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This winter we have begun offering hostel residents a Wednesday night meal at a very attractive price. It’s free!
This past Wednesday we prepared Spaghetti Bolognaise and began serving it to all hostel guests at 6:30PM. As it turned out, there was enough to feed everyone and even the staff managed a portion.
With the cold weather approaching, we thought it might be a good idea to warm people’s spirits with a free dinner (to go along with our free burger BBQ on Saturday’s.)
We are still in the process of figuring out what kind of meals the average backpacker will enjoy. We are in the process of planning the menu for next Wednesday.
So if you want to make suggestions, comments or have any sort of input into the process, leave a comment on this blog and/or the Canadiana Hostel’s Facebook page.
We hope you enjoyed the spaghetti!
Here at the Canadiana we organize daily “events” for backpackers. These are held to give travelers a chance to meet fellow guests.
The events range from Nightclub visits; trips to “ethnic neighbourhoods” (Chinatown, Little India; Little Italy; Greektown) to sample various cuisines; Pub Crawls and Karaoke; Theatre trips (Stage performances); Sporting Events.
There is much to do in this city and we do our best to facilitate our guests to meet and enjoy themselves.
How do we plan events?
We try them out for ourselves first. When we are searching for some good “ethnic cuisine” we often take the hostel staff members out first to get varying opinions; or we try different pubs to sample their “chicken wings” to get a consensus of the best on offer.
Recently, we took staff members and their friends bowling, a pastime that has lost a lot of popularity in recent times. Nonetheless, bowling is a lot of fun.
Sandra (our hostel manager) is pretty good at it. It’s just her natural athletic ability because she really doesn’t have time to play anything regularly (except basketball).
Whether or not we will institute bowling as a regular or even occasional event will be discussed at our next “staff meeting”. But it seemed to work as a convivial event.
We have our 14 seater van (The Black Beauty) to drive guests to various venues when needed.
So if you see an announcment (on our board or website) sign up at the front desk. Space is often limited by our vehicle’s capacity.
When you operate a backpackers inn in Toronto’s Entertainment District, you never know who you might run across during the course of a day.
We met a lone traveler the other day who described himself as a “Keyboard Player” from Richmond Virginia.
Really? A keyboard player? I suppose that’s true. The same way you might call Issac Stern a “fiddler” or Wynton Marselis a “horn player”.
It turned out that James Pettis, our self-decribed “keyboard player”, is actually an internationally acclaimed classical pianist (and an altogether pretty remarkable human being.)
He is a multi-award winning pianist and even won a Virginia State University competition while still a high school student. He then attended the famous Julliard School in New York City on a scholarship.
He’s been a solo classical performance artist for over half a century and was recently the recipiant of the E. Azailia Hackley Award in Detroit Michigan. The awards and honours still continue today and he has even received an NAACP Freedom Award.
This multi-faceted performer even had a recurring role on the long running soap opera “The Guiding Light” as, you guessed it, a piano player.
He was in Toronto for a single performance at St. Paul’s Trinity Church where he played classical selections from Bach, Beethoven, Lizst and Rachmaninoff, as well as some Gospel Music of his own arrangement and even some Scott Joplin ragtime.
He’s due to return to Toronto in the Spring for another concert. He has promised to keep in touch with us and we will gladly post a notification of his future performances here in our city.
We attended his musical evening last night and his virtuosity made it hard for us to believe that he only has ten fingers.
American Football vs. Rugby:
This is an ongoing (and usually acrimonius) debate wherever Rugby afficianados meet with North American sports fans (especially English speaking backpackers from the UK, Australia/New Zealand and SouthAfrica).
First of all, it is a meaningless debate. They are two very different games.
Matthias is from Bavaria in Germany so you would expect him to prefer the game of rugby. For whatever reason, he plays American Football (a.k.a. Gridiron).
At 240 lbs., (approx. 110 kg.) he’s a pretty big boy and plays centre. He hands off the ball from his position in the middle of the line that has the job to protect the quarterback.
It’s a brutal sport in which on virtually every play, it is the job of everybody on the field to hit somebody. To the uninitiated, it can seem a bit ridiculous because it actually is and it’s definitely complicated.
Matthias is what you might call a “gentle giant”. He’s very popular with other backpackers and hostel staff. But if he wants a career playing American Football, he’s about 40 or 50 kgs too small to play the position of “Centre”.
It’s a short ten minute stroll from our hostel to Toronto’s oldest pub, the venerable Wheatsheaf. It is in turn, a short stroll to the bastion of historic Fort York.
This is the late 18th Century site (1797) around which grew the present-day metropolis of Toronto. The present fort was rebuilt by British Troops and the Canadian Militia immediately after the War of 1812.
The Americans burned the original fort after their victory at the Battle of York (now Toronto) in 1813. Things weren’t so neighbourly back then when the British returned the favour by putting Washington, D.C. to the torch the following year.
In the mid 19th Century, the Wheat Sheaf was the watering hole for troops who garrisoned Ft. York. It has been a continuously operating Public House since 1849 and claims to be the oldest Pub in the city.
We really doubt that it is but it’s arrogated claim to fame has attracted a lot of local celebrities. Mike Meyers and Bobby Orr have been known to drop in for a pint and the signatures of Allanah Myles and Toronto Maple Leaf legend, Eddie Shack are on the wall among autogreaphs of still other celebrities.
About once a month, the entire staff of the Canadiana go out for Chicken Wings and Beer at a local pub. We often choose to gho to the Wheatsheaf because the wings are delicious (and half-priced on Mondays.)
Note: (The Black Bull, located on Queen Street just one block fron our hostels door, dates back to 1838 however it was rebuilt in 1886.)
Thanksgiving 2011 was pretty memorable time for some of the staff members of the Canadiana Backpacker’s Inn.
About a dozen of us were treated to a tThanksgiving meal at a Marina on Toronto Island on a gloriously warm and sunny autumn day.
The turkey dinner was pretty good (despite the parsimonious portions) but the setting was spectacular. The beer is always good and always welcome.
The view of the city from Toronto’s Island Park is the best you can find and the skyline of the city’s skyscrapers fill the horizon.
The pub we ate at is located near Hanlan’s Point near the Western end of the Toronto Islands.
As the largest and most centrally located Backpackers Inn in Toronto, we attract a lot of “group visitors” such as students, youth groups and academics attending conferences.
We’ve hosted Boy Scout Troops from Scotland, the Manchester Boy’s Choir, Doctoral Candidates, church groups, High School Field Trips and countless foreign language students.
The many post-graduate academics that come here are from prestigious institutions like Harvard, the London School of Economics, Stanford, Johns Hopkins Medical School and the Sorbonne to name-drop but a few.
Has any individual or any institution or group stood out?
Interestingly, the group(s), institution and individual all come from the same place. They do not represent a storied institution in an exotic locale. The groups are from West Ferris High School in North Bay, a small city (pop. 50,000) in Northern Ontario.
We have a good number of youth groups staying with us annually. The North Bay/West Ferris High students are, quite simply, the best behaved group of youths we have ever hosted (actually, the best behaved group of guests, full stop.)
Like many schools from rural regions, the West Ferris School escorts groups regularly to experience the diversity of “the big city”. Small towns and cities in rural Canada are often ethnically and cultually homogenous, something which often leads to a degree of xenophobia.
So what makes these particular students unique?
We think it is due to the work of the teachers who escort them to our city. And to John Hetherington (a History teacher) in particular. He is the only teacher/chaperone who has accompanied every West Ferris student group that has stayed with us (so we assume he is the organizer and driving force).
All students show obvious respect for teachers and chaperones. A colleague of John’s once confided to us that the respect was largely a result of the universal esteem the students hold for “Mr. H” in particular.
They simply don’t want to let him down. In our experience at our hostel is that, thus far, no student ever has.
To other future school groups, we at Canadiana Backpackers host many, many student groups and are equipped and able to host any group. If you are planning to escort a group to our city, you might be well served by examining and emulating the West Ferris model because they are doing something right.
We have mentioned this before; but it bears repeating. “We live in a world fearful of differences.” We think the teachers at West Ferris High do a remarkable job to build understanding, the best cure for such baseless fears.
(This is the fifth entry re: West Ferris High we have posted since we began this blog five years ago. To read previous posts, simply enter “John Hetherington” into the blog’s search box.)
In our Toronto hostel, we get a wide variety of travelers, who come here in search of various experiences.
Many young backpackers come with year-long working/holiday visas and are content with nightclubs and bars for their entertainment- largely ignoring any other form of entertaimment.
Other backbackers travel for the chance to experience different forms of cultural pursuits. We’ll grant you that they are a minority; however, this city also caters to that specific demographic.
For instance: How many backpackers have attended a symphony orchestra performance even back home in their own countries? Precious few, we’ll wager.
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO), is a world class orchestra that performs at Roy Thompsom Hall, a short three-block stroll from our hostel’s doors.
Tickets for an evening performance range from $33 to $98. (and well worth the price). But it can be a little expensive for many young budget minded backpackers.
TSO to the rescue.
The symphony has a program that specifically caters to the 15 – 35 year-old demographic. The program is called SOUNDCHECK.
The best available seats for performances are available to young persons and a guest of any age (two tickets only per person which may even be pre-ordered) for a mere $14 per ticket.
If you’ve ever attended an orchestral symphony, you will know this to be a world-class bargain.
Full information on the TSO Soundcheck Program is available here: