I spent the past few days eating my way through the one-of-a-kind (and HUGE) city of Toronto in Ontario, Canada. One could describe Toronto as a European version of Chicago, or a less-chaotic version of New York City…but these descriptions only scratch the surface of what Toronto has to offer. To me, I liked Toronto because it felt different than any place I had been before, yet it had a sense of familiarity. With the audible and visible mixture of languages and cultures, it is unique, diverse, interesting, and beautiful in its own way.
Seaside stroll and a stationery store
Upon arrival in Toronto, my parents and I headed to the Toronto Harbour to walk around (okay, we really just wanted a snack). We lucked out with an absolutely beautiful day; it was breezy but sunny – perfect for exploring the city. Our first stop was a coffee shop, Lavazza, where I had delicious pistachio gelato. Everything about the cafe was perfect…it was surrounded by an outdoor seating area plopped on a huge patch of turf (and I wanted to stay there forever). Then, we walked along the Harbour. While we passed on some of the touristy boat rides, there were still many great views of the area (as well as a sketchy street performer/singer that was trying a little too hard to be Elvis). We also saw some booths and attractions for the Pan Am games, which were held in Toronto that week.
One of my favorite finds in Toronto was a Japanese store called Muji. When I first walked in, I thought it was just a clothing store that featured a few random knick-knacks (like alarm clocks and makeup wipes), but upon closer inspection, I found a little piece of heaven: the stationery section. *Cue “Heaven is a Place on Earth” by Belinda Carlisle.* This place was the Dylan’s Candy Bar of office supplies. I saw every type of pen, notebook, paper pad, pencil, eraser, highlighter, sticky note, and calendar ever created…and MORE. It put the Target desk supply aisle to shame (which is seriously saying something)! Everything was so neatly arranged (and reasonably priced) and it was actually impossible to leave the store empty-handed. Talk about pure imagination…
Cloudy with a chance of eggplant
The next day was chilly and rainy, which wasn’t ideal, but knowing the feature presentation of the day was a visit to St. Lawrence Market (the #1 Food Market in the World according to National Geographic), nothing could dampen my mood.
We kicked off the day by meeting up with Sherry, an eclectic Toronto-native and our personal “foodie tour guide.” Sherry was quite the character. One of the first things she said was, “I only have one rule – and that’s that I don’t have any rules!” Good one, Sher. (Okay, actually, one of the first things she said was, “I’ve been down with a cold for the past two weeks, but, here I am! I don’t like to disappoint.” I couldn’t tell if this was good or bad.)
“I haven’t killed any tourists by jaywalking. Yet.”
Before the tour, I thought Sherry would simply be guiding us to and through St. Lawrence Market. Wellp, I was wrong. I didn’t realize the massive size of Toronto until Sherry took us through what felt like every hidden street, alleyway, and park. She showed us many of the city’s hidden gems, including a literal urban jungle and many unique sculptures and architecture. Here are a few of my favorite spots:
We trekked in and out of buildings, on cobblestone roads, through alleys, around corners, parks, and across streets. Then, we made it to
the promised land St. Lawrence Market, and Sherry said:
“They know me here. I know where all the samples are.”
Cue the food pictures:
St. Lawrence Market = Cleveland’s West Side Market on steroids.
One huge sandwich and a few lemon bars later, I was the least hangry I have ever been in my entire life.
These boots were made for walking
After our St. Lawrence Market expedition, we visited the Bata Shoe Museum, had a yummy Italian dinner, and saw the musical Kinky Boots!
Won’t you take me to Chinatown?
Aaaaannd…since we didn’t really eat that much on the trip (not), we spent our last afternoon in Toronto with a visit to the main Chinatown. (I say ‘main’ because there are four or five other Chinatowns in the city!) We had a very authentic Chinese lunch of lo mein, fried dumplings, and the fluffiest tofu I’ve ever had. (I felt obligated to use my chopsticks the entire meal, which, for once, did not turn out to be an epic fail.) We also walked around Kensington Market, a colorful neighborhood with lots of cute shops and restaurants.
I had an amazing trip thanks to my favorite (always-punctual) travel companions! Thanks for everything (even though we listened to the Cupid Shuffle two times in a row in the car). I know there will be many more adventures to come!
Here’s to happy tummies and great memories,
PS – I am writing for a college admissions/lifestyle website called The Prospect – keep an eye out for my articles, which should be going live in the next few weeks!