Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bonjour and Au Revoir

Two years ago Kate, our daughter, was an exchange student in France.  She and her exchange partner have remained friends and have each visited back and forth.  This summer it was the parents' turn to visit.  Olivier is involved in the administration of the exchange program and was going to be accompanying a contingent of exchange students to Toronto.  Patricia was going to come along for the fun.  The plan was for them to tour Niagara Falls and the CN Tower in Toronto with the students  and then stay with us for a week.

I was very excited to meet them, but not sure what to show them or take them to visit.  Any time I thought about what Ontario, and Toronto especially, had to offer it seemed there were bigger, better, more interesting things to do in France. I would think of historic houses, and then think that France has older and prettier ones, and I would think of places to eat, and then think that they have better restaurants in France etc.  Of course we have cottage country with lakes and forests, but not everyone likes the outdoors and the rough and tumble life at a cottage.  I was a little discouraged about what there was to show them.

I emailed them a list of suggestions with some photos so they could choose what they might be interested in doing.  Included in the email was a photo of my son canoeing at the cottage .  Patricia  wrote back to say that she had always "dreamed" of canoeing .  I was thrilled - it was just what I needed to hear to get my entertaining mojo back.   I was able to come up with a plan that involved seeing a little city and a little country.

Let me show you what we saw, with some of the things that especially intrigued and interested our french guests.

Part 1 - Toronto

We went to the Distillery District in Toronto for some coffee and then to browse in the shops (you can see more photos here from a previous visit) .   They liked this area of Toronto very much, and were especially interested to know that the exterior scenes for the movie Chicago were filmed here.

We also visited Chinatown  (which I have written about here).  Patricia was surprised how big the area was and that most of the signs in Chinatown were in Chinese not English.

We also visited Kensington Market (which you can see more photos of here).  If you look closely you can see the bubbles from the bubble machine blowing across the sidewalk - only in Kensington Market do you have a bubble machine! 

We also saw the fabulous Inuit art in the lobby of the TD building.  It's one of the lesser known free attractions in Toronto and well worth a visit. I had never been there before so was glad to see something new.

Then we went to the historic roundhouse that has been turned into a Leon's Furniture Store and the Steam Whistle brewery.  I loved the contrast of the furniture displayed against the rustic wood and metal in the roundhouse - very incongruous but charming.  Our french guests really enjoyed this area as well - the mix of old and new, the free pint of beer in the brewery, the views, the old engines...

Part 2 - the cottage

The weather cooperated at the cottage and we were able to go swimming and canoeing

and hiking.

I did my best to find them views of huge tracts of forest (what could be more Canadian after all) and to hopefully see some wildlife.

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, they have an electric fence around the dump so there is no bear watching at the dump which used to be the place to take visitors (quaint, I know).   Although I saw two bears on separate occasions this summer as I was driving home from the cottage, there were none to be found for our french guests. We did canoe over to the marsh to see a Great Blue Heron, and we listened to the loon sing while we were paddling on the lake, and

we fed the chipmunk.  All very popular activities with our guests.

Most of all, however, everyone enjoyed the peace and quiet of cottage country.

Who knew that a school bus pulling a trailer loaded with canoes would be interesting - but it was declared 'classic' and many photos were taken of it (including mine, while I was driving).

We stopped at our favourite fossil cliff on the way home and not only were we rewarded with some good fossils,

but our french guests were very impressed with the long straight road - apparently unlike anything they had seen in France.

Our final stop on the way home was at a butter tart shop - classic Canadian fine food! 

They had an absolutely overwhelming selection so we had to try several different versions of butter tarts (and one strawberry-rhubarb tart).

Part 3 - Crawford Lake

On our final day, we went to Crawford Lake Conservation area to see a 15th century Iroquoian Village that has been reconstructed on its original site.

The long houses were very impressive.  Can you imagine living here with many other families - they slept on the bottom bunks, stored food on the upper bunks, and had fires on the floor down the middle of the building.  I'm thinking it would have been a tad cold in the winter.

We walked around the lake on the boardwalk.  The forest if very dense so there is little undergrowth.

It can even look a little creepy with trees growing out of the holes in the limestone rocks.

On our last evening together I made Nigerian curry, a family favouite that I had cooked for their daughter on her last evening with us as well, and Patricia taught me how to fold napkins into flowers like this.

Au revoir our lovely french guests!  Until next time.


  1. That was really nice Grace! You are a wonderful hostess but i am not surprised! Did you have to show those yummy buttertarts? On the way up North is a road called Monk Road and there is this really funky place has a Betty Boop STatue out front. The man is an old Hippie and make the best buttertarts and stuffed olives and has other neat nic naks.
    They still have the bears at the Minden dump. When you stay with my cousin that is the payment ...taking her tash to the dump and the bears are everywhere eating away!
    Great photos!

  2. Isn't that interesting that something like canoeing or a straight road would be fascinating to them. I actually find the school bus with canoes pretty interesting myself. Her napkin folding thing would be a great tutorial for the blog. I love that but it looks difficult.

  3. Brings tears to my eyes, seriously. We have such a lot to share and don't know where to begin. If they think that is a long, straight road, they should come to Saskatchewan!

  4. Looks like a fantastic getaway and your photos are incredible!