Playing Tour Guide in Toronto

30 Sep

The Rooftop of the Planet Traveler Hostel, Toronto

The past month has been nutty and not just on the job/writing front but also with personal visits. Many international bloggers I’ve befriended on Twitter over the past year or so have been travelling through Toronto, so I’ve gotten to play tour guide.  Here’s a little bit of the Toronto I show visitors when they’re here. On the flip side, I get to become a tourist myself and find out new things about my beloved T Dot too. That’s why I love the city so much.

JUNE and JULY

Dylan and me at Khao San Road

Dylan Lowe travelled from England to hitchhike his way across Canada.  I was able to show him quite a few places around Toronto including Khao San Road (yummy thai), Cafe Diplimatico (a long standing restaurant on College with a great patio), Porchetta and Co, Trinity Bellwoods Park, School (where we had a free BBQ), The Drake Hotel and a travel tweet up with the Toronto Travel Massive. Now I can see where my summer went.  Kidding!

Me and one of my favourite Canadians, Ayngelina of Bacon is Magic. 🙂 Photo: Alicia Taggio of Toronto Travel Massive

In June, Ayngelina from Bacon is Magic was back to her old stomping grounds in Toronto. She came to the Toronto Travel Massive on Centre Island and I puppy dogged my way along a trail to the bar Murphy’s Law.  She knew of a band called BA Baracus, these two guys who play songs on guitar and piano (and sometimes kazoo) from the 80s on request from the audience.  They did an amazing acoustic version of Time After Time.  Alcohol and Tiffany go together better than boy bands and synchronized dance moves (okay, almost).

Andrew Evans (@WheresAndrew) and Me Sharing Ontario.

Andrew Evans, also known as the intrepid @WheresAndrew on Twitter and digital nomad for National Geographic Traveler Magazine, was touring Ontario in the summer.  We hosted a little tweetup with the help from Toronto Tourism at Ciao Wine Bar, where we had pizza and chatted with the Toronto and Ontario tourism folks. Andrew has done our country proud and it was great to meet with him in my hometown. Funny story: I was having dinner with a friend and I swear I saw Andrew walk by. He had his iphone in his hand and was looking up and around at everything. Two minutes later on Twitter he was talking about walking on Queen Street West. SMALL WORLD! I felt like a stalker.

AUGUST

Andrew Hickey (a.k.a. The Broolyn Nomad) is now working social media for G Adventures (and thus in Toronto from time to time), so we got caught up uno a uno at Khao San Road (I couldn’t resist!).  I got the Sam Roas Pad Thai and Garlic Chicken. It’s my go-to. I think he was happy. He still has to go to Sense Appeal for coffee, on my recommendation.  Gelato from Soma at King and Spadina was for dessert. Then I got to take him to one of my Toronto secrets, the rooftop of 401 Richmond. I highly recommend going there for a lunch break for a view of the CN Tower. Plus, it’s free!

SEPTEMBER

Chicken Souvlaki, with lemon roast potatoes and a village greek salad at Mezes.

Robert Reid is one of my favourite people on this lonely planet (zing!) and I was thrilled to show him a little slice of my neighbourhood in Greek Town. This was appropriate as he was touring the local parts of cities. I got him some spanakopita and hazelnut chocolate from my local bakery and took him to one of my favourite greek restaurants, Mezes. As is with Reid, we spotted a guy carrying a hockey stick while waiting for his table. He was on a date (!!!). I’ve never seen this in Canada but it was very, very Canadian.

Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto

Jools Octavius decided to touch down in Toronto on his way to Edmonton for a media conference.  He only had one day so we had a quick bite on his first night at the Keg on The Esplanade.  We decided to order something different as it was late night and opted for their prime burger.  The Keg is known for its steak, but their burger is among one of my favourites in the city.  I became so enamoured with it that I’ve put together an event for a burger tasting for the skeptics.

El Trompo with Judy, Marie Anne and Jools. Best Guacamole Everrr.

Kensington Market is the first place I’ll send people if they’re in the city, even for a short time.  I met Jools at the Royal Ontario Museum because he enjoys architecture, walked him through the University of Toronto, including my alma matter of Trinity College over to El Trompo for Mexican food. We were able to meet and have a great chat about PR and our travels with PR pros Judy and Marie Anne.

My good friend Angela, whom I stayed with when she was living in Vancouver, is now back on the road with her boyfriend Dale, driving their way across the US of A before moving back to their native land of Australia.  I took them to Ronnie’s in Kensington Market, which is basically a watering  hole where nothing is over $7.  There’s this place called The Grilled Cheese across the street and they deliver to the patio (Rejoice!).  We said no to grilled cheese and walked down to Ravi Soups, one of my new favourite places in the city. It’s about $11 for a soup and wrap. We got apricot soup and porchetta, which we all shared.  We all decided on an early dinner so when Khao San Road, which is next door, opened for dinner service, we had pad thai, thai iced tea and squid chips. Oink, indeed! and PS Khao San Road is popular. The place opens at 5 p.m. was packed by 5:45 p.m. on a Saturday night.

Porchetta is the stuff sandwich dreams are made of.

Corbin of I Backpack Canada joined me on a trip for a story I’m working on. We didn’t have a lot of time in Toronto, but I got to take him to a few sites. First stop was for a Segway Tour with Chris from Segway Ontario.  He made us laugh a lot even through the rainy weather and fed us Soma Chocolate and Mill Street Brew (thus, he’s aces in our books).

Another stop included the Art Gallery of Ontario, where  my friend Gary Taxali was having a book signing of two art books he was promoting.  Since the gallery is free on Wednesdays, I got to show him The Group of Seven works as well as the atrium of Frank Ghery’s genius.

Gary Taxali's exhibit poster for I Love You Ok?

I also took him to Porchetta, which seems to be a hit with travellers as its cheap and cheerful.  We then went up to Algonquin Park. I’ve realized I get stressed when I don’t know where I’m going on the highway. Aside from staying in local hostels, we ended up meeting other travellers at the Charlotte Room, a bar I had never been to. This is the local watering hole for those working at G Adventures and The Second City.  There we got to meet other travellers in town including Legal Nomads, The Brooklyn Nomad,  The Planet D, and Everything Everywhere.  Plus, I got to see Ayngelina again!

Corbin and Nat on Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park ready to paddle

What was really cool about staying at the hostels locally was to meet other travellers coming here. Many I’ve met are from Europe (Germany, France, Switzerland). This time, I got to meet an Aussie, a Kiwi and a fellow Canadian from Victoria, BC. They wanted pho and I have never really had pho (I KNOW) so we were recommended Pho Futura on Dundas beside the Dragon City Mall. Chinatown is not really an area where I eat, so this was a treat. All I have to say is: goat curry on vermicelli noodles. It was lunch, dinner and lunch the next day.

I absolutely love showing people my slice of the city but as above, sometimes they surprise me and I get to learn something new about it from time to time.

Oh, and a big shout out to the Toronto Travel MASSIVE who hosts meetups for travel bloggers and travel loving peeps. Meetings are on the last Thursday of every month.

Tour Count = 8 not including Travel Massive meetings (3). So total count = 11

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3 Responses to “Playing Tour Guide in Toronto”

  1. Boomergirl September 30, 2011 at 11:23 pm #

    Awlllright!! Is this not what the world wide web and the wonderful world of Twitter is about when it comes to travel. Great post !!

  2. joolsstone October 3, 2011 at 5:13 pm #

    Thanks for the mention Natalie, you were the consumate host – and clearly you’ve been getting plenty of practice with this of late! El Trompo was a great choice and so glad I finally found Kensington Market. Hopefully next time I’ll stay a little longer! Thanks so much for putting me in touch with Toronto Tourism too.

    • nearafar October 3, 2011 at 6:35 pm #

      Thanks guys and such a lovely comment Jools! Come back anytime and hopefully, I can get you to be my host if I ever make it back to Edinburgh.

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