Sadly the last couple of weeks has been flooded with multiple midterm exams and lab reports that rendered be very much chained to my desk in a frantic period of studying and meeting deadlines. However must I realise that my exchange here is on a credit basis, meaning I only have to pass each module that I take here, it just wouldn’t be me if I didn’t put my fullest effort into something, whether it be academically, socially or in anything really.

This midterm season revealed something about me that I may’ve thought but never confirmed about myself – I have an all-or-nothing attitude when it comes to anything I’m doing. You either get everything of nothing from me, which is as much of a blessing as it is a curse depending on the situation. However, midterms are over thank fuck. Which has enabled me to venture back into the city to sample the greatness that is Toronto, and boy were there some blissful parts.

Steam Whistle Brewery 

Within the entertainment district in the south of the city, the Steam Whistle Brewery stands within an old train-carriage centre next to the harbourfront, a wonderfully located place with a very local feel about it. Upon entering the brewery you’re hit by anything and everything that is green (from the branding of the brewery) and it is quite a marvel to see all of the processing equipment within the tour of the place for as little as $10 – it’s a no brainer really considering you get free beer on and before the tour as free samples.

 

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The brewery pillars stood very tall and green, you can’t miss them.
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Beer as smooth as you like, in very conveniently sized glasses.

 

Starting from 3 guys working in a previous brewery that got fired, they set on building their empire through Steam Whistle, which only produces one kind of beer which is their philosophy – instead of making lots of beer to a mediocre fashion they decided to produce one amazing tasting beer, and I have to say it’s up there. In comparison with other Canadian breweries, it’s quite a recent one, being founded in only 2000, after securing the planning permission at the harbourfront to bring in all of the gear they needed to start brewing. Anyone looking greatly priced, local feeling brewery with great beer and food to boot I wouldn’t recommend anywhere else than here.

Toronto Raptors 

I may have had a midterm the day following the night of this game, but it’s safe to say I have nothing to regret. Attending my first Canadian sporting venue just couldn’t wait for the amazing price of the resale tickets that were on offer. The Air Canada Centre, home to both the Toronto Raptors and the Toronto Maple Leafs (the ice hockey team) was beyond enormous, it made BT Murrayfield look like it hosted 2nd division football in size comparison. The noise proliferated from the acoustics within the arena, amplifying into every pair of eardrums. When the teams were coming out, it was made very prevalent that that this was the raptors home surf, with blaring sirens, fireworks, fire displays, strobe lighting and a giant red raptor mascot dancing with a cheerleader group – it was very clear that we were in for a good game. The Raptors were playing Atalanta Hawks, who were 6th in the division compared to the raptors 2nd, nonetheless, there were tense moments. The raptors were losing for the 1st quarter, but soon made their statement known when the maintained a small lead for the remainder of the match. I never realised how fast pace basketball is as a sport when in play, however one thing I will never understand about North American sports is the amount of ad breaks or time-outs within a game, making it seem a bit disjointed. Or when breaks occurred there were what I would call ‘minigames’ within the breaks with members of the crowd picked at random or chosen through the endorsement from one of many sponsors. However it did make the game feel more ‘Canadian’ – however I don’t quite know how to describe that.

 

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This photo doesn’t do justice to how huge the ACC really is. 

 

The Raptors were playing Atalanta Hawks, who were 6th in the division compared to the raptors 2nd, nonetheless there were tense moments. The raptors were losing for the 1st quarter, but soon made their statement known when the maintained a small lead for the remainder of the match. I never realised how fast pace basketball is as a sport when in play, however one thing I will never understand about North American sports is the amount of ad breaks or time-outs within a game, making it seem a bit disjointed. Or when breaks occurred there were what I would call ‘minigames’ within the breaks with members of the crowd picked at random or chosen through the endorsement from one of many sponsors. However it did make the game feel more ‘Canadian’ – however I don’t quite know how to describe how, it just did.

 

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DeRozan hitting up some free throws as he does so effortlessly. 

 

The match ended in a Raptors win of 104-96 accompanied by some amazing 3-pointers, dunks, blocks and athleticism to boot. I can safely say it’s not going to be the last raptors game I go see by any means. This was the first time I got to properly break out my new Nikon also to get some free-throw shots, I have to say they turned out rather well.

Royal Ontario Museum 

The ROM had a very similar feel to the natural history museum in London, with lots of ambient lighting and amazing exhibits of as many eras that you could think of, if there was a period of history that sprung to mind, they had something there related to that time. Ancient artefacts from times gone by, documenting cultural artefacts, war get-ups and weapons, scripts and statues of famous advocates and many things in between, however as it always has been the case with me, the main thing that draws me to museums are the natural exhibits within them.

 

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The entrance to the ROM gave high expectations to the rest of the museum. 

 

The anatomical structures within the ROM blew my breath away, will full skeletons of a T-Rex, Branacasurous, woolly mammoth and sabretooth tiger were highlights of the visit I must say, just being able to grasp the enormity and dangerousness in some cases of these animals really hit home. Being able to see them up close and personal was an experience, especially with a camera that able to capture the detail.

 

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Getting up close and personal with a T-Rex was very intimidating 

 

Moving through the exhibit I came across something I initially thought was rather odd, but beautiful. It was a set-up of a typical environment that many native Canadian species would be found, which a mini makeshift forest looking like it was just at the end of autumn. Leaves were illuminated as bright reds and oranges, it was so tranquil within that exhibition due to the lack of hustle and bustle resulting in myself just taking a minute to sit aside one of the trees to admire.

 

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Just sitting under a tree, taking in the beauty. 
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So many geodes were here, looking very lovely and geometrical. 

 

The pictures speak for themselves in what the ROM has to offer – and seeing how often exhibitions seem to change and having guest exhibitions within the museum also, there will definitely be other trips here.

El Catrin 

El Catrin will always have a special place in my heart. Even only visiting there once has left an everlasting impression. A Mexican restaurant deep in the Distillery District of down was this amazing place, with lots of ambient lighting outside and decoration inside that in itself could’ve been in the ROM or AGO. Going on a Saturday night meant it was very crowded, but that just added to the atmosphere with many groups of friends and couples laughing away within the patio circled around a central fire, which we were fortunate enough to be seated right next to.

 

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Some of the best mango-infused margaritas I’ve ever had – and in plentiful quantities. Bliss. 
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Recommended by the server, steak served with marinated vegetables in a chilli sauce – it was delightful however, I wish there was more

 

 

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The churros were the highlight for me, so fluffy and sweet, and the variety of dipping sauces made them taste that much better. 

 

Naturally coming to a Mexican restaurant as good as this one meant prices were going to be a little more than average, but the food that arrived was so high above average you might as well have been up the CN tower. Margaritas came and went, beautifully prepared steaks came and were devoured, and possibly the best churros I’ve ever had were missed upon being finished. It is safe to say that El Catrin is one of my favourite restaurants in Toronto so far. The pictures of the food alone speak volumes.

CN Tower

I’m going to keep the writing for this short, but I will say this – imagine you’re going up in an elevator that doesn’t seem it’s ever going to reach its destination, and in your anticipation you build up such an expectation of what you’re about to see that you think “it can’t be that good, can it?”.

 

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Base Camp – time to start the ascent. 
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However annoying the window reflections were, they did lead to some nice effects.

 

I will tell you now, it is. And more. Seeing Toronto at night uncovered by the height of CN tower was something I will never forget, for the fact that you could be on one side of the tower and it would be eerily still, silent enough to hear a pin drop, and on the other you’d be swept off your feet from the blusterous wing. These views will be something that will never leave my memory – and my memory is awful, ask anyone!

 

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A city so vast on ground-level, looks so small for this height. Amazing. 

 

These next couple weeks will have more frequent posts from what is planned for the weekend and for the next week travelling across the border over to the US. Be ready for much more awesome snaps and stories!

George

 

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