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Fall Trip Home (PGY)


September 17th, 2019

Nothing quite like getting up before 3 to begin an almost 24 hour journey!

Our flight to Toronto via Panama City was at 5:25 am – this is how you avoid a red eye – we start early and end late but don’t have to overnight on the plane.  We did have a 7 hour layover but did a lot of walking to get steps and found a bar with Wi-Fi and power outlets to spend a good chunk of that time – a bucket of beer didn’t hurt either!

Both flights were on time and we and our luggage (we had two checked bags) arrived safely in Toronto after midnight, caught an Uber to Caledon to an AirBNB we’d booked only a five minute walk from Joshua’s place.

Wednesday morning, Josh lent us his car to drive to Buffalo to pick up our car.  We sorted through our Amazon shopping. Fran returned two items before hitting Walmart for a few more things and we returned separately in the two cars with no border crossing issues (technically if you spend less than 48 hours in the US you cannot bring anything into Canada – even more technically, 99% of what we bought was not “staying” in Canada so we felt safe saying we had nothing to declare).  Cyrus and Arya had Beavers that evening so we got to seem them for a short time after that before they went to bed.

The AirBNB was a one bedroom basement apartment with pretty much all we needed including driveway parking.  The location was quite convenient for visiting Josh (one block away) and the price was much better than a hotel (less than half) with no driving a half hour each way as Caledon doesn’t have many hotels – maybe 2 – one of which is a Hampton Inn but it’s expensive.

We spent Thursday through Sunday with Joshua and our grand kids.  We coloured, played games, read, went outside to play  and dealt with the ups and downs of children’s moods.

One afternoon we went to play mini golf:

Arya learned to ride her bike without training wheels while we watched

The weather was warm and sunny with temps increasing each day.

water balloons!

Sunday was the best day – the town they live in had a fall fair and we quite enjoyed it as a family; everything from a pancake breakfast, cow plop bingo, petting barns, races, rides, dog shows and more.

Sunday night we left Bolton and stayed near the Toronto airport as Doug was flying to Vancouver to visit his mother on Monday while Fran drove to Kingston to see hers. By this time the weather had cooled off and Fran had rain in Kingston and Doug had much cooler weather in BC.  Unfortunately Doug began having a sore throat and experiencing cold symptoms.

Fran spent the week running a few errands and spending a few hours with her mom every day; she spent two nights at an AirBNB and two nights with her sister.  One day she brought in lunch and snuck in a glass of white wine for her to enjoy:

Doug spent the week spending a few hours with his mother every day and visiting friends in the evenings.  He managed to get through the worst of his cold too.  However, he was again experiencing tooth pain so he’s arranged to see the dentist upon our return to Asuncion.

During the week we learned that Joshua had placed an offer on a house (he’s been looking for a while now as his apartment is too small now that the kids are getting so big) and it was conditionally accepted!

We got back together Friday afternoon when Doug flew back and returned to the same AirBNB.  We spent Friday evening with Josh and the kids; Saturday during the day and overnight, they had a Beaver camp to attend so we spend the day being tourists in Toronto.

We stopped downtown at the Monkey’s Paw Bookstore – it has an old book vending machine.

You purchase a token for $3 and you put into the machine after which a random used book falls out.

We each got one:  Doug got “The Social Register of Canada” (in which we found out we were nobodies!), Fran got a youth novel like a Hardy Boys book and Doug bought a book from one of his favourite authors, Bertand Russell.

We then visited Kensington Market:

we splurged at a popcorn store

touched Chinatown briefly in the rain:

Ireland Park: (built to commemorate the thousands of Irish who came to the city during the famine – tripling the city’s population at that time)

sidewalk leading up to the park


City Hall:

this fountain becomes an ice rink in winter

And finished the visit enjoying hot pretzels and beer/cider at Craft Beer Market for a late lunch:

Sunday afternoon we met Josh at the house he put an offer in on and he had inspector doing an inspection while us and kids got our first look at the place.  Fran entertained the kids in the back yard while Josh and Doug, spoke with the inspector.

It is a townhouse with 3 bedrooms, 3 baths, finished basement, a large backyard with a slope in the back and a garage.  The building inspector did find a few issues, some of them big but after some negotiation during the week, Josh’s offer was accepted.

Monday, we took off early and made our way into Eastern Quebec – Saint Veronique to be exact: 600 km / 400 mi from Josh’s – to visit Max & Catherine, a young French couple we’d met back in 2016 in Costa Rica.  They had a 6 year old son (Eloi) with them at that time and have since had a daughter (Rosie) and got married two weeks ago!

To get there we took a ferry across the Ottawa River:

We arrived after a couple of short stops in Ottawa around 4pm.  They live in a farm house they fixed up themselves and Max runs a small engine repair shop 50 m away.  Catherine is a portrait photographer and works at her own shop in town on her own hours.

Éloi and Rosie are very nice children and we enjoyed our evening with them.  They have chickens and a pot bellied pig!  They live a chill small town life where there children, even the two year old, can play outside unsupervised!

Eloi taking Rosie for a ride on his very own ATV
Max & Catherine’s farm house
Max’s small engine repair shop right next door
chicken coop
their pet Vietnamese pig

They invited us for dinner and overnight and surprised us in the morning with an offer to take a ride on Max’s Russian motorbike with side car. The weather is definitely feeling like fall here and we’re feeling the chill.

We left there mid-morning and made our way about 100 km / 60 mi south to Saint Adolphe d’Howard where are good overlanding friends, Christine and Mark bought a small house which they are renovating after they returned from overlanding.  We last saw them in early February in Southern Chile.

It was raining just after we arrived and came down pretty darn hard at times while we played cards.  We went for a walk when it seemed to stop but it didn’t last so we all got rather damp.  After a nice dinner made by Christine, we continued the evening playing cards.

Wednesday we all took a drive to wander a bit in Mont Tremblay’s ski village.

heading up the free chair into the village


Enjoy the fall colours

And then visited Saint Sauveur.

visit a gallery of an artist with the surname “Paquin” which is the name of the French side of Fran’s family

Here, their friend, Brad, whom we’d met both in Ecuador and Chile when he came down to visit them, joined us for a late lunch.  We then returned to their place and enjoyed a nice outdoor campfire on their property for a good four hours before calling it a night.

pics by the lake near their house:

Tonight it dipped below zero overnight!

It was so lovely to spend time with them and we expect we’ll reunite one day when they get back on the road – maybe next year…..


Friday, we drove into Montreal to do a bit of sightseeing; we visited:

St. Joseph’s Oratory – the largest church in Canada

largest pipe organ in Canada
view from out front
one of the many votive candle stands in the Votive Room
there were great numbers of crutches left by people who were “healed” here

Walked at bit at the top of Mount Royal


And then drove into Old Montreal to wander a bit, see Notre Dame Basilica and the old port area

statue of Admiral Nelson
old City Hall
Fisherman’s chapel

walking street in Old Montreal
Notre Dame Basilica

And ended our visit with a nice lunch of crepes:  (egg & spinach and chocolate extravaganza).

As we had to be in Kingston on Friday midday, we made our way out of Montreal before rush hour and spent the night at a hotel in Cornwall.

Friday morning, we met Joshua, Arya, Cyrus and Serena (who’d flown into the TO airport the night before) in Kingston near Fran’s mom’s home.  The kids played in the park while Fran and Serena went to get Fran’s mom to bring them to the park to have a short visit with everyone.  She’d not see Serena in six years so it was a nice surprise for her.

We moved on to Ottawa where we’d rented a house on AirBNB for all six of us.  We did a take out Chinese dinner to do a family celebration for Fran’s 60th complete with a Dairy Queen Ice Cream cake.

Saturday morning Serena and Doug drove downtown to check out the bakery she used to work at in college while the rest of us went to play indoor glow in the dark mini golf.

That afternoon, Doug, Fran and Serena attended Fran’s godson’s wedding ceremony which was quite nice as they did it as “unplugged” so only the hired photographer could take pictures.  This was nice as there were no phones popping up all over the place.

The reception started with cocktails on the deck at the Britannia Yacht Club where we watched the bride and groom sail on the Ottawa River returning just before sunset.  Quite unique.

Alex and Emily on the boat

out on the deck: Doug, Fran, Serge, Cynthia, Anna, Serena and Sandra
The bride and groom enter the reception hall
Our Table: Anna, Sandra, Serena and us


table favours
Alex – Fran’s godson and his mom, Fran’s younger sister, Cynthia

The  three of us danced the night away after the dinner and had a great time visiting with Fran’s sister and partner, and others.

Sunday morning anyone interested could join the couple at a breakfast restaurant downtown and Josh and kids joined us for this event.

We then returned to Bolton and the three of us checked into a hotel while Josh and the kids returned home.

We spent Monday swimming at the pool and playing with the kids.

Tuesday morning, Doug took Serena to the airport in Josh’s car while Fran drove to Buffalo to drop off the Honda and pick up the final packages we’d had delivered.  Frustratingly, Fran felt the beginning of a cold.  Doug joined her where we store our car and we returned to Canada to an airport hotel.

US to Canada bridge

That evening Josh took an Uber to join us for dinner and get his car back.

We flew back to Paraguay on Wednesday; three legs (Chicago, Panama City, Asuncion), all on time and all four checked bags made it with us and through customs with no issues.  Yeah!