Off-Season Travel

At City Hall

City Hall (Nathan Phillips Square) at night

We are just back from a late-year trip to Toronto. We hadn’t planned to go, since we had a family get-together in the summer, but (a.) we both had vacation time left, (b.) we were facing a long stretch without seeing Link, and (c.) there was a great seat-sale. Then, we called the B&B where we stayed last time, and they couldn’t offer breakfast, but would give us a deep discount if we booked anyway. So we did – which meant we stayed at a “just one B.” We weren’t planning our time around any special events in town, so we looked up what was happening, and put together a starter itinerary.

Link's place

Link’s place

Our kid Link is in a new apartment/flat (the 5th in 5 years) and is hoping to settle in with the current two room mates (all good friends for some time already) and their cat! The new place is spacious, bright, not too too far from the subway, and, finally, above ground, i.e., not a basement apartment. Things are looking up!

I got my act together and delivered the Christmas prezzies in person as well as a slew of tree ornaments, because they plan to do a Christmas tree this year for the first time, and I happened to have enough ornaments for about three trees.

I kept my own packing to a minimum. We had visited Toronto before in November and knew it would be colder than at home – there were snow flurries three days in a row. I still haven’t succumbed to wearing the big parka so I loaded up on layers, and wore jeans and boots every day. I missed being stylish but I was warm enough!

This jacket in navy. Exactly how I will wear it. HA!

This jacket in navy. Exactly how I will wear it. HA!

Of course, I couldn’t go home with a half-empty suitcase. I did a ton of shopping along Queen Street West, Yonge Street, Eaton Centre and Kensington, but I am considering my results “not outrageous.” I found two things on my wish list: a sturdy black tote bag and a DVD copy of the movie Basquiat. I found a pink-and-grey pullover sweater at a thrift store that may be hand-knit. I bought a navy bomber jacket for 70% off at TopShop and some underwear at the new Uniqlo. I bought some chocolate marzipan and some taro mochi. A mug, a key chain and a couple of buttons. I am happy with my haul! And I enjoyed seeing the decorated store windows.

As usual we splurged on entertainment.

14 foot boat with blown glass the size of beach balls

14 foot boat with blown glass the size of beach balls

Overhead glass reflected onto walls

Overhead glass reflected onto walls

We chose to see the Chihuly art glass exhibit at the ROM instead of going to the AGO for Monet, Van Gogh, Mondrian, Gauguin, etc. Which might have been an odd choice if we hadn’t seen all of them last year at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. It’s not too often I get to say things like that, haha! The glass work was amazing. There were rooms upon rooms of colourful backlit blown glass you could walk into: spectacular! The other exhibits were Third Gender (the story of late-teenage wakashu in Japan) and wildlife photography awards, so it was a full day. As a bonus, we saw some of the Santa Claus parade from the upper windows. The outdoor revellers were wrapped up in blankets and sleeping bags to watch!

We saw the musical Matilda. I knew I would love it because it is about a fearless girl who rescues her teacher from an evil headmaster while escaping her own abusive family. But I didn’t really love it. I need to re-read the book. I forget how over-the-top Roald Dahl is. There were some staging decisions I was uncomfortable with. Despite men always playing female villains in English pantomime, I didn’t love their choice of doing so here. The child actors were directed to speak in a weird, clipped way that had overtones of Willie Wonka. The play had loads of good features but it wasn’t among my all-time favourites. I wish I had seen Come From Away instead.

Happily, we ended the week with a concert by Ireland’s best, Two Door Cinema Club, with Broods opening. It was held at the former Sound Academy which has been massively upgraded and now goes by the name Rebel. A great show! TDCC is an exceptionally happy-sounding band and everyone was in an unironic good mood.

On this trip, I got to meet blogger AP (of The Asian Pear) for coffee downtown. Hi, AP 🙂

Mmm, dumplings!

Mmm, dumplings!

And what is a trip to Toronto without fun food? We re-visited some spots we remembered: such as the Indian buffet and Vegetarian Haven. Rom grew to love Fran’s Diner. We made a repeat visit to the AYCE sushi place we liked best. We tried two things for the first time. One was real ramen. We’ve both had noodle bowls before but not specifically ramen bowls. We all loved them! (Yes, we like pho, too). Another time we went out for dumplings – melon/tofu dumplings and red bean buns for dessert: bliss!

By the time we returned to Halifax, the cold weather had followed us, but we are acclimated and ready for winter. Nice to have had a get-away in this grey season!

Do you travel in the off-season? How about in cold weather?


  1. Jen

    I’m glad you had a little getaway and that the apartment looks like a good fit for Link. My office is “garden level” 😒. Did you know Chihuly is blind in one eye?

  2. Wow, Toronto sounds and looks like a ton of fun! We’ve only stopped over for a night on the way to the thousand islands. Perhaps its time to make a longer stop in Toronto!

    • Oh yeah, you should stay a while – tons of stuff to do! Before we go, I check out the Toronto NOW magazine and look up concerts, theatre, festivals and restaurants. Great city!

  3. Phillip and I love vacationing on the Washington coast in late October. The storms are spectacular. It’s cozy bundled up in a cabin on chilly nights. And we see the towns without having to work our way through crowds of tourists.

  4. What a marvelous trip and family visit! Chihuly’s work is amazing. I’ve not seen it displayed in a museum but rather 2 outdoor exhibits at the botanical garden here. The pieces are selected/designed to fit the particular landscape where they are displayed. My favorites have been the ones incorporated into water features. I’m never ready for cold winter weather as I dislike it intensely but will travel any time of year.

    • I saw some photos of Chihuly’s outdoor installations. They seem best suited to his work which looks like gardens or aquariums (aquaria?) I usually try to avoid travel from January through March because of snowstorm stranding issues!

  5. Margie in Toronto

    Glad you had a great time here but I’m wondering where you saw snow – I haven’t seen so much as a sprinkle and I’ve been out every day! You left too soon – we’re back up to 12C today and may hit 14C tomorrow so I was back in my lightweight Fall coat today.
    I loved the Chihuly Exhibit – just amazing. I’m lucky enough to have a membership to the AGO so I’ve seen Mystical Landscapes 4 times already! I have the membership that allows me to take a guest so I’ve been making good use of it for this exhibit. Small Wonders also just opened and that is also truly amazing – they have looked into how Boxwood Prayer Beads from 500 years ago were actually made using modern technology – they even allow you to go right into one of the beads through Virtual Reality!
    I have a yearly subscription to the Mirvish Shows so I have seen Mathilda – I thought it was wonderful – but had forgotten just how dark a story it is. I go to see “Come From Away” this Friday and I’m really looking forward to it.
    How wonderful that you got to meet up with Asian Pear – I love her blog and she always knows new restaurants to try – sounds like a wonderful time.

    • Hi Margie, The colder weather followed us back to Halifax but now it is seasonal again – raining here. I would love to be able to see full seasons of theatre productions and make repeat visits to museums and galleries. Advantages of big city life!

  6. Margie in Toronto

    PS – meant to say – I too prefer travelling during the “Off Season” – can’t stand crowds and so many places in Europe don’t have A/C and I just couldn’t manage in the summer months. I like to travel from mid-April to the end of May and from Late Sept. to November. It may depend upon where I’m going – i.e. – if I’m planning on spending a lot of time in museums and galleries then I don’t really care about the weather but if I’m looking to do a lot of outdoor sightseeing then may opt for May or Sept.

    • We do the same. Since we travel to see relatives several times a year, the month or season doesn’t matter much. We can avoid peak season airfares. Most of our travel is April-June and Sept-Nov as well. At work, there is a bit of competition for mid-summer weeks and I usually have no need to book them.

  7. todadwithlove

    Sounds like you had a lot of fun, Dar. Link’s apartment looks good, and I like the bomber jacket! The exhibition seems fascinating also, and the FOOD. Matilda was running for a long time in Melbourne too, but I didn’t get round to seeing it…

    • Hi Vera, We always have a good time in Toronto – we go out for activities and meals with Link every day, and take advantage of all the arts and entertainment. Both Toronto and Halifax are running a lot of family-oriented plays and musicals for the holiday season (Mary Poppins, Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, etc.) and while I am sure the productions are marvellous, I guess I prefer adult fare!

  8. I think I would be happy travelling with you and I will certainly take your sightseeing advice for anywhere. Dumplings, pho, nudles mmmm

  9. jbistheinitial

    Two Door Cinema Club are one of my favourites when I want to listen to happy, perky music, so jealous you got to see them play live!

    • I hope you’ll get a chance to see them – they thoroughly exceeded my expectations! Did you know they’ve changed direction on the new album – much of the singing is in falsetto and the songs are inspired by disco! But they still sound like themselves.

  10. Fiona

    So glad to hear that Link has found a non-basement apartment. I am impressed with your haul – now that I’m away from home, I want to buy ALL the things!! You bought enough but not too much!

    The glass exhibit sounds so beautiful (with Christmas parade views a good match.) We had the chance to see Mathilda in Melbourne with a group school booking. Unusually for us, we opted out as I’d read such mixed reviews (and it was costly.) It looked quite a ‘dark’ staging here as well.

    Love the description of ‘unironic good mood’ at the concert!

    The food sounds inspiring! Glad you could fit in a get-away (complete with Christmas decorations!)

    • It was great to squeeze in an extra trip this year. I expect we’ll “lay low” from January to March, as usual! The theatre production of Matilda really played up the hatred and ignorance of Matilda’s oppressors, so it seemed more about them than her – but lots of angles for class discussion! I hope you get to enjoy lots of good local food in Bordeaux.

  11. Is Toronto a much bigger city with more shops? Does your city not have the same shops?

    We are going south to our Snowy Mountains this summer. Some think it strange – that we are not going north or to the beach. The mountains peak visitor period is winter, for skiing. But we will walk and walk. And we’re going with Mr S’s sibling’s family so it will be a lovely family time.

    I watched the movie Matilda a hundred times as it was one of the Dreamer’s favourite movies as a kid. I couldn’t see it again – not even live.

    Glad Link has a new above ground place. Hope it lasts and Link is happy.

    • Oh yes, Toronto has 2.6 million people and Halifax has 390,000. Maybe the size of Canberra? Both cities have the usual chains but Toronto has vast choices. The mountains in summer sound healthy and relaxing! I have read the book and seen the movie of Matilda. I just picked it up to re-read, and I quickly figured out why I didn’t like the play. In the book, you fall in love with Matilda and her teacher and the librarian. The rest are an ominous background presence. In the play, the parents and headmistress are larger than life and are hyped up as laughable villains, they get tons of stage time and their energy takes over the whole story. Matilda and her allies are sympathetic, but they are outdazzled by the antics of all the baddies.

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