I didn’t really make a plan for this vacation. I mean…. Toronto is MY city. It’s where I went to school, where I had my coming of age, where I bought my first, second and third home. It’s where some of my “friends for life” still call home and it’s where I keep a piece of my soul.
I was in “Survival Mode” on our first day in the city, super tired from the long trip the day before and a little jet-legged. But honestly I felt pretty good and was eager to start exploring, even if I had to wear the same clothes from the day before since KLM lost my luggage (more on that story in this post from last week!).
I’m the only one in my family who caught the “downtown” bug. I moved downtown as soon as I could and still have a close connection with the city. I need the streetcar, subway and buses to feel good! I love walking everywhere, I love being connected to things, people and experiences and I’m ok sacrificing personal space for the opportunity to be in the middle of everything. Everyone else in my family lives further outside of the city or in the suburbs (or in other parts of Canada!), so when Marco and I visit I usually don’t stay with relatives for the whole trip.
I love my freedom and, as much as I want to see family, I also want to make new memories doing stuff and going places, so we stayed in an apartment in the West End of Toronto for the first two weeks of our three week stay and convinced friends and family to make the trek into the city to hangout with us.
The Kensington Market
Our first day we headed to the Spadina station where we caught the Streetcar which took us to Kensington Market, an area of the city that is in continual evolution and change. My first experiences with the Kensington Market was when I was a 16 year old “punk”. My then boyfriend was the drummer of a hardcore band and one of his band members (who was older than us) had just moved into a Kensington apartment, shared with punks and locals and people you would *never* want your 16 year old daughter hanging out with!
We used to sit in his grimy apartment listening to music, hanging out with his deadbeat roomies and roaming from gross bar to gross bar! Fun! Fun! Fun! (but actually it was 🙂
20 years later Kensington retains its grimy-ness with a decent population of drug addicts, crazy people and pushers. Add in the colorful Army Surplus stores, vintage and thrift spots, discount ethnic grocery stores and an array of the best Mexican, Caribbean and fusion food in the city, and you’ve got yourself a MUST VISIT part of Toronto!
Plus, now that the hipsters have finally caught onto how cool this part of the city is, there are cool coffee shops like “Jimmy’s Coffee”, where you can grab a good cup of Joe while you wifi your time away in the backyard patio of an old converted home.
Toronto in the summer time is an entirely different city than Toronto in the Winter, and patios, terraces and outdoor spots are essential to soaking up as many rays as possible during the warm months.
Jimmy’s Coffee is an independent chain coffee store with four locations throughout Toronto. The layout is like being in a cool home with plenty of couches, bookshelves, plugs (for your devices) and spots to set up for an hour (or two). It was a good place to people watch and I loved the decor and the coffee. Plus, if you’re looking for a real “local’s spot” this is it!
After our coffee at Jimmy’s we walked through Kensington, did some shopping (so I could buy cheap surplus underwear!) and headed to the big playground (also filled with homeless people who are pretty harmless, just keep your eyes open for stuff in the sand) so that my little guy could burn off some steam and run around for an hour.
Anything can happen in the Kensington Market…. you could even run into Batman since Toronto has a HUGE film industry and is often filmed in place of New York, Brooklyn or a ton of other U.S. cities.
Since KLM Airlines lost my luggage and hadn’t at this point guaranteed me any compensation what-so-ever, one my first day I wanted to go to the areas of the city where I could do some essential shopping for cheap, namely; Kensington, China Town and Queen St. The GTA (Greater Toronto Area, otherwise known as “The 6” has MANY China Town’s, but the Spadina China Town is the city’s original and another must see if you visit the city (especially if you love Peking Duck, which is a personal fave of my man’s!)
China Town also hold’s another special place in my heart! It is where I would go party in the after-hour clubs and bars, it’s where I would order illegal beer after 2 am in the Chinese food restaurants that will serve you “cold tea” (aka beer) in a teapot if you are a regular customer. It’s also where I first fell in love with REAL Chinese food, bought all my clothes in University, where I bought my first Bonsai tree and where I first had REAL coconut water (they stick a straw right in!
At this point in the day I realized I had NO Canadian cash and no credit cards so I headed to a bank machine. Too bad that the last time I used my Canadian bank card was years ago and I forgot my pin 🙁 Here I am worried I would never remember it, but trying to play it cool just the same!
The Queen Street
From here we went to a famous Toronto street for shopping – Queen St. between University and Bathurst. Here you’ll find big brand name stores (like Stone Island which is an Italian brand!) along with smaller boutiques, thrift stores, vintage shops, bookstores, tons of bars, cafes and restaurants.
Queen Street East is also home to Toronto’s local t.v. station and once I saw Wyclef Jean perform a free public concert here and I was dancing outside with him and got on t.v. – that was pretty cool.
On Queen I wandered into a vintage and thrift store and got some clothes for cheap. I have to admit, some of them are keepers and some I will be leaving behind!
We ended the day on a rooftop bar in the “Clubbing” area of downtown. I’ve been a little out of the clubbing loop – perhaps the best memory I can share with you is when I would go dancing in OPEN TOE HEELS even in February in -40 degree Celsius (that’s -22 for my American friends)!!
What I Wore
I wore a black and white tank top with black culottes and a burnt orange real alligator belt that my man made me. This was basically my travel outfit from the day before, except for my shoes. My flat, silver metallic shoes were packed in my carry-on and have become my favourite shoes for this season. Actually, I’m working on a whole post dedicated to the flat metallic shoe trend, they go with everything, are comfortable enough for long days of walking and can easily dress up a simple outfit …. plus you can find them for cheap!
The weather in Ontario has been incredible this summer, just as hot as Italy with a nice evening breeze. So outside I was fine in a tank top but as soon as we went into any enclosed space (shop, grocery store, home) the air conditioning was UNBEARABLE, way too high by Italian standards, so often we were the people rushing to put on scarves, coats (yes coats) and sweaters as soon as we stepped indoors. People looked at us like we were nuts, but let me tell you people something …. RHEUMATISM IS REAL!!
Canadians wait through one of the most intensely cold winter’s on the planet for the summer and then when it rolls around they don’t even enjoy the heat!! I mean….moderation people! My light cotton sweater was a thrift find from a few years back, my culottes, shoes and backpack are from Zara and my sunglasses are vintage from a luxury consignment store with died CRYSTAL lenses!
Gradient lenses are usually in plastic as a mainstream option or crystal as a luxury option. The crystal lense allows for a bright and smooth gradient and is pretty rare and special in today’s sunglass market.
It feels good to blog after a bit of a vacation. I don’t really know who you all are (although, over the years I’m really getting to know more of you and I LOVE IT!), what I do know is that I love story telling. I’m a big mouth with a need to share, so if you’ve read this I hope you’ve enjoyed my walk down memory lane.
Now onto your style…..
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