Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September 2nd, 2007 - Beach Blanket Burn-o

I was finally able to wake up early as planned, though the night itself was a bumpy one, thanks to a nasty stomach ache. I'm wondering if my dinner at the winery disagreed with me. I was tired and still a bit stomach-achy, but I was up and ready to go, much like my last trip to Toronto.

At just about 11:00 AM, we were packed up, checked out, and on the road to Toronto. In the days before our trip, Chantal mentioned that she was playing 99.9 MIX FM's Beachfest the day after the Jackson-Triggs show and invited us. I checked things out, discussed it with Mom, and we decided to split it up and spend a couple days in Toronto rather than stay in the Niagara area the whole time.

Most of the drive up was smooth, that is until we hit what should have been the last twenty minutes of the drive. That last twenty minutes extended into well over an hour because of the massive amounts of traffic. Beachfest, the air show, and the final weekend of a big fair were all going on at the same time in the same area of town and it seemed like everyone in the city was on their way to one of them.

Traffic in Toronto is an interesting thing to behold. Sure, people can drive crazy around here from time to time, but up there it appears crazy is the default gear in their vehicles. I've never seen so many U-turns and abrupt lane changes in my life. I couldn't help but chuckle in amazement at the power of a hand gesture as a simple wave of a hand out the window would magically stop every car in the next lane to allow said abrupt lane changes.

Much inching forward and several F16 fly-bys later, we finally made it to a parking lot for Beachfest.

Liam Titcomb was playing when we made it within viewing range of the stage. I liked the sound, but the sun was pretty intense, so Mom and I decided to head back by the van and hang in the shade for a little bit.

The Beachfest crowd

As we sat looking out toward the ridiculously busy street, we were both amazed at the massive number of people whizzing past on bicycles and rollerblades. They actually seemed to outnumber automobiles at a couple points. Such a difference from around here, where most bicyclists I see are either senior citizens or kids too young to drive.

I also noticed quite a few wheelchairs, which either means the city's very wheelchair friendly or the bookies there mean business.

Before too long, Chantal arrived and we ended up walking in with her. We got seated right up near the stage and she went off to get ready. Performing at that point was Hayley Sales, who had a nice sound. Sort of a blending of Anna Nalick and old school Jewel.

Hayley Sales

Chantal hit the stage a little after 3:00 PM and put on a short, but sweet set including another performance of Halfway Around the World.

Chantal peeking out from behind the piano

It was a very strange sensation, being on a beach in Toronto and watching Chantal play as a giant C17 lumbers by overhead. If I was there by myself, I might wonder if that odd mishmash of elements was just a result the sun getting to me.

The sun actually get to me, not in the form of oddly juxtaposed visions, but the form of a nasty sunburn. Even the help of an umbrella and several retreats to shady spots could save my pale Irish skin from the brutal sun. At least I enjoyed myself, I can tolerate the itch for a few days.

Hiding in the shade at the side of the stage between acts, I couldn't believe the volume of the audience as high-pitched screams began to fill the air. Had they suddenly realized they were but feet away from the Bullcrank animator? Sadly, nope.

The screams were for the next act, Kalan Porter. It appeared Mom and I were the only members of the vast crowd who had no idea who that was. A quick Googling later on revealed him to be the second winner of Canadian Idol.

Still in my shady spot, I spent some time chatting with Kevin and Adam as best I could over the noise of everything going on around us.

Hot, tired, and just needing a little break, we decided to take off and find our hotel. We walked out with Chantal and said our see-you-laters as she hurried off to catch her flight home.

The journey to the hotel consisted of more slow traffic, lane changing hand signals, and overall craziness as we made our way into downtown Toronto. We only got slightly lost once, thanks to no identifying signs on or around the hotel, but we eventually found the Suites at 1 King West.

Check in got off to a bumpy start when we were told they couldn't park our van on site because it's too large and we would have to pay cash and use an independent lot about a block away. Mom stuck to her guns and the valet was very helpful in finding a way to keep the van at the hotel.

We finally made it into the hotel lobby, which almost had a metropolitan lounge/club type feel to it. While waiting for an elevator to take us to our room on the 30th floor, I smiled to myself as I heard Wonderful start playing in the lobby.

The room was definitely somewhat smaller than the pictures online led me to believe, but it was still nice. It even had a washer, dryer, dishwasher, microwave, stove, and refrigerator right there in the room, not to mention a cool view.

The room

The view from the work desk

The view from the sitting area

Playing with the zoom

We chilled for a little bit, then went down and asked the concierge if there was anywhere within walking distance to eat for a reasonable price. He recommended a place called the Richtree Market Restaurant. A short walk down Yonge Street led us there, but finding an entrance proved to be a little tricky.

The inside was like no restaurant I've ever seen. The whole place was set up like a giant outdoor market, but indoors. When you arrive, they hand you a credit card. Each stand had a different type of food and there were tons of stands. When you get your food from a stand, they swipe your card. Once you're done eating, you give them your card and they tell you what you owe, then you pay as you normally would.

The food was good, but I'll admit the setting made much more of an impression. I think I had a little case of culture shock in there. It was strange as I sat there and heard a different language coming from each table surrounding ours.

Me & Mom at our table

The brilliantly named bar, The Irish Embassy

Yonge Street

Filled up and still processing everything, we headed back up Yonge Street. As I passed the lady whose sad saxophone sounds echoed into the Toronto night, we exchanged smiles.

Everything about this place was new to me and I liked that.

No comments: