Thursday, May 28, 2015

O Canada

from my stash from Cuba because I knew I’d be getting more soon. Turns out, Canada has an entire separate terminal for US bound flights and the duty I had my first ever business trip for an international TESOL conference in Toronto Canada where I presented along with three of my colleagues on how to resuscitate your listening and speaking classes.  And by ‘business trip’ I mean it was nearly entirely paid for- flight, hotel and most food. I had to buy my own drinks, which I happily did, especially since I could order Havana Club in most bars! I’ve never had anyone pay for my travel and just couldn’t get over how great this idea was- someone else paying for me to see the world.
I’ve been to Canada and Toronto several times. My family used to live in upstate New York, and I remember the days when we would cross the border without a passport. So Canada, sadly, was not a new country for me, but I was ok with that because it was a paid trip and aside from time, I was not wasting other resources visiting a country that would not get me closer to my 196 country goal.
Our presentation went super well with a packed house of over 80 attendees and lots of questions. I was surprised to find that I actually enjoyed presenting, being in front of an audience and feeling like a professional with something to share.  It got me super motivated and excited for my next proposal and conference for which I am already searching locations that are new to me and much warmer than Canada in March.
Though it was a business trip and we were meant to attend the various presentations at the conference, we managed to fit in quite a bit of sightseeing. I’d gotten a few guide books for Toronto from the library and did some reading on the plane ride. I read about Kensington Market which is famous for its fun little neighborhoods and vintage clothing stores.  It was top of my list to see.
I was blown away by the amount of vintage shops and have four new to me dresses to prove it. It was fun wandering the streets and shops in the quaint little neighborhood. We stopped in a bar and met a Colombian Canadian who was very friendly and chatted us up for a bit. Indeed, most everyone we met in Canada was super friendly and made our time there ever better.
We also made it to Lawrence Market a huge food market with fresh meat and fish and cheese. From there we walked to the water front. Most of the lake was frozen, yet there was a beach with sand and Adirondack chairs and signs everywhere warning us not to swim.
We also tried to explore the Toronto underground, but were surprised to learn that the shops were not open on Saturday. This seemed quite strange. We did do some walking around down below, mostly to stay out of the bitter cold. Apparently you can walk much of downtown Toronto underground.  I’ve heard it’s so intricate that even locals get lost below ground.
Our evenings were filled with catching up with old colleagues and enjoying the bar scene in Canada with a few locals we met on the street.  And of course, I enjoyed all the Havana Club I could handle while it was free flowing from the rail.

Traveling Tips for Toronto

  1. A very friendly local did us a favor and told us bathrooms downtown are always downstairs. This proved to be true everywhere we went.
  2. I had been very excited to find out what exactly Canadians call Canadian bacon. I had visions of ordering a burger and asking for…. Bacon?  This exact scenario actually happened to some friends and I many years back in Vancouver. We never got the answer then. I am pleased to tell you- Canadians call Canadian bacon, peameal bacon. I know not the reason.

  1. If you are planning to buy cigarettes and liquor at the duty free shops in Canada to
save you money like I’ve advised before, DON’T.  I was shocked to find that as well as not having any of the cigarettes I smoke, they were also $72-$86 per carton! I was very happy that I bought a carton from the states to Canada for $42US. 

As for liquor, I had my whole plan figured out for my precious Havana Club rum. I even let a whole bottle be drunk free shop there DOES NOT sell Havana Club due to the embargo.  If you are flying to anywhere other than the US you can get your cigars and rum no problem.  Sadly I will now have to ration my one remaining bottle until I go to Europe in a couple of months.
* photos at

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