A midwinter visit to Toronto

By Caitlin Kelly

IMG_20170315_172130157_HDR

The view from my rented flat, 30 stories up!

 

First question — why would anyone do such a thing?

Today’s temperature? 18 F, -8 Celsius.

Bloody cold, kids!

It was a week that fit my work schedule and I needed to renew my passport. I could have mailed away my old one (no thanks!) and paid $260. Instead I spent a lot more to stay in a rented flat for a week off, to see old friends and family.

I was out of the downtown Toronto airport — located on an island in the harbor — by 10:30 a.m., got my photos taken and had my application in, ($210, all in, including $50 for the rush job) by 12:30. Sweet!

IMG_20170314_164105643_HDR

Isn’t this a hoot? The Museum subway stop, which has been renovated and designed to a fantastic level (the Royal Ontario Museum sits just above)

 

Here are some of the things I’m enjoying this week, despite the bitter winds and blowing snow:

 

Seeing dear old friends

Catching up with people I knew at summer camp 40 years ago and from my college years at University of Toronto. My friend K was pregnant with her first child when she danced at my first wedding — her daughter is now a successful actress here. Whew!

Thinking in metric and Celsius

I bought 100 grams of salami, and have to keep looking up the temperature in F.

Canadian cash

No pennies. Loonies and toonies. (Those are $1 and $2 coins.) The Canadian dollar is 74 cents U.S., giving me an automatic discount on everything I spend here.

A modern, downtown rented flat

It came up on a search on Trivago, $109 U.S. per night for a 700 square foot condo on the 30th floor of a residential building downtown. It’s super-bright, quiet, and has a brand-new kitchen, bathroom and comfortable queen bed. I come and go with all the other residents, meeting their kids and dogs in the elevator. I like it.

IMG_20170314_164252194

OK, no big deal, but I love these biscuits, not easy to find in New York — here, for sale in a subway newsstand

Great food

Went to the legendary, enormous St. Lawrence Market, (took the streetcar for $3.25), to buy food for breakfasts at home and, of course (always!) fresh flowers to make the flat feel more like home. Brought home an olive baguette, a muffin, some cheese and pate and salami, butter, jam, fruit and a fistful of glorious, fragrant purple hyacinth.

Restaurants, bars, cafes

Had a very good lunch at Milagro, a 10-year-old Mexican restaurant, the one on Mercer. Anything that survives that long in a foodie city must be good, and my meal was.

Loved Balzac’s, a cafe chain across Ontario. I stopped in at the one next to the Market for a cappuccino and a scone.

A must-do on most of my visits is the roof bar on the 14th floor of the Hyatt Hotel, at the corner of Bloor and Avenue Road. Small, intimate, quiet, elegant, it has terrific views of the city. I’ve been drinking there since college — Victoria College at University of Toronto is only two blocks south — so it’s full of memories. On one visit, the Prime Minister and his entourage sat in a corner.

My friend J introduced me to the Museum Tavern, a terrific five-year-old bistro directly across the street from the Royal Ontario Museum. Great atmosphere and food — and lots of memories, with some of the original decor from a long-closed TO restaurant I once enjoyed, Bemelman’s.

Enjoyed breakfast at Le Petit Dejeuner with an old friend and colleague.

Convenience

I left Toronto decades ago and the downtown core has totally transformed, thanks to a forest of condo skyscrapers, which means there is every possible amenity within a few blocks.

I took a spin class at 7:45 at night, then walked a few blocks, slowly, back to the flat, staring up into the night sky at the CN Tower, with its lights beaming in rainbow colors. (I once interviewed the man who designed it — then later got a marriage proposal from him — and recently ran into him in a town near our NY home. Small world!)

Easy-going diversity

Yes, Toronto has racial tensions and even crime, just like other major cities. But it’s overwhelmingly a city of immigrants, with every nation you can imagine represented. I miss that; New York City is, arguably, diverse, but it’s very segregated economically.

IMG_20170314_081400496

A cardboard Mountie stands guard at St. Lawrence Market. A must-see!

17 thoughts on “A midwinter visit to Toronto

  1. The first things I buy when I go to Toronto are Big Turk chocolate bars and Laura Secord frosted mints. Oh, and strawberry licorice twizzlers. Then I go to Yitz’s deli (probably too far north for you) at the corner of Avenue Road and Eglinton (one of my old neighborhoods) for their divine knish.

    Toronto, though, has become practically unrecognizable from when I lived there so long ago. I remember walking up Bay Street once towards Bloor – those massive towers on either side – wondering where the heck I was. I felt completely disoriented. I felt, actually, like a total stranger in my own home town. But still, it’s a wonderfully dynamic, buzzing, happening, cosmopolitan place. Great restaurants. But, economically speaking, I honestly don’t know if I’d be able to live there today. Paris is cheaper. Isn’t that weird?

    Could you see yourself living back in Toronto now?

    When you’re in Paris, it would be great to meet up for a meal or a cocktail.

    Have fun in Toronto, despite the frigid temperatures!

    1. Oh, yeah, stocking up on Big Turk for sure….I think Laura Secord is long gone now.

      Toronto housing prices are so insane so have no idea if we’d come back. We can live in NY cheaper — so that’s weird, too!

      Yes, will find you a Paris encore une fois.

  2. it sounds like you are having a lovely time, weather be damned. i especially liked your description of the foods you purchased at the market and loved the museum’s influence on the subway scene. enjoy !

    1. Thanks! Off tomorrow to see three different friends…:-)

      Had a crazy moment today — ran into the spin class instructor from Wednesday night in a totally different spot and learned he’d won (!) Canada’s edition of Project Runway. Small world. 🙂

  3. What fun to read about my home town through your eyes. Sounds like you squeezed all of the juice out of your visit. Great choices for coffee and food. Glad you survived the freezing temperatures – we are so ready for spring!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s