Category Archives: travel

Seven Quick Take Friday – Leaving on a Jet Plane

Seven Quick Takes Friday

  1. I’m off to Vancouver today on the early morning flight. Zouheir has been out west since last Monday and will be there until next Thursday evening so I decided to cash in some points and join him for the weekend. I haven’t visited for years, probably in the 90s sometime, so I’m looking forward to seeing the sights. We have a reservation on Tojo’s on Friday evening (thanks for the recommendation, Kathleen!), and then I’m hoping to get to the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, maybe Granville Island if the weather is good. Or just walk the city.

    Creation/Raven – Bill Reid
  2. Michael has been subbing on Eb tuba with the Weston Silver Band this summer. They’ll be playing some free concerts in this part of Ontario and I hope to get out to at least one: Ancaster on July 14, Stratford on July 21, and Orillia on July 28.
  3. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra has a couple of events as part of Luminato this weekend. Their big free concert at David Pecaut Square is tonight at 8. Billed as a “Symphonic Birthday Party”, Verdi and Wagner make up most of the program this year. Tomorrow afternoon, they’ll be hosting a “Music Mob” in the same location. Folks can dust off their instruments, download the music, and show up and play with the pros. As a member of the TSYO, Michael has been recruited to assist Mark Tetrault, the TSO Principal Tuba as well as other tubists who show up to join the fun. Michael’s had a couple of lessons with Marc and he’s a great guy. Sadly, I’m missing both these events due to my Vancouver trip. Hit the link above if you want to join them. They have simplified instrument parts if you think you need them!
  4. Alex has been in Kingston this week, starting his Master in Management Analytics program. It’s part of the Queen’s School of Business, but classes are (normally) held in Toronto. This week is kind of the kick-off where students get to meet one another, are placed into multi-disciplinary teams, go to classes, and generally socialise. (Apparently a river cruise is part of the program.) The next module starts in Toronto on July 3rd.
  5. Michael never fails to find the funniest stuff online. Yesterday he showed me this: classical sculptures dressed as hipsters. Click on the link. You will not be disappointed.
  6. Vegan Before 6 update: I’m now drinking my coffee black or with heated almond milk. I’ve discovered some new veggie prepared products, and this week made a big pot of vegan bolognese sauce so that I could have leftovers for lunch (or breakfast.) It’s a bit of overkill really… I regularly make tomato sauce for pasta and don’t bother with meat (although adding some crumbled spicy sausage is terrific), but I picked up some Yves Veggie Ground Round and threw it in, along with some fresh herbs from my new planter. So far, so good. We’ll see what eating out this weekend does to the plan. I see some soy lattés in my future. I also neglected to order a vegan meal for my flight today so that may require a cheat.
  7. Reading: This weekend, I’ve packed my current Dominick Dunne novel as well as my Kobo. I’ve got Sussex Drive by Linda Svendsen and Howard Engel’s Man Who Forgot How To Read. I’m also finishing up Skios by Michael Frayne on my ipod (Overdrive Audiobook) and have some new short stories by William Trevor (A Bit On The Side) queued up.

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Books on the road


As many of you know, I’m a huge library fan and make use of the wonderful Toronto Public Library’s excellent hold system for most of my reading needs.  I don’t, however, like to take library books with me when I travel, and an upcoming ten-day jaunt to Stockholm has me starting to think about what I’ll take with me.

I scanned my Summer Reading Challenge reading list for potential candidates…books that either I own or can buy used, and that would be enjoyable to read while travelling.  I already have a few on my Kindle:

  1. A Connecticul Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain (I’m about a third of the way in to this).
  2. Alice Adams by Booth Tarkington
  3. The Distant Hours by Kate Morton (I don’t currently have this assigned to a Challenge Task)

Other books that I had on hold at the library that I thought would be suitable are:

  1. Ann of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery.  I decided to reread this during the recent Royal Visit, which included a stop at Green Gables in PEI.
  2. Friend of the Devil by Peter Robinson.  It’s the next up (for me) in the Inspector Banks series.
  3. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry in Values by Robert Pirsig.  I read this long ago as a teen, but it’s the group read for the challenge and I’d love to give it another read.

I managed to find these at The Handy Book Exchange, my local used bookstore just around the corner on Avenue Road.  (They’re dog friendly which means I can pop in for a look when I’m walking Wilson, and they give him treats while I’m there.)  I’ll take off the library holds on these three and plan to leave them in Sweden with a BookCrossing sticker once I’ve finished them.

There are also a few books that I own that I’ll consider taking with me:

  1. Trader by Charles de Lint.  I’ve never read any of his work before, and I picked this up some time ago at Value Village. I’m becoming more open to the fantasy genre so we’ll see how this goes.
  2. Open Secrets by Alice Munroe.  Another one that I read some time ago and would like to re-read, and then give away.

Six paperbacks and a Kindle?  Maybe that’s excessive.  Maybe I’ll have already devoured one or more of these before I go.  Either way, I feel prepared!


OGS Annual Conference: My Top Ten

Hamilton Spectator Photo

  1. A British Home Child Special Interest Group (SIG) was chartered by the executive. I attended the organizational meeting and am excited about this new group as one of my great-grandfathers was a British Home Child.
  2. Numerous references to what was referred to by one speaker as “environmental genealogy”, that is, what society was like around our ancestors. I plan to try to enhance my research with more of this kind of information.
  3. Dave Obee pointed to the Federation of Eastern European History Societies (FEEFHS) maps collection. These will be a great help in researching the history and geography around my paternal ancestors in Russia/Ukraine.
  4. The records in parish chests (in England) are being digitized in great numbers and more and more are coming online. The parish chest was typically a heavy wooden lockable chest that contained all the documents central to the running of a Church of England parish. These would include records of baptisms, marriages, deaths; the manorial survey; records of the poor law administration, other ecclesiatical records. These can be very helpful in adding to the information included in your family history.
  5. While Attestation Papers for those who served in WWI are available online at Library and Archives Canada, they will also provide complete WWI military files for a fee. I have a great-uncle who served and hope to arrange to get a copy of his file next time I’m in Ottawa.
  6. I attended a very interesting talk on emigration of Scots given by Ruth Blair and I am searching for leads on my maternal great-grandmother who came as a single woman in 1899 and married my great-grandfather shortly thereafter. I have not been able to find a passenger listing for her trip to Canada and I got some new resources for that search.
  7. At the end of the conference, a big announcement regarding the partnership between the Ontario Genealogical Society and The National Institute for Genealogical Studies was announced.  Details regarding the new benefits accruing to memebers and the two organizations will be announced over the next few months, but free registration in the course Social Media for the Wise Genealogist was offered to all OGS members! Also, OGS branches will be able to make use of the NIGS Live Meeting technology for branch meetings and other activities.
  8. Dave Obee‘s talk More Than Just Names and Dates provided some solid rationale for “environmental genealogy” as mentioned in 2 above. His background as a journalist demonstrated the power of enhancing our genealogical research with context, stories, and an enhanced understanding of the forces that influenced our ancestors lives. He suggested some excellent resources for this kind of research and this has prompted me to seroiusly consider setting up a wiki or some other kind of online presence to capture and communicate my family history.
  9. The Market Place at the conference is an excellent source of new information, books, maps, software and other things. I picked up an autographed copy of Brenda Dougall Merriman’s Genealogy in Ontario:  Searching the Records (Fourth Edition) and a used copy of The Little Immigrants:  The Orphans Who Came to Canada by Kenneth Bagnall, one of the earlier books (1980) about Home Children.
  10. Life Gems Personal Histories was also at the Market Place. Christine Cowley has put together a book and workbook to help capture stories and memories to pass on to the people you love, to ensure that these aren’t lost. From her website:

“I am intrigued to think how little most of us talk about ourselves with the people closest to us,” says Cowley. “I finally realized that what people need is a really simple and fun way to do that.”

With busy lives it’s hard to find time to chat or write down family stories, and revelations or deeply felt emotions are often never shared. Some things are just too hard to say. The result is that great stories and sentiments are lost.

“As individuals we are the only ones who can talk about who we are, what we think and why we do or did things a particular way,” says Cowley. “I was always told that my grandmother Eva, who died when my father was a child, had a similar personality to mine. Maybe that was another way for my parents to say, ‘She doesn’t get it from me!’ but given the unconventional life my grandmother chose, I feel proud to have her genes. What I wouldn’t give to have just a few lines she might have written about herself.” 

I picked up a copy of the book/workbook set and look forward to using it myself and possibly with some family members. 

I’ll be back.

I have photos and stories to post from our travels, but I seem to have been struck by some stomach thing.  It started yesterday midday and has really wiped me out. Don’t know if it was plane germs, or something I ate.  Should say “we” ate because my dear one also started feeling under the weather this morning.

In the meantime, here are some pictures of Folkestone where we stayed from Wednesday thru Saturday, a lovely seaside town.


<Map source: The Property Purveyor>

The clock tower used to be a church but was destroyed in WW2, as per the plaque.  A memorial on the waterfront says that during WW1, 7 million men marched through the city on their way to war. (Don’t forget to click on the small pics to enlarge.)


Monday Miscellany – there’s no place like home.


We arrived home from England to a relatively quick hop through the airport, pleasant weather, and a hot Easter meal courtesy of my sister-in-law. Michael had stayed with them while we were away and so when we went to pick him up, we were ushered in to a lovely meal and our beautiful son, niece, and nephew.

I have a lot to blog about the trip, but I may go in reverse chronological order.  We spent our last 24 hours in London, ensconced in the Hilton London Metrople near Paddington Station.  The area is something of a “little Beirut” as my Beiruti husband called it.  Edgeware Road is lined with Middle Eastern restaurants, cafes, cellphone unlockers, groceries, shisha joints, and travel agencies.  The hotel concierge recommended a couple of restaurants and we had a lovely lunch at Al Araz, and I made use of their free wifi to catch up on some email.  

We headed out to Leicster Square to try to score some theatre tickets for the evening, but neither of our two choices (Wicked or The Children’s Hour) had anything of interest.  The latter was SRO and the former only had very poor seats at a low discount.  So we wandered around, and ended up walking back to our hotel along Oxford Circle, doing a little window shopping among the absolute throngs of people. We picked up fixings for a light dinner (and by light, I mean grapes, plain yogurt, chocolate covered Hobnobs, and apple cider.  We also had the remainder of a bottle of port that we’d purchased in Hailsham.) We both had books we wanted to finish and had a relatively early start the next morning, so we settled in for a lazy last night in England.

Yesterday morning, we hopped on the Heathrow Express train and after checking our bags, retired to the lounge for coffee and a Canadian paper. The flight was uneventful… I watched my first celebratory movie post-Lent (Owning Mahoney, a true story about a Canadian bank fraudster, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and a blonde Minnie Driver) and listened to my audiobook.

More later.  Off to do laundry, grocery shopping, and get started on our taxes.

Travel: Sunday

We got to breakfast by about 8:30, meeting the others. We had decided to go in to a small Catholic Church in Hailsham, St. Wilfrid’s, for Palm Sunday Mass, so we called Andrew, our cab driver from yesterday and had him pick us up at 10. 

St. Wilfrid’s is a small church, the third builton  that site. The present structure was built in 1952 and contains some lovely devotional articles.   The Mass was a usual Palm Sunday/Passion combination with two gospel readings. The congregation was small, but filled the church and the responses were fullsome. The stained glass window above the main entrance is of the martyr St. Margaret Clitherow.


After mass, we walked northwards towards the centre of town and stopped into a Wetherspoons pub (The George Hotel) for lunch. Then we dropped into a Waitrose to pick up a few things and stopped at The Old School House, now Prezzo, for coffee and dessert before calling Andrew to pick us up.


While we were waiting for the cab, I spotted this clever scupture outside Tesco:


Sunday evening was the opening reception for the conference, and then dinner. Zouheir attended the opening session and I retired to read and relax.

Travel: Friday and Saturday

For a variety of reasons, too complex to go in to, our flights were booked under two different reservation codes.  Although we had adjacent seats on our Toronto-to-Heathrow flights at the time of booking, Air Canada changed the equipment to a smaller plane, which ended up separating our seats.  We discovered this late Thursday night as we were checking in online.  Calls to the travel agent and Air Canada couldn’t remedy the sitation, particularly as we learned that the flight was 30 seats overbooked.

We couldn’t get it dealt with Friday morning at the airport, so once we boarded we did some negotiating with the people around us and managed to finagle better seats, although it meant that I had a middle-of-three seat.  David Suzuki and his extended family were also on the flight and had also been split up.  I was originally seated next to his wife.  He had been upgraded to business, and his family were just in front of Zouheir.  His wife helped me in organizing a trade and by the time we took off, everyone was happy (more or less).

While we were late leaving Toronto, we landed in Heathrow on time and made our way to the London Heathrow Marriott where we spent the night before our trip to Hailsham Saturday morning.  At 11 pm, we ordered a light meal in the lobby bar and some featured drink using spiced rum and citrus. We were still on Toronto time, but forced ourselves to sleep so that we’d awaken early and try to get on UK time.

As we were checking out the next morning, we saw an incredibly attractive, multicultural flight crew from Emirates Airlines.


I really liked the women’s uniforms, with the attractive hat and suggestion of a veil. 

We took the hotel shuttle back to Heathrow, the Express train to Paddington Station, the tube to Victoria Station, and then a train to Polegate, the closest station to Herstmonceaux Castle.  We grabbed a taxi driven by a retired advertising guy who used to work in London.  He was very interesting, is used to shuttling students and visitors to the Castle, and talked about the history and geography of the area,  He left us his number after dropping us off at the residence.


After a little rest and recharge, we got a call from the conference organizer, Agnes Herzberg, who suggested we meet for dinner with her, her Joyce Zakos who is helping with the organization, and John Bailar who had already arrived.  There was a wedding going on in the Castle, so we had a light supper and retired for the eveinng after taking a walk in the gardens.


Seven Quick Takes Friday


Haven’t done this for a while, but here we go:

  1. I’m in Guelph for a workshop on Scottish Genealogy with Dr Bruce Durie, Course Director of Genealogical Studies at Strathclyde University.  He’s visiting the Scottish Studies department at the University of Guelph and I’m looking forward to getting some tips on researching the Morren branch of my family tree.
  2. I”m staying at a rather low-end hotel close to the university campus and didn’t sleep all that well last night.  The air conditioning system is extremely noisy and the room is rather poorly furnished with lumpy pillows and a tiny bathroom.  Don’t get me started on the vile in-room coffee. I don’t know why I even bother brewing it. There is breakfast offered in the lobby but I am seriously considering just skipping that and hopping across the street to Cora
  3. just announced some new records:  The Canada School Directories. I found a Goddard ancestor in the Annual Register and Business Directory of the Sons of England Benevolent Society for the Dominion of Canada which is a terrific find because I knew very little about him. There also appears to be some old case law in Ontario from the late 1800s with the name Goddard which I will be following up on.
  4. I’m looking forward to our trip to England in a couple of weeks. We’ll be staying at the Queen’s International Study Centre at Herstmonceux Castle for the first four days and then will travel in Kent. I still need to book some accomodation for those last four days so must get on that this weekend.
  5. We’ve also booked travel to Stockholm at the end of July, for just the two of us. It will be the anniversary of Zouheir’s mother’s death in August and there will be a mass said for her. All of her children will be there and we’re planning a two-night cruise to Helsinki together which should be lots of fun and a great way to be together with everyone freed up from cooking and hosting:  a very suitable way to celebrate this remarkable woman. It will be my first visit to Sweden and I am very much looking forward to seeing Stockholm, as well as visiting with my wonderful in-laws.
  6. My boys are doing well. Alex’s second year at Queen’s is drawing to a close, with classes ending in a week and then exams start on the 15th of April. He’ll be working as a Section Head at Crestwood Valley Day Camp in July and August and is hoping to do some French study in France in May and/or June if he can find a place to study and get credit. Michael is hanging in for the rest of Grade 10, still busy with Music and working hard to focus on his other schoolwork as well. He’s got a gig with the Youth Big Band this Sunday at The Rex (Noon) and concerts with Hannaford coming up as well. He’ll also be playing in a masterclass with Patrick Sheridan. He’s looking forward to two weeks at Interprovincial Music Camp in August: one week of Jazz (bass trombone) and one week of Band/Orchestra (tuba).
  7. One of the perks of being an opera subscriber is the occasional freebie. Earlier this season, on the evening of the municipal elections (and presumably low ticket sales due to the high anxiety around that election), I got comped two box-seat tickets for Death in Venice which was a terrific show, in all it’s depressing glory. Next Monday, we’ve got invites to a working rehearsal of La Cenerentola (Cinderella).  This is not one of the operas in our subscription package, so I’m excited to be able to catch a freebie, even if in it’s un-final form.

Check out some other quick takes at Conversion Diary.

In like a lion?


Crikey! It’s March already.

I’ve been felled by an evil cold…yesterday was pretty much a write-off except for urgenices like dog-walking, dropping man-child’s forgotten lunch off at school, paying bills, and cobbling together dinner. Not feeling much better today, but must get some groceries and clean the horrendously vile kitchen that Michael neglected to do last evening.

Being sick did allow me to finish off a book for the end of the Winter Reading Challenge over at Goodreads, and I finished up with 600 out of a possible 975 points.  I must say that people who make it to the full 975 points must either (1) read all day, (2) read a lot of easy books, or (3) skim/cheat.  Or maybe they just don’t do anything else.  But it’s fun and I’m looking forward to the Spring Challenge that starts today. My current reading list is here, although not all the tasks have been defined yet. I’m starting with Iris Murdoch’s The Good Apprentice (audio) and Lorna Goodison’s book of short stories By Love Possessed. I’m going to try to manage my hold list at the library to permit some time to read books that I own (and can then get rid of) as we’re getting into double-stacked bookshelves and I’d really like to clear a bunch out.  I use BookCrossing to get rid of a lot of books, and am releasing one today.

Travel plans are shaping up for the spring. Michael is going on a Rome-Sicily trip with his Latin teacher and a bunch of classics students over March Break so we’ve got a few things to do to get that organized, including getting his cellphone unlocked so that he can buy a SIM card over there. Z and I are heading to England in April and I need to do some work on the paper we’re writing and book some accomodation for the time we’re there after the conference. I’m thinking that, given the short amount of time we’ll have, we’ll skip London altogether and try to visit Kent, Canterbury, plus a night in Ashford hear where some of my ancestors are buried. Once again, we find ourselves travelling over the Easter weekend so we’ll need to take in to account that things may be closed.

Carry on!

A little quiz for those wondering if camping is for you….

Are you ready to go camping?

by Mir on July 21, 2010 in Haven’t been hit by lightning yet!

Yesterday turned out to be one of those days where we look around at the end of it and say, “… and let us never speak of it again.” Nothing horrible, really, just not a good day in terms of patience and kindness to your fellow family members. It turns out that sometimes absence DOES make the heart grow fonder, especially if you’re talking about escaping a small box by taking a walk for a while. So.

Accordingly, then, rather than regaling you with more tales of our exploits, I thought there’s been so much general interest in camping that I might help some of the on-the-fence amongst you decide if camping is right for your family. You know, because I’m an expert. Or I play one on the Internet. Or something. I forget.

Really, there are just a few key things you need to ask yourself if you’re considering taking your family camping. And—as usual—I’m here to help. Don’t be scared.

Do you enjoy sleeping under the stars, and by “under the stars” I mean “with nothing but nylon separating you from the wild, in extreme temperatures, and possibly being eaten by bears?”

If the answer is yes, you’re probably ready to go camping in a tent. Also, I think you’re nuts, but whatever.

If the answer is no, don’t worry! Camping may still be right for you! Keep going….

I’ve shared this on Twitter and Facebook, so apologies to those of you who’ve already read it, but it’s just too funny. Click on the link to read the whole thing!

I camped when I was, oh, under 40. This just confirmed what I already knew…Zou is welcome to take the boys camping anytime. On his own.