DIARY: Discovering Swan’s Marina, Pickering Nautical Village and Pickering Museum Village in Ontario on a new episode of Escapes with Nigel.
It’s hard to imagine a link between chocolate ice cream, chocolate zucchini cake and soap, but at the Pickering Nautical Village one very hot day during the summer, I discovered them.
Bernie, the charming owner of Swan’s Marina, who has taken my television crew and I out onto Lake Ontario in a luxurious Catalina yacht to shoot the opening of an episode of Escapes with Nigel, tells me his favourite thing to do after a sail is walk into the village and have an ice cream and I vow that will be my first stop too. Dressed up to the nines in my sailor’s whites and a smart blazer, Bernie lets me take the helm, while he does all the running around. Not that it’s really all that much work with electric winches and all sorts of other labour saving gadgets on the boat. There’s very little wind which makes for good shooting, but Bernie and I would have preferred a stiff breeze so the boat could show its paces and our logo flag could have flown a little more proudly.
Back on shore, I head first for Grandad’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlour where Anne gives me a delicious chocolate cone. I manage not to dribble any on my shirt as it has to last all through a day’s shooting. Outside her store parents and kids are licking away on all sorts of flavours. Three little boys are enjoying violently coloured concoctions of blue and yellow bubble gum flavoured ice cream. Fun though this was, sadly the ice cream parlour sequence ends up on the editing room floor.
Next we’re off to meet Margot at the Carberry Soap Company, where she shows me how to make cupcakes out of soap, right down to the authentic looking cherry on top. Margot tells me that occasionally kids try and eat one of the amazingly realistic looking soaps, bringing new meaning to the expression ‘wash your mouth out.’ After cleaning up my act at the soap store, I zip across the road to see Jackie at Serendipity, where the cakes and goodies are real. Jackie has a lovely surprise for me — a chocolate zucchini cake with our show logo on top. The crew ate the cake, but the icing reproduction of my face has survived in the freezer.
For our visit to the Pickering Museum Village I need a change of outfit and wardrobe chief Julie fits me out as a Victorian gentleman, complete with a top hat. I add my own smart yellow leather gloves, authentic silver topped walking stick and Ben Franklin glasses. Throughout the rest of the day, everything is a little out of focus as a result, but not for lack of trying. In the Temperance House hotel, I am told by guide Katrina that “lips that touch wine, shall never touch mine.” Instead we make do with some fresh Johnny cake made on an old wood fired stove. The village is a collection of authentic Ontario pioneer buildings saved from destruction and gathered in one spot over the years, with demonstrations of life in the 1850s and period crafts and activities for children.
It’s a fascinating piece of living history and I enjoy looking in the old church, log cabin, blacksmith shop and more. However, the highlight of the day has to be driving Princess, the steam traction engine. Joe the engineer handled all the complicated controls and I merely steered, but we didn’t run into anything and we chugged through the village and I can tell you it was quite an effort on a giant machine designed in the days before power steering.
There’s so many interesting things to do and see around Ontario, and we’re enjoying digging them out for our TV audiences. It’s truly quite amazing how many people say: “I didn’t know that was there,” or “I never knew that existed.” That’s the idea of our show. To get people out into the countryside to experience different things for themselves. This episode is a classic example. The largest living history museum in Durham County and it’s still Pickering’s best kept secret. Let’s hope our show helps change that perception.
Please leave a comment and let us know if you visit any of these locations. Some of them have winter activities and some will have to wait until next spring.