Monday, February 27, 2012

canada, eh?

when planning this hockeymoon i knew that i wanted to go to canada. why? i don't know. just because.
so, first stop: toronto.

we flew out of RDU on thursday night, february 9th. we anticipated that because we were flying internationally, check-in would take longer. well that was not the case. the check-in lady at the airport was very helpful in getting us our tickets and directing us to where to check our bags. the bag-check guy was even nicer. he started talking to us about "why on earth would we want to leave beautiful north carolina for cold toronto?" keith mentioned to him that we were going on our hockeymoon. the bag-check guy was then immediately going to place our bags on the plane for free. he took them both from us, put the airplane destination sticker on it, and was about to send us on our way. i couldn't believe it! then the check-in lady came running over and yelled at the guy "these two still need to pay for their bags!" the bag-check guy rolls his eyes, tells keith some price of the bags, and takes keith's credit card. the bag-check guy fake swiped the card. gave us a confirmation sheet, told us that he'd take care of the bags and to have a great trip. i couldn't believe it! what a great start to our trip. and how sweet of that man. i truly wish i could thank him.

after going through security, we found our gate and then found a bar. i had to do something to calm my man down. see, he doesn't like to fly. nothing a few cocktails can't fix.

exhibit a.

and he did great on the plane. plus, it was a quick flight. we were in toronto by 9pm. awesome.
we took the airport shuttle over to the hotel and we were ready to explore the town by 10pm.
we walked about 2 blocks from the hotel, by way of suggestion from the hotel clerk, to find a cute irish pub, called overdraught. we had poutine, wings and a burger. and of course, canadian beers. we were hungry and thirsty after our trip.

the next day, february 10th, we were eager to set out on our new adventures, but not really sure where to start. sooo we crossed the street and had breakfast at tim hortons. it's the canadian starbucks and mcdonald's smushed into one. and much better than both of those places, combined.

after we were full of coffee and egg sandwiches, we made our way over to the hockey hall of fame. and on our walk, it started to snow! kind of a big deal to north carolinians who haven't seen snow since last winter.
the hockey hall of fame was pretty amazing. so amazing that we spent hours there. the entire afternoon. and we didn't even do everything. we saw everything, we just didn't play all of the games. which there were a lot of, like taking shots on net or being a goalie. however, we did play a hockey trivia game. in which i beat keith and came in 2nd place overall. i would have won but this guy joined the game last minute and was a ringer. he came in a ruined everyone's fun with his ridiculous amount of hockey knowledge.
but the hhof was a place for hockey fans, old and new, to come learn and explore about the sport that they love. there is so much history to this great sport. that is why we spent ALL DAY there. we looked at the players cases who are in the hall of fame. historical stats. and the timeline of the league. we saw a "fake" locker room. and of course the trophies. which are breathtaking. there are also sections devoted to women's hockey, junior hockey, and world hockey leagues. hockey is kind of a big deal. and this place can really open anyone's eyes to that.

once we were done with our hhof visit, we were hungry. so we went to part of the underground network, PATH. the PATH is an underground walkway that connects the city, buildings, subway stops. and within the walkway are shops and restaurants. it really is like a whole other world. when we were walking on the streets we wondered where everyone was. once we started to utilize the PATH...we realized, everyone is down here! it's warmer and you are out of the elements; and can get to where ever you need to get to in the city. UNDERGROUND. it is the best thing since sliced bread. seriously.

so anyway, like i said, we got lunch at an italian restaurant that is part of the PATH. after we were done eating, we were sitting and relaxing. because i was tired after all that walking around the hhof. and guess who walks into the exact restaurant we are in?! ERIC fucking COLE. this may not seem like a big deal. but this is a big deal to 'canes fans who were sad to see this player leave carolina for montreal in free agency last summer. we happen to leave the restaurant at the same time as cole. keith said to him, "we really miss you in of luck to you." cole nodded and said thank you. keith's comments, while very polite, probably caught him off guard...what are carolina fans doing in toronto?! and what was eric cole doing in toronto? well, montreal was playing toronto in the hockey game we attended the following night.

we then walked around downtown toronto. outside. in the snow. yes, we braved the elements. we wanted to see this new and beautiful city we were in. we walked down to the st. lawrence market. it is the market place that is all fresh foods. meats. cheeses. vegetables. spices. maple syrup. clothing. whatever you want. it is a permanent structure, so it's always open. it's amazing. every city should have one.
we went to a local grocery store for some provisions and went to the hotel to rest up before dinner. we decided that we'd have dinner at the hotel restaurant. it was close and convenient, plus we had a 10% off coupon. it seemed like a bar/restaurant that has a local following. the beers on tap were excellent, as was our appetizer. however, our main dishes were ok, at best.

we also had the pleasure of two local torontonians to sit next to us at the bar. one of the guys was drunk when he walked in the bar. as they sat down, the other guy accidentally hit keith and replied "sorry, eh?". what does that even mean?... "sorry, huh?" sorry, right?" "sorry, now get the fuck out of my way?"
the drunk guy repeated said to his friend "i am a good guy...i am a nice guy." it was hard to not hear their conversation because as i am sure you know, drunk people feel the need to speak louder. i am not sure why, but they do.
eventually this guy left. to go tell another table much of the same. "i am a good guy..." we aren't sure where his proclamations were coming from, but he definitely wanted the world to know that he is A GOOD GUY.
so we were left with the "sorry, eh?" guy, who quickly engaged in conversation with us. he was comical, and also drunk. he told us that he makes upwards of $200,000/year and that we were in the worst bar in town. we quickly wondered, why then, was he there? he attempted, repeatedly, to hit on me. in front of keith. keith handled it well. i mean, the guy was wasted. he saw a beautiful girl...what else was he going to do other than say something about it? he told us secrets about toronto and tourist things to do. which was nice. he told us that he's been all over the world and that american's don't travel well. apparently when americans get where ever they are traveling, they want to be pampered. they don't want to immerse in their new culture. but mind you, if this guy really is part of the 1%...wouldn't it be possible that the 1% behave this way? and wouldn't that be a skewed view of an ENTIRE population? just my thought...

THEN this guy gets a brilliant idea to go to another bar.
so, we off we went. we were going to be those american tourists your hear about on the news. “tourists last see at local toronto bar.” luckily that is not how our story ended. we went with mr. drunk to jack-astor's. yes, we do have one of those here in the triangle area. no, it was not at all the same. it was a huge bar. that was playing loud music. it almost felt like a club, minus a dance floor. this torontonian, knew everyone, including the manager of this bar. who conveniently wasn't working that night. but nonetheless, he bought us a round of drinks. and this is where things turned weird. he then approached a stranger. a very well-built gentleman to talk about his watch. obviously this stranger could not follow his dialog nor was he interested in doing so. thus, he quit talking to our drunk friend. this caused our drunk friend to inform us that he could kick that guy's ass. via different forms are martial arts. uhhh, ok. where did this come from? all because he wasn't interested in talking about your watch?? then drunkface continues his paranoia and makes some comments about keith's size and how big his shoulders are. what does that have to do with anything?? we are just trying to hang out, drink some beer and have fun. since this guy was getting all skived out, we downed our beers and got the hell outta there. weird.

as you can imagine, the next day was a little rough after our late night adventure. we were lazy, slept in. didn't DO ANYTHING. what a waste of a day in toronto, eh? by the way, using the word "eh?" is probably our favoritest thing we picked up from canada. it's so versatile to have many meanings. it's awesome.

one thing we did do was eat at this swiss market,
marche. you go in and they give you a swipe card. so you go to different stations, order what ever you want: pasta, salad, crepes, stir-fry. at each station they put whatever you have ordered on the swipe card. then you sit down and eat. once you are done, you go check-out, with the swipe card and pay. it's really neat. i know that is a terrible adjective, but it was a neat experience. it's a high class buffet. because there isn't a flat rate, but you can go back for as much as you like.

so, the time finally came, after two days in toronto, it was time. for our first hockey game. montreal v. toronto. we were pumped. but also we didn't know what to expect. most of the arenas we went to were in the city. so they were accessible via the subway stations. this was definitely a new experience for us.

as mentioned, toronto has the underground walkway, the PATH, so we used that to get to the air canada centre (ACC). yes, that is how they spell center. when you enter the ACC through the subway entrances, there is A LOT going. on one side there are basketball games. and on the other there are hockey games. all in which you can participate in. and of course there are people in the middle of the concourse yelling at you trying to sell you stuff. then we went through the ticket entrance. keith and i got out our tickets, emptied our pockets, took off our hats and opened our coats. because this is what we are used to doing at the RBC center. well, they scanned my ticket and i was in the arena. i remember just standing there with my cell phone in my hand, thinking "what now? is there anything else?" they had no metal detectors. they didn't look in your bags or coats or anything. it was weird. once we realized this. we put our things back in our pockets and zipped back up. and there was more sensory overload. the ACC was full of lights and things to see and buy and do and touch. it really was hard to take it all in. i definitely felt like that lost fan that we make fun of at our home games.

game #1: montreal vs. toronto @ ACC

this game was also mats sundin banner raising night. basically they were retiring his number. he is kind of a big deal. so as we were walking around, trying to absorb everything we saw, keith noticed there was a maple leafs alumni puck giveway table. you pay $20 dollars to get a mystery puck of a former maple leafs player. well, when in rome...

we thought "what the hell?" it'll be memorabilia. and it would have been really awesome to get mats sundin's puck. so keith paid the $20 and told me to pick a puck. all the pucks were wrapped in tissue paper and sitting on a table. so i reached for one. and i wasn't going to take it, but i ripped the paper, so i kept it. well good thing. because the puck is signed by MATS SUNDIN. now, i know most of you don't give a shit about that. but as i said, he is kind of a big deal in the world of hockey. so it is kind of a big deal that we now have his freakin' signature. bitches.

we still can't believe it.

the puck and the banner ceremony were the best part of the game. along with the crown royal corner. it's like the RBC center's natty greene's pub deck on steroids. it is amazing. and they give out free samples of crown royal drinks. what could be better?!

final score of the game: toronto: 0 montreal 5

here are some pictures from the ceremony and the game.

Mats Sundin and family.

Sundin's banner.

#13 flag that was passed over the fans. it looked really awesome.

game time. whoo!

final score. what a beating.

tuesday was our last day in toronto. we did a lot on this day. we started the day by scaring the shit out of keith. we climbed the
CN tower. not only did we go to the observation deck, which is 346m (1136 feet) high, we also went up to the sky pod, which is 447m (1465 feet) high and very tiny. it is definitely not for the faint of heart or claustrophobic. from the sky pod visibility is typically over 100 miles.
once we safely returned to the ground, we got some lunch.

some good did come from being up so high. we saw other things we wanted to do that afternoon. like visit the brewery across the street and go outdoor ice skating.

so, after lunch at the CN tower, we walking across the street to
steam whistle brewing. it is housed in an old steam engine repair facility. the tour was a lot of fun and the brewery has a lot of unique history.
It's hard to see, but it's snowing! i took this picture on our way to the ice rink!

so after a few beers, we thought outdoor ice skating would be a fine idea. so we headed over to
harbourfront centre. i had never really been ice staking outside before. ok, i have done it once. at the stupid rink we have in raleigh. but i hardly call that "real". this was real. hell, it was even snowing and they have a real zamboni for the rink. plus, they played the united stated national anthem. weird, eh?
as it started to get dark, we made our way back toward our hotel for our final dinner in toronto at an italian restaurant. man, was i tired. it sure was nice to get back to the hotel to relax before we had to head on to montreal the next morning....

so, these are the things we LOVED about toronto...

it was a true melting pot. you couldn't tell who was a visitor and who lived there. there were so many cultures, races and languages. it really is the NYC of canada. but smaller.

they are environmentally friendly. every trashcan had a recycling bin. our hotel room even had a recycling bin. and typically there were multiple recycling bins to divide up the recyclables. HOW AWESOME?

the food is fresher. a lot of restaurants and markets advocate local products.

they have bicycle rentals. where you can rent a bike in one place and drop it off somewhere else. it offers another means of transportation without using a car. amazing.

the people are friendly. and helpful. we never felt out of place. even as newbies.

the underground walkway. it created a whole other way of life. it was like two cities in one. there were people, restaurants, shops on the streets. BUT there were also all of those things UNDERGROUND. it was like a secret society. so interesting. but if you don't know your way around, it is also easy to get lost in.

it is walkable. we walked everywhere. HUGE plus.

toronto, we will definitely be back to visit.


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