I can’t remember the last time I went off the island for Christmas. Usually every year I stay here, spending Christmas Day with best friend Lynne and the family members that are also in Cayman for the season. In 2010, however, Lynne decided that she really needed to go and see her family and would I like to join? Hmmm…Toronto in winter? I had done it once before, but that was a while back. Then again, it had been pretty cold in Cayman recently – how bad could it be?
Sometimes I wonder if I could live in a city again. I was three years in London for university, but have lived in Cayman ever since, only visiting metropolises on vacation. I’ve always thought I could assimilate very easily. Perhaps a week in Toronto would be a way to test the theory.
We departed Cayman on December 23rd, taking the new WestJet direct flight. The flight attendants were very pleasant and professional, and the seats were comfortable. Three-and-a-half hours later we landed in darkness and a refreshing 21 degrees Fahrenheit. As we emerged from the engineered warmth of the airport through a revolving door, I was reminded of that scene from Cool Runnings. We certainly didn’t hang about, sprinting past the multi-layered traffic warden, pushing our bags before us. The car rental was a painless business, and as I drove towards the city, I saw the Toronto skyline all lit up, the CN Tower a red and green beacon dressed specially for Christmas. I think I could live in the city.
We got to our friend’s apartment building (we were doing a house swap for the holidays) and finally located his underground garage parking space, crammed into a very awkward corner. Regretting the Full Size Car we’d chosen, I approached and reversed, approached and reversed, approached and reversed. I tried angle after angle. If there wasn’t a pillar in the way, there was another car; and we couldn’t just give up and take someone else’s spot! No matter how tough I was finding it to park, I can guarantee that a tow truck would have expertly nipped in there and hauled our metal carcass out immediately. After ten minutes of attempts I finally got us in. We then had to haul three suitcases and two carry-on bags through a heavy metal door, up two flights of stairs, through another door to the brutal outside world, around a corner, up a stoop, through a security door and up another small flight to get us to our friend’s apartment on the second floor. I don’t think I could live in the city.
The next day we got up at a decent hour to go shopping. On went the coats, down to the parking lot and off to the Eaton Centre we went. Already well familiar with the city, we got to the mall’s parking lot with no problems. I mention this because Toronto, like many other cities, has one-way streets, streets onto which you cannot turn at specific junctions and rules that only apply at certain times of the day. I thought about trying street parking once, but even if you find a space, you stand in front of the myriad signs for ages, slowly deciphering all the symbols and times to see if you’re really allowed to be there.
We got into the glass lifts (elevators) and looked out over a Swarovski Christmas tree that sparkled and shimmered through two storeys. The shops announced sales everywhere, and I could smell the gourmet chocolate vendors. I think I could live in the city!
Three hours later we were laden down with bags and hungry – time to get some food! We headed to a Movenpick-style buffet where crowds of people swarmed with trays struggling to get their lunch. The corridors between the various stations were so narrow that two people could barely pass each other, and trays made the exercise even more interesting. I tried to find Lynne, but she was buried ten-deep by the pastas. Foolishly I went for soup, ladling boiling hot liquid into a cardboard container with my weaker left hand as I balanced purchases on my right arm, all the while keeping an eye on my handbag hanging open on my shoulder. The full soup container glided effortlessly around my tray like Kristi Yamaguchi, threatening to fly off at any moment. Choosing to go for the pizza took me into the seventh level of hell, with customers pushing and shoving from all directions. I have never fought so hard for a slice of pepperoni in my life. We finally checked out, and then it was a competition to find two empty chairs and a table. After hovering over a couple for five minutes they eventually left. We ate our food and headed to the parking lot. As we exited, the credit card went into the slot. $18.00. I do NOT think I could live in the city!
Christmas passed – we had dinner at Lynne’s family house – and then we were into Boxing Day and further holidays where everyone was enjoying the steep discounts that came with post-Christmas shopping. We went to the cinema multiple times, revelling in the IMAX theatre and attending more artsy films that would probably not make it to Camana Bay. We visited restaurants and bars and met new people. I discovered that Lays make a line of completely different flavoured potato chips for the larger market. Maybe I could live in the city…
On the morning that we departed I had to walk all the way to the back of the Hilton Airport Suites parking lot to find the car encased in ice. I found the complimentary brush in the car ineffective, and so pulled up to reception with all but the windscreen opaque. “This thing’s useless,” I said to Lynne, demonstrating my technique. “Why don’t you use the scraper on the other end?” she suggested, not unkindly.
We returned the car and made the plane. As we sat on the runway ready to take off, huge machines arrived at either side to de-ice the wings. Someone a couple of rows in front said to his family “Hey kids, look at that! We won’t be seeing THAT in the Caribbean!” They all cheered. I don’t know if I could live in the city or not, but what I do know is that I’m really lucky to live in the Cayman Islands.