Shout-out to Drake, as I recently visited Toronto, Canada with some of my friends. We decided to plan our couples trip this year for Toronto because some of us had never been. Toronto has been on my bucket list for a while and my husband has always raved about how awesome Toronto is, so why not
We decided to stay in an Airbnb since we were staying for several days. Our Airbnb host was amazing! The condo was in the center of everything. Literally, Scotiabank Arena was right next door, Grand Central station right across the street, CN Tower two blocks away, Ripley’s Aquarium three blocks away. It was perfect. But, what really set this Airbnb apart from others I have stayed in, was it had a grocery store (like a mini Walmart), Starbucks, cleaners, money exchange place, a bar, and multiple restaurants in the same building. Like I said perfect.
First night, we tried a Jamaican Fusion restaurant called Chubby’s Jamaican Restaurant. I say Jamaican fusion because it definitely wasn’t authentic Jamaican. Imagine having a Haitian American friend who has his mouth set on authentic Jamaica to be served subpar Jamaican. Epic Fail.
After our Black History tour the next day, our tour guide took us to Ritz Caribbean where there was real, authentic Jamaican food. And you know it’s good when the line is out the door and you are ordering from the steam tables. Oxtails falling off the bone, jerk chicken, rice and peas, and beef patties bigger than your hand. Let’s just say we were satisfied when we left this time.
Later that night we decided to try some authentic Asian food at Asian Legend in Chinatown. I knew this would be an adventure because most authentic Asian restaurants serve you the biggest portion ever. We all ordered different dishes and before we knew it our table look like we were preparing for Thanksgiving dinner. Everything from Kung Pao Chicken and beef fried rice, to chicken soup and noodles galore. Just a ridiculous amount of food.
The next day, my friend and I decided to have brunch at School. The concept of this restaurant is so cool. Everything from menus to glasses were decorated after school supplies. I had a pineapple chili drink served in a beaker. I had the apple crumble pancakes and my friend had the krispy krunch french toast. We decided to share a white chocolate raspberry scone, fried chicken, and pan fried hash with jalapeno sour cream. Basically coma inducing food. So freaking good!
First day we roamed the city. We really didn’t have any plans. The next day we took a black history tour that I found on Airbnb Experiences. By the way don’t sleep on Airbnb Experiences. They are affordable and pretty unique than most big brand tours. I wrote a blog about everything we learned during the black history tour.
There was an indoor mall we found in Downtown Toronto named CF Toronto Eaton Centre. It was beautiful. It felt like we were outdoors although we were inside. FYI: Its normally cheaper to buy items out of the country than it is in the USA.
Outside of the mall were some beautiful buildings. I like that Toronto is a mix of old and new architecture. They have preserved alot of the buildings which is something we rarely do in U.S.
There was also an art festival right by the famous Toronto to sign. Vendors were selling everything from oil paintings to sculptures. Toronto is a walkable city for the most part and I really like that. After the art festival we walked to the harbour just to relax by the water and people watch. I really enjoyed watching everyone come together and have fun. No one was segregated. It was nice seeing people hang out without an agenda. Just friends brought together by friendship not because they are the same race. Being from the south, you do not see this a lot.
The next day was our girl’s day. We started with brunch and then a mini spa day. Afterwards we walked over to one of the most famous parts of Toronto, Graffiti Alley. It’s were artist from all over have painted the alley ways of some of Toronto’s streets. I am always looking for art when I travel and this was perfect. We had a photoshoot in the alleys and then headed all the way across town to create our own cinnamon rolls at cinnaholic.
On our last night we decided to go to the Rec Room. It puts you in the mind of a Dave and Buster, but cooler. There was an area to do virtually reality games (VR games), arcade games, two restaurants, multiple bars, dance floor, live DJ, fire pits outside, and private party rooms. Things became competitive between us. Competing against each other in basketball, and Mario kart. Yes, we are grown, but still kids at heart.
Overall our trip to Toronto was nice. We didn’t party much during our time, but enjoyed exploring the city and connecting with our friends. Toronto is definitely a city I would move to. The people are so nice and helpful. The city is diverse and the opportunities seem limitless. If you have a chance to visit Toronto please do. You won’t regret it.
On a recent visit to Toronto, Canada, we decided to take a black history tour. I am always interested to know the history of black culture and their influence in each country I visit. I was able to find a Black History tour through Airbnb experiences. The process of booking was easy and cost around $50 CAD per person ($38 per person USD).
Our tour host was Ms. Jacqueline L. Scott. We learned a lot about Ms. Scott while on the tour. She was born in Jamaica, raised in London, married a Nigerian man, and came to Canada. She has traveled the world, but made it known she has travel extensively throughout Africa. She is well educated in history especially black history.
We started our walk at Ryerson University. We introduced ourselves and let her know where we were from. Although most of us were African American, born in different parts of the US, one friend is Haitian American. She wanted to know a lot about us because she wanted to make the tour a personal experience. I really like that she asked questions. She told us she has learned not to assume people know things as everyone’s experiences are different. Also, the “black experience” is different for everyone, which is a very true statement.
We stopped at a mural on campus that showed some famous Canadians. Two of those people happened to be black. Oscar Emmanuel Peterson, a Canadian Jazz Pianist and composer, and Viola Desmond a Civil Rights Activists. Viola Desmond’s story was interesting as she is most known for sitting in the “whites only” section in a theater in Nova Scotia and refused to move. This act of bravery started the modern Civil Rights Movement. Viola Desmond can be seen on the $10 bill in Canada.
On campus there is also a walkway devoted to Nelson Mandela, but due to renovation on campus we were not able to see it. We stopped and talked about Mathieu DaCosta, the first known African in Canada. According to Ms. Scott, he arrived around the 1600s. From our discussion he was a multilingual explorer who helped negotiate trade deals. In our discussion, we also talked about the indigenous people (they are not called natives in Canada), which I think is awesome. Many indigenous people were killed due to the diseases brought by the Europeans. Well technically, most of the indigenous people throughout the Americas died in the same way.
We spoke about the real history of the explorers and how they ended up in different parts of the Caribbean, South America, US and Canada. The explorers learned during their travels, that sugar cane, cotton, tobacco were valuable crops that could be grown in the region and exported back to other countries. The problem was that those crops required a lot of labor to produce and harvest and slave labor was the cheapest way to harvest the crop. We stopped at the botanical gardens which we learned were historically research centers for explorers. They would bring the crops and plants back from other countries and house them in the botanical gardens for researchers to study.
One thing I found interesting, is that slavery is not really talked about or a big part of history in Canada. Ms. Scott explained it’s like Canadians do not want to think about their involvement with slavery. I also found it was interesting that Harriet Tubman is a part of Canadian history. She made 19 trips to Canada. She was caught once in Canada, but was able to convince slave catchers that she could read the Bible, therefore they did not think it was Harriet Tubman because it was known that she could not read. Slavery was ended and outlawed in Canada August 1, 1833. When slavery ended there were 500 black slaves and 1,000 indigenous slaves.
We were able to walk the path of Frederick Douglas, which was pretty cool. St. Lawrence Hall is one of the oldest public buildings in Toronto. According to Ms. Scott, many important events happened in this building. Frederick Douglas spoke in St. Lawrence Hall on multiple occasions. The “North American Convention of Colored Freeman” was held here especially after the US passed the Fugitive Slave law. The conventions were held to discuss slavery and emigration issues in the United States. She stated the council was like the NAACP or Black Lives Matter.
Speaking of Black Lives Matter, we were able to discuss being black in Canada present day. In Canada, there are roughly 35 million people. Out of the 35 million people there are 2 million black Canadians. Although the issues we face in American are different, Canada is not perfect. She stated that Black Lives Matter in American is to fight against police brutality against black and brown people. Black Lives Matter in Canada is to fight the harassment by the police. She stated the issues are not as bad as they are in the US, but Canada covers it up it’s issues with multi-cultural aspects. Even with all the diversity in Toronto most things are still owned and operate by whites.
I can say being in Toronto for 4 days, being black there is very different from the US. No one looked at you funny or crossed the street when a group of black people were walking towards them. No one followed you around in stores, no one turned their nose up to you. We barley seen any police, and when we did they were tending to accidents. It was nice to see groups of friends of all difference races hanging together and having fun. A lot of interracial relationships and it’s pretty normal, which is cool.
At the end of our tour, we talked about the black experience and how it is different for everyone. She talked about her visit to the US and how the communities are all segregated. In the US, there are still some communities segregated by race. In Canada all of the communities are integrated, no one is separated. She spoke about her visit to Atlanta and how it was interesting. She was with a friend who was Jewish and while walking to the MLK memorial they did not feel safe. She spoke about how people stared at them because they thought they were an interracial couple. She stated it was very uncomfortable and awkward for her because they would not have received that type of attention in Toronto.
We spoke about our lives living in the southern region of the US and how it differs from people who grew up in other areas. My Haitian friend spoke about his experience as a Haitian American and how it differs from his African American friends. We talked about the dynamic between African Americans and Africans. There is a notion that Africans despise African Americans. I have heard this so many times. I have African friends and I use to have online chats with people that actual live in different countries in Africa and they stated they hate the way Africa is portrayed in the US. Which I can totally understand. I’m not sure where the breakdown is between African Americans and Africans, but we should get the conversation started. The reality is our roots start in Africa and in order for us as African American to understand we must have the conversation. At the end of the day, when you come to US we are all considered black no matter if you are African or African American.
All in all it was an awesome tour and I would suggest it to anyone traveling to Toronto. There’s so much history to learn. It is amazing to learn about black Canadians. I have to be honest, before Drake I did not know black Canadians existed. I really thought any black people living in Canada migrated there from other countries, not actually born there. This might sound ignorant, but it’s honest. If you are traveling to Toronto please take the Black History Tour.
A couple of months ago, I had the pleasure of visiting my favorite liquor distillery, Jack Daniel’s. Yes, I’m a southern girl who loves whiskey. Although I have lived in Tennessee most of my life, I had never been to Jack Daniel Distillery. So, when a good friend of mine decided to come in town it was fitting to do something different. Plus, we both like whiskey.
When visiting the Jack Daniel Distillery, you have three tours to choose from. Two of the tours allow you to taste different Jack Daniel products. The other tour does not allow any drinking and probably the most family friendly tour.Read More
While searching for somewhere to eat with my friend to catch up, I came across Jefferson Street Café. The pictures on yelp look great, but my friends are picky so I decided that I would go there by myself one day. After church one Sunday, I decided to go and try them out. On my ride down, I started to think about how much Jefferson Street had changed due to gentrification. Most of the migrants do not know the history and value of preserving Jefferson Street. So not only will I review the café but give a little history on Jefferson Street.
If you are not from Nashville, Jefferson Street is the Holy Grail for black culture. It’s where three of the most famous HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and University) TSU (Tennessee State University), Meharry Medical College and Fisk University are located. Jefferson Street at one point in time housed so many black owned businesses. Jefferson Street was also known for its booming musical scene way before Nashville was deemed Country Music City. According to Jeffersonstreetsound.com, some of the greatest artist like Jimi Hendrix, Etta James, Otis Redding, Ray Charles, BB King, and James Brown all performed in clubs on Jefferson Street.
Not only was it famous for music, but it’s also an important part of the civil rights movement. Jefferson Street was the center of the Nashville Sit Ins in the 1960s. It was the place for planning the sit ins that we’re carried out in downtown Nashville.
In the midst of gentrification, a cute little café opened with culture oozing from it. The café pays tribute to the historical North Nashville. Historical Nashville newspaper articles printed as table tops, black art on the walls for sale, and soulful music playing in seating area. The menu is eclectic. The menu ranges from avocado toast, to hash brown waffles, to smoke salmon.
When I entered the restaurant, I was immediately greeted. The waitress was very knowledgeable and suggested some items to try. I decided on the Hash brown and Honey Waffle with bacon and a Chai Tea Latte. You have to order your food first and then seat yourself.
First impression of the hash brown waffle was “this is interesting.” It looked like a hash brown put in a waffle maker. The first bite was amazing! It tasted like a hash brown and waffle. It was crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. I don’t know what’s exactly in the butter, but they need to sale it. It was like honey sugar butter and made the waffle even better. There was maple syrup but I really did not need it because of the creaminess of the waffle and the flavor of the butter.
My favorite item was the Chai Tea Latte. When I go to a coffee shop, I get one or two things, a Chai Tea Latte with a shot of caramel and toffee nut or a Dirty Chai with a shot of caramel and toffee nut. If it is a new coffee shop I am trying, I always get a regular Chai Tea Latte first. I want to see if I need to add anything and also if can I taste the spices. This Chai Tea Latte was perfect. I did not add anything to it and that’s rare. Thinking about it now makes me want to get out of bed and drive 25 minutes to Jefferson Street to get another one.
Overall, I really like this café. I love that they pay homage to the African American culture, but also to the history of Jefferson Street. If you are ever in the Nashville, Tennessee please stop at Jefferson Street Café.
As many may know, I am a travel agent and I have been in the travel industry for years. I have worked for the airline industry as well as the hotel industry. I thought that I knew so much about the travel industry prior to becoming an agent, but LORD WAS I WRONG.
Becoming an agent was very overwhelming at first, because I felt that I needed to learn everything about every vendor, country, and types of travel there were. I thought all travel agents were the same and sold the same product. WRONG! I quickly learned that not only are travel agents different, but they are different in the type of travel they sell. So, we are going to dive into some of the different types of agents.Read More