Curious Travels: The Grand Detour of 2019 | Westcott Vineyards

It was recently National Rosé Day (second Saturday of June), and here I am talking about the place that made me appreciate rosé: Westcott Vineyards. I really liked their pinot noir rosé. It was very light and refreshing.

Approximately two hours away from Toronto, I love that Westcott is pretty much an outdoor venue and that it’s away from the city. (Hello, fresh air!) The dining area is covered, but it’s basically a tent, so there’s a natural breeze. And then you can hang out on the lawn/grass and enjoy the sun.

The tasting room is the only area with a real roof, and it’s actually quite homey. It gets natural light, too. On the day we were there, they were preparing bottles for their rosé event for that evening.

Also, their food is amazing. We ordered pulled pork, beef tartare, and “Ontario-style” Hawaiian pizza for our “mains” and then panna cotta and berry tart for dessert. My favorite dish was the pulled pork, but I guess it was also the most familiar one to me. Their pizza had cheese curds in it, which reminded me of poutine.

PS: The bottle of pinot noir rosé retails at ~CAD23, which is on the lower end of pricing. Dine-in bottle service, though, is twice as much.

Novel Reactions: How to Stop Time

In Matt Haig’s How to Stop Time, we meet Tom Hazard, who is a really old man but just doesn’t look it. He’s lived through a lot of tough times over the centuries and consequently carries a lot of weight on his shoulders. He’s a pretty broken man. I didn’t love Tom, but I did find myself rooting for him as he struggled to survive.

Nothing is truly surprising with the plot. As the story unfolded, I found myself thinking “yes, this makes sense” and never “wow, what a plot twist!!!” Despite this, the story is still quite gripping, and I enjoyed reading all the way through. What made it particularly interesting for me was how Matt Haig portrayed Tom’s past lives. No, Tom was not a big deal in any time period; he always kept to the background, but he was there witnessing key points of history. (And I do love history.)

Overall, it was a pleasant read. There is some comfort that this was a somewhat predictable story because then it felt simple and familiar and not at all intimidating. But that’s not all there is to this book. The writing was great. There was never a dull moment in How to Stop Time, and the story moved at a manageable pace. To me, this is one of the books in which the incorporation of clichés was well executed. In case anyone’s wondering: yes, I’d recommend this to anyone looking for an easy read. And to history enthusiasts.

Short Bites: An Elderly Lady Has Accommodation Problems

Helene Tursten’s An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good is jam-packed with surprise. The stories are all about Maud, who is sharper than anyone her age. I mean, you hear about sprightly old ladies, and you hear about Maud. She’s calculating and mischievous, and she will stand her ground more than anyone can.

“An Elderly Lady Has Accommodation Problems” holds no punches. In this story, Maud is the longest standing resident of the apartment building in which she lives. Oh, and she lives rent-free. It’s due to some legal settlement that happened way, way, back. Lucky lady. Well, Maud isn’t oblivious to her luck. She’s quite comfortable where she is, thank you very much. So if anyone or anything comes in and complicates her life, she will fix the problem. (I will leave it at that.)

I have zero plans of ever messing with Maud. The collection is short but not at all sweet.

Celebrating All Fathers

Happy Father’s Day to all of the fathers and father figures out there! Today I thought it would be interesting to talk about fathers in some of my favorite books. Fatherhood comes in different shapes and sizes, and no father (or parent for that matter) is perfect, but we live and we learn.

Here are three books I really liked that also made me think a little differently about fathers:

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti

In The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley, Samuel Hawley is dedicated to his child, Loo. The father and daughter have a charming relationship; they move around from place to place that all they have is each other. But Hawley isn’t the type to talk much, and Loo is flabbergasted when, at some point, Hawley decides that it’s time to settle down.

This is a story in which father and daughter are putting down roots despite a mysterious past that is finally catching up to them.

Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel

In Last Night in Montreal, the father takes a kind of a backseat because the plot is all about Lillia. She spent much of her childhood moving from place to place with her father without really knowing why, but it seems she has taken their lifestyle to heart. Fast forward to adulthood: Lillia has gotten so used to moving around with her father that she cannot stay in one place for too long. She leaves hurt ex-lovers behind as she creates new beginnings with each move.

There are more characters involved in this story, and it’s made all the more interesting because Lillia cannot remember her life before she and her father began their life on the road. This is a great story about obsessing over things and uncovering the truth.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

In Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, we find that Oskar’s father has passed away tragically. The story is set a year after the incident, and Oskar must come to terms with grief and loss. (He and his father were very close, and we get glimpses of Oskar’s father through recollections.) This is a story about family—how its members cope and move forward. Although the father is no longer present, Oskar’s remaining family will make it through the rain work.

(This is the book that officially made me a fan of Jonathan Safran Foer, so I made it a mission to grab Here I Am when it was released.)

Novel Reactions: The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories

When I was in high school, my best friend lent me her copy of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, which I absolutely loved. I enjoyed the story, the writing, and the footnotes (!!!). I never quite found or read another book that I had enjoyed in the same way.

Fast forward to (approximately) ten years later: I found an e-book copy of The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories and borrowed it from the library. Initially, I had only planned to read one story for my Short Bites segment (see entry here), but I enjoyed the first story so much that I decided to read on. And then I decided to finish the collection, reading a story every now and then.

There are eight stories in the collection. While I liked all of them, my favorites are the first (“The Ladies of Grace Adieu”) and the last (“John Uskglass and the Cumbrian Charcoal Burner”) stories.

The writing style is similar to that of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, which shouldn’t be surprising as the short stories are set in the same world. The writing reminded me of reading the classics (the stories are set in 19th century England): the vibe is formal, the humor is not as forward, and the words are spelled differently than they are today. Given these, I feel the stories require more patience from the reader.

The stories read like fairy tales, and not all of the stories include characters from the book. The collection is a nice companion to the novel (but Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is one heck of a read with ~900 pages, so no pressure to read the book), and it talks about other forms of magic that weren’t really covered in the novel.

It’s a charming escape from reality.