Canada: Toronto & Niagara-on-the-Lake July 16 – 22
Wini, my cousin would be hosting her 34th wedding anniversary in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada on July 21. It’s a long way to go. Luckily, I have found on two trips that have been on my list for a long time. The first trip is an expedition on Loffe, an icebreaker, from Louisbourg, Nova Scotia to Resolute in the Canadian Arctic from July 23 to August 14. I fly to San Francisco to join a trip to Yellowstone National Park before returning to Hong Kong on August 27. I am lucky to find a reasonable ticket with Air Canada for my North America trip.
Relax in Ontario, Canada July 16 – 22
July 16 Monday: Hong Kong (GMT+8) – Toronto (GMT – 4)
I like to fly in day time and Air Canada’s flight to Toronto suits me perfectly. I left Hong Kong around 3pm and landed shortly after 6pm local time. I watched three films and dozed off from time to time. But no gate was available: I did not get off the plane till 7:45pm. Aliana told me she had once waited some three hours for a gate. Finally, I arrived at Aliana’s flat in North York around 9:15pm.
Aliana is an angel, funny, smart and lovely. I love soup. She therefore spent hours preparing me a delicious vegetable soup with pork bones. It’s light and tasty. She insisted that I should take her room while she slept in the couch in the sitting room. I was tired and slept soundly.
July 17 Tuesday – 19 Thursday: A Traumatic Day
Aliana, Igraine and I had been on the Camino de Santiago walk last August. We would meet up for lunch in an Italian restaurant at11:30am. I had my fourth birthday celebration! We chatted for three hours before moving over to Don Mills Shopping Mall for a walk. Aliana suddenly tripped over as the surface was not even. She landed like superman flat on the pavement with her glasses thrown off and blood dripping from her upper lip. She feared her jaw and two front teeth might have fractured or broken.
Aliana was in great pain. The pavement was boiling hot. Igraine and I were anxious. Nevertheless, we dared not move her as she might have broken bones. The security guards called 911 and the ambulance arrived about 20 minutes later. We were relieved on arrival of two paramedics who checked her neck, hips, jaw, arms and legs before moving her in a stretcher. Her blood pressure and heart beat were normal. They did not find broken bones. But her right arm still hurt terribly. At Aliana’s insistence, they took her to the emergency centre of the Scarborough Grace Hospital.
The emergency service is impressive. The staff are efficient and professional. As there were less than ten people in the emergency centre, we waited for less than an hour. Aliana was in a wheelchair and Igraine was the pusher. The doctor on duty after inspecting her condition, comforted her that she had not broken her bones. To play safe, Aliana had her arms and jaw be x-rayed. As she could only be accompanied by one person, I waited in the waiting area and got anxious when they disappeared for over an hour.
It was a long wait and they finally came out around 7pm with Aliana’s right arm in cast. A dramatic sight! Aliana could not drive and Igraine took us home in her car. On the way, Aliana went to her pharmacist to get prescribed pain-killer. She also dropped in to consult her dentist to check on her front teeth. She smiled for the first time when her dentist confirmed that her teeth appeared alright. Her dentist noticed the design of the shoes she was wearing might have attributed to her fall.
It was after 8:30pm when Igraine drove us home. Now that Aliana was home safe and sound, we began to laugh hilariously. I accompanied her to a clinic last August in Spain. Now I took her to the hospital. Bad omen? Should I travel with her again? Aliana was exhausted after a traumatic day! I prayed for her speedy recovery.
July 18 -19 Wednesday & Thursday: Time to Recover and Rejoice
I spent most of the time with Aliana at home as she could not drive. But it’s not a problem: I lead a simple life and enjoy spending time at home. Aliana and I chatted and laughed about our days in New York and our trip to Portugal and Spain last year. Time passed quickly. On July 18, I met May, an old friend from HKU for lunch and Katherine and Tony for dinner. They picked us up and we had a lobster dinner at the Very Fair Restaurant. The 5.5lb lobster was most delicious and probably the best I ever had.
On July 19, Aliana took me to a Japanese restaurant in the neighbourhood. Wow we had sashimi and eel and homemade cake. The seafood was fresh and delicious. We returned the next day for brunch before I left for the airport to meet up with Wini and her family.
July 20 – 21 Friday & Saturday: Family Reunion in Niagara-on-the-Lake
I have two brothers (Alan and Lawrence) and seven cousins (Wini and Geoffrey from my first uncle; and Ricky, Alan, Betty, Keung and Becky from my third uncle). We had a great reunion when we attended Ricky’s second daughter Joyce’s wedding in Turks and Caicos in November 2015.
Wini and Bob are very generous and invite all the cousins to her wedding anniversary. In this way we can meet up and have another family reunion. My 90-year-old third auntie arrived accompanied by her five children and three daughters-in-law, four grandchildren and two spouses, and three great grandchildren (Tyler, Ryan and Hannah). Six of the party of 18 flied in from Hong Kong, two from Toronto and ten from the US. Geoffrey and I came direct from Hong Kong while Wini, Bob and their sons Paul and David came from the US. Wini also had four girlfriends coming from the US.
As Wini and Geoffrey would fly in on July 20, I met up with them at the airport. Things went smoothly: by 2pm the gang of seven (Wini, Bob, Paul, David, Geoffrey, Thu (Wini’s good friend) and I) assembled at the arrival hall in Terminal 3. Wini hired two cars and we arrived at the Prince of Wales Hotel in the picturesque town Niagara-on-the-Lake around 5 pm. This historic town was the first capital of Upper Canada in 1792 with Fort Mississauga at one end next to the lake and Fort George at the other end close to the Niagara River. Historic buildings line up the Queen Street / Picton Street and the King Street.
On the recommendation of Aliana, I took them to Queenston Heights Restaurant for dinner. The park was deserted by then and we had the whole patio to ourselves. The view of the lake from the dining room is beautiful. After dinner, we headed to the world-famous Niagara Falls.
I visited the falls in 1980. Today, the whole area is beyond recognition. The Canadian side has been turned into a playground with a Las Vegas feel i.e. artificial, commercial, noisy and touristy. The falls are lit up after dark. I prefer nature and find Victoria Falls and Iguazu Falls breath taking and magnificent. Anyway, we did not stay for the fireworks at 10pm. We were all tired and went to bed early.
I got up early the next day. Geoffrey is an early riser and we took a morning walk in this picturesque town before breakfast. I am impressed by the lovely houses along the Queen Street with manicured gardens. After breakfast, Bob, Paul, David and I visited the Konzelmann Estate Winery. They are engineer and are more interested in the machinery than in wine tasting. We drove to the Golf Club on Lake Ontario for a drink with Geoffrey and Wini. The view of the lake and the fortress on the American side of the Niagara River is superb. I spent a leisure afternoon in the pool before leaving for the party at 5 pm.
We had a fabulous evening with a sumptuous four-course-dinner with champagne, white and red wine from the winery. I met Ryan and Hannah for the first time as they were born since our gathering in 2015. All the three kids are beautiful and most energetic: they ran and laughed non-stop. It is always cheerful to have happy kids around. Tonight, we had 24 family members at the dinner. A full WU extended family with four generations now has 43 members! The party ended at 10pm as everyone was exhausted. We were all looking forward to another family gathering at my nephew’s wedding in Hong Kong in end December.
July 22 Sunday: Toronto
I was keen to take a morning walk and take a few photos before leaving the pretty quint town. I got up shortly after 6am and dressed for a leisure stroll. Once I stepped out of the hotel, I realised it had been raining hard. I retreated to the lobby reading newspaper. At 7:30am, I advanced to the door with a borrowed umbrella in hand. The heavy rain drops forced me to retreat again. I gave up and went the heated pool and spa for 40 minutes instead.
Shortly after 9am, the rain finally stopped. I therefore had a short walk for 15 minutes. Luckily Geoffrey had already comfortably seated in a small table for two. I took the spare seat and had a sumptuous traditional English breakfast with two eggs, sausages and bacon. This would be my lunch as well. Others who arrived 15 minutes later, were not seated till after 10:30am. As a result, we were not ready to leave for Toronto till noon.
I was in Bob’s car with Paul and we were caught in heavy rain on the way. The other car which took a different route had no rain at all. It is strange that the weather can be so different within a 20/30-km radius. Our car arrived at Marriot Hotel at Eaton Centre around 2:15pm. I got off with our luggage while Bob and Paul returned the hired car a few blocks away. It was not till 4pm when Thu and I got our room.
Tonight, I joined my third auntie’s family of 19 for dinner. I took a GO bus at 5:40pm to Unionville ($8.45) and my relatives drove me to a nice Chinese restaurant in Markham for dinner. I later found out that it was a party to celebrate my auntie’s 90th birthday. She is blessed surrounded by her five children, three daughters-in-law, four grandchildren, two grandsons-in-law and three great grandchildren. She is happy always with a smile and in great form walking fast and without support.
The dinner started after 7:30pm and did not finish till 10pm. As there was no GO bus till 10:45pm, my cousin Alan drove me to Don Mills metro station. I would have arrived at Union Station earlier had it not been for the disruption of service caused by repair works on the line. All passengers had to leave the train at Lawrence and took a transit bus for a few stops.
It was around 11:30pm when I finally got off at Union Station. There were plenty of people on the Bay Street. I also saw some street sleepers. By the time I was back in my room, it was 11:45pm. I would have been better off to wait for the GO Bus had I known about the service disruption. Poor Thu was already in bed as she had allergy and had taken two dosages of medication. She was dizzy and tired. I packed my bag so that I would not disturb her in the morning.