The second half of my summer adventures picked up pretty quickly from the previous blog post. Now in the month of August, I continued to travel and took a few more trips to some familiar places.
Montreal – August 10-12
One of my all time favourite cities to visit is Montreal, Quebec. It is roughly a six hour drive and me and my friends make the trek for a number of reasons. Primarily we love to go for the food, the fashion and all the cultural elements that make the 514 unique. It was my 11th time visiting and it never disappoints.
We rented this Airbnb loft that could sleep our crew of 11 in Old Port. It was a very nice place, formerly situated in a business building with very modern touches inside the unit. What was pretty cool about the location was that it was within walking distance of the historic Notre-Dame Basilica. This cathedral has been around since the 17th century! I was able to wake up early on the Sunday morning and attend 8 am mass.
The architecture inside is immaculate, so well crafted and visually astonishing. Heck, I only knew the place because Celine Dion famously wed there in 1994 lol. It was my first time going there and even if you are not roman catholic, I recommend you stop by and explore this magnificent church.
I also had a chance to take in the fine dining that Old Port has to offer. The first night we dined at the Vieux-Port Steakhouse and surprisingly to my friends, I elected not to order a steak (you’ll find out why later in the blog post). Instead I had lobster linguine and it was alright, nothing special but nothing bad either.
The next night, four of us attended a chef sampler dinner at Le Bremner, operated by chef, TV personality and restaurateur Chuck Hughes. It was my first time experiencing a chef sampler dinner and it was nothing short of amazing. All of the food presented to our table was fresh with the menu being unique for that particular day.
The size portions were not grand, but there was more than enough food to feed our group. After attending this dinner, you learn to have a greater appreciation for culinary chefs and the reasons why they use certain spices and ingredients in their cooking. You can literally taste it in your mouth! Click here to view my Montreal gallery.
New York – August 17-19
The next weekend I found myself in the city where concrete jungle dreams are made of…NYC. Again, I didn’t tell any of my friends that I was in the big apple for this weekend and instead, they were able to live vicariously through my Instagram stories lol. The way I see it, there’s not much left to show for the element of surprise in this social media world that we live in. So instead of announcing on social that I was travelling to New York, why not just show everyone when you’re already there!
This was my third time visiting New York City. I flew in solo into Newark and met up with my friend Mimmo, who was coming in from Florida. We then met up with our other friend Chris, who we both thought wasn’t going to show up for this trip. When we checked into our hotel at the Dream Downtown, Chris just showed up out of nowhere, right behind us at the check-in counter. It was such a funny scene to see, because he’s simply terrible at communication and somewhat unpredictable. But I’m glad he came because this hotel was not cheap, it was $600 a night!
On the first day, we jumped into the Metro subway station and caught a baseball game at Yankee Stadium. And just by coincidence, our hometown Blue Jays were in town. While we did not care for the actual score, we preferred to walk around the famed venue, try their food offerings (which was pretty good) and eventually got caught in a rain storm around the 7th inning.
I have to give a special mention to our Lyft driver Luisa, who picked us up in the soaking rain. It was drizzling so hard that night, that my smartphone apps I was trying to use kept closing on me. I was also afraid Luisa would cancel our ride request because of all the traffic outside the stadium. But 30 minutes later, she came through and rescued us in the Bronx. This made for great conversation on the way back to our hotel, while her car seats were drenched lol.
What I loved about this rain story, was that we decided to leave Yankee Stadium and literally had no idea of where we were going. If this had happened to a random group of friends who were short tempered, ruckus could have unraveled. They might have been furious with one another and all hell might have broke loose lol. But with this particular posse, we laughed it off and handled it quite nicely. I felt strongly that being stuck in that rain pour, allowed us to be one with nature. Overall, it made for a great memorable story.
One of the main reasons that we booked a New York trip, was for the cuisine. Our plan specifically was to head to Brooklyn to have dinner at Peter Luger’s, which is the best steakhouse in all of the five boroughs. This place has the reputation as the mecca of great steaks, great dining and great service. It has been ranked the #1 steakhouse for 33 years and counting. I tried this place five years ago and I made sure to bring some other people to take in the experience.
My two friends who were trying Peter Luger for the first time were left speechless. The quality and texture of the steaks were nothing short of perfection. Inside the venue had a late 1800’s classic looking decor, with an old school vibe that only took cash as payment. When you dine at a place like Peter Luger’s, you know you’ll never have a bad meal there.
Going to New York for the weekend was awesome. I got to check out a lot of sneaker boutiques that I had on my itinerary. I even visited Times Square just for the fun of it, which I last saw in 2004. But do stay away from the Empire State Building, that place sucked! It is your typical standard tourist trap lol.
Looking back on it, we obviously could have rented an Airbnb for much cheaper than our stay at the Dream Downtown. But I wanted to be in the heart of where all the action is. My last two trips in NYC, I stayed at horrible locations and made sure regardless of the price, we were going to do better this time around.
Believe it or not, location is everything. Staying in a trendy area like the meat packing district was what we needed. Make no mistake about it, staying in the downtown area came at a cost. But as I have stated in my previous blog post, I am honestly about living life, not letting life pass you by. Click here to view my New York gallery.
SmackDown Live – August 28
The WWE came to town for both RAW and SmackDown Live. My friend Eddie hit me up again and convinced me to go catch a show at the newly renamed Scotiabank Arena. We enjoyed catching up for RAW the previous month, so why not let lightning strike twice in a bottle again?
One of the main selling points for catching SmackDown Live was to watch women’s wrestler Charlotte Flair, who is one of WWE’s centerpiece talents in the women’s division. I think she is on course to become the greatest female wrestler of all time. It is simply in her DNA. She’s beautiful, athletic and is on her way to building charisma like her old man, the ‘Nature Boy’ Ric Flair.
The other kicker was that Eddie was able to score tickets dead centre in the 100 level. We were seven rows up for this show, versus the nine rows from ringside for RAW. But our RAW view was on the ground level and at times it was challenging to enjoy the show that felt obstructed.
The view we had this time around was more elevated and we were able to see the entrance stage and the whole ring. Overall, it was fun to kick it with one of my long time friends.
Cheering for Charlotte Flair lol
FAN EXPO Canada – August 30
Two days later I attended FAN EXPO Canada, which is Canada’s small scale version attempt of Comic-Con. While these type of conventions are heavily dedicated for the comic book/cosplay world, they also have a sports wing with the odd feature here and there.
In the past I have been able to meet legends like Hulk Hogan and Mike Tyson, with both experiences being nothing short of memorable. So when word leaked out that the WWE was sending four superstars at FAN EXPO, I made sure to purchase my VIP pass and check it out.
One of the featured WWE talents was non other than Charlotte Flair…I simply could not miss this opportunity! And she did not disappoint, as she was phenomenal to meet in person. Charlotte was so approachable and seemed to enjoy interacting with all of her fans who came to see her.
Often times there are some ‘celebrities’ who show up for these meet and greets and they come across as disengaging and are just there to collect a pay cheque. Charlotte Flair was nothing like that at all. What a great first impression it was to meet her. Another talent I got to meet was The Miz. He is a veteran of the WWE, who does one hell of a job with his villainous personality. He has a genuine love for the business and it shows when you interact with him.
The only downside about this year’s FAN EXPO was the execution of maintaining the celebrity guest line-ups. Maybe it had to do with the WWE’s first time being involved and they did not know how to handle the massive crowds? Who trained their group of volunteer staff? The end result made for a chaotic day.
You had people who paid for the basic package, only to be grouped in the same lines with others who paid the premium VIP price to by-pass the front lines. It just did not make any sense and you can imagine there was a lot of angry attendees there.
By the time WWE’s own personnel stepped in and helped better organize the lines, the damage was done. People obviously came to see what they paid for, but they left with a sour taste in their mouth. Other FAN EXPO’s in the past have been better organized, but they really dropped the ball on this one.
Also I have to add that even the FAN EXPO’s social media department was horrendous and they know it. I was scrolling through their social channels and they didn’t answer much questions leading up to the three day convention. And in the world of digital marketing, that’s a no-no. You should never turn your back on the customer. Ultimately, you will lose their business.
So this recaps my summer. With the fall season just around the corner and some self reflection, I can honestly say that I was really satisfied with how all of my trips played out.
As we get older, you come to realize that your most valuable resource that you have is time. Money isn’t everything, but for me it’s rather more about living in the moment. Don’t get me wrong, you need to have your finances in order to travel, pay bills, buy things etc. But the point I am trying to make here is don’t just work to the point of exhaustion.
Pace yourself and work smart, not hard. Have your cake and eat it. Save your money for a rainy day, but also take the time to smell the roses while you can. One day you’re going to grow old and live a life with regret saying to yourself ‘I wish did this when I had the chance.’ I have a good view on life. I don’t conform to the norm and I do me.
I’m in a position to do things that I enjoy and I’ve earned them through hard work, sacrifice and planning. If you ever get a chance to travel or have stopped taking vacations…start doing them again. They help reset the clock on your body and allows you to take in different experiences. Thank you summer ’18…it’s been
swol…I mean swell!!