“I’m floating in the most peculiar way And the stars look very different today.”
Give me a David Bowie lyric and I’m yours. And the place had this one sprawled across a grainy chalk board on one of its scruffy brick walls. Cafe Ferro is a coffee place on St Clair Avenue West just slightly off the beaten track of Toronto. It was empty and quiet at the time of day we were there as we waited for a friend to finish work, but still had the liveliness of trams rattling past and that oh so endearing Canadian friendliness.
Trams. This city had trams. I love trams (Prague and Melbourne both have trams, both two of my favourite cities in the world).
Toronto is frequently boasted as one of the most liveable cities in the world. It reminded me a bit of Melbourne (where I have lived), so there wasn’t a drop of doubt in believing this grand title.
There’s something about how you take in Toronto that mirrored my enjoyment of Melbourne. It’s not brimming with iconic landmarks – the charm of both of these cities is that you walk and just experience it all. The vibe is what got me; my head was constantly bouncing around from one place to another, my body starting to run in one direction only to get distracted by something shiny or colourful and make a clumsy pivot.
In one simple square format there’s Kensington Market (on the corner of Dundas Street West and Spadina Avenue) with quirky cafés, independent shops and restaurants. Blocks of colour line the streets as Victorian houses in bold yellows to blues sell an array of shades of fabrics, scarves and clothes. Street performers attract amused crowds and stalls of spices can be smelt before they’re seen.
Before I could get too upset about leaving to move on to some more Toronto sights, we stumbled into Chinatown. It’s hard to be disappointed about anything when minute after minute, a myriad of exotic fruits are consistently thrust into your face. Even less so when you then go on a brewery tour to Steam Whistle – the area interestingly used to be a locomotive roundhouse. Even better than that, you got free beer on the tour.
Now, this next decision is probably where I’d get some abuse (verbal… I hope). I’ll admit: I didn’t go up the CN Tower. Do I regret it? Hmm at the time, no – but if I went back to Toronto, I probably would. The price was just too much for our student budget. So instead, we headed out on the ferry (I love a good ferry) to the Toronto Islands.
It was a world apart from the city. It’s like where the suburbs went to escape when they fell out with the city or something. A lovely cafe (where I had pulled pork, my
mild obsession), a beach, pavements lined with colourful tulips, shirtless guys playing football (the soccer kind) and frisbee, the singing dings of bike bells… it was the vision of a peaceful summer getaway.
We sat on the dock with our toes almost daring to dip into the expanse of Lake Ontario as we watched the slightly hazy, dream-like skyline of the city. This is why I didn’t mind going up the CN Tower: this was the kind of high I wanted.