Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Things to know before moving to Waterloo

- You can avoid pouring scolding hot coffee on yourself if you finish the coffee before trying to “roll up the rim to win” at Timmy’s. If you drink coffee, you will become addicted to Timmy’s. There is no way around it. But if you like your Starbucks, then there are two here – both full service. One is the Chapter’s Book Store (think Borders) and the other is near Fischer-Hallman and Ottawa St.

- You need to use a container of some kind for the bags of milk. Just cutting a hole in one and placing it in the fridge does not work.

- Highway 85 was formally Highway 86. There are signs everywhere for it. It’s been like two years now but they leave the signs up for us newcomers.

- For some reason, liquor measurements are in ounces while everything else is in metric. Thanks, just when I get the hang of things I have to deal with a 20oz , 40oz and this whole “mickey” concept.

- Finding a doctor is easy if you have a lot of time – go to http://www.cpso.on.ca/Doctor_Search/dr_srch_hm.htm and you can search for one.

- Social Insurance Number – you can download the form you need at http://www100.hrdc.gc.ca/forms/nas2120e.pdf and then go the office at 409 Weber Street West, Kitchener, Ontario, N2G 4L6 to get your card.

- Your application for OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Program) can be downloaded from http://www.forms.ssb.gov.on.ca and then the best office is this one; 1400 Weber Street East, Unit 2B N2A 3Z8. You’ll need your social insurance card and driver’s license first.

- For your driver’s license – you’ll need to go to the Drive Test office at 1405 Ottawa Street N., Unit 11 Kitchener, ON N2A 3Z1. They have a website too at http://www.drivetest.ca/en/home.aspx and it lists what you’ll need. Basically, all you need is your current driver’s license and $50 dollars. They do an eye test and take your old license and that’s it. If you want to still have a Texas license, then I recommend getting a second one know – just say you lost your first one.

- If you like chicken wings then there is only one place to go and that’s Morty’s Pub (http://www.mortys.com/) on King Street. They have daily specials and a good selection of beer on tap. They’re other food is great too.

- If you are a beer drinker then the best place to go is McMullen’s on Princess Street right off King Street in uptown Waterloo. They have an insane collection of beers and a great special every night – large nachos or large pizza and a pitcher for $21. Can’t beat it.

- That brings up another good point – there is no “happy hour” in Ontario. Apparently there is a law against it. But if you’re looking for cheap mixed drinks and don’t mind being in a fire hazard then go to Phil’s on King Street. It’s a big university bar, but it’s cheap.

- Speaking of cheap – the least expensive, yet healthy and great meal is a pita from the Pita Factory (http://www.pitafactory.com/franchise_info.htm) in the University Plaza off University Avenue. The plaza has a great number of restaurants, including BD’s Mongolian Grill (http://www.bdsmongolianbarbeque.com/) (a buffet place), a couple Chinese, Vietnamese, and Indian places as well as a William’s Coffee Pub (http://www.williamscoffeepub.com/) which oddly enough is part of chain partly owned by Mark Lee’s partner from Descartes.

- If you’re into movies they have some options for you. First, the shock of the century is that a regular night time movie ticket is $13. Yes, $13 – but they have matinees, so it’s ok. As for videos – they have Blockbuster up here too and they have no late fees. There is also a chain owned by Rogers (they do cable and mobile phones too). If you’re into weird movies or hard to find DVDs and tapes, then the place to go is Generation X Video (http://www.genxvideo.com/) on Regina Street – they have a mind blowing selection. For independent films, check out the Princess Cinema on Princess Street. They have almost every independent film that comes out. For movie times, go to Front Row Centre (http://www.frontrowcentre.com/).

- Speaking of Regina Street – they pronounce things oddly here. Regina is pronounced “ragina” and Weber Street is pronounced “weeber”.

- Dancing – if you like dancing there are many places to go. The more seasoned set do it up at a place called The Flying Dog (http://www.theflyingdogwaterloo.com/). It’s a restaurant and a bar and a dance club. There is a teeny bopper club called “The Rev” that is next door, they’re both owned by the same people, but they are entirely different crowds. If you’re more in to lounges then I suggest either the Vault (it’s an old TD Canada Trust bank with the vault as a VIP room) or Starlight. They’re both on King Street in uptown Waterloo and both have a really great set of music on most nights. The Vault is newer and therefore more empty. Starlight is a pretty famous place here in Waterloo and many bands come there to perform.

- Of course with drinking comes late night food. They have taco bell, but why go there if you’re in Canada? There is the aforementioned Pita Factory, which is open till 4am. You can find pizza places open too – but if you like your food greasy then you must go to Sonny’s on the corner of University and Weber Street. They have quite possibly the best hamburger you’ll ever have and sometimes the not-such-in-a-good mood Greek owner is there. Good times for all.

- Traffic. It’s usually light except for highway 8 near the 401 on every afternoon. It gets backed up pretty heavily, but usually there is no reason to go near there unless you’re heading to London or Toronto. Also, when people here say London they mean the Ontario one, not the England one.

- Taxis – call Waterloo Taxi, 886-1200.

- There are two great parks in the area. Queen Victoria Park in Kitchener is very beautiful, except for the scary statue of Queen Victoria. The other is the giant RIM Park (http://www.city.waterloo.on.ca/RL/FacilityServices/RimPark/) in Waterloo. It’s off University Avenue and has a great trail for biking, walking, jogging, rollerblading; the Grey Silo golf course (pretty pricy); an ice rink and softball fields. There are many team sports here, all the majors like softball and volleyball and of course hockey.

- Grocery Stores. There are three major chains here; Zehrs, Sobeys and PriceChopper. Zehrs and Sobeys are really nice (except for the 24 hour Sobeys near the office, which is kind of decrepit). PriceChopper is cheap, and it shows – so avoid it. The Zehrs attached to the Conestoga Mall has the best selection, including a great choice of organic products. The Sobeys near Fisher-Hallman Blvd has fresh made sushi each day.

- Alcohol. Bring some with you because it is expensive here. In Ontario they have a state run two tier system which actually functions really nicely. The beer selection here is unparalleled – I’ve only seen better in large university towns such as Madison, WI. Beer in packages of 24 cans/bottles or higher can be purchased at the Beer Store (http://www.thebeerstore.ca/). This is the place you see in the movie “Strange Brew” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086373/). Smaller packages and more imports can be found at the LCBO (http://www.lcbo.ca/) – which is also the only place to buy liquor. They have an impressive and often rotating selection of imports and you can also build your own six pack if you choose from their collection of single bottles. They also have a quarterly magazine that has great recipes and entertaining ideas. Wine can be bought at the LCBO or at select supermarkets, such as the Zehrs on University near highway 85. As for brining alcohol in to Canada, you are limited to one liter or one case of beer per trip – so always bring something with you. Also, they call cases “two-fours”.

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