And after a week I emerge from the blogger grave and shadows. Sounds dramatic but seriously that’s what it feels like when I go days without blogging. To say life has been busy would be an understatement and while that’s really no excuse, it’s the reality of the situation. I’m back from my unexpected hiatus and I promise to never let it get this bad again!
So what have I been up to? Getting engaged (still over the moon), work (which has picked up tremendously in the past two weeks and leaves me exhausted when I come home), training for Warrior Dash in May (I’m still questioning why I signed up for this) which I normally do after work even though I’m already exhausted, seeing friends (I’ve had so many engagement brunches which I am not AT ALL complaining about), and traveling to Toronto, which is what I’m going to write about today! Just a heads up, this post is very picture heavy!
At the end of February, my sister and I went to Toronto for her 29th birthday and had a really good time although I didn’t care for the weather. At all. Mind you the East Coast was getting pummeled with snow at the time, the weather beyond ridiculous, so where did my sister decide she wanted to go? Toronto of course because 20° weather just wouldn’t do, nope, it needed to be colder. We’re talking highs of 8° and lows of -14°, ugh what does “-14°” even mean?! Anyways after layering up good and well we decided to take Toronto.
Passport? Check! Boarding Pass? Check and Check! Toronto here we come!
We arrived Thursday morning and didn’t really have a plan for the day other than my sister’s birthday dinner and meeting some childhood friends who we hadn’t seen in over 10 years. For dinner we went to the CN Tower in downtown Toronto, a rotating restaurant on top of the world’s 3rd tallest tower. Despite being deathly afraid of heights this seemed like a glamorous idea at the time and besides it was my sister’s birthday, I couldn’t say no. And I’m glad I didn’t because the view was breathtaking. The city lights up at night and from the top of the tower you can see the entire skyline and Lake Ontario. After a while I forgot I was in a rotating building 1,151 feet in the air, probably when the food and the wine came out!
Dinner at the CN Tower. I’m fine with heights just feed me and give me wine!
After dinner one of our friends was feeling adventurous and wanted to go to the Outdoor Sky Terrace below the restaurant which featured not only the Glass Floor where you can see 1,122 feet below, gag me, but a walkway where you can go outside to feel the breeze and take some photos. Did I mention it was -12 °C that night? Did I also mention I’m deathly afraid of heights? Yeah the Glass Floor was not an option and neither was going outside for photos!
On Friday, we decided to head into the city and head to the Royal Ontario Museum, the ROM. To get there we hopped on their subway and let me tell you, it is a world of difference compared to NYC and the Metro DC area! There’s no pushing and shoving, even in rush hour, everyone’s really quiet, and the most obvious thing of all to me was how clean the subway was. Come to think of, the entire city was really clean. The NYC subways look like garbage dumps and smell like it too. Even though the DC Metro system isn’t nearly as bad, what we lack in dirtiness and smelliness, we more than make up for in rude people and people shoving every which way. I’m not bashing my city at all, I love the DMV but riding the subway in Toronto was heaven compared to the many annoyances of public transit here. Back to the ROM. There were so many exhibits and things to see that before we knew it 5 hours had gone by! My favorite exhibits were the Galleries of Greece, Africa, and Samuel European.
Look how clean the Subway is!
Young Herakles and I at the ROM. Isn’t he dreamy? Gallery of Greece.
Entrance to the Gallery of Europa: Beauty in Things Exists in the Mind That Contemplates them. Indeed!
At dinner the night before, one of the girls we met up with told us about a Canadian delicacy we couldn’t leave without trying, poutine, so after we left the restaurant my sister and I went in search of it. We didn’t have to look very far. We found a restaurant across the street and OMG why don’t we have this in America?! Poutine is French fries topped with gravy and cheese curds; it’s the most American thing ever! The restaurant had many variations of poutine and we picked the bacon cheeseburger poutine. It was the most amazing thing I have ever eaten and I nearly went into a food coma. The dish left me feeling so full that I didn’t need to eat dinner that night but ended up eating popcorn at 11 pm when we were at the movies because I got hungry and didn’t want to eat anything really heavy before bed.
Bacon Cheeseburger Poutine at Gabby’s Bar & Grill (Bloor & Avenue). Jesus wept.
Saturday was our last day in Toronto and we spent it at my favorite place while I was there, the Casa Loma. To say the Casa Loma is absolutely beautiful would be an understatement! It’s a charming and whimsical castle and museum, originally the residence of Sir Henry Pellatt and cost $3.5 million to build before falling into the hands of the city after Pellat went bankrupt. The castle had 98 rooms and was the largest private residence of its time in Canada. The history behind the castle is really interesting and is covered in an audio tour of the entire castle. We didn’t get to see the exterior grounds which contained the gardens, stables, and a hunting lodge because we ran out of time and it was way too cold but I’d seriously love to go back and complete the rest of the tour. The Casa Loma was just so breathtaking and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days after we left. I took so many pictures but it isn’t the same as being there.
Horsedrawn Carriage decoration before you enter the castle
Skyline view from The Towers, the top of the Casa Loma. You can see the CN Tower!
All of the light fixtures in the castle are so ornate. This chandelier gave me life!
The Flag Room in the Great Hall. Hanging are the Union Flag, flag of Scotland, and the Provincial flag of Ontario. In this photo you also see organ pipes and a mounted suit of armor.
The Oak Room, used for entertainment and the most decorated room in the castle.
The Library. Yes this is actually a library!
Lady Pellatt’s Suite, her bedroom.
Also part of Lady Pellatt’s suite, her sitting room where she would sit with friends.
The Round Room, unique in that it’s walls and doors curved to fit the perfectly round shape of the room.
The Conservatory, Sir Pellatt had all kinds of plants here and custom built lights into the windows so they would shine regardless of the time of day.
The Fountain in the Conservatory.
Can’t afford to get married at the Casa Loma which would pretty much be my dream but I can afford this souvenir mug!
I had a genuinely good time in Toronto and found myself surprisingly sad to leave. Yes I was happy to get back home to my fiancé and (relatively) warmer weather but it was so nice being in a completely different country although it wasn’t too far from home. My favorite thing about Canada, other than the Casa Loma, is how nice everyone was. Everyone was smiling, a bit chatty, and had a good disposition about them which made me feel at ease because that’s my general disposition. Not everyone wants to engage in small talk or be friendly so I felt like “yes, I have found my people!” I’m sure the area being touristy had something to do with it as you want to represent your country in the best light but I honestly think it was genuine and there’s kind of an easier pace of life there.
Homebound. Bye bye Toronto!
Now for some funny things I saw/learned/ experienced while being there:
- Canadian (paper) money is awesome! You cannot tear it and it comes in all of these neat colors.
Can we get these festive colors for American money? Pretty please?!
- A lot of people didn’t seem fazed by the weather. Yeah most people were dressed appropriately but in 20°F weather I saw women in skirts and flip flops and men in shorts with warm weather coats. One of our friends had on a skirt for dinner and it was -14°C! It was bizarre.
- The sales tax is outrageous, if I recall correctly I believe it was 13%. When we were at the restaurant on Thursday, the bill came back and I thought they had already included tip which I thought to myself was weird because a) there was only 4 of us at dinner, normally gratuity charges are for parties of 8 or more and b) it seemed to be such a low tip amount, I’m used to tipping 18-20% here in the US. When I mentioned it, one of the girl’s went “oh that’s not the tip, that’s the sales tax.” I was like “you’re kidding!” so yeah, I will definitely never complain about tax although they’ve got the whole universal healthcare thing going for them so it might not be such a bad trade off!
I’d like to go back to Canada except this time I’d go to Montreal, got to brush up on my French first, and more importantly I’d go in the summertime instead!