*So “everyone” might be a slight exaggeration, but let me have it
In the last week of August, my guy and I headed back to my hometown of Toronto for an absolute whirlwind trip of family, friends and (of course) food. We also had to sneak in a few tourist highlights, as it was someone’s first trip to #the6ix.
Wednesday (Day 1)
We started with a delayed red-eye on Tuesday evening that didn’t have us flying out of Vancouver until 2 in the morning! My family met us at the airport and greeted our groggy bodies and blood shot eyes with giant hugs.
Back at home we dined on a lovely homecooked breakfast before passing out hard for a much-need mid-morning siesta. By 1:00pm we were awake and on our way to the Toronto Zoo with my siblings.
The zoo was actually a great time. I’m not always a huge fan of zoos and I hadn’t been to one in about a year, and not to the Toronto one in many years. We took in the special exhibit on the Giant Pandas and then made sure to see everyone’s favourites: gorillas for me, wolves for my sister, careful following of the map for my brother, and a Beaver Tail snack break for my guy.
After a few hours at the zoo and right about when we had had it with Lee’s complaints of sore feet, we headed back to the car and home for a Lee Family BBQ!
It was so nice to catch up with my aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents from the Lee side. I love our family get-togethers and know I had missed quite a few. It’s always tough to find time to actually chat with everyone especially when there are dogs trying to steal food, baseball games to watch, adorable babies to play with and way more food than necessary waiting to be consumed.
After all that family fun, our fivesome (who were six for the night) decided to fit in a little more bonding over a friendly game of Texas Hold ‘Em. My sister and I spent the majority of our childhood trying to convince our parents to play boardgames with us or attend disco parties we had planned. It was kind of nice to spend a few hours doing the adult version of that. Everyone enjoyed it, even Lee, who I think ended up winning a few hands and then pulling a Robin Hood (stealing from the bank to help his sisters out). I don’t know who won but I’m pretty sure I came top 3 :)
Day 1 recap: arrival, zoo & family bbq
Day 1 total # of fam/friends visited: 14
Thursday (Day 2)
We had to head out straight away Thursday morning to make it downtown in time to join the Ladies Lunching (my mom, aunts and a few cousins) at a cool spot between the financial and entertainment districts. The food was a bit strange and the company was all female, but my guy pulled through.
After lunch, we loaded my mom up with our suitcases (sorry, mom!) and headed over to The Hockey Hall of Fame. I was preparing for 3-4 hours of absolute boredom. Turns out, it was actually a good time (and only 2 hours!). I needed a lot of interpreting but even I could appreciate some of the awesome trophies, the 4D movie and the interactive areas. Partners of hockey lovers: do not fear! The HHOF is not all that bad!
From there we headed up to Nathan Phillips Square to pose with the newly iconic Toronto sign (courtesy of the Pan Am games) and to meet my wonderful friend, Kimberley, over a few beers. We got to catch up with Kim, I got asked to be a co-MOH and then we jumped on the subway en route to the Annex.
In the Annex we met up with some more of my high school friends for a great night of cheap food and board games at Snakes and Lattes. I’ve been to S&L lots of times but it’s always more fun with a big group. The 7 of us thoroughly enjoyed ourselves over a number of fast-paced and quick-witted games.
Day 2 recap: lunch, HHOF, beers, boardgames
Day 2 total # of fam/friends visited: 13
Friday (Day 3)
Friday started with Toronto’s must-do tourist attraction: The CN Tower! Again, I hadn’t been for years so it was a kind of cool (and horribly expensive) experience for me to go back up. The security is tight (at one point, you walk through a machine that blasts air at you while supposedly searching for explosives) and the views are awesome. It was fun to get a great view of the city on a non-cloudy day and to try and point out different spots (“I used to live right there!” “Where?” “Look where I’m pointing!”)
We stopped for lunch at the Jack Astor’s outside the big ScotiaBank Theatre and then carried on to Yonge and Dundas where Buskerfest was in full swing. It was a pretty great time to experience the area, though the mob we got stuck in on the way home (when I desperately needed to pee) was not the best.
Back at my mom’s, we packed up our stuff and caught a ride with my cousin. Thanks to rush hour traffic, we got to Mississauga about 90 minutes later. In Missisauga we picked up my other cousin and then headed on to Fort Erie where the Ang Family would be cottaging for the week.
Around 9pm, we pulled into the cottage site and got to explore our new home for the weekend. It was too dark to head down to the beach so we lazed around the living room and got our butts handed to us in a few rounds of Big 2 by my pre-teen cousins.
Day 3 recap: CN Tower, Buskerfest, cottage
Day 3 total # of fam/friends visited: 9
Saturday (Day 4)
On Saturday morning we woke up and got to appreciate the beautiful lakefront cottage we were staying in. Our room that night looked right out to the water and we decided to take our breakfast out on the lawn. A little while later (because it takes a while to get 10 people going) we headed out to Niagara Falls!
Another off the tourist bucket list: seeing the falls! We got to experience them up close with a ride on the Hornblower (formerly known as the Maid of The Mist which apparently the US has copyrighted for boats leaving from their side). I remembered the Maid of The Mist as, just that, misty. I knew you got the plastic ponchos but I didn’t remember actually needing them. Well, either I was wrong or something has changed because on the Hornblower we got SOAKED! Even in our ponchos, it felt like we had gone swimming. But it was a great time and no better way to appreciate the beauty and power of Niagara Falls.
We followed our swim with a walk up Clifton Hills and lunch at the world’s slowest burger joint. From there we headed back to the cottage for the main festivities: Grandpa Ang’s 80th Birthday! The rest of the family started pouring in and the cooking began in earnest. We feasted on fish, chicken and 4 different cakes until our stomachs ached.
After dinner and dessert, we headed down to the beach so my man could earn his keep by building us a campfire. 12 years in the Boy Scouts proved useful and soon we were roasting marshmallows, singing along to a ukulele and praying the rain would stay away. There’s something about singing with my family, whether it be to Jason Mraz tunes around a campfire or classic carols on Christmas Eve, that always warms my heart.
Day 4 recap: Niagara Falls, birthday dinner, campfire
Day 4 total # of fam/friends visited: 8
Early the next morning my extremely kind cousin drove us to Pearson so we could catch our noon flight to NYC. I love every opportunity to see my family and I think we really made the most of four very short days in Toronto. We got to see a lot of people and fit in a few tourist classics. Granted, it wasn’t the most relaxing trip and it sucks that I could only see most people for a single meal, if that. But any chance to be with my loved ones in Toronto is always worth it.
Grand total: 44! We managed to see 44 members of my friends/family in only 4 days! And that’s not double counting; 44 different people were graced with our presence ;)
Until next time, Toronto!