Postcard from: Toronto, Canada

I recently traveled to Toronto for one of my best friend’s wedding. How I got to Toronto deserves a post of its own but let’s just say it involved a VERY long (but very cheap) bus ride. I lived in Canada for four years but I am not very familiar with its most populous city, though I’ve done most of the big tourist attractions like soaking in the view from the top of the CN Tower and catching a Blue Jays game at the Rogers Center. As a bridesmaid, my agenda was pretty packed with wedding-related activities, but I did manage to squeeze in a little sight-seeing and (of course) a little eating. Here is a round-up of my Toronto picks:

Toronto is HUGE but between the subway, streetcars and buses, it’s actually very easy to get around and explore the city’s many neighbourhoods. The newest addition to the public transportation system is the BIXI, a Canadian version of our Smartbikes. As long as you ride for less than half an hour, a CAN $5 24-hour or $12 72 hours subscriptions allow you to travel as much as you want.

Poutine with Short Ribs at Jamie Kennedy’s Gilead Cafe & Bistro 

And ride our bixis we did, all the way to Corktown, a newly residential neighbourhood just South of Regent Park. We rode through the Distillery Historic District, a re-developed pedestrian-oriented arts, culture and entertainment area with numerous cafe, restaurants and shops housed in restored Victorian Industrial buildings.  Corktown, which owes its name to its past as an Irish enclave, is one of the latest neighbourhood to be revitalized. It’s also where Toronto-based Chef Jamie Kennedy decided to open his latest restaurant:  Gilead Cafe and Bistro. Gilead Cafe is a warm and inviting spot, with seasonal menus that changed daily depending on what is fresh. Of course, I couldn’t be in Canada without ordering a little poutine, so while I was tempted by the artisanal cheese plate, I settled for the JK Poutine with braised beef and cheddar. Well worth the detour to this not-too-touristy-area! Gilead Cafe 
also offers some 12-15 Ontario wines by the glass, and I highly recommend giving them a try if you’re ever in the area. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to visit the Ontario wine region, but one of my college friend who kindly invited us over to his place for dinner, had just toured the Niagara Falls wine region. I’d never been really impressed with Canadian wines beyond ice wine, so I was pleasantly surprised with the lively 2008 Red Paw Vineyard Syrah from Coyote’s Run Winery and the 2008 John Howard Cellars of Distinction Cabernet Sauvignon Megalomanic Bravado. I was also impressed by the macarons from MoRoCo Chocolate which my friend served us for dessert. One of his friend, Jen Chan, wrote a wonderful macarons map of Toronto on her food blog Food Pron, which I’ll be sure to read intensively before my next trip up North 😉
But enough about food and wine! Toronto is home to a number of great museums. For all you shoe lovers out there, I highly recommend the Bata Shoe Museum. Yes, shoe museum. This unique museum holds a number of interesting items, from one of Elton John’s 12-inch platform shoes to scandals worn by former prime minister Pierre Trudeau as well as a comprehensive overview of the history of footwear and changing exhibits on shoe-related topics. Since I had already visited the shoe museum on a previous trip, and with the Stanley Cup finals underway at the time, we chose to visit the Hockey Hall of Fame, where I posed for pictures with the Stanley Cup. Located at the corner of Front and Yonge streets in downtown Toronto, this kid-friendly museum is probably not that interesting unless you’re a hockey-fan. I personally loved checking out a replica of the Montreal Canadiens’ Locker Room as well as soaking up the architecture of the building, a former Bank of Montreal branch.

The “scramble” at Yonge and Dundas streets.
Last but not least, I just enjoyed walking around the downtown area. I learned that a few years ago, Toronto got a “scramble” intersection, similar to the “Barnes Dance” crosswalk that we have in DC’s Chinatown. We played around this new attraction, crossing diagonally back and forth, in between stops at some of my old favourite stores like Roots, Jacob or Club Monaco. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by my trip to Toronto. I actually can’t wait to go back, perhaps when I have a little more time so I can combine the trip with a stop in Niagara Falls and in the Ontario wine country. Until then, since today is July 1st, I’ll close this post with a simple Happy Canada Day everyone!

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