The first time I went to Algonquin Park was back in 2007, when I went for a long day trip. I hugged a big tree, saw a moose and a chipmunk and was generally delighted with how lovely it was there. It’s astonishing I haven’t made it back until this year, so I got pretty excited at the prospect of a 4 day weekend of camping there!
Friends Dan & Kirsty had been camping in Algonquin Park before & are all set up with great gear & know-how so they were our bastions of excellence for the trip! We decided on a pet-friendly campground (Canisbay Lake) so we could bring our dogs, and got all set with plans. Pals Fiona & Dan were coming too, so we bundled into their car with Jake for the trip! Luckily Dan & Kirsty had a lot of what we needed, and we were able to borrow a tent from friends here in Toronto who camp often.
It was so nice to get away for a slightly extended long weekend (thanks, civic holiday!). While the weather wasn’t perfect (rain showers each day, and big rain overnight our last night there), we made the most of the non-rainy parts of the weekend. For starters, we went canoeing! I had never done this before and was slightly nervous about being out on a big lake in a small boat – but it was so fun. Once we got ourselves sorted out and paddling nicely, we had a couple of trips. One was to toodle around a small island in the lake not far from the main beach, and then the other was to follow a bit of the shoreline around in a loop. It’s a calming thing, having a nice paddle on a gorgeous lake.
We also went on a nice big hike on the Track and Tower trail – it was lovely to be properly out in the woods and see a couple more lakes, and go up to the lookout there. We weren’t exactly right in the wilderness with our campsite, so the hike was great to have a taste of that and get some exercise. The dogs loved it too! Jake really took to wandering up and down the trail with us, and investigating everything. We didn’t see any wildlife, but heard a bunch of birds and saw gorgeous flora and geology!
Apart from the great outdoor adventures, it was just super to hang out with two of my fave couples! We did some fun camp cooking (and Dan and Kirsty were the BEST about bringing delicious stuff for Adam and I to add to our tofu etc), and I had my first smore and made a fire cone! And when we weren’t eating (which, let’s face it, we were eating a lot), we played some games! We also had some fun with weird fire and sparklers on our last night before the rain hit.
It was a great weekend, and I felt so rejuvenated being out there in Algonquin, which is a stunning provincial park. Having a dip in the lake, sitting by the fire, cuddling Jake and Adam in the tent and waking up to the sounds of birds was just what I needed! Sure it was nice to come home to creature comforts, but I’m already thinking about the next time I can get away camping!
If you enjoyed the photos here, my full set is on Flickr.
In many places on the internet, my username (when it’s not Nicole) is “iheartmuseums”. Back when I was trying to go with something a little more personal but not my actual name, I figured.. well, this is pretty accurate! Despite all the other things I’m into, I’m a museum lover for life. I’ve had a few people wonder recently about my username and what it is I love so much about museums, so I figured this irregularly scheduled TILT can be about that!
(I’m just going to pepper this post with some of my fave museum pics from the large Flickr set I have, to make it not a giant wall of text!)
I grew up in a rural town not near any large cities with museums. I was lucky enough to travel each summer to Sydney with my mum and/or grandmother, and would frequently visit the Australian Museum and the Powerhouse Museum. It was astonishing and awe-inspiring for a kid like me who grew up watching all the Attenborough docs she could to be able to walk around institutions like those and see the collections and research and exhibitions all around me and realize there were people doing this as their jobs and their careers.
As I got older I traveled to Sydney each year less and less. My connection with museums waned. It wasn’t until my last (or second last?) year of high school that it sparked again. My ancient history class took a field trip to Brisbane (about a 5 hour drive from where I lived!) to visit the Antiquities Museum at the University of Queensland, as well as the Anthropology Museum at the same campus, and also the Queensland Museum. I remembered that same wonder and awe, being surrounded by objects and information and stories.
A few years later, I ended up attending the University of Queensland. In my first semester as an anthropology/archaeology student, we visited both the museums I’d been to back in high school and I had this weird feeling. Not (just) of deja vu and realization that hey, I was back in these places, but also that I belonged there. That finally I’d decided to study something and be in a place where I could engage with museums not just as a visitor but as a student, a theorist, a collection manager, and… well, and a nerd.
Sure, you say. I get excited about museums. But why do I heart them?? Hold your breath.. There’s quite a few reasons. Starting with that physical feeling – being surrounded by the architecture of museums, the large gallery spaces, the historic buildings and the enormity of that. The interesting and necessary research being done behind the scenes. Being in exhibitions that show you the history of a place or of a people. Learning things outside your limited experience of the world. Expanding your understanding of the world and how that can positively impact your respect of the environment, animals and people living in it. The beauty of objects, natural or made by humans (or even sometimes animals).
What draws me in most of all is objects. This really reached out to me during my studies, and shaped my interest and focus on museums and material culture. Objects have such power and history and information and stories contained in them. Every little thing about a piece in a museum’s collection says something. Be it a stone tool from Africa, a fossil from China, a textile from India.. Where did it come from, what is it made of, who made it? When you look at the texture of it, you think about how it came to be. What was it used for? Natural history specimens tell a whole story of their own, not being made by humans – but their origin and genetics are key; a lot of research is done looking at museum collections over many years to see the narrative of the change of species and their environments. There are quite a few museums with specimens of extinct species, which as objects are full of information and history. Looking at a Dodo in Oxford was something that sparked a lot of things for me.
Nothing drives me more as a museum visitor and as an enthusiast than fascinating objects and how they connect me to the world. When I’m working in a collection, I’ll always crave finding out more through the databases and object history files. When I’m in a gallery, I’ll always seek out interpretive information. Objects have stories – some of them short, long, interesting, simple – and museums go a long way to sharing those stories. I love that, and I love museums.
Not long after I got back from our mid-September trip to Halifax I posted a bit about the food/drink we enjoyed, and then promptly lost steam to post about the rest of the trip. So let’s think back to those lovey autumn days, shall we?
The waterfront boardwalk in Halifax is a wonderful stroll, and I highly recommend if you’re there in nice weather. There’s lots of activity on the water, and plenty of stores, cafes, art etc to see along the way.
Across the water in Dartmouth, there’s also the peace pavilion. An interesting structure, with all sorts of things (rocks, bricks, pottery) on display from cities around the world (like some of the Berlin Wall from Germany).
A little tucked away (luckily we had a friend to drive us and see it) is this memorial to the Halifax Explosion.
I took some time to walk up from the Board Room Game Cafe and see the Halifax Public Gardens one sunny morning, and it was such a relaxing and rejuvenating visit. It’s beautiful and the landscaping makes it very tranquil, despite it being surrounded by main roads.
We also walked a little around Point Pleasant Park in the south end of Halifax, which is a little like Toronto’s High Park. We saw critters like a blue jay and a red squirrel! It was awesome.
Some museumy things
Look, you all know that of course I’ll try and visit museums/historic sites wherever I go. I quite liked the Maritime Museum (the parts on the Halifax Explosion were very moving and interesting, and upstairs they had visible storage!
We also went to Fort George/Citadel Hill with our friends Liz and James! We saw a cannon go off, and lots of gents in uniform, and also Adam signed himself up to serve by drawing Trogdor. Legit.
Other places in Nova Scotia! The South coast.
We drove out along the south coast of Nova Scotia a couple of times to see the landscape, small towns and lighthouses. It’s very pretty out there. We saw Mahone Bay, and Lunenberg. Lovely seaside towns! And we took the scenic coastal route back into Halifax. Can I say how much I love the tailored signs off the main road to towns, too? So cool.
We also visited Peggy’s Cove on a pretty dull grey day with Liz and James, but it was still amazing! Such a gorgeous glacial landscape. Plus, that famous lighthouse.
I encourage folks to head out to Nova Scotia and see Halifax and the surrounds! I would love to see more of the internal Nova Scotian sights too.
I keep meaning to finally follow up my initial ramblings about Halifax with the rest of that trip’s photos, but they’re on my external hard drive which means.. I forget, a lot. So instead, I’d like to share some pre-blog photos just for your visual fancy and a little nostalgia. (One day I’ll get all my actual, physical photos back from Australia and scan them. Wouldn’t that be rad?)
This past weekend I strolled the galleries with Laura and her husband, Chad, plus our friend Lauren. It was nice to head to some of the galleries I don’t normally get to with friends, but also see the usual excellent dino gallery too. Here’s some photos! (Also yes, shush, I know I work here but it’s nice to stroll about with friends!)
Hello all! welcome to the new year. I haven’t forgotten about blogging just yet. I used to do a more frequent random drop of photos, so here’s a few from fairly recently. More to come!
Back when I was working at 500px, one of our team outings was to a Second City show. It was great, and I was doubly excited to see these photos of Colin Mochrie, who I love, in the random old photos of previous Second City actors.
Back in the summertime, when there were outside hangouts for games. Jake hangs with us.
Many of you will know that I’ve recently started working at the Royal Ontario Museum, which is pretty great! I am there in an administrative/executive assistant capacity and it’s amazing to get to go to work in such a fantastic institution every day. And I really love the building.
I’ve been getting to see a lot of the collection spaces too! That’s especially great, because it’s where my interest in museums really lies.
Also I know I shared this already on social media, but it’s me getting to hold some Mars rock and Moon rock and some of the oldest Canadian rock so whatever!
More wandering photos..
And here’s me looking goofy with Jake.
So, we had a really amazing time in Halifax – it was awesome to be away for a whole week, and see/try/do new stuff. Rather than put it all in one giant post, I’m going to break it down into a couple (a few?) to spread it out and to not have it be tl;dr.
When you think about the Canadian Maritimes food-wise, it’s unfortunately mostly seafood. (Side note: having live and dead lobsters that you can buy and take on the plane home is grosssss.) I’m not into that, so I hunted out some vegan eats and was not disappointed! Go Halifax! Now please bring EnVie to Toronto kthx.
Our first stop was the Board Room Game Cafe (OF COURSE), and because my friends who own/manage it know me so well, they immediately made sure I had delicious cider in my hands. Bulwark is a Nova Scotian cider, and I think I had the blush one almost every day I was there. SO GOOD. I also tried the regular which was pretty good.
As a pleasant surprise, the Board Room’s also pretty vegan friendly when it comes to snacking, not just drinking. Fruit bowl, tortilla chips & salsa, delicious popcorn (popped in coconut oil with vegan seasonings!) and the ‘Guac’ sandwich (which I paired with hummus & crudite as my side) means vegans won’t go hungry while gaming. Good for you, Board Room!
Our first full day we went with our friend Kris to enVie, a fully vegan restaurant cafe. It’s light and airy in there, and they have a small patio outside (but we chose inside as it was a wee bit cool). There’s a real emphasis on them creating stuff from whole foods in house (all their cheeses, for instance!) and sourcing ingredients from the local region. It’s all incredibly delicious – so flavourful! The menu’s a great mix of salads/healthy and comfort food. We went back when Liz & James were in town and I stuffed my face again, and wasn’t disappointed. Plus, I tried another local cider which was really great, and had a very crisp flavour – Stutz.
The Wooden Monkey is the most convenient spot for downtown vegan eats specifically marked as such on a menu. It’s a little pricey, as they source a lot of stuff very locally, but it wasn’t bad. I wouldn’t eat there regularly but it’s nice to know that option exists in the downtown area.
Around the area we were staying was the Wild Leek, a small 100% vegan cafe. Charming, with a great menu, terrific smoothies and baked goods! (I had the best lemon poppyseed loaf i’ve ever tasted! Plus they have nanaimo!) We saw they had a brunch menu daily, so went in before heading out on a day trip with friends. Highly recommend this spot – tasty, cosy, with friendly staff.
While out in the Annapolis Valley area of Nova Scotia, we stopped by the small town of Wolfville for a wander and a bite to eat. The Rolled Oat came up as somewhere that had listed vegan options, as well as a part of the menu for vegetarians and omnivores, so we all sat down for lunch. They have sandwiches and bowls and salads, plus some baked goods (a couple of vegan things there too!) I had a wrap – it was fresh, and filling but not super tasty (mostly bland, definitely needing hot sauce) – but a welcome change from just having to eat Vega bars while out for a day. Plus, it was a cute and quaint little place.
On Saturdays, it’s the Halifax Seaport Farmer’s market – bustling with all sorts of vendors. There’s not loads of vegan options beyond the fruit & veg stands, some raw food stalls & a nut stand – but there’s a storefront that’s open other days as well as the Farmer’s Market days, called Fruition. Raw foods and snacks. Good stuff! I had a light lunch consisting of a raw burger wrap and a spicy thai salad. I also got a really tasty sundried tomato walnut pate to go, it was intensely flavourful!
One afternoon for a late lunch we wandered to Heartwood, a cozy little spot on Quinpool. It’s a vegetarian cafe with a very vegan and gf-friendly menu. I also noticed after paying they had lots of little jars of cookies etc that were almost all vegan & gf – I wish I’d not been so full so I could have tried them, they looked great. (HUGE COOKIES!). I’d been craving pizza, and gravitated toward something green with olives – I could’ve had it with Daiya, but chose to go with their house topping of a creamy dressing paired with generous nutritional yeast flakes. It was a GREAT and delicious topping. Mmmm.
We also found a couple of really nice local coffee spots – Two if By Sea (I had a great Anchored Americano) and the Smiling Goat (where I had a delicious Trifecta but the pic isn’t that wonderful).
Overall I was really impressed by the food Halifax had to offer – two fully vegan cafe restaurants, a vegan raw takeout place at the Seaport, and a couple of other places with really solid vegan options. We also ate in a bunch with friends while in town, so we didn’t really explore the vegan options outside of the above. (The day we discovered $7 Daiya pizzas at Sobey’s was pretty sweet, and we had two BBQ nights of delicious Sol burgers and wonderful grilled veggies and corn, which was all fantastic!). I am still thinking about those sandwiches..
Next time.. places? Or maybe board games! It’s a mystery. (And a marvel i’m even blogging again, heyyyyo.)