Welcome to My Place . . . Toronto
Galway woman Fiona Hobler recommends the islands to visit, graffiti to see and food to eat in her adopted home
Fiona Hobler at Syrian restaurant Soufis in Toronto
Fiona Hobler is from Galway but has lived in Germany and England, and has been in Canada for the past five years. She is studying for a PhD in speech and language pathology at the University of Toronto.
“What I enjoy most about my adopted home is the limitless Canadian outdoors. What I love about Toronto is its richly diverse and dynamic culture of art, film, music, food, brewing and sport.”
Where is the first place you bring people to when they visit Toronto?
Whether it is a first or last stop, you can’t miss the Toronto Islands. Just a 10-minute ferry ride and you’re a world away from the hustle and bustle of downtown. From Hanlan’s Point to Ward’s Island, you can explore the islands by foot, rented bike, quadricycle or canoe. Bring a picnic and relax on the beach for the day or visit the Island Café for dinner and drinks, but make sure you catch the sunset over the Toronto skyline before you leave.
The top three things to do there, that don’t cost money, are . . .
Tour Graffiti Alley: This is a treasure trail of street art that has been designated for graffiti artists to share their creativity. Once you’ve been here, you will appreciate how these artists have coloured the city. Free walking tours are also available from tourguys.ca.
Do an Art Crawl: Once an industrial city, Hamilton has traded its steel for art, and celebrates with a free Art Crawl each month. Also worth the trip are the dozens of beautiful hiking trails along the escarpment and more than 100 waterfalls in the Hamilton area.
Enjoy the parklife: Parks are dotted throughout Toronto, with High Park being the largest, and Trinity Bellwoods a real gem. Bring a book, picnic, frisbee or tennis racquet. You can enjoy 30 minutes of free court-time and, during the summer, outdoor cinemas and markets also pop up in many neighbourhood and waterfront parks.
Where do you recommend for a great meal that gives a sense of Toronto?
What is interesting is how traditional dishes that have been brought here from around the world have evolved over generations. You can go from traditional Syrian food at Soufi’s to a modern fusion of Lebanese cuisine at Byblos – both amazing. Toronto does great sushi from the casual Sushi on Bloor to upscale Miku, has fantastic smokehouses such as Smoke N’ Bones and Barque. There is also great choice for vegetarians and vegans, especially in the Kensington Market area, and epic brunch spots, such as School and Mildred’s Temple Kitchen.
Where is the best place to get a sense of Toronto’s place in history?
Last year marked Canada’s 150th anniversary of confederation, but it also saw a pivotal shift in the country’s relationship and dialogue with its indigenous communities. In Toronto, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) offer insight from an indigenous perspective.
What should visitors save room for in their suitcase after a visit to Toronto?
Maple syrup might be a bit obvious, so I would recommend leaving room for a bottle or two of wine from the Niagara region. Canada makes some great wines. It is also the world’s largest producer of ice wine. You can try these at any of the more than 80 wineries along the Niagara Peninsula. Some wineries offer free tours and tastings, and often have fantastic restaurants on site. Combine this with a trip to Niagara Falls for a great day out.
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