And we’re back. Oliver and I landed in Charlottetown on the Westjet flight from Toronto yesterday, just in time to almost entirely miss the marking of the new year. We woke up this morning to -16º C temperatures and light snow; with the wind chill it felt like walking through shards of ice on the walk to the office.
I am a new fan of travel-on-major-holidays: there’s no traffic on the roads, the airports are relatively calm and, if you’re lucky enough to hit the weather right, which we did, it’s about as stress-free as air travel can get. We spent a very pleasant week in my hometown of Carlisle, Ontario with my parents, brothers, sisters-in-law and nephew. We ate, watched WKRP episodes, played gin rummy and went for a walk in the woods. It was a nice break. Here are some random observations from the road:
- We rented a car from Zoom Rent-a-Car: their rate for the week ($257 for a Nissan Versa) was about 50% of what we would have paid from any of the majors; saving that much made it worthwhile putting up with the slightly-less-convenient location (you take the airport train to the last station, Viscount, and they pick you up in a shuttle van to drive you to their office, about 10 minutes away). Besides the usual confusion about insurance (“you know your card doesn’t cover you for [insert random expensive horror here], don’t you?”), the service was quick and friendly, and if you don’t mind an extra 45 minutes on either end of your trip to Toronto, it’s a good alternative.
- On Boxing Day we went into Hamilton and discovered Sapporo restaurant downtown: it’s an all-you-can-eat Japanese/Thai place where you stay seated and just order, repeatedly, what you desire from the menu by writing numbers on an order sheet. The food was fresh and well-prepared and the menu was pleasantly wide-ranging. Recommended.
- On Friday, after a quick buying trip to Don Black Linecasting, Oliver and I visited the Ontario Science Centre, my first visit there in 27 years. The Science Centre is close to my heart as I spent my final semester of high school there at the Ontario Science Centre Science School, and I was eager to share the experience with Oliver. While our visit was lots of fun — what more can a father ask than the opportunity to show his son the Coffee Machine? — I was somewhat disheartened that once was an institution with a strong, clear, integrated vision now seems more of a disjointed buffet of experiences without a through-line.
- At the tail end of our Toronto trip we waded through downtown traffic — what the hell happened to the corner of Yonge and Dundas!? — and parked the car in Kensington Market and went off in search of supper. We ended up paying $6 for two very tasty bánh mi sandwiches, tofu and lemongrass, and drinks at Cali Bánh Mi & Che. A quick walk through Chinatown and we were back in the car and on the QEW speeding home.
- On Monday I took a few hours to myself to duck back into Hamilton: I picked up some jigsaw puzzle blanks at Curry’s Art Store, took a quick tour of the newly-renovated farmer’s market, grabbed a coffee from My Dog Joe in Westdale and made my usual pilgrimage to Steel City Surplus (now, apparently, part of a surplus-store chain, but as interesting as it ever was).
- In a mad dash against the clock, late on Monday I accompanied my Dad to the Apple Store in Burlington to pick up an iPhone 4s, meaning that my father now has a more advanced mobile phone than I do. The buying experience was quick and efficient — we were in and out in about 10 minutes. The experience at The Source signing up for a Virgin Mobile SIM took about 5 times longer, mostly because various phone calls to Virgin HQ were required; you’d like to think that, given that Bell owns both The Source and Virgin they’d have this down to a science, but no.
We didn’t go to the movies a single time over the holidays, quite a change from past years: there simply wasn’t a 12-year-old friendly movie on offer; indeed the entire genre of the “family friendly movie” seems to have disappeared from Hollywood.
I’m back in the office today; Oliver’s back in school tomorrow, and life slowly returns to normal for 2013.