Toronto – December 2017


After just over two weeks in Cuba we’ll be spending a couple of days in Toronto to ease us back into reality. With a differential of approximately twenty three degrees Celsius, it promises to be quite the jolt back into winter. Now if we can just navigate our way through José Marti International Airport we’ll be doing fine.

After about twelve hours of travelling we eventually find our way to the Ramada Plaza Downtown to be told by the girl on the desk that our room is not ready, and there are no other rooms available. At 5:40pm. I’ve never heard Orla curse, at anyone, ever, but before I have a chance to react she just blurts out ‘you’re fucking joking’. The reception lady tells us, first that a member of staff was using our room to work in. To which I enquire as to why it would ever be acceptable for a guest’s room not to be ready due to a staff member using it after check-in time. The lady then changes her story and says the maintenance person is ‘fixing lights’. I enquire why they would be doing this again, over two hours past check-in time. We’re then told that she will move us to a different room so as to not have us hanging around waiting. Another room obviously suddenly becoming available. No apology, no smile or civility whatsoever. A real nice welcome to Canada.


Tired and more emotional than we should be at this point, we get in a few sights in the dark. The CN Tower, Rogers Arena and spot Ripley’s Aquarium. Then we order way too much food in Elephant & Castle, which we can’t manage. Real rookie stuff. I partake in a Mill St. Organic Lager which is pretty tasty, local and cheaper than a Guinness. We’re exceptionally tired so we chill out in the hotel for a couple of hours watching TV. I have to phone reception to complain three times about the noise on our floor, impressing even myself by quoting the Innkeeper’s Act. Later we can hear security speak to the offenders. They sound like giddy school kids when they’re making noise and then overhearing the conversation with security, they sound in their mid-to-late thirties. A case of absolutely not being able to handle your sauce as they head out at around 11:30pm and are back tucked up in bed by 1am. Wild. At least we have the excuse of travelling for twelve hours for us being panned out watching Canadian TV at 9 in the evening. Goooooooooo ice hockey. Ok, full disclosure, we were watching Star Wars. I tried watching the hockey but I just got confused.


The next morning starts with some excellent coffee at Black Bear Espresso, accompanied by a bagel, for breakfast. Afterwards we wander to the CN Tower. Unfortunately, it’s too foggy to go up and the kind girl on the desk tells us not to waste our money. At nearly forty bucks each, we probably would have been slightly disappointed. Right next door is Ripley’s Aquarium. We seem to love a good aquarium. There is a great array of aquatic life on display. We even get a bizarre selfie with a saw-nose shark. As if the sights have been placed to suit us, the Steam Whistle Brewery is across the road. You give your name to sign onto a tour. Sitting sipping our first sample, an ‘Ornagh’ who works there comes over to us to introduce herself. She’s delighted to meet the only other Ornagh she’s ever heard of. We haven’t the heart to tell her it’s Orla. We get two samples and a bottle of beer each for $24. Not bad at all. Especially after the $82 Ripley’s cost us. We take a brief jaunt through the old town to work up an appetite for the continuation of our beer adventure in the Amsterdam Brewhouse for food and a Belgian Pale Ale. Twelve hour slow roasted brisket for lunch. Absolutely incredible stuff. There’s still snow outside, piled up on the water front. From thirty degrees and up at times in Cuba to just above freezing in Toronto. We only have layers to keep us warm. Well, layers and beer.



Before our short stay in Toronto must end, we head back to Black Bear Espresso for more coffee. Damn fine coffee. The guy recognises us from earlier, and even has our order stored in his noggin. Fairly impressive, given how busy the place seems to be.


In Toronto Pearson, you can pick up all the usual Canadian fare in the airport shops. Maple this, and maple that. Products it seems unnecessary and, frankly, ridiculous to put maple in. The temperature has obviously dropped outside and the wings of the plane have to be de-iced by a guy in what looks pretty much like the exoskeleton power loader suit from Aliens. A particularly unusual end to our trip and certainly not representative of Toronto.