Notes from North of the Border: A Travelogue (days two and three)

A couple of weeks ago The Wife and I enjoyed a weekend getaway to Toronto! I’ve already documented Day One; now here’s a brief rundown on Days Two and Three. (By ‘brief’ I mean…not very brief.)

After the difficulties we encountered in getting around Toronto on foot on Saturday, I reworked our plans slightly for Sunday, eschewing the GO Train to Union Station and a subsequent jaunt to the subway for simply driving a bit farther from our hotel to an actual subway station near the Yorkdale Mall, which we rode into downtown proper, thus cutting out one entire mode of transport and need to walk from one station to another entirely. Our plan here was to go to a taco joint we’d read about for lunch, which had a location very near one of the TTC subway stops, and then to proceed to the Art Gallery of Ontario, which was a few blocks away. This we’d be able to reach using transport, if necessary, via Toronto’s street-cars.

Well, here was our first hiccup (and really, thankfully, our only hiccup of the day): it turned out that the taco joint we had planned to visit is in the food court of a really big downtown Toronto hospital, and the hospital entrance that’s on the street we were on was actually closed for construction, so we’d have to walk all the way around the hospital to the other entrance to get in. At this point, The Wife was still really tender from the overly-strenuous walking of the day before, so we bailed on that plan…which is how we ended up in the downtown of one of the world’s great cities, eating lunch at a Chipotle.

Sometimes, that whole “Any port in a storm” thing is very, very real, folks.

After that, though, everything went very well. We walked down to the streetcar stop, boarded, and rode it the five blocks or so to the Art Gallery of Ontario, which turned out to be a wonderful museum just packed with amazing art. Here are just a few samples:

Claude Monet, painted on a door panel from a place where he was staying when he was near Etretat, whose cliffs are depicted in his painting.

Not only did we love the art, but it was also more comfortable for The Wife, as I actually rented a wheelchair for her to use (rented is the wrong word since they’re free, come to think of it) for the duration of our time there. Plus, after the hectic packed-with-children atmosphere of the Ripley’s Aquarium the day before, it was lovely to roam the halls of a more quiet art museum. There were lots of people there, but it wasn’t noisy. Art museums are a delight, once you get to the point in life where you know how to enjoy them.

No idea why I’m looking so jaded here; we really did love the Art Gallery!

After the museum, we took the streetcar another few blocks down the street to a restaurant called Almond Butterfly Bistro, which is (a) gluten-free and (b) delicious. It’s a lovely little place and we had a great time there.

By the way, this particular restaurant is a good example of something I noticed in several places we visited on this trip: there were restrooms for patrons, but none of them were gendered. There were simply several separate washrooms, and that was it. No “men’s room”, no “ladies room”, just washrooms. This seems to me one of the more obvious ways that we should be dealing with the whole folderol about gender in public places: simply stop making it an issue that doesn’t need to be, in any way. Obviously this would be a big shift for lots of existing places, but I’m thinking more and more places should adopt this approach moving forward. Our current model of “a big room with stalls” labeled by gender seems increasingly out of step, to me.

Oh, what did we have? She had fish-and-chips, I had a grilled cheese. Both were terrific.

No, that’s not fish-and-chips, that’s onion rings. Gluten-free onion rings are an infrequent find!

After dinner it was back to the hotel to use the pool and relax; and then the next day it was Monday morning and time to start heading for home.

On Monday, we rose and checked out of the hotel and headed for home…with a few stops first, like a big shopping mall with a big bookstore and a really nice anime-and-comics store and a few other places for The Wife, where among other things, I picked up books and a few gifts:

That Funko Pop of Daryl from Letterkenny was my gift for The Wife on this trip. I usually default to jewelry, but I never really saw anything that caught my eye. As we are both Letterkenny fans, this is perfect for her!

Note that yes, he’s holding a f*ckin’ Puppers.

We also stopped at a grocery store, because we wanted to see what a good Canadian grocery store is like. It was a Loblaw’s, and we did buy some stuff, mostly some snack items that are hard to find in the US.

After the grocery store, we started for home, driving westward down the QEW (that’s the Queen Elizabeth Way, the main expressway connecting the cities of the Golden Horseshoe, as the Canadian region around the western end of Lake Ontario is often called). We stopped for lunch at a taco joint in Burlington, Ontario, and then we stopped at a winery near Niagara-on-the-Lake (a charming old-timey village) where we picked up a few more souvenirs, before finally heading for the Lewiston Bridge to the United States.

The winery was a bit more pretentious than we are generally used to; the Finger Lakes wineries we tend to visit are usually more laid-back places (though they take their wines seriously!). This place really played up its “connoisseur” air, with our server discussing the finer points of the glassware and the styling of the labels on the bottles. I don’t want to make it sound like this was uninteresting and unwelcome, though! I actually found the idea of glasses for sparkling wine, with nucleation points for bubbles actually etched into the bottom of the bowl, pretty interesting. We have already consumed the one bottle of sparkling wine I bought from there, and it’s on my list to stop and pick up more when I can.

Niagara-on-the-Lake feels a bit curated, if that makes sense; the town feels a bit hand-crafted to be touristy and quaint. But in all honesty, I have zero problem with that. It was a nice place to wind down our Canadian weekend.

Returning to the US made me sad. I can’t lie here: it’s not just that the trip is ending and you know it’s over once you’re past customs and you’re measuring in miles again. In all honestly, I always find that Buffalo feels rather small and provincial after a trip to Toronto, which is, after all, the fourth-largest city in North America by population.

We’re going back, someday. A hell of a lot sooner than twelve years.


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One Response to Notes from North of the Border: A Travelogue (days two and three)

  1. Roger says:

    I LOVED Toronto back in 2011.

    I have a lot of travel fodder for my trip to France last week. It’ll be more than two posts, I’m sure. BTW, I eschewed the McDonald’s and other familiar locations, but it it would have been easy to do, especially while waiting at the airport on the way home.

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