Sunday, September 08, 2013

Place of Meetings

And to think I almost went to Vegas.

I just got back from a week in Toronto and I have to say that I had a fantastic time.

The trip was a last minute decision, as I considered visiting my aunt in the Berkshires, flying out to Sin City or staying the hell home.

I cut Las Vegas from the list when I realized that I have no great interest in gambling or seeing any of the live shows.

I’d like to see Vegas some day, but you don’t have to spend an entire week in the circus to have a good time.

I finally picked Toronto, a town that I’ve been interested in seeing for years. The name “Toronto” supposedly means “Place of Meetings” and that just what it was for me.

While I saw several of the city’s major sites, undoubtedly the biggest moment of my trip was meeting the fabulous Jenni of Calamity Jen in the real world after something like seven years of communicating through our respective blogs and Facebook.

I’ve “watched” Jenni as she got married and gave birth to her beautiful son, Kai. Last week I had the pleasure of having dinner at her home with her fabulous family on my first full day in town.

It was a great way to kick off my vacation and after a delightful evening with Jenni & Company, I somehow found the nerve to ride the CN Tower’s outdoor elevator—without Xanax, mind you—to get a first class view of the city.

I had booked a seat on a bus tour out to Niagara Falls and rode the Maid of the Mist for a close up view.

On the way up, the bus driver played a DVD about Niagara’s history that discussed the people (lunatics?) who went over the Falls in a barrel, long before there was such a thing as Xanax.

Prior to this boat ride, I had only thought of Niagara Falls as a place for honeymoons and a key element in a classic comedy bit. But I honestly never had a strong desire to visit the place. The boat ride changed all that.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing or hearing. The roar of the falls was like a nonstop explosion and the experience reminded me that despite our obsession with technology, nature still offers the greatest show on earth.

We were all drenched by the time the 20-minute ride was over. The boat crew had given us ponchos that were supposed to protect us from the driving water, but, as I mentioned to Jenni, I hope the people who made these things don’t make condoms.

Slowly I Turn...

What else? Well, I rode out to the Toronto Zoo to see the pandas, visited the Royal Ontario Museum to take in the Mesopotamia exhibit, and checked out the Ontario Science Centre.

I think my favorite city, however, was Casa Loma, once the home of financier Sir Henry Mill Pellatt.

This is an honest-to-God castle located right in the city, complete with secret stairwells and an 800-foot tunnel that leads from the main house to the stables across the street.

Oh, yeah, I also managed to appear on Canadian TV. One night a local radio station teamed up with a cable provider to sponsor an outdoor screening of “Star Trek Into Darkness” in Yonge-Dundas Square.

People showed up dressed as their favorite Star Trek characters and a local TV news crew stopped by to do a slow pan over the audience while the movie was playing.

I knew nothing of this until I got back to my hotel room and switched on the evening news. I had my hood on in response to the chilly night air, but I still recognized my gorgeous self as I sat like a monk and chomped away on my free popcorn.

The week ended with an excellent dinner in downtown Toronto with Jenni and fellow blogger Heather of Orange Blossom Goddess, whom I also met for the first time.

The only unpleasant moment during the whole trip occurred on my walk back to the hotel on that last night when I saw one street mutt pounding on another dude. The fight didn’t last long, as the attacker’s pants were falling down and exposing his derriere. Being a true New Yorker, I looked straight ahead and pretended I didn’t see anything.

I was up the next morning at a positively obscene hour to get back to New York to attend a birthday party for a friend—also named Jen.

It’s still hard to believe that I was standing in front of the gates of the U.S. Immigration Office in Toronto at 4AM and then partying with friends in an East Village houkhah joint a few hours later.

So that was my week. It wasn’t quite as exciting as going over Niagara Falls in a barrel, but for a last minute, seat-of-the-pants operation, it worked out just fine.


Bijoux said...

How fun! I love Toronto! I attended the Canadian National Exhibition as a kid and it was tons of fun. We also went to Toronto on our honeymoon. Great restaurants and we loved the science center and ROM. Nice subway system too!

But I hate Maid of the Mist. I found it terrifying. The way the wind and mist overtake you, I couldn't breathe and was in panic mode. It didn't help having my three kids hanging on me either!

Glad you had a fun vacation, Rob!

Rob K said...

The subways were fabulous, Bijoux. As a NYC subway rat, I can attest to the Toronto system's cleaniness and comparative quiet.

Sorry about your Maid of the Mist experience. I was getting spooked initially myself, but then I was awed by the falls that I was able to put the fear aside.

Walaka said...

Sounds wonderful. I took the train from Vancouver BC to Toronto as the first leg of a European vacation and spent a few days in the town - and have been there for a conference. Great place, glad you had a chance to visit. Although as far as spontaneous vacation destinations go, I hear the Seattle/Puget Sound area has a lot to offer... just sayin'.

Ron said...

Rob, what a GREAT recap of your week in Canada!!!!!

"I’d like to see Vegas some day, but you don’t have to spend an entire week in the circus to have a good time."

Exactly. I lived in Vegas for a summer and as much as I enjoyed it, it got old after a while. Vegas is good in small dosages.

"I somehow found the nerve to ride the CN Tower’s outdoor elevator—without Xanax, mind you—to get a first class view of the city."

You GO, boy! And I applaud you because I don't think I could have done it - with or without Xanax - HA!

You know, one of these days I have got to get my ass to Canada because everyone I've ever met who has visited said that they LOVED it.

" I had my hood on in response to the chilly night air, but I still recognized my gorgeous self as I sat like a monk and chomped away on my free popcorn."

How COOL is that!!!

Love the last photo of you standing in front of the falls!

Welcome back, buddy. You were missed.

Have a super week!

Rob K said...

Hey, Ron! Missed you and all my other blogging buddies, too!

The CN Tower is a hoot, but there's no rush to go climbing up there!

You should check out Toronto, buddy, you'll have a blast!

Take care and have a great week!

Rob K said...

@Walter--that train ride sounds fantastic. I'd like to do a train trip through western Canada soon.

And yes, a stop in Seattle is definitely on the list!

Take care!

Jay at The Depp Effect said...

Wow, you did pack a lot in! One day, I hope to be one of the bloggers you meet in person!

We liked Toronto, but didn't manage to see as much as you did. We did do Niagara though, on the way up, and that was fantastic. I'll never forget standing at the top edge watching the torrents continually fall over the edge. The noise and the movement were mesmerising.

We have been to Vegas, and though neither of us have any interest in either the shows or the gambling, we had such a great time on our first trip that we've been back twice!

Rob K said...

Hey, Jay, don't worry--you are most definitely on my "hit" list of bloggers to meet!

Niagara was incredible, was it not? And thanks for the tip on Vegas. Maybe I'll swing by when it gets cold in New York!

Take care!

Anonymous said...

That sounds like a fantastic time! I need to start making some trips to meet my blogging buddies. I dont really venture out much. I usually go to one of three places if I go away: Florida, Maine or Georgia. Beyond that, I am a homebody. This sounds much better than staying home!

Rob K said...

It was great! I understand about not venturing out much. I usually go to LA or the Berkshires, so I had to force myself to try some place new.

It can be daunting, but I try to remind myself that there are no mistakes, that if I don't like a place I visit, I just won't go back there.

And it's a great feeling returning from some place new. You took a chance and widened your world a little bit. I highly recommend it.