6th Jan-11th Jan 2011.
2 cabs, 2 trains, 1 plane.
I got back from Toronto earlier in the week - and had an absolutely fantastic time out there.
I was out for my old mate's wedding, where I was best-man and also took a few pictures. The wedding was brilliant, great fun and I also managed to meet a bunch of great new people who I'm sure will turn into good friends over the years as I get to go back to that area and terrify the locals some more :)
It was my first time to that part of Canada and it made for a really interesting trip given a couple of days were spent with Scott Simpson, who's also become a great friend. Scott runs a studio in Ottawa and has just joined forces with another in Toronto (I'm not sure it's official news so I can't mention who).
The trip started smooth enough but all that ended Canada side when a sudden snowstorm had closed one of Toronto's runways. This meant a 1.5hr taxi/wait for the gate since planes had to cross each other coming in/out and there was a fierce blizzard.
Getting out of the airport eventually to find one half of the cabs on strike was a surprise and I had to enlist the services of some dodgy taxi, which was hair-raising for a while, but I finally got to the Hotel and it was with some relief I quickly got myself sorted and met Mr Simpson in the lobby, to go "for a pint". That was around 9pm and at around 3am, I was finally getting to bed (after 'several' pints and Jameson's along with great conversation as ever from the man-bear) which made it the usual 25hrs up, so a great start but not wholly unexpected.
Friday arrived quickly and I went and did my shopping (a new grip for the D7000 camera) and finally a MacBook Air for my travel use - taking advantage of much cheaper prices than in the UK. I'd convinced myself to get an Air after finding the iPad just not quite enough to do any heavy duty work on longer trips (and I like it on my desk with the keyboard thing, tracking to-do's and the calendar stuff) and my now-ageing Macbook Pro is just too heavy to haul on long-distance trips - the difference is incredible. The Air is so light, so fast and lasts for ages on the batteries - it's an astonishing piece of kit. It also allowed me to edit the photos pretty quickly, which I took at the wedding, which was a bonus.
So much for not buying any more gadgets in 2011, I'd lasted a week - kneel to my willpower! I also kept being asked if I was cold whilst walking about Toronto, I wasn't wearing shorts or just a t-shirt, but presumably I wasn't typical. My response of "No, I'm from Yorkshire" had most stumped.
MET THE BRIDE.
I met Andy and Jane for lunch - the first time I'd met his bride to be - and whilst we went for lunch, I ended up just having a couple of beers given my body-clock was already out of kilter. Anyway, it was nice to chat with Jane at last and obviously put her right on all the folklore and stories that appear to precede me :)
OUT WITH TREV & Co.
Later I got together with Scott and we went out with a bunch of his Toronto friends, including Trevor Fencott (another nutcase and ace new pal), some guy who looked like Mrs Doubtfire and an actual Knight of the Realm (I kid you not) who it's best remain nameless, but won "best story of the night" for his early sexual encounters.
This was in a former distillery imaginatively called 'The Distillery' with a ton of beers on tap, nice place.
Food came and went - and I think I managed just one "hot" wing, which was so bloody hot I've still got the scars.
Mrs Doubtfire (actually an investment banker) left early, presumably sensing the way the evening was going, I swapped shirts (a new theme) with Trevor and I'm not 100% sure what happened to Dave the Knight. We did a late visit to Trev's nearby studio and I don't really recall much after that, but it appears I have the T-shirt to prove it.
OH MY GOD, I FACEBOOK-RAPED A KNIGHT OF THE REALM.
At some point it seems that I also did the usual facebook status-rape on the Knight (who better go un-named) and we played one of those electronic shock-games for shots, which I just started drinking indiscriminately. It ended up pretty messy all told. And this on a night where we'd discussed taking it easy because (a) we had to be up around 6am to catch the Arsenal-Leeds F.A.Cup game and (b) I was to be best man at a wedding so needed to be capable of my duties - and take some wedding photos.
I think we finished around 2-3am again and I'm not quite sure how I managed to get myself up at 6.30ish, maybe because the UK time was 11 or so... Anyway we staggered out of the hotel into what was quickly becoming a blizzard as we headed to "The Footie Factory" a bar around the corner (meaning 20mins walk in Toronto, something I learned) which opened at 7am, showing the game live - which I was very excited about, there's something special about watching big games abroad and meeting other fans.
ARSENAL 1-1 LEEDS (F.A. CUP)
Fortunately the bar was only serving tea, coffee and breakfast, which was the first food I'd eaten in 24hrs as I'm notoriously bad at eating when abroad for some obscure reason (I've lost 11-12llb since the Lyon trip in November).
We then watched the game, taking the piss out of a Man U fan (there's always one) and greatly enjoyed a tense game where Leeds almost shocked Arsenal, before they got a late penalty to earn a replay back at Leeds. There wasn't much of an atmosphere in the bar to be honest, it was early, the weather was bad and myself and Scott were pretty low-key after 2 heavy/late nights. Trev popped in on his way back from the night out - which was incredible given we'd left him 3-4hrs earlier!
During the game I also noticed with some tension that the blizzard outside wasn't easing any and I began to get more than a little worried about the wedding - or even getting out of the bar we were in, thank god they were not serving real drinks at that time...
So after the game, we walked back in the snow, which had got pretty deep pretty quickly (maybe a foot or so in 2-2.5hrs) after pausing for my photo in just my Leeds top. This took longer than it should have done since Scott kept stopping to try and get a cab, whereas hailing a Snow Plough would have been easier.
Getting back to the hotel, it was obvious that we weren't going to be able to squeeze in an hour or two of sleep (given the previous two nights drinking) so quickly changed and headed out for PJ O'Brien's, the Irish Bar selected for the ceremony and festivities. That's right, a wedding in an Irish Bar, never let it be said that Andy Davies hasn't got any class :-) Brilliant!
We were first there, we'd scrubbed up well (especially Scott, who even had a tie on and Andy told me not to bother, presumably so he looked better!) and we lasted 15mins before one of the (very) attractive Irish bar-maids asked if we wanted a drink. How could we refuse?
Anyway, 5-10mins on from this and the first other guest arrives, who had an air of "I know you" about her, even though I didn't. So I opens with my traditional faux-pas "ah you must be Jane's mother".
Bombshell. Not Jane's mother, but good friend and only 12 months or so older.
Several squirmy minutes later and gritting my teeth, she relaxed once she had a rum and coke. To be fair, Jennifer (for that is her name) was a a great sport and later (presumably after more Rum) told me it wasn't the first time it had happened, so I was pleased to be left off the hook - although it became a humorous theme across many photos and comments throughout the day.
Eventually the bride and groom arrived in a very casual and relaxed way, guests trickled in and we got to meet lots of new friends - and as usual tried to buy someone's hat, but he couldn't be bought. I think Scott got up as far as $500, but it wasn't the point that it was a $7 hat.
At some point into the day (and we'd had a few drinks) it was time for the main ceremony, I was ushered to the front, met the maid of honour (Dianne) and we were given rings to hold. The guy doing the ceremony was a guy from the Toronto Police Force so I had to be on my best behaviour (ish). Despite pretending to have lost the ring in the very few seconds I had it, the marriage went without any problems. There was lots of laughing, clapping, cheering and it was all laid back and a ton of fun - just as Andy and Jane wanted (both their 2nd marriages).
Then it came to the speeches and at the very last minute I decided to drop the one I'd agonised over writing for some time and just went off the cuff. (I later found that the women had found my original script and 'marked' it).
I banged on about friends and the fact that all these cool people in the Toronto area were gaining an awesome new friend (I did mean Andy) and then did a toast to friends and family, it seemed to go down very well and people enjoyed it - I really am not one for sticking to the script.
A bunch of women were purring about my accent too, I really wish that would happen more often :)
APRES-WEDDING JAPANESE KARAOKE ACTION
At around 9pm, the wedding festivities were coming to a close, but the Simpson-Brown roadshow continued as a bunch of revellers including "Take one for the team" Miguel and "Jane's mom" descended upon a great Japanese karaoke club somewhere in downtown Toronto. 4hrs went by in a flash and after a lot of crooning and Tom Jones shirt-throwing, we were done around 2am or so. Pretty pricey, but a fantastic time had by all.
SUNDAY - DAY OF REST!
Sunday was a complete write off for me. So hyper I couldn't sleep (maybe it was those Vodka-redbulls) and I felt lousy all day after 3 pretty big days with my pretty-big friend. Scott flew back to Ottawa around mid-day and left me to weep into a towel (i had pretty horrible hangover). I had recovered enough by later in the day to start editing and uploading photos of the wedding I'd taken and these were well recieved.
It's a big, BIG city. Canada has this "Tonka" feel to it, everything is big and chunky, large, making stuff in the UK look almost tiny in comparison. The city was sprawling but it's people very welcoming, full of fun and good nature. The people were great and I have a lot of new friends. I'll certainly be back and I barely scratched the surface of the city in 4 days, I'd need a lot more time...