Category Archives: Toronto

A Tour of the T-Dot

Once I FINALLY got to Toronto, I was running late, so I had to carry my bags downtown with me in order to make a lunch meeting at G Adventures with my Terraficionados friends. G Adventures is my favorite adventure tour company, one that I have traveled with several times, so I was excited to get to meet someone who works there. In fact, it was on a G tour to Turkey that I first met the 5 wonderful people I came to Toronto to visit. After a delicious lunch at Ravi Soups we headed back to “Basecamp” for a tour and to pick out some G swag. I then took a quick look around Mountain Equipment Co-op, Canada’s version of EMS or REI, and headed to my home base to relax for a bit.

On Friday night the 6 of us had big plans: An Italian dinner at Buca and after dinner revelry at SPiN Toronto, a Ping Pong bar. Dinner at Buca was delicious, Eggplant Raviolibut the real highlight of the night was SPiN. Apparently these ping pong bars are really popular (SPiN also has locations in NYC, Milwaukee and LA), but this is the first time I had been to one. Think dimly lit basement with ping pong tables generously spaced around a bar that serves whatever drink gets you loose enough to be good at the game. There is music, art and semi black lights abound to help add to the fun of just chillin or hardcore competing. We, as a group, did not take the actual ping pong very seriously, choosing instead to slam yellow, orange, pink and occasionally blue ping pong balls everywhere. The person whose job it was to pick the balls up hated us, but we had such a good time (and had gotten pretty good by the end)!

Saturday started off with a delicious brunch of croissant french toast from L’Espresso Bar Mercurio followed by neighborhood tours and sightseeing. We hit an amazing portion of the city including Little Portugal, Koreatown, The Financial District, The Fashion District, and my favorite, the Distillery District. The Distillery, a pedestrian neighborhood, is located right off of Toronto Harbor. It houses restaurants, cafes, lots of art studios and theater companies and public art displays. It maintains much of its original industrial charm, brick buildings and cobblestone streets included.

After a quick stop at home to change, we headed to a friend’s house for dinner, then headed down to the Harbourfront Centre for a free party/concert being DJed by a Tribe Called Red. This 3 man Native American DJ crew mixes traditional Pow Wow music with club beats resulting in some really cool tracks that you can download for free (or a donation) here.

Tired after a night of dancing, we slowly made our way to hipster hangout Swan for Sunday brunch, then mused at a long line of people waiting to screen test their dogs for a new Fido campaign: a Canadian cell phone carrier that features canines in their ads. Strolling, shopping, and stopping to eat this at French bakery Nadege, we hit a few more neighborhoods, visited the Kensington Market and the University of Toronto campus, then made our way back to the Danforth to take in the last of the Greek flavored street festival that was happening that weekend. After finally getting some Spanikopita we ended the night with a trip to dessert only restaurant Caffé Demetré, the likes of which I had never seen before. This place literally had a GIANT menu serving only cakes, ice creams, crepes and other forms of desert in all sizes and flavors. Full beyond belief,  we headed inside to pack for 7am flights back to the US.

My trip back to NYC went smoothly (phew!) and I was in the office by 10am- exhausted. I had a great weekend with the Toronto/Turkey crew and can’t wait to do it again. Until then, I leave for 3 weeks in Peru this Friday!

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Getting There? Way More Than Half of the Battle!

It was Thursday at 3pm and I was excited to head out to LaGuardia for my 6pm flight to Toronto. I was ready to meet up with 5 friends, all but one of whom I hadn’t seen in a year, and couldn’t wait to be hangin’ in the T-dot by 8pm… Ha! 

ImageOn the bus to the airport I got that rude ass automated message from American ImageAirlines telling me my flight was cancelled and I was rebooked on a 7:40pm flight. I was slightly annoyed, but just went with it because getting to Toronto an hour later than expected isn’t the end of the world, right? Knowing I’d have a couple hours to kill, I got comfortable at my gate and settled into people watching and general observation. The people watching yielded nothing spectacular but I did notice how bootleg LaGuardia is! For a major airport in a hugely popular destination city, you would think NYC could do better than masking taped chairs and water damaged leaky ceilings! The outside of LGA could use a facelift too.

In any case, as time went on my new flight was cancelled, along with the 9pm and pretty much every other flight leaving LGA that night. They claimed it was weather related, but it wasn’t storming here, or there, and flights in all directions, including North Carolina and Arkansas were cancelled too. I still don’t quite understand what the problem was…

So, I got into a 2.5 hour long line to get a new flight. In the process I was rebooked on a 7 pm Friday flight, moved up to a 4:30 pm Friday flight, and was finally able to get on a 6:30 am flight on West Jet, Canada’s budget airline. Satisfied that I did all I could, I rode the bus back into Manhattan to crash with a friend for the night. Only after I settled in, did my phone ring with a Canadian area code on the display. Great. It was in fact West Jet calling to let me know that, once again, my flight had been cancelled and that they have re-booked me for a 7:40am departure. Fine. At least the Canadians have the decency to have an actual person call you and explain what is happening.

At this point, I briefly considered the possibility of just giving up. I mean, when does everything going wrong go from annoying to a sign that you need to just keep your butt at home? I really wanted to make our Turkey reunion and the tour of G Adventures I had planned, and I decided to give it one last try. Hoping this 7:40 flight would be the one, I ‘slept’ briefly and set out at a lovely 4:40 am for LGA, once again.

In the end, the 7:40am on West Jet,  finally got me to Toronto. BUT, not without first being the most terrifying flight I have ever been on! The turbulence was so ridiculous that all I could think about was those sequences on LOST when they show the plane starting to bump around all crazy right before it crashes. Within a matter of seconds, the plane dropped over 1200 ft- the altitude display on the seat’s TV went from a read of around 10,200 ft. to about 8,800 ft. I don’t know much about flying, but I know that is not what you want! There was even a woman who screamed at one point, which obviously did not help me in my fight to stay calm. I can honestly say, that was the longest one hour of flying I have ever done. Geez.

Oh, I almost forgot- West Jet, which is apparently known to be the super casual Canadian carrier, actually had a flight attendant say this during the safety announcement: A reminder to those of you traveling with small children and passengers needing special assistance, please remember to put your own oxygen mask on before assisting your husband. Ha!

After this transportation circus was finally over and I was able to relax a bit, I had a great time, but things still went far from perfectly. I returned to my Toronto homebase Saturday evening to a bunch of texts telling me that a friend I grew up with, someone I spent a lot of time with at one point in my life, had been killed in a car accident early Saturday morning. Needless to say, this news knocked me on my ass and weighed heavy on my mind for the rest of this trip. It has also reinforced that if traveling around the world is what makes me feel alive, then I MUST do it. R.I.P. Rayshone Myers…