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Of all the Toronto Hostels, it could only happen here! (At least, it seems that way.)
It happened in our “Quiet Room” – an area where backpackers gather to relax, chat and eat or just sit and use their laptop computers – an oddly (very oddly) dressed lady began an inpromptu and very entertaining show.
Mary Jeeves, who hails from Edmonton, was visiting Toronto but was not someone who was your typical backpacker. In fact, you wouldn’t describe her as a typical anything! She is a very unique individual!
Clad in her rather outrageous outfit, she entertained her fellow guests with a remarkably dexterous demonstration of juggling.
You see, Mary is a professional clown who works for a company who provides entertainment for children’s events Her jobs are mainly confined to hospitals and children’s events for charities , churches and care givers.
We’ve had other types of entertainers put on impromptu “shows” in our common areas and patio. Singers, musicians (both amature and professional) and even a hypnotist w2ho put on a hilarious performance.
Such things might occur at other hostels in Toronto; but, they definitely happen here with great regularity! In fact, we have impromptu performances out on our patio in the summer and in our indoor common areas in the colder weather.
Singers, musicians abound of both the amatuer and professional variety. This is particularly true during major music festivals in Toronto when quite a number of performers opt to stay in hostels.
We’ve even had a hypnotist put on a hilarious show for our guests.
So when you come to join our hostel “family” don’t forget to pack your talent for the trip.
(The French Folk Duo “Tabernak:, donated their (autographed) acoustic guitar to the hostel at the end of their stay and is available for guitarists who have neglected to pack their “axe”.)
Paul playing the donated guitar.
Paul with Candace, vocalist for the French Folk Duo “Tabernak”.
Let’s be right out front with this. We are getting pretty sick of British and Irish backpackers who insist on telling us how “bad” our bacon is, compared to the bacon they get back home.
As usual, they don’t know what they are talking about (no more than they know anything about good food!)
To be fair, the most commonly eaten bacon in Canada is pretty mediocre – okay, it’s pretty bad. Sort of like the majority of bread eaten here. Sliced, white, full of preservatives, and short on nutrition.
That’s because in our multi-cultural society we get food from all around the world. So there is really no such thing as “Canadian” food.
But there is such a thing as Canadian Bacon!
The majority of the bacon you buy pre-packaged in grocery stores is of the American variety. It is paper thin, fatty, expensive; but, quite tasty. But it is not “Canadian Bacon”. In fact, it is actually American style “pork belly” bacon.
Toronto has been known as “Hogtown” since before the mid 1800′s. That was merely one of the sobriquets given to the city and it has stuck to this day, intended as a bit of an insult.
But that’s not how the city got the name. Since the early 19th Century, Toronto was the leading pork producer in North America and supplied the majority of “salt pork” products to the United Kingdom.
The “bacon” so beloved by people of Britian and Ireland is actually more like ham. It was first produced right here in Toronto and the Americans still refer to it as “Canadian Bacon”.
We simply call it “Back Bacon” or “Peameal Bacon”. Only the Irish consistently do bacon the way we do it here and do a pretty good job of it too.
Visit Toronto’s historic St. Lawrence Market for quality meats and vegetables. You will find quite a few stalls selling back bacon/peameal bacon sandwiches.
Now that is Canadian Bacon, eh?
On the left is “pork belly” – what you’ve likely been eating.
This is Canadian Bacon!
Where in the city is the Canadiana Backpacker’s Inn located? Right downtown! That’s where!
The photo attached to this entry was taken on our front porch in the summer of 2010. You could step out of our front door, look to your right and see Toronto’s landmark CN Tower just 3 blocks south.
The building to the left of the tower is Phase One of the Festival Towers which adjoins the Bell Lightbox housing the HQ of the Toronto International Film Festival.
The hostel’s close relationship to the tower will soon be a thing of the past.
We are not moving. The Tower is not moving. It is just that the city is growing.
You see, phase two of the development of the centre of the “Entertainment District” (where we are located) will see the construction of another 45 story building of luxury condominium units.
They will place it right between the hostel and the tower!
We will still be on a quiet sidestreet although right in the middle of the city amid high rise condos and office buildings. But it will no longer be so obvious with the loss of the tower view.
Nonetheless, we are still an oasis of quaint Victorian Era buildings, on sidestreet virtually right in the middle of Toronto’s busy Theatre/Nightclub/Rrestaurant/Entertainment District.
Present Tower View (2010) will be blocked by new Theatre Festival Development by 2011.
There is a special group of long term backpackers staying in our Toronto Hostel. They are here to study English and there are lots of them!
They usually arrive in groups from places like France, Spain, Mexico, South America, Japan and virtually every non-English speaking European Union nation.
The problem is that most of these “groups” retreat into a a comfort zone of cultural and linguistic similarities. Spanish speakers, French speakers, Japanese etc., tend to congregate and as a result don’t learn as much English as they could have.
Lovely little Maria from Madrid is an notable exception from this syndrome. When she is addressed in her native tongue, she invariably demands that English be spoken.
As a result, Maria’s English has shown a marked improvement in a very short period of time.
If only all language students would follow her example. Her time and opportunity are being used wisely. In this age of Globalization, superior English skills often translates as increased employment prospects.
Travel for young people has been greatly simplified in 21st Century. Youth travelers are the recipients of benefits from the growth of an idea begun 101 years ago.
At the turn of the 20th Century, travel was real adventure. Huge portions of our planet has yet to see the footprint of man; certain tribes had yet to be encountered; travel and tourism infrastructure was severely limited and expensive. In short, travel was an “expedition” and restricted to the wealthy.
But travel was truly a grand adventure! It only began to fade towards the end of the 1970′s.
The first “Youth Hostel” was conceived by Richard Schirrmann, a German teacher who organized trips and excursions for his students.
The idea of creating Youth Hostels came when a rainstorm forced his group to take shelter in a schoolhouse. In 1909, Schirrmann began using schools closed for summer vacation to house young travelers.
Our Toronto hostel is a direct descendent of this early vision. But how much has changed in a century!
Even as late as the 1980′s most hostels were “youth” oriented an imposed age restrictions on guests. Books were written with titles like, “Europe on $5 a Day” – eventually increased to $10 , then $20 etc.
Age restrictions no longer apply. (See earlier entry: “8 Months to 80 Years” – 10/6/2010)
Today, travel is much easier and backpackers who were once adventurous iconoclasts seeking greener pastures have given away to a sub-culture in which travel/backpacking is almost a modern rite of passage.
Low-cost air travel, backpacker’s inns providing budget accommodation in remote and exotic locales and a lowered age of majority in many countries have altered the zeitgeist of backpacking.
Is it better today than it was say the backpacking of the ’60 an ’70′s? Absolutely – in many, many ways.
Travel is easier. Travel is cheaper. Travel is arguably safer too. Working/holiday visas are easily obtainable. Paths are well-worn and explored.
Forty or fifty years ago you could recognize fellow travelers/backpackers when they sat in a cafe smoking cigarettes from back home; or sat reading the International Herald Tribune; or pouring over maps while eating fast-food burgers.
Today it is more common to meet in public bars operated by hostels in hostels. So many want to “Do Europe” or “Do America” aor “Do Asia” etc.
Yes. Backpacking today is easier. It is more convenient. It is much less expensive.
But we’ve somehow lost the fierce independent spirit of early backpackers. There still exists “roads less traveled” and adventurous travelers who would see them out.
Our best advice to backpackers of the 21st Century. You’ll have plenty of years left to abuse your livers; but, there’s a whole wide world out there for you to explore. So go and grab a piece of it while you are young!
(See previous entry:”Tony the Tiger – Published!“ 10/29/2010)
“Two For the Road” in the 21st Century.
Hippies “Backpacking” in Amsterdam circa 1965.