[Posting this from Chicago, where I just arrived on an overnight train from Buffalo]
I visited Toronto a little under two years ago and managed to get most of my whirlwind sightseeing in then (whirlwind sightseeing is my favorite form of travel, but I find I have to explain/defend it a lot, so maybe a topic for a future post). This visit was shorter and at a more relaxed pace. I met up with two friends, and we hit up St. Lawrence Market, where I finally got to try Canadian peameal bacon at Carousel Bakery (soon to be featured on Anthony Bourdain) and Montreal-style bagels at St. Urbain Bagel Bakery — both delicious. I enjoyed the street vendor poutine I got last time I was in the city so much that I tried an actual poutinerie this time around, Smoke’s (poutine is a Canadian concoction of fries, gravy, and cheese curds…yeah, I know). We also took the ferry out to the Toronto Islands, which provided some beautiful views of the city skyline, and was a nice, serene place for a boardwalk stroll. Finally, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) (which is a way bigger film festival than I thought it was — described by some as second to Cannes) was in town. I was surprised by how high-profile many of the films were (I was expecting indie stuff) — Anna Karenina, On the Road, Perks of Being a Wallflower, Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing. We were unable to get tickets for either of the two days I was in town; we did, however, catch a glimpse of Alex Skarsgard from True Blood being interviewed on the red carpet.
Other places we hit up: the Niagara Peninsula wineries on the way to Niagara Falls (where we did the Cave of the Winds tour on the U.S. side — you get to hike right up to the falls for $11, ponchos and sandals provided — really a great price for an awesome experience, and I highly recommend it!).
Fun Fact: Classical Place Names in Central New York
On the way up to Toronto (a surprisingly pleasant 11-hour Megabus ride, much of which I spent reading a photography guide and experimenting with my camera), I noticed a lot of Greek-inspired city names in Central New York. Now, I had been vaguely aware of this trend before — Ithaca, Syracuse, and Troy — but my curiosity was piqued after passing a Marathon, NY. I turned to Google and learned that there is, in fact, a book on just this subject: Classical Place Names in New York State by William R. Farrell. Apparently, we have two people to thank for this: Simeon DeWitt, New York State Surveyor General from 1784-1834, and his clerk, Robert Harpur. They oversaw the carving up of the area of Central New York once known as the Military Tract (land set aside to compensate New York’s soldiers after their participation in the Revolutionary War) and both happened to really enjoy the classics. So there ya go. For more on this, check out this blog.