Back in Toronto

I’m back in Toronto, just for a few days this time.
On Monday, my sister-in-law Diane helped me find out which buses I needed to take to go to downtown Oakville. She also gave me ALL her phone numbers in case I got lost but not a peep from me all day. I made it there and back on my own without a glitch! Yay me!
I didn’t have a definite plan, so I played it by ear. I ambled around the streets, soaking up the winter sun (it was a gorgeous day). I thought I’d visit the local museums, but they are closed on Mondays (just my luck.)
I had a leisurely lunch at Timothy’s, took loads of photos at the Lakeside Park (a lovely park along the shore of Lake Ontario) and when my feet said enough is enough, I returned home.
Yesterday, I went to downtown Toronto. I was curious about the PATH, the underground maze that connects shops, hotels, banks, subway stations, etc. It was like an underground mall. I strolled around the Financial District and University Avenue, where all the beautiful buildings of the University of Toronto are located. I was exhausted by then and decided to forgo the Royal Ontario Museum.
Now I’m getting ready to return to Dallas.
Until next time, Toronto!

What to do?

Yesterday I visited the area known as Old Town Toronto. It was a gorgeous day, with a chill in the air and lots of sunshine.

I went into the Anglican Cathedral of St. James, which was built in the 1850s. I took a flier-cum-tour guide and started to read it as I walked, looking at the stained glass windows, the retired colours of various Canadian regiments, and so on and so forth.
I was reading about the main altar and choir when I saw flash of green and gold go past. I carried on with what I was doing until I got to the Lady Chapel, located to the right of the altar. I then realized that the priest in a green and gold robe was looking at me and with a beaming smile said “We’re going to begin the Eucharist service, and you’re invited to join us”.
How could I refuse? Besides, there was one other guy apart from me. I put my camera away, found a seat and picked up a prayer book. I was a bit lost, so the only other church attendant sat next to me and showed me which page I needed so I could follow the liturgy.
Then it was time for the Eucharist. Uh oh! what to do? (I am a Catholic and we’re not supposed to risk damning our eternal souls by A) taking communion without confession, a sacrament through which your sins are forgiven, and B) let alone do it  with the enemy! OK, no  the enemy, but a non-Catholic church). But then again, there were three of us by then, so I couldn’t really sneak out the back. So I decided to just sit there with my best poker face.
My best poker face did not work. The priest smiled at me and said in a kind voice “You too.” OoooooK…. I thought I should be alright and not burn in Hell if I took communion since a priest invited me to and, besides, I was in the House of God, wasn’t I? (Actually, I’m not that religious but I can’t shake off my upbringing just like that)
I really did enjoy the service and realized I already knew the formulas! “Lamb of God…” is “Cordero de Dios…” etc. So towards the end I responded in Spanish (in a soft voice). The Anglican High Church and the Catholic Church have a lot in common, except a few pesky items like divorce, women priest, married clergy and a few sacraments, confession being one the Anglicans did away with.
The thing is, this is the second time something like this happened to me. A few weeks ago, when I was on Montreal, I visited the Anglican Cathedral at the time of Eucharist (unbeknownst to me), was invited to participate and since there were three of us, to take Communion as well. Maybe God is calling me?
Afterwards, I visited St. Michael’s, the Catholic Cathedral. Was I feeling guilty? I don’t know, but I just couldn’t go inside. The smell of burnt candle wax and frankincense were so overpowering they almost made me sick and I had to leave. I realized I much prefer Anglican churches, they’re full of light and devoid of all those suffering Christs and bleeding saints. I have nothing against them per se, I just hate those statues. And the Anglican lot are a lot less fussy and complicated, which I find refreshing.

So now I’m in a bit of a quandary: should I still be a Catholic or join the Anglican flock?

Remebrance Day

Yesterday, I was watching the Remembrance Day ceremonies on TV. This year, prince Charles was here for the occasion.

The ceremony was held at the Canadian War Memorial in Ottawa. There were speeches (in English, French and native languages), gun salutes, planes, the laying of the wreaths, everything that one expects on such occasions.

But what really moved me was seeing 80 or 90 year old veterans in full dress uniform, with dozens of medals on their chests, surreptitiously wiping a tear or two. Because they do remember.   

St. Jacobs

On Sunday we decided to visit the village of St Jacobs, at the heart of Mennonite country. It is less than 100 kilometres from where we are, so it was a relatively short and pleasant drive.
The village is rather small, it has one main commercial street, 5 or 6 blocks long, lined with tourist traps, I mean shops. We wandered about, did some shopping (I found the jumper of my dreams, wool lined with fleece fabric) and proceeded to Stone Crock, a much touted restaurant said to serve up real Canadian food. In a nutshell, they don’t. Their food is really bad: dry chicken, hacked roast beef (instead of carved), schnitzels so thin I could only taste the Crisco they were fried in, and so on. The only redeeming feature was their cherry pie, but I wondered whether the filling came from a can.
After such delectable lunch, we set off in search of Mennonites. Well, that’s not entirely true, we just wanted to see the countryside, which is very pretty. We managed to spot Mennonite farms thanks to the buggies parked outside the outbuildings. Since it really is rude to take photos without permission, we stopped the car a good distance from one of the farms and stealthily took a couple of pictures with the help of a super duper zoom.


Art Gallery of Ontario

   Today I spent a few hours perusing works of art from different countries and periods at the Art Gallery of Ontario. It was lot bigger than I expected. 
   As soon as I arrived, a few minutes before 11.30, I was told that the free mini tours were about to begin and I could choose between Canadian, European, African and Contemporary Art. I thought I might as well choose Canadian art since I’m in Canada. The guide was a very nice lady and I learned a lot.
   After the guided tour., I wandered into the African art room. I was trying to make out what that thing hanging on the wall was (sorry, contemporary art is not my cup of tea) when another charming lady came up to me and kindly offered to explain this installation to me. She did and then proceeded to talk about other sculptures and installations. I had my very own personal guide. It was really cool.

   But there is so much culture my brain can take in and before 4 pm I decided to call it a day. And a culture-filled one at that!