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Courtyard Marriott Toronto Downtown

I travel to Toronto for business at least once a year. Each of these trips, I am surprised at how expensive hotels are.  It’s tough to find a decent hotel in downtown Toronto for less than $400CAD.  For this trip, I searched and searched and the most inexpensive Marriott I could find downtown was the Courtyard Marriott Toronto Downtown, on Yonge Street.  I’m just a few more nights away from retaining Platinum Status for 2019 with Marriott – so I had to choose a Marriott Property.

I’ve stayed at this hotel many years ago, during a loud and frustrating renovation.  I’ve never heard of a hotel renovation starting before 06h00, but it did. It was torture.  The renovation is now complete and the hotel is quiet again.  I arrived at 11h00 and waiting behind several people attempting to check in.  Each of those guests were reminded that check in was 16h00 and they’d have to come back.  I approached, expecting to drop off my bags and working in the lobby before my meetings.  Without missing a beat, the woman working reception told me my room was available and I could check in immediately.

The groups in front of my, who were denied a room, were still milling about the lobby and became very frustrated and pushed back up to the check in desk, demanding a room.  I quickly headed toward the elevators to the relative peace of my room.

Courtyard Marriott Toronto Downtown

The main room of the Courtyard Marriott Toronto Downtown

Courtyard Marriott Toronto Downtown

The small but utilitarian bathroom of the Courtyard Marriott Toronto Downtown

Courtyard Marriott Toronto Downtown

I haven’t seen Paul Mitchell products in years

My room was a standard king room on the eighth floor. My view was of one of the dozens of construction sights in Toronto.

Courtyard Marriott Toronto Downtown

View of one of the many construction sites in Toronto

I hadn’t stayed in a Courtyard Marriott in several years. I’d been focusing most of my stays with Starwood, but now that the merger is complete, I’m open to branching out across the super chain.   I slept remarkably well the two nights I was in Toronto – probably the best hotel sleep I’ve had in years.

Have you stayed at the Courtyard Marriott Toronto Downtown before?  What is your favorite Marriott property in Toronto?  Where should I stay on my next visit?

Why I Love Toronto

I spend a bit of time each year in Toronto.  Coming from Chicago, Toronto is a very easy city to navigate.  While I do find the comparisons between these two cities to be pretty accurate, there are some things that I think Toronto gets right and Chicago fails.  Here’s why I love Toronto.

Both cities have really great food scenes.  From fine dining to casual street food you can’t go wrong in Chicago or in Toronto.  Canoe, in Toronto has an amazing view that is only matched by the food itself.  The Michelin Guide doesn’t visit Toronto, so you can’t find any official Michelin Starred restaurants, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have great options.

The transit in both Cities is great.  I don’t have a car in Chicago and I’ve never needed to rent one in Toronto.  I get everywhere I need to go by foot, streetcar or subway.  Worst case scenario, taxis, or ride share options are plentiful.

Why I Love Toronto

The 3D Toronto Sign in Nathan Phillips Square

Why I Love Toronto

The one thing that I love about Toronto, much more than Chicago, is the diversity.  Both cities have a few million people and a strong immigrant community.  When walking around Toronto, I often hear several language.  Not only do you frequently hear English and French, but it isn’t uncommon to hear Arabic, Hindi and Mandarin.  While these language exist in Chicago, I never hear them when I’m walking around in the central business district.  This worldliness gives Toronto a more cosmopolitan feel than Chicago.  This is really why I love Toronto.

What do you think about Toronto?  Is there just one thing that you really dig about the City that you can’t get back home?  What’s the one thing you suggest to people visiting Toronto?

Need Advice: Argentina Trip

Each year, we travel somewhere for Thanksgiving.  We find it a great time to leave the country as no one is traveling for business that week and most Americans are traveling domestically.  We’ve traveled to Ireland, Mexico City, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Colorado, and Oregon for Thanksgiving.  This year, we are heading south to Argentina.  This will be my first visit to the country, while it will be Mike’s second.

Thanksgiving in Argentina

Thanksgiving in Mendoza, where to go?

So far, we’ve book airfare down to and back from Argentina as well as flights inside the country.  We’ve chosen our cities to visit and the hotels in which to stay.  We’ll be staying in Cordoba, Mendoza and finally a few days in Buenos Aires.  I’ve only made reservations for one meal while we are there too – our final night in Buenos Aires, we are hitting a lovely fine dining restaurant as we celebrate Thanksgiving.

I need your help though.  I’m looking for advice from travelers and locals who can tell us great places to eat and wineries to visit.  Frequent readers know that I love a good bike tour, so any recommendations on who to ride while while in Argentina, let me know.

What is the one thing you wish you had done while you were in Argentina?  What about the one thing you wish you hadn’t done?

Sights and Sounds of Singapore

The sights and sounds of Singapore can be overwhelming. Before leaving for Singapore I made a list of all the things I must do before I leave the city. I do this every time I am in a new city or when I travel alone, which this was a little bit of both. I wasn’t alone, but much of the days I was exploring by myself.

No matter where you turn, you see something wonderful. It is a very clean city, so you aren’t burdened with the sights or smell of trash on the streets. I saw no homeless or beggars. Being in a quasi-benevolent-dictatorship you don’t get to see a lot of the bad things other metropolises have.

Here are some of my favorite sights of Singapore and should be on every first time visitors list (and on many returning visitors’ too).

Chinatown

Chinatown in Singapore

Chinatown in Singapore is bustling at night.

Marina Bay Sands

Marina Bay Sands

Marina Bay Sands

The infinity pool at Marina Bay Sands looks quite different from this angle.

Gardens by the Bay

Gardens By the Bay

Gardens by the bay is a sensory feast.

Gardens By the Bay

View from Marina Bay Sands of Gardens by the Bay

Hawker Stall Meals

Kitchen views at Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle

The kitchen hard at work Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle

Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle

Our pork noodle and soup was totally worth the wait.

Hawker Stall Market

Telok Ayer Market

Singapore Botanic Gardens / National Orchid Gardens

National Orchid Garden at the Singapore Botanical Gardens

Orchid’s at the National Orchid Garden.

Performance Space at the Singapore Botanic Gardens

Performance Space at the Singapore Botanic Gardens

Arches at the National Orchid Garden in Singapore

The famous arches at the National Orchid Garden

Merlion Park

Merlion Park Singapore

The Merlion Statue with a beautiful skyline in the background

Chinese Gardens Singapore

Pagodas in Singapore

Twin Pagodas at the Chinese Gardens in Singapore

Chinese Garden Singapore

Statuary and Pagoda in the Park

I really enjoyed my time in Singapore and can’t wait to return.

What are your favorite sights and sounds of Singapore? What is on your Singapore list? Did I miss something? Did I pick some overrated places?

Michelin Dining – No Really, They Have a Star!

Casual dining in Singapore is truly defined by the Hawker Stall. These Singapore equivalent of a food court in the mall are found throughout the city. You can get everything from grilled meats, noodle dishes, seafood and more. Singapore is also home to two Michelin Starred Hawker Stalls.

These stalls offer the cheapest Michelin starred meals on the planet. Generally, Singapore is a pretty expensive city, but you can easily eat some amazing food for less than $5USD each meal.

Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle

We visited both Michelin Starred Hawker Stalls on my 68 hours on the ground. The first was immediately after the great bike tour. I swung by Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle, in Chinatown. These guys are known for the ubiquitous dish of Chicken and Rice. You are probably thinking how can a simple chicken and rice dish be 1) the national dish of Singapore and 2) earn a Michelin Star. Well, it isn’t because of the service or the ambiance, that’s for sure.

Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle

Exterior of Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle

Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle

Menu at Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle

Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle

Interior of Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle

This place looked like a fast food joint in a mall. I arrived around 13h45 after the lunch rush and still waited in line for 30 minutes. I ordered the Chicken and Rice and a beer. The beer blew the budget as I spent S$10 on this meal.  The dish was perfectly fine. Nicely cooked and mildly seasoned. I was lost as to how this was so highly rated. Then I saw the condiments. Simple sauces and peppers. Adding these to the meal was phenomenal. Loads of flavor, a little spice really kicked up the dish. I loved it.

Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle

Chicken and Rice from Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle

Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle

The second Michelin Starred Restaurant we visited was Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle. It was right near the bike tour shop too. Arriving around 14h00, we didn’t miss the line today. We waited for nearly an hour in the very hot Hawker area. Most of the fans were not working either.

Michelin Starred Hawker Stalls - Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle

Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle – Single Star Michelin Restaurant

Neighboring Hawker Stall of Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle

Most of the neighboring stalls were quiet.

Pork noodle was the famous dish here, so of course that was our selection. We grabbed a beer while we waited in line and another once we had our food. We loaded the dish with all the recommended condiments and paid S$7 per person.

The tables were pretty full, but we lucked out and snagged a four-top the second we had our food in hand.

Neighboring Hawker Stall of Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle

Full tables – everyone enjoying Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle

Kitchen views at Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle

The kitchen hard at work Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle

The pork noodle was just the perfect dish. Spicy, salty and savory flavors made me want to order a second dish, but I couldn’t handle the line.

Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle

Our pork noodle and soup was totally worth the wait.

Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle - Close up

Noodle Close Up – It was delicious!

So, we managed to knock a couple of things off our Singapore must-do list. Enjoying street food and hitting Michelin Rated Restaurant.  Have you visited either of these Michelin Starred Hawker Stalls?  Did you think the food was worth the wait?  What other places would you recommend who want great food, but can’t handle the 30-60+ minute wait for it?