Toronto – where have you been all my life and how could I have missed you out?

And we are off….the 2018 Road Trip has begun.  In a slightly different format from our two previous adventures, we have begun in Canada.  This is mainly my doing because of all the places I have been in the world, somehow Canada has escaped my attention, as has Niagara Falls. So instead of instantly hitting the road, ploughing through the miles and frustrating the sat nav by launching into wilderness country, here we are enjoying a few very civilised days in Toronto.

Just to reassure anyone who may think we are softening in our old age, we have packed in a very full day (in spite of our various journeyings from home yesterday having deprived us of any sleep for almost 24 hours). But after some considerable planning this morning, we were off to the start of our Big Red Bus tour by 10 am, having sourced and booked a hire car for tomorrow’s little outing, bought our tickets for today’s tour and got two discounts in the bargain; one for being old (they are good to seniors here) and one for not being too old to manage booking and paying online!

Toronto is a beautiful city on the shores of Lake Ontario and I found myself learning a lot as we toured the streets. I learned that Yonge Street used to be in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest street in the world as it stretched from the lake shore almost 2000 km to Alaska. However, some clever person noticed that a small section north of Toronto was named Highway 11 before becoming Yonge Street again. They took the record away from them and Toronto is still smarting!  Because the locals loved gin and whisky so much, at one time there was a tavern in the town for every 60 members of the population. Sounds like a fun place!  But most of all I learned that it is not teachers who should be feared and obeyed, but the tour guides on Toronto’s Big Red Buses!  You must remain seated at all times and must not attempt to stand, change seats or move at all when the bus is in motion or stopped in traffic or at traffic signals. “Sit down, PLEASE”, was the constant cry, whether it was to reprimand the poor child who inadvertently raised his bottom 2 inches from his seat, or the smiling oriental family who probably didn’t understand that sliding across the aisle into an adjoining seat was a criminal offence! The SS trainers would have been so proud!

All that aside, it was fun. We hopped on and off (when told to move), hung out at the CN Tower, although I failed to succumb to walking the ledge and just did the usual trick of laying myself across the glass floor, visited a rather fabulous shopping mall and drank beer at the bar in a specialist brew shop. What’s not to like about that sort of day? Having been as high up the CN Tower as it is possible to go, I did laugh when we rejoined the bus tour and the guide was sad to recount it used to be the tallest building in the world until Dubai took the title with the Burj Khalifa. You have to let it go! You can’t be longest, tallest, biggest in everything. Even Lake Ontario is only the fifth largest of the five Great Lakes and it doesn’t matter. It is very beautiful. 

For the few days we are here, we have rented an apartment on the quayside by the lake and the CN Tower also appearing in one of the windows. I just love a view. The people we meet are very friendly and here’s another interesting fact – over 50% of the population are not native to either Toronto or Canada. It’s this immigration thing; against all odds (according to some people) it works a treat!  

Off to Niagara tomorrow. Excited. 

Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities

🎼🎶🎤 “Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?”

I was last (only time) in the wonderful city of Toronto some 25 years ago. Attending a conference and staying in the Royal York Hotel, as well as learning about Policy Governance, I learned a lot about myself and, despite some hiccoughs along the way, it encouraged me to be the person I am today. Alanis Morrisette’s album “Jagged Little Pill”, on which “Ironic” was a seminal track, was recorded about the time I was here previously. To my interest, I found out Alanis was a student here before she moved to California to record. Isn’t it ironic?! One of my favourite pieces of music and it featured in one of my Assemblies at school.

A second ‘irony’ was that the multi-campus college shared its name with my old boss, George Brown. Isn’t it ironic?!E05E1488-A835-4606-9E62-22CF01CB5974

We discovered those two aspects on our tour – and many more.

 Stella, our bus tour guide – as mentioned by Kath – had an interesting delivery style reminiscent of a snappy dog. We listened to her twice as we took two loops round some sections of our route. In fact, both Kath and I mimed her script as we smiled knowingly at her commentary. She always mentioned “Celebrities and Athletes” when talking about rich and famous people. Shania Twain and Shaquille O’Neill were mentioned by name as well as several actors. Carly Simon (You’re so vain) and the great Buffy Sainte-Marie, who wrote the anti-Vietnam anthem, ‘The Universal Soldier’ were also mentioned and both, of course, had also featured in my Assemblies in the past!

On a different note from the music (pun intended), Churchill talked about the UK and North America being separated by a single language and, more appropriately, our ‘Lost Property’ became ‘Lost and Found’ whilst ‘Fall Semester’ grated somewhat compared to ‘Autumn Term’. Canadian dollar and two dollar coins are referred to a ‘Loonies’ and ‘Toonies’. The first because of the bird on the coin; the second… because it seemed funny! And, to my shame, I did ask in a bar where the ‘Loo’ was instead of their preferred euphemism of ‘Bathroom’. 

We learned about the first Great Fire of a Toronto in 1849 caused by careless drinkers who, when finding their local pub full, set up table outside with their cards, drinks and… cigars. You can guess the rest. The captivating mixture of building styles is one product of that fire but ‘Hybrid Architecture’ works for me with juxtaposition of old and new. 

We were instructed that natives pronounce their city name ‘Tor-on-toe’ and Spadino not as ‘Spad-e-no’ but as ‘Spad-eye-no’. Hmm!

A few signs to end…

For Lord Rockingham Xi fans…

And, of course, we found a Rainbow!

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