Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Mountie always gets his reindeer

We went, we saw, we had a Canadian Christmas and we did a lot of shopping. Oh yes, that was an interesting three weeks away. And how come we have been back a week already? Where does the time go? Anyway, we managed to avoid the worst of Britain's Big Freeze (or Snowpocalypse if you prefer) but the start of it did affect our departure...

Travelogue stuff part one!

Ma and Pa very kindly took us down to Gatwick for the flight out, arrival being slightly delayed by frozen screen wash requiring numerous stops in lay-bys and on the hard shoulder to clear vision by hand. Then the plane was delayed by two hours while they cleared the runway and de-iced. Not that I was particularly bothered by that - we had decided to upgrade as a Christmas treat so I was able to sleep through the hanging around in a bit more comfort.

The trip was more intended to be a Christmas celebration with the part of the family we normally only see in warmer months. While my lot are all over here, MrsB has one sister here and the other in Canada. And she has children and grandchildren out there too so we were intending to spend as much time with them as possible rather than necessarily hitting the tourist spots. It certainly started off in fine family form with mother, daughter and grandaughter there to meet us as we fell wearily out of the arrivals gate.

Home for the next three weeks was Sheila and Stuart's house in Burlington. Which for those who have never heard of it is about 45 minutes west of Toronto. And if you keep going west and south another 45 minutes or so you end up staring at Niagara Falls. It is a nice little city with a couple of malls, lots of lovely parks and walks along the lake shore and far too many Canada Geese. S&S's daughter Caroline lives in town as well, with hubby Chris, daughter Bryanna and son Austin so there was lots of catching up with them to do. And from Austin'r point of view meeting us as he was only 6 months last time he was here.

What was missing, however, was snow. When we booked up in August we were told we were mad for going in the winter as there would be so much snow and cold weather that we wouldn't be able to go out half the time and would be stuck in the house. That didn't put us off, of course. And proved to be a false prediction. In fact most of the time we had lovely blue skies, although it struggled to reach freezing most days and lows of up to minus 25 were experienced. Still, Ma and Pa had also given us money for Christmas to buy new coats with, so after a trip to Mapleview Mall and then on to Mark's Work Wearhouse we were sorted for the rest of the trip.

So other than sitting around in various houses what did we get up to?

As intimated, and despite flying out with suitcases full of Christmas present, English sweets, Christmas puddings/cake etc we managed to obtain enough stuff to come back 16kg overweight. So that was the biggest dent on the credit card all holiday. As much as I try to resist when we do end up in the Malls, I seem to have developed a fondness over the years for Old Navy t-shirts. And even with the pound only hitting 1.6 dollars rather than the 2 we have had in the past, the CD prices just make them irresistable.

As can be determined by that photo, we did indeed make it to Niagara Falls for a look at all that unfrozen water. They are always a spectacular sight, especially if you can ignore all the tat up on Clifton Hill and the Casinos. Although Sheila did manage to pocket $1,000+ on the slots while we were wandering around! Even in the sub-zero conditions I could quite happily have spent hours just watching the power of nature at work. Amazing to realise what humble h2o is capable of when left to get on with things. Not that what we see today is all that natural any more with over half of the water running through tunnels and turbine to generate electricity rather than flowing over the top. Still wouldn't fancy the trip over in a barrel though.

A six hour car journey took us up to Ottawa for a few nights with Darrell and Marnie (S&S's son and wife) with their daughter Stevie. That was another first meeting as she was still a bump when we were over there in 2007. Plenty of snow up there (like, 3 or 4 feet in places) so I got to do proper driveway clearing after the snowplough had been past and heaped it all onto the sidewalks. The capital is a lovely city and one of these days we want to go there for a week or more to properly explore it, take in the museums, parliament etc in suitable detail.

We also managed to squeeze in some ice hockey, lots of overdecorated houses, festivals of lights, icewine, more food than was strictly necessary and a brief interlude of bus spotting. Oh, and between us reeled off the best part of 2,000 photos which are slowly being sorted and put up on flickr, so feel free to click on our faces to see more for now and I'll write something else about other parts of the trip next time...