Monday, September 19, 2016

Postcard from Canada!

I eagerly anticipated my Canadian visits in September for three reasons. First, I would be able to see my good practically-since-kids friend, Suzanne. Second, I would be headed to Stratford to see two musicals at the Stratford Festival. And finally (and most important), I would be picking up Rick from his bike ride across Ontario, into Quebec and down into Vermont -- and partially back.

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!


Marilyn Miller said...

What a lovely adventure to Canada. So happy Rick had a good trip. I loved his bike shirt. The food looked and sounded delicious. What a treat to go to two plays. You have had some wonderful adventures this summer season and this just was a nice topping on the summer.

La Table De Nana said...

It is a lovely post!
I love Rick's colorful bike are both colorful and so happy looking..
Our country cemetary here by the church is on the water and lovely and very old also..
I was dispappointed to go back to see my mom's..because she is w/ my dad in a huge family plot..with so many father's side..
and sister's who I never met..hers atnds on it's own..a little sad for my parents..

we've never been to Stratford..but we have been to Niagara On The's lovely there..the drive is boring though from here..all highway..

You are so right about books being so much more $$ supplies too..different is comparable..

and we live in QC so we have to add on 15 % on every goods and service..
that's why US shopping was sometimes very appealing..but the exchange is bad right now for us..


no one would ask about the costume jewelry earrings in your cosmetic case:)
I know..
Or a new pen in your's the tvs lol..

also cheaper in the

your Rick is so fit!

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

I have to say I am envious of your 6% tax rate in Michigan. Ours is so high!! Clothing is tax-free, though, so I can't complain too much. But in the Twin Cities, I think our sales tax is in the 10% range so it can really inflate the cost of a purchase! But so it goes living in a state that is known for its high tax rate (there are many benefits to living here so I can not complain too much and I figure that as a super high user of library and our park system, I get my money's worth!)

What a fun trip! I can only imagine the relief of having a safe and healthy Rick in your presence! It looks like you had wonderful weather for this trip, too, aside from the rain while looking for your ancestor's graves!

Sandra Cox said...

Wow. Another fun trip. The pictures of you turned out really well, Jeanie.
I wonder if you have relatives in our area. Lots of Mennonites in this part of NC.

I need orange said...

Another excellent trip!

I remember wistfully the days when we could go to Canada with out passports! Sigh.

Valerie-Jael said...

Sounds like another wonderful trip, and glad you were able to find some links to your ancestors. Love the photos, especially the swans, so beautiful. Hugs, Valerie

bj said...

awesome photos, as always...those are really old glad you found them...and ....I'd give about all I own for your curly hair...:)

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

i enjoyed everything about this post. I live in an area that has a huge Amish community and about 20 miles north, a Mennonite community. The Amish near where I live do not have electricity or phones, so there are no poles carrying these services along the roads. It seems really odd, since you can tell when you are getting near an area where the farmers are not Amish have poles with lines going into their houses.

The Mennonites are not like that, because they have electricity and probably even phones. I enjoyed seeing the photos you took and how they related to your ancestry.

As soon as I saw the first swan, I thought of Patty. I'm so glad you designated one for her. She'll be thrilled.

Great tips. I remember when you didn't need a passport to visit Canada (or Mexico, for that matter). How times have changed!

I read that you are interested in seeing Sully. I agree with Sandra that it is the best movie I've seen in a long time. It was not as much about the crash as it was about the experiences of the various people who were affected by the media blitz that followed them each day. I think you would really like it.

My name is Erika. said...

Wow, you are a lady on the go lately. This trips looks as fascinating as Martha's Vineyard. I have heard about theater here but have never been. Maybe someday. It looks quite beautiful, so I will definitely keep those thoughts on my to do list. And how cool to find those things out about your ancestors and then get to find a museum to go learn about their faith. It is amazing how we all have so many secrets about our families pasts and we get the joy of discovering about them if we look. Hugs-Erika

Lynne said...

Lovely summer adventures . . .
I like your sage bits too . . .

Arti said...

I was just outside Hamilton, ON on Friday, Sept. 16! That's where I took those nature pics in my current post, at the Royal Botanic Gardens (RBG) in Burlington. And the same kind of swan (a Mute Swan) I saw, but not so close as your encountered. I could only see the adult and a group of juveniles, together with the Egret, from afar at the Marsh in the RBG. My daughter-in-law took a day off to drive me to the RBG. Next time you're there, go to the Dyments Farm nearby, a stone throw from Hamilton. That's where my son had their wedding, yup, last July, and yours truly was there of course. The Dyments Farm has a bakery right outside at the corner of the road as you turn in. They make the tastiest butter tarts and pies! On Friday, I went there to buy some butter tarts and brought home the next day (flew back home Sat. Sept. 17) I'm writing all these details down because we were both unaware that we were at the same neck of the woods on that single day.

The French Hutch said...

Jeanie, your travels have been such adventures! What a great trip this was. I love you found some of the markers from your ancestors, what a great photo of you standing next to it, and I love what was written. Happy to hear Rick had a good ride and I love your photos, especially the swan snaps. I would love visiting here. Lovely post..........

Julia - Vintage with Laces said...

What an exciting summer you had with all those wonderful trips, Jeanie! It's great that you found traces of your ancestors and were able to meet you childhood friend. Your hubby is really sportive, cycling so many miles.
Have a great week!
xo Julia

Sandra Cox said...

The swans and gardens are absolutely beautiful!

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Hello dearest Jeanie! YOU have the most beautiful adventures! What a place, what great tombstones! I remember when we lived in Mass., looking at the old tombstones in our NEIGHBORHOOD was always a chilling experience! Way back from the 1600s!

Enjoy your day!

Carola Bartz said...

Another beautiful spot! Your photos are exquisite. I really like those swans. Several years ago we spent a few days in Pennsylvania's Amish Country. The rolling landscape reminded me a lot of Germany, and together with the Amish food I almost felt at home. Many of them still speak German as well.

Victoria Zigler said...

Great post! I'm glad Rick got there and back safely, and that you both had such a great time.

Angelsdoor * Penny said...

Oh Jeannie,
Thank you for taking me along on yet another fantastic journey. Great post, so enjoyable.
Thank you so much for attending Mr. K's piano concert! I am so happy he made you smile.

~*~Patty S said...

SWANS swans and more lovely swans
and waterlilies and so much more!
Thank you for sharing Jeanie.
It is always special getting to travel along with you on your adventures!

Jacqueline~Cabin and Cottage said...

Such pretty photos of you! I wish I were photogenic! Congrats to Rick. You two make me feel like a rocking chair Gramma. Haha! I enjoy following your lively times.

Deb said...

Hi Jeannie - you were in the retired-guy's stomping grounds a he was raised in a small town called Wellesley near St. Jacob's. Yes...he's Mennonite. :)And, he knows a lot of Erbs. I wish I had paid closer attention and saw that you were in Ottawa as we are only 20 min. from there. :( Come again and drop in next time. Rick makes me want to throw my runners on and get goin... xo

Jemma@athomewithjemma said...

Your travels are just wonderful Jeanie.
How fortunate you are to have these opportunities and you embrace them with such and zest and zeal!
I am always fascinated by the History of cemeteries and enjoy walks among the tombstone and imagining the lives that were lived.

Barb said...

Will check out Rick's blog. His colorful bike shirt is great! I like visiting old cemeteries. I was walking in the historic Breck one a few weeks ago - very "natural" and shockingly unkempt. Love the swan photos.

Bella Rum said...

I love that stone of your fourth-greats. The entire cemetery is something. We plan to go to the cemetery that has many of my mother's family members soon. Well, after I recover from my procedure and on a cool, sunny day. :) Hopefully sometime in mid to late October.

There was (still is) a Mennonite colony near where I grew up in Virginia. Also, when we lived in MD, we used to go up to Amish country in Pennsylvania. And of course, you know what I remember about that. The Good N' Plenty restaurant that was served family style. A lot of people at one big table. As alway, it looks like you had fun. Glad that Rick stayed safe. We can't help but worry about them.

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