Tag Archives: Toronto

I is for International Escape

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Well hello my friends!!!!  I am back, back to blogging, back from my trip, back in the good ole USA.  What a weekend it was!  I need a few more days off just to recover!! 🙂

For those of you who missed it, I went to Canada this past weekend.  Niagara and Toronto is where I spent most of my time, though I did liven up Buffalo and St. Catherine’s for awhile too! 🙂  It was a great trip, and I’d love to tell you about everything we did, but that would be pretty much impossible!  Instead, I’ll hit the highlights, low lights, and lessons we learned over the border!

Highlights:

20130303_1011431. Niagara Falls.  A lot of people in the NE USA have been to the falls before, and many of you may pass this off as “Oh, I’ve already seen the falls, it’s just water.”  And sometimes I find myself saying that too.  Until you stand in front of the falls again and realize, Wow, these falls are wonderful!  There really is nothing like them in the world.  Now if only I could find my barrel and send myself over those falls.  Bucket list!!! 😀

2. Niagara, ON.  It’s been a few years since I’ve been there, and man is this town trying to revitalize itself.  I loved it!! 😀  Niagara will always be a tourist trap of kitschy shops, ridiculous restaurants, and high priced novelty shops.  In the past few years, though, Niagara seems to be working to reinvent itself as more than just a tourist destination: sure, that’s all still there, but now there are some upscale restaurants, bars, clubs, and other fun places to spend the night or weekend with friends.  While there we watched the Penguins play the Canadiens at a bar in Niagara.  Since it wasn’t tourist season, it was low key, relaxed, and a lot of fun.  I’d go back in a heart beat, especially when the Penguins win!!

20130302_1159213. Toronto.  Man is this city happening! You guys know I love and adore Pittsburgh, but compared to Toronto, Pittsburgh looks like a hole in the ground watering hole.  This could partially be because Toronto is 10 times the size of Pittsburgh. But it’s such an electric city, it’s hard not to love the place.

There’s so much to see in Toronto, I wish I had an entire week to see what all was going on.  I’m just not used to a city of 5 million people.  Crazy!

Overall, though, we had a good balance of tourist and native Toronto.  We climbed the CN tower, made it to the hockey HOF, and then ended up wandering around Chinatown for awhile acting like we knew where we were going (we didn’t).  Maybe next time we go back we can act like we own this city! 🙂

20130302_1342564. The Hockey HOF. Can I say any more about this?  You all know I love hockey.  Why not go to the place that celebrates hockey for everyone to enjoy!! 🙂

The place lived up to expectations, partially because as a Penguins fan the place was crawling with Lemieux and Crosby shrines.  Not sure how Flyers fans could stand the place, but I adored it!  There was so much to see, including the Stanley Cup.  Plus, a wonderful overpriced gift shop.  Usually I’d avoid the place, but a very cute Habs fan employee might have mentioned to us that Crosby shirts were on sale.  And what do you know, there was a game that night and we were missing our Pens swag.  So those 50% off shirts were scooped up, lots of tags were ripped off, and we watched the game repping 412!

Low lights:

1. Missing teeth: On Friday night we ate dinner at the casino.  Afterwards, Kara offered me a piece of gum.  I was just breaking the piece in when I crunched on something.  I pulled the gum out, and found a piece of my tooth had chipped off.  What?!  I’m 26, I shouldn’t be losing my teeth this early!  But it was true.  I totally was staring at a piece of my tooth that should have been in my mouth.  Except it wasn’t.  It’s still mia, by the way.  My dentist couldn’t fit me in until Thursday.  Won’t I have a funny story to tell them once I’m finally there.

2. The taxes. Goodness, I always complain about the 7% taxes in Pittsburgh, but I failed to realize how much Canadians are taxed for the same stuff.  A price tag would read $17.99, I’d take it to the register and would be asked to pay $2.042.  Wha…?!?  You’re charging me an extra 20% for this??  Ridiculous!!  And their roads were just as bumpy as ours!!

20130303_1010413. Nickel and dimes.  Want to visit the falls?  That will be $20C to park.  Want to use the free wifi?  That’s a purchase of at least $5C.  Another thing that really irked me was how they try to squeeze so much out of you.  Sometimes we managed to beat the system: throwing our four ways on at the falls and parking in the middle of the road saved us $15.  Sometimes we couldn’t: we had to buy food at Subway just to use their wireless, because they wouldn’t give us their password.  Whatever.   I just don’t like being charged for dumb stuff like that.

Lessons Learned:

1. Cell phones don’t work in Canada.  Dumb to not realize, but you forget how often you use your cell phone until you can’t.  We couldn’t google “Crime rate in Toronto” or “Number of Tim Horton’s in Ontario” whenever we wanted.  We’re so spoiled, America!! 😀

2. Border patrol workers are morons.  Kara and I brought some extra blankets with us because a). It’s winter in Canada and b). We weren’t sure if our hotel would be shady (it wasn’t, and we were pleasantly surprised).  Both seem like ordinary reasons to pack blankets.  Yet on the way into Canada we were questioned about them and asked if we were hiding weapons under them.  At first we thought he was joking.  Then we realized he was serious.  And all I could think was…really???  Do I look like a gun runner?  And wouldn’t Wilson be a little nicer if I was?

3. Converting to metric stinks.  12.2 km to the exit means……*crickets chirping*.  I was converting in my head all weekend.  Miles, gallons, degrees.  Oh my.  I was never so happy to see a bank tell me it was 28 degrees out.  Finally, something I can understand!!  That being said, US government, seriously, isn’t it time we switch over to the metric system?  Are we really that pig headed that we think it’s better to use the imperial system??

4. Maps are useless.  How did our parents do it?  Thank goodness Tim Horton’s offers free wireless and we can screen shot directions, or we’d probably be in Montreal by now. 🙂

20130302_120506Whew.  A weekend in Canada.  It’s finally over.  And I’m so glad we went.  If nothing else, my alphabet year has taken me to some new and exciting places, and I’ve loved the opportunities.  I mean, who just randomly drives to Canada with no real purpose?  I do, thanks to this blog.  Yay!! 😀

As for me, I’m in the middle of a Dance Mom marathon, so I’m going to be returning to that.  Have a fabulous week, and don’t get snowed in Pittsburgh!!

E

Next Week: I is for International Escape

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Hello everyone!!!

What a great weekend it’s been after a frightfully ghastly week at Initech!  My mom came out to Pittsburgh to visit for the weekend, and we had a ton of fun shopping, seeing all the great sites downtown, eating way too much food, and watching awful Food Network shows.  It was a much needed respite after the week from hell I had at Initech.  Nothing quite like logging 65+ hours in one work week to make you realize how much you honestly hate your job.  For 5 days the only things I saw were my office, my bed, and the shower.  That’s it!!  Now I’ve had a fabulous weekend and an extra Monday off to sit in front of my TV and watch Game of Thrones.  Or maybe Downton Abbey, I haven’t decided yet! 😛

Toronto_Skyline_from_Wards_IslandSo it’s been awhile, but I cannot WAIT to tell you about the adventures I have planned for next weekend.  This is the big kahuna, the one we’ve all been waiting for, the creme de la creme, we’re all in.  Next weekend, I’m going international!

I love international travel, but can rarely afford it.  I’ve been to Canada with my family in an always-interesting Day Family Vacation.  In college, I studied abroad in Italy and got to see all sorts of wonderful things.  And I went to the Bahamas last year with my favorite (and only) sister.  Sadly, though, that’s all my passport has been used for.

Next weekend, though, I’m heading abroad again, and joining the ranks of international travelers.  I’m heading up north, way north, to the wonderful lands of Canada, and more specifically Toronto!

Don’t laugh, if you remember from my very first post, this entire blog is operating on a shoestring budget.  The total weekend trip will probably be priced at less than $200 (US).  For an international trip with my college roommate, I consider that a steal of a deal!!  I’m not sure I could spend a weekend in Philly for $200.  I’m not sure I’d want to either. 🙂

TorontoSo here’s what we’ll be doing: on Friday morning, after a late night sleepover filled with Friends episodes, ice cream, and probably a glass of wine on my part, my college roommate and I will embark on the 3 1/2 hour drive up to the Canadian border.  I can’t believe it’s that close to Pittsburgh!  We will have my old, dear car Wilson stock piled with snacks, suitcases, and enough 90s boy bands to make anyone jealous (we might rock some old Nsync concert tour tshirts too.  This has yet to be determined)  Our hotel is actually in Niagara Canada, right over the border, and it is preeeeeeettttttttyyyyy sketchy.  As in, we’re bringing sleeping bags just in case sketchy.  But what’s an out-of-country adventure without a good old-fashioned sketchy hotel?!?

We’ll see the Falls, because you can’t go to Canada without seeing the falls, win thousands at the casino, spend too much money on good food and drinks, and try out our awesome Canadian pick up lines. as well as maybe visit this site a time or two, for all you How I Met Your Mother fans!!!  Old King Clancy ftw!!!

Saturday we’re booking it to Toronto, for some touristy awesomeness.  We’ll be visiting the CN Tower, and maybe the hockey HOF.  I have heard the Toronto Chinatown is a must-see (Canadian Asians, what a novelty!!), and also have a bucket list of restaurants I need to try while I’m in town.  I’m not sure my waistline can support this trip.  I might be walking home!!

I’m excited to leave for this trip, mainly because it is just so incredibly random!! 🙂  Aren’t random trips the best?  We don’t have a real serious itinerary, so we’ll just see what we wanna see, do what we wanna do, and then head back to the best city in the world!

Let me know if there are any must-see places in Toronto we need to visit.  The crazier the better, this trip is already halfway into the loony bin!  And make sure you stop back next week to hear all about our International Adventures!!!

Go Alan Thicke!! 😀

E