Tag Archives: cars

Toronto—From Good To Great.

Super Toronto's Supermoon. (Photo credit: R. Gottardo)

Super Toronto’s Supermoon. (Photo credit: R. Gottardo)

Travel is discovery and it’s a delight when you stumble upon a new favorite thing. Whether it’s music, dance, food, a cocktail, beach, park, campsite, a person, exceptional experience or an intimate moment. Large or small—it doesn’t have to work for anyone else—it just has to rock your world. I discovered my new favorite thing recently in Toronto. It’s Coco Café—coconut water with a kick of espresso, a hint of sugar, and dash of low-fat milk. I popped into a café for an iced coffee but walked out with an obsession. Crazy for anything coconut, the coffee buzz was a bonus. So there you have it, that’s my new favorite thing.cococafe

But obviously Canada’s largest city has lots more to discover than my new favorite drink. As it’s grown over the years, Toronto’s sprouted neighborhoods with a fantastic mix of ethnic cultures, food, arts and entertainment. Leslieville is a working and middle-class area, celebrated for its artistic vibe, retro shops and good eats. Chinatown and Kensington are the most multi-cultural hoods in Toronto. If you’re not adverse to a group tour, you may want to check out Urban Adventures. They offer small (no more than 12 people) guided tours. You’ll learn some history and get to experience some of what makes these heritage neighborhoods standout. Looking for another angle? The Planet D offers photography tours.

Kensington rickshaw. (Photo credit: ThePlanetD)

Kensington rickshaw. (Photo credit: ThePlanetD)

If you prefer not to run with a pack, the subway and streetcar system make navigating the city a breeze. Toronto’s easy to get around and you’ll be able to cover good ground, on foot as well, depending on the amount of time you have. From eating to exercising, here are some local, popular, and touristy things to see and do around the city.

Arts & Entertainment

Art Gallery of Toronto (AGO) – Culture vultures can get their art fix here at the one of the largest museums in North America. The AGO holds over 80,000 works in its collection and will soon premier the Ai WeiWei According To What? exhibit from August 17-October 27. The excitement this artist generates is drawing locals, and visitors from across the country and the border.

CN Tower – What would a visit to Toronto be without a peek inside of what the American Society of Engineers classified as One Of The Seven Wonders Of The Modern World? With a 360-degree view of city, the Tower also features a restaurant, entertainment, exhibitions and events.

The Toronto Islands – One of the city’s top attractions, these islands are just a 10-minute ferry ride from the city. Beaches, biking, canoeing, kayaking, festivals, picnicking—depending on how you like to hang, there’s something for you on one these islands. If you’ve got kids, there’s an amusement park and a petting zoo, too.

Distillery District, Toronto, Canada

Distillery District, Toronto, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Distillery – formerly a derelict zone of Victorian industrial buildings, in 2003 a group of creative developers transformed the area into an atmosphere that’s now heralded as one of Canada’s premier arts, culture and entertainment destinations. With one-of-a-kind shops, restaurants, galleries, theatres, and cafes, it’s a great place to hang out—day or night.

The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) – this town is overflowing with film festivals but it’s this one, held annually for ten days in September, that set’s the city on fire.  TIFF has established itself as the premier event in the industry and built up Toronto’s city cred. Cannes and Tribeca have nothing on it, and it’s the world’s largest public film festival.  If you have any plans to visit Toronto during September 5-15, act fast—get some tix, see some flicks and don’t forget the camera.
Yummy Stuff

St. Lawrence Market – one of my favorite, previously mentioned, haunts in Toronto, I’m hungry just thinking about it. Bring an empty stomach and leave very happy and probably with lots of good stuff. The quality and variety of fresh food offered at this market from fruits, veggies, fish, meat, spices, herbs—you name it—is nuts, so go there and go crazy.

Good stuff awaits you at the Rooster Coffee Shop.

Good stuff awaits you at the Rooster Coffee Shop.

With no shortage of bars, cafes and restaurants, it’s challenging to list all the faves but here are a few standouts. For quality Italian fare, check out Buca. If you’re in The Danforth, pop into Mezes for authentic Greek cuisine served family style. Need a java jump? The Rooster Coffee House was voted one the best cafes by Toronto Life. With two locations, they make it easy for you to get your fix.


Flemingdon Park Golf Club – This 9-hole public course is located in the Don Valley, just minutes from the city center. They rent clubs, carts, bags, and have a practice driving net.

Sunnybrook Stables – Like to ride? I do. These stables are in midtown Toronto but you’ll feel miles away. From beginner to advanced riders, the instructors—and the horses— are excellent.Horse play at Sunnybrook Stables. (Photo credit: Sunnybrook Stables.)

Sundara Yoga – When you stay in a hotel, it’s easy to just plod down to the gym. Break form, be adventurous and check out where the locals do it. Located in historic Cabbagetown, Angela Jervis-Read runs a yoga studio that’ll welcome you with open arms. Her specialty is Yin yoga and her instruction is encouraging without the woo-woo weirdness that can sometimes turn folks off to its benefits.


There are loads of hotels all over the town. Depending on your budget, and the area you want to stay, here’s where a travel agent can cut your work in half. A few recs off the top of my head are The InterContinental on Bloor Street, which is well located; The Omni King Edward, in the financial district, and The Drake in the Queen Street West area.

Getting There

Depending on where you hail from, Toronto is easily accessed by rail, bus, or car, and of course…air.  If you’re flying, check out Porter Airlines. With this carrier’s excellent service, they’re at the top my list. The biggest plus is that they fly directly into Billy Bishop Toronto Island Airport, which will put you right smack in the city so you can hit the ground running.

Toronto is all grown up but its evolution is nowhere near over.  Been there? Share your story…and your new favorite thing.


Sunshine Of Your Love.

Cape May, NJ.  (Photo credit: destination360.com)

Cape May, NJ. (Photo credit: destination360.com)

Like a lunch hour, this Memorial Day weekend is a good time to take a break, hook up with friends, or just pause to think about what you’d like to do this summer.  Maybe you’ll pack a bag and hit the high road in search of a life-changing experience, or hightail it out-of-town for some rest and relaxation.  Whatever you’re in search of, don’t discount discovering it in destinations a little closer to home or on the East Coast.  The areas that took a beating from Hurricane Sandy are ready to throw their arms wide open to visitors.

From Cape May to Montauk, Atlantic shorelines and state parks are working fast and furiously to welcome beach goers this weekend.  For those of us who live in the region, these towns and beaches are paradise after a long and dreary winter.   No car?  No worries!  Depending on your point of interest, you can easily hop a train, bus or ferry to visit.  The New Jersey Shore is open for business—that’s the rallying cry up and down their coastline—and southern shore towns are absorbing visitors that traditionally travel to areas further north, where it’s taking a bit longer to recover from the storm’s damage.  Long Island beaches and state parks will re-open this weekend with limited access in some areas.  In the borough of Staten Island, new, modular units made in Pennsylvania will be transported to the beaches to replace the comfort stations destroyed by Sandy.   They look pretty cool and New York City has invested a nice chunk of change for these units, which will pop up this summer in Coney Island and the Rockaways as well.  This is all good news.  These beaches may not all be 100% perfect but the point is, they’re working hard to make sure they’re ready for you.

The famous Rockaway boardwalk is gone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the seashore.  The damaged concession stands are being rebuilt but in their absence NYC food trucks will be out to serve the good grub they’ve become known for on the city’s streets.  Sandy wiped out Rockaway Taco‘s boardwalk café, but fingers crossed, they’ll be up and running soon because these folks dish out some of the tastiest Mexican food this side of the Yucatán, especially their fish tacos.  For anyone with plans to visit the area this weekend—or over the summer—you might want to check out their main location inland, until their beach site is back in service.

Surfing in Rockaway with New York Surf School.  (Photo credit:  New York Surf School)

Surfing in Rockaway with New York Surf School. (Photo credit: New York Surf School)

The surf’s been up with weekend lessons at the Rockaway Beach Surf Club, which welcomes all age groups.  If you start now by the end of June they’ll be able to help plant you on a board any day of the week.  Where there’s surfing, there’s yoga on the beach and nothing feels better than a seaside downward dog.  If you’ve got it in your head to transform yourself, check out the Surf Club’s combined retreat.  “A” train subway service to the Rockaways starts back up on May 30, which makes getting there a breeze.

Fort Defiance cocktails.  (Photo credit:  maurice-pundit)

Fort Defiance cocktails. (Photo credit: maurice-pundit)

And then there’s Red Hook, a Brooklyn neighborhood that took a massive hit by Sandy, but true to its tough reputation, is pretty much back in business.  If you’re in NYC this weekend, or you’re a local without plans to get away, here are a few suggestions for a visit to that part of town.  First, start out early.   It’s a funky, waterfront neighborhood that gets great light.  If you fancy a killer cocktail, pay a visit to Fort Defiance, a cafe-bar where owner St. John Frizell will shake up something special for you.  If you can tear yourself away, head across the road to Dry Dock and grab a chilled bottle of whatever white wine wets your whistle, then bop over a few blocks to the Red Hook Lobster Pound for the plumpest and tastiest lobster rolls outside of Maine.  This urban lobster shack is BYOB, so there’s no reason not to run there.  For a more upscale dining experience, book a reservation at The Good Fork, where you’ll enjoy standout food and excellent drinks in a welcoming atmosphere.  If you still have any steam left in you, shimmy on over to Hope & Anchor.  This local diner serves up a few twists on a traditional menu and has a full bar, but it’s the weekend karaoke that has this place pulsing and will get you to unleash your inner rock star.

Hope & Anchor.  (Photo credit: gwenthysfullbrew.com)

Hope & Anchor. (Photo credit: gwenthysfullbrew.com)

The communities affected by Hurricane Sandy last Fall want you to know the welcome mat is out this summer. Memorial Day is about honoring our veterans but we can also take this time to acknowledge all the volunteers—both local and visiting—who dedicated their blood, sweat and tears, to help get these areas back on their feet.  They’ve added new meaning to “summer of love.”

Whether you’re planning a stay-cation or vacation—relax, kick back, appreciate your surroundings and enjoy yourself.  Happy trails!

Journey Through Time.

As kids, our parents decided where we’d go for vacations.  For many of us, that usually meant traveling by car.  If we were fortunate, we got to travel by plane and walk off with tin wings pinned to our shirt–and that made us hot stuff.  But we don’t need a visa stamp, or t-shirt, or pin to prove we’ve been some place.  Journeys aren’t defined by physical space, and in that sense travel knows no boundaries.

My brother’s ticket stub. It was Sunday night and the gig was just starting at 10PM! (Photo by author.)

This morning I woke to the news that Ray Manzarek, original founder of The Doors, had died and it took me back to my first solo trip.  It wasn’t on a plane, train or automobile.  In fact, I was lying on my bed when I heard the opening chords to Light My Fire drifting out of my older brother’s bedroom.  The sounds of Manzarek’s Vox Continental organ were dark and moody and my mind quickly welcomed them.  I hadn’t yet heard anything like it and that sound invited thoughts and feelings I’d never experienced.  My mind took off and I didn’t need a license, ticket or passport to get there.   My brother turned me on to a lot of music but my apprenticeship under him of The Doors was like an unchartered journey.  Jim Morrison might have been front and center but remove the unique sound of Manzarek and The Doors become unhinged.

Ray Manzarek (far right) and The Doors.  (Photo credit: blogsfagate.com

Ray Manzarek (far right) and The Doors. (Photo credit: blogsfagate.com)

It’s a bittersweet day for Doors’ fans but Manzarek is another great example of why it’s so important to learn and adapt to new things.  His talent, combined with those of his band mates, made if difficult to peg The Doors as just another rock band.  The man was constantly innovating, learning and experimenting.  After The Doors disbanded, he continued to play and collaborate with other bands and musicians.  Jazz, poetry, and books…the man had it going on.  The Light My Fire lyrics, “the time to hesitate is through; no time to wallow in the mire,” may have been written about passion but they easily apply to all of us, travel agents included, who suffer from any form of inertia when it comes to learning something new that might help unleash our potential.  There are no boundaries, only the ones we make for ourselves.

Ray Manzarek, 2012.  (Photo credit:  Commons.wikimedia.org)

Ray Manzarek, 2012. (Photo credit: Commons.wikimedia.org)

Once you open the doors of perception,” Manzarek said, “the doors of perception are cleansed, they stay cleansed, they stay open, and you see life as an infinite voyage of joy and adventure and strangeness and darkness and wildness and craziness and softness and beauty.”

I spent time on The Crystal Ship long before I boarded any cruise ship.  I’ll miss you Ray, thanks for the never-ending journey.