We finish up the trip. And yes, we have posted a selection of photos from the trip, they’re here.
Toronto has a love-hate-loath affair with the rest of Canada. It’s our biggest city and the seat of All Things Great in Canada, if you ask someone from Toronto. The 416 is the Center of the Universe and the 905 is only marginally tolerated. Beyond that is wasteland where no one of importance ever travels. The city is big and to quote the old trope, for those not from Toronto, it’s the size of Atlanta, GA, but run by the Swiss. We had a four-hour layover at Union Station until our train to Ottawa departed.
St. Lawrence Market is two blocks from Union Station and is so grand they even have two Wikipedia entries, one for the North and one for the South. Even National Geographic calls it really damn impressive. We went for three reasons, first, to see if the Pyrogy lady was there and she wasn’t, dammit. Secondly, to see what was available and there was plenty. Third and perhaps more importantly after there being no Pyrogy lady, was a Canadian icon meal. Back Bacon On A Bun.
In the day only a few years ago, there were several places at St. Lawrence Market to get Back Bacon On A Bun, but now there are only two. We chose the older one, as we had their wares many times before. For the uninitiated, what many call “Canadian Bacon” has nothing to do with Canada, or for that matter, bacon. What we call bacon is the same smoked pork belly that is also known as rasher or sliced bacon that you would have a couple of fifteen slices with your eggs and toast on Saturday morning.
Back Bacon, or Peameal Bacon is something else entirely. Take the whole tenderloin from the pig, brine it for a couple of days, then roll it in cornmeal. There is barely a fat cap on the primal cut, so brining is essential and the cornmeal is a holdover from the old days. Sliced thick, (like pinkie finger thick) to medium doneness on a flat top. Three to five slices are placed on a soft Kaiser roll. Wrapped in foil and given to you in exchange for modest amounts of money, it is simply delightful. There are those who insist that one must add mayo, or lettuce or tomato to a Back Bacon on a Bun. These people are to be shunned as they are not worthy of your contempt. This is the Law, the rest is commentary.
Walking around St. Lawrence Market we both remarked on our respective gaits. After four nights and five days on the train we both had a case of Train Legs. We both felt we were wobbling around like we were about five rounds into a 30-round tequila bender, feeling the sidewalks buck uncontrollably, which meant the occasional stop to rest and reorient the inner ear was required.
We headed back to Union Station and boarded our ride back to Ottawa, this time a regular Via Rail run up to Ottawa. This section of Via is higher-speed, hitting 160 kilometers per hour in stretches and you could feel the engineer getting on the throttle where it was possible to let things fly. It being Via One, you do get served a meal and the bar is gratis. We dozed for a bit then pulled into Ottawa Station, our nice niece Lindsay there to pick us up and return us to our home.
Here’s where we do the deep, intellectual wrap-up of Doing A Canadian Dream.
There are several Canadian Dreams. One is to own a brothel over top of a Tim Horton’s, next to a bar that has $5 a jug Tuesdays, adjacent to the snowmobile trails. The second is to see the Toronto Maple Leafs win another Stanley Cup before this generation of fans die off from old age.
The third one, a little more approachable, is to see a lot of Canada, up close, from the train, to take in the expanse of our country in a civilized way. It’s a big country Canada. There’s a lot to see and a lot of room left over to observe, think, enjoy, reflect and ponder.
Getting to share all of that and those moments with your partner means you have thousands more mental snapshot memories between you, in that emotional photo album called life.
It doesn’t get any better than that.