Toronto 2018 – Day 3

It’s raining, FFS people I can get this at home. I guess it’s at least warm. My plan was to be out of the hotel by 8… so around 10:30 I headed out. Left the Jeep at Islington station and took the subway to King.

I had intended on breakfast at The Poet, a Persian influenced cafe/coffee bar/hip place but The Poet was really busy and they weren’t interested in giving up one of their tables to a single so I walked up to the George Street Diner, a wonderfully classic Toronto diner and ordered the Irish Breakfast. It was fantastic, the place was awesome and the two French ladies working were bopping along pretty good to Abba and The Bee Gees.

 

Cocktail Bar – D.W. Alexander

Most lists of the best cocktail bars in Canada have D.W. Alexander on them somewhere yet I hadn’t managed to stop in until tonight, my loss this place is great.

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History – 4/10

It’s tough for most Canadian cocktail bars to really compete on “history” especially compared to London or New York but D.W. gets some points, despite being a new bar, for being housed in a 150 year old leather goods warehouse and for being named after the primary leather merchant who worked here from 1870.

Atmosphere – 8/10

Fantastic room, lighting is perfect, seating is spacious and noise levels are manageable, the only gripes being it was a bit chilly and the music was bad 15 year old watery R&B which really did not fit the room.

Service – 7/10

It’s Toronto so expecting any sort of friendly is pointless however the bar staff were nice enough and efficient plus the three of them really seemed to like each other a lot.

Casino Test – NA

Did not build the rapport needed for requesting custom drinks, also their standard cocktail list was one of the best I have seen, maybe a Casino next time.

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The Drinks – 5/5

I had a boulevardier and a paper plane, both were outstanding. both were $8.50 as well because I was there before 7pm, SEE VANCOUVER! this is how you do happy hour. Two absolutely world class cocktails for less than $20 in a major North American city is impressive.

TOTAL – total to follow if I return and order a casino.

Toronto 2018 – Day 2

Yeah…. posting about Toronto might be tough as I’ve been here many times and kinda have the tourist sites checked off already, oh well.

Yay for friends visiting Toronto too! After finishing work I headed down to the Distillery District to meet Sharmin and her Dad for a quick drink.

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After that I walked around the area a bit…

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Toronto – 2018

This is a work trip, which I normally wouldn’t post about, but seeing as I have no travel plans for 2019 this might be the closest I get.

Easy travel day today, a haircut in Vancouver at 10am and then train to the airport for 1:40 flight to Toronto, big 777 but a really uncomfortable seat.

Did get a cool rental though

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And a surprisingly large hotel room:

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It’s 1am here now, 10pm Vancouver time, and I can’t sleep. Going to try again.

 

Dinner with Locals in Tbilisi

 

For the second last night of the trip we booked an evening with a local couple, cooking Georgian foods together and then eating and drinking late into the night. Our hosts, Mariam & Levan turned out to be amazing people, very simpatico with ourselves and the entire experience was outstanding, probably the best night of the trip.

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The spread included lots of Georgian foods that I was familiar with and lots more new dishes, Georgian food is seriously addictive.

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The Last Three Cities

(disclaimer: i know nothing about anything, these are just my impressions after short visits to each city and conversations with a handful of locals)

Beirut (Lebanon), Baku (Azerbaijan) and Tbilisi (Georgia) ended up being really good cities to see back to back in terms of experiencing the effects of differing governance on the day to day functions of each city.

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Lebanon has a functional, democratic and open government however massive corruption and the voices of dozens of parties representing dozens of religious groups has led to a system where nothing truly terrible can happen but nothing truly progressive can happen either, internet barely works, cellular is spotty, there is no usable mass transit (despite the worst traffic I have ever seen) and Beirut is forced to put up with regular power blackouts, despite having plenty of power.

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Azerbaijan has a broken political system with a nearly totalitarian grip on power by the Aliyev family but that same iron grip on power has meant that the government is able to easily focus on projects aimed at the public good, Baku is spotlessly clean and has gorgeous parks, walkways, boulevards, seawalls, architecture, fountains, etc. The people seem calm, happy and content. Debates about the ethicacy of a (mostly) benevolent  dictator have been around forever and I certainly am not equipped to weigh in here but the difference from Beirut was shocking.

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Georgia is a great place to visit politically, after Lebanon and Azerbaijan, it’s a textbook case of national change, a country that suffered for decades by rampant corruption and police abuses but fifteen years ago decided they had had enough and cleaned house. The government and police service were gutted, laws were changed and things were rebuilt from the ground up (sometimes literally, police stations were rebuilt to all have glass walls to represent this newfound commitment to transparency). Every local or expat we talked to was extremely proud of these changes.

With Lebanon’s continual slide into debt and corruption and Azerbaijan’s reliance on oil profits it seems like Georgia, though quite poor,¬† is the shining light however I really am not educated enough to know what is really what and I would certainly be happy to revisit any of these cities to learn more and see what changes can happen.