25 – 28 October 2010
On the coach to Canada I pondered what this large country was about; land of the Canadian Mounted Police, birthplace of Pamela Anderson, Keanu Reeves and Celine Dion; I wondered if there was going to be much more to Canada. I was about to find out…
First I needed to find somewhere to sleep so I made use of the free WiFi on the MegaBus and sent out a few Couch Surfing requests. Laura was kind enough to respond to my last minute plea and we organised to meet the following evening. With accommodation sorted I only had Canadian customs clearance on my mind, but after my ordeal at the US border I was admittedly nervous. I wondered what would happen on a coach if they decided they needed to take me aside and question me for two hours, would the coach just leave without me? I was particularly nervous because I knew I didn’t have an onwards ticket, the same issue that gave US customs such a problem and one of the stated requirements for Canadian entry on my Visa. Fortunately I got through customs in a jiffy and was able to give Canada the tick over the United States on the ease of entry front.
We arrived in Toronto in the morning, thirteen hours on the coach had left me tired and grouchy so I slumped in the nearest cafe with WiFi which just happened to be the American chain Starbucks. It was an interesting first impression of Canada, finding myself in Starbucks, just like so often in the United States; could it be that Canada is just an ‘easier to get in’ version of the United States?
I pretty much spent the day slumped in Starbucks until that evening when I went to meet my host Laura. Laura worked for the Spanish advisory services and I met her at the university where her office was based out of and we made our way to her apartment which was located on the 10th floor, high up in a leafy suburban part of Toronto approximately 40 minutes from the city centre. We had picked up some fish from the supermarket on the way back and proceeded to cook up a ‘Sam and Laura’ fish special; Laura’s Spanish heritage required copious onion and tomato which I couldn’t complain about and my contribution was theory behind the ordering of the different layers in the baking dish. The ‘Sam and Laura’ special is still a work in progress at this stage, further refining to the seasoning is required and as such I cannot publicly release the recipe details.
The following day (26 October) I wanted to get some ‘arrival in Canada’ things done like finding a mobile phone. Unfortunately I was to discover that Canadian telecommunication providers must be some of the worst in the world, you would swear the companies are colluding! Three major providers all offering pretty much the same limited products at expensive prices, every time I talked with a provider I seemed to find few reasons for and many reasons against signing up. At the end of the day I’d bought a cheap cell phone on a new network (Wind), its just a shame their coverage is not Canada wide. Having got a phone I set off to see the Kensington Market area where I spent ages looking at all the weird and wonderful second hand goods and clothing stores. Later it started raining and I took refuge at a bar for an hour or so; I could conclude that Canada had surprisingly poor telecommunications providers, but a good arty second hand store scene.
Later that evening I met Laura and a friend of hers at a cinema and we saw The Social Network which was an all right movie about a very interesting business.
Sculptures Near the CN Tower
On Wednesday I headed out to the Distillery District. On the way I meet an Aussi chap who had been studying in Ottawa, he was heading to do a Segway tour of the Distillery District; I soon moved on as I wasn’t going to waste money on some bloody Segway tour. It just sounded way too touristy. I did however enjoy a tasting tray at a micro brewery while making use of their WIFI. Having drunk my fill I make my way to the CN Tower which I concluded would be like most city towers (Over Priced). It’s not that I don’t appreciate a view, it’s simply that so often you can get a very nice view of the city from a hill; not only do you get exercise but I normally get a warm fuzzy ‘I accomplished something’ feeling from walking up a good hill.
Sculptures in the Distillery District
I arranged with Laura to bring some ingredients home for dinner but I struggled to find a super market and it was even harder to find a bottle of wine. Eventually I had ingredients and a bottle of wine, but complexities in obtaining the aforementioned meant I was now half an hour late. Finally I arrive at Laura’s apartment building to realise my phone had died and I’d forgotten her floor/room number. I found myself wondering around different but identical floors trying to remember the simplest but most important detail – Laura’s room number. I had no idea except that her room was high up; I resorted to getting out my laptop and walking around different floors hunting for her wireless network. Eventually I managed to connect to a free network and managed to message Laura on Facebook; thank God for Facebook addiction! I was late, we ate late, but we had a nice meal.
Toronto to Host Victoria’s Secret Show!