Sunday, July 29, 2007

Vacation over

As per my promise in this posting, I'm reviewing the idea having a 'spontaneous vacation'. A spontaneous vacation is where one takes a weeks vacation from work and then doesn't preplan to go anywhere. Then, on the first and each subsequent day of the vacation, as you roll out of bed you plan your day. It might be visiting the ROM or taking in a festival like the Beaches Jazz Festival (which I did last night) or just hanging out at home enjoying the fact you don't have to go to work.

Did I like this type of vacation?

I did for this week as I got to slow the pace life down a bit. It was nice not having to get up early in the morning for my commute to work. It was also nice to enjoy coming and going all day as I pleased.

Would I do this type of vacation again?

Yes I would. But not on my next vacation time as it is nice to plan to leave town for a week or two as well to some other locale.

All in all, it was quite a relaxing week.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Museum in a Crystal

Yesterday I headed down to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) to check out the new Michael Lee-Chin Crystal and the main collections at the museum.

It took about two hours to roam around the museum. Basically this is because when I visit a museum, like the ROM, I don't read every description or piece of historical writing in the museum. But I did look at quite a few of the historical artifacts. However, the historical artifacts that I wanted to know more about I then read the description. So, in other words, I read less than one percent of the descriptions.

With that said here is some of what I saw with the main focus being on the Crystal itself (click on the photo for a full description from the scrapbook section of my website):




























For more photos from the ROM check out the Toronto section of the scrapbook section of my website.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Jazz Festival at the Distillery District

On Sunday afternoon I headed down to the Distillery District in Toronto for the beginning of the Beaches Jazz Festival. While there I, of course, took my camera with me and took these interesting photos:











More of the Beaches Jazz Festival this weekend on Queen Street! Can't wait. I LOVE VACATION!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Vacation and your doing what?

Throughout this past week I notified my cohorts at work that I would be away on vacation this coming week. The usual question:

"Where are you going on vacation?"

My simple reply is: Don't really have anything planned for a vacation. But perhaps with this week off I will do day trips around Toronto.

I also have timed the vacation to allow a friend of mine to move into my apartment. So hopefully we can get this person up and running in Canada after living for three years in New York City. Bank accounts, health cards and other such administrative amenities need to be done. Since this person is new to the Toronto area I will need to help in locating these items. So timing my vacation in this way allows me time to assist.

Also, day trips around Toronto are quite interesting to do. This allows visiting of various festivals (i.e. the Beaches Jazz Festival), places and museums in the Toronto area. I haven't been to some of these places in years. Plus, with my Ontario College of Teachers card I can get into a lot of these places with free admission!

Besides, why does one have to go some place on vacation anyway? People always complain there is never enough time to do everything. So why not take a vacation to slow down regular life and have zilch planned.

I love being spontanious. So perhaps one day I will clean my living room entirely. Another day I might want to check out the morning paper to see what is going on in the city that day and go out and visit a jazz or other type of festival. Yet another day I might just want to take in the CN Tower or other type of attraction. Who knows what I might do. With a planned vacation this is just not possible.

So I will try an "unplanned" vacation this week. Perhaps, in a future post, I will let you know how this experiment of a vacation idea went.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Detroit Tim Horton's Strangeness

Tim Hortons on UrbanspoonThis past week I headed to Detroit on business. While in the Detroit area I was lucky to be staying at a hotel near a Tim Hortons location (1292 North Opdyke Road, Auburn Hills). On Wednesday night I decided to explore the area and came across the Tim Hortons. I headed inside this particular Tim Hortons location and ordered a medium black coffee. A medium black coffee is my normal coffee order when I'm at a Tim Hortons location in Canada. So I thought I knew what I would receive.

I was wrong, the guy behind the counter ambled over and poured a large cup of coffee and served it to me. I asked if this wasn't a large? He replied, even though there was an "L" on the coffee cup lid, this was a middle size of cup they had. I learned that evening this particular location doesn't serve small sized cups.

So the next night I went in to the same store and there were two ladies behind the counter. I ordered a "Canadian medium" or a "American small". While one of them was pouring the coffee I explained what happenned the night before and the fact that I was Canadian. They laughed at the misunderstanding.

I also explained to these two friendly ladies the "Tim Hortons culture" in Canada. They were shocked that Canadians would line up around the corner in the drive thru and out the door in the mornings for the coffee. In the evenings that lines can sometime be five to six people long in some locations. The noted they only had five or six people deep in the morning rush hour.

Americans are strange. They don't serve small Tim Hortons cofee and they just don't understand the attraction of a local Tim Hortons location or, some cases, vast array of local Tim Hortons locations.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

A day with history and nature

I put on my running shoes, grabbed my camera and braved the heat to go on a hike around Aurora to investigate some local history and nature.

Here, in pictures, is what I found:




Aurora United Church



Aurora United Church's historical plaque.



Church Street School, the former school of former Canadian Prime Minister Lester. B. Pearson.



Church Street School's historical plaque.



Aurora Train Station. The former "head of the rail" of the first train that ever left Toronto.



Trinity Anglican Church




A panorama of the McKenzie Marsh


More Aurora pictures, including ones from this hike that are not posted here, can be found in the Aurora area of the scrapbook section of my website.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Greyhound Sucks!

Next week I'm off to on the Greyhound bus on a business trip. However arranging to take Greyhound was not easy.

Last week I did my research on how to get to Detroit, Michigan from Toronto. I tried looking at VIA Rail, nothing goes there. I tried AMTRAK (VIA Rail's American cousin). The only thing I could find on AMTRAK was a trip from Toronto to Detroit via Buffalo that would take me twice as long and twice the cost as the cost of Greyhound. So I put together a proposal for my boss using Greyhound as the option.

This morning I had the proposal approved and was started ordering my tickets. First I secured my hotel room as I was afraid of the scenario of having transit to Detroit and no roof over my head at night.

Next I went to Greyhound's website to order my tickets. For my round trip I selected the right cities, dates and times as per the ordering process. However, before I could get to the last step, the final payment I was stopped. I couldn't buy my tickets for this trip online! Greyhound couldn't MAIL me the tickets within that time period!

Let me get this strait, I can successfully purchase Air Canada tickets or even VIA Rail tickets two hours before the flight online but I can't do it with Greyhound? Is there something wrong with this picture? Is this company living in the past?

I walked down the hall from the office to the travel agent we deal with in our office building. The representative we normally deal with said that his company doesn't deal with Greyhound because they are a "Mickey Mouse Operation". In hindsight, I believe Disney, the founders of Mickey Mouse, would be deeply offended. You can probably purchase your day pass to Walt Disney World online, but yet Greyhound can't do it for simple bus ride? Go figure.

So I called Greyhound Customer Service to see what could be done. I was told by Greyhound Customer Service, based in Arizona of all places, that I would have to visit the terminal to purchase my ticket. Since I was going north after work instead of south into Downtown Toronto, I asked if there were other locations north of the City. The person said they didn't know the area that well. So I asked if there were ticket agents in Richmond Hill, Aurora, or Newmarket? The agent replied there wasn't and probably that was because the places were too small! I nearly fell of my chair laughing....the population ranges of these towns is 42,000 to well over 100,000 residents.

I asked if there was an agent at York University. She replied there was and gave me the address of the agent as beein in the "William Small Building. However, I couldn't locate the ticket agent even though I am a recent alumni of York University. I told the agent this and she said my other option was to order over the phone and pay around ten dollars in service charges. So I said forget it I will just go to Downtown Toronto to pick up the ticket.

So after work I headed downtown to Bay & Dundas Streets. I quickly moved through the line for tickets. I showed the ticket lady behind the glass the dates and times I was leaving and returning. She said it didn't matter what dates and sold me the round trip tickets from Toronto to Detroit and Detroit to Toronto. She noted the seats were first come first served and the tickets were good for any day. So apparently I have to get to the bus station in Toronto early that day. GREAT! I paid and thanked her for her assistance believing this headeache was finally over.

As I was walking away I read over my ticket and it noted it was not valid for "Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Holidays". Since my return from Detroit was on a Friday I inquired with the Greyhound Customer Service. They said to go back to the ticket agents and try again. So back in line I got.

I ended up with a surely male ticket agent. I explained to him that since the first time it had obviously been screwed up I would like to explain what I was trying to do. He wouldn't even hear me and issued me a $2.65 ticket upgrade or I could go back to the original ticket lady who already had a family of four standing in front of her trying to get tickets.

I paid the absurd $2.65 ticket upgrade to travel on a Friday despite it being Greyhound's falt for:

1.Not allowing me to purchase my ticket online with ease.

2. Having an agent not listening to me or reading the computer print out I had of the scheduled dates and times for the trips from their very own website.

I then tried to complain to Mr. Surly Agent that I had tried doing my tickets online but it not allowing me. He said that he didn't work for Greyhound and that I should see Greyhound Customer service around the corner. He said, and this explains it all, he worked for the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). I asked if he sold Greyhound tickets? He said yes. I said then you do work for Greyhound otherwise you were selling illegal tickets for Greyhound and should be arrested.

I then continued on to say their website needed significant upgrades so that I could purchase and print my tickets online like Greyhound's competitors VIA Rail, Porter Air Lines, and Air Canada. He nodded his head and said "OK" with a smirk on his face. I said thanks for the GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE! and left. I knew Greyhound wouldn't hear anything about my complaint from our friend and "it is not my job" union worker Mr. Surly.

I believe if Greyhound didn't have a monopoly on bus service (because trains don't seem to go everywhere....right Calgary & VIA Rail?) this company would be sunk. But because it has a monopoly it can provide such great outstanding customer service like I received!

So thanks again Greyhound for the exquisite online ticketing options, customer serive and charging me an extra $2.65 for my ticket.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Happy Canada Day Fireworks

Aurora's Canada Day Fireworks Display


Unfortunately the fireworks display went longer then ten minutes. Unfortunately? Well because Youtube has limited videos to ten minutes or less, I was unable to upload the entire film footage to the web for your perusal.

Originally I thought the 100 megabyte limit was tough considering my camera films in avi format (translation: sucks up lots of memory per minute of film). I usually fix this by importing it into Windows Movie Maker, which I did this time as well.

However, when I went to upload the sixteen minute video, I noticed the restriction of maximum ten minutes of video. I then had to re-edit the movie again in Windows Movie Maker. ARGH!

So my apologies for Youtube being ornery and uncooperative in showing videos over ten minutes. They claim it is to protect copyrighted videos from being uploaded. But in effect it blocks fireworks displays and other similar shows filmed like mine to be forced to either be shown in two parts or be severely edited to fit within the ten minute time frame.

Nonetheless, enjoy the show!

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