Thursday, August 06, 2009

Report from Toronto

It's Friday morning, and we are in Toronto being tourists and not working a bit. Yesterday morning we packed up Mary's Corolla and headed north from Rochester to about the lake (Ontario), which is not far, and then turned west, to travel along the Lake Ontario State Parkway, heading for the crossing into Canada at Niagara. At about the halfway point, we stopped to see our friend Susan Thomas, who has a lakeside cottage and happened to be there for a couple of weeks. As we arrived, she was out tending her marvelous flower gardens. She has been telling us about her cottage for as long as we've known her; it was owned by her father and she began coming there as a child. Now we know why she calls it "heaven."

The drive along the lake, sometimes a mile or two inland, sometimes not, was otherwise through well tended vegetable farms and little villages. At one point we stopped at a roadside stand and bought some cherries to go along with the PB&Js, apples and nectarines we had packed for lunch. We kept driving as we ate that lunch.

About 1PM we arrived in Niagara, NY, on the US side of the falls. The town is a rundown version of Gatlinburg, which may be a bit hard on Gatlinburg, it's so run down. But the national park along the gorge is well kept, and the Maid of the Mist boat ride is simply spectacular and very well run. We took the trip up stream, passed the American falls and then straight into the crook of the Canadian or Horseshoe Falls. This is something not to be missed. While we were driving to Niagara, Mary explained the difference between the "beautiful" and the "sublime," according to the best English teacher tradition. The beautiful is something to which one can relate, even the very beautiful, but the sublime has an aspect of transcendence that is apart from you. The falls were sublime.

From Niagara, we crossed into Canada and took the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW), a respectable interstate-like highway, around the north side of Lake Ontario to Toronto, about an hour's drive. We encountered a good bit of traffic as we approached the city, but finally found our way off the expressway system into a neighborhood near the center city area where we found our home for two nights, Au Petit Paris Bed & Breakfast, a simply delightful place to stay. We arrived with plenty of daylight left, and explored the downtown area with Mary leading the way.

Even with her boot (helping her right leg heal from her stress fracture), Mary is a prodigious city walker, a gift we first discovered years ago when we visited her in Barcelona. No distance is too far to walk, if it is in an interesting and engaging city. Toronto is marvelous and a complete surprise to me. (My expectations were not all that high. Shame on me.) I enjoy just looking at people walking by, and the diversity of the people we saw is greater than any place I have ever been. We found our way to what the owner of our B&B said is the best vegan restaurant in the city, Fressen Vegetarian, and were not, repeat, not disappointed. The food is so good there, that, for some reason, they don't have a sign, and it took us awhile to find the place. Were it not for a kind lady who saw our confused expressions as we looked around and who asked whether she could help us, we would not have found it. Of course the lady knew the restaurant we were looking for and set us on the right path, warning us about there being no sign. (More to report later, and maybe I'll have time to post some photos. But Carol and Mary are insisting that we get going.)

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