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Monday, May 31st, 2010

Matt and Alex are a pair of Italians who like to travel “off the beaten track”.

They arrived in Toronto and checked into our hostel last week and began planning their “Canadian Adventure”.

They plan to purchase a vehicle and take to the roads and explore Canada coast-to-coast.

The pair are no strangers to exploring the less-traveled roads of really large countries. This is their second advemture having explored the vast Australian outback form the east coast all the way to Perth in Western Austrailia.

They were forced to move to another hostel for three days as we were fully booked (as we usually are at this time of year.) But as soon as beds became available, they checked back in to our hostel.

They plan a road/camping trip interrupted by brief interludes to work on farms as a means of subsidizing their travels.

They plan to head east perhaps to the scenic Cape Breton and then head across Canada to Vancouver and the Yukon.

Matt has expressed concern about camping and the possible danger of bears. So we’ll refer him to a previous blog entry (just last week) “Lions and Tigers and Bears…Oh My.”

That entry was about a Black Bear attack that occurred rec ently just a few hours north of Toronto. A hiker was severly mauled but survived.

We’ll repeat the link here as the site tell you about prudence and precautions you should take, understand and follow when camping in Canada.

But keep in mind that BEAR ATTACKS ARE EXTREMELY RARE in Canada.

Here is the link:


Thursday, May 27th, 2010

“GET INVOLVED” that has become the admonition and slogan of the 2st Century. It is a call for everyone to go out and exercise as well as encouraging involement in pressing social issues.

This can entail an enormous variety of “involvements”; from merely joining a gym to taking part ill-advised – and likely pointless – civil disobendience at the upcoming G20 Conference.

We at the Canadiana Hostel in Toronto decided to organize events that combines both exercise and social involvement at the same time.

So we loaded up a dozen or so backpackers into our fourteen seater van and headed to O’Conner Bowling alley in Toronto where an organization called L’Arche was holding a “tournament” to raise money.

The name “L’Arche” is French for “The Ark”, as in Noah’s Ark. L’Arche is a worldwide organization welcoming people from many different faith traditions, as well as people who have no formal affiliation with any particular religious tradition.

But The people supported by L’Arche have developmental disabilities whom, at one time, were “institutionalized” – out of sight and out of mind. With L’Arche they live together with a small group of volunteers as functioning memebers of society.

L’Arch is the brainchild of Jean Vanier, son of the late Canadian Governor, Major General General Georges Vanier. He is a second generation warrior, scholar and humanitarian who founded L’Arche almost half a century ago.

The international council of L’Arche is now represented by 30 people from 14 countries, and the international council of Faith and Light was represented by 19 people from 17 countries, including France, Belgium, Switzerland, Great Britain, Ireland, India, Canada, USA, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Brazil, Uganda, New Zealand, Philippines, and Italy.

It is a positive irony that Vanier, a second generation veteran of Canada’s wars is now waging a battle against apathy and ignorance. He has taught Canadians, and indeed, the world, that in such battles there are rewards and glory, enough for all.

We will continue to support orgasnizations such as L’Arche in the future.


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Jamie, Vera, Masa, Mark and “Muffin” with Hostel Mgr. Sandra, in front.

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Jean Vanier


Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

It’s a little early in the season for a heat-wave; nonetheless, we are in the middle of one right now and it is still another four weeks before summer arrives officially.

Unofficially, Toronto celebrates the arrival of summer with Victoria Day Weekend on May 24th.

Last summer, backpackers visiting our hostel were spared the oppressive humidity that usually holds Toronto in its’ grip with untrelenting fury.

Last year Toronto was blessed with a remarkably temperate summer season; but, it doesn’t appear this year we will have a repeat of cool summer weather.

The city had its’ first Heat-Alert of the season issued on the 24th of May and the official start of summer is not until June 20th.

The temperature in Toronto rarely rises above the mid 30′s Celcius. But the hight temperature is usually accompanied by high humidity that makes it feel much, much hotter.

Even when the temperature is in the low 30′s C, the humidity can cause people sitting in the shade to sweat misrerably.

The forecast this year is for a hot-humid summer. This will be a great season to head north to the Muskoka cottage country and perhaps take in a little camping at Algonquin Provincial Park about 3 hours north of the city.

Where to eat?

Monday, May 24th, 2010

One of the first question the staff fields from newly arrived backpackers is where to eat. This being the Entertainment District of Toronto, there are quite a few places to eat in the area.

So it’s easiest for the staff to choose and recommend the places where theylike to eat.  Here are some of the selections from an informal poll of Canadiana staff members. All are within easy walking distance of the hostel.
Here is the link to eateries that are all within a five minute (or less) walk of the hostel:


Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

We used to think that Bowling Green was in Kentucky. It is. We’ve just learned that it is also in Ohio! (A bit confusing actually.)

We’ve just met Whit Watt (I promise you, that’s his name!) He’s a pedagogue who lives in Bowling Green, Ohio and teaches Geography at Indiana University – in Pennsylvania!

Confused? Never mind. Just take our word for it.

Whit arrived at our hostel with colleague Kevin Patrick for the second time in four years. They have brought another group of a dozen undergrads to Toronto as part of an examinaton of the St. Lawrence/Great Lakes Eco-system.

I have absolutely NO DOUBT that the students enjoyed our city! The young adults (aged 19 to 20) are of legal age-of-majority here in Canada!

They took advantage of Toronto’s nightlife and visited the pubs and bars which are plentiful within mere steps of the hostel’s doors!

Some of our staff members sat up chatting with Whit until the wee hours of the morning while he waited – a little stressed, to say the least – for his charges to return from the bacchanals occasioined by their newly attained legal status.

They have left for Niagara Falls this A.M. on their way home. We hope Whit and Kevin bring another group of students next year!

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Whit Watt of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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The IUP group  on our front steps.

Lions and Tigers and Bears…Oh My!

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Alright. We don’t have any lions and tigers in the Canadian woods. But we Do have bears! Lot’s of them.

I’m writing this blog because of a news item in today’s Toronto Star:

“Muskoka man too traumatized to talk after bear attack.”

It seems a hiker has been attacked and severly mauled by a Black Bear on a hiking trail near Orillia, Ontario. This is an area just over an hour’s drive north from Toronto. The Muskoka cottage region is a popular summer destination.

Another reason I am writing this stems from a recent conversation I had with a friend from the U.K. I have always regarded her a a bright, articulate and well-read individual.

She informed me categorically that Black Bears DO NOT attack people. (Tell that to the guy in the Intensive Care Unit after his meeting with Mr.Bruin in Muskoka.)

In this instance, my friend is sadly misinformed. Bear attacks are extremely rare. But they DO occur.

Earlier this year, we also had a young girl hiker mauled-to-death by coyotes on a hike in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Before this incident, no one had even heard of coyotes attacking an adult human.

Keep in mind that wild animal attacks on humans are extremely rare in Canada.

You may legally carry a “Bear Spray” that can be purchased in most outdoor stores such as “Mountain Equipment Co-op” located just two blocks from the hostel.

Does the spray work? I personally have never used it but I imagine it is considerably more effective than throwing rocks!

Here is a link to a Parks Canada website that tells you what to do should you have a threatening encounter with a bear:

But don’t agonize over the possibility of a bear encounter. A lot of my friends who were born and raised here in Ontario have never seen a bear outside of a zoo!

But DO enjoy our fabulous north country!

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Shakespeare in Action

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

“Shakespeare in Action was established in 1988 by Founding Artistic Director, Michael Kelly. We continue to bring Shakespeare to young people across Ontario through innovative programs and critically acclaimed theatre productions.”

The blub above is lifted right off the “Shakespeare in Action” website.  It is an ambitious project aimed at fostering literacy and cultural development through exploring and performing Shakespearean plays.

The annual festival hosts studernts from schools in Ontario and across Canada in a competition of performances of Shakespeare’s and other classical plays.

Our Toronto hostel hosted a very talented and obviously gifted group of a dozen young students from Edmonton, Alberta.  And “very talented and obviously gifted” is the operative phrase.

The competition is divided into several categories. Duologues; Group Scenes; Movement and Dance; Costume and Set Design.

Our little group from Western Canada cleaned up in every category!

This “very talented” and “gifted” group of young thespians does a ot of things right it would appear. Ther first was choosing the Canadiana as their base inToronto  so they could enjoy sight-seeing excursions in their free time.

The Royal Ontario Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario, Chinatown and other attractions located within walking distance of trhe hostel.

We think our talented group of students enjoyed their time with us and we have been told by the organizers of the group that they plan to come again nextr year.

We look forward to hosting the winners again!

Yankee Miscreants!

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

OK. We’ve notified the Immigration Department; Border Services; the R.C.M.P. (Mounties) and the Toronto Police. (I guess that’s all we can do!)

We just got a booking from the infamous “Yankee Miscreants” who are do to arrive for their third visit in a few weeks!

They have (unfortunately) taken a liking to Toronto and the Canadiana Hostel.  They are typical young Americans lads, which is to say they are loud and irritating!

They hail from Milwuakee, Wisconsin (a city hiding on the western bank of Lake Michigan.)

Like a lot of young Americans, they love  Canada, Toronto and this hostel but only because they can legally drink here! Once they reach the age of majority, we are not likely to see them again!

They are a fun-loving group we affectionately dubbed the “Yankee Miscreants”. They are boisterous, intemperate, politically incorrect and culturally bankrupt.

But they can’t hang you for that (except in Texas maybe.)

On their last trip to Toronto, we were spared their antics when they decided to move on to Montreal after only two days.

Apparently, they left Quebec in a hurry – one step ahead of a mob with tar, feathers and a rail and the Surete de Quebec!

We are still trying to get authorities to issue a “shoot-on-sight” order. After meeting ths group, you will never again ask the question, “What good are handguns?”

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Khongchee and Daniel.  Gang signals? (Daniel is actually a Police Officer with the Milwaukee P.D.)


Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Every once in a while, we get a pleasant surprise here at our Toronto Hostel. Old friends return to renew aquaintences with friends, hostel staff and the city.

One of the most recent surprise arrivals is Nichole from Cleveland, Ohio located just to the southwest on the American shore of Lake Erie.

Most of our “old friends” warn us in advance of their impending visit; or at least, make a booking we can recognize.

Not Nichole.

She showed up out of the blue and it has been more than three years since she was here.

Over the years she has maintained contact with staff and backpackers she met back in 2007 many of whom are scattered around the world. And she hasn’t sat still in Cleveland herself.

She has spent some time working in India and upon return, she landed a position that trained her as a Yellowstone Park Guide.

So we took her out to dinner and drinks at the soon to be closed “Alice Fazooli’s”, a place of which she had some fond memories.

It is really nice to know that even after an exotic adventure in South Asia and a few seasons in the majestic Yellowstone, she still thinks fondly of Toronto and the Canadiana Backpackers Inn.

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Sophie (from the Netherlands) having a toast with Nichole.

Superwoman’s Birthday!

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

On staff birthdays at our hostel in Toronto we usually have some food, drinks, a cake etc., with just staff and close friends to help celebrate the occasion.

It is a little different when Teresa – our head of housekeeping and resident superwoman – has a birthday.

All of the staff and her friends gather at her home in the west end of the city where Teresa hosts and caters the party herself.

(Why not? After all, she does all the work at the hostel!)

And Teresa puts on a real feast! This year we had her famous lasagna, roast beef, BBQ chicken, fish, roast potatoes and fried rice and salad.

We all have birthday’s once a year; but Teresa’s is the most popular occasion. Go figure?

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