Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Spring Cycling the Niagara Area & Toronto's Greenbelt

Many cycling tours in Ontario are easily accessible, either close to urban areas or near quaint, hospitable country towns.  Dust up your bike and enjoy leisurely Spring cycling tours.
Welland Canal Locks
Riders can start or stop anywhere along the 475 km route (or for the most ambitious, ride from end to end). With 1,100 signs along the way to keep you from getting lost, the Greenbelt Route is a world-class cycle tourism offering taking residents through Ontario’s protected Greenbelt.

For those looking to venture off the main route, on you will find additional “local loops” taking riders on scenic day trips or multi-day vacations across the Greater Golden Horseshoe.  Like the Route itself, each local loop is customizable with hundreds of points of interest so you can tailor your experience to your specific interests - such as museums, galleries, beaches, conservation areas, and more.

Multi-Day Trips
The Greater Niagara Circle Route is a 140 km loop taking riders from the shores of Lake Ontario to the shores of Lake Erie. Cycle along the Niagara River and through the quaint countryside.  Riders pass through former battlefields, scenic vistas and must-experience attractions including wineries, culinary hot spots, Niagara Parks’ attractions and the Niagara Gorge.

Fruitland Ramble
The Oak Ridges to Lake Loop is a 201 km loop through Northumberland and Peterborough, with some of the most scenic cycling and taste of place culinary experiences in the region.  Stop at the Canadian Canoe Museum, enjoy fresh baked foods at Pastry Peddler, or take a break on the Beach at Bond Head.

Oak Ridges, ON
Rice Lake Ramble is a shorter 74km loop for riders looking for a shorter excursion in Northumberland. Take a stroll in Peter’s Woods Provincial Nature Reserve, the sole-surviving Oak Ridges Moraine ‘old growth’ forest in Ontario.  Other stops along the way include Hillview Haven Estate, the shops and galleries of downtown Alderville, and the Cobourg beach and pier.

Rice Lake Ramble
For a true Greenbelt experience, the Village Roundabout loop in York is a 59 km route almost entirely in the protected beauty of the Greenbelt.  Riders can spend the weekend in the countryside and enjoy a day-long ride with stops at Cold Creek Conservation Area, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, and downtown Kleinberg.

Leathertown Spin
For a shorter ride that still offers a challenge, the Credit River Ride is a 30 km loop in the countryside, with stops in Inglewood, downtown Belfontain, the Cheltenham Badlands and Spirit Tree Estate Winery.  To the South the Leather Town Spin in Halton offers 38 km on quiet and well paved rural roads, passing bountiful farm fields, lush forests, and a variety of wetlands.

River Ride
The Greenbelt Route has something for every rider, and with thousands of points of interest available to add to any route.  You can customize your trip to get the most out of your time in the Greenbelt.  To complete your journey in the area, consider staying with a local host and book accommodation at a Greenbelt Bed & Breakfast with the help of

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Thursday, April 5, 2018

Late Winter Impressions on Vancouver Island


All images were taken at the Horticultural Center of the Pacific in Saanich-Victoria, on the Southern Tip of Vancouver Island in mid-March

Erica and Hellebores

“A direct descendant of the famous tree, grafted from a branch of the original Golden Spruce, onto Sitka Spruce rootstock. Because this tree was grafted from a lower branch of the original tree, it lacks the hormone needed to make one branch turn upwards to form a dominant vertical “leader”. Therefore, it can only form a bush, rather than the typical triangular shape of normal trees. To our knowledge, this is the oldest surviving direct descendant of the original tree”, as described by the Horticultural Garden.

Descendant of the original Golden Spruce

The Horticultural Gardens offer lots of interesting workshops throughout the year, 
for example:
The Art of Bonsai - Design and Care
Healthy Soil - Microbes for the Garden
Advanced Pruning
Native Plants and Their Use
Getting Started with Backyard Beekeeping

Amazing Stonework

Hazel Shrubs & Magnolias blooming

Huge Varieties of Bonsai in the Japanese Garden

Hellebores, lovely Winter Blooms in all Colors

Here are the address and their website
Horticulture Centre of the Pacific, 505 Quayle Rd, Victoria, BC


Enjoy your visit at all times of the year!


Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Where to Find Native Art in Vancouver

Arts in Canada lists more than 100 contemporary native artists in British Columbia. Most of them from the Haida tribes of the West Coast. Their masks, sculptures, and original paintings can be found in Vancouver, on Vancouver Island and scattered around the whole province.

More than 3,000 years ago, Indigenous peoples of the coast of British Columbia developed artistic traditions that are heralded throughout the world for their imaginative and stylistic qualities.  The masks and totem poles of the Northwest Coast Aboriginal art powerfully impacted the work of major American abstract artists. It gave rise to a revival of craftsmanship on the NW Coast over the past thirty years and shaped the work of contemporary native artists.  Visitors will be introduced to the Northwest native art here:

Vancouver Intl. Airport
Just stepping out of an airplane at YVR, one will discover an impressive public collection of native art.  Exhibits display more than 180 sculptures, carvings, masks, poles, panels, paintings and weavings in the international terminal.  YVR's art exhibitions are located throughout the airport.
Vancouver’s Stanley Park

There are nine totem poles in Totem Park, just off the seawall at Brockton Point, carved between 1955 and 2009 by some of the province's most influential carvers. The totem poles represent a variety of First Nations, from the killer whale and Thunderbird of the Chief Wakas Kwakiutl pole to Norman Tait's Nisga'a beaver crest pole and Bill Reid's Haida mortuary pole.
Museum of Anthropology

The MOA, on the University of British Columbia campus in Vancouver, is the premier place to view Northwest Coast art and artifact collections.  MOA initiated native carving programs in the 1950s, restoring old poles and creating new ones.  Don't miss the stunning yellow cedar carving The Raven and the First Men by Haida artist Bill Reid, depicting the Haida creation story.

Squamish Lil’Wat Cultural Center

This museum in Whistler joins the two First Nations in the region under one roof, with traditional art, craft and artifacts including cedar baskets, button blankets and massively carved spindle whorls depicting the history of weaving here. The SLCC Café features First Nations cuisine, from venison chili to bannock panini sandwiches.
Royal British Columbia Museum

The provincial museum in Victoria has a large collection of carvings, masks, artifacts and both historic and contemporary poles, some inside the museum building, some outdoors in Thunderbird Park.


Kitselas Canyon

This national historic site is another recreated village, complete with carved poles and longhouses, displays of carving and weaving, and tours for the public.
Tsimshian First Nations have occupied this site for more than 10,000 years. Kitselas Canyon is a stretch of the Skeena River in northwestern British Columbia, Canada.
‘Ksan Village Museum
A living museum and cultural center, this historical First Nations village in Hazelton is open for tours with local guides. Complete with several longhouses with decorated house fronts, totem poles, and artifacts, it offers a glimpse into early Gitxsan village life.

Museum of Northern B.C.

In Prince Rupert, you can see the work of many contemporary Haida and Tsimshian carvers, both in the stunning longhouse museum overlooking the waterfront and on street corners throughout the city.  It's here you'll find original poles carved by important artists like Freda Diesing and Dempsey Bob.  Visitors are met with the scent of cedar and the beauty of Northwest Coast architecture.  The massive cedar posts and beams are set off by large works of glass art.

Famous Canadian Artist Emily Carr 
She came to paint the totem poles of the northwest coastal people nearly a century ago.
The tradition of carving survived, despite nearly a century of suppression. In 1884, Prime Minister John A. Macdonald banned the potlatch feasts and dances, the center of the coastal peoples' unique social and legal system.  Many poles were removed, toppled, even burned, and the skill of carving such ceremonial articles all but disappeared.  By 1951, when the ban on the potlatch was finally lifted, only a few carvers remained.
History of Indigenous Art
The history of Indigenous art in Canada begins sometime during the last Ice Age between 80,000 and 12,000 years ago. To date, however, the oldest surviving artworks are datable to the last 5,000 years.  First Peoples of the West Coast did not see Europeans until the late 18th century. Decorative and representational carvings from the earliest periods have been found in the Lower Fraser region of British Columbia by archaeologists through excavations. The development of Indigenous art in Canada may be divided into three distinct periods: prehistoric art (much of the art has been lost), the contact, or "historic" art, and contemporary native art.  Read more about the native art of the NW Coast:
Olympic Installations

Artist Dean Heron's art was selected by the Vancouver Olympic Committee for the Cypress Mountain Olympic venue.  His massive installation – painted across 20 canvases and representing a huge snowboard decorated with historic paddle designs – is a permanent fixture at the ski resort which hosted 2010 Olympic freestyle and snowboard events.

Explore the work of Northwest Coast Native American Indian Artists
such as Bill Reid, Robert Davidson and Coast Salish and other First Nations. Don’t miss to visit Vancouver's most famous spot for First Nations art shopping and a must-see for any visitor to Vancouver, the two Coastal People Fine Art Galleries that are specialized in museum-quality, handcrafted artwork by aboriginal artists from B.C.'s Northwest Coast. 

The province of British Columbia is home to the highest diversity of First Nations societies in Canada, each with its own language, traditions, and history.  Aboriginal cultures are increasingly accessible to visitors, with growth in everything from Aboriginal-owned art galleries and cultural centers to First Nations-operated wilderness treks, wildlife viewing tours, and cultural experiences.
A growing number of Aboriginal-owned tourism operators are also encouraging visitors to enjoy BC's wilderness, wildlife, culture, and history from a First Nations point of view. Experiences range from paddling a traditional ocean-going canoe to seeking out the mysterious Kermode (Spirit) bear in the Great Bear Rainforest, from watching a dance performance to joining a generations-old purification ceremony.

Read more:
Coastal Peoples Gallery
Native Artists' Biographies
Hill's Native Art Gallery Nanaimo


Green Lawns = Sick or Dead Dogs and Cats

Dog owners get their pets almost daily or twice daily outside to enjoy the sunshine and lush greenery - or let the cat out of the house.  However, according to a study published earlier this year in the journal Environmental Research, walking across the lawn might actually be dangerous to your pet's health (and maybe yours too).

The study, conducted over a six-year period at the Foster Hospital for Small Animals at Tufts University's Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, showed that exposure to lawn pesticides – specifically those applied by professional lawn care companies – raised the risk of canine malignant lymphoma (CML) by as much as 70 percent!
From the published study, dogs at highest risk for acquiring CML were:

  • Over 50 pounds
  • Living in homes where pesticides and herbicides were professionally applied
  • Living in homes where owners - or neighbors - use lawn care products containing insect growth regulators (insect growth regulators are chemical killing agents)

Dogs and Thick Green Lawns
People usually wear clothes and shoes outside – dogs don't. So whatever collects on their feet and fur outdoors stays there until the next time they get a bath - or until they lick their paws!
Dog owners beware pets to be exposed to chemical lawn treatments!

  • Don't apply pesticides to your yard, and if you use a lawn care service, don't allow them to use them, either.
  • Avoid lawn care and other gardening products that contain insect growth regulators (IGRs). (And be aware that the chemical pyriproxyfen, an IGR, is used in certain flea/tick spot-on treatments.)
  • Don't allow your dog access to any lawn unless you can confirm no pesticides have been used.

If you think your pet has rolled around on the chemically treated grass, my recommendation is to bathe him as soon as possible. If you've walked your dog in a suspect grassy area, giving him a foot soak as soon as you get home should flush away any chemical residue that may be clinging to his feet and lower legs.

Read more:
And as we are at it:
Chemical Flea/Tick Control Products contain pyriproxyfen as well!
The new Advantage® and K9 Advantix® are probably good examples of the direction these products are headed – Bayer added another pesticide into the formula.

With 44,000 reported adverse reactions including 600 deaths in 2008 – which represented almost a 60 percent increase over the prior year: the risks of these products are too great to warrant routine, monthly use.

In fact, there is no pesticide that doesn’t have the potential for side effects. It doesn’t matter whether the product is in pill form, in a dip, a shampoo or a collar, it’s not entirely safe.

Remember that what goes on your pet also gets inside the through absorption or ingestion.


Thursday, September 28, 2017

Two Must-Visit Canadian National Parks

Fall is the perfect time to visit the Canadian National Parks for FREE!  Here are two lesser-known true hidden gems, where you won't find the tourist crowds: Yoho Ntl. Park in BC and Waterton Ntl. Park in Alberta.

Waterton Ntl. Park
Located at the end of HWY 5, it rises up from the golden grasslands of the Canadian prairies, into the high Rockies. When I traveled through the Blackfoot Nation territory in the northern part of the park, I saw lots of Bisons in the rolling hills. But the Grizzly Bears, Cougars, and Wolves who live in the mountains where hiding - thank goodness. The only dangerous animal found my dog: a Rattle Snake, but a dead one. Later that day we would encounter a Brown Bear mother with three cute cups which was safe as we had just entered our car.

Crypt Lake Trail Hike
From the Waterton Park Townsite take the ferry to access the trail. The hike passes the famous Crypt Falls which spectacularly ascend 150 meters down into the Crypt Lake. The tour is voted by National Geographic as one of the best hikes in the world. The area is also unique as there is a "green border" between Canada and the US - designated as an International Peace Park

Waterton Lakes National Park is bordering Montana’s Glacier National Park. It’s known for its chain of lakes, including the large Upper and Middle Waterton lakes, flanked by the Rocky Mountains.
Get maps and brochures of this year-round Park: 


Yoho National Park in British Columbia
Not far from the "border" to Alberta, adjacent to the famous Banff Ntl. Park, and close to the Trans-Canada Hwy, one can almost miss this hidden gem.

I stayed overnight in Field, in a classic 50s lodge, and admired the grandiose mountain scenery in the morning, and watched a bunch of snowshoe hikers who started their ascent into the April day.

Yoho is a Cree Name
It means "wonder" and "awe" for a reason: There are 28 mountain peaks, rock walls, and lots of stunning waterfalls. I was glad to travel the area in April, as the mountains looked gorgeous with their snow caps.
I also saw the sign "Kicking Horse Pass" when traveling east towards Lake Louise, but only later I learned what the funny name means. During a 1858 expedition to the West, one of the participants was kicked in the chest by a horse. He named the nearby mountain pass "Kicking Horse Pass" and the name stays forever. What I missed on this trip where the breath-taking Wapta Falls in the area, just an easy 40-minute hike from the pass away.

Maps and Info:


Friday, June 24, 2016

Crossing the Canadian Rockies

Canada Highway through the Rockies in early April

Growing up close to the European Alps, with 12,000 ft high mountains, I really did not expect to be so impressed by the mountains of the Canadian part of the Rockies. I had inadvertently chosen the best time of the year, or at least the most photogenic: there was still snow on the mountains, half way down.  And the lovely sunshine was just what made it a perfect trip from Vancouver to Calgary.
Here are some impressions, I randomly picked from hundreds of images I took:


Hiking, mountains in sight

Historic Railway Hotel

Yes, there was still some snow on the Pass

Approaching Roger Pass


Trans Canada HWY is clear

Lucky with the weather....


Rooms available in April - between Winter and Summer Season


Mighty Mountains

Matterhorn of the Rockies


Casino and Lodge near Lake Louise

Towards Lake Louise

Hotel Lake Louise

Downtown Banff, Alberta

Canmore historic sign

I can highly recommend this drive for spring and fall.


Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Yearly Tulip Festival in Ottawa

Tulips around the Symmes Museum in Aylmer

The Canadian Tulip Festival is a celebration of the return of spring, with over a million tulips in 50 varieties blooming in public spaces across the National Capital Region. And it's a celebration of the friendship with the Netherlands.

How it all Began:
Ottawa, Canada’s capital, gave a safe haven for the members of Holland’s exiled royal family received during World War II, and Canadian troops also played a role in the liberation of the Netherlands.  Even a Dutch princess - Margriet - was born in Ottawa, and setting the flag of the Netherlands on Parliament she was technically born on Netherland's soil.  
In 1945 Princess Juliana of the royal family of the Netherlands gifted 100.000 Tulip bulbs to Ottawa. Tulips in Ottawa have grown to become a symbol of peace, freedom and international friendship. Since then each year, the Dutch Royal Family and the Dutch Growers Association each send 10,000 more tulip bulbs to Ottawa.

The highest concentration of tulips can be viewed in the flower beds of the Commissioners Park, on the banks of Dows Lake, where 300,000 flowers bloom.