Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Cheers to Six Years: A Europhile Reunion in Toronto

When I moved to France in 2007 for an eight-month stint as a high school English teacher, I had already chatted with Stephanie via Facebook because we'd both been placed in the same city -- Angers. We formally met one afternoon in the central plaza, where she introduced me to Becca, whom she'd just met at a regional orientation and who was living in Nantes, a 40-minute train ride away. We'd only been teaching for a week and were already due for our first vacation. 

Welcome. To. France. 

Less than a minute into our conversation, we were planning our first trip:
Becca: "So, for the October break, Steph and I were thinking we'd like to go to Greece. Are you in?"
Me: "Sign me up."
That evening, I was texting Steph my credit card number so that she could book my flight. 

We never looked back, taking every possible opportunity to travel. When we weren't traveling, we were staying for long weekends (ALL our weekends were long weekends) at Becca's place in Nantes or at Steph's place in Angers because her French roommate was never home. It felt like an extended eight-month vacation. 

Although we'd kept in touch since our European adventure, the three of us hadn't been in the same space together for six years. We were long overdue for a reunion, and we finally managed to meet up in Toronto, Steph's hometown.

I'd never visited Toronto before, so I enjoyed getting to know the beautiful city. Mostly, though, this trip was about catching up, reminiscing, and drinking lots and lots of wine. Like old times. 

Here's the recap.

Upon arrival, Steph drove us straight to Niagara Falls. The fun fair atmosphere mere meters away came as a surprise to me, a pleasant surprise. Because photo ops. 

I had my first taste of Canada's beloved beavertail -- fried dough with a choice of sugary topping. Mine was smothered in Nutella, of course. Sir Gnome was a big fan of the tasty, diabetic coma-inducing treat as well.

The Falls were stunning, as expected.

But back to us. When we'd had our fill of Mother Nature, we headed to downtown Toronto for a long, aimless stroll. I love a big city with character.

Dinner and a vital purchase of wine bottles concluded our evening. The following day, we were off to Canada's Wonderland, a Toronto amusement park, to ride roller coasters and behave like children.

This was all quite exhausting, so on our way home, we stopped at a grocery store for a vital purchase of cheese, bread, and chocolate and decided to call it a movie night. But not before filming another one of our classic Mirrors Round the World videos, Toronto edition. We readied ourselves by posing in pajamas and red lipstick.

Then: lights, camera, action. In the clip below, we wax nostalgic about our séjour in Europe and recount our Toronto misadventures.

On our final day together, Steph and Becca accompanied me to visit a friend from grad school (a Toronto native). She had just had a beautiful baby girl. Congrats again, Jordana! Then we headed to Toronto's Greektown in order to relive our unforgettable adventures in Athens by devouring delicious gyros. 

Our grand finale was a trip up Toronto's CN Tower, which, at over 1,800 feet high, was once the tallest freestanding structure in the world. 

The glass floor allows visitors a unique view of the city beneath their feet.

The impressive metropolis that is Toronto is even more impressive from a bird's eye view.

The entire observatory is surrounded by chain link so as to forestall accidental (or intentional) falls. Considering how windy as it was that afternoon, we would likely have plunged to our dooms had there been no barrier. No sweat, though. As demonstrated by our Niagara and Wonderland antics, we laugh in the face of danger.

Video proof below:

Luckily, we escaped unscathed (minus the state of our hair).

It was a bittersweet goodbye when Stephanie woke us up the next morning before heading off to work, but we all determined not to allow another six years to elapse before reuniting again. We've all done some growing up since our time in France, but so long as there's wine and cheese in the world, some things will never change. 

Thanks for all the good times, ladies -- past, present, and future. Cheers!

For more pictures of my trip to Toronto, visit my photo gallery.

For more of my travel videos, visit my YouTube channel.

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