Sunday, August 19, 2018

Toronto, or "Toronno" as the locals say

When I got off the train in Toronto I was pretty hungry, strangely craving noodles. There’s a great little travelers information booth that would help me on several occasions, but my first request there was where to get some hand-drawn noodles. I wandered over to Chinatown and sated my desire, though I made a slight mistake - I should have grabbed a vegetarian dish instead of being sucked into a “spicy” beef dish (it was not spicy - a common theme in the food I would consume). I then headed over to the subway and headed over to my AirBnB for the night.

Not my AirBnB - City Hall

The AirBnB was possibly the best appointed I have ever been to. My host, Charlene, had set out fresh fruit, cereal bars, water bottles and all sorts of little things that make traveling. Plus she was great to chat with and I got many tips about exploring Toronto.

Laundry & sleep and I was on my way the next day. I decided to make city hall my first stop - I hadn’t realized it was “Federation Headquarters” from Star Trek, so that was cool. It also had a small display of flags of indigenous persons, which I obviously enjoyed. I arrived in the middle of a fire drill, so I took some photos and tried to get into Old City Hall (it’s a functioning courthouse - they would have let me in, but there wasn’t really anything to explore). Eventually the fire drill ended and I took a self-guided tour, which included one of my artsiest photos - a side view of the “wall of nails”. I also wrote a poem in the library inside city hall.

Old City Hall

A few blocks east, a few blocks north, and a few blocks west and I had taken the “scenic route” up to Ontario’s parliament. The building and the grounds were beautiful and there was some interesting information strewn about, but the tour itself was doubly disappointing - the tour guide had a real air of “I’m only doing this because I’m obligated to do so” and some fellow tour-takers really enjoyed speaking over her to one another in another language.

After parliament I plodded my way through the University of Toronto (indeed - I strolled through the “Philosopher’s Walk” which was overrun by preteens at summer camp). At the end of the walk I indulged myself in what I hoped would be a treat - my first Tim Horton’s. While the food / coffee was definitely better than Dunkin Donuts, the atmosphere (staff and clientele) were way worse (though I could have just chosen a poor location).

Somewhat refreshed (and certainly less hungry), I walked down to Robart’s Library, a landmark of brutalist architecture. Depending on how you view it, it looks like a turkey or peacock. Outside view notwithstanding, you’ll never guess what I did while inside (wrote some poems).

After a bit, my feet were itching, so I walked over to Toronto’s Central Archive. What a gorgeous building inside! Reflecting pools, a huge open atrium - it just yelled “walk around and explore!” I did for a bit, then I wrote a couple more poems and finished up a short story I was working on for a contest (the story did not turn out well, but it exists, so that’s more than I can say about many of my other stories).

After that third library, I figure it was time to get dinner. I started walking back to Chinatown to try a spot that had been recommended, but realized my folly and just ducked into the closest spot that had a tasty picture outside. I was not disappointed - I ordered what I’d seen on the picture (stone bowl bulgogi bibimbap) and it was fantastic. Sated, I headed home.

Well, I made one pit stop on the way home - I attempted to get a six pack of beer. This is a highly painful experience in Toronto / Ontario as any and all alcohol is controlled by the state. Even in Philly, which has its own screwed up laws, you were able to get a six pack from most bars. I managed, however, to get some beer.

The next day I headed down to the CN Tower to be a tourist. I hate being a tourist sometimes - especially when surrounded by slack-jawed morons who can’t figure out that they just paid $30 to look out a window, so they should go look out a window. I think I saw more people excited to take a picture with a fiberglass moose painted red than I saw people paying attention to what was going on around them. Beautiful view, sure, but I’m not going back unless I get the place to myself.

After the tower I headed into Chinatown to give the place I wanted to try another shot. It was a decent meal (and finally a little spicy), though for a “cheap place to eat” they certainly piled on the extra charges.

Touristness over and lunch eaten, I made my final little trek - I wanted to check out “Kensington Market” as I live in “Old Kensington” in Philly. It was neat and I took photos, but whatever. I’m not a shopper, so there was little for me (except some iced tea at a cafe). Hoping to stumble into something cool, I walked to an out-of-the-way subway stop, but all I saw was pavement and construction.

I loaded my stuff up, said goodbye to Charlene, and headed on over to stay with a pen pal of mine, Misha.

Since Misha lived in a little suburb, my goal was to have a couple rest days, which I most certainly did. I wrote letters, listened to podcasts, and generally relaxed. We also “went out” one evening and got dinner, got drinks, and went on what I must characterize as a romantic stroll through a nature area. The whole walk I was thinking “this would make for a wonderful date; it sucks I’m not into guys”. I started writing a little poem that will probably be a love poem because, well, that’s how inspiration works.

On my last day in Toronto I did just a mite bit more wandering around. There was an indicator on my map for “Toronto’s First Post Office”, so that was my starting point (those of you about to get mail, that’s where it was postmarked). On the recommendation of a guy at the post office I headed to St. Lawrence Market. It was like any “local producers” market (e.g. Reading Terminal) - I ended up spending a bunch of money on dried food for my imminent train journey.

Save money! Write crossways.

Mill Street was my next stop - a very artsy little district based around a brewery and a distillery. I definitely got some good photos and some mediocre food. I then worked my way to the Steam Whistle Brewery (which was closed). I took another photo or two then went to find a place that served beer.

While I’m not unhappy I went, I could have found a better place than Real Sports. No one knew what they were doing, the beer “specials” were the regular price anywhere else, and, for a sports bar, they could not figure out how to make sports appear on any of their hundred TVs. I also got to sit next to a Trump supporter who kept making phone calls in the middle of other conversations. Leaving with a charged phone was about the biggest boon they provided.

I dropped off my Presto card (subway fare card) with the helpful people at the information desk I mentioned earlier. Basically I said to give it to a traveler in need (it had one fare left on it and would save the next person $6 CAD on purchasing the card). Then I hopped on the train for a 36 hour trip.

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