Date : 28 May 2013
Actually had a lie in until gone 6 this morning. Very unlike me. As the Canadian doesn’t leave until 22:00 tonight and check-out isn’t until 11:00 we want to make the most of the room. Slow breakfast and final packing of the on-board bags. At about 10:00 we gave up the waiting around and went and checked out.
As I mentioned on the first day the hotel is not in it’s first flush of youth and I probably would not stay there again as there are, I think, probably better hotels available in Toronto for the price. Final thing that put me off was finding bill pushed under the door this morning. I’ve travelled the globe but I’ve never had a hotel bill pushed under the door before.
Check out took seconds and while Wifey was paying I crossed over to the concierge to take advantage of the free bag drop off. Well, I wasn’t going to wander around Toronto from 11:00 until 19:00 (train check-in time) with a load of bags in tow.
Forecast was rain this morning in Toronto and we had watched it getting heavier as we were packing. By the time we were wandering up Yonge Street to Dundas Square it had set in to a fine mizzle. Glad of the rain coats.
Had a gander around the Easton Street Mall, supposedly the largest in Canada but tiny compared to similar things in Basingstoke. Quick fly round but did stop and buy a new, bright orange strap for the NEX7. Wifey was getting fed up of the Nikon strap I’d been using so far. The little Japanese shop assistant was trying just a little too hard to be engaging, trying to explain to me that the strap may not fit my camera. Sigh. I’ve been using and collecting cameras for 30 years. How would I not know whether a strap fits my camera.
Across Yonge Street to Dundas Square to wait for the Bus. We still had two of the three days left on the pass so we’re using it. Luckily there is cover so we didn’t get too wet.
Bus was standing room only on the lower deck as no-one was stupid enough to sit upstairs in the mizzle. A group of four Italian oldies with not a word of English between them got on and gave the girls running the bus a hard time. After being sorted out they encountered another couple of Italians and proceeded to do what Italians do: talk long and talk loud. Could barely here the poor girl trying to do the talk. Different girl same patter.
We got off at stop 6 by the Museum of Ontario. Have to say I was spellbound. This was a museum that showed exhibits and didn’t pander unnecessarily to the instant gratification and dumbing down that we too often get in the UK. Look at what they’ve done to the Liverpool Museum for God’s sake. Not sure about the new ‘crystal’ facade if I’m honest.
Had a bite to eat for lunch and as unimpressed with the cafe food as much as any I’ve had in the UK. Can’t have everything.
Started on the ground floor in the Far East section and worked through to the First Nations exhibits. Some absolutely stunning pieces in all sections. Highlights too many to mention.
Second floor was more of the same starting with Mammals and then going through the giant South American fauna to the dinosaurs. Have to admit there were a couple of stand outs. First was the giant sloths and armadillo fossils. Remember reading and being fascinated by them as a kid. Second was the skeleton of a pteradon. How did something that large actually take to the air and, more importantly, land? I was was transfixed by both.
The NEX7 was getting a real work out and by the T-Rex skeleton I was approached by a girl with a Canon SLR. She asked if I wouldn’t mind taking her photo with the T-Rex. I said of course not. Her response made me laugh. “I’ve been waiting for ages to ask someone with a big camera to do this for me. I just don’t trust the iPhone crowd.” Loved it. Took about 5 of her with the T-Rex. Hopefully at least one worked for her.
Up to the third floor and visited the bats in the cave. Lol. A few more interactive kiddy things up here but happy that most of what I’d seen treated me like an adult. Ancient and world culture exhibits here. Rome, Greece, Egypt, Persia, Africa, South America. Some really good artefacts: coins, vases, busts, armour, etc. And a really engaging photographic exhibits.
Down to the ground floor again and a trip around the souvenir shop.
Rain had stopped and the roads were drying out as we left. Which was good as there was nowhere undercover to wait for the bus which very handily turned up 5 minutes after we did.
Mark, the comedian, was our host, and as yesterday, was far more engaging than any of the other guides. Even had a little banter going with him. Bus had to miss a couple of stops around the CN Tower due to traffic. The Blue Jays were playing a day time match and lots of the schools had been invited for an ‘educational’ afternoon at the Rogers. What it meant was that there were hundreds of school buses parked up blocking lanes for blocks around. And at the start of rush-hor. Gridlock.
Took the bus all the way round to the Distillery District. Not having read up on this area before arriving wasn’t sure what we were turning up to. Well, it’s a rather high-end boutique kind of place built in an old distillery. Really quick fly back to downtown with the rain starting again and then into Marche for dinner.
Interesting Swiss idea here. You get a tab ‘credit card’ at the desk and then wander around the various food sections deciding what you want. There’s Chinese, German, Pasta, burgers, salads etc all set-up like separate stands as you would find in a supermarket. When you’ve decided what you like and chosen you hand the tab card over to the cook to be swiped. Once you’ve finished you hand over the tab card to the desk and pay. Very different.
I decided on something simple, bratty mit pommes and Wifey went for pasta. Have to admit it was much better than East Side Marios last night. However, once you add sales taxes and the 12% service charge it is not cheap for what it is.
We were trying to leave it as close to 19:00 as possible as baggage drop off at the station doesn’t take bags, without a heavy surcharge, until 3 hours before departure.
By now the heavens had opened and it was torrential. Rain coats on and heads down up the couple of blocks to the hotel. Got the bags out of storage and asked for a taxi. Although it is only a 5 minute walk we had a lot of bags and it is torrential. Due to the roads still being gridlocked the concierge couldn’t find a taxi and suggested we took the PATH to the station.
Wasn’t happy as I knew that we would struggle getting the bags there but we had very little option. And struggle we did. Although it kept us dry, it was very warm and had more than one flight of stairs. By the time we made it to Union Station we were very hot and bothered.
Transferred the reservations to tickets very quickly and got the bags loaded with no fuss. Being there 3 hours before departure meant there were very few other people there and we whistled through and into the Panorama Lounge to wait for check-in.
Check-in opened at 20:00 and the queue was huge. Waited for 30 minutes and as the queue showed no sign of getting smaller decided to join it. Some people obviously didn’t get the fact that the bunks are top and bottom and were requesting side by side. Say what? Dealt with quickly and efficiently. Car 117 cabin D. Lunch and dinner booked for first sitting as second sitting had already gone. That’s lunch at 11:15 and dinner at 17:00 tomorrow. Breakfast is a free for all, first come first served.
Panorama Lounge is now absolutely heaving as we wait to board and I’d say that approximately 95% of our fellow travellers are older than us. There are a few kids and one or two toddlers. Do so hope we are not next to them.
One interesting fact gleaned from the sightseeing crew was that the Silverstreak was filmed at Union Station.
Will write more later although may not be able to post anything more until Winnipeg on Thursday (today being Tuesday).
Called through at about 21:30 for boarding. All very efficient but they appeared to change the ramp from 16 to 21 without telling anyone which really confused some of the old dears. Down the damp wooden ‘platform’ under the eyes of construction crews to mount up on car 117, cabin D, our home for the next three and half days.