Toronto, Canada – Caribana

Hello Fellow World Travelers,

We arrived yesterday, July 30th on Porter Airlines http://www.flyporter.com/. This was the best flight, non-stop from Midway Airport to Toronto Island. You have to take a ferry from Toronto Island to the mainland but it is painless, only 2 minutes and it’s very close to the city. We were a 10 minute drive to our hotel.

Upon arrival we checked into the Intercontinental Toronto Center http://www.torontocentre.intercontinental.com/ The hotel is in an excellent location and in walking distance to a lot of attractions. One note is that, most shops in the immediate area are closed on the weekend.

We then left for our tour of Toronto. The focus was on black history and what fabulous history it is. Slaves escaping from the US found their freedom in Canada. We visited the site of the former home of Thornton and Lucie Blackburn. They escaped from Louisville, Kentucky and settled in Detroit, Michigan for two years. In 1833 Kentucky slave hunters located, captured and arrested the couple. While jailed the Blackburn’s were allowed visitors, which provided the opportunity for Lucie to exchange her clothes and her incarceration with Mrs. George French. Lucie then fled across the Detroit River to Canada and safety. Thornton’s escape was more difficult because he was heavily guarded, bound and shackled. The day before Thornton was to be returned to Kentucky, Detroit’s African American community rose up in protest. A crowd of some 400 men stormed the jail to free him. During the commotion that ensued, two individuals called Sleepy Polly and Daddy Walker helped Thornton escape to Canada. The Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, Major General Sir John Colbourne, refused extradition back to the United States noting that a person could not steal himself. Once safely in Canada and reunited with his wife, Thornton settled in the new city of Toronto arriving in 1834 where he formed Toronto’s first taxicab company. In 1999, the Canadian government designated the Blackburns “Persons of National Historic Significance” for their contribution to the growth of Toronto. In 2002 plaques in their honor were erected in Louisville, Kentucky and in Toronto. http://www.muddyyorktours.com/ Brave and Wonderful stories of individuals that made new lives for themselves in a new place. This is just one story and one of the sites we visited.

We finished with a wonderful dinner at 360, the restaurant at the CN Tower, http://www.cntower.com/. The CN Tower is the tallest freestanding building on land at 554.3 meters (1818 feet and 5 inches) With a rotating floor 360 offers excellent views of the city of Toronto and Lake Ontario. After dinner visit the observatory and the glass floor.

On our second day in Toronto we started at the St. Lawrence Market. In 1803, Lieutenant Governor Peter Hunter established a public marketplace here where farmers from nearby townships sold produce and livestock to residents of the town of York (now Toronto). A wooden building was constructed in 1820 and replaced in 1831 by a brick building, which was also used for city council meetings and was an important venue for many African Canadian activities in support of abolition and the welfare of refugee slaves in Toronto. The market expanded south of Front Street in 1844 with the construction of the Market House and City Hall. It was enlarged again in 1851 when the St. Lawrence Hall and Market was built north of Front Street. The market remains an important part of Ontario’s commercial history.It was constructed in 1850. Today you can find meats, fruits, vegetables, condiments, clothing and just about anything. We stopped by the Carousel Bakery and tasted the Toronto favorite Pealmeal Bacon sandwich. Peameal Bacon is brine cured bacon that is coated in Cornmeal. It is then fried. This is so delicious. It is normally eaten with nothing on it but if you want a condiment it would be mustard. We tried it with a maple mustard. We also stopped by Kozliks Mustard shop and tasted his wide variety of mustard. From mild to xxx hot and sweet to savory. They even have a dry rub. Of course we purchased some mustard to take home.

We had to head back to The Intercontinental for our Broadcast.

After our broadcast we went to the ROM or Royal Ontario Museum. I love this museum. We first visited the museums restaurant C5 and had lunch. the atmosphere is excellent. It’s on the top floor and the view of the city is beautiful. the food, atmosphere and service here is wonderful.
Our second visit at the ROM was Beyond the Rhythm: Caribana Art Exhibit. The collection of 50 canvases created by 25 artists of African Canadian heritage is fantastic. I could not help but notice the use of African American subjects in some of the pieces. The artists and artwork captured black history and interpretative art. Our last stop at the museum was the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit. This is a fantastic exhibit and will be at the museum until January This is a must see!

From the museum we walked a bit along Queen Street and along the Mink Mile. Similar to the Magnificent Mile with high end shops, quaint cafes and the possibility of a star sighting or two.

After resting a bit at the hotel, we went to Pan Alive, a Steel Pan competition and part of the Caribana festivities. As we approached Lamport Stadium we could hear the steel drums and our hips started moving. The third group that played was our favorite the Hamilton Youth Steel Orchestra. They were awesome. They did a Michael Jackson selection Human Nature. It was beautiful and as expected they added a steel pan funky beat complete with a few dance moves. Their second piece was all Steel Pan, it was upbeat, energetic and fabulous and based on the crowds reaction was a an overall favorite.

We finished the night with dinner at The Real Jerk http://www.therealjerk.com/ , an authentic Jamaican Jerk restaurant. Opened in 1984 quickly established itself as a Toronto Landmark and voted Toronto’s # 1 Caribbean restaurant by Now Magazine. I had the Jerk Chicken and Ribs, Gene had the Ackee and cod fish and Bonnie had the Red Snapper Esceviche. By the clean plates I can say with confidence that the food here is delicious. I was eating with my hands and licking my fingers.

Well it is now our final full day in Toronto and we are excited. We’re going to the Caribana Parade. The official start time is 10am but we were given some inside information that it usually doesn’t start until 12 – 12:40 and that’s for the judging area. After the judging area they make their way onto the parade route. The parade goes into the early evening and boasts Caribbean music, drums, bands, kings and queens and lots of dancing! The parade is followed by Caribana After Parade Fusion at Lamport Staduim, an open air evening concert celebrating carnival music in all flavors. Sorry but we could not hang with evening concert. For all Caribana festivities go to http://www.caribanafestival.com/

After a few hours of the parade we needed a rest (we are not young whipper snappers anymore). We then went on the Toronto Hippo Tour. This is a great way to see Toronto by land and lake. Our hippo was called Harriette. The tour is one and a half hour long and is a great overview of the city and a good way to get the lay of the land.We started on Front Street, just 1/2 block from our hotel and entered Lake Ontario along Exhibit Place, where the Parade was held (the music was still going strong). http://www.torontohippotours.com/

Our final stop for the evening was the musical “The Harder They Come” based on the movie that made Jimmy Cliff a star and brought Jamaica’s music to the world. Done in patoi, The Harder They Come gives an authentic view of a Jamaican country boy who dreams of becoming a star but when things don’t work out as planned and times get hard turns to illegal activities that leads to him becoming an outlaw. This was so entertaining!

Bonnie was our photographer for the trip. Check out her photo show http://www.photoshow.com/watch/Vk2Pk7jy

We’d like to give a special thanks for Toronto Tourism for organizing a fabulous trip for us. Our expectations were exceeded. Toronto is a beautiful multi-cultural city. It’s filled with history, the arts, culture and dining each representing every aspect of its many cultures. And let’s not forget the shopping. We had an opportunity to visit a few neighborhoods and really got the feeling of the harmony that Toronto provides for all its citizens. Toronto is truly a destination we would visit again and again! www.seetorontonow.com

See ya!
Bonnie & Ja’Vonne


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