Our Canadian trips have taken us to the maritime provinces and Quebec, the Pacific Northwest, the central plains, but not to Ontario until this Shakespeare Festival garden year. We're already learning that southern Ontario is more prosperous and less quaint than the other provinces, with rich quarter-section farms. We're intrigued as to how and why the land was laid out not quite perpendicular, as a glance at a road map will quickly show. The roads, though usually straight, do not go north-south and east-west with the mathematical precision of Iowa or Nebraska, and they appear to intersect at 70- or 80-degree angles.
The farms are mostly quarter-section affairs, with big barns often painted with the farmer's name. The fruit and vegetable stands are opening up, and even if the temperature is in the fifties or sixties the Canadians determinedly wear shorts because it's summertime. At least there's no snow on the ground here! The usual crops of corn, wheat, beans can be seen, and we've had local fresh strawberries and asparagus in the restaurants.
Driving west from Fort Erie, avoiding the freeways, we passed through one small town after another, mostly founded at the end of the Hoisting the (bronze?) tent eighteenth century. Manufacturing and commerce have sprung up along the corridors from Toronto to Detroit and Buffalo, and cities like London (charmless, we thought), Kitchener and Waterloo have six-figure populations.
Sometime in the 1950s some local businessmen got the idea for a summer theater festival in Stratford, taking advantage of the Shakespearean connections of the town's name. It was touch and go at first, but when the idea caught the fancy of theater greats, it made a success. The first thing built was a stage, which jutted out into the audience and could be seen from a wide angle. The stage was put in a tent for the early festivals, but now there are four lovely theaters in town.
We attended a matinee of A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Festival Theater -- it was not our first choice, but the only play for which matinee seats were available two months in advance. All 1800 seats were filled. So if you're want to visit Stratford, we advise you to plan ahead. Horshoe-shaped window
It was a great day in Stratford, beautiful parks, waterfowl, lovely theater, and great costumes, sets, actors and all the appurtenances for the performance. But the modern *touches* didn't fit together thematically. An Amazon rainforest was chosen, and the fairies were trained by Cirque du Soleil staff and swung from trapezes and bungees. Pyramis and Thisbe were plaid by Latino barrio hardhats; and the performance grew positively slapstick as one of the actor's cell phone rang (intentionally). We enjoyed ourselves, but probably would have enjoyed a Shakespearean tragedy or history more; next time we'll investigate tickets and plan a year in advance. Or perhaps not; after all we've had no trouble finding tickets for a wonderful variety of performances in season in London and New York.
We visited St. Jacobs, which advertises itself as quaint, but is really a modern complex of outlet malls and clusters of antique shops. Garden near London Ontarians (do you think that's the right word?) seem to fill up all the highways and roads near the big cities, notwithstanding the price of gas. But the Mennonite origins of St. Jacobs have slipped away in the midst of twenty-first century mercantilism, although there is a horse-drawn carriage to carry shoppers down the road.
We recommend most highly the Arboretum located on the campus of the University of Guelph. Even though it was Alumni Weekend, there were plenty of garden paths to walk and get some exercise and enjoy plants and shrubs and evergreens and flower beds.
We also continue our genealogy research, using the ever-more-frequent high-speed internet connections available in hotels. We doubt that we could ever exhaust the genealogical resources now available on the internet, but nothing compares with walking the ground where ancestors lived and talking face-to-face with local historians.