The drive from the USA border to London in Ontario was not very long at all and we found a very nice campsite within driving distance of the centre.
I had high hopes for London, with evocative names like Oxford Street and the River Thames, not to mention Covent garden. Despite a cheery weather forecast, we spent a lot of our first evening huddled under umbrellas and cursing the fire for not getting going very well. The smoke wasn’t even good enough to drive away the bugs. We also came across the only impolite person in Canada; someone walked right through our campsite without even saying sorry!
On Sunday we drove to the Fanshawe conservation area to visit the Pioneer Village. It’s a great museum, with buildings from three stages of the early development of the area, starting with basic log cabins and moving through more fancy wooden houses and then to more solid brick built constructions.
We came across Laurence, a master in the local Freemasons,
who invited us into the Masonic lodge and offered to tell us all their secrets. Despite the fancy get up, he then proceeded to tell us that the original Freemasons had been so secretive that nobody now knew what they had kept secret and nowadays they sound much more like the Rotarians than the mafia, (as he spends his life volunteering, not only at the museum, but at a local hospital). He even took this photo of us in the inner temple bit.
You could see from the way that the buildings developed that life gradually got better for the pioneers
and we ended up talking to a delightful woman called Pamela Nottingham
who was born in London (UK) and who had spent a lot of her childhood at her granny’s caravan near Bognor Regis where we live. She told us about the prosperous family that lived in that particular house, which included an up and coming artist called Paul Peel, who was just starting to come into his own, when he died at the sadly early age of about 32. (Look him up, he painted some really delightful scenes, including ‘After the Bath.’) Pamela volunteers at the village during the winter, but is employed during the summer, teaching various crafts to groups of school children. She said we were not the first people she had met with a Bognor connection recently, which goes to show that once you live in Bognor Regis YOU CAN NEVER ESCAPE….. (It’s actually quite a nice place to live, honest)
We really enjoyed the print shop,
where the volunteer gave us a fascinating lecture about how Canada and the Free Press developed hand in hand.
He brought it to life by pretending we were Loyalist refugees kicked out of the USA after the War of independence. He described how difficult it was to get anything such as nails, cloth and paper in the area. There were no roads and, if you had to go down to Toronto (known as York then), it would take you over eight weeks to get there. (And then you had to come back, carrying all that stuff over awfully difficult terrain). The newspapers started off as mainly advertisers, as it was so hard to find stuff. He tried to kidnap Tim to help sort out all the monotype letters, as someone had jumbled them all up. We never found out his name, but I was convinced he was a history professor, as his subject knowledge was so broad and he really held my attention. (A lot better than an awful lot of my professors when I was at university, to be honest.)
After a very tasty BLT sandwich in the cafe we decided to have a drive through the centre of London to see the sights. Meh! It was like a giant mall with a few nice big houses, but there was nothing that made us want to stop.
Monday was a lazy/ shopping/ Skyping/ Blogging day and we treated ourselves to a nice piece of steak for dinner. I had fancied lamb, but the only cuts the supermarket had were fatty bony tiny little chops, so we gave them a miss.
The campsite has a pool and Jacuzzi,
so I went to try out my waterproof camera, which worked just fine, even if the view was not too impressive.
I was thinking this was not a friendly campsite because nobody had come up to talk to us much (apart from one chap who said something along the lines of ‘Wo, man, I haven’t seem one of them (tipis) since the 70s’. He kind of looked as if he hadn’t really been ‘awake’ since the 70s either). I decided that I should try talking to our neighbours and they were lovely. Bennet and Sheila invited us to sit down and we had a great time talking to them.
They have recently sold their house and bought this giant fifth wheel
and are now deciding where to travel. They are a bit restricted at the moment due to health problems (Bennet recently had heart bypass surgery and vascular surgery on his leg) and they are not sure if they can get health insurance in the USA. Nobody in Canada would dream of putting a toe in the USA without health insurance; Sheila broke her arm once when she was staying in the USA and, although she was covered by insurance, the fees for just seeing a doctor and getting her arm set came to over $6000 (even though she refused to have the operation that they recommended). She also said that when her daughter recently flew out for a major tour of Europe, her health insurance would have doubled if her plane had as much as landed in the USA. The health system in Canada is based on universal care, although you need top up insurance for dental and glasses and you have to pay for your own medication. They were also perplexed by the Americans’ opposition to Obama Care and why they never think that they will be in difficulties. They explained a lot about politics in Canada and it sounded very much like the UK in many ways, with the Green party being a new addition.
On Tuesday we headed off the Toronto
via the horrible 401
(you can tell it is not a good road, because everyone you mention it to has some advice to give you about the best time of day to travel).
We parked the hire car at the same hotel as last time and walked round to Westminster Motors to pick up Camel. The wonderful manager, Avo, had kept us fully informed of her progress and came out to greet us with a huge smile as we strolled into the parking lot.
Camel was there waiting for us, gleaming in the sunshine. Apparently the guys who had worked on her had insisted on giving her a hand wash because she deserved it (and these were the mechanics, not the usual carwash guys). Avo said he was very pleased that the correct parts had turned up in good condition and in less time than the maximum (this does not always happen) and was very happy to be able to help us, not just fix the car, but to get us back on the road.
You have got to love these guys; they are supremely professional, the workshops are immaculately tidy and clean enough that we were not worried about dumping our bags on the floor. Avo even gave us some really cool Westminster tee shirts (in the correct sizes). Camel ran like a dream (although Tim needed a little while to reacquaint himself with a manual gearbox (stick shift for all you guys over here). The bill was not excessive, considering the fact that the parts had to come from the UK and that bleeding the hydraulics was a pig of a job; I was not however in the least bit surprised that they didn’t bump up the bill as thet were all so nice. The nasty sting in the tail, however, was the cost of the transport back to Toronto- at $7 a km and a hook up fee it came to over £300. OUCH! The final bill was about £1200 (including the mega transport bill) (the repairs were hardly more that a full service in an official UK Land Rover place), but at last we can get back on the road and travel in comfort again. We have really missed the awning, the fridge and our comfy chairs. Tim has also not enjoyed driving the hire car; the Dodge Journey is desperately underpowered, despite having an engine of over three litres.