Fenton & White Follow Their Compulsion

June and July are occupied with putting up Scott’s latest show COMPULSION as part of the 30th anniversary of The Toronto Fringe Festival.  Rehearsals, scoring of music charts and technical planning are all a part of getting a musical in front of an audience.  Follow our adventures as we give you a look inside the process of taking a show from the page to the stage.

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COMPULSION STARTED REHEARSALS AT THE BEGINNING OF JUNE WITH A GATHERING OF THE CAST

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Auditions for COMPULSION were held in late March and we assembled an amazing team of artists.  In the weeks leading up to the rehearsal period, the cast were sent scripts and scores and Scott met individually with each cast member to work through the music.  On Monday June 4th the cast met for the first time, shared a meal, and read through the script out loud.  Over the following two weeks scenes in the show were examined by the cast and lines were tweaked, pared and honed during script meetings to make the writing sound natural in the voice of the characters.

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Viv Moore

OUR SET IS COMPRISED OF CUSTOMIZED ROLLING CHAIRS

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On June 12th, the cast assembled at the rehearsal hall to begin working with our rolling set.  Movement Director Viv Moore did a workshop on movement styles in character and began building the vocabulary of movement that would be used for scene transitions and key moments in the show.

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Directors at work

STAGE MANAGER DEBBIE READ AND SCOTT WATCH THE STAGING REHEARSALS

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The script was broken into 51 small units that connected to planned lighting cues, transitions from scene to scene and particular parts of the play that involve stylized movement.  Each unit was plotted on a scale diagram of the stage including where and when characters moved, what set pieces had to be in which locations and how the set and cast would move to create smooth transitions from scene to scene.  Although COMPULSION doesn’t have dance numbers, it has highly stylized areas that involve carefully choreographed movement.  We spent three rehearsals exclusively on creating the staging for the show.

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Rehearsal

KRISTI WOODS, MICHELLE NASH AND DALE MILLER WORK ON A SCENE FROM COMPULSION

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As the shape of the show came into focus, the actors began to work the scenes, playing with different intentions, playing scenes with more warmth or more anger and finding the tone of COMPULSION.  This part of the process was done with script in hand.  In the link below, Michelle Nash works a moment of song for intention.  To see the video, click  here.

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Compulsion rehearsal

WE REHEARSED IN A SPACE APPROXIMATELY THE SIZE OF THE STAGE WE WILL WORK ON

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As rehearsals progressed, the actors dropped their scripts and started working away from the page.  At this point, eye contact increases, physical movement comes into sharp focus and the story begins to feel more like a show.

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Dale Miller

DALE MILLER SHARES HIS STUNNING VOCAL AND ACTING TALENTS IN COMPULSION

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Promotion of the show involves providing samples of the music.  Here is a beautiful recording of artist Dale Miller singing a song called STUCK IN THE MIDDLE from COMPULSION.  It is a song that is angering, tragic and touching.  To listen to the song, click here.

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Matthew Bradley in Compulsion

MATTHEW BRADLEY PLAYS A MAN WHO WINDS UP WITH BLOOD ON HIS HANDS

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Some of the promotion work focused on the darker elements of the show, such as the above photo of Matthew Bradley who plays a man who makes a bad decision with huge consequences.

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WE ASKED OUR TEAM WHAT THEIR COMPULSION WAS.  ASIDE FROM THEATRE, PETE’S COMPULSION IS TRAVEL.

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CAST MEMBER SARA STAHMER CONFESSES TO A COMPULSION TO SHOP AT THRIFT STORES

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We also did some lighter promotion as cast members admitted to their personal compulsions.  Each cast and creative team member had a picture taken with the official hat of the show, imbibing in their compulsive behavior.

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So how will it all turn out?  Well, the rehearsals are done.  We move into the theatre tomorrow.  We have a beautiful three piece band including piano, cello and cajon.  The cast sound marvelous.  The show flows well.  And soon we will add lights and sound effects and on Wednesday we open.   We are lucky as our first performance is at 8:15 PM on the opening night of the festival. Want to find out more about the show?  Visit our website  here to link to cast bios, music samples, press coverage and video trailers for our show.*

And if you want tickets, go to tickets for COMPULSION

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Ashley 2

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Although our primary focus has been COMPULSION, Scott is also doing another show at The Toronto Fringe.  This show is completely unscripted.  Ashley Botting from CBC’s BECAUSE NEWS will be improvising a 45 minute cabaret, and Scott will be making up the music to go along with it.  If you are curious to find out more, click here.

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Before we go, we’d like to shout out to a whole bunch of friends who are putting up their own shows at the Toronto Fringe this year.  We recommend checking out The Princess Of The Tower, The Ding Dong Girls, Judas Star Supersong, Andy Warhol – A Musical In Rehearsal, The Preposterous Predicament of Polly Peel, The Last Party, Bring The Piano and Lighters In The Air.  All of these shows are musicals and should be a great deal of fun.  To find out how to get tickets for the Fringe, click here.

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Here’s a wish that you have a fantastic July and that it involves taking in the work of talented artists who pour their hearts and souls into making theatre.  Compulsively …

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Fenton & White Jump Into June

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A SENSE OF FUN AND ADVENTURE WILL GET US THROUGH A BUSY MONTH

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It seems like a very short time since our last blog, but five weeks have gone by.  Here’s what we’ve been up to, and here’s what is coming up in the world of Fenton & White.  Join us on our adventures.

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Mother of All Mother's Comedy Show.

THE FANTASTIC TALENT AT THE MOTHER OF ALL MOTHER’S DAY COMEDY SHOW

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The day before Mother’s Day, a whole bunch of talented female comediennes showed up at the John Candy Box Theatre to raise money for Sistering Org. The roster included Debra McGrath, Monica Parker, Judy Croon, Linda Kash, Dawn Whitwell, Moira Dunphy, Laurel Brady, Cathy Cleary, Deborah Jarvis, Deborah Kimmett (her son Brendan is also in the picture above for his part in the opening segment of the show) … and me …. I’m the bald one with the glasses leaning in on the right.  The sold-out show was filled with amazing comedy, stories and wise obeservations.  The event raised close to $1000 for the charity.  Now that’s a way to celebrate Mother’s Day.

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GETTING READY TO PRESENT NEW WORK FOR AN AUDIENCE

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On May 19th, Pete and I flew out to Calgary to take part in the Suncor Stage One Festival Of New Canadian Work  at Lunchbox Theatre.  We had the chance to work with a fantastic dramaturg (Shari Wattling) who helped us over the week of rehearsals and rewrites to shape the one act version of our show The Happiness Equation.  On Friday May 25th the acting company (made up of Duval Lang, Valerie Ann Pearson, Andy Curtis and Katherine Fadum) read the revised script in front of an audience of about 45 people.  The response was very positive.  Later in June, Pete and I will do some further tweaks to the script and send it back to Lunchbox Theatre for consideration for their 2019/20 season. Thanks to artistic director Samantha MacDonald for making this opportunity possible.

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THE MOUNTAINS BECKONED

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All work and no play makes for a dull trip.  We had a brief opportunity to visit with family, and also took a day trip out to Canmore.  It felt good to breathe in the fresh mountain air.

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TICKETS FOR COMPULSION GO ON SALE ON THURSDAY JUNE 7th

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Once we got home from Calgary, Pete hit the ground running as he prepared to send out a huge shipment for an upcoming expedition for the Royal Ontario Museum, while I put a huge amount of time into pre-production on COMPULSION.  While this show is written by Scott, it is co-produced by Pete and we are both spending many hours getting things ready.  The cast has been pre-coached on their songs, the first meet and greet happens this evening, and rehearsals start in earnest next week.  Limited tickets for this 7 show run go on sale on Thursday and are expected to sell out early.  For more information go to the COMPULSION link.

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SCOTT WILL BE DOING MORE THAN ONE SHOW AT THE FRINGE

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Ashley Botting is one of Canada’s finest musical improvisers, making up words at lightening speed with complex tunes that she sings with confidence.  And I have the great privilege of accompanying her on her show at the Toronto Fringe.  At EVERY performance, Ashley will create a brand new cabaret, improvising the music as she goes along … and so will I.  This is theatre without a net and is not to be missed.  Come see me play my set show in COMPULSION, and then come see me make it up  on the spot in Ashley With A Y.

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AND WE’RE OFF TO THE RACES

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In my spare time, I was still visiting the cast of the Smile show I directed (The Sunny Side Of The Street) which will continue to tour Ontario until June 30th.  And then during the first few days of June, my folks came to stay with us.  Sometimes it felt like we were running a race, so it only seemed fitting to do an early celebration of Father’s Day and watch the horses run at Woodbine Racetrack.

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THE HORSES ARE INCREDIBLE ATHLETES AND THE JOCKEYS ARE REMARKABLE

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We made a brunch reservation and watched the first three races from the comfort of our table inside.  Then we went down to the paddock and saw the horses up close.  For the 5th race, we went right down by the rail and heard the thundering hoof beats as the horses raced by.  We aren’t big betters but at the end of the day we came home with $1.90 (one dollar and ninety cents) in winnings.  It was a fun afternoon.  If you are looking for something different to do, check it out.  You can get to Woodbine by city transit, and you don’t have to bet anything if you don’t want to. Take a picnic lunch and cheer on your favourite horse.    The only day there is a charge to attend is on the big races such as the Queen’s Plate, so go to the website in advance to find out more about doing a day at the races.  A standard grouping is 10 or 11 races, with one race every 30 minutes starting at 1 PM.  For more information go to https://woodbine.com/

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DON’T FORGET TO EXERCISE YOUR RIGHT ON THURSDAY JUNE 7TH

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This Thursday is the provincial election in Ontario, and I urge you all to exercise your right to vote.  Regardless of your politics, this is one of the key privileges of living in a democracy.  Make your vote count.

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So that’s a quick update.  In July, look for news on the two shows I’m doing at the Toronto Fringe.  And wherever you are, we hope you get out and take advantage of all of the many fun and fantastic artistic opportunities.  Until next time, we raise a glass to you from …

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Fenton & White Wend Their Way Home

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THE JOURNEY HOME TOOK US THROUGH THE LAND OF TALL TREES ONCE MORE

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We were so glad to see the Tofino/Ucluelet area, and we hope to some day return to explore more of this magical landscape.  Sadly, all  trips eventually must come to an end and it was time to check out of our loft and point the car eastward.  We returned along highway 4 and stopped two hours into the drive to stretch our legs.

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THE CATHEDRAL GROVE TRAIL IS A WONDERFUL STAND OF DOUGLAS FIR TREES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL SMALL

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The Cathedral Grove Hiking Trail is a short level walk that allows you to stroll among the giants.

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BOARD FENCES GUIDE YOU ALONG THE INTERPRETIVE TRAIL

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It was a sunny day,  but in the shade of the trees there was a chill and  we put on sweaters and a light coat to keep the cold away.  This area is a bit more mountainous than the far west coast and the temperatures here are noticeably cooler.  The foliage is no longer dense rainforest, but thinner patches of fern and plants that grow in more acidic soil.

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THE SUN PEEKS THROUGH TO THE FOREST FLOOR

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THE TREES GO WAY UP

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So how tall are the trees in Cathedral Grove?  Well the biggest one is actually taller than the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

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NATURE MAKES MAN-MADE STRUCTURES LOOK LESS IMPRESSIVE

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LOOKING UP AT THE TALLEST TREE IN THE FOREST CAN PUT A KINK IN YOUR NECK

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There are some unique features to this trail, including a tree that had a small, naturally occurring hollow where the base of the tree was starting to deteriorate.  Someone lit a fire near the base, which damaged the tree in an unusual way.  The flames got into the sap and burned out a section of the inside of the tree, but the top of the tree is still alive … and the bottom … the roots in the soil didn’t burn, so the tree still stands.

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PETE STANDS INSIDE THE HOLLOW TREE IN CATHEDRAL GROVE

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THIS PICTURE WAS TAKEN WITH A FLASH INSIDE THE TREE.  YOU CAN SEE THE SCORCH MARKS FROM THE FIRE

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THE UPPER SECTION OF THE TREE IS ALIVE AND HEALTHY

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The interpretive signs explained that the two primary enemies of trees this size are fire and wind.  In fact during windy days, it is not advisable to walk on the trail as it is possible that a tree with shallow roots may come crashing down.  There were a few cedars among the Douglas Fir and we discovered that when a tree falls, that there is a natural preservative in the sap in the wood that can sustain the structure of the log for up to 1000 years before it starts to decay.  Bugs and birds slowly chip away at the surface and over many centuries, the wood begins to crumble providing a fertile environment for new trees to grow out of .  This fallen tree is known as a nurse log, as it nurtures younger trees.  Only one in a thousand trees that grow on a nurse log survive.

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FENTON AND WHITE BID FAREWELL TO THE FORESTS

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We drove another 90 minutes and checked into our hotel in Nanaimo.  Our plan was to relax for the evening.  We arrived early enough to go and see a movie at a local theatre and then picked up take-out Thai food and lounged about in our room, reflecting on our Vancouver Island adventure.

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OUR FINAL FULL DAY MADE FOR A GLOOMY CROSSING FROM NANAIMO TO VANCOUVER

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We rose early the next day and took a ferry from Nanaimo to North Vancouver.   This is a large ferry with multiple indoor passenger decks and outdoor viewing decks similar in size to the ferry we had crossed over to Victoria on.  The crossing takes 95 minutes and the ferries run every two and a half hours.  The fare was close to $90 for the car and two passengers.  The picture above shows the rainy weather and gloomy skies, but by accident we captured a young couple embracing on the edge of the car deck in the lower right corner of this shot.

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A FEW LAST VISITS TO FIT IN BEFORE DEPARTING

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After turning back the car in Vancouver and checking into our hotel, we fit in one additional afternoon and evening visit.  This is a photo of the afternoon visit with friends Brian and Cori at the Craft Beer Market where we drank beer and ate a lot of nachos … just like we used to do in my university days.

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WE ARE SO LUCKY TO LIVE IN A BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY

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The following morning, we took the sky train to the airport and flew back to Toronto.  When we look back on this trip, we will think of friends, gorgeous gardens,  fine food and drink, tall trees, endless beaches, and sea lions and whales.  We are lucky to live in such a beautiful and varied country and it is humbling to see places that make us understand how small we are in a larger world.  We hope that you have enjoyed traveling with us through these blogs, and we encourage you to get out and explore the beauty of Canada.  It is truly an extraordinary place.

Gratefully yours …

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Fenton & White Take In The Tide Pools On Salt Spring Island

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THE JOURNEY FROM SWARTZ BAY TO SALT SPRING ISLAND TAKES ONLY 35 MINUTES

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We had enjoyed our 2 days in Victoria, but now it was time to go someplace a little quieter.  We made an early breakfast, bid farewell to the Helm’s Inn and drove 30 minutes back to the Swartz Bay ferry terminal to catch an early morning boat.  The Salt Spring Island ferry is considerably smaller but it has 8 voyages per day to serve the needs of people wanting to visit.

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THE SALT SPRING ISLAND FERRY IS AN OPEN DECK CAR FERRY

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We traveled to Salt Spring Island on a weekend and got onto the morning sailing we wanted by arriving early, but the ferry did fill up and cars behind us had to wait for the next boat.  Reservations aren’t available, so ensure you get to the ferry terminal at least an hour before the scheduled crossing and if you are taking the last sailing of the day …. give yourself extra time if you want to ensure you make the boat. The vessel has 5 rows which hold 10-15 cars each (depending on the length of the cars).  There are stairs to 2 outdoor viewing levels on each side of the boat and along the edges there are inside galleries with seating, small tables, and washrooms.  Since the ride is so short there are no food amenities provided. The cost for the crossing for 2 of us plus the car was around $60 which is a two-way fare as there are no toll booths as you leave Salt Spring Island.  For more information on prices and schedules click here.

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THE MORNING WAS DEDICATED TO A HIKE IN RUCKLE PROVINICIAL PARK

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We disembarked at Fulford Harbour at around 9:45 in the morning.  It was far too early to check into our accommodation and we were feeling energized by the sunny day and the crisp breeze on the crossing, so we decided to do a leisurely morning hike.  In fact the plan for the day was to do a few hikes in the area and simply get back to nature. Our first stop was a mere 15 minute drive from the ferry dock.  Ruckle Provincial Park has 48 walk-in tent sites with stunning views of Swanson Channel.  There are numerous hiking trails that take you around the perimeter of the park as well as past the historic buildings of the original farm owned by the Ruckle family (who still farm a section of the land).  For scuba divers … the area is rich in underwater coastal sea caves and for those who like to scramble along the shore … the tide pools are filled with natural wonders.

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THE SHORELINE TRAIL STARTS IN THE TREES AND HEADS UP A SHORT SET OF MOSSY STAIRS

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We decided to walk the shoreline trail which ran through the woods before it looped into the tent campground along the water.  The trail circled past the historic properties and wound up back on the road we had come in on, a 5 minute walk from where we had parked the car. The whole loop was about 6 kilometres, and at a leisurely pace took us around 90 minutes.  We were impressed with the size of the camp sites and also the decks for the tents to ensure that campers stayed level and relatively dry.

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CAMP SITES IN THE TREES HAVE WOODEN PLATFORMS TO KEEP YOUR TENT LEVEL (AND OFF THE GROUND WHEN IT RAINS)

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OTHER TENT SITES GO RIGHT TO THE WATER AND HAVE LARGE AMOUNTS OF SPACE BETWEEN YOU AND YOUR NEIGHBOUR

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WEREWOLVES?

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The trail is clearly marked, and in some areas the trees have blazes on them (small sections of bark removed with a colour painted on the trunk to show the way). The above tree had an unusual pattern as the under-skin of the bark was drying and peeling. With our vivid imaginations, we thought it looked like something had been sharpening its claws on the tree. Of course that isn’t true, but if you camp at Ruckle Provincial Park and hear howling in the distance … well, maybe there are werewolves in the woods!

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TIDE POOLS CONTAIN WONDERS FROM THE SEA

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There are many sections along the trail where you can get out on rocks that have pockets that catch water when the tide is out.  These tide pools contain abundant life that includes sea anemones, crabs, snails, fish,  and small coloured corral.

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A CLOSER VIEW OF THE SEA ANEMONES IN ONE OF THE NUMEROUS TIDE POOLS

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There are also small paths along the route that lead off the main trail to scenic viewpoints such as “Grandma’s Beach”.

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WALKING THE SHORE OF GRANDMA’S BEACH

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This tiny half-moon bay has a stony beach with a stunning view out to the inlet.  Although we didn’t see any on the day we were there, it is not uncommon for seals to come in and play in the calm waters of the sheltered harbour.

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MORNING TRANQUILITY CAN BE FOUND LOOKING OUT FROM GRANDMA’S BEACH

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THIS TURKEY GAVE US THE EYE AS WE WANDERED PAST THE HISTORIC RUCKLE FARM BUILDINGS

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Our loop ended near the historic buildings that include the original farm house and buildings where tools were stored … and made.  Livestock still roam the grounds including sheep, cattle, chickens and wild turkeys.

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PETE EXPLORES THE GANGES/FULFORD WEEKEND MARKET

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It was getting near noon and we were getting hungry, so we made our way back to the car and headed into the central town of of Ganges/Fulford.  Salt Spring Island is only 182 square kilometres and most of the land is farmed or used for livestock.  It is home to many significant artists from famed folk musicians Raffi and Valdi, to CBC personality Arthur Black, to the internationally renowned visual artist Robert Batemen.   Local artisans have studios scattered all over the island and touring all of the pottery and painting studios would take days.   On the weekend you can see many artisans all in one place at the weekend market.  Literally hundreds of tents spring up near the harbour with pottery, fresh fruit and vegetables, local wines and other wonderful foods.  It was so busy it took us nearly 20 minutes to find a spot to park (several blocks away from the harbour).  We took a quick browse and decided it was too crowded for our liking.  Instead, we grabbed some sandwiches from a nearby shop with fresh baking and made our way back to a road that would take us to the highest point on the island.

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THE ROAD TO THE TOP OF MOUNT MAXWELL IS … INTERESTING

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With our sandwiches and sodas in hand, we returned to the car and turned back to the route which would take us to the top of Mount Maxwell via Cranberry Road.  At first, things were easy as we transitioned from the paved surface to a wide gravel road, but slowly … the road began to get narrower, bumpier and steeper.  After the fact, we were told that the road is passable in a normal car but that generally it is best for four wheel drive vehicles.  Local car rental agencies will void your insurance claim if you have a problem on this road.  Although it is only 12 kilometres from the turn-off to the viewpoint, we took a long time to get to the top. The grades can reach 16 to 18 percent, the narrow track often only allows for one-way traffic which means if you encounter another vehicle you may have to pull off (if you can), or back up to a wider section. And the pot-holes if it has rained recently … we averaged about 5 kilometres per hour over the last section of the road as we gently bounced from hollow to hollow.  So was it all worth it?  The answer is an unqualified YES.

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THE VIEWS ARE STUNNING FROM THE TOP OF MOUNT MAXWELL

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On a clear day you can view large sections of Salt Spring Island, see Nanaimo on Vancouver Island and even Mount Baker on the mainland.  There are steep cliffs near the viewpoint that have fences to prevent visitors from falling.  We enjoyed the amazing vista, had a relaxing lunch in the sun while sitting 580 metres above the sea below and then made our way slowly back down the road.  It was now around 3 PM, and time to check in to our accommodation at the Maple Ridge Cottages on St. Mary Lake.

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THIS SWEET LITTLE COTTAGE WAS A BARGAIN AND HAD A LOVELY VIEW

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Maple Ridge Cottages are a 20 minute drive north of the Ganges/Fulford township on a side road on St. Mary Lake.  The property only has 5 cottages and the owners Glenn and Elle are wonderful down-to-earth folks who have built a business that makes you feel like you are staying with family.  We were in the Cedar cottage at a price of $110 per night.

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EACH CABIN HAS A DECK, A BARBECUE AND A PICTURE WINDOW WITH VIEWS TO THE LAKE

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Vancouver Trip 2017 280THE BEDROOM IS COZY

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THE MAIN ROOM HAS A COUCH, FIREPLACE, FULL KITCHEN WITH DISHES AND A T.V.

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After a relaxing morning ferry ride, a gentle hike peering in tidal pools, a stroll through the market and a drive up Mount Maxwell, it was time for a nap.  We unpacked, took a snooze break and then got up to go for a late afternoon drive around the island.  We traveled roads that ran along the coastline and after a short time we saw a trail head for a path that was supposed to lead to a quiet bay.  The trail was only a little over a kilometre each way and it was too early for dinner so we decided to stretch our legs.

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 A SET OF STAIRS BROUGHT US OUT TO THIS STONY BEACH AT LOW TIDE

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At the end of the trail we came out to a stony beach with average views along an inlet, but upon closer inspection, the beach had a magical quality … for the shore was 50% stones and 50% shell fragments.

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COLOURFUL BROKEN SHELLS LITTER THE BEACH

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This was a wonderful way to finish off our day.  We slowly walked back to the car, headed to a local shop with a little pizza outlet … got a large Hawaiian thin crust  and a bottle of wine and settled in to watch the light fade over St. Mary Lake.  It was time to rest up to prepare for the next day’s wine tour!

In the next blog … wining and dining on Salt Spring Island.  Until next time here’s a set of silly smiles from …

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Fenton & White (and some guy in the background we don’t know)

or in this case

White & Fenton (and some guy in the background we don’t know)

 

Fenton & White Browse The Butchart Gardens

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IF YOU LOVE LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE, THE BUTCHART GARDENS IS A MUST SEE

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We had one more day left in Victoria before heading off to Salt Spring Island. The agenda was fairly relaxed.  In the morning … breakfast in our room and a meeting at the Belfry Theatre.  In the afternoon, a short drive to Brentwood Bay to wander around the spectacular Butchart Gardens.  And in the evening, dinner with friends.

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THE BELFRY THEATRE CAN SEAT 279 IN ITS CHARMING AUDITORIUM

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Victoria is lucky to have a fantastic professional theatre in the centre of the city.  The Belfry Theatre puts up a season of six main stage shows and the “Spark Festival” of new plays.  The theatre’s artistic director, Michael Shamata, is passionate about works for the stage and we were delighted to spend some time visiting, talking about the arts in Canada and getting a tour of the performance space.  If you are in Victoria this fall, be sure to check out the production of the musical Onegin by Amiel Gladstone and Veda Hille.  The show runs from October 17th to November 12th.

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PETE PONDERS WHERE TO BEGIN AT THE BUTCHART GARDENS

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We finished our theatre visit late in the morning, picked up some sandwiches, and made our way 30 minutes north of Victoria to check out the amazing Butchart Gardens.  The site was originally owned by Robert Pim Butchart and his wife Jennie Butchart.  When the limestone in the quarry ran out, Jennie decided that it should be turned into a fantastical garden.  This property evolved in phases that took over a decade to complete utilizing the skills of several prominent landscape artists and garden designers.  The Sunken Garden was started in 1909 and evolved into its present shape in 1921.  Each year the garden changes as trees grow taller, and plants and flower banks are altered.

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A SMALL PORTION OF THE SUNKEN GARDEN

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The overall site is divided into 6 sections spread over 55 acres.  The sections include the Sunken Garden along the base of the quarry, the Concert Lawn, the Rose Garden, the Japanese Garden, the Italian Garden and the Mediterranean Garden.  A well designed map and system of pathways takes you through the site along an easy-to-follow route.  Most of the gardens are accessible thanks to alternate paths suitable for wheelchairs and strollers.  There are a few places with stairs, but whenever possible an effort has been made to ensure guests at all levels of mobility can enjoy the stunning scenery.

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THE ROSS FOUNTAIN SPRAYS WATER OVER 70 FEET IN THE AIR

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Fountains and statutes also play a prominent part in the experience of walking through this magical landscape.

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THE JETS OF THE  ROSS FOUNTAIN ARE ON OSCILLATING PIPES THAT CREATE CONSTANTLY CHANGING PATTERNS

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The Ross Fountain is named for Ian Ross, the Butchart’s grandson who was given the gardens in 1939 as a gift for his 21st birthday.  The fountain gyrates and sprays water in patterns in multiple directions thanks to oscillating pipes.  At night, the pathways and fountains are illuminated with colourful lights.

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AT EVERY TURN THERE ARE MAGICAL DISCOVERIES NESTLED AMONG THE FLOWERS

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THE ROSE CAROUSEL WAS ADDED IN 2009

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After touring the Sunken Garden we followed a path that took us to the indoor Rose Carousel.  This amazing piece of art features a menagerie of 30 animals.  It was designed by Don Horenberger and the animals and benches were realized by multiple carousel carvers who each put months of work into each creature including unique animals such as the Orca in the picture above.  The carousel opened in 2009.  There is an additional charge of $2 to take a ride, but it was well worth it.  The carousel goes at a good speed, the animals go up and down to a significant height and the whole experience made us feel like kids again.

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PETE TOOK A STANDARD HORSE FOR HIS RIDE

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SCOTT RODE A PANDA BEAR

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After our ride, it was time to walk towards the Rose Garden which was built in 1929 when the Butcharts decided to remove the vegetables and replace them with rose bushes and vines.   The flowers bloom throughout the year with peak periods in each season.  The blooms were too numerous to count, but the roses were lovely and once again, the fountains were show stoppers.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll let the photos tell their own story (well, okay, with a few informative words beneath).

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THIS STUNNING DRAGON FOUNTAIN IS ON THE PATH BETWEEN THE ROSE CAROUSEL AND THE ROSE GARDEN

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A REAR VIEW OF THE DRAGON FOUNTAIN

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BUNCHES OF ROSE BLOOMS BURST FORTH FROM BUSHES AND VINES ALL AROUND THE CIRCULAR GARDEN

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A PERFECT DELICATE HYBRID TEA ROSE WITH A LIGHT SCENT

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VISITORS ENJOY THE THOUSANDS OF ROSES IN BLOOM

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MORE THAN JUST ROSES BLOOM IN THE AREA SURROUNDING THE ROSE GARDEN

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THE CONCERT LAWN HOSTS MUSICAL EVENTS THROUGHOUT THE SUMMER.  IN THE DISTANCE, THE FORMER BUTCHART HOME … NOW A RESTAURANT.

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THIS BEAUTIFUL STURGEON FOUNTAIN RESIDES ON THE CORNER OF THE ROSE GARDEN

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PETE EXPLORES A SECTION OF THE JAPANESE GARDEN … ONE OF THE FIRST GARDENS ON THE PROPERTY

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THE ITALIAN GARDEN FEATURES THIS STAR-SHAPED POND.  THIS WAS ORIGINALLY THE BUTCHART’S TENNIS COURTS, WHICH WERE REPLACED BY THE GARDEN IN 1926

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THE MEDITERRANEAN GARDEN AT THE ENTRANCE FEATURES THIS FANTASTIC STATUE OF A BOAR.  IT IS SAID THAT ONE SHOULD RUB THE NOSE OF THE BOAR FOR GOOD LUCK.  WE COULD TELL BY THE SHINY SNOUT THAT MANY VISITORS HAVE DONE SO.

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Touring the gardens at a leisurely pace will take 2 to 3 hours. The garden is open year-round and admission fees vary dependent on the time of year. In high season, adults pay around $32 per person.  After September 30th, rates drop to around $27 and in the winter when there are far fewer blooms, admission is $18.   There are also restaurants on site, special events including concerts and fireworks and evening viewings where the pathways are lit up. When you see the magnitude of the gardens, it is safe to say that this is a worthwhile addition to any trip to Victoria.  For more information click here.  Today, the gardens are still in the Butchart Family.  They are currently run by Robin Lee Clark, the great-granddaughter of the original owners.

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After our adventures in the gardens it was time to head back to Victoria, have a rest, and then go for dinner with friends.  We didn’t take pictures of the food but we can wholeheartedly endorse our dining location … Pagliacci’s.  The restaurant offers great Italian food with good size portions and friendly service.

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In our next blog … sailing to Salt Spring Island.

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Until then, we wish you a day filled with fun and frolic.

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Fenton & White

 

Fenton & White Peruse The Parks

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VICTORIA HAS HIDDEN TREASURES A SHORT DISTANCE FROM THE HARBOUR

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We were pretty full from our afternoon tea and it was now late in the afternoon so we decided to make our way to our accommodation.  The plan was to check in, have a quick nap and then explore the area away from the harbour.  We were truly delighted when we checked in for our stay at the Helm’s Inn.  For starters, the cost of the room was almost half of what we had paid in Vancouver.  The hotel is located a 15 minute walk from the tourist district near the water and has close proximity to the provincial museum, legislature buildings and Beacon Hill Park (more on that in a moment).

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LARGE AIRY ROOMS ARE A FEATURE OF THE HELM’S INN

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There is no doubt the hotel is older.  There is no elevator (the building is three stories high) and the patterns of the carpet are from an earlier time, but when we opened the door on our second story corner room we were thrilled with the amount of space.  It was like checking into a small apartment.  Everything was clean and tidy and welcoming.

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ROOMS AT THE HELM’S INN ARE SET UP FOR LONGER STAYS WITH PLENTY OF CLOSET SPACE

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The room had a large bathroom, two full size closets, a nice writing desk, chest of drawers and for later in the evening, a television to catch up on the news of the day.

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THE BATHROOMS ARE CLEAN AND MODERN

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The best part of all was that the room included a nice kitchen with stove, full size fridge, a table and chairs and a complete set of dishes and pots and pans.  During our time in Victoria we took advantage of this by shopping at the nearby grocery store and warming up meat pies for dinner and doing porridge in the morning for breakfast.  This not only saved us some money, but after eating in restaurants for the past few days, it was a nice change of pace.

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A KITCHEN IN YOUR SUITE ALLOWS YOU THE OPTION OF COOKING A FEW MEALS

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The desk staff were outstanding and the lobby features a fireplace with a bowl of fresh fruit for guests.  At 4 PM each day, guests can come down for a fresh pot of tea and cookies … we passed, as we were all full up.  We truly can’t speak highly enough about our experience here.  If you decided to go, book early.  We discovered that in the winter, many people come for a long-term stay and book the rooms for weeks at a time.   It is often sold out.

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AFTER TAKING A NAP, WE WENT TO BEACON HILL PARK

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Just across the street from the hotel is the entrance to Beacon Hill Park.  This stunning 200 acre sculpted landscape features walking paths, a children’s petting zoo and gorgeous gardens including wonderful surprises like the integrated sculpture, the “Moss Lady”.

 

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THE MOSS LADY FROM A DIFFERENT ANGLE

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The whole place has a magical feel to it.  If you walk to the end of the park you can look out towards the ocean, or stay in the middle of the park and lose yourself among the tall trees, formal gardens and ponds and fountains scattered around the property.  There is no admission charge and lots of parking if you come by car.

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VAST CEDAR TREES REACH TO TO THE SKY AND MAKE YOU FEEL SMALL

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EVEN THE GRASSES SEEM TALLER ON THE EDGE OF THIS LAKE COVERED IN LILY PADS

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PEACOCKS STRUT FREELY AROUND THE PARK

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Aside from the lovely scenery there is a lot of opportunity to get up close and personal with some unusual animals.  Peacocks strut and preen and a few of them even roost in the branches of the trees above and occasionally flutter down to the ground spreading their wings.  We had never seen a peacock fly before.  We counted over 20 of them in one area walking freely around the gardens.  There is also a wonderful children’s petting zoo with some unique varieties of animals.  Entrance to the petting zoo is by voluntary donation with a suggested price of $4 per person.  We were curious and one experience in particular was worth the price of admission.

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THIS ZEBRA CHICKEN WAS ONE OF SEVERAL UNUSUAL BREEDS ON DISPLAY

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 THE LLAMA POSED POLITELY FOR OUR PICTURE

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There were pot-bellied pigs, llamas, miniature horses, guinea pigs and rabbits, but it was truly the goat enclosure that stole our hearts.  The pen has a double gate to try and discourage the goats from trying to make a run for it.  The enclosure holds about 30 goats.

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THESE GOATS LOVE ATTENTION

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Attendants ensure that there is plenty of food and water for the goats and that the wood chips are fresh and the abundant droppings are continuously cleaned.  After you enter the enclosure, you are free to wander around the animals as long as you don’t feed them.  They are curious and affectionate.

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THIS GOAT TOOK A SHINE TO PETE AND GOT RIGHT UP TO SAY HELLO AND GET A SCRUB ON THE HEAD

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While Pete’s strategy was to get in the middle of the herd and let the goats jump up and say hi, I was more interested in the baby goats.  I found a spot on a bench in a less congested are of the pen and within a few minutes a few of the baby goats came over to check me out.  Without any prompting, soon they were nestled in my lap looking for a nice rub behind the ear.

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WHILE THE WHITE GOAT DISTRACTS ME, THE OTHER GOAT TRIES TO EAT MY SWEATER

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We stayed in this pen for over 20 minutes.  One of the older goats managed to leap over the fence.  The attendants let him wander freely within the confines of the zoo near the pen, (keeping an eye on him) and eventually he jumped back in to be with the others.  It was a truly fun way to round out the afternoon.  The zoo has plenty of hand-washing stations and the animals seemed well-cared for and kindly treated by the staff.  In the winter, they go back to a local farm and then return to the park in the late spring.

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MACAULY POINT PARK HAS LOVELY VIEWS OF THE STRAIT OF JUAN DE FUCA AND FEW CROWDS

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It was nearing dinner time, but we were still full from the tea in the afternoon.  We decided to get back in the car and drive past the downtown and get to the other side of the harbour for a nice view. We discovered a former military installation at Macauly Point Park, a mere fifteen minute drive from the downtown.  It has level graveled walking trails, interesting remnants of buildings from the time when the base here guarded the port, and beautiful views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

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TRAILS TAKE YOU TO DECOMMISSIONED BUILDINGS THAT WERE ONCE STORAGE UNITS FOR MUNITIONS

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THE SITE DATES BACK TO 1895.  THIS ENTRANCE TAKES YOU THROUGH A TUNNEL TO ONE OF THE GUNNERY MOUNTS

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TRAILS TAKE YOU HIGHER ON THE HILL WHERE YOU CAN SEE THE SITE FROM ABOVE

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THE INLET NEAR THE ENTRANCE TO THE PARK AT FLEMING BEACH HAS LOVELY HOMES ON A SMALL HARBOUR

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THIS PAIR OF SWANS WAS SWIMMING NEAR THE SHORE

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We saw sea otters playing in the water near the shore, and to our surprise a pair of swans.  We didn’t realize swans would swim in salt water.  Research after our trip indicated that swans can indeed vary their diet and spend short times in salt water enjoying the bounty of the sea.

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We spent an hour strolling the trails before the sun began to dip below the horizon and we were ready to go back to the hotel and settle in for the night.  It had been a great day from the ferry crossing, to watching MPPs in action, then having high tea, going for a visit with the animals and a relaxed stroll along the shores of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  We went back to the grocery store, picked up some fresh meat pies and a bottle of wine and had dinner in our room.

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In the next blog … Butchart Blooms and a stop at the Belfry.  Until next time, warmest regards …

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Fenton & White

 

Fenton & White Head East – Part 4

After a brief hiatus, the final installment of the train trip east is now ready.  As many of you know, the blogs are written after we return from our trips. Rehearsals in Calgary on  Newfoundland Mary have been filling the time day and night.  Read on to find out more about our adventures.  When we last left off, Pete and I had just finished dinner, and were heading back to the observation car before going to sleep.

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A SNOW STORM CLOSED IN AROUND THE TRAIN AND THE SIGNAL LIGHTS IN THE NIGHT BECAME FIERY BEACONS AS WE WHIZZED PAST AT HIGH SPEED

The further east we headed the stormier it got and there wasn’t a lot to see out of the windows at night so we made our way to our cabin to see what it looked like with the beds down.

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THE BEDS ARE COMFORTABLE AND EVEN WHEN THEY ARE DOWN THERE IS A FEW FEET OF WIDTH BESIDE THEM TO GET UP AND DOWN IN THE NIGHT

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A LADDER ALLOWS THE PERSON ON THE TOP BUNK EASY ACCESS UP AND DOWN

In general, the sleeping arrangements were quite comfortable.  One of the only challenges is that the light in the bathroom can not be shut off and so if someone gets up in the night and opens the door to the bathroom … the cabin is flooded with light.  The doors to the bathrooms also have stiff fasteners on them and to get them open you have to use quite a bit of force (they have a kick-plate on the bottom) so it is hard to open them quietly.  We traveled on through the night and as we slept the storm swept past us.  By morning, the skies were clear. We had an early breakfast and then decided to try our next adventure … showering in a moving train.

Montreal And Halifax March 2017 069  SHOWERING IN A MOVING TRAIN IS MADE EASIER BY THE FACT THAT THE BATHROOM IS SMALL, MAKING IT HARDER TO FALL OVER AS THE TRAIN ROCKS BACK AND FORTH.

In the above picture you can see the hose for the shower and the white dial that controls temperature.   When the door is closed (and it has a lip) the bathroom is well sealed and as you stand in the corner, the water drains out of the drain in the floor.  To shower you set your water temperature and press the button beside the white dial and it gives you 20 seconds of water and then shuts off.  The shower head is a small wand at the end of the hose that has a reasonable amount of water pressure, but the holes on the wand are small, so the volume of water isn’t huge.  So you shower in stages.  First you get wet (20 seconds).  Then you shampoo and soap up (as long as you like).  Then you rinse (20 seconds)  Then you press the button again to get more of the soap off (20 seconds).  Then you press the button a third time to continue rinsing (20 seconds).  Repeat appropriately depending on how much soap you used in the first place and how much patience you have.   Then you get out your towel and dry off.  Or I suppose you could use the provided hair dryer.  The shower actually worked out quite well. The water was hot and it provided an ample shower after a long day on the train.  I suppose for people who like long hot showers this would not be the best, but you can press the button as many times as you like and get your water in 20 second spurts.

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NEW BRUNSWICK WAS COVERED IN SNOW, BUT THE ICE WAS BEGINNING TO MELT

After our showers, we dressed and went back to the dome car.  It was a snowy sight.  We made our way through New Brunswick and spent some of our time in the observation car, some of our time in our cabin and of course our meal times (breakfast and lunch) were in the dining car.  The nice thing about train travel is that unlike a plane, there are different places you can spend time and you can get up and stretch your legs.

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WHILE WE MADE OUR WAY EAST, THE TRACKS STAYED BEHIND TO CARRY OTHER PASSENGERS ON FUTURE TRIPS

The scenery along the way was mostly tree and rock.  The train follows a direct path, sometimes along the highway, sometimes wandering in isolation, but generally encountering towns every 15 or 20 minutes.  We arrived in Halifax about 45 minutes later than scheduled on a sunny evening.  Arthur Smith was our host, and he picked up up and then we went for a delicious dinner and night time tour of Halifax.   The following day we toured other areas near the harbour of Halifax and then headed out to see Arthur’s River House and enjoy some quiet time away from the city.  We didn’t take a lot of pictures, but here is a sense of our time there.

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PETE PREPARES TO ENTER THE RIVER HOUSE, A BEAUTIFUL HOME ON THE TIDNISH RIVER THAT OUR FRIEND HAD BUILT

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PETE WARMS HIS HANDS AT THE FIRE. THE TEMPERATURES WERE COOL

We spent Saturday exploring the roads in the area and enjoying the countryside.  Our travels allowed us to explore more of the coastal areas on our return trip to the city.

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THE ATLANTIC OCEAN ON A CLEAR SUNNY DAY

On Sunday we visited with friends at brunch.  All too soon it was time to return to Toronto by plane.  We had a week to prepare for our next adventure … rehearsals on our show in Calgary

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CALGARY WAS CALLING … AS WERE THOSE ROCKY MOUNTAINS

But that is a story for another day.  In the meantime, we hope you have enjoyed our four part blog on train travels between Toronto and Halifax.  Until our next blog, we wish you joy and the opportunity to do what you love most.

Warmest Regards

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FENTON & WHITE