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Ontario, August 3 - 8, 2004

We wanted a low-key, relaxing vacation with lots of fried food, and South-West Ontario did not disappoint.

Our first stop was Grand Bend, on the shore of Lake Huron. The shore is on the east side of the lake, and the west shore of the land, if that makes it clear.

Grand Bend reminds you of the Jersey shore or Blackpool, depending previous experience with tacky resorts. There were a huge number of take-out food outlets, most of them featuring french fries. We declined the many opportunities to sample poutine.

We stayed in St. Joseph, about ten miles north, in a small efficiency (kitchen, bedroom, living room). It was part of the Brentwood real estate empire, they had a large B+B close by. We had a lake view only a real estate agent could love (a distant sliver), but it was an easy walk to the beach.

Canine Capers

The nearby beach was very nice, but it was guarded by a ferocious feral poodle. This tenacious canine chased after a dune buggy, and menaced our ankles.

A river ran across the beach. We walked along one side, looking at an evanescent loon (one second it was there, the next it was gone). A biped was walking a yellow lab on the other side of the river. We made eye-contact with the lab - that was enough. PLUNGE! Any excuse to jump in the river to see us. The owner called the dog back, the dog ignored her. Now the lab's mission was to maximize the benefits from the bad behavior, running around visiting all visible bipeds on our side of the river, who clearly all wanted to say hello to a wet lab.

Guard Poodle
Feral poodle

River-traversing Lab

We went out to dinner in Bayfield, a village aiming for the elegance that downtown Grand Bend was trying so hard to avoid. Anne got cold, and the only sweatshirt we had was a navy blue fleece that had been riding in the back of the car for months. So Laser got to join us in spirit, or at least through several thousand of his hairs. The additional dog hair layer added to the warmth of the fleece.

Heading North

We had lunch in Goderich, which is famous for its downtown octagonal square. We had arrived just in time for its famous Celtic Festival, which seemed like a good time as any to head further north.

We asked the Kincardine tourist office to recommend a bland and boring hotel, and the nearby Best Western fit the bill.

We had fish and chips in downtown Kincardine, at the Erie Something restaurant, which was excellent. The restaurant even had the famous elegant English accompaniment - mushy peas.

As the sun went down, the Phantom Piper played bagpipes from the top of the lighthouse.

The next day, we headed further north to Port Elgin. For a change, we had vegetables with lunch. Unfortunately, the vegetables had been battered and deep fried. They came with sour cream for dipping, in case the batter didn't supply enough fat already.

Compulsory Sunset Supplement

The Huron shore rivals Florida for the opportunity to take endless sunset shots, then later bore friends senseless with them.

Sunset
Brentwood on the Beach
Another sunset
Someone else taking a dull
sunset photo
Yet another sunset
Please stop with the sunsets

That's it, no more, OK?

Stratford

We saw the play Triumph of Love at Stratford. Afterwards, we strolled along the river Avon, looking at swans and other exotic floating birds, such as ducks.

Anne was tired of endless fried food, so we called in a nice looking Italian restaurant. Unfortunately, we were too slow off the mark and there was a long wait. Undaunted, we stopped at a nearby restaurant advertising Chinese and Canadian Food. Anne seemed dubious, but how bad could it be, really?

Unfortunately, we had violated the first rule of eating out in Ontario, never eat at a Chinese and Canadian restaurant. There may be exceptions in Toronto and Windsor, but we weren't in those towns. It's important to realize that the food isn't Chinese - it's Chinese AND Canadian. These guys eat poutine, after all. It shouldn't have been a surprise to receive chicken in quivering gelatinous goop. The hot and sour soup was based on canned tomato soup, and was ... unusual. The rice was OK.

Then it was off to the enormous Festival Theatre to see A Midsummer Night's Dream. As we entered the theater, we passed a sign saying "Millions of Butts Numbed". What could this mean? Within a few minutes of sitting down, we found out. The performance was very interesting (interesting is an ambiguous word) featuring trapeze acts. We enjoyed it.

Once the show ended, we were famished. It was a form of Chinese food syndrome (Inedible Chinese Syndrome). We converted a mountain of coins into assorted vending machine snacks.

Pelee Point

Finally, we saw the southernmost tip of Canada, a sandy spit stretching out into Lake Erie. Humans congregated on the end of the spit like a group of lost penguins.

This part of Canada is famed for its high cuisine - nearby Leamington has a ketchup factory.


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