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Archive for July, 2014
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It’s that time of year again! The Caribana Festival (now known as The Scotiabank Caribbean Festival) began in 1967 as a Centennial Project of the Caribbean/Canadian Community.
From that humble beginning, the celebration has evolved into the largest street festival in North America.
It really could only happen in Toronto, a city known as a muli-cultural society in which cultural differences are celebrated rather than feared.
This years weekend events (which culminated in yesterday’s colourful parade) attracted more than 1.3 million tourists and injected some $400 million to the city’s economy.
This year, the weather also co-operated and provided bright sunshine (and a steaming 29C!)
Iman, a staff member who still co-ordinates a number of hostel events, escorted a group (more than 15) of backpackers to witness and participate in the parade (or jump up, if you will).
The ladies all got free Henna tattoos which are very attractive and, more importantly, you can easily wash them off.
Then Iman got them all back to the hostel safely (i.e. avoiding heatstroke and dehydration).
So, another Caribbean Festival is over for the season; you`ll have to come back next year to`jump up`.
Toronto is often called “Hollywood North” because of the number of films shot with the city as a backdrop. In fact, the multi-award winning musical “Chicago” was filmed right here with Toronto doubling for the “Windy City”.
The industry has taken a hit of late, largely due to the sorry state of the U.S. economy and the tumbling value of the American dollar.
When the Canadian “loonie” was almost 20% less than the U.S. greenback, filming say, a 40 million dollar movie in Canada was a “no brain necessary” choice. You simply saved almost 8 million dollars!
The Canadian dollar now sits around $1.06 U.S. and film production in Toronto suffered accordingly.
But oddly, a lot of major U.S. productions have come to Toronto this summer?
Why? Well, several reasons.
One is due to excellent crews and facilities. Another is the safety of crews and production equipment.
For instance, a sequel to the enormously successful “Total Recall” is being filmed here in Toronto. The original starred Arnold Schwarzenegger and the sequel, Colin Ferrel.
It is has an enormous budget estimated 200 million U.S. dollars . At the curent exchange rate, it could theorhetically raise the cost of production by close to $20 million.
Last weekend, a section of Lakeshore Boulevard was closed to traffic for a day to facilitate the filming of a chase scene for the mega-buck production. A U.S. film critic commented that if the same were tried in Los Angeles, they might risk a street riot in protest.
Our hostel has had two fims shot right within our walls this year alone and Widmer Street (where the hostel occupies almost a full block) has been the setting for several films and rock videos.
The world-famous Toronto International Film Festival kicks off in September just one block south of our hostels door at the Bell LightboxTheatre.
So if you come to Toronto and choose to stay at our hostel, there is a good chance you’ll be “seeing stars”.
The 23d TIDBRF (Toronto International Dragon Boat Race Festival) was a particularly hot event this year. The temperature soared to +38C and when the scale is adjusted to provide for Toronto’s notorious humidity, the effect was as if the mercury had reached+48C!
The Toronto event is a particularly large one as far as International Dragon Boat Racing is concerned, that is due to the large ethnic Chinese population of the city (approaching one-half million). The Chinese Business Association organizes the event and is one of it’s many corporate backers.
This year saw about 200 teams enter. Germany was well represented both on the water and in our hostel and on the podium. Teams came from across Canada and the U.S., Europe, Asia and the Caribbean.
This year the TIDBRF was the scene of the ICF Club Crew World Championships.
The men’s and women’s team from Mulheim, Germany were guests in our hostel won the Premier Women’s Race (ten paddlers + 2 crew) and are World Champions for 2011. The men took home a Bronze Medal.
The title Life Grand Master is the pinnacle of achievement in the world of Contract Bridge. (Think Chess Grandmaster‘s Boris Spassky or Bobby Fischer to understand the celebrity among bridge players that comes with that achievement.)
Here at the Canadiana, we have a genuine contender who is on the cusp of earning that most coveted title.
Stephen Goldstein is a professional bridge player. He hails from Anaheim California and has come to Toronto for the North American Bridge Championshships. (Held at the Royal York and Sheraton Hotels.)
The penultimate goal of a bridge player is to be designated a Platinum Life Master. Life Grand Master designation is the pinnacle. To obtain either ranking, you must have accumulated 10,000 points in tournament play. But most coveted title Life Grand Master also requires a victory in a world class tournament (sanctioned by the National Association of Bridge Championships or the World Bridge Federation).
Stephen has 9,980 points – just 20 points shy – and already has a victory in a major tournament. Toronto just might be the scence of his greatest achievement and the highest level of Contract Bridge.
Stephen will be playing matches until next weekend. We’ll keep you posted as to his results. (We are betting he does it!)
Update: (On Wednesday, July 29th Stephen passed the 10K points mark with a victory in the Toronto tournament. He has now achieved the rank of Life Grand Master. We congratulate him.)
What does a retired pedagogue from Waterloo, Ontario do once retired? Well, Faye Teal is a retired school principal from the town near Toronto (100km west) famous as the home of the Blackberry.
She isn’t the kind of lady that let’s the grass grow under her feet. She now has the freedom to travel and indulge he life-long passion “Contract Bridge”.
Unlike a lot of card games, Bridge is pretty sophisticated and intellectually challenging. We didn’t know much about the game so decided to read up on it for this blog.
After a half hour or so, we gave up as it is (putting it mildly) a pretty complicated game. But according to tennis legend, Martina Navritilova “Bridge teaches logic, reasoning, quick thinking, patience and partnership skills”.
There are national and world governing bodies for the game and sanctioned tournaments are held regularly around the world.
Two of the world’s wealthiest men are avid players/competitors. Investor extrordinaire, Warren Buffet imparted his passion for the game to Bill Gates and both multi-billionaires often attend and enter tournaments. (Faye has played against Gates – and won!)
The list of celebrity Bridge players is long and distinguished and shows that the game is not for lightweight thinkers.
Afficianados have included Dwight Eisenhower; Winston Churchill, Deng Xiaoping; Margaret Thatcher; Mohandas Gandhi; Omar Sharif; and Snoopy.
Faye is in Toronto to play in a sanctioned tournament and like many other passionate Bridge players has little time for anything else.
“Extreme heat and humidity are blanketing Canada this weekend from Saskatchewan to Quebec — and Environment Canada’s long-term forecast says warmer-than-normal weather can be expected to persist throughout the summer.” The Toronto Star
So some people Canada is nothing more than a Land of Ice and Snow? Right about now? We wish…!
According to Environment Canada, we are in for a summer of “Oppressive Heat”! And it has already begun.
Today, the mercury is expected to soar to well over 32C+ (90F+). The problem is that the humidity in Toronto will make it feel like 40C+ (104F+).
Unlike a true 40C temperature, the humidity adjusted temperature is much harder to escape. You can sit in the shade in a breeze and you still sweat.
“The weather system is part of a heat wave that gripped much of the United States for the last two weeks. Temperatures have hit as high 46 C, buckling roads in Oklahoma, killing cattle in Texas and being blamed for the deaths of 39 people.” - ibid
So what is the upside for a backpacker visiting Toronto during this heat wave?
The Canadiana Backpacker’s Inn is prepared to combat the oppressive humidity coming our way! All rooms not covered by our central air conditioning system have been equipped with window a/c units. (Just try sleeping without one when the humidex rises!)
The real upside for the visitor to our city is there is a week of sunshine predicted! It would be a good time to visit Toronto Island*, or the Toronto Zoo*; or the Harbourfront.
* (If you plan on the Island or the Zoo, make sure you bring your own food and drinks! Very expensive to buy in both places.)
Elisabeth is a small town All-Canadian gal from rural Saskachewan. She is tall (about 6′) blond, attractive and athletic! Very athletic.
One of the first impressions you get of her is what good shape she is in. She comes about that honestly too – six hours training a day.
She is a world-class track and field athlete who has taken a break from her job as a Registered Nurse to train for a spot on Canada’s Track team at the upcoming Championship Meet in Shenzen, China.
She specializes in the physically and technically demanding “Hammer Throw ” event. She needed to achieve two 60 metre plus throws in two seperate events. One at York University and one at U of T. If she does manage it, she’s heading for China!
In her first event at York, she must manage throws of over 60 metres in all three attempts! Then she would be halfway there!
She went to the U of T meet but we didn’t manage to see her before her return to the Lethbridge, Alberta training centre.
I’m checking the news results to see if she managed 60 metre plus efforts! We are hoping she did; and we’re cheering her on!
update: A quick search online indicates she won the event at York University! Three throws. Distance: 1) 60.26M; 2) 61.33M*; 3) 60.68M
* Her second throw seems to have eclipsed previous Series Record by more than five metres!
Liz had a slightly “off” day at the U 0f T. She managed throws of only a little over 59 metres. So it is back to training for an assault on the 63 metre mark. That will earn her a “national card” for a government subsidy. That will give her a stipend as she continues training.
You go girl!
Our previous blog entry was about Mia and Robyn who are two hostel receptionists at the front desk. It implies (actually it states) that our young Montreal-born staff members are quite a madcap pair.
There is an old saying; “You don’t have to be mad to work here; but it helps!”
Which brings us to “Loca Mujer” translated from Spanish it means “Crazy Woman”.
Meet our Vera (a.k.a. “La Loca” or “Crazy Woman”).
Vera comes by that moniker because of her facility with the Spanish language. (Virtually every staff member speaks a second language with the exception of Irish and Australian staffers who are still working on their English.)
How would I describe our Vera? She is the hostel handy woman who handles painting, plumbing and other general maintenance tasks. She’s well-liked, loves everybody and is a friend to all.
She loves rock concerts; night clubs; live bands and her favourite drink is a “Double Anything” with a beer chaser.
Her hair colour on any given day can be any hue imaginable except colours that actually exist in nature. Her mode of attire might be described as a “sartorial indiscretion” and ranges from Goth to Outrageous.
When you stay here for the first time you’ll be in no danger of missing Vera’s presence. She is always laughing (loudly) or smiling (broadly). You will likely hear her before you see her.
Vera’s “signifigant other” is rock guitarist, Jamie. He’s as unconventionable as Vera and bears a striking resemblance to Ozzy Osbourne. A good match one might say.
If you are staying here and need advice as to the “best nightclubs” or “best live music venues” or even “best pubs”, Vera is the :go to” person.
If someone asks, “Have you seen Crazy Woman?” even newcomers figure it out and often reply, “Do you mean, Vera?”
You bet we do! But we only refer to her by that name affectionately.
Vera (La Loca) with Aoife on St. Paddy’s Day
Tracy and Sam(antha) arrived at our hostel from Texarkana, Texas (or Arkansas depending on which end of town you are in).
As as you lay eyes on these two lovely ladies, you know immediately, that they are mother and daughter. They just couldn’t possibly be anything else.
Like most people here, I had no real idea of the precise location of the metropolis of Texarkana (pop. circa 34,000).
I would have said it was in Louisiana because of the classic country song “Cotton Fields”. There is a line in that song that goes: “…it was down in Louisiana just about a mile from Texarkana…”
After examining an atlas, it appears that nowhere in Louisiana is a mile from Texarkana; in fact, it appears that the closest point in that state to Texarkana is more than 50 miles south.
Tracy and Sam have a tradition of taking annual trip together; just mother and daughter. Sam is a senior in high-school (a straight “A” student) and has been doing college level courses since she was a freshman.
Tracey likes to expose her daughter to cultural differences not likely found in small town Texas or Arkansas. What better North American city to experience multi-culturalism than Toronto?
The two went sailing (for the first time) on a brisk day on Lake Ontario. From all reports Sam took to it like a born sailor.
Sam is one of the brightest young ladies ever to grace the Canadiana. We are going to watch this young lady. Most of the people that met her here think she will likely achieve any goal she chooses and will be a success in whatever field she pursues.
No one would deny that raising children is a difficult task. All we have left to say is: Nicely done Tracy!
Sam(antha) and Tracy.
Robyn and Mia are two “supervisors” of our front desk staff. They are affectionately known as our “Montreal Mafia”.
Both of them hail from Montreal and were engaged for their bilingual abilities.
It is a little embarassing for us to publish this blog entry because it becomes patently obvious that the two of them, although easy on the eyes, are quite mad.
The pair change their hair colour (regularly). Mia is a brunette with blond hair and Robyn is a natural blond who chooses to be a brunette. Confusing?
Pop sensation Katy Perry gave a concert at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre (ACC) and our “kids” from the front desk “just HAD to be there”!
Katy Perry, it seems is a performer with a penchant for wild wigs and slinky dresses. That was enough for our Montreal Mafia/Front Desk KIDS.
Along with the price of their concert tickets the girls shelled out cash for wild wigs and slinky dresses.
Check out the pics below. No need for confirmation. It is so obvious. These two are quite mad!
(Mia is pictured with Pink Hair and Robyn has the Blue Hair – CRAZY!)