Geth and I had an extra day in Inverness yesterday after Sunday’s half marathon, and thankfully it was much better weather than we’d had the day before! We went for a long walk into town so that our post-race legs wouldn’t get too stiff.
After a quick bit of breakfast in Costa (Geth didn’t feel adequately caffeinated by the tea provided in the hotel room), we headed along the river and onto the Ness Islands, which were really, really pretty in the sunshine. The tall pine trees and system of bridges reminded me of Channelwood in the first Myst game (if you played videogames in the ’90s you will know what I’m talking about!).
Once we got to the southern tip of the islands, we headed back the way we came and went up to Inverness Castle. We were too cheap to pay the entry fee to get the advertised views of the city, but we still got a good look out over the river and the centre of town.
We finished with lunch at the Filling Station (a Scottish restaurant chain that we’ve both missed since moving to England!) – there may have been pizza, which will be logged soon.
After a long walk (the Metro wasn’t running today!) and a quick vintage fair session this morning, I met up with Mum, Dad and Geth again and we headed off in the car to see some local archaeology-related stuff. First up was Derwentcote Steel Furnace, an 18th century structure that was apparently featured on an episode of Time Team at some point.
We then headed to the Land of Oak & Iron visitor centre, mainly because they had a coffee shop and everyone wanted a coffee. They did also have some wall features.
They also had this bell, which might have come from a Napoleonic warship, but it’s been lost and recovered so many times that nobody’s really sure.
Finally, we headed to Corbridge to see the excavated Roman town there. We’d missed the opening hours, but there’s so much of it you can still see the buildings from outside.
After that, it was back to Newcastle for Italian food and more ginger beer. It’s been a nice weekend, but I should definitely get back to normal eating tomorrow!
Today’s earworm playlist:
Murray Gold – Martha’s Theme Sex Pistols – Anarchy In The UK Bon Jovi – Bad Medicine Tears For Fears – Change Justin Bieber – Love Yourself Madness – Driving In My Car The Killers – All These Things That I’ve Done Post Malone and Swae Lee – Sunflower
And a couple of bonus tracks that Geth was humming earlier:
Traditional – Land Of Hope And Glory Steve Miller Band – Abracadabra
I had ALL THE FOOD at hotel breakfast on my last morning in Toronto, because I knew I wouldn’t get another chance! The French toast was amazing and I’ve missed it since I left, although obviously there’s no way I would be staying at target if I were eating that every morning.
Geth went off for a meeting with a contact he’d made at the conference while I packed. Mum and Dad arrived at our hotel shortly afterwards, and we caught up with the Tour de France on the TV – then once Geth had returned and Malcolm had arrived, we went down to the hotel bar for a couple of drinks. It was nice to have one last drink together before we had to head off.
We collected my bags and walked over to the Holiday Inn, from which Mum and Dad had booked a taxi to the airport. It was sad to say goodbye to Malcolm, but everyone’s already looking forward to meeting up again on this side of the pond next summer. Geth had another day to spend in Toronto, but for now I had to leave it behind – I’m sure I will be back again before long.
On the Monday, which was my last full day in Toronto, Geth and I decided to go and visit the Royal Ontario Museum. Before that, however, we headed to Carlton Street for a quick look round the Maple Leaf Gardens, which is next door to the Holiday Inn where Mum and Dad were staying.
The Maple Leaf Gardens is currently used for sports by Ryerson University (the same uni that was hosting the conference Geth was attending while we were in Toronto). They took it over and massively refurbished the interior in the early ’10s. In the ’00s, it lay empty and deserted, but up until 1999, it was a thriving venue for political events and music concerts and was the home of the Toronto Maple Leafs ice hockey team (hence the name of the venue).
(Incidentally, it’s always really annoyed me that the team are called the Maple Leafs rather than the grammatically-correct Maple Leaves. This is why I will never get into watching ice hockey. #proofreaderproblems)
As a concert venue, the Maple Leaf Gardens hosted Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and pretty much everyone else who was big in the 20th century. In 1984, Duran Duran filmed the video for The Reflex there, which was one of my main reasons for wanting to go and have a nosey around.
Inside the building, there are lots of boards on the walls telling you about the history of the venue. The number of famous sayings that were apparently coined there is difficult to believe!
‘He shoots, he scores’ – apparently said for the first time at the Maple Leaf Gardens! Wiktionary and Urban Dictionary do back this one up.
‘Hat-trick’ – apparently originated at the Maple Leaf Gardens! Geth didn’t believe this one for a second, and again Wikipedia claims differently – cricket players were using the term almost a century earlier.
Still, I guess one out of three turning out to be true is not bad going.
The shiny installations dangling from the ceiling were nice as well!
After I’d finished looking around the exhibition, I met back up with Geth and we took a quick trip to the dinosaur floor. They had some good skeletons, both real and replica, but it was a bit too full of kids having pictures taken with the T-Rex, so we eventually decamped to the Museum Tavern nearby, which is one of our favourite pubs in Toronto, for a couple of pints and a good chat with the barman.
In the evening, we met up with Mum, Dad, Malcolm and Steff for our last meal in Toronto, at Scaddabush. This involved more pizza (which was served on a board with SPECIAL PIZZA SCISSORS for cutting it up! They were amazing and I want a pair!), more cheesecake, and more crayons for scribbling on the table:
After the meal, we said goodbye to Steff – she was working and wouldn’t be able to see us off the next day – and Geth and I headed back to our suite at the Grand for one last sleep in the city (for me, anyway).
On the Sunday in Toronto, Geth and I had a lie-in (or as much of a lie-in as you can have when you’ve never quite adjusted to Toronto time) after getting up early the day before – and then after breakfast, we headed to the Holiday Inn to meet Dad, and the three of us walked through Toronto in the pouring rain towards the Rogers Centre, where we were going to see the Blue Jays play.
I’d never been to a baseball game before, but after we met up with Malcolm and Steff and went into the stadium, Malcolm explained that the Blue Jays are only the second worst team in the league at the moment and their opponents for the weekend series, the Baltimore Orioles, are the worst, which was why the Blue Jays had already won two out of three games.
The Rogers Centre is huge, and is full of stalls where you can buy souvenir merchandise, booze, and pizza – my three favourite things. I got a Blue Jays t-shirt from the sale rack, and had to go with a Bacardi Breezer to drink as I didn’t fancy any of the beers – I don’t think I’ve had one of those since I was a teenager. Luckily, for subsequent rounds, Geth managed to find me some Brickworks 1904 to drink. The pizza was good too!
I really enjoyed the game – baseball turns out to be a nice relaxed thing where you can dash in and out for drinks and food all the time, and the atmosphere reminded me of going to see a weekend of Sevens rugby at Murrayfield back in 2007.
It looked for a while like the Blue Jays might lose, and a lot of the fans left the stadium early, but they pulled it back in the last couple of innings for a nice exciting win at the end!
After the game, I took a picture of Geth with his namesake street sign:
We had another nice meal in the Holiday Inn bar in the evening – no cheesecake for me this time, however, as I’d already tried all the ones at the Holiday Inn!
Returning from parkrun on the Saturday was a lot more relaxing than getting there had been! A couple of friendly fellow parkrunners gave us a lift back to Whitby train station, and we got on the GO train to head back to Toronto. I like the GO trains because they’re double-decker, like the trains in Italy:
We had some lovely lakeside views going back into Toronto.
Once back in Toronto, there were lots of interesting things to see on the way back to our hotel, including this insanely tacky dog-themed fountain:
After we got back to our hotel for a post-parkrun shower, we headed to Panera for a coffee and a pastry, having missed the window for breakfast at the hotel. The pastry was delicious and I can still taste it now. After tomorrow’s weigh-in, I may have to put aside some syns for something similar!
We then went shopping – Geth for shorts (which he couldn’t find in the right style at the right price point, so we gave up) and boxers (trusty ol’ H&M did some Star Wars ones!), and me for tops (H&M again) and underwear (on a good deal at Victoria’s Secret Pink, but Geth was not impressed with how expensive bras are these days). Geth’s habitual ‘Valleys boy’ reaction to spending a lot of money in the shops is to go and find a pub for a stiff drink, so we went to one of Toronto’s many ‘British’ bars and watched the sport on the TV again.
In the evening, we went out for Mum’s birthday meal at the Pickle Barrel, joined by Malcolm and Steff and Steff’s parents Mike and Antoniette – it was lovely to catch up with them. I skipped the starter this time so that I could be sure of fully enjoying the Brown Cow cheesecake!
One of the good things (and also one of the bad things) about being a freelancer who works over email is that I can take my work everywhere I go. The negative side of this is that I’m never truly on holiday, but the positive side is that I don’t miss out on work when it arrives, and it’s still important for me to take every work opportunity that comes my way, because of the specific way in which my business is growing.
This is how I found myself sitting at a desk working all day on the Thursday of our Toronto trip. As work spaces go, though, our hotel suite wasn’t bad – the desk was really nicely set up, and that gorgeous view from the window was a lot more interesting than my usual work surroundings!
In the evening, we all met up at Kalendar, a restaurant just down from Geth’s favourite boardgame cafe on College Street, and I had pizza and blueberry cheesecake. Geth informed me that there was a red phone box next to the toilets downstairs, but my excitement was dashed upon finding this not-at-all-a-classic-British-phone-box:
Also, when I was spinning around confused with my phone camera, looking for this phone box, I got a very strange look from a guy finishing his business in the gents’ facilities, which were in full open view of the hallway. Awkward.
Afterwards, we went back to Malcolm and Steff’s place for a couple of drinks and to meet Sushi the cat.
On the Friday morning, I did a bit more work (and finally finished my Now! marathon!) before heading down to the Elephant & Castle pub to meet Geth, who had just delivered his conference paper. On the way, I did the irritating tourist thing of holding up pedestrian traffic at a crossing to get this nice CN Tower picture:
Readers with good memories might remember the Elephant & Castle from this Phone Box Thursday post about their red phone box. The pub is still a good stop with lots of sports on the TV and good cider on the bar, and Geth was finally able to have some decent chicken wings:
I also really like the stained glass windows – the patterns are lovely and retro.
After a couple of pints, we headed outside to make sure the phone box was still present and correct…
…and then went to the Black Bull for some arctic air-con, a very talkative guy sitting next to us at the bar who was telling us about all the gigs he went to in the ’70s (and is apparently friendly with Martin Gore from Depeche Mode!), and Geth’s new favourite pint, a beer called 8th Sin:
In the evening, we met up with Mum and Dad for another meal of delicious pizza and cheesecake in the Holiday Inn.
Geth and I just got back to Newcastle…again. We’re back for a good while now though!
We’ve been in Scotland for the weekend, for the respective hen and stag parties of our friends Lisa and Kieran. We headed off on Friday afternoon, just a couple of hours after Geth’s Canada luggage finally showed up, and managed to beat the ridiculous UK train chaos caused by the thunderstorms by getting on an alternative train and sitting on the floor of the doorway section. Not hugely comfortable, but at least we got to Edinburgh around the time we were supposed to.
After a quiet evening at Mum and Dad’s, we had an uncomfortable night’s sleep (it was REALLY hot and muggy) and then got up for parkrun, which I will post about later in the week. On returning to the house, I grabbed the world’s quickest shower and got ready to be picked up by my friend Fi to travel to the QHotels Westerwood Spa near Cumbernauld.
Having also picked up our other friends Gemma and Sarah, we headed along the motorway to the spa, checked in and spent a pleasant few hours in the hotel bar, during which Steph, Lisa, Nikki and Becky also arrived. At five o’clock we went downstairs for the treatments we’d booked. I’d never been to a spa before, so I had no idea what to expect from my face and back treatment, but it turned out to be a lovely massage with lots of oil and exfoliation and so on. It was so relaxing, I nearly fell asleep! The only downside is that two showers later, I’ve still not been able to get the oils out of my hair.
After the treatments, we were taken to a relaxation room, where we were able to chill out on daybeds with glasses of water for a while, and then we all went for a swim float in the warmer, shallower part of the pool and a soak in the jacuzzi.
Dinner was at eight, but unfortunately, because the service was really slow and poor, we were in the restaurant for three hours, at which point they still hadn’t served our desserts and we ended up having them brought through to the room where we were booked to have a cocktail and DVD night. The poor service from the waiting staff didn’t spoil our evening, but it was very frustrating, especially as we kept having to go and chase up our orders (and when they billed us for exceeding our food allocation when we hadn’t!).
Still, we had a good time watching Moulin Rouge! and Monty Python & The Holy Grail, and I had two delicious cocktails – the second one was especially good, as it came with a drumstick lolly dipped in it, and I’ve not had one of those since I was a kid.
After a good sleep, we went for hotel breakfast – I resisted the bread table, as I’ve got to lose my Canada holiday weight this week, but the scrambled egg was amazing (much better than the egg in Toronto – sorry, Grand Hotel), the mushrooms and tomatoes were very welcome, and I got to have a tattie scone, which I never get to do as I’m rarely in hotels in Scotland.
We spent a good couple of hours chatting in the hotel bar again, but decided to skip the lunch we’d booked, as most people were too full for lunch/needed to get home. We headed back in Fi’s car again, this time with added Steph, and got back to Edinburgh in plenty time for me to go back to Mum and Dad’s and repack my stuff. I also caught up with Geth, who had enjoyed Kieran’s stag yesterday (they’d spent the afternoon and evening boardgaming – what else?).
We had a much more straightforward train journey back to Newcastle, and are now relaxing with the World Series Triathlon on BBC iPlayer.
Not a perfect weekend, but that massage was so good that I’m definitely interested in going to a spa again!
On the Wednesday, Mum and Dad came to meet me and Geth outside our hotel, and we all walked down to the lakefront to meet Malcolm and catch the ferry to the Toronto Islands.
The ferry itself is a really nice journey – I always love being out on the water, and it was a gorgeous day for it. Once we got across to the islands, we stopped at a bar for a drink (yet another new cider that I will log soon!), and then went for a walk around the islands. We found a small, pretty beach where Dad went for a quick swim, and then walked along the boardwalk to the next island (they’re very easy to walk between). At the far side of the island, we could see right across the lake to the United States. I think Geth was more interested in a nice sit down though.
We then walked back towards the ferry terminal, through a lovely park full of fountains and trees. At the north side of the island by the terminal, you get a gorgeous view of downtown Toronto:
I could have stayed on the islands all day – it’s such a beautiful atmosphere.
Instead, though, we decided to get back on the ferry, and headed back to Toronto for a drink. The bar we went to had run out of cider, so I had a tasty cocktail – then Geth went off to pick up a boardgame he’d ordered from a shop earlier in the week, and I headed back to the hotel to relax with a book.
After our trip to the Bata Shoe Museum on the Tuesday, Mum and I went to Pogue Mahone for a drink. Pogue Mahone used to be one of our family’s favourite bars for eating out in Toronto, as Geth had discovered it during his visiting fellowship at Trent University in 2010 and absolutely adored the chicken wings. Unfortunately, it’s been taken over by new management, and when Geth went to eat there on the night he arrived, he was very disappointed to find that the chicken wings on the menu are now, in his words, ‘chicken McNuggets’. As such, we never ate there this trip, but I did enjoy a couple of ciders there, which I will log soon.
In the evening, Mum, Dad, Malcolm and I ate out at Jack Astor’s. Portions were huge, dessert was so rich I couldn’t finish it, and there were pots of crayons on the table, which meant I could indulge my inner artistic toddler:
…and Dad could indulge his not-so-inner mad scientist.
After the meal, we went back to the Holiday Inn bar to wait for Geth, who had been out for a meal with conference contacts. I found I was getting really tired, and I would never quite adapt to Toronto time – which is why I’ve been quite surprised at the persistence of the jetlag on my return!