03 OCT 2018: That horrible moment when you realize you have the code to the house, but not the address is a lasting one. We drove to the little town of Merrickville, Ontario and were charmed. A pretty artist's community we were told. Well we see a lot of those "too-too cute" towns and villages, and often they aren't what they're touted to be, often finding over- priced antiques, fridge magnets and done up bistros with so-so food. But this was not the case in Merrickville.  Go see, have a bite and stay over-night. Who knows? You may be tempted to pick up and move there. We were.

Bruce Kemp and Laurie Carter did just this. They absolutely love it. "The residents are my age," says Bruce. "There are lots of young families too" smiles Laurie. Both of them agree there is certainly a lot to do. For instance October 11-14th is theJazzFEST, MERRICKVILLESJAZZFEST.COM. There is jazz happening all over town including a Jazz Worship- a non-ticketed event at the Holy Trinity Anglican Church at 10:30 on the Sunday.

Bruce and Laurie have been friends of mine for years. We had an open invitation to visit them out West, and could never manage it. They've been in Merrickville over a year now, and we've been trying to get together.  Last week, while mapping out our trip to Quebec, I realized it was on the way.

Yes, we'd be very welcome. Bruce was rushing to give a speech about his latest book: Weather Bomb 1913, Life and Death on the Great Lakes.  We were told to just turn up, and we were given the code to get in.

Tom asked, "Do you have the address?" OOPS!! Not to worry I said, we'll text them for the address.

Nope they weren't glued to their devices, so we thought we’d email them, and find somewhere with a WiFi. Just ahead of us was The Baldachin Inn in the very centre of Merrickvile, built in the 1860's. We headed for Harry McLean's Pub to first get on the internet and then have a bite. Sadly, we couldn't connect, and so our very nice server suggested the pub up the street had a stronger signal. How often does that happen? We'll be back.

The Goose & Gridiron did have stronger WiFi, but that didn't help. I had the number of the house, and a picture of it but not the name of the street. "I know," said our delightful server Sarah, "Let's ask the regulars at the bar. Sure enough, we showed them the picture and one of them said, "I know that house, I helped carry the new roof to it. It's down the street from the church."

They were pleased with the drink we bought them, we were thrilled to know where our bed was, and Laura told us about herself while we sipped our beer and ate our fish and chips.  

"I'm engaged to the owner's cousin and weddings are expensive, you know. I'm a teacher, as well as working part time till I get a fulltime teaching job."

And then it was a short drive to Bruce and Laurie's Airbnb called appropriately Author, Author! Their guests rave about how interesting this couple is, and how spotless the private room and bath is. These super hosts have great reviews.

The evening flew by as we got caught up and heard about Laurie's second book on Emily Carr and how their photography businesses was going. Was Bruce still teaching journalism? No, but he's starting a three-day course for travel writers wanting to take pictures, not snapped from a cell phone.

Our evening wasn't over yet, when Tom and I went for a walk, we had a 30-minute conversation with a resident walking a Bouvier. And that is what is special about this place, just how genuinely friendly people are. I could certainly live here. After Bruce took Tom on a walking tour of the long-gone industry and Canals, Tom could too.

It seems to be a guy thing to admire the 47 locks, 20 dams that link the lakes, rivers and canal cuts linking Kingston, at the head of Lake Ontario to Ottawa. The history is endless.

An amazing system of locks connects Kingston to Ottawa. The engineering and simplicity are designed to be operated by one person. He/She opens the locks with a winch that opens and closes the gates to fill and empty the locks. The road bridge is also engineered to be opened and closed by one person. The wooden bridge itself weighs 32 tons and is easily pushed and closed. The bridge when it is opened, allows both power and sailboats through.

The locks were busy, three boats were coming through, and three artists were painting the scenery.

Laurie and Bruce, are members of the Merrickville Artists' Guild, established in the 1984 and as members say about MAG- "We're not just pretty faces, each MAG Artist is an entrepreneur. We make and sell beautiful things, teach classes, give talks, hold creative events - including our beloved Studio Tour which just finished."

This historic little town, that William Merrick Sr. started, is still booming over 200 years later.

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Sam Ion

The expert on All Inclusives, Sam delivers up-to-date info on alternate Wednesdays in her column Not Just All Inclusives.

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