Thursday, 24 November 2016

Toronto, Canada [part 1]

toronto sign

We met the lovely Alyssia and Jon in New Zealand two years ago [on the Kiwi Experience bus tour] and have kept in touch ever since. We have been talking about visiting them in their hometown of Toronto for a long time and it was so exciting to finally arrive! We had a welcome committee at the airport and so began two weeks of awesome adventures in Canada! 

airport welcome sign
Our airport welcome committee, Alyssia and Jon

Despite being absolutely shattered from our flight, the four of us headed out to a great pizza restaurant in the neighbourhood called Queen Margherita Pizza before an early night. 

On Sunday morning we all headed out for brunch. We started queuing at one popular spot, before deciding to queue at Bonjour Brioche, a french style bakery instead, thinking the queue might be smaller. This place is just as crazy popular and we waited nearly an hour for a table. The wait was worth it, as the food was delicious and the coffee was served in massive bowls!

toronto brunch
Brunch at Brioche Bakery

After brunch we headed to Downtown Toronto to explore. I've never seen such a collectively great selection of shops in one place; I could have spent a fortune! Realising that there was a Vans store and that the Toy Story Vans shoes I've wanted for ages may be available here [not released in the UK until the end of November], we headed there and I was not disappointed. They may be the single most geeky thing I will ever buy in my life, but I love them! 

toy story vans woody
Woody Toy Story Vans

Sidewalk art, a homage to the Toronto Blue Jays Baseball team

We walked through the city towards the City Hall, where we embraced the photo opportunity offered by the giant Toronto sign on display next to an ice rink. We were a little too early into the winter to skate on the ice rink, but you can tell that it is an amazing spot and apparently they regularly have DJs perform there at weekends. 

toronto city hall sign
Ice rink outside Toronto City Hall

toronto giant sign

On Monday morning, Alyssia and Jon had a day at work to squeeze in before taking the rest of the week off. Emily and I took the opportunity to go and do some of the particularly touristy stuff, and nothing gets more touristy than a trip to the CN Tower! The entry fee for the CN Tower is very high, but as we knew the views would be great and because the tower is so iconic, we decided it was a must-do. We paid a bit extra to go to the very top of the tower, several storeys higher than the main viewing platform and it was well worth it. 

cn tower views
View from the top of the CN Tower

glass floor cn tower
CN Tower glass floor

There is a glass floor section of the tower which was really quite terrifying to stand on. I stood on a glass floor at the Sears Tower in Chicago earlier in the year, which I was fine with, but the CN Tower one was much higher and for some reason, much scarier. Squeaky bum time!

giant canadian bear
At the bottom of the tower, I couldn't resist a photo opportunity with Yogi. 
He's smarter than your average bear!

Near the CN Tower is on old train yard, which is home to the Steam Whistle Brewery. We stopped for lunch, which was a tasty pretzel bun, with pear and brie. The Pilsner lager was great; the only beer they do. Their motto is to do one thing really, really well. We went on a brewery tour, which was good value and included a bottle of beer each. The tour was informative and fun and lasted about 45 minutes. They've put a lot of effort into making the brewery functional, but also great for visitors, including a large event room which they say is popular for corporate dos and weddings.

steam whistle brewery tour
Steam Whistle Brewery lunch 

We continued our touristy tour of Toronto, wandering fairly aimlessly, except on the look out for a Tim Horton's, so that Emily could enjoy her first visit! I don't know what it is that I like so much about Tim Horton's, as I have to admit that the coffee isn't particularly great. The whole experience is good though and I can't wait for them to open up in the UK soon!

tim hortons coffee
Mission accomplished: Emily's first Tim Horton's!

toronto theater

downtown toronto
Emily Street!

We stumbled across a Fire Station in the middle of Downtown, which was a great photo opportunity for a very geeky collection I'm gathering. I find it interesting seeing fire stations in different locations and countries and how different they all are. Click here to view the #firestationgeek hashtag on Instagram, where you can check out my extremely geeky collection of these photos!

canada fire truck
Another photo for my Fire Station photo collection

On Tuesday the four of us headed out together, as Alyssia and Jon now had the rest of the week off work. We drove to a car park on Toronto's Lakeshore, and walked alongside the lake, taking in the incredible views of the city. We decided to walk to Downtown, for lunch at the Amsterdam Brewhouse. The walk ended up being much longer than we anticipated [around two hours!] but the views were amazing the the weather was lovely and very unseasonably warm. After lunch, we got an Uber back to the car to avoid another two hour walk!

lakeshore walk toronto
Toronto Lakeshore and skyline views

toronto park
Toronto Lakeshore Park

toronto lakeshore park
Toronto Lakeshore Park

toronto waterfront
A Marine Fire Station. A great day for my geeky photo collection!

On Tuesday afternoon we had a wander around the quirky Kensington Market area of Toronto and stopped for coffee at a really lovely cafe called The Eative Film Cafe. 

Emily and I are big fans of pub quiz nights back home, despite rarely doing very well in them. They're a great way to get friends together in the week and we even normally go on a Tuesday! On Tuesday evening, Jon and Alyssia took us to a 'Trivia Night' in Cabbagetown [great name] at a pub called Stout. They did nice food and the quiz was free to enter. The quiz was really well run by a great host, with a variety of rounds and two music rounds, which I always enjoy. Despite having a great time, our team 'Harry Potter and the Quizinors of Azkaban' came 17th out of 19 teams. It's the taking part that counts!

trivia night
Trivia Night at the Stout Irish Pub

On Wednesday we went for lunch at Sanremo Bakery, which is apparently regularly voted as Toronto's best Italian bakery. It was bustling with people buying fresh food, coffee and deli foods and we enjoyed delicious fresh baguettes whilst chatting to Jon and Alyssia's friends Marion and Chris, who are also getting married next year. 

On Wednesday night we had dinner and drinks with Jon and Alyssia's friend Ashley, and were later joined by her husband Darren. Ashley plays in a Hockey team called West Ends Girls and we headed to an ice arena to go and see her and her team play! Ashley scored a goal and after several more, her team won!

ice hockey canada
West Ends Girls Hockey match

After an awesome and action packed first few days in Toronto, on Thursday we headed to Niagara Falls, which I will write about in my next blog post. I'll be writing a second blog post about Toronto soon too. 

Thanks for reading!

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