The journey to Toronto, our first stop, thankfully went smoothly after the drama of the passports in the run up. It was however not without excitement!
Both Dean and I had the early wakening that comes with anticipation at 5:30 am, beating the alarm clock by an hour. Dean made it up first and caught the Brexit result. We were both stunned and rather thankful that we were off to have a hiatus from the commentary (more of that later…). The exchange rate impact was instant though and, having been following the bookies odds, we hadn’t bought dollars. The US leg of our trip alone was going to cost an extra £1,500 – grrrr.
Taxi, train, taxi, Heathrow Express got us to Terminal 5 with 4 hours to spare before our flight. After an hour to get through security (not complaining!) we settled into the Priority Lounge with a glass of Prosecco each (not Fred!) and made the most of the pretty good buffet. Fred decided to introduce himself to an elderly Hong Kong Chinese lady who had been smiling at him and was soon in conversation about Hong Kong and then his travels. As we made our way to the plane we met our pilot and the crew who were short of a co-pilot due to him being stuck on the M25 – Fred offered his services having mastered the ipad pilot simulator. That got him an invite into the cockpit (see pic) with both pilots at the end of our flight.
A 7 hour flight gave me the opportunity to enjoy a smorgasbord of movies. I simply loved ‘The Big Short’ if you haven’t seen it you must. Nails fabulously why the banking crisis happened in 2007 with a great cast and ingenious film making. I wiled away the rest of the flight with the more flimsy but still great fun ‘How to Stay Single’ and ‘Eddie the Eagle’. The best inflight entertainment however was Fred spotting a white blanket of icebergs in the Atlantic as we skirted Greenland. They were stunning and we saw some massive ones which took all our breath away.
With nowhere booked for our first night we left Toronto heading East on the highway and made our way to Coburg which had been recommended by Fiona a Brit who lives in Toronto, a friend of a friend who had connected us on Facebook. Shattered by the time we arrived in Coburg at 9pm (2am UK time!) we checked into a Best Western on the outskirts. Slightly collapsed but starving we were the only people in the restaurant and were looked after wonderfully by Sophia. An hour in Fred’s adrenalin was spent – we had the benefit of a reviving bottle of Valpolicella which served to both perk us up but also sedate us. Off we trotted to our room which had 3 queen sized beds and snuggled down by 10pm (3am UK time).
Rather predictably both Dean and I woke at 3 am (8am UK time). After 3 hours of trying to get to sleep I gave up, pulled on my running gear and headed down to the beach with the map provided by concierge. Dean was also awake and the Canadians, being hugely helpful, had a pot of hot coffee on the go in the lobby which I delivered to Dean before I left.
I don’t think I’ve ever had such an amazing experience. It was stunning and special. No one around, glorious dawn, deserted beaches, a horizon that was indivisible from Lake Ontario, and wildlife in abundance with no fear of humans. I won’t say anymore because you can see and hear it for yourself in the video posted with this blog update.
On getting back to the hotel at 8:20am Dean and Fred were already in the dining room and we tucked into French Toast (Dean), pancakes and syrup (Fed), and a fruit tray (me) NB I had consumed more carbs, Haribos, Chips etc than a I care to remember the day before! Given there was an indoor pool and we’d paid higher rates than our budget we all trooped off after breakfast to get our full value for money. Turned out the pool was like a mini CentreParcs and we had a brilliant time.
After my recce morning run we’d decided to spend the day on Coburg beach. I’ve no idea why it doesn’t feature in the books it’s a perfect location and beats anywhere else we’ve been to date in Europe. Freshwater lake, 2 miles of white sand, marina, totally safe swimming, parkland with play areas and splash parks, on and on. Pics probably do a better job than I can! To top it all when we arrived at the beach so did a Scottish family who were staying with an English friend who had moved to Coburg 2 year before. Fred had 4 generous playmates with inflatable dinghy’s and giant floats. He was in heaven and Dean and I sat on a sand free esplanade reading our kindles. Bliss.
With no place booked for the night we asked around and were recommended the old jail and courthouse that is now an Inn. So we found ourselves at The King George Inn enjoying the hospitality of a ‘British Pub’! The walls were adorned with tributes to Princess Diana and a host of other items paying homage to the Royal Family. It was all rather touching. Republican Dean thoroughly enjoyed the kitsch of it allJ
As we hadn’t been seeking out steak and kidney pie we headed into town and stumbled across a fabulous tapas bar. A bottle of Route 33 Temporillina at a knockout 14% (!) was the perfect complement to crab cakes with salsa, calamari pan fried in Pernod, roasted cauliflower and chickpea in a home made thai sauce, and home made feta cheese bread. Fred finished off with an amazing chocolate pudding cake that he declared was the best ever (you’ll hear Fred saying that a lot!!).
By 9 we were struggling to stay awake and hit the sack to the sounds of a local ‘Shania Twain’ playing on the terrace of the Inn. However not before we had been engaged in another conversation about Brexit – grrrrr!
For me this trip is all about having a great adventure with my family. Its taken years for us to finally stop talking about it and do it - simply because it both excites and frightens the life out me! So I'm stepping out of corporate life, where I singularly failed to achieve a work/life balance....to experience different cultures and spend time with those I love xx