The last Monday before the 25th of May is Victoria Day in Canada and is a celebration of the birthday of Queen Victoria and is an informal marking of the beginning of the summer. Most Torontonians spend the long weekend in cottages further north in Ontario, enjoying the outdoors and plenty of alcohol. My cousins had spent the weekend doing just this, and were due to return late Monday evening. I spent much of the day enjoying doing nothing and playing a little one-on-one soccer with Ben in the back garden. Once darkness fell though, and even a little bit before, there were plenty of fireworks being set off and Lisa’s neighbours invited us over to enjoy their own private display. I also had the pleasure of being introduced to Ben’s good friend Steve.
Walking the City
The following morning I decided I should probably head into the city to take a look around and get a real feel for the place. It’s impressive what the Canadians have managed to do with downtown Toronto; right on the shore of Lake Ontario and with an excellent public transport system they have somehow conspired to build the ugliest city imaginable. The financial district is a grid of condominiums, office blocks and skyscrapers, no charm, no character, nothing.
Much of the city was redeveloped in the 60s and 70s to create better space or parking, walking through the city now most of the car parks have planning notices pinned to the front with plans for yet more condos or office blocks. Marginally interesting though, is the underground malls that connect many of the streets without ever having the need to be outside. I have to assume that these are incredibly handy when the cold winter sets in and you have to make the commute from the office to your favourite coffee shop. I did make it up from one of these underground walk ways into a really nice gallery, it’s a shame the rest of the city didn’t have the same style!
Once I escaped from the city centre things got a little easier, walking through China Town and the Kensington Market was significantly more pleasant, but it still managed to maintain an ugly appearance.
However, this was a good kind of ugly, the kind where dilapidated town houses collides head on with a youth of today; hipster boutiques, street art and the people themselves give the west side of Toronto an atmosphere that is much easier to appreciate.
As I was on this particular side of town, I’d heard (read “looked up on the internet previously”) that there was a small diner that specialized in vegan brunch and I felt that it would be worth my time trying to find it, which I did without too much effort.
Sandie’s Diner was tiny and very busy when I arrived, but I was guided to a free table and after a short wait ordered some scrambled tofu with vegetarian bacon, potatoes and toast. The girls working there seemed to be heavily understaffed and made a real effort to keep their constant flow of customers happy, and I would say they did a pretty good job with the resources on hand. I enjoyed my lunch, having decided that I really need to learn my way around tofu on my return home. I decided to head down to the harbour front after lunch.
I made my way down to the Roger’s Centre, for the first time seeing the roof closed. The CN Tower is not only an excellent tourist destination but a great point of reference when walking around the city, much like church towers in Europe are; towering over the surrounding buildings. I found myself at the John Street Roundhouse, a former roundhouse now preserved as a park and as a monument to the historical relevance of the locomotive industry in Toronto and it was quite a cool place to chill out in the sun for a while.
Eventually I made my way under the highway to the less than inspiring waterfront, which brings me back to my original point about the location of the city and how ugly it has managed to become. It’s a good thing they have trams in Toronto otherwise I might have found myself on the verge of disliking the city!
Initially I had planned to visit the Hockey Hall of Fame, but as I checked the time and there was just over half an hour until it closed I didn’t think this would be the most economical of decisions and so I jumped on the next GO train back to Port Credit and found my way back to my temporary home. Upon arrival it was decided that dinner would be taken from Burrito Boyz; Ben had already decided before I had arrived in Toronto that we would have to go there at least once while I was staying. Having already experienced the burritos of Chipotle, I was more than happy to try a new brand and Burrito Boyz did not disappoint. Their wraps were fuller, there was a greater selection of fillings and they were grilled fresh on order and I found myself very satisfied once I had finished mine.