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Edge Walking

Canada #27 CN Tower, Toronto

If the thought of walking around the outside of a concrete tower 356 metres above the ground leaves you feeling uneasy, it might be best to look away now. But if you’re comfortable seeing others do it please read on.

At a height of 553.33 metres, CN Tower dominates the skyline of downtown Toronto. With a 102 metre broadcasting antenna atop the concrete tower, the structure is visible from anywhere in the city.

Up closer, look again and you may see intrepid tourists braving the EdgeWalk, the world’s highest full circle hands-free walk. Balanced on a ledge just 1.5 metres wide and attached by safety harnesses, EdgeWalkers go right around the main pod, testing their daring along the way by leaning out over the edge.

I’ve said in the past I’m not bothered by heights, with the proviso that I know I am safe. Even though I had no reservations about the safety of EdgeWalk, I knew this was literally a step too far for me. So while Glen and our daughter took up the challenge, I rode up in the elevator to the SkyPod. From a further 91 metres above, I watched their father-daughter adventure unfold.

After half an hour outside, they re-entered the pod and I could see them no more. It was my turn go wandering.

As I waited for them on the Lookout Level I enjoyed spectacular 360° views of the city.

I gazed out over the Toronto Islands to the vast expanse of Lake Ontario.

I stood on the glass floor and looked down to the pavement 342 metres below.

I ventured onto the Outdoor Sky Terrace, where a chilly breeze blowing through the safety netting was proof that I did actually go outside the tower.

So if like me you draw the line at walking around the outside, make sure you still go to the top of CN Tower. The views are amazing and you can always look down on those who do go walking.

Join Jo for Monday Walks and Becky for March Squares

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Batter Up!

Canada #26 Rogers Centre, Toronto

The Rogers Centre, in Toronto’s CBD, is a huge multi-purpose stadium in downtown Toronto. It was the first of its kind to have a fully retractable roof and has a hotel with 70 rooms overlooking the field. The stadium hosts both football and baseball games and is home to the Toronto Blue Jays.

How do you know when it’s game day at the Rogers Centre? Look for the sea of blue!

Blue banners featuring Blue Jays players flap in the breeze right around the outside of the stadium.

Fans in team shirts enjoy the pre-game entertainment inside.

Massive screens project Blue Jays logos, encouraging fans and team alike.

Even the seats in the stands are blue.

Team mascot Ace struts around the stadium before the game, adding to the excitement and anticipation.

Once the game starts things get serious: Toronto Blue Jays vs Baltimore Orioles

Batter up!

And the final result: Blue Jays 8 Orioles 7!

One Room

Canada #25 Casa Loma

On a hill overlooking the city of Toronto stands a Gothic Revival mansion, once home to the fabulously wealthy Pellatt family. Casa Loma, Spanish for Hill House, was built between 1911 and 1914. Now owned by the City of Toronto, the house and gardens are visited each year by more than half a million people.

There are 98 rooms in the house, some sumptuously decorated while others have remained unfinished since work stopped at the start of the First World War. From the grandeur of the Great Hall to the opulent private suites of Sir Henry Pellatt and his wife Lady Mary Pellatt, there’s an exaggerated sense of luxury.

But the most beautiful room in this enormous house is also the least adorned.

The conservatory, designed in the style of a Mediterranean courtyard, is tiled with Italian marble. Garden beds lined with local marble from Bancroft, Ontario overflow with orchids, lilies and lush greenery.

Water plays over an ornamental fountain at one end of the conservatory; it sparkles in the sunlight shining through high arched windows.

The gaze of every visitor is drawn upwards to a central dome of elaborate stained glass. Decorated with trailing grapevines, the dome glows in the sunshine while at night 600 lightbulbs illuminate the delicate designs.

With a room as charming as this in their house, it’s a wonder Henry and Mary ever used the rest.

Sensing the Past

Canada #23 Fort York

When we first saw the historic buildings of Fort York surrounded by the skyscrapers of downtown Toronto, the early 19th century defenses seemed out of place. It made more sense when we discovered that the city, originally named York, was founded here.

The first garrison was built on this site in 1793 by the British Army, in response to border hostilities with American forces. In 1811 it was fortified with the addition of the defensive wall and circular gun battery.

In 1812, the United States declared war on Canada and in 1813 the American Army and Navy attacked York. Much of the fort was destroyed at this time, but it was soon rebuilt by the British. In August 1814, a second American attack was unsuccessful. The war between Canada and the United States finally ended in December 1814 but Fort York remained an active military site until the 1930s.

Today the fort is a living history museum, with displays, exhibitions and re-enactments which heightened all of our senses.

We saw both the officers’ quarters and the enlisted men’s barracks. In the barracks soldiers, who were often accompanied by their families, lived side by side, eating and sleeping together.

In contrast, the officers dined in luxury with fine china, silverware and crystal. Probably even more precious in this building was the luxury of space.

Like the soldiers of the Guard’s Artillery Detachment, we covered our ears with our hands as the Cohorn mortar field gun was fired at midday.

We heeded the call of the Fort York Drums as they marched onto the parade ground. Wearing the uniform of the Canadian Regiment of Fencible Infantry, the fifers and drummers played military tunes which would have been both familiar and comforting to 19th century soldiers.

We followed the scent of baking to the kitchen of the Officers’ Mess, where freshly baked gingerbread was cooling on the table.

While she shared the biscuits, the cook explained how these traditional treats are as popular now as they would have been in the early 1800s – there are never any left at the end of the day!

As we rested our hands on the kitchen table, we wondered about those who lived and worked here 200 years ago; who lifted the latch on the fortified gate, watched over the cooking in the open fireplace or dipped rainwater from the barrel with a bucket.

While we had time to wander in contemplation, we sensed we were surrounded by more than just those modern buildings outside the wall. The spirits of people from times long past were all around us.

Join Jo for more Monday Walks.

 

Showtime!

Canada #16 Grouse Mountain

Part Three

Grouse Mountain isn’t just about bears and beautiful views.

At the Lumberjack Show, we were transported to a Canadian lumberjack camp where fierce rivals Johnny and Willie took part in a competition. The winner would be declared the champion lumberjack for the day.

Using impressive skills handed down from one generation of timber workers to the next, Johnny and Willie competed in axe throwing, sawing and wood chopping.

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They duelled on a rolling log and raced each other to the top of a 20 metre high pole.

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Split down the middle, the audience took sides. We cheered enthusiastically, wildly encouraging Johnny when he won and good-naturedly regaling Willie with loud boos when he prevailed.

We all held our breath when a “tourist” accidentally joined the competition. After finding his way to the top of the pole he balanced precariously, often teetering as if about to fall before leaping off and safely ziplining down to the ground.

Who won the competition? I don’t remember.

I was too busy declaring myself the winner of the lumberjack selfies!

“Look Ma. I got me a lumberjack or three!”

See more December Squares with Becky #timesquare

With apologies to Denzil and Miriam, to whom I promised there would be no more vertigo-inducing photos.

A Sandwich With a Difference

Canada #7 Canoe Brewpub, Victoria BC

If you’ve heard about #Kevtoberfest, you’ll know Glen enjoys a beer or two but I’m not so keen. When Glen wants to try a new brewery, I’m happy to go along and usually I enjoy a cider or a hot chocolate. Sometimes if there’s cake on offer I’ll have that too.

At the Canoe Brewpub on Victoria’s Upper Harbour, Glen enjoyed a Helles Bavarian-style lager and an Amber Ale. After a long afternoon walk I was ready for something more substantial than hot chocolate, but there was no cake to be seen. Luckily our friendly barman Steve came to my rescue.

“We serve dessert. I recommend the ice cream sandwich,” he said. He went on to describe it – ale ice cream sandwiched between an oversize choc chip biscuit with chocolate porter sauce on the side.

Ale-flavoured ice cream? Chocolate sauce infused with beer? I queried the beery taste thinking it might be too strong, but Steve was reassuring. “A few of my customers say the ice cream tastes too much of beer, but I think the subtle flavours are just right.”

I couldn’t ignore his recommendation – with crossed fingers, I ordered the ice cream sandwich. I needn’t have worried; it was delicious! The ice cream, tangy with a hint of malt, was perfectly complemented by the sweet biscuit. The chocolate porter sauce was thick and rich, and I made sure to scrape every last drop from the little jug.

Ever since our afternoon at the Canoe, I’ve been thinking about their tasty ale-flavoured ice cream. The good news is that as well as having a complete beer-brewing set-up, Glen also owns an ice cream maker! Does anyone have a recipe for ale ice cream?

 

I Like Your Office!

Canada #6 Butchart Gardens Boat Tour

Meet Mark.

Four years ago, he moved to Vancouver Island for a break from his demanding city job. Smiling broadly as he welcomes us, Mark says “I came for a year and never left.” These days he comes to work at Tod Inlet, where his office is a little electric-powered boat.

Mark takes visitors on guided tours from Butchart Cove past Gowlland Tod Provincial Park to the edge of Brentwood Bay. The inlet, sheltered by dense stands of arbutus, garry oaks and douglas firs, is a haven for wildlife and with Mark’s expertise to guide us we see plenty.

An inquisitive seal surfaces for a just a few minutes and watches us watching him, before disappearing again. Egg yolk jellyfish and moon jellyfish drift silently by, going where the current takes them. High above, a bald eagle surveys the scene as if he rules this part of the world.

Mark talks about the Butchart family and fondly describes them as “people of vision and values”. The remnants of their cement factory are almost hidden in the forest, but in the water old timber pilings remain. They’ve been repurposed – bird boxes placed on top house the growing population of purple martins who migrate from Brazil each summer.

We cruise a little further, rounding the bend into Brentwood Bay. Here we see beautiful homes on the hills and can only imagine living every day with a view as amazing as this. Mark turns the boat and idles for a while, pointing across the water to the mountains in the distance. “This is true BC scenery,” he says and we can hear in his words his passion for this place.

We’re sorry when our 45 minute tour comes to an end and, before we return up the hill to the busyness of Butchart Gardens, we linger on the jetty. Like Mark, we would love to stay much longer.