Canadia - We're not American! Well, yes you are...

Trip Start Apr 25, 2006
Trip End Apr 25, 2007

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Tuesday, August 8, 2006

My flight from Dublin to Toronto was actually interesting. Not only was the plane full of idiots, but I was also coincidently placed next to a lovely old lady with the same surname as me. She told me ALLLL about her family, and then took time to explain the origins of our family name down to the finest of details, a sketch of the coat-of-arms and description of our very own tartan pattern. I really could have used a few hours sleep to make up for the lousy night's sleep, but fear not, I was civil...

Best idiot on plane quote: "This cheese is off!" (when referring to egg noodles).

It transpired that the airport was in fact a hotbed for bad moustaches - I spotted 8 sure things and at least a couple of tryhard mo's. I was soon to discover that this trend in fact extends to all corners of Canadia, reaffirming their infatuation with keeping a pet slug on the top lip. They're neat little things though... not a Merv or Boonie special. More like a 14-year-old highschool kid trying to harvest something during his school holidays. Weak. Once again I failed to get any money out of an ATM at an airport, and had to resort to the shitty option of changing some cash at some of the worst rates you could possibly find.

I got a bus to the subway, and then proceeded to piss off 20-or-so people by holding up the ticket line while I asked the bloke about how their public transport system worked. The closest ones started physically pushing me and swearing at me, but I was burdened with a huge pack and little sleep so I asked them "Why don't you just fuck right off until I'm done here, mate?" and then turned back to the grinning ticket attendant to conclude my query. Naturally I thanked them all for waiting patiently, and then hit the subway with a much-improved knowledge of it. I called Milena at the (right!) subway stop, then met up with her at a cafe for my first of many Canadian brews. After that I just dropped my bags at her place and we headed off to the bar she works at to tie one on.

Next day I experienced the splendour of a FREE public swimming pool. I'm serious, no strings attached - slides, kiddy pool, fountains, lifeguards. It was right next to FREE public tennis courts. Crazy tryhard socialist Canadians... killing me. After that I was given my marching orders so I headed back into the subway to find my hostel in the Kensington Markets. Getting to the right place wasn't hard, but I was a little thrown by the absolute lack of any indication the building was a hostel - not a single inkling of a sign. Met a kiwi bloke with a banged up nose who had somehow lost his luggage off the top of his bus from Montreal to Toronto, but was expecting to just rock up at the airport and convince them to let him on a plane without having a passport or even his ticket. He had so far survived over a week with the one change of clothes he had in his day pack. I later learned that he was renowned for stumbling back to the hostel at 5am completely off his nut, where he would then wake everyone up and lean against a bunk to get changed because he simply couldn't stand up unattended. I'm pretty sure there was plenty he didn't/couldn't tell us.

Tipping sucks. Plus I keep forgetting to do it, so I keep innocently pissing people off and can't work out why until it's too late. Worse still, they seem to use the TNPTS system here (Turn Nice Prices To Shit). This involves advertising a friendly-looking price like $5.50 at a restaurant, but then just as you go to pay you get shafted with the 7% GST which makes it a lovely $5.88, and then the waitress comes and scowls at you a few minutes so that you end up leaving her the rest of your $7 to cover the "standard" 15% tip. End result? You pay $7.00 for what you thought was a $5.50 meal. Right in the nads. Considering how forward thinking Canadians pride themselves on being, their system combines two of the stupidest systems: tips and exclusive GST. Fix it!

I met up with Peter (from Oz) and we headed to the CN Tower to see what the deal was for getting a bird's eye view of the city. Basically the deal was a several hour wait, and I had already organised a trip to Toronto Islands in the arvo so we bailed on the whole idea and pencilled it in for 9am the next day to avoid the ridiculous crowds. I met up with Julia (from Germany) and we headed to the ferry and then eventually over to the islands. There were all sorts of parks and beaches to explore, plus an amusement park for those interested, but overall it was more of a gig for families - and there were plenty of them around! Back to the hostel in the evening I tucked into my staple dinner of spicy noodles and red wine. Just as I was going to grab my second bottle, one of my roommates, Brandon, wanted in on it after having a pretty average and unproductive day himself. Before we knew it, interest had grown and spread throughout the hostel until a whole envoy of us took the pilgrimage to the bottle-o. This translated to a pretty decent night of drinking.

Next day woke up exactly one minute before my alarm was set to trigger. That has actually been happening to me quite often recently, and let me tell you it's a little hard to fathom in a drowsy, half-asleep state. We intended to hit the CN Tower before the hoards set in, and the early start was a resounding success. That is, if you neglect the fact that I got on the wrong #510 streetcar named desire that was going to King St rather than Union Station. I still have no idea where either of those are. The thing is, if I get on a streetcar with the correct route number on it, and it's heading the correct direction, then I sort of expect that it's going to go exactly the same way as the last one I caught. I cottoned on just as it was changing direction away from where I wanted to go, so I leapt off and found the right streetcar the second time around. I had the last laugh because I didn't have enough coins when boarding, so I just dumped all my change in and hoped for the best - ha ha ha Canadian streetcar!

The CN Tower, which I should mention is supposed to be the tallest building in the world right now, is pretty tall, like 553m tall. As predicted there were no queues, but there was a little matter of ridiculous security measures to negotiate before getting to the lift. We had to stand for 10 seconds in something called "Sentinal 2", which blasts jets of compressed air at you while also performing an x-ray. It's capable of detecting up to 30 different explosives and drugs, and works by analysing trace vapours and particles of your clothing. I guess they are keen to protect the building that defines their skyline here since the US declared the War On Everything. The lookout level offers a gimmicky glass floor section which would be much improved if it wasn't so smudged from people walking on it! The sign said it could support the weight of 17 hippos just in case they were ever to run amok up there. The view of Toronto Islands and all directions of the city was relatively unfettered thanks to a clear morning, but once again I seem to come down disappointed from city towers... woo hoo, it's a city. Other interesting information covered the walls. For example, a dedicated "engineering researcher" completed the highest ever egg drop down the hollow centre. Plenty more stupid records have been forged there - most stairs climbed in a day, most stairs on a pogo etc - perhaps without a big enough idiot being found yet to challenge them.

Next was lunch, but I didn't want to waste too much time doing unimportant things like eating, because I was off to find the casino bus. "The what?", you ask? Simply the greatest idea ever, my friend. Instead of forking out $30 for a tour bus to the Niagara Falls, I discovered a casino-subsidised bus that took me to the Niagara Casino (right adjacent to the falls) for only $30! "But that's the same price you idiot!" I hear ya, but in fact you're the idiot because you interrupted me before I mentioned the $25 casino voucher that's included with the ticket. We all filed in, queued to cash our voucher, then headed down the road to the falls in the knowledge we'd paid only $5 for the 3hr return trip. The concept of course is to facilitate the serious gamblers of Toronto (no coincidence it starts in Chinatown, and the guide is Chinese), as well as to lure the casual punter into blowing their $25 on the pokies.

I left the uplifting tunes and canned "coins falling" noises behind and wandered down the street to the falls. So there are the Niagara Falls, and I'm standing there decidedly nonplussed. I mean I suppose they're big enough to say "Oooh Ahhhh", but what struck me overall was how the immediate surroundings completely detract (ie. ruin) any effect the falls may have had on me. Cheesy, cheesy, cheesy. Lookout tower looming overhead, casting it's shadow over the cliffs. Steady flow of ferries chugging up to the base of the waterfall to get a bit of spray for those on board. Tunnel leading to a platform at the base of the falls for the poorer or less boat-inclined of us. A multitude of hotels all lining up to claim their closest centimetre of land to the falls, and perhaps a glimpse from the top floors. I know, let's toss in a few gaudy amusement parks and then make the whole place so accessible that there will be a constant population of one bazillion people. The whole production brought back the stinging memory of possibly the most horrible thing I've ever seen: a toboggan ride from the top of the Great Wall of China. Some things are best left alone.

I took my obligatory photos of the whole scene, then headed back to the casino to raise my spirits - at least IT wasn't pretending to be anything other than as advertised. It was also similarly crap as I remember Burswood Casino being back home. That is, they had a handful of $1/2 and $2/4 Holdem no limit tables, but with no intention of opening up some new tables to accommodate the huge waiting list of players. For the record, I made $400 in an undisclosed number of hours, and repeatedly busted out a drunk bloke who I was openly referring to as "The ATM", much to his own amusement.

Highlight of the day: Hilarious Chinese bloke seen running from Casino to the falls and back with videocam in hand, simply because he didn't want to waste too much time away from the Blackjack table.

So, with a stupidly early flight to look forward to the next day, I made the necessary preparations (ie. none), and headed to the bottle shop. You see, every week this particular hostel throws a FREE all-you-can-eat BBQ extravaganza comprising of a burgerfest. There was actually a beerfest the same day, but even I thought it would be unwise to tempt fate by tasting over 100 beers starting from 10am. Luckily for me, I was shacked up with a Japanese girl leaving at a similar time the next day and she had happily organised all the streetcars, trains and buses necessary to make it to the airport on time. I don't even want to think about how many times my own lack of organisation has saved me. It would be lots. Language was a slight barrier, but when she suggested she would wake me at 4am I thought I made it crystal clear that my "Advanced Task Streamlining Techniques" would allow a full extra hour of sleep, while still facilitating the silly 5.15am departure time. For the record I had only downed 6 beers and was in bed by 1am.

A rude awakening at 4am indicated to me that the Japanese girl (no, I can't remember her name) had not quite understood, didn't take me seriously, or was simply a little concerned that I was a contender for missing another flight. I asked her politely to let me sleep a little longer, while simultaneously flinging various objects at her that were within arm's reach. I woke up some time after midday and had to come to terms with another missed flight. Just kidding. Actually, my alarm went off at a more sane time and transformed me into Action Man for roughly 15mins of madness. Go to bathroom, someone's in there. Go find another bathroom on 3rd floor, forgot my towel.. etc etc. But hey, I was in the lobby at 5.15am as planned and she was well surprised. Naturally her planning was spot on and we both made it to the airport as scheduled. I arrived at 7am for my 8am flight, she arrived 7am for her 10.30am flight. This was soon after the London liquid/gel bomb scare so she had studiously called her airline and followed their instructions to arrive 3hrs before departure. Ha.
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kiemce on

Re: No no no...
Thank you for the short rant and geography lesson. However, if you have read much of my blog, you would realise it is a humourous account of events and tries to maintain a certain level of jest at everyone's expense - including my own.

The title of 'We're not American... well yes you are' is intended to be controversial, but I'm surprised to get a bite as Canadians are usually savvy with these sort of underhand ploys at seeking reaction. Nevertheless, I was speaking geographically, and indeed Canada is a part of the Americas. It was intended as a critique on how the USA media dictates much of modern culture. For example, South Americans also consider themselves 'Americans', and plenty of other countries are officially called 'The United States of...' but worldwide 'The States' is recognised as a reference to the USA.

Anyway, you'll be pleased to know that I spent 5 days in Toronto, as well as 5 days in Vancouver, and I thoroughly enjoyed my stay - relax!

Matt on

The Canadian guy seems very uptight for claiming Canada is not an uptight country.

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