My last trip to Toronto was very brief. Even though I just about squeezed in a trip up the CN tower and a poutine lunch, this left me a thirst for more. Luckily, David’s brother and his wife live in T-town so we had the privilege of living like a local for a week. Of course we did some touristy bits, but we certainly benefited from their expert knowledge of the city and the ultimate Canadian things to do! So here are a few of the things I would not have found myself, without a local in tow.
On our first morning we took a gentle stroll through the city and rambled down towards Ireland Park, a tribute to the tens of thousands of Irish who immigrated to Canada during the Great Famine. There is a large limestone wall commemorating the many Irish people who dies in 1847. I eerily found the name Hanora Kelly, which was my great-great grandmother’s name, which felt quite poignant. As well as the large walled monument, there is also a sculpture of emaciated people arriving onshore, with one statue raising his arms up towards the CN tower in a gesture of hope (Of course the CN tower had not been built in the 1800’s but we allow for artistic licence!)
After the park we wandered along the shore and I tried a Caesar, a savoury cocktail favoured by Canadians. It tasted kind of like gazpacho to me and while it was tasty and flavoursome, it didn’t quite quench my thirst.
After a drink by the waterside, we headed back towards the Rogers Centre and dropped into the Blue Jays (Toronto’s baseball team). Here too is the famous CN tower, but we had both been here before, so on this trip we didn’t go up the tower itself.
On our second day we walked to the very bohemian area of Kensington Market. You might be confused by the name, because Kensington is not really a market, but is more an area full of cosmopolitan food joints and quirky shops. Everything in Toronto feels like it is just around the corner, and Kensington sits just behind China town and feels like a different world altogether. With a laid back vibe and a colourful street art it was somewhere we immediately planned to return to. The restaurants range from Korean to Southern Fried chicken, with plenty of vegan options too and the most fantastic Japanese soufflé pancakes. I even splurged on a 24k gold ice cream. I kid you not!
St Lawrence’s Market is also another fabulous place to eat. We got there early and tried some pea-meal bacon sandwiches – a Canadian tradition which is much closer to Irish ham than American style bacon. Again, all types of food imaginable were available, so we all got to try what we fancied for breakfast.
I am trying hard not to make this post all about food, but the truth is, Toronto was possibly one of the best places I have ever been for eating! So I will do a whole post on food soon – don’t worry.
Sport is a huge part of Canadian life and you won’t walk down any street without seeing someone wearing a baseball cap or jersey from one of their many sports teams. The Maple Leafs (Hockey), The Blue Jays (Baseball), Raptors (Basketball) and Toronto FC (Soccer) all have huge support in the city. As well as this, there is also Toronto Wolfpack, their first Rugby League team and the Marlies, a kind of feeder ice Hockey team to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Going to see a game of any of the above is a must and we were very lucky to get to see both the Blue Jays and the Marlies play.
The ice hockey was a very exciting game, with Toronto coming from behind to beat the Dallas Stars 6-5 in game 1 of the Calder Cup finals. The game was fast paced, rough and even though we didn’t fully understand the rules, we enjoyed it all the same. We even ended up getting on the big screen! It was also surprising to see how much entertainment there was as the game, including Mascots, loud music and promotional staff around to hype up the crowds. We enjoyed a cold beer and the banter with the other supporters sitting near us.
We also got tickets to a baseball game, but unfortunately this was not as riveting as the ice hockey. The Blue Jays played the New York Yankees and were beaten by a large margin. Still, the highlights included the hotdogs, ice cream in an adorable little helmet cup and the 7th inning stretch – a fun part of the evening, where everyone gets up, has a little dance and sings “Take me out to the ballgame”.
When you have gotten up to speed with Toronto sports, I would also recommend a trip to the Hockey Hall of Fame, a really fun and interactive museum, but you are probably all sportsed out by now!
In an unusual twist we also went to see some medieval sports at Medieval Knights a novelty dinner show. I honestly didn’t know what to expect from this, and I was really surprised to see real horses and real medieval games on display. The theme was regal feast and each seating area is given a knight to cheer for. Dinner is included, but the catch is, you have to eat it with your hands!
Another thing that I loved about Toronto was its urban culture. Everywhere you turn there is a new view, street art, huge skyscrapers and neighborhoods like Chinatown, Little Italy, Little Tokyo, Little Portugal. Hidden in a backstreet is the aptly named Graffiti Alley, an area stuffed full of amazing and vibrant street art. My particular favourite was the little chicks playing hockey, but maybe I am just soft!
Of course I need to tell you more and the food and drink scene is coming next. It will be worth the wait though, I promise you!