Exploring behind the ropes

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One of the things I love most about heritage museums, like Eldon House, is how different they can look at various times of the day. I captured some unique views during a behind the ropes tour. Join me for a glimpse into the hidden nooks and crannies at Eldon House.

For the best experience, visit the museum in person, there is something for everyone and lots more to explore.

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Check out more about the museum at http://www.eldonhouse.ca

A lady’s winter survival guide

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Some embrace winter, others barely survive it, but one way or another we all must get through it. Here’s my top ten guide for how to survive winter with style and a little grace.

  1. Warm comfortable clothes. They should make you feel good, inspire you to get up and get moving to brave the cold. Think cozy, sturdy fabrics that either have interesting patterns or colours that you enjoy. If you like colour this is an excellent way to perk up your mood. Coats, cloaks, capes, cardigans, well – you get the idea.img_20170108_142951b
  2. Haberdashery, millinery or just plain hats! Any season can give an excuse for a good hat, but this is the time of year where they shine. Hats keep in the warmth, shut out the cold and protect you from snow, sleet and wind. You can stick to a reliable hat that goes with anything, or start a collection that compliments your ensemble. Walking around wearing a hat can make you feel fabulous even if you’re in a winter funk. They can make you appear taller too.15741213_10154284494740658_9049047973061943023_n
  3. Cozy accessories. You can wrap yourself in extra layers of warmth that can be added according to the weather and removed as you start to thaw. Not only are gloves, scarves, wraps and shawls a part of a lady’s winter wear, but the traditional muff to warm the hands is an elegant and cozy option.330px-francesc_masriera_-_winter_1882_-_google_art_project
  4. Tea and copious amounts of other warm drinks. Winter’s chill ebbs away with a steaming cup of tea between one’s hands. The soothing feel of warm liquid in the throat and the gentle sound of a china cup meeting it’s saucer with a clink is a comforting way to spend any hour during this dark season. One could probably spend a whole winter experimenting with a new tea every day – something fun to look forward to and share with friends. Some like coffee, espresso or cappuccino, and there’s also the ever popular hot cocoa. These specialty drinks can be enhanced with all sorts of flavours and toppings, to the point where they become a filling desert! A lady need not drink alone. Meet friends at a tearoom or hotel restaurant to share a pot of tea and have a warm sip and a chat. Gather friends for an informal or formal tea party, the more the merrier (and warmer). Hot toddies anyone?img_20170110_185855bw
  5. Light a fire, a taper, a candle. Part of the chill that winter brings is the shortened span of warmth from the sun. Rooms cool faster and the effect of the cold air is stronger when it is dark. Lighting a fire in a hearth or stove and sitting by it will warm you right through. Staring into a flame has a relaxing effect and the warmth of a fire or carefully placed candles can relieve one’s aches and pains offering a chance for a better sleep or a more energetic start to the day. Coming in from the cold to a warm fire is a heartwarming thing, and the infusion of heat can protect from the initial sting of the cold air if venturing outdoors.img_3165b
  6. Bundle up and go for a walk. You might have to work yourself up to the idea, but getting out for a walk when you don’t have to be somewhere is an excellent way to embrace winter. Through this action you’ll get fresh air, exercise and hopefully a little fun and an uplifted mood. You can tour the winter wonderland that is your own garden, journey through your neighborhood and wave at friends and passers by, or venture further to a park or nearby main street. Don’t forget to don your cloak or hat!
  7. Engage in an exciting outdoor adventure. A lady does not have to sit cooped up inside. There are many ways to try to avoid ennui or depression that grey days can weigh upon us. Outings such as skating, sleigh rides, tobogganing, snowshoeing, dog sledding or even skiing are all ways to make the most of a winter’s day. You’ll be surprised how much you laugh and the energizing effect it can have on your mood. Just get warm first, bundle up and plan to thaw somewhere cozy afterwards. It won’t be long before you’re looking forward to your next outing instead of bemoaning a new snowfall.pg12_tobbogan-articlephoto
  8. Read to your heart’s content! Bookworms – ever felt guilty about lounging around reading on a beautiful day? Well, on a stormy winter day you can rest assured no one will fault you for picking a good book off it’s shelf and holding it fast to your bosom, long into the night. A book goes wonderfully with a pot of tea and a blanket.img_5808c
  9. Cook up a storm. This is the best time of year to put fire up your oven and stove. Perfecting recipes is a great way to pass the time and as a bonus you’ll be spending time in the warmest room in the house. Once you’re done, the rest of your home will be cozy with the warmth and the scent of your culinary efforts. As a result, you’ll have a supply hearty comfort food at your fingertips for the days when winter might get you down or leave you feeling too tired to cook.15676403_1379455868754467_6294595514427567925_o
  10. Have a long winter’s nap. Slumber is key to feeling well. A good rest improves our mood and patience, which helps when in close quarters and avoids the early onset of cabin fever. Darkness falls earlier and stays longer, meaning you have a better chance for a longer and deeper sleep. So snuggle under those covers and say goodnight to winter. cushionstars700_b9922ba8-12fd-4a11-be35-5ed7ec3ce7b1_large

Other tips:
Pamper yourself with warm baths and self care products, at home or in a spa.
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Grow plants to add life and oxygen to your home.
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Celebrate in style, even if staying at home.15873577_10154286726585658_1794823345446040223_n

                                            Play a game, make a craft or work on a puzzle.15871941_10154286726095658_4465840707193092148_n

Spring will be here one day, eventually. By finding ways to enjoy the winter season, you may just realize it’s over before you know it. If it feels really slow you can always resort to another winter pastime…stockpiling essential foodstuffs. My crucial item is TEA, and lots (and lots) of it!

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Get your Jane on

How many people would expect they’d still be relevant 200 years after they die?

December 16, 2016 marked Jane Austen’s 241st birthday and she’s still the life of the party. Janeites celebrate her birthday with festivities including cake, music, readings, games and historical costumes.

My local JASNA chapter in London throws a party every year which also serves as the group’s annual Christmas event.

It’s a great way to celebrate Jane, learn more about her classic novels and meet new people.

Our local JASNA group has several gatherings a year, many of which include speakers or activities specific to Jane, her novels or the times in which she lived. Of course there’s always tea in china cups and great conversation.

There’s no shortage of ways to enjoy Jane Austen’s work. Aside from her other fiction there’s her six original novels:

  • Sense and Sensibility (1811)
  • Pride and Prejudice (1813)
  • Mansfield Park (1814)
  • Emma (1815)
  • Northanger Abbey (1818, posthumous)
  • Persuasion (1818, posthumous)

If you’re craving more Austen reading material there’s some excellent fan fiction including two that I read recently: The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen and Darcy’s Voyage. There’s also the sci-fi style Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters which is a fun read.

You can also watch film adaptations which run from classic to contemporary styles, autobiographical and  alternate fiction versions. Here are just a few of the many movies out there:

  • Emma (1996) (1996 TV movie) (2009)death-comes-to-pemberley-14319
  • Persuasion (1995)
  • Sense and Sensibility (1995)
  • Pride and Prejudice (1995)
  • Mansfield Park (1999)
  • Northanger Abbey (1996)
  • Becoming Jane (2007)
  • Miss Austen Regrets (2007)
  • Lost in Austen (2009 TV mini-series)
  • Austenland (2013)
  • Death comes to Pemberly (2013 TV mini-series)
  • Pride Predjudice and Zombies (2016)

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Krampus is watching. Be good!

While Halloween is by far my favourite holiday, I also celebrate Christmastime with at least a few garlands and decorations at home, as well as the giving of gifts to close family and friends. Being of  part German descent, I’m fascinated by the traditions and lore surrounding Krampus and Krampusnacht at the beginning of December. The images associated with this character are incredibly creepy and it’s surprising that many of these were used as postcards.

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Krampus is a scary looking horned figure described as “half-goat, half-demon”, who punishes children during the Christmas season. Krampus goes after children who have misbehaved throughout the year, unlike Saint Nicholas  who rewards good children with gifts and sweets.

Although he appears in many variations, most share some common physical characteristics. He is hairy, usually brown or black, and has the cloven hooves and horns of a goat. His long, pointed tongue sticks out and he bares fangs.

Krampus carries chains and thrashes them for dramatic effect. They are sometimes accompanied with bells of various sizes. He also brings ruten, bundles of birch branches which he occasionally swats children.  The birch branches are replaced with a whip in some representations.

Sometimes Krampus appears with a sack or a basket strapped to his back; this is to cart off bad children for the awful fate of drowning, eating, or transport to Hell (for the really terrible ones). Some of the older versions make mention of naughty children being put in the bag and being taken.

In traditional parades and in such events as the Krampuslauf (English: Krampus run), young men dressed as Krampus participate; such events occur annually in most Alpine towns. Krampus is also featured on holiday greeting cards called Krampuskarten.

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On the night of Dec. 5, Krampus Night or Krampusnacht is celebrated, when the wicked hairy devil traditionally appears on the streets. The lore is that he visits homes and businesses, sometimes accompanying St. Nicholas and sometimes on his own. Krampus brings naughty children coal and the ruten bundles to punish them.

Krampuslauf for Krampus

Forget Santa’s favourite snack of milk and cookies, Krampus likes the hard stuff (he’s a tough guy you know!) It’s customary to offer Krampus schnapps, a strong distilled fruit brandy.

Krampuskarten – unique greeting cards

Here are more examples of Krampuskarten, greeting cards of Krampus, sent in advance of Christmas cards, both as a warning and a bit of fun before the holiday season. Perhaps one might send these shortly after Halloween, they’re scary enough!

Until the next blog, be good!

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The ghosts of Eldon House

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Portraying Sarah Harris before the fire in the library. Photo: Fast Glazz

As October drew to a close, darkness fell quicker and the veil between this world and the next shifted.

Some see glimpses of apparitions or shadows, while others feel a presence around them, like someone is watching or reaching out.

At Eldon House the past came alive as visitors took a tour in search of its ghosts, hoping to look back in time.

This annual tour, The Great Eldon House Ghost Hunt, is an event not to be missed. I can’t think of a better way to spend an October evening than in a Victorian home left as if the occupants had just stepped out.

Just as I experienced Becoming Sarah Harris, other spirits were present at the Great Ghost Hunt as a part of the living history night. While Eldon’s hauntings are many, there is one ghost to rule them all: Wenman Wynniatt.

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Wenman Wynniatt’s ghost awaits visitors in the dining room. Photo: Joseph O’Neil.

A British officer of the 83rd regiment, his ghostly appearance makes for one of London’s oldest haunted tales (perhaps one of Canada’s oldest). Wherever Sarah Harris is portrayed, Wenman Wynniatt is never far behind. I can’t write or research about Sarah without considering Wenman, the two are forever joined in this romantic tale from beyond the grave.

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Wenman at the window (played by Mark Tovey). Photo: Fast Glazz.

Known for his sudden appearance in the library on May 14 1841, Wenman was seen walking through that room, into the hallway then into the ballroom (a room formally known as the dining room). During the Great Ghost Hunt, Wenman Wynniatt presided over the dining room, allowing visitors to sense an echo from the past and sample first-hand what his ghost might have experienced that fateful night. Images of an officer in uniform, staring broodingly out of a window are not soon forgotten. Nor is the sight of a man in love, who’s lost his chance, try mournfully to keep his promise. Theirs is an eternal love story that transcends time.

Another ghostly experience is a presence in the kitchen, where the service bells have been reported to ring, despite being disconnected. Who knows what phantom hand pulls the strings from within this house at the top of the hill overlooking the Thames River. Is it a cry for help from beyond, or simply a spirit who’s forgotten there’s to be no tea, evermore.

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The bells of Eldon House. Photo: Fast Glazz.

In the green drawing room at the back of the building, a seance was once held in the 1960s, before Eldon House became a museum. A spirit board and glass were used to attempt to contact occupants from the past. In front of the fireplace, a small group sat at a table, arms outstretched as the glass moves slowly across the board, seeking answers from an unknown force. We know not the questions that were asked, but perhaps we know the last answer was final, as the glass hurtled off the table, smashing into the fireplace!

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Sixties seance reenactment in the drawing room. Photo: Joseph O’Neil.

Guests during this tour were also shown the blue morning room, where a woman in white is said to have be seen sitting in a chair; and separately, in an unrelated manifestation, a pair of beaded slippers belonging to no one once appeared from out of nowhere on the servants quarters staircase.

As the tour ended, some ventured upstairs for a look at Eldon’s more intimate rooms where a restless spirit, sometimes sensed on the stairway, is portrayed by a mysterious woman roaming the shadows of the landing in period style clothing.

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Upstairs apparition roams the hall, waiting for guests. Photo: Fast Glazz.

Whether guests continued on to The Grand Theatre for the last part of the tour, or to the Eldon House interpretive centre for cider and a tarot reading, they soon wouldn’t forget the spirits of Eldon, London’s oldest residence.

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The library where it began. Thinking of Wenman, Sarah (portrayed Roxanne Lutz) and their tale that transcends time. Photo: Fast Glazz.

More about the Eldon House ghost story
For developments on the ghost story sign up for this blog or Like us on Facebook.

In the meantime check out these previous posts and thanks for visiting!

Becoming Sarah Harris

Somewhere between researching London’s oldest supernatural tale and learning about the people at the center of this fascinating story, I became deeply connected to Sarah Harris, heroine of the Eldon House ghost story.

Part of it has to do with all the letters, diary entries and literature that I’ve read about Sarah, the Harris family and what life was like in Upper Canada during the 1840s.  Through this, I’ve gained insight into what she was like before she met her beau Wenman Wynniatt, the types of events she would have attended during their acquaintance, and an understanding of how Wenman’s ghostly appearance and the news of his death would have affected her.

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Research included reading The Eldon  House Diaries, five generations of female diarists.                Photo credit: Jessica Lutz Photography.

The other part of getting to know Sarah is sensory and intuitive. Reading words written from her perspective, seeing her penmanship, walking the gardens and sipping tea from a china cup on the shaded porch of her family home, these all have brought me closer to her. Quiet moments spent inside Eldon House, built in 1834, sitting in rooms where wood paneling and wallpaper look the same as they did during her time, to the point where I can feel the emotion those walls have absorbed. Standing in the bedroom upstairs that she likely shared with her sister, I picture her daily routine looking out the windows while brushing her hair, sitting at her writing desk with a candle and finally crawling into a four-poster bed in her long white nightgown whispering secrets to her sister in the dark.

This October I had another chance to renew my acquaintance with Sarah Harris as I stood in the very library where she saw an apparition of Wenman Wynniatt  on the night of May 14, 1841 at her family’s ball. I reenacted her supernatural story for multiple visitors throughout the night, sharing the details of her experience and the turbulent emotions that she must have felt.dsc_1451
img_20160918_191345_1sepAs I got ready for the event I didn’t just feel I was putting on period inspired attire, but also layers of a persona, becoming Sarah both inside and out.  I imagined the anticipation she must have felt as she put on her chemise and first petticoat, that initial layer between bare skin and corset, thinking about what the day held for her. How she may have inhaled deeply, her breath catching as her sister tightened her corset laces while talking about horse races and British officers.  Layering more petticoats and my vintage raspberry coloured underskirt, I thought about the effort that Sarah must have put into her attire, feeling this may be the day she’d know where their love would lead.

Buttoning my high-collared blouse, I thought about the air of reserve she’d have followed, to meet parental and social expectations and how that might have been challenging to navigate against her emotions. How do you reciprocate affection without being too forward? How to accept romantic gestures without setting tongues wagging but gracefully enough to avoid deterring an appropriate suitor? As I pulled on my black over-skirt and brocade jacket, I wondered if she was a strategic young woman, planning her every move, or if she rolled with the day as it unfolded, leaving her expectations on the doorstep…perhaps her family’s expectations were enough.

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I pinned up my hair as I imagined Sarah may have done and adjusted the curls for my 1840s hairstyle, borrowed from a painting of Sarah’s sister Amelia, the closest portrait we have of that time period (all images of Sarah are when she is much older for some reason). I realized while doing this that my hair is a similar shade of brown to the early Harris women, quite coincidentally (or not). Lastly I selected three simple but elegant pieces of jewelry appropriate to Sarah’s age and the family’s financial status, representing some finery that she may have worn at that time. While my timepiece necklace isn’t antique, I wore it to symbolize the clock out in the hallway which was there on the night Sarah saw Wenman’s ghost, the very hallway that he moved into and then disappeared into the ballroom.

As I looked into my reflection when all was done, I saw Sarah looking back at me. Perhaps it was the different hairstyle, or the thought process during dressing, but in that moment I felt that I was Sarah, and Sarah was me…we were one and the same. Years of research, writing and thinking about Sarah had allowed me to draw her out and step into her world.

On the night of the event in Eldon House, the library felt charged the moment I started Sarah’s monologue.

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While it may have been the heightened energy from the mock-seance going on in the drawing room or the cool air leaking in from one of the windows, I felt that there was a phantom presence in the room all evening, despite many moments spent alone.  There was a sadness to it, but also curiosity. As if somehow they were studying me.

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Standing before the hearth in the Eldon House library. Photo credit: Joseph O’Neil.

 

That night at Eldon House I reached into the past… I think they heard me.

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More about the Eldon House ghost story
For developments on the ghost story sign up for this blog or Like us on Facebook.

In the meantime check out these previous posts and thanks for visiting!

Supernatural tales at Eldon House

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It’s that time of year again. Night falls more quickly than the leaves on the trees and the wind whispers that the dark side of autumn is upon us. Whether our mood is affected by this somber environment or the lead-up to Halloween, either way there’s a perceptible change in the air once we flip the calendar to October.

1-rox-walking2We don’t need to look any further than our own backyards for stories and spaces that match this theme. While many turn to scary movies or haunted houses, this time of year also renews interest in local history, since many stories from the turn of the century are creepy and mysterious, leaving you with a downright bone-chilling feeling.

Eldon House in London Ontario is host to several supernatural tales, including what is thought to be the oldest true account in Canada, of a ghostly apparition seen by several people at once.

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The annual Great Ghost Hunt explores this haunted past by embracing the stories connected to the lengthy history of London’s oldest residence. This year Eldon House Museum has also partnered up with the Grand Theatre, escorting visitors over to the Threatre (or vice versa depending on ticket choice) for a tour of London’s most haunted theatre after touring Eldon.

The museum invites you into the home for just one night before Halloween so you can experience Eldon House’s darker side. Visitors will get an authentically spooky experience with live reenactments, a tour of Eldon’s haunted hot spots, a palm reader and more.

So what is the Eldon House ghost story?
The original ghost story associated with the house, goes back all the way to 1841. The eldest daughter had a ghostly experience that stayed with her forever. Thanks to the popularity of spiritualism in the late 1800s, she shared her tale which was published in a volume of Victorian ghost stories and although names were omitted it spread back to Canada and the rest is history. Both characters in the story were real people and it is told as accurately as possible. More research by yours truly continues on that front.

The story (abbreviated)
On May 14, 1841, Sarah Harris waited for Wenman Wynniatt to arrive at the Eldon House ball.  Finally at 10:15 she saw him appear in the library. But then he disappeared into the dining room, and was never seen again.  The next morning after a search party looked for him, his body was pulled from the Thames River.  His pocket watch was stopped at 10:15.  A rose Sarah had given him was still in his buttonhole.   It seems he kept his promise to attend, if only in spirit.

Other haunted happenings
In addition to hearing from Sarah and Wenman  visitors can learn about the other supernatural occurances that have happened in the home over the years. Objects appearing and moving on their own, a presence on the stairs, and the tale of an eventful seance with a surprising outcome. The trip over to the Grand Theatre will be a spooky one t00, but your good old fashioned guide will light the way and who knows what awaits you at one of Ontario’s most consistently haunted theatres. Maybe you’ll see the Grand’s notorious founder and ghost, Ambrose Small who mysteriously disappeared under unusual circumstances. His ghost is reported to appear all over the theatre. Be sure to save him a seat!
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cl174997-ghost-poster-smaller2Tickets
Join in the fun by reserving your tickets early online or by visiting Eldon House.

Want more on the Eldon House ghost?
For developments on the ghost story sign up for this blog or Like us on Facebook.

In the meantime you can also check out these previous posts and thanks for reading the blog!

 

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Norwich Family Steampunk Festival

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A late summer afternoon is a great time for a drive in the country, and this time our destination was the Norwich Family Steampunk Festival, only about an hour away. We had a great time meeting steampunk and history enthusiasts, and enjoyed talking about historical clothing and the creating of personas for steampunk fun. All this over tea and fancy treats in a location steeped in history.

A welcome surprise was the extensive displays both inside and outside of the museum. The indoor exhibits were detailed and packed full of interesting collections.

The rest of the property offered historic buildings, re-creating a small village in the museum’s backyard.

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There was even a general store display with an apothecary, complete with glass cases full of bottles and original packaging, and gorgeous woodwork.

The steampunk festival was hosted by Becky Stark , volunteer and festival co-organizer, alongside Elicia Garon, as a fundraiser for the Norwich Museum and Archives. The event included professional photographers, a costume contest, vendors, an interactive live animal booth, Victorian-era games and activities for children, museum tours, as well as demos on leather work, Victorian hairstyles as well as discussions on steampunk and Victorian culture. The organizers had great help from museum volunteers and close friends.

The photos speak for themselves. We had an excellent afternoon and want to go back soon to take a closer look at the museum exhibits and collection in more detail.

This event would be excellent as an annual festival, both as a fundraiser and a fun way to get surrounding communities to come together and celebrate heritage, art, culture, creativity and fellowship.

Here’s a list of links associated with this fun event:

Norwich and District Museum and Archives

Norwich Steampunk Festival

Vendors & Participants:

Ye old Elora swimming hole

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Picnic spot at Elora Quarry beach

 

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My vintage style bathing suit.

Nothing says summertime like packing a picnic and driving off in your automobile for a jaunt into the countryside.

In addition to the sandwiches and iced-tea, don’t forget to bring swimming attire in case you have clear skies long enough for a dip in the lake or swimming hole.

This summer I did just that with my family and we had a splendid time. We set out for Elora, Ontario, which offers a quaint village for sightseeing and shopping, the Elora Gorge for hiking and exploring, and an old swimming hole.

We had variable weather on the day we visited, so we started with a hike down the stone steps into the gorge, taking in the unusual tree roots, rock formations and fossils. We splashed through the shallow water and explored the caves on the other side of the gorge.

Elora Gorge and caves

After a walk through the village and a browse in a few of the shops, we drove to the other side of town to the quarry where we enjoyed our picnic lunch. The swimming quarry and conservation area includes picnic tables, a sandy beach area and is encircled by sheer cliffs up to 12 metres (40 feet) high.

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The Elora Quarry

 

The Elora Quarry, originally a limestone quarry, is spring-fed by the nearby Grand River. The quarry didn’t become a conservation area until 1976, but it was a popular swimming spot long before that. Upon visiting I could see why.

Even if the air is cool the water in the quarry retains the heat from the sun, making for a refreshing and relaxing swim. Granted, you must tread carefully when wading through the water  due to the remaining quarry rocks under the surface, and since the depth can change quickly, but once you’re in the water you quickly get the hang of it and can enjoy the novelty of swimming in a natural setting.

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This was my first trip to a swimming quarry and I dare say it won’t be my last!

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That’s me (left by the rocks) enjoying a peaceful spot at the Elora Quarry.

Inspired by Outlander

Hearing Diana Gabaldon speak at the Fergus Scottish Festival recently was inspiring and motivating.

When I started reading the Outlander books by Diana Gabaldon in 2000, they stoked my love of historical fiction. I was instantly a fan, drawn into her world inspired by the melding of historic Scotland at the time of the Jacobite Rising of 1745 and England during the Second World War. Outlander and its subsequent series took me back in time, vividly experiencing the plot through the eyes of heroine Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser.  Suddenly, I eagerly anticipated my long public transit commutes because it meant another opportunity to immerse myself in the story. I often fantasized about a future movie or TV series since the books were so detailed, but at that time, despite being best sellers and Outlander being optioned several times for scripts, the Outlander TV series was not to be for at least another decade.

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This appeared out of nowhere!

After I attended Gabaldon’s 2001 The Fiery Cross book tour and had the opportunity to meet the gracious author, I was reminded of my own interest in writing fiction. Following this I felt inspired and slowly brushed up on my creative writing skills with short poems and journal writing.  When I later moved and reconnected with my roots and hometown history, I again took up the pen, taking it a step further by writing short stories and adding historical research into the mix. Then came the Eldon House ghost story research and the rest is, well, history…although it’s certainly not the end! More on that sometime later…

For the last several years, I’ve kept an eye out for news on the inspiring Gabaldon and have enjoyed the Outlander TV series that finally came to fruition. It was worth the wait!

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Diana speaks to a huge crowd in Fergus. This lady wears the coolest scarves!

Over the years, Diana Gabaldon has been the featured author at the Fergus Scottish Festival in Ontario. I’ve been promising myself for the past year or two that I would go the very next time the opportunity came up. Luckily the stars aligned! Despite finding out on very short notice, I recently got my chance to attend her session at the festival.

Hearing her speak about her characters, the plot, time travel and the TV series, as well as her research and creative writing process was fascinating and motivating. Seeing Diana Gabaldon in person again a decade later reminded me of how exciting it was when I first experienced her books and how characters really come alive in historical fiction when research is thorough and creativity is embraced.

I love research and writing historical fiction because I think it’s what one would expect time travel to be like…a choose-your-own-adventure type of experience. As a reader you follow the course that the author sets out for you and along the way you can use your own historical knowledge and imagination to enhance the experience. As a writer, you get to play an advanced game of connect the dots, making up what you don’t know but using historical bits as a framework. And while sometimes such time travel can take longer than expected when the research takes you deep down the rabbit hole, it’s always a ride worth the price of admission.

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An excited Diana gets to sign my copies of The Outlandish Companion and An Echo in the Bone.

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