Friday, 26 June 2009

Life, the Universe and Everything minus 1

A year older today! A crap week at work! Socks and underwear my only presents!

Why am I feeling happy? Well the bottle of Chablis helps, but overall I was told when I was young that I wouldn't make 40 what with my Asthma/Eczema and general rubbishness and yet here I am, beyond 40, still generally rubbish,. but relatively healthy and doing wonderful things outside of work.

I fell into a job that I used to love, and the two major decisions I have made in my life went really well I can think shall I have a holiday in October? Where to go? - I know I really am a lucky fatherless child!

Anyway it is count your blessings day today, even when things seem bad we are so much luckier than 90% of the world, and personally I do not focus on how lucky I am nearly enough.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Back Home

So where was I?

Ah yes at Toronto Airport, I checked myself in, seat 1A, not my favourite as I don’t like the swing tables (see VIARail) however a window seat which is always my favourite, although to be fair taking off at 23:50 (ish) means that there isn’t a huge amount visible as we fly over the Canadia.

Ambled round the airport, which is a little spread out ending up at gate C32, one news agents, where I finally purchased some maple syrup and biscuits and a couple of “restaurants” anyway I amused myself there for three hours waiting for the flight to board, reading and listening to the walkman (I thought there would be shopping possibilities in the airport).

Boarding time, and there we are, sitting at the front of the plane, still reading (no walkman until the seatbelts sign has been switched off!) and the stewardess comes round offering shampagne which was pleasant, and then we take off into the dark night. I don’t think that suspense will work, as it seems obvious that the plane landed safely!

Supper I refused as I had eaten something that was alleged to be a turkey club sandwich in the airport (it seems that the bird turkey is named after India in most other languages d’inde in French for example, OK I added the apostrophe, the joys of sitting opposite a Turkish lady J in Turkey it is called a hindi) put in my duty free order. Tip: in about 80% of cases it is cheaper on the plane than at the airport, check the brochure on your way out. And tried to get a little sleep.

Didn’t really get sleep, however I did manage to get very relaxed with my eyes closed which is better than I normally manage on an aeroplane, was dragged back to reality by the requirement to pay for the duty free, and then a couple of hours before we landed for breakfast, the options were a) Cheese Omelette, b) Herb Omelette or c) Eggs Benedict. Now this is a trickier question than it may appear, I had attempted to explain to omelette chefs in Canadia that herbs are the best thing to put in an omelette but they never had any to put in.

Digression – I never had an omelette in Canadia, I probably should have done, they looked like they might actually be omelettes, otoh I have had omelettes in the USA and they are … well not omelettes as it is understood in Europe, however I suspect that this is because of the USA “Thou shalt not eat food that has been undercooked” elf n’safety thingy. Funnily enough that sort of omelette would be ideal for herbs, to my mind in a lovely fluffy only just set omelette can tend to overwhelm them a little, for me a wild mushroom omelette is the ideal.

So in a fit of optimism I ordered the Eggs Benedict, firstly we were given five nice sized strips of fruit, the melon was gorgeous, why can I not buy melon that tastes like that? Then the eggs, well it was some sort of scrambled eggs that had been compressed into a disc on a slice of ham, on half a bit of slightly chewy bread, with some yellow gloop over the top. It was surprisingly pleasant, although I think it would have taken me to guess five to identify it had I not already known!

Then a cup of tea, they say that tea and custard are what you miss most when you are away, and it is very true, we do have the best tea in the world, and no other country really seems to have got the hang of custard yet, the French even serve it cold! Sadly I was still on the plane. A lot of circling around Heathrow, and finally we land, a quick trot through T2, passport control and time for my T2/T3 complaint.

Why is it quicker for someone who comes from a country outside of the EU to clear UK passport control than someone who has lived in the UK all his life? I used to work with a Romanian/Peruvian/Statesian lady who would [i]ALWAYS[/i] beat me through passport control, and it gets a little frustrating.

The plus side of the wait though is that 30 seconds after I arrived at baggage handling my suitcase came out, grabbed it and then through the green channel, and on the dog to get a taxi, and as if to welcome me home it started raining :-) It was lovely being away, but sometimes it is even better to be home.

20 kilo (OK 19.8 according to the airport scales) of suitcase and one rocksack full of laptop, books, maple syrup and biscuits dragged up the stairs to my flatlet, and then a quick refresh, and off to visit the Mater. Cannot remember if I have mentioned this, however I picked up two pieces of fudge in Niagara , one Key Lime, and one raspberry and chocolate. We split the raspberry and chocolate, and I had an heavenly cup of tea. The fudge wasn’t particularly fudgey in consistency, however it did taste very nice.

Then home, and time to try to get some sleep. Pom pom pom, asleep about midnight UK time, another complaint, at the moment UK time is BST, this is [i]not[/i] the same as GMT, in fact it is one hour ahead of GMT. Awoke on Sunday with a very nasty wet cough, now I have had a dry cough for a couple of months, however it wasn’t really anything to worry about, this wet cough was also affecting my breathing. Anyway didn’t do a lot on the Sunday and went to the Doctor on Monday morning.

Not a chest infection, as the one coughing up brightly coloured gunk I begged to differ, however there we go, she didn’t want to prescribe me steroids as I have had so many for my skin (maybe I could swallow some of my creams?) so she just prescribed some asthma tablets. Went home and tried to work from home, quite unsuccessfully.

Tuesday I went into the office, still coughing like a professional, and dropped off the biscuits, and some chocolate covered blueberries that I had bought along with the duty free, did a day of trying to look through my mails, and catch up with what had been happening.

Tuesday night was up until about two coughing and breathing badly, so decided to work from home on Wednesday, had a couple of meetings, and continued trying to catch up.

Thursday and Friday were complete busts, giddy, pained, coughing, and having some issues breathing.

So on Saturday when I was finally starting to feel human again we tried the Key Lime fudge, and both agreed that it wasn’t bad, but not a flavour we would purchase.

Sunday, a little better, I managed to go out shopping, not proper shopping, just a list based type thing, although I did buy three melons and a bag of satsumas for a fiver.

In OT there had been much talk of something called “Chuck” particularly by Tummy, and I had been intrigued, so a few months ago I purchased the DVD box set of the first series, however I had never got around to watching it, I even took it to Canada with me, however I didn’t even take off the plastic wrapper. In fact I only turned on the television once in Canada , and that was to watch a bit of the baseball game before the baseball game I was going to.

Anyway whilst I was lying on my bed with my little receptacle by my side, coughing and breathing I put Chuck on the lappie, and lo, it was good. I’m not going to explain the plot, if you don’t know it then get the DVDs. However what I would say is that it has a superficial similarity to things like Ugly Betty, although it is set in a different milieu, however unlike Ugly Betty the plot strands are kept to a sensible number, and each episode near enough stands on its own merit, although you do need to have seen the first episode or intersects and suchlike wouldn’t make much sense.

In fact I so much enjoyed the first series that I ordered the second from Amazon, and on finding out that it wouldn’t be out until October, watched them on-line. The little chap gets a little less annoying in the second series, the bizarre thing watching it is that the female lead looks like Sarah Alexander, and even plays an almost identical role to Sarah Alexander in the Strangerers (really not worth watching complete tripe).

Monday back to work and suffering, today back to work and suffering less, although I seem to have some sort of bugette, as I am defo not feeling right, just not feeling that wrong.

So Canadia…

The lorries have noses, British ones don’t.

The people (or at least the ones I met) are very pleasant.

The food can be OK, just watch the menus for giveaways that the restaurant don't know what they are doing.

The scenery is gorgeous.

Toronto has big town amenities with a small town feel.

Niagara Falls are seriously amazing.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

The last day (part 1)

Day the last

Rewinding a bit to the night before, I dragged myself away from the falls and back to the hotel where I brushed myself and prepared for my third peepmeet! On my way out I went to see the concierge about how I was going to get to the airport, he told me to come back when I wanted to leave and he would arrange a taxi for me to catch a bus from somewhere in Niagara to the airport.

Left the hotel, and walked to the restaurant where we were meeting, as Meemo had said it was a very short walk from the Hilton. One arrived there about five to six and as it was another lovely evening sat out on the patio, when the (very young seeming) waiter arrived I ordered a Margarita which tasted creamy when it came, which was a little strange.

I sat there firstly wishing I had bought a book with me, and then paranoid that there was another Coco’s in the falls area, and that I was in the wrong one, until about a quarter past when a car drove past driven by what looked like Pepe, with someone who looked a lot like Pene waving at me in it.

Having found a parking space they then joined me at the table, and we had a little chatette, Pene was looking exuberant and full of life, although the kick-ass leather jacket didn’t make an appearance, and Pepe seemed cheerful and relaxed, which is more than I would have been after a 45 minute drive.

I remember reading once of an Italian woman who spoke Italian so well that even people who didn’t speak the language were able to understand her, Pene was a lot like that, when she was saying things to me I understood exactly what she was saying although to be fair she didn’t say much, and she and Pepe had quite a bit of trouble persuading the waiter to bring them the dessert menu.

Then Meemo arrived, it really was a great pleasure to meet him as well, he was a lot younger than I was expecting, even after having seen the Niagara Grand Peep Meet photographs, talking of which, the big meal in that meet took place at “Tu Tu Tango” which is a North American chain, but none the worse for that, I always pop there in Orlando, and last time I was there the seared tuna sashimi was one of the best things I have ever had (OK I feel very guilty now, but I didn’t know how close non-skipback tuna was to extinction then). Anyway it appears that it didn’t do that well in Niagara so Meemo tells me it shut down a couple of years ago, our restaurant was literally a hundred feet from where it had been.

And then Seana arrived armed with a pad, alas too late for the dessert menu problems, looking sprightly and spiky, around this time Meemo and I started eating our Pizzas, not sure what his was like, however mine was OK, I have to admit that I really prefer Neapolitan pizza (after all that is where it all started, although to be fair putting a bit of cheese and tomato on a bit of bread and then sticking it in the oven isn’t one of the more complicated recipes) although I don’t mind Roman pizza, I guess I need to go to Chicago to actually find out what American pizza should be like.

Then much chat ensued, and hopefully an enjoyable time was had by all, it was a delight to meet Pene, Pepe, and Meemo, and meeting Seana for a second time just reinforced to me just what a wonderful person she is The party broke up quite early as everyone except me had quite a journey to get home. Meemo’s tip: There was a fudge shop under the Rainbow Bridge which was the best fudge in town, not sure if it is still there though. Seana’s tip: Clifton Hill is tacky but fun.

A good nights sleep, and then another breakfast where it felt that I was over the horseshoe falls as I was eating it, the view was even more amazing than it had seemed the previous day, then completed my packing and sadly left the beautiful suite.

Dropped the suitcase with the bell boy, and then asked for the car to be bought round, I was somewhat worried about taking it between cars parked on either side, however they told me that it would be at least half an hour for the car to be delivered or if I preferred I could have a lift down to the parking area. As it turns out the parking area was a surface car park, and the drive to drop the car off was actually very pleasant, wide roads and very little traffic.

Dropped the car off and got a taxi to the top of Clifton hill, and wended my way down to the secret gardens, a lot of things to do and see, however I didn't really feel like any of it, had a walk round the Secret Gardens which really are rather nice, and then caught the bus down to Table Rock looked aghast again at the falls just in front of me, and then went behind the falls. A lift which meant I had no problems getting there, and it really was spectacular.

Once I had sated myself with that I went back up the railway and popped into Applebees for lunch, I had a triple thingy there, the baby burgers were very poor, the popcorn type prawns were OK, and the buffalo wings were OK (who knew Buffalo had wings!) Then went back to the hotel. retrieved my case and spoke to the concierge who told me I would have to get a taxi to the airport for about $130, when I pressed him on the bus option I had been told of the day before he said I could get a greyhound to Toronto city but not the airport, and that it cost about $100 from Toronto city to the airport. By now I knew he was bulls***ing me and was presumably on a kickback from the taxi firm in Niagara.

So I sat down in the bar pulled out the lappie and discovered that there is a bus company that picks up from hotels in Niagara and booked myself on the 16:30 bus. It didn't save me much money, but I felt much better because I knew nothing went to the conman concierge. Drank a Niagara Blonde beer and an hour or so later the minibus turned up outside the hotel only a quarter of an hour late. We then drove through town picking up some other people, made our way to a cetral point where a few more people got on and then set off for the airport.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Niagara Falls - Day 2 - wimping day

Ah dear, I seem to have come over all pathetic.

Let me continue last night, I went down to Romano's Macaroni which is in the hotel, neither the hostess or waitress seemed to believe that I had never been to one before, however not only had I never been to one, I had never even heard of the chain. I was seated, and the waitress asked me if I wanted bread, I answered yes, and lo a bill for bread appeared on my bill, I was a little disappointed by the sheer mercenaryness of that. However I ordered some Lobster ravioli which came with prawns and asparagus, which was very toothsome and a glass of "white zinfandel" which turned out to be rose, but none the less pleasing.

Then had a couple of cigarettes, and went to my room, then about eight the power went out, I called up, and they told me that someone would be with me soon, I then called up an hour and an half later, to be told that it wasn't just me, but a large portion of the hotel had no power, however it would be back soon.

When I woke up this morning at about six there was still no power, have to admit I woke not right, I really have problems when I am not surrounded by noise, I get sort of nervous, so there I was at far too early o'clock feeling iffy and having to go outside for a fag. So I went out, and on my way back asked reception a) when would my leclec be back on? . if I could access the internet somewhere? and where is my free breakfast? <33rd>. Oh probably forgot to say that I am on the 21st floor of the North tower with a lovely view of the American falls.

So I went to breakfast, there is an EMTs of Canadia convention going on, so I seemed to be almost the only person in the restaurant not in uniform! My seat was by the window with a gorgeous view of both sets of falls, it was absolutely lovely, and for some reason I was not nervous at all. Persuaded the omlette chef to give me one fried egg, which I had with sausages, that were the best I have had this trip, but still weren't fantastic, just a little over flavoured, and a little bit of bacon (still not the Canadian bacon I used to enjoy so much). And then on a second trip round melon, very pleasant breakfast, waitress was a little pushy on the tip front though.

Then I went and picked up the lappie and managed to find a plug, so that I could check what I was up to this evening, fantastic news, I am going to meet Pepe, Meemo, and get to see Seana again :-) Sadly a "witty" comment I made to Meemo about meeting up last night went down like a lead balloon.

Then packed up and set off for the falls, from where I am using the ascendor railway is the easiest way to get down to the falls, so I walked down there, only to learn that it doesn't open until 10, so I sat on a bench, looked over the falls, and tried to chill it was very relaxing.

Then on the railway, and a walk around getting wet from the falls and lvoeing every minute of it, and then caught the people mover heading up to the floral clock, in fact going up to the floral clock, the countryside around here is lovely, however I found that I had to sit on the left of the bus as I was too nervous to sit on the right, in fact by the power station I found myself perspiring despite the air conditioning on the bus :-(

The floral clock was quite pretty, I'm not sure what I expect from a floral clock, the only thing I can come up with is one as was described by Terry Pratchett, where the opening of the flowers tells the time. Anyway this was a clock under some flowers, pretty, however I am not sure what more I could say.

Then back on the bus and down to the Butterfly Conservatory, well all I can say is that MaroonClown will never lead one wrong (maybe astray, but never wrong ;-) ) it was incredible, so many different types of butterflys, and so many wonderful plants, I could never do it justice, I really cannot paint pictures with words, all I can say is that if you happen to be in Niagara Falls, then I would really recommend the Butterfly Conservatory, the gardens around it are wonderful too, unless you like looking at gardens don't expect much more than 45 minutes, however it is a fantastic 45 minutes.

Then caught the bus back to the secret garden, and popped in to the Hard Rock Cafe for a light bite, except as it happens their nachos are more on the family sized than I actually wanted, and to be honest a lot more salty than I would really have liked, I left half, as I am eating this evening. Purchased a t-shirt, hope it fits! Pepe, Seana and Meemo will be the first to know if it does! And ambled up to the Maid of the Mist, handed over my ticket, and almost had a panic attack as I was trying to walk down to get on the boat, closed my eyes and concentrated on breathing, relaxed a bit, opened my eyes and realised that there was no way I was going to be able to make it, and that even if I did coming up would be even more of a problem, so I walked back and out. I'm sure it would have been wonderful, however sadly I just cannot cope with it at the moment.

Slowly wended my way back to the hotel, got back at about four, was nervous on the railway, but survived it, then had a cup of tea at Starbucks on the way back. Anyway when I arrived back at the hotel I called Avis to arrange to drop the car off in Niagara, actually I asked them to pick it up, but they only have a small office here, so I will have to try to drive it to them, just really couldn't do the drive tomorrow, it has been weighing on my mind, and I really think this is the best solution. Spoke to the concierge, and apparently there is a bus that I will be able to get to Toronto airport tomorrow. Although I will have to get a taxi to the bus station.

Have had a spot of jellybotty and taken some tablets for it, however am now feeling a little bloated, hoping that I remember to have something light for supper!

So on my last night in Canada (well my flight leaves at 23:50 tomorrow night), I had a peep meet, cannot think of a better way to end this excursion, met up with Pepe, Pene, Meemo, and Seana, all of whom are really nice people, I had a lovely evening, and an interesting pizza.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Niagara Falls - Day 1 - Terrifying day

Woke up at not long after six this morning, bathed, brushed my teeth twice! and generally pootled until eight thirtyish, then popped up for a couple of baby croissants for breakfast, checked out and got a taxi to the airport. I asked him to drop me at the arrivals terminal, however he for some reason of his own decided to drop me at the car pick-up point. Managed to persuade them to do the paperwork though instead of having to get into the terminals. I had asked for the smallest type of car, as that is what I am used to driving, and turned them down when they told me it would only be $5 to upgrade to the next level of car, unfortunately they then did it for free.

I don't even want to think of that drive, it was the single most frightening experience of my life, completely terrifying, when I arrived at the hotel drenched in sweat and pale as a ghost the chappie told me to drive the car through cars either side of the road, I refused, I know I would have hit at least one of them. And I have to do it again on Friday. I am thinking about phoning Avis, and telling them that they can pick up the car here, and getting a bus or train or something to the airport, that would be the sensible thing to do anyway.

Once I had arrived and had a couple of restorative cigarettes, I tried to check in, unfortunately it was only 11:50 (doesn't time go slowly when adrenaline kicks in) and my room was not ready. So I left my bag with the boots, and ambled around town, or at least I got as far as the Incline railway, and then went down on that. The horseshoe falls looked most impressive and you could really see the spume rising from the whirlpool. Ambled around outside, not sure if it was raining, or if it was the spume from the waterfall being blown around. It certainly comes up higher than the falls and one can see the wind blowing it around.

Did an experience called Niagara's Fury, which really isn't worth the effort, there is a cute little animated film which is supposed to explain the formation of the falls, but doesn't. And then there is a film with various water effects in it snow blowing at you, water being blown at you etc. and all in all it was a little dull. Then ambled out to look at the falls again, and then decided it was time for lunch. Now in the building I was in there was a restaurant called "Elements" which served a bison burger, which is something I have wanted to try, so I went in there, and had a seat right by the window overlooking the horseshoe falls, simply a stunning view, sadly the burger seemed to be a mass produced one, even more mass produced than the ones I used to flog, but the chips were nice, the margarita was OK, and as I say the view was simply stunning!

Then ambled a little more, then tried to find a t-shirt in my size, no dice sadly, oh I did forget to mention that I did the same thing yesterday in the St. Lawrence market, there was one t-shirt that took my eye, it said "Give me my Timmies, and no-one gets hurt" anyway again there I was ambling round in Calvin Klein (a little tight, but liveable) and I cannot find a t-shirt to fit :-(

Managed to resist buying sweets, however if I can catch up with Meemo I will find out where all the good fudge places are, talking of which I finally remembered to mail Meemo, I kept remembering that I had to do that, but kept forgetting when I was at my computer :-(

Caught the railway back up and purchased a combo ticket, which will allow me to do the people mover for two days, the maid of the mist, the white water walk, the journey behind the falls, Niagara's fury (hurrah /sarcastic) and will give me cheap entry to the butterfly conservatory, plus a free bear claw! No idea what a bear claw is, unless it is something that has been ripped from a bear which seems unlikely, however it doesn't matter, because it is free!

Haven't heard from Pepe yet, although I know he has been speaking to Seana. Side note, I use the term "talked to" about e-mail, is that correct? How does one converse in a letter, is that talking to someone?

Anyway arrived at the hotel at about 16:15 and eventually managed to check in, not a smoking room this time, but a most impressive suite, with a gorgeous view of the American falls, from the level they look good, but not that impressive, however looking at them from the window in the bedroom, they are really most impressive. There seems to be a walkway down to the bottom of them from Goat Island, not sure if that was there last time I came, however I really cannot be bothered with the US Immigration service, so I don't think I will be popping over.

Thinking of going to Niagara on the Lake this evening, where MC tells me I must try the wings at the Anchorage, taxi there and back though!

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Toronto 2 Day 5 - Last day :-(

Woke at six, still it is just getting me into practise for work, back next week :-( Abluted and played on the computer, although I forgot to do the quizzes!

To breakfast at half past eight, still a lovely view, still only croissants and fruit, set out from the hotel at nine walking down York Street, and I went the correct way! Arrived at the coach pickup point, only me and the Italian-Canadian guide on this route at the start! As I said it is quite interesting because you get to talk about all sorts of different things. Today I did the east-west route which was more concentrated on the various neighbourhoods instead of the specifically touristy things.

So we set off, past the St. Lawrence market and along Front street and Lakeshore East, seeing the beaches and the boardwalk made me regret that I didn't spend any time there, then through the India Bazaar District, for some reason South Asians are referred to as East Indians over here, it seems that this is to differentiate them from West Indians, it seemed a little odd to me, after all why not use the current PC term, but there we go! Up through Greektown, somewhere around here was the only (legal) bookmaker in Toronto, again it seems very different, after all there is at least one bookmaker on almost every shopping street in the UK, although fewer may well be better. Some of the areas seemed a little run down, however one thing that I think is most impressive about Toronto is that it has such a low crime rate.

Through East China town, which was apparently where the Chinese first settled, although there are a few remnants it seems that most of them have now moved elsewhere, possibly to one of the confusingly named Chinatown, Chinatown, Chinatown, or Chinatown. I was going to get off here, however it was only about 11, so a little early for lunch, then back via Dundas square (where some other people finally joined us) to a much larger Chinatown, Portugal village, Little Italy, Korea Town, and Honest Ed's, then back down to City hall, I eventually got off the bus at St. Lawrence market.

Had a good look round the market, which would be wonderful if one were self catering, however as I'm not it was a little disappointing, not quite as good as Covent Garden in London (Ontario) I felt, although I think even Weltek would have been impressed by the number of different cheeses on display! Although thinking back I should have had a peameal bacon roll.

So I popped out of the market and went almost next door to a place called "Spring Roll" which did various oriental foods, I had some Ha Gow which were good, and some prawns wrapped in noodles and deep fried, which were different from the Thai ones I have had before, but were still very pleasant, and beef in black bean sauce which came with boiled rice, I didn't realise that I needed to ask for fried, anyway it was very nice, I liked the addition of Bok Choi, although the courgette and broccoli were a surprise they were also quite nice.

After that it was still an hour to go until the East west bus came along again, so I decided to catch the North south one again, sadly the guide was the young sprog without a clue from yesterday, and even more sadly the headphones for my walkman died five minutes into the journey, stayed on the bus until Yorktown, as I was thinking of making myself a little picnic from the delicatessen that people speak so highly of there. Purchased some chocolates from somewhere called Simone Marie, which thought it was all that, but was, in UK terms, dirt cheap, the chocolates are not bad, but certainly not top drawer.

Then to Hemmingways, where I had one pint of Rickards weissbier and one pint of Hoegaarden after they ran out of the Rickards, very restful, then I went to Sassafraz and had a couple of pomegranate margaritas which were gorgeous, and watched the girls go by :-D

Then set off up Bay, somehow not spotting the deli I was looking for, although I did spot the Indigo on Bloor that was converted from a cinema, although I didn't pop in, which I really should have done, caught the tube back to Osgoode and am back at the hotel, not going to bother going to the clubroom tonight, may just have an early night, I'm not feeling peckish (eight chocolates later!) and have to try to pick up the car manana, so I need to be alert.

MC has mentioned some butterflies and gardens at Niagara, so what with (hopefully) meeting Pepe, Seana, and (maybe separately) Meemo, going to the Niagara on the Lake, and doing a tour of the wineries I think I am going to be busy :-)

Monday, 1 June 2009

Toronto 2 Day 4

Another pleasing day.

Awoke at about seven :-)

Bathed, dressed and popped up to the 32nd floor for breakfast, nowt hot except porridge, so I decided to break my fast with fruit (and a croissant), then another amble past Osgoode hall and to the city hall. Picked up the tour bus, the guide this time was originally from Russia, and was very good, very interesting. This morning was again a little nippy and when it started to rain I decided to pop down from the top deck of the bus, discovered a new fear today, I seem to be frightened of going under bridges with no roof above me which seems a little bizarre, although I still cannot work out why I am petrified of lifts where one can see out, and yet have no fear of enclosed lifts, surely the risk is exactly the same, it just doesn't feel like it.

There were some more people on the bus today, which was quite pleasant, also a new route opened up, I had forgotten, or not really registered the fact that it is now June, even after the cards issue, and on the 1st of June the Grey line buses start running an east-west bus route which seems to go through a number of the ethnic areas, unfortunately I never managed to catch it today, the plan is to catch it tomorrow.

Got off the bus at Casa Loma, which was an impressive castle, built more along German/French lines than the brutal lumps that are English castles (I'm sure that cannot be right? French and German castles must have had at least as much defense to do as the English ones, but I always think of them as more light and airy) anyway, he didn't need to defend himself against anyone (except the authorities as it turned out) Whilst it was partially laid out as he would have lived in it to a great extent it has been converted into a "venue", and sadly it really shows. The bedrooms were still laid out as they would have been in his day, and were quite nice, I'm glad I live now though, the beds looked very small to me!

There was a garden room, reminiscent of the one in the Atrium in the Frick in New York, very refreshing, like an outdoor space indoors, the gardens were also very nice, if quite small, being built on an hill probably made it quite hard to lay them out. There were a couple of secret passages which I would have quite liked to have been hidden and then opened by a guide so that one could tell how well hidden they were, I am one of those people who always think they can spot the priests hole, so it would have been interesting to see if I would have been correct.

There was also an underground passage leading from the house and under the road to the garages and stables, well cool! The shop was a little twee, having marked a t-shirt yesterday and having had to change I am now running a little low, in a CK shirt today which had a button pop open twice :-( I was looking for some more clothes, however that shop didn't really fulfill any of my needs.

Then discovered that the bus would be by in about five minutes, so I left the house, and the bus arrived, as it was still raining, and I have no hood I sat downstairs again, the guide this time was quite young, and it was his first day, however as I am still paying his company for the experience I will not mince words, he was useless, fortunately the driver was also assisting with the commentary and he was quite good. Thinking about it, in some cities you have an automated commentary instead of a guide, well the only city I can remember that from is Brussels (in Hamburg a whole bus of Germans had to listen to the guide speaking English because of me! On the other hand the cruise of the harbour was only in German, with English bits when the guide remembered, I spent the time listening to Roxy music and loving every minute) and that was a little iffy as the guide was based on time, so when we had got stuck in traffic we were learning about things we were going to see in about five minutes! I think I prefer the person giving a guide because you get their view of the city as well as the tourist bits.

Anyway I got off that bus near the CN tower (no way, not in a million years) and popped into somewhere called "Lone Star Texas Grill" not sure what Texans would say about it, however I had two frozen margaritas and a combo of beef fajitas, and ribs. The ribs (an half if that portion) were just dropping off the bone, and were probably the best I have ever had, the soft tortillas were definitely the best I have ever had, the beef was good, and the sides were guacamole, sour cream, lettuce, cheese, and chopped tomato (instead of salsa presumably) along with a small pot of beans and another of rice, wasn't sure what to do with those two so I mixed them together ala rice and peas and they were pleasant as well.

Then caught the bus again, back with the ex-Russian guide :-) and did the entire route at least as far as the city hall, it was very interesting just how into Toronto she was and how much she enjoys the vibrancy and multiculturalism, I do have to admit it hasn't got the bustle that London UK has, at least in the centre of town. From there I popped into a Starbucks and had a spiced cider, it's one of those cultural things, but in North America apple juice is called cider, and cider is called hard cider, anyway it was really quite pleasant.

From there I popped into a seven-eleven to purchase my daily bottle of water, and on the off chance since they sold lighters I asked for some cigarettes, another culture moment, they don't display cigarettes in shops over here, mind you I have heard talk of it happening in the UK. Then avoiding the temptation of Timmies doughnuts I returned to the hotel and have booked a car, I only have the photo bit of my driving license, so I am hoping that I will actually be allowed to drive it. If not I'm sure I can get a bus from the airport to Niagara.

Duck poutine, in the whine bar in the hotel tonight, very nice, very fatty, tomorrow the east west bus route, and hopefully dim sum for lunch!