torrie's travels

WHERE WILL I GO NEXT?

O Canada June 13, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Torrie Schneider @ 10:13 pm

Well, we did not get off to a good start, Canada. I didn’t know that there were two airports in Toronto, with the airport codes (YYZ and YTZ). I thought my flight from Pittsburgh to Toronto was into the International airport, YYZ. As we approached Toronto, the captain announced that we were almost there—to Toronto City Airport. So I got out my phone and looked at my emails. Sure enough, I was booked to fly into YTZ. That’s not funny, Toronto. Do they have to be such similar codes??? The car I had booked was out at the international airport.

So once we landed I received the text message from Verizon asking if I wanted the travel pass to use my phone in Canada. I said yes, but still did not have internet. So I got into the terminal and hopped on the wifi to rent a car from this airport. But it’s so small (the runway is literally on an island and you have to take a ferry or go underground to get to the mainland), there isn’t even a rental car counter. A guy working traffic said that I had to call them and they would send a shuttle. It took me a long time to find a phone number and get ahold of someone, but eventually they picked me up. The app would only allow me to rent and return at the same location, though, and I needed to be able to drop off out at the international airport, but forgot to talk about that when I picked up the car.

I got in and tried to get my maps to work, but had to park outside of a Starbucks (of which there are about 4000 in a 4 block radius) to get wifi. After spending more money than I think I needed to, I was prompted that my data roaming was off. So instead of paying $15, I could’ve paid $2/day. But it wasn’t until I agreed to add the $15 service that my phone told me why it wasn’t working. Of course. Even then, by evening I received a text that I had incurred $10 in international fees. Um, what the H was I paying $15 for?? So I stopped using roaming for the most part.

After I got the internet figured out, I proceeded to the St. Lawrence Market, where I was looking forward to having a Peameal Bacon Sandwich, which Toronto is famous for. But the market was closed on Sundays. Guess I should’ve checked that. At this point, I was so frustrated, and couldn’t yet get into the condo I had rented, so I drove directly to Tiffany! I purchased an infinity necklace, because they had 18-inch chains. I had wanted a necklace in Japan, but all their chains were 16 inches. Too short. The woman helping me was awesome. She suggested I start a blog. I told her I already had one and she asked if it was all about baseball. I said no, it was a travel blog, but there is some baseball in it. She told me she wanted to know what it was called so she could read it, but I forgot to tell her before I left. We also realized that I am in the “system” for Tiffany international. Score!

It was then late enough that I could check in to my condo, which was very conveniently located. At this point I was starving, as I hadn’t eaten since breakfast of Starbucks at the Pittsburgh airport over 7 hours earlier. I had noticed Wahlburgers, which was next to the car rental place, and was so excited to eat there. I had forgotten that they had one here, even though I’ve seen the episode of the show about it! I had Donnie’s pick of a burger, which was ok. I should’ve just picked the usual…this is why I don’t try new things. If I just get what I know I like, I’m good. When I try new things, I end up disappointed. Most of the time. I also realized that ketchup tastes different in Canada. But I thought that couldn’t be right…

I then rested for a bit before heading across the street to the CN Tower (have I mentioned how conveniently located this place is?). I had wanted to go up just before sunset so I could see the city in the light and then in the dark. But that plan was foiled because I was told when I purchased my ticket that the wait was an hour to go up. It was a long hour wait, but I stuck it out. It was a beautiful view of this large city, but it was hard to take photos because of the reflections due to the lights inside. I didn’t want to just go to bed afterward, but it was 10pm on a Sunday night, so as I walked around, I didn’t find much open. Until I came across Fionn MacCool’s pub. I went in for a cider, but they didn’t have an Irish cider. I always think that’s strange. So I tried a new one, Somersby, and it was really good. I accidentally paid for my cider with my debit card, which will become important.

This morning I got up and got ready to go to Niagara Falls. I first hit up Tim Horton’s, as you do. I only went for donuts because I don’t drink coffee. I will try it again tomorrow, but what I had wasn’t great. Maybe my expectations were too high? Anyway, there was an ATM in the building, so I tried to get cash out with my debit card so I could have Canadian money and cash in case there were tolls. I realized that the ATMs weren’t working (I had tried the night before at a different one) because they only read chip cards and my debit card is not a chip card.

I set out for Niagara Falls, which was super easy to get to. I got nervous crossing the border, thinking it was strange for an American to enter Canada one day, rent a car, and drive back into America the next day. The border agent asked me where I live, whose car it was, what I did for a living, and why I was coming into the US. For that question, I said: I’m going to Niagara Falls. Then he asked me WHY? I literally thought he was kidding, and then I realized he wasn’t, so I said, “to see them?” I mean how else do you answer that question?

The falls were breathtaking. I love water and being on the water is always a happy place for me, but this water was incredible. The power is has is awe-inspiring. And I’ve never seen so much water like that before in my life! I took some photos from the observation deck, high above the gorge/river. The water was a pretty teal greenish. Then I made my way down, donned my supercute blue Maid of the Mist poncho, and got on board! It was a great boat trip. Seeing the falls from below is amazing. You get fairly wet, obviously, but it was still awesome. I got photos, but I couldn’t see very well due to the sun, mist, and being afraid that my phone was getting too wet! I think a lot of them turned out well. Being inside the horseshoe one was incredible. It was just a beautiful sight to behold. But I think anyone who wants to go over them in a barrel needs their head checked!

I was going to go to Buffalo to see Lake Erie up close, but decided that my trip had been overly ambitious at this point, I was trying to do too many things, and I was exhausted. So I ate lunch there and sought out an ATM. It wouldn’t give me any money. Even though I was in the US. I then realized that by paying for my cider in Canada the night before, my bank shut off my debit card. I had forgotten to notify my cards that I was going to be out of the country. I think I have a hard time thinking of Canada as a foreign country! And it was only a couple days of the trip that were out of the country, so it just slipped my mind. Of course, they don’t call to confirm whether I made the purchases, they just make you realized that the card is deactivated and call them to straight it out. This happened to me as I traveled to Edinburgh on my sabbatical. I had withdrawn X amount of euros that morning, because I was supposed to be in Greece for another day, but due to the strike, I had to leave that day. And my next stop was Scotland. I had a layover in London and was only able to withdraw a small amount of pounds. When I got to Scotland I couldn’t withdraw any money and it was Thanksgiving. I had to call them more than once to get it cleared up. So I haven’t even bothered to try to deal with it now because I can’t withdraw money with it in Canada anyway. They’ll be hearing from me, though.

I returned to Toronto and went straight to Casa Loma, which is a castle that was the largest private residence in Canada. It was a cool mansion, but I think I was so tired and just kind of over Canada, that I buzzed through it in like 30-35 mins. I promptly returned to my condo and slept for an hour and a half. I didn’t think I would need an alarm to get up at 6, but I did! I figured out where I was going to go for dinner. I decided on The Burger’s Priest, which is supposed to be one of the best burger places in Canada. Here again, the ketchup tasted funny. So now I know it just tastes different here and it wasn’t in my head! After dinner I walked to the stadium for the Blue Jays game. I realized that it’s hard for me to care about a game that does not involve the Cardinals (and I’m not playing fantasy baseball anymore, so I really had no dog in that fight). The people around were super obnoxious, so I walked around the stadium, had an ice cream cone, and left in the top of 7.

I’m glad I came, but Canada did not do enough to redeem itself for me. Sure, parts of it were my own fault, but it’s still just not my fave.

 

Pittsburgh, I hardly knew ye! June 12, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Torrie Schneider @ 4:16 pm

Another day of having to get up to an alarm, but for good reason. I was going to venture out into the Pennsylvania countryside for the day. First stop: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater House. I had no idea it was going to be so totally out in the middle of nowhere. When I exited the turnpike, I had no clue what was in store for me! The GPS took me through these 2-lane, very windy and bendy roads through the Allegheny Mountains. It was crazy. I was sure I was going to be lost! But I made it and it was a very scenic drive, so I didn’t mind it!

It only took about 10 mins for my tour to start, which was nice (the website says even if you book for 10:45, which I had, your tour could end up starting 25 mins later than your scheduled time. We met our tour guide down by the house (it’s funny how the website also advises you to wear comfortable shoes because you have to walk .25 mile to the house….BEWARE! Seriously. I suppose some people must complain.)

The house was incredible. Just absolutely incredible. I knew very little about it before I got there and had no real idea what to expect. The way Wright used the nature around it and the painstaking detail just blew my mind. The lines, the materials, the colors. Everything was so great. It was built in 1936-37. It’s rather amazing that it only took 18 months to complete because they sourced the rock from a quarry nearby and used horses to transport it to the house location. They also used all hand tools to build it. Just amazing. Of course I love water, so the sound of the waterfall below was mesmerizing and I would love to live there!

As we left the tour we were directed, very imprecisely, where to go to get the view of the house and waterfall. She said to go right. So I exited the house area and went right (left was back to the visitor center). Well, apparently she meant left and then right. I had a good number of people follow me, so apparently when I look like I know what I’m doing, people will follow! One of the girls joked when we realized we went the wrong way that I’m clearly a leader!

Once we got the right place, the view was stunning. I just can’t get over how someone would have thought all of that up. He was clearly an architectural genius!

After Fallingwater it was time to make my way to the Flight 93 Memorial. I was hoping to stop in a little town on the way for lunch. Too bad all of the “towns” were too small to have a restaurant. So I ended up stopping at a gas station, but they have a kind of fast food place inside. I ordered a turkey sub and fries, which wasn’t very good. But I didn’t have the hunger shakes, so I guess it did its job!

The memorial was very sad, as expected. There were some Christian bikers there and two of them were talking and laughing inside the visitor center, where the exhibit took us through that day. I shot them several “looks” and when that didn’t work, I finally told them to shut up. But nicely, of course. I was holding it together seeing all of this information, watching the President’s speech from the elementary school that morning, and seeing the timeline of what those brave Americans did that morning. That is, until I listened to the three voicemails that passengers left for their loved ones. We all know that there were so many calls made from Flight 93 that morning, but three of them were recorded. Listening to those people say their goodbyes to their loved ones had me in tears and trying really hard not to start outright bawling. “I just love you” was the phrase used by all three of them. I just love you.

After going through the visitor center, I drove out to the memorial/crash site. They’ve done a really nice job in the area and there’s a lovely walking path, but it was almost a mile and I was running short on time, otherwise I would’ve walked. It is a very peaceful area with a paved walking path that leads to a marble wall of the 40 passengers’ names. To left of the wall is a wooden gate that shows the flight path and they keep that area mowed all the way to the boulder that the plane landed in front of. I learned something new today. I didn’t realize that the plane landed upside down. That they had flipped the plane upside down and that’s how it landed. It was a very touching memorial and I think it was very well done.

I then made my way back to Pittsburgh and to Primanti Bros for dinner. Primanti Bros is famous for their sandwiches and is a must eat when in town. I had a turkey sandwich, which comes with cheese, French fries, coleslaw, and tomato. It was HUGE. I had to contemplate how to get my mouth around it to eat it! It was good, but the coleslaw got to be a little overwhelming at the end. But very good and I’m so glad I tried it!

I was able to get back to my room and rest for about an hour before leaving for the game. I know spending the day in the car doesn’t sound like I should need to rest, but I did! Driving for that many hours is exhausting!

It was still very hot when I walked to the game (it had been about 95 earlier that day) and I sat in the outfield bleachers, so I had the sun in my face for the first 45 mins or so. Once the sun went behind the stadium, it cooled down. I was sitting next to two Cardinals fans, in front of two Cardinals fans, and several rows behind about 4-6 Cardinals fans. The usher came up to me, I was sitting on the aisle, and asked if I was alone. I was all, what? He asked again, are you alone? I said, yeeees?? The Cardinals fans behind me said, she’s not alone, she’s a Cardinals fan and Cardinals fans are never alone! I do love the fraternity of Cardinal nation! I still have no idea why he asked if I was alone. At first I thought he wanted to move me or something. Nope. So weird.

The Cards won again, which means they won every game I saw on this trip and all 5 games that I saw in person this year! Clearly, I am their good luck charm!

I loved Pittsburgh a lot, but I barely scratched the surface. I will definitely go back someday. The one sightseeing thing that I intended to do but didn’t have time for was going up on one of the Inclines that look over the city. I just was so pressed for time and exhausted. But I will be back!!

 

First taste of Pittsburgh

Filed under: Uncategorized — Torrie Schneider @ 4:15 pm

I started my long travel day by getting up very early. 7:30am. When I’m on vacation, this counts as very early! I had breakfast at the hotel and got on the road. I had about a 4.5 hour drive to Pittsburgh, not counting lunch. Thankfully I found a Starbucks about 30 mins into the trip!

The trip was mostly uneventful. I had planned to eat in West Virginia, so I could check that state off my list. I took the exit for the downtown and was stunned about how rough it was. It was old, very run down, and just kind of sad. So I got back on the freeway and later found another Wheeling exit that had food. The drive overall was very boring. No great scenery or anything, which was disappointing.

I made it to my Inn in Pittsburgh at 2pm. I checked in (the place was lovely…it was a converted mansion and was really awesome) and immediately set off on foot to explore Pittsburgh. I was not wearing the right shoes (but I had to wear backless shoes because my Cardinals shoes had given me a blister on the back of my left heel the size of a quarter that I accidentally ripped off when I took the shoe off the night before….OUCH). They were the best sandals I had, but my feet are so ridiculous that I was in a lot of pain by the time I got back to my hotel.

I first walked toward PNC park, which was about 15 mins from where I was staying. It was a nice-looking park from the outside. I walked along the river to the Roberto Clemente Bridge, which was closed due it being a game day. There were great views of inside the park from the bridge. I crossed over into main downtown area and just walked. I ended up at a little greenspace, so I sat and rested for a minute. I realized that there was a big artist festival going on, so I walked through it and followed it for blocks. Then I realized I had ended up in Point State Park, which people had told me to check out. It wasn’t that great, but it was probably due to the festival and like 4000 food vendors!

One of the art “installations” were these painted rocking chairs placed all over the park. I sat in one and just rested. It was so very hot and I was so very tired, that I nearly fell asleep! But I was sitting facing the water and a cool fountain. Eventually I walked to the fountain, and the spray felt amazing! I decided to head back and walked along the river back to the bridge. By this time, my sandals had rubbed the skin off of the side of foot and it stung. Seriously, with my feet.

I got ready and went to the park. I had great seats for this game and it turned out I had even better neighbors. A guy and who I’m pretty sure was his niece sat next to me. We chatted the entire game and it was a lot of fun. The game went into extra innings and the Cards won on a dramatic double by pinch hitter Wainwright. So incredible! The park was beautiful, the company was great, and the Cards won in amazing fashion. It was, by far, one of the most enjoyable baseball game experiences of my life! But it was also very late by the time the game ended, so it was straight to bed with me!

 

More Cincinnati

Filed under: Uncategorized — Torrie Schneider @ 4:14 pm

So I’m trying to remember what I did on Thursday. It being Sunday morning, as I sit in the Pittsburgh airport, this isn’t as easy as you might think. I have to go all the way back to Cincinnati. I meant to blog each day, but of course it got late and I was tired and yada yada yada.

Ok, Thursday morning I slept in and then started my day at the Underground Railroad Museum. I was sure the place opened at 10 and I arrived around 10:50. They said it wasn’t open until 11. Perhaps that’s when it always opens, but as I waited, I heard the employees talking about how local media wasn’t allowed in, just ESPN. Hmmm. Interesting. So when I was 11 I made started through the museum. I soon saw that the entire Cincinnati Bengals team was there. There were SO many of them! At one point I happened to get in the middle of one of the clumps of players when I saw, up ahead, a cameraman raise his camera and point it toward our group! I immediately veered out of the group!

The museum was very well done. Good amount of reading and viewing exhibits, but not too much information. I don’t know that I necessarily learned anything new, but it was still a great place. I also enjoyed seeing the artifacts from then. So mind-boggling. The museum also had a special exhibit running…the Emancipation Proclamation. The original appeared to be hand-written and the ink was virtually unreadable, save for Abe’s signature. But then there was a typed one as well, that was also signed by Abe and others. That was really cool.

After the museum, it was time for lunch. I had read about Izzy’s sandwiches so I set out in search of Izzy’s downtown. Their famous sandwiches are reubens. Which I’m not a fan of. But they also had a turkey one that was one of their specialties. It was ok. The coleslaw that came on it wasn’t super great. And all sandwiches came with potato pancakes. I had never had that before, so I tried it. Not bad. A weird consistency, but overall not bad!

Then I decided to walk around downtown and just take in the city. I also walked to the riverfront and Smale Park. This place was crawling with children, so after walking for awhile, I took a rest under a bridge in the shade. Then it was time to walk back uphill (I didn’t realize Cincinnati was so hilly) to my car.

I made my way to the Cincinnati Museum Center, which is home to three separate museums. They were also running a Da Vinci traveling exhibit at the time, so I just went through that. Part of the reason I went to this museum was because Graeter’s ice cream was sold at the center. I saw the shop and decided that I would get some after I went through the exhibit. The exhibit was really well done. I spent at least 90 minutes in it. It was so interesting and I learned a lot about him that I had never known before. It was also neat to watch a short video on the Last Supper, as it brought back memories of seeing the real thing!

When I was finished with the exhibit Graeter’s had closed early!!! I was so bummed. So I found a different location and drove there. The ice cream was SO good. I’m glad I sought it out. Then I went back to the hotel to change for the game. I had some anxiety driving to the ballpark when I got to the area where the crash had occurred. I actually ended up just parking right where the crash occurred, so I didn’t have to drive anymore!

I walked around the park, as I wasn’t able to do that the night before. It’s very modern. I’m not sure that I like it. The park itself is nice, but the concourses are way too modern. I had been tipped off to the bullpen situation, so I went to the Cardinals bullpen and sat and waited for Wainwright to come out. I was literally 10 feet from him when he first went into the bullpen. So cool!

I have to admit that although I still hate the Reds, the people of Cincinnati were amazing!  So they redeemed the city for me!

After the game I went back to the hotel to pack and map out my travel plans for the next day. Unfortunately, I came to the realization that I was going to have to get up early. Boo.

 

Not the best start to vacation June 9, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Torrie Schneider @ 9:27 am

I don’t know why I always book early morning flights. Getting up at 4:45 am is not my cup of tea! But I got to the airport and the lady checking my luggage was able to get me my TSA pre-check, which didn’t show up on my boarding pass initially. But it turned out it didn’t really matter. There was literally one person ahead of me in security. So I didn’t have to remove my shoes. I still got “randomly selected” for additional screening, i.e. a groping.

I slept the entire way to Chicago. I literally do not remember the plane even taking off. The flight from Chicago to Dayton was like 38 minutes, so it was nice to have two very short flights. I got to Dayton and picked up my rental car (which had MN plates!) and made my way to Cincinnati. I checked in at my hotel (which is actually in Kentucky…just across the river).

My first tourist thing to do was go to Skyline to get the famous Cincinnati chili. It was different. For those of you who don’t know what it is, it’s a base layer of spaghetti noodles, topped with “chili”, and then a mound of shredded cheddar cheese. That’s what I had: the “3-way.” You can also get onion and beans and other things. It is very hard to describe, but my tow truck driver described it best. It’s a spicy spaghetti sauce! One of the main ingredients is cinnamon. Like I said, it’s different!

Then I went into Cincinnati to Findlay Market. It’s supposed to be a Farmer’s Market type thing with a ton of vendors. Unfortunately, over half of the vendors were closed (probably because it was a weekday). But I had a tasty banana and Nutella waffle from the Belgian stand. It was very good. Then I decided that I couldn’t keep my eyes open much longer, so I returned to my hotel and took a two-hour nap!

When I woke up I got ready and made my way across the river for the game. But I didn’t make it because I got into an accident. I rear-ended the guy in front of me as my lane was merging due to parked cars in my lane. I had to have only been going 5 mph, but my car was undriveable. His car? He had some paint transfer on the bumper. That’s it. No dents, nothing. And yet, my car was dead. I was so mad at myself and sad that this happened. The other driver was incredibly kind. He wanted to call the police and I’m glad he did. When I said all we needed to do was exchange information, I didn’t know that my car was dead. He called the police and we went to move our cars out of the lane of traffic and that’s when I realized it was dead.

I called the car rental place to let them know and they started an “expedited” tow. It took them, 45 mins. We waited on the sidewalk and chatted. I learned a lot about him. His daughter just finished her junior year of college and started her first day at an accounting firm that day. He was very understanding, so that helped a lot. He apologized a couple times for me missing the game, but hello, it’s my fault!

The tow guys came and the cops never showed, so the other driver left once they got my car on the tow truck. The tow guys were also incredibly nice. One was from OH and one was from KY and I told them that their accents were crazy different! The OH guy said it was because he was from the city and the KY guy was from the sticks. The KY guy said he had never met someone from MN before and the OH guy said that he had met one person from MN…”but he talked real funny.” SEEEE…I don’t have an accent!! The KY guy also made a crack about the bridge collapsing as we were driving over it. Funny guy. But they were just so nice.

Then the people at Hertz were also super nice. They had problems contacting the Dayton office, so the manager came and finagled a new car for me and put a lot of work into making sure the cost was the same (renting from them was much more expensive than Dayton). She actually got it slightly cheaper and got me a slightly bigger car. The OH tow guy came in to check on me before they left to make sure I was ok and that everything was getting worked out.

I then made it to the ballpark at about 8:40 and it was only the top of the 5th. About 15 secs from the time I first glimpsed the field, Brandon Moss hit a 2-run shot to break a 4-4 tie! I wasn’t in the mood to check out the stadium or go hunting for the pizza I had planned to have, so I just got a hot dog and a cider and took my seat. 26 rows up from the Cardinals batting circle. The Cards won in a rout, so that definitely cheered me up!

I got back to the hotel and called my insurance to make the claim. Turns out the guy had called already, which I figured he would’ve done. That person was also very nice and reassuring. So it was not a great start to vacation, but I’m trying to put it behind me and go have a great day today!