Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Slow Train To Aldershot
On our recent trip to Toronto, a city of great physical beauty and charm and friendly people, we expected a highlight to be the day we visited the Royal Botanical Garden, which lies some distance to the west along Lake Ontario. The RBG is quite large, and we anticipated slow meanderings through cool, shade dappled spaces, much akin to Kew Gardens near London, with a bonus being long vistas of the adjacent lake. We'd take a train quite a distance to Aldershot Station where we'd catch a bus to the park, but we'd already hopped on and off Toronto's underground system, which was lightning fast, so the train sounded fun. Well, the word lightning has probably never been used in the same sentence by the locals when talking about this train (unless it's been struck by it). Why this modern, nifty commuter train needs to go at twenty miles an hour the whole time is a puzzlement to me. When we finally got to Aldershot, the bus we then caught, detoured through a local shopping center, then finally dropped us off at the RBG. We were, I guess, ill-prepared, as after spending half an hour under the now-hot sun in a cloudless sky looking over the roses and a nice perennial border (pictured above) and an herb garden, we kept turnng our map this way and that looking for the rest of the displays, and realized the garden is divided up into about four separate gardens, reachable only by taking another bus. Before embarking, we did also see the wildflower area (the wildflowers being all gone by this time of year), which is woefully, and apparently to nobody's concern, getting greatly invaded by my old nemesis, garlic mustard. The shuttle bus turned out to be a creaking old double decker which, I'm quite certain was the slowest bus I've ever rode... had I wanted, I could have hopped off, bought a newspaper and hopped back on. We decided to visit the arboretum next, thinking from the map we'd be able to trail down to the lake, getting a cool breeze on this stiflingly hot day. Unfortunately, no lake, no view, and just dusty trees scattered over a large expanse of sun-baked, drought-browned grass and weeds (for Ontario has been suffering through a drought of epic proportions). We did walk one pathway, which was incompletely passable due to encroaching limbs from shrubs, apparently not having been visited all season by park staff. We were the only people there, desolately listening to the cicadas whining in the dry leaves of the trees. I now had a splitting headache and was approaching terminal crankiness. On the way back on the fume-belching double decker, we decided to pass on the rock garden, which may well have been (as the shuttle bus driver said) the highlight of the RBG. The city bus that we then had to catch to the train station was to run every fifteen minutes, but didn't show up for half an hour, loaded to the gunwales with people (groan... going to the shopping center). The train ride back to Toronto seemed even slower than the trip out... I guess they must have been worried they'd overheated the engine from speeding on the outbound route. When we finally got back to our hotel, having spent the whole day seeing some roses and some dusty trees, a cold beer never tasted so good. The second was even better, and after the third my headache was gone and I was ready to head out on the town. We had a wonderful time in Toronto; we'll go back again... but we'll not be taking the train to Aldershot.