Monday, August 29, 2016

Places to go and not knit

Last week got a little crazy with vacation-ish days thrown in between work ones, and I didn't have time to write any Hugs after Monday.  Sadly, I also didn't knit much! And yet: I was in the car, not driving, A LOT.

The Skywheel, at Niagara Falls

My poor neglected partially-knit socks... I will regret my laziness when the weather turns cold and my feet do, too, all because I didn't knit fast enough.  This week, we are at the cottage to close up, and there is so much to do (plus swimming) that I have a terrible feeling this will be the only new Hug till next Monday.  Just in case, I'm going to show you the best pictures of all the places I've been.  All except the pictures I took yesterday of some amazing forest mushrooms, tree bark and rocks - very pretty, but maybe a bit boring for you?  Let me know.

For now, let's start with this fun fact: the Warplane Museum in Hamilton has a plane in it called the Mary K!  I didn't ask anybody what the K. stood for.  I'm pretty sure it is Katherine and I didn't want to be disappointed.


When I stepped out of the hangar I saw the most beautiful cloud formations and of course, I had to take a picture of them.  But also, it was cool to have a truck in the picture with 'Rise Above' printed on the side.


That's always good advice, don't you think?

Later the same day, Pete wanted to walk down to Sugar Beach in Toronto with the gelato we'd just bought at the pizza place we recently discovered.  It's called G is For Gelato and it's at the corner of Jarvis and Adelaide, if you happen to be in the neighbourhood - the pizza is fantastic and I am pretty smitten with the gelato too.

I've always wanted to walk to Sugar Beach, which is basically a ton of sand dumped at a dock area and dotted with very expensive pink umbrellas, and I'm only disappointed that my first trip was at night so that I couldn't take a picture of the giant crane-bucket-grabby-thingy that was unloading sugar from a barge into the Redpath Sugar plant.  I would show you how my attempts came out but truly: they are bad.  The best I did was with this tree along the dock which has started to turn colour.  Red is traditional, but some of these leaves looked pink to me.


So appropriate.


Another day, we made our annual trip to the Niagara region.  This entails getting up insanely early on a weekday, ideally a slightly rainy and undesirable one, so that we get to Clifton Hill just before anything opens - thereby securing The Best Parking Space In Niagara Falls.  (it's a 2-hour, single-car spot, and we've never missed.)

From there, we head straight to the Skywheel to look at the view, Pete from a gondola, me from the ground.


I think the wheel is beautiful, don't you?


And it's right next door to a dinosaur mini-putt we skipped this time, but usually take the time to enjoy.

As you can see, there was some blue sky behind those clouds, and the day had cleared up by the time we got to Port Colborne, where we like to have a picnic and watch the boats coming through the locks.

This monster was huge.

Bulldozer, for scale

It was so long, it took several attempts for me to get all of it into one frame.  I think if you worked on this boat, you'd be exhausted walking just one lap of it, don't you?


The other thing I love to do in Port Colborne is shop in the thrift stores, because they usually have the best stuff ever.  Sadly there were no wool blankets to be had this year, but I did see a three-piece set of 1960s luggage in black cloth with red trim that looked as though it had never, ever been used.  So often when you visit a museum, it's impossible to imagine that the artifacts there were ever new, let alone what it might have looked like in a shop to its first buyer.  Cars can be restored, but luggage?  Not likely.  I could almost picture myself being right back in 1962, looking at that set.  (which I did not buy, because Restraint.)

After Port Colborne we usually wind back through Niagara on the Lake if we can, and this time Pete especially wanted to visit Queenston Heights too.  As a kid I lived in this general area and we used to go to Queenston Heights on Sundays for a picnic near the bandshell where a concert was playing, so I see it as a big, familiar, comforting park... but actually, it was a battlefield during the war of 1812, in which the local population plus English soldiers fought the Americans who'd come over from the other side of the Niagara River.  General Brock, on the English side, died there and a huge monument was erected in his memory.


You can climb up inside the monument to the base of Brock's feet, and Pete has, but I am a coward for heights (see Skywheel references above) so I just stand down on the ground and look at the poor guy holding up lightning rods for eternity.  I feel very attached to Brock, partly because he watched over my playground when I was small, but also because once, the parents of some friends of mine took me camping to Niagara Falls and into the wax museum I had always been forbidden to enter, where I saw the most horrific wax representation of Brock's actual death.

Queenston Heights is up on the escarpment that runs south of Lake Ontario, and Brock's monument is positioned so that he is looking out over the Niagara River:


It's such a beautiful view, even from my paltry-by-comparison height.  The two sides of the river are quite near, and official border crossings are accomplished via a pretty short bridge.  At the bottom of the Heights is a small community that was in 1812 a village whose inhabitants included the Secord family.  Apparently their house was within firing range of the cannons on the American side, which must have been quite stressful until American troops made it across and occupied the area and onward as far as the Warplane Museum in Hamilton and the cannons stopped.

Laura Secord's husband had fought in a battle and been injured - basically, when he didn't come home after the fight she went looking for him and got him home with two musket balls in his body that they never did get out, but he managed all right with them until his death a couple of decades later.  He was still in bed and recovering when a couple of American soldiers noticed the smoke from her chimney and stopped by to ask for a meal.  While they ate, they discussed the plan for an imminent invasion, and after they'd gone Laura, who heard everything of course, went upstairs to talk it over with her husband.  In the morning, she told her oldest daughter to watch the other children while she went to check on her brother in law, who was ill, and then she walked some distance to his house hoping he would be able to carry the news of the invasion the rest of the way to the English soldiers near the aforementioned Warplane Museum.

Unfortunately, when Laura arrived, she found her brother in law was still very sick, and couldn't do it, so she had to.  She ended up walking 20 miles, on the hottest day of summer, in all the gear women had to wear in the early 1800s, through terrain that was pretty consistently like this:


Plus bugs, I would imagine.  In the end she got where she needed to go and thanks to her warning the invasion failed, but she was turned down for official recognition of her heroism several times owing to the fact that she was a woman and women couldn't even vote at that point.  She persisted though, and she was finally recognized a few years before her death at the age of 93.

After that, a really, really good chocolate company adopted her name, but that's another story.  The point is: women are awesome.  And isn't it bizarre to think that Americans and Canadians ever fought over our border?

Also, the staff at the Laura Secord museum have a spinning wheel, and I saw a guy there plying the most gorgeous silk merino blend in an emerald green that I can guarantee you was not period-correct.  (our tour guide said she is finding the learning curve a challenge, and another staffer said that after some tries with a drop spindle she is sticking strictly to needlepoint.)

Today, Queenston Heights looks like this:


I swear, Niagara Parks does the most fabulous job of keeping the entire area looking gorgeous. There are so many historic sights over a huge area here - all the places where battles were fought or forts were built - and the gardeners and landscapers are on top of it all.

Now that we are at the cottage looking at much wilder greenery, I just feel lucky to live in a place where I am spoiled for choice when it comes to being outside.

Hope you are having some good times while I am valiantly packing up our summer getaway, sigh... I'll see you again as soon as I can!