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Published: November 11th 2008
Gothic St Andrew's
Of course we had to take a photo of the closest you could get to a gothic church in downtown Toronto. This was also by the closest subway station.
It all began with another conference. We're lucky to have all these conferences for an excuse to go to new places (and old, for that matter)!
This time, it was in Canada, in the city of Toronto, and in November. Freezing, we expected, just like it had been at home before leaving. But luckily we checked the weather forecast before leaving home: 17 degrees Celsius!? For several days?? Yes, it was true. A proper Indian Summer (warmth after frost). Wonderful.
We decided to stay at the Clarence castle
, a nice place in a quiet park, just around the corner from the bustling King street and a couple of blocks from the shop-filled Queen street. This place was a pearl, with really nice staff and a simple but straightforward service: breakfast (cereals, bread, etc.) was included, but you have to take it yourself. Wifi was included, and a printer, if you need one (to check in online to the flight home, for example), and when I asked if there was perhaps a reading lamp available somewhere around, the staff guy simply went an bought one, since there should have been one but it was missing. We did get told off for being
These North American cities have such straight streets ... this is the corner of Queen and University.
in the kitchen too early one morning, though, "because breakfast isn't until 8," basta! Well, we were told of with a respectful smile. I guess "respect" is the key word for both Clarence castle and Toronto in general: if you show some, you get some. Easy as that.
Even though I had to work for several hours every day, I too had to join for a few walks around town. Squirrels (or chipmunks
) were everywhere. After a couple of days we at least stopped saying, "Oh, there's one!!" trying to reach a camera, but I'd still like to bring one of them black ones home with me. By the way, I learned that 'chipmunk' is an anglification of an American Indian word meaning "running down head-first". Too bad we didn't get a photo like that...
I wanted to visit at least one of the local breweries, so we headed down toward the "old town", with buildings dating from the 19th century. First, we went to the St. Lawrence market
, a market-hall that has been there since 1803. We were able to find some more or less locally produced cheese here, as well as fresh fish (although we didn't buy any)
Toronto in November
The CN tower in the back and a nice tree in the front.
and a tasty chowder (soup with something fishy in it). The stalls looked more like a Polish indoor market than the Saluhallen
of Göteborg, but they were north americanly big. We continued around the area, but the building across the street, that according to our guidebook should also house a market, seemed closed. The St James' park around the corner was fine, though.
Then, I got to see the first Post office
! They had a really informative, although small, exhibition on how mail was handled back in the days, when the post staff had an ad in the paper once a month for all the people who had mail to pick up at the office! Since it could take a day to get to the office if you lived out in the countryside, they also had a reading room at the office, where you could read your mail (or let someone read it to you) and then reply before going all the way home again. That's service for you! Nowadays, they have a special paper that you could buy and write a letter in the Reading room with a quill and ink, and I just had to. Then the paper
Some scrape better than others ...
was properly folded, sealed with red lacquer (is that the right term?), just like a Christmas present, and then stamped. Luckily, the letter doesn't go by boat these days...
Eventually, we ended up in the Distillery district. Here, close by the water, the boats could land stuff to make liquor in the old days, but now it's transformed, a bit like Klippan in Göteborg, into a walking area with new shops, galleries etc. My goal was the Mill St. Brewery, which I guess is most famous for its coffee porter. It does sound totally weird, but the coffee taste is more of a hint than an actual taste. The porter was good; I'd gladly have brought some home with me, if there hadn't been that annoying restriction of 100 ml packages. We didn't go to Canada with that much luggage, so we hadn't any check-in bags. I wouldn't have sent a bottle of coffee porter in the check-in luggage either, come to that.
Across the street from the brewery, there was a nice surprise: a chocolate factory
! They made pralines of their own, and sold different kinds of chocolaty things. I only tried a Douglas pine chocolate, and yes, it tasted
St Lawrence's market
Nice indoor market in an old building. From what we recall, it's been a market from the beginning (that is, in the 19th century).
of pine. Chocolate with a hint of soft soap (Grönsåpa), anyone?
So I got my share of the local flavours, anyway. That evening, we went for a birthday dinner - not that anyone of us had a birthday that day, but I had given my beloved a "dinner at a cosy restaurant in Toronto" for birthday present. We found the "Pier 4"
down by the Harbour-front. This is a richly decorated place that would probably be very suitable for a pirate party, if anyone should have one. Hilarious things all over the place, and we got a table by the water. The food was very good, really good flavours, so it's definitely something to recommend. There might be a bit more people there in July than a Tuesday in November, though.
So these were our first impressions of Toronto and Canada. Hot and sunny, and good food and drink (apple cider/juice for some). Brilliant.
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