He took off from Suzanne's house in London a couple of weeks before, tent, sleeping bag, camp stove and more piled on his bicycle. I heard from him periodically along the way but it was dependent on internet and phone service so yes, there were moments of concern.
I had nothing to be worried about. He made it through just fine. For those of you who asked me, he will soon be posting his travels on a blog. Here's the entry page. Give him a few days to settle in, though!
So, I picked him up on Friday in Hamilton, Ontario, and we drove to Cambridge where, on Saturday, we went on a quest to learn more about my ancestors.
I have been doing a lot of family genealogy research -- which is the subject of a post another time. One of the surprises was that I had Canadians in my family tree. The other was that I had many Mennonites in the tree as well. I knew little about that faith and was very curious. When I learned that the cemetery where my third and fourth great grandparents were buried wasn't far from our route, we decided to make a stop.
So, we went off to find the cemetery -- very small and very old. And very difficult to find (now in an area where there are more McMansions than historic homes). And somehow, we found them. The fourth-greats were easy -- they had a large stone that had been erected by descendants.
The third greats weren't so easy. We started out by looking at a lot of tombstones that resembled this or worse -- at least on this one you can read parts of the writing. Some were just covered with lichen.
And that wasn't getting us anywhere. It was just a fluke that by looking at names I saw the third great grandmother. I could barely read her husband's headstone.
So, word to the wise. If and when you are planning on having your descendants find you after you are long gone, make sure you are in a cemetery that will keep things in order or that you have a family member that does so. Otherwise, you'll be walking in the rain like we were, trying to read writing that doesn't show up at all!
From there we went to the small town of St. Jacob's and after a nice lunch and walk about, visited the "Mennonite Story," a historical center that told the history of this religious sect.
I learned that Mennonites, similar to Amish, fled persecution in Switzerland after the Reformation. They continue to live by high principles, very simply and with a focus toward anti-war. I felt very proud to be part of this heritage as I learned more about them. Whether one was interested or not personally, the center was very well done with excellent exhibits accompanied by video and audio features and contemporary media. I'd recommend it to anyone interested in learning about various religions.
The town itself was very nice -- a bit geared toward the tourist, but the shops we went to had lovely merchandise (and the prices right now with the Canadian exchange rate are to the advantage of the U.S. traveler (see travel tips below).
And, the drive was picturesque as well. Wide stretches of farmland, lots of signs for maple syrup and produce. They have quite the quilt auction which we didn't see -- but a video was included in the center and it was pretty amazing! I'd recommend this part of Canada for a visit if you are in the region.
We drove on to Stratford and checked into our motel, then headed for a wonderful dinner at Pazzo, a bistro with (largely) Italian food.
Rick had a delicious clam-and-sausage linguine, which had a fabulous blend of flavors and I enjoyed (read that "devoured") the risotto, flavorful and cheesy. We split a yummy gelato dish for dessert.
Then we walked down the street for our first play, Stephen Sondheim's "A Little Night Music." The costumes were opulent, the voices excellent, the sound mixing perfect. A pleasing evening!
Sunday started with muffins at our hotel, The Swan. Located a couple of miles outside of Stratford, it was away from the noise of town yet a five minute drive.The proprietors maintained a wonderfully clean motel with free wifi and gorgeous gardens. It was an excellent find.
Then it was off to downtown for a bit of shopping. We stopped at the grocery for some meat, bread and cheese and enjoyed it by the Avon River.
Swans are a lovely part of the Stratford experience and we saw two beauties near our table -- and a lot of ducks, all thrilled to have a family tossing corn to them!
Then it was time for "A Chorus Line." We arrived at the theatre in plenty of time to hit the gift shop and walk the gardens. Rick took good notes on some of his favorite plants to add to his garden.
The trumpets sounded and in we went for a fabulous two hours of song and dance. Nothing to complain about here -- everything in this show was outstanding.
Finally, it was farewell to Stratford and to our friends Jim and Suzanne, with whom we connected at the theatre.
And back home. For me, just a few days gone. For Rick, a couple of weeks. And yes, he was glad to be back. (And I was very glad he made it!)
I leave you with a parting swan. (Patty S., this is for you!)
Travel tips for Stratford, Ontario (and other Canadian spots)
Remember Your Passport! -- This should go without saying but it's amazing how easy it is to walk out without it!
Money -- Most banks will charge a small fee when you make a charge purchase. The only time mine was more than a dollar was for the larger hotel bills. Still, it may be better for you to make a larger ATM withdrawal and pay cash.
Exchange Rate and Tax -- While you are looking at the price and thinking "Well, I'm really paying about 30 percent less than at home," remember -- taxes for most of the things we purchased were in the 15 percent range, so while you still may (or may not) be getting a good price, it might not be as good as you think. For our Michigan six percent tax, I had to figure that my purchases came to about 23 percent less than a home price.
Buying Books? Be Careful! -- Book prices (and cards and some other paper items) tend to be higher in Canada and this is often printed on the book. Do the math -- unless you think you might not find that book at home or want it as a special remembrance.
Customs -- The amount you can bring back varies with the length of your stay. Check it out before you go. And remember, if you are inclined to feel especially sneaky, no one is going to realize that pair of earrings in your jewelry bag, the scarf you wear or the books you have with you (unless it is a small library!) are Canadian purchases.
Theatre Tickets -- Stratford offers easy online ticket purchases but don't forget to print them out and take them. I know. It should go without saying and I was wise to put them in my purse as soon as I printed them -- because I didn't remember about them until I had crossed the border on my second trip over when we were actually going to see the play!