Sunday, 24 March, 2013
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Elliot and I spontaneously booked flights to Toronto a few weeks ago – our trip will last a month, and we have no set plans. Let’s see what happens.
Our first realisation was a pretty simple one, this holiday is going to be really frigging freezing! In fact, there is a pretty strong rumour floating around that a family of snowmen bypassed Toronto as they deemed the city too cold to settle – even though I started the rumour, I still firmly believe it to be true.
Soon after purchasing the plane tickets, I discovered that rap battle league, King of the Dot, was throwing an event on our first Saturday in Toronto. While a coincidental occurrence; it was an experience that intrigued me. I appreciate the lyricism and creativity that often comes with a rap battle – it is essentially smart and competitive playground name calling.
Unfortunately, the participants were prearranged. Therefore, I couldn’t jump into the ring and show my skills. I didn’t overly enjoy teaching phonics in South Korea, but it did allow me to learn a thing or two about rap – Pat the fat cat in the hat sat on the mat. Throw in the word twat to make it battle rap appropriate and I would have been set.
Sadly, the event was a little bit underwhelming – in most parts, the battles themselves were pretty entertaining, but, the waiting around between matches was highly frustrating. There was an hour and a half wait between each battle, not to mention, the bouncer kept informing us that if we left the event we couldn’t come back. Basically, in order to see all six battles we were required to spend our entire day in angry poets’ prison.
With very little to do between battles, I drifted into people watching. The great thing about rappers that compete in these type of events is that they are not famous, they are only popular to a niche audience. This meant that the majority would happily grab a beer between battles and chat with fans – creating a pleasant community feel that you don’t see at most entertainment shows.
A lack of celebrity status does prevent the dream of a dressing room though – it was highly entertaining watching the MCs practicing their lines outside the toilet area. They would be frantically pacing up and down while screaming at thin air under their breath, breaking rhythm each time somebody needed to pass them for a wee.
It was basically an extended version of stubbing your toe on the kerb – we’re all guilty of cursing at an inanimate object. Although, these guys take their anger a step further, by claiming that they have slept with the kerb’s mother and threatening to shoot the kerb.
We also made time to visit Niagara Falls. However, being that it is March, and Canada is colder than the heart of a Conservative MP, the scene was far from its customary image of bright colours and sunshine. Instead, we were looking at iced over water and arrays of nature coated in snow – this made the view somewhat more unfamiliar, and for me, only added to the beauty.
I’ve now gone from wanting to rap to a man I’ve never met about how ugly his mum is, to writing a sonnet poem entitled, ‘The Surprise Delight of a Frost Bite’.
There is a small downside about visiting Niagara Falls in March. The view from behind the major waterfall is pretty restricted due to the many layers of ice – but, the clever sods only counter any potential disappointment with a winter discount. Therefore, I urge any person from Yorkshire that is planning to visit this wonder, to do so in the coldest season – we’re lovely in Yorkshire, but it is true what they say, we’re as tight as a nun.
While on our tour behind the waterfall, we were told of the many maniacs that have attempted to plunge it – the guides didn’t have much to show us, so they told us stories instead – my favourite being the tale of Bobby Leach. In 1911, big, bad Bob jumped the falls in a steel barrel, sure, he broke his kneecaps and jaw, but he survived certain death. What a champion!
Bobby Leach has got to be immortal, hasn’t he? Apparently not. The thunderous falls couldn’t kill him, but a flipping orange could. In his later years, he tripped over an orange peel and died of gangrene. Every superhero has a kryptonite, and for Super-Bobby, the weakness was soft, delicious, fruit. He achieved the unthinkable, and yet, will be forever known as the orange peel guy. What a nightmare!
Before arriving in Canada, I was well aware of the country’s global reputation to be incredibly nice and polite, but, I deemed it to be just a playful stereotype. You know, in the same sense that we discuss our admiration for the Royal Family over tea and scones every tea time.
However, the Canadians, well, those that we’ve interactive with at least, really do seem quite mannerly. We were riding a bus across town, when the driver suddenly put his foot down to avoid hitting a passing cat, that in itself is a fine example of an admirable human.
That abrupt halt sent me, as a standing passenger, flying. I helplessly and embarrassingly landing on a teenage boys lap – this resulted in three people apologising – the boy, his mum, and later the bus driver when I got off. I guess a Canadian stereotype over powers a teenage stereotype.
As grateful as I was for the apologies, let’s try and figure them out. The boy was sorry for choosing the seat that I landed in, his mum was sorry her son chose the seat that I landed in, and the bus driver, well, he was just sorry that I couldn’t keep my balance as he saved the life of a careless cat. They’re nicer than a glass of red wine on a Friday night!
Speaking of lovely Canadians, Elliot’s friend, Selena, lives in Toronto and has essentially been the tour guide for our week in the city. She has shown us the sights, as well as taken us to some of her favourite bars and restaurants.
However, an entire month of her kindness would be asking for too much. Plus, we also wish to see more of the world on this trip than just Toronto, as nice as it is. We, therefore, asked her and her friends to suggest a next stop, with the unanimous reply being, Cuba!
So, we took their advice and have booked flights to Cuba. The Caribbean island wasn’t discussed at any point before beers in a bar two days ago, but with a spontaneous trip comes spontaneous actions. I’ve got three giant coats, a woolly hat and no swimming shorts – I’m probably going to get searched in the airport for packing like a weirdo.