May 262015

Well, in order to post a blog today (UK-time), this is more like ‘half a day in Toronto‘ actually! Being five hours behind BST, I awoke to several messages from clients via my wonderful PA back in the UK. It was certainly time to get cracking early here! Coffee on and at my desk by 7am (a rare occurrence back home!) but that was midday back in England. I can’t complain too much as I have a fantastic residence for the next two days with a harbour view and so, before I got too deep into work, I booked my harbour boat tour.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter coffee number 2 and a brief alarm issue – apparently caused by a problem in one of the lift shafts (!!) – the fire department allowed us to exit the apartments and I descended from Floor 16 to the Lobby. Not too far to walk – the boat tour departs right outside the apartment block (see the two towers on the right of the picture on the left)! Another beautifully sunny day in Canada and so, I was more than a little surprised to only be sharing the boat with two other people (aside from the crew) – from near Bristol, no less.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The history of Toronto is fascinating with Billy Bishop Airport being the only island in the harbour which was man-made. The other islands are inhabited by around 700 people we were told by the tour guide – pretty isolated in the winter I shouldn’t wonder! There is a school on the islands as well as a nature reserve which is off limits to boats and people – ‘no anchoring’ allowed – a yacht club, marina, church, golf course, fire station…. everything!

We managed a closer view of the airport but there is (understandably) a ‘no-go’ zone at the end of the runway and the fines for boats entering this area are exorbitant, as well as potentially losing your captain’s licence. Worth staying outside the zone, I’d say!

Onward to some more sightseeing this afternoon, after catching up on a few pieces of work – no peace for the wicked (and I must surely have been very wicked once upon a time!). Not long until the OGS Conference in Barrie now – three days and it will be well underway!

May 252015

My genea-journey continues …. and I am now a Toronto resident for several days. After a minor travel delay en route (leaving Niagara Falls 75 minutes later than scheduled), I arrived at Grand Union Station at 9pm. Shattered and not really feeling 100% fighting fit (I won’t go into the detail here), I decided to opt for the taxi route despite knowing that HarbourSquareHarbour Square – my new home – was within walking distance. Well, walking distance without nigh on 40 kilograms of luggage, that is. However, my plans were scuppered as it would appear that my journey was too short for the taxi drivers to want to perform. So, I walked. It actually wasn’t an epic journey and we arrived in one piece in no time at all. Keys collected and collapsed for the night.

Billy-Bishop-300x168My apartment has an amazing view of the harbour and also of the incoming planes. I had no idea that there was a City airport as well as the International one where I had landed. Billy Bishop Airport is right in the heart of downtown Toronto and clearly built for convenience. “Offering service to over 20 cities in Canada and the United States, with connections to more than 80 international destinations, Billy Bishop Airport is the only airport located entirely within Toronto’s boundaries,” so says the Ports Toronto website. It is the ninth busiest Canadian airport so maybe I will manage to snap a photograph of an incoming or outgoing plane while I am here.

In Toronto, I have no particular sightseeing plans hatched but I have been here a number of times now and seen very little for one reason or another. So, tomorrow I hope to be hitting the roads. A visit to St James’ Cemetery seems potentially unnecessary as there are no Sillifant/Silliphants listed on Find A Grave (though this doesn’t list every grave, so who knows). A bit of time over coffee this afternoon with a map might be a good plan, I think! Any suggestions folks?

[I know you are all dying to know why it’s called Billy Bishop Airport? It was named after Air Marshal Billy Bishop who was a flying ace in World War 1.]

May 242015

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYesterday, I mentioned my current location of Niagara Falls. I have visited on two previous occasions – once in 1999 and once last year – and both times, the weather has not been kind. April and May is a funny time in Canada. Sometimes the weather is amazing and sometimes, it’s dreadful (much like I am used to in the UK!). I have to say, on this occasion, thank you for the lovely weather bestowed upon me this weekend!

A short while ago, I had a message from my friend who I am staying with, asking if I would like to go on a helicopter ride over Niagara Falls. Unsurprisingly, there was little hesitation before I quickly replied saying, ‘Yes please!’ And so, on my first day back in Canada, after dropping a very excited young man off at ‘soccer’ (the kicking the ball around variety, known to me as football), we headed off to the helipad. I had never been on a helicopter before but bearing in mind I have thrown myself down a bobsleigh run (in Calgary) with no driver or brakeman, I wasn’t particularly daunted by the prospect.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe views were spectacular – 0ver Horseshoe Falls, American and Bridal Falls, which collectively make Niagara Falls – and I even had the honour of sitting in the front, next to the pilot. The whole experience was awesome and so much the better for it being a lovely sunny day! For some unaccountable reason, I had never seen the barge before which is wrecked ‘up stream’ from the Falls. The Niagara Scow (also known as “The Old Scow”) is an unofficial name for the barge which brought two men very close to plunging over the Horseshoe Falls. It was wrecked in 1918, so I could hardly have missed it on previous visits. Now, the barge brings a different danger as, if it ever came adrift, it would crash down onto the Maid of the Mist Tours below.

There is a plaque on the Canadian side explaining the wreck and there is a history of the events of the day on Wikipedia. The two men who were set adrift in the barge – Gustave Luffberg and Frank Harris – survived the events of 6 August 1918 with the help of William “Red” Hill, Sr. who was awarded a Carnegie Medal for his efforts. He and his sons also assisted in many other recoveries and rescues in the next few decades.

Amazing day and now, my travels continue as I venture back towards Toronto for a few days of sightseeing/work and seeing some geneamates before the conference.

[Did you know: The first person to go over the Falls in a barrel and survive was a  63 year old female schoolteacher! Well, enough said!]

May 232015

FWL now has a new office – in Niagara! More sun evident than we are used to at the moment in the UK (and I arrived at 6pm) though the temperature seems pretty comparable. It’s Bank Holiday weekend in the UK but not here in Canada. They had their long weekend last weekend. However, today is a day off for me – a rarity – and I am being treated to a helicopter ride over Niagara Falls. Anyone would think I was on holiday (which, just for the record, I am really not)!

estAlthough I have been to Niagara Falls a few times, it has always been pretty overcast, windy and sometimes, wet. From the window of my new office, it doesn’t look brilliantly sunny but it is early yet. I have quickly acclimatised (I think) to the new time zone – 5 hours behind the UK – and started work pretty early this morning. This is quite unusual as I am normally a night owl rather than someone who is ‘up with the larks’. The interesting thing is, business doesn’t have to stop just because I am not in the UK. I can still do what I normally do. Having been (thank you BA) upgraded on the flight over to World Traveller Plus, I managed to get a heap of writing done on the plane, without being squashed between the laptop and the seat and without the distraction of the internet. I – rather amusingly – found myself naturally clicking on the Google Chrome icon at times. Habits are tough to break!

So, for the next ten days, I will be on Eastern Standard Time. Blogs should still come through on the same schedule so you will probably hardly notice the difference. In fact, you might even see more blogs than usual – Niagara pictures to follow!

May 222015

Those who have been followers of the FWL blog for a long period of time, will know that my international travels do not often go smoothly. Hence, it was with some trepidation that I left the office this morning. I know the team will manage just fine without me. It was more a case of ‘what is going to go wrong this time?

Leaving earlier than planned – thank you Mr Taxi Man but you arriving 15 minutes early is not actually great news – I was reacquainted with my debit card at the local newsagents. A positive start and one I hoped would bode well for the day. Super service on the train and, although slightly late arrival into London Paddington, nothing to be overly bothered by. Following a brief – and dare I say, rather expensive – trip on the Heathrow Express, I reached my interim destination. So early, I could not check my case in! Ugh! A couple of calls to clients later and two books removed from the suitcase (24.3 kilograms on their scales), I headed towards my least favourite place in the airport world - security.

Positive attitude afoot, I took all of my liquids out of my bag as well as all of the electrical devices and placed them in the tray. I walked towards the scanner and …. I PASSED! No beeping noises! Minor celebration (small happy dance) but this was unfortunately short-lived as I watched my bag depart stage left into the checking zone. Noooooo…. What could I possibly have forgotten to take out? I was so confident that I had ‘done it right’ this time.

Boeing777Answer: my luggage had been randomly selected for drug testing. Picturing myself appearing on one of those television programmes when people stand there and say, ‘No, I’ve never touched anything like that in my life’ and trying to explain away readings on luggage, just imagine my relief when I was given a clean bill of health. Phew!

Someone had left a £1 coin in one of the trays behind mine without claiming it and, instead of pocketing it herself, the lovely security lady handed it to me…. Onwards and upwards eh!

And so, my final preparations for departure are complete…. Blogs written and laptop charged ready for some work on the plane.

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