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As I explained in my previous post, back in 2002 I fell in love with Canada and with the cottage experience. This summer I was able to return to where it all began: Wawanaisa Resort on Georgian Bay. Twelve years on, I was curious to see what — if anything — had changed there and whether this trip could measure up to those amazing memories of my first Canadian vacation.

I was pleased to discover that the resort was much as I remembered it. The Wiltman family, originally from Germany, is still running the resort and Peter and Dorte are just as kind and hospitable as ever. It was fun to catch up after so long.

This time around we stayed in Owl Cottage, one of several 2-bedroom cottages available at the resort. We really appreciated the baseboard heat (even though it was August, the nights were quite chilly) along with the ample cupboard space and big fridge-freezer. As well as the huge amount of food we took with us, I also had way too much fun shopping at Sobey’s in Parry Sound (we don’t have one in Sudbury) and took even more food back to the cottage. Note to Jamie Oliver fans: he–or at least his product range–is available in Parry Sound!

Owl Cottage

Owl Cottage

Peter now helpfully sends out a cottage inventory to renters, so you can easily see which essentials you need to pack. In addition to the items provided in the kitchen, we brought our small grill so I could easily cook my veggie burgers while the guys were barbecuing.

Supper on the deck

Supper on the deck

Wireless internet is now available at the park office if you  feel the need to connect to the outside world. And thanks to some creative cell phone “tethering,” it was also available in Owl Cottage during our stay. I’m not too sure what happened to the TV service though. The only time I switched it on, there were 3 channels all showing exactly the same thing: an England vs. Germany football match! We figured that Peter must have arranged this specially :-)

You can now pay for a boat ahead of time as part of a cottage/boat package, which was what we did. Sadly we didn’t manage to take advantage of it as we were busy doing other things on the one day of really reliable good weather. But the package is a good option for the many families who go there to fish and take their boat out very day.

Evening stroll on the dock

Evening stroll on the dock

We enjoyed some strenuous hiking during the holiday and must have hiked every trail at Killbear Park. We’ve camped there in the intervening years between cottage visits and also experienced a not-so-memorable winter trip which involved lots too much wading in very deep snow. The little convenience store close to the park where I found my spring roll supper is sadly no longer there, but there’s still an assortment of businesses in operation along the road leading to the park. One of my favourites is the Bread and Butter Cafe offering all day breakfast and cold beer. Perhaps not at the same time though…

And what about Parry Sound? We’ve been regular visitors over the years and with the gradual four-laning of Highway 69, it’s now an even quicker option for a summer day trip from Sudbury. Thankfully the town hasn’t changed too much, although the new construction on Bowes Street with all the usual suspects like Walmart and Home Depot coming in seems to have badly affected other businesses. The mall at the other end of town, which used to be a hub of activity, now seems to be almost completely empty.

There used to be plentiful free parking at the waterfront, but options are much more limited now. A huge area has been designated for the use of Island Queen customers only, so everyone else has to squash in where they can. Not a good first impression for tourists. That said, the waterfront is still incredibly beautiful. I love the scenic walk along the fitness trail to the town beach.

Our old lunchtime haunt, the Bay Street Café, is still there, but facing competition from an unattractive Boston Pizza just along the road. A better addition to the waterfront is Bistro on the Bay. I’ve not yet eaten there, but based on its many positive reviews, it’s definitely on the list. And while on the topic of restaurants, I can also recommend Lill’s place on Seguin Street, great for unpretentious home-cooked food and obviously a popular spot for locals as it’s been in business for decades.

Our week at Wawanaisa was so relaxing and just the sort of escape I was hoping for. It definitely proved to be a worthy successor to our previous visit. I hope to be back there someday.

Peace & tranquility

Peace & tranquility

Lake view

Lake view

This summer, my brother-in-law visited from England. During his last stay we took him tent camping at Lake Superior, so this time we thought we’d give him the “luxury camping” experience: a cottage. Planning our cottage trip brought back memories of my first ever holiday in Canada.

It was September 2002 and my first visit here. My husband had stayed at Killbear Park several years before and liked the idea of returning to this area, so we decided to search for accommodation close to the park.  Back then, not so many tourist businesses had their own web sites, but we were lucky enough to find information on a place called Wawanaisa Resort. A small, family-run cottage resort on Georgian Bay, just outside Parry Sound, it sounded perfect for the sort the vacation we were planning.

Crow Cottage at Wawanaisa Resort

Crow Cottage at Wawanaisa Resort



The weather for those two weeks was just beautiful  – warm, sunny days in the low 20s. Canadians thought we were crazy to swim in those temperatures, but for us, more used to grey, damp British weather, this was perfect.

It was also perfect weather for getting on the water as well as in it. One of the highlights of the trip was taking a motor boat out to Franklin Island –I still have the map of the route, all shriveled up from water damage. The idea of using sun block somehow completely passed us by that day, so we finished our little expedition in triumphant mood, but bright red and very sore.

We also took in some of Parry Sound’s more well known tourist attractions. I enjoyed the leisurely tour of Georgian Bay on Parry Sound’s “big boat” – the Island Queen. I was amazed to see so many tiny trees clinging precariously to the rocks and even more amazed to see that some people had built little cottages on them. The Parry Sound Museum offered an interesting insight into just how difficult life was for the early pioneers, sold on a promise of fertile farmland, only to encounter a very different, harsh landscape.

Parry Sound Museum: Who's stealing the pie?

Parry Sound Museum: Who’s stealing the pie?

In fact, we made many trips into Parry Sound. We were so badly organised (this always seems to be a theme of our camping/cottage trips) and had to head there almost every day for yet more provisions. We became regular lunchtime customers at the Bay Street Café, right on the waterfront–a beautiful spot.

Meal of the holiday was stopping off for fish and chips along the road to Killbear Park and getting a surprise veggie special thrown into the deal. The store owner apologised for not having any veggie options–he didn’t get much call for them he said–but he did manage to produce some spring rolls direct from his home freezer. So I hope I didn’t steal his supper that night! We picniced on the rocks at Killbear and watched the indescribably beautiful sunset.

Sunset at Killbear Park

Sunset at Killbear Park

We certainly put plenty of kilometres on our hired mini-van during that trip. Instead of the planned visit to Algonquin Park, we changed course at the suggestion of Peter, the resort’s owner, and headed north to Killarney Park: definitely good advice. This also led us to explore Sudbury and North Bay–quite the North-Eastern Ontario tour.

We also made many trips into Parry Sound. We were so badly organized (this always seems to be a theme of our camping/cottage trips) and had to head there almost every day for yet more provisions. We became regular lunchtime customers at the Bay Street Café, right on the waterfront–a beautiful spot.

Beautiful Killarney Park

Beautiful Killarney Park

I completely fell in love with Canada and the whole cottage experience during my visit and cried when we had to go back to England. Twelve years later, now a Canadian citizen, I was lucky enough to re-visit the same resort this summer. Did the magic still exist? Wait for part 2 to find out!

 

 

 

 

In early October, my husband needed to make a stop in Waterloo to collect some Corvette parts. Rather than going there and back in a day (Sudbury to Waterloo is about four hours) we decided to make a weekend of it by staying overnight in Guelph. Although I’d visited the Guelph/Waterloo area before, I’d never had time to do any hiking there and was keen to try out some of the local trails as well as sampling the local restaurants.

After collecting the parts, we still had a whole Saturday afternoon ahead of us, so I decided we should head to the Elora Gorge conservation area, promoted in the tourist leaflets as one of the most scenic spots in Southern Ontario.

Elora Gorge Conservation Area

Elora Gorge Conservation Area

Access is regulated with barriers and ticket kiosks and costs $5.75 for the day for adults and $3.00 for under-15s . The trail network is not very extensive–just 3km in total–with lots of fences and warnings to keep away from the cliff edge. It was certainly very busy on the trails with a mix of locals and enthusiastic tourists photographing everything in sight, even the graffiti! If you’re not into hiking, many other activities are available such as camping, tubing, fishing, and a splashpad.

 On the menu for Saturday night was the Fat Duck Bistro in Guelph, a British-style “gastro pub.” Previously I’ve been to the Shakespeare Arms (within reasonable walking distance from the Best Western). They both have similar menus with hearty comfort food such as savoury pies and curries–the type of dishes you don’t see too often on a typical “Canadian” restaurant menu. In keeping with the British spirit, I enjoyed some Strongbow cider, made in my home county of Herefordshire.

For anyone thinking of moving to Guelph, our cab driver was very enthusiastic about the area, citing it as one of the safest places to live in Canada and telling us that they  typically don’t have much snow before January. She advised avoiding the downtown at weekends when the university students are around—which is probably good advice for anywhere with a sizeable student population.

We started Sunday with a driving tour on country roads – through Fergus and Arthur, then east to Erin and Mono Cliffs. The Hills of Headwaters area, as it’s branded, has beautiful scenery with rolling hills and rivers; it’s not hard to understand why so many Torontonians buy second homes in this area. If you want to check out some huge country mansions, just take a drive through the Caledon area.

Mono Cliffs Park

Mono Cliffs Park

Mono Cliffs Park was more my sort of hiking than Elora Gorge–longer trails and less crowds, although a popular spot for dog walkers and families enjoying the warm weather and fall colours. The somewhat optimistically-described “lakes” were more like pools it has to be said, but it’s a very pretty park and one I’d like to return to. Also, you’re not forced to pay for a whole day if you’re only staying a few hours.

We took a scenic route home, stopping off at an Asian restaurant in Alliston near Barrie: Spring Basil. There was a huge menu. After spending a while trying to decipher which dishes were vegetarian, I turned the page to find two whole pages worth of veggie fare! I also got to try bubble tea–a first for me. And my husband–not usually a tea fan–enjoyed it too.

 

ly tofu! Dinner at "Spring Basil"

Yes–it’s really tofu! Dinner at “Spring Basil”

The colours here in Northern Ontario are now categorised as “past peak,” but there are still opportunities further south to view some amazing fall colours. Checkout the Ontario Parks Fall Colour Report or the Fall Colour Progression Report for more information.

 

One of my 2011 highlights was a trip to the Niagara Corvette Club car show held annually in July at the Reif Estates Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake. After the previous year’s excitement of a day on a race track day at Dunnville, I wasn’t sure that this trip would quite measure up to that; but I was very happy to be proved wrong.

First of all, I have to put in a big plug for our hotel, the Four Points Sheraton in Thorold. My husband and I inadvertently found ourselves staying in the rather luxurious “Burgoyne” suite, due to a possible Internet booking mix-up (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it). How much are we paying for this room???” It was definitely a lot of fun to live in such style for a few days, and overall I was very impressed by the hotel.

The hotel breakfast, however, proved to be quite a different story.  After being presented with an $80.00 bill for breakfast, which included a discount and a rubbery omelette, we thought it might be wise to venture further afield the following day. “The Early Bird” right on the Thorold/St. Catharine’s townline hit the spot, at half the price and with much better food.

As is inevitable, after polishing and waxing the car for hours, we’d had some rain on the journey to Niagara on the Friday. The water theme continued the next day at a very wet  Niagara Falls. Not unusual you might think – but as well as emerging soaking wet from the “Behind the Falls” tour, we later had to seek shelter in the welcome centre from a huge rain storm.

Car show

Car show at the Reif Estates Winery

Sunday morning was show time! The Niagara club does a fantastic job of organizing this event. On arriving at the winery – despite our somewhat late arrival after lots of car cleaning –  we were guided to our parking spot and made to feel very welcome. After a somewhat dismal start to the day weather-wise, it turned out to be hot and sunny – perfect for showing off all those beautiful cars.

The men in the group were very excited to see the range of Adam’s cleaning products on offer at the show, and we returned home with enough detail spray for the next decade, plus a big tub of Adam’s premium wax to try. Not to be outdone, the women spent a little money in the wine boutique – just a little… how many bottles was that again?…. Our survey shows that Corvette drivers are definitely red wine drinkers. The special Corvette red sold out during the show and the winery had to relabel more bottles.

We had time to take in the tour of the winery and enjoyed hearing about the history of the estate and the wine-making techniques. The Reif Winery is one of the oldest in the region (the first being Inniskillen) and it was interesting to see the eighty-year old wine barrels originally brought over from Germany, and still in use today. Everyone finished the tour in excellent spirits after enjoying the wine tasting session at the end!

Whether you’re entering your car in the show, or just spectating, I can’t recommend this show highly enough. Beautiful cars plus a gorgeous setting plus the chance to sample some wine definitely equals a good day out. I think this one might just become an annual pilgrimage!