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July 24, 2016 / Jim Fenton

Great Lakes Day 15: Home from Toronto

July 3, 2016

Our ride home

Our flight home was again at a “civilized” time, 12:25 pm. We were told to expect long lines at customs, so we checked in early, but were rewarded with very short lines everywhere. We had hoped to do some last minute shopping, but unfortunately there wasn’t a great deal to shop for after customs. The selection of stores was limited and we’re just not into the typical “duty free” merchandise, such as liquor, perfume, and oversized Toblerone bars. So we had coffee and tea and grabbed sandwiches to take on the flight.

This article is the final installment in a series about our recent vacation in the Great Lakes area. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

July 23, 2016 / Jim Fenton

Great Lakes Day 14: Fenelon Falls to Toronto

July 2, 2016

Kenna, with Doug driving, on Cameron Lake

Kenna, with Doug driving, on Cameron Lake

The weather is beautiful again, so we began with some things we weren’t able to do yesterday. Cousin Stan and his son Doug took us for a short boat ride on Cameron Lake. The lake was quite a bit smoother than it had looked from the shore. Everything was so serene, and as we had remembered it, that we hated to leave. On our way out of town, we stopped to pay our respects to my grandparents and many other relatives at the Fenelon Falls cemetery.

Our next stop was in Oshawa, where a cousin (Mom’s cousin’s daughter Jill) and her husband live. We had a nice visit with them, traded many stories, and collected a little more information on the family genealogy. We then drove to Mississauga, on the other side of Toronto and close to Pearson International Airport, where we are staying for the night in preparation for our flight home tomorrow.

 This article is part of a series about our recent vacation in the Great Lakes area. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

July 22, 2016 / Jim Fenton

Great Lakes Day 13: Canada Day in Fenelon Falls

July 1, 2016

Celeste and Laura making cookies

Today is Canada Day, and the second time we have celebrated it in Fenelon Falls. This time, however, it is stormy — the first really stormy day of the trip.

It was a good day to stay in and read. A rainy day is a real treat for us Californians with our dry summers. Kenna and Celeste went along on a trip to a nearby Mennonite bakery, where they bought yummy-looking cinnamon rolls for tomorrow’s breakfast and strawberry-rhubarb pie for tonight. Celeste and cousin Laura also made chocolate cookies, as if we need more delicious food to eat.

We went over to one of the neighbors’ cottages for an informal party, then had dinner with the extended family. Although the rain had stopped, the town fireworks show was unfortunately postponed because it was too windy. So back to the neighbors for another party. The people of Fenelon Falls are so welcoming.

 This article is part of a series about our recent vacation in the Great Lakes area. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

July 21, 2016 / Jim Fenton

Great Lakes Day 12: Ottawa to Fenelon Falls

June 30, 2016

Today was largely a driving day, about 225 miles from Ottawa to the Fenelon Falls, Ontario, where we are staying with my cousin at his cottage.

Peterborough Lift Lock

Peterborough Lift Lock

We got a relatively early start from Ottawa. One wrong turn coming out of the hotel, coupled with nearby construction work, made our departure unexpectedly challenging but we found our way. Once we got out of metropolitan Ottawa, the surroundings were quite rural; it appeared that much of the area is wetlands. We stopped in Peterborough, the largest city in the area, to see a notable lift lock, one of two in North America and the largest in the world. The Peterborough lift lock is part of the Trent-Severn Waterway system, which runs through much of this area, extending from Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay off Lake Huron. We continued through Peterborough and grabbed some lunch along the way. Traffic was quite heavy, probably because tomorrow is Canada Day.

After lunch, we drove to the town of Lindsay, stopping to show Celeste the ruins of the former flour mill where my grandmother had worked about 100 years ago. Lindsay traffic was also heavy, but soon we were on our final leg of the trip to the cottage.

Sunset over Cameron Lake

Sunset over Cameron Lake

Fenelon Falls, Ontario is a village on the Trent-Severn waterway that is primarily a tourist destination for people in the Toronto area. My mother’s family came from Fenelon Falls, and my cousin has a cottage on Cameron Lake that I have been visiting since my childhood.

It was wonderful to return to the cottage, visit family, and decompress. After a couple of weeks of shuttling from place to place, primarily in cities, we all needed a breath of fresh air.

This article is part of a series about our recent vacation in the Great Lakes area. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

July 20, 2016 / Jim Fenton

Great Lakes Day 11: Ottawa

June 29, 2016

Centre Block — from a distance

Today we had planned to visit the Canadian Parliament and the Mint. However, President Barack Obama also planned to visit the Canadian Parliament, and to have a meeting near the Mint. Guess whose plans prevailed?

After breakfast, we took a walk toward the Parliament Buildings to see if we could at least see them. A few blocks from the hotel, we were stopped by barricades; the street had been closed in anticipation of President Obama’s arrival, and there were police everywhere. We (and quite a few others) waited a while under close supervision by the police, who even required that we back up 3 feet from the barricades. After all that, the motorcade didn’t even pass close to us — it was about one (short) block away. Nevertheless, we did get to see the President’s limo, ever so briefly.

After the motorcade passed, we were able to walk in front of the Parliament building known locally as “Centre Block”, at a considerable distance of course. There was also quite a bit of preparation for Canada Day celebrations the day after tomorrow.

Canadian Aviation and Space Museum

Canadian Aviation and Space Museum

We stopped in at the tourist information across from the parliament building, then bought bus tickets to take us somewhat close to the Canada Aviation and Space Museum. After a bit of a walk there, we enjoyed a well-presented museum highlighting Canada’s contributions to aviation and space exploration. Besides the many exhibits of old planes, there was an informative section on the International Space Station, highlighting what living there is like. It featured videos of Chris Hadfield, the Canadian known for his active social media presence from the ISS. We agreed this was the high point of the museum.

After returning on the bus and relaxing a bit, we set out for dinner, again in the direction of the Parliament buildings. While it was clear that there was no motorcade about to pass by, the police presence was heavy and there was a helicopter hovering overhead, signaling that the President had not yet left. By the time we finished our dinner, the police presence had all but evaporated.

One last treat for the day was a stop at a “beaver tail” stand for dessert. A beaver tail is a flat fried pastry about the size and shape of a beaver’s tail, to which various confections are added on top. We decided on the apple/cinnamon beaver tail, which we brought back to the hotel and split 3 ways. It was highly decadent — and recommended.

This article is part of a series about our recent vacation in the Great Lakes area. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

July 19, 2016 / Jim Fenton

Great Lakes Day 10: Montreal to Ottawa

June 28, 2016

Olympic Park, Montreal

Olympic Park, Montreal

We planned two nights in Ottawa, and it’s only a couple hours’ drive from Montreal, so we spent much of the day in Montreal. After breakfast, we took the Métro to the Olympic Park, where the velodrome has been converted into a museum called the Biodôme. The Biodôme is divided into five general sections (habitats). My favorites were those that represented Canadian habitats: the Laurentian Maple Forest, Gulf of St. Lawrence, and Labrador Coast. The latter habitat seemed to include a penguin exhibit. We love penguins, except they didn’t really fit, being exclusively southern hemisphere birds.


Beaver at the Biodôme

As we continued walking around the Olympic Park, we noticed that it is showing some wear since its construction for the 1976 Olympic Games. It also struck us that the scale of the facility, while necessary for the Olympics, is not optimal for much else. Nevertheless, Montreal has done a very good job of adapting the venues to new uses, as they have done with the Biodôme.

After taking the Métro back and getting some lunch, we set out for Ottawa. Once again, our timing with respect to storms was perfect; it started raining just as we picked up the car. Aside from some minor flooding, the trip was uneventful.

Checking into our hotel in Ottawa, we were told of the many tourist things to do, conveniently walking distance from our hotel: visit Parliament, the National Gallery of Canada, Royal Canadian Mint, Canadian Museum of History, etc. But a little while later, we realized that President Obama is coming to visit Ottawa tomorrow, and all of these attractions are closed. Our timing seems to be bad, but who thinks of checking the President’s travel schedule when planning their vacation?

We had dinner at The Highlander Pub, a nearby Scottish-themed pub, where they had a pub trivia contest in which we did rather poorly, but had a great time. We decided that we should find places near home to do this.

This article is part of a series about our recent vacation in the Great Lakes area. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

July 18, 2016 / Jim Fenton

Great Lakes Day 9: Burlington to Montreal

June 27, 2016

Notre Dame Cathedral, Montreal

Notre Dame Cathedral, Montreal

With a short day of driving ahead, we decided to take a more leisurely breakfast. Kenna found a bakery, August First, a few blocks away that was wonderful. It had a comfortable environment, excellent breakfast sandwiches (9 grain roll recommended), and good coffee beverages. Burlington reminded all of us of Boulder, Colorado, both in terms of the “vibe” and of course because they are college towns.


Ben and Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard

When we got on the road, we went first to Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, about a half hour south. The 30 minute factory tour was enjoyable, especially with the ice cream sample at the end. We took a walk up the hill to the “Flavor Graveyard” where the retired ice cream flavors are memorialized. Celeste reminded us that this is yet another cemetery we’re visiting this trip. I don’t expect this will be in the Find a Grave registry, though.

Traveling north again, we encountered the first significant rain of the trip. Fortunately we were driving for the duration of the storm and stayed dry. We opted to take US 2 through the Lake Champlain islands. This was a scenic alternative to the Interstate, not very crowded and didn’t add much to our trip time. We passed into Canada through the sleepy border crossing at Rouse’s Point, NY/Lacolle, QC, which was fast and pleasant.

NotreDame Interior

Notre Dame Cathedral interior

The drive into Montreal was a little stressful, as it is into any large city, but we found our hotel quickly and set out for the Old Quarter (tourist district). We visited Notre Dame Cathedral, the altar of which is illuminated in blue making it distinctive and attractive. It has a very impressive pipe organ, which unfortunately we did not get to hear.

We walked around the harbor area a bit before stopping at a sidewalk cafe for dinner. The weather was warm and had fortunately cleared since the rain earlier in the day. Our walk back to the hotel took us through a jazz festival being set up nearby.

This article is part of a series about our recent vacation in the Great Lakes area. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

July 17, 2016 / Jim Fenton

Great Lakes Day 8: Vermont

June 26, 2016

Burlington Harbor

Burlington Harbor

Today has been mostly a driving day. We took a short detour to Albany to see the state capital, and then drove to Burlington, Vermont. It is Celeste’s first visit to Vermont, and the first time that any of us had spent any time in Burlington. Our hotel is located downtown, close to Lake Champlain. We did a quick visit to the downtown shopping mall (which is apparently under redevelopment), and then made arrangements for a dinner cruise on Lake Champlain.

The cruise was quite pleasant; it began with an Italian buffet dinner which was held inside. After dinner, we had plenty of time to enjoy the scenery before the 8:41 pm sunset. There is no narration on this trip, but through the written materials we learned that there is a Loch Ness monster-like legend, known as “Champ“, in Lake Champlain. Unfortunately, we didn’t see him/her.

This article is part of a series about our recent vacation in the Great Lakes area. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

July 16, 2016 / Jim Fenton

Great Lakes Day 7: The Formerly Fenton Farm

June 25, 2016

High Tower Farmhouse

High Tower Farmhouse

Today’s plan was to explore where my Dad grew up and to see what we can find out about my Fenton ancestors. So we drove to Amsterdam, NY, Dad’s home town, and drove past his old house. It’s still there, but unlike some others on the street, it has been “modernized”. The front porch was made smaller and was enclosed, and there is new siding. It definitely looks different.

We wanted to check on my grandparents’ graves, so we next went to the cemetery. We spent quite a long time walking around, to no avail — it has been over 20 years since we last visited and Dad was there to guide us that time. I decided to double-check the Find a Grave website on my iPhone and discovered we were in the wrong cemetery. We wanted to be in Fairview Cemetery on the other side of town. Once we got there we found the grave fairly quickly and found everything to be in good shape.

Four generations of my ancestors owned what was known as the Fenton Farm just south of the village of Broadalbin, a few miles north of Amsterdam. I recently located and contacted the current owner of what is now called High Tower Farm, Sheila Perry, and asked if we could visit. She enthusiastically encouraged us to do so. When I called today to reconfirm that we would be there after lunch, she told me that she had invited the historian from the Broadalbin Historical Society to join us, and that she had prepared lunch. So we headed right over.


Original house beams in living room

Sheila took us on an extensive tour of their house, the oldest portion of which was built by my great-great-great grandfather Stephen Fenton about 200 years ago. The hand-hewn timbers are prominently visible in the living room, and Sheila had many stories about the construction from their remodeling experience (the farm was in considerable disrepair when the Perrys purchased it in 1981). One interesting aspect was that another house had been moved into place next to the old house to add to its size. This caused the discrepancies in floor levels, etc that one would expect when trying to combine two houses built in different eras and locations.

Gordon Cornell, the historian, arrived soon after our house tour. It was perfect weather, so we had a picnic lunch outside. It was quite an experience to have lunch in the same place tended by many of my ancestors. After lunch, we showed each other documents we had brought — I showed a genealogy document I had curated over several years, and Gordon shared some information that the historical society had collected on a couple of my ancestors.

We then took a field trip, first through the farm, then into Broadalbin. They pointed out where various relatives had lived, and in one case had operated a grocery store. We visited the Methodist Church, and were able to see some memorial stained-glass windows that honored ancestors that were charter members of the church as well as a baptismal font in honor of my great grandfather, George Fenton, who was very active in the church around the turn of the 20th century.


Celeste visits her great-great-great grandfather

We then went to Broadalbin cemetery to visit the graves of quite a few of my ancestors and relatives. I took lots of pictures in hopes of adding them to the Find a Grave registry.

It was a lot to process — both the volume of information I learned and the amount of “Fenton stuff” around Broadalbin. Both Sheila and Gordon were very generous with their time, and amazingly knowledgeable about my family.

Returning to Johnstown where we are staying, we grabbed a quick dinner and caught “Finding Dory” at the local movie theater. After we returned to the hotel, we got to watch their quite impressive town fireworks display from our room.

This article is part of a series about our recent vacation in the Great Lakes area. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

July 15, 2016 / Jim Fenton

Great Lakes Day 6: New York State

June 24, 2016

Niagara Falls Floral Clock

Niagara Falls Floral Clock

Today was mostly a driving day. After a hearty breakfast at the IHOP next to our hotel, we took a quick side trip to the Floral Clock, which turned out to be about 10km downstream from our hotel. It definitely wasn’t walking distance. The clock is on the grounds of an Ontario Hydro generating station. Seeing it and a bit more of the Niagara Falls vicinity made it worth the trip.

We then made our way across the Rainbow Bridge back into the USA, and drove the New York Thruway east across upstate New York. We took a short detour at Syracuse to see Syracuse University, which was of some interest to Celeste. The campus is beautiful, including both the setting on a hill on the edge of downtown and its many attractive and varied buildings.

We resumed our drive to our destination for the next couple of nights, Johnstown, New York. Johnstown is close to Amsterdam, where Dad grew up, and was also home to my grandmother for a couple of years while she lived with her niece. We plan to do some exploring tomorrow to refresh my memories of the area and show Celeste a bit about one of her grandparents.

This article is part of a series about our recent vacation in the Great Lakes area. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.


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