A list of random occurences

Dad bought me flowers.  I love getting flowers.   I wish everyone  I know would put their names on a rota to ensure I regularly get bought flowers.

  The Gooderham Building – we walked past this very narrow building.  

 Beavertail – I took Dad on a trek tp try Beavertail.  As always, it was delicious.  We had the Skor one – deep fried pastry thing with caramel sauce, a white sauce of some sort and crushed up Skor bar. They are opening a permanent one on the harbourfront.  This makes me happy.

Hudsons Bay – this is a big department store.  I would say it is like Dingles (House of Fraser), but on a much bigger scale.  They have a christmas department all year round.  I bought a new decoration for the tree that I dont have.  There was no christmas music playing which was a little disappointing after my initial excitement.  

 St Lawrence Market – a big market with lots of different foods that you can buy cooked to eat, fresh fruit and veg, flowers, meats, cheeses etc.  A nice place to potter around with an extra Farmers Market bit on Saturdays. 

 

Girl guide cookies – these were on my list of foods to eat in Canada.  This week, we popped into the bar and someone had a box.  They were delicious mint chocolaate biscuits.  Apparently the spring ones are better, but I was delighted with these!  

 

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CN Tower

We made it to the CN Tower and were took a trip to the top.  Bundled into the lift in an experience similar to the Skylon Tower, we enjoyed views out across the city during the ascent.  Dad held on to the side as though that might help stay alive if we plummeted to the ground.  I really enjoyed the ride up and down in the lift and would have liked to have done this a couple more times.

From the top – there was a level with windows to look out of and a slightly lower level that was outdoors with guard rails as a barrier to avoid any falls or jumps.  There was a great view over the city and of Toronto Islands.  We could also see the Rogers Centre with the roof open and a Jays game in progress. 

 The glass floor – the glass floor was pretty cool and I did have to give it some consideration and a tentative walk out on to it before I was happy to potter about on it freely.  I am pleased to say, after the silliness in the lift, Dad walked out on the glass floor as well. 

 It was kind of difficult to find our way down and out of the place, but we made it!  A great experience, though it doesnt rate in my top Canada experiences so far.  I have had some amazing experiences here, so it will take a lot to get up there I guess.  The problem with the CN Tower is that the main thing you (well, I) take photos of in Toronto is the beach and the CN Tower.  From up the CN Tower you cant see either!

Tower comparison – As towers go, the Skylon Tower is better value for money with truly spectacular views.  The Eiffel Tower is scarier and actually felt higher!  

 

High Park, Toronto

Today, we travelled West.  We hopped on the TTC for an hour and arrived on the other side of Toronto by a lovely park.  It turned out to be a gorgeous sunny day, perfect for walking and sitting in the park – with ice cream, chips and candy floss of course!

 There was a Zoo.  There were some huuuuge bison, reindeers and various sheep, cows and birds.  Oh and llamas.  The petting bit where you get to touch the llamas was closed.  I just want to pet some animals, but Toronto does not seem conjusive to this plan.  This is my third Zoo and na-da.  It was a nice little bit to walk through anyway.  Though the reindeer werent too happy and one was charging at the fence when anyone stopped to look.  Perhaps his zoo days are over?  My list of foods to try in Canada did include reindeer…. Or perhaps he could just retire to a nice farm with no public. 

 There was a tomb erected in 1890 that was surrounded by railings brought over from St Pauls Cathedral in London.  It was called the Howard Memorial after the guy that founded High Park. 

I wanted to feed the tame squirrels and only had miniature Coffee Crisps and Smarties.  Turns out, they enjoy both.  Check out the little dude in the picture munching on a green Smartie. 

 After walking around, we just sat in the sun on the grass.  Around the corner from where we were sat, some people were playing irish folk music and dancing.  It was lovely and relaxing to hear the music from where we were.  What a lush day! 

 

Roadtrip #2 – Jails and Lakes

On Tuesday, we hired a car again and set off heading north east, up around the other side of Lake Simcoe to Kawartha Lakes.  I say car, the car company called it a van, so we were a little unsure what we booked.  A van to the Canadians is a people carrier to you and me.  

Our first destination was Ye Olde Gaol Museum in Lindsay.  We found it fairly easily and pulled up pleased it didnt seem to busy and it was a nice sunny day.  It was closed.  We drove an hour and a half and it was closed. Luckily, the story doesnt end there and when we rattled the door in despair, a man came out and said we could come in anyway as he was there working.  The old jail closed in 2011 and is now a very varied museum.  There were exhibits on railways, some mini furniture and dolls houses, old spinning wheels, photography, a sort of shrine to Neil Young and, of course, prison stuff. 

 The old cells were there to see with information to read and also an old ball and chain that we could pick up.  The pictures of the cells show on the wall where the cells were layered to stack up to four prisoners in one cell to increase capacity.

The last person to hang there was in 1924 – it seems his fiance felt she was too young to marry and he thought the best solution to this problem was to shoot her 5 times.  It was a shame that there were no gallows outside to see.  Apparently, there was bodies buried outside in the exercise garden if they had noone to claim them. I would also have enjoyed to see these skeletons dug up and displayed.

I enjoyed looking around this jail and hearing the stories.  I felt that they could make so much more of it by displaying some more prison paraphenalia and taking a few pointers from the Kingston Penitentiary Museum.  I would also have loved a book on the prison or on prisons and past correctional facilities to read – neither of the museums had one. 

 We then drove north and continued our travels heading for Fenelon Falls.  We stopped for lunch overlooking this small waterfall and I was delighted to find battered mushrooms on the menu.  Breaded mushroom might be an Englis pub favourite (and mine), but this doesnt seem to have caught on in Canada.  I was as happy as Larry was.  God rest his soul.  Fenelon Falls was a gorgeous area and we had a drive around checking out the houses by Lake Cameron and taking photos of the view. 

 After Fenelon Falls, we followed the road along by Lake Cameron heading for Coboconk.  We were hoping to find a beach to sit on, but it was not to be and is hard to find beaches or places to sit when you dont know where to go up there.

We found one very bizarre place with signs outside advertising it as the Bates Motel and a Walnut Redneck Chrch.  It was like something off a creepy film!  It is one of the few occasions in life where I stared open mouthed and speechless.  We drove in to look and the people were actually very friendly giving us directions.  They have a website here, but the pictures dont seem to match what we saw!  It is worth a look at the website to see how diverse the place was! 

 The road took us up to Lake Balsam and Coboconk.  Home to what claims to be Canadas smallest jail.  It was indeed miniture and research tells me it only had two cells.  Unfortunately, it was closed and there doesnt seem to be much information around other to say when it is open, other than to say the opening times for July and August.  It was nice to see and cute and quaint looking looking little building.  Coboconk itself seemed a lovely little area, again with lots of lovely houses on the Lake.

We drove down the other side of Lake Balsam and veered across to Port Bolster to admire Lake Simcoe  again before heading home.

It doesnt end there though.  We stopped and visited some Canadian chain stores.  We had a good poke around in Canadian Tyre – I bought a hockey gnome, now called Chuck. We looked at the vast array of halloween props in Dollarama and enjoyed checking out the bins of chocolate and sweets in Bulk Barn.  

 After all this, all that followed was Home. Bed. Sleep.

We couldnt resist…

We couldnt resist another game and luckily got tickets for last nights Blue Jays vs Tampa Rays game.  The first of the last three home games of the season, so the atmosphere was fantastic.  We had good seats with a great view and the roof was open with a nice view of the CN Tower. 

 Great game! We won! Much fun was had!  I feel sad the season is too be over.

 One of the things I find highly entertaining is the sing-a-longs!  The words come up on the screen and they all stand and sing.  It is so jolly!  See the song here…. Lets go Blue Jays! Of course, live is better…  

Here are the words if you fancy a song song…. 

“You’ve got a diamond

You’ve got nine men

You’ve got a hat and a bat

And that’s not all

You’ve got the bleachers

Got ’em from spring ’til fall

You got a dog and a drink

And the umpire’s call

Waddaya want?

Let’s play ball!

(Chorus)

Okay (okay)

Blue Jays (Blue Jays)

Let’s (Let’s) Play (Play) Ball!

Is that a fly ball

Or is it a seagull

Coming in from the lake

Just to catch the game?

It’s the last inning

Our guys are winning

Dave’s put down a smoker

A strike

And you’ve got no doubt

(You’re out!)

Waddaya want?

Let’s play ball!

(Chorus)

It’s a beautiful evenin’, fans

At the ballpark

Warm summer breezes

Sun’s goin’ down

And it’s all dark

At the ballpark

But that’s okay…it’s a night game

Waddaya want?

Let’s play ball!

(Chorus)

Bring on the White Sox

Bring on the BoSox

Bring on the Brewers

The Rangers and the Yankees too

We’ll beat the Indians

We’ll beat the Tigers

We’ll beat the A’s so bad it’ll make

Billy blue

Waddaya want?

Let’s play ball!

(Chorus)”

 

Sports Fans: Blue Jays and Maple Leafs

We have enjoyed engaging in some sporting events over the past few days.  Before Dad arrived, I got tickets for us to see the baseball and the hockey during his visit.

Neither of us are big fans of sport really, despite what Canadians believe about all Brits being football (soccer) fans.  Despite this, I seem to have suddenly become a bit of a follower.

The biggest things that struck me were….

  • How patriotic everyone is with both sports.  They stand, remove caps and sing the Oh Canada anthem before each game.  Watch to the end (if they will upload here) of the clips and see how crazy everyone goes!  I love it!
  • And, how the fans were so civilised.  Sports matches at home come with horror stories and contingency plans to ensure fans dont mix and behave like unsporting, uncivilised hooligans

Blue Jays vs Red Sox.  Baseball.

We spent the week before the game grilling one of the locals in the bar to get a good grasp of the game and went with a relatively good understanding.  The Blue Jays have been doing well lately, so Torontonians have been buzzing with excitment.  They won the game on Friday, so we were anticipating a win on Saturday.  We arrived early to go to the shop and purchase a Blue Jays shirt for Dad so we could blend in with locals.  Got some (delicious) burgers and got to our seats early.  It was a slow start, but a close and exciting last few innings, sadly ending with a win for the Red Sox.  Such fun! Cant wait to go again!

 Maple Leafs vs Senators.   Hockey.
After our excitement over the first sporting adventure, we embaked on our next event, the hockey.  We didnt do much preparation for this one, but I found it easier to pick up what was going on.  Tho, it was a little confusing figuring out why some of the pushing and shoving was allowed and not other bits.  Also, they seemed to just swap with team members not on the ice willy nilly whenever they felt like it. There was more fighting and aggression than I expected, but I must confess enjoy the drama of a quick punch up on the ice!  They even took their gloves off for one occurance of fisticuffs, then both got made to sit in a box that looked like they had been sent to the Headmasters office.  I was a little disappointed to hear that they dont actually dislike each other and still do the nice Canadian thing of being friends later.  I wanted longstanding grudges and bitter feuds. I was prepared and took knee high socks and hoody – not prepared enough and had to purchase myself a Maple Leafs scarf and Tim Hortons hot chocolate to keep warm.  Another thoroughly enjoyable event, made even better by the fact that THEY WON – 4:1. 

   
Im not sure which I prefer, but know that I definitely want to follow both for the foreseeable.  In fact, I feel quite excited about my new interests.

Driving on the wrong side of the road

During our little road trip, I had a go at driving on the wrong side of the road.  I have no idea how people do this so easily!  The first thing to throw me was the seatbelt.  It was on my left.  I was sat on the wrong side of the car, driving on the wrong side of the road with my left food dangling around looking in an empty space for a clutch.  In Canada, they drive automatics.  Every set of lights, I expected to stall as I wasnt putting a clutch in, and being allowed to turn right on a red light felt terribly badly behaved.  

Anyway, at least now I have tried it! I think a little more practice may be needed before I hit downtown Toronto or embark on any unsupervised driving missions. 

 

Wasaga, Barrie, Simcoe and Innisfil Cattle Market

Since coming back from Niagara Falls, we have had baking hot weather. Wednesday was a good day for a beach day and a swim in a the lake.  Dinner at a restaurant down the road, The Beacher Cafe, was absolutely delicious (we will be going back), followed by a short walk to get an Eds for dessert. 

 We hired a car yesterday and went to Ontario Stockyard cattle auction in Innisfil.  It was good fun walking around trying to pet the cows and a sheep in pens and walking on the walkway above the pens.  It is rare to find animals as friendly as our own, so I only managed to make friends with one cow and a random goat.  The smell of cows was nice and familiar.  The locals looked at us with suspician the whole time, apart from the one friendly old chap who tried to recruit me as a bride for his grandson in Alberta!  I took some baling twine –  you dont realise until you dont live on a farm how useful this stuff is to have around!  Dad was loving it taking photos and inspecting the cows and trucks.

Next stop on the agenda… Barrie.  We chuckled our way there with a few Gavin and Stacey jokes…. Barrie ISLAND.  Barrie is much bigger than the seaside village I was expecting.  We had lunch and chatted to a friendly Welsh couple that have been here for seven years.  Reassuringly, they said that whilst it is extremely cold in winter, it is not like the wet cold to your bones of the UK.  
We went to the beach at Centennial Park in Barrie and had a swim in Lake Simcoe.  The water was gorgeous, sparkling and clear.  A lovely setting and I would definitely go there again for a beach day.  We went to find the Barrie Bucket jail that has been closed since 2001.  We found it and it seems it is now inhabited by the transport police, so no peering through windows or wandering around could be done. 

 Next stop…. Wasaga Beach.  This is credited with being the worlds longest freshwater beach with the water of Lake Huron.  This was a lovely little seaside area, similar to Challaborough.  I had hoped we would have a little swim, but despite the perfect powdery white sand and picturesque views, the water was as clear as mud.  It was swirled with sand and dirt.  After the lovely water in Barrie, ankle deep was enough for me.  We had a milkshake and headed for Hockley Valley. 

 Hockley Valley is where I stayed when I first got to Canada.  Unfortunately, it was getting late.  I hadnt had a reply from Trish about visiting (until we were nearly home) and the village store/ cafe was closed.  It was still nice to have a drive through the area though before heading home.

Today.  We are tired after yesterdays excitment and are spending the day on the beach at home.

 

Tourists Alert: Niagara Falls, Marineland, Skylon Tower, Greg Frewin, Casino, IHOP

*Extremely long blog warning!*

Sunday arrived and it was time for an overnight adventure.  We packed our things and headed downtown to get a Megabus to Niagara Falls. – $17 per person each way, two hour trip, can’t complain.  We stayed at the Ramada where I stayed last time and managed to get rooms with a connecting door which was nice.  Our 8th floor rooms came with views of the Skylon Tower.  It was pouring with rain on Sunday all day, so we headed to Marineland deciding to save the falls for Monday when hopefully the weather would be better.  The animals will be wet either way, so we thought it wouldn’t make much difference. 

 
Marineland was good fun and we got there to catch the end of one marine show, have a walk around and see the next show before heading back.  The beluga whales were adorable playing in their tank with hoops and tyres.  Kiska, the killer whale was swimming around quietly – as one would expect from an OAP.  They said she is 40 and has been there since the late 70s.  They live to 40-50yrs old.  Last time, the bears were a mediocre part of my visit.  This time they were a definite highlight.  We got cones of feed to throw over the fence to them and they were loving it.  Two in the distance (see pics) would jump up on their hind legs if you raised your arm and/ or shouted across to them.  I loved this and spent ages ‘playing’.  The marine show was fantastic with the dolphins jumping up out of the water and sea lions throwing and catching plastic rings. 

 We got a ‘We Go‘ bus back to the hotel.  The sign at the bus stop doesn’t tell you that you have to buy a 24 hour pass for $7 each or that the driver had had a sense of humour bypass and forgot his Canadian manners.  Anyway, it was dry and got us to the gift shop by the falls for a quick look around the shop and falls in the rain before walking up to the hotel.  On the way, we discovered a mall advertising a Christmas shop.  Obviously a stop off was needed.  The Christmas shop was fantastic! I loved it.  I can’t wait for Christmas and have been singing Christmas songs since.  In fact, I am humming away to myself now!  Can I add music to a blog? I don’t know how to do that, but must find out.  In the meantime, here is a link for some festive cheer.  The girl in the shop wished me a good day.  I was hoping she would wish me a Happy Christmas.   At the hotel,  a shower to warm up and dry clothes prepared us for another soggy excursion to Shoeless Joes for a really tasty dinner.   

 The Fallsview Casino: we went to the casino to see what was what.  After wandering around for ages trying to figure out where to get change or tickets for the machines, we sat at twin machines and a little flutter.  Well, actually, we put our money in, pulled the handle, pressed some buttons and waited until it told us our money was gone.  We are still none the wiser as to what happened or how to play.  After more wandering around looking lost, we found the tables to watch some other folk who knew what to do playing.  Well, craps and black jack both make no sense to just watch.  Roulette.  Yes.  We found one we understood, watched for a while and I eventually persuaded Dad we should have a game.  Minimum bet $25.  We bet our chips on 1, 7, 16, 25 (I think) and put one in between 3 & 5.  I was excited.  We were going to win.  Alas, with one spin of the thingy, our money, chips and hope we’re all gone.  ‘How to waste $25 in 1 minute’.  What number came up? 9.

Time for the second day of our mini holiday.  The sun came out, the sky was blue and Hornblower Cruises were calling for us to take a boat ride to the falls.  First though, sustinence.  The on site IHOP (International House of Pancakes) was calling.  We ordered a stack each.  The server asked if we wanted mini stacks.  We laughed and said no.  Well.  He knew.  We should have listened.  The pancakes were delicious, but the stack was large!  We both agreed to stop before reaching the point of slowly shovelling them in in a tired and breathless fashion.  We didn’t finish them.  We discussed that we felt a little embarrassed about this.  We also know, we could have if we pushed ourselves, but what we showed by only eating four was self control. 

Off we went to take take a boat trip up to the falls with Hornblower Cruises.  We were given the iconic plastic ponchos to wear during the trip and off we set.  I think I could do this trip over and over again and it would still be immense.  We walked up the road afterwards aong beside the falls, stopping to takes countless pictures, as must be done when walking alongside something as a amazing at Niagara Falls.  At the end, by the falls, there is a trip called Journey behind the Falls where you go down in a lift and see the falls from, well behind them.  I did this last time and wasnt too fussed about doing it again, so Dad went off and explored the mini excursion whilst I pottered around the gift shop.  We bought some new pyjamas each with moose on them and a scarf each and went back to the hotel.  We had every intention of swimming or using the gym, but both fell asleep.   

 The evening entertainment was to go the Greg Frewin Magic Show.  It was billed as a  Las Vegas style show, so we had high expectations.  The show itself was good, a nice theatre with great views from all seats.  Table service for food and drinks.  Unfortunately, it was freezing cold  Our server said that the room has to be kept cool for the tigers.  It was cold enough to warrant a friendly heads up with the ticket purchasing.  I know I feel the cold, but people all around had coats on.  There were some excellent card tricks and I cant even to begin to imagine how he made doves and parrots appear from scaves.  Unfortunately , there were a few times, you could tell when there were fake hands or feet sticking out of boxes and the dancers were, well, a bit shit.  The tigers were in the show in box swap type tricks, so the magicians assistant gets in, he covers the box and when he uncovers it, there is a tiger in it.  This was great and I loved it, however, this was the extent of the tigers participation.  When leaving the stage, the tigers were led off on a lead, no more tha a foot from the front row with no cage between audience and stage.  I was amazed this was allowed to be done, but I did love that it was.  He told us about his programme and money raising to help tigers, but we didnt hear much about his story with them and how he got into keeping them, where they are kept etc..  At the end of the show, you could meet the magician and have your tickets signed.  There was a big sign saying he would not shake your hand due to flu and cold season.  Come on?!  Overall, a good experience,  I am glad we went and I would recommend it to others, but could have been improved a bit.  I love magic and always have since I was little.  I love watching the tricks and trying to figure it out, I love to be amazed and I used to love watching a show about how the tricks were done.  I always remember my Paul Daniels magic set I had as a child, in fact I think it is still in my parents loft.

Anyway, after the show , dinner at TGI Fridays.  Tasty.  It was here that we had a special Niagara Falls tourism improvement tax applied to our bill.  It is an additional 3% tax that is voluntary.  It gets added automatically and places dont seem to tell you what it is or that it is optional.  By the time you pay 13% HST, 3% tourist tax and a 15-20% tip, money is disappearing.  It seems a bit scrooge like, but they have to remove it if you ask.

On the subject of weird Niagara Falls things.  Every attraction seems to have an obsession with making you have your photo taken in front of a green screen so they can provide you with the option of buying an expensive fake picture at the end.  I say fake because the pictures show scenes and photos that just arent real.  We didnt see the falls at night with fireworks in the background, so why would we want to buy a fake photo giving the impression that we did?!  Very bizarre.

Anyway, our final day.  Again, lovely weather and we decided to eat up the Skylon Tower before heading home on the Megabus. We paid just under $30 each for an all you can eat lunch buffet with stunning views of the falls.  The buffet was delicious and good value for money.  Included in the price was a visit to the observation decks where you can stand out admire the views from even higher than the restaurant.  In case you are wondering, the Skylon Tower is 158m tall.  Eiffel Tower is 324m and CN Tower is 553m.  We were both just so pleased that we did this.  It was spectactular and so worth doing. 

 Bus home, checked Dad in to his AirBnB.  Seems lovely.  The lady was really friiendly and nice and the apartment is clean, tidy and they provided towels and basic food items as well which was ideal.  Fingers crossed the weather holds and we can have a quiet day on the beach tomorrow with a swim in the lake. 

 

Day 3: Distillery District

On the third day, we went to the Distillery District.  Weather was a bit cooler, so we arrived and found somewhere to sit and eat with patio heaters.  We had a nice walk around the Distillery District, ate cookies from the bakery, bought chocolate and had warm chocolate shots from Soma and looked around the shops. 

Late afternoon, we went up to the Salty Dog bar and watched a local band called Grown Men playing.  Dad drank beer and I had a cup of tea – I am sure it is supposed to be the other way around!  It was nice to sit and chat with a couple of friends watching the music happen.

I also tried to speak with friends from home out for a hen do on Facebook video chat.  It wasnt the best connection, but it was good to hear the sounds of rowdy plymothians about town.

The evening brought tiredness and we had take away burgers and chips from the Bulging Burger.