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Thursday, 22 December 2011

The Irish Visit & Twin Birthday Bonanza

Once again, I question the sensibility of starting this blog. It was fine when I was between routines and had plenty of time to keep it updated but the last thing that I want to happen is for it to fall by the wayside (how tragic). This one will be a quick and quirky update and I hope to return to proper form after Christmas! A lot of what's been going on lately has been me settling into work and my new apartment but here's some of the other exciting things that happened when Tracy and Mike arrived in Toronto;

  • Trip to the chalet. When Gillian pointed out that we were nearly there, I asked why we hadn't seen the lake yet. 'No, no, Helena. That's the cottage at Lake Muskoka. We're going to the chalet at Collingwood.' Thanks for clearing that up Gill!! Either way, the house was fabulous and the only worry was how many people we would fit in the hot tub and how to make sure that the good scotch was kept hidden. We managed to celebrate the Plummer twins birthday in style even without the good Scotch!!
  • Party Play-Off. The game of the weekend. Basically, the aim of the game is to argue 2 topics against each other and hope that the topic you picked wins in the end. You start out with 32 topics and whittle it down until there is a winner declared. For example; one of the debates was whether it would be more surprising to find a wonderbra or a kitchen sink on Mars. You can see where hilarity would ensure with topics such as this. 
  • Blue Mountain. I had heard a lot about this place. Not being a fan of skiing or snow in general, I was delighted to see that there was not a scrap of the white stuff anywhere to be seen! We had a stroll around, I got a delicious savoury beavertail and a pint in Windy O Neills. Yes, Canada is another country where you cannot spit without it landing within 20 feet of an Irish bar. 
  • Footloose rave. This was a very random party that occurred out on the decking once I figured out the hot tub is not a good place for super super drunk people. I brought my teeny tiny MP3 player out and played Footloose at full blast (which wasn't very loud AT ALL). I'm still surprised that no one fell off the side of the decking in their crazy dancing.
  • The Burl. I did figure that any place someone as cool as Claire Petch was from was bound to be pretty special. I was wrong. It's very ordinary although we did have a lovely breakfast at Cora's Restaurant which was absolutely delicious. It was my first skillet in nearly 3 years. Happy out.

  • Niagara Falls. Obviously, the Falls is a must see for anyone heading to this part of the world. I get that. At first, I was a bit underwhelmed but after a while, it becomes quite mesmerising. I was disappointed that the Maid of the Mist wasn't running though. We did the 'Journey Behind the Falls' instead which is quite the waste of money - remember that if you ever find yourself there. We did go to visit Niagara on the Lake, which is the most quaint little place I have ever seen! Looking forward to heading back there in the summer. 
  • Steam Whistle Brewery. Yes, I went again. And it was SOOOOOO much better than the first time! We had the most amazing guide called Francis who was too much fun. There was only 6 of us on the tour and Francis was obviously trying to get us shit-faced. Which we didn't have a problem with at all. 
  • The Keg. What better way to celebrate an evening spent at a brewery than going to an almost swanky restaurant (it's in the very well to do financial district, there were tablecloths and everything!). I enjoyed a beautiful sirloin, medium rare with scallops. shrimp and a bearnaise sauce. It might well be the happiest I've been in Canada so far. 
Then it was time to say goodbye to my friends again and get myself ready to move into a new apartment and start my new job. They are whole blog posts of their own, believe me!

Moral of the Story - It's great having friends who will travel so far to see you. I can't wait for more people to come so that I can show them around my new home!!

Friday, 9 December 2011

A Great Canadian Weekend

It was time for me to attend my first SWAP Social. Having gate crashed many of the reciprocal Work In Ireland Socials back in Ireland (the infamous trip to Galway where I managed to turn it into a fake hen party for myself was particularly enjoyable), I had an idea of what to expect. Lots of foreigners getting together, partaking in local activities and usually a few civilised fizzy drinks. Before any of this happened, I was used for slave labour in the Plummer household to assist them in readying their garden for the winter and their Christmas decorations. I say slave labour, I actually quite enjoyed it. Not sure I would like to have to do it every winter but it was interesting enough. Really helped me to work up an appetite for the game and the few pints too!

We started off with a traditional Canadian past-time of a hockey game; Toronto Marlies vs Rochester Americans at Ricoh Coliseum. As the Marlies are in the AHL and not the NHL like the Maple Leafs, the tickets are much cheaper and they don't fight as often as the professional teams but you could still get the idea. It was pretty exciting, kind of like hurling but played on ice. Very fast paced; considering I can rarely walk without tripping, adding ice to the equation is a scary concept for me. There was such a varied crowd. sitting right behind us was a group of young boys who were a little too vocal throughout the game. It would have been annoying if they weren't so damn cute. There was a stag party with one of the members in a blue Morph suit. Why do these Morph suits appear so often when I'm around?? As with any sporting event, drink was too expensive to enjoy properly and for once, the long and frequent gaps during the game did not make me as angry as usual as we had plenty of time for bathroom breaks and to queue at the bar. Will definitely be attending more games while I'm here! We then did the usual and went for a few drinks, to an Irish bar obviously. The Brazen Head is a nice enough bar and they had good deals on the pitchers but it lacked a certain 'je ne sais quoi'. Got to meet some nice people though, always good to build up your contacts network in a new place!

That Sunday saw me stalking Santa Claus at the annual Santa Claus Parade. I did take issue with the fact that the parade was being held on the 20th of November, they Christmas hype just starts earlier and earlier every year. While the parade took a long time to get going and I did feel somewhat out of place without a child with me to justify me standing there, I managed to enjoy it. There was something quite magical when Santa was going by and the kids all around were so excited. Oh to be young and innocent again! I decided to head for a pint afterwards and hit McVeighs Pub, which was where Gillian had advised me would be the closest thing that I would find to Fitzgeralds at home. I had already given up on finding a replacement but a close imitation would do me! It wasn't bad and I reckon when the homesickness really hits, it will be a good place to visit!

Moral of the Story - take advantage of local Canadian activities. It may surprise you how much fun they can be!