Evening at Butchart Gardens

A couple of mornings ago I discovered a nasty mosquito bite on my neck. Seems I am allergic to Canadian mosquitoes. Like last summer when my leg became infected after being bitten this bite hurt by the end of the following day. However, I was not about to let this prevent me from going to the world famous Butchart Gardens where my sister was singing in The Chorus choir – not to be confused with The Choir choir. (https://www.thechorusyyj.com) The two choirs blended into one for two songs.

The Chorus and The Choir

They had a wonderful stage that helped project stupendous voices. Although a non-audition choir there is no lack of talent. The setting was stellar, the audience appreciative of music and surroundings. There is always a bit of magic when a blanket can be placed on cooling grass, a picnic is laid out and music begins to drift over the landscape.

The sunken garden, probably the favourite for photos – also recognized worldwide

I had time to discover the Rose Carousel with 30 hand carved animals, (horses, frogs, cats, an orca are just a few) installed in 2009 – it had been probably 20 years since I was last visited the gardens. I also had never been on a carousel! For a twoonie a delightful 3 1/2 minutes, and even had a fleeting dream of springing off like Mary Poppins, were mine. In reality I had trouble dismounting the horse I was riding! So much fun I convinced my sister to give it a whirl which meant I had two rides. We laughed and giggled like little girls the whole time.

Photo shared by the parent of a child riding behind me – he even asked permission to take it! Beside me are two dear friends – my second ride I was on the cat with the fish. Cats have tails – not easy to climb off!

Only the rose garden has labels to name the flowers – I believe this is a Pope John Paul rose (of course I deleted the label photo)

Alas, I did not have time to truly enjoy the gardens, There was time enough to take in some of the lush gardens, like an appetizer. At 33.10 CAD plus tax it is unlikely I will return soon. There is also a yearly pass for 60.50 plus tax. (Choir members were given a free guest pass – quite a treat) However, what I did see was lovely and I even enjoyed a quick bite and coffee from the coffee shop. Everything is made fresh on the premises – my chicken curry wrap was delicious! In other words, despite mentioning a picnic I did not actually take one with me. I may have to rethink my budget.

Below is the Dragon Fountain, a gift in 2015 from Suzhou, China – sister city to Victoria

Fountain near the Blue Poppy Restaurant – take a close look at the snake and frog


Homeward Bound: a day in Toronto plus

A weird water fountain but easy to find. (We were not looking for it)

My daughter from Kitchener joined to spend a few hours in Toronto before she had to return home by GO train and GO Bus. We packed in as much as we could without becoming too exhausted. First stop was our hostel where we dropped our bags and paid for our beds. It was time to explore – after a late breakfast. Hostels are great for providing suggestions for where to eat and things to do. Le Petit Dejeuner 191 King St. E) was highly recommended. To our mutual delight they were right! A funky 1950s look with eclectic decor, a massive espresso machine, somewhat grubby and worn menus and a friendly welcome, I was sure we would each find something to satiate our hunger. I am particularly fussy about how my eggs are cooked so never order fried eggs and rarely – as in probably over 35 years or so – order poached eggs. However, I found I could not resist this item: Toast Champignon – A halved bagel topped with sauteed mushrooms, herbs, onions and bacon. Served with potato rosti and apple slaw. Oh my goodness, fabulous even if the poached egg was too soft for my taste.

After breakfast we checked out St. Lawrence Market, very impressive. I expect one could easily spend a week’s salary doing grocery shopping there. Meat and fish counters, all sorts of seasonal vegetables and fruit, an extensive display of exotic rice, tea, coffee, breads, and pastries are some of what I recall. We managed to just look – good thing we went after breakfast. We came across a play park being constructed that looked like it will be a lot of fun for when children and parents need a break and perhaps a picnic.

Despite not making it to some of the places on our list, not enough time and unsure of distance, we kept busy. First, a visit Toronto’s first post office (260 Adelaide St. E.) where we each tried our hand at writing using quill pen and inkwell in the reading room. Various letters, artefacts, photos and information about the history of the building and Toronto (originally York) were interesting as well as providing us with 40 minutes out of the heat! The front room once again serves as a post office (originally 1834-1839) after several decades in various uses before a fire in 1978. The Post Office and Reading Room are replicas of the 1830s.

Replica postal boxes: William Lyon Mackenzie King (Canada’s 10th PM) collected his mail here. No idea which box # was his. (All my PO photos came out cloudy)

I love stumbling across events such as summer music in churches or parks. We had passed St. James Cathedral a couple of times before I stopped to take some photos and saw the notice for Music at Midday. Dr. Giles Bryant – guest organist. He certainly has a heady CV! In 1979 Dr. Bryant was the organist and Master of the choristers at the Cathedral. He was at the door greeting some of those who wandered in as well as giving hearty hugs to, from what I overheard, former parishioners/friends he had not seen in decades.

The single toll of the bell rang out 1:00pm. Five pieces by Healey Willan were on the programme; the first Fantasia on Ad Coenam Agni’ (1906) followed by ‘Slane’Prelude for Organ (1967) which may explain why the latter was so subdued. Although I love music, including the organ, I am not at all familiar with composers or pieces. Organs are the original surround sound. Clarion ups and downs like hills and valleys. The first piece was too heavy on clatters for me until the magnificent bass booming behind me. Smattering of applause indicated other audience members were also unsure of how to respond. Although most likely technically far more difficult to play quiet, gentle pieces the heat turned the listening into a soporific torture. We left just as the third piece was finishing. I found it interesting to later read that was Scherzo (Five Pieces), it did not sound too playful to me.

I wanted to check if there any last minute tickets available for this production – next time

We continued to wend our way past historic buildings, parks and dizzying glass towers before it was time to walk back to Union Station to see my daughter board the GO and a final farewell. We headed back to the hostel to check in, find our beds and hide from the sun before venturing out again. This time to Eaton Centre. This is where everyone goes if they want to be out and about without getting scorched or frozen depending on the season. There may be a gym on one of the floors although there is no need for one – just walk up and down the corridors in a quest for elevators and escalators. Lots of ramps and stairs give a little more oomph to the workout. We found lunch on the bottom floor – we both chose beef and chicken shawarma. I was rather surprised when it came with rice and potatoes, also slaw of some sort. Or was that breakfast? I was rapidly beginning to fade yet glad to walk off some of my lunch before calling it a day.

HI Toronto is an extremely popular, busy hostel. Trivia, chocolate & whisky sour. Don’t forget the caffeine kick at 6:02pm – new pot of coffee made for me despite it being past the time for the free cup and two, count them, hotdogs. I ate one bun but both dogs. Did I even sleep? I should explain. A bed in a four bed dorm, mixed, will set you back $54.00 per person plus tax. This includes breakfast. But wait, just in case breakfast is not your thing dinner (wraps after 7:00) or even lunch (no idea what that might have been) can be chosen so long as it is under $15.00. Except Tuesdays are free dinner – that is where the hotdogs came in. Chicken or vegan – this place has nearly everything covered. Too bad there was not any relish. The free coffee (or tea, pop, maybe juice) was on the receipt – one only.

By the time I was ready to call it a night a Trivia game was about to start. Anyone could play using a mobile device. Mine were at the reception lounge and I was not really interested. I thought it would be recent trivia. However. With my daughter helping I found the App and signed in. Also with her help I did rather well, even coming on top for the last game despite it being all about Friends. My daughter said blank blank money in student loads and she has a useless degree and an encyclopedic memory of Friends. The organizer of the game had to find me though – I was still upstairs. I got a chocolate bar, and she gave my daughter a bar coupon. Which was exchanged for a ‘real’ whisky sour – I would not know the difference. Before the music started, live music most nights, open mic that night, I finally headed to bed.

My last morning in ON I was up with the birds despite not having slept well. Hostel dorms, and beds, do not make it easy for a good night and even less so when someone arrives at 4:00am, then their devices start to ping several times before 6:00am! As mentioned, Breakfast is included in the cost of the bed which is great except for having to wait until 7:30. It makes me wonder just how much sightseeing young backpackers pack into a day. In desperate need of coffee I asked where I could find the nearest Starbucks. At the corner. It is not that I am a huge fan of SB, I was trying to not spend anything which meant using rewards points – yay for my daughter who put her card on my phone!

Crossing the street I saw a man sitting in his wheelchair asking a young woman for something. As I approached, and while waiting for the next light, he asked me if I could buy him a coffee. I honestly said I have no cash. He said he did not want cash, just coffee then asked me if I as buying coffee for myself so I said yes. He asked how – rather impertinent but I responded anyway along with the side comment it was all I had. To which he said he understood being house poor. Of course I had to laugh, then I said no house but definitely poor! I crossed the street with the intention of possibly getting him that cup of coffee. Until I saw him accosting drivers on the street, using his wheelchair as a chariot flying full tilt. He did not get his coffee. However,he did unwittingly provide me with some early morning entertainment. I joined my daughter at the hostel where we each had a hearty Backpacker breakfast. Guess what, nearly all backpackers take the best of the free.

Rundown to home. UP to the airport. Then the inter-terminal train. Breezed through security. Flight delayed. Ate leftover toast, bought more coffee and some yogurt. Ate that. Finally departed about 55 minutes late. Very worried we would miss our connecting flight. Hurray for carry on bags and a great computer system. We arrived at the gate with a scant minute to spare before our next flight was to depart. Someone came on board, called our names and a narrow, Moses like parting of a path was made down the only aisle for us to follow. Our luggage was tagged and checked free of charge as we scurried to our seats. Fantastic views of the Rockies! Somehow the 65 minute flight from Calgary to Vancouver arrived ten minutes or so early! We grabbed our checked bags, raced for the Skytrain (yet another train) then the bus to the ferry terminal. Our first glimpse of the ocean in three weeks and all the tension of the wedding, intense heat, humidity, and all the rushing just melted away. My daughter asked, “Why would we want to move?” Why indeed – yet, we might.

My Canada 150 Day 1-2

It was beginning to be doubtful I would actually even make it to the airport yet alone get on the plane. Fortunately I was able to put my full trust in my daughter to look after my cat, Mozzy, without feeling exceptionally guilty. I was lucky to begin my trip in a relaxed manner rather than dealing with the frenzy of taking three buses to the airport. Dinner with live music, thank you Sean McCool (his real name). After some discussion about sustainability I decided to have the snapper – I could not find any information when doing a quick search on my iPhone – as it seemed the best choice for a light, and still satisfying, meal. My travelling companions insisted on sharing two very small nibbles of a gluten free, heavy on the chocolate, ‘cake’. Like a dense cheesecake. They then fell into a stupor for the rest of the evening and would not emerge until we arrived in Kingston where I was greeted by my two daughters who live there. I was worn out and my internal clock did not want to switch to Ontario time so we decided to forego lunch. I had a relaxed afternoon in the country, took a rather late nap before a delicious BBQ, a hazy double rainbow when going for an evening walk before crashing for the night. My body is older than my mind.

Death by chocolate

Flight: delayed 1 1/2 hours due to a weather system in Toronto. I later heard it was a potential storm. Everyone exhausted. This was a red eye flight, nothing was open for anyone in need of sustenance. There is a water fountain.

Trains: if anyone needs to go to downtown TO from the airport the UP train is wonderful and only $12.00. I believe the GO Train is even less expensive but I was already familiar with UP going to Union Station. This station remains in the throes of a major overhaul. I believe every trip I make I am given a different completion date. The most recent information I found is completion of Stage 2 in 2018. There are three stages. Official statement, “Union Station Great Hall and the VIA Departures is going through extensive renovations through multiple phases as part of the City of Toronto Revitalization Project.” That is putting it mildly. 

Via, GO & UP passengers are affected so it is adviseable to give yourself time. I slated in delays and was happy I had. It gave me about 1 1/2 hours to find some breakfast and coffee. No mean feat, when I say in the throes of construction I am not kidding. Stairs make finding your way around even more arduous. As I take a lot of trains in my travels I am grateful I stuck with a backpack. Cumbersome but easier to maneuver. 

 Via Rail to Kingston, window seat. Slept. Trains tend to lull this tired Beast.

Kingston Station is also going through a major overhaul. More stairs. I did manage to get a couple of tickets dealt with while there.

Expenses: 25.00 dinner (Evedar’s), 12.00 UP Train, 6.75 breakfast (turkey sausage, scrambled egg on pumpernickel bagel, coffee (Bagel Stop), 5.60 Flat White (Star Bucks), 23.28 cash portion of Via ticket for July 22nd (I had $40 in E vouchers)