Category Archives: Canada

Oh Canada!

“He’s just not ready”…during our trip to Canada we’ve learnt the Conservatives admire Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s hair but advised via ‘smear campaign’ adverts..being Prime Minister isn’t an entry-level job!

Political happenings are a huge discussion topic, we’ve also learnt Canadians like drinking, watching sports, talking about the weather more than us Brits do, eating potatoes in all forms and that Toronto is ever-expanding.

We’ve had a wonderful 3 weeks in Ontario, staying with family and friends has been a treat, everyone we met was interested where we are from and are super friendly.

wpid-fotor_144034415682684.jpg

We started our trip staying in ‘rurban’ Alliston with our Evans cousins. We shopped making the most of the $2 to £1 exchange rate, ate poutine in potato land, drank 1930 tequila drinks and had a fun weekend at the Alliston Potato Festival.

wpid-fotor_143930117269610.jpg

Toronto is huge, it’s the fourth most populated city in North America and is an international centre of business, finance, arts, and culture. As Alliston is just over an hour away from Toronto, with our trusty guide Gary we took a day trip into the city.

wpid-fotor_143913368000288.jpg

On the former site of the Gooderham and Worts Distillery, which was once the largest whisky distillery in the world, now stands the Distillery District. Impressive brick buildings now house pedestrian only walkways of art installations, restaurants, microbrewery bars, shops that sell what I would describe as ‘nice things’ and coffee shops a plenty. It’s certainly a popular tourists destination.

wpid-fotor_143913355326965.jpg

Incredibly trendy, Toronto is the city of bearded hipsters where shops and bars have outrageous on trend double names such as Frank & Oak, Lavish & Squalor and Scotch & Soda. 140 independent and ethnic neighbourhoods make up the city, so being with arty Gary we took a walking trip through just a few of these hip hoods.

We parked in Little Italy, where one level older homes were framed with pretty gardens. Strolling down Ossington Avenue, Gary told us this area was a den of sketchy heroin houses during the 80’s and is now transforming into a popular hangout for the hip. From Dundas St W we saw delicious looking Gelato shops in Portugal Village.

wpid-fotor_143913388924244.jpg

Queen Street West is the art and entertainment district, we stopped at Paul Petro Contemporary Art Gallery to view Gary’s latest art exhibit ‘Ghost Host’. From there we visited Chinatown, if I lived in the city this is certainly the place to buy fresh exotic fruit and vegetables.

wpid-fotor_144034427251786.jpg

Kensington Market is a distinctive multicultural neighbourhood, although we didn’t visit on the popular outdoor market day, we still saw plenty of bustling vintage boutiques and deli stores in converted grand Victorian buildings. We ate Jamaican spicy doubles and beef patties, then took a break to sit in the sunshine with a pint at Ronnies.

wpid-fotor_143913417901762.jpg

Our day ended watching a baseball game. Toronto Blue Jays were playing at home in The Rogers Stadium against Minnesota Twins. The stadium roof was open to the clear night sky and the crowd were cheery as The Jays have been on a winning streak.

wpid-fotor_143930109688887.jpg

It was great to see so many families at the game with kids sporting their baseballs gloves ready to catch any high balls. Final score Jays 9, Twins 3.

wpid-fotor_14403446481906.jpg

In Port Credit, we stayed with Aunty Dee who owns a fabulous apartment that has views of Lake Ontario and out to the spectacular Toronto skyline. Purple Dee is just the most lovely person and it was great to stay with the Evans girls there for a few days. She is certainly the cool granny!

wpid-fotor_144034579740223.jpg

Toronto’s York University were hosting The Rogers Cup competition for the Womens Tennis Association. We had day tickets with opportunity to watch the top women warm up on practice courts. Those Williams girls make playing tennis look easy, boy they sure can hit the ball hard! On centre court there was a big Romanian crowd cheering for no 2 Sabena Halep.

wpid-fotor_144034505213513.jpg

After tennis we headed up to Cottage Country for a fabulous weekend with the Biggart family on the River Severn.

wpid-fotor_143986089059118.jpg

During our last week in Canada we couldn’t miss out driving down to visit to the fantastic Niagara Falls. It is truly a wonderful sight that I will never tire of seeing.

wpid-fotor_14400841746121.jpg

Once you drive out of the GTA, Ontario has beautiful individually designed houses, there is plenty of green spaces with vast beautiful skies.

wpid-fotor_144034560976825.jpg

When we are in Canada, we certainly feel like it’s home and we aim to visit more often over the next few years as we certainly ‘heart’ Canada.

Advertisements

Alliston Evans!

Gary Evans is a coordinator of fine arts, museum and galleries programme at Georgian College in Barrie.

wpid-2015-08-10-09.35.08.jpg.jpeg

He regularly shows his art exhibits at the Paul Petro Comtempary Art Gallery on Queen Street West, Toronto.

wpid-fotor_143896192822534.jpg

wpid-fotor_143896213209768.jpg

His style of oil paintings are a mix of contemporary landscape painting fused with his own psychedelic perspective.

wpid-fotor_143930077103647.jpg

wpid-fotor_143896179860626.jpg

His latest exhibit Ghost Host included a  suite of collages which reference classic modernism. His latest review is a piece of art on its own! Click on the link below to have read.

GHOST HOST

wpid-fotor_143896229431949.jpg

As well as being a crazily talented he is absolutely one of the nicest people we know. Always upbeat, positive and lots of fun. Oh and he plays guitar & sings too!

wpid-wp-1440168773913.jpeg

Rachel Evans is an art school teacher where her students learn drawing, painting, printing, sculpture and art history in her classes.

wpid-fotor_143930068111534.jpg

Rachel specialises in sketching and painting people. The Evans home is full of stunning portraits, where Rachel has captured fabulous images of her gorgeous girls Charlotte and Georgia.

wpid-fotor_143930055816719.jpg

wpid-fotor_143930059461029.jpg

Whenever we think of Rachel its mainly for her interest in the different political party candidates and the complexities of Canadian politics however I’m not sure the word ‘Douchebag’ is readily used on political campaigns but maybe it should be…

During school holidays Rachel likes travelling, enjoying spending time in Florida and has a fabulous knowlegde of weather! Rachel made us feel totally at home during our stay in Alliston and we loved spending time together. I’m also now a converted Tequila drinker as Rachel introduced me to a delicious 1930’s Tequila cocktail!

wpid-fotor_143930064022691.jpg

Charlotte and Georgia are stunningly beautiful, polite, super intellectual, they can play guitar and sing like angels.

wpid-fotor_144016842012922.jpg

With such creative parents it’s no wonder they have found their own artistic ways. Charlotte is a talented writer having tons of fan fiction hits online. Georgia has a natural talent for stage musicals, her star turn portrayal of Lord Farquaard in Shrek totally brought the house down.

So after a few weeks in Canada with our cousins, the British Evans are left feeling a bit intellectually inferior! But with art inspiration all around me I  had opportunity to try out oil painting with help from Gary, I guess all you need is a bit of creativity to rub off..

wpid-fotor_144011346113172.jpg

Thank you Evans family we have loved spending time with you all in Alliston.

Forever in Love With the Falls

A trip to Canada just wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Niagara Falls, it’s just one of those must go to places in your lifetime!

wpid-fotor_14400841746121.jpg

As a young girl I first saw Niagara Falls on the big screen in the movie Superman. I was completely amazed by the sheer size of the falls. Superman should have given the naughty boy a proper dunking though rather than saving him from a frothy drowning. Then when Clark Kent and Lois Lane shared the honeymoon suite complete with heart-shaped tub, I knew I too would one day go to the Honeymoon Capital of the world.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit the falls a couple of times and got to stay in a hotel with pink heart shape tub alas it was Mr E and not Superman! We can only hope Bruce & Teresa will have their forever love after visiting the falls..

wpid-2015-08-18-14.38.36.jpg.jpeg

On our day trip to Niagara we took Georgia Evans along to provide us with intellectual facts, introduction to the music the kids are listening to nowadays and to keep Mr E amused as she is truly a delight to be with.

wpid-fotor_144010298150459.jpg

We started out with a wander through the touristy shops at the pretty town of Niagara on the Lake. Historic as a former loyalist British military base, it still has a largely British feel and is the only town in Canada to have a Lord Mayor. The foreign visitors were queuing for tea & scones, taking photos of the beautifully kept floral gardens and were lapping up the British goodies for sale.

Heavy rain spoiled our plans for a stroll along the White Water Walk so we sucked it up like we do in the UK and ate our picnic lunch in the car while the rain crashed down.

wpid-fotor_144008340593948.jpg

Dashing through the rain we took cover to view the Whirlpool Aero Car, we decided we didn’t fancy being dangled over the whirlpools in a steel basket but we did   admire the Whirlpool Jet boat being carefully steered, avoiding the fast running water rapids that has trundled 50 metres over the American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and Horseshoe Falls from Lake Ontario into Lake Erie.

wpid-fotor_144008357442896.jpg

Our first view of the falls was exceptionally cloudy and misty but the rain had stopped and we were once again in awe of the beauty of this marvelous natural wonder.

wpid-fotor_144008296400438.jpg

Since we last visited in 2002 there has been huge expansion with more high-rise hotels forbthe best views lining the Niagara Parkway.

wpid-fotor_144008352603137.jpg

Clifton Hill has far more tourist attractions now including the Niagara SkyWheel. This part of Niagara is totally tacky and touristy but it’s great to see old-time attractions such as the Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Guinness World Records and the Dinosaur Adventure Golf remaining for family fun traditions.

wpid-fotor_144008442031011.jpg

wpid-fotor_14400828033166.jpg

After splashing out $5 in the Canadian Midwest arcades the sunshine was out and it was time to get waterfall wet.

wpid-fotor_144008394053587.jpg

Maid of the Mist boat cruises have been running since 1846 and have taken visitors close to the bottom of the falls for serious spray misting throughout the years. In October 2013 the iconic Maid of The Mist closed on the  Canadian side with Niagara Hornblower Cruises starting operation. So now decked out in Canadian red waterproof ponchos we took our cruise. It’s incredibly noisy and you really get a feel for the force of the water, Georgia took some great photos as she saran wrapped her iPhone.

wpid-fotor_144008272377292.jpg

We got wet around the ankles but the view complete with sparkling rainbows was just fabulous.

wpid-fotor_14400836521308.jpg

wpid-fotor_14400838126619.jpg

Our day at Niagara ended with glorious sunshine and we snapped far too many photo, it was a great time. If you can, definitely add it to your bucket list of great places to see!

Additional photo credit to Georgia Evans

Sunshine Saturday on the Severn!

Our weekend trip visiting our Canadian/Mexican friends Nancy, Len, Jesse and Kelly continued on Saturday with the sun burning through the morning mist for a glorious day of sunshine, heat and fun splashing about on the River Severn.

wpid-fotor_143986078564089.jpg

Len & Nancy’s daughter Carly arrived late on Friday evening from Toronto, after a busy working week with her husband Scott and their two lovely children Kylie and Jack. The cottage was full of family and we were welcomed with open arms.

wpid-fotor_143986188115319.jpg

Saturday morning was a hive of activity on the homestead, while Carly set up an art station for the kids to paint rocks, trees and quite a lot over themselves, the guys split logs, Kelly was on wheelbarrow duty ferrying logs to the bonfire pit ready for our Saturday evening campfire.

wpid-fotor_143986001376298.jpg

With chores all done it was time to mess about on the river. After a brief shock to the system in the cold freshwater it felt wonderful to swim out to the pontoon to then warm up sitting in the sun. Mr E had his first attempt at paddle boarding, he did really well avoiding falling in the river, however the neighbours 6 year granddaughter made it look far too easy though!

wpid-fotor_143986139759416.jpg

Carly’s golden labrador Jersey was a total pro diving from the dock to retrieve a stick, so not to be outdone Bosley the Bernese Mountain puppy dog, learnt how to fetch a stick thrown from the dock. This amazed Carly & Kelly as he’s only just started to swim the weekend before!

wpid-fotor_143985978948286.jpg

wpid-fotor_143986105276942.jpg

At sunset, Carly drove the boat up river so we could watch the lowering sun glistening over the water which was just a perfect way to bid the sun goodnight.

wpid-fotor_14398603877762.jpg

wpid-fotor_143985960944573.jpg

Our sunny Saturday ended with a delicious BBQ dinner and campfire standard practice of roasting marshmallows over the glowing embers.

wpid-fotor_143986212600973.jpg

wpid-fotor_143986089059118.jpg

It was the most wonderful weekend spending time on the river in cottage country, thank you so much Biggart family for your hospitality, we had a blast!

Sailing on the Severn..

Standing on the dock looking out over the Severn River, I can see white birch trees, dark green firs and pines growing tall over craggy glacial formed granite rocks. There are unspoiled peaceful inlets where the reflections of trees on the clear water and the yodel like call of the loon magically makes me feel instantly more tranquil than I already am. Stunning properties line the water’s edge, boats of various sizes cruise the waters where people wave to them from docks sitting on Adirondack chairs with beers in hand. Jet-ski’s and water skiers whizz by, while kids splash around on inflatables near the shore line – this is serious Muskoka cottage country!

wpid-fotor_143984010190929.jpg

This last weekend, we have been thoroughly spoilt staying with Nancy and Len Biggart in their beautiful home on the River Severn in lower Ontario. We had met their son Jesse and girlfriend Kelly earlier in the year in Puerto Escondido, so through the power of Facebook messenger a weekend was arranged to visit during our trip in Canada.

Arriving in the dark on Thursday evening I totally fell in love with their home, I was probably a bit excitable on the tour with far too many oohs and aahs. In the morning I woke to a beautiful view. Len and Nancy have built their home with great care, love and hard work to be able to share cottage life for all the family.

wpid-fotor_143984054573567.jpg

It was a little cloudy on the Friday but this didn’t spoil our fun. Captain Len took us on a cruise up river for the day.

wpid-fotor_143983217284643.jpg

The Trent -Severn waterway river system runs from Trenton in Lake Ontario over a 386km stretch northwest to Port Severn in Georgian Bay. The historic river was once used to transport furs and lumber, in places it’s so huge we easily mistook it for a lake. Along the river we saw small cabins and huge multimillion Dollar properties that are a far cry from the ‘cottage’ name tag.

wpid-fotor_143983249055337.jpg

45 locks including a marine railway have been built through the waterway to allow boats to navigate the change in water levels over the landscape.

wpid-fotor_143983297855832.jpg

Number 43 is Swift Rapids Lock, which is the deepest single chambered lock on the waterway. An impressive set of lock doors were revealed as the water emptied from the chamber and our boat is gradually dropped down by 47ft. It was a bit scary thinking how much water the gates hold as the boats lower in the chamber!

wpid-fotor_143983276585617.jpg

Next stop was to Waubic’s, this family run restaurant is only accessible by boat and we were told served great fish n chips! It didn’t disappoint especially as the owner originates from Manchester. We sipped pints and ate great home cooked food on the dock.

wpid-fotor_14398332221697.jpg

Fully stuffed we clambered back in the boat to cruise further up river where we saw something which was pretty amazing.

wpid-fotor_143985487306945.jpg

At the Big Chute Marine Railway, boaters are transported in a huge open carriage from one side of the River Severn down a steep incline of 17.7 metres by an amazing engineering system of motors, cables and rails thereby avoiding the rocky rapids.

wpid-fotor_143983335651046.jpg

Boats steer into the carriage, they are then secured from underneath by cradle straps. Once secure the carriage moves up out of the water over rails across highway 17, descending steeply down the rail tracks until the carriage releases the boats once again into the river.

wpid-fotor_143983405773649.jpg

The first marine railway was built in 1917 allowing boats to navigate this large natural obstacle where fast flowing river water runs through the Big Chute hydroelectricity generating station.

wpid-fotor_143983346909228.jpg

Big Chute has been rebuilt over the years allowing greater capacity and expansion, which allows boats of up to 100ft to be maneuvered. The marine railway has remained in operation over the years rather than building a deep lock such as Swift Rapids. The over road railway system from high river to low river prevents any sea parasites spreading to the northwest great lakes which could potentially devastate the fishing industry.

wpid-fotor_143983393599791.jpg

Once we had watched a few boats travelling up and down, we headed back to our starting point on the river through the Swift Rapid lock again only this time being raised in the water chamber!

Back at the family home it was time for drinks and a plate of delicious homemade lasagna.

It was such a fun day and we got to experience outdoor cottage life all over again on a sunny Saturday !

Happy Potato Festival !!

Just as Father Christmas merrily wishes ‘Happy Christmas’ to all good children every year without fail, throughout this August summer weekend the smiling children of Alliston have been calling out ‘Happy Potato Festival’ !!

Alliston is located just over an hour north of Toronto, it’s a small town with a big community feel. The township of New Tecumseth is the potato capital of Ontario, the annual harvest festival is a great opportunity for local businesses and the people of Alliston to come together celebrating the potato in all its glorious forms.

wpid-fotor_143921099737717.jpg

Over the course of the weekend there are events for all the family. Fairground rides and stalls entertain the kids, there’s a ‘Texas Hold Em’ poker event and beer garden with live music for the rowdy adults. It’s a big weekend for the town with neighbourhood BBQ parties where kids are allowed out on their own later than would usually be allowed and everyone has a chance to let their hair down, some more than others though!

Our first Canadian potato festival and the town’s 42nd kicked off on Friday night with a huge parade. Kilted Pipers from the Ontario Fire Service led the parade, while shiny fire trucks sound their horns and sirens.

wpid-fotor_143921045289525.jpg

Massive agricultural trucks decorated with balloons roll on by reminding the town of its farming heritage.

wpid-fotor_143921067417590.jpg

Shriners’ parade units from all over Ontario travel to take part in the parade. These fellowships raise money for Shriners’ Children’s Hospitals. The Shriners fraternity are known for driving through parades in miniature cars wearing their traditional fezzes promoting their charitable image. I particularly liked the Shriner ‘Ken Doll’ on the front of the mini car machine.

wpid-fotor_143921059918058.jpg

The main employer in Alliston is Honda of Canada Manufacturing, which has three plants producing cars. There was a big float and plenty of Honda promotional goodies being handed out.

wpid-fotor_143921081066764.jpg

During Saturday, Victoria Street the main thoroughfare in Alliston is blocked off from traffic. Local trade stalls sell their wares, Girl Guides and Scouts tout sweets & pops, the chip trucks fry up piping hot twirly strips of potatoes on a stick, bands play jaunty tunes and the gymnastic & kickboxing organisations demonstrate their latest choreographed moves. It’s lots of fun with all the family cruising the strip.

The ‘Under and Over’ antique car club gathered to show their vintage motors, classic colourful Cadillacs shine next to beautifully kept Chevy’s.

wpid-fotor_143921036291054.jpg

Sunday was all about relaxing in the Evans household, the previous night was spent celebrating milestone birthdays for Rachel and their good friend Jeff. The boys had their own annual jamming session in the garage until the wee hours, Neil Young would be proud!

If we had ventured out to the Midway fields we would have seen a dog show, baby show and many other arena events…but we chose to drink wine and beers on the porch with a few potato based snacks to finish the weekend off.

So to sum up the festival; its one where the whole town gets together to see their friends and get drunk, go on rides that you need take out a small mortgage for, eat a baked potato or poutine, expect one of your friends to get arrested and then talk about it for the rest of the year!

We had a wonderful festival weekend with our Evans family and had opportunity to meet some fabulous Alliston friends.

wpid-2015-08-07-20.20.21.jpg.jpeg

Potatoes, live long and prosper..until the next festival when you call call out Happy Potato Festival! 

Let the Potato eating commence…

Oh Canada!

Yes that’s right, we’re in Canada! We’ve diverted from the travel plans spending time in Mexico, Central and South America to have a month of normality in Canada and California with friends and family.

Since booking our tickets for Canada I’ve been excited about shopping and visiting a Dollar store, Mr E has been hankering for poutine.

If you haven’t had poutine before you are missing out on a fabulous treat, it’s practically a food group on its own.

Poutine at its best is a plate of freshly cut handmade chips, thick brown gravy and chopped up cheese curds. At this stage you’re either salivating at the thought of this delight or making a scrunched up face that is showing utter disgust. But let me tell you poutine is a delicious homey comforting mouthful of yumminess.

wpid-wp-1438827678735.jpeg

After arriving in Toronto airport late on Monday night, Gary Evans picked us up and whisked us off to stay with family Evans for the week. Their home is in Alliston, which is an hour north of Toronto, it’s a cute town of about 15,000 people surrounded by farming fields of corn, soy and potatoes. Happy Boris corn growing entrepreneur provided us with just picked delicious sweetcorn for the BBQ.

wpid-wp-1438827612731.jpeg

We’re visiting the Evans family during the week of the Alliston Potato festival, more to come on this spectacular yearly event though later in the week!

To get this week underway in praise of the potato, Mr E was after a portion of good traditional Canadian poutine.

Originating from Quebec province, in Québécois slang poutine means ‘mushy mess’ and it’s now quite the posh food fad of the moment. Wendy’s and McDonald’s have recently added their version of poutine to the fast food menu but this really should be avoided at all costs.

wpid-wp-1438827636559.jpeg

In England we have always had regional varieties; chips n gravy – northern, chips n cheese – Welsh,  chips n pitta – southern but the addition of the cheese curd would have been poo pooed by late night revellers looking for carb laden munchies, the donner kebab proving to be the choice of drunkards. There are now new restaurants selling gastro styled poutine popping up all over London town, catering to the trendy skinny jeaned wearing hipsters, however gravy, curds and beards really shouldn’t be introduced to each other!

wpid-wp-1438827754738.jpeg

In Canada, an independent Mom and Pop restaurant or a roadside chip shack are best for serving the finest home styled poutine. Today we chose Judy’s Chip Wagon for a lunch time poutine chowfest. It didn’t disappoint, gooey cheese mixed with tasty gravy and chips were firm yet chewy.

wpid-wp-1438827656928.jpeg

Mr E was happy with this unique taste sensation, I expect there may be more poutine tasting this week…