HOSTELS IN TORONTO

We have a lot of young visitors to Toronto who deserve to be labeled “Vagabonds”. It simply means they are very well traveled. Travel for young backpackers has become easier and easier.

Have you ever thought about what travel for young backpackers was like before there were hostels?

Back in the 1960’s and ’70’s was perhaps the first time young people (often fresh out of school) began to travel in earnest. But young backpackers back then there was little infrastructure to accommodate a youth on the road. 

Hostels were still an unheard of concept. Perhaps the only option for a budget minded youth visiting Toronto was  the YMCA. Books such as “Europe on $5 a Day” were bestsellers and back then it really might have been possible if you slept in on benches in parks (which many did).

In the days before hostels, backpacking was a real adventure where lodging for a night was in cheap hotels in bad sections of a city; places that often rented rooms by the hour.

Backpacking is still a adventure for youths. It is merely different. Young travelers range father and wider that those of a generation ago. It is a smaller world now; yet today, there is so much more of it available to see.

Canadiana Toronto Hostel

A group of gorgeous female backpackers meeting on the hostels patio getting ready for a “Ladies Only” night on the town in Toronto,

Wine & Cheese

At our Toronto Hostel, we hold a different “event” designed to give our backpacker guests a chance to meet and mix.

Friday’s event is very popular and it’s easy to see why.

To the best of our knowledge, of all Toronto hostels, we are the only one that holds a “Wine and Cheese” night. If any of the other hostels do, we were definitely the first!

Vera, a hostel staff member (and resident Sommelier), selects different “dry” red and white wines every week and serves them up with cheese and bread.

We understand that the average backpackers budget is limited. So, as a result, the cost of the Wine and Cheese is picked up by Canadiana Backpackers.

All of our hostels guests (19 and over) should join Vera on our patio at 8:30 PM on Friday’s to raise a glass and sample some cheese. (If the weather doesn’t co-operate, meet in the hostels common area).

 

 

Canadiana Wine & Cheese Toronto Hostels

Hostel in toronto wine & cheese

That’s VERA, she’s easy to find (second from right) with the impossibly “blond” hair.

backpacker hostel toronto

KAYCE ON THE WALL

The walls of our hostel’s “Common Area” is covered with pictures of past guests with an accompanying thumbnail biography. Lots of pictures.

And staff are constantly asked the question; “How does a person get their picture on our wall?”

Firstly, virtually every backpacker has an interesting story. In fact, it is quite easy to pen a compelling narrative about any young traveler.

The people we choose to put up are guests whose presence has somehow impacted the hostel in a positive way.  Individuals who have been a pleasure to host and whose absence will be felt.

One of the latest additions to our wall of “Notable Guests” is Catherine “Kacye” Gregory. Kayce was at our hostel this summer (2013) for the second time, Her first trip was back in 2010 when she did a year towards her undergrad studies at Brock University in the Niagara Region of Ontario.

Kayce quickly made a lot of friends here among both staff and guests during her visit. She seems to have made quite an impact on Canada as the country seems to have on her.  We can now look at Kayce’s photo and be reminded how hostel life was richer by her presence; and just a little poorer after she left.

She returned to her home in Lancashire, U.K. in order to complete a Master’s Degree in Social Work. She then plans to immigrate to Canada. We look forward to welcoming her to Canada when she comes here to stay.

(To see Kayce’s photo and bio – as well as all the other “Notable Guests” – click on ‘Blog -> Notable Guests’ on our Canadiana Website).

Toronto Hostels Notable Guests - Kayce

Kayce – a recent visitor to our hostel in Toronto.

An Annual Heat Escape

It seems as if July is the month when a lot of repeat visitors return to our hostels doors in Toronto. A lot of them arrive from the United States, particularly the Southern states.

It seems they are “Reverse Snowbirds”.  Snowbirds are Canadians who head south every winter to escape our winter’s wrath. (Florida is a popular destination for this seasonal southern migration.)

Tracy and Sam (a mother and daughter from Texarkana, Arkansas/Texas were just here a few weeks ago for their annual northern escape).

Changing weather patterns have seen the summer heat and humidity soar in the southern U. S. A. Last July, the average daily temperature across the southern states consistently surpassed 100F (38C).

Kris, a blind sailing instructor from Naples, Florida, comes here annually to serve as an instructor at he Canadian National Institute for the Blind’s (CNIB) summer camp in Muskoka.

(See post: “Sail away…sail away…sail away…” July 23, 2012.)

When Kris arrived this year, Toronto was in the midst of an Extreme Heat Alert” with the temperatures of 35C and extreme humidity. While local residents were stepping on their tongues, Kris was wondering what the big deal was?

We’d like Kris to visit next January so we can tell him that -20C  (-4F) ) isn’t cold!

ULTIMATE FRISBEE

The 2013 World Championship Ultimate Frisbee Competition is being held right here in Toronto.

What is Ultimate Frisbee? Glad you asked.

Everyone knows what a Frisbee is. Most of us have played with one made by the Wham-o Company of the U.S.A. It’s a plastic flying disc that evolved from some students at Yale University in the early 1920’s tossing around pie plates made by the Frisbie Pie Company.

Our hostel in Toronto is currently hosting the Blue Bottles Ultimate Frisbee Team of Australia (Under 23 Mixed).

Our first impression of this young group was how “fit”they are. Their game (simply called “Ultimate” due to copyright issues on the trademarked name “Frisbee”) seems to be pretty intense for a sport that grew out of a simple pastime.

The 2013 World Championship (Under 23) will be contested from July 21st to July 28th at York University in Toronto by more than 40 teams of the world’s best players from 20 nations/

Although there are close to 5 million players in North America alone; it seems that few people are really familiar with the sport.

It is actually a fast game requiring a remakable degree of speed and agility for a sport that grew out of a simple pastime. We wish the Blue Bottles team well and we will keep you updated on how they fare.

North America in July

What’s so special about July in North America? It just seems that a lot of important events seem to be associated with the beginning of July.

Americans, our neighbours to the south, celebrate their Independence from England in a revolutionary war declared and fought beginning on July 4th, 1776.

In Canada on July 1st, 1867 the three British Provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Canada united to form the Dominion of Canada. What was originally “Dominion Day” is now “Canada Day”, an amalgam of ten Provinces and three Territories.

The point is both of our nations’ celebrate during the first week of July. On the first weekend we mexperience an upsurge in the number of visitors from the United States. Our hostel in Toronto has made a lot of friends with visitors from America.

Some even make a visit to Toronto and our Backpackers Inn an annual event. We look forward to seeing them for our yearly catch-up.

This year we decided to hold our Canada Day BBQ a few days after July 1st so that our American friends (arriving over the 4th of July weekend) might celebrate with us. Meteorologists had predicted a cooler and wetter summer for 2013 (thus far, they have been pretty correct). 

So we dropped the idea of an outdoor BBQ and opted for a sit-down meal of an enormous 10 kg pork roast. If it rained, we could easily move the celebration indoors. We even added chicken to the menu for those whom for various reasons eschew pork.

We are  not aware of any other of Toronto hostels that organize such an event; but this one was so successful, we have a plan in the works to make it an annual  event.

 

 

MALIBU NORTH

Of all the Toronto Hostels that are centrally located (i.e. “Downtown”) none are more centrally located as our hostel in Toronto.

We are virtually in the centre of the Toronto “Entertainment District”. We are right next door to the Toronto Film Festival’s “Lightbox Theatre” HQ, only three short blocks from the iconic Toronto landmark, CN Tower.

The number of mainstream movies and television series filmed in Toronto has earned Toronto the nickname “Hollywood North”. Movie Star Gazing is a common Toronto amusement. This activity takes place in our immediate vicinity especially during the annual Toronto Film Festival.

Toronto really does merit the moniker “Hollywood North” and a lot of the hostels guests are well aware of the Toronto/Hollywood connection.

What is far less commonly known is a trendy and glamorous upscale region exists a mere two hours drive north of Toronto.

One of Toronto residents favourite summer recreation area is “Muskoka”, known to locals as “Cottage Country” and dubbed by the New York Times, “Malibu North”.

Muskoka is a forested region just inland from the Georgian Bay of the Great Lakes. There are over 900 freshwater lakes in the region. A lot of wealthy individuals have summer “cottages” on these lakes. But many are “cottages” in name only. In truth, they qualify as “Mansions” commanding multi-million dollar price tags.

Hollywood celebrities who either own or visit friends cottages in the summer include; Tom Cruise, Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russel, Bill Cosby, Drake, Martin Short, Bill Murray, Cindy Crawford, Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg etc., etc….

Sadly, very few backpackers or travelers who frequent hostels ever experience the beauty and charm of Muskoka. There is very little low-cost travel infrastructure and a visit really requires a car.

The closest you can get to the “Muskoka Experience” is the “Algonquin Provincial Park” just north of Muskoka.  Here there are (at least) two hostels; but most backpackers prefer to camp. Again, car rental is a must.

The following excerpt was lifted verbatim from the “Discover Muskoka” tourism website:

“On several occasions, Muskoka has been recognized by National Geographic Traveler magazine as a special place to visit. Muskoka is one of their top 20 Best of The World – Must-see places  and was chosen as the #1 pick for the Ten Best Trips of Summer. Just recently, Muskoka was recognized by National Geographic as one of the ‘100 Places That Can Change Your Child’s Life.” These endorsements from an iconic magazine are testimony to Muskoka’s tourism experiences and our quality of life.” 

TORONTO HOSTELS

All hostels strive to be places of “conviviality”. A hostel’s reputation is built largely on how easily people mix with strangers.

Of all the Toronto hostels, we have been called (justifiably) the easiest place for a solo-traveler to meet and mix with fellow backpackers.

A lot of it has to do with the way our hostel is laid out. There are ten three-story Victorian-era houses (circa 1889) occupying virtually an entire city block in the epicenter of the Toronto Entertainment District. But our “kitchen”, “coffee and tea”, “patio” and “common area”, are located in our “Main Building” where the hostels reception area is located.

We also don’t play “background music” with piped in middle-of-the-road music in the common room or the patio. The purpose of this is to encourage conversation among guests.

It works.

Of all Toronto hostels, our objective has always been to try to make travelers feel like they have found a temporary home in Toronto.  We’ll keep trying our best to become known as the Toronto hostel where there are few strangers, just friends who have yet to meet.

 

B.Y.O.W.

B.Y.O.W. = “Bring Your Own Wine”. Not exactly a novel idea; but surprisingly unpopular in Ontario. You might think it would be an attractive alternative for budget minded hostel residents.

There has been a voluntary B.Y.O.W. program in Ontario for about 8 years now. There are close to 700 Licenced Establishments in Toronto alone that have signed on to the program.

It allows  patrons to “bring their own bottle” to a restaurant that serves alcohol.

We’re not sure exactly how it works; but, our neighbouring Province, Quebec has long had a similar program in place. Their program appears to be much better than ours.  Because NO “Corkage Fees” are levied.

Additionally, in Quebec you can also bring a bottle of wine into an unlicenced establishment to enjoy with your meal. Very civilized.

Perhaps Ontario will follow suit once we grow up. Historically, Ontario residents are used to absurd and draconian “Liquor Laws”.

Corkage fees in some upscale Ontario restaurants run as high as $40. The average fee runs about $15 (charged for simply pulling the cork and providing glasses). So we can’t really see a great savings (if any) on an average bottle of wine purchased on a backpacker’s budget.

A list of all 2200 plus participating Ontario Establishments (and applicable”Corkage Fees”) can be found here:

http://www.byow.com/

 

THE FAMOUS MR. ED

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.

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.

 

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