Life Bird and Other Bonuses of a Business Trip to Toronto

I am back from three and a half days in the Big Smoke for a teachers’ conference. I always enjoy going. What’s not to love? I get to learn all day long and explore restaurants and movie houses at night. Here are some highlights from the trip and the homecoming.

From the window of the boat that ferries Porter airline passengers to and from Billy Bishop airport, I could see some beautiful ducks on the channel of water between Toronto and the Toronto Islands. I didn’t know at the time what they were, but knew I had never seen anything like them before; they had snow white heads and napes with a black spot on the face. Turns out they were my first Long-tailed Ducks.

I had made a point of booking an early flight in on Wednesday so I would have plenty of time to shop along Queen Street West the day before the conference began. Having got that out of my system, I would have my full attention on the workshops. I bought winter boots.

A fellow conference delegate, on learning I was a film aficionada, asked if I’d been yet to the TIFF – Bell Light Box Theatre. Her question left me intrigued. That night I found my way there on foot (quite easily from the hotel). I saw a lot of people in black coats and ties queuing up for the James Bond exhibit. As I entered the state-of-the art venue, I imagined which celebrities had sat in the same seat as the one I took to view Samsara.

This morning I was on the street before he morning fog had burned off, before the sun had risen, and before the coffee shop’s doors were even open. I struck up a conversation with the security guard who was waiting for the bank to open. We had a very nice chat until the cathedral bells struck seven.

From the Starbucks on the corner I sipped my Tazo chai latte while people-watching through the big plate glass window. These pigeons were taking advantage of the warm air rising from a grate.

I enjoyed indulging in a venti Tazo chai latte with my oatmeal on these mornings.  I also had three wonderful dinners and three delicious lunches using my meal allowance. I tasted an arepa for the first time. The one I chose was plantain, black bean, avocado and cilantro accompanied by sugar cane lemonade and followed by traditional quesillo, which was just about the best dessert I’ve ever tasted. It was firmer than flan, silkier than cheese pie, yet had some qualities of crème brûlée. The best part was how the top had the slightest soupçon of bitterness from being allowed to venture past the stage of caramelization to the verge of burning.

sugar cane lemonade at Arepa Cafe, Toronto

The next night I tried Fressen, a gourmet vegan restaurant. Everything was really tasty, even the gluten-free bread that was warm from the oven. It wasn’t dense or crumbly!


On the plane home I sat across the aisle from two rather rowdy gentlemen with potty mouths. They were returning from 21 days working way up north building a gold mine. Why was this a highlight? Because their loud and overly extroverted behaviour, rather than putting me off, ended up being a springboard for lots of interesting conversation. We learned all about each other. The younger one shared his gum with me so my ears wouldn’t pop, and he helped me get my carry-on down from the overhead compartment. I hope we weren’t disturbing the other passengers with our conversation.

The woman beside me was a potential basketball scholarship recruit in town to check out our university and weigh her options. I told her all the reasons I LOVE Windsor. I hope it worked.

Sylvain met me at the airport. It was nice to see his face!

The first thing I did on arriving home at 2:40 on a balmy afternoon was clean four days’ worth of bird crap off the deck and refill the feeders. A Nuthatch flew right in the house and I had to scoop her up where she was hanging upside down on my Swedish Ivy and release her outside. She probably thinks I was a predator trying to eat her and may never come back to my feeders! She made that little toy car honking sound while I had her in my hand. I then attached my new heated bird bath to the deck railing and ran a 39′ outdoor extension cord to it using both staples and wire ties to keep it out of the path of foot traffic.

I’m happy to be home.

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