Story and photos by Denise Bridge
This past June my Aunt Karen and Uncle Michael were visiting from England and we ventured out on the scenic tour around the Great Lakes to Ontario. After spending a couple of weeks in the prairies I was anxious for them to see the splendor of the trees, wildlife and vistas of blue along the shores of Lakes Superior and Huron. My uncle was always on the quest for large animals and I had promised him we would see moose and lots of deer on the trip.
Living in Saskatchewan, Winnipeg was a city that we drove around in order to get to Ontario. Rarely did we stop to take a look at what the city had to offer. Over the years though I have been to Winnipeg a few times – at the beginning and/or end of canoe trips and for long weekends to take in specific events such as a hockey game (the first time the city had a team) or the Festival de Voyageur. On this trip Winnipeg was our first goal. Specifically the West Gate Manor bed and breakfast located near downtown and The Forks of the Assiniboine and Red Rivers – one of the city’s major tourist attractions. Our stay at this B&B was comfortable even if it wasn’t the most welcoming and warm stay we encountered on our trip. The house is a lovely historic building in a quiet neighbourhood and the rooms are large and tastefully decorated with antiques. The bathroom in particular has a nice big bath and a huge separate rain head shower that was a delight to use along with the complimentary toiletries.
When we arrived, Louise Clark, our hostess showed us to our rooms and gave me a map to use to get to The Forks, our destination for the afternoon/evening. Since my last visit almost 20 years ago it has grown into a variety of shops and restaurants with river walks, historical plaques, and live entertainment. The Forks is a National Historic Site managed by Parks Canada located right downtown behind the Railway Station. It’s very easy to find and there is ample parking that is free in the evening and on weekends.
Our visit coincided with celebrations for National Aboriginal Day. We were there the night before the big event but were still able to take in an evening of native dancing, drumming, and singing with participants of all ages – from small children to a war veteran – all wearing a variety of traditional native clothing.
The Historic Port was still a little flooded from the rains this spring but people were still able to take the half hour historical cruises on the rivers for a different perspective of downtown. The most prominent building is the soon to be opened Canadian Museum for Human Rights. From the outside it looks like a modern cathedral and is quite stunning.
There are various sculptures in the grounds and walking paths along the river to explore. The Oodena (Cree for ‘centre of the city’) Celebration Circle is a tribute to the 6,000 years Aboriginal peoples have been in the area. Step back to take in the whole circle but also look closely at the etchings in the stones to read individual stories and messages. My uncle has been particularly keen to see a bear on one of their visits to Canada but has not been successful yet. The closest he came on this trip was the statues of black bear cubs and a grizzly at the Forks!
The Forks market is full of tempting fruit and
vegetables and there is a wide variety of
Canadian art for sale in the many shops.
There is so much to do at the site you could easily spend a day or two taking it all in, and even more time would be needed once the new museum opens. The Forks market is full of tempting fruit and vegetables and there is a wide variety of Canadian art for sale in the various shops. There is also a link to Winnie (Winnipeg) the Pooh for any fans of the children’s books. For those of you familiar with the chain, there is an Old Spaghetti Factory at The Forks. My relatives had been to the one earlier in their trip in Vancouver and equally enjoyed the food and atmosphere in Winnipeg.
After a restful night on a very high and comfortable bed, I went for a walk around East and West Gate. One of the large stately homes across the street from the B&B is the Ralph Connor House. Ralph Connor is the pen name of Charles W. Gordon who wrote many novels about the opening up of Western Canada as settlers moved into the region. Gordon was a Presbyterian clergyman and social activist. His home is now a private residence but is open to the public for scheduled tours on the second Wednesday of each month during the school term – perhaps because it is owned by the University Women’s Club of Winnipeg.
Breakfast back at the B&B (scrambled eggs and bacon, croissants, fresh fruit, yogurt, juice and coffee) was served in the sunny dining room, which like the lounge is full of antiques. It was a nice start to the day though we had the feeling our hosts had somewhere to go and were quick to see us out.
We definitely had somewhere to go – the next B&B on our journey which was just east of Thunder Bay. We had a little difficulty getting out of Winnipeg thanks to conflicting GPS directions. The GPS in the rental Jeep (nicknamed Vanessa) was telling us to go one way and the portable GPS (nicknamed Vanessa One) was giving the opposite directions. Once I stopped laughing I (nicknamed Vanessa Two) got us heading east instead of back to Saskatchewan. It is a long ten hour trek from Winnipeg to Thunder Bay and it was nearly 7:00pm by the time we rolled into the Eldorado Beach B&B on Lake Superior.
Eldorado Beach is located about twenty minutes east of Thunder Bay and the B&B is a lake-front property. After a quick tour, our hostess, Maria directed us to a diner along the highway, the Crystal Beach Roadhouse, which was frequented by locals where we had a delicious light meal of pea soup and fresh turkey on toasted rye. Unfortunately the roadhouse closed in October 2013 after 60 years in operation. When we returned to the B&B we were greeted with tea in the living room for a chat with Maria and a fellow guest. After tea we wandered down to the dock and were treated to the sight of two loons swimming by. The water was so clear the rocks at the bottom were visible. Did I mention the mints and chocolates in the rooms? We had a two bedroom family suite with a bathroom. Both bedrooms overlook the lake. The poppies were just about to open and when the weather is warmer there is a hot tub on the patio. It is a lovely setting and Maria couldn’t be more welcoming.
There are many return visitors to Eldorado Beach and we could see why. Breakfast the next morning consisted of fresh fruit – kiwi, strawberries, cherries, grapes, tangerine; oatmeal with apples and cinnamon; coddled eggs and asparagus for me and omelet and asparagus for my aunt and uncle; and fresh scones with local jam. We were unable to eat everything so Maria sent us on our way with eight more scones, buttered and jammed, for the road.
Maria told us about a scenic overlook to check out as we drove east. Unfortunately it was so foggy we did not see much of the lake until we passed Marathon. What we did see though was MOOSE. Yes, we saw one in the trees by the side of the road, one as road kill and a mother and calf that came charging through the trees onto the road. Fortunately my uncle was able to stop the vehicle and they turned tail back into the trees before they became road kill as well!
We stopped in Wawa for gas and the fog lifted and we were finally able to see some great views. We also stopped a few times between Wawa and Sault St. Marie to take pictures of Lake Superior. My aunt and uncle kept insisting that it was the ocean, not a lake because you can’t see the other side! After all, it is the largest lake in the world. There is a storyboard at the Wawa Visitor’s Centre outlining the different viewing stops along the route from Wawa to the Sault which is billed as one of the top scenic highways in Canada. If you have more time than we did for making the trip there are hiking trails in Lake Superior Provincial Park from which you can see amazing views such as Old Woman Bay and Alona Bay. It is probably a good thing it was foggy in the morning or we would have kept stopping along the way and then we would have arrived after dark at our next B&B in Algoma Mills.
After another long day of driving we arrived at Lake Lauzon Resort and Marine to a very friendly welcome from our hosts Sharon and Mark. The resort includes cabins as well as the B&B and Lake Lauzon is just across the road from Lake Huron. The B&B rooms all have great views of the lake and direct access to the hot tub and deck. My aunt and uncle and I had two rooms with a shared bathroom. There is another room with an ensuite. Their room had a microwave and a fridge stocked with complimentary
soft drinks and both rooms had large flat screen TV’s. Separate towels were provided in the rooms for the shower and for the hot tub/lake. The only drawbacks were a small shower and the bathroom provides the access to the utility room but these were small points that pale in comparison to the rest of the positives about this B&B. The resort also has bikes, canoes, kayaks and paddle boats to rent and there are hiking trails in the area.
We were not aware that it was the super moon that evening but our hosts were quick to tell us and to invite us out onto the lake in a big canoe with a local canoeing club though we opted to go out in their pontoon boat instead with a couple of other guests/friends of theirs. We met up with the canoeing club and learned some interesting facts about the moon and stars from Wally who was leading the group.
We saw a gorgeous sunset then watched as a beautiful pink moon rose over the lake.The evening was also punctuated by a pair of loons dancing and calling on the lake. It was an unexpected and lovely treat!
Breakfast the next morning consisted of poached egg on toasted homemade bread, bacon, fresh strawberries, a variety of home baked goodies, juice and coffee. Sharon also offered coffee and snacks to go. We certainly felt very welcome and Sharon and Mark were very sociable, as was Charlie, their little dog. This is definitely somewhere we would stay again if in the area.
It was now time to meet up with my sister and her family in Espanola. They had travelled down from Timmins and we were all headed to Manitoulin Island. Although we lived in Ontario for many years and camped most weekends in the summer, we had never ventured onto the island so this was a first for us.
If you are used to eco-resorts that are the ultimate in luxury, then this is not the place for you. Gordon’s Park on Manitoulin Island is an eco-resort for people who like to rough it. The six of us experienced two aspects of accommodation. Three of us stayed in the two-bedroom bed and breakfast and three of us stayed in a tipi. The B&B is basic with two bedrooms, a bathroom, and an open plan living room/kitchen – all in the basement of the owner’s home. The breakfast is provided in the fridge/kitchen cupboard and consists of oatmeal packets, English muffins, juice boxes, fruit cups, tea and coffee. Those staying in the tipi can rent mattresses and sleeping bags if you don’t have your own. The bathroom facilities for campers consist of outhouses (holes in the ground) and an eco-shower (a black rubber or plastic bag full of water, though apparently not enough to add conditioner after shampooing). Each camp site has a picnic table and a prep table beside it as well as a fire pit surrounded by Adirondack chairs.