Oh, Canada!

On September 22nd, my girlfriend (The Pop Culture Gangsteress) and I headed for Toronto to go watch the Boston Red Sox play the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Center.  Back in May when we bought these tickets, we thought that this series of games was going to be an important one.  The Red Sox were in first place and the Jays were predicted to be contenders for the division championships.  This was the last away series of the year and we figured it could be a division-clinching set of games.

Five months later, things had taken an ugly turn, and the series turned into a battle to stay out of third place.  But, being dutiful Red Sox fans and always up for a road trip, we embarked on our journey anyway, determined to make the best of it.

Outside_rogersWe spent the night in Syracuse and then moved onto Buffalo, NY, where we tried the original buffalo wings at the Anchor Bar.  We crossed the border into Canada via the Peace Bridge in Buffalo, with a laughable border patrol effort.  We didn’t even have to show our passports – we told them we were going to the baseball game and they let us through.  Apparently its a good thing terrorists aren’t baseball fans.

Our first impression of Toronto is that traffic SUCKS there.  I mean, really sucks.  We were driving into the city in the very early afternoon on a Saturday and it felt like Friday rush hour in Boston.   Every time we looked out on the highway, we saw some traffic virtually stopped in some direction.  Perhaps they are trying to encourage mass transit or bicycling by not improving things.

Inside_rogersOnce in the city, we managed to wind our way to the hotel (note to mapmakers: if a street isn’t really a street, but a pedestrian walkway, for the love of god, please mark it as such!), which was a great Holiday Inn just a short walk from the stadium.

The Rogers Centre was made world-famous by its retractable roof, and inside it, the stadium reflects the landscape of the city around it.  It is impeccably clean and modern, with clean lines and sleek touches everywhere.  It is the opposite of the newer stadiums which are usually retro in their design, tying into the the rehabilitated areas of the city they usually inhabit (such as Baltimore’s Camden Yards and Denver’s Coors Field) with lots of brick, exposed metal beams and natural landscaping, matching the converted old industrial buildings that surround those parks.  In contrast, the area surrounding the Rogers Centre is clean and sleek with lots of concrete and the futuristic CN Tower standing tall next to it.

I won’t even get into the games – the Sox lost both games we saw, one by an embarrassingly large number of runs.  We took advantage of the lack of pressure to see the games in order to see more of the city.  We had the opportunity to see a comedy show, a major attraction in the city thanks to some top-notch comedy clubs.  Cn_tower

We also met up with a colleague of mine who lives in the city and was kind enough to show us around Chinatown and Kensington Market.  Chinatowns are always interesting, especially with an experienced guide and Kensington Market was the perfect little funky neighborhood that makes cities unique, with independent stores selling unique wares such as fresh whole spices, independent music, and specialty cuisines.

For the second time, I tried Dim Sum.  This was my attempt at really trying to like it, but unfortunately, while I LOVE a lot of Chinese food, I’m not crazy about the steamed texture that the dumplings take on.  I can say I’ve honestly tried it, gave it a true try, but alas, I shall not be participating again by my own free will.

Glass_floor_2We also traveled to the top of the CN Tower, the tallest structure in the world (but not the tallest building… whatever), which was awesome.  In one of the most clever ideas I’ve ever seen, they have a "glass floor" which allows you to look straight down underneath you.

  On the trip back, we enjoyed two pleasurable stops at Niagara area wineries, picking up some excellent ice wines while there.  Then we spent a few hours at Niagara Falls, a natural phenomenon that no photo can do justice.   I went about 15 years ago, but unfortunately a malfunctioning camera left me with a bunch of half photo frames.  This time I got a chance to take some dramatic photos from the sidewalk and from the Maid of the Mist. Niagara_falls

The ride home was a long one, broken up with a stop in Syracuse again for some Dinosaur Barbecue, which was worth the hassle of getting there.  We got home late, but it was a great trip with a lot of great memories – we plan on going next year.  You know, when the Sox clinch the pennant next year….