*note before I start, I am going to be talking about restaurants etc. in their own post as talking about and reviewing my experience at places can take up a lot of words and is probably better placed in its own section. There should appear a “Toronto food” post at some point with more in-depth commentary on my experiences at each place from the food on offer to the service provided and a rough price estimate and rating out of 5.
Last Tuesday (28th) my mum flew into Toronto so we could begin our mother-daughter road trip together; I decided I would surprise her at the airport so I told her a taxi driver would meet her after customs, proud of my unquestionable master trickery. I hopped on a Greyhound bus (my 3rd of the week) and headed to the airport, changing to my 4th greyhound at the main Toronto terminal. Feeling quite touristy, I oohed and ahhed at ever noticeable landmark as I passed them in the bus, which meant I oohed at the CN tower as there isn’t really much by way of widely identifiable architecture in Toronto, no castles or fancy parliament buildings just lots of trees and tall office blocks. Actually, I lie here, there is one castle in Toronto, Casa Loma, the man who paid for its construction did so for his wife, sweet really, but, unfortunately, his wife died before it was completed, and the process bankrupted him meaning he had to sell it off to the state- not quite your fairy tale story.
Back to MY story, I arrived at the airport and was slightly concerned to discover I was at terminal 1. My mum’s flight was coming into terminal 3 you see and I had this horrible vision of missing her and leaving my mum stranded in a Canadian airport. As it happens, there is a little train that takes you between terminals and I arrived at the arrivals doors around 10 minutes after my mum’s flight was due, perfect timing. My vision now changed to a dramatic one of the automatic double doors flying open to reveal my mum who then pole vaults the barrier, desperate to hug her long-lost daughter and shower her in presents and money…. I wish. In reality, mum’s flight was delayed by around 40 minutes and I had to stand around for over an hour and a half, jumping up every time those stupid double doors opened so I wouldn’t miss her. That said, when mum finally did walk through the doors and walked completely away from my waving self too I might add (I think its time to get your eyes tested mum :P) I was very happy to see her, and we shared a warm embrace over the barrier before she moved around it and we could hop on a train to downtown. I’d not seen anyone I know well in over two months and hadn’t quite realised how much I was missing everyone until I saw my mum, I didn’t cry but my eyes sure were a little damp!
We found ourselves a Japanese restaurant to eat a main meal before our greyhound back to Peterborough, Mum wanted to see the place I had been working all summer and meet Catherine my Canada mum. The plate of food we ate was more well-travelled than either of us, the fish had come from places like British Colombia and Indonesia, it was tasty but we both agreed we’d not eat food with so many air miles attached to it for the rest of our trip if possible. I’m a zoologist, I want to REDUCE my carbon footprint! The bus journey back to Peterborough was uneventful, one plus of travelling as a pair is not having to sit next to a stranger with questionable body odour or being unwillingly drawn into a conversation with a hypochondriac about their many maladies. Catherine kindly met us at the coach station and drove us back to hers and mum and I bedded down in our twin beds for a much-needed sleep!
The following day I set about showing mum as much of my 2 months in Peterborough as possible and was relatively successful. We walked into the downtown area and perused the local Wednesday farmers market (I had been to the Saturday equivalent but couldn’t arrange for the days to be shifted so had to make do with the Wednesday one :P). My high was saying hi to a 3-month-old German Shepherd puppy but I think mum appreciated the fresh produce as well 😀 We visited a microgreens stand run by a Vegan café and decided to have our lunch there so wandered in the off in the right direction, stopping occasionally to look at more interesting varieties of veg (they have yellow courgettes?!) The food there was great and mum has now decided she wants to investigate growing sweet potatoes in her allotment (not sure our climate suits them but we’ll see) in an attempt to replicate our sweet potato pasta.
I had been to a couple of music shows in the millennium park making that the next stop of our whistle-stop tour of Peterborough, we walked across the river past the Quaker oats factory (that reference is for you and your breakfast’s dad) and down, along the river and through the suburb. I think mum was quite taken with the quirky houses and their large lots and I know she enjoyed watching the senior ladies’ baseball tournament we stopped off at on our return loop (you could play in it if you moved here you know mum).
We’d already done well over our 10,000 steps for the day by this point and were both relieved that the next portion of our travels would be by bus, the Trent Express bus to the University to be precise. I discovered pretty fast when I got here that it was worth waiting the extra 10 minutes in the morning to get the express service from the bus station rather than hopping straight onto the number 1 public bus. The number 1 takes 40 minutes to get to the university library and goes down what feels like every residential street conceivable on the way there making it a bit of a nauseating ride on a hot and humid day (so every day here). The express, however, is, well, an express service and takes only 20 minutes to drop you off at the library and there is also an East bank service running in the morning that drops me off right outside the DNA building where I was working- three cheers for the express buses!!! Mum and I hopped off the bus when it got to the library and after a short stop to buy mum some plasters (or band-aids as they call them here) for her feet that were obviously unused to the furious pace I set around Peterborough, we headed off across the bridge to the east side of campus where I had been working. I had previously facetimed mum while walking across this bridge, well, I had attempted to facetime her but the wind had made that nigh on impossible, a fact mum could now fully appreciate walking across the bridge herself.
Ashley had very kindly offered to give mum a tour of the offices and lab where I had been working through July meaning mum got the VIP treatment with all the best tidbits of information about the projects going on. It also meant that meant mum got to meet Brent and I could increase my total contact with my supposed supervisor to 15 minutes for the whole summer 😛 Not that I’m bitter or anything, Ashley has been a wonderful mentor this summer and it was particularly nice to be taken under the wing of a successful female scientist, not enough of those going around and I’m lucky to also have a brilliant female personal tutor back in the UK. The science field has historically been dominated by men which has led to a male-focused investigation of behaviour and physiology, its no coincidence that the major theories around human evolution focus on male movement and adaptation and that research into female sexual ornamentation has only just begun to gain momentum as more female scientist are beginning to emerge. The more young women and girls see women having successful STEM careers, the more they will be able to visualise themselves in those positions.
“you can’t be what you can’t see”
– Marian Wright Edelman
Feminist rant over, back to the tour. We went down to the labs after chatting briefly to Brent about the MNR and how appreciated my work has been this summer * insert proud grin here*. It was pretty cool showing mum where I’d been working on the stable isotope work, mum got to see that it was indeed a proper lab I had been working in and I got to explain some of my work and show her the equipment etc. with Ashley’s helpful input. We also had a bit of a chat about hunting in Canada and about the potential for me to come back for some more field work potentially next year so I can see the leaves turn and track wolves in the snow (I am typing this quite off hand but OMG I WANNA COME BACK SO MUCH). After some goodbyes and tentative “see you next year”s, mum and I headed back to the bus stop and made our way back to Catherine’s to pit stop before going out for dinner.
The meal out was great, we decided on Mexican at a nice place called La Hacienda on Catherine’s suggestion. I was a little bit nervous about both my mum and my Canada mum being together, what if they didn’t like each other? But, the two of them got on well and the similarities between them seemed more apparent than ever as they sat across the table from me. My mum thanked Catherine for looking out for me and Catherine sang my praises (thanks Catherine 🙂 ). I felt very blessed sat at that table. ❤ ❤ One thing I wasn’t too keen on though was when they decided to team up- both found it rather amusing to tease me for bringing too many clothes (I didn’t know what sort of weather I’d be facing)!
Mum and I took a slow morning the next day so we could get a lunchtime greyhound bus back to Toronto, a nice change from the early starts I’d become accustomed to over the summer. Once arrived, it became apparent that we were both rather hungry so we decided to grab some lunch before heading to our Airbnb- there are a lot of Asian places near the coach station so we pulled our suitcases down a short set of stairs to a nice looking Pho Vietnamese place. Apart from some confusion about how to order food, I’ve never been into a place where they leave you the bill and you fill it out with your order, everything went smoothly and we enjoyed some yummy grub. Next up came getting a taxi which wasn’t as simple as the movies make it out to be, maybe things will go more smoothly in NYC with those iconic yellow cabs?
When we had finally made our way through the rush hour traffic across town to our little Airbnb place (just a room in a bungalow of this leg), I for one was looking forward to collapsing in bed and not emerging for several years. Instead, I walked into the property to discover a dog, hooray! Chloe is a new acquisition of Herve and Lela, shes only been a member of their family for a couple of months, since her original owner realised his busy work schedule was not a healthy lifestyle for a doggo. Well, his loss was my gain as Chloe was a wonderful host, you could get away with paying her in belly rubs! Herve and Lela proved to be great hosts too; Lela has been vegan for 2 years so had a veritable wealth of knowledge about restaurants that would cater for mine and mum’s dietary needs. We had a good conversation that evening, once she was back from work, about the differences between Europe and north America in terms of accessibility of plant-based food over the past few years. Interestingly they’d recently been holidaying on one of the smaller Greek islands (not one of the party ones) and had discovered an entire vegan section in the supermarket- it seems that the world is catching on that vegans are here to stay. Though I’m not strictly vegan myself, I eat eggs and fish and want to reintroduce ‘ethical’ meat into my diet when that is feasible, I do have a dairy intolerance, don’t eat meat currently and like to reduce my animal consumption so great vegan restaurant suggestions are soooooooo welcome! Seriously, wherever you’re from, if you have a good vegan restaurant you know of, comment at the bottom so I can go on a tour.
Friday was our day to look around Toronto. We bought a couple of day-passes that let us go on any of the buses, trams and subways within the city for $12.50 each, not too bad considering it’s a major city. We very quickly found ourselves at our first stop of the day, a gluten-free, vegan bakery called Bunners where we could satisfy our sweet tooths with an oh so healthy breakfast of a red velvet cupcake and chocolate brownie. In fairness, we did stop off and buy peaches on our way to a park where we munched happily on our prizes so we weren’t entirely bad. The bench we sat at was actually along the side of a children’s playground, not somewhere I’d usually sit if I were alone to avoid parents thinking I would ever want to abduct one of their snot-nosed, screeching devil spawn they call children (the children at this park were actually very lovely but I still wouldn’t want to take one, too messy) but with mum, we ate our breakfast of champions with no problems. On the topics of playgrounds, the playgrounds in North America are 10 X better than our ones in the UK- they have splash pads where water sprays up etc. and they can play in the water on hot days with water guns and sand and they have big climbing frames in the shape of ships or castles. Where were those when we were growing up? It seems that health and safety ruined my chance of leading an all-female pirate bridge against the trolls and goblins hiding in the playground.
Fuel gauges set to happily stuffed, we donned our touristy hats and began seeing the sights, some of the next bits didn’t happen in the order indicated but I thought it more efficient to group by type than chronologically else there would be endless self-references. First up on our list of things to see was the Rogers stadium, home to the Toronto Blue Jays, the baseball team, the stadium looks, well, like a stadium. It was very big and the blue decals on the side looked good but it was, for all intents and purposes, a stadium. I did buy myself a hat though, we’re going to be seeing the New York Yankees vs the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday and I want to show my support for my home away from home over the summer!
Then, the only real other sight to see as such was the CN tower. I had toyed with the idea of going up the tower and looking around but tickets are $35 each (free if you go up and spend $$$ on food) and to be honest, what would we look at when we were up there? The major landmark of Toronto it would be nice to see from high up would not be visible because we’d be standing in it! So, mum and I decided to keep our wallets a little heavier for the time being and chose to look at the tower from the outside, this led to a few awkward and humorous attempts to get a selfie with a 550m building. All in all, I think we made the right choice as we had more time to look around the city and chill out before travelling the next day.
The other “sights” we saw in Toronto were mainly just things around the city, not placed there for tourists, but to express something personal or social. Of course, there were some more tourist places, to get a picture of the CN tower we wandered into a train exhibit by a distillery, there was even an old turntable I found quite fetching. Mum spent her usual hour to take one photo so I decided to take an impromptu photo shoot of her. The graffiti around the city was great, I have a particular affection for a dog themed piece but I know some of my friends (Karl in particular) will love the sharks- the car….. that was unexpected though. There was an airshow going on at the harbourfront and though we didn’t see anything when we took a much-needed break down there (see featured photo), there were displays flying over the city doing loops and barrel rolls as we were walking around so I kept trying to take photos (most were epic fails). The thing was, they’d fly overhead before you heard them so it was hard to get a fix on their location!
Now, I did also do a tinsy bit of shopping. When we were walking down to the CN tower mum and I saw a fancy hat shop, here is where the mistake was made, mum let me go into the fancy hat shop. There were many hats, many hats were tried on, I am now the owner of many hats. Ha! I do have a modicum of self-control so I limited myself to 1 hat, and it’s a very lovely hat too if I say so myself. My and I sat down for a coffee and I wasted no time in taking photos of my new acquisition which is where my new profile picture originated. I think I’ll grab myself a feather for it when I’m back in the UK; they had nice ones in the store but I didn’t think it would survive the journey across America and on 4 flights back to Brum.
After all that shopping and sightseeing mum and I had worked up quite an appetite so we wandered to Doomies in the aptly named Vegandale district of Toronto. They had moved locations so google maps led us to the wrong place and we had to double back and go into a vegan brewery to find it. Bonus: the vegan brewery made good booze! I won’t spoil my review of Doomies as I will go into detail in there but it was the best vegan food I have ever tasted- even my meat loving mother enjoyed her grub!