The last time I was in Toronto was with my mother when I was very little and I don’t remember anything. At the time we didn’t take many pictures so there was nothing to bring back the memories. This time around though, there are plenty of pictures although just before I left my Canon G7 broke and I had to use the old PS A-530. Mind you, it is far from being a piece of ****. It does the job if you know how to use its basic settings which I am still learning. I never used any of the manual settings before and started learning on the G7. Dami is a lot better than me at taking pictures and using cameras but I think I am doing not too bad.
My trip to Toronto was a short one and I wish I had at least an extra day. I was visiting my Czech friends who were there to study English at ILAC and it was a great opportunity for us to kill two birds with one stone (no birds were harmed in the process). It was great to leave the passport at home, skip customs and be scrutinized only once. Toronto is such a big city with lots to see and do even in winter and what’s great about it is that there are no line ups anywhere; the CN Tower can have 3 hour line-ups in the summer!
I arrived during a snow storm in the morning rush hour. I buckled up and my Airline cab driver was a little nervous. The roads were very slippery and the snow was a wet and heavy one. Drivers seemed careful and lots of people must have left their cars at home because it was unusually uncongested according to the cab driver. Once settled in at my friend’s apartment, I ventured to the closest grocery store, Rabba. When I say ventured, I mean it. The snow was coming sideways in gusts of wind and the sidewalks were not plowed. The store had everything I needed and my only negative comment would be that I saw a few items that were past their expiration date like eggs and milk. I have learned with experience to make sure to always look at the best before dates.
I would have been very upset to have to go out again in that weather but I did anyway because I needed a set of bed sheets which I found at The Bay on the corner of Bloor and Yonge after multiple tours of the bedding section. They didn’t have a very big selection; I couldn’t find what I wanted (white flannel) but I got what I needed which was a nice luxurious 400 thread cotton.
The reunion with my friends was great. The next morning I walked on Yonge Street from Church Street all the way to Front Street where I stopped by the CBC building. I tried later to explain to my friends the importance of television for Canadians, that we grew up with television. I toured the free exhibit downstairs with the old vintage equipment and in the big hall on the main floor I had my picture taken as a figure skater; it was one of those boards where there’s an empty hole for a head. I then made my way to the CN Tower and was surprised how quiet it was. For 69.50 I bought my Toronto City Pass which includes entrance to the CN Tower, The Ontario Science Centre, The Royal Ontario Museum, Casa Loma and The Toronto Zoo. I passed security check with the computerized sniffer dog and in no time I was on top of the world. I skipped the movie presentation, and the highlight of the visit was walking on the glass floor: I was so glad I was wearing deodorant! I am very afraid of heights and I got such sweaty palms I almost dropped my camera and I had a hard time turning the setting dial.
My next visit was to Ripley’s Aquarium and I was very glad my friends encouraged me to go, it is truly spectacular. Walking in the tunnel surrounded by sharks was an amazing experience. Again it wasn’t too crowded and it was wonderful. Being led on the moving walkway with the music was an experience out of this world: you just have to go to see, hear and feel it for yourself. I was very impressed by the room all the fish had in their tanks. The sea tank with the current simulation was something I had never seen before.
I decided to “Ride the Rocket” on my way back (I love the motto for the Toronto underground train!). My feet couldn’t stand one more step. After a late lunch, my friends and I decided to go to the Royal Ontario Museum at the last minute. We got there a little after 4 and only had 50 minutes to visit and decided on The China exhibit on the first floor and the Egypt, Italy and Greece one on the third floor. We both enjoyed our quick visit and enjoyed the mummified cats. At the souvenir shop I bought a small dark brown Egyptian cat sculpture made of a mix of metal and rock.
On my third day, I walked all the way to Casa Loma taking the long route. Tourist maps are not always the best maps; mine only showed major streets and it seemed I would never get to my destination. I was starting to regret having walked Bloor street west but then I stumbled upon an outdoor welcome mat with cats outside the Home Hardware store…. I had to carry it all the way to the castle and back to the apartment but it was worth it!
Casa Loma was an awesome visit. I was greeted by David who told me his wife was Acadian. He spoke very good French and was so friendly. Casa Loma is a castle that was built by a very rich man who didn’t get to live long in this castle because he went bankrupt. He lived too large, spent too much and put all his eggs in one basket (or castle). There is even a 700 foot underground tunnel that leads to a garage and stable: walking there and back is almost half a kilometer!
I had invited my friends for dinner and I cooked my famous Bolognese sauce without tomatoes, using instead a red sauce made with red bell peppers and beets. It was a success and they even had leftovers. Knowing they had traveled to Italy both many times I asked them if it was as good as what they would have had there and my friend’s husband said even better! That is one of the best compliments I ever had as a home chef!
The next day planned visit was at the Toronto Zoo. We decided on the transit since it was way cheaper than taking a cab. It was a no brainer: $6 each instead of $140. We weren’t too impressed by the transit employees; the booth tellers had no clue what they were doing. We had never seen such incompetent people. I will spare you the details but the only employee that made sense was one of the drivers of the bus going to the zoo who said the female driver of the bus that left before his was stupid. Weekdays and Weekend schedules are different and even bus drivers and booth tellers are all mixed up. The zoo was a nice visit but none of us was left with a wowed impression. There were not many animals outdoors and I must say our experience at the Moncton Zoo (New Brunswick) and Granby zoo (Quebec) in winter were both better experiences. I still have nice memories of the Toronto Zoo but I expected much more from one of biggest zoos in Canada.
On Sunday, my friend and I were supposed to visit the Ontario Science Center but as I checked in my bag to make sure I had everything I couldn’t find my City pass with the last ticket left, the one to the OSC. Doh! I was a little upset at first but I told myself I must have made someone happy, that is if someone found it. So change of plans; we went back to the apartment and decided on the Museum next to Casa Loma, the Spadina House Museum. We took the subway there and walked back on Davenport. The museum was a nice complement to the Casa Loma which we had both visited. Our volunteer guide was very passionate and knowledgeable. We learned a great deal on this visit.
We talked all the way to the apartment which made the trip seem shorter than it really was. It was already time for me to go back home and I wished I had a couple more days. My cab was waiting for me and we said our goodbyes and hoped we would see each other again within 2 years. On our way to the airport, the driver rode through Forest Hill. I tried to enjoy the beautiful scenery but I had a big lump in my throat: I was missing my friends already. Friendship is a wonderful thing and having friends overseas is something one has to experience to understand.
Visiting Toronto with my friends was awesome! I loved Toronto. I would love to go back with Dami and Mama D. With all that traveling I didn’t have time to watch the Olympics in Sochi. That being said I would give myself a gold medal for doing so much walking in such a short period of time!