Featured image: Street view of Toronto.
I had a few days of unexpected time off, so I decided to join Aaron, who was going to Toronto for a conference. I expected Aaron to be pretty busy during this time with conference festivities, so I decided to make this a self-care/wellness retreat for myself. This is very timely as International Self-Care Day fell on that week. Keep in mind, just because this retreat happened to be in Toronto, doesn’t mean my suggestions for a self-care retreat cannot be transferrable to any other city. In fact, you can even do a mini-staycation in your own city as long as you are really focusing on self-care for a few days.
Stepping out of comfort zone
Our trip started with an afternoon flight, which was quite pleasant as compared to our usual early morning flights, meaning we did not have to wake up at 4am to rush to the airport. Evidently, this trip is already off to a good start. Our airline of choice for this trip was Porter. This is my first time flying with them and I quite enjoyed my experience. From the airport lounge access, free premium beverages (read: alcohol) on board, and flying directing into city centre instead of Mississauga, this definitely made my experience a lot more enjoyable. On the plane, I enjoyed a nice glass of red wine, while chatting with the passenger next to me. I was initially disappointed I wasn’t able to sit next to Aaron but it definitely is good to step out of my comfort zone and chat with a nice stranger sometimes.
It’s ok to take detours
The 1-hour flight quickly flew by (no pun intended) and we landed at the Billy Bishop Airport. Our hotel was just a 15 minute drive away. Our room was not quite ready, so I went to explore nearby cafes, while Aaron engaged in conference activities. I originally wanted to go to Tsujiri, a Japanese green tea-themed desserts cafe but it was quite small and did not seem like somewhere I would feel comfortable working on my laptop in. Next, I wanted to try Infuse Cafe Bar, but again it did not seem very laptop friendly. It was quite empty and was more of a bar than coffee shop. So back I went to Dundas St. again. On the way there, I stopped to enjoy a couple performances at Yonge-Dundas Square as they were celebrating Youth Day that day.
Eventually, I settled down in Pablo Cheese Tart. Their cheese tarts are apparently famous and this was something that I wanted to try since I’ve been to Japan. I had a small slice of the tart along with an iced matcha latte. I was actually quite disappointed with the cheese tart. The texture was like runny egg tart covered with a gelatin-like layer on top. It was not eggy enough and not even cheesy enough. I much prefer the cotton-like airy texture of Uncle Tetsu. On the other hand, the matcha latte was excellent. I didn’t even have to ask for less sweet. It was unsweetened by default – the way I like it! It was time for some work! Not work-work but self-care work. I pulled out my laptop and started reading Alex Vermeer’s 8760 guide as recommended by Aaron’s friend. I’ve been meaning to look into this for a while now but it does take some time-commitment so I figured I shall tackle this project over the next few days. I read through the guide and then start building my own mind maps of my life right now and my life as I envision it to be. It was a great exercise to reflect on life and to set goals for the next year. I was definitely in flow (with reference to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience) as time passed by so quickly that it was soon time to meet up with Aaron again.
We quickly checked-in at the hotel and got ready for dinner. I had previously researched that Summerlicious is happening. Equivalent to Eat Out Vancouver for those of you from the west coast, it is an opportunity to eat a 3 course-meal at a fixed price at one of 200 restaurants in Toronto, who choose to participate in this. The menu is limited but the price is also quite reasonable, especially when you’re dining at one of the top restaurants in Canada. I thought it would be nice to have a nice dinner out with Aaron while we were in Toronto, so I made a reservation for Cafe Boulud (one of the restaurants on Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants which actually had availability). Cafe Boulud is a French Restaurant with a classic dimly lit ambience. It was a short subway ride away and located upstairs in the splendid Four Seasons Hotel. My dinner started with the oysters with creme friache and caviar, then the salmon with sweet corn and arugula salad, and ended with the apricot financier. Aaron had the chicken liver mousse, short ribs with carrots, mushrooms and parsley salad, and ended with the chocolate cake. Overall, the food was not bad, definitely beautifully presented and the flavours really complemented each other. The thing which really biased my view of this restaurant was the service. It was cold and extremely slow that night. I’m not sure if it was just the fact that Summerlicious has caused them to be more busy or if we were not treated as well given we were not ordering from their “regular menu”. I was nonetheless not impressed. That being said, I should be grateful to have spent some quality time with Aaron as I know he will be very occupied over the next few days.
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