On Saturday we decided to steer clear of Niagara, as it was Labour Day weekend and we thought it would be pretty crowded.  The campsite had gone from virtually empty to totally heaving over the course of the day.  (You can tell that this area is Toronto’s playground by the vibrant ethnic mix at the campground).  It was time to collect our last Great Lake, (faint ‘Yeh!) so we drove the 25 or so miles to the shore of Lake Erie to admire the……water.  We couldn’t drive out onto Abino Point, a peninsula there that would have allowed us a very wide view of the lake because it was all private, so we drove back to Crystal Cove, paid $2 to park, walked down to the beach where it was as packed as any beach I have ever seen,

1 Lake Erie

took some photos (I don’t get lying around on packed beaches) and headed off after about ten minutes.  We then spent a half hour or so, trying to find the local booze store to get some red wine.  It is one of the only annoying things about Ontario; you can only buy beer in some places and wine in others but not in the supermarket.  There are government booze shops everywhere and Beer Stores even more everywhere, so, what are they trying to achieve?  Canadians like a tipple, so do Americans.  It seems to make no difference how they buy their booze.  Meh!

We drove back along the beautiful route by the Niagara River, under the Freedom Bridge that is yet another link to the USA, enjoying it hugely and then spent the afternoon in the campsite, slobbing around, supping beer and trying to stay cool.  It has been pretty warm since we arrived in Niagara, up to 30 degrees Celsius, so that’s my excuse and I am sticking to it.

2 Niagara campsite 1

These nice people turned up and, like a lot of people at the campsite, they were curious about the Bromptons.

7 friendly bike enthusiasts

Tim and I have spent a lot of time around here showing people how quickly and well they fold up.

Sunday was our last full day near Niagara so we went for a short cycle ride down by the river, the other way this time.  It was very beautiful and we passed one of the major battlefields from the end of the American Canadian war, when the Americans had their behinds whipped (after a long hard slog), but it was nice to see that the memorial paid tribute to all of the dead, Canadian, British, American and First Nation. 

Chipawa Memorial

Chippawa Memorial

It was very hot, however, so we turned back after about three miles and found ourselves a very pleasant river side pub, where we watched people playing in the water and jumping in next to sign saying don’t do it. 

5 jumpers

I was intrigued by this guy,

4 scary biker or not....

who was actually very nice under his crash helmet.

On the way back I came across this beautifully restored original right hand drive Mini and went over to chat to the (rather large) owner and his two friends. 

6 london bus driver

They were all Brits, the owner was a Londoner with a real Cockney accent from Bermondsey and he had come over to Canada to drive one of the old London busses that you see all over the place to provide city tours.

We had got chatting to our neighbours and they had asked us over to supper in the evening. 

8 party people

Betty and Bob, together with their friend Cammie were all originally from Guyana and are all now living near Toronto.  Cammie has married Rob, a Canadian and they were all spending Labour Day weekend at Niagara, like most of Toronto, or so it seemed. 

9 party people 2

They were great fun; they made us laugh until our sides ached, gave us delicious food and shared their wine with us.  They find the most common thing that Brits say to them when they say that they originate from an ex British colony is ‘sorry’, which seeing as, in Toronto there are huge numbers of different nationalities from ex colonies, you end up having to say it most of the time.  I was interested that the three Guyanese were quite interested in the British Royal family, Cammie was very fond of Princess Dianna and really didn’t like Camila at all, whereas Tim, Rob and I were all very royalist-neutral.  Rob also explained why we keep seeing so many dead trees (not fire as I thought or disease, which was Tim’s theory); there had been some terrible ice storms in the last winters, which coated many trees and killed them. 

On Monday, which was Labour Day, and so was the last day of the national holiday weekend, everyone seemed to be packing up.  The effect of Labour Day was to turn a lovely quiet campsite with tons of space and nice clean bathrooms into a heaving mass of humanity where, despite the fact they cleaned the washrooms several times day, I could barely bring myself to use the showers and loos.  We had actually decided to stay an extra day, because we though it would be impossible to get in anywhere else without booking. 

Rob made me hold this flag, as we took our goodbye photos just in case we forgot we were in Canada.

10 meet the Canadians

I don’t think we could ever forget the lovely time we have had in Canada!

We had decided that the one place we really wanted to go to before we head back south was the Acadia National Park in Maine, but it was about an eleven hour drive away, so we decided to stay in a motel on the way, as the parts of the USA on the route didn’t look too exciting. 

12 route

The freeway was a long straight road, lined with trees, but the town we decided to stop in Bennington was a cutesy little town in Vermont.  The Autumn Inn looked pretty tacky but the room was clean and comfortable.  The manager was a really friendly Indian guy, who told me that he and his wife had just been on a trip to London The other people staying there were not, however, too welcoming; we got some long, hard stares and nobody smiled back. 

11 Scary motel

Looking at the state of some of the cars in the car park and the way everyone seemed to spend all day sitting outside their rooms or ‘chewing the fat’ together, it looked like where you end up when you become homeless.  At the manager’s suggestion, we had a really nice meal in a local brew-pub (the seared tuna was delicious!), so it wasn’t a bad place to stop at all (I am ashamed to say that I thought I might find broken windows on camel in the morning, although nothing of the sort happened, of course.  Naughty bigoted thoughts!)

The next day we thought we might get off the freeway and drive the pretty way to the White Mountains National Park in New Hampshire.

26 route 7

25 route 6

15 route 3

16 route 4

17 route 5

 The route was beautiful, aided by the fact that we were now travelling through the mountains.  We had a coffee break at a cafe in the middle of nowhere, which did OK coffee and dreadful tea, but the notable thing about it was the display of photos showing the damage from hurricane Irene.  It was hard to imagine that anything so violent could ever have happened there, as all looked so serene and perfect. We stopped for lunch by the Quechee (pronounced Kwee Chee) Gorge, which was pretty at this time of year, but must be magnificent in the spring when the snow melts.

12 queechee gorge

The lobster rolls we had were fabulous, but so huge I regreted eating a whole one- it could have been worse, the special that day came with chips.  My daughter describes that overfull feeling as having a ‘food baby’, and I think that sums up the effects of my greed.  But boy, it was delicious!

The Beech hill campground, where we decided to stop, was right at the edge of the White Mountains area and really lovely; each pitch was totally secluded, surrounded by mature pine trees and mossy ground. 

19 campsite whitemountains 1

20 camp white 2

There was hardly anyone else there and, despite the notices about not feeding bears, nothing tried to eat us apart from some flies that looked like miniature bluebottles but had a distinct taste for human flesh.  At least they couldn’t get you through your clothes like some of the mozzies around here.

On Wednesday we decided to try the Cog Railway, that takes you to the top of the highest mountain around here, Mount Washington.  It’s one of those times when ignorance pays off, because had we realised that the tickets were about $60 dollars each, we probably would have talked ourselves out of it. 

29 cog 1

27 conductor

29 water tower

30 cog 2

34 cog 4

31 cog 3

It was an excellent excursion (admittedly it was on one of the 60 clear days a year) (that’s no exaggeration, they have ‘the worst weather in the world’ up this mountain, and looking at the winds they get (highest recoded was 231 miles an hour) and the way clouds close in at the drop of a hat and the number of people who have died on the mountain, it may well be true.)  The Cog railway was the first in the world and it trundles up to the top of the mountain up gradients of up to 37% at speeds of… about 4 miles an hour. 

28 grand view

The views were spectacular, the spiel was both interesting and entertaining and, I felt as if my legs were being sandblasted at the top.  Note to self; don’t wear shorts at heights of 2000 metres.  I loved the wild flowers that were growing alongside the tracks

36 flower 1

37 flower 2

38 flower 3

That evening, just as we were deciding what to cook for supper and Tim was getting the campfire going, we looked at the sky and decided that it would be a good idea to put the awning up.  Just in time, because the skies opened and we sat there watching the fire smoke (quote from Tim ‘it’s not fair, it was going really well and I lit it with no fire lighters and just one match’)

21 wet camp white 1

22 wet camp white 2

23 wet camp white 3

Of course, we had not set up properly, as the weather had been fantastic lately, and we had to put anything with any scent away in the car every night, so that the bears wouldn’t either eat us or use our spices to make chipmunk curry, so I ended up cooking our sauce for our warm-you-up burritos under an umbrella.  I was very impressed with the American stove we bought, as it coped with the downpour pretty well.

We were intending spend our last day in the White Mountains exploring, but I am afraid it turned into a delightfully slobby day of reading and drinking tea and enjoying the bird song.

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