Other than a short trip to San Francisco coming up next month, I am wrapping up my travel plans for 2019 and will be living the homebody life until the new year. In the few months that I’ve been writing this travel blog, I have yet to highlight my hometown of Toronto! As the largest and most metropolitan city in Canada, there is definitely a lot to do here. Here are a few things I’ve been up to over the past couple springs and summers, in between my intercontinental ventures.
Jumping on the sports bandwagon
I am definitely not an avid sports follower, but when something big happens, you can’t help but get sucked into the excitement. This past year’s big sporting event was the Toronto Raptors making it to the NBA finals and, after six nail biting games against Golden State, eventually winning the championship as the first Canadian team to ever do so. This may seriously never happen again in my lifetime. I was able to attend the victory parade which passed by right down the block from my home.
A couple years ago, our baseball team the Blue Jays were a big deal, making it to the playoffs but then losing to the Kansas City Royals. They suck now, but it can still be fun to spend a sunny afternoon at a game, moreso for the ball park atmosphere. The Rogers Centre, more fondly remembered as the Skydome, is a massive stadium and Toronto landmark in itself.
Living the island life
Okay, so I haven’t actually lived on the island, but it is possible. There are 260 homes located on the Toronto Islands, some of which are rented out. However, if you’re interested in becoming a homeowner, you will need to make it through a 500 spot waiting list; it takes about 35 years to reach the top.
Visiting the Islands is still fun and in fact one of my favourite things to do in the summer, although we weren’t able to make it there this year due to its late opening on account of some flooding. They are a chain of 15 small islands in Lake Ontario, just south of mainland Toronto, easily accessible via a 15 minute ferry ride. They feature lots of relaxing green space and bike trails. There are also a few beaches, including the infamous Hanlan’s Point, where you can go au naturel. Top tip: Gibraltar Point beach, situated across from the oldest existing lighthouse on the Great Lakes, is my favourite.
The Art Gallery of Ontario would be one of my top recommendations for places to visit in Toronto. They have a great permanent collection as well as several excellent feature exhibitions. Most recently, they commissioned a permanent Infinity Mirrors exhibit by Japanese contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama.
Although perhaps not as extensive as in cities like Lima, there is some great street art in Toronto as well. One popular spot is Graffiti Alley on Queen West. We finally made it over there after a trip to the area in search of Chicago-style hot dogs. The inauthentic Chicago dogs were disappointing but the street art was cool.
Going to the Ex!
Going to the Canadian National Exhibition (also known as the CNE or the Ex) is an annual tradition during the last two weeks of August, culminating in the air show on the Labour Day weekend. It is a huge fair that has been taking place since 1879, originally established to promote agriculture and technology in Canada. Nowadays, for an admission ticket of $16, you can spend the day watching cheesy shows and street performers, visiting the animal farm, shopping for all kinds of stuff (even hot tubs), eating weird food, and playing carnival games. Admittedly, it’s a little bittersweet when the Ex opens because it always signals the end of summer.
Eating all the food
Mr. Chuckles and I had some amazing meals this year, not limited to our international travels. Most of this you can see documented on ‘the gram’. Some highlights from our good eats in Toronto this year are as follows.
This has been the top rated restaurant in Canada for a few years, and it has met the mark every time we’ve been there. It takes a bit of effort to get a reservation (lots of rapid clicking on the booking website) but it is worth it to experience this French inspired tasting menu.
This urban mill and bakery bakes incredible fresh bread, but we went for the pizza, which they just started serving this summer. It tasted as good as it looks.
Mr. Chuckles and I live the old person life when it comes to dinner time; we eat at as early as 5 pm. Thus, when we booked our dinner at Ten, we ended up being the only guests in the restaurant so basically had private service. This is a new restaurant that just opened up, with 10 seats and serving a tasting menu of 10 dishes (hence its namesake). The dishes were mostly vegetable based and seasonally fresh.
After returning from our trip to Quebec, I discovered this new place in Toronto owned by an alumnus of Joe Beef, a popular and well reviewed restaurant and bar in Montreal. Dreyfus describes itself as a ‘French-ish’ restaurant, where we enjoyed a few small plates. Our favourite was the pommes dauphine.
Owned by Grant Van Gameran of Spanish-inspired tapas restaurant Bar Isabel (and its casual sister Bar Raval) and Harry’s Charbroiled, a classic greasy spoon burger joint which is closing its doors next week, Bar Piquette is another new addition to the Toronto dining scene. They have an extensive wine list and serve seasonal small plates. Our favourite is the tomatoes with guanciale.
We came to this Chinese seafood restaurant for my mom’s birthday, where we ordered their specialty: the lobster tower. Look at this thing!
And with that, I bid you adieu. Upcoming posts: my trip notes from San Francisco and some travel plans for 2020.