Sunday, March 12th, 2017

T O R O N T O

Last October I travelled to Canada; my friend Adam had recently emigrated to Vancouver + I wanted to check in on him +  explore his new home. My friend Olivia lives near Kitchener about an hour away from Toronto so I decided to start my journey on the East coast + then travel West. I decided to book a hostel to free up money for activities + let’s be honest, alcohol. I booked a private room + though it was basic it did the job.  I stayed in Hostel International in downtown Toronto + the location couldn’t have been better. I was about two minutes walk from the Gooderham Building aka the original flatiron building + ten-minute walk from Union station.

ST LAWRENCE MARKET

 This market was on every ‘things to do in Toronto,’ list + I can see why. The market was packed to the rafters with weird + wonderful food; upstairs had hot food stands + downstairs had fresh bread + pastries. Even though the hostel had a kitchen + cooking facilities I chose to eat at the market each day. The Saturday I was in Toronto it was my birthday so I went to the market for treats and watched the world go by.  Families, hipsters + older folk all mingled whilst listening to folk bands that were playing outside the market; even Catherine Zita-Jones is a big fan!

ART GALLERY OF ONTARIOMy friend Olivia suggested we visit this place + it did not disappoint. It houses the largest collection of Canadian art + luckily for me Olivia knew lots about it, particularly  the Group of Seven. Plus look at those Henry Moore sculptures – it’s the largest collection I’ve ever seen. I can’t talk about this place + not mention the AGO’s transformation. The gallery reopened in 2008 after a massive redevelopment; the redevelopment was overseen by Canadian + Toronto born Frank Gehry. It was, believe it or not his first building project in Canada. I love Gehry’s work + this building didn’t disappoint – I loved the sculptural staircase named ‘Baroque Stair,’ + the ‘Galleria Italia’ that leads you to the delightful Henry Moore room.The staff were friendly + knowledgeable + approached us with offers of free guided tours. This is the perfect place just to switch off and relax, plus I highly recommend the gift shop. 

THE FERRY TO TORONTO ISLANDSThe Toronto Islands are a small chain of islands just offshore from downtown Toronto. Cars on aren’t permitted on the islands + it’s thought that it’s the largest car free community in North America. You can get to the island using the City of Toronto ferries from Jack Layton Terminal. Olivia + I just went for a stroll but you can hire bikes if you fancy. As I visited in October most places were shut for Winter but we did manage to grab a hot chocolate in the pretty Rectory Café. There is a small residential community on the island but lots of people use them at the weekends. It’s sometimes called ‘cottaging’ which apparently means something very different in UK English { thanks urban dictionary }.

NIAGARA FALLSNiagara Falls is about two hours from Toronto + you can easily get there by bus or train. Olivia + I got the Megabus from the main Toronto coach station to Niagara Falls Transit Station. You then need to get a bus closer to the Falls. We left at 09:00 and got the bus back around to Toronto at 17:00, it’s easy to do in a day. The falls themselves were HUGE + just as spectacular as people say. We bought day tickets for the Hornblower + snapped lots of photos with our plastic ponchos on. You do get fairly wet so I was glad I took spare leggings; it’s worth it though just to hear that water roar, it’s astonishing. What I wasn’t keen on was the strip like street that sits next to the falls. The street is full of arcade centres and cheap fast food; the falls are so beautiful it’s a shame that they allowed casino resorts so close. Lots of people told me Niagara On The Lake is beautiful + worth a visit. As I was only in Toronto for two + half days I skipped it but there’s always next time.

SKY WALK, CN TOWERI wanted to do this as soon as I saw this so I booked it for my birthday because there’s nothing like spending your birthday hanging off a building 116 stories tall right? It’s not cheap but if you can afford it it’s very much worth it. The staff were all exceptional + most importantly safety was paramount, they really do take it very seriously. We were checked three times before we took the lift + were then checked again up the top. For some unknown reason I volunteered to be the first one out the door, my god it was terrifying. The platform is about a metre wide but the slack in your harness makes you feel like you’re walking around without a safety rope; it also didn’t help that it was windy. We started by walking up to the edge + shouting ‘hello Toronto.’ This might sound trivial but at 356 metres above the ground it was harder than it sounds. Our instructor then demonstrated + encouraged us to try out a number of ‘leans,’ off the edge. I loved the backwards lean but I found the front lean really hard to do as had to walk towards the edge of the platform + put our toes an inch away from the edge then simply ‘ lean forward.’ JUST LEAN FORWARD, my palms are clammy thinking back. The slack in the rope made it feel like I just throwing myself off the building, to say I relieved when I felt the rope tighten is an understatement ;-). After completing these leans a few times I trusted the equipment + started to enjoy myself + take in the view. I was even confident enough to try to ‘art direct’ the instructor. You can actually hear me in my souvenir video going ‘shall I just move around a bit because I really want me with all the sky scrapers in the back?’ #cringe. 

NATHAN PHILLIPS SQUAREThis square in is front of Toronto City Hall + has a large reflection pool in the middle with a water feature + a another Henry Moore sculpture. The design is brutalist + the concrete walkway reminded me of the Barbican centre. It has a 3D TORONTO sign which was erected for the Pan-American games in 2015; it proved popular with city dwellers + tourists alike so it’s now permanent + perfect for photos.  Nathan Phillips was Mayor of Toronto from 1955 – 1962 in case you’re wondering 😉

WHO I FLEW WITH

Air Transat –  Gatwick to Toronto Pearson, Vancouver to Toronto, Toronto to Gatwick

HOW I GOT AROUND

Up Train – From Pearson Airport to Union Station, Downtown $12 for a one-way adult ticket.

Megabus – From Toronto Coach Station to Niagra Falls Coach Station $44 return trip

GOtransit – From Niagra Falls Coach Station to the Falls. $7 return

I mainly walked everywhere but fellow hostel dwellers told me the Metro was cheap and easy to use too.

WHERE I STAYED

HI Hostel, Downtown Toroto – $369 CAD for Private Room for three nights

WHERE I ATE

As I was by myself I mostly ate on the go; St Lawrence market was nearby so I had hot food there + smoothies from there.  Tim Hortons was cheap + easy for coffee + maple treats ‘cos when in Canada.The one thing I’m gutted I missed out on was booking in some Second City comedy; sadly I just didn’t  have time. I’m also gutted the Prince Harry + Megan Markle relationship was still secret – I would have definitely stalked MM! { kidding not kidding }



Posted by Alexandra Falleyn at 10:52 am no comment