Before leaving for Sweden I really wanted to make sure I was able to spend some quality time with friends and family. For some people this is as easy as inviting the family over for dinner on Sunday, but for me this means driving over 1000kms, to multiple cities, across 6 days.
Immediately after my final day at Free Form Fitness, I hoofed it over to the nearest Avis car rental agency, picked up a spiffy Volkswagen Jetta, and was on my way.
First stop was Peterborough to visit my sister, Lizzie, and my brother in-law, Kyle. Most importantly I had to see the family dog, Isla. She has been having an extended sleepover at their place with her cousin, Finn. I love visiting the dogs.
Visiting Liz and Kyle is also always a good time. They have a lovely relaxed feeling to their place. We sat in the backyard, enjoyed coolers, and finished the evening off inside watching Netflix.
I woke up the next morning (whenever I h*eckin' wanted to!) and did a quick lower body workout in their basement gym. Lizzie spoiled me with eggs benedict outside in the garden and then it was off to the next stop on the tour!
Some of you may know that I went away for school, many times, but specifically for college. I had the most amazing college experience in Barrie, ON. My very first friend from my program was Courtney. I actually met her in the elevator on the way down to orientation. One of those serendipitous moments. Courtney and I remained friends throughout school and we actually ended up living together in second year.
Since school ended Courtney joined the military as a personal support personel... that may not be the right term, but she essentialy provides support to the troops on base by offering personal training and fitness classes to help with their fitness and overall wellbeing on base. Courtney has always been a go-getter and she recently was told that she'd be sent to Kuwait to run the fitness center there for 6 months! So I had to pay her and the old college stomping grounds a visit.
It was just a quick visit but worth it. We had such a good time, I didn't manage to get any pictures of her, but I did get a picture of the statue by the waterfront. It was the nicest thing to have that waterfront available to me when I was in college. It was a great escape.
After dinner I hit highway 400 and drove south to Grandma's place. As a little Swedish language lesson, maternal grandmother is mormor. Paternal grandmother is farmor. But for me, my maternal grandma is grandma, while my paternal grandmother is Nan.
Both of my grandmothers are the best hostesses. Their homes have always been the center of the family gatherings and this is something I was sort of counting on. On Sunday we had the classic big family dinner around grandma's dinner table. We told stories, shared good food, and got caught up on all of the shenanigans of my young cousins.
Monday took me and my eldest cousin on my mom's side to the Ripley's Aquarium. Spoiler alert: heading to a major tourist attraction in the middle of July will mean that there's a lot of tourists. So we saw what we wanted to see but it was a bit rushed because we didn't want to take up any of the precious tourist space (very Canadia of us - we know).
The final evening with Grandma went well and before we knew it it was time for bed and I was getting myself ready to for the next leg of the trip.
Next Stop: Kingston!
Probably my least favourite part of driving between my grandmother's houses is the 401 highway. I asked my relatives in Toronto when the best time would be to leave, and to be fair, they gave me the perfect time. Although it was busy on the highway, I had no trouble getting to where I needed to go and there weren't too many crazies on the highway.
I took a quick pit stop in Port Hope to stretch my legs. I am not sure if this is a consequence of working on my feet for a year and a half, but being seated for too long makes me really antsy and I swear I feel my hips tightening. So getting out to walk to and from the pit stop building was just enough.
Within about an hour and a bit I was in Kingston and out on my Nan's balcony having a salad, cheese, crackers, and some lovely conversation. We kept things pretty low key that day and just enjoyed the lovely weather.
The final full day of the trip my Nan and I had planned to do the 1000 islands cruise out of Ganonoque. Unfortunately when we woke up it was pouring rain and they were calling for thunderstorms. SO, we had to improvise and thankfully Kingston is home to Queens University where the Agnes Etherington Arts Center has its home (literally - this place was someone's home). So off we went to the Arts center.
There were some... interesting... exhibits there. It made me think of the scene in Wine Country when the women go to a 20-something year old's art show and everyone at the show is making these annoying, contrived assessments of the art. So we quickly moved through the first two exhibits before getting to the Rembrandt exhibit and the Indigenous stone printing exhibit.
Fun fact: Queens has original Rembrandts that were donated by alumni. Perks of going to Queens, I guess.
Either way it was a beautiful exhibit.
As I mentioned before, my grandmother's are the center of all of the family gatherings - true matriarchs, if you will. That evening 2 of my aunts, an uncle, and a cousin's daughter (not sure what that makes her to me... second cousin??) came for a really nice pork dinner. The little one was an absolute peach. She's just a little over 3 and full of beans.
Before we knew it dinner was over and we had to say goodbye to everyone, but not before a quick walk with the dogs by the waterfront in Kingston (one of the many charms of Kingston).
I had to return my rental pretty early in the morning on Thursday so I had a quick cup of coffee with my Nan and was on my way.
I do feel very fortunate that I was able to find a way to see my family before leaving. Having one more meal with everyone and catch up before taking off on a new adventure helps to ground me and take some of the nerves away. To hear how excited and proud my family is of me for taking this on was something I didn't realize I needed but turns out I did.
I did go for walks and found a way to workout everyday while I was away. Nothing life changing, but as I always say - you just have to do something good for your body every day.
Next stop: Tomorrowland!
Riri's Discoveries blog documents Riri's most recent research, her travel adventures, and her personal fitness journey.