The ROM – Big, Overwhelming, Awe-Inspiring, Probably a Must Visit – Certainly a Must Shop


The newly redesigned entrance to this grande dame of the museum world says it all. The ROM is here to stay – and determined to stay impressive. We showed up at opening time – wanting to avoid the crowds that a civil holiday Monday were sure to inspire.

Like most major museums – there are the ‘permanent’ exhibits, and the traveling shows or special exhibits. We opted for a combined ticket that gave us access to everything – $26 each, but we’re talking a full day of walking, reading, listening and thinking. Worth it for adults, maybe not as child friendly as today’s kids might expect.

The ‘Special’ Exhibit during our visit was a very interesting one on Mesopotamia. Replete with some pretty new technology – like carved stone reliefs that came to life to show you the story they were telling in a more ‘modern’ fashion, seeing just this one exhibit took us most of the morning. That said – people shot past us frequently – either unable or unwilling to read and listen. But I found the content fascinating, the short ‘expert interviews’ appealing, and some of the technology on display impressive. My favorite, the recreation of the city of Babylon, complete with people walking the streets.

The permanent exhibits represent a quick look at just about every thing that caught the eye or interest of curators in the past. The guide gives you a handy hot list of the 13 or so ‘not to be missed’ exhibits – easily identified by the presence of a video monitor on a post nearby. Watching these quick intros into the why and wherefores of these major collectables was interesting to say the least. And believe it or not – took up all the rest of the day. It’s a huge place. Trust me on that!

For those who eat in Museums – I must say that I had some of the best food I’ve ever had in a museum in the unassuming ROM cafe. Delicious, reasonable, kid friendly, attractively presented. What’s not to like.

Is this my favorite museum in Toronto? No
Is this a must visit museum? If in Toronto, probably Yes
Would I see this one first? No
Would I see this one on my second day, or if the weather were terrible? Absolutely Yes

There you have it. The ROM
Visited August 2013

Devon Cream – Divine stuff – and you can get it at Harry Ten Shilling in Stratford


There’s nothing quite like Tea Time and the Devon Cream at Harry Ten Shilling.

Clearly a ‘Oh Yum’ kind of place – it features Devon Cream, Rich ‘Coffee’ Cakes or ‘Tea’ Breads made with fresh fruit, a rich strawberry compot, and at least 40 different teas to enjoy.

And ‘Oh Yum’ pretty much sums it up. The Harry Ten Shilling is utterly adorable – for women. It’s easily my favorite lunch spot in Stratford. Truly a teeny tiny place, it is conveniently located directly across from the Avon Theatre. Easy to enjoy, and truly easy to get to your matinée performance.

But my husband hated it. Cute sandwiches just won’t do it for him and the savory options – an overly peppered cold Gaspacho and an overly peppered Quiche were both better avoided.

But the Tea for Two at $48 was a delicious delight. Served on a double plate rack loaded with tea sandwiches (no crusts of course), tea bread, Devon cream, sweet treats and a pot de creame. I opted for a Roibos tea called Tuscany Pear. Oh dear – it was wonderful.

There are other less pricy options of course – a simpler tea just gives you Devon cream (I simply can’t get enough of that) and a sample of what they call scones – but I call tea bread.

From the fine porcelain cups and saucers to the rose decorated plates this is place that knows which side of the toast is buttered – and definitely does it right.

The Prune – Crazy name, great food, lovely restaurant


I adore eating a meal at the Prune in Stratford. Yes every option is Prix-Fixe – but there are lots of options – a ‘Chef School’ option for $49, a ‘Vegetarian’ option for $59, a 4 course meal for $85, and a 5 course meal (it includes the cheese course) for $95.

To challenge the kitchen we ended up ordering 3 different options. I was torn between the vegetarian option that sounded yummy and the ‘Chef School’ option which featured a Flat iron Steak. I ended up with the steak – which aside from being a tad over-cooked (I prefer raw, it was served without asking at Medium Raw), was delicious. I found my beet and Kielbasa salad delicious – and my desert of lemon semi-fredo was amazing.

My husband’s fresh pea soup was thick, creamy, and a delight on the tongue. I didn’t try my sister’s chicken liver mousse (I hate liver) – but she seemed to enjoy it! Her main course – a risotto – wasn’t as creamy as she expected, but she refused to let the chef know. Her choice, I guess. My husband’s main course was the clear winner – a pouched trout Napoleon. Layers of crisp pasty dough sandwiched between slices of pouched trout. Oh, it was wonderful.

For the cheese course, they offered 4 cheeses from Ontario – none of which I’d ever heard of. They were properly served with toasted walnut bread. Perfect.

But the most fun – the conversation. We were seated in a side section of the restaurant – and the people at the next table heard us discussing a play we’d just seen – and joined in. Eventually, our entire corner of the restaurant was engaged in a free-for-all discussion of Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice”. Only in Stratford, eh?

Bottom line – great looking restaurant – modern without pretention, excellent food, a variety of price points to suit many different budgets and requirements – and as an added bonus – fab conversation.

A winner, for sure a winner.

The Old Prune on Urbanspoon

Old Prune The on Foodio54

Rundles in Stratford – Overpriced – but oh so elegant


Used to be that getting a reservation at Rundles was impossible. You needed reservations months ahead, and even then it would be a challenge. But the food was amazing – so the planning ahead was worth it. And if you asked, and it wasn’t rented, they would give you a tour of the house next door.

Well things have changed over the years – and not to the better unfortunately. Prices are up, food quality is down, service is lacking – and no house tour was available. Guess it figures – getting reservations was decidedly easy.

We arrived promptly at 5:00 – with a theatre at 8:00 – we needed to eat and go. But in 2.5 hours – you should be able to get us in and out. And that went well. We did leave on time, we just didn’t leave impressed.

The menu is now prix-fixe – and at $95 per person, a bit of a gasp if you aren’t planning to eat a lot. We opted for 3 different appetizers, three main courses, and 3 desserts. The meal was so forgettable – I can’t even remember what I had. My sister had duck – presentation was lovely, taste was good – but for the price – well, a tad over kill.

I hate to say this – but Rundles – I think you’ve seen the last of us.

Rundles Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Rundles Restaurant on Foodio54

The Queen’s Inn’s Boar’s head Tavern – Utterly Forgettable


Tell me it isn’t so – you aren’t really serving pre-packed and Frozen Fish and Chips in a ‘Tavern’ are you? Can you say Terrible? Can you say Insane?

I mean if you’ve gone to the effort to have dart boards on the walls, wooden floors and a great looking bar with draft beer – why would you serve people clearly frozen pre-battered fish. It’s so obvious for goodness sake.

At least buy frozen fish filets – those are just as cheap – and batter them yourself. Those obviously perfect diamond shapes are a give-away. And the taste is bland and boring. Clearly there are better options out there in Stratford, Ontario.

Definitely avoid this one!

The Boar's Head Pub on Urbanspoon

Raja – Elegant Indian food in Stratford, Ontario


Not quite on the main drag, the Raja has survived its location because of its quality. And despite the years, it continues to impress.

Stuck with having to eat between Matinees and Evening Performances – ie: 5:00 to 7:30 – and not wanting ‘fast food’, the Raja has always been one of our go to options. The room is lovely. Dark wood, quiet carpeting, table cloths, proper napkins, and attentive waiters win me over every time. The food is good as well.

We were 3 – so we opted for a combo dinner for 2 which included an appetizer sampler, butter chicken, rice, and several other traditional Indian dishes. I opted for the tandoori Chicken, served sizzling on a platter of onions. The butter chicken was delicious, the tandoori Chicken properly cooked and appropriately juicy, and my sisters Chai tea was excellent.

Just a bit more on the Chai Tea. We were warned when we ordered it that it would take about 5 minutes to prepare because it is done to order. And they delivered a tea with the milk and tea leaves properly steamed and combined by hand into a lovely bouquet of delicious smell and taste.

Bottom line – Great look, ok Indian Food – and fast. So perfect for a quick and relatively inexpensive but nice dinner pre-theatre.

Raja Fine Indian Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Raja Fine Indian Cuisine on Foodio54

The Library Bar, Royal York Hotel, Toronto – Awful food in a great looking Bar


Library Bar at the Royal York in Toronto – forget it. Very expensive, and not very good.

Perhaps the problem was my timing. I ate lunch there on a Friday, and from the other reviews – I can see that they are normally open only Saturday and Sunday. But still – it was a simply terrible excuse for a meal.

I ordered an Ahi Tuna Wrap – and it came with either a salad or french fries. Since it was billed as a ‘low calorie’ option on the menu – why would you offer french fries with it. But moving past that, the wrap was actually terrible. A too thick tortilla, folded around 3 small slices of Ahi Tuna, a bit of salad, and 3 slices of what might have once been avocado. It was served chilled, and honestly looked and tasted like it had been made much earlier in the day, put in a fridge, and just plopped on the plate. The salad was mealy and ordinary – which given the price of an outrageous $22 – I’m sorry. That’s disgusting.

Too bad too because the Library Bar looks so lovely – all dark brown and woody with comfortable seats and sofas and a very pleasant feel of restrained elegance. Plus the service was very nice. Normally they charge for internet – but the matre-d’ took pity on me and let me sign on using his code for an hour. Question to consider, why do expensive hotels still insist on charging for something that less expensive hotels and most restaurants and even some airports give away for free? I’m talking of course about internet access.

In any case – stick to the ‘Bar’ part of the Library and avoid the food.

Library Bar - Fairmont Royal York on Urbanspoon

Oh the people you’ll meet – Riding the train from Montreal to Toronto


There are 4 different ways to get from Montreal to Toronto. You can drive – it’s about 6 hours, and very boring. You can ride the bus – which is about 8 hours, and while you don’t have to drive the thing, it’s not exactly luxurious. You can fly – either to the Island Airport (which I keep promising myself to do, and have never actually done), or to Toronto International which is an airport I avoid under all circumstances.

Or – you can take the train. The train takes 4 hours. You arrive minutes before it is due in Dorval, stand either on the platform or in the train station, climb on – and off you go. From Montreal to Toronto, seats are assigned – so you know which car, you know which seat – it’s quite easy. Most of the time.

And generally fairly reasonable. In the height of the season, a senior ticket is around $100 one way, including all taxes. So it’s less pricy than flying, and about the same amount of time if one includes arriving at least 2 hours ahead for the plane!

So – Friday am, 7:11 finds me on the train heading to Toronto. I’d selected a window seat months ago, but it was taken by a lovely older woman, who explained that she’d given up her seat to a woman with a baby. The baby in question was ensconced in one of those giant carrying seats – and the woman was apparently asleep. Oh well – guess I’m getting an aisle seat this time. I don’t mind the aisle, it’s really just that I prefer the window. But it’s hard not to feel a bit sorry for the baby at least.

I make myself comfy – I brought along fruit to munch, figuring that no matter what they had to sell it wouldn’t be either on my diet or frankly – fresh and yummy. Packaged cakes are easier for the staff – but hardly made this morning.

Naturally, being of similar ages, my seat mate and I start to chat – and chat – and chat. She has 2 sons, and 3 grandkids. She’s going to visit a friend in Toronto that she’s known since elementary school. She recently took a river boat cruise from Prague which was great except that her roommate – an extremely good friend that she’s spent much time with – turns out to be a better house mate than room-mate. In fact, she’s a lousy room-mate – insisting on lights out at 10:30 – and no noise. Hard to take a shower before bed, hard to party if you must undress in the dark. But overall the river boat was apparently a wonderful trip – worth thinking about.

My new friend continues to tell me about her life. Her husband died very young, and very suddenly. He had just been playing golf, came in – complained of not feeling well, and died. She called a neighbor who called 911 – and tried to do mouth to mouth to no avail. That was quite some time ago – since then she’s had a male companion – who she will not marry, nor live with – but loves to travel with. Interesting. I think about how truly boring my life must appear to most people – my husband and I are celebrating 43 years of marriage this September.

We discuss the challenges involved in finding someone to travel with – I remind myself how fortunate I am that I have 2 travel companions – my husband for upscale trips or downscale re-enactments, and the Intrepid Traveller for long stays in one country. Somethings just work out like that. I wonder if she thinks I’m fortunate – or merely boring. The old adage – walk a mile in someone elses shoes – seems so valid at moments like this.

We chat for effectively the entire trip, interrupted only by trying to figure out the capital of Finland (It’s Helsinki), and by the young man with the food cart. Such lousy coffee – at least it’s not insanely expensive too.

At our arrival in Toronto we part ways – her to find a porter and her friend. Me to drag myself and my tiny traveling bag to the Royal York to meet up with my husband.

Ships that collide in the night – and likely never meet again.

Great trip. Thanks Seatmate!

Pickering, Ontario – More than just a Nuclear Power Plant


Don’t knock Pickering – sure it’s got a Nuclear Power Plant – but it also has the “I love Roti”. Even better – right near by is a Cold Stone Creamery. It’s a win-win for hungry travelers.

I’ve actually ate at the “I Love Roti” before – many years ago when a conference required me to drive from Montreal to Toronto – and I ended up hungry about mid-way. This time was no different –

“I Love Roti” is hardly your white-table cloth restaurant. Located in a mall that offers little else besides a Tim Horton and a Cold Stone Creamery, it’s long, thin, and basic. The menu consists of just a few very traditional foods – chicken with or without bones, in Roti or on rice; beef without bones, and a chicken curry. But what they do – they do right. I got the chicken with bones wrapped in a Roti and served with a delicious home-made curry sauce – and it completely and totally hit the spot. Such a nice option if you don’t feel like American Fast-Food.

After lunch – we strolled over to the Cold Stone Creamery for Ice Cream. Oh my – that was delicious. For those of you who don’t know what Cold Stone is about (and I admit – I didn’t) – the idea is simple. You pick your ice cream flavor, pick your size, and then – this is the cool part – you pick your garnish. There were at least 2 dozen options – from Reese’s Pieces to Toasted Almonds. They put your ice cream on the cold stone (hence the name), and then they chop and dice it to mix up it up for you. It’s delicious.

And a perfect way to break up a long drive.

I Love Roti on Urbanspoon

Colonel’s Inn – Practically Perfect in Every Way


We simply loved our stay at The Colonel’s Inn in Prescott, Ontario

If you read by blog about 6 Rules for picking a Perfect Vacation Rental – you know about Location, Reviews, Know what you want, Price, and Correspondence. Well – here’s how those rules played out recently at the Colonial Inn in Prescott, On

I needed a place to stay near Spencerville, Ontario (Location) – a tiny town that was hosting a wonderful 1812 gathering. Since we were going to be walking around in period dress – finding a place that felt period seemed important (Know what you want). And my husband is allergic – deathly allergic to cats. So I had to be able to check that out (Correspondence).

I searched several different sites – and eventually found The Colonel ‘s Inn in Prescott. It seemed perfect on paper (Reviews). Great location – Prescott is a tiny Ontario town on the Saint Lawrence River, and while the Colonel’s Inn wasn’t on the water – it was easy walking distance to the Marina. Best of all, it was period appropriate – built-in around 1820 – a tad late for us, but within reason.

And most importantly – the hosts – Geof and Jan – replied quickly to my questions about no cats, room size, and availability. I booked it.

We arrived a touch early – we needed to be at the dance lessons that started at 4:00 pm, and were hoping to quickly change. The sign on the door was extremely welcoming – if locked – please feel free to call. Jan arrived within minutes – cheerfully inviting to ‘come on in!’ So we did. Recognizing our need for speed, Jan handed us the keys – showed us where the room was – and said – Geof will finish registration when you get back from your evening activities. Nice – very nice.

And even nicer when we returned, hot and sweaty from all the dancing – Geof announced that the pool was still open – we should change quickly and grab a swim. We were on it like ducks to water!

Breakfast the next morning, with the house full, was served buffet style – plenty of hot coffee and tea, plain scrambled or cheesy scrambled eggs, assorted breads with butter and jam, sausage and ham. Yummy.

That night we returned late (after the Regency Ball and amazing Fireworks) – to be told – the pool is open! Oh boy – that’s awesome. Everyone in the house came down – there were late night munchies, supplied by other guests, and we all swam and chatted and laughed. That’s why you do B&B’s – to meet other people – and meet we did.

On our 2nd morning – again a full house, again all planning to eat at the same time, merited another buffet – this time with eggs Benedict and country ham that they grilled outside on the BBQ.

On our 3rd morning – with the house basically empty – we finally got served breakfast. It was again eggs Benedict with a wonderful fruit salad – but they were so delicious – I’m not complaining about the repeat breakfast for a second. In fact – I’d go back again just for those eggs!

Complaints – I have just two, both very minor. One, our room didn’t have a window that opened – but it did have an air conditioner. Had we thought to turn it on – all would have been fine – but somehow we didn’t – and it got a tad stuffy. That said, the furnishings were great, the bathroom clean, the bed comfy – so I can only blame us for the problem.

My 2nd complaint – I’ve stayed in lots of B&B’s – and my absolute favorite (The Little Mermaid in Mystic, Conn.) did 2 things so special, I’ve always wanted to find another that offered that kind of welcome. What did they do? They provided home-made cookies at night before bed, and put out bowls of popcorn for late night munchies. Such a wonderful touch. And when you checked out – they gave you a ‘gift’ bag for the road – bottles of water and several more cookies. Not a huge expense – but I’ll never forget that place. Unfortunately – the Colonel’s Inn didn’t do any of these things. On the other hand – when they realized we’d have to pass by Prescott on our drive back to Montreal several days later – they invited us to just drop by and grab a swim. Trust me – that was seriously nice.

Bottom line – the Colonel’s Inn earned a place in our PDA’s – next time I find myself staying anywhere near Prescott – I’m staying at the Colonel’s. Jan and Geof are some of the best hosts – ever.