08.21.2016 - 08.24.2016
I met up with a couple of friends to spend a few days in Toronto. I was excited to explore the city because my only time in Canada so far has been a day trip in Victoria, B.C. while on an Alaskan cruise a few years ago.
Our downtown condo was in a perfect location. Located in the Maple Leaf Building, there was a Longo's grocery store, bank/ATM, liquor store, and several restaurants on the first floor. It was also right next door to the Air Canada Centre and across the street from Union Station. Being so close to the train station made it easy to take the UP express train from the airport to the condo and it only took 25 minutes without having to contend with traffic.
This is our view of the CN Tower from our balcony...both day and night.
We started the day with breakfast at Marche's. What a feast for the senses!
The restaurant focuses on fresh foods and has unique food stations where you can choose things like eggs made to order, sweet or savory crepes, fruit, meats, pasta made to order, sandwiches, quiches, soup, coffees, and fruit smoothies. Upon arrival, you get a card and as you go to each station to make your food selections, it is scanned. When ready to leave, you just give the cashier your card and pay for your selections.
There were so many things to choose from but I settled on a Belgian waffle with vanilla sauce and strawberries with a mixed berry smoothie. Yummo!
Afterward, we walked a few blocks to Dondas Square to catch the Hop On/Hop Off (HOHO) bus. A ticket gives you two days of access on the double-decker bus and you can ride the route to see the major tourist attractions and hop off when something interests you. It also includes a 45 minute boat tour around the harbor and islands.
We hopped off at the Royal Ontario Museum for the Dale Chihuly exhibit.
Admission was a bit pricey but totally worth it if you are a Chihuly fan. The pieces were incredible and I loved it.
With limited time to explore the city, we didn't walk around to see any of the other exhibits. Feeling cultured, we walked toward our next stop...Kensington Market.
On the way, we passed the university's sports field and I had to get a picture of it with the CN tower for Eric.
Misjudging how far Kensington Market was from the ROM, we felt the need for a little respite. So we stopped at Flock to relax on their quiet patio and enjoy drinks.
I had the Blood Orange Negroni which was very nice.
Afterward, we walked on to Kensington Market which was a vibrant, hip neighborhood full of artwork, cafes, bars, and food markets.
By this time, it was getting late and we were starting to get hungry again so we made our way to Queen Street, passing Chinatown on the way.
Our destination was Burger's Priest per Anthony Bourdain's recommendation when he did his show on Toronto.
I had the "California Classic" which was a cheeseburger with sauteed onions, topped with secret sauce, lettuce and tomato and sandwiched between two buttered and grilled buns. It was sooo good, I ALMOST forgot to take a picture. I finally remembered with about three bites left so it looks a little manhandled. My apologies...
We then caught the HOHO bus and rode it down to the Harbor area. We wanted to take the harbor cruise but the boat had just left and there was an hour wait for the next one along with a very long line. So, we decided to skip it and just walked around there for a bit.
We stopped in for Beavertails which are flat, fried pastries that can be topped with a multitude of things from sugar and cinnamon to nutella, peanut butter, and candy bits. I opted to keep it simple and just had sugar and cinnamon. It was pretty good...basically a flattened donut.
All in all, we logged 16,000 steps today...not too shabby. Back at the condo, after a few glasses of wine and girl talk, I slept very soundly.
Our first stop of the day was breakfast at Carousel Bakery in the St. Lawrence Market. I was on a mission to sample a peameal bacon sandwich and a butter tart.
I chose the "Breakfast on a Bun" per the recommendations of the gentleman standing in line in front of us. It had peameal bacon, with a fried egg and cheese layered on a soft bun. It was really delicious and filling. Note: U.S. Canadian bacon is completely different from real Canadian bacon. The U.S version looks like round ham while the real thing is sliced pork loin and was pretty lean.
There were several butter tart flavors to choose from so I got the one filled with pecans. It reminded me of a miniature pecan pie from home and tasted like one, too.
After breakfast, we walked around the market which contained the usual fare.
Then we moved on to the Distillery District since we had an 11:00am Segway tour scheduled.
Walking into the district is like stepping back in time with its cobblestone streets and Victorian industrial buildings. There are sculptures all around and a mix of both historic and modern buildings.
Chain businesses like Starbuck's are not allowed so there are all kinds of unique galleries, shops, and restaurants.
It's a great place to explore and we were excited to ride the segways through it.
This was my first time on one, but it was very easy to learn. We had a brief training session and then did a 30 minute tour all around the area. Afterward, we walked around some more and took time to people watch and take in the sights.
We also enjoyed some of the offerings like lemon tea beer...
Then we caught the HOHO bus again, but this time we rode the whole route to get a feel for the city and drive by some of the places that we didn't have time to visit.
This is my view from the top of the double-decker bus after I snagged a front row seat.
One of my favorite things about the city, were all the murals that were around every corner.
A passing glimpse of Casa Loma as we drove by.
We had an early dinner at Taverna Mercatto which was within walking distance of our condo and it was virtually empty. It was a neat place with a mix of industrial and antique décor.
I had the Pollo Alla Diavola which was divine. Spicy chicken on a bed of fregola (type of pasta similar to cous cous) with a creamy pancetta sauce and a side of cavolo nero (black leaf kale).
While in Toronto, we wanted to do something girly and artsy and our choices were the play "Matilda" which is based on the children's book or seeing Barbra Streisand.
Yes! Toronto was the last stop on Barbra's mini-tour and she just happened to be playing on our last night there.
My mom is a huge fan so I grew up listening to her music and I love her movies. We couldn't pass up a once in a lifetime opportunity to see her...even if our seats were in the nosebleed section.
What can I say? I though she was incredible! A great performer with such an easy rapport with the audience. Between songs, it felt like you were sitting in her living room chatting about life.
It was the perfect ending to a fantastic trip in Toronto.