Rest Days 49-56 – Summary of a week off in Toronto. This is a pretty long posting today, but it’s only a very brief summary of what’s been going on since arriving in town last Saturday.
I’ve added up a few figures for the trip so far, in case you’re interested. Over the 48 days since leaving Ucluelet, over on Vancouver Island, I’ve covered 3,033 miles of Canadian asphalt (although some of it was gravel, mud and grass), which makes an average of 63 miles per day. If I take out theseven rest days, it’s an average of 74 miles a day.
At the end of the whole trip I’ll do a thorough number-crunch and total up the interesting stats like calories consumed (and perhaps a food-equivalent), the hours spent sitting on a Brooks saddle, height climbed (which I might be able to measure in “Everests”) and so on. For now, I think I need to keep looking firmly forward without too much patting-of-the-back, or I may slip out of endurance mode. I’ve stolen the odd moment this week to look carefully at maps and profiles of a few hills, seeing where I might end up and when. I don’t have a return flight booked yet, so at some point I’ll need to make a decision about that.
As you might expect, it’s been a week of walking, talking, eating and drinking. And riding on the TTC – streetcars, subways and buses. Very little cycling.
Susie arrived here safely from London:
We settled in at Virginia’s gorgeous top-floor apartment downtown, with its green haven of a balcony. These are not just flowers in pots; each one is a miniature garden in its own right, with every plant carefully chosen to create this fragrant urban escape. The only bees I’ve seen all week in Toronto were here, up on the roof. My bike has been very happy perched quietly out here above the city, and so have we:
The City of Toronto never stops growing. Every visit Susie and I have made here over the years presents us with a new collection of ever-more imaginative and distinctive apartment buildings and office blocks:
…and there was time for shopping, including a stop a the excellent MEC Outdoors store where I had to replace a few essential items, lost or damaged en route:
Susie and I found our way to Aristotelis, a great old-style barbershop I’d seen on Spadina and Richmond St West. Anyone in town looking for something similar, give Tito the Venezuelan a try. He was full of stories and tips, their business having been going since 1935. They still have their original till, which is a beauty. Tito told me that, to keep their hair, “some guys use aloe vera -” (leaning right in and whispering confidentially) “and onion!” I asked if anyone famous went there, and he said “Oh yes, all dead!” We never found out who he meant as he was also a touch hard of hearing. I may look a bit stunned in this one, because, to be honest, his quiet voice and the calm in the shop after being out on noisy, hot Spadina, had me on the verge of falling asleep. I haven’t been in a barbers for years as Susie does my hair at home, so I felt my age when he said “Eyebrows and ears?”. “Sure” I said. Get the full service, I thought, like for my bike.
We’ve been spending most of our sociable hours with Susie’s family, her father Morley and his wife Dinah, Uncle Ellie, Uncle Jerry and Aunt Mayta, and sister Joanna who’s in town from Sweden with her daughter Tess.
Lunch at The Dunfield with the head of the family, Unlce Ellie and his friend Toby
With youngest brother and Susie’s father Morley, choosing a print. One great thing about Susie’s interest in lino-cut prints is that you can give (slightly different) copies to everyone – just chose your favourite!
We also managed to fit in the odd breakfast out together – here we tried the excellent “What A Bagel”:
(As you can see, I’m eating for two now)
And again the next day!:
Receiving comments on the blog every day has been an absolute joy on this trip, making me feel connected to everybody whilst still being faraway and out on the highways of Canada. The section that counts how many visits there are to the website from all over the world makes interesting reading, with the Canadian following growing so fast that it’s now catching up with the UK, which had a big head start – I never imagined that the blog would reach these sorts of numbers:
A highlight of the week was a lovely ‘Open House’ party on Wednesday night at Jerry & Mayta’s in Yorkville. Family and friends in equal numbers gathered for a sumptuous meal (thanks so much Mayta & Jerry) and great conversation. It was a novel experience for me to realise how many people are following the blog on a daily basis – I would be telling someone about an event out on the road and they would laugh and say “Oh yes, I read about that in the blog!”. They could also put me straight if I’d mis-remembered any details.
(Susie is celebrating 40 years, almost to the day, since she first started coming to Canada, we’re marking our 25th wedding anniversary in September, and Canada itself has had its 150th birthday this month, as you know. Plenty of reasons for feeling like a party)
Another sort-of-stat – here are all the birds, from my “Oiseaux du Canada” pack of cards, that I’m 99% certain I’ve seen so far. There are lots left in the pack, including some much rarer birds that I’m just not sure I saw, so I’ll do this again at the end of the trip, and of course there were many more that aren’t in the pack and I can’t identify. Sorry Sam and Seb, and Stewart too. The most common bird out on the road by far, the Red-winged Blackbird, wasn’t in there! It nice to have had the time this week to work out what was what, and it makes me very happy to think back to all the occasions when I crossed paths with these beauties:
As you will have seen from the separate posting, I spent a morning with Micah at his workplace, which was very helpful for route planning amongst many other things. Maps have never been far away this week, with so much local knowledge about what’s coming my way from next week:
I’ve had BBQ a few times on this trip, at various altitudes, but never twenty-five stories up above the city. Susie’s cousin Enid and her husband Ed treated Joanna, Tess and ourselves to a wonderful roof-top supper. Jerry has often told me that there’s a maxim in architecture: “The higher the building, the worse the restaurant at the top”. I’m very pleased to be able to prove him wrong – we ate superb BBQ ribs, fish, chicken, wurst, all with this fine view south to the lake. On the left of the photo is my lakefront route east on Monday, should I ever manage to leave:
As the evening went on, we talked at length about the different routes to Canada taken years ago by the relatives of all those around the table. Almost all are miraculous stories of survival or escape from the Nazi death camps. The luxury of looking out at the city of Toronto on a fine summer’s evening wasn’t lost on any of us.
We had a Shabos supper on Friday night at Morley and Dinah’s with Joanna and Tess (it’s been great to spend time with them in Toronto after many years of just missing each other) that concluded with Morley and I spending some time talking about canoeing in Canada, and him showing me the two beautiful spruce canoe paddles he keeps at the apartment. One is a slender paddle for the front of the boat, the other a broader one for paddling and guiding from the rear. The canoe itself is quietly waiting for an adventure in a garage somewhere…
As expected, I took advantage of Susie’s suitcase this week to get rid of rather more than just one thing, making up for several days on the road when I confess to having only added things:
Susie and I also took advantage of being here to get a great massage at the Sutherland-Chan School of Massage Therapy. We’ve been there before, but ages ago. Jane at the desk found our file was last used in January 2005, when we spent a white Christmas here, with several feet of snow and a blizzard whilst out shopping on Christmas Eve, much to our lads’ (and our) delight.
The massage therapists were doing their last week before qualifying, and both Liam and Emily were excellent. Their supervisor, Odette, was an ex-dancer and originally from London, and guided Liam expertly towards solving my various cycling aches and pains. They’re mostly caused by the endless pressure on the handlebars, and are a pretty familiar problem for cycle touring, to which I’m a relative newcomer despite all my miles on a bike.
We had one trip out to the north of Toronto on Saturday, to visit the country home of Linda and Laurie Kaplan. We’ve visited them here often before, mostly back when Jerry & Mayta had their place nearby. After a pre-lunch experiment with clamato-based cocktails, we had a wonderful meal out on their porch, safely protected from mozzies by the screening. If only I could take that with me next week. Their lovely home is the work of Jerry Markson (standing, left), who’s been a Toronto-based architect since, I believe, the 1950s. His wife Mayta is a very fine potter and as is so often the way when visiting family and friends in Toronto, we were surrounded by her work too!Linda has recently bought a beautiful spruce and rosewood “Córdoba” ukulele (perched against the coffee table) which I loved having a go on. I hope I won’t upset my own bright red life-saver if I say it sounded amazing. I made a mental note to put one through its paces when I get home. Linda also confidently identified the bird song I’ve been asking about as a chickadee. Agreed, birdspotters?
So this special week has drawn to a close, and I won’t feel aggrieved at any FotB that hasn’t read all the way down to this point in the blog today! It’s a record of what happened, and has been a week full of great get-togethers and time with Susie before I disappear in to the distance again, cycling east along the north shore of Lake Ontario tomorrow morning.
See you there everyone, bright and early! Bx