Prior to this trip, I had only spent a couple of hours in Toronto, frantically trying to make my way from Via Rail to the Greyhound station while dragging literally my body weight in personal belongings on my long trip home from Vancouver. It was an unpleasant situation of my own making (aren’t they all).
This time round, I was able to spend a couple of days in the city before heading south to Niagara Falls. Toronto can be a little overwhelming; it can also be a little underwhelming. It’s a giant city, but it’s not exactly New York, or Chicago, and it doesn’t seem to have as much of an identity as those cities.
Some of the buildings are ridiculously huge. Actual giants could live in them without bumping their heads on the ceilings. Unfortunately they don’t, they’re just public buildings with regular-sized people moving through them.
Oh, and it’s kind of expensive to be alive in Toronto, but I suppose that comes with the territory.
Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada
I did manage to spend a couple of hours at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, which houses the usual variety of fish and other aquatic species. In one area, there was a touching pool with horseshoe crabs. I’ve always been fascinated by horseshoe crabs – they’re such bizarre creatures – but I was a little hesitant about touching one.
I’m not sure I like the idea of poking animals for fun. I cringe when I see screaming kids jabbing their fingers into sea stars and sea anemones. But I figured, when am I ever going to get another opportunity to touch a horseshoe crab? So I slowly reached my arm into the water and gently caressed the shell of a nearby crab. The texture was smooth and hard, like lacquered wood – more or less what I expected. So, not great revelations.
Still, much like Katy Perry when she kissed a girl, I touched a horseshoe crab and I liked it. Except I did it for real, instead of lying about it for commercial purposes.
The CNN Tower is right next to the Aquarium. You would have to pay me a lot of money to get me up that thing. I’ve been up taller buildings, but I’m not going up what is essentially a concrete pole inside of a glass elevator. No chance.
And this is the part where I should say “but guess what, I did go up it.” But I didn’t.
I really didn’t.
Steam Whistle Brewery
Instead I popped over to the nearby Steam Whistle Brewery. Steam Whistle, based inside an old train terminal. They only produce one beer, a strict classic style Pilsner. They offer free tasting and a tour, which naturally I took them up on. It was a slow winter day, and I was the only one who showed up for that tour. A cool guy showed me around some gigantic machinery in a really cool building. They gave me some free beer – in fact, they kept giving me free beer. As the tour guide guessed, I’m more into ales and stouts than lager and pilsner, but still, it’s a very drinkable beer. I hadn’t had anything to eat, and all the free beer went slightly to my head.
I kind of wandered around light-headed and exhausted for a while before heading back to the hostel.
The Hateful Eight
That evening I was a little bored, so I thought I’d go see Quentin Tarantino’s latest, The Hateful Eight. By sheer coincidence, I was within a couple of subway stops of a cinema showing the 70mm roadshow version of the film. So, naturally I jumped on the chance.
Here’s my spoiler-free review of The Hateful Eight: I liked it, and not just because Zoe Bell is in it. Although she is in it.
That was about it for Toronto. Next stop Niagara Falls.