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October 29, 2023

I had finished with my train travels, but I was not yet home in Pouch Cove. I still had a few days left to visit family and friends. This time in Toronto I would be staying at a house that is affectionately referred to as the Woodbine Inn. My friends have constant house guests.

After my night in Toronto, I was going to spend my weekend in the great state of Pennsylvania (as Americans, especially politicians like to refer to their states). My sister lives in a small town called Troy, Pennsylvania. There is no way to get close by plane. I have always driven, in my own car when I lived in Toronto, and rental cars since I moved to Newfoundland. It is a horrible drive to get out of Canada. I take the Gardener Expressway which becomes the QEW (Queen Elizabeth Highway), a multi-lane expressway. I hated it when I lived in Toronto and hate it more when I do my once-a-year or so visit.

On my last day on the train, it occurred to me that I might have other options. I was now an experienced Amtrak and Go Train traveller. What about taking the train to Niagara Falls or Buffalo and renting the car from there? It was a great idea. Unfortunately, I did not do that. Instead, I stayed with the rental car.

I picked up my car at a small Avis outlet on the east side of Toronto. I had booked an intermediate sized car. The manager made a big deal about offering me an upgrade, but from what I could see they only had two cars available. The first offer was a small Mitsubishi sport utility which I was happy to accept since I had once owned one. He then asked if I wanted the Challenger. It looked fast. I stayed with the Mitsubishi. I told him I was too old for that one.

I left the agency and Google Maps sent me to the Don Valley Expressway, tracing the some route that my train had taken the day before. It was better on the train. The expressway makes a big turn at the bottom and joins, or more accurately, becomes the Gardiner Expressway. It was a Saturday, but traffic was heavy. I once lived in Toronto, but it was all a bit overwhelming for a guy from a small town in Newfoundland. It got worse.

The downtown portion of the Gardiner is elevated, so has blocked off the south side of Toronto from Lake Ontario for many decades. It is old and crumbling. For many years, pieces of the structure have been falling off onto the road that runs beneath it. Those pieces are concrete, so not something you want to land on your car, or worse, on your head. The city has discussed a full dismantling of the elevated portions, but that is a rather large and expensive undertaking. They did remove the elevated portion east of downtown, along with a recent closing of some on and off ramps. Since I do not live there anymore, those changes always leave me a bit confused.

After about 18 km the highway merges with Highway 427 coming from the north and becomes the Queen Elizabeth Way. Traffic was moving quite fast which is to be expected on a weekend. However, the electronic signs were showing alerts that something bad was going to happen. It did. Everything stopped. We spent more than an hour in a huge multi lane parking lot. We crawled along with me cursing the whole time. We finally came to an exit where I thought that construction had closed down the entire highway. There were no signs nor helpful flag people.

I exited and followed my Google Maps lady. I thought she was going to show me a way around but instead guided me down the road and right back onto the QEW. I was angry at first, but this time was able to see that a police officer was directing cars into a small one lane opening in the construction. That was one lane for five expressway lanes. Once it was my turn I pushed through and suddenly had all five lanes to myself.

From there it was fine, although my nerves were not. I drove around the horseshoe where the highway follows the end of Lake Ontario. An especially uncomfortable part is driving over the Burlington Skyway. There are often warning signs about the wind as traffic races up and over the bridge.

From there it was a short time before I exited the QEW. There are three border posts in the Buffalo area to enter the United States. I have generally preferred the middle one which is right beside Niagara Falls. In fact, you get a great view of the falls as you drive across the bridge. The border was quick that day.

I had chosen a route to bypass toll roads so did not use the New York Turnpike. Instead, I followed two lane roads through upper New York state. It was quite pleasant as I passed through several small towns. It was a Saturday afternoon in the late fall. Families were out. I saw many children on bicycles. It felt like I was watching an old movie showing life in the US. My earlier troubles were forgotten.

I turned on to a bigger road that would take me south. I took a couple of photographs at the Pennsylvania Welcome Center.

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I arrived at my sister’s house in the early evening.

October 30, 2022

I was awake early and went out for breakfast and a walk. The café had lattes but no pastries. They did offer bowls that sounded healthy. My glasses were all fogged up so I had trouble reading the menu. I saw the word blueberries so ordered that one. I liked the blueberries but did not enjoy having the surprise of the frozen Nutella on the bottom.

From there I walked up the hill. It was a beautiful morning. I admired some of the old houses.
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I was wondering whether there was a short cut back to town, so asked a man walking his small dog. He wondered what I was doing in town and was surprised to hear about my trip. He asked if it was safe to be walking around San Francisco and Seattle. I assured him that everything seemed quite normal there. He then suggested that the media had blown safety issues out of proportion. I assume that the media he watched was Fox News.

I tried his suggestion and walked to the top of this hill. I did not find the path around but enjoyed the view. I was a bit late for the fall leaves.
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October 31, 2022

I left quite early so that I could get to Toronto before the evening rush hour. I made good time, and the border was fast. I am always happy to get back to my adopted home country.

Although it turned out okay in the end, I concluded that for my next visit I might take the Amtrak train to Rochester and drive a rental car from there. Actually I vowed that I am never driving in Toronto again.

Supper had already been planned; we were going for Georgian food. Here are a couple of comments that I posted from my trip to Central Asia:

From our day in Almaty, Kazakhstan:

“I have discovered a new favorite food. I love the Georgian spicy sauces and wonderful breads. I asked about the country and found out that Begaim had been there. She told me it was a marvelous place. Georgia is another former Soviet Republic. I must know more. Is Georgia a destination for my next trip? “

From our flight from Almaty to Dushanbe, Tajikistan

“I pulled out the Air Astana in-flight magazine. There was an article on Georgia! Coincidence? Or an omen? I found out that the cheese filled bread that I love so much is called Khachapuri and is registered as part of Georgia’s intangible cultural heritage. You have to love a country that would make a cheese filled bread part of its heritage.”

I had first visited this restaurant in 2021 when I made a quick trip to Toronto and Pennsylvania. I was quite excited to find this new Georgian restaurant called Tiflisi. That time we did take out. As I waited for my order I got to watch a Georgian travel video. The scenery was amazing.

The name of the restaurant had me a bit confused. I wanted to call it Tbilisi, which is the capital of Georgia. My latest research informed me that Tiflisi was a Georgian television show set in the years 1876 to 1910 when Georgia was occupied by Russia and seems to be related to Georgia’s fight for independence. It might also be a variation of the city name, although I only see the earlier name as Tiflis. Perhaps it is something for on site research.

We had some of that great bread.

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I was excited to talk to a Georgian so asked our charming waitress if she was from there. She was not. She is from the Ukraine. Our group was not sure how to respond to that other than give her our support. I later asked the young woman cleaning our table and found that she is from Kazakhstan which seemed appropriate since that is where I had fallen in love with Georgian cuisine.

November 1, 2022

I went out to find a latte since the Inn only provides coffee. I chose Bud’s. The woman told me that the large had four shots of espresso and asked if that was okay. I said that it would be fine.

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The plan for lunch was dim sum. I decided to walk and left about an hour earlier than my hostess who was driving. One of the great things about Toronto are the various ethnic neighbourhoods. I walked first through an area with East Indian stores and restaurants. That area changes to a small Chinatown. A few blocks north is a Greek area. There are other such areas throughout the GTA, especially out in the suburbs, but this is a nice compact area close to downtown.

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The Real Jerk is well known for Jamaican food. It was not in today's plans.
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I phoned a friend from our old neighbourhood and arranged to visit for coffee. It was on the other side of downtown, so I knew that I needed to take the subway and went across to my old station, Runnymede. I had taken the subway often during my time living in Toronto. I had enjoyed my work and the city so had good memories as the stations were announced.

I exited the station and walked along Bloor Street, checking out the changes. I was pleased that our old favorite bakery, Bread and Roses, was still there. We had our Saturday routine. I would buy muffins or croissants at the bakery and pick up a Globe & Mail newspaper. We would then settle down with a coffee. It was especially enjoyable during the warmer months when we could sit out on our porch and say hello to our neighbors.

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I walked down our old street. It is a very typical Toronto neighbourhood with lots of trees and the old houses. It is something that tourists might not experience.
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Our house looks the same.
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I was hoping I might come across one of our neighbours. I said hello to a woman who lived a few doors past our old house. It took a few moments and a mention of Po before she remembered me. It had been 15 years since we had lived there. I asked about her husband and was pleased when he joined us.

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I then visited my friend before taking the subway back across to my “Inn”.

November 2, 2022

After a quick breakfast, my hostess gave me a lift to the subway which would take me across the city to the Bloor GO Station where I would catch the train to Pearson International Airport. I arrived at the station at 8:45. After a brief delay as I tried to figure out which paper was my ticket among the many discarded receipts, I jumped on a west bound train. I wanted to catch the 9:40 airport train but did not think that I would make it. But even though this was still rush hour, the train was quite empty, like a late evening train. The TTC’s passenger levels had not recovered from the pandemic. With a virtually unoccupied train we flew across the city. Our stops were just seconds as no one was getting on or off. I made my airport train by four minutes. The train is a great way to get between downtown Toronto and the airport. It operates between Pearson and Union Station with a stop at Bloor.

With my carry-on only I went straight to departures but was stopped by an Air Canada employee. He made me put my bag into their carry-on measuring bin to see if it passed. I had to jiggle it a bit, but I succeeded. Security was not busy. Perhaps that is why I was asked to report to a secondary inspection window. I was carrying my liquids in my own clear plastic bag. That was not good enough, and the woman spent several minutes stuffing my liquids into an official bag. I was going home and would not have been concerned to give up my shampoo. She managed to get everything in.
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I had my last latte and early lunch of a croissant. It was also my last chance have a Starbucks which I had avoided until then. I chose to finish that way and bought from the café next door. Starbucks might have been better.

After an uneventful flight I was happy to look out the window and see Newfoundland.

Po and I did some shopping before leaving St. John’s including a visit to the pet store for some dog food. I picked up a toy for Zoe. Once we arrived in Pouch Cove, Po and I stopped at Shoe Cove Pond where Josh and his assistant were busy erecting his sculpture. Here is what it looked like that day.
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This is what it looked like several days later.
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For more info you get check out the Pouch Cove Public Art website. Pouch Cove Public Art

A few minutes later we were home. Zoe was happy to see me but also to get the toy. She likes new toys for a week or so, then mostly ignores them. We had to go out for a walk. She could run faster but her human can't.

The sky was marvelous. I was home. My big train adventure was definitely over.

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I could now start thinking about my next trip. Maybe some place where I can get some Khachapuri?

Posted by Bob Brink 18:08 Archived in Canada Tagged trains toronto canada pouch_cove via_rail

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Comments

The area where your sister lives is certainly beautiful in autumn. Very colourful.

by irenevt

Thanks for sharing your great travel memories with us here...Happy trails in the future!

by Vic_IV

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