Tuesday, 8 July 2014

A few hours in Toronto

My wake-up call is at 4:45. I'm already awake when the phone rings.

I don't piss around. A quick check of my email then it's down to reception to check out.

I take the tunnel between the hotel and terminal this time. Last night I made a scary dash across four lanes of traffic, dragging my bag behind me. Not the kind of thing I want to do on a regular basis. Thankfully it's pretty quiet - not so surprising given the ungodly hour.

I go straight through to airside and head towards the gate looking for somewhere to have breakfast. It doesn't take long to find somewhere. I sit down and order eggs, bacon and potato things. Plus coffee and orange juice. Eggs count as one of your five a day, don't they?

There's something novel about this United flight. The bugger is on time. Not that it particularly matters, as I've hours to kill in Toronto. Around eight, in total.

An annoying amount of time, that. Long enough to make you contemplate leaving the airport, but short enough to make you wonder if it's worth it. And worry about getting to and from the city. Especially with my experience of Toronto traffic last weekend.

Fortunately, there's a a simple solution. Gary Gillman, a regular commenter here, lives in Toronto. I missed him last weekend as he was out of town. This seems like the perfect chance to finally meet. We've arranged for him to pick me up at the airport. Sure enough, there he is when I emerge from the terminal.

It's still pretty early and the roads aren't too busy as we head into town towards Gary's apartment. Once we get off the motorway, he explains abour the neighbourhoods we're driving through. Toronto is a diverse place, that's for sure. I realise that I've barely dipped in a toe in terms of getting to know the city. Oh well, something for me to do next time.

Gary lives in one of the city's many residential towers. But one of the older ones. The view, as you can see, is pretty amazing:

Gary has a load of Canadian beer and whisky lined up for me to try. We kick off with some retro beers from bigger breweries. They're mostly OK. Though anything is likely to taste good sat out on the balcony looking out on the Toronto skyline.

It's all very civilised. Definitely much nicer than numbing my arse in the airport. We have a pleasant light lunch with Gary's wife, who, like him, is a lawyer.

We've just enough time to take in one last pub, the Granite brewpub. He suggests it because they specialise in cask beer. You don't have to ask me twice if I want to drink me some cask. That thirst is never sated.

It's reassuringly pub-like inside, with lots of dark wood and a bank of handpulls. This will do nicely. I've obviously only seen a fraction of Toronto's beer scene. Not surprising, really, given the hugeness of the place.

We drink a little excellent cask beer then it's in the car and back to the airport. Nice to have finally met Gary. And to have done something useful with these few hours.

In the duty free shop, I get a bottle of Canadian whisky Gary had recommended.

I have a final Maker's Mark in one of the airport's iPad bars. Where I check my email and order bourbon at the same time. It's actually dead handy when you get used to it. The bar overlooks my gate. Also dead handy. I can wait at the bar until my group is called. Which is exactly what I do.

I do my best to rest on the plane. When I land at Schiphol, I'll hve just enough time to go home for a shower and a change of clothes, then it's straight in to work.

Ah, I'm getting all nostalgic about these plugs, now my reports on the trip have finally drawn to a close. What fun it's been. Not for you? It's been something, I know that. We'll just have to disagree about exactly what it was.

Buy my book:

The Home Brewer's Guide to Vintage Beer.

Granite Brewery & Restaurant
245 Eglinton Ave E,
Toronto, ON M4P 3B7.
Tel: +1 416 322 0723

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