Goderich – the prettiest town in Ontario (as they say), with beautiful beaches and fantastic trails. Also, it has the biggest underground salt mine in the world.
Sometimes, we (my wife and I) put our finger on the map and say, “Let’s go.” It happened to be Goderich this time, on the shore of Lake Huron.
What did we find true and, uhh, some questions about it?
Is it the biggest mine in the world there?
“Compass Minerals’ Goderich salt mine, located 1,800 feet under Lake Huron, is the largest underground salt mine in the world. The mine is as deep as the CN Tower in Toronto is tall. It has operated since 1959 and was acquired by Compass Minerals in 1990.”
Is it the prettiest town in Ontario?
The downtown has an interesting design. A park (like a circle, about 200 meters in diameter in my estimation), has the Court Building for Huron County in the middle. The street around the park is huge, with many parking spots (for free!!). Shops, restaurants, bakeries, and coffee shops are closing the circle.Outside the downtown there is not much, but it is clean, and all intersections have flowers in the middle, and this time of the year are at their best. So, is it the prettiest? Well, greatly depends on your taste.
We had our lunch in a restaurant downtown. I had lamb and my wife… Santa Cruz… something.
They are rocky, dominated on one end by the installations for the port, I assume, to ship the salt. The history of that port is quite interesting; companies were going bankrupt trying to contain the waters to build the port - the wild waves washed their work. And it was a time when a hotel built on the high shore went down when the shore slid.
At the other end, there is some sand, but not much.
But what is fantastic there is the number of benches. There are so many that it is like a city of benches.
What is not funny is that they are asking for money for parking ($4 an hour or $20 for the day). The parking space is huge and empty, and I doubt many tourists are going there. It was a nice day for walking, and only a few people were on the whole beach. By the way, we parked our car downtown and walked to the beach, about 20 min. We did it for walking, not to save money, but we congratulated ourselves anyway.
We then decided to take a walk on a trail that goes 130 km to Guelph. It starts with a long and high bridge over the Maitland River.
It looked so peaceful that I could not imagine it created such a headache for the engineers building the port. Wintertime it brought immense pieces of ice that smashed into the boats, crushing them.
It had to be diverted to protect the port.
We traveled about 5 km up the trail, then returned.
The fall displayed those beautiful colors.
I liked the trail, it was very well maintained, and guess what? Many benches along…
Interestingly enough, there were many apple trees, and no one collected them, even if they were very tasty.
When we reached the bridge again on our way back, we saw fishermen in the river’s waters.
Many times, just walking in the city, I find surprising festivals. What was this? The duck festival?
The baby duck kept a watching eye on the crowd.
There are kiosks with food and music (in my opinion, there should have been only one place with music but louder).
Some places offered drinks for free or samples for advertising. I took a “cheez-it”.
Our last cruise stop (May 2023) was Iceland. It was raining, but we didn't want to miss the mountain walk. The trees seemed planted by the hand of man.
I don't remember the name of the place.
It cleared up a bit when we got to the top.
As I noticed from the boat, there are very few trees on the island; many places have none.
I regretted the visit that was canceled in Reykjavik. We received the money back, which was automatically paid to our credit card. And we were also reimbursed for our contribution to parking the ship in the port (which is quite expensive). But that was not our problem; we missed something that really interested us. We paid for a trip there to see the geysers. I copied the pictures below from the internet.
Our cruise continued from Norway to Iceland.
We were supposed to have 4 visits, but for 3 of them the port authorities refused to see us because the ocean was angry, and the boat would have crashed into the dock. I didn’t think the waters were so dangerous, and I think I know what I’m talking about. I’ve been on 16 or 17 cruises and there were some days when the sea was rough: we were rolling out of bed. However, such situations are very rare. Both my wife and I have no problems with seasickness, and 99% of the time, we don’t even feel like we’re sailing (that doesn’t mean we’re numb). Well, the sea in Iceland was nowhere near bad enough to warrant such a measure (in my opinion). Anyway, Princess (the cruise line) managed to negotiate a stop in another fjord, so we had two stops.
And that unexpected stop was by far the most successful day of the entire vacation.
The weather was gorgeous. And the small town had a nature around that excited us.
I was surprised by how devoid of forests the island is. But it had its charm. With the snow melting all year round, the waterfalls flow from the heights almost side by side, like the thinning hair of an older head.
Some took the bus to a larger waterfall. We went on foot. Initially, we wanted to climb the ridge and get there at the top, then go down to the waterfall, but we gave up about halfway up; our muscles gave out. We followed an easier way upstream…
Before returning to the ship, we crossed the town’s downtown.
One day, about a week ago, we loaded everything we thought we needed for a trip. Since I cultivate tomatoes on my balcony, I took those almost ripe and put them on the car's dashboard to finish the mature. Well, something to remember about our condo in Toronto.
Canada has so many National Parks that it did not matter which way we went, and as far as I know, every National Park has at least one lake, evident with the number of lakes larger than three square kilometers being estimated at 31752 by the Atlas of Canada. Of these, 561 lakes have a surface area larger than 100 km2.
We headed for Quebec.
We stopped at Drummondville to rest and have lunch at Baton Rouge. The waiter, Letitia, liked us, and the effort we made to talk French (actually, I speak French well, but with a heavy accent).
After we paid she said, “You look tired. Where do you go?”
“Rimouski,” I said.
“That’s a loooong way. Wait.”
She came back with a coffee and offered it to me for free.
We reached Bic National Park near Rimouski on the St. Lawrence Estuary two days later. We liked the parking spots they offer for camping very much, and even if we do not have an RV (we have a Honda HR-V), we decided to stay three days (2 nights).
Lowering the rear seats, we could set our small car for a bed where we fit well. I had mosquito nets on all four windows, so we had plenty of fresh air overnight.
The first day was foggy, which has its charm.
The next day was beautiful. I liked a spot on Ha Ha Bay, with wild roses as far as I could see. The petals were gone, but the fruits were big, with a 4-5 cm diameter.
On the other side of the hill was the Cochon Bay. Because of the low tide, we could walk to the spots where there were islands during the high tide.
On a few occasions, we saw deer.
But the weather was not on our side for the following days, on large areas, so, we decided to return home.
We had a stop at Kingston. It has a nice downtown, and somehow, they want to keep the flavor of an old town; at least the bus I saw was like in old movies.
Now retired and living in downtown Toronto, I have to decide every day where I take my coffee. A few days ago, I was at that covered-by-glass street where tourists could visit the Hockey Hall of Fame. A chandelier made with green plastic bottles (huge, as wide as the street) was hanging from the ceiling at one end of the street. I took a picture quickly because the workers took it down after exposure for a few weeks; my picture was taken when that piece of art was halfway down. I liked it.
Looking the other way on the street.
In the piazza, the Salvador Dali expo is still running.
And I always like what that piazza looks like where my coffee waits for me at Tim Hortons.
The ship's last stop in Norway was Alesund. With around 67,000 inhabitants, it is presented as one of the loveliest cities in the Scandinavian country. The surroundings are breathtaking.
The architecture is what we already knew a Nordic city looked like, and it was clean.
I compared the city center with well-known cities in Romania (I am Romanian-born), Cluj or Brașov, but the comparison clearly favors the two Romanian cities.
Cluj (whom I know very well) also has its architecture, which is very interesting and more varied, and in addition, it has a vibe that you feel at every step, boiling with life. There was silence in Alesund, and as I had already gotten used to, there were (almost) only people from the boat on the streets.
The picture below is of a pub (restaurant/bar).
I did not see beggars on the streets, and I was impressed with that, but… at one point, two people tried to get out of that bar, so drunk that they struggled for 5 minutes to get to the street, but the door had a loud thud and slammed them every time they tried. Their legs were getting soft, and they had to step back. The taxi waiting for them left, and they returned, possibly for another round of whiskey.
Since unstable weather was announced, we did not venture outside the city on foot or on any trip.
The only attraction I saw was some stairs to get to a building somewhere on the hill, otherwise closed. The fun was that you could see the city's surroundings from the terrace.
We gave up because the rain caught us just as we put our foot on the first step.
I haven't seen Oslo. Maybe there's something more interesting there... I think it's worth a trip to Norway for those who like nature. It is beautiful and fresh. The fjords seen from the ship are spectacular.
Conclusion: I enjoyed the trip to Norway, but I am not sure I would go again. Well, maybe to visit Svalbard.
The second stop on our Norway cruise was Isafjordur, at the end of another fjord. The town has around 2,600 inhabitants.
It has two churches. The most visited was at the town’s end.
I saw very few locals, and I think that when there are no tourists, it seems like a town that always sleeps.
We did our way of visiting places - on foot, taking in the surroundings, but we could not go very far because it was rainy. We returned to the ship, wet, after 2 hours of walking.
We had better days…
Our vacation in May 2023 included a cruise trip to Norway and Iceland.
We started in Southampton, UK.
The first stop was a small settlement, Olden, with about 500 inhabitants, at the end of the Olden fjord, where the sea advances more than 100 km inland.
Nature’s freshness was overwhelming. We wandered on the trails along the fjord. We could pay on the boat for some trips by bus, but we always trusted our feet more, and it was better outside than inside a bus.
A paid trip was to a glacier and others to some waterfalls.
We saw plenty anyway.
After about 3 hour walk, we returned to our boat.
Our trip to Europe in May this year, 2023, started in London. We heard so much about London that it was a must-go. We visited all continents. We enjoyed cities and nature around the globe but never the UK. Was it to be a disappointment, a blast, or something in between? I’m not too fond of those articles pushing readers to read it all for the conclusion, I will start with it. We liked London very much, both me and my wife.
Our hotel was near Paddington train station. We are Canadians of Romanian origin (actually, we have both citizenship), and I heard about occasions where beggars from Romania are a problem on the streets. How would people react to hearing us speaking Romanian? But as far as we could see, we were treated for what we were, with no preconception about the culture we might represent. It started with the hotel personnel being amicable, and all the places we visited were the same. And I must confess that I felt shame seeing people speaking Romanian on the streets wrapped in sleeping bags. Something needs to be done in all countries to fix this situation for beggars of all flavors.
We are big fans of walking to know better the places we visit. We may have something between 10 to 20 km per day. And from Paddington, we could reach on foot most of the places we had on our list.
The first evening we crossed Hyde Park and saw the giant crown.
London is so well documented that my article could be obsolete. So, I will mention what we liked the most.
History is at every corner, and it is number one (no surprise here), with palaces, museums, cathedrals, and parks. Our little surprise was that the street where Kensington Palace is - is under strict surveillance. Half of the castle is a museum(we visited), and Prince William and his family use the other half. But just across the palace, we noticed the Romanian Embassy (some trust here).
2. The Sky Garden.
On the last two floors (34 and 35), is, what else?, a garden.
We could see London from above.
3. Free museums.
They are on the podium because of the idea, offering a glimpse into famous works of the best-known paintings of all time, like Picasso, Modigliani, and others. I hope I will not be judged too harshly, but I was not impressed with those glorious paintings. And I was shocked by a canvas (considered exceptional painting) - some horizontal lines of different colors (bah). But I applaud with all my heart the initiative.
Notable mention: the city as a settlement.
Kilometers after kilometers in all directions we walked, there were impressive buildings with nice architecture, well maintained and clean. The architecture respected a certain pattern but was still not dull since the differences in buildings’ lines fit the idea of a well-crafted megalopolitan.
Our last stop in London trip was a good-looking restaurant, where the two pretty waiters working there were, uhhhhh, Romanians.
Should I mention something that was bothering me? Because of so many tourists, you have to book everything well in advance. So it was with our tickets for the Sky Garden (for free, but you still need the booking) and cathedrals, most of which we saw only from outside.
Conclusion (again): we enjoyed the London trip very much.