Heading into 2018

It seems only yesterday that we were starting the new Millennia. Much talk about computers shutting down, the world coming to an end, watching the first of the New Year in Australia on television, and here we are 18 years later. Although this is a time of reflection, I did write some of my thoughts in my previous blog, and don’t want to be accused of repeating myself, so you can check that out: https://suddenly70.ca/2017/12/11/summer-in-the-city-part-two. It is also a time for me to remember some highlights from the fall season that I haven’t told you about.

I may have tried to cram too much into September and October before we headed down to Florida, but in retrospect the three little trips that we enjoyed were well worth it, albeit a bit demanding in the time factor. I must admit that as much as I try to keep up a youthful pace, it is not quite the same now in my seventies. Charles always says, ‘Do not go gently.’ The actual quote from Dylan Thomas is ‘Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.’

So sometimes I program just too much activity in our lives, and then my body reacts with a cold or an attack of my little disease, Ménière’s, or I just sleep for a day, but this is our travel and ‘do as much as we can’ chapter, so there it is. In September we went to Vancouver to visit our kids who live there, particularly our little grand daughter, Sway. I firmly believe in bonding early with grandchildren, and truly wished all three of ours lived in closer proximity, but they don’t, so we have to travel or they do.

Vancouver is a wonderful city to visit and we have a favourite place to stay, the old Hotel Georgia, now the Rosewood. I love the lobby, long and narrow with a terrific bar, the 1927 Lobby Lounge, the fine Hawksworth restaurant and the Bel Café at one end, and an entrance into the speakeasy, Prohibition, at the other. The façade of old elevators still remains, as does a beautiful clock at the front doors all restored lovingly. The hotel pool is splendid, with geometric shapes in the bottom that change colour, and the temperature is nice and warm. The rooms are relaxing with large bathrooms, double sinks, a freestanding tub and shower. We were situated up high with a great view of the Vancouver Art Gallery. The food in all the eating spots was very good presumably because there is a great pride in the Hawksworth restaurant and this has spilled out into the other venues. Even the soups and salads in the Bel Café were scrumptious and reasonably priced.


Kate and Sway 

Vancouver is not an inexpensive city as it is filled with tourists, and many wealthy Asians live there or have homes there, and the average price of a detached home last May was recorded at $1,830,956. Our son, Corby, his wife, Kate, and their daughter, Sway, live in a rented above ground basement apartment. They do have a large garden which increases their space and where Mason, the dog sleeps, but in cold months this is not very useful. They have been resourceful and creative with the indoor space. Sway, shares her room with the washer and dryer; their beautiful table in the living/dining area has a leaf that expands when they have company. The entire area is well decorated, and very comfortable. There is even an upright piano in one corner of the living room/playroom. All of it works for now until the baby is really mobile, and then they will have to rethink.

Corby and his creation

Our visits now include renting a car (on points) heading out to their place and watching what I call baby TV. It is very agreeable observing a developing child and chatting with your grown up children. Our middle son, Niels, who also lives in Vancouver, joins us as often as he can during our visits and his dog, Mia, usually accompanies him. The first evening we ate outside, and Corby cooked an imaginative dinner on the barbecue. It didn’t quite work, as he would tell you, but the salad and veggies all sufficed. Okay, he made a dish he had heard about on talk radio that sounded good, pork tenderloin stuffed inside a pineapple. Something about the acid in the fruit didn’t meld with the pork, although you would have thought it could. I make sweet and sour pork, but then the pork is in small pieces and there is a sauce. Of course we all ate it, except Kate who is a Pescatarian. The warm evening under the stars was wonderful. Nice to be entertained by your adult children.

The next day we all went whale watching. Corby is a Captain of a whale watching boat for Seabreeze Adventures, and we were invited to go on another boat for the afternoon while he worked. It was a beautiful day and we did sight some Orca. The water was calm and the sun was shining, and I watched Sway with her ear protectors on. After all the fresh air we headed back to the hotel for a wee nap and then met again to celebrate Corby and Kate’s anniversary at the fantastic, need a mortgage to pay for it, delicious Blue Water Café in Yaletown. This restaurant is worth it for a special occasion and indeed Kate says she will always remember the seafood tower. We had a brilliant evening, all five of us, sitting at a round table, eating seafood and then incredible desserts, and drinking lots of wine, family time at its best.

Corby prepping people for Whale watching and gathering the survival suits


Sway with ear protectors, a whale watching boat and seals sunning


family smiles aboard
Sway TV and Nana

I managed to pick up Sway’s little sniffle and take it back to Toronto with me, but it was worth it cuddling her and loving her up, and colds go away, but not the memories of a super visit. We did visit the Monet exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery with Niels. It was good not great. I am afraid the expertly-curated exhibits that we have seen in Toronto spoil us. Somehow we are always a little disappointed with the gallery in Vancouver.

family at Blue Water Café, and Kate’s delight

Home on Monday in time to get rid of my cold and prepare for our trip to Prince Edward Island,  Our dear friend, Wouter owns some properties in that province, and rents them out, but when there is a vacant weekend he will often go for his own pleasure, and we got invited to tag along with him and Liz, his girlfriend and mine. I believe I was in Charlottetown years ago, but could only vaguely remember this capital city and home of the founding of Canada.

It would only be a weekend, but the flight is short, not quite two and a half hours, and I offered to rent a car, again on points, and also got one of the flights on points. Now my cold went away, and we were slated to leave on Thursday. On Monday evening I got a Ménière’s attack and lay in bed unable to move all day Tuesday. I was certain the trip would have to be cancelled. Liz just said to me, ‘you will be fine; we can relax there and just be lazy. ‘ Wednesday I was almost back to my old form after sleeping all day Tuesday, and Thursday I was ready to fly.

It was a superb weekend, glad I didn’t miss it. We arrived early in the day and headed to the grocery store with a carefully organized list of foods we would need. The men went to buy beer and wine. Then we headed to a farm in Cavendish, where they have goats and they make cheese and soap, and you can get close and personal with the critters at The Great Canadian Soap Company. The goats were friendly and adorable. I fell in love. We bought a few items and then headed to the house. The views of the massive Gulf of St. Lawrence over the hills and farm country were splendid even as we drove. The house, in Seaview near Malpeque Bay, famous world wide for its oysters, is situated at the end of a winding road overlooking the coast and at first glance looked magnificent. It was huge with many bedrooms and baths on three floors, a great room with fireplace, an enormous kitchen and views all around. Liz and Wouter stayed on the top floor master suite, and we chose a charming room at the bottom. We settled in quickly, and I found my spot in the living room on a long couch with a view that went on forever. I just cuddled up there and really didn’t want to move all weekend. I stared at the sea and marvelled at the changing colours of the sky, the grasses, and the water.


goats hamming it up posing and one who liked my jacket enough to nibble at it.

The first evening Wouter had booked a local chef , Kurtis Ellis to come in to cook dinner. P.E.I. is famed for its seafood; mussels, oysters, lobster, and we tried all while we were there. The chef set the table, cooked and served, and the soup starter was exquisite as was everything else. We enjoyed all the seafood fresh that day from the sea, lots of wine, conversation and then bed. There is nothing like sleeping in a home near the sea.

gorgeous soup and appetizers before fab dinner with Chef;  Charles, Liz and Wouter enjoying

I was determined to get some exercise the next day and bundled myself up, because in late September it is chilly with the winds, and we were on a peak. But I made my way down to the beach along a road filled with charming houses and got to the beach walkway. I was quite fine thank you until I turned around to head back up the hill to our nest and the wind was in my face. It was a challenge to walk even a few steps. So I had my exercise, felt virtuous, and plopped down on my sofa and read and watched the water view.

Charles and Wouter went to a seafood wholesaler and purchased oysters at a ridiculously low price. We ate most of them raw, and then baked some in the oven just until they popped open. What a treat, then back to my spot. I can’t remember if they bought the mussels at that time as well. Of course almost anywhere you go outside of PEI you look for the mussels that come from there. They are superb. There is nothing like fresh mussels cooked in a broth of white wine, some lemon, and pepper, and served with bread and butter. Yum.

 beautiful PEI


my view, my spot

Lobster was also on our menu for supper, again just out of the sea, inexpensive, and steamed and enjoyed; a plethora of delicious seafood. All these at home meals were accompanied by good talk. Charles and Wouter never seem to have an end of things to discuss, while Liz and I, much the same. We did venture out to Charlottetown to wander around the charming downtown, the theatrical home of the famous Anne of Green Gables performances, as well as the home in Cavendish of the author, Lucy Maude Montgomery, of the popular children’s book. We lunched in a pub and ate some, you guessed it, chowder. Then back to my spot for more absorption of the sea view.

Sunday, Charles and I headed back to Toronto very relaxed and happy and in time to get ready for our next weekend, a trip to New York City. I had to be crazy to book so much for us in such a short time. Actually Charles did ask me to not do this again. It was just that I wanted to see my favourite soprano, Sondra Radvanovsky sing Norma at The Metropolitan Opera. I adore her huge voice that reaches the far corners of any theater, and sounds as if she had a microphone embedded in her cheeks. The only other soprano that I have heard sound this way was Joan Sutherland. Sondra can sing as high as a coloratura, in fact her runs and ornamentation are very precise. Her voice has an unusual timbre that is distinct, and she can act. I could go on and on, but I really wanted to hear her Norma in New York.


great poster of Sondra Radvanovsky outside The Met


curtain calls everyone standing and shouting


hot day in October outside the Met at Lincoln Centre

I thought that we could see the Tony award winning Canadian musical, Come From Away on the Friday night, the opera on Saturday at a matinee performance, and wander the streets if we had any time, and of course find a good restaurant for Saturday after the opera. On Friday night, before the show, we had drinks with Caroline Hunt from Roar Africa, the company that had organized our South African journey, see:





She had done such a great job, but we had never met. The Lamb’s Club was chosen for its proximity to the theater. It was just fine although full of attitude, and the oysters were a lot more expensive and not as good as the ones we had eaten in PEI, but it was New York.

I didn’t expect to be totally enchanted with Come From Away, but the show was absolutely riveting and touching and if you ever get a chance to see it anywhere, grab that opportunity. It is set in the week following the September 11 attacks, and tells the true story of what transpired when 38 planes were ordered to land unexpectedly in the small town of Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador. The music is super and the cast doubles up and plays both the parts of the islanders and the visitors. It is clever and witty and emotional. At the end the entire audience jumped up and shouted ovations.

The opera the next day was equally exciting. Along with Radvanovsky was the inimitable, Joyce di Donato. Their duet was sublime, and we were on the list to go backstage and have a short visit with Sondra, who was heading off to Toronto later that day. Hugs all around with her and her husband/manager Duncan Lear, and we headed back to our hotel to nap and then walk to a two Michelin Star restaurant that had been around a long time.

Grand Central food court goodies


More Grand Central

Aquavit, a Danish style Nordic establishment with waiters everywhere it seemed, was disappointing. It was a killer hot evening in New York in October, and the air conditioner was not working, although many promises ensued that it was being fixed. It never was. The food was simply presented, and tasty, nothing special as far as I was concerned, as one expects so much from the ‘star’ factor. Frankly a really good piece of grilled fish or a great hamburger will get my star rating anytime.

a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of art’s World War 1 visual arts

We stayed at a favourite, where we like the breakfasts, the bar, and the French ambience, The Sofitel . Our room was charming, although on the small side, but the bed was extremely comfortable, and the bath had everything, but a working door. The location was very central to our needs, and we love to walk through the food department at Grand Central Station. It was Columbus Day on Sunday and there was a massive parade right by our hotel’s side entrance. It was fun to watch especially as I felt very safe with all the policemen near us. We headed home to Toronto late afternoon with a sense of delight with our visit.


 some views of NYC

Then it dawned on me that I really screwed up. I forgot that Homeland Security, that has jurisdiction over border services, specifically US Customs and Immigration, counts our stay in the United States from the moment we enter the country after our 6 months away in Canada. We are allowed 182 days in the States and when we go to Florida we normally like to stay until near the end of April, but since we entered on the 6th of October, even though we were only 2 days in NYC, we would be considered as having re-entered, and even though we weren’t actually there, we would be counted as being there. Not easy to understand. Sigh. So once we started the counting of days we realized that we would have to leave April 1. Now that doesn’t sound a big deal and in the scheme of things it is not, but I would miss the our final golf meeting and awards event, the Knickers tourney that I always love to play in, farewell parties etc. And Charles would probably miss some of the best gliding of the season, and the weather in Toronto could still be very cold and not yet spring like. So be it.

Columbus Day parade


new friends

We never ever mess around with US Customs and Immigration. We love our time in Florida and would not want that to be imperilled. Just wish we had longer overall, because in the summer months we would like to feel free to go to California or Santa Fe or Boston or Vermont, and we can’t. Perhaps some day that will be changed. Our Canadian Snowbird Association and some Florida lobbyists are working on that account for retirees.

So I will cook my Passover dinner, we will pack up the next day, and with dog and glider in tow we will head north. This change of plans did present an opportunity, though, as I found a river cruise with a 30% discount in France for the second week of April, and of course I grabbed it. I will tell you all about it as it will be our first such experience.

I do wish you all a happy and healthy 2018.





2 thoughts on “Heading into 2018

  1. Riki, wow! What a great reminiscence of our PEI visit.

    Was great to read and remember.

    We are on the subway reading your blog, on our way to St. George station.


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