Friday, June 02, 2006
Janitors in Toronto
The night that I landed in Toronto, Shilpa and I slept very late. Still, optimists that we are, we set the alarm for 7.00a the next morning so as to get an early start to our sight-seeing activities. Hahahahaha. What a joke! When the cell phone alarm rang, I hit the snooze button multiple times and finally turned off my alarm in disgust at 8.00a as we both still showed no signs of stirring from our beds. Finally, when we woke up, it was 10.00a in the morning!! Confirming to my rotten luck spree, it turned out that my cell phone clock was one hour behind Toronto time, so it was already 10.00a when Shilpa and I had been under the impression that it was only 9.00a. Sigh! Anyways, it wasn't like we were attending a time-bound conference or something.
S and I got ready reasonably fast. The plan that day was to see a bit of downtown, have lunch at a French creperie and then spend some time at the beaches. Basically, a plan as you go kind of plan. The younger kid B did not have school that day and was eyeing us as we got ready. The older kid C and her mom were supposed to go to the hospital that noon. B had the option to either accompany them or get dropped off by us at her dad's office. Neither option appealed to B and she whined till we agreed to take her sightseeing too (I tell you, when you are young, it is wonderful how much you can achieve by just nagging ;-) - as Shilpa said, these days, people mostly just walk away if we start to whine too much - LOL). S and me did not mind taking B along - it was just that we were worried that she would be tired out by all the walking we had planned.
We were planning to take public transportation. Like most big cities, Toronto is very, very, well connected by buses, trains and street cars (as trams are called there). So it was easy to get around even without renting a car. S's uncle had already given us directions to the bus station and how to get around. After a quick breakfast, S, B and me set off. That was our lucky day - all the buses/trains/street-cars came as soon as we reached the respective stations. First we had to take the Missisauga Transit local bus. S's uncle told us that it would take us all the way to the terminus from where we could get GO buses which would take us to downtown (I have no idea what GO stands for).
Other than some confusion with the local bus, we found our way alright. To our surprise though, we found that, unlike the US, most of the the trains/buses did not have printed timetables in them which we could pick up. So we had to simply wait at some bus-station hoping that a bus would turn up eventually if we had already not looked up the timings on the internet before heading out.
Once we reached the Toronto downtown, we spent quite sometime gaping at all the wonderful buildings around us. The architecture was very varied. Not cloned steel and glass structures. Some of the buildings had a downright old-world look to them - very nice! Our first stop though, after the long trip was to, what else - hog :-)! We had already decided upon the restaurant for lunch - Le Papillion which was apparently voted best crepe-place by some newspaper. We had picked up a local map from a nearby Budget car-rental office and were able to chart our course to restaurant easily enough.
Le Papillion had a nice decor with butterflies on the walls (le papillion means 'the butterfly'). The crepes we ordered for lunch were wonderful - the outer covering tasted like slightly sweetened dosa and the garlic/mushroom/becamel sauce stuffing that my crepe had was delicious :-). S ate a nice crepe too. B ordered the pasta bowl from the kids menu and finished it up neatly. Oh, here I should mention, B is an extremely well-behaved and adorable kid. Throughout the day, she was polite, courteous and did not kick up too big a fuss at any time (sample this: Waiter brings the check with three mint toffees. S and me are asking waiter for directions. B patiently waits till we are done and then asks the waiter "Can I have this please?" pointing at the mint. Phew! I was a good kid - at least I think so - but nothing compared to B!!).
Anyways, the waiter told us that "The Beaches" would be a good place to visit. The Beaches is a nice place by the Ontario lake which has a boardwalk for walking as well as a park with recreational facilities. We took the street-car upto the shops near the beaches. It was a long ride and when we got off, we walked along the variety of stores on the road and visited the local public library on the way (my idea, of course ;-)). Then, all that travelling and walking sapped our energy and we decided to pick up coffee. We spotted a Second Cup coffee store. S and me got lattes while B got orange juice.
We continued walking along the street when S spotted a bank. Ah, an ATM to withdraw Canadian money! We entered the bank and S wandered off while I operated the ATM machine. All of a sudden, I heard a loud plop sound and turned around even as something wet splashed on my feet. B was standing with her hands over her mouth and guilt all over her face. She had just dropped her bottle of orange juice and it caused quite a big orange juice puddle on the floor. I told her it was alright and that we should just tell someone in the bank about it.
Well, so there was this guy at the counter whom we informed about the mess and he said that someone would clean it up and we should not worry. We turned away from the counter when another bank employee, a lady, gave a hard stare at the empty bottle B was still holding in her hand and then said to us, "Oh, I will get you some paper towels to clean up the mess."
Boo hoo, that is how S and me could be found, on our hands and knees, mopping the floor with paper towels while the dragon-lady monitored us! Our fate in life that we should go to Canada and spend some time as janitors. While I agree it was our mistake to begin with, that dragon-lady's attitude sucked big time. Which is why, if any of you need to open a bank account, please do not consider Nova Scotia Bank.
Anyways, after a good laugh, we proceeded to the actual beaches. As I said earlier, it is located on the shores of the Ontario lake. The sand on the shore was covered with pretty pebbles. There were lots and lots of people walking their dogs. The park had lots of maple trees and the grass was covered with pretty white and yellow flowers. Idyllic spot! We spend quite sometime there. B ran around picking pebbles. Of course we took lots of pictures. The whole neighborhood in that area was very picturesque.
Finally around 5.30p in the evening we decided to set back home. With all the travelling, it would take us at least 2 hours to get back home. By this time, we were pros at figuring out the various bus and train routes. Once we reached downtown, we stopped at the famous Tim Horton's chain store for Timbits and donuts (for B). After that it was time to catch the train and then the local Missisuaga bus.
We reached home at around 8.15p. We had had a nice fun-filled day. S and me were exhausted while B, whom we thought would get tired with all the walking, was jumping up and down "Shilpa akka, Archana, let us dance now, let us dance now". Dance? Right! Instead, to keep her happy, we helped her bake a cake. B and C decorated the cake and all of us had it with yummy hazelnut ice cream.
As usual, while the rest of the family went to sleep, Shilpa and me were awake, yacking late into the night (yeah, even I wonder how we still have not run out of topics to talk about).
So ended day one. That is one LONG post. Sorry folks, I think I have been going into all minutiae - but that's just so you can all feel the whole experience. Hehehe!