Friday, July 20, 2012

The Last Week

The Last Week
Well, what can I say. It's been quite a ride. In the week since I got back from New York, I have: visited Gananaque with my friend Michele. Her parents have a spectacular property on the river and I was treated to a personalized boat tour of the 1000 Islands. I felt pretty lucky to be able to spend time with her family who were wonderful people.
On Sunday evening, Michele had a quiet dinner party with myself & Ann O'Brien. I am nagged to source some tuna and was able to cook the girls my signature dish. Catching up on the latest news from Ann was great.
On Monday the prodigal traveller (that's me) returned to Don and Linda's after a lively lunch with Karen and Mary, two of the most older full people from Holy Cross. Back in Danbury road there was an evening replete with Don's famous mussel dish. I must replicate this one at home in the near future.
Tuesday proved to be the hottest day of the year do far with the mercury exceeding a whopping 40 degrees. It was too hot to really do anything. I did manage to squeeze in a visit to Pat & Diane who came around after dinner and took us down to Portsmouth Harbour for a spin in his 1935 vintage wooden boat. By now the searing heat had abated and with a light breeze coming off the lake,new were finally able to enjoy the evening. By the way, Kingston looks fantastic from the water by night. We all ended back at Don and Linda's where several convivial night caps were consumed. This is getting to be a habit - I need to go home and soon!
The following day saw me take a drive to Howe Island with Michele to have dinner with Liz Rae Dalton and Ann O'Brien. Liz had a fantastic place built right on the water and effectively showcases her art. A cool night in the screen porch made me wish that I lived in Kingston. I know why I just had to go back - the people are wonderful.
Thursday saw some last minute shopping at the outlets in Division St before heading downtown to a delicious thai restaurant. This, of course was followed by gelato and a walk by the lake. Summertime in Kinston at it's best!
Friday -today! My last day. I expressed a desire to visit Kingston Mills. Surprisingly, we had never been here when we last lived in the city. Kingston Milks represents the start of the Rideau Canal where it flows into the Cataraqui River. A busy place- we pent an hour or do watching the boats move up and down the canal through a complex series of locks.
Our final lunch was, for old times sake, fish and chips at the Rose and Crown Pub. Then it was off to the station for final goodbyes with Don & Linda, my gracious hosts. We love you guys and hope to see you soon in Australia where we can return the hospitality.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Rocking out at Mariposa!

6.07.12 - 9.07.12
Mariposa Folk Festival
After a sumptuous breakfast made by Susan, I made the short trip over to Gravenhurst to meet Helena and attend the Mariposa Folk Festival. Helena had arranged for her friends, Janet & John to take me to the venue in Orillia whilst she went to pick up her daughter. Because it was yet another stinking hot day in Ontario, we quickly found our way into the beer tent to settle down and enjoy the acts.
The three nights and two days. The Festival proved to be quite relaxing and we enjoyed a variety of Canadian and International Acts. The headline act was Jan Arden, well known in Canada for her gutsy renditions and down to earth stage presentation. The night was mad special when Canadian Folk Legend, Gordon Lightfoot made a surprise appearance and performed two numbers for a stunned but appreciative audience.
It was special to be able to catch up with Helena and spend some time with her. The exchange connections keep on keeping on

New York City - Sampling the Big Apple

10.07.12 - 13.07.12
New York City
The girls hit the big apple!

After arriving back in Kingston on Monday evening, I headed over to Michele's to regroup and pack for Our trip to New York City. After rising at 5.30, Michele & I quickly readied ourselves and went to pick up Carrie in order to make our way down to Syracuse to pick up our train. The border crossing was uneventful and I was duly fingerprinted and issued with the obligatory green card.
Unfortunately, our train out of Syracuse was somewhat delayed and we were a couple of hours late getting into PennStation. That however, did not deter us. After locating our apartment (311 East 61st) and depositing our baggage we hailed a yellow cab and headed off down to Little Italy. Here, we were able to enjoy a leisurely dinner on a restaurant patio whilst enjoying people watching.
Day 2
After some consultation, we decided we would head off in the direction of Times Square to try and pick up some tickets to a Broadway show. We enjoyed a leisurely stroll down 5th Ave trying to absorb a myriad of sights and sounds and breakfasted in the square at the Rockefeller Centre. We were lucky enough to be able to obtain tickets to Chicago. Following this we decided to visit Saks in an attempt to find Shelly a handbag. On the way, we were hijacked by the makeup artists at Nars and we all received makeovers. After our transformations and parting with a few dollars for makeup we took a cab further downtown to visit the WTC Memorial site.
What a transformation from when we last visited. The Memorial site consists of two page pools - essentially footprints of both trade centre buildings the were destroyed in the attacks. The names of every victim are enshrined around each pool. Above us rose the Freedom Tower -still under construction but nevertheless impressive.
Whilst in this area, we visited St Paul's Church -a place of pilgrimage. This church essentially became a focus for relief workers and victims in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. Inside are significant mementos, letters of peace & hope and images which chronicle the aftermath of 911.
It was nearing beer o'clock when we left the Memorial so we duly found ourselves a little bar, had a quiet ale and snack and headed off to China town in search of handbags. Nw, since we were last in NYC, the trade in illegal fakes has been cleaned up considerably and each shop had an array of fairly similar bags. These were not really what we were looking for so we moved on to Little Italy for another delicious authentic Italian New York cuisine.
Day 3
Still stinking hot!
We decided to begin our day with a stroll to Central Park. As this wasn't too far from our apartment we were soon enjoying the sights of this famous American Icon. After a few hiccoughs, we managed to locate the famous Strawberry Field and I posed for the obligatory snap. John Lennon's apartment is directly across the road from this site. Here we're mingled among the many tourists who were happy to pose for photographs outside the front gate.
Hailing a yellow cab (we are now very adept at this - just like true New Yorkers) we headed down to 33rd street for a little more serious shopping. After exhausting ourselves (we are, after all propping up the American economy) we lunched in an Irish pub, taking the opportunity to sample yet more beers.
Late afternoon was spent on the Staten Island Ferry where we were able to see the Statue of Liberty. The ferry ride was also a welcome respite from the hustle of a Manhattan. After inserting ourselves into yet another yellow cab we returned to our apartment to freshen up before heading back down to Broadway. Dinner was at the famous Playwrights Pub and our show was at the Ambassador Theatre. A classic take of murder & mayhem, Chicago is the ubiquitous Broadway experience. I can now also say I've seen two shows on Broadway.
Michele also decided that it was appropriate to round out the evening with a cocktail at Sardis - a classic after Broadway venue for those New Yorkers in the know! One chocolate martini later ( yum) we set off through Times Square ( just make sure we were fully on sensory overload), hailed a cab and headed for home. Tired and with sore feet, we all agreed that the past couple of days have been excellent!
Day 4
Again, after a late sleep in, we packed, said farewell to our apartment and headed off to our breakfast venue. (We are almost locals) A quick ride downtown saw us at Penn Station where we caught the 283 to Syracuse. As I write, we are still on the train, kicking back and enjoying a well deserved rest!

Georgian Bay and Parry Sound

Cruising the spectacular Georgian Bay!
After picking up yet another little rental vehicle, I headed over towards Parry Sound and Georgian Bay. I was keen to explore this area as this was one place we didn't get to visit in 2009. After an easy drive of around 5.5 hours (3 major highways) I arrived in the small town of Parry Sound. After hickory locating Bay StBnB and meeting the lively owner, Susan, I made my way down to the docks to purchase my ticket on the afternoon cruise. Georgian Bay is comparable to the 1000 Islands, except on Steroids. Located on the Canadian Shield, the
area is fetchingly picturesque with copious islands (many only accessible by boat) making for the perfect summer vacation spot for many Canadians.
Below are some photos of some highlights from Georgian Bay.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Prince Edward County

American Independence Day spent in Prince Edward County!

The last couple of days nice returning from Ottawa have been a little less hectic with me catching up on some much needed sleep. I safely deposited my little Toyota back at the hire place. Luckily I only drove on the wrong side of the road once. This was when I turned off the 401 into Division St in Kingston. I happened to notice some cars coming towards me. Whoops! With a graceful swerve and some loudly uttered curse words, I swiftly returned to the correct side. No damage done.
Tuesday night saw me once again out and about with some of the girls from Holy Cross. We sampled the delights of Raxx Bar & Grill. The best part of this holiday is the opportunity to catch up with some of the people who made our year here so special. I love you ladies!

This morning as I rose under a steamy sky, another scorching summers day in Ontario loomed. I never really thought this was possible. Michele picked me up at ten and we headed down Bath road towards Prince Edward County (that's synonymous with wine country). On the way I excitedly pointed to a dead skink on the road. Having not yet sampled its odorous delights I hurriedly wound down my window for a quick whiff. Not too bad! We must have been far enough away for me to receive a faint tang that wasn't at all offensive. Still yet to sample the full skink experience.
The ferry to Picton was timely and we were soon exploring the best that PEC can offer. After visiting a couple of wineries, we lunched at Casa Dea, a small boutique winery in the heart of this region. I must say I managed to purchase some ice wine. Hope it survives the trip home. I'm now resting up as tomorrow, I head over to Georgian Bay - a trip of around 5.5 hours.

Canada Day 2012

Canada Day!
After another long hot summers night, Canada Day dawned brightly and promised us another scorcher. Judy & John put on a great breakfast for their Aussie exchange friends as well as some Canadian friends. The photo below shows how the typical Aussie celebrates Canada Day in Canada!

Shortly afterwards, we caught a bus and headed downtown where we were greeted by a sea of red & white. Down town Ottawa was awash with Canada Day Pride and we were more than happy to be part of the crazy atmosphere. This crowd scene photo pretty much sums this up:

After a lengthy interlude in a pub (the Royal Oak), we made our way back up to Parliament Hill for a concert & fireworks. This was the highlight of the day and featured some big name Canadian Acts including the band, Simple Plan. The fireworks behind the Parliament building proved to be a fitting climax. The following photos give you an idea of the scope of the celebrations! We came away from the day with a greater sense of Canadian pride!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The week that was!

I finally have a couple of quiet moments to reflect on the week that was and, oh boy, what a week it's been! Saturday stared off with a charity walk for muscular dystrophy with Don & Linda and some of their friends. Despite the heat and humidity, there was a creditable turnout and we managed quite a few laps of the Holy Cross Football Field. Afterwards, Don & Linda hosted BBQ and I was lucky enough to be able to get to know their friends and family a little more.
Sunday dawned and Linda and I took a run up to Kilborns near Westport. This country store is a must for serious shoe shoppers everywhere. I even managed to swag myself a pair of swanky summer sandals which I'm already wearing in.
Monday - oh boy, the fun continues- saw me invited to Michele's house for lunch with theHCSS crew. Fun fun fun. Great food, a few good wines and convivial company made for a pleasant afternoon.
Tuesday saw me dining with the Check-Drumm family. Again, the warm weather saw us sipping cocktails on the deck. I'm loving the long days. Winter back home will be a little gloomy when I return. There was much reminiscing about my time at HCSS. Thanks Jon & Stacy for your hospitality.
Wednesday saw me hit the road to Ottawa. I picked up a little Toyota Yaris and headed up the 401 towards Ottawa to visit John & Judy Whiting. We met up with some Aussie exchangees and old friends, Bill & Jeanette Avery at a Chinese Banquet Enforce heading over to the RCMP parade ground for the famous sunset ride. Even though I had been there before, it was still spectacular. After drinks back at Judy's place I fell into bed past 1.00 am.
Thursday saw me sleep in before getting up to explore the Rideau Canal first hand on a bike. Fortunately, John Whiting knows his way around and readily pointed out some interesting landmarks. After a quick trip back down the 401, I returned to HCSS for graduation. I felt honored to be giving an award at this ceremony. Of course, the traditional get together at Minos afterwards was the best part of the night. I'm not overly sure how it happened but Liz & I staggered back to Micheles at 3.00am . That's two late nights in a row for me. Don't know if I can stand the pace.
Friday saw me rise a little worse for wear and i headed back to Ottawa. (I'm getting used to this trip and am enjoying the luxury of a gps in the car!) after a little nap, I headed out with John, Judy & Ellen to a Tapas Bar in little Italy. Dinner was followed by gelato (the dark chocolate flavour was exquisite) and a beer at Pub Italia. Not too shabby either!

Partying on the patio!

Dinner tonight was downtown on a patio at an Italian restaurant - Casa. I relished the opportunity to sample my second ever Caesar. There were plenty of laughs as I caught up with some of the girls from Holy Cross. Patio dining is all the go in summer here in this
Part of Canada. The photo below shows my self and Michele enjoying our Caesars as well as the girls who came that night. I know why I love Canada so much!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Beaver Dams & Bald Eagles

Beaver Dams & Bald Eagles!
I venture onto a lake and try kayaking!
Today Don took me to a fantastic lake not far out of Kingston for my first kayaking experience. I was not the first member of my family to venture here - John went with Don in 2009 when we were last here. A perfect summer's day with temps in the mid 20's made things seem comparatively cool. Canada's freshwater lake system is truly amazing. Australia is truly a dry continent when you think about it. We put in at Lower Rock and traversed through a creek replete with several Beaver Dams (one of which had to be cleared -by Don- before we could continue our passage. Upper 4
Rock Lake was quite deserted apart from a couple of Bald Eagles and several Loons who were quick to make themselves know. I even managed to get up relatively close and personal for a quick snap. The return trip was just as adventurous since I was entrusted to lead the way. The responsibility of having to locate the connecting creek weighed heavily on my mind as I attempted to remember and negotiate an array of notable landmarks. I quickly learnt the value of traveling rapidly upstream in order to successfully negotiate the Beaver Dam. After two goes at this tricky enterprise I enjoyed success! What a fun day.
The photos below give a panoramic viewpoint of the lake as well as the lovely Loon.

Downtown Kingston

Downtown Kingston.
Temperatures spiraling out of control.
One great thing about returning to Canada is the opportunity to catch up with old friends and enjoy summer in the Limestone city. Last night I caught up with Pat and Diane who were celebrating their last ever day of teaching. After a brief sojourn around their pool, we ordered Greek takeout before making our way down town for gelato to die for. As an added bonus I got to enjoy the summer solstice with many other like minded Kingstonians out for an evening by the lake.
The following day, Don and Linda also took me downtown to lunch at Woodenheads - a busy pizza joint. Again, we took every opportunity to escape the searing heat whilst still exploring the city. Being National Aborigines Day, there was entertainment (Aboriginal style) in the city hall amphitheater.
Back home , my gracious hosts and I sojourned to the back deck for drinks and dinner. It sure is nice to experience a little piece of summer!
The photo below shows the Kingston Town Hall lit up at night!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Return to Canada!

Canada 2012

Two days of what seemed like interminable travel came to an end at 5.30 yesterday when I touched down at Toronto's Easton Pearson Airport. Friday was spent lugging my suitcases between the bus, train and cab to make it to The Airport Hotel in Arncliffe. An early start the following morning saw me dropping my luggage off at the Air Canada check in counter before breakfasting at various airport amenities. Naturally, I didn't sleep on the plane and nineteen hours later touched down in Toronto. Murray and Ashley were there to greet me with a box of Timbits! Yeh. I'm back in Canada!
On the way home Murray took us on a bit of a tour of the Beaches area where they are living for the year. Dinner saw us dining at Murphy's Law, an Irish themed pub near the Walpoles house. Naturally, I obligingly sampled some of their boutique beer. Needless to say it went down a treat after my long haul flight.

Some 27 hours after I last slept, I fell into bed and slept the sleep of the unconscious.

This morning saw me feeling vaguely refreshed and out of bed at 6. I was keen to have a look at the Beaches and took myself on a long walk. Wakefulness at last and feeling minimal effects from jet lag, I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast with Pam and Murray.

Shortly afterwards, we headed down town to the Rogers Centre to take in a baseball match between the Phillies and the Blue Jays. Needless to say, this was a unique cultural experience subtly enhanced by the ubiquitous hot dog replete with mustard, relish and tomato sauce (sorry - ketchup). Oh, yes, and Blue Jays were victorious.
Dinner saw us exploring Little India and consuming to die for butter chicken and naan bread from plastic plates on plastic chairs. Ambience aside, the food was highly recommended and did not is a photo of the Rogers Centre and also one of me consuming one of life's little joys: the traditional hot dog!