The City of Toronto has always wanted to be considered a “world class” city. ¬†Toronto has just surpassed Chicago in population, becoming the fourth largest city in North America.¬†(Behind only Mexico City; New York; and L.A.)
Back at the time when the 19th Century was ending Toronto had earned the moniker “Hogtown”.¬†(A name the city actually merited as it was the major supplier of pork to the U.K. and much of Europe).¬†By 1900 a half million pigs were slaughtered annually right downtown in the area bounded by Front Street and Mill Street. This area is now known as the “Distillery District” – a renovated trendy, upscale, tourist area.
We were known as “Hollywood North” due to the lower cost of producing big budget films in the city because of the lower dollar, first-rate film crews and safer working environment.
But of late, we have stumbled badly in our quest to be truly “World Class”.
Firstly, we elected a profane, alcohol besotted, crack-addled, homophobic mayor. We built condominiums along the waterfront to obscure the waterfront from public view. ¬†Then we built insanely expensive subway lines to service marginal areas.
In¬†any¬†truly “World Class City”, ¬†the airport is accessible by direct subway or rail. Not so Toronto. Our Public Transport to our airport requires both Subway and Bus rides.
To make things worse, our private, regularly scheduled airport bus service will be closing this Fall! The closing of the $27 (one way)¬†bus service leave travelers with only municipal public transport or a $60 (+) taxi fare.
So is Toronto a “World Class” destination? A lot of out backpackers think so. We did a stellar job hosting “World Pride”; but there is still a lot of work to do.
So to visitors, backpackers and business travelers. Welcome to Toronto. A city that always strives to be better.
“HOGTOWN”: The Distillery District, circa 1920.
St Lawrence Market around the turn f the 20th Century.
“Distillery District” today.
Airport Express Bus ceasing operations in Fall of 2014.¬†
The Fourth World Pride Celebration is coming to Toronto this July! It is somehow fitting that Toronto was chosen as the city claims to have one of the largest LGTB communities in the world.
Our annual Pride Celebration attracts upwards of a million and a half celebrants each year and contributes close to $150 million to our local economy. ¬†But this year it is anticipated that the 2014 World Pride Fete will be about five times larger!
And we’re betting that Toronto will do it right!¬†The first three World Pride Celebrations were not without some major “issues”.¬†
Promised civic funding of U.S. $200,000 of the the first incarnation was withdrawn* after strong protests from the Pope (recently canonized as St. John Paul). One may also question why they choose to hold the first World Pride celebration in a nation with no laws protecting gay rights.
(*funding was restored by left-wing Mayor, Francesco Rutelli after strong protests from his own supporters.)
Organizers scaled-back events and claim that upwards of a quarter million participants marched Colosseum and Circus Maximus. (Toronto’s annual celebration claims between 4 to 6 times that number!)
Already delayed a year due to tensions over Israeli occupation of Gaza, the Jerusalem parade was cancelled as it was claimed there were not enough soldiers to protect marchers.
Sadly,¬†the downsized parade was held within site of Israel’s “Apartheid Wall” dividing the Israeli settlement from Arab neighbours.
This was nothing short of a disaster. It was a huge slap in the face to London’s LGBT community. Major funding was withdrawn as were parade and event venue permits.
I trust Toronto World Pride 2014 will show the world who we are and what values we hold. Torontonians have long since abandoned the need to purchase personal dignity at the cost of someone else’s.
We have lost the disruptive antics of our buffoonish, profane, alcoholic, crack-addled, homophobic embarrassment of a mayor who has gone into much needed rehab.
In Toronto, we will not merely be celebrating “Gay Pride”. This will be a celebration of the brave-new-world that lies ahead of us.
In the U.S., for example, nineteen states plus the District of Colombia have already legalized same-sex unions¬†(with federal sanction).
The¬†pretty rainbow coloured dominoes are toppling.¬†The debate is over!
Regardless of your orientation, it is up to all Canadians to lead the way. I will wager Toronto will host the most successful World Pride Festival ever! This upcoming event will showcase Toronto as the progressive, tolerant and inclusive city it is.
Check out this video for World Pride 2014: (Toronto: June 20-29.)
Well, it’s that time of year! It’s the Victoria Day weekend. It is also-known-as, May “Two-Four” (named for a case 24 bottles of beer);¬†or simply, “Firecracker Day”¬†(by most children).¬†
It is a Canadian statutory holiday that occurs annually on the weekend preceding May 24th, the birthday of Queen Victoria. In Quebec, it is known as “National Patriotes Day”¬†(La Journee National des Patriotes)¬†as the Quebecois¬†still have a problem with the British Monarchy dating back to the Napoleonic Wars of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. A detail.
The term “May Two Four” is also in reference to the 24th; but, more specifically, refers to a standard case of beer. It is the time of year when Canadians “officially” bid farewell (and good¬†riddance)¬†to another winter! Cottages are opened for the coming summer season and copius amounts of beer is consumed.
The children call it simply¬†“Firecracker Day”¬†as the holiday occasions major public fireworks displays.
For backpackers, the most important information is a) ¬†The Liquor and Beer Stores are closed on Monday, May 19th. b) Where to go to watch the fireworks displays.
The good is is that clubs and pubs are open as usual. And the waterfront¬†(to view fireworks)¬†is a twenty minute hike due south of our hostels doors!
Welcome spring! And Happy 195th Birthday, your Majesty!
“It’s quiet”….”Yeah, too quiet”. We’ve all seen and heard that classic western-movie cliche.
Today is Good Friday, 2014. Easter is arguably the most important Christian Holiday of the year. It even tops Christmas. So a quiet weekend should not be too surprising. But here are the hostel, it is a bit of a shock.
If you’ve followed this blog, you will be familiar with Angel and Aine. The “Mad Due”; the “Party Animals; The “Noisy Ones”. Angel is a Kiwi and Aine is from the Emerald Isles. Neither one of this infamous hostel pair can do anything quietly. ¬†And when they got together (which was often), the noise level doubled!
Aine¬†finally¬†moved out of the hostel to her own apartment and Angel seemed to take up the slack in the noise department by picking up the pace.
But yesterday, Angel also left the hostel, bound for Sydney, Down Under. She landed her “Dream Job” with a Cruise Line as an “Entertainment Co-Ordinator” on a cruise ship. To those who know her, this seems like a job she was born to do.
We trust Angel will tone it down somewhat; but also convinced that cruise passengers will be in for some fun times. Angel is as gregarious as she is noisy. We are confident that she will behave as Maritime Law has strict penalties against “Mutiny”.
There were a lot of tears last evening when Angel left for the airport. Nonetheless, the hostel is noticably quieter today. But it isn’t over.
Aine doesn’t live far from the hostel and visits regularly. She isn’t here today¬†(at least yet)¬†because we can’t hear her. We’re pretty sure she’ ll drop by shortly.
The truth is many of us miss both of them. We wish Angel all the success in the world and we are now bracing for the arrival of Hurricane Aine.
To Angel from all of us at the Canadiana: ¬†We wish you,¬†“Fair winds and following seas.”
Angel having a small “farewell drink”.
Angel and Aine photographed resting after goodbye celebrations. (Angel on floor under blanket.)
Aine (centre left); Angel (centre right)
Possibly the Irish “GARDA” in Toronto ¬†seeking to extradite Aine.
It’s¬†that¬†time of year again! It arrives just two days following the Ides of March, on the 15th;¬†the date Roman senators told Caesar (in no uncertain terms)¬†his time was up.¬†¬†(He got the “point”).
Every year on March 17th the Irish people¬†everywhere¬†(as well as the “wannabes”; descendants¬† of a prior Irish diaspora and those of any creed or ethnicity ¬†who just like to party and drink)¬†celebrate a day in honour of their “Patron Saint”, Saint Patrick – a 5th Century British Christian missionary and Bishop of Ireland.
Many cultures and religions have celebratory days in honour of the birth of a political or spiritual leader. I seems somehow ironic that the Irish choose to celebrate the “death” of their Saint¬†on an anniversary (plus two days) of Caesar’s death by knives. (It seems rather fitting; after all, isn’t Limerick known today as “Stab City”?).
Saint Patrick’s Day is a boon to bars in North America as it is one of the busiest nights of the year. Major cities¬†(Toronto and Montreal for sure)¬†will hold Parades on Sunday the 16th.
The Grand Marshall of the Toronto parade with be Irish Boxing Champion¬†(and Olympic Gold Medalist),¬†Katie Taylor, from Bray, County Wicklow. She’s a world-class fighter and holds virtually¬†every¬†major title there is -¬†Irish, European, Olympic and World.
The presence of a world-champion pugilist to leading the parade is well chosen. We’ll wager that many of our hostel’s guests will see¬†someone¬†punched in the nose before the day is done. All in good fun, of course.
Everyone remembers the Friends storyline with Ross and Rachel ‚Äď will they get together? Won‚Äôt they? Will they?! This was how many guests at Canadiana in 2012 felt about two guests Mary and Mossy. Both from Ireland, Mossy arrived in Canada around the same time as Mary‚Äôs best friend Sandra. Mary was due to join Sandra a few weeks later, and during that time Sandra posted a photo on Facebook of a young man who Mary declared to be utterly gorgeous. When she arrived, there was much flirting, much drinking, the occasional ‚Äėmoment‚Äô but these two just didn‚Äôt seem to ever be going to get together. Then finally, one cold Christmas Eve just as the snow began to come down in a scene fresh out of a romcom, these two shared a beautiful kiss and MarBear was born. Every celebrity couple these days is given a single name derived by merging the two lover‚Äôs names and Mary and Care Bear (aka Mossy) are no exception. This couple went from strength to strength and had moved in together by the following Christmas. They are currently enjoying domestic bliss, along with 4 other roommates in Toronto, all of whom met at Canadiana Backpackers Inn!
MarBear are looking to apply for permanent residency together to continue living the dream in Canada, with several trips abroad planned along the way. Mary is one of our stellar employees at Canadiana, and Mossy is studying to become and accountant. These two are just one of many couples to have met at the hostel ‚Äď love is in the air!
MarBear: A Love Story
MarBear took part in a fake wedding to raise money for charity. The weather was gorgeous and the happy couple had¬†a brilliant day getting ‚Äúhitched‚ÄĚ in Nathan Phillips Square.
Fabulous Christmas sweaters for this fabulous twosome.
A romantic getaway to Niagara Falls in the summer.
Harri is a wonderful young lady from England who has a farmer‚Äôs accent and changes the colour of her hair on an almost daily basis. She arrived in Toronto in June 2013 and one of the first things she did, after checking in, was to get herself a job at Canadiana Backpackers Inn. She‚Äôs a treasure and has made a real difference at the hostel ‚Äď working hard and playing harder! Harri has had a jam packed time in Toronto so far, making sure to do everything from snow boarding and going to IglooFest in Montreal, to canoeing on Lake Ontario and partying in Kensington Market while attending baseball games and ice hockey matches along the way. She often leads pub crawls from the hostel on Saturday nights but somehow always manages to be up and at work the next day.
This lovely lass is very open and able to befriend anyone. She has become an important part of the Canadiana family and is close friends with many guests. Harri has actually made travel plans with several of the friends she has met here; soon she will be jetting off to Iceland with fellow staff member CJ in search of the Northern Lights, and following that she plans to do a road trip across Canada with a few people from Ireland. After that will come the necessary trip home to work and save (and remind her friends what she looks like) hopefully leading to an epic trip around Australia (then the world!) with several of the Aussies she met at Canadiana.
The fabulous Harri.
A chilly trip to Niagara Falls.
Harri frolicking in High Park in the height of summer.
A Sunday canoeing trip! The hostel organises canoeing trips on Lake Ontario most weekends in the summer months.
Here at the Canadiana, we have many Italians come to stay with us. Every now and again one or two of them really stand out ‚Äď this is the case with Marco. He first came to stay with us in March 2013 and has rarely left us for long since! Marco is a great character and we are proud to have him stay with us. He is warm and welcoming, making friends easily and always encouraging people to join in the fun. We were recently delighted to offer our congratulations as he became engaged to his girlfriend Lori who has frequently stayed with us too.
Marco‚Äôs best friend from back home in Italy recently moved to Canada and naturally came to live with Marco at Canadiana Backpackers Inn. It was an emotional and joyous reunion as these two had not seen each other for almost 2 years! The pair is now inseparable and can often be found cooking up large Italian feasts for themselves and the many friends they have made here. Obviously much wine is included in these meals, followed by special Italian coffee for afters (which is then often followed by more wine‚Ä¶).
Marco works in an Italian restaurant in Toronto where he has gained sponsorship to stay in Canada ‚Äď this is great news for Marco and great news for us!
Marco on one of his many nights out with just a couple of his many friends.
Here is a pair truly in love ‚Äď Marco and Lori.
Another pair truly in love ‚Äď Marco and his best friend Niko, reunited at the Canadiana after years apart.
One of our newer staff members is Helen, a self confessed cat obsessive. Helen can speak Greek, likes cats, and has an exceptional singing voice (she sings in a style not dissimilar to a ‚Äėcaterwaul‚Äô) which she showcases weekly at our karaoke nights, belting out many 80s classics. Helen came to us in summer 2013 after returning from travelling in the UK for a couple of years. She has worked in hostels in London (England) and Inverness (Scotland) and now Toronto! Originally from Scarborough, Toronto she knows all the right places to go for a good night out (she will always tell you to go to the Village), although she can more often be found at home with her girlfriend and their 10 pets playing video games. Helen is also one of the more accident prone people to work at Canadiana ‚Äď we feel at ease when she is sitting safely behind the desk.
Helen has made many friends at the hostel ‚Äď her relaxed attitude and complete failure to take herself seriously combine to give her a magnetic personality. Her habit of drawing little cats everywhere brightens the days of all at the hostel. She is a generous soul and often comes bearing coffee for whoever is working when she‚Äôs passing by Canadiana Backpackers Inn. We‚Äôre lucky to have Helen as part of the team ‚Äď at least for now, until the lure of adventure takes her to the next destination.
Here‚Äôs a shot of Helen when she was in Scotland ‚Äď she looks like she‚Äôs¬†having fun but we‚Äôre sure¬†she was dreaming of the Canadiana¬†the whole¬† time!
Here is Helen along with another one of our¬†staff, Nicole. Helen appears to have discovered her true identity.
Helen recently met Mila Kunis; she shook her hand and decided¬† that this was the greatest moment of her¬†life thus far (Helen‚Äôs life that is, although we‚Äôre sure the¬†moment must have been special for Mila too).
Helen at one of the many Karaoke nights, rocking the mic as only she can.
Everybody thinks they understand the word “clique”¬†(the term has a virtually universal negative connotation).¬†
In the case of our hostels “cliques”¬†that negative connotation is not only wrong but sometimes unfair. You’ll have to look up the dictionary definition to understand why it is wrong.
The dictionary says: Clique:¬†n. “A small, exclusive group or friends or associates.”
Let me tell you why it is unfair.
The negative word is “exclusive”.
Firstly, I would be hard pressed to name the current hostel¬†“clique”. It is such an eclectic and ethnically diverse group. And virtually¬†anyone¬†can join. So much for “exclusive” because they “exclude” no one from group membership.
Ali Skandri, a Lebanese language student had been here for about 6 months and gravitated to the hostels current clique. Ali was known for his good humor and pleasant manner.
Yesterday, there were tears among the hostels “clique members”. ¬†Ali left for home in Beirut.
Ali was the only Lebanese member of the current “Canadiana Clique”. ¬†(That’s because he was the only Lebanese resident in the hostel.)
As a polyglot¬†(fluent in Arabic, French and English),¬†he developed a close relationship with many of the hostels French language students.
The “CLIQUE” held a farewell party last weekend at a nightclub and from all reports it was a raucous affair.(It’s a miracle that it didn’t become a “Police Report”). With the usual ringleaders,¬†Aine and Angel¬†(see earlier post: The “CHARACTER” of Hostels) trouble is normally close at hand.
So the Canadiana hostels clique is open to all comers. ¬†If you see them making noise ¬†in the hostels “Quiet Room”, join in.
Sit down and enjoy the company of Aussie Elise¬†(see earlier post: “Miss Popularity”), English Jonny, Japanese Jun or the famous “Mad Duo” Irish Anie and Kiwi Angel.
Ali did and made a lot of likely lifetime friends who know him as “Ali Baba” or “Camel Jockey” (how original?).¬†They gave him a pretty nice farewell!