Tuesday, October 7, 2008

O Canada! Part 2: Toronto

Food Adventures with FrankenMeg in Toronto from FrankenMeg on Vimeo.


We asked the young people working at the Embassy Suites in Niagara Falls how long it would take to get to Toronto.

"Oh," said one girl, wrinkling her nose, "that could take, what, 3 hours with traffic?"  Another teen nodded his head.  

"Oh ya," he agreed, "three hours, easy." 

"Three hours?" Frank repeated, his face lighting up.  I grimaced at this exchanged, realizing that "three hours" was nothing to Frank but a challenge - an invitation to break speed limits, unspoken traffic etiquette laws, and possibly the space-time continuum.  

A little over an hour later, we were in Toronto.  Frank was beaming and scoffing, "Huh, three hours?".  I was attempting to pry my white-knuckled fingers from the dash and unfreeze the look of terror on my face.

We got to our hotel - the Super 8 downtown, located in the heart of Toronto's bustling Chinatown - and checked into our room.  It was shockingly spacious - we had lucked into the only 2 bedroom in the whole place.  We didn't have much time to linger (our much-delayed flight had put us way behind schedule).  Daylight was waning and we had reservations.

Several months prior, Frank had the idea to eat dinner in the CN Tower's revolving restaurant, cleverly named "360".  He had gone so far as to find out what time the sun was supposed to set, and arrange our reservation around it (good one, Frank!).

We arrived just in time, and after dodging some corny tourist traps and surviving a harrowing elevator ride, made it to the maitre d'.  We were luckily seated at a window table (there are only three rows of seating - the middle row has it the worst) so we got to view the sunset over the Toronto skyline.  The restaurant does about a full revolution per hour, so in our time there, we were able to take in the full panorama.  The food was okay - not the quality you would expect for the prices they charge, but most upscale restaurants aren't perched close to the top of one of the world's tallest freestanding structures (181 stories tall!  that's over 1800 feet!).  Obviously, you are paying for the spectacular view.  And for that, it's worth every penny.

After our meal, in lieu of dessert, we treated ourselves to some paralyzing fear by way of the glass floor in the lookout level of the tower (two floors below the restaurant).  According to the website, load tests are performed annually to ensure its safety, but for some reason, that fails to provide much comfort when you're standing on glass 1100 feet in the sky.  Not for the feint of heart... or those wearing a skirt (at least that was my excuse).  

Later that night, safely back on the ground - more specifically, safely in a bar stool with a drink in hand, we struck up a conversation with the bartender.  She was a Toronto native who had a very strong suggestion for how we spend our upcoming full day in the city.  

"The Ex," she said without hesitation.  "I go every year, never miss it."  The Ex, it turns out, refers to the Canadian National Exhibition - a huge event that lasts for about two weeks every August.  As it turned out, the following day was the last day of the Ex, so we were in luck.

Lured by the promise of an authentic Canadian experience, the next day we hopped on a trolley and headed to the CNE.  We still weren't totally sure what the CNE actually was, but we were soon eagerly waiting in line to buy our entry tickets.  When we got in, we accosted a nice fellow who was distributing programs and asked for clarification.  

"Well," he began patiently, "there's a bunch of games, there's a big food hall, there's some rides, and there's going to be rodeo shortly over there," he pointed vaguely towards a large building in the distance.  Frank and I thanked the guy and surveyed our surroundings - a midway teeming with people playing games, a packed open-air food hall, children running around clutching cheap toy prizes - and it slowly dawned on us that we had forgone a day of touring the city in favor of a county fair.  A really, really big county fair.  

To clarify, neither one of us is big on large, sweaty crowds.  We avoid Times Square and other densely populated areas in our own town.  As the smell of hay mingled with the aroma of fried dough, the gravity of our mistake suddenly weighed on us like a full meal of fair food.  We had chosen poorly.

We decided to make the best of it, though.  We had some bison burgers and poutine, which is a distinctly Canadian concoction of gross deliciousness - french fries topped with cheese curds and smothered with brown gravy at a Canadian food stall.  It probably aged our arteries by 10 years, so we decided to burn it off by playing some games.  Frank won a prize at the ring toss, which ended up being a good stopping point for our experience at the Ex.  

We went back into the city and ended up having a really great night out on the town.  The locals were so nice - very welcoming and incredibly friendly.  We will always look back with fondness on our trip across the border and eagerly await our next adventure...

For our review and more info on the hotel we stayed at click here to go to our tripadvisor.com

1 comment:

Nonnie said...

Mistakenly going to what amounts to a "county fair" in a wonderful city like Toronto is another good reason to report on great, inexpensive, local things to do. Help others avoid the same costly, time consuming mistakes! I still enjoyed reading (and watching) your experience, though.
FYI: The French Canadians in Manchester,NH pronounce that ungodly food you ate (poutine): "pootsin". Looking into local customs and activities might be an interesting thing to do.
No matter what you do, I am looking forward to reading your next adventure!