I’m writing this on my Canadian flatmate Natalie’s backyard deck, overlooking the slope of their garden down to the lake. They have a wooden dock and a small sailing boat; I can just see the mast bobbing in the waves over the trees. It’s nearly 6pm so the sun is starting to set, but it’s still pushing 30 degrees, even with the lakeshore breeze. It is, to put it mildly, idyllic.
I’m staying for two nights in Prince Edward County, which is about two hours north of Toronto and 3 hours south of Ottawa. Tomorrow morning Natalie will drive us and my two astonishingly heavy suitcases up to the capital; from there I will be officially moved into my new apartment. My new home for the academic year.
Natalie’s family have been very welcoming from the start. Her mum sent some very friendly emails to mine which I know have reassured her no end that I am in fact not actually moving into the flat of a 50 year old internet perv. The offer for me to come and stay before travelling on up to Ottawa was one I felt would be pretty dumb to turn down, and it’s been lovely to take some down time and to recover from Toronto too.
Prince Edward County is actually on an island away from mainland Canada on Lake Ontario, connected by three bridges. It’s a relatively rural and unpopulated area, with one small town (Picton) and several hamlet/villages. Though once clearly an agricultural area, it has increasingly become a tourist hotspot for Torontonians wanting to escape the city and spend their summer by the lake, and I can really see why. It’s very peaceful here, and ‘cottaging’ as it’s called, is an obviously tempting way to spend the holidays in a country that’s so huge it seems nonsensical to leave.
Natalie’s offer to come all the way into Toronto to pick me up was a bit too generous I felt, so I ended up getting a train to Oshawa, at the end of the city line, and she met me there. We got Tim Horton’s for lunch (I feel Tim’s is going to be a theme of this year) and then headed back to hers. I’ve been pretty anxious about meeting her (I may have been presenting complete confidence to my Mum but that’s been a front if I’m honest) but I needn’t have been. I was attracted to her Facebook advert not only by the photos of a spacious, modern flat but also by the request for a ‘bright, responsible, positive person’, figuring that she was probably looking for someone similar to herself, and I was right. She’s lovely, friendly and with a deadpan sarcastic sense of humour as well, which as a Brit I find comfortingly familiar territory. I think we’re going to get on just fine for the year, and if the worst comes to the worst, as my Dad told me in Freshers’ when I started university, ‘flatmates not soulmates is what matters Tess’. And I am sure that as flatmates we’ll work well.
After the drive we went for a swim in the lake. The water is at peak temperature after the summer so was almost bathwater warm, as well as pretty shallow. We also took out their pedalo, but not before being ambushed by about 30 frogs who had made a home under it which resulted in a fair bit of screaming. Jumping off (I say jumping, more inelegantly falling) the pedalo into deeper water and looking across the empty lake lined with trees, just beginning to turn, I had a bit of a ‘blimey, I can’t believe this is my life’ moment. I think the thing is I’ve been waiting so long for this year and now all of a sudden everything is happening.
Then it was Natalie’s mum’s birthday (which I felt very embarrassed not knowing about) but they were all very chill about it. We headed out to brunch at one of the more gentrified lakeside hotel/restaurants in the area, which is based on a similar set-up in downtown Toronto. Eating pancakes with maple syrup overlooking the 13th largest lake in the world was a pretty fantastic way to spend a Sunday morning. Unfortunately after that I started to feel a bit rough, so it was back home for a nap for me to try and sleep it off. I think I’ve picked up some international germs from the hostel as it feels like the beginning of a cold; but if that saves me from Freshers flu I’m happy.
In the evening we watched ‘Vampire Academy’ which was a truly, TRULY terrible film with the lead actress going for a butchered British accent and took the piss out of it while eating nachos which was great fun. Bonding over awful films is a good way to making a solid friendship I feel. On our final morning, Natalie took me to North Beach, which is a little less touristy than the famous Sandbanks but no less beautiful. It honestly felt like we’d stepped into a wormhole and ended up in Australia as we walked across white sand, ducked between dunes and ran across the tarmac barefoot trying not to let our feet burn. There was a chance for a paddle and several instagram opportunities – then it was back into the car and onto the road. Next stop – Ottawa.
In conclusion: Canadian lakesides are unbeatable and finding your flatmates through Facebook is a totally recommendable thing.