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The City of Toronto has always wanted to be considered a “world class city. Toronto has just surpassed Chicago in population, becoming the fourth largest city in North America. (Behind only Mexico City; New York; and L.A.)
Back at the time when the 19th Century was ending. Toronto had earned the moniker “Hogtown”. (A name the city actually merited as it was a major supplier of pork to the U.K. and much of Europe). By 1900 a half million pigs were slaughtered annually right downtown in the area bounded by Front Street and Mill Street. This area is now known as the “Distillery District” – a renovated trendy, upscale, tourist area.
We were known as “Hollywood North” due to the lower cost of producing big budget films in the city because of the lower dollar, first-rate film crews and safer working environment.
But of late, we have stumbled badly in our quest to be truly “World Class”.
Firstly, we elected a profane, alcohol besotted, crack-addled, homophobic mayor. We built condominiums along the waterfront to obscure the waterfront from public view. Then we built insanely expensive subway lines to service marginal areas.
In any truly “World Class City”, the airport is accessible by direct subway or rail. Not so Toronto. Our Public Transport to our airport requires both Subway and Bus rides.
To make things worse, our private, regularly scheduled airport bus service will be closing this Fall! The closing of the $27 (one way) bus service leave travelers with only municipal public transport or a $60 (+) taxi fare.
So is Toronto a “World Class” destination? A lot of out backpackers think so. We did a stellar job hosting “World Pride”; but there is still a lot of work to do.
So to visitors, backpackers and business travelers. Welcome to Toronto. A city that always strives to be better.
“HOGTOWN”: The Distillery District, circa 1920.
St Lawrence Market around the turn f the 20th Century.
“Distillery District” today.
Airport Express Bus ceasing operations in Fall of 2014.
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The Fourth World Pride Celebration is coming to Toronto this July! It is somehow fitting that Toronto was chosen as the city claims to have one of the largest LGTB communities in the world.
Our annual Pride Celebration attracts upwards of a million and a half celebrants each year and contributes close to $150 million to our local economy. But this year it is anticipated that the 2014 World Pride Fete will be about five times larger!
And we’re betting that Toronto will do it right! The first three World Pride Celebrations were not without some major “issues”.
Promised civic funding of U.S. $200,000 of the the first incarnation was withdrawn* after strong protests from the Pope (recently canonized as St. John Paul). One may also question why they choose to hold the first World Pride celebration in a nation with no laws protecting gay rights.
(*funding was restored by left-wing Mayor, Francesco Rutelli after strong protests from his own supporters.)
Organizers scaled-back events and claim that upwards of a quarter million participants marched Colosseum and Circus Maximus. (Toronto’s annual celebration claims between 4 to 6 times that number!)
Already delayed a year due to tensions over Israeli occupation of Gaza, the Jerusalem parade was cancelled as it was claimed there were not enough soldiers to protect marchers.
Sadly, the downsized parade was held within site of Israel’s “Apartheid Wall” dividing the Israeli settlement from Arab neighbours.
This was nothing short of a disaster. It was a huge slap in the face to London’s LGBT community. Major funding was withdrawn as were parade and event venue permits.
I trust Toronto World Pride 2014 will show the world who we are and what values we hold. Torontonians have long since abandoned the need to purchase personal dignity at the cost of someone else’s.
We have lost the disruptive antics of our buffoonish, profane, alcoholic, crack-addled, homophobic embarrassment of a mayor who has gone into much needed rehab.
In Toronto, we will not merely be celebrating “Gay Pride”. This will be a celebration of the brave-new-world that lies ahead of us.
In the U.S., for example, nineteen states plus the District of Colombia have already legalized same-sex unions (with federal sanction).
The pretty rainbow coloured dominoes are toppling. The debate is over!
Regardless of your orientation, it is up to all Canadians to lead the way. I will wager Toronto will host the most successful World Pride Festival ever! This upcoming event will showcase Toronto as the progressive, tolerant and inclusive city it is.
Check out this video for World Pride 2014: (Toronto: June 20-29.)
Well, it’s that time of year! It’s the Victoria Day weekend. It is also-known-as, May “Two-Four” (named for a case 24 bottles of beer); or simply, “Firecracker Day” (by most children).
It is a Canadian statutory holiday that occurs annually on the weekend preceding May 24th, the birthday of Queen Victoria. In Quebec, it is known as “National Patriotes Day” (La Journee National des Patriotes) as the Quebecois still have a problem with the British Monarchy dating back to the Napoleonic Wars of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. A detail.
The term “May Two Four” is also in reference to the 24th; but, more specifically, refers to a standard case of beer. It is the time of year when Canadians “officially” bid farewell (and good riddance) to another winter! Cottages are opened for the coming summer season and copius amounts of beer is consumed.
The children call it simply “Firecracker Day” as the holiday occasions major public fireworks displays.
For backpackers, the most important information is a) The Liquor and Beer Stores are closed on Monday, May 19th. b) Where to go to watch the fireworks displays.
The good is is that clubs and pubs are open as usual. And the waterfront (to view fireworks) is a twenty minute hike due south of our hostels doors!
Welcome spring! And Happy 195th Birthday, your Majesty!
“It’s quiet”….”Yeah, too quiet”. We’ve all seen and heard that classic western-movie cliche.
Today is Good Friday, 2014. Easter is arguably the most important Christian Holiday of the year. It even tops Christmas. So a quiet weekend should not be too surprising. But here are the hostel, it is a bit of a shock.
If you’ve followed this blog, you will be familiar with Angel and Aine. The “Mad Due”; the “Party Animals; The “Noisy Ones”. Angel is a Kiwi and Aine is from the Emerald Isles. Neither one of this infamous hostel pair can do anything quietly. And when they got together (which was often), the noise level doubled!
Aine finally moved out of the hostel to her own apartment and Angel seemed to take up the slack in the noise department by picking up the pace.
But yesterday, Angel also left the hostel, bound for Sydney, Down Under. She landed her “Dream Job” with a Cruise Line as an “Entertainment Co-Ordinator” on a cruise ship. To those who know her, this seems like a job she was born to do.
We trust Angel will tone it down somewhat; but also convinced that cruise passengers will be in for some fun times. Angel is as gregarious as she is noisy. We are confident that she will behave as Maritime Law has strict penalties against “Mutiny”.
There were a lot of tears last evening when Angel left for the airport. Nonetheless, the hostel is noticably quieter today. But it isn’t over.
Aine doesn’t live far from the hostel and visits regularly. She isn’t here today (at least yet) because we can’t hear her. We’re pretty sure she’ ll drop by shortly.
The truth is many of us miss both of them. We wish Angel all the success in the world and we are now bracing for the arrival of Hurricane Aine.
To Angel from all of us at the Canadiana: We wish you, “Fair winds and following seas.”
Angel having a small “farewell drink”.
Angel and Aine photographed resting after goodbye celebrations. (Angel on floor under blanket.)
Aine (centre left); Angel (centre right)
Possibly the Irish “GARDA” in Toronto seeking to extradite Aine.
Aine “directing events”.
Being arrested in Toronto?
Everybody thinks they understand the word “clique” (the term has a virtually universal negative connotation).
In the case of our hostels “cliques” that negative connotation is not only wrong but sometimes unfair. You’ll have to look up the dictionary definition to understand why it is wrong.
The dictionary says: Clique: n. “A small, exclusive group or friends or associates.”
Let me tell you why it is unfair.
The negative word is “exclusive”.
Firstly, I would be hard pressed to name the current hostel “clique”. It is such an eclectic and ethnically diverse group. And virtually anyone can join. So much for “exclusive” because they “exclude” no one from group membership.
Ali Skandri, a Lebanese language student had been here for about 6 months and gravitated to the hostels current clique. Ali was known for his good humor and pleasant manner.
Yesterday, there were tears among the hostels “clique members”. Ali left for home in Beirut.
Ali was the only Lebanese member of the current “Canadiana Clique”. (That’s because he was the only Lebanese resident in the hostel.)
As a polyglot (fluent in Arabic, French and English), he developed a close relationship with many of the hostels French language students.
The “CLIQUE” held a farewell party last weekend at a nightclub and from all reports it was a raucous affair.(It’s a miracle that it didn’t become a “Police Report”). With the usual ringleaders, Aine and Angel (see earlier post: The “CHARACTER” of Hostels) trouble is normally close at hand.
So the Canadiana hostels clique is open to all comers. If you see them making noise in the hostels “Quiet Room”, join in.
Sit down and enjoy the company of Aussie Elise (see earlier post: “Miss Popularity”), English Jonny, Japanese Jun or the famous “Mad Duo” Irish Anie and Kiwi Angel.
Ali did and made a lot of likely lifetime friends who know him as “Ali Baba” or “Camel Jockey” (how original?). They gave him a pretty nice farewell!
In a hostel, there are always certain guests whom virtually everyone likes. So, it begs the question: “Why”?
The answer is relatively easy once you have seen a number of people to whom others are naturally drawn. Elise Bolling from Sydney, downunder is the latest example that comes to mind.
We all like her.
Back home she is a specialist in Early Childhood Education but has decided to take a “Gap Year” to work and travel. We’re glad she chose Canada.
Her popularity is easily apparent and it is something which she has gained honestly. You could apply virtually any positive adjective to describe her; but, the most appropriate would be “kind”.
That is the quality that is sadly lacking in much of today’s youth. Many (if not most) have become self-centred and self-indulgent in the fast-paced lifestyle of the 21st Century.
Their mantra, it seems, is Me! Me! Me!
But Elise seems to have learned the secret of friendship. Quite simply put, “If you want to HAVE friends; you must first BE a friend.
Anyone (and we DO mean ANYONE) who has met this remarkable young lady must know that she is the type of person whom you could count on in a crisis. Many of us have witnessed her spring to action when a friend has encountered extreme difficulties.
When her birthday came, many of the hostels guests planned a surprise party which kicked-off the instant she arrived home from work.
We can’t say enough good things about Elise. There is little to add except that no one here as ever heard her utter a bad word about anyone.
How many people can you say that about?
They ALL adore Elise!
Her surprise birthday party.
People posting their sentiments on our notice board!
Travel today is definitely youth oriented. In the 21st Century, there is an enormous infrastructure in place to facilitate young backpackers.
The “Working Holiday Visa” program involves reciprocal agreements between developed nations to provide young (normally 30 or younger) tourists a year-long visa that allows them to seek employment and thus subsidize their travels. A cultural exchange if you will.
Virtually every hostel hires young working holiday travelers to assist in day-to-day operations. In our experience, they have proved to be friendly, hard-working and honest employees.
Every once in a while a working-holiday backpacker we have hired whom we would describe as “exceptional”! That word would particularly apply to Sandra Davis from Ireland.
The Canadiana Backpackers Inn has a pretty stellar reputation as far as hostels in Toronto go (in North America, in fact). Teresa our Head of Housekeeping demands excellence among her staff. She described Sandra’s efforts as, quite simply, “perfect”. (We had never her use a term above “excellent” before).
Unfortunately, Sandra succumbed to the lure of the ski hills in the mountains near Banff. The attraction of clean-air, peaceful life style and scenic beauty of the west beckoned. Go figure?
Sandra left last week for the mountains Alberta. (We have spoken with her and apparently, she likes it!) Too bad; our loss.
She was so popular with the hostels guests, that before she left, they posted a “Farewell Tribute” to her on Youtube. (In the history of our hostel, this is a first!)
She has taken up a similar position with some ski-resort in or near Banff, Alberta. We can only hope they don’t realize what a prize they have hired. Sandra, being Irish has the option of another year’s working visa.
A personal message to Sandra from all of us at Canadiana Backpackers: Don’t get too comfortable out west. You can always come home. We’ll take you back! Anytime!
Sandra tried her hand at making a living as a Pool Shark….
….after abandoning her dream of joining the National Ballet.
….then decided to travel west (in true voyageur fashion) to the Canadian Wilderness.
Halloween, (short for “ALL HALLOW’S EVE”) in many countries is an ancient feast day of either Celtic Pagan or Christian origin. It depends on whom you ask.
We tend to go with Pagan roots as today, most Evangelical Christians eschew the celebrations as a trifle demonic.
There is some evidence that it might be so if you were to see what many of our hostels guests get up to on the last weekend of October closest to the 31st.
It is easily the most eventful evening for backpackers with the possible exception of St. Patrick’s Day which celebrates drunken revelry (as well as the life of an Irish Saint).
As anyone who grew up in North America may know, it is the time when children dress up in fancy costumes and go door-to-door asking for “trick or treat” and obtain a “treat” of sweets and candy.
For many (if not most) of the hostels guests, it is a time to “dress-up” in fancy costumes and party!
An overwhelming costume theme are of ghosts, goblins, demons, vampires and zombies, small wonder why the Evangelicals object.
But behind our hostels doors here in Toronto, what takes place is merely good clean fun fueled by copious amounts of beer and spirits of the non-ghostly kind.
Check out some pictures of our hostels guests celebrating the 2013 Halloween Festival:
Yes, it is true. There really is SOMEONE out there for EVERYONE!
Of all the hostels in Toronto, we think we provide the most convivial atmosphere. Hostels are supposed to be a place to meet people in a strange city. We do that very well.
As proof, consider that we have had countless hostel “unions” of backpackers who first met at our hostel. And the numbers speak for themselves. It is no exaggeration to say that virtually thousands of couples have formed long-lasting friendships from hostel meetings.
But it is the marriages that result from meetings at the Canadiana that are really telling. How many have there been?
We don’t know precisely. We lost track and stopped counting after the first 20. At present, we are fairly certain that there have been closer to 30!
The latest union (that we know of) is the union of Yuka (from Japan) with Mark (from Ireland).
Yuka, is an attractive (mid thirties) experienced world-traveler who has spent year-long working holidays in Australia, New Zealand, the U.K. and Canada. Mark, was a portly, young, inexperienced man (early twenties) on his first sojourn away from home.
In spite of being shy, Mark managed to make a lot of friends here among the hostels guests. And fortunately, Yuka had a distinct preference for the endomorph type of physique.
Mark followed Yuka to New Zealand after her year in Canada. We have just learned that the two were married with a Japanese Ceremony in Yuka’s home village on Shikoku Island.
We wish them well for the future.
Anyone lucky enough to work at one of the hostels in Toronto, gets to interact with interesting travelers from all around the world. They also get to witness many cultural idiosyncrasies fist hand.
For example. What does this signify?
Most would say it is the Peace Sign. And they would be right. Then again, it could be a secret code sign.
Why would we think that? Good question. Glad you asked.
Here at our Toronto hostel, we see thousands (literally) of photographs of globe-trotting, backpacking guests every year. That’s why we noticed something a little unusual in pictures of Japanese backpackers. In order to confirm our supposition, we randomly selected a dozen past guests from our facebook contact list.
That’s when we discovered it was confirmed.” In EVERY case our Japanese backpacker friends had been photographed making the “Peace Sign’.
Here is a collage from the facebook pages of a dozen Japanese former guests:
So? What does it mean? and Why do they do it? We have no idea. (and likely, neither do they!)