21-22-23 June 2014 – The Summer Solstice
So as all trips to far away lands start off, the camels are always late. In our case, it’s the National Rental Car agent, he’s lost and will be here late. No problems we has assumed that and our schedule accounted for it.
At 10:30 (from a planned 9AM start) we were sedately driving down RT 12 along the eastern part of the lake. It’s another of those wonderful blue sky days that Canada has been giving us on a regular basis. We’ve opted to take RT 12 to see the county, vs taking 400 and being reminded of I95 traffic at home.
Towards the bottom of the lake we see signs for Haugen’s Chicken & Rib BBQ in Oshawa, sounds good so we pull in to a packed parking lot. We go in and the place is pretty empty, which is weird since the lot is full. But we order some of their baked chicken and BBQ pork. Both are really delicious, I can see why they were on “You Gotta Eat Here” on Food Network Canada.
Going outside we checked the parking lot and it was RamblerRAMA 2014, open to anyone with an AMC vehicle, including all Hudson, Jeep, Nash, Rambler and Renault automobiles. Very cool since we had Ramblers as a kid, mom had a Pacer and I was the proud owner of a Renault Le Car at one point. So it was a nice trip down memory lane seeing the Rambler and Pacers. Sadly no Le Car’s but I’m not sure they were sold in Canada.
We soon got back in the car and were off to Toronto. First stop was the world famous Toronto Zoo. Of course being a nice Saturday in June, it was a zoo with all the people. And little kids. And about 10,000 strollers. With more little kids in the strollers. But not to be daunted by adversity we sallied forth into the zoo.
We did the Zoomobile tour around the outside of the zoo to get help on figuring out the map. I love maps where it says “Not to scale”. We were told that the Panda exhibit would be busy so we headed there after getting off the train. No lines, no crowds. They have a really nice “pre-Panda” display about the habitats, different kinds of pandas, what they eat (and of course what they poop). The intent of the display is to funnel you into the exhibit in an orderly fashion, but in our case there was no pandemonium getting to see the pandas. Both were up and eating and there was a zoo keeper talking about them.
We headed off to see the brand new baby polar bear. Expecting a tiny cute baby, we found an almost adult sized bear swimming around. I guess that 6 months ago it was a cute baby, but it had blown past the toddler stage and was now a teenager. But the frolicking was cute, so worth the walk.
They have all of the other zoo stuff, a pair of giraffes, rino’s, elephants, camels, etc. They also have a Great Barrier Reef exhibit with jellyfish and sea horses. Our last exhibit of the day was the primate house. Because of the heat most of them were back in their little rooms. In the main room was a huge climbing setup and off in the corner was something with a drop-cloth over it.
We were highly disappointed until the drop-cloth started to move. It slowly stood up and started to move over the platform. The cloth moved and it turned out to be an orangutang out for a stroll. He carefully maneuvered over the setup, never loosing grasp of his cloth. He made a few circuts around and then settled into the corner, pulling the cloth back up over his body.
We took the hint that it was time to go home. Just outside was another huge climbing system. Except that this one was loaded with people. They hooked you to an overhead safety system track. You could then climb stairs, walk across rope bridges, hop from one platform to another (20 feet in the air) in relative safety. We watched a six year old girl clamber around with as much grace as the orangutang had moments before.
A short Zoomobile ride and a longer walk to the parking lot later we were zooming down RT 401 into the heart of Toronto. Or more correctly the heart of North York, a Toronto suburb. Susan had picked a hotel that was on top of the Toronto subway system to make sightseeing easier. We checked in and showered away the zoo dust.
Outside the hotel was a little fair going on, while Susan lounged, I checked it out. It was an alternative energy exhibit sponsored by Ontario Hydro. There were displays about the new CFL bulbs, uses of solar, electric cars, electric bikes and even electric skateboards. The University of Toronto had their solar power car on display. It was pretty nice setup on how we could do a better job with our energy choices.
Every year for the last 14 I’ve made a huge effort to be out on the water to watch the sunset on the Summer Solstice. Only missed a few years because of rain. This year our plan was to watch it from the sky.
Just ahead of dusk we headed downtown to the CN tower, one of the tallest buildings in Toronto. We were whisked up to the 360 Restaurant. It rotates around the tower so you get a full panoramic view of Toronto. We got seated and Susan set up the GoPro to get a movie of our experience. Over her shoulder I could see the setting sun, and a really nice sunset.
We both had the prix fixe dinner, although Foster substituted his appetizer. He had a pea and pancetta tart to start and peppered sirloin strip for the main, Susan had a seafood chowder to start and beef cheeks with morels for her main. The amuse bouche and desserts were also quite good, but the best part is the revolving 360 degree view. The combination of really great food and the amazing view made it a perfect evening. At the end we had gone full circle and we could see the lights of Rochester (90 miles away) on the horizon. We both found it hard to believe it was just three weeks earlier we had been there.
Make sure you check out the time-lapse that Susan shot. It’s in the video section.
We got up the next morning and courtesy of Toronto Transit we were soon in Chinatown. All the shops. All the smells of food cooking. Colors and the noise of people hustling around. A real sensory overload.
We soon navigated to Rol San for Dim Sum. Normally I expect carts with little bamboo baskets of “you try you like” on them. We were given a menu of items. So we checked off our favorite items and some new ones to add to “we tried we liked” list. There were things we loved and things we didn’t agree on (Susan loved the taro cakes). We ordered a couple of dishes blindly, but did pretty well overall. Ordered too much as usual, and once again no easy way or place to carry it.
After gorging ourselves we retraced our path to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). It had caught our eye since it was a very futuristic looking building.
We started off in the basement to look at model boats. It was a very extensive exhibit of boats covering the history of sailboats and steamships. Some of the models were from the late 1600′s they had been hand carved by prisoners of war that had been captured. They sold the models to earn money for better food. The details were amazing. Some models had been built by shipbuilders as sales tools. All the brasswork was gold plated to make the boat shine.
Up two flights was the Canadian wing of the Gallery. We got a good view of what life was like outside the cities in the 1800′s. Lots of great paintings of the times. Not sure how long I would have lasted back then.
Upstairs was the contemporary art galleries. We cruised through, some pieces we liked. Some we didn’t get at all. One of my favorites was a preserved blackboard from a teachers class. If I had only thought to save my blackboards from the years at teaching at Drexel I’d be a millionaire. (Or have a warehouse of unsold blackboards.)
After being fully cultured, we headed back towards the CN tower. We had seen signs for the Toronto Railway Museum at Union Station and the John Street Roundhouse and decided to check it out. On the way we past shops selling everything possible and lots of restaurants that we could check out later.
The museum is set in the roundhouse of Canadian National Railway. It turns out that the right hand bays contain a furniture store, the left hand bays contain the Steamwhistle Brewing company. That left the center bay for the Museum. It was small, lots of items like silver and lanterns. I was a little disappointed since we’ve been to the one in Strausburg.
But they do have a cool 1/10 size working steam engine that they give rides on. It is all hand built and runs by burning diesel fuel (clean air laws have a problem with burning coal). We watched the train and headed over to the Steamwhistle company for a beer sampling.
The last two tours of the day were full, but I was able to get pictures of the brewing tanks and the bottling line. Since it was a Saturday the lines were shut down, only the brewers were working. Refreshed we headed off to the subway to do some serious tasting.
A few stops and a short walk we entered Bar Volo, with 32 craft beers and ciders on tap. We spent the next two hours trying 11 of them along with dried meats and cheeses. Susan is not much of a beer drinker so it was a great chance for her to try different ones. I’ve been working on trying lots of different Canadian beers, so it was on my list!!
From Bar Volo we transited to the Queen and Beaver Public House for dinner. We both had the Sunday Roast Beef Dinner (rare roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding) and listened to sounds from the upstairs bar of the US not doing well against Portugal.
On the way home we came across a labyrinth set in paving stones. Susan set out to walk the full length, my ADD kicked in and I was soon at the center. Susan toughed it out to achieve enlightenment and upon reaching the center her enlightenment was the same path that took her in would take her out.
Moments later we were back on the sidewalk heading for the subway. We were soon back in our hotel, ready for bed and for day three of our Toronto adventures.
Susan has gotten up early on Sunday and found that the free breakfast buffet was very nice. So she rousted me out and we both had a great breakfast of poached eggs and a nice holindaise sauce, bacon, sausages, home fried potatoes, stewed tomatoes and toast and jam. Very nice and the coffee was very good. The original plan was to head to the Science Center but we had seen signs for the Royal Ontario Museum, hey had an exhibit if Chinese artifacts from the Forbidden City. We decided Chinese Mysteries were on deck and were soon winged away on the Subway almost at the front door.
They had set the exhibit up like you were coming in the first time. Lots of rooms of things to see before you even saw the emperor. But you were soon past an into the inter areas that only the emperor and the wives had access to. They also showed the shear manpower it took to run the place. It was a very impressive exhibt. They had taken the time to write understandable tags and descriptions for the items. They put them in a context that make sense to me the viewer.
We spent almost two hours walking around when I spied the Dinosaur → sign. If I cant get me some good tech science, dinosaurs will fill the bill.
The ROM had an excellent exhibit that we wandered around for an hour. Time was up, we needed to head back. One last transit ride, a quick stop in the food court for Thai noodles in a box and we were on the 401.
Soon we made the 400, recognized the driving pattern from I95 and I was in commute mode! We flew by lots of things (Wanted to go to Lego Land, but need a child under the age of 14, no just adults. ) So as we hurtled up the 400, zooming at high rates of speed with all the other commuters.
And with that the Toronto part of our trip was over, but we would soon be at Big Chute to do a pre-crossing visit