Every summer, Marc, Garett, Kylie, and I take a trip together. We were RAs together at Loyola and remain best friends. Two years ago, they traveled to New York City but I was in the hospital with my sinus surgery, and last year we went to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. This year, we decided to venture to Toronto for a long weekend. We laughed til we cried, I cried once, and we only broke one wine glass at our Airbnb. We had a freakin’ blast.
Friday, June 9
We left from Chicago Midway after work, and I was the first one to arrive for, like, the first time ever. We arrived in Toronto by 10PM. We walked out of the airport super chatty, but abruptly stopped and realized, “Wait, where are we going? We literally have nothing planned. What are we doing?” As four planners, spontaneity is so unlike us, but it made for an adventure.
We walked through the underwater tunnel to mainland Toronto and were able to walk to our Airbnb in the Entertainment District. Our Airbnb was gorgeous — a full kitchen, master bedroom, extra bed, full living room, bathroom, and a balcony with stunning 27th floor views. There was even a telescope on the balcony, which I mainly used to get rid of the spider webs. We took in the views before turning in for the night.
Saturday, June 10
We woke up early to take a day trip to Niagara Falls. We stopped at Tim Horton’s for breakfast and fell in love. They are literally everywhere, and I’m sad we only ate there once. I had a breakfast wrap, a BELT bagel, and a Dutchie (basically a cinnamon raisin donut). So delicious for fast food.
We took a bus ride with Niagara Day Tour, which I highly recommend. We did a lot in one day, and it was a reasonable price. Our first stop was at the Niagara-on-the-Lake, which was a gorgeous lake view.
We stretched our legs a bit and stopped for some food. I got my favorite all-seasoned chips and questioned why we still don’t have them in the United States. Those and ketchup-flavored — we need!
We had a brief stop at the world’s smallest church. It felt like a clown car, especially when we opened the door to exit and a stream of Asian tourists came barging in.
We stopped briefly at the floral clock, which was basically a glorified restroom break.
We also got to see the energy stores that separate the United States and Canada. Think Trump will build a wall there?
We finally got to Niagara Falls where we had 3 hours to ourselves, and we took the Hornblower boat tour to the the falls. We managed to be close to the front of the line, so we sprinted up to the top front of the boat, tightening our rain ponchos to prepare to be soaked. It was so intense and so much fun. We got SOAKED, and it was an incredible view!
Afterwards, we walked down towards the actual falls, enjoying the light mist on the hot day.
We walked up Clifton Street, which was basically Vegas in the worst possible ways. We were borderline hangry, but all of the food options were American chains. We decided on a basic diner and got burgers to eat on the bus ride home, and we were grateful to get off of that street. Too, too much.
When we were back in Toronto, we walked back to our place to shower and relax a little.
We walked to dinner and stumbled upon a bunch of graffiti murals. Cue photoshoot with Garett coaching us, “Yaaaaas, queen, slaaaayy!!”
We ate at Saku Sushi and had a photoshoot at the awesome wall murals. We finally got dinner at 9:30pm, so I was very hangry and ordered the heartiest meal I could find. It ended up being a bowl full of rice, veggies, beef, BBQ sauce, octopus, and raw egg. What the fuck, Mary. I removed the octopus and raw egg because I had had enough adventure for the day. Well, kinda.
After dinner, we went back to our Airbnb to get ready for the night. I am like the female Stefon, always bringing my friends to new clubs even though I really don’t go clubbing much anymore. I connected with some promoters and got us into REBEL’s VIP guestlist. Per usual, the VIP area is never as fun, so we explored the rest of the club. It was massive venue and quite an entertaining and wild night.
Downstairs, there was the main club area with cages around the tables, pole dancers, and strippers in glass boxes. At the back of the club, there were more tables, another bar, a popcorn stand (wut? is this Don’s?), and the “Purple Room” which we didn’t check out. Upstairs, there was the VIP area, and beside it was Noir, with another bar, a separate DJ, and dance floor. It was mainly house music and everyone dancing was on more drugs than the rest of the club. We could feel the beat.
There was also a rooftop area where we could see the skyline. It was gorgeous.
We spent most of our night downstairs, jamming and fist bumping to a fab DJ that wasn’t even a big name. Music from all decades combined with the latest EDM/trap backbeats, and I was obsessed. This video of RHCP playing is my favorite, mainly because of Garett.
The night was wild, to say the least. I can’t stop laughing at how ridiculous it was and we were all sober.
Sunday, June 11
Of course, my body was naturally up early despite going to bed at 4am. My alarm is set for 5am most days, so fortunately and unfortunately, my body has become conditioned. I went for a run along the water and got to see a new lake shore trail. Four miles was perfect and I got to stretch by a dog park. I was more than content.
I showered and was still waiting on my friends to wake up. I am that friend. I scheduled out the CHAARG blog posts for the week and anxiously awaited brunch. We ate at Our Spot and had the best brunch ever. Everything was so cheap, and we got SO MUCH FOOD. And we ate it all. Eggs, home fries, toast, salad, and fruit was only $5 Canadian Dollars. What a steal. I also added on Canadian bacon (aka peameal), and when we smelled Garett’s pancakes, we all ordered an additional pancake. We enjoyed every single bite and agreed it was comparable to our favorite meal in Vegas, the buffet at the Aria. On two occassions, I started giggling to myself, “I’m just so happy right now I could cry!”
We walked around Kensington Market and got to see more murals and more cute shops full of character. We walked through Chintatown, then took the public transportation for the first time. We all usually prefer to take public transit, but with four of us, it’s actually user cheaper and way easier to take Ubers. In case you were wondering, there is no Lyft in Canada. I hadn’t used Uber in months, so it felt weird.
We went to Casa Loma, the only castle in Toronto. Built in the early 1900s, it was beautiful. I was being a frugal bitch and opted out of the tour. While they toured the inside of the castle, I got more of my introvert time to explore. I walked through the University of Toronto and also a street festival. Then, I took a brief catnap outside the castle, lying in the sun like a dog. Life’s good.
Afterwards, we took an Uber to the Yonge-Dundas Square, which is the equivalent of Times Square. Much much, smaller, we went to the mall and ate at the Urban Eatery food court. There were so many options, it was almost exhausting. We tried poutine, which is fries with sauce. Kylie and Garett got the classic with vegetarian gravy and cheese curds. Marc and I shared the works, which had beef chilli, bacon, scallions, and sour cream. They were alright, but they reminded me of the mediocre version of Mulligan’s Irish Nachos.
We got some other food to fill up again, then walked around more of the square and downtown area.
We walked all the way home, trying to stop at a couple rooftop bars along the way. One wasn’t open as we thought, and another we stopped at was way too club-like and we were not having it. We got a cool picture then walked home. We stopped at a grocery store along the way, and explored all of the different foods. Everything is similar, but so different. I got some fruit and Justin’s peanut butter, and we stayed up very late again laughing til we cried. I got zero sleep all weekend, and it was so worth it.
Monday, June 12
I woke up before everyone else, trying to eat the frog that I had been avoiding. I’ve always had trouble with my teeth and cavities, but the last month has been especially bad. At a routine dentist check, a filling from 2015 was coming loose. They redid it, and it hurt like hell. I also found out I grind my teeth. Apparently I’ve been a little stressed?!?! I wear a night guard, but many mornings I wake up with it beside me in bed because it’s so annoying. Oops. My teeth have been sensitive ever since, and right before I left for Toronto, the tooth around that filling was especially bothering me. My gums were super swollen, and I could feel a sharp edge around my tooth. I tried to avoid it, but I knew the Canadian dentists would probably be cheaper, and if I waited in Chicago, I would probably keep putting it off. I won’t have dental insurance until August, so I was being a big baby and didn’t want to be in more pain or take off more work.
We saw dentists EVERYWHERE. Dental care is free for taxpayers, and I hoped it wouldn’t be too bad for me. The dentist around the corner opened at 8, so I visited them and booked an appointment for 10:30am. I walked to the water for a quick HIIT workout, then showered and got ready for the day.
I took some of the Airbnb’s pure Canadian maple syrup for my oatmeal aaand it tasted like any maple syrup. When in Canada. We checked out of our Airbnb, and I sucked it up and went to the dentist.
“You don’t have insurance? That means less paperwork for you.” Additionally, “Oh, you must be from somewhere warm!” Jacksonville, IL (still my billing address) is not necessarily known for that buuuut alrighty Canadian receptionist. I got into the chair quickly, and the dentist told me I had chipped my filling. From grinding my teeth. Damnit. She recommended I get a cast or crown, but that would take multiple visits. I had 8 hours left in Canada, and wouldn’t have dental insurance until August. Filling it is, I guess!
She did X-rays and gave me the shot that I hate so much. Then, the receptionist came in to let me know how much it would be. $381, she said as I was already numbed up. Oh. K. It’s fine, I don’t need money anyway.
That being said, for my first time at another dentist (bless you, Dr. Auld for dealing with me all these years) in 23 years, she was an awesome dentist. Absolutely nothing hurt and she took great care of me. Afterward, she reminded me that if I was a regular patient she would not have done just a filling. She probably thought I was a dumb American without insurance. She was right.
(Disclaimer since I literally always have to explain this: My parents are older and on Medicare, so I don’t have their insurance. Even when I did have their insurance back in the day, my dad was self-employed so I never had dental insurance growing up. In case you needed further proof that my dad’s values are questionable. And, I’m an independent contractor at Accenture so I don’t get benefits. Don’t be so shocked. By 2020, over 50% of the workforce will be contractors. Millennials don’t like staying at a job for more than a year, and this is how corporations deal with attrition. FYI!)
I met my friends at a nearby cafe with wifi. My broke ass started crying, but Kylie thankfully reminded me that when converted to USD, it was $100 cheaper. Still sucked, but not as badly. The tears stopped and we walked to a boat tour, along the way stopping for a Starbucks smoothie because that’s all my numb mouth could eat and I could use my Starbucks app with Starbucks gift cards I never use, aka free smoothie. My drama queen self was over it.
We had some great views of Toronto on the boat tour, and the cheesy tour guide was funny. However, I kept falling asleep because the rocking boat was so peaceful. Oops!
Afterwards, we continued to walk through the Entertainment District. We walked past the sugar factory and subsequently the unimpressive Sugar Beach.
I tried a delicious beavertail, which is like an elephant ear but thicker. Marc and I shared half maple and half Nutella with banana. My mouth was no longer numb, and we enjoyed it.
We made it to the Distillery District, which has the same aesthetic as West Loop. So freaking cute! I wanted to try all of the restaurants and go to all of the shops.
We ate at El Catrin which was hands down the prettiest restaurant. We ate outside and it felt like we had suddenly transported to Mexico. Our last meal in Canada was Mexican. Typical.
The guac was freshly made and the fucking bomb. I got baja tacos which were amazing, and we all shared drinks. I got the horchata water, Marc and Kylie got horchata cocktails, and Garett got the margarita.
Even the inside of the restaurant was stunning!
We took an Uber back to our Airbnb to pick up our bags, and we got stuck in traffic with an old man playing classical music. Every time we would snooze off, he would slam on the breaks. I dreamt of my bed.
We got our luggage and walked to the airport one final time, taking in all of the views. Seeing the water in daylight was freaky knowing that we walked in an underwater tunnel to get to the airport. Still pretty cool, though.
It was a commuter airport, so it was very small — comparable to Springfield’s airport with no restaurants. I was banking on a couple Tim Horton’s donuts, so that was my one regret of the trip: not eating more donuts! Still, there were complimentary refreshments so I ate all of the shortbread cookies, of course.
Giggling over all of our pictures in our shared album, we reflected on our perfect little weekend. Since we went to the Grand Canyon last year, are we on a roll for unofficial Wonders of the World? (FYI: we learned there are many different lists) Where should we go next year? Yosemite? Chichen Itza?
This led to me telling them about Mount Rushmore, Devils Tower, and Sturgis. I told them about assless chaps. My friends probably think my family is crazy. But we are, so I can’t blame them.
It was a quick flight back to Chicago, and we all made it home by 11PM, ready for work the next day. It felt great to sleep in my own bed, full of satisfaction that I had visited a new country in a quick, weekend trip.
Garett summed it up well: “What would your 17-year-old self think of you staying in a Toronto high rise for a weekend?” My teenage self would think I was cool as fuck.
Even though I have an absurd amount of debt and bills, traveling the world is one of my main goals in life, so I prioritize it. Instead of spending money at bars (literally can’t remember the last time I paid for alcohol), I save money for trips. The feeling of being in a new, unfamiliar place — feeling so small, yet so full of life — is my favorite rush in the world. Well, other than exercise endorphins, of course. That’s why I run the world for double the rush! Traveling makes me feel alive, and I’m so grateful to see the world with some of my best friends by my side.
Here’s to more adventures now that we’re all graduated!
++ Mary K