Day-tripping Daydreams

So based on my last post, I’ve decided to dub my quest for a personal life “Operation: Fun”.

(Yes, oh SO creative.)

In any case … After a couple of fits and stops, I’ve finally started planning my next big trip!

It’s not until September. Which isn’t that far away. But amid booking a tour and flights, that restless feeling is creeping in.

To keep the wanderlust at bay, I’d like to aim to do a couple of day trips somewhere, with friends.

It doesn’t have to be that far out of town. It could be something that lasts an afternoon. Or the better part of a day. Or – depending on the location – perhaps a jaunt with an overnight stay.

Whether it’s a hike, a play, or just exploring a town, here are some places here in Ontario that I’ve never gone (or haven’t been to in ages):

Elora and Fergus. These two little towns are number one on my list of day-trips, with a bullet.

I first heard about Elora years ago from a friend, who’d gone camping there with a boyfriend at the time (sadly, with disastrous results). But hearing the words “Elora Gorge” have always evoked an image of immense, natural beauty – even before seeing an actual picture.

Whether it’s taking up an activity in the Gorge (they’ve got ziplining!), walking around the town, or doing something nerdy like a walking tour, this might not be a bad place to visit.

(Throw in a visit to the antique market in Aberfoyle, and it could be the perfect Sunday trip!)

Kleinberg. I vaguely remember going here on a school trip as a kid – going to the Kortright Conservation Centre (now the Kortright Centre for Conservation), and visiting the McMichael Art Gallery (now – or always? – the McMichael Canadian Art Collection), and having someone point out the late Pierre Berton‘s house across from the gallery.

(I couldn’t actually see it, because of the sheer volume of trees – perhaps how Mr. Berton liked it.)

But I think I might have a different appreciation for the place, now that I’m some 25 years older. Natural landscapes! Iconic Group of Seven artwork! Cute village! And not that far of a drive away.

St. Jacob’s. I’ve ALWAYS heard about St. Jacob’s, but have never gone. In fact, the closest I think I’ve been is Elmira – but that was for a work assignment, so that doesn’t even count!

Now THIS is what I think of, when I think of “the country”. Beautiful small-town/country scenery. Yummy, fresh, homemade, home-grown food.

Also: MENNONITES.

In a world where we’re surrounded by electric cars, smartphones and tablets, seeing people driving horse-drawn buggies and wearing long dresses with bonnets, living and working alongside farmers and small-town folk, would be a refreshing change. (Not to mention, a reminder to big-city folks like myself that life is lived in all sorts of ways.)

Stratford. Forget Bieber fever. The main draw for me would be the Stratford Festival. I’ve never been to see a play. Ever. This needs to come off my bucket list. (Or would that be my “life list”?)

And although the festival is probably the biggest draw (the naming of this town surely wasn’t an accident), I’m sure there must be other things to check out while in the town.

It would be great to tool around town, take in a show, then have a nice meal somewhere. That’s not too much to ask, I don’t think.

Niagara-on-the-Lake. I was here – or nearby – several years back, on a winery tour with a small group of friends. But it would be lovely to come back and do another one (preferably, NOT the morning after a party and operating on a lack of sleep).

Actually, I’d love to find one of those tours that allow you to bike from winery to winery. Which could either be highly entertaining … or potentially hazardous, depending on who I go with, and how much they drink.

Also here: the Shaw Festival – ANOTHER festival I’ve never attended. This would be an awesome weekend getaway, in summer – OR in the fall, actually. Hmmmmm …

So many places, so many possibilities … I don’t expect to knock all of these off in one go. But it would be nice to break up the monotony of city life with the occasional city break.

We’ll see, won’t we?

Social Flutterin’

I’d like to think I’m a socially-inclined kind of person.

Usually though, it involves a restaurant with a menu and drink selection. Or (more rarely, now)  a DJ who plays a beat I move to.

Recently, I decided to change that by attempting to take advantage of some of the social events this city has to offer – a decision that was primarily prompted by two things:

(1) The increasingly warm weather.

(2) The beginning of summer-vacation-season at work – which always meaning possibly endangering my newly-acquired weekends off.

(3) The fact I squandered the previous two summers, by working instead of enjoying my non-work life.

It’s tricky and at times frustrating, due to my unpredictable work schedule. But I think I got off to a good start in May, with three distinctively different events I attended.

Street Food Block Party. This event was a very yummy collaboration between the Toronto Underground Market (which has been holding monthly events for months now), and Food Truck Eats, held at  Toronto’s Evergreen Brickworks, a community environmental centre nestled in the Don Valley.

I met up with some friends at this event, which took place at the beginning of May. There was a Cinco de Mayo theme happening, so there were a few stands set up with tacos or Mexican-themed offerings.

But the food! SO. GOOD. In addition to tacos, I sampled lobster rolls, Indonesian and Egyptian street food, even having just enough food left over for hibiscus juice and sweet treats.

The only small downside – despite the controlled crowds (you could only enter with a pre-purchased ticket) were the lineups. The first sampling we lined up for, was for street food company La Carnita.  One hour and 20 minutes later, we finally got to taste La Carnita’s squid tacos. Good, but not worth queueing for 80 minutes.

Overall, a great event for foodies and foodies-in-training. I’d definitely go to another TUM or Food Truck Eats event.

Friday Night Live @ ROM. I think this is a fantastic idea. For 10 weeks (this started back in May), the Royal Ontario Museum’s opened its doors to young folks on Friday nights for a little social interaction between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Wannabe attendees purchase tickets to enter the museum, where one can attend short lectures, explore some of the exhibits, or opt to have a drink or three (purchased at one of the two bars, with ROM bucks), nibble on some fancy street food, or sway to the resident DJ for the evening.

Each week also has a different theme: photography, film, music and so on. The theme usually determines the size of the crowd.

I went to back-to-back events, but didn’t get the full experience. The first Friday, my friends and I arrived about half an hour before the bar closed; the second Friday, work thwarted my attempts to get there at an acceptable time – but still early enough to try the food and imbibe a little (mmm! dinner!).

I think it’s a great idea: getting bodies into buildings normally not inhabited, perhaps encouraging young folks to become young patrons … it’s something that perhaps other landmarks in this city should consider. (Casa Loma, are you reading this? Archery clinics and teddy bear picnics are nice and all, but still … )

This is on until June 22nd, so check it out while you can, if you’re so inclined.

Anime North 2012. Ummm … so. This wasn’t … exactly … MY idea.

Backstory: One of my Ottawa-based friends has a 23-year-old brother who was planning on coming to this. Long story short: all four siblings – plus a cousin, a husband and a girlfriend – decided to make a weekend trip out of it. And we figured this would be the only time I’d get to see her, so … yeah.

At least I can NOW say I’ve seen the inside of an anime convention, so anything I say from here on in can be based on experience.

First of all: the lineup to get in, made the La Carnita queue at the Street Food Block Party look like a really inconvenient lineup for the ladies’ room. And from there on in, it was extremely crowded.

Second: there’s a weapons check. (I’m serious.)

Third: The attention to detail in some convention-goers’ costumes, even the poses struck when complete strangers stopped them to take pictures, was almost a bit astounding.

Fourth: Anime raves? Just watching is tiring. And it made me feel like a crabby, old chaperone at a Halloween high school dance.

It was … an experience. But for me, not one worth repeating. I also have a new understanding for folks who go to Fan Expo or other sci-fi conventions. (In fact, if given the chance, I would actually consider going, to see the difference. In plainclothes, of course.)

I only hope this is the beginning of an event-packed summer … to experience new things and boldly go where … erm, you get the idea.

Photos: Street Food Block Party image, courtesy Caroline Aksich for Toronto Life; ROM photo, courtesy Grant Gaspari for The Grid.