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GUEST POST: A week in Toronto with Kimberley SE

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What to do, where to stay, what to wear and how to party!

Toronto is the laid back neighbor of New York that is still up and coming as one of the world’s must see cities. In late 2015 I spent a month exploring Toronto. 22, fresh out of university and armed with my camera, I traveled solo from the UK to explore Canada’s biggest city of entertainment and food.

What to do: If you’re in Toronto during the summer or fall, getting the ferry over to Toronto Island is a must. Great for casual strolls, long boarding and cycling, taking your kids to adventure and absolutely perfect for romantic first dates.

Woodbine Beach & Sugar Beach. To top up your tan and take a dip in Lake Ontario to cool off from the humidity during the summer.

Check out Kensington Market for trendy clothes and trinkets. The market is exceptionally arty and there’s tons of independent stores to explore.

Fancy incredibly picturesque Instagram style cocktails inspired by the world of Harry Potter? Who doesn’t. Head over to The Lockhart Cocktail Bar located on Dundas Street West where you’ll find a cosy Harry Potter styled bar that serves up explosive potions to quench your first (and your inner Harry potter fan girl screams).

Where to stay: Airbnb. Hands down. If you’re on any sort of budget definitely stay in an Airbnb in Toronto. While there’s some beautiful hotels (The Thompson Hotel for example) located in the city, you could get the local experience by staying in an Airbnb, and save a fortune while doing so. Airbnb is also welcoming as the hosts go the extra mile to make you feel safe and comfortable. There are great apartments available to suit your style of trip, whether you want to shop till you drop in the heart of Yonge and Dundas which is a mini Times Square, or chill by the beautiful harbor in Fort York (my home for a month, perfect for quiet down time but still close enough to the downtown core to easily get home after a long day of exploring) or hang out in the hippest parts of town: Parkdale, King Street West, Kensington Market and Bloor Street, there’s a neighbourhood to suit your exact style of trip and personality.

What to wear:

Summer & Spring: If you’re going any time between March and October, pack tshirts, shorts, light jumpers and an evening coat. A lot of people who haven’t been to Canada automatically assume it’s cold all year round. It’s not, it’s actually boiling during their summer in Toronto with temperatures reaching over 30 degrees (86F) daily.

Winter: Layers. Layers. Layers. More layers. A winter coat, adequate snow boots for those early morning adventures and did I say layers? Yep. Wrap up warm. As Toronto gets extremely hot in the summer it gets extremely cold in the winter. Make use of the thousands of cosy restaurants and cafes during their winter. For beer enthusiasts head over to Bar Volo for a range of Canadian Craft beer and Batch for European craft beer (if you want a taste of home like I did). And of course – grab a hot chocolate and some Tim Bits from Tim Hortons to officially feel Canadian.

Where to party: The LGBTQ night life scene in Toronto is huge, in fact – it’s the biggest in Canada. There is no shortage of options and events going on to meet new people from all over the world from all walks of life. The Village, located on the intersection between Church and Wellesley, is the home of Toronto’s LGBTQ scene. The area features restaurants, cafes and LGBTQ orientated stores. The Village is the place to be for exciting night spots and if you’re around in June, the Village holds the annual Gay Pride Parade and puts on hundreds of events to fill the streets with rainbow colors and glitter. Head to Crews and Tango’s for the best drag shows you’ll ever see or head over to Pegasus to play pool and video games to hang out and meet new people.

Through word of mouth I ended up at a night club party called Cream (now re-named to About Last Night), a once a month all girls LGBTQ party that welcomes hundreds of local gay women from all over the city. Great mixers, great music, great people. This is your go to place if you happen to be in the city wanting to meet girls and blow off some steam dancing. The best thing about Toronto is that nobody is shy – you’ll easily make new friends at huge events and there is always a party to be had in the Village.

If you haven’t already, download Her and keep an eye on their events page. In Toronto the Her team hold games nights, bar crawls and meet and greet events for gay women to make new friends and meet a potential match regularly. You’ll find it hard not to meet likeminded people and have fun.

The beauty of Toronto is that every day is different – and there’s something for everyone. It’s safe, it’s friendly and it’s very open minded to gay travellers.

Words by Kimberley SE

Kimberley is a British Australian magazine photographer currently based in the UK. Coming from a long line of globe trotters, she has a soft spot for small cities and can usually be found cruising along a beach on her skate board. We’re thrilled to have her guest posting on TravelPride!

Check out her blog here: https://kimedwards66.wixsite.com/kimberleysportfolio


Also published on Medium.

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How Casual is Casual Diversity

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Diversity, in numerous ways, is becoming more and more commonplace. People who used to search for themselves in the media they consume are now the ones creating that media, and as such it is more commonplace to find representative characters. Members of the LGBTQIA+ community especially are inserting themselves into the media they create. From books to movies and TV shows to comics, more and more queer characters are popping up. As a result, the addition of these characters is becoming the norm, contributing to a sense of “casual diversity” in media. But just how casual is this casual diversity? 

For many members of the LGBTQIA+ community, they want characters that reflect their gender identity or sexuality to simply exist in the media they consume. We feel like we’ve moved away from a time that requires queer people to explicitly come out, both in real life and in books. We don’t owe a “coming out moment” to anyone, but creators are still trying to find a way to toe the line between making diverse characters and letting them simply exist and proclaiming their existence to readers.   

I recently read two young adult novels that had LGBTQIA+ characters, and they were introduced in several different ways. Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger is a fantasy novel set in Chicago, centered on a young girl working as a bartender who discovers that perfectly mixed cocktails can give you superpowers. She works at a gay bar owned by a blind gay man and works with a very tall punk rock Canadian named Bucket, who is a trans man. Readers are introduced to the bar’s owner before the main character begins working at his bar, and find out he is gay only when he casually mentions his boyfriend. Bucket, on the other hand, has a coming out moment when the protagonist asks him why he works at a gay bar when he is very clearly not gay. He is almost obligated to come out to her in order to explain himself and his job. Likewise, in Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate, there is a pansexual character named Lucas who has a coming out moment with the reader. Not only does he have to explain pansexuality, but he also discusses how he cannot come out to his friends because of his status as the men’s swim team captain and the stigma surrounding that.

Though I’m sure these two authors had good intentions with their inclusion of these characters, they, unfortunately, send an underlying but powerful message to LGBTQIA+ and straight readers alike in regards to the necessity and potential danger of coming out. The way Krueger and Redgate set up Bucket and Lucas required them to come out in order to make the diversity visible, but this was not necessary. Krueger could have mirrored his simple mention of the bar owner’s boyfriend and describe Bucket wearing a binder, and Redgate could have mentioned Lucas’ previous crushes to people regardless of gender. Instead, they felt that they had to make their characters’ identities as obvious as possible, which only encourages the idea that LGBTQIA+ people need to come out in order to be acknowledged members of queer or straight communities. Lucas’ story especially highlights the general ignorance about pansexuality as well as the rampant homophobia present in men’s sports teams especially. This sends a strong warning to queer readers about the dangers of coming out and the potential harmful backlash for male athletes in particular.

It is important for characters like Bucket and Lucas to exist and be known and seen in books and other media, but creators are still finding an easy way to simply let these characters exist while also bringing them to the attention of readers and normalizing their existence. It’s a delicate balance between inclusion for the sake of inclusion and bringing too much attention to something that needs attention. It’s been a long journey already, but creators still have a ways to go to figure out just how “casual” casual diversity really is.

Originally posted 2017-09-06 14:20:41.

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Travel On A Budget

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It seems to me like people are taking shorter vacations or opting for trips closer to home, for a variety of reasons. Maybe you work a job that doesn’t pay as well as you’d hope, or maybe you’re a millennial (like me) who’s allegedly spent way too much on avocados and can’t afford a vacation (or a house).

Whatever the reason, this new trend of “I want to travel cheaply so I can buy groceries when I get back” is more popular than ever. But how does one manage this? Vacations seem to be expensive no matter what we do or where we go. And it’s true. Vacations always cost money, but there are ways to drastically reduce your expenses while away.

Off season for the win

Why get sucked into the tourist trap every single year when you can hit up the same spots a week before their tourist season begins? This can be tough depending on the area since some tourist seasons are dependent on weather. But you know what places don’t change much from week to week, whether it’s April or August? You guessed it: the beach. Most vacation spots will have dates for their busy season listed online. Once you have the dates, go a week (or two) early. Prices will be lower and hotels will be less packed.

Hostels and B&B’s

Speaking of hotels, don’t go near them. I’m serious. Go anywhere else. They’re expensive and boring, and bed-n-breakfasts are the hip new thing (unlike someone who still says “hip”). Not only are they cozier, they often have decent prices and are more laid back than hotels.

If you’re in Europe, hostels aren’t what the horror movies make them out to be. They’re actually quite comfortable, right in the middle of the city, and way more affordable than a hotel. If you’re in your late teens or early twenties, youth hostels are an even better choice. They’re more youth-friendly and you’ll be surrounded by people closer to your own age. Make friends while you make great financial choices!

ATM vs. traveler’s check

Traveler’s checks were great when ATMs weren’t a thing, and they can still be useful if there’s no ATM in sight and you happen to know where the closest bank is. But more and more, ATMs are the best option on vacation. You don’t want to carry all of your spending money all at once at the start of the trip, so when you get low on cash, find an ATM. Because there might be fees, take out larger amounts at a time, to limit the number of withdrawals while away. To save money, set yourself a spending/withdrawal limit. It’s tempting to treat yo’self while vacationing, but remember that once you get home, bills and food are still a necessity.

Guidebooks!

You are a strong, independent woman/person/man who don’t need no help. If you’re traveling somewhere unfamiliar, skip the travel agency/service. They’re a rip-off. A good guidebook sells for about $20 and will have all the same information you’d get from a travel agent, without the hassle.

Blend in, eat local

If you ignored my hotel advice, then at least listen to this. If the front desk or concierge recommend a great restaurant right down the street, go anywhere else! Chances are they tell literally every guest to go to that one restaurant, and it will be packed (and not that great). You might end up having to go a little farther from your hotel for a bite, but finding local places are a far more interesting experience than the chain places. And are often cheaper, as they’re not targeting visitors and tourists.

Shop big

A couple of months ago I went to Hawaii with my sister and parents. Before leaving, we’d all promised various friends and family that we would return with souvenirs for everyone. A local in Kailua-Kona was kind enough to warn us away from the touristy “ABC Stores” that seem to be taking over the islands. He said that if we wanted good, cheap souvenirs, we should go to Walmart (I know, I was surprised too).

Local shops are nice, too, of course, and it’s good to support small businesses (and not evil Walmart) but for large quantities of souvenirs, going the cheaper route goes a long way in not breaking the bank.

Free activities will free you

This one is easy. Go to the beach and find free parking. Sit in the sand and catch some sun. Splash in the surf to your heart’s content. Go hiking and find hidden waterfalls and creeks to play in. Anything free is your best bet (and gets you some fresh air).

Vacations mean spending some money, but it doesn’t have to empty your wallet. If you follow these tips and stay aware of what you’re spending, you’ll still have money left over for when you get home (and can buy all the avocados you want, maybe).

Originally posted 2017-09-06 11:10:28.


Also published on Medium.

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Love It, Leave It: The Boston Edition

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This little firecracker of a city is one that gives me the warm and fuzzies. It’s known as the quintessential college town, with 35 packed into a city that clocks in with less than 675,000 residents. More specifically though, it’s my college town. This is where my exorbitant student loan checks go every month…heartwarming. Alas, it’s a city where I came into my own — I read a few books, made some friends, stumbled into love and played a little rugby (what a lesbian). Oh, and I ticked off tons of restaurants in the process; I strived for the sophomore, junior and senior 15.

With several visits on my calendar each year, I make a point to pop into long-standing favorites while leaving time to sample some new joints. P.S. I’ll confess something now that I’ll most likely deny later; even though I’m a diehard New York Yankees fan, catching a Red Sox game at Fenway Park is a must-do…just don’t wear a jersey of the aforementioned team unless you enjoy some expletive-laden Bahston heckling.

Love It: The North End

Fuhgeddaboudit. I think there’s an actual official way people phonetically spell this out, but I went with my gut. If you’re a fan of Little Italy in New York City, you’re going to figuratively (not literally) lose your marbles — unless you have a shaky hand and typically travel with loose marbles — over the North End.

This was the OG neighborhood of Boston, settled by English Puritans in the 1600s. I don’t mean to be rude, but you’re gettin’ up there, North End. You can practically feel the rich history seeping through your Frye boots as you saunter down the intimate cobblestone streets; feel free to pause and give a quick shout out to that famous guy Paul Revere who once lived here. After you’ve eyed up some of that Freedom Trail everyone’s always going on about, it’s time for the main event. Head to one of the North End Italian institutions, kiss a large man named Tony (there will be a Tony, trust me) on both cheeks, tuck your napkin in your shirt, and start twirling some spaghetti. There are plenty of cozy, casual, and cash-only joints like Giacomo’s on Hanover Street (aka the main drag), where the menu is written on the wall, portions are anything but small, and you feel like you’re sitting in a Nonna’s dining room. Elevated dining experiences at high-end restaurants can also be found with little effort; spots like Mamma Maria exude elegance and romance with dimly lit, cozy nooks and plate riffs on typical Italian staples–rabbit pappardelle anyone?

Dessert is another hotly debated topic in the North End. You’re either a Mike’s Pastry or a Modern Pastry person (gasp, I’m into both). Grab a cannoli at either spot and maybe some napkins to wipe the powder off of your goofy, satisfied smile.

Leave It: Faneuil Hall’

Historically speaking, this is also a place you should swipe right to. Quincy Market has been in existence since 1826, slowly creeping up on its 200 year anniversary. The Mayor of Boston — Josiah, you guessed it, Quincy — thought the overflowing marketplace, full of wooden stalls hawking seafood and vegetables, in Faneuil Hall had become what we today would calleth a “hot mess.” Thus, the market was born. Today, the Faneuil Hall area is jam-packed with parents donning cheesy souvenir store t-shirts, with family in tow, heading to the kitschiest of chain restaurants; yes, including the likes of Cheers and Dick’s Last Resort. Plenty of smaller vendors like the Boston Chowda Co. line the market’s walls, but this is more for the 9-5 downtown work crowd that needs to pick up something for a fast bite. It’s not the place to head for memorable Boston grub. Pro tip: if you are looking for some quick eats, head to the Boston Public Market just a few minutes down the way; it showcases tons of local purveyors and has stands that sell everything from ramen to doughnuts.

Originally posted 2017-09-05 17:00:46.

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