Toronto, 2013

Since I'd convinced a lot but not all of my Toronto friends to come to Boston for my birthday last year, this year I figured I'd got to them.

Friday September 20, 2013

I took the CT2 to work, and for once didn't sweat to death walking from the stop to work at the end. I went with my green tote and a shoulder satchel with my purse stuffed into it for my two pieces, much easier to handle than a rolly suitcase plus tote. But then of course as soon as I took the purse out to carry in my hand (in order to reduce drag on my shoulder) I had three things to juggle and got annoyed about not just bringing the suitcase. I could probably make good use of a room full of suitcases in different sizes for all the different length trips I take. In any case, worked Friday and came to a sensible quitting point so left a bit early to get to the airport for my 6pm Porter flight. I decided to take the bus that picks up a block away rather than walking to the subway stop, but then made the mistake of riding it to Park instead of getting off at the first Green line stop - traffic was horrible. Luckily, I was still early, but taking the Red line the short distance to South Station and then the crowded Silver line bus to the airport was not the best idea. Green to Blue to shuttle bus works much better. Anyway, I was there with enough time since I just had to go through security, but arrived to see the monitors showing a 1.5 hour delay. *sigh* The lien to get through security was annoying, the couple behind me kept crowding me, to the point when I went to adjust my shoulder bag and it hit the woman. Luckily it was just a metal detector and I was through with minimal fuss and away from them fairly soon. I used the "birthday" card to justify my supper: a chocolate chai latte, a chocolate chunk muffin, and some creamy tomato soup with amazing croutons as a wee nod to real food. I sent the IndexG BNB a quick email to let them know that I was late due to my flight, but don't think they got it. The conveniently timed Friday evening Porter flight always seems to run late, I should learn not to expect a timely arrival when I book it.

In any case, once we were on the plane, it was a smooth flight up to Toronto, though we had a very sharp drop down to the city centre airport, and had to wait for a gate since we were late. I used my Nexus card to bypass the small line, almost waiting more in the 3 person line that I would have in the regular one, but insistent on getting my $50 worth. :-) Bit of a wait for the short ferry ride, it was nice to see that they're at work on a pedestrian tunnel. I walked up to the streetcar stop and found that they were running bus service due to construction. The streetcar at Queen pulled away just as I got off the bus and I had a bit of a wait for the next one. Turns out that the Gardiner was closed that weekend, and it messed with all east-west traffic. I kept thinking I should just hit up an ATM while waiting, but then thinking I'd spot the streetcar lights coming (probably would have worked to hit the Scotiabank at the first bus stop). Anyway, eventually made it across to Gladstone and walked up to IndexG. The owners were in their apartment on site and came down to check me in (got a small discount on the room) and bring me up to the room. Think it was my first time in the room just off the stairs, the Grassetto, but it turned out to be fairly quiet there (no more than 4 other people at breakfast in the mornings).

Wifi was working, so I sent a quick update to friends I was planning to meet, washed a bit of the airport stink off and then walked further down Queen to hit up the Yukon bar. I quickly found a table full of my friends (Monica and Shannon, Trevor, Louise, Steph) and joined them for cocktails, but the kitchen had closed just before I arrived. This was aggravating as the server brought out previously ordered stuff while I was sipping my drinks, but I wasn't desperately hungry at least. I hit up the ATM there, I'd forgotten that most Toronto establishments have the bathrooms in the basement, been too long since I've been back for a visit. The Yukon G&T was tasty and I did a custom order of a St Germain martini for my second drink. We sat out a torrential downpour, but once it petered off we started heading out. Trevor gave me a lift back to my BNB on his way home and I gratefully settled into my quiet room.

Saturday September 21, 2013

Saturday was very rainy, I was happy that I'd brought my rain jacket and had waterproofed my boots before the trip. I hit up the included breakfast in the first floor art gallery, it was simple but good: cereal and yoghurt, toast with marmelade, lots of tea while checking out the art near my table and watching the rain come down. I'd brought a small thing with me to mail to my nephew, so first on the to-do list was to hit up the Canada post counter in the back of the pharmacy up the street (the official post office listed in the BNB info book was closed on Saturdays). It didn't quite fit in the card/letter sizer, but was still a cheaper fee than mailing it from the States. I spent some time poking around in stores in Parkdale, killing time before I was to meet up with Steph and Martin for a shopping trip further east. In Made You Look, a funky jewellry store, the found object leather cuffs were cool, but too big for me, and looking at their store page I can't find them to check with the artist. I got hungry and ended up in the Cadillac Lounge for brunch at around noon. Their only breakfasty thing was a standard eggs and toast plate, so I went with the croque madame and it was amazingly good (probably the cheese and mustard). Also: tea. Lots. Because me. It was fairly empty in there, two other tables full, but one was a group of regulars and musicians so they were interesting to eaves drop on. :-) I wanted something sweet and ended up in Boreal Gelato for their balsam flavoured gelato (could not resist their sign), not as piney as I hoped for but still good. They were playing Theivery Corporation on the sound system, and when I asked the guy what it was (I knew it, just suck at name that band), he said that they always play it on rainy days. I might have to add them to Sigur Ros and Qntal for my rainy day play list. Then I was tempted into Shopgirls as they had signs up saying "shop your shape" as well as a display of black jeans. They were a bit pricey, but I tried some on anyway, and they were *really* comfortable (Yoga jeans) but I wasn't happy with the skinny fit and was between sizes. They're sold somewhere on Newbury St in Boston, will track that down and try on the other styles when I have more time. I also poked around a bit in some of the vintage/second hand stores there, I miss shopping in Toronto. :-)

It was a more civilised weeekend hour by that point so I stopped dawdling and made my way over to Landsdown to meet up with Steph and Martin for the trip to Northbound. Traffic was *nuts*, we probably should have taken the TTC if we could have gone underground ASAP, but we used the drive to catch up on news that I'd missed out on (wow, so much change). We were hungry again by the time we made it to Yonge and Wellesley so we hit up the Starbucks for more snacks and caffeiene. I collected an armful of tops that I'd scoped out on the web site and took them to the change room, as well as a bonus skirt that would go with my jacket and started tryign things on. Steph was lured into trying on a trench coat and a belted dress, and noted down the model numbers. For me, the top that I liked best was of course the most expensive one, and not available in my size. I ended up putting in an order for the M one after trying on the L, and took the mermaid skirt after getting good feedback when I modelled it. ;-) The order came without tax as it was shipping direct to me, but I told them to phone me to get my card for shipping charges, hoping I could find an alternate to next day international FedEx (spoiler: I didn't). Birthday money and the tax break offset it a bit, but still, it was a birthday and xmas present stop for me in one shop. :-) We'd hoped to have time to hit up Fashion Crimes for their half off sale, but traffic was still bad and it was closing in on 5pm, with dinner reservations at 7 it felt like we'd be cutting it too close for browsing time.

They dropped me off at the BNB and I got cleaned up and changed for dinner and was happy to see the glint of sunshine through the blinds, just in time for walking over to Kanji Sushi. I got there about 20 mins early and right off the bat there were some warning signs that not all was going to go well: the hostess seemed quite confused by me and my reservation. She led me to the bar to wait, where happily enough it was happy hour and I promptly ordered a $5 cocktail to start off the night. Jason arrived first and we caught up at the bar while waiting for the others to arrive. I think BC, Siobhan, Darrell, and Axel were next and they were just seated right away, so we settled up at the bar and headed over to sit. Louise ended up caught in traffic on the streetcar, and my cousin Neil on the road. I think Justin ended up walking most of the way and beat the streetcar. Steph and Martin walked over, and I think Trevor was able to get there with minimal fuss as well, but there was definitely a spread out arrival time for everyone. Not sure if that contributed to the ordering confusion, but the sake I was sharing with Axel and Siobhan had to be asked for about 3 times (the first kind was sold out, after he forgot about it, then he forgot the second one on the counter). I also had a single serving of the Demonslayer sake, it was a nice clean sake after the more flavoured ones that we'd been sharing. The food was good, once it eventually arrived. I had the miso marinated cod as well as having had an appetiser sushi at the bar, and ordered a plate of oysters to share. The creme brulee was good, though it probably would have been best to skip dessert and get out of there faster. The server had asked us if we wanted separate bills, and of course we said yes, but then it turned out he wasn't supposed to do that for parties larger than 6, but he was going to. This took about an hour to sort out, we were in there over 3 hours I think. :-( I moved around a little, trying to talk to everyone, but the one long table approach makes it hard. Maybe dim sum and a big round table for my next big dinner. :-)

Most everyone peeled off home once we extracted ourselves from the restaurant, but I was still raring to go since I'd been dosing on tea all day. We decided against a club night since my feet were hurting too much to dance (and it was far), opting instead to walk up to Black Dice, a Japanese Rockabilly bar on Dundas. It was tiny (the picture on the web page is taken from the door way) but there was one table for four so Trevor, Sio and Darrell and I grabbed seats and they went up to order drinks. I initially asked for a G&T but then saw that they had some sake based cocktails and Japanese whisky so I went up to change my order for a cocktail. I got a shot of whisky to end the night later on. We had fun tipsily chatting, though we had to take turns reaching out to close the door as it wouldn't close all the way when smokers went in or out. I think we stayed until just past 1 or so, walking home from there.

Sunday September 22, 2013

Sunday morning started a bit slowly for me. :-) I had a tentative breakfast in the gallery and packed up my stuff to check out by 11am. They let me leave it there since I would be back before 5 when the gallery closed. I walked over to the art fair in Trinity Bellwoods park since the place that I'd picked out to buy tokens was closed on Sundays. The day was quite lovely after the drizzle of the day before, it was no hardship. I grabbed a smoothie just before the park to pass the time while they were finishing setting up, then plunged into the muddy paths between close set tents. It took awhile but I found the gallery owner's daughter at her booth, she had some neat hair clips that could also be worn as brooches, but no one item called out to me. Lots of neat paintings and sculptures and jewellery, though of the latter I only ended up buying a chain mail bracelet that caught my eye due to a neat triple pattern, from Chained Reaction Designs. The fair was set up in a big circle with two cross paths and I got well turned around before I could track down the chain mail booth again.

Justin had said that he might check out Word on the Street and I was getting close to the time I said that I'd get there, so I hopped a streetcar then the subway to head up to Queens Park. I came out of the subway stop in Heaven. :-) Book selling tents as far as the eye could see, as well as a row of conveniently placed port a potties. :-) Lots of author readings and signings, and each store/publisher/author tent was split into four pieces, so it worked well to check out two sides as I went one way then the other two on the way back. I was low on cash and tried the festival ATM but it wouldn't read my US card, so I headed over to Yonge St, right next to Northbound, to use the Scotiabank ATM there. So tempting to go back in and browse, but books were on my mind instead. Back into the crowds around the tents and I ended up having to buy a tote bag to carry all that I bought. A dapper older gentleman handed me a book mark saying that a reader needed a book mark. I bought Canadian horror, Arctic poems, a $1 noir collection, and a comic book sized novella since it grabbed me on the first sentence, and left more than I took. :-) Was tempted by an Indian cook book but it weighed 10lbs.

From there, I walked across to Bakka-Phoenix for even more books (a Tanya Huff compared one ad well as her actual new one). I had been keeping an eye out for Justin in the crowds but ended up running into him there instead. He'd thought ahead and grabbed a TTC day pass that lets two ride on it, so he treated me to a lift via streetcar to Kensington Market and we ate at Fat Bastard Burritos, where I was thankful for the warning to not order the large size. :-) It was good to catch up one on one, I barely got a chance to say hi to him at dinner the night before. From there I got a another streetcar ride to close-ish to my BNB where he wanted to check out a shop on Ossington - I need to leave some time to browse along there next time. We split there, and I walked down to Queen and browsed a bit more in vintage stores, grabbing a Le Chateau halter top since it fit so well and was cheap. I also found a tattered hem black dress that looked awesome, so grabbed it in the theory that I would regret it if I didn't (and ended up wearing it a few days later to Allure, so win).

It was still a bit before 4:30, but I was done with walking and hauling my stash around with me, so I went back to the BNB to grab the rest of my stuff. I'd packed the bottle of wine that Neil gave me in my tote bag and was planning to check it, the new book bag being perfect to hold my purse on top of my other purchases. I had to put the tote in a bin in the special luggage section because it was too small, but it survived. I'd printed out my boarding pass in the ferry terminal, and that was good since the machines were out of order in the main terminal, and I still ahd a wait to check my bag (only one person working for a while, and a flight got cancelled or missed or something). Good thing I was early, though the security line was non existent. I actually was more delayed by an older lady gushing over a very large bracelet that I had in my carry on bag - it shows up as a big metal chunk and I always forget to put it separate (luckily this time my metal pill case didn't trigger anything). Every single thing that I bought at the $5 bling store in NYC has been more than worth the cheap cost, it would be worthwhile to go back just to hit it up. :-) I had a fair amount of time to hang out in the waiting lounge, had tea and cookies to fill my stomach and kept an eye out for Justin arriving for his Ottawa flight, but it never showed up on the lounge's monitor (might have been the US enabled lounge). I had a glass of wine to while away the flight and put the cap on my birthday weekend (free, Porter is nice like that). Breathed a sigh of relief to see that my Northbound and Bakka and other shopping shenanigans didn't hit the $800 duty free allowance (I swear it went up), so I was able to do the Global Entry kiosk on arrival. Which of course wasn't workign well - there are two types of machines there, one you put the card in face up, one face down. Two officers were helpign me by the end, the card had to go all the way over to the right, but I've forgotten already if it was up or down. *sigh* I think I took the shuttle/Blue/Green/bus option to get home, and was there before midnight in any case.


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