Episode 342 – 7 Days In Toronto

Dear Diary,

There are no big tourist insights here. Ted grew up in Toronto (I was raised in a nearby suburb), we met while I was at university in Toronto, and we lived and raised our family and worked in the Greater Toronto Area until retirement. We’re already familiar with this city.

Instead, this week is all about reconnecting with family and friends. Our #1 and their family have been incredibly welcoming and generous in allowing us to displace their physical space and routines for a week. It’s the kind of intensive together time we rarely get, and we’re very grateful. Ted and I have to admit it’s been really nice having cats around again too.

Abel (top), Beans (left) and even shy sweet Toast (right) honoured us with snuggles and purrs.

DAY ONE. London England to London Ontario in 24 hours.

On our very first day back, jet-lagged as we were, we had an obligation: the long-delayed celebration of life being held for Ted’s brother Norm, who died 2 years ago during (but not of) Covid. We really appreciated our nephew and niece accommodating our travels in their scheduling, even though we would have flown in from wherever we were to attend. Norm was very important to us.

Norm was big hearted, incredibly generous, and just truly loved getting to know and being with people. We often say that without Norm (and his wife Anne), Ted and I might never have gotten married. They were supportive of our relationship during our tumultuous “courtship” in a way that my own family certainly was not.

That said, Norm could also be the most uncouth, most opinionated person I knew. He could tease mercilessly, and argue a point endlessly, and yet never carry a grudge or say a mean or vindictive word about anyone. I treasured our long conversations over cups and cups of black coffee (well, sometimes glasses of red wine), and being witness to his fierce love for his family. He may legally only have been my brother-in-law, but he was the brother I always wished was mine. I guess that would have made Ted and me siblings, so I suppose there’s that downside …. but you get my meaning. Norm was part of “my” family, pure and simple.

DAY TWO. The cost of living.

In the past 10 months, we’ve only spent 5 weeks in Ontario – back in May and June. At that point, fuel and grocery prices were starting to climb; meats, especially beef, were becoming expensive.

While we travelled in other countries, even on our cruise, I took note of fuel prices. They were all higher than even the highest point we’d reached in Ontario, which may explain why people tended to walk, bike, and take transit far more regularly than we see in North America. Few countries – except maybe Saudi Arabia – evidenced the kind of car culture we see in cities here.

Of course, when we travelled on our own, we bought groceries to prepare most of our own meals. In the European countries where we lived, fresh produce, dairy products, baked goods, canned and frozen foods were all less expensive than in Canada, although meats were roughly on par. England was the closest to being overall on a par with Canada, once we calculated equivalent prices. The Canadian dollar is not strong against the Euro, Pound, or US dollar right now, which definitely factored into that equivalency. Had we been Americans travelling in Europe, things would have seemed incredibly inexpensive.

Today I popped into Sobey’s (a non-discount Canadian grocery chain) to pick up a few items, and noted that prices jumped significantly while we were gone. We’re fine, but people on fixed incomes are definitely not. The wage gap in Canada widened during Covid, and continues to do so.

I was upset enough by the gentleman in line in front of me, about Ted’s and my age, counting out coins for the single tiny pork loin and loaf of reduced-price bread he was buying, visibly upset that a plastic bag was going to cost an extra 10 cents (“no thanks”), and longingly eyeing my block of cheddar cheese, that I gave him the little cash I had in my wallet and told him he could go back and get some cheese and whatever else he needed. It’s horrible seeing a grown man cry out of gratitude. (I also prepaid a couple of bags. I mean, really, is there no discretion allowed to cashiers at all?)

It occurs to me that going “cashless” has also impacted the very poor. On a normal day, there is no cash in my wallet – nothing with which to quickly ease someone’s hunger, or pay their transit fare.

We’re so very fortunate. Our days never involve food insecurity. In fact, we had a delicious fall dinner of roasted squash and mushroom lasagna, crunchy kale salad, and a quite spectacular home-made tarte tatin of freshly picked Ontario apples with our son’s extended family. For me, especially after today’s interaction, it felt like an early Thanksgiving.

DAY THREE. Errands.

Our plan this week was mostly to relax, maybe wander around Ted’s old neighbourhood, do a few errands like re-stocking our travel toothbrushes and small-size toiletries, and get my charity shop jacket dry cleaned because I somehow got both ketchup AND maple syrup on one of the sleeves in the 2 weeks that I’ve owned it.

The “kids” are all at work today, either at their offices or from home, so we’re taking advantage of the gorgeous fall weather to do all those errands on foot.

Danforth Village in Toronto feels very much like the city centres we lived in this summer in Europe: a vibrant mix of cultures and social strata, lots of small shops, flowers along the streets, and mature shade trees. The biggest noticeable difference is the lack (in general in Ontario) of pedestrian only zones.

Left: Holy Name Roman Catholic Church, one of many places of worship along the Danforth. Right: stunning wall art adjacent to the church.

Returning to the scene of the crime. Ted was in the Class of 1973 at Danforth Collegiate and Technical Institute, a specialized Math, Science and Technology school founded in 1922. By Canadian standards, it was a really large high school in the 1970s, accommodating around 2000 students. With changing demographics, it now houses just under 1100.

DAY FOUR. Quality time with our dentist.

Our dentist is in Stayner, two and a half hours north of here, and we no longer own a car – or car insurance – so our first order of business this morning was picking up a one day rental with comprehensive insurance.

The drive north was vibrant with fall colours.

This is Ontario in early October: bright red maples, sunny yellow birch, golden oak, and crimson sumac leaves. I wonder what colours we’ll have in Coquitlam?

I absolutely love getting my teeth cleaned. Ted … not so much, plus he has a chipped front filling that needs replacing. The fact is, though, that this is our last chance for dental work in Canada for another 6 months, so it’s comforting to know that we’re all set for a while.

Since we had a car for the day, I took advantage of the opportunity to drag poor Ted to my favourite outlet mall so I could pick up a pair of navy pants to replace the ones I ruined in Europe, plus get a couple of warmer long-sleeved tops for our November river cruise. That will round out our packing for that trip.

The reward for hanging around the mall while I shopped was Ted’s favourite food: pizza. But first, freshly hand-made mozzarella, which is the signature appetizer at the Scaddabush chain of Italian restaurants.

Top: fresh mozzarella with chopped hazelnuts, honey, and balsamic vinegar, served with toasted focaccia. Bottom: the Diavolo pizza, with Nduja sausage, soppressata, tomato sauce, Pecorino, caramelized onions, kalamata olives, honey, chilies … and for us, extra chili oil. DELICIOUS!!

DAY FIVE. Just relaxing.

We had nothing planned today, which typically means going for a walk. Seven kilometres (4.35 miles) and 15,000 steps later, I’m exhausted. How lucky are we that our “hosts” prepped dinner: eggs Benedict over freshly baked croissants, crispy bacon, and a leafy green salad with fresh orange segments, red onion, cucumber, and champagne vinaigrette.

DAY SIX. Samosas and culture.

Tonight I got to attend Fall For Dance North ARISE:2022 with #1 and his partner, an evening showcasing four dance pieces by four North American dance-makers. Ted stayed home; neither ballet nor modern dance are artistic media to which he voluntarily subjects himself.

Before taking the GO train downtown, we had an early hand-held supper from The Samosarie, a local Danforth Village restaurant that daily makes more than 18 kinds of samosas, pakoras, and empanadas in flavours like masala dosa, butter chicken, saag paneer, honey garlic aloo gobi, jerked chicken and kale, beef curry, and Caribbean sweet potato. I wish I’d taken a photo, since their creations are brightly coloured using vegetable juices. Instead, so I’ll remember, this photo is from their website, showing some of what we devoured (plus pakoras, which we didn’t order), although we had many more than 4 flavours and colours!


When Ted and I were kids, one of the premiere performing arts centres in Toronto was The O’Keefe Centre, built in 1960 and carrying the brand name of a Canadian brewery. Since then, it has been renamed several times, becoming The Hummingbird Centre, the Sony Centre, and most recently Meridian Hall. What has not changed is that it is still a major performing arts venue; the largest “soft seat” venue in Toronto.

The first piece presented was the world premiere of Softly Losing, Softly Gaining by Toronto-based tap choreographer Dianne Montgomery. I really enjoyed the vibrant Van Gogh-esque backdrops and bright colour-blocked costumes which, combined with live violin and trumpet and mesmerizing tap rhythms, allowed me to create my own internal narrative to the piece.

Next was the Canadian premiere of Kau Hea A Hiiaka by Kaleo Trinidad, a Hawaiian Hula performed by Ka Leo O Laka | Ka Hikina O Ka La. While maintaining traditional hula dance elements, this was bold and sometimes angry dancing, set against a narrative of how humans are impacting the earth’s ecosystems.

After a brief interval, Act 2 began with the world premiere of Zipangu, a new dance film by Indigenous theatre maker and actor Michael Greyeyes, accompanied by a 13-member live string orchestra in partnership with Soundstreams. This was my least favourite performance of the evening, partly because I find it hard to engage with dance on a screen, and partly because neither the choreography (was the dancer emerging from a cocoon? a shroud?) nor the music connected with me. However, #1 son really liked it. That’s the beauty of the arts: they elicit different emotions in each person, and they make you think.

The final element – and the absolute highlight of the evening – was the ballet Arise, by Jera Wolfe, featuring 146 dance students from Canada’s National Ballet School. The original music was spellbinding, and the giant waves and landform silhouettes created by the dancers were spectacular. The story of working together to achieve a goal – literally reaching a star – was as uplifting as the title suggests.

Overall it was an entertaining show, and a really fun evening with “the kids”.

DAY SEVEN. Greektown and goodbyes.

We had hoped to reconnect with some of our Toronto area friends and relatives that we haven’t seen since we left on our world cruise last December. We know that we won’t see many of them again for a while, since Ontario will shortly not be our home base anymore, but everyone has busy lives and in the end we just couldn’t make a physical connection work.

We were, however, able to squeeze in one more iconic Toronto culinary treat with our #1.

Toronto’s Danforth Avenue is renowned for its Greek food, having long been a part of the city to which Greek immigrants flocked. I made reservations at Pantheon and we enjoyed some wonderful pikadiko loukaniko (grilled sausage with peppers, mushrooms and herbs), tirokafeti (sautéed feta cheese with hot peppers), fresh pitas, spanakotiropita (large cheese and spinach filled phyllo pastries), grilled beefteki (ground beef patties marinated in Greek beer, herbs and spices), and grilled chicken with Greek salad. After all that, there was complimentary honey cake and coffees.

It’s up and out early tomorrow for our flight to Vancouver. That means one last set of hugs here, but the promise of more to come when we pop in again for a couple of days at the end of November.

Next stop: Coquitlam, BC.

3 comments

  1. Thank you!! Day two made me cry! I was so glad you were there. You have such a rich life!! And so many of us do because you’re in it! Love you

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    Liked by 1 person

  2. Just……thank you. Enjoyed reading about your continuing adventures, and your empathy and care for fellow humans. 🥲You and Ted seem like such wonderful people. Hope we have the opportunity to meet one day. Diane and Ray K. Sent from my iPad

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    Liked by 1 person

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