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Don' t Be Discouraged by First Impressions!

Quite a number of years ago I was working very hard and decided that I needed a break. Despite my long hours of work I had been trying to get out from under my student loan and didn' t have much money for a getaway. A friend suggested that I stay in Kitchener Waterloo at a small motel and then make daytrips into St. Jacobs, which has a large craft community. It sounded to me like it was just the answer I was looking for.

Looking at a map of Kitchener I thought I managed to find a motel not too far off the beaten path that I could afford and booked myself in at the now-defunct Shamrock Inn. (Those of you who know KW are laughing at me at this point). I got on the bus and off I went on what turned out to be my big adventure.

Thinking I could get the lay of the land I thought I' d walk to the motel from the bus station. Mistake number two (number one being booking a room there.) As I walked, I thought I, d drop off my things, pick up some dinner and spend the first night in, relaxing. The further I walked the more I realized that there were fewer and fewer places appearing along the stretch of almost highway, and that if I wanted to pick up some dinner I' d better do it before I got there. Of course by the time I realized that it was too late and unless I wanted to try to get food from a furniture warehouse I was out of luck. Thankfully, I always have a granola bar or two on hand, and that turned out to be my dinner as I looked around my dingy room with the rust stained bathroom and the view of the weed choked swimming pool. Amazed at the amount of noise being made by the other guests of the motel I looked out my window and was surprised to see only one car in the parking lot. I hunkered down against the disappointment and buried my nose in my book, turning in early.

The following day I was in better spirits as I headed out to St. Jacobs. It was early March and while it wasn' t balmy, the weather was nice, if a little windy. I hopped on the one bus that would take me back to the bus station to catch the bus to St Jacobs, and realized how daft I had been to walk to the motel. When I got to the bus station and went to the window to buy my ticket to St. Jacobs I was informed that the bridge to St. Jacobs was under repair but the bus could drop me off at the railway bridge and I could walk over it into the town. I was informed that that is what all the locals did and it was a quick walk. Being the naive untravelled fool I was I said that sounded fine. In my head there was a picture of a lovely covered railway bridge spanning a lazy river.

The bus turned out to be a van, which dropped me seemingly in the middle of nowhere with directions that the railway bridge was "just over that way" and instructions on what time the return trip stopped here. A man in his late twenties had gotten out with me and said he would walk over with me, and then make his way over to pick up his car in Elmira. When we got to the bridge I got quite a reality check. It was an open railway track, and far from a lazy river, the spring thaw and the wind had the water running fast and furious. As I braced myself in the wind and struggled over the open track the man regaled me with the disappointments in his life, and when he pointed me into the town itself he said that if I wanted a ride back to town he' d stop a the local coffee shop at five and be happy to pick me up then.

Once I was in the town the fiasco of the journey melted away and I had a wonderful time watching the craftspeople working, admiring their wares and exploring the beautiful town. I went into the antique shops and got some fantastic finds, chatted with the locals and found a town full of treasures. I also learned about some of the courses offered by some of the artists in the town, which peaked my interest.

As the day flew by the wind had been increasing steadily. Near the end of the day while I warmed up with a coffee and a delicious treat I heard the local radio station offer up a wind warning. People were being advised to stay in and take care driving. The thought of the walk over the railway track was no longer a possibility, and I realized that I would now have few options, one of which was to accept the ride from the stranger.

Thinking that I knew my costs, I had overspent on the day unable to resist the wares of some of the artists and a taxi was out of my range. I knew that my best bet was the thing that everything I' d ever been taught told me not to do. In the door the man came, right at five. I bought him a coffee so that at the very least he might be witnessed in my company should anything happen. After a bit of a scare, he did in fact drop me off in Kitchener Waterloo at the bus station, since I refused to tell him where I was staying. Having just missed the only bus to my crummy motel I took a taxi, unnerved and ready to head back to Toronto, s seemingly relative safety. The taxi driver, when he heard where I was staying, and heard the story of my day was very kind and offered to wait and drop me back at the bus station for the price of the fare out to the motel. He let me know that the taxi drivers in Kitchener Waterloo tend to be very kind and founts of information about where to stay, or in my case, where not to stay. The now defunct motel, I was informed, was at that time the local hangout for all the people you didn, t want to meet in any town. Suddenly I understood why it had sounded like my room at the motel was surrounded by hundreds of partying guests.

Grateful to be on the bus to home I laughed at myself, and my own ability to turn a simple daytrip into one of the biggest adventures of my life. I had made some very bad travel decisions, some very stupid mistakes and come out much wiser, and enchanted with St. Jacobs.

Several years later, I went back to pursue one of those artist' s courses and found yet another wonderful treasure. For the same price I paid for the seedy motel I stayed in St. Jacobs itself at a fantastic place called Grandma' s Attic Bed & Breakfast. The property is a good size old Mennonite farmhouse with a small barn out back. The yard is lovely with just the right ratio of shade trees and sun, and a variety of well enticed birds for the birdwatcher. The charming yard backs onto the main strip of the town making it easy to get to all the crafters wares. The breakfast and tea service are fantastic, the rooms are lovely and the common rooms are full of interesting trinkets and books. The hostess is a wonderful woman who takes excellent care of her guests. I think it is one of the best-kept secrets in the Bed & Breakfast trade and I don' t think it should be a secret anymore!


K. Elly, Toronto, On

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