Toronto is truly a gem. It was my first time ever to step foot in Canada, and it couldn't have been a better experience. Like Marfa, J and I were also attending a wedding, but this one was particularly special because it was his cousin who was getting married so I finally met his family! I can't even begin to describe how incredible this trip was, and I couldn't have enjoyed it more thanks to this sweet family.
We flew into Toronto on a Thursday night and were dropped off at our Airbnb located in the Palmerston and Little Italy district. That same week in Texas, it was raining everyday which made the humidity unbearable so Canada provided a bit of fresh air that was much needed. The cherry on top was that the mornings always felt crisp and cool, which at the time made me anticipate autumn more.
On our first official day, we started with lunch at a taco shop because we were so curious to see how Canadians interpreted what Austinites consider their pride and joy. In case you're curious, we were pleasantly satisfied. The rest of the day was spent lounging outside the porch while we waited for more family to arrive in town. Since the week was mainly dedicated towards the wedding, we also had some family events sprinkled into the schedule, such as a barbecue hosted by the bride and groom and the wedding itself on Saturday.
Nothing we did on this trip was particularly "tourist-y", but J's cousins were wonderful enough to show us the shops and neighborhoods that gave us a better glimpse of what Toronto is made up of. From the artistic streets of Kensington Market to Yorkville's wealthy neighborhoods and shops, each had its own uniqueness that attributed to the city's charm. It was certainly a place for everyone. I was particularly surprised by how everything is walking distance. I legitimately think I got my year's worth of exercise in those two days of walking, haha!
Prior to this trip, I was hearing endless raves about how amazing Toronto's food scene is. Since I was coming from a city that identifies as one of the leading food scenes, I couldn't help but feel extremely excited to broaden my experiences. Toronto did not disappoint one bit. In fact, the sheer diversity of the city's food scene was a bit overwhelming to navigate through. I just had too many choices, and it's always funny whenever we spend half an hour simply deciding on where to go eat. Overall, it was one of my favorite experiences, and I couldn't have enjoyed it more without the company and recommendations from J's family.
On our last day in Toronto, J's cousin took us to the islands, more specifically Ward's Island Beach. It was by far one of my favorite places that we visited because we went just as the sun was setting, when the waters were barely sun-kissed before dusk. Every corner we turned at was simply picturesque. As we rode the ferry across, I think my jaw just kept dropping lower and lower. The further we sailed from the city, the more grandeur the city skyline became. Just to show off a little more, nature decided to give its skies a cotton candy gradient with blush and purplish hues just before hitting the rich blue waters. What a sight, eh?
Aside from the tourism in Toronto, there was no doubt that the heart of this trip revolved around family. While we certainly had our fun throughout the week, nothing was better than sitting around the porch every afternoon chatting away the time through stories and nostalgia. In moments like that, I was reminded of how important it is to slow down our lives sometimes. I often find myself tangled in a culture where we race through life because there's a fear of missing out if we slowed down. My own life in that moment was also a mess in itself, but my soul was filled when I had the chance to unplug from social media and connect deeply with the people around me. I barely touched my phone that week, and I slept in without a care in the world. There were no "rules", no one was judged for sleeping late or in, and it didn't matter if we didn't do anything productive. It almost felt like I was a rebel against something... whether it's my own rules or the standard that life has set in this generation. All of this gave me a renewed understanding of quality time and the importance of balancing between work and personal life.
Personal note: To the Yang family, thank you for hosting everyone with such love and kindness. There wasn't a moment where you didn't include me as part of the family so thank you for going above and beyond to make my trip in Canada so memorable.