Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Summer in Toronto

July 21 is the summer solstice and the first official day of Summer here. And boy has summer arrived. This week temperatures have averaged in the 30C's with humidity making it feel even hotter.

There are so many public events happening, especially now that it has warmed up. Everyone is out and about. Canadians take full advantage of the good weather :) The sun is setting after 9pm these days, so sitting out on the patio chatting and drinking is the norm here. Every day after work, the streets are lined with tables and chairs filled with people enjoying the great weather.

Speaking of which, we are leaving this fantastic weather for the cold of Joburg's winter. We'll be back visiting for the first two weeks of July. So we'll see some of you soon!

In the meantime, here are some highlights of what we've been up to:

At the end of May, Toronto has an annual "Doors Open" event. This is one weekend, once a year when "up to 150 buildings of architectural, historic, cultural and social significance open their doors to the public for a city-wide celebration.

The program allows visitors free access to properties that are either not usually open to the public, or would normally charge an entrance fee. Many locations have organized guided tours, displays and activities to enrich the visitor experience." The whole idea is to get to know the city that you live in.

This year, Doors Open was on 26 May. We went to see the TTC Lower Bay street subway station. This is an old, unused subway station. Bay Lower is fully operational but is used today for work vehicles, moving trains from one line to another, train driver training and filming.

We were able to walk straight along the subway platform from one end to end. Not much to see, really, but fun to say we've seen it. A number of movies and commercials have been shot at this station, including films such as "Johnny Mnemonic ", "Don't Say A Word", "Mimic" and "Bulletproof Monk". There were movie posters up, and subway maps of New York lying around (used when filming a movie set in New York).

During the weekend of 15-17 July, the "Taste of Little Italy" festival was on. A section of one of the busiest roads downtown dubbed "Little Italy" was closed to traffic, creating a weekend-long street festival. There were *crowds* of people - sampling Italian food, listening to live music, game stalls, clowns, etc. Very family-oriented and festive. Reminded me of Lusitoland, except it's on the street.

A friend from back home stayed with us for the weekend, so we took him to taste a bit of Toronto life. We arrived at a good time, sampled some oysters, kebabs and then looked for a restaurant for dinner. We had to wait a mere 20 minutes in line for a table, but then a further 90 minutes for our food to arrive, it was that busy! I felt so sorry for the people waiting in line later on, I'm sure their wait must have been at least 2 hours just for a table. The food was good though and worth the wait.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Quick update on the house

Things have moved along nicely out in Vaughan. The exterior of our home now has been bricked. It looks like things will work out for a move at the end of August.

We had our pre-drywall inspection last week, and the drywall was up soon thereafter. Canada Post have also acknowledged the new neighbourhood, by allocating our postal code!

- Wall frames are up, windows are in
- Pot light fixtures in the kitchen have been installed
- Central vacuum rough-in has been installed
- HVAC (heating vents) and vents for dryer and kitchen range hood are in
- Electrical wiring for plugs and lights is complete
- Wiring for cable (TV and internet) and telephone has been put int
- Plumbing for water and drainage is in
- Roof has been shingled
- Oak staircase has been installed
- Basement and garage floors have been poured
- Gas and electricity board and meters installed, but not yet hooked up
- Insulation has been put in the walls and they have been drywalled
- Bath-tubs have been put in
- Garage door has been put in

You can check out more photos of the progress on the building in the Thornhill Woods subdivision on Westolivia Trail: http://s207.photobucket.com/albums/bb84/thw-pics/

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Not Just Wings

Canada celebrated Victoria Day (the British Queen's birthday) a few weekends back - Monday 21 May was a public holiday. Brendon and I decided to take a drive and go on a shopping trip across the border in Buffalo, New York. The promise of outlet stores and cheap designer shoes was enough to motivate me...

The Canadian dollar has strengthened to a 30-year high against the US dollar (CA$1 = US$0.95), and it seemed a lot of other people had the same idea. The drive there was pretty long, since an accident had created a backlog on the highways. So we took the scenic route and drove along the Lakeshore Boulevard (alongisde Lake Ontario). It took us about 4 hours but it was good to take it easy, and we drove through the smaller, obscure towns and roads.

Crossing the Border in to the US... took 2 hours. On reaching Niagara, we joined the long line of cars to cross the 'Rainbow Bridge' at the Niagara Falls. The wait to get to the booth was about 30 minutes. We handed in our passports with shiny US visas and completed immigration forms, and were then instructed to park and 'go upstairs'. The waiting room was pretty crowded and hot with precious few seats - at least we had brought our own magazines, snacks and water. We waited almost 90 minutes to be called up - we were the only South Africans there during that period - and were processed quite efficiently. We were simply asked what the purpose of our trip was, and how long and where we would be staying. While having our fingerprints and photos taken, we saw some people being escorted out (with their hands behind their backs...) . The US Immigration officer was friendly and I guess quite impressed that we had all the relevant forms completed. He asked where we had got the forms from (we didn't see blank forms anywhere at the border), so I told him honestly... "the airport." On my trip to Philadelphia earlier in the year, I had helped myself to some additional forms to save time on future trips ;)

Not much to write about Buffalo. Small US town. Unremarkable enough that I wasn't compelled to whip out my camera and take photos. The shopping... spectacular. Taxes are low compared to Ontario, and so are the prices. The selection and quantity of goods was scary, and it was so tempting - we had so much space... an entire trunk (boot) and backseat for purchases... ;) However, being a paranoid South African, I did not go overboard, for fear of being stopped, searched and taxed by Canadian customs.

There were tons of Canadians around everywhere we went - we just saw Ontario licence plates everywhere we drove. The most amusing thing I saw in the malls were waste bins completely full and with shoeboxes filled with old shoes strewn around them. Guess some shoppers were very eager to wear their new shoes!

In comparison to the 2-hour clearing of US Immigration, coming back in to Canada took 15 minutes, including a quick stop at the duty-free to pick up some cheap liquor. The line of cars was short and we were only asked where we live, and what items of value we were bringing back in to Canada (err... two bottles of rum? Well within our customs allowance.) A glance at our PR cards and a simple wave of the hand... and we were on our way home :)

The drive back was quick - under 90 minutes from border to front door. Guess we'll be making that trip again in the future ;)