Port Severn

We went away last weekend. I found an inn in Port Severn (about 150 km more or less north of Toronto) that promised old world charm and great views. I booked a land view room since we can see Ontario Lake from our apartment and it wasn’t a big deal. Little did I know that “land view” actually meant “a view of the wall opposite the room.” And it was fun to find the coffee maker sitting next to the bathroom sink (because there was no available space in the stamp-sized bedroom). Some people take a book or the newspaper to the bog to pass the time, some drink coffee…

We napped and relaxed and later went in search of a restaurant in the area. Our trusty sat-nav, a.k.a. Ken, directed us to a place called Honey Harbor Cafe but we decided to stop at a restaurant called Amicci because it seemed to be quite popular. The food was good but the service was appalling: Sean got his main course before we got the appetizer and my order got lost in the confines of the kitchen and arrived much later. Anyway, that aside, we found where the real Canadians are hiding. Yup, in the forest. There was not a foreigner (except Sean and I, that is) in sight.

Sunday, we took a pontoon cruise around the Muskoka Lake and Gloucester Pool. We got to see the only manually operated lock being operated manually (the lake is part of the Trent-Severn Waterway System and there are quite a few locks) and a strange contraption with slings and rails that lifts boats and deposits them on the next lake over. The weather wasn’t very good, it was overcast and windy, but we enjoyed the cruise nonetheless.

Then followed a long crawl back to the apartment.

Toronto city tour

Toronto trivia: the city was originally named York. When New Amsterdam became New York, people began to call it Little York. The locals didn’t like to be known as “Little Yorkers” so they renamed it Toronto, which means “meeting place” in the Huron language.

Last week, I took a hop-on-hop-off city tour of Toronto. I like to do touristy stuff like that every once in a while. I learned a lot about the city and got a rough idea of what it is like. I like that fact that Toronto is such an ethnically diverse city that you can experience the culture and taste the flavours of different countries in a relatively small area; it’s like a one-stop shop.

The first neighbourhood we drove through was Church-Wellesley Village, or the Gay Village. And boy can you tell it is populated by the LGBT community. It’s a very trendy place; I loved the design and decor of the shops. What cracked me up were the Brokeback Mountain-style advertisements, which you don’t see anywhere else in the city.

Gay Village Trivia: the story goes that Alexander Wood owned the land and encouraged homosexuals to settle there in the early 1800’s. He was deported to Scotland but returned years later. I guess Torontonians weren’t that open-minded at the time.

In the India Bazaar District, the air is scented with the smell of spices and curry (and garlic!). I need to go back and do some damage to my credit card (sorry, Sean!) because I adored the bright hues of the silks and saris on display.

You know you’re entering Greektown when you see blue and white everywhere, the Greek national colours. Must go back for dolmas and spanakopitas. Lots of restaurants and lots and lots of bridal shops. The film My Big Fat Greek Wedding has nothing on this place.

Greektown trivia: the house seen in the aforesaid film is located somewhere in this neighbourhood, it’s not a movie set.

I got off the bus in Little Italy. I was famished and had a headache (it was quite windy on the top deck). I was spoilt for choice but decided to check out Café Diplomático, which apparently is very popular with tourists and locals and it is where football fans gather to watch games. I had chicken parmiggiana with salad. It was good but not the best I’ve ever had. I took a stroll up and down the street. There’s not really much to see and do except eat. And eat well.

Although there was one more neighbourhood left to visit, I was done with sightseeing for the day and decided to head back to the hotel; except I had no idea where the nearest subway station was. I asked a lady, who very kindly pointed me in the right direction.

As it turned out, the tube station was in the heart of Koreatown. I didn’t miss anything, after all.

Hello from Canada!

One reason why I like Canada is that they use the metric system. Now I understand how far a place is, how much something weighs, what the speed limit is and the weather forecast. Farewell pesky miles, pounds and degrees Fahrenheit!

We are in Mississauga, about 30 kilometres from Toronto (I’ve no idea how many miles that is and the great thing is, I don’t need to know!). Our hotel is located quite far from the city centre, which is good for Sean because he can walk to work, but bad for me because I have to take a bus if I want to go anywhere remotely interesting. Or shopping. The public transport network is really quite good. We have a rental car, or, rather, vehicle, which I refuse to drive because it’s a big SUV and I’m not comfortable behind the wheel. Well, as you know, cars and I don’t get along. I miss my Jetta, though.

Speaking of buses, the other day I was on one when the driver stopped the bus, opened the door, left without saying a word, went into a Tim Horton’s (the Canadian answer to Starbucks) and came back with a cup of coffee and a small paper bag. No one on the bus so much as batted an eyelid. I didn’t know what to make of it. Apparently, it’s acceptable.

On Tuesday I went to the Royal Museum of Ontario to see the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition. I took a bus (2o minutes) and the underground (15 stops). My sense of direction is somewhat faulty, so when I surfaced on the street, I have to say, I was kind of lost. I walked towards an avenue whose name rang a bell. But I must have had a baffled look on my face because a very sweet lady said “You look like you’re lost. Can I help you find anything?”

Never leave home without your GPS.