Travelling Light

I landed at 9:55am and sped through customs. Having no checked baggage to wait for made this easy. I flashed my passport to the powers that be and that was that: home.

I had spent the last two days in Toronto, which is 3,412 miles from where I live. It was only poor forward planning that left me there so short a time. Somehow my reputation proceeded me: at the wedding, at least three different people asked me if I was "the guy who's only here until tomorrow". They were impressed, perhaps, by my fleetingness; or confused, more likely. No point hanging around, I said. No, I didn't say that really. Not out loud.

Toronto is a charming place. I stayed at the Holiday Inn in the Downtown area, amongst skyscrapers, 24 hour mini-markets, an "Irish" pub or two, and other buildings of little aesthetic or actual interest. I jumped to the conclusion that the whole city was much like this, which was a mistake. It is not. My apologies, Toronto, I was tired.

Through the miracle of more or less ubiquitous WiFi, Kieran and I located one another immediately, and settled upon the Hair of the Dog pub on Church Street as the location where we eat, refresh ourselves and compose a speech for tomorrow's wedding. Are we the best men (both in the context of the wedding, and in general)? Do we really have only three minutes between us to speak about, of all people, Ross? Do Canadians drink beer in pints? So many questions.

Kieran was not feeling well. Kieran flies great distances all the time. His last trip was to Libya. He feared he might have caught a cold from another passenger. I speculated he might have caught some awful tropical disease. This didn't reassure him, and he corrected my geography. Libya isn't tropical.

We ordered beer and drank it; food, and are it. We agreed that writing a speech about Ross under such conditions was impossible. So we drank more beer, and retired.

Next morning, Kieran instructed me to meet him at Kensington Market, about a mile's walk from my hotel. It was raining heavily at 7am as I sought and found somewhere open that time on a Sunday that might provide coffee. The machine in my room was not working, although in fact at was, as Kieran later demonstrated. By the time I had consumed a "breakfast cookie" (gluten free and vegan) and a "triple" Americano (confirming in the process that Android Pay works in Canada) the rain had eased off and I set off on foot to Kieransville.

My sense of direction is terrible. It's not inconceivable that without Google maps and GPS I might by now be dead. Still it helps to have some human input when you're navigating a strange city, so I asked someone sweeping up outside a Wendy's for directions. This way is north, she said. This way is east. If you want to get to Kensington market, you need to walk east to the corner of Something and Blah and get the streetcar. I fancy a walk, I explained. It's only a mile on the map. Oh, she said. This threw her for six. Walking to your destination in Canada is as unusual as in the USA, perhaps. She had no idea how to give directions to pedestrians. The second stranger and asked for help was the same. I trusted Google though, and it saw me right. People: useless.

Kensington Market is an interesting place.  It's not a market in the British sense of the term: more an entire city block of shops selling things that markets usually sell, indoors and out.  An abundance of fruit and veg, and herbs:

At 10:30am on a Sunday morning, one of the many tattoo parlours had a queue of enthusiastic and impatient locals waiting for it to open, which might be the most hipster thing I have ever seen:

Or maybe that's this:

Or possibly this:

No, it's this:

Kieran and I made a brief documentary:

We settled in a cafe to write our speech for the wedding.  Kieran ate a breakfast bagel.  I had something strongly avocado-themed.  Obviously.  It was delicious, and reasonably priced.  Canada is very reasonably priced.  That said, my monthly budget flew straight out the window as soon as landed.  When you're spending foreign money, it doesn't feel like you're really spending money, but you are.  A taxi from the airport was $60.  I could possibly have walked it.  The bus back was $7.70.  I could possibly have walked that too, although I might have missed my flight.

Everything I needed for my journey fit into the backpack I use in everyday life: my suit for the wedding, my Chromebook, phone and various chargers and batteries, my passport, a change of clothes, my toothbrush, and my medication.  I wore the same shoes for travelling and walking as for wedding, which performed admirably.  To be in a foreign country with only the things you can carry to get you through the day, with only a cheap(ish) hotel room to lay your head in, with only one pair of shoes and some of your wits, feels wonderful.  I think the intoxicating feeling of the "travel bug" has a lot to do with just being able to leave your stuff behind, and get on with living.  Money, unfortunately, remains necessary.

Or perhaps not.