Canada, November 2005

Great Britain

Great Britain
and Finland



Travelogue: Canada
November 2005

By Roger W. Reini

By date:

18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24

Friday November 18

Today was a regular work day, although things were a little slower than usual because I was trying to wrap things up prior to starting my vacation.  At this point in the year, I had six days of vacation left, and I had to use them by the end of the year or lose them.  I decided that I would take three of them around Thanksgiving, either before or after; the other three I would take in December.  It turned out that my boss preferred me to take the time off before Thanksgiving, so I could fill in for him the week after.

I didn’t stay too late tonight; in fact, I left a little early, for things were slow.  That let me get home around 4:15, where I picked up my paper and collected my mail.  Now I had submitted a mail hold request via the Web, and I thought it was supposed to have started today.  That had me a bit irked.  On the other hand, the mail-order prescriptions I was expecting arrived in the mail today, which pleased me.  Perhaps the mail hold would start tomorrow.  If not, then I would only have four days’ worth in the mailbox.  I  picked up my bags, loaded the car, and set off.

The closest path to the Ambassador Bridge would have me head east on Ford Road.  But today, I felt like taking mainly freeways to the bridge, so I went west on Ford Road to I-275 to I-96.  Road construction on 96 had recently ended, so I was driving on some new roadway and enjoying the experience.  I had no problems reaching the bridge, but I did have problems reaching for the change to pay the toll.  Truck traffic going to Canada was pretty heavy; car traffic was light.  When stopped at the Customs booth, the inspector took a long time writing and filling things out.  I thought I was being written up for a vehicle inspection, but I wasn’t; he eventually said I could go on.  It was well after 5 now, and the Ontario tourist center was indeed closed.  It was a good thing I had gone there on Monday for a map and literature.

The Hampton Inn was a few kilometers ahead on the left.  I had no problem finding it and pulling into the parking lot.  Thanks to having enough points in my Hilton frequent stayer account, tonight’s stay would not cost me anything.  Neither would Wednesday night’s stay.  I checked in and brought my stuff up to the fourth floor.  My room looked out on busy Huron Church Road.  Across the street, a Holiday Inn.  To the right, a Beer Store, Dairy Queen, and Casey’s.  I hadn’t been to Casey’s for several years, and it was within walking distance, so I walked there.  It was a bit chilly; the temperature was just above freezing.  I enjoyed a bowl of French onion soup, some garlic bread, a burger, and a sundae.  The soup was quite hot, almost too hot, but it was good.  Then I walked back to the hotel, but I didn’t go back to my room.  No, I got into my car and drove over to Devonshire Mall.  It was definitely more crowded in the parking lot than when I went on Monday.  And it was more crowded inside, too; lots of teens, as you might expect.  I entertained some thoughts of seeing the new Harry Potter movie, but I decided against it.  I could easily see it in Ottawa.  I did visit The Bay and get a new toque (winter hat), for the one I was using was rather small.  When I left, I got a bottle of Coke from one of the vending machines at the entrance, but when it came out, it was room-temperature warm!  Normally, it would be cold, but this was absolutely at room temperature.  That irked me a bit, for I had planned to drink it in the car.  Now it would have to wait until I got back to the hotel, which wasn’t that far away.  I listened to New Jersey and Montreal on XM.  Back at the hotel, I enjoyed that warm Coke with cold ice, and I watched The Weather Network (Canada’s weather channel) for the forecast for Ottawa and the 401.


Saturday November 19

I didn’t get the greatest sleep last night; why, I don’t know.  The whistling window didn’t help, that’s for sure.  When I woke up for good, it was 7:45 AM and already light.  This was not a desirable situation, for I had wanted to wake up earlier and get an early start.  I figured on needing 10 hours to get to Ottawa, so I would now be arriving in Ottawa after dark.  That could no longer be helped.  I still needed to have breakfast, so I took advantage of the complimentary breakfast bar in the lobby.  It was virtually identical to breakfast bars at US Hampton Inns, so it was quite familiar to me.  I didn’t have any hot items; I contented myself with some raisin bran, blueberry yogurt, and a muffin.

By 8:45, I was on my way.  The sky was clear and the sun was bright, forcing me to put on my sunglasses.  Traffic was OK as I picked up the 401.  There was a construction zone close to Windsor, and there were a few more along the way.  Most of the time, I listened to either XM or Sirius, though I did put CBC Radio on a couple of times.  I stopped at the service centers as needed for gas, drink and/or restroom.  I didn’t have an official lunch today, for I wanted to make good time.  My energy today came mainly from bottles of pop – not the healthiest lunch, I will admit.

I was in the Toronto area around 1 o’clock, and traffic was fairly heavy.  I had entertained thoughts of stopping at the Yorkdale mall and visiting the Indigo bookstore there, but there wasn’t really any time.  Also, traffic was heavy around the mall, and the parking lot was extremely full.  What’s more, it was time for the Michigan-Ohio State game.  I was rapidly heading out of range of WJR, but Sirius was carrying the game, both Michigan and Ohio State broadcasts.  Of course, I listened to the Michigan broadcast.  Later on, I was able to listen to Michigan State play Penn State on XM.  So there I was, driving on the 401 in eastern Ontario, listening to NCAA college football on US satellite radio.  That tended to blunt the perceptions of being in a foreign land, though whenever I saw a highway sign or a kilometrage (mileage) sign, as well as the occasional sign for “Bridge to USA”, I was reminded that I was indeed no longer in the US.

It was dark as I turned onto the 416 and traveled towards Ottawa.  I was beginning to get concerned about my gas, although I was sure I had enough to make it there.  Unlike the 401, there were no service centers, nor were there that many stations near the exits.  I finally decided to exit in search of a gas station.  The signs guided me to one some 4 kilometers away, one which put me on a scenic route to Ottawa.  The scenic nature of it was lost on me at night.  Still, after I put some $20 or nearly 25 liters in the tank, I stayed on the route, which was Prince Of Wales Drive.  I was pretty sure I was going in the right direction, although I was in no position to check my map to be sure.  Then I saw a sign for the 417, Ottawa’s main freeway.  Yes, I was traveling in the right direction, and there it was!  My hotel lay toward the east.  But there was a problem: there was no interchange, so I had to go straight.  I was on Preston Street passing through the Little Italy section of Ottawa.  It seemed interesting, but I had little time to contemplate its charms, for I was trying to find my hotel. 

Eventually, I found the right streets that took me into downtown and to my hotel, the Novotel.  I circled around the block until I found the parking garage, pulled in and parked.  Now I was confused, for the only entrance I saw was for the “Le Suites” hotel, which shared the building with the Novotel.  Being unsure of where I was going, but knowing I had to go up, I entered that door and ended up in the Le Suites lobby.  Perhaps I would stay there sometime, but not tonight.  I left and went around the building to the Novotel entrance, where I checked in.  My room was on the 9th floor.  It was a smoking room, although I had asked for a non-smoking room.  None were available for the room type I had.  I said I would accept it.  Then I went back into the parking garage, and I discovered that the Novotel parking was one level down from where I parked.  So I went back to my car and drove down to the proper level, and then I unloaded my vehicle.  Satellite radio reception was very spotty down there, but I got enough of a signal to hear the closing minutes of the Michigan State game.  Unfortunately, Penn State was beating us rather handily, meaning that MSU would end up with another losing season and no bowl game.

Back in my room, I set up my Powerbook and tried to check e-mail.  There were no active wireless networks, but there was a wired network port, so I plugged into there.  I couldn’t get it to work, though, nor were there any instructions in the room explaining how to get it to work.  Several calls to the front desk were necessary to get it to work.  It turned out that the wired service cost $9.95 a night, although free wireless access was available in the lobby.  I preferred to have the wired access, though.  A few more calls later, along with a trip back down to the lobby, I was in business.  It seemed that my brand new network cable wouldn’t work, but the hotel’s cable would.  That irked me, but I would have been really irked had I not been able to get any Net access.

After I had settled in, I ventured out for a brief exploration of the Rideau Center, the shopping mall across the street.  The entrance was only a block away.  As soon as I went inside, I saw a restaurant that looked very familiar, although the name was not:  Richtree.  The layout and the shape of the signs reminded me of the Movenpick Marché and Marchelino restaurants in Toronto, which I thought had closed.  Back at the hotel, I would discover that the Movenpick restaurants split from Movenpick and were renamed Richtree.  I had enjoyed them as Movenpick, and I’m sure I would enjoy them as Richtree.  Not only that, I learned that Richtree had a location in Windsor, on Dougall south of Cabana.  I was quite pleased with that; I suddenly had another reason to visit Windsor regularly, or so I thought.  I made a note to check it out when I went back there on Wednesday.  The restaurant seemed rather busy tonight, a little too busy for my liking, so I decided to eat there another day.  I ended up eating down in the hotel restaurant, Café Nicole.  Actually, I ate in the bar, for the main restaurant room was closed off.  There was a large flat-screen TV behind the bar, and it was carrying Hockey Night In Canada, tonight’s game featuring Ottawa and coming live from the Corel Centre.  I wouldn’t have been watching this game were I back in Detroit, because Windsor and most of the country was watching the Toronto game.   I had entertained thoughts about going to the Ottawa game, but I decided against it because I would be arriving in town right around game time.


Sunday November 20

Today, I planned to do “the tourist thing.”  Monday was not a good day to visit the museums, since they would be closed that day.  The weather looked decent enough, so Sunday it would be.  I started my day with a shower.  The shower curtain was hung on one of those bars that curved outward, giving one more room inside the bathtub/shower area.  I walked over to a McDonald’s on Rideau Street, or Rue Rideau in French, or as the bilingual streets signs put it, “rue Rideau street”.  The stretch of Rideau with the McDonald’s reminded me of streets I’d seen in England.  It must have been the building construction and signage.  Once at the McDonald’s, I ordered a Sausage McGriddle sandwich, some hash browns, and an orange juice.  Many of the orders ahead of mine were delayed because the eggs were taking a long time to be prepared; since I didn’t order anything with egg, I wasn’t affected by this.  After I received my order, I sat down with a copy of the Ottawa Citizen and ate my breakfast.

After going back to the hotel, freshening up, and gathering my cameras, guidebook and map, I set off on my tour of Ottawa.  I walked west on Rideau, passing the main bus stops, the Rideau Centre (Centre Rideau, signed Centre Rideau Centre), The Bay department store (it traces its origins back to the founding of the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1670) and Chapters, Canada’s answer to Borders.  The street sloped upward onto Parliament Hill.  And then I saw it:  the Houses of Parliament, with the Peace Tower in the middle.  The symbol of Canadian government, just like the Houses of Parliament in Britain or the US Capitol building.  A majestic building.  I would visit the grounds, but not just yet, for first I would view the Canadian War Memorial, which was across the street from Parliament.  It was built to commemorate the fallen of World War I, though in later years its scope was broadened to encompass the fallen of World War II and of Korea.  In front of the memorial was Canada’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  A week or so earlier, this had been the site of the official Remembrance Day observance.  It may share the date with Veteran’s Day in the US, but Remembrance Day is more akin to our Memorial Day.

I walked further down Rideau to the visitor center for Ottawa, which was right across from Parliament.  I went inside, picked up a few items, visited the restroom, observed the 3D map of central Ottawa and got my bearings.  It showed the path of Confederation Boulevard, a path linking many historically and culturally significant sites in Ottawa and Gatineau, Quebec.  I’d just picked up a map of the boulevard, and it occurred to me that this would be a good path to follow.  And I would follow it, but not before touring the grounds of Parliament.

Not too far from Rideau Street was the Confederation Flame, an eternal flame lit to mark Canada’s centennial in 1967.  It was surrounded by a fountain that served as a wishing well.  I felt the urge to make a contribution and make a wish; with the two coins that I contributed, I wished for world peace and for the Wings and Senators to meet in the Stanley Cup finals.  As I strolled the grounds and heard the bell in the Peace Tower peal for 11 o’clock, I marveled at the accessibility of the grounds compared to the US Capitol.  Then again, the Capitol is more of a target than Parliament.

The rear of the Parliament building overlooks the Ottawa River and Gatineau, Quebec.  I gazed out over this panorama, noticing stairs to a riverbank walkway.  I also noticed the Cat Condos, a refuge for the stray cats that hang around Parliament Hill.  A sign explained that this was a completely privately funded operation, that no government funds were used to feed the kitties or the squirrels or raccoons who took advantage of the free food.  I saw three cats hanging around at various moments and got a couple pictures of one of them before it ran off.

I continued west on Rideau Street, which had become Wellington Street.  My route took me past the Bank of Canada, several government buildings, and the Supreme Court of Canada before arriving at the Portage Bridge (Pont Portage).  If I crossed the bridge, I would travel into Quebec.  I would venture where I had never ventured before, into a second province, and one that would almost seem like another country.  There are many in Quebec who would like it to be another country.  Today, though, it was still part of Canada as I walked along the bridge.  The signs marking the border between the two provinces were very low-key compared to those found in the States.  They were nothing more than regular street signs in black and white with “Ontario” and “Quebec” on them.   I wonder if that’s peculiar to the Ottawa area?

The route for Confederation Boulevard was well-marked in Ottawa, and it continued to be so in Gatineau.  I followed Rue Laurier to the east, passing the Scott Papers plant, the city hall and a couple of hotels before reaching the Canadian Museum of Civilization and its associated IMAX theater.  Now I wanted to visit this museum, but not on an empty stomach, especially not when the restaurants on-site closed at 2 (it was now noon).  The restaurant had a $20 brunch buffet, but I wasn’t in the mood for that, so I visited the cafeteria in the lower level and got a sandwich, a bag of ketchup-flavored potato chips (must be a Canadian thing, for I’d never heard of that flavor before) and a drink.  Suitably fortified, I went inside the museum and partook of the cultural nourishment.

The second level of the museum had a number of temporary exhibitions.  One dealt with the settlement of the western provinces, one dealt with ‘60s style and design, and the third dealt with the history of nursing in Canada, which spans nearly 400 years.  After making a brief stop in the Canadian Postal Museum, I went to the upper level and toured the main exhibit hall, which dealt with Canadian history from 1000 AD to the present.  History before that time was covered in the First Nations exhibits in the lower level.  I think I spent an hour walking through the hall and observing the various exhibits.  Later, I visited the museum shop but didn’t get anything there.  Then it was time to resume my walk, which took me back across the river into Ontario and Ottawa, past the US Embassy, past a Shopper’s Drug Mart for some snacks and drinks, and then back to my hotel.

Did having Detroit TV stations on Ottawa cable mean that the Lions game would be on?  Yes, it did.  I watched Detroit play Dallas in an exercise in futility, for the Lions lost.  That result was all too common these last few years.  After the game, after I rested for a bit, I walked over to the Chapters bookstore and looked around for a bit.  Chapters was very much like Borders or Barnes and Noble in the US, but there were some differences.  Naturally, Canadian authors and artists were highlighted; as I entered, I saw a sign announcing a book signing by the Canadian authors of the new Book Of Lists.  The prices were higher for just about everything.  Upstairs, there was a very large section devoted to books in French.  Now I didn’t get anything tonight except ideas for future visits.  But now, I left and wandered around the Bytown Market, looking for places to have supper.  Actually, I was interested in one place in particular, the Hard Rock Café.  It wasn’t busy at all tonight, which was all right by me.  I sat in a corner with Alanis Morissette, in a manner of speaking; the Ottawa native wasn’t there, but the sweater she wore in her video for “Ironic” was, along with other pictures and memorabilia of hers.  I also noticed a pair of jeans worn by Shania Twain and a guitar of Courtney Love’s as I enjoyed a bowl of chili and some fajitas.  The chili was good, the fajitas fair.  Afterwards, I went over to the merchandise shop and found a bright red sweatshirt, which I bought and put on right there in the shop.  I didn’t want to carry any bags with my in the theater for fear I’d lose them.

What’s this about a theater?  That was my next stop of the night, the theaters at the Rideau Centre.  I went to see the new Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  I didn’t get any popcorn or drinks, for I’d just had supper.  The theater was pretty full, but not close to selling out, so I was able to find a seat and enjoy the film.  It was a long one (so was the book), and I had to pop out to the restroom a couple of times.  But it was good.  By the time the movie ended, I was hungry for something, so I went back to McDonald’s for a late night snack, which I brought back to the hotel.


Monday November 21

This morning, I decided to have breakfast in the hotel restaurant.  Although they had a full menu, I felt like partaking of their breakfast buffet, which was pretty full, itself.  It was also filling, with several types of bread or muffins, cold and hot cereals, fruit and yogurt, and some hot items such as eggs, bacon, sausage, and home fries.  It was quite good, I thought.  Back in my room, I was finishing reading the paper when Housekeeping called.  I wasn’t ready for the maid to clean the room, so I asked her to come back later.  Now when I was ready to leave, I secured my Powerbook to the desk, for there was no safe for it.

All of the museums in the area were closed today, so I decided to drive around town and visit a few locations.  I got set up with an in/out pass for my parking, and I headed towards the 417 freeway.  The 417 was nowhere near as large or as busy as the 401 in Toronto, and that was all right by me.  My first stop of the day was the Chapters in west Ottawa, at the Pinemont shopping center.  This location did not carry the large selection of French books that the downtown store carried, but as I don’t read French, I didn’t miss it. 

There was an Ikea furniture next door to the Chapters.  I went in here for a little while; I even had lunch in the restaurant inside.  The Swedish meatballs were very good; no doubt they’ll be just as good at the new Ikea being built back home in Canton Township.  It’ll be easier buying furniture there, too, which is why all I got from the Ottawa store were ideas.  Next, I went to the nearby Bayshore shopping mall and got a new pair of blue jeans from Zeller’s (Canada’s version of Target).  The ones I brought with me were a little too big.

Now where would I go next?  How about Gatineau, this time by car?  I rode down the Ottawa River Parkway, a nice scenic highway west of town that stayed fairly close to the riverbank.  The scenery would have been nicer had this been a different season, I must admit.  After riding along for a while listening to Canada 360 on XM (one of the new Canadian channels it started in order to operate in Canada), I turned onto the Champlain Bridge (or would that be the Pont Champlain?) and entered Gatineau, Quebec.  Once again, it became quite apparent that I was in a foreign land.  Not only were the road signs exclusively in French, as I’d noticed before, the traffic lights were different.  Red lights were indicated by two diamond-shaped red lights, one on either end of the bulb fixture.  And right-turn-on-red was not permitted at any intersection.  But one could not escape the presence of Wal-Mart in Quebec, for my driving took me past a shopping center that had one.  As I had to visit the restroom, I thought I’d stop in that Wal-Mart.  Inside, it was just like a regular Wal-Mart, although the bilingual signs had French in larger letters than English.  I didn’t get anything here except a drink from the vending machine outside.  I didn’t visit any of the other stores in the shopping center, either – a Moores clothing store, Loblaws grocery store, Rona home center, the movie theater, or any other place.  No, I got back onto Highway 148 and took that across town.

My destination was Les Promenades de l’Outaouais, the regional shopping mall in the area.  To get there from where I was, I had to take a couple of autoroutes (that’s French for freeway).  The sign for the autoroutes looks very much like an American Interstate sign.  The direction signs were all in French, but they were understandable enough to me.  It helped that directions in French (nord, sud, est, ouest) were similar to those in English (north, south, east, west).  I found myself taking the exit for Highway 148 and arriving in short order at Les Promenades.  From the outside, it and the surrounding area looked like a typical North American shopping area.  As I walked around inside, I noticed only a couple of instances where people were speaking in English.  There was a bookstore (Librairie Renaud-Bray) there, and I went inside for a short time, but I couldn’t appreciate their selection, for it was all in French.  I went inside the Metro grocery store that was attached to the mall.  Seeing this setup reminded me of when Devonshire Mall in Windsor used to have the Miracle Food Mart grocery store.  That went away several years ago, and its space was taken over by the Chapters bookstore.  The Miracle Mart itself is gone, too; more stores took over its location, and Zellers built a new store there.  But I digress.  Back to Metro:  one thing I noticed was that it had beer and wine.  This is not unusual in Michigan, but it’s unheard of in Ontario, for the only stores that carry alcohol are owned by the provincial government – The Beer Store and the LCBO store.  I also noticed machines for processing returned beverage bottles, so I presume that Quebec has a bottle return law similar to Michigan’s.

When I left, I noticed a Best Buy across the street.  Now with my network cable acting up on me, I thought it best to look for a new one.  The store looked to be brand new.  Inside, it was indistinguishable from any Best Buy in the US or Ontario, except for the price cards being in French.  I found a network cable and proceeded to buy it.  For some reason, my debit card transaction had a hard time going through, but it eventually did. “It works in Ontario,” I told the clerk.  By this time, it was getting somewhat dark outside, and I thought it best to return to the hotel.  Getting there wasn’t too difficult, for one of the Gatineau autoroutes crossed over into Ottawa and dumped you onto main streets.  I found my way back to hotel, but when I went into the parking garage, I had a difficult time parking.  The only spot that was available was one that required me to “thread the needle,” as it were – make small precision movements to fit the car into the spot without bumping the neighboring car, the pillar or the walls.  I made it, though it was a bit of a squeeze getting out of the car, for the pillar was very close.

For supper tonight, I would visit the Richtree at the Rideau Centre.  I had been to its sister restaurants in Toronto back when the chain was still called Movenpick.  This location appeared to be smaller than the one in Toronto’s BCE Place, but it still had plenty to choose from.  One change from back then:  instead of carrying around a piece of paper that served as your order slip, you were now given a card that was swiped at every station.  My first stop was the salad bar for a Caesar salad that was very good.  Next came two pieces of bruschetta.  The man working the station had a bit of difficulty recording my order; one of the managers had to help him out.  The main course tonight was rosti and sausage, rosti being somewhat like hash browns that aren’t browned too much.  I wanted to have some spring rolls, but they were out, so I tried the shrimp rolls instead, and they were pretty good.  To wash it all down, I alternated between water and a bottle of Barq’s root beer.  Interesting combination of food there, but it was good.

As you might imagine, I was pretty full after that meal, so I walked around the Rideau Center for a while.  I spent some time in Sears, which struck me as being fancier than a typical American Sears store.  That was true even before Sears bought the Eaton’s chain.  I think this store had been an Eaton’s before becoming a Sears.  Later, I went over to The Bay via the walkways, one of which had been transformed into Christmas Street or Rue Noel.  It boggled my mind somewhat to see a sign noting that The Bay had been established May 2, 1670, referring to when the Hudson’s Bay Company received its fur trading charter.

I stopped at the Chapters bookstore for a bit and found a book on Canadian rail travel called, surprisingly enough, “Trans-Canada Rail Guide.”  For some time, I’ve contemplated traveling across Canada by rail.  I’ve done it twice across the US so far.  By this time, my stomach had settled enough for me to consider having some dessert.  I went to the Dairy Queen inside the Rideau Center for a large milkshake, then went back to the hotel for the night.  I turned on a hockey game and started work on the monthly newsletter I edit for the Baha’is in the Detroit area.  At some point during the game, I hear about an incident at the Red Wings game:  one of the Detroit players, Jiri Fischer, collapsed while on the bench and was taken to the hospital after suffering an irregular heartbeat and possible cardiac arrest.  The game was suspended at that point; nobody felt like continuing with the game, a perfectly understandable reaction.


Tuesday November 22

At the start of my last full day in Ottawa, I got up, showered, got dressed, then went downstairs for another go at the breakfast buffet.  The paper had a major story about the Jiri Fischer incident.  Now my plan for today was to visit the Canadian War Museum.  I had planned to walk there, but when I stepped outside, it was rather cold and quite breezy.  I didn’t feel like walking in that, so I went back inside and down to the parking garage, and I drove over to the museum.

The Canadian War Museum had recently moved to this facility, which had just been dedicated in May.  It was indeed an impressive facility, with plenty of heated underground parking.  I went inside, paid my admission, and started my tour.  Up first was the special exhibition on wartime propaganda, with a strong focus on World War I and World War II.  Not only was the Allied propaganda on display, the Axis propaganda was there as well.  There was nastiness on both sides there.  Then it was on to the main exhibition, which covered war in Canada from Indian times to the present.  One hall focused on conflicts through the late 19th Century, including the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, the War of 1812.  Another hall focused on the Boer War and World War I; a third focused on World War II, and a fourth covered Korea and modern peacekeeping efforts.  For an American, it was interesting to note the additional emphasis given to the War of 1812 and World War I.  The War of 1812 isn’t regarded as that major of a conflict by most Americans, and we were only in WWI for parts of two years versus the four years that Canada was involved.  A sobering thought:  back when I was a kid, the WWI veterans were old men.  Now, with the passage of time, they have nearly all passed away.

When I went back to the hotel and to my room, there was a sign on the door.  The maid was still inside cleaning it.  I didn’t think I should go in, for I would disturb her or frighten her.  So I went over to the Rideau Centre and to Chapters for a bit, just looking to waste some time.  By the time I returned, the maid was gone, so I could enter my room without provoking an incident.  Now I was feeling a little sore and rather weary, so I decided to stay in and rest up for a bit.  I was also feeling somewhat down, for a DVD set I had thought would be available today was nowhere to be found.  The first season of Tracey Takes On had been scheduled to come out today, but several online sites said it was no longer available for ordering.  One had said it had been discontinued – canceled, really, for one cannot discontinue something that had never been released.  Having looked forward to this for several months, I was quite disappointed.

When suppertime rolled around, I thought I would eat somewhere in the Bytown Market.  There were plenty of restaurants there, but for some reason, none of them seemed very appealing to me.  I didn’t want to go back to the Hard Rock Café.  But I did end up going back to the Richtree Marché, for I knew I could get something different there.  The salad and bruschetta were the same as last night, but this time I got a New York strip steak cooked to order.  Once again, everything was very good.  This time, I even got some dessert (a chocolate cake).  Then it was time to start packing up, for I wanted to get an early start tomorrow.  The weather forecast called for snow, especially for the area from London to Windsor. 

I did have some time to see where the swimming pool was, although I wouldn’t actually use the facility.  It was on the fifth floor, and it and the other facilities (an exercise room and sauna) were shared with Les Suites hotel next door.  Due to hotel renovations, it wasn’t possible to go to the fifth floor directly.  No, I had to go to the fourth floor, follow the signs to one of the stairs, go up to the fifth floor, then follow more signs to the pool area.  The facility seemed decent enough.  Perhaps I would use it on a future visit.  But I wouldn’t use it tonight.  Back at the hotel room, I watched some hockey for a while (the Ottawa game in English, the Montreal game in French – not that I understood any of the French) and the Weather Network for a while.


Wednesday November 23

I woke up around 6:20 or so, not outrageously early.  For a regular day, it would be rather late for me, but not while on vacation.  I wanted to get an early start for the long drive to Windsor, and if there was going to be snow, it would be an even longer drive.  Now I’d done most of my packing Tuesday night, so I didn’t have to pack up that much.  I did a final e-mail check and packed up the Powerbook, making sure to keep the network cable out, for it belonged to the hotel.  I took my medicine, brushed my teeth, and finished packing.  I took most of my stuff down to my car, then came back for the rest, went to the lobby to check out, then went to my car.  As I pulled out of the garage for the last time, it was 7:25 AM.

Traffic was heavy on the 417 heading eastbound and on the 416 heading northbound.  The sky was broken overcast.  For a while, I listened to AM 800 CJAD out of Montreal, but that faded out as the sun rose.  There was a bit of snow on the 416 as I neared the 401, but that ended up being the last of the snow for several hours.  In fact, the skies cleared out as I drove southwest.  That allowed me to make good time.  I stopped at the first service area on the 401 to fill up the gas tank.  Driving was smooth as I headed toward Toronto.  I got nervous at one point, though, when I was being followed by an OPP officer.  I was keeping well under the speed limit, but so was he.  I got the feeling he was waiting for me to commit any infraction and nail me for it.  Being an out-of-province and out-of-country driver, I might not be willing to fight a ticket in court.  Fortunately, he pulled off at the next exit, and I could relax.  And around noon, I found myself in the Toronto area, where traffic was heavy but smooth.  Any congestion was on the other side of the roadway, where there was construction.  It was quite heavy around Dufferin and Allen, but I didn’t really care, for I was going the other way.

At this point, I was feeling somewhat hungry.  My left leg was also bothering me a bit, for my wallet was putting some pressure on my nerves.  It was time for a rest stop, and I decided to take it at the Yorkdale shopping center.  I got off the freeway and found my way to the north parking lot, which was rather full.  Once inside, I walked around to see what had changed from my last visit several years ago.  The biggest change was that the former location of Eaton’s had been remodeled into many new stores, none of which particularly appealed to me.  A store that did appeal to me was the Apple Store, which wasn’t very far from Casey’s.  It wasn’t much different from Apple Stores in the US.  I knew the Apple systems here would be networked, so I used one to check my e-mail.  One of the messages had some good news: that Tracey Takes On DVD set had not been canceled at all but had merely been delayed to the day after Christmas.  I visited the food court for lunch, thinking I would have some pizza, but the pizza didn’t look that appealing to me.  Nor, for that matter, did anything else.  All I ended up getting for lunch was a bottle of pop from a newsstand/convenience store.

All of this took about an hour, and then it was back onto the 401.  The snow held off until I got to Middlesex County and London.  Then it began to fall, lightly at first, then more heavily as I went westward.  I passed the interchange for the 402, which would take me to Sarnia and Port Huron.  On previous trips to Toronto, I’d usually take the 402 back to Michigan, but not today, for I had hotel reservations in Windsor.  I started listening to the news/talk stations – WJR, WWJ, and CKLW – for weather and traffic updates.  Along the way, I learned that Canada was considered to be very well prepared for a flu pandemic, more so than the US.

By 5 PM, I was in the Windsor area, exiting the 401 at Dougall Avenue.  The left lane was snow-covered, the right lane mostly clear.  It wasn’t long before I found “Q”, a novel gas station and convenience store concept that was the Windsor home to a Richtree restaurant.  Unfortunately, when I went inside, I saw that this Richtree was oriented mainly to takeout foods.  There were a couple of tables there, and there appeared to be a decent selection of food, but it was nothing like the setups in Toronto or Ottawa.  I suspected I wouldn’t be crossing the border frequently to eat here, not because of the quality of the food but because of the setup.  I ended up getting a bottle of Sprite and sipping on it as I drove up Dougall to E. C. Row and then back to the Hampton Inn.

My room was number 524, one floor up from last Friday’s room.  My view was the same: the Holiday Inn across the street.  The weather was worse:  it was continuing to snow.  What did I want to do for supper?  I wasn’t sure that I wanted to drive any place.  It turned out that the hotel had $3 off coupons for Casey’s, so that’s where I ended up going.  And what’s more, I had the same meal as last Friday.  Then it was back to the hotel to stay in and rest for the night.  If it had not been cold and snowy, I might have gone back to Devonshire or over to the Best Buy on Walker.  Back in my room, the network cable that was not working in Ottawa was still not working in Windsor, so it went into the trash while I broke out the cable that I got in Gatineau.  That worked just fine.


Thursday November 24

I woke up for good around 7:15, which was not a problem because I didn’t have to leave immediately.  I could take my time getting ready, and that was exactly what I did.  I went downstairs and enjoyed breakfast in the lobby while reading a Windsor Star.  I had some Cheerios, but I also had a waffle and some muffins.  The plastic forks were too flimsy to use to cut the waffle, so I had to get a knife (also plastic, but sturdy enough to function).  CNN Headline News was playing on the TV’s in the lobby and/or eating area, but I paid little attention to it, for I was reading the paper.  After I finished my breakfast, I took a look at the pool facilities, but I decided not to take advantage of them today.  I had a swimsuit, but it was a few years old and several sizes too large.

There were no indications that today was a holiday.  That was because it wasn’t a holiday, not in Canada.  Canadian Thanksgiving had been several weeks earlier, on the same date as Columbus Day.  So today was a regular day for Canadians, and that meant I could do some Christmas shopping once I checked out of the hotel.   While I got everything ready in my room for my departure, I was watching Channel 4 and its coverage of the Thanksgiving parade.  Around 10, I checked out, got into the car, put on WJR for its radio coverage of the parade, and drove over to the Devonshire area.

First stop:  Toys R Us and a present for my nephew Brandon.  Second stop:  Chapters at Devonshire for presents for my aunt and uncle.  Third stop:  one of the newsstands in the mall for a bottle of Coke, as the vending machines at the entrance were not working.  Then it was out to the car for the drive to the Ambassador Bridge and the USA.  I had my money ready for the toll booth, which was now on the American side.  There weren’t many cars crossing into the US; not that many trucks, either.  I was bringing back C$300 of merchandise after a stay of longer than 48 hours, so no duty payments for me.  I cleared Customs, then paid the toll and got onto I-75.  I thought I might catch some of the parade as I passed underneath Woodward Avenue.  However, I encountered a major backup, so I decided to take the Lodge instead.  Why was there a backup, I wondered.  A few seconds later, I figured it out:  it was Ford Field traffic for the Lion game.  I didn’t need to get caught up in that, so I’d made a good call by getting on the Lodge, and I headed up to Warren and Thanksgiving dinner.

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©2005 R. W. Reini.    All rights reserved.

Written by Roger Reini
RevisedApril 20, 2008