Apologies – I completely lost track of time this week and thought today was still Thursday! It must have been the giddiness from the unusually fine weather we’ve had this week: shining sun and temperatures like a warm spring day, which, coupled with a lessening of our Covid restrictions, drew a lot of people out of their homes into the fresh air.
I headed over to the Welland Canal, the system of locks which transport ships between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. Lake Erie is at a higher altitude – 326 feet higher – than Lake Ontario, so beginning in 1824 a series of versions of the canal system were built over the next 153 years into the one we have today.
Residents have a love-hate relationship with the Canal. It’s a remarkable feat of engineering that holds up road traffic numerous times every day during shipping season as the bridges are raised to let boats through.
The ships passing up and down the canal are a continual attraction, though, and the waterway is part of the St. Lawrence Seaway system, which employs a lot of people.
Over the winter, from January to March the canal is almost completely emptied of water, which usually freezes up and would be impassable to ships for several months.
This year the canal is set to reopen on March 31, but I was surprised to find that it’s already been filled back up – this past weekend there was still only a shallow trickle of water along the bottom of the deep canal.
At most of the locks you can park and walk around to get a good close-up view of the system of gates that close to allow each lock to either fill with water to raise a ship upward toward Lake Erie, or slowly empty to lower a ship downward toward Lake Ontario.
There are ships in the Port Weller Dry Docks getting their winter repairs, and tug boats waiting to guide them out when ready.
Despite temperatures of 21 degrees Celsius and bright sunshine, a thin skin of ice still floated on much of the canal water, raised upward itself as the gates began allowing water to refill the canal like a series of overflowing cups from Lake Erie.
A trail runs along the canal for walkers and bikers, and ship enthusiasts, with handy benches for rest stops or just ship-watching.
On this flat section between Locks 2 and 1, the ice blanket was extensive, but a wide crack had opened up and zigzagged almost all the way from one bank to the other, and some Canada Geese were resting at the edge. It was a great photo op that I had to stop for.
Chunks of ice also crusted the rocky banks, glittering in the warm sun.
It was a great afternoon outing, and then it was time to hit the grocers for supplies to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day next week.
Although I have no Irish background at all, each March this holiday promises that spring is just around the corner. I’m not into the green beer type of celebration, but the Irish love good food and March 17th is another great excuse to cook up something delicious.
What did we actually eat when we were in Ireland two years ago?
It rains a lot in Ireland, and I believe there’s a direct correlation between the weather and the comfort factor of Irish food.
Irish Stew, hearty and filling, is ubiquitous, and also seafood, and fish pies stuffed with a melange that often includes salmon under a topping of mashed potato.
You can find all the classics in the restaurants, from soda bread (delicious with fresh creamy Irish butter, by the way) to boxty and colcannon, but other cuisines are well represented. One evening in the Temple Bar district of London I had a fabulous Mediterranean chicken dish with lemon and olives, and in Killarney we had great pizzas at a pizza-and-ale joint just across the street from our hotel.
Breakfasts are filling, from scrambled eggs, bacon, roasted potatoes, baked beans, grilled mushrooms and tomatoes, and toasts to rich bowls of oatmeal strewn with fresh fruit.
Barry’s Tea seems to be the tea of choice for a lot of restaurants, and the Irish make a pretty stiff cuppa indeed – a pot for two people usually held three teabags! Barry’s is hard to find around here, though, so typically at home we’ll drink Twinings Irish Breakfast tea.
Sweets in all their forms are really popular and just the thing to shore up your energy after a few hours of exploring. I had one of the best cinnamon buns ever from a roadside food truck as we zipped from the north to the west coast. Lunch was several hours away as we stumbled upon the little truck miles from anywhere, so we bought cups of tea and buns and perched on a picnic table enjoying the view while we refreshed.
Individual lemon meringue tarts are a common sight, and also Banoffee pie, trifles topped with whipped cream and bread pudding with sauce.
So if you’re of a mind to have some cozy Irish food on what, for us, will be a chill and cloudy day just on the cusp of Spring, you have lots of choices to evoke a trip to the Emerald Isle. In fact, I’m making myself hungry just completing this blog. Slainte! 😊
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