That was probably the fastest weekend in history! Starting with an eight-hour car ride on Friday that flew past (or maybe that was just the driver’s driving?) as we traversed New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York state on into Canada. With semi-plans to catch up with three more friends in Toronto we were dropped off at our hotel by the New Jersey contingent and headed straight to bed.
Waking late in the morning on Saturday we sauntered down to Tim Horton’s (read that as J was still sleeping and K snuck off to find coffee and Timbits!) to locate something breakfast shaped. Around noon two of the three Canadians arrived and negotiations were entered into as to planned activities, these discussions paused briefly at 1pm when the last member of the group arrived. So with our own take on Lord of the Rings and our very own ‘Fellowship of the Maple Leaf’ compiled we headed out… for lunch… and some shopping and touring about to lesser known and definitely not appreciated sights, like the Loblaws supermarket near Church St, and what a den of delectableness that proved to be! What a wall of cheese… and hams… and, well, you get the point. If we’d been eating with our eyes, we’d all be the size of houses! Maybe we’re part hobbit after-all?
Plans for the evening were eventually narrowed down to dinner at a suitably entertaining and tasty location – Hard Rock, yay! Followed by the younger members of the party venturing into the caverns and great halls of Church and Wellesey Street, whilst the mature of mind and sensibilities returned to our fortified accommodations. Amongst the smokey (theatre smoke, not cigarette) haze and alcohol compromised bodies we found some space along a wall to lean and watch the local talent – yes, talent, of both interpretations. Performances highlighting songs from Chicago, Wicked and other well known musicians filled our ears for several hours, and thankfully none of them made our ears bleed!
By 2am we were ready to head back and get some shut-eye, after-all, breakfast would be in a few hours! With a scant four hours of nap time – yeah, we didn’t get to bed straight away, too much talking to be done – we were back up again and heading for the table. Sadly this too was where the fellowship broke company, leaving the now zombie-like parties to stagger through the streets of Toronto menacing the human population. We had intended to venture into St. Lawrence Market, but unfortunately we’d forgotten that it was Sunday, thus closed, so undaunted we simply invaded the bric-a-brac and wandered the aisles of goodies – who’d have thought you could find a Fender Strat for $130? If only it could have fit in the bags! – and ogled the recycled wooden boxes, wicker baskets and fine bone china that adorned the abundant stalls. If only baggage limits permitted, sigh!
From there we made tracks towards Front Street and the Hockey Hall of Fame, a must see for hockey enthusiast K. For nearly two hours we browsed through the exhibits and memorabilia, recognising famous names of great players like Wayne Gretzky, Brett Hull, Bobby Orr and even found a jersey worn by Australia’s own Liam Webster (one of our friends from our local team; Melbourne Ice), a not so quick visit to the attached store, and browse through Roots later we emerged from the complex with broad grins. Thoroughly chuffed we decided some lunch was in order, now, where to go? Another 20mins wandering provided the answer; East Side Mario’s! We’d heard about them previously, but had not yet seen a location, so it was time to test the waters, so to speak. Caesar Salad, Seafood Linguini, Lasagna and stuffed mushrooms later (oh, and a rather tasty ‘Strawberry and Vanilla Lemonade that had Captain Morgan’s Vanilla Spiced Rum in it) we rolled out the front doors and began to make our way back to the hotel. Via Church Street that is, time for some more shopping!
Now neither J nor I are huge fans of malls, in fact generally speaking they terrify us! But the Eaton Centre is a hell of a lot of fun! Our tour of duty included the Apple Store there, Fossil (where J finally found a new watch) and we even managed to find ‘the softer side of Sears’ – if you know the joke, that’s fine, if you don’t, you’ll need to Google it – and a new watch for K. Now capable of telling the time we pushed on again towards the hotel, let’s face it, after only four hours sleep, we weren’t in the best shape by this point! Upon reaching our room we unloaded our burdens and stared in dismay. Where the heck were we planning on stashing this lot? We already had FULL bags that if weighed would no doubt get us in considerable trouble. With a sigh we decided not to worry about it and set about the more enjoyable task of talking, well, two of us talked, the other fell asleep mid conversation. No guesses as to which one. Some time later we started discussing dinner options for the last of our weekend visitations would come to a conclusion. At about this point we decided that our new watches weren’t such a great idea, as they only seemed to announce the impending parting. We didn’t want to let our local guide leave, even contemplated kidnapping her away to Michigan with us. But if we couldn’t fit the shopping in, there’s no way we’d be able to smuggle her out.
By the time most families would be heading for bed, we’d ordered dinner and sat down for our last meal together, it was probably a good thing that what we’d ordered tasted so good as it prevented us from feeling quite so sad. As the hour approached midnight we were once again back to two members in the ‘party’, feeling an odd mixture of bittersweet emotions thinking about our final US destination as we repacked our bags for our final train legs of travel. Our train, the Maple Leaf, would leave in the morning, carrying us back over the Canadian border and into the US for the last time. Our next fortnight will be spent with my childhood pen-pal, we began writing when I was 11 and we’ve never stopped. This will be my third visit ‘over the pond’ to see her, my ‘American family’ and the first time of meeting her children. A lot of things have changed since we saw each other last, but not nearly as many as over the 23 yrs we’ve known each other. We often wish we could remember the name of the company that matched us up all those years ago, wonder if they’d like to know how much they’d changed the lives of two kids on opposite sides of the world.
We made the train in good time in the morning, passed back through the border without hinderance – well, if you don’t count the one and half hours of trying to remain seated on the train as the officials went through, whilst having severely full bladder’s and not being allowed to relieve them. Do you have any idea just how much ‘seat dancing’ someone can do in that amount of time? Do you? Really? Because we do! Right now we’re sitting in the station at Buffalo-Depew waiting, waiting for our train, the Lake Shore Limited, that won’t leave for another nine hours, waiting to see the friends and family we’ve been hanging out to see for the last 26 days (not counting the 13 years since I left). One more night, two more trains, then we’ll be stationary again! Now if only the vending machine would give us either our pretzels or our $1 back, oh yeah, we’re back in the States!