toronto's distillery district

I'm not sure who woke up first. But I do remember opening my eyes and seeing the sunshine, the birds. I feared it was early, too early. But, with a glance at Ty's watch, I saw that it was nearly 8:00. I sat up, on my knees, stretched my arms upward and outward. To my left, Zoë did likewise. We sat and blinked at each other, sleepy and full of mumbles. Our rustling had disturbed Ty, who looked up from beneath his arm.

"Did I miss the ritual sun salute?" he asked. Indeed, our backs were to him, our faces to the sun, arms stretched out. We rolled our eyes at him, rolled ourselves out of the tent's narrow opening.

"So. much. sunshine," I grumbled, my eyes slowly adjusting. Zo
ë and I sat at the picnic table, munching on dried apples and bagels. It was still peaceful, quiet. Other campers--ones who clearly made the site home for the entire summer--were beginning to exit their campers and trailers. Children were already racing on their bicycles, already blackening the bottoms of their feet. The sunlight streamed through tree branches, bounced off the leaves of countless grapevines. It was calm ... save for snores that still exuded from the tent.

ë and I glanced back at it, puckered our cheeks and nodded. "Uh huh. Yep. That's Ty."

"I can't wait to take a shower," I interjected. "I mean, I am really looking forward to taking a shower. And I don't think I've ever looked forward to communal showers."

Zoe laughed. "It will be delightful."

After Ty woke up and we all finished breakfast, we broke down the tent and did our best to pack everything back into the trunk of the car. We rearranged the backseat, stacked coolers and bottles of water. Today we would be our first day in Toronto. But first, showers.

Backpacks on lonely pegs. Towels tossed over curtains. Soap and shampoo and shaving cream balanced precariously. Warm water. Wonderful, wonderful cleansing water.

"Hey, Zoë!" I called.

"Ye-es?" she asked from the next stall.

"Remember a couple of weeks ago, when I was all sad and depressed, and you asked me if there was anything I needed?"

"Uh huh."

"And I joked with you, told you I needed affection." My sarcasm was evident. "I was disappointed when you wouldn't let me shower with you."

Laughter erupted from the neighboring stall, and I grinned. Picked at a bug bite on my leg.

"Well, then," Zo
ë said knowingly, "you got your wish." I could hear the smile in her voice.

We were brushing our teeth and packing our things when we head the car alarm go off. We squinted our eyes, judgmental. We looked at each other once more. "Ty."

Back outside, he teased us for "taking so long." We teased him for setting off his own car alarm. "Yeah, yeah. You kids these days; grumble, grumble."

After stopping at Tim Horton's for coffee and free Internet, we hit the highway. Toronto wasn't far away, and we would be there by the afternoon. We drove along Lake Erie for some time, something we had also done the day before. The lake, blue and reflective, sparkled off to the right. Fields, green fields, stretched on the left. Queen Anne's lace dotted the sides of the road, the edges of fields. And blots of purple--bluebell--were entwined throughout. There were oil pumps. Wind turbines. Old, sturdy red barns. Solar panels. Orchards with crooked trees and twisted vines.

The countryside was picturesque--a blend of old and new, of farms and technology. Save for the oil pumps and the delightful number of solar panels, it reminded me of home, of Iowa. So green, so lush with crops. The solar panels reminded me of dusty, barren Nevada. And the oil pumps? Of Oklahoma, Texas. I had nothing to compare this land to, other than my own American stereotypes. Here, in just a few minutes, were the same characteristics that America spreads across thousands of miles, across regions and climates.

But this wasn't America; it was Canada. It was better.

The signs were frequent, advising. They were written in English and in French, displayed far ahead of where you needed to go. Each borough we cruised through would have a name, a blue plague titling it: Dealtown, Cedar Springs, Blenheim.

On the Interstate, we judged the safety of a semis pulling three trailers, and also watched for interesting license plates. At one point in time, we passed a van for a cleaning company.

"Wait," Zo
ë said, watching the van intently. "Was that van from a company called Suedemaster?"

"Yes," answered Ty exuberantly. "And if I were a superhero, that would be my name."

ë and I smirked. "You could be nothing else."

"If that be the case, then tiny droplets of water are my Kryptonite."

Soon after, Zo
ë fell asleep, her head nestled among various stuffs in the backseat. Ty and I sat in relative silence, watching landscapes pass by and listening to folk music. By the time we edged into Toronto, The Head and the Heart was playing, soft melodies with heartbreaking lyrics. The elevated Interstate wove through high-rises and construction, buildings and lake shores. I was smitten, fascinated. I barely touched my camera; I preferred to keep my nose to the glass, my neck stretched and contorted.

"See that vista? Now that's some good vista."

The lake. The CN tower. The marina. The construction. The Distillery District. The baseball stadium. The cable cars. Toronto. Canada. Canada. Canada. Oh, God, we were here.

After driving in a few squares, past the CN Tower once again, past a Maserati dealership, a strangely-constructed cube-on-cube building, and countless Thai restaurants, we parked the car near the Distillery District.

"We're in Canada, guys!" I exclaimed.

Indeed we were; we were in the Distillery District, a historic 13-acre area filled with brick streets and Victorian Industrial Architecture. It had a number of eateries in its old buildings, as well as galleries and shops: antiques, toys, flowers, clothing, paintings, artwork done completely with Rubik's Cubes.

We went into a furniture store, one with a 12-foot-long rustic table, a half-log smoothed and shined. We saw puppies running about a designer clothing store, books with egregious titles. And in the overpriced half-antique, half-new store, we saw a typewriter, a book titled Let's Bring Back. I saw several industrial items that, at the time, I thought would be perfect for the wedding.

Outside, we stopped to gaze at the bricks, the buildings, the other tourists. Locals filtered in as the evening wore on, individuals in suits and dresses and high heels and red lipstick. We passed stalls selling paintings, sketches, honey, flowers. Zoë paused to examine some herbs, smell them, pick at them. Compare them to what her family has grown in the past.

"I always love rosemary," Ty said, running his hand through the leaves and up the stalk. "I love the smell." He rubbed his fingers together, held them to my nose. I leaned in.

"That does smell lovely," I said, smiling.

Toward sunset, after we had browsed an art gallery and had taken photos of what appeared to be a creature from War of the Worlds, we thought it best to find a hotel and a place to eat. We eventually settled on a place near the airport, dropped off our things and freshened up. We ate dinner at a Mediterranean restaurant, sharing an appetizer and sampling each other's orders. We had begun to realize how diverse of a city Toronto was; there were Thai restaurants, Indian eateries. Caribbean. Mexican. Ethiopian. The neighborhoods were culturally attractive, and we had driven past barbecues and block parties and parents playing basketball with their teens.

"You don't see much of that in the States, anymore."

"We need to move here, guys."

"Yes. Yes we do."


  1. Toronto sounds like a fun place. I've never been. Love your photos, as always. :)

  2. I love every photo you've ever taken of me.

    Every single one. Even the ones with teeth.


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