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.

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The Great Locomotive Chase: Part 3

Despite having to fly home next week, rather than take the train, I have certainly found enough varieties of rail rides to keep me happy. I even found a show on Knowledge Network about the narrow gauge India Hill Railway – very interesting. However, sitting on a train is far more fun. With that in mind my daughter asked us if we would like to go on the Great Train Robbery that starts next door to the massive St. Jacob’s Market.

Once again two buses, altogether about an hour, this time stopping before the village of St. Jacob’s. The parking lot is huge, on both sides of the market, not many horse and carriages as I though there would be. The Mennonites who do not have booths at the market most likely avoid the place or do their market shopping closer to the 7:00am opening when everything is fresh. (I really have no idea how many still use horse and buggy. We did see some in St. Jacob’s the previous day and one on the main road near the market) We arrived at 10:00, everyone else was in need of breakfast and I certainly did not say no to more coffee. Breakfast was served on real plates! Cutlery was plastic. We then spent 3 1/2 hours checking out all on offer indoors and outdoors but could easily have spent much longer. Of course there were beautiful quilts and all sorts of cured sausages in addition to delicious looking baked goods and bread. I finally gave in and had a pretzel. My only wish was for really good mustard rather than the packaged stuff.

Knowing we would have to carry everything we tried to take care with purchases. We returned with raspberries – somewhat squished by the time we put them in the fridge, lots and lots of cherries – my D discovered after 10 years of marriage her husband does not like cherries! Peaches, a large all beef summer sausage that will go home with us if we can resist opening it, spicy apple jam and strawberry jam, alpaca wool and new, heavy duty water bottles. We dallied over beans, tomatoes, strawberries, more baked goods, flowers and so much more. Our bags were very heavy. We were there long enough I needed lunch so I grabbed a baked vegetable samosa. They even served naked samosas as a GF choice.

Just some of our purchases! Everything would not fit on the table

Well sated, and burdened down with our purchases we headed for the train. The Waterloo Central Railway offers all sorts of fun throughout the year with their themed trips. I counter 19 on their website – if I visit in December I might do the Polar Express. The Mennonite Excursion to Elmira includes a farm wagon ride and a chance for a visit to a farm for lunch and a chat. I realize this is marketing to tourists but why not? If it helps to keep everything running without too much damage to culture and environment I am in favour. Back to our trip. Despite arriving early, as requested, I did not have a chance to take any photos of the engine or cars, the platform was too narrow and busy. I am quite sure we were not being pulled by the steam locomotive used for some of their trips. Slated as a one hour trip we felt lucky to have an hour & 20 minutes of rocking and rolling. I happen to enjoy the swing of trains although the cars used seem to sway far more than modern ones. Even the words often used for train travel have a dance rhythm.

The whole Robbery is hammed up by conductor and sheriff with jokey comments to fit into conversation with passengers. We kept hearing about the valuable valuables that were being carried to Elmira – then brought through each car as proof. We later discovered that one of the young men playing a role was on his first day – he did an excellent job. Also while out of character he mentioned he has a degree in Theology. Before these sidetracked bits of information we were kept entertained by fields of corn gently swaying, cows grazing, horses neighing (I assume) and stopping traffic at various crossings. We passed by decommissioned cars and engines, one had the 1867-1967 logo on it from Canada’s centennial – I had hoped to get a photo on our return, no luck. I have fond memories of those white symbols flashing by and stopped at the grain elevator in Prince Rupert.

Gold? What gold?

Of course the pinnacle of the hour was sighting kerchief garbed bandits riding in the distance, parallel to the train before galloping alongside us – and they were definitely moving swiftly. The train came to a standstill, the train robbers, all female by the way, boarded and quickly divided their booty of goodies to passengers. The conductor and sheriff were in hot pursuit. My companions quickly hid their portion of gold and my SIL seemed to be in cahoots with the bandits. Basically a fun way to while away 1 1/2 hours before heading back to Kitchener. My daughter who lives there and I had just enough energy left to walk to the Cherry Park Festival that was winding down its last hour – we shared a cup of cherry cheesecake ice-cream then called it day.

seeking witnesses and the stolen gold. Middle photo- caught!

If becoming a professor does not pan out she might make a good train robber.

The Great Locomotive Chase: Part 2

I should explain the reason behind my title for these most recent posts rather than keep readers guessing. I am not a movie buff. However, when I visited the St. Jacob’s & Aberfoyle Model Railway that will forever be a part of 1957 I thought how perfect – the year I was born. St. Jacob’s is fairly easy to reach, bus 21 from Conestoga Mall, one way $3.25, takes about 30-40 minutes.

Of course a small town in the 1950’s always had a movie house. The Great Locomotive Chase (1956), based on fact, was one of the double features on the marquee of the model town. (It had mixed reviews) If anyone is familiar with movies they will notice the first billing had not yet been released.

The year was chosen to bring together steam and diesel at the time steam engines were being phased out in Ontario. The models are fantastic to scale reconstructions, many with complete interiors and passengers. Although not confirmed I am positive someone had a little whimsy that went beyond building model trains – one passenger appeared to be little Red Riding Hood in a Santa red cape and hood. This was neither confirmed nor denied by the one train master discussing the various components, landscapes,buildings, and answering questions. I was amazed to learn the switches actually work and are used!

We easily spent 1 1/2 hours checking out the details, taking in the marvellous night scene, and watching the trains move through the villages, town and countryside – all in miniature “O” scale. (1/4″ = 12″). Amazing dedication and detail by six friends to custom build everything except the period cars and trucks. One bear, (waving?) seemed quite interested in picnickers. A wedding party was arriving at a reception held in a restaurant (I must send a photo to my daughter); a fellow climbing out a hotel to escape paying; sunbathers; a late night welder and passengers waiting for trains are only some of the details besides the trains.

Just like trying to take a picture of a full scale passenger car – a blur

The blueprint of an actual care, shown behind my panda travel companions, was used for some of the models. I was quite pleased when given permission to have my pandas stand outside one of the sheds close to the end of the tracks for a photo opportunity. I had been worried this would be frowned at. It helped that the woman manning the ticket booth (sadly not a Railway replica) is the daughter of one of the couples of the original six.

Rather than a trip across the country I went on a trip to the past. A wonderful way to spend a sweltering afternoon.

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.

O

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.

Wedding Wednesday: 66 Days

Earlier this week my daughter and her Matron of Honour (MOH) – such archaic terminology – drove to Ottawa for a one hour appointment at David’s Bridal. Seemed simple enough, would most likely take less time than expected giving a chance to visit family who had recently moved there – including the young niece my daughter was thinking of inviting to be in the bridal party. I have no idea if that happened, they were at the one store for about five hours! I cannot imagine how long it takes when in search of a wedding dress!

Why they were there for so long made me laugh. Despite having made the solid decision to be happy with the dresses the other women in the party would wear they ended up checking out option. It was made easier when the MOH had taken her current dress with her to determine if another choice would complement the original in the event of two styles walking down the aisle. The consultant had the bride also try the favoured, now in the running, dress on as she is about 2″ than her 4’11″sister. The last I heard another Ottawa trip is planned – except it must be a quick turnaround to fit in the bachelorette that was finally carved out to fit everyone’s extremely busy schedules. Big sigh, despite checking for fares on various sites I simply cannot afford to go. Even if I were to stay for a week or so to tie up some of the various planning for the BIG DAY.

We are still doing distance planning. Sometimes I hear a bit of a sigh behind my daughter’s voice when we do discuss the various items that still need crossing off lists. I am never sure it is because it would be easier if I could be there or if I am too detailed oriented. Perhaps a bit of both. I need a cash windfall. I would love to just show up.

Speaking of money, the budget was also recently discussed. With the possibility of a change in dress my daughter feels obligated to pay for them, or partially. As with most events costs fluctuate. Money is moved about on paper to cover all expenses. The bride made a strong suggestion that transportation may have to be reconsidered.

The plan was for the Kingston Trolley to pick guests up at their various hotels, and Queen’s University where many of us will be staying, as well as taking the bride and her party to the boat. My financial brain is still attempting to figure out how she can still keep that. It is so much a part of Kingston, and most likely less expensive than a carriage. Also a nice touch for out of town visitors who might not know where to park. On a long weekend. Where everyone congregates.

On a brighter note, chair sashes and table runners were ordered, paid outright, rather than trying to match the fabric and colour choices provided by the venue. Yes, more money but less than renting and they can most likely be sold after the wedding. Perhaps after the BBQ planned for the following day – not that chair sashes will be necessary. Cupcakes were taste tested at a local bakery I discovered during one of my visits – then promptly forgot about. Flowers have been chosen and ordered. I even managed to provide a mock up of the table settings using what I have on hand. If I forget to pack the orchids I will be in trouble!

Finally, not directly connected to the wedding, I was very happy to discover that Via Rail renewed my Preference Privilege status for another year despite my not having used their services much since last summer. I realize this is a sales push but it fits my needs.

I have one coupon for a 50% discount off a sleeper berth – the train home being what is planned. As mentioned, I need a cash infusion so this will help a lot! I might even have enough e-coupons to cut 1/3 for another sleeper for one of my daughters returning with me.