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Saturday, 6 January 2018

Making the Most of Winter in Northern Ontario

Making the Most of Winter in Northern Ontario



It's been a while since we shared a blogpost so, at the beginning of the New Year, we felt it was time to rectify this. 

In Northern Ontario, we greeted 2018 with temperatures that plummeted to -42 degrees celsius (with the windchill factor) - making this one of the colder starts to a New Year for a while. 



I remember, when I first came to Canada, someone told me that we have a choice regarding our attitude to winter - we could either complain about it, or get out and enjoy it. We have always chosen the latter option. Over the last few days, we've ventured out, suitably attired, to make the most of the Winter Wonderland that our area becomes at this time of year. 


Dressed to Chill!


The route we took

On New Year's Day, we decided to go in search for deer (being Mark's favourite wild animal). Normally, we see a plethora of them at Iron Bridge; but, for some reason, they are more scarce so far this year. We did espy one on the lawn of one of the residents who feeds them, and managed to capture him before he bounded off into the surrounding forest. 


Just caught this fella as he headed to the safety of the forest



Heading north of Iron Bridge, we set off for the road which winds alongside the Mississagi River. 



Very interesting road, with great rock formations on either side

The road follows the winding Mississagi River for quite a few kilometres


So much of the river is completely frozen over, though the water is running furiously underneath the ice, as can be discerned from the speed at which it is flowing where there is still open water. It always fascinates us to watch the ice floes as they quietly float by. 














There were also some huge cracks in the ice and many of the separate chunks had pushed themselves upwards - like white tectonic plates after an earthquake. 


Large cracks in the ice

The ice-fishing season is well on its way as evidenced by the presence of ice huts on Cummings Lake. 


Ice huts on Cummings Lake, north of Iron Bridge


 We love the contrast of the lakes/rivers/rocks/trees with the openness of the tracts of farm land in between Iron Bridge and where the road meets the Mississagi River, further north. We have often seen a herd of Elk on the edge of the forest, though one of the locals told us that, a couple of years ago, the farmers erected a fence where the forest meets the fields in order to protect crops. Hence, we haven't seen them lately. 






These cows were just as interested in us as we were in them!

A lone shack - reminiscent of Pioneer Times

On the way back from Sault Ste. Marie, on January 3rd,  we noticed that some of the locals were taking advantage of the snow to enjoy some tobogganing. 



We also stopped at Bell's Falls. 





The coldest day so far was January 4th but, since this was the first day I was free of the catheter (after nearly 4 months), we decided to wrap up extra warm and take a hike out to Cupcake Rock - one of our favourite places to visit. 

Stanrock Road is smoother to travel on during the winter - all potholes are nicely filled in!


Cupcake Rock, with Quirke Lake in the background


The snowmobile tracks made it easier for us to negotiate our way through the thick snow


You can see how cold it was on that day by the way that the condensation on Mark's glasses were frozen over - that was a thin film of ice on the lenses, which he couldn't remove until we got back into the car!!!



Today, the ski hill was in operation here, in Elliot Lake. We parked the car and watched the brave folk for a while. 

Chairlifts at Mount Dufour, Elliot Lake


This guy looked very accomplished and confident:



Lastly, we visited our two local swimming beaches, Spruce Beach and Spine Beach, where ice huts are beginning to appear on frozen Elliot Lake. 


Spruce Beach


Spine Beach


No matter where we go, or how far we travel, it always feels good to see the welcome sign of home. 



We are always grateful to be living in such a wonderful area of Ontario which never fails to thrill us, no matter what the season!

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Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Time for Some Humour!

Time for Some Humour!


As most of you probably know by now, I am recovering from a particularly nasty bout of Septicemia, which was touch and go there, for a while. I am now convalescing by taking it easy and letting nature take its healing course. I have a temporary indwelling catheter, and am under a specialist with whom we are discussing next steps (which could involve reduction of the size of the prostate, or its complete removal). 

We've cancelled all house/pet sits for the rest of the year and I am not taking on any weddings until next Spring. Apart from feeling very tired after doing very simple activities, I'm feeling good, and have the best care-giver anyone could wish for in Mark. 

After a prolonged break from writing blogs, I'm now feeling that it's time for a little bit of humour, so here goes!



The Advantages of a Catheter #1...





In spite of the discomfort, you can pee as many times as you like during the night, without getting up!!!





Hope you got a little chuckle from that. 

Hugs to everyone. 

Love, 
Alan and Mark 





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Friday, 7 July 2017

The Finchingfield Lion - A Pub Worth Saving!

The Finchingfield Lion - A Pub Worth Saving!

A view of the village looking over the bridge

In the north-west area of Essex, England, lies the small, picturesque village of Finchingfield. Often described as a 'picture-postcard' village - and one of the most photographed - it calls to tourists to check it out for themselves. During my recent visit to the U.K., my friends and I decided to do just that and, although it was overcast for most of the day, it did not disappoint us. 


The Finchingfield Lion, on Church Hill.


Standing proudly on the slant of Church Hill, you'll find a delightful building that represents the best of a time-honoured traditional symbol of British hospitality and community - the British Pub! 

The first thing I noticed when we entered the Finchingfield Lion was the dog bowl in the hallway - which indicated that dogs were welcome! That - right there - was a big clue about the values of the owners. Stepping inside, we were immediately welcomed by Spade, who was serving behind the bar. We had popped in before the busy time, so we were able to chat with him - and it turned out that he was a mine of information. 


Spade - the epitome of friendliness and humour



Jacqui - one of the joint proprietors
His sister, Jacqui, who lives just 3 doors down the hill, had been a regular to the pub for many years. It had been owned by a younger couple who had decided to sell up and move on to new ventures. There was a strong possibility that the building was going to be refurbished as a tea room. There are two other establishments in the village that serve alcohol along with a meal. Although they are similar to pubs, the way they are set up reveal that they are more like restaurants. Delightful as they are, Jacqui felt that the village deserved to have a genuine pub in the traditional sense - not another tea room. So, she, her sisters, and their partners, purchased the freehold and they set about refurbishing it so that the tradition could be preserved. It was opened just before Christmas, 2016.

And what a great job they've done! 

All of the original timbers and ornamentation have been preserved - including the timbers which date back to the early 16th Century. In fact, some of the timbers were originally those commissioned by Queen Elizabeth 1st for ships to fight the Spanish Armada in 1588. 


Timbers dating back to the time of the Spanish Armada


The presence of a wood-burning stove adds to the ambience, and one could just imagine the warm comfort on a cold winter's evening, with patrons gathered to enjoy each other's company. 





Attached to the pub, just through an old (and low) wooden door, there is a full restaurant for patrons and visitors alike. The walls have been decorated with a variety of seabirds in splendid colour. 



Restaurant - accessed through a low, wooden door


Still in the process of improving the decor, Jacqui installed a lamp stand in the dining area while we were there. 




What really stood out for us, though, was the sheer friendliness and welcome that we received from Spade and Jacqui. From the moment we walked in, Spade made us feel as if we were the most important people in the village. A world traveler, with extensive publican experience, he shared with us that he had moved to Finchingfield in order to help his sisters get established. His friendly manner and dry sense of humour resulted in our decision to return for lunch after we had completed our tour of the village. 


The Lion 'Shield' - presented by the locals
I asked them if the locals had been supportive of their venture and they proudly showed us a congratulatory card that had been signed by the villagers who also had presented them with a beautiful metallic lion's head which adorns the wall above the woodstove alcove. 




The locals offered their full support


Spade explained that there were 4 rooms upstairs that would soon be open for a Bed and Breakfast experience and he took us up there to show us some of the rooms. 


A delighful 4-poster!
We were so impressed with how beautiful they were - and how the modern conveniences had been incorporated into the rooms without changing the original structure, complete with its wooden beams and its charming, uneven floor. Visitors would be able to imagine that they were back in an earlier century, but with everything they would need for their comfort. 


A mix of old and modern



An innovative 'coffee/tea alcove'!


View from one of the rooms - looking out at the old Guildhall opposite the pub.

We enjoyed our experience (and our lunch) so much that my friends, Alan and Elaine, decided to book a room to celebrate the anniversary of when they first met. (In fact, I'm timing this blog to that they read it upon their arrival on July 8th!) I'm sure that they will thoroughly enjoy being spoiled by the owners and their staff. 

If you are ever visiting Essex, you won't want to miss out on an excursion to this amazing village; and no visit to the village would be complete without dropping in to the Lion. 


View from behind the bar - thanks to Spade!

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The pub, which stocks an extensive range of keg and cask beers, spirits and wines, also offers a menu comprising of home-made pub grub, curries, and locally sourced delights. 


For more information, visit their website at: www.thefinchingfieldlion.co.uk   or call 01371 810400

Click the caption under map for directions:

Directions to the Finchingfield Lion


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