Monday, June 27, 2005

Toronto: wi-fi saga, lovely views, and lovely people

I'm melting here in Toronto. It's Monday and a scorcher: 31C with 43% humidity! Yesterday it was just as hot, and I stood for few hours watching the Pride Parade go by. (Did I think of putting on sunscreen? Noooooo.... silly Gail. Now there's a distinct line where my hair goes across my forehead. And my face has uneven shading, making me look UNWASHED.)

I thought the parade was just on Yonge Street, but conveniently for me, it turns and passes directly in front of Serg's building! I only figured this out from all the commotion coming from the street below, which prompted me to look wayyyyy down and see the barricades and people gathering alongside.

I had a good vantage point, and of course I took umpteen photos. In fact, I'm uploading them now -- 110 just of the parade AFTER culling the total -- as this is my first real opportunity to get a full, clear wi-fi signal.

*saga alert*

Oh, mercy mercy me... this was NOT easy. My friend isn't an internet addict like me and has no connectivity. No landline, either, just a mobile. So after the parade I ventured up Yonge Street, and found that Second Cup (coffee company) has a Rogers hotspot, which is partnered with the other mobility carriers like Fido, Bell, and Telus to provide wi-fi. I was able to use the browser to get into the Telus site, which was blazingly fast, so I checked the hotspot rates. Pretty reasonable. So I try to sign up. Wouldn't let me. Tried all my credit cards, and every conceivable variable of syntax at the vague fields such as "Bank issuing credit card" -- I tried CIBC for my visa, BMO and Bank of Montreal for my Mastercard, Amex and Amex Bank of Canada for my AmEx card. Error messages, all. What's the deal? I phone the technical support number. Closed. Figures.

I wrote down a few places off the 'free wi-fi in Toronto' lists, and I ended up at the Duke of Gloucester pub, further up on Yonge Street. Am hungry and thirsty, too, so this stone would kill a couple of birds, as the saying goes. Pub guy confirms wi-fi. I order a tall, cool cider and some good ol' Eastern Canadian cuisine -- fish and chips -- and settle into a comfy seat near a socket. Signal not strong, but OK. Five minutes pass. I e-mail David, upload four photos to Flickr. Signal drops. Sigh. This is pretty much how it goes for the rest of the evening -- weak signal, signal drops, weak signal, signal drops. I tell pub guy, he restarts modem and router, to no avail. Oh well, the cider was good, I felt like I was back in the UK again thanks to Strongbow and malt vinegar. I phone David, we discuss the possibility of him flying the Tri-Pacer once I tell him that Toronto City airport is located just south of the shoreline. I also told him that I was informed there's a ferry between Rochester, NY, and Toronto, so that's a possibility, too. So, suffice to say we have yet to decide just how David's going to get here. But he'll get here!

Back to Saturday night:

I arrived in Toronto a few minutes early, about 10 minutes to midnight, but that was negated by an inefficiency with the baggage handling. In (the new) Terminal 1, the baggage area is a vast white warehouse-like space, with at least 8 carousels that I could see. (There's a giant dividing wall, too.) Flight 152 from Vancouver arrived earlier, and there were people gathered 'round Carousel 4 to collect their bags. I was in the first row on the plane, so I arrived at the baggage claim before most everyone. 'Good!'-- I thought, 'I can get out of here before the big rush!' No information for AC1234. Where are our bags??

After much waiting, there was an announcement. Where do they send our bags? Carousel 4. So hundreds of people jostle each other for space, searching for their bags, when the rest of the carousels lie empty. See why I avoid Air Canada? I'm only using them for reward flights.

It all worked out in the end, because Serg was still on his way to the airport. We went back to the apartment, dumped my stuff, and chatted with his roommate, Chris, before getting some cravings at some strange hour. We went out for pizza and ended up having roti. (I grew up with West Indian food in Winnipeg.) Must've been the red wine. Reminds me of the time Serg showed up at my place in Vancouver from Seattle with a gallon of Costco wine, which we ended up finishing by dawn. Then I flew to London. Ouch!

I didn't quite feel an OUCH yesterday morning, but I did sleep a lot, making up for the deficit left over from the previous night, when I rummaged through all my stuff in Vancouver, trying to figure out what to take with me that wouldn't tip the scales at check-in. Yay for sleep!

More pics here.