using my inside voice
North American Travel |
August 2, 2009
It was actually a profound relief, in some ways, to get back to Canada. It just feels like home, even though I've only been to Toronto once before on business, and even though I've only really seen the inside of the Sheraton and nothing was familiar, it just feels like Canada again, and for me, for the past three years, Canada has been home.
It wasn't exactly what I was expecting. Many of our Vancouver friends are former Torontarians, and seem to have a love-hate relationship with the city. So, I'd previously written it off as somewhere I didn't need to visit. But, I'm glad I changed my mind.
Toronto is probably awful in winter, and I can see that it doesn't have the natural beauty of Vancouver, but it certainly has it's share of funky cafes, cute streets and a rough and ready urban feel (the 35-day garbage strike that littered the streets with empty coffee cups, soft drink cans and general debris didn't help with this, but we chose to ignore it!)
We wandered Queen Street West, got caught in a massive storm (37mm in 2 hours massive) and had to duck into the nearest cafe. Luckily for us we scored a good one - Java Cafe had $4.75 omelettes and $1.25 coffee! It also tasted great and provided a wonderful perspective from which to watch the downpour. By the time it subsided we were ready to head down the rest of the street.
Queen Street West is literally packed with local designer shops, gorgeous and trendy cafes and people to watch by the dozen. We spent about 45 minutes walking in one direction, came back and had a coffee on the way, then walked home, which literally took us all day. One could easily pass a few days on this street if they wanted to try out more than one cafe and decided to drop a few hundred on Toronto's local couture.
Kensington Market, Chinatown and Yorkville were also on the agenda with daily lunches at different cafes. One particular highlight was Aunties and Uncles cafe just off College Street. The line up we saw on Saturday morning had been enough to tell us it was worth a shot, but we ventured there on Monday instead to avoid some of the crowds, and boy, was it worth it - basil, leek and havarti omlette with a side of dill potato salad and Challah toast anyone?
We had wanted to visit the Toronto Islands for a wander through some of the (apparently) quaint streets, but due to the garbage strike the ferries weren't operating - go figure!
Our last, and probably one of our most anticipated, stops was Montreal. Je taime Montreal...
We visited Montreal last year for two weeks and it truly stole our hearts. So many wonderful restaurants, apportez votre vin (BYO) and that in-your-face attitude that speaks volumes when compared with the overly-attentive style so present in Vancouver, made it one of my favourite cities in the world (so far!)
Given that there was so much build up to this stop, I did wonder whether we would be disappointed ... but no. Montreal has captured our hearts again. We spend most mornings visiting a different area of the city - St Catherine's St (for shopping and coffee), Fairmont St (for bagels, Portuguese chicken and coffee), Jean Talon Markets (for picnic food and ice-creams), The Latin Quarter (for wonderful Turkish Mint Tea), Blvd St Laurent (for Schwartz's smoked meat) and so on. Basically, we walk for a few hours, eat something, then walk back to our B & B, Le Gite.
In the afternoon we chill out, nap, read, surf the net, then around 6.30pm we had to the SAQ (liquor store) search for a likely looking restaurant with "Apportez Votre Vin" in big letters, then tuck in for a good feed.
It really is the life.
Tonight, however, we're living it up like real grown-ups and going to a restaurant that we've heard so much about - Au Pied De Cochon (a pig's foot). We can't even bring our own wine to this one, if that tells you anything about how much we want to go there!
Before that we're going to head to Camelia Sinesis for that Turkish tea I was mentioning, then to Scwartz's for our smoked meat fix. In the afternoon we're heading to Mont Royal for the weekly Sunday Tam Tam session (that's djembe drumming for those non-Quebecers). I just hope it's on today as the weather isn't looking too inviting. It's threatening thunder storms, but I'm going to keep my fingers crossed anyway.
Tomorrow, scarily, is our last day in North America. We have to decide carefully how we're going to spend it, because there are so many wonderful things to do in Montreal (as long as you like eating and drinking!)
Then on August 4th we head to Antigua, Guatemala, for three weeks of Spanish school... this means I may also not be blogging as frequently. It's hard to know what wifi will be like, or how often we might get to internet cafes, but I'm aiming not to be too sporadic.
Bay's career has been many and varied due to a penchant for traveling the world. After completing a double degree in Business Management and Journalism at the University of Queensland in 2002 she was lucky enough to land herself a job at Brisbane's Quest Community Newspapers. A year of roving reporting brought the epiphany that journalism and Bay didn't jive.
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