Thursday, June 30, 2011

All Creatures Great and Small

Concluding the Grand Beaver Tour, we ended up in the Land of Beavers: Canada!

While there, we stayed at a Fairfield Inn in Guelph, Ontario. Where? Right. It's about an hour west-ish of Toronto, and it took far fewer hotel points to stay there for two nights than it did to stay in Toronto for one. In fact, the Canadian Border Patrol agent, upon hearing that we were going to Guelph, said, "Why?" in what was probably a little bit derisive tone. To its credit, it really is more of a nerd convention town than a vacation destination. We were at home, though, for obvious reasons.

Our first full day in Canada we knew we were headed to Toronto. It was my responsibility to decide what we were going to do in Canada, but of course, with summer school and two kids, I didn't, so we were winging it. Eli just wanted to see BMO Field, where the Major League Soccer team, Toronto FC, plays. So, the plan was to drive by the field and head on to other kid-friendly endeavors. However, when we drove by the stadium, something was going on, so I jumped out of the car and asked at the box office, and it turns out that there was an open practice for Toronto FC. Without even asking Eli what he wanted to do, I got four admission tickets (free, but you had to have them) because I knew he would want to go. We spent the morning with Elsie running around the stadium getting her exercise, while watching the practice and the freestyle performers that came on at the end (it turned out to be an event for local school children to learn about healthy lifestyles).

We got back in the car and both children crashed before we even made it to the ferry terminal to do research about going out to Center Island, so we decided to head back to Guelph and stop at any interesting landmarks along the way. Just in case you find yourself driving in Toronto, it is important to note that outside of the multiple-lane highways, there is no fast way to get North to South in the city. I suspect the same holds true for East-West travel, but we didn't go that way.

Once we finally got back out on the Canadian interstate equivalent, we saw a sign for the Apple Factory Farmer's Market as a point of interest, so we decided to investigate. It was not so much a farmer's market as a food boutique, but Elsie loved that there were chickens in the side yard. They had a double-Beaver gumball machine (told you Canadians love Beavers!) that dispensed chicken food. After that, anything that even remotely resembled the granular feast was labelled by the toddler as "Chicken Food!" and she pointed it out everywhere.

How we decided what to do the next day was really decided for us by the toddler. Elsie is addicted to brochures. I mean, we can't stop at welcome centers along the interstate without her emptying a couple of racks--one brochure at a time--and bringing them to us, shoving them in our hand saying, "Here," and then going back for more. Same with hotel lobbies. Which is how we found out about the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory. So, on our way out of town, we headed to Cambridge, Ontario to see the butterflies. We pass the Beaverdale Country Club on the way out, just in case you wanted another example of Beaver love.

The Butterfly Conservatory was so beautiful! It was a just large enough greenhouse environment that the toddler had room to walk (or run, as the case may be) around and observe butterflies, birds, and koi, but small enough that the parents didn't have to stay right with her 100% of the time. There were hundreds of butterflies just flying around and sitting on plants and eating fruit. Elsie loved it. Oscar just tolerated it. Haha.

Looking at a butterfly with daddy:

Playing in a bowl of butterfly wings from the previously deceased:

Look, Mama! Budderfy!

She's starting to get sleepy. Did you see her highly-apropos shirt? Just coincidence.

Proof that O-man came on this jaunt with us, too:

We also found this magnetic treasure in the gift shop and couldn't pass it up:

I know, right? Perfect souvenir.

After the butterflies, we got in the car and drove to Detroit. The original plan was to got to the Henry Ford Museum, but it was later than expected, and so we stopped to eat dinner instead, with a plan to go to the Meijer and get some swim wings for Elsie so we could skip the museum and swim in the hotel pool that night. Guess where we ate? In Marysville, MI:

Thursday morning we got up bright and squirrely and drove to Cincinnati for this leg of the journey home. On the way, we stopped in

(Ohio) for lunch. I already knew before we even left home that I wanted to go to the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens. We've never taken Elsie to a zoo before, and my first zoo memories were from this same zoo, as far as I can recall. The zoo was fantastic. If we lived there, we would be members.

Elsie was most enthralled with the gibbons on Gibbon Island. They were LOUD. She loved the "muckeys". She also enjoyed showing the lion how it's done as far as roaring goes. Once she was done, he responded back. But, by far, her favorite part was the train around the park. Here are some pictures from that trip:

Choo choo!

Show us your new tooth, Oscar! (The land of Beavers inspired a new one..)

Gorilla Girl!

Ooooh! A lion! (Very little in the background above his hand...)

Ridin' nerdy:

To end the night, we met my sister and nephew and niece at IKEA in Cincinnati since they were driving through on their way home to Texas from the wedding (after a week of photogging and mucking around in cemeteries for genealogy stuff). We love them so much. For days, Elsie kept talking about them, bringing their names up randomly in conversation, pointing out people who vaguely resembled them (there was a girl at the hotel who was tall, thin, had long light brown hair and glasses, and from far away Elsie thought it was M and got so excited). As a bonus, I got to walk around IKEA. Score!

The next morning, Friday, we got out of the hotel and drove as far as Chattanooga to go visit with Eli's aunt and uncle who live there. They got us tickets to the Creative Discovery Museum in Downtown Chattanooga, so we took the kids in the afternoon.

Elsie playing the guitar:

Oscar trying his hand at the harp-thing:

Oscar needs a hat in the Bob the Builder exhibit. Elsie said so.

Pretend-a-saurus meets fabulous archaeologist hat:

Finally, Saturday, we drove the last leg of the trip home. Ah, home sweet home. Glad to be here.


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