Saturday, August 14, 2004

Montreal, Quebec—Day 196

Today was a great day. I met up with Laura, her sister Ester from Toronto, and Arianna, whom I met two days ago. Since Esther was in town, Laura and Arianna were already planning on showing her some of the sights in the Old Montreal/Chinatown area and so they invited me along to go sightseeing with them.

It was wonderful. We started off with dim sum at a place in Chinatown which was fun. It was my first experience with dim sum and at this place waiters brought around different foods for you to try (such as wontons, squid, shrimp balls—things like that) and then you select what you want to eat. Judging their reactions when we passed on things such as squid, we all agreed that they must have thought we were missing out on the true delicacies. To top it off all of the tables were covered in layers upon layers of plastic (much like a white trash bag really) and at the end of your meal they would clear the table by literally picking up the dishes by grabbing the sides of the plastic and pulling it all together in a sort of bag. Very efficient and clean, I guess!

We then headed over to the Old Montreal district and walked around a bit near the Notre Dame Cathedral (where, apparently, Celine Dion got married among other important things) and saw the old part of Montreal near the port. Luckily the day was just beautiful (unlike the rain that we have had for the past two days that I have been here) so it was hot and sunny as we strolled along.

We basically made our way to different parts of town from there—up through a main square area and past the City Hall where several coaches and fancy cars were awaiting wedding parties. We then walked through some really nice areas of Montreal, which I probably would have missed being on my own, and eventually made it to a fabulous ice-cream place where even the smallest ice cream lets you have three choices of flavors.

I then said goodbye to the girls and headed back to the hotel to do a little work before meeting up with Andrea. The funny thing was that when I met up with Andrea, we headed out to a party and guess who was showed up! Arianna, Esther and Laura—small world!

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.

Photo--City Hall, Montreal

Photo--Me and Arianna in Montreal

Photo--Notre Dame, Montreal

Friday, August 13, 2004

Montreal, Quebec—Day 195

Today I headed back to the Granby zoo, after of course, dragging myself out of bed after a crazy night. I headed out in my black Matrix struggling not only with a hangover but with driving in the rain through construction zones. I made it just fine to the zoo though and spent a long time waiting for Kiboko, who was lying in the water quite sleepily, to move. I spent quite a good deal of time waiting for him in the rain, setting up my umbrella trying to minimize getting wet but it seemed that no matter what I could do, my trousers were getting completely soaked. I took a break from waiting to get a salt encrusted pretzel and to check out the reptile room where I found reptiles and another equally scary sight in the restroom with a woman doing her business with the door open. I won’t go into details.

Anyways, I headed back outside to get some fresh air (ahem) and waited some more for Kiboko to move. I started to get a little antsy because I knew that my time was running out with the rental car. I didn’t mind waiting, or perhaps having to pay for another day’s worth on the rental car, but the rain was also getting to me a little bit.

Finally Kiboko got up and walked out of his pond to spread his love (ahem again) o the trees nearby and then wandered over across the enclosure to find some grass to eat. Click click click. I looked at my watch and sure enough, it was just coming on 2 o’clock which is when the keeper yesterday said Kiboko and the other two would be switched. Kiboko ate some grass for a while before walking up to the door where he stood for a few minutes before the door opened automatically, Kiboko grunted, and was let in.

I packed up my stuff and headed back out to the car and drove back to Montreal. The rain didn’t cease the entire drive back and I only stopped once to get some gas. As I pulled up to the gas station, of course everything was in French. I was like great, I’m probably going to get the wrong type of gas, like diesel or something. But I checked and double checked to make sure that I was at the right pump (and checked to see what other cars were pumping) and finally chose one, turned off the engine and started pumping.

I got back in the car, turned on the car, and….got it right. Thank goodness. Now I just had to make it back to Montreal. I set off and miraculously made it back to the rental car place without really needing to look at my map. After a second attempt in finding the entrance to the parking garage to return the car, I checked my watch. So what if I was a half an hour late? I just smiled sweetly at the guy who checked out the car to see if I had any dents (nope!) and I walked away from the rental place without paying anything more than I had to.


I then spent the rest of the afternoon walking around downtown Montreal, checking out McGill University, eating lunch at a great café called (when translated), the Stranger Café, which just seemed perfect for me. I then walked back to the hotel where I did work before heading back out on the metro to meet Andrea for a few drinks.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Toronto, Ontario—Montreal, Quebec—Day 194

My flight from Toronto to Montreal was fine. Typical flight except everyone was speaking French! It was my first realization that woah, in Montreal, French is the primary language. Not to sound ignorant, but growing up in Arizona I am so used to people speaking Spanish near or in the USA, not French. The flight was a little bumpy at first but I sat across from this cute French-Canadian guy who not only had the same woven wrist band that I do (mines purple his was black) but then we ordered the SAME drinks. I was almost convinced that it was fate until we landed and he met his girlfriend at the baggage claim area.

Oh well, ce’st la vie.

I got my bags and got a taxi to my hotel, which was happy to find was located in the downtown area. I called my new friend Andrea (a girl who I met at my friend’s wedding this weekend who is from Germany but living here in Montreal until September) and left a message for her. We had tentative plans for tonight and so I was excited—my first city in a while where I had actual plans to meet up with someone who knows the city instead of being on my own!

So then I checked online to see when the Granby Zoo was open. It turns out that the Zoo is about an hour south of Montreal and was open until 7pm. Then I saw that the hippos get fed at 5pm, and at this point it was just turning 1 o’clock. I figured that the best thing would be for me to rent a car to get to Granby instead of taking an expensive cab ride down.

So I did some work first and then headed down into the lobby to the Concierge to arrange for a car rental. He recommended me a place and soon I was off in a taxi to go rent a car. The taxi dropped me off (a little disgruntled after I paid in change—he said to me, what is this?!? This cannot be!) and I went inside to rent my car.

That is when I started feeling like Montreal was this crazy, trippy place. The people working at the car rental were speaking in English and French back and forth, back and forth like it was nothing and I was just dumbfounded. Its like I knew that there were French speaking parts of Canada, but I guess I just didn’t really realize it. It was pretty crazy and I had to remind myself that I was in Canada, not France. I rented the car and decided on getting the full insurance (that would be my luck to get into an accident or something here of all places).

Pretty soon I was heading down the parking ramp in a BRAND NEW Toyota Matrix. It had like 50 miles on it when I got it and I was like great, now I am REALLY going to get into trouble or something! I headed out following the directions that the girl at the car rental place had given me. My only problem was that not only did I have NO clue where I was going, but not a clue as to what the driving rules where/are here. I tried to do a left turn (according to the directions mind you!) but realized that you couldn’t turn left during such-and-such hours and so I got many serious honks and hand waving (not in a good way) at me as people zoomed around me. I ended up having to do a U-turn to get where I needed to go but figured that if anyone had a problem with it, well, I’m just a tourist!

I was on my way to Granby. All in all the drive was just fine, even though the weather was getting to be cloudy. It was about 3:30 when I set off and I made it to the zoo parking lot around 4:30 which was perfect timing. The zoo wasn’t that hard to find once I got off of the highway. I bought a ticket and was told that since it was after 4pm I was allowed to come back the next day for free. Putting the ticket into my pocket, I had a good feeling that I might just have to take them up on that.

I handed my ticket to the ticket guy and went in and found the hippos. Two of them to be exact—a mother and a baby. Apparently the mother is a new addition to the zoo as of just a few years ago and when she was transferred from a zoo in Mexico she was pregnant but no one knew about it! So she showed up in Granby already pregnant so now they have the baby. The baby was super cute and the two of them were happily sleeping in the water.

Their enclosure was also a fairly big size. I set down my things and found my place where I wanted to stand when the keeper came out. There was about 10 minutes before the feeding was going to begin so I waited and soon a crowd began to gather.

That’s when this annoying little boy came over. Ok, he wasn’t really little, he was more of a large ten year old or something and he and his family were also going to wait for the hippos to feed. But he came and stood right in front of me on the platform (asking me in French to please move). I thought he was going to stand next to me but no, he stood right in front of me which literally left no room for me on the platform. The guy to my left who was not on the platform gave me a look like “can you believe that?” and I just shrugged and smiled, but I was annoyed. Now where was I going to stand? There was a large group at this point and the keeper came out. She started talking and I still didn’t have a good place to stand, and pushing this kid out of the way didn’t seem like a good idea with his mother right there. So I stood halfway on the platform and got some pictures in between the tall man on my left and the large boy on my right, who incidentally started swaying when the keeper came out. So he would like sway into my line of vision and then sway out so not only did I have to time my pictures with the hippos eating, but with this boy’s swaying.


Finally the keeper ended her talk and I went to ask her their names. She didn’t speak much English at all (again, I was ignorantly shocked—but I am in Canada!) but I managed to get their names. She also told me that there is a third hippo, Kiboko, who comes out in the mornings, switching with mom and baby (Polita and Alcide by the way). So I thanked her and was able to get some more pictures while the crowd dwindled, eventually leaving just me and the hippos.

I then headed out of the zoo and drove back to Montréal, listening to French pop songs all the way which was really fun. Miraculously I got off at the right exit in Montreal and was able to find the parking garage for the hotel with little trouble.

I then called up Andrea who had returned my message and we set up a time and place to meet. Every Thursday night Andrea goes out for drinks with her German friends and basically anyone else who is friends with anyone German. We met up and then met with the group and I had a great night. I won’t go into details but I’ll just say that there is nothing quite like dancing with crazy Germans. Especially to 80’s retro.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Niagara Falls, Ontario—Day 193

Today I took a day trip over to Niagara Falls which is just about an hour from Toronto. I booked a tour through a newspaper ad that I saw and was excited to get to the falls. Oh, I almost forgot. The subway was SO packed; it was literally like you had no room to even breathe. It was during rush hour so I had to squeeze in on the end before the doors closed on me. I only had a few stops to go on the really busy subway train and there was this woman standing next to me. Well, when the train came to a sudden halt like they do when you stop at a station, I accidentally stepped on her foot (apparently, but I could hardly move so it wasn’t like I did it on purpose). Well the woman gave me this little huff of attitude (just a huff, no words were exchanged) and she hit me! It was more like a disgusted push, as if I had pushed her first and she was pushing me back. I just looked at her and mumbled “sorry” as I got off of the train. What did she expect?

So as I pushed through the crowds and made it up to the street surface, I some donuts and some tea and stood on a corner in downtown Toronto where I was supposed to be picked up. After a few minutes, a large white passenger van pulled up. It was my ride, so I hopped in.

The tour guide enthusiastically greeted and enthusiastically asked for me to pay for my trip up front. Fair enough. I found my money and handed it to him and we drove away. We picked up a few more people and were then off to Niagara Falls. The driver was so excited that we were going to Niagara Falls and acted as if it was his first time going there but apparently had been a tour guide for over 20 years in the Niagara Falls area. It wasn’t like it was his first time and he didn’t know where to go, but more of an “I’m so in love with Niagara Falls” excited. Bur more about that in a minute.

So we headed south to Niagara Falls and every so often the tour guide would come on the loudspeaker and gasp at something we were passing by. OOOOOHHHHH! Look look look! On the left!!!! We would all quickly turn as to not to miss out on the supposedly spectacular thing that he was looking at only to find that he was pointing at a nice car, or a squirrel or something. Honestly, it was like Oooooooh, look at that really big house! That BIG HOUSE! And we would all look at this semi-normal, yet somewhat big I guess, house.

Anyways, he kept doing this the ENTIRE TRIP. Everything was new and exciting to him and it got to be pretty funny. Especially when his shouts of enthusiasm would come out of nowhere which would make you jump in your seat.

Anyways, we made it to Niagara Falls and got dropped off for a little five minute break or so while the tour guide went to park the van. Unfortunately I never knew what this guy’s name was which would make my story SO much better but maybe I’ll just make one up. Vinnie. I’ll call him Vinnie.

So Vinnie comes back and takes us over to the falls and buys us tickets for the Maid of the Mist boat ride, which is basically a bunch of boats that you can get on and ride one right up to the falls (hence the mist part) and then back. There are boats on both the Canadian and American sides. So he showed us in and then said that he would be back in a few hours to pick us up again. So we had some free time to go on the boat ride and walk around.

I handed my ticket to a ticket lady and was given a bright blue plastic poncho, along with what seemed like hundreds of other blue-poncho people. We looked like smurfs. They filled us in a line and we didn’t have to wait long until it was our turn to go on the boat. But at this point it started to POUR with rain, so not only were we getting wet from the rain, but we were going to get wet from the falls as well. Oh well, it didn’t matter. Getting soaked was part of the fun.

So our boat pulled out of the boarding area and we went over to the American Falls, which is part of Niagara Falls on the American side. We went passed it (ooooh, ahhh) and then over to Horseshoe Falls which is the big mama of the two falls on the Canadian side. Our boat went in very close to the falls which was cool but because there was so much wind and water blasting in my face it was hard to really get a good look. The water going over the falls was a cool green and grey color, with white as well, and there was a huge cloud of mist in the middle.

We then turned around and headed back to shore where we disembarked and they loaded another group of camera-touting tourists for their turn. By this time the rain had kind of subsided to a drizzle so it seemed like our group was the only one to really experience the downpour.

I spent the rest of my “free time” getting lunch and walking over to where you could see the falls going off the cliff—that part right at the point where the water falls. It was really neat and you could see the other Maid of the Mist boats going towards the water from below.

I then headed back to meet up with the group and we spent the rest of the afternoon going to other sights in Niagara Falls, including the floral clock (OHHHHH!!! LOOK LOOK!!! ON THE RIGHT!! A CLOOOOOOOCK!!!), several historical sights concerning the War of 1812 (OHHHHHH WOW!!!!!) and a winery (WOOOOOOOOOOW!!! *whistle whistle* WOW!!!) where they served us free tastings in hope that we buy wine. Pretty standard touristy stuff but all in all I had a really good day because I was able to see Niagara Falls. We headed back to Toronto and got back in around 6 o’clock in the evening. Vinnie dropped me off at the downtown area and thanked me for taking the tour with him, saying that there was a tour to an Amish village tomorrow if I wanted to go.

Just the idea of Vinnie driving around the Amish countryside shouting enthusiasms (OHHHHH! A HORSE-DRAWN CARRIAGE!!!!) was enough to make me NOT want to go, but in a good way. One day with him was plenty.

I then decided to go up the CN Tower (yet another Space Needle type place—this is my third that I had been to) and had to wait over an hour and a half to even get up it. It was ridiculous—people kept trying to cut in line in front of me. Well, in front of lots of people) and I had to spend an hour trying to block out a mother’s conversation with her grown son and her complaining about everything under the sun.

But, the view was cool up at the top. There is this glass part of the floor which you can stand on and look down but there were so many people literally sitting and laying on it that you could hardly squeeze yourself in to get a good look. So I went outside and took pictures of Toronto through the wires that blocked the view but kept people from throwing things off of it. I then went back inside and had to wait to catch the elevator down and to try and prevent more people from cutting in line. It didn’t work (the prevention) but I finally made it down.

I then, like the suave Toronto native that I’ve so expertly become in the past three days, I made it back to my hotel and packed up my things for my flight tomorrow!

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.

Photo--Me at Niagara Falls

Photo--Niagara Falls, Canada

Photo--Niagara Falls, Canada

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Toronto, Ontario—Day 192

Today I woke up feeling sick and groggy. After dragging myself out of bed, I finally was on my way to the zoo around 10:45a.m. I decided to take a cab over to the shopping center and then take public transport from there. I mean, I did it yesterday, so why shouldn’t I be able to make it back to the zoo?

So I get to the shopping center, pay my taxi, and head into a huge Wal-Mart. I end up walking through the store and out into the larger, actual mall area of the shopping complex and find no way out of it. I walked around for a bit just looking for an exit SOMEWHERE but couldn’t find any that would lead me to the buses. I finally asked someone in a shop to lead me in the right direction and soon found the buses.

I went to pay for my ticket from the ticket booth man and asked to take the “Zoo Express.” This would lead me straight to the zoo. He told me that the zoo express only ran on the weekends, so I would have to take the 129, and then transfer to the 85. Ok, but where would I transfer? I looked confused and he finally said, oh, you need to get off at Sheppard. Just ask the driver.

So I wandered out and found my platform for Bus #129. When it came I got on and told the driver that I needed to go the zoo and that if he could tell me when we got to Sheppard Street that would be great.

About a half hour later I still hadn’t been told to get off. The number of people dwindled slowly as we kept going and pretty soon there was only me and a woman with her young son. We pulled up to a stop and they both got out, leaving just me. Then the bus driver turned to me and said, this is the last stop. You have to get off.

Ummm, ok, well, where was Sheppard then?

Oh, it was the second stop, he says. You needed to get of there? That was miles ago.


So I explain to him that I am not from here, and am in fact from Arizona (after he asks me, well, where are you from then?). Based on his blank look, I could tell that he didn’t have a clue about Arizona or where it is, and so I wasn’t surprised when he responded, now where’s that?

So I tried to explain to him where Arizona was but he didn’t seem concerned. Instead he told me that I should just ride the bus back with him and get off on Sheppard, then transfer to eh 85 and then I would have to transfer to the 86. No prob.

Ok. So we set off again in the other direction (back to where we started from) and several stops later ended up at Sheppard where he actually told me to get off! I got off, raced across the street and hopped on the 85 bus going East (following his directions that he shouted to me as I got off of the bus). I jumped on the 85 and soon was off going towards the zoo. Or at least I hoped.

Finally we made it to the stop that I knew I had to get off on to transfer to the next bus. I knew this solely because there was a group of teenagers on the bus who were also going to the zoo and who kept talking loudly about it and how they needed the bus driver to, like, totally tell them where to, like, get off for the zoo.

So we got off and all of the zoo-goers on the 85 bus got onto the 86 bus and one stop later we were at the zoo.

I went to a payphone and called up Lisa, my Toronto Zoo friend and she said that she would meet me in a few minutes at the entrance.

I bought my ticket and walked in and waited for Lisa. She showed up with her co-worker and both were on their lunch break. I apologized for not coming earlier (I told her yesterday that I would be at the zoo at 9am and now it was past 12:30pm) and we went into the gift shop to buy some cards, apparently, for their long distance boyfriends.

Our meeting was short but sweet and I said goodbye to them as they headed back to work and I headed over to the hippos. Or shall I say, hippo since I knew that today would be Samson on his own.

Well I found Samson alright. There he was snoozing away in the water. I still felt like crap and having the sun beating down on me watching Samson while he rolled around in the water wasn’t all fun and games. I needed some water. I needed to sit down.

Luckily both were near by so I got some water and sat to watch. And watch.

And watch.

By 2:30 I was pretty bored to say the least. Probably a first on this trip so far and I think it was because I was feeling so tired and sick. I just wanted to crawl into bed and sleep forever. Luckily, after some scrounging, I found some Motrin IB in my bag which although said it is supposed to be used for headaches, it couldn’t not help how I felt then.

I also decided to find some lunch and so I walked over to the African Restaurant area where I got a cheeseburger and fries, and a large coke. Never mind that I have stopped drinking coke and said that I didn’t want it, I was served it anyways with my combo meal. I figured a little caffeine would probably wake me up a bit and hopefully make me feel better, so I drank a little of it.

One of the worst parts of being sick is losing the ability to taste things. Like I knew I was eating a cheeseburger (obviously, I could see it!) but I couldn’t smell or taste a thing for most of it, and ever so often there would be that, oh, I think this is a tomato, sense hit me which was making me feel more normal. It was probably that Motrin kicking in.

I finished my lunch and read for a bit then decided to head over to Samson again. As I was walking out of the bathroom near the lunch area, this zoo worker who seemed a bit in his own little world and a tad kooky was saying to himself (and I think to me), A stooooooorm is comin’ in! Big thunderstorms are rooooooolllin’ in!

And indeed one was. I thought I should get to Samson just in case he had moved while I had been gone, and hopefully I would be able to get pictures before this storm rooooooolled itself in.

Unfortunately, this didn’t happen.

I would like to say that I walked right up to the hippo enclosure and Sam was there, out of the water, ready to pose for me but he wasn’t. He had hardly moved since I was gone and seemed to have no problem with the rain that began to sprinkle down or with the loud thunderous booming that was quickly approaching us overhead. The grey storm clouds didn’t even faze him, and neither did the huge lightening strikes that began to hit the ground in the distance.


I got out my umbrella and stood ready for the rain, but my umbrella didn’t make do.

It started to pour. And I mean POUR. Like buckets and buckets of rain PORUING down on everything around it. I stood with several people under a straw roofed gazebo type thing and even that didn’t protect us from the downpour.

Everyone was soaking wet. I had to use my umbrella under the gazebo and that STILL wasn’t helping. The rain just got worse and worse. Finally it cleared up a little, enough for me to make a mad dash to the indoor African exhibit a few hundred yards away. I ran to the indoor exhibit and flung went in where there were tons of dry people waiting for the rain to stop. One look at me and my soaked pants (literally soaked up and over my knees) and you could tell that I wasn’t one of the suave people who had the common sense to avoid the rain ahead of time.

So I waited out the rest of the rain sitting on the floor across from the baboons and read my book while the rain slowed down. Finally it stopped (more or less to a sprinkle) and I went back out to Samson.

And he STILL hadn’t moved.

By this time it was just past 4 o’clock and I knew (well, I kept my fingers crossed) that the keeper would come at 4:30. It started to rain a little bit more steadily while I waited it out but when 4:30 rolled around, the clouds had rolled away and the sun had come out.

Luckily, eventually so did Samson.

The keeper (a different one from yesterday mind you) came out and fed Samson some melons and Samson didn’t even bother getting out of the pool like Perky and Petal did yesterday. He just stood with his mouth open and got tossed huge melons while the keeper explained all things hippo.

Samson finally got out of the water and went to eat some hay in his enclosure that the keeper had set out god knows how much earlier and I was able to get my photos of him while he munched don the hay. I noticed a huge growth on Samson back left foot and went to ask the keeper about it (who was just finishing up talking to some other interested zoo-goers) and he told me that Samson had had the growth for a few years now and it didn’t seem to be bothering him. But he assured me that the vets were taking good care of him and had their eye on it, so I was satisfied with his response.

I took pictures for a while afterwards while Samson made his way back into the water and then said goodbye and headed out of the zoo. I guess I should have just come at 4:30 when I knew the hippo keeper was going to talk, but then I would have missed being able to tell a story about the torrential rain.

Ah well, it all works out, doesn’t it?

So I left the zoo and hopped on the RIGHT bus this time, taking me to Kennedy Station where I got on the LTR to the shopping center near my hotel (feeling proud of myself for being able to negotiate Toronto’s public transport system on my own) and caught a movie before heading back to finish up my work for the day.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Toledo, Ohio—Chicago, Illinois—Toronto, Ontario—Day 191

Today I flew from Toledo to Chicago and then on to Toronto, Canada. I had spent the day after the wedding saying goodbye to my friends from Macalester and spent time with Kathryn’s family as well as with Marnie and Andrea, a few other friend’s of Kathryn’s who weren’t leaving until Monday like me.

Kathryn’s parents dropped me and Marnie off at the airport and we checked in and were on our way, on the same flight, to Chicago. We ran into Kathryn’s aunt and cousin from Albuquerque who were also on the same flight and since it was such a small flight it seemed like Kathryn’s wedding guests were taking up a lot of the plane!

Marnie and I parted ways in Chicago and I waited for my flight to Toronto. I made it to Toronto and then had problems getting through Canadian customs (again!)

Basically I had put down that I was in Toronto (well, Canada for that matter) on both business AND personal. Business being the hippos and personal being the fact that I will be seeing Andrea (Kathryn’s friend) when I am in Montreal. Sooo, that didn’t fly with the lady that checked my passport. Both business and personal? Well, what’s your business?

If only I could have sad that it was none of HER business! J So I went into my story, talking as fast as I could before she interrupted me, drew a big line across my customs form and let me go. I thought I was in the clear but instead I was re-routed to the interrogation area where I then had to plead my case to another stern looking woman.

So I started talking (it only takes me a few sentences before they raise their eyebrows in suspicion and go ummmm, hummmmm. Yeaaaaah riiiiiight.

So I decided to be smooth and got out my newspaper article about me which seemed to have the desired effect. She read it, all the while typing things on her computer, and asked me how long I was going to be in Canada (7 days, I fired back) and blah blah blah questions about the photos. Is he selling the photos? Nope. He’s just making the porcelain to sell then. Nope. So, he’s just making it for himself?


After she typed in god knows what onto her computer she finally let me go. I grabbed my stuff and headed out the door in search of a taxi, which I found and whizzed me away to my hotel which was disappointingly far from the downtown area of Toronto but nicely situated near the zoo. I dropped off my stuff after checking in and headed to the zoo via taxi.

I got to the zoo around 3pm and found the hippos soon thereafter. To my sheer luck, not only was the name of the hippo out (Sam!) but there was to be a hippo talk at 4:30! Perfect timing! I went up to the rail to look over at the hippo but to my surprise found two of them!! Sooo, what’s the other one’s name and which one is not Sam??

I took some photos and the two hippos eventually got themselves out of the water to eat a bit and I could tell the difference between them right away based on their coloring. Now I just needed the keeper to tell me their names. The keeper came and I learned that neither of them were Sam, but Perky and Petals. Sam is their brother (Samson really) and the three hippos alternate days. The two females are out one day, the male the next. Why? Well, they are brother and sisters and well, they don’t want them mating to be exact!

Well this just meant that I would have to come back tomorrow to get pictures of Samson. So I talked to the keeper a bit (asking him the exact spelling of the hippos’ names which I think he thought was weird) and set out on my way.

I decided to take the bus back into town since there were no taxis in sight and hey, public transportation is great. So I got in line, got a ticket (after asking someone what to do first!) and stood until a seat was empty. I asked the girl I was sitting next to which stop I needed to get off on and we started talking. Her name is Lisa and she actually works at the zoo and must be just a tad younger than me. She was really awesome and for the rest of the time we chatted away about being Canadians and Americans and then she showed me how to get on the subway and where it would take me. I decided that I wanted to go into the downtown area so she showed me on my map what’s cool in the Toronto area and which stops to get off on. Then it was my turn to get off so I said good bye to her. Lisa gave me her phone number to call her in the morning when I got back to the zoo and she would come say hi to me.

Well that just made my day. I got off and walked around the downtown Toronto area for a bit, stopping to get dinner and a watch since mine recently broke. I then headed back on the subway back to my hotel, feeling pretty darn good about navigating Toronto on my own. To get to my hotel you had to get off of the subway then take a Light Rail system over to a Shopping Center that is about 3 km from my hotel. So you have to taxi it back to the hotel from the Shopping Center which is exactly what I did!

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.