Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Canada 2014

Special thanks to all the people we stayed with in Canada who helped to make the trip so memorable, and offered such magnificent hospitality.

27 May
Canada is BIG. I mean, you might think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to Canada.

In the morning I saw a grackle, an American robin, a male and female cardinal, and a red-winged blackbird, and a giant  hawk thing which Bob said could be a turkey vulture, or it may have been a red-tailed hawk. You don't so much birdwatch as sit there while they fly  past!

Over the very different sound of the dawn chorus of birds, I heard the long mournful hooter of a freight train, like something out of a blues song.

Later went to Tim Hortons and ate doughnuts and drank coffee (this is compulsory in Canada).

Saw a Mennonite wagon and horse parked in a special area with a hitching rail in the car park of a No Frills supermarket. The supermarket was a revelation - there was a fantastic variety of food, including dark chocolate spread like I used to eat as a child.

29 May
We drove to London, Ontario, to see where the Tolpuddle Martyrs ended up. A few years ago, I visited Tolpuddle in Dorset, England, where six men formed a trade union and were arrested, tried, and transported to Australia. I have been to the steps in Plymouth, Devon, where there is a plaque commemorating their transportation. There was a huge demonstration for their pardon and release, but after they returned to England, they could not settle as the local gentry were still being hard on them, so they moved to Essex. That did not work out either, so they moved to London, Ontario.

In the afternoon we went to see the house where Robertson Davies was born, in Thamesville (the real name of "Deptford" in his books). 

Also visited "Uncle Tom's Cabin" - home of Josiah Henson, former slave, abolitionist and Underground Railroad conductor. It was so moving to think of the escaped slaves finally arriving somewhere they could be free and work for themselves. He set up a settlement where free men and women could get an education and work. 

30 May
Bob's brother-in-law very kindly drove us to Niagara Falls - a must-see on any trip to Ontario. The Falls themselves are very impressive, but the surroundings are very built-up. However, we had lunch in a restaurant overlooking the Falls, and then viewed them from the 38th floor of the hotel (Bob has friends in high places!) We then walked down to the park that runs along the edge of the falls, and viewed them from close-up. That's an awful lot of water.

In the evening we went to the Morris practice of the local side, with whom Bob used to dance, and met a chap who had known Robertson Davies while he was at the University of Toronto. Apparently they held a feast for him and there was morris dancing, which he enjoyed.

31 May - 1 June
Had a walk round Hamilton, looking at places where Bob grew up. Then we went to stay with a friend of Bob's, who lives in a beautiful 1830 house in Mono Centre, north-west of Toronto. There is a provincial park there and it is more hilly than Hamilton. She is a botanist and herbalist and we went for a walk in the woods, so I was able to ask all the names of the plants. Not many the same, though some are similar. We saw some trilliums and some cohosh, and lots of other plants. She gathered some wild leeks (which were very like ramsons) and cooked them as part of dinner. They have a problem with garlic mustard, as it is not native to Ontario, but has spread. Also saw milkweed. They have a lot of edible plants. Bob found a jack-in-the-pulpit, which was a like a miniature arum lily with a stripy interior. As soon as we were off the trail, we got bitten by loads of insects and I was one big itch. I was surprised to be bitten at that time of day. Apparently that was nothing to what you get further north.
Jack in the pulpit

Jack in the pulpit


Trillium (flower of Ontario)


Oh and we also went to the "British pub" in Ancaster. Not a bad simulacrum of an English pub, actually.

Also took some train pictures for my dad, of the GO train in Hamilton.

2 June
Staying in Bob's family cottage down by the lake. Went for a swim in Lake Erie - it was bracing. It is very different swimming in a large body of fresh water. We went to the  Six Nations reserve on the way to the cottage, and visited Iroqrafts, where I bought a picture by a  local artist, Doris Cyrette. The reserve has its own website too, with a section on the history of the reserve. There are  Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, Mohawk, Oneida, and Tuscarora people there.

Iroqrafts shop, Six Nations reserve

I was very taken with Ontario barns - red with white roofs, white with green roofs, etc.

We also spotted a mailbox with a cardinal painted on it.

Went to Tim Hortons again (a Canadian institution) and had frozen lemonade and Timbits (they are the holes in the middle of doughnuts). Healthy, eh?

3 June
Walked along the lake near the cottage. 

Visited the lighthouse in Port Maitland, where the Grand River flows into Lake Erie. We were going to go kayaking, but it was too windy.  Saw a Baltimore Oriole flying across the road as we were driving back from Port Maitland.

4 June
Kayaking on the Grand River, we saw a turtle, red winged blackbirds, herons, perch, possibly an eagle, honeysuckle, alder, willows, and swallows flying low over the water and nesting under a bridge. We also saw some large golden fish thrashing around in the shallows among the reeds, and a deer coming down to the river to drink.

Bob jokingly remarked that the log in the middle of the river looked like a crocodile, and at first we mistook the turtle for part of the log. Then I realised it was a turtle and called him back. We canoed round it about three times before it got fed up and dived into the water.

 On our way back, the turtle was basking on the log again.

Had a lovely family meal for Bob's birthday in the evening, at Mandarin, a Chinese restaurant in Hamilton. Several members of the family (who live in the area) were there.

5 June
Moving stuff from Bob's storage locker to new, smaller locker. Hot.  Dined in the "Scottish" pub in Fergus - delicious food.

Also visited the Masonic lodge in Ancaster. A very welcoming group of chaps.

6 and 7 June
Visited Bob's Mum, who will be 90 this year, in the morning, and then set off for Toronto. 

In town in Hamilton, at first we mistook this mounted police officer for an equestrian statue, till we realised he wasn't. He was very friendly.

Had a day in Toronto - very very hot. And noisy. We saw some re-enactors doing a show about the War of 1812.

Took more pictures of Canadian trains and the flatiron building in downtown Toronto. Explored St Lawrence Market and Dundas Square, where we picked up a free copy of a book by Stuart McLean, Home from the Vinyl Cafe. Dined out with friends in Chinatown, on hotpot and dim sum. Delicious.

Also saw a carpark that used to be a Unitarian church (presumably the one where William Adam was minister).

All in all we drove about 1600 miles, and even then, only covered a small area of Ontario. Did I mention that Canada is big?