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Canada: Three Wonderful Visits

Canadian Flag  View of Toronto from CN Tower  View of Hamilton from the mountain park

December 2011

So, it was back to Canada for the first time in six-long-years. The weather reports looked pretty good, so I had no hesitation what-so-ever in driving the nearly 800 miles up north on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, respectively. Everything went fine and we got to see Angie's new place, and her daughters, and meet one of their Canadian Aunt's. Angie lives close to Hamilton's escarpment, and I went for a walk along the viewing walkway and could see all the way to Toronto with my binoculars! Linda and I also walked down the Wentworth Stairs and back up, which used to be an incline railway (1895-1936). This was beautiful and a lot of people use these stairs as an excersize workout! We drove around for about 50-miles in Hamilton--going to Angie's workplace, meeting some of her workmates, doing a little shoping, and eating Lebanese take out.

Reanna got to go with her cousins to the mall on Boxing Day, eat a meal out, go to a movie, and ride a bus.

On the way back, we encountered a snow storm leaving Hamilton, and we only went 75-miles in the first two-hours, but then, it turned into mist and it was smoother sailing across the border at Detroit, and we spent the night in Bowling Green, OH. The next day, the traffic was very crowded all the way down I-75, to Cincinnati. It seemed that all of the holiday traffic was converging at Cincinnati the same time we were coming through. I decided I wanted to see a little of downtown "Cincy" and we pulled off the Interstate, drove to the riverfront, and Reanna and I went into the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (only had time to see the gift shop, however), and then we drove across the amazingly old looking John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge (1866) and wandered around Covington and Newport, south of the Ohio River, which had lots of fine 19th and early 20th Century architecture.

This was a short visit, but very rewarding, and we once again got to experience a little of the Trini-Canadian spirit and difference.

May 2005

For the third consecutive year we went to Hamilton, Ontario at the end of May. The 1,743 mile round-trip was fairly routine driving, much the same as our two previous trips, and we had a good visit with Linda's sister Angie, and her two young daughters. Reanna and the girls got along great, as usual, and we got to spend some quality time with them. I took the girls to the park on Monday afternoon, which was Victoria Day, a national holiday. After nightfall, we could see extraneous fireworks in the distance from Angie's 6th-floor balcony.

On Tuesday morning we did some shopping at a Hamilton grocery store, where they didn't accept Visa, I was surprised to discover. This was a bit embarrassing but the cashier lady let me go across the street to a bank, for an ATM, and I was back in a jiffy. Later, I drove 45-miles to Toronto, by myself, to finally see it and explore it a little. The first thing I did when I got there was park in a garage next to the Sky Dome, where the Blue Jays play (the Major League Baseball team), and went to the CN Tower (1,815 feet tall), which is the tallest tower in the world. The elevator took a mere 58 seconds to climb 1,136 ft. to the main observation deck, which was spectacular. I enjoyed the view with lots of French-speaking tourists, among others, as I walked around and took photos. When I got back down to the ground, I walked over to Union Station, and then over to Front Street, where I walked past the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) Building. I saw a number of wandering Boston Red Sox fans, who were in town for the Blue Jays-Red Sox game at 7:00 p.m. I was tempted to go to the game, but I figured it would keep me out much later than Linda and Angie would allow me.

Next, I drove around downtown Toronto for a couple of hours, observing the people and sights. I saw the Hockey Hall of Fame, part of the University of Toronto, Queens Park, and Old Cabbagetown. My favorite area was Cabbagetown, on the eastern outskirts of downtown, which was settled by Irish immigrants fleeing the potato famine of 1841. According to Lonely Planet it has possibly the richest concentration of fine Victorian architecture in North America and is worth a stroll to admire the beautifully restored houses. I loved it so much I almost felt like I was in London. Everything about this enclave of Toronto was perfect!

The drive back to Hamilton was slow, getting out of Toronto, but moved along eventually, and as I was listening to the CBC on the radio, I heard that Queen Elizabeth II was in Alberta today, and gave a speech. It was part of the Royal couple's tour of Canada, because they were on a nine-day trip to mark the centenary of Saskatchewan and Alberta's entry into the Confederation and had already visited Saskatchewan. That evening when I got back, I called Rawl, a younger cousin of Linda & Angie's, who grew up in Pickering, Ontario. I had actually hoped to meet Rawl in person, like I met his brother Jasse last year, but it didn't work out. It was great to speak to him, however.

On Wednesday morning I took the girls to school, with Angie, and they invited me to go inside the school (Lisgar Elementary School) and look around. At first I didn't think this was allowed, but they said it was ok, so I got to see inside of the school for a little bit. It was interesting to observe the school from inside, as the kids went to their respective classrooms, and then went to assembly to sing O Canada. I also went to the Sherwood Public Library to check my email. Then, I went to Hamilton's Park along the Escarpment, and the sky was so clear I could see all the way to Toronto! Yes, with the naked eye, you could actually make out the faint outline of Toronto's tall buildings and the CN Tower. Amazing!

We left Hamilton at about 12:45 p.m. and started the long drive back to Tennessee, via Windsor-Detroit. It was another good visit to the north. I learn something new every time.

May 2004

We made another trip to Ontario, Canada, similar to last year. Our 1,700+ mile journey went very well, and we felt like experienced travelers to our friendly neighbors to the north. If I was impressed with Canada after our first visit, this one only reinforced my impressions! Canada does the best job of combining all that I like about Europe and the U.S. that I have found so far.

On the way up, we made it to Windsor, Ontario the first night. That was exactly 599 miles, and we were ready to rest our weary bodies in a fairly new Hampton Inn, just a couple of miles across the Canadian border. The next morning, we drove the remaining 200 miles to Angie's apartment in Hamilton. It was Victoria Day (Monday the 24th), a national holiday, so Angie and the kids were out of school. Later that day, we all went for a walk on one of Hamilton's nature trails that run throughout the city, especially contouring the "mountain brow" or escarpment that is a wonderful green-way. Many bicyclists use the trails, and it is a relaxing way to enjoy the natural surroundings and limestone rock formations. The Lilacs were in bloom, which is a local favorite for its color and fragrance.

On Tuesday, Angie and the kids were back at school, so we drove to Waterloo, about 50 miles NW of Hamilton, to visit Linda's cousin Jasse. He was off work, enjoying a bit of time painting the interior walls of his new house. We met his wife Heather, and their 16-month-old daughter for the first time, and had a good lunch-time visit with them. Before we knew it, it was time to head back to Angie's. The drive from Hamilton to Waterloo was one of the highlights of the trip; we followed Hwy. 8 most of the way, and the towns and scenery along the way was slightly more New England-like than we are used to, which is very appealing. I just love routes off-the-beaten-track like this when visiting another country!

The rest of the day, and the next morning were spent primarily visiting Angie, as Reanna and the girls played, and getting to know them better. So little time...The trip back home went as planned, returning via the Windsor-Detroit crossing. The trip went splendidly well, and we felt suitably changed having experienced the subtle nuances of U.S.-Canadian differences. We'll definitely be going back again.

May 2003

This was our first trip ever to Canada, and since we took the route to Canada via the Detroit-Windsor border crossing, it was our first time to visit Michigan as well. Weather conditions in Ontario were still in early spring mode with tulips, phlox, and cherry tree blossoms. Highway 401 across Ontario was indistinguishable from typical Midwest farm country in the U.S., but subtleties such as road signs, Canadian brand-names, and service stations hinted of a slightly different national mentality and social conscience that I found refreshing. We came back via the Ft. Erie-Buffalo, N.Y. border crossing, which added several more miles to our trip, but it was worth it to get a different view on our trip home. The whole trip went remarkably well, and we finally had the pleasure of visiting Linda's sister Angelene, who is a Canadian citizen, and has lived in Hamilton since the late 1980s. She has an interesting life there and is juggling parenthood, work, and college admirably.

Hamilton has a population of 392,000 and is a beautiful city. Hamilton was named for Capt. George Hamilton who fought in the War of 1812. Hamilton began in about 1816, though the area was discovered by La Salle in 1669. The town was built along what is called the Niagra Escarpment, a natural mountain elevation of about 700 feet. The old town was built on the lower flat elevation beside the harbor on Lake Ontario, and the new town was built on the mountain. The transition from one level to the other is dramatic and scenic with a number of steep access roads, but Hamilton is easy to navigate because the streets are straight according to a grid plan.

Hamilton is sometimes called "The Ambitious City," and "Steel Town," but I was impressed with how clean, efficient, and pedestrian friendly it is. Like Toronto, it is ethnically diverse, and I was amazed at how friendly everyone was eventhough it is a very densely populated city. Hamilton proper has over 2,700 people per square kilometer! Yet, the people take pride in their homes and public property. Lawns are well manicured and landscaped. Young and old alike, as well as a noticeable handicaped population seem to get around in a courteous and cooperative manner. Downtown has a good mixture of old and new architecture, museums and shopping outlets. Plus, Hamilton is home to the Canadian Football League Hall of Fame.

One evening we got to meet Jasse, a cousin of Linda's, who works in Toronto for a private energy company. I have been corresponding with him by email for a couple of years, and it was very nice to meet him and to learn more about his family. We also visited with long-time friends of Linda's and Angie's from Trinidad. We definitely have a lot more visiting to do next time we go to Canada. We didn't have time to go to Toronto, which I would have been interested in seeing despite the SARS alert, but Hamilton was more than enough to digest this time.

CN Tower
Mowhawk College
Statistics Canada