We woke up to blue sky. Of course it was blue, it was the day we were leaving! However we had the car so we ditched the idea of going to Casa Loma, though believe it has great gardens. We also decided against the Toronto Islands, figuring the weather wasn’t that great. We decided, instead, to drive out to Burlington to see the Royal Botanical Gardens.
We went via an area in Toronto called The Junction which had a vegan and gluten-free bakery, Bunners, that Hannah recommended. We bought some goodies for a coffee break and the plane trip, reset the GPS and off we headed on our 53 minutes, to be precise, drive to the Gardens.
Royal Botanical Gardens, Burlington
Botanical gardens are great to compare. They all have similarities of course – such as a focus on plants (ha!) – but that’s where their differences usually start too. Do they focus on local, or exotic, or both? How extensive are they? Well, to start with, the Royal Botanical Gardens at Burlington are very extensive and are apparently the biggest in Canada. They are all in Burlington, but are so spread out you have to drive to see some of them. Needless to say we didn’t see them all.
When we arrived we were greeted with a friendly but perhaps somewhat defensive “there’s not much colour yet!”. Clearly another victim of Toronto’s terrible winter and delayed onset of Spring. We assumed they must have been getting complaints or disappointed comments, but we reassured her that we weren’t expecting a lot of colour. After all, we’d just spent two weeks in Toronto among the bare trees of winter. Spring, we knew, had not sprung.
So, we picked a few garden areas to explore:
- The Mediterranean Garden which is Canada’s only Mediterranean greenhouse, making it rather more humid than the Mediterranean really is. This garden also included Aussie plants, including callistemons, grevilleas and small eucalypts. It’s on two levels and is pretty formally arranged with some “cute” elements like a little ornamental train that runs through it, though it wasn’t running while we were there.
- Hendrie Park is, we would guess, the original garden, and is reached via a tunnel under the main road separating it from the RBG’s centre. It contains more formal gardens, including the rose garden, not yet in flower, and covered walkways under which we saw some small spring bulbs. Adjacent to it is a woodland area where we saw some forsythia and one or two small flowering magnolias. All very bare still, with just the off hint of growth here and there.
- Laking Garden which we had to drive around to (though discovered later that there is a 1.5km path to it). We suspect the staff member decided we were “Seniors” and not up to the challenge. This garden is a formal one, and also had a couple of small flowering magnolias, and an extensive iris garden (not in bloom and currently being reworked). It also has a “No mow, No blow, No H2O” display showing how to create gardens that don’t waste energy by needing mowing or by needing a lot of blowing/raking of leaves, or that don’t waster water. A practical display, nicely done.
We were hoping to see a good range of birds, and perhaps would have, had we managed to get over to the Arboretum section. We did see a few birds, of course, including a pretty Blackbird with yellow and red on its wings. We also saw some huge bees – bigger than we are used to seeing – and we saw a cute little black squirrel. These are different to the more common grey squirrel. We’ve seen a few but they tend to be fleet of foot if you get too close!
We ate a simple but pleasant lunch in their cafe and then it was back into the car to drive to the airport. All went smoothly and we were waiting at the gate, almost 3 hours before departure. But, you never know whether the highways will jam or the airport lines will be long. As Hannah had told us, the nice thing about this trip is that you clear US Customs and Immigration in Toronto, so you arrive in LA as a “domestic traveller”.
Random comments and observations
Previous posts have ended up being so long we’ve put off sharing some of our general comments/observations but if we don’t do it now, we’ll not do it at all. Perhaps listing them, in no particular order, will keep it tight and simple:
- Dog walking and dogs in apartments. Torontonians clearly love dogs, and there were many living in our apartment complex. Consequently you see many dogs being taken for walks. However, early in our time we saw people taking four dogs out on a lead. After we’d seen this a few times we guessed the situation – these were likely paid dog walkers.
- No warm places in Canada. It gradually dawned on us that Canada really doesn’t have any “warm” locations. Sure, the coastal places like Vancouver aren’t as cold but you couldn’t describe them as tropical or desert. We mentioned this to Hannah’s friend Lisa who told us that Canada had nearly got some Caribbean Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands. Well, there have been various negotiations regarding annexation, but so far they’ve come to nought, but she said Canadians become excited about being able to spend Canadian dollars in a warm place! We don’t blame them, but then again we are Aussie.
- Toronto, the city. We found Toronto a very manageable city, with easy to use public transport and well-defined districts and locales helping us to get a good overview of the place. Streetcars are easy to use and mostly frequent enough that you don’t stand in the cold too long. And Len said he found it pretty easy to drive around on the couple of occasions we used a car in the city.
- Food. Toronto is bursting with wonderful places to eat, from the high-end to the cheap and cheerful. We read a reference in one review to Toronto’s hedonism regarding food. We can’t really blame them, given the weather. What else is there to do when it’s freezing? Anyhow, there’s some really creative cooking going on, and wonderful experimentation with different products like buffalo milk, fava flour.
- People. It was fantastic, of course, seeing Hannah again. And we met many other wonderful people including Hannah’s friends and some online book group friends whom Sue had met over the years. We love being able to talk to locals about their place – you get such an interesting perspective, in all sorts of serendipitous snippets.
We’ll end on the weather! Hannah told us about signs she’d seen around the city that had been posted by the local weather forecasters. They read: “Don’t shoot the messenger” and “It sucks to be right”. I guess you need a sense of humour when you live in such a climate. Wish we’d seen one of those signs to photograph for you (and us)!
A SoCal welcome
And now we really must head off on today’s adventures, but first we have to mention Carolyn’s wonderful welcome back. Despite arriving as “domestic travellers” it took us an hour from when we landed in LAX to hitting the freeways in our hire car. (LAX is such a fun place. We’d landed 10 minutes early but there was no gate free so we ended up disembarking about 10 minutes late). Anyhow we arrived at Carolyn’s around 10.50pm, having not had dinner (on Carolyn’s instructions). She immediately popped some salmon into the oven, made an avocado salad, glazed the salmon halfway through cooking, and around 11.15pm or so we had a lovely meal of baked salmon, rice and salad (not to mention a glass of wine). She’s a treasure!
And today’s slideshow …