The twangy sounds of banjos playing blue grass music filled the brisk air of the Toronto Christmas market located in The Distillery Historic District. Locals and tourists alike enjoyed the festive mood of the annual December event that was sparkling with decorative lights illuminating the stalls brimming with delights for the holiday shoppers. Franz and I were spending a few days in Toronto, Canada visiting friends and they were the most gracious of hosts who gave us a residents insight into this multicultural, sophisticated, and friendly city.
The Canadian winter weather had always been a subject of discussion when visiting in the past and this year was no exception. But rather than focusing on the degrees of cold, the conversation veered to how exceptionally warm it was. Fortunately for us it could not have been better and we were able to explore the city in relative comfort. Our friends city dwelling was not only beautiful but had stunning views of the Toronto skyline and was situated in the trendy West Queen West neighborhood. This popular quarter is home to the coolest of cafes, coffee shops, restaurants, artists lofts, and galleries and we strolled and window shopped catching just a glimpse of what this area has to offer.
Another eclectic neighborhood of note was the Kensington Market. This artistic area with unique offerings is adorned with creative facades and graffiti embellished buildings that lend a bohemian like quality to the locale. And for gourmands there is the St Lawrence Market that is a feast not only for the stomach but for the eyes and offers an extensive selection of epicurean treats that reflects the multicultural population of Toronto.
Taking advantage of the weather we cruised along the northwestern Lake Ontario waterfront beginning at Coronation Park with its sprawling oak trees and its feathered winter residents that included Canadian geese, mallard ducks, and seagulls. As we neared the city the lake featured high rise living with sleek facades and at the CN tower we took in a few of the city’s landmarks that included the bricked old Toronto city hall and the towering skyscrapers that make up the dynamic business district bustling with people from around the world that attest to its global outlook. A sobering fact in winter are the safety concerns regarding falling ice chunks and sheets from the these lofty structures that can plummet down on the pedestrian walkways. Yikes!
Toronto is a foodie’s heaven. Within the city one can find anything from comfort foods to high end dining. Our friends surprised us with a memorable meal at the stylish Lee Restaurant with its famous Chef Susur Lee who has been lauded as one of the “Ten Chefs of the Millennium” by Food & Wine magazine. The restaurant emanates a hipster vibe and has been described as a “bento box of sensory pleasures” and that it is. The Asian French influences reflected in the signature small-plate dishes that are meant to be shared with dining companions and the Singapore Slaw comprised of 19 ingredients are not to be missed. What a true culinary experience. Our time in Toronto was way too short and I look forward to coming back and exploring more facets of this vibrant city on the shores of Lake Ontario.