Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Toronto Plus A Train Equals Trouble

I typed most of this while in the first class car a on train ride from Toronto--the rest was finished after I got off the train--you’ll understand once you’ve finished reading.  My end destination for this trip was Windsor, Ontario, the land of the best pizza and wine in the country (check out Pelee Island Wineries).  My Grandparents and a good portion of my extended family on my Mom's side live there.  Every year, if possible, I make a trip out and I can say with honesty that I truly enjoy the time spent with my Grandparents, who are now in their mid to late 80's.  The stories from their past are so peppered with trials and tribulations, victories and inspirations--and with 65 years of being together on the horizon, I can never get enough of the blatant romanticism that surrounds them and their tales from years gone by.

For this trip, I ended up stopping in Toronto for an overnight to visit my good friend David and explore the city that has been absent from my life for over 14 years now, back from the days when I travelled there regularly on business.  David and I go way back to elementary school days and he's one of those people that if I don't see him for awhile, we can sit down and pick up right where we left off, and I just love it.
I used stupid Aeroplan air miles to get to Ontario--god forbid I could just make it to my destination directly, but no, I have to fly to Montreal first and then back to Toronto.  During the flight, I did what I always end up doing:  starting a movie too far into the flight and then missing the last 15 minutes of it!  When I arrived in Montreal, not only was it killing me to know how the new Mission Impossible ended, but thanks to my profound interest in becoming a secret agent, I felt like scaling the outside of the airport in a black full-body leotard when I arrived.  Finally I got on a plane to Toronto and this time, I actually flew into the city centre airport, which I've never done before.  There's nothing like sitting near the back of the plane with a clear view of the landing gear and no land in sight.  My mind was whirling trying to remember where the hell the life preserver was located again.  Once we landed (on land), a little ferry took all of us over to the mainland, and while I was waiting for my luggage to come off the carousel that I realized that all my lip gloss in the zipped part of my tote was gone!  The bastards at the security check point in Vancouver must have taken it out and shoved it into a zip-locked bag and didn't bother telling me.  I tried complaining to the baggage guy, but he just stared at me in disbelief that I was trying to locate lost lipgloss with such apparent conviction.  I befriended one of my fellow female passengers while waiting for the shuttle and she totally understood my panic attack about not having a drop of lip gloss on me--and just before I started frantically googling where the closest Sephora was, I realized that there was not one but two zippered sections in my tote--oops.
I arrived at the Royal York Hotel safe and sound.  That hotel is the grand dame of hotels in Canada and its history and architecture, along with its exquisite interior, is just simply majestic, and very fitting for someone who can appreciate her in all her glory--that would be me.  The hotel also has a real neat, creepy side too.  After check-in, David met me in the lobby and we headed up to my room only to find it was at the beginning of one of those hallways from "The Shining".  I was just grateful the room was at the beginning of the hallway and not at the end.  We were both ravenous for food and decided on Italian, and through some serious iPadding, found a spot just down from the hotel on Front Street.  Joe Badali’s was the place to go--the food was fab and so was the decor--very Italian indeed.
We ended up talking and chatting until the wee hours, an even after walking David to the subway, I still had the energy before bed to do what I do in all Fairmont Hotels around that time--explore the hotel and take photos.   It's the best time to do it given there is no one else around and if there's any supernatural mischief about, then that's the perfect time to find it.  Thanks to that hotel actually having issues in that area, I did get a little freaked out because I was literally all alone when sneaking around in the depths of the ballrooms and banquet halls and after a short while, started to get the feeling that perhaps I wouldn't be alone for long.  So back up to the scary movie hallway I went to call it a night.  REDRUM.
My train to Windsor wasn't leaving until 5:30pm the next day, so it gave me some time to explore the city--a city that I haven't visited in a long, long time.  I was actually very impressed, on a number of fronts.  First, I found the people in Toronto to be extremely friendly--I got several smiles and nods walking down the street, and mostly from men.  One trip to the ladies room though and I discovered that my blouse had unbuttoned because of my camera strap, but I'd still like to think it was because everyone there is nice and not because I had my bra and some serious cleavage showing.  On the advice of the concierge and given my love of old buildings and history, I went for a long walk up University Avenue to the University of Toronto.  Stepping out into the streets of Toronto, I saw the familiar sights of Tim Hortons on every other block, the hustle and bustle of business suits weaving their perfect dance, and an insane amount of cranes and construction.  I thought the camera around my neck gave me away as a tourist, yet several people came up to me and asked for directions (this was apres open blouse).  I gave everyone directions with a smile, and hope my educated guesses were right, as I sent each one of them off in a direction with resounding confidence.   Here's an observation that I never noticed before:  Toronto seems to have a strong link to the Brits.  It was everywhere; from the neighbourhood and street names, to the boulevard in the centre of University Street that looked strikingly like the Whitehall area of London, and all the way to the Telus self-rental bikes similar to the Barclay ones, also in London.  
The hike to the University in my heels was well worth the effort--the buildings were gorgeous and thanks to the what was now sunny weather, my photos turned out spectacular.  The style of architecture was a decent attempt to mimic the medieval style in Britain from over 800 years ago, and although I knew I was not in England, I did appreciate the ability to get "lost" (that's for my friend Mark) in a city that I never thought I could do that in. 
Keeping an eye on the time, I made my way the waterfront and felt that my lengthy walk more than gave me the right to have a bite to eat and have a refreshing margarita at Watermark on the pier--any restaurant with a emblem that matches my Irish ankle tattoo is ok in my books.  The CN Tower was next on the agenda--but not before I came across a cotton candy stand that had about thirty elementary school kids clustered around it.  In observing the kids, it was clear that cotton candy was something really special and not too often had, so I bought a few extra bags for the kids and turned into an instant superstar in their eyes.  The teachers; however, were not too happy with me when all the in-fighting amongst the kids started as I walked away.  
The CN Tower was cool--especially the glass floor in the elevator and on the observation deck.  I would have loved to do their new thing where you can see your life flash before your eyes by dangling off the edge at the top, but thanks to limited time and funds, I thought I would save that adventure for another date.
It was time to head back to the Royal York, have an afternoon tea, switch into a flouncy Betsey Johnson dress for the train ride, and head to Union Station across the street for my journey to Windsor.  I find trains very romantic, hence the donning of a dress.  I had a first class ticket so I was quite excited--there was even a first class lounge--it was a bit substandard compared to an airline first class lounge for example, but still did the trick.
The train was a whole other story.  It was like I stepped into circa 1970--the seats were small, the decor was icky and totally worn, and the tray tables were hidden in the armrests, along with god-knows what else.  The bulk of the passengers were traveling on business, and I was clearly the only one who hadn't taken this train before because no one else seemed to be grossed-out--I was fearing for my Betsey dress.  I ended up helping an elderly woman climb the insane flight of stairs with all her baggage onto the train because no one else could be bothered.  When the meal came, it was on this tiny little tray, with tiny little cutlery and the food was in tiny little boxes--I felt like a giant.  Eating was a whole other issue--the train was going at some ungodly speed and rocking back and forth excessively, so trying to get the food into my mouth without involuntarily shoving it up my nose was quite a feat.  If this was first class, I didn't even want to know what was  going on back there in economy!  The saving grace was the staff on the train that were exceptionally kind and courteous, and as soon as I found out that first class had free alcohol for the whole ride--well, there were no more complaints from me after drink number three took hold.  Once I got chatting with the woman next to me about the our relative Crohn's disease issues, there was all the bowel conversation anyone needed--that, coupled with the older lady that I helped onto the train sitting in front of me just getting hammered and hitting on the guy next to her, along with the rest of the car tapping into the free drink thing, well, it was a sight to behold and I could now see how the train ride was tolerated.  
Eventually a trip to the bathroom was needed, and not surprisingly, it provided an incident, as many bathroom trips in strange places have for me.  I looked fab in my dress alright, but all that material in a little bathroom is a bit of an endeavour.  Once I got things under control, the train lurched forward suddenly and my knee ended up hitting the emergency button which sounded a deep, intermittent alarm.  Sure enough, the porter came up to the door to find out what was happening, and I have no idea if they can burst in because of the alarm.  So there I am, with my dress up over my head, trying to ensure the material gets no where near the toilet, half on the floor with my butt in the air, shouting at the porter that I'm ok and for the love of god, please don't open the door.  Eventually the alarm shut off, and with a thin layer of sweat covering my entire body, I knew I had to leave the bathroom and face my fellow passengers.  Everyone was really nice when I came out because I'm sure many of them heard my bowel conversation  from earlier, and thought I had some kind of episode that I just didn't want to talk about.
I got back to my seat and it was announced that we would be arriving in Windsor ahead of schedule--no sh*t!  I was pretty sure that I was going to die on the runaway train that was now violently rocking back and forth with ridiculous speed, so it wasn’t really a surprise that we made it there early.  It might also explain when I Google-imaged what the first class seats looked like prior to the trip, it brought up only images of train crashes.  Upon arrival in Windsor, my Mom and Aunt were there to pick me up and as I got off the train, slightly intoxicated and shaking, I vowed that I would never take a train in Ontario ever again, for fear of my life, my Betsey dress, and the bathroom alarm.  

No comments:

Post a Comment