An evening on a subway train can be a very interesting experience. Tonight my transit adventure began at Pearson Terminal 1 where I picked up the 192 Airport Rocket to Kipling Subway station. The bus ride was really nostalgic as I haven’t taken the bus in quite some time.
The bus was packed and well filled with travellers, airport and airline staff calling it quits for the night. Once at Kipling station I got on the first eastbound train to transfer a St. George station. Watching people is one thing that I absolutely love to do. I noticed that although Toronto is very unique that it still has a Canadianism about it.
At St. George station, I switched to a northbound train to try and visit the new stations I have never been to. There was a kind of new couple that was sitting next to me. She was teaching him things about the subway because he is new to Canada. Although it was cute that he missed his stop to go one more stop because he didn’t want to leave her.
After they left the train around Downsview Park station was there was a larger but still average woman I would say in her twenties pull a needle out of her bag and stick herself with it and then placed the needle back in her bag.
On the return trip, there was a group of university students get on the train near York University and they had 3 bottles of Nestea. Except one was clear and colourless and as they gulped it the familiar look of that unique facial expression was very evident from when you gulp a 40% or more liquid and it burns.
The normal coloured bottle must have also been spiked as their attractive female friend asked then to top up her Starbucks cold drink cup.
After I lost interest in them there was another group of very mixed race and the black skinny guy was looking very exhausted. Apparently, he works a security gig and goes to school and just worked 20 hours straight. I only learned of this because they were joking about him as a mall cop. The group then started rapping on the train and it was really good.
A little later on in the journey a bagged tried hitting up everyone on the train because he was hungry.
Shortly after I ended up at St Andrew station and successfully ended the subway journey. Except that the station attendant was evil eying me. I just smiled said hello and continued on my way.
As we left off the quest, I was on the back roads of southern Ontario, with the Spotify music pumped. I was taking the back roads partly because it was taking everything to keep myself together, and partly because the 410, 407, and 401 scare the hell out of me.
It was at this point, I decided that seeing Niagara Falls wasn’t going to happen with the gloomy dark cloud of depression. It was also raining and cloudy too. After close to 2 hours, I arrived in Kitchener and the sun came out there. I managed to find a convenient little parking spot and walked down Festival street. I have written before about Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest but there is something about this festival that in its own special way brings it over the top. There seems to even be a much higher percentage of people in a traditional dress than you even see in Munich.
The Rogers Hometown hockey was there and there was a beautiful smell in the air that brought nostalgia back. Like most things, however, the second time is just not the same and the depression came back. I grabbed a sausage and water and then went to the gift shop to buy a new pin for the Oktoberfest hat and Bavarian suspenders. Then got in my car turned on my “Sadness” Spotify playlist and hit the 401.
As I entered Toronto after supper time the only suitable thing to do was to stop and grab some Popeye’s. There was no way after the nerve-wracking of the 401 so far that I wanted to deal with downtown Toronto traffic lights and lanes. I then after eating the meal continued on my way to Oshawa where I was so tired that I pulled over to a Tim Hortons and rested for an hour before proceeding to the ONRoute in Port Hope.
I slept very well that night even for sleeping in my car. The next morning I woke up refreshed and continued towards home. On the way back I detoured a few times the first was to take a photo of the First Railway tunnel. The second was to go to Kingston ON Wal-Mart to buy new shoes because my old ones were so far gone my numb feet hurt.
After Brockville, I dove the side road along the waterfront and found a beautiful little stop in Prescott ON where there is a historic site that was the location of the Battle of the Windmill where rebels were stopped by the Royal Navy in 1838. This was my last detour in Ontario before I stopped for lunch at Denny’s. I gas the most incredible pancakes with a Dolce cream to pour over them and soak in them to make a moist wonderful pile of goodness. Which would be the last goodness of the trip.
I gassed up and hit the road. After the panic of Toronto, I was destined to skip Montreal and take the toll bypass road. Or had wished I did. Instead out of nowhere it seemed I entered Montreal. It was a particularly sunny but not too sunny day. From Kingston to Montreal it was “mainly sunny”. I entered the tunnel to leave Montreal and thought well that’s it I made it.
This is when Siri started giving weird directions that made no sense, and I decided to follow signs instead. I was in the 2nd of four lanes and couldn’t lane change due to a transport truck and was forced off on exit 90 of the 20. Well crap… I now had to figure out getting back on the highway and was all frustrated, I was so depressed and just wanted to get home.
I looped back on Boulevard Marie-Victorin and proceeded back to the highway, went to check my blind spot and missed one of two yield signs and the middle on-ramp of two on my left and out of nowhere, my fender makes contact with the door of another car! I pull over on the ramp from hell and cars keep proceeding by my car was able to move and my airbags didn’t go off, but my anxiety is through the roof. The bigger fear than the accident, how I was getting home, or even talking to the stranger, my mind went to “what if the guy doesn’t speak English?!” I get my insurance and papers and place them in my pocket and get out of the car taking pictures of the damage and the scene.
The guy started saying something in French and I asked him if he spoke English and he did. Not to get into much detail but the guy has a history in HR and was super calm with a “shit happens, let’s move forward” approach asking if I was alright. After taking the obligatory driver’s license and car licence plate photos we agreed to proceed off the highway and to a nearby mall parking lot. In the lot was spent about 20 minutes exchanging information and then proceeded on our way.
My tire was rubbing on the wheel-well a but on bumps but it was not too bad. I pumped up a Spotify playlist and continued home as fast as I could. Around midnight, I was so tired and a bit low on gas and pulled into the Irving in Saint-Antonin. I slept kind of well until about 6:30 am, got gas, and headed back to New Brunswick on a beautiful, sunny, Thanksgiving Day morning.
That part of the NB highway looks magical and very beautiful with the yellows, reds, and oranges of the autumn leaves over the many rolling hills and the river valley of the majestic Saint John River. I knew that as the water when I reached the end I would be home.
It has been a really long time since I have last seen the world’s longest covered bridge, and Hartland also has a Tim’s so it was time to detour into town. Once I hit Fredericton, I was getting sick of Spotify and turned on CBC. This is when I learned that going home might not be as easy as planned. The news broke into programming that there may have been an explosion at the Irving Oil refinery that is only a short 3km away from my house. I texted my sister and she said she was alright and that they were not evacuating the area. As I was passing Grand Bay, I first seen with my own eyes the column would f Barack smoke rising from the refinery.
The journalist side of me knew that so needed to get a photo of it for the day that I wrote about my trip. I stopped at Wolastoq Park where I took my photos and then headed home. I was so exhausted that I went to my TV room and did nothing all day but work on cleaning out my PVR. Thus ended my Thanksgiving Day epic.
Planning for this trip started months ago, it was planned as the best available excuse to visit Brampton Civic Hospital to determine what was real and what was not. I had already sacrificed a day from this mini-vacation for my day visiting the Anthem of the Seas and had Friday to Tuesday for a road trip to Brampton. “Coincidence” (with air quotes) would prevail that it was also during Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest.
As the weekend approached, I was starting to have second thoughts about this trip and a feeling that it was not the most financially planned decision to make. It was literally the Friday morning that I was going to go. The plan was Montreal on Friday, Brampton/Kitchener on Saturday, Niagara Falls on Sunday, back to Kitchener on Monday for the parade and then drive home.
As I was leaving Saint John and just passing Spruce Lake. Out of nowhere, a sheet of drywall flew in the air just metres in front of me and luckily there was none beside me and I switched lanes to avoid disaster. As soon as that happened, I had this dreadful feeling that this trip was a mistake. I continued on anyway. I crossed the border, with fairly little trouble and for once wasn’t searched.
I drove the airline to Bangor and stopped for lunch at Dysart’s just outside Bangor. I grabbed a sandwich, dessert, and a bottle of juice. The sit-down area was really busy. Since I knew that I could go just over 625km on a tank of gas, I went as far as Newport ME to fill up. It was after this fill up that you experience one of the most amazing drives. The road towards Lac Magantic that follows a river and passes the mountains with the changing leaves of fall is breathtaking. It was taking this route that I came across another broken sheet of drywall in the middle of the road.
As I passed through Sherbrooke, QC I needed to get some cash to go out that night in Montreal and while there, I had a rest stop at Tim Hortons. One of the things I absolutely love about the Tim Hortons mobile ordering is that I no longer need to know enough French to order coffee and a donut.
As I arrived in Montreal, I shut off the GPS telling me where to go. Mainly because it made no sense. I circled a whole lot of blocks and there was a parking lot but it was $30 and I thought that that was stupid crazy expensive. I eventually found a free on-street spot on Rue de Bullion. Although there was a mentally disturbed person pacing the street that scared me a little so I waited for him to go down the street and I got out, placed my stuff in the trunk and walked quickly to dinner.
My main goal was to get the La Belle Province for smoked meat poutine. I have to say that it was the best poutine I had in as long as since the last time I was in Montreal on my way back from Oktoberfest in 2015. As with all things nostalgia, it was disappointing from my memory of it. The meat was more fried and smaller bits than before. After dinner, I strolled the streets a bit and settled on going to Ste. Elisabeth, which is still my favourite little pub. The crowd was good and listening to other people’s conversations or at least the few that were in English was a great evening. I spent a good two hours there before heading back to the car to find a truck stop.
As I left Montreal I quickly ended up in Ontario. As you cost the border there is an excessive number of law signs, one after the other for almost 2 kilometres. I spent the night at the ONroute in Bainsville. It was a rough night and I didn’t sleep very well but I tried anyway. My plan was to get to Brampton by 1 pm.
After waking up I went to go to the Irving to refuel but ended up not finding it and went to a Petro-Canada followed by Tim’s and off to Toronto I go. Along the way, I saw a sign advertising the first railway tunnel in the country in Brockville and detours to see it. It was closed so I took a photo and moved on.
Until I saw the sign for the Big Apple, and I thought it would be a cool place to get a photo in front of the sign and move on. Oh boy! was I mistaken, as I drove by I saw that it was packed and thought that it was just a rural market type thing. As I got out of the car the first thing I noticed was the petting zoo and dog park. When inside the building centres around a giant glass-walled bakery that was rapidly making apple and pumpkin pies. It was so cute to see the little children knocking on the glass and waving to the cooks and the smiles as the cooks waved back. To the left, there was a craft brewery and cider house that made a wide variety of tasty beverages and a gift shop the sold local goods mixed amongst the typical gift shop wares. Notable amongst the locally made items was wine and hundreds of types of chewy candies.
To the right was a large bakery shop that is typical to a farmer’s market with more baked goods than you could possibly ever eat. In the “by the slice” case, there were over 20 types of apple pie and tarts to choose from. Also, there was a smokehouse to get the freshest ribs, chickens and, brisket. Outside there were rides, a Beavertails mini golf, and an activities area.
After I left there I was on the road again, it was lightly raining and overcast. As I approached Toronto the 401 gradually split into a stupid number of lanes and unnoticed until too late a stupid number of cars going very slow. Magically swiping lanes and the merging nightmare of going back and forth between the 401 and 401 Express. My anxiety was also at a stupid level of stress that if I could have figured out how to change nine-plus lanes I would have taken the side roads. Also, it was getting close to 2 pm at this point and I didn’t want to get to Brampton too late. Thus not getting to Kitchener too late.
As I first glanced at the hospital, I noticed the white church that my mother talked about. The inside of the building didn’t at all look as so had imagined and seemed quite advanced at parts. Hearing the announcement voices was far more terrifying than the 401. In my mind, there would be a person at the desk that I could tell my story to and complete the quest. What I ended up with was a desk with two options, “Pod 1” or “Pod 2” and on the wall above it, was a red clock of terror.
I had frozen and broke down completely, I don’t like calling people, let alone to a pod that I had no idea what was the right one. I just stood there for almost 20 minutes trying to come up with what to say. Also what to say and not sound crazy. I ultimately walked out and went back out to the front doors. I was so devastated that the quest was a disaster.
As I was starting there, there was a doctor giving bad news to a woman who was in reality more devastated than I was about how their loved one was progressing and had not much longer. Not because I didn’t make it but because I couldn’t hold myself together. As I got to the door, I pulled myself together and convinced myself that I have to go back and try.
As I get back to the phone, I pull together and dial to “Pod 1” then a voice answers and asks what I wanted. I came up with “Hi I was here 2 years ago on my way back from Rome, and I wanted to see what the Pod I was in looked like.” They then buzzed me in and I took 5 steps and had no idea where to go, then alarms started going off around the corner and I couldn’t breathe and had to get out of there.
As I reached the elevator the woman from earlier also got in. I decided to attempt to say something and I told her that 2 years ago they said I was going to probably dead, and I will never forget her response. “You look pretty not dead”.
As I went to pay for my parking, I paid on the terminal, as another woman who was having difficulty paying let me go first. So I offered to help her with the machine and paid her $6 parking pass. She didn’t expect it and was shocked and didn’t want to accept it and tried to pay me back but I told her to help someone else.
After, I took the back way to Kitchener, avoiding all the highways and pumped up the music. Trying to reflect on the calamity of the day that just happened. It was at this point that I had no motivation to go see anything else and I just wanted to be home and not stuck with a 20-hour drive back.
This is getting 1600 words long so the smashing and booming finale will have to wait for the next post.
This tale begins about a month ago. I received a marketing email from my favourite travel company Maritime Travel. It offered a talk about the offerings by Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, lunch, and a tour of the Anthem of the Seas when it was in port on September 13th. I had never received one of these invitations before but was in envy of those who did. I was kind of in an when I showed it to a colleague, her eyes lit up and said: “I’m your plus one right?”
So, I replied back that I was interested and quickly go a reply back that I was on the list.
About a week before the trip, I received an email with the details that basically confirmed the times.
Meet at the “Port of Saint John” by 9:30 am. There were no specifics. Let’s face it, if I can find a ship in San Juan, Saint John would be a walk in the park. I mean how could you miss it on a beautiful sunny day.
When we got to the terminal the commissioner let us into the terminal and gave us directions to go to the furthest door. We passed through the “Fundy Cruise Market”, which carried all the typical local wares. (Including Maple Syrup). Once in the terminal, it was a flutter of activity with people being directed to their excursions or tours to see the city. Once at the far gate as directed we were then pointed to the group of people sitting at the nearby door. I then proceeded to the guy checking off names from the list.
We waited there for about a half-hour before proceeding up to the ship. This was an incredible people-watching opportunity to see the different types of tourists from the ship and to judge them. Especially the “I’m wearing the T-shirt from my last port” guy.
We were then led up in the group to the security gate, checking ID they gave us a ship pass and then we were directed to the security gate. The first sign this was not an NCL ship was the lack of “Washie Washie Happy Happy” although there were hand sanitizer stations everywhere. The metal detector part went really fast. I am really good at that even at airports.
The ship itself is like I giant beautiful mall and hotel at sea. There are so many things to do and things to see. It is also well suited for winter in New York(ish) as most of the pools have the ability to be glassed in and there are incredible pools on the front solarium where you can get incredible views.
There are also tons of exercise options from basketball, running, soccer, free falling, wall climbing, roller skating dance hall, and gym.
There are also enough bars that you probably never have to use the same one twice. Although there is even a self-serve bar that has a robot make the drinks for you.
After the tour, we were seated for dinner and there was a mini menu of some of the best dishes on the ship. I ordered the Swordfish which I never knew I would love.
The main discount was pretty much just access to the on-ship Next Cruise desk what had some deals. After we wandered the ship a bit more and took some more photos.
If the economics worked out I would like to travel on this ship or another RCL ship sometime. This ship is incredible. The elevators even have a floor pattern that tells you what day of the week it is. The ship speaker music in common areas was really pleasant and diverse.
I departed the Enterprise starving, and in pain a bit from the ridiculous amount of walking in Belfast. I went down the stairs to the tram station and the Google Transit app said there were no more trains but there was a dot-matrix display showing next tram in 7 minutes with a group of at least fifteen people waiting for the tram. Then a local said to the group no more trams tonight and the screen was for the next station down the line.
A vocal man with an American accent convinced the group of people that the local was wrong. I looked at the sign and noticed it said “Busáras” and the blank one said “Connolly”. Since I can also read perfect Gaelic, I recognized that Busáras means Bus Station and Connolly was the name of the train station. I decided the local was right and since I didn’t know where the Bus Station stop was, I just followed the track, and it was not even a block away.
My plan for the night was to go to an Irish Pub and grab dinner there, but once I got off the Luas (what Dublin calls trams/streetcars) near my hotel most I just had a craving to go back to the Burrito place and have a large Fajita. It was so good.
Then I went back to drop off my stuff at the hostel locker and ended up at the bar in the hostel. I was breaking my rule of local beer and ordered a Tuborg. That is some of the best cheap beer money can buy in Europe, especially the draft version. I had an enjoyable conversation with the bartender and the conversation led to making TV shows and then he reviled that he worked on Vikings and Game of Thrones. I will refer to him as Viking Bartender.
As I was coming to the end of using up my cash this guy started talking like a beer snob on the intricacies of Guinness and what it is the greatest beer in the world. To which I countered that Guinness is only to its best potential when paired with a fine Irish Whiskey, and then explodes with flavour. That leads to a round or Guinness and Jameson’s Caskmates Stout for the group in that part of the bar.
At some point, a gorgeous Irish lass comes up to the bar to order a round of beers for her friends listening to the acoustic singer-songwriter in the other side of the bar. She orders a couple of Coronas. I didn’t know she was Irish at this point. I said, “I would make fun of you for drinking Mexican beer in Ireland, but I just had a burrito for dinner.” She smiles and in a strong Irish accent smiling “While I guess you can’t then, can you.” This is the point that I kick myself for not having anything further to say. Then she left.
Then later the other bartender started making drinks and as he cleaned the glasses kept spraying me with a little water. The second time I joked that he got me again. After the third time, he joked that if I stayed there, I would just have to accept that I would keep getting “a little wet”. The bartender then began making a pair of Jäger-bombs and as he dropped the shot glasses into the larger glass, he shattered one of the glasses and the liquor soaked my shirt, shorts, arm, and leg. He also got some glass lodged in the skin of my arm. I then said, “This is a little wet?”. He then half horrified, and half laughing was like “No I’m so sorry, you know the next drink is on me.”
By this point in the night, I’ve had a good 3 times more drinks than I planned on. I was just going to order another beer, but the Viking Bartender came over and said: “I know you been drinking the cheap beer and whiskey all night but since this one is on us let’s go for a special whiskey.”
I ended up with a special edition two hundred bottle run Jameson’s that was the most amazingly smooth flavour I’ve ever had. After finishing, I called it a night as the next morning was a travel day back home to Canada.
For a country I was not excited about before going, I was one that I was sad to leave.
The next morning, I got up and shaved, washed, and packed up my stuff and left the hostel. The morning did not start well as I crushed my headphones in the locker door. As I had some time to kill, I went to Costa and had my morning coffee and a breakfast sandwich. I caught up on some news, Reddit, and updated my phone to try to use up my remaining data. At this point, I went a block away and got the shuttle bus to the airport. Since I was trying to use up data, I live streamed the video to YouTube from the bus.
Until which point, I needed to conserve battery life since my boarding pass was on the phone. Once I arrived at the airport the Departures section looks amazing, modern, and so not the back hallway looks of the Arrivals area. I checked my bag and placed everything in it so I could easily get through security and enter the duty-free shopping area.
I made the first stop at the Guinness store and bought an Irish Flute kit with sheet music, and a hard Guinness Wallet for holding cards. The second shop was an electronics store, there was no way I was going to use cheap headphones for a 7.5-hour transatlantic flight, so I bought a good duty-free pair.
On the flight back, the meal was surprisingly good. There was this cool pickled cucumber salad side, a bottle of wine, I picked the Chicken and pasta dinner. After the meal I listened to music and podcasts as we flew, I liked to keep the entertainment system on the navigation channel to see where we were.
As we flew over Quebec, I had some land data and Facebook Live posted a bit, then took some long time-lapse videos. Coming back to Toronto there was a lengthy line, so I didn’t the “cripple limp” and the navigator pointed me to the fast line for disabled and airline staff. Score! After you go through customs, you end up on the outside and there is an out of the way door that most people don’t notice because the signs point them the other way. It is to the far-left wall on the Departures floor.
I quickly cleared customs, went to my gate, and waited around for about an hour as my flight was running a bit late. The flight was a success, unlike the Titanic, and I arrived home at the Saint John airport to my mother and stepfather waiting for me. It was the first time ever I arrived with people waiting for me.
Shall we continue where we left off, attempting to sleep—
Update at 2:24am #1 stopped snoring and #4 and #6 are sharing #6 and double “bean flicking” #FML
After the above comment to the Facebook post in my last post, I passed out with exhaustion regardless of the hostel situation.
Buzz!!! Buzz!!! Buzz!!!… it’s 5:45am!
That meant it was time to get up. For once I was prepared with my go bag and clothes for what I needed for the day. Went to the shared washroom, brushed my teeth, and ran (hobbled quickly with only one ankle) to the tram stop a few blocks down. It was a brisk and crispy morning as the sun was already rising over the buildings in the square. I arrived several (23) minutes before the first train. (or so I thought) to the train.
After determining that I had time, I went to Costa to get coffee. (Sorry, Closed) The coffee shop across the street. (Sorry, Closed) The 15ish coffee shops in this college/young urban district of town. (Sorry, Closed) Needless to say, I was going to get on this tram without a morning coffee.
The tram arrived, I got on several stops, and I was at the train station. Up the escalator and I was in the hall. The station is not the fanciest in Europe but the crowds flow efficiently and you get to get on trains. Although, I ran out of time to get coffee.
It is now time to seek out new life and new civilizations aboard the Starship Enterprise. (err… Seek out new adventures and an old civilization on the train service “Enterprise”.)
Okay, let’s level with you all. The only reason I’m on this train going to this particular city over Waterford, Limerick or Cork is the train was the “Enterprise”.
So, I am on the train and my name is on the LCD display above the seat, this is so unlike the paper slips I am used to on Via Rail and Amtrak trains. The train is on its way and I am off to country thirty-four, Northern Ireland to see the city of Belfast. I slept most of the way there.
Now you are asking why Belfast, there must be other cool things in Northern Ireland. Which is true the original plan after taking the Enterprise was that Belfast would be boring and I love the catchy song “Daytrip to Bangor” so I would connect to the train that goes to Bangor for the day and get a picture. As I looked at the train map, I saw the second stop was named Titanic Quarter. Then looking at the map there was a Titanic Museum and that was the death of Bangor.
At the train station, there are signs that it is free to get on a city bus to transfer to City Hall square in downtown where the bus hub, main tourist bureau, and coffee shops are. At the square, the bus stopped in front of the coffee shop so that was stop number one. Then I picked up a day bus pass and got on the bus to the Titanic Museum.
The museum is a huge and beautiful building on the waterfront with lots of crowds like you would expect to see at any tourist area/trap. One highlight was the Contiki Bus driving by, there is a picture from my 2016 tour on the side of the bus.
The museum is quite pricey but there is a lot to see, and it is a very interactive experience. It starts with the history of Ireland, then the history of Belfast, the history of shipbuilding, then the Harland & Wolff company, about Ocean-liners, then the White Star Line.
After that multimedia exhibit then it goes into the design and construction of the ships, and more specifically the Titanic. It then leads up to a big window that overlooks the slipway where the Titanic and Olympia where built. Then you enter a room with a virtual experience on all walls flying through the ship. Then a history on how Marconi operated the telegraph system on ships, filled by the Titanic’s sea trials.
this, it was about how people, interacted and stayed on board the ocean liners and the whole class system. Then it was followed by the maiden voyage where for the first time you learn, the ship doesn’t make it and sinks after hitting the iceberg.
Then it goes into more exhibits on the rescue, and how the Titanic is misunderstood by popular culture. The final exhibit is about the underwater drones that found the wreckage of the Titanic. At this point, it was getting later in the afternoon and was disappointed by the gift shop. After I exited, there was a perfect moment, there was a young musician whose parents were recording her playing the Titanic Song on
the Theremin in front of the Titanic sign.
Upon going back to city centre, I just walked around in pain and exhaustion taking as many pictures as possible of things in the Tourist map that I could before running out of time and getting a bus and barely making it back to the train station.
On the way back, I admired the beautiful views and wrote the first post in this series of post on this trip.
As we now end this I have just arrived back to Dublin for the most memorable night of the trip.