Ontario Visit: from Drag Race to Lakeside

The last two weeks were a mix of big city crazy to sublime quiet. The only factor that did not change was the heat and humidity. Thank goodness for AC in the house and the truck! Even when there thunderstorms it was still hot and humid with the added drenching.

My daughters treated me to a show of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 11 Roadshow. I am unsure if that is the actual title although it makes sense if it is. My eldest drove us to Toronto, we met up with my other daughter, had lunch at the New York Cafe, (I had the single serving of French Toast – what a great idea to offer that choice) across from the Danforth Music Hall where we would see the show, and had enough time to wander around Danforth a bit. The show was great, all the audience gave a big round of applause for the Canadian favourite, Brooklyn Hytes – I do wish I could have shown him dancing en pointe!

Very unassuming theatre. Pretty sure it is not where the stars perform. The queue started early – no seats on the main floor.
Unfortunately it was so dark that none of our photos did justice to the performers. If anyone has a chance to see a show do so! Even if in a grungy theatre.

We saw my younger daughter off at the GO Station before heading back to Kingston. Halfway there we stopped for dinner in Point Hope, a lovely little town with some great old buildings. Dinner was at Turtle Jack’s because we loved the name. I never did discover why it is called that. Then a very quick walk to admire some of the architecture. I am crossing my fingers for a return trip. especially if there is a chance of getting some better photos!

Bank of Upper Canada erected in 1857. Now the Carlyle Bistro and possibly a boutique hotel. If I had seen this earlier we might have eaten there instead.

Port Hope Town Hall
The following day was a time to hide from the exhausting heat, read and literally watch the flowers pop out much like popcorn does. The morning had started with perhaps five fully opened heads to then be a burst of colour by the end of the day.
A summer school group headed out on Gould Lake.
A restful view at the lake after the hectic city – once all the canoes had passed by. Also where I discovered I really did need the bug spray I had bought!

More adventures to come it’s a trip to Ottawa, and probably Niagara Falls as well as more forays into Kingston if I can avoid the heat!

Expenses: (oops, forgot to put in the ones for when I was in Smiths Falls) Museum $5.00; lunch $11.25 (just me so quite extravagant); insect spray + sundries $12.22 (although my daughter bought more I think I will need my own); Starbucks account $20.00 (this was over a few days to cover what my daughter in Victoria had used – points & money); bottled water $4.00 (gasp, gasp); lunch in Toronto for two $19.00; groceries $7.30

Although it appears I have wantonly spent my limited funds this was over a period of roughly three weeks. I am still well within budget. Just as well considering I have some upcoming travel expenses.

Ontario Visit: going broke in Toronto

(Note: Staying in the country has its pluses and minuses: it is so peaceful; so much so that internet access is sporadic. I started to write and download this blog the evening I arrived – Thursday; another attempt and it is approaching lunchtime on Saturday.)

A final farewell to my daughter at the corner of King and Victoria, a grasp of the handle on my small suitcase to trundle my way to the train station and I was on my way to another adventure. My eldest daughter had hopped on a train heading from the opposite direction. Toronto beckoned.

Farewell Kitchener, I will be back!

I consider myself a seasoned traveller, and I have been to Toronto a few times, which meant a whirlwind trip of my not really doing much should have been easy. The trip from Kitchener to Toronto was uneventful other than leaving about ten minutes late. I read more of my book The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck) and arrived by 11:00am. Plenty of time to grab a cup of coffee, relax and look up the best way to get to where we would stay for the night.

I learned that the 24 hours we would be in the city would include a few firsts for my daughter’s friend who was joining her to go to a Kids On the Block conncert for her 40th birthday week. (When did birthdays become weeks? Perhaps only for milestone years) First time on a train. They arrived maybe ten minutes late, our friend took a lot of selfies, then we decided out best option would be a taxi to our stay after considering three people would only be a few dollars over public transit and we would not have to walk a couple of blocks.

I highly recommend checking out university dorms for a summer trip. CampusOne, on College St. is a shining new, extremely clean, 25 storey, quality dormitory. Our suite had four bedrooms, two full bathrooms and a small common area with a view that would normally cost far more than the $200 plus tax, including buffet breakfast, we paid. Lots of amenities and a short distance from Kensington Market, Chinatown and of course the University of Toronto.

The view from my room, mid afternoon.

Although the TV show King of Kensington was before my daughter’s time I remember it and was happy to finally make it to the popular market. Lots of shops to poke about in without even going inside, so many eateries it would take at least a full month of eating out for every meal and snacks, and a tattoo shop my daughter dearly wanted to be inked at. Common sense prevailed, time was tight and she would most likely be dancing up a sweaty storm at the concert. Another trip is stewing.

A sign of the times.we went in. The fellow answering my questions was so laid back I thought he would be dozing any minute.
One of a few murals we came across.

Meanwhile, although the temperature was mild we did feel as though we had been stewing in the sneaky humidity. It was time to stop at Dolce Gelato for what else, gelato! . Another first for our friend! My choices -of course I had two types, mango and pompelmo rosa (pink grapefruit-not allowed with one of my medications) – were delicious. We opted to have bowls and sat inside after our couple of hours wandering the streets. Before we knew it we had to head back to our rooms to change for dinner. I had been up for finding somewhere nearby, perhaps a Persian restaurant. I guess the friend was not quite ready for a foreign meal and my daughter had already discussed where we should eat. Irish Embassy Pub was booked, later I discovered primarily for the deep fried pickles.

Always willing to share!

The pickles ended up being a special request, seems they are only served after 10:00pm from the bar menu. Always ask, and have a good reason. That worked. The empty plate was certainly an indication they were excellent. (I do not like pickles) Pubs are never my first choice to eat at. They are noisy with loud, big screen sports channels and often music at the same time. This place was no different. Our table was tucked right next to the work space of the staff – thank goodness there was a high wall cutting off that view. The whole place just seemed too crowded despite several empty tables. I chose the crab and shrimp cakes plus a bowl of chips (aka french fries). Our friend had fish and chips. My daughter had baked Brie and chicken & asparagus soup. Another first for our friend, she had never had Brie, baked or otherwise! My shellfish cakes were wonderful. They really were real crab and shrimp. Being from the west coast I was rather worried. The fries were good, just too many. I forgot them in the common fridge at our stay. (There is not a fridge in any of the suites) The Brie was also delicious, and our friend was very happy with her fish and chips. However, unless I had nowhere else to go, and that is highly unlikely in Toronto, I would not return.

I was put in a snazzy, huge, black cab (like a SUV but far nicer) to go back to the dorm while my daughter and her friend walked to the Scotia Centre for the concert. I think I had the best of it, a room with a view of the CN Tower, slowly lighting up as the evening progressed, and some live Facebook action from my daughter and her friend of the concert – no jostling crowds, no screaming fans, no overheating, I was in a happy space.

I heard the ladies coming in around midnight. I had a dreadful sleep, the beds are hard and too high for me, making getting out of bed a bit of a death defying leap. However, for the price and the view I will return if with anyone. We could always use one of the extra rooms for our luggage. We had a decent selection for breakfast: scrambled eggs, three types of hash browns, bacon, sausages, and another meat selection in the hot section; two types of yogurt, fresh and canned fruit choices, various muffins or croissants, cereal and do it yourself toast. Of course there was coffee, tea, juice and milk. No hot chocolate, perhaps it is offered to students living there once winter sets in. The eggs were good, and I took some butter and jam for my muffin I expected to eat later when on the train.

When we checked out we were asked if we had gone to the lounge on the 25th floor. We had not; when told it was not a view to be missed we headed up. Once we caught our collective breath we headed back down with a plea to be allowed to go back up for about an hour as it as raining and our train would not leave until the afternoon. This is yet another view that people pay a lot of money for. There are two very decent size lounges, the one we were in has a 180+ panoramic view, of course including the CN Tower and downtown skyline. We had the place to ourselves until the last minute, as we were gathering our belongings six guests arrived. It was a peaceful end, or so I thought, to a nice quick visit to Toronto.

The view from the lounge the following day & proof We were there.

So what happened to shatter the peace? Without being too blunt I was not well. It was not the meal from the previous night, nor breakfast, nor the gelato, I just happen to have an ongoing, as yet undetermined why, issue that makes going anywhere iffy. Thank goodness we had factored in enough to time to walk to Union Station if we wanted to. Also for a drugstore very nearby and a Chinese Herbal medicine shop where I could have managed to state my dilemma in Mandarin if necessary – it was not. I stopped at both. I had a miserable walk, pushing and pulling my damn suitcase, yet I was not so poorly off, or willing, to want to chance getting into a taxi. When I lived in China I was given medication for diarrhea and had considered buying it in Victoria ever since this problem reared its ugly existence, it works wonders, Po Chai pills. A tiny vial of teeny tiny pills is one dose.

We made it onto the train with five minutes to spare. I napped, took the Po Chai pills, napped some more, and by the time we arrived in Kingston anyone might have thought I had just been difficult! My now very tall grandson and his girlfriend met us at the station, I was given a lovely hug, and we headed into the country where solitude, a big porch, dog and cat awaited us.

Expenses: $22.00 dinner (huge bite from my budget); $15.00 taxi. I did not pay for my gelato nor even a portion of the first taxi, and nothing for our suite. I will however repay my daughter for my train from Toronto to Kingston – $40.00. The two medications were paid for with a credit card, there is a good chance my daughter at home will not ask for me to repay that as this is an ongoing condition. That said, I spent more on food and local transportation in one evening than I had spent in six days!

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.

The Great Locomotive Chase: Part One

How could I not use this title for my most recent trip? Unfortunately, the closest I managed to an epic trip was the two hour passenger ride from Toronto to Kingston return then an even shorter trip from TO to Kitchener. Our plans to take the train all the way to Vancouver fell through when we could not find a discounted fare – all the economy Plus fares, and plain old economy, were fully booked all the way into late August – and there did not appear to be any discounted berths. We did toy with the idea of stitching together stops to make a whole but that seemed too expensive. However, we did book a fun day on the weekend to visit the massive Farmers Market and a Great Train Robbery trip near St. Jacob’s.

Of course the most important reason for going east was for my eldest daughter’s wedding – it was a fantastic success! Having already written a short blog and including some of my photos (blog & photos not stellar quality) I am only including one here. I am in the burgundy two piece with silver shoes. Beside my SIL. I wanted a photo that showed off the lovely scalloped lace on the train of my daughter’s dress. Why mention the shoes – look at how I am angled. They were relatively comfortable but the wedges made me feel as though perilously lose to the edge of a cliff. I guess no one noticed, or thought I always stooped that much. So I am perpetually frozen in place looking like I am ten years older.

Impressive medals!

To relax and give my daughter, ‘new’ SIL and grandson some downtime my sister, another daughter, and I went to the nearby Holiday Country Manor B&B for two nights. We were exceedingly grateful they had the business sense to install AC several of their rooms just days prior to our arrival. Although they had previously informed guests they only had fans the sweltering heat would have most likely found guests either expiring or leaving in droves. (Not that there were droves) Just the wedding guests equalled five rooms booked. My group basically stayed in our rooms for most of the day after Canada Day and barely noticed the pop popping of fireworks around 10:00pm on Canada Day. We only ventured out long enough to have breakfast – buffet of basic fare, all tasty, good coffee and pleasant company. The B&B is not in the city so a vehicle is necessary.

The new owners. I believe only having purchased it three years ago, are slowly working on the much needed TLC of this 1840’s Georgian style design that has been used as a lodge, although it appears not consistently, since 1912. Even our first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald is said to have practised law out of its dining room. The tin ceilings, thick lime walls and imagined discoveries yet to be made from under or behind modernization, made this a pleasant respite.

Although I am not a fan of fish, fake or otherwise, on walls these green guys hearten back to when the Manor was a fishing lodge

All of a sudden it was Monday and time to leave Kingston. The plan was to show my sister a little bit of TO; CN Tower was at the top of her must see list, and I added the CBC building because we are staunch CBC listeners. We ended up lugging our, thank goodness, wheeled carry-on bags and smaller bags with us as there is nowhere to store luggage at Union Station. I suppose that sadly makes sense in this day and age. The heat was searingly hot so the prospect of getting inside an AC building was enticing. Except we discovered we would have about an hour long wait just to get through security at the Tower – before buying tickets. POI – ordering tickets ahead of time generally means going through a faster security line. Next time. We decided against waiting and headed to CBC where we checked out the lobby and little museum on the lower level before seeking lunch.


Of course Grump (seriously, that was an autocorrect) Trump was in the news.

We walked about three blocks, getting left behind by my daughter she did not realize we had stopped for more photos – my sister this time. Using her phone to search for eateries my D found Canteen in the Entertainment District (she also found a Starbucks to stop at after lunch; she barely escaped a horde of students (minimum 20+ and more pouring in as we headed away) that followed her in – supposedly in search of water although it seemed they were leaving with various caffeinated drinks) Back to Canteen, I would certainly return given the opportunity. My sister chose short rib Mac & cheese – people in ON eat some strange combinations, it is not a westcoast dish. It was declared delicious. We were so hungry by this time that I neglected to take photos. My D had the Squash Pad Thai and I chose calamari tacos. Really, something for everyone, including GF/DF/V & Vegan! Impressive.

After dropping my sister off to catch the UP to the airport we bought tickets for the train, Via rather than GO, to Kitchener-Waterloo. I just love the acronyms and expect to take GO on the back as it is significantly cheaper. By the time we arrived we were very tired little teddy bears.

Temporarily crowned with the new engagement ring (a big secret until photos – no wonder my SIL is so good at his job – I only heard about it after the ‘reveal’ photos. Seems everyone there was in tears) and wedding band plus one flower from the bouquet.