Holifax? Halidays? I can’t choose.

Well now. That was a fairly relaxing vacation. Not quite as relaxing as I’d intended, but not bad overall. I’ve been in Nova Scotia for a little over a week, and barely looked at work email at all. I flew here with Lindsay (my girlfriend, whose family is also from here), had lunch at a pub near her mom’s house, and dropped her off before getting on the road.

I then spent five days at my family’s farm, and it was just as uneventful as I’d hoped: nothing but family time, eating, crib games, eating, sleeping, eating, playing with dogs, eating, eating, then eating, and also some eating.

After the annual family reunion in Truro, a quick gathering in St. Margaret’s Bay, a speed run back to Truro to pick up the luggage I’d forgotten on the farm (which brother #2 very graciously brought half-way), and a hot turkey sandwich (turns out I like these, after years of thinking I didn’t) I was back in Halifax, enjoying some city downtime. Some highlights:

Tuesday

 

 

 

 

Wednesday

  • Cappuccino with brother #1 at Julien’s in the Hydrostone
  • Brunch, also with brother #1, at Black Sheep. He had breakfast poutine; I had the fried chicken sandwich and a very spicy Caesar made with pork jerky and steak spice.
  • A look-around inside the new Port (up-scale version of the NSLC) which netted a rare find, at least for an Ontarian: Kavalan Taiwanese whisky.
  • A look around brother #1’s beautiful new home.
  • Rogue One
  • Coffee and some exceptional macarons from Le French Fix
  • Pre-dinner drinks (Oban, gin + tonics) with Lindsay at my hotel bar
  • Dinner with brother #1 at Primal Kitchen, a newish carnivore-friendly spot just off Spring Garden. The tuna was very nice, the charcuterie was excellent, and my short rib was delicious. Would definitely go back.

 

 

 

Thursday

 

 

 

 

 

I had a lot more planned for the weekend, but Friday and half of Saturday turned into something else entirely, for which I cut my Halifax visit short. I did manage to get back into the city just in time to celebrate New Year’s Eve with Lindsay, though, at a Codapop house party.

Happy 2017 everybody!

 

My new home: Toronto

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I can’t remember the precise date when I moved to Toronto. I know it was May of 1997 but the exact day escapes me. I’m pretty sure it was early in the month; I’d finished university in April and I seem to remember having a week or so to get settled before starting at my new job. Moving here was my first real adventure.

I also can’t remember the exact date I left home for university, but I’m pretty sure it was Labour Day of 1993.

So maybe I’m off by a few days here or there, but what I realized recently is this: I’ve now lived in Toronto longer than I lived on my parents’ farm growing up, thus making it the longest I’ve lived anywhere. I spent my first 6600 days there in Nova Scotia, give or take, and now I’ve spent the same here in Ontario. So Toronto is now, without any mathematical qualification, home.

That doesn’t feel weird to me. But it feels weird that it doesn’t feel weird, if that makes any sense.

I didn’t expect to live here for that long. I didn’t expect to live any one place for that long. I really thought I’d end up moving cities a lot, especially at first, and I almost did move to Vancouver at one point. But work kept me here, and then kept me here longer, and now I’m at the point where I’m not sure where else I could move (in Canada, anyway) if I wanted to advance my career.

I had friends from the east coast who moved here with a loose plan to move back east pretty much as soon as possible. Most did, and have done very well for themselves. I entertained the idea for a while, but like I said…we’d have to do it for a reason other than work, and right now we have no such reason. I envy those friends sometimes though, being back in smaller, friendlier, happier cities. Like Halifax. I miss Halifax. But I’m not sure I could live there again.

I can honestly say that I don’t love living in Toronto. I love a lot of things about the city, but it still doesn’t feel comfortable the way Halifax does. It doesn’t make me swoon the way Vancouver does. It doesn’t thrill me the way New York or Paris do. But those are cities I visit, not live in, and the living there is what exposes the pains and the gaps.

Besides, if Toronto is starting to feel boring, that’s not Toronto’s fault — it’s mine. When I look at how little of the city we frequent, at how few of the things in it we do, I realize it’s not about the city you’re in. It’s how you use your time in it.

When I finally escape my office, maybe I should spend that time going on more adventures.

Clap for the wolftrap

Despite it being nearly three days shorter than I’d intended, the trip to Nova Scotia Nellie and I just wrapped up was a pretty good one.

We arrived in good time Wednesday night, and spent Thursday catching up with family whilst enjoying sunshine, taking walks, observing hummingbirds (more than a dozen frequent my parents’ kitchen window), playing catch, scratching dogs and eating everything in sight. We were also quite glad we were not back in Toronto for the 51-degree heat.

That evening many people stopped by the house to say hello and catch up with my parents and brothers. My friend Adam came, and we caught up for the first time in years.

On Friday some of that Toronto heat made its way east to us, and we had to take shelter from the sun and humidity as best we could. That meant crib, playing catch in the shade and (naturally) more eating. We couldn’t escape the heat entirely though, as we helped our dad make three batches of maple cream and bottle some syrup while the ladies were off at the spa.

That night we drove into the town where we went to high school and met up with a few of my brother’s old classmates. We soon switched locales from the old tavern to Bare Bones, the lone decent spot in town as far as I can tell, where they had live music (Jenny MacDonald, on this particular night) and better wine. It was there that I had a completely random bump-into with a friend from high school, who I hadn’t seen since he graduated in 1992. But we recognized one another right away and, in the few minutes that we had to catch up, realized that we share a favourite beer: Maudite. It’s a small, tasty world.

Saturday morning we got up early and drove back to Halifax. Along the way we saw a deer walking along a riverbank, a young bear running into the woods and five cattle running down the Trans Canada median. I can’t explain that last one; I just know what I saw. Our family and our sister-in-law’s family had a get-together planned for the afternoon, but our early appointments at the airport (approved for Nexus passes…woot!) meant we had a few hours to kill, so we checked in to our hotel and found a spot on the Hart & Thistle patio. We’d been meaning to try out the new gastropub since we heard it opened. The food was nothing to write home about, but the beer was good — we each had a brewed-in-house Preacher Man’s Daughter hefeweizen to start, followed by a Propeller hefeweizen. It was just a hefeweizen kind of afternoon, apparently.

Rain hampered the family get-together somewhat, but we piled into someone’s lovely home to catch up and break bread. It brought back memories of France four years ago, when we were all together last, and the times we had there. Except with kids this time. Nellie and I said our goodbyes to everyone just after dinner as we had plans with friends, plans that involved me finally having a couple of drinks after so many nights of being on medications and/or acting as designated driver.

Another new Halifax joint we wanted to try out was Obladee wine bar. Four friends joined us there, and we perched in the window (the same table as the ladies you see in the picture on their website) trying several glasses of very yummy wine. I had an Alsatian Riesling whose name I can’t recall right now; a Bonterra organic Chardonnay; a Domaine Bernard Beaudry Chinon; an Arboleda Carmenere; The Wolftrap, from Franschhoek South Africa; and a Luigi Bosca Reserva Syrah. All were terrific, even the Riesling which was — as advertised — bone fucking dry.

It’s too bad we were stuffed from the family do — they had lots of charcuterie and cheese on offer too. Ah well; next time.

All in all it was a great, if abbreviated, getaway. Lots of family time, a few old friends, some excellent new finds in Halifax and, maybe most importantly, a gentle reminder that I really did grow up someplace beautiful.

In which we enter a near-vegetative state

Yesterday we began phase two of our vacation: the farm. We got up, checked out, had lunch at the Economy Shoe Shop with some friends, picked up the rental car, bumped into the bride and groom one last time, and pointed ourselves north.

We drove with beautiful weather and good music for just over two hours and hit the farm at 4pm on the nose. A little playtime with the kids, lots of barbecue, a short walk around the farm and a drink with the brother and sister-in-law at theirs and we were ready for sleep. It actually took me a long time to nod off as pitch blackness and absolute quiet are so far from what I’m used to now, living in downtown Toronto, but I managed it. Eight solid hours of sleep later and I got up, hours before everyone else. That’s ok, they like to have a lie-in, so they’re welcome to it. Me, on the other hand, this is the time of day on the farm that I love the most. Just me, Stryder (who can barely get around now, poor old guy) and the tin of chocolate chip cookies mom just baked.