Toronto – Day 2

Day 2 was better planned. After the parking debacle on Day 1, we decided to use public transit. If public transit is available, I think it’s a great way to experience a city. The plan went like this –

Drive down to Islington station- pick up breakfast at a Tim Horton’s drive through window on the way – park the car at the free parking lot –  buy a day pass, supposedly valid for upto 2 people on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays – take a train from the Eastbound platform to Spadina Station

Take M1  from Spadina Southbound platform to  Saint George Station  ( 1 stop)  – walk to  Royal Ontario museum  (300m) – grab lunch -spend some time at the museum

From Saint George Station Northbound  platform take a train to Dupont Station ( 2 stops) – walk to Casa Loma  (650m) – wander around the castle

Take bus no. 127, Davenport Towards Spadina Station from  Casa Loma to Spadina (6 stops)

What happened was a slightly different story. After staying up talking till past 2 am the night before, I don’t know how the bestie and family managed to be up and out early that morning, we had a hard time rolling out of bed. We left home a little later than planned, so we skipped breakfast.  The parking lot is adjacent to the station. It  is not free, but the charges are quite nominal – $ 4-$ 5 (Canadian) for the day. The day pass can be used on both the trains and buses. On weekends (Saturday and Sunday), a single day pass can be used by upto two people.  The train from Islington goes all the way to Saint George. We did get down at Spadina, but we took the next train from the same platform, after confirming with the driver that it would stop at St. George. We grabbed a quick lunch at a small diner opposite the museum and went in.

Don't fall in love with people like me.I will take you to museums, and parks, and monuments,.... get lost, have a panic attack and announce for you on the public announcement system :P

Don’t fall in love with people like me.I will take you to museums, and parks, and monuments…. get lost, have a panic attack and call you on the public announcement system 😛 Photo courtesy Ganesh Sankaran aka the husband

The husband lost me in the museum. When I turn around and don’t see the people I came with, I panic. I know I shouldn’t, but I do. My heart starts racing. My stomach starts sinking. I get anxious. When the husband did the disappearing act,  I tried to keep calm and enjoy the exhibits.  I looked at the displays and attempted to read  the description under each glass case, only to realize that words were registering but without any meaning. An active part of my mind was trying to figure out how to find someone in a vast museum building. Every few steps  I had to pause,  take a deep breath and tell myself – if I didn’t find him wandering around, every building has a public announcement system. Believe me, I have announced for him in the past. I had too.  I found him an hour and a half later in the lobby, coolly observing an exhibit. He says he looked for me all over the place, going back and forth through sections, up and down 3 levels before finally deciding to wait in the lobby. Next time I’m going to tie us together with a bit of string.

The Lady is a Tramp

The Lady is a Tramp Photo courtesy Ganesh Sankaran aka the husband

Casa Loma – The Castle on the (small) Hill, is a wonderful place to take fairytale wedding photographs.

Once upon a time, this castle was the private residence of  pioneering Canadian financier,  Sir Henry Pellatt and  his wife Lady Mary Pellatt. Sir Henry Pellet was nothing short of a business visionary. In addition, when he retired from the Queen’s own Rifles, he was  a Major-General and was made a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order.  You can read more about him here. Lady Pellatt was accomplished in her own right. She played an active role in the growth of the Girl Guides of Canada. She was appointed the first Commissioner of the Girl Guides of Canada and later  awarded the Silver Fish, the Girl Guides highest award. Canadian architect E. J. Lennox designed Casa Loma in the Gothic Revival style. It is touted to be North America’s only full size castle today. Sir Pellatt built it with the hope of entertaining royalty. Unfortunately after World War I, the Canadian economy went into a slump and the Pellatt’s went bankrupt. They had to sell their possessions for a fraction of what they were worth and move out of Casa Loma. Years later the castle was converted into a tourist attraction. Self guided audio tours allow visitors to explore the castle, complete with its secret passages and an 800m long tunnel leading to the stables across the street. There is a short film on the life of Sir Pellatt that is shown every 20 minutes or so. It would be a good idea to watch it before taking the caste tour as it sets the stage for it. One can easily spend a few hours to half a day at the castle.

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Disneyland – Where fairytales come to life

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Choo Choo

San Diego vacations are always fun, because my favorite people live here. Everytime I’ve visited so far, there has been a new experience waiting. Last time we took a family holiday to Disneyland. Disneyland is not in San Diego, but it’s close enough for a daytrip. My sister had been planning this trip for the longest time now. Since the time *Akash was concieved, she has been dreaming of the day when she would take both him and me to Disney together. As an added bonus for her, 2 of our sisters from India were visiting and she got to take them along as well.

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Goofy-ness

We decided to start by meeting Mickey. On the way, Akash saw a baby roller coaster and was quite eager to get on. In our family, we all unanimously hate these rides. They make us queasy. We bravely climbed into the little cars. While Akash tried to throw up his hands in exultation, I screamed enough for the whole family put together. We visited Mickey’s house and then stood in line to meet him. When our turn came, we shook Mickey’s hand and got  hugs from him. On the way, Akash had rehearsed several things to tell Mickey. When he met Mickey, he was so excited he forgot all his lines and blurted out ” I saw three buses!!”. He was so overwhelmed, that by the time I could get a hug from Mickey he  had already run off.

It was at Disneyland that I drove my first car in the US. At one point, Reva and me were right behind Subi yelling, ” Subi!! Get out of our way!!”,with Subi struggling to accelerate hard enough to avoid a collision. ***Rose Aunty had also come with us. To tell the truth, she was more sporting than the rest of us, when it came to going on the rides.

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Mickey at the parade

A few rides later we decided it was time to go find a good spot to view the parade. The parade charming and entertaining. Most of the characters we knew; some we didn’t; few we guessed. First came a marching band. Then came Micky and his friends. They were followed by Disney characters like Peter Pan and the pirates. Peter is so naughty. He tapped me on my shoulder when I was looking the other way, and smartly stepped away. He had me quite confounded for a moment. Following Peter were the Disney Princesses.  Along with Snow White, Belle and Cinderella was Miss Tiana, who I confess I don’t know. She is the Princess from the Princess and the Frog. Miss Tiana is Disney’s first African-American princess.

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Mickey Icecream

Disney’s collection of princesses now includes an American-Indian princess (Pocahontas), a Chinese princess (Mulan), an Arabian princess (Jasmine), an African-American princess (Tiana), a Scottish princess (Merida) and even a princess from the sea(Ariel)! It’s hightime they got an Indian princess.

When night falls, Disneyland looks like a place straight out of the fairytales. The cobbled main street, lined with shops and bustling with people leads to the lake, in the middle of which is a magical looking castle. This lake with it’s castle is the venue for the most wondrous fireworks show I have ever seen. The Fourth of July Fireworks we saw in Miami were spectacular, but this was something else. A beautifully choreographed story told in pyrotechnics. How the fireworks danced to the music!! It took our collective breath away.

* Akash – my 3 yr old nephew

**Reva, Raga and Subi – My sisters. Raga lives in San Diego with her husband Ashok and her son Akash. Reva and Subi were visiting

*** Rose Aunty – Ashok’s mother, who was also visiting

Labour of Love

..Mumkin nahin har ek ke liye Taj Mahal banvana, 

par har dil main ek Mumtaz rahti hai*

On the way to the Everglades, we stopped by at the Coral Castle. The Coral Castle is a true labour of love. It was built by a man called Ed in memory of  his love- Sweet Sixteen. One can’t help comparing it with the Taj Mahal – the most renowned monument dedicated to love .

The great Emperor Shah Jahan commissioned the Taj Mahal in memory of his 3rd wife. Ed, Latvian immigrant carved the coral castle, in memory of the girl who turned down his marriage proposal.

The Crescent of the East at the Coral Castle

The Crescent of the East at the Coral Castle

Architects, engineers and around 20,000 skilled and unskilled workers from India, Persia, the Ottoman Empire and Europe were engaged to build the Taj Mahal. The Coral Castle was carved by hand by  a 5 feet tall, 100 pound man, Ed. The  astronomical and engineering marvels of here are designed by Ed himself.

The Polaris Telescope at the Coral Castle

The Polaris Telescope at the Coral Castle

Both structures are built of porous stones. The Taj Mahal of marble and Ed’s castle out of coral.

The Taj Mahal took 22 years to completed. The coral castle was carved over a span of 30 years.

Both edifices are specimens are splendid architecture and engineering.

While the Taj Mahal is nothing short of magnificent, the Coral Castle is stupendous in its own way.

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*  Every man may not be an emperor, but every heart is ruled by a queen.