Great Canadian Tour 2015: Toronto

In some ways, our trip to Toronto this summer was the start of our real vacation. Ottawa was a holiday, but it didn’t feel out of the ordinary. So when we got the chance to spend a few days in Toronto, followed by a few days in Washington, D.C., we figured we should try to do as many touristy things we could.

We set off on an early train ride and arrived in time for a nice Mexican lunch with my sister. We had tickets for a Blue Jays game later that night, so after lunch we stopped in at my friend’s house to drop off our stuff and headed out to meet her at the ballpark. The game was a lot of fun, and it was the start of the Jays’ winning streak (which just culminated in getting to playoffs this week). The kids were pretty tired and whiny by the end, which put a damper on the last half of the game. But we did manage to enjoy some incredibly overpriced stadium beer, pizza and popcorn.

A dude in our row got picked to do one of those commercial break contests, where he had to tie a tie faster than another contestant. So this guy spent a good 20 minutes practicing, getting other people in the stands to show him how, since he quite honestly looked like he had never tied one before. It was painful. But somehow that was enough practice, and he won – and all of us in his row got gift certificates to Tip Top. Cool.

We spent the next day at the Royal Ontario Museum, where there was an overpriced Pompeii exhibit going on. It was very dramatic, with real casts of the bodies on display. Also cool. We wandered around a bit, and the kids had fun pretending to be archaeologists, and I took giggled at all of the Roman penis decorations, because I have the sense of humor of a 10-year-old at heart.

The next day B took the kids to the Hockey Hall of Fame, since I was busy with some work things. Once again, I have trimmed down his hundreds of close-ups of jerseys to just these few artsy shots (you’re welcome):

And just to hammer home the idea that we like museums, we spent our last day visiting the Ontario Science Centre. Really we just went for the Mythbusters exhibit, because we seriously, seriously love Mythbusters. It was cool – we recognized all the machines and props on display, and they had a few try-it-yourself myths, like driving blind, flicking a playing card into a cork board, dodging a bullet and pulling a tablecloth off the table. We also sat through a presentation involving audience members getting hit by paintballs and a very much over-the-top pair of presenters, like, trying way too hard to be enthusiastic. It was cringey.

Of course we ended that outing with a huge temper tantrum on the lawn outside, because we’re classy like that. Then LittleB stepped out in front of the moving bus we were about to get on (because he doesn’t understand how North American traffic works, like, the fact that there is a separate place for people and one for cars, you know, the road) and we were all scolded for a while by the bus driver in front of the bus packed full of passengers. It’s going to take a few years for that shame to ebb from our memories… Ah, family vacations.

At least we had a great couple of evenings with good friends, and some playtime with the cousins, which is really the whole point of vacations. And we celebrated our friend’s 53rd birthday together (J put the candles on…). And the next day, we flew off to (very) sunny D.C. for a few days.

 

Great Canadian Tour 2015: Ottawa fams & jams

Whenever we head home to Ottawa, our main vacation goal is to see all the family. And visiting in the summer means hot days and sticky nights, farm-fresh strawberries and corn, barbecues every weekend, backyard sprinklers and downtown festivals. Unfortunately, it also means a lot of family & friends are away on vacation. So we never get to see all the people we hope to see. This summer was no exception. I think we managed to see maybe 6 friends in total? Sorry, everyone else! But you can always *cough cough* come to Switzerland *cough cough*.

We still had a glorious few weeks enjoying the summery summertime in Ottawa. It’s the season when everything is bright and awake, with the sun suspended high in the sky for 18+ a day, and everyone spends their evenings on the patio with a drink in hand to soak up as much of the sunset as possible.

B and the kids arrived a few weeks before I did and got to enjoy the first strawberry picking of the year, visit some kid play zones and splash on the beach. It was a great chance for them to catch up with Grandma L, who left shortly after to spend the summer on the east coast.

Once I arrived, we tried to fill our time with some more ‘touristy’ activities, since we were on our own most days while our parents or friends were working or otherwise busy. B and I managed to catch a show at the Ottawa Bluesfest – Dropkick Murphys and The Tragically Hip. It was great music… but we were totally, absolutely 100% rained out. I have never been so cold and soaked in my life. I think my body actually forced a reset at one point during the concert, because I fell asleep standing up for like 2 songs and didn’t realize it. But it was worth it!

B also took the opportunity to enjoy a football game at the new Ottawa stadium. He took about 400 pictures and short video clips, which I narrowed down to just two. You’re welcome.

One of my favorite things about Ottawa in the summer are the downtown festivals. One weekend, it was RibFest, which is exactly what it sounds: a bunch of rib stands selling copious amounts of ribs. We had a great time stuffing ourselves, and the kids discovered their love of grilled meat…

But visiting is always bittersweet. All we’re left with are a few photos with the family, trying to keep our memories fresh while we wait for the next time we can see each other. But still, it is always worth it!

 

Christmas in Canada

We had an old-fashioned canuck Christmas at home this year. Visits with Santa (twice), snow, sledding, Christmas village tours and sleigh rides, dinners, friends, presents, caroling. I hope all your holidays were as merry and bright!

Happy New Year!

-The Cayas

O Canada: part three – Ottawa

Our time back home in Ottawa was a whirlwind of visiting, shopping, doctor’s appointments and what seemed like an awful lot of driving around the city. We are blessed with many family and friends, but it meant we had someone to see or somewhere to be nearly every day and night. (Seriously, I had an hourly appointment chart for the week.) It was great to catch up with everyone and see how the past year had treated them. I was especially happy to see my old colleagues and school friends. And we had a great moving party redux. I think that’s going to become an annual event, so mark your calendars!

Our time with family was short and precious. Even though we only had a few hours with the Caya/Hinz crew, it was memorable for an especially great meal, great conversation and a great game of pick-up hockey. A lovely evening-slash-almost-sleepover with Brainslie and the smalls was also perfect.

My sister and her kids followed us to Ottawa, so we were able to spend the week together. I would have liked more free time to spend with them, but we were able to have a few fun outings, including the Red Bull flugtag and our family tradition of Sunday Dim Sum.

Some highlights – last-minute trivia night with a gathering of friends and a tasty dinner with the same group at a bbq joint a few nights later. I will never complain about platters of meat followed by gelato! I was also lucky to enjoy multiple outings with my best friend, and B had the chance to do some kind of hockey/man things with his buddies. (I assume these man gatherings mostly involve drinking and trading insults about …) I capped off the week with a girls’ day out with my mom. We had a great time at the spa and a delicious lunch in the Byward Market.

It was a great week and I wish it had been at least one hundred times longer!

Turning to a bit of introspection, there’s something vaguely strange about returning to a place that used to be home but isn’t really anymore. Of course it was nice to see our family and friends – and that was the main reason, other than doctor appointments, why we went back. It’s comforting that we were able to slip back into our old lives and routines so easily: driving around the city without a map, knowing where to shop for the things we want, eating familiar foods and easily doing everyday things like laundry and cooking. But we also unexpectedly felt a bit out of place. Maybe it’s because we don’t really live there anymore, so we had to depend on the kindness of our relatives to get us through. Maybe the fact that it was so easy is what was unsettling. I think I assumed that during our time abroad we would have substantially changed in some obvious way, but I guess we didn’t and that was what seemed weird. How could we have moved so far away and lived such a different life yet stayed so much the same? Or maybe that’s really a blessing. Despite everything, passing through all the challenges and trials, we come out the same on the other side.

Anyway, we are looking forward to our next visit! And to all of you who we didn’t get to see for one reason or another – sorry! I hope we can meet up next time!

 

O Canada: part two – Toronto

The first stop on our trip back to Canada was Toronto, where we enjoyed a few nights with my sister and some friends.

The flight in from NYC was bumped by about an hour, but we saw Gina Torres on the plane, which personally, I think made up for the delay. She was just doing normal mom stuff, so we didn’t hound her for photos or anything, although I did go super stalkery in my head, watching and analyzing her every move. “Did she just notice me?” “Look, she plays Scrabble on her iPad too!” “OMG she accidentally glanced at me, I think we’re friends now!”

Our time in Toronto was short but lovely. The kids got to play with their cousins and we enjoyed the country chic hospitality at my sister’s house, hoedowns included.

On Sunday, we all ventured out High Park to do some fishing, see the zoo and play at the so-called “castle park.” My brother-in-law caught one measly little fish and B and I came up empty using the Barbie and Tinkerbell fishing rods, respectively. Well, we both caught some pond weeds, inexplicably named “water dogs” by the youngest cousin, but I don’t think they count since they were not, in fact, real fish or dogs for that matter.

The zoo, as it turns out, was a small selection of animals on display along a side street in the park. It was a little depressing, but they seemed to be well cared for. It’s always a little weird to gawk at animals. I’m always reminded of this poem (sorry, that was the best link I could find).

The castle park is a crazy kids’ play structure built to look like – you guessed it – a castle. Apparently part of it burned down a while ago and was rebuilt (or overbuilt) by local celebrity builder Mike Holmes. It was pretty cool. Before going in, my sister said “the kids just kind of disappear into it and you don’t see them again for 20 minutes.” She was right. At least three times, I was about 80% sure they had been abducted or wandered off, but no, they were just running around like madmen in the mazes and circuits. I guess that’s the point, anyway. Well done, Mike.

Other highlights of our visit included a great home-cooked meal with our friends, and I had a nice girls’ night out with my bff at a hilariously hipster bar in the neighbourhood. I had some kind of drink called an “elderberry mist” (I think). I admit, it was tasty, although I expected it to come with a moustache or ironic coaster, alas, it did not.

Our visit was over too soon, and we headed off on the train to Ottawa for our next adventure.