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Summer in Toronto got back to normal in 2011. After two or three years of cooler pleasant summers, the heat and humidity returned the city.
This summer was a particularly hot one and saw a lot of records for heat and humidity fall. Toronto experienced 39C (the humidity made it feel like 45c+).
The Labour Day Weekend marks the traditional end of summer in Canada; the return to school of kids and teenagers (at long last!); and the beginning of the Fall Season.
The weather is pleasant and cooler and is one of the busiest times of year for the hostel. It marks a lot of “beginnings” and “ends” for a lot of people.
Universities reopen from the summer hiatus; hunting season begins for outdoorsmen; leaves begin to fall from coniferous trees; the New Year approaches; and winter is just around the corner.
In Canada, Labour Day falls on the first Monday of September (that’s next Monday) and being a statuatory holiday, it is the last long weekend on the summer.
It is also the last day of the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) anf it concluded with a three day Air Show which is not to be missed.
This year it seems there is a slight austerity measure in keeping with tough economic times.
Spectacular shows of the U.S.Air Force’s Thunderbird F-16′s and the U.S. Navy’s legendary Blue Angel’s F-18′s are not scheduled to perform. Nor are the Tricolor Arrows of the Italian Air force or the Red Arrows of the Royal Air Force.
This year there will be two precision aerobatic jet teams in the air. A private American team “Heavy Metal” flying l-39 and T-33 jets.
The other group are the show’s featured performers (as always) Canada’s own Royal Canadian Air force “Snowbirds” in their Tudor jets.
Just head for the waterfront in Toronto on Labour Day Weekend. The show is free.
The A-10 Thunderbolt a.k.a. “Warthog” will appear at the show.
Canada’s CF-18 Fighter.
The RCAF “Snowbirds” Aerobatic Team.
WW2 Spitfire Mk 9 accompanied by a RCAF CF-18 fighter.
I wouldn’t have believed it possible.
As the summer winds down and the hostel is completely full, hostelers are still wondering what is happening in the city for entertainment. I have, thus far, been at a loss to meet a single backpacker who is aware of the Canadian National Exhibition (C.N.E.) which is happening a mere 20 minute hike from the hostel.
The C.N.E. is simply the world’s largest annual fair/exposition. It is located on Toronto’s waterfront with permanent display buildings and features product displays from automobiles to artwork; from livestock to living room furniture; computers to carnival rides.
There are bands, rock groups, cooking demonstrations, sporting competitions (such as show jumping, baseball, judo and karate); in short, just about every item or event you can think of.
The exhibition grounds are enormous – over a mile long and more than a half mile wide.
The exhibition is held annually and this year runs from August 19th to September 5th. Entrance fee is $16 and well worth the price!
Labour Day Weekend (marks the end of the exhibition) is capped off with a labour march and a spectacular 3-day air show.
To find out more, see the C.N.E. website:
It is safe to say that every backpacking guest that enjoys a pint of the “amber nectar” and visited our hostel (prior to this summer) is familiar with the legendary “Fox”.
Since our Toronto Hostel is located right in the heart of the “Entertainment District”, it safe to say that we are in close proxmity to pubs and nighclubs – lots of them!
The Fox and Fiddle was a two story Georgian Style structure located exactly one block east of the hostel’s front door. It wasn’t the closest bar to the hostel; nor was it the most elegant; and it certainly wasn’t the cleanest.
But it was far and away the most popular – by far. (Delicious half-price chicken wings on Sunday and Monday as well as $10 pitchers of beer helped win fans).
The “Fox” was located on the northeast corner of the massive Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) headquarters and condominium development. It had to make way for progress. (It is being replaced by a 40 story luxury condo).
The building had been designated a “Heritage Structure” and was thus saved from demolition. The developer had the choice of incorporating the building into the condominium’s design or moving the entire building.
There are only six companies in Ontario that can accomplish such a delicate undertaking. All were busy and the Fox remained open for almost an additional year while the TIFF Bell Lightbox Theatre and two condo towers were being built on the other corners of the same block.
Just a few weeks ago, the Fox disappeared overnight.
It had been sealed-up, undermined, jacked up and moved in the middle of the night. The historic building has now been re-located directly across the street.
Unfortuately, the owners of the Fox and Fiddle franchise have also relocated so the building is no longer a pub. Nonetheless, you’ll still be able to enjoy a pint at two new pubs opened kitty-corner from the old Fox Pub site.
With 20 plus staff members, we have a lot of birthday’s to celebrate at our hostel. The tradition is to have a meal and drinks for the birthday celebrant – usually in a local restaurant or pub or sometimes right at the hostel.
Our most recent party, was held on our patio and it was a particularly lavish affair. It was held on Sandra’s (the hostel manager) birthday. Teresa (our head of housekeeping) preparing her famous lasagne as well as fish. (The bbq chicken, rice and potatoes were catered).
The reaqson for such a lavish affair, is that it was also the birthday’s of Robyn and Mia (our Montreal Mafiaette staff members). Hence, three birds with one stone!
Teresa serving herself faisch. (Fish.)
From l. to r. Malene, Mia, Sandra, and Sigrid.
Sigrid Maier first visited our hostel as a backpacking traveler in 2004. She really liked the city of Toronto and the Canadiana Backpackers Inn. That was the beginning of her (thus far) seven-year association with the hostel.
Sigrid returned in 2005, opting to take a “gap year” from her studies to come to join our staff and thus help develop her already condiserable English skills.
According to the hostel’s manager, Sandra, she adapted to the somewhat complicated booking system faster than any other employee – before or since.
Sigrid lives in Ravensburg, Germany and is a graduate of the University of Konstanz with a degree in English Literature and Linguistics. As you might have guessed, she is an accomplished polyglot and speaks English, French, Italian, Swabian (an Alemannic dialect of High German) and, of course, German.
She also created the hostel’s first Facebook Group (Canadiana Backpackers, Toronto) which has well over 1000 members.
Sigrid re-visitied us last summer and has returned this summer for another visit. She has a ready smile and gregarious personality and, as a result, has made a lot of friends around the world and here in Canada.
Sigrid expressed amazement at how many people here remember her and has maintained contact with old “hostel friends” from Dublin to Darwin.
You can meet Sigrid most evenings this week on our patio. She’s the blond with glasses catching up with old friends and making new ones. And she’ll likely have a glass of wine or cider in her hand.
Don’t hesitate to say, hello. She is very approachable.
Guess where she’s off to?
Her home: Here’s what she’s leaving for a hostel bed!
Check out her “wallpaper” at home in Ravensburg.
It has been a year since the night French adventurer Paul, pitched up at our hostel after riding his bicycle more than 250 kms from Tobermory to Toronto in a single day.
It was just another leg of his epic ride across North America from Vancouver to Quebec City. He camped out every night, cooked all his meals over a campfire and had 22 close encounters with Canada’s ubiquitious bears.
After months alone on the road, he was met here in Toronto by Candace and Guillaume friends from France. They planned to ride with him from Ontaio to Quebec on a route through Northern Ontario covering more than 500 miles.
Guillaume brought his bike and the plan was for Candace to purchase a bike in Canada. As luck would have it, we had a bike at the hostel (a Nakamura) that was equipped with saddle bags and ideally suited for long-distance travel.
We loaned thhe bike to them and they purchased a guitar instead.
Candace and Guillaume are a popular singing duo from Marseille in Southern France called Tabernac. They planned to scout out possibilities of playing around Quebec.
The first thing they had to do, was to change their name. Tabernac in France simply means “Tabernacle”; but in Quebecquois, it is used as a swear word.
Paul is now working as a kayak instructor at Tadussac, Quebec where he guides adventurous people on whale watching expeditions in tiny sea kayaks.
Candace and Guillaume are back in Canada as Paul has organized several “gigs” for the folk duo in Quebec.
The guitar they bought last year has been autographed and donated for the hostel guests to borrow and is kept at the front desk.
The duo had to change their name to something more acceptable in order to play in Quebec – Tabernac!
Paul will be returning to the hostel next month to begin his next adventure. He has purchased a camper van and plans to drive from Toronto to Panama which is as far as it is feasable to drive because of security issues.
His plans beyond Panama are open but he is considering sailing around the “danger zone” from Panama to Colombia.
Paul’s late night arrival in the summer of 2010
Paul (rt.) with Guillaume and Candace of “Tabernac!”
(We’ve written about this subject several times on this blog; however, it is an issue that bears repeating.)
They’ve even adopted a new term for it. On hot summer days they used to advise us to “drink plenty of liquids.” Sound advice. Simple and to the point.
These days that just won’t cut it. Today, we are admonished to “Hydrate!” A great marketing term for “drink plenty of liquids.” It somehow imparts a greater sense of urgency – falsely.
OK. Let’s get this right upfront. The bottled water industry in Canada is largely a scam! Got it? A SCAM!
Capitalizing on misconceptions, misinformation and outright fear mongering, the bottled water industry has duped a gullible public into paying for a commodity that is actually readily available for free.
The products they “sell” to you are often labled “pure”, “fresh”, “mountain spring” or “crystal spring” etc.
When it is actually, tap water. It is in fact, water from the same source as the water you find in your toilet. And they have convinced you to pay up to 1900 times the cost of municipal water (which it is.)
In fact, a litre of bottled water actually costs more than a litre of gasoline! And it is totally unecessary and damaging to the environment, as well.
It is estimated that more than 2 billion non-biodegradable plastic water containers pollute landfill sites in Canada alone. If you include the U.S.A., that number exceeds 20 billion (plus) in North America.
In recent tests conducted independently by the media, bottled water was found to be almost universally inferior to tap water when it came to bacteria count, chemical pollutants and overall purity. In fact, several well-known brands failed the quality demands as healthy water source.
There are NO firm testing guidelines for bottled water producers. On the other hand, Municipal water supplies (or water from your tap) is tested and re-tested every few hours.
Canada has more than 9% of the world’s freshwater. So be aware that if you insist on buying bottled water, you are more than likely drinking an inferior product and you are definitely no friend of the environment.
There is a couple on extended vacation from New Zealand with a unique mission on their six-month world tour. They (or rather he) plans to sample 1001 different beers around the world.
They have already been through Europe and enjoyed the Pilsiner beers for which Czechslovakia is famous.
Obviously, the couple jumped at the chance to join in on our weekly trip to the local “Steam Whistle Brewery”.
These two are no novices when it comes to “beer tours” given the theme of their extended holiday. And how did they rate the tour?
They both pronounced the Steam Whistle beer tour as “one of the best” they have experienced. Coming from them, it’s quite a compliment if you think about it.
They also pronounced Steam Whistle beer a “superior product” and were quite surprised that the brewery only produced one type of beer (but they concede that they do it very well.)
They also said that the person conducting the tour was attentive and informative making for a pleasant experience. The beer they make is a premium micro-brew and is a popular choice among backpackers who have sampled the beer*.
* (The popular Corned Beef House, one block east of the hostel serves ice-cold Steam Whistle draft that goes well with their wildly popular Montreal Smoked Meat deli sandwiches.)
Thus far, the two (actually he) has sampled close to five hundred different brews, less than half-way through their journey.
From here they are heading to Quebec and then south down the Atlantic Seaboard sampling some U.S. offerings.
Many foreigners (particularly Canadians and people from Downunder) have few good things to say about American suds. But both of these beer connisieurs have pronounced Sierra Nevada (a California beer) their favourite thus far.
But that is the judgment at mid-point in their travels. Munich and Oktoberfest is looming near the end of their trip and it is said that their offerings are pretty hard to beat.
The Kiwi couple (Paul, left. & Karen right.) with Jamie (a local musician, a.k.a. Ozzy) who seems to have missed the point of their exercise.
One of the “events” we hold here at the hostel are pool games. We have often have games right here on our patio on hot summer days with guests bringing their own cold beers.
It is quite a popular event and helps promote the atmosphere of conviviality, for which our establishment is renowned among Toronto Youth Hostels.
And for “serious” pool afficianados, there are two large pool halls less than two blocks from our hostels front door. Many of the “Sports Bars” in the area also have coin-operated Nine Ball tables.
But our weekly patio games are free and since you supply your own drinks, much less expensive.
We’ve just had five young beauties from Barcelona here at the hostel. They have come to Canada for a reunion of sorts.
Five years ago, the girls came to Canada to work in a summer camp in Northern Ontario. These camps offer young people on working holidays a unique and traditional Canadian experience.
The camps take advantage of our vast land of lakes and forests. Summer retreats are all located on lakefronts as with 3 million lakes to choose from, there is no shortage of lakefront locations.
Our Province, Ontario alone has an estimated 250,000 lakes within it’s borders.
The five attractive “bonitas” made a lot of friends that summer and had a reunion at our hostel with Canadian former co-workers right here at the hostel.