Saturday, June 21, 2014

COBOURG AND PORT HOPE, ONTARIO

We spent our last two days in the small lakeshore towns of Cobourg and Port Hope before heading to our uncle's in Toronto.

We could not find a place to stay the two nights in either place d/t graduations and weddings bringing in many guests from out-of-town. So we had to stay one night in each. Both Cobourg and Port Hope were settled by United Empire Loyalists and are delightful, present-day communities. They have some lovely old homes behind their main streets and large mature trees enhance the ambience.

Cobourg has a huge marina and a fair-sized beach. The marina is overlooked by modern condos with spectacular views, and the Coastguard has a search and rescue facility on the outer edge of the marina closer to the lake.

Victoria Hall (Wikipedia)
Victoria Hall is a vast building in the centre of Cobourg that now houses the town hall, art gallery, and a concert hall. It is grandiose for such a small town, but much touted. It was opened in 1860 by the future Edward VII. At the beginning of the 20th century, wealthy Americans built equally grandiose homes here, one of which resembles the White House and can be seen on the main road into town.

It's worth walking the downtown streets that are full of interesting small shops. The George Inn and the boardwalk to the west of the marina are also worth spending some time.

Photo: www.openbookontario.com
Port Hope, seven kilometres west of Cobourg, is a smaller town and most attractive. Originally a First Nations settlement, the loyalists arrived in the late 1700s. Wikipedia states, "... downtown is celebrated now as the best-preserved 19th century streetscape in Ontario," and so it is. Charming, well-kept, and filled with small stores and friendly cafés, etc. It's lovely.

There are also some good restos here but, as we'd eaten a very late and superb lunch at Marka's in Cobourg, we didn't try one. Instead we had a snack in our room at a B&B that was also a British Tea Shoppe. Summerhill B&B was a most hospitable place to stay, albeit crammed with Victoriana and over-the-top decor, especially in the tea room. However, breakfast was the best the British proprietor could possibly provide. Bangers, eggs and bacon, baked beans, toast, and grilled tomatoes.


After consuming this and before we drove to Toronto, we nipped down to the waterfront. Running down the river in Port Hope is a lovely park and town hall. The little harbour was lined with early fisherman with their rods and small boats. We turned left at the river mouth and found a small beach. The lake was calm and I could see the small light at the end of the mole.

Highway 401 was 12 lanes into Toronto, which was mildly terrifying. Mrs. GPS got me through without a hitch and we were welcomed by Uncle Andy with an exquisite four course lunch. 

We are going to the National Ballet tomorrow - Romeo and Juliet. Culture at last!!   Bliss!


IMAGES: © Photos by Pharos 2014, except where noted. All rights reserved

Also my thanks to Tourism Ontario and Ontario Waterway Cruises for making my adventures possible. Much appreciated....

Friday, June 20, 2014

DAY FIVE-SIX IN PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY




We had a quiet morning on my husband's last day in Prince Edward County. The night before had been a wild evening with trees down in a town about five kms away and power outages everywhere. We were lucky not to be affected by it all.

The day dawned overcast and we stayed in our hotel for most of the morning and then headed out to where we had had lunch the day before at Lake on the Mountain. We wanted to try the recently opened Miller House as they serve charcuterie and cheese platters from local producers.  As we arrived the sun broke through and we sat on the patio overlooking the Bay of Quinte.

The Miller House dates back to 1840 when the mill the miller worked for built him a house. The mill was 200 feet straight down the escarpment from the house and I've no idea how he got to and from work. I can only imagine he had to rappel down and climb up.

The menu was an impressive selection of platters influenced by France, Italy, Spain and Quebec. But we chose to have the local special. It turned out to be the best meal we've had since our adventures began at the end of May.

On our platter were heaping servings of local Genoan salami and Hunter sausage, a pile of Black River aged sharp cheddar, along with a home made baguette. But the surprise was their house bacon marmalade and stone-ground mustard. I've never tasted better anywhere. Sad to say, we couldn't buy any, they'd sold out....


..o0o..

I enjoyed a solo day in Picton for my last day here before I had to drive to Belleville to meet my hubby when he returned from Ottawa.













While I did the laundry at a laundromat, I also spent two hours at the Naval Marine Archive. I chose to do the latter as I didn't have a chance when I spoke there on Sunday, neither did I have the chance to talk to the executive director who is a character and has more knowledge at hand to find info than the National Archives in Ottawa. In the main area are a few displays including some artefacts related to Nelson and the submarine paintings celebrating the centenary this year. These are all stunning! Their library of books is at the back and they also offer books for sale.

But upstairs is where the real treasure lies hidden. This is the rare naval and marine book collection, and NMA has many volumes that are available nowhere else in Canada. One million dollars worth! I hungered to spend a day a two here, but had to leave.

After a quick lunch in an excellent local bistro, The Painted Peppercorn, I walked down both sides of the main street and enjoyed the cooling breezes at the marina before I headed to find some red barns to photograph and then drive into Belleville.

That's when the day fell apart. My husband was trapped in the closure of Highway 401 at Kingston. He sat in a car for three hours on the freeway and I sat in a hot car in Belleville for three hours at the rental car office. A semi had overturned and spilled tons of chicken feed over all westbound lanes!!

We didn't arrive in Cobourg until 8pm, weary and very thirsty. Luckily the Woodlawn Inn's kitchen was still open and we had a spectacular meal there. We also had a huge comfortable room and we fell into the big four-poster bed with relief. Original part of the mansion was built in the 1830s.


IMAGES: Photos by Pharos 2014
All rights reserved


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

DAY FOUR - PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY




Today dawned sunny and warm after last night's thunderstorm. We set out to explore Sandbanks Provincial Park on the south shore of Prince Edward County. Once again, we found it empty. The only life on the long Outlet Beach was a flock of gulls. The lake was glassy calm and the sand pockmarked from the deluge of rain a few hours ago.



We headed for West Point, down Lakeshore Road, and found a beautiful spot. Obviously it had once been lived on as we found the foundations of a house and cleared land to the lake's edge. All we could hear was bird song, though I must say PEC is filled with it wherever we've been.


This is a perfect picnic spot, but it wasn't lunch time yet, so we took many photos. Two loons were cavorting off shore, wild flowers were in bloom everywhere, and the rocky shoreline was intriguing.

We saved Dunes Beach for last. This is the largest collection of dunes on a fresh water lake in the world, and of course, is constantly evolving with currents and wind action. Again there was no one there but us. In July and August, we're told, there is not a parking spot or campsite to be had — one of the great advantages of travelling out of season.


I was having lunch with a fellow Dundurn author today at Lake on the Mountain Inn and we drove halfway across the County through farms and villages. We got there too early and took a farm lane for about four miles to spin out the time.

The lake is at the top of an escarpment that overlooks the mainland of Ontario. It looks like a crater lake, but isn't. Geologists believe the rock beneath fractured and collapsed in on itself creating the circular lake. It's very picturesque with the lake views on one side and the Bay of Quinte on the other. By the time our long lunch was over, the skies were grey and rain was beginning, so my pix are not worth posting.

Roger Litwiller, author of White Ensign Flying, and I talked naval history and writing, while my husband and Roger's wife, Rhonda, talked more generally. It was an excellent lunch, with good company. I'm so happy we managed to meet.


IMAGES: Photos by Pharos 2014
All rights reserved

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

DAY TWO TO THREE - PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY

Apologies for the hiatus, but I needed some downtime after posting daily on the cruises. Also I gave a presentation to the Naval Marine Archive in Picton, Prince Edward County — Celebrating Canadian Submariners — on Father's Day. This meant that I had to prepare in the morning, get set-up and my laptop talking to the projector, all of which seemed to occupy the whole day. I missed a very sunny day! Went to a small bistro called Agrarian in Bloomfield for an unremarkable, but pleasant dinner.



On Monday we changed hotels after I took a walk to Picton Bay. This is a long inlet from lake Ontario to the town of Picton filled with two yacht clubs and a marina.  Nearer the lake are sheltered anchorages. The wooded banks are home to large houses with fabulous views. The morning was taken up with a long drive out to Prince Edward Point that is a wildlife sanctuary. All we saw were some ubiquitous Canada geese hunkered down in the grass and not another living soul! It was a very quiet and pretty corner of the
island with an abandoned lighthouse. Retracing our steps took us onto a real country lane, which are all over the county. Grass growing in the middle and potholes. These, I think, were the original tracks between the farms ofthe early settlers and are still just wide enough for a horse-drawn cart. Today they are used by tractors.
Lunch was an adventure in frustration. After the long drive back to Wellington to the hotel/resto on the shores of Lake Ontario, we found that it was closed for major renos. We picked another resto but couldn't find it and ended up at the little marina's bar and grill called the Sandbank. Later we discovered it was the right place but had changed its name from the Duke of Wellington to the Harbour House, and then to Sandbank. Service was terrible; food was adequate; view was lovely....

As the sunshine had disappeared and the weather was threatening thunder storms we retreated to our new hotel and checked in at The Waring House. This is more of a compound than a simple hotel. The old original farmhouse has four rooms, a wonderful pub, and a big resto that overlooks a charming garden. Next door is their own craft brewery and a cooking school. There are also two new large lodges with rooms. However we are in "The House Next Door," another old building with twelve rooms. Our room looks out onto a pond with reeds, bird feeders, and a big bird house. Every room is furnished with antiques, the real thing, but the bed and bathroom is ultra-modern.
We enjoyed a superb, casual dinner in the pub and made it home just before a downpour of biblical proportions.


IMAGES: © Photos by Pharos 2014
All rights reserved



Sunday, June 15, 2014

DAY ONE – PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY




On our first full day in Prince Edward County,  we had lunch in a bistro in Wellington, a town at the south-west corner of the county. A lovely town to
explore. We found two artists' galleries and studios here and had charming visits with them. We also found a beach on Lake Ontario and a strong wind, a sheltered marina tucked away, and a gorgeous garden filled with hostas and a huge variety of irises.

The chimney at left is the pizza 
oven at Norman Hardie




After that we went wine tasting to the top two vineyards here. The first, Norman Hardie, was a huge disappointment. we had only six wines to choose from to taste here, although we know they have much more to offer. Their two Chards tasted of paraffin and I was told it was the terroir. Somehow I doubt it. However, the outside patio was hopping because the wood-fired oven makes the best thin-crust pizza for miles.

Our last stop was Huff Estates Winery in the centre of the county. This was like night and day in comparison. It's a beautiful sprawling site with a restaurant, an inn, and an art gallery, which was too avant garde for our taste. We didn't try the food as it was mid-afternoon, but it is recommended. The modern tasting room was delightful with well-informed staff. I loved the Chards and the rosés, and James enjoyed the pinot noir very much. Huff's has a French wine maker and the wine was all Burgundy-style.

We bought a case for shipping of six Pinots, three each of the South Bay oaked Chard, and three 2012 rosés. The S&H only cost $20 – the general manager was so surprised we bought so much, he gave us a discount. Obviously customers usually buy only a couple of bottles at a time. The new federal and provincial laws now allow us to ship wine across provincial boundaries. Sweet!

IMAGES: © Photos by Pharos 2014. All rights reserved



Saturday, June 14, 2014

TRANSITION DAY: CRUISE – PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY



We drove south from Peterborough after our cruise in sunshine to Picton in Prince Edward County on the shores of Lake Ontario. We decided to take the slower, country route and missed one turn. So we were a bit later arriving at the Claramount Inn than we had estimated.



Our room turned out to be a vast suite at the top of the 1906 inn, probably converted from the old servants' quarters. It's white with accents of blue. The view from our bedroom window is above. We have a sitting room with a desk and TV, a huge bedroom and king-sized bed with a walk-in dressing room, two delightful corners with tables and two chairs, and a bathroom the size of regular dining room, which has a towel dryer to dry things I need to wash.  After our tiny cabin on the ship, this was most welcome luxury. I slept well and long.



Claramount Inn and Spa
Claramount Inn and Spa 
(Photo credit: Detourist Guide)
The resto, named after the wife of the first owner of the property and house, is called Clara. It is considered one of the top five places to eat in the county. We ate dinner here on our first two nights and it did not disappoint. First evening I had a sea food pasta that had more prawns, scallops, and lobster than penne!! Awesome! Grounds are lovely – mature trees and grass down to the bay. We've heard that the present owners are going to improve them. I hope they are allowed to prune some of the larger trees and restore more of the view, which was expansive. The sunsets from our room are stunning.

Tomorrow looks good and our explorations begin with a good dollop of wine-tasting and more good food.

IMAGES: © Photos by Pharos 2014. All rights reserved


QUINTE CRUISE - DAY FIVE (last day)




Woke to another grey day as we sailed from Hastings into Rice Lake. This is a favourite of anglers and we drove into the teeth of a strong wind. First time the Kawartha Voyageur was felt to pitch a bit! By the time we turned to starboard and entered the Otonabee River, the sky was lightening and soon the sun made an appearance.


This stretch was most attractive with banks of trees, wetlands, and some very nice houses as we approached Peterborough. But here we saw many waterfowl including loons and two chicks, herons, squadrons of Canada geese, and ospreys, as well as turtles everywhere. Again the tranquillity of the area was pleasing all the way into the last lock that led us to dock in Peterborough where we disembarked.

I was sorry to leave the excellent staff and passengers on the ship before we could do the final cruise of the three up to Big Chute at Georgian Bay. But needs must as I'm speaking in Picton on Prince Edward County on Sunday at the invitation of the Naval Marine Archive for the submarine centenary this year. We were picked up by Enterprise rent-a-car and drove to Picton by 4:45pm.

My favourite cruise of the two? The Rideau Canal and the lower part of the Trent-Severn Waterway are so different, I cannot choose between them. However, we had much better weather on the Rideau and the history fascinated me and that tends to make me lean that way.

Would I recommend them? Totally, it's an unusual adventure with some of the best customer service I've ever experienced. But don't expect the same luxury that you'd get in one of the long river boats on the rivers of Europe. This can't be compared with those.

IMAGES: © Photos by Pharos 2014. All rights reserved