Toronto, 2006

Axel was throwing Pig Roast the second to celebrate his birthday again this year, and this time I managed to go for the party and a quick visit. I took Cris with me so I could show him some of my favourite haunts.

M's pictures, L's pictures.

Fri Jun 16

I'd picked up a cheaper flight by picking an 8am departure time, so we took the day off, despite trying to get to sleep at a reasonable hour the night before, we were both pretty tired by the time we left the house and caught the bus. We made it to the airport via the Silver Line with no problems, a bit earlier than planned, which was sort of good, as the American checkin line was huge. We made it to the front eventually where we found that we were supposed to check in at the American Eagle desk, which we saw had a much shorter line as we passed it to our gate. Luckily with no bags to check the clerk was able to process us through, and we headed to security. No washrooms on the other side, it was a small area off to one end of the terminal. We found out why when we went to board the plane, as we had to walk down into the plane, it was pretty small, a jet with three seats across, but we were able to sit together on one side of the aisle. The flight up was fine, we did the inflight magazine crossword. We had a little wait for the Airport Express bus, but it came eventually and whisked us to our hotel front door - I learned on the way that it stopped at the Metropolitan and we stayed on past the Royal York. We were able to check in right away, and we dropped our stuff in the room just past 11am, freshened up and went in search of food.

We walked through Nathan Phillip's square down to Queen and headed west to the Epicure Cafe. We went upstairs and out onto the rooftop patio, settling in at a table with a sun shade. The cajun calamari wasn't too spicy but it was good, and my portobello chicken wrap was yummy too. Cris had a burger and I tried one of his skinny fries, and it was good, as well. :) We headed a bit further west to drop into Bakka Books, and I came out with two Tanya Huff books (the newest one signed) and Kushiel's Scion. We made our way back east, popping into stores along the way. We both grabbed some CDs in Penguin, and I found a used Spirit of the West comp at CD Exchange, where they insisted on stamping a card for me for use "next time". We browsed around Active Surplus but I didn't find the rubber band I was looking for. We popped into the Healthy Butcher to scope out options for the next day, then headed back to the hotel. We read for a bit and listened to one of Cris' new CDs on the alarm clock radio cd player thingy.

Then I convinced him that we should go have a small adventure. We headed south on Bay St at around 4pm and got a bit caught up in rush hour, but most everyone peeled off into Union St to catch trains. We got to the Toronto Island ferry terminal as the Centre Island ferry was pulling up, paid our $6 and boarded. The wind was *high*, but the lake wasn't too choppy. We watched sea gulls flying sideways and swallows being buffetted by the wind. We docke at Centre Island in about 15 minutes and set off to the lake side. I was able to get a bottle of water from the closing Carosel Cafe (we'd tried to get smoothies on the way to the terminal, but the shop was closing). We walked out onto the pier and checked out the bike rental place but passed on picking up a tandem or a dual quad, instead walking out to the board walk. It was fairly quiet, we ran into a few people. Time was getting on, we wanted to take the 6:45 ferry at the latest, so we turned off the boardwalk and cut back onto the road. We got a bit turned around, going over a bridge to an isolated island, finding a beach and taking over grown paths back to the bridge and road. We made it back about 10 minutes before the ferry was due, got a slice of pizza and then waited in the holding pen. The ferry was late, and then didnt' leave right away, as someone got someone else hauled off by the cops (probably a theft).

We made it back to the mainland eventually, and walked back up to Union to catch the subway up to Bloor and Landsdown. We found Ciro's fairly easily, and Erika was on time as well, so we had a chance to chat before the others got there. I had a strongbow and shared the veggie nachos, and then had the tofu in black bean sauce. I'm far too picky about tofu, I've rarely really liked it in dishes, but the sauce was good. Siobhan showed up next, and then Axel, Krista and Sean fresh from pig handling. Jason and Martin also joined us. By 11:30 or so I was getting incoherent, the whole getting up at 5am thing was telling on me now. I stayed upright long enough to get us back to the hotel, and then collapsed into bed.

Sat Jun 17

Getting to sleep by midnight led to being up at around 8:30. I took the chance and went down to the fitness room (pretty swank) and pool (very tropical), and had a swim and a dip in the hot tub (which was as deep as the pool, which was deep for a hot tub not so much for a pool). Showered and changed and then we headed out to Pickle Barrel for breakfast. I indulged in a monster shake and the french toast, though they just use small slices now, no more huge ones as big as my fist, still pretty good, though. Then we meandered up to the World's Biggest Bookstore, with a stop to try on some cargo pants/shorts that didn't fit properly for either of us. I was able to find two of my Booker list items, and when Cris pointed out "Long Way Round" to me, I couldn't resist the softcover version (the hardcover has much nicer pictures). Back to the hotel to drop stuff off, and then I dragged Cris along Dundas to Kensington Market.

We stopped for ice cream before going into Global Cheese, which saved me from tasting everything in sight. Cris picked up a block though, and then I picked up some green onions at the grocer's next door. Then we headed down to Queen St to hit the Healthy Butcher. Only frozen ground chicken for me, and the clerk sold me chipotle chiles in adobo sauce from his own stock. I gave Axel a call and found out that they were fine with us showing up soonish, and got directions to a bigger grocery store at Queen and Gladstone. Cris picked up skewers and we got buns as well. Then we walked over to the Once and Future Gin Palace for the Pig Roast 2006.

The pig was ensconced on it's throne of cinder blocks and charcoal, covered in foil and roasting away. At 3pm the pig was flipped, the work of four people. Cris and I ended up starting up the other grill so that we could eat lunch, though Dimitry jumped in to grill his veggies before we put the chicken on it (I made him pay me for the fire prep in a tofu burger, was good), and Erika did some yummy shrimp and pineapple skewers. The pig was done (as announced by one of the kids) as we finished up the chicken burgers, but everyone was hungry and everything was pounced upon. The first part of the BBQ was over run with kids as the parents tired them out early. It was good to see Erika and Dave's two, and Dorothy's son, and Jackie and Rich's two, they've all grown so much even since November. The other kids were strangers to me, and I didn't interact with them much. I had managed to snag a purple lei and a purple tiki cup that I made a couple of mojito's in - fresh mint from Siohban's back yard was great. I tried a sip of Len's lychee concoction, but didn't get a full one. I had a bit of a chance to chat with Steph and Martin and Jackie and Rich, but time seemed to fly by and I wish we could have stayed longer. At one point Cris and I took a break on the front porch, resetting from being surrounded by people. I think it was Michael who mentioned a shared bathroom style hotel in NYC for $75/night - Stay A While? Stay A Round? We went off on various conversational tangents, with travel coming in as Cris joined us. I hardly had a chance to chat to Monica or Louise or Etienne or Trevor or Jason, or Martin, I felt like I spent too much time finding quiet spots, as the backyard was cut in half due to keeping the fire areas separated and the other half was packed with people. Plus, my feet were sore from all the walking around we did, so I tended to sitting versus standing and chatting. I considered grabbing people one at a time and absconding to the porch for a chat, but never went through with it. Around 12:30 I was starting to fade, and we started to say our good byes. There was a bit of a wait for the Dundas street car, but it came eventually and bore us eastward. I took a quick shower to get the sun block off and fell into bed.

Sun Jun 18

We got up at around 6am, packed up, checked out, and found that the hotel restaurant and cafe were still closed. So we walked over to Tim Horton's on the other side of University and had a snacky breakfast there. Then we walked back to the hotel and waited for the 7:15am Airport Express bus to show up, thinking that it would get us to the airport by 8am, 2 hours before our flight and lots of time to check in, pass through immigration and customs and security. The bus was a little late and then hit a bunch of other hotels before getting onto the Gardiner, an hour later. :/ I texted Bob to say that we weren't going to be able to meet up, as the bus was going to arrive only 20 mins before their scheduled 9am flight to London. Without checked baggage, we were able to check in, get through the immigration line, breeze through customs and security and still have time for a second breakfast (tea!) before heading to our pre-gate. We had to take a bus from there to the small terminal that our jet was leaving from. I managed to sleep on the flight, but was dozy and over whelmed on the T. It was stupid hot, as well, and that didn't help. We stopped in at the Coop for me to look for a text book for my Japanese class, no luck, but the bus was waiting for us as we got to the platform. Cris headed out to DND and I spent the afternoon reading, finishing Long Way Round and digging into Kushiel's Scion.

I've got two small burns from flying sparks, and a mysterious soreness on the back of my neck that's hopefully sunburn (there were spider and mosquito bites going around, and I can't see the spot easily). I wish we could have stayed for Dim Sum on Sunday, lesson learned, spring for the extra hours and buy the more expensive ticket. I hardly had a chance to chat to Monica or Louise, I felt like I spent too much time finding quiet spots.

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