I walked our grown up puppy to Dundurn Castle, which is really not too far away from where we live. It is a beautiful walk, but today particularly so! The walk to Dundurn was less pleasant, some parts of this city are so very ugly and parts of Queen Street particularly so. It was totally worth it once we got there though. Dundurn Castle is set amidst a beautiful wooded park, although it is a shame it is so close to such a busy road. We walked through the trees and watched the squirrels searching for their nut stashes and the geese milling around. Zoey enjoyed eating goose poo most of all, much to my continuing disgust! We then took a little wander to the back of the building, where you can see far out from the top of the cliff the castle sits on, over the railroad and then onward over Lake Ontario. Dundurn Castle was built in 1832 by Allen Napier McNab and named after their ancestral home in Scotland. He was a military man and before this was a site for a castle, it was a military site in 1812. It has a full working garden and admissions are around 10$ per person to enter inside the building. People believe the building to be haunted - in 1812, eleven men were hung in the street opposite and no doubt, as with everywhere in Canada, the land was used by the natives for many different things for years before McNab! In the room that McNab's second wife died of consumption, talk of ghostly workings are rife!
Hess Village Variety
The sun is shining, you are free as a bird and surrounded by friends. One of my favourite things to do in these situations is to take a wander down to Hess Village. This is a small section of street in Hamilton which is paved and the entrance to which is marked by a wrought iron sign. Along this paved street are approximately 22 bars or restaurants. The majority of these have patios alongside one another. People sit out there in the dozens. Milling around with not a care in the world. Everyone knows everyone else. If you don't know anyone there don't worry, because you soon will. As day turns into evening, the music starts in earnest. Not just the rubbish that DJs play in England, but real music played by a four piece band. And unlike the sedate pubs of England, no one in the bars of Hess mind if you are the only person dancing with one hand waving free. As long as you aren't too drunk - they are very strict about that around here! Getting to Hess really is a great way to meet new people who will remember you forever, even when you struggle to remember their names (whoops!)
African Lion Safari
Today we finally made it! We were very lucky with the weather as although it was raining cats and dogs in the morning, by the time we arrived it had happily ceased. You are advised, if you care about your vehicle, to use the tour bus. However, I would advise to try to use your car (obviously unless you really do adore your car) and if you care that much just bypass the monkey enclosure. It only took about 40 minutes to travel around the actual safari, meaning that we really whizzed past some of the parts we would have liked to have lingered at. In addition to which, we weren't keen on the constant voice overs, we would have liked much more to have chilled out and looked at the animals in peace. The constant screams of children and loud tourists didn't help too much either. That said - I saw plenty I liked. My favourites were the giraffe and zebra! By the time we arrived back at the main part of the zoo it was time to see the elephants take their daily swim. This was awesome. It was so much fun watching the animals enjoy themselves, instead of being penned in as they are in a zoo! They were kept in check by two dogs who did a great job of herding them. After this we caught the birds of prey show. I love birds of prey, especially eagles and vultures. I am always amazed that I live in a country where vultures and red tailed hawks are so common. Finally we walked around the petting zoo and I shared a moment with a cute baby pygmy goat that started off by licking my fingers so daintily and ended with him biting me!! Blooming miniature animals, I had enough of them when I had a shetland pony!! All in all, this is an amazing, fun place to go to if you are in Hamilton. here was loads we didn't do - including the elephant show, the birds of paradise show and the boat and train tour because we just didn't have time! And next time, we will definitely go around the safari park by car. Believe me, there will be a next time!
If you walk down Dundern, you come to a huge amount of steps trailing up the mountain. Runners often use these (they must be mad), they connect lower and upper Hamilton. The view from the top is amazing. Ducking beneath them, you come to a large grate over a steep drop. If you travel far enough, you might come to beautiful water. It is a really tough climb, you might even cry (I did). Word of warning: Don't wear flip flops, your toes will be crushed by falling rubble and you won' be able to grip the rock properly! Follow the water up and you come to the first waterfall, adorned with inushuks, North American stone men. Travelling further up the water, facing yet more perilous climbs, eventually, you come to the most spectacular falling sheet of water. Find a rock and sit a while. Ponder life, paddle, swim, climb. Enjoy life.
The Zoetic Theatre & Creative Arts Company
I have only been to The Zoetic Theatre once, but I already know that this is a firm favourite thing to see and do in Hamilton. It is also one that I recommend if you are ever in the area! Yesterday marked the opening of The Zoetic, owned by a group of creative professionals. It is at 526 Concession and is an old movie theatre, tastefully renovated to keep it's historic charm. Originally, this little theatre was a hotel in 1895. It was taken over as a movie theatre in 1930, having burnt down. On it's opening night, The Zoetic played an independent film 'Artless', filmed in a combination of locations, including Hamilton, Toronto and New York. Written and directed by Christena Hampson and Jeremy Major, who both star in the movie, this is a film about two lovers who struggle to keep their love afloat whilst each struggling with their artistic sensibilities. The fact that the two main characters were named Luke and Holly added to the charm and magic of the evening for Luke and I. It was a beautifully written and filmed picture and some of the shots were breathtaking. It was a film with wonderful symmetry and that seemed so real. It was so exciting that the main characters were on hand for a Q&A session after the film, and quite thrilling that Christena Hampson held the door open for us! We can't wait to go back to watch 'Casablanca' on Valentines Day!
Battlefield House Museum & Park
Battlefield Park is the location of the Stoney Creek Battle 1813. This is when the Americans invaded and Canada defeated them. When I say Canada, I mean the British settlers at this time and the natives. I don't think we need much more info than that?? It was the Women's Wentworth Historical Society who bought the park in 1899, it has been a museum ever since. Originally though, this was the home of widow Mary Jones Gage and her two children, James and Elizabeth, who came from New York 1790. It became the headquarters of the American invaders in 1813. There are extensive grounds at Battlefield Park, which are free to be explored!! In fact, they beg to be explored. The focus of my trip, however (owing to the wet weather) was Battlefield House Museum. Am I alone in adoring these type of museums?? I hope not. We were lead down into the cellar rooms, where the eerie lights played tricks on our eyes. Rumours are that there are ghosts in this house, making it a key feature on Hamilton ghost walks. Next up: a writing room! Filled to the brim with goose feathers perfect for writing with. Those little tiny ink pots lined the table and sand bowls were made ready to sprinkle on messy ink blobs! I remember being so fascinated by quills and ink pots when I was younger that my Mother bought me a Victorian school desk. I loved it. I would love another one for a writing desk now! We walked through the hallways, ensuring that we did not touch anything at all, and into the kitchen. A kind lady in long skirts was baking welsh cakes on the open fire. I may have taken a sneaky pic of her recipe, just for future use :) I will let you know how that turns out my friends! Doesn't life look so much simpler back then? I always yearn for this lifestyle, but I am unsure I would willingly detach myself from the modern world in search of it. How about everyone else?
Eramosa Karst Conservation Area
This May has been cold. In fact, our temperatures have been lower than in England! This showed at Eramosa Karst - the flowers are slow to show and the trees are bare. Regardless, there is beauty in the barren woodland, in the leafless branches, in the muddy paths. Here and there, glimpses of colour can be seen - small shoots, the rhubarb coming through and tiny colourful flowers. Eramosa Karst has been very carefully gardened to create a diverse fauna. I love going in the summer to eat the wild strawberries as part of a picnic. It is almost nicer that the woods are so bleak, because these tiny flowers become infinitely more colourful, more beautiful. They encourage me to walk off the beaten track just so that I can take a proper look at them. It is funny how we take things for granted until they become precious. I still haven't explained what Eramosa Karst is, or what 'karst' really means. As far as I can tell, a karst is a natural geological formation in which the rock dissolves and creates natural drainage, ridges in the floor and caves. After all of the rainfall we have had, it made it quite difficult to explore. That didn't stop me, though, nor did the fact I had come out of the house in my slippers! It is super exciting to spot these dank holes in the ground. It is more exciting to actually enter them. To see how they change the ground around them. To see how the tree roots look as they fall down into them. To look at the contrast between the wet, shiny rocks and the dry ones. To see small dark tunnels and know that they go for hundreds of metres beneath the ground. Eramosa Karst would not be what it is without the support of the local citizens. Please visit the Friends of Eramosa Karst to find out how you can contribute - maybe you could pop over on May 29th (weather permitting) to help out with the tree planting!
The Royal Botanical Gardens
If you're bored on a Sunday afternoon, I would definitely, definitely recommend the boardwalk at the Royal Botanical Gardens! Enter at Cherry Hill Gate and have a meander. If you follow the boardwalk all the way, you come out by a cemetery. Have a mooch around there and you may even see the pair of nesting golden eagles! This is a particularly fun thing to do on a Sunday because the boardwalk is filled with photographers lying down across the board walk, trying to get shots of the most amazing flora and fauna! The children out walking with their families seem to be of the super cute and super polite variety. In the spring, the blossoms are coming through and everything thrives. In the summer it is so nice to walk in some shade and escape the heat a little! In the autumn it is so pretty walking through the awesome colours of the trees. In the winter it is slippy and treacherous on the icy path, but so nice and snowy and frosty and fun! The animals are amazing down there, the plants are so perfectly well managed, the water steadily passes along the side of the path and the people are perfectly lovely.
Locke Street South
I imagine Locke Street is a little like marmite - you either love or hate it, but for my part I love it! There are many reasons a person might dislike it - the expensive prices for food and shopping, the 'yuppy' atmosphere in which every man and his dog sits in a quiet cafe tapping away on their laptops writing a novel of some sort, the pomp and pretence of it all. Let me tell you why I love it though. Locke Street has a specialist cheese shop. It sells every cheese imaginable and then some. When I had money way back, when I wasn't just some unemployed bum, we ate a different cheese a day. Locke Street has West Town which, despite happenings on the rest of the street, sells a decently priced beer and the super cheap, delicious West Town Pizza. This is where we spent Easter yesterday! Pick one of the window seats and watch the lazy activity on the street. It is a busy street on which nothing ever seems to happen! It has a very small library to sit in on quiet, lazy afternoons and so many vintage clothes and antique shops, cake shops etc, so quaint! My favourite thing, though, is meandering along the pavement, reading the poetry that is inlaid along the path. It is by a poet named Simon Frank, who requests the poem not be published in full anywhere because it is a walking poem and can only truly be appreciated by taking a wander along the path itself. The lines read things such as 'wander', 'think', 'thought', 'a deep breath', 'a thousand mile journey' etc. Pomp and pretence in bundles, but also amazing to regard on a hot afternoon when you come from a walk up the mountain and your legs are starting to weary! Each year there is a festival with entertainment and craft stalls. A friend of ours had a stall there last year, I would love to have a stall there this year. It will be held in September. Anyway, if in Hamilton, this street is definitely worth a look! It even has a gun shop with a picture of Elmer Fudd out front!
One of the things that I mentioned I really wanted to do a while back was go to Copps Coliseum, which is a ten minute walk from where I live and is a stadium that hosts a range of gigs, musicals, sporting events etc. My wonderful friend and neighbour who lives downstairs, knowing this, bought us both tickets to go and watch The Lumineers at Copps Coliseum and kept it as a surprise for me! What an amazing gift. So, we went out a grabbed food with an eclectic bunch of people who barely knew each other, but we all knew each other by the end of the night! We went to a bar called The Anchor Bar, which was crazy busy, but our server was amazing! We then headed to the concert. The venue is so nice. It is large enough to fit enough people in to make bigger gigs lucrative and possible, but small enough that it still felt cozy. Our seats were awesome, we could see everything. I felt the same feeling I felt when I went to be blessed by the Pope in Rome. That amazing feeling of collective worship and spirituality not linked to a specific God, but by the gathering of people all emitting feelings of love! This seemed to be channelled through the music of The Lumineers, who were amazing! They sang all their usual songs and a couple of new ones with such energy and soul. They sang a Bob Dylan cover of Maggie's Farm and did it justice, heaven for me! At one point they asked people to put down electronic gadgets and just be with them in the moment as they sang their most famous song 'Ho Hey' and I was utterly appreciative of the one old fashioned soul who held up a lighter instead of a mobile phone light aloft!
Sam Lawrence Park
Oh Sam Lawrence Park! It holds such a special place in my heart. As you drive past it, you may not think it seems particularly interesting. Yet, it really is. Sam Lawrence Park is on Concession Street, on top of the mountain in Hamilton. It is a beautiful park, filled with couples hand in hand and young families walking along the pathways. The garden beds are just so pretty, always lush with flowers. We enjoy going up there for picnics. It is a great place to waste a few hours. Sometimes, when I meditate, I am asked to think of a peaceful place and this is my peaceful place. This is my haven. The view over the city is stunning from Sam Lawrence Park. From the wall, you can see everything, every apartment building, every street, every boat on the lake. Even the steel factories look picturesque from Sam Lawrence Park. It is an excellent place to fully comprehend the magnitute of Hamilton. On a clear day it is possible to see Toronto; if you zoom in on the picture below, you can even see the CN Tower! As the sun begins to set the most spectacular views can be seen over the city. It is honestly beautiful. After the sun has set, the city lights come on and twinkle for as far as the eye can see. I loved living in the country, but sometimes the city can be just as beautiful!
Bored in Hamilton in the rain? Get to Jackson Square! Jackson Square is a small shopping mall. There's usually a variety of 'colourful' people to meet, who may or may not be talking to you from beneath straggling beards. This is the haunt of the unemployed, of Mothers with young infants and other people, like me, who have nowhere better to be on a Monday afternoon! Facilities at Jackson include a large public library, a food court, a farmer's market, a Tim Hortons, a 'Chapters' bookstore, various small clothes shops selling items you might not wish to wear, loads of nail salons selling OPI polishes at cheaper-than-in-England prices (anyone back home want any?). There is a cinema that is usually dead, so you are not only guaranteed a seat, but maybe even a whole cinema screening to yourself. There are a few places to eat and drink. One of my favourite things to do though, is to get a book, go just outside jackson to a small green area where there is a column (well, it's more like a pole really) with 'peace' written on it. This would seem the least peaceful area, amidst the sirens and traffic and bustle of people. However, what I love is that you sit there with a book, or just looking at the pole and all the sounds fade away. It is a small reminder of peace being found anywhere because you should carry it around with you everywhere.
One place we did go to this weekend was Albion Falls. I have heard that this is the best waterfall in Hamilton and it didn't let us down. I know I say it a bazillion times, but I really am a lucky girly to live here and have access to such amazing sights and places. I haven't been to this waterfall in almost a year. The last time I went, the fall trees were breathtaking - we don't get those colours in Britain! I only got a glimpse of it from afar, but this time we managed to climb down and get super close to it! Everything about this place smacks of beauty. From the water roaring down, to the segmented rock walls. Even the water on my tights looked beautiful.
Hamilton Bulldogs Hockey Club
I am no expert on ice hockey. I am no expert on sport. If I had to say that I was truly a fan of any sport it would be football (soccer) and even then only when England play! However, it struck me that in more than a year of living in Canada, I still hadn't been to see a hockey match! Most people around here support the Maple Leafs - which is the Toronto team. Most stores have Maple Leaf paraphernalia to buy - pucks, sticks, hats, gloves, mascots etc. That is because they play for the National Hockey League (NHL), which even I had heard of from England! This is kind of like the Premier League in football (soccer). Hamilton does in fact have it's own hockey team - The Hamilton Bulldogs - who play for the American Hockey League (AHL). This is sort of like the championship league in football (soccer). Less well known, they can nonetheless be glimpsed in the film 'Goon', which, along with 'The Mighty Ducks', we watched before and after the match! I mean come on - it had to be done didn't it? Kim even owns a Mighty Ducks t-shirt! We went to watch them at the First Ontario Centre (previously known as Copps Colliseum), where I went to watch the Lumineers play. It is just a ten minute walk from my house and tickets were $34 each, which was good value really. What wasn't good value was the refreshments - a can of beer for $10 was rather steep. The Bulldogs played against San Antonio Rampage who, dressed all in black, looked menacing and dominated play from the first puck drop. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, have a comical air to them - from the bulldogs on their shirts, to their mascot - a bulldog capering around the stands. Even their chant was comical: 'Who let the dogs out?', to the response 'who who who' coming from giant men through the auditorium.
We parked (for free) by Sherman Falls, which is perfectly lovely as waterfalls go, but there's not much more to tell than that. We crossed the road and made our way along the Bruce Trail opposite these falls. The weather was glorious - ten degrees, but easy t shirt weather because the sun was so bright. Although much of the snow has melted in lower Hamilton, it was still thick up the mountain. This made the path treacherous and icy on spots along the way, but it soon regressed into slush, making things much easier! Along the path were many smaller waterfalls that we climbed over. The puppy had a great outing - banging our legs with sticks as she ran past us on the path! The trees seemed so much larger than normal in this area. We selected a fallen log to eat our egg sandwiches and home made chocolate cake (I searched in vain for dandelion and burdock to make it a perfect Enid Blyton al fresco dining situation, but would you believe I couldn't find any anywhere?!)
Further up we came back to the road and crossed over to Tiffany Falls, which was such a highlight for me! We stood, refreshed in the water spray to gaze at it for some time. I love it most because of the rainbow colours in the mist around it and because you can stand so close on the viewing deck.
Ok, so not technically in the Hammer, but I am counting it as it is in between here and Burlington and because if you are around, it is worth a visit!! I feel like if you are visiting Canada, among it's great attractions are the Great Lakes, so they must be seen! But seeing them is not enough, they demand to be swam in during the hot summer months, or walked upon during the cold winter months. We sat on some rocks for a while and looked at the view over Burlington and, in the distance, Toronto- the CN Tower just visible. The boats and windsurfers were out in force. We saw one boat, filled with beer-drinking boys, that was named 'boats and hoes' - I didn't know whether to laugh or shake my head. I chose the latter! We also saw this guy sunbathing in his speedos. There were millions of these characters by themselves sunbathing and reading the paper!! I also found a washed up wallet, which instantly piqued my interest. Where could it have come from? A boat? Was it stolen and dumped? A drunkard? Something sinister lying beneath the lake??