I got into Toronto late Tuesday night, severely disappointed that I was too late to do anything but settle into my guest house hotel.
On top of that disappointment, after taking an expensive cab, instead of the way expensive less train and or uber option to be faster (which didn't work), I found that my oh so cute guest house, in-person, was a bit more sketchy than cute.
Things were not going well but I sucked it up, locked my door and enjoyed the "picnic" I packed from home with Jimbo, Pigeon and my computer.
Thank goodness for aged cheddar, crackers, gummy bears and a travel sized bottle of Malbec. I was so time zone shifted that I had energy to write emails and work on projects until the wee hours of the night. Meanwhile, I got to listen to the soundtrack of a strange person in a nearby room yell into a phone for hours. He was still talking at 3am in the morning when I decided to turn on music to drown him out and try to go to sleep.
In the morning I was awakened by a new louder and clearer man voice screaming obscenities into a phone in the hallway, reporting a car stolen, followed by a series of racial slurs and on-and-on droning of what-not that could have stopped five minutes after it began. Instead of ending it continued non-stop for two hours and was still going when I vacated the premises a little after 10am with all of my baggage to go find breakfast. Good riddance cute guest house from hell. I shall give you a bad review in all of the places possible.
I took solace in my lodging failure by finding an awesome breakfast. My late night research pointed me to a place called Lady Marmalade, not far from my little slice of cute hell. I had great timing, because 5 minutes after I showed up and had a coffee in hand, the whole world came in behind me. I wondered to myself if anyone in Toronto works on Wednesdays.
After some discussion with my server, I took a leap of faith and ordered the cheddar spinach waffles served with orange tomato cream sauce and bacon. The waffles came with a miso-vinaigrette coated salad. Yay! Salad for breakfast, my favorite. The salad was phenomenal, filling my mouth with crisp vegetables coated lightly in a tangy miso vinegar flavor – salty and bright but not too much either. I need to make miso vinaigrette at home, it is magical.
The waffles were also amazing. I actually hate waffles, but usually because they are just boring sweet dough. These were 100% savory, and the orange tomato sauce on top was an added brightness in the land of cheesy herby goodness held within the waffles. The orange was just a hint, present but not overpowering, blending perfectly with the acid of the tomato. I ate the bacon separate, as to not overpower the flavor of the waffles. When all was said and done, I probably only ate half of the plate (abandoning two whole pieces of bacon), but I really did try. Every last scrap of salad was gone.
Thanks to my sketchy lodging I had to find a place to store my luggage for the day so I could do some on foot exploration of the city. My internet research resulted in no for sure results, so I turned to manual override and asked the people around me. The lovely lady sitting next to at Lady Marmalade suggested the Greyhound station. Bus stations the last vestige of travel lockers left in the world.
Luggage lockers also bring the world together. It took a team of three strangers to figure out the token key system to get our luggage stored and our valuable keys pocketed at the coach terminal.
The location of the bus terminal was perfect – just a few blocks from the Wednesday Farmer's Market. I was happy to find a bustling block of vendors selling baked goods, vegetables, pickles and maple syrup in the middle of downtown Toronto.
I got an espresso and a gluten free, refined sugar free, dairy free chocolate zucchini muffin and enjoyed the sunshine and the people watching as I debated what to do with myself.
I needed to join my colleagues for class by the airport later but I had a few hours to explore more of Toronto. I had no plan, other than to eat a good breakfast and dinner. For fun, for some reason 80% of my international data was already gone and it was just now noon. So I did what any tourist hoping for a wifi connection and a few hours to kill does, I went to the museum.
On foot through the city and Queen's Park.
The Royal Ontario Museum eventually surfaced in front of me. I should have known at first glance that it was big. It has its own subway stop.
Inside I found myself in a giant cavernous museum – not as big as the British museum but still extremely large (it is royal after all) with many hallways to many things representing the whole world from art to natural history. I started in the special exhibit on tattoos from throughout the world and history at the advice of the lady behind the ticket counter.
From my understanding photos were prohibited in this exhibit but I managed to capture this one of the disembodied casts of tattooed limbs. These were both amazing and creepy at the same time. The exhibit covered tattoos (history and current) in a wide variety of cultures throughout the world.
Then I took a wrong turn and found Gandhara Buddhas (apparently the ROM has one of the best collections in the world of these) followed by cool middle eastern things I should have stopped to read about
but I looked at my map and realized that there were dinosaurs! As in prehistoric fossils assembled to look at by all. So I got a little distracted from the classical history and made my way to paleontology.
All the bones of the big ancient reptiles!
And Mr. T-Rex here. I wanted to do the interactive things with the T-Rex but there were gobs of kids and parents around the thing so I did my best to pretend I was not disappointed and moved on to look at more bones. Like this giant sloth here.
After all the bones I reached my museum threshold. My phone was also really dead, as was my back-up charger so I found a natural history gallery with a bench and an outlet and plugged in for a moment. I then noticed the ginormous stuffed Albatross and started crying. Somehow, seeing a giant version of a seagull set free all the pent-up sadness and frustration in my soul from recent home/life events, and I just cried. As the families with children walked by me like I was also a museum exhibit.
With my plugged in sort of connected to wifi phone I googled the best new restaurants in Toronto of 2016 and found Antler. Because nothing cures the blues like culinary exploration. I stopped crying immediately, put myself back together and made my way to the front door to call an Uber. But first I just had to stop into the museum store. Something was calling my name – his name is Mr. T-Rex.
I almost didn't buy him – but he was half off and my inner child was screaming in delight at the thought of him hanging out with us. So we (me and my inner child) purchased him and immediately started photographing him in fun places like – in front of the museum as we wait for an Uber.
Let's take a moment to talk about Uber Pool. Since about three weeks ago it has been the default setting when Ubering around. I save money and meet random people. You can't however, be in a hurry, because it is a carpool and at any moment you could be picking up a new random person. In Seattle, everyone has been very clear where they are and where they are going. My experience in Toronto was very different. Half of the people had no clue what was going on, or that they had requested an Uber Pool. I felt bad for the drivers. It took all of my patience however to not get annoyed with the driver who picked me up at the museum with super intoxicated girl in the backseat with her bulldog. I was hungry and ready to go to dinner and he had no navigational abilities and was actually listening to the drunk girl's instructions. Never listen to a drunk person's directions – they are drunk, thereby they have lost motor function, thereby they cannot give directions. Anyway, it was random and strange so I got my wish, and I eventually made it to Antler.
I had very interesting timing. When I walked in at 6pm, it barely looked open, I appeared to interrupt a meeting of the chef and staff. But they seated me at the bar immediately next to the chatty bartender. The bartender told me that the most feared food critic of Toronto had just visited the restaurant a couple days prior and luckily, he had liked the place and its food. This apparently being the trifecta of all three newspapers in town heralding Antler's regional focused "wild" game and foraged ingredient forward menu. A few minutes later the photographer for said food critic showed up at the restaurant. This is me taking a picture of her taking a picture of him making a smoked cocktail.
The restaurant had me and my inner child at venison tartare. I grew up eating venison tartare, we didn't call it that of course, it was just ground venison and crackers – but regardless I was eating the raw meat of a deer. Yum. While I was waiting for the tartare, a chatty server came out to talk to me more about the press the restaurant was getting, and to talk about Seattle and Portland and why I had come to the restaurant. When he heard that I was excited about the wild game and foraged aspect of the menu he went to get chef so I could speak with him. I told chef that was super excited about the tartare as this was the food I ate as a kid growing up on venison. He laughed and said he has to lie to his kids and just call it steak, omitting the venison part. I also learned from him that the venison comes from a wild game preserve in Quebec, the equivalent of "farmed" wild game as allowed by Canadian Federal food regulations. You are apparently not allowed to sell wild game, but you can give it away.
What to get next was a serious debate. I wanted all the things on the menu, but it was just me, and I had questionable left over storage at the airport hotel.
I landed on rabbit pappardelle, because rabbit, and the recommendation of the bartender. It was the softest, most tender rabbit I have ever had. It could only have been softer if pureed. It was heavenly pulled rabbit co-mingled with a lovely aged cheese and dark green flavor – and filling, so filling. There was probably a pound of butter in there it was so filling. I tried not to think about that, but I only finished half of it, washing it down with a lovely beet salad.
Meanwhile, the documentation of the food and the chef continued. I couldn't tell if this was a convenient table or a planned table that chef was interacting with and the photographer was photographing, but they all looked lovely. I ordered a foraged cedar gin fizz for dessert.
The green stuff on top is foraged cedar dehydrated and powdered. It is really bitter if you eat it alone. The bartender called it his magic fairy dust.
After dessert it was time to join my community of other healers and travelers to Toronto for class – so I began the journey to the land of hotels by the airport. It was a long strange Uber Pool journey but I eventually got there and was able to introduce Jimbo to Mr. T-Rex.
A long day in Toronto came to an end, and I went to bed looking forward to seeing my friends and fellow light-workers in class the next day.