Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Island

This post is dedicated to Jameil of Unabashedly Me. I'm trying to convince Jameil visit me in Toronto. In fact, all of you are welcome! Start making your travel plans now. Toronto is currently wearing her grimy winter face, but she'll be beautiful again in a few short months.

My favourite place to hang out during the summer is down by the lake (by which I mean Lake Ontario). The lakeshore just south of downtown Toronto is known as Harbourfront, and there's something cool going on down there every weekend. There are vendors selling crafts and imports from outdoor stalls. There's every sort of food you could want, from milkshakes and hot dogs to boneless goat roti and tandoori chicken dinners.

These are some of the free outdoor festivals you'll find in the public park, which also has a covered stage for free performances: The Spicy Food Festival. The Hip Hop Festival (which has an amazing beat-boxing competition). The World Rhythms Global Music Festival. The Dim Sum Chinese Festival. The Island Soul Carribean Festival. And plenty more!

If you want to lie on a beach, you can drive east of Harbourfront to the ritzy Beaches neighbourhood, where yuppies pushing designer strollers jog along the boardwalk. Or you can take a ferry from the Harbourfront docks to Toronto Island, which has many beaches to choose from, including a "Clothing Optional" section. (Straight guys: don't get too excited - it's mostly gay guys strutting their stuff.)

Toronto Island is my Happy Place. You can walk it east to west in around 45 minutes. North to south, you can get from one end to the other in around 10 minutes. And the entire Island is one big public park. No cars are allowed except maintenance vehicles and a couple of open-sided shuttle buses. Cyclists are plentiful. Dogs and little kids can run around without fear of being mown down by traffic.

At the centre of the island is a cute little amusement park, with rides for kids and a zoo called "Far Enough Farm". It costs around $4 for a soda at the concession stands, but most families pack a picnic lunch and eat on the broad, green lawns. You'll see families on the ferry with shopping buggies full of watermelons and bags of charcoal, and coolers full of treats to be cooked on one of the Island's public barbecues. There are always extended families of every ethnicity, spread out on blankets on the grass, with boom boxes playing lively music, and filling the air with the incredible smells of their BBQ.

Ok, so the entire island is not public parkland. There are actually two small neighbourhoods where people have homes on this paradise. The waiting list to live there is currently 50 years long. This is the case even considering how inconvenient it is. There are no stores on the island except the gift shops in the amusement park, so people have to do their grocery shopping in the city and then take everything over on the ferry. Remember - no cars are allowed on the island! I don't know how they do it. These communities are breathtakingly lovely.

So come to Toronto! I'll take you down to Harbourfront. We can eat kebabs and fresh pita on a bench overlooking the lake, and then we can walk the Island end to end. We'll go wading on the beach. It'll be so much fun! I can hardly wait.


Maxie said...

Oooh I want to come for the hip hop festival... I <3 beat boxing!

Karen said...

I have been to Toronto several times, but always in winter. I know it as cold snowy place. Sounds beautiful in the summer.

Warped Mind of Ron said...

Well... I do need a vacation.

jameil1922 said...

honey all you had to say was food!! i've heard abt the fab fests in toronto and you are making it look that much more fabulous!!

Keera Ann Fox said...

How opposite! Here, you have 6 families on an island and they get a huge road bridge. Apparently, ferries are both costly and inconvenient.

Where I live, it's winter grimy, too. Our best months are May and June.

Sparkling Red said...

Maxie: That one's a lot of fun. There's also a DJ competition with crazy scratching going on.

Karen: Toronto in the winter can be pretty after a fresh snowfall, but then the snow gets covered in grey crud and - blech! I am counting the days until spring.

Ron: Perfect! I'll see you in July.

Jameil: Toronto has amazing restaurants. It's such a multicultural city - we can boast the best of all cuisines. I'll have to hit you with some restaurant reviews soon. ;-)

Keera: I love the ferry. Part of the magic of visiting The Island is taking a ten-minute ride on an open-decked boat, watching sailboats and swans float past. I hope they never build a road.