Aspen Downs was not well known. Being hidden in a verdant sanctuary ninety minutes northwest of Toronto near the Grand River and Elora Gorge was one reason. Money was the other.
“Of course, of course, there is no problem,” the woman to whom I’d explained our dilemma said confidently as she merrily showed us to a linened table on a white-tiled balcony. “We have plenty of boats for a trip like this. Now, what can I get you and your wife to drink after your long journey?”
She found herself in a busy thoroughfare like a greenhouse on steroids. Six stories of glass and façades that looked like they were from another era. She stopped to gaze up at the arched roof. It was, she grudgingly had to admit, impressive.
The locals call Tubuai “the island of complete peace and clarity”.
Air Canada would get us to Los Angeles where we’d hop onto Air Tahiti Nui to Papeete. It wasn’t until we were on that eight-and-a-half hour flight that I realized my sister had very little travel experience, never mind a thirty-two hour blitz to the other side of the world.
I didn’t know a lot about Tubuai except that it was one of a group of islands known as the Australs at the far southern boundary of French Polynesia. They’re the last traditionally charted islands in the Pacific before you reach the edge of the world at Antarctica near the 70th parallel.
We each began to breathe easier as the Skylane ferried us further and further away from Skawa Island, burying it into the folds of a dark night.
Within forty-five minutes I was in my rental car and on my way to Hotel D’Angleterre on Kongens Nytorv.
I have a fondness for elegant, older luxury hotels. This one, the grand dame of Copenhagen since 1755, had recently undergone a major overhaul. Some said it was the most ambitious hotel restoration in Danish history.
I returned to Nyhavn, which stretches from Kongens Nytorv to the harbor front, just south of the Royal Playhouse. The two sides of the lively waterfront canal area are usually jumping with tourists when the weather is right, like it was today. The food and drink—as in most famed entertainment districts around the world—don’t come cheap. But unlike many, they do come good.
Enjoying my herring feast along with beer and aquavit on Kongens Nytorv in Copenhagen, 2009.
A little ahead of the lunch rush, I found an outdoor table below the tall, bright blue façade of Nyhavn’s Færgekro, with a nice view of the water. I ordered a Carlsberg beer and shot of Aquavit.
The service was impeccable, the promise of sound-proofed windows fulfilled, and the new Balthazar Champagne Bar suited my taste. And so it was my first stop after checking in and having my bags sent up to the room.
Forgoing a stool at the bar, I instead chose one of the muted-rose-coloured benches under a tall window with a table large enough for my laptop, food and drink. Aside from a few tables at the other end of the room, the place was mostly uninhabited. Which suited me fine.
Which is why I found myself in a cab making its way from Lennart Meri Tallinn Airport to Hotel Telegraaf in the city’s Latin Quarter.
Tallinn is an old city and the oldest capital city in Northern Europe, prettiest in the fairytale old town with its profusion of eye-catching red tile roofs.
In the old city’s charming town square on my 2009 visit to Tallin.
Restaurant Tchaikovsky is a stunning room with silver chargers and sparkling glassware atop crisp white linens dramatically setting off slate-grey walls, all beneath a domed glass roof. I was offered a deuce next to a bookcase and ordered a glass of white while I waited for my date, hoping not to be stood up.
I was not disappointed. True to her word Jacqueline Turner strode into the dining room fifteen minutes later, a ravishing sight in head-to-toe purple.
I entered the hotel’s dark-walled lobby and approached the front desk. In Estonia you have about a fifty/fifty chance of whether you’ll find someone who speaks Estonian or Russian. The closest I come is Ukrainian. We made do.
Settling on a cement ledge next to the giant spherical art installation that looks like a Star Wars’ Death Star, I pulled out my phone.
The runner headed north then shifted direction again to cut through the Rees Wave deck into HTO Park. As he moved towards the urban beach at the water’s edge I decided this was the best place to end our little dance.
The bar was on Yonge Street. Also a place Sen rarely found himself. Even its name was misleading. With block after block of dirty, cracked sidewalks, rundown buildings, peculiar smells that emanated from businesses selling cheap food and sex, there was nothing youthful about this street.
A small grouping of people was gathered on a front porch bordered with elaborate wrought ironwork that would have been stunning were it not rusted to orange. They were having drinks and enjoying music coming from some other house down the street.
Every time I find myself in New Orleans I try to eke out some time to hook up with my friend Greg, a local news hound who knows the best places to drink and eat. Early drinking is usually done in the Quarter, late drinking and eating pretty much anywhere but. Over the years we’ve gluttonously enjoyed discovering the many faces of New Orleans dining. Tonight Greg was intent on introducing me to the barbecue scene. His choice, an eatery called The Joint, is located off the beaten path in the Bywater neighborhood.
…the building nothing more than a one-story cement brick painted sickly yellow and poo brown. It squatted next to a scruffy scratch of dirt that had been baked to death but was still home to a thriving collection of weeds.
The menu featured pulled pork, beef brisket, ribs, mac and cheese, and slaw. We settled on a little of each.