Mini Vacation Part 4 - Discovering History



[Lana] After the immense heat and all the activity from the previous day, we slept in a little longer than we had originally planned. Even though the Comfort Inn did offer a free continental breakfast, we rarely partake in this when we are away, since we never know about the quality of those free hotel offerings. We decided instead to use that time to check out and then travel to nearby Penetanguishene, Ontario where our next attraction was located, and pick up a hot breakfast there.

[John] Though free breakfasts are great for the budget, if we have an opportunity to try a local eatery we are quite happy to do so. They provide a much better idea of the area we are in and often give us some connections and/or ideas for more adventures. The people are usually cool, too.

[Lana] I usually use Yelp or TripAdvisor to scope out places to eat when we are in unfamiliar areas. I found what seemed to be this great little diner called Phil’s Casual Dining. I told John where it was and how easy it should be to get there, so we decided that it would be our breakfast stop. Once we pulled into Penetanguishene, the construction and all the detours had us worried we weren’t going to be able to find our chosen restaurant-de-jour. Luckily for us, we pulled back out onto the main route within view of Phil’s, so we parked in a convenient lot directly across the street and proceeded into the diner.

I must say that this was one of the best breakfast experiences that I have had outside of someone’s home. The waitress was one of the most personable and friendliest people that has ever brought me a meal. Both the food and atmosphere were excellent, and the price was incredibly reasonable for all that we received… dare I even say on the verge of cheap? So impressed were we, that we even considered returning for their dinner special (all you can eat fish’n’chips for $12.99).

[John] This is a restaurant where the locals gather, and that made me feel good. The waitress knew many of the patrons and I loved hearing the chatter. The waitress was so nice that when she learned we were just in town for the day and we were impressed by the dinner special, she told us if we returned and it wasn’t quite 4:00 yet, she would honour the fish’n’chips deal for us. She really was so kind (we didn’t get back for dinner but I really wish we had).

The décor was quite cool, too. The wall hangings were really well-done 3D renderings of various buildings in the town. Lana was so intrigued by them that he even jumped up as soon as he had an opportunity, to go over to the wall and examine the pieces to see how they were done. I think he gained some inspiration that morning and it won’t surprise me if one day in the future, I come home to find similar art work in our apartment; hand-made by Lana, of course.

Wall-hanging in Phil’s.

Wall-hanging in Phil’s.

[Lana] I must say that I was completely enthralled by the simple, yet gorgeous work they had hanging in the restaurant and totally will, one day, attempt my own version.


With bellies full, we moved on to the main attraction of today’s events, Discovery Harbour. This is the location of a naval base that was built shortly after the War of 1812, to help defend the nation from any future incursions from the South. While most of the buildings are reconstructions, there is one original building where the officers stayed and entertained those from high society and the political arena.

The only other large authentic piece from the era was the retrieved framework from the sunken H.M.S. Tecumseth. At the end of the War of 1812, part of the peace treaty included limiting the number of warships that were allowed to remain active on the Great Lakes. Canada’s two ships, the H.M.S. Newash and the aforementioned H.M.S. Tecumseth, were taken to Penetanguishene to be decommissioned. The Tecumseth remained moored there until 1828 when she was used in an evacuation of the outpost. Once that mission was complete, the ship was ordered sunk. It wasn’t until 1953, that the vessel would be recovered. Its remains are now housed in the H.M.S. Tecumseth Centre along with other ship artefacts found near the wreck.

[John] Seeing this skeleton was like admiring a massive display of driftwood. The history in this structure is incredible. One of my favourite things to do is examine and admire driftwood and take photos of it. It takes me to a completely different place in my mind and I love the journey my imagination goes on. I know I’m not the only one in the world who loves the knots and twists and scratches and holes in the wood. There must be a Fans of Driftwood Club somewhere out there. Anyway… staring at these remains was much like admiring driftwood for me, so I quite enjoyed knowing there was true history associated with it.

[Lana] The other buildings on site were reconstructions; everything from soldier and guard quarters, to blacksmith and shipbuilder workshops were represented. The difference between the officers’ and enlisted men’s buildings were drastic and showed how much better the career military men were treated even if their postings were only temporary.

[John] As with Sainte Marie among the Hurons, there were some guides placed in various buildings, dressed in period clothing, and they were able to offer some insight into the history. I have to admit though, I often feel awkward when I enter one of these sites and talk to the guide. They give their memorized historic spiel and I ask my questions, look around, maybe ask more questions, and inevitably there is an awkward moment of, “Oh… I’ve exhausted my opportunity with you now. Okay, I’ll move on and have an awkward moment with one of the other guides. You’re free to go back to whatever you were doing before.” I’m such an awkward person, these moments are tortuous for me. Despite my social awkwardness, their knowledge was sincerely appreciated and these sets are cool to go through. 

[Lana] Side Note: If you have ever had or do ever have the opportunity to speak to John in person, you would have no clue she has this social awkwardness. I am so amazed every time I see her muster up the inner fortitude to put herself out there in a social situation the way that she does. I am the complete opposite. Get me in a crowd and I become the veritable wallflower, hanging back… my social anxieties getting the best of me. So, I just want to take this moment to thank John and tell her just how proud of her I am because I know it isn’t easy… not at all!

[John] *Blushing*

[Lana] Not too long after we arrived here and had gone through a small handful of buildings, we were particularly drawn by this one young man dressed in the uniform of a Private, marching along the trail carrying a rifle. He informed us that the musket firing demonstration was about to begin, so we finished looking at the building we were at before making our way to the firing area. We were told about the firing technique and given some history on the particular musket being used. For a brief moment, I thought we were going to, once again, receive a private session as on the S.S. Keewatin. Alas, just before the young man was ready to fire off his first shot, he saw other patrons in the distance rushing towards us hoping to catch the demonstration as well; he waited for them and then fired off multiple shots, showing us that it was not an easy or safe procedure. We found it absolutely fascinating.

On a personal note, one of my favourite parts of the entire attraction was King’s Wharf, a docking area for the replicas of the H.M.S. Tecumseth and the H.M.S. Bee. For as long as I can remember, I have been enamoured by everything related to water; lakes, rivers, waterfalls - the sights and sounds have always been so relaxing to me. This sensation expands to all types of boats but especially sailing vessels. I get incredibly happy every time I see a sailboat out on the lake, sail billowing in the wind.

[John] He exaggerates not. “Incredibly happy” may in fact be an understatement on Lana’s part. He turns into a giddy little boy each time he spots a sailboat and if the sails are up – well, I’m sure you can imagine the added elation.

[Lana] That is why these two ships held such appeal for me. Actually being able to climb aboard to see what it would be like to be part of the crew, was a thrilling experience for me. I went below deck and saw just how tightly knit these men would have had to become since there would have been no real privacy in these close quarters for the length of their mission. I don’t think I could have handled it. Now, put me out there for a leisurely tour on the lake, able to dock, investigating any port town that I wished, and I gladly would have signed up.

With a huge smile on my face, we walked away from the two beautifully recreated sailing vessels. My only regret was that neither of the ships had their sails up. That would have been magnificent.

With a quick perusal through the gift shop, we said goodbye to Discovery Harbour and started our unhurried route toward home. We followed along the shore of Lake Huron, passing through small beach communities along the way.


[John] I had suggested that we take the Beach Road along the way to Wasaga Beach, which was where we thought we would reconnect with the main road back home. The Beach Road sounded like it would be a really pretty route and, on the map, it looked like it would take us along the water’s edge and provide some nice views…

[Lana] But there were nice views… through the trees, through the houses…

[John] Yes… this was more of a community route, taking us through all of the beach neighbourhoods but not really allowing the vistas we had imagined and for which we had been hoping. Consider this the beginning to our misadventure for this trip. Things had been going too well for the trip and the universe seemed to have decided that it was time for us to encounter some challenges.

So, we continued on this route, originally hoping to happen upon a little restaurant to feed our exhausted and over-heated bodies… but with the realization that the Beach Road was not what we thought it was going to be (and travelling no more than 50 kilometres/hour for the majority of it), we decided to wait until we reached Wasaga Beach to have some food.

Cue The Hangry.

[Lana] After all we had heard about Wasaga Beach and the tourist centre that it’s supposed to be, we figured we’d have no problem finding many restaurants from which to choose. Instead, we drove around. And, drove around. And, drove around. For us, Wasaga did not live up to its reputation.

[John] The key here is “for us”. I suppose most people who venture to Wasaga are actually Beach people. We aren’t those people. If we do go to a beach, it’s to quietly walk along and enjoy the view, pick up some stones and shells, and admire the area. Wasaga however, is not really the town for that quiet time. So, we drove around and found ourselves in frustrating construction traffic, desperate to find a decent restaurant to sit down at and enjoy some good food. I suppose we needed to park down at the beach and walk around to find a pizza joint or something like that, but we really weren’t feeling inclined for that after driving along that strip and seeing how incredibly crowded it was. So, as our frustration continued, The Hangry began to grab hold. As I was navigating the unfamiliar roads, I tasked Lana with keeping his eyes out for a decent-looking place to eat – perhaps a family restaurant or a pub. Nothing seemed to tickle the taste buds upon sight, so we finally reached our familiar situation with The Hangry… “Baby I just need you to choose a restaurant and tell me to turn there. I don’t care what it is… you’re the picky eater… choose something!”

Sorry baby. Again. And, thank you for also hitting The Hangry this day and not leaving me alone in my not-so-stellar-moment-of-love-and-appreciation.

[Lana] Keep in mind, I am not the decisive one.

[John] Not an exaggeration. At. All. I’m not all that decisive myself but Lana usually tasks me with the decision-making and I often push him to do it instead. This was one of those moments. It may have been a bit rough for him. Or for both of us.

[Lana] When The Hangry hits, especially when it hits both of us, things can get tense.

[John] Seriously dude… there was a Swiss Chalet right there but you weren’t “feeling it” so, we kept driving around. And, driving around. And, driving around.

Finally, we settled on Don Cherry’s Sports Grill and due to the time of our arrival we were the only customers in the entire establishment. Granted, it was an early supper, but still… it was slightly uncomfortable being the only people for the waitress to focus on.

[Lana] But, what service! And, it’s not like it was that bad – it was decent. Maybe I won’t go back to Don Cherry’s or Wasaga, but it was decent.

[John] Yes, it was absolutely fine and there was nothing really wrong with it… just not what I’d had in mind when we had set out on our trip home. And, we maybe had a little too much attention from the waitress, is all.

[Lana] But you love being the centre of attention. *Snicker, snicker*

[John] She was nice. She was doing her job. She did a good job.

[Lana] She was extremely friendly.

[John] Moving on… which is what we did as soon as we finished eating… it wasn’t a bad experience. It just wasn’t what either of us had imagined or hoped for, so it was a bit of a let-down for us both. But, that was neither the restaurant’s nor the waitress’ fault.

We hopped back in the car with our appetites satisfied, The Hangry a distant memory, and we proceeded to take a main route back home. As you know, we don’t typically opt for the main route but after the Beach Road experience and with the evening quickly progressing and the clouds rolling in, we decided the straight forward route was the best. Sadly, it meant that the ice cream I had promised us both on the way home, never manifested. This main route was too main for many businesses – it’s more of a by-pass to quickly get travellers through the towns – and with the rain now pouring down and the business hours coming to a close, we drove home telling ourselves it was better to not have the ice cream anyway.

[Lana] All in all, our mini vacation worked out just perfectly, even down to the misadventure at the end. After all, what would a Carbon Lilies tale be, without a little misadventure?

[John] Too true. We need to have a little hiccup to make it a classic time for us.

[Lana] That’s what makes it memorable.

[John] Really? Sainte-Marie, Keewatin, Discovery Harbour, Cellarman’s Alehouse, Phil’s… none of those made this trip memorable? It was the Beach Road, Wasaga, The Hangry, and Don Cherry’s that did it for you?

[Lana] All those other things, anybody could do those. No one else can do The Hangry like us.

[John] Oy.

Mini Vacation Part 3 - Last of its Kind



[Lana] The first place we had actually planned on visiting during our time away was the town of Port McNicoll, which is home to the S.S. Keewatin. This luxury passenger ship was built in 1907, travelled our Great Lakes until 1965, and still sits docked as a floating museum to this day. We were quite lucky as it turned out, since John and I were the only ones to show up at our specific tour time, we were treated to our own private tour and were able to take our time.

[John] This is an attraction that I had been wanting to get Lana to, for much of the summer. I was really interested in it too but I knew that Lana would be so excited for an opportunity to tour a ship like this, so I kept it on the radar for a day when we would be able to take our time and enjoy the experience. We honestly could not have asked for a better opportunity. Not only did we have our own private tour of the ship, but the tour guide was knowledgeable and quite friendly. She allowed us to mostly go at our own pace and ask all of the questions we wanted to; this really made for a wonderful experience for both me and Lana.


[Lana] The first thing of interest to note is that the Keewatin was one of the smaller predecessors of the Titanic; a cousin of design so to speak. Not that this is a small ship at all. At a length of 336.5 ft (102.6 m), beam width of 43.8 ft (13.533 m), and depth of 26.8 ft (8.108 m), when it was being delivered from Montreal and to get through the Welland Canal, the ship had to be cut in half to be towed to its destination port. The lock just wasn’t long enough for the ship in its full length, so it was separated and put back together in the water. The Keewatin made the trip without sinking and was reassembled in Buffalo. After running continuously for almost 60 seasons, carrying up to 288 passengers and 86 crew on each journey, the ship was retired from passenger ship duties and is now in fact, the last British-built Edwardian-era steamship in existence.


We went to the main entrance that the passengers would have used when the ship was in use. The purser’s office/room was located here as well as the gift shop and the barber’s shop. The highlight however, was the gorgeous staircase that led up to the second level of the ship. It was masterful woodworking and as we placed our hand on the railing, our guide explained that the grip was specially designed to fit a person’s hand to make it easier to hold on should the weather get rough while they were on the stairs.

[John] It seems, to me, to be strange to feel excited about a staircase railing but as I put my hand on it, I suddenly understood why the design was so important and impressive. It really made me feel like I would have a sense of security had I been out on the stormy lakes so many decades ago. Additionally, to know that the designer of this railing was the same who did the railing on the Titanic a few years later, provided even more of a connection to the history.

[Lana] Upon reaching the top of the stairs, we saw a wall of keys. They have collected nearly all the original room keys, which is quite impressive considering they have had over a hundred years to lose them; they are only missing four or five. I think I have lost more than that in the last five years, let alone how many I would lose over a whole century.


This area also housed the communication station for room service. Ship staff were quick to learn the heavy tippers and were known to give preferential treatment.

[John] One of the cool things about the Keewatin is that many people over the last few years, have visited and/or contacted the museum to donate original pieces that they have been holding. People who worked on the ship and/or their family members, have donated many original artefacts and these cabin keys are among the collection. I love the fact that we can all walk the halls and go inside these rooms and look at some pieces that are original to the ship; hearing stories of people who have visited and told their own stories from when they and/or their family members worked or travelled on the ship.

[Lana] As soon as you step out from the crew section, the difference is immediate. The cabins, while not what I would call spacious, were much larger than the quarters for the crew. Each one we saw was designed in a way it might have been during each separate year the vessel had been in use. In the centre of the ship, between the rooms, was a sitting area with a piano and multiple pieces of furniture where passengers could relax and mingle. Of course, the downside of this section was that it was also the area where they took the victims of seasickness since it was the most stable part of the ship. Nothing says, “How do you do?” like clammy hands and a wonderful green complexion… unless you are Kermit the Frog.

The Flower Pot Lounge was a beautifully unexpected area that you could view from both the second and third decks of the ship. It made me think that John’s green thumb would go wild trying to contribute to the care of these plants should we have ever been passengers back in the Keewatin’s voyaging days.

[John] I don’t really have a green thumb. I like plants and flowers and a few years ago I discovered the enjoyment of gardening and pulling weeds. To say that I have a green thumb though, might be a significant exaggeration from a slightly biased husband. Just sayin’.

[Lana] My bias… or it may just be your modesty.

[John] Nonsense, silly.

Considering how many flower pots are on this deck, yes it likely would have been an interest to me in that era.

[Lana] Next, we were led to the bow of the ship where we saw the mechanism that was used to raise and lower the anchor. The chain links were massive and apparently hand-made. Our guide showed us the damage in the ceiling where one of these massive links had broken and the chain flew up with enough force to dent the metal.

[John] Looking at the size of these chain links makes it incredible to me that they could be hand-made. Also, how incredibly scary it would have been for one of those links to break and the damage it caused. That would not have been a minor incident at the time.


[Lana] We climbed a steep set of stairs and found ourselves outside on the front deck of the ship. It was a beautiful view looking out over the water but I saw something else with which I was eager to interact; a large bell was hanging right near the captain’s cabin. As soon as I was given the okay, I rang that bell, which was much louder than I had expected. It once was a warning to all that the ship was about to start its voyage. A short walk along the side of the ship ended our time outside as we entered back inside on its luxurious third floor.

[John] I spotted the bell before Lana did and I immediately knew what would happen once he saw it. The glee in his eyes when he was told he could ring that bell, was that of a small child on Christmas morning in front of a pile of massive wrapped packages all with his name on them. He may have regretted the bell-ring however, once the volume hit. I think his head was spinning and his ears were ringing for quite some time after. It was fairly loud.

[Lana] Oh, it was so worth it. I truly don’t know why I didn’t expect it to be as loud as it was but I was so delighted indeed.


On the third floor, just as it was on the floor below, each of the rooms was decorated with items that would have been found in one of the specific years the ship was active. Of course, these rooms were both larger and nicer than the rooms from the floor below.

At the front of the ship was the ladies’ sitting room. Here the women could meet together to smoke, gossip, listen to music, and even read. The men’s smoking lounge lay at the opposite end of the vessel. I always find it so odd to see these rooms dedicated to those separate genders. I am so glad times have changed since those days. At least they were allowed to mingle in the ballroom which, though now covered by a roof, was open under the stars of the nighttime sky back in the day.

[John] Times probably haven’t changed quite as much as we would like to see or even as much as we think they have but yes, definitely happy that we aren’t separated in quite the same way today.

[Lana] We then passed into the opulence of the dining room. Everything inside was gorgeous although I must admit, I would never have been able to fit between the table and where the chair had been bolted to the floor. Our guide told us that the television show, The Murdoch Mysteries, while shooting an episode in this dining room, donated all of the authentic era set pieces for the Keewatin to keep and display. We also heard the story of the waiter who, one night, accidentally ordered one steak too many. Upon learning of his error, and knowing the trouble he would be in if his mistake was discovered, he hid the steak in an empty drawer. After everyone left the dining room, he had to get rid of the evidence. In those days, the crew were not fed nearly as well as the passengers so I imagine you can guess where the steak disappeared to that night. Since he had clearly gotten away with it, an extra steak was ordered each night going forward. To this day, that drawer still has the grease stain from many an evening of hidden meals.

We proceeded through, what I imagine would have been, a stifling hot kitchen.

[John] No doubt there. On this day it was really hot for us and if that kitchen had been running and filled with workers, I don’t know how they would have been able to handle it. I would have been passing out from heat stroke without a doubt. I gained a huge appreciation for what those employees would have gone through and likely without much choice, as employment was not so easy to come by for many especially if English was not one’s first language, as was the case for the majority of these kitchen workers.

[Lana] Here we saw some dishware labeled with the ship’s name, which we would find out later had a story of their own. These dishes, it seems, had disappeared the year the Keewatin had been retired from active duty. Believed to have been stolen and all hope of recovery given up, it was a mystery that left many people baffled for decades. It wasn’t until they were refurbishing the ship in the hallway of the crew’s rooms when they realized the pattern of doorways did not match the way that it should. On a hunch, they broke through the wall and discovered there was a room that had been plastered over. Inside, aboard the ship the entire time, were the historical pieces everyone thought long since lost to time.


[John] The theory is that one of the original crew members had hidden the dishes before the ship’s official retirement, intending to return and steal away the treasure but never did find his way back. What a cool surprise to find these dishes after so many years.

[Lana] The final leg of our tour took us below deck to the cargo hold and into the engine room. Our guide showed us some of the markings on the walls up near the ceiling, just to demonstrate how high the cargo would be piled in the section we were now walking through. We then followed tight walkways into the true power centre of the ship and, let me just say, the engine was massive. I can’t even imagine working down in that section of the ship with the heat, noise, and the coal. I must admit though, it was pretty awesome to see the old engine crank the piston even if it was just once and no longer run by coal.

[John] Yes, our guide offered to run the engine for one rotation for us and we excitedly agreed. After she rang a warning bell to alert the others on the ship with us, she started up the engine. I felt a swirl of anticipation, having never seen an engine like this run and despite how slow the movement was, it was so impressive to see. Moments like these really put my mind back in time and I was immediately drawn to thoughts and images of what it would all have been like back in its era and the amount of organization required to ensure safety for all and a smooth ride.

[Lana] We were led out of the belly of the ship towards the small modern souvenir/gift shop they had set up where our guide bid us a fond farewell and thanked us for being so interested and interactive. We truly appreciated her knowledge and allowing us the time to check things out at our own pace. We did pick up a couple of items from the shop before returning to solid ground once more. ­

[John] Realizing we hadn’t yet eaten a proper meal since early morning, we drove back into the heart of Midland and found a little pub to sit down at and reflect on our great, albeit really hot, day. A nice and relaxing meal at Cellarman’s Alehouse cooled us off and re-energized us (somewhat). We eventually left there, went for a nice and cold ice cream treat and returned to the hotel for some good sleep (it wasn’t long after sitting on the bed that I was out cold, done-in for the night).

[Lana] It had been a full day since first arriving in Midland, so we needed the rest. After all, we still had plans to visit Discovery Harbour the next day.

Mini Vacation Part 2 - Journey Into History



[Lana] I was afraid that this trip was going to be filled with misadventures judging by the way it started out. On my way to the car, I was the victim of a fly-by. Yes, a bird actually flew into me as it attempted to fly past me. John is the one that always seems to have issues with birds, not me. Does this mean it is contagious? After sharing a laugh over the whole thing, we pulled out onto the road.

[John] You seriously shouldn’t be surprised by this now, dude. Over our years together you’ve had increasingly more close encounters of the avian kind. At some point you will just have to accept that I come with weird and sometimes disturbing bird occurrences and denying it will not help you at all.

Honestly though, Lana does not exaggerate with this. The bird did fly into him (his reaction was hilarious) and I do seem to have issues with birds. They fly into me too, and my car, and well… I could probably write an entire article just about that. Stay tuned… maybe I will. (In case you are wondering… the bird was fine and continued on its way.)

[Lana] Although we didn’t expect to get to the hotel until much later that day, figuring we would do our site-seeing first, we arrived well before noon and risked trying to get into our room even though we were there much earlier than their 2:00 p.m. check-in time. The staff were very accommodating and allowed us to access our room right away, so we dropped off our luggage and set out for our first stop on what would become our tour through history.

[John] At first, I didn’t think this was necessary as the car was all packed for the whole day. However, considering how incredibly hot it was outside, I was so grateful that Lana insisted we try to check in early and even more grateful that they accommodated us so seamlessly. Such a hot day. Really… hot. Also, I don’t think that Lana really believed me when I told him that Midland wasn’t too far away. We had made a quick stop in Barrie to top up the gas tank and as we pulled out, Lana decided to throw on a podcast to listen to. I told him we wouldn’t be listening for too long as Midland is not far from Barrie. It was a fairly short time later that Lana noticed we were in the outskirts of Midland and he exclaimed, “We’re here already?!?”

Yes baby… I told you it wasn’t that far.

[Lana] Have I mentioned that you’re a smarty pants?

[John] I have no idea what you are talking about.

[Lana] Anyhoo…

Driving into Midland, we had noticed a sign for Sainte-Marie among the Hurons. We didn’t realize that it was so close to where we were going to be staying. That is the advantage of not planning a trip; when you see something of interest that you hadn’t accounted for, you can still find time to fit it into your day. Sainte-Marie among the Hurons is a reconstruction of an old fort where Jesuit missionaries and the Wendat (Huron) nation co-inhabited in the early days of the European settlement of Canada (Colonization). The first portion of the village was dedicated to the settlers. The buildings here consisted of a tailor shop, a blacksmith shop, a cookhouse, carpenter shop, soldiers’ barracks, farmers’ dwelling, Jesuit’s quarters, granary, stables, chicken run, bastions, a chapel, and a church (which contained the graves of Jean de Brébeuf and Gabriel Lalemant, two martyred saints).

[John] The heat made it tough to stay in any one place for too long and there aren’t too many original pieces on display, so much of our our experiences in these areas were slowly walking through but not much standing in awe at anything and really examining things.

Inside the lobby of the museum and gift shop building.

Inside the lobby of the museum and gift shop building.

[Lana] We stepped into the second part of the walled village and realized it was like night and day. This section was dedicated to the Wendat nation and the Jesuit’s attempts to gradually convert them to Christianity yet make them still feel comfortable. The two stand-outs here were separate long houses… one traditional and one Christian. It was clear to see the slow merging of lifestyles that the Jesuits were attempting in order to earn the trust of the Indigenous people. A hospital, an apothecary, and one bastion were the only remaining Christian elements in this part of the village. The rest of the area was dedicated to the way of life the Wendat were more accustomed to with their typical dwellings, games (like lacrosse), and crop-growing.

At certain times throughout the day, the staff dressed in period clothing do put on a variety of shows/demonstrations for visitors as well. We didn’t sit through any of these but we did catch the tail end of a few. The tailor shop was doing a presentation about the clothing of the era as we passed by the building. Inside the Jesuits’ dining area, some kids were learning to write with feather pens and ink pots. This, I would have enjoyed if only there had been more room at the table… and maybe a few less children. Lastly, and this was right near the end of our tour on this very hot day (in case we haven’t mentioned the heat yet), two workers were showing us a game with a piece of wood which had been sharpened to a point and had a ring tied to it. The purpose of the game was to catch the ring on the point of the stick. The staff asked if we wanted to learn how to make one or at least how to play. We ordinarily would have agreed to it but we were just too hot. They were kind and gave us one anyway, and laughed as I walked away bragging about my new “stabby stick”.

[John] “Did he just call it a stabby stick?” “No vampire slaying here.” “He called it a stabby stick!” Ha. It was funny.

[Lana] “Have at thee, blood sucker!”

[John] Did you just thrust your arm out in front of you as you said that? You so should have been an actor.

[Lana] Moving on…

I always have mixed reactions when I come to one of these types of places. I know if this time in history hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t likely be here right now and even if I were, I likely wouldn’t be a Canadian. At the same time, I can’t help but feel a sadness for the way the Wendat (in this particular case) were treated. Yes, it sounded like the Christian faith which was imposed upon them was a gradual transition but what if it were me… you…your family…?

Our magnet souvenir. We often purchase a magnet from a place we visit, whenever able. This one felt really special to have.

Our magnet souvenir. We often purchase a magnet from a place we visit, whenever able. This one felt really special to have.

The back of the magnet helps us remember the purpose and the passion behind this artist’s work.

The back of the magnet helps us remember the purpose and the passion behind this artist’s work.

[John] The key word there is “imposed” and I’m not really sure it was so gradual. Learning the history is important and stepping into it a bit like we were able to here, provides perspective. Our Canada would not exist – we would not exist – had things been done differently. However, when I think about the ugliness involved – the stripping of one’s culture and traditions, the separation of families, the torture, the injustices – it is really hard to take in. Sometimes I wonder if we should really celebrate the country and our accomplishments. Our history is complex and there is much of which to be proud and there is much of which to abhor. Humans are complicated.

I wasn’t able to really submerse myself in this place. I think, to be honest, my mind was really whirling throughout the village and museum. I couldn’t stop thinking about what the real history might be. What is the uncensored version? Despite all of this, I am quite happy we came upon this historical site and went through it all. We spent quite a while here (sweating profusely the entire time) and it was an important stop on our vacation in the Midland area.

The postcard we purchased… along with magnets, we tend to buy a postcard when we visit places like this.

The postcard we purchased… along with magnets, we tend to buy a postcard when we visit places like this.

And, I was glad we had cold water and snacks in the car. Really glad.

[Lana] We considered grabbing something to eat at the restaurant right there but luckily had our snacks in the car and decided they would be enough to hold us over until after we visited our next historical attraction.

[John] We spent a few minutes enjoying the air conditioning blasting in the car and then set out for Port McNicoll.

Part 3 coming soon…

Mini Vacation Part 1 - A Mystery Close to Home



[Lana] With our August Civic Holiday (“Simcoe Day” in Ontario) coming up, I convinced John to actually take a couple of extra days off work to add on to the long weekend so we could have a mini vacation. I made her promise to truly take it easy… no work at all.

[John] I don’t typically take real chunks of time off work, so adding two days onto the long weekend sounded like a lovely idea. Having two days extra on the long weekend for actual vacation focus would be wonderful (instead of taking time off to do house work and organize life, which is what we typically end up doing). I don’t think I really contested the idea when Lana suggested it.

[Lana] Leading up to our time off, I was under the weather and we didn’t want to stray too far away but as the weekend progressed, I began to feel much, much better. So, we started out staying fairly close to home with a few short (for us) road trips, hanging out with family and visiting a couple of farmers’ markets.

[John] With Lana just coming out of a couple of weeks of feeling quite unwell, I just didn’t want to risk us going too far or making too many set plans in case it was a better idea to stay home and watch movies instead. I am so grateful Lana started feeling so much better but I still wanted to ease into the vacation mode to make sure he would be okay. One thing I wanted to do was check out the Downtown Brampton Farmers’ Market, so we made that our first stop on the Saturday morning of this long weekend.

[Lana] Brampton’s Downtown Market is a hefty size with a nice variety of local goods and food vendors to pique your interests. We wandered through the market first, forming an idea of what we might want to buy. After our first walk-through, we purchased some farm fresh veggies and after being suckered into trying some cheeses (I broke John’s rule and I made eye contact with the vendor), we walked off with some sheep Gouda (really yummy).

If you follow us on any of our social media accounts, you may have seen the special treat that we found at one booth that greatly attracted us. We are huge horror fans so when we saw the banner for Salem’s Lott Hot Sauces, we knew we had to check it out. A table full of pepper sauces sat before us with monstrous themed names… genius marketing if you ask me. The sauces were unique combinations and absolutely delicious. We took advantage of their three-bottle deal.


[John] Pepper sauce is what many people refer to as hot sauce. I grew up only knowing it as pepper sauce and didn’t learn until I was in College, that most people around here call it hot sauce. My mom makes an amazing pepper sauce, as do some of my cousins. I haven’t yet made it myself but I tend to try different ones to compare and contrast with the one that Ma Lilies makes. It isn’t often that I come across one that really impresses me in flavour and heat but the three that we chose at the Market this day, really tasted so good that we couldn’t leave without them… the names just made them that much better.

[Lana] The day was incredibly hot.

[John] Melting hot. We weren’t at the Brampton Market for even a full hour but it was just so hot that we were both fading quickly and it was only mid-morning. We decided to pack up our goodies in the car (I’m so glad I packed the ice packs in the cooler bag!) and go grab some breakfast at a great little place we know of on the Brampton/Mississauga border. We don’t often go out for breakfast but when we do, we have a couple of known reliable places that never let us down, so we decided on one of these for today. Olympia Grill is a place that we found a couple of years ago and when we first found it we weren’t sure what to expect but as we pulled into the parking lot, we saw a few police cars and an ambulance parked there; the whole group was sitting down inside, enjoying a good time. One thing we have learned over the years is that if the police, fire crews, and/or paramedics frequent a particular place, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be good. Our breakfast on this long weekend Saturday definitely did not disappoint and as always, the service was spectacular and came with some great laughs.

[Lana] You know that when the owner himself directs you to where the washrooms are, even though it’s obvious that you know where you’re going, that’s really good service.

[John] As we were getting ready to leave with full bellies, of course I suggested that we should go out later that day to get some ice cream.

[Lana] What better way is there to beat the heat than with a deliciously cool ice cream cone? Knowing what apartment life is like and just how hot it can get on these terribly humid days, we thought we would pick up the Bonus Mommy and take her with us to get some ice cream. Of course, we can’t pick up the Bonus Mommy without going on a road trip as well… even if it is just a wee one. We toured north west as John steered us towards Belfountain where we purchased our icy treats at Higher Ground Café where they serve Central Smith ice cream. Apparently, John was thinking of this place as soon as we decided to take the Bonus Mommy with us. It makes for a really nice leisurely drive and every time we have passed through here, we always say we should stop for ice cream like everyone else around seems to. It has to be good if so many people go there, right?

[John] It was good. Really good. We were lucky to easily secure a good parking spot and even though they were out of the pistachio ice cream I wanted, the coconut ice cream that I chose instead was so yummy that I was definitely not disappointed in any way. I don’t remember what flavours the Bonus Mommy and Lana chose (Lana says he had something with caramel in it) but I know they were also really happy. To give you an idea of how hot it was that day, the ice cream was already beginning to melt before we even walked out of the shop. We did a lot of hurried licking up the sides of our cones, trying to keep the ice cream off our shirts, pants, and the ground. We probably looked hilarious but we didn’t care because we were having a good time.

[Lana] A side note on Belfountain… it seems to be the reverse Bermuda Triangle. You can drive toward it from any direction and see absolutely no traffic whatsoever and yet the village itself can be packed with people out enjoying the day. Cars will line both sides of the street and all of the stores will be full of people seemingly from out of nowhere. When you leave, it is rare to see anyone coming into town.

Back on the road, we zigged and zagged, just enjoying the day.

[John] I wasn’t really sure where to take us, wanting a slightly different drive than Lana and I have taken a few times before, but not wanting to go hours and hours away. After taking some favourite roads for beautiful scenery, I then avoided the roads that would take us back to traffic and the city.

[Lana] We came to a small town that we had heard of and had quickly passed through multiple times but knew very little about, Erin. This was our first time driving through the main strip and it was a cute place, larger than we had suspected, but the biggest surprise was the food truck we spotted next to a little gas station just as we were leaving town. It was so enticing, I insisted that we had to turn around and go back to sample its products. A BeaverTails truck was calling our names (well, my name at least) and once we discovered that the Bonus Mommy had never had a BeaverTail, we knew we had to stop. Now, admittedly, these were not of the same quality as the wonderful pastries we get when in Ottawa, but they were still pretty darn tasty and perfectly suitable for a first experience for the Bonus Mommy. Of course, as we had expected, the Bonus Mommy was converted into a huge fan.

[John] It surprised us so much to see this truck because there was a time when we could only get a BeaverTail in Ottawa... recently it has become much easier to find them more locally. However, I actually fought Lana on this one initially, before and while turning around, arguing that we had just had amazing ice cream and really didn’t need BeaverTails too. But, once the Bonus Mommy said she’d never had one, the deal was sealed… making Lana really happy.

[Lana] I believe the term you’re looking for is ‘squeal’.

Brushing ourselves off from the sugar and crispy pastry crumbs, we pulled out again hitting the back roads, enjoying seeing some areas we had not seen before. That was when we fleetingly saw it as we drove past. We questioned what it was that we just saw. We had to turn around to take another look. It was creepy and interesting at the same time. What had started as one shoe tree had spread to five or six trees. In broad daylight, the scene was eerie enough, I can’t even imagine stumbling upon something like this at night. We ended up talking about them almost all the way home.


[John] I hadn’t really had a good look at it as we initially passed but agreed to turn around so we could pass again and stop to have a closer look. I cannot explain my reaction or the feelings rumbling around inside me as we all stared and tried to make sense of what we were seeing. This was a first for all of us and aspects of it are still haunting me today.

[Lana] I had never seen or even heard of a shoe tree. The only thing I knew about shoes hanging outside was the alleged criminal activity that occurred in the area when you saw shoes dangling from hydro/telephone lines. That was definitely not the same thing as what we saw this day. Besides the fact that this was not in an urban area whatsoever, there were really no buildings that close. I suppose it could be an area where people drive to, to meet up and conduct their illicit activities, but again, I don’t think that is it.


John, the Bonus Mommy, and I wondered if it may have been some kind of unique roadside memorial. We have often seen wreathes and random flowers hanging along the highways where an accident has taken place but none of us had ever seen anything like this. There were a few small rubber toy skeletons hanging there with the footwear as well as a few photos of different people. We couldn’t reason out why anyone would hang a shoe (or pair of shoes) as a memorial for someone but the whole place did have that sad, emotional weight similar to what you might feel in some cemeteries. Could this have been the accident site of two vehicles filled with large families whose relatives have chosen to collectively honour their memory by hanging shoes? I suppose it is possible.

[John] We mulled over that theory for a while but the number of shoes there made it seem beyond possible that so many people would have died in that one area. It’s also marked as private property so it seems even stranger to have this present right there. The photos on the trees were what made it so much odder to us and those photos have lingered with me ever since. What is this place? What is it all about?


[Lana] These trees so permeated my mind that our discussion all the way home was not enough to satisfy my curiosity. I had to look up what I could find on this phenomenon. Unfortunately, there isn’t much out there about them other than more questions. Besides the two possible reasons for them being there that I have already talked about, there were few other possibilities suggested. One of them was a form of art that has even been named ‘treefiti’. It is as simple as it sounds; someone expressing themselves in a new and rare form of collective art that opens their work up to the public to add a piece of themselves.

Yet another possibility, and perhaps the oldest known existence of a shoe tree, was the act of tying shoes to trees for war veterans who gave away their own boots, refusing to wear them, because of the poor treatment they received when they returned home from the first World War. This little-known practice continued for the homeless long after the war ended.

These last two options, while possible I suppose, don’t make sense to me for one simple reason… it is in the middle of nowhere. If you are donating shoes to others, there are easier ways and you would do this in a more populated area. As a piece of art, it is a little more believable. Again, wouldn’t you think it would be in a more public area, especially if you want others to add their personal flavour to it? Although, if it was art and displayed there to make us ask questions… mission accomplished.

We just cannot make sense of this one and the research is not getting us anywhere. If any of you has ever seen or knows anything about these shoe trees, please let us know in the comment section, through e-mail, or on social media. We would love to learn more about this – specifically this particular section of trees in Caledon.

[John] After deciding to move on and slowly make our way home, wondering and chatting about the strangeness, hypothesizing, and Lana already trying to do some of the research, we were somewhat quieter and definitely growing a bit weary from the day. We continued back to the Bonus Mommy’s apartment to have some supper and end the day playing a good game of dominoes.

Sunday came around and we decided to just take it easy and make it a Carbon Lilies day. We kept it simple with an afternoon visit to a coffee shop to spend some time writing, before making our way back to the Bonus Mommy’s for another evening of dominoes. (In case you can’t tell, we enjoy a good game of bones and will play whenever possible.)

When Monday arrived, we knew it would also be a fairly low-key day. My cousin is attending university and we wanted to see her and give her some well deserved hugs before she made a quick two-week visit back at her home at the end of her summer term.

[Lana] When it comes to meeting up with family, we are used to driving fair distances… especially when you don’t get to see them very often. That was the case when we drove to Cambridge to meet up with John’s cousin at William’s Café for a couple of hours.


[John] We didn’t have my cousin to ourselves for very long as she had a study class to attend prior to her final exam for the term. So, after picking her up at her student apartment, we headed to the café for a quick brunch before taking her home and giving her some good and strong hugs. I felt bad as some heavy rains had been intermittently pouring down on the way back to the apartment but my cousin assured me that she would be fine to walk the short distance to her class, so I reminded myself that she is a grown, albeit young, woman and I had to let go and let her take care of herself. Good golly it’s a fortunate thing we don’t have children of our own… I’d be a nightmare helicopter mommy. 

[Lana] I love these short day trips but when I originally tried to get John to take a few days off, I was hoping we could do something a little larger in scale. You know, go somewhere far enough away or busy enough that it would require spending a night. Now that I was feeling a bit better after a rough start, we did some last minute planning and John came up with an excellent idea. We made our reservation, packed our overnight bag, and prepared to set out for Midland, Ontario.

Stay tuned for Part 2…