This is an old journal, from our trip around the world in 2002, taken from the diary I wrote at the time. Apologies for the poor quality photographs, they are scans of prints taken with a compact camera and images from the scrap book I made afterwards.
25.10.2002 - 25.10.2002
Today is one of only two free days on the entire trip (until Pangkor Laut), so we can actually have a bit of a lie-in this morning. Having looked at the prices in the hotel, we decide to take breakfast at a local café before venturing along Yonge Street in search of a Cyber Café. We have eight new messages: Kate (she’s not leaving B&W after all), mum and dad, David & Jenny, Jersey Flowers (about the flower order for my parents), Hippo Staff (can we take the 17:00 tour today instead of the 16:00 for technical reasons) and two adverts. As the fee for the e-mails is so reasonable, we spend 1½ hours writing our replies and checking out the polar bear live web-cam site. The bears aren’t doing much today.
Back at the hotel, we commission Franco, the concierge, to get us some theatre tickets. We would like to see Mamma Mia tonight, but tickets are all sold out. Franco knows a few dealers and is able to get us seats – at a premium rate of course. Franco also reconfirms our flights, it emerges that the time has changed by 30 minutes. After the 23 changes we had prior to leaving the UK, I am not in the least bit surprised. In fact, I am more amazed that everything has run so smoothly so far. Touch wood.
The rest of our monumental journey is being taken in warmer climes, so we deliberately arranged to have an extra day here in Toronto in order to dispatch our winter clothes back home rather than carry them with us for the next four weeks. Despite the fact that it cost us over £50, I feel it is going to be worth it. I have room for souvenirs now, and with all those warm layers, my case was dangerously near 20kg. According to our tickets, we have a weight allowance of 2 pieces, not weighing more than 32kg each, but I don’t trust this. I am sure some check-in clerk somewhere would dispute it.
When we came to Toronto in 2000, we discovered a delightful hot-dog vendor in the financial district, and we are determined to locate the same one this time. The weather is cold and windy with some brief sunshine, but with all our winter clothes on their way home, it feels bitter. We both have some idea where this food cart is to be found, and we track it down fairly easily. The same lady is serving, so we know we have found the right one. The food lives up to its memory and we hide in a door way to eat it, out of the wind. What sad individuals we are, getting excited about a hot dog!
From the guide book we have chosen to visit the Post Office Museum this afternoon, but it is such a long walk that we wish we hadn’t bothered. It is quite a pleasant place, mildly interesting, but really not worth the effort of reaching it. At least they do not charge an entrance fee.
As it is so cold, we walk straight to the Hippo Tours, hoping to find somewhere warm to sit down before we go off on the trip. We had the e-mail this morning changing the departure time from 16:00 to 17:00, so when we arrive at 15:55 we intend to just collect the tickets and have a drink in the bar while we wait. Their ‘office’ is just a desk in the entrance to East Side Mario’s Restaurant, and there are two people in deep discussion with the representative when we arrive. There appears to be a major mix-up. The other couple have tickets for 16:00 departure, but are told the trip is cancelled due to lack of numbers. We are immediately approached and asked it we would like to go early – at 16:00 – instead of 17:00. Confused? Neither the rep, guide or driver can understand why our time was changed, but it has all worked out well, and we go off in a large amphibious bus with just the four passengers (David & myself, and Mary-Ann & Gary), Kathryn the driver/captain and Natalie the guide.
The bus is modern and good looking, very spacious inside, but quite cold. I can’t remember half the places we pass from last time we came to Toronto, so it is very interesting to tour through the city. To reach the water we have to travel some way out of the city centre, but the entry into the canal is certainly dramatic. The water splashes right over the windscreen and we make an impressive splash. There isn’t that much to see in and around the Marina, a few Canada Geese (which should have flown south by now) and a large War ship which was moored there before they built the bridge and now can’t get back out again.
Miles is turning out to be quite an ice breaker and everybody makes such a fuss of him. When we agreed to take him with us, I was concerned that it would be embarrassing to take photographs of him everywhere, but without fail everyone we have met so far has loved him. He is quite a talking point, and many people have heard of the concept. Kathryn let him ‘talk’ on her radio, and Natalie gave him a badge ‘I rode the Hippo’. Before we left the UK, I was worried that his ears would get cold here in Canada, so my mum knitted him a bright red woolly hat. He also has a useful green rucksack that a previous ‘friend’ gave him.
At East Side Mario’s we share a table with Mary-Ann and Gary, who we get on with famously. The music is very loud and so are the other patrons, but we can just about make out that Mary-Ann and Gary come from New York, she’s a keen needle-worker and they and are also into travelling. When a group of 70-odd school children arrive, the noise level goes from loud to deafening. I am impressed with how the restaurant copes with such an influx of diners without compromising the service to other customers. For dinner we have Caesar Salad again, followed by Devil’s Kitchen pasta – a spicy chicken dish. It is served with a strange-looking chilli – shaped like a tomato. The waiter is astonished that I had eaten the whole chilli, and Mary-Ann is horrified. She doesn’t like spicy food, and I have to admit it was HOT!
Time for a glass or two of draught cider at the Elephant & Castle pub before the theatre. Outside is a street musician playing a fiddle. Over his head he has a brown paper bag with holes cut out for the eyes. Bizarre. David and I are still wearing our scruffy sightseeing clothes and we do feel rather dishevelled once we’re in the theatre. Unlike English theatregoers, the Canadians seem to like dressing up, and most men are wearing a suit and tie and the women are in evening wear. I feel the need to apologise to the usher for our attire. It’s a nice old theatre and we have really good seats. Good old Franco. We get chatting to the girls in front of us who are in from out-of-town and they have paid well over the odds for their tickets too. I feel better now.
The show is excellent. Although there isn’t much of a story, the music more than makes up for it. The actors all seem right for their characters and it is very clever the way they have managed to weave the plot around Abba’s songs. I am showing my age by knowing all the songs. There are some funny moments and the theme is based around a girl who lives on a Greek island with her mother. When she gets married she decides to invite three men who are all mentioned in her mother’s diary as possible candidates to be her father. Mayhem ensues and of course a little romance.
Outside in the rain a large limousine and a film crew are waiting – there must have been someone famous in the theatre tonight. We arrive at the hotel soaking wet to discover other theatregoers have taken rickshaws back. We walked.