Final day in Canada and in the morning we had a frantic weighing of suitcases and hand luggage followed by redistribution of everything and filling of extra suitcases. We were then driven back to Toronto and dropped off outside the CN Tower where we took the elevator to the revolving restaurant at the top. What a view, sadly the weather was a lot greyer than the previous few days but the clouds were high so we could still see everything. We had a relaxing (well for some, Courier Helen kept well away from the windows!) and superb lunch as well as trying some interesting cocktails. All too soon it seemed we had to head for the airport where all the luggage made it through without incurring any extra costs! We all shared hugs and shed some tears as we said farewell to Fran, Jane, Cathy, Helen and Jacques before heading for the plane home. Would be great if we could just teleport straight home but not possible, however we eventually arrived back in Edinburgh to a lovely welcome from family, friends and supporters who greeted us singing Flower of Scotland, more hugs, tears and farewells before The Scottish Ladies Tour to Canada 2015 finally parted and set off to their own homes to put their feet up for a well earned rest!!!
Our last full day in Canada saw us taking to the water on the Hornblower, all clad in dark pink plastic ponchos - a good colour coordinating with our outfits. It was quite spectacular seeing the falls from that level and experiencing the spray on our faces. Anyway back to the hotel to dry off and then on our way to Mississaugua. A stunning setting and we were greeted with a broom arch and a great welcone, which gave quite a few of us an emotional reaction, as we prepared for our final game. We were so hoping that we could go out on a high; this had been such a unique experience for us, receiving such generous hospitality wherever we went and meeting some wonderful people. We were again curling in a wood clad ice hall, watched over by their mascot. The ice was good and keen, and the fates were kind to us allowing us to add more to our score! Drinks after the game, and then change for dinner. Thanks must go to Peta-Lee Wimmer and Janet Murphy and their team of volunteers for such an excellent event, with all the small touches thought of. We had thoughtful and entertaining speeches from Peter Inch, from Curling Canada, Hugh Murphy, from Ontario Curling Association and Mark MacLean from the St Andrews Society of Toronto. The Mississaugua Players entertained with the Eight Ends of Curling with an excellent pretend piper and the 2010 outgoing Canadian Tourists sang a couple of songs. Fran Todd made her closing speech and presented Margaret Richardson with the Muriel Fage Trophy, as Scotland finished with 150 shots more than Canada. All the Scottish Tourists congregated on the stage behind the trophy for a group photo, and the entertained with songs from the Tour songbook.
During the evening the final game of "Bunnets & kilts" was played, and Captain Margaret presented Cathy Hughes, for the Sandra Schmirler Foundation with a cheque for $2130 representing half the money collected from both the games played at all the ice rinks, and fines from the Touring group.
After a "full American" breakfast, we set off on the bus, along with the Canadian tourists to Scotland 2010, and stopped down beside the falls to take photographs of the torrents of water flowing over. Then onto the whirlpool where we saw a tour boat playing around in the various currents. The cabled viewing platform was not operational, thank goodness. Next stop was the Brock Monument, a huge pillar topped by Major General Sir Isaacs Brock K.B. who commanded the provincial forces in the war of 1812, defending this spot against the invading American forces. We arrived at the Ice House where Rob gave us a very informative description of how ice wine is made - freezing your hands, individually picking grapes overnight in -8°C! The iced red wine was very similar to the taste of port. A short drive then took us to Niagara-on-the-Lake, which was a very scenic place, almost resembling a film set, with some very nice little shops. Everyone had free time to wander and get a bite to eat, before returning to the bus. After passing the Colaneri winery , built to resemble an Italian style village, we went to the Chateau de Charmes, another winery. A very impressive central spiral staircase with Christmas tree caught a lot of attention. Then the tour divided with some people going for more retail therapy at the Niagara Outlet and others returning for a spot of Geocaching, 3 objects bring found. Our evening meal was at the Grand Casino where we able to select from a huge variety of food, after walking through what seemed like endless fruit machines.
The following morning we went down to The Hornblower where pink ponchos were distributed and we joined many more pink people for our boat ride below the falls, very wet, very windy and very enjoyable!!
We were welcomed to St Catherine's Golf and Cricket Club by Linda and her team then coffee and tea with a Baileys shot in it. The ladies call this"aiming juice"! Captain Margaret played an old adversary Marilyn Bodagh - they had played against each other in the Ladies World Championships in 1986. After a delicious lunch and more coffee laced with Baileys we entertained our hosts with our Tour song and a farewell of Tipperary. Off to Niagara.
At Oakes Hotel we walked into our rooms and went WOW! The view from all our rooms was spectacular! Fran has once again turned up trumps - even arranging sunset on one side and the moon rising over the falls on the other. We met up with the Canadian girls from 2010 tour in Applebees and then had a lovely steak dinner at The Keg overlooking the illuminated falls. The steaks were fab but the icecream cake desserts were enormous
Oh dear. No bus. No Jacques. Quel horreur! Our trusty bus had broken down. Our Annandale hosts had got us there on time, and a very big thankyou for their overnight hospitality, opening the ice rink and feeding us coffee while we waited. However, a replacement bus duly arrived - a true racing greyhound; belongings were transferred and we were on our way. This done we arrived at the Goldline store, lists and credit cards at the ready and on schedule too. Much trying on of shoes, gloves, tops, examination of accessories, phone calls home and calculations of 15% discount led to a busy time for Goldline staff. Shopping frenzy over, we headed to Dixie for lunch, curling and dinner. Highlights of the day were: passion on the forecourt of her home rink as our courier Fran was reunited with her hubby; Ruth Macdonald singing both National anthems - a lovely voice; poutine when we came off the ice; Hurryhard beer and a very heartfelt after dinner speech delivered by our Fran Todd. Not a dry eye in the house, sheet 5 was dedicated to our courier Fran and the rocks on 7 & 8 were dedicated to our Ontario courier Jane. A lovely day ending with dancing and Auld Lang Syne. Thank you, Dixie, in particular, Lori, Susan, Lynne, Hanna, Charlene, Jill, Karen and Virginia.
Onwards to Annandale Golf & Curling Club in Ajax, where we were met by Linda Hart-Mulgrew, Heather Smeall and Laurette Glanzmann plus our Tour Captain's sister. After being piped onto the ice, and an opening speech by Joe Dickson, MPP for Ajax-Pickering, local singer Jenny Potter gave beautiful renditions of the National Anthems - what a fantastic voice. Again the ice was good and keen, and even with 2 peels our score was again slightly eroded. This was an 8-sheet ice rink, and one of the extra sheets was used by local curlers playing a bounce game, so that they would also be part of the overall event.Then it was up the bar and speeches and Susan delivered an amusing and thoughtful vote of thanks, significant for her as she stays in Annandale back home . After another excellent meal, we were entertained by some local musicians, who had never all played together before. The Tourists entertained with 3 songs out of the Songbook, one of which was accompanied by a Highland dance by our resident expert. A fantastic atmosphere led to a couple of our ladies letting their hair down in quite a spectacular exhibition dance! As we were being home-hosted we had no time restrictions, and had a very enjoyable time at the club before being taken away to our respective billets. It was such a great night, thank you Annandale.
An 8:30 start saw us heading now to Thornhill Country Club, on another bright and sunny morning. We received a warm welcome at this beautiful country club set in stunning surroundings. After having team photographs taken, we were delighted to be piped onto the ice for the fourth time in our tour by piper Tracy Porter. The impressive ice hall with its wood cladded walls and ceiling gave us very keen ice and some of our lead was chipped away after some reasonably close games. We were then taken to the first tee for a group photograph; snow flakes and sunshine partnered with a chilly breeze had us pleading for mercy. After this we had a very enjoyable lunch, and all received copies of the team photos taken earlier by photographer Dave Munholland. Marcus Ingles, the OCA rep, delivered an amusing speech with his coats of many colours. A bit of a rush but we managed to squeeze in a couple of songs before giving our farewells and thanks for a great welcome.
Our billeting hosts delivered us to the airport in what felt like the early hours of the morning, but okay, only 7 am! So on the road again, or rather flying high with Porter Air back to Toronto. Jacques, our driver was waiting for us, had warmed up the bus and we loaded our cases. We were also reunited with Jane, our Ontario courier who then gave us a brief tour of Toronto. Lunch was booked at the Mill Street Brewery, which had a good selection of beer, not surprisingly! The food menu had a choice of world cuisine, with more than a hint of Mexican. There was a little time left to wander in the Christmas Market. However we attracted the attention of a CP24 TV reporter doing an outside broadcast, which included an interview and us singing carols! 24 star - struck divas then set off for Donalda Country Club, and some of us saw the interview on tv the next morning.
Next stop, Donalda Country Club - a 4 sheet ice rink. The small world of curling took over and connections discovered - an auntie & cousin, a former member of Reform CC member, a former resident of Brookfield who used to play at Crossmyloof and a former pupil of St. Columba's Kilmacolm. An interesting pre-game talk on the science of curling by Lino Di Lorio, founder of the Balance Plus slider, opened new perspectives for our ladies. The 2 teams not curling went out around the golf course driving golf buggies. Following the game, on keen ice, a roast beef dinner was enjoyed. The MC George Cooke was excellent, many thanks to Mary Gray and her host committee, and to Al Donald from Deloitte who made the toast to the ladies, our singing was much appreciated, and fond farewells were then made. When we reached the hotel, and had sorted ourselves out, we all adjourned to Court, where many fines were paid, it being several days since the last one. Our charity fundraising was being quite successful!
We had arrived in The Soo expecting snow, but it wasn't to be, although it was cold. There is a second city also called Sault St Marie, over the other side of the St Mary river across the International Bridge in Michigan - they had been the same community until the war of 1812 when the border with the US was defined. We were welcomed to the First Community Curling Centre (previously Soo Curlers Association) by Sandra Randa and we were thrilled that Brad Jacobs, Olympic Champion 2014, delivered the ceremonial first stone, after a quip about the Olympic final against David Murdoch! He then had his photo taken with us all, as well as some individual ones. Of course, this is his home ice rink and so they are justifiably proud. After the games, where the results came out equal, we had a good lunch of soup, sandwiches and cake. Everyone went off for a couple of hours tourism to various places; shopping, river walks and some went back to their hosts houses for a snooze and even a wee Baileys Irish cream!!!
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