Sunday, August 2, 2020

Last and rainy day

We all love a successful story and I came across a few in Stratford. 
The Stratford Theatre Festival and Justin Bieber are this town's most obvious ones, but my favourite Stratford's successful story is Balzac's Coffee Roasters. 

The first café started here, right where we are staying, in 1996 by a woman name Diane Olsen. Today there are 14 stores in Ontario and Balzac's is a well know brand in the province with its cozy and sophisticated ambience.

I am not a coffee drinker, although I used to love to get my tea from Balzac's at the Ryerson store in Toronto, when I was studying there. 

Mike, though, made a couple of trips daily downstairs while staying here. 
He even got a Balzac's mug as a souvenir.  


While earning a university degree in French literature, Diana Olsen, President and Founder of Balzac’s, discovered a kindred spirit in Monsieur Balzac and his genuine passion for coffee. Upon graduating, she immersed herself in authentic French culture, spending a year and a half in France. Passing many enchanting afternoons in the Grand cafés of Paris, Ms. Olsen was inspired to bring this sophisticated celebration of coffee and social tradition home to Canada.

We spent the rest of the morning trying to avoid the rain and walking to different streets downtown. 

I love these buildings.

A little pause at the Shakespearean Gardens for Mike to appreciate it as well.

Since we were limited by the water, we decided to bring back a fun travelling activity: geocaching. 
We haven't done it for a while and the kids had almost forgotten about it. 
"The world's biggest treasure hunt" is always fun.


Geocaching is an outdoor recreational activity, in which participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or mobile device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called "geocaches" or "caches", at specific locations marked by coordinatesall over the world.

A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook and sometimes a pen or pencil. The geocacher signs the log with their established code name and dates it, in order to prove that they found the cache. After signing the log, the cache must be placed back exactly where the person found it. Larger containers such as plastic storage containers (Tupperware or similar) or ammunition boxes can also contain items for trading, such as toys or trinkets, usually of more sentimental worth than financial. Geocaching shares many aspects with benchmarking, trigpointing, orienteeringtreasure-huntingletterboxingwaymarking and Munzee.

The Stratford Perth Museum was completely empty when we arrived. It's kind of sad to see inside their map with visitors, comparing 2020 to previous years. 

I think it's very important to support small places like this. 
Many will not be able to stay in business after Covid.  :(

Right away, the staff gave us some material for art craft and the girls made their butterflies wands, until rain forced us inside.

The museum is a mix of small exhibitions about the history of the area, from when the region was a locomotive repair hub, through the history of the Stratford Theatre Festival, furniture production, and to the impact of the wars on the community.  
A little about the different economic transformations in Stratford Perth area. 

But this guy caught most of our attention... again! 
Just Bieber: Steps to Stardom is a cute little exhibition about the town's biggest celebrity at the moment. 
It was extended until end of 2020 due to Covid.

His shoes, sweater, autographed photos and many other items tell the story about the musically talented little boy who takes over the world... creating what is known as the "Bieber Fever."

This big Brazilian Flag hanging on the wall has been mailed to the museum by fans in Brazil. 
What can I say????

The rain had stoped for a bit and we ran again outside to try to catch butterflies. 
There is a small trail behind the museum, perfect for kids to explore nature.

More geocaching here too. 
And the rain started again.

Back at the AirBnB, the "decorate your own cookies kit" dad bought yesterday in Goderich came in handy.

Beach Day - Goderich, Lake Huron

Stratford is about one hour away from Lake Huron, so Saturday was a beach day!
The drive is easy, through a bunch of farm land. 
I juts love seeing the crops and the farm houses along the way. 

Welcome to Goderich, "The Prettiest Town in Canada."

Goderich  is a town in the Canadian province of Ontario and is the county seat of Huron County. The town was founded by John Galt and William "Tiger" Dunlop of the Canada Company in 1827. First laid out in 1828, the town is named after Frederick John Robinson, 1st Viscount Goderich, who was prime minister of the United Kingdom at the time. It was incorporated as a town in 1850.
As of the Canada 2016 Census, the population is 7,628 in a land area of 8.64 square kilometres.
Located on the eastern shore of Lake Huron at the mouth of the Maitland River, Goderich faces the lake to the west and is notable for its sunsets. Some claim that Queen Elizabeth II once commented that Goderich was "the prettiest town in Canada" although no reigning monarch has ever visited Goderich. The town indicates that tourism is among its important industries. It has been named one of Ontario's best small towns by Comfort Life, a website for retirement living in Canada.
The town participates yearly in the Communities in Bloom competition; and has won awards in many categories. In 2012, Goderich was a National Finalist in the competition, and was also part of the Circle of excellence.

The novelty here is its distinctive downtown, shaped around the courthouse.  
It has an octagonal core and the streets radiate from the centre. 

We were lucky to get the last minutes of the local market and do some shopping.

The centre street is in a circular shape. 

Aerial photo of downtown Goderich from twitter.  (Not my image)

Fly, my butterfly!

The beach is right there, a few minutes away from downtown. 
What a "wow" effect when we first spotted it!

Lake Huron is about a three hours drive west of Toronto. 

FROM WIKIPEDIA: By surface area, Lake Huron is the second-largest of the Great Lakes, with a surface area of 23,007 square miles (59,590 km2) – of which 9,103 square miles (23,580 km2) lies in Michigan; and 13,904 square miles (36,010 km2) lies in Ontario – making it the third-largest fresh water lake on Earth (or the fourth-largest lake, if the Caspian Sea is counted as a lake). By volume however, Lake Huron is only the third largest of the Great Lakes, being surpassed by Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. When measured at the low water datum, the lake contains a volume of 850 cubic miles (3,500 km3) and a shoreline length (including islands) of 3,827 mi (6,159 km).

The surface of Lake Huron is 577 feet (176 m) above sea level. The lake's average depth is 32 fathoms 3 feet (195 ft (59 m)), while the maximum depth is 125 fathoms (750 ft (230 m)). It has a length of 206 statute miles (332 km; 179 nmi) and a greatest breadth of 183 statute miles (295 km; 159 nmi).

Cities with over 10,000 people on Lake Huron include Sarnia, the largest city on Lake Huron, and Saugeen Shores in Canada and Bay CityPort Huron, and Alpena in the United States.

The water is astonishing, a clear deep blue.

The water is cold but refreshing when is almost 30 degrees outside.

The beach is rocky.

There are play areas for kids along the long beach. 
It didn't take long for a "gang" to be formed.

Peace in one picture.

Juju and I took a walk to the end of the beach area where people hang out. 
We saw a contrast on the other side, completely empty but full of amazing nature.

You can drive or climb up the cliff to the light house.


The harbour at Goderich was originally just the mouth of the Menesetung (Maitland) River, but in the 1830s, the Canada Company constructed two stone-filled wooden piers to provide protection for the anchorage.
Goderich is the oldest Canadian light station on Lake Huron and first consisted of a pair of range lights established in the early 1830s. A contract for the erection of the current lighthouse was entered into in 1845 and called for the tower to be completed by July 1, 1846. Thomas Mercer Jones, a powerful land magnate with the Canada Company, sold the needed parcel of land overlooking the harbour to Queen Victoria. 

Adam MacVicar, a stone mason born in Edinburgh Scotland, worked on the construction of the Welland Canal after immigrating to Canada in the early 1800s. When that work was done, he relocated to Goderich and helped build the lighthouse in 1846. The square tower was constructed of evenly-coursed stone and features string courses between the first and second storey and just below the gallery. Though the tower stands just twenty feet tall to its lantern room, its light has a focal plane of 150 feet above Lake Huron. In November 1846, severe gales did considerable injury to the lantern. Some immediate repairs were made, and additional work was done when the lighting apparatus was placed in the lighthouse in 1847.

Photo by Sofia.

This incredible beach day ended back in Stratford with a delicious dinner at Revival House.
The food was good, but the atmosphere in a former church is what makes this place fun for us.

Friday, July 31, 2020

From Bieber to Shakespeare to St. Mary's

We took the morning to explore a different part of town: Downie Street, where the City Hall and the Stratford Tourism Office are.  

The girls want to make sure you all know they are NOT Justin Bieber's fans, but they are certainly super excited to do his tour and see places where the big star spent his childhood. We started with his sidewalk star, just outside the Avon Theatre. 

The self guided Justin Bieber tour organized by the Tourism Information Office is short and sweet. You can download the map online or buy it for $1 at the Tourism Information Office. It shows places the singer used to get his breakfast, his school, and after school hangouts like the YMCA and the skate park.
It was fun for the girls to imagine him as little boy growing up here, playing basketball and being a normal kids... like them.

From Bieber back to Shakespeare. 
The Shakespearean Gardens is a must visit place in Stratford. 
It's a small but a pretty spot right downtown that transports you to gardens back in England and make you feel really peaceful. 

There he is again: William Shakespeare. 

Sofia enjoyed the sprinklers cooling her down.

Julia and I sat at the gazebo thinking of Romeo and Juliet.

Sofia reads "Captain Underpants" at the Shakespearean Gardens. 
Not a romantic reading, but I am happy she got inspired to read there. 


After lunch we headed with Mike to St. Mary's, a small tow, 20 minutes away from Stratford. 
It's a super cute town too.

St. Mary's City hall.

The Town of St. Marys is located at the junction of the Thames River and Trout Creek, southwest of Stratford in southwestern Ontario. Rich in natural resources, namely the Thames River, the land that now makes up St. Marys was traditionally used as hunting grounds by First Nations peoples. European settlers arrived in the early 1840s.
The Town is known by its nickname, "The Stonetown," due to the abundance of limestone in the surrounding area, giving rise to a large number of limestone buildings and homes throughout the town. In the riverbed and along the banks, limestone was close to the surface and could be quarried for building materials. Many 19th century limestone structures have survived including churches, a beautiful museum, stunning opera house, commercial blocks, and private homes. St. Marys was incorporated into the province of Ontario, officially, in 1863.
The arrival of the Grand Trunk Railway in the late 1850's spurred growth and soon St. Marys became a centre for milling, grain-trading and the manufacture of agriculture-related products. The railway connected the Town to the rest of the world and framed the local landscape with its two large trestle bridges on limestone pillars across the waterways.
A walk through the historic streets of St. Marys offers a first-hand look at the unique stunning limestone architecture and vibrant downtown core. The community's rich history is preserved and promoted by the St. Marys Museum & Archives who continue to tell the stories of the town through its exhibitions, special events and programs.
St. Marys is home to not only 7,265 residents, but the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and is the burial place of Arthur Meighen, Canada's 9th Prime Minister, Timothy Eaton who went on to become one of Canada's greatest retailers, who opened his first businesses in Canada in St. Marys and nearby Kirkton, Ontario.
The town's present identity is very much shaped by its relationship to the natural wonder of the land, the spirit of its residents, and unique limestone architecture.

The town is also known by its nickname, "The Stone Town", due to the abundance of limestone in the surrounding area, giving rise to numerous limestone buildings and homes throughout the town. St. Marys Cement, a large cement producer founded in the town, capitalized on this close feed stock, and grew to be a major producer of cement in the province of Ontario.

St. Mary's has a bunch of fantastic trails around the town. 
I highly recommend biking here, but we did a short part of one of the trails walking. 
It's so pretty!

A scenic 1.5 kilometre walk along the eastern bank of the Thames River. Have a nice leisurely walk along the river, rest on a park bench and enjoy the view of Victoria Bridge, the dam (Little Falls), or the wildlife along the riverbanks. McGiveron Parkway, overlooking the dam, is a quiet retreat on the edge of the downtown core area. 
Take some time this season and enjoy a peaceful walk along the river! The Riverview Walkway extends from south of the tennis courts and famous swimming quarry at the south end of town,along the river to the downtown area. St. Marys is filled with a variety of park areas that offer quiet moments of solitude or hours of activity.


Canada's largest outdoor freshwater swimming pool

The quarry was really the reason of this trip. I came across it after an on line research about place to swim in Ontario. It is really impressive in person as it was in pictures. 
To swim here you need an online reservation - because of Covid - and it costs $23 per family for a two hour window. After that, they ask everyone to leave and disinfectant the area for the next group. 

St. Marys Quarry and Lind Sportsplex


Founded in 1840’s when settlers came in search of the town’s abundant of limestone, St Marys is home to Canada’s largest outdoor freshwater swimming pool that started out as limestone quarry.
The Town of St Marys bought two abandoned limestone quarries along with 50 acres of surrounding land in 1945 and in the course of time converted it to a public recreational facility.
Today, you can cliff jump into the quarry (water level permitting), swim, jump into 25-foot water trampoline, explore the quarry on Stand-up paddleboard, or play beach volleyball!

The water was a bit cold but refreshing. 
The only issue for the kids is that there is no shallow area, so they must wear life jackets all the time. 

Detoxing from the big city after almost five months of Covid stress.


We found this empty playground close to the train station, underneath the train tracks and beside the river.  What a pleasant surprise!
The kids played there for a long time, while Mike and I went for a little walk and appreciated the geese swimming around. 
It was such a nice change from the busy city life. 
No cars nor humans around. 

If you are in Stratford, please book at least an afternoon to visit St. Mary's. 
It's a little hidden gem.