July: Traveling to Toronto

Nate's new job requires more travel than I'm used to, which would normally be a negative, except when I can tag along for a mini-vaca weekend. The first trip of this nature was last month when I met him in the city of: 

iPhone photo

Along with this trip being our first time in Canada for quite a while, this was our very first visit to Toronto, which I learned is the 4th largest city in North America.

Unfortunately, about 24 hours before my flight, Nate found out he'd be working intensely for most of my 5-day visit. So I emailed some Canadian friends, got on the internet, and figured out what I could do to entertain myself while he worked.

My first idea: An art museum.

Not that Nate can't do art. He did The Louvre on his birthday one year. But we didn't stay very long.

Local artist sketching outside the AGO.

The Art Gallery of Ontario, or the AGO, is a wonderful art museum in Toronto's downtown, near Chinatown. After taking the metro from our hotel in Yorkville, I walked into the AGO with absolutely no prior knowledge or information about their exhibits or collections. Armed with a museum map, I climbed the Frank Gehry-designed staircase and headed to the Canadian permanent collection.

With not much art history education in my past, I really enjoyed learning about the Group of Seven: Canadian landscape painters largely influenced by Tom Thompson, who is responsible for these two iconic paintings of native jack pine trees in Canada's Algonquin Park.

The Jack Pine, Tom Thompson

The West Wind, Tom Thompson

My overall observation of Canadian art is that there are a lot of beautiful landscapes from this vast country. By the time I left the museum, I felt like I had been on a tour of the gorgeous Canadian wilderness. My favorite artwork was highlighted in a special exhibit of Emily Carr's work, who did many forest and seascape paintings in the Pacific Northwest. Perhaps my favorite painting in the whole place was a beautiful depiction of a church in the midst of a native forest. It reminded me of how enjoying our God-given natural surroundings is an excellent way to connect with and appreciate our Creator.

Indian Church, Emily Carr
After the museum, I made my way over to the St. Lawrence Market for some lunch, catching a nice view of the CN Tower along the way.

The St. Lawrence Market reminded me of Reading Terminal Market in Philly - a big brick building with lots of farm-fresh goodness and local delicacies inside.

And it was huge inside! Two full levels!

I took my time in this glorious place - trying meat and cheese samples, taking loads of photos, and planning my attack on the mediterranean antipasta stalls.

Give it ALL to me.

I took my lunch to a nearby park, because Toronto in July is delightful, and I just cannot be outdoors enough in these northern cities. Making my way back to Yorkville, I did a little shopping, a little snacking, and a little wandering around the upscale neighborhood.

On Day 2, I was able to peel Nate away from his laptop for a half day bicycle tour of Downtown Toronto. Throughout our travels, we have found that bike tours are an excellent way to orient yourself in a new place, all while getting some historical and cultural context, as well as a local's tips about where to go and what to see.

Toronto Bicycle Tours led us around the city, including many highlights all over Downtown, including:


iPhone photo


That's real gold! // iPhone photo

Forget the Bull and the Bear; Toronto has chilled-out cows! // iPhone photo

iPhone photo

iPhone photo

iPhone photo


iPhone photo

After the tour, I wanted Nate to experience the St. Lawrence Market, so we foraged and got a whole bunch of meats, cheeses, olives, breads, fruits, and cookies and marched off to the park.

The local bee population wasted no time in introducing themselves. Granted, we were visitors in their neighborhood, so after about 60 seconds of buzzy lunch, we marched back to the market.

The setting wasn't glamorous, but it was cool, safe, and quiet!


Not all of our adventures were in Downtown Toronto. We must have been missing Cayman's sea breeze, because the second half of our visit was spent visiting Jill & Jamie's family home in The Beaches.

The sand may not be white and fine, but the views of Lake Ontario are quite ocean-like! // iPhone photo

East of the city's fray, The Beaches is a lovely neighborhood full of sensible brick homes with yards and big hardwood trees, all within blocks of the local coffee shop, toy store, juice bar, bagel place, grocery store, church, and the lake.

A representative sample. // iPhone photo
Only in Canada
A safe neighborhood // iPhone photo

She has the place on lockdown. // iPhone photo

On Day 3, I accompanied J&J and their brood to the Ripley's Aquarium of Canada. No matter how many sea creatures I have seen on scuba dives, an aquarium still holds so much wonder for the vast sea life in our planet's oceans. Everyone enjoyed this excursion, from the young...

iPhone photo

...to the not-as-young.

iPhone photo

Top tip: The aquarium is located downtown right next to the Blue Jays stadium, and we made the mistake of picking a weekend game day for our aquarium visit. The ticket line was way out the door. Buy tickets online, which lets you skip the ticket line and go right into the aquarium.

Later in the evening, Nate and Jamie played catch with the kids in the backyard. I snapped a few shots of these happy faces.

Crazy Canadian

On Day 4, Nate was buried with work again, so I decided to check out Kensington Market - a downtown neighborhood highlighted on the bike tour.

iPhone photo

This area has an eclectic mix of shops, markets, eateries, and homes. 

iPhone photo

No high-rises or chain restaurants here - the historical value of the neighborhood, which includes Victorian row houses and a long history of an open market culture, has been preserved and celebrated.

iPhone photo
I could have browsed the vintage clothing stores, gift shops, and local food joints for days.

iPhone photo

iPhone photo

iPhone photo

And that pretty much wraps up our first visit to Toronto! I was more than impressed with what we saw, and I'm going to keep this city on our short list for weekend escapes (with direct flights from Cayman as an added temptation.)

But only in the summer. I'm such a winter wimp.


  1. So glad you had the opportunity to explore Toronto! Thanks for sharing, Jenn!

  2. I appreciate your great work. Thanks for sharing. Keep me more update in future.IASA 2016 Annual Conference