From my travel journal: Toronto 2015

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“I quite enjoyed the walk in the cold and the snow, to be honest… I love the cold, I love winter, I love the feeling of defrosting over hot tea and feeling your face tingle in the fresh air.”

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Stay here: Novotel Toronto Centre, Toronto

Novotel Toronto Centre
45 The Esplanade, Toronto
http://www.novotel.com/gb/hotel-0931-novotel-toronto-centre/index.shtml

Happy Canada Day! Well, it is in Canada – in Australia, it’s already July 2nd. But, keeping in the spirit of it, I thought I’d re-visit the place I called home for the week I was in Toronto over new year period – The Novotel.

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I was absolutely stoked when we turned up here. The hotel, recommended to us by a friend who lives in the city, was about as central as we could have hoped for! In true Novotel fashion, the service was fantastic from the moment we stepped through the front doors to the morning we left; very friendly and attentive.

In terms of amenities…
– very spacious room with a very comfortable bed
– work area/desk
– TV with a ton of channels
– hair dryer
– coffee making facilities
– mini-bar fridge
– complimentary toiletries
– heating and cooling
– bar and restaurant on site
– car parking (extra cost)
– complimentary wifi
– room service
– ATM at reception
– fitness facilities – gym, sauna and pool

In terms of location, the street it was on had a mini-mart, a few pubs and restaurants, and constantly had cabs passing by, so transport wasn’t a problem. It was also very easy walking distance into the main CBD hub of the city, and easy to get to public transport from as well. It was a perfect home away from home and a really lovely stay in the city!

Travel Thursday: Niagara Falls, Toronto, Canada

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This place is crazy… it is one of the truly most incredible sights I’ve ever seen, it completely took my breath away and had me fall completely silent. The power of that water rushing over the edge is something utterly mesmerising, and it’s gotta be a must-visit for anyone going to Toronto!

We got all excited about it when we started booking the trip, not really considering the fact that we’d have to find a way to actually get there. Tours were overpriced and would take 8 – 12 hours out of our day. Public transport was a bit of a nightmare option, particularly as we both struggle with motion sickness. Husband had a stroke of genius – “Let’s just hire a car and drive ourselves! You’re great reading maps, I’ll drive, it’ll be easy!” I felt a bit of panic going on – driving in the snow, on unfamiliar roads… hmmm..

Turns out that, for once, I was worried about absolutely nothing. It was the EASIEST drive, even when we hit a few snow drifts and had to drive through the fluffy clouds of snow flakes! Seriously, I couldn’t believe it! It’s a pretty easy, straight run from the CBD, just under an hour and a half driving and we were there! Car parking wasn’t super cheap, but we figured it was still a hell of a lot better than blowing a few hundred dollars on a tour we didn’t want to take!

Sadly the Hornblower wasn’t running (dead of winter, duh), but we had a great time wondering around the little city (yes, it’s an actual little town there, with plenty of shops, restaurants, cafes and what not – I’d highly recommend morning tea at the Hershey’s shop for the best brownies you’ve ever had!), enjoying all the open park spaces, and just staring completely dumbstruck at the falls…

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Kensington Market, Toronto

This is one of my favourite photos from our recent trip, and every time I look at it, it makes me smile; I had not just one, but two awesome days wondering around Kensington Market in the snow, and it was one of the best parts of my time in Toronto…

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Husband worked with a guy from Toronto quite a few years ago, and they became really good friends really fast; fortunately, they’ve also stayed in touch, and he was the big reason for our wanting to visit Toronto. We were there over New Years, and before the celebrations started that night, the boys went to watch a hockey game in the afternoon, leaving us ladies to entertain ourselves. As tends to happen when ladies are left to their own devices, we went shopping.

Kensington Market isn’t a market in the traditional sense of the word; rather than a heaps of stalls in a common area, it’s basically just a really cool, very multicultural area of the city. It seemed to pop up in every guide book I picked up on Toronto, and it sounded like a pretty cool place, so I was stoked when our friend’s girlfriend offered to show me around the area while the guys were at the hockey.

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The “market” area is spread out over a few streets, with the majority being food and second hand stores, covering the full gamut from genuine vintage to absolute junk. When you visit, it’s best to go closer to lunch time, as a lot of shops don’t open up particularly early. Also, bring an appetite – there are so many tempting food spots in the area, particularly being so close to China/Korea town!

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You can take the subway to the College stop, or if the weather is friendly and you’re feeling energetic, you can walk from downtown Toronto in around an hour, like husband and I did when we re-visited the area the morning we left. The “Kensington Market” area itself is bordered by Spadina Ave, Dundas St, Bathurst St and College St, not far from Chinatown (read: more good food!).

There are some really great finds if you have the time and patience to look, things like old sports jerseys, second hand leather shoes, hand made hair accessories and new winter coats. It’s a really great way to spend a morning or afternoon in Toronto, even in the cold and the snow – there are plenty of cute little cafes and restaurants to stop at and warm up/re-fuel in between treasure hunting. And the street art is amazing, too!

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Eat here: Kanga, Toronto, Canada (meat pies)

Kanga
65 Duncan St, Toronto
http://www.eatkanga.com

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So we’re about half way through our trip right now, and it’s not that we’re missing home per se, but being proud Aussies, it’s simply not in our nature to turn down the opportunity for a good meat pie.

We’d heard about Kanga before we left and then kinda forgot about it once we got here. Walking back to our hotel from Kensington Market this morning miraculously took us straight past the bright shop front, and we pretty much ran straight across the road to get the taste of home we didn’t realise we both wanted.

The menu is a solid mix of cultures, with everything from the Butter Chix (northern Indian) to the El Diablo (pulled pork and mash), but our hands were tied; we went with the Traditional Aussie. Not particularly cheap at almost CAD$8.00, so we were expecting big things, and Kanga more than delivered.

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The most perfectly crispy golden pastry filled with quality beef mince and rich gravy, and smothered in tomato sauce (ketchup), obviously. Because that’s the Australian way.

If you ask most Aussies, they’ll probably tell you that despite the stereotype, they don’t really eat meat pies often. That’s because, frankly, they’re pretty average for the most part. This was hands down the best “traditional” mince meat pie I’ve ever had, absolutely no contest. The flavour was perfect, the ingredients were quality, and the price was justified. Any Aussies in Toronto need to get here soon, because that’s what a meat pie is meant to taste like! Thanks guys!

Kanga on Urbanspoon

USAdventure days 19, 20, 21, 22 & 23: Toronto

Stayed at: Novotel Toronto Centre

Ate at:
– Momofuku Noodle Bar & Milk Bar
– peameal bacon sandwich at Carousel Bakery (St Lawrence Market)
– Wvrst
– Marchè
– Kanga

Got up to:
– St Lawrence Market
– Niagara Falls
– Hockey Hall of Fame
– Kensington Market
– one hell of a New Years Eve with a good, old friend who we haven’t seen in 5 years, and some fantastic new friends, who kindly invited us to their apartment overlooking the Air Canada Centre and the CN Tower!
– Toronto Island
– Nathan Phillips Square
– Eaton Centre

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Eat here: Momofuku Noodle Bar & Milk Bar, Toronto, Canada

Momofuku Noodle Bar & Milk Bar
190 University Ave, Toronto
http://momofuku.com/

Yes it’s been around forever and already been blogged about by every man and his dog, but we don’t have this in Melbourne so it’s new for me! I’m also a big David Chang fan. And crack pie has been in my dreams for too long.

Anyway, we arrived into Toronto around 3pm this afternoon, picked up our hire car and found our way to our hotel. I’m finally getting over this damn flu that’s been kicking my ass for the past week, and my stomach problems have temporarily eased up; I was pretty excited to realise I was actually genuinely really hungry for the first time in two weeks! Yay! So husband was kind enough to treat me to dinner at Monofuku!

We got the pork buns to start because pork belly is my favourite thing and I’d be happy to drown in a vat of it. I’ve eaten a decent amount of pork belly in my time, and this was easily the best belly I’ve ever had; Momofuku may be old news in the foodie world, but holy wow that was some good bao..

We also had the ramen – probably doesn’t need to be said that this was incredible too. Easy to see what all the fuss is about now!

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After dinner, I dragged us upstairs to the Milk Bar… Oh my… I know I’m gonna have more variety in New York, but I figured I may as well get a head start 😉 compost cookie and crack pie. I have to be honest, the cookie was nice without being amazing (could be because it was cold rather than a more pleasant room temperature), but that crack pie… …. !!!! It was everything.. All buttery and sugary with that oaty crust.. Similar to a coconut-free ANZAC cookie taste, but even more buttery!

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My stomach has taken a rapid turn downhill now that we’re back in the hotel and relaxing, but it was totally worth it – the food was amazing! Wish they’d bring the empire to Melbourne next!

Momofuku Noodle Bar on Urbanspoon

Momofuku Milk Bar on Urbanspoon