As downtown Toronto seemed to have no sensibly priced/available with points Marriotts, I spent the night at the Fairfield Inn Toronto Airport, which has drawn rave reviews (for an FI) on Flyertalk. I was bumped up into a thoroughly unnecessary if not unwelcome suite, had my Platinum water & pretzels waiting, and had an edible and not unreasonably priced meal at the cafe downstairs. (This is the hotel’s Achilles heel; there are absolutely zero other eating options in the vicinity, unless you can eat gravel or ball bearings.)
Next morning, earlier than I would have liked but still in a bit of a rush, I hit the gym, the buffet breakfast and the airport shuttle back to YYZ. Air Canada’s website states in no uncertain terms that baggage can only be checked in from 4 hours before a flight, but I tried my luck anyway and was pleasantly surprised that they took in my bag without the slightest quibble. My ATM luck was still zilch though, so I ended up changing US$40 cash into C$40.50, a rate that could charitably be described as ungenerous, but certainly does wonders for any Canadians with lingering currency inferiority complexes.
And then it was time to face the Toronto Transit Commission and try to make my way into the city. The TTC offers handy day passes and packs of five tokens, but they’re not available at the airport: your only choice is to fork out C$2.75 in exact change for a single fare, which is kinda tough if you’ve only got tens and two quarters. Luckily, the bus driver (who probably sees this all the time) let me board for free, and the Airport Rocket’s destination, Kipling station, had a token-o-mat.
It was around 11 AM by the time I reached the city center, leaving me around 4 hours to sightsee. The Art Gallery of Ontario was closed, and the Royal Ontario Museum seemed rather to massive to tackle, so I tried the Gardiner Ceramic museum instead. It was small, but very nice (well, at least if you share my unmanly hobby of collecting Asian pottery), if fairly expensive at $12 a throw. Walking down through the U of Toronto grounds was free though, and I saw more attractive Indian women in one hour than I did during 6 months in Delhi. A loop through Chinatown, where I was delighted to find the Merlion Singaporean Restaurant yet bitterly disappointed to find it closed — I ended up wandering into a very Chinese shopping mall (you can always tell by the smell of dried seahorses wafting from the herbalist) and into the basement, where I correctly surmised there’d be cheap food aplenty. There were half a dozen stalls with an identical deal: pay C$3.50 and get your choice of 6 toppings piled on rice… and when they said pile, they weren’t kidding. Quality was queasy (pink mincemeat is never a good sign) and, while authentic, it was still terrible. Sometimes pinching pennies is a waste.
Then past the CN Tower to the Harbourfront, which with its flocks of seagulls (lakegulls?) and pointy buildings rather reminded me of Vancouver minus the mountains. A detour into the Design Exchange, a purposeful stroll through a small chunk of PATH, a photo of egregious misuse of umlauts (you talkin’ to me?) and then it was time to head back to the airport.