Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Day two - in Toronto

We have an entire day in Toronto before out flight leaves. Well, almost an entire day. Have arranged for a late check-out with the hotel but we still have to be gone by 3:00 and we don't need to be at the airport until five. As we did 34 years ago, we are going to visit Casa Loma, a beautifully restored mansion in the heart of this metropolitan city. Built by Sir Henry Pellat in the late 1800's on less than 100 acres of land, the city has grown up around it. I remember driving down a fairly normal residential street and poof! Suddenly there's a castle off to the left.

Casa Loma from the front
According to Google, Casa Loma was a quick, 28-minute drive from our hotel. We left around 8:15 with the intent to stop at Tim Horton’s for breakfast along the way. Figured the places were ubiquitous enough we could easily find one.

One problem. Steven forgot to pack a certain essential piece of clothing for himself. Going commando might be an option every once in a while, but not for nearly three weeks. A trip to a store was in order.

The skylight in the conservatory
So we got onto the 401 going West, as the directions on the Casa Loma website stated and Google (seemed to) corroborate. Quickly we realized the roads we were passing were not on our screen-saved map. Can’t use GPS here – we’d get roaming charges, so we’d taken a snapshot of the route and it didn’t match what we were passing. Plus, we were stuck in rush-hour traffic, so things moved slowly.

Got off to turn around and found, believe it or not, a Walmart. Good place for Steven to pick up some Fruit of the Looms! And a Tim Horton’s on the corner made this a lucky choice for a turn around. Turned out to be the last bit of luck for the next several hours.

Do you know what a “connector” is in regards to Canadian traffic? Yeah, neither did we. Turns out the “Express” lanes are for through traffic and “Connectors” are off-ramps that are actually expressways that run BESIDE the expressway. Groups of streets are lumped together and, if you want to exit on one of them, you get off on the appropriate Connector, follow it for several kilometers and, eventually, your off-ramp will appear…three lanes over and with not enough time to get there.

Suffice it to say, a 45-minute ride took us just under two hours. Besides the expressway confusion, there were roads closed (some due to construction, others because they’re filming something big here at the moment). But we got to Casa Loma and took a deep breath. Adventure to get here – adventure awaiting!

Half expected to see Professor X wheeling down the hall!
We first visited on our honeymoon, thirty-three years, eleven months ago. It was run by the Kiwanis back then and very few people were in attendance the day we were there. Each room had a motion-sensor that activated a voice-over when you entered and the ghost of Sir Henry Pellat guided you through the mansion. It was a clever device and became the genesis of the Casa Loma dungeon Steven and wrote for D&D.

Three years ago, a private company bought it and has poured a great deal of money into its restoration and promotion. There were several busses of school groups there today and a LOT of tourists. The place was packed. The charming voice-over is gone and you can borrow an audio device, like the ones from art galleries, to listen to information about each room. While it was interesting, it was quite dry. I miss Sir Henry!

One of the cool additions was downstairs in the basement – a row of posters of films that used Casa Loma as part of their setting. The most famous one was X-men. Professor X’s study? The hall where the kids come out of the rooms? Yeah, filmed at Casa Loma. I know what I’ll be re-watching when I get home!

Ate lunch there in a nice little café in the basement (air-conditioned!). We got directions back to the 401 and, now knowing how the expressway works, made it back to the hotel fairly quickly. A change of clothes, a trip back to the car to drop off everything not going with us and then hopped on the shuttle to the airport.

Way too early, of course, to do anything. Hung out for about an hour, then checked our one and only piece of major luggage, got our carry-ons weighed and headed off to security. Steven made it through with no trouble. I got chosen for a full body scan. They gave me an option of a pat-down – but it was a woman so I declined and went for the scan instead. Where are the hot security guards when I need them???

And now we’re waiting for our flight, which doesn’t board for another hour and a half. Figured I’d take the time to bring the journal up-to-date. Not sure when I’ll be able to post again. If our hotel in Rome has free wi-fi, we’ll upload pictures from Rome, otherwise, I’ll keep writing off-line and post when we can.

Next stop, ROME!

Ciao and play safe,

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