I had been to Toronto before, but I don’t remember it.
I’m certain I had, as our family went up to a cabin on a lake in Ontario every year. We would drive up from Dearborn, MI, through the Windsor tunnel and up north for four hours. But I moved from Michigan when I was eight, and hadn’t been to Toronto since then.
When I saw I had a three-day weekend off of work, I originally planned a trip to Niagara Falls, as I’d never been there. However, for late March, I discovered that many of the attractions were closed for the season. So we switched gears, and Toronto it was!
Driving up from our new home was only about four hours straight. Of course, we stopped by a couple places on the way, such as Niagara Falls itself. It was cold, overcast and started raining, but my first view was impressive. There were others braving the elements, but we wandered a bit before we found the stairs down to the viewing platform. The falls are wonderful, but after last summer’s trip to Iceland, and dozens of waterfalls of all shapes and sizes, I wasn’t as impressed as I might have been. Then we left, as the rain got harder and the wind got colder. Hopefully it would be nicer on our return trip!
Driving into the Canadian border patrol, I made the mistake of leaving my lane (which had two people ahead of me) and going to an empty lane. The agent asked me where I was going in such a hurry, and asked lots of questions. No matter, I understood, answered politely, and we were on our way.
Unfortunately, the weather decided to arrive. Freezing rain for much of the hour and a half drive on unfamiliar highways in the dark is not my favorite type of trip. But we eventually made it to our B&B, Pimblett’s in Cabbagetown
. Our host was a lovely older English gentleman from Lancashire who had owned a restaurant for 27 years. And he was a collector. Yes, definitely a collector. There were artifacts, books, decorations covering every square inch of the walls and surfaces. It did make me think of older B&Bs in England, no doubt!
Our bedroom was decent sized, as was the bathroom (with modern upgrades), but had so much big antique furniture it was a little tight. There was Wifi, though, and a computer screen TV, and we were fine.
We arrived around 9pm, and our host recommended House on Parliament as a good place to get food. This was an English-style Gastropub, and it didn’t disappoint. We had a Posh Ploughman’s Lunch and Steak and Wild Mushroom Pie with Mashed Potatoes, Cider, and some Whiskey. Ahhh… the brie was fantastic and buttery, the pie delicious, and we were well-sated.
Friday, March 25th
In the morning, we had our morning Full English Breakfast and a chat with our host about Britcoms and mysteries. We also met the Assistant Manager, Brewster, an overweight and very friendly doberman mix. We didn’t get to meet the Manager yet – Tiddles the Cat.
Today was Good Friday, and we didn’t take that into account when we embarked upon our first visit of the day. As it was still quite chilly (35 degrees F) and rainy, we decided to do our indoor pursuits and visit the Aquarium… but so did all the children. The self-pay ticket kiosk rejected three of my credit cards before finally taking the fourth, and screaming children didn’t help my patience, but in the end we went in. It was definitely worth it. The moving walkway through the tunnels allowed us to see sharks swimming over us as well as stingrays and all sorts of fish. The jellyfish display was beautiful, lighting them in different colors. Lion fish are fantastic, too!
We decided to check out the St. Lawrence Market, but alas, it was closed today. We wandered around until we found a pub for lunch – the Jersey Giant. I had dessert for lunch. I was on vacation, after all! We did share poutine first, but I was disappointed. They used melted cheese rather than curds, and the melted cheese was difficult to separate. However, the chocolate truffle cake more than made up for that. And some peach cider, while my husband had monkey oatmeal stout.
We kept smelling cannabis throughout the city. At least a dozen times. Once, driving near a medical dispensary, we swear we saw a full bag in the street. Just sitting there. Wow!
Driving around exploring, we found all sorts of intriguing neighborhoods. Chinatown on Spadina, of course, but also areas with Tibetan restaurants, Thai grocery stores, Little Poland, etc.
We checked out the Necropolis, and the building itself was beautiful. Because of the ice storm the night before, there was ice on all the branches and the details of the grave markers. When the sun made a brief appearance, it was a wonderland, glittering in the sunbeams.
We went to find the other cemetery, and I was amazed. Mount Pleasant Cemetery was huge! And then we found another half – and it was even bigger. There were so many Celtic crosses, angels, cherubs, and interesting gravestones, I was in funereal heaven. One was even a copper tree sculpture. The oddly-proportioned man on a horse in the front was just the first taste. Again, the sun played hide-and-seek and made everything sparkle in the sunlight. It was especially interesting to see the tracery of Celtic Knotwork outlined in ice.
We found parking downtown in time for our reservations at the 360 Restaurant in the CN Tower. My co-worker, Hedy, recommended this, and I am ever grateful. We had a Tower of Seafood, and it was heavenly! We devoured it. Mussels and oysters, shrimp and smoked salmon, trout and mackerel. Lobster and crab legs.
I am ashamed to say, it beat us. We could not finish the bounty of the sea. But we had fantastic views of the city below us. The clouds finally broke a bit, and sunbeams picked out portions of the city and the ocean as we ate.
We went down to the observation deck after dinner – and found all the screaming teenagers in the city. We escaped, but couldn’t find out way down. We finally got down, had to go up to get our coats, and down again, and perhaps up… and then down again. How do we get out of this place? Oh, up again. There’s the bridge! Quick, past more screaming teenagers (these were British by their accents). Ah, quiet and peace at last.
So, what do we do but find another pub for a pint! This one was called Stout. I had some Sir Isaac’s Pear Cider, which was OK, but dryer than I liked. Jason had a beer called The Princess Wears Girl Pants. He kept the can.
Saturday, March 26th
After such a full day, Jason was feeling tired, so I went exploring on my own after another Full English Breakfast. This morning, however, I got to meet Tiddles, a very friendly kitty who could get himself in and out of the house. He wasn’t so great about closing the door after himself, though.
I went to explore and take photos at several places. I started with the brickworked and gentrified Distillery District, despite the fact that it started snowing. I tried to find Graffiti Alley, but failed. I did find Brookfield Place, a mall entrance that has some amazing architecture. On the way, I also found several homeless people sleeping on the sidewalk. One was near a bakery, and someone had placed several containers of food on top of the sleeping form.
Around lunchtime I fetched Jason and we went to check out the now-open St. Lawrence Market. Parking was difficult, but we found a garage and walked over. The crowds were heavy, and we needed some coffee to brace them, so we got some at Balzac’s. The Salted Caramel Latte was yummy. We found a bench to sip at the warm brew while street musicians played Stormy Weather.
Inside the market was madness. Delicious, delightful madness. Some indoor markets are nothing more than glorified flea markets. Not this one. There were vendors of all sorts of fresh meat, cheese, mushrooms, produce. Fish mongers, cheese mongers, kitchen supplies, honey, flowers, flour, tea, coffee, fruit, wow. Just amazing. It is a chef’s dream. We didn’t even make it to the south building. A couple hours and we were exhausted just fighting the crowds, but I think it was the highlight of the trip.
We found something to eat at the much less crowded Irish Pub down the street, Fionn MacCools. I had Magners, Jason had whiskey, and we shared delicious calamari with pepper jelly and a Steak and Guinness Pie.
For the afternoon, we went to the Toronto Zoo. The day grew sunny and warmed up a bit. Unfortunately, everyone else realized that, as well. So many running, screaming children. It was especially bad on the indoor exhibitions, so we quickly scooted through seeing gibbons, orangutans, lemurs, turtles and snakes. We found the lions, who were lazing in the sun, and the male decided to roar at something, to everyone’s delight. The tigers were prowling, and the leopards lounging.
When we got to the arctic area, the arctic wolves were enjoying the sun at the top of the hill, but the polar bear was dancing. Back and forth, up and back, like some sort of demented two-step.
I wanted to see the pandas, but it was an hour of standing in line, and my feet were just not up to that at this point, so we exited. It was a lovely time, regardless.
Dinner was back to the House on Parliament, for some duck sausage Scotch Eggs and a peamon bacon sandwich, with more Ploughman’s lunch. We should have known better. Too much food!
Sunday, March 27th
This morning was a quick trip to Casa Loma and then heading home. I am so glad I added this place to our trip. It’s an amazing palace/castle. It’s been used for filming many movies, including X-Men. The downstairs had tunnels and antique cars. There was a secret passage from the study to the bedroom. The place is decorated in high style, and the third floor had a regimental museum. I even got to climb up into the Scottish tower, and see the city out before me. Unfortunately, they were also hosting an Easter Brunch. I escaped just in time.
The drive home took us to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls when the weather was about 50 and delightfully bright. I oohed and aahed with the others, and scurried back to the car for the rest of the trip home.
We really enjoyed Toronto, and will definitely be back. Next time we will have to venture past the English pubs and into the ethnic foods. While I don’t think I’d ever be happy living in a big city again, Toronto had an interesting flavor. I could taste the English roots strong, but it also had that melting pot everywhere. An incredibly multi-cultural city, an aspect of my hometown, Miami, I always loved. The people were, of course, incredibly polite, being Canadian. 🙂
Don’t miss information on Celtic myth and history, as well as practical travel planning tips, and hidden places, in my travel books.
– Better To Have Loved
– Legacy of Hunger
– Stunning, Strange and Secret: A Guide to Hidden Scotland
– Mythical, Magical, Mystical: A Guide to Hidden Ireland
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