Category Archives: Toronto

Goodbye Toronto

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We have really enjoyed this lovely city on the lake and tried to make the most of our few days here, but sadly the time has come to move on and begin the serious stuff. The open road beckons and we are off to Vancouver to pick up a car, apply ourselves to new discoveries, and to pit ourselves against the queues to cross the border into the USA. Please let it not take 3 hours like last year!! I might feel Mr Trump doesn’t want us. 

Although it is fair to say we were somewhat done in after the epic trip to Niagara, we set off on a boat trip, courtesy of the Big Red Bus tour we had done earlier in the week. We were not expecting it to be a big deal, just a quick trip out and around some of the islands nearby, and that is exactly what it was. Pleasant and mindless seemed appropriate on a number of levels. What we hadn’t accounted for was the huge drop in temperature, so ‘playing out’ on the top deck may not have been the most sensible option. But it did enable me to get some nice photos of Toronto’s beautiful skyline. The islands teem with wildlife too… so Carolyn and I felt quite at home!

We also happened upon a Vegan Food Festival along the waterfront with some good live music, such that we were even tempted back in the evening. The evening’s music came from a very good trio and the combination of swing and jazz was excellent, although it appeared slightly less popular with the young people, families, and the sort of folks who might better appreciate a music festival. But the kids ran around and played, the families enjoyed the food from the many stalls and we resisted sitting on the grass in case we couldn’t get up!!

So, goodbye Toronto, and I will now take more interest in baseball when I hear the Blue Jays are playing.

Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities

We had always planned an easier day today. Recovering from a lengthy – time and distance – day with a late arrival back had taken something out of our relatively old bones and muscles. However, we weren’t going to waste it… nor the free boat trip!

Despite walking somewhat stiffly after the ‘marathon’ at Niagara, we set out with pace and lots of smiles. Chatting to ‘natives’ is always a bonus and the staff at the boat queue couldn’t have been nicer. Young and intelligent people who take service seriously is the norm here.

Even when we got back after my obligatory ribs with BarBQ sauce, planning for our flight onwards to Vancouver was a priority. As those who know me realise, ‘Planning’ is important to me! I can do improvisation and responding to circumstances but… ‘Planning’, I like! Although heights and underground are not my favourites (N.B. Kath – CN Tower and tunnels behind the Falls, albeit agreed to voluntarily, took effort! Chuckle!).

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The warning was heeded!

We haven’t done much listening to music yet but have managed a duo at Niagara and a jazz/blues trio this evening.

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The trio tonight – keyboard/vocalist, bass and drums were very professional and performed well. Actually, better to say played well. The performance would have been more appropriate for a jazz club rather than the open air bandstand despite the excellent sound system.

We were ‘tempted’ by another music venue but decided even the quirky name, ‘Bovine Sex Club’ wasn’t colourfully appealing enough for having to endure a punk venue!

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We were ‘tempted’ by another music venue but decided even the quirky name, ‘Bovine Sex Club’ wasn’t colourfully appealing enough for having to endure a punk venue!

Kath mentioned the views from the boat – they really were the archetypal postcard photos. Such a pleasing vista as we scanned the skyline.

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My ribs and a couple of chilled Coors Light rounded off the day.

I had some apprehension about returning to a city which had had such a seminal impact on my life but… it was great seeing you again, Toronto. Thank you.

Niagara Falls-ing in love!

What a fabulous adventure this was and the bucket list has another huge tick. The day started with lots of laughs with our car hire escapade. Having gone for a cheap option of ‘you click, we pick’, which meant they choose the vehicle to give us, the Manager apologised for the lack of choice between a very small car and some very large ones. “Don’t worry about me, I can drive a truck”, said Carolyn. Guess what we got? A huge behemoth of a truck! One of those massive monsters that sits miles off the ground with a 5.7 litre engine. Thank heavens for the grab handles which allowed me to heave my vertically challenged frame up into the huge seat! We were still laughing when we dropped it off at 11.30 pm.

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But the Falls were no laughing matter. They were simply awesome and demanded to be respected and appreciated. We walked for miles seeing them from all angles and loved the boat trip aboard the Hornblower but thought the walk behind the falls was somewhat disappointing and definitely not what we had expected. We had started with the boat trip and I was amazed at how close we got to the millions of gallons of water cascading around us. Getting a soaking was not an option, in spite of the coloured capes provided (pink for the Hornblower, blue for the Maid of the Mist and yellow for the walk behind the falls). But the day was hot and sunny, so we simply dried as we walked and then got wet again!

It felt churlish to be disappointed with anything amidst such magnificence but walking the long tunnels behind the falls to view two small areas of actual cascading water felt just that. The viewing platform right beside the falls did provide that overwhelming feeling of awe and made you realise that fear is very real just standing so close when your imagination takes you to the exploits of people going over the falls in barrels and crossing them on a tightrope wire!

We took some time out to visit the very beautiful little town of Niagara on the Lake. It is so charming and a real heritage experience with its beautiful buildings housing a real collection of appealing small businesses, shops and lovely eateries. We had a great fish and chips meal with home made coleslaw thankfully substituting for the ubiquitous mushy peas we are served at home! Carolyn was delighted to experience blueberry frozen yogurt from possibly the same store where she had first encountered this frozen treat some 25 years previously.

Meanwhile, back at the Falls we waited for darkness to descend and the falls to light up. They did, but not in such vibrant colours as some of the poster adverts had predicted. Nevertheless, we stood and watched for a very long time although waiting a further hour for the fireworks felt like a step too far… speaking of which, my total steps for the day were 20,490!

It was such a wonderful day and, once again, I was left wondering how I had managed to take so long to get here!

Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities

‘Driven by desire and propelled by passion…

Our second full day here and, on my second trip,  I retraced my steps of those years ago and visited Niagara. 

It is wise, were you to make a mistake, not to make the same mistake again, I’ve learned. So, my mistake of 25 years ago? Wearing non-waterproof mascara! Not this time. 

It is obligatory to get wet. Three quarters of a million gallons a second come over the Horseshoe Falls and some of it, inevitably, sprays you and every one within… spitting distance! Laughing and grinning throughout the experience said it all really. Well worth the second trip despite the disappointment of walking behind the waterfall (not done last time) and the relatively bland illumination of the Falls in the evening. Blackpool Illuminations, it is not, despite the funfair attractions in the town itself. 

Kath has mentioned our ‘truck’ – a monster. Having driven a six-ton lorry in the UK, albeit many years ago, I didn’t doubt my ability to drive it. What proved to be more difficult was getting in and out! Grab handles helped us get in but parachutes weren’t provided for the exit. It’s a long way down from the cab, we found.

I like ice cream but love frozen yoghurt especially blueberry. I’ve managed to find it made freshly only once over the quarter of a century since my first mouthful in Niagara. Found again and it tasted just as good. In fact, better because of the rekindled memory. 

It was a long day and my 19500 steps were only marginally fewer than Kath’s. We began by walking to pick up our ‘car’; passing the old SkyDome (now Rogers Centre) home of the local baseball team, Toronto Blue Jays, and the still inspiring CN Tower. Passing the Conference Centre, where I learned about Policy Governance and the North American system of community education, we paused to check our online map to the car hire garage. A passing lady immediately stopped to ask if we needed any help. As it happened, we didn’t but thanked her, as you would expect. However, that brief incident exemplified what we have found in Toronto and Niagara – so many races, nationalities, languages but no sense of tension or anything other than helpfulness and acceptance.

Anecdotally, I had to smile in the tunnels behind the Falls when an Imam, in traditional dress under his plastic poncho, pointed to a warning sign ‘Floor slippery when wet’ and, with a big grin, said, “But, it’s always wet!” It just seemed to me to emphasise the oneness, as well as the diversity, of humans and humanity.

 

The Falls are famous worldwide hence attracting people from so many countries and you can see why. They are not the tallest by any means but the volume and scale are impressive. Not just visually appealing but extremely useful as a major hydroelectric power provider as well.

My time in Toronto those years ago gave me my title for today. In some ways, I was apprehensive about returning; wondering whether revisiting would emphasise previous difficulties, desperation or subsequent delights. I’m pleased to record that the visit has been more than I could have hoped for and I will continue to be, ‘Driven by desire and propelled by passion’. Thank you, Toronto, for then and now.