From Union station we made our way to the famous Kensington Market. Getting there took a while as we had to find the right streetcar to take. In Toronto, you not only have the bus, train, trams and taxis, but you can also take the famous streetcars which are sort of like trams, except they ride on the street along with the cars and traffic.
We eventually arrived at Kensington Market and immediately walked into the middle of it. Before getting here, I was expecting a large covered area with fresh vegetables and produce. Far from it. Kensington Market is actually a famous touristy neighbourhood located not so far from the old Downtown Toronto. Fortunately the neighbourhood is located opposite the University of Toronto, as I had that on my list of places to visit. Due to the weather, we constantly had to seek refuge. So we would pop in and grab a coffee or go to a restaurant and have some lunch and then go to pray in the university faith centre. We would use the time inside to build up enough energy to face the freezing cold weather outside.
Anyway, when we first arrived into Kensington Market, we walked through some of the streets and observed and took in the sights of the shops and diners. To me it seemed kind of hippie. With cannabis being legal in Canada, we could constantly smell the scent of smoking marijuana. Walking around the neighbourhood we saw cheap cloth shops, cheap supermarkets selling fresh fruits and vegetables, dessert shops, burger places and many Far Eastern restaurants. Within the Kensington Market neighbourhood, you have the famous Chinatown.
Many cities around the world have their own Chinatowns, but this one was by far the most active and vibrant one I had come across. Bustling with eateries selling Dim Sum and famous Ramen, this place is thronging with foreigners and locals waiting in line to eat. Magical Taste of China was a Halal Chinese restaurant we visited which had a special lunch hour from 12-5. In that time they served special Chinese food at a reasonable price. As soon as we made our way inside, the first thing we were told is that we had to wait in line for a table. All I could see inside were Far Eastern youngsters sitting, eating, drinking tea and enjoying their finely cooked meals. It made me feel positive about eating here as I once heard someone say, ‘if you only see Chinese people eating in a Chinese restaurant, then the food must be good in there!’.
After waiting for around 10-15 minutes, a table had cleared and we were seated with a menu. We ordered a seafood special noodle dish and a stir fried rice dish with seafood and diced chicken. Alongside the meal they offer complimentary tea, which was quite refreshing to have instead of water. My seafood noodles had within it, prawns, mussels and another seafood item that was shaped like a pinecone. Not too sure what it was but I definitely could tell by the taste that it was some kind of seafood item. My wife’s dish had within it stir fried fish and chicken which was quite tasty. Unable to finish the entire thing, we had it packed to take home with us. After the meal, we made our way to Dipped Doughnuts which is a well known dessert shop in Toronto. Serving unique flavours such as Chocolate Mud and Vegan Sour Cherry Almond doughnuts, we went for the simple choice and got a ‘cookies and cream’ doughnut. I know what you’re thinking; why go for that when you have all these marvellous flavours? Well, what can I say…sometimes when you have too many choices, you opt for the simplest thing.
From there, we headed towards the Koffler House Building located on the Toronto Uni campus. Once inside, we found a decent sized prayer area and ablution facilities. We stayed here and offered both our Zuhar and Asr prayers. We then braced ourselves to go back out towards another attraction in the city which visitors usually miss out on. Graffiti Alley!
Okay, so next we have one of those must see sites in Toronto which usually goes missed. This place will show you just how artistic and talented the people of Canada are. Graffiti Alley is a dedicated street name given to an alleyway which is literally full of graffiti. But not just any kind of graffiti. We’re talking graffiti on a large and major scale and graffiti that speaks for itself. Make sure you DO NOT get a tour guide to show you around. Why? Because, it seems unfair that the artists have done a hard job, left an awesome impression and the tour guides are profiting off of their talent.
Located not so far away from the centre of Kensington market and Chinatown, you can enter Graffiti Alley from four sides. These are Augusta Avenue, Queen Street West, Richmond Street West and Spadina Avenue. Whichever side you choose to enter from, you’ll be welcomed to the alley way with graffiti all over the walls. It’s just amazing how much time and effort this must have taken, not to mention the great amounts of graffiti paint sprays. Walk around, read some motivating messages, stare at the pictures, even take one yourself. What’s fascinating about this place is that, new artists come and paint over as each and every artist is to be given their chance to be artistic in this alley. Therefore, if you see something you like, chances are that within weeks or months it may be gone. Once upon a time the act was frowned upon. However now, it is admired and the alley boasts to be one of the most visited sites in the entire Toronto region.