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Westward

April 8, 2010

Wednesday started with a visit to the most historic theatre – or rather theatres – in Ontario, and probably in Canada, the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres. These are unique “double decker” theatres, built in 1913 and almost lost for ever (the upper Winter Garden was closed off and forgotten for 60 years).   But a  loving and very thorough restoration has brought them back into use, and to their pristine glory, complete with real birch leaves in the remarkable celling of the Winter Garden.

I was there to launch a set of “visitor passes” for the coming season , being promoted by visitscotland.  These give very good value entry to a range of historic buildings and other events and one of the passes promotes the Edinburgh Festivals,

Promoting the new visitor passes at the Winter Garden, Toronto

so it was fitting that fringe performer Sharron Matthews joined Mike Cantley and I for the photocall.

Later in the morning I met with Iain Duffy of Royal Scottish Tours to hear first hand what he thought visitscotland should be providing to ambitious companies such as his, which want to sell as many packages as possible.   I also spoke with a journalist from the Canadian Traveller Magazine who was preparing a feature on Scotland as a tourist destination.

My last engagement in Toronto was a lunch hosted by the British Consul General at his residence to meet members of the Scottish diaspora.   In fact I had met many of them before, either last year during my visit or even before that for most of them were frequent visitors and keen to build Scottish links with their adopted country.    They included James Hunter of the Edinburgh University Club of Toronto who had given a breakfast for me last April and who I not only went to University with, but also went to school with at Marr College in Troon.

Across the American Continent

Then it was off to the airport for the five and a half hour flight to San Francisco.   The visibility was good for most of the journey and the landscape was spectacular.    It was also, in a word much used here, awesome – but the literal meaning is what is true on this occasion for the experience does inspire awe.  Awe at the courage and determination (and sheer physical stamina) of those who trekked this journey on horse or in wagons through a vast and geographically challenging country.  And awe at the scale and immensity of this nation, and its concomitant richness.

It was dark by the time we got out of the airport but the city , even at night, is also awesome.  I can just glimpse the Golden Gate Bridge from my hotel room, and the former  island prison of Alcatraz.   I look forward to seeing it in full daylight tomorrow.

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