EXPLORED: Toronto’s Distillery District (half photo gallery, half a tale of my sugar-infused afternoon)

What a wonderful afternoon.

I don’t know about you, but exploring new places makes me so terrifically happy that I want to skip, cheer and dance (simultaneously).

I spent this past holiday weekend in Toronto.  My second day in Ontario’s capital started off fairly low key.  After a blissful morning of sleep, I called my aunt and uncle to see if they, for lack of a better term, wanted to “hang out.”  One quick BIXI ride later, we met for a lunchtime reunion over Front Street pub grub.

My aunt and uncle outside of the Mill Street Brewery (best beer EVER)

Now, be it pollution or just general weather phenomena, the sky was filled with a thin, cloud-like fog.  Any evidence of skyscrapers or even the CN Tower were masked by this layer, and it looked as though someone had taken an eraser to the skyline of Canada’s largest city.

After lunch, we strolled the short 15 minutes to the Distillery District.  The rain that had poured on the city earlier in the afternoon had evaporated, leaving a crisp, clear spring day.  The weather was perfect.

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A mismatched jumble of all things Toronto

In honour of my last day in Toronto, a special roundup post for you to feast your eyes on…

Okay, so I’ve done loads of stuff this past month.  Hanging around Canada’s biggest city has been a lot of fun, and my April has been filled with extraordinary adventures and people.  If I were to blog about each of them individually, you’d likely get annoyed, I would get bored, and my fingers would fall off from typing too much.  Below, some of my favourite moments, places, and people, from my adopted city.

Life at the National Post
OBVIOUSLY, a post describing my month in Toronto would be vastly incomplete without me talking about my online internship at the Post.  All in all, I had an AMAZING time.  It was a little tough when I first started, since I didn’t really know what I’d be doing and had very little idea of the goings-on in Toronto.  By the end of the month, however, I felt like I was finally getting into my groove.  Yeah, I know, just in time for me to stop working there, too bad.   Throughout the month I worked with the funniest and most easy going online crew ever (creep/follow all their Twitter accounts: Gillian, Ron, Jeremy, Dan, Chris, Erin, Scott (WHY do you not have a Twitter account?!) and my fellow intern Aileen).  It was loads of fun.  I got to do a lot of things, be it covering the police beat, reporting on breaking news, or live blogging the Royal Wedding from the newsroom at 5 a.m.  Even though I thought I was a WordPress pro, I learned much more about the functionalities of the platform (that’s right fellow j-schoolers, NP is run through WordPress, so you better keep practicing on those multimedia blogs from class!).  I’m so grateful for my last month with them and would love to go back one day.  ALSO, you can see the full archive of my writing for the Post by clicking here.

Future Bakery

I made reference to this place back in my U of T post and Toronto tour with Brandon.  I’m happy to report that I did finally get to visit the coffeehouse/dessert/beer location, and fell in love with it.  And by “it,” I mean the desserts (the perogies were only so-so).  Holy hell.  So much delicious contained under one glass case.  I bought the chocolate chip cheesecake, complete with a cookie dough crust, and chunks of the chocolate spread throughout.  It was, by far, the best dessert I have ever eaten.  I could go back every night and try something new.

I’ve said it once, but I’ll say it again: if I lived in Toronto, I would weigh 400 lbs.

Kensington Market

Okay, so my adventures in Kensington probably should have warranted a full blog post, but I didn’t take enough pictures nor did I take enough notes to do the place justice.  I will say this – from wandering about, it seemed like the Market was blissfully unaware of the outside world.  I went exploring on Good Friday and, when traditionally most shops would be closed for the holiday, Kensington was still a bustling hub of activity.  The graffiti that marked so many of the walls (enter appropriate iPhone photo that I should have taken) seemed like it belonged there, adding to the art and colour that made the neighbourhood an explosion of energy.  Even the houses and stores were painted bright hues.  I met my friend Matt (see below) at this place called Moonbean Coffee Company (which has the best London Fogs in the universe, just for the record), and we spent the rest of the day darting in and out of strange clothing, antique, and Halloween costume stores.  We also visited my new favourite store, a place called Good Egg.  My colleague and friend at the National Post, Ron, had told me to check the shop out, since his friend was the owner.  WOW.  It was awesome.  Think cupcake chic mixed with creative art book magic slammed with wit.  It was amazing.  The pictures above cannot do it justice.  I walked out of there with a set of cupcake-themed stationary (of course), a macaron cookbook, and an adorable card with llamas on it for my aunt.  Our day in Kensington ended at Big Fat Burrito (thanks again for the tip Carly!), where I sadly couldn’t finish the massive chicken burrito that was dropping guacamole, salsa, lettuce, and spicy juices onto my plate.

Burrito, omnomnomnom

Basically the best day ever.

Meeting Mr. Matthew Braga
So my last blurb about Kensington kind of leads into this point.  Matt is an extraordinarily talented freelance journalist and Ryerson j-schooler whose work has been featured in the Globe and Mail, the National Post, on CBC, ETC. ETC (check out his website here).  Super intimidating, right?  Wrong, Matt is actually super nonchalant about all the wicked things he’s done.  But anyways, that’s not the point I’m trying to make.  More importantly than all this stuff he’s done, Matt is also just a really awesome person.  Being the kids of the 21st century, Internet lovers that we are, Matt and I actually “met” over Twitter.  Several tweets later, we were having coffee at Moonbean, the cafe aforementioned above.  Mom and dad, don’t worry, I knew he existed thanks to people at the Post and was reassured that I wasn’t meeting a 45-year-old rapist.  So where am I going with this… well, I’ll just say that Matt and I have hung out a lot.  Even though I constantly roll my eyes at his video game related jokes and nerdy puns, I’ve actually developed quite a liking for the kid.  I know, I know. You’re barfing everywhere.

End of story: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m dating the enemy, let the Carleton-Ryerson j-school jokes begin. </talk of personal life, ugh>.  Mom and dad, feel free to call and interrogate away, I asked for it.

Quirky Toronto homes
The picture speaks for itself.


Other highlights
– Staying with my aunt and uncle.  My aunt Pat and her husband Bill have been so kind in allowing me to stay with them for the past three weeks.  They live in an amazing neighbourhood (the Junction) and have been so generous to me.  Whether it’s making me supper, taking me out to their favourite restaurants, or discussing politics over the kitchen table, it has been a blast.

– Meeting CBC blogger/journalist extraordinaire Kady O’Malley at a Press Pass event I went to with Matt (basically a boozed up networking night); being completely journalism star struck in her presence;

– Also at Press Pass, meeting a bunch of Ryerson j-schoolers. For those of you that don’t know, Carleton and Ryerson are considered to be the top j-school destinations in Canada, and therefore there is apparently some sort of competition for top spot.  It was great to meet them.  Also, it’s nice to see that a love of beer is the common denominator among all j-schoolers.

– Trekking around on the TTC.  Yeah, yeah, kind of a lame highlight, but I actually enjoy public transportation.  In the course of my daily two hour commute and other trips, I’ve had two giant dogs sit in the seat next to me, have witnessed throngs of teeny boppers gossiping, and caused a fight between a couple because I accidentally walked into the girl’s boyfriend.  Yikes.  It will be weird to be back in Ottawa where city transit doesn’t run every two minutes – #1 Ottawa Rockcliffe bus, I’m looking at you.

 Arrivederci Toronto!  It has been fun, but my beloved Ottawa awaits.

Bloor West Village and an afternoon in High Park

Ladies and gentlemen, spring has reached Toronto.  Unfortunately for me, I leave on Monday and can count the number of sunny Toronto days I experienced on one hand.

Whatever, the important thing was that it was gorgeous today.

High Park: it's hard to believe an area like this still exists in Toronto

The weather lined up nicely with my first real day of summer vacation.  I finished my awesome internship at the National Post on Friday and don’t start my summer job at University Affairs magazine until May 16.

The next two weeks are mine.  Much frolicking, roof tanning, biking, and food making will occur.  I can’t wait.

Already my first day off was super.

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I LOVE U (of T) & a long overdue reunion

Before I start a lengthy rant about how much I loved exploring the University of Toronto’s grounds, let me first write out a few lines defending my actual university.

As many of you know, I’m a student at Carleton University, located in our nation’s great capital, Ottawa.  I love my school.  I love it so much that I worked there all last summer and balanced three campus jobs this year.  I love the chicken naans they serve at the grad student pub, Mike’s Place (which is aptly named after my favourite PM, L.B. Pearson), the hidden porch outside the history department in Patterson Hall, and the way the O-Train always seems to come humming by just as I’m talking about it to wide-eyed high schoolers (one of my three campus jobs is as a tour guide).

The purpose of this post is simply to digitally drool over the wonders of U of T, and is not some sort of treason-filled statement of hatred for Carleton.  On that note: GO RAVENS.


U of T.  This post is quite delayed, since I actually explored the campus after the very first day of my internship on April 11.  The night was originally meant to be a reunion between me and my elementary school friend Brandon, and not a night of exploratory fun.  Brandon and I were good friends between grades four and six, when we were both in enriched computer classes and I was a tomboy.  After I moved away from Timmins after grade 10, we kind of lost touch with each other.  We had been talking about a Toronto meet-up for years, and so today was finally the day.

Brandon is in Victoria College at U of T.  He also happens to be a tour guide (we’re everywhere!), which worked out quite well as far as exploring went.  We started off with a sushi dinner, walking past Toronto’s exclusive Yorkville neighbourhood and out into the Annex on our way.  I recognized a few scenes from past Toronto trips with the fam.

ROM: the place where I intend to spend a full day before leaving this city.
Honest Ed's at Bloor and Bathurst - my mom took my brother and I here once when we were really young

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A Saturday morning at St. Lawrence Market

Last Saturday was the most disgusting day in the universe (although Sunday could have given it a run for its money).  Since this past weekend was my first in Toronto, I had wanted to tear the place apart in a day of tourist-worthy exploration.  Although my weekend expectations were a little underwhelmed as a whole, the experience of spending Saturday morning at St. Lawrence Market gave way to a rainy day that was nothing short of wonderful.

From my position perched atop a counter stool, here are my thoughts on the marketplace…

Never have I ever experienced such a vibrant epicurean culture contained within four walls.

As soon as I entered the market building, I was met by the most glorious combination of smells.  Buttery croissants still warm from a morning of baking, meat spices wafting through the air, flowers from a near by vendor.  All competed for my attention and, in doing so, created a scent that could only be described as heavenly.

On the first floor of the market a string trio plays, their eyes closed and their bodies swaying back in forth to the sound of their own tune.  Men and women lean around small counters affixed to large poles, their sandwiches dripping meat and vegetables onto their plate.

At the bottom of the stairs is a jewelry vendor selling antique gold and silver charms.  The necklaces dangle back and forth, taunting me with their glitter and shine.  Those who know me will recognize that antique jewelry (particularly of the gold and pearl variety, if we’re getting specific) is my weakness.

I walk over to the booth, doe eyed and with a stupid small smile on my face.  As I paw my way through the troves of precious treasure, I half heartedly ask the vendor’s wife how much the necklaces are.  Her answer saddens me.  Everything is at least $80.  They are real silver after all.  Sensing my apprehension, she points to her right where a jumble of tacky necklaces swing.  “Those are cheaper,” she says in a patronizing tone.  Hmmph, needless to say I admired her fares for only a moment longer before sulking away to continue my cheap student existence elsewhere.

Continuing up the stairs, the sound of people, music and footsteps vibrates up into the high ceiling.  The musical atmosphere has changed dramatically from the first floor string trio, and here a guitarist and banjo player (banjoist?) strum a jazzed up version of Canon in D.  It makes me think of graduation.

In the centre of the second floor is a housewares store (read: Hilary’s dream area), where I peruse the shelves for vegetable mandolins, non-stick skillets and cute cupcake liners.  I can afford only the latter, and happily leave with a box of lavender themed holders.  Oh right, I also saw former GG Adrienne Clarkson.  She was at the cash while I was checking out plates for food photography.  Since I’m partially obsessed with semi-Canadian celebrities (think every CBC radio host in existence), I followed her around, before realizing that I was being decidedly creepy.  I switched to lurking on cheese vendors instead.

Speaking of cheese vendors, they were everywhere.

I want to have an adventure in cheese!

Whhhhhhy did I not have food to get and people to cook for?!  I did get to buy some stuff, and ate a brunch of pastries and perogies.  Even if I didn’t buy food, it would have been impossible to starve.  You see, the number of samples at the market put Saturday’s at Costco to shame.  Just walking around, I managed to snag huge chunks of gruyere, brie on crackers, Canadian specialty mustard, ham and a satisfyingly chewy piece of ravioli.  I could live off of the samples alone.

My market adventure made me realize that if I lived within a 20 km radius of this place I would come every single weekend.  I would be extremely well fed and fat, but incandescently happy.

PS: aren’t these the most fun Kleenex holders you’ve ever seen?  I would totally be fine with having a cold if the Easter Island men could soothe me back to health.

Below, a few more pictures of my rainy morning.