Travel, Traffic and return to Toronto

It is the beginning of May, and Charles and I have returned to Toronto after 6 months in Florida. Normally, I would write about the events and activities that we did In Florida in a chronological way, but this time I will work backwards, perhaps just highlighting the special times. Our trip home to Toronto was far more stressful than in the past. And I have made notes of what we can do to alleviate the stress. This year after packing for a few days and loading up the glider trailer and feeling pretty ready for our migration, I forgot to check our books on CD until it was too late, and we were on the road. We can’t use Audible and Waze/Google maps at the same time, so CD’s are the way to go. And we found that when it is stop and go traffic on I 95 and every snowbird is heading in our direction as well as transport trucks, it is not the most pleasant ride. In the past the books would distract. This time we got pretty tired of our radio/Sirius selections and talking to each other, and talking to the dog who is not that communicative. Over 100 miles on this highway is pretty long. We also were very casual about our departure time, and next year we will leave about 2 hours earlier in hopes of beating some of the traffic. Worth a try.

By the time we reached our favourite Doubletree hotel in Charlotte we were ready for some attitude adjustment. I brought a split of prosecco, and Charles had red wine, and the new travelling red wine glass that I got him. I have a plastic flute for my bubbly. Might as well be elegant in our room. And Oscar got a treat, and then a long walk around the grounds which included a symphonic bandshell and lots of ducks in a pond, very picturesque. It was still warm in North Carolina. The little restaurant bar was now open after Covid and our favourite bartender/waiter, Tyrone, was there. We met him about 8 years ago just after his home was destroyed by a hurricane, and he told us the wonderful story of his employers helping put things back together for him, and his family. Every day furniture would arrive after the rebuilding took place. At any rate he remembered us, and we had a jolly conversation this visit. I had delicious chicken wings and Charles a pulled pork sandwich. The wines were good. We always bring a little something for Oscar to the room, and then we all crashed.

love this little travelling wine glass
quite brilliant

The next day was a beautiful drive through the Alleghenies and again lovely weather. The traffic had thinned out so it was an enjoyable ride, although I missed the book on CD once again. Near the end of the day, Charles said that we had more than enough gas, and taken lots of rest breaks, and in another hour and a half we would be in Cranberry, Pa where our next Doubletree awaited. Ah, not so fast, as we both felt and heard a tire blow. As it turned out it was on the glider trailer and Charles managed to cross three lanes of traffic and get us on the shoulder, and luckily it was a tire on the right side. However, not so lucky was that although he had a spare , it would be very difficult to jack the trailer up on the narrow shoulder that slopped down a hill. Sigh. It was also very hot. I quickly called the AAA and they were quite useless as they had to get a tow truck and we had to pay for it, even though we were members. I said, just send it. Not so easy. It was before 2:00 and a Sunday, and the operator couldn’t give an estimate of the time it would take. (We did hear from him at 5:30 after I had cancelled, and we were in our room.) Charles thought we should call the police as we were very vulnerable on the Interstate with transport truckers and cars zooming by at 80 miles an hour! The officer I reached also thought it was worth looking after us, and she called a tow truck and within about 10 minutes a state trooper and a tow truck arrived with their lights flashing. That made me feel safer.

Trooper Mara
always waiting

The tow truck driver put our spare on while I chatted with Trooper Mara and Oscar did his best flirting. Our trailer was soon ready for departure, although we had to travel at 50 miles an hour, and it took quite a while. We also were nervous on the spare as it was pretty old and the trailer was very heavy, but we made it.

We arrived at our second night’s destination in Cranberry PA, also a Doubletree, and after walking Oscar, headed to the room to relax. I usually go for a swim, but the pool was closed, and it was probably better to have a quiet, relaxing drink with my honey. We like the lobby restaurant and had eaten there before Covid. We were starving. Nothing since breakfast so we ate very early. They have a wood/gas fired oven and make great pizzas and after adapting their choices we enjoyed a delicious one with roast tomatoes, leeks, mushrooms, pepperoni and yummy cheese. For a starter we had a tuna carpaccio nacho that we shared. It was a sharing evening and we were exhausted. Good wines and early to bed.

The next morning we went to get new trailer tires. After calling Firestone near us in Cranberry, and being told they don’t do trailers, we found a terrific spot called Pepboys, about 5 minutes away, who were not only equipped with tires that would work on trailers, but had our exact ones. They efficiently changed the tires and we were on our way north after about 30 minutes.

Next, we had the border crossing to deal with and that was pretty easy as I had prepared our ArriveCan documents, and the very professional customs officer was friendly and efficient. We were dodging rain that Monday, but managed to get home without it pouring, and were able to unpack the car and trailer, before the heavens opened up. Our dear friend, Wouter, had removed my car from our garage, and put it in his driveway so that the glider could get easily, well, if you know what you are doing, into the driveway. Swiss Chalet was ordered, Liz and Wouter arrived with umbrellas, and bubbly, and we ate our chicken dinners and talked. Great to be home.

So now it is a few weeks since our arrival and Toronto is the total opposite of Howey in the Hills. Sure. It was cold and even the next day a flurry or two, everything was beige, except my hardy daffodils, and the traffic. However, I love my Toronto home and everything at least outside, was neat. The next day, we both managed to unpack completely, and I even started the laundry. Wouter had put in necessities in the refrigerator so we were set for breakfast. I soon made my lists and headed to my favourite Brunos for meat, Alex for incredible cheeses and other goodies, Absolutly for some soups, and I had ordered a fresh Capon as we planned to celebrate Christmas in April with Liz and Wouter as we had missed this. It was slated for our first Saturday home and I set the table with a sleigh, my wine red placemats, cardinal ornaments, and Alexa played holiday music. Charles set a fire in the fireplace and our dear friends arrived with a magnum of Veuve champagne. I found some fois gras, smoked duck, a wonderful goat cheese in the refrigerator, and with fresh apricots presented that as our first course. Then the Capon with stuffing, gravy, roast potatoes and french green beans with truffle oil as the main course. Liz baked a delicious cheese cake and covered it with blackberries and raspberries. What a meal and what fun! We exchanged gifts that had been wrapped for 5 months. Who even remembered what they were.

arriving for Christmas dinner in April
trying on gifts

Now we did have a visit from Liz and Wouter in florida and we celebrated Wouter’s birthday, and in fact all our birthdays that had passed. I made a special dinner of confit de canard and had a marvellous cake made for the occasion which we feasted on for days. We also went to our favourite restaurant 1921 , for brunch, and enjoyed what I consider one of the best duck fois gras dishes with brioche. It was certainly a treat to be with our friends in person and not on Zoom and we enjoyed each others company immensely.

the computer to represent our Zoom dinners

The best thing about arriving in the very beginning of spring is watching the awakening of the world around us. Buds on the trees were pushing out, my daffodils were still shining, the rhododendron in the back yard was starting to bloom, and the grass was struggling to get green. The golf course was also very bare and colourless. I played nine holes on a chilly day and although I enjoyed my friends, it is much nicer to play on a course that is very green with lush trees. We then got extremely warm weather and the delicate green of the trees became full foliage. I love that. By the second week in May everything is brilliant.

beginnings of spring in my garden, and a neighbour’s pretty garden below
a special case for our masks
a hidden drawer for our utensils

I did promise to tell you about some highlights down south and one was the discovery of a fabulous, albeit expensive, Japanese restaurant called Soseki Modern Omakase. It is intimate with a cleanly modern counter where all can watch the chefs perform their magic with flare and humour. Dishes with such names as ‘microphone Czech One Two’, and ‘her name is Rio’ were inventive and delicious, and like so many restaurants nowadays, they supported local purveyors and listed them by name. It was a great event and worth the drive from our rural home in Howey to downtown Winter Park, about 60 minutes. They have two seatings, and we chose the early one.

So much of our Florida life is on Zoom, and the Master class in Voice that I sponsor and is in my name, was simply terrific this year. Thank you Zoom. Adrianne Pieczonka, the fabulous soprano, was the master and she took the students through their chosen pieces and helped them improve. It is always engaging to listen to an aria and then listen again after suggested changes and alterations in phrasing are made. There was one young tenor who had a marvellous voice with an especially unusual timbre. I will keep an eye out for him, Burak Taman. Of course it takes much more than a good voice to make a career; discipline, hard work, acting ability, media awareness such as u-tube performances, an agent, learning how to audition and and awareness of what it takes, and then of course some luck. But that is the excitement of developing a young singer. Master classes are one aspect and one very important step for a young singer to learn how to listen to what is said, and then to re-create what the master demands. It is also entertaining for an audience, and thankfully we are back in the theatre.


We also celebrated my birthday with a short trip to Vero beach, I got a new old car 2012, just like mine in Toronto, and I went to a tea party in honour of Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond anniversary. It was brilliantly orchestrated by my friend here and there, Sharon. A fun afternoon with Florida gals.

birthday dinner in Vero
on the beach and a charming gift store in Vero

and below Oscar driving in the new/old car

In my next blog I will tell you about two wonderful operas I have seen here in Toronto, The Magic Flute and La Traviata. And we were in the audience, someplace we haven’t been for over two years. Mirabile dictu! Charles and I were in Montreal and Vancouver this past week visiting our grands who we haven’t seen either for it seems such a long time. We are heading next week to France to celebrate our 35th anniversary. I am sure I will have lots to tell you then, and of course I will keep notes.

at the tea..Congrats Queen Elizabeth

Stay well. Be blessed.


2 thoughts on “Travel, Traffic and return to Toronto

  1. I really enjoyed reading about your trip home Riki. Welcome back! Wishing you a wonderful trip to France. I am looking forward to hearing about it.


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