Realized that it has been a summer of little day trips and weekends. One of the nice things about moving back has been exploring areas around Toronto that I haven’t been to for years or just never got around to visiting, particularly in the U.S. These might not be the most glamorous of locations, but there’s always something to see, something to do, something to give you context. It helps if you enjoy long car drives and the process of getting there rather than just being in your final destination. I mean, radio + gas station snacks + farmstands – it’s easy.
I’ve been here a million times, although fewer times than Andrew, who even has a book about it. We tend to visit every season, whether for a day or overnight. This summer it was a day trip: a visit to Rust Belt books, a peek at the silos, pulled pork and ribs from Suzy’s BBQ which we ate on the nearby pier while people fished. Bonus stop at the Niagara Gorge on the way home.
A weekend visit to see Soraya, who was dogsitting. Breakfast at Wolfe Island Bakery, record store shopping at Brian’s Record Option, an evening at the Bowling Alley, a poke around the Sunday morning antique and farmer’s market.
Ended the trip with a ferry ride to Wolfe Island to look at the cows in the vast green fields.
If I ever miss Burlington, VT too much, there’s always Ithaca. First of all, the drive through upstate New York is gorgeous – all those green hills and fields and the Finger Lakes. Ithaca is a chill, college town. The farmer’s market is lovely – we got breakfast burritos and iced coffee for breakfast and then ate at a picnic table by the water. Went walking around some gorges (hence the slogan: Ithaca is gorges.) We wanted to swim in them too, but the water quality wasn’t so great that weekend, so we went over to one of the beaches instead. Bought picnic supplies at Wegman’s and swam in the freezing water (it was still early in the summer). Ate ice cream from Purity. Record and book shopping at Angry Mom Records, good Southern food at Maxie’s Supper Club. On the way out of town we stopped at one of those big Antique Malls with a million different stalls, an Amish farm stand, a cheese store. (Also used Airbnb to find a place to stay; Airbnb continues to be my favourite way to travel. Our host had a collection of Gourmet Magazines and Jenga, which we played one evening and was (weirdly?) so much fun. You won’t get that at a hotel.)
When the weather was too hot and Toronto beaches felt like they would be too crowded, we headed down to Long Point on Lake Erie. The water was all churned up and wavy, the sand from the bottom of the lake turning everything a strange shade of brown, but when we got in the water it was perfect! The temperature was great; the waves were fun. Also had a picnic on the beach, and stopped at 2 farm stands on the way home for sweet corn, pickling cucumbers, plums.
Closer to home, but not as busy as the Island or the east-end Beaches, the Scarborough Bluffs. Another beachside picnic + wading in Lake Ontario. Also close enough to the city to get 7-11 slurpees afterwards.
We visited rural Pennsylvania/Pittsburgh years and years ago, and it had been okay: I’d enjoyed the Andy Warhol Museum, but afterwards wandering downtown trying to find something to eat had been difficult – it was a Sunday and it was before I made the connection that downtown centres in Rust Belt cities tend to be rather deserted during non-working hours. We decided to give it another chance, and I’m so glad we did. A highly recommended weekend trip from Toronto. Wandered around the Strip District and discovered Wholey’s Fish Market – got 2 lobster rolls for 9 dollars; bought crab and other picnic supplies the next day. Donuts from Peace, Love and Little Donuts. Jerry’s Records in Squirrel Hill is insanely huge. Caliban Book Shop in Oakland had the best selection of beautiful books; I somehow limited myself only to four.
We had dinner and beer at the Church Brew Works, which is located in, yes, a church, and was the most beautiful bar I’ve ever been to. Downtown is all ornate buildings and ghost signs, so many bridges, and isn’t as devoid of people as say, Buffalo or Rochester or Detroit. On the way home stopped at an Antique Mall in Verona and bought myself a dress, stopped at a farmer’s stand for peaches. Would definitely return for another long weekend. (Pricelined a hotel for cheap this time around; stayed right downtown, would consider elsewhere next time.)