Wonderland and Niagara-On-The-Lake

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IMG_0309This summer I didn’t plan a long stretch of free time for a vacation because of the work involved in the start of marketing my book. And since Bill will be having a complete shoulder replacement on September 14th, our usual fall trip to the beach will most likely not happen. After surgery he will be in a sling for four to six weeks, and unable to drive for three months. Like every other person in this world, we get lovely stretches of peacefulness and then, WHAM, stuff hits the fan. His left shoulder has been painful for a long time, but this summer it has gotten worse and his range of motion has steadily decreased. Just as the arthritis kept his right knee from being usable, it’s now taken over his left shoulder (he is a leftie) and the bones are grinding against each other. Ouch!! His total knee replacement last January was hugely successful and it’s now time to fix the shoulder. His surgeon has a great reputation and gets rave reviews from many people including Bill’s friends who have had to use his services. And we are very grateful that the problem is arthritis and not some terminal illness that frequently hits older people. So for now we’re counting our lucky stars!

We’re also hugely grateful that we recently took a five day trip to one of our favorite places … Niagara-On-The-Lake. On the south shore of Lake Ontario in Ontario, Canada, it’s about 45 minutes north of Buffalo. We first went to this lovely little village four years ago to attend the Shaw Festival in late summer. It’s the third largest theatre festival in North America and includes plays by George Bernard Shaw himself, classical writers like Chekhov and Strindberg, and some contemporary playwrights as well. With Bill being the theatre man that he is and my love for the countryside, we both find it a fabulous summer destination, away from the theatre crowds in places like New York.

We have also attended the Stratford Theatre Festival in Stratford, Ontario which is also wonderful but it’s is much more touristy and glitzy. We love the country ambiance of Niagara-On-The-Lake, which is surrounded by fields of grape vines and wineries where you can spend days tasting the best of what this important wine region has to offer. Because of US tariffs on wine, the Canadians are unable to sell their products in our country, but many of the wines made in the region are exported to France.

Tourists from all over the world visit this picturesque town to attend the festival and sample the wines. I love thatIMG_0288 walking down the street, I often hear at least four  different languages being spoken around me. It’s also an extremely friendly place where you can share wine and theatre adventures over delicious food at the many great restaurants. On our last night we had an exquisite meal at the Trius Winery, and also purchased four bottles of wine to bring home with us.

Because of its location on Lake Ontario, and the escarpment that protects this region from the damaging winter storms that wipe out places like Buffalo, this area has a microclimate unto itself and it is temperate all year long. This time we missed the first week of the heat wave that saturated most of the US, instead enjoying sunny days in the seventies. In winter there is supposedly very little snow compared to what is happening all around them.

As at any theatre festival, some of the shows were fantastic, others not so good. My favorite this year was a one act play adapted for the stage by Canadian actress and writer, Lisa Codrington. Based on Bernard Shaw’s novella, The Adventures Of The Black Girl In Her Search For God, which he wrote in 1932, it is a forty-five minute whirlwind of laughter, song, and discussion about religion and the church. I wanted to go back and see it again as I’m sure I’d missed some important lines because I was laughing and clapping so hard.

Competing with The Black Girl, for my favorite, was Master Harold and The Boys, by Athol Fugard, a moving play set in 1950 during Apartheid, in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. It left me feeling bereft because of its timeliness and the very recent horrific shootings of African Americans here in our own country.  Will things ever change?

IMG_0312The play that really drew me to the Festival this time was, Alice in Wonderland, adapted for the stage by Peter Hinton. Although the costuming, special effects, and scenery were exquisite, I found Alice’s adventures and the actors all overshadowed by the technical artistry of the production, making the play itself rather boring. Basically an artist’s show, you can get an education in design by observing the costuming and how to make Alice appear larger and smaller on stage using video techniques. My least favorite plays, were August Strindberg’s, The Dance of Death, and Anton Chekhov’s, Uncle Vanya. Both theatre classics, most of my interest was lost in the contemporary translations and adaptations in each play.

All in all it was a wonderful get away. I finally came to grips with the idea that vacations are for leisure and gave up on the notion of doing some writing between shows. Instead, I napped every day, sat and read in the lovely garden at Brockamour Manor where we always stay, and came home fully rested. Why I’ve been using vacation time as work time all these years is beyond me, and I’m very happy to be breaking that habit.

Do you work when you’re on vacation or do truly let go and relax?

I hope you’ve had a lovely summer despite the intense heat
and are as ready as I am to greet the the cooler days of autumn.


  1. Joan — I love that you, “finally came to grips with the idea that vacations are for leisure and gave up on the notion of doing some writing between shows. Instead, I napped every day, sat and read in the lovely garden>”

    You go, girl! THAT’S what vacations are all about. It sounds like you had a splendid time and took the opportunity to recharge your personal battery!

    • Joan Rough says:

      Thanks so much Laurie. I did still take the time to write in my journal but that’s totally different from writing blog posts and other projecty kinds of things.

  2. I pass the exit signs for Niagara on the lake each time I drive to northern Ohio, but I’ve never stopped. Your very vivid description has inspired me to take a closer look next time. Thanks Joan. I’ve just bookmarked Brockamour Manor; it sounds delightful. My best wishes to Bill as you both head into September. Next time I see him, he’ll be practically bionic.

    • Joan Rough says:

      Janet, Oh do please stop! At this time of year the streets are lined with gorgeous, colorful gardens. And I forgot to mention that at Brockamour Manor you get desert at breakfast!! They’re the only place I’ve ever been that does that.

  3. Your mini-vacation sounded delightful, Joan. You are so wise to truly take a break. i don’t know why that” so hard to do–leave the work behind– but you showcase its importance, Life is filled with enough challenges. Real vacations away from all the stress are a must! So glad you feel rested and ready to take on your upcoming chalenges.

    • Thanks, Kathy. I have watched you move with such grace through many recent challenges and admire the way you great each day with gratitude. You, my friend, are one of the best teachers around.