As a follow-up to my previous post, here’s a thought: one thing that makes living in Toronto so much more pleasant is having access to a cottage during the summer. The entire city (it seems) exits Toronto on Friday afternoons and doesn’t return until Sunday evening.
Many employers cater to this lifestyle by implementing summer hours, where you come in a half hour early every morning, but get to leave early on Fridays. It’s a great perk if you are lucky enough to work for such an employer.
And, as it happened, I also had access to a “cottage” — my parents’ home, who along with my much younger brother lived in Ontario for five years of the decade I lived in Toronto. Like the rest of the city, I would throw an overnight bag into my car on Friday mornings and leave the office at 1 p.m. sharp, heading east along the 401. It was always heavy traffic, but not as heavy as what you’d encounter at 5 p.m. (If for some reason I couldn’t get away early, I waited until 8 p.m. to start the trek.)
The minute I exited the 401, I literally felt the weight of the week lift from my shoulders. (I write “literally” quite deliberately as it was a profound feeling.) My turn-off was Highway 33, also known as the Loyalist Parkway. I would drive around the Bay of Quinte through villages with names like Carrying Place and Consecon and Wellington. If it was May, I’d roll down my window and breathe in the heady scent of lilacs in full bloom.
Finally, about three hours or so after leaving the office, I would pull into my parents’ driveway for a weekend of garage-saling and antiquing with my mother and afternoons on the beach with my little brother.
Loyalist Parkway is called that because it runs through the middle of the area where people loyal to the British Crown (the United Empire Loyalists) were encouraged to settle in the years following the American Revolution. The British gave the Loyalists land grants, and the peninsula that juts out into Lake Ontario was created a county in 1792 by the lieutenant governor of Upper Canada. It was named Prince Edward County after one of George III’s sons, but those who live there call it, simply, “The County.”
In my mind, it’s one of the prettiest corners of Ontario.
I look this photo in the old Quaker Cemetery across the road from where my parents used to live. The cemetery epitomizes for me the history of the area. How could it not, with headstones that date back 200 years?
If only they could talk.
I think it would be terribly irresponsible of me not to acknowledge in my Canada 150 series the city that Canadians love to hate.
And that would be because I gave ten years of my life to that city. They were a great ten years and I have a lot of affection for Canada’s largest city.
To celebrate Toronto, here is a photo of the Gooderham Building, also known as Toronto’s Flatiron Building, which is located in the St. Lawrence area of downtown Toronto. Completed in 1892, it was built for the distiller George Gooderham and served as the headquarters of the Gooderham and Worts distillery until 1952.
Here we are, finally. It’s Canada’s 150th birthday.
Except it’s not.
But you all know that, right?
This land we call Canada has been inhabited for tens of thousands of years by the Indigenous peoples, and then by European settlers who came long before 1867. So 1867 wasn’t the start of anything, really, because Canada is much, much older than 150.
What did happen on July 1, 1867, was simply that a piece of legislation came into effect. A piece of legislation passed by the British government and given royal assent by Queen Victoria.
Known as the British North America Act of 1867, that legislation united three British colonies (the Province of Canada and the colonies of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) into the dominion of Canada, and created four provinces: Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick.
Sir John A. Macdonald — or Sir John A., as I like to call him — became our first prime minister. That’s him below.
The name “Canada” comes from the Indigenous word kanata, which means “village.” As we celebrate Canada today, let’s make sure we celebrate all of our origins.
After Neepawa, the next bit of excitement for my sister and me while on leg one of my cross-Canada road trip was reaching the Manitoba–Ontario border. Our destination was Toronto and so, after passing the “Welcome to Ontario” sign, I turned to my sister and said, “Almost there!”
Ha. Not so much. I had no idea. Turns out it takes just as long to drive across the province of Ontario as it does to drive across the three Prairie provinces. (Funny how it takes actual travel to make distances seem real.)
The first major centre you come to in Ontario is Thunder Bay. And on the other side of Thunder Bay is the Terry Fox Monument. The bronze statue commemorates where Terry Fox had to stop his cross-Canada run after 143 days and 5373 kilometres due to the recurrence of his cancer. That was on September 1, 1980.
Terry Fox died on June 28, 1981. He was 22.
And … boom.
No sooner is it officially summer and we’re in the middle of our first heat wave. Heat waves in Vancouver are rare, which means few homes have air conditioning.
Which means I’m awfully warm.
Some friends surprised me with a picnic at Sunset Beach this evening, and instantly I was able to cool down. There’s often a breeze that comes in off the bay, but it also helped that the clouds moved in to block the sun’s heat from us as we enjoyed our meal.
Which means I didn’t take this photo tonight.
But you get the idea. There’s nothing like a picnic on the beach while watching the sun set.
It’s the first day of summer! Finally!!
This week also marks the start of Vancouver’s outdoor music festival season. The big ones are the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, which starts this weekend, and the Vancouver Folk Music Festival at Jericho Beach in July.
Vancouver is not that different from other Canadian cities in having great outdoor music festivals, but what we do have that is uniquely West Coast are some pretty spectacular settings.
Like the stage at Jack Poole Plaza with the North Shore Mountains as its backdrop. This photo is of Spirit of the West performing on Canada Day a few years ago.
For three nights every summer, three different countries compete in Vancouver’s annual fireworks competition, known as the Celebration of Light. More than half a million people from the ’burbs descend upon my neighbourhood to watch some pretty impressive pyrotechnic displays set off from a barge moored in English Bay. This year will be the 27th consecutive competition. It’s the longest running offshore fireworks competition in the world and, I am told, BC’s largest event.
Which is obvious once you’ve tried to make your way through those crowds.
I used to overlook English Bay from a ninth floor apartment and I could watch from my balcony. Now, I walk down to the beach a few minutes before they’re scheduled to start and I always have a great view.
It’s one of the perks of living in the West End.
One activity that is definitely possible here only in the summer is swimming in one of Vancouver’s five outdoor pools. This being Canada, the pools are only open between May and September. Two of them front English Bay, so they qualify as “oceanfront pools.” (The mountain views are a bonus.)
By no means is Vancouver a tropical destination, but for a couple months every year we put on a pretty good pretense.
Vancouver is at its best in the summer. Because of that, and because summer is usually the busiest time in my line of business, I rarely do my travelling in July and August.
This year is going to be an exception, however, as I’m gearing up to spend the summer in Europe. I’m incredibly excited about the opportunity that has come my way. But I am also feeling just a little bit wistful about all the fun I am going to miss right here at home.
And so, for the next few posts, I’m going to show you what is so spectacular about Vancouver in the summer.
For my first photo, I give you Siwash Rock at dusk. Dusk in Vancouver in the summer is late — I took this photo in early August just after 9 p.m. — and that means there is no excuse for not going for a long walk after work.
Walking the Stanley Park seawall is probably one of the city’s most popular activities for locals and tourists alike. And although we locals do it year round, it is so much more pleasant on a summer evening.
While I was on leg one of my cross-Canada road trip, I made a small detour to Neepawa, Manitoba. It wasn’t a long detour — certainly not as long as my first detour to the Bulkley Valley. But seeing as Neepawa is not on the Trans-Canada Highway, it was, technically, out of the way.
I remember it being a spur-of-the-moment decision. While studying the road map, I turned to my sister (who had by this time joined me on my cross-Canada road trip) and I said, “Hey, let’s stop in Neepawa!”
Neepawa is the birthplace of Margaret Laurence, the much-lauded Canadian author. Back in the day, her novel The Stone Angel was required reading in most Canadian high school English classes. That novel put the fictional town of Manawaka on the literary map of Canada. And Manawaka was inspired by the town of Neepawa.
Our quick stop in Neepawa proved to be one of the highlights of that road trip. We didn’t know this until we got there, but the small town is an oasis in the middle of the Canadian prairie, filled with big, old leafy trees and big, old lovely houses. One of those houses, the one in which Margaret Laurence grew up, is now a small museum, which we made a point of visiting.
We also made our way to the cemetery where Laurence is buried and where the original stone angel stands. The statue is part of the headstone for John Andrew Davidson, a Manitoba politician who died in 1903. It has no wings, but apparently it was called an angel by the residents of Neepawa long before Margaret Laurence wrote her novel.
And here she is.