Fenton & White Find Fine Wine On Salt Spring Island

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SUNDAY MORNING ON ST. MARY LAKE IS PEACEFUL

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We had been on the road for a week and we decided that Sunday would be a day of rest … sort of.  The plan was to sleep in, make a late breakfast, take a row boat out onto the lake and then have a bite to eat before being picked up for a 5 hour wine tour of Salt Spring Island.

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MAPLE RIDGE COTTAGES PROVIDE FREE ACCESS TO BOATS, LIFE JACKETS AND PADDLES AND OARS

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The morning was clear and bright and the lake was like a mirror.  A perfect day to get out on the water.

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PETE ROWED US OUT TO THE FAR END OF THE LAKE

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Pete  sat at the back and rowed us out onto the water.  At the end of the lake we switched seats and I rowed back.

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SCOTT ROWS FENTON & WHITE SAFELY BACK TO SHORE

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We were proud of ourselves.  We got to the end of the lake and looped around to our starting point, didn’t get wet, and had a glorious morning paddling around on the still water.  We returned to the cottage in time to make a morning tea and have a light lunch before we were picked up for our wine tour.

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THIS IS JASON OUR TOUR GUIDE

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We chose Western Splendour Tours to take us around the island.  The company offers a variety of types of tours, and we chose the one where they pick you up at your lodging, then drive you around the island to 3 wineries, a cider outlet, a brewery, a cheese shop and on certain days … even a local distillery.  At a little before noon, our guide (and owner of the company) Jason drove up in a large white van.   There were a few things that were special about this tour.  For starters, the van is an older model that has been converted to run on used vegetable oil.  Jason fuels the vehicle with filtered oil  which is recycled from restaurants who give it to him after they have finished frying food in it.  We thought this was pretty cool and also represents the environmentally friendly tone of the entire island.  The other amazing thing about our trip was that the second group scheduled to come with us cancelled at the last minute meaning that Pete and I got a private tour.

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MOUNT MAXWELL LOOMS IN THE DISTANCE AS WE TOUR SALT SPRING ISLAND

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We spent the first fifteen minutes talking and getting to know each other and then Jason showed us a map of the island, identified the areas we would be traveling to, and asked if we had any other particular interests.  On some tours, you can peer into the studios of artisans. For us … this day was about locally made wine (and a bit of food along the way).  Jason took us via a range of main roads and side roads that allowed us to see the island from a different viewpoint.  He was knowledgeable about the area, the residents, the history and the wine we were heading to taste.

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PETE PURCHASES OUR FIRST BOTTLE OF WINE AT MISTAKEN IDENTITY VINEYARDS

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Each location has its own style and charm. The first winery had a modern tasting room and we were offered three 2 ounce samples of wine … a rich full bodied red wine, a medium dry pinot gris and a light rose.  We were also offered a 1 ounce sample of wine not yet bottled, but nearly ready for the season.  Each of the wines had a distinct flavour.  We bought a bottle of the pinot to enjoy later in our trip.

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THE SALT SPRING WILD CIDER SHOP HAS A LARGE INDOOR AND OUTDOOR AREA

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Our next stop was Salt Spring Wild Cider, where we met the owners who were pitting large vats of plums for an upcoming concoction. At this location, we were offered a flight of 5 ciders made from apples, pears, elderberry, apricot and a bonus sample of a tasty ginger cider.

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EACH GLASS CONTAINS 2 OUNCES OF CIDER

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So for those of you who are counting, we had almost 7 ounces of wine at the first location, and now we were adding another 12 ounces of cider.  Fortunately, this location also has a kitchen that makes amazing charcuterie boards that include local meats and cheeses.  If you look closely, you can see the back of the charcuterie board behind the row of cider samples in the picture above.  Although we enjoyed the cider, our tastes run to things that are a little less sweet so we didn’t buy a bottle, but enjoyed the meat and cheese we ordered to pair with our cider.  The costs of the wine samples, the driver and transportation is included in the tour … the food is at your own expense and of course … if you buy a bottle of wine after you taste … well, you pay for that as well.

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SALT SPRING ISLAND VINEYARDS AND TASTING ROOM WAS NEXT ON THE AGENDA

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Doing a wine tour is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. By the time we visited with the owners or staff, listened to them explain how they made their wine and what each wine was made from, and then savoured each sample, it was easy to spend 30 to 45  minutes at each stop.  At the Salt Spring Vineyards and Tasting Room we tried some dessert wines paired with sharp cheese and dark bitter chocolate (included free as part of the tasting).  Because the wines were sweeter, the samples were smaller … but even 1.5 ounces of each was enough to get a distinct sense of the flavour.  We wound up buying a dry sparkling wine here to give to friends.

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SALT SPRING ISLAND VINEYARDS HAS A LOVELY OUTDOOR AREA BY A POND

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Most of the wineries are hobby operations averaging only 3000 bottles per year.  The average size of the vineyards is around 7 acres.  There is pride in keeping the products local, right down to the artwork on the labels which is sourced on Salt Spring Island.  We learned that many of the wines are made with locally grown grapes, but sometimes grapes are imported from other locations in B.C. to create blends.  The taste of grapes is impacted by the soil, so to get an earthier, richer wine, sometimes a blend is necessary.   While we were sampling, Jason would talk with other locals, or wander away and visit with the neighbours. We decided we’d like to meet some of them.  It turns out they were a bit sheepish, and when I pointed the camera their way, all but one ignored me.

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THESE SHEEP ARE RAISED FOR WOOL AND SHEEP’S MILK ON THE ISLAND

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We headed off next to the Garry Oakes Estate Winery.  This was our favourite location.  The wines were much richer and fuller-bodied.  We sampled 4 different wines and came away with a beautiful bottle of pinot noir (another gift for friends).

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THESE GRAPES WERE GROWING NEAR THE ENTRANCE TO ONE OF THE WINERIES

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There is an unwritten rule on Salt Spring Island that there is no use of pesticides, and as much as possible, organic growing practices are used to ensure that all of the food on the island is grown in a responsible and sustainable way.   We were delighted to discover that our next stop was going to be the famous Salt Spring Island Cheese Company that makes a healthy and delicious cheese that is marketed all over Canada and into the U.S.

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THIS IS A VERY VERY GOOD PLACE IF YOU LOVE CHEESE

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The variety of goat cheeses made by this shop are staggering.  The milk is gathered from local goats (and goats from the mainland, for the demand is so high), cultured and set and then cured for 5 days for a soft chevre, or many weeks for harder cheeses. Before packaging, the cheese is mixed with herbs and light oils.   The terrible/wonderful thing about this place is that you can try samples of as many of the cheeses as you want … for free … and it’s all really, really good.  We escaped after 20 minutes of trying tiny pieces of cheese, only buying one of the many amazing flavours, but it was tempting instead to buy one of each … this place is dangerously delicious.

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OUR FINAL STOP WAS FLIGHTS OF BEER AT THE SALT SPRINGS BREWERY

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The distillery wasn’t available on the day of the tour, and it was probably a good thing.  At this point, we had each had the equivalent of 3/4 of a bottle in wines, 12 ounces of cider, a charcuterie platter and a whole lot of goat cheese (with those other bits of cheese and chocolate at the one winery thrown in for good measure).  So to finish the day, it was time to sample the brewery.  We were offered a flight of 5 two ounce glasses from a menu of 9 beers.  We sipped slowly through each one … and picked up a lovely Golden Ale.

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TREASURES OF THE DAY … THREE BOTTLES OF WINE, ONE BOTTLE OF ALE AND A WONDERFUL CHEESE

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By the time we finished our tour, it was almost 5:30.  Jason drove us back via a scenic route.  We were truly thrilled with our purchases and had enjoyed the afternoon sampling the local wines.  If you decide to go … eat a good meal before you start, and remember the goal of the tour is to taste the wine and to get to know the people who run the wineries, not to slug it back and get tipsy.  The pace is leisurely, and although we had a fair amount in small samples, it was spaced out with food along the way.  It was a luxury to have someone else doing the driving (other couples who weren’t on a tour wound up with one designated driver who didn’t sample, and the other partner who did) so this made for a much more pleasant way to share this experience together.  When we got back to the cabin, we cooked a light dinner with groceries we had bought the day before, watched the sun go down over Lake St. Mary and went to bed early.  This was a wise move as the following day we were going to be heading to Ucluelet which was a ferry ride and a 3 hour drive along winding roads from our little cottage on the lake.

In the next blog … hiking in the rain forests of Pacific Rim National Park.

Until then … imagine you are rowing in a boat on a sunny day on a peaceful lake with …

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 Fenton (background) & White (foreground)

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Fenton & White ask the question … What do you value?

 

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WHAT DO YOU VALUE MOST IN LIFE?

We just returned from a trip to the west coast of Canada including stops in Vancouver, Victoria, Salt Spring Island, Tofino and Ucluelet.  We both wanted to get away from work on projects, internet and social media, and simply get out and enjoy life. That is one of the things that is important to us … making the most of however long we have on this great big blue marble called Earth.

As the vacation went on,  we both had time to reflect on the things that we value … and also reflect on things that we might be willing to release once we got back from vacation.  So this blog is going to be about those observations … shared … for whatever they are worth.  One thing is for sure … just taking the time to think about what we value, and how we express that to others was an incredibly worthwhile process … so in no particular order here’s what we discovered.

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WE VALUE EACH OTHER

It is hard to fathom that we have been together for 16 years, but from the time we met, we knew we were soul mates.  Staying together for that long isn’t just by chance.  We truly value one another.  And to ensure we don’t take that for granted, each night before we go to bed, we say thank-yous.  We thank each other for a minimum of three things that were done earlier that day.  It doesn’t have to be something we did for each other, it can be a kindness extended to another person, taking time to call a friend, or simply taking out the garbage.  Doing this daily ritual, and saying it with meaning each night has helped us to communicate that we do truly value one another.

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FRIENDS ARE AN IMPORTANT PART OF OUR LIVES

During our trip we tried to connect with our friends in the places we visited.  The picture above is Pete and I with Mitch, one of Pete’s longest friendships.  We had the opportunity to do three meals with Mitch and his partner Sean, and we valued every second.  We also caught up with acting friends Janet and Wendy, life-long friends, Brian and Cori, theatre contacts and even a former co-worker of Pete’s.  We wanted to ensure we made some time for them.  In our daily lives, we do a lot of outreach through email trying to wish people a Happy Birthday or Happy Anniversary, sending good wishes on theatre openings (even when we can’t be there) and simply making time to share laughter.  It is amazing how a few minutes a day can keep friendships intact, make our friends feel valued and add value to our own lives.

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THE BEAUTIFUL GAL ON THE RIGHT IS MY NIECE … WE TRULY VALUE FAMILY

Although it can often be hard to keep up with family, we wanted to ensure that our trip included a visit to Ucluelet where my niece works at a hostel.  We spent a full day walking beaches, doing lunch and going whale watching … but most importantly … reconnecting.  Although we can’t always do this in person, we ensure we are in touch on special occasions, find excuses for yearly gatherings with family in our area and truly try to reach out.  We do regularly schedule phone calls to my folks and maintain contact with siblings around busy schedules by phone or email.   As the fall dawns, a personal project is to reach out to Aunts and Uncles who I haven’t seen in some time.  I need to show them that they are a valuable part of our lives.

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WE VALUE NATURE AND THE MANY WONDERS OF THIS WORLD

It’s no secret that we love to travel, but you don’t have to go far to find nature.  There are lots of parks and ravines to explore in Toronto, Calgary or any town you live in.  We love when friends post pictures of their trips or daily walks through parks in their home town.    On the west coast, there was so much on offer at every turn.  The picture above was taken at 9:30 in the morning as the mists slowly cleared from the rain forest which came right up to Half Moon Bay … a 30 minute hike in from a road in Ucluelet.  We were the only ones on the beach.  As the mist lifted, the beams of sunlight streamed through the old-growth trees creating an effect that truly made us appreciate the wonders of mother nature.  How do we value nature back?  By staying on the path, picking up any trash along the way that we see, and by taking pictures and sharing them to show others that in a troubled world, there are still many places filled with awe and beauty and peace.

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WE VALUE GOOD FOOD

When we take a vacation, it means that we have both worked really hard, budgeted out how much our trip is going to cost and made an effort to put that money in the bank before we travel.  This includes budgeting for meals out.  On Vancouver Island and Salt Spring Island, we stayed in many cottages and cabins with kitchen facilities (allowing us to cook instead of going out), which meant we could venture a few times to fancier places, such as this extraordinary breakfast at JAM in Vancouver.  There will be more on this meal in the upcoming travel blogs.  We also value moderation … so this fancy meal was balanced with less extravagant food.  And all of it was balanced by as much walking as we could possibly do each day.  And at the above restaurant … we tipped generously, and thanked the staff and let them know that their attention to detail with the meal was something that we valued.  Clearly others felt the same way.  By the time we left, there was a line-up around the block to get in.  The restaurant valued their customers, and in return they had built a booming business.

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WE VALUE UNIQUE EXPERIENCES SUCH AS THIS ZODIAC TOUR ON THE PACIFIC OCEAN

Be it hiking in the amazing old growth forests of Pacific Rim National Park, or taking an extraordinary zodiac adventure miles out into the ocean to visit seals, sea lions, otters and whales in their natural habitat, we challenge each other to try new things, seek out adventure, and learn from those experiences.  We value getting new perspectives that challenge our perception of our own limits.  Sometimes it is scary, but almost always … it is worthwhile.  We learned a new appreciation for the vastness of the ocean and the power of waves … even on calm seas.  We learned how small we are in the grand scheme of things.

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WE VALUE THE ARTS AND THE ARTISTS WE ARE PRIVILEGED TO WORK WITH

(Photo by Benjamin Laird Photography of Rennie Wilkinson and Guilly Urra in the Lunchbox Theatre production of Newfoundland Mary directed by Val Pearson with costumes by Marian Truscott, scenic design by Scott Reid and lighting design by Dave Smith)

We value the arts, the stories that are told through artistic mediums, and we truly try our very best to ensure that every artist that works on a project of ours is paid.  If we can’t pay them as much as we would wish, then we ensure they are valued through food, wine, flexible rehearsals and always … extending thanks and gratitude for bringing our work to life.  On our holiday we were able to reflect on the artistic highlights of the year, the above production being one of them.

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WE VALUE OUR FREEDOM TO MAKE CHOICES IN LIFE

This sculpture was embedded in a rock near the harbour in Victoria.  It shows a pair of hands holding onto a set of chains, rising out of the rock.  This sculpture stayed with me, but perhaps for reasons that might surprise you.  It made me think … what do I hold onto in my life that I believe I can’t let go of or I won’t survive? The answer that came back days later as I stared into the ocean surprised me.

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FINANCIAL SECURITY IS SOMETHING WE VALUE MORE AND MORE AS WE AGE

Pete will be retiring in four years.  He is fortunate to have a pension and I plan to continue working, but one thing that taking a big trip and budgeting forward makes clear … life is a series of choices when it comes to finances.  I have never been one to prioritize money over life experiences, but in the upcoming years the meditation on what I want brought about some revelations.  For the first time in some time I realized that I will really have to earn more money if we want to continue our present quality of life … and some of that will be achieved by simplifying or travelling a little less, but there were some revelations about my relationship to work and money and the arts.

The first revelation is that years of working as an artist have conditioned me to accept any and all work simply because when someone offers me work, it means they “like” me or approve of me. Seeking approval can be a slippery slope, because those who provide that approval sometimes inadvertently undervalue the work … because they know that you need it … at any cost.  Like those hands in that statue, one hangs on to whatever is available in order to financially survive.

 But upon reflection, some of those same employers have been paying me the same wage without an increase in over 10 years.  Unfortunately, costs in Toronto have continued to increase.  This year, looking back at my work, there were projects that I felt happy to do for less money … because I felt valued and I felt the work had value.  But there were other jobs that brought neither joy nor much income.  In fact … by taking many smaller jobs, I was less focused, my energies were scattered, and often the result was earning less money than I could have if I focused on marketing my own work, or taking on a more permanent job for a period of time with a stable income.  On this trip, it became clear that I have to let go of some of the things I have done simply because I am accustomed to doing them, and start prioritizing projects that value me through increased payment, or give me nourishment through the work itself. Which leads me to the last item.

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IT IS IMPORTANT TO VALUE YOURSELF

Every year, we try and assess where we can give the greatest value in life to others, and determine what we need in terms of financial value from those that employ us, but the most important thing to remember is simply that it is hard for us to be valued if we don’t value ourselves.  So this past holiday we took time to reflect on our goals, our dreams, and determine areas of our lives where we didn’t feel valued (either through our own inability to express that need, or simply because … we weren’t valued and were too scared to express our needs).

So this fall, I am making a list of areas where I feel valued, and areas where I feel undervalued.  In those areas where I feel valued, I will ensure that I express gratitude and let people know I feel valued.  In those areas where I feel undervalued, I will express that and determine if the cause of my devaluation is my own perception, if there is something that I want that I can get through communicating my need to feel more valued, or if it is simply time to let go.  There will be a transition into new work, retaining some work with previous clients, and possibly moving on from work that I have held on to for too many years.  I suppose one should do this every year, like a fall house cleaning.

So our challenge to you?

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Take a few hours sometime this month, and sit down and look at the things in life that you value.  Take some time to examine how you express your gratitude for the times where the things you value are present in your life.  But also take some time to identify where your life is filled with things that you don’t value or areas where you feel undervalued.  Are there things you can let go of?  If you feel undervalued, can you determine why and express that to those who don’t value you?  And if you still feel undervalued, do you have the strength to let go, value yourself and make a list of the things that you really WANT and start figuring out the steps to getting them in your life?  For us, the key to having the fullest life is knowing what we value, and taking action to ensure that we keep those things at the forefront of our lives.

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WE VALUE YOU!

  I have left one final thing of great value to the end of the blog.  We value YOU for taking time to read or skim these blogs.  Thanks for reading.  I love to write, and your interest gives me a great reason to continue blogging.  I hope that these blogs bring you joy, information, food for thought and a chance to go on our adventures with us.  We love to share in the things we have seen.

In the upcoming posts, we’ll be sharing our travel adventures in greater detail.  Be prepared for lots of food, friends, family, nature and adventure.

Until next time … warmest regards

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Fenton & White

 

Fenton & White Prepare For Fall Fun

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FALL IS IN THE AIR

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August was a busy month.  Scott finished off the Sunday Serenades series, completed work with Theatre Direct, did a week of filming on a training video for Ryerson University and worked on several small projects for the Standardized Patient Program at The University of Toronto. Pete continued work on the data base for the collections in his section at the Royal Ontario Museum, did more writing on our comedy Some Kind of Happy and when I wasn’t available, began work on a new story called Macaron about a cat who gets caught up in a kidnapping caper when his owner goes missing from a Parisian cafe.

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THE ARRIVAL OF THE CANADIAN NATIONAL EXHIBITION IS A SURE SIGN OF FALL

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All work and no play is … simply no fun at all.  To celebrate the end of summer, Fenton & White took a trip to the CNE taking in a number of amazing sights.  If you are in Toronto, the Ex runs until Monday and you can get all the details of programming here.  Here’s a few of the things we saw.

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THESE PERFORMERS ON THE TRAMPOWALL SEEMED TO DEFY GRAVITY

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BUTTER SCULPTURES ARE A TRADITION AT THE EX

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FENTON AND WHITE VISIT WITH MAX STUSSI (A FELLOW STANDARDIZED PATIENT) WHO IS ALSO FEATURED IN THE RUSH PARKOUR SHOW AT THE EX.

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If you have never seen parkour, check out this video posted on YouTube by Stephanie Emma.  These fellas are fearless.

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Ex Day August 2017 089 COOL LASER LIGHT SHOWS ARE PART OF THE ENTERTAINMENT ON THE MIDWAY

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AND NO VISIT TO THE EX IS COMPLETE WITHOUT A WAFFLE ICE CREAM SANDWICH

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AND MIDWAY FAVOURITE … TINY TOM DONUTS

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But life can’t all be about strolling the midway and eating carnival food.  As you well know, Fenton & White’s passion is the arts, and as the fall approaches we are excited to talk about the upcoming work of a few of our friends … starting with this book that was just released last week.

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Stan's Book

STAN ROGAL’S NEW BOOK THERE GOES THE NEIGHBOURHOOD IS DARK AND FUNNY

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Pete and I had the opportunity to attend the book launch for a collection of short stories written by our friend Stan Rogal.  The book is published by Calgary publisher Frontenac House and we were looking forward to hear Stan read from this … his 21st book. He is an accomplished playwright, novelist and poet.  To read more about the book and find out where to pick up your copy, click here.

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Fenton & White do a book launch

PETE AND SCOTT GET THEIR COPY OF THE BOOK SIGNED BY STAN ROGAL

(Photo by Jacquie Jacobs)

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Stephen Law's book

STEPHEN LAW’S NEWEST NOVEL WILL BE RELEASED IN HALIFAX ON SEPTEMBER 14th

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Another book that we are very excited about is the latest novel by Stephen Law called Under Her Skin.  Stephen’s last book (Tailings Of Warren Peace) was an intriguing read and his latest work promises to be equally compelling.  The book will be officially launched at the Halifax North End Library at 7 PM on September 14th.  To read a description of this novel published by Fernwood Publishing, click here.  After the book is launched, you will be able to order it online and Stephen may be coming to a city near you.  He is truly a fantastic writer. What better way to enjoy fall then to curl up with a good book?

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TIFF

FALL ALSO MEANS THAT IT IS TIME FOR THE TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

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The Toronto International Film Festival starts next week and Scott will be returning to the festival as part of the venues team.  If you attend the festival, you may encounter him prior to a screening at the Princess of Wales Theatre.  This year is chock full of celebrities and a few of the incredible names going through the doors of our theatre will include Ed Harris, Dame Judi Dench and even Lady Gaga is getting into the action with a new documentary at the festival. She will be doing a mini-concert as part of the screening.  Needless to say …. it is going to be an insanely busy time.  As staff, I won’t be taking pictures, but you can follow coverage of the festival in the daily news and if you love celebrity … here’s a full list of the celebrities represented at the festival in film, or in person.

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SOME OF THE MOST EXCITING FILMS FEATURE CANADIAN STARS SUCH AS SHEILA MCCARTHY

(Image from the TIFF Film Website)

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When we aren’t at work, Pete and I plan to take in a few of the amazing films being screened.  We always prioritize films that are unique, films that may get limited distribution, or films that are Canadian and have friends or colleagues in them.  One of the films that hit our must-see list included Cardinals starring Sheila McCarthy.  For a description of this compelling film click here.

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DON’T TALK TO IRENE … ANOTHER INTRIGUING CANADIAN FILM

(Image from the TIFF film website)

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Don’t Talk To Irene is also very much on our must-see list.  Here is a description written by Magali Simard in the TIFF program book.

When Irene gets suspended and is forced to do community service at a retirement home — run by discipline freak Barrett (Scott Thompson) — alongside her bullies and her new friend, Tesh (a gender non-conforming, glitzy dreamer), an opportunity arises. If she can’t be a high-school cheerleader, maybe she can turn her new-found circle of elderly friends into an unlikely dance troupe. This is an empowering comedy about acceptance on your own terms.

And why is this film a priority other than it’s quirky subject matter?  Well, because a fantastic fellow Standardized Patient, Linda Goranson, happens to be in the cast and will be at the first screening.  We love to see our friends succeed … and best of all … she plays a dancer.  We can’t wait to watch the film and cheer her on.  If you want to cheer on your favourite stars while seeing a movie, go to http://www.tiff.net/tickets/.  Individual tickets go on sale on September 4th.

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Tofino

AFTER TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL … A BREAK.

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Pete and I traditionally take a break in the fall and we had looked at a variety of destinations.  This year … the west coast of Canada won out with a trip that will include visits with friends in Vancouver, time in Victoria, wine tours on Salt Spring Island and hiking in the Tofino/Ucluelet area  on the west coast of Vancouver Island (pictured above).  We promise to take lots of pictures and share our journey with you in the travel blogs after we get back.

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THE KINCARDINE THEATRE GUILD GETS READY TO REHEARSE THE GIANT’S GARDEN

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While we are taking a break … others will be working to put one of our shows up on the stage.  We want to wish the cast, crew and creative team of The Kincardine Theatre Guild all the best as they start rehearsals on September 5th for their production of our family musical The Giant’s Garden. The show opens Friday November 16th. We love the above postcard, one of several created by Andrew O. French on the Kincardine Theatre Guild Facebook page.  If you want to see the countdown to the upcoming production, click here.  For more information on the Kincardine production and purchasing tickets, click tickets.

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We hope that you have a fantastic fall and wherever you are, we hope that you find out what artists in your area are up to.  There are so many people creating so many wonderful things.  Until next time, we send our best regards.

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FENTON & WHITE (WELL, OKAY … WHITE AND FENTON)

Fenton & White Go East Part 2

On our second day in Montreal we started with a  morning jacuzzi in that big tub in our room, then made our way down to the restaurant for our free hot breakfast.  Our train to Halifax didn’t leave until early in the evening and we didn’t want to carry our bags around all day.  Fortunately, the hotel offered a free luggage storage service so we checked out and left our bags behind.  The plan was to meet up with Kevin, wander the streets, eat good food and check out the some of the local sights.

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OLD MONTREAL IS FILLED WITH CHARM

Walking around Old Montreal brought back a lot of memories.  We went past Club Soda where I had played the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival over 20 years ago as a side man with a sketch troupe called Skippy’s Rangers.

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WALKING PAST VENUES FROM 20 YEARS PAST BROUGHT BACK GOOD MEMORIES

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ENROUTE TO THE MUSEUM, WE TRAVELED THROUGH THE UNDERGROUND TUNNELS THAT PROTECT RESIDENTS FROM THE CHILL IN THE WINTER.  THIS IS THE DESJARDINS CENTRE … A SHOPPING COMPLEX AND BUSINESS TOWER.

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KEVIN OLSON WAS OUR GUIDE TO MONTREAL FOR THE DAY … HE’S ALSO A GREAT STAGE MANAGER

We made our way to the  Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art., where we met Kevin and explored a range of truly thought provoking exhibits over the course of a few hours. It is hard to encapsulate all that we saw, but below are a few compelling images.  Some of the most powerful work was by Teresa Margolles whose work focuses on border towns in Mexico where the promise of a better life has slowly eroded due to crime and corrupt government.  During the present political tensions between the U.S. and Mexico, the installations were particularly powerful.

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THE MATERIALS FOR THIS PIECE ARE MADE UP OF THE THE HOME OF A RESIDENT IN A SMALL TOWN

The installation above is called The Promise and is made up of materials from a house that was knocked down in a town called Ciadad Juarez.  Once filled with hope and promise,  the town ultimately has become a place where there is violence and corruption.  The materials for the exhibit are transported to each museum, mixed with water and compressed into a long rectangular block.  Each day for one hour, a team of people come and slowly scrape away at the block, spreading the debris to indicate the diminishing lives of the residents and the broken promises of a solid life by the government.  By the end of the run of this exhibit, the block will be gone and the room will be strewn with pebbles and rubble.

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THE THEME OF MANY OF THE WORKS BY OTHER ARTISTS WAS SOCIETY IN TIMES OF WAR

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PETE EXPLORES THE CONTENTS OF GLOWING BARRELS FILLED WITH WATER

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THE GLOW IS CAUSED BY VIDEO IMAGES IN BLACK AND WHITE OF PEOPLE SLEEPING

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WHEN SEEN UNDERWATER … IT IS A DISTURBING JUXTAPOSITION

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SURREAL SCULPTURES MAKE UP A PORTION OF THE EXHIBITS

After looking at the art for a few hours, it was time to go and get some food.  Kevin took us on a walking tour of his favourite neighbourhoods in Montreal and we wound up at The Main, a favoured deli for smoked meat sandwiches.  Frome there we moved  onward to a fine coffee shop and then to a bakery for Portugese tarts.

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PORTUGESE TARTS ARE FILLED WITH A RICH CUSTARD.  A DELICIOUS TREAT

We had walked almost to the base of Mount Royal by this time.  It was mid-afternoon, and we started our walk back towards the hotel, but we had one final stop before picking up our luggage and bidding Kevin farewell.

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MARY QUEEN OF THE WORLD IS A SPECTACULAR CATHEDRAL IN MONTREAL

On previous trips, we had been to see Notre Dame Cathedral, but we found another Cathedral that is much quieter, a little less known, and in our opinion, equally beautiful.  Instead of the hues of blue that Notre Dame is known for, Mary Queen Of The World Cathedral is painted in a light green shade.  It is immense.  Walking around the space is a humbling reminder that in Quebec, the Catholic faith is still going strong.  We were told that on Sundays, the church is full every week.  Visiting on a weekday, it was a peaceful respite from the chilly outside where one could sit and reflect in silence.

We finished our visit, made our way back to our hotel, bid Kevin goodbye and made our way to the train station.  It was time to start our journey to Halifax.

 Tomorrow … riding the rails through a snowy night.

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FENTON & WHITE

 

Fenton & White Go East Part 1

This blog has been slightly delayed because of a very busy schedule.   Over the next few days I’ll try and get out some photos from our East Coast adventure.  I’ve added links (underlined in blue) so you can find out more about the places we’ve been and the places we are going. The focus over the upcoming weeks will be putting up our show Newfoundland Mary in Calgary at Lunchbox Theatre .  Until then, here is a snapshot of our trip from Toronto to Halifax on the train.  The trip was taken in two parts.  On Tuesday March 21st we headed to Montreal to visit friends and take in a theatre festival.  It is a pleasant 5 hour trip.

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EVERY FENTON & WHITE JOURNEY BEGINS WITH A COFFEE

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THE SUN SHONE BRIGHTLY AS WE PULLED AWAY FROM UNION STATION IN TORONTO AT 9 AM

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AS WE HEADED OUT OF TORONTO, WE CROSSED THE DON RIVER AND WAVED FAREWELL TO OUR CONDO WHICH  IS VISIBLE IN THE DISTANCE

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WITHIN A SHORT TIME, GORGEOUS VIEWS OF LAKE ONTARIO OPEN UP ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF THE TRAIN.

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ON THE NORTH SIDE OF THE TRAIN THE SCENERY IS GENTLY ROLLING FARM LAND

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WE TRAVELED ECONOMY ON THIS LEG OF THE JOURNEY AND AT THE HALF-WAY MARK, ORDERED A BOXED LUNCH WHICH WAS VERY TASTY.

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AT AROUND 2:30 IN THE AFTERNOON WE CROSSED THE ST. LAURENCE RIVER AND PULLED INTO MONTREAL

I know a lot of people use bargain sites, such as Trivago to shop and compare, but we have still found cheaper rates on Hotwire at the last minute.  In order to get the best deal, you choose an area of the city you are visiting and a star rating.  The name of the hotel is blocked until after you book, and you have to pre-pay your reservation.  Using this method, we got a four star room a 10 minute walk from the train station and a 2 minute walk from Old Montreal for $127 Canadian.  This rate included all taxes and a hot breakfast in the morning.  We wound up staying at the Embassy Suites, and it was a terrific deal.  Below are a few shots of the suite.

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THE KITCHEN WAS LARGE WITH A NICE CALIFORNIA BAR

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THE LIVING ROOM HAD A LARGE TV, A NICE DESK AND ENOUGH ROOM TO ENTERTAIN

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POCKET DOORS ON THE BEDROOM AREA ALLOWED YOU TO CLOSE OFF THE BEDROOM IF YOU HAVE COMPANY OVER

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THE BATHROOM HAD A JACUZZI TUB WITH A STAND-UP SHOWER IN THE CORNER

Our evening plans were to go for dinner, meet up with my stage manager from the Becoming Carol tour (Kevin Olson) and then go and see the play Jabber as part of the Geordie Theatre Festival.  We wound up at the Le Saint-Bock microbrewery at 1749 St. Denis Street. If you click the link above, you will see the beer menu.  We tried a fine cognac beer with a marshmallow in it.  And the food was pretty spectacular too.  I was recommended to a variation on poutine that had fries and curds, but was dressed with meats and peppers and a light gravy.  It was tasty.

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A TASTY VARIATION ON POUTINE AT LE SAINT BOCK

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THEN IT WAS ON TO SEE THE SHOW … WHICH WAS TRULY FANTASTIC

After the show, we had time to catch up with Haylee Tucker our former assistant stage manager from our show Bemused which played Theatre Northwest a few years ago.  She is studying at the National Theatre School right now.   And then it was off to bed.

Tomorrow … exploring Montreal’s museums, food and culture.

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FENTON & WHITE GIVE THEIR FIRST DAY IN MONTREAL A THUMBS UP

 

Au revoir Arras

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LOOKING OUT AT THE PLATFORMS OF GARE DU NORD

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The final day of our trip was another journey out of town. We were heading to Arras, a town approximately 180 kilometres north of Paris.  We walked to Gare du Nord train station and got ourselves some breakfast, before boarding the high speed train which would put us in Arras just over one hour later. From there, we took a cab to Vimy Ridge (as seen in our Remembrance Day blog on November 11th).

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THE TOWN OF ARRAS HAS A CHARMING CENTRAL SQUARE THAT IS OFTEN FILLED WITH VENDOR STALLS

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I will skip past our trip to Vimy Ridge as it is covered already,  and pick up after we were driven back into town at a little after 1 in the afternoon.  The morning markets were just clearing away so we decided to find a place to eat.  We settled on a restaurant off the main square that offered mulled apple cider and a galette … a buckwheat crepe with a filling.  We chose one that included ham, emmental cheese and an egg on top.

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A GALETTE IS A TASTY BUCKWHEAT CREPE

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SAUNTERING AROUND THE TOWN OF ARRAS WE DISCOVERED MANY LOVELY BUILDINGS

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Arras is popular with tourists due to the wonderful architecture, the medieval caves that honeycomb the chalk foundations below the streets, and its history connected to being close to the front in World War I.

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THE TOWN HALL NOW ACTS AS THE INFORMATION CENTRE

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We made our way to the information centre and discovered that we could do a tour of the chalk caves beneath the streets, climb the bell tower, or take other tours of the war monuments and graveyards in the vicinity.  We only had a few hours, so we started by taking the elevator to the top of the bell tower and climbed the 40 stairs (on a wobbly spiral staircase that involved looking straight down to get your footing) to the outer viewing platform.

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THERE IS A NICE VIEW FROM THE TOP OF THE ARRAS BELL TOWER

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By chance, we ran into a stage manager I had worked with, and we climbed the tower together.  The picture below is Virginia and I expressing delight and surprise at our chance meeting.

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COLLEAGUES REUNITE 6000 MILES AWAY FROM TORONTO

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After climbing back down those 40 stairs, (even scarier on the way down) and then taking the elevator to the ground floor, we explored the various exhibits, including these grand puppets which are used in summer and winter festivities.  They were very, very tall!

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SCOTT CAN’T BELIEVE HOW BIG THESE PUPPETS ARE!

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We booked a tour of the Wellington Quarry, which is an area of the tunnels where the New Zealand Army Corp made a name for itself digging through the chalk at record speeds to help the British secure Arras during World War 1.  The quarry dates back many hundreds of years earlier, when it was mined for the chalk.  These caves provided the starting point for the allied forces to tunnel in under the enemy front lines during World War I, and were used for bomb shelters in World War II.  The streets beneath Arras are pocketed with caves.

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THIS MEMORIAL WALL BESIDE THE WELLINGTON QUARRIES IS INSCRIBED WITH THE NAMES OF LOCALS WHO LOST THEIR LIVES IN THE WAR

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PETE LOOKS AT THE VARIOUS EXHIBITS INCLUDING SHELLS AND MORTARS.  THE CANADIAN FLAG FLIES ALONG WITH OTHER FLAGS OF NATIONS THAT FOUGHT IN WORLD WAR I IN ARRAS

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THIS EXHIBIT SHOWED WHAT A FRENCH SOLDIER WOULD BE GIVEN AT THE START OF A YEAR INCLUDING A PISTOL, THERMAL GLOVES AND A GAS MASK

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IN ORDER TO ENTER THE CAVES YOU MUST WEAR A HELMET TO AVOID BUMPING YOUR HEAD AND AVOIDING DRIPS FROM THE ROOF.  THE YELLOW DEVICE AROUND PETE’S NECK CONNECTS TO THE HEADSET FOR THE AUDIO FOR THE TOUR.

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The tour of the Wellington Quarries was fascinating.  A bilingual guide took us 60 feet underground in an elevator, and then led us from cave to cave along a dimly lit boardwalk on a 1 kilometre round-trip journey.  At various points along the route, the headset you are wearing has a GPS and connects into audio that matches video screens that have been mounted into the caves and show film clips depicting the lives of the soldiers during the war.

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THE GREEN GLOW ON THE CHESTS OF THESE VISITORS MEANS THEY ARE WITHIN RECEIVING RANGE OF THE NEXT AUDIO SECTION OF THE TOUR.  WHEN IT IS RED, YOU MUST MOVE CLOSER TO THE GUIDE UNTIL IT TURNS GREEN AND THEN YOU CAN HEAR HER (OR THE AUDIO FOR THE VIDEOS) CLEARLY

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THESE MARKINGS HELPED TO ENSURE THE SOLDIERS DIDN’T GET LOST IN THE MAZE OF CAVES AND TUNNELS

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THE CAVES EXTEND MANY MILES

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THESE DRAWINGS (DONE BY SOLDIERS TO PASS THE TIME), HAVE BEEN PROTECTED WITH MESH.  THEY ARE MODERN CAVE DRAWINGS

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AT VARIOUS POINTS IN THE TOUR, VIDEO SCREENS COME TO LIFE WITH HISTORICAL INFORMATION ON THE SOLDIERS’ LIVES AND THE WAR

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OUR GUIDE EXPLAINS HOW THE WATER SYSTEM IN THE CAVES WORKED.  THE SQUARE PANEL ABOVE IS A MIRROR THAT IS REFLECTING THE DEEP (AND VERY COLD) POOL OF WATER BENEATH IT.

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EXIT TEN WAS AN IMPORTANT ROUTE TO THE SURFACE WHERE SOLDIERS WOULD LEAVE THE TUNNELS TO FIGHT …  MANY LOSING THEIR LIVES

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The tour of the quarries took about 45 minutes in total.  It was fascinating and was very reasonably priced at 6.90 Euros.  After we surfaced, we walked back to the town and wandered the streets.  In the winter months, Arras would look lovely with the narrow streets lit up with lights above and the shop windows filled with displays.

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SHOPPING IS A GREAT WAY TO SPEND SOME TIME IN ARRAS

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We caught a late afternoon train back to Paris and made our way back to our hotel.  We would be packing tonight, and tomorrow flying back to Toronto.  It all seemed like it had been an amazing dream.

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WE ARRIVED BACK IN PARIS AROUND 7:10 PM

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We finished our trip off with a visit to a Montmartre restaurant called Autour de Midi et Minuit, where we had a french meal drenched in butter with some lovely white wine, and ended with a fine apple dessert with the slices arranged in a gorgeous flower pattern with cinnamon and … more butter.  And then we headed downstairs to hear a jam session featuring a jazz player that Pete’s cousin knew of.  His name is Olivier Lancelot … a terrific stride piano player.  The evening was a loose jam session featuring local musicians, and the location was perfect for jazz … a basement room called … the cave 

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OUR TRIP FINISHED WITH A LITTLE JAZZ IN THE CAVE AT AUTOUR DE MIDI ET MINUIT

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Then, it was time to go home and rest.  We left Toronto on the night of Monday October 3rd and flew home mid-afternoon on the 13th of October.  We had traveled over 6000 kilometres by plane and visited the iconic sites of Paris, taken trips to Arras and Vimy Ridge, Versailles and Mont-Saint-Michel, as well as sampling the fine cuisine of too many french restaurants to name.  It was truly a trip of a lifetime.  On the morning of the 13th, we checked out of our room and waited for our shuttle to take us to the airport.  It was time to bid Paris a fond farewell.

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FENTON & WHITE WAIT FOR THE SHUTTLE TO TAKE THEM TO THE AIRPORT

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We hope you have enjoyed coming along with us on our trip as an armchair traveler.  If you have questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you.  Our next travels will be connected to work in Calgary in the spring of 2017.    Wherever you are reading this blog, may it inspire you to make the most of life, to travel, and to learn about other cultures.  Until next time (which will be our monthly arts blog), we bid you a fond au revoir.

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Fenton & White

 

 

Climbing The Eiffel Tower

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CLIMBING THE EIFFEL TOWER IS FUN AND THE VIEWS ARE SPECTACULAR

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The Eiffel Tower was constructed between 1887 and 1889 as the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris.  It is not the tallest tower in the world, but at 324 metres it still makes an impression.  And of course, this tower is unique, made up of wrought iron lattice work that lets the breeze blow through without making the tower sway … well, not too much.   It is a wonder of engineering.

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SECURITY IS TIGHT AROUND THE EIFFEL TOWER

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When you arrive, you must go through metal detectors and a security screening to access the area beneath the tower.  Bags are searched and put through X-ray scanners.  These line-ups can take some time to navigate, although on a Tuesday afternoon in October the crowds were small and we were through security fairly quickly.

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LINE-UPS CAN STRETCH FOR A LONG WAYS IF YOU DON’T PLAN AHEAD

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During peak months in the summer, it is strongly advised that you go to the website and reserve your tickets in advance at  http://www.toureiffel.paris/en.html . This will help you get through security faster and avoid lining up for hours to get to the top.  Another way to skip the lines is to make a reservation at one of the restaurants, which have their own elevators to take you to the first and second level of the tower.  The prices for these restaurants are nearly as high as the tower itself, but if you are willing to spend more, you can get a truly unique experience.

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THE EIFFEL TOWER HAS THREE MAIN LEVELS FOR TOURISTS.   THIS IS THE VIEW LOOKING UP FROM THE SECOND LEVEL TO THE TOP

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There are three levels to the tower.  The first and second level can be accessed either by climbing the stairs (which is a cheaper option, and very interesting to do), or by an elevator that is on a rail … in essence, a very steep funicular.

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THE LOWER ELEVATOR TO THE FIRST AND SECOND LEVEL GOES UP AT AN ANGLE

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The lower elevators each ride up one of the legs of the tower at a bit of an angle.  The carriage of the elevator is angled so that the patrons inside stay level.  Both the first and second levels are included in one admission ticket.  If you look at the top picture of this blog, you will see level one is just above the first arch and level two is where the base meets the upper tower.

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WE CHOSE TO CLIMB THE STAIRS

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The climb from the ground to the first and second level of the Eiffel tower has many advantages. It is slightly cheaper.  There is hardly any line-up at all, so you can get up the tower faster.  You are not crammed into a tightly packed elevator with a lot of other people.  But most importantly, it gives you a greater sense of how the tower was built.  The section from the ground to the first level takes around 15 minutes and keeps you fairly central in the legs of the tower. The stairs are caged in for safety.

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PETE APPROACHES THE TOP OF ONE OF THE SETS OF STAIRS WHILE CLIMBING THE EIFFEL TOWER

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LOOKING DOWN AS WE CLIMB THE LOWER PART OF THE EIFFEL TOWER

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WHEN YOU REACH THE FIRST LEVEL, LOVELY VIEWS OPEN UP

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The first floor features a restaurant, and shops around the perimeter, but the first and second levels don’t have a floor that stretches all the way across.  The centre of the tower has a huge rectangular hole.

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LOOKING UP AT THE FIRST LEVEL, THE INNER PART OF THE TOWER IS AN OPEN SPACE.  IN THE WINTER, THEY COVER THIS SPACE WITH A SKATING RINK

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 The first level also has a glass floor that sneaks out in curved sections on the perimeter of the hole in the centre.  I didn’t have the nerve to stand on it, but Pete did.  He said he was fine, as long as he didn’t look down.

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PETE STANDS ON THE GLASS FLOOR ON THE FIRST LEVEL.

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We still had more stairs to climb.  The total climb from the ground to the second level is 704 stairs.

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THIS WAY TO LEVEL TWO

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THE STAIRS BETWEEN THE FIRST AND SECOND LEVEL TAKE YOU HIGHER UP AND CLOSER TO THE EDGE OF THE TOWER

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AND THE VIEWS GET EVEN BETTER

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So is it worth it to go to the very top?  Well, if you have paid to walk up the stairs of the tower, your ticket only covers the cost of going to the 2nd level.  People who choose to ride the elevator can also buy a cheaper ticket to ride only to the 2nd level.  If you want to go to the very top,  you either purchase a ticket that includes all three levels at the base … or, you wait and see how crowded the lines are and pay an extra 6 euros to go to the top when you get to the second level. The combined cost of walking up to the second level and the elevator to the top was still cheaper than the combined ticket to take the two sets of elevators from the base to the very top.  Many tourists only go to the 2nd level. We decided to get as high as we could.

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GOING UP THE ELEVATORS TO THE TOP IS AN ADRENALINE RUSH

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The upper elevators are square boxes with sliding doors on two sides for entry and exit.  They fit about 20 people each and go straight up the centre of the tower.  As you climb, there is less and less of the grid work of the tower around you, and more open space … and the elevators have glass walls.  The top of the ride only puts you 906 feet above the ground, but when you are in those elevators being lifted by a single cable above you … well,   it is  exciting.

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AS YOU RIDE THE ELEVATOR, THERE ISN’T MUCH METAL BESIDE YOU ANYMORE

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THERE’S ALWAYS CHAMPAGNE AT THE TOP TO TAKE THE EDGE OFF AFTER YOUR RIDE TO THE TOP

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For those wanting a drink at the top, small glasses of champagne can be purchased for 13 euros.

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THIS SIGN COMPARES TOWERS AROUND THE WORLD … THERE’S TORONTO’S CN TOWER OVER 6000 KILOMETRES AWAY

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THE VIEWS FROM THE TOP ARE MAGNIFICENT

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GUSTAV EIFFEL ACTUALLY HAD AN APARTMENT AT THE TOP OF THE TOWER.  THIS EXHIBIT SHOWS A MEETING WITH THOMAS EDISON THAT WAS REPORTED TO HAVE TAKEN PLACE IN 1889 IN THE STUDY.  HOW AMAZING WOULD IT BE TO LIVE AT THE TOP OF THE TOWER?

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TIME TO DESCEND BACK TO EARTH

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After spending 20 minutes at the top both on the inside and outside, we made our way back to the central elevators and rode down to level 2.  Passage on the elevators going down is free, even if you only paid the rate to climb the stairs, so we rode the funicular style elevators all the way down to the ground.  The Eiffel tower is grand to look at from afar, but it is amazing to walk up, and even more exciting to take that ride up to the top.

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Tomorrow … our final adventures in France … the town of Arras

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Fenton & White