You are currently viewing Summer trip to Ontario – Part One

Summer trip to Ontario – Part One

August 16th, 2023

Crossing the border into Canada at Niagara, was a breeze as usual with our Nexus cards and after a quick stop at Walmart in Canada for a few things, we were at Josh’s around 2pm.  We noticed the gas price here near Josh’s, is around $1.64 CDN which is about $4.59 about the same price in Reno.

Sidebar:  Our little Honda Civic EX sedan is a 2006 edition which we bought at the end of 2005 in Minnesota.  Considering its age, we are very pleased with it.  It’s getting a little rough around the edges body wise but nothing major – no dents just scratches and a few small rust spots – it runs well and has over 386,000 km / 240,000 miles on it.  We did a bunch of major maintenance to it in 2018 (new windshield, tires, new battery, brakes, AC etc.) and since then only the usual maintenance stuff.   We are quite pleased with it and it seems worth it to hang on to it as the storage is not expensive, they take good care of it (starting it regularly and moving it around the lot and this past month, doing an oil change for us for a reasonable price) and renting a car would cost us at least as much as the storage for a year (and we’d lose the perks that come with it).  The insurance is relatively cheap given its age and we only have the basic coverage on it as it’s not worth a big pile of money (maybe $2200 if we’re lucky). 

Here’s the car in Joshua’s driveway:

We got unpacked, gave Josh his things from our luggage (freed up more than one carry on bag)  and sorted what we needed here, what goes to Greece and what goes to Minou in France (we plan to leave a bag or two at a hotel in Athens while we visit the islands to make travel easier and cheaper – so no checked bags on the short flights we’ll take).

It’s about 26C / mid 80’s F here and muggy which we’ve not experienced for a while but it’s a welcome change for a bit for dry noses! Thank goodness Josh has AC and we are sleeping in the basement.  Him and the kids did a major cleaning down there and got rid of lots of stuff they no longer play with and set us up a queen size air mattress and made us room on some shelves for our stuff.  (We keep a set of sheets, pillows etc. there for when we visit.)  Unfortunately, the air mattress appears to have a slow leak and Doug had to air it up a few times during our first night!  We’ll try and source the hole to sort that out.

When Josh got home from work (he cycles in on his e-bike three times a week, works from home once a week so only uses his car on Fridays), we went out to have a second celebratory birthday dinner for Doug at the local Italian restaurant.  We’ve been to Timo a few times and it never disappoints – they make awesome bruschetta and to die for thin crust pizza.  We each ordered a different one and shared and then Doug and I had leftovers for Friday lunch.  Yummy!

Next day we thought we had a hole(s) sorted but the air mattress still didn’t hold air well – better but not perfect.  Josh got us some of the kids’ old Ikea mattresses and we used two each for the night – they are very low to the floor so not easy to get out up and down out of it.

We had some heavy rain after we got home and they say more tomorrow with cooler temps.

We did wake up to cloudy skies and cooler temps – mid teens C / low 60’sF which was a welcome change although it’s supposed to get up to 30 C / 86 F again on Sunday but that’s bearable – it will be the humidity that might be the worst part.  We did manage to find another hole in the air mattress and a possible fourth one so hopefully we’re good now as it seems to be holding air.

Josh was home from work by 4:30 on Friday and the grandkids were dropped off shortly afterwards and were raring to play games before dinner.  Fran and Josh also went for a bike ride with Arya.  That night for dessert we celebrated Doug’s birthday again with a DQ blizzard ice cream cake and singing him happy birthday.

That night Serena messaged that she’d receive her professional photographer wedding photos and sent us a link.  We’ll attach a link to the gallery of ones that we’ve chosen, later in this post.

The grandkids are even taller than when we saw them in Reno in May at the wedding – Arya will be taller than Grammie soon!  Home schooling is taking a sort of break over the summer but they continue to do review work and have homework to do at Daddy’s each weekend to keep up their skills.  They will be entering grade five come September.

They both got nerf guns for their birthday in June.  They have recently both made huge axes and Arya challenged Grandpa to shoot her using the nerf gun and she’d fend off the “bullets”:

Saturday  morning, we grabbed Frisbees and went to the Tottenham Area Conservation Park where we’d camped for the summer back in 2021 and played a round of Frisbee golf getting near 9,000 steps.  Cyrus just loves it but Arya had enough before we were 2/3 of the way through and played Pokémon on Josh’s phone.  After lunch we went to a local fair in Bradford-Gwillingbury called “Karot Fair” where they kids entered an ice cream eating contest after playing a few free games:

Arya won third place! The price was a $5 coupon to the ice cream parlour so Josh got a couple of cups of ice cream for us to share.

We walked around the booths at the street fair checking out the freebies including a free bag of carrots!

When we got home we played more games and kids showed us their coding skills on their own personal laptops

The grandkids go to bed at 7:45 at night so it always got quieter around the house at that time – but they are up early and Sunday we all go up early to watch the final Women’s FIFA match; kids cheered for England and the adults cheered for the winners: Spain.

After more games again in the morning, we went back over to the Conservation Area after lunch so they could play in the lake.  The adults all took chairs and umbrellas and sat on shore watching.  We had given Arya a late birthday present of an inflatable dragon (the current obsession!) which they enjoyed testing out.

It got pretty warm that afternoon (and we had rain overnight).

Doug and Fran walked over into the campground to see if our camp neighbours from our summer there in 2021 were around and they had a dog that wouldn’t stop barking outside so we couldn’t access the door to knock.  We did call out several times, but we guess Pete & Kim couldn’t hear us inside with their AC running so we left one of our “calling cards” on their windshield.  (Later that day we got an email and we’ll be in touch another day.)

As is customary, the grandkids got picked up by 7:30 am on Monday and Josh took off for work on his bike; a half hour later, he called – he’d had a tire blowout so Doug went to fetch him home and he took his car into work.  Doug looked at the tire and it was blown – not just a tube puncture.

That night, Fran looked into parking in downtown Toronto for our overnight trip later this week.  Josh mentioned an app and Fran found a similar one called “SpotHero” and booked a 24 hour spot about a block and a half away from our booked hotel for about $17 CDN.  Doug used his free night certificate to get us the Courtyard Marriott on Yonge Street.

On Tuesday, Josh drove to work again and Doug went searching online and found replacement tires not too far away (he bought two as they are a weird size and it was hard to find them).  He installed the new tire and fixed the tube puncture.  While he was out, he went to a car wash and got the Honda vacuumed and when he got back Fran cleaned 18 months of grime off the car – it had been hosed down in Buffalo but needed a hand wash cleaning.  The interior is in great shape, with no stains and the carpet is in good shape thanks to all the mats we have in it.

Fran also went through all the wedding photos over the past few days and of the 657 got it down to 151 so here’s a link to her album on this site:

link to wedding album

Wednesday, we headed into the city around 9:30 am after rush hour – aiming for an 11 am arrival.  We had good traffic and things went smoothly until we hit the parking lot we had booked.  The Rental ID code would not open the garage door!  We found the trouble shooting number to call and after a few useless ideas, they offered to refund our money and give us a different spot free – we took that!  At this place, you just drive into, and your license plate is how they assess if you’ve paid.  StopHero took care of that and we got parked and walked over to the Marriott.  As it was still morning, we weren’t sure they’d have our room ready, but they did and we checked in and put our bags in the room.  Doug seems to have “gold” status and that got him a few perks:  free upgraded wifi, a couple of snacks and water and included a free deluxe continental breakfast in the morning. Gotta love those Marriott points!

We had grabbed umbrellas when we left Josh’s and needed them to start exploring.  However, the one Doug grabbed from the back of the Honda which was ours, practically fell to pieces in his hands – been sitting on the back dash for too long and it was quite dry.  So we stopped at Shopper’s Drug Mart and bought a new sports umbrella to replace it and we’ll keep it in the trunk this time!

We began to wander down Yonge Street:

Yonge Street is considered the “longest street in the world” running (mostly) concurrent with Yonge as far north as Barrie, then continuing beyond through central and northern Ontario to the Ontario-Minnesota border at Rainy River, the highway was over 1,896 kilometres (1,178 mi) long.

Our first stops were a couple of small square with great murals dedicated to the music scene in Toronto:

We passed by the McGill Arch:

The McGill Street Arch belonged to the former St. Andrews United Church that was built in 1923 north of here on Bloor Street.  The church was demolished in 1981 and the city purchased the arch – it was rebuilt on this spot as a pedestrian gateway. 

Then it was Yonge and Dundas Square – this was NOT in Toronto when we used to live here (1988-1995) and it a mini version of Times Square in New York or Piccadilly in London.

It continued to sprinkle for a while and we went into the Eaton Centre mall to find some breakfast.

In the Atrium we saw the geese which have been there for ages:

Our plan had been Egg McMuffins at the Food Court (we are going out for a pricey dinner tonight, so we are keeping it cheap) and enroute we saw a “New York Fries” – a Canadian chain that we’ve not been to in decades!  They now not only serve great fries, but now also have hot dogs – that we had a combo meal for two.  Here’s the cardboard cup they give you with your drink – no plastic lid or plastic straw:

By the time we went back outside, it had stopped raining and we walked by the old city hall and the new one (1965) at Nathan Phillips Square:

Now in all the years we lived in this area, we had never visited the Hockey Hall of Fame which is located in the basement of the building Fran used to work in!  So we thought we’d do that as a good “not a nice day” thing to do.

The Hockey Hall of Fame is a museum dedicated to the history of ice hockey, it holds exhibits about players, teams, National Hockey League (NHL) records, memorabilia and NHL trophies, including the Stanley Cup. Founded in Kingston, Ontario, the Hockey Hall of Fame was established in 1943. The Hockey Hall of Fame was established through the efforts of James T. Sutherland, a former president of the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA). Sutherland sought to establish it in Kingston, Ontario as he believed that the city was the birthplace of hockey. In 1943, the NHL and CAHA reached an agreement that a Hall of Fame would be established in Kingston. Originally called the “International Hockey Hall of Fame”, its mandate was to honour great hockey players and to raise funds for a permanent location.

The first nine “honoured members” were inducted on April 30, 1945, although the Hall of Fame still did not have a permanent home. It moved to Toronto in 1958 after the NHL withdrew its support for the International Hockey Hall of Fame in Kingston, Ontario, due to funding issues. The temporary Hockey Hall of Fame opened as an exhibit within Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame at Exhibition Place in August 1958, and 350,000 people visited it during the 1958 CNE fair. The first permanent Hockey Hall of Fame, which shared a building with the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame, was opened on August 26, 1961, by Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker.  Due to the success of the exhibit, NHL and CNE decided that a permanent home in the Exhibition Place was needed. The NHL agreed to fully fund the building of the new facility on the grounds of Exhibition Place, and construction began in 1960.

Over 750,000 people visited the Hall in its inaugural year. Admission to the Hockey Hall of Fame was free until 1980, when the Hockey Hall of Fame facilities underwent expansion.  The hall was relocated in 1993, and is now in Downtown Toronto, inside Brookfield Place, and a historic Bank of Montreal building. The new location has 4,700 m2 (50,600 sq ft) of exhibition space, seven times larger than that of the old facility. The Hockey Hall of Fame now hosts more than 300,000 visitors each year.

The Hockey Hall of Fame has hosted International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) exhibits and the IIHF Hall of Fame since 1998.

An 18-person committee of players, coaches and others meets annually in June to select new honourees, who are inducted as players, builders or on-ice officials. In 2010, a subcategory was established for female players. The builders’ category includes coaches, general managers, commentators, team owners and others who have helped build the game. Honoured members are inducted into the Hall of Fame in an annual ceremony held at the Hall of Fame building in November, which is followed by a special “Hockey Hall of Fame Game” between the Toronto Maple Leafs and a visiting team. As of 2022, 294 players (including nine women), 113 builders and 16 on-ice officials have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. 

Entry fee is $25 ($20 for over 65 which Doug managed to get without having to prove it!) and we spent about 90 minutes wandering through.  It’s quite impressive; so much information on stats etc., lots of trophies (this is where the keep the REAL ones including the Stanley Cup!) and lots and lots of memorabilia.  They have an interactive section where you can shoot pucks or stop pucks and lots of short films and information on not only NHL hockey, but international and Olympic as well.  It really makes you feel proud to be a Canadian!

The Stanley Cup:

In 1893, Canada’s then Governor General, Lord Stanley of Preston, donated the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup (later become known as…you guessed it!).  It was originally awarded to junior hockey champions but with the rise of professional hockey in the early 1900’s, it became the domain of professional players only and eventually made it’s where to the NHL. 

While its stature as the pinnacle of hockey has continued, its shape has been drastically altered over the years.  It has taken various shapes and new bands were added, before it evolved into its current shape.  New names are added as new champions are crowned and old names removed, but the bands are save and the memories remain in the hearts and minds of fans everywhere.  It has outgrown its national status and become a global icon. 

We then walked over to see the Roundhouse – an old rail station with a brewery and rail museum.

Then it was on down towards the waterfront of which we only saw a bit and were not all that impressed:

Maybe if we’d walked the entire 3.5 km / 2m walkway…..?  It’s now about 3:45 and we began our walk towards the theatre district to check out “Canada’s Walk of Fame” where we saw so many “stars” that we recognized – here are just a few (there are more in the galleries):

We remember that our Canadian financial advisor at the TD works in this area and we reached out by phone with no luck – he’d already gone home for the day but he’d see about stopping by our hotel before we leave in the morning – Lawrence has been the advisor for all our Canadian retirement funds for years, but we’ve never actually met in person.

We have dinner reservations at the “A Toi” but not until 6:30 and we were thirsty so we went to the “Elephant and Castle” pub for a couple of drinks.  It wasn’t busy and we got a table near where we could enjoy the music best and chilled for about 90 minutes.

At 6:10 we left and walked over to the “Coffee Oyster and Champagne” bar (where the entrance to A Toi seemed to be….).  We showed the host our reservation hoping we were in the right place as what we are looking for is a “speak easy” so it’s supposed to be hidden.  (Josh told us about this place.)

He said yes were in the right place and “were we ready for our champagne tour” (?) – okay, sure…..  There was one rule:  no photos beyond this point.

He took us into a small room saying that this was the largest collection of different champagnes in the country and asked us to guess which was the oldest and most valuable.  Doug found it and when the host pressed on it, it opened a secret door and we were told to go through it and go left.  It was dark and there was a bit of neon lighting near the end of the left end.  Here the same host met us and took us into the A Toi speak easy!  It was very nice inside with a great ambience and period décor.

There was a hotel here in the 19th century that a wealthy man, named Antoine, built for his wife, Isabelle, but he died before it was completed.  She ran it and the café after his death.  (a toi means “yours” in French).  He lead us to a table for two.  There are about 8 tables in one section, a long bar, another section with another four tables and three private booths (where apparently you can request entertainment on certain nights like a private singer).

We enjoyed a drink then decided to just order appies for dinner as so many of them looked good and not a great deal on the main menu was as appetizing.

First we had Mushroom Croquettes, Roasted Broccolini and Stuffed Dates wrapped in bacon with a maple glaze.  They were all delicious.  After a second drink we went for a cheese platter together with a cold cuts plate and they were served with small pieces of bread – again – all delicious!

It was not a cheap meal but very tasty and the experience was worth it.  When you leave you use the back exit by the kitchen and end up in an alley out back – all very hush, hush.  Such fun.

We walked back the 2.1 km /  just over a mile to our hotel to wear off some of the dinner and enroute stopped at a gift shop to pick up something to give to the nice Frenchmen who is storing Minou (Canadian maple syrup of course).

Next morning after breakfast around 8:45 we met Lawrence outside the hotel just after ten – we only had about 15 minutes as we had to be at the dentist for noon about 90 minutes away.  It was nice to meet him and put an actual face to the name.  Thanks for making the effort Lawrence.

We made it back to the Honda (all safe and sound and not ticketed) and decided to drive by the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) to see what we think is a new outside façade.  We’d been there a few times when we lived here but it looked new to us on the photos we saw online (or our memory is bad).  Doug drove so Fran could takes photos:

And then we worked out way back to Yonge Street hoping to drive it all the way to Bradford where our appointments were (Fran had found Groupons online and made appointments back when we were in Vancouver).  Well, traffic was slow (Yonge Street is only a two lane road) and by the time we got to Lawrence Avenue, only a few kilometres, our GPS was telling us we were already going to be nearly ten minutes late and who knew how much worse the traffic would get.

So we went off course, and made our way to the 401 to the 400 – well we  hit terrible traffic in the collectors on the 401 due to an accident but once we got on the 400 northbound Doug pushed our luck some and we made it with one minute to spare!

Hola Dentistry is pretty new and we seemed to be the only patients.  Fran went first and told them that although the Groupon coupons were for cleaning, checkup and x-rays, all we needed was the cleaning.  While Doug was getting his done, she went over to the nearby Dollarama to look for a few things (found them all).  We then went to the nearby Walmart to do some grocery shopping for us and Joshua.  It was about a half hour from Bradford to Tottenham (like we did last week for the fair) and we chilled till Josh got home, had dinner with him and slept back in our own “bed” that night.   We had a bit of rain during the evening complete with lightning for a couple of hours.

Friday we had nothing planned so Doug went for a marathon walk and was quite pleased with how it went and the weather cooperated; it was cloudy but not hot and he got very few blisters thanks to the new socks Fran got him for his birthday last week. The sun tried to come out in the afternoon but didn’t last long.

The kids arrived Friday night later than usual due to a burst pipe at their mom’s house so we had a late dinner and they were off to bed.  Saturday morning we all went for a bike ride (yes they have five bikes!) along the only rail trail nearby.

Each weekend they have homework sheets to do; they are home schooled at their mom’s and the current homework is review of last year’s schoolwork so they keep it up (not a bad idea).  Part of this weekend’s homework was to go to the library and get out certain books.  Before doing that we all went out for a pizza lunch.  After the library we stopped at a park to burn some energy:

When the bowling alley at the nearby CFB Borden opened up, we went to play for a while before dinner.  Arya did not want to play so she amused herself drawing – one of her favourite pastimes:

We played two regular games and one of “monkey bowling” where different positions had to be struck from which to throw.  It was quite funny.

backwards and through your legs
standing your right foot only, bowling left handed
Fran shoots between Cyrus’ legs
on your knees

through someone’s legs

Sunday was sunny but only 21C / 72F – quite comfortable.  The kids wanted to go to the lake to swim again but on the way we stopped at the Music in the Park fair for a bit.  The music was not bad (80’s rock) but super loud.  The kids played on the bouncy games a bit, we walked around and bit and then left.

The three adults again, sat on the beach watching the kids (pretty much the only ones in the water!), play in the lake.

The night for dinner Josh made homemade fries and burgers topping off dinner with individual lava cakes:

Naturally over the course of this weekend we played a lot of card games and as well as some Mousetrap.