Every year since 2016, I have traveled during the holiday season to see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra(TSO) in concert. In 2016, I saw them in Toronto. Last year, I saw them in Richmond, VA. This year I saw them in Rochester, NY at the Blue Cross Arena. Apart from my enjoyment in traveling, I have to travel in order to attend any of their concerts because TSO never performs in Hawaii due to its location.
I chose to see them in Rochester because their tour date there was the friendliest on my wallet. This was also the first true leisure trip I have taken since I went to Washington DC during the winter of 2017. Earlier this year, I took a new position within my current department and with it came a transfer to the Island of Maui after being on the Big Island for five years. A new six-month probationary period came with the new position, and because of that, I had to put all major travel plans on hold. Realistically, I probably could have traveled during those six months if I REALLY wanted to, but it would have looked bad to take a vacation right after transferring to a new position.
Accompanying me to see TSO this year was my friend Lloyd from the San Francisco Bay area. I introduced him to TSO shortly after meeting him last year at the airport in San Francisco.
The commute to Rochester was a bit cumbersome. I had layovers in Vancouver and Toronto before arriving in Rochester via the Greyhound bus. I love to travel, but you have to put up with certain annoyances if you want keep travel costs to a minimum. In my case, there were no direct flights to Rochester from Hawaii. It was cheaper to fly to Toronto, and then take the Greyhound to Rochester.
I arrived at the Greyhound Station in Rochester in the early evening and took an Uber to the Airbnb that Lloyd booked for us. I arrived a couple hours before him. The room was in a cute house that looked like something out of a children’s book. What was weird to me about the whole thing was that the owner of the house, a nice Hispanic lady whose name escapes me, welcomed me right in. The following morning, she left to run some errands and left us alone in her house. Though I do have occasional guests where I live, I can’t imagine leaving two total strangers in my house by themselves.
Lloyd and I woke up the following morning and went out to explore Rochester before going to the concert. Much like Richmond last year, Rochester was never on my list of places to go, and I probably would have never gone there had it not been for TSO.
The impression that I got of Rochester is that it’s a working class town. The streets were empty with very few people walking around, and the urban landscape lacks any kind glamour that would make me want to visit again. However, while at a convenience store picking up snacks, the cashier was humming “Deck The Halls” over and over again. She seemed like a happy person.
It was cold in Rochester while we were there. I think I may have lost a bit of my tolerance for cold weather because I needed to make a couple of indoor stops while we were walking around to thaw out my hands. I may have also under dressed for the occasion. The snow on the ground did look more like the holidays than the warm weather in Hawaii.
While at a Starbucks in downtown, I saw the Rochester Auto Museum across the street. I was actually excited to go in…..only to realize that it was a weekday and it’s only open on weekends.
After Starbucks, we walked back to the room and rested before the concert.
Before the show, we went to dinner at a place called Napa Wood Fired Pizzeria & Bistro. I left my camera equipment in the room since I probably wasn’t going to be allowed in the arena with it. The pictures below were taken with an old iphone 5s.
The show didn’t disappoint. We got good seats that were neither too close nor too far. Lloyd appeared to enjoy his first TSO concert. I have a feeling he might see them again in the future. Of an interesting note, the Uber driver who gave us a ride after the concert claimed to be the ex-girlfriend of one of the group’s members. I was wondering if she was legitimate, but I started to believe her when she started telling us details about her connections to the group’s founder. I should have suggested that we all go to breakfast somewhere. My treat. I don’t know why I didn’t.
The following morning after the show, since there was nothing else in Rochester I wanted to see, Lloyd and I got on another Greyhound bus and went to Toronto for a couple of days.
Even dating back to the days when I lived in Toronto, it was almost always cheaper to fly to and from Hawaii from there than it was to fly from upstate New York. After arriving at the bus terminal in downtown, we walked to the room I booked. The room was in the Garden District in an old Victorian style house. It wasn’t much to look at from the outside, but that rarely matters to me when I travel.
The weird part was that the “check-in” procedure was a bit unusual in that there was no front desk. Nor did there appear to be anybody in the building. We had to use Lloyd’s phone to call the help number posted on the front door because my prepaid phone didn’t work in Canada. I knew ahead of time that would happen. Turns out I was supposed to receive an e-mail with my room number and key code but the manager “didn’t have an e-mail address for me”. I think someone simply just forgot to send me the information.
At night, I showed Lloyd around the area where I used to live and work. For the past year, I have committed to not drinking any alcohol in order to see if it made any difference in how I feel. It hasn’t. While we were walking around, we stopped at an LCBO to pick up some drinks that are not available in the USA. I intend on drinking them after the first of the year.
On an interesting note, Canada has two official languages. English and French. As such, federal law requires that all commercial products be labeled in English and in French. That is the easiest way to tell a Canadian sold product from an American one.
Later at night, we walked to Church/Wellesley village. Though I am generally past the point where I pay to get into a bar, we did end up paying a $5 CAD cover charge to get into the Black Eagle after making an appearance at Woody’s. I actually had fun at Black Eagle. I think Lloyd did too. No pictures of the bar.
Since I don’t generally like to sleep in when I travel because that is just time wasted, I woke up relatively early to show Lloyd around some of the city. We took the TTC(Toronto Transit Commission) down to Union Station and walked to the CN Tower from there. On the way to the TTC, we ran into Armando, from Mexico City. It was nice to run into him. I wish I’d gotten a picture.
The CN Tower is Canada’s tallest free standing structure and was the world’s tallest free standing structure up until about 2008 when the Burj Arab in Dubai overtook it. I had been to the CN Tower before but never during the time that I lived in Toronto. I wanted to maybe have a snack at the cafe on the observation deck but they had no worthy vegetarian options.
One level below the main observation deck is a glass floor that you can walk, or lay, on. It’s a fun tourist attraction.
It was getting close to lunch time after we were done at the CN tower. We walked to Hero Certified Burgers for lunch where they have a delicious veggie burger. They call it the “Soul Burger” I recommend it to anyone because not only was it delicious, it tasted just like a regular beef burger.
Before dinner, we walked around downtown a bit more. We walked through the Eaton Centre a bit before deciding on Spring Rolls for dinner. Spring Rolls is an Asian fusion restaurant with a several locations around Toronto. Back in the day, I used to order their Tom Kha soup with chicken. This time I ordered the same dish with just vegetables. It was still good.
Later on at night, we went back to Church/Wellesley Village, and we again payed a cover charge to get into the Black Eagle. I enjoyed my time there more than I thought I was going to. Who would have thought?
After leaving the bar, we only had a few hours before we had to go to the airport to catch our flights to our respective homes. Before we headed back to the hotel to pack our bags, we went back to Hero Burger for an after-the-bar snack. We got the same Soul burger.
After arriving back on Maui, Cory, from Oahu, came to pick me up at my apartment. He was visiting with his friend Megan. We all went to Little Beach to watch the sunset. It was a nice end to a nice trip.
I think that part of the reason why I like Trans-Siberian Orchestra so much is that they inspire me. I am quite content with my own life and it’s rare that I meet anyone who I would want to trade places with. But in the case of TSO, I think I would trade places with any one of their members. The music they write and the performances they put on are so incredibly wholesome and inspiring that I sometimes find myself wishing that I had written some of their songs. I can’t wait to see them again next year.