THE “CHARACTER” of HOSTELS

Anyone familiar with backpacking knows that the “character” of hostels is determined largely by the “characters” who stay there.

Backpackers are by definition a transient group; thus the “character” of a hostel changes constantly. Nonetheless, it is always interesting (and that’s putting it mildly).

Starting below, we will introduce you (randomly) to two of the characters currently in residence. This might give you an idea of the tone and tenor of a hostels daily life:

AINE and ANGEL:

We have chosen two attractive young “ladies” as an example of the hostels Zeitgeist.

AINE (pronounced AWN-ye) hails from County Sligo in the west of Ireland. ANGEL (ironically named, as you will see if you meet her) is a Kiwi from the North Island. Both have come to Toronto with Working/Holiday Visas.

Why did we choose these two?

To begin with they have both been here for some weeks and virtually everyone in residence knows this pair. The two are often seen together on our patio or in our common room “holding court” as it were (i.e. they are the centre of attention).

These attractive young “ladies” are, at the same time, pleasant but boisterous (again, putting it mildly). They are both capable and interesting and can do many things – but nothing quietly.

So when you visit hostels in Toronto (particularly our hostel) you will be able to ascertain very quickly the movers and shakers in residence.  Aine and Angel you will likely hear before you see them!

 

CHANGES

Traveling today is much, much easier these days in a world shrinking because of technology.

When young backpackers first started traveling in the 1960’s (mostly Hippies) there were virtually no facilities (no hostels, student fares or youth discounts). 

Everything was strange and new.

Today, as travelers get younger and younger every major city and tourist destination is set up to serve them. But it seems that instead of seeking new cultural experiences, today’s young traveler/backpacker wants what he/she had at home.

For instance, apparently we don’t have “proper” Heinz Beans here in North America. I don’t know what they taste like but I have been assured by an Irish girl they are better. (Apparently, thy are spelled with a “Z” as in “Heinz Beanz” – I’ll look for them)

Australians, it seems are always traveling; but, they also constantly complain that there is no “Vegemite” (a foul spread of beer barrel”Yeast Residue” eaten ONLY by Australians) or the difficulty of finding “Tim Tams”.

Tim Tams are chocolate covered wafers. They are actually pretty good; but, nothing to rhapsodize about. Paul (the young Aussie pictured below) insists they are “not the same” as back home.

Aussies are also fond of meat pies; but we won’t mention those. I’ve tried them downunder and they are pretty nice.

Finally, there is the famous Guinness BeerPersonally speaking, I am very fond of the “Dark Nectar” and have sampled it all over the world (Including Bruxelles, a superb Irish Public House just off Grafton Street in Dublin).

In Canada, I have been told usually by Irish WOMEN that Guinness outside of Ireland is “not the same”. (As I said, told by “women”, the majority of whom don’t actually drink it!)

Any truly experienced Guinness Fan will tell you that the quality often differs from Pub to Pub even in Erie.

Our best advice to you g backpackers who want things to be the same as thy were back home, is stay home!

NEWCOMERS CANADA FAIR

A large number of young backpackers who book stays in Toronto Hostels are here on “Working Holiday Visas”.

These are issued by the government to foreign nationals from countries with reciprocal agreements with Canada.

These visas are typically valid for one calendar year. In the case of some countries (Ireland and Australia, for example) the visas are valid for two years. The visas are age restricted and the cut off for eligibility is usually around the age of thirty to thirty-two.  (Again, wholly dependent on the bilateral agreement their country has negotiated with Canada.)

These temporary workers annually number in the thousands. As “strangers in a strange land” feeling your way around can be quite intimidating.

To facilitate young arrivals navigation of the job market, they have instituted a “Newcomers Canada Fair”. 

It is being held this coming weekend (September 7-8)  just 4 blocks from our hostels doors at the Sheraton Hotel on Queen Street, West (directly opposite the City Hall)

Here you can meet Government Immigration Officials, Employers, Recruiters, Credential Recognition Services, English Language Supports, as well as Immigration Experts, Education Providers, Settlement and Arrival Services.

Entry to this event is free if  you register in advance online. If you don’t, there is a $10 entry fee charged at the door.

Their website (where you can pre-register) is here:

http://www.newcomerscanada.ca/

This might be time well spent for job hunters and new arrivals this coming weekend.

 

 

 

TORONTO FanXPo and C.N.E.

Of all Toronto Hostels, ours is the closest to the CN Tower; the Rogers Sports Centre; and the massive Toronto Convention Centre.

As a result, a lot of our hostels guests frequently attend sporting, music and special events on a whim.  (We re also close to the Air Canada Centre a hockey, basketball and music concert venue.

This year, the Toronto “FanExpo” (a,k,a, “Comic Con”) held it’s convention held annually since 1995. It’s humble beginning was a comic book convention attracting about 15oo fans. 

From this humble beginning, the re-branded “FanXpo” was held at the Toronto Convention Centre (3 blocks from our hostels front door) sprawling over 750,000 sq. feet. It is now one of the largest pop-culture events in North America with tens of thousands of visitors.

Since it encompasses “Comic Books”; “Sci-fi” (books, TV and Film); “Anime”; “Horror” and “Gaming”, there is a little something for almost everybody’s taste.

Several of our hostels backpacker guests attended because it was close and of interest to young travelers. Perhaps fortunately, we didn’t have any Klingons in full regalia; Star Trek uniformed Space Cadets; Horror Movie Monsters; or pointed-ear Vulcans.

But we have had them in the past. The point is that our hostels close to virtually everything Toronto has to offer.

Right now, there is the Annual Canadian National Exhibition (C.N.E.) on close by our hostel at the foot of Bathurst Street.

It is the world’s largest permanent annual exhibition. It s on until September 2d. Thus Trade Fair has something for everybody and many of our hostels guests will be heading there this week.

FanXpo has evolved into 3rd largest pop-culture event in North America.

A “Vulcan” or “Furrengi” Cat?

Robocop?

Sexy Marvel Comics Fans.

Dressed for Sci-Fi Convention.

NATALIA

Our lovely guest, a long-term backpacker, Natalia Preciado left us this week on the overnight bus to New York City – the Big Apple.

Natalia is visiting New York on the final stop of her year-long North American odyssey which she spent in various hostels across the land.

She made a lot of friends during her time in Toronto but was lured west by the mountains. Needless to say, she simply loved them!

But before heading back to her native Barcelona, she paid one last visit to Toronto to bid old friends farewell.

Toronto does not have majestic mountains; but, we are convinced that of all the hostels she has stayed in, our Toronto Hostel was her favourite.

That’s because lovely Natalia was one of the nicest ladies we have ever hosted and as such was one of the hostels favourite guests.

From our point-of-view, affection is mutual. She’s only been gone two days and we already miss her shining presence.

… Dustin and Pat – cycling

The word “Biker” is a word that is usually calls to mind an anti-social, “outlaw motorcyclist”.

Not so in the world of backpackers.

There is a distinct breed of traveler who have elected to journey long-distances on two wheels.

Summer is the time when Toronto hostels host a good number of two-wheeled travelers. It is a cool mid-August (normally the hottest part of Toronto summer), and the unusually cool temperatures (low 20’sC) are particularly pleasing to some “biker” backpackers.

Justin is a young Canadian from Nelson, B.C., who decided to see his native land on his own power. He began his cross-Canada odyssey in Tofino on Vancouver Island and headed east on his trusty bicycle.

Pat, is an adventurous American “Biker” who hails from Denver, Colorado. But his “bike” is considerably faster than Justin’s. He rode into Toronto on a BMW GS800 touring bike that has been designed to tackle bad road conditions.

Justin continued his journey heading east bound for St. John’s, Newfoundland where he plans to dip his foot in the Atlantic, having traversed Canada from sea-to-sea.

Pat left for Toronto Airport, to catch a flight to Scotland where he has shipped his bike ahead for the second leg of his journey. His travel segments will include: the U.K.; western-Europe; eastern Europe; mid-East; India; southeast-Asia; and Australia.

It seems that two-wheeled travel (with or without motor) is real “adventure backpacking”. The on;y real difference is the amount of distance covered.

(Pat has an excellent website/journal: www.apatonamotorcycle.com)

Wouter

We have people from all over the world working at our hostel. All hostels require a dedicated staff in order to ensure smooth operation.

Of all the backpacker hostels in Toronto, the Canadiana Backpacker’s Inn is the most centrally located. While many other hostels claim to be a short 5 minute walk to the CN Tower and Skydome, we are the only one that actually is that close. (Exactly three blocks to be precise).

Wouter (Walter) Visser first came to Toronto from his native South Africa in 2006. Walter, is a South African Boer, who are the only white race to claim Southern African roots. As luck would have it, Walter holds both South African and Canadian Citizenship through his mother.

He is a key player on our hostels staff. He exemplifies the type of worker needed to maintain a high rating among other hostels. Most quality hostels do their best to maintain staff as most realize that for hostels to keep a high customer satisfaction rating, a low staff turnover is essential.

Walter (Wouter) has been given the nickname “Meerkat” after the uniquely South African animal. Anyone who knows what a Meerkat looks like need only look at Walter’s picture below, to understand why he as that particular moniker.

 

Woulter - Toronto Hostels

Wouter (a.k.a. “Walter; a.k.a. “Meerkat”).

IT’S SAFE TO GO IN THE WATER!

It’s safe to go in the water again! (And NOT just because the recent Discovery Channel “documentary” on the MEGALODON SHARK has been exposed as a fraud).

There are a lot of beaches in Canada. Most likely many, many thousands. After all, we have over 3 million lakes and the longest coastline in the world.

Most of them are located in pristine wilderness inaccessible to man. So you can bet your life they are clean!

Of beaches that are used regularly by the general public for recreational purposes, 18 have achieved the International World Standard of a “Blue Flag” rating.

For a beach to earn a coveted Blue Flag designation, a rigid set of cleanliness standards must me maintained. One of the barometers is that it must have less than 250 parts of e-coli pollutants per million. (The Ontario Provincial Standard is much higher demanding less than 100 parts per million!)

In spite of this rigorous standard, 8 of Toronto’s 11 beaches are rated Blue Flag Beaches! Water quality is checked daily and as of August 12, 2013, all 11 beaches were deemed safe to swim in.

It is the City of Toronto’s aim to have all of Toronto’s Beaches earn the Blue Flag rating. 

ELI VISITS AGAIN!

Back during Christmas of ’05, we had a novice backpacker visit from New Jersey, U.S.A. In fact, our Toronto hostel was his first experience with hostels anywhere.

Eli decided to spend that Christmas here in Toronto. We’re pretty sure he enjoyed his visit. This summer (August 23d to be precise) he has booked his 5th stay at the hostel. This will be his first visit during the summer.

Eli is originally from El Salvador and as a result is fluently bilingual (English/Spanish). I think he was surprised how much Spanish was spoken in the hostels common areas. He met fellow backpackers from Spain and students from Latin America.

In many ways his visit to Toronto was a life altering experience.

Eli was slightly overweight and painfully shy. He sat quietly observing the Canadiana Backpacker’s Inn’s legendary conviviality. But he was quickly drawn into the social aspect of the hostels daily life. 

Eli quickly made a lot of friends and although he does not drink alcohol, he enjoyed the Toronto nightlife with fellow hostel guests.

Since that first visit almost eight years ago, Eli life has changed radically. He lost a lot of weight (about 35 kilos) through disciplined eating habits and has become a proficient (trophy winning) practitioner of Kempo-Style Karate.

Like so many of our hostels repeat guests, Eli has become more than just another traveler. He is a friend that we look forward to welcoming here again next week.

Pics on left and right is”heavyweight” Eli. Centre pic is Eli 85 lbs. lighter in “Fighting Trim”.

« Older Entries