The world’s longest skating rink turns 50

Me skating in front of a big beaver

One of our true national treasures is the Rideau Canal Skateway. Since skating has always been a passion of mine and I lived in Ottawa for a year, skating on the canal always brings back a flood of memories.

When I was a student in Ottawa, I’d skate to school, skate to the movies, and skate downtown to the bars and back. One of my favourite memories was turning the corner near the Laurier bridge at night right at that serendipitous moment when fireworks were going off over the majestic spires of the Chateau Frontenac to honour the opening of Winterlude.

There’s no better time to skate on the canal than Winterlude, Ottawa’s outdoor winter festival, and yesterday, we spent a cold frigid February day on the canal. Since two sections were still closed—be sure to check the interactive ice conditions map on the NCC website if you go, but they were saying the full canal should be open today—we made our base Fifth Avenue and skated north and south as far as we could go.

My husband and daughter on the ice

We watched them film a Hallmark movie in the little park under the romantic stone bridge (Dave thinks he got in a scene). We watched a guy juggle hockey pucks and sticks—only in Canada! We ate beavertails, which is mandatory if you skate on the canal in case you didn’t know. And we skated, and skated, and skated, until my wool socks chafed at my ankles.

This year, under the Bank Street bridge, the NCC has erected a photo exhibit of 50 years on the skateway.

Juggling hockey pucks

There was a picture of Douglas Fullerton, the chair of the National Capital Commission from 1969 to 1973 who came up with the idea to make it a skateway and helped the canal open in 1970. There were pictures of 7-year old Justin Trudeau on the canal as a boy, and the unsung heroes who flood the ice every night. Since I lived in Ottawa, and skated at night all the time, I would see the NCC workers, huddling out in the freezing cold digging holes in the ice and then using their long hoses to flood it so it would be in pristine condition the next day for the hordes of visitors.

Ice sculpture
You could make your own coloured ice block and add it to this ice sculpture

After we could skate no more, we visited the ice sculptures and interactive outdoor installations on Sparks Street (very cool, pun intended!), and walked past the Parliament buildings, the war memorial and the Chateau.

I can’t imagine a better day or way to spend a winter’s day.

This week’s #HappyAct is to get out and embrace winter, ideally on the world’s longest skating rink. Happy skating!

Snowplows on the ice
The unsung heroes who keep the skateway clear

My daughter on the ice

Girls eating maple taffy
Eating maple taffy as the sun sets on a great day

Lucky Charms–because they’re magically delicious

Box of Lucky CharmsEd. note: For your reading pleasure, read this week’s post with an Irish accent.

Ah, St. Paddy’s Day. The day when green beer and green blood flows through our veins like the River Liffey.

This year, we’ll be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in the wee town of Westport, Ontario. Dave will be piping in the parade, then we’ll be off to hear Turpin’s Tail at the Cove. It should be a fine night, to be sure.

While there are many wonderful things about the day of green, one of the most brilliant is eating a bowl of Lucky Charms cereal. What is so special about me Lucky Charms?

Well, for starters, they ARE magically delicious (the best marketing slogan of all time, along with “You’re always after me lucky charms!”)

Second, where else can you eat a rainbow that is a marshmallow? What a crack way to start your day.

And third, each charm has magic powers.

I also like how the colour of the milk turns green at the end of the bowl.

This week’s #HappyAct is to take this quick quiz on all things Irish, including our favourite breakfast cereal and have a marvellous St. Paddy’s Day.

  1. Which province in Canada recognizes St. Paddy’s Day as an official holiday?
  2. Name four of the shapes in a box of Lucky Charms.
  3. Which Canadian city flag has a shamrock on it?
  4. What is the name of the mascot in Lucky Charms?
  5. Beoir is the Irish Gaelic word for what?
  6. In what year did General Mills start making Lucky Charms?
  7. True of False: St. Paddy’s Day is celebrated in more countries than any other national festival?
  8. How many calories in bowl of Lucky Charms (3/4 cup)?
  9. True or False: Lucky Charms was the first cereal to include marshmallows in the recipe.
  10. Each marshmallow charm represents a different power. What power does the blue moon represent?
  11. BONUS question: There is also a Westport in Ireland too. Which county is it in?

May the luck of the Irish be with you this day and all days forward. (Quiz answers appear below).

green milk in bowl of lucky charms

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quiz answers:

  1. Newfoundland and Labrador
  2. Any four of hearts, stars, rainbows, horseshoes, clovers, blue moons, hourglass, red balloons
  3. The Montreal city flag includes a shamrock in its lower right-hand corner
  4. Lucky the Leprechaun
  5. Beer
  6. 1962
  7. True
  8. 110
  9. True
  10. The power of invisibility
  11. BONUS ANSWER: County Mayo

On frozen pond

Man standing with hockey stick on a rink on a lakeI wish I had a river so long. I would teach my feet to fly.” When Canadian Joni Mitchell recorded her iconic song The River in 1971, she was actually living in California.

Since then, The River has been recorded by 452 other artists, everyone from Blue Rodeo, Sarah McLaughlin to Idina Menzel, many of them Canadian artists.

There are times in our life when we all wish we had a river to skate away on, but I think Mitchell’s song resonates because it taps into our icy Canadian veins and our love affair with a frozen pond or rink.

For me that song evokes many memories, of skating on the Credit River as a child, skating all 7 kms on the Rideau Canal as a university student from the bars downtown to school, and watching in wonder as my own children found their wings and learned to fly on our frozen lake.

I remember one time BK (before kids) Dave and I hiked into Moulton Lake in Frontenac Park with our skates. It was early in the season, probably only four or five inches of black ice. The sun was rising and there were three deer at the end of the lake. The only sound besides the crunches of our skates carving into the pristine ice was the loud caws of crows soaring above, expressing their displeasure that we had disturbed their peace.

On frozen pond, I am free.

This week’s #HappyAct is to spend time outdoors on a frozen surface. Here are some pics from our frozen pond and some frosty happenings in the region to check out.

  • All 7.8 kms of the Rideau canal is now open in Ottawa, making it the world’s longest skating rink. Winterlude starts January 30, 2015 and continues to February 16.
  • Yesterday was the eleventh annual Skate the Lake in Portland—this tiny town on Big Rideau Lake in Eastern Ontario hosts this annual event where you can skate in 5 km to 50 km races on their oval—I plan to be there next year!
  • And something for skaters to add to their bucket list. Arrowhead Provincial Park north of Toronto has created a “fairy tale” 1.3 km ice loop through majestic pines, see this story for details.

people and dog walking on frozen lake

 

girl with hockey stick on frozen rink

 

Top 7 gardens to visit

Garden walkway
One of the many beautiful paths at Spindletree gardens

For some people, the thought of spending time in a garden would be a yawnfest.

Even if you don’t like gardening, spending time in a garden can be cathartic. I’ve always found gardens to be peaceful, inspirational places where the wonders and beauty of nature unfold and transform from season to season.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit two spectacular gardens this year: numbers 1 and 7 on the list. For those of you in Eastern Ontario, I’d highly recommend you visit Spindletree Gardens in Tamworth—it is truly a treasure in our own backyard and one of my all-time favourite gardens. They also serve a great lunch.

Here is my top list of favourite gardens to visit and spend time in:

  1. Longwood Gardens, in Pennsylvania: we visited this garden in July. I loved the fountain show and the conservatory, which had one of the largest pipe organs I’ve ever seen
  2. Larkwhistle, the home of garden authors Patrick Lima and John Scanlan’s on the Bruce Peninsula—simply stunning but you may be too late—when we visited it last summer we heard it may be the last season they open to the public
  3. The Rideau canal in Ottawa in May during the Canadian tulip festival
  4. The gardens at Chatsworth Hall, in Bakewell, England: 105 acres of formal traditional gardens and where they filmed my favourite version of Pride and Prejudice
  5. Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens—beautiful in the spring when the cherry and apple trees are in full bloom
  6. The garden atrium and conversatory at the Opryland hotel in Nashville–nine acres of inside oasis
  7. Spindletree gardens and tea room in Tamworth: a gem in our own backyard

This week’s #HappyAct is to spend time in a garden. Find a quiet bench to sit on then look around you. You never know what you may find and where your thoughts will take you.

Flowers in a conservatory
The conservatory at Longwood
Flowers in bloom
My garden

Listen to the lull of a waterfall

Waterfall
At our secret waterfall

Like most Canadians I long for the sounds of spring. The returning honks of Canadian geese gracing the sky on their flight path home, the high pitched chirps of spring peepers in the early evening, and the sounds of rushing water as our lakes, streams and rivers run free, washing away the remains of winter. They are music to my winter weary ears.

As I write this, I look out at my lake and it is still frozen, covered with a fresh skiff of snow. Most people think ice breaks up on the lakes. It doesn’t. It turns blacks, and then honeycombs before sinking, so one day you come home to the marvelous sight of open, shimmering water and the promise of warm, summery days ahead.

One of our favourite walks in the spring is to our secret waterfall. I don’t know how many people on our road know about it. We are the only people we ever see there. It only runs for a few weeks during the spring run off, but it is magnificent. We throw sticks at the top and watch anxiously to see if they navigate the rushing waters and make it over the crests of the rock to the pools below. The kids make forts and splunk in the channels, getting soakers but not caring. The dogs splash and drink from the cool, fresh water. It is a magical place.

This week’s Happy Act is to go for a hike to a waterfall and be lulled by its soothing sounds. Here is my list of favourite waterfalls in our region and some farther afield for you to discover.

  1. Jones Falls on the Rideau canal: a beautiful afternoon hike off of Highway 15, featuring a stone arch dam built in the 1830’s. Park in the upper parking lot and follow the trail along the dam down to the canal below.
  2. Bedford Mills cascade: small, but spectacular scenery off of Division Street north of Kingston half way to Westport. We’ve done a family photo shoot here.
  3. The Waterfall Tearoom in Yarker—yummy homemade fare overlooking a gorgeous little waterfall, open from Victoria Day to Thanksgiving.
  4. Frontenac Park, Slide Lake Loop—a challenging 21 km hike that passes Labelle Gorge and a series of waterfalls.
  5. Montmorency Falls just outside of Quebec City. It’s been many years since I’ve been there, but I still remember its magnificence.
  6. Cataract Falls in Forks of the Credit Provincial Park in Caledon—lots of great memories here as a child.
  7. Elora Gorge on the Grand River—my girlfriends and I had lunch in the restaurant overlooking these falls a couple of years ago on one of our girls’ weekends.
  8. Niagara Falls—never disappoints, I’ve never seen them from the American side though…maybe next visit

WaterfallRushing waterMoss on rocks