Saturday, April 16, 2022

Wineing . . .

I never liked wine . . . I was a beer person, until my son suggested one day, that the reason I didn’t like wine, was because of the 'crap' wine that Regis drank. He suggested that I should try a nice robust red wine instead of the sweet bubbly stuff Regis favoured. He was right, and once I tasted nice Shiraz, Cabs, or Malbecs, I found I did actually like wine. Now, my son and I do not agree completely on wine . . . He thinks I buy cheap wine, and I must admit, I find it hard to spend too much on a bottle of wine. Where I look for the sales or interesting labels , he goes for the slightly higher levels in vintages. On one of his trips to Dartmouth, a case of wine arrived at our door prior to his visit, so he would have “his wine” when he got there. This system works out pretty well, because with both of us purchasing bottles, the wine rack is always well stocked. And I do get to taste some of his “better” wine from time to time, but I still do not notice any real difference. 

That bottle is empty
I like coming to visit here in Toronto, because the wine in the LCBO outlets are all a couple of dollars cheaper than in Nova Scotia because of lower taxes, and I can usually find bottles unavailable back home. There is one particularly nice LCBO location in a restored train station with an amazing selection of wines from all over the world that I like to visit at least once every trip. During this visit to Toronto I bought a case of wine there with a nice variety of interesting reds, whites and bubbly (for Regis). Back at the condo, I unpacked my purchases and put them in a wine rack that Ryan was not using. 

Then at dinner a couple of evenings later I pulled out a bottle to have with our meal. I checked the label, a 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon, but as I had bought a number of bottles, I also checked with Ben if it was one of mine or his. He assured me that it was not one he bought so I opened it and tasted it - a very nice cab, and poured glasses for myself and Ben. Ben uses a wine app on his phone to record wines he has tasted so he took a photo of the label to enter this bottle into his records. As he looked at the reviews, he said “That’s odd, the app says this wine is worth $45?”. I immediately apologized for opening one of ‘their’ wines, but Ben insisted he had not bought this one, and I knew I certainly had not chosen a $45 bottle of wine. I decided to check the LCBO receipt to be sure, and there it was . . . somehow I had picked up the wrong bottle and put it in my cart. It was not actually $45 but was still $41.95. I will admit I am not very careful about checking my receipts so I had not noticed the total was higher than normal, as there were also some very inexpensive wines in the case. 


As Ben and I were laughing at my mistake, we both refilled our glasses and when Ryan got to the table and found out we were enjoying a $42 bottle of wine, he was very willing to accept a glass as well. And, I do actually think that it was a bit better than my normal $20 bottles.  

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Climbing More Stairs

Stairs. . . .
Lately Regis and I do not do stairs very well. I blame my mother, as I have inherited some of her arthritis and my knees and hip do not like stairs. COVID delays have only allowed Regis to get one cataract fixed so far, so her vision is not the best and with one fixed eye and one bad one, her depth perception is way off, particularly at ground level, so she does not see sidewalk cracks or stairs very clearly. The condo here is on six levels, and we are constantly going up or down stairs to do anything, so stairs are unavoidable. 

You would think we would know better than to go visit an attraction with lots of stairs, but no, we decided to visit Casa Loma castle here in Toronto yesterday. 

Baldwin Steps . . 110 of them

In order to get to the castle, you can drive, but we decided to take public transit which we enjoy using here in the big city. Out of the subway station we walked up Spadina Rd., and ended up at the Baldwin Steps. As the name implies . . . . more steps, 110 in fact leading up the hill to the castle. 

And the castle itself . . . . . wide elegant central stairways, but also narrow wooden stairs, secret passageways with even narrower stairs, and rickety spiral stairs to climb into the towers. Then the worst of all, an underground tunnel with uneven surface and dim lighting and images projecting onto the walls and floor. But with a lot of, “watch out, one step down.”, “three steps up”, or “careful, narrow stairs!”, we made it through and actually enjoyed the visit to Casa Loma very much. 

Casa Loma

Casa Loma really is a spectacular attraction. Built in 1911 by financier Sir Henry Pellatt for 3.5 million dollars, it was the largest private residence in Canada. It sits on top of a hill, providing a lovely view over the city of Toronto. The actual design envisioned by Pellatt was never finished completely. For example, he planned to have three bowling alleys in the basement but only one was finished, and the third floor was never completed while he lived there. Unfortunately, the castle cost so much to build and with the financial troubles of the great depression Pellatt only lived in the house for 10 years before he had to give it up. It is currently owned by the city of Toronto and is leased to an entertainment company and used at a setting for movies. 

And we did climb the spiral stairs to the top of the tower to enjoy the views over the city. A great adventure in Toronto. 

Anyone for Tea?

An old wreck parked at the entrance

Tunnel to the Hunting Lodge & Garage

View from the tower

A well stocked wine cellar

Antique Shooting Brake

One of the 50 phones in Casa Loma originally

A rather elaborate bed

Indoor plumbing in "My Lady's bathroom"

Not sure what this was all about?

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Searching For Ancestors

I like it when people let me know they are reading and enjoying my posts on the blog, and I received a reply from my dad’s cousin Carol in New Zealand yesterday telling me she was enjoying my posts. She also asked me if I was close to any of the my grandmother’s family’s houses when they lived in Toronto and the graveyard where my grandmother’s parents were buried. 

Well, I immediately felt a Blog Post coming on . . . . 

I did an internet search and located the two houses she mentioned and then I found the graveyard where Emma and Alonzo Verrian were supposed to be buried. The graveyard, Prospect Cemetery was a fair distance away, but was right on a good streetcar line, so it was easy to get to. We had noticed on our walks that the streetcars were not at all crowded, so it seemed a safe way to get around the city. 

Prospect Cemetery, Toronto 

The next step was to see if I could actually locate their gravesite in the cemetery. More internet research yielded a website for the cemetery that was able to tell me Emma and Alonzo were buried in section 22, plot 2314. Now for someone who is not at all religious, I seem to be the one to explore cemeteries and locate graves. I found Regis’ grandparents graves in Cheticamp on a trip to Cape Breton, and it was me that located her dad’s plot in Sackville as well as her Aunt’s headstone in the same cemetery, so I have some experience in exploring graveyards.

So I set out this morning to take the Subway up Young to St, Claire and then the streetcar to Lansdown where the Prospect Cemetery was located. 

I discovered that this is a massive cemetery. It extends over two blocks and is in two sections divided by a road. There were pretty good maps, so I realized I would have to walk all the way across Rogers Rd to the second area of the cemetery to find section 22. When I got there I started just wandering among the headstones looking for the name “Verrian” on any of them. I then realized that scattered among the headstones were many simple markers set into the ground. Now I do not know a lot of history of this side of the family but I did not think they were extremely wealthy, so I suspected I was looking for a simple marker. The cemetery is actually a beautiful one and looks to be well maintained, but with winter just over and spring just starting, there were leaves scattered all over, and I quickly realized many of the leaves were clustered over the hollows in the ground where the grave markers were. This meant I had to brush away leaves from many of the markers to read them. I diligently searched section 22 for over an hour with no luck. Finally I decided to ask the police officers in the patrol car sitting on the roadway just outside section 22 for advice. Of course the other positive result of asking them was to reassure them that the old guy in the cowboy hat and shillelagh was not a grave robber. They had no knowledge of how the cemetery was laid out, but suggested I go check with the office. Of course the office was all the way back at the entrance, but it did seem to best way to proceed. 

In the office I found Margaret, a very pleasant and helpful lady who gave me a map and highlighted the general area I should look. She then printed out a detailed plot map of this general area. I thanked her and she wished me luck. 

Margaret's Helpful Maps

Back at section 22, I found the patrol car was still there, so I was reassured that I was not the subject of their surveillance. I again found the general area and it was not where I had searched previously. I also noticed a fellow across the road who was picking up branches, and I approached him to ask if he knew anything. He was a grounds keeper and, he said he was not an expert, but had a general idea of how things were organized and he offered to help. Together we scoured the area looking for a marker with no success. He did show me how the plot numbers worked but suggested that they were not always in order, and he said that sometimes the markers sink into the ground and if relatives do not maintain it, they can completely disappear. After 30 minutes searching I thanked him and said I would do a bit more on my own. 

I started then not only looking for the name but also trying to locate the plot 2314 where the grave was supposed to be located. I was able to further narrow down the area by finding numbers above and below 2314. I then located a 2316, but although the plot should have been close I could not find it. I did realize that in many cases the grass had been slowly encroaching onto the markers, and I started using my cane to locate the stone markers under the leaves and grass. Then, sure enough, close to 2316, I found a spot with a solid sound, and kicking the grass aside I discovered 2314. No actual grave marker but the number was there, so I had located the actual site of Emma and Alonzo Verrian’s grave. 

Finally . . . 2314

Then back at the condo I found another e-mail from Carol that explained that she knew there was no marker and was in fact thinking of putting one in place. It obviously had been a while since anyone had actually visited the gravesite, so I hope my little cemetery adventure today helps the Verrian side of the family know that the grave site has been found and remembered. 

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Finding the Trail

Interesting Street Views

Walking in Toronto is a lot different than back home, where we have so many trail systems to explore all within a short distance from home. Here in Toronto, most of our walking is exploring the streets in the area. Some days we simply set out and zig-zag through neighbourhood streets enjoying the different settings and the interesting sights we find. 

This is not to say Toronto does not have some excellent parks and walking trails, but most are not within easy walking distance and many actually make you pay to park in order to enjoy the trails. In fact, I recall 50 years ago visiting Toronto and being impressed that a short walk from my hotel, I could walk down into a forested ravine and the large city completely disappeared. That same unique park system remains today and is not far from the condo. It is called the Don Valley Parklands and follows the Don River from Lake Ontario all the way up past the highway 401. This system of parklands contains miles and miles of trails and during previous visits to the city we explored some of them. The Evergreen Brickworks discussed in an earlier post is on this parkland. On one of our walks this trip, I thought I’d go explore some more of this trail system. 

Unfortunately it did not work out to be so easy. We walked over towards where we knew the parklands were and from an overpass we could see the trail, running down between the river, the train tracks and the Don Valley Parkway Highway. The difficulty on our first attempt was finding a way down onto the trail. With a railway on one side and the river on the other, we had to find an access point. After trying various streets that crossed the river, we got tantalizing views of the trail and people happily walking down there, but no way to actually get to it. After our walk reached our usual 5 - 6 km limit, we gave up and went home to research on Google Maps how to actually get onto the trail. 

A Farm in the City

On our next attempt we decided to explore both the Riverdale Farm and take a pathway shown on the map leading down to the trail. The farm was interesting with chickens, pigs, cows, horses and goats happily living on a farm here in the middle of the city, but the trail was closed down to the trail and we got distracted by discovering that Toronto has a Necropolis like we saw in Glasgow Scotland, so it also needed to be explored. 

Finally finding the Trail
Finally, by sitting down and going back to Google Maps on our phone, we did find a pathway across the train tracks and down onto the trail, but by then we had covered a fair distance, so after a short “Trail Walk” we located another entrance and decided to call it a day after 8 km. 

Today with the sun shining and temperatures getting up to a reasonable number we set out to finish the trail down towards the Toronto waterfront where we turned back home. There is however still more to explore, but at least we now know how to get onto the trail, and will see on another outing what the waterfront section has in store. 

I wonder what this sign used to advertise

Interesting Art Installation

Toronto's Necropolis

A bridge to Nowhere

Street Art on the Trail

A very cool fence on our walk