Travel Log, Past Entries
ONTARIO, CANADA (eh?)
Next day, crossing the border in Turtle, we were again met with a friendly welcome by the customs official, who didn't even want to see the dogs' documentation we'd so carefully prepared. She said we just had to go see Prince Edward Island, it was very rural and laid-back, and her grandmother lived there. So maybe we'll go. Maybe.
We spent the next 2 days in Toronto, which hardly did it justice. Toronto, with nearly 2.5 million souls, is Canada's largest city and a melting pot of nationalities and races, as cosmopolitan and modern as any city in the world. It looked magical from across the lake in New York, and it still seemed magical standing in the city center, gazing at the towering buildings and the bright, energetic people who make Toronto their home. We'd heard of a "Buskerfest" happening that weekend (a "busker" is a street performer), so had to see it. Rus had once been a busker in Paris, singing on the streets and for sidewalk cafes, and carries many memories of that freewheeling life and the chance encounters with so many fascinating people. The money was pretty good, too, at least for his modest needs at the time: 2-3 hours "work" always brought in enough to buy a walk-up room in a cheap hotel, food & drink, and entertainment took care of itself!
The Buskerfest was near St. Lawrence Market, a huge indoor market with hundreds of vendors selling fruits & vegetables, meats, seafood, cheeses, baked goods, spices, and many other stalls selling ethnic dishes from around the world. It was a visual and olfactory wonder. The buskers were just as varied. There were even a few Canadians among them! They did acrobatics, mime, balloon tricks and more, but there weren't very many musicians. Our favorite was a bazouki (3-stringed Greek instrument) player, a guy maybe 3 1/2 feet tall and a fabulous musician. How he could coax that much music out of three strings was a wonder to us. He wasn't even part of the festival, but sat playing in a dark corner of market, near a bustling fish counter. Watching buskers, we're impressed with how spontaneous the performers are, improvising to incorporate every unforeseen event or distraction into their shows, often enlisting the audience to help them out. A nightclub or auditorium is a hard enough venue to control, and a busy city street is impossible, so buskers have to be quick on their feet.
We think Buskers must have a training manual these days on how to get the most money out of a crowd. The "professional" buskers, the ones on the regulated public sites, all have the same rap about how much they want you to give --$5's and 10's or more are encouraged, no small change please, just come up and say thanks if you can't afford more. Some do this rap with humor, emphasizing how terrible guilt can feel, others are more aggressive, but after hearing the same basic plea from half a dozen buskers it gets a little old. The buskers have highly developed capacities to ask for what they want and are skilled at managing crowds, no easy tasks, but maybe the pendulum has swung too far. Now it's a JOB, with a loss of spontaneity and less joy in performing.
Another event that dominated our time in Toronto was that Rus lost his wallet. Nothing need be said about what a nightmare this can create while on the road. But miraculously, he found it six hours later, in the dark, in the exact spot off a trail in the woods where he had stopped to pee. It had fallen out of his shorts and was lying in the dirt untouched. He remembered which way had he walked to avoid the poison ivy.
We left Toronto after too short a visit, being somewhat stressed by driving (and parking) in the city. Heading east, we stopped early to camp at Darlington Park, and found a trail where the dogs could run along the shore of Lake Ontario. There we came upon a large flock of swans floating gracefully in the afternoon sun. What a sight! On our way out the next morning we came to a bridge that looked a little risky. Turtle is about 11.5 feet tall, and we've met several bridges that we couldn't drive under. Luckily there was little traffic here so Kathleen hopped out to eyeball the height of the air conditioner ( the highest point) against the size of the opening. Yes, we can make this one, and here you see we did.
The drive east along the St. Lawrence River gets more and more scenic. Just because we were ignorant, we were surprised to find ourselves in the Thousand Islands (is this where the salad dressing originated?), an area on the St. Lawrence River between Ontario and New York where there probably are a thousand islands, large and small, many privately owned, some with homes on them. We hiked up from our campground in Ivy Lee Park, climbed onto a suspension bridge high above the river, linking Canada with the U.S.. As we strolled along the narrow walk way, big rigs roared past, the drivers smiling and waving to us as their trucks shook the bridge. We we had a magnificent view of the sun beginning to set over the islands and the river, expecting at any moment to be apprehended by customs officials.
Travel Log, Past Entries: Click to read each one
Oregon, Washington June 2005
California July 2005
Southwest July/August 2005
Midwest August 2005