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Actually Michael Roberts is not from Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is actually from Calgary, Alberta. Michael is a recipient of a prestigious Fellowship from Harvard University (located in Cambridge, Mass.)
Fellowships are awarded to men and women at an early stage of their scholarly career. The criteria for recipients include academic excellence, exceptional abilty, resourcefulness, originality; in short, people who have shown themselves to be scholars of the highest achievements.
There are only ten fellows elected annually for the three-year program.
Michael received his Masters Degree (Computer Sciences) from the University of Calgary. His field of study happened to apply a similar mathematical calculation of an ongoing Harvard study regarding brain function.
He was in Toronto for an academic conference at the University of Toronto. Like most serious acdemics, money is an issue and they do not spend it foolishly.
A Harvard Fellow must live a relatively frugal life; however, once finished, are usually in great demand by private industry. It makes for a dynamite entry on a CV.
We have gone on and on about the fact that our backpacker’s inn is the only of the Toronto Hostels to be located in the heart of the city’s Entertainment District.
The world renowned music-video venue Much Music is located just one block east of our doors.
Virtually every top pop musical entertainer/group/band appearing in Toronto ends up at the MM Studios for a performance or interview or both.
Over the years, we have seen Neil Young, Bono, the Stones, Britney Spears, Justin Bieber, Pink, the Bare Naked Ladies, Christina Aguillera, Shakira, Leonard Cohen etc…etc.
Last night (Sept. 21st) was the turn of the British Alternative Rock Group “Coldplay” to visit and perform. Much Music erected a outdoor stage in their parking lot and two blocks of Queen Street (a main city thoroughfare) was closed to traffic.
Coldplay, one of the world’s top bands performed a free concert in front of a crowd of adoring, rain soaked, appreciative fans.
A lot of hostel residents made the one-block hike to Queen Street to hear the band play. It was a rainy, cool fall evening but even the weather couldn’t dampen the spirits of the fans crowding and clogging busy Queen Street.
Of all the hostels in Toronto, ours is the one at the centre of the pulse of this vibrant city.
The TIFF (as mentioned in an earlier blog entry) is in full swing in the hostel’s area.
The Bell Lightbox Theatre is one block south of us and the Scotiabank Theatre is directly opposite the hostel’s front door! These are two of the most important film festival venues.
So it stands to reason that this should be the place to “bump into” some celebrities. On our street (Widmer St.) we have seen Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta Jones, Brad Pitt, and Matthew McConaughy in past years.
The 2011 incarnation of TIFF has been no exception. The festival was in it’s first day this year when the hostel guests had a run-in with their first celebrity.
Cory Monteith, an actor acclaimed for his role as “Finn” in the hit FOX TV Series “Glee” was at the Scotiabank Theatre’s screening of his latest big-screen movie. He exited via the rear stairwell which brings him out directly opposite our front doors.
While he was waiting for a friend to join him, he felt “nature’s call”. So he wandered over to the hostel to request the use of our “facilities”.
Myriam (a.k.a. “Muffin”) who was working the front desk was stunned and starstruck! She is a huge fan with a long-standing crush on the actor. Needless to say, she gave her assent to his request.
Another guest Marnie McIlrath from Australia ran straight into him at our front door. She boldly introduced herself to him and began a ten-minute dialogue with him.
Marnie (and other’s who were present) avered he was personable, humble and well-spoken. He actually took time to speak and interact with his fans.
The fact that both Marnie and Muffin are attractive young ladies just might have influenced his decision. Do you think?
It’s a sure sign of spring whenever robins appear around the hostel’s patio.
And it’s a sure sign of autumn when Robyn leaves the hostel for Montreal and school.
Over the years, we’ve had several staff members who come-and-go. Sharon, for instance, worked here for about seven years while she studied Homeopathic Medicine.
Myriam (a.k.a. “Muffin”) worked here after graduation from university and worked here while obtaining her Master’s degree (Social Work) and still, works here mostly on weekends to supplement her income as a Community Worker.
Robyn also worked while studying English Literature at the University of Toronto. But Robyn decided to switch schools and attend Concordia University in her home town of Montreal. (That move is a bit like dropping out of Harvard for Kentucky State University.)
So we had a going away dinner for her at the local Corned Beef House (an eatery one block east of the hostel). The CBH, co-incidentally serves Toronto’s best “Montreal Smoked Meat Sandwiches” and first class “Poutine”.
That’s right. The hostel is in the middle of a TIFF. (As in Toronto International Film Festival).
There are more than 50 film festivals worldwide every year. Some are well-known (like the Cannes and Sundance Festivals) and others quite obscure like the Busan (South Korea) Festival or The Morelia (Mexico) Festival.
Better known venues include Berlin, Rotterdam, Miami and Hong Kong. But none are quite like ours – right here in Toronto! So forget Cannes, Sundance and New York.
The TIFF, is in its’ 36th incarnation. It has grown over the years from a tiny beginning in 1980 to what is now, straight up, “the most successful public film festival in the world”.
World premieres, galas, associated shmoozes and parties comprise this illustrious event where stars, directors and industry honchos make the rounds.
In previous years, the focus of the film festival centered around the upscale Bloor/Yorkville area of Toronto. It’s the chic, expensive area; sort of a Toronto version of Rodeo Drive.
But the city has shifted focus and a new Film Festival HQ has been built in the heart of the city’s entertainment district. That is EXACTLY where our hostel is located!
The Festival HQ/Bell Lightbox Theatre is located precisely one block south of the hostels doors and the Scotiabank Theatre (a venue for many of the films) is right across the street from us.
Celebrities attending this year’s festival include: Brad Pitt; Clive Owen; Catherine Deneuve; Glenn Close; George Clooney; Jane Fonda; Juliette Binoche; Keira Knightly; Megan Fox; Willem Defoe; Viggo Mortensen; Salma Hayak, to name but a few.
If you are a cinephile or simply just love to experience new and innovative films, the Festival is the place to be.
As mentioned, we are situated one-block from the epicentre of festival events. If you are a movie buff on a limited budget, THE Canadiana Backpacker’s Inn (voted #1 in North America in 2003) is the place to stay.
Check out the action just one block from the hostel:
Marco arrived at our Toronto Hostel’s door from Germany in the summer of 2011.
He quickly became a well-known emember of the hostel’s social scene due to his gregarious, thoughtful and helpful nature.
He wanted to see more of our country so he rented a car with the idea of driving to Halifax, Nova Scotia, over 1200 kms northeast to the coast of Canada.
He met Monja (also from Germany) who was also traveling and working. She jumped at the chance to drive to the coast and share fuel and food expenses.
If they had opted to travel by bus, it would have entailed a numbing 30 hour plus, non-stop ride.
This is merely another example that here at the Canadiana, friends can be made quickly and easily.
Of all the hostels in Toronto, no one is here alone for very long.
Monja and Marco.
Monja and Marco just before setting out on the road.
Arjen (pronounced something like “Aryan”) worked at the hostel’s front desk four years ago (2008). He is a teacher in his native Holland and had opted to take a year off for a working/holiday in Canada.
So Arjen joined the long list of work visa backpackers who join our staff for a year.
In times past, old friendships and aquaintances gradually fade and become distant menories. Not so in the “wired” 21st Century.
We just heard from Arjen who had been net surfing and came upon our website. It prompted him to write. Here is what he wrote:
“Wow, looking at the Hall of Fame of out hostel, I wonder if there will be small niche for me. I promise I will come back one day, with my fiancee!
After returning from Canada I took up a job being a bilingual teacher in one of Hollands international schools, teaching history (in English).
I would like to thank all of you over there that showed me that life is all about having a good time, and taking those experiences with us for the better development as a person.”
OK. Great to hear from you Arjen! This works for us. We’ll be putting you up on the hostel’s “Wall of Fame” very shortly. We’ll let you know when it is online so you can see and read what has been written about you.
And we’ll hold you to your promise to visit with your fiancee.