WMM will be making her way back from NYC to NB today. Happy she’ll soon be returning as our Cheerleader in Chief – eager for the exploits, a wee bit wistful for her that her getaway has, I am certain, sped by fast. I also sure do hope she found THE shoes…
Four decades ago, before everyone had a trip “bucket list”, the International World Heritage Convention – a working group begun, surprise, surprise by two (American) politicians in a bi-partisan effort – created a list to help preserve the world’s outstanding cultural treasures. (Yep, it was before we had a Top 10 or 5 Things for every subject too.)
Now monitored by UNESCO, this wonderfully eclectic compendium includes 21 sites in the U.S. of A. alone, mostly national parks, like the Grand Canyon, art forms like Japanese Kabuki theatre and two fairly-off-the-beaten- tourist-path places I’ve actually been to: Canada’s Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo-Jump, near Fort MacLeod, Alberta and England’s Ironbridge Gorge, a collection of 35 historic sites in Shropshire that were the cradle of the Industrial Revolution. The last time I pulled up the actual list, there were over 930 places and nearly 270 intrinsic customs or traditions that make the cut. And the 10 nominating criteria – along with the form they come on – aren’t small potatoes either.
TODAY’S DYK: It wasn’t until I started to write this that I discovered destinations can actually be dropped from the list, like Germany’s Elbe Valley was in 2009. Apparently there is also media, NGO and academic pressure to seriously short-list the list, which some experts consider is getting too political and unwieldy, or simply devalued by its size.
However, given our own innate wanderlust (the TRSC estimates that roughly 16% of the over-18 population of Canada leaves the country during March) and a list of nearly 1,000 places there’s some sense of collective global agreement are really worth seeing, we can tend to forget about the very individual wonders of our own back yard.
For a while I worked with a team that produced those 24-Hours-In [name the city] magazine features, usually curated by local personalities and meant to get people at least a street or two beyond the really obvious landmarks.
INSIDER GUIDE: In the interest of perspective and a bit of armchair travel for those of us who don’t get to “go anywhere” this month, humour me by sharing 4 Special Spots if we only had 24-hours (and want to spend a few of them sleeping) in YOUR specific corner of the planet. They can be things to do, see, eat, drink, places to play, shop, watch or listen, just somewhere to unwind, stretch your legs, be surprised. Whatever you’re loving right now about home, or always value and wouldn’t want someone else to miss. Sure, the picks will be subjective and we might not all appreciate every “must”. But they are a part of what makes you tick. And who knows, they might inspire some good reminders and an adventure or two.
(Abby, if you’re reading please comment chime in. Somehow imagine you lived surrounded by chocolate box and postcard spots. Ditto Lane, as I know you live in a gorgeous, sniff the salty tang spot.)
MY DOWNTOWN TORONTO 4 (in no particular order)
SEE: Most people who visit me get walked through the Commerce Court complex (King & Bay Streets) for its singular mix of Romanesque, international and early Modernist architecture. The 34-storey north tower was (25 King St. W) was the tallest building in the British Empire until 1962. In the 1930s, its now-closed observation deck was the place to promenade, see and be seen, as well as for pre CN Tower viewing of Lake Ontario. Today it’s a hub of the PATH, the downtown core’s daytime web of underground shopping, lunch and services. (Be sure to look up and grab a photo of the lovely vaulted ceiling.)
DO: If you’re an early riser, walk down to Queen’s Quay and ride the Ongiara Ferry from the Toronto mainland to Ward’s Island, a one-of-a-kind residential and recreational community on our outer rim. The view of the city skyline and nature is stellar. The summertime and weekend ferries to the rest of the interconnected parkland and yacht club necklace are what you might expect, polished wooden plank floors, gleaming brass, festoons of bright orange life vests and nautical bunting, throngs of escaping urbanites. But the workhorse Ongiara is designed to haul island residents, cars and packed bikes and wagons in a must-sail rota, a literal 15-minute lifeline between the city and a bygone country. No nonsense, big pleasure and clearly Canadian.
EAT: I’ve been known to suggest take-out Spadina dumplings and a seat in one of Toronto’s many pocket-sized parks. (Yes, Yummy Yummy’s dumplings are yummy and include such less common variations as mutton -OAP sheep - with perfect crunchy flecks of carrot. More-ish. And kids seem to get a kick out of eating finger food they just watched being made in a street-side window. But since lots of places have a Chinatown, I’m going to take you one of my other, less common treat addictions, Arepa Café, at the start of the trendy section of Toronto’s Queen West. Arepa are a handcrafted Venezuelan cornmeal pocket bread (similar to the Mexican gordita) that are partially split and filled with just about every filling you can imagine. Perfect for urban picnics and lunch on the go. My reco: Reina Pipieda, a chicken and avocado filling that means Saucy Queen and was named after the country’s winning Miss World 1955.
SHOP: Walk off your lunch along Queen West. There’s a busy Joe Fresh “concept store” and be sure to stop at Preloved, a company that upcycles un-sold and vintage retail sweaters, suits and more into fabulous modern fashions and homeware, check out a small sampling at www.preloved.ca (Great for gifts as well as the occasional incognito Hollywood celeb sighting, especially in early September).
Share your spots, please. Dream big. Travel far – even if it’s only in your dreams right now. And stay safe. (In honour of WMM’s return and Miller Time it’s an early shot of welcome back cocktail hour tomorrow.)