Category Archives: Holiday Travel

Only Child does stay vacations

Sailboats at Toronto Harbourfront Centre on Lake Ontario

Sailboats at Toronto Harbourfront Centre on Lake Ontario

When I was a child, my mom and I used to travel around Toronto by public transit (TTC) – buses, streetcars, and then the subway when the first line was opened. Some TTC galavanting was for shopping but Mom picked good and interesting areas, such as the Danforth, which had the big “dime stores” as they were called. You know Kresge’s, The Met and Woolworth’s. Yes, that’s dating me, but it was an adventure to go into all three stores before Easter to get that Easter hat. And stopping at the restaurant counters at The Met for a hot dog and ice cream was a treat. We also stopped in butcher shops and greengrocers. Sadly, the “dime stores” are all gone although Woolworth’s upgrade Wal-Mart is still around, in malls. And “dime stores” would never fly in these expensive times. Instead we have the Dollarama and Dollar Tree chains – which I actually like. They are the 21st. century’s Kresge’s and Met.

Mom also took me to places like the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) and to visit family and friends.

So, recalling all the above, and for the sake of my almost empty wallet, I’ve decided I’m doing a lot of visiting local touristy sites in Toronto, the free ones. Sure, I still hope to do my annual visit to my cousins in southwestern Ontario, but there is still the rest of the summer.

Besides my once or twice a week trip down to the Danforth for groceries, I also head for some of the events there, such as Taste of the Danforth – a celebration of food (yes, I’m a foodie), not just Greek in this Greek area of Toronto, but Italian and Asian. The nearby park, Withrow Park has several weekly evening events such as a Farmer’s Market and Shakespeare in the Park.

On Sunday I headed down to Toronto Harbourfront Centre on the shores of Lake Ontario. Since the street has been made more pedestrian, cyclist and streetcar friendly, it is easier to get around and also looks better. The Car doesn’t rule here anymore as cars are confined to two lanes. In fact all the traffic – pedestrian, cyclist, streetcars and cars – have their own lanes. There is also art in two buildings, although the outdoor art seems to be missing this year, a boardwalk to walk along the lake, lots of boats and ships – some you can book rides on. If and when I can afford it I’d like to take a two-hour tour on the Tall Ships.

Each summer and early fall weekend, Harbourfront has a theme and the foods and music are tied into that. Last weekend it was Latin music. And there are craft booths, two stages, grass (the fake type, which might be a blessing in this summer’s drought-ridden Toronto), and some restaurants. One building which used to have two or three restaurants and several small shops is now down to one restaurant – a pub and grill – and the Sobey’s grocery market (now expanded) on the main floor. It looks like the rest is being renovated but gone is my favourite – Tilly’s – you know the company known for travel clothes, especially the Tilly hat. The beaches are clean of mess and overcrowding. And it is fun to sit on a bench along the boardwalk and people watch.

But  my favourite part of Harbourfront is the Toronto Music Garden. Every other Sunday at 4 p.m. and one evening a week, classical music is presented by various musicians from all over. It is relaxing to sit on the grass steps (real grass here) or benches and listen and watch. And just walking through the other parts of the garden and looking at the flowers is amazing. I spent a lot of time trying to take photos of bees landing on the echinaccea.

Perhaps the highlight of this afternoon was helping a family from Cincinnati find what they were looking for. I was walking from Union Station (where I exited the subway and I prefer to walk from there than take the streetcar – the lineups are too long) to Harbourfront and waiting for the light to change when I heard a woman from behind call out something about needing direction “Any locals?”

I turned around and went up to them and started chatting with the woman. She had her smart phone out and said there was supposed to be an LCBO Market on the corner here. After I found out from her that she wasn’t looking for a Farmer’s Market (there are lots of those around closeby), but that she meant an actual store, I explained that the LCBO is the Liquor Store outlet but there was a Sobey’s Grocery right just down the street in Harbourfront.

“I’ll walk with you as I’m going that way, too,” I said.

She introduced me to her husband and their two daughter and we all shook hands.

We asked each other questions such as how long had I lived in Toronto and how long were they here for holidays. They asked about Casa Loma and I told them how to get there and also mentioned another historical place, a house set up in the early 1900s, Spadina House, just across the street from Casa Loma. When we arrived at the corner with Sobey’s, she said, “That’s the place.”

I looked at the sign: “Sobey’s Urban Market.”

We parted ways at Sobey’s, but it was good to help someone to find their way – literally. As I did explain – I get lost too.

Afterwards I thought of so many other places they could look into and the dine Toronto  blog for restaurants that are rated.

One of those slapping your head for forgetting situations.

But, I’ll be going to some of the places I wanted to tell this Cincinnati family about.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

Part of the Toronto Music Garden including some echinaccea

Part of the Toronto Music Garden including some Black-eyed Susans and Lavender

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Filed under 1950s, Cities, Getting lost, Helping Others, Holiday Travel, Holidays, Mother and Child, Only child, Public Transportation, The Danforth

Only Child has a ton of problems

Only child ponders too many problems

Only child ponders too many problems

Just got back last night from holidays visiting my cousins in various places in southern Ontario. Visit was relaxing and enjoyable but trouble began when trying to get home.

I like travelling by train. It is in my blood as my late father worked for the railway as a time-keeper. Since he died, railway travel has changed in many ways including the company created to run rail passenger service in Canada. VIA rail has not been exactly good to me.

When I reserved my “tickets” by phone they emailed me the boarding passes and a link to subscribe to their alert system for updates to my email. I don’t have a cell phone, so text wouldn’t work for me.

No problems on the train going to Waterloo, but the return trip from Grimsby turned into another nightmare (I have had issues coming home by train before in other years). I got my alert about half an hour before train time. The alert said train was arriving in Grimsby on time. So I shut down my laptop.

At the station my cousin who drove me there and I waited and waited for ages. There was no wi-fi in the area – she checked with her smart phone. So no point turning on my laptop and checking my email. She phoned her husband and had him check it out. He texted her back with a message that he had signed her up for the VIA text alert for this train (coming all the way from New York City early yesterday morning). She got two alerts of late times for it to arrive in Grimsby and before there in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

It finally arrived one hour and 15 minutes late. I was so upset that I fell at the top of the narrow metal stairs where you board the train. True, I had bags and my laptop in its padded case (well, I was travelling) but the VIA employee didn’t help me with the suitcases. They stand at the bottom so it is kind of backwards to take your bag up the stairs. I didn’t hurt myself and it appears all my belongings were okay.

But I was very angry and I screamed, but said “I don’t need medical aid – this train has been delayed enough.”

Then someone helped me carrying my bags to an empty seat.

Once settled and the steward came to check my boarding pass, I asked what caused the delay. He said something vague about at the US/Canadian border. I clarified that it was the Canadian border police, but he wouldn’t say what – just a vague answer that it can depend on the official at the border. He did say (in answer to my question) that it didn’t happen often.

The young woman across the aisle had heard all this and she came over. She said she got on at St. Catharines, Ontario (stop before me), the station there was closed and there was just a robotic announcement that there was a delay but no time given. The Grimsby station is just one of those tiny enclosed shelters that seats a dozen or so people, often not even open. It looks like a pop-up retail place.

The young lady went back to talk to the steward. She returned and told me there was a problem at the border – one family when talking to the border police (who come on the train) said they couldn’t find the husband on the train. There was a bit of a language problem (obviously not French as VIA rail employees are bilingual English/French – Canada’s two official language). Apparently the “missing fellow” had gone to another coach and had been processed by the border police okay. Finally the border police found him – we figured by taking a family member through all the cars until they found them.

The young lady and I agreed that the whole family causing the problem, in particular the man, should have been tossed out of the train and not allowed to stay in Canada for causing all those problems.

As the train arrived in Toronto (one hour and 15 minutes late), the arrival announcement was made and again (they did this last year too) they gave the farthest away place to get a taxi. VIA still doesn’t know that taxis line up right outside the west front door of Union Station.

VIA didn’t cause the problem; but they don’t handle all their notifications so passengers can find out.

Heads are going to roll here – when I have time to do something about it – at the very least send a complaint about VIA rail procedure – notifications and closed stations in particular.

But I have another problem – when I turned on my laptop and desktop computers this morning the Internet wasn’t connecting and then it came and went. Could get into my email program on both computers, though – so far. Called Bell Canada (my ISP) and they did some checking at their end. They think it is a cable at my end and are sending a technician who is supposed to be here today between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. He better show up and fix it. I have work to do and some of it requires being online and some requires phone calls which I had planned to do this morning. I also have to run errands to get some groceries.

I think that God might have it in for me – he didn’t cause any of these problems – but he didn’t listen to me when I asked that everything be working right with the train service home and my Internet service. At least I got home okay – finally. Now God has to make sure this Internet Cable problem get fixed pronto today without complications and it must stay fixed.

All these unwanted problems raise my stress level which affects my precarious physical health.

My garden is still lovely, though.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under Alphabet list, Anger, Anxiety, God, Holiday Travel, Life demands, Only child, Problems, Railways, Stress, Train Stations, VIA Rail

Only Child on railway customer service

Only Child loves train travel although engines aren't steam anymor

Only Child loves train travel when it runs smoothly.

Last week I returned from a one and a half week holiday visiting cousins in southwestern Ontario. Holiday was great; the train trip home was not.

For this railway brat, a two-hour wait in the middle of nowhere in the dark (outside, not inside the train) did not go over very well. Remember what I said in last week’s post about the stupidity of others and how I act. I put that into action last Wednesday night and early Thursday morning.

Yes folks, a nearly two-hour train ride that should have deposited me at Toronto’s Union Station by 11.20 a.m. dragged into early Thursday morning.

It all began about 10 minutes or so after leaving the Guelph station when suddenly the train slowed to a stop. The steward quickly announced that we were waiting for a green signal to continue and it would just be a few minutes. About 10 minutes later she announced that we would be here for longer than expected. Half an hour after we stopped, the steward announced that we had to wait for the two engineers to be replaced by a new crew and it would be another hour’s wait. She walked down the aisle to answer questions, but to my question “Is one of the engineers sick?” she replied “None of my business.” (Unclear if she meant whose business – hers or mine)

I felt every anxious and worried. As much as I like train travel I don’t like the uncertainty and also not being told all. If one of the engineers was taken ill or injured, and we knew, we might have a little more sympathy. If he was drunk – no. A young guy was also concerned and started complaining to Carol (the steward) and I joined in. I said that it wasn’t their (the two stewards) fault; I didn’t know whose fault it was but VIA rail as the corporate owner owed us. I pulled my senior’s card and said I could not afford to take a cab home from Union Station and I was going after VIA Rail for my fare to be reimbursed. The young fellow and I were concerned that we would not arrive at Union Station in time to take the public transit home.

The young lady sitting across from me asked about us being bussed to our destinations but Carol said that normally they would do that but we were in the middle of nowhere with no way for a bus to get to us and no place for us to go if we got off the train.

I could not concentrate on the book I was reading and alternated between sitting with arms crossed on one side of the table and moving to the other side. VIA Rail now gives us reserved seats and because we had a business class coach, I was at the end with a table in between the facing seats (two on each side). No one else was sitting there. A lot of good reserved seats do you if you are stuck.

The replacement crew finally arrived – two hours after we stopped. And when we pulled into the next stop – Georgetown – in six minutes I was furious. That close so why didn’t the second engineer “drive” the train into Georgetown where the other engineer could get “medical” attention promptly and we could be bussed home much sooner. Somebody higher up who was on the phone to Carol and probably the engineers was giving bad decisions. And probably going by the VIA Rail rules and regulations – probably requiring two fit engineers. Sometime rules need to be bended a little for the best results for all concerned. Sometimes a little common sense is the best route.

After several calls with her supervisor, she announced that we would get 50 per cent off our next VIA rail trip if we gave our ticket number when ordering them – by phone or in person – if we travel within the next six months. I’ll do that when I go to Cobourg, Ontario in a couple of months. We were also told to see the station master in Union Station to get chits for a free taxi ride.

The train arrived at Union Station two hours and 10 minutes late. I had to ask the station master where to get the cab because off all the construction on Front Street. She said across the street – it’s always been there. Could have fooled me with all the construction you can’t see over it and the walkway is very narrow, made narrower by construction crew working on it at 1.30 a.m. I was furious and started complaining out loud. But I made it over and got a cab home.

Will I still take the train? Yes. But VIA Rail gets only a 70 per cent (and that’s generous) for damage control. What happened with the engineer is out of their control, but making us wait for two hours until a replacement crew arrived when we were just six minutes outside Georgetown is plain stupid and gets a D in my books.

My late father, who worked as a timekeeper for CNR (they had the passenger service then) is probably rolling over in his grave.

 

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Anxiety, Consumer action, Holiday Travel, Only child, Problems, Railways, Sharon A. Crawford