Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

Stratford Festival 2020

Tickets went on sale January 3 for what promises to be a Landmark 2020 Stratford Festival  season, commencing in April. Veteran actor, Colm Feore, will open the new Tom Patterson theatre, in the lead role of Richard III, with the later dedication of the new theatre on June 11, the 100th anniversary of the birth of its founder. With 15 plays in four theatres including two other Shakespeare plays, Much Ado about Nothing and Hamlet, the season is lively and diverse. Chicago fills the musical bill along with Spamalot, and a brand new musical by our own Steven Page, Here’s What It takes. Some old and new dramatic favourites complete the mix. Across a broad spectrum, the season should appeal to all ages and tastes. Some special prices can be found on selected days and All inclusive packages and  accommodation can be booked in advance. See the comprehensive Program guide available on request, for further information.

The popular Forum series, originally started as an added enhancement to the stage productions is almost an entertainment in itself,  with a diverse program of events, everything from Margaret Trudeau in her One Woman show to a Drag Brunch, with debates, celebrity guest speakers, concerts and workshops almost everyday, for an immersion in the theatre experience.

Add the Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre, University courses, and other realms of study and  Stratford has become a beacon of learning, for the Theatre/ Arts industry.

The Festival has a twice-daily Stratford Direct private bus service between Toronto and Stratford and Kitchener/Waterloo and Stratford. Stratford Direct is a reasonable and comfortable option for those who prefer not to drive the highway. It operates from Toronto downtown or Vaughan and  from Kitchener/Waterloo, during the season.  Seats must be reserved in advance at   Buses  operate daily, check departure points on the website.   Overnight stays of various durations can be accommodated. Some date exceptions apply on single performance days.

Make a day or weekend of it and include some sightseeing, dining and shopping, for which Stratford and the surrounding rural communities are  justly proud.

For further information on Playbill performance dates, the extensive Forum program and other special events, see the informative Program Guide.

To order the Program Guide or Tickets    contact:   1 800 567 1600    or  see

Shaw Festival tickets on sale for 2020 season

Tickets are now on sale for the 2020 Shaw Festival season which commences April 2 with a matinee performance of the comedy Charley’s Aunt at the Royal George Theatre. One of two comedies along with Shaw’s The Devil’s Disciple, there is an eclectic program including two musicals, the ever popular Gipsy, and Assassins, among thirteen shows. Included are a Sherlock Holmes mystery, a family show Prince Caspian, based on a Narnia tale, and lovers of traditional theatre will enjoy Synge’s Playboy of the Western World. A highlight will be a very unusual new play Mahabharata, a contemporary look at an old Sanscrit epic, specially commissioned, which will be of particular interest to theatre fans looking for something different. A Cbristmas Carol will return again for the winter, before the season ends on December 23. Truly a season of contrasts. The Shaw Festival is unique in that it features plays by Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries.

For the complete playbill see

  You can order tickets online at, by mail to Shaw Festival, Box 774, Niagara-on-the-Lake, On, LOS IJO, by phone at 1.800.511.SHAW or in person at the Box Office.  Enquire about special offers,  Multi-play packages, Student and Senior savings, or book an All Inclusive Hotel and Theatre package through or 1.877.356.6385

Enhance your total theatre experience with a wide variety of  Beyond the Stage events. You can Meet the Company, take a  Backstage Tour, participate in workshops or symposiums, enjoy a musical interlude,  or take a Spa day, the choices are endless.  The historic Prince of Wales, and other featured hotels all have their own special character and offer excellent Spa Facilities.

The area is also known for its hospitality choices, with some first class restaurants, hotels and resorts, and wine tours and  fine dining at  many wineries throughout the Niagara Wine region.

Now you don’t even have to drive. You can can take the Shaw Express bus from downtown Toronto with a stop at Burlington, four days a week. See website for schedules and cost.

Find it all  in one of the loveliest parts of southern Ontario.  The historic town of Niagara on the Lake is  ablaze with flowers in summer, with horse drawn carriage rides, restaurants and boutique shopping in  picturesque  surroundings. Follow the scenic Niagara parkway  past pristine Wineries,  or be thrilled by  spectacular Niagara Falls, only a few miles down the road.

For everything you need to know to plan your visit   call 1.800.511.SHAW, to order the 2020 Shaw Festival handbook


Waterloo Region full of surprises

Waterloo Region is full of surprises

Because it is so close to Toronto, about an hour by road, visitors may think there is not much to see in Waterloo Region, but in fact it is an interesting area with the best of both old and new within its borders, from the Heritage of the Mennonite community to a High Tech technology triangle which includes the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, which is commanding International acclaim. Emminent theoretical thinkers come from around the world and include Physicists from Stanford, and Harvard Universities, and Dr. Stephen Hauking, from Cambridge University who spent three months here in 2010 and will have a Research building named in his honour. The Institute has a program of Special events and classical concerts.
For events and information see:

But the area has always been one of innovation and renewal.
About a century ago, a breakaway group of families made the long trek from the Amish settlements of Pennsylvania, to southwestern Ontario, Canada to establish their own smaller group known as Mennonites, around the village of St. Jacobs, in Waterloo County. Now a popular tourist region “St. Jacobs Country” is a place to explore a simpler side of life, and any day driving along the highway, you are likely to pass a family of Old Order Mennonites and their distinctive black horsedrawn buggy, clip clopping smartly along the specially widened gravel shoulder between lush farmland and immaculate farms. Many of the farms operate without the benefit of electricity, telephones or modern machinery, and are some of the most productive in Ontario.
It is a great place for a family outing. In the pretty village of St. Jacobs, the heart of the Mennonite community, don’t miss the recently upgraded Visitor Centre where the Mennonite story is brought to life with video and interesting interpretive displays. Only about 16% now represent the strictly traditional “Old Order” Mennonites but in this working community they are easily identified in their traditional dress, the women in long floral dresses, pinafores and bonnets, bustling around the wonderful bakery on the main street and the bearded men, wearing black suits and wide brimmed black hats. However, don’t try to photograph them or they will hurry away in their buggies.
On market day local highways are blocked for miles around to St. Jacobs Market, one the most popular attractions in the area..The Mennonites are astute businessmen, and were some of the first in the area to link into Agri Tourism. Since they developed the original stockyard Farmers Market into a full scale Farmers and Flea market, it has become a local landmark and now has upwards of 600 vendors, selling everything from fresh vegetables and farm produce to quilts, crafts, electronics and clothing
Take a covered wagon tour pulled by sturdy shire horses for a tour of an old order Mennonite farm. Still a busy working farm, corn and apples are the mainstay of life and kids will especially enjoy the rural activities of the past, with demonstrations of Maple syruping during the season, haymaking and threshing. The tour ends in the old farmhouse, unmodernised but still fully functioning, where you can sample some home made preserves or watch patchwork quilt making, for which the Mennonite women are world renowned, before clip clopping back to the market.
For further information on St. Jacobs Country Contact: Jenny Shantz 519 664 2293 or see

Waterloo Region also has two of Canada’s best known Universities, University of Waterloo and Wilfred Laurier University and several museums worthy of note. The Clay and Glass Museum in Waterloo is a one of a kind with some unique glass sculptures. “The Museum” in downtown Kitchener hosts world class exhibits which aim to Awe, Inspire and Enlighten and has included the “Titanic” exhibition and a recent look at the mystery of Artist Tom Thomson, member of the Canadian Group of Seven.
But the museum I am most looking forward to is the opening of the new Waterloo Region Museum in an architecturally attractive new building attached to Doon Pioneer Village in Kitchener. Thousands of artifacts from the pioneering days of the region which was founded mostly by immigrants from Germany and eastern Europe, have been stored away for years and curators are busy setting up displays before the grand opening in September 2011. It will record the long agricultural and cultural roots of this lovely region, and you will be able to step back in time as you wander through Doon Pioneer Village, which has been updated and contains many old homes, farmhouses and other buildings rescued from pioneering communities. Add to this a scenic rural landscape full of tiny villages and picturesque trails; you can even have lunch on an old steam train as it chugs between Waterloo and Elmira, and the Region of Waterloo all adds up to a wonderful destination, so near and yet so far from the city lights of Toronto.

For further information see


World renowned Ceramics companies celebrate Anniversaries


Ceramics have been part of the decorative arts for centuries. This year two of the most famous Pottery companies in the world are celebrating significant anniversaries.
Located a short distance from beautiful Dresden, in northeastern Germany, one of the oldest, Meissen Manufacturing , known as one of the finest makers of ceramics in the world, is celebrating 300 years in 2010.
Pottery making was an ancient art in China and the far East for thousands of years, but Porcelain was invented in the western world in Dresden in 1708, when Johanne Friedrich Bottger, an Alchemist, the first researcher of porcelain, discovered a combination of the local water and clay mixed to a paste, which produced an extremely long lasting but delicate porcelain. In a small park in town on a hill overlooking the River Elbe and the historic bridges of Dresden, a plaque marks the gushing spring, where this historic event took place.
Meissen Porcelain was founded in the nearby renaissance market town of Meissen in 1710 and has been in continuous operation ever since, surviving wars and natural disasters, including massive destruction of the area during World War II, for 300 years.
Meissen uses a unique combination of material, local clay mined from the smallest pit in Europe, and their own paint formula, a closely guarded secret which produces about 10,000 recipes for 350 colours Artisans and craftsmen receive long training to produce some of the loveliest and most valuable creations to be found today.
Initially they made exclusive decorative pieces, sculptures and ornaments under the creative leadership of Johann Jacob Irminger, Court goldsmith to Augustus the Strong, famous Elector of Saxony, and King of Poland 1670 -1733, who began a fine collection of Meissen and Japanese porcelain which is now one of the most valuable and extensive ceramics collections in the world. During WWII along with German art collections it was evacuated to safety. Now much of the collection is on display in Dresden’s baroque art gallery, and Meissen ceramics are also highly prized in the antique world.
Over the years the company branched out into stylish decorations for small and grand tables and whole interiors and are now known for three distinct brands, Fine living/Art, Fine Dining and Jewellery.
At the Meissen Visitor Centre in the centre of the picturesque little town, you can watch the crafts people at work, in the demonstration section of the Manufacturing facility. The intricate designs which they produce are a testament to the patience and training they receive in this highly skilled occupation, which takes years to achieve.
Open all year, the visitor center has a display of beautiful ceramics in the Museum/Art Gallery and details design patterns from 1710 up until the present day. 200,000 moulds are preserved in the archives. You can take guided tours of the Museum and the ancient town.
There is also a factory shop, but don’t expect a bargain. Prices are still quite expensive but with a purchase you will have not only a beautiful objet d’art but a memento of a memorable visit.
A Pageant and Wine festival was held in Meissen in September to commemorate 300 years of Meissen Manufacturing and Events and exhibitions are being held around the Globe. Today Meissen has shops in 30 countries.
For more information see

The Wedgwood Pottery Company in the West Midlands of England is almost as old, celebrating 250 years in 2010. At a new recently opened Visitor centre and Award winning museum you can spend a fascinating day soaking up the History and Heritage and taking part in some hands on activities in the crafts skills demonstration area.
During the 18th century and the Industrial Revolution, the area known as “The Potteries” became the centre for the famous Wedgwood Potteries and other ceramic companies, traditionally one of the main industries in the Midlands.
Now the iconic “Bottle Oven” chimney stacks still identify “The Potteries” but most of the factories are pollution free and approaching the Wedgwood industrial complex, set in 250 acres of parkland in suburban Barleston, along a leafy country lane, alive with birdsong and sheep it is hard to believe that a world renowned product is produced in such rural surroundings.
The Wedgwood Company was founded by Josiah Wedgwood in 1759. Born to a family of Quakers, who settled in the Midlands in the 16th century, the company sealed its reputation when it produced a tea and coffee service for Queen Charlotte in 1766. “Queens Ware,” elegant cream coloured tableware remains one of their most popular product lines.
From a talented family, Josiah learnt his ceramic skills under his father, and was also a great social and environmental reformer. His sons were capable businessmen and potters and his grandson was Charles Darwin, author of “Origin of the Species”. Until recently the Company was still family owned with the sixth generation at the helm. It is now part of the Waterford Crystal group. They have added Royal Doulton and Waterford Glass to the Wedgwood brand but Quaker values of honesty, integrity and social responsibility still apply, reflecting a company also known for looking after its employees; most work there lifelong and love their jobs.
A visit to the Wedgwood Visitor Centre is a fascinating experience. You can spend a whole day wandering around. Start with a factory tour of the production area. You will find the crafts area most interesting. Here you can watch skilled artisans at work, and visitors are encouraged to talk to them and try their hand at some of the customized work. Jon, a Master painter, came straight from school and trained with Wedgwood as an apprentice for five years. Now he lectures and demonstrates extensively all over the world, and has just returned from Malaysia. One of my colleagues transfers a pattern onto a plate and customizes it for his visit with his name and date. John Reeves helps us throw pots. It is not as easy at it looks and I need a lot of help to produce something good enough to put in the firing oven. Mary Gilbert who hand decorates limited edition pieces with a delicate touch, tells me she has worked here 37 years and loves her job, there is no pressure to meet quotas, she says and Wedgwood is a wonderful employer, true to its Quaker roots. In due course, our amateur efforts will be packaged and can be mailed to a home address, anywhere in the world, for a nominal fee, all part of the visitor experience. My Wedgwood vase now occupies pride of place in my home in Canada, a unique memento of my visit.
But be sure to leave enough time to visit the new Wedgwood Museum.
Only opened in October 2008, in 2009 it won the prestigious UK Art Fund Prize of 100.000GBP which honours the most imaginative and original museum or gallery of the year. Nigel Spicer, Learning Access Manager, couldn’t be more delighted. Previously with some of England’s oldest museums, he found it a fascinating experience as he unearthed many Wedgwood treasures which have been in storage for years. For the first time they have been assembled altogether in one place.The museum has a circular design and one walks through history following the interactive displays which include 85,000 original manuscripts, detailing not only the ceramics industry but political, trade and social history from the 18th century, with artifacts, keynote designs from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries and family memorabilia, including paintings by Joshua Reynolds and other renowned artists. The ceramic ware, some unique pieces made for international exhibitions or specially commissioned, are magnificent and displayed beautifully. About 60% of the Wedgwood archives are now on display but exhibits will be constantly changing, and there is also an education centre for schools, academic scholars or short stay visitors with an interest in ceramics.
Completing the Visitor complex are two fine restaurants which specialize in fresh homestyle cooking starting with morning coffee, a light lunch, or a selection of lunches and afternoon teas, all at reasonable prices and a Gift shop and Outlet store. Parking is free.
This is just one of several interesting Pottery tours in Stoke-on-Trent, now known as the World Capital of Ceramics. 350 ceramic based businesses employ about 7000 people in the area and Outlet stores abound.
For more information see

The Royal York Hotel

The  city of Toronto has grown up around The Fairmont Royal York, and consequently its most cherished cultural institutions are in close proximity to the hotel.  The best nightlife, dining, shopping and other attractions are all within walking distance. The Fairmont Royal York, located across from Union Station at 100 Front Street West, is only four short subway stops away from The Royal Ontario Museum, located at 100 Queen’s Park or at the Museum subway station stop.

  The hotel always has enticing special packages geared to local events which include:

  • One night accommodation in a Fairmont Guestroom
  • Valet parking for one vehicle
  • Admission for two adults and two children  to a featured special event like an  an exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum  or Art Gallery of Ontario or a Theatre package

( Package is exclusive of taxes)

Reservations can be made by calling 1-800-441-1414, or online at

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Festival d’Ete de Quebec rocks!

If only my grandchildren could have seen me! Face painted and festive, I too was one of the revellers at the festival D’Ete de Quebec, in Quebec City. This joyful annual celebration of music and summer fun, with an eclectic mix of hard and soft Rock, folk music and street entertainers fills open air venues around the upper city, for two weeks every July. This year it will run from July 8- 18, 2010. Continue reading

Spotlight on Prague

Czech Republic located in the heart of Europe, seems to have retained its individuality despite years of oppression. The people are quite unlike their neighbours in appearance, tall, blond, good looking and well dressed. The capital, Prague is a beautiful city fully integrated into a market economy without losing its old world appeal.

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Step back in time on Mackinac island

As the ferry makes its way across the water a glistening white building stands out on the headland. It is the historic Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island on the northern tip of Michigan, one of the last remaining stately old white wooden luxury hotels, which graced the American landscape during the heyday of the railways a century ago. A visit is a step back in time to a kinder gentler era, an age of horsedrawn carriages, strawberry teas and leisurely strolls around town with ne’ry a cell phone in site. Continue reading

History is fun at the Jamestown Settlement

It is the 400th Anniversary of the Jamestown Settlement in Virginia, USA – America’s first permanent English colony founded in 1607 – and the historic area has been celebrating throughout the year. Continue reading

Go Porter for the better way

If you are taking a quick trip to Ottawa or other Canadian Cities for business or pleasure from Toronto, think Porter Airlines, based at the Island Airport. The journey is relaxed, easy and convenient. Continue reading