Spring Break Vacation - Toronto
Activity:My Dad is not big on flying. He would rather sit in a sweltering hot car for five hours and arrive at Penticton than board an air-conditioned plane with movies and arrive someplace cool like Toronto. So I’d never been to Toronto. In fact none of us had ever been. But that all changed when my brother Nathan moved there. Mom must have laid down the law and told Dad the way things were going to be.
As soon as I heard we were going to Toronto I phoned up Nate and told him to get on some tickets for a Raptor’s game. He managed to get some mid-section tickets at the Air Canada Centre, only $150 more than Dad wanted to pay. I reminded Dad of the romantic evening he and Mom would be having while we were at the game, and he folded like a cheap suitcase.
The other big deal for me and my sister Jen was the Drake store. That was a big fat disappointment, and plus we had to walk really far to get there. Jen and I spent about 40 minutes trying to figure out what to buy: not because there was lots of choice, more like no choice. In the end I bought a hat and Jen got some black sweat pants with gold writing all over them, something she would never have bought ordinarily.
Queen Street West was cool, lots of one-of-a-kind shops we don’t have in Vancouver. Mom heard through the grapevine, there were fabric stores on Queen Street, so she purposefully travelled light so she’d have plenty of room to put the yards of fabric she imagined herself buying. Unfortunately she came home empty-handed. The stumbling block for Mom was she doesn’t like looking at stacks of fabric. She likes to see fabric displayed on rolls, preferably hanging on a wall; and the shops on Queen Street are tight, so tight you can hardly walk from the front to the back.
Toronto also has a bunch of malls. Nate bought some job interview clothes at the Hudson’s Bay in the huge downtown Eaton Centre. Grey pants and a white shirt; how bad can you get. We also walked along Bloor Street - Yorkville, but it was mostly designer boutiques, which Mom doesn’t like to set foot in because everything costs too much money.
One day we went to a place called the St. Lawrence Market. I remember one of the butcher places; it had these gigantic bones that looked like they came from a dinosaur. Mom could not stop raving about the fruit salad she got there. It had figs in it. Wow! I got a fried eggplant sandwich at an Italian deli, which was big enough to feed all of us. Luckily Mom didn’t make me save it. My saving grace was no microwave in our hotel.
Not far from the St. Lawrence Market is the Distillery District. Dad said it’s a National Historic Site, which usually means it's time to pull out my phone and play games, but this place surprised me. It looks historical, because all the buildings are Victorian era brick, even the walkways are made of brick, but the vibe is artsy, breezy, and modern. It has artist studios, galleries, restaurants and boutiques. Mom bought Nate a vintage Blue Jays t-shirt, and we had lunch at a French Boulangerie. There was no place for us to eat inside, so we sat on a bench outside and played host to a handful of tiny birds that picked up every last crumb we dropped.
Mom’s favorite place hands-down was the Kensington Market. It was right up her alley: vintage shops and more vintage shops. She ended up buying a vintage lamp with a windmill base, which Dad says you have to be of Dutch heritage to truly appreciate.
One day we rented a car and drove to Niagara Falls. On the way we stopped at the town of St. Catherines, because Mom absolutely had to check out a store she saw on the internet which sold vintage eyewear. One and a half hours later my stomach was grumbling. We ended up in the restaurant next-door to the eyeglass shop. It was called the Lemon Tree, named after the plastic lemon tree that stood in the middle of it. I couldn’t figure out which was more out of place, that or the 3-D replica of the Eiffel Tower fully adorned with a string of blinking white lights. As for the food, Mom says I should never complain about a meal I didn’t pay for, so let’s leave it at that.
Niagara Falls is something you have to see to believe. It’s hard to describe the sheer volume of water cascading over its edge. Apparently it is the most powerful waterfall in North America. Dad said it is eroding at a rate of one foot every year, which means in 50,000 years it will no longer be there.
Apparently you can take boat rides right up close to the falls. That would have to be a pretty big boat before I’d get in it. You can even do crazier stuff like bungee jump, zip line, or take a ride on a jet boat. Dad said a guy once tried going over the falls in a jet boat. He was so sure he was going to make it that he didn’t bother to put on a crash helmet. He didn’t make it. Our excitement for the day was Clifton Hill, the closest thing I’ve ever come to Las Vegas. Definitely worth seeing, especially if you’re a kid between 5 and 15 years old. Take my advice on this one and be sure you go with your parents, because you won’t want to pay for the sights, rides, and games out of your own pocket. Believe me, it adds up. Jen and I each paid about 10 bucks to try a maze that took us less than five minutes to get out of. Mom said she has never wasted so much money in such a short period of time.
Mom and Dad took Jen and I out for dinner to our childhood favorite restaurant: The Rainforest Café. It was just like I remembered it: plastic vines dangling from the ceiling; floor to ceiling fish tank to greet you with exotic fish staring at you; half-hourly thunderstorm with robotic jungle animals opening their mouths and growling. Even the food was the same, although Dad pointed out they no longer serve potato chips with their meals. I don’t remember what I had. What I do remember is that Jen and I each got a refillable novelty cup that cost $12. Hers had a 3-D frog on the top and mine had an elephant head, which Mom was hoping we’d leave behind in the hotel room, but didn’t.
We ended up spending more time at Clifton Hill than we should have, which set us back for our next destination, a small town called Niagara on the Lake. We got there just in time to see the shop owners turning around their Open signs. I could see Mom wincing; it was the type of place she could easily have gotten lost in for a couple of hours.
We didn’t get back to our Toronto hotel until 10:30 pm, and then Mom and Dad still had to take the rental car back. And then, after all that, they did something really crazy, went out for dinner. I can’t imagine Mom eating at midnight; she usually is sound asleep by 9:00 PM. Apparently they couldn’t resist this small Italian restaurant called The KitKat, which played 60’s music all night long. Dad must’ve been in his glory.
We also spent an afternoon checking out Nate’s new pad. He lives in Davisville, about a 20 minute subway ride. Toronto has lots of neighborhoods, all connected by a subway system. To be honest, I’m not a fan of subways, but this one really had nothing any of us could complain about.
What I noticed about Toronto is that it’s made mostly of brick. Even people’s houses are mostly made of brick. The University of Toronto is almost all grey brick. Dad said it was founded in 1827, which is ten years short of 200 years. Mom and I went inside one of the buildings to see if it was as old inside as it was outside. It was. It literally must cost a fortune to heat and maintain all those buildings.
Another site Dad wanted us to see was the Bata Shoe Museum. At first Jen and I thought it might be okay, because we both like shoes. But it was set up like a museum with exhibits; way too much reading for me. Jen and I saw everything in 10 minutes, and left Mom and Dad to do all the reading.
The last day we were in Toronto it was 12 degrees Celsius and sunny. You could’ve gone outside with just a sweater on. Having just had an unreal number of rainfall days in Vancouver, we all thought we were in paradise. In fact, the weather in Toronto was sunny, but cold (1 to 7 degrees) every day we were there, except one.
I’d like to go back to Toronto, maybe in the summer, and catch a Blue Jays game. I’d also like to go up the CN Tower. We walked by it a couple of times, but never had the time to go up. I have a feeling Dad was making up excuses, because he’s afraid of heights. Nate said it is the tallest building in Canada. The view must be amazing from the top. Maybe next time I’ll tell Dad he can go have a romantic dinner with Mom, while Jen and I go up the CN Tower, see what he says…