Posted by: M.J. Bolstad | November 25, 2011

Attempts At Learning to Love Toronto: Day One

A little while back, my best friend and her husband moved to Toronto.  They had been looking at a career change, and Toronto was the place for them to be. So all of a sudden I found myself in a place where it was looking like Toronto would become one of my go-to places.  The catch?  I kind of hate Toronto.  Granted, I’ve only been a few times – I think only once or twice as a teen, en route to elsewhere in short order, and once a few years ago for training – and haven’t really ventured much of anywhere.  But my general impression has been grey buildings, grey sidewalks, and grey skies with tons of people dressed in varying shades of black, white, navy and (you guessed it!) grey suits.  A few malls, a few touristy stops like the CN Tower and the Hockey Hall of Fame, but nothing to write home about, or to make a point of visiting. (I’m more of an Ottawa girl.)  Until now.

Now that my best friend is here, I do have something (someone) to make a point of visiting, and so I started by taking my annual training in the city. I’m taking an IAP2 training course, Communications for Public Participation.  I took the first two modules last year in Vancouver (where I adore traveling!) but my budget wouldn’t stretch for the full certification.  Had my best friend not moved to Toronto, that’s likely where I’d have signed on for the last module, but instead I found a session being offered in Toronto.  I’ll be here close to a week (though that includes the travel time), with one day of training and a few days crashing at the BFF’s, trying to learn what is so great about this city.

I’ve been here a full day already, though I haven’t really left the hotel room. I know that probably sounds like I am not trying very hard on this learning to love thing, but that was the original plan. The way planes work in Yellowknife, I couldn’t get out on a flight that would get me in at a reasonable hour before taking a course the next day, so I flew a day early and today was “work from the hotel day”.  (Though my work laptop, which I dragged on top of my personal laptop, apparently doesn’t have wireless capacity so is mostly just useless weight.  I mostly ended up reviewing my course material from last year.)

I flew to the Edmonton airport, where I had a 2 and a half hour layover. This was great, because apparently I needed to reset my Kindle since it couldn’t turn off and the battery was almost drained, I realised, as I stepped through security in Yellowknife, with my charging cord tucked away nicely in the checked baggage.  I read a little, then watched Criminal Minds on a little television on the plane instead to pass the time, even though it had commercials and the satellite cut out every once and a while.  I used the layover to pick up reading material for the plane (which the stupid Kindle is supposed to substitute) and get dinner since I’m on West Jet and they don’t have full meals on the length of flight I was on. I ate at the Montana’s grill in the bar.  There’s not a lot of selection (it’s an airport grill, after all) but it was close to my gate.  I had a quesedilla and a caesar salad, both perfectly fine, and some drink special. The best part?  I got IDed.  I’m less than 6 months away from celebrating my 30th, and the drinking age in Alberta is 18. Day made!

On the plane to Toronto, it wasn’t full, so there was an empty seat between me and my row mate.  The space was nice. The obligatory screaming baby two seats away, not so much.  I did manage to listen to my music and read a book and a half, and I got to keep reading throughout landing, since a book is not an electronic device. (I know, I have covered this before, but it is so irritating I think it bears repeating!)

It was about midnight when I landed, and I couldn’t find anyone in the shuttle information booth.  I wanted to buy a ticket and then get myself down to my hotel.  I finally ended up asking a security guard and learned that the shuttle doesn’t even go to downtown hotels.  That’s right, you have to take a cab or try to work out the city bus.  I have nothing against public transportation, but I’m not going to try to figure it out at midnight in an unfamiliar city.  And even if I had, I would likely have needed the subway, which closes at one, so I’m pretty sure I’d have been out of luck anyway.  From what I understand, it’s a good hour and a half by bus to the downtown area from the airport.  So I was stuck with paying $65 plus tip for a cab.  I’ll be reimbursed, but I have to say, in Ottawa, you can get a shuttle to your hotel. I know, because I’ve done it, and at about a third the price of the cab.

I’m staying at the Don Valley Hotel and Suites for a few nights, since it is the closest I could get to my training tomorrow.  I got put in a room with two doubles instead of a king, which is fine. I don’t need the second bed, but it holds my stuff nicely!  The bed is comfortable and the hotel is quite.  I have a small balcony attached to the room, and it overlooks a courtyard sort of area.  It’s fairly nice.  I can also see the hotel gym and pool, though I didn’t pack a swimsuit.

So I spent the day in the hotel for the most part, but I did actually venture out this evening. My friend Kathleen, who, when she is not being a student, has worked with me at the bookstore, is finishing up her last year of school at York.  (She’s not a perma-student, just several years younger than I am.)  So after her classes, I ventured to find a bus to meet her.  I found a bus stop that would take me to Bayview, where she’d meet me. It took me three tries.  I checked it first, second-guessed and went to the one across the street, only to find out I was right the first time about which way was west-bound. The bus was less crowded than I thought it might be at 6 o’clock – full, but no one standing, and I met Kathleen easily enough.  We walked down Bayview to look for a place to eat, but not before I found an adorable maternity and baby store and found a little gift for the coming niecephew. I won’t be telling what the gift is, in case my bro and his wife decide to read this, but if they do, they’ll know they have to wait for that baby shower! We decided to eat at a place called Lemongrass, since it was reasonably priced and had had nice reviews.  It was small, but very good.  Kathleen and I split some very excellent calamari with a fantastic dipping sauce, then she had some mango chicken with a rice trio, and I had a ginger chicken rice pilaf hot pot, since I’d never had it before and that was my rule.  Very delicious! We also split a half litre of zinfandel, which was lovely and sweet.  After dinner, we took a walk – about an hour’s worth.  Since it was after 8, most of the stores were closed, but we needed to make room for gelato, since Kathleen said I couldn’t miss this place on Bayview.

We walked all the way up to Mount Pleasant and back, then went to Hollywood Gelato.  We both got the smallest cup – which was way more than enough and definitely in need of the walk. You get to choose three different scoops with your regular sized cup.  Kathleen had pistachio, a fancy-named chocolate, and cappuccino.  I had a coconut cream pie, a key lime, and a creme caramel.  All fantastic.  We chatted for a bit in a little table at the back, then Kathleen bussed home and I took a cab, since I wanted to get back in time.  Besides, as nice as the weather is compared to home, the temperature does drop at night and I wanted to get out of the chilly air.

Tomorrow’s adventure is my course, so I’m sure it won’t be that exciting a blog, but I will likely check out a new restaurant, and the training is at the botanical gardens, so that will be interesting.  And while I don’t love Toronto yet – not even close – things like gelato in a myriad of flavours is a good start to winning my heart.  And my BFF can probably throw me at a good bookstore and a good shoe store and seal the deal.  So I’ll keep trying!  Until tomorrow!

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