Day 5 – Today I learned…

This was a travel day, from Montreal to Riviere du Loup. We took it easy, leaving late, stopping for breakfast and lunch, and to visit a chocolatiere in Otterbourne Park.  We still arrived just before 6 p.m.

So today I learned that I could read French well enough to understand that Trump thinks Trudeau is feeble and dishonest because he spoke to the press after Trump left the G7, and that the president of the European Counsel thinks there is a special place in Heaven for Trudeau, probably for exactly that reason. Since I haven’t used my French for many years, I was quite pleasantly surprised.

Dr Fox doesn’t read French, but he gave it a try anyway.

dr fox and journal

David pointed out the sign for La Cabosse d’Or along hwy 20 E, and asked me if I wanted to tour a chocolate factory. Of course I said yes! It was ten kilometres off the highway, but we were looking for things to do to make the drive fun. It may have started with David indulging me, but I think he enjoyed it as much as I did. We were enlightened as to the workings of making good chocolate by a lovely young woman named Laurence, whose English was more than enough for the job.

Then we started poking around the store, which was really amazing. There were all kinds of beautiful chocolate goodies – sports-themed, fish-themed, truffles, fudge, chocolate coins, almost any animal you’d care to name and a chocolate Kama Sutra. Wowsers! In dark and milk, may I say, and also one done with Malitol, a sugar which does not require insulin to be digested. I bought some of the Malitol chocolate, although not the Kama Sutra.

Before we left we each had a sorbet. Mine was cacao, very dark and rich, and hardly sweet at all. David had mango, which tasted almost like eating a fresh, cold mango in a cone. Highly recommended, and worth the detour from the highway. Just be prepared to go over budget on the chocolate. This is not cheap chocolate, and by that I mean that it is very good quality, something you’re not going to find every day, and worth the price. They even make chocolate chips on-site – dark, milk and white chocolate. I will be making a premium batch of chocolate-chip cookies when I get home.

For those of you who are curious, here’s one panel of the Kama Sutra.


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Day 4 – Beetles and bonsai

Today we sallied forth to see the Jardin Botanique and the Insectarium. Both of these are well worth the trip, dare I say even the trip from Wharncliffe.

The Insectarium is an incredible collection of insects and information about them. The whole tone of the place is to make us see that insects are living things and a vital part of the planet. It’s awe-inspiring, delightful, brilliant, and a great way to spend a couple of hours, although in the two-plus hours I was there many people came and went. Of course, I did spend some of that time drawing one of the leaf insects. I’m going to try to draw something every single day – a visual diary of the trip.

The Jardin Botanique is – well, incredible. We didn’t see all of it, even though we spent seven hours there. We did tour the exhibition greenhouses, all nine of them, and walked through part of the rose gardens, and the bit of the Chinese Garden that was open (they’re  renovating). David went to see the Japanese Garden while I rested my knee – which held up very well through the day, but finally started to whinge.

The greenhouses were themed – bromeliads, cacti, orchids, ferns, begonias, bonsai, food plants and so on. They were beautifully arranged, and the plants all looked healthy and happy. David went through them while I was drawing in the insectarium, and when we met after I was done, he said, “You have to see these greenhouses!” And he was right – I’m glad I didn’t miss them.

This is going to be another place we have to come back to again. Oh, and if you do go, and have lunch in the little restaurant just off the park, try the rose kombucha – it’s delicious!


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Day 3 – The zoo, and Quebec, too

Dr Fox says “bonjour” from la belle province.

dr fox arrives in Quebec blog

We crossed into Quebec shortly after 5 pm, and by 6 were ensconced in our hotel, in a lovely, bright, airy room. Before we got here, it was an eventful day.

Daniel, when we asked him about zoos in the area, suggested the Papanack Zoo in Wendover, less than an hour’s drive from Ottawa. We forthwith decided to see what it was like. It was like many small, privately-owned zoos, with a smallish assortment of animals, but a good variety for the size of the place. You can walk around the whole zoo easily in an afternoon, with lots of time for gawking – and there’s lots to see. We missed all the feeding schedules, because David was photographing and I was mostly drawing – or trying to draw – the animals. The only cooperative one was the wallaby,


Dr Fox also got to meet the wallaby close up. She wanted to nibble his ear.

dr fox meets a wallaby blog

However, no harm done. The day was very warm and sunny, and many of the animals were kipping in the shade. Who could blame them? We’d have liked to do the same! We saw the ring-tailed lemurs, who were making little “mrp” noises at us, and the camels, who were supercilious in the way of camels. David found me when I was wandering around looking for another drawing opportunity and asked me if I’d ever heard a four-foot pussycat purr. I said I hadn’t, and he led the way to the cougar enclosure, where the cougar was indeed purring and rolling on the ground. It was completely charming!

After we left, we found a nice little restaurant called Le Chardo in Alfred, Ontario. David had the Thai chicken, and I had the Works Poutine, which came with mushrooms, peppers and a large hamburger’s worth of ground beef as well as a generous helping of real cheese curds! It was delicious – but if we ever go back I will ask for a half-portion.

We crossed into Quebec, but there was nowhere safe to pull off and take a picture until we got to the information centre – which was closed. Never mind – Dr Fox perched on a display of brochures for area attractions, all in French, says it all. He is thinking he may have to start calling himself Docteur Reynard!

So a happy day, full of good food, animals and interesting things to see, and ending in a comfortable hotel room and the prospect of a good night’s sleep.


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Day 2 – Meeting with mammoths

Dr Fox tried to go with the healthy breakfast, but succumbed to the lure of chocolate muffins. Nobody is perfect.

muffin fb

After breakfast, we went to the Museum of Nature. The first thing I saw when we were pulling into the parking lot was a “mammoth crossing” sign, and three mammoths – well, sculptures – hanging out together in a sunny corner. Dr Fox wanted to ride a mammoth, but the only one he could manage was the baby, and even then he wasn’t sure he could stay on. Fortunately a young woman who gave her name as Manny volunteered to ride the mammoth with him and make sure he didn’t fall off!

mammoth & manny fb

The museum suggests 3-4 hours for a visit. I could have spent three or four days! David and I are not “glance, photograph and run” people – in fact, I could happily have spent all day in the dinosaur gallery drawing. I did get one good piece – a dromeosaurus skull.

dromeosaur 1 MoNblog

Those of you who followed Dr Fox’s travels last year know of my ongoing search for postcards. I wandered into the gift shop and found Cassie and her friend Vanessa the Beaver, who were very helpful in finding me postcards. Thank you, Vanessa and Cassie!

cassie and vanessa fb

We plan on coming back sometime to revisit this museum. I can recommend the Earth Gallery, the dinosaur gallery, the mammals gallery, and the helpful and friendly staff. I always like a place better when I feel that my conte crayons are welcome, too – which they definitely are here!

After we got back to the hotel, we had a dinner date with Daniel Zlatin at The Works, possibly the best burger restaurant ever! Good food and great conversation – the evening went too fast. I hadn’t seen Daniel for years, but I’d have known him anywhere!

Tomorrow, on to Montreal for a look around the Botanical Gardens, and probably some other impromptu sightseeing.

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Day 1 – Fox on the Run

We made an earlyish start this morning, although not as early as we’d planned. We arrived at Tutti Frutti in Sudbury for breakfast about 9:40. We’d have been earlier, but we made an unscheduled stop at John’s Flower Shop and Greenhouses in McKerrow. Of course we couldn’t buy any plants at this stage of the trip; nothing would survive two weeks’ travel in the summer. But he had beautiful hot pink bougainvilleas, and also lovely russet ones, and a gorgeous, fragrant variegated rose. Ah, well.

We also made a stop at iBead, where I was very restrained and came away with two strands of agate beads and one of glass eyes. Okay, and a dragon charm. And a fish charm. And ten bone beads. But it could have been much, much worse, trust me.

We made decent time, but we also stopped and looked at things if they caught our interest. That’s how Dr Fox and I got this picture.

louise and fox

It started with one of those ubiquitous blue signs for Important Historical Stuff. Only this one said “Louise de Kiriline Lawrence”, a name which jumped out at me because “Shepherd in Residence” won the award named after Ms de Kiriline Lawrence. We pulled off into a tiny, shady, pretty little park on a small lake and found the plaque that detailed her life and accomplishments. (As you can’t read through me, she wrote FIVE books about wildlife!) She really kicked ass! I feel doubly honoured to have had anything I wrote associated with her name. Wowsers.

And, yes, my hair is purple. I bought the dye a few weeks ago and David put it in this morning before we left. I like it.

Tomorrow, the Museum of Nature in Ottawa before we head on to Montreal and the botanical gardens!

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Dr Fox rides again!

Dr Fox is off to the east coast tomorrow – first stop Ottawa to visit the Museum of Nature. Originally the plan was the National Gallery, but thanks to a co-worker who told us about the museum, we’ll do that instead. I can easily fritter a whole day in a museum!

Today, packing, and Sky and Pharaoh to the kennel. It’s good not to have to worry about my puss and pooch while I’m off (re)discovering the Atlantic Ocean!

The hotels are booked, the itinerary set, the art stuff packed. Ready to rock and roll – well, once the clothes have been packed. Clothes are important too!

Watch this space for the adventures of the intrepid Dr Fox!

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Giving broccoli another try

A dear friend of mine recently commented that she didn’t usually “get” poetry. I’ve been pondering that statement from several angles.

I’ve known more than one person who has said either that they didn’t understand poetry or that they didn’t like it. I’ve loved poetry from when I was a very small child, and while there was, and always has been, some poetry that I don’t like or don’t understand, I find most of it enjoyable, one way or another.

So why, I ask myself, would anyone who is reasonably intelligent and reasonably literate not understand poetry or see it as the broccoli of the literary world? I’ve come up with some ideas.

First, it’s possible that these people haven’t met the right poetry. I read widely; I like Ogden Nash and Shakespeare and Gerard Manley Hopkins and Christina Rosetti and Mother Goose. I like sonnets and nonsense and love poetry and nature poetry. I don’t like everything I read, and some of it I don’t re-read – but sometimes even stuff I didn’t think I liked sticks with me, and so I give it a second chance.

Second, I think many people get a bad introduction to poetry. They meet it at school, and they have to memorize it and dissect it and analyse it before they get a chance to sit down and have a coffee with it. Tell me how many potential friendships could survive that kind of a start! My introduction to poetry was my mother either reading or reciting it to me. It was clear she enjoyed it, and her enjoyment became mine.

Third, there’s also some really, really bad poetry out there, and some rather difficult stuff. If you were to start with Robert Browning, for example, who happily twists his sentences into corkscrews to make the metre and rhyme work, you could be forgiven for being confused and even repelled. Emily Dickinson’s eccentric rhymes and unique worldview are probably an acquired taste. (Dickinson never wanted her poetry to be published, and indeed requested that it be burned upon her death. You can, if you wish, sing any Dickinson poem to the tune of “The Yellow Rose of Texas”. It gives a new angle on “Because I could not stop for Death / He kindly stopped for me. / The carriage held but just ourselves / and immortality.”)

Finally, I believe that poetry, as any other art, is a way to communicate. Whether it’s Shakespeare’s cautionary tale on over-thinking and indecision (Hamlet) or Nash’s “Reflections on Ice-breaking” (Candy / is dandy / But liquor / is quicker.), poetry is a way for one person to speak to another.

Sometimes the speaker gets so wound up in what they’re saying that the meaning is lost on her or his audience. An inexperienced or uncertain reader may be put off poetry by an early experience with such a poem. (On the other hand, nobody really knows what the lyrics to “American Pie” mean. It doesn’t stop millions of people from enjoying the song.)

This is like being put off movies because you started with “Emma” or “The Fountain” or “Die Hard” and didn’t like what you watched. My advice is to do with poetry what you would do with movies – try something different. The advantage is that you seldom have to spend two hours with a poem to discover you don’t – or do – like it.

If you’ve been intimidated by a poem, or a poet, and want to try again, anthologies are a good place to start. They’re essentially samplers of many different poets. One of my favourites is the Golden Book of Poetry, edited by Louis Untermeyer. Another is An Anthology of Verse edited by Roberta Charlesworth and Dennis Lee. (Yes, “Alligator Pie” Dennis Lee!)

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