Thursday, June 30, 2005

Toronto: cities within a city

On Monday, I walked the short distance to Dundas Square and Eaton Centre to see if I could get a hold of a map. Dundas Square has fountains built into the ground that shoot up into the unsuspecting tourist's crotch if one is not careful.

While there, I stepped foot into the monster shopping mall that is Eaton Centre, home of an equally monstrous air conditioning system. I mused to myself that Torontonians escape here in the summer to get away from the heat and escape here in the winter to get away from the cold. Why WOULDN'T this mall be busy? It's a retailer's delight!

I took my newly-acquired map down to the food court level to mull over my game plan and partake of some West Indian food. I'm taking advantage of my current location to indulge in roti and curried chicken. Vancouver (and, needless to say, Pennsylvania) doesn't have a sizeable West Indian population, so there's a dearth of this type of cuisine. There's The Reef on Main Street, but there aren't many restaurants like it. I grew up in Winnipeg, which is frigidly cold in the winter, but curiously boasts a much West Indian community. Anyway, for $3.99 I got my lunchtime fix. Mmmmm-m-m-m, ahhhh...

I love maps. I've learned to love them, because I used to claim to have zero sense of direction, and found this made for some potentially disastrous consequences. Through sheer necessity, I have become quite adept at orienting myself in a place I'm not familiar with, so I am living proof that one CAN learn these things. You just have to dangle the right kind of carrot, or get a whiff of danger. When travelling, I don't get TOO concerned if I don't know where I am, if I have a map. If it's in a country where people don't speak English (trust me, get off the beaten track, and you'd be surprised how unhelpful English is), at least holding a map with something they MIGHT be able to recognise is a huge relief to the lost.

Toronto's version of Times SquareDundas Streetbrick beautyNo Wal-Martpedal powerlove on the sidewalk

Of course, Toronto is NOT off the beaten track, and one can most certainly survive without a map here and just a smidge of English. It's a cosmopolitan metropolis, where you'll find a sense of urbane order, and every culture, every language spoken, every political bent, and then some.... but English is the lingua franca. Where a map WILL be of much assistance here is to point out the little pockets of places like Little Portugal, Chinatown (East and Westside!), Greektown, etc., to find the all-important RESTAURANTS.

This wasn't my quest on Monday, but I made mental notes of where I'd like to return to, for future reference. I walked west on Dundas Street to find the place where I booked us into for this weekend -- to make sure it wasn't a "dive" (this being a relative term, of course). According to the map, it was within walking distance. Of course, maps don't factor in things that slow one's pace such as the sun beating down on one's head, or cold drinks stops, or stopping to take photographs. This could easily double the walking time. I could've taken the subway or trolley car or whatever form of public transportation that was available, but I wanted to gauge how long the walk would be. Of course, I had to pick the hottest day of the week to do it.

street vendors in Chinatown West
By the time I passed Spadina, made it past all the Asian shops without stopping for a browse or a snack, and up Augusta, I was more than ready for some quality time with an air conditioner. I managed to get us in for Thursday, which I couldn't do over the phone the week before, and I inquired about seeing one of the rooms. The guy at the desk was more than mildly insulted by my request:

"This place would not be full if it wasn't clean!" he said irritably, turning the computer screen towards me so I could see for myself. I really didn't mean it as a personal slight, but I figured he'd get over it somehow. To placate him, and because I don't trust verbal confirmations, I paid for the first night and then asked the million-dollar question:

"Do you have wi-fi?"

Oh YES! There were two terminals in the lobby, but I didn't know if they'd have wi-fi, too. They do! I took out my computer, he read out the login and password, and his mood changed instantly from sour to impressed when he saw the power of the PowerBook firsthand.

"That's very fast," he said, shaking his head. I sat down on the couch and proceeded to upload all 110 Pride Parade photos in full signal strength. Yay!

Sergio picked me up in the car afterwards, and after dropping off our stuff at the apartment, we went for a walk around the city centre. Apparently I left a little too quickly, though -- I left the memory card for the camera in the camera reader! So, no photos of city hall and the stages for the Jazz Festival. FOOEY.

Chris, Sergio's roommate arrived not long after midnight and we chatted for a while. Must've been more than a while, because next thing we knew, Chris was looking on TV for when
Phantom of the Opera came on pay-TV, and the next showing was 3am. I've never seen the movie OR the play, but I had a good idea of the story and the music.

Chris fell asleep.

I made it through most of the film, then he came down at 5:30am to turn off the TV. I'd fallen asleep, too. So I can still say I haven't seen Phantom of the Opera!