Friday, June 27, 2014

Ottawa on a prayer....

After our last day biking Le Petit Train du Nord, we decided to stay the night in Ottawa, rather than drive the five hours or so back to TO all in one go. We had not booked a hotel in the capital, because we weren't sure what our plans would be. Who stays in Ottawa on a Monday night anyway, not even most politicians, I bet!

Well, someone was taking up quite a few hotel rooms on this particular Monday. On route, I had phoned about 4 or 5 chains and they were all full. Yikes!! By the time I ended my last call to someone in the middle of nowhere to book a Holiday Inn room near the ByWard market, we were in downtown Ottawa. What do we do now?

Mellos, not Velos

It was 4:30 and it looked like rain. We passed a street sign that suggested a tourist office was nearby, but where? "Try that mall," my husband said. I jumped out of the car, while he looked for a parking spot. I ran into the mall, nothing screamed tourist office, I asked at the LCBO - they know everything, don't they - No, apparently not. A customer there said it was at the front of the mall - they have sides? I went to the opposite entrance - nothing. Now I was out on a street I didn't recognize. Who am I kidding. I didn't recognize any street in Ottawa. Where did my husband park? Panic! Where was I and where was he? Now, I know why I have a phone and why it has to be charged.

Fortunately, when I turned a corner, I saw him talking to two woman. They were both trying to remember where they had last seen a tourist office - it could be a long night. Luck was with me, this time, though. After rolling my eyes, I happened to see, out of the corner of one of them, the word "hotel" on a building, on a side street, just over there. I extracted my husband from their reverie and sprinted over, as best I could after five hours of biking!!

Too bad it was a Monday Night :)

Eureka!! They had an empty room!! It was $150.00, plus parking but no senior's discount. The Capitol Hill Hotel was, as it should be, very close to the parliament buildings and walking distance to the ByWard market. Finally, I could relax in a surprisingly spacious room with a door out to a balcony, that was shared by all the other units on the floor. I decided not to worry about security. We walked to the market area and had dinner at Navarra because it was written up in my husband's bible, Where To Eat In Canada. The food was delicious.

We took our time walking back, taking pictures. We might have even had a good night's sleep had the fire alarm not gone off at 6:00am. It could have been worse. It could have been 3:00am.

My husband jumped out of bed, into his clothes and said, "We have to get out of here."
I said. "Call the desk to see if there really is a fire."

Cookies for Canada Day

No need to panic, someone had just burned their toast in one of the suites. It did, however, take the fire department about 20 minutes or more to respond. They probably called the front desk too, finished their Bridge game and decided to pop over and turn off the alarm.

After breakfast at the market, we headed home with a stop for lunch in Kingston. Chez Piggy, here we come!!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Triomphe.....

The final leg of the bike journey on Le Petit Train du Nord was 42kms from Val David to St. Jerome and it was for the most part all downhill. We did coast past cyclists who were going the other way - uphill. They were struggling. Now I know why the tour bus takes you to Mont Laurier. Except for a few uphill bits, the ride is mainly downhill.

Again the day was sunny, not too hot and quite breezy. Our friends on the tandem were out early, hoping to cover the distance in a few hours and be on the road, home to Vermont for dinner. At our pace, we figured that we could make the journey with a stop for lunch in 4.5 to 5 hours. We set out on a quiet Monday morning, in a country landscape of lakes and rivers. This is what I had envisioned the entire trail to be - no rain, pleasantly flat and very picturesque. Life though is often the reality, not the fantasy we would like it to be :)

River foam

We stopped for lunch in Prevost, at a plaza, which was just a little off the trail. I would have preferred a cafe right on the trail, however, I guess that it is difficult to make a living, with limited traffic from cyclists in summer and cross country skiers in winter. The plaza, though, had 6 or 7 restaurants with menus from all over the world. I had pate, some Brie and a toasted baguette. My husband had a ham and cheese melt which would have sustained a small village. About half way through lunch, Fay and Marjorie biked in, so we invited them to sit with us. We left, after a great chat about the trail, and met them again in St. Jerome.

Banks of Queen Anne's Lace

The closer to the urban sprawl of Montreal, the busier the trail became. There were more intersecting roads, stoplights and just general chaos, with strollers, wheelchairs and walkers, all competing for space on the now paved section of the trail. This was a Monday too. Weekends must be virtually impassable! The exact end of the trail is through a triumphant arch, similar to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris where the winners of the Tour de France pass. You enter a large plaza with fountains, cafes, buskers and lots of people just "hanging out." It was very festive.

Fay and Marjorie completing the entire trail 

We returned our bikes, a little sadly, checked that the car had not been vandalized in the public parking lot, loaded in our luggage and headed for the cafe. I had a lemonade and since almost every watering hole in Quebec is licensed, my husband had a beer. We cheered Fay and Marjorie when they came through the arch and took their picture. They were off to Montreal to visit Marjorie's son and we were soon off to Ottawa, to break the journey to Toronto.

More on Monday night in Ottawa next post!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts

I gather that you get to have a "des Monts" after your name, in the Laurentians, if you are a town that is really at the top of a mountain. Well, Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts certainly is and anyone who has
cycled to it along Le Petit Train du Nord painfully knows how really high it is!!

We've been to Ste. Agathe before, by car and it is a lovely place. However, we gave it a miss this time, because it is off the trail and we needed to be on the trail, peddling steadily to make Val David in time!! Actually most of the journey at this point was downhill - I loved it!! Today was warm, but not too hot and it was very sunny!! We must have peddled quite a bit too, rather than coast down the path, because we arrived in Val David in time for lunch. I'm not sure why we rushed!!




Val David is a busy town right on the trail. It is known for its arts' community, interesting restaurants and eclectic shops. Today was Sunday and it was very busy, however, we had no trouble getting a table on the patio of a lovely restaurant right on the main street. Here, we split a huge sandwich, again on a baguette and each of us had a glass of wine. I could have sat there, in the sun, all day. No rest for the athletic :) though, we had to find our inn.



Le Creux du Vent (the cradle of the wind) was actually back on the trail a little, right beside some raging rapids, which we had planned to look at after lunch. Well, now we could see them for dinner too. The building itself is an old style Quebec home with a slopping tin roof, gabled windows and huge veranda. The rooms were all very pretty, though our shower stall was a little cramped. Dinner, on the other hand, was excellent with Gazpacho to start, several main dishes to choose from - we both had the duck pasta and again several desserts - we shared the Pot de Creme. The restaurant was licensed and the wine was somewhat affordable. I think the price must go up the closer you get to Montreal!!



Although, we rarely went out after dinner, my husband always managed to stay awake in the evening to read, send texts to the kids and finish the beer. I usually fell asleep immediately on contact with the pillow. The rhythm of the holiday could best be described as - eat, sleep, eat, bike. Even though the biking was strenuous, I didn't lose any weight because the food was so good!! Sigh!

More tomorrow. Have a terrific day!!

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Night They Built The Mountain....

OK, It wasn't built overnight. It had been there all the time, only I hadn't seen it. That is, I hadn't looked at an elevation map. This was an old train track, why would I have to be concerned about elevation? Why, because I'm not a puffer belly - OK, I puffed a lot on this trip and yes, it's too bad about the belly, but I know that they had dynamite back then and how come they didn't use it here?

Obstacles on the trail

Sigh, Yes, right in the middle of the bike track was a winding elevation of 200 - 300m over 8 kms. That's it! I'm going home!! I hate hills, which is one of the reasons I chose this venue for a cycling trip. Sob!! Since we had used up the largesse of the transport company, we knew that we couldn't ask them for another lift. We decided to ask the innkeeper if there might be a taxi that could take us and our bikes to a spot further down the trail, beyond the mountain. Together, we worked out that St. Faustin was our best bet. It was 10kms away and the mountain, by my calculation, was an 8kms incline. We could do this!!

First we had to take the front wheels off the bikes. I panicked a little, knowing of course, that we had to put them back on again and it involved reconnecting the brakes. We blindly forged ahead and were deposited for another $30.00 in the lovely hamlet of St. Faustin. We began the trail. It went uphill. Surely there was some mistake. I had just paid $30.00 to avoid this!!  The trail got steeper - Yikes!! I dismounted - plan C was, if all else fails, walk the bikes. "Yes, walk," said the mosquitos, "we love you!!"



My husband, who was now well ahead of me, said, "You'll never make it, walking." I knew that, but I was pretending.

"Get back on the bike and drop everything to 1."
"Drop what to 1?" I answered.
"The gears."
"Gears?" I said.
"Yes, what gear are you in?"
"I don't know."
"Well look."
"Maybe 7?"
"OMG."

At that point I realized that I hadn't changed a gear the entire trip so far. My old bike had gears, but they never really worked so I just ignored them. I couldn't ignore these.

Success at the top of the mountain

I dropped everything(gears) to 1 and lo and behold I could bike, without pain and exhaustion, slowly, very slowly, up the rest of the incline. It turned out that St. Faustin was about two thirds of the way up the mountain, we now had about a third - 3kms - left to cycle, however, it was right up hill. I amazed myself. I would never have believed that I could do it!! Just another 30kms to Val David - onwards and downwards!!

Have an amazing day!!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Labelle to St Jovite en Velo

The cycling trail from Labelle to St. Jovite was more of what we had remembered from ten years ago. It was gently rolling and very flat in many places. It wasn't as easy as yesterday's paved trail, but I would trade crushed stone for pelting rain any day!! Although there was a lot of heavy cloud brooding over the trail, there were also promising patches of brilliant blue sky.

The first few kilometres in the morning were always the worst. Warming up stiff, sore muscles can be a challenge. My husband kept wondering why we were paying for this torture. Somehow he felt that we should have been subjects in a geriatric experiment, where we got paid!! Once up to speed, however, we could peddle along at a steady rate of 10 to 12 kms per hour - you are supposed to slow down on vacation aren't you :) Coasting downhill was the easiest and the rough "washboard" texture of the trail in places wasn't too bone shattering, because we did have the gorgeous scenery to ease the pain!!



For lunch, we stopped at an old watering hole near Mt Tremblant - an out door cafe swarming with "fellow" cyclists. Few were at the tables though, as most were waiting for the rest of their biking club to arrive. These people were tall, thin testaments to the virtues of the sport. Their bikes were delicate works of art and their costumes, brilliant T-shirts over black biking shorts, identified them as members of various elite teams. Compare this gathering to a group of tattooed, motorbikers and you have the yin and yang of life on two wheels. (Ed note: there were several women in these cycling groups who were well into their sixties.)



Lunch was a huge mug of cafe au lait and a sandwich on a baguette - delicious. We lounged for sometime on the patio, as the sun was peeking through the clouds more often and the day was beginning to warm up. Once more on our bikes, we were able to ride very comfortably on the newly paved surface of the trail from the village of Tremblant to St. Jovite. Our inn for the evening, Les Voyageurs, was right on the trail. It was a lovely old house with en suites in every room. All the renovations had been professionally done and the decor was Home and Gardens perfection. However, it was not licensed. We could, though, bring our own wine and beer (which we did) to drink on the patio. The wine we had packed in our suitcase, which was transported to the inn. The beer we picked up daily and packed in my husband's backpack. It made the cycling a little harder, but he claims that the struggle was worth every drop!!

Les Voyageurs

As Les Voyageurs is a B&B, it does not do dinner. We were given vouchers, though, to have a meal at a very popular Italian restaurant in town, about 2kms walk away. Well, yes, you could bike it, but walking for us was safer after dinner with wine and also after a long day of cycling :) Since we had already walked to St Jovite and back after our bike ride, another trip into town was not a problem and dinner was great, if not a little predictable and quite noisy!!

More tomorrow and how we circumvented the mountain :)

A Somewhat Sunny Saturday

The lodging for the first night of our trip down Le P'tit Train du Nord was Auberge Chez Ignace, which was not only a refuge from the storm, but also a welcome oasis of warmth, charm and wonderful food. Here too, we finally had an opportunity to meet the other six people, who were travelling with us. Although all of us had our own itineraries, we still met in the evenings to share stories of the journey - perhaps the bicycling equivalent of The Canterbury Tales :)

There was a husband and wife team from Vermont who rode a tandem and were retired from positions in education. The husband had been a school social worker and his wife, a school librarian. What emerged from our conversation, was that biking was almost a way of life for them. They had cycled all over the world, done Le P'tit Train twice, and Bill (husband) had also biked with his son and a group of 700 other cyclists from Seattle to Washington DC - You are known by the company you keep, or at least talk to. Bill and Susan were travelling with another couple (younger) who were also from Vermont and very accomplished cyclists.

The other two bikers were two woman from Calgary, both retired from research positions with the government. They were not only avid travellers and strong cyclists but actively involved in other activities. Fay was taking a degree in Fine Arts and Marjorie (who had walked the Camino) was planning another trip, this time to Estonia. Both Marjorie and Fay were lifelong friends, who had decided to combine the biking with train trips to visit family in Montreal and Ottawa.

Labelle on the Train du Nord

It was wonderful to meet these amazing people in such a lovely inn. Not only was Chez Ignace beautifully decorated, with many interesting curios and several fine art pieces, but our host was also a very charming man. His wife, Yolande was a lovely, sympathetic (she laundered the guest's wet clothing) woman, who could really cook!! We had a great choice of starters for dinner, including deer pate, in-house smoked salmon and escargot. The main dishes, were tastefully prepared from locally raised rabbit, elk or walleye and were just as delicious, as were the desserts. Chez Ignace is also licensed with an impressive array of affordable wines - I would come back here again!! Breakfast was a generous omellet or a paper thin crepe (or both) with lots of fruit, and homemade breads and jam!! With our strength, restored, we were ready to continue the journey, albeit with some adjustments.

My husband looking a whole lot better!!

We knew, for example, that we could not do the next complete leg of the journey, which was another 60kms. This is where a typo can kill. On the written instructions, the distance to the next inn was printed as 28kms. However, a quick look at a dry trail map clearly showed that St Jovite was another 60kms away. With remnants of Plan B still in place, we decided to ask the tour company, who was transporting the luggage, to take us to a point about half way along the trail towards the next inn. We knew that we could easily cycle 30kms and not have a medical emergency on route.

The tour company agreed to this, although it was not something that they wanted to do on a regular basis. I think, though, that they may have been making up for the bad weather. And so, we began the next section of the trip on an almost sunny Saturday, with a sense of success rather than failure. We had had a wonderful evening the night before, with great company and superb food, and this morning, after a substantial breakfast, we had the promise of a sunny day!

Lac Mercier near Tremblant


More tomorrow. Have a wonderful day!!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

When Ignorance is an Asset......

I had one of those "OMG, what have I done?" moments last Friday. I was in the middle of the bush in Northern Quebec, totally isolated, covered in mosquitos, biking uphill, in the pouring rain. My husband, whom I had dragged along, was having chest pains and all I could think of was, "How did I get us into this mess?"

Let me put this in context. I have always wanted to bike "Le P'tit Train du Nord," the linear park that runs from St Jerome (just north of Montreal) to Mont Laurier, about 200kms further north. We have biked sections of it before about 10 years ago and found it very manageable - mostly flat (it is an old train line) with delightful inns and cafes along the trail - what's not to love?

Well, ignorance for one thing!! I took the 25kms per half day, we had biked back then, multiplied it by 8 and decided that we could do 50kms a day for four days, staying at various inns along the way and having a tour company transport our baggage. It sounded so simple on paper. What I hadn't taken into account were:

Starting out in St Jerome

1. The weather - well, what's a little rain. Well, sometimes it's a lot of rain and sometimes it rains all day and how do you finish your allotted mileage soaked to the skin, exhausted?

2. The grade - Le Petit Train Du Nord was obviously the little train that could. Gone were the nice flat tracts we used to bike further south. The first leg of the journey was a gradual uphill climb for 40kms.

3. The insects - that idyllic picnic that we often had after biking a few kilometres out into the country was reversed, we were now lunch for the several thousand mosquitos that swarmed us whenever we tried to stop.

4. The math - the distances between inns did not always divide into 50 manageable kilometres. In fact the first inn was almost 60 kilometres away.

5. The amenities - gone were the quaint inns and delightful cafes of the middle part of the trail. The stretch from Mont Laurier to Nominique did not have a single refuge spot anywhere on the trail. Luckily one of the other biking enthusiasts had pointed out a small community just off the trail, as we were riding up to the starting point on the bus.

Mont Laurier and the start of the trail

With 20kms to go, we were fortunately able to turn off the trail into this small, isolated community of 1 convenience store, 1 chip wagon (it's a Quebec thing) and 1 bar-resto that served food indoors, out of the rain and the mosquitos. It's at moments like these that I can fully understand Blanche's words, "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers." It was now 3:00pm. We had been up since 6:00am with nothing but toast and tea for breakfast and we were soaked to the skin. An emaciated, grilled cheese sandwich never tasted so good!!

After this pit stop, however, we knew that we could not do the next 20kms (which were btw, downhill, however, we didn't know that, since our trail map had disintegrated in the rain!!) We reviewed Plan B. Mercifully, we had a phone connection and could call the inn, where we were staying that night, to see if a taxi could come and pick us up, bikes and all and take us to the inn. "But, of course!!" (The French make it seem so simple.) Now it did cost $50.00, but at that point, I would have paid thousands just to get out of the rain.

Auberge Chez Ignace in the sun

After a hot shower and some commiseration with the other guests at the inn, who had managed the full 60kms (they were younger and/or fitter), we could pat ourselves on our aching backs for even doing the 40kms that we had actually done, under those miserable conditions, at our age and in our not-so-fit physical shape!!

When was ignorance an asset? Well, I would never have left Toronto, if I had known what to expect. But then, I would never have had the opportunity to see what we could really do, when pressed and it amazed both of us!!

More tomorrow, which in literature, is always a better day!!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Love Could Break Your Bridge.......

....or maybe it's gridlock of a whole different variety :) I read in the paper yesterday where one of the bridges over the Seine in Paris lost a portion of its grid work because of all the padlocks that couples have affixed to it, as a sign of their eternal devotion to one another. Given the divorce rate in the general public these days, eternal is probably about five years, however, no one seems to be rushing to remove their lock, after the romance has ended.



Hence, groaning from the weight of so much Parisian amour, a portion of one of the bridges just collapsed. I took these pictures of locks on several bridges over the Seine in May (2014). Clearly more than one "pont" is endangered. Some couples are even cementing their relationships on the highest platform of the Eiffel Tower. Hopefully they are then not jumping, however, the tower itself may be in danger of keeling over, from the weight of the locks - whatever happened to locks of hair. Hmmm bridges covered in hair - best not to go there :)



I think that it's time to find another symbol for eternal love. How about planting a tree in a derelict area, or seeding wildflowers on the median of a highway - maybe a bit too dangerous. Well, how about buying a goat for an impoverished family somewhere. OK, maybe goat doesn't say love as much as flowers, a locket and/or a tree in which to engrave your initials, should the romance last long enough to grow a tree large enough to accept the inscription. (Ed note: would you then even remember where you planted it?)



Maybe not. Oh well, there are always flamingoes!!

Love works in mysterious ways

Have a lovely day.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Vivian Maier

The first movie I watched on our new flat screen "Smart TV" (were all the other ones dumb?) - was "Finding Vivian Maier." I have been fascinated by her photography since 2011, the first time I read an article about the auctioning of all her undeveloped film. In fact I wrote a post on it at the time, Lucky Day.

Cloud Factory

Somewhat reclusive, Vivian Maier was a children's nanny most of her life and spent a good part of her spare time and even some of her working time taking pictures. She left a legacy of over 40,000 undeveloped photos and film, in a storage locker. This horde was eventually sold at auction to cover the cost of the unpaid rent. Her purchaser (can I say that?) was so stunned by the quality, scope and sheer immenseness of her work that he set about to tell her story in the documentary I saw last night.



I just realized that I have almost 4,000 pictures on my MAC and probably another 4,000 on an external hard drive - yikes. I may be becoming a Vivian Maier. However, I rarely take pictures of people. Vivian Maier took amazing pictures of people!! Here is a website dedicated to her work - www.Vivianmaier.com.


The pictures? My fascination with the infrastructure. People are more interesting :)

Have a great day!

Friday, June 06, 2014

It Seems That Some Have Forgotten.....

Today, June 6, is DDay. The day the allies landed on the beaches of Normandy and began the liberation of France, which ultimately ended WWII. Usually DDay commands the front page of both daily newspapers. It didn't today, eclipsed by the tragedy in Moncton - another war on a different front. Yes, there were a few mentions of the importance of June 6, 1944 on FB and some in French on Twitter. However, there were just a few.

I guess that 70 years is a long time to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. I am reminded, though, of that sacrifice, whenever I walk through Mt. Pleasant cemetery, which, these days, is often daily. I scan the tombstones for interesting names or for interesting dates. I do the math - some lived into their 90s, others died in infancy. This is when, I occasionally come across a marker that notes a son, killed in France or Belgium, or somewhere else in Europe, because of the war(s). Sometimes there is a mention of two sons and one sad marker lists three.



I can't imagine the pain of being told that your children have been lost. All the more painful because it would happened slowly over time - months or years apart. One by one the letters would come or officials would knock at the door with the sad news.

I grieve then and deal somewhat with survivor's guilt. "You did this for us?" I ask the rhetorical question, which may never be answered. The least we can do is remember their strength on significant days, such as today.

The picture? OK it's not WWII, but does it really matter? The fact is that too many died, for too few reasons and now too few have managed to remember that fact. I think that the last line says it all. Too many didn't come home!!

Have a memorable day!

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Best Buy.....Not!!

Have you ever had one of those days when everything seems to go wrong? Well yesterday was one of them for me. It started with a note on my windshield about parking to close to a driveway. I may have written before about permit parking, street parking and parking pads. It's an ongoing battle.

1. First, since we share our driveway with the people next door, no one parks in the driveway. Also since this mutual drive is virtually at a 45ยบ angle, creating a simple parking pad on the lawn, is not an option. Any parking spot out front would require lots of heavy digging, retaining walls and major loss of garden space. As a result we chose to park our cars on the street with permits.

Permits are limited to the number of curb spaces available, so most permit parkers are careful not to take up two spaces. We do, however, have to park close to the driveway entrances of other houses, many of whom have the benefit of a parking pad. No, I am not going to park back from her driveway and use up two spaces. She just has to learn to back out of her driveway a little more skilfully. I told her this, politely, in a return note!!

2. Unfortunately, I am a one-woman army against bicycles on the street. Adults and teens who ride bicycles are required, by law, to ride on the road. It is, though, a relaxed law. However, if it is not enforced again soon, there might be no place left to walk safely.  Also cyclist, given an easy ride on the sidewalk, will not be forced to lobby their councillors to create protected bike lanes. I had to stare down two sidewalk cyclists before noon, yesterday. Sigh!!



3. At 4:00pm I met my husband at Best Buy to purchase a flat screen TV, which we had sourced. I did try my local electronics store, but their installation charges were very high. So now we had to endure the soulless experience of purchasing at BB. When we eventually snagged a sales person, she was very rude and treated us, as though we knew nothing. After much discussion, we upgraded to a Smart TV and began the purchase journey, which took over an hour. Several times their computer went down and all the basic data of name, address etc. was lost, so we had to start over again. The last time we even lost the installation date of Friday and had to go with an installation on Saturday.

Finally, they couldn't input the sale's code, so we had to pay full price and they then reimbursed us - more time wasted!! I hope that this experience is not an omen of problems to come with the new TV. We have had problems with other electronics from BB before! more sighing!!

The picture? It's a "grid bridge" at the Brickworks over a lily pond there. Most of the picture is the reflection of the bridge in the pond. Water has a way of soothing even the harshest of elements. We are blessed with a few of these oases in the city. I needed one yesterday!!

Have a great day!!

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Ramping It Up

On Friday, my husband and I went to Niagara-on-the-Lake for a trial run, make that a trial bike run. We're still trying to use up my husband's vacation time before he has to forfeit any unused time in August. We're now down to about 25 days. However, if you throw in the weekends in between, we still have a lot of time to "use up."

I have always wanted to bike "Le P'tit Train du Nord, the linear park that runs from, St Jerome, just north of Montreal to Mont Laurier in the Laurentians. We have biked parts of it before and know that it is fairly level and not too difficult in most places. What we had to find out first was 1. Could we still bike and 2. Could we bike the first leg of the journey which is 55kms in one day.



With helmets, packed we left Toronto about 9:30am and got to our destination in just over an hour an a half - no traffic!! We knew of a bike rental place on the main street that was quite close to the bike trail, which runs between Niagara-on-the-Lake and Niagara Falls, (30kms in total). We paid our money and we took our chances - Yes, I could still get up on the bike, keep my balance and pedal!!- so could my husband!! Most of the trip to Queenston is slightly downhill, which means, of course, it's uphill for the return. We got to Queenston in about an hour and had the usual, warm soggy sandwiches for lunch from the backpack. The bridge on the trail here was under construction and we knew that there was a huge hill after Queenston, which you had to climb, before biking onto The Falls.

This bridging gap was a very good reason to turn back at Queenston, which we happily did. The "uphill" ride back, wasn't as horrible, as I had predicted and we got back to Niagara-on-the-Lake in about an hour and a half. The total trip was 24kms in 2.5 hours - yes we could do 55kms in a full day.

Before we left for home, we rewarded ourselves with a glass each of Ontario Chardonnay and a lovely artisanal cheese plate at the restaurant, Zee, which is part of the boutique hotel, Shaw Spa - very swish!! Add to all this a summer's day - not too hot, gorgeous sun, patio tables with festive umbrellas and no guilt - we had earned it!!

The picture? The sink(s) in the washroom at the boutique hotel. Why I didn't take pictures of the bike trail, the cheese plate or the town is beyond me. The only picture I have of the trip is this amazing sinkless washroom, which is more of a slanted glass trough with taps. Travel is all about the surprises and where you find them.

Have an awesome day!!