10 things to do this summer in Toronto

Now that the heat has finally hit it’s time to get prepared for those long, sunny days. Granted, I still have a lot of the city and its outskirts to experience, but summer is where I am most knowledgeable when it comes to The 6ix, and so I thought I would share some of my personal favourite summer activities.

In no particular order:

  1. The Toronto Island

The fact that this appears fist on my list is kind of a bummer this year, the island is remaining closed until it is marked safe for visitors, due to flooding from record-breakingly high water levels- a result of abnormally heavy rainfall over the spring months. Word on the street is that it won’t reopen until the beginning of August, which sucks.

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But, I digress, for when August rolls around this is a great way to spend a hot, sunny day. Just a short ferry ride from the downtown core, the Toronto Island is a great escape from the city that doesn’t cost too much and offers something for everyone. As a child, my parents would take my cousins and I to the island to enjoy the Franklin Children’s Garden and mini fairground.

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As a young adult, my cousin and I loved taking the ferry over to wards island and enjoying the beautiful blue flag beaches. The water is even good enough to paddle in- or swim if you’re brave enough.

Alternatively, head to the opposite side of the island and check out Hanlan’s Point, but be warned: this beach is clothing optional!

Pack a picnic and some sunblock, climb aboard the ferry, take in the breath-taking views of Lake Ontario and the city skyline, before having a well deserved lazy day on the sand.

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  1. Beach days

Following swiftly onward from the Island are the other beaches that the city has to offer. Of course, Toronto is not near the ocean, but Lake Ontario’s blue waters disuses itself as a gorgeous sea year round.

Head East to Woodbine beach, which offers a fun atmosphere to relaxing to hang out with friends and family, as well as convenience stands and even a skate park at Woodbine. With blue-flag water and some of the best sand’s that the city has to offer, woodbine is your most genuine “beach day”.

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Just a short walk from the Port Lands, navigate your way to Cherry beach, which boasts a far more relaxed vibe. I’ve even been told that you can often find beach-goers setting up their own campfires on the shore as the night draws in.

If you’re in the downtown core, and just fancy a quick beach break, without the hassle of getting wet and covered in soggy sand, why not check out Sugar Beach Park? You’ll spot it on the dockside, an array of little pink deckchairs and parasols all set up on a man-made beach area- soft, golden sands included. Granted, you can’t swim in the water here, but Sugar Beach is great if you want to take a break from a busy day of walking, checking out tourist spots, or even on your lunch-break. Plus, it’s an awesome spot for a photo shoot (just think of the Instagram likes!)

  1. Exploring Scarborough Bluffs
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The Bluffs are a tranquil stretch of 11 parks across 15km and not too far from the main city, however if you’re going to commit to visiting the area, I’d fully recommend taking a car, or finding someone who is willing to drive.

The Bluffs are ideal for an early evening walk, picnic with stunning views of both the Bluffs and a great place to swim. Head to Bluffers Park for a full view of the Bluffs, or take a left and venture to the beach and marina. For a more in detail summary of the Bluffs check out my post from a couple of years ago here.

  1. Picnic in Trinity Bellwoods

Being close to my neighbourhood, and the perfect in-between for my friends and I, Trinty Bellwoods feels like my most frequent stomping ground as soon as the sun comes out. Pack up some snacks and a blanket and head to the park to meet friends, or take a book and have some “me time”.

The park is full of all kinds of interesting people, from super active workout bunnies and dog walkers, to people nerve-rackingly slack lining and even some interesting looking performance artists.

Not too far from the park you can find Bellwood’s Brewery, an LCBO and a Beer Store- all great for some refreshments. While drinking in parks is not legal in Toronto (as of right now) I won’t tell if you don’t. Plus, there are some lovely can collectors walking the length and breadth of the park who will take your cans for you- they make some money recycling them and your ass is saved from those pesky bike cops-win, win.

  1. Visiting Harbourfront
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Quite possibly one of the most “touristy” things on this list, but enjoyable none the less. Harbourfront is another one of those things that you can do when you’re hanging with your mum, your kids, your gran or your friends, because everyone can find something to enjoy. Head to the Amsterdam Brewery where you can sample some in-house brewed beers while enjoying some almost “guilt-free” aperitifs including Crispy Brussels Sprouts and Mexican Sweet Corn from the comfort of one of their traditional red Muskoka chairs facing the beautiful Lake Ontario.

Or take a stroll along the boardwalk, eye-up some yachts you probably can’t afford (or at least I can’t) and finally hit up the Steam Whistle Brewery, original railway turntable included, for a boozy history lesson.

  1. Visit a park

Okay, so I kinda covered this one already, but Toronto has so many other parks to offer- both city and national parks. And whether you have money to spare or want to have a great day on a budget, a park is your go to.

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For me, I like approximately a six-minute walk from the famous Christie Pits, which in summer offers free viewing of baseball, including the Toronto Maple Leafs, as well as a swimming pool and an outdoor cinema at night.

Or head West on the subway to High Park where you can experience beautiful views of the water, the city, and even spend time in the park’s own mini-zoo.

The city is awash with parks, a perfect escape from metropolitan life, no matter which neighbourhood you live in. Take some snacks and a book and enjoy that warm summer breeze.

 

  1. A rooftop pool
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I only discovered rooftop pools that are open to the public were a thing back in the summer of 2015 but lemme tell ya, that nugget of summer joy changed my life. Yeah, you have to pay some money to have access to these pools- mostly situated in hotel complexes, but they are worth it if it’s a sweltering day and you have a few friends together looking to enjoy the heat.

The first pool I visited was with my cousins- after we concluded that Cabana Pool Bar (while I’m sure super cool, with great views and lots of hot people flocking to it) but kinda out of our price range- was the pool atop the roof of the Hyatt Residency on King. A gorgeous pool with a breath-taking view of the city and a staffed bar, this place is ideal to pretend you’re an extra on ‘The Real Housewives of –insert your favourite franchise here-“.

  1. Brunch, lunch or drinks on a patio

The great thing about summer is the ability to finally be able to sit on a patio. I feel like I spent the entire winter longing for that moment when I could sit, free of a jacket, on a patio and enjoy the hyped-up atmosphere that is the summer.

IMG_0986There are a billion amazing brunch and lunch places in the city, and it’s impossible to even begin to list them all. The same goes for bars. There is something for everyone in this diverse city, so no matter if you want a quiet beer with your pals, or to sit on a rooftop patio with some fancy cocktails while gazing at the city skyline, you have your pick.

In my own neighbourhood, I’d like to give a special mention to Pourboy, which offers tasty food and great drinks- including a mean sangria- for a great price.

 

Or hit up Bellwoods Brewery for some in-house brewed beers and ciders, all set on an idyllic patio, complete with white picnic benches. You can read more about the Brewery here on my review.

  1. Explore Kensington Market

Kensington can be a bit of a tourist trap, but it is also home to an array of amazing creatives, the streets filled with some of my favourite people in the city. A great place to scope out some delicious vegan and vegetarian food, some one-of-a-kind vintage fashion items, or some hand-made jewellery you won’t find anywhere else. Even if you’re on a budget, the market is just as cool to walk around, camera in hand, and take in the sights.

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  1. Watch a movie under the stars

It’s not often you can actually hang out in the great outdoors and watch a movie at the same time.

A number of parks in the city offer public evening screenings of some classic movies, including Christie Pits and Trinity Bellwoods, as well as viewings at Yonge-Dundas Square and the Harbourfront.

Take a blanket (and a date if you are so lucky) and enjoy summer right until bedtime.

I could go on and on, because when the weather is just right, I think Toronto excels in its nature of being the city that keeps on giving. If you’re new to the city, or just want to experience something you haven’t done before, I hope some of these points gave you that little sprinkling of inspiration you need to get out there and seize this summer day!

 

Aimee XO

 

 

Cherry Blossoms in High Park

This year has been my first ever experience of Toronto in spring. It is my first time seeing new life grow from the winter snow and feeling the excitement and anticipation of new beginnings spreading across the city.

One of the biggest markers of the season in ‘The 6ix’, is the blossoming of the beautiful cherry blossoms in the West End’s High Park. It wasn’t something that I was even aware of before I moved over here, but scrolling through social media one day, an article popped up about the infamous cherry blossoms, and I was hooked. There is something about the pastel petals swirling above my head on a sunny, blue-skied day, that begs for a camera to snap the moment into a memory. So, naturally, I grabbed my camera and set off on the subway towards High Park.

The trees reached their peak bloom in early May, and so I picked the ideal time to head down. It was fairly warm, and I had a good feeling about the way the day would pan out.

Swarms of families, tourists, couples and school field trips filled the park, but with my headphones blocking out the rest of the world, I happily meandered between the trees, camera in hand.

I’m not, by any means, a photographer, and I definitely don’t have photo editing down to a fine art, but I still think the pictures managed to capture some of the aesthetic of the day.

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It will be a shame to see the blossoms fall to the ground, but they will only make way for the bright green leaves of what will hopefully be a sunny and memorable summer.

 

Aimee xo

Sex and the Skatepark

Excuse the punny title, but I couldn’t help myself. Fortunately (or unfortunately…) this post isn’t about sex, at least not the kind you’re thinking of…

Today I want to talk all things gender. I’ve briefly skirted around this issue before, on my last post about why I decided to pursue skateboarding at 23, and as a girl.

For the most part, I’ve seen nothing but support, and the fact I am a ‘girl’ hasn’t really caused me too much animosity. But yesterday, I experienced my first taste of what it is like to have your gender spat in your face, and used as an insult against you, in a male dominated surrounding. It was only one person, out of like fifty, but it got my blood boiling. It’s super lame to let negative comments like that get to you, especially from a guy who is obviously narrow-minded, but it ruined my day and sent me home on slightly less of a high.

What was said isn’t really important, it’s the implications behind what was said- look at that girl even trying, how lame… Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I think if I was at the park, hanging out and flirting with guys and sat on my ass not trying, that would be lame. Instead I’m putting all of my effort into learning new things, I’m falling down and getting cuts and bruises and still giving it my all. If it was a guy doing that, it wouldn’t be lame, it would be encouraged.

I don’t think I’ll ever truly know how real oppression feels. But I know how it feels to be called out because of what’s between my legs, and the stereotypes that come with that.

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One of the things I’ve struggled with the most is the fact that I am extremely outwardly a girl. I love fashion and makeup and cute puppies and hot guys in boy-bands. I’m not in any way remotely a ‘tomboy’, so I guess that makes me a target. But so what if I was to wear a cute pair of pants and eye shadow… and then pick up a skateboard and try (and fail) to Ollie?

It’s almost like elementary school playground flirting: be mean to the girl and it’ll get her attention. Thing is though, that doesn’t work. It just makes me feel low.

It annoys me that I can let the stupid comment of one individual make me feel so down on myself, but I think these incidents are important to document. To show that whether you’re at the gym, or in a nightclub or just walking down the street- this stuff still happens.

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For the one guy who had to share his negativity with me, there were like 20 other guys who were being supportive and talking to me and teaching me new things. And that’s important too.

I think the take-away though is this: be proud of who you are and what you love. And this time, instead of feeling intimidated and sad about what happened, I’m going to feel even more determined to get better every single day.

xoAimee

Image courtesy of Blare Magazine http://blaremagazine.com/2017/04/04/photos-mac-demarco-at-house-of-vans-toronto/

Mac Demarco at House of Vans

This past weekend saw The House of Vans pop up at 99 Sudbury Street in Toronto’s Queen West neighbourhood. The event spanned three days offering a community market, art instillations, a rad indoor skate park and live performances including a special appearance from Canadian cutie Mac Demarco.

It was a pretty mundane Friday morning at work, a 7am start no less, when an email from House of Vans pinged up on my phone and turned my day around. I was stoked to have been placed on the guest list for the Saturday night party which would see Toronto’s own DJ Bambii, as well as singer RALPH, take to the stage, before an exclusive performance by Mr Demarco himself.

I’ve always wanted to see Mac live, there’s just something about his cheeky charm and melodic sounds that I can’t get enough of, but sadly a less than full UK tour line-up, coupled with his popularity across the pond, has meant that I had never had the opportunity. That was until now.

Now, if you know me you’ll know I have a tiny bit of an obsession with Vans (a very healthy one!) and so to be able to get along to this exclusive evening event at the House of Vans no less was just the pièce de résistance.

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I decided to grant my friend Grace (actually an old friend of my cousins, but I like to think my friend these days) the privilege of my +1, mostly ‘cause she’s a laugh and a half and we always have fun together. That and the fact she likes Mac Demarco too so it made sense.

We decided to head down to the venue 40 minutes early, thinking we could check out the community market and would be there with plenty of time as the House of Vans recommended this to guarantee entry.

All I can say is that we were lucky the weather had suddenly decided to become a little milder and raise a couple degrees from the -7 we have become accustomed to these last few months. We waited outside of the venue until 9:10pm, which was wild considering we were told the show started at 9:00pm!

It was worth the wait once we managed to flood into the venue. In true Vans style they had remodelled the indoor skate park into a super cool venue, with giant, glowing lanterns overhead illuminating patches of the vast room in shads of red and blue. People were mingling all around, drinking beers and chatting. There were fridges stocked with free Vitamin Waters (I’m assuming this was down to some sponsorship). Two bars aligned each side of the room, offering beer, wine and a variety of spirits. And then, I’ll be honest, there were also a lot of hotties (overwhelmingly so) which might have added to the atmosphere…

Armed with drinks in hand we perched ourselves atop a ledge, expecting the crowd to fill up drastically, and thinking we were pretty damn clever for securing such a great spot to see the show. Turns out, it was actually not quite the crowd we expected.

Looking back it makes a lot of sense. There were a tonne of VIP guests, skaters from within the city and further afield who had travelled in for the weekend, vendors who had been working on stalls all day, artists who had been exhibiting… this wasn’t a ‘show’ necessarily. This was a private party at which the musicians just happened to be playing.

RALPH opened up with some blissful melodies. I hadn’t heard her play before but after such an amazing opening I’ll for sure be checking her out again. I recommend you do too.

Following on Toronto-based DJ Bambii (aka Kristen Azan) blew the crowd away with some sick, dancey mixes, including a funky remix of Outcasts ‘Roses’ which really saw the crowd come into its own.

Now, if you ask me, I reckon House of Vans did a little bit of a fuck up on the set list. People danced their asses off and drank twice as much as before during Bambii’s party playlist- and a part of me wonders if this may have been suited for after Demarco’s set. Would it have been better to listen to his acoustic tunes and laugh and his humorous remarks, and then afterwards get wasted and dance? I think so… The other way around made it kind of hard to concentrate.17499488_10210415668400371_8297017472644885599_n

Don’t get me wrong, Mac was epic and I was so stoked to finally be able to see him live…and in such a good venue… and from such a cool spot. I just wish the majority crowd had been a little more into it.

Illuminated beneath a the hanging ‘House of Vans’ sign, he opened up with his classic ‘Salad Days’ before playing a couple of new songs from his up coming album ‘This Old Dog’. The show itself felt pretty casual, with DeMarco stopping between tracks to chat with the audience, relay anecdotes ad even ask: “hey, can you guys hear me?” The band changed it up from their usual show set list and provided something fresh for the event, including a cameo from a crowd member who played Mac’s guitar herself whilst he sang.

From stage diving into the throng of fans, skaters and party-goers in front of him, to letting as many people as possible flood onto the stage to enjoy the show from a different perspective, Mac certainly lived up to his fun-loving persona.

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I reckon if I was to pick an event to see one of my favourite artists play at, this was it. The mellow vibes and cool atmosphere, teamed with two rad supporting artists, made this the party of the month and a super cool experience to kick off my first spring in the 6ix.

Aimeexo

 

Check out Blare Magazines website for some more sick photographs of the event: http://blaremagazine.com/2017/04/04/photos-mac-demarco-at-house-of-vans-toronto/

Goodbyes are never easy

Goodbyes are never easy. I said “goodbye” to my mum, my friends, my family and my home just over two months ago, and I remember holding my breath and telling myself everything would be okay because I knew that I was making the right decision.

My mum promised me it wouldn’t be long until I saw her again, and she wasn’t lying.

Today I said goodbye to my mum for the second time during my travels, but not for the last time.

17626161_10210390207043853_1990562606272675479_n.jpgI’m in such a privileged position that my mum works for an airline, and therefore is a) extremely well travelled and open to travelling and b) has so many opportunities to come and visit me.

She flew out to Canada from the UK five days ago to visit me, on British Mother’s Day, and to have the opportunity to see my mum on that special day was so magical. I got to chat with her and have a cup of tea and give her a gift. I got to tell her, in person, how special she is to me and how grateful I am for her- which I guess is the whole point of the day.

She hung out with me in the city that I now get to call home, and I showed her around. I took her to my favourite restaurants and bars, for brunch and lunch and drinks at the top of a sky scraper so that we could take in “The 6ix” together.

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In turn she got to tell me how proud she is of me for making the leap across the ocean to pursue my dreams and live a life that I have always dreamt of.

I’ve grown so much already in such a short space of time, and to know that my best friend who has been with me from the very beginning- before I was even a thing– is happy, well, that’s just the best feeling.

I remember a time, stood in a cobbled courtyard on a spring day in Leeds. I could smell the Moroccan restaurant my apartment faced, and feel the chill in the air even though it had been a warm day, as I watched her Fiat500 pull out of the parking lot and onto the road that would lead her home. I was only a 1 hour 30 minute drive from home and yet I felt a million miles away. My heart yearned to get into that car with her and travel up that road to Sunderland, away from the heartache that I thought surrounded me. I was so melancholy I was practically scripted for a Shakespearean drama.

But this time, things have changed.

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Every second with her was filled with joy, and felt like I hadn’t been apart from her for one minute, but at the same time, was tainted with the ominous looming cloud of the goodbye that was to come.

I was sad before she even arrived, because I knew the dreaded goodbye was always lurking in the shadows, sneering at our smiles.

But in reality, once I bid her adieu for a second time, I realised that the goodbye isn’t sad at all. It’s a joyous goodbye.

The only reason I’ve had to say farewell to her is because I’m doing something that is making all of my favourite people impressed and happy for me. I’m fulfilling my potential, and nothing worth having ever comes easy.

I don’t want to get on the plane with her and go back to that little town where I don’t think I felt real belonging, although I wish I could stay with her.

The goodbyes will never get easier, but I think that they will always be worth it.

 

 

Aimeexo

International Women’s Day: Why equality is still relevant

Today is International Women’s Day. A day that celebrates the strength, determination, struggle and rise of women worldwide. A day which reminds each and every woman that it is more than okay to be a woman.

For me, feminism is something hugely worth supporting. Not because I hate men. Hell, I love men. Feminism is equality- it is allowing women and men to exist on the same level with mutual respect and like opportunities.

As a white, middle class woman from the West, I know that my own struggles have paled in comparison to those of other women of different races, classes and areas of the world. This saddens me.

I don’t class the struggles I have faced as a woman any worse than identical struggles experienced by men, however, the inequality comes from those struggles I have faced because I am a woman.

Struggles like being called ‘bossy’ as though it’s a bad thing that I’m assertive, it’s a bad thing that I have aspirations and goals and know what I want and how to achieve it.

Struggles like being called a ‘psycho’ because I’m a girl and we woman are weak and feeble and if we show just once ounce of anger or emotion at a personal injustice, our mental stability is put into the firing line.

Struggles like being compared to other women, based on ability, or looks, or weight, and allowing those comparisons to completely absorb my own mind until I feel like I am wading through a tar-like chaotic darkness.

Struggles like going for a graduate job, and working my ass off to research everything I can about the company, to show them just how much I want the job. Working and perfecting my skills and what I’m going to say and the examples of how I can benefit their company only to sit down opposite a panel of white, middle-aged, middle-class men, and seeing that look in their eyes. Little girl- she can’t do this. I’m a good judge of character; I feel your judgement too.

Struggles like being verbally harassed on the street by men I do not know, who think its totally cool to call sexual remarks at me when I’m 15, 16, 17, 18…. I don’t know you, and even if I did, it’s not cool.

Struggles like getting my ass grabbed at work by a complete fucking stranger and being told to “not make a fuss, he’s a paying customer”… I was a waitress in a pretty mainstream cocktail bar. Pretty sure it was a strawberry woo woo he paid for.

Today is an amazing day, because it allows women of all shapes, sizes, sexualities, races, religions and homelands to come together and unite and prosper. It also lets the amazing men in the world show their support for women, and to mark their place in the march towards equality.

However, even on a day filled with such positivity for everyone, there are always those people who have something negative to say. Who aren’t happy to see a positive celebration. “Fuck feminism”, “It’s sad that you need a day to celebrate your gender”, “Typical feminists”. You can imagine.

I think the key thing to remember is that, in the words of Chimamanda Ngozi, feminist is: “the person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.”

So, fuck yeah women’s day, what a rad, positive day to celebrate our gorgeous mothers, wives, girlfriends, sisters, aunts, grandma’s and friends of the world, regardless of whether you are a male or a female.

 

Aimeexo

A familiar face

Its amazing the difference a friendly face can make. I guess I should start this post with an anecdote.

Around this time five years ago, maybe minus a couple of months, I was in my first year of university in Leeds, living in residence with my friend, James. If you’d told me then that, in five years time, we’d both be the happiest version of ourselves, living in another country, and sitting opposite one another in a hole in the wall bar on Queen Street West in Toronto, well I wouldn’t have believed you.

Back then I was in a pretty dark place, struggling with a bunch of personal demons, having had my heart metaphorically doused in petrol and set on fire, and I wasn’t the most chipper of people. James was a pretty quiet guy, and although had his own stuff going on, was mostly happy to just tinker about on his guitar or make experimental music in his room. I guess though, that for me, I was so unhappy with my life that the negativity seeped out of me and diluted my aura- I wasn’t a great person to be around. My problems manifested themselves into obsessive-compulsive behaviours- from controlling my food and weight, right down to fixating on cleanliness and organisation.

Obviously, this didn’t go down well in a student apartment, with a bunch of 18 year olds having finally escaped the rules of home life and having their first taste of freedom. I guess it drove a wedge between James and I for a while.

So to think that fast forward a few years, and we’d be here, drinking cider and laughing on a chilly Canadian February night, is incredible.

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James moved to Muskoka, about two hours North of Toronto, in the summer of 2016 to work as a music technician at a Christian camp. He works long hours, five days a week, and he works hard. But he enjoys it.

It was a crazy coincidence for us both to be setting up our lives so far from home, but to have found each other once again.

James took a few days out after family weekend to come and see me, and spend some real time in the city, and it was awesome. Showing him around, taking him to see the sights he had on his list, visiting vintage stores, and vegan food stores, and eating the best sushi, and drinking ciders in the coolest bars and breweries. It finally felt like this was my city. Here I was, walking the streets, navigating the TTC, and showing someone everything. Dishing out facts as we walk by an old store or park or museum.

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A month on since I arrived in Canada, I guess at times I am starting to feel the niggle of not having my friends around, and the feeling of missing those familiar faces. So, it was perfect timing that an old familiar face showed up in the middle of this brand new life. It was grounding and exciting and such a good feeling to be able to have a conversation with someone in the same situation as me. And with someone who I’ve shared so much history with.

It’s amazing where you find true friends. And it’s amazing where they show up again.

A familiar face.

 

Aimeexo