Archive for December, 2009

Tony is Back! (Again!)

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Tony Giles, a.k.a. “Tony the Tiger” or “Tony the Traveler”, joined us for Christmas this year.

So many of our Backpackers have a love of travel; but, few can compare with Tony’s passion for the road!

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He hails from the U.K. and has visited every continent (except Antarctica); all fifty states of the United States; all ten Canadian Provinces as well as Territories.

He travels alone and has had some wild adventures, in spite of being blind and 80% deaf. There are half a dozen previous entries on our hostel blog following his travels and he even has his own website: (Check it out!)

We hadn’t seen Tony for, at least, a year and early on, we were a little concerned about him.

Tony has faced many challenges in his life but when we last saw him, he was in need of a kidney transplant. As we all know, the lineup is always long awaiting a sitable organ doner.

Thanks to a generous and selfless gift from his stepfather, Tony got his kidney! We followed his progress through the operation and it was a glorious success!

Tony left us after Christmas heading south to visit friends in the Carolinas of ther southern U.S. Then plans on heading to Mexico and then to Belize in Central America.

From there? Who knows? We only find out from the occasional email he sends us or by checking out his website!

Tony has faced so many obstacles in his life and he always prevails. That’s why we call him “Tony the Tiger”!


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Tony (third from left) with hostel staff.

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Tony in Toronto and  finding a statue of a fellow Englishman named “Winston”.

Christmas 2009 at the Canadiana

Saturday, December 26th, 2009

Well, our Christmas celebration just seems to get better and better each year. One thing that is certain is that it definitely gets bigger and bigger with each passing year.

If you look back on our entry for our annual brunch/dinner in 2007, I believe you will find that we had about 80 guests for the meal.

Then, in 2008 we about 95 celebrate Christmas with us.

Teresa our Head of  Houeskeeping prepares a lot of turkey with all the trimmings and a wonderful assortment of desserts! In 2008, Teresa cooked eight very large turkeys for the meal. There was just enough turkey to satisfy all!

There is always enough food to go around; you see, we’ve done this many times before. However, we always ask that you inform us of your intention to attend so we will know how much food will be needed.

This year (2009) we had 95 guests signal their intention to join us for a Christmas meal.

But we always had a few others pitch up unannounced in years past so we make a little extra food to accomodate them. This year it seemed it was going to ne a repeat of 2008 and was decided to prepare nine very large birds!

The extra guests straggled in as expexcted – a lot of them! (Some of our staff estimate that more than 110 people showed up prepared to eat!)

Our Toronto Hostel’s motto is: “It feels like home”!  And we do our best to live up to those words. We would never even consider turning away guests, former guests or friends who have nowhere else to celebrate Christmas.

But we were in danger of running out of turkey before everyone had a portion. That would be a disaster!

But our noble staff members stepped up to the plate (or away form the plate, so to speak) and did without any turkey dinner! (Bless ‘em all!)

Our staff didn’t mind making the sacrifice. You see, the hostel had a staff dinner the week before at Alice Fazooli’s! (Check out the previous entry.)

Anyhow we thank you all for joining us at Christmas and wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

- Your friends, the staff of Canadiana Backpackers, Toronto.

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Alice’s Restaurant

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Alright, it isn’t the one in the 1960′s Ballad by Arlo Guthre.

It’s Alice Fazooli’s the closest bar/restaurant to our hostel. It is situated just 50 meters from our front door!

It is an upscale establishment specializing in pasta and other Italian dishes. It is a pretty classy bar/eatery and looks as if it would be prohibitively expensive.

It actually isn’t!

The place is enormous and beautfully appointed. Raoul (a former Legionnaire and regular visitor to our Toronto Hostel) will drink nowhere else during his leave from his security contracting job in war-torn Baghdad.

He calls it the “Posh Bar” (because it is). It is beautifully appointed with leather chairs, spotless washrooms and is softly lit providing an elegant ambiance!

Their enormous bar often has nightly “specials” (pints of Heniekin or Stella Artois beer for only $4 or $4.50 on certain evenings).

Enrtrees average $15 and bar snacks (like their excellent indivdual pizzas) will run about $7.95.

We held our staff Chritsmas dinner there last Monday.  Although we have a big turkey dinner wth our guests on Christmas Day our staff is usually too busy attending to our backpacker guests to socalize among themselves. Hence, the early celebtation.

Dress Code  at Alice Fazooli’s?  (Tuxedo’s or Blue Jeans – your choice!)

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First Snow

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

Today, December 9 2009, saw Toronto’s first appreciable snowfall of this winter’s season. The snow seems to arrive much later as the years pass and it must be a consequence of Global Warming!

In the past (the 1950′s, 1960′s and 1970′s) for instance  a “White Christmas” (i.e. with plenty of snow) was virtually certain. Today they are few and far between.

It is likely that Toronto will have a “Green Christmas” this year even though there is quite a bit of snow on the ground this morning. The afternoon is forcast to be +5C and the snow is already melting causing floods and sloppy road conditions.

In recent years you haven’t seen much snow until January and February and mid-March is pretty much the end of winter in Toronto.

The lack of snow has, in the past, played havoc with ski resorts just north of the city. However, this year, there is at least a foot of snow just north of  Toronto (away from the moderating influence of Lake Ontario).

We’ll just have to wait and see how long this milder weather will last this season. Most Canadians (with the exception of skiiers) really appreciate the lack of snowfall!

But one thing is certain. The few inches of snow that it on the ground today will not be there tomorrow!

H1N1 Vaccine

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

There has been a fierce debate going on as to whether or not to get the vaccine against the H1N1 virus a.k.a. “Swine Flu”.

A lot of myths and legends have accompanied the controversy. (Some people just have to pee on the electric fence to find out it is a bad idea!)

I got both flu shots today. The H1N1 is a bit sore and I’ll admit that some recipents have suffered mild flu symptoms (allegedly) because of the vaccine.

I contracted the Swine Flu back in 1976. It was, without a doubt, the worst thing I have ever experienced! You are so ill that, at first, you think you are going to die; then, as time passes, you think you are never going to die! (And it can kill you!)

The H1N1 Virus was identified during the 1918 Flu Pandemic that killed millions! It was scientifically confirmed over six decades ago.

In the 21st Century, we have the technology to prevent the debilitating illness. I hope those who refuse to take advantage of ther vaccine’s availability don’t have to suffer the consequences!

If you want the vaccine, just go to the Metro Hall (just two blocks south of the hostel @ King and John Streets) get in line and roll up your sleeve.


Saturday, December 5th, 2009

The Liquor Control Board of Ontario (Control, being the operative word)  is the largest single purchaser of wines and spirits in the world.

Why? Because the L.C.B.O. is a monopoply in the Province of Ontario. Were it not a government ogran, it would likely be illegal and facing anti-trust action.

Anyone who has visited our hostel in Toronto will know that simply buying a six pack of beer or bottle of wine, involves a 15 to 20 minute hike to Chinatown where the nearest liquor store is (was) located.

Yesterday (Friday December 4th) saw a brand new L.C.B.O. outlet open its’ doors less than four blocks from the hostel doors!

Did I mention that it is huge? It is an 8,500 sq. ft. oasis at the corner of King and Spadina Streets and is much more convenient for hostel guests.

In the past people have wondered why we didn’t operate a bar as part of the hostel.

(If we did it would only be to the detriment of our guests).  Were we a licenced establishment, it would be illegal to bring liquor into the hostel and drinking would be prohibited after 2AM.

Anyhow, the new L.C.B.O. outlet is located a mere four blocks from our doors.  This is great news for any previous guest who might remember the brutal hike to Chinatown on a cold winter’s day!

Thanks L.C.B.O. for an early Christmas present!


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Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

We’ve got so many Irish guests with “tick” accents right now, that we thought it best we hire a staff member who could communicate with them.

Nathan is a Dubliner who is on a working/holiday for one year. He’s pretty computer savvy so he a definite asset on reception.

He is also an extremely masculine “stud-muffin” who is quite irresistable to the opposite sex. (This must be true as he told me this himself!)

Then again, it could just be “Blarney” or “Malarkey” (which are Irish slang terms for B.S.!)

Anyhow, Nathan studied business in Dublin and landed an excellent job in banking. He left a pretty good job for travel/adventure.

But working holiday visa’s are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and the reciprocal agreements (as we have previously mentioned) are only for the young.

He’s been a conscientious and valued worker who does a first-rate job when not busy fending off unwanted advances from all the ladies! (At least, that’s the way he describes as his cross-to-bear.)

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Kiwi Kop

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

Ray is a Chinese New Zealander who has taken extended leave from his government job in Auckland.

He’s here on a work/travel visa and intends on heading to England for a second year of a working holiday. And if he can swing it, he would like to take a third year leave of absence.

Ray is a Police Officer with the N.Z. Constabulary. Apparently, there aren’t a lot of Chinese officers on the force so his service is valued.

He also speaks Cantonese, which is fairly unusual for Chinese born “abroad”  especially in countries with small Asian populations.

His plan is to head west to Vancouver to apply for position in security for the coming Winter Olympics. With his police experience, he’s likely a shoo-in for the job.

He’s also an avid snowboarder coming from a country with beautiful mountains and excellent ski slopes.

He’s also an incredibly hard worker. When not on duty, Ray holds down a job as an event photographer for a locak radio station. (His photographic skills are really quite remarkable.)

He also manages a Chinese Restaurant owned by his family on weekends he has off. Ray’s varied work experince should make it pretty easy for him to find employment.

The reason he plans to extend his working/holiday for as long as possible is that the program is for young people (under 30) only. And Ray is rapidly reaching the upper age limit and after that working/holiday visas will no longer be granted.

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