Saturday 31 August 2013

Summer Fun

Summer is a time for fun and sun, so I made an effort to get out and do just that! 

After getting back from Greece, I took my mother, grandmother and Aunt to a play in Toronto. This had been planned for months as it was their birthday gifts and an excellent way to spend some time together. We saw "Anything Goes" which the Mirvish Theater Company was doing. It's an old play that had been revived a few years back in NY. I love theater and watch the Tonys faithfully, and had wanted to see it ever since I saw a few of the songs preformed on there. What an excellent show! The acting, singing and dancing were amazing. Anything Goes was was fun, upbeat and just a wonderful summer show. I am really loving the Mirvish play/musical choices as of late. Within the last few years I have seen excellent productions of Book of Mormon, Young Frankenstein, Wicked, and a few others. This upcoming season has Once, Les Miserables and Aladdin - all ones I also hope to see. 

Before the show we did dinner at this excellent Italian restaurant called "Forget About it Supper Club". I've tried a number of the restaurants along the theater district and this one is the best so far. I think that a number of the others get away with overpriced mediocre food because they are guaranteed people from the theatres. Overall we had an excellent night spending time together. My grandmother and aunt loved the show as much as I did, but my mom just liked it - she's not really a play/musical person. 

The next thing I did over the summer was the Boots and Hearts festival. This is a 4 day country festival in northern Clarington that had acts like - Rascal Flatts, Miranda Lambert, Jason Aldean, The Band Perry and Dierks Bentley. 

(The insane line ups to get in) 

The festival is set up so that people can either go in for one day, every day or camp either in a tent or RV. This was the second year the event was running and truly it was a disaster. I went with a woman I worked with - Jane - whose a country fanatic like myself. We opted to do the daily pass because it was only about 25 minutes away from where we both lived. The first night - Thursday - they had two acts at night. She got off work early and we headed up there. No lie, we got to the general area and it was a parking lot. It took us from 5:30pm - 9:55pm just to get inside the gates. By the time we drove in and got our wristbands the final act was finished - we didn't even get out of the car. We assumed that the chaos was from the campers getting in and getting their campsites set up, so we remained optimistic. 

The next day - Friday - Jane left even earlier. She picked me up by 2 and we were on our way. Gates opened at 11, so we figured we would be good. Wrong - we had another 3+ hour wait to drive in. It was raining heavily, and by the time we got through the gates the parking lots were a messy of water and mud. There was no one directing us or any signage. We finally parked in one area but someone warned us it was a tow zone, so we went someplace else. The rain tapered off a bit so we headed inside, and were hit with a massive downpour. No one was checking bags or items or even tickets as we went in, it was just this mad rush of a crowd. Once through we stood under a tent for a few minutes hooping to stay dry but it was useless. The field was flooded, water was everywhere and everyone was soaked. 

Most of the campers were pretty drunk at this point, and were running through the mud barefoot, having mud fights and stripping down to bathing suits. It was quite a scene. 

Once the rain went to a drizzle, I bought a poncho from the Lug booth and we walked 10-15 minutes to the main stage. It was a slippery mess but we made it, and set up our chairs. The two acts that  were supposed to start at 6:00, but they didn't until almost 7:20. The rain kept coming and going, and the poncho wasn't doing the trick. You weren't allowed umbrellas in the site, so by 7:00 I was soaked to the bone. The portable bathrooms were already so awful and disgusting I just opted to wait, and the most of the park was flooding. The acts were great - Jason Aldean and Dean Brody both did awesome sets despite the awful weather around them. The sound was good, and screens allowed you to see what was going on. Food options looked to be okay - they had a lot of the typical fair/fried stuff which wasn't so appealing but they also had a pita pit booth, and a few other recognizable chains. I was far too cold to eat and hadn't felt well all day so I opted to wait and pick up soup on my way home. The walk back to the car after the show was pretty scary - the field was so muddy and wet I kept slipping and ending up destroying my shoes. Plus there wasn't any security and there was pretty much no lighting so it was a dark, mess. You were walking through people's campsites, seeing people just squat down and pee wherever with tents everywhere - on parking lots, the race tracks etc. Getting out with the car was much easier then getting in, and we were back home in about 45 minutes. 

On Saturday I woke up very sick, and passed on going to the event. I read that due to all the flooding of campsites a bunch of campers were being turned away despite having paid. They also closed parking to anyone who didn't have a parking pass - thankfully Jane had ours, but anyone coming in on a day pass was unable to park anywhere. There were a lot of angry people - and I read there were a lot of incidents during the night due to the lack of security. The weather Saturday turned cold, and Jane also ended up leaving early. I was always unable to go Sunday, but heard that by far that was the best day weather wise. Truthfully, it was a total waste of money. 

On one hand I'm glad that I did to and try it out, but it was a disaster. Maybe it's because I took event management for a year at Niagara College and studied logistics, risk management and planning in relation to festivals. I also volunteered at a bunch of them during my time in the program so I am pretty familiar with how they run. So perhaps my seeing it as a disaster and poorly planned/executed stems from that learning. The "staff" they had were volunteers who just needed to work 4 hrs a day and in return got their 4 day passes, campsite, food and shower pass for free. Most of the ones I encountered didn't care, were drunk/hungover or had no knowledge to answer any questions or do their job effectively, There were hardly any signs anywhere, and communication came through their Facebook - which you had to subscribe to. When they closed the parking on Saturday they didn't send an email our to customers, they posted on their Facebook. In the day of smartphones email would have been far more effective. The drinking was so lax - yes they carded you when you bought from them, but in the campsites people were bringing it in themselves. I heard many teenagers  14-18 talking about how they were buying their drinks off people in the campsites and either drinking it there or bringing it in. The washroom situation was dismal - no where near enough for the amount of people they had. And really, on day two they shouldn't be that disgusting. Security was so lacking that there were fights and drunken/scary behaviour everywhere - including drug use. 

I get it their 2nd year as a festival, but considering the high price they charged I find that not to be a valid excuse. Something really needs to change in future years, because this was just horrible. I read some people were talking about lawsuits against the organization and the venue and it doesn't surprise me at all. Should be interesting to see what happens. I think Jane is going to go again next year but with an rented RV so she can remain there and have water hook ups and a dry place to escape any rain - I think that's the best way to do it. 

We spent some time with our friends Drew and Matt when they were in town for a few nights. It was a lot of fun, because we don't see them as much as we would like to. I went mini-golfing with them, and then the four of us went to this new pub 'The Bear' which was an awesome place. Very cool British decor, a relaxing and fun atmosphere and surprisingly amazing food - the beer and cheddar crock was fantastic as were the stuffed yorkies. It was really awesome to hang out with them and catch up - hopefully we can see them again soon as they really are two of our best friends. 

Towards the middle of August, Brian and I met up with his mother in Quebec City. She had never been, so she flew in from the West Coast and we went for an extended weekend. We stayed at the Chateau Frontenac which is where Brian and I had stayed on our honeymoon. Such a beautiful hotel - and they are currently undergoing some refurbishing and renovation which will make it even better. We spent the time wandering around the streets, looking in shops, visiting artist booths and such which was fun (I tend to love shopping!) We also drove out to this local island which was beautiful. Brian and I had done drive on our honeymoon as well, but it was early November so the island was quiet and nothing was open. Much more interesting and enjoyable during the summer when the artist booths and local produce stands are operational. 

(Our hotel) 

(Brians mom) 

(These are the most unappealing cupcakes I have ever seen!)

[The cutest frog! (Brian ate him :(]

We then drove to another small town, as well as stopped for a visit at Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré. Such a stunning cathedral that according to research "Miracles are still believed to be performed at the basilica. When entering the church one can see two pillars filled with racks of crutches, canes, braces, and other signs of disabilities. Every item has been left by a pilgrim who reports being healed at the basilica."

When we went in their was a service going on, and just the atmosphere of the cathedral and the music were so peaceful. A really awesome place to reflect, and still for a few minutes. 

(We saw this car and it would be perfect if it was decked out in Sens stuff! But wow! Such hockey dedication!!!) 

We had some really great fondue in Quebec City, as well as a dinner the night before his mom arrived at this amazing restaurant we had found on our Honeymoon - La Continental. It's expensive, but it was by far the best meal we had back then and thought it would be nice to go back. It is still very special, delicious and just awesome. We had the exact same waiter as we did back then - 2.5 years ago - and pretty much the same meal. It was a great evening.

(Falls outside Quebec City) 

(Moonlight in Quebec) 

The weather during a lot of the summer wasn't the nicest, but it warmed up towards the end so I spent some time at my grandparents house making use of their pool. That was really enjoyable! 

I also carried on my summer tradition of going to the Canadian National Exhibition (the Ex) with Nanny. We go every year and spend the day looking in the buildings and seeing the shows. My mom who typically stays home (she hates the ex!) actually came with us this year. It was a lot of fun. We took the train down and started in our favorite building - Arts and Hobbies. This is the place where you can find lots of little craft-like items, jams and baked goods, and other various items like memorabilia, jewelry, clothes etc. We all got airbrush tattoos - Nanny got the moon and stars, mom got Cookie Monster and I of course got Elmo! 

(Awesome sand sculpture)

(Nanny and a Robot who liked her hair!)

We then went to see an acrobatic show, with an afternoon shop for wine and cheese at this beautiful little Wine Garden area. 

Afterwards we walked around a little more - saw more booths at the international area, watched a dance show, grabbed dinner and just enjoyed the day. It was a lot of fun and I can't wait to go back next year with them both!