Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Canada

I did not see much of Canada - a couple of days in Toronto and then a few more in Montreal - but it was enough to enjoy.

Toronto is such a modern city! It seems fairly clean, too. Of course, traveling with Michel and Christa, who had never been to North America before, made it an adventure. Christa was totally fascinated by the buildings, comparing the architecture to Germany, what would be allowed or not allowed. In Toronto, it looks like anything goes. There are still some old structures mixed in with the new, but it's definitely not like Europe, where preservation of old means creating a protective circle of 500 m. around the historic site so nothing disturbs the setting. The result is that modern buildings tend to be grouped together in specially zoned areas. La Défense, just west of Paris, is a good example. The Tour Montparnasse is an example of zoning gone wrong. The area was targeted to become modern, with skyscrapers, but there was so much fuss during the building of the first one, the rest of the plan was dropped and the tower stands alone. In Toronto you find a mix of all types of architecture: some 19th century, early 20th, art déco, 50's and 60's, all the way up to the present.

Paul and I were less surprised by the buildings. We visited the Bata Shoe Museum. I was afraid this would be about Bata shoes, but not at all! It's a collection of footwear that goes back to the neolithic "iceman" found in the Alps with leather shoes stuffed with grass. The museum is divided into geographic zones. There are moccasins with porcupine quill decorations dating from before Europeans arrived and then you have the bead-decorated moccasins. The thong is the most used shoe type. There were wooden thongs from Africa so large that the wearer's feet could never touch the ground, which was the idea, since he was considered a demi-god. The museum covers shoes from a religious angle, too. And professional footwear. It was an excellent visit.

Something else we did in Toronto was me taking Paul and the Chaussemys to a ball game. It was September 11 and the BlueJays were playing the Yankees. There was a commemorative ceremony with Toronto and New York police and fire companies. Paul spent the day trying to dissuade the Chaussemys from going to a baseball game, but I think they enjoyed it. Michel certainly caught on quickly and it was a good game. In the first five innings, we saw good pitching (an all strike-out inning), some walks, stolen bases, a double-play, good outfield action, a solo home run and a grand slam home run. They did not want to leave after the fifth, so we held on until the end of the seventh and left. The Yankees won, 9 to 2.

The next day, we went down to Niagara Falls. It is a beautiful sight to see, but the hotels on the Canadian side detract from the beauty of the falls. After lunch, we headed towards Midland, which is north of Toronto, near the Huron tourist sites. We got there just in time to go to dinner. Midland is a tiny town trying to survive by making the most of its location on a lake. It's a bit high-priced for what it's worth. We stayed at a very nice, and pricey, b&b. And this is where I left the others to go back down to Pittsburgh.

I rejoined the group in Montreal, a few days before our flight back to Paris. They seem to have had an enjoyable trip up and down the Gaspé peninsula and then down the St. Lawrence valley. We spent the days walking around in Montreal - the old area, the university areas, the shopping areas. The hotel was not far from the airport, so we left the car at the hotel and took a bus to the metro station and the metro into town. Our travel passes paid for themselves the very first day!

I''ve put some of the pictures up in my picasa albums but since there are pictures of us and the Chaussemys, I prefer not to make it a public album. If you really want to see them, just send me an e-mail and I'll send you the link.

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