O Canada

Posted: August 7, 2011 in Photography
Tags: , , , , ,

To recap: back in May, Lindsay tweeted a photo of herself and Yurie at the airport in Toronto, sending me into a frothing apoplexy of envy. That same morning, however, I received a much-needed cash transfusion courtesy of the Japanese government, which I naturally took as a cosmic sign to go join them. Chris was also able to take some time out his nonexistent schedule to fly up from Georgia, and so Akita, Japan’s proposed takeover of Ontario, Canada was complete.The morning I left, I took a black cab with fixed rates to the airport; an amazing idea but for the fact that it worked out more expensive than if I’d used the meter. (Trust this to be the one day I contend with zero traffic.) It was also my first time flying with Air Transat and, I think, only my second time ever flying out from Glasgow. (I actually passed the very gate John and I flew to Paris from way back in 2007) The queue was a tad hellish, and I managed to watch two thirds of Tron on my PSP before I’d even picked up my tickets.

The flight itself was more bearable – not least because I had a month’s supply of zopiclone on hand to render me comatose for the better part of it. Highlights included the in-flight meals (the only difference between the meat and vegetarian options were the chunks of microwaved chicken sprinkled over one of them) and the inverted commas entertainment (if it’s all the same to you, I probably won’t be paying $3 to hear the movie on the 10″ screen on the other side of the plane). That said, I did make it across the Atlantic intact, on time, and for less than the price of a train to Manchester, so I really can’t complain.

Naturally, Lindsay had spreadsheet-ed our holiday to within an inch of its life before I’d even left the country, and – on arrival in Canada – I already knew exactly which bus I was taking from the airport, where it was dropping me off, and – indeed – how much it was going to cost. Sadly, even she couldn’t plan for me missing that (once every hour) bus by 5 minutes.

Since this was technically a workday for her, I was due to meet Lindsay at the mall once she’d finished, which gave me plenty of time to people-watch Canadians in their natural habitat. (I was also questioned by an attractive salesperson as to whether I wasn’t sweating my ass off before explaining that I was dressed for the Scottish weather I’d left behind that morning.) After I finally ran out of stores, I stopped to read one of the Christopher Brookmyre novel in my suitcase (he’d apparently written 3 while I was away in Japan and the wealth of travel time afforded by this holiday seemed the perfect time to catch up) until 5 o’clock rolled round and it was time for Lindsay’s and my first reunion since our tearful farewell in Hong Kong last August..

HA – it was all lies! An elaborate ploy to make you look at another 200 photos of cats!

(Mostly) kidding. Actually, this is Lindsay’s cat, Sally-chan! She’s my stand-in for the first night because I’d spent all morning on a plane and all afternoon sweating in a mall. Not having seen one another for ten months, Lindsay and I were all set for a massive catch-up session in Toronto. We then realised we’d literally spoken every day in the interim, and just watched The Voice instead. (For the record: watching trash TV with her again was enough to make my month.)

The next morning, Lindsay had to work again and Yurie – who was presently on a month-long homestay/ESL course – didn’t finish school until 2, so I took the opportunity to familiarise myself with downtown Toronto. Thankfully it’s impossible to get lost because the CN Tower…

…is visible from pretty much everywhere in the city.

Her brother, Trevor, drove me to the subway that morning, which passed mostly without incident barring the machine at the parking lot eating his credit card. Since I’d spent quite enough time dragging my suitcase around already, my first stop of the day was Chris’ and my accommodation-to-be: namely, the New College dorm. It was ridiculously cheap (like $26 a night) and – by no small coincidence – Lindsay’s former residence at the University of Toronto! (I originally thought we’d be staying at Lindsay’s until the discovery that she technically lives in Vaughan swiftly won the toss-up between spending a little extra and a 2-hour daily commute.)

Armed with my PSP and a map of downtown courtesy of the reception desk, I set about entertaining myself for 4-5 hours of solitary wanders. With the exceptions of Hair and Edge of Glory, I wasn’t fantastically wowed by Born This Way as an album, but after this day, it nonetheless became my official soundtrack to Toronto ’11.

The “CN” originally stood for Canadian National, the railway company that built the tower.

Somewhere on Front St is the “100 Workers” memorial: a long stone wall featuring the names of 100 Ontario workers who died in workplace accidents over the past 100 years. It stands in memory of all the people killed on the job in Canada every year…which would be all good and well if the phrasing didn’t make them so unintentionally hilarious.

My extensive wanders from the university through Chinatown and all the way to the harbourfront soon brought me to the base of the tower itself.

Self-portrait fail. I forgot that it’s really tall? (553.33m, if you’re curious.)

After ascertaining that I could speak English, a worker at the tower told me that the only real way to take this shot is to lie on the ground. I smiled awkwardly then waited until he’d walked far enough away that I could continue using a wide-angle lens.

I’d more or less forgotten what sun felt like, which is probably why – three hours and no liquids later – I realised I was on the verge of fainting. Imminent heatstroke seemed as good a reason as any to stop into the nearest Starbucks and pick up where I’d left off with that Brookmyre novel. By curious coincidence, two of Cat‘s colleagues were standing right outside, and sent me off in the direction of the booth where I could collect all the complimentary tickets she’d set aside for us. Free city tours/trips to Niagara whaaat?!

The weirdest part about this is that it didn’t strike me as weird. Clearly I lived in Japan too long.

After quite literally walking the length of the city (including a brief stroll through the gay village), 2pm finally rolled round. I had just enough time to stop for my second Starbucks of the day before heading back to Spadina station to meet…

…ゆりえ!チャララ~ ♥ カメラを壊してしまって、めちゃごめんね!(>

Within 10 minutes of meeting Yurie, I accidentally knocked her camera out of her hand and onto the concrete pavement, causing the lens to jut out at a 45° angle. To the relief of no one more than myself, she managed to fix it a few minutes later using brute force. Crisis averted, the two of us were able to check into the room at New College (barring the fact that the girls’ bathroom was right outside our door and the mens’ on the other side of the building, it was surprisingly nice for what we were paying) and explore the campus. And who should arrive shortly afterwards, but…

…Chris himself! Fresh off a flight from Georgia and keener than humanly possible. I can’t adequately describe to you how jazzed he was that whole first day.

We were soon joined by the working girl herself, completing the Akita-in-Toronto quaternion!

(10 points to anyone who can explain the logistics of this picture.)

On our way to dinner, we once again passed in sight of the 100 Workers monument, which I couldn’t resist pointing out. Like honestly: you couldn’t have found a more sensitive way to word this?

Oddly specific!

That is the transcript of a roadrunner cartoon, not a fucking headstone.

We had dinner that evening at 2G’s former place of employ, Marche. The food was nice, the hidden charges less so; and while the “swipe your card at each counter, pay at the end” cafeteria system works well in theory, the endless stream of unhappy customers at the tills would suggest that there are kinks to be worked out. Redeemed by…

…the completely coincidental presence of Cat! Had I known she was in the middle of a business dinner, I would have probably have greeted her a little more professionally. Post-dinner, we convinced Lindsay to join us in our ascent of the CN Tower. If I lived there, I’d be totally over it, too, so I appreciated the gesture. ♥ We opted to forego the tickets offering a 3D movie experience of the tower, being that we were – by dint of being there – experiencing the tower in 3D.

On entering the tower, we had to step into these cubicles where we were summarily blasted by jets of air from the walls. Chris was (audibly) taken aback by the barrage, to which the guard responded, deadpan, “…it’s just air, man.”

秋田 represent!

The view from the observation deck. (I had an almost irresistible urge to autocomplete that as “The view from the top is beautiful.” Thank you, Japanese textbooks; you’ve ruined my life.)

The tower overlooks the Roger’s Centre, where a baseball game was actually in progress. Best seats in the house?

Not for the faint of heights – the glass floor with nothing but an invisible barrier between us and the 500m drop to the ground below. You can’t tell from this picture, but Lindsay was terrified, haha. (For me, personally, this would be exponentially more nerve-racking.) The floor did, however, bring us even closer to the game. If I actually gave a shit about baseball, it would have been amazing.

Lindsay had to leave early to get home, but the three of us hung around for a bit to take in the view.

Yet another one to add to my “city skyline at night as seen from a tower” collection. See:
Tokyo, Sapporo, Tsuchizaki, Kyoto, Seoul, Shanghai, Hong Kong

Make a memoryyyyyyy!

Downstairs in the gift shop: a maple syrup in a bottle shaped like the CN Tower. Canada, you have gone too far.

Afterwards, Chris and I walked Yurie to the nearest underground; which, conveniently enough, was in the basement of the very train station we’d be travelling out from the next day. Putting my earlier explorations to good use, we then walked all the way back to our hotel; allowing us to accurately gauge how early we’d need to leave the following morning, and me, personally, to revel in once again being in a country where it was safe to walk home at night.

On arrival in New College, we put those “shared communal washrooms” to good use; a phrase that normally sends a small shiver of horror down my spine but – in this instance – proved largely unwarranted. (There was a clump of disgusting, 2-foot long black hairs in my shower cubicle but I soon discovered that the ones Chris had used on the other side of the room weren’t attached to a bathtub and therefore didn’t accumulate quite as much human waste.) And then; sweet, chemically-assisted sleep to keep me on Canada time and – given Chris’ track record of adverse reaction to medicines – the fun of wondering whether he’d wake up the following morning. Adventure!

  1. roaminglulu says:

    love your photography!

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