Justin Beiber's Shoes
27.10.2011 - 31.01.2012 7 °C
Like most travellers, we’re trying to keep accommodation costs low, but we’re not looking to sleep in parks to do that. Whilst we’re okay with staying in hostels, so far across North America we’ve found we can get a room in an average motel for just a few dollars more than what a dorm with shared bathroom would cost in a hostel, so we feel a bit spoilt - sometimes. It’s also fairly common for breakfast (of sorts) to be provided.
Toronto is one place where you have to lower your expectations about accommodation quality, and increase your credit card limit.
We find a place that’s part of a larger chain (Clarion), and has a bit of history in that Ernst Hemmingway apparently once stayed there when he worked at the Toronto Star (local newspaper). It’s not clear how long Ernst stayed for, but they named a suite after his (then) wife. This hotel was possibly one of the reasons Ernst wrote such depressing literature. It was probably really nice in the 1800’s when it opened.
Our hotel is in historic Cabbagetown, and Toronto is a large, modern city with an efficient subway system, though rides are a little more expensive than other places we’ve been in Canada so far. The unusual side to Toronto’s subway is that casual riders use tokens (the size of an Australian five cent piece). Most other subway systems have a magnetic swipe card. The tokens are easy to misplace and easy to fumble with when you’re caught in the subway rush, and difficult to be credited for when you’ve some left over!
When you travel with someone 24/7, occasionally you need some time and space of your own. Our first day in Toronto was just that. Weps took herself around town, and I caught the ferry over to Toronto islands – a collection of small linked islands, 5 minutes ride across the bay. You walk off the small ferry after vehicles and it’s like stepping into another world. Toronto Islands have long been the solace of Torontonians over summer, and whilst I’m there in late fall, the closed establishments (bike, canoe & sea sports hire, kids playgrounds, and miles and miles of stacked picnic tables) make the place even more peaceful. Beautiful large Victorian ‘summer homes’ dot the islands’ waterways. It’s mostly a car-free zone, and I walk the several kilometre timber boardwalk to Ward’s Beach, stopping for a decent coffee at the Rectory restaurant. Given the island is home to many artists, the women’s toilet walls have been unusually painted with murals depicting (rowers name). Looking out over Lake Ontario waters, it’s calm and sunny, and the peace is marred by some visiting Chinese children chasing a local cat that strayed onto the boardwalk. (*notes* – a rant topic for later titled ‘Why can’t people just shut up and enjoy the view’)
Once the boardwalk ends, I follow the road alongside a beautiful park full of large, autumn trees and luscious green grass, past the Island’s only school and the historic building at the Island’s water filtration plant, a very quant artist’s retreat and onto the spooky and supposedly haunted Gibralter Point lighthouse. There’s a really heavy feeling here, and I take a photo and feel like I have to move on quickly.
Walking back to the Ferry, signs warn me of disc golf which until now, I’d been oblivious to what is an unusually popular sport (golf with frisbees!). Past the yacht club for the amazing views across the harbour of Toronto’s wonderful skyline.
The island is very walkable (2.5 kilometres from the Ferry point to the lighthouse) but I wish I’d had a bike for my trip to cover more ground. The round ferry trip cost $6.50.
On my return to the mainland I’m up for a new pair of shoes – my five-year old Keens sprang a leak in the Montreal rain, and clearly are not going to cut it in this cold weather. I cough up several hundred dollars (things aren’t cheaper in Canada) at a mountain equipment shop for a really comfy new pair of Salmon boots (rated to minus 25 degrees). Complete with faux fur lining. I just need a pair of skinny jeans and a checked shirt to complete the outfit, and I’ll look like a local .
On the shoe theme, one of the more unusual Museums we visit in Toronto is the Bata Shoe Museum (and we managed to score a two-for-one entry voucher). Neither of us are Imelda Marcos types, but we both find the extensive, historical display of footwear, and the ‘celebrity’ shoe display (Justin Beiber’s purple high tops?) pretty interesting. And I’m curious to know why female singers have such large feet?
This week is the start of Halloween – apparently celebrations go for the whole week. On the Saturday night we’re amused to see plenty of people dressed up in costumes catching the subway. We didn’t dress up – we’re scary enough as it is. Apparently so scary that a couple of white supremacists on the subway take a dislike to me, and spend several minutes glaring at me across the crowded carriage, shaking their heads and generally trying to intimidate me. I was surprised to see this type of nonsense in Canada, but I guess that travel is about opening your eyes to the darker side of the world, albeit from the safety of a crowded Toronto subway carriage.