A Canary Flies North: Family, Friends and Rides on the Rails between Toronto and Quebec City, Canada

Toronto's statuesque CN Tower stand out clearly against the beautiful blue backdrop on a perfect Sunday in June.

Toronto’s landmark CN Tower stands out clearly against the beautiful blue backdrop on a perfect Sunday in June.

I enjoyed my daily dose of fresh raw foods at Rawlicious on Brock St. in Whitby for the week I was in the area. Pcitured here  are soft tacos with side salad.  Every item on the menu is gluten, dairy and refined sugar free.

I enjoyed my daily dose of fresh raw organic foods at Rawlicious on Brock St. S. in Whitby  Ontario for the week I was in the area. Pictured here are soft tacos with side salad. Every item on the menu is gluten, dairy and refined sugar-free. Their lemonade is one to beat! The meals were creatively prepared and tasted divine.

When I finally arrived in Toronto (right after a tornado had touched down just north of the city), I was mildly shocked by the cooler, damp weather.  By the next morning, the clear skies and strong sunshine indicated lower levels of pollution and I felt relatively well in this industrialized, highly populated area.

I regained my Canadian bearings in Whitby, a pretty city with tree-lined streets  about an hour east of Toronto.  As I attended to medical and other personal matters there,  I appreciated the friendliness of the people and an organic restaurant near a conveniently located small motel called The Lucien.  It is a family run business and I am a repeat guest over a several years.  The rooms are clean, quiet and unscented per my special request.  I don’t need a car there as everything is within walking distance or can be accessed by a regular bus system.

When my business had been completed, I headed down the highway for a special event:

my one and only nephew’s graduation from Grade Eight!  In the Canadian system, this is the educational milestone one achieves before continuing on to four years of secondary school.

I was a very proud auntie indeed, as my young relative received top awards for science, geography and for his exceptional contribution to school music activities.  The biggest surprise was his distinction as class valedictorian, and he delivered the address in both of Canada’s official languages, English and French.

Nephew Dallin the Grade 8 Graduate with his proud Auntie before the ceremony and the valedictory surprise.

Nephew Dallin the Grade 8 Graduate with his proud Auntie before the ceremony and the valedictory surprise. Photo taken by Mum Sharon.

Dallin and his sister Mara after the graduation ceremny - my two pride and joys.  Mara is in her last year of high school and is an outstanding scholar and musician too.

Dallin and his sister Mara after the graduation ceremony – my two pride and joys. Mara is in her last year of high school and is an outstanding scholar and musician too. They are the lovely children of my brother Marc and his wife Sharon.

I’ll just say, that with the bit of extra noise that I generated during the applause after his speech, everyone knew that I was ‘related’ to the young graduate!

Brother Edwin and Sis-in-law Beth get ready to to have a little birthday feast with me.  This delectable cheesecake was purchased at  the renowned Mariposa Market in Orillia, about 1 1/2 hours north of Toronto.

Brother Edwin and Sis-in-law Beth got ready to have a little birthday feast with me. This delectable cheesecake was purchased at the renowned Mariposa Market in Orillia, about 1 1/2 hours north of Toronto.

Then I was off to visit my other brother and his wife. Edwin and Beth had met and married since I was last in Canada, so it was another joyful occasion.  It was a delight to meet this lovely woman, and to get better acquainted.  We had plenty to celebrate, as I was there between both of their birthdays . I surprised them with a delectable summer fruit cheesecake from the renowned Mariposa bakery about a half hour north of their city.  They in turn spoiled me with all kinds of treats and meals. We parted with assurances that we would meet again in a few weeks time, after my trip to Nova Scotia for Aunt Vivian’s milestone 90th birthday.

While I was in the Orillia area, I took time for an all important face-to-face appointment with my longtime naturopathic physician, Shawna Clark, N.D.  We consult regularly by phone, but there were a few tests that required my physical presence.  This helped tremendously with my ongoing treatment of environmental-based health challenges.  Shawna has helped me enormously to have an improved quality of life over the past 18+ years.  Her professional assistance has been invaluable to me and I do not know what I would do without her highly trained, professional, complementary

After a delcious lunch at Apple Annies, friend and naturopath Shawna Clark, N.D. took me on a tour of Mariposa Market in Orillia Ontario.

After a delicious lunch at Apple Annies, friend and naturopath Shawna Clark, N.D. took me on a tour of the Mariposa Market in Orillia Ontario.

medical knowledge and  techniques.

Between all the above-mentioned visits, I spent one day in the big city of Toronto expressly to visit a friend from Dominica who had returned to Canada a few years earlier.  I had promised John in our Christmas correspondence some months earlier that we would get-together this time so I could bring him up-to-speed on the latest news on the Nature Island.

The GO transit systme is a great way to get around the Greater Toronto areas - it's convenient, economical and ecological!

The GO transit system is a great way to get around the Greater Toronto area – it’s convenient, economical and ecological!

On a beautiful Sunday morning, I took the GO train into downtown Toronto from Whitby and arrived at Union Station, not far from the CN Tower, just before midday.  John met me across busy , congested and construction-clogged Front Street.We headed to Le Marche, a cosmopolitan eatery nearby for a freshly prepared delicious lunch and an intensive two-hour chat. As I provided John with my latest perspectives on my  life as an expat in Dominica, he filled me in on his forays and projects.  It was no surprise when he informed me that he was writing a book because he has “had an unusual life.“

From John`s condo, the southerly Toronto skyline beyond St. James Cathedral portrays urban beauty at its finest in this booming metropolis.

From John`s condo, the southerly Toronto skyline beyond St. James Cathedral portrays urban beauty at its finest in this booming metropolis.

I won’t give anything away, but I can’t wait to read it.

John Carson is a nonagenarian with boundless energy and a brilliant mind.  He spent about 25 years of his life in Dominica, with his wife Renie.

John is a nonagenarian with boundless energy and a brilliant mind. He spent more than 25 years of his life in Dominica with his late wife, Renee.

John is the kind of person who carries through with all of his goals.  All best wishes, John!

I think this is the VIA Rail train station in Kingston Ontario - my hometown.  You'll ave to excuse me -over the course of a few days and many kilometers,  I passed by quite a few!

I think this is the VIA Rail train station in Kingston Ontario – my hometown. You’ll have to excuse me if I am wrong: over the course of a few days and hundreds of kilometers, I passed by a few!

After all my pleasant meetings in central and eastern Ontario, it was time to go’ down east’.  On a clear Saturday morning, I boarded a VIA Rail train in Oshawa, just east of Toronto, en route to Quebec City where I would overnight before hopping aboard The Ocean to continue my rail  journey to Halifax, on the east coast.  It was a pleasant trip to Montreal, where I had one hour in between trains before the next departure to Quebec City.  My only complaint is that I was not aware that baggage could no longer be checked.  As such, I had to hoist my 20+ kilo suitcase on to the raised platform with minimal assistance.  In doing so, I twisted my back and coped with the pain for the rest of my Canadian visit.  Fortunately, I had visited my Canadian chiropractor, Dr. Leanne Bruni ,D.C. in Whitby  the day before, and she had set me straight.  Perhaps it is good that I had been adjusted before the start of the journey, otherwise it could have been much worse!

On the way to Montreal, I engaged in conversation with a young man who was sitting beside me.  He was returning from a quick overnight visit to Toronto to take in some of the World Pride events. I quickly discovered that he is a heavy metal musician with roots in jazz and classical.  From our discussion, he also disclosed that he was raised in two cultures with a French-Canadian mother and an English Canadian father – a genuine ‘Canuck’ if there ever was one! Although he looked the part of his style of music (body piercings, spiked hair etc.), he was a real gentleman – and even carried my heavy bag off of the train in Montreal! I have long ago learned not to judge people by their outward appearance – genuine souls reside in all guises!

The train transfer in Montreal was smooth and easy.  I also started to practise my French!  At first, I was a little shy, but it became easier during my two-day stay in Quebec.  You’ll hear more about it in subsequent posts.  I hope I will have made my French teachers at Alliance Francaise de la Dominique proud!

I really enjoyed day dreaming and watching the clouds, as well as  the verdant, varied  scenery that passed by my window.  Occasionally, I worked on my new mini-tablet.  Although the train rocked from side to side, thereby making my eyes and hands jiggle as I familiarized with this device, I quickly adapted.  Below are some shots from my train window.

Next post: A Night  and Day in Beautiful Quebec City!

DSCF2436

This is Canada along the flat lands above eastern Lake Ontario near the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Eastern Ontario Summer Sky.

Eastern Ontario summer sky.

An eastern Ontario town - Brockville, perhaps.

An eastern Ontario town – Brockville, perhaps.

Montreal skyline and greenery.

Montreal skyline and greenery.

Taking in the hay at a large farm between Montreal and Quebec City.

Taking in the hay at a large farm between Montreal and Quebec City.

Abundant crop and dairy farms dotted the landscape along the St. Lawrence River Valley.

Abundant crop and dairy farms dotted the landscape along the St. Lawrence River Valley.

Although not far from Quebec City, the trained passed through some dense forest with sparkling little rivers.

Although not far from Quebec City, the train passed through some dense forest with sparkling little rivers.

This pretty Quebec country house had a 'traditional 'habitant' look to it.

This pretty Quebec country house had a ‘traditional ‘habitant’ look to it.

 

 

 

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A Canary Flies South to go North: Beautiful Barbados: Beaches, Bargains and Best Friends

It  seemed incredible that three years had passed since I had ventured off of Dominica (with the exception of a day trip to Marie-Galante, French West Indies). A long-awaited trip to Canada was about to unfold for a special celebration: my aunt’s 90th birthday in Nova Scotia!  There were other fun things to do and  special people to see as well.  You’ll read more about it all in subsequent posts.

Air Canada at Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados . Time for me to board that plane and fly north for the summer.

Air Canada at Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados . Time for me to board that plane and fly north for the summer.

A little challenge in living on this lovely tropical island of Dominica is its lack of direct flights to North America.  I have always opted to fly to Barbados and overnight there before taking Air Canada to Toronto the next day.  I could get to Canada in one day ( if flights are on time and luggage arrives on the same flight) but I find that it is more relaxing to enjoy this popular tourist destination which is historically a Canadian favourite.  It is completely different from the Nature Island – except for the friendly people found in both locales.

To start the journey, I flew on a direct one hour  flight south on LIAT.  The only downside for this canary is the mandatory

Barbados has loads of pretty white sand beaches all over the island.

Barbados has loads of pretty white sand beaches all over the island.

regulation that planes be ‘dis-insected’ (sprayed) just before take-off. I carry a charcoal-filtered cotton mask and a wet face-cloth.  I also cover myself in long pants and sleeves and wear a scarf to put over my head.  I also take homeopathic remedies prescribed by my longtime Canadian naturopath, Dr. Shawna Clark, N.D. to help counter the ill-effects of those chemicals.

Since 2009, I have stayed at the Butterfly Beach Hotel,

DSCF2361 which is about midway between the airport and Bridgetown, the capital city.  It is a pretty hotel, modestly priced (ca. $100. USD per night) and has a lovely bar/restaurant ocean-side with entertainment and a Caribbean buffet on Monday nights. (I always seem to be there on that particular day).  It’s quiet and comfortable, with friendly staff.  The peaceful setting certainly suits my in-transit status for a one night layover.

View from my room at Butterfly Beach Hotel.  Fresh breezes and salt air!

View from my room at Butterfly Beach Hotel. Fresh breezes and salt air!

Of course, on the outbound journey, I was eager to leave the Caribbean for points north and my Canadian adventures.  I had hoped to meet longtime friends, David and John, Canadian expats who are presently living in Barbados.  Unfortunately, David had a meeting on my pre-departure night, so we rescheduled our rendez-vous for the evening of my return journey.

Fast forward five weeks, and I am back in beautiful Barbados again.  This time, it’s mid-July and there are sales galore in the city.  But first, a few important priorities: an almost-immediate sea bath after check-in at Butterfly Beach Hotel. Then a dinner get-together with David and John.  I was glad to have enough time to take a dip before they came to pick me up.  I had just experienced an unanticipated insecticide exposure on Air Canada about 15 minutes before landing .  I had no idea that they had begun this practise, I assume according to Barbadian regulations, as a method of insect control.  Chikungunya, a mosquito-borne illness was slowly creeping into this country.  By now, the pronounced effects of this disease were being felt throughout all the other islands – no exceptions.  Unfortunately for me, I was not prepared with mask or homeopathics.  I grabbed a scarf in my bag to cover my nose and mouth, closed my eyes, held my breath for as long as I could, and hoped for the best!

David (l) and John are two of my oldest and best friends.  I firts met David in 1977, when we were first year students in the School of Music at Queen's University in Kingston Ontario. He could tell you a few stories about me...

David (l) and John are two of my longtime lifetime friends. I met David in 1977,  on the first day of first year as students in the School of Music at Queen’s University in Kingston Ontario. He could tell you a few stories about me.  He’s done it before!

I was somewhat refreshed after half an hour of bouncing around in the strong Atlantic surf.  There was little time to spare as I dressed up for a long overdue get-together with longtime friends, David and John.  They were even early (typical Canadians!) and I hastened to meet them outside of the hotel.  After greetings and hugs, we headed off to Champers, an exclusive restaurant on the outskirts of Bridgetown.  We were seated on the expansive oceanfront porch, with  crashing waves providing background sound.  We delayed looking at the menu as we were so engrossed in catching each other  up on  the past  few years of our lives. It was a very leisurely meal, as we talked away about life events between bites.  My friends had settled easily into their newly adopted country and were really enjoying it.  John, an interior designer, had recently joined the Barbados National Trust and had been intrigued by a recent  presentation from Dominica’s Lennox Honychurch, PhD about the restoration of Fort Shirley in the Cabrits National Park.  I then urged them to come and see it (along with me!) for themselves.

I can see why this dining establishment has a superb reputation.  The tables were all filled, even though it was a Monday night.  I followed David’s lead with a savory Caesar Salad, followed by Cajun Mahi-Mahi.  It was sensational – only mildly spicy which suited me fine. I further indulged in dessert: coconut pie with coconut ice cream and tea. My five-pound weight gain was well deserved!

After our pleasant reunion, they dropped me back at the hotel where I enjoyed a good night’s sleep.  As my LIAT flight to Dominica was not until 2 p.m., I decided to take the bus to Bridgetown and have a look around for a couple of hours in the morning.

Unfortunately, I hopped on the wrong bus, and as I did not ask the driver where to stop for the capital city, I overshot it.  Fortunately, I asked the passenger beside me when we about 10 minutes longer than what I thought the drive should have been.  He and some other riders kindly gave me quick instructions to get turned around and back on track.  The bus was packed with people and I am sure I stepped on a few toes as I squeezed through the congested aisle.  However, I made sure to loudly thank everyone for their help.

It's called Bridgetown for good reason!

It’s called Bridgetown for good reason!

Another short bus ride, with specific directions to notable landmarks found me in the centre of the bustling city a few minutes later. I was amazed at the hustle and bustle on the narrow streets and I soon came to realize  the reason for commotion on what I thought would be a quiet summer Tuesday.  While there were not many tourists about, I noticed that the stores were filling with eager shoppers.  Yes indeed, it was sale time on that fair isle!  I had read about the famous Cave Shepherd Mall, but honestly, I was ‘shopped out’ from my five-week foray in Canada. My dollars were now scarce and I did not dare to venture inside.  That is on my agenda for next time!

Cave Shepherd Mall on Broad Street seemed to be offering bargains galore in downtown Bridgetown.

Cave Shepherd Mall on Broad Street seemed to be offering bargains galore in its duty-free shops in downtown Bridgetown.

The Bridgetown Boardwalk is a pleasant (but hot!) stroll a few steps from the busy commercial centre.

The Bridgetown Boardwalk is a pleasant (but hot!) stroll a few steps from the busy commercial centre.

Instead, I wandered around the back streets until I came to the scenic boardwalk.  After a stroll in the hot sun, I became aware of my enormous thirst.  As I looked up a little lane, I noticed a little restaurant called   Mustor’s , which is famous for local Bajan food.

Mustor's on McGregor street is a popular eatery with Bajans and tourists alike.

Mustor’s on McGregor Street is a popular eatery with Bajans and tourists alike.

I was a too early for lunch, so the friendly attendant described all the tempting sweet snacks in the enclosed glass case. I chose a coconut cake and homemade lemonade – very refreshing.  Lunch there is also on the agenda for next visit!

By now, my couple of hours of free time had slipped by and I wandered along the Boardwalk again in search of the main Bus Terminal a little distance away.  As I slowly walked, I admired some historic monuments, the cenotaph

Erroll Barrow was the first Prime Minister of Barbados. The monument is a permanent tribute to his memory and contribution to the development of Barbados.

Errol Barrow was the first Prime Minister of Barbados. The monument is a permanent tribute to his memory and contribution to the development of Barbados.

and stately churches.  By the time I

The Cenotaph in Central Bridgetown.

The Cenotaph in Central Bridgetown.

The building stone in Barbados has soft hues.

The pretty building stone in Barbados has soft hues.

reached the bus terminal, I had just missed the one heading back towards my hotel near the airport.  I could have waited for the next one, but I was hot and sweaty and wanted a little quiet and cool down before the last leg of my journey  home to Dominica. A taxi took me quickly back to my temporary Bajan base. Then by the time I arrived at the airport, I was more than ready to return to the Nature Island.  And there was one last surprise: my friends David and John were heading to Canada for a visit around the same time and lo and behold – I laughed out loud when we actually met by chance at a coffee kiosk in the terminal for one last hug and good-bye for now!

By evening, I was back at my home and working up a good sweat after my time spent in a cool Canadian summer.  I didn’t mind.  I was anxious to rid myself of any residue from the ‘non-toxic’  pesticides I had experienced on both airlines by breathing in the steamy clean air and drinking lots of pure spring water.

By now, you’ve yet to hear about the adventures (and there were a few!) of this canary who flew north for a few wonderful summer weeks in Canada.  Next post, I’ll tell you more!