Sunday, July 10, 2011

Discovering my roots Ontario 1998

This is a trip I took to Ontario (and Buffalo) in 1998 - I spent time in the area my dad's relatives are from near Lake Huron.





My Trip to Ontario August/September 1998

I flew to Toronto on Friday August 21st. It was funny as after I arrived at the airport, collected my luggage and headed for the airport bus I saw a bunch of teenage girls running around. Well they seemed pretty excited so I asked what was happening and the Back Street Boys were arriving. So I stuck around and video taped these kids - it was hilarious. It reminded me of how I would have acted if I’d seen the Beatles back in 1964!! While I thought the Back Street Boys were ugly (I probably have video that some teeny boppers would kill for) they were gracious to their fans and posed for quick photos for one or two despite being hustled out by their body guards. I had to laugh right out loud when one girl said to one of them “Oh my God you are so hot!”. Anyway it was a fun way to begin the trip - I was so happy for these girls as they were running around thrilled to death screeching at the top of their lungs. I know the feeling!!! If I’d seen the Beatles when I was a teeny bopper I probably would have popped a few ear drums!!! Anyway I had a nice few days in Toronto. I toured Casa Loma which is the local castle - a beautiful building with gorgeous period furniture and wonderful gardens. Also visited the Toronto Zoo which is excellent. I went to see “The Phantom of the Opera” again and really enjoyed it - I was in the fourth row which was a shock. I arranged to pick up my seat there and while I knew it was a good one didn’t realize how good!! I saw my niece - the bed & breakfast place I stayed in was only a ten minute walk from her place - so I met her at her house and got to look around (she shares a house in Cabbagetown with three other girls) and then we went to a pub for a meal and drinks. Spent hours at a patio table outside chatting and catching up with news.

On Tuesday the 25th of August I took the bus to London, Ontario and rented a car for a week. I had booked a sub compact - the smallest and cheapest car I could - but Avis did not have a car that small so upgraded me at no extra charge to a four door Ford Escort station wagon!! I loved it! Loads of room. Off I drove and about an hour later was in the area in Ontario (a town called Brucefield) my family had lived for generations. It is close to Lake Huron (one of the Great Lakes) and I based myself in Goderich which is a pretty little town right on Lake Huron. Supposedly it is one of the best places in the world to watch a sunset and I must admit it was pretty spectacular. I stayed in a bed and breakfast - I was her last guest as she was closing up shop. She gave me a deal - four nights for the price of three and it was cheap to begin with. It was a gorgeous old Victorian house. I spent the next few days driving to different libraries looking at microfiche of old newspapers, historical books and visiting my great and great great grandparents’ graves which was very emotional for me. Also saw the homestead two generations lived on and that my great great grandfather settled - he was the first settler in the area. I was able to find out some more information and once I get things sorted it should keep my genealogy bug busy through the winter. Of course I did some sightseeing too as the weather was fantastic - sunny skies. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find any “live” relatives but I tried!!! I am sure they are out there!!!! My last day in Goderich they had the Tall Ships Festival which comprised of three tall ships coming in and it was something to see. Unfortunately the weather didn’t cooperate that day and it was cloudy and a bit wet. Disappointing for the organizers but the festival was to go all weekend and the weather did improve I am sure. On Saturday the 29th of August I carried on north to Tobermory. It is a small town in Bruce Peninsula Park - surrounded by Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. It is the end of the Niagara Escarpment all the way from Niagara Falls. Lots to see on the way up. I loved that area. Sauble Beach was so neat - miles of sand and you actually parked your car on the beach!!! I wished I had my bathing suit with me then but didn’t even think to bring it - plus with having gained weight I don’t think I’d ever have had the nerve to wear it anyway!!! Arrived into Tobermory in the early afternoon. My bed and breakfast was a modern house just outside town. After dropping my luggage off I headed into town and took a two and a half hour boat tour of the surrounding islands plus we stopped to have a look at a couple of boat wrecks. The water was so clear and calm you could see right down - but obviously it isn’t clear and calm all the time!!! The water was a gorgeous green and blue and reminded me of the Caribbean. The next morning at breakfast I was talking to a lady who was a guest there as well and she told me about a wonderful hike by Cyprus Lake to Georgian Bay. So I drove out there and walked for about half an hour on the trail and there it was - just as she said. A spectacular cove with gorgeous rock formations and the colour of the water was unbelievable. It was called Indian Cove. People were swimming there. There was also a grotto - a rock with a hole in it that you could swim through. Made me really wish I had brought my swimsuit!! Well worth the hike there and back. The trail was really busy so I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all - I refuse to hike by myself if there isn’t anyone around. I then carried on to Shining Sands which was a beach with shallow water. You could walk out a long way and the water was only up to your knees - really nice. That afternoon I took a boat ride out to Flowerpot Island and got off and walked around. It is named Flowerpot Island after the two rock formations that look like flowerpots!! It was enjoyable but the thing I remember most is that I saw a garter snake and freaked out. I don’t do snakes well at all!!! That evening I took a sunset cruise along the coast and saw Indian Cove from the water - not as spectacular as from the view I had!! While in the Huron area I seemed to live on fish (white fish) and chips - loved it as the fish was always fresh. My bed and breakfast in Tobermory was fantastic and the hosts were so friendly and helpful. The breakfasts were to die for - for example: apple pancakes, fruit salad, fresh strawberries, fresh blueberries, juice, freshly baked croissants, fresh bread and coffee. All one breakfast! I headed back to London via Stratford. Tried a different route and while it was nice scenery in a way I wish I had gone back the way I had come just to see it all one more time. I stayed overnight in a motel in Stratford. In the morning I walked by the River Avon - yes they try to make it like the one in England!!! Later that morning I drove back to London and turned in my rental car.

I caught the bus back to Toronto and went to my bed and breakfast in the Beaches area. I loved that area as there are many shops and restaurants and it is by Lake Ontario with a wonderful boardwalk. Due to the lack of energy I suffered from throughout the whole trip I didn’t walk as much as I had hoped to but I still enjoyed it. The B & B was okay but after the one in Tobermory it was a letdown!!! The next few days I went over to Toronto Island on the ferry, went to High Park and took a trackless train around the park. My niece Erin treated me to a Japanese meal - I tried sushi for the first time - not bad!! Then we went to see the movie “Return to Paradise” which was very powerful and disturbing but well done. By then the Air Canada strike was in full swing so I went to the Air Canada office and stood in line for two hours only to be told that there was nothing they could do - they were only looking after people whose flight was in the next five days. Grrrrr... I then went down to Buffalo to visit my friend Pat and ended up staying there for a week due to the strike. We had a great visit though. One day we drove to Niagara Falls. This was my fourth visit to the falls but I had never been on the Maid of the Mist so we went. It is a boat trip that takes you right up to the falls. They provide you with rain coats but you still get soaked - it was great fun!! Especially as we were right at the front of the boat!! As it was Labour Day weekend though the place was packed and after walking along viewing the falls and playing a few slot machines at the Casino we decided to head home. Another day we drove to Ball’s Falls (yes that is really the name) near Hamilton, Ontario only to find out the falls had dried up!! So then we carried on to Port Elgin to see the Welland Canal. It is the canal that links Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. We were lucky enough to see a ship coming through so that was quite exciting. When Pat went back to work I spent a pleasant afternoon looking around a book store/record store/coffee shop and just hung around the house relaxing. It was nice to have a rest as like I mentioned earlier I didn’t have much energy. I phoned Air Canada and they could not get me booked on another airline and so they booked me on a train from Toronto leaving on Saturday September 12th - the two other trains that week were full. I went back to Toronto on Friday and stayed overnight at a bed and breakfast in Little Italy. Anyway the train trip home was long and boring. The first five hours the scenery was pretty but then it got old and everything got boring. The food service on the train was horrendous. It is funny that tourists dream of taking the train across Canada - as one fella who was headed for Vancouver said (three days) - it was like being in jail!! Of course tourists probably wouldn’t travel like us peasants - we just had regular seats. No berths for us. I suppose when you are in a different country it would be exciting but all around me were Canadians and we were bored out of our minds!!! I sat with an English couple and their little girl for a meal and they were loving every minute - of course they got to get off in Winnipeg!!! The first class passengers had their own rooms and I hope they had better meals than us for the price they pay. ($4000 Cdn dollars a couple to go from Toronto to Vancouver - rip off!!!) I wish I had brought more of my own food on board. I felt like we were in steerage class on the Titanic!!! Of course Murphy’s law I had to sit with the craziest person on the train but luckily she spent most of her time in the dome car. (a car that is all windows - I spent a lot of time there as well but not sitting with her!) She took pictures so much I was wondering if she had any film in the camera - there is no way she could get 90% of what she took photos of. She ate a lot of sardines but luckily just grabbed them out of her pack and took them to the dome car!!! We stopped twice before Winnipeg- once at a deserted station where we just all stretched our legs and the next stop had a few stores. I never saw so many people get so excited about a few dusty stores. People were running like crazy (it was ten minute stop) - and I admit I was one of them!!! As it turned out there was only one store open as it was Sunday and this was a one horse town. Anyway I got some juice and pastry. My “friend” came back with a huge stalk of celery and a cantaloupe. She sat and ate the celery then and there and then she went up to the dome and proceeded to eat the whole cantaloupe. (I asked her later and she said yes she’d eaten the whole thing) Then later she complained she felt sick - no wonder!!! Anyway made it to Melville (our train service in this country is so pathetically lousy that the train does not come through Regina or Calgary anymore) and Neil met me there. Neil brought Sandy to the train but she was quite calm when the train came in. Neil said she had already seen two freight trains and she was much more interested in the rabbit she had seen run around the corner of the station!!! I was supposed to be home September 9th but got home September 14th instead so had to use an extra day of vacation and head back into work the next day. (I had planned to have a few days at home relaxing before going back to work)

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