Thursday, February 5, 2009

Day 1 in Toronto - St. Lawrence Market, Cambridge Suites Hotel, Canoe Restaurant

Another crazy "internet sale" came up on airfare to Toronto, Ontario. Isabelle had a few days off and I used some paid time off to take a mini-vacation for 4 days. On Feb 4th we left, packing our bags and catching a taxi for the Jefferson Park CTA station where we grabbed the "Blue Line" to O'Hare International Airport.

To me, this trip is becoming routine: explaining to the cab driver where to drop us off at the transit station, watching for the train on the platform in between the in and out-bound lanes on the expressway, rushing from the train to the security line. Once we got on the plane, it was delayed on the runway on account of a malfunctioning gauge. After about 20 minutes we took off for Toronto and I watched out the window as the great white north stretched out beneath me. Isabelle fell asleep a few minutes after take off and woke up a few minutes before landing. I don't know how she does it.

When we arrived in Toronto, we picked up our rental car in the airport and tried to get the GPS to tell us where to go. The rental car garage is under a stack of highway ramps, so the device could not get a signal from the satellites. I finally just decided to start driving away from the airport and hope for the best. Of course it finally got a sync and I was driving the wrong way. No problem, it guided us to the hotel where I checked in. After parking the car we unpacked our things in the room.

The hotel, Cambridge Suites in downtown Toronto, was very nice. We stayed in a "deluxe suite" which was actually their standard room. It was two main rooms, a bedroom and a living room, plus a large bathroom with a separate toilet / bath area. There was also a bar and sink in the living room and two 37-inch LCD televisions. I quickly found the internet connection and verified it worked to my liking, then fiddled with the TV for a while - mostly commenting on the accents and local advertisements to an unphased Isabelle.

It was 5 degrees F and windy, causing us all kinds of distress as we walked the few blocks to the indoor market. I had planned to visit a bakery in the Saint Lawrence Market where they serve a sandwich made with ham and mustard. It sounded so simple, the perfect thing after a (90 minute) flight. Unfortunately when we arrived at the market I found the bakery closed due to a death in the family. I settled for some Japanese food that turned out to be remarkably bad. That's okay, the market was really cool and I'm glad we went. They had "Indian Candy" and birch syrup. Indian candy is apparently smoked salmon cured in maple syrup. Too bad that place was also closed when we got there.

We went back to the room after only eating a small snack because I had made reservations earlier in the week for Canoe Restaurant. This is Chef Anthony Walsh's critically acclaimed restaurant on the 54th floor of the Toronto Dominion tower. The view was fantastic, but difficult to photograph on account of the lighting. The meal was spectacular. The food was small, but adequate for me. The presentation was beautiful and meticulous. The flavor was outstanding! After all that praise I must confess the price tag was not small. This meal came to around $180 CAD with a glass of wine for each of us and a shared appetizer.

After dinner, we drove around the lakefront a little but it was sooo cold we didn't want to get out of the car. We went back to the room and cranked up the heat. The movie Australia was available on the Pay Per View, so we bought that and watched it on the "bedroom" TV. It is a LONG movie but I really liked it! We went to bed with plans for shopping and eating our way across Toronto on Thursday.

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