a peek inside the fishbowl

11 Aug, 2018

Weekend reading: August 11 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

10 Aug, 2018

Silent Lake 2018: last post!

By andrea tomkins in travel talk

It’s been a busy week! The highlights: I got to fly on a vintage WWII bomber and Mark and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary with a little staycation.

I want to share one last post about this summer’s camping trip to Silent Lake. (You can read part one and two first if you like.)

One of my favourite things to do while we’re camping is rent a canoe or kayak. When the girls were small we always got a canoe, but when the girls were a bit older we upgraded to kayaks. Personally, I prefer the kayaks. They’re lighter and easier to paddle and steer. With one stroke it seems you get a lot farther in a kayak than you would a canoe. And if you’re paddling with others, there’s no getting annoyed with someone dragging their paddle in the water or not pulling their weight. ;)

Silent Lake does not permit motorized boats, so being on the water is especially, delightfully, tranquil.

Silent Lake kayak

Water-based highlights at Silent Lake include a lovely little island that you can paddle up to and explore. It didn’t take us long to make our way here. I’m glad we stopped to explore, because it’s a special kind of place.

Exploring Silent Lake by kayak

There’s a memorial bench on this island. It’s such a thoughtful way to remember someone, isn’t it? The inscription is dedicated to Alison Jayne Edwards. We were born in the same year and I’ve been wondering who she was. I Googled but didn’t find anything. Maybe you know?

(Click the photo to enlarge it and read the inscription.) 

Island memorial on Silent Lake

This is the view from her bench. It really is lovely.

The view from the bench, Silent Lake

For reference, here are a couple of photos from the previous time our family paddled to this same island, in 2006:

It's too tight!

destination: blueberry island

Here’s my eldest then:


… and here she is now:

Exploring Silent Lake by kayak

She doesn’t need us to paddle her around in a big canoe anymore. She moves on her own steam!

Here’s the youngest, exploring the growth near the shoreline:

Stuck in the reeds

I promised to write about some of the critters we met during our stay at Silent Lake.

The top spot goes to the raccoon that tried to get inside our tent.

I was in a deep sleep when suddenly our inflatable mattress turned into a trampoline. I was practically launched into the air when I realized that the reason why this was happening was because Mark was leaping out of bed.

The stillness of the night was punctuated with words no one ever wants to hear while camping: “THERE IS SOMEONE TRYING TO GET INTO OUR TENT.”

I should backtrack a moment and describe our tent, so you have the full picture. A few years ago we upgraded our old tent for a newer, larger model to accommodate our growing teenage girls. We all needed more space, so the new tent has a front “hall,” a big middle part, and two smaller areas (meant to be bedrooms) off each side. I’m quite happy with this arrangement because everyone has space for their sleeping bag and gear. The front entry is for our shoes and backpacks.

There’s a zippered panel, in other words, a wall, between the three sleeping areas and the front hall. This was zipped closed (thank god) when this was all going down.

Mark unzipped the panel, peered into the front part of our tent, and came face-to-face with a medium-sized raccoon. I’m thinking it was a rebellious teen raccoon, and it was indeed, inside our tent. He probably smelled an empty pepperoni stick wrapper that ended up amid the shoes by mistake. Let that be a lesson kids!

The second animal encounter was with a snapping turtle. Our site was a 30-second walk to the water’s edge, which was a very nice place to sit on the rocks and look out over the water.

Short walk to the water from the site

Someone tried fishing too close to the trees

The girls went down there to launch their inflatable rafts. Well, to make a long story short, the eldest came very close to stepping on the biting part of a snapping turtle. One more step, apparently, and her big toe may have been a little snack for a hungry turtle.

Thankfully, the other living things we met were quite harmless, and included frogs, a garter snake, birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and a friendly dragonfly on the beach:

A dragonfly in the hand is worth...

This trip was a shorter than our usual camping trips and I was sad to pack up and leave Silent Lake. I think we’ll have to come back.

As of yesterday, Mark and I have been married TWENTY YEARS. That might officially make us Old People but I will say this, I don’t feel old, for the most part. I feel like things are really just getting started!

Personally, I would have liked to host a Wedding 2.0 and invite all of the people who were at our wedding back in 1998. Although Mark is not too keen, he promises to consider the idea for our 25th anniversary.

We will be marking this milestone in other ways later on (stay tuned, because it’s a biggie) but we wanted to do a little something on the actual day.

Allow me to backtrack for a moment. Awhile back I was invited to attend the official media launch of Le Germain Hotel here in Ottawa. It was, in a word, amazing. Sophisticated rooms replete with little comforts and thoughtful details (like heated bathroom floors!), great food with an emphasis on Canadian cuisine, all in a central downtown location. Little did I know that when I was handed a swag bag on my way out the door that night that it contained a gift certificate for a complimentary stay. So, my Fishies, this is where we spent the night last night.

Here’s the exterior view from the one side:

View of le Germain Hotel Ottawa and the Ottawa Art Gallery (OAG)

But I am getting ahead of myself! Our evening actually started at the Elgin Street location of Whalesbone. I’ve been wanting to eat here for ages.

We found parking right out front, which was a minor miracle considering the construction.

Thank goodness I made an early reservation, because I was starving. We began with a bottle of wine and some starters. I ordered the tuna poke, which tasted great although was a bit oily for my liking…

Tune Poke at Whalesbone

.. and Mark ordered the shrimp cocktail. I think Whalesbone needs to go back to the drawing board with the presentation because it looked a little sad to me:

Sad shrimp "cocktail"

Mark ordered a steak as his main and I opted for seafood pasta and a side of garlic greens, which may possibly be my new favourite thing. They’re in the background of the photo below, but they should really ought to be the star of the show:

Pasta dish at Whalesbone

There was no room for dessert (at this time) and we waddled back to our car.

We made our way to Le Germain and eventually figured out how the parking works here. (Tip: you pull up on the sidewalk for valet parking.)

Check-in was swift and painless and we were soon admiring our room for the night, which was on the 11th floor.

Our view from Le Germain Hotel

Our room at Le Germain, Ottawa

That glass rectangle in the middle of the photo below is the shower. (!) It was amazing.

Our room at Le Germain

I was really quite taken with the room. It’s definitely not your traditional hotel room! I loved the tile floor and the elegant furnishings. The bed was soft and luxurious. One hiccup: The cold water wasn’t running cold, but they helped us figure out the ice machine and so we were set up for the night.

After awhile, we realized we actually had room for dessert. If you live in Ottawa you know there are lots of options for dessert-type items downtown. Two notable options: Piccolo Grande for gelato and Sweet Jesus for soft serve ice cream. We opted for Purdy’s, which is in the Rideau Centre. They are our favourite destination for chocolates but if you haven’t had their triple hand-dipped ice cream bars, well, just make sure you try one before the summer is over. You will not regret it.

Ice cream bar from Purdy's

We walked around for a bit, taking in the scene, before we realized we were tired and made our way back to our hotel.

The next morning we tried out the in-room Nespresso machine. It makes a really good coffee and I remain duly impressed. We made our way down to the restaurant for breakfast, which was part of our package.

Restaurant seating at Norca, Le Germain

It was a self-serve style breakfast but with better “continental” breakfast foods than you’d find in a typical hotel. I started with coffee and an excellent bowl of yogurt and granola topped with fresh berries:

Breakfast at Le Germain, Ottawa

… and for round two I had bacon (organic and made in-house!), a croissant, and cheese. It was exactly what I needed.

Soon it was time to walk it all off, but I don’t think we burned too many calories because our destination was the newly renovated Ottawa Art Gallery, which was right next door!

If you haven’t been before, you must visit. It’s not a huge gallery, but there is a lot to see, whether you’re the type who likes more “traditional” art or something a little quirkier and thought-provoking.

At the Ottawa Art Gallery

View inside the Ottawa Art Gallery

I really liked this multimedia piece about the Royal Alexandra Interprovincial Bridge that reframed this magnificent piece of architecture as a musical instrument. We’ve all heard the sounds of the bridge when we cross it. It was really interesting to see how it could come together in a way that can be shared:

"Bridge" at the Ottawa Art Gallery

I really like this piece as well. It’s hard to tell from this photo, but it’s embroidered. I’m sure all creative types can relate:

The Art World is Killing Me, at the Ottawa Art Gallery

This part of the gallery was cool too. Visitors were asked to write down the title of their life story.

If my life were a story...

It was hard to pick a favourite, there were so many truths here:

If my life were a story (closeup)

If my life were a story (Close up)

If my life were a story... (close up)

After our visit to the gallery we did a bit of shopping at the Rideau Centre (boring but necessary) and picked up some lunch to take back to our rooms:

Sushi in bed

I should mention that Le Germain has a very novel approach to check out times… basically, there is no check out time! Isn’t that great? We lounged around for a bit before we finally had to face reality and head home again. Unfortunately, I had work to do. Booo!

Here’s Mark as we waited for our car to be dropped back off to us:


He’s eating what I have jokingly been referring to as a “Display Apple.” They’re there for the guests taking, but I like to tease Mark that they’re only for show.

So to summarize, we thoroughly enjoyed our lovely little getaway and were very happy with our stay at Le Germain. I’m certain you’d like it too. If you’re looking for info about the hotel, click over to their official website.

07 Aug, 2018

A peek inside a B-25 bomber!

By andrea tomkins in Ottawa,travel talk

I have soooo much to write about this week but so little time. (1) I have some camping stories to finish telling (2) it’s Mark and my 20th anniversary! (3) I was a passenger on a B-25 Mitchell bomber (!) and lived to tell the tale.

Today I am going with #3 and the others will have to wait. :)

Some backstory: The B-25 Mitchell “Maid in the Shade,” is in Gatineau at the Aero Gatineau-Ottawa airport until August 12 as part of its Summer Flying Legends of Victory Tour across the U.S. and Canada.

The aircraft was used in America’s first large-scale bombing offensive in the Philippines and is one of the most iconic airplanes from World War II. In fact, the B-25 is an exceptionally rare aircraft and this one is one of 34 in the world that is still flying.

Mark drove me to the airport as part of a media event. We waited a long time for its arrival. It was stinking hot and it was making me feel woozy. I was also a bit anxious about the whole thing. We waited and waited, I paced around in a field with a handful of other media people, and then suddenly, there it was. I could hear it before I saw it. As I watched it land, taxi down the runway and finally arrive, I had the biggest grin on my face. THIS WAS GOING TO BE COOL.

Me and the B-25 in Gatineau

WWII B-25 Mitchell Bomber Maid in the Shade

I should say that this tour, made possible by the volunteers of the non-profit 501(c)3 Arizona Commemorative Air Force Museum, features three restored WWII combat aircraft: C-47/DC-3 Combat Legend “Old Number 30;” B-17 Bomber “Sentimental Journey;” and B-25 Bomber “Maid in the Shade.” These warbirds and their crews will follow separate tour routes across the U.S. and Canada and visit approximately 50 cities from May through October 2018 to fulfill their mission of educating all generations about the role of aviation in combat.

Lucky me, I was invited to climb aboard for a short flight. Here’s a short video of my journey, just to give you a feel for what it was like. (Ha. Watch me climb out at the end!)

I was very nervous going up, but I can’t honestly say why. The rational side of me knew I was going to be ok, but I was anxious anyway. Here is a bit of the breathtaking view I had from my seat:

View from the B-25 Mitchell Bomber

View from the B-25 flight

I’ve had a few people ask me if my flight was enjoyable. I can’t honestly describe it in those terms. The B-25 was not made for comfort, it was made for war. Without a doubt, my 20-minute flight was certainly interesting and educational and it gave me a slightly better perspective on what it must have been like up there during a mission. It was hot, sickly hot, and I was sweating buckets the whole time. Everything vibrated and shook. Afterwards I jokingly described my time up there as being trapped in a hot tin can… a very LOUD tin can at that. I don’t think that description is too far off. I was happy to go up there and equally happy to return to solid ground again.

My flight in a B-25 bomber (Maid in the Shade)

I thought about the people who flew in it. They must have felt everything I did and a whole more: Exhaustion, worry, fear. It is remarkable, really. This is a piece of history that’s important to see and know.

You can tour this remarkable piece of history during its stop in Gatineau or reserve a seat for a flight. To book, or for more info, visit http://bit.ly/FLOVTGatineauQC. For more information about the Flying Legends of Victory Tour, visit www.flyinglegendstour.com.

04 Aug, 2018

Weekend reading: August 4 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

On the nightstand: Tess of the Road


Have a great summer at Saunders Farm!

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  • andrea tomkins: I'm happy to have the one tent! This particular site wasn't big enough to accommodate two tents, even two smaller ones. The view at this site was love
  • Splake: One big tent or two small? Hm? 2 small is better, me thinks. Views?
  • a peek inside the fishbowl » Blog Archive Silent Lake 2018: last post! - a peek inside the fishbowl: […] been a busy week! The highlights: I got to fly on a vintage WWII bomber and Mark and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary with a little
  • Bloodless: The park definitely is super-fun. I agree about the asphalt pathways - which is why we definitely wear our water shoes. The Vortex is an interesting
  • andrea tomkins: It was REALLY special. The more I think about it, the more grateful I am to have had this experience. re: the volume. Everyone was given headphones
  • Brien Marshall: Thanks for sharing that - what a way to get a visceral sense of how those airmen must have felt, minus the extra fear of not knowing if this would be
  • Ginger: And now I read part two and followed your link back to hiking with fly paper attached to your hat... Maybe camping in Canada isn't so different tha

The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our two daughters Emma (18) and Sarah (16). I am the managing editor of our community newspaper, the Kitchissippi Times. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger, and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999... which makes me either a total dinosaur or a veteran, I'm not sure which! The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

If you'd like to contact me, please use this form. If you're so inclined, you can read more about me here. Thank you for visiting!


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