Believe it or not: I went to Ripley’s Aquarium

Aquarium_2See what I did there? Okay it’s late, leave me alone.

A few weeks back I thought it would be nice to spend a day with my mom and take her down to the newly opened aquarium downtown. I’m not sure if she’s been to one before, and I definitely haven’t, but either way we were looking forward to the experience.

After walking up from Union Station we noticed the incredible lineup to get in. Man this place was popular! I’d gotten her to come all the way downtown so we weren’t going to give up that easy, and the line was moving somewhat quickly by the looks of it, so we stuck it out. An hour and a half later, we finally made it indoors where we could defrost. (Note: I tried buying tickets online but the ticketing part of the website was down.)

Inside there were plenty of options with nine galleries to check out. My favourites were:

Canadian Waters: Here we got to check out some aquatic species that live in our waters, which isn’t something you see very much of, since the tropical fish tend to hog the attention. The Pacific Kelp Exhibit is really cool as it has a wave maker simulating surges of the BC shoreline, and the fish just sit there, bobbing up and down with the water

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IMAG0475Dangerous Lagoon: The largest exhibit in the aquarium (nearly 2.5 million litres) was an amazing experience with different kinds of sharks swim right over your head in the underwater tunnel

IMAG0405IMAG0407IMAG0411Planet Jellies: Jellyfish are such mesmerizing creatures and as you can see below, make for great photos

Aquarium_1Aquarium_4Discover Centre: Again, great for kids, but seeing the Finding Nemo fish was pretty cool for

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Overall a good experience if you can get your tickets in advance. If you’re pretty quick, you should spend about 1.5-2 hours there, but if you have children you’ll probably spend a bit more time if you want to take advantage of the interactive sections.

Hope you enjoyed the photos below. Let me know what you think!

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Rainmageddon hits Toronto

RainmageddonSo we had a bit of rain tonight in Toronto.

I thought I’d share a few pictures along my walk downtown, as waiting for a subway, bus or even taxi was pretty fruitless. Before I go on, I want to thank everyone at the TTC, Police, Fire, EMS and any city officials helping to sort through the mess this storm caused in such a short period of time. Many people are angry, but there’s honestly only so much you can prepare for, and if you’re not, then do your best to pull through, which the city is doing.

Flooded underpass on York StreetThe water on York Street underneath the Gardiner Expressway was calf deep or higher and at this point I’d given up even trying to stay dry or else I wasn’t getting anywhere. The best thing to do was wait for the “tide” to roll away so I didn’t have to walk in as much water.

Maple Leaf Square floodedAs I was rushing to Union Station, I completely missed the new fountain in Maple Leaf Square. There were two drains that were over flowing, causing the fountains you see above.

Air Canada CentreYet another surprise was walking into the Air Canada Centre and not having any lights. It was here I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t getting home by subway.

Union Station waterfallAs I was looking for an exit out to Bay Street, I first heard a lot of water coming in down by the subway platform, so I took a look by the stairs and saw TTC employees squeegeeing a small waterfall of water onto track level – it’s understandable why no trains were running. Above you’ll see water streaming in from the street into the main level area of the station. Staff were working to block it off from entering the station, and shopvac’ing it where they could.

Bay Street Bus lineupAfter hanging outside the Royal York Hotel for a bit waiting for a manhole to explode (thankfully it didn’t), I made my way over to Bay Street to hopefully catch a shuttle bus. After waiting a while, I knew I wasn’t getting home any time soon so I started walking. Remember I had no umbrella or jacket.

Bay Street SteamWalking up Bay Street there were streams of people much more prepared than I, jostling for space on the the sidewalk with their large umbrellas. Throughout the walk, many vents were letting off some steam as the water came pouring in. Liked the photo above, but wish it wasn’t so blurry, though to my defense, I was hurried as the rain came down.’

Yonge-Dundas SquareAfter a detour for food and a break from the rain in the Eaton Centre, I headed back out to Yonge-Dundas Square, where the rain had let up quite a bit, but obviously hoards of commuters were stranded and huddled waiting for the shuttles. Not me though. I kept walking.

After that I was on a mission to make it to Yonge & Bloor, where the subway was working until Lawrence. Luckily I hopped on and eventually made it home to dry off and warm up.

I know my trip wasn’t as crazy as some people, but remember in situations like these, it’s very easy to lose your cool at people who are trying to help you. You just need to realize that everyone is having a bad day, and you don’t need to make another person’s that much worse.

Amsterdam BrewHouse: The new hot spot on the water

Amsterdam BrewHouse

When I heard about the newly opened Amsterdam BrewHouse opening up by my work on Queens Quay, I knew I’d be making a trip their quickly – two days later, in fact.

While they’re still working on the final touches throughout much of the second level to get it ready in time for the official July 1 launch, it’s still a fully functioning restaurant with many different kinds of seats to choose from. Given the nice weather me and my buddy of course opted for the patio – one of many. We were hoping for the lakeside seats, but were taken to the west side of the building, which faced the Marine Unit of the Toronto Police – still great seats.

The BrewHouse has two separate paper menus – one with its beer selection, the other with food (and more drinks). On the flip side of the drink menu we decided to go with the beer flight, which let us sample four different kinds of beer four the cost of a pint ($8). This is a good option if you like to try new beers but don’t want to take the chance on getting a gross pint.

Amsterdam BrewHouse BeerWhen it came to the food, I was a bit indecisive. There wasn’t a tonne of options, but much of the menu looked either interesting (duck grilled cheese) or traditionally a good choice (burgers, pizza). The food is a couple dollars pricier for most of the menu items, compared to most bars, but everything is made fresh, seasonal and local, and generally much better prepared than your typical pub. That being said, I felt cheap and got the crispy fish tacos, which still ran $13 even though it’s listed as an appetizer. It came with three tacos and because I wasn’t terribly hungry, were definitely filling enough, and certainly tasty.

Amsterdam BrewHouse Fish TacosAfter grabbing another pint we paid up and moved to the south side patio because the Muskoka chairs they have were too inviting. The service on that side was nearly non-existent, so we ended up grabbing a pint on our own at the bar after a while. All that was made up by the view:

Amsterdam BrewHouse ViewOverall I really liked the Amsterdam BrewHouse and plan on making a few trips this summer. Because it’s new, I expected any number of issues, so on that front I’m forgiving. While the food pricing is a bit much, the food is unique enough and I’m always up for trying new things so I’d like to sample many more items off that menu.

Have you made it out there yet? What did you think?

The CN Tower, to a Torontonian

CN TowerThere’s something about the CN Tower that seems to make for such a great photo opportunity. Looking through my Instagram feed I notice I take quite a few pictures of the tower that watches over Toronto, whether it’s the focal point or not.

It seems like at least a few times a week, I see an Instagram shot of the Tower alone or part of the skyline. I admit, I find myself going, “Really? Another skyline shot?” from time to time, but it can still make for a great photo.

Whenever I think of the CN Tower, I think of Toronto. Ask most kids to draw their representation of the city, and the Tower will likely make it in there. The tower also acts as a representation of our city to tourists (even as it’s being enveloped by condos), and it’s something we should take the time to appreciate, though if you work in and around the city, you likely see it every day. Even if you don’t go in, it’s still an amazing feat of architecture and for that reason alone, it’s pretty cool.

What does the CN Tower mean to you? Do you have a favourite photo?

Has it been a year, already?

Yonge and Eglinton Toronto

A year ago I made the big move from my parents’ place in Scarborough to my own apartment near Yonge and Eglinton.

It’s been a great experience so far and filled with a lot of firsts. I’ve really had to focus a lot on budgeting my expenses, especially since I haven’t been working for a bit, AND there’s the small issue of a wedding to pay for next year, so all things considered, I think I’ve done pretty well.

Chores

I don’t have the luxury of suburban grocery store prices, so I’ve had to shop a bit smarter, which includes only buying things I want when they’re on sale, and maybe picking up extras of things I need when the price is right too.

Another food issue I’ve had to become accustomed to is how much I buy. At my parents place there was always enough food around for four people. The good thing about that is it would rarely go bad. What I’ve come to learn the hard way is that buying food – especially fruit/veggies – needs to be planned out. I can’t count how many times I’ve had food go bad on me because I’ve only used a one or two servings worth. A head of cauliflower and broccoli is a lot for one person, so when I go to the market to get my fruits/veggies, I buy pre-cut, which may be more expensive, but at least the food doesn’t go bad in the mean time.

I like to keep my apartment relatively clean, but it’s probably the least rewarding chore. I’m fortunate enough to not live facing a busy road, and with just me or the fiancee in the house most of the time, there isn’t much traffic inside either, but cleaning is never something I look forward to doing.

Laundry has been pretty simple, but I dread having to pay for it. I try to hang dry my clothes whenever I can, but the cost of even washing it adds up. I will say I’m lucky enough to have machines in my apartment and I don’t have to trek out to a laundromat.

Neighbourhoood

I can’t explain it, but I’ve been drawn to this neighbourhood for quite a while, so when I was looking to find a place this was the first area I wanted to look at. I like the fact that everything I need, whether it’s a grocery store, Tim Hortons, pub, drug store or LCBO, is within walking distance (about 10 minutes). In Scarborough, I needed a car or had to trek quite a bit longer, just to get to any kind of store to do something. The one thing I do miss about suburbia is the cleaner air. I know it’s not that far out of the city, but I notice the difference every time I head back.

Transit

The one thing I hate about living where I was (near the zoo), was the amount of time it took me to get downtown. At one point I had to take every type of TTC transportation to get to work (that’s bus, Scarborough RT, subway and streetcar) and it took me about an hour and a half. That same commute from this neighbourhood involves one or two types of transportation and the time is more like 30 minutes. For a person living in the heart of the city, even 30 minutes must be unfathomable, but for me it’s amazing. The only downside of spending less time on transit would be less time to read my books.

Independence

Of course not living at home anymore means I’m officially an adult. I make my own rules, cook for myself, stay up late (writing this blog post for example) if I want or have people over, which I couldn’t really do before. It’s been a great year for growing up and I can’t wait to keep it going with the next year and beyond.

Well that’s been my year getting used to living on my own, in a nutshell. What was your first experience like? Have I missed anything important (I’m sure I have)?

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