Our Inaugural Journey - Part 2

OCTOBER 17th, 2014


[Lana] Port Perry – No sooner did we pass the sign announcing our arrival into Scugog Township than I felt that familiar sensation wash over me.  There are only in few locations over a person’s lifetime where they truly feel…home.  Heading west towards the town, we decided to tour Scugog Island before continuing to accommodations for our overnight stay.

The first place we stopped at was the Scugog Shores Museum.  Although it wasn’t open, from a distance we could still view the heritage village they have replicated.  This is where we let our imaginations take over and produce for us the blacksmith at his shop, the lady churning her own butter and a family making candles out of beeswax.  Realizing how self sufficient one had to be back in the 1800’s, while still having that incredible sense of community, forced me to not only respect those who lived in those times but to also be grateful for those things we have today which make our lives so much easier.  With a warm sentiment in our hearts, we were ready to move on.

We traveled the length of the island, passing the turn-off for Goreski’s Landing, the Scugog General Store (which I still remembered from my youth) and the Great Blue Heron Charity Casino (they were just finished erecting the building when I moved away so it was amazing to me to see so many cars this close to my childhood home).  We reached the final road and turned toward the lake.  From atop the hill, the view was as enjoyable as I remembered it.  We did a drive-by of my former house, which has changed drastically since my days there and I was briefly saddened.  My family built that house from the ground up and seeing it in its current state was difficult for me.  I refused to let those emotions dwell however… we were here to have a good time.

It was time for the main event now as our jaunt to the old homestead had been accomplished.  The most famous location on the entire island is Ghost Road (please see the separate article on MY recollections of the Ghost Road legend and how it was told to me).  Since it can be a little difficult to find a spectral light in the middle of the afternoon, the most interesting thing we saw on Mississauga Trail this day was a small black bear.  We had plans to return during the evening when it was more likely that we could possibly see signs of our legendary rider so we made our way off the Island and into downtown Port Perry.

While it still has that quaint feel that I remembered, this was definitely no longer the small town of my youth.  Businesses have closed and been replaced or moved and grown larger.  Even a few big name chain stores have invaded the area giving an entirely new aspect to the locale.  However, as we drove down Water St. and Queen St., there came the staples of my childhood.  The baseball diamonds and splash pad at Palmer Park, the Borelians Community Theatre, the delectable Hank’s Pastries, Books Galore and More (which I will get back to shortly) and of course the old institute of my fine education, Port Perry High School.  A smile crossed my face as we drove by each of these remnants of my past and onto our accommodations for the night…the Heath Haven Bed and Breakfast.

[John] Ahhh.. Heath Haven.

There aren’t many places to choose from in a tiny town and we were very happy when we found that Heath Haven had a vacant room with an ensuite washroom. What we had not expected was what we found upon arrival. I really don’t know what we were looking for but what we found was definitely not it. The term ‘Bed and Breakfast’ brings to mind beautiful images of country homes, private and quiet dwellings in softly stated areas… Heath Haven is not exactly that.

As we made our way into a small suburban development, we questioned if we had the correct address. Our doubts about the address increased as we turned onto a cul-de-sac and stopped in front of a middle-class, cookie-cutter house with the number we were sure was correct. After sitting at the end of the driveway for a few seconds debating whether to enter the driveway or to drive away, we decided to pull in. We then debated whether to knock on the front door or call the number we had from their website, to confirm the address. We must have sat there for a good 10 minutes before hesitantly stepping out of the car and walking towards the front door, at which time we noticed the small sign by the front steps “Heath Haven”.  Apparently we were in the right place.

Just before we reached the front steps of the house, a man emerged from the back via the open, cluttered garage and announced himself the co-owner of Heath Haven, Mike. By this point I was already wondering what we had landed in.

Mike pleasantly led us around the back of the house, showing us the pool and through the back door, introducing us to the kitchen and the living-room-turned-common-lounge-area complete with family photos and the family piano, along with significant religious symbols in multitude. Some local destination pamphlets and brochures were neatly laid on the coffee table and Mike proudly made mention of the fact that Heath Haven had a discount deal with a local spa.

Continuing to the main foyer and up the stairs to the bedrooms, I was increasingly thankful we had booked the room with the ensuite washroom. This is a family home, shared with those of us willing to pay to borrow a bedroom for a night.

The Gardenview Room was nice with the ensuite washroom facilities. The bed had the potential to be more comfortable and I was constantly aware that we were sleeping in a room in a stranger’s home, rather than a nice room at a ‘proper’ Bed & Breakfast establishment.

[Lana] John talks a lot about the ensuite washroom… I think she might have enjoyed it.

[John] Hey… sleeping in a stranger’s home – I want my own washroom access.  

It was an interesting experience with a nice breakfast that, thanks to the other couple staying there, was an entertaining and lively way to complete our stay. The other couple was quite friendly and the husband gave us many conversation pieces to carry us through the day. A man from east-end Toronto with his own sense of humour, he threw out many lines to keep us laughing and thinking for a while. As we chatted about an early morning start, he remarked that it took them a while to get going in the morning because “I look so bad in the mornings that my cat is filing for divorce.” As the conversation turned to crime in various areas and biker gangs being targeted for criminal activity, our table-mate commented, “I’m not trying to sound racist but why are the cops going after the white guys?” I bit my tongue hard on that one and politely smiled while just trying to enjoy the food and get through it until we left. Confrontation was not the point of this trip and so I tuned out a bit until the stream turned to the business of our host, working for a printing (or publishing?) company. At any rate we learned about the transition from the lick-and-stick postage stamp to the self-adhesive sticker style. There was an interactive campaign going where citizens could have their photos created on personal stamps for commemorative purposes. This is where our new friend at the table told us that, “If you believe in Voodoo, then licking a stamp with your picture is like licking the back of your head.” Indeed, a very interesting man with an almost innocent boyish charm, not knowing any better and completely excited by himself.

[Lana] As the owner, Mike, took us through the house on our tour, I knew that I had seen him before. It wasn’t until our breakfast conversation that it was confirmed where I had seen him… he owns Books Galore ’n’ More, one of my favourite go-to stores when I lived in town.

With our lovely breakfast complete, we packed up our car and eagerly made our way out of the cul-de-sac and on to our quickly-decided extra long roundabout route to Peterborough, via Fenelon Falls (a town that doesn’t start with a ‘P’!).

[Lana] With our sanity intact (and hopefully our extra-curricular activities not secretly recorded for the host’s personal collection) we moved on to some of the local shops…the favourites being The Wee Tartan Shop for immersing us in the culture of the Celtic Isles…

[John] ... Where we bumped into our Heath Haven table mates though we honestly tried to hide.

[Lana] …and Tribal Voices with unique items from all over the world. We were also hoping to stop in at the Jester’s Court, a supposedly haunted pub style restaurant, but it wasn’t open before we were going to leave and move on to our next town.  We planned to return however, and will definitely visit it next time.

[John] I really did enjoy Port Perry and look forward to our return. Heath Haven… not so much.

[Lana] Fenelon Falls – After a bit of a drive, we arrived at our next destination and another piece of my youth, Fenelon Falls.  We had no real plans for the area as it was a stop we tacked on to the trip last-minute.  We drove around the main downtown area and decided to stop for an ice cream at the famous Kawartha Dairy Slices’n’Scoops.  We were pretty lucky to get through the line when we did.  We no more than had our order handed to us than the line behind us grew so long, the building couldn’t even contain it.  As we ate our cones, we crossed the street to watch the boats traverse through the lift lock.  One of these boats was the tour boat that carries its passengers through the lock and into the beautiful Cameron Lake.  Watching the fun all these weekend mariners were having made John and I long for a watery vacation.  Hopefully that will be part of our near future.

[John] I really liked Fenelon Falls. The ice cream was yummy too.

[Lana] Peterborough – The first thing we did when we arrived in Peterborough was find our hotel. The Comfort Inn was conveniently located amidst the many businesses along the main strip making it an ideal place to stay.  Even better about this particular site, a Kelsey’s restaurant is attached right to the hotel.  We dropped off our bags, had a delightful, celebratory dinner and decided to take a dip in the indoor pool before calling it a night.  We were in the pool after the ordinary closing time but the staff member in the swimming area was quite obliging by allowing us to stay poolside as long as we liked.  We didn’t want to take too much advantage of their hospitality so we didn’t stay much longer.  Besides, we had a couple places planned for the next day.

A new day found us in a museum of true Canadian heritage.  The Canadian Canoe Museum has everything from the huge war ships and beautifully decorated hunting canoes of the aboriginal peoples to couples courting canoes and small award-winning racing kayaks.  Peterborough was actually a big-time manufacturer of canoes and still produces them today.  They have a plethora of different workshops for adults and kids and offer rentals of canoes.  This is the kind of place that truly makes you think about how life must have been all those years ago and truly brings our nation’s history to life.

[John] I was really looking forward to this part of the trip. History is not a strength of mine though I love hearing the stories and seeing the artifacts. This part of our Canadian history hit me strongly and I was not disappointed by the museum. We spent hours in this little building and I want to return for another visit. There was something about the energy of this place that I think I will always remember. A sense of deep pride penetrated me and sparked emotions I was not expecting (insert Canadian national anthem here). In all seriousness… this is a great place to explore and I encourage you to make it a stop on your next journey. (Check their website and/or call before your visit as it may have moved to the vicinity of the Peterborough Lift Lock).

[Lana] Our next stop was the Art Gallery of Peterborough.  It was a small gallery (1,400 pieces in its regular collection) but it did have a few interesting works in it.  With free admission (donations accepted), it is worth a look.  Outside the building is Del Crary Park with its Pathway of Fame that commemorates the people who have had some dramatic contribution to the Peterborough area such as “Stompin” Tom Connors, Lester B. Pearson, Ronnie Hawkins, Leahy and Sir Sanford Fleming.  The park overlooks Little Lake and rests beside the Peterborough Marina from where the tour boat sets sail, making it a terrific vantage point for anyone who enjoys watching various water craft.  A covered venue is located by the lake which is great for concerts including the annual Musicfest.

[John] The few exhibits in the gallery were interesting to say the least. One installment of photography did stand out vividly for me and I have continued to think about this artist (Meryl McMaster). One artist installment was provocative in its audacious statement of art while the other artists really did nothing for either me or Lana.

[Lana] As the day turned to evening, we knew our adventure had to come to an end.  We wanted time to return home at a leisurely pace as we both had to report to our regular jobs in the morning.  Hopefully we will soon be on the road again to explore those things we love.

[John] This was an incredible weekend for which I am so grateful… memories for a lifetime and joy to be relived forever.

Our Inaugural Journey - Part 1

OCTOBER 17th, 2014


Our blog begins by remembering a road trip in the summer of 2013…

[John] To end our 2013 summer, we decided on a mini-holiday in the form of a road trip around parts of Ontario, over the course of a few days.  The drive took us through Prince Edward County, Port Hope, Port Perry and Peterborough (I promise we didn’t plan it according to the letter ‘P’!).

[Lana] Prince Edward County - This quiet area (to anyone who hasn’t been there during the summer tourist rush) is a perfect mix of outdoor enjoyment and quaint small town feel.  A beautiful day will grant you the opportunity to visit the much regaled Sandbanks Provincial Park.  This is a great place for a relaxing walk or bike ride, a classic family picnic or to indulge in one of the best beaches in the region.  Alternatively, if wine tasting is something you find inviting, there are a multitude of wineries that offer tours which allow you to sample their wares. Speaking of the finer things in life, another attraction that one can partake in is following the Arts Trail.  Artists of all types have their work on display in galleries, many of which run from their own homes (which makes me wonder if it is mere coincidence that the Arts Trail follows the same path as the Taste Trail). For people like John and I, who enjoy ALL of the above, places like this truly speak to us.

Funnily enough, on this particular trip, we did none of the above.  Instead we found ourselves in an antique shop in Bloomfield with one of the best, not to mention appropriate, names I have ever heard… Dead People’s Stuff.  I find anything like this fascinating. Were these artifacts of days gone by simple daily tools or did they mean much more? What kind of emotional importance did the previous owner place in these random objects?  Were they the physical representations of the love between a man and woman, mother and child or, on the darker side of things, an item to be feared… or perhaps much worse? If these ties are powerful enough, is it possible that the energies or even spirit of the former possessor could remain attached even to this day? While there were a few interesting items, the most interesting was the pin that John found with her mother’s name on it…

[John] Dead People’s Stuff… This is a shop I had heard of many times but had never made the time to check it out until this day. On our way to the shop I was talking with my mother who, upon hearing we were heading to Dead People’s Stuff, remarked “Just don’t take any ghosts home with you”. If only she had known what was about to happen…

We arrived in Bloomfield and aimed for the antique shop. Walking into Dead People’s Stuff I noticed the air to hold that musty scent often associated with old objects but mixed with it was the freshness of country air and freshly cut grass – lingering in the air as though a mist. I was left feeling caught between wanting to stay and feeling oddly out of place and unsure of my decision to be there.

We looked around and perused through the various items – old postcards that had been through the mail, a decent stack of old 45’s, a small pile of sets of Marshall McLuhan’s (“The Medium is the Message”) playing cards (“Distant Early Warning”), and a host of objects from other people’s pasts.

As we eventually walked towards the exit I noticed a small table against the wall and felt drawn to it. As I drew near, my eyes were pulled to stare amazingly at a small broche sitting towards the front of the table. The brooch was shaped as a white Scottish terrier with my mother’s name hand-written on it in black marker. It was as though the Dead People had heard her telling me to not take any of them home and decided to personally call her out. To say I had chills upon finding the brooch would be a severe understatement. I fought deep temptation to purchase the brooch. For as much as I felt I needed to take it home with me I had a similarly strong feeling that taking it home was exactly what I was not to do.

So there it stayed… and my mother was beyond grateful for that fact when I told her what had happened. My mother is fully aware of the strange things that happen to me – since birth I have felt things and known things and seen things so the last things my mother would want hanging around me lest gifted to her, would be the unseen from Dead People’s Stuff in Bloomfield, Ontario.

[Lana] So, nothing came home with us from Dead People’s Stuff this time (at least, not to our knowledge) but it was an interesting stop along the way to the next location on our weekend excursion.

Port Hope– Instead of the normal meander through small towns we usually take when we travel, we had to be careful we didn’t lose too much time as we had a lot of ground to cover. One of the goals on this trip was to take John to one of my favourite stores… Primitive Designs.  If you are looking for a unique piece of art, furniture, clothing or jewellery from around the world, then you will absolutely love this store.

[John] Set against highway and farmland, this is an impressive store where I must admit I had my first ever encounter with a 23-foot tall Optimus Prime. 

[Lana] … and a 10 ft Bumble Bee. 

Having grown up in the ‘80s, the Transformers were a huge part of John’s and my Saturday mornings.  To see these impressive heroes in the (metallic) flesh was like a dream come true and well worth the trip all on its own…and we had not even entered the building yet.  A quick tour of the outside gave John a hint of the diversity that could be found here as we viewed totem poles, tiki hut style gazebos, gargoyles and a large wooden crocodile sculpture.

We finally made our way inside.  I glanced over to John and the look of amazement on her face made me smile.  Cultural masks, driftwood tables, ornate light shades, paintings and antique furniture were everywhere. 

[John] …and door knobs… so many door knobs!!

[Lana] We didn’t know where to go first… and this was only the first floor.  After looking around for over an hour, I snuck away to pick up a little gift for John.  She is quite the music lover so I knew I had to get her an instrument of some kind.  I found an interesting looking string instrument made of bamboo that had that esthetic appeal I thought would be a great conversation piece as well as fun new musical experience.  In researching it after the fact, I discovered it is an instrument from India called an ektara which is used during devotional singing.  I doubt that it will have her singing Kumbaya anytime soon but I do hope she enjoys it.

[John] No hesitation on that… I love it completely.

[Lana] We were actually extremely lucky that we left with only one unexpected purchase considering we wanted basically everything in the store. Perhaps next time we will try to spend a little less time in the store and get to see more of Port Hope while we are there.  For now we bid adieu to Primitive Designs and make our way to the town that I called home for over 15 years.