There seems to be an ongoing debate here about the difference between a Barbeque and a Grill. Well, it may not be an ongoing debate in Canada, but it’s an ongoing debate in my mind. My company’s annual “summer BBQ” was the first Friday I was here, so I got really excited that I was going to get to eat a sliced beef sandwich with sauce. I was quickly corrected. Evidently, a “BBQ” in Canada is the actual apparatus used to cook the hamburgers and hot dogs, not the actual food type. I was crushed when I realized that I was just getting a grilled hamburger and not a real BBQ sandwich. When we cook out in Texas, we do it on the “grill” (and not the gold kind in your mouth) and invite people over to the BBQ…am I right?! Oh, and instead of chips and cookies like we’d have in Texas, they served the burgers with salad and fruit. (See previous post on sweets.)
New Word Learned: “Guk” = spicy mayonnaise.
New Restaurant – Lick’s “BBQ”
I was so exhausted from my first week that I actually slept until 10:45am, which, even though I need my sleep, is almost a record for me. I don’t think I’ve yet mentioned the fun that is Toronto traffic. While I know I only had a 3 minute commute in Houston, the traffic here is beyond anything I’ve ever seen. Imagine this – a busy, crowded intersection on a 4 lane road with about 200 pedestrians and no left turn signals. Car in the left lane tries to turn left but has to wait until the green light turns red due to the lack of turn signals. Car in the right lane tries to turn right but has to wait until the green light turns red due to the pedestrians. So 2 cars get through per light. It’s basically gridlock. To loop you back, my exhaustion was because I’m sitting in 2+ hours of traffic a day to go 25 miles total!! Anywho, on to the good stuff…
It was Pride Week in Toronto (http://www.pridetoronto.com/). For those of you not in the know (like me), Toronto hosts the 2nd largest Gay Pride Festival in the world; over one million people attended this year’s festivities. I decided before I came that I’m going to go to anything and everything I can and take it all in. So off I went. There is a Whole Foods in Yorkville (the shi-shi area of Toronto) and I had previously tried to get there in my car, but because of the parking situation, I abandoned trip. I planned my route to Whole Foods where I would go up Yonge Street to catch some of the parade. It was really cool – the streets were closed off and all of the major stores were giving out rainbow flags. It was the most calm, organized parade I’ve ever seen – no one was out of control or acting crazy. There were lots of cool, hip people out along with families, old people, and the like. The parade started with a bang of colored confetti and down came the floats! I’ll post some pictures soon. Oh, and I was on TV, too! The local TV station personality was interviewing people waiting for the parade and I happened to be standing right behind them. The camera was literally facing me head on and later that night, I was on CityTV news at 11. At the Pride Parade. Priceless.
Whole Foods was great, but still different from the ones at home. Everything’s just a little bit different here, but it still felt like home. It cost me a chunk of change just like home, too.
Took the Subway home with my groceries and smiled at the fantastic weekend I had.
And so ended weekend #1 in Toronto.
I was so excited to get out and about on Saturday that I woke up after only 6 hours of sleep, which for me, is a very bad thing. As many of my friends and colleagues know, I require a minimum of 8 hours of sleep per night or I’m not my usual cheerful self and can turn into a bit of an ogre (and not the cute Shrek variety). I had planned to ride the ferry to the Toronto Islands, but it was very windy last week, not to mention 60 degrees (15 degrees Celsius) outside.
So I decided to look for Plan B. It was a glorious day and I ran across free walks hosted by the Toronto Historical Society. I settled on a tour of an area of Toronto known as Cabbagetown (http://www.cabbagetownpa.ca/). They call it Cabbagetown because of the number of Irish immigrants who fled to the area during the potato famine in the mid-1800′s. They, of course, wanted to make sure their families didn’t go hungry as they had in Ireland so they planted plenty of crops in their front yards, much of it cabbage – et voila! Cabbagetown was born. The homes are semi-detached and the owners would live on one side and rent out the other side for income, usually to family since they knew where to find them. The architecture is mostly Victorian in period and gothic renaissance and bay & gable in style. There was a hotel built on the main street that was 3 stories; the rich people who lived in Toronto used to go to Cabbagetown for the weekend to “get away from the city” and only the richest of the rich were allowed on the 3rd story balcony so they would be able to see the unobstructed view of downtown Toronto!
We ended our walk at the Necropolis – Toronto’s 2nd oldest cemetery and the only non-deonimational cemetery until the early 1900′s (http://www.mountpleasantgroupofcemeteries.ca/our_cemeteries/toronto_necropolis.asp). All of the other cemeteries in Toronto were either Catholic or Presbyterian so you better have been a good paying parishioner when you died, or you would end up at the Necropolis!. It’s a beautiful cemetery in a very quiet party of the city and next to the Don River. There’s quite a bit of the High Victorian Gothic style and such famous Canadians as Toronto’s first mayor, William Lyon MacKenzie are buried there.
After the walk ended, I went into a little pastry shop to grab a baguette and only later found out that it’s evidently one of the best in Toronto. It’s called Daniel et Daniel and if/when you go, you have to get a Hedgehog Rum Ball – yummy (http://www.danieletdaniel.ca/)! One thing I have found here is that there are not the plethora of sweets like we have in the US. And, the sweets they do have aren’t as sweet as ours at home. I actually think my sweet tooth has lessened from lack of choices if you can believe that. There definitely isn’t a Dessert Gallery here.
I had walked over to the “walking tour” which turned out to be a leisurely (not) 2.5 mile walk . i decided to try taking the streetcar on my way home, so I waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, I realized I was on the wrong corner of the street and, after I got on I realized it was going AWAY from downtown! Lost again. Sigh. Thankfully, Canadians are nice to a fault and the driver helped me get to the right stop AND didn’t make me pay again! While we were driving home, there was an Indian wedding outside of the King Edward (for those of you who went to the Platinum Awards) and get this – there were these drummers and a bunch of men dressed in very fancy garb on these beautiful horses with hoardes of people outside clapping and dancing. They had King Street closed down….now THAT’S a celebration!
My first full week in Toronto passed very quickly! Although I had initial “Toronto hate” due to a bit of homesickness, I finally crept out of my hole on Wednesday and ventured out on my own. I am really starting to love my neighborhood – it’s the Entertainment District and is very close to the CN Tower and Rogers Centre, many of the theatres as well as the “avant-garde” area of Toronto called Queen Street. The area is bustling and people are always out and about which I love. I’m only a block away from Rogers Centre which is where the Toronto BlueJays play (that’s baseball, for those of you who aren’t sports fans) and because it’s summer, there are games going on all the time. It makes for interesting traffic “situations” coming home from work, but once I’m home, it’s fun to have all the fans around.
Even though I don’t know many people in Toronto, there are a few other Texans living here. I had dinner with a fabulous colleague on Thursday evening at a fabulous Italian restaurant called Pizzaiolo (http://www.pizzaiolorestaurant.com/). It was delicioso and so were my leftover pizza slices! A few of the other people living here from Texas got together for drinks and dinner on Friday evening in an area of Toronto called the Beaches. The boardwalk looks out over Lake Ontario which is as blue as the Logan sapphire. We walked (everyone here walks which is all new to me – no one believes when I tell them that we’d drive to a store 20 yards away!) to a lovely Italian restaurant on Queen Street East called Ci Vediamo (which means “we see each other” in Italian). We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and unintentionally entertained the locals with our Texas accents!
Other restaurants frequented: Urban (http://www.urbanrestaurant.com/)
New Word Learned: Loonie (nickname for the the $1 Canadian coin)