We had a Shakespeare-heavy summer. In addition to participating in the Midsummer Night’s Run, we saw MacBeth at Shakespeare in the Park. And, as we hadn’t quite gotten our fill of the Bard, for A.’s birthday we went to Stratford to see Othello. Neither of us had ever made that trip to see anything on stage, plus, Othello is one of A.’s favourites, and it was a rare Sunday off together. So, it was a real treat.
Othello was, simply, fantastic. The Avon Theatre is gorgeous, we loved the sets (and the almost horror movie level abundance of red) and the actors were, as expected, phenomenal. The Star called this staging “a major triumph” and we obviously agreed. Having previously only read Othello, I really loved seeing the ways the characters were brought to life, explored and adapted, especially Iago and Othello. I felt like it expanded on the play I had imagined, without changing any of the parts that I really held dear. We’ll leave the real reviews to the experts, but we couldn’t help but snicker over one theatre-goer’s complaints that so many of the actors sounded angry.
And, because we went to an afternoon showing, we were left with plenty of time to explore Stratford – discovering great coffee, amazing chocolate (especially the caramels) and a really pretty waterfront walk. I think the birthday boy was pretty pleased, and it’s going to be tough to top this one next year!
Once I got over the fear of falling in the not-too-warm waters of Lake Ontario, I found it to be both relaxing and a really good workout. That summer I also tried a paddleboarding boot camp, where, in addition to strength training and sprints in the sand, we also got to try to strike a few yoga poses on the board. It was pretty awesome, and I couldn’t wait to get A. out on a board with me. But, of course, since the rules of the New 52 require an activity to be new to both of us, I had to come up with a creative spin on paddleboarding. Luckily, SUPgirlz, in Toronto’s east end, delivered with nighttime paddleboarding. (They also offer a hula hooping class. I haven’t tried that one – yet.)
Once we both completed the intro class and learned (or in my case re-learned) the basics, we were able to book a night-time session: an hour and a half of beautiful views of downtown Toronto, dark, calm waters and relative silence. And, with 3,000 lumens strapped to the bottom of our boards, we could even spot some fish stealthily skirting under our boards! Plus one kayaker who came out of nowhere. The lights gave the whole experience a somewhat otherworldly, eerie glow. We both quickly discovered that keeping your balance in the dark is way harder than in daylight! But luckily, neither of us took a tumble. We’d totally recommend giving it a try!
I’ve always run races in the spring and fall. The weather is cooler and there’s no concern about conflicts with your summer vacation. But this year, after running Around the Bay in March, and with the Niagara International Marathon still on our calendar, it seemed like a good time to try something entirely new. And, not only would Midsummer Night’s Run be our first ever summertime race, but it would also be our first time racing at night! Plus, our first time running on the Toronto Islands, which, much to our surprise, has a boardwalk we had somehow missed on previous visits!
Race day was toasty and our race prep was, perhaps, less than ideal. By which I mean we ate a bunch of cake at afternoon tea, then found our way to the ferry. After locating change rooms, we discovered our outfits were a little more matchy-matchy then we would have liked – to the point that, while running our loops, volunteers in three separate instances yelled some variation of “twinsies!” Oops.
We finished the 30K race together in a joint-personal best time of 2:38 – so I guess the cake didn’t slow us down too much! – and much to my surprise, I cracked the top 10 in my age group, scoring eighth! As a fairly new runner, that felt like a big win.
While waiting for the ferry back to the mainland was one first that I’m OK not repeating – it was a long one – when we finally did get home we were thrilled to feast on some Thai food and celebrate finishing what is quickly becoming our favourite distance to run.
When A. and I met, I lived in a downtown condo overlooking the Fairmont Royal York and much of the financial district. We would look out the window, or stand on the balcony, and marvel at the view. And as my friends visited the space, one of the factoids that kept coming up was that the Royal York kept bees on its rooftop. As if that wasn’t cool enough on its own, eventually I learned that you could venture up to said rooftop to see the bees after enjoying Afternoon Tea. Rooftop garden, sweets and tea? I was sold!
So, in belated celebration of a friend’s birthday, we made our reservation and ate scones with cream, pastries, finger sandwiches and a seriously rich chocolate cake. And, of course, tea. The menu that day was Royal Family inspired, to celebrate the birth of Prince George.
Once we had our fill of tea and sweets, we joined the chef for a walk up to the rooftop, where he explained the different plants they grow in their garden for use in the kitchen. We even got to sample some fresh out of the garden goods, including a ridiculously spicy arugula. Then he took us around to the other side of the roof for a closer look at the bees. Plus, we got to enjoy a little afternoon sunshine and a pretty good view of downtown, even if it was still sadly under construction.
A. and I are suckers for animals. Whether it’s puppy-sitting for a friend, squeeing over someone’s adorable pet, or visiting our “friends” at the High Park Zoo, we just can’t resist them. It’s really a miracle we haven’t adopted any number of pets by now. So, when the Giant Pandas arrived in Toronto, we were totally determined to make our way out to the zoo to spend a few hours watching them munch on bamboo.
Off we went to the Toronto Zoo to meet Er Shun and Da Mao. Neither of us had even seen a panda before, and that day we got to see two! We somehow managed to avoid the bulk of the crowds and were able to breeze through the lineup, learn all about the panda’s natural habitat, watch one of them snooze and then score some unimpeded viewing time of one hungry panda. While they still kind of look like oversized stuffed animals, watching him eat was a good reminder that pandas aren’t all that cuddly and really are still bears. The teeth! He plowed through a massive stack of bamboo in no time. It was pretty impressive, and a little bit intimidating.
After our fun with the pandas, we still had time to visit a few other sections of the zoo. We were able to chill out with the penguins, grab some beaver tails for snacks, catch some rays with the hippos and say farewell to the elephants.