blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

A flight to St. Catherine's

(Photos to be added later.)

It was a hectic start, this morning: we finished the packing and drove to the RFC so that Chris could have his 9am flight sim session, Kathy giving him an IPC (Instrument Procedure Check) pre-test; the actual test will come at the end of next week. Having drunk my morning cup of tea in the car, I hurried back to the house to book this evening’s accommodation and finish off the last minute jobs around the house before our weekend away. The phone calls took 45 minutes! Every hotel and Bed & Breakfast place in Niagara-on-the-Lake seemed to be fully booked, so eventually I chose a B & B (The Redcoat) 10km south of there, in Queenston. They had one room left: “The Brock Suite”. The snag was that we’d have to find ground transport to reach it. I enquired about car rentals without success, speaking to St. Catherine’s airport staff and a car rental company. So we assumed we’d be spending lots of money on taxi rides.

Engine on today, 2.9 hours, flying time in the air totalling 2.6 hours. PTN has now spent more than 4900 hours in the air since her first flight. The first leg of our flight this weekend was to CYOO: Oshawa airport. I was nervous of the gusty conditions but it wasn’t so bad up there, once we rose above 4000ft or so. Our chosen altitude was 8000ft, from which we could see for 60 miles or more. A tiny clouds floated over the Ottawa River, beyond which, no more cloud worth mentioning. We crossed flooded fields near Carp, full rivers and their weirs, and saw the whole of White Lake where we’d spent a great day boating, last summer. At this time of year it really is white, from the ice and snow. Other nearby stretches of water are beginning to melt. The rocky area around Oompah looked wild and remote, and then we crossed Bon Echo Provincial Park reaching the more cultivated parts of eastern Ontario. Turbulence was not noticeable until we were nearly at airport level, descending into Oshawa.

A splendid old DC3 enhanced with turbo-prop engines and belonging to Bell Canada was sitting on the ramp there, waiting to depart for Croatia, of all places. I fancied stowing away, although it would have been a long flight. For lunch Chris and I walked for a few minutes round the perimeter of the airport to reach The Mandarin, an all-you-can-eat, buffet-style Asian place, very popular with the locals, obviously. I had some luck phoning St. Catherine’s FBO from Oshawa: the lady who works there gave me the number of a car company that was willing to to leave an unlocked SUV for us at the airport, with the car key and paperwork ready for pick-up on the seat. I paid in advance over the phone.

Then we climbed into PTN again and she climbed out over the Great Lake, in very bumpy air, to start with, which I found disturbing, although the views of Toronto City from that angle and altitude (“not above 2000ft” and then “not above 1700ft” near YTZ, so that incoming traffic to Pearson International would be above and able to avoid us) were phenomenal, a good distraction from the discomfort. We weren’t allowed to climb to 3500ft until it was hardly necessary, since we were already round the far end of the lake (over Hamilton) by that point. The industrial landscape beyond Toronto is interesting too, with the factories and harbours and canals, and then comes the wine country along the Niagara escarpment; we made our approach to St. Catherine’s airport, CYSN (its official name is the Niagara District airport) over vineyards.

The plane was fuelled and the rental car was waiting for us in a parking space behind the hangar. Staff at the airport terminal building had given me a street map, so we managed to leave the airport in the right direction for Queenston. We failed to find the guesthouse at the first attempt, driving half way along the Niagara Parkway to Niagara-on-the-Lake, but realising we had gone wrong we turned around and tried again. Front Street, the location of our B & B, was somewhat hidden behind other little streets in Queenston, which is not a large place, fortunately. It is at the foot of that wooded hill on which the Brock Monument stands. We might explore that park again tomorrow. This afternoon and evening we explored the area between here and Niagara-on-the-Lake, spending a long time in the town after we found a parking spot opposite the Shaw Theatre. This year’s shows will include St. Joan and Androcles and the Lion, by Shaw, so it would be well worth coming back here in the summer. They are performing Alan Bennett’s The Madness of George III, as well.

The flowers are starting to bloom here: crocusses, snowdrops, daffodils, anenomes, scyllas, all coming out at once, and the grass looks very green. Niagara-on-the-Lake is well ahead of Ottawa, as I’d hoped it would be. Most of the buildings in the centre of towndate from the 1830s, with one or two 18th century ones, even. The town makes capital out of its history, offering horse drawn carriage rides and turniing some of the old properties into museums or inns.

We ate fish and chips for supper and took a walk by the water where the Niagara River flows into Lake Ontario, with gloriously limpid views, and Port Niagara in the USA very close on the other bank of the river. Toronto was clearly visible on the horizon, a good 50km away.

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