Although we are both ravaged by sickness to some degree (Oliver is almost over his cold, I’m in the thick of a low grade version of it), we decided that today, the final day of our extended stay in Ontario, we had to have something of a father-son adventure.
So, with no notion of our final destination, we set off in Mom’s Honda Civic for parts unknown. In the back of my head I thought we might end up at Ikea again, or maybe down on the lakefront. But as we were driving by the Burlington GO Train station, we spotted the eastbound train approaching, and, in the blink of an eye, decided that Toronto was to be our destination.
We found a miracle parking space about 15 feet from the ticket booth, quickly bought tickets, and ran down the tunnel to Track #2, hopping into the train about a minute before its departure at 12:14 p.m.
It was a nostalgia-filled train trip for me, as this was the journey I took every weekday during the summer of ‘85. When I mentioned this to Oliver, he insisted on pointing out every landmark we saw — factory, cell tower, Leon’s store — and asking me “you go there little boy?”
After Oakville, Clarkson, Long Branch, Mimico, and Exhibition, we pulled in to Union Station at about 1:10 p.m.
We headed out of the station and into Toronto’s retail catacombs, and managed to get all the way to Adelaide and Yonge before we had to surface. From there it was a quick walk to Open Air Books and Maps on Toronto Street. This turned out to be one of the best stocked travel bookshops I’ve visited; where Indigo in Burlington had, say, 25 books on France, I’d guess Open Air had over 200. As the closely-packed terrain inside the store was not conducive to toddler play, I quickly purchased several guides to the south of France (including the excellent Take the Kids: South of France from Cadogan) and several French phrase books.
We headed back out into the city, down Yonge to King, and then hopped on the King street car, westbound to Peter Street where we disembarked near the entrance to Mountain Equipment Coop. As neither Oliver nor I are into grappling hooks and rock delinters, we were happy to simply browse and ogle the well-fed urbanites outfitting themselves in lush fleece. MEC has a very nice children’s playground, and an even better family washroom (with free diapers, a change table, and a “put your kid here so they don’t lick the floor while you pee” restraining chair that terrified me and delighted Oliver).
Spying a Thai restaurant across the street, we jaywalked over and shared a very, very tasty meal of red curry chicken and rice (although Oliver, newly outfitted with language, complained that the sauce was “too spicy”).
Next door to the restaurant, and directly across from MEC, we found Europe Bound, which is to the raucous and eccentric adventurer what MEC is to the fit and well-groomed. They carry an odd mix of the same sort of grappling hooks that MEC does, but with a greater emphasis on travel: they’ve got the complete Lonely Planet and Michelin oeuvres, along with a good collection of other travel books and accessories (flashlights, money wallets, firstaid kits, etc.). Although I found myself more Europe Bound than MEC, we left empty-handed, as I’m already more accessorized for travel than is healthy.
Down King St. to Spadina, up Spadina to Queen, and then east on Queen, past the old offices of Robinovitch Tchobanian and Barr to Pages books where we acquired a very nice set of dragon stickers at Oliver’s insistence.
Back onto the street car to Yonge and then into the Eaton’s Center (is it still called that?) to the super Indigo where we found the Michelin map of France I’d forgotten to buy earlier, along with a set of educational flash cards we’d been looking for all week.
Down into the Yonge subway south to Union Station and we caught the 4:47 p.m. GO Train going west to Burlington.
We were in the Big City for less than four hours. It seemed like the perfect amount of time: just enough to be drawn to the alluring light of urbanity, not enough time to get burned up in its heady flame.
We were back in Carlisle shortly after six, where Oliver wolfed down and entire order of sushi, half a bagel, a bowl of chocolate ice cream, and assorted chocolate eggs leftover from Sunday, a combination that induced a weird post-exhaustion sugar high. He didn’t get to bed until 10.
Tomorrow we’re back to Charlottetown via Hamilton and Moncton; we shall set up our bench on the corner of Queen and Grafton and tell tales of the wonders we have seen here in Upper Canada to all who will listen.