Aug. 7 Fly Halifax to Toronto on Canjet, Evening in Toronto
Staying at the Strathcona Hotel, 60 York St., Toronto 1-416-363-3321
Aug. 8 - 10 Peterborough and surrounding area
Staying at Hunter Farm B&B, On highway 134 (off Highway 7) near Keene, Ontario
Aug. 11 Fly Toronto to Halifax
August 7The main purpose of this extra long weekend away is to meet in person a good friend with whom Iíve chatted online for about 4 years. She and her two teenagers have come to Canada to meet up with online friends in B.C. and Ontario and stay with relatives in Kincardine, Ontario. There is a group get together on Saturday at the B&B where some of us are staying which will be pot luck.
This is the first time Iíve flown CanJet, a discount airline out of Halifax which was flying last year but had to shut down due to Air Canadaís direct competitive practices targeting the same routes and prices. Theyíve recently started up again and because I couldnít get a flight on Aeroplan points for the dates or near dates I needed without taking three planes to fly a 2 hour flight to Toronto, I went on the cheap with Canjet and saved myself over $250. (all prices quoted are in Canadian dollars) The 737 has no business class and seats 120 with adequate leg room I found. Refreshments must be purchased (no frills, remember?) but the service was good and the attendants pleasant.
The check in clerk decided my carryon was too wide and made me check it although I noticed others on the flight had bags equally large with them. But youíre at the mercy of the individual I guess. I like flying into Toronto on a sunny day like this. Itís very flat, mostly farm land until suddenly, like day and night, you are over civilization. Rooves of houses closely lining the snakey patterns of streets, little aqua blue dots marking the backyard pools. Then there are low, flat surfaces of warehouses and factories. In the distance you can see the endless blue of Lake Ontario, the point where the blue sky and lake meet on the horizon indistinguishable. You see chunky blocks of sky scrapers and apartment blocks, the CN Tower standing slender and aloof with the silvery Skydome stadium at its feet like a faithful dog. The tall buildings follow the line of Yonge Street for what is probably 10 or 15 miles into North York though it only looks like 3 or 4 from this height.
Prayers to the Luggage Gods duly noted, my bag slid down the ramp onto the conveyer belt in the second lot of suitcases delivered. The airport express bus ($24.50 return) takes about a half hour to get into downtown along the Gardiner Expressway and i was getting off at the second stop. Itís warm but not suffocating or humid as I expected, much to my surprise. I arrived and checked in at the Strathcona Hotel, just around the corner from the Royal York Hotel, a Toronto landmark. My room is on the 11th floor and has absolutely no view! Oh well, I donít plan to be in it much anyway.
I called my friend Trish and established a meeting time for about 3:45 outside the Bata Shoe Museum. Kathryn was meeting me at the hotel at 3:30. I thought this would give me enough time to get to the Greyhound station and get my ticket for tomorrow to Peterborough as it wasnít 3 yet. Off I trotted to Union Station, just a block or two away but it took me nearly 10 minutes to navigate through there and figure out where the subway bit was, get my token and get on a train. Union Station is a Via Rail station and a commuter ďGoTrainĒ station as well as a subway stop. It was only two stops up the University line and about 3 blocks east but by the time I got there it was nearly 3:20 and the queue for tickets contained about 30 people! Yeesh. No way Iíd get through that and back downtown for 3:30. No way Iíd even get to the subway, back, through Union station and to the hotel in time so I took a cab. For $5 he got me to the door at exactly 3:30!
I walked in and the concierge asked me if I was waiting for a friend. I was indeed and she was "over there". Kathryn was very glad to see me because she couldnít remember my last name and she was afraid the desk clerk might have thought she was some nutter wandering about downtown Toronto asking for "Diane" at various hotels! As Trish later quipped "Oh, and I donít suppose "The Voice of Reason" (that's me) means anything to you" LOL! Back to Union Station and up to the St. George stop on Bloor Street across from the Shoe museum and there was Trish waiting outside! I might add Iíve never met these two face to face before today though weíve chatted for a year!
Those of you that know me will remember that I love unique museums. I was disappointed in that the Redpath Sugar Museum at the refinery on the waterfront closed itís doors at 3:30 and thus it really wasnít possible to see it this time so shoes it is. The museum traces the history of footwear and itís functionality and was really very interesting. All kinds of footwear made from all sorts of material from reeds and straw to leather and fabric to plastic and precious metals.
There was an exhibition of wedding attire from various cultures including costumes for bride and groom and the shoes/boots worn. Some of the groomís outfits were more elaborate than the brideís! The most touching yet horrific piece was the description and diagrams of how and why the Chinese used to bind the feet of women from childhood. Deliberately deforming the feet for a status symbol and a twisted conception of beauty. The small shoes looked like something a doll with half molded feet would wear.
I picked up a couple of postcards and a new canvas tote bag to replace one at home and we left just at 5 at closing time. I wanted to do a bit of window shopping and wanted to seek out a particular CD. We walked down Bloor to Yonge, in itself a good 20 minute walk past the Royal Ontario Museum and the U. of Toronto where there was a lovely park behind some elaborate gates. There are lots of little music stores on Yonge street and I found what I was looking for in short order. A cup of tea was in order now, we were hot and thirsty and found a Starbucks. Then a short walk to the nearest subway station to head back downtown to meet the others.
We had arranged a dinner for some of the "girls" tonight, the first ever "Chick Ping" (ping being a "get together"...regular readers of my travels will understand or go here to see explanation) Trish picked the Hot House Cafť which is on the corner of Front Street and Church Street near the Toronto Waterfront. Very good choice! The atmosphere is really nice, it has a large menu and on Wednesday nights there is a hot and cold buffet for $12.95. Thatís what we all had once we were joined by Lori-Anne and Theresa. There were 2 or 3 more that werenít able to join us, sadly. The food was quite good and the company better! I had only met Lori-Anne briefly last year but we all talk online on a regular basis.
We finally left about 11. There
were very few other customers left! We walked along to where Lori-Anne
had parked. She and Theresa arrived together and Kathryn was returning
with them to their transit stations in the burbs. Hugs and good byes all
around. One enterprising cabbie stopped to see if anyone needed his services!
Trish walked me back to the hotel and then sheís off to catch her train
home. A fab evening but it took me ages to settle down and fall asleep
even though I hadnít had any tea or coffee (too full!)
I decided to have a little stroll around the immediate vicinity and made my way initially to Front Street, intending on having another look at the CN Tower. Iíd seen it, done it and photographed it before but until a better idea struck, westward I walked. Plus it was sunny along that side of the wide busy street. The buildings downtown are so tall that you only get the sun at intersections or on particularly wide avenues.
A better idea did find me before I reached the tower, I spied an interesting low cone-shaped building up a block on Simcoe Street. That looks like a photo op to me. It was the Roy Thompson Hall, an arts center and is 20 years old according to all the lamp post banners up around the city. Along one side in front of the main entrance I discovered a little "Walk of fame" with plaques imbedded into the sidewalk and inscribed with about a dozen and a half notable Canadians, not all from the performing arts either, and one, Alexander Graham Bell obviously not a Canadian at all by birth though he did live a good many years in Baddeck, Nova Scotia so we do feel a wee bit protective of him and his contribution to the world of communication. Other names were rock groups Guess Who and Rush, William Shatner, Maureen Forrester (opera), Gordon Howe and either Jean Beliveau or Maurice Richard (hockey players, what? No Wayne Gretsky?) , movie director David Cronenburg, comedian Martin Short and the comic troupe Royal Canadian Air Farce. There were some French notables but they are unknown to me. Surprising omissions included Anne Murray and Gordon Lightfoot and the duo Wayne and Shuster.
Across the street was a fine old stone Presbyterian church, St. Georgeís, dating from 1874. I walked a few more blacks east on King Street West and was heading back towards the hotel when I saw a sunlit square that attracted me, or rather, my lens, as it often does. Now, I had heard that Toronto has full size statues of moose around town but Iíve never run across one. But there in the grassy center of the Toronto Dominion bank complex was a small herd of life sized cow statues, all sitting down scattered about the grass. Some were lit by the sunshine and some settled in the cooler shadows of the buildings.
And the shade was cool. I really lucked out on the weather all week. It got quite hot in the daytime but there was next to none of the humidity Toronto is infamous for. The Weather Gods were with me as well as the Luggage Gods!
I checked out and took a cab to the bus station which is in the Chinatown district. I stayed put in the cool building as the temperature was already climbing towards the high 20ís and I had my bag to drag around with me. The ticket queue wasnít that long this morning and I paid $34 for a return which was about 15 less than the website fares led me to expect. Bonus! The 10:30 bus is an express so only takes an hour and 45. The journey was comfortable and uneventful. My friend Sue met me at the bus terminal in Peterborough and took me to her lovely two storey home on a lovely leafy street.
As I mentioned, the main purpose of the visit was to meet Jacky aka Jubbly and she was already at Sueís by then. We all met and hugged fiercely and exchanged presents. We had a light lunch and later decided to go out to the farm B&B where we were staying. I could get my bag in my room and Jubs could gather her laundry to take back to Sueís. The kids, Brad and Cassey decided to stay at the farm for a little down time that evening so we made our way back to Peterborough via a little gift shop and the grocery store to pick up some things weíd need for the fruit tray we were putting together for the party on Saturday.
The evening was a relaxing casual affair. Anne and Bill from nearby Bethany joined us for a supper of cold meats and salads. Their home made wine topped things off nicely. We came back to the farm for about 8 and relaxed for the rest of the evening. Jubs and Brad hadnít been feeling well and decided to have an early night.
The house is filled with antiques,
china and knickknacks which are completely dust free! I donít know how
they do it! The owners are Ruth and Terry Hunter. As I said, they raise
bees and sell the honey. Ruth also makes an all natural hand cream which
was demonstrated for us one morning and she cooks up a storm for breakfast
every morning! My bedroom was a single, with a white lacy canopy on top
of the four poster. There are two suites with an en-suite shower/spa tub
and two other double rooms besides my single. I think the rates go from
$55 (single shared facilities) to $115 for the ensuite that Jubs had with
two double beds.
We had lunch at the tea room next door before we left. There were a number of options for the afternoon but we opted to visit a buffalo farm. This fellow, Bill (forget his last name) has been raising them for about 25 years. His son, Tim, took us over by the fenced in pens to talk to us while we watched the majestic animals. They are very skittish creatures, and would shy away from us and run from end to end of the long pen. There were about 2 dozen animals here, about 2 years old and destined for the slaughterhouse. The rest of the herd was up away from us. The sound of just those few dozen running was loud but a mere faint echo of what it must have sounded like in the last century when herds of tens of thousands ran on the prairies.
It was quite interesting hearing about how they raise them and all about the animals. A fully grown male bull can be up to 7 feet high at his hump and we later saw the head of one of those giant beasties on the wall of a small room off the garage of the house. Tim also showed us an antique full length buffalo fur coat, that the Canadian Mounties wore in the 1920ís up north. It weighed over 20 kilos! Jubs and the kids all tried it on for size. When we left, Tim gave us a package of frozen buffalo burgers which we promised to cook on the barbeque tonight.
By this time, Sue wanted to
get back as we were expecting another couple, Sue (nicknamed Hippolyta,
or ďHippyĒ) and her husband Kim and sure enough just as we arrived at the
farm, they were on their way out to find something to eat. Jubs and the
kids stayed at the farm for some down time as they had been on the go constantly
the 2 weeks theyíd been in Canada and the rest of us went back to Sueís
for a barbeque. All three of her sons were there as well as her daughter
in law. One of the lads did the honours at the barbeque, serving up bratwurst
sausages and the buffalo meat. It was good, not too gamey but a bit dry
I thought. Again a nice relaxing visit and we got back to the farm about
9ish. Hippy and I stayed up with a couple of beer and got all caught up
on things and talked until about midnight. Ruth was right there ironing
and seemed to find an endless supply of things that needed seeing to while
we talked which was a bit uncomfortable. Tomorrow is the "Possum ping".
(Possums are a euphemistic word coined in our chat room for um...
upper female anatomy, shall we say)
After Ruth and Terry left, Hippy and Kim went for a few last minute errands and Jubs and I got busy in the large country kitchen, slicing fruit and sorting the plastic and paper accoutrements outside on the picnic table under the eaves of the back veranda. The lawn chairs are pulled out onto the grass under the shade of the spreading branches of the maple trees. Sue's son Matt arrives to take Brad and Cassey out for the day sailing.
People start arriving about 2:30 and most everyone is there by 3ish except Guy and Anita who got a bit lost. They finally arrived about 5 but there was plenty of food left. There were 17 of us in total, most of whom I had met in person before except one couple. We took lots of pictures, played a Coronation Street game for a few prizes and feasted on curry, trifle, fruit, pumpernickel bread and dip and lots of conversation. Brad and Cassey arrived back by early evening, sunburned but they had a great day. They also had a ride on a tour boat that goes through the Peterborough Lift lock, the highest in the world. We had stopped by there for a peek yesterday morning on the way to Curve Lake. Didnít get to see it in action but the kids said it was pretty neat.
Some of the people that had
further to drive left and we took the remaining few into the house to wind
up the party because the mozzies were getting thick in the air once the
sun went down. Guy and
Anita and their two kids are also staying at the farm in addition
to a couple staying there that were attending a wedding in the vicinity
so itís a full house tonight. The last of our party leaves before Ruth
and Terry return about 11. We had made sure the kitchen and outside
party area would pass inspection. Those of us staying at the farm remained
up to talk awhile longer but I think the sun had us all sleepy in our beds
Again the bus journey uneventful. I got off at a stop downtown at the Bay department store. Walked through the underground shopping system then up to street level at the Sheraton Hotel. I walked downtown to the Royal York hotel and back underground there to a cafť to have a bit of lunch. I was supposed to meet my aunt, uncle, cousin and his wife but they had secured Blue Jays baseball tickets.
I took an earlier shuttle to the airport, walked through the bowels of Terminal 3 to the back of beyond to get to the gate though the bonus was that it was right on the runway and with all glass walls, I could watch the planes taking off and landing. Hung out there reading and people/plane watching until it was time to board and leave. Thatís probably it for my travels this year. Wonder where next year will take me!
The Possum Ping
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