Canada: It’s like a whole different country!

A few weekends ago I was lucky enough to be asked to tag along with my dad to Toronto, Canada. He was going there for the American Bar Association’s  2011 annual meeting (read: hoity-toity law event) and had enough extra miles to score me a free ticket which doubled as an awesome birthday present! (I’m 21 again [24…], thanks for asking.)

The flights themselves were horrendous in the way flights always are:

  • The lines were long. To go through security/customs, to get on the plane, to buy a Starbucks, etc. And I know, they’re always long, but it never stops being annoying, does it?
  • The entire American-Canadian population of children under the age of 4 were in my cabin. Really. All of them. And they all wanted COOKIES! And the airlines were OUT! And they were PISSED.
  • Alcoholic drinks were cash only, exact change please. I’d just spent my last dollars on a stupid bottle of water in the airport thinking that this would be another “cashless cabin.” The end result was that my in-flight glass of wine existed only in my dreams.
  • The stewardess forgot my entire row existed. It was odd. She skipped over us for drink service (which she later realized, apologized about, and then gave to us) and then, multiple times, we weren’t offered the bag when she walked up and down the isles collecting trash. I began to develop a bit of a complex, let me tell you. The consequence of which involved me looking down at my hands every few minutes to be sure that I wasn’t a hologram and/or dead.

BUT, as my dad always says, the worst part of traveling is traveling, and the trip itself was amazing!

I’d never been to Canada before, and had embarrassingly little knowledge of it aside from what I’d gleaned from the ridiculous, borderline offensive South Park parody/anthem Blame Canada.

I also knew I’d heard from multiple sources, although now I can’t recall which, that Toronto was a pretty damn cool city. Now I can safely affirm said source, damn cool city it is!

I flew in after work on Friday; the flight itself was only 50 minutes, although the flight back was an hour and 20. The pilot said this had something to do with the wind… but either way, that’s a hell of a short flight to take to be in another country!

After a brief and standard dance with death in a taxi cab, I arrived at the Sheraton Centre in downtown Toronto. And the fun began.

I love food, and so a lot of the next portion of this post (portion, heh, heh…) is going to involve describing the incredible meals my dad and I had together.

If for some reason you’re reading this post and you subsist on only watered-down gruel and prunes (and are damn proud of it thank-you-very-much), you may find the next few paragraphs of pure food porn offensive. You’ve been warned.

We ate a late dinner when I got in Friday night at the hotel, where I ordered a filet mignon, medium rare, with blue crab and Hollandaise sauce on top. Mmmm mmm. My dad ordered the biggest bone-in rib eye I’ve ever scene, probably what our ancestors ate back in the caveman days. On the side we both had baked potatoes loaded with butter, sour cream, chives, cheese, the works (delish!); and vegetables, which neither of us so much as touched. Pic below of my dad’s manly rib eye:

The next morning, we took a stroll down Queen Street until we came across a lovely jazz bar called The Rex that would serve us brunch alfresco. It was a beautiful Canadian day, not at all like the muggy and unbearably hot weather I’d been experiencing in New York and my dad, to a more intense degree, had been in Dallas, Texas, and we wanted to take advantage.

The bar tender explained to us that Canadian law prevented him from serving until 11 a.m., but that he could get food working and then bring out the drinks in fifteen minutes, when it would be legal. They offered a cheap, hearty breakfast: eggs, bacon, toast, and hash browns. When we asked for jelly, the waiter brought us jam and peanut butter. Unusual for us, but trust me when I say that after the experience, PB&J is not just for sack lunches any more.

11a.m. finally rolled around and the bar tender brought out two beautiful Bloody Caesar‘s, the Canadian version of the Bloody Mary. Pic below; and dare I say this drink is even more delicious than its classic sister? Oh snap. Just said it.

After brunch, dad had a few meetings to attend with the law conference, so he headed back to the hotel and I stayed downtown to explore the Toronto shopping scene.

Queen Street is great for both funky local boutiques and your big chain fare (H&M, Claire’s, The Gap, etc.), and then the neighborhood with all the local thrift stores is just a short walk away down Kensington Avenue. Kensington Avenue is this very short street tucked randomly in the middle of Toronto’s Chinatown (which is like a very low-key, sane version of NYC Chinatown)—and very cool. I bought a wrap skirt. Can’t have too many of those, am I right people??

Also, this cool car was parked in front of one of the thrift shops:

vintage car

Neat, right?

Dad and I met up later that afternoon to experience the quintessential Toronto tourist must-see: the CN Tower. This is a really, really tall tower second only to this other one in Dubai that we won’t mention right now because this post is not about my trip to Dubai.

The experience was what you’d expect from a major tourist attraction. It was crowded. There were crying children (crying bilingual children, which are somehow more annoying). And the lines went on for days. BUT, I’m very glad I can say that we did it, the views were indeed breathtaking, and have these awesome pics to prove it.

From there, we walked in the general direction of Lake Ontario and were fortunate enough to discover this lakeside restaurant called, appropriately, The Waterfront. It was my birthday (at least in the context of this trip, my actual birthday wasn’t for a few more days) and I had never had lobster before. Which Dad and I used as an excuse to order the seafood feast for two (two lobsters, jumbo crab claws, and a fair sprinkling of oysters Rockefeller and shrimp for good measure!), and we weren’t sorry.

I’ve never had so much fantastic seafood in my life! And butter and the garlic! Ah! I’m salivating just thinking about it. Look at that picture—doesn’t it just bring tears to your eyes? I know it does mine. It was all just so, so good.

The waitress wanted to know where we put it all. I explained to her that we southerners could eat. And then she mentioned something about being from Southern Canada, and I had to laugh. For a moment I’d forgotten where I was, and her frame of reference for what “southern” meant was probably very different from my own.

Dad and I were able to be total Toronto urbanites and walk home from the restaurant to the hotel. (We don’t need no stinkin’ automobiles!) Our flights were the next afternoon, and only the following morning did I realize how fast time had flown.

What a whirlwind weekend! Next time in Canada, I’ll have to make it a longer trip—or at least squeeze more Bloody Caesar’s into my stay!

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