We had trouble dropping off to sleep until early in the morning. So much so that we didn’t wake up until 10am. It must be hibernation-induced.
Despite meticulous planning, I discovered to my chagrin that I had not packed a pullover. We hunted through most of the shops in the Eaton Centre, but could not find anything remotely like what I wanted. I seem to recall that this form of clothing is not particularly popular in Canada. In the end we had great luck in the Express shop, where I found the required item almost immediately with the help of a nice young gay man. And the best part was that we (perhaps mistakenly) got it for half of the reduced price – $18 – a bargain.
Earlier we had been pleased to be able to get a flat white – a milky coffee invented by Australians.
By the end of our shopping quest it was already 4pm but it was still a gloriously clear day, so we decided to visit the CN Tower because I had never been to it (it was built after I left Canada). We went on the subway part-way to Union Station and then on foot via the covered Skywalk to the Tower. Mercifully there were no queues whatsoever, so we were able to get up to the observation deck just before sundown. It’s a magnificent view up there – two decks, with the lower one in the open air, but unfortunately behind a substantial wire mesh that makes photography almost pointless. We walked around the perimeter several times and were hit each time by arctic blasts as we rounded the corner to the windward side.
Sorry, photos all in reverse order
We tarried until well after the sun had gone down. The elevation allowed us to better see how wide the red sky extends at this time. We could perceive it changing by the minute and watched as the city lights started to manifest themselves. One of the tourist novelties was the glass floor which allowed one to see down to the ground. Everyone only walked on it quite gingerly.
On the way back we detoured via City Hall to see the open-air skating rink. I was most pleased to see that it was in operation. I have a vague memory of going there once in my early years to skate. The old city hall was attractively illuminated at night.
After a brief stop at the hotel, we walked only three minutes to the Italian restaurant recommended by our young reception clerk. It was noisy but popular and the food was okay. The Argentinean Malbec was very good and Panna Cotta followed by an Amaretto topped nicely off the evening.
Thanks to the mysteries of the International Date Line we arrived in Toronto on the same day that we left Sydney. It’s a zero-sum game though, so we have to pay at the other end of the trip.
The flights were surprisingly comfortable, not least because the Sydney departure gate upgraded us to exit row seats (without asking, and for free!). On the flight from LA to Toronto we got a spare seat between us, kindly vacated by another passenger. Proceeding through officialdom at LAX was smooth and the queue surprisingly short (due to 6:30 am arrival maybe).
On exiting the terminal building in Toronto we were hit by a welcome blast of cold air and hurriedly put on our coats. Aussies are tough, but not impervious. We immediately located the correct taxi rank – the one where you pay a fixed fare to the city. A nice turbaned and bearded chap from Punjab gave a pleasant ride into downtown Toronto just off Yonge St.
We were a bit peckish (Aussie for hungry) so went out for a bite to eat immediately after check-in before returning to the hotel to discover a problem. The smoke detector on the ceiling was emitting intermittent sharp beeps. Since the hotel was staffed only by the night receptionist there was not a lot she could do other than to offer us another room. We reluctantly accepted as we had only partially unpacked.
After an erroneous episode of “I forgot the suitcase key!” and one of “where is …” things are now back on an even keel and we are ready to hit the sack.s
The LAX-SYD leg was a wearying 15 hours long, landing at 8:45am. We did our usual thing by taking the train and a taxi from Hornsby. We got home at about 11am and it rained all the way from the airport.
We got to the ferry terminal at Departure Bay in Nanaimo quite early for the 8:30 sailing, but just as well because there were lot of people boarding and they do apparently have a limit. Being mid-winter, daylight had not fully set in, even if yesterday’s fog had vanished. We watched the impressive sight of the ferry approaching and were delighted also to see a small seaplane landing in the bay.
The crossing to Horseshoe Bay (Vancouver) was notable for the profuse and varied cloud formations on both sides of the Strait of Georgia. I’ve never before encountered such a glorious display. Most intriguing of all were clouds-as-fog right at sea level on the mainland side. One of these clouds had pushed into Horseshoe Bay itself, causing a small delay as the ferry slowed right down and set off multiple blasts of the fog horn. The ferry had to creep into the dock as it was still shrouded in mist.
We managed to catch the #257 bus but were caught out as the bus only takes coins and I had not thought to procure sufficient of them. No matter, the driver allowed us on anyway as we were going to the airport and could buy a suitable ticket downtown on entry to the Skytrain. The combination express bus / train to the airport works very well. The train is driverless and accelerates quite rapidly.
The flight to LA treated us to a magnificent deep, deep red sunset spreading over most of the view out the right-hand side of the plane – Götterdämmerung-worthy.
On the way to the church in Nanaimo, we stopped first at Jenny’s to pick up four kids,
then at Bianca’s to drop off the dogs and to say hello to Mark, whom we have never met before, and also to admire their new home.
There was progressively thick fog for most of the drive and particularly so for the last section, making the identification of enroute landmarks more difficult for our driver Sabine. We got there in plenty of time – we were in fact the first to be seated by the charming groomsmen/ushers. The wedding ceremony was 20 minutes late in starting but to compensate was short and sweet. A new form of ceremony for us but most interesting, especially the bit at the end where the groom passionately embraced the bride and swept her off her feet. Indeed, he carried her off the dais!
We had a brief break back at the motel before heading to the reception venue at the Nanaimo Golf Club. The hall had been beautifully decorated. People chatted, drank, ate, speechified, photographed, laughed and danced. I was stunned to be asked to dance by one of the bridesmaids.
The day started with a surprise visit by Jenny’s husband Dirk, who fascinated us with tales of his recent surgery for a very rare artereo-venous fistula in the frontal lobe of his brain. We got to see the scar where they peeled back his scalp and the spot where they excised a patch of his cranium, now re-attached with a titanium plate. Judging by his lively demeanour, the op was a great success. Joy and Sabine were present also, as well as of course Karin, so a good family klatsch.
We had some shopping to do in town, following which we visited Armin again in the hospital. His brother Harald was there too and we were delighted to see him and his wife again.
This is for Martin and Peter. Both Karin and Thilo have what appears to be the same drawing. Peter asked if this was done by Fred Varley who lived in Unionville village back in the 50’s.
We woke early, allowing us to see a beautiful red sunrise from our hotel room.
Forgot to mention that the “lost” items resurfaced yesterday – packed in a different bag, so there is hope for me yet.
Because we were early, we decided to walk the three blocks to the Horseshoe Bay bus stop. We are attracted to this city with its wide streets. Somewhat disconcertingly, as in Toronto, there are homeless people sleeping in the streets.
The bus ride to the ferry terminal in Horseshoe Bay was quite enjoyable – you get to see some attractive parts of the city. It was a pleasant passage on the ferry – quite calm waters.
After disembarking in Nanaimo there was a problem – Joy was not there. I feared that I had miscommunicated with Joy regarding place and time. By now the driver of the van we had previously booked and payed for seats on, was calling out our name. Fearing being stuck, we reluctantly boarded the bus. I had tried calling Joy, but the number I had was the home number, not a mobile. Hmmm. Then I had the bright idea of texting Kim in Ontario to ask her to pass the message on to Joy. She did not have the number either, but did pass our status on to Sabine, who was able to relay it to Joy. Whew!
The bus driver turned out to be someone who knows Armin, who had just emerged from post-op recovery from surgery. He kindly dropped us just outside the Hoffmann’s house. The dogs went berserk as we tapped on the window. Karin and Sabine had gone to the hospital so they left the house open for us. Joy arrived only fifteen later.
We all went to the hospital to be with Armin. He looked a bit groggy, but was much brighter by the end of our visit. A while later, Bethany and Virginia also showed up. Their arrival seemed an opportune moment to let the patient rest a little.
Dinner was one of my favourites – Sauere Eier – made specially for us by Karin. A lively evening ensued – me and four women.
The day looked promising weather-wise as Kim drove us over to Thilo’s farm prior to starting work.
We were surprised to see Ramona still at home – her class had a field outing this day and she decided to go to school a little later in order to spend some more time with us – we are touched.
At the party Thilo had asked us what type of bird we wanted for lunch and we had chosen turkey. On arrival at the farm we were shown before and after photos of how the bird had been prepared.
Lunch was an enjoyable affair, with the additional company of Lukas, Bernd and Gerd.
After lunch Thilo and I took a walk up the lane, down to the sheds and over to where Lukas was unloading many boxes of Tim Horton salami (yes, salami, and no it didn’t fall off the back of a truck). Photos in reverse order.
Since late morning it was one of those brilliant clear sunny days that stir the blood and the emotions, and tend to stick in your mind. We are really pleased to have been able to experience that. -13°C
Then it was the inevitable long hike to the airport and some slightly sad, but not tearful good-byes.
We got to Vancouver half and hour early which was welcome as the flight (seats) had not been comfortable and there was a constantly squawking kid across the aisle. By way of compensation the Skytrain to the city worked brilliantly and we even benefited from a seniors concessional fare. We had to hunt around a little for the bus along Glanville St to the hotel three blocks away. All on the same ticket – pretty good. +4°C
Kim checked me out in their Dodge RAM 1500 truck while driving her to work. That went well, but I couldn’t find the way back to the house, and had to rely on the GPS to get me there.
Kim had kindly offered us the use of her truck to drive from Arthur to Owen Sound to spend the day with her parents Peter and Margot. I hadn’t driven such a large vehicle for a while but it was easy and quite enjoyable – very smooth and comfortable. I had been intrigued by the “Eco” light that kept coming on and off. Peter later explained that this came on when the engine switched from 8 to 4 cylinder mode to save fuel, for example when going down a hill. The technology is quite remarkable, but I was afraid to fiddle much with it lest my attention be distracted from the road.
After a short chin-wag all of us headed off back to town for lunch at the King’s Buffet, the same place we had been to for Mother’s Day on our previous visit four years ago. A most enjoyable meal. I had to restrain myself and not go to the dessert counter because Kim had consigned the leftover cake for us to take to her parents, and we certainly wanted to leave some room for that. Yummy, but just as well these events only happen every 80 years. We then spent the rest of the afternoon chatting about the usual, before departing just before dark.
On our return I picked up Kim from work to conclude a successful day of driving in Canadian winter conditions. Joan was most relieved.
In addition to the pocket thermometer that disappeared out of my shoulder bag in Toronto, I have now lost the spare camera battery as well. Ah, the joys of growing older.