Wednesday, August 01, 2007


Cottage weekend

As I mentioned, we spent an extended summer weekend with my brother's family at his in-laws' cottage. Gotta love in-laws with a cottage!

The trip didn't start out so well. By the time we started loading the car on Saturday morning, it was pouring rain and we were two hours behind schedule, partly due to the extended search for the cord to plug the DVD player into the cigarette lighter. Imagine our delight when we went to plug in said DVD player and discovered the cigarette lighter was dead. We were suddenly and unexpectedly facing a seven to eight hour drive with not nearly enough diversions planned to pacify the boys. Right then and there, we almost called the whole thing off.

We didn't, though, and it's a testament to how wonderful the weekend was that I can honestly say it was more than worth the hassle of getting there. And we survived a trip all the way across the province to Lake Huron with only a handful of colouring books, some snacks and our wits. Not that I'd ever do it again intentionally, but it's kind of nice to know we could do it.

We left the 401 near Kitchener, and drove through the pastoral farmland of Southern Ontario that is so evocative of some of the best summer memories of my childhood. There is something about that rolling farmland, the yellow bricks one only finds around London, that particular shade of hazy blue, and the achingly beautiful turquoise of Lake Huron under a cloudless sky that fills my heart with sweet nostalgia. Turns out that even 19 years after the fact, sometimes you can go back home again.

The in-laws' cottage was actually a grounded trailer with an extended sunporch / florida room, parked year-round at what looks like it used to be a Jellystone campground (warning, noisy link!) deep under a canopy of towering maples. The boys loved the built-in bunk beds, and thought it was pretty cool that Uncle Sean let them drive the golf cart (apparently almost every trailer has one for tooling around the campground) all by themselves.


And where there are golf carts, there are of course serious golfers.


Aside from spending time with family, the main attraction for me was the proximity to Lake Huron. The first beach we visited was so rocky we could barely keep to our feet, and we did little more than wade in up to our ankles and fill our waterguns.


But the second day, we made a pilgrimmage to one of my very favourite summertime places in the whole world, the beach at Grand Bend, Ontario. The water was clear and warm and perfect for swimming, and the day couldn't have been more lovely. I could have stayed on the beach for days.


Except, of course, for a wander up the main drag to get some french fries and ice cream. Some traditions are sacred, and beach food is one of them.


Who could have guessed that two-and-a-half days of beaches, pools, putt-putt, ice cream, campfires and four kids under six could ever be so refreshing?

On the last day, rather than drive straight home we detoured to a place I haven't been since I was a tender one year old. I've been meaning to get back there for ages, and I don't know a single person who grew up in Ontario who can't hum the theme song for the African Lion Safari (sorry, more noisy links. I hate that!) It was another blazing hot day, which simply amplified the African savannah feel to the day.

This is not a picture of me feeding Ritz Bits with Cheez to a baboon who is perched on the passenger side mirror. Feeding the animals is strictly forbidden, as is opening your window.


In fact, if you were - hypothetically speaking, of course - to open your window to get a better picture of the cheetah lying in the grass mere feet from your car, you would hear the immediate and bullhorn-amplified voice of a park ranger insisting that you CLOSE YOUR WINDOW, and if you didn't immediately heed that first demand in your quest for the perfect picture, you would certainly be motivated to do so by the clear note of panic in the second and far louder bellow to CLOSE YOUR WINDOW NOW. Hypothetically speaking, of course. Not that you would ever flaunt rules so blatantly. Not even later when this very friendly and not in the least bit fierce or bloodthirsty zebra came over to say hello.


By midafternoon under the blazing sun, the combined temperature and humidity topped out over 38C. Thankfully, the park has a supersized splash pad just about the perfect size for a pair of overheated preschoolers.


We finished the day by enjoying the elephant show, including a 15 month old baby elephant gamboling beside its mother that was particularly charming. It's nice to see the "mischievious toddler" thing extends to other species. And we ended the day on a high note - literally, with Tristan, Simon and I perched atop the back of Jenny, a very patient and very big elephant.


Unfortunately, this isn't a flattering shot of either of us.

(Click thru for more photos on Flickr.)