Toronto, Ontario - Arrival and Day 1

My trip from Kingston to Toronto was on the two-level Megabus. There are several inexpensive ticket upgrades available - $1 to $5.  You can book a seat at a four person table if you want to get work done or have children to entertain.  There are seats with more leg room and you can even book seats on the top deck at the very front so you just have window in front of you from knees to roof.  It's lovely if you enjoy looking out at the countryside. The downside this day was we were driving into the lowering sun and I found it very warm with those bright rays on me. I arrived a tad sweaty.

Only a short taxi ride - wonderfully friendly and helpful driver - brought me to Couture The Condominium where I was staying in a guest suite.  It was on a short block and a half street and right across from the Rogers Building. Within walking distance was a subway station, The Bay and small mall, great grocery store and a lot of small eating establishments, but you felt like you were step back from the noise and activity. My room was clean. modern and very quiet. The staff was friendly and helpful.

The guest suite was on the 2nd floor and my friends lived on the 38th, so it wasn't long before one of them stopped by and brought me up. What a lovely view they had from their balcony. Supper ensued with gourmet salads, flat bread pizza and CHAMPAGNE! Everyone who know me knows it is my favourite drink. I imbibed just a touch too much in my excitement to see them. Fortunately we didn't head out until about 11 a.m. the next day.

The sun was blazing - a welcome sight as my previous stop in Kingston had seen quite a bit of uncharacteristic rain and clouds. We took a long walk up Jarvis Street, people watching and checking out the truly marvelous architecture this city offers. Kudos to the architects for offering something other than standard fair. Lunch was on a lovely patio at The Corner Place located just across the street from the St Lawrence Market. One of my friends had eaten a fabulous breakfast here before, but lunch was unremarkable this day.

Then it was off to wander through the market. I am so glad I had eaten before I walked through the doors. The St Lawrence Market features two floors of stalls with amazing vegetables, meats, delicatessen offerings, coffee, chocolate and bins of beans and grains. There are a few stalls of vendors with merchandise during the week, but on weekends that expands when a second building offers a farmer's market on Saturday and an antiques market on Sunday. I would have loved to see the antiques market in particular.

Next on the list was a walk down to the waterfront. Here I saw the funniest pier ever. They call it Sugar Beach. About half the dock has been ringed and filled with beach sand, beach chairs and pink painted metal umbrellas. Now this is pretty high above the water and there is no access ladders. You obviously can't go swimming, but people come here to sunbathe and pretend they are actually away from the city somewhere on a beach. There is a small waterpark so the kids can at least get wet and "play in the water." It just struck my funny bone.

From there it was off on a lovely cruise in the sun on The Tall Ship Kajama. It does have a bit of a pirate theme to it, but mostly you just relax and enjoy the changing view and the sun. They have a fairly good bar and you can also order food. For those wanting more excitement, they take volunteers to raise 3 sails, sing a pirate shanty and fire a small cannon at the end, but for us it was just relaxing on the water. It also gave me another chance to see the amazing mix of architecture, this time from a distance. Stunning.

The Distillery District then called as we wanted to have supper at El Catrin. This is Mexican food like you don't often get  It was served tapas style so you could try a wide variety of dishes and there was no thick tomato sauce and pile of cheese melted on everything.  No giant globs of sour cream - no rice and beans filling the plate. Just fabulous taste bites.It stands as one of the top meals I have eaten.

My hands down favourite was crab fritters. They in fact left us all speechless and oohing. Reservations are only taken for inside seating - an exotic room to be sure - but I thought it worth the wait to sit outside on in the large patio. We live in Canada and patio days just have to be embraced when they arise. I would die to have this restaurant in Vancouver and it will be my first stop when I return for another visit.

While I was definitely tired at this point, I managed to check out a few of the interesting shops and galleries located in this historic district, but only touched the surface. Right across from the El Catrin was the Biltmore Domicile. It is listed on the website as a custom sofa and decor store, but this location is so much more.  It first gave the impression of an old antique store, then you noticed the hand made items (I purchased a leather journal filled with hand made paper and featured a leather clasp for $28) and artisan decor. The custom couches were well blended into this mix of interesting items.

I also peeked in an amazing coffee shop, a boutique with blue and clear glass bottles hanging from the ceiling and an art gallery where I found a framed photograph I would have loved to buy. There was also a pop art portrait hanging from the ceiling that on closer inspection revealed it was created with spools of coloured thread. The Distillery District is another that is high on my must visit again when I come back. And for anyone visiting Toronto in December, there is a wonderful Christmas Market held here every year.

Last stop on the way back home was at Church Street Expresso for the others in the group to savour a cool gelato. I just relaxed on the patio with them and enjoyed the closing moments of an amazing day. The best part was I spent it with two who are family to me and two new acquaintances to get to know. It definitely kept the conversation lively.