It’s been another busy couple weeks here in Toronto/Scarborough, hence why this is a little over two weeks but I hope you’ll forgive me as below are a few of the interesting stories I picked up on the way here.
Before even voyaging off on my adventure to Canada my mother informed me of family we have over the pond on the Grant side. My mother’s cousin, Patricia, and my 2nd cousin, Scott – both of whom I was very excited to arrange to meet up. Fortunately, that came a lot sooner than I thought, as previously I would’ve thought I would’ve been swamped with uni work and them with professional work meaning it would’ve been difficult to meet up, however this wasn’t the case.
Last week I met up with Scott at a lovely bar on King Street called Betty’s (I would highly recommend it for the range of draft beers and the nachos there). Whilst arranging to meet up at 3 pm on that Thursday, I have to say I was a little anxious, I mean what do you say to someone who you’ve never met before but you’re related to? It was an odd situation to be in. I had the following questions, including others going through my head;
“What do I say to begin with?”, “Don’t come off as a posh English twat please for the love of food”, “Make sure to pay for a round if he drinks”.
As I was approaching Betty’s I got this surge of panic hit me like a train, I don’t know if any of you get that. Like when you look forward to an event, but on the way to the event you start to overthink how people will view you, up until when you actually arrive and start the small talk does that feeling then subside – that is exactly what happened to me, and the worry soon subsided for very good reasons.
A huge plate of nachos and some 4 drinks later, Scott and I were getting on like a house on fire sharing personal stories and learning about how he found himself living in downtown Toronto, about his and our family and the connections that came to make up the Grant clan in former generations. Considering we were in the pub for about 4ish hours we chatted about everything from old lab partners, past and present relationships, about his family in Toronto and what it’s like to be a dad – which sounds equally hilarious as it does stressful, local Toronto knowledge of the where to get the best food.
My favourite line he shot through to me about food was this – “the only way you could eat at every restaurant in Toronto is if you born in the centre of downtown and ate a new place every day for the next 50 years, and only then would you be about half way there” – purely brilliant.
We spoke about relations to famous bassists *cough* Guy Berryman *cough* to a plethora of topics. He told me about the other family I had in Toronto, consisting of Patricia, my mums cousin, and her daughter Whitney who seemed like very epic people – and two people I’m very excited to meet extending the Grant clan. My favourite story Scott told me was actually about his parents, they moved to Canada down in Waterloo, where Scott was born, and they said “we’re only going to be in Canada for 2 years max” oh how wrong there were. 40 years down the road they’re still living in that same cottage in Waterloo and honestly, I can see why. Canada as a country is so amazingly diverse and friendly that to be able to live here and gain residency to be Canadian would be an absolute honour. Toronto in these weeks grown on me like the best rash possible – I honestly couldn’t find another way to put it. It’s safe to say meeting and chatting to Scott made Toronto as a whole feel a lot more homely, knowing that there is family a stones through away from my family that enlightening was a real highlight of my time here so far.
I will definitely be meeting up with Scott more often for more Toronto shenanigans, I mean what kind of family do you get partially drunk with at mid-afternoon on a Thursday? The best kind.
I realised that with a couple midterms that crept up in quick succession, I didn’t have much time to explore Toronto for a couple weekends due to revising. But this week just gone by more than made up for that for multiple reasons.
The highlights of the past week actually started in Scarborough. After a long food shop at Food Basics we thought we’d treat ourselves to some food before we took the bus back to uni, and Sophia picked the best place to eat. Imagine the same set-up as Subway, but for burgers! The fact that the actual burger itself was huge, but the fact you could literally have anything else on it – how the even closed the burgers was a work of art, including th burger itself. For much less than getting a burger at a proper burger joint, it more than matched up in terms of size and taste in my eyes. Mark and I were certainly in awe of the challenge we had to face. It’s safe to say we devoured them.
Never have I ever been anywhere that have so many beers on tap, I was expecting a good range, but nothing quite like this. And I even found this on tap.
I couldn’t believe my eyes, in amongst the North American country band playing loudly in the background to the very Canadian feel of the Toronto locals in the place, the flower of Scotland was found. Here. In Toronto. This made me unbelievably happy – and so I continued to drink pint after pint until, well, the night became a bit of a mystery after leaving at around 3 am. It was interesting drinking with Ryan and Mariana below, one crazy for Scottish beer, and the other a beer hater – we nearly swung him around to it, and by nearly I mean he finished his pints (I know no student to never finish their drink, fact).
Bâton Rouge – my first poutine experience
I’ve been in Canada for about 5 weeks now, and up until last week I’d never tried poutine, a well-established dish in Canada – chips, gravy and cheese curds. After already having chips and gravy back home in Edinburgh I thought “would the cheese make much difference?”. My lord did it. As well as an additional extra we found on offer at the lovely French restaurant of La Bâton Rouge. Lobster. Poutine. It tasted like everything I thought it would and more, and for $10 for an ‘appetiser portion’ I was more than full. La Poutine week was what sparked my interest, where different restaurants were putting on different offers of multiple poutines for a week only. Safe to say it was a good week for food.
Distillery District – a.k.a Hipster Café Central
Whilst hungover from the previous night at the Biermarket, we decided to stumble around the Distillery District in search of something cure us of our dehydration, and we found a couple things that did just the trick…..mostly.
Caffe Furbo may’ve been one of the most alternative, hipster looking places I’ve ever been to, it was like being slapped in the face by a beanie from a bearded man wearing a flannel shirt in corduroy. It just oozed culture, from the minimalist decor inside, the colourful chairs, the abstract art draped on the wall. But what we came here for was a pepper-infused espresso to really try and kick start us into the day. And it did more than that, it might have had enough caffeine and spice to put even make Eeyore become more spritely. I felt the caffeine rush hit me, but the added spice nearly gave me the biggest migraine from hell. Mixed opinions of this drink but you’ve got to try everything at least one ey?
Soma is the Canadian equivalent of Hotel Chocolat we have back in the UK. But it’s so much better. However pricey the chocolate might be, there’s a reason for it. It’s all handmade at the location, and you can see it happening through glass screens, and it is utterly amazing. The care that goes into making the chocolate is incredible, as well as the hot chocolate that we got from there. For $5, from such a place I was expecting to get maybe a couple of mouthfuls of a beverage. But instead this giant mug of hot chocolate came towards us, and it was one of the richest and tasteful things I’ve had the pleasure to drink in a long time. Definite revisit will be here for more chocolate related postings.
It one thing everyone has to do whilst you’re in Toronto in the winter season – ice skate at night at Nathan-Phillips Square, and however much of a tourist attraction it may be, it is still dominated by Canadian folk. It must just be something you do as a Canadian, as of most of the Canadian people I’ve met so far own their own skates, it’s just their culture to skate. The sign behind the rink illuminates the surroundings very extravagantly in a rainbow coloured fashion, and for someone of novice skating ability, it was nice just to go at our own paces and admire the fact that we were central downtown, in amongst the skyscrapers reaching high into the clouds above. It was a rather tranquil moment even with the hustle and bustle of the many skaters moving to and fro. But even with that, it was something I’ll never forget – and probably something I’ll do again before the rink closes as it was far too good to only do once.
Toronto is evermore becoming a place that I can see myself living in at some point in my life, even only being here for just over a month it’s already had such an impact on me. Who knows, maybe Scott is right for future plans of Canadian adventures. But for now, I’ll continue to explore to report back on what I find for you guys.
FYI – Reading week is coming up, so new destinations are on the cards for definite.
Watch this space.