Toronto: Home Is Where The Family Is

Toronto is the city that always holds a special place in my heart, because of the people, and the memories that followed. This weekend getaway consisted of: family reunion, speaking home dialect, celebration of middle-school friendships, and rose-tinted memories filled with nothing but love. To top it off, my brother and I got a picture together in as long as I could remember, and we didn’t even look alike (。-_-。).

This trip was made possible in large part thanks to my cousin, who was studying abroad in Canada, and to celebrate her completion of the program was conveniently taken as an excuse for the two families to gather in Toronto, where my brother and his wife now reside in.

Just as re-reading a book at a different stage of life would allude to new visions, re-visiting a place for a different purpose would give you an experience unlike something else. My last visit to Toronto was part of my high school graduation trip, in which I got to fully explore the city in the span of two weeks. Three years later, I was back to this city. It felt familiar, like visiting an old friend, yet intriguing, as this time I was with my family.

 

Family trips don’t happen often as I grow up, and my last memory of the four of us – my parents, my brother, and I – being together was already two years ago. My parents are not naturally expressive people when it comes to parenting. Many times they attempted to be caring, loving, things came off as ugly – gentle reminders became nagging grumbles, occasional chitchats became hypersensitive fights.

The teenage me was especially rebellious, impulsive, and careless. There were times when my mom and I needed to communicate in letters – it was writing that allowed us to take all the space and time that we needed to sort out the emotions and put together the thoughts. I still remember her handwriting was so firm, so angular. There were strikethroughs scattered here and there, but nothing big enough to affect readability. During my most paradoxical stage of life highly dominated by adolescent hormones, my mom sought out a written form of communication that turned out to be the most effective buffer in the relationship between us. We resorted to a common ground through working to understand the misunderstandings. After all, “I love you” and “I’m sorry” and even “I don’t really give a shit about you” are communicated more through actions than through words.

Something I never said too much – I love you. My parents never said it much, either. And I thought I’d be different, but I guess I’m not. Don’t be mistaken if I appear to have received an unhealthy upbringing (although that is kind of the direction this took, my bad). I truly feel more than grateful for the independent and soft spoken role model my mom has embodied. A sentence like “I love you” is never extra, is never too much of a sweet note to end a phone call with the family, with the loved ones.

 

Okay, before I digress into more childhood story, below are the spots I personally love to stop by in Toronto:

To Do

  • High Park
    • Best time to go: late April for the cherry blossoms or September for some fall colors.
  • Toronto Islands
    • A short 15-minute ferry ride will take you to another world of idyllic picnic spots, car-free streets, and beachfront attractions. I spent a day here biking around and enjoying the nature. I have to say the Toronto’s growing skyline from across the harbor is the reason alone to visit.
  • Niagara Falls
    • It is about two hours from Toronto, easily accessible by casino buses. There are also ice wine breweries around the area for those who are interested.
  • Kensington Market
    • Located right next to Chinatown, Kensington Market hosts a number of diverse restaurants, specialized groceries, and self-employed vendors, from vintage jewelries to ethnic fashions. Tip: remember to haggle to get the best deal!
  • Ireland Park
    • A green, quiet corner nestled inside the Metropolitan area. At here, you can appreciate the Toronto skyline in peace, and a handful of bronze sculptures, of course.
  • Cloud Gardens
    • An indoor garden located in downtown Toronto, open only in the mornings on weekdays.
  • Chestnut Hill Lookout
    • Known as the perfect makeout spot in Toronto, it is hidden in a residential neighborhood. At here, you can overlook the entire Don Valley Parkway.
  • Montreal
    • As a historic hub of the nation, Montreal exudes a slice of old Europe in a pie of magnificent architectures. It is an overlooked town that you don’t want to bypass if you’re not on a time constraint. It takes about six hours of drive or an hour by plane from Toronto, but spending a day or two here is plentiful.

To Eat

  • Jarbistro (Japanese fine dining, set off by a chic interior design of light wood and exposed brick)
  • Sake bar Kushi (Sushi & grilled Japanese eats, with striking dark wood interior traditionally decorated)
  • Fishman Lobster Clubhouse Restaurant (Hong Kong style seafood creation, ft. king crab, gigantic lobster, and mean-muggin’ fish)
  • Lavelle (rooftop bars / French eatery / brunch)
  • The Porch Toronto (rooftop venue for cocktails & brunch)

 

(Additional photos of Toronto Islands and Montreal from my last trip in case you wonder how they look like:)

 

This trip was so short, yet so sweet. I miss this place already.

As always, thank you for reading.

 

With love, warmth, and all other good things

Yolie

 

 

 

Yosemite Valley: The Spring Playground

If you haven’t noticed, I have a thing for national parks. Specifically, I’m most comfortable in workout gear and the only slightest idea as to my exact location at any given point in time. I find comfort in falling off the grid and abiding a different clock than the outside world. And Yosemite gave me an exact experience where the charm hasn’t been overshadowed by the deluge of modernity. It is something that I’ve always longed for.

We didn’t leave Irvine until 9:30 p.m. on Friday due to the little detour to Summer Land (aka the school music festival that for once with a decent lineup). After a four and a half hour drive singing our heart out to Eason Chan (the ultimate roadtrip song obvi), We arrived in Oakhurst, the small town where our Airbnb was located. Hidden in a valley, it was an exquisite gabled cabin with a triangular roof. Standing on the balcony, you could hear the silvery sound of the running creek and the water splashing the rocks. Outside the cabin, you would find a million stars shining bright in the sky. It’s like the wish would really come true if you made one… ya feel:)

Yosemite was such a resilient playground where we were welcomed with idyllic views and vigorous energy. The scenic drive into the park was only a small taste as to what you’ll witness once in the valley. The trails varied from staircases to flat fields dipping below the waterfalls. The streams were in full force raging with water from melting snow. We maneuvered across the creeks with the least amount of water-to-pants contact.. but only to get drenched in the mist flowing off the falls. Here I included a list of the spots that my friends and I went to during our time at the park:

  • Glacier Point
  • Lower Yosemite Falls
  • Bridalveil Fall
  • Mirror Lake

Although we were only able to visit a few spots due to the heavy traffic and the limited amount of time, we had zero issues filling our day. When you hate something there are millions of words to describe it, but when you’re happy, that’s it – you’re just happy.

 

Stay adventurous,

Yolie