Go To : Aug 08 – Sep 08 trip

Again in March 09, I flew out to Toronto from New Delhi along with Sashikant. The Air France flight was not exactly “pleasant” – my seat was next to the emergency exit with the door taking the space where otherwise my legs would have been. The crew service too had a lot of catching up to do.

Anyways it was Deja Vu once I landed @ Pearson International Airport on 8th March. The same silence outside the airport, yet I could hear the whole city alive talking in hushed tones :) The air was cold and biting – well it was pleasant in ‘Canadian’ terms, but for me awww it was cold. But I was not complaining as it was anytime better than the heat back in India.

March 09 – April 09

I had booked the same hotel as my last visit – had loved the view and service. Most folks still tell me that the place was not the best but I liked it very much. Fortunately I managed to get the same suite as well. I felt at home instantly with knowing exactly where to go, what to do etc. (and ofcourse where NOT to go & what NOT to do as well !! ). No fire alarms rang this time as I cooked myself a quick meal in the kitchenette – I had learnt from my last visit – I sealed the smoke alarm with a duct tape ! :)

We spent our 1st weekend at the Niagara falls. Though I had been there in summers but I had to go again. Ameen – an old friend and now a localite in Toronto, accompained us. We took the Safeway tour bus from downtown to the Niagara falls casino. I proudly flashed my membership card in the bus from last time and began enjoying the ride down to the falls.

We spent some time in the casino (around 2 hours !) trying our luck out, but alas we lost more than we won. The last time we were here I had managed to double my investment (I had put in petty 15 bucks and got around 30 back !). This time it was not only the weather which was cold to me – the casino was partner in crime. We saw people jumping up in excitment as they won and won and won.. though I’m sure there were many more there cursing themselves for loosing fortunes. Honestly it’s quite addictive and I had to hold myself from giving in to the temptation of gambling more.

Security at the casino was more than any place I had seen. Cameras dotted the roof like beehives in a forest. Guards were abundant with almost each game having one. I’m sure each and every person was being watched closely. We were not allowed to take any pics inside ofcourse. If we dared, we were told that our cameras would be confisicated.

It was almost freezing near the falls. If it had not been Ameen’s advise to carry a heavy jacket, we would have frozen to death. Like before I was awestruck and spent many hours there. The view is spectacular from the Canadian side (the water falls at the Canadian side) . I pity those trying to see the falls from the US as they only get to see a small part. The air was filled with mist and the wind made it even more enjoyable. The windchill though made my teeth clatter a couple of times. The sound of water gushing down from over 150 ft is hard to describe in words. One can stay there for many hours looking at the flowing water at the crest – it’s so pure and crystal clear – it almost feels unreal. If you look at the flowing water above the falls without batting an eye lid for over 20 seconds – you’ll begin to feel that you’re moving and the falls are constant (no kidding) !

Look at the video to get a glimpse of what we experienced (also at far right below).

For those wondering why is there no mention of The Maid of the Mist, well it’s because it was closed this time of the year :( and the last time we went there too late in the day to enjoy it. But I’ve a strong hunch I’m coming back again to Toronto; so maybe next time.

We walked towards the Hard Rock cafe and on the way spent some time near the bridge to US. Wax museum housing famous celebrities, Harley Davidson showroom, Ripley’s Belive It Or Not museum were a few of the places we visited. It’s a fun to be place where you can spend hours and hours without getting bored. See the videos posted below for a glimpse. Beware, you can also end up emptying your wallet within minutes ! The sun began playing hide and seek towards the evening and we had our cameras clicking rapidly once again. See below pics to see what I mean.

Eaton Center was our every day evening hangout after work. Though it was not as exciting as in summers, it was still …. well a hangout ! Hah, no that’s not a light bulb on Sashi’s chest but the logo of his Tshirt ! :) Jacynthe accompained us on our evening walkouts on one of the Fridays and boy we did do some walking that day.. 6-7 kilometers atleast I’m sure. We went to Café Crêpe where we stuffed ourselves with chocolate fudge & dry fruit crêpe. We had to take a walk to digest all this stuff, so out we went on the streets again, seeing ‘places to be’ in the dark – YES that’s Maple Leaf Gardens in the backdrop :) . Too bad it was too late to go in. An Indian goes to Toronto and does not go to Gerrard street? Nah it’s not possible ! So yes we did frequent Gerrard a couple of times – to get the ‘authentic’ Indian food cooked Canadian style and also to buy our friend Jacynthe some bollywood movies (she’s a big fan of the Khans you see !).

We did it this time – we did go to the CN tower as well :) Had missed it last time and there was no way I was going to miss it this time as well. Thanks to Aaron we had a wonderful time there. Sashi was almost back to his childhood ! Well to be honest, I was equally amazed by the beauty and the spectacular height and ambience of the 360 restaurant. The restaurants rotates and you get to see the whole city from around 330 mts above land. In 72 minutes you are viewing the same spot of the city you had seen 72 minutes ago – it was mesmerising.

The food was delicious – for some time I was tempted to eat all those prawns and crabs and lobsters and all other things – they looked so delicious ! But I stuck to my veggies (no complaining though – they were superb). Aaron was amused at our bewilderment though I’m sure he tried hard not to show it ;) See the below pics and the video (must watch) to get a hint of the experience we had. The city looked even more beautiful post sunset. We stepped out of the restaurant and visited the famed glass floor to see no ground below us for 330 mts ! As it grew dark we stepped out and down from the tower.

Aaron asked us very candidly to just look back and up at the tower – we were speechless – the whole tower had lights travelling up and down, in and around it. Again we spent over an hour just amazed at the sight and trying to capture it all in our cameras. See the video again for this one (the last one in the lot below) – wow !

On one sunny Sunday, Aaron asked if I would like to visit the St. Lawrence market. I was game as long as I was outdoors. I met Aaron near the harbor front and we went to the Flatiron Mural & St. James church before going stepping in the market. It was a different experience and reminded me of our Sarojini Nagar market in New Delhi. I had my ‘Eggplant sandwich’ which was the size of a dinosaur – it was awesome ! Thanks Aaron – i never knew eggplants (in India known commonly as brinjals) could be so tasty :)

We decided to watch a movie and walked our way to the theatre through downtown – felt almost like NY. That golden building you see below is one of the towers of the famous Royal Bank Plaza. It’s said there’s real gold behind that glitter. Wow again !

I know some of you will hate me for this but for some time it seemed I was in rural India on our way through downtown – there’s this small park inbetween the high rises where real size dummy buffaloes are on display (now as Paul tells me they are also known as North American cows.. good lord I never knew that) ! God knows how is that supposed to be treated as art but it was amusing and was in stark contrast to the glitter all around. If this is art I believe rural India is a master piece !!

Well as history has it – these “sculptures” were placed there in commemoration that the land that the buildings are on was first a farm when Toronto was first settled by the English. Thanks again Paul for the insight.

My eyes rested on a BMW 1200 R parked on the streets and I could not resist posing with it :) Some amusing graffiti made it irresistable for me to pose for the camera again ! Reaching the theatre we decided to watch a 3D movie, ‘Coraline’. Aaron will murder me for this but I clicked him with a poster for ‘17 Again’ just as he was about to run away from the camera :) Well in the pic it does seem that he’s feeling 17 yet again !:-D

After the movie we walked back towards the harbor front. I think it was just a coincidence that some kids were enjoying their skateboards just besides the sign which said ‘No skateboarding allowed’. CN tower looked great from here as well. There was this artificial lake frozen for ice skating. Though I did not dare skate, I managed to walk a few strides across.

One of the weekends coincided with St Patrick’s Day and our friend from my last visit Paul accompained to see the same. It was full of color and lively people and it was not only the Irish culture that was on display. Yonge street behind my hotel was blocked for traffic and people filled the pavements to cheer the parade. Some from the audience got ’spirited’ and shook a leg or two to the bands’ tunes as well. We also saw Ms. Alisa Banjanovic (Miss Teen Canada Galaxy 2009) sitting preety on the roof and waving to the crowds.

We had Mr Barack Obama (a look alike ofcourse) and his guards sporting a stretch limo with the guards coming close to the audience and shouting “cameras only please, cameras only” :)

We visited the famed China town on a Sunday where Sashi learnt how to eat with chopsticks (thanks to Paul). Visit to the Royal Ontario museum and around was fun too and Paul was a perfect guide :)

My friend from school Abhimanyu who had moved to Toronto some 12 years ago, met us with Sherry at Yonge and Eglington. We had brunch at the Pickle Barrel restaurant. What a lovely couple they make (they are now happily married) – God bless. I had no idea what a ‘yard’ meant and ended up ordering my beer the size of a yard. Only to realise later it was acually a glass a yard in height ! Well since it was filled with beer, I did not mind ;) . At the Yonge/Eglinton mall we went to the Silvercity theaters and chose to see ‘I Love You Man’ – an interesting comedy :)

We met again one evening just before I flew back – we were lucky to meet Namita and Shvat as well – old colleagues and now settled in Toronto. Moxies Grill was great with mouth watering nachos and wings. The cocktails we had are worth a mention – super size bulldog, mojitos, cadillac martini.. phew I don’t even remember most of them now.. Thanks Sherry for reminding me of the stuff I missed ! It was a nice evening filled with fun.

Ofcourse I was working as well when I was there. However the team at Toronto made it fun. I used to hate working till late hours back in the hotel, but as they say – no pain no gain ! Office was a great place to make new friends and I cherish my time spent in Toronto.

Not exaggerating but having been there twice, it feels like home away from home. My sixth sense tells me I’ll be back there – soon !

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