We recently flew back for a fall trip in Toronto. It was…interesting. Time certainly does fly though. I have very strong memories of our last trip there, likely because of the pandemic and being the first trip for our family. I remember having a different home every now and then with different expectations of what was considered safe and ok for different families. I remember the cold and continuing my outdoor running trek with my Kahtoolas…and subsequently blowing out my Nike vapormax chamber. I also remember spending a stupid amount of decisions in my favorite electronics shop and grabbing a bunch of photo and audio gear. I remember uncertainty with exposure and traveling and the pandemic. I also remember making a major switch out of my work and feeling an end of the era. What do I remember from this years trip?

Traveling- I never really enjoy the traveling aspect of travel. I’m always worried about forgetting things, losing things, messing up things. This year, I forgot about traveling with a child. H was so good at traveling that I forgot what it was like for most kids in airplanes. It sucks generally. And K was no exception. The flight to Toronto was loud and uncomfortable for him- I laughably was hoping to watch the movie in plane- they had The Batman, Jurassic Park Dominion and Top Gun Maverick, all movies I had wanted to see. I saw some parts of Jurassic Park Dominion …..and I think I’m good for the series. I don’t really feel it added any significant value- more or less a continuation of the Transformers series if big explosions, but not really any interesting character or story arcs. Anyways I digress. K was loud and uncomfortable unfortunately. The way back was much better- K was eating a lot more solids and so that seemed to help to a degree. I didn’t watch The Batman though. I did finish Morbius which was a weird but ok movie and I felt it got more hate than it should have gotten. Also traveling with two kids is crazy. The car seats and luggage was another level of handling and a royal pain in the butt. When we landed, it was late in the night and the car rental agency was shutting down and their computers were offline so actually getting our car was a royal pain. We did get it in the end.

Driving- Toronto is another level of city driving that I am getting used to but not quite there yet. The Rav4 we took out was actually a decent drive aside from the battery continuously having an issue I am very thankful for Apple carplay- it makes navigating very easy. I definitely feel much more comfortable driving in the area and even hit up downtown a time or two. It makes going back home a wildly different impression and more forgiving in the work place commute. We also had to deal with a POS electronic system that had a dead battery several times in the car. I discovered portable battery jumpers that were smaller than the POS lead acid portable Canadian Tire jumper we bought and threw away years ago.

Weather- weather plays a big role in my memories of travel- this time around we had some insane plus 24 degree weather that made running in a t-shirt and shorts and a tank top very doable. And then the weather dropped and I didn’t have enough layers. I stupidly prepared for mid 20s weather and brought tons of t-shirts and definitely not enough winter gear. Very different from our last round in Toronto where I was running in solid snow and ice spikes in Scarborough.

Food- definitely some highlights here- we visited a congee place in Aurora that reminded me of the first congee restaurant we went to on my first visit to Toronto- it had a different consistency and apparently nobody in my table liked it, but I was quite fond of it. I just love flavorful congee. My second time around at the Carribbean restaurant was less exciting- perhaps it was because the novelty was so exciting last year, but I didn’t quite like the ox tail as much – there was a decent Carribean beef patty thought that provided some nice filling at least. My absolute favorite was a Japanese sandwich store that made a killer shrimp patty sandiwch that was thick, and flavorful- the pork katsu was a close second for sure.

Shopping- I usually end up doing a round of shopping when I go over but I didn’t do any this year. I really didn’t need anything at this point; plus I had just stocked up on the 35mm f1.4 Zeiss weeks prior, so I was feeling some retail guilt(enough so that I even refrained from Cyber Monday and a killer DJI Mini Pro sale). Having got all the audio and camere gear I really need in the last little while, I didn’t feel a need to get more afterwards. Especially having started shooting the more modern FE mount, the deals are not as lucrative as the A mount gear. I had hoped to buy a Carl Zeiss filter but it was out of stock. There was one Kimber Kable that I had a chance to nab, but I have a portable and home KK cable already. The one thing that was tempting was a MDR-D333 headphone, the spiritual successor to the famed MDR-D22/66/77 Eggo portable headphones; good price on an open box model, but the design was never something I liked, especially in comparison to the Eggos; and TBH I really don’t do portable use anymore – I’m at my desk or at home most of the time or driving, the PHA-3/IER-Z1R are my portable at work desk set up right now.

Shooting- I gambled and brought three pieces for shooting this time around- the a9 I, 70-200 F4 G, and 35mm F1.4 Zeiss. The 35mm was my primary lens because I wanted to test it out and see how it shot. The 70-200 was almost a no, because I wanted to travel minimally and thats a honker of a zoom, but no zoom was feeling like I was missing something. The 35mm f1.4 is wide enough that I didn’t feel a need for another wider coverage for my usage when traveling, vs the 50mm f1.4 Zeiss that I brought to travel in the summer. The a9 I was just a better body to shoot with those lenses, and so that got chosen over the a7c….which is a bit ironic considering the a7c was the body for traveling. I felt I made the right choice- the 35mm f1.4 allowed for some great shots that were more interesting than the 24-70 f4 Zeiss would have been on the a7c. The a9 is a much smaller body than the a99ii for travel, so that helped a lot too. The 70-200 got used for one day…it was definitely the better lens to use on that day, but I would think twice about bringing it again. I like to have a light camera set up when I am out and about, and the Lowepro Freeline 350, while small, is still much bigger than the small camera shoulder bags I typically bring out during day to day on the go life.

All in all, Toronto was a pleasant affair, although a bit of a distant affair given the state of things unfolding. It certainly felt a lot better than last visit in peak pandemic times. I’m curious what it will be like following up.

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