No. Not the talking horse of television fame; but an actor nonetheless.¬†A former actor, that is. Ed Chester was once a member in good standing of the Motion Picture Academy and as such had a vote for the Oscar Award nominees.
Our Mr. Ed is a Vagabond (in the very best sense of the word) and he pitches up to our hostel in Toronto every year or so on his travels. He is a native of Southern Ontario¬†(some little village near Hamilton)¬†who has been a long-term resident of the United States. At various times he has lived on both coasts and several places in between.
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He found the acting business to be a bit of a grind, so he left California to travel North America. Lately he has been spending time in Nashville making a country album of his own songs. He is also an accomplished singer-lyricist-musician¬†who has given impromptu performances on our patio to the delight of all.
As he entered his sixth decade, Ed has purchased a home just south of Orlando that he uses for a base for his¬†peripatetic lifestyle. We see him on his way to visit family and friends still residing in Southern Ontario.
We call Ed a “Free Spirit”¬†wandering at will, living life on his own terms. And when he shows up to the hostels door on visits often unplanned and unannounced, he is a most welcome sight.
Shortly after the Victoria Day weekend, Toronto hosts a unique annual event called “DOORS OPEN”. This year it will take place on the evenings of May 24th and 25th.
On those evenings, there will be tours of around 150 buildings in Toronto of ¬†that are of either historic, cultural, social or architectural significance.
The 2013 incarnation of “Doors Open” is subtitled “Creators, Makers and Innovators”. It will showcase a number of older buildings that have been re-designed for efficient use as 21st century spaces.
This has been an annual event since the year 2000 and has already showcased over 600 buildings to more than 2 million visitors. It has become one of the three largest of such events held in many cities worldwide.
Full details of “Doors Open Toronto, 2013″ is available ¬†from Wikipedia:
“VICTORIA DAY” ¬†is a¬†statutory¬†holiday in Canada only. It celebrates the birthday of the longest reigning¬†(1837 -1901) Monarch¬†in British ¬†history. Canadian children refer to the holiday as “Firecracker Day”.
The holiday falls on the last Monday¬†before¬†May 25¬†(Victoria’s official Birthday) and is the¬†traditional ¬†official¬†beginning-of-summer. Torontonians head north to open cottages that had been closed and shuttered for the long winter.
Smoke from backyard B.B.Q.’s mix at night with smoke from the private firework displays that are traditionally set off in the yards of homes everywhere. ¬†In Toronto, as in all cities, there is ares massive public ¬†firework display after sundown, Toronto’s is on the city’s waterfront.
Backpackers at our hostel often head north to Provincial Parks and campgrounds to experience hiking and canoeing in Canada’s pristine wilderness. And the city wakes from it’s long winters sleep.
In the coming months, Toronto’s eleven beaches¬†(seven of which are blue-flag rated) open as the weather warms to an often¬†stifling¬†summer heat. Free concerts and cultural events begin which include food, wine, beer and music festivals.
It is after the Victoria Day weekend that the city truly becomes alive as if awakened from winters dolor.
Ontario, like more than half of all Canadian Provinces, is¬†huge!
Guess how many Liquor Stores there are in the province?¬†Technically¬†just¬†ONE!
Ontario is home to about 13.5 million people¬†(almost 40% of Canada’s population)¬†and it has only ONE liquor store – The L.C.B.O.¬†(Liquor Control Board of Ontario).¬†This government agency operates¬†every liquor store in the province.
The L.C.B.O. is a¬†defacto¬†monopoly. Here in Canada we have anti-trust laws that¬†should¬†prevent such companies from operating; but, apparently, those laws don’t apply to the Government. So, if you want to drink spirits, the L.C.B.O. is your only option.
From Ontario, you can drive across the provincial border to Quebec, Manitoba, New York, Michigan or Minnesota and enter a province or state where you can purchase liquor in stores¬†other¬†than government outlets.
Now, the workers of the L.C.B.O. are set to strike – again!
This¬†seems¬†to be an annual event that usually takes place in May just before the Victoria Day long-weekend holiday. Coincidence? Oh, sure.
Victoria Day¬†(a.k.a. “Firecracker Day”) is the¬†psychological¬†mark of the¬†official¬†end of winter and the start of summer. Cottages are re-opened after being shut for the winter and people in cities celebrate with B.B.Q.’s.
Virtually¬†everybody¬†save the rare species of¬†teetotalers, stocks up on booze for the weekend fetes. Seems like an excellent time to strike if you want to deliver a point.¬†Inconvenience¬†and¬†raise the¬†ire¬†of the pubic who will¬†(quite rightly)¬†blame the Government.
This blog was not just to show the absurdity of a¬†monopolistic¬†organization like the L.C.B.O. ¬†It is a warning for all of our guests to stock-up!
The Beer Store should be open for the weekend. But don’t count on them either. As it is also a¬†quasi-monopoly owned by the breweries.
When will Ontario grow up and join¬†enlightened¬†provinces like Alberta and Quebec?¬†(And just about everywhere else in the world for that matter).
We often talk¬†(brag, in fact)¬†about the convivial atmosphere of our hostel in Toronto. ¬†It has become legend and we are justifiably proud of it.
It’s a simple fact that that of all Toronto hostels, the Canadiana Backpackers Inn is the one that somehow very often produces life-long friendships. We lost count of the number of marriages resulting from meetings in the hostel’s common room; but there have been more than 20 unions – at least!
One uniquely special group activity is eating together. Now we realize that backpackers¬†everywhere¬†often get together and share a “home cooked” meal. It simply makes economic sense and reduces individual labor.
But we’ll wager that few other hostels see the type of ¬†”feasts”¬†(literally)¬†that have been prepared by¬†guests of the Canadiana in Toronto. This past Easter was a special case in point. Some hostel guests and staff pooled resources to celebrate the coming arrival of spring.
An enormous pork roast (about 10 kilos)¬†was purchased and an Easter “feast” was prepared and shared by a group of about 15 Canadiana residents. The roast was prepared in our kitchen by¬†“Doughy” Kelly,¬†an Irish trained professional chef who has been employed by “Terroni’s”, a Toronto-based chain of upscale¬†“fine dining”¬†establishments.
Virtually everyone involved pitched in and the meal in the picture below was the result.
This is what we mean when we speak of¬†“THE SPIRIT OF THE CANADIANA BACKPACKERS INN”!¬†
THAT’S THE KIND OF WEATHER WE’VE BEEN HAVING HERE IN TORONTO!
Last Thursday (April 14) we had a “Winter Storm Alert”. ¬†That’s pretty strange since the¬†“official”¬†First Day of Spring 2013 in Toronto was last March 20th. Night time temperatures have been consistently below zero.
Fortunately, the anticipated¬†“Winter Storm”¬†never fully materialized; a few ice pellets and light snow. The temperature hovered above the freezing point so the snow and ice didn’t stick around. This is fairly typical of what we have been experiencing in recent years. Unpredictable weather patterns ¬†to say the least.
Toronto used to have fairly brutal winters with mostly sub-zero temperatures and heavy snowfalls. That was until winter of 2011. It took everyone by surprise – shock actually. It seemed to have passed us by. ¬†Instead of snow, it often rained. Here at the hostel, we actually¬†never¬†had to shovel our sidewalk all winter long. The average temperatures were above normal¬†(hovering above freezing point)¬†so when it did snow, it didn’t stay.
And what a difference a week makes. This coming Thursday, the forecast calls for +20C! This represents a temperature variation of¬†more that¬†twenty degrees C in only one week.
Global Warming? Many Canadians may selfishly say;¬†“Bring it on!”.
When it comes to a city’s bragging rights,¬†size matters!
For years (until 1991)¬†Montreal held the title of “Canada’s Largest City”. By then, Toronto had fallen to third place behind even Calgary. But that was mostly due to the absurd way the municipal governments in the Toronto region were organized.
Toronto was a collection of 5 boroughs each with its own mayor, council and municipal services. In other words, five separate City Halls within¬†(literally)¬†minutes of each other. (York; East York; North York; Etobicoke; and Scarborough)¬†
Then came amalgamation in 1998. And for the first time, Toronto claimed the title of the largest Canadian city. We also claimed the title of the 5th Largest City in North America behind Mexico City, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
But according to the latest census data from Statistics Canada, as of last July 1, Toronto‚Äôs population was 2,791,140, about 84,000 more than Chicago‚Äôs 2,707,120.
“IN YOUR FACE CHICAGO! WE’RE NOW NUMBER FOUR!”
A ¬†city’s growth is a strong indicator of its vitality and attractiveness. Torontonians have long been proud of the city’s stellar big-city reputation.
A feature article in the Travel Section of Hawaii’s Honolulu Star, said, “Toronto is much like any large American city; but, Toronto is cleaner and safer.”
There has been a slight change in the character of some¬†“backpackers” circa 2013.¬†
In the past, the majority of working/holiday travelers were young students who had recently completed secondary school or university. There has even been a strong economic factor providing impetus to pursue travel and adventure. They arrived with little previous job experience happy to find the most menial employment.
The recent economic meltdown of the EU has seen some slightly more mature and highly-skilled travelers come through our hostel. Of late, we have had architects, lawyers, academics, engineers. tradesmen and even physicians use our Toronto hostels facilities as a base for their job search.
But even nations hat have not screwed up their economies are sending backpacking job-seekers abroad but for slightly different reasons.¬†Technology has radically changed the way many industries function.
Joanna Harvey is among the hostel guests¬†(late 20′s to early 30′s)¬†whose careers have been adversely affected by our rapidly changing word. She hails from the far south of New Zealand where she studied Journalism and graduated just about the time that the newspaper and magazine ¬†publishing industry was just beginning to disappear.
Publishing¬†(i.e. books; magazines and newspapers)¬†are rapidly being swallowed by the computer age. It has fallen victim to e-publishing.
So Joanna and many others are now seeking to redefine themselves and apply their skills in a rapidly changing world. Her skills should land her employment in the field of ¬†public relations or corporate media relations.
Getting into “The Christmas Spirit” can mean a lot of things not even close to the Christian roots of the holiday season.
There is still a “charitable” aspect to many of the events. On the last Friday before Christmas, Toronto sees “The Santa Claus Pub Crawl”.
Participants dress up in red Santa Clause and proceed to hop from club to club for a pint or two of Christmas Cheer. The event has the dual effect of instilling a measure of Christmas cheers to those who cross their path and raises money for ¬†charity.
One of the top things a Backpacker/Traveler doesn’t look forward to is spending their very first Christmas away from home.
For so many of our hostel’s guests, that is what they are facing when they come here on year-long working-holiday visas.
Here at the Canadiana, we hold a full-Christmas dinner for our guests. In years past, we prepared a full buffet dinner for as many as 140 guests. And a “buffet” is a serve yourself affair; or¬†basically an “all you can eat”¬†affair.
Teresa,¬†our head of housekeeping¬†(a.k.a “Superwoman”)¬†prepares a lavish feast right here in the hostel’s kitchens. She cooks turkeys (a lot of turkeys) with stuffing, potatos, vegetables, lasagna, salads and desserts.
The only things our guests need to bring are good appetites and alcoholic beverages¬†(if they wish).
Our “Canadiana Christmas” has become a very popular occasion. For instance, Eli¬†(an American from New Jersey)¬†spent a Christmas here¬†“accidentally” in 2005. He enjoyed himsef so much that he has returned to share Christmas with us twice since then! (Most recently this year.)