Wednesday, September 7, 2011

O Canada!

You're not my home or native land, but I still think you're pretty spectacular. For my 30th birthday this past April, my best friend, Jenny, surprised me with a trip to Canada! Yeah, I know, greatest best friend ever. In reality, it was all thanks to the Pampered Chef... well, Jenny's ability to sell their awesome products.

Now, I've been to Canada a couple of times, once, I visited one of their fine French speaking airports for  48 hours... FORTY EIGHT HOURS, thanks to a menacing snowstorm that refused to budge. Angry passengers were yelling at angry airline staff in angry Canadian French. Me, I slept on a plastic chair with my sister and nephew and subsisted off day old bagels and questionable beverages... not the best introduction to a country I've ever had. The second time, thankfully, was much more fun, and can be read about in my very first blog post!

This trip to Canada however, was nothing but straight up awesomeness. But, it did begin a little strangely... I won't rehash, but to say that the worst string of tornadoes to hit Alabama in my lifetime struck the day before we left, leaving everything in a state of havoc. Driving to Jenny's in complete darkness, no streetlights, no store signs, not even a visible moon, was one of the eeriest experiences in my life.


"What do all these lines mean?"
We flew to Canada, hopped our transportation shuttle, dropped our bags off at the hotel, registered,  and proceeded to immediately get lost on the streets of Toronto. Now, navigation isn't a strong suit for either of us, and I'm pretty sure we won't be earning our merit badges in map reading anytime soon.  Originally, we were looking for China Town, hoping to grab a spot of dinner. Instead we ended up in the gay district looking very much like the helpless, hapless American tourists that we were.

Eventually, we decided to scrap the plan for China Town and headed towards the somewhat closer Greek Town... not that we knew how to get there either. Thankfully, some kind Canadian lady took pity on us and approached, asking if we were lost and if she could help. With her directions and only a couple of wrong turns, we found our way to Greek Town. We were both pretty exhausted from all the walking getting lost entailed, so much so, we didn't bother to take many (any) pictures, but take my word, Greek Town was excellent, mainly because it offered me a meal consisting of Souvlaki, feta cheese, lemony rice, and pita bread- much better than the... unsatisfying bag of nothing... offered on the airplane.

And that was day one in the great province of Ontario!

Day 2, which happened to be my birthday, started very early... all thanks to a couple of high profile Brits. I won't lie... I was excited about the Royal Wedding. I'm not much older than William and have always been interested in the exploits of the British crown. I thought Wills was handsome, Kate, absolutely stunning, and Harry was dashing (and ginger and awesome!)

That dress was perfection.
After watching the wedding, it was breakfast time... and the Pampered Chef knows how to put on a spread, but you'd kind of assume that given that they're "The Pampered CHEF." It was amazing, but we still went for birthday donuts afterward, because, well... 30.

Tim Horton's!

*Cue Homer Simpson face*
I'd never actually had Tim Horton's before this trip, but I'd heard their goodness extolled constantly by Jenny. Personally, I thought they were pretty good, and the one that has cinnamon in it is outstanding, but nothing compared to the wonders offered by our local Fultondale Bakery.

After Tim's... I think we took naps. I know, we're not exciting, but that wedding was at an unholy hour! Besides, it was my birthday, and trust me, that nap was a present. After that, it was time to explore the city a little, and by explore the city, I mean find a place for a birthday lunch. (Seriously, we did do more than eat on this trip.)

Though, obviously, eating was a big part of it.
POUTINE! Yes, Canada's famous concoction of fries covered in cheese curds and gravy finally made its way my face. I must say, I wasn't a great fan of this particular gravy, but the concept is a good one. I do like my fries with an obscene amount of ketchup, but this was a nice departure, and with a better gravy, it'd be awesome.

Jenny liked the beer. I still can't stand the stuff.
We had this birthday lunch at a little brewery, Les 3 Brasseurs, which we found while walking around downtown. We didn't know anything about it, but the food was tasty, the service good, and they offered free tours, which was a nice bonus.

 This gigantic copper kettle is where the hops (or barley or whatever) are cooked... I'm not sure. I'm by no means an aficionado on the brewing of anything, and it's almost sad to have me attempt to explain it. I just know it's a very important part of the process. It's a beautiful piece of equipment, that's for sure. This is the only portion of the operation that's viewable from the dining area of the restaurant.

 Here we are out of the public eye, in the working portion of the brewery. These tanks hold the brew and allow it to ferment for however long is necessary. Also, there's a random guy for your viewing pleasure.

This is where they keep all the grain for the various kinds of beer they make. The guy is pointing something out that's probably important, but I was too busy laughing at the pic I'd just taken, (this one) because Jenny seems to be sauntering through the room like she owns it.

Maybe she does. Jenny's really, really enthusiastic about beer.

Really... enthusiastic.

Me, I still don't like the stuff, but I enjoyed the tour. All of the equipment is interesting, and some of it is downright beautiful. Leave it to an artist to be overwhelmed by the aesthetics of beer while not caring for the taste of it! I will say, I would absolutely love to design a beer (or wine) label. They're often beautiful/funny/cheeky works of art.

A big thanks to this guy, who took us on the tour. I don't remember your name, brewing guy, but I'll never forget you! (Until, I probably forget you.) After that, we played at being the tourists we actually were. We did a little sight seeing, visited the mall, ("Let's go to the mall! ...Today!") took pictures in front of all the American stores, partook of wedding day cupcakes during a replay of the royal vows, and generally enjoyed the rest of the day and the Pampered Chef banquet that night, in my honor. (Well, probably in honor of the thousands of reps there, but delusions are fun!) All in all, it was a great way to turn 30.

Next post... NIAGARA FALLS!

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