The News is, There is no News

(November 12th 2010)

Not much to add today. Took a very lazy morning doing a little packing and then took a cab to the Eaton Centre for a bit of shopping and lunch. I bought 3 hats (like I need more) and Amanda bought some mittens.

Cab back to the hotel then, and we did some proper packing getting ready for the early start in the morning (we have to be at the airport at 6:15am).

The weather has turned colder this evening so we took a stroll so Amanda could field test her mittens and the result is they’re very warm (bet you’re glad you knew that).

One last meal in Gretsky’s restaurant (gonna miss that place) the back to watch a movie in our room and an early night.

See you in the UK, hope you enjoyed the blog as much as we enjoyed doing it

Things I forgot

1. I saw the actress who played Sun in ‘Lost’ on our first day in Vancouver. Got giddy with excitement and almost fell off the kerb.
2. I woke up at about 2am on the train one night between Jasper and Toronto. We were somewhere in Saskatchewan and I opened the window blinds and saw the most amazing sky I have ever seen. More stars than I knew existed and brighter than I thought possible. I thought the skies in New Zealand were amazing when we were in the Bay of Islands but this blows that out of the water.
3. When you watch the hockey on tv you don’t see what goes on while the adverts are on (obviously). A team of young athletic and in some cases very nice looking people come out and scrape the ice, collecting the loose surface. In between periods it was even better watching the two zambonis resurface the ice. Oh yeah the game is pretty good too.
4. The mascot of the Toronto Raptors basketball team is incredibly funny and had me, Amanda and especially the woman sat next to us in stitches. Worth seeing if he’s on YouTube somewhere. Try this

If I think of more I’ll add to the list

More of Toronto

(November 11th 2010)

The game last night was a lot of fun, but I have to admit that I thought at one point we’d have to leave before it even began. When we arrived and located our seats, we walked into the arena and Amanda had a vertigo attack. We were fairly high up but the killer was how steep the seating was. Once she was in her seat she couldn’t move, look anywhere other than the court and I was praying that nobody would want her to move (fat chance). We grabbed a couple of sandwiches and drinks on the way in but the seats are really crammed in and it was a juggling competition trying to manage my coat, my delicious pulled pork sandwich and my root beer. I’m still amazed I ended up with a clean shirt at the end of the night.

The game was good even though the Raptors lost (although we discovered that losing isn’t very unusual for this team). After it finished we grabbed a cab back to the hotel and Amanda decided to have an affair….actually she had three affairs in just over an hour. In case you’re wondering, and affair, is a pomegranate martini and she seemed to enjoy them rather too much. I stuck with a lovely Laphroiag which Amanda maintains smells like some sort of medicine, so I drink it for medicinal purposes only .

This morning we got up and went downstairs for breakfast. As much as I love this hotel, breakfast is crap. A buffet-style, feed yourself thing which ended up costing us C$36 for a cup of tea, a bit of granola and yoghurt and a croissant. I can safely say it’s the first and only time we’ll be having breakfast here.

We decided to catch the hop-on-hop-off bus down to the Distillery District for a nose around. We’re going there again tonight but the shops will probably be closed by then so we were going to spend a hour looking around. As it was we looked around some galleries saw some stunning photos and chatted to the photographer, looked around some nice little shops then decided that we’d have some lunch in the microbrewery there. The problem was that the beer was far too nice to have just one pint (I had two) and the food was big enough that after eating we just wanted to go back to the hotel and sleep it off. Some might think this is a wasted day, I prefer to think of it as a relaxing, recovery day 🙂 I did manage to get some nice photos too so wasn’t a wasted day. If I get one photo I’m pleased with per day, my day is good.

Getting ready to eat and drink more now. I need bigger clothes.

Travels around Toronto

(November 10th 2010)

We had an lovely long lazy morning getting up and ended up catching the tour bus around 11am. The plan was to use it to get to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) but as we kinda missed breakfast, by the time we got close we were both starving to dived into a pub nearby called the Village Idiot Pub. A pint of Alexander Keiths for me and strawberry beer for Amanda was helped down by some fish & chips (me) and chicken pesto linguine (her). I wasn’t going to have something as British as fish&chips here but I saw someone else having it and it looked lovely (it was).

After that we borrowed a wheelchair from the gallery, paid the huge entrance fee ($40 almost for the two of us. Now the tories are in it’ll be like that to get in the Tate soon enough) and went in. The gallery is huge and we didn’t see everything but it was really rather good. It houses contemporary art as well as older stuff and also has a Henry Moore exhibit. Altogether pretty good.

We grabbed the bus back to the hotel to get ready for the basketball game tonight. It’s too far for Amanda to walk and the traffic is horrendous so I’m hoping it calms down soon so we can grab a cab to the Air Canada Centre in time for the game.

Finally in Toronto

(November 9th 2010)

We arrived in Toronto on time at around 9:30am. Grabbed a taxi and got to the hotel to drop our bags off and head out into town. I’d forgotten that I’d had a moment of sensible thinking in advising the hotel that we’d be arriving early so that when we arrived the room was ready (yay) and so we went up to our plush room and jumped on the bed, checked out the tv channels and then left again to go explore.

We walked down to towards the CN Tower and saw the bus stop for the hop-on-hop-off tourist bus. We grabbed a couple of tickets and went upstairs a double decker London Routemaster bus to enjoy the tour. After about 5 minutes I felt like I’d had an accident. In fact it was due to the seats being wet (downside of open top buses) so we went down stairs.

We decided to get off at Lawrence Market which is Torontos version of Borough Market and altogether a must see for anyone who enjoys food. Anyone who has seen me or Amanda knows we like food, so this was a nice place to while away an hour. We had a sandwich and a mosey around and had a nice time.

Next stop was the Eaton Center as they have an Apple Store. OK I do have a habit of visiting Apple Stores wherever I go but also I wanted a new battery for my MacBook Pro. As it turned out, they didn’t have a battery for my MBP as it’s very old (18 months) so we left empty handed but we still had a nice wander around the shops including a huge visit to Sears because we couldn’t find the bloody exit. We saw 4 floors of stuff we had no intention of buying and experienced the joys of waiting for a very slow lift and then wondering which floor to get out of in order to get the hell out of it. Thankfully Amanda was in a wheelchair which meant that only one of us was completely knackered at the end of the excursion.

Back on the bus, we went on the rest of the tour until we got back to the nearest stop to our hotel. Popped into a store to buy milk for coffee (and chocolate milk as I love it) and then went back to the hotel to refresh ready for some food.

When in Toronto, and being located where we are, there is ONE PLACE TO EAT. Gretsky’s Restaurant is about 50 yds away and therefore is a ‘must visit’. Hockey on the tv, icy cold beer and Wayne’s grannies special recipe meatloaf. What’s not to love? We went there 5 years ago and loved it so had to go back and i have tot say that it was just as good. Luckily for you I have spell check as I’m typing this slightly drunk after several pints of Rickards Red (look it up, it’s lush).

Now back to the hotel, and watch the last period of the hockey on the tv then bed 🙂

2nd Leg. Jasper to Toronto Part 3

(November 8th 2010)

Turns out this is a long old train journey. I hear some geordie accent in my head a la Big Brother saying things like “Day2. Ian & Amanda decide to go down to the observation car”. I may be going slightly mad.

We just did a Canadian trivia quiz. I thought we’d be rubbish being as all the other people are actual genuine Canadian, but as Mark Pritchard will testify, I do love a way of showing off my ridiculous amount of general trivia crap in my head. We had 28 out of 32 which ain’t too shabby. We stopped at a tiny place called Hornepayne where new drivers got on and we met their wives at dinner. Then we had wine tasting in the evening (very civilised). Then bed.

Short one today. Arriving in Toronto in the morning… yay.

2nd Leg. Jasper to Toronto Part 2

(November 7th 2010)

We woke (or in Amanda’s case woke AGAIN) to big big skies and a very flat landscape. We’d been warned about the prairies being a bit dull but to be honest as it’s so new to us the novelty hasn’t worn off yet. One of the people working on the train said that if you stand on a tuna can in Saskatoon you can see Winnipeg in the distance. It’s that flat. Did I mention it’s flat?

I did spot a deer earlier running across a field and I’m still hoping to get a glimpse of beaver (fnar fnar). Amanda is completely fed up at this point (3:40pm) so the novelty has worn off for her BIG TIME. I’m going to need my earplugs AND noise cancelling headphones and promise never to book a train trip ever again, several times over. The problem is that I find the seats in the observation car uncomfortable and she finds then just right. However the seats in the cabin, I find are fine but she hates them. You see the issue right? We sit for so long in the observation car and I want to move. I offer to go back by myself but Amanda wants to come with me. Then complains that the seats are horrible and causing her legs pain. I offer to go back up but it seems I have to suffer a little longer first.

We stop at Winnipeg later (supposedly at 8:30pm) for about 3 hours. Not sure what we can do in those 3 hours but I thought it would be sensible to have an early sitting for lunch and dinner so at least we have options. However, the fly in that particular ointment is that we seem to be quite early for Winnipeg so dinner will be around 5pm rather than 6pm which was early enough as it was. The plus side (says mr glass half full) is that we should arrive in Winnipeg earlier so that we might actually do something there. Who knows? Watch this space.

So far I have read my book, written some of this, played with my photos, watched 2 episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm and it’s not even the end of day 1 yet. Hope I don’t run out of stuff to do. I might have to end up talking to someone.

2ns Leg. Jasper to Toronto Part 1

(November 6th 2010)

We woke up on our last morning in Jasper to a real Christmas feel, snow on the ground, elk on the lawn and mountains covered in fresh snow. I asked myself why are we leaving to spend 3 nights on a train? The answer is …. I don’t know, I blame Ian LOL. The rest of the morning was spent packing and eating, we had a gorgeous hikers breakfast of yoghurt, granola, fruit and zucchini bread to set up us for the long day of waiting for the train. Once packed we checked out, settled the bill (never a high point), and took up residence by the fire to read some time away. A couple of hours passed reading and making fun of the locals who were having a ‘Christmas in November’ over the weekend. I saw loads of naff homemade garlands that will never last until christmas but they all seemed to be loving it. We decided to have a light lunch of dips and salmon and tasted the most amazing smoked maple syrup salmon. We asked the waitress how it was done and she asked for our e-mail address so she could send us the recipe. How cool is that. Anyway we couldn’t put off the inevitable any longer and called for a cab to take us to the train station heavy hearted to be leaving such a peaceful place. *

We arrived at Jasper train station and were told that the train is on time (HA). So we dropped off our luggage and headed into town for a short while. Amanda headed straight for the year-round Christmas shop to buy tat for the tree (she just told me she doesn’t buy tat, so it must be good stuff as it’s made in Canada rather than the usual tat made in China). After that excursion we went back to the station and lo and behold, the train is now about an hour late. Thankfully they had college football on the tv to keep me entertained, sadly the guy behind the counter seemed to enjoy changing channels more often that I change my mind about what to write on here. I was ready to snatch it out of his hand and make him eat it, but then I saw him and I decided that he could watch whatever he wanted.

The train finally turned up and we boarded. We are now in Car 220 Cabin A. It’s still very small (compact and bijou darling) and worse…it’s facing the wrong way. I have had ear pain since boarding as Amanda isn’t happy that the cabin is going backwards. I think perhaps she should sleep in the corridor where she can face any way she likes but apparently that ain’t gonna happen.

We had another champagne reception and then our evening meal (very nice) along with half a bottle of wine hoping that it would make Amanda sleep (it didn’t). Then off to the land of Nod (for me anyway). I woke at 2am and looked out of the window. No light pollution and big skies means more stars than I have even seen in my life. Quite spectacular and worth the early wake up.

* written by Amanda

The Rain Finally Caught Up With Us

(November 5th 2010)

Last night we had a tiny bit too much to drink (G&T, 1/2 bottle of wine and 2 double whiskeys in my case) so we took our time getting up this morning. A later breakfast than normal, very filling and very nice, then we decided to take a stroll. The lake in front of the hotel has a path around it, it’s pretty flat and has benches to rest along the way. Perfect for Amanda. It is however 2.2 miles which is a rather long way considering how little she walks these days. We set off and took rests as we went. We saw loads of squirrels all of which were remarkably unafraid of us and sat there watching us as they ate or buried nuts and the like. Cute little buggers. The pace got slower and slower as we got further around the circuit and we took plenty of rest stops. The weather stayed nice and cool and the rain held off apart from a few spits and spots. We passed the cabin where the Queen and Price Phillip stayed a few years ago. It looks gorgeous and I must check out how much it is to stay there just so I can choke on my coffee.

We finally made it as the rain started coming down heavier. It was a big achievement and we both went to the bar for a drink and something to eat. I should say that the hotel is having a ‘Christmas in November’ thing starting today and the hotel is fully booked over the weekend. The people have been arriving all day and we have retreated upstairs to watch a movie and read and generally stay out of the way of these strange people wearing name badges.

We leave tomorrow and head back to the train which is where we will be for the next few days. No internet so no updates but I might write stuff and upload when we get to Toronto. We arrive on Tuesday morning so I’m hoping Amanda gets to sleep on the train otherwise I might have to wear my earplugs the entire journey (or my new noise reducing headphones). We’ll stock up on supplies for the train journey in the morning in Jasper and the train leaves at 5:30pm.

See you on the other side of Canada.

More Apologies

(November 4th 2010)

A lazy, slow wake up in our giant room, then shower and breakfast (very nice indeed, granola coated pancakes with fresh fruit). Now wondering what to do today we wandered to the concierge desk and asked what would be recommended. A very nice gentleman called Tim who is client services manager suggested a few things but this being ‘notsummerbutnotyetwintereither season’ the number of things on offer was relatively slim which we expected. We asked about going into town and the easiest way of getting there, and Tim offered to take us himself then we could get a taxi back or if he was free he might be able to come collect us too. Again great customer service. We went upstairs to grab some things and when we came down he was ready to go. Oh, no shabby little minivan for us, oh no. We had the BMW X5 and Tim suggested if weren’t in a hurry we could swing by Maligne canyon which was quite a sight. Of course we said that if he had the time we’d be happy to see it. A full 2 hour guided tour of the general area followed with Tim being our tour guide, then finally dropping us off in Jasper along with his business card and the instructions to call him when we’re ready to be collected.

We had lunch and a potter around the small town. This being ‘notsummerbutnotyetwintereither season’ (as I mentioned) quite a bit of the town is shut. Many of the small stores and restaurants shut until things get busy again in the ‘proper’ winter. However we had a nice stroll until Amanda had had enough walking and it was time to go back. I called Tim and sure enough inside 10 minutes he was there to collect us. I gave him a small token of gratitude and he seemed genuinely embarrassed to take it. I hope that was because he felt they were still making up for the problems we’d had the previous day rather than he was embarrassed at the small amount of money.

When we got back to the room we had cheese and biscuits on a tray ready for us with another Happy Anniversary note from the hotel. It’s getting embarrassing now. We’re British dammit a simple sorry and a handshake is all we need. The meal tonight will be the last ‘sorry’ I hope and we can all move on and enjoy the rest of the stay in this beautiful place.