Category Archives: Holidays

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 on summer stress and worry

Myfmother - the worrier incarnate and little worrier - me.

My mother – the worrier incarnate and little worrier – me.

My late mother was worrywart incarnate and I come a very close second to her in the worry and anxiety department. Still, my reaction to a study showing that summer may be the time for the highest stress was “what?”

 

It gets sillier.

When the news story on last night’s 11 p.m. Global Toronto news showed interviews with people on why they are so stressed in the summer, I could only think “oh, come on.”

 

Some parents were stressed out because the kids are home and not in school. This one I get. But there are ways to alleviate it.

 

The other stressors mentioned in the study are so run-of-the-mill and common year round – trying to balance too much to do came at the top of the list. None of the stressors were abnormal, just people having difficulty getting through their day. And while I should be one of the last people to complain about people complaining about their problems, at least some of my problems are a bit weird. In a nutshell, lately it’s been computer problems, which is common – but Skype hanging and causing other programs to hang? And having to shut down and restart the computer twice to get everything up and running. And yes, I did a full virus scan and it showed all clear.

 

Another one some travellers may emphasize with – at least those who travel by public transit and not car. VIA Rail, Canada’s passenger rail system in its wisdom cut back some service in late 2012. I’m just catching up with that for my holidays this summer. The early evening train no longer runs from Toronto to Grimsby. The morning train is too early for me to deal with because of health problems that are worse in the morning. Then there is the morning rush hour(s) to wade through to get to Union Station (with construction in and outside as well) to catch the train. I might be able to do it if I stayed at the very expensive hotel across the street from Union Station – even manoeuvring the walkway and stairways through the construction. (My late father who worked for the railway as a timekeeper is probably turning over in his grave.)

 

GO Transit doesn’t run buses or trains that go all the way from Toronto to Grimsby. So, I’m left with something called Megabus which runs throughout North America. Must be something relatively new in the last 10 years. Ten years ago I took a bus (not a Megabus) from Toronto to Walkerton and it was a lovely ride and experience. True, we stopped at many places on the way to let people on and off, but the driver was so friendly that the atmosphere in the bus was relaxed and friendly. I remember the driver letting me off across the street from my motel (and that wasn’t the official bus stop) and telling me to be careful crossing the busy street.

 

Megabuses have so many boarding rules that they are almost as bad as airlines. At least we don’t have to remove our shoes – I don’t think.

 

I haven’t booked my tickets – just done some research, including talking to a friend who has travelled on them. I have to phone the company for more details.

 

But it is the only way (short of hitchhiking) I will get to my cousins without a lot of transfers. Will the travel experience be worth it? I’ll believe I get on the bus and get to Grimsby when it happens. The ride by the way is about an hour and a half.

 

At least the problem is a little different problem.

 

Silliness and weird problems aside, the people who really have big worries are those who have cancer or other life-threatening illnesses, those who are homeless, those who lose their homes or part of their homes due to flooding, fires, and wind. And those who worry about these disasters happening because of where they live (read anywhere in the world today). These are bigger concerns than worrying about trying to do everything or even the kids driving you nuts at home. Put them in summer camp for part of the summer. That’s what I did with my son when he was a child and in his early teens. He loved it and learned some new skills such as photography, sailing, painting (the art kind, not house painting).

 

Let’s get realistic. Go to the peace and quiet. I do – my garden. I sit out there, eat meals out there, read out there. And garden.

 

I just try to ignore staring at what was destroyed by the ice storm and the extremely cold winter.

 

My garden provides a little solace time. So does writing, walking, reading and even a bit of TV. And the garden is also providing lots of fresh fruit and veggies to eat. (Lots of weeds, too, but you know what I do with them. As I pull them I imagine they are my problems or the people/organization causing the problems). Helps me and it isn’t illegal.

 

 

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Anxiety, Family, Gardening, Health, Holidays, Life demands, Megabus, Problems, Railways, Travel, Union Station Toronto, Worrying

Only Child lessens the travel load

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

Only Child loves train travel although engines aren’t steam anymore

As I prepare for my annual holiday to visit my cousins in southwestern Ontario, I’m trying to lessen my luggage even more than other years. VIA Rail’s new rules of two carry-on bags plus personal (a purse) have partially inspired me. When growing up and riding the rails with Dad and Mom, we each had one suitcase (I had the small one in the two-piece set and Dad had his duffel bag). I’m not going to get it down to one suitcase, if you count laptop, Kobo, camera and even house-slippers in the laptop case as one bag and my clothes in bag number two.

Things like an umbrella and my small insulated lunch bag will be the challenge. Because of travelling time and being on the train at meal time – but meals not served – I bring a lunch. The umbrella? Well, based on the unsettled weather we are getting in this world, even with cousins’ cars, an umbrella is a necessity.

Lessening my travel load has got me thinking about its health effects. Besides the obvious physical – less to carry, less risk of sprains and backaches, there is also the psychological. How many of you have found when you clear out your office or even a cupboard, you get such a feeling of relief as if a big weight has disappeared completely? Well for a short time, until you open another cupboard or enter another room.

So my packing list will be much smaller this year. I do not want to have to push down the packed clothes to be able to close the zipper. I do not want my expandable canvass bag (my version of Dad’s duffel bag) to expand so far out it almost dwarfs my short frame and pulls on my shoulder. In that stage it is also difficult to cart around, especially when stepping up and down those precarious narrow steps to enter and exit the train. With two packed to their “gills” bags and a purse (plus dangling umbrella and lunch bag) it is difficult to fit the width of those steps. I feel like an overweight drunk and all I’ve been drinking is water and my build is slight.

I’m even bearing tiny weight-free gifts for my cousins – seven copies of the CD for the band my son plays guitar and lap steel guitar in (Beams, for those who are interested www.banjobeams.com – shameful plug).

So hopefully when I get on the train, I will be able to lift the canvass suitcase up into the overhead storage and get it down without asking for help. The laptop bag? Kept under the seat ahead just in front of my feet. I usually don’t plug into the wireless on the train but I do want to read from my Kobo or the mystery magazine I bring along.

Now, I just have to keep any purchases to small and low weight. I tend to start my Christmas shopping when my cousins and I do the touristy thing in Grimsby, Stratford, etc.

How do you travel light? I already do the roll-your-clothes-up-to-pack option.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Holidays, Mom and Dad, Only child, Railways, Sharon A. Crawford, Train travel

Only Child rides the rails

Only Child with her parents at her grandfather’s farm – one of the destinations of now obsolete train routes.

I felt like I was riding history when I travelled during my holidays the past week. Especially last night when returning and I wondered if I was going to make it home or become part of this history.

Like my father before me I ride the rails when on holidays. Not the same railway that my dad worked for and he, Mom and I travelled on for our holidays. Dad worked for the CN when it ran passenger trains. Some years after he died CN quit the passenger service to focus on freight. VIA Rail was created and it started a passenger service.

Now VIA plans to cut service on a few lines within its busiest corridor between Windsor, Ontario and Montreal, Quebec, as well as cut back on the number of times per week the Maritime line runs. One of my cousins commented that we’ll all have to travel by car. Is this VIA decision a good one when we are living in pollution and too many vehicles clog up highways (space and time, too. Think road rage).

So while on vacation visiting my many cousins in southern and southerwestern Ontario, I rode the last of some of the service being ditched. Going to Grimsby from Toronto it was the evening Toronto to Niagara Falls, Ontario run. Come October it will be gone and there will only be the early morning run from Toronto to Niagara Falls and vice versa in the evening.

Coming home last night on the last of the Sarnia to Toronto run at that time, I thought the service was being cut early. I got on the train at Kitchener and the first hour and a half was a great ride which I was enjoying. Then we just pulled out of Brampton and suddenly the main lights went out; the train stopped and the emergency ceiling lights went on.

Panic – at least for me, inside. I hate to be stranded. The VIA attendant did make an announcement that the power had gone off and that she’d let us know what was happening when she knew.

We passengers were left wondering what was going on, when 15 minutes later the regular lights went on. A few people yayed. Not me. We still weren’t moving and from what I could see out the window (not much as it was dark) showed cars on a street much lower than where the train stopped. Were we on a bridge?

After some time we received another announcement along the lines of they were trying to get the train started and if not, they would have cabs available soon to drive us to Union Station. Right. How would we get to the cabs? Walk along the embankment or the bridge more likely with little space and then where and how would we get down to street level? I kept thinking “I want to go home” – when I wasn’t darting to the seat across the aisle to try and see out that window. Even darker over that way.

Finally after 45 minutes of doing the stall, the train started. No one yayed this time. I couldn’t even go back to reading my Alfred Hitchcock Mystery magazine because I figured if I did, we would stop again.

Was this occurrence some foreshadowing of what is to come in October? Will I ride the rails again? Sure…on the lines still running.

But I know two things. My Dad is probably rolling over in his grave. He was always critical of CN service. If he were still alive he would be saying a variation of his “Typical (add railway here).

I think I would agree with him. Especially as 24 to 30 of us got off at the little flag station of Grimsby, Ontario on a Monday evening last week. Seems like VIA is cutting off its nose to spite its face. They are of course crying “government cuts.” The buck always stops at the consumer.

What says you about services such as train and bus being cut? (And yes, the bus service between Kitchener and Stratford has already been dumped).

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child

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Filed under Canadian National Railway, Family, Holidays, Mom and Dad, Only child, Public Transportation, Railways, Sharon A. Crawford, Train travel, VIA Rail

Only child returns from holidays

Only Child's home sweet home and garden from the front.

You know the saying about holidays, “It’s good to get away but it is always nice to come home.” That seems to describe me when I go away for a holiday the last few years. I can make it for about a week and then I get homesick, not for the routine as one of my cousins suggested, but for my garden and house. Somehow seeing the homes and gardens of the many cousins I stayed with, gives me ideas; my mind follows that train of thought and you can get the picture here.

It didn’t used to be like this. When my son was growing up we flew to the east coast and west coast of Canada visiting friends and family. Often we were away for two or three weeks. I don’t recall becoming homesick although I do remember worrying about some fruit I forgot to put in the compost which was left to rot in the fridge. Well, some grapes left in the fridge this time round grew some white mold. But I had my friends next door checking the house and garden, watering plants, bringing in the little print mail I get, so when away I didn’t worry about the house and garden. I just missed them.

However, I needed this holiday away from work and dealing with the myriad of stuff requiring fixing, purging, etc. at my place. Therein is the crux for anyone working from home: sometimes you need to get away from it all wherever you chose as your destination (or in my case, five different destinations). While away I wrote nothing but personal email replies and edited nothing. In fact, I was so out of the writing/editing/loop that one of my Michigan cousins (a retired circuit judge) found a spelling inconsistency in road signs and pointed it out to me. But I took photos of cousins, friends and gardens and showed my garden and previous holiday photos to my cousins and friend, thanks to a memory stick.

Upon my return I went into a house sorting, gardening and then marketing (editing) frenzy, plus sorting out the business email (unlike some people I know, I don’t deal with business – online or by phone when on holidays and let my clients know beforehand.) That’s another key – don’t take the business with you, unless you are on a business trip. In this technology-based society, we forget to take breaks.

Take my two seat companions on the train to Strathroy, Ontario. No. 1 was a young male plugged into his Ipod until he got off one stop after the trip’s beginning. The young lady who next sat beside me began with her laptop, then moved to her e-reader and finally as the train rolled into London, Ontario, her Iphone. Except for the e-reader, where’s the relaxation in all that?

So, my only regret is I didn’t get my third train ride, the one home from Grimsby, Ontario. The train, coming from Albany, NY, got stuck for hours in Rochester. So VIA Rail arranged for a cab to pick up those of use coming from St. Catharines and Grimsby at the railway stations at train time. Good move for the six of us going to Toronto Union Station. The taxi (a big van) ride was smooth and we arrived about the same time as the train would have.  And I didn’t have to lug my bag and laptop up the steep train steps and try to make it along the narrow aisles without having my bag’s strap latch onto the back of the seat.

So, I tell myself. But, hey. I’m the daughter of a railway man and train travel is in my blood.

Now, I’m getting serious about taking the train to the east coast and west coast of Canada. Not this year. Now I have bills to pay, have to put food on the table, and there are house and yard repairs. (the hose sprung a big leak and needs replacing).

Where do you go to get away from it all? Do you go away? And do you keep yourself plugged in 24/7 like you do when at home and at work?

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Balance, Cousins, Escaping problems, Family, Fruit, Gardening, Holidays, Home and Garden, Only child, Peace and quiet, Railways, Train Stations, Travel, Vacations