Sunday, August 31, 2014

of towers, chocolate and diversity

By now you're probably a bit fed up with my farewell posts.  But you know what?  It's me who's leaving a place I've called home for five years and, after all, this is a sort of personal diary, which means it can get repetitive, boring, annoying or whatever because it's that, a kind of diary.  So I apologize, but I don't apologize.  [GRIN]

Anyhow, Saturday was full of interesting moments, like a last look at a view we enjoyed from our apartment countless times of a tower that, believe it or now, I'll miss.  And sipping dense, thick, spicy chocolate from SOMA Chocolatemakers.  And getting less common literature from super welcoming sex-shop Come as You Are.  A few tears, sweet-bitterness, and diversity.  Frankly, not bad at all.  

Let's go Blue Jays!

After five years of living within steps of the Skydome I finally went to a game there yesterday!  And what game? The Toronto Blue Jays against the New York Yankees!  Not bad at all for my first baseball game ever, eh?  Of course, I took this seriously, which is why I availed myself of a foot-long hot dog and some Canadian cider!  

I confess I only stayed for 6 innings or so.  But I had lots of fun.  And in the end the Blue Jays lost, so maybe it wasn't that bad I didn't stay for the whole game.  Shame, though, it would have been awesome if they had won!

But see?  Still doing new stuff hours before leaving this city!  Woohoo!

out with the old, in with the... temporary?

Between our stuff being packed away and our flight out of Toronto we had to spend a few nights somewhere.  Glad to have found a small, cute place not far from our previous home and that still gives us a sense of being in the same neighbourhood, CN Tower and all.

drinking farewells away

Of course, now almost everything I do is a farewell of sorts.  Like this visit to Bar Hop earlier this week.  This pub not only excited me with it's ginormous beer selection, it was also a place where I shared a few pints with good friends, and where I even made new ones.  I'll miss this place. 

And David's Tea.  With a tea selection that dwarfed Bar Hop's beer one, and quite an inventiveness in their creations, like this Hibiscus Cranberry Maple tea latté, perfect for a cool summer night on their beach chairs in their street patio...

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

more Toronto farewells - music, diners and sesame balls

Pretty close to leaving Toronto now, but still enjoying plenty of it nevertheless!

Saturday we finally took the advice of a good friend and headed for The Communist's Daughter, a bar on Dundas St W.   Wow, how did we not come here before!?  It's super intimate, as it only seats about 20; the band was amazing, and it was so cool to be that close to the artists; and they had a delicious stout on tap.   And the singer, Ori Dagan - he's got the voice, and he's got the personality - check him out if you live in Toronto!  We spent an incredible couple of hours there. Loved it!

From there, we headed to another special spot - a diner that's been serving Toronto since 1932, The Lakeview.  Maybe it's the feeling I won't find a place like this in a long time, but the stout (the same one I had at The Communist's Daughter) and the deep friend pickles, plus the atmosphere, made me very happy.   (yeah, I know what you're thinking, "it wasn't the place, it was the stouts"; whatever) 

"What's this?" you'll ask.  Nothing special, actually.  Toronto's not a pretty city.  I mean, it's not beautiful.  But I find it incredibly interesting, and I've more than enjoyed my years here.  So here's an ordinary view, just because I don't need to make her pretty to love her.

Our last stop was Furama, on Spadina, for a sesame ball with red bean paste!  Nom nom nom! Having access to these very typically Chinese desserts was one of the highlights of living here, for sure.  I mean, sesame balls? really???  

Thanks for the amazing music scene, for the stereotypically - in a good way - North American experiences, and your übertasty diversity.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Fàilte gu Alba: 13 at the top

Yes, still writing about our Scotland trip.  It was intense!  And, besides, I haven't talked about the most important day of all - the day of our anniversary, which also happened to be our first full day on Skye.  And, with our impending move, if I don't publish this NOW, who knows when?

So, back to the story, our second day on Skye.  Though breakfast at our B&B couldn't in the most remote way compare to breakfast at our Bonar Bridge B&B, the views were magnificent - that mountain there, right in front of the exit from the B&B? That's Blaven (Blà Bheinn), one of the most picturesque of the island. Right there.  Nice way to begin the day of your anniversary, eh?

of castles...

Our first goal was to visit the island's most famous castle - Dunvegan (Caisteal Dhùn Bheagain). Naturally and as you may imagine, part of the fun of being in the Scottish Highlands is not just being at places, but traversing the roads to those places!   Our B&B was in the south centre of the isle, while Dunvegan lies in the northeast.  Have a glimpse at how that drive went:

As for the castle, I'll be honest - we weren't too impressed.  I mean, it was interesting.  But it was... maybe a bit too new-looking?  It is indeed still in use by the clan that owns it, the MacLeod, so of course you have to keep it in working order.  But then, though it was historically interesting, in my personal opinion it wasn't romantic, or memorable.  But still, it had plenty of very well kept gardens with beautiful flowers, including these gorgeous blue ones I couldn't have enough of!

The castle was by the water, and we had been hoping for a nice castle-and-sea view. Unfortunately, I guess all that sun and no rain made for a low water level?  For whatever reason, the one accessible view of the castle in front of the water was, basically, of the castle with a field of wet dirt in front.  Darn.  But I wasn't going to let the huz leave without a nice view of a castle by the water, right? So I looked around, found my way through plant growth and via faint paths and over seaweed covered rock (tricky!), and finally got us to a promontory with the perfect angle!  Not only that, but we also got some rest from the crowds and could enjoy the peace of the sea, the rocks, the clear skies, and the castle in the distance...

the King's port...

We were somewhat glad to leave Dunvegan behind.  Granted, we turned it into a very nice experience in the end, but our previous days of exploration and solitude had made us somewhat sensitive to big crowds.  Which is why I wasn't too happy about our next stop, Portree (Port Rìgh), or the King's Port (apparently from a visit by a Scottish king in 1540).  The biggest town on the island.  The centre for all tourism.  But we had to eat - we were starving!   So I found a parking lot, jam-packed with cars and huge tour buses, and prepared to have a quick lunch and leave.

Well, I'm glad I had dissed the town so much I never bothered to look up photos, because what a nice surprise this harbour town was!  Who would have known!  The harbour was beautiful, with cliffs flanking it, and the buildings by the water made the prettiest row of colours!  How cool is that!  

Fully energized by the discovery, we then had lunch.  Which was also my next überunvegan meal of the trip - a steak sandwich.   I guess by now I was in full I-can't-bother mode and just making sure I ate enough and that it tasted good.  The huz just looked in disbelief.  But he still didn't criticize me for throwing the vegan towel this trip.  The sweetheart.  Anyhow, as you can see from the photo, the highlight was not the sandwich, but the local brew - a dark beer aptly called Black Skye.  Delicious! 

Full, happy, and just a tad tired, we headed back to the B&B for a nap.  We still had one hike to do, but the days were just too bright and hot, which made for washed-out photos and sweaty walks, neither of which we love, so we figured we could sleep a bit, wait for the sun to go down somewhat (oh, our hosts thought we were so plain crazy for not wanting to roast all day long in their usually cloudy and rainy island!), and then head for the day's main adventure, in the Trotternish peninsula.

in search of the old man of Storr...

The Trotternish (Tròndairnis) is probably the prettiest peninsula in the isle, which is why it's one of Scotland's 40 National Scenic Areas.  It's at the far north end of the island, and there you can find a fantastic rocky hill, The Storr (An Stòr), where... wait, no, more on that later.  The drive up north on Trotternish towards The Storr was simply breathtaking.  I wanted to stop over and over to look and take photos, and I had to keep reminding myself that we couldn't waste to much time on the road so we would have enough light for the ascent, descent, and the drive back to Torrin.

Once we got to the parking lot from which we would ascend, I was relieved to see there were only a few cars left.  This is such a popular hike that basically almost everybody does but, by waiting until the early evening, we were going to share the place with just some 10 people (and under a much less unforgiving sun).  Our goal - to reach the Old Man of Storr (Bodach an Stòir), some strange rock formations 50m tall.   

There's not much to say in words about this ascent, or at least I don't think I can adequately put it in words.  It's a steep climb and you have rapidly changing views of the surrounding landscape as you ascend.  In other words, it's exactly as it should be - inspiring, magical, other-worldly and unbelievable.   No wonder they call the upper area "the Sanctuary".

the Sanctuary...

It's almost a natural stage.  As you follow a ridge, with the Old Man behind you, you climb unto this almost circular platform-like formation, with views of the Old Man, of the lakes below, of the sea, of the whole Sanctuary...  And we were completely by ourselves.   This communing with nature at such a unique place... How lucky can one be?  How can you plan such a special moment to celebrate an anniversary?  I'm very thankful, and I was extremely at peace there.   Silence.  Sky.  Sunlight.  Old rock.  Space.   

There was a pile of rocks people had been adding to, so I added my bit.  A tiny rock on top.  Like I've done at other few special places to commemorate my relationship.  We took time to simply take it all in.   And not surprisingly, inspiration flooded my partner and he did Butoh.   We took a final video of both of us, thanking the place for the anniversary.  And bade it farewell.  

And so we began the descent...

And the drive back south from stunning Trotternish and its inspiring lochs...

With the sun setting - and plenty of grazing lamb! - behind us...


Back in Torrin, the day ended with, what else, a traditional toast (with some Catalan sparkling wine we had bought at some gas station when leaving Edinburgh) to a happy 13 years together, and some good fun (hey, it's a travel blog, not a sex blog, custom dictates the use of euphemisms, ok? LOL).