Around Toronto, a round Brewery, Islands and Distilleries

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July 16th 2014
Published: August 1st 2014
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Toronto cityscapeToronto cityscapeToronto cityscape

That's the money shot
Taking it easy

By this point my lag was starting to ease. I'd never been out of Europe prior to Canada and therefore I'd never had jetlag. It's strange because I was so pumped to do stuff I didn't really notice it, however each morning I woke up I felt run down and haggard. This would soon pass when I got into my stride, but it just made getting out of bed a bit of a chore.

We had an easy morning and ambled up to China town. We enjoy a good Chinatown to be fair, always something fun to look at, including my favourite ever shop sign "Jewellery, Antiques, Swords". You know, because when you're fighting fighting back hordes of medieval invaders you need to look your most bling next to your collection of fine wedgewood pottery.

While I was taking a photo of the shop sign Gemma had pulled the map out as we were trying to make our way up to Kensington Market just outside of Chinatown. An Oriental-Torontonian lady stopped and gave us directions. Actually she approached us and offered them. So far we had noticed that people in Canada are so quick to offer help and people you speak to are genuinely interested in you and why you're there or what you're doing. It's refreshing to be honest, you get so used to everyone around you in society being focused only on themselves that it is quite alien when a stranger is lending a hand. We followed her directions up to Kensington Market which was like a 3 square block area of market stalls, boutique shops, obscure bazaar type shops, local bakeries and delis. We milled around, purchasing a cake and just taking it all in. Many shops have graffiti murals on the outside which is cool, it gives a hint of what may be found inside. Da Vintage Code having a Mona Lisa painted on the outside is one of the notable ones to see.

We went into one craft / art boutique style shop as my friend Matt (immortalised forever in a previous Blog entry: this one here.) is launching what will prove to be a successful career in Linocut printing, he's incredibly talented and comes up with some really quirky ideas, and it pains me that I should speak of him in such high regard. Matt's page. Anyway in this shop I saw a screen printed image of Marine animals of the atlantic and fell in love with it. Sadly we were only a few days into a two week holiday that saw us fly all across Canada, so I asked them if they imported to the UK and indeed they did then she gave me information about the company that printed the image. Turns out they are based in Vancouver which we would be visiting for the final week of the holiday... there was hope yet. As with most Canadians we then discussed who we were, where we were from and what we were up to, again she seemed genuinely interested. We left and slowly ambled back through Kensington Market and Chinatown back toward the base of the CN tower for our brewery tour that we had booked onto.

Beer glorious beer, Pils, Bitter and Lager!!!

I like beer. I like beer a lot. In terms of alcohol it comes a close second to a good straight sippin' Bourbon. Now Pilsner I have never been massive on but two days previously we had had complimentary samples of Steam Whistle Brewery Pilsner and we enjoyed it very much!

Steam Whistle Brewery tourSteam Whistle Brewery tourSteam Whistle Brewery tour

Go on... ask me about my T-Rex
we arrived and checked in for our tour of the brewery. Something had gone wrong, their system had only registered Gemma as booked onto the tour, however they said I could tag along but may not get a headset as its so loud in the factory I'd have to stand near the tour guide. Luckily I was handed a headset and the tour began. We were given background on the building the aptly named Roundhouse which is paired with a railway museum that celebrates Canada's rich heritage of trains and railways. The brewery was initially founded by 3 guys who had lost their jobs at another brewery. One day they were sat round morose at their lot in life they decided to set up another brewery as it was something they loved so much. They decided to name their brewing company 3 Fired Guys, until one of their wives informed them that who in their right mind would buy beer from 3 guys who had been fired from working in a brewery. So they then settled upon Steam Whistle which evokes the idea of the steam whistle heralding the end of the working day when it was time for a beer. All employees at the brewery get a free beer when their whistle sounds at the end of the day to keep up this tradition. We were handed a bottle of the beautiful Pilsner when the tour began on the proviso we informed the guide where we had come from. Easy enough. We went through the life cycle of a steam whistle pilsner from fermentation to distribution. Part way through the tour we were told if we could eat 3 pellets of hops then the guide would give us another bottle of beer. two days prior I had tried one pellet. If you've never eaten hops imagine scooping the earwax out of a particularly clogged ear and spreading it over a cotton wool ball then put it in your mouth. 3 of them made one seem like a cake walk but a few minutes later I swallowed the last piece along with two other tour members and downed a cup of water to get rid of the taste and the tour continued. The brewery make sure that they perform a lot of positive actions within the community and they also provide support to local unsigned bands by allowing them to
A beer scientistA beer scientistA beer scientist

gig in the brewery. Local art is also displayed just adding to the awesome that is Steam Whistle Brewery (including an Iron Throne made of Steam Whistle cans and boxes!). More beer and a free Steam Whistle pint glass and bottle opener later we lurched out in search of food as it was hot, we were hungry and we were a little tipsy. Foot long subway and a large plastic cup of Iced Tea sorted that right out.

Toronto Islands

From here we decided, suitably stuffed and feeling a little less tipsy we went down to the water front and caught a boat over to the Islands. Gilbert, our small oriental ticket salesmen asked me about my T-Rex. I was overjoyed, he was the first person to ask about it. He, however, was not overjoyed when I pulled my t-shirt up over my head to show him my T-Rex face print. He looked very awkward, and Gemma looked a little ashamed.

The Ferry crossing takes you right under the flight path of incoming and outgoing air traffic from the nearby Toronto City Airport which is cool when a prop-driven plane flies overhead so close you feel like
Beer can/box Iron ThroneBeer can/box Iron ThroneBeer can/box Iron Throne

so much awesome!!
you can touch it.

We were greeted on the harbour by an American Mink running around and playing nearby. That added another ticked species to my mental zoo. We wandered southward to the pier that overlooks the vast emptiness that is Lake Ontario. On a clear day from the CN tower the Falls can be seen but today it was cloudy and it just looked like the lake dropped off the side of the world. It's pretty awesome that a body of water can be that massive and not be considered a sea, people were swimming in it, it had a sandy beach and a pier. To all intents and purposes it was a sea... We then hired a quadricycle and explored the island at our leisure, until it began raining sideways rendering the fancy striped canvass roofing useless. We'd nearly had our hour with the bike and cycled it back, soaked through we headed back for the ferry. After boarding the clouds parted and the cityscape was bathed in glorious sunshine which afforded us a good photo-op which can be seen at the beginning of the blog.

We had just enough time to seek out the St. Lawrence market before it closed and after some exploring we found it and had a good old nose around looking at all the items on offer. It was good to see but being mainly a food market from a touristy point of view it didn't offer as much as Kensington Market did. Still, glad we visited.

The ungrateful homeless bloke

That evening we had Chinese from Hong Shing restaurant on the edge of China town. The restaurant is fairly middle of the road but provided us with honey crispy fried beef. At less than 11 bucks a portion we opted for two, the waiter assured us we'd only need one and a plate of rice. He wasn't wrong. There was enough food to feed a morbidly obese family of five. We troughed on valiantly but were beaten with enough food left to feed at least one other person - I can eat a large amount of food when I set my mind to it. I've bested both the Cod Father and a 48 ounce steak with a portion of chips and side salad but this topped me. So I asked for the food to be bagged up, we
Maple Biscuit Breakfast Sandwich comboMaple Biscuit Breakfast Sandwich comboMaple Biscuit Breakfast Sandwich combo

with hash brown and frozen lemonade... ughhhh *dribbles*
wouldn't be hungry again tonight and we were leaving Toronto the following morning so I thought I know, I've seen videos of benevolent dudes giving the homeless, clothes and food and stuff. I'll find one, of the millions of homeless people between here and our hotel and they can have a hearty meal. So on the walk back I've got my kebab tray of food in a bag and there's panhandlers galore. Problem is, my hobo-prejudice shone through a right good'en because the first one was muttering to himself about the impending apocalypse so I avoided him, next was asleep so I didn't want to disturb him. Then from behind a tree strode my man. Head to foot in rags, massive beard, no teeth. He'll do. I approached him and explained that I didn't have any money for him as he asked for spare change, but I did have some spare food and he could have it if he wanted.

Now at this point I'm expecting someone with a video camera filming us to pop up and edit in some emotional music, I'm then to be carried on the shoulders of my adoring fans back to my hotel for being such a paragon of humanity as the screen fades to black with white scroll words that say "Faith in humanity = restored". Is that what happened? IS IT HECK! He just muttered "yeah" snatched the food off me and tossed it down onto the patch of Earth he inhabited that day. I wandered off, I didn't feel it was right I try and teach this dude some manners, he looked like he'd had a pretty rough day and I hope that it was made a little better regardless of my petty whining.

The Heartstopper

The next morning we were up early and had the room packed. We were due to catch a flight to the westernmost flank of Canada. British Columbia awaited.

We headed down to Tim Horton's to grab a Maple Biscuit Breakfast Sandwich. Oh god they are so good! Word's cannot describe the intense happy feelings you get when eating one of them. Maple scone, sausage patty, scrambled egg / omelette and a slice of all American plastic cheese (which in itself reminds me of my good friend Alex's house when we were kids because we always had plastic cheese sandwiches... nostalgia is good) We had a few visits to Tim's in Canada as their food is way better than McDonald's and I finally got a Cruller, a life long ambition since watching Wayne's World as a kid, don't worry though when not gorging on fast food we ate out at some fairly high end restaurants so we ran the gamut of Canadian gastronomy.

Last on our list of Toronto activities was the distillery district. Once the home of Gooderham and Worts Distillery it has a rich history and the best preserved collection of Victorian industrial buildings this side of the Atlantic. There was original pieces of equipment used in the district now mounted as museum pieces in and around the cafes, restaurants and art shops that now make up the district. It has had a long and colourful history including over 150 continuous years as a working distillery. There is a mounted section with loads of alcohol bottles on that would be the envy of many a student halls or alcoholic's park bench.

Why I started to fall in love with Canada

I've previously mentioned the friendly nature of the Canadian people, well here is another example. Making our way up to the tube station (via the ROM to grab a book I'd seen) some bloke in the street went "OI!" I look up expecting to have upset someone and he follows up with "Nice t-shirt mate!" The people in Toronto are awesome.

I knew that Godzilla t-shirt that cost me like £5 would be a winner!


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