My dear friend Anne moved away to Toronto. So, this weekend I took advantage of lower than usual airfares and flew up to visit her for the weekend.
The flight getting there was delayed by two hours. There was more rain in Toronto this weekend than they have seen for 30-40 years. The craziest part was flying in and hearing the wheels come down on the plane and looking out the window to see what looked like pea soup. It is not a good feeling wondering how the pilot can land the plane if they can’t see the ground. All of the sudden we popped out of the soup and it was at least clear enough that I could see lights on the ground.
When arriving in Toronto I always try to plan some economical way to get to where I am going. Last time I booked the shuttle to downtown, only to arrive late and tired and not wanting to worry about connections so I took an airport limousine. This time I had booked the Up train to Union station where Anne was to pick me up. Well by the time the plane finally landed I had no chance to get to the Up before the last run so off to the limousines I went. At 1:30am, pouring rain and being so tired 100% the right call. Sometimes you throw a little money at a problem.
Coffee with the Irish
Friday morning I got up in a beautiful old house in a hidden away part of Toronto I didn’t even know existed. There is a big backyard, it is quiet, the trees are big and beautiful, the house old with character and charm.
Inside it is already bustling. Anne’s mother’s house (where I have been lucky enough to stay) is a hotbed of activity at 8am. There are painters and contractors at work freshening the place up. Anne’s mother is in her late 70s and never appears to stop moving. By the time we both gotten up she had been to her aerobics class and had made breakfast and coffee.
Anne heads off to work and I spend some time chatting with her mother. Her mother is one of the most interesting people I have ever met. She has been a lawyer, a political force, a rainmaker and is now the chancellor of Acadia University. Not to mention a mother and active in her community.
Around 9:30am Libby invites the contractors into the kitchen for coffee. They are a friendly bunch and Arthur the older of the three is a great storyteller. He is about 65 I guess and is Irish. He has gnarled hands from a life of hard work and probably a few job-related accidents. Paul is younger and is married to Arthur’s sister. He is also Irish and comes over to work with Arthur in the summers. They are all lovely and sit with this gracious lady as equals and regale her with stories.
A little me time
I have the day free because Anne is working so I head to the Eaton Centre to wander. It is pouring rain as I mentioned so my original plan of wandering the streets and little shops is set aside for the practicality of a dry environment connected it the subway.
I stop for lunch and a glass of wine at Nordstrom. My friend Julie introduced me to the restaurant at Nordstrom in Calgary and once again it did not disappoint. The couple next to me are so very rude. They belittle the server and are disgruntled at the amount of time it takes for them to be served (which I have observed and for a busy restaurant does not appear to be long enough to be so disgruntled). I am spoiled by the easy-going nature of the east coast of Canada.
A nice glass of wine and a beautiful salad and I am rejuvenated. The shopping in Saint John is wonderful for many things but it is nice to get out of town and find things that you can’t find at home or that a=come out much faster than at home.
Tonight, we have been invited to a women’s club called Verity. It is very reminiscent of the many men’s clubs that exist throughout the world but with a very purple flair. The club includes a restaurant, rooms for use by members, a spa, a yoga studio, individual work space and I’m sure more than I didn’t even see.
We joined a women’s networking group for a Friday after work cocktail which was very neat to meet some new people. Then we joined one of Libby’s friends for dinner at the Verity restaurant. It was an excellent meal and if anyone is familiar with the Toronto restaurant George, they share a kitchen so that goes a long way to explain the quality. It is a funky little spot!
The AGO and a manicure
It is rare in my very overscheduled life that I sleep in. Well this morning I slept until 10:30 which was a luxury and much needed but when I woke up I bounced out of bed wanting to get out and explore the city. The AGO (aka the Art Gallery on Ontario) was featuring a Georgia O’Keefe exhibit – I would imagine that any time you are in TO there will be something interesting featured at the AGO to check out!
We then decided to try to take in an inexpensive manicure. Anyone who lives in a small town like mine has a hard time finding a manicure for a reasonable price but in a large city where there is lots of competition you can get one for under $20 so we decided to treat ourselves. The only trick is to make sure you find one that appears to be clean… We found one and enjoyed our down time.
The biggest mistake I always make when I am traveling it doing too much. I go to hard and miss out on some of the experiences. It sounds crazy but walking around a museum is exhausting and then to walk around shopping and exploring we were in need of a break.
Dinner at El Catrin – Distillery District
The Distillery district of Toronto is a funky little area which has lots of neat little shops and restaurants. El Catrin was recommended to me by my friend Frank and I’m glad he did because it was a fantastic meal.
The margaritas are made with fresh squeezed juice, the guacamole is mixed at the table and is amazing and the food is fresh and delicious.
The meals are tapas type sharing style. We ordered 4 dishes to share and they were all delicious. The entrée, beef short ribs in mole sauce, was very tasty but the portion was VERY small. That being said we were stuffed – well especially after the churros for desert…
The only thing I had on my must do list was to visit the Royal Ontario Museum. The ROM has ancient history but also natural history and I have been there before but I still haven’t seen the whole thing.
Right now it has an amazing exhibit called the Blue Whale. In 2014 9 blue whales died as the result of ice and it was well documented in the media as it was a serious tragedy and represented 3% of the entire blue whale population left on the planet.
Two of the whales beached in Newfoundland, a very rare occasion as they usually sink to the bottom of the sea. The ROM took advantage of the situation and brought the whales back to the ROM. The process of bringing them back, the whales themselves and the scientific value has all been captured at the ROM in a beautiful exhibit that if very family friendly. One of the coolest parts was to see the actual skeleton of the whale and to realize how huge they are!
If you have a chance to get there before it closes in September it is 100% worth the time!
On our way back from the ROM both Anne and I were hungry and decided to pop into La Societe. Neither of us had read about it or been there before but it looked interesting and we were both hungry for brunch. We were not disappointed. It has a hint of French snootiness but the delicious food to go with it. The service was excellent and the pastries warm and devine.
Kirby tells me it is a “chain” but there are only two, one in Montreal and one in Toronto. The brunch was amazing, I would imagine their other fare would be excellent as well. The prices were also reasonable for downtown fare.
Getting home – AHHH Air Canada why oh why do you test my patience so!
After the ROM and breakfast we went back to Anne’s house to pack and relax. My flight wasn’t until 10pm so I had lots of time. I had avoided my email the whole weekend but I thought perhaps I should take a look and make sure my flight was not delayed… AHHH It was cancelled and I had been rebooked on a flight on Tuesday!
Onto the phone with Air Canada. They found me a flight through Montreal that night instead but would not commit to putting me up in a hotel for the night – well a night at the airport did not sound attractive… So they found me a flight through Halifax.
Lucky for me I am from Halifax and my AMAZING Mom agreed to come pick me up at 10:15 and house me for the night and then drive me back to the airport the next morning… Unfortunately for her the evening flight was delayed to 11pm but lucky for me she loves me so she did it anyway – thanks Mom!!!
As it turns out this story is not my own. There are lots of flights being cancelled right now because the runway repairs being completed on the main runway at the Pearson International Airport.
I am a very relaxed traveller and you have to go into these situations with the expectation that things will go wrong but come On!! Couldn’t a little forethought be put into advance notice?
Toronto – I will be back – but after your runway is fixed!