We're back after a day in a bit in Canada, and wow was it cold. It was kind of funny this morning because when I took Fiona outside, it was like 20 degrees and I was fine in my long sleeve shirt only. I should be nice and warm when I get back to Arkansas on Saturday. I had planned to write the entry on our excursion to the country of the maple leaf. I must warn you, this entry is going to be extremely long so I'm cutting completely to spare you who don't want to know the agony of clicking that scrolldown symbol multiple thousands of times to get past your friends list entries.
We left quite early for Windsor, Ontario, just across the border from Detroit, MI, about a one hour drive from Toledo. The plan was to leave at 7:30 and get there in time to catch the train to Toronto by 9:30. We ended up leaving by 8, and got caught in craploads of traffic in Detroit. We also got lost on the way to the border, and waylaid at customs. One thing that is typical in both countries is the bureaucracy of government. They were impressed that we both had documentation in the form of passports, but not so impressed because I didn't have "the proper documentation for the puppy in the back". They let us pass though so all was well.
We got to the station at 10:05, too late to leave on the early train to Toronto. They were very friendly though and spent 15 minutes trying to issue us new tickets. Once we had them, we walked away from the counter and the guy was like "hold on a minute, I didn't see the dog." Visions of the border crossing lady sprung to mind but it wasn't even like that. Apparently, Via Rail lets companions of blind people travel free, so that was awesome. It saved me like $100 which always is good.
We left the train station and started driving around. Windsor is a relatively small town; you can drive through it completely in about 15 minutes, and it was amazing to me that you can look across the river at Detroit which is one of the largest cities in the U.S. and be in peaceful Windsor at the same time, a country away. We went to an awesome family diner place where I had an amazing amount of hash browns and eggs and had fun talking to the regulars. All throughout Canada I enjoyed doing that, hearing the smattering of different accents cultures, and nationalities, and of course hearing the Canadian twang eh. Two hours later and stuffed with enough grease to plug us up for days, we left with some local knowledge of what just there was that we could do in Windsor for two hours. The consensus was that these people had all moved to Windsor so that there would be nothing to do, which really sucked for us. Apparently, the only thing that they could come up with was the casino, so to the casino we went.
We needed no directions to get to the Windsor Casino because being the biggest thing in town, the signs all led there. I really hate losing money, especially when you sit at the quarter slots for thirty minutes and just pull a stupid lever over and over and over again. That's casinos for you and they definitely aren't any different than I invision they would be in the states, though I haven't been to ones except for in Australia. Twenty dollars poorer, we headed east on the train to Toronto.
The train trip took four hours, and wasn't any different than any train I've been on in Australia. The seats were comfortable, it was relatively smooth traveling, and the food was lacking, as usual. Its a train though, and it got us from point A to point B, so I'm not complaining.
After the harrowing day with the train and the saddening and tiring fact that I lost $20 on the slots, we were absolutely tired when we actually found the hotel that we were staying. That's a story in itself too. It is real stressful being in a city with no car, and only one friend who you can ask to look around and find the way. But when you're blind (me) and she has no clue where we're going (we had never been to Toronto before) it makes for some tense moments. Luckily, Canadians are nice people and they seem to be all too willing to answer questions for directions, so we ended up making three or four wrong turns and finally making it back to the hotel via the very cool subway. It seems to be fast, clean, and pretty cheap, and, we went of course for half price. We only had to venture aboveground for a painfully cold block but we made it, brr. Needless to say after that harrowing experience, we both fell into our respective warm beds and went to sleep for a while. Note to self, go to Toronto again in the summer, not the dead middle of winter.
We were able to wake up long enough to remind ourselves that yes it might be a good idea to eat, so we headed to an awesome steakhouse and had chicken. NO just kidding, we both had a filet mignon, me with garlic and spices, her plain. II also had a glass of very strong wine which really wasn't a good idea, because by the time we got back to the room, I was full and very tired, close to incoherent tired. Lindsey said she tried to talk to me at some point, but I don't remember, all I remember was the warm bed and waking up at 6:45 the next morning.
We had a whole day ahead of us to explore, and with map in hand and free hotel breakfast in our stomachs, we commenced our explorations. We thought about going on a guided tour of the city, but decided against it because we figured that we'd get more out of it if we floundered and frolicked rather than being herded like angry animals in a boring tour group.
The game plan for the day was not to find things to see, though seeing things was a priority but the main game plan was finding ways to stay warm. Yu'd think that it'd be difficult to get around inside in a city but its not true with Toronto. Of course you can walk outside in the cold wind, but you can also go underground to the Metro Concourse, not like the Metro in D.C. as its a subway, but this is kind of like a mini pedestrian subway. Its basically a city underground or more accurately, a huge mall that stretches for miles. There's even pedestrian street signs that tell which street you're under just in case you're stupid and want to go up to street level after you have your hot cider or mocha. Needless to say there were many people down there shopping or drinking coffee, or just plain walking to where they needed to go. Of course you can take the subway to where you need to go, but why not take your time while you get there, get some exercise, and that all important retail therapy while you're at it.
We also went to the CBC shop where we had fun buying things and talking to the cashier about Canadian politics and the state of the U.S. healthcare system. Canadians definitely like talking politics let me tell you. They, and I, also like their universal healthcare, its an awesome idea and I'm sure 'll bitch about it in another entry some other day.
The highlight of my day was our trip to the CN Tower what I later found out is one of the world's seven modern wonders of the world. Its about 1500 feet tall and is used mostly as a huge television broadcasting tower. We took the elevator up to the very top, or as close to it as we could get anyway, and looked around. The view is apparently really amazing, and it was cool to think that we were so far up in a manmade structure. The way it was built was also amazing; makes me appreciate statics for once, only once. We wanted to go up to the revolving restaurant, but it was closed for lunch and we also didn't have and didn't want to have dinner reservations, so we ended up eating at the cafe which wasn't bad at all. After we got done eating we went one floor down to the glass floor level. Fiona didn't like that level at all because you could see totally down to the street or the bottom of the tower. We went all the way down and were drawn in by the scourge of the gift shop, but got some good souvenirs. I was so glad I got to go there.
We came back to Union station, where we waited for the train. No need to worry that we'd miss this one. We had two hours to spare, so we decided to eat at the Bar and Grille where I got to taste my first Canadian beer, Blue, which I thoroughly enjoyed. We got on the train at 7 or so and made it back to the border by 11. We enjoyed our time on the train on the way back because we had some cool people about my age to talk to; nothing like passing the time talking about life, computer, and beer :). Canadians are no different than Americans in that respect.
I was glad to get back to Ohio but was also sad to see the town go, not really because of the sights we saw, but mostly because of the people and the general culture. The city itself is like any big city in the world, but what amazed me most was the amount of cultures that were there. Only there will you find on your normal tv, several language programs including the U.S. stations. People were more layed back than I expected of people living in a big city, and more open minded. I asked one cab driver who happened to be from Somalia why he moved to Toronto and not the U.S. and he launched into a rant about how nobody really hates Americans, they just hate American Policy. I couldn't agree with him more and we had fun discussing the shortcomings of American policy not in America but in Canada. Why is it that people who are from other countries tend to know more about our government than we as Americans do? I have no idea. Maybe its the pervasion of good world news coverage, maybe its just that people are more open minded than we are here in the U.S. but I noticed the same thing living in Australia; few Americans get to know other cultures whereas people who live in other cultures get exposed to and accept other cultures more easily. We saw Muslims coexisting with Hindus, Christinas with Agnostics, and no one complained, no one seemed to think or worry that this person might be a terrorist or not.
So I suppose I'll close this entry not because I don't have more to say but my brain appears to have come to a complete screeching halt and my fingers are very tired. I'm sure I'll rant for a while about it but at least now I've written about my experiences and won't have a problem forgetting them years in the future.
We're going out with some people that starlight_moon knows tonight, so I suppose I should take a short rest before they get here. All the best and I hope you enjoyed this entry.