Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Le Tour De Canada - Part One

It's been an interesting summer. Training took a bad hit after the Gulf Coast 70.3 as I tried to fix my neck issues, re-introduce myself to my children and husband, open a new business, continue to grieve the loss of my father, and on and on and on. My impending trip to Canada loomed ahead and panicked me as the closer it came the less I seemed to be doing to prepare for it. I struggled with the idea of pulling out of the trip all-together, or going with the sole intent to vacation and not race, or just winging it and seeing what happened. I decided on the latter. The trip was mostly paid for and if nothing else I would enjoy the scenery and the company.

Crowe, Jay, Thunderbird
I've always wanted to travel internationally but have never had many opportunities, so I was excited to make the most of it and enjoy the experience of something new. The Fabulous Four (Jay, Crowe, Thunderbird, and myself) set out on Tuesday morning from the New Orleans airport and embarked on a long day of flight delays, layovers, and laughs until we finally made our arrival in Buffalo, NY where we picked up a rental GMC Acadia. It was the first lucky turn of events as Jay got a free upgrade on the reserved van and turned it into a sweet and loaded SUV.

Color-Coded Race Itinerary
Our first stop was the Duty Free store before crossing into Canada. I was unable to find the smoked salmon I had been instructed to purchase, so I settled for a bottle of Captain Morgan. I was feeling giddy about the border crossing (albeit a little nervous as Coach had given specific instructions to not talk to the agents unless spoken to and not to press our luck). I really wanted a stamp for my new passport book but decided it wasn't worth the possible cavity search if my determination appeared to look aggressive. We managed to drive through customs unscathed, with Jay taking the lead on answering the questions. We managed to keep Thunderbird quiet and not allow him to reply to the border agent's inquiry of "are there any weapons in the vehicle" with "only these big guns" as he flexed his biceps. We hurried through the crossing before he got us all get detained.

Our first night was spent in a honeymoon suite for four (?) in a Hilton in Niagara Falls, Canada. The suite came complete with a large clear glass window in one of the bedrooms that gave a romantic view into the large whirlpool tub in the bathroom...and which also had a fake fireplace that turned on its magical no-heat flames via a remote control. It was a bride's dream.

A tub built for... three???
We adapted to our accommodations as creatively as we could. Thunderbird managed not to impale himself on the springs of the pull out sleeper sofa (aka the trampoline), and we became a very close-knit "family". A few analogies were made to the Mansons, but we tried to not dwell on it.

Breanna and Coach
Wednesday began early, but not early enough to get in the 8 mile training run we reported that we did. In place of morning exercise we elected to try Tim Horton's for coffee and Timbits (Canada's version of donut holes). When we stepped off of our elevator we were surprised to see Coach Canada who had driven in to join us on our day's adventures.  She was with her friend Breanna whom she met at her training camp in Hawaii and I think Breanna was slightly horrified by our pre-race diet, but it didn't deter us from eating.

Tim Hornton's Visit #1
Canadian Tour Guide
We hurried off to catch the Maid of the Mist boat tour of Niagara Falls and Breanna headed home. Niagara Falls was incredible. We got soaked to the bone as the boat floated us right into the base of the falls. The power of the water was intense and I was amazed by both the beauty and the potential for carnage it could produce. My respect for the grand force of nature, specifically water, was reinforced.

Niagara Falls

The Fabulous Four

Non- Water-Proof Mascara

Coach headed on to her parent's home in Brampton and we headed back to check out of our honeymoon suite. We took one last look at the falls from another angle and then headed towards Brampton to meet the FitBird Family Matriarch's matriarch. We thought we were going to Brampton, but we missed our exit and overshot the city by, well, by Toronto. Eventually, after much berating by Coach on our inability to drive, follow directions, and use mapquest, we managed to navigate to her childhood home where we were greeted by a feast a la Solange, Anne's mamam.  Crab salad on croissants, Waldorf salad, Canadian cheeses and crackers, cold Canadian Molsen beer, fresh Ontario peaches and a plate of cookies for dessert. It was all delicious and was served in crystal bowls just for us. We quickly unloaded our suitcases and changed clothes, but didn't have time to rest as Coach had us on a tight touring schedule.

A close-up view of the falls

A Canadian Crowe
Once Coach took over the driving things seemed to go a bit smoother. We headed into Toronto and were treated to a driving tour of downtown while we looked for parking. We dropped off the vehicle and scampered out on foot, trying to keep up with our tour guide, as she sped walked us to the CN Tower to make our dinner reservation. We had been bombarded as a team in the weeks leading up to this trip with useless Canadian trivia, so we didn't need a tour guide to tell us the tower was 1815 feet (550 meters) tall. We also already knew that the beaver, maple leaf, and Queen Elizabeth II were on much of the currency; how many career goals Wayne Gretzky scored (1062); and various other tidbits of information. What we didn't know were important things like whether you could make a right on red, what a flashing green light meant, and that you couldn't drink in public here.

The CN Tower
We were seated at a window view table in the 360 Degree Restaurant and immediately were educated by Coach on the buildings in our view as they began to rotate away. We had a great waiter who helped us choose a nice bottle of wine and translate some of the items on the menu. I decided to live large and try things I was not accustomed to eating such as smoked salmon, mackerel, and trout. I ordered an amuse bouche of pea and pecorini crustini, an appetizer of rabbit, duck, salami, and cheeses, and a main dish of prime rib with rosemary bread pudding. The star of the meal was the dessert course. Not only was the presentation beautiful but the flavor was incredible.

Rhubard Tart with Strawberry Sorbet
Sour Cherry and Peach Cobbler

Chocolate Something Yummy
Butter Tart with Maple Sugar Ice-cream
After our meal we went and laid on the Glass Floor which gave the feeling of walking on air as you overlooked the city below. We then made our way to the top of the needle in the tower and watched the cars scurry around below us like ants that had been stirred up by a storm.

It was past time for the pre-planned Blue Jay's game so we headed over to the ballpark to buy tickets. The local scalpers tried to sell us some mediocre seats for $65 but we were offered a group of five tickets for free that were right behind the Jay's dugout and just to the right of homeplate! Thanks Booster Juice! Jay loved watching the game, Thunderbird was enthralled with the engineering of the moving roof, Crowe and Coach spent their time shopping for ballcaps, and I sampled the local beer. Once again, Jay's "luck" as we were beginning to refer to it, had helped the Blue Jay's break their losing streak!

After the game we headed over to The Loose Moose, a downtown pub, and had a pitcher of local beer. The tendency these days seems for people to gather together and then to focus on their individual iPhones or the television and not to communicate with each other so we decided to force conversation by presenting controversial questions that had to be answered and defended. The gamut of discussion ranged from "pro choice vs pro life" to "bury me or cremate me" to "would you travel to the moon if given the chance". Needless to say we all know each other better. And just to make it clear - all of us have bad parents except for Thunderbird.

Jay's luck continued as he was hit on, offered free samples of things, and basically became a magnet of sorts for Canadians in general. What a Lucky Dog!

Once we returned home Jay's luck ended as he was cast off to the basement to sleep while the rest of us got to take over the house as Anne had sent her parents to her brother's home for the evening.

To Be Continued....

1 comment:

  1. Glad you finally experienced Timmy's, Molson and Rhubarb! Now if you just learn to skate and shoot a puck you can become an honourary Canadian!