Toronto, my last stop before flying back to Germany, unfold itself in three parts.
- Arrival alone
- A weekend together
- Thoughts and goodbye
Maybe it’s soon time to think what to do with this blog once I’m back in Germany. But somehow a voice in my head tells me that there will be future adventures not too far ahead. Maybe some European ones?
But anyways, let’s get back first to here and now and give it a big cheer for Toronto!
Part 1: Arrival
Hostel life again. After a luxury week in beautiful guest rooms at Pat & Dan’s and Glenn & Gwen’s for a last time I have to adjust to potential snorers, careless worn underwear throwers and “what the heck is that smell” cooking in the kitchen. And I know already that I will miss these little nuisances.
Of the many things you can enjoy in Toronto I decided I needed some comedy and improv and spent the evening at The Second City – in my UCB jacket of course. I’ve got seated to the front of the stage by the theater ladies and had a 2 1/2 hours blast of laughing. It was great to go to a improv show again after 2 months. The next day I even got a “nice jacket!” randomly thrown at me when sitting in a pub from a guy who had taken classes at Second City.
I spent my second day a bit different than imagined – the morning and midday mostly waiting in a walk-in clinic and the afternoon at the hostel because I couldn’t move my head and every twitch and flinch sent a sharp pain up my neck and down my back and arms around my left shoulder. I must have pulled something unconsciously and I just hoped the muscle relaxants would help quickly. “They make you dizzy and tired so most people take them in the evening before going to bed if it’s not too bad.” I shook my head – as far as I could – at both, the doctor and the pharmacist. There was no way I could wait til the evening.
What an end of the journey. Seems like my body was clinching together with a “we don’t want to go home” and it took me 2 1/2 days to be pain free again. So I didn’t do much til Bridget arrived and a couple of pictures will speak for themselves:
Taking your business time-out the Toronto way:
Don’t feed the wild animals:
Become a legend the easy way:
Finding proof for Dan’s advice “Don’t tell people in Toronto that you love raccoons”:
Part 2: A weekend together
Flying all across North America Bridget and I could spend a long weekend together before I had to leave. “Tell me when you’ll be in Toronto and I look for affordable flights,” she had asked me about 4 weeks ago while I was still stuck in some hostel in the snow-covered Rockies and had tried to remember how you plan that far ahead.
The great Airbnb way north of downtown brought us into a neighborhood – The Junction Triangle – I haven’t been before to and can totally recommend now. It was really difficult to leave this district at all so our sightseeing list is rather short but qualitative.
A quick summary for the important things we did sightseeing to…
- Distillery District
- St. Lawrence Market
- Kensington Market
- Niagara Falls
- Baseball at Rogers Centre (does that count as sightseeing?)
More breweries please:
- Indie Ale House
- Kensington Market Brewing
- 3 Brewers
“I think I prefer Toronto over Vancouver…” Bridget looks at me. We sit in the Kensington Market Brewery. Again one of these cozy and feeling good places to sit down, play board games and talk. “Is that weird to say? Because everyone is so hyped and positive about Vancouver.” It’s true. You mention Vancouver and people get this shine in their eyes before they start to share all positive words for the city on the west coast. You mention Toronto and it’s just another big city. “No, I think the same. It feels more diverse. And it can’t be just the sun.” Vancouver has the mountains, the ocean, yet Toronto won us over. Silently, not in a loud way. “And they have the Blue Jays.” Could baseball be how T.O. got me?
I love sitting here with Bridget in one of the many cute breweries we discovered so far together. How happy I am to be able to share this joy of atmosphere and socializing with someone. I think we have the best talks for hours just sitting in these microbreweries and sipping on tasting glasses while philosophizing about the world or kittens.
“Are there breweries like this in Germany?” I have literally no self-experienced answer to this. I remember my favorite places which aren’t at all like this. There are more German Gemütlichkeit but like North American breweries? I’ve been to a lot of good places but the atmosphere was slightly different and I guess I have a task for the next weeks back home.
“You have to take me to the falls, Mister!” Bridget had written me just after she had booked the plane tickets for the crazy weekend trip to Toronto. So I guess this and me being for the fourth time in Toronto and not being once to the Niagara Falls forged the decision to dedicate one day for the trip.
I know that Iceland has spoiled me a lot. I can’t look at any waterfall anymore and be in total awe. Part of my brain will always whisper “well, in Iceland…”. And yes, the touristic and consume-focused way the Niagara Falls were imbedded in between high rising hotels and casinos was a mild shock. Thanks to the morning vine tasting which softened the impression and the two free Skylone Tower tickets that brought us a pretty view from the distance when the clouds finally decided to open up and let some sunshine through.
We got the free tickets from our guide. We had talked with him during the stopovers and had given him feedback when he suddenly pulled out the two free tickets and gave them to us as a gift because he liked us. I would have never payed for the tower but being up here for free was great!
“By the way you blend in well with the Canadians with your plaid shirt and your hair all shaggy looking out underneath the baseball cap.” I have to laugh and think about my Maori man bun or the many Fijian curls my hair decided to bring out.
Despite all the touristic surroundings it’s an impressive thought that all the water from four of the Great Lakes is pouring down these falls. So we couldn’t leave without taking one of the boat rides into the mist of the Horseshoe Falls. I mean the better view we had definitely from the tower and it’s not like you’re really getting into the falls but a free opportunity to get wet? Sure. I don’t know what I laughed more about: their try to make the one time use plastic ponchos “a great souvenir to take home” or the announcement on the boat saying “we are now passing the American falls. They are slightly higher than the Canadian falls but most of the water runs down the great horseshoe shaped Canadian Falls which are the more impressive ones.”
I really enjoyed people’s joy on board of the Hornblower as we steered slowly into the mist. It nearly had the same beauty as fireworks crowds. People laughed, gasped and made all this little surprising and joy sounds. Isn’t it great to be in the middle of people who all honestly enjoy what’s happening around? Also, we got wet. Really wet. And joined the woohoos and yeahs.
Into the calm Victoria’s Day Monday we treated ourselves with a sunny Little Italy walk, tiramisu and cannoli and an ice cold Italian bitter – the perfect alcohol free aperitif I know – at the Sicilian sidewalk Café before Bridget had to leave again. Can’t wait to be back in Italy and do a maze race against Bridget in the labyrinth of Venice.
Part 3: Thoughts and Goodbye – for now
Coming from the airport where Bridget got on the flight for LA I met with Sara for the Victoria Day Fireworks. Or at least that was our plan when we realized we’re gonna be in Toronto at the same time for one evening.
We didn’t check the distance to the Ashbridge Bay Park before so it was already nearly too late to be on time when we jogged to the street car station around my hostel. One fully packed streetcar just passed through followed 10 minutes later by another fully packed streetcar which didn’t bother to stop. “We can’t make it their on time anymore.” “Let’s give it a try anyway.” A third arrived magically in a shorter frequency and we jumped on. “Where do we have to get off?” “I have no idea. Just see what the others are doing.”
“This train ends today earlier. Please get all off at the next station.” We stepped out of the car and followed the people moving further straight along the street. It’s 9:50 pm and the main fireworks should have be nearly finished by now. I couldn’t hear any explosions. There were a couple of them when we had been still on the train. But now it was quiet. “Let’s go to the right here.”
We walked across a big intersection following a couple of people we had a good feeling with. It’s 15 minutes after the official starting time when we reached the park and followed a path as the first rocket lit the night sky.
Around the next corner a mowed meadow opened up and we sat down to watch the choreography of exploding stars. People were sitting or standing still in couples, families and groups around us, watching the flashes and sparkles.
We sat among them and let our eyes wander in silence. I can’t believe we made it in time although everything seemed to be too late. Thanks again to the universe for this grand chance to spend my second last evening abroad.
The last day passed by with mostly arranging my arrival and writing the blog about Brockville. For my last night in Toronto I chose the ballpark and a game between the Blue Jays and the Los Angeles Angels to round up my trip with something I can’t have at home. Nowhere else does a (veggie) Hot Dog taste better. It felt good to walk through the streets before the game and after.
The Blue Jays even gave me a win although I didn’t buy a Russell Martin Jersey (very tempting!).
And suddenly it was there. Flight day. I woke up from my last hostel night. People who tried to connect with me at the breakfast table “how long you’re going to stay in Canada?” left me alone quickly when I answered that I’ve been here for 8 weeks now and would leave today. Maybe I said it a bit too sad. Months fully packed with different countries, different people and different impressions all over passed by in a blink.
Not just today but during the last weeks once in a while thoughts popped up in my head about different chapters of my journey. Learnings and realizations which don’t have to be life changing or big and mentionable, but more with a very small and calm impact or change.
Experiences like I don’t need shampoo. After the ocean around Fiji had rinsed my hair and head from all the products that are in our industrial shampoos I just used water and every second day a bit of good conditioner (without silicones and stuff). My head feels so much better, no shedding at all, suddenly curls showed up and it works. For nearly 5 months I am into this routine without even noticing.
I’m still very happy with the few pieces of clothing I have with me. If I don’t stay longer than a week in a place I don’t need more clothes than for exactly this week. I had no urge at all to buy new ones except for adjusting to the situation like a vest and a long sleeve shirt for New Zealand as it was colder than expected and a second pair of board shorts for Fiji, Samoa and Hawaii as I was running around just in these.
By the way: I can totally recommend an Opinel knife for your trips to cut food, wrappings and lose threads. I think I washed it at least 3-5 times in the washing machine and dryer because I forgot it was in my outdoor pants and it survived all pretty and sharp.
There are things you learn to let go and things you’re grateful for. Like a good, big complimentary towel in a hostel. There’s nothing like silence in the night. Or someone who picks you up with a friendly word while you’re sitting a bit lost around town or hostel.
So many more little stories still rest in my notebooks and I wonder what I will do with them. But I guess like the most important lesson from the trip tells me over and over: I don’t need to have the answer or a plan yet. The story unfolds page after page, chapter after chapter.
How I ended the trip before the airport? Of course with a coffee shop (Quantum Coffee on King St.) and a last brewery (Steamwhistle in an old train roundhouse) in Toronto while writing these lines and watching the daily craziness of our lives in the cities.
Thanks to everyone who I crossed paths with for making these nearly 10 months incredible. You touched my heart. And changed me forever. And you have always a place to come to in Germany.
(Wow, that sounds cheesy.)
It’s time to go home. For now.