Our pals from Florida and North Carolina are headed to the airport as I write this. I’m a little weary, having spent most of the last week showing our friends the sights in Toronto, Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake, Stratford, and Thornbury. We got to tour down memory lane as we revisited the haunts of our past lives as students at U of T where we showed them our colleges, toured through Hart House and then meandered up Philosopher’s Walk to Yorkville where we shopped and had the most expensive Gelato ever!
We also walked through Chinatown, Kensington Market, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Eaton Centre, The Distillery District, and many spots along Bloor St. We feasted on Schnitzel at Country Style, Dim Sum at Mother’s Dumplings, French food at Merlot, etc. We wanted to immerse them in all things Canadian, so we sampled Tim Bits, Poutine, Butter Tarts, etc.
They got to play golf at the Georgian Bay Club in Thornbury and we enjoyed Sunday night dinner with them and our kids at Lambton in TO. As well as seeing two plays in Stratford (Guys and Dolls and HMS Pinafore), we took them to see Second City’s Monday night show (Canada: The Thinking Man’s America).
Perhaps nicest of all we got to introduce them to some of our Thornbury pals with a dinner under the stars in our backyard followed by s’mores around the campfire.
Our last bit of touring came on our drive back to Toronto on Sunday with a little detour to the Cheltenham Badlands (1501 Olde Base Line Road between Creditview and Chingcousy Roads). This little bit of Ontario geography is pretty magical. Hidden away in Caledon, these rolling red hills are made of shale which has turned red because of iron oxide deposits and they are exposed because of erosion. Just off the Bruce Trail, they are part of the Niagara Escarpment and the roads are being reconfigured to allow for parking and better protection of this incredible area.
Our friends both confessed to not watching any TV except for sports and the occasional Netflix program, so I haven’t watched much myself this past week. I did get them to watch The President Show (follows Trevor Noah on Thursdays at 11:30 on Comedy) as I wanted to see their reactions. Although they both voted Republican, they are completely non-political and took the full frontal attack on Trump and his cronies with good humour. We didn’t discuss politics very much (as we have learned from our Florida visits that it never ends well) and we also learned that many Americans seem to just tune out the daily barrage of news about the political scene. They seem to have a sense that America will emerge from this period of total craziness the same way it always does and that “this too shall pass.” I even got them to watch most of the Tony Awards last night which thankfully remained mostly apolitical. For more on the Tonys (which I think went pretty smoothly under the leadership of Kevin Spacey as host), here’s an article I meant to send out yesterday:
We also intended to take them to see Wonder Woman, however, we were exhausted from attending Stratford, so here’s an article re the upcoming Summer films instead:
Live on Stage
Canada: The Thinking Man’s America (at Second City on Monday nights) was a great introduction to our friends about how Canada sees its relationship with its powerful neighbour. It was a very sweet and gentle explanation about how insecure we are, generally not terribly patriotic, etc., i.e. totally opposite from Americans in most respects. Although Americans were made fun of in a gentle way, I don’t think our guests were unduly offended.
Guys and Dolls (Stratford Festival Theatre) is a fabulous production of the classic Frank Loesser musical which opened on Broadway in 1950 and was remade as a film in 1955 starring Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando. Great dance numbers (directed and choreographed by Donna Feore), wonderful songs and tremendous performances. Who could ask for anything more?
HMS Pinafore (Stratford Avon Theatre) is a classic Gilbert and Sullivan show. First performed in 1878, the show is still funny with great songs and more sailors’ hornpipe dance numbers than I could ever have imagined in one show. Word of advice, when attending two shows in one day, if possible, see the more sedate show first at a matinee. We had toured Stratford, had a picnic lunch by the Avon River and then seen Guys and Dolls at the matinee. We followed that up with a quick change at our lovely B&B, a boozy dinner and then the 8 pm show of Pinafore. Needless to say, we did close our eyes a few times during Pinafore, so see this show at the matinee if you are able to squeeze in two shows in one day.
TV Viewing in furtive bits and pieces
The rest of the week was hectic. I only caught up with some of my late night comedy favourites after heading to bed. Real Time with Bill Maher‘s Friday night show (HBO) was fascinating in its emphasis on Maher’s apology for his N-word usage. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver had great fun last night in his interpretation of the Comey testimony and his analysis of the prospects of Brexit now that Theresa May has a shaky coalition government. The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS) and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (Comedy) continued to satirize the Washington melodrama, and I missed a new Samantha Bee Full Frontal (Comedy) program entirely!! Much catching up to do On Demand.
Fargo and Better Call Saul (on FX and AMC, respectively continued in my absence. I did catch the Gotham (Fox) season finale and Batman has finally emerged!!
I finally finished watching the first season of the very black comedy series Fleabag (streaming) and loved its very British sensibility.
We were able to get our friends to sit through a screening of War Machine (Netflix) with a gravelly voiced Brad Pitt playing a thinly disguised version of Gen. Stanley McChrystal who gave a career ending interview to Rolling Stone Magazine while he was commander of US forces in Afghanistan. This movie was a hybrid of a war movie and a satirical anti-war movie as it makes clear that the forces on the ground in Afghanistan did not understand their mission under Obama which was to wind down the US presence there. Very odd and Pitt’s performance is a little odd and one-note.
I was able to get my friend Lois to agree to watch another Netflix program from the BBC. Planet Earth is simply one of the most gorgeously photographed documentary series I have ever seen. We watched The Seasonal Forest episode and gasped at seasons of fledgeling ducklings plunging out of their nests, cicada bugs going through their 17 – year spring awakening, martens hunting for squirrels, etc. The Circle of Life is enacted every day in the forests.
I caught a bit of my Sunday morning Zen experience with CBS Sunday Morning yesterday. Our friends were amazed that Jane Pauley is still cute as a button at 67. I adored the segment on the 40th anniversary of the Broadway musical Annie. The segment on the coast guard rescue of a Long Island fisherman thrown overboard was incredibly moving.
We will return to our regular routines of golf, mahjong, visiting mothers and the rest of our families and commuting between TO and Thornbury this week. We are off to pick up a new Ford Explorer SUV for George today and I am going to test drive some Mini Cooper Countryman SUVs. I love the car’s cheerful and irreverent demeanour. I’ve been driving an Audi Q5 for the last several years and as we have moved into a condo with an underground parking lot with columns that seem to jump out at you from nowhere, I am looking for a shorter, narrower vehicle. This cute little Countryman shares a platform with the BMW X1 and I have fallen a little bit in love with it. If it turns out to be a disappointing ride, I will likely revert to an Audi Q3 which seems to be most highly rated for its quiet ride and safety features and I have thoroughly enjoyed my Q5 over the years, even though it has been stolen and had a tree fall on top of it. Not to mention the odd close encounter with pillars.
Summer is definitely here now with temperatures in the high eighties and low nineties (oh my gosh, one week with Americans and I have forgotten my Celsius), so enjoy this glorious weather!