With coffees in hand we wandered the museum arcade making our way in and out of the various Smithsonians and stopping for an extended session of merry-go-round admiring and pebble throwing.

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All the museums in DC are free! So it was perfect for our noncommittal walk-throughs that were just long enough to keep a toddler entertained. Since it wasn’t tourist season the museums weren’t too busy, which allowed for quick entrance and hassle-free easy manoeuvring around on the inside. Just a week or two later and it would’ve been packed for DC’s infamous cherry blossom viewing.

To coincide with an escape from a spring rainfall we spent a longer time checking out the contemporary art collection at the Hirshhorn. Once the rain cleared I spent an even longer time outside with Omi admiring the circular architecture of the museum.

Midcentury modern architect Gordon Bunshaft, who designed one of my favourite art galleries -The Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo, also designed the Hershhorn.

Hirshorn Museum

Travelling with a little one does have its challenges but overall I’m happy that we keep trying it out. So long as our expectations of what we do when travelling continue to adjust and evolve with Omi then I hope to continue to squeeze in as much exploring and as many mini-trips as we can!

 

the last leg

The last leg of our Euro travels was definitely the most challenging. In a one week period we would travel from Sussex to London, then by train to Zurich via Paris and then another train on to Frankfurt before getting on a nine hour flight back home. Mixed into all this was some serious teething, learning to walk, stroller rejection and a family epidemic of sickness.

Through it all we still managed to get in some art viewing at the Tate Modern as well as at the Museum of Modern Art in Zurich. We just did a lot of carrying Omi in our arms and taking long breaks by fountains, sandboxes, open squares and parks.

Dan Flavin at the Tate Modern in London

Omi and I in front of Cy Twombly's painting

A friend of mine that lives in Zurich lent us her flat for the four nights we were there. She has a beautiful loft that had some of the most amazing windows from which you could see the Swiss mountains, Zurich rooftops and the forest. The windows could swivel to be open at some crazy angels, so at night time you could have views of the moon and stars and catch some wonderful breezes. Nights in the apartment were a relief from the heat of the day since during our stay there was a European wide heatwave. The fifth floor flat of my friend’s would get upwards to 35 degrees!

during one of Omi's early morning wake ups I spotted the moon over the mountains

Zurich proved to be a rather expensive city. But one thing that I did love about it is that it is situated perfectly on an extremely beautiful and clean lake. Just a short tram ride away we got down to the lake on our first day and spent the entire afternoon and evening taking dips in the various swimming areas, drinking beers and eating some great food.

By this part of our journey we’d long given up hope of sitting in coffee shops or restaurants with Omi. He just wanted to walk around and get into all sorts of mischief. I popped into an exquisite bakery called Péclard and picked up the most delicious savoury ham and cheese croissant a sweet treat and some coffees that we ate while taking turns entertaining Omi in a nearby square.

All things said and done, despite all its challenges, I am so happy that we did it!

After a couple weeks now of being in Hamilton again I finally feel like we’re back in the swing of things. I still have a few more weeks to enjoy what’s left of the summer before my maternity leave ends and I’m back to work.

seaside crabbing

While we were still visiting our friend’s place in Petworth, England, we were able to go on some wonderful day trips.

The beauty of this leg of the vacation, before things got all crazy on us, was that it made traveling with a baby seem quite flawlessly easy: lay low in the mornings, then a drive to a kid friendly yet extremely picturesque destination to more or less just relax in the afternoons. It was all so civilized!

On this particular trip we drove out to Bosham, which is a lovely little town by the seaside.

The tide in the town’s bay ebbs and flows dangerously close to all the cottage houses. Some of the cottages even have tiny elevated pint sized doors so that when the tide rolls in they can still go out the door without having to worry about flooding their house.

Really one of our main purposes of trekking to Bosham was to get in a little seaside crabbing. My friend crafted up a crabbing contraption that consisted of some rope and netting as well as some cooked bacon as bait. Off a little dock a crew of young kids and parents were casting their crab catchers and pulling up these critters into crab buckets.

There was this dreamy tree that had some great shade that we flocked to. We set up a temporary home base here and took turns going out to crab and minding the little ones.

petworth

From Iceland we made our way to England to a small and picturesque town about an hour south of London called Petworth.

We arrived in Petworth on a road that wound through a darkened tunnel of carefully trimmed trees and hedges. In the dusk we could see the faint outline of a wall which extended quite a ways outlining the Lord of Petworth’s land. And yes his “Lordship”, as he is referred to, does still live in Petworth, in his Lordly house (aka Petworth House). I could so picture a horse and carriage clip-clopping along on the road to Petworth passing by vagrant travelling merchants and perhaps even stumbling across a small village of hobbits.

I could stand to be corrected, but from what I’ve gathered the cottages and homes in Petworth are roughly from the 16th and 17th century. Yeah! And the town is filled with crazy old (and expensive) antiques from those two centuries.

One of the only antique stores that I ventured into, mostly because it actually looked like I could afford to buy something here.

One of my favourite places in Petworth. The Hungry Guest and its up-the-road neighbour The Hungry Guest Cafe. The Hungry Guest, like most destinations in Petworth, was less than a 5 minute walk away from our friend’s place. So it was an easy go-to-place for our daily “fancy” coffee runs. This place was so poshly fabulous. It had a walk-in chilled cheese room, where you could sample and be schooled about your cheeses before purchasing. They also had about a million spreads, jellies, jams, and chutneys to go beautifully with all their really delicious and expensive cheese (we did indulge just once).

During our stay in Petworth we also did a lot of pubbing. This was mostly because we love beer and pubs, but also because despite Petworth’s small size there was still a generous spattering of pubs to visit.

Our first pub visit was a rather adventurous trek through some rolling English hills with kids and babies and the ridiculously and unsually hot English sun. It was well worth the hike as fish and chips and hand-pumped ales of the perfect and proper English temperature were soon to be consumed.

A countryside pub in Petworth.

The Petworth leg of our European travels was by far the most relaxing. It made traveling with a baby seem like a piece of cake. Our friend’s have kids too, with one being the same age as Omi, so we basically co-parented for the mornings spent at home and then during the afternoons we’d venture out together on some beautiful day trips to the seaside, to medieval castles and of course to have a proper English cream tea.

There was an unseasonably hot heat wave that was hitting most of Europe, so on some days when it was too hot to do much of anything, we’d spend our days in Petworth enjoying our friend’s English garden a la inflatable pool.

reykjavik

This summer we ambitiously decided to take a multi-stop European vacation with a ten month old in tow.

Our main intention of this particular trip was to meet up with some dear friends of ours, who live in a small town south of London (stay tuned for that post soon). However, Steve and I have both always really wanted to visit Iceland and learned it was actually a lot easier than we thought to make this all come true. We decided to do a quick three night stopover in Reykjavik before moving onward to England.

What did not work out well was that the night of our flight that crazy torrential rain storm hit, with Pearson Airport being at its epicentre. Luckily our flight didn’t get cancelled but the six hour delay made for a challenging start to our travels and not to mention our first time traveling with a baby on the verge of toddling.

Once we finally arrived in Iceland, with bloodshot and bleary eyes, we soaked in some of the volcanic landscapes during the ride from Keflavik to Reykjavik.

Iceland is such a beautiful place!

A short walk from the main street of Reykjavik you can see black volcanic rocky mountains blanketed with a skirt of rich greenery from just across the way.

We stayed in a furnished Air BnB apartment that was perfect: close to the centre of town, great for midday breaks for Omi (to get some stroller free romping time), and it was likely cheaper than staying at a hotel or guest house.

Steve and Omi at the door of our Reykjavik apartment

On a few occasions I noticed young kids out and about on their own. I liked it and secretly wished that every child could experience this type of autonomy.

For most of our holidays (pre-departure) I usually spend a long time researching areas to check out: restaurants, cafés, galleries and shops etc. But on this trip we spent so much time preparing to travel with a baby that I did zero research about any of the places we were visiting. Luckily we stumbled across a lovely blog called I Heart Rekjavik, which gave us a few good tips for some places to eat. I don’t remember if this was a recommendation from the blog, but in any case we wanted to check out a restaurant by the old harbour called Icelandic Fish and Chips.

First off I love fish and chips and I would basically eat them from any dirty old hole in the wall. Sometimes the dirtier the better -right? Well this particular restaurant was no dive. In fact, it was extra great because it used all organic and local ingredients (right down to the salt)! It somehow made me feel less guilty eating something typically so bad.

We ordered Tusk, which is a cod-like Icelandic fish; spelt battered and fried with oven baked potato wedges plus a tzatziki skyronnaise dip (made from skyr; a uniquely Icelandic virtually fat-free milk product that’s basically like a cheese or yogourt) -yes please!

The Icelandic summer was relatively cool but the daylight lasted 24 hours. The first night in Rekyjavik, even though I hadn’t slept in over a day, I struggled to fall asleep because of the glowing light from the windows. However, few of the windows I saw around town had dark shades. In fact a lot of windows had no shades at all or just a delicate covering like this super cute window below.

Because much of the Reykjavik is on a hill it made for some layered views of roof tops and buildings when peering in between little lane ways.

The main commercial street in Rekyjavik becomes a pedestrian street during the entire summer season! During the summer the bicycle gates swing shut closing the street to pedestrians only. Amazing! Hamilton could learn a thing or two from Rekyjavik (their main street is a one lane one-way).

There were some really beautiful shops with gorgeous shoes, clothes and design goods.

We didn’t venture into too many stores but one that we did pop into was a Dutch owned store called Tiger. I just have to say this ain’t no Giant Tiger. They sell stationary, kitchen wares, toys, craft materials, electronics and even makeup at lower-ish prices. It’s kinda like dollar store meets Muji mashed up with some Ikea.

Reykjavik was so cosmopolitan in that there were so many different kinds of international food and bars that it took a little hard searching to find a place that actually served a traditional Icelandic meal. We ended up going to a place called Café Loki.

Two slices of homemade rye bread with herring and egg and three different kinds of fish. Surprisingly delicious was their sweet rye bread ice-cream. This was our last and my favourite meal in Iceland.

One thing we did a lot of while in Reykjavik was drink a lot of coffee and every where we got it from was simply amazing. On our way back from Café Loki we discovered a coffee shop I would’ve probably visited every day that we were in Reykjavik had it not been the last place we went to before getting on the airport bus back to Keflavik.

pink coffee bean roaster

cafe complete with pink coffee bean roaster

Just outside the coffee shop was something that I observed all over Reykjavik; leave your baby in their stroller outside while you run in to shop. I never heard any babies crying and there were no creepy baby snatchers lurking in the corner waiting to pounce on temporarily abandoned prams.

It was a very short stay in Iceland. The only thing I regret is not having had an extra day or two to have rented a car and driven around the countryside. Maybe next time?

sugar bush

The last weekend of March we were in Kingston visiting some old friends. While there we decided to make the most of the early spring weather by heading out to a nearby conservation area for a maple syrup festival.

To the sugar bush!

The trees were tapped with the sap flowing. We noted that they had several different methods of tapping, some with metal pails, other trees with blue plastic buckets, and some were tapped atop a hill with a series of connecting tubes that ran towards the sugar shack down the hill below (definitely the most efficient).

maple syrup evaporator

There wasn’t any snow of the ground so we weren’t able to do the classic maple syrup on snow or ice. Of course there were pancakes and although we’d already had a delicious breakfast we could not forgo sampling at least one (or two)!

This pancake was so delictable and the maple syrup was so fresh!

I hadn’t been to the sugar bush since I was a little kid. I’m sure in the upcoming years we’ll be doing an annual maple syrup pilgrimage to Mountsberg (and the like) with the little one.

 

i’ll say it just this once…

baby-moon.

With only a month and a half left before our baby’s due date Steve and I decided to take some advice from our friends who have children, and go on a mini-vacation just the two of us (before we lose this privilege for what many claimed would be an eternity). It was also really just a great excuse to escape from the city for some real relaxation: no computers, no phones, just good food, pool side swims, afternoon snoozes and time to enjoy the fleeting moments of summer and life as just the two of us.

Not wanting to go too far we looked into a few inns around Niagara on the Lake but opted instead for something a little more out of the summer wine country tourist trap area and alas we came upon Langdon Hall in Cambridge, Ontario!

Taking only the country back-roads it took us just less than 45 minutes by car from downtown Hamilton to reach this little 100 something year old country estate and oasis.

The grounds of the inn were quite beautiful, and included tennis courts, croquet course, heated outdoor pool, vegetable garden, pond, 12km of wooded trails (for hiking or biking), plus a spa with free access to their sauna, hot tub, and steam room.

They had a gorgeous vegetable garden that Steve and I drooled over at length.  Purple plum tomatoes, bell peppers, purple kale, and pumpkins ripe on the vine already!

A little pool side reading that I had picked up from Mixed Media (thanks Dave!).

I frequently get told that I’m carrying small so as luck would have it I could still fit into this dress and I think I may have just made the cut for the Langdon Hall dinner dress code (dinner at Langdon Hall was a formal affair: no denim or shorts, and a suit jacket is recommended)!

The food was devine, delicate and ornately beautiful. We sampled some snow crab with edible flowers, raw elk with oyster (Steve sampled that), duck, beef, dessert or a choice of sampling from the cheese cart of exclusively gourmet Canadian cheeses, and then again more dessert.

A three course dinner came with our hotel stay plus a gorgeous country breakfast in the morning. If you so fancied you could get a seven course meal with wine pairings, as well as pairings of scotches, brandy or cognacs to go with your gourmet cheeses and dessert sampling platter.

I have to admit this was an extravagant visit and we will likely not indulge in something so exquisite again for a long time. I don’t think I would’ve been able to comfortably camp this summer so a fancy hotel was our ONLY alternative -right?  I am sure that we’ll make up for it for many years to come when our summers will be spent camping and exploring the far reaching corners and wilderness of Canada and the US -sounds pretty dreamy to me!

*Langdon Hall Country House & Spa, 1 Langdon Drive, Cambridge, Ontario, 519.740.2100

market pit stop to guelph

Typically on a Sunday, if heading to Guelph for a visit, we would’ve likely made a stop at the Aberfoyle Antique Market.  But having recently come to know of Mizener’s Antiques & Flea Market (while en route to a day trip to Christie Conservation Area earlier in the week) we thought it would be nice to check out another market that just so happens to be a short 10-15 minutes drive from Hamilton.

It is definitely a scaled down version of Aberfoyle with cheaper prices, fewer people, and a needed keen eye to find those vintage gems.  Mizener’s is the perfect kind of place for breezing through in and hour or two leaving ample time for visits to surrounding areas: local farms, Webster’s Falls, Christie Conservation Area, or wherever it is you’re heading to.

While at Mizener’s we stopped for a classic market bite to eat: peameal bacon on a bun, and fresh cut fries. AND we found a steal of a deal with a stall that was getting rid of its inventory of antiques -an already priced to go vintage 60′s dresser with 40% off.  We grabbed it for $25 dollars just barely fitting it into the car.

Here it is in its new home in our bedroom (the dresser I had before was from when I was a kid, it was definitely time for an upgrade).

We got to Guelph with time for a pit stop for ice-cream at the Boathouse Tea Room before heading to a backyard BBQ for our friend’s birthday.

I sometimes forget that when we go to Guelph to visit this crew of friends that the ratio of children tends to exceed the number adults.  At this particular event I believe that there were over twenty kids under the age of six! The backyard was perfectly suited for little ones, painting, dirt, shovels, a wheelbarrow -what more could a kid want?

When it was time to get the BBQ going the call went out for little hands to help in shucking the corn.  The kids were so awesome and enthusiastic to lend a hand.  SO adorable seeing nearly twenty little hands shucking away. That corn was ready to go in no time!  Oh sweet summer corn.  We feasted on tandori burgers, sausage, sweet corn, and a homemade blackforest cake! A perfect summer time feast -thanks so much for the BBQ Ben and Christina!!

lakeside park

If you’re looking for a nice strip of beach not too far away from the old hammer then head to the little oasis of Port Dalhousie.  Just outside of St. Catharines proper is this beauty of a lakeside park.  With its whispering silver poplar trees and long sandy banks perfect for wading you could spend a day lounging and picnicking.  We went before school was out, so the beach was quiet and calm.  People were busting out their picnics for dinner, and firing up their hibachis for hotdog roasting and bbq’d burgers.

I would definitely come back here for a day to enjoy the sun and sand.  There’s ice-cream shops, pubs and patios all before you hit the beach, as well as, an old school carousel from the early 1900′s that charges only 5 cents a ride!

Truth be known Lakeside Park and Port Dalhousie were not on my radar of places to visit.  Steve on the other hand, being a huge Rush fan, had secretly known about this park and had suggested we go.  According to Steve, Neil Peart drummer of Rush, had grown up in Port Dalhousie and had written the lyrics of song Lakeside Park specifically about the park in Port Dalhousie.

Midway hawkers calling
“Try your luck with me;”
Merry-go-round wheezing
The same old melody
A thousand ten cent wonders
Who could ask for more
A pocketful full of silver
The key to heaven’s door

Lakeside Park
Willows in the breeze
Lakeside Park
So many memories
Laughing rides
Midway lights
Shining stars on summer nights

Days of barefoot freedom
Racing with the waves
Nights of starlit secrets
Crackling driftwood flames
Drinking by the lighthouse
Smoking on the pier
Still we saw the magic
Was fading every year

Everyone would gather
On the twenty-fourth of May
Sitting in the sand
To watch the fireworks display.
Dancing fires on the beach,
Singing songs together…
Though it’s just a memory,
Some memories last forever.

A 1976 live performance of Lakeside Park by Rush.

day trippin’

On a recent hot and sunny weekday Steve and I decided to do a mini day trip to St. Catharines’ old downtown strip.  To be truthful I had not been in St. Catharines since I was a little kid and the only thing I remembered about the city were its 1970′s suburbs and that huge bridge that crosses over the Welland Canal that makes you feel like you’re driving right up to the sky.  I’d never been to the old downtown St. Catharines and I was pretty excited to take a looksy.

St. Catharines’ downtown is capital O-L-D (for a Souther Ontario city).  According to Wikipedia:

The area was originally known as a storehouse for goods at the crossing of an Iroquois trail over Twelve Mile Creek. Curving Indian trails formed the foundation of the downtown streets as they appear today. Among them remains the largest and most historically-significant of the city, St. Paul Street.

Unlike many planned North American cities whose downtown streets run in a straight grid-like line St. Paul Street curves and meanders along a little ridge mimicking the winding rivery creek that used to run behind it.  There’s no creek back there now, but there is a highway.  This is just my guess as the only indications that there was an old running river was from some old writing I noted on the side of current artsy occupants of Bang On hair salon‘s building that says that it used to be an old flour mill -presumably powered by the current of the river that used to flow behind St. Paul Street?

In any case, our first stop on our mini trip was the  Niagara Artists Centre, which I had been wanting to visit for a quite a while.  It is not by any means a monstrosity of a gallery but similar to the 1-2 room gallery space of  Hamilton Artist Inc.

Artist Jared Charzewski‘s exhibit Salvage Swell was installed in the back gallery.  It was awesome! His sculpture was made up of piles and piles of used clothes.

*Niagara Artists Centre, 354 St.Paul Street, St. Catharines 905.641.0331

A few doors down was vintage clothing store Out of the Past -I know, I know Hamilton has one too but this one is the numero-uno original and I loved it! The prices were so right, and there was such a great collection of items for both men and women.

*Out of the Past, 340 St. Paul Street, St. Catharines 905.288.6007

The next place we happened upon was a real treat.

The Write Book Shop is one of those bookstores that you can get lost in for hours and hours and still have a stock pile of rainy days banked to come back for further exploration. They had two floors plus several back rooms of books ranging form rare antiques to classics, children’s books, books on Ontario, history, crafting, cooking and sewing. You name it they have it.

*The Write Bookshop, 285 St. Paul Street, St. Catharines 905.684.8426

For lunch we stopped in at a vegan restaurant/bakery/café called Rise Above. I first heard about this place via the folks at Mjolk and it looked so good that we decided to check it out for ourselves. The lunch was great and so was the Bill Murray painting exhibit (Still Murray by Grant Redman) but my favourite part of this stop were the vegan donuts. Yeah, it IS possible -vegan donuts!  AND they were good.

You can read more about the creator of these vegan donuts -Kyle Paton here.

I would love for both Kyle (owner of Rise Above) and Bruce Worden (chef or Rise Above) to open up a fresh and contemporary place like this in downtown Hamilton. Can’t you just picture it in one of the storefronts of Treble Hall?

*Rise Above, 120 St. Paul Street, St. Catharines 289.362.2636

I was reading that similar to Hamilton downtown St. Catharines was rampant with one-way streets. In effort to rejuvenate the core they converted their one-ways to two-ways and low and behold look at the new businesses opening up. I’ve even heard rumours of the rerouting of the Niagara Wine Route so that it will eventually pass through St. Catharines’ downtown. Gotta love good city planning and investment in the downtown core!

Overall it was a great little day trip to St. Catharines. I think that it has something going on, and besides I’m always up for a new place to explore.

 

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