Friday, 30 September 2016

Kamouraska - Part II

Blog 40

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

It is raining and foggy, so that you cannot see the other shore. I do not mind.

The Monadnock at Route de la Grève,
 oil, 11" x 14
We had another great day yesterday. The sun was shining, even though it was quite windy again. In the morning, Janis and I went to the Monadnock at the end of the “Route de la Grève” where we spent the morning.

After our lunch at the house, we continued to St-Pascal. We tried to find the waterfall we had painted years ago. At first we ended up at the wrong falls. The “Sept Chutes”, is on a trail of plains and farmland with views of seven waterfalls. However, you would need really light painting gear to paint there. It would be great for sketching and watercolour painting.

St-Pascal Waterfall, oil 11" x 14"
On our way back to town, we found the waterfall at the Kamouraska river that we were looking for. Unfortunately, the dairy bar next to it was closed. It would have been a nice refreshment in the warm sun. We had a great time painting.

As it was too late to start another painting, we spent some time scouting places in Mont-Carmel. We discovered the Cultural Hiking Trail and hiked to the Place of Painting, a two floor pavilion that once offered a great view over the fields and mountains, the St. Lawrence River and the Charlevoix Coast However, in the years since the pavilion was built, the trees grew, so they obscure most of the view. Too bad!

Back at the house, Sharon waited for us with appetizers, chili, and ice cream. We spent the evening chatting while I finished the felted Santa for my November “Creativity & Me” workshop. Cute little guy! Tonight it will be cold enough to think about Christmas.


Mountains in the Mist, oil, 5" x 7"
Due to the rain, Janis and I had set up our painting equipment in the winter garden which has a great view of the St. Lawrence River. I created two small paintings of the ever changing landscape. The first one shows the landscape when the fog has just lifted, so that the Charlevoix Coast became visible. The second one was done in the early afternoon when the water had just such beautiful green and blue hues that I had to capture the fleeting image.

Later, I also finished a painting of the garden behind the house which I started in the fall of 2011.

I am quite happy with this productive day, even though I never left the house except to onload my equipment.

Due to the fact that two of our friends had to cancel due to illness, we had leftover day. What a feast!

We are all looking forward to tomorrow’s sunny day. It will be the first day I have to get out my fall/winter gear as the morning temperatures are forecasted only to be 6 degrees Celsius. However, it looks like we can expect a calm day, which does not seem to happen very often in this region, at least not during our trips.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

I am back at home. This time, I followed Sharon and Bill until we reached the highway 17 when I turned towards Rockland. It was a smooth drive in sunny to overcast conditions - perfect for driving. Only the last stretch in heavy rain which started in the Hawkesbury was not pleasant at all.


Thursday and Friday, we spent two wonderful painting days.

Thursday, Janis and I decided to paint in St-Roch-des-Aulnaies, about 30 minutes west of Kamouraska. Unfortunately, we had to go on a big detour as the exit to St-Roch was closed. The next exit was St-Jean-Port-Joli, which is about 30 kilometres west from St-Roch. As we ended up straight in front of the tourist information centre, we stocked up on maps and brochures about the area. One of my first ideas was to look for a wool store. We were in luck! Only minutes from the information centre was the “Boutique Alpagas de l’Ermitage”. Janis and I found some beautiful wool and alpaca rovings for felting. It was so exciting. After our purchase, we went to the Parc des Trois-Bèrets and the Nautical Park with its many information boards about the history of the region.

The park contains many carved works of artists from around the world. Along trails, magnificent carved benches honor the founding families of the city.

We were inspired by the view of the St. Lawrence River that we spent the first part of the afternoon painting from the edge of the park. In the early afternoon, we continued to St. Roch where we first went to the “Havre du Quai”. Wanting to satisfy our sweet tooth first, we made a detour to the local “Seigneurie des Aulnaies”, where we did not only buy some delicious cookies but also some organic gifts for our families at home.

Back at the “Havre du Quai”, I worked on a painting of the fascinating rocks that get partially immerged every time the tide comes in.

At night, we enjoyed a very nice meal at “Mamie’s”, where only local products are prepared and served.

Friday morning, Janis had to leave for an art show in Ottawa. I followed Sharon and Bill to the Quai de Rivière-Ouelle where we spent the whole day. When we arrived the water was a turquoise in the back and slightly pink in the front. The tide was out so that Sharon and Bill stayed on the rocks while I set up close to the quay. I just had to capture the colours of the water.

White Roses, oil, 7" x 5"
After our lunch on one of the brand new picnic tables, I went to the beach and painted the tide coming in. To clean up my palette of the many greens, and to keep with the tradition of creating one wild rose painting a trip, a set out to capture some beautiful white roses.

The three of us were exhausted when we returned to the house. We were lucky to be able to witness another wonderful sunset. One of these days, we have to make the effort and capture it on canvas. Perhaps next September, because we are definitely going back.


While you are reading this travelogue, I am already on the next painting trip, the fall painting trip with the Plein Air Ensemble to Lake Clear in Eganville, Ontario. I hope I can tell you some interesting stories when I get back next week.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Kamouraska 2016 - Part I

Blog 39

This week, I publish the first part of my travelogue of the plein air painting trip to Kamouraska. You can read my daily entries from Sunday, September 11 to Tuesday, September 13, 2016.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Since yesterday, my friends Janis, Sharon, Bill, and I are back at Kamouraska. Usually, Janis and I drive up in one car, but this year, Janis has to go back a day early. This is the first time I was driving by myself. I still followed Janis as she knew the way.

We had a smooth trip and arrived at the house around 6 pm. As I had only slept for about four hours the night before and started the day with a fall up the stairs, I was nervous that I would not be able to drive the whole distance without a nap. Therefore, I started out with music, then switched to a CD with my French course. When I started to get tired, I switched to one of my favourite German singers, Pe Werner, singing loudly with her. I continued with another round of French, and finally had to tap into the last resource: Kiss at full volume.

It was my turn to prepare the appetizer, dinner, and dessert the first evening. Luckily, I had already made the apple cake at home, as well as the roast.

It rained heavily overnight and it was still raining by the morning. Therefore, we went to the local bakery and the supermarket. The bakery Niemand has such delicious goods that we can hardly wait to go. Luckily, it was only open from Thursday to Sunday. We would be gaining a lot of weight otherwise.

In the afternoon, the sun came out. However, it got extremely windy; too windy to paint outside. Janis and I decided to make use of the good light conditions to take some photos. We went towards St-Andre where we have often painted in the little lighthouse during stormy weather. As it was a Sunday, we expected to place to be busy but were surprised when no one was in there. There was no question what we would do. We took our equipment to the lighthouse and both managed to create two small paintings. We just made it to the house in time for happy hour and the delicious Italian spaghetti Bill cooked for us, followed by delicious raspberry strietzeln from the bakery.

Monday, September 12

We enjoyed another sunny but very windy day. First, Janis and I went to St-Denis-De-La-Bouteillerie to the “Parc Municipal” that is located at the St. Lawrence River and created a small painting with the view of “Cap au Diable”.

We continued to Rivière-Ouelle where we went to the the “Pointe-aux-Orignaux”. At the quay, it was so windy that it was almost impossible to keep my stand and take any photographs.
We drove further along the shore. We went along the Salmon River on the “Rue de la Pointe” towards the Pointe-de-Rivière-Ouelle at the St. Laurent River. There, sheltered by big rose bushes, we painted the very rough river. The water had the colour of milk chocolate, and from time to time the clouds created deep purple shadows.

As it was Janis’ turn to cook, we drove back to the house in the late afternoon. I spent a short time in the yard because it was still so sunny, but since the wind was so brutal, I went into the winter garden instead. Luckily, we have a fantastic view of the river right from the house. A great spot to watch the amazing sunsets!

Please return next Friday if you would like to read the rest of my travelogue. Please forward the link to my blog to you family and friends who would be interested in my writings. Thank you for helping me to increase my audience.

Friday, 16 September 2016


Pink Lake, Gatineau Park, acrylic, 16" x 20"

Blog 38

With only about a month until our wedding, I was getting more and more excited about the reunion with my parents and sister. I was glad that the nice weather made it possible to continue to explore the capital region. That certainly was a good distraction. On many days, temperatures rose again to the mid-twenties. I was glad because on rainy days I felt really cooped in. While Ingo started to hang out with his colleagues for the occasional dinner at a pub or playing volleyball on Wednesday evenings, my only contact remained to Ingo.

We took advantage of the nice weather by visiting Gatineau Park. Our first hike was on the Hickery Trail where we were informed about the development of the current forest. Next, we walked around Pink Lake, a lake that despite of its name looks rather green in the sunshine. The name comes from the Pink family, a family of Irish settlers. The lake is quite special because its layers do not mix because of its shape. Therefore, the water in the depth of the lake does not contain oxygen. The pink photosynthetic bacterium that can be found in this layer uses sulphur instead of oxygen when it transforms sunlight into energy.

Ingo tried his best to help me with the transition. My birthday fell on a Saturday. The evening before, Ingo prepared a table with all my gifts and letters so we could start celebrating at midnight. In the morning, he bought fresh rolls and croissants and set the table with flowers. After another house hunting trip, we went to Parliament Hill. We were eager to see the Cat Sanctuary, where an older gentleman cared for stray cats. The cats even had shelters from the cold and wetness. While it was prohibited to feed the doves, people did not abide to the rule. As a result, we had to witness the killing of a dove. The greedy dove was lured closer and closer to a cat that had seemed not to be interested at all in the bird until it suddenly jumped and attacked. While I was terrified, the people just continued throwing bread crumbs.

After finding the stairs to the locks, we continued our way along the canal towards Byward Market. It was a beautiful sunny day, and there was a buzz of activity. We were looking for a German style cafe where we could eat a nice butter cream torte but we did not find anything. I was disappointed to find out that a Canadian cafe is more like a bistro. At the end we settled for apple strudel with ice cream. It was delicious – just not what I had been looking for.

Ingo prepared a broccoli pie for dinner. After dinner, we watched the movie “Father of the Bride”. Very funny, but I have to admit that it gave me a slightly queasy feeling when I thought about our upcoming wedding. Last but not least, we wanted to go dancing, but only found clubs with young teenagers in jeans. We were definitely overdressed. After almost two hours we gave up looking. At least we knew what we did not like.

I was also able to get to know Ingo's new boss and some of his colleagues when we were invited to a wine tasting at his house. Everyone was very welcoming and I was glad to meet some of the people Ingo spent most of his days with.

We also registered for an investment workshop. Considering that we were about to buy a house and starting out in a new country that was definitely a worthwhile training. Unfortunately, we had to find out the same day that the house we had our eyes on had sold before we made the offer. Our second choice had also just sold. We were very disappointed. Luckily, there was a mirror image of our favourite house also for sale, just on the other side of the road. However, while the first house was sold through a contractor and would have been painted in neutral colours and fit with a carpet according to our wishes, this house had a very personal touch with different wallpapers and wall colours that clashed with our taste.

By then, finding a house was getting a pressing issue as we had to clear the basement of my apartment in Germany by the end of October and had to make a decision with regard to our belongings.

The apartment also started to get too small. The one room got filled with my increased number of teddy bears and handmade Christmas gifts. As I would not be able to spend Christmas with my family and had basically two empty suitcases to take to Germany, I had made all kinds of Christmas gifts. While we still enjoyed temperatures around 20 degrees, I started to write Christmas cards. A strange feeling!

We made an offer for the colourful house the next day. Disappointingly, the sellers made a counteroffer that was still far higher then we were willing to pay. We made another counteroffer the next morning. What followed was almost a thriller. The seller countered again, still staying close to his original price. We kept the negotiation open with one more counteroffer, letting them know that we did not like their decor and would need to spend a lot of effort into making the house ours. Our agent had also found out that a similar house had just sold recently for a price that was even below our last offer. The sellers wanted to settle the negotiation by that evening. To agree to the lower price they wanted to keep the appliances and change the closing date. We were willing to be flexible with the closing date, but not with regard to the appliances. Due to the different electrical outlets and even more important the difference in standard household voltage, we had to sell our German appliances. The standard household electrical outlet in Germany has an output of 220-240 volts, twice the standard household voltage in North America.

Finally at 0:50 am in the morning, Ingo signed the conditional offer. When the sellers' agent came to our apartment with the contract, she told us we were such tough negotiators that she would prefer not to have to negotiate with us in the future. All these hours we had spent trying to find a home throughout the previous weeks, and with our fantastic agent's guidance, we had learned a lot. After a successful house inspection the following week, we could plan our move for December 1, 1995. Finally, we would have our own place to call home again.

After this blog I will take a break from my path down memory lane. At the time of publication, I will be away with a couple of my painting buddies to our yearly trip to Kamouraska. I am sure I will have lots to talk about after my return. Another painting trip follows, as the Plein Air Ensemble will meet again at Opeongo Mountain Resort in Eganville at the end of September. It is time to write about current adventures. I will continue my blogs about my first year in Canada (and especially the wedding) at the end of October. I hope to finish my view into the past by the end of December because I have lots of new topics planned for 2017.

Thank you for your loyalty and support.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Back to a Routine

Natural Stairs, Algonquin Park, 20" x 16" oil painting

Blog 37

In the middle of August 1995, Ingo started to work for the new company in Ottawa. Ingo had to adjust to the new environment. He was used to a small company where everyone was friends with each other and worked together as a team. In his new company, he sat in an open space office, and everybody worked for themselves. He had to make himself familiar with the new programmes and platforms. Therefore, he spent the nights reading technical literature. He was definitely a little frustrated.

I, on the other hand, enjoyed myself. I checked out the shopping centres in the downtown area looking for a wedding dress, china, and books. In all the clothing stores, the fall and winter wear was already available. It felt strange when the temperatures outside were around 30 degrees Celsius, not counting the humidity. However, I had heard that temperatures would drop down to –25 degrees Celsius in winter. I was from an area in Germany with a similar climate than Vancouver, therefore I needed to invest in proper winter wear like long underwear and snow boots. The leather boots with lambswool lining that I had bought in Germany would probably not be warm enough.

I had no problem to fill the time. I was the perfect housewife. In the morning, I made breakfast, prepared Ingo's lunch, cleaned the apartment, and did some exercise. The afternoons were filled with writing letters, learning Spanish, sewing teddy bears, computer work, writing in my journal, and last but not least planning the wedding. Setting up the budget made me very aware of our tight budget. However, it could not dampen my excitement.

The weeks just flew by. On the weekends, we continued to look at houses in different areas of Ottawa. After a short time, we fired our agent because we could not stand his sexist remarks any longer. His remark “Ingo, why do you need a dishwasher when you are about to marry one?” was the last straw. Luckily, we found a terrific female agent who not only helped us to find a house but stayed a friend for years to come.

On the long weekend of September, we drove once again to the cottage in Muskoka. Autumn was in the air. To avoid the traffic jams, we got up at 4:45 am on the Saturday morning. I am a night owl, but I have to say the sunrise and the slowly lifting fog were so breathtaking it was worth the early departure.

At Algonquin Park, the leaves had already started changing colours. I found it interesting that some trees or even only one branch were already dark red while most of the foliage was still green. I could just image how beautiful the area would look a couple of weeks later.

The temperatures in Algonquin Park and Muskoka were already slightly lower than in Ottawa. In the morning, it was downright cold. However, in the late afternoon, the sun came out for a couple of hours and it was just beautiful to be on the deck. I was sad that I had only brought my coloured pencils. I would have loved to paint the rays of sunshine mirrored on the water's surface.

In the evening we sat at the fire and grilled our dinner. Then, we sat together with Ingo's siblings to play card games. It was just the perfect cottage experience.

The next morning, we went swimming before breakfast. The water was still 22 degrees Celsius. My in-laws thought I would not be up to the challenge but I was used to colder water as my mother never set the temperature of our pool above 21 degrees.

Ingo's father had been kind enough to make reservations for our wedding lunch, but Ingo and I had to pick the menu. It was not that easy as the menu was quite exotic for my taste. I have to admit that I had not been very eager to try new foods, even though I had already expanded my diet when I had a Turkish boyfriend. I have come a long way since then.

At the end, we picked an antipasti plate, followed by agnolotti filled with spinach and garlic. I also insisted on a wedding cake, even if it would only be a small one. For my sweet tooth that was a must-have.

In the beautiful sun, Ingo and I even went on a long canoe trip with Ingo's dad, including a portage. I could have kept on going and going. It was just so beautiful to glide through the calm water, but the two men finally had enough. They were exhausted. Could it have been because they were paddling while I was drawing? Drawing is also quite the workout. You really have to look at things, and then concentrate to create the impression on paper.

On the way back to Ottawa, we stopped again in Algonquin Park. I have never been a big hiker, but the Canadian landscape just pulled me in. We went on the beautiful Booth's Rock Trail. Our first stop was Cooper Lake where we could hear nothing but the wind. I had never experienced such silence. I observed a dark red dragonfly sitting on a rock. That was exactly how I had imagined the wilderness. We went up a steep path to the cliff of Rock Lake. The view was just breathtaking. You could see the whole valley around Rock Lake. The lake was glittering in the sunlight and the leaves had started to change colour. Unfortunately, a group of bawling hikers disturbed our paradise. Why is it that some people cannot even respect the peacefulness of nature and have to bring the outside noises with them?

While trying to shake off the group, we missed the second lookout. When we were on our way to the old ruin, which was hardly visible anymore, we came through a field, where the bees hummed so loud that we thought we were encircled by a bee swarm.

The last part of the hike brought us to the old railroad. Unfortunately, the old railroad ties had been removed to make space for a trail. We reached the parking lot exhausted but very happy.

This was the last trip before our return to Mississauga for our wedding. The countdown was on. It was only slightly more than a month until my parents and sister would come to Canada. Luckily, we had mostly great weather and could continue to explore the capital region. If you would like to hear my impressions of the area's natural treasures, please return to my blog next week. Thank you for following my adventures. I appreciate the wonderful feedback I got so far. If you know anyone who would be interested in my story, please forward my blog. Thank you in advance.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Discovering the Ottawa Area

Canadian Museum of Civilization (now the Canadian Museum of History), Gatineau

Blog 36

When I look back on all the trips we took at the beginning of my stay in Canada, I am glad we had the chance to discover this beautiful country. When we moved to Ottawa in August 1995, we were able to visit another province, Quebec, which was just on the other side of the Ottawa River. Crossing a bridge to Hull (now Gatineau), we felt like we were in another country - without crossing a border. Before we had visited Ottawa, I had hardly seen any signs in French. All the merchandise had bilingual signage but in daily life, we were hardly confronted with any French. Then we came to Ottawa, where everything was marked in two languages. In Hull, we saw the other extreme. Once we crossed the bridge, there was nothing but French.

Over the first weekend, we made a lot of use of our roller blades. I was surprised about the many parks and green spaces. The pathways along the Ottawa River and the Rideau Canal were great. It would take us a long time to discover the best spots. Unfortunately, we had to leave our tandem in Mississauga, so were not able to go on bike rides.

After we had experienced the weekend traffic, we decided to return to Mississauga right after the long weekend to get the rest of our stuff. We had a Ford Escort at the time which did not offer a lot of space to transport our belongings. We had only slightly more than we could fit into the two suitcases each of us had brought over from Germany, but Ingo's PC took a lot of space (incomprehensible when you look at today's sleek computers), so we still had to leave some of our clothes behind.

Ingo's mother was more than surprised to see us back so early, but she was in for an even bigger surprise when Ingo told her in passing that we did not only plan to buy a house before year's end, but also would get married in October. She was the first one who found out about our plans. I do not remember my mother-in-law's reaction but I was speechless how cooly Ingo announced the big news. As it had been too expensive to call from the hotel apartment, we had not informed anyone about our wedding plans until then.

In the evening, we celebrated with Ingo's parents and his brother Heiko. We did not have champagne, but that did not matter. Ingo and I were happy and glad that Ingo's family was looking forward to welcoming me officially into their family. I could hardly wait to inform my family.

After dinner, we went to a convenience store where I bought my first bridal guide. I felt excited about looking for a wedding dress. Most of what I saw was much too frilly for my taste but I still had lots of time to find a dress worth of a princess without spending a fortune.

When I finally reached my family the next day, the reaction was ambivalent. My sister was totally excited when I asked her whether she would like to be my bridesmaid in her fall holidays. My mom was rather bewildered and upset, until I assured her that the church wedding would be in Germany the following summer. At the end, my parents were happy about our decision and hoped to be able to make arrangements with their business partners to be able to come to the wedding.

Even though we only wanted to have a small civil wedding in Mississauga, we had to step up our preparations. There was no time to waste. We went to get our marriage licence, talked to the pastor of my in-laws congregation who would conduct the civil service, set the date for the wedding, and booked the chapel of the Mississauga city hall – all in one day.

Getting the marriage licence was the biggest ordeal: the lady at the Registry Services typed in the speed of a snail. Until she had all the typos erased the document had a little hole. In those days, most people still used typewriters instead of computer. So our licence was a piece of real strenuous manual work.

We were back in Ottawa by Thursday evening. The following morning, we watched the Changing of the Guards at Parliament Hill which was just minutes from our apartment. Then we drove to the St. Laurent Shopping Centre to look for wedding rings. We did not like what we saw: they were either just simple bands or contained big diamonds for both woman and man.

We did not waste our time, but explored the Beacon Hill area with regard to a possible house location. I was fascinated by a grocery shop where electronic signs displayed the price per 100g as well as savings in case of a sale. We were pleased with the transit connections, schools, and shopping centres. The next day, we looked at two houses that were for sale in the neighborhood. The first one did not have a garage, something that seems to be a good investment considering the Canadian winters. The second one had tiny rooms that would not even accommodate my sofa.

We were not in a hurry to find a house right away as my furniture was still stored in Germany. Ingo had lived in a furnished apartment in Germany and had only invested in the typical guy: toys, a car, motorcycle, TV set and sound system. All of these things he could not bring to Canada. Besides, the apartment downtown was very central. I just wished we had a balcony. The August days were very hot and the humidity in the apartment was so high that pieces from the ceiling kept falling down.

I was also a little reluctant to invest in a house because I found out that Ingo's period of notice was only two weeks. While I had already heard from Ingo's brother that a short period like this was very common, it did not comfort me at all. In Germany, most people have a three months period of notice. If you are in a higher position, it is not uncommon to have a six months period of notice. I had a six months period of notice. However, I have to admit that is hard to be committed to a company for such a long time after you have given your notice. On the other hand, you have much more security.

The following week was Ingo's first week at work. We finally had to get back to a daily routine. If you would like to find out how we adapted after three and a half months of vacation, please return to my blog next week.