Archive for April, 2012

Backpacking from Yakutat, Alaska

Monday, April 30th, 2012

We’ve hosted quite a number of groups from the Northern Widerness of North America. They are not typical of backpackers who stay in hostels, but arrive (usually in groups) seeking a “cultural experience”.

We’ve had groups from the Yukon Territory; the Northwest Territories; Nunavut;  and even from Greenland. This week we had a group of young travelers from Yakutat, Alaska.

Yakutat, is an Alaskan coastal town whose residents are engaged (mostly) in the fishing industry. This sparsely inhabited coastal strip of land is (seemingly rather unlikely) the third largest town in the world by area.

The 9,500 square mile “townsite” is about three times the size of the state of Rhode Island. The name of the area “Yakutat” is of Tlingit origin – Yaakwdáat (“The place where canoes rest”). So Yakutat City, with just around 4000 souls is actually the largest city in America (12th worldwide) by area.

The young group of about 25 “Yakutatians” have visited Toronto’s CN Tower, museums and shopping malls (covering similar attractions as our previous group fron Nunavut earlier this year).

This group wasted no time. They were up with the sun; then out and about exploring all day. They proved so elusive that we were unable to connect with them to get a group photograph.

All that is left to say is this young group was a pleasure for us to host and we look forward to future visits from groups from Yakutat.

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From the serene and beautiful Yakutat Bay….

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…to the bright lights of the big city.


Thursday, April 12th, 2012

An earlier post on this blog deals with Toronto’s massive building boom. More than 150 skyscrapers (buildings over 120 meters high) are at various stages of construction all across our city.

This massive growth is particularly evident in the downtown core of the city where our hostel is located. The addition of so many new high-rise structures threatens to increase the “concrete jungle” feel of our city.

The city has wisely enacted a piece of legislation requiring all future high-rise construction projects to be built with “green” rooftops.

They don’t mean green as in coloured green or painted green; but, living green rooftops as in “plants, grass, flowers and trees”.

Toronto’s new legislation requires all residential, commercial and institutional buildings over 2,000 square meters to have between 20 and 60 percent living roofs. This is the first city in North America requiring such a mandate (following the leads of Switzerland and Tokyo).

Chicago actually led the way more than a decade ago (in 2000) when it built a massive (38,800 sq. ft.) “roof garden” on a new 12 story building. The benefits to this type of construction have proven to be far greater than mere ascetics.

The building saves over $5000 on annual utility bills; a 34% reduction in heat-loss in winter; and a massive 84% reduction in heat gain in summer.

Today, Chicago has over 7 million sq. ft. of green rooftops and New York City has followed suit beginning with the Con Edison Learning Center in Queens.

Lower utility bills aren’t the only benefit of planting a living roof. It cools down the city; creates cleaner air and water; provides a peaceful oasis for people, birds and insects in an otherwise polluted, concrete and asphalt-covered environment.

Toronto has been a world leader in big city cleanliness, safety and muli-culturalism. Now we’ve joined the “green revolution” with a vengence!

Look out world! HERE WE COME!

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Thursday, April 5th, 2012

As there are in all major cities, there are a lot of attractions to visit in Toronto. Among the most popular walking/shopping areas are Chinatown and the slightly bohemian Kensington Market.

These two neighbourhoods are in close proximity to our Toronto Hostel and provides backpackers with inexpensive areas to purchase groceries, clothing, souveniers etc.

But one enormously popular (among local residents) market remains largely undiscovered by many hostel residents.

In past blog entries, we described the old market building (established circa 1803) as one of the top 20 markets in the world. It seems we were a bit off the mark with that claim.

A recent issue of the venerable travel magazine National Geographic has rated the world’s best markets. Our very own contender for inclusion, did indeed make the list!

Toronto’s own St. Lawrence Market sits solidly in FIRST PLACE on the list of the world’s best markets!

From our hostel, it is a pleasant hike of about 20 minutes east along front street to a heritage structure (South Market Building) rebuilt circa 1845 after it was destroyed by a fire. There are over 190 vendors operating inside the building selling meats, fish, produce and spices.

Toronto’s two popular “market” areas are very disimilar in character.

The eclectic Kensington Market is a multi-cultural (and somewhat chaotic) assemblage of fruit, fish, cheese, bread vendors as well as used item sellers and retro-clothing shops.  In short, there is everything to be purchased here from Cantelopes to Kiwi Fruit; from Specialty Coffee to Cannibis Paraphenalia.

St. Lawrence Market (our personal favourite) is merely a spectacular market for (very) fresh meat and vegetables and some first rate specialty fast-food vendors.

If you check out this market, we highly-recommend a quick lunch of Pemeal Bacon on a Kaiser Roll – a delicious Canadian fast-food specialty!

St. Lawrence Market’s website is:

Kensington Market’s Website is:

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Baldwin Street in Kensington Market .

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Kensington Ave., in Kensington Market.

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The historic St. Lawrence Market (Named as the “World’s Best Market” by National Geographic Magazine).


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Retro-clothing shop in Kensington Market

Among the more than 190 quality food vendors at the St. Lawrence Market.

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