:: Monday, September 20, 2004 ::
We left for Toronto early on Saturday morning around 0830 am and had a quick drive down. Weather was great: bright and sunny and about 16-18C and remained that way for essentially both days. Awesome fall weekend to be away.
First stop was the Toronto Zoo. We spent almost five hours walking around checking out the animals. For all the cars in the parking lot - there were more than a few - the zoo wasn't all that busy. But lots of lazy animals lounging and sunning themselves in the grass.
I will post them later, but took some good shots of the big cats, lions and tigers and a cheetahs. M has a thing for the big cats and told me a couple of stories about what she would like to be doing to help them out, about her family living in Africa and other things I didn't really know about her. The cats were very impressive. Highlight of the zoo trip I think. Polar bears were not cooperating with swimming or anything, but I snapped a cute polar bear picture. The Wall Of Fish: Which had the subtitle of Darwin's Dream Pond was this fish tank about twenty feet wide and eight feet high. Not just a few fish. There looked like 1000s of them. All bright tropical looking small ones. Tough to take pics of - I used the little tripod, but M had a problem propping her camera on the railing to shoot as every time she was going to take a pic, someone would lean on or bang the railing. Damn tourists! Some cool snakes as well. The giraffe proved elusive to us. I think it was pacing trying to get back to it’s young not in the main display area. It was taunting us for sure. Lunch was a slice and some pretty gross Doritoz. Bleah.
We headed to the Crowne Plaza Don Valley hotel around 4pm and encountered a snag. While this was a spur of the moment weekend, I did plan it out. I know that's a contradiction, but let me continue... I didn't take into account that on Saturday, the Ontario Conservatives were electing John Tory as their new leader and they were doing it from the ball room of the same hotel we were sataying at! To say parking was a challenge would be an understatement! Media satellite trucks, 4000 delegates etc.= Tight squeeze. We ended up parking right in front of the main entrance fountain with the assurance that the CRV would be OK. Room was quite nice. M was impressed that it was on a floor that required key access. You had to insert your room card key into the elevator control panel to select your floor. And speaking of floors. Imagine a toasty warm heated tile floor in the bathroom. Great for after a shower on bare feet!
We ordered a taxi from the room - customer service at the hotel was great - ask for something and it was there instantly and with a follow up call from the front desk to confirm it... And when we finally got in a taxi, since ours was taken by someone else we assume, we headed downtown via the DVP to dinner on the waterfront at Toula. This is a stunning restaurant located on top of the south tower of the Harbourcastle Westin hotel: 38 floors above street level at the foot of Yonge Street at the Ferry docks. A glass elevator ride up, and a spectacular view from our table of the Toronto Islands, harbour, sail and tour boats... As it became dark outside, in the distance you could see the thin band of lights on the horizon wrapping around the lake from Burlington in the West to Rochester NY in the East. It was a very clear night. M. even saw one of two shooting stars this evening.
Dinner was heaven. This was top notch dining in a world class restaurant. From the appetizers of scallops to the veal medallions to the deserts and coffee, there was no comparison. A nice bottle of white - a semi-dry 2003 Riesling - capped it all off. We were both taken by it all. M perhaps more so than me as she hadn't been to the restaurant, or seen the view, but it was excellent. It's nice to be treated to a special dinner. I mentioned that if we did that regularly, or even something close to it, it would lose it's appeal. The magic of such glamour would have been diminished. Definitely a once on a long while thing.
We lingered over dinner, a couple of hours at least, and after, we headed back down to grab a taxi back to our hotel. This guy didn't know where he was going and overshot the Crowne Plaza. Had to U turn several blocks down Eglington, etc. No tip for him. I fully admit there were a couple of times that I got turned around driving as well, and my trusty navigator had to assist me ;) , but I expect a cabbie to know his city. Slacker!
The next morning, we brunched at the hotel and then headed out first to Ikea. On the way we met our first Asian face shield woman of the day. In a vehicle beside us was a woman, who had not sun glasses or a ball cap on, but rather this thing that looked like a cross between a welder's mast and a fencing helmets face plate. Very light looking but covered forehead to chin in a one way sun blocking effect. We had never seen one before. I tried to snap a pic of her while driving but wasn't successful. Googling 'full face sun visor' just now I came up with this page where someone else talks about one and has a pic! The two we saw were not the same colour of visor I don't think. More reflective mirrored. Later in the Beaches, we saw another Asian woman wearing one! Weird. Went well with the Shoppers drug mart steel dome that we came across as well. We certainly felt that we were in the future with all of this going on... :)
Ikea was busy and I actually, I am not kidding, left with spending less than $10 on a shoe rack for my shoes and boots etc. Yeah, I know I have too many shoes... And was able to get the required catalogues that were requested... :)
I took M. through Rosedale, past the house I grew up in, showed her the Rosedale Park where the first Grey Cup was played, some huge homes, and then via the strange street signs of Greektown on the Danforth to The Beaches area of town in the East end of the city. Sunday was another day ideally suited for an early fall walk about. We walked on the boardwalk from the volleyball courts almost to Ash Bridges Bay where it curves out into the lake, watched some lawn bowlers, a girl build an inukshuk of rocks and then wandered back through the shopping area on Queen St. East. Growing up in Toronto, I wasn't really aware as it was BAU, but M was surprised at the number of dogs. There were dozens and dozens of them everywhere out for a walk with their owners. She told me about a couple of her dogs and a sad story about not being able to keep one of them... Sounded like a great pup... :(
A couple of impulse nick knacks and several blocks later, I stopped on the sidewalk and asked her if she had the Aerobar wrapper she had been holding on to for the better part of three weeks as a clue to something this weekend. A teaser... I told her it was redeemable for some good stuff at a store across the road: The Belgian Chocolate shop ( at 2455 Queen St E.). I recalled them from their original location in the Yonge and Eglinton area when I lived there a few years ago. They make all their own fine confectionary chocolate. Top notch stuff. You walk in the tiny store and you can get a buzz off of the chocolate aroma. We selected, I think, six pieces - which weighed 666gr ;) - and found a nearby coffee shop, a bench outside in the sun, and chatted about silly things. It was fun watching her try them as we had our coffees. This was no Aero bar. And I knew as someone who loves the chocolate, she would find this pretty good. Heavenly. Was the clue worth the wait? :)
And last was Cirque. The raison d'être for going to Toronto. Acrobats, gymnastic routines, high wire, and contortionists all set to classical music... I can't do it justice. You really have to go see this if you can! It was mesmerizing. What they did in tumbling routines and feats of gymnastic strength put the Olympic medalists to shame. It was incredible to look at these performers do their routines near flawlessly as if it was a walk in the park. The two hour show was worth the snarled traffic on the drive home. It is an event in live theatre that should not be missed.
To sum up: weekend was great. We had an excellent time. Not sure when I would do something of that level again all at once - there would have to be a good reason ;) - but being the tour guide and planning it all and experiencing it - quirks and all - was the best. Thanks M for coming along for the ride to Raccoon City!
:: Mike Wood 10:27 [+] ::