Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Toronto Review

The Toronto review is here! Sad to say, due to the hype we're sure it will disappoint. Still, a promise is a promise.

The first fascinating fact about Toronto is that the same flight that took an hour several years prior now takes two, if there are no delays. Is Canada moving farther away or something? It must be, because it took one of our gracious hosts over 10 hours to return to Canada from Florida (you didn't think we'd let that one slide, did you?). We could go on, but then this is about Canada, let's save airline-bashing for another day.
(Loyal readers will be pleased to hear Poker Chick intentionally spent a few extra $$ to fly out of Newark so she could keep up her elite flyer status.)

Also rather annoying about Canada is that one has to go through customs and immigration to get in. As if it's another country or something. Sheesh.

Fast forward past baggage claim to the ground transportation area. We were greeted by a cheerful mother and son. Now, if you're an American whose only foreign travel experiences were for work or tourism, you will not understand this reunion, so let me try to explain the phenomenon:

Imagine your family lives in a land far, far away (couldn't resist the drama). Visits are infrequent due to the cost and time involved, and therefore when they do happen they are long and anticipated for months at a time. If you're a child, you watch with confusion as your parents make such a big occasion of it. Tickets are bought. Everyone is called. Teachers are alerted you will need to miss some school. Everyone spends a seemingly unnecessary amount of time fussing in anticipation. Suitcases are packed weeks before the event. Odd items are purchased because you can "only get them in America". In many homes this means Levis and bagels; in mine it was Oil of Olay and Brillo Pads. Don't ask. (Incidentally, the visit to Canada was no exception. Except, of course, Poker Chick forgot the Kix. She sucks.) Across the seas, or in this case - a great Lake, preparations are also being made for your arrival. Food is purchased, beds are made, and finally...finally... there are arrangements for the all-important airport pickup. An American would naturally ask which person was designated for the airport pickup? No, no, friends. It doesn't work that way. Everyone comes for the airport pickup. Parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins. You're nobody, I mean nobody, if you get off that plane and have less than 5-10 people waiting for you in a small, yet loud mob.

Think Poker Chick is kidding? Spend some time in JFK. Watch the planes arrive from India, from Israel, from Seoul. Watch their families hubbing and fussing about. Watch the extra suitcases, filled only with "presents". Wholly embarrassing if you're in it, thoroughly hilarious as a spectator.

What's this got to do with Canada? Well, one must understand that our gracious hosts hail from international borders as well. So put together two friends who have known a lifetime of "airport pickups" and....well, you get the idea. It was quite lovely. The mini recognized her betrothed immediately, and Poker Chick was nearly in tears watching them happily reunite and laugh with each other. Easy, people. I said nearly.

For those of you considering a Toronto adventure of your own, here are a few, well, "observations".

The house itself is quite lovely. In fact, Poker Chick commented that she could use a wife so she could have such a lovely home herself. It was a nice place to be in. Also, there's something to be said for a house, yard and space for kids to run around in. Not to mention a kitchen large enough to actually cook in. Feel free to re-read these words, because it's not something you'll hear Poker Chick admit to often. Still, it's true. It's got it's good points.

The neighborhood is difficult to describe. Suffice it to say that "Frum" would be an understatement. "Hard-core fundamentalist" is more like it. We're not talking just skirts and sheitls. We're talking black hats with fur in July, because you're just not a good enough Jew if you're not sweating twice your body weight on your walk to shul. Still, there is a benefit to living in this neighborhood...delicious Israeli food. Mmmmmm, Burekas. Also on a positive note, the "Frumela" department store has clothes for girls too, so we're now set with the mini's back-to-school wardrobe!!

As for life in Canada, Poker Chick was indeed impressed. Our hosts spent a great deal of time convincing us that Canadians are "just like us". For the most part, they're right! They speak English. OK, they all speak French too, but they also speak English. They use dollars. They even have museums and Italian restaurants, just like here! They have Starbucks and Home Depot and Club Monaco too!! Amazing!! It's not just a bunch of crunchy people sitting around eating Moose meat after all. At least, not in the summer.

Speaking of crunchy, Toronto wins a Poker Chick medal for its social conscience. All citizens have three garbage piles they must make: recycling, compost, and regular trash. Furthermore, they're limited to a certain number of bags of trash and it's only picked up every two weeks. Now, perhaps this law was just passed to prevent raging parties. Canada's not exactly known for its raves. But still, while it's a huge pain in the @ss for its residents, other cities should look to this example. If everyone followed suit, the world would, know were this is going.

Now, there are only two small complaints Poker Chick has of this town:
1) Nobody knows its history. Read up, people! How can you not know where "Toronto" comes from?
2) They may tell you it's the same weather here, but they lie. We spent a weekend shivering in high-60s (F) whilst other New Yorkers were sunning themselves in 80-degree weather. Nice try, friends.

So, long story short? Go for the great town. Go for the nice people. Go for the fabulous hosts. Go for the chance to make Canada jokes all weekend long. But go in the summer. And bring a furry hat.*

The capital and largest city of Ontario, Canada, in the southern part of the province on Lake Ontario. Originally a French trading post, it was founded as York by the British in 1793 and renamed as Toronto in 1834. Toronto is an important Great Lakes port and an industrial center. Population: 2,481,494.

Toronto's linguistic origins hail from the Mohawk phrase tkaronto, later modified by French explorers and mapmakers. Tkaronto means "where there are trees standing in the water," according to several Mohawk speakers and aboriginal language expert John Steckley. Mohawks used the phrase to describe The Narrows, where Hurons and other natives drove stakes into the water to create fish weirs.

Fish weirs. Those Canadians. Exciting stuff.

*No Poker Chick review would be complete without a mention of fashion. For those contemplating a Canada visit, please check with PC first for her order from "Roots". She'd ask her friends for it but they're still bitter about the Kix.


Emily said...

are you in toronto?!

Mishster said...

We were in Toronto for a long weekend starting Friday the 13th.