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Champagne at the Castle

Updated: Jun 7, 2023

I cut this little vignette from The Truth About Secrets (book two), Chapter Two, between the episodes Skating Away and Feliz Navidad, because it seemed superfluous and slowed down the action. The exchange takes place outside Casa Loma, between Nick and Lidia, who have just left Paul and Ramona’s champagne wedding reception. I think you might enjoy this scene and the historic background.


The Ponti’s were among the last guests to leave Paul and Ramona’s champagne reception at Toronto’s Casa Loma, or ‘Hill House’. The grandiloquent 1914 stone, Gothic revival castle, was set four-hundred and sixty feet above sea level, giving its turrets and spires as dominant a place in the landscape as its ambitious owner, financier Sir Henry Pellatt, could acquire.

Five years later, William Randolph Hearst would erect his fantasy castle, La Cuesta Encantada, or The Enchanted Hill, on California’s coast, which being American, was bigger, and better. Both men eventually went bankrupt, but Hearst’s was the grander castle, with the more imaginative name, the salient difference between Canadian-British modesty and reserve, versus American competitiveness and bombast. In the end though, he who has the bigger castle and dream, usually wins. But, regardless of its scale, for Torontonians, their castle was an enduring source of fantasy and wonder.

“Isn’t this place gorgeous in winter, Nick? All the trees lit-up like crystal forest-chandeliers, and those reindeer, they glow like phantoms. Too bad the reception started at two, when it was still light out. The guests missed all this splendor arriving in daylight,” Lidia said, snuggling into Nick’s arm as they waited for their car.

“That’s okay, they’ll depart with a great impression. You’re right though, it’s beautiful and a little eerie, like the White Witch’s castle in Narnia. Ah, here we are,” Nick raised his arm, as their car pulled-up. He handed the valet a tip, who held the door open for Lidia.

As they left the frost-bound fairyland behind and entered the busy thoroughfare, she remarked, “Well you can’t say that wasn’t an interesting event.”

“Oh yes, things were certainly a tad tense when Becky and Javi arrived. I was ready to duck at a moment’s notice,” Nick chuckled.

“I was shocked when Becky told me Ramona called to invite her, I wasn’t sure if she was extending an olive branch or throwing down a gauntlet. But Becky figured, better make do and mend, for the company and the girls’ sake. I’m proud of her, she did well, considering how she really felt,” Lidia said.

“I know, and it didn’t help that Paul went around looking like the ‘cat that swallowed the canary’. I think he was being passively provocative to Javi,” Nick observed.

“If he was, it went right over his head. You know that he’s proposed to Becky, don’t you?” Lidia asked.

“Yes, but she keeps putting him off. Maybe now she’ll change her mind. I hope so, I think they’re good together. She challenges him, keeps him interested,” Nick said.

“They’re alike in that respect, butting heads, keeps the sparks flying, I guess,” Lidia mused.

“In any case, they were well-behaved, a few toasts, a couple of canapés, gracious exit, and a bloodless détente, thank god.” Nick sighed.

“Yes, now we can have a peaceful Christmas.”

Nick drove on quietly, suddenly deviating from their homeward route, when Lidia noticed his ploy, “Hey, what’re we doing at the Harvey’s drive-thru?" She sat-up, assessing the line-up ahead.

“I’m starving! I need food, this body can’t run on a few flutes of Dom Perignon and miniscule smoked salmon canapés,” Nick exclaimed.

“But I have gluten-free soup at home.”

“No Lidia, that mucilaginous muck, no matter how organic, is not soup!”

“But I boost it with a lot of steamed broccoli, and shredded cheddar, so it’s actually half-way home made,” Lidia argued.

“That, my dear, doesn’t even make it half-way soup. I just can’t understand why it is. that the value of prepared food is described as what it doesn’t have, no gluten, no starch, no fat, rather than what it should, like great flavor. Now, what do you want to order?”

"Nothing – but I’ve got dibs on half your fries."

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