Friday 13 December 2013

Distillery District's Toronto Christmas Market

"Oh. My. God. There's a merry-go-round," I said
"And a ferris wheel," replies Celina, my daughter-in-law.
"I LOVE merry-go-rounds! Wish it wasn't so cold," I said. 

It doesn't matter how cold it is. I'm riding the carousel and taking Maddie, my grand-daughter with me. It will be her first carousel ride.  It's Christmas time in the city, and we are at the Toronto Christmas Market to take in the sounds, sights, and food. Damn be the cold.  

The carousel ride is $3.00, cash-only, which I don't have. Who carries cash these days? Not me. It's debit this, pay-pass the other, credit card everything else, what with all the loyalty points to be had and all. I borrow the funds from Celina, pay the fee, hand the ticket to the near-frozen-stiff-carousel-ticket-taking-man, grab Maddie and hop a horse.

A cold wind is blasting off Lake Ontario, the carousel is spinning at what feels like warp speed, and Maddie’s tears are falling faster than icicles off roof tops on a warm spring day. It's all making me more than a little distressed. My own tears are falling behind sunglasses (due to the biting wind), gunk is drooling down my nose (due to the biting wind) and Maddie is sliding off the horse (due to biting wind induced disequilibrium on my part). But round and round we go. Wow. Whee. Fun. It was. 

Maddie stops crying. I wipe my nose. Celina captures some great photos.  All we need now is a hot drink to warm us up, but it's going to have to wait a bit longer. There is much ground to cover.

Maddie is not so impressed

Toronto's Christmas Market is in the trendy, pedestrian-only Distillery Historic District. A national historic site consisting of over 40 heritage buildings, it is the largest and best preserved collection of Victorian Industrial Architecture in North America. The Distillery District is the former site of Gooderham and Worts, distillers of whiskey. Founded in 1832, Gooderham and Worts was at one time the largest distillery in the world and Canada’s largest corporate tax payer.

Today, this area is a village within a large metropolis. Condominium dwellers step outside their doors to find shops, restaurants, cafes, art galleries and entertainment. 

We step into Thompson Landry Gallery where on display are the works of famous Quebecois artists (Thompson Landry exhibits only artists from Quebec).  "What's that smell? It's so yummy. I want to eat something," says Celina. Scents of cinnamon and cloves fill the air in the Cooperage space. Here, a taste of Quebec can be had with tourtier and local cheeses available to take home.

As with all good markets, street food is a must, and we are not disappointed. There is schnitzel, and poutine and...Chocolate covered bacon? Yes! We follow our noses to a sugar shack, where a large cauldron filled with melted milk chocolate is sending sweet aromas of sugar through the icy cold air. Crispy bacon is dipped into warm milk chocolate. The chocolate oozes rich droplets onto the serviette we were handed. We lick it up and indulge in what feels like a sinful pleasure. It's different. It's unique. It's heaven on a stick. 

In the evening, the market really came alive with its many strings of twinkling white lights hung over the streets and buildings. It’s all so pretty and Christmasie. All that was needed was a sprinkling of snow to make for a post-card perfect Christmas scene.

Smoke fills the air as fire pits are lit to keep revelers warm and toasty around outdoor living room spaces. Add a glass of mulled wine or a cup hot chocolate and, "Baby It's Cold Outside," won't pop into your mind, not even once, although a down filled jacket, mitts and a touque are still highly recommended. 

Ultimately, there wasn't enough bacon we could eat to make us forget the chill, and we do end up indoors for a warm-up, taking a seat in one of the Distillery's fine restaurants. A hot cup of tea, a beer (okay, two) and several spicy wings later, we are ready to head back out.  We ARE Canadian after all, and are nothing if not hardy.

I really can't stay...
Ah, but it's cold outside


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