Have spent three days back in Buffalo staying with friends Paulette and Michael (perfect hosts). We met up with another ex colleague and friend LuAnne who kindly drove us around for the perfect tour of Buffalo. First stop was the amazing Darwin Martin House which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and has been beautifully and painstakingly restored (only the garden left to do). I am a major FLW fan so am sharing a few photos for others who like this kind of thing. Extra special was that we have a private tour:)
Next stop was the Richardson Complex – formerly the Buffalo Psyhiatric home. It is huge and is also being repurposed/restored as a hotel and event location. We got another private tour thanks to my friend Betsy. Some great artefacts like the beams holding up the roof.
Then we headed to the Canalside area. Formerly grain silos and now being repurposed as a place to dine, skate, roller derby and generally have a good time.
And finally a quick day trip back across the border to Niagara on the Lake, Ontario where the Shaw Festival is on – we saw Henry V – but it was set in WW1 trenches and hospital beds. Sounds weird but it was really cleverly done and very moving. The town is gorgeous and decorated with flowers in abundance so a nice place to stroll and indulge in all things maple!
Lovely 5 days in Toronto visiting with old friends and meeting new ones too. This is a very cool and laid back city with lots going on – including at the moment TIFF (the international film festival – saw a couple of movies).
Museums of choice were the fabulous BATA shoe museum which provides a history of shoes – and as you can see bling and shoes have been around for a long long time. And then a whole floor of Manolos – works of art and impossible to actually wear.
At the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) – a place that has everything in it and it build like museums used to be (although has a very modern exterior) I especially enjoyed the Iris Van Hepern clothes design exhibit.
Back on the open decked bus I enjoyed blue sky and sunshine as we swanned around Toronto taking in the striking CN Tower plus a stop at the newly developed Distillery District – which is quite funky and I had never heard of before.
And best of all time to catch up with my friends – gin cocktails with Paul and Murray and flaming saganaki in Greektown with my friends Jim and Arlene (who kindly hosted my stay) and Gary and Ronalda who I haven’t seen for 20+ years. We all talked and reminisced a lot:)
Last stop on the cruise in the Maritimes and this time it was Halifax Nova Scotia. I had been there a couple of times so took a tour to the gorgeous town of Lunenburg about 90 minutes away – great views all the way there too.
En route we stopped at Mahone Bay
Lunenburg is the home of the Bluenose 2 ship – it wasn’t in dock on this day. It was (well the original one anyway) the fastest sailing ship ever for many consecutive years. It was named after one of the nicknames for people living in Nova Scotia. Apparently, back in the day, they all used to wear blue mittens in Winter and when it got cold and their noses ran they wiped them with their mittens and the blue dye came off on their noses. Great story:)
The first pic below shows three churches next to each other- although the third is a bit hard to see – and then some close ups.
Every road you turn into the buildings are traditional, well maintained and colourful. No wonder the whole old part of town has UNESCO heritage status
Finally in the land of the lobster I’m on a mission to taste, compare and contrast lobster rolls at various ports.
For my second ever visit to PEI (home to Anne of Green Gables) I decided to bypass Charlottetown and do something different so I went to a private home in front of the Pinette River river run by a lovely couple who harvest wild oysters to supply three local restaurants.
A quick departure from Charlottetown.
Then onward to learn how oysters are farmed and shucked and then we ate loads of them – plus those fantastic steamed clams. Apparently 16 of us got through 300 oysters!!
Then they opened the Galley on the ship for their food extravaganza – lobster, cake, chocolate dragons and sea horse bread.
As we sailed away Charlottetown treated us to a beautiful sunset too.
A visit to the quite remote area of Saguernay and Gaspé in Quebec City. As both places are quite small I chose to walk in their respective national parks to try and make amends for all the good food I’ve been eating on the ship. It was great to get some fresh air and enjoy the scenery.
Parc du Saguernay
Florillon National Park – Gaspé
I was surprised to learn that many of the original settlers in Gaspé came from Jersey and Guernsey – where I lived and worked for a few years back in the 1990s. As a result I saw many Jersey surnames I recognised. They fished cod and then salted it and shipped it to Portugal and Spain (I ate a fair bit of salted cod in Portugal as it is still popular there). There is even a cemetery specifically for those who came from the Channel Islands. Who knew?
We had an overnight stop in Quebec City which meant lots of time to enjoy this wonderful city that feels way more French than Canadian.
The area around the docks is full of antiques shops, cafes and 3D murals.
Then I headed to the upper part of town – good for accumulation of floors on your iPhone- and went to see the changing of the guard at the Citadel. Quite reminiscent of the UK version but with a regimental goat – an idea from Wales
While at the citadel I also opted for the tour of the Governor General’s residence – her second one as her first is in Ottawa. Btw – a very impressive Gov Gen who has been to space and speaks six languages plus lots more. Note chandeliers meant to look like icicles.
Then on to the lovely Chateau Frontenac Hotel – am old Canadian Pacific Railway Hotel now owned by Fairmont. I stayed here over 20 years ago and this time I did the one hour tour which was fun.
A train trip from Quebec City to Baie St Paul – the birthplace of Cirque du Soleil. The train runs along the St Lawrence River although as the tide was out there was a lot of mud – but still it was a very nice two hour journey.
En route we travelled past the famous and very high Montmorency Falls (1.5 times the height of Niagara).
And then a quick visit to the Quebec City old fruit and veg market. Love the way they displayed their produce. And the pretty building is the train station in Quebec City with the cool fountain in front of it.
Last time I was in Montreal was when I worked for HSBC Canada in the mid 90s. First stop was actually HSBC to get some cash and I’m pretty sure that was a branch I had visited once before.
Montreal is bilingual and not only has two languages in common use it also has a distinct old and new town to explore. The coloured building below is a convention centre and the weird shaped apartment block is called Habitat 67 and was designed for the World Fair by Moshe Safdie. It aimed to utilise minimal space while also ensure every apartment would get maximum natural light. Way ahead of its time.
A highlight for me was the stunning Basilica of Notre Dame with beautiful blue interiors. It is built on a slope so everyone – including the people at the back – gets a great view. It is an Anglican basilica from the 1800s but includes a lot of Jewish as well as Christian histories and it was designed by a Roman Catholic Irishman!
Finally I wandered past the McCord Museum and saw they had a Balenciaga exhibit on – so I absolutely had to stop in and take a look. Lovely.
Lovely to be back in Quebec even though it was pouring with rain.
First stop the spectacular St Anne Canyon and waterfalls. It was warm but very wet hence was forced to purchase on of those ponchos I always swore I’d never wear – but I guess “never say never”! Even in the wet this was a great trail.
Then a visit to Iles D’Orleans which is pretty and houses some very “local wineries” where everything is done by hand from presssing to labeling and they mostly specialise in ice wine.
Although I had the pleasure of living and working in Canada for four years (Vancouver) I (like many Canadians) had never made it to Newfoundland which I think is closer to the UK than it is to Vancouver.
It was a gap I very much wanted to fill and it was really nice to stop off at three more obscure parts of the island – populations ranging from 2800 to about (aboot ???)350.
First we visited L Anse Au Meadows. A charming village and the opportunity to get out on the ocean in a fishing vessel looking for whales. Very excited to see two killer whales, humpbacks and dolphins. Almost made me forget how nauseous I was feeling!
Then to Red Bay – a real teeny tiny place that nevertheless has a statue of Leif Erikson the explorer on the dockside.
And then Corner Brook where we followed the footsteps of Captain Cook. Who knew he spent five summers in Newfoundland learning cartography and other useful things before he went on to discover The Antipodes? The wood piles are collected by the locals in anticipation of Winter and the orange boats are called Dorys and used for fishing although the fishing industry is much depleted as the big players take over.
All the people we met (and they really did describe us as “Come from Away” – a musical I will be seeing next month in NYC which tells the true story of the people in Gander who took in 6000 stranded passengers post 9/11 shut down of the skies) were welcoming and kind. At each church the locals had baked for us and rustled up coffee. Truly a special group of people in that part of the world. And the sun does shine there too!