Sunday, August 12, 2007

Chinese Lantern Festival

Just like the Rocky Mountains, photos don't do the Chinese Lantern Festival justice. The word lantern doesn't cut it either. Think larger than life, colourful and highly detailed figures, animals, boats, temples and other structures made of silk stretched over wire frames and illuminated from within. Add performances, music, food, crafts and it truly is a wonderful experience, well worth the $25 admission charge. Included in the price are two Cinesphere films on China - we were so enthralled with the lanterns we'll have to go back and see the films next time!

"The 2007 Rogers Chinese Lantern Festival will see a significant increase in lanterns with more than 40 massive, all new, illuminated, intricately designed scenes, depicting Chinese landmarks and mythology. This year the majority of the lantern sets will focus on three important dynasties in Chinese history; the Qin Dynasty, the Tang Dynasty, and the Song Dynasty."

The festival runs 7-11 daily until Labour Day and then on Saturdays and Sundays until October 7. Go here for more information.

Blue Jays at Rogers Centre

The last time I went to a Blue Jays game the venue was called the SkyDome and Joe Carter, Devon White and Roberto Alomar were on the team. On August 5th we watched the Jays beat the Texas Rangers four to one at the Rogers Centr. It was hubby's first baseball game and other than the searing sun, he enjoyed the "cultural experience". Thanks Barb & Iggy.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Road trip to North Carolina

Follow our smart car odyssey on my smart car blog at:

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Saranac Lake & Lake Placid

Breakfast at the Village Diner - $15 including tip - where all the locals are curious about the smart car.
Drove to Saranac Lake where I bought a fleece hoody as the weather was a chilly 9 C. We checked out the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, which unfortunately only runs on weekends at this time of year. Quick tour of Lake Placid, which seems to have been invaded by aging bikers, and stop for a lunch of homemade soup and sandwiches at Saranac Sourdough.
To Karen & Pete's house, just outside of Lake Placid village and a delicious salmon supper. Slept in a comfy cabin with a wood fire in the stove and an incinerator toilet.
Next morning we take a tour of John Brown's farm and grave in North Elba where our guide was extremely knowledgeable and passionate about her subject. Antislavery activist, and some would say martyr, John Brown was born at Torrington, Conn., on May 4, 1800. " He said later that he had realized the sin of slavery, "the sum of all villainies," at 12, and that seeing an African American boy mistreated had "led him to declare, or swear: eternal war with slavery." He also developed a great interest in military history, especially in the guerrilla warfare of the Napoleonic Wars and in the Haitian slave rebellion. According to family testimony, he finally concluded that slavery could be destroyed only by atonement in blood, deciding in 1839 that the South, "Africa itself," should be invaded and the slaves freed at gunpoint. If he actually made such a plan, he kept it to himself for another decade, meanwhile trying and failing at a number of business ventures, always in debt. He moved his family 10 times until in 1849 he settled on a farm at North Elba, N.Y., that was part of a project financed by philanthropist Gerrit Smith for the training of free African Americans."
In the evening we drive to Bluseed Studios in Saranac Lake for a concert by banjo veteran Danny Barnes and singer/songwriter Kris Delmhorst. The gig is a sell out - they turn about a dozen people away. The packed house is a very appreciative audience.
We stay overnight in a spacious townhouse at Lake Placid Club Lodges.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Potsdam, New York

Left home 8 o'clock this morning and stopped at Joyceville, ON for some 83.9 cent a litre diesel. Pouring rain for much of the journey. No problem at Ogdensburg border crossing but the town was not what you'd call "inviting" so we pressed on to Potsdam.
'Ogdensburg, city (1990 pop. 13,521), St. Lawrence co., N N.Y., on the St. Lawrence River at the mouth of the Oswegatchie, in a resort area, opposite Prescott, Ont. (with which it is connected by an international bridge); settled by French missionaries and trappers 1749, inc. as a city 1868. A variety of light industrial products are made there; two state prisons are important to the local economy. In the city is a museum with works of Frederic Remington, who lived in Ogdensburg."
We check into the Clarkson Inn and have a siesta before heading out for dinner at Sergi's Italian Restaurant on Market Street where the service is sketchy. We order an ensalata caprese but the waitress says, "The owner is out and we can't find the cheese."

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Toronto Islands

Thursday 24 May, 2007
The adventurers returned to Toronto Wednesday night and had coffee at Starbucks, downstairs in our condo building, before returning the rental car.
The McBeans head downtown and take the ferry to the Toronto Islands: "The area of the islands is about 230 hectares. The largest, outermost island, commonly called Centre Island, is crescent-shaped and forms the shoreline of both the Eastern and Western Channels. Algonquin and Olympic are two of the other major islands. What is commonly called Ward's Island is actually the eastern end of Centre Island. In the 1930s, the western end was supplemented by landfill so that the island airport could be created. Landfill was also used to create the former amusement park operated by the Toronto Ferry Company." Source: Wikipedia

McBean & Maloney Road Trip

On their road trip to Algonquin park, hubby and the McBeans stopped at Bracebridge and Gravenhurst on the way to Huntsville where they stayed Monday & Tuesday nights.
To Barrie for a Maloney reunion on Wednesday, May 23. Bernie's uncle and aunt immigrated from Ireland to Barrie, Ontario in 1930. Some of their nine children (or their widows) still live in the area. The youngest of this branch of Maloneys was at one time a household name in Toronto. Dan Maloney first played with and later coached the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Bear Watching

Photo by Bernie McBean.

I'd heard of bird-watching and whale-watching but wasn't sure what to think when Bernie said she wanted to go bear-watching. When my sister-in-law was here from the UK she saw seven moose one day in Algonquin Provincial Park so hubby figured that was a good place for the McBeans to see some Canadian wildlife.

"Algonquin was established in 1893, not to stop logging but to establish a wildlife sanctuary, and by excluding agriculture, to protect the headwaters of the five major rivers which flow from the Park. Soon it was "discovered", at first by adventurous fishermen, then by Tom Thomson and The Group of Seven [Canadian Artists], and a host of other visitors who came by train and stayed at one of Algonquin's several hotels."

Got this text message from them yesterday: No bears, 6 moose, deer, lots of mozzies & old rail track now dining in Hville [Huntsville].

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Sunnyside Cafe

Monday 21 May, 2006

Hubby & the McBeans where packed up and on the road north to Huntsville by 10:30 this morning. They are booked into the Comfort Inn there for two nights and will return on Wednesday after meeting up with the Clan Maloney in Barrie, Ontario on Wednesday.

Sunday 20 May, 2006

Our guests spent a leisurely morning before setting of on a walk through High Park to Sunnyside Cafe. "The name "Sunnyside" had been used to denote a beach and its surrounding area for 70-plus years before the amusement park opened. The name may have been coined by George Howard, a prominent citizen whom in 1848 had built a home overlooking the shore on the sunny side of a hill. The other possibility is that subsequent owner George Cheney, named it after American author Washington Irving's home in Tarrytown, New York." Read more about the pavilion's history here.

I had been at Sunnyside very early Saturday morning with the camera club from my church (Keele Street Christian Church) and took the photos seen here.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The FA Cup & Hughs Room

Saturday 19 May, 2007

While here in Toronto, Andy McBean has got hooked on watching the National Hockey League playoffs. Andy & Bernie went to their "local", Mackenzies Bar & Grill 1982 Bloor Street location, to watch the FA Cup (Chelsea beat Manchester United). I think Andy found it dull compared to the hockey he's been watching!

In the evening we go to Hugh's Room , a supper and concert venue, for the Third Annual John Prine Shrine where nine musicians play tribute to the acclaimed singer/songwriter. Highlights included the guitar picking of Wendell Ferguson and fiddle playing of Sahra Featherstone.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Toronto Harbour Cruise

You always learn new things about your city when visitors come and do the tourist sites. The McBeans went on a Mariposa Cruises tour of the Toronto Harbour aboard the Oriole: A Great Lakes Steamship replica, all 76 feet have been decorated with the perfect blend of varnished woods, wrought iron, polished brass and plush upholstery. The comfortable dining space is warmly lit by traditional brass coach lamps and features large picture windows and an oak stool bar.
The tour guide pointed out the Amsterdam Bridge: The steel structure is a cable footbridge that crosses over the Simcoe Street Slip. The Amsterdam Bridge commemorates the twinning of the two cities. Similarly, a bridge that crosses the Amstel river in Amsterdam was renamed Toronto Bridge. They also learned about the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse, rumoured to be haunted.
Earlier in the day, they visited the docklands and the Distillery District stopping at Balzac for coffee.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Fort York and Harbourfront

Thursday 17 May, 2007
To Fort York where the costumed staff are putting visiting school kids through military drills. In 1793, Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe authorized a garrison on the present site of Fort York, just west of the mouth of Garrison Creek on the north eastern shore of Lake Ontario. Simcoe recognized Toronto was an ideal site for settlement and defence because of its natural harbour and relative distance from the United States. Fort York guards the western (at the time of construction, the only) entrance to Toronto harbour. Simcoe had decided to make Toronto (at that time called York) the capital of Upper Canada, and the government, the first parliament buildings and the town were established one and a half miles east of the fort (near the foot of the present Parliament Street).
The McBeans travel eastward to Harbourfront where they have lunch and do some souvenir shopping.
Wednesday 16 May, 2007
A cool, rainy day and an unofficial day of rest for the McBeans. It's hard to keep up the pace while on holiday and a day to regroup is often just what you need.

Blue Mountain and Creemore

Tuesday 14 May, 2007
Driving the rented Toyota Yaris back to Toronto from Collingwood, hubby & the McBeans stop to enjoy the view from Blue Mountain. They take a detour and go for lunch at Creemore which is tucked away in the valley of the Mad River, surrounded by what everyone calls the Purple Hills. " Artists have been coming here for years to set up their studios and paint the beautiful scenery. The commercial centre in the village has been doing good business for over 100 started with lumber, then shipping hogs to Toronto. Now it's the brewery and a bunch of stores to shop and places to eat run by friendly folks eager to chat and provide some old-fashioned personal service."

From Goderich to Collingwood

Monday 14 May, 2007
In Goderich, hubby and the McBeans visited the Huron County Museum. (The Huron County Museum is located in the original old Central School, erected in 1856. The original Museum collection was brought together by Mr. Joseph Herbert Neill (1884-1969) as a result of a lifetime of collecting. In 1948, he sold all of his 4,000 objects to the County of Huron for an average price of one dollar per object and with two conditions. First, that the County establish a public museum and second, that he be made the Curator for as long as he wished to hold the position.)

They stayed overnight at the Beild House Country Inn & Spa in Collingwood: This grand turn-of-the-century home was built for Dr. Joseph Arthur who named it Beild House (a Scottish word for shelter). Each of the guest rooms features its own unique decor, a gentle blending of antique furnishings with modern amenities.

Kitchener and Goderich

Sunday 13 May 2007
To Kitchener on Mother's Day to stay with my Mom for a few days. (A city of southern Ontario, Canada, west-southwest of Toronto. Settled by Mennonites (1806) and by Germans who named it Berlin in 1825, it was renamed in honor of Lord Kitchener in 1916. Population: 210,000.) Hubby and McBeans came in for tea before heading northwest to Goderich on Lake Huron where they stayed at the Bedford Hotel. (Goderich's downtown has a unique octagonal traffic circle known as 'The Square'. The county courthouse stands in the middle of The Square. Sifto Canada, Inc operates a salt mine underneath Goderich's harbour. The mine extends 5 kilometers under Lake Huron, and is the largest salt mine in the world.)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Credit Valley Explorer Train

Saturday 12 May, 2007
We arrive at the station in Orangeville in time for some photos before the 11 o'clock excursion train departure. " Tours travel along a route that was completed in 1879, known as the Credit Valley Railway. The rail line travels from Orangeville south through the Hills of Headwaters region, through the Caledon Hills and the Forks of the Credit Provincial Park, then through the Peel Plains region to Brampton and on to Streetsville in Mississauga. Passenger tours travel as far south as Snelgrove in north Brampton. Our busy freight service connects Orangeville and Brampton with the Canadian Pacific Railway main line in Streetsville."
On our way home we stop at the Canadian Tire Store parking lot for the first Street Classics Cruise of the season. The warm sunny weather has brought the classic cars and their fans out in droves.

Shopping Day

Friday May 11th 2007

Went on a shopping spree with the McBeans. First stop Weston Bakery Outlet where the bargain of the day was six baguettes for $1 CAD = 45 p GBP. Next to Dimpflmeier's Bakery outlet where we have 4 cups of coffee and 4 pastries (pictured here) that cost $7.45 CAD = £ 3.42 GBP.

On to Sherway Gardens, a large suburban shopping mall, where we shop for shoes, jeans, luggage, picture frames and more. Then we drop in to Payless Shoes and Mark's Work Wearhouse across the street before our final stop at the grocery store, Sobeys.

Friday, May 11, 2007


After picking up a rental car, we drive to Niagara Falls stopping for coffee at Tim Horton's in Grimsby on the way. Niagara falls has three sections: American Falls — At about 170 ft/52 m high, these falls are located between Prospect Point and Luna Island. Bridal Veil Falls — Located between Luna Island and Goat Island, this is the smallest of the three waterfalls that make up Niagara Falls. Horseshoe Falls — Otherwise known as the Canadian Falls, these falls are about 170 ft/52 m high and the crest line is an estimated 2200 ft/675 m wide. The depth of the river at the base of the falls — 184 ft/56 m — is actually higher than the falls itself.
The adventurous McBeans opt for a "Journey Behind the Falls" tour and are not disappointed. Next to the Niagara Gorge where the brave Bernie rides the Whirlpool Aero Car. "The Spanish Aero Car was designed to travel 1,770 feet (539m) across the Whirlpool from Canadian terminus at Colt's Point (where the ticket office is located and where passengers embark) to Canadian terminal at Thompson Point, at a height of 250 feet (76 meters) above the surface of the turbulent waters. The Aero Car has a capacity of 40 persons.
The Olde Angel Inn at Niagara-on-the-lake is always a great place to stop for a beverage when taking visitors to see the falls. It's the closest thing to a British pub in our part of the world.
We get to the Welland Canal just in time to see a huge laker passing through Lock 3. "Welland Ship Canal, 27.6 mi (44.4 km) long, SE Ont., Canada, connecting Lake Ontario with Lake Erie and bypassing Niagara Falls. Built between 1914 and 1932 by Canada to replace a canal opened in 1829, it can accommodate (minimum depth 27 ft/8 m) the largest lake ships. Its eight locks overcome a 326-ft (99-m) difference in level between the lakes. The Lake Ontario entrance is near Port Dalhousie; the Lake Erie entrance is at Port Colborne. It is part of the St. Lawrence Seaway system."
Dinner at O Sushi Place, 2330 Lakeshore Rd W, Oakville, where the food and service are excellent. The host gives Andy a sake tutorial and sample of "beginner's sake".
We stop for a photo op at Bazar McBean Chartered Accounts before heading home.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Downtown Toronto with the McBeans

Downtown by subway train then streetcar. We walk up Yonge Street and drop in to Sam the Record Man's: "Sam the Record Man is a Canadian record store chain.
The chain was first launched in 1936 by Sam Sniderman, as a record department in his family's existing radio store in Toronto. In 1961, the store moved out to its own location on Yonge Street, and its location at 347 Yonge Street has become a Toronto landmark. The four story record store located to the site in 1961 and added two spinning record neon signs. The record store also obtained the building at 349 Yonge Street in 1985, formerly Steele's Tavern. " Source:
Next Bernie and I tackle the CN Tower while to boys opt for a tour of Steamwhistle Brewery nearby."Defining the Toronto skyline, the CN Tower is Canada's most recognizable and celebrated icon. At a height of 553.33m (1,815 ft., 5 inches), it is Canada’s National Tower, the World's Tallest Building, an important telecommunications hub, and the centre of tourism in Toronto. Each year, approximately 2 million people visit the CN Tower to take in the breath-taking view and enjoy all the attractions it has to offer.The CN Tower was built in 1976 by Canadian National (CN) who wanted to demonstrate the strength of Canadian industry by building a tower taller than any other in the world."

Bird watching with the McBeans

Breakfast at the Grenadier Cafe in High Park then a walk south to Lake Ontario and west to Humber Bay Park. Birdwatching highlights are a pair of Northern Orioles (right) and a Tree Swallow (left) that seems to be posing for the camera. We also see: Mute Swans, Canada Geese, Mallards, Common Golden Eyes, Killdeer, Ring-billed Gulls, Common Terns, Rock Doves, Mourning Doves, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Barn Swallows, American Robins, European Starlings, various types of Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, and Cormorants.

We take the street car to the Butler's Pantry on Roncesvalles for lunch with an international flare: Moroccan Vegetable Tajine, Kosharee, Jambalaya, and Norwegian Smoked Salmon on a bagel.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The McBeans visit

Andy & Bernie arrived at J C Munro Airport in Hamilton yesterday at 4:30. They flew on Globespan from London Stansted and were unaware that it was necessary to pre-book in flight meals.
After a brief scuffle at customs over the importation of jars of Marmite, they were wisked to our condo by Chaplin Clive in his Jeep Cherokee.
They seem to be adjusting well to the time change and don't seem at all jetlagged. We had a quiet dinner at home and hubby took them on a mini pub crawl of Bloor West Village.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

From the Disciples to the Christian Choir

This afternoon we drop by Cloverdale Mall's 50th Anniversary celebration where the joint is jumping as radio station 1050 Chum, (which celebrates its 50th later this month), broadcasts live. Robbie Lane and the Disciples get the crowd dancing to covers of classic 50s and 60s songs like Bony Maroney and Shout! Originally an open air mall, Cloverdale was the first shopping centre in Etobicoke. It was enclosed in 1970s in response to the opening of Sherway Gardens, a larger mall to the south in 1971.In the evening, Keele Street Christian Church hosts the Great Lakes Christian College Choir. Made up of high school student, this well disciplined a cappella group sings in a range of styles from the Baroque to spirituals to modern praise music under the direction of Rick McBay. The vocal harmonies are amazing and they do an awesome job of "Days of Elijah" and "Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross".

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Mad Violet

To Hugh's Room for dinner and concert featuring Toronto-based songwriting duo Madviolet , Brenley MacEachern and Lisa MacIsaac, who have just returned from their third tour of Australia where they have been promoting their latest album Caravan.
"The relaxed, organic feel of Caravan points Madviolet in a fresh direction as a recording act, one that taps deeps into their musical roots and channels the energy of their live shows. “I think we’ve got a lot closer to the essence of Madviolet – nobody’s going to mistake us for another acoustic chick duo,” says Lisa with a laugh. Adds Brenley: “We’re developing our sound. We’re building audiences in different countries on different continents. We’re excited to see where things go next.” (view source)
I love their vocal harmonies and am amazed at how they both confidently change instruments (guitars, violin, banjo) for different numbers during the set.

Amazing Grace

Keele Street Christian Church's bible study group met at the movie theatre for a screening of Amazing Grace which tells the story of MP William Wilberforce and his campaign to abolish the British Empire's slave trade.
I am currently reading: Bury the Chains by Adam Hochschild and couldn't help comparing the film's account to historical record.
I particularly enjoyed Benedict Cumberbatch's portrayal of Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger (pictured here).
Senegalese musician Youssou N'Dour is impressive in his screen debut as Olaudah Equiano: "A central figure in the abolitionist movement in Great Britain, Olaudah Equiano (c.1745–1797) wrote an eyewitness account of his life as a slave and of his work in the anti-slavery movement: The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa the African. Though born in what is now Nigeria, Equiano was kidnapped and sold into slavery in childhood and taken as a slave to the New World. As a slave to a captain in the Royal Navy, and later to a Quaker merchant, he eventually earned the price of his own freedom by careful trading and saving. " N'Dour also collaborated on the film's soundtrack.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


To Elora where we view the famed gorge and take a walking tour of the town. By the river we discover derelict indusrial buildings and enjoy taking photos and conjecturing as to the history of the area.

We have lunch at the Desert Rose Cafe a funky vegetarian restaurant at 130 Metcalfe Street. I opt for a soup and half sandwich combo. Yummy cream of asparagus is the soup of the day and I order it with a tofu spread sandwich: "A delicious mixture of organic tofu, finely chopped celery, carrots, parsely, and a hint of garlic. It tastes like egg salad!"

Friday, April 20, 2007

Shakespeare in Canada

To the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre to view the Shakespeare - Made In Canada exhibit where the star attraction is the Sanders portrait purported to be the only one painted of the bard in his lifetime. It certainly is an enigmatic piece. Is it actually a portrait of William Shakespeare? The jury's still out on that one.
We tour the The Donald Forster Sculpture Park and enjoy taking photos of the diverse works. My favourites are two of Evan Penny's Pieces: Mask, 1989 bronze (pictured left) and Monad, 1989-1990 ciment fondu, steel (pictured right).
In the evening I go to my daughter's Tuesday worship group hosted by guitarist Isaac. I was not sure what to expect but felt welcomed and strangely at home sitting on a cushion on the floor with over twenty twenty-something-year-olds singing traditional hymns and modern worship songs by candle light. In a high-tech twist, words and guitar chords are displayed on laptops throughout the room which are linked by a wireless network so that they can be operated by the song leader.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Guelph via VIA

I take the subway to Union Station and line up to buy a one-way ticket to Guelph, a stop on the Toronto-Sarnia line. There are six employees behind three wickets but only one person is serving folk in the increasingly long queue. I'm wondering if I should have stuck with Greyhound, my usual mode of travel.

With my $24.38 ticket in hand, I go in search of coffee. We board promptly at 10:40 and depart on schedule at 10:55.

I've never been on this particular line and struggle at times to pin point where exactly in the city we are until I catch sight of a familiar bridge or other landmark.

It goes without saying that you've got more "personal space" on a VIA car than the on the "hound". You also get views of city and landscapes you don't get blatting along the 401. One can even purchase drinks and snacks on board, although when a fellow passenger pays $1.75 for a bottle of water, I'm glad I bought my coffee at Union Station.

After a brief stop at Brampton, we arrive at Guelph Station 7 minutes ahead of schedule.

I walk across the street from the station to meet my daughter at the Cornerstone Cafe. I'm sipping a ginormous cup of green tea when she arrives. We both opt for their signature vegan Cornerstone Club sandwich which I , once again, vow to replicate at home. Although the food is great the service could best be described as quirky. Read reviews here.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Rocky Horror Show at CanStage

To the Bluma Appel Theatre for the final show in our CanStage subscription. This stage adaptation of cult film, Rocky Horror Picture Show, stars Adam Brazier in the role of extraterrestrial transvestite Dr. Frank N. Furter.
Film screenings are notorious for their raucous level of audience participation. Some aspects of this (shout-outs, doing the time warp in the aisles, putting a newspaper over your head during the thunderstorm scene) are encouraged by CanStage, while others such as throwing confetti are not. (See full instructions here.)
We renewed our subscriptions for next season and luckily met up with Etobicoke School of the Arts alumnus David Lopez who occasionally steals the spotlight as a Phantom (He is also an understudy Frank-n-Furter and Riff-Raff ). I ask him to autograph my program. His stellar performance in last year's production of Ain’t Misbehavin’ garnered him a a Dora Award nomination for Best Actor.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007