blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Away to Hamilton

On the way to Hamilton, south of the Toronto islands
Hamilton was a new destination for us, although we have landed at the airport before. We may not do so again, since there is no fuel available there for small aircraft, only jet fuel. The man at the Glanford FBO who came out to meet us on the ramp when we arrived lifted his eyebrows a lot when he saw what kind of aircraft had pulled in, and laughed in surprise when we told him we wanted to tie down here for the night. (The ramp fee was $25 and we don't yet know the landing fee. We should have gone to Burlington, apparently, for general aviation services.) Nonetheless he and the lady in the office were courteous and helpful, allowing PTN to stay there and advising us where to rent a car and would have helped us find accommodation if we hadn't already booked an hotel room.

We came to Hamilton in order to take Ben home to McMaster University. Ben had been visiting his parents in Ottawa (Chris works with his dad). We sat Ben in the co-pilot's seat to give him good views on his ride, preferable to the long bus ride he usually endures; we stopped for lunch at Peterborough airport and enjoyed superb views and flying conditions all the way, especially along the stretch off shore over Lake Ontario, passing Toronto.

Signs of industry at Hamilton
Approaching Hamilton we could see the remains of its industry. It used to be a home of the steel industry, but its prosperity has since declined and more than a few of the grand old buildings have fallen into a dilapidated state. Some of the Hamiltonians must be troubled because even in the airport FBO I saw notices saying that bad language and abusive behaviour wouldn't be tolerated. We got the impression that the city is struggling to survive, but the downtown core is being "revitalized" now and it seems that vast sums of money are being spent to improve the look of the place.

I don't think the university population visits downtown Hamilton very often. Ben's house was in the leafy suburbs 10 minutes' drive away and the MacMaster campus is in that area.

There's an attractive fountain at the centre where James Street crosses Kings Street, and the new flower beds on the sidewalks are lavishly planted and nicely maintained. We were aware of the down-and-outs at the street corners with nowhere else to go that holiday Monday afternoon and we found a plethora of pawn shops, dollar stores, cheap food outlets and money lending establishments, as well as a large Bingo Hall and abandoned businesses with their windows boarded up. The non-abandoned businesses, closed that day, were fronted with metal screens. In 1982 this part of town was designated a Business Improvement Area. However, many brand new buildings are now interspersed, including our hotel, the Crowne Plaza.

Walking through this district after checking into that nice hotel we decided to keep going towards the waterfront. The lower part of James Street near the redbrick military buildings seemed more gentrified. Further down the street was the former Canadian National Railways Station on Immigration Square, as imposing as a palace, now serving as a banquet hall.

Many immigrants once ended their journey to Canada here, but there's no longer any access from the back of the buildings to the railway track. No passenger trains stop here now.

After crossing the railway bridge we discovered the splendid Bayfront Park by the water, where we wandered over the grassy hills and sat under the willow trees watching the geese and boats till it was time for supper. Returning up James Street, we found the Gate of India restaurant, named after the famous arch in Mumbai (I added that link for Chris, who had misidentified it as Marble Arch). According to the taste of my saag chicken with rice, the glowing reviews posted in its front windows are justified.

In the morning I had a swim in the hotel pool, then we had breakfast (an excellent mushroom omelette for me) and studied the weather forecasts carefully before checking out. It no longer looked like a good plan to fly north to Tobermory that afternoon unless we wanted to spend the following day in a motel room staring out at the rain, so we chose instead to visit the Royal Botanical Gardens on the edge of Burlington, before flying east again, to Kingston.

The gardens were glorious, informative too. The Mediterranean garden featured plants that grow in the Mediterranean climate (many Australian species here––the scent of eucalyptus takes me straight back to Sydney). In the Hendrie Park gardens on the other side of the road I learned about medicinal plants, etc. while Chris patiently waited for me in the rose garden watching the goldfinches and the butterflies and thinking about the garden scene in Shakespeare's Richard II.

In the (indoor) Mediterranean garden

Entrance to the main gardens, looking towards the Tea Room

Information in the Medicinal Garden

A lovely crop of Echinacea

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