Forgive me father, for I have sinned.....it has been MONTHS since my last blog entry. I blame this on the fact that:
a) We had such a great time with our family and friends who visited from Australia that I lapsed into a month-long sulking session upon their departure.....and;
b) The weather has been so bloody cold and I was OVER IT and I'll admit it....I had a bit of a bad attitude.
Toronto weather has a way of playing with your emotions. You get a warm-ish day and you think, "oh great, the winter has passed!” You get all excited, dust off the bikes and put away the winter jackets. Then you suddenly get three days of below 5 degrees! I can't handle these weather-games. I well and truly had a case of the winter-blues and Troy will tell you that at times, I was a little difficult to handle. I was prepared for the cold winter, but I was not prepared for how long the winter is. But I survived!
The good news is that Bob tells me that I really can say that winter is over and the warmer weather is approaching. Today was a particularly beautiful day and so we planted new flowers. I have really missed my gardening and flowers, so this small event really cheered me up.
I have finally uploaded a load of photos onto Kodak Gallery for you to all enjoy. We had many adventures when Yvonne, Graeme, Margaret & Roger were here. Here is a summary:
We spent two nights at Niagara on the lake which is a gorgeous, quaint little village just outside of Niagara Falls. The weather was a bit rainy on the day that we went to the falls, but we made the most of it. Roger was particularly interested in an environmental disaster called the "love canal" which occurred in Buffalo (which borders the USA/CAN border and right on the falls), so we made a trip across the border to see this historical site. We almost didn't make it as the USA Homeland Security officer was a little dubious when he asked us why we were coming into the USA and Troy politely informed him "oh to go see an environmental disaster area"! We have had to cross the border a few times now and it's never easy or straight forward.
We were lucky enough to enjoy a beautiful snowfall over night in Niagara which made the last day really picturesque.
Blue Mountain Skiing
Jamie, Scott and Bob (from Toronto Fire) invited us all to Blue Mountain for a day of skiing and snowboarding. The weather was glorious and Yvonne & Graeme decided to give skiing a shot. With borrowed gear, they hit to bunny-hill (learner area) for some instruction from Troy, Bob, Jamie and Scott. Their first attempts were a bit scary but they were able to accomplish the basics by the end of the day. Margaret, Roger and I were spectators for the day and spent most of the time laughing and taking photos. We were amazed that Graeme (whilst under instruction himself and clearly lacking any real skill so early in the day), decided to then give Yvonne some constructive instruction! ha ha. At one point, they both nearly skied off the side of the bunny hill and later on, Graeme ran into few people. I hope we will be allowed back again, someday.
Of course, Jack was completely bored on the bunny hill and so Bob, Jamie & Scott took him over to the 'real slopes' to do some runs. Jack was thrilled to be skiing by himself with the big boys and they ended up taking him all the way up to the larger mountain and across to the other village. Jack kept up with them well and had a great time.
The Canadian Rocky Mountains - Banff, Canmore & Lake Louise
What an unbelievable trip of a lifetime. We all flew to Calgary and then hired a minivan to take us all to Canmore, which is a small town next to Banff. Yvonne and Graeme managed to get in contact with a friend who used to live in Australia and he moved to Canada about 30 years ago. We met up with him and his partner Lyn and he played tour guide/host for us, showing us the lovely sights of Canmore. We ventured into Banff briefly but quickly decided that Canmore was just as pretty and much less touristy – so we decided to spend all our time in Canmore from that point on. We did a dog sled tour through the Canmore Mountains and lakes. It was so much fun – there are two people per sled (three for Troy, Jack and me) and you get a lesson at the beginning of the tour on how to handle the dogs and sled. We learnt how to give the appropriate commands to the dogs to let them know when to go/stop/encourage etc. Troy did the majority of the driving but Jack and I did actually get out and have a turn which was amazing. Roger said it was the first time that Margaret has ever been the ‘back seat driver’ from the front (of the sled).
We were fortunate enough to see some real life Elk in Canmore but unfortunately, I am still on the hunt for moose.
Lake Louise is a small village about an hour away from Canmore and we stayed two nights at the Chateau Lake Louise which is one of the most gorgeous hotels I have ever seen. It had about 5 restaurants, many sweeping staircases and shops. I was pleased to see it had an in-house dog that was on their staff, whose job was to cheer people up. Canadian establishments are very dog-friendly and you can often take them into shops, hotels etc. Even as carry-on on the plane!
We had a day of skiing at the famous Lake Louise Ski Village. This time, Troy, Jack, Graeme and I skied and Yvonne, Margaret & Roger played spectator. The weather was glorious and the snow conditions were perfect. By the end of the day, Graeme had mastered the learner hill and was able to stop, go, turn and have control the entire most of the time. I had to admit that the slopes at Lake Louise were a little too advanced for me but Troy and Jack had heaps of fun. Jack also showed off his ‘skiing backwards’ skills.
Maple Syrup production
Bob has some good friends, Gord and Kathy who live about 90mins from Toronto and own a small Maple Tree forest. Maple Syrup is produced only once per year (season is only 4-8wks long) and the timing was perfect for them to invite us to come and see how the syrup is collected/produced. Before this, I just assumed that Maple syrup was made in a big vat in a factory, all year round. Well we quickly learnt that the reason REAL maple syrup is costly is because it is an extremely labour intensive process!
Gord and Kathy live in a homestead that they have lovingly restored. When we arrived, Gord took us all over to the Maple trees and showed us how the trees are ‘tapped’ to allow the sap from the tree to be collected. This sap is then boiled for a long, long time and I think the ratio of sap to syrup is 40/1. So 40 litres of sap will give you approx one litre of syrup! Gord was very knowledgeable and gave us all some of his syrup to take home. It is the best maple syrup I have ever tasted and I realised I have been eating the imitation crap for years.
Kathy and Gord put on a beautiful brunch for us all which was unexpected and a lovely surprise.
In 1944, Yvonne’s uncle (on her father’s side) was killed when the plane he was flying on an instructional exercise crashed into a farmyard in Trenton, which is about 90mins from Toronto. We discovered that 21st March was the 67th anniversary of his death and we would visit his grave in the Air Force Cemetery on this day. A gentleman who purchased the farm in the 90’s did some historical research and learnt about the crash, so he traced the family and sent a letter to Yvonne’s family some years ago. He provided all the information he was able to learn about the crash and where Yvonne’s uncle was buried etc. We were able to meet up with his gentleman, Michael and thank him for his efforts. At the Trenton Cemetery, we were able to visit the grave and pay our respects. Jack shared his Australian flags by decorating the headstone with them. We also found one other Royal Australian Air Force grave and took photos of it (Jack also decorated this headstone with the flags). We hope to try to trace his family in Australia and pass on the photos etc.
We flew to Quebec City and enjoyed five days in this very historical place. It had a real European feel to it and I quickly remembered how isolating it is to be in an area where you don’t speak their language. Troy had to try to remember some of his high school French and we were relieved to find out that most people in Quebec City speak both French and English. Phew. We stayed in the ‘Old’ part of Quebec City which is obviously the most historical part. We were within walking distance to almost everything and we spent most of our time wandering the streets. We visited the museum and also took a city tour, which was fascinating. On one of the days, we visited the Ice Hotel which is completely made of ice. I still can’t get my head around the fact that people actually pay to stay there! The skill involved in making the hotel, with all the lovely ice carvings etc was a great sight to see. There was even a giant ice slippery slide in the middle of the hotel, which we all tried out.
Well, that is the majority of the adventures we had with our family and friends when they visited us for five weeks. With heavy hearts, we said our farewells.....all us trying to be brave and remind ourselves that we will be back on Australia very soon!
Some photos of our adventure can be found on the following link:
They are not in sequence though.