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Traveling to all the hot spots

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Remember when a place being a hot spot was a good thing? Lively and exciting? (Or possibly a way to connect to wifi?) Now it’s describing villages with abnormally hot temperatures caused by global warming “heat domes”, and in COVID terms, regions with a large number of cases.

Ontario so far is having a relatively normal summer weather-wise, with a mix of hot, sticky days and cool, rainy ones—along with a few exciting thunderstorms, sometimes with hail. (Ontario is not the place for people who enjoy weather constancy.) And COVID-wise, Ontario—with definitely the slowest reopening plan in North America—is doing pretty well. Except for a few hot spots.

One of these was my original home town of Timmins, which until recently had weathered the pandemic really well. But the Delta variant just tore through the place—and more alarmingly, through the remote northern villages up there—in May / June time frame.

We nevertheless decided to visit. Their plight had led to an extensive local vaccination effort, and as a result, almost all our family ended up fully vaccinated sooner than expected. And we hadn’t been there in nearly a year. Felt like time.

Also felt like a bit of déjà vu of last summer’s July visit…

Big nickel city

To break up the trip there, we stopped in Sudbury (as we had on the way back last year). We stayed at the same Hilton we had then, once again booking a suite. We had made patio reservations at Verdicchio Ristorante and met up with Jean’s sister there—again, all a reprise. Patio dining didn’t seem quite as novel and exciting as it did then! But it was still very enjoyable. They had again set the place up quite nicely, and the food and wine were delicious.

But just to vary it up, this time we stayed a bit longer, and on Sunday, then again Monday, we did some walking in Lake Laurentian Conservation area. This was quite lovely! The landscape was a bit Killarney-like. The wild blueberries were already starting to ripen. And the mosquitoes weren’t bad.

View from Laurentian Conservation area hike

It had some nice fauna and flora:

We also enjoyed a pleasant walk around Ramsey Lake on Sunday, and another very good patio dinner at Bella Vita Cucina, one of the few restaurants open on Sunday. Even fewer were available Monday, but for lunch, we did enjoy a nice charcuterie plate and a wine flight at an establishment called La Fromagerie. They were downtown, with their patio set up along the street. Not the most charming location—our waitress nearly got run over by a bike at one point—but we’re still happy to have found this place.

That night, Jean’s sister rescued us from having to dine at Milestones by inviting us over for a barbecue.

Cat situation: Zoë, our senior cat who is afraid of most people who aren’t us, but had previously decided our catsitter was OK, had reverted to thinking our catsitter was a monster. Zoë was hiding in our closet when we left. She tentatively ventured out some on Sunday, and accepted some deliveries of food. Monday she started sneaking to her food dish periodically “when she thinks I’m not looking”, as the catsitter put it.

The city with the heart of gold

Due to its hot spot status, the Porcupine Health Unit that Timmins is part of had not moved to stage 1 reopening with the rest of the province, meaning that most stores were closed, and patio dining was not allowed. Fortunately, we don’t go to Timmins for shopping and restaurants.

It was just about seeing people. Almost all of Jean’s family had been fully vaccinated more than two weeks earlier, so we did a bit more visiting with them indoors than we had last July. Still holding off on hugs and kisses for greetings, though!

The most interesting interior we visited was of Jean’s niece’s house, a large property that is almost completely self-sufficient: off the grid (so generating electricity and heating through solar panels, windmills, wood, generators, and batteries) and drawing water from wells. (It does have internet and cell service.) It was interesting to see how that all worked.

My Dad was also in fully vaccinated status (just!), so we stayed with him, and got spoiled with his cooking. Most of my brother’s family hadn’t had quite the full two weeks since second dose, and my niece was still waiting for her second dose, so we met with them outdoors around the campfire. My nephew had just landed himself a full-time job in his field (environmental science), which is exciting. And my niece shared some of her brilliant digital art.

Dad has been doing some volunteering at the local vaccine clinic, so I joined him for one shift—though it was such a quiet day there, don’t think my presence was especially needed.

We also went to see some friends, hanging out in their gazebo with their two dogs and cats. They also have a heater in there, which was appreciated, as Timmins decided to be a bit on the cool side that week.

It was good to be back after nearly a year, falling back into the easy conversation with people you’ve known forever.

Since we didn’t seem to take any pictures of people in Timmins, here’s a picture of the Toronto crew we visited with a couple weeks prior

Cat update: Zoë stopped hiding but still refused to join the boys for meal time (my cats eat all can food), so was relying on food delivery service from the catsitter. (She can be very serious about her social distancing, our Zoë.) That is until Thursday, when she finally deigned to join everyone for breakfast, and even allowed herself to be pet a bit.

Orillia

Reversing last year itinerary, we stayed in Orillia on the way back this time. Then we’d discovered two restaurants we really liked, and we were pleased to see that both had survived the pandemic. We made a reservation at one for Friday night, and the other for Saturday.

We did get a little concerned about the Environment Canada Extreme rainfall warning for Orillia that pinged through on the phone on drive in. But, the Friday was more of a light rainfall. We scoped out Rustica Pizza Vino shortly after our arrival and concluded that they had large enough umbrellas that didn’t need to switch to takeout.

Indeed, we were pretty well protected from the elements during dinner—and the restaurant was thrilled that all who had reserved showed up despite the drizzle. And the food was delissio.

And Saturday wasn’t quite as rainy as originally feared; the warning got cancelled. We took a bit of drive out to a quaint town nearby, and attempted a little walk there—but it just wasn’t that interesting a trail. So then we headed into Orillia for a bit of shopping. (This despite the fact that Jean reacted with incredulity when I had suggested to our friends in Timmins that we might do some shopping in Orillia.) I managed to get a couple pairs of nice walking shoes—shoes being one item that I do find it difficult to shop online for.

And dinner was at The Common Stove, which had again set up dining in their alleyway, where we were most definitely protected from any rain.

Making do with the space you’ve got

The waitress barely seemed surprised that we’d visited during the last reopening, and were now back. (Is this a common thing?) They did a really nice job on the food:

The audiobook for the trip, by the way, was The Lost Man by Jane Harper, which I’d recommend.

Cat update: Gus became a bit of a brat, trying to steal Zoë’s food when she’d join (despite the fact he had his own, and it was the same food), resulting in her running off and having to get catsitter delivery service again. Still, all survived our time away. They were super friendly when we got back!

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