Toronto, 2007

Axel was throwing Pig Roast the third to celebrate his birthday again this year, I went up by myself as Cris was in passport renewal limbo.

Fri Jun 15

I was half dreading taking public transit to work, since it usually takes over twice as long as biking, and leaves me hating everyone. This day, though, the transportation gods smiled on me. I never had more than a couple of minutes to wait, and was able to find seats for 80% of the trip. I just had my backpack for the weekend away, so I was nimble. :) Plus I heard the announcement about shuttle busses running on parts of the red line on Sunday, so I was prepared to deal with that on the way home. Work was work, I ended up leaving a little early to get to the airport in lots of time for my 6:15pm flight. Again, easy trip, this time going old school and going Green Line to Blue and then taking the airport shuttle bus (getting over to south station to take the Silver Line would have been less efficient). Saw a big wire spool next to a fire hydrant as I was waiting for the airport shuttle, with the painted legend: "You can only use this if you're on fire". No one was at the Air Canada check in counter, and only one guy was in front of me at security. I had been worried that they won't let me keep my knee brace, as it has a gel ring to support my knee cap, but I wore it through the scanner and they didn't notice/say anything. Rounding the corner into my departure lounge, I saw that there were only three gates from that area, and a tiny coffee bar tucked in the corner. Luckily I managed to find an end seat, and pulled out my noise blocker headphones and a book to pass the time before boarding. Oddly enough, if someone's talking about a foot behind me while I wear them, I can hear them perfectly. Everything else was muted to a dull roar, which was good, as the flight to Halifax was cancelled and people are running around trying to rebook. They probably stuck people on my flight to connect via Toronto, as it seemed pretty full. It was a nice new plane, and *really* well sound insulated, I was right over the wing and could barely hear the engines. It was so new, that it wasn't even listed in the fleet description (I was curious and checked, EMB 175 was the designation, Air Canada is apparently the only airline that's picked up the Brasilian company's regional jet). Made for a very comfy flight, I had lots of room to put my backpack under the seat in front of me. I was on the side with two seats, the other side had three, and my seat mate was only a touch overly friendly, probably from the two rum+coke's he downed ASAP. :) We shared info on the books we were reading, and he commented a bit oddly on the size of Toronto as we approached, making me think he was a visitor, but he was a native. Ah well, no sign of him after debarking, so nothing to worry about.

Customs and Immigration was easy, not much of a line coming in, and I was buying my Airport Express bus ticket 10 minutes after landing. Gave Steph's cell a call, but realised that my cell was doing it's annoying thing where I had to reenter the phone number after auto-dialing, so asked her to text back. Got off at the Sheraton and hoofed it over to Augusta and Queen, then up to the Grange Hotel. Next time I'll stop and get money and then change and take the bloody street car, though it was fun walking along Queen as the sun lowered and the night life started up. I was a bit sweaty from the heat, hadn't been expecting it to be quite so hot, so took a moment to freshen up and then headed out to walk to the Eating Garden to meet Steph and Martin for dinner. They'd arrived just a couple of minutes before me, so it worked out well. Somehow the time flew by as we were eating and chatting (plus I was seriously calorie deprived by then, so it took some time for me to become alert - the second half of a sub at 3pm didn't quite last to 9:30). We meandered down to Queen and then back up Spadina, halfheartedly looking for ice cream, but ended up getting bubble tea (me and M), and a sherbert (S) at a juice bar/pool hall on Spadina. Walked back to M's car, and he attempted to drop me off at my hotel, but we were thwarted by the construction blocking off most of Dundas, so I just jumped out and walked the last two blocks. Took a shower to get the travel grime off me, then collapsed into bed. I'd asked for a room with a memory foam, I'd had one last time, but despite the check in guy mentioning it, I got a regular mattress. It was perfectly comfy though, so no complaints. The air conditioner was just starting to cool the room off as I drifted to sleep.

Sat Jun 16

The white noise of the AC and the comfy bed conspired to keep me asleep until 10am. Blissful rest. :) I tried to use the kitchenette's stove to boil water for tea, but was thwarted, and turned to the microwave to boil a glass mug of water instead. Sipped that as I got ready for the day, and paged through the magazine in the room. Found a couple of places to eat, put them in my palm pilot, slathered myself with sunscreen (still hot and sunny) and headed out. Walked down to Wellesly and Blue Jays Way and despite a fairly long line, was able to get a table for one at Cora's with a short wait. But then had a long wait for my pancakes, which ended up being undercooked for me. The fresh grapefruit juice was good, but seeing the bill reminded me not to order a drink w/o knowing how much it is first. Also, the long wait made me realise that bringing at least a granola bar for room breakfast before heading out to find a restaurant is a good idea, I was about to pass out by the time my food came. I had an ice table by the door to the patio though, a warm breeze was blowing in.

Finished up and paid the bill finally, and stopped into the Shopper's Drug Mart on King to grab nail clippers (somehow mine dropped out of my travel toiletries case, I'm sure I'll find them in a day or two and then have a spare) and my Canadian drugs. :) Found out why I'd been seeing so many tattoo'd people around, the Holiday Inn across the street was sporting a "Toronto Tattoo Convention" banner. Walked back up to Queen and popped into the Lush to get a bath bomb for that night, then continued west, heading toward Bakka. I got sidetracked by noticing Pam Chorley's shop on the north side of the street, and popped my head in to gape at her wonderful dresses. I was confronted with a 50% off rack right by the door, with a beautiful black dress calling my name. I went to try it on, and all the other customers said that it looked great. It turned out to be strapless, the dress was hanging by ribbon loops, but princess seams + raw silk + integrated crinoline, I had to get it. Justification after the fact: can use it for a wedding in NC in the fall. :) Besides, when else will I be able to afford one of her dresses?

In a bit of a daze and carrying a black paper bag with my new dress, I continued down the street, popping into some old favourites along the way. Brava's got new digs, I kind of missed the old double storefront, but the dressing rooms with translucent white walls hiding their lights were neat. Finally made it to Bakka w/o spending any more money and was a bit disappointed to encounter Pandemonium-itis in play - there was one staffer who was a poorly socialised geek who kept interrupting customers while we browsed, pressing us with info designed to show off her own knowledge. :/ I ended up not browsing as long as I was going to, ending up putting back a book that she was hard selling to another guy, and just grabbed the book I'd come in for, a signed copy of "The Heart of Valor" by Tanya Huff (I'd missed the signing by week, glad there were copies left). Turns out that the 10 visits to get 10% of the money you spent card is only valid for a year now, so time to throw out my long hoarded card. Made my way back toward my hotel, detouring at the Corner of Bathurst at a sign for organic ice cream. Tiny little shop, and the ice cream was served in chinese take out boxes. Oh so good though, I had the vanilla cardamom ice cream and was kicking myself for only getting a small. I finished it before I made it to the park that I was aiming for, and just continued on to my hotel room. I put my feet up and dove into my new book, vegging out for an hour, and dumping heat from wandering around in the sun.

I ended up taking a bath, oh, the decadence of vacation, and changed into my sun dress, but found that the foundation layer that I'd brought didn't quite hide under it, so I ended up throwing a light t-shirt over it to just show off the skirt. I was much more comfortable in that than in the jeans I'd had on earlier, and regretted not bringing a second sun dress. I headed over to Spadina and popped into a grocery store to grab a can of lychee and one of coconut milk, and a plum to eat while walking, then made my way down to Queen and walked west, with the plan to find the Red Tea Box at Euclid to have some lunch before heading to the pig roast (I wasn't planning to eat any pig, so figured it would be counter productive to show up hungry).

I had the Mad Hatter Tea, served in a bento box, and it was delicious. I had a pot of assam (loose leaf, though it was a bit hard to fish the tea sack out once the steeping was finished), with a gorgeous little decorated tea pot that held milk, plus a small round sugar bowl. I almost took a picture of the bento box, the presentation was so wonderful, but I resisted. I started with the hollowed out cucumbers stuffed with veggies and topped with hummous, then the curried chicken sandwiches, skewered with a toothpick sporting a melon ball. Then came the heavenly scone (with clotted cream of course) and the amazing warm apple cake. The banana bread was *too* banana like, I had to skip it. Then there was the chocolate cake drizzled with caramel sauce. I had to nibble at it while having my second pot of tea, I was getting full. Not nearly as much food as I got at Alice's Teacup in NYC, but perfectly filling and wonderful, and comparable to other afternoon tea's I've had in price.

I wobbled out of there to the street car stop and made my way over to the pig roast, arriving at around 5. I made up my lychee juice, rum (stopped on the walk up Brock), and coconut milk drink and was given a plastic coconut cup to drink it from. :) I managed to sip slowly enough to enjoy the drink and still hold conversations, so it was all good. :) Got to chat with Janette for a while, and Martin, and Jackie and Rich, and BC, and Jason, and Art, and Trevor, and a few people who's names escaped on rum. :) Saw the pig come off the cinderblock bbq and people descend, but I got out of the way before I lost a finger. :) I was fine food wise until just about dark, then went foraging for veggie options and found enough to satisfy me. The mosquitos also had a fest, I got four bites on my ankle before applying a lot of repellant, and was able to use some of Amy's anti-itch cream. Loved Panic's day of the dead sundress, and Jackie's dress was awesome too. Moved inside for a while when the smoke from ciggies got too pervasive, and then joined the exodus at around midnight to head over to the Cadillac Lounge to see Trevor and Len play. Met Etienne outside and chatted a little, then went inside as the noise levels crescendoed. Mmm, surf rockabilly, and I loved the matching striped tops, though Len's voice was often lost in the mix as he tried to engage the audience with his patter. Found a spot by the bar staying out of the way, one nice guy commented on my hair, but then a semi-creepy older dude tried to insist on my drinking from his beer bottle when I started yawning. Moved around a bit to avoid him, but eventually it got too much, esp. with more people crowding in to see the band, and made my goodbyes. Then ended up waiting about 20mins for a streetcar, pacing to keep myself awake. Back to the room, crashed out at around 2am, failing at the staying up until dawn challenge.

Sun Jun 17

I started waking up hourly at around 6am, and gave up on sleep at 9. Made microwave boiled water again for tea, but got out the door a bit faster this time in an effort to find food before last night's calories wore off. Walked up into Kensington Market, to the Kensington Cafe, but was a bit surprised that the menu was comprised of the two eggs and toast breakfast or waffles. Ordered my eggs and took a seat on the little patio to watch the market wake up. The guy who staffed the store next door arrived and was sweeping his stoop with a bamboo broom, and then mopped inside and emptied the water in the road, and then my breakfast arrived, as I was about to keel over. It was meh, and I spotted another cafe with a more extensive menu from my perch, but ah well. Went back to the hotel and checked out, leaving my pack, and my cardboard box with my 3+oz liquids packed in worn clothes, with the clerk and headed back out.

Walked down Dundas, headed across to Yonge. My first detour was due to seeing "sugar cane juice" on offer at a juice bar. I *love* sugar cane, but it's different drinking a glass of the iced juice than chewing the cane to get the juice out and then having to dispose of the pulp. The cane juicer inspired an unholy need in me to own one, but I'm heartbroken that they're listed for $1700+ retail. :/ I'm not sure if a regular juicer would work on the canes, the one I saw had a tube where you fed the halved canes in and then inner rollers squishes it almost flat and feeds directed the juice out a spout. She fed each pair of canes through twice, and strained the juice into a cup. Then she used the really neat bubble tea cup laminator to put a plastic film over the cup and handed me a pointy straw to break through and then drink. Bliss. I was smiling the whole time I was drinking. :) The second detour happened as I passed University, and saw the flags advertising the Textile Museum. It had opened after I moved, and the timing was just right for me to get in just after it opened for the day. I'd finished my cane juice just then too, so score. Two floors of displays, with the lights coming on as you entered the rooms (kind of spooky when I was the only one there). I saw the salmon skin suit for a boy, from the Songhua River in China, and the "Colour and Light" exhibit showcasing embroidery from India and Pakistan (awesome), as well as a neat exhibit called "Cloth that Shook the World". Newspaper articles were mounted by examples of textiles, and I learned about quite a few things. I was *not* happy at the NYC WTC attack article, it was way too sensationalistic and made me tear up, so I skipped over it. The gift store drew me in and I found some neat napkin rings and a little box.

Back out into the sunlight, and then down into the subway for the trip two stops to Wellesly, heading to Northbound Leather. I immediately spotted a skirt I liked (the object of the visit), but trying it on I wasn't 100% happy with how it looked. Though the clerk was helpful in telling me that it "did good things at the back". :) The front wasn't quite working, so I put it back and tried on some others, but didn't find anything that was quite right. My credit card must have sighed in relief as I left. :) Subway to the streetcar along Queen, and back to my hotel to pick up my stuff at around 1pm. Grabbed it and walked slowly so as not to induce sweating back down to Queen and the streetcar. Got a call from Axel, our brunch choice, Caddy's, was closed, meet across the street at Rhino. Easy enough, got there and saw Jason, joined him, and put in my order for a portabello sandwich right away, as breakfast had long worn off. Had tea as well, and chatted while we waited for the rest to show up. Steph and Martin and Monica and Trev and Axel and Shawn and ? came soon after and we readjusted the tables to accomodate. Much caffiene and greasy food entered our bodies and conversation ranged widely. At around 3:30, Martin and Steph and I headed back to their house so I could see the rennovations - the kitchen looks great, the great room is torn down to the studs along half of it! We left Steph there and Martin drove me to the airport, a bit of traffic but not too much delay and I arrived at the 2h before my flight time that I was aiming for. Check in was quick, though the Air Canada agent tried to convince me that I'd lose my cardboard box because it was so small. Um, not checking my backpack, thanks, the box has a better chance. Then the Line at Customs and Immigration. They snaked us around long sections on the left, and just as we reached the front, moved us in groups to the long line on the right. I was over an hour in the lines, and kept my pack on since we were generally moving, and probably did in my foot that way, I was limping by the time I got to the gate. As I went up to present my passport, the woman was complaining to her neighbouring officer that her back was killing her and she had a headache. I braced myself for a confrontation, but she just asked me where I was going, how long I'd been in Toronto, and why. Nothing about justifying my visa, but I'm not complaining. Past the last customs check and then spotted an oversize/fragile baggage check area and brought my poor maligned cardboard box there. They xrayed it while I waited and nodded acceptance and I was off to the security line, also thankfully short, probably because of the bottleneck at Immigration.

Finally at my gate, I had time to grab some water and read for a while waiting for my flight to board. It left on time, same model plane as I came in from Boston on, though my seat mate was a somewhat twitchy older woman who didn't seem to understand that she couldn't keep her bag on her lap until the flight attendant firmly offered to put it in the bin for her. Again, very well insulated body, I didn't put on my noise cancelling headphones at all. Smooth landing, and my cardboard box was third off the luggage belt, still intact. :) Topped up my T card and the silver line bus soon arrived. South Station to Park St, then a *long* shuttle bus ride to Kendall (the Red line must run in a straight line under the common and against one way streets), back on the subway for two stops, then my bus was right there for the last leg home. House still standing, and my shorts that I'd ordered in Portland were there waiting for me, along with another box of tea. :) Cris wasn't, as he'd left for California for work that morning, we'd each texted our "Landed" messages as we arrived. My dad called just as I was about to pick up the phone to call him for Father's Day and I got to hear first hand about his NWT adventures. The reception in Dawson City, Yukon wasn't that good, so we had to give up before we wanted to, as I couldn't hear more than a few words here and there by the end. Warmed up leftovers, finished my book, and crashed out in my own bed.

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