Monday, July 28, 2008

Ski in Australia This Winter!

It's cold and snowy enough to make this a great ski season in Australia!
Have a look at current temps Down Under at the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.

Friend Teena mentioned on Sunday that it actually snowed about 10 minutes distance from Sydney. That she was one chilly possum goes without saying.

A quick glance at the weather forecast maps shows that the only warm spot for tourists this July is in Far North Queensland or Darwin. And best of all, it's not stinger season (November to May) so you can swim with abandon (just keep watch for sharks and other critters).

Actually this fall-winter (March-July in Australia) has been much colder than normal, as far as I can remember from tracking the weather there for the past 10 years or so. And I did read a news report saying that Antarctica was having its coldest weather in years!

Buenos Aires Argentina, too, has been having a very chilly time of it, with similar temperatures this winter. But down south in Ushuaia, they must be skiiing up a storm! Me? If I were to travel to Argentina, Chile or Australia, I'd wait for spring .

It's hard to know what to pack for trips to places where part of the country is hot, and part is snow and ice, and part is somewhere in between. Look at your itinerary, and let that guide you.

If you will only be spending a few days in Sydney before heading up to Cairns and north in Queensland, likely a wind proof rain jacket and fleece liner may be enough to keep you comfy.

Similarly, if you are planning to visit Buenos Aires and head up to Iguazu and on to Rio, then the same outerwear should see you through. Toss in some gloves, hat and a scarf and you are good to go. Look for more travel packing tips on my main web site.

But if you are a skier, and are looking to try the slopes in the souther hemisphere, then pack your ski gear and book your ticket. It's a great year for it!

Monday, July 21, 2008

New Flights LAN Toronto YYZ to Santiago Chile SCL

According to the GTAA (Greater Toronto Airport Authority) website, LAN (Chile) Airlines will start flights 5 days a week from Toronto (airport code YYZ) To Santiago de Chile (airport code SCL) on or about September 3, 2008. That could be good news -- I've flown LAN before, domestic flights, in Chile, and really enjoyed the service. Plus this new routing might be a viable alternative to Air Canada for the international portion of a trip to South America.

So I popped over to to have a look around. I checked for flights departing Toronto (YYZ) in mid-September and returning from Santiago (SCL) mid-October. Indeed, as the GTAA site states in its NEWS for July 17, the flights are (alas!) not non-stop; On the flight south, the stop is in New York City; and on the return flight, the stop and change is in Miami (MMI).

Flying via the USA is a whole other can of worms -- ask any traveler -- but I plowed ahead to check out fares anyway. And the odd thing is, each time I checked, the fare changed slightly, according to availability.

The above screenshot shows the fare in U.S.D. which is currently almost at par with the CAD. There is a currency converter to find the cost in other currencies. Then I headed over to Air Canada, with whom I'd flown to Chile a few years ago. At that time, I used my Aeroplan miles, and paid only the taxes, etc. I loved the flight (Air Canada is ever so lovely on international routes; the polar opposite of domestic routes).

The departure time was great, too, departing YYZ (Toronto) a few minutes before midnight, and heading non-stop to arrive in SCL (Santiago) just after 10 a.m the next day. With minimal time difference between EDT/EST and Chile time, this overnight Air Canada flight is one of the easiest longer-haul flights you can take. Board, eat , drink, put on sleep mask, recline seat, and snooze away the night!

Here's the screenshot of the fares on Air Canada aka the bad news . . .

As you might see, the cost is higher for Air Canada -- almost $400 more! Now that's a large chunk of change -- several nights hotel -- or a domestic flight. Now I have to justify spending $400 more for the convenience of flying non-stop, getting additional Aeroplan Miles and a shorter flight. Air Canada flying time to Santiago is 10.5 hours, and 11.15 hours returning from SCL to YYZ.

LAN, with the stop over, is a lot longer travel time: Southbound, it's 14.5 hours; northbound, it's 15.5 hours, so between 4 and 5 HOURS longer. Business travelers have an easier choice - pay more, get there faster. Leisure economy travelers (the rest of us) have a choice to make. How much will you pay for convenience?

When I went back to double check fares on LAN again, I received a lower fare; a note on the page said more availability since first checked.
Now the fare difference between AC and LAN made it even harder to choose.

Think I will go check my Air Miles balance and see what I can come up with! I hope to go to Chile, Argentina and Uruguay this winter, and since it will be the antipodean summer, I had best get booking flights pretty quick.

There is a reciprocity tax Chile charges Canadians, and others (US Included). Each payment is valid for 5 years, and I think mine has now expired. Last time, it cost me additional $55 payable on arrival in Chile. Now, the reciprocity tax seems to be $132 CAD for Canadians I cannot find the amount charged US citizens - will keep looking - it used to be $100 USD), and payable upon arrival by air by cash, credit card or travelers' cheques (checks). See for details.

ps February 2009 -- See this post about travel deals to Chile-Argentina tour.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Waterfront Trail Port Credit Mississauga Ontario

Construction of the Waterfront Trail through Rhododendron Gardens park in the Port Credit area of Mississauga is well under way this summer. (see Waterfront Trail site for details of the Trail)
This picture shows the new trail being cut from the Garden entrance at Shawmarr and Lakeshore in Port Credit. Currently the Waterfront Trail access is a block east of this intersection, at Godfrey's Lane. This new trail section will run along the creek in the Gardens, over the foot bridge at the lakeshore, across the field near the Tamaracks (photos), then rejoin Godfreys' Lane.

Heavy duty earthmoving equipment is cutting a new trail from the parking lot along the creek that runs through the Gardens and enters Lake Ontario about half a kilometer from here.

Along this new section of Waterfront Trail, the City of Mississauga Parks and Recreation Dept has planted about 15 new trees. As well, the gardeners have planted hundreds of new rhododendrons, an entirely new rose garden, dozens of hostas and relocated several mature azaleas.

The intersection (above picture) is Lakeshore Road and Shawnmarr. Parking is by permit only on weekends at the Gardens parking lot, but onstreet parking is available on Shawnmarr. There is also a Mississauga Transit bus stop at this intersection (bus No. 23).

When this new section of trail re-enters Godfrey's Lane it merges with Ben Machree and is well-signed. The trail passes through a block or so of city street, then rejoins the lakeshore trail, where you get these wonderful views into Toronto. Note the CN Tower on the skyline.

See new pictures of the Waterfront Trail on this updated August 29 2008 post.

Have a look at the Google Map for this part of the Waterfront Trail. The trail is not marked clearly on this map, but move the image to follow along the lake into Port Credit.

View Larger Map

Monday, July 14, 2008

Volunteers Needed Rhododendron Gardens Mississauga Ontario to Dead Head Spent Rhodo Blossoms

Volunteers are needed this summer (now!) at Mississauga's Rhododendron Gardens. If you are in the area, or biking or hiking the Waterfront Trail through Port Credit, take a few minutes to stop at the Gardens and lend a hand with dead heading the spent rhododendron blooms.

Rhododendron in Full Bloom
This picture above of a blooming rhodo is the Before picture -- the glorious show of blooms that draws hundreds of visitors each spring to the garden park on the lakeshore in Mississauga.

Spent Rhododendron flower - the After Picture
When the bloom is gone, what's left needs to be carefully hand picked from the stem, taking care not to disturb the emerging stalk that will hold the blooms for the following summer. This lets the plant put all its energy into new growth, rather than into seed production. The paler green shoots bracketing the spent blossom in the middle show how much growth has already taken place on this particular plant. The longer the shoot, the trickier it is to get into the center to pinch out the spent blossom.

After the pinch - all neat and tidy and ready to grow!
The photo above shows the pruned area on a rhodo that has yet to send up new growth around the spent blossom (hand courtesy of Master Gardener Para). This is tedious but somewhat enjoyable work, standing out in the open air, mere steps from Lake Ontario, amidst birdsong and butterflies, and occasionally, a nice chat with another volunteer.

Rhododendron Gardens in Full Bloom
And while you prune and pinch, it helps to know that you are in some small but important way setting the stage for the next year's glorious Spring show at the Rhododendron Gardens. And knowing how much pleasure the gardens give to all visitors, especially the bridal parties who make this display their living backdrop for wedding photos.

If you are able to help simply show up on a weekday and ask to to speak to Para, who will give instructions. On weekends, look for other volunteers busy dead heading rhodos in the bushes.

As well other volunteers are busy on other projects in the Gardens, reports David Culham:
The Waterfront Trail construction is underway. The central rose bed is progressing slowly and with a great deal of sweat. Rob has donated all the roses but also the great amount of time in planning out the colour, scent, and the timeliness of bloom. Our expectation is that the roses will add to the colour throughout the summer and help define a Garden and not a Park.

Ferns have been donated and planted along the Tecumseh Creek by volunteers. A mornings dig for wild flowers (May Apple) succeeded and the transplanting occurred by volunteers. Weeding and shrub trimming is underway by volunteers. Para and staff are undertaking further Rhodo plantings at the moment especially in places with previous loses.

New Rose Garden
Here's the start of the new rose garden, where Rob is working long hours to lay out and plant about 700 rose bushes.

UPDATE: Thanks to a large group of spent bloom pickers, much of the dead heading is now done. BUT -- there's always some weeding help needed, so do drop by and pull a few!

More pictures of Rhododendron Gardens see this post

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Lighthouse Restaurant - Snug Harbour, Girasole, Hook's, Breakwater at Waterside Inn

I'm often asked about the restaurant 'at the lighthouse' in Port Credit, and it's hard to know which restaurant they want. There are any number of restaurants along the lakeshore in Mississauga, though as far as I know, none are right on the lake, and none that are called The Lighthouse Restaurant.

Snug Harbour on the Credit River near the lighthouse

Snug Harbour could be called the 'lighthouse restaurant', since it is located just across the river from the landmark lighthouse in Port Credit. This picture shows Snug Harbour (green roof) and patio overlooking marina and river. Lake Ontario is the thin line of blue on the horizon.

Snug Harbour  Looking Out at Lighthouse
 I took this picture on a late-winter night, and the view is still gorgeous, even when it's not summer.

I often go for lunch or dinner at Snug Harbour, and frankly, its big draw is 'location, location, location'. The food is all right (though the chef did do an amazing chili for the Great Chili cook-Off last year) (and I love their spicy garlic mayonnaise for my chips), but the service is uneven. Sometimes you can sit for ages watching staff have wonderfully long chats among themselves, and other times are served fairly quickly.

Girasole Mediterranean on Lakeshore near lighthouse in Port Credit

And Girasole Mediterranean is just steps from the lighthouse in Port Credit, but in the opposite direction. And while there is a patio out front, there are no water views to be had. As of June 2011, there is a sign in the window advising 'closed for renovations'. This is peak tourist and visitor time in Port Credit, and it's a shame the doors are closed.

Breakwater Restaurant, Waterside Inn

And then there's the Breakwater, in the Waterside Inn. Located on Stavebank Road South, the Breakwater overlooks part of the marina on the Credit River.

Hook's Grille near lighthouse

As of late  summer, 2010, Hook's closed. Over the winter, new owners did extensive renovations, and this location next to the Port Credit library is reborn as Papa Guiseppe's pizza resto. Though I haven't been there as yet, neighbours say the food is very good.

Another new spot in 2011 is Napoca, just east of here along Lakeshore Road. Napoca is the place with the long narrow patio area out front, and specializes in cooking from scratch - and free range chicken. Our meal was delicious, and the staff most friendly.

And there are many more pubs and places to eat, all along this strip east from Mississauga Road along the Lakeshore. Even Ten Restaurant and Wine Bar -- though definitely NOT the Lighthouse Restaurant -- is only a short stroll from Lake Ontario and the Waterfront Trail.

Most Port Credit eateries serve brunch daily or on weekends, or will be happy to accommodate you.

I've posted info about Girasole, Ten, and Breakwater on my Mississauga restaurant pages at Snapshot Journeys mississauga restaurants, and on this blog, many other ones as well - try searching labels for 'port credit restaurants' (sometimes this works, but sometimes I cannot find a thing!)

Or have a look at this Google Map set to Snug Harbour, then enter other restaurant names to pinpoint their locations.

View Larger Map

Friday, July 04, 2008

Helen's Fish and Chips New Owners, Mixed Reviews of Popular Port Credit Restaurant

Helen's Fish and Chips, located on the west side of the Credit River and Lakeshore, just steps from the lighthouse in Port Credit (Mississauga, Ontario) is a place we go to 'just for the halibut' :-)

And in May, new owners took over the long established, family owned eatery. The menu is not all that different from the previous owners (see original post and pictures from October 2007). I've had a few meals since then, with mixed results. Here's what I've found.

On May 15, I ordered the usual halibut special ($9.95) that comes with fries and a choice of salad (I like their Greek salad). The halibut had a different batter on it -- denser, more like a thin cake batter, not greasy, light. The salad had bits of veggies well past their prime, to the point that it was obvious that someone had mixed up the 'Toss' pile with the 'Salad' pile to the detriment of the salad. They'd also forgotten to add the Greek dressing, so I took my plate back to the counter, asked dressing and left the bits of compost (brown lettuce bits and chunks of celery).

We'd tucked into the meal when a man came over to the table, identifying himself as part of the new ownership, saying Helen's is still a family owned business. He apologized profusely for the salad incident, saying they had a new chap starting today who was a little rough around the edges.

We had a nice chat about Port Credit, the menu old and new, Gordon Ramsey as a mutual favourite, the owners' previous restaurants (all franchises, if I recall), their plans for the future (basically, keep on with the same proven menu as before, with less popular items winnowed out), and keeping it as a Cash Only establishment versus adding an ATM. It was all 'Hail, Fellow! Well Met!

And so we decided to give them some time to settle in. In early June we stopped in, as my friend simply had to have some clam chowder. Alas, there is no chowder to be had, so we walked over the bridge to Snug Harbour, where there is plenty of chowder.

From time to time, we stopped into Helen's but only for fries and a drink. Today, it was time again for the halibut special. We had one hour to walk to Helen's, order and eat, and get back to leave for work.

When we got there, I noticed something new on the chalkboard: Halibut Nuggets, with fries and salad, for $5.95, which I ordered. The cheerful girl at the cash said, "Oh, no, it's fries OR salad with the nuggets," so I chose fries. My friend had the full Halibut special, also with fries and Greek salad, still $9.95.

We took our seats while we waited for our food. After an inordinately long time, I went over to the counter to see what was keeping it. Another gal behind the counter was setting up two plates, loaded with fries, and salad. When the cook placed the fish on those plates, she called out, "Number 37." A young chap came up, took the tray and left. Since he had ordered after we did, I asked what had become of our orders, which I repeated down to the exact amount of cash I had forked over.

The order taker looked flustered, said 'no idea' etc. etc. just as my friend came up to the counter, to see what was taking so long. As we were trying to sort this out, the young chap comes back with the tray of food. Apparently he had taken our food in error. No one had thought to check to see if he had the correct order. (Now I am sure he is a nice clean chap who hadn't touched any of our meal, and I didn't want to further embarrass him, but still. I mean really!)

I told the staff that since both those plates had salad, I had assumed they were for another order. "Oh, no - the nuggets come with BOTH fries and salad," said the Plate Preparer.

Okay, long story too long. Sorry. On to the food. The portion size versus the price makes the nuggets a bargain lunch for sure! That's the good news.

Halibut Nuggets, Chips and Greek Salad Special

The Halibut Nuggets special is almost as amply portioned as the full special. The previous salad issues seem to have been solved by the use of packaged salad mix, to which Helen's add fresh tomatoes, black olives and Greek dressing. The fries were fresh, though a little limp - it's so hard to find crispy fries -- but not an issue.

The batter is again the traditional batter, fairly thin and crisp, not too greasy. But see the white area on the piece of fish lower right edge of the plate? Ah that's the not so good part. So eager was the cook to get the meals out fast that cooking times were fudged. About half the pieces were absolutely tasty. Other pieces, that did not enjoy a favourable spot in the fryer, spurted a white gel stuff that prompts immediate spit-out on my part. But there were enough to choose from, and I wasn't all that hungry.

So it seems my love affair with the classic local diner is a little tarnished. I'll give it another try in a month or so, when I need a fix of fish and chips. Let me know if you go, and how your meal was.

UPDATE DEC 2008:It's all good again :-)

Helen's Fish and Chips Nugget style
I had Helen's Halibut nuggets and chips and Greek salad last month for take out lunch, and again last night for an early dinner, and both times, the food was really good. (Whew!) And the dinner size Halibut and chips, too, was perfectly cooked. I still think the Halibut Nuggets meal is the better option; though the price has gone up by a dollar since the summer time, it's still a good deal.

UPDATE March 14, 2009 Just back from Helen's for lunch. The place was packed this Saturday noon! Helen's now accepts debit cards for payment, and has increased the price of the halibut nuggets to $7.95, which still includes Greek salad and a small portion of fries.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Canada Day Port Credit Memorial Park Pictures

Update July 1 2010 Canada Day July 1 2010 Events See you there!

July 1 2009 : Canada Day in Port Credit Sign

The sign is up on Lakeshore Road for this year's Canada Day celebration and fireworks in Port Credit. I'll pop by on the day and take pictures. To see last year's celebration pics, read on!

July 1 2008
Picture perfect day, weather-wise here in Port Credit this Canada Day! (For info on Mississauga fireworks for tonight see earlier post) (and for info on Jack Darling park see later post) I had headed up to Lakeshore and Wenonah, to catch the cake cutting ceremony slated for noon. From my house, it's 3.3 km (2 miles) according to Google maps; I had really wanted cake to walk so far there and back!

Still setting up for the cake cutting : delayed
Just as I could see some balloons, etc that signalled the end of my quest, I met Ron, the intrepid publisher of the Mississauga News, who was leaving this venue, as, he said, the ceremony, etc had been moved back to 3 p.m. Since it had just gone noon, I couldn't see hanging about for 3 hours either, and missing all the fun back along the Credit River and Lakeshore.

Paint the Town Red - Even the White traffic lines!

I had noticed that the white traffic lines had been given red outlines, and every so often a tiny maple leaf was stenciled in the centre of the white line. From time to time, in the gaps between white lines, a small Canada flag appeared. Now I don't know about you, but I think that this shows great attention to detail. Well done, whoever!!

Memorial Park Port Credit Canada Day 2008

Back at the Credit River and Lakeshore, in Memorial Park, bands were playing, vendors vending and happy revellers reveling! A cool breeze blowing, flags waving, and sunny skies!

The Bouncing castle
Having a great time -- the skateboard park is just behind the castle.

Credit River Views From the Lighthouse in Port Credit

From the observation deck at the landmark Port credit lighthouse, I could see a boat ease its way up the Credit River past Memorial Park and the Canada Day celebrations.

Traffic on Lakeshore Mississauga - Park and Walk

I took this shot also from the lighthouse deck, above the bridge that crosses over the Credit River. Traffic had been heavy all day, and at the time of this photo, it was just past 2 p.m. By now, I had had a good walk around town, with a stop at Scoops for my fave cone, Polar Paws ice cream on a waffle cone.

Scoops, if you haven't guessed, is our local ice cream shop, just a block or so east from here, and the lines were out the door. A short while before, I had a nice chat with a couple who had come from North York and forest Hill - "just out for a drive" - and stopped to join in the fun. Most restaurants are open, or will open for their usual dinner hours, and, as Port Credit is a designated tourist zone, many shops are open as well.

I hope to head back around 9 p.m. to see the fireworks. Happy Canada Day, all!