Of all the Toronto Hostels that are centrally located¬†(i.e. “Downtown”)¬†none are more centrally located as our hostel in Toronto.
We are virtually in the centre of the Toronto¬†“Entertainment District”. We are right next door to the Toronto Film Festival’s¬†”Lightbox Theatre” HQ, only three short blocks from the iconic Toronto landmark, CN Tower.
The number of mainstream movies and television series filmed in Toronto has earned Toronto the nickname¬†”Hollywood North”.¬†Movie Star Gazing is a common Toronto amusement. This activity takes place in our immediate vicinity¬†especially¬†during the annual Toronto Film Festival.
Toronto really does merit the moniker “Hollywood North” and a lot of the hostels guests are well aware of the Toronto/Hollywood connection.
What is far¬†less¬†commonly known is a trendy and glamorous upscale region exists a mere two hours drive north of Toronto.
One of Toronto residents favourite summer recreation area is “Muskoka”, known to locals as “Cottage Country” and dubbed by the New York Times,¬†“Malibu North”.
Muskoka is a forested region just inland from the Georgian Bay of the Great Lakes. There are over 900 freshwater lakes in the region. A lot of wealthy individuals have summer¬†“cottages”¬†on these lakes. But many are “cottages” in name only. In truth, they qualify as “Mansions” commanding multi-million dollar price tags.
Hollywood celebrities who either own or visit friends cottages in the summer include;¬†Tom Cruise, Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russel, Bill Cosby, Drake, Martin Short, Bill Murray, Cindy Crawford, Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg etc., etc….
Sadly, very few backpackers or travelers who frequent hostels ever experience the beauty and charm of Muskoka. There is very little low-cost travel infrastructure and a visit really requires a car.
The closest you can get to the “Muskoka Experience”¬†is the “Algonquin Provincial Park”¬†just north of Muskoka. ¬†Here there are¬†(at least)¬†two hostels; but most backpackers prefer to camp. Again, car rental is a must.
The following excerpt was lifted verbatim from the “Discover Muskoka” tourism website:
“On several¬†occasions, Muskoka has been recognized by National Geographic Traveler¬†magazine as a special place to visit. Muskoka is one of their top 20¬†Best of The World – Must-see places ¬†and was chosen as the #1 pick for the Ten Best Trips of Summer. Just recently, Muskoka was recognized by National Geographic as one of the ’100 Places That Can Change Your Child’s Life.” These endorsements from an iconic magazine are testimony to Muskoka’s tourism experiences and our quality of life.”¬†
All hostels strive to be places of “conviviality”. A hostel’s reputation is built largely on how easily people mix with strangers.
Of all the Toronto hostels, we have been called¬†(justifiably)¬†the easiest place for a solo-traveler to meet and mix with fellow backpackers.
A lot of it has to do with the way our hostel is laid out. There are ten three-story Victorian-era houses (circa 1889) occupying virtually an entire city block in the epicenter of the Toronto Entertainment District. But our “kitchen”, “coffee and tea”, “patio” and “common area”, are located in our “Main Building”¬†where the hostels reception area is located.
We also don’t play¬†“background music”¬†with piped in middle-of-the-road music in the common room or the patio. The purpose of this is to encourage conversation among guests.
Of all Toronto hostels, our objective has always been to try to make travelers feel like they have found a temporary home in Toronto. ¬†We’ll keep trying our best to become known as the Toronto hostel where there are few strangers,¬†just friends who have yet to meet.
B.Y.O.W. = “Bring Your Own Wine”.¬†Not exactly a novel idea; but surprisingly unpopular in Ontario. You might think it would be an attractive alternative for budget minded hostel residents.
There has been a voluntary B.Y.O.W. program in Ontario for about 8 years now. There are close to 700 Licenced Establishments in Toronto alone that have signed on to the program.
It allows ¬†patrons to¬†“bring their own bottle”¬†to a restaurant that serves alcohol.
We’re not sure exactly¬†how it works; but, our neighbouring Province, Quebec has long had a similar program in place. Their program appears to be much better than ours. ¬†Because NO¬†“Corkage Fees”¬†are levied.
Additionally, in Quebec you can also bring a bottle of wine into an¬†unlicenced establishment to enjoy with your meal. Very civilized.
Perhaps Ontario will follow suit once we grow up. Historically, Ontario residents are used to absurd and draconian “Liquor Laws”.
Corkage fees in some upscale Ontario restaurants run as high as $40. The¬†average fee¬†runs about $15 (charged for simply pulling the cork and providing glasses). So we can’t really see a great savings (if any)¬†on an average bottle of wine purchased on a backpacker’s budget.
A list of all 2200¬†plus participating¬†Ontario Establishments¬†(and applicable”Corkage Fees”)¬†can be found here:
No. Not the talking horse of television fame; but an actor nonetheless.¬†A former actor, that is. Ed Chester was once a member in good standing of the Motion Picture Academy and as such had a vote for the Oscar Award nominees.
Our Mr. Ed is a Vagabond (in the very best sense of the word) and he pitches up to our hostel in Toronto every year or so on his travels. He is a native of Southern Ontario¬†(some little village near Hamilton)¬†who has been a long-term resident of the United States. At various times he has lived on both coasts and several places in between.
He found the acting business to be a bit of a grind, so he left California to travel North America. Lately he has been spending time in Nashville making a country album of his own songs. He is also an accomplished singer-lyricist-musician¬†who has given impromptu performances on our patio to the delight of all.
As he entered his sixth decade, Ed has purchased a home just south of Orlando that he uses for a base for his¬†peripatetic lifestyle. We see him on his way to visit family and friends still residing in Southern Ontario.
We call Ed a “Free Spirit”¬†wandering at will, living life on his own terms. And when he shows up to the hostels door on visits often unplanned and unannounced, he is a most welcome sight.
Shortly after the Victoria Day weekend, Toronto hosts a unique annual event called “DOORS OPEN”. This year it will take place on the evenings of May 24th and 25th.
On those evenings, there will be tours of around 150 buildings in Toronto of ¬†that are of either historic, cultural, social or architectural significance.
The 2013 incarnation of “Doors Open” is subtitled “Creators, Makers and Innovators”. It will showcase a number of older buildings that have been re-designed for efficient use as 21st century spaces.
This has been an annual event since the year 2000 and has already showcased over 600 buildings to more than 2 million visitors. It has become one of the three largest of such events held in many cities worldwide.
Full details of “Doors Open Toronto, 2013″ is available ¬†from Wikipedia:
“VICTORIA DAY” ¬†is a¬†statutory¬†holiday in Canada only. It celebrates the birthday of the longest reigning¬†(1837 -1901) Monarch¬†in British ¬†history. Canadian children refer to the holiday as “Firecracker Day”.
The holiday falls on the last Monday¬†before¬†May 25¬†(Victoria’s official Birthday) and is the¬†traditional ¬†official¬†beginning-of-summer. Torontonians head north to open cottages that had been closed and shuttered for the long winter.
Smoke from backyard B.B.Q.’s mix at night with smoke from the private firework displays that are traditionally set off in the yards of homes everywhere. ¬†In Toronto, as in all cities, there is ares massive public ¬†firework display after sundown, Toronto’s is on the city’s waterfront.
Backpackers at our hostel often head north to Provincial Parks and campgrounds to experience hiking and canoeing in Canada’s pristine wilderness. And the city wakes from it’s long winters sleep.
In the coming months, Toronto’s eleven beaches¬†(seven of which are blue-flag rated) open as the weather warms to an often¬†stifling¬†summer heat. Free concerts and cultural events begin which include food, wine, beer and music festivals.
It is after the Victoria Day weekend that the city truly becomes alive as if awakened from winters dolor.
Ontario, like more than half of all Canadian Provinces, is¬†huge!
Guess how many Liquor Stores there are in the province?¬†Technically¬†just¬†ONE!
Ontario is home to about 13.5 million people¬†(almost 40% of Canada’s population)¬†and it has only ONE liquor store – The L.C.B.O.¬†(Liquor Control Board of Ontario).¬†This government agency operates¬†every liquor store in the province.
The L.C.B.O. is a¬†defacto¬†monopoly. Here in Canada we have anti-trust laws that¬†should¬†prevent such companies from operating; but, apparently, those laws don’t apply to the Government. So, if you want to drink spirits, the L.C.B.O. is your only option.
From Ontario, you can drive across the provincial border to Quebec, Manitoba, New York, Michigan or Minnesota and enter a province or state where you can purchase liquor in stores¬†other¬†than government outlets.
Now, the workers of the L.C.B.O. are set to strike – again!
This¬†seems¬†to be an annual event that usually takes place in May just before the Victoria Day long-weekend holiday. Coincidence? Oh, sure.
Victoria Day¬†(a.k.a. “Firecracker Day”) is the¬†psychological¬†mark of the¬†official¬†end of winter and the start of summer. Cottages are re-opened after being shut for the winter and people in cities celebrate with B.B.Q.’s.
Virtually¬†everybody¬†save the rare species of¬†teetotalers, stocks up on booze for the weekend fetes. Seems like an excellent time to strike if you want to deliver a point.¬†Inconvenience¬†and¬†raise the¬†ire¬†of the pubic who will¬†(quite rightly)¬†blame the Government.
This blog was not just to show the absurdity of a¬†monopolistic¬†organization like the L.C.B.O. ¬†It is a warning for all of our guests to stock-up!
The Beer Store should be open for the weekend. But don’t count on them either. As it is also a¬†quasi-monopoly owned by the breweries.
When will Ontario grow up and join¬†enlightened¬†provinces like Alberta and Quebec?¬†(And just about everywhere else in the world for that matter).
We often talk¬†(brag, in fact)¬†about the convivial atmosphere of our hostel in Toronto. ¬†It has become legend and we are justifiably proud of it.
It’s a simple fact that that of all Toronto hostels, the Canadiana Backpackers Inn is the one that somehow very often produces life-long friendships. We lost count of the number of marriages resulting from meetings in the hostel’s common room; but there have been more than 20 unions – at least!
One uniquely special group activity is eating together. Now we realize that backpackers¬†everywhere¬†often get together and share a “home cooked” meal. It simply makes economic sense and reduces individual labor.
But we’ll wager that few other hostels see the type of ¬†”feasts”¬†(literally)¬†that have been prepared by¬†guests of the Canadiana in Toronto. This past Easter was a special case in point. Some hostel guests and staff pooled resources to celebrate the coming arrival of spring.
An enormous pork roast (about 10 kilos)¬†was purchased and an Easter “feast” was prepared and shared by a group of about 15 Canadiana residents. The roast was prepared in our kitchen by¬†“Doughy” Kelly,¬†an Irish trained professional chef who has been employed by “Terroni’s”, a Toronto-based chain of upscale¬†“fine dining”¬†establishments.
Virtually everyone involved pitched in and the meal in the picture below was the result.
This is what we mean when we speak of¬†“THE SPIRIT OF THE CANADIANA BACKPACKERS INN”!¬†
THAT’S THE KIND OF WEATHER WE’VE BEEN HAVING HERE IN TORONTO!
Last Thursday (April 14) we had a “Winter Storm Alert”. ¬†That’s pretty strange since the¬†“official”¬†First Day of Spring 2013 in Toronto was last March 20th. Night time temperatures have been consistently below zero.
Fortunately, the anticipated¬†“Winter Storm”¬†never fully materialized; a few ice pellets and light snow. The temperature hovered above the freezing point so the snow and ice didn’t stick around. This is fairly typical of what we have been experiencing in recent years. Unpredictable weather patterns ¬†to say the least.
Toronto used to have fairly brutal winters with mostly sub-zero temperatures and heavy snowfalls. That was until winter of 2011. It took everyone by surprise – shock actually. It seemed to have passed us by. ¬†Instead of snow, it often rained. Here at the hostel, we actually¬†never¬†had to shovel our sidewalk all winter long. The average temperatures were above normal¬†(hovering above freezing point)¬†so when it did snow, it didn’t stay.
And what a difference a week makes. This coming Thursday, the forecast calls for +20C! This represents a temperature variation of¬†more that¬†twenty degrees C in only one week.
Global Warming? Many Canadians may selfishly say;¬†“Bring it on!”.
When it comes to a city’s bragging rights,¬†size matters!
For years (until 1991)¬†Montreal held the title of “Canada’s Largest City”. By then, Toronto had fallen to third place behind even Calgary. But that was mostly due to the absurd way the municipal governments in the Toronto region were organized.
Toronto was a collection of 5 boroughs each with its own mayor, council and municipal services. In other words, five separate City Halls within¬†(literally)¬†minutes of each other. (York; East York; North York; Etobicoke; and Scarborough)¬†
Then came amalgamation in 1998. And for the first time, Toronto claimed the title of the largest Canadian city. We also claimed the title of the 5th Largest City in North America behind Mexico City, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
But according to the latest census data from Statistics Canada, as of last July 1, Toronto‚Äôs population was 2,791,140, about 84,000 more than Chicago‚Äôs 2,707,120.
“IN YOUR FACE CHICAGO! WE’RE NOW NUMBER FOUR!”
A ¬†city’s growth is a strong indicator of its vitality and attractiveness. Torontonians have long been proud of the city’s stellar big-city reputation.
A feature article in the Travel Section of Hawaii’s Honolulu Star, said, “Toronto is much like any large American city; but, Toronto is cleaner and safer.”