I look out my window and I see snow, not a lot of snow, but snow. It has been 18 years since we have been in Toronto for winter weather, and so far it is not bad, especially on a sunny day. However, I am writing today about the end of summer, the beautiful autumn.
Charles and I decided to take a short mini holiday to Niagara-on-the Lake, a simply delightful town just over an hour from here in Toronto, not far from the border to the USA. This area is renowned for its wineries and its farm fresh produce. It is in a mini climate where all good things like grapes, grow well. The winemakers are excellent and have become recognized, as have their wines.
It wasn’t a particularly warm or pretty day when we drove by Lake Ontario and arrived at our first stop, a charming small winery called The Good Earth, where we sat outdoors amidst the vines and had a delicious lunch. We shared a weiner schnitzel, which was more than ample for two and when we walked around the small store to pay our bill I was asked if I was the opera singer, Riki Turofsky. That was an easy answer of course. Turned out that the owner Nicolette Novak, was a fan. So happened that I always keep one of my books in the trunk of my car, and I offered it to her. ” Aria: Song of a Life”. She in turn went and got me a bottle of her bubbly called, of all things, Aria. How appropriate. It also turns out that I love this pinkish champagne and have now ordered two cases.
So the trip started out very well. The winery is located in Beamsville, Ontario, not far from where we were booked to stay in Jordan, Ontario, at On the Twenty. We arrived to find our room ready, and what a charming room it was, with a small garden and lots of spread out space, as well as an inviting bathroom, with a separate shower and tub. I love nice bathrooms. We walked around the tiny town and went into some of the stores, masked and ready to shop, picked up a few items, and then headed for a nap before dinner.
I had booked dinner outdoors, which as we all know by now, is a safer option, but because it was chilly it wasn’t available, so we ate in the large and airy dining room. The food was fine, not memorable, but there was a nice view out the window. I had hoped to book dinner in a desirable winery, Pearl Morisette, but it was fully reserved. I had tried it for a month, but as they were only open Fridays and Saturdays this was a challenge. Their outdoor space, called Le Pre, was obviously much lauded and popular, but not to be daunted, I left a message on their phone suggesting that if they had any cancellations because of the very cold night, we would come. And lo and behold I was called, and we went warmly dressed with blankets in hand.
The meal was fabulous with many different tasting menu options, and we weren’t as cold as we thought we would be. I understand their indoor dining room is superb, but it will be a while before we go there again. Blame Covid.
We planned to visit one of the first wineries in Ontario the next day, and one that is acclaimed for its Icewine all over the world, Inniskillin. I know the owner and president, Donald Ziraldo, but had not seen him for over 30 years. In fact the last time I did spend some quality time with him was soon after I had met Charles. We went to Niagara on the Lake and stayed at Donald’s house. His other guests included the former Prime Minister of Canada, Pierre Trudeau. We shared a dinner together and then went to the theatre. It was a superb evening with Donald as host. Soon after that I left for Vancouver and continued my great love adventure with Charles from a distance. Read more in my book, see above. However, it was fun to catch up on our lives and reminisce and as we all know things have a habit of changing over the years.
In September we visited the Royal Ontario Museum‘s exhibition ‘Winnie the Pooh‘. Now I have always been a fan of this little bear, and when my dear Carrie was alive and very young we read all the books together and listened to the brilliant reading by Jimmy Stewart, playing all the parts, on a recording that I had found. Both of us adored it. So I had to visit. Of course it was really targeted at youngsters, but I guess there is still a lot of child in me and I loved it. Much of the exhibit focused on the writer, A.A. Milne and how he got the idea for the books. We thought we might go across the street to The Museum Tavern where they make or made simply scrumptious fried chicken, but alas they were boarded up. Their website says that they had suffered a fire and were closed due to that. Pity, as it was a fun place to eat. Maybe they will rise again after Covid.
Right across the street from that restaurant is Koerner Hall, the marvellous concert performance space of The Royal Conservatory of Music, an institution for musical learning that was founded in 1886, and got its ‘Royal’ designation in 1947. Many musicians in Canada have studied there or studied using their syllabus. Like many arts organizations and schools, it holds an annual fundraising event. This year’s gala was virtual and called The Resounding Concert. It featured Lang Lang, Meryl Streep, Sondra Radvanovsky, K.D. Lang, Lighthouse among others.
They tried something very appealing. If you donated a certain amount you could have a dinner delivered, for a lesser amount, wine and cheese and goodies. We chose the latter and were pleasantly surprised when the beautifully boxed delivery arrived complete with menu card, a cd and two wines. When responding I had a choice of a few different wines. I set a table in the dining room, added some smoked salmon and we ate before the concert at 8:00 which was streamed free all over the world. The food was brilliantly presented in a luxurious box and it was yummy; goat cheddar, blue benedictine, basil oil and roast tomato, smoked grapes, toasted pistachio breads, crostini, baked olives in a cheddar crust and eclairs for dessert. We put a fire on and enjoyed both the white and red wines, and then the concert. There were a few initial problems on the streaming, but they got sorted. Perhaps just too many people around the world wanted to see it. And speaking of restaurants we were still able to eat outdoors at our fave place close by, Azarias, but unfortunately we must now order for pick up or delivery as the patio is gone.
Tragically, one of Canada’s finest sopranos died from cancer at 44 and it saddened me deeply, although I didn’t know Erin Wall personally, I knew her work and she was a fine singer. Many of our broadcasters presented tribute programs to her, but perhaps the most touching was one that I had done a few years ago called This is my Music. The host who is a performer, talks about his/her favourite pieces, plays them, recites anecdotes and insights for about an hour and a half. It was very touching to hear her speak of her delights, listen to her laugh wholeheartedly, and perform. Someone recently said she had gone to sing with the angels. Too young, too much promise.
One of the things that has kept me happy has been my swimming at my favourite indoor pool, Gus Ryder. Protocols in place, a max of 8 swimmers, separated in four lanes with lots of ventilation and room, I looked forward to this exercise three times a week at 7:30 am. I loved the feel of the water and the free thoughts running through my brain as I did my lengths. It was a lovely way to start the day. Unfortunately, now we are in lockdown and the pools and gyms are closed, but more about that in my next blog.
The trees have been on vivid display. On my walks and at the golf course they have been just splendid this year, or perhaps I have just noticed them more. My final day of golf before the course closed,was very warm and wonderful to play, although our annual Pumpkin Scramble was absolutely frigid. However, the patio remained open for longer than expected and we were able to eat and enjoy the excellent view of the course. It was fun having my sister join us from time to time. The temperatures have been up and down, but the patio heaters worked well to keep us warm. Halloween night it was cold, and children were not out and about this year of the Covid, but our neighbour’s three young ones came over. I had little gifts for them instead of candy.
We took a one day trip to Stratford, Ontario, and spent a glorious evening at The Bruce Hotel which I will tell you about in my next blog. I will also tell you about the superb Tom Patterson Theatre that is there and waiting for action, and how we are dealing with our first winter in a long time.
Stay healthy and Safe!