Jukeboxparables

WT2010 – CANADA – Day 49/50/51/52/53 – On and On and On in Toronto, ON

Posted in Travels by jukeboxparables on May 6, 2010

WT2010 – CANADA
Day 49/50/51/52 – On and On and On in Toronto, ON
[On the iPOD] Pulp / The xx / The Beatles / Los Campesinos! / Gotye / Siouxsie & The Banshees / Le Tigre / Bikini Kill

Well I picked the time to leave Montreal! It went from a nice warm-sunny 20degrees (Celsius) to -2 overnight and I was met with SNOW in the morning (which is apparently very rare this time of year) The wind started to pick up and I started to worry. Sure I’d endured the worst Alpine-rainy conditions on the way to Portland, OR but this was SNOW and yet again I was in a front-wheel drive rental Nissan Versa (with questionable tyres) I quickly got the scope of driving on a freeway though; keeping the tyres in tracks made by large trucks hence keeping them slightly warmer than running your own lines on snow. The wind and snow picked up to the point where I had the wipers on full-blast and I was overtaking most cars. Even so it was a good 3hrs of snow-storm freeway before the clouds started to clear.

When you eventually get into the city-scape of Toronto, it has the same International-fresh feeling that Vancouver does, only better weather. My hotel was on the top floor of a shopping centre; I was slightly worried about this but it turns out it’s an advantage; you have access to the array of cheap fast-food buffets on-hand in the foodcourt and the room was actually rather brilliant (probably the best so far on this trip) No plans for day one after the tiring 6hour drive but what better way to learn your surroundings than explore aimlessly.

I headed for an Intersection which just happened to be none other than Queen St W, which is scarily like Newtown in Sydney, right down to its music stores, tattoo parlours and herds of hipsters on the streets. After walking one way down, I decided to head the other and towards the towers of the CBD. The shops change from vintage-used-hobo-sheak to the typical International labels with hefty price tags you’ll find everywhere in this part of the world. But theres also an array of cool bar-restaurants that give this part of town a really cool vibe.

Toronto has a tram network, how similar this makes the area look to Melbourne is uncanny. Exactly like being in Fitzroy in Melbourne. I remember thinking great I’ve travelled 15,000km to go to Melbourne. It was interesting to note driving in also that the pushy-rudeness of drivers in Montreal hadn’t transferred to Toronto. It must be a French thing.

Toronto has some amazing Architecture; besides an array of Modern-futuristic sky scrapers that fill the CBD theres also older style heritage sites. A stand out though is the College of Arts building which looks like something of out Samuel Youd’s series of novels; The Tripods.

Some night photography and thai food rounded out a busy day.

After sleeping in and some more wandering about on day two I decided to head to the CN Tower, which was a bad idea because it was like $36 to go up. This sounds expensive but doable but unfortunately I’d made the proper commitment to cutback on expenditure upon arriving in Toronto (tightass? Well I’m 2g over budget and haven’t even arrived in the UK yet) A view of Toronto is something I could pass on.

The weather took a turn for the worst later in the day so I headed back to shelter, later in the night however I met up with a friend Cathy I’d met in a New York city hostel, scarily although she’d been living in Toronto she is originally from a suburb in Sydney 15minutes from mine. You really can’t escape us Australians no matter where you go the world over. I’d heard Canadians in Japan talk about something called “Poutine” so I was promised a late night venture to one of the better vendors of this Canadian delicacy. It’s basically hot chips with a covering of cheese, which then melts when you cover it with shit-hot gravy! Your given a spoon and encouraged to dig-in. It’s an experience for sure (especially great on a cold day)

On Friday I decided to head to Toronto Island, yes there is an island off the coast of the CBD. You hop a ferry for $6.50 and in about 10minutes your staring at an amazing panorama of the Toronto city-scape. The island itself is a lazy playground of sorts. A huge park with places to picnic, a small amusement fair for kids, animal farm, port for yachts and some landmarks. One side even has a beach! the best part about the place however is there is a plethora of cement bike paths criss-crossing about the island. You can rent a bike for as long as you desire.

This will sound rather silly but I’d forgotten how much fun it is to actually ride a bike without purpose. Just for the sheer fun of exploring and the convenience of effortless speed. I literally circled the entire island, a beach view, a lighthouse, local bird life. People actually have holiday houses in certain areas. Pretty great considering it’s a 10min ferry ride from a bustling CBD and you feel like your on a sleepy-town beach-island. I decided to make like the locals and a bunch of tourists and laze around some on the grass. A good change of pace from days of doing anything and everything.

Quite tired from kms of peddling I was walking past Queen St W on my way back to the hotel when I saw some local BMX bandits kick over a parking sign and then use it to flip jumps off on the footpath in betweens gaps of pedestrians! This was too good to pass up so I brought out the camera for some action shots. Some of the photos are rather good as one of the riders was getting some serious air and even went on to jump 2 of his mates standing up!

Final day in Melbourne’s doppelganger sister city, what better thing to do than to hit Kensington Market. Basically a collection of backstreets just west of china-town. The hipster/hippy/alternative/antique/collectible/used/vintage crowd is all represented here. A stretch of the area is essentially people having all collectively decided to turn their front-yards into shop stalls selling their own clothing and wares! I hadn’t seen anything like this since Tokyo! pretty amazing.

One store had every conceivable novelty instrument, I pondered purchasing an accordion more than once. Another had oldschool toys such as an array of gaming consoles to easy-bake ovens (in boxes) Another a shelf of used cameras, some with film still inside! After getting some food I stumbled to a small park near the area and pretty much fell asleep. The long bike ride the day before catching up to me perhaps?

Later than night before heading out I decided to visit a store called “Ed Harry’s” which is the inspiration for an amusing scene in the comic series Scott Pilgrim Vs The World. Unfortunately it was closed, so I didn’t get to experience it’s blinding brightness but got photos none the less. I had to call it an early night because I was up 4:50am the next morning for the drive back to New York and a stop off at Niagara Falls on the way!

Racing towards the border I made it to the Falls just after sunrise (the signs really don’t help you when approaching, a small 5minute detour into town eventually led me to the falls) You had to pay ridiculous amounts for parking; luckily it was just past 6am and there were no attends so I raced in for free, dodged the misty spray from the water and stood there taking in the sun clearing over some clouds. The area was also deserted, the average tourist not keen enough for 6am on a sunday morning luckily. The mist covered up half the view but it was awesome none the less!

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WT2010 – USA – Day 36 – Brooklyn and Manhattan

Posted in Travels by jukeboxparables on April 20, 2010

WT2010 – USA
Day 36 Brooklyn and Manhattan
[On the iPOD] The Ramones / Interpol

A full day of walking yesterday, but It was time to venture out of the relative ‘safety’ of Manhattan (people and crime stats make it the safest place in New York) and everywhere else? Well you hear stores from different people and wonder. So It was a short walk and a hop, onto the L train and across the East River. I actually had no Idea what to expect.

Rising from the grungyness of the subway up a flight of stairs and your smack-bang in the action; Bedford Ave. A much more relaxed vibe than Manhattan, no skyscrapers in sight (except when you catch a glimpse across the river down a side-street) This part of Brooklyn really has a community/working class vibe to it and whilst you’ll find some nice stores and restaurants on the main strip you really have to go exploring; which I did completely aimlessly.

I ended up coming across *shock horror* an Indie record store (I’m like a St. Bernard rescue dog, I can sniff these things out of nowhere) Anyway for those of you reading most of these posts your probably sick of me mentioning them, but it’s tried and tested if theres one around theres usually other community minded people who will be running rad restaurants / other shops.

I walked all of a hundred metres and came across a used vintage clothing exchange called ‘Beacon’s Closet’. There was some utterly cool stuff in there (for really cheap prices) I ended up walking out with some cool t-shirts for like $6 a pop. Win. Amusingly also; I had a guy sitting down on near the door on my way out exclaim “Yo, I love your shoes, I ain’t ever seen that!”. I didn’t know what to say, so I just smiled and nodded and kept walking; to which I got “Oh, Nothing to say to me COZ IM A BLACK MAN”. At which point I burst out laughing, even though he was serious. I replied how it was a long silly story, didnt want to waste his time with it and told him to have a good one. He looked rather bemused at my accent. Aussie charm always seems to work in these situations.

I wandered around Brooklyn some more and stopped for lunch at a Thai place, which had $5 lunch menu, pretty great value. Took some more photos as well as some backstreet photos of graffiti, which is all over the place. There’s a lot of warehouses and such down by the river. It’s where a lot of these funky stores seem to be. The real reason I hiked in that direction though was to buy tickets for a gig next week (The Thermals) because you couldn’t buy them online. Unfortunately the venue was closed! and didn’t have a day-box office. The guys at the music store said another venue in Manhattan sells tickets for them though.

So it was back across the river to lower manhattan to find this venue. I get there to find an open box-office but am told they DONT sell tickets for the brooklyn bowl. So I’d almost given up, later on I’d find out you COULD actually get them online. Great big waste of time.

The MET was apparently a big Museum that everyone must visit. I arrived just after 4pm with the idea of running through it in two hours. You get to pay what you want after 4pm, so I only paid $5 but it was a big mistake none the less. The place is HUGE! Is everything in New York on such a grand scale? Yes! I merely got to the end of the Greek art section and 1hour had passed, talk about getting lost in the exhibits. Theres big marble carvings to actual armour / swords / helmets on display. Think about it, 2000years ago some guy was wearing this in battle and killing people with that sword. You can’t discount smaller pieces either. I wandered straight passed a collection of ‘trinkets’ and then backed up and thought, hold on this is the real deal.

We’ve become so accustomed in modern times to just stroll past market places, sidewalk stalls of mass produced jewellery and what not. But here were coins and mugs and jewellery of high quality made and worn by someone 2000years ago. When you look at the big picture and take in all the art from this perspective you could stand there for weeks just admiring the scope of it all. The MET is one hell of an Impressive house of house of Art but it’s also about our History.

I decided flat out, I had to skip like 80% of the Museum because of the time left so I just skipped right along to the Medieval section because It’s something I’ve genuinely never seen before. I got there as it was closing but got in some quick snap shots. The Armour is complete Art unto itself, the detail put into the pieces that make up the suit and the decoration. Add to that; it all served an actual purpose for use in battle for whoever it was commissioned for. They also had a mockup set of Knights riding on Horses, and horse battle armour also. An utterly awesome sight. Then unfortunately it was closing time. I only saw a fraction of the MET. I think I’ll be back.

I then decided to walk across Central Park for the first time. You always hear bad stories, hell I’m sure at least 20% of the death scenes in Law and Order happen there right? All I’d been told is just don’t go in at night which is probably wise. Firstly, its HUGE so you can get lost in there easily. Luckily theres maps though. You find joggers, people walking dogs, families, baseball. It’s just been given a bad rep I think. It was gorgeous in parts too! I walked through an area called Shakespeare’s Garden and onward to a tower/house which was apparently occupied during its early history. There were squirrels running about in the grass and I then came across a racoon just strolling by. I can’t comment what it’s like at night cause I’m going to heed advice given to me, but during the day it’s the perfect break from the bustling city.

I emerged out the other side with one goal in mind; Times Square. So I hopped a train and a short walk and I was there; Times Square / New York City! Thankfully they’ve put up a sort of ‘staircase’ useful for gawking foreigners like myself so you can sit down and just take it all in. I watched the place light up as darkness crept in ever so slowly. It’s exactly like Shibuya in Tokyo, bright as day due to neon signs and advertising and the hustle of people walking in all directions. You don’t know which way to look.

I took some photos and helped out with people who wanted photos of them taken. I was walking towards the other end of the square when I noticed something in a window. A cookie. Not just any cookie! THE black and white cookie (for all you Seinfeld fans) I almost tripped over myself to buy it. It’s actually pretty amazing. I’ll quote Jerry Seinfeld:

“You see, Elaine, the key to eating a black and white cookie is that you wanna get some black and some white in each bite. Nothing mixes better than vanilla and chocolate. And yet still somehow racial harmony eludes us. If people would only look to the cookie, all our problems would be solved. Look to the cookie Elaine, Look to the cookie.”

As if mirroring the episode (in where Jerry tips his cookie to an African-American fellow) A guy commented on my shoes but spoke with an British accent. We got to talking bars and clubs and what not, Brit people abroad are always so outgoing. He mentioned that Brits aren’t like that back home though. I guess I’ll find out eventually.

Just like that I decided to call it a night, I threw in some random hipster shots modelling my new shirt purchases though lol. Still happy about those stores in Brooklyn, I think I’ll head back there and find some more.

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