This trip went much smoother than our last one. No cancelled flights. No inclement weather. No one got sick.
I had been planning for our 25th anniversary since our 24th. I wanted it to be something more special than ordinary. I wanted to get away and get Thea away from work. Of the several places that I offered (Hawaii, Puerto Rico, New York City….) her choice was Toronto. Her reasoning was that we had just been to Canada for skiing and still had currency from that trip. So, goal one: use up the leftover cash. Goal two: explore.
The explore part began at home. The internet is an indiscriminate tool for exploring a city. On the one hand, you get a list of sites that the city wants you to visit. On the other, everyone has an opinion about whether you should bother with the city’s recommendations. And for every ‘loved it’ there is another voice saying ‘hated it’ By the time you eliminate all the smoke that the ‘pro’ are blowing and sort through all the chaff that the ‘con’ are supplying, you’re left where you started. And it goes something like this. “X looks like fun.” With the response from the internet, “Sure. If you like X’s.” Where X is anything from going to a museum or zoo to hula dancing or going to a mosh pit.
Well, I like taking pictures. So my next ‘explore’ was to decide what gear to take. I have a bag that has the basics; camera, 18-250, 90 macro, 10-20 and flash. Well for this trip, I was not going to need the flash. Very few places let you use one anyway. So I dropped that in favor of stacking my 50 and 85 primes. In hindsight, I should have gone with the 28 and 50. I never did put on the 85 but the 50 was useful. I did get into a couple of dark places where the 28 would have worked. Lugging all that gear around gave me a back ache at the end of every day, but I always felt like it was worth it.
I had considered leaving my smartwatch at home. Until I loaded the American Airlines app and found out that my boarding pass was on my wrist. What can I say about being a techno-geek? Sure everyone gets a boarding pass printed out. I even had mine printed out just in case. And sure I could have just used my phone and had them scan that. But there’s something about letting a QR code on my wrist be my ticket. “You don’t need to see his identification”, “Move along.”
We needed to stay someplace nice. Someplace near public transportation. Someplace on our budget but not for people on a budget. I settled on the Cambridge Suites off of Queen Street. It was only a block away from the Queen St Subway Station and within walking distance of a couple of the museums and both old and new city halls. And for the price of a single bed, I was able to book us a suite. It wasn’t inexpensive. But we were comfortable there for a week. The sitting room had a stocked mini-bar which had a fridge, bar sink and built-in microwave. There was a desk with an office chair, a couch, chair, coffee table, and TV. The bedroom had a king bed, closet with personal safe, dresser and TV. It was a little awkward closing both doors on the walk-thru bathroom but certainly not something to complain about. The staff was not just courteous, they were honestly friendly.
One of the ways that I had under-prepared was in thinking that I knew how to navigate the public transportation. It’s one thing to see it on a map but quite another to travel it. For instance, Toronto Airport. We arrived at terminal 3. Everything said to take the UP Express from the airport to Union Station. (UP is Union Station to Pearson Airport. Get it; U to P Express). What I didn’t know was that there was an airport train that we needed to get on to take us to the UP Express train to take us from the airport. Adding to my confusion was that I couldn’t find anything directing me to where terminal 2 was. Because there is no terminal 2. It had been torn down years ago and they decided not to renumber. So all the signs for terminal 2 were removed. But no directions for going to terminal 1 were put in their place. After much confusion on my part, I tried asking people at the airport and got the ‘why aren’t you getting this?’ look after they didn’t explain anything. Thea called the hotel and the front desk gave her just enough information to make sense of what we weren’t seeing and fill in the blanks for what we were. Another not-quite to scale event immediately followed. The UP dropped us off at Union Station. And the subway is at Union Station. But the train drops you off in the southwest corner and the subway is in the northeast corner of a building that stretches a city block and is being repaired or renovated in at least three major areas. Once we understood to look for the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) signs we were on our way. But along the way we had to ignore signs for buses, trains, cabs, and rentals, all in English and French (because Ontario is officially bilingual).
And once we were at the subway, we needed to understand the subway. The gate attendant was great. Weekly passes are for Monday to Sunday only, you don’t want that. Day passes are for going multiple stops or if you need to transfer to busses or trolleys. You just need two tokens today. I’ll sell you the day passes so that you can have them. Just scratch off the date when you start and it’s good for all rides. We just needed to go two stops. We could have walked the distance in ten minutes. Or we could have spent seven dollars on a cab. But we didn’t know that then. And we couldn’t have guessed that walking around downtown while pulling luggage behind you was actually on the low-end of normal.
After the trip in, all we wanted to do was to settle into our hotel room and rest. We turned off all our alarms and determined that we would get up when we did. It was a bit later than our ideal schedule allowed for. And although the restaurant downstairs offered to seat us after their usual seating hours, we both agreed that just ordering a pizza would be nicer. This was the first of many examples of the hotel staff helping out. They let us know that there were a couple of really good places near by that offered quick service. But instead of just giving us the names, they grabbed a couple of menus that were downstairs and sent them up to us.
We ordered a ‘Soprano’ pizza from Pizzaiolo. Neither of us knew what Sopressata was. But it turned out to be a really spicy-hot, dried sausage. It was delicious. And just what the doctor ordered for a good night’s rest..
Now that you know where we went, I guess you want to know what we did. Keep reading about that in my next post.